It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We’ll cover Peyton Manning’s private investigators and the 1985 Bears, the future of the Big 12 and Cam Newton vs. Lavonte David, why Husker basketball fans leave early and who Nebraska almost hired instead of Bob Devaney.
But first, a Super Bowl history lesson.
When I was a kid — way back before cell phones and the Internet — the Super Bowl wasn’t much fun. Yes, it was still a spectacle. Yes, it still drew a huge audience. But it was over by halftime just about every year. It was anticlimax to the NFC championship game.
On Jan. 20, 1985, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins 38-16. Over the next 12 years, these were the final scores:
Bears 46, Patriots 10
Giants 39, Broncos 20
Redskins 42, Broncos 10
49ers 20, Bengals 16
49ers 55, Broncos 10
Giants 20, Bills 19
Redskins 37, Bills 24
Cowboys 52, Bills 17
Cowboys 30, Bills 13
49ers 49, Chargers 26
Cowboys 27, Steelers 17
Packers 35, Steelers 21
It was like the SEC West vs. SEC East. Thirteen straight wins for the NFC. Only two nail-biters.
That’s why Denver’s Super Bowl XXXII win over Green Bay (an 11-point favorite) was so stunning. You mean, the AFC actually won?!? Things tightened up from there. But look at the past eight games, beginning with David Tyree’s miracle catch to beat the Pats.
Giants 17, Patriots 14
Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
Saints 31, Colts 17
Packers 31, Steelers 25
Giants 21, Patriots 17
Ravens 34, 49ers 31
Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
Eight games. Seven great dramas. A few that deserve consideration for the best Super Bowl ever. The only one that didn’t go down to the final 2 minutes was Seattle-Denver two years ago.
I point that out because I fear we’re headed for a similar fate Sunday. Carolina reminds me quite a bit of the champion Seahawks. Same dual-threat quarterback. Same physical defense. Same chip on the shoulder. And Denver, well the defense is better than 2014. But the offense, I think, is a potential train wreck. If the Panthers jump ahead 10-0 and start getting hits on Peyton Manning, it might get ugly.
So I’ll be rooting for the Broncos, especially early. And if I’m wrong about Carolina, I promise to eat crow for breakfast on Monday.
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>> I was 4 years old when the Chicago Bears made their Super Bowl run in 1985. I still vaguely recall watching it at my grandma’s house.
Last night ESPN unveiled its new 30 for 30 on the Bears and it was astoundingly good. Definitely one of the five best 30 for 30's I’ve seen. It feels impossible in today’s sports world to have that many strong, colorful personalities on one team. The Mike Ditka-Buddy Ryan dynamic alone was fascinating.
Anyway, here’s an interesting story from the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore about Refrigerator Perry’s Super Bowl touchdown and how it changed Vegas gambling forever.
>> Super Bowl week is filled with phenomenal sports journalism. I wish I had time to read it all. Several sites have featured Cam Newton’s junior-college season at Blinn College in Texas.
I bring it up today because Blinn dueled Lavonte David's Fort Scott in the 2009 national championship game. In the final three minutes, Blinn had a fourth-and-8 and David dropped Newton for his 18th tackle of the day.
“It’s one-on-one, Lavonte David and Cam Newton,” former Fort Scott coach Jeff Sims told the Akron Beacon Journal in 2012. “Lavonte drops him for a sack and everybody goes crazy and thinks we’ve won the national championship.”
It wasn't over. Blinn forced a punt in the final 30 seconds and ran it back for the game-winning touchdown.
“Possibly one of the biggest regrets of my life is that Lavonte was always on the punt team," Sims told Ohio.com. "I took him off that week because he was spying Cam Newton and I wanted him fresh. There’s no doubt in my mind that if Lavonte’s on the field, he tackles the kid.”
One year later, of course, Newton won the Heisman Trophy and a national title. Worked out OK for Lavonte, too.
>> Woody Paige calls attention to a bitter, 88-year-old Broncos head coach who never got his due credit. The man’s name? John Ralston. I read this column and thought, wait a second, I know a John Ralston. I’ve talked to a John Ralston.
In July 2012, I wrote a big story about how Bob Devaney came to Nebraska. Well, one of the finalists was Utah State’s head coach, John Ralston. When I found Ralston, he was a retired administrator at San Jose State. He didn’t remember interviewing with Tippy Dye, but he did have this to say about the man NU hired.
