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2014 COLUMNS


WONDERING ABOUT THE WONDERLIC?


ITexas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel reportedly scored a 30 on the wonderlic test--the highest score of any of the top quarterbacks in the NFL draft pool.


   Wow!  That's impressive!  I guess that means he will be the best quarterback to play in the NFL out of this draft class, right? 


   HA!  Hardly.


   The Wonderlic test is a test that was developed by Stevie Wonder and...no, that's not true.  Sorry.  I couldn't resist.


   No, the Wonderlic was created in 1938 by Eldon F. Wonderlic, and is a popular group intelligence test that is given to NFL players at the annual combine.  The test is designed to measure cognitive abilities in the areas of math, vocabulary and reasoning.  It is a timed test, where respondents get 12 minutes to answer 50 questions such as, "If a train is leaving Chicago at 3 pm and is traveling 40 miles per hour, and another train is leaving New York at 5 pm and is traveling 50 miles per hour, what time will they crash and explode into a huge fireball?"


   Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.  The questions aren't a piece of cake.  The thing that surprised me was, none of them had anything to do with football!


   I am not sure why NFL talent evaluators put any stock at all in this test, but they seem to.  We hear about players scores every year--both high and low, yet they have NOTHING to do with football playing ability.


   I could care less if a player doesn't know the correct synonym for the word "chide" if he can get to the quarterback in 2.3 seconds.


   Do you wonder if success on the Wonderlic equates to football success?  Well, let us take a look at some of the history of the wonderlic, shall we?  


   The highest score ever recorded was a perfect 50 by Pat McInally, who was a punter for crying out loud!  Mike Mamula, a pass rusher from Boston College, who was a high draft pick of the Eagles, scored a near perfect 49.  He turned out to be a colossal disappointment.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, a quarterback for the Rams, Bengals, Bills and Titans, also scored a 49, but was a below average signal caller.  Ben Watson and Kevin Curtis each scored a 49.  One turned out to be a disappointing tight end, and the other, an average wide receiver.


   Meanwhile, Morris Claiborne scored a 4, which didn't stop him from being a top ten pick, and a probable future pro-bowler.  One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Dan Marino, reportedly scored a 15.  Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw didn't let a 16 on the Wonderlic slow him down.  Ray Lewis, one of the best middle linebackers in history, got a 13.


   See what I mean?  The Wonderlic is meaningless.  Just because Johnny Manziel scored a 30 does not mean success.  He is too small, too erratic, and too undependable to be a great quarterback in the NFL.  Scoring a 30 on the Wonderlic doesn't mean he can read a defense.


   At least he can say he beat me.  I need to go and take the darn thing again.  I need to break my tie with Tim Tebow and his 22.  I may not be able to reach Johnny Football, but I know I can do better than THAT.




STERLING PUNISHMENT WAY TOO HARSH


I am really worried about where our country is headed. The NBA has come down hard on Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, for his racist views, and it has to have anyone in a position of power worried.


On the one hand, sure it is a good thing that everyone wants to see racial relations improving in the country.  We have come an awful long way since the Jim Crow days of segregation and sitting in the back of the bus.  That is definitely a good thing, and I am not disputing that in any way.


What concerns me most is everyone's extreme reaction to anyone in this country who still has those antiquated views.  Should those people, like Donald Sterling, still have those kind of beliefs that they don't want to be associated with black people?  No, obviously not.  But it's not simple to change them.


We are in a difficult time in our countries history when it comes to racial acceptance.  It was only about fifty years ago that Martin Luther King was rising to prominence, saying that he had a dream.  


It was only fifty or so years ago that major portions of the south still had racial segregation, and most of the rest of the country still hadn't accepted desegragation.


There are still millions of individuals who are still alive that were born into that reality.  Many of them still have those feelings about minorities that they were brought up with.  Many of those people had children in the 50's, 60's and even 70's that they instilled those thoughts into.


Racial acceptance is a long process, and MLK's dream is getting closer to being realized each and every year.  However, it still leaves millions and millions of people who are still around who don't exactly share that dream.  

Is it these people's fault that they still feel this way?  Does still having these feelings that have been so deeply instilled in them in their childhood make them bad people?


I don't believe so.  


You won't seem to find many who agree with me on that though, listening to the reaction and outrage over Donald Sterling's comments.


