Good Biography of Lamar Hunt

huntDespite an uninspiring writing style this is a very solid biography of Lamar Hunt.  Better yet, I learned a good deal about Lamar Hunt I didn’t know.  Most readers will recognize Lamar Hunt as one of the found fathers of the American Football League which competed directly with the well-established National Football League.  After a rather successful half decade the Hunt was then instrumental in the merger of the two leagues, creating the modern, NFL we know today.

Lamar Hunt was born not with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but many golden spoons.  His father was a billionaire and Hunt inherited a vast amount of wealth that allowed him to pursue his own dreams and goals with little concern about the financial consequences.  He fell in love with football in college and as an adult desperately wanted to own an NFL team but was spurned by the old guard.  So Hunt did the next best thing, he found a group of like-minded men and created his own football league.

While getting a professional football league up and running and successful against the established, old school NFL was a daunting challenge, Hunt managed to do just that.  And despite eventually having to move his inaugural Dallas franchise to Kansas City, his team and his league thrived.  So much so, that eventually the NFL was compelled to merge with the AFL to avoid escalating player salaries and competition for television viewers.

The most interesting thing about Hunt through all this was his decency and humanity.  Unlike many who didn’t earn but were handed vast amounts of wealth who slid into slovenly habits and narcissism, Hunt was considered by his peers to be very nice, decent man and one who worked hard at his passion – sports.  Even during the intensive rivalry with the NFL’s expansion franchise the Dallas Cowboys, he managed to stay friendly with Dallas’s other billionaire football owner Clint Murchison.

The other amazing thing about Lamar Hunt was the other sports he was passionate about and some he helped get off the ground.  For example he was an original minority owner of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.  He helped create the modern open era tennis by co-founding the World Championship Tennis circuit and is in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Finally, Hunt is instrumental in first bringing professional soccer to the United States as an owner of a Dallas professional soccer franchise, despite it rankling owners in the NFL.  While the league eventually collapsed, it was the precursor to today’s Major League Soccer.

The story of Hunt and the AFL-NFL merger is well told in other places but this biography also does that seminal event justice, while expanding ones knowledge of just how instrumental Hunt was in the sports world in general.

While the writing lacks a lot to be desired, the content is worth the effort.

Lamar Hunt: The Gentle Giant Who Revolutionized Professional Sports

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2012 NFL Season Week Five Observations

Steven Ridley takes handoff from Tom Brady

Some Quick Thoughts on Week Five

Chop blocks: I agree with Clay Matthews — the chop blocking I saw this weekend was troubling.  Brian Cushing was injured, maybe for the season, a block from the side, right on or below the knee, by Jets Guard Matt Slauson.  It was clearly an illegal play.  Ironically, while not illegal, it was the Houston Texans guards I saw going low, from the side, on defenders they were not engaged with.  In fact, that is how just defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson got hurt when he had to leave the game.  Any of these so called “zone blocking” scheme teams are prone to these low blocks on defensive players they are not engaged with.  I saw low blocks by the Broncos as well against Patriots.  Not sure how much can be done about it within the current rules but it’s one that will continue to put defensive players are risk.

Rookie Kickers: I don’t think I have seen a year when you had three such unbelievably good rookie kickers in Matt Blair of Minnesota, Billy Hunter in Baltimore, and Greg Zuerlein with Rams.  And the Rams have a great rookie punter as well in Johnny Hekker.  Makes me wish the Patriots had one now that Gostkowski has a case of the misses.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England over Denver, 31-21

Coming into this game I really wondered how we’d fare against a team with a good offense and defense.  Thankfully, the Patriots look back in some semblance of top form, at least on offense.  I love the balance attack with the running and passing game going.  Not being so one dimensional on offense will serve the team well going throughout the season.  The defense also played reasonably good, opportunistic football.

