“The Streak” Gives Way To A New Streak

Iowa City Regina after winning their 4th straight Class 1-A football title. (Benjamin Roberts / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

On Friday, November 22nd, the Iowa City Regina High School football team won their fourth straight Class 1-A state football championship. More importantly, they accomplished two more things: they broke a 41-year old record and, if you are willing to accept the Iowa High School Athletic Association‘s interpretation of the record book, they tied another record.

IC Regina head coach Marv Cook. Cook has done something that only one other has done...reel off a winning streak for the history books. (Des Moines Register archives)
IC Regina head coach Marv Cook. Cook has done something that only one other has done…reel off a winning streak for the history books. (Des Moines Register archives)

Huh? Here’s an explanation.

Regina’s win was their 56th in a row. They eclipsed the longest winning streak record of 55, which was set by East Waterloo, my alma mater, from 1965 to 1971. The second one? Regina tied East for the longest unbeaten streak in state football history at 56.

There were no overtime procedures and no playoff format until 1972. Therefore, the IAHSAA credited schools with ties.

How ironic that the topic of ties in football just happened to be the water cooler topic on Monday?

Yes, Iowa did not have a playoff system.  Before 1972, the media pollsters determined who was the state champ in each class at the end of the season (9 games).

What Iowa City Regina did is amazing and spectacular. I’m happy that they did it, because records are meant to be broken.

With that in mind, I feel it’s appropriate to recognize what East High did, because it’s a story worth talking about.

How important was “The Streak” to East High, Waterloo, and Iowa prep sports?

Plenty, when you consider the events the world would see between October 1965 and November 1971.

The buildup in Vietnam and social unrest in America was starting to percolate in the fall of 1965 when East High traveled to play Cedar Rapids Regis in Week 8.  The game ended in a 6-6 tie.  It was an up and down season for the Trojans, with one game remaining against their crosstown rivals, West High.  Beating the hated Wahawks would be a fitting end to the ’65 campaign.  The Trojans won 40-7 and ended the season with a record of 4-4-1.

The start of the 1966 season brought some uncertainty.  The Trojans had talent and great players.  They started the season against Burlington with a 53-0 win.  Right off the bat, something was special about the ’66 squad.  Win after win, in dominating fashion.  East went 9-0 and were declared the state mythical champions in 4-A.  It was their first mythical title since 1941, and their second ever undefeated season. Remember, the playoffs didn’t start until 1972.

Howard Vernon was East’s coach from 1962-68. “The Streak” began under his tenure. Vernon later on became the long-time principal at Iowa City High. He was inducted into the East High Football Ring of Honor in 2013 and recently honored with a bust at City High. (Courier file photo)

The following year, 1967, ended up the with the same result:  an undefeated team.  Something was brewing in Waterloo, and it wasn’t a tea party. Against Dubuque Wahlert, East’s defense held the Golden Eagles to a minus 64 total yards.

The spring and summer of 1968 dramatically changed the American societal landscape.  The assassinations of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., anti-war demonstrations over Vietnam, racial riots, and the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago put America in a vastly different paradigm that would leave lasting impressions to this day .

The aforementioned events played a pivotal role as East started the ’68 season.

In a Week 1 home game against St. Joseph’s of Chicago, Illinois, a scrape between fans erupted in the East High stands.  Minutes later, it became a full-scale brawl.  Before both teams knew it, the entire home stand at Sloane Wallace Stadium was empty, as the fights spilled into the streets.  The teams kept playing…in front of a near empty stadium. The east side of Waterloo turned into chaos, as the riot got bigger and uglier.

The National Guard was called in to stop rioters from looting. In one instance, early in the season, East moved one of their home games to an out-of-town opponent’s stadium and play a 3:00 pm game, so that the team could return home before a city-wide curfew at sundown.

And yet, it didn’t distract the Trojans at all, except for close wins against Ames, a shootout over Ft. Dodge, and a 28-27 win over crosstown rival West in a battle between #1 vs. #2. East captured their third mythical 4-A title over football powerhouses Dowling Catholic, Sioux City East, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, and Davenport High (now Davenport Central).

