Here is a story I wrote for SmackApparel.com about the recent -- and lively -- rivalry between SEC West foes Alabama and LSU.
For the Super Bowl’s 50th anniversary, there are bound to be some retrospective books. The first one I’ve seen will prompt plenty of lively debate and discussion. The book is hefty and the title is ambitious, but “50 Years, 50 Moments: The Most Unforgettable Plays in Super Bowl History” (Dey St.; hardback; $29.99; 446 pages) is an enjoyable look back at pro football’s biggest game.
Written by Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice and sportswriter/author Randy O. Williams, the book counts down the 50 most memorable plays in Super Bowl history. Packed with vivid color photographs and a lively narrative, “50 Years, 50 Moments” is gold mine for NFL history junkies.
Rice is one of those junkies.
“I’m a student of the game and feel that players back in the day made the sport what it is today,” he writes.
Rice and Williams interviewed players, coaches, executives and broadcasters and compiled a list of 50 signature moments or performances. All the good ones are included.
There are key interceptions, like Malcolm Butler’s game-saving pick in Super Bowl XLIX, James Harrison’s 100-yard theft and return for a score in Super Bowl XLIII at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium and Jack Squirek’s big play before halftime that turned Super Bowl XVIII (also in Tampa) into a rout.
Great runs are included, like John Riggins’ fourth-down burst for a touchdown in Super Bowl XVII and Marcus Allen’s 74-yard TD run the following season. Oh yeah, and William “The Refrigerator” Perry’s 1-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XX.
The catches of Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and David Tyree are covered, along with the passing of Joe Montana, Phil Simms, Doug Williams — and Garo Yepremian.
Special teams thrills come alive again, like the Saints’ surprise onside kick to open the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, or Desmond Howard’s record-setting 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXI. Readers can relive the jubilation of Jim O’Brien, whose field goal won Super Bowl V for the Baltimore Colts.
Even the heartbreaking, frustrating moments are included, like a wide-open Jackie Smith dropping a pass in the end zone, or Scott Norwood’s wide-right field goal attempt that denied Buffalo a victory against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. Or a wide-open Jimmy Orr, waving his hands futilely near the goal line during Super Bowl III, signaling he was open to Earl Morrall. The Colts’ quarterback did not see Orr and threw instead toward Jerry Hill, but his pass was intercepted by Jim Hudson and the Jets held on to a 7-0 lead at the half.
Team efforts are praised, like the Miami Dolphins’ near-perfect game (except for the Yepremian gaffe) in Super Bowl VII, which completed a perfect season; and the 49ers’ goal-line stand against Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI.
What makes this book enjoyable is the authors’ attention to detail. My favorite memory from this book is called “The Swat.” In Super Bowl XVII, Joe Theismann’s alert play prevented Miami’s Kim Bokamper from intercepting a batted ball and running for a touchdown. With Miami holding a 17-13 lead at the time, a touchdown would have made a Redskins comeback difficult.
The only thing missing is the Leon Lett fumble, but that was more comical than memorable.
Each chapter has a complete boxscore with starting lineups and game statistics.
“I learned more than I ever thought I would about the game I love,” Rice said.
He’s right. Even hardcore football history buffs are certain to learn a thing or two.
So what was the authors’ choice as the greatest moment in Super Bowl history? I am not going to play spoiler, but you probably won’t be surprised — I guarantee it.
With Valor football, Topps continues to play up the attributes most of us admire in football players — courage, strength, speed, discipline and of course, valor.
With a gold foil “V” in the top left-hand corner of every card (the shield analogy is impossible to miss), Topps lends a military air to this set of 2015 cards, which should appeal to collectors whose spending falls in the mid-range.
A hobby box will contain 20 packs, with six cards to a pack. Topps is promising four hits per box, including an autograph and auto/relic card.
The base set will be 200 cards, with Speed parallels exclusive to hobby packs and falling approximately one to a pack. As it turns out, I pulled 16 Speed parallels. The others I pulled were Courage (Paul Hornung, numbered to 299), Discipline (Giovani Bernard, numbered to 199), Glory (C.J. Anderson, numbered to 99), and Strength (Brandon Scherff, not numbered).
Collectors also can find Valor parallels, along with 1/1 Heart parallels.
The hobby box I opened had 76 base cards, with a nice mixture of stars, legends and rookies. Star cards included Richard Sherman, J.J. Watt, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr. and Ndamukong Suh. Legends like Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, John Elway, Lawrence Taylor and Bob Lilly also were included, along with 16 rookie cards.
The hits were as advertised, with some nice thick cards to go along with a sticker signature. I still don’t like stickers. I understand the need for them; it doesn’t mean I have to like the idea. Beats waiting for a redemption card, I suppose. But on-card signatures with this design would have really looked great.
The first hit was a sticker autograph card of Jaguars wide receiver Rashad Greene, numbered 429/800. This was the thinnest of the four hot cards, basically the same as base cards.
The second hit was a Shield of Honor autographed patch card of Jets quarterback Bryce Petty, numbered 608/800. The sticker autograph also included a multi-colored swatch, of mostly green with a thin strip of white. There were only two cards in this pack; the second was a Speed parallel of Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart.
The third hit was also one of two cards in the pack. This one was a patch card of 49ers running back Mike Davis, numbered 063/289. It was another example of a two-color swatch, with red the dominant color along with a white stripe (wider than what was displayed on the Petty card) on the left-hand side.
The final hit was a jumbo relic card of Seattle’s Tyler Lockett, numbered 55/99. This card is not as thick as the other two relic cards, but certainly thicker than the base cards. A die-cut photo of Lockett is positioned at the card center, with a background of a white jersey swatch taking up most of the card.
In addition to the Speed parallels, I pulled a few more out of the hobby box I sampled.
There was Courage (Paul Hornung, numbered to 299), Discipline (Giovani Bernard, numbered to 199), Glory (C.J. Anderson, numbered to 99), and Strength (Brandon Scherff, not numbered). Collectors also can find Valor parallels, along with 1/1 Heart parallels.
There were three Gridiron Warrior inserts. These are cards that spotlight the toughness of 25 retired and current players.
Topps Valor is an affordable set with some decent hits. The design, particularly the background of the card, sometimes looks like impressionist painting. But while the cards will never be mistaken for a Van Gogh, Valor still paints a pretty picture.
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.