Fifty-two years ago, the game couldn’t sell out the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum so those of us living in Los Angeles when the first Super Bowl game was played had to watch it on tape delay the following afternoon.
Then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wouldn’t allow non-sold-out games to be televised in their home markets.
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-10, in that first game and for good measure defeated the Oakland Raiders, 33-14, the next year to establish the National Football League’s supremacy over the upstart American Football League.
The following year, though, Joe Namath guaranteed his New York Jets would defeat the Baltimore Colts, who were favored by 17 points, and then backed up his guarantee with a 16-7 win, which was more about the Jets defense than Namath’s quarterbacking and the Super Bowl was on its way to becoming the biggest sporting event of the year in this country.
When the New England Patriots go up against the Philadelphia Eagles Feb. 4 at 3:30 p.m. on Channel 4, most of the nation will be watching.
It should be a game that goes down to the wire because that is the way the Patriots play the Super Bowl. This is the eighth time in 17 years the Patriots have played in this game. The biggest margin of victory by either team in those seven previous games is five points.
If I was a betting man I would pick the Patriots to win their sixth Super Bowl, surpassing the Pittsburgh Steelers as the all-time Super Bowl king.
The reason is simple: Tom Brady. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and Brady is a better quarterback than Nick Foles.
Brady is calm, cool and collected whether he leads by 25 points or he trails by 25 points, like he did in the third quarter of last year’s game before scoring the last 34 points to win in overtime.
The Eagles have a chance. They have a top-notch defense and an offense with playmakers like wide receivers Nelson Agohlor and Alshon Jeffrey, running backs Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount and tight end Zach Ertz, but the Patriots also have multiple weapons and they have been here before.
Look for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to take away the Eagles running game early and make Foles try to beat the Patriots with his arm.
On offense, the Patriots will spend the first half looking for weaknesses in the Eagles defense and then come out in the second half and exploit those weaknesses. It worked last year against a good Atlanta Falcons team and it should be good enough to defeat the Eagles without starting quarterback Carson Wentz.
Look for a 31-21 Patriots victory.
GRIFFIN GONE: The trade of Blake Griffin this week left many NBA followers perplexed, including this one.
Are the Clippers giving up on the season, even though they are only a half-game out of the playoffs at this time, or is this an example of addition by subtraction?
Griffin may be the best player the Clippers have had since they moved to Los Angeles more than 30 years ago. He’s definitely in the top five. Yet, during his career here the Clippers have never advanced far in the playoffs.
He has been prone 33-10 to injury in his nine-year career, appearing in more than 67 games in a season only three times and he has never been the player the Clippers looked at to score late in a close game.
For the last six years, that was Chris Paul. With Paul in Houston this year, the ball runs through Lou Williams at the end of close games.
The Clippers received guard Avery Bradley, forward Tobias Harris, center Boban Marjanovic, a protected first round draft pick this year and a second round draft pick next year for Griffin, back-up center Willie Reed and seldom-used forward Brice Johnson.
With the final trade deadline approaching, the Clippers will probably give us a good indication which direction they are headed. If they move center DeAndre Jordan and/or Williams before the deadline they are in full rebuild mode. If they don’t make any other significant moves, they are trying to reload instead of rebuilding.
Like the Lakers, the Clippers are trying to free up enough salary cap space to make a run for LeBron James this off-season.
COACHING AWARD: Crenshaw High School football coach Robert Garrett will spend his weekend in Minneapolis attending the Super Bowl as a guest of the National Football League.
Garrett, who coached Crenshaw to the 2017 CIF State Division 4-AA championship in December, was selected as the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year, by the NFL.
Garrett will receive $25,000 from the NFL Foundation, $15,000 of which will go to Crenshaw’s football program. Garrett will walk the red carpet at “NFL Honors,” a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally Feb. 3, the night before the Super Bowl.
Garrett was selected for the award by a panel that included Shula, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and retired quarterback Peyton Manning.
He was nominated for the award by the Los Angeles Chargers, whose roster includes two players he coached at Crenshaw, linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
“He’s turned Crenshaw High into a powerhouse over the 30 or so years he’s been there, but more than the wins and losses, it’s the number of lives he’s touched and the young men he’s mentored that matters most,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “That’s why he’s so deserving of this honor. And I can say that, without hesitation, because I’ve witnessed it first hand with Brandon and Hayes on our team. As men of great character and integrity, the respect and love they show for coach Garrett is telling.”
The award, named for the winningest coach in NFL history, was created to honor exemplary high school football coaches for their character and integrity, leadership and dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety and on-field success.
The Cougars were 12-3 in 2017, losing the Los Angeles City Section’s Open Division championship game to Narbonne, 48-7, but defeating Oceanside’s El Camino High, 13-10, for the Division 4-AA southern regional championship, and Auburn’s Placer High, 46-43, for the state title.
The NFL honors 32 high school coaches with the Don Shula Coach of the Year Award each year. Each team nominates a local coach for the honor.
The Rams nominated Bob Johnson, the father of former USC and NFL quarterback Rob Johnson as its candidate for the Shula Award.
Johnson retired at the end of the 2017 season from Mission Viejo High School in Orange County. He is the all-time leader in victories for a head coach in Orange County.
He also coached former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez at Mission Viejo.