Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: 2007, nascar archive, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/double-standard
Body:

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

Article originally published in 2007 Athlon Sports Racing annual

In the drivers’ meeting prior to the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on July 1, 2006, the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, called the President of NASCAR “Big Mike” (Helton) and said he’d heard that what goes on in the Nextel Cup hauler “is sometimes more exciting than what happens in the race itself.”

Some would say a parallel could be made with the inner workings of the Bush White House. Cheney certainly meant his remark as a wry compliment.

Is NASCAR’s administration of Nextel Cup races sometimes marked by judgment calls that are subjective and capricious? The short answer is yes. A case can be made that circumstance is as crucial a factor as what actually happens. The rules seem to be influenced significantly by timing, the relative prominence of the competitors involved and the effect on the outcome.

On July 23, 2006, at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, the champion of the previous season, Tony Stewart, appeared to intentionally wreck rookie Clint Bowyer. Replays showed Stewart shaking his fist at Bowyer as his car bored into Bowyer’s. Stewart received nothing more than a one-lap penalty for aggressive driving. He wound up finishing seventh in the race. Bowyer wound up 41st, but the big loser was the racing equivalent of an innocent bystander. Carl Edwards watched the developing storm in front of him, but not closely enough to avoid the crash that resulted from it. Edwards placed 39th.

Later, during a caution period, Edwards’ mangled Ford drove up alongside Stewart’s Chevrolet. Edwards raised both hands, palms opened upward, in a gesture routinely translated as “what were you doing?” Stewart’s response was another gesture easily translated, though not in family publications. This so enraged Edwards that he rammed Stewart’s car on pit road.

None of this drew any punitive action from NASCAR officials.

This precedent failed to benefit driver Jeff Green on Sept. 9 in the final regular-season race at Richmond International Raceway. On lap 252 of the Chevy Rock & Roll 400, Green tangled on-track with the eventual champion, Jimmie Johnson. Later Green retaliated. As in the case of Stewart at Pocono, Green’s ill will seemed obvious. Officials “parked” Green’s car, which is to say it wasn’t allowed back on the track.

Stewart was, at the time of the Pocono incident, a contender; Green, who wound up 28th in the point standings, wasn’t.

“In a perfect world, every car on the track is a number and not a person,” says NASCAR’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, Jim Hunter. “Every car should be judged as a number. The perception of how that goes down gets sort of interwoven with fans and people who have favorite drivers who are often reading something into something that isn’t really there.”

Hunter conceded that reputations invariably play a role, citing the example of the late baseball great Ted Williams, who is said to have rarely been called out on strikes because of his prodigious reputation.

“If he were any other player, that would be a third strike,” says Hunter. “The guys in the tower — Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, John Darby, David Hoots and Steve O’Donnell — everybody tries to make the right decision. No matter what that decision is, it’s going to be met with some criticism, depending on what side of the fence you’re on. If a guy’s tires are really worn, there will be the claim that there’s a piece of debris in turn three, and they (the officials) have to respond and make a decision whether there is debris or there isn’t. Sometimes it winds up being a piece of aluminum or plastic or something.”

“NASCAR has a really tough job,” says Jeff Burton. “At the end of the day, if NASCAR penalizes someone every time they hit someone or spin someone out and somebody wrecks, then we become afraid to be aggressive. They walk a fine line. They’ve got to decide what is the line, and it’s tough. You can’t watch two cars and always know the whole story. I’m pleased that NASCAR does the best it can under a very tough situation. That’s the best way I can say it.

“I don’t think they always make the right call, but as challenging as the situation is that they’re trying to police — because they can’t always truly understand all the factors that go into driving a car and understand why this car caught that car at a certain place, all those things — they do a nice job of balancing that. … If you look at it as a whole and you look at how complex and difficult it is, I’m extremely pleased with what they do. I think the drivers are ultimately responsible. NASCAR is there to make us wish we did the right thing. It’s our responsibility to do the right thing.”

“Trust me,” adds Stewart, “NASCAR has a difficult job to do, and sometimes its decisions are hard to understand when you look at one particular incident. It can be frustrating — and it’s been frustrating to me, at times — but over the long haul, they’re fair. Sometimes what they do is hard to understand, but taken as a whole, they’ve got the best interests of everybody at heart.”

The seeming inconsistencies in NASCAR penalties have become more noticeable and controversial in recent years, but the management style is as old as the ruling body itself.

In NASCAR’s very first race, on June 19, 1949, on a three-quarter-mile dirt track near Charlotte, N.C., a driver from nearby Gastonia, Glenn Dunnaway, took the checkered flag, but the victory was overturned, officially because a wedge had been placed in the rear springs to stiffen them, but unofficially because NASCAR founder William H.G. France didn’t want a moonshiner winning his first race. The man declared the winner, Jim Roper, was from Halstead, Kan., and thus unlikely to have been a moonshiner.

Dunnaway died in 1964, but according to his son Harold, his father went to Big Bill France’s hotel room at the Alamo Plaza, told France that he had won the race and demanded his money. According to the driver’s son, France paid him in cash, though it was never publicly acknowledged.

Fast forward a little over a year, to Sept. 4, 1950. In the first Southern 500, winning driver Johnny Mantz was driving a car that won principally because its heavy-duty truck tires didn’t wear out like the car tires used by everyone else. What did the Ford driven in 1949 by Dunnaway have in common with the Plymouth driven in 1950 by Mantz? In both cases, the listed owner was Hubert Westmoreland. In 1950, however, Mantz’s car was actually co-owned by three men: Westmoreland, NASCAR starter and flagman Alvin Hawkins and William H.G. France. After the race, NASCAR’s chief inspector declared the winning car illegal (they didn’t know about the word “unapproved” in those days, obviously) because of the truck tires. France fired the inspector, and the victory stood.

Examples from the 2006 season were numerous. Here are just a few:

• At Bristol, on March 26, Robby Gordon felt he had been penalized unfairly involving a so-called “commitment-line” violation entering pit road, so he expressed his opinion. NASCAR officials promptly held him in the pits for a lap “so he could cool down.”

Gordon’s language was mild compared to an outburst by Greg Biffle after he was penalized for speeding on pit road in the same race.

“I want to know where in the rulebook it says I can’t voice my opinion,” says Gordon, who was penalized a second time for an alleged “similar infraction” later in the race. He wasn’t, however, penalized for chewing gum, even though he admitted he didn’t have enough for the whole class.

• Perhaps the season’s most controversial event was the four-race suspension of crew chief Chad Knaus, who ended up winning the Nextel Cup championship with driver Jimmie Johnson, prior to the Daytona 500. No points were deducted from either Johnson’s driver or owner points.

What has been somewhat overlooked since was the fact that another team, Hall of Fame Racing and driver Terry Labonte, received 25-point deductions for a violation at almost the same time. Why would NASCAR officials penalize one team, but not another, in this manner for a similar violation? The official explanation, which seemed a bit contrived, was that Hall of Fame Motorsports had used a part that was clearly illegal, while in the case of Hendrick Motorsports (Johnson and Knaus), legal parts were used to achieve an illegal result.

Twenty-five points taken away from Terry Labonte meant very little as a practical matter, since Labonte did not intend to run the full schedule. Johnson wound up winning the championship by a 56-point margin.

• At the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (Charlotte) on May 26, Jeremy Mayfield’s Dodge flunked post-race inspection. Crew chief Chris Andrews received a $35,000 fine, and Mayfield and owner Ray Evernham had 25 points taken away. That violation wasn’t publicly divulged on the night it occurred. Officials never acknowledged the violation had even occurred until two days afterward, though there were reports in the garage that something was amiss.

• After the same race, Kyle Busch received a $50,000 fine and a loss of 25 points for a tantrum in which he threw his HANS device, a safety apparatus, at another driver he blamed for a crash.

• On Sept. 17 at New Hampshire, a television report, aired on Speed TV, alleged that officials had discovered something wrong with the winning car of Kevin Harvick. NASCAR officials never acknowledged that any violation had occurred, but the controversy prompted owner Richard Childress to issue a statement a week later:

“Reports in the media, specifically on Speed TV, that one or more of our Nextel Cup Series teams was found by NASCAR to be manipulating the rules … at New Hampshire International Speedway, are false and misleading. Our cars passed post-race inspection, and officials at NASCAR assured us … that no one from RCR was told at any time not to bring a part back to the race track. The reported events and conversations did not happen.”

“If you put credence in that story, in that notion, then NASCAR and Richard Childress Racing are in a conspiracy against everyone else in the sport,” says Burton, another of Childress’s drivers.

• An infrequent competitor, Ted Christopher, began that same New Hampshire race, the first in the Chase, sitting in his Chevy on pit road. NASCAR officials held him there because his spotter did not show up for duties. They wouldn’t let him onto the track until a spotter appeared. Eventually Christopher joined the fray four laps behind.

The reason for the spotter’s absence was an electrical outage at the track. The race began with NASCAR’s timing-and-scoring apparatus running only by emergency generators. The spotter was trapped in an elevator en route to the spotters’ stand.

Would such a costly penalty have been issued one of the championship contenders, or even a regular driver from a prominent team? Very unlikely.

• Pocono wasn’t the only venue where 2005 champion Stewart got a break. Officials failed to punish him for an apparent mistake early in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas on March 12.

At the drivers’ meeting, officials had warned drivers that they had to enter pit road to the inside of an orange cone placed at the entrance. After Ryan Newman’s crash on lap 91 brought out a caution flag, Stewart, running second at the time, hit that very cone as he trailed Mark Martin into the pits.

Inexplicably, no penalty was assessed. A television report offered the explanation that Stewart wasn’t punished because the cone wasn’t in its approved place atop a yellow line defining the pit entrance.

Had the same mistake been made by, say, Chad Chaffin, there almost certainly would’ve been a penalty.

• Also at New Hampshire, this time in July, the crew of driver Scott Riggs changed a transmission before qualifying. Officials decreed that Riggs, whose qualifying run was 23rd-fastest, had to start at the back of the field.

At Pocono a week later, Johnson crashed his car in practice and had to use an entirely different car in qualifying. He did not have to start at the back of the field, but rather 15th. Johnson went on to finish sixth in the Pennsylvania 500.

According to Cup series director John Darby, Riggs’ penalty was due to the fact that his team changed a component “within the same car” and Johnson would face no penalty because his team switched to an entirely new car.

“If teams weren’t able to change things in a backup car,” says Darby, “it would force all teams to bring two completely brand-new, race-ready cars.”

Almost all the teams, of course, do that anyway.

• Robby Gordon, seen by some as a whipping boy of NASCAR’s, received a $15,000 fine — and a loss of 50 points — for allegedly hurling a piece of roll-cage foam out the window of his Chevrolet during an Atlanta race on Oct. 29.

Gordon was apparently trying to bring out a caution flag for debris in a desperate attempt to pit without losing a lap. Gordon’s car had suffered unexpected tire failure.

On the other hand, it is widely believed that NASCAR officials themselves use the occasional “debris caution” to prop up competition and give a break to prominent drivers.

Debris cautions seldom occur at tracks like Darlington and Bristol, this in spite of the fact that the narrow racing grooves are almost always full of all sorts of clutter. Watching the field roar through the tight turns at those tracks reveals roiling clouds of rubber, grit and gosh knows what else. Oil-soaked pimento cheese, perhaps.

For some reason, the wide-open tracks like Michigan and California, which also happen to be tracks where the leader tends to run away from the field, are presumably laden with dangerous debris that’s often spotted by NASCAR officials at precisely the point at which the lead exceeds, say, three seconds, and the field is almost evenly distributed around the track.

For instance:

On Sept. 4, at California Speedway, out of seven caution flags, four were for debris or oil on the track. At Bristol on Aug. 26, debris was cited in one out of 10 caution periods. On March 26, debris figured in two of the 18 cautions at the same track.

Few knowledgeable observers would dispute the notion that NASCAR artificially manipulates the competition in such a manner on a fairly regular basis, although officials have never admitted that.

“People tend to believe we throw a caution to bunch up the field,” says Hunter. “The overall philosophy is to be safe instead of sorry. If we throw a caution when we don’t really need one, if there’s any doubt, we’re going to throw the caution. In my opinion, people can’t argue with that. Is that steel or plastic? Sometimes we don’t know what it is, but if it’s in the groove or just outside, we throw the caution. If you’re in the sport long enough, some of those calls will go for you and some will go against you.

“The officials do the best job they can and let the chips fall where they may. Today you’re on the wrong end; next week you might be on the right end. In the end, I think, regarding the ability to officiate the races, it’s the responsibility or prerogative of the competitors to put pressure on NASCAR if they feel the officials are not doing a good job. Our competitors don’t hesitate to do that, sometimes rightly so and sometimes because of how it may have affected an individual. … Our officials are human. In the end, they’ve got to make more good calls than bad calls. If they didn’t … then we’d have a problem.”

NASCAR’s stewardship of the sport has changed in at least 1,000 ways — one of which is that victories are never overturned anymore as occurred frequently in the early years — but in at least 100 ways, it remains exactly the same. In a sport that cries out for at least 1,000 rules, NASCAR insists on 100, at most, and there is really only one that matters.

What NASCAR says goes.

“This sport has a tremendous amount of things that aren’t in writing,” says Burton. “They’re in your head or someone else’s head, but people have differing opinions about what is acceptable. The harder that you run and the more aggressive you are, your code is going to be different than another guy. That’s just how it is.

“In a sense, you can’t expect NASCAR to judge everyone on the basis of everything being completely equal because nobody else does that, either.”

Harvick still has his doubts.

“I think it’s a matter of what mood they’re in when they’re sitting in the booth that night, to be honest with you.”

Teaser:
<p> Field-fillers get parked, while superstars get a free pass</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 04:50
All taxonomy terms: 2006, Benny Parsons, nascar archive, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/chattin-benny-parsons
Body:

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

Article originally published in 2006 Athlon Sports Racing annual

Benny Parsons won 21 races during a successful Cup career, but it is his voice, and not his driving, that is his calling card for today’s generation of race fans. Parsons has seen plenty of changes over his decades in the sport, and he has educated and entertained countless viewers with that smooth, friendly baritone voice. Athlon Sports’ Norm Partin and Matt Taliaferro sat down with one of the elder statesmen of racing’s broadcast booth to talk about Parsons’ memories of his time on the track and his thoughts about the sport he loves.

Athlon Sports: You are now involved on the TV side of the business, and looking back a few years ago when you got started in racing it was totally different. Can you relay that to the young guys that are coming into the sport?
Benny Parsons: Not really. It’s so much different today than it was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, even 10 years ago. The cars are different, the tracks are different, everything that we do in NASCAR is just so much different. Twenty-five years ago you really needed a driver with experience, three or four years of experience before they could really do well. Newcomers just did not come in and win races. But in 2005 Kyle Busch came in and won two NEXTEL Cup races his first year.

AS: If we go back to 1964 at the Western North Carolina 500, Holman-Moody gave a shot to a young guy named Benny Parsons to do a one-race deal to try to get that ride. Can you give us an insight on that?
BP: Well, 1964 was a tough year for racing, because I guess they lost three or four drivers in 1964. Billy Wade was killed at Daytona, Fireball Roberts was killed in Charlotte, in the 600, and so Ford was looking around for young talent and I had run an ARCA race. I was only in my second year of racing, but I had run an ARCA race in Huntingdon, West Virginia and I was also running locally around the Detroit area, Mount Clemons Speedway, Flat Rock Speedway, and winning races there. Someone said, ‘Well, why don’t we give him a chance? He might be somebody good in stock car racing.’ So they sent me to Holman-Moody and put me in a car and took me to Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in Weaverville, North Carolina to run a race. They had another young guy up there, it was a tryout, and the one that did the best would get a ride to go on and run NASCAR racing. The other young man was Cale Yarborough.

AS: So you were part of the first Gong Show then, right?
BP: That’s right, it was the Gong Show at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway.

AS: Then you came back several years later and started running with L.G. DeWitt and had some pretty immediate success.
BP: Well, yeah, we ran decently. As a matter of fact, the first race that I drove for him was Richmond, Virginia, the February race after Daytona, and we broke a gear that day, but we ran well enough to win the race, but we didn’t finish. We then went to Rockingham and ran decently and had a chance to win a race in Columbia, South Carolina that year, and we finally did get a victory in 1971. And that was South Boston.

AS: There is a story that you have told several times. Your team was broke, you were broke, and you finished third or fourth in Atlanta and won enough money to finish the season.
BP: Well, what had happened was L.G. DeWitt, the owner of the car, was involved in a very serious automobile crash and looked like he might die. When he lay in the hospital, his family, who were not big fans (of racing), said ‘Why don’t we quit the racing business because you can’t take care of it?’

He agreed with them, so he did quit racing. I think this was June of ’71. So what was I gonna do? I had moved my family to Ellerbe, North Carolina, and so Bill Donahoe from the Nashville Speedway, the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, called me and said if you’re not doing anything how about coming over and running Nashville on Saturday night. I think he paid my way and gave me three hundred bucks or something. So I did that for five or six weeks. Three hundred bucks was as much money as I was making back then. I survived and then about five or six weeks later L.G. got out of the hospital, he got back home and he missed that race car. He called me in his office and said, ‘I think I was a little hasty stopping racing. If you want to, let’s see if we can’t pick up the pieces and start off again.’ He also told me that he didn’t have any money or not a lot of money and to try and do the best we can.

AS: If you got in one of today’s cars, that would almost be a night and day difference, wouldn’t it?
BP: It really would. It’s amazing to me how much smarter or how much better the communication is. I’m not sure exactly how to explain this, but the drivers of today have to be so precise about what their car is doing. Going in the corner, the middle of the corner, coming off the corner. Back 25 years ago the sport was so clumsy as to being what it is today.

AS: Was it more of a banzai-type attitude, where you just got in and put the pedal to the floor and held on?
BP: It was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today. You know some of the drivers today that are really small might have struggled in those cars back then. As you said, you just got in and drove it. Back then the driver made up a lot. I mean, Richard Petty, he made up for a great deal by finding that new groove, that better groove that was faster, and today the cars are so precise that they run in the same place all the time. That’s why I love to see the cars go to Atlanta when the drivers have to move around on the race track to find that new groove and those cars are three wide. The drivers then — they got in it, and if the car wasn’t handling they had to adjust their style to make the car handle it.

AS: A crew chief told me that when he started racing, aero was an afterthought, and now it’s everything — that just one ding can take a car out of contention. Has that hurt the racing?
BP: I don’t want to be a guy that sticks his head in the mud and is against the cars getting better, but it is a shame. It really irritates me when those fenders get bent on pit road at 35 mph, and it eliminates a guy’s chance of winning. That’s really frustrating for me.

AS: In today’s sport, NASCAR is projecting rock ’n’ roll, younger/better. Do you see that the rock ’n’ roll thing is kind of leaving those of us that have been around a while behind?
BP: I think that NASCAR’s old-time fans, like myself, I think they got us. I think we’ve watched enough and we’re hooked. I think we are going to continue to watch, and I don’t think that they can go out and attract the young crowd today with — as much as I like bluegrass, as much as I like country music — I don’t think that they can attract the young crowd today with that environment. I think they’ve got to attract it with rock ’n’ roll and having young minds. That’s how they’re gonna be able to make this sport grow.

AS: Many fans complain that the racing isn’t that good anymore because of aero, but back in New Hampshire, Newman and Stewart put on a show during those last three laps.
BP: I’ve not really been a fan of New Hampshire, because it’s one of those racetracks we talked about, that you really need to run in the same position — same spot on the racetrack — every car needs to be in the same spot to go fast. I like the Homestead racetrack, with their variable banking. I don’t know why in the world Martinsville didn’t do that when they had the concrete come up. I don’t know, when they rebuilt the corners, why they didn’t put in two different bankings in the corners. I don’t understand why Loudon (New Hampshire) doesn’t do that. I don’t understand Kansas City and Chicago. I’m not a fan of Loudon because all of the cars have to run in the same spot. But that was terrific between Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.