Donald Sterling is a longtime repuded scumbag.  It has been well documented.  No one likes him.  No one has ever liked him.  But for the NBA to now ban him for life from attending any of the games of the team that he owns, or any other NBA team is ridiculous.  To ban him from even entering the NBA arena that he owns for any purpose, is extremely harsh.  To attempt to strong-arm the other owners into voting that Sterling be forced to sell his team that he has owned for decades is too much.  


All of this for Sterling's making comments about how he feels about black people and minorities in a one on one conversation with a person he trusted that he had no knowledge of being recorded, is way over the top. 


Sterling didn't make these comments as a keynote speaker at some charity event, while representing the LA Clippers.  He didn't make these comments in an interview with some newspaper reporter, magazine writer or television analyst. He didn't even make these comments to his golfing buddies over a round in the clubhouse bar after a few too many mai tai's.  He made these comments to his girlfriend/mistress--a woman he obviously trusted--in the privacy of his own home.  She also happened to be a woman who is of black and Mexican descent.  (The fact that Sterling had no problem having a dalliance with a black/Mexican woman, while at the same time having these feelings about minorities makes the whole thing even stranger and hypocritical)


This could lead to a whole new industry of wire tapping and secret recording.  Now that everyone has seen what happens when someone is caught making racially insensitive comments, light bulbs should be going off in everyone's heads who have feelings of "wanting to get ahead".  I think it might even become part of our vernacular.


We will call it "bagging a Sterling".  You have a problem with your boss?  Take him out to lunch or dinner, and buy him a couple of drinks.  "Sterling-bait" him with a question of something like, "did you see there was another homicide in the ghetto last night?"  When the boss answers with something like, "Yeah, those blacks are a bunch of violent thugs", simply take your tape to Human Resources and say, "Do we really want a bigot like this working for our company?"


Easy peasy, right?  In today's day and age, everyone has a tape recorder.  It's right on my iPhone, under the utilities icon.  A voice recorder that even a monkey could operate.  Everyone who is in a position of power or in the public eye in any way should be very very worried after this.  Like the ol' Santa Claus song goes, "you better watch out.  You better not cry.  You better not pout.  I'm telling you why.  Everyone could be recording what you say."


After my previous column, I had twitter haters saying that they couldn't believe there is a pub or bar anywhere in america that you would find people telling racially motivated jokes.  Well, one of us is living in a completely skewed reality, and I'm pretty sure it is not me.


Hey, if you are living in some kind of understanding, empathetic, white collar, tree hugging, graduated from Princeton, politically correct world where no one ever says anything even slightly racially insensitive...well, consider yourself lucky.  You are living in a world that for most people, doesn't exist.  I live in a more true reality, where people of all races aren't afraid to say questionable things about other races or nationalities--sometimes in a joking manner, and sometimes not.


Nobody has a sense of humor anymore.  Everyone needs to just lighten up.  No one is able to express themselves anymore or have any feelings that could be negative.  The P.C. police want to turn everyone into mindless drones, who all think the same way. 


 That's not America.  Not the america I want to live in.


The reaction to Donald Sterling is wildly inconsistent as well.  Look at Aaron Hernandez.  The former New England Patriot allegedly KILLED someone, but he didn't face the universal condemnation that Donald Sterling has.  Hernandez is in federal prison for MURDER, but really all you hear anyone say is "ohhh, what a colossal waste of talent."


You get caught making racist comments in our culture, and everyone says, "What a sad excuse for a human being!  That guy has no place in our society.  He deserves to rot in hell!"  Yet you can kill someone, and everyone says, "what a shame.  He was a great player."  Michael Vick killed dozens of dogs, burning some of them alive, and he is still a starting quarterback in the largest media market in the country, still cheered on every Sunday.  Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth got drunk and killed someone while driving drunk, then continued playing and no one batted an eye.


Doesn't that seem inconsistent to you?  It sure does to me.  


I'll end with this...Donald Sterling's feelings about minorities are reprehensible.  He should not feel that way, but the fact that he does is probably not something he can change.  It doesn't mean he should lose his basketball team.



As for the rest of us, watch what you say, and watch out for microphones.  You too could become a victim of Sterlingcide.    




CLIPPERS OWNER NOT SO STERLING


Al Campanis. Jimmy the Greek. Marge Schott. Rush Limbaugh. Ben Wright. Don Imus. Fuzzy Zoeller. These are all the names of prominant announcers, personalities and owners or front office people who have lost their jobs, had to sell ltheir teams, or had their careers ruined by racially (or sexually) insensitive comments. 


