Three 9-7 Teams in Super Bowl

With the Eagles currently floundering,  a look at three teams that went to the Super Bowl with 9-7 seasons gives me some hope

Los Angeles Rams  1979

In the six year period from 1973 to 1978, the Rams had three 10 win seasons and three 12 win seasons.  In the playoffs, either the Dallas Cowboys or the Minnesota Vikings kept them short of the Super Bowl.  Often they had defeated these teams during the season.  After 11 games in 1979,  Los Angeles was 5-6.  They had a three game losing streak.  It looked like their chance for  the playoffs were gone and coach Ray Malavasi would be elsewhere  in 1980.

Yet in the 12 week they began a four game winning streak.  So mediocre was the NFC West that Rams’ final game was a meaningless loss;  or as I call it an exhibition game during the season.   All of the games I refer to below,  both Regular and Post season,  were away games for the Rams.

First round at  Dallas.  The Cowboys were 11-5 for the season which included a 30 to 6 victory over the Rams.  As might be expected,  the Cowboys were heavily favored.   However, the Rams stayed close and won with a late touchdown pass, Vince Ferragamo to Billy Waddy.  The last week of the regular season saw Roger Staubach’s last miracle. He threw two touchdown passes in the last five minutes  to defeat the Washington Redskins 35 to 34.   Perhaps the Dallas Cowboys had an emotion letdown.


Losing to the Tennessee Titans 26 to 23

This loss yesterday to the Titans leaves me and others with a pain of loss and a dull ache in the stomach.  The way the Eagles played for most of the third quarter convinced me that this would be an easy victory.  The halftime score Philadelphia 10 Tennessee 3.  Our team took the second half kickoff and put on a classic drive that ended with a touchdown, Eagles 17 Titans 3.   They consumed seven minutes with one of the keys to victory  “Get the Defense Off the Field.”

The reason for this is simple. It takes 25% more energy to play defense than offense.  Fans want their team to spend $100 and want their opponents to spend $125.   It is easier for the offensive line to block than for the defensive line to stop a runner or rush the passer; and to run a pass pattern is much easier then defending  against the pass.  Instead the Eagles defense fell apart after spending seven minutes on the sidelines.

This defies logic and is not a sign of a good team.   The other problems were too many dropped passes and  poor pass protection for Carson Wentz.  Despite what I just said, the Eagles would have had a W with just one fourth down stop in overtime.  The Titans got first downs three times on fourth down and between 10 to 19 yards to go.

Now we have looked at many plays that determined the outcome of the game.   There was one play that caused us to lose.   On fourth down, the Eagles, from the own 44,  tackled the Titan runner for no gain.   Our team threw up their arms thinking they had won the game. One official threw a flag for defensive  holding.  Let’s not go into any details.

Regardless of what happens over the next 12 games, this loss hurts us real bad now and even more so in the future.






Eagles at Tampa Bay 2012

Six years ago the Eagles came to Tampa to face the Buccaneers.   It was obvious and inspiring  that a tremendous number of  Eagle fans attended the game.  From the cheers,  it was hard to believe this was a road game.  All this support for a team that lost eight consecutive games. The promising 3-1 start had turned into a nightmare.  All but the first two games in this awful streak , against  Pittsburgh and Detroit, were lopsided.

The Eagles got off to a 10 to 0 lead.  Jason Avant had two great catches making him look more like an outfielder than a wide receiver.   Then things began to fall apart with a fumbled punt return at the Eagles 10,  two missed field goals, and some holes in the secondary.   With four  minutes to play the Eagles trailed the Bucs 21 to 10.

The offense returned and Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes capping drives of about the same length, 60 yards.  The first was to Clay Harbor just in front of the End Line.  The two point conversion failed with Foles throwing just in front of Dione Lewis.  The second drive took them to the Tampa two yard line where Foles spiked the ball with two seconds on the clock.  NK then connected with Jeremy Maclin.  Maclin was so excited that he and a few others just ran to the 50 yard line to let off tension.

Andy Reid was happy to have this break in the late season gloom.  He expressed pride on the ability of Nick Foles to win in a come-from-behind mode.  Reid said that the Eagle fans in the crowd were awesome.  Like I said, he felt like he was at Lincoln Financial Field.  Like many victories in the Reid era this win should have been easier; but we were happy to have it. Philadelphia 23 Tampa Bay 21.

