February: More than romantic love.

February 1, 2016
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Vince Lombardi Trophy awarded to winner of the Super Bowl. Photo: SB Davis, at Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, OH, Sept. 2015

February the month of romantic love. Sorry but in my opinion just another excuse for card companies, florists and chocolatiers to make money. For me February is a month closer to spring and golf season, not only that but it is the shortest month of the year. Hurry up March and spring.

Planet Earth takes 365 and one quarter of our days to make its transit around the sun. How do we reconcile that odd figure? Every fourth orbit around the sun earthlings make an accounting adjustment. The year 2016 is a Leap Year. Normally February has 28 days but in Leap Years (every fourth year) it has 29 days to facilitate this accounting adjustment.

Those who happen to have been born in a leap year on the 29th day of February get to celebrate a birthday only every four years. Nice way to deceive oneself I think.

The big sports event of February is the National Football League’s Super Bowl. This is a major event this month and this year is the 50th time the game has been played. Football makes this a great month, but then the season is over which is sad. The big games is usually played the first Sunday of the month.

The new Canadian flag was introduced in February 1965 which is another reason to celebrate. The red maple leaf gives us a rallying point and has become the symbol of Canada throughout the world.

Here are some other interesting observances for the month of February.

Month-long observances:
American Heart Month – United States
Black History Month- Canada and United States

International Days:
Lunar New Year – Traditional Chinese Calendar
Chinese New Year – Chinese Calendar

Odd or Unusual observances:
National Wear Red Day – Feb 5th United States
First Saturday – Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (I really like the idea of this one)

National, State or Provincial Holidays:
Second Monday – Family Day – British Columbia, Canada
Third Monday – Family Day – Alberta, Canada
(Note: Family Day is now celebrated in other provinces too)
Third Monday – President’s Day – United States
Last Friday – International Stand Up to Bullying Day

February Symbols:
– flower – violet
– birthstone – amethyst
– zodiac signs – Aquarius (until Feb 18th) and Pisces (Feb 19th on)

So enjoy February whatever your perspective.

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Jim Thorpe – Athlete Extraordinaire

January 3, 2016
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Jim Thorpe on US stamps.

On a recent visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio I rediscovered the remarkable Jim Thorpe. Thorpe was a Native American who was voted the athlete of the first half of the 20th century. He excelled in football, track and field, baseball and basketball.

The entrance to the Hall of Fame is a tribute to Thorpe. There is a larger-than-life gold statue of him and a special hall dedicated to his accomplishments. Turns out he was one of the founders of the National Football League (NFL).

Although football was his self-admitted favourite sport he also played and excelled in many others. In the 1980s he was voted the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century receiving more votes than others such as Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, Wayne Gretzsky, Jack Nichlous, and Babe Ruth.

James Francis “Jim” Thorpe was born May 22, 1887 in Oklahoma. He was a Sac and Fox Native American whose name Wa-Tho-Huk is translated as “Bright Path”. Thorpe had natural athletic talent and excelled in a variety of sports from an early age. Jim attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There the famous coach Pop Warner developed his talent.

He tried out for and made the American Olympic Team competing in the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm, Sweden. His primary events were the gruelling pentathlon and decathlon. Jim won gold medals in both events setting records that stood for decades.

Six months after the Games it was discovered he had played minor league professional baseball prior to the games. This was a strict no-no at the time. He was paid about $50 for his six games. Most white athletes did the same thing, but they used aliases to prevent their discovery. Jim’s mistake, he didn’t. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) reviewed his case and in the end stripped him of his medals, records and other awards. However the IOC didn’t follow their own rules. The Olympic rules said that any appeals must be filed within 30 days of the closing of the Games. The objections weren’t filed until 6 months after the Games.

In 1982 the Jim Thorpe Foundation with the support of the US Congress petitioned the IOC to reverse their 1913 ruling. They were successful and on January 18, 1983 the IOC presented commemorative medals to two of Jim’s children in a special ceremony. His original medals were stolen from a museum and to this day have never been recovered.

After the Olympic Games ended in 1913 he played professional baseball for the National League champion New York Giants and later the Boston Bears and the Cincinnati Reds. He retired from baseball in 1919.

Next he played professional football with the Canton Bulldogs of the fledgling American Professional Football Association (APFA) the forerunner to the NFL. Jim played six seasons from 1920 to 1928. He retired at age 41. Thorpe was First Team All-Pro in 1923, NFL 1920s All-Decade Team, NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, College Football Hall of Fame, and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1963. He is one of 17 players in the Hall in the charter class. Jim was the first president of the APFA from 1920 to 1921 while at the same time playing. He is considered one of the founders of the NFL.

Books have been written about his life and accomplishments. He faced much racism during his career, but his feats endeared him to the world regardless. In his personal life he struggled with chronic alcoholism. Jim married three times and had 6 children. He died March 28, 1953 at his home in Lomita, California with his wife at his side. He was 64 years of age. He is buried in the town named for him Jim Thorpe, PA.

Thorpe was memorialized in the 1951 Warner Bros. film “Jim Thorpe – All American” starring the great American actor Burt Lancaster as Thorpe. Contrary to rumours he was paid the considerable sum of $15,000 for the story. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has issued a 20c and a 32c commemorative postage stamps honouring him.

Some of the greatest tributes were from his fellow competitors. Future President Dwight Eisenhower who played against him in college recalled of Jim in a 1961 speech,

“Here and there, there are some people who are supremely endowed. My memory goes back to Jim Thorpe. He never practiced in his life, and he could do anything better than any other football player I ever saw.”

Martin Sheridan, a five-time Olympic gold medalist said in 1909 while shaking his hand after watching Thorpe destroy all his previous records,

“Jim, my boy, you’re a great man. I never expect to look upon a finer athlete.”