Now, you can add Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to that list.


Well, not officially.  Not yet.  It's prbably going to happen though.  The suits that run the NBA will find some way to force Sterling to sell his Clippers, a team he has owned for decades.  They will make some kind of back alley deal, sweeten the pot for Sterling, or maybe even pay him to sell out.  The NBA probably feels like they have to after what happened today.


What happened today was that word that a tape recording, apparently recorded surreptiously, came out with what is believed to be Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend not to publicly show off pictures of herself hanging out with black people.


In the nearly ten minute recording, posted on the TMZ website, the male voice, presumed to be Sterling, says he is opposed to the woman, presumed to be his girlfriend, posting pictures of herself with Magic Johnson on her instagram page, "why are you taking pictures with minorities, why?"  He then continued with ""Don't put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. … And don't bring him to my games, OK?"


Finally, the voice said, "Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you're associating with black people. Do you have to?" 


Now of course you realize that this is 2014, and not 1974.  Sterling might have gotten away with saying those things then, but not now.  Not with the culture police out there ready to pounce on anything anyone says that they deem "racially or culturally offensive".  The overwhelming outrage about this surprises me, but at the same time, doesn't surprise me at all.


The thing is, the people who are the most outraged  with what Sterling said--primarily the media--are the ones with the microphones, and the cameras.  They are the ones who are telling the rest of us just how outraged we should be.  


Just like with what happened to yours truly, whenever someone says something like this, or is caught doing so, the general reaction that you hear about is like the Salem witch trials.  From the reaction I have heard today, you would think that a suspension of Sterling would not be enough.  The NBA forcing him to sell his team wouldn't be enough.  Really, the only punishment acceptable should be to have Sterling take a swim in his backyard pool and then have someone throw a plugged in television set or toaster in it.  Either that or a firing squad.  Just put the sick bastard away quickly.  He is not fit to be in our society.  Pardon the murderers, but get rid of this guy.  He's a MONSTER!


It really frightens me about how our country is going.  The thing is, for every person who is so outraged about comments like Sterlings, there are probably at least as many people who feel the same way Sterling does.  I'm not saying that's a good thing.  I'm just saying that those people are the ones who you will never hear from.  They quietly go about their lives with that belief system, telling no one, and being fine, upstanding members of their community.  They are not monsters.  Donald Sterling is not a monster either.


I know it sounds like I am defending Sterling.  I am not defending what he said.  IF that was indeed his voice, and he did indeed say those things, I can't defend him.  Sterling has had two lawsuits against him about racist related things.  One from former GM Elgin Baylor and one from the Southern California NAACP.  By all accounts, yes, he is a racist.  He is probably one of the worst owners in NBA history.  He could very well be a scumbag.  Does that mean he shouldn't own an NBA team?


Let me explaion my main problem with this whole thing.  First of all, this recording was obtained surreptitiously (for my Twitter haters--that means: without his knowledge), by his girlfriend in a private conversation at home.  This was not said by Sterling at a dinner party, or to a media person, or in an interview, or amongst his golfing buddies, or in the owners box at one of his games.  This was a private one on one conversation with his "supposed" girlfriend.  This is also the same girlfriend, as it comes out, who is being sued by Sterling for embezzling nearly two million dollars from the Sterling family.  She vowed that she would get even...wow, it appear that she did.  Moral of this story--never underrate a woman with a vengeance!


I believe that those things have to be taken into account in this case.  This was a private conversation with a person that Sterling THOUGHT he could trust.  If he has racist feelings, I believe it was his intent to keep them to himself, and would never have said them to this woman if he knew he was being recorded.  If we start penalizing anyone who even thinks racist thoughts, we are going to have to punish LOTS of people.


If you are so holier than thou that you are prepared to tell me that you have never laughed at a "black joke"--you're a damn liar.  If you are able to tell me that you have never chuckled at a joke about "dumb blondes" or women drivers or women in general--you're a damn liar.  If you never laughed at the old joke, "why do Jews have such big noses?  Because air is free"--you're a damn liar.  If you tell me you've never made a comment or even thought to yourself that most of the crime in most inner cities happen in the ghettos where all the blacks and hispanics/Mexicans live--you're a damned liar!  If you are a black reader, and you are telling me you have never referred to a white person as a "cracker" or a "honkie"--you're a damn liar.