Bob Dole and John Lindsay


Combat experience and the horrors of war tend to unite individuals and even groups.  This happened to John Lindsay and Bob Dole when they came to the House of Representatives, within two years of each other.  While both were Republicans, they represented different political ideals.  John Lindsay, from the Eastern Liberal Establishment, came in January of 1959.  Bob Dole, from the then upstart Western Conservatives, came in January  of 1961.

Both were decorated veterans from WWII.  John Lindsay won five Battle Stars for the invasion of Sicily in the European Theater and for the invasion of the Philippines later in the Pacific   Dole won two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.  From their experience the two became fast friends.

Bob Dole noted that Lindsay, after only two years in Congress,  was already a standout in the Republican Caucus.  They worked together on some of the most important legislation of the Sixties.  This included the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 the Voting Rights and the Immigration Acts.

John Lindsay left the House winning the race for the Mayor of New York City in 1965 on a Fusion Ticket, Republican/Liberal.  In 1968,  when Dole first ran for the Senate, Lindsay had a great media presence as Mayor of New York.  Lindsay was tall, handsome, telegenic, and famous for walking the streets to maintain calm while other cities were erupting in racial conflict.

That year, 1968, Lindsay enthusiastically agreed to travel to Kansas to campaign for Dole.  There was great interest in this new political voice from the Eastern Liberal Establishment.   The turnout out was great at the Mission Hills luncheon.  The Mayor didn’t disappoint with a literate yet rousing speech for his long time friend.  Republicans raised $12,000 that day, the equivalent of $87,000 in 2018.

Later on later there paths diverged.  In 1969, Lindsay lost the Republican Primary in 1969 to State Senator John Marchi.  Lindsay did win on the Liberal Party ticket in both the Primary and General Election.  Lindsay and Dole remained friends.

Both the Senator and the Mayor showed the ability to compromise between the Conservative and Liberal Wings of the Republican Party. Today the Right Wing has become so dominant that their implied plank rests on ideas such as bigotry,  disregard for the constitution,  bloated defense budgets,  and concern for only the wealthy.



Late Hits on Runners

The NFL is gradually trying to make the game less dangerous.  Football will always be a violent sport but the changes to date should make a difference.  It is against the rules to spear or hit a runner when he is down.  A simple touch is all that is required.   It makes no difference whether he slips and falls on his own or is down by contact.

Let’s go back to the NFC Title game in 2003 at Lincoln Financial Field vs. the Carolina Panthers.  I will never forget the cruel hit from Greg Favors on a prostrate Donovan McNabb. The replay showed that Favors made no effort to slow down.  Quite the contrary, he dove into McNabb breaking his ribs.  That should been a half the distance penalty, a fine, and an ejection.   The Eagles did virtually nothing after that play and lost 14 to 3.

Six years later in 2009 at Carolina McNabb ran for a touchdown.  A Carolina player speared Donovan McNabb who was flat on his face.   As I recall Donovan missed two games from bruised ribs.   Officials cannot ignore plays like this in the name of  “letting them play.”  Rules are not made to be broken.


Paul Long II

Few remember that Paul Long  broadcasted games for the Pittsburgh Pirates on KDKA.  On radio only, this ace newsman relieved Bob Prince and Jim Woods for away games on television from 1957 to 1962.  Television was of course rather primitive in those days.

The Pirates never televised any home games and only about half of the road games.  On Sunday doubleheaders the first game was on television and the second on the full radio network.  I guess they used the term “full radio network’ to keep fans from feeling cheated   Long was in the booth only for the first game.  After that, he either went ahead to the next road game or came back to Pittsburgh.  The Pirates had to make good without him for the nightcap.

Mr. Long delivery was colorful, literate, and fair.  His deep baritone voice was well suited to baseball telecasts.  PL was enthusiastic about the Pirates but was always dignified.  He never acted crazy like Bob Prince.  Also unlike Prince, Paul Long stayed  on the subject and did not drift into some pointless story.  As you might expect, I turned the sound off on the television to hear Long’s announcing.  After 1962,  Paul Long’s tenure with baseball ended.  The Pirates added Claude Haring on a more extensive basis.  Haring was with the Pirates for every game and he was horrible.

