After months of watching nonsensical, erroneous, lamebrain and just plain dumb statistics flash up on the television screen during football games, it was reasonable to expect any bit of obscure information dredged up by the networks at this late date would just sort of lay there, lifeless.
The Buffalo Bills, it was reported breathlessly, are not the first team to lose three consecutive championship games (Super Bowls) only to make it back for a fourth. It happened to the Cleveland Browns 40 years ago.
Your immediate impression upon hearing this is that the Browns of that bygone era were probably as feeble in the big game as the Bills have been lately, losing by constantly mounting margins that reached 35 points last year (52-17).
Nothing could be more removed from the truth. Yes, Cleveland lost three straight NFL title games from 1951 through 1953, all in close contests, but it started a run of six consecutive appearances in the big game with a victory in 1950 and added others in 1954 and 1955.
In addition, prior to 1950, the Browns of coach Paul Brown functioned in the All America Football Conference and, in the only four seasons of the AAFC, Cleveland was the league champ.
When the NFL grabbed off three members of the AAFC for inclusion in 1950, it was going to show the Browns a thing or two, scheduling it into Philadelphia to take on the defending champion Eagles in their very first game. Cleveland breezed, 35-10, tied for its conference title with a 10-2 mark, won a playoff and took the NFL title game from the Los Angeles Rams (formerly headquartered in Cleveland, incidentally), 30-28.
The Browns were 11-1, 8-4 and 11-1 as conference champs the next three years, but lost to L.A. (24-17), Detroit (17-7), and the Lions again (17-16) in the showdowns. Their victories in 1954 and were by 56-10 over Detroit and 38-14 over the Rams and completed their run of 10 straight title game appearances with possibly the greatest pro team ever over an extended period of time.
All this occurred even before Jim Brown showed up, but old-timers will recall that Hall of Famers Otto Graham, Len Ford, Lou Groza, Marion Motley, Frank Gatski, Dante Lavelli, Mike McCormack and Bill Willis weren't bad, not to mention Coach Brown.
* Now that John Madden's long and joyous run at CBS is over and he's headed for adventures unknown, doing games for Fox at about $1,000 per word, it's time to admit that Big John was never really an analyst of pro football games.
To analyze means to examine in detail so as to determine the nature or tendencies of something. When's the last time Madden bored us with Xs and Os, like Bob Trumpy's laughable explanation of Buffalo's offensive linemen attempting to provide "vertical running lanes" for rushing star Thurman Thomas Sunday?
No, John has been, is and will always be classified as a commentator, a guy who tells about visiting with the players and eating tamales in the locker room. Classic Madden occurred during the 49ers-Giants blowout recently when the camera caught a little dog barking wildly on the sidelines. "Calm down, calm down, we'll feed you," said John.
* Speaking of Thurman Thomas, his Herculean effort of rushing for 186 yards against Kansas City caused statisticians to dredge up the record for most yards gained in an AFC title game, which unearthed the name Keith Lincoln, San Diego Chargers, 1963.
Let me tell you about that game, a 51-10 cakewalk by the Chargers over the Boston Patriots in what was then the AFL championship game. It took Thomas 33 attempts to pile up his 186 yards Sunday. Lincoln amassed 206 yards in just 14 carries, an average of nearly 15 yards per. He caught a touchdown pass, threw one and kicked extra points and field goals, too. Thing is, Lincoln was injured that day.
* In an NFL Films program seen on the telly not too long ago, Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones was featured and he bemoaned the day the headslap was outlawed in the game. Recall, Deacon perfected the maneuver and it's said he could put a crack in the side of a helmet by delivering about a half-dozen of those fearsome swipes.
So, Sunday, during the Cowboys-49ers game on CBS, there's this offensive tackle for Dallas named Erik Williams delivering these vicious left hooks to the head of San Francisco defensive linemen time and again. Williams, by the way, is 6-6 and goes about 325 pounds. In other words, he can deliver one helluva wallop, but not one penalty flag was seen. Deacon Jones must have loved it.