Don Shula 1930 – 2020

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.

 

2016 NFL Football Season Underway

The NFL Football season is upon us.

Predictions and reflections

The first game prediction Denver 24 – Carolina 20

But really, I cannot remember a Week 1 where so few games seemed a sure thing.

Seattle at home against Miami, yeah. But anything could happen in the other games, given all the changes in personnel and people missing in action for one reason or another.

Out on a limb time: End of Season Rankings

NFC East – Cowboys

NFC North – Packers

NFC South – Panthers

NFC West – Cardinals

Wild Card – Giants, Seahawks

Dark Horse – Saints

AFC East – Patriots

AFC North – Bengals

AFC South – Colts

AFC West – Raiders

Wild Card – Steelers, Broncos

Dark Horse – Jets

James Harris 1st Black Quarterback in NFL – podcast

Fascinating podcast about James Harris, the first black NFL quarterback who withstood Civil Rights era hate and ultimately led the LA Rams to the two NFC Championship Games in row.

One of the commentators makes a good argument as to why Harris starting at Quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and later the Los Angeles Rams was the most significant single feat in the desegregation of professional sports.
When a player falls off the TV screen it is easy to not notice where they went. I didn’t realize that after two very strong seasons, being voted team captain and MVP of the Pro Bowl he was traded away to San Diego where he became Dan Fouts’s backup. Not something that ever happened to a white all-pro quarterback at the height of his career.
I was surprised to learn that after old fashioned race attitudes forced him out of a starting QB role and later retired, he remained employed in a suit and tie by the NFL until 2015.
This is a podcast from Us & Them, Trey Kay’s Public Radio program that explores contentious social issues through the voices of the people who actually experience them first hand.
 
And while this one doesn’t so much take an Us vs. Them approach, I found this one of the most fascinating episodes. Not just because I am a football fan, but because of what I learned about the all-black colleges in the South and the very different priorities student athletes had there compared to the major predominantly white universities, etc.