AS: I remember qualifying in your day — it was nothing but white knuckles. What was it like when you did that, knowing that you were so close to the edge?
BP: Just terrifying. Qualifying at Daytona Beach back in the ’70s and ’80s was without a doubt the most terrifying thing that a driver did the entire season. Those two qualifying laps were absolutely unbelievable.

AS: We remember when Cale (Yarborough) in the 28 car had his qualifying — made the first lap, set the record, and second lap, car takes off like an airplane. When you’ve got to follow that, what’s the fear factor like at that level?
BP: Well, thank God, I think that I had finished with my qualifying lap when Cale did that. I surely would not have wanted to go out there after that. That’s like in a race that you’re in and you see a terrible, terrible crash and you feel like that the driver may be seriously injured or maybe even killed. And man, I tell you what, they throw that green flag again — man, that first lap’s hard!

AS: That’s part of the mental game in racing that some of the other sports can never, never understand. It’s hard to admit it at the time, but when it’s over, the holding your breath and shaking and white knuckles is pretty easy to talk about, isn’t it?
BP: Yeah, it really is. And you know, the adrenaline is just going wide open — those qualifying laps and running at Daytona back when the cars were unrestricted and you ran on the edge every doggone lap. I mean, the adrenaline was just unbelievable.

AS: I know winning the championship has to be the highlight — back in ’73 — and under the circumstances…
BP: No. No. No. That’s not it.

AS: That’s not it? So, what is it?
BP: Winning the Daytona 500. Because, you see, a championship in 1973 was 28 races long. So you go all year long running this championship, racing in this championship. And when it’s over (the final race of the season), that’s just 1/28 of the puzzle. A race, any race, is — when they wave the checkered flag, it’s over. And the Daytona 500 is the biggest stock car race that we have. And, you know, everybody’s heard of the Daytona 500 and everybody wants to win that.

AS: And the last few laps, I bet a lot of nights on your back under a race car and sleeping in the backseat trying to get to the next race — all that stuff flashed before you as you’re on those last few laps?
BP: Well, not right then. But that’s all I could think about afterwards. After the checkered flag waved and I’m in Victory Lane. And then, when you have time to sit down and say ‘I just won the Daytona 500,’ those are the things that you think about. You know, I started racing on a quarter-mile dirt track in a $50 car. Guy bought a car for $50 and gave it to me. Trust me, it’s a long way from that quarter-mile racetrack to Daytona Victory Lane.

AS: And the way that you won that, just taking the lead right there at the end. Was there any that were more exciting?
BP: The Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte — the race that Darrell (Waltrip) and I had in 1980.

AS: The record book says five lead changes in the last 25 laps. But that race was not over until actually the checker.
BP: Yeah. The last 75 laps, I think, we ran nose-to-tail. Stop, come back on the racetrack. It was a tire situation. They had had tire problems that day. So, the last stop that we both made we couldn’t change tires because we had a set on there that would live. And we knew we couldn’t put anything else on there, so we just fueled only on that last stop. So we came back out on the same place we left and just kept on racing.

AS: NBC has made the decision not to follow through after next year. Have you had a chance to figure out what Benny’s gonna do then, or are there opportunities with other people?
BP: We don’t have any idea.

AS: On TV, when you were putting your crew together, was there a philosophy meeting and a plan, or did it just happen?
BP: It just kind of happened. The only real plan … I remember two plans throughout the years in television. Back in the ’80s, driving and doing TV part-time, I was in North Wilkesboro doing a show for ESPN and the producers were going to do this and it seemed to me to be a highly technical piece. And I said ‘Well, shouldn’t we explain that better to the viewer? Will they understand what we’re talking about?’ And the producer said ‘We are doing this broadcast for the race fan. Let the novices catch up.’

AS: Yeah. That had to be an about-face, didn’t it?
BP: Yeah. And I said ‘Wow.’ And that really is the philosophy that ESPN had all along, was, you know, they did the races for the fans. And then, when I went to work for ESPN full-time in 1989, we went to Rockingham to do our first race and Neil Goldberg, the producer, had Bob Jenkins, Ned Jarrett and myself. And he said ‘OK, now here’s what I want … I want Benny to bring some excitement – you know, yell and scream, and bring that excitement – to the broadcast. And Ned, you know, you’re the sensible guy. You keep everything in line and in shape.’ And so, that’s how Ned and I did the ESPN broadcast.

AS: How long did it take for you and Wally Dallenbach to develop your noticeable chemistry?
BP: I think it’s kind of like driving a race car. I think that it took some time to do the races together and understand what our roles were going to be and what have you.

AS: We all got a wake-up call at Phoenix with Kurt Busch. Obviously the TV people had to decide how to cover this. Did that create any issues for you as far as the TV end?
BP: No. No, it did not.

AS: You just report the facts?
BP: Yeah. Allen (Bestwick) went to talk to Kurt (Busch), (Bill) Weber reported and I don’t even know that I mentioned it.

AS: Is there time when a guy like Benny Parsons, one of the most respected people in the business, goes to a driver and puts his arm around him and says ‘Son, listen up a little bit’?
BP: Ahh. (long pause) I … Yeah I do. I do … to the drivers. But I don’t do it to someone of Kurt Busch’s stature. I mean, after all, he’s a Nextel Cup champion. If somebody is very, very young in their first year of the Busch (Series), or maybe even the first year of the Nextel Cup, and I see something that I think will help them, I’d go to them and I’d tell them ‘I think this’ll help you.’ But, as I said, Kurt is certainly old enough and has been around long enough that he knows right from wrong.

AS: Is there any driver on the circuit today that reminds you of yourself, when you were driving?
BP: The other day someone asked that question and I think I compared myself to say, Bobby Labonte. I think, you know, we raced a great deal the same.

AS: If you had a chance to run NASCAR for one day, what would be the first thing you’d do?
BP: Maybe limit the amount of cars on pit road. I think it’s just ridiculous that a guy can go out and race around Daytona and Talladega at 180 miles-per-hour, 190-miles-per-hour, three-wide, whatever, and he comes into the pit to make a pit stop at 55 miles-per-hour and gets eliminated. I think that’s stupid. I talked to a guy recently who had a suggestion. He said what we need to do is make Rockingham a dirt track and have a Nextel Cup dirt race. And I said, “You know what? That’s a fantastic idea.”

AS: Who’s the guy that you’re looking at right now that you can see being the top guy, or one of them, in five years?
BP: Carl Edwards, right now. If he could just … He has the ability on the racetrack; he has the personality to just become a huge, mega-star. I mean, he is the whole package. He’s a sponsor’s dream. He’s got that ‘Aw, gee-golly whiz.’

AS: In quick answers — So far the Chase has just finished its second year – success or not?
BP: Fantastic.

AS: The racing back to the yellow and the sensors in the track, has that worked or not?
BP: Yes. Very much so.

AS: Do you like the impound rule?
BP: I like the idea. But I don’t like it in its present form.

AS: Do we have too many races? 36 being too many?
BP: No.

AS: You want more, don’t you?
BP: Here’s the deal. The teams today, the top teams today, they’re out there each and every Sunday competing to win. They have enough people on their staff, their sponsor, they get enough money that everyone can have a day off. And most of them get a complete day off. And then for the road crew, Thursday becomes a travel day and most of those guys don’t leave until the afternoon. So they’ve got a half-day off Thursday. When we raced back in the ’70s, nobody had any days off, unless there wasn’t a race that weekend.

AS: You didn’t get to fly to many of them (the races), either.
BP: No, you had to drive. That’s when you got Saturday and Sunday off when they didn’t have a race. Well, now these guys – yes there are 38 weekends – but at least they get a couple of days off in the week. It is a lot of races. And the drivers, they don’t have to drive to the venues or the racetracks anymore. They jump in an airplane and go. They leave home Thursday, come back home Sunday night. And they don’t have to go to the shop and work on that thing 10-12 hours a day.

AS: You want to take a shot at predicting the 2006 champion?
BP: Tony Stewart.

AS: Is there anybody out there running in the lesser divisions that if you had a magic wand, you would want to put them in a 24 car, 20 car, 16 car, or something like that?
BP: No. Just as a spectator, watching the race, you don’t get to meet the personalities. You don’t get to go in and see what they’re made of, talk to them. And you can’t learn anything by just watching them on the racetrack. You can learn something if you know what the rest of the package is.

Teaser:
<p> In 2006, Athlon Sports sat down with the Hall of Fame driver and legendary broadcaster, who passed away in January 2007</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 04:22
Path: /nfl/how-new-york-giants-blew-their-2011-season
Body:

They were 6-2 at the midpoint of the season, despite a bunch of free-agent losses and an infirmary full of injuries. Eli Manning was on his way to joining the MVP conversation. Tom Coughlin was earning praise as a possible NFL Coach of the Year.

So what happened? How is it that the Giants are suddenly playing for their season, facing two seemingly unwinnable games and the possibility that they’ll be 6-6 and riding a four-game losing streak when they travel to Dallas for a big NFC East showdown in two weeks?

What happened is what always happens to the Giants: Something. It almost doesn’t matter what. Injuries. Poor play. A receiver shooting himself in the leg. They always start fast and they always finish like they’re a kid at a water park flying down the biggest slide.

This latest splash down has put them in a precarious situation. Tom Coughlin -- who has a 47-17 record in the first halves of season, but a miserable 24-34 record in second halves – has to figure out a way out of his mess while his team plays at New Orleans (7-3) on Monday night and home against the undefeated, defending champion Packers (11-0) on Sunday. Otherwise they’ll head into Dallas reeling, and dealing with seemingly annual questions about Coughlin’s job.

Is it already too late? Is the collapse already in their heads? At least one prominent Giant hopes the answer to the latter is “Yes”.

“I hope it is in our heads,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “I hope it’s fresh in our heads, knowing that we can’t allow ourselves to do that. The good thing is we don’t have any time to feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t have time to be down on ourselves or wonder what’s happening here. We’ve got to figure things out right and figure it out now.”

“You talk about second-half collapses,” Tuck added, “if we get down to the Saints it could be an historical second-half collapse.”

Of course, as Tuck knows, in order to avoid history they need to learn from it first. And the things that led to this collapse are similar what led to their collapses of the past:

Injuries
They don’t want to use them as an excuse, but they are an excuse. They have 10 players on injured reserve and nine others that have been cut with injury settlements. They lost a starting cornerback and a starting middle linebacker for the season. Tuck has been a physical shell of himself and defensive end Osi Umenyiora lost several games. Lately they’ve been without running back Ahmad Bradshaw and linebacker Michael Boley and receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham have been battling injuries. And they also may have lost their left tackle for the season. No team can seriously be expected to overcome all that.

Lack of emotion
Safety Antrel Rolle blasted his team for being “too calm” and passively letting the Eagles beat them – and beat them up last Sunday. He wanted some sort of response to Philly’s taunting and late hits. Overall, though, this isn’t a fiery team and it doesn’t have a fiery leader. Eli Manning and Justin Tuck are the big voices and their voices are respected, but soft. When things go wrong – as they have the last few years – there’s no fire and brimstone. There’s no Ray Lewis to angrily raise the temperature. Maybe Rolle will be the guy, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Disappearing acts
Big players come through in big moments, and that’s been sorely lacking in recent years. Eli Manning has done it most of the year, but wasn’t able to come through against the 49ers or Eagles. During the Super Bowl run in 2007, so many players played big in key spots. It was a different player every week. But in the years since? Down the stretch, the biggest players have come up mostly small.

Too much pressure on Eli Manning
This started in 2008, when Plaxico Burress took himself out of the Giants’ lineup with a stray bullet. Everyone looked to Manning to carry the depleted team, to turn someone else into his No. 1 receiver. He never did. He’s great at making the pieces work, at seeing the big picture and doing what he’s supposed to do. But improvising has never been his strongpoint, and when pieces are taken away he has trouble adjusting. It’s subtle. It’s like throwing the ball to where a receiver is supposed to be, without adjusting to the fact that the receiver he’s throwing to can’t get there. Now you want him to win with an offensive line crumbling in front of him, a run game stagnating, and a defense not keeping the score down. This is the first year he’s seemed fully capable of doing that, but it may be too much for him to do it alone.

Too much talk, not enough action 
This team loves to talk about their issues and tell everyone how overlooked and underappreciated they are. They talk about needing fire, but don’t show it. They talk about not having another second-half collapse, then go out and lose the first two games of the second half. Their 2007 motto was “Talk is cheap, play the game” which had more to do with all their 2006 griping about their coach. That team loved to talk, too. But it found a way at the end to back up their words. This team, and the teams in 2008-10, never got around to the playing part.

Those are the problems. Those are always the problems. And they need to fix those issues fast, otherwise this whole second-half disaster is just going to happen again.

“It doesn’t matter. The story is still being written,” said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. “Regardless of what it says now, it all depends on how we finish the season.”

The finish line is approaching quickly. The end of the story begins right now.

By RALPH VACCHIANO

Teaser:
<p> After a 6-2 start, the Giants are on the verge of being out of the playoff hunt</p>
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2011 - 12:40
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-usc-vs-ucla
Body:

This article on the USC vs. UCLA college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1990 college football annuals. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of the football series between these two schools in Los Angeles who are separated by a mere 13 miles.

The Great Rivalries — USC vs. UCLA

By Mal Florence

Red Sanders once said that the Southern California-UCLA football series is not a matter of life or death. “It’s more important than that,” he said.

Sanders, the famous single-wing coach who came to UCLA from Vanderbilt in 1949 and coached the Bruins until his death in 1958, may have been overstating the significance of the competition — but not by much, considering what it means to alumni and followers of the Pacific-10 schools in Los Angeles.

It is the unique collegiate rivalry

There are other traditional rivalries such as Army-Navy, Michigan-Ohio State, Penn State-Pittsburgh, Oklahoma-Nebraska, Georgia-Florida, Yale-Harvard, Stanford-California, Clemson-South Carolina, Notre Dame-Southern California, Auburn-Alabama, Texas-Texas A&M.

However, only the USC-UCLA rivalry matches two major universities with renowned football programs located only 13 mile apart in a megalopolis.

Houston vs. Rice fits the geographical requirements but that’s all.

When Southern California meets UCLA, families may be disrupted the week of the game. Father and mother, brothers and sisters may have gone to rival schools.

The late November game usually decides the Pac-10 representative in the Rose Bowl. That makes victory a must for each team.

Among the many memorable games was a scoreless tie in 1939 before 103,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Nor will the crowds through the years forget Gary Beban’s late pass to beat Southern California 20-16 in 1965 in a game the Trojans had dominated; O.J. Simpson’s climatic 64-yard touchdown run in the 1967 game that Southern California won 21-20; and, more recently, Erik Affholter’s juggling (and disputed by the Bruins) catch in the end zone that defeated UCLA 17-13 in 1987.

The series, though, had a humble beginning.

UCLA was established in 1919 as the “Southern Branch” of the University of California, Berkeley, near downtown Los Angeles. The school outgrew its facilities and moved to its present campus in Westwood in 1929.

The University of Southern California was founded in 1880 and was playing football eight years later. By the late 1920s, the Trojans, gaining national identity with the inception of their series with Notre Dame, were a burgeoning power.

The crosstown rivalry, as such, began in 1929. Southern California won 76-0 to open the season and followed up with a 52-0 victory in 1930. The series was then discontinued.

Bill Ackerman, the late UCLA athletic director who was in the school’s first graduating class, recalled a few years ago how the series was renewed.

“After those first two games, an argument ensued as to which school would host the first game in the Coliseum,” Ackerman said. “Southern California officials believed they should have preference on dates because they regarded UCLA as only a young twig off the Berkeley branch. But I think the real reason is that USC didn’t want to acknowledge a young school coming up. The Trojans felt that they were being challenged in a city in which they were the dominant team.”

Nonetheless, Ackerman and his counterpart at Southern California, Willis O. Hunter, and the business managers of both schools met over lunch in 1935 in an effort to revive the series.

“We worked the thing out,” Ackerman said. “To stop UCLA from growing was like trying to keep the sun from coming up, and this was realized. Also, both schools needed the money. We had wasted five years. It was agreed that USC would be the host team in the first game.”

So the series was renewed in 1936, and the Bruins immediately established parity with USC in a 7-7 tie. Last year’s game was also a tie, 10-10, and was one of the few shoddily played games in the series. UCLA, a considerable underdog, almost won on a 54-yard field-goal try by Alfredo Velasco that hit the crossbar and bounced away on the last play.

More often than not, though, the games have been dramatic with stirring endings. A sampling:

1937 — Southern California 19, UCLA 13
The Trojans were apparently on their way to a routine victory, leading 19-0 in the fourth quarter. Many in the crowd of 75,000 had already left when UCLA’s Kenny Washington, a sophomore halfback, passed 62 yards in the air to halfback Hal Hirshon for a touchdown.

Hirshon had ranged far behind USC defenders because they didn’t believe that Washington could possibly throw the ball that far. It was regarded then as one of longest completed passes in college football history.

Washington, who became UCLA’s first All-American in 1939, teamed with Hirshon again for a 44-yard touchdown pass less than a minute later. The surprising Bruins reached the Trojans’ 15-yard line before the game ended but couldn’t score.

After the game, UCLA Coach Bill Spaulding visited the USC dressing room to congratulate his friend and golfing partner, Howard Jones, the Trojans’ legendary coach.

The door was locked so Spaulding knocked.

When someone asked what he wanted, Spaulding replied: “Tell Howard he can come out now. We’ve stopped passing.”

1939 — Southern California 0, UCLA 0
This was the first game in which a berth in the Rose Bowl was on the line for both teams.

In the fourth quarter, UCLA drove 78 yards to a first down on the USC 3-yard line. Two running plays gained only 2 yards, and fullback Leo Cantor was thrown for a 2-yard loss on third down.

What to do? A field-goal attempt seemed to be the percentage play, but, in democratic fashion, a vote was called for in the huddle by quarterback Ned Mathews. Five voted to go for a field goal, and five others opted to try for a touchdown. Mathews cast the deciding vote. He called a pass play.

It turned out to be the wrong decision, as Washington’s pass intended for end Don MacPherson was knocked down by USC halfback Bobby Robertson.

So USC went to the Rose Bowl. The Trojans got the bid over the Bruins on the basis of fewer ties marring their conference record: 5-0-2 to 5-0-3.

“I saw $90,000 flying out the window,” Ackerman once said. “In those days, you didn’t have to divide Rose Bowl money with other conference schools.”

1942 — UCLA 14, Southern California 7
This game is memorable only for its historical significance.

It was UCLA’s first victory over USC, sending the Bruins to the Rose Bowl for the first time.

Bob Waterfield, who later become a Pro Hall of Fame quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams, threw the winning touchdown pass to end Burr Baldwin.

Actually, gaining their first victory over the Trojans and their first outright Pacific Conference championship made earning the Rose Bowl invitation almost anticlimactic for the Bruins. Although outplayed by Georgia on New Year’s Day, they held off the Bulldogs for three quarters before losing 9-0 in the last 15 minutes.

Al Sparlis, UCLA’s right guard, flew a B-25 in 70 missions over the Hump in the China-Burma Theater in World War II. He crashed twice and earned seven campaign ribbons. “Only three of the 25 who went in flight school with me came through the war,” Sparlis said. In 1945 he went back to UCLA and made All-America.

Mike Marienthal, Sparlis’ replacement at guard on UCLA’s 1942 team, fought with the Marines on Okinawa in 1945. He lost one leg and was badly wounded in the other leg when a Japanese mortar shell exploded in his foxhole.

1952 — Southern California 14, UCLA 12
This was a matchup of unbeaten and untied teams for the first time in the series. USC won on the basis of two bizarre plays.