In 1968, there was a mass exodus from KDKA to other stations both in Pittsburgh and other cities.  After about six months off, Paul Long became the head newsman for WTAE Channel 4, the ABC affiliate.  Leaving Pittsburgh in 1970, I saw Paul Long much less frequently.  I can tell you that the ratings for Channel 4 news improved drastically.

Obituary: Paul Long / Longtime voice of WTAE News dies at age 86 Saturday, July 13, 2002

azette Staff Writers

Paul Long, an anchorman with unconventional TV looks but a majestic voice and encyclopedic knowledge of news, died yesterday at Presbyterian Senior Care in Washington, Pa. He was 86 and had suffered from congestive heart failure.

WTAE News anchor Paul Long in 1989 (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

Mr. Long, a Texas native who once picked cotton for $1 a day and prided himself on losing his Southern accent, joined KDKA Radio in 1946 and added television to his repertoire a decade later. In 1969, he moved to WTAE, where he and Don Cannon forged a successful anchor team as pal Joe DeNardo forecast the weather.

“I never saw anybody better,” Cannon said of the broadcasting veteran affectionately called “The Old Man,” “Pappy” (after Pappy Boyington, the ace war pilot in the TV series “Black Sheep Squadron”) or “P. Long.”

“He had a physical presence. Everybody wanted to have his voice. He talked like the voice of God,” Cannon said. Indeed, Mr. Long later “spoke” for God in a Burgunder Dodge commercial.

Mr. Long retired from Channel 4 on Dec. 30, 1994, a month shy of his 79th birthday. He had been a reporter and anchor who later served as the station’s editorial voice and anchored its “Our Town” features.

Former WTAE news director Joe Rovitto said, “It wasn’t just the voice, it was the voice in combination with performance. Paul Long understood above all else that journalism itself was not enough. There also had to be a powerful, passionate performance that went along with it.”

Cannon, now a KDKA anchor, agreed Mr. Long “epitomized everything a TV anchor should be: He was smart, he knew what was going on. I learned early on never to get into arguments with him because I had no chance of winning, especially when it came to religion and airplanes.”

Although Mr. Long was known for his bald pate (a distinction that once prompted Johnny Carson to hold up Mr. Long’s photo on his late-night show) and for his glower and cigars that burned tiny holes in his clothes and once caused a minor fire in a newsroom wastebasket, he had a wicked wit and was a terrific writer whose e-mail messages boasted perfect spelling and grammar.

Mr. Long left his family’s farm in the tiny town of Como, Texas, at 16 for college. “My father lost his job as postmaster and couldn’t afford to support me any more in college,” Mr. Long told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But when I was there, I got into the drama class,” joined the choir and studied mechanical engineering because he wanted to learn to fly.

Paul Long takes part in a show being taped at WQED in September 1998. (Tony Tye, Post-Gazette)

With the help of his older brother, who sold his accordion and cashed in an insurance policy, Mr. Long took off for New York, where he spent three years pursuing acting jobs and working as a night clerk in a bakery. He appeared in a Broadway play called “Fickle Women,” which opened in December 1937 and closed the next night.

He eventually retreated to radio, working in Texas and then Louisiana, and later served as a flight instructor. When word came that KDKA Radio, whose powerful signal could be heard in Texas, was looking for a newsman, he got the job.

“I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Mr. Long said.

Mr. Long gained national notoriety on KDKA when he filed a report for NBC Radio’s evening newscast about a coal strike called in November 1949 by United Mine Workers leader John L. Lewis.

Mr. Long’s narration began: “John L. Lewis just shot Santa Claus. That’s what one miner told me this afternoon. And that seems to sum up the general feeling among all the boys who go down in the pits for a living.” Children were hysterical and Mr. Long’s follow-up clarified: “John L. Lewis shot at Santa — but he missed.”

In a 1988 issue of Executive Report magazine, Mr. Long said being a bald anchor had its privileges. “People figured if a guy looks like that, he must know what he’s talking about.”

