Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Drew Pearson

To any football fan who grew up watching the nineteen-seventies Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson was the best wide receiver of all-time. No one made more clutch catches than he. When the game was on the line, it was Drew Pearson time.

Hell, Roger Staubach even credited Pearson with putting him in the Hall of Fame. That's how good he was.

In the wild and free football games of my youth, I unfailingly assumed the identity of Drew Pearson. Owing to the fact I was six-foot three (most of which was in my legs), I could run. It helped sustain the illusion that I was a reasonable facsimile of Mr. Pearson.

I would race into the end zone convinced I was in the silver, blue and white of the Cowboys. Was this what it felt like to be him?

Of course, while Drew enjoyed the adoration of tens of thousands (along with a national TV audience), I had only the hoots and hollers of four or five teammates. But in the true spirit of the game, it never ever detracted from the experience.

(Everyone should know what it's like to catch a perfectly-thrown football on the dead run. It is a perfect and beautiful symmetry.) 

Drew Pearson played in an age when the pass was used to offset the run, not sustain an offense. Otherwise, he would have amassed Randy Moss-like numbers. As it was, his achievements were among the best of his generation.

Let the record show he was selected to the all-time NFL squad of the 1970s, along with Paul Warfield, Harold Carmichael and Lynn Swann. This is no mystery.

What is a mystery is that he remains outside the Hall of Fame. This perhaps is the expected byproduct of voters from New York City, Washington DC and Philadelphia with long memories.

At any rate, happy birthday, Drew. And thank you for providing so many indelible memories to keep me warm in the winter of my life. I had a ball watching you play.

I hope you had a ball playing. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Athletic Celibacy, Pt. 2

This is another post with lists. Lists of the ten all-time longest droughts. Droughts between championships and droughts between appearances in the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup. The observant enthusiast will draw several conclusions.

Number-one, the Chicago Cubs were champions long before 2016. Their 107 seasons between championships is unlikely ever to be surpassed. It is untouched in the annals of professional sports.

But their second record is looking like low-hanging fruit.

The Cubs' 70 seasons between visits to the World Series is threatened by the NBA's Sacramento Kings, who haven't paid a visit to the NBA Finals since 1951, when they played 2,290 miles to the east and sported the words 'Rochester Royals' on their jerseys.

Moving on, as a Chicago-based baseball fan I'm trying to calculate the odds of my hometown's two baseball teams owning the two worst cases of World Series avoidance in MLB history. I mean, how do things like that happen?

And what does it say when the parity-obsessed NFL has more teams on the appearances list than any other sport? I guess inept management can happen anywhere—even in luxury suites. Maybe Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy flows upstream?

Finally, if you ever wondered how dominant the Toronto Maple Leafs once were, know that despite not appearing in the Stanley Cup since the Summer of Love was in its planning stages, the Leafs still rank third in Stanley Cup appearances and second in Cups won.

As promised, here are the lists. Two of them, to be exact.

The first contains the ten all-time longest droughts without a franchise appearing in their sport's championship series or game. The second enumerates the ten all-time longest stretches without a championship.

Figures are current through each sport's most-recently completed season.

Chicago Cubs MLB 70 1946-2015
Sacramento Kings NBA 65* 1952-present
Arizona Cardinals NFL 59 1949-2007
Detroit Lions NFL 58* 1958-present
Atlanta Hawks NBA 55* 1962-present
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 49* 1968-present
New York Jets NFL 47* 1969-present
Kansas City Chiefs NFL 46* 1970-present
St. Louis Blues NHL 46* 1971-present
Chicago White Sox MLB 45 1960-2004
Milwaukee Bucks NBA 42* 1975-present

Honorable mentions:

Oakland Athletics MLB 40 1932-1971
Cleveland Indians MLB 40 1955-1994
Golden State Warriors NBA 39 1976-2014
Minnesota Vikings NFL 39* 1977-present

Here is where the Cubs appear eternal. As hapless as franchises like the Cleveland Indians, Arizona Cardinals and Sacramento Kings may appear, they would have to remain title-free for roughly another forty years—over a generation—to have a shot at the Cubs' record.

That puts it into perspective for me.

Chicago Cubs MLB 107 1909-2015
Chicago White Sox MLB 87 1918-2004
Boston Red Sox MLB 85 1919-2003
Cleveland Indians MLB 68* 1949-present
Arizona Cardinals NFL 68* 1948-present
Sacramento Kings NBA 65* 1952-present
Minnesota Twins MLB 62 1925-1986
Detroit Lions NFL 58* 1958-present
Atlanta Hawks NBA 58* 1959-present
San Francisco Giants MLB 55 1955-2009
Philadelphia Eagles NFL 55* 1961-present
Tennessee Titans NFL 54* 1962-present
New York Rangers NHL 53 1941-1993

Honorable mentions:

San Diego Chargers NFL 52* 1964-present
Buffalo Bills NFL 50* 1966-present
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL 49* 1968-present

* = active