Everyone's reaction to this story is so hypocritical.  Outwardly, they are saying how outraged they are on camera, but stop at their favorite pub on their way home from work and tell black jokes to the guys on the stools next to them.


Oh, and here is another thing that bothers me.  This whole racial thing doesn't go both ways.  If you are white and have money, and say something controversial, you are fired and buried.  If you are black and your name is Charles Barkley, you can make all kinds of comments about white people not having the genes that allow them to jump, or as he said when asked about his teams not getting calls being a racial issue, "This is why I hate white people...they are always trying to turn everything into a racial issue".  That gets a pass.  Barkley didn't get fired.  In fact, he is still announcing, and is as popular as ever.


If you are Floyd Mayweather, and you call your rival Manny Pacquiao a "yellow champion", and ordering that "motherf'r to make me a sushi-roll and cook me some rice".  That gets swept under the rug and no one hears about it.  He wasn't forced to quit boxing.  If you are Shaq in 2002, when asked about the emergence of Yao Ming, said to Fox Sports "Tell Yao Ming 'Ching-Chong-yang-wah-ah-so'", you don't lose your job, nor does Fox Sports even make a big deal about it.


Donald Sterling is just the latest in an example to all of us white folks:  Don't get caught saying ANYTHING racially insensitive to anyone, anywhere.  Should he be suspended?  Yes, he should.  Should he be forced to sell his team?  No, I don't believe he should.  You can't penalize someone for the way they were brought up.


Let me put it another way.  My parents would not have been happy if I dated a black girl.  I never did.  Partly because I haver had the opportunity, but partly because I knew how my folks felt.  It didn't make them bad people.  As most people do, they kept those feelings to themselves.  They were able to have black friends, and get along fine with everyone.  I think my parents were both charming people.  They were brought up in a different time, with a different mentality.    


Donald Sterling is an older fellow too.  He was probably brought up with the same beliefs.  In his mind, his girlfriend hanging out with black people is fine, as long as she didn't publicize it.  He felt that it would reflect poorly on him.  We don't know who he hangs out with but Sterling wants to look as good as he can with them.  I get it.  I understand it.  I don't condone it, but I do understand it, and I wish everyone else would at least try to understand the whole situation before they stone Donald Sterling.  As time goes by, fewer and fewer people are being brought up with this way of thinking.  And that's a good thing.  I believe we just need to have patience for the ones who don't.


And next time you are telling an off color joke....make sure no one has any running microphones!



BEST TIME OF THE YEAR FOR SPORTS FANS


Which is the best time of the year for sports?  There is no definitive answer.  It really depends on the sports fan, his likes, dislikes, favorite sports and so on.  To break it down though, I think we can pretty much limit it to four time periods, in chronological order: 


1. Mid-January to Mid February.  You have the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl.  NBA and NHL are nearing their midseasons, with all-star games approaching.  College basketball teams are in their conference play and getting ready for March Madness.  You got the Daytona 500 as well. 


2. RIGHT NOW--Mid to late April to early June.  Many sports fans lives revolve around football, especially the NFL.  Each year, the NFL draft seems to get bigger and bigger.  It's the renewal process for each team and its fans.  Other than the draft, you have the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing.  You also have major league baseball in its early months, deciding who will be good or not good.  You also have the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500.  


3.  Early September to mid October.  You have the NFL starting up, in its first four to six weeks.  Opening week of the NFL season is almost a religious experience for myself and many other men.  You just want to sit in your mancave and worship for the whole Sunday.  You also have the major league baseball playoffs in full swing and World Series approaching, college football season also in full swing.  NBA and NHL seasons are about to start up. 


and finally.... 


4.  Early December to mid January.  I know this is pretty much a continuation of number one above, but I think you need to deliniate the two.  In this section of time, you have college football bowl season!  You also have the NBA and NHL kicking into gear.  College basketball holiday tournaments, and perhaps most importantly, the final few weeks of the regular season of the NFL. 


Taking into consideration all four of the best parts of the sporting year, I honestly prefer where we are right now.  I don't think it's even close.  Sure if you are a fan of the NFL and don't care about hoops or hockey, you are going to say its #3 or #4.  It you are a baseball fan, you are going to think it's #3.  If you are a coilege basketball or NASCAR fan, you are going to think it's #1.  But if you are a fan of ALL the major sports, there can be no doubt it is right NOW! 