Jerry Moses, father of popular ISU star J.J. Moses and Milan Moses, was a three year starter for East (;67-’69) and was an first-team All-State and named High School All-American. (Waterloo Courier file photo)

The 1969 team was, in the opinion of many at that time, the most dominant football team in state history. With Jerry Moses at running back, the Trojans ran roughshod on everyone in their path. It’s much like what Dowling, Valley, and Ames did this season…racking up points like a pinball machine. In fact, Valley’s 88-0 win over Council Bluffs Jefferson this season was the most points scored by a 4-A team since East High’s 98-6 demolishing of Newton in Week 2 of the ’69 season.

The ’69 squad held the IAHSAA record for the most team points scored with 504, Moses alone scored 244 of those points himself.

The 1970 and 1971 seasons were no different. The 1970 game versus West was televised on KWWL-TV, which was reported to be the first for the station. An overflow crowd of 9,000 packed Sloane Wallace Stadium to see East pull out a 20-9 win. In Week 4 of 1971, Cedar Falls was leading by two touchdowns late in the 4th quarter, when East moved the ball on the ground and scored twice for a memorable 25-24 win.

The 1972 Munich Olympics, marred by the kidnapping and massacre of 11 members of the Israel Olympic team, shocked the world. However, one of the positive stories of the Olympics was Dan Gable winning the gold medal in wrestling…without giving up a single point. Gable was a West High grad and all of Waterloo was glued to their television sets to watch him put his opponents on their backs.

While East football had their streak, West High had their own streak going in wrestling under the great Bob Siddens. From 1968 to 1975, the Wahawks won 88 consecutive dual meets. That record held until Dowling Catholic ran off 136 in a row. Gable, Dale Anderson, and the Bowlsby brothers (John and current Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob) were on those amazing squads.

Bob Siddens and Dan Gable. Siddens and West High had their own winning streak going. They won 88 straight dual meets from ’68 to ’75. (InterMatWrestling.com)

East kicked off the new season against Sioux City East on September 8th. After East scored first, Sioux City East responded with a score of their own. When the final horn sounded, the Black Raiders upset the Trojans, 7-6. A missed PAT was the difference.

When Gable arrived home at the Waterloo Airport, he was given a hero’s welcome. But he wasn’t the only big story in town, as everyone was abuzz about East losing for the first time since October 1965.

When East went on their winning streak, there was no playoffs, no overtime, and no internet. Also, this occurred during the most turbulent time in American history.

East High’s winning streak was unique and special, given the events of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. For one, East was and remains one of the most diverse high schools in the state. Despite their racial differences, the players on those squads played together and represented Waterloo and it’s citizens.

They provided pride where there was discord. The fans packed Sloane Wallace Stadium every game to support East. With all of the distractions surrounding them, how East High continued to win during this era is nothing short but amazing.

Congratulations to the Regina Regals for being the team to finally break the record. Forty-one years is a long time and many teams have attempted it, but fell short many times. I hope that you start the 2014 season off with a win. Records are meant to be broken.

Playbook: Lessons From John Madden

John Madden

I am currently reading “Madden:  A Biography” by St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist and HBO “Real Sports” contributor Bryan Burwell about NFL Hall of Fame  (HOF) coach and television analyst John Madden.   

Believe it or not, Madden’s great-grandfather moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa in the 1800’s, settling outside of Eldora.  One of his childhood friends is former USC and Los Angeles (St. Louis) Rams coach John Robinson. 

Madden is more than a great coach, commentator, and the name behind one of the best-selling video game franchises ever. 

John Madden to me, is one of the most creative leaders in sports history.  Beyond the big goof and “rumblin’ stumblin'” persona, Madden’s love of sports growing up helped him become one of the best coaches in football.  

Madden during his tenure as Raiders coach. I’m digging those sansabelt slacks from the ’70s.

There are several points and moves Madden made during his playing, coaching, and television career that made him, in my opinion, a creative and innovative mind. 

