Sunday, February 01, 2009

FINALLY, SOME POSITIVE NEWS for Dallas Cowboys fans on Super Bowl weekend: the original #22, Bob Hayes, is going to the Hall of Fame, part of a strong Class of 2009 that includes Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Randall McDaniel, Derrick Thomas and 2,000-year-old owner Ralph Wilson.

Once dubbed the World's Fastest Human as a track star at Florida A&M and an Olympic gold medalist before embarking on his NFL career in 1965, Hayes became better known as "Bullet Bob" as a wideout with Dallas -- literally a threat to score every time he touched the ball, a touchdown waiting to happen. He still holds the Cowboys record for receiving TDs with 71, catching 371 passes for over 7,000 yards, better than a 20 yards per catch average. And Hayes was also a dynamic punt and kickoff returner. As the spectacle of pro football was overtaking baseball as the national pastime, it was the attraction of larger-than-life characters like Bob Hayes that helped to tilt the scale in the NFL's favor. The sight of "Bullet Bob" streaking like a blur across your color TV screen was emblematic of the excitement offered by football on a weekly basis.

The thing about any Hall of Fame, whether football, baseball or even Rock & Roll (Sex Pistols yes, Aerosmith no) is that you know it when you see it; if you have to think long and hard whether a candidate deserves to be enshrined, they probably don't. All the players in this year's class fit the bill, but for Hayes it comes 34 years after his playing career ended, and almost 7 since he passed away in 2002 at age 59.

One finalist who didn't get in was Cris Carter. He seemed to be a consensus lock judging by sports talk radio, but I never thought Carter was ever one of the best receivers in the league during his time. His career numbers are very good, with 130 TDs and over 1,000 receptions over 16 seasons, and he will probably get in sooner or later, but I'm glad this loudmouth has to wait a while, especially after his repeated over-the-top anti-Cowboys rants. Most notoriously, Carter said on ESPN that if he was running the Cowboys, "I'd get rid of T.O. T.O. got to go from the beginning. Right from the giddy up. I take one bullet and put it right in him. Bam!" He later apologized, sort of, but who knows, maybe that mindless, classless comment cost him a few votes this year. Nowadays when we hear the words wide receiver and bullet, we probably think of Plaxico Burress and Cris Carter first before Bob Hayes, and that's a shame.

DE Bruce Smith had over 200 sacks during a 19-year career, helping lead the Bills to 4 straight Super Bowls in the 1990s. G Randall McDaniel went to 12 straight Pro Bowls as an offensive lineman with the Vikes. S Rod Woodson, even when he was playing, you knew this player was an all-time great DB. Chiefs' LB Derrick Thomas had 126 sacks in an 11-year career cut short in 2000 after a fatal car accident, including a record 7 in one game. He may have been a notch below LT as far as blitzing banshee outside 'backers, but it wasn't a deep notch, and his 45 forced fumbles are a good indication of what a handful Thomas was from an offensive game plan standpoint. Yet even "experts" like WFAN's Mike Francesa were giving Thomas very short shrift leading up to yesterday's announcement.

As far as the game itself today, Arizona will upset Pittsburgh and, almost more importantly, put a lid on the traps of all the insufferable Steeler fans. I'd be surprised if Pittsburgh's overrated defense can hold the Cards under 30. Steelers won't have the cold weather to help them in Tampa, and therefore I see it 34-16 in favor of the Cards, denying Pittsburgh's bid for a 6th Lombardi Trophy in the process.

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