Charlie Pallilo: Upstarts in the NFL, key stretch for Rockets and more
The NFL’s version of the Final Four goes off Sunday, though even the almighty NFL can’t market it as the Final Four. The non-profit NCAA makes hundreds of millions of dollars per year off that trademark. The final four starting quarterbacks standing are Case Keenum, Nick Foles, Blake Bortles,….and Tom Brady. That’s like an SAT question: which of the following does not fit with the other three. Hence, the Patriots are favored to win their sixth Super Bowl of the Brady-Bill Belichick dynasty. The other three franchises have zero Lombardi trophies in their showcases. The Jaguars are one of four franchises never to have played in a Super Bowl (Lions, Browns, and yes, Texans). The Eagles last appearance was Super Bowl XXXIX. For the Vikings it has been 41 years since the Raiders blew them out in Super Bowl XI.
New England and Philadelphia are the home teams but we had colder temperatures in Houston this week than either site will have Sunday. If the Jaguars pull off the upset at Foxborough it’s the most stunning turnaround from stupor to Super in NFL history. Last season they were 3-13. The Vikings are road favorites as they try to become the first team ever to play Super Sunday on their homefield.
And now the Frank the Tank portion of this week’s column. We’re going streaking!
Big stretch for Rockets
The Rockets finish off their most challenging consecutive home games on the schedule this season Saturday night. They follow up Thursday’s solid rout of vastly improved Minnesota with a second home date this month vs. Golden State. The season series is on the line with the teams having split their first two meetings and there being no fourth meeting to come. Being four and a half games behind the champs means the Rockets’ chance of catching the Warriors for best in the Western Conference is already slim. With a loss that chance dwindles to practically none. The Warriors are healthy and trying for a ridiculous 15th consecutive road win. The all-time NBA record is 16 straight road wins posted by the 1971-72 Lakers; they were a subset of the Lakers’ overall 33 game winning streak. That 33 in a row is the longest winning streak in any major league North American sport. Yes the Lakers won the NBA Championship that season.
Hold those Tigers
One of the more preposterous streaks in sports extended this week in college basketball when Clemson lost at North Carolina. The Houston Texans endured 13 years of uninterrupted futility before they finally won a game over the Colts at Indianapolis. We’ve all heard that expression “the 14th time is the charm.” What about the 60th? The Tar Heels takedown of the Tigers dropped Clemson’s overall record at Chapel Hill to 0-59. Sure the Tar Heels are one of the greatest programs in college basketball history, their 20 Final Four appearances are 20 more than Clemson has. But 0-59!?! The 87-79 final score marked only the seventh time in the 59 losses that Clemson played Carolina within single digits or to overtime.
Game of the century
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of one of the landmark games in college basketball history. January 20th 1968 the 2nd ranked University of Houston took down #1 UCLA 71-69 before 52,693 at the Astrodome. It was the first nationally televised (via syndication) primetime college basketball game ever. Elvin Hayes poured in 29 first half points, 39 for the game and the Cougars eked out a win over a Bruins’ team that had won 47 in a row. Lew Alcindor played while still recovering from an eye injury and had one of his worst games as a collegian. The Bruins would get the last laugh, destroying UH 101-69 at the Final Four, holding the “Big E” to just 10.
Good idea gone bad
Fun idea for the NBA All-Star Game to have captains choose sides as if on the playground. Lame idea to not televise the picks, the teams will merely be announced after the fact. It’s not as if being the last pick for the All-Star pick-up game makes that guy the clumsy kid nobody wants. LeBron James and Stephen Curry were the top vote getters in each conference so they will draft from among the eight other voted in starters and 14 reserves selected by head coaches. LeBron was the overall vote leader so he’ll have the first pick. Does he nab Curry teammate Kevin Durant? Does Curry then take James Harden over Klay Thompson? Is Kyrie Irving the last pick because LeBron wants no part of him?
1. I’m no sadist but doesn’t Larry Nassar deserve to die an excruciating painful death? 2. If UH wants just its second NCAA Tourney appearance in 25 years a win over Wichita St. tomorrow would be a huge boost 3. Best sitcoms ever: Bronze-Cheers Silver-M*A*S*H Gold-Seinfeld