MVP: Stevan Ridley, RB

Baltimore over Kansas City, 9-6

It was awfully painful to watch the Chiefs utterly self-destruct against the Ravens.  The Chiefs pretty much outplayed the Ravens the entire game except turnovers.  And the turnovers just killed the Chiefs chances of winning.  And I am sorry but Matt Cassel has played terribly this year.  I hated to see him get hurt and think that fans that cheered that should be ashamed.  But, it is time to give Quinn a chance to see what he can do, although if his past performances are any indication, he probably won’t do much better.  It’s a shame too because there is talent this team otherwise.  The Cheifs beat themselves in this game and handed the Ravens a win.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

St. Louis over Arizona, 17-3

Exposed.  That is what Arizona was on Thursday night.  Not so much their defense, although even that unit has seen it’s better games, but th offense was just awful.  But it has been all year long, the defense just kept bailing them out, until Thursday night’s loss to the Rams.  The Cardinals offensive line is embarassing.  It seems defensive ends have career days against them every week. They can’t run the ball.  And while I don’t think Kolb has much chance back there, even when he does he doesn’t always do much with it.  I feel sorry for Larry Fitzgerald who I think is the first or second most talented reciever in the league (along with Charles Johnson of Detroit).  He has a bad quarterback coupled with a bad offensive line.

I frankly I am not a big beleiver in the Rams or Sam Bradford, which is surely and unpopular stance.  I love Danny Amendola though, and it’s too bad he got hurt this year again and will be out for a while.

Chris Long just schooled the Cardinals tackles.

MVP: Chris Long, DE

New Orleans over San Diego, 31-24

Fair or not, I just can’t root against the Saints after the bounty scandal, not this year at least.  But I like San Diego even less so this game left me wanting both teams to loose, although I probably leaned a little toward the Saints.  The Saints and Drew Brees got the offense rolling late in this one and never looked back, as Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas consecutive game with a touchdown pass record at 48.

Given the weakness of the AFC West, at least until Denver starts winning some games against good teams, San Diego might be in the drivers seat.  It will be interesting to see how that race plays out this year.

MVP:  Drew Brees, QB

Houston over New York Jets, 23-17

The New York Jets played well enough to win this game.  But they made mistake after mistake after mistake, espeically on offensive, leaving them no chance to beat a good team.  And it was not all Mark Sanchez’s fault.  It was just a sloppy, mistake prone offensive game.  It was also rather poor blocking by the offensive line as well.  Only Nick Mangold is any good.  D’Brickshaw Ferguson has always been wildly overrated.

The defensive backs played really well containing the Oilers passing game with the exception of a few gaffs, but the defensive line and linebackers were just mauled by the Texans offensive line.  They gave us some really big runs to Arian Foster.  But they hung in and kept them to field goals instead of touchdowns enough to give their offense a chance.  Their offense just didn’t take advantage of it.

I don’t think the Jets are as forlorn as many, but this could be a tough year for them.

MVP:  J.J. Watt, DE

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants [200 yds rushing]
Defensive Player: J. J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Eric Winston, T, Kansas City Chiefs
Special Teams:  Johnny Hekker, P. St.  Louis Rams
Rookie of the Week: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Ten-Gallon War: Dallas Cowboys v Dallas Texans

Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future by John Eisenberg
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0547435503

When I first picked up this monograph on the “war” between the NFL expansion team Dallas Cowboys and the upstart AFL Dallas Texans I did not have high expectations.  After all, what more could really be said about the history of the maverick AFL and its eventual merger with the longer tenured NFL?

Well, I dare say I was wrong because Eisenberg has written a very interesting account of how Lamar Hunt, the owner of the Dallas Texans and founder of the AFL, and Clint Murchison, another oil magnate who finally received a chance to own and expansion team because of the AFL, waged a battle within the city for football supremacy.