– Player’s coach:  the 1960’s brought a seismic shift of societal attitudes, specifically in the NFL.  John Madden brought a new philosophy of coaching that was in contrast to the buttoned-down conservative task-mastering of Vince Lombardi and George Halas.  Madden had three rules for his players:  

“Be on time.”

“Pay attention.”

“Play like hell when I tell you to.”   

Three simple rules, but it signaled a change in the locker room and how coaches and players interacted.  Madden didn’t scream at his players or demean them like an army general.  Former Raider Monte Johnson added another line that his coach told his players:  “I am interested in what you do Monday through Friday.  But I care greatly about what you do on Sunday.”  Madden was always interested in what his players did after practice (most of it was wild and crazy), and what they thought about topics and families. 

Madden had the foresight to understand that his players had lives away from the practice field and were adults.  So whatever they did during the week was fine, but as long as they showed up and performed on Sunday, that was important to him. 

One of John Madden’s requirements when he agreed to launch the Madden video games was that the video game had to resemble the actual game to the smallest detail.

Know what everyone’s job is:  When he sustained a knee injury that ultimately ended his playing career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Madden would finish rehab in the mornings and head into the bowels of old Franklin Field and watch game film with another Hall of Famer, quarterback Norm Van Brocklin.  Van Brocklin was the first to open Madden’s eyes to understanding how the play developed, as well as knowing what every single player’s responsibility was on the play. 

It fueled Madden’s passion for pro football in a way that helped him in the next chapter of his life:  coaching. 

Managing “Renegades”:  Madden was never a fan of conformity, but as a coach, he had to manage a team full of non-conformists that all bought into playing as a team.  Pat Toomay recalled how Madden had to handle John Matuszak, who was from time to time out of control.  Contrary to public perception, yes the Raiders played aggressively, crossed the line of “dirty play” occasionally, but consider this:  in 5 of the 10 years Madden was coach, the Raiders were one the least-penalized teams in the league.  That is attributed to the rules that were in place at that time in the NFL. 

Today, no team wouldn’t be able to get away with what they did over 40 years ago.

The greatness of the Raiders during Madden’s tenure.

Secondly, Madden preached repetition during practice.  Despite his sometime disheveled appearance, Madden was a perfectionist.  The team would run a play over and over in practice until every player knew what they were doing. 

-“Do your homework”:  After retiring as Raiders coach, Madden was approached by CBS to be a color analyst for their NFL games.  Madden noticed that CBS had a lackadaisical approach and attitude when it came to covering and broadcasting NFL games.  With the arrival and help of a new producer, Terry O’Neil, Madden and O’Neil changed how CBS broadcasted the games.  Today, all announcers, analysts, producers, and the entire game crew would spend the entire week watching game film, learning and understanding the “game” so it wouldn’t be foreign to them.  

Madden strongly felt that viewers wanted to see the game, not “entertainment”. Being a football man, he demanded that the television crew that was assigned to work with Summerall and him learn what plays were being run, what the defensive scheme is, and what to expect on the next play.   

Below is the first game that John Madden and Pat Summerall called on CBS.  (Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay, Week 13, 1979)

Madden bringing his coaching instincts to television rubbed off on Pat Summerall.  Summerall and the late Tom Brookshier would go out on a Saturday night, get ripped, head to the broadcast booth on Sunday, and call the game while drinking cocktails.  When O’Neil confronted Summerall and told him that his party days were over and his new partner was going to be different from Brookshier, Summerall wised up. 

Strengths and weaknesses:  Before the pairing of Pat and John, Madden was originally paired with Vin Scully (yes, Scully called NFL games for a while).  Madden realized quickly that Scully was great, but Scully was a baseball guy at heart.  Madden was a football guy.  The marriage, long-term, wasn’t going to work.  O’Neil knew this as well, but from the viewpoint of announcing styles.  Scully’s a wordsmith, Summerall’s a minimalist.  Pat could summarize a play in a few words and John could explain the play in detail. 

Plainly speaking, Madden believed that everyone who is working a football game should be focused on the the sport they are covering most of the time.  To John, it was football.  To Vin, it was baseball. 

