I’m brooding just a little bit this morning. To be honest, it’s tough to feel THAT bad about the Jets loss to the Colts. Peyton Manning was just too good. I think if his wide receivers were Don Maynard and George Sauer Jr.—today, not 41 years ago when they were catching passes from Joe Namath—Manning would find a way to get them the ball. He’s just that good.
Although I’ve now seen all the highlights, I heard a lot more of the game on the radio than I saw on television. I had to drive to the eastern shore of Maryland yesterday for a funeral. Pat Hughes, the wife of former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes, passed away on Thursday after a long, difficult battle with Parkinson’s disease. They had been married just a little less than 60 years. Governor Hughes gave an emotional, touching eulogy, revealing something that he said even his children didn’t know: he and Pat had secretly gotten married when she was 19 and still in college almost two years before their, “wedding.”
“I have a feeling if her dad had known he wouldn’t have sprung for the party,” Governor Hughes said, drawing laughter in the packed church. He choked up on a couple of occasions, pausing once to say, “I’m going to get through this,”—and did. It was typical Harry Hughes: clever, funny, touching, genuine and classy.
The respect people have for him was evident: Martin O’Malley, the current governor, was there and so were both of Maryland’s U.S. Senators—Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski. Steny Hoyer, the Majority Leader of the House was there and so was former Senator Joe Tydings along with—as you might expect—many members of the state legislature, which is where Governor Hughes began his political career. I believe I was the only sportswriter in attendance but there needed to be one since Governor Hughes signed with the Yankees out of college and had a brief minor league career.
“No signing bonus,” he noted in the eulogy.
I had driven down with my old friend Tim Maloney— a former House of Delegates member—and, after we’d stopped by the house for the reception, we headed home. The Hughes house is on The Greater Choptank River (the governor corrected me when I called it The Choptank River) a couple of miles from the Harry R. Hughes Bridge that crosses the Choptank. Pretty cool, I think.
It was halftime by the time we were back in the car and the key moment of the game—the Colts late second quarter drive—had just taken place. With the margin at 17-13 I wasn’t optimistic about the Jets chances. Mark Sanchez had played very well in the first half apparently but I knew the Colts defense was very solid.
We all know what happened in the second half. I honestly don’t believe the Saints can beat the Colts in The Super Bowl but upsets do happen. Maybe the Colts will turn the ball over five times. One thing I’m about 99.9 percent sure won’t happen is Manning making a mistake like the one Brett Favre made at the end of regulation, a mistake so heinous that even see-no-evil ex-quarterback Troy Aikman had to call it, “a cardinal mistake.”
Look, to do anything but respect Favre’s grit is simply stupid. He took a hit on his ankle and knee that would have had most quarterbacks in the locker room and never missed a snap. He could barely walk to and from the huddle, yet every time he took a snap and dropped back, you were pretty certain the ball would be on target. Even after the Saints went up 28-21, Favre brought them back and had them one play—plus a successful field goal—from winning.
I’m not sure who screwed up when the Vikings came out of the time out with 19 seconds left with 12 men in the huddle, but one way or the other, that’s on the coaching staff. My God was this game full of bad plays: the turnovers, the penalties—I didn’t think the officials had such a good day either—the fumbled snap (Drew Brees) on a key third down. Was it just me or did it seem as if every single play of the last hour was a bobbled pass, a questionable call or another dreaded booth review. I’m surprised there wasn’t a booth review of the coin toss before overtime.
And yet, in that final minute of regulation, Favre had the Vikings at the Saints 33—then the 38 after the penalty. There he was, rolling right on third down with acres of yardage in front of him and no reason not to run since he had a timeout left. Maybe it was the pain in his leg that caused him not to run. Worst case, he’s going to pick up five yards and Ryan Longwell is going to have a long, but makeable (especially in a dome) field goal.
But the old Favre Achilles heel kicked in at the worst possible moment and he threw across his body and across the field right into an interception. Like the one two years ago against the Giants, that’s one Favre isn’t going to be able to get out of his mind because it was his last throw of the season. He had talked all week about this opportunity being a chance to redeem himself after that Giants game. He was thatclose to that redemption. Unlike in the Giants game, where he played poorly all day in frigid conditions, Favre was heroic on Sunday until that last pass.
