Speaking of Roethlisberger ...
I wrote a little Xs and Os forecast of the game in SI this week, and made the point that it's going to be vital for Green Bay to hem in Roethlisberger. When he throws on the run, or when he just plain runs, good things happen for the Steelers.
But around the Steelers, you hear good things about the life and times of the guy. I don't blame women who won't forgive Roethlisberger for the story in Georgia last winter (including some very, very close to me), but the fact that he's been chastened and knocked down a few pegs by Goodell and others in his life has had a big impact on him this year.
"Other than my son and my daughter,'' said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, "I've never been prouder of anyone in my life than Ben this year. I trust my kids' judgment, and they have known Ben for a long time. They've both told me, 'Dad, he's different. He's himself again.' ''
Like Vick, Roethlisberger will to have to prove it over time. A long time.
Going down a vomitous memory lane.
Saturday was the 16-year anniversary of one of the most interesting postgame experiences I've had at a Super Bowl: the aftermath of the 49ers' 49-26 rout of the Chargers in Miami.
Steve Young threw six touchdown passes in the game, and afterward, Young's agent, Leigh Steinberg, had him do about 20 postgame live shots with everyone from Chris Berman to the guy from Petaluma. I trailed Young for the magazine, listening to him do every one of the live shots, answering the same questions over and over. Young was thirsty, and hungry, and at one point asked if I could find him some Gatorade or something to eat. I went under the stands and found a food service area doing inventory, explained the situation, and finagled four bottles of red Gatorade, a couple of apples, and about eight or 10 sugar cookies. That's it.
Young drank two of the Gatorades like a dying man in the Mojave, and munched down the cookies, and soon we were in his limo riding back to the Miami airport Marriott, their team hotel. Steinberg was in the car, and after a few twists and turns out of the parking lot, Young said, "I'm not feeling so ...'' RALPH! Out came what must have been 30 ounces of the Gatorade in its bright red splendor. Some of it came to rest on the right shoe of Steinberg. "Well,'' the once-super-agent said. "I'll never wash that shoe again.''
After a few more minutes in the car, and then traffic, Young needed air, so he walked the last quarter-mile to the hotel. In his suite at the hotel waited his parents, his four siblings, his girlfriend, some college friends (including punter Lee Johnson of the Bengals) among a gaggle of 44 friends and relatives. Young greeted everyone, and then felt dizzy. He still hadn't had anything to eat or drink other than the Gatorade and cookies (I don't think he ate the fruit), and that hadn't stayed down. After playing a game on a humid south Florida night, he was going to need something. Then he looked pale. Then he had to lay down. "Call the paramedics!'' someone said.
Quickly, two EMTs from a rescue unit arrived. Young was given intravenous saline solution for dehydration in each arm simultaneously, and he lay on his bed, acting like an old man with a very strong spirit. He was too excited to be dormant. He talked about enrolling at Brigham Young in 1980 as a raw kid. He talked about the greatness of the night. "Is this great or what?" he burbled. "I mean, I haven't thrown six touchdown passes in a game in my life. Then I throw six in the Super Bowl! Unbelievable."
And this is what I'll never forget: Someone in the crowd yelled, "Joe Who?"
Young was swift and borderline angry. "No, don't do that," he said. "Don't worry about that. That's the past. Let's talk about the future."
Even though he lay on the bed for the longest time with two needles in his arm, he wanted the night to go on forever. You could just tell. Gradually, the color, and a smile, returned to his face. The last thing I heard when I was about to leave (someone had to work that night, after all) was Young calling out to me at the door
"Don't go," he said. "You can stay. Stay! I'm fine. Really, I'm fine."
It's a pretty good job.
If you want to criticize the decisions the 44 voting members (including me) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame make Saturday in Dallas for the Class of 2011, feel free. We deserve to be put under the microscope. But you're going to have to do better than blaming whoever does or doesn't get in on New York bias, or East Coast bias, or whatever kind of regional bias you might think we have as a voting body. It's silly, and as someone who's been in the room for nearly two decades, I can tell you it doesn't exist.
I'll give you as much proof as I can. First, let's look at the voting results in the 11 classes in this century.
Hall of Fame selections since 2000: 61.
New York players/coaches enshrined: 2 -- Harry Carson and Benny Friedman.
California players/coaches enshrined: 13 -- Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Dave Wilcox, Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater, Dave Casper, Marcus Allen, Steve Young, John Madden, Fred Dean, Jerry Rice ... and I've given George Allen and Bob Brown a half-California apiece since, roughly, they coached and played, respectively, for half of their careers in California.
East Coast (Washington to Boston) players/coaches enshrined: 7.5 -- Andre Tippett, Art Monk, Darrell Green, Harry Carson, Benny Friedman, Russ Grimm ... and George Allen, Bob Brown and Reggie White half apiece.
If that's New York bias, then I'm doing a pretty poor job of getting my guys in. George Young, Bill Parcells, Joe Klecko, Paul Tagliabue (a New York guy, if you consider a New York-based commissioner one) ... zippo.
Now for the exact regional breakdown of voters. Each franchise is represented in the room by a voter, and there are 12 at-large voters, totaling 44 in all. Let's look at the voters on the Eastern Seaboard, and then the California voters. For fairness, I've assigned three voters who have recently moved (Ira Miller, Peter King and Len Shapiro) to the places they worked for the vast majority of their careers:
New York region (Teams: 2 -- Giants, Jets)
Vinny DiTrani -- N.Y. Giants
Gary Myers -- N.Y. Jets
Dave Goldberg -- At-large (New York area, covered NFL)
Peter King -- At-large (New York area, covered Giants 4 years, then NFL)
California region (Teams: 3+ -- Raiders, 49ers, Chargers and Rams, 1946-94)
Nick Canepa -- San Diego
Frank Cooney -- Oakland
Nancy Gay -- San Francisco
John Czarnecki -- At-large (Orange County, covered Rams, then NFL)
Ira Miller -- At-large (San Francisco, covered 49ers and NFL)
Jim Trotter -- At-large (San Diego, covered Chargers, then NFL)
So do the math:
Two New York-area teams, four of the 44 voters from New York (if you count me as a New Yorker) ... 6 percent of the teams are from greater New York, and 9 percent of the voters.