First off let’s be clear that the Dallas Cowboys, despite being in the NFL, did have some clear advantages being in the older league, but these advantages were evened out because it was an expansion team, and as such, a losing team.  And fans don’t want to root for losing teams.  The Texans, on the other hand, had creative owner in Lamar Hunt but also a roster that included some local stars that made it an attraction as well.  But the Texans did not have the advantage of having well known NFL teams to play home games against.  So all things being equal, the competition was pretty even.

This book recounts how both teams tried to recruit local talent and be the team to draw the most fans to games.  Lamar Hunt here was a bit of genius and while a nice fellow, manipulative.  He made sure he got a stadium lease that disadvantaged the Cowboys in their first year, gave away tickets to make it appear the gate receipts were a lot larger than they really were, and the battle to sign college players was comical.  Hunt also staged halftime shows to try to draw fans in and make professional football both sport and spectacle.

And for the most part Hunt succeeded.  And despite their sometimes bitter competition, Hunt and Murchinson maintained a respect for one another.  For example, Lamar Hunt jumped out of a birthday cake at Murchinson’s birthday bash.

All the nitty-gritty details of the throw down between these two teams is here, and told in very lucid prose.

So why did Hunt and the Texans ultimately leave?  Part of it was simply he got a deal too good to refuse from Kansas City and he started to realize it would be hard for two professional football teams to be successful in Dallas.  Another reason too was likely he had more than his own team to worry about; he had the survival of an entire league on his mind.  And thus the Dallas Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs.

If you like football history and are interested in the American Football League and Lamar Hunt, this is a great place to start.  Because here you have the rivalry between the two leagues played on mostly even terms in one city.  I highly recommend it.

Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future

2010 NFL Football Season: Week One Observations

Wes Welker Scores Against the Bengals

A new season is upon us and it should be an exiting one.

In the NFC we wonder if the New Orleans Saints can repeat as Super Bowl champions, if all the hoopla over the Dallas Cowboys will end again in ignominy, if Brett Favre can take a depleted receiving corps back to the playoffs, if the San Francisco are as good as advertised, and how will the only rookie starting quarterback in the league, Sam Bradford, fare in St. Louis?

The AFC appears to be even more wide open than the NFC. Several teams have a legitimate shot at Super Bowl glory. The New England Patriots with a healthy and hot Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss and a young defense should improve over the year and be a contender. The New York Jets and their slothful undisciplined coach say they are the heirs to the AFC East. The Baltimore Ravens are loaded on offense and their defense looks as good as ever. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has proven to be as formidable as ever and when Big Ben gets back their offense should improve. The Indianapolis Colts are always a tough team and the Houston Texans are emerging. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers may or may not slip. They are in the weakest division in the AFC and despite losing their opener, will likely have a spot in the playoffs.

Before jumping in the games I watched this, a few big picture headlines that week one revealed.

  • Brady, Welker, Moss and the offense are back and as good as ever.
  • New Orleans appears to have started right where they left off last year, with a powerful offense and defense that is solid. They are the favorites to emerge from the NFC.

  • Minnesota, after the tiresome annual saga of Brett Favre’s retirement dance, suddenly found themselves without receivers. Their defense is solid but their opening salvo on offense bodes ill for their chances this season.

  • Thankfully, for once, we won’t have the annual will the Indianapolis Colts go undefeated as they spank the teams in their weak division. Houston hung a loss on the Colts, and if their offense line continues to struggle, Peyton Manning is in for a long season.

  • Will Michael Vick be the Eagles starter this season?

  • San Francisco is not as good as we thought they were.

  • Dallas continues to shoot itself in the foot.

  • Finally, for the most part the defenses in the league seem to have started the season a step ahead of the offenses. This is likely to change as the season progresses but as someone who loves the defensive side of the ball, it was refreshing to see.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24

One word: Welker.

It was a very happy sight to see Wes Welker looking like, well, Wes Welker, after his amazingly fast recover from reconstructive knee surgery after suffering an injury in the last game of the season last year. WELKER! WELKER! WELKER!

