Patriots will not win another Super Bowl under Brady

As the New England Patriots bask in the glow of another big victory, this one over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, 24-10, I am reminded of the prediction I made last season, after they lost the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles.  I predicted on a morning radio program where I was a co-host: “The Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era will never win another Super Bowl.”

Despite a tremendous win over the Vikes, I am sticking by that prediction.  Nothing against Brady - one of the all time great quarterbacks - nothing against Belichick - arguably the greatest NFL coach - but the clock has run out on this dynamic duo.  Brady is 41 years old.  I don’t care what diet he is on, what lifestyle regimen he follows.  You cannot stop age and 41 is 41 no matter how you slice it.

It pains me to write this, because I like Belichick and Brady.  They are one of sports all time great duos.  It’s just that Brady - despite the Pats 9-3 record - has lost a step.  And the Pats - who play in a weak division - have flaws.  That’s why I picked the Pats to beat the Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl.  I thought it was the duos last great chance.  A final moment to ride out in a blaze of glory.

Now the Pats are poised to make another run, but other clubs are looming.  The Kansas City Chiefs, for example, are younger, lurking and ready to unseat the defending AFC champs.  Don’t count out the Pittsburgh Steelers.  And the Houston Texans are a team with which to be reckoned.

It’s not that the Pats aren’t good.  They are better than good and playoff bound once again.  But Brady is a year older and the Belichick-Brady magic, once a certainty, has lost its glow, despite that impressive win over Minnesota.

I hope I am wrong, but the only area immune to Father Time, is Father Time.  Everyone else is fair game and the clock is ticking on Tom Brady, who I predict has won his last Super Bowl.

Baseball looked to speed up game 51 years ago

It seems a baseball season doesn’t go by without talk of speeding up the pace of play.  Who knew that 51 years ago the topic was a focal point at the annual winter baseball meetings being held in 1967 in Mexico City?  The stewards of the game were concerned over three-and-a-half hour ballgames and the fact fans were changing the dial to watch football.

At a joint meeting of managers and general managers, it was agreed - without players’ input - batters would no longer be permitted to step out of the box to request that the umpire put in a new ball; pitchers could not ask for another ball if they did not like the feel of a new ball put into play; pinch hitters would have to be on the bench ready to go and not summoned from the bullpen; and teams would be encouraged to use motorized carts to bring in relievers.  All this would supposedly speed up the game.

At the same meeting, the group also agreed to strengthen the ban on the spitball.

More than a half century later, at this year’s winter meetings, look for baseball to once again talk about speeding up the game.  Maybe more clubs should join Arizona and bring back the bullpen carts.

No special treatment for pols at Army-Navy game

This is the way it was supposed to be, right?  No special treatment for politicians, no admission to luxury boxes, sit among the common folk.

And so it was that on Nov. 26, 1960 at the Army-Navy game, there seated in the general admission seats were Vice President Richard M. Nixon - just off a razor thin election loss to Sen. John F. Kennedy for the presidency - Attorney General William P. Rogers and former Army coach Earl Blaik.

As for the game, a crowd of 98,616 jammed Philadelphia Stadium to watch Navy beat Army 17-12.  One of the primary side notes to the game was the size of the program printed for the contest.  It was 200 pages thick, the largest program ever published for an Army-Navy game.  One reporter joked fans did not have to bring seat cushions to the game, all they had to do was buy and sit on the program.

After the game, Navy received a bid to the Orange Bowl, where any pols attending the game would presumably have to purchase general admission seats, a system some would suggest should still be in existence today.

NFL’s Rozelle widely criticized 55 years ago

NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was widely criticized 55 years ago for not cancelling the league’s games the Sunday after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  The AFL wasted little time in announcing its games would not be played on Nov. 24, but Rozelle reportedly made the decision to go forth with the regularly scheduled games, even though rights holder CBS announced it would not carry the games.

“It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy.  Football was Mr. Kennedy’s game.  He thrived on competition,” Rozelle stated in a press release.