The Trojans scored when wingback Al Carmichael, apparently stopped on a reverse, lateraled to halfback Jim Sears, who ran 75 yards for a touchdown.

Later, a USC guard, of all people, intercepted a pass and returned it 72 yards to the UCLA 8-yard line. Elmer Willhoite’s unlikely run set up Sears’ short pass to Carmichael for a touchdown.

1965 — UCLA 20, Southern California 16
For 56 minutes, USC outgained and dominated UCLA in another Rose Bowl showdown game, but led only 16-6.

UCLA made a remarkable comeback. In the final four minutes, Beban threw a 34-yard touchdown pass and passed again for the two-point conversion.

UCLA Coach Tommy Prothro called for an onside kick, and it worked, with the Bruins gaining possession at the USC 49.

Beban had not had a good day until then, but, he said, “Sometimes things just happen in the stars.”

A few plays later, Beban called a pass play that had resulted in an interception earlier.

“The idea was for Kurt Altenberg to run a post pattern and the back, Mel Farr, to swing behind him,” Beban said. “When I dropped back, Mel was the primary receiver.”

However, Altenberg had another notion.

“All Prothro wanted was a pass to Mel to get us in position for a field goal,” Altenberg said. “I lined up near the sideline, right next to Prothro. He kept yelling, ‘Run, Altenberg, run.’ That doesn’t help you when the defensive backs are listening only five yards away. But Prothro didn’t care because his idea was to dump the ball to Farr. But that wasn’t my idea.”

Hardly. Despite double coverage, Altenberg got open to catch Beban’s 49-yard pass for the winning touchdown.

Beban never saw the receiver, nor the catch.

“I was down on the ground with one of those SC guys rolling on top of me,” He said. “The crowd let me know he had caught the ball.”

1967 — Southern Califorina 21, UCLA 20
Arguably, this was the showcase game of the series. Everything was on the line: the Rose Bowl bid, a possible (actually, eventual) national championship and the Heisman Trophy.

Beban, a senior now, and Simpson, the electrifying junior tailback, were the primary Heisman candidates at the time.

Prothro had come up with a novel defensive plan against Simpson. After every carry, Prothro’s players were to help Simpson to his feet immediately so he wouldn’t have the opportunity to rest.

“At first it bugged me when those UCLA cats picked me up,” O.J. recalled years later, after having joined the Buffalo Bills and, in 1973, having become the first pro to top the 2,000-yard barrier in single-season rushing.

“But as the game wore on and I started getting tired, I sort of looked forward to them picking me up. In fact, one of their guys was slow on a particular play, and I chided him, saying, ‘Come on, man, I’m waiting.’”

The game lived up to every aspect of its advance billing. Beban, playing courageously with a painful rib injury, enhanced his Heisman prospects by passing for 301 yards and two touchdowns.

As a result, the Bruins led 20-14 in the fourth quarter, and Simpson says that the momentum of the game had apparently shifted in UCLA’s favor. And so it seemed when the Trojans were confronted with a third-and-eight situation at their own 36-yard line.

Simpson will never forget what happened.

“Our quarterback, Toby Page, originally called a pass play; then he yelled, ‘Red alert,’ meaning the next number would be an audible.”

The play was a USC staple, 23 blast, calling for Simpson to run between tackle and guard on the left side. Simpson was thinking first down, but he got more than that, cutting back to the middle of the field and, with his sprinter’s speed, outrunning the Bruins to the end zone.

Although USC Coach John McKay was accustomed to brilliant runs by Simpson, he nevertheless said: “A good back might have made eight yards for a first down. O.J. made it to the Rose Bowl. It was the damnedest run I’ve ever seen. The very first time I saw him run the ball in spring practice (in 1967), I knew I had a very special player.”

Beban, though, won the Heisman Trophy in ’67. Simpson would claim it in ’68.

- - - - -

The coach who turned the rivalry around was Red Sanders, who had played quarterback at Vanderbilt for Dan McGugin, a guard on Coach Fielding H. Yost’s undefeated, untied, unscored on 1901 Michigan team that crushed Stanford 49-0 in Pasadena’s first Tournament of Roses (Rose Bowl) game.

UCLA had won only two of 18 games against Southern California, with four ties, when Sanders arrived on the West Coast in 1949 (USC now leads the series 33-19-7). One Los Angeles writer began his column on the “unknown” Southerner: “Henry R. Sanders, 45, a male Caucasian, is the new UCLA football coach.”

An interviewer once asked Sanders how he felt about playing blacks. “I’m prejudiced in favor of any boy who can play football,” Sanders said. “and intolerant of any player who won’t block or tackle.”

Sanders had a special feel for humor and used it often to temper tension.

Fred Russell, sports editor emeritus of the Nashville Banner, in his book Bury Me in an Old Press Box, (A.S. Barnes and Co., 1957), relates that before the UCLA-Michigan State Rose Bowl game of 1954, the Bruins had practiced overtime on defenses for the Spartans’ multiple attack. At the team meeting following dinner on the eve of the game, Sanders said, “Fellows, we’ve just found out that Michigan State has three additional variations of the T which we have not covered. If you have your pencils and tablets…”

Finally, Sanders cracked a smile and the groans stopped.

The Trojans defeated UCLA 21-7 in 1949 but suddenly the trend changed. Sanders’ Bruins, using an unusually deceptive and versatile single-wing offense, trounced USC 39-0 in 1950 and won again in 1951, 21-7. The Trojans prevailed in 1952, 14-12 but three successive UCLA triumphs followed in the series.

In 1954, UCLA’s 9-0 national championship year, USC was shut out 34-0. A crowd of 102,548 jammed the Coliseum on a hot afternoon. The temperature reached 110 degrees on the field.

UCLA led 7-0 at halftime on a 48-yard touchdown pass from tailback Primo Villaneuva to flanker Bob Heydenfeldt. The Bruins, who led the nation both in scoring offense (367 points) and scoring defense (39 points), didn’t allow USC past midfield in the first half.

The Trojans advanced to the UCLA 8-yard line early in the third period, but Jim Decker intercepted Jim Contratto’s pass on the 2 and ran 98 yards. But there had been clipping on the play. USC was finished, however, and the Bruins scored 27 points in the final quarter. UCLA could not play in the Rose Bowl because of a rule at the time that prevented two straight appearances, and the Bruins had gone the year before.

Coaches in the United Press poll voted UCLA the national title. Ohio State was No. 1 in the Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters. Sanders was National Coach of the Year.

In his nine years as UCLA coach, Sanders’ teams beat the Trojans six times and outscored them, 170 points to 68. No other UCLA coach holds an edge over USC in the rivalry. Current UCLA Coach Terry Donahue is 5-8-1 while USC Coach Larry Smith is 2-0-1.

“Our system isn’t glamorous,” Sanders once said. “It’s based mainly on the idea of knocking the other fellow down.”

Some called the almost old-fashioned single-wing a “horse and buggy” offense, but Sanders said, “I like to think we have a TV set on the dashboard.”

After Sanders’ death from a heart attack, a plaque in his memory was placed at the Coliseum. On it are these words of his:

“Blocking is the essence of offense.
Tackling is the essence of defense.
And spirit is the quintessence of all.”

- - - - -

Not all the activity has been on the field in this series. With the schools located within relatively short driving distance, campus raids have been commonplace.

UCLA students delight in splashing blue paint on the statue of Tommy Trojan on the Southern California campus.

In 1958, USC journalism students distributed a bogus Daily Bruin newspaper, replete with Trojan propaganda, on the UCLA campus. Copies of the real Daily Bruin were confiscated. Unsuspecting UCLA students were shocked to read demeaning stories about their team and coaches. That year some UCLA students tried to sully the Tommy Trojan statue with fertilizer dropped from a helicopter but missed the target. USC maintenance crews now cover the statue with plastic and canvas the week of the USC-UCLA game.

Another time a USC student masquerading as a UCLA student became a member of the UCLA rally committee in charge of card stunts. The Trojan infiltrator altered the instruction sheet and, on game day, every UCLA card stunt was marred by a small, block USC in the corner of the section.

And, of course, the game has a trophy, the Victory Bell, which was originally owned by UCLA until stolen by USC students in 1941. Then, after a truce, it became the symbol of victory, with the winner taking temporary possession.

- - - - -

For half a century, there’s been an intense feeling about this game played either in the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl, now UCLA’s home field.

“When I played in the game, the winner went to the Rose Bowl,” says Pat Haden, former USC quarterback and Rhodes Scholar, now a CBS college football analyst. “Everyone talks about USC-Notre Dame being such a big rivalry and it is. But kids go to USC because they want to play in the Rose Bowl, and to do that you have to beat UCLA. So that game is the most critical.”

Says Norm Andersen, a former UCLA wide receiver and assistant coach: “It’s the most special event in a Bruin’s career. I don’t think you really know what the game is about until you lose it. When I was a sophomore, we were to supposed to win. We didn’t.

“The hurt was terrible. You think it will go away in a couple of days. It doesn’t go away in a couple of months. The first time I went through that, I told myself I’d never get that involved in the game again. Then next year I did it again. It’s either total joy or total agony.”

Teaser:
<p> The crosstown rivalry between the Los Angeles insitutions is one of college football's most unique rivalries</p>
Post date: Friday, November 25, 2011 - 06:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks all the positions to help you feast on your fantasy football opponent this week</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 09:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Tight End Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Rob Gronkowski NE at PHI
2 Jimmy Graham NO vs. NYG
3 Jason Witten DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
4 Antonio Gates SD vs. DEN
5 Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. MIN
6 Jermichael Finley GB at DET (Thursday)
7 Aaron Hernandez NE at PHI
8 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. GB (Thursday)
9 Fred Davis WAS at SEA
10 Brent Celek PHI vs. NE
11 Owen Daniels HOU at JAC
12 Vernon Davis SF at BAL (Thursday)
13 Greg Olsen CAR at IND
14 Kellen Winslow TB at TEN
15 Jermaine Gresham CIN vs. CLE
16 Jake Ballard NYG at NO
17 Dustin Keller NYJ vs. BUF
18 Heath Miller PIT at KC
19 Jacob Tamme IND vs. CAR
20 Jared Cook TEN at ATL
21 Benjamin Watson CLE at CIN
22 Ed Dickson BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
23 Scott Chandler BUF at NYJ
24 Visanthe Shiancoe MIN at ATL
25 Anthony Fasano MIA at DAL (Thursday)
26 Daniel Fells DEN at SD

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 14:16
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Running Back Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Arian Foster HOU at JAC
2 LeSean McCoy PHI vs. NE
3 Matt Forte CHI at OAK
4 Michael Turner ATL vs. MIN
5 Ray Rice BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
6 Steven Jackson STL vs. ARI
7 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC vs. HOU
8 DeMarco Murray DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
9 Rashard Mendenhall PIT at KC
10 Michael Bush OAK vs. CHI
11 Frank Gore SF at BAL (Thursday)
12 Chris Johnson TEN vs. TB
13 Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. WAS
14 Darren Sproles NO vs. NYG
15 Cedric Benson CIN vs. CLE
16 Ryan Mathews SD vs. DEN
17 Willis McGahee DEN at SD
18 Jonathan Stewart CAR at IND
19 Shonn Greene NYJ vs. BUF
20 Beanie Wells ARI at STL
21 Reggie Bush MIA at DAL (Thursday)
22 LeGarrette Blount TB at TEN
23 Brandon Jacobs NYG at NO
24 Kevin Smith DET vs. GB (Thursday)
25 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE at PHI
26 Ryan Grant GB at DET (Thursday)
27 C.J. Spiller BUF at NYJ
28 Toby Gerhart MIN at ATL
29 Donald Brown IND vs. CAR
30 Chris Ogbonnaya CLE at CIN
31 DeAngelo Williams CAR at IND
32 Mike Tolbert SD vs. DEN
33 Ben Tate HOU at JAC
34 Mark Ingram NO vs. NYG
35 Marion Barber CHI at OAK
36 Roy Helu WAS at SEA
37 Pierre Thomas NO vs. NYG
38 Daniel Thomas MIA at DAL (Thursday)
39 James Starks GB at DET (Thursday)
40 Jackie Battle KC vs. PIT
41 Felix Jones DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
42 Danny Woodhead NE at PHI
43 Montario Hardesty CLE at CIN
44 Kendall Hunter SF at BAL (Thursday)
45 Javon Ringer TEN vs. TB
46 Joe McKnight NYJ vs. BUF
47 Maurice Morris DET vs. GB (Thursday)
48 Delone Carter IND vs. CAR

Teaser:
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Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 14:06
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-pittsburgh-vs-west-virginia
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This profile of the Pittsburgh and West Virginia college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 2009 Big East college football magazine. With Pittsburgh headed to the ACC and West Virginia to the Big 12, this year's "Backyard Brawl" could be the last meeting between the two cross-state rivals.

Backyard Brawl — West Virginia and Pitt are too close for kindness

By Michael Bradley

At least he didn’t have to barricade himself inside the locker room as protection against an angry mob. That was the good news. But the aftermath of West Virginia’s 19–15 loss to Pittsburgh in the 2008 renewal of their rivalry still made Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart’s life pretty miserable.

First of all, his team lost to Pitt. Pitt! The Panthers are a mere “65 miles away” from WVU’s Morgantown campus, or “four hills and three creeks,” according to Stewart. The teams have been banging skulls since 1895, only 32 years after West Virginia achieved statehood. For a state with no major professional team, Mountaineer football is everything. And losing to Pitt is worse than a whole collection of jokes about the state’s culture. Add in that Stewart was coaching against the Panthers for the first time as the program’s boss, and you had a pretty unsavory post-game stew.

Losing was bad enough. But what Stewart did afterward, during his post-mortem press conference, was even worse. He complimented Pittsburgh. Said they played hard and all that. Made certain to mention how well Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt had done. Why not give up the recipe for the Country Club Bakery’s pepperoni roll, while you’re at it, Stew? “Oh, boy!” Stewart says now, laughing. “That was a rookie head coaching mistake.”

Stewart wasn’t necessarily wrong for being gracious in defeat. It’s just that he should have held off some. Those West Virginians hate losing to Pitt. “Somebody told me I should have waited two weeks before saying that,” he says. “You would have thought I had said I wanted to be chancellor of Pitt.” Perhaps a fortnight would have been an acceptable cooling-off period, but when it comes to the “Backyard Brawl,” which renews itself for the 102nd time this season, tensions always run high. Closer national scrutiny may be devoted to games like Michigan-Ohio State and USC-Notre Dame, but there are few matchups on the collegiate landscape that match the passions of the Brawl, which thrives on familiarity, proximity, history, enmity and good, old-fashioned class warfare. It’s Pitt’s big-city persona against West Virginia’s country roads. The Panthers’ rich history of national success versus the Mountaineers’ proud regional heritage. 

“We recruit the same kids, and they’re just 75 miles away,” Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt says, proving that the two sides can’t even agree on geography. “The game has so much history to it and so many great finishes and players.”

No one can be quite sure where the term “Backyard Brawl” originated. Noted college football bon vivant (and former Pittsburgh sports information director) Beano Cook credits long-time Pittsburgh Press writer Russ Franke, but even Cook isn’t certain — for perhaps the first time in his life. The designation is quite apt, since it conjures an image of two neighbors slugging it out on a patch of grass bordered by azaleas and perhaps a fence or two, with both winner and loser emerging with bloody noses and torn clothing. “It’s intense,” says former WVU coach Don Nehlen, who went 11–8–2 against Pitt.

Nehlen knows that. When he was hired in Morgantown in 1979 and charged with reversing the school’s mediocre fortunes, he was asked during his interview when he would beat Pitt. All Pitt had done was win a national title three years earlier, produce a Heisman Trophy winner (Tony Dorsett) and win six of seven from the Mountaineers. “I said, ‘We have to figure out how to beat Richmond and Temple first,’” Nehlen says. But Nehlen learned how to do that by putting together a team that played hard, prepared tirelessly and never gave up.

Before every Pitt game, he would tell the team his story of the Mountaineer trying to climb out of the well. At the top was a Panther with a mallet, and every time the Mountaineer reached the top, that big cat would pound his fingers, and the Mountain man fell back into the well. But he kept climbing back. Finally, after 10 futile tries, the Mountaineer surged out of the hole, surprised the tired Panther and “strangled that son of a bitch,” Nehlen says. In 1983, West Virginia finally got out of the well, triumphing for the first time in seven tries, 24–21. “That was a big win,” Nehlen says.

The first “big win” came in 1895, when West Virginia’s fledgling program, which had played a total of 10 games to that point (since its 1891 inception), handed Pitt (then Western University of Pennsylvania) an 8–0 defeat in the series opener, keyed by future legendary Michigan coach Fielding H. “Hurry Up” Yost and a passel of professional ringers. The teams played only twice over the next five years, both WVU wins, before commencing what would be an annual meeting interrupted only by a pair of war-era pauses and three respites from 1905-12.

The early days were characterized by Pittsburgh (the school received its current name in 1908) dominance. From 1908-51, the Panthers posted a 30–4–1 mark against the Mountaineers, thanks in large part to the efforts of Hall of Fame coaches Pop Warner (1915-23) and Jock Sutherland (1924-38). West Virginia had many teams that held special spots in the school’s football lore during that time, but the 1928 edition  accomplished something no other WVU team was able to do: It beat a Sutherland-coached Panther squad. Pittsburgh had piled up a 73–0 margin in its first two wins that year, but a four-yard TD pass from Eddie Stumpp to Nelson Lang and some stout fourth quarter defense produced a 9–6 Mountaineer triumph.

During its stretch of domination, from 1929-46, Pitt posted 10 shutouts, including five in a row, and the closest WVU came to its tormentors was 13 points, in 1944 (26–13). But when the streak ended, it did so in wild fashion. The 1947 Mountaineers were a modest 5–4 when they made the short drive to Pitt to meet a dreadful (1–7) pack of Panthers. As fog moved in, West Virginia took charge. The game ended in a frenzy, with fans tearing down goal posts in the gathering gloom, and Pitt registering its only points of a 17–2 loss in the waning moments. Although West Virginia would lose the next four games in the series, the triumph re-established the rivalry on relatively even footing and set the stage for the next several decades of more reasonable competition.

That was a good thing, since the Panthers had become rather impressed with themselves in relation to their rivals. For many Pitt fans, the school’s main rival was Penn State, which throughout the 1960s began to establish itself as the state’s premier program. “There’s no team Pitt likes to beat more than Penn State, and no team it would rather not lose to than West Virginia,” says Sam Sciullo Jr., a second-generation Pitt grad, former sports information employee and author of several books on Pitt athletics. Wannstedt, who graduated from Pitt in ’74, agrees. “That’s a good way to put it.”

Since the Panthers and Nittany Lions no longer play regularly, the rivalry with West Virginia has taken center stage, and its history suggests it is worthy of such attention. There have been several games that define both the schools’ attitudes toward each other and the fans’ approach to the game. For West Virginia, a seminal — and heartbreaking — moment came in 1970, when the 4–1 Mountaineers bolted to a 35–8 halftime advantage behind the big arm of quarterback Mike Sherwood and the offensive wizardry of first-year head coach Bobby Bowden. “Everything we touched went for a TD,” Bowden says. Until the second half. The Panthers went to the power game after intermission and began to pummel the lighter WVU front seven.

The Panthers scored. And scored again. Pitt went for — and converted — several fourth down plays. It took advantage of Bowden’s conservative second-half strategy. “I never sat on the football after that,” he says. And, with 0:55 to play, Panther quarterback Dave Havern connected with tight end Bill Pilconis on a five-yard TD that gave Pitt an unbelievable 36–35 comeback win. Afterward, Bowden holed up in the West Virginia locker room, in order to avoid a throng of angry fans thirsting for his scalp. “That’s the darkest day in my coaching career in 50 years of doing this,” he says.