Tom Brady also looked very sharp in this game, as did the entire offense. It was good to see a little bit of the running game back in the game plan, although I still think they could run the ball even more. Fred Taylor seemed to have fresh legs in the first half and the running back by committee approach worked. And I continue to be amazed at how older players like third down back Kevin Faulk can continue to be so effective.

What was also heartening to see is the very young defense with two rookie starting cornerbacks holding up well against the powerful Cincinnati Bengals offense with two of the best receivers in the league. I did get somewhat worried in the second half when the Bengals had two back to back sustained scoring drives. Barring injury I expect the defense to continue to improve as the season progresses. While it was not a lock down defense, it was good enough to win this game.

And Brandon Tate! His kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half was crucial, as it turned out, to extend the lead. Instead of providing even more momentum for the Patriots, it almost seemed like the Patriots players thought the game was over and played really rather poorly in the third quarter. The defense suddenly looked vulnerable and the offense didn’t do much either.

The Patriots played a very good all around game while the Bengals really didn’t get started until the second half. But for us Patriots fans the story was Wes Welker.

As a side note, good riddance Baloney Lauren Maroney. And don’t worry about Randy Moss, he’ll be fine.

MVP: Wes Welker, WR


New Orleans over Minnesota Vikings, 14-9

There are really a lot of storylines to this game.

The Saints look like a Super Bowl team. While their offense did struggle a bit their two scoring drives were dominant and once they started running the ball in the second half, they locked the game up. If they can continue to mix in a solid running game with their vaunted passing attack they will be very difficult to beat this season.

The Saints’ offensive line was the most dominant unit in the game and the best I saw all weekend. Guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, along with center Jonathan Goodwin, completely dominated Minnesota’s defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams. Maybe the Williams boys need to get back on that supplement that almost cost them a suspension. They got punked in this game. And I really have to give a huge shout out to Jermon Bushrod. He totally handled my 2009 defensive player of the year Jared Allen entirely on this own. Last year I got a lot of criticism for favoring Carl Nicks over Jahri Evans as my All Pro guard. I did so because last year Nicks often had to help Bushrod, who really was the weak link on the offensive line. I don’t know if this is a one game stellar effort by Bushrod or if he has really improved that much. If continues this level of play the Saints may even be better this year than last.

In the second half the Saints finally started running the ball with Pierre Thomas, who ate up the clock and moved the chains. He has solid performance behind the dominant offensive line and I felt it was a great change of pace by Sean Peyton.

Minnesota, meanwhile, looked awful on offense. With Sydney Rice out for at last half the season and Percy Harvin ailing and running lousy routes, there really were no receivers open to throw to. Bernard Berrian looked awful in preseason and woeful in this game as well. He seems to have completely disappeared. I was surprised Greg Camarillo did not see more action in the slot.

Minnesota’s defense did not play up to their usual standards on the defensive line but they settled down and did manage to hold the Saints to 14 points. They are battling injuries in the secondary and Antoine Winfield is also coming off an injury plagued 2009 and really did not play up to his usual standards. It was great to see linebacker E.J. Henderson back in the lineup and playing extremely well after suffering a gruesome broken femur last year. I though his career was likely over, but clearly it’s not.

Minnesota is likely to continue to struggle on offense unless the receivers get their heads out of their ass and start playing football.

While Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are better and played wonderfully, I am giving the most valuable player award here to Jermon Bushrod for handling Jared Allen.

