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Cowboys are 'America's Team' for one reason

Posted Jul 21, 2014

Don't do one more thing than necessary in preseason

Patrick from Burlington, IL

You mentioned it’s hard to make a good football movie. “Remember the Titans” is one of my favorites. What are your favorite football movies?

I battled nausea through most of “Remember the Titans.” When they started singing at the end, I lost the battle. My favorite football movie is “The Program” because I didn’t think it was possible for Hollywood to make a movie that bad. I watch a movie such as “Hoosiers” or “The Natural” or “Field of Dreams” and I wonder why Hollywood can’t make a football movie of similar quality. I guess the answer is obvious: Football isn’t a good subject for making football movies. Boxing and baseball are great sports for making movies. Why not football? I think it’s because the drama that accompanies football is too intense to recreate.

Joe from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, I love the reminiscing about sportswriters of the past, especially Jim Murray. My favorite Murray quote came when he was railing about the inherent dangers of racing. He mused that the starting line for the Indy 500 should be changed to, “Gentlemen, start your coffins.”

If he wrote that today, the FDA (Funeral Directors of America, not to be confused with the FFDA, Federated Funeral Directors of America – I’m sure somebody will send me an angry email) would complain of insensitivity to bereaved Americans.

Jason from Pine Island, MN

Vic, I love researching the games you mention in your answers. In all your years of reporting on NFL games, what is the most impressive comeback by a team in a game?

It’s probably last year’s Dallas game. At halftime of that game, I gave the Packers zero chance of winning. I’m still stunned they won.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Vic, what do you think the Packers will be looking to get out of the preseason games?

Talent evaluation and preparedness are the goals. My philosophy of the preseason is that a team shouldn’t do one more thing than necessary. When a coach believes his team has achieved preparedness, it’s time to pull the plug on the starters and flood the field with reserves.

Tim from Fort Atkinson, WI

I’m just curious as to what your thoughts were on the USFL when that whole thing was going on?

My thoughts were then as they are now. If Donald Trump had stayed out of it, the league would eventually have played long enough and established itself enough as a threat to the NFL to have forced a minor merger of sorts that would’ve resulted in a few strong franchises being admitted to the NFL, as happened with the All-America Football Conference that gave us the Browns and 49ers (Colts, too, in a roundabout way). Trump is a great businessman, but football is a very different business from selling real estate or executing a hostile takeover. Smart businessmen that buy NFL franchises discover as much very quickly, and then step aside and turn their franchise over to football people. Trump killed the USFL with his trademark impatience.

Ian from North Hollywood, CA

Is there a football movie out there you feel really captures it?

There are scenes in two movies that capture football for me. The scene from “Rudy” that depicts the main character as a scout team beat-upon is well done. His desperation to be part of the team, the bias against him and the pity his combatant has for him is just as it is in real football. The makers of that movie scored their biggest hit with that scene, right down to the coaches’ performance in it. The other football movie scene that touched me is from “All the Right Moves.” It’s a movie to which I have some sensitivity because it’s largely from my past, and it employed a legendary high school coach as an advisor, which was a stroke of genius. The scene in which Craig T. Nelson delivers his pregame speech is spot on. Nelson’s team is from an old, dying steel town, and it’s about to play a big game against a rival school that is the product of a wealthy suburban merger. Nelson plays on that theme in a crude way this forum won’t allow me to describe. I remember hearing a similar speech.

Mark from Cherry Valley, IL

Now that the defense is trying to be more physical, don’t you think it’s time for the offense to play with the same attitude and physicality, like the Seahawks and 49ers?

Where were you last season? That switch has been flipped. It’s time for the defense to do the same.

Chuck from Seattle, WA

Vic, I imagine as a kid you collected TOPPS football/baseball cards. If you could have any card, for sentimental and not monetary reasons, which would it be?

I remember that it seemed every time I opened a new pack of cards, Roman Mejias was in it. I threw away a dozen or more Ramon Mejias cards. It got to the point that it angered me when I opened a pack and saw Roman Mejias. I wish I could go back into that corner store one more time, buy a pack of baseball cards and see Roman Mejias. I wouldn’t throw him away.

Dillon from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, I feel like you’ve been dodging this question for a while now. Is it OK for a grown man to cry during a sports movie?

Dodging that question? If you say so. No, it’s not all right for a grown man to cry during a sports movie. There’s way too much crying in sports, period. Every time somebody wins something, they cry. They even cry when they don’t win. Cry, cry, cry; everybody’s crying out there. Hey, it’s just a game.

Grant from Dubuque, IA

Vic, a team in London seems to be a sure thing now. Will we see other European cities getting teams over the years, or will football continue to be an American sport?