The inspiration from that win served Wannstedt 37 years later. Pitt entered the 2007 game a decided underdog to the 10–1 Mountaineers, who were poised to advance to the BCS title game with a win. All week, Wannstedt regaled his team with stories of great Panther victories in the rivalry, ending with the ’70 triumph. He showed a highlight reel of the game, and then brought in Havern to speak to the players. Suitably inspired — and aided by a thumb injury to WVU quarterback Pat White — the Panthers pulled off a 13–9 win in Morgantown that stunned the nation and gave Pitt tremendous momentum.

“It gave us some life to go into recruiting,” Wannstedt says. “It gave us some life to go into the offseason program and some enthusiasm for the next season. It gave the coaches something to hang onto psychologically. It was a shot in the arm.”

It was, in short, a typical Backyard Brawl.

Teaser:
<p> New conference affiliations for both schools could make this the last "Backyard Brawl"</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 08:33
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-clemson-vs-south-carolina
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This profile of the Clemson and South Carolinia college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1989 college football annuals. With the rivalry set to be revisited this week, we thought it would be relevant to take a look at the history between these two Palmetto State institutions.

The Great Rivalries — South Carolina vs. Clemson

By Al Thomy

From his room high atop the Wade Hampton Hotel, Gene Moore could have sworn the whole city of Columbia was on fire.

It was the night of October 20, 1948, the eve of Big Thursday. That’s what they called the day of the annual game between Clemson and the University of South Carolina. The contest was the centerpiece of State Fair week.

Moore, starting center for Clemson, must have felt like one of those prisoners tied to a tree in a Tarzan movie. Each year the game was played on South Carolina’s campus in Columbia, and each year the emotions were the same.

Now a retired school administrator and coach in Lake City, S.C., Moore sat down to a breakfast of eggs and grits and Prosser’s Café one morning and relived those days four decades ago.

“Because there were no such things as surburban motels at the time, we always stayed at the Wade Hampton, across the street from the State capitol and the USC campus,”’ Moore said. “It was the only hote’ big enough to accommodate the team, the fans and all the South Carolina alumni who stayed there.”

“Already we’d been exposed to full-time hype: The drummer who beat a drum 24 hours a day for seven days at Clemson, all the newspaper stories, and now, at the Wade Hampton, we were a captive audience to South Carolina’s pregame rituals. They’d come by the thousands, carrying torches and effigies of our starting team and Coach (Frank) Howard, to gather at a bonfire. Then they’d toss the effigies into the fire.”

“With the noise and the strange glow over the skyline, there was no ay we could get any sleep. We were worn out before the game even started.”

With his farm background, Moore was the prototype of Clemson football, recruited on one of Howard’s swings through the low country. The passing of time and the NCAA statues of limitations allowed him to say he’d turned down a “fantastic offer” from South Carolina (“$50 a month dry-cleaning stipend, all the clothes I could wear and a full scholarship”) to accept a make-good bid from Clemson.

Howard said he’d give $150.

“Is that a month,” asked more. “Naw, a year,” replied Howard.

After thinking for a moment, Howard said, “Tell you what I’ll do, Moore. You make the traveling squad and you’ll get a full scholarship.”

When Moore had moved up to the fourth string in practice, Howard called him aside and said, “OK, Moore, I’ll take it from here.”

Moore’s decision brought about great change in his life.

As a farm boy, he’d never found time for much hatred, but now, unwittingly, he had become a baptized follower of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman and the farmers’ revolt of 1885.

Moore was part of a rivalry started in 1889. That’s when Tillman, leader of the farmers’ revolt, successfully lobbied to move South Carolina’s agricultural college from the “aristocrat” University of South Carolina to a new school founded in Clemson.

Eight years later the farmers and the aristocrats began playing a new fangled game, football, during the State Fair week in Columbia. It wasn’t a blood match; it was a bad blood match.

The “culture vs. agriculture” rivalry is not unique; you find it with Alabama and Auburn, North Carolina and North Carolina State, Iowa and Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and Kansas, and Kansas State, among others.

But, according to longtime South Carolina radio voice Bob Fulton, nothing approaches the Gamecock-Tiger rivalry.

“Ive done Georgia tech football and covered the Georgia game, and it doesn’t compare with South Carolina and Clemson,” Fulton says. “This is the only rivalry I know of that endures for 12 months of the year, every day of the year.”

Fulton’s radio sidekick, Tommy Suggs, a former South Carolina quarterback hero and now executive vice president at South Carolina federal, agrees.

“It’s intense, no question about it,” says Suggs. “It’s more intense than Georgia-Florida, Notre Dame-Southern Cal, and any of them. The big reason is that we have only two universities in a very small state, and it’s a week when everyone has to choose sides.”

Moore knew that as he looked down from his Wade Hampton room. He also knew that he had changed in his two years at Clemson. He had emotions he didn’t like. He’d learned to hate.

As he sat in Prosser’s Café, he recalled those feelings and the significance of the 1948 game.

Clemson, under Howard in his eighth season, was 3-0, and South Carolina, under Rex Enright following his return from military service, was 2-1. Though their schools had made one postseason appearance each, neither had ever coached a bowl team. The Gamecocks had helped inaugurate the Mazda Gator Bowl under wartime coach Johnnie McMillan, and the Tigers had beaten Boston College in the Mobil Cotton Bowl in January 1940 with Jess Neely as coach. Howard succeeded Neely shortly thereafter.

The outlook wasn’t encouraging for Clemson and Howard midway in the fourth quarter of the ’48 game, with South Carolina leading 7-6. Legend has it that a tipsy Clemson backer bet a South Carolina man $100 the Tigers would score on the next play, a Gamecock punt.

“We weren’t moving the ball at all,” Moore said. “Then, out of the gloom, Phil Hagan’s punt, and Oscar Thompson, my runs 28 yards for a touchdown. We win Gator Bowl for an 11-0 season.”

Unfortunately for Moore, 1948 proved to be his only successful trip to Columbia in three varsity years. The Tigers lost 21-19 in ’47 and 27-13 in ’49, when Moore was captain.

All along, he was building up a real hatred. He had been completely conditioned.

“I wasn’t comfortable with Carolina people,” Moore said. “Even when I had to come from Clemson, I wasn’t comfortabl coming through Columbia. It was if I had to be on the lookout, as if I had some vague apprehension. The players were more uptight than the Enright and say, ‘Look here, Rex, good buddy, we need to get mad at each other, so we can sell more tickets. Let’s start a public feud.’”

“But I wasn’t trained in such things. It was years before I could talk to Carolina people. Not until I went to South Carolina for graduate work, as a coach, was I able to feel comfortable around them. Getting to know some Carolina players firsthand, I discovered they were pretty good fellows.”

“Looking back, the thing that really made an impression on me was a comment by my daughter. One night I was putting her to bed and kissing her good night when she said, ‘Daddy, I want to take political science and Clemson doesn’t offer it’ Her concern for my feelings really made me thinl.”

“Everything doesn’t have to be adversarial,” says former South Carolina halfback Heyward King. “Even Coach Enright’s daughter, Alice, married a guy who played for Clemson.”

Moore wasn’t surprised. “At the time, Clemson was a military college and the south Carolina girls loved the uniforms,” he said. “As I recall, that used to really irritate the men.”

Admittedly, the intensity of this rivalry has eased with the passing of the years. At its peak, however, no game could touch the unvarnished old-fashioned hatred engendered in Clemson and Columbia or equal the originality of the on-field and off-field pranks.
For devilment, 1949, Moore’s freshman year, had to be a watermark.

As a non-playing athlete that year, Moore was there to witness the Chicken Caper and Great Gate Crash, when 10,000 bogus ticket holders broke in and covered the playing field at Carolina Stadium

Atlanta Journal Sports Editor Furman Bisher recalled that incident in an article for the last Big Thursday program in 1959. He wrote:

“Some sharp cards in Pennsylvania had printed up some bogus Big Thursday tickets and put them on the market. One of them was an old baseball umpire, which means a feller’s got to be careful when he takes an umpire’s word for anything.”

“People began to show up at the gate with duplicate tickets, some bogus and some not, and the dangdest hurrah developed you ever saw. When the game started, there were more people outside than inside, hollering for their rights. Pretty soon after the kickoff, a big wooden gate at the fairground end of the stadium gave in under the surge, and people poured out on the inside of Carolina Stadium like a mob scene in a Cecil B. DeMille epic…”

“They played the game, though there were delays while officials shooed some of the more eager watchers out of the path of the next play. It was a tremendous scene.”

It was not a good day for Tigers. They lost 26-14, and Howard wasn’t sure who was coaching his team.

Says Howard: “The fans were right up on the field, next to the benches, and it didn’t help that they were selling beer on the in-bounds marker. This one drunk kept yelling at me, ‘Stop ‘em, stop ‘em, coach,’ and he got under my skin. I turned around and swung at him and said, ‘I can’t stop them but I can stop you.’ Fortunately, Walter Cox, our assistant at the time and later dean of men and school president, grabbed my arm, and I didn’t hit the guy.”

Says Cox: “In those days the game was a social spectacular, with the governor and politicians moving from one side to the other at halftime. When the crowd pressed to the sidelines, the dignitaries couldn’t get out of their seats. I remember James Byrnes, then Secretary of State, down on his hands and knees trying to see game through the legs of mob on the sidelines.”

The mob spectacle was only half the story of the ’46 game. The Chicken Caper was the other half.

Moore remembered that one.

“The game had gone along uneventfully when, in the second quarter, this guy begins running across the field,” Moore said. “He’s holding a rooster by the legs and its wings are flapping. All the while he’s plucking the feathers, but this didn’t register immediately on South Carolina fans.”

“Then, in front of the Gamecocks’ fans, he wrings the rooster’s neck. Students by the hundreds poured out of the stands and gave chase. That guy barely made it to safety across the field.”

Its mascot choice certainly put South Carolina at a disadvantage. Who ever heard of wringing a Tiger’s neck. So chicken incidents were common. Howard recalled another.

“Somebody told me one of our students had a chicken in the stands, so I went up after it,” he said. “There in the stands holding this rooster was George Bennett, now the athletic director at Furman, and I said, ‘George, let me have that chicken.’ I took it and locked it up in the dressing room.”

“After the game, I put the chicken on the bus and took it home and fattened it up and had a big Thanksgiving Day dinner.”

It took South Carolina students 13 years to get even-well sort of-with their Clemson antagonists.

Don Barton, in his book, Big Thursdays and Super Saturdays, describes a slapstick scene in 1961. He wrote:

“As the early arrivals made their ways to their seats, chatted with friends and otherwise prepared for the battle to come, an orange-shirted squad trotted through the entrance at the south end of the field, the Clemson cannon boomed and the Tiger band broke into the strains of Hold That Tiger.

“The cheering subsided and the squad began calisthenics, which soon turned into a comedy of errors, players hopping when they should have been straddling and otherwise looking like anything but a well-disciplined football machine.”

“Breaking into groups, the players punted straight up, fell over backwards during line drills and made it obvious that they were not the real Tigers, but imposters.”

Only quick action by law enforcement officers prevented Clemson students from taking off after the imposters and causing a riot. It was later learned the scrawny students were members of a South Carolina fraternity, and the orange uniforms were borrowed from a local high school team.

No doubt South Carolina students resented the game being taken away from them in 1960 when, for the first time, it was played at Clemson at the beginning of a home-and-home arrangement. Howard, athletic director as well as coach, had ramrodded the change.

He felt it only fair.

After the final Big Thursday game in ’59, Howard explained his reasons.

“My own personal record against the Gamecocks is not too good-8-10-2-but I’m hoping it’ll improve,” he said. “My best memory of this game is that it’s coming to a close. We’ve been taking our team to Columbia since 1896, and I don’t care what people say, the home club definitely has an advantage, although we do lead in the series (33-21-3).

“Each year we get less than half the tickets, we have the sun field, we do not share in the program sales or the concession profits, besides not having that homefield advantage every other year. I frankly can’t see a thing fair about the game as far as Clemson is concerned.”

The timing for Howard’s move was right.

He and his Tigers had just come off a 7-0 loss to No. 1-ranked LSU in the Sugar Bowl, and he had the clout to demand a change. For the first time, Clemson had climbed as high as eighth in the Associated Press poll and was beginning to attract attention.

Then, too, the guard had changed at South Carolina. Old rival Enright had retired in 1955, and the new man on the other side of the field was crewcut Jim Tatum disciple named Warren Giese.

Quite frankly, Clemson followers were delighted to see Enright leave. Of all Gamecock coaches, from W.A. Whaley to Joe Morrison, who died of a heart attack last February, Enright had been the most successful Tiger-tamer. He was 8-6-1 and at his best on Big Thursday.

Overall, the 15-year record of this big, gentle man bordered on the .500 mark (64-69-7), and the talk was that on more than one occasion he saved his job by beating Clemson.

The trick was to please the Columbia aristocracy each year during State Fair week. For the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party, ladies wore their furs and jewelry, and the gentry boasted of privileged seats. Whatever happened the rest of the year, success on Big Thursday was enough to placate the heavy hitters.

The colorful Howard remains the resident legend in Clemson. Though retired, he reports to his desk every morning, accepts speaking engagements and generally holds court. He likes to reminisce about the South Carolina series.

“I guess Clemson lost more games than we were supposed to have won and won more games than we were supposed to have lost down there (in Columbia,” Howard says. “In 1941 we had won four straight and hadn’t lost a conference game in three years. Well, those Gamecocks, whoi were looking for a first win when we hit down, hot it from us 18-14.”

“They had an 18-0 lead on us at half-time. We came bck and nearly pulled it out but failed on their 18-yard line with about two minutes to play.”

Among his memories, Howard also lists the 14-1-4 tie in 1950, which, incidentally qualifies as a highlight for both sides.

That contest turned into a titanic struggle between South Carolina halfback Steve Wadiak and Clemson fullback Fred Cone. Wadiak’s 256 rushing yards more than doubled Cone’s 117, but the rugged fullback led a late drive that salvaged a tie for his heretofore undefeated, united and unscored-on team.

“That Wadiak ran by me so fast so often I thought I’d get pneumonia,” Howard says.

Moore said the real story of Clemson’s defeat in the 1949 game has never been told. So he told it. Howard made the pants too tight.

Actually, Howard didn’t make the pants himself.

Said Moore: “Coach Howard bought new uniforms just for that game. They were those new, rubberized uniforms, and to move your legs you had to overcome resistance from the stretch pants. I’m not exaggerating when I say that after warming up for 30 minutes, we were completely worn out.

"After the game, when we got on the bus, Coach Howard asked, ‘Moore, what in the world happened?’ I said, ‘coach, those new pants just wore us out.’ I never did see those pants again”

After the nail-biting tie in 1950, the next four years belonged to the Gamecocks and such heroes as Johnny Gramling, Mackie Prickett, Gene Wilson, Carl Brazell, Mike Caskey, Frank Minevich, Leon Cunningham, and Clyde Bennett.

The 1952 game is especially vivid in Fulton’s mind. It ws his first year on the job, and there was plenty to talk about. Tne big story was Clemson ignoring a Southern conference owl ban and getting penalized for playing Miami in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers were prohibited from playing any other league opponent. But there was a loophole.

“They could play another conference team if the game was decreed by the state legislature,” Fulton says. “The south Carolina legislature promptly passed a law requiring the two schools to play. The game was on, and South Carolina won (6-0) on a 19-yard pass from Gramling to Wilson.”

Giese took over from Enright in 1956, and South Carolina began a scoreless Big Thursday streak, losing 7-0 in ’56 and 13-0 in ’57. The bucolic Howard had a lot of fun teasing the South Carolina coach, saying that if “Gee-zay” ever scored on him, he’d tip his hat.

In 1958 Howard had to live up to his word. Fulton recalls what happened.

“South Carolina won 26-6. True to his word, Howard bowed and tipped his hat when we scored the first time. Then, after every other score, he’d bow and tip his hat. He later complained that he did so much hat-tipping, his bald head had become sunburned.”

In 1959, as Howard had long advocated, the Big Thursday tradition came to an end in Columbia.

The Tigers won 27-0 as Harvey White passed to Gary Garnes for one touchdown, Bill Mathis scored twice and George Usry got the fourth and final TD. For trivia buffs, it should be mentioned that Barnes, who scored one of the last touchdowns on Big Thursday, later scored the first TD ever for the fledgling Atlanta Falcons of the NFL.

Besides the 1952 game, Fulton, who has watched the rivalry for almost 40 years, lists these as the most exciting:

• 1968 — Sophomore Tyler Hellams returned a punt 75 yards for a 7-3 South Carolina victory.

• 1975 — In the most dazzling offensive display ever, South Carolina quarterback Jeff Grantz was virtually flawless in leading a 56-20 blowout for coach Jim Carlen over Clemson Coach Red Parker. That Grantz was still throwing for touchdowns at the end of the game angered Clemson for the next three or for years

• 1977 — Charley Pell, in his first year as Clemson coach, watched quarterback Steve Fuller engineer a 31-27 win in the last minute and a half of the game. Trailing 27-24 with the clock winding down, Fuller lofted a pass from the Gamecock 20, and wide receiver Jerry Butler made an acrobatic catch for the clinching score.

• 1984 — It was the 1977 game in reverse, with South Carolina winning 22-21 on the heroics of quarterback Mike Hold, who led an 84-yard drive in eight plays with time running out. With 54 seconds left, Hold kept the ball and sneaked off right tackle for the winning TD.

Clemson, which leads the series 50-32-4, has dominated over the past two decades, having won 12 of the last 18 against the Gamecocks. The last time South Carolina put together any kind of streak was in 1968-1970, when Suggs was quarterback.

Suggs was one of the few Gamecocks who could say he’d never lost to the Tigers. Coming in with Coach Paul Dietzel’s first recruiting class, he led South Carolina’s freshman over Clemson’s and then posted a 3-0 record for the varsity. Suggs finished his college career with 4,916 yards on 355 competions but downplays his accomplishments.

“In the ’70 game, I was eight-for-eight in the first half,” Suggs says. “Five to us and thee to them. But I did come back and manage to throw three touchdowns in the second half.”

In 1979, with running back George Rogers, 1980 Heisman Trophy winner, and quarterback Garry Harper leading the way, South Carolina prevailed 13-9 for the school’s first eight-win season since 1903, plus a spot in the Hall of Fame Bowl against Missouri. Clemson went on to meet Baylor in the Peach Bowl.

The last three years have been dead even, 1-1-1-, between two of the most publicized quarterbacks ever to match up on Super Saturday, Rodney Williams of Clemson and Todd Ellis of South Carolina.

At no time since Pitchfork Ben’s revolt have both schools, together, been as nationally prominent as they are today.

If anything, that only intensifies Super Saturday week in the Palmetto State, when everyone must choose sides.