The old #1 CBS NFL announcing team, Tom Brookshier (left) and Pat Summerall. Brookshier would be replaced with John Madden.

Right place, right time:  One day in 1966, a NFL executive visited San Diego State University to watch a practice.  Madden was a defensive coach for the Aztecs.  He was working on a defensive scheme to stop South Dakota State’s “wing-T” offense.  Madden was so excited about what he figured out, when the executive walked over, the burly red-headed assistant coach showed him.  The executive was not only impressed, but he added a suggestion to add to the scheme. 

Several days later, the Aztecs defeated the Jackrabbits. 

The executive:  Al Davis

A year later, Davis hires Madden as an assistant.  The following year, Madden becomes Head Coach.

There are several more takeaways about how John Madden’s life and career is a playbook for leadership, creativity, and being prepared, but I highlighted the key points about why Madden has left an indelible mark on pro football and away from the field.

The “Power” of Gus

Coldplay

Over the past week, Coldplay and Nickelback provided lessons in creating and cultivating your brands in social media.  The main idea is, by combining what Michael Wagner and the Ad Mavericks gang have written, that if you continue to create and cultivate your brand, the more people will gravitate towards it, via traditional or social media. 

I don’t listen to Nickelback or Coldplay.  The only facts I know about both groups is that Tiger Woods listen to Nickelback, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow is married to Chris Martin, Coldplay’s lead singer. 

While I don’t know much about these two muscial groups, I do know about sports.  And in the world of sports, there is one person who comes awfully close to what Coldplay and Nickelback are doing to stay creative, getting their brand out, and using social media to gain traction. 

Mr. "Rise and Fire!" has become popular with a soundboard named after him. Click and see the power of Gus.

And that man is Gus Johnson

Johnson is a sports announcer for CBS, the Big Ten Network, and Showtime.  If you haven’t seen or heard his work, I call attention to this clip…

…and this one…

What does Gus Johnson have to do with Coldplay, Nickelback, branding, marketing, and social media? 

  • Presence:  Gus is blowing up virally and on social media.  When someone finds out what game Johnson is calling next, everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms will know it within minutes. 
  • Popularity:  though he isn’t in the elite class of announcers like Jim Nantz, Al Michaels, or Joe Buck, Gus is the one announcer fans want doing the Final Four, the Super Bowl, or all of the big games. 
  • Marketing:  Johnson is taking advantage of his notoriety in a big way.  The Big Ten Network has made him their #1 guy for their marquee conference games.  He has his own clothing line, appropriately titled “Rise and Fire”, and he’s the voiceover for the Buffalo Wild Wings commercials. Also, he will be the voice of the new EA Sports‘ Madden ’11 NFL video games.

 Johnson, for all intensive purposes, has become a phenomenon, as well as a trending topic in sports, as it relates to social media.

A Season in the Pressbox

The UNI-Dome

Walking through the northeast doors Friday night, I can still feel the tingling of how special it is to be inside the UNI-Dome.  There is a certain ring inside that structure that tells you that you have made the “big time”.  For high school football players across the state of Iowa, the building the UNI Panthers call home is where you want to end your season and/or career at.

With a state championship in your hands.

Friday afternoon was the first time I’ve been in the Dome for a playoff game since 1991, when my high school lost in the 1st round of the playoffs to our crosstown rivals.

As many of you may not know, this season I have been stringing scores and managing the Twitter feed for KWKY-AM radio, covering the Dowling Catholic Maroons.  Every game this season, except one, I’m in the booth with play-by-play announcer and everyone’s friend Paul Yeager, analyst Dave Marcoulier, sideline reporter Brian Morris, and in-studio producer/engineer Tim Burrow.

 

Paul, Dave, and Brian (standing) doing the post-game show after Friday night's semifinal game between Dowling Catholic and Ankeny at the UNI-Dome.

 

In the past, as a student manager at Wartburg, I observed how a pressbox operated on game day.  It can be described as “controlled” chaos.

Until this season, I did not comprehend how much work goes into calling and covering a game, to tell the voluminous stories of Friday nights in the fall.

For