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Will This Finally Be the Year for Jerry Kramer? 5

Posted on August 26, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Jerry Kramer (#64) should join his teammate Paul Hornung (#5) in the Pro Football hall of Fame in 2018.

Jerry Kramer (#64) should join his teammate Paul Hornung (#5) in the Pro Football hall of Fame in 2018.

In 1969, former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer was selected as the greatest offensive lineman of the first 50 years of the NFL. Unless the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee commits a true travesty next February, Kramer will finally be selected to the Hall of Fame as the NFL completes its 98th season.

Much has been written on this site and in many others over the years about how ridiculous it was that Kramer continued to be overlooked for the Hall of Fame. After retiring from the NFL in 1968, Kramer was first a finalist for the HOF in 1974 and was a regular selection finalist nine times between 1974 and 1987 and was also a senior finalist in 1997.

Each time, Kramer failed to the necessary support from the selection committee to earn enshrinement.

Over time, it went from Kramer being an obvious pick, to a theory that there were already a large number of 1960s Packers to in recent year’s disbelief at some of the players and contributors earning induction while Kramer continued to be on the outside.

It has gotten over the last decade to the point where almost every list that looks at potential Hall of Fame candidates listed Kramer as the most deserving player not currently enshrined.

Yet, since 2010 there have been a number of “head scratching” selections, especially among senior candidates (players retired 25 years or more). None of the senior players selected since 2010 were members of the NFL’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team or had played on more than three NFL Championship teams. Read the rest of this entry →

Doping In Sports: Through The Lenses Of Time 1

Posted on August 21, 2017 by Tyrion Smith

doping-sportsWitnessing the whole BALCO fiasco and long trials of Barry Bonds along with Mark McGwire would have made you wonder that these are the first cases of doping in sports, especially in baseball, but that’s farther from the truth. Yes, the baseball doping was highlighted way more than other incidents of steroid use by athletes in the US, partially because of congressional hearings in 2005 and critically acclaimed movie ‘Bigger, Stronger, Faster’.

Initial Phase

The fact is doping history in sports goes all the way back to ancient Rome when chariot racers were used to drink an herbal pre-workout of sorts before races, heightening their focus and endurance. That’s one of the earliest forms (100 AD) of competitive sports known to mankind. Fast forward to 1889, and ironically, a baseball player openly admitted using testosterone, a rather organic form derived from pigs and dog’s testicles. Sure, there were few instances of athletes experimenting with caffeine and liquor here and there, but come on, caffeine and booze can’t be considered doping despite their proclaimed performance enhancing effects.

First Causalities

Soon after the use of testosterone in 1889, the world witnessed the horrors of steroids in 1896 when Ephedrine intake caused death of English cyclist, A.Linton. Then in 1904, Tom Hicks collapsed at St. Louis marathon, and though he won the event, doctors proved use of Strychinine and Cognac.

The Booming Period

After that we saw a boom in the use of drugs that enhance performance of humans to somewhat super human level, across sports and in wars as well. Call it leaked secretive documents or conspiracy theories, soldiers in WW II were given Amphetamines to boost their endurance and focus, both Allied and Axis.

Finally, we see the mid-1900s, when the use of anabolic steroids was rampant and we witnessed highly tuned muscular physiques. It was the era of superiorly muscular bodybuilders like Sergio Oliva, Arnold and later Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman and Phil Heath ushered a ground-breaking phenomenon where human limits were pushed to the max. Soon HGH joined the list of anabolic doping agents as the most potent activist. Ironically, the very sport of bodybuilding highlighted the absolute potential of HGH and doping agents, in addition to its side effects. The number of causalities and deaths directly related to abuse of HGH, insulin and anabolic steroids, in bodybuilding is among the highest and the facts are widely documented on social media. However, that happens only when you misuse them. Learn more about HGH here. Read the rest of this entry →

Premier League at 25: How Do ex-Pros View the Modern Game? 2

Posted on August 18, 2017 by Peter Addison
The Premier League is celebrating 25 years.

The Premier League is celebrating 25 years.

As the Premier League celebrates its twenty-five year anniversary, there can be no doubt that football has changed irrecoverably over that period. It seems that the modern game is all about money, and the grip of the money giants means that plucky upstarts like Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers can no longer hope to challenge the elite as they have in the past (we’ll excuse Leicester City’s 2015-16 EPL win as an anomaly).

The question is, how do ex-Pros view the cash-cow that modern football has become? Are they resentful of the money that current pros earn – after all, Middlesbrough’s Britt Assombalonga, a player who’s never even played in the top flight, is reportedly on £40,000 a week.

In a recent Emile Heskey interview at the fan-created site AskFans.co.uk, the former Leicester City, Liverpool and England striker gave his thoughts. “The game’s quicker, people are looking after their bodies better, and there are certain more athletes around then when I first started,” said Heskey. He also cited Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and new Manchester United record signing Romelu Lakuku as modern-day players he would like to have played with.

One player who has seen it all is George Haigh. You’ve probably not heard of him, but currently, at a staggering one hundred and two years of age, Haigh is the oldest surviving professional footballer, having made his debut for Stockport County in 1936. He doesn’t actually see much difference between the modern era and sepia-tinged times. “I would’ve found it easy playing today; centre-half would’ve been dead easy for me knowing what I know now, I’d have been an international!  And the equipment is so much better; the boots were so heavy in my day, especially when it was wet.  In the modern era, David Beckham is probably the one who stands out, I’d like to have taken him on.” Read the rest of this entry →

Vintage Sports Movies: Paper Lion 8

Posted on August 13, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Harvard educated writer George Plimpton braved the world of the NFL in the 1960s.

Harvard educated writer George Plimpton braved the world of the NFL in th e 1960s.