The NFL draft is almost as important as the regular season.  That's because EVERY team is on even footing.  The teams that sucked last year have top picks and a chance to get better.  The teams who were good last year are looking at who to draft to keep them atop the standings.  It dominates sports radio talk shows and water coolers everywhere. 


The NBA playoffs are awesome as well.  Especially if you have a huge rooting interest.  Do you like to cheer against the dominant two-time champion Lakers or are you rooting for them?  Do you want to see superstars like Kevin Durant and Lebron James lead their team to a title or do you want to see the old folks in Brooklyn or San Antonio continue to shine?  Playoff games every night for over a month! 


The NHL playoffs are awesome as well.  The thing that makes the NHL playoffs so good are "sudden death overtimes".  I gotta say, there are few things better in all of sports than a playoff hockey game in sudden death overtime!  One shot.  One great pass.  One guy who loses a skate at the wrong time and gives up the game winning goal.  You know what it's like?  It's like when you are 17 or 18 and your girlfriend goes into the bathroom to pee on a stick, and she comes out and....says.....she is.....NOT PREGNANT!!!  In a sudden death overtime hockey playoff game, you feel that same scared anticipation....and....relief release....at least a half dozen times a period.  Edge of your seat excitement for as long as the game goes on, and when it ultimately ends, you almost feel sad. 


If you are a baseball fan, you have to love the new beginnings of April.  When it seems that every team still has a chance.  When a player has a quick start and you can say, "wow, if he continues at his current pace, he will hit 120 homeruns!" 


Finally, you have the top two races of two other sports....the Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500.  Sure they might not be as big as they used to be, but they are still the tops in their sport. If you are a sports fan, they all have their benefits, but for my money, I will take this point of the sports year every time.  Have fun and enjoy it while it lasts! 




SIX POSITIVES OF A BON JOVI OWNED BILLS


There have been a lot of rumors lately about rocker Jon Bon Jovi being part of a Canadian group that wants to buy the Buffalo Bills.  This has been met with mixed reviews by football fans in Western New York.  For some, it would be a bed of roses.  For others, they would be forced to swallow bad medicine.


At first, I was on the borderline.  What does Jon know about owning a football team anyways?  The more I thought about it though, the more I was thinking that this was something to believe in.  Hey, the way I see it, everyone has gotta have a reason to be optimistic, and I think Jon Bon Jovi owning the Bills would give me another reason to believe that this franchise was ready to breakout.


Let's face it, One Bills Drive has been brokenpromiseland since the mid 90's.  A change is needed, and Jon Bon Jovi has been to Buffalo, and said "I love this town!"  He has exclaimed to the media, "It's my life!  I don't wanna save the world, I just want to own an NFL football team, and the Bills are born to be my baby.  I want to make a memory."


Well Jon, I gotta say, you had me from hello.  I am not going to runaway.  I am going to take the seat next to you and have no regrets about pro football in Western New York for the next hundred years.  I really believe that under Jon's ownership, I will never say goodbye to the Bills.  I believe that if Bills fans keep the faith, the Bills will soon be the king of the mountain.


Are you as convinced, or will you be living on a prayer if Bon Jovi buys the Bills?  Well, I have come up with some reasons to help bring you one step closer to saying "I'm with you", if that's what it takes.


1.  It will bring national relevance to the Buffalo Bills.  Of course, Bon Jovi hasn't been the hit machine they once were, but Jon and the boys were really the "supergroup of the 80's" and Jon is still nationally relevant.  He has gone into acting, producing and directing, and has a ton of contacts with very important people in the nations entertainment industry.  TV networks will put the Bills on national telecasts just to get a shot of Jon watching in the owners booth.


2.  The best damn pre-game and halftime concerts in the league!  Imagine the possibilities.  Bon Jovi plays a four song set on the field at the Ralph at the half of every home game.  Pre-game concerts in the parking lot with Skid Row, Poison and Great White, with different bands rotating every home game.  For many of those bands--I'll be there for you!


3.  The city of Buffalo would take over from Detroit Rock City--it would become "Buffalo Rock City" that would be on everyone's lips.


