Friday, February 02, 2007

18's Never Been A Winner

Some of us didn't hear about the death of Norris Weese until yesterday morning.
And, it wasn't until THIS morning that we learned the cause of death for Norris Weese.

Bone cancer.
At age 43.
Twelve years ago.

Not that this week leading up to the Super Bowl is (ahem) more dead than others, but the non-stories make for a rather dreary "media weak."
So, a lot of us end up entertaining ourselves in ways other than "On the offensive side of the ball, if the Bears can run the ball effectively, they have a chance ..." and "If the Colts' offensive line line gives Manning enough time to throw, on the offensive side of the ball ..."

Peyton Manning's papa, Archie, probably has some stories about Norris Weese's arrival at Ole Miss as Arch was wrapping up his Rebel career. And, some people will say that the reason why Norris Weese came on in relief of Craig Morton, a born-again Christian, in Super Bowl XII was because "Morton found God, but he couldn't find (Haven) Moses."

For our purposes today, Norris Weese serves as a major player when we contemplate "Super Bowl QBs Who Wore #14 AND Who Wore A Beard."
Norris Weese satisfied both of those requirements -- and, so, too, did Neil O'Donnell when he was the bearded, #14-wearin' doofus who was air-mailing passes intended for God-knows-who in SB XXX.

A QB ... who wears #14 ... with a beard ... in a Super Bowl.
That's NOT you, Dan Fouts -- although many figured that the Hall of Famer was destined to win three or four rings in Air Coryell's offense.

It's truly a delight to play with the numbers on a Friday before the Super Bowl -- because that's what three dozen clowns will do tomorrow (play with numbers) when they sit their fat and/or non-athletic asses down at the U-shaped table in a hotel conference room somewhere in Miami and debate the merits of potential Hall of Famers.

Again, the fact that there's nearly 40 sportswriters, etc. voting on enshrinement for a group of people that most of 'em didn't see to be inducted into a shrine they'll never visit makes about as much sense as John Mark Karr handpicking, as it were, which kids he'd like to teach, as it were, in his elementary-school classroom.
In other words, somebody's gonna take it up the @$#&* ...

By the way, that "esteemed" panel, as it were, does not include any current or former players, as Hall of Famer Harry Carson admitted to Andy Pollin this morning on "The Sports Reporters" show (WTEM 980 AM) from Miami's radio row.
Andy Pollin was the one who broke the news to some of us one day earlier that Norris Weese "died young."

But, back to Harry Carson and his take on the HOF committee's modus operandi.
Said Carson: "There are guys on that committee who don't know the difference between a 4-3 defense and a 3-4."
Carson's point was that there are nuances to the game and, as he said, "intangibles" that the panel may not be aware of.
Well, WE know that -- just don't tell that to football's inventor ... "Dr. Z."

Worry not, Harry. Some of those "voters" read "NFL Defenses For Dummies" to get a handle on the sport they never played and the sport which they kinda/sorta/barely understand.
It's all part of the logic in "the process."

Our esteemed panelists might borrow from the another profession -- such as, let's say medicine -- and adopt a philosophy of, "Just because I've never had cancer, doesn't mean I can't help treat it."
That is, unless your specialty is podiatry.

In the Pro Football Hall of Fame genre, it's like allowing auto mechanics to perform open-heart surgery.
"I probably can't locate the aorta, but is it not reasonable to assume that the aorta features many of the same properties as the functions of a carburetor?"

It's for these reasons and such u-shaped logic that most of us distract ourselves by fiddlin' w/ real numbers -- mostly, jersey numbers.
For those of us who subscribe to the numbericity of such matters, we recall fondly where we were four years ago when Brad Johnson became the first #14-wearin' QB to win a Super Bowl.
It was quite a landmark achievement.

Before he led Tampa Bay to that victory, all America had as #14-wearin' QBs in football's grandest game was an 0-3 record for starters (Morton when he was with Dallas and losin' to the Colts; new Steelers' QB coach Ken Anderson when he lost to 'Frisco; and O'Donnell).
And there was nuthin' to brag about in mop-up roles (Weese, Steve Grogan against the Bears and Frank Reich).
If only #14-wearin' Vinny Interceptaverde or Brian Greasy or Jim Drunkenmiller coulda pulled the trigger ...

