CHAMPIONS, COACHES, AND ICONIC VOICES

Since last weekend, so much has happened on both the college and professional gridirons.

First and foremost, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the football program at the University of Alabama.  I may not agree on how Alabama landed in the National Championship Game, but Nick Saban’s boys took the opportunity and ran with it (or should I say passed with it!).  I would be remiss if I didn’t also congratulate the University of Georgia’s football program.  The Bulldogs won arguably the greatest Rose Bowl Game in its storied history, and came within an overtime drive of winning the National Championship.

 

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The University of Alabama football team celebrates winning the National Championship.

 

Many would compare the Crimson Tide’s rebound from a 20-7 deficit to the Patriots Super Bowl comeback last year.  A comparison of this year’s Bulldogs can be made to last year’s Falcons.  Two teams that happen to hail from Georgia, who were dominant through most of their schedule both came up a dollar short.

Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will forever be etched in Alabama lore for his championship winning 41 yard bomb to DeVonta Smith.  Lost in the pass heard around Tuscaloosa, is Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship’s go-ahead 51 yard field goal that gave Georgia the lead.  It was certainly a championship game for the ages.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has now won six National Championships in his storied career, hat’s off to a true college football legend.  Saban’s accomplishments leads me to my next topic.

As the college kids were finishing their season, the professionals began the quest for the Super Bowl   To me, the biggest story of last week’s Wild Card round was the collapse of the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

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Does Andy Reid’s post-season history measure up to the likes of Bud Grant and Marv Levy?

 

While hosting the sixth seeded Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs led 21-3 at halftime.  With six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter, the collapse began.  The Titans would score their first touchdown of the game, this would be the first of 19 unanswered points.  The Titans eliminated the Chiefs by the score of 22-21.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is no stranger to playoff losses.  Reid did lead the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl 39.  His lone appearance in the NFL championship resulted in a 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots.  Reid has had numerous playoff appearances both in Philadelphia and Kansas City but all of them have ended in disappointment.

Do we dare put Andy Reid in the company of Marv Levy and Bud Grant?

Many of us who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s remember Bud Grant.  Grant was the head coach of a Minnesota Vikings team that featured Fran Tarkenton as a scrambling quarterback and the “Purple People Eaters” defense.  This edition of the Vikings played outdoors at frigid Metropolitan Stadium, where Grant refused to let his team sit on heated benches.  The Vikings would appear in four of the first eleven Super Bowls and manage to lose all of them.

Those of us who are a little younger might remember the Super Bowl run of the Buffalo Bills in the early to mid 1990’s.  Marv Levy was the head coach of a Bills team that featured Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Bruce Smith.  This edition of the Bills won four straight AFC Championship games.  This squad also managed to lose four consecutive Super Bowls.

So where would you rank Andy Reid?  Both Levy and Grant have gotten to the big show multiple times, and in all fairness Reid’s career isn’t over yet.

 

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The legendary Dick Enberg with his long-time sidekick Merlin Olsen.

 

While I was on hiatus over the holidays, the sports world lost a broadcast icon.  On December 21 Dick Enberg was found dead in his California home.  He was supposed to be on a flight to Boston, and his family was concerned when he didn’t get off the airplane.

Those of us who grew up in the 1970’s remember the game show “Sports Challenge” that aired on Saturday afternoons.  This was how Mr. Enberg entered the broadcast spotlight.  He was the baseball voice of the California Angels, and finished his broadcasting career as the voice of the San Diego Padres.   He was also the long-time voice of UCLA Basketball.  In between, his calming demeanor and velvet voice was heard on national television broadcasting the NFL, Wimbledon, the French Open, countless golf tournaments, NCAA basketball, Major League Baseball’s Game of the Week, and the Olympics.  Enberg also called eight Super Bowls.   His catch phrase “Oh My!” will never be forgotten.

Mr. Enberg was a big literary influence on me.  I tend to hear the smooth tones of his voice as I write, much like I can hear the voice of Vin Scully.  Rest in peace, Mr. Enberg, and thank you.

 

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Keith Jackson was the voice of college football.

 

Yesterday morning, the sports world got some more sad news.  On the heels of the loss of Dick Enberg, we lost Keith Jackson.  Saturday afternoon in the fall meant the high energy tones of Mr. Jackson.  Keith Jackson’s iconic voice dominated the college football airways in an era when ABC Sports was the home of college football (although CBS was network #2).  Mr. Jackson was the original voice on ABC’s Monday Night Football, and was a mainstay on ABC’s Major League Baseball coverage. Like Enberg, Mr. Jackson was also seen during the Olympics.   I can never look at a big play (such as Tua Tagovailoa’s touchdown pass on Monday night) without hearing Jackson proclaiming “Whoa Nellie!”  Rest in peace Mr. Jackson, the sports world will never be the same without you.

 

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