Teaser:
<p> The rivalry and history between these two schools goes well beyond what has happened on the football field</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 08:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-12
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We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Kicker Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 John Kasay NO vs. NYG
2 Dan Bailey DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
3 David Akers SF at BAL (Thursday)
4 Mason Crosby GB at DET (Thursday)
5 Jason Hanson DET vs. GB (Thursday)
6 Billy Cundiff BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
7 Nick Novak SD vs. DEN
8 Stephen Gostkowski NE at PHI
9 Sebastian Janikowski OAK vs. CHI
10 Robbie Gould CHI at OAK
11 Neil Rackers HOU at JAC
12 Matt Bryant ATL vs. MIN
13 Mike Nugent CIN vs. CLE
14 Rob Bironas TEN vs. TB
15 Shaun Suisham PIT at KC
16 Alex Henery PHI vs. NE

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 07:04
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Defense/Special Teams Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Rk Player OPPONENT
1 Pittsburgh Steelers at KC
2 New York Jets vs. BUF
3 Houston Texans at JAC
4 Chicago Bears at OAK
5 Cincinnati Bengals vs. CLE
6 Dallas Cowboys vs. MIA (Thursday)
7 San Francisco 49ers at BAL (Thursday)
8 Baltimore Ravens vs. SF (Thursday)
9 Atlanta Falcons vs. MIN
10 Seattle Seahawks vs. WAS
11 St. Louis Rams vs. ARI
12 Arizona Cardinals at STL
13 Washington Redskins at SEA
14 Oakland Raiders vs. CHI
15 Green Bay Packers at DET (Thursday)
16 New Orleans Saints vs. NO
Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 07:03
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Wide Receiver Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. GB (Thursday)
2 Steve Smith CAR at IND
3 Mike Wallace PIT at KC
4 Greg Jennings GB at DET (Thursday)
5 Larry Fitzgerald ARI at STL
6 Wes Welker NE at PHI
7 Dez Bryant DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
8 Andre Johnson HOU at JAC
9 Hakeem Nicks NYG at NO
10 Roddy White ATL vs. MIN
11 Vincent Jackson SD vs. DEN
12 Brandon Marshall MIA at DAL (Thursday)
13 Brandon Lloyd STL vs. ARI
14 DeSean Jackson PHI at NO
15 Marques Colston NO vs. NYG
16 Jordy Nelson GB at DET (Thursday)
17 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
18 A.J. Green CIN vs. CLE
19 Antonio Brown PIT at KC
20 Victor Cruz NYG at NO
21 Santonio Holmes NYJ vs. BUF
22 Percy Harvin MIN at ATL
23 Laurent Robinson DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
24 Dwayne Bowe KC at NE
25 Michael Crabtree SF at BAL (Thursday)
26 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. NE
27 Mario Manningham NYG at NO
28 Sidney Rice SEA vs. WAS
29 Denarius Moore OAK vs. CHI
30 Nate Washington TEN vs. TB
31 Mike Williams TB at TEN
32 Plaxico Burress NYJ vs. BUF
33 Steve Johnson BUF at NYJ
34 Jabar Gaffney WAS at SEA
35 Torrey Smith BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
36 Eric Decker DEN at SD
37 Pierre Garcon IND vs. CAR
38 Deion Branch NE at PHI
39 Nate Burleson DET vs. GB (Thursday)
40 Reggie Wayne IND vs. CAR
41 Earl Bennett CHI at OAK
42 Greg Little CLE at CIN
43 David Nelson BUF at NYJ
44 Lance Moore NO vs. NYG
45 Jerome Simpson CIN vs. CLE
46 Early Doucet ARI at STL
47 Harry Douglas ATL vs. MIN
48 Vincent Brown SD vs. DEN
49 Damian Williams TEN vs. TB
50 Kevin Walter HOU at JAC
51 Steve Breaston KC vs. PIT
52 Titus Young DET vs. GB (Thursday)
53 Jacoby Jones HOU at JAC
54 Jonathan Baldwin KC vs. PIT
55 Johnny Knox CHI at OAK
56 Doug Baldwin SEA vs. WAS
57 Michael Jenkins MIN at ATL
58 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. CHI
59 James Jones GB at DET (Thursday)
60 Riley Cooper PHI vs. NE
61 Devin Hester CHI vs. SD
62 Robert Meachem NO vs. NYG
63 Davone Bess MIA at DAL (Thursday)
64 Arrelious Benn TB at TEN

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 06:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-12
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 12 — Quarterback Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB at DET (Thursday)
2 Cam Newton CAR at IND
3 Drew Brees NO vs. NYG
4 Matthew Stafford DET vs. GB (Thursday)
5 Tom Brady NE at PHI
6 Eli Manning NYG at NO
7 Tony Romo DAL vs. MIA (Thursday)
8 Ben Roethlisberger PIT at KC
9 Matt Ryan ATL vs. MIN
10 Philip Rivers SD vs. DEN
11 Tim Tebow DEN at SD
12 Carson Palmer OAK vs. CHI
13 Mark Sanchez NYJ vs. BUF
14 Josh Freeman TB at TEN
15 Matt Moore MIA at DAL (Thursday)
16 Joe Flacco BAL vs. SF (Thursday)
17 Matt Hasselbeck TEN vs. TB
18 Andy Dalton CIN vs. CLE
19 Vince Young PHI vs. NE
20 Alex Smith SF at BAL (Thursday)
21 Sam Bradford STL vs. ARI
22 Tarvaris Jackson SEA vs. WAS
23 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at NYJ
24 Rex Grossman WAS at SEA
25 Christian Ponder MIN at ATL
26 Matt Leinart HOU at JAC

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 06:47
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-alabama-vs-auburn
Body:

This profile of the Alabama and Auburn college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1995 college football annuals. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of the single-most important game played in the state of Alabama each year, the "Iron Bowl."

Great Rivalries — Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Auburn Tigers

By Clyde Bolton, The Birmingham News

You're playing golf with a fellow who usually beats you. But today is your day to win.

Do you trounce him? Or would you rather slice the ball into the woods, listen as it ricochets from tree to tree, then watch in delight as it caroms onto the green and stops beside the cup, enabling you to make the deciding putt while your opponent screams about the injustice of it all?

The football equivalent of the second option happened in the 1972 Auburn-Alabama game, and Tiger fans still delight in needling their Crimson Tide friends with "Punt, Bama, Punt."

"When are you folks going to quit talking about those blocked punts?" an Alabama man demanded of Terry Henley years later. Henley, who was Auburn's tailback that day, smiled and said, "When you folks stop singing about playing in the Rose Bowl."

The Alabama-Auburn rivalry has been called everything from the nation's greatest to a sickness, but that game almost a quarter of a century ago in which an overmatched Auburn team blocked two consecutive punts in the final minutes and returned them for touchdowns to win 17-16 is indisputably its most famous edition.

Bill Cromartie, author of Braggin' Rights, the definitive history of the Auburn-Alabama series, didn't hesitate to pronounce it "the most incredible football game ever played."

Cromartie, who has written histories of Georgia-Georgia Tech, Michigan-Ohio State, Texas-Oklahoma, Notre Dame-Southern California and Duke-North Carolina, also says, "This is by far, I think, the nastiest rivalry in the country. I doubt if anything else touches it. I don't know if it's because the game of football is so intense in the state and they've both had good teams. But even when one team is real good and the other is real bad, it's still nasty."

This is what happened at Birmingham's Legion Field on Dec. 2, 1972: Alabama was undefeated, untied and ranked second in the nation. Auburn, having lost quarterback in Pat Sullivan, the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner, and consensus All-America receiver Terry Beasley to graduation, had been picked to finish in the lower reaches of the Southeastern Conference. But the Tigers had forged a surprising 8-1 record and were ranked ninth nationally. Still, a 35-7 loss to LSU marred their record, and they were 16-point underdogs to the Tide.

Auburn amassed a grand total of eight yards of offense in the first half. Largely forgotten, because it seemed of no importance at the tim, was Tiger defensive back Roger Mitchell's extra-point block after Alabama's first touchdown. And Auburn further demonstrated its inability to move the ball when coach Shug Jordan had Gardner Jett kick a 42-yard field goal with 9:15 left in the game and the Tide ahead 16-0. As Tiger fans booed Jordan's decision, he turned to trainer Kenny Howard and said, "They don't think we're going to win, do they?"

With 5:30 to play, the score 16-3 and the ball at midfield, Auburn linebacker Bill Newton rushed through unchecked and blocked Greg Grant's punt. The ball took a perfect hop into the arms of defensive back David Langner, who sped 25 yards into the end zone. Jett's extra point made it 16-10.

Then, with 1:34 remaining Grant prepared to punt again. The line of scrimmage was the Alabama 43. And again, Newton blocked Grant's punt. It bounded as if by design into Langner's arms, and he returned it 20 yards for the touchdown with 1:24 remaining. Jett's PAT gave Auburn a most improbable 17-16 victory.

Or at least I'm told Newton blocked another punt and Langner scored another touchdown. I covered the game for The Birmingham News. I was making my way to the sidelines before going to the dressing room to interview Jordan, the man I thought would be the losing coach. I didn't see the second block because my 5-7 frame was behind Auburn fans who were standing at the end-zone fence. I've always regretted that.

"What happened?" I asked when they went insane.

"The same thing that happened before," a fellow screamed. I had to work my way out of the crowd before I could deduce that I had missed one of the most amazing plays in football history.

Nobody was more amazed than Alabama's players. John Croyle, an all-star defensive end who went on to establish Big Oak Ranch for underprivileged, abused boys and girls, remembers the surreal qualities of the game.

The night before, some 20 players gathered in Croyle's room to pray.

"God, should we lose, make us men," one said.

"Should we lose?" Croyle thought. "No way."

For most of the game, nothing happened to change his mind.

"We could have given them the ball on the 10-yard line five times, and they would have never scored," Croyle recalls. "You know when you're beating somebody's eyes out, and we were beating their eyes out."

Not quite out.

"The score was 16-3 in the fourth quarter," Croyle says. "We were on the sidelines, and we knew the game was in the bag. We were so cocky we were even taking the tape off our hands. One of the guys said, 'Why don't we thank the Lord for the win?'

"It came time for me to pray, and I said, 'Lord, thank you for letting us be here, and I just want to praise your name for this ball game.'

"Thump.

"Roar.

"We jumped up, and here goes a guy running into the end zone with our ball. We all sat back down in a state of shock. I said, 'God, let's don't let this get out of hand.'"

But it did get out of hand. Jordan, who had avoided calling any victory his greatest or any team his favorite, affirmed both in the dressing room that afternoon. Alabama coach Bear Bryant, whose Tide teams won 19 of their 25 games against Auburn, never got over it.

In the late 1970s, I had fun with Bryant by asking when he was going to retire. During an Iron Bowl (Auburn vs. Alabama) week, he snapped, "When I block two punts against Auburn, I'll retire."

Doug Barfield, who would go 0-5 against Alabama and Bryant, was Auburn's coach from 1976-1980. I visited him the day after I spoke with Bryan, and he asked hopefully, "When is that old man going to retire?"

"He told me just yesterday that he'll retire when he blocks two punts against Auburn," I answered.

Barfield grinned and said, "Well, how about telling him I'll let him block two Saturday if he'll retire?"

Bryant, whose Tide was headed for a Cotton Bowl match with Texas, angered Auburn fans before the 1972 Iron Bowl when he told the Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club, "I'd rather beat that cow college once than beat Texas 10 times."

The irrepressible Henley was never one to run away from a headline. In print, he said Bryant should be ashamed of himself.

After Auburn upset Alabama, Henley said, "When those cows get mad, they kick. There won't be enough people going back to Auburn to milk them tonight."

Henley, now a Birmingham insurance man, remembers a story from that game. "It was not against the rules for the players to sell tickets. I came up with the ingenious idea of buying all the other players' tickets, and I'd be the only one to have any.

"The game came around and I ended up with all the tickets in the XX, YY and ZZ temporary bleachers at the end of the field. People would call, and I'd tell them I had 50-yard-line tickets. They'd send me $100, and I'd send them a couple of end-zone tickets, I was making the money.

"We got off the bus at the stadium, and a lot of players walked around the field in their dress clothes to stretch their legs. I never cared about that. I liked to sit in the dressing room and try to find my name in the program.

"Johnny Simmons, our safety, came in the dressing room, and he said, 'Terry, there's a bunch of people out there cussing you and screaming for you.'

"I said, 'Are they Alabama fans?'

"He said, 'No, they are our fans.'

"Well, I had long hair, and I liked to lead the team out on the field with my helmet under my arm, letting my hair blow. But this time I tried to get lost in the middle of the team when we ran out. I could hear the fans yelling, 'Where is he? Where is he?' We were doing our exercises, and they were yelling, 'You scumbag, you put us in the end zone.'

"But you know where all 33 points were scored? In that end zone. After the game, people were coming up to me and saying, 'Terry, our seats were just great.' They loved me again."

The first Alabama-Auburn game was played on Feb. 22, 1893, in Birmingham. Auburn won 32-22. Disagreement between the sides dates all the way back to that day. Alabama considers it the last game of the 1982 season. Auburn considers it the first game of the 1893 season.

There's something strange about this series, though, something that sets it apart from other rivalries rooted in antiquity. After the rivals tied 6-6 in 1907, they didn't meet on the gridiron again until; 1948, when Alabama won 55-0. Talk about a timeout.

Some consider the break in relations as fascinating as the games themselves. Over the years, two myths gained currency, neither of which is true. According to one, there was a riot at the 1907 game, and that was why the schools stopped playing each other. According to the other, the state legislature forced the two teams to get back together. Cromartie was surprised to learn just how mundane were the details of the split.

"I had always heard there was a killing in the 1907 game," he told me. "I went to the Birmingham paper thinking there would be some big headlines about the killing. I was going to the courthouse to get the records.

"But there was nothing about a fight. I thought maybe it was too late to get in the Sunday paper. So I looked in Monday's paper. Nothing there, either."

Cromartie's research into the origin of the 41-year break revealed a startling truth: "It was over $34."

The teams couldn't reach an agreement on the terms of the contract for the next year, so they didn't meet. It's an instructive example of how a rift can expand to chasm, whether between spouses, nations or institutions.

Over the years, efforts were made by various parties to bring the schools together, but it didn't happen until 1948. Mike Donahue, Auburn coach from 1904 to 1922 with a year off in 1907, was director of intramurals at LSU by then. When relations were resumed, he was interviewed by The Birmingham News.

"It would be a very fine thing for football if they will accept the game like any other game," Donahue said. "I tried to bring the schools together several times after relations were broken in the spring of 1908. The game was always very cleanly played during the time I was coaching at Auburn, beginning with the 1904 game. I have heard that riots and the conduct of the players were responsible for the severance of relations. I want to tell you this is not true. Failure to agree on details, where the teams would stay, expenses, how many players each squad would be permitted to have and officials caused the break in relations."

When Alabama and Auburn met again, it wasn't because the legislature required it but because two reasonable men, Alabama president Dr. John Galalee and Auburn president Dr. Ralph Draughon, decided it was time.

The legislature occasionally approved resolutions asking that they play each other, but they carried no official weight.

"It used to come up in the legislature, but both schools absolutely turned their backs on that," says Jeff Beard, retired Auburn athletic director.

Finally, Beard attended a get-together at which representatives of both schools reached an agreement to resume the series.

"Dr. Draughon and Dr. Galalee had been to a meeting at the old Tutwiler Hotel in Birmingham, and when it was over, they were walking to their cars," Beard recalls. "They started talking about it and decided there should be a game. The went home and talked on the phone about it some more. We met later at the Anne Jordan Farm near Sylacauga and had a nice dinner and got all the details worked out."

It has not been "like any other game," as Donahue suggested it should be. College football television analyst Beano Cook said ti well: "Alabama-Auburn is not just a rivalry. It's Gettysburg South."

Former Alabama coach Ray Perkins called it the most important football game in the world. More people in Alabama care passionately about it than about the Super Bowl, he said. He was right.

I have covered college football throughout the nation for 40 seasons, and I can say with assurance that the sport is embraced more enthusiastically in the state of Alabama than anywhere else.

I have a theory as to why college football is so important to the people of Alabama. The state traditionally has been ranked near the bottom in meaningful categories such as education and health. It is perceived by many as redneck and racist. But, by golly, we can be No.1 in football. We can be at or near the top in The Associated Press poll. Bear Bryant raised Alabama to the pinnacle in something, even if it is a game. Auburn responded to the challenge and we have a unique rivalry.

In recent years, the state's status has improved in many significant respects. It is frequently mentioned in those "best places to live" articles that appear in magazines. Meanwhile, our passion for football hasn't diminished.

A poll in 1989 asked residents of the state to name their most admired Alabamian, living or dead. Former governor George Wallace and Bryant were 1-2 in a landslide. Surely the third spot must have gone to Martin Luther King Jr. or Hugo Black or Booker T. Washington or Helen Keller or Julia Tutwiler, you say? No, it went to Bo Jackson, Auburn's 1985 Heisman Trophy winner and pro football and baseball player.

Even the color of money changes from orange and blue to crimson and white during Iron Bowl week. A scalper on a talk radio show offered two tickets for sale, adding, "Auburn fans need not call me. I don't want their money." (Scalping, incidentally, is legal in Alabama, and pairs of tickets to the 1994 Iron Bowl routinely fetched $400.)

Losers can expect to be seriously razzed for year. When fans say the game is for bragging rights, they aren't kidding.

"Talk about the Texas-Texas A&M game will start a week before the game and continue for a week after," says Alabama coach Gene Stallings, an ex-Aggie player and head coach, "but talk about the Alabama-Auburn game never stops. They're talking about it on the Fourth of July. That's what makes this one different from all others."

In one of the state's small towns, police arrested an Alabama fan and charged him with the shotgun death of an Auburn supporter a few hours after the 1994 game at Birmingham's Legion Field, won by Alabama 21-14. The Auburn fan watched the game on TV at a friend's house and returned home to find his car had been egged and his trees covered with toilet paper. Police said he apparently suspected an Alabama devotee. When the man went to the Bama fan's house trailer to confront him, he was shot.

Former Alabama coach Bill Curry said some of his players received death threats before the 1989 game with Auburn, the first to be played at Auburn. They would be protected from the time they left Tuscaloosa until they returned, he stressed. "Our players will virtually be surrounded by security," Curry said.

"It's one of the nastiest rivalries there is," says Siran Stacy, who was Alabama's star runner that year. Stacy says he received a threatening phone call.

"The caller said something about I would never set foot in Jordan-Hare Stadium. There was no name, no reason. Just a mean call. I guess the thought by threatening me I'd get all stirred up. I guess they thought it would affect me and it would hurt the team. They thought wrong."

Stallings and Auburn coach Terry Bowden appear to be making an effort to turn the rivalry into something a little less mean-spirited. Neither is likely to make a gratuitous statement such as one Perkins made about Pat Dye when they were coaching Alabama and Auburn respectively. Dye, said Perkins, couldn't have the same feelings about the rivalry that he (Perkins) had because Dye hadn't played at either school. Ridiculous, said Dye, a former Georgia All-American.

"We don't spend any more time getting ready for Auburn than we do for Chattanooga," Stallings said. "There's more pressure on me personally to play somebody you're supposed to beat than to play a good strong rival."

After Auburn lost the 1994 game, which gave the Tide a 34-24-1 series lead, Bowden said, "I guess I'll go back to being Buster Brown now," a self-deprecating reference to his lack of height.

More humor and common sense and less rancor are welcomed in the Alabama-Auburn series, but neither coach has any illusions about it being just a game.

"It's important to win," Stallings says, "and if the coach at either school can't take that, he shouldn't be working there."

Following are 11 (appropriately) memorable Auburn-Alabama games in chronological order:

*(1948) Alabama 55, Auburn 0. "They'll take the bandages off a 41-yeard-old football wound tomorrow and see if the scar is healed," Sterling Slappey wrote in The Montgomery Advertiser. The presidents of both student bodies actually buried a hatchet in a park in Birmingham, but everyone was uneasy, wondering just what would happen at the renewal. There were no unusual problems with fans, but Alabama halfback Ed Salem did lead the worst mugging Auburn had suffered since 1917.

*(1949) Auburn 14, Alabama 13. It remains the greatest upset in a series that has had precious few upsets. The 6-2-1 Tide was a 19-point favorite over the Tigers, who had won only one game. Billy Tucker, who later would be crippled by polio, kicked the winning extra point.

*(1957) Auburn 40, Alabama 0. It wasn't much of a game, which is precisely why it was notable. It was the last building block in Auburn's national championship season. The Tigers led 34-0 at intermission, Jordan called them the best team, for a half, he had ever coached.