Three California teams (I don't know quite how to count the Rams, who have been gone for 16-plus seasons), six of the 44 voters. If you count three California teams, and it's a difficult thing to do, because two Los Angeles Rams have been voted in since 2000, that's 9 percent of the league from California, and 14 percent of the voters.
Now let's say you don't think that's fair, because California's a big state, and you think to compare apples to apples, you ought to add in the rest of the Washington-to-Boston megalopolis. Fair enough. Then you'd add four more teams (New England, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington) and six more voters. The six voters: Ron Borges (New England), Paul Domowitch (Philadelphia), Scott Garceau (Baltimore), David Elfin (Washington), Jarrett Bell (at-large, Maryland) and Len Shapiro (at-large, Washington).
So the six teams on the Eastern Seaboard from Washington to Boston are represented by 10 voters, and the three teams in California by six voters.
Study the recent results, with as many Oilers (two) and Broncos (two) as New Yorkers since the turn of the century, and if you'd like to continue harping on New York or East Coast bias, you're welcome to do so. But you'd be wrong.
If Bob McGinn's high on the future of these Packers, then we all should be.
There is no local beat man I respect more than Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He never falls in love with the Packers when the rest of the world does, and he's always suitably skeptical about the locals. Wish I could think of a few examples, but I'm always impressed with a local beat person who can be exhaustively good and thorough -- two traits McGinn shows consistently -- while resisting the temptation, even in the best of times, to pump up the team. But when he likes something, he won't hesitate to write it. And I don't recall him ever being as high on a Packers team as he is now, and I mean high about the long-term future.
A few excerpts from a column he wrote for the Journal-Sentinel over the weekend:
"One of the most annoying remarks in sports is when a coach or a player for some down-in-the-mouth team says his goal is to win championships. If any player, coach or scout for the current Packers failed to use the plural case to state his objective, he would be guilty of grossly underselling the capability of what has been built in Green Bay or not telling the truth. I'm spending my first non-football weekend in what seems like forever trying to make sense of a team whose future appears brighter than at any time since the Lombardi era. Get ready, Wisconsin. You ain't seen nothing yet. Think about the 68 players (69 with Johnny Jolly) under contract to the Packers. Consider the coaching, the personnel department, management, financial resources, facilities and fan support. In all areas, Green Bay basically is as good as it gets right now ...
"Look at the overwhelming strengths of this team. The only thing that can stop [quarterback Aaron] Rodgers would be concussions or major injury. Jermichael Finley, 23, will be back wanting his piece of the action, and coupled with three ace wideouts in their mid-20s and perhaps venerable Donald Driver the Packers will have almost an embarrassment of receiving riches.
"Bryan Bulaga, just 21, didn't play a terrible game all season and should do nothing but get better. Josh Sitton, 24, is a robust, high-caliber guard. Center Scott Wells does the job, too. The 24-year-old [Clay] Matthews played hurt most of the year yet still was exceptional. Desmond Bishop is entrenched inside, but either Nick Barnett or A.J. Hawk will have to go because neither deserves to sit and neither has the height or weight to play right outside in a 3-4. Tramon Williams ... played at a Pro Bowl level, and Sam Shields is able to outrun many of his mistakes and improve dramatically as the nickel back. Nick Collins plays safety as well as anyone in the NFC. Nick Barnett will return. Old pro Charles Woodson will fit somewhere. Tim Masthay has a chance to become the Packers' best punter since Craig Hentrich ...
"They will average 26.2 years per man and 27.4 years per starter on Super Sunday ... Unless Thompson should retire prematurely, the Packers should have him finding the players, Mike McCarthy coaching them and Rodgers leading a formidable roster for years to come. Late last February, a personnel man for one of the four playoff semifinalists walked up to Thompson and told him that after careful study he had evaluated the Packers as the best team in the 2009 playoff field. Arizona and Kurt Warner extinguished the Packers' chances 12 months ago. The worthy Steelers could do the same thing next Sunday. No matter what happens, the Packers will not be going away ...
"So think Super Bowls, and think championships ... Nothing should be beyond the realm of possibility for what the Packers have assembled.''
Finally, there's going to be a Tweetup, with guests, this week in the Dallas area. Please send in suggestions for a 7:30 p.m. Thursday Tweetup. For those of you who don't know what that is, you come and meet me, and we talk for a while, and you come away enriched like you've just met the Dalai Lama. I'll probably bring some media guests (if you play your cards right, you may even meet Donnie Brasco and Mrs. Brasco), and maybe another surprise guest or two. Not sure yet.
But think of a public place, maybe a roomy bar or restaurant, where we could have a two-hour chat and get all your questions answered. I've already gotten suggestions from several of you to have it at the Flying Saucer in Addison, but other ideas are welcome. Send me your ideas on Twitter @SI_PeterKing, and I'll have the place picked out by Tuesday, and I'll let you know where via Twitter and in my Tuesday column here at SI.com.
No Fine Fifteen this week, due to the small, complicating matter of the lack of football games over the weekend. There will be a final Fine Fifteen next Monday, with Pittsburgh (currently number one) and Green Bay (two) battling it out. And I may take a few liberties with last week's list, as events of the offseason warrant.
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