By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after an exhilarating weekend for UD, the Bengals and Browns. Sorry, Miami, but you had a wonderful seasona
—THEY’RE BOTH CB’s: Which Ohio professional football team do you prefer, the Cincinnati Bengals or the Cleveland Browns? To me, it’s the difference between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. It’s all a matter of taste.
Whichever one prefers, they both made the state proud over the weekend with glorious come-back-from-oblivion victories.
First the Bengals came from 14 points behind after three quarters to win, 27-24, on Evan McPherson’s 29-yard field goal in overtime.
Then the Browns came from 17-7 behind entering the fourth quarter to win 20-17 on Dustin Hopkins’ 34-yard field goal with 32 seconds left.
Both teams did it with back-up quarterbacks, Cincinnati’s Jake Browning and Cleveland’s Joe Flacco, although Flacco can hardly be called a back-up. . .more of a step-in quarterback.
Despite three interceptions and playing behind a depleted offensive line populated by second and third stringers, Flacco engineered a last-possession game-winning score for the 26th time in his career. He threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns on a wet and soggy field, completing 28 of 44 passes.
Early in the week, Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson said, “I’m licking my chops for this game.” He knew Flacco liked to throw deep downfield and figured he’d interept one or two.
He was right. . .and wrong. He intercepted one in the first half, his first this season after snagging four last year, and returned it to the Browns 1-yard-line.
But he and the Bears secondary was beaten badly late in the game when Flacco hit Amari Cooper for a 51-yard game-tying touchdown. And they gave up a 65-yard completion to David Njoku to set up the game-winning field goal.
Most likely, Jackson’s quote was hung in the Browns dressing room, perhaps in Flacco’s locker. Flacco, though, doesn’t need additional incentive. His victory Sunday earned him a $75,000 bonus. The Browns put it in his contract that he gets $75,000 for each win and he’ll get more per win if the Browns win playoff games. . .if they make it.
—SEGREGATION TO DISINTEGRATION: One of the dimmest times in our nation’s history was in 1957 when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus fought the Supreme Court’s ruling to eliminate school segregation.
Nine blacks (The Little Rock 9) tried to integrate Little Rock Central High School and were met with mobs of racists throwing rocks and screaming, “Lynch ‘em.”
The school ended up surrounded by the National Guard, tanks, helicopters and jeeps.
Amazingly, through it all, the all-white Little Rock Central football team continued its season throughout the mayhem. And it wasn’t just any football team. The Tigers produced an unbeaten season and not only won the state championship but several outlets named them the nation’s best prep team.
They won games, some against out-of-state powers, by scores of 53-12, 40-7 and 33-0.
Faubus remained resolute. In 1958 he closed the school, but incredibly permitted the football team to play, even though there was no high school to attend.
But most of the team’s best players, wishing to be educated, transferred to other schools. And the Tigers lost a game, 49-0, ending a 33-game winning streak. They finished the season 8-3-1. Their season didn’t involve integration, it involved disintergration.
And that said it all about Orval Faubus — football and segregation were more important than integration.
In 1957, I was oblivious to all this. I was playing basketballl at Akron East with one white kid, Don Kyser, and 12 black kids. And I thought nothing of it. I didn’t know about Little Rock Central, but I knew about Akron Central.
We played in the City Series championship game and lost to Akron Central, 51-49 — a pretty stalwart accomplishment considering Central had a skinny-legged sophomore named Nate Thurmond and a man-among-kids senior named Gus Johnson.
—MAHLE’S MOVE: The Minnesota Twins have to be kicking themselves from the pitcher’s mound to home plate and repeating the process.
To get pitcher Tyler Mahle from the Cincinnati Reds, they traded Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, two more than usefu players for last season’s Reds.
Meanwhile, Mahle appeared in only six games last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. And even though Mahle won’t be ready until mid-season next year, the Texas Rangers signed him to a two-year $22 million contract.
He’ll only get $5.5 million of that next season, then $16.5 million in 2025.