*(1961) Alabama 34, Auburn 0. Bryant returned to his alma mater in 1958 after coaching stints at Maryland, Kentucky and Texas A&M, and Auburn's dominance in the series ended. This victory was the centerpiece in Bryant's first of six national titles. Quarterback Pat Trammell, Bryant's favorite of all the players he coached, a man who would die young, led the win.

*(1971) Alabama 31, Auburn 7. Only once have the teams met when both were undefeated and untied, and this was it. On Thursday, Sullivan was named winner of the Heisman Trophy, and the Tigers weren't down off their cloud on Saturday. Tide All-American Johnny Musso and company brought them back to earth, though.

*(1972) Punt, Bama, Punt.

*(1981) Alabama 28, Auburn 17. Bryant's 315th victory this day made him the all-time winningest coach in Division I-A college football history. He would win 323 games, lose 85 and tie 17 in 38 years as a head coach, 25 at Alabama. His Tide came from behind in the fourth period on a pass from Walter Lewis to Jesse Bendross to beat its No. 1 rival in 1981.

*(1982) Auburn 23, Alabama 22. Bo Jackson scored over the top to score the winning touchdown with 2:26 to play in Bryant's last Iron Bowl. It was the Tigers' first victory over the Tide since 1972. Dye, in his second year at the Auburn helm, became the first Bryant pupil to beat the master in 31 games over 12 years. Two months later, Bryant was dead of heart failure.

*(1985) Alabama 25, Auburn 23. This was perhaps the most breathtaking game of the series. The lead changed hands four times in the fourth period. Van Tiffin kicked a 52-yard field goal on the last play to win it.

*(1989) Auburn 30, Alabama 20. Despite protestations by Alabama that it would never happen, Auburn moved its home games with the Tide to its campus. This was the first one, and Dye likened it to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

*(1993) Auburn 22, Alabama 14. Auburn's new coach, the boyish-looking Bowden, closed an unprecedented 11-0 rookie season in Division 1-A with a victory on the Plain. Backup quarterback Patrick Nix helped him get it with a spectacular touchdown pass to Frank Sanders.

Teaser:
<p> For more than 60 years bragging rights in Alabama have been at stake in the annual "Iron Bowl"</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 08:20
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-2011-nl-mvp
Body:

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) has already named its AL and NL Rookies of the Year, AL and NL Managers of the Year, AL and NL Cy Young award winners, and the AL MVP. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

NL MVP

Unlike the crowded race in the AL, the NL MVP will most likely come down to one of two outfielders, either Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers or Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both posted 30-30 seasons and finished in the NL's top five in six key offensive categories — batting average, runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Who ends up winning could be determined by voters' perception of "most valuable" in relation to team's success (Braun's Brewers won the NL Central, Dodgers didn't make playoffs) and/or their respective supporting cast.

To that end, Braun's teammate, Prince Fielder, will receive his share of MVP votes, as will two former winners — Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals (2005, 2008, 2009) and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds (2010). Other legitimate contenders include NL batting champ and New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton.

Contenders' Stats:

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: .332, 109 R, 187 H, 38 2B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, .397 OBP, .597 SLG, .994 OPS

Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers: .299, 95 R, 170 H, 36 2B, 38 HR, 120 RBI, .415 OBP, .566 SLG, .981 OPS

Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: .324, 115 R, 195 H, 33 2B, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, .399 OBP, .586 SLG, .986 OPS

Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals: .299, 105 R, 173 H, 29 2B, 37 HR, 99 RBI, .366 OBP, .541 SLG, .906 OPS

Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets: .337, 101 R, 181 H, 31 2B, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 39 SB, .384 OBP, .493 SLG, .877 OPS

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: .302, 81 R, 162 H, 36 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .372 OBP, .544 SLG, .916 OPS

Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: .289, 105 R, 171 H, 39 2B, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB, .369 OBP, .529 SLG, .898 OPS

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: .309, 101 R, 185 H, 40 2B, 29 HR, 103 RBI, .416 OBP, .531 SLG, .947 OPS

Athlon's Winner: Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kemp beats out Braun as he receives three first-place votes to Braun's one. Pujols comes in third followed by Fielder as they split the third-place votes among them, with Tulowitzki and Votto tying for fifth. Besides Upton and Reyes, others receiving MVP consideration among the Athlon voting contingency included Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies, Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Ryan Braun
Braun lost his battle for the batting title with Jose Reyes of the Mets, but he joined Matt Kemp as the only players ranked in the top 10 in all three triple crown categories in the NL. Braun edges Kemp by a whisker based on being the No. 3 hitter on a division winner and having a higher OPS.
2. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers’ centerfielder fell just short of the first triple crown in the NL in more than 70 years. And he accomplished that while playing Gold Glove caliber defense and swiping 40 bags.
3. Albert Pujols
This ranking may surprise you if you’re judging Pujols’ season based on the Pujols Scale. But if you’re evaluating his 2011 season on a reasonable scale, it is worthy of a top-3 ranking. After all, he hit 37 home runs and did the heavy lifting during the Cardinals’ late surge.
4. Troy Tulowitzki
The shortstop struggling with nagging injuries this season, but was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season in Denver. Even with some missed time, he hit .302 with 30 bombs and more than 100 ribbies.
5. Joey Votto
The reigning MVP finished fifth in the league in average and OPS.
6. Justin Upton
7. Prince Fielder
8. Jose Reyes
9. Roy Halladay
10. Yadier Molina

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers had Kemp on offense and that was about it. Kemp led the league in runs (115), home runs (39) and RBI (126) while finishing third in hitting (.324), third in stolen bases (40), second in hits (195) and second in extra-base hits (76). If it wasn't for an untimely divorce, the Cy Young/MVP-led boys in Blue likely would have pushed St. Louis for the Wild Card (finished 7.5 back and three games over .500).
2. Ryan Braun
Braun is Kemp-lite with three major differences. He gets plenty of credit for getting his team to the postseason, however, he did it surrounded by elite level hitters, a lock-down bullpen and deep starting rotation. He is also an adventure in the outfield. Kemp is a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder while Braun makes the routine look difficult at times. His offensive numbers alone get him to No. 2 on my ballot.
3. Albert Pujols
Pujols had arguably the worst season of his career and he still proved to be virtually indispensable. He still finished third in the league with 37 big flies and 105 runs scored while driving in the seventh most runs (99). He finished seventh in slugging and 10th in OPS with a .299 average for the Wild Card winners. And he consistently plays one of the best first bases in the game.
4. Justin Upton
This uber-talent is only beginning to blossom into the player we all think he can become. He smacked 31 home runs, scored 105 times, stole 21 basses and unexpectedly led the Arizona Diamondbacks to an NL West title. They were picked last in the division in the preseason.
5. Prince Fielder
The big daddy first baseman finished second in the NL in home runs (38), second in RBI (126) and second in walks (107). He posted a third-best OPS of .981 and helped lead his team to the NL Central crown. Too bad he won't be in a Brewer uniform any longer.
6. Jose Reyes
Reyes captured the Mets first-ever batting title with a ridiculous .337 mark. And .877 OPS from the lead-off spot isn't bad either. Playing on a bad team hurts his value, but he is the unquestioned spark plug for the Mets and he is one of the most dynamic base runners and slickest fielding shortstops in the game.
7. Joey Votto
The reigning NL MVP posted a pretty nasty 2011 line: 101 runs, 29 homers, 103 RBI, 110 walks and a .309/.947 set of ratios. Unfortunately, the Reds couldn't carry any of that 2010 magic with them into 2011.
8. Troy Tulowitzki
Not too many shortstops hit 30 home runs, drive in 105 and top the .300 mark all while playing arguably the game’s most important position. Tulo is not only the best offensive shortstop in the game, but is argubaly the game's best defensive shortstop as well.
9. Yadier Molina
He is the best player at his position in all of baseball. And with his second ring, he is slowly working his way up the all-time ranks. He led the World Champs in hitting (.305) and molded an Adam Wainwright-less pitching staff into a playoff team.
10. Clayton Kershaw
But a pitcher can't win MVP, right?

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
He led the National League in both home runs (39) and RBIs (126), all while batting .324, stealing 40 bases and playing center field. The Dodgers were a winning team despite missing the postseason, and Kemp was the main reason. He was a one-man show in L.A., as the next-highest Dodger in RBIs was James Loney with 65 and the second-highest home run total was 16 by Rod Barajas. Matt Kemp had an amazing year and flirted with a triple crown for most of the season.
2. Ryan Braun
3. Prince Fielder
4. Albert Pujols
5. Troy Tulowitzki
6. Joey Votto
7. Ryan Howard
8. Justin Upton 
9. Jose Reyes
10. Yadier Molina

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Matt Kemp
The Dodgers’ center fielder just missed a 40-40 season (39 home runs, 40 stolen bases) and flirted with a Triple Crown until the very end, finishing tops in the NL in home runs and RBIs (126) and third in average (.324). With runners in scoring position, Kemp led all of baseball with 13 home runs, and led the NL with 87 RBIs while batting .335 in those situations.
2. Ryan Braun
Braun posted a 30-30 season (33 home runs, 33 stolen bases) for the NL Central champion Brewers, led the NL in both slugging percentage (.597) and OPS (.994), while finishing second in batting average at .332.
3. Prince Fielder
Fielder posted his fifth straight 30-home run season, finishing second to Kemp in both home runs (38) and RBIs (120). The Brewers’ first baseman also batted .299 on the year and finished second the NL in on-base percentage (.415), as he walked more (107) than he stuck out (106).
4. Albert Pujols
The Cardinals’ first baseman and three-time MVP got off to a slow start, but finished strong, just missing out on posting an 11th-straight .300-30-100 season as he finished with a .299 average, 37 home runs and 99 RBIs, while leading his team to the postseason and eventually the World Series title.
5. Joey Votto
Last year’s MVP didn’t quite match his numbers from last season, but had a fine season nonetheless leading the NL in doubles (40), walks (110) and on-base percentage (.416). The Reds’ first baseman also won his first Gold Glove.
6. Troy Tulowitzki
7. Jose Reyes
8. Justin Upton
9. Clayton Kershaw
10. Hunter Pence

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

Teaser:
<p> Athlon editors make their case for who they thought was the NL MVP this season.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 10:34
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-ole-miss-vs-mississippi-state
Body:

This profile of the Ole Miss and Mississippi State college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 2008 Southeastern college football magazine. As the two in-state rivals prepare for the 108th "Egg Bowl," we thought it would be relevant to take a look back at the history of the biggest game played every year in Mississippi.

The Egg Bowl

By Michael Bradley

Because he grew up listening to both Ole Miss and Mississippi State radio broadcasts with his daddy in tiny Drew, a rural hamlet in the northwest part of the state, Archie Manning never did develop much of a hatred for MSU, even though he ended up playing quarterback for the Rebels. The way his father figured it, the Mannings were Mississippians and therefore supported both schools.

“My daddy was a sports fan, but more than anything, he was a Mississippi sports fan,” Manning says. “He rooted for the home schools and the pro teams that had Mississippi natives on them. He liked the New York Giants because of (former Ole Miss quarterback) Charlie Connerly and the St. Louis Cardinals because of (second baseman) Don Blasingame, who was from Corinth.”

Manning’s father never had a strong rooting interest when the Rebels and Bulldogs squared off. As for Archie, he leaned toward Ole Miss, “because they won more.”

Now, during his three years as a starter for Ole Miss, Manning wanted to beat the Bulldogs. Anybody who played for John Vaught did. The venerable coach lost only twice to MSU during his 24 years in Oxford and went undefeated over the first 17 games his teams played against the people from Starkville. But Manning never felt anything “nasty” about the rivalry. OK, he did catch some grief from the MSU fans when he played baseball against the Bulldogs, but things never got too out of hand.

In 1969, however, the rivalry went to a different level for Manning. The Ole Miss junior was enjoying a great season, as were the Rebels, who came to Starkville with a 6–3 record. Vaught promised his team that a win over the Bulldogs would lead to a Sugar Bowl berth. (Back then, bowl invitations were the result of politics as much as performance.) That added some motivation for Manning, but when he came out to warm up before the game, a sign that ran the length of the wall behind the Ole Miss bench fired him up even more.

Because of his strong play, Manning had been receiving considerable attention in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News, two papers that circulated statewide and were owned by the Hederman brothers. The MSU crowd didn’t take too kindly to the publicity, which it considered excessive. Thus the sign: “Archie Hederman.”

“That inspired me,” Manning says with a laugh.

Over the past century, players on both sides of the rivalry have been similarly “inspired” to conquer the other side. Some, like Manning, have used their incentive to fashion great victories, like the 48–22 beating that he and the Rebels laid on the Bulldogs that Thanksgiving afternoon. Others have taken it a little far, like when the teams staged brawls during the first quarter of the 1990 game and prior to the ’97 meeting.

No matter whether the fighting was real or a metaphor for the effort required to earn a victory, the Ole Miss-Mississippi State Egg Bowl game is one of the nation’s finest, if somewhat underrated, rivalries. Because neither team is a perennial national powerhouse or even SEC contender (the teams have combined for only eight titles in the league’s 74 years), thanks to their modest athletic budgets, the contest doesn’t generate the same interest as Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Georgia or even Georgia-Auburn, the Deep South’s oldest rivalry. Add in the fact that the state is largely rural and has a population of only around three million, and you get the sense that the battle for the Egg Bowl is a parochial concern. Maybe, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of history and tradition behind it.

“In the state of Mississippi, people understand that for Mississippi and Mississippi State to compete against Tennessee and Florida with their large budgets is a handicap,” says MSU athletic director Larry Templeton, who grew up in Starkville, went to MSU and has been AD for 21 years. “When we stand up against each other, all things are equal.”

College football in the Deep South was 12 years old when Mississippi entertained Southwestern Baptist University (now Union University) in 1893. MSU (known then as Mississippi A&M, a land-grant school), meanwhile, didn’t begin intercollegiate football until 1895, when it broke away from its intramural roots. Once the Aggies began playing ball, it didn’t take too long for someone to decide the two schools should get together on the gridiron.

Yellow fever stopped football at both institutions in 1897, and MSU didn’t resume play until 1901. And that occasion was deemed worthy of a matchup between the two in-state rivals.

The contest was played Oct. 28 on the Oktibbeha State Fairgrounds in Starkville and featured some pregame wrangling over eligibility issues. That was hardly news, since teams from all over the country were rather elastic in their requirements for inclusion on football teams. Once the dispute was settled, the game began, and the Maroon and White prevailed, 17–0. In his fine book on the game, The Egg Bowl, William G. Barner reprints accounts of the contest from the A&M student newspaper, The College Reflector, and from the University of Mississippi Magazine about the game. It was clear that a rivalry had been born.

First, The Reflector: “The University boys…played the dirtiest game of ball that we have seen. They would do anything to put our men out so long as the referee was not looking.”

Then, The Magazine: “’To one who has never indulged in any exercise more violent than…the milking of a patient cow, football seems a brutal sport. Our bucolic friend of the Agricultural College should confine himself to mumble-peg and townball.”

That type of back-and-forth prevails today and is somewhat typical of the relationship between any state university and its land-grant counterpart. Michigan students and alums refer to Michigan State as Moo U, and a similar arrogance can be found in the relationship between Mississippi’s two largest schools.

“This is a fact: the Ole Miss people seem to think they are the upper crust of the state,” maintains Jack Cristal, who has done play-by-play of State football games for 54 years. “They look down on the Mississippi State people.

“Ole Miss people think they’re better than most.”

The Ole Miss crowd doesn’t refute that assessment. “People like to tease them about the cowbells (rung by Bulldog fans at home games), and they get real mad about that,” says Mississippi chancellor Robert Khayat, who played for the Rebels from 1957-59. “It has always been a rural-against-city rivalry. It’s funny, though. Mississippi is mostly rural. There isn’t too much that’s cosmopolitan about the state.”

The two sides do respect each other, though, even if Warner Alford, who played at Ole Miss from ’58-60, says, “We are THE university of Mississippi.” From 1911-25, the Aggies had little reason to consider the Red and Blue anything but a doormat. Mississippi State was 11–0 in the rivalry during that stretch (no games were played from 1912-14) and outscored its overmatched foe 327–33 in those games. What began as Ole Miss dominance had swung to an iron-fisted Maroon and White rule.

That changed in 1926, when Ole Miss broke through with a 7–6 win in Starkville. The win was huge, but the postgame mayhem changed the rivalry forever. The Rebel contingent celebrated the end of its heroes’ drought by storming the soggy field and deciding to take the goalposts as spoils of victory. As one might imagine, this didn’t sit too well with the Aggie students, who defended their turf vehemently. The resulting melee, which was wisely avoided by the players, surprised and upset officials from both sides. By the next year, some changes had been made.

The biggest was the introduction of a real trophy for the game’s winner. The award, a solid-gold football, was agreed upon by students from both schools and was thought to be a deterrent to future goalpost abuse and subsequent violence. What a difference a trophy could make! After Ole Miss’ 20–12 win, accomplished before an overflow crowd of 14,000 in Oxford, there was a dignified presentation of the Golden Egg and an unparalleled spirit of cooperation. There were even calls, echoed by the new governor two months later, for combining the two institutions in order to create one fine university — and a heckuva football team.

Fortunately for Egg Bowl fans, that didn’t happen, and the teams continued to play each Thanksgiving Day. Not that State (the school was renamed Mississippi State College in 1932) got too much out of it. The “Flood,” a nickname given the Mississippi team in 1929, was undefeated in the series from 1926-35, winning nine and tying one (7–7 in 1929). When the Maroons finally did break through, in 1936 with a 26–6 win in Starkville, there were no riots, just an enthusiastic celebration and the beginning of some prosperity. Over the next six years, Mississippi State won five of six, including a 6–0 decision in 1941 (eight days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor) that clinched its first SEC title.

The arrival of John Vaught in Oxford in 1947 changed everything for the Rebels, who embarked on a dominance of the Bulldogs (Mississippi State adopted the nickname in the early ’40s) over the next two-plus decades, as the Rebels became an SEC and national power. “(Vaught) always said, ‘Never forget that Mississippi State is your rival,’” Alford says. “And he wanted to beat them.”

Khayat can speak to the pressure on the Rebels when they met Mississippi State. In 1957, he was a sophomore charged with kicking the point-after that would forge a late 7–7 tie. He had tried dozens of such kicks before, but none so important. “If I had missed it, I might have been hanged,” he says.

There wasn’t too much drama during the period. There were some moments, like in 1964, when a strong MSU ended 17 years of winless desperation with a 20–17 triumph that triggered a huge celebration that included canceling of classes the following Monday and presentation of the key to the city by the Starkville mayor.

One of the more controversial aspects of the rivalry surrounded the decision in 1973 to move the games from their campus homes to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson. The decision was made to accommodate the growing number of people who wished to watch the game live, and the first year in Jackson brought a record throng of 43,556. Over the next 17 years, upwards of 62,000 fans would pack the joint for the game. In 1991, Templeton made a decision that was unpopular in some corners but made good business sense for his school. Even though Jackson’s business community made a spirited — and lucrative — bid to keep the game, Templeton brought it home to Starkville.

“Moving the game back helped us raise the funds to build skyboxes and club seating,” Templeton says. “It’s a cornerstone game on which you can hold down your base of season ticket holders. Both schools have doubled the size of their stadiums since bringing the game back on campus.

“But when I moved it, I wasn’t very popular, because the majority of the state’s population is around Jackson.”

The following year, Ole Miss did the same thing, bringing the game to Oxford. Alford, then the Ole Miss AD, caught much of the same flak Templeton did. Not that he apologizes for the move. “We added to our stadium and renovated it because of the move,” Alford says. “We put lights in. It’s a big thing to play the (MSU) game in Oxford.”