Former WTAE anchor/reporter Adam Lynch remembered going out to cover a story where he met an older gentleman. “You’re getting all this stuff ready to take back to Mr. Long, aren’t you?” the man asked.

“That’s the way it was,” Lynch said. “I couldn’t be seriously angry or upset. That’s what Channel 4 wanted them to believe. It typifies the way the market thought of him, that Mr. Long ran the operation, and no one tried to dispel that notion.”

Cannon, who started working with Mr. Long in 1969 and stayed in touch until his death, remembers the first time he saw him on the air. Mr. Long had opened an 11 p.m. newscast with the dramatic report: “Frances Gumm is dead.” That was Judy Garland’s real name.

Paul Long was Channel 4 news anchor from 1969 to 1994. (WTAE photo)

Mr. Long’s first words to Cannon earlier that day had been: “You’re the guy from Chicago with the hair.” It was the beginning of a fruitful friendship and working relationship, dramatized in a memorable set of 1980s commercials in which one anchor stumbled and sent an arc of coffee flying through the air — and the other caught it in his cup without looking up from his work.

John Conomikes was the WTAE general manager who hired Mr. Long and, a few months later, lured DeNardo away from KDKA. He paid Mr. Long not to work for six months to sit out a noncompete clause in his KDKA contract. A few months after Mr. Long and DeNardo were on the air at Channel 4, Cannon joined them.

Conomikes said hiring Mr. Long put Channel 4 on the map.

“It gave us instant credibility overnight and our ratings went up 75 or 80 percent,” Conomikes said. “Paul Long was an icon [in Pittsburgh]. Back then he was better known for radio than television, but if anyone was going to challenge Bill Burns, it was Paul and Joe DeNardo.”

Mr. Long’s prowess — and mishaps — as a pilot were almost as legendary.

In April 1962, Mr. Long and two passengers walked away from the crash landing of a light plane in Westmoreland County. Mr. Long was piloting the Cessna 180, which came to a halt 15 feet from a house in North Huntingdon.

He had been returning from broadcasting the Pirates-New York Mets baseball game at the Polo Grounds. According to a possibly apocryphal account, Mr. Long got out of the plane, walked to the front door and introduced himself to the woman who answered.

“Madam, my name is Paul Long, may I use your telephone?” he asked.

“No, you can’t,” the woman replied. “And besides, I watch Bill Burns.”

At the time, Mr. Long said the accident wouldn’t stop him from climbing into the cockpit again.

He would often call DeNardo at the station before flying to get a weather report. But he wouldn’t accept the recommendations, just the information.

“He’d say, ‘Mr. DeNardo, I’m the pilot, you are the meteorologist. You tell me what the weather is. I will make the decision whether I fly or not,'” DeNardo remembered.

DeNardo worked alongside Mr. Long from 1960, when both appeared on KDKA-TV, until Mr. Long’s retirement. He had visited Mr. Long weekly since learning of his move to a nursing home in early November.

“Paul was my mentor when it came to what to do with respect to television and the scales and salaries and the chain of command,” DeNardo said. “He taught me everything. He was a continuous and ultimate professional. He would not lower his standards. He’d get into some [hellish] arguments to prove a point.”

Serious-sounding though he was, Mr. Long was a good sport when it came to his friend’s practical jokes.

DeNardo recalled Mr. Long’s penchant for leaving his keys in his car. One night, after Mr. Long had returned from dinner to prepare for the late news, DeNardo climbed into Mr. Long’s car and moved it to an upper parking lot.

After the 11 p.m. news, DeNardo exited the WTAE building to find Mr. Long.

“I’m looking for my goddamned car,” Mr. Long said.

“Well, you leave the keys in it all the time. It had to happen sooner or later,” DeNardo replied, before suggesting Mr. Long search the lower parking lot. While Mr. Long looked there, DeNardo raced to the upper parking lot and moved Mr. Long’s car back to where the anchor had parked it.

“He came back up, said, ‘I’ll be a son-of-a-…,’ and drove right off,” DeNardo recalled.

When anchor Sally Wiggin arrived at WTAE in 1981 from a station in Birmingham, Ala., she had an image of how anchors were supposed to look.

“Don looked like that. Paul did not, but he had a voice like an anchor,” Wiggin said. “Paul didn’t speak, he intoned and made pronouncements, and there was something lovable about it. He had this marvelous laugh.”