The Rangers already have Max Scherzer, Nathan Evoldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney and Daniel Dunning in their rotation. And, like Mahle, Jacob deGrom returns mid-season from Tommy John surgery. But wait. The Rangers announced last week that Scherzer is undergoing back surgery and won’t be available until mid-season.
What is it they say? “You never have enough pitching.” Somebody please alert the Cincinnati Reds to that premise.
There are still some usable starting pitchers available on the market via free agency or trades: Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber and more.
Yeah, it sounds like me singing a couple of songs: Dream On by Aerosmith and Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift.
—POOR TO THE RICH: Sometimes baseball economics are perplexing. When the Tampa Bay Rays traded pitcher Tyler Glasnow to the Los Angeles Dodgers, they included outfielder Manuel Margot in the deal.
Not only that, the Rays are writing a $4 million check to the Dodgers to cover the last of Margot’s $12 million contract.
So cost-conscious Tampa Bay, one of baseball’s smallest markets, is sending $4 million to a baseball behemoth that just signed a player for $700 million.
Financial genius Warren Buffett must have an office tucked away in a secret corner of Dodger Stadium.
—FROM 0 To 63: ‘Splain this one to us, Lucy. The Los Angeles Raiders lost a game to the Minnesota Vikings, 3-0. Remember?
Well, just four days later the Raiders scored 63 points during a 63-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. They led, 42-0, at the half, set a franchise record for points and did it with a back-up quarterback.
Clearly, the Chargers needed a re-charge and coach Brandon Staley need a reality check. Afrer the 63-21 assault, he said he believes he was doing a good job.
“Games like this happen in the NFL to every coach that’s ever coached in this league,” Staley said.
To Vince Lombardi? Nah. To Paul Brown? Nah. To Don Shula? Nah.
And to the owner of the Chargers? Nah. He fired both Staley and general manager Tom Telesco the next day.
—QUOTE: From comedian George Carlin: “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”
—LOSERS, LOSERS, MORE LOSERS: In our last episode, we addressed the abject awfulness of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, losers of 21 straight games.
The Pistons weren’t Lonesome Doves. The San Antonio Spurs lost 18 in a row and the Washington Wizards were 1-15. That’s three teams with a combined work sheet of 1-54.
Then on the same night, the Spurs and Wizards won, but Detroit lost its 22nd straight.
While there is parity in the NFL, in the NBA it is the Haves and the Have Nothings.
—QUOTE: From marketing guru Neil Patel: “Winning provides happiness, losing provides wisdom.” (If so, the Pistons, Spurs and Wizards are the Einsteins of the NBA.)
—WHY LISTON LISTED: Remember the infamous second Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston fight when Liston took a dive in the first round on Ali’s ‘Phantom Punch?’
A famous photo shows Ali standing over Liston and snarling, “Get up and fight, sucka.”
Many theories exist as to why Liston faked a knockout, but my favorite came from Liston’s wife, who said, “Sonny had diarrhea that day and needed to get out of the ring as soon as possible.”
Well, sh- – does happen.
—NEW NAMES, SAME PLACE: Line me up with collegue David Jablonski who said that edifice on the Ohio River next to Great American Ball Park will always be, “Riverfront Coliseum.”
That was its original name until the naming rights came into vogue. Since it was Riverfront Coliseum, it morphed into ‘The Crown,’ Firstar Center, U.S. Bank Arena and now the Heritage Bank Center.
What is it really? A 17,000-seat decaying building that needs extensive remodeling and upgrading.
The University of Dayton basketball team didn’t tear down the building last Saturday, but the Flyer Fairthful nearly shook it down with their noise while UD dismantled the University of Cincinnati basketball team, 82-68.
Said UC coach Wes Miller, “With them (UD) changing defenses, we looked frozen at times, watching our guys dribble around. We were totally taken out of what we want to do offensively. Give then credit because it bothered us, we should have been better and that should have been a more competitive game.”
The Flyer Faithful thought the game was perfect.
—STEVE AND GEORGE: Can’t ever get enough of comedian Steven Wright, such as, “Do you think that when they asked George Washington for I.D. that he just took out a quarter? Then when he is asked to flip a coin, George Washington says, “Me or tails?’”