Ever since Brad Johnson got the #14-wearin' QBs off the schneid, the pressure shifted to those pro-Peytonites who maybe don't know this: "NO QB WHO'S WORN #18 HAS EVER WON A SUPER BOWL."

True ... #18 is not a frequently-worn QB number, so no newsflash there. And, most of us remember Peyton wearing #16 for the Tennessee Vols.
Then again, some mighty fine NFL QBs have worn #18 -- from Roman Gabriel to Cliff Stoudt (owner of two Super Bowl rings) to Mike Tomczak (owner of one Super Bowl ring; as a Bears rookie in '85) to Elvis Grbac to Wade Wilson to Stan Gelbaugh (seriously) to Steve Stenstrom to (uh, oh!) ... backup QB Kyle Orton wears #18 for the Bears, just as Tomczak and Stenstrom did before him in the Windy City.

Sometimes when he wears his #18, Kyle Orton accessorizes his #18 look by wearing a gruesome neck-beard -- although if he's going to Be Like Mike (Tomczak, that is), much will depend on Sexy Rexy's ability to function while wearing a jersey number (#8) which has a strong Super Bowl track record (Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Steve Young and, hey ... you, too, TRENT DILFER!).

Quite a few of us figured that the complex #18-vs.-#8 paradigm was going to manifest itself for the Bears at the dawn of the new millennium when the superstar (Cade McNown) who wore #18 at UCLA was a youngster wearing #8 for the Monsters of the Midway.
Not to be.

Orton's link to #18 is fascinating if, in fact, it is true what we read a few years ago about how, when he was at Purdue, Orton chose #18 in honor of Brook Berringer, the handsome, #18-wearin' Nebraska QB who died at age 22 in April '96 when the plane that he was piloting crashed in a Nebraska alfalfa field.

Remember: That's "Brook Berringer," not "Brooks Bollinger," the QB who wore #5 at Wisconsin and wears #5 for the NY Jets.

Now that ya mention it, no #5 QB has ever won a Super Bowl -- not Roman Gabriel when he was wearin' #5 for the Eagles ... nor Donovan McNabb when he was wearin' #5 for the Eagles ... nor Jeff Feagles when he was wearin' #5 for the Eagles (as a punter and holder on placekicks) ... nor Jeff Garcia when he shed the #5 he wore for the Niners, Browns and Lions and signed with the Eagles and donned the #7 which Jaws wore while losing SB 15 ...

Since everybody learned in school the numbers of all the Super Bowl-winning QBs, it's that much easier to single out which QB jersey #'s haven't reaped Lombardi Trophy glory.
#1 -- Warren Moon and Jeff George couldn't
#2 -- Aaron Brooks and Doug Flutie didn't
#3 -- Daryle Lamonica and Jon Kitna and Joey Harrington (not yet, anyway) and Rick Mirer and Timm Rosenbach were not quite capable
#5 -- (previously mentioned) ... alhough Kerry Collins, Heath Shuler and Dieter Brock as Famous Fives weren't able, hey ... what about Terry Hanratty's four snaps taken at the end of SB 10 after Bradshaw was knocked out?
#6 -- Bubby Brister DID take a knee by replacing Elway in SB 33, so, ummm ... no, that doesn't really count (see: Hanratty), but, c'mon ... it's Bubby ... why can't we be nice to Bubby? Bubby never hurt nohhh-buddd-eeee
#10 -- sorry, Fran Tarkenton and Kordell Stewart and Stoney Case and Chad PenningTEN and Elisha Manning (soon, though ... maybe SB LVIX or SB LXIII)
#19 -- (open for debate!) depending on how ya felt about Unitas in SB 5 -- and, apologies to you, Bernie Kosar and, hey ... get the hell outta here, Tom Tupa, because, although you wore #19 with such pride for the then-Phoneix Cardinals, well, you were a Buccaneer who had his punt blocked for a Raiders TD in SB 37 ...