Safely at home, the rivalry has delivered plenty of excitement over the past 10 years. The ’97 edition featured plenty of drama, from the pregame fight that brought state troopers onto the field to restore order, to the last-minute TD and two-point conversion pass from Stewart Partridge to Cory Peterson that gave Ole Miss a 15–14 win. The ’99 game was even crazier. There was no brawl but fireworks nonetheless.

The Bulldogs had staggered into the game on a two-game losing streak — after winning their first eight. Through three quarters, it appeared as if the losing streak would continue. Ole Miss held a 20–6 advantage and looked pretty safe. But a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes by Wayne Madkin, the last with 0:27 remaining, knotted the score at 20.

Ole Miss could have played for overtime. Should have played for overtime. Didn’t play for overtime. Because he felt his team was completely gassed, coach David Cutcliffe directed quarterback Romaro Miller to throw downfield, even though the Rebels had the ball at their own 27. Miller’s first pass was deflected by MSU’s Robert Bean and collected by teammate Eugene Clinton, who returned the ball to the Rebel 26 with 0:08 left. From there, Scott Westerfield drilled a 43-yard field goal that won the game.

Last year, the Bulldogs staged similar dramatics in a contest that appeared to be lost heading into the final period. Ole Miss held a 14–0 lead and a total offensive edge of 290 yards to 144. The futility extended another few minutes before MSU awoke. The Bulldogs stuffed a 4th-and-1 run by Rebels star BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 12:44 remaining. MSU took over on the Ole Miss 46 and drove for a TD, with Wesley Carroll hitting Anthony Dixon from four yards out to make it 14–7, with 7:51 to go. Five minutes later, MSU’s Anthony Pegues scooped up a short punt and galloped 75 yards for a game-tying score. The comeback was completed with 0:12 left when Adam Carlson drilled a 48-yard field goal — the longest of his career — giving the Bulldogs a 17–14 win and their seventh win of the year, which cemented the team’s bowl résumé. A month later, the Bulldogs played in the postseason for the first time under coach Sylvester Croom.

“For what it meant to Mississippi State, it was obviously one of the more important ballgames we’ve played,” Cristal says.

Of course it was; the game was against Ole Miss. All of those games are important.

Teaser:
<p> For more than a century the "Egg Bowl" has been the most important game played in Mississippi</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 10:04
All taxonomy terms: Georgia Bulldogs, Larry Munson, News
Path: /news/we-remember-legendary-georgia-broadcaster-larry-munson
Body:

Legendary Georgia play-by-play man Larry Munson was once a game-day fixture for Dawgs fans, and with the sad news of his passing, he’s left Bulldog Nation with countless memories.

Before he came to Athens, Munson called the shots for Vanderbilt football and basketball for 16 years, and he was the radio voice of the Nashville Vols of the Southern Baseball Association. He also served as play-by-play man for Wyoming Cowboys football and basketball. But his immortal calls for the Bulldogs — “Run, Lindsay!”, “We stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose!” — are his most lasting legacy.

Munson shared his thoughts on Georgia football in the foreword he wrote in 2005 for Athlon’s book, “Game Day: Georgia Football.” As a tribute to Munson, we present it here.

FOREWORD

By Larry Munson

So, how do you introduce a book on the history of Georgia football?

Oddly enough, I’ll start in Colorado.

In the fall of 1945, I was broadcasting my first home game with the Second Air Force football team from Colorado Springs. It was a typical Service football game between two powerhouse teams that were both covered up with All-America football players who had spent their war years playing an exceptionally high brand of college football. In the very first quarter of that game, they carried a Second Air Force running back off the field on a stretcher. His name was Frank Sinkwich.

It was a bad moment for Sinkwich, because the knee injury kept him from a pro football career. But at that time, I wasn’t familiar with him and had no idea that many years later I would be working the broadcasts for Georgia, where Sinkwich had made quite a name for himself before enlisting in the Air Force.

We really shouldn’t even mention Georgia football without going back into the memory banks and finding all the names that meant so much to you and me both. From Trippi to Rauch, Butts, Tarkenton, Sapp, McClendon, Arnold, Butler, Bennett, Herschel, Zeier, Etter, Moore, Patton, Stanfill, Lawrence, Greene, Pollack, Dooley, etc. … See how easy it is to start writing about Georgia football and find yourself literally covered up with hundreds of names from the past? Some of them from the very recent past?

I grew up in a Big Ten house; everybody followed the University of Minnesota, and everybody always cursed the University of Michigan. They also threw a few words out there against Iowa, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Purdue. Never did I dream that I would wind up in the south directing my hatred against General Bob Neyland, Steve Spurrier, Pat Dye and Danny Ford — not to mention any jersey that was covered with orange. As my 40 years of working Georgia football unfolded, many of the Big Ten teams were starting to decline, while the SEC was flying high and continues to climb even higher.

I’ve had 56 years in the SEC now, and I have no way of knowing all the great teams and where they should be ranked. But I do know this: Georgia football fans are as rabid and passionate as they come. I’ve been here so long now, I can’t even remember when tailgating started! That goes back to the ’60s. I think; however, the food now is much better, and there is much more of it.

We’ve turned the century mark now, and with it all the stadiums have grown twice as big, and the press boxes are also spread out all over the place. Unfortunately, the radio booths are now seven miles from the field. At least, it seems that way.

And now, here comes my 40th year of working Georgia football; the old names and games should be distant memories, but they continue to leap to my mind. With all the major names that left us a few months ago, how are we going to remember the 2004 team, I wonder? I also can’t help but wonder if Buck and Lindsay and a fullback named Haynes are also overwhelmed by the great memories flooding their memory banks.

As we look forward to making more memories together, I have a thought: Wouldn’t it be great to play Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl? Would we all walk away satisfied then?

— Larry Munson
June 1, 2005 

Teaser:
<p> The legendary play-by-lay man passed away over the weekend.</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 05:57
All taxonomy terms: Caleb Hanie, Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler, NFL, News
Path: /news/jay-cutler-breaks-his-thumb-can-caleb-hanie-produce-bears
Body:

Up until the fourth quarter of yesterday's game, the Chicago Bears were being called one of the best teams in football. Their defense was playing great. Their special teams were extra special. And their offense had developed a rhythm.

But all that is up in the air now as the Bears lost Jay Cutler for the rest of the regular season with a broken thumb, forcing them to turn to not-so-tested rookie Caleb Hanie to come in and continue the team's playoff run.

What does this mean for Bears fans?

Cutler, who always seems to be maligned, no matter what he does, had been playing very good football. He'd had time to actually drop back and go through his progressions once the Bears equally-maligned offensive line had gotten their collective act together. And Jay was making the most of it. He wasn't turning the ball over (especially in the red zone, where hed had trouble the last few years).

So what can Caleb Hanie do?

Most Bears fans remember Hanie coming in to relieve the horrific Todd Collins in last year's NFC Championship game against the Packers. And despite being the third string guy who'd had almost no reps with the first team, he actually made it a game. Well, until he tossed a pick-6 to the Packers B.J. Raji, a 300 pounder not knowing for having good hands.

But in fairness, while that's what most people will remember, Hanie actually kept the Bears in it by tossing a 35-yard touchdown to Earl Bennett. And a lot of people thought that if the Bears had put him in first and left Todd Collins on the bench, they would have possibly been able to pull it out.

Now that Hanie has a week with the first team, he should perform even better. Hanie and Cutler have a close relationship, which can also be a huge help.

To have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, the Bears are going to probably have to go 4-2 in their six remaining games.

Here's a breakdown of who they play and a prediction for each:

Nov. 27: at Oakland Raiders
This will be Hanie's first game as a starter this year. So we'll cut him some slack and assume this will be his worst game of the season. The Bears have to travel west and the Raiders have an explosive offense that's playing well right now.
Prediction: LOSS

Dec. 4: against Kansas City
The Bears need to win this game. It's at home against a team whose also lost their starting quarterback as this will be a Hanie vs Tyler Palko match-up. The Bears have better defense and special teams and should come out on top.
Prediction: WIN

December 11: at Denver Broncos
This is another game the Bears should win. Where the Jets couldn't stop Tim Tebow's fourth quarter drive, the Bears defense wouldn't let him run down the field as Urlacher and Briggs should shut Tebow down. This will most likely be a low scoring game, with the Bears turning to Robbie Gould to outkick Matt Prater.
Prediction: WIN

December 18: against Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are the B-version of the Bears. Questionable quarterback, good running back mediocre wide receivers and a good running defense. The Bears have better corners and should shut down Tarvaris Jackson enough to pull out a home victory.
Prediction: WIN

December 25: against Green Bay Packers
If the Packers are still undefeated in week 16, many pundits were pointing to this game as the one that they were most likely to lose. But that was when Cutler had two working thumbs. The way the Packers are playing right now, I don't give the Hanie-lead Bears a chance to pull this one out.
Prediction: LOSS

January 1: at Minnesota Vikings
If the Bears are still in the playoff hunt this will be one of those games where the Bears have everything to play for, while the Vikings will already have their tee times ready. The Bears could start no one at quarterback and win this game.
Prediction: WIN

So there you have it. If Caleb Hanie can manage the Bears offense, and if Matt Forte can keep moving the chains, the Bears have a strong enough defense and Devin Hester's more-than-capable special teams play to play their way into the playoffs, where anything can happen. And if he leads them to a 6-0 run, would there be a quarterback controversy? Bears fans can only hope.

As a fantasy football side note: Go pick up Hanie right now. He won't be Tom Brady, but he's a guy who will be underappreciated. He knows the offense, and he should put up more than capable points if you're struggling to find someone to slot in at QB (or if you're in a two quarterback league.) We'll have more on Caleb's fantasy predictions in our weekly waiver wire.

Teaser:
<p> Can a Caleb Hanie lead Bears team make the playoffs?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 03:53
Path: /news/aj-green-doubtful-should-be-your-bench-today
Body:

Update: A.J. Green has been ruled officially out for today's game against the Ravens. Ray Lewis has also been ruled out.

A.J. Green has been a fantasy stud all season, but he's listed as doubtful for today's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Not only does he have a hyperextended knee, but he also has a deep bone bruise to go along with it.

Oh, and did we mention that the Bengals and Green are going up against the Baltimore Ravens monster defense?

For those reasons alone, A.J. Green should be on your bench today, as much as it probably pains you to do so. And I know your response, "Well if he does suit up, it looks like Ray Lewis won't play. So he could have success right?"

Wrong. The Ravens are a complete defense who would give Green trouble even if Ray Lewis was in a wheelchair and Green was 110%.

And with Green hurting, it looks like Andre Caldwell will get put in at flanker, with Jerome Simpson and Andre Hawkins both getting even more playing time.

But since the Ravens are currently ranked 6th in pas defense, it is going to be a long day for whoever the Bengals put in at wideout (or running back, or quarterback for that matter). If you have any Bengals, I'd keep them all on the bench today. It's not worth the headache.

Teaser:
<p> The Bengals rookie phenom has two injuries that will sideline him today</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 20, 2011 - 09:08
Path: /news/lee-corso-says-f-bomb-espns-college-gameday-then-issues-apology-video
Body:

Lee Corso, the outspoken and fun co-host of ESPN's College GameDay pre-game show accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) dropped an F-Bomb while he was getting ready to put on the University of Houston mascot hat (one of his GameDay traditions.)

He was originally going to yell the name of the winner through one of those cheerleader cones, but when that wasn't working out as well as Corso had hoped, he clearly said "F--- It!", tossed the cone down and pulled out the Houston Cougar mascot hat. 

When the f-word came out of his mouth, each one of his ESPN co-hosts jaw's dropped. Kirk Herbstreit immediately had a look of disbelief on his face and Chris Fowler put his head on the table, and then pretended to wash the mascot's mouth out with soap and said "shame on you!" to Corso.

Meanwhile, the celebrity guest Carl Lewis (and Houston grad) just had a huge smile on his face and clapped vigorously through the whole incident. Which is really the best reaction to have in a situation like that.

This isn't the first time Corso has cursed on the air, and quite frankly, we hope it's not the last.

Moments after the show, ESPN GameDay's official site showed a 12-second video of Corso apologizing for his on-air gaffe, where he said he got a little "too excited" and used an expletive he shouldn't have.

Are we wrong for kind of liking the fact that Corso gets so riled up during these broadcasts that his emotions get the better of him. We realize that ESPN can't have their announcers dropping F-bombs all the time (that would get expensive with the FCC), but it's nice to see a little unbridled enthusiasm on the screen from time to time. Isn't that what college football is all about, anyway?

Teaser:
<p> The ESPN College GameDay host got so excited he used the f-word on live TV</p>
Post date: Saturday, November 19, 2011 - 13:46
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-cal-vs-stanford
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This article on the California vs. Stanford college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1993 college football annuals. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of what is commonly known as the "Big Game."

Great Rivalries — California Golden Bears vs. Stanford Cardinal

By David Bush, San Francisco Chronicle

It is simply known as the Big Game. And many times it really is.

The rivalry between the University of California and Stanford has always been one of college football’s most exciting, even when one or both suffer through a mediocre season. The best example is the unforgettable 1982 contest, won on California’s sensational five-lateral kickoff return. Kevin Moen raced through the Stanford band, which had taken the field in premature celebration, to score as time expired.

Known simply as The Play, it has superseded Roy Riegels’ wrong-way run in the 1929 Rose Bowl game as the most famous play in college football history.

The rivals were finishing so-so seasons when they met at Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium on Nov. 20. Stanford, led by senior All-America quarterback John Elway, came in with a 5-5 record and a Hall of Fame Bowl invitation resting on the outcome. California was 6-4 under first-year coach Joe Kapp, an alumnus and the only man to play in the Rose Bowl, Grey Cup game (for the Canadian Football League title) and the Super Bowl.

The amazing climax overshadows the fact that it had been a gripping game throughout.

The underdog Golden Bears dominated the first half and led 10-0 before Stanford came back to take a 14-10 lead. A field goal and a sensational touchdown catch by receiver Wes Howell put California up 19-14 midway in the fourth quarter. A field goal pulled the Cardinal within two points, and on a fantastic Elway-led drive, Stanford rallied to take the lead. Faced with a fourth-and-17 situation on his own 13-yard line with 53 seconds remaining, Elway completed a 29-yard pass to Emile Harry. Three plays later, after the Cardinal advanced to the 18, Mark Harmon kicked a 35-yard field goal. Stanford led 20-19. Four seconds remained.

From the Stanford sideline, several players raced onto the field to celebrate their apparent victory. The Cardinal was penalized 15 yards and now had to kick off from the 25-yard line. About the same time, Richard Rodgers, California’s special teams captain, huddled with the kickoff lineup and told the men: “If you get the ball and you’re gonna be tackled, pitch it. Don’t fall with the ball.”

“I was thinking, ‘This guy’s crazy,’” recalls Dwight Garner, a freshman running back that year. He soon learned otherwise.

Seniors Moen and Mariet Ford, the other two players who would handle the ball on the kickoff, did not hear Rodgers. Moen was already on the field, and Ford was looking on the sideline for his shoes, which he had taken off because of cramps in his legs.

It was Moen who scooped up Harmon’s squib kick at the Golden Bears’ 43 and advanced 5 yards before being confronted by several Stanford players. “I saw Richard open on the sideline and yelled, ‘Here you go,’” remembers Moen, who tossed the ball overhanded to Rodgers. Rodgers ran a few yards, lateraled to Garner, then got behind him. As Garner was going down, wrapped up by a bevy of tacklers, he pitched back to Rodgers. Many, including the Stanford band, thought that Garner’s knees touched the turf, and the game was over. Some Stanford partisans still believe it.

At this point, California had managed to keep the ball alive but had not made much progress toward the goal line. As the band was streaming onto the field from Stanford’s end zone, Rodgers broke into the open and crossed the 50-yard line before shoveling the ball back to Ford at the Stanford 47.

“Once I got it, I just took off,” says Ford. “I saw the band in front of me, and I’m confused. I’m thinking about not getting put down by band members.”

With his leg cramping and Stanford defenders looming from the left, Ford knew he couldn’t reach the goal line. In desperation at the 25, he tossed the ball blindly over his right shoulder.

Ford: “I knew I was in front of Kevin but I never saw him.”

Moen: “I grabbed the ball but didn’t really see the goal line. All I saw was the band. As far as I was concerned, they were all Stanford players, and I just busted through them.”

Referee Charles Moffett conferred with the other officials for 43 seconds. None, he said, “thought anybody was down at any time. We could have called a penalty on the Stanford band. But we called one on the Stanford bench.”

Finally, Moffett gave the raised-arms touchdown signal. Thousands outside the stadium had left immediately after Harmon’s field goal and were on their way to their cars. They heard a mighty roar from inside. All they had missed was The Play of the Century.

“It was the right combination of guys and being lucky,” Moen says. “If you were going to try and script that kind of play, it never would have worked. To complete one lateral is hard enough. But four different guys and five different laterals along with everything else that was involved, well, that was unique.”

“Just a typical Cal-Stanford game,” Kapp deadpanned after his team’s 25-20 victory.

As incredible as that ending was, it wasn’t the only sensational windup of recent Big Game vintage. Since 1970, five of the 12 games at Berkeley have been decided on the last play and three others in the last two minutes. Another was in doubt until the final gun.

Stanford is a private school located outside the affluent suburban town of Palo Alto on the San Francisco peninsula. California is a public institution carved out of the cosmopolitan city of Berkeley on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.

What the schools have in common besides geographical proximity are high academic standards, a good-natured dislike for each other in athletics and a particularly intense rivalry in football.

The first of the 95 football games between the northern California schools was played in March 19, 1892 — in San Francisco. According to the off-told story, the game was delayed because the Stanford student manager, a chap named Herbert Hoover, forgot the ball. Actually, according to John T. Sullivan’s 1981 book, The Big Game, Hoover, who in 1929 would become the 31st president of the United States, was only partially to blame. He was just one of several responsible parties who forgot about bringing the ball. The game was finally played, Stanford won 14-10 and the series was launched.

The era between World Wars was the football zenith for both schools. Nicknames fit their success. California had its Wonder Teams (1920-24) and Thunder Team (1937). Stanford had the Vow Boys (1933-35) and the Wow Boys (1940).

Perhaps the greatest Big Game in those years was played in 1924 between Andy Smith’s Wonder Team and Glenn S. “Pop” Warner’s undefeated Stanford squad. Both coaches are in the Hall of Fame. Stanford took a 6-0 lead at halftime, but the Golden Bears came back to go ahead 20-6 in the final quarter. Stanford, however, rallied and scored two touchdowns, the second with less than a minute left, and a dramatic 20-20 tie was in the books. Stanford then went to the Rose Bowl, losing 27-10 to Notre Dame and the Four Horsemen.

The series was discontinued from 1943-45 during World War II because Stanford did not field teams. When the rivalry resumed, it did not take legendary coach Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf long to build another dynasty at California. Between 1947-50 the Bears were 38-4-1, and played in three Rose Bowl games (losing all) and a memorable Big Game.

Down 18-14 with three minutes left in 1947 at Palo Alto, heavily favored California scored on a stunning 80-yard pass from fullback Jackie Jensen (who went on to hit 199 home runs as an outfielder for the New York Yankees, Washington and the Boston Red Sox) to Paul Keckley. In a series of events a screenwriter would reject as improbable, Keckley, who had injured a shoulder two weeks earlier, pleaded with Waldorf to go into the game. At first reluctant, Waldorf relented and sent in Keckley. Two plays later, he gathered in the toss from Jensen on the Cal 35, got the block he needed at the Stanford 40 and sailed across the goal line. Final score: California 21, Stanford 18.

In 1948 at Berkeley, California tackle Jim “Truck” Cullom kicked an extra point and blocked Stanford’s conversion attempt. The Bears won 7-6.

Fortunes at both schools were on the decline in the 1950s. In 1956 Waldorf ended his coaching career with a victory as sophomore quarterback Kapp led California to a 20-18 upset over Stanford and John Brodie, it’s All-America quarterback.