London will determine the answer to that question. If the NFL succeeds in London, other venues in Europe will open up for the NFL. Frankfurt would likely be one of them. This won’t happen quickly. The NFL will test and develop the London market slowly, procedurally. In my opinion, the ability to sell NFL apparel in London will be the leader of this movement. When London begins buying NFL jerseys, the hook will have been set and a move will be imminent.

Steve from San Diego, CA

Vic, my wife is giving me a Lombardi office in our remodeled house. She has the nameplate on the door, the kidney-shaped desk is about finished, the carpeting and walls are green and gold. What else do I need in that office to capture championships like he did?

Get one of those over-the-top 1960s ash trays.

Neil from Milwaukee, WI

Who could be this year’s Micah Hyde or Mike Daniels, meaning a mid-round rookie who makes a significant impact?

Richard Rodgers immediately comes to mind.

Jim from Pall Mall, TN

Will the old Packers sweep ever be executed the way it was with Taylor and Hornung, now that we have Lacy and other backs?

The sweep wasn’t about Taylor and Hornung as much as it was about Kramer and Thurston. You have to have guards that can get out in front of the backs. Kramer was 6-3, 245, and Thurston was 6-1, 247. Those guys could move and they were small enough to maneuver in traffic. Today’s guards are 70 pounds heavier and much higher cut than the pulling guards of yesteryear. It’s a different game. The guards of yesteryear had to be able to move because they couldn’t use their hands. They had to get guys out in space and cut them. Today’s guards are bigger and stronger and have a rules advantage Kramer and Thurston didn’t enjoy. Everything about today’s guards favors walling off instead of pulling out. It can be done once in a while, but not as a staple, as it was in the Lombardi era. As big as today’s guards are, their tongues would be hanging out of their mouths if they were made to run like that.

Mark from Bessemer, MI

Wondering why the 1966 Notre Dame/Michigan State game is that important to you.

It was the most hyped game of my lifetime. It started the previous year. All summer long, people were talking about the Notre Dame, Michigan State showdown. The weeks leading up to the game were tuneups. I re-watched some of that game on Youtube last week. It was beautiful football. The line play and the speed with which the backs hit the hole made today’s running games look slow and plodding. The tempo of the game was as though the two teams were playing to a metronome: break the huddle, down, set, hike. Playing for the tie is one of the most astute and courageous coaching decisions I’ve ever seen. People who don’t agree don’t understand or appreciate the circumstances. Terry Hanratty had been out of the game since the first half and his replacement, Coley O’Brien, was a diabetic and was running on fumes. Notre Dame entered the game No. 1 and had one game left on its schedule, at USC. Parseghian decided a win at USC would claim the national title for Notre Dame, and he was right. Oh, did he pile it on USC.

Jerry from St. Louis, MO

As I was growing up, the Dallas Cowboys were “America’s Team.” Today that title seems to belong to the Packers. Just how, why and when did this transition happen?

The Cowboys are “America’s Team” because they invented it. “America’s Team” isn’t a designation, it’s a publicity creation. Back in the 1970s, the Cowboys were the only team in the NFC that could compete with the best of the AFC. As a result, the Cowboys were CBS’ national game nearly every weekend. That’s what fueled the Cowboys’ popularity. The Cowboys were and still are the best marketers in the NFL.

Jared from Charles City, IA

Vic, do you see the first game against Seattle as a statement game if the Packers win, and that the game may set the tone for how the rest of the Packers season goes?

That’s what Packers fans would want to believe, but the answer to your question is that by October the result of that game will be largely ignored. New desperations surface every week.

Jake from Racine, WI

ESPN’s “Most Memorable NFL Play” vote has come down to Dwight Clark vs Franco Harris. I think we know who you would vote for, Vic.

Yeah, baby. Go Steelers! Take that, Spofford. Ice Bowl? Forget about it. It’s all about being a fan. No self-control here.

Oscar from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, I think we all know how important the referees are to this game. I’m sure the referees themselves know it, too, and will probably hold the league for ransom when it’s time to negotiate. What checks and balances exist, if they exist, to make sure the NFL doesn’t get gouged by the refs?

It’s time to be nice. Tough didn’t work.

Steve from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, why would Forrest Gregg be a left tackle in today’s game?

Left tackle is the dominant position on the line. Right tackle was the dominant position on the line in the 1960s. Gregg was a dominant lineman.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, how much should a player care about his own statistics? If it’s written into a player’s contract that he’ll get paid more if he meets certain statistical goals, will that make him care too much about his own stats, to the team’s detriment?

Whatever it takes. If a player aspires to statistical goals, give him some statistical goals. Find his buttons and then push them. That’s what good coaches do.

 

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