In today’s world where Hard Knocks and other similar programs have made it easy for football fans to gain access into the huddle and locker rooms of pro football, it is hard to imagine a time when such access was not the norm. In the 1960s, Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton went to great extremes to give fans a glimpse into life in the NFL.

When the book and movie Paper Lion came out in the 1960s, it was lauded for getting under the helmet of NFL players.

Plimpton, a Harvard educated writer who looked more like a math teacher than an athlete, was a master at experiential writing and combined his love of sports with a surprising fearlessness to create a number of great experiences and books.

He pitched to baseball All-Stars, got in the ring with boxing champions and in 1963 spent training camp as a quarterback with the Detroit Lions.

The ensuing articles and book gave readers a glimpse into the personalities of NFL players. Though the Detroit Lions were perhaps not one of the NFL’s “glamour” teams of the era, Plimpton brought to life the personalities of players including Milt Plum, Dick “Night Train” Lane (who had retired by 1967, but has a cameo appearance in the movie as a practice video operator), Wayne Walker and Joe Schmidt.

In 1968, the book was turned into a movie starring future M*A*S*H star Alan Alda as Plimpton.

The interesting thing about the movie is that instead of trying to stick exactly to the players and stories of the original book, it took the general concept, but used players and coaches available with the Lions in 1967.

By that time, future Hall of Fame linebacker Joe Schmidt had transitioned from an active player to head coach and defensive tackle Alex Karras, who as referenced in the book, but was suspended by the NFL in 1963 and therefore not at training camp, was back with the Lions and a prominent character in the movie. Read the rest of this entry →

George Musso: From Longshot to Hall of Famer 8

Posted on August 05, 2017 by Dean Hybl
George Musso

George Musso

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month went from small college long shot to Pro Football Hall of Famer.

When George Musso finished his college career at Millikin College in 1933, Chicago Bears coach George Halas offered the 6-foot-2, 265 pound lineman a tryout and eventually a $90 per game contract, but had serious doubts whether he could make the transition from small college football to the NFL.

It took a year for Musso to adjust, but by 1935 he was an All-Pro tackle. Two years later, he moved to guard and again earned first team All-NFL honors. He became the first player in NFL history to earn first team All-League honors at two different positions. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: O.J. Simpson – Trapped Between Two Worlds 2

Posted on July 21, 2017 by Dean Hybl
During the 1970s, O.J. Simpson was the best player in football, despite being relegated to Buffalo.

During the 1970s, O.J. Simpson was the best player in football, despite being relegated to Buffalo.

Typically, one of the great results of sports is in its ability to unite. Whether it be a team of players from different backgrounds coming together to create one cohesive unit or a group of fans with little more in common than their fondness for a team or player who come together to cheer, celebrate and agonize over the successes and failures of that chosen favorite.

As I join the rest of society in viewing the latest chapter in the nearly 50 year saga of former athlete O.J. Simpson, it seems clear that whether intended or not, instead of being someone that people unite around, O.J. has more often served as a divider.

Born and raised in the housing projects of the Potrero Hills section of San Francisco, Orenthal James Simpson joined a gang as a teenager and was incarcerated at least three times. His life could have very easily been one led quietly in jails and the neighborhoods of his hometown had he not possessed a number of characteristics that ultimately helped him rise above his potential path.

Regardless of whether it was a meeting with superstar Willie Mays or the encouragement he received around his own athletic ability, or a combination of factors, eventually Simpson moved off the path to destruction and became a standout high school athlete.

However, as this story from the 1973 book Power Football illustrates, even once Simpson moved onto a path with success as a potential end, he seemed to teeter on the edge.

A star athlete at Galileo High School, Simpson told writer Murray Chase about an incident that very nearly could have gotten him thrown off the junior varsity team.

Nor was it a bad beginning for a fellow who almost had his football career cut off before it started by coming within a lie of being thrown off the high school junior varsity football team.

On the day of a big game, Simpson and two teammates were spending some time shooting dice in the bathroom at school. They all crapped out, though, when Jack McBride, their coach, walked in and found them playing their little game. Many coaches in that situation would simply warn the players never to do that again and let them go. But McBride, in a move for which Simpson could later be thankful (even though he escaped punishment) took the boys to the dean’s office.

“When we went to the dean’s office,” Simpson recalled, “the other two guys, Joe Bell and Al Cowlings, walked in front of me. Coach McBride told the dean he caught us shooting dice in the rest room. He gave the dean the dice and left. When he did, the dean told me to close the door. So I started out and began to close the door from the outside, but the dean called, ‘Where are you going, O.J?’ So I said, “I wasn’t shooting craps. Coach just asked me to help him bring these guys down.’ Then the dean told me I could go and the other guys got suspended.”

The other two boys, one of whom (Cowlings) later became Simpson’s teammate at USC and Buffalo, couldn’t resent O.J.’s little ploy. “They thought it was pretty smart for me to think that quick,” Simpson said. “Al said there was nothing he could say about it. He said if I could get away with it, I deserved it.”

As we now very well know, Simpson has continued to live on that edge for his entire life.

After winning the Heisman Trophy at the University of Southern California in 1968, Simpson was relegated to the NFL’s equivalent of Siberia in Upstate, New York as a member of the Buffalo Bills. However, even though he struggled over the first three years of his career and some thought he might end up being an NFL bust, he still managed to catch the eye of television and advertising executives. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Joe Cronin: Player-Manager
      October 1, 2017 | 8:21 am
      Joe Cronin

      Joe Cronin

      In recognition of the start of the baseball playoffs, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a man who managed pennant winning teams in Washington and Boston and spent more than decade as a player-manager.

      When the Boston Red Sox acquired Joe Cronin following the 1934 season they didn’t just get an All-Star player, they also got a new manager.

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