Hopefully, we aren't slighting any #18-wearin' QBs by omitting them from our list (say, didn't Doug Pederson wear #18 during the 38 years that he backed up Favre in Green Bay?). We're doin' this off of a mental catalogue -- the database for memories from our youth when there were guys such as Charlie Joiner and Gene Washington were wearing #18, albeit they were nifty WRs, not QBs.
Nowadays, #18 is Manning a lot more than it is Randy Moss and Dontae Stallworth.

While several Americans feel as though the jersey-number paradigm is a microscopic organism to be filed under "arcane minutae," there exists proof that the game has always been about the numbers on the jerseys and the logos on the helmets.
Proof of that theory was provided two years ago when, on the Thursday before media week, the Arizona Cardinals hosted an unveiling of the Cardinal logo which had just received a makeover.

In the USA Today story from Jan. 28, 2005, owner Bill Bidwill recapped the event by informing the USA that, "(It's) a tough bird. Hopefully, it will be worn by tougher and faster and meaner players."
USA Today described the logo transformation from the old bird -- which had served as the team's logo since 1960 -- to the new version thusly:
"(It) has decidedly more evil eyes and a menacing expression."
Cards VP Michael Bidwill elaborated with, "We've made the beak much more predatory and much more aggressive. The face is more stream-lined. It's faster looking. The eye's been described as mean. We've taken tail feathers and given them speed as well."

Looks impressive ... on paper, that is.
Tougher, faster, meaner, evil, menacing, predatory, aggressive, streamlined ...
So, anyone wanna take a guess as to why the Cardinals have won only one playoff game since 1947?
It was sad how, following Year Two of the tougher, faster, meaner, evil, menacing, predatory, aggressive, streamlined Cardinals, all any of us will remember are the famous words of that blackbird of a head coach when he crowed, "The Bears are what we thought they were!"

Caw! Caw! Caw!
No wonder Chicago and St. Louis kicked the Cards outta town. To compound their problems, these birdbrains tried to follow the leads of the Eagles and Falcons by changing the look of their feathers and by adding racing stripes and by switching from white cleats to black.
Memo to the Bidwills: Black cleats do nothing for the ideology of "streamlined" and "faster-looking."
Black cleats make a team look "clunky."
There's nuthin' sleek about black cleats.
Oh ... and another thing: The only way to "make more menacing" the Cardinals' logo would be to have someone draw a full cartoon cardinal -- with chest puffed out and buffed-out arms/wings holding an AK-47 as a cartoon Lambeau Field burns in the background.
Oh, yeah .. and have someone draw the cardinal with a cigaret in its beak.
(Wow ... sounds like a "busy" logo!)

Maybe we shouldn't get too smug. After all, what if Mike Tomlin rolls into Pittsburgh and decides that the Steelers need black pants and black cleats to induce more toughness and fastness and meanness and evilness and aggressiveness and streamlinedness -- and what if the Rooney Family buys into it and scraps the gold/yellow pants and white cleats?
What if Tomlin insists that the logo consisting of a yellow diamond, a red diamond and a blue diamond be replaced with a "more predatory and much more aggressive" logo?
And what if Tomlin then demands that the more-predatory, more-aggressive logo is to be displayed ON BOTH SIDES OF THE HELMET!!!???

Such changes could spell big trouble in River City -- and turn the Monongahela tide against Tomlin.
Even though the Cardinals broke with 45 years of tradition by making the helmet-and-jersey modifications, it's not likely that we'll see the Steelers playing any season soon with a cartoonish, steel-girder logo on BOTH sides of the helmet.

Everybody knows that Tomlin got his first big break as a D-coordinator with the Vikings, an organization which, just this past season, broke with 40-some-odd years of tradition by intoducing Minnesota to those funky purple togs with newfangled racing stripes and by sacrificing white cleats for black (moves which did not help 'em get to the playoffs, so, tough tarts to you, Brad Childress).

Also, everybody knows that Tony Dungy, like Mike Tomlin, was a D-coordinator for the Vikings ('92-'95), although what we don't know if it was Dungy who inspired the Colts to foresake the blue facemasks and white cleats for gray facemasks and black cleats.