4.  A name change could be in order.  Let's face it, the "Bills" has had its day.  What is a Bill anyways?  I've always wondered why a team named after the legendary "Buffalo Bill" from wild west fame had a buffalo on it's helmet anyway.  Shouldn't it have a picture of a gunslinger?  With Jon Bon Jovi owning the team, he could change the name to the "Buffalo Rockers", "Buffalo Blast", "Buffalo Rocknrollers" or "Buffalo Guitar Solo's".


5.  The Buffalo Jills could be clothed in studded leather uniforms.  Yowza!  Imagine that!  The cheerleader hotties dancing and strutting around on the sidelines looking like hard rockin' babes.  Craigy likey.


6.  A Hard Rock cafe could be put in somewhere in the Ralph or adjacent to it, maybe next to the practice facility.  Hey, the new Yankee stadium has one, why not the Ralph?  A Hard Rock cafe wouldn't be more appropriate in any other NFL stadium than in one owned by Jon Bon Jovi, would it?  It would give fans another reason to go to games, and something else to do other than getting drunk in the parking lots.  Now they could get drunk inside instead, and the team could make money off of it.  A Hard Rock cafe?  I'd die for you, even if they did serve bitter wine.


The bottom line is, if Jon Bon Jovi were to buy the Bills, I think it would be a beautiful world.  I believe it with every beat of my heart.  Ralph, it's hard letting you go, but if Jon Bon Jovi buys the Bills, I think it will be wild in the streets of Buffalo.


I just hope I am right, and he doesn't say, "who says you can't go home" and moves the team to New Jersey.


That would make him wanted, dead or alive, in the hearts of most Bills fans.



By the way, if you can name every Bon Jovi song I mentioned in this column, let me know how many and I'll buy you a beer or something.  (I'll give you a clue--there's over 30!)




RANKING THE GREATEST RIVALRIES OF ALL TIME IN SPORTS


In the last week or so, I have watched the Giants play the Dodgers, Louisville play Kentucky, and the Yankees will be playing the Red Sox over the next few days.  It gave me pause to think about rivalries.  I have seen other media outlets reports of their lists of the greatest sports rivalries of all time, but what do I think?  How would I rank the greatest sports rivalries of all time?  


That is what I will attempt to do in this column.  In MY world, based on what I have seen myself, and what I have heard, researched or read about, here is how I would rank the top rivalries in sports history.  I will only include teams vs teams or individual athletes vs individual athletes in individual sports.  I will not put Brady vs Manning in this list, as they play team sports.  Everyone does either a top ten list or a top 100 list.  I don't have time for a top 100 list, and I could not possibly limit my list to just ten, so here is my top TWENTY sports rivalries of all time list...


20.  Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins.  Sure it doesn't have the luster lately, but these two teams played each other twice a year for 46 years.  They played some legendary games in the 1990's, and anyone living here in Western NY all their life who is over 40 knows how intense "squishing the fish" used to be.


19.  Philadelphia Flyers vs Pittsburgh Penguins.  This is the ONLY hockey rivalry on here.  I don't have Montreal vs Toronto simply because both teams have not been good at the same time in the last forty years.  The Pens and Flyers have both been pretty darn good for decades.  Both have rabid fans and fairly close proximity--at least in the same state.


18.  Tiger Woods vs Phil Mickelson.  The best golfer of the last thirty years and his closest competitor for that same mantle during the same time frame.  Both have shared the same prime years, and when one didn't win, the other usually seemed to.


17.  Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys.  The two greatest teams in the 1970's and early part of the 1980's, these two franchises played many big games, mainly in Super Bowls.  Two of the best Super Bowls ever, played in the span of three years, and then another matchup in the 1990's.


16.  Jeff Gordon vs Dale Earnhardt Sr.  Ahhh, what NASCAR was all about--this was the rivalry that defined it.  The squeaky clean California boy who used his napkin, wiped his feet before entering his own house, and was the boy women wanted to bring home to mommy and daddy.  Earnhardt was the redneck incarnate Southern boy, who wiped his mouth on his sleeve, tromped dirt in his neighbors house and hit on his date's mom and shared beers with her dad.  Fans haven't taken up sides for any two guys since like these two.


15.  Martina Navratilova vs Chris Evert.  Even more than Venus vs Serena Williams, Martina and Chrissy was the ultimate rivalry in women's tennis.  For more than a decade, it seemed as if these two met up in at least half the Grand Slam finals.  Martina's power game vs Evert's baseline game and strong ground-strokes.  They usually always went three sets and often, there were long tie-breakers.  These two knew it would be a duel whenever they matched up.