MVP: Jermon Bushrod, T

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles, 27-20

Let the quarterback controversy begin! The Eagles offense looked absolutely miserable in the first half. Kevin Kolb was harassed and the receivers weren’t really getting open but he wasn’t doing much either. I am not sure if it is because Michael Vick kept entering the game and did not allow Kolb to establish a rhythm or something else, but once he sustained a concussion and Vick took over the offense came to life. But, that was mostly because of Vick’s legs. His running really broke the game open for the offense even though they still fell short in the end.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires this season now that Kolb might be out for a few games and Vick will be the starter. If Vick is successful it will be hard for Andy Reid not to keep him behind center once Kolb is healthy. But you know what? Vick will never lead a team to the promised land (although he has sent quite a few dogs to doggie heaven). His success in this game was mostly his running ability. Just like in Atlanta, once teams scheme against him, his inaccurate passing and poor decision making will catch up with him. Yes, he may have a rocket arm and can throw the ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist, but Eagles’ fans should not get too giddy over the possibilities. Unless he continues to be a running quarterback he will not be that dynamic, and eventually teams will catch up with the Eagles if Vick is at the helm.

Green Bay didn’t really look all the wonderful either. The offensive tackles had a hard time handling the rush but they did manage a couple of really nice touchdown drives. The star of the game was Clay Matthews, Jr. who was all over the place on defense and recorded a couple of sacks.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Washington Redskins over Dallas Cowboys, 13-7

GOAT: Jason Garrett. And no, that is not for “greatest of all time” but idiot. I am sure everyone has seen the play by now, but at the end of the first half, in bad field position, with little time left on the clock, the Cowboys ran a short sideline route to Tashard Choice who ended up fumbling the ball which was returned for a Redskins touchdown and was the difference in the game. What made this play so stupid? First, the Redskins offense was doing absolutely nothing and had only a 3-0 lead. Scores were clearly going to be a premium in this game and with so little time left on the clock, the smart move was simply to run the time off the clock and regroup in the second half. Secondly, the play had no chance of even netting enough yards to get into field goal range. It was stupid play call, period, for that situation.

What this play and head coach Wade Phillips’ comments after the game shows is that Wade Phillips is not in control of this team. He basically threw Jason Garrett under the bus by saying they should have kneeled on the ball, didn’t know why the ran a play there, and tersely said the defense (which he runs) did its job and did not give up a touchdown. I believe they will continue to be destiny’s stepchild this season.

Otherwise, both teams struggled a great deal on offense. Dallas’s offensive line did not protect Tony Romo well but they finally got going late in the game to finally make a run for a win, but alas they failed. A holding penalty on the last play of the game negated a would be game winning touchdown. It was clearly holding too so nobody can gripe about the call.

The Mike Shanahan era started off with a win over archrival Dallas on Dallas’s home turf. While it was not a dominating or particularly impressive win, especially on offense, it was a win. As usual, the Washington defense is very solid this year, as they have been in year’s past. While they have sometimes been criticized for not getting enough turnovers, they are basically a very sturdy unit.

The offense, however, was woeful and did nothing. Shanahan needs to find a way to fix that quick because they won’t be winning many games like this otherwise. He can thank DeAngelo Hall for the fumble recovery and touchdown, which was the difference in the game. Or, send Jason Garrett a thank you card for the gift.

MVP: DeAngelo Hall, CB

Baltimore Ravens over New York Jets, 10-9

The New York Jets are an undisciplined team and reflection of their coach, the slovenly Rex Ryan. They shot themselves in the foot with penalties and giving up big plays on third and long when they had the Ravens’ offense on the ropes, which was the difference in the game. Add to that the harassment by Jets players of a female reporter also shows a lack of professionalism, decorum, and discipline, again a reflection of their head coach. The Jets may very well implode this season.

The Jets defense continues to be a stellar unit, one of the best, if not the best in the league. But their offense looks awful and Mark Sanchez has not proven, yet, that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. They were facing another top defense in the Ravens, so maybe time will tell.