Kapp would lead the Bears into their last Rose Bowl appearance after the 1958 season, but he had to beat Stanford 16-15 in a controversial Big Game to do it. California took full advantage of the new two-point conversion option. The Bears’ two touchdowns followed by two-point conversions beat two touchdowns and a field goal. Arguments still rage over whether Stanford receiver Irv Nikolai really caught the first conversion out of bounds, as an official ruled.

A year later, the schools staged another hair-raiser. Stanford quarterback Dick Norman completed 34 of 39 passes for 401 yards, rallying his team from a 14-0 deficit to a 17-14 lead. California scored a go-ahead touchdown (20-17) with four minutes remaining and then had to hold off Norman’s last furious rally. Unable to find an open receiver on the game’s final play, Norman was tackled on the Cal 5-yard line, trying in vain to get out of bounds. A field-goal tee to be used for the tying attempt was tucked into the belt of his pants.

The following decade produced few notable games in the 101-year-old series, but the fun resumed in earnest in 1969. An underdog California team fell behind 17-0 midway in the first period. “At that point, I was wondering if I could make it to Rickey’s bar (in Palo Alto) have a drink and get back before the final gun,” says Bob Steiner, California’s Sports Information Director at the time.

The Bears rallied behind Dave Penhall, who had begun the season as third-string quarterback, to go in front 28-23 in the last period. But Stanford moved on the ground for the touchdown that won the game, 29-28.

The next year, the Bears, with Penhall again leading the offense, upset Rose Bowl-bound Stanford with Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett 22-14.

California freshman quarterback Vince Ferragamo drilled a 7-yard touchdown pass to Steve Sweeney on the final play of the 1972 game to defeat the Stanford Cardinal (the nickname Indians was dropped that year) 24-21. Ferragamo completed only eight passes, but four were in the drive that covered 62 yards in 73 seconds. Sweeney lined up at tight end just once: on the last play. It was the only pass he caught as a tight end that year.

All-American Steve Bartkowski passed California to a 10-3 lead after three quarters of the 1974 renewal. Stanford, behind reserve quarterback Guy Benjamin, led 19-13 before Bartkowski brought the Bears back. After Steve Rivera’s one-handed catch on fourth and 10 resulted in a 23-yard gain, the Bears had a first down at the Cardinal 13 in the closing moments. With 23 seconds to play, Bartkowski connected with Rivera for a touchdown that, with Jim Breech’s extra point, put California up by one. But it wasn’t over.

Starting from his own 19, Benjamin completed two long aerials. On the second pass, Brad Williams dragged two defenders out of bounds at the California 33 with two seconds left. The image of Mike Langford’s 50-yard field goal sailing between the uprights on the last play is still remembered by legions of California and Stanford followers.

Two years afterwards, Stanford won the first of three straight games, scoring with 1:13 left to win 27-24 after recovering a fumble on the Bears’ 2-yard line. California won both in 1979 and 1980, but both times Stanford had to be stopped inside the 10-yard line in the final minutes.

In 1982 The Play ended a great game but not the great finishes. The Bears rallied from a 24-0 third-quarter deficit to nearly pull off an upset in 1985 at Stanford. A late-game-field-goal attempt fell short, preserving Stanford’s 24-22 triumph.

The Bears sent Kapp out a winner 17-11 in 1986. A tie, 11th in the series, resulted in 1988 when Stanford’s Tuan Van Le blocked a 20-yard field-goal try as time expired.

And the thrills continued into the 1990s. Three seasons ago, Stanford scored nine points in the final 12 seconds to win 27-25 on John Hopkins’ 39-yard field goal at the final gun.

Each year when the Big Game is played in late November, alumni share memories. The Play is, of course, the hands-down favorite of Golden Bear fans. And of the California players who brought it off.

“Once your football career is over, it’s over,” says Mariet Ford. “But not for me.”

Teaser:
<p> The history of the "Big Game" goes well beyond 1982's "The Play"</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 17:14
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-new-york-jets-oakland-raider-and-dallas-cowboys-are-overrated
Body:

There are contenders and there are pretenders, and sometimes this late in the season it’s impossible to separate the two. One moment a team like the Buffalo Bills can look like the best team in the AFC East. The next their fast start can fall like a house of cards.

Fortunes can change in reverse that quickly, too. Just ask the Green Bay Packers, who at this point last season were in a dogfight for the sixth and final NFC playoff seed which they didn’t lock up until the final week of the season. Then they went on a run for the ages to the Super Bowl championship, and judging by their 9-0 start this year they’ve never looked back.

So we may not know who the frauds and the hidden gems really are until the final chapter of this season has finally been completed. But if you’re looking for teams not to believe in, here are five that seem clearly overrated even though they’re teetering on the brink of contention.

In other words, these are four bandwagons you can avoid riding down the stretch …

Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
They may win the NFC East before this is over, but don’t get excited. If they win it, it’ll only because of a Giants collapse and the complete and utter failure that is the Philadelphia Eagles. This division, which once was an NFL powerhouse, is beginning to look mediocre at best.

This is what you need to know about the Cowboys, though: Tony Romo is good, but prone to bad mistakes and he usually makes them at terrible times. He’s always been on the verge of becoming a top quarterback, but then he finds a way to shoot himself in the foot.

So do you trust him? I don’t. Not this year. Not now. And I’m not impressed by the fact that they’ve won three of their last four games to salvage a 2-3 start either. They beat the Rams, Seahawks and fading Bills – all at home. The one loss was a 34-7 smackdown in Philadelphia against an Eagles team that’s been the biggest disappointment in the league.

Chicago Bears (6-3)
Four straight wins by Da Bears has everyone remembering that they were in the NFC championship game last season and even nearly won it. And that’s true.

The problem is they were a different team last year with a better defense. This year’s Bears defense ranks 25th in the league – 29th against the pass. They’ve won with thanks to turnovers (they are plus-9), great special teams play, and the MVP-like performance of Matt Forte.

Jay Cutler, meanwhile, is running a shockingly low-powered offense. He has 11 touchdown passes through nine games and his leading receiver is Forte, his running back. That’s usually a bad sign. If the defense isn’t strong and the quarterback isn’t strong, how can this team be trusted in a big spot down the stretch?

New York Jets (5-5)
All you needed to see from the Jets was their horrendous loss to Denver on Thursday night, where the two teams turned the NFL’s offensive clock back to the ‘50s and ‘60s. The Broncos ran the wishbone, for crying out loud, and they still had a more explosive offense than the Jets.

The Jets made the AFC championship game the last two seasons thanks mostly to their defense, which is a shell of its former self. Worse, quarterback Mark Sanchez looks like he’s taken a big step back in Year 3. He’s inaccurate, he’s making bad decisions, and it sure looks like his diva receivers (Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress) are getting frustrated.

Add in Rex Ryan’s mouth and the New York media and this could be a disaster in the making.

Oakland Raiders (5-4)
They looked for a while like one of the best stories in the NFL, the revival of a proud franchise that had been a joke for years. But there are few teams that could survive the loss of their starting quarterback (Jason Campbell) and starting running back (Darren McFadden) and continue to thrive.

Surviving the loss of McFadden will be easier, because of Michael Bush (not to mention the fact that McFadden will be back). The loss of Campbell, though, is huge. Yes, they made a bold move for Carson Palmer, but some thought he was on the decline when he last played for Cincinnati. Now, miracles are expected of him despite sitting out half a season and having to pick up a new offense on the fly?

This is a good team that will be a popular pick of many to do some playoff damage in 2012. But Palmer has thrown 7 interceptions in his first 76 attempted passes. That’s not good, and it’s only going to get worse.

By RALPH VACCHIANO
 

Teaser:
<p> Some of these NFL Super Bowl contenders are pretenders</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 13:12
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-2011-al-mvp
Body:

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) has already named its AL and NL Rookies of the Year, AL and NL Managers of the Year, and AL and NL Cy Young award winners. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

AL MVP

There's no lack of quality candidates for AL MVP, so this could come down to the closest vote of all the major awards, if anything due to the number of names that will receive consideration. In addition, four different teams have multiple MVP candidates, so in some cases voters will be pitting teammate against teammate when it comes to filling out their ballot.

The Boston Red Sox have center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Detroit Tigers have first baseman Miguel Cabrera and AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the New York Yankees have second baseman Robinson Cano and center fielder Curtis Granderson, and the Texas Rangers have third baseman Adrian Beltre, second baseman Ian Kinsler and designated hitter/infielder Michael Young. And that's not to forget Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball this season.

Contenders' Stats:

Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: .302, 105 R, 155 H, 24 2B, 43 HR, 132 RBI, .447 OBP, .608 SLG, 1.056 OPS

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers: .296, 82 R, 144 H, 33 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, .331 OBP, .561 SLG, .892 OPS

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers: .344, 111 R, 197 H, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .448 OBP, .586 SLG, 1.033 OPS

Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees: .302, 104 R, 188 H, 46 2B, 28 HR, 118 RBI, .349 OBP, .533 SLG, .882 OPS

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox: .321, 119 R, 212 H, 46 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB, .376 OBP, .552 SLG, .928 OPS

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox: .338, 108 R, 213 H, 45 2B, 27 HR, 117 RBI, .410 OBP, .548 SLG, .957 OPS

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: .262, 136 R, 153 H, 26 2B, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 25 SB, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, .916 OPS

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers: .255, 121 R, 158 H, 34 2B, 32 HR, 77 RBI, 30 SB, .335 OBP, .477 SLG, .832 OPS

Justin Verlander, P, Detroit Tigers: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251 IP, 57 BB, 250 K, 0.92 WHIP, 34 GS

Michael Young, DH/IF, Texas Rangers: .338, 88 R, 213 H, 41 2B, 11 HR, 106 RBI, .380 OBP, .474 SLG, .854 OPS

Athlon's Winner: Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees

Granderson got two of the four first-place votes and beat out Ellsbury by one lone point, perhaps a indication of how the BBWAA's vote will pan out? Ellsbury got one first-place and two second-place votes to finish second. Tiger teammates Cabrera and Verlander tied for third with Verlander getting the remaning first-place vote, but also finishing seventh on one ballot. It's that sort of discrepancy which could play a significant role in the BBWAA vote in determining this year's AL MVP. Bautista rounded out the top five.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Curtis Granderson
Granderson is the Yankees’ catalyst and led the AL in both runs and RBIs while adding strong defense in centerfield. Granderson, a career .215 hitter vs. lefties with a .346 slugging percentage, batted .273, slugged .604 and swatted 16 of his 41 homers off lefties.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
Over the last month of the season as the Red Sox watched their lead evaporate, Ellsbury was solid, hitting .362 with a .693 slugging percentage since Aug. 26. Coming into 2011 the fleet centerfielder had just 20 career homers. He hit 32 this season.
3. Justin Verlander
For about four months the Tigers were rather ordinary when Verlander wasn’t on the mound. That changed over the last two months of the season as the Tigers played well enough when he wasn’t pitching to win the AL Central.
4. Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera was a hitting machine for the Tigers. He scored 111 runs, drove in 105 and won his first batting title.
5. Jose Bautista
Bautista was the most feared hitter in the Toronto lineup. So much so, that in 181 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Bautista walked 64 times, 22 of those intentional.
6. Adrian Gonzalez
7. Robinson Cano
8. Michael Young
9. Alex Avila
10. Adrian Beltre

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
Without a clear hitter standing above the rest, the best pitching season in 20 years for the AL Central Champs absolutely makes Verlander the most indispensable piece of any team.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
Had Boston made the playoffs this stat line, combined with his defensive value at one of the three key positions on the field, would have been good enough to win the MVP: Fifth in AL in hitting (.321), fourth in stolen bases (39), fifth in home runs (32), sixth in RBI (105), third in doubles (46) and third in runs scored (119). All from the lead-off spot.
3. Curtis Granderson
A 40-20 season while leading the league in runs scored and RBIs from the two-hole of the AL East champs while playing one of the premiere defensive positions? That is tough to beat, however, the Grandy-Man will lose votes because of the stout protection around him in the order.
4. Miguel Cabrera
Led the AL in batting and was key cog in heart of AL Central Champs line-up. But trails Ellsbury and Granderson in nearly every category — including the oft-overlooked defensive side of the ball. His ratios, particularly on-base percentage, makes him an easy top-five choice, but his overall game isn’t as dynamic as the two ahead of him on my ballot.
5. Jose Bautista
The power numbers are off the charts — at least for the modern era of baseball — but he did it on a team that finished 16 games out of first place and at .500 for the season. Without the home run champ, the Blue Jays are 20 games out of first? 22? Ricky Romero was the most valuable Blue Jay in 2011.
6. Michael Young
7. Adrian Gonzalez
8. Robinson Cano
9. Adrian Beltre
10. Asdrubal Cabrera

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Curtis Granderson
One of my favorite statistics when comparing hitters in runs scored plus RBIs. Guess who led the league in both, compiling 136 runs and 119 RBIs? Granderson was a Yankees’ catalyst, leading the AL East champs in runs, RBIs, home runs (41) and triples (10). He also added 25 steals and played a solid center field. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera had another great season, but Granderson’s was better.
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Jose Bautista
5. Adrian Gonzalez
6. Robinson Cano
7. Justin Verlander
8. Ian Kinsler
9. Michael Young
10. Victor Martinez

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury
Boston’s center fielder bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 to post a 30-30 campaign and finished in the top six in the AL in average, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, on-base and slugging percentage, as the Red Sox lead-off hitter. He also didn’t make an error in 154 games in center.
2. Curtis Granderson
The Yankees’ center fielder led the AL in runs (136) and RBI (119) and finished second in home runs (41) and triples (10), while also stealing 25 bases.
3. Justin Verlander
Named the AL Cy Young winner by an unanimous vote, Verlander went 20-2 in his last 24 starts with one of the two losses being a 1-0 decision. During that same span, Detroit went from a game above .500 and seven games behind first place, to finishing the season at 95-67 and winning the AL Central by 15 games.
4. Miguel Cabrera
The linchpin of the Tigers’ offense, Cabrera finished with the highest batting average (.344) and on-base percentage (.448) in all of baseball and also led the majors in doubles (48). With runners in scoring position, Cabrera hit .388 for the year with 10 home runs and 75 RBIs.
5. Jose Bautista
The clear-cut MVP of the first half (.334, 73 R, 31 HR, 65 RBI), the Blue Jays' slugger still posted impressive numbers (.302, 105 R, 43 HR, 103 RBI) for the season, and led all of baseball in slugging percentage (.608) and OPS (1.056) despite being pitched around so much (ML-best 132 BB, including 24 intentional passes).
6. Adrian Gonzalez
7. Michael Young
8. Robinson Cano
9. Adrian Beltre
10. James Shields

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

National League MVP

Teaser:
<p> Athlon editors comb through the crowded field of contenders and cast their vote for this year's AL MVP</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 12:24
Path: /news/tim-tebow-keeps-winning-heres-attempt-explain-how-and-why
Body:

Tim Tebow is a football player. That's the only explanation I can give after last night's unexplainable win against the New York Jets.

I'm not sure if I would call him a "quarterback." Sure, he starts each play under center and calls out the formation and takes the hike. And that's about as far as the quarterback moniker gets you, because once the ball is hiked, Tebow morphs into a fullback who sometimes mistakenly heaves the ball into the air in the direction of other players (I refuse to call what Tebow does a "pass").

But it works, because the Broncos quarterback is 4-1 in his starts this year, despite an extremely poor arm that can neither fire a pass into a small window, or even find it's target when a player is wide open.

And when you listen to sports pundits try to analyze and give reasons for how and why Tebow keeps winning, they're at a loss for words. The term "winner" is usually the fallback explanation. "He just knows how to win." Or, "He was a winner in college and...uhh, he's a leader...and he wins!"

But I don't think that's it. The explanation is much more simple than that. The football community is a copycat community. Whenever someone comes into the league and throws a wrinkle in the conventional thinking (Mike Martz in the early 2000s, Parcells' use of the wildcat a few years ago etc) there are always varying degrees of success. Sometimes it can take a team to a Super Bowl or two (like Martz) and others it's good for a few flukey wins (like the wildcat.)

And you can see how this is playing out with John Fox and Tim Tebow right now because the pundits (most of whom are ex-football players and coaches) are a good barometer for the current roster of players and coaches. If the pundits don't know how to explain this Tebow thing, then the current coaches probably can't either. And if they can't explain it, then they can't properly defend it.

Because almost every other team out there has a quarterback who is capable of throwing a pass (although last night Mark Sanchez made a strong case against that.) Team defenses know how to defend a quarterback who plays like a quarterback. But since they've never seen or played against a quarterback who runs (and throws) like a fullback, they're unsure how to create a package to properly defend him.

On last night's game-winning 20-yard touchdown run against the Jets, Eric Smith took the worst angle he could have and Tebow was free to take off. Because his instinct was he wanted to make Tebow throw the ball quickly.

But Tebow's not your typical quarterback who will heave the ball up under pressure. Tebow doesn't want to throw the ball. Tebow isn't good at throwing the ball (which is like saying a running back isn't fast, or a coernerback isn't good at covering guys). If Eric Smith makes that play against "Tim Tebow" and not a classic "quarterback" the Jets probably win the game.

But since no one's really ever seen a quarterback like this before, players revert to what they're used to. And that's why Tebow is winning. For now.

The Broncos should have lost that game last night. But everything fell perfectly for them to win it. From Sanchez's pick 6, to the Jets inability to run the ball and control any clock, to their poor defensive performance with 5 minutes to go in the game.

Is Tebow a long-term answer for the Broncos? No. Tebow will get figured out, just like all the flukey plays and players before him. But, man, he sure makes for amazing television, doesn't he? 

Teaser:
<p> The Broncos quarterback can turn losses into wins</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 10:00
Path: /news/michael-vick-no-go-against-giants-should-he-play-again-year
Body:

Michael Vick's broken ribs have ruled him out of Sunday's game against the Giants. Vick will be replaced at quarterback with Vince Young.

And if the Eagles lose this Sunday, should the oft-injured and fragile Vick play another down this year? Philadelphia's record currently stands at a meager 3-6. Their playoff hopes are already extremely dim. But another loss seals their fate and all but mathmatically eliminates them from any hope of making the postseason.

So why play Vick another down? He'll be a game-time decision for next week's game against the Patriots. And even if he plays, he'll be even more fragile than he is now because his ribs still won't be 100% by then.

With Vince Young serving as a well-paid back-up, it makes sense that the Eagles should keep their most valuable commodity on the shelf, away from the possibility of concussions, broken bones and sprained MCLs, and let VY take the reigns--and the beatings--of the Eagles' quarterback position.

What good does it do to put Vick back out on the field? If you concede that Vick is the most important player on Philly's team, (and only LeSean McCoy could be in that conversation) the upside just isn't there. 

The best that could happen, is Vick comes back and leads the Eagles to a string of late-season wins and Philadelphia finishes somewhere around the .500 mark.

But they still miss the playoffs. That might mean something to the Cleveland Browns. But the Eagles set the bar a bit higher and the only thing you win with that plan is an even worse pick int he NFL draft.

The downside is that Vick, given the way he throws his body around, refuses to go down, and takes a beating on seemingly every play, gets seriously injured. A torn MCL takes a long time to heal, and an injury like that would affect his game even more than the classic pocket passers. 

It goes against the mentality of football players, but football player's don't always use logic and reasoning. 

If you're an Eagles fan who's more interested in the big picture then you realize that this is a lost season. The Dream Team didn't work. It happens. Chalk it up to a learning experience and call it a day. But putting Vick back on the field for meaningless games can only make this bad season worse.

What's more important to Eagles fans? Winning nothing now, or still having a chance to win it all next year?

Teaser:
<p> The Eagles quarterback misses the game everyone expected him to miss</p>
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 04:40

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