Remembering the exceptional American, and Ohioan, who was Don Shula
I rooted against his Miami Dolphins every single game, but boy where they great!
Don Shula died today at the age of 90.
As a little boy, I saw things very much in a all or nothing way. And I was stung by Coach Shula leaving the Baltimore Colts, the first sports team I connected with – probably because of the pretty cowgirls in their entourage. But also because their kamikaze rabid dog linebacker Mike Curtis. I didn’t realize (consciously) that they were the longtime rival of my dad’s Cleveland Browns, but he never said a discouraging word against it.
Shula jumping to the AFL was another snub, even if they were merging with the NFL. And he had the bad manners to move to a team in the same division as my Colts, and take the lowly Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season. At least my Colts won the Super Bowl that year – finally!
But worst of all, he beat my Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship in his second season on the way to losing the Super Bowl, preventing a rematch between the defending champion Colts and the eventual champion Cowboys. But then he went on to win the next two Super Bowls, including that “Perfect Season,” where I rooted against them every game they played.
But I always had tremendous respect for his Dolphins, and admiration for their rhino fullback Larry Czonka and the rest of those glory teams.
He was a tough S.o.G., some say a veritable alligator as a coach. And I always loved this story, recounted in his obituary at NFL.com.
“After the 1969 season, Shula moved to Miami, where he was given a 10 percent stake in ownership of the team (he later sold it). His first team made the playoffs. His second made it to the Super Bowl. His third and fourth teams won championships and established themselves as South Florida legends, complete with a famous story about the time former Dolphin Manny Fernandez captured an alligator from the Everglades and put it in Shula’s shower after practice. When Shula ran into the locker room, fullback Larry Csonka informed him that players had taken a vote — with Shula prevailing by just one — to decide whether to tape the alligator’s mouth shut.”
He was drafted by the Browns in 1951 as a Defensive Halfback, but spent most of his seven seasons with the Colts, who in 1963, made him the youngest coach in NFL history, at that time.
And the rest is very much history indeed. R.I.P. Coach Shula. It was a great 90 years.
Not all brownies are as nice
OK, I am geeking out a bit here
I’ve always wanted an NFL jersey, with embroidered numbers and name, not the flimsy sacks with screen printed numbers.
But I think the current Browns uniforms are butt ugly. And official Nike Retro ones cost $100 (compared to $350 for actual game quality jerseys) and not much like actual pre-2010 Reebok jerseys.
And even used ones of players who were complete duds aren’t very affordable and usually the cheapo variety at that.
And then I found it on Ebay at a thrift store. New with tags – $15.
Circa 2011 Reebok On Field Series, Size 48 (not Small, Medium, Large, of the cheaper versions.)
It is a respectable #40.
That is Peyton Hillis, an old-school rhinoceros of a fullback who in 2010 had one phenomenal season for an otherwise forgettable Browns team, so good that he was on the cover of the Madden NFL 2012 video game.
And then he suffered the “Madden Curse,” via bad hamstrings for the rest of his 7-year career, probably due to his coach running him “til the wheels came off” for that one big season.
Hardly a dud, Hillis was a gladiator didn’t start until Game 3, and then gave his all for 1,177 yards rushing, 61 receptions for 1,654 total yards and 13 TDs. On a team that went 5-11. He and Marshall Faulk are the only players to attain more than 130 yards rushing, 3 rushing touchdowns, and 60 yards receiving in a single game.
For $15, this jersey is almost certainly a well-made counterfeit from Asia, but it is good enough for the Brooklyn sports bars.
I am thrilled!
Here is a video showing Peyton Hillis running people over.