OBSERVATIONS: Bengals, 49ers get the kicks that keep on kicking

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, dreaming of spring training, but wondering if it will ever come.

—They do call it FOOTball for a reason. And never was it more FOOTball than it was for the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday against the Tennessee Titans.

How do you win a game when you score one touchdown and the other team scores two? How do you win a football game when your quarterback is sacked nine times? Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow spent more time on his back than a lady working the red light district in Amsterdam.

The Bengals kicked their way into the AFC title game on the foot of Evan McPherson. The rookie kicker they call ‘Money Mac’ kicked four field goals, including a 52-yarder on the game’s final play to lift the Bengals to a 19-16 upset. He was 4-for-4 with first-half boots of 38, 45 and 54 yards. Then his 52-yard walk-off boot kicked the Titans to the sidelines.

Then, in an NFC divisional game, San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould booted a 45-yard walk-off field goal to beat Green Bay, 13-10. Gould is 20-for-20 on playoff field goals for his career.

Yes, indeed, it is FOOTball.

Once upon a time, all placekickers approached the ball from straight behind the holder and kicked the ball with their toes, which is why Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza was called Lou ‘The Toe’ Groza. Then Garo Yepremian happened. The Miami Dolphins unveiled Yepremian, a Cypriot-American. He kicked the ball soccer-style, taking three steps to the side to approach the ball so he could kick it with his instep, like a soccer player.

He was so successful that all kickers eventually used the soccer-style approach, as they do today. Yepremian was not well-versed in football rules. After kicking an extra point in one game, he ran off the field, waving his arms. Asked why he was so demonstrative, he said, “Because I just keeked a touchdown.”

—Sad to hear about the passing of one of my favorite artists, Meat Loaf.

He sang the National Anthem before a Cincinnati Reds-Philadelphia Phillies game in Philly and I was enthralled. Then during the first inning, I was writing my pre-game notes story in the press box when I sensed somebody was standing behind me.

I turned to look and it was Meat Loaf staring at my computer. “Nice lede,” he said. I mumbled my thanks and told him how much I enjoyed his album, ‘Bat Out of Hell.’

But he never told me what he wouldn’t do in his song, “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That’). I did tell him that Pete Rose probably loved his song, ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.’

—MLB, with nothing else to do but screw up baseball, is promoting R2-D2, Hal-9000, Robby the Robot and Marvin the Paranoid Android to Triple-A.

Yep, robot umpiring is inching to the doorstep of the majors. Robot umpires were used in Low-A Southeast (formerly the Florida State League) games last season and in the independent Atlantic League.

The Atlantic is drop-kicking the robots out of its league this season, but MLB plans to use robot umpires in some Triple-A venues, in the Southeast again and in the Florida spring training sites. . .if spring training happens.

Coming next: Robot foul poles that scream fair or foul.

—QUOTE: From former umpire Bill Klem: “It ain’t nothin’ until I call it.” (Change that to, “It ain’t nothin’ until R2-D2 beeps, whines, whirs and whistles.”)

—MLB, with nothing else to do but screw up baseball, made another decision this week. The Tampa Bay Rays made plans to split their home games this season, the first half in that mausoleum they call home in St. Petersburg, and the second half in Montreal.

MLB’s Executive Council, which obviously contains no Canadians, but probably a couple of Floridians, said no.

So the Rays, still trying to get a new stadium built in Tampa, have to remain in Tropicana Field. Tropicana is perfect because the joint is one huge lemon. The roof slants so some fly balls carom off catwalks and lights. Attendance is brutally low and fans have been known to say, “We wandered in just to see why the lights were on.”

—QUOTE: From the movie ‘Field of Dreams:’ “Is this Iowa? No, it’s Heaven.” (Quote from first-time visitor to Tropicana Field: “If this is Heaven, it is St. Peter’s toilet.”)

—MLB owners are supposed to make a “counter offer” to the players on Monday. What’s the over/under on how many minutes it will take the players to say no.

—From Jim Murray, my all-time favorite sports journalist (I always read his stuff and said, “I know all those words, I just can’t put them together the way he does”):

“You get in Super Bowls with Joe Namath, John Unitas, Ken Stabler, Fran Tarkenton, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. If you don’t have one of those, all the swivel hips in the world can’t get you to Super Sunday.”

That was written in 1990 so he missed Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman. . .and how about Jim Plunkett, Bob Griese and John Elway. They all won two or more Super Bowls.

Does Joe Burrow qualify? You betcha. . .in the future.

But winning Super Bowls doesn’t mean you are a Hall of Fame quarterback. Ask Jeff Hostetler or Mark Rypien or Trent Dilfer. And how about poor Jim Kelly — 0 for 4 in Super Bowls, but at least he got there.

—When you see that a team scores 97 points, you think, “Wow, how many threes?” When you see one player scores 38 and another 23, you think, “Wow, how many threes?”

Threes were no factor Saturday in Wright State’s 97-81 whipping of UIC in Chicago. The Raiders were 5 for 11 on threes. Tanner Holden scored 38 and didn’t even try a three. He was 14 for 24 on twos and 10 for 11 from the foul line.
Trey Calvin scored 23 and was 1 for 2 on treys.

Grant Basile, A.J. Braun and Tim Finke each scored 10. Holden nearly outscored the University of Dayton by himself. The Flyers lost at George Mason, 50-49. The less said about that game the better, other than to say the Flyers couldn’t pour a glass of water into a bucket if the bucket was between their feet.

—Race horse trainers and owners can be extremely creative when naming their steeds. For example, these are just some that might draw a smile, if you don’t wager on them.

Fifty Shades of Hay, Al Capony, Colt Forty-Five, Hay Girl Hay, Nightmare, Horse’n Around, Mane Man, Usain Colt.

Once upon a time, long ago, I wrote columns for a greyhound racing magazine. An owner liked a story I wrote and permitted me to name a puppy freshly born. I cleverly came up with Newshound. Unfortunately, it was slower than me and never made the track.

—From my great friend Tom Melzoni: “I threw out my back sleeping and tweaked my neck sneezing, so I’m probably one strong fart away from complete paralysis.” (Tom, I’m thinking you were talking about me.)

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