Indeed, Dungy might very well become the first black coach to win a Super Bowl, but the real "black issue" at stake here is if Dungynapolis wins, it'll mark only the second time (first by the AFC) that a team with ALL of its players in black cleats has won a Super Bowl since Dallas won Super Bowl VI.
No lie, Jack -- in the 34 Super Bowls from VII thru XL, every team except one (Tampa Bay in Feb. '03) has been more white-cleated than black-cleated.

That's quite a white-cleat streak. The 17-0 Dolphins of '72 and the Miami team of '73 (which were probably 70/30 white cleats), the back-to-back Super Steeler squads of '74 and '75 (in the 76/24 white cleat-black cleat range) and the Raiders of '76 (probably 65/35) began the movement and then Denver's Orange Crush and the Steel Curtain of '78 and '79 made America proud of its white-cleat heritage.

This is brought to light by the fact that the past five NFC champions have all been black footwear teams -- in reverse order: Bears, Seahawks, Panthers, Eagles, Bucs.

The question remains: Can black and white co-exist on a level playing field? A lot of us know that Nap-Town hero -- Lil' Ronnie -- first rose to prominence last year while doin' his white-boy rappin' as he was pictured (prominently on Deadspin's site) wearing the jersey of a black player (Dwight Freeney's #93).

Lil' Ronnie put some youngster vanilla rappin' back into Indy-RAP-alis.

We bring this up only because a few years ago, one of this Planet's most-reliable eyewitnesses saw a kid who must've been 8 or 9 wearing a #92 Colts jersey as he walked into a public library.
The kid was black -- yet, he was color-blind enough to don the shirt of the extremely-Caucasian D-lineman, Chad Bratzke.
At first, it seemed odd, considering that this sighting occurred three states east of Napliss.

Yet, it stands to reason that many young black kids 'round Schkaggo wear the #54 Urlacher shirt just as lotsa white kids 'round Napliss wear their #59 June jerseys.
The breaking down of barriers between black n' white serves as a reminder of the times when we'd play that game "Name Your All-Time Favorite White-Boy Running Back." The game always gets revived during Super Bowl Week when we think of those teams' most-memorable Whitey RBs.
Last year's winners were:
-- From the Steelers, a three-way tie between Rocky Bleier, Merril Hoge and Jack Deloplane (Rich Erenberg finished out of the money, as did R.J. Bowers) ... an odd development, considering that the RB coach for the Super Steelers was white (Dick Hoak) and the fullback was white (Dan Kreider).
-- From the Seahawks ... Dan Doornink was the only name we could come up with (odd, considering that white QB Kurt Warner always reminds us of the black RB stud, Curt Warner).

This year, it's the Bears n' Colts, so, ummmm ... our favorite white-boy Bears RB has to be, ummmm .... probably not Brian Piccolo (too tragic), not Matt Suhey (too obvious), not Merril Hoge (too concussed), so ... probably either Brad Muster or -- here's one -- Robin Earl, all 6-5/250 of that lovable lug, who wasn't bad when toting the rock.
For the Colts, we're leaning away from the obvious choices of Alan Ameche, Tom Matte and Norm Bulaich and, instead, making a surprise pick of Don McCauley.

So, as we conclude "Black Footwear Awareness Week," we can see the many obstacles that Peyton The Pioneer must overcome to win this game.
They are:
1) Becoming the first QB to win a Super Bowl while wearing a Riddell Revolution helmet
2) Attempting to be the first QB to win a Super Bowl whose daddy was the No. 2 overall pick behind the No. 1 overall pick who would eventually win a Super Bowl MVP (Plunkett)
3) Bidding to become the first QB with a daddy whose first name is Elisha and with a younger brother whose first name is Elisha to win a Super Bowl
4) Trying to be the first QB son of somebody who QB'ed at Ole Miss before Norris Weese and whose younger brother QB'ed at Ole Miss and broke all of the Archie Manning school passing records which were broken by Norris Weese ... to win a Super Bowl

There's plenty at stake for the survivors of Norris Weese ...

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