“Bob Devaney was lord and master,” Ralston said.
>> Peyton Manning took those HGH accusations seriously. How seriously? He hired private investigators to visit the key witness. He also hired Ari Fleischer as his public relations consultant.
>> As the Super Bowl comes to Santa Clara, a family still grapples with the death of a stadium construction worker. Sad, beautiful story from Lars Anderson.
>> Baseball fans, here’s your Super Bowl column. Jayson Stark picks apart the perception of NFL parity.
>> Why does the NFL have influence on brain research? Excellent investigation by ESPN.
>> Want to be inspired today? Read Greg Garber on Tyson Gentry.
>> The Johnny Manziel saga has hopefully reached its nadir. So sad. Johnny’s dad told the Dallas Morning News that if he doesn’t get help, he’ll be dead soon.
>> Jason McIntyre wrote a good story for The Big Lead Wednesday lamenting the aggregation epidemic in sports media. I’d think even non-members of the media would find it interesting.
The focus is CBS Sports, where good reporters are being expunged in favor of bloggers. Their basic role is this: Hunt down the most interesting stuff on Twitter, post it on your site as if it’s your own, provide a link and a paragraph of commentary. Watch the page views roll in.
Wait a second, isn’t that what The Big Lead does? I visit the site every day because it’s a more efficient way to consume sports. Their writers are smart and they keep an eye out for stories I wouldn’t otherwise find.
Locally, Huskermax.com does the same thing for Nebraska football coverage. But there’s a difference. While Huskermax simply provides links, The Big Lead builds their own page for a new story. They often repackage it for the ADD crowd and give readers little reason to go to the actual source; they usually don’t even mention the source in the blog post. Here’s an example.
Or how ‘bout this from Pinnacle Bank Arena just two weeks ago?
Or how ‘bout this one from our story about the Bo Pelini audiotape?
I will be honest. I try to walk the fine line in Mad Chatter. Readers want bite-sized nuggets of the day’s top news. They don’t have time to find all the goodies themselves. So there’s value in blogging. But what happens far, far too often is the web traffic (which is important) goes to bloggers rather than the actual reporters who acquired the information.
Bloggers should promote stories, not steal them. If I ever lean too far in the wrong direction in Mad Chatter, I trust that you’ll call me out.
By the way, here is Ty Duffy’s thoughts on aggregation, which may be directed at criticism like mine.
>> When I go to games as a sportswriter, I try to keep my mouth shut on crowd behavior. The other night, I couldn’t resist commenting. Nebraska fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena — probably a couple hundred of them — left with 8.2 seconds left as Melo Trimble went to the foul line for a 1-and-1. Maryland led by three.
Now, I know it’s unlikely that NU ties the game in that situation, but only two things needed to happen. One missed free throw. One made 3. And yet folks were leaving.
I know there’s a big difference between first out of a parking garage and 20th; it might mean getting home at 10 p.m. rather than 10:30. But when you invest a whole evening into a game, how do you leave when your team still has a reasonable chance to win?
>> I really admire Bill Self's straight talk. This week is just the latest example.
>> Really good background here from Barry Horn on a potential Big 12 Network and what’s at stake for Texas, OU and the rest of the league. George Schroeder breaks down Big 12 meetings, focusing on the league's self-esteem problem.
>> Matt Brown with an excellent geographic breakdown of the 2016 recruiting class. No surprise, but an overwhelming percentage of four- and five-star talent comes from the South.
>> Jimbo Fisher signed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country without the assistance of shenanigans. "We’re too social-media driven, and I think it’s one of the problems in this world," Fisher said. "You got to look people in their eyes. How they say things on an account doesn’t help build a bond." Very interesting story from Jared Shanker.
>> Finally, how’s this for a high school basketball stat line. Andy Kerkman, the 6-foot-8 forward from Clearwater/Orchard who signed with Augustana, faced Stuart last night. Kerkman had 13 points, 18 rebounds, 15 blocks and nine assists.
>> Have a great weekend. Thanks for reading. And remember, you don't have to go to work Monday because it's a post-Super Bowl national holiday.
What? It's not? Dangit.