Picked-up pieces while buying a gridiron field sheet cake to share with the grandkids during Sunday’s conference championship games . . .
▪ The Chiefs are favored over the Bengals in the afternoon game and wise guys like the Rams over the Niners in the nightcap. By late Sunday night, we’ll have the Super Bowl matchup.
Some potential themes:
Chiefs-Niners — A rematch of KC’s 31-20 victory in Hard Rock Stadium two years ago. The Chiefs would be the first team to make it to three straight Super Bowls since . . . the 2016-18 Patriots. It would be a national unveiling for San Francisco superstar Deebo Samuel and Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes’s third Super Bowl after four consecutive AFC Championship games appearances (Brady-esque). In New England, this game would be all about Jimmy G.
Bengals-Rams — A chance to see if Joe Burrow can do his Red Auerbach cigar thing at SoFi Stadium Feb. 13. Marvin Lewis could make the ceremonial coin flip before the game. Matthew Stafford can show the world what he can do after 12 years in Lions jail.
Chiefs-Rams — The most likely matchup. Small market vs. big market. Old Andy Reid vs. young Sean McVay. Gates Bar-B-Q vs. Ivy By the Shore. Fats Domino’s “Kansas City” vs. Jim Morrison’s “LA Woman.’’
Bengals-Niners — Star-crossed Bengals make it to a third Super Bowl, facing the Niners for a third time. Cincinnati lost to San Francisco in 1982 and ‘89. Imagine Cris Collinsworth and Boomer Esiason trying to be neutral about this one. But once again, here in New England, we only have eyes for Jimmy G.
▪ In the regional euphoria accompanying news that David Ortiz had been elected to Cooperstown, Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said, “David Ortiz is the most important player ever to wear a Red Sox uniform.” Anyone care to quarrel with that distinction? Is Ortiz really more important to the Red Sox than Ted Williams, who played for the team in four decades, won two MVPs and two triple crowns, gave five years of his career to serving his country in two wars, hit .406, and was likely the second-greatest New England newsmaker of the 20th century, trailing only John F. Kennedy?
Williams was also a Jimmy Fund champion and has been the subject of dozens of books and documentaries. When he died in the summer of 2002, 12,000 fans poured into Fenway to view Williams’s memorabilia, and another 20,500 attended a two-hour evening tribute that was broadcast live on local television.
Yes, Ortiz was part of three World Series winners and Williams won none. But “more important” to the franchise than Ted Williams? Pump the brakes, Sam.
▪ Quiz: Name five Hall of Famers who played with the Florida/Miami Marlins (answer below).
▪ July’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony will feature three honorees with deep ties to the Minnesota Twins: Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, and Ortiz. Bill Parcells is planning to attend to honor his golf buddy Kaat.
▪ New names on next year’s Hall ballot include Jacoby Ellsbury and John Lackey.
▪ Is it too late to kick John Stockton off the Dream Team? The NBA’s all-time steals and assists leader recently had his Gonzaga season tickets revoked because he won’t wear a mask to home games. Making Aaron Rodgers sound truly scientific, Stockton then told Spokane’s Spokesman Review that as many as 150 professional athletes have died from the COVID-19 vaccine. “I think it’s highly recorded now,” Stockton said, ‘’there’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead — the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court.”
▪ Not enough was made of Bills coach Sean McDermott electing to boom the kickoff into the end zone after the Bills took the lead against the Chiefs with 13 seconds left last weekend. By not squib kicking, or forcing a return, McDermott gave Mahomes two plays instead of one to get into field goal range. Bill Belichick would never have done that.
▪ Former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan famously drove a snowplow on the Mass. Pike during the offseason. Given the current shortage of drivers, maybe Tollway Joe should think about coming out of retirement.
▪ Do the Celtics ever play a good team? When this weekend is over, they will have played a seven-game stretch featuring six teams with losing records. The only exception was mighty Charlotte. Despite this soft schedule, they struggle. And blame the media. Early last week Marcus Smart said, “This is us vs. everybody. Nobody really believes in us, but us on this team. That’s how we feel. We hear the noise, we see it. It’s us vs. everybody.”
Two days later, Jaylen Brown joined the “no respect” chorus. Seriously? Smart’s remarks are more proof that these guys are never going to figure it out. They play in front of an extremely soft, easy-to-please fan base, and still they are our most annoying team. It’s their fault. Nobody else’s.
▪ Great to have personal freedom warrior Aaron Rodgers out of the NFL playoffs. We know he won’t be able to poison Super Bowl week with his Google “research” and anti-vax nonsense.
▪ Bet none of you knew that Bob Lobel batted against future Cy Young Award winner Dean Chance when the two were high schoolers in Ohio. Lobel did not homer off Chance. The Channel 4 legend also played high school basketball against the son of Denny Galehouse, who famously started (and lost) the Red Sox one-game playoff with the Indians in 1948.
▪ US skeletonracer Katie Uhlaender is the daughter of Ted Uhlaender, who played outfield for the Twins and went 1 for 4 against Jim Lonborg on the final day of the 1967 Red Sox regular season. Katie is performing in her fifth Winter Games.
▪ Boston College women’s hockey blueliner Deirdre Mullowney of Newton is a fourth-generation Eagle hockey player. Her dad, Mike, was BC ‘89, her grandfather, Mike, was BC ‘62, and her great-grandfather, Edward Mullowney (1926), is in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
▪ RIP Joe Yukica, a huge figure on the New England college football scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Yukica, who died at 90 last weekend, served as head coach at New Hampshire, Dartmouth, and Boston College. He won three Ivy League titles and was BC’s head coach from 1968-77.
▪ Sorry to hear of the passing of local philanthropist and television magnate David Mugar. He was the godfather of Fourth of July on the Esplanade and a bitter enemy of Bob Kraft. Mugar also was perhaps the only person who could have persuaded Carl Yastrzemski to try his hand as a Channel 7 reporter after Yaz retired from baseball in 1983.
▪ A round of applause for the work of the national nonprofit Positive Coaching Alliance, which in part helps create a more inclusive experience for all athletes. Coaches with local roots supporting PCA include Tommy Amaker (Harvard basketball), Kristine Lilly (University of Texas soccer), Doc Rivers (76ers), Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Jerry York (BC hockey). If you want to help young athletes emerge from the challenges of the past two years, contact Beth Maloney (firstname.lastname@example.org) and bring PCA to your school, community, or workplace.
▪ Quiz answer: Andre Dawson, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez.