OBSERVATIONS: The day John Elway broke my heart

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, leaving briefly to answer the door to see what Amazon had delivered today because it stops at our house daily, as if it is a bus stop.

—As any fan worth their brown and orange knows, the Cleveland Browns have not played in a Super Bowl.

The closest they came was on January 7, 1987 —AFC championship game, winner goes to the Super Bowl. And I was there for what became known as ‘The Drive’ by Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway.

It was in old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The press box was high above the field, tucked under the roof of the old icebox stadium. The elevator was very small and very slow.

So, late in the game, most of the press corps left the box and walked down the several hundred steps to go on the field so we would beat the crowd and get close to the locker rooms for post-game interviews.

Thus I was standing behind the far end zone with 5:32 to play. The Browns led, 20-13, when the Broncos took over at their 2-yard-line, 98 yards away.

It was bitterly cold and I had no hat and no gloves and stood stomping my feet to stay warm. And I watched and watched and watched as Elway steadily marched the Broncos toward me. He completed one pass on third-and-17 for 22 yards.

Steadily the Broncos came closer and closer. Suddenly, Denver was at the Browns 5 with 31 seconds left.

I saw Elway cock his arm. I saw wide receiver Mark Jackson crossing in front of me. I wanted to run into the endzone and intercept that pass. But my fingers was numb, nearly frozen.

OK, maybe I could run out there and knock down Jackson. He was only 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds. I was 6-foot-2 and 185.

Instead, I watched Jackson snag the pass for a touchdown. Most people believe ‘The Drive’ ended that game. It didn’t. It tied it, 20-20. The game went overtime and Elway did it again. He took the Broncos 60 yards until Rick Karlis kicked a 33-yard field goal to break the tie and end it.

And it broke my heart. And the Browns haven’t had a sniff of the Super Bowl ever since, ‘The Curse of John Elway.’

—For those anxious for college basketball season to begin, well hold your collective breaths.

The NCAA is in discussion about canceling the scheduled November 25 start back to January 1. And with the January start, all games would be conference games.

The reason? As of this week more than 30 Division I schools have shut down practice due to positive Covid-19 tests.

An announcement is expected within a week.

In addition, Dayton’s First Four event is off. The NCAA plans to play all tournament games in the Greater Indianapolis area with no fans.

—Tiger Woods birdied five of the last six holes he played this year at The Masters after the 12th hole. But, oh, that 12th hole, that treacherous par-three 12th at Amen Corner called Golden Bell. It was more like Golden Hell for Tiger.

Woods drowned three golf balls in Rae’s Creek and took a 10. And his remark about it is classic.

“This sport is awfully lonely sometimes,” he said. “You have to fight it. No one is going to bring you off the mound or call in a sub. You have to fight through it.” (When I played golf, if I took a 10 on that hole there would have been a 7-iron in two pieces and a 6-iron joining those three balls in Rae’s Creek.)

—Speaking of high numbers, the Cincinnati Bengals were 0 for 13 on third down Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. One would think they would stumble into a least one first down on third down by accident.

QUOTE: From golfing legend Jack Nicklaus: “I don’t believe in luck. Not in golf, anyway. There are good bounces and bad bounces, sure, but the ball is round and so is the hole. If you find yourself in a position where you hope for luck to pull you through, you’re in serious trouble.” (Well, in defense of Tiger Woods and the Bengals, last week did contain Friday the 13th.)

—Broadcasters hailed what Cleveland Browns runningback Nick Chubb did Sunday as, “Genius.”

With the Browns leading the Houston Texans, 10-7, with a minute to play, Chubb turned left end and sprinted down the sidelines, all by himself. Easy 60-yard touchdown.

Except when he reached Houston’s 1-yard-line he purposely stepped out of bounds. He did it so Houston couldn’t get the ball back. Quarterback Baker Mayfield took a knee twice and the Browns won, 10-7.

But here’s the rub, Chubb. The last betting line on he Browns was 4 1/2 points. If Chubb scores, those who wagered on the Browns won. But he didn’t and the Browns won by only three and those who bet on the Browns lost.

There were several fans who immediately resigned from The Nick Chubb Fan Club. And there were several men seen posted on bridge railings.

And here is another one. Those who bet on Washington lost when Detroit kicker Matt Prater hit a 59-yard field goal (59 yards!!!) on the last play of the game to win it, 30-27.

It’s why I keep my wallet locked in a drawer when it comes to wagering on the NFL.

—Las Vegas certainly doesn’t believe in the Indiana Mystique and the Hoosiers’ 4-and-0 record. Ohio State is a 21-point favorite. How can the No. 9 team in the nation be 21-point ‘dogs? Welcome to 2020.

—The Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent five hours locked in the cabin of an airplane, sitting on the tarmac in Tampa due to mechanical issues.

Were those five hours bad vibes for the Buccaneers, especially after losing the previous week to New Orleans, 38-3. Quarterback Tom Brady was three levels below awful.

Well, after the five-hour delay, the Bucs finally arrived in Carolina. Brady? He threw a touchdown pass for each of those five extra hours on the plane — five touchdown passes in a 46-23 victory.

Can the Bengals arrange for a five-hour delay on their flight this week to Washington? A five-touchdown performance by quarterback Joe Burrow might be enough for a Bengals victory.

—When Mid-American Conference presidents decided against football this fall, Miami University lost a $1.1 million guarantee at the University of Pittsburgh. Austin Peay took Miami’s place.

And when Miami couldn’t play at Cincinnati, Austin Peay stepped in there, too, to replace Miami. Peay made Miamis’ abscence pay.

The MAC has resumed with a six-game conference schedule, but Tuesday’s Miami at Ohio University game was canceled by OU due to positive tests. That leaves Miami with five games. . .maybe.

—Even though NFL rules say that excessive breathing on an opposing quarterback is a 15-yard penalty, trying to prevent injuries to the anointed ones, it isn’t working.

The list of injured quarterbacks is nearly endless: Drew Brees (New Orleans), Teddy Bridgewater (Carolina), Mitch Trubisky (Chicago), Drew Lock (Denver), Matthew Stafford (Detroit), Gardner Minshew II (Jacksonville), Sam Donald (New York Jets), Kyle Allen (Washington), Andy Dalton (Dallas), Dax Prescott (Dallas).

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, who played football and baseball at Cincinnati Moeller High School, but only baseball at Michigan, even though then coach Bo Schembechler recruited him to play football at U-M: “I’m glad that I just played baseball, because I’m sure I had a much longer baseball career than I would’ve had a football career. I did miss football, but I didn’t miss some of the injuries from football.”

—Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray said he had never attempted a Hail Mary pass in his life. But on Sunday, on the last play of the game against Buffalo, he fled left to avoid tacklers, then heaved a blind, off-balance pass to the end zone.

There was wideout DeAndre Hopkins, 55 yards away, surrounded by three defenders. Hopkins, calling it, “A slam dunk,” went above the trio and snagged the game-winning touchdown for a 32-30 win.

—QUOTE: From Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins after catching Kyler Murray’s game-winning Hail Mary: “It was just a better catch by I.” (Every English teacher he ever had buried their heads in their hands and sobbed.)

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