Although Wiggin never had a permanent seat next to Mr. Long at the anchor desk, she did fill-in work alongside him.

“Paul savored the language,” she said. “He didn’t just read the news. It wasn’t this machine gun rat-a-tat-tat.”

Friends and colleagues all had favorite Paul Long memories, like the time he fell asleep on the bleachers used for Paul Shannon’s children’s show and the day he read a story that colleague Eleanor Schano wrote, stood up in the newsroom and crankily inquired, “What in the hell is a youth?”

DeNardo also remembered the anchor’s tendency to wear the same suit several days in a row.

“One day he was going to go to Denver for the weekend, and Don Cannon and I were talking to him and I said, ‘Are you going to wear that suit?’ [And] Cannon said, ‘You’ve had that one on for 10 days.’ And he replied, in his bell-like tone, ‘They don’t know that in Denver.'”

Mr. Long is survived by his wife, Elaine, whom he met while she was singing at KDKA as a member of the Kinder Sisters. Although her first glimpse of Mr. Long was of a rumpled, scowling, balding man, he straightened up, looked at the women and said, “Good evening, ladies.” That kindled her attraction. Until recent health setbacks, the couple lived in Thornburg.

Mr. Long also is survived by a son, Chris of Baltimore, and a daughter, Holly Van Dine of Point Breeze.


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Paul Long-Pittsburgh News Man-Part I

It was a tossup on KDKA concerning Bill Burns and Paul Long over who was the better newsman.  Both men were on KDKA at the beginning of television and on the expansion of radio broadcasting.  Burns and Long shared a passion for the news in straight reporting, traveling around the metropolitan area to where an event took place, or on the panel for the Sunday Afternoon news show.  I remember the Pennsylvania News Conference which had reporters from both KYW Philadelphia and KDKA Pittsburgh interview some VIP.  Until 1994, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company owned both stations.

While both newsman were excellent, their styles and physical appearance were very different.   Never ostentatious, Burns was one of the best dressed personalities in the city.  Bill Burns was handsome and marvelously photogenic. Paul Long, an the other hand, wore suits straight out of Robert Hall.  His jackets had smoke holes in them and were either grey or black.   There was no imagination at all to his dress.  Paul Long was bald with the usual hair on the side.  His nose came to a point and there was a scar on the ride side of his face.

What Paul Long had though was a beautiful flowing baritone voice.  Long frequently extended the last word of a sentence for emphasis; and you not likely to forget what he said.  One area newsman called Paul Long the “Voice of God”. While Burns was only on television, Paul Long was on radio and TV.

On radio:

–Long was the anchorman for the  one hour news broadcast 60 to 6, Monday through Saturday.  This was the best news program in the city. Many preferred this to television.  Paul Long on various times did the hourly five minute news breaks.

–A fixture for me was the Sunday News at Noon.  It was good hearing this quarter-hour summary of news before listening to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers.   Paul Long plugged in commercials beautifully.  With your “….steammm iron use steammm aide.”

However, the Jones Brewing Company of Smithtown, Pa, brewers of Stoney’s Beer, was the best sponsor for the Sunday News at Noon.  There’s allot in a name sometimes even if it’s very common.  Shirley Jones owned the now defunct  Jones Brewing Company.  Their song went as follows:

Roll out  Stoney’s, fetch me my beer, pour out the Stoney’s, that’s why I’m here.  After the corny song,  Paul Long delivered the best line ever for any beer.  “Order Stoney’s from your favorite beer distributor.  And if he doesn’t have Stoney’s, how come he’s your favorite? “

On television:

–Paul Long and Tom Bender had supporting roles for Bill Burns for the 11:00 news Monday through Friday. Burns had the center stage reporting the news with the other two giving good support.  At the end of the news, Burns stated “Good Night, Good Luck, and Good News Tomorrow.”

–Each Sunday at 6:30, Channel 2 telecasted “Three Star News”.  Al McDowell reported the News.  Paul Long showed  how a specific news story might effect you.  Long relished this type of reporting.  It called for in depth analysis of the news.  He seemed able to relate the news to various levels of academic  study.  That was his gift.  TBC