14.  Kentucky vs Louisville basketball.  Every year, these two teams are good.  Competing for the National Championship type good.  It has been this way for a half century, and then some.  Currently, Pitino vs Calipari is as good as it gets as far as a coaching rivalry goes.  The two in-state rivals divide the loyalties of most residents in the whole state of Kentucky.


13.  Dallas Cowboys vs San Francisco 49ers.  Same can be said about these two as I said about the Cowboys and Steelers, with two exceptions causing this to be rated higher.  One, the 49ers and Cowboys were the dominant teams of the 80's and 90's, instead of the Steelers 70's and 80's.  Two, these two teams are in the same conference, which means they have met up more times on the football field.  Because each has been good for much of the last thirty years, there have been many many important matchups, including three in a row in the 90's.  SIX times since 1970, these two have met up in an NFC conference final, far more than any other two teams.


12.  Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal.  Another tennis rivalry.  This one was one of the classics.  Two guys, matched up against each other dozens of times, primes intersecting.  Federer--in his prime slightly earlier--dominated the first half of the matchups with Nadal.  Once Nadal hit his prime and beat Federer, he has dominated since.


11.  UCLA vs USC.  Forget about in state rivalries, this is basically an in-CITY rivalry.  This is like the Bloods and the Crips.  This is like brother versus brother.  Most other rivalries tore up the loyalties of residents in a 


state.  This rivalry tore up loyalties in families.


10.  Alabama vs Auburn.  Not quite the proximity of UCLA and USC, this rivalry made up for it through passion.  SoCal fans often have lives away from college football.  Down in 'Bama, Louisiana and Florida, football IS life for many folks.  The passion they have is what makes this rivalry.  How else do you explain an Alabama fan poisoning the landmark oak trees at Toomer's corner on the Auburn campus?  The rivalry made him do it!


9.  Army vs Navy.  I know, most sports fans younger than about 80 would never have this rivalty on their list.  I have to, if only due to tradition.  This was the BIGGEST and BADDEST rivalry in collge football in the early century and before 1900.  From the first game between the two in 1890, they were two of the best football teams over the next three or four decades.  The game has such tradition, it has it's own weekend devoted to it to this day.


8 and 8 1/2.  Jimmy Connors vs John McEnroe vs Bjorn Borg.  The rivalry between these three was so strong, it has to be mentioned together.  The three dominated mens tennis in the 1970's through the mid 80's.  All three seemed to HATE each other...their games....their personalities....their wardrobe...everything.  


7.  Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers (Bird vs Magic).  I know I said I would not include individual players in a team rivalry, but this is the one lone exception because it meant so much to this team rivalry.  Both teams were struggling until Bird and Magic joined each team.  From that point on, their primes intertwined as both were the dominant teams in their respective conferences for a decade, resulting in several memorable finals matchups.


6.  Jack Nicklaus vs Arnold Palmer.  They weren't in their primes for much of the rivalry, but it didn't matter.  Arnold was the golden boy of golf in the 60's and early 70's when Jack came along.  Nicklaus was the guy trying to steal Arnie's title, and would eventually do so, becoming even more dominant.  Fans were divided.  Either you were a fan of the Golden Bear or a member of Arnie's army.


5.  Muhammed Ali vs Joe Frazier.  The two dominant prize fighters of the 1970's and early 80's were more or less in their simultaneous primes.  They had totally contrasting styles.  They fought three times in title bouts and nearly fought to the death in all three.  Heavyweight boxing may never have been the same since.


4.  Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers vs San Francisco/New York Giants.  These two teams have been good, more or less, for the past seventy plus years.  They often have had to go through one another for any successes they have had.  They have also had proximity--in state rivals for the last fifty or so years, and in-city rivals before that.


3.  Duke Blue Devils vs North Carolina Tar Heels basketball.  Separated by scant miles, these two teams are ALWAYS good, always battling for ACC supremacy, and hate each other.  It's a rivalry that has everything going for it--passion, proximity and success.  Rivalries aren't much better than the one on Tobacco Road.


2.  Michigan Wolverines vs Ohio State Buckeyes football.  The tradition is rich.  The two teams success rate is glowing.  The Big Ten is probably the most storied conference in college football history, and the yearly matchup between the two teams is always the highlight of the year for both--usually with a trip to the Rose Bowl and often a National Championship on the line.