The commissioner supposedly lobbied the team owners on whether the games should be played but there is no evidence to back up that claim.   What is known is that many fans protested, some who had tickets stating they would boycott the Sunday contests.  Philadelphia Eagles president Frank McNamee told the Associated Press: “Simply and flatly the game is being played by order of the commissioner.”  McNamee added he would not attend the Eagles-Redskins game but would go to a memorial service in honor of President Kennedy.

Meanwhile, the nation continued to mourn.  The president’s body was taken to the great Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where it would lie in state for 24 hours.  Among those who stood in line with his son and nephew was former Major League Baseball club owner Bill Veeck.  When members of the Kennedy family suggested he move to the front of the line, Veeck appreciated the gesture but declined, stating he was a “common man” who deserved no special treatment.  Standing for 15 hours on one artificial leg, Veeck’s pants became blood-soaked but he and his family endured.

As for Rozelle, years later he stated playing the games on that Sunday was his biggest regret as commissioner.  And for the record, the NFL was not the only sporting event to go forward on that tragic weekend.  The NHL continued with its slate - Boston at Toronto - as did the NBA.  And several college football games were played on the Saturday after the assassinaton, although others were cancelled.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  In case you’re wondering, as I write this from my home in Torrington, Connecticut this morning, it is 11 degrees - not counting windchill factor - or 13 degrees colder than Anchorage, Alaska.

Good luck to all my friends at the Manchester Road Race this morning.  I had the privilege of broadcasting that race for 20 years.  Where does the time go?  It is a great event.

Finally. thank you to our Veterans.  We have so much for which to be thankful, but their successful efforts to preserve our freedom to observe this day can never be repaid.

Vin Scully's radio debut was a football game at Fenway

When Harvard beat Yale in "The Game" at Fenway Park last Saturday, I could not help but be  reminded that the iconic Vin Scully made his radio debut at Fenway.

The year was 1949 and in addition to his role as the "Voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers," Red Barber was the Director of Sports at CBS radio.  In those days, college football was still king and every Saturday, during the season, CBS would host a football round-up of games.  Barber would assign broadcasters to the top five or six football games of the day and would switch back-and-forth to the various games, as key plays unfolded. 

Scully caught his big break, when another announcer fell ill and Ernie Harwell had to be reassigned to the Notre Dame-North Carolina game at Yankee Stadium.  That left a vacancy for the Maryland-Boston University contest at Fenway and Scully got the call.

Thinking he would be positioned in a broadcast booth for the November game, Scully did not bring an overcoat.  It turned out they located Scully on the Fenway rooftop on a cold afternoon, sans overcoat.  Scully impressed Barber by doing a superb job in his debut, and when he never complained about the accommodations - someone else told Barber he worked the assignment without an overcoat - that impressed Barber even more. 

When Harwell left the Dodgers to join Russ Hodges in the New York Giants broadcast booth for the 1950 season, that left a vacancy Barber had to fill.  Once again, Scully got the call.

"It's interesting to note," that 1950 marked the first of 67 seasons for the iconic broadcaster in the Dodgers booth.

Jim Valvano loved baseball

Jim Valvano loved baseball.  The great, college basketball coach, who died from cancer in 1993, coached the North Carolina State men's team to the national championship in 1983.

I got to thinking about "Jimmy V" the other day, when I read that North Carolina State will name the arena at Reynolds Coliseum the James T. Valvano Arena.  The formal dedication is scheduled for Dec. 5.

I had the chance to interview coach Valvano in 1987, while broadcasting games for the Richmond Braves, at the time the Atlanta Braves Triple-A affiliate.  Valvano dropped into the broadcast booth, while the "Voice of the Richmond Braves" Bob Black and I were working the second game of a doubleheader between the Braves and the Maine Guides.  The game was being played at The Diamond, at the time Richmond's sparkling new ballpark that was the envy of all of minor league baseball.

Valvano talked about where his love of baseball developed and how baseball even influenced his national championship basketball team.  Fortunately, I saved the interview.

As a sidenote, The Diamond still stands today, as home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.  This has afforded me the chance to broadcast games back at that venue, with the Hartford Yard Goats.  When I go to Richmond to broadcast a Goats game, it's like returning home.