Even if you felt badly for Favre—how could you not?—you couldn’t help but feel the joy of New Orleans. When players and coaches warble on about how great their fans are after a victory I usually roll my eyes: all fans are great when a team is good. But this was different. These were fans who had been to hell and back and almost lost their team after Hurricane Katrina because owner Tom Benson was ready to ride right out of town to San Antonio or Los Angeles. They truly deserved a moment like this. I have a feeling though that it will be their zenith. We’ll see when they play The Super Bowl, which is in about six weeks. At least it will feel that way once all the hype and chatter are finally over.
A few notes from the last few days. My friend Bill Brill e-mailed me on Friday to say my “Duke,” blog on Thursday had caused all sorts of talk on the Duke Basketball Report site. I checked it out and found it interesting.
There were, as you might expect, some loyalists who were angry at me: I’m a bitter person because my friend Tom Mickle didn’t get the Athletic Director’s job. (Damn right I’m bitter because he was SO clearly the right choice and Nan Keohane intentionally picked Joe Alleva for just that reason). I have a lot of nerve implying I belong on the list of ‘distinguished Duke journalists,’ over a woman who was a ‘Survivor,’ finalist. (Guilty again, I really do think my resume is a tad better than hers). The most interesting ones were from people who defended Mike Krzyzewski’s decision to coach the Olympic team again. Some sort of missed my point: I didn’t write that because Duke lost to N.C. State—nor have I changed my mind because it beat Clemson—I felt that way last summer and told Krzyzewski that, not that he does care or should care what I think. What’s more I was NOT against him doing it once because it is—and should be—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was the second time around that he didn’t need in terms of time or energy or ego. He’d done all that. (Note to guy who pointed out that Jim Boeheim is an assistant coach and doing fine: Being an assistant is wholly different. Not only is Krzyzewski giving up time, his entire staff is involved in the effort. Plus, coincidence or not, Syracuse missed the NCAA’s two years in a row right after Boeheim became an assistant).
Anyway, the big defense was, “being Olympic coach has energized him.” Really? Being the Duke coach doesn’t provide enough challenge or energy? I would think going 3-7 the last five years against his good friend Ole Roy while not coming close to a Final Four would be enough to energize Mike Krzyzewski…
And finally, from the category of why it is often tough to take women’s sports that seriously: Two Georgetown women’s players and one Louisville player were suspended by The Big East after a pre-game brawl nine days ago. When the league announced the suspensions it refused to identify the players even though it would become apparent who they were the next time the teams played. Okay, that’s just plain ridiculous.
Then, on Saturday, after Kenya Kirkland (a tri-captain) and Tia McBride were absent from her team’s win over DePaul, Georgetown Coach Terry Williams-Flournoy said this: “I think there’s a privacy right that those kids should have. They’re kids. They’re children. Their names shouldn’t be put out there like that.”
Huh? They play COLLEGE basketball and are old enough to vote. People are asked to pay money to watch them play which means anything they do in that public domain is public. Children? They made a mistake, they were suspended. It happens all the time. Claiming some ludicrous right to privacy just makes everyone involved look stupid…
And then there was this: During the Maryland-North Carolina State men’s game Saturday night, the PA Announcer at the corporate-named Center that replaced Cole Field House pleaded with fans to buy tickets for the next night’s Maryland-Duke women’s game. “Come see the best rivalry in women’s college basketball,” he said.
There aren’t many rivalries in women’s college basketball that anyone not in uniform or related to those in uniform cares about. In fact there’s one: Connecticut-Tennessee. That’s the list.
Then, after Duke had won a close game on Sunday, Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said this: “This proves we can play with anyone.”
Really? Her team loses at home to a team that lost at home earlier in the week BY THIRTY-THREE to Connecticut and this proves her team can play with anybody? Sometimes I think coaches—in all sports—just throw stuff out there and figure it will go un-challenged because often it does. If Duke and Maryland combined forces they would lose to U-Conn by 20. NO ONE in the women’s game can play with Connecticut right now—which is a problem for the women’s game.
Maybe Frese should have insisted on not making public the names of the women on her team who missed shots. You know, they’re just children. They have a right to privacy.