1.  New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox.  So many storied moments, especially in the last twenty years or so.  The two teams spend the whole offseason trying to match each others moves, and the whole season trying to beat each other up on the diamond.  Baseball's ultimate player, Babe Ruth, played for both, and the "Curse of the Bambino" lasted for 70 years.  Taking into consideration the past, present, and probable future, I would have to put Yankees-Red Sox at the top.           



A BAD TIME TO BE A BILLS FAN


Talk about the old saying, "When it rains, it pours."


If you are a fan of the Buffalo Bills, and have been for much of your life, like me and so many others in this region, you are probably reeling right now.  


A day after word came out that former Bills quarterback, Jim Kelly, was heading to New York city for another round of surgery on an aggressive form of cancer, which had returned after initial jaw surgery last summer, comes word today that long time owner, Ralph Wilson, has passed away at age 95.


Both are hard to deal with.


Kelly was "The Franchise", for the Bills.  The Pennsylvania native was the perfect fit for blue class Buffalo.  A hard-nosed, hard-working guy, full of piss and vinegar, Kelly seemed more fit to play linebacker, than to be a quarterback.  


Kelly didn't want to come to Buffalo originally.  After being drafted 14th overall in the first round of the famed 1983 draft, Kelly blew off the Bills in favor of the Houston Gamblers of the fledgling USFL.  After two record breaking seasons in H-town, rather than jump to the NFL and the Bills, Kelly instead signed for the mega bucks of Donald Trump and would have played a season with the New Jersey Generals if the league didn't fold.  When it did in the summer of 1986, Kelly had no other choice--with the Bills holding his NFL rights, he finally gritted his teeth and shuffled off to Buffalo.


Kelly immediately gave the Bills credibility.  Within two years, along with first round pick Bruce Smith, Kelly had the Bills in the playoffs.  If began a stretch of eight straight years in the playoffs.  From 1990 to 1993, the Bills won four straight AFC crowns, which unfortunately, led to four straight Super Bowl losses.  It is a feat that will probably never be duplicated.


Now, Kelly lays in a hospital bed.  His cancer has returned, and survival is not assured.  It's a sad case for a once great icon.  Kelly has had nothing but setbacks since calling it quits.  His son, Hunter, was born with a rare disease and lived most of his nine years unable to walk or do much of anything for himself.  Kelly has had numerous surgeries and fought off cancer initially, when it was taken out of his jaw.  Now, it has returned...with a vengeance.


It doesn't seem fair.  To have to deal with the devastation of four losses in the biggest game of his sport, and then to be further tested with a special needs child and serious health issues.  It proves that life isn't fair, and only the strong survive.  The one thing we all know is that if anyone can rise above all of this heartache, it is James Edward Kelly. He certainly is a fighter, and we know he will give this his all, just like he did in so many of those key AFC playoff matchups.


Ralph Wilson was certainly a fighter as well.  You don't get to live until age 95 if you aren't.  Wilson seemed to defy death for many years.  His love of football remained strong until his very dying days.  He became one of eight young renegade owners to buy a team in the fledgling AFL in 1969, paying $25,000 for a Bills team that is now worth $800 million dollars, according to estimates.  Without men like Wilson, Al Davis, Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams, there is no doubt the NFL wouldn't be where it is today.


Over those 54 years, Wilson had many overtures from many other cities to move the Bills.  He never accepted one of them.  Ralph's legacy will be all about loyalty.  Loyalty to the city of Buffalo.  Loyalty to his players.  Loyalty to his staff, his wife and his family.  Now, with his passing, and no one to be loyal to them anymore, Bills fans will remain on the edge of their seats, wondering if and when their Bills will be on the move.


As for that, no one is really certain.  If there was a plan to keep the Bills in western New York, it was never made public.  It is rumored that Wilson stipulated that upon his death, he wanted the team sold.  No one seems really sure about that though.  What remains to be seen is if that happens, will the buyer keep the Bills where they are.  It will be a hard waiting game for all rabid Bills fans, with the fate of their very team at stake.


The one thing we know about the Buffalo Bills and their history:  NO ONE circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills!


We can only hope for Jim Kelly and Ralph Wilson's sake, they can do that one more time. 

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