Jim Thorpe, All-American truly was a remarkable athlete and person.


On Any Given Day – Giants Upset Pats

February 3, 2008

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Above: Dave Tyree of the New York Giants scoring a touchdown. 

The perfect season is no more. Super Bowl XLII ended with David slaying Goliath. The underdog New York Giants played a magnificent game. They showed true heart in their win.

This is another example of the truism of, on any given day anyone can beat anyone. I believe it came down to the Giants wanting it more than the Patriots in this case.

The members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins are surely celebrating because their perfect season of 17-0 including the regular season, playoffs and the Super Bowl still stands. I think it will never be broken. The Patriots had a fantastic season and won 18 games without a loss, but by not finishing the string, that accomplishment will be forever tainted.

Although not a high scoring game it had great defensive plays, wonderful offensive drives and high drama. It should do wonders for the ratings of future Super Bowl games.

Finally to both teams I salute you for providing wonderful entertainment and for the incredible effort.


Vince Lombardi: Super Bowl Coach Personified

January 28, 2008

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I am a huge fan of the Super Bowl and of the National Football League (NFL). This Sunday Febuary 3, 2008 will mark the 42nd Super Bowl. This championship game started January 15, 1967 as a battle between the established NFL and the upstart American Football League (AFL). The AFL was a direct competitioner of the NFL. Eventually the AFL was merged with the established league. This merger took place after Super Bowl IV. Of the first four Super Bowls, the NFL won the first two, and the AFL the next two.

Today marks the day the Green Bay Packers hired coach Vince Lombardi so I thought I’d write about how this man had such a great impact on the Super Bowl. He was hired by the Packers on January 28, 1959. At the time the Packers were a losing team having finished with a 1-10-1 record the previous season. This was his first head coaching job in the NFL. For 4 years prior to this he was assistant coach of the New York Giants.

The first season with the Packers he lead them to a 7-5 record, and the next year to the championship game where they lost 17-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles. He won his first championship in 1961 when they defeated the NY Giants 37-0. In total his Packers won 5 NFL Championships (pre-Superbowl era) and the first two Super Bowls.

sbi_ringticket.jpgAfter the second Super Bowl Lombardi retired. He just could not stay retired though, and in 1969 he accepted a head coaching job with the Washington Redskins. The first season he coached the Redskins to their first winning record in 14 years. His overall coaching record now stood at 105-35-6 without a single losing season.

(above: Ring and ticket from Super Bowl I)

Vince Lombardi personified football coaching in the 1960s, and was perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history. Tragically, he died September 3, 1970 at the age of 57 of intestinal cancer. The NFL inducted him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next year. Most significantly, the Super Bowl Trophy was renamed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his honor.

His beloved Green Bay Packers have appeared in four Super Bowls and have won three. This season they came close, but lost to the NY Giants in the NFC Championship Game in overtime.

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Above: Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl Championship being held aloft by winning players. 

I’ll leave you with some quotes about and by Vince Lombardi.

“He made us realize that if the mind was willing, the body can go.”
— Forrest Gregg, Green Bay Packer

“He made us all better than we thought we could be.”
— Jerry Kramer, Green Bay Packer

Vince Lombardi Quotes:

“To achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.”

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”

“Winning isn’t everything – but wanting to win is.”

I think you’ll agree a lot of what he said made sense, not just to the sport of football, but to everyday life. Vince Lombardi was a truly remarkable man.


Perfect Season for the Pats?

November 19, 2007

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(Superstar quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.)

As a huge NFL football fan I am amazed at the current edition of the New England Patriots. This team seems to have everything, great quarterback, quality receivers, impressive defense. The running attack is potentially the only weakness, but with their passing game who the heck needs to run the ball. First let me say that I am an Oakland Raiders fan, but most of all a fan of great football. Right now it is hard to be a Raiders fan, but it is still fun to watch great teams and players in action.

Dare we say “perfect season”?  Looking at the Patriot’s remaining schedule it is possible. As this is written the rest of their season shapes up like this:

Nov 25 – Philadephia Eagles (5-5)
Dec 3  – at Baltimore Ravens (4-6)
Dec 9  – Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3)
Dec 16 – New York Jets (2-8)
Dec 23 – Miami (0-10)
Dec 29 – at New York Giants (7-3)
Playoffs – at least two games
Super Bowl
Total Games = 19

It would appear that Pittsburgh and the Giants have the best chance to grab a win, but it would take a minor miracle. A perfect regular season would give them 16-0. Playoffs would be extremely tough, but they seem to be very focused. In fact they are on a mission in my opinion based on the interviews and games I have seen.

The only NFL team to have a perfect season including playoff and a Super Bowl win for a final record of 17-0 was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They had an extremely well-rounded team both offensively and defensively. The Dolphins had great players on both sides of the ball and on special teams. They stumbled a couple of times along the way and overcame a key injury to their great quarterback, Bob Griese, to prevail in the end. Griese did return and helped them finish the rest of the season. Earl Morrall formerly of the Baltimore Colts came through as a super backup to keep them going.

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(Above: Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka of the 1972 Miami Dolphins)

So far, six players from the team are enshrined in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame: Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, and Paul Warfield. In July 1997, Head Coach Don Shula joined them in immortality in Canton, Ohio.

The Chicago Bears of 1934 (13-0) and 1942 (11-0) had undefeated regular seasons, but in the end lost in the NFL championship game on both occasions. Still and all very impressive. No one else has ever had even an undefeated regular season, except the 1972 Dolphins.

It is my prediction that the New England Patriots will go undefeated in the regular season and further that they will win the Super Bowl for a true undefeated mark. So I will now watch with great interest the crusade for this team’s immortality.


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