The Ravens defense played excellent football and Ray Lewis continues, in his fifteenth NFL season, to be one of the best defensive players in the league. He got some great hits on the Jets, and the rest of the unit played excellent as well. I was surprised at how the offense was so throttled, however, even facing the Jets. With Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a very good offensive line, Anquan Bolden, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap, I thought they were loaded on offense. The Jets bailed them out with bad penalties most of the game and Ravens were lucky to escape with a win.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB

Kansas City Chiefs over San Diego Chargers, 21-14

I was happy to see the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Monday night but Chief’s fans shouldn’t get too excited. It was really two big plays on offense that sealed the deal, a great 56 yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles and a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster were the keys to the game. Otherwise the offense looked anemic and Matt Cassel really did not do much to distinguish himself.

The Chief’s defense did play well. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey finally looked like a first round draft pick in this game and the defensive backs did a very nice job on the Charger’s receivers, especially Brandon Flowers.

Philip Rivers made himself look like a complete idiot and proved what a jerk he is yelling at his teammates and carrying on a like a petulant child in the second half. While indeed his teammates made mistakes, I can’t imagine that endears him to his offensive line or establishes him as the leader of the team. They did almost come back and win, however. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews had a decent game, but he gave up a fumble that lead to a touchdown, helping the Chief’s secure the win.

MVP: Dexter McCluster, KR/WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (231 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans Saints
Special Teams: Brandon Tate, WR/KR, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Dexter McCluster, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs

New England Patriots Trade Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to Kansas City Chiefs

Cassel Leads Patriots over the Jets

Matt Cassel

The New England Patriots traded Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs. Everyone knew the Patriots would eventually be trading Matt Cassel but the trade of Mike Vrabel was a bit of a shock. Personally I am rather disappointed that the Patriots didn’t get me more than a 2nd round draft pick from the Chiefs. In fact, I am right down flummoxed by it. It seems like Cassel would be worth much more than a 2nd round pick when you still have teams out there desperate for a quarterback in a free agent market that is extremely thin. But at least we got something after using the franchise tag on Cassel.

Based on reports from Adam Schefter on NFL.com it sounds like there was quite a bit of interest and some possible three way trades in the works with moves putting Cassel in Denver and Cutler in either Tampa Bay or Detroit, both in desperate need of quarterbacks. What was a surprise to me was the Minnesota Vikings didn’t take a serious run at Matt Cassel. He doesn’t fit in as well with their offensive scheme as he does in Kansas City, but he has a far better shot of being successful in Minnesota than a Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson.

The move for Matt Cassel and the Kansas City Chiefs make perfect sense and Kansas City is a great landing spot for Matt Cassel for several reasons.

First, he performs better in the shotgun. New head coach and former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley has an offensive scheme that fits Cassel’s abilities extremely well. He relies much more heavily on the shotgun and the passing game, and I can see Cassel having a very good chance to be successful in Kansas City.

Secondly, he has an excellent young receiver in Dwayne Bowe to throw to. Bowe is one of the best receivers in the NFL but has been overshadowed by the poor record of the Kansas City Chiefs the pat few years. He also has the Hall of Fame bound tight end Tony Gonzalez to throw to. While Gonzalez wanted to be traded last year, it looks like he will stay in Kansas City. The signing of Matt Cassel should make him happier. And while I think Larry Johnson will likely be cut or traded, if the Chiefs can put together some serviceable running backs to keep defenses honest, the offense has a chance to make significant improvements next year.

The trade of Mike Vrabel was a shock to me. Vrabel has been a team leader and a mainstay on a defense that won three Super Bowls. It always hurts to see players you admire that have been with the team for so long get traded or cut. But that is the NFL in the era of free agency. I will miss Vrabel and root for him to do well, unless he plays the Patriots.

The trade of Vrabel signals that the Patriots are finally going in the direction of getting younger and faster on defense. The past few years Patriots fans have worried a great deal about the aging of the defense, especially at the linebacker position. It will be interesting to see what other off-season moves the Patriots make.

Currently the most high profile signings for the Patriots are Fred Taylor from Jacksonville and Chris Baker from the Jets. It will be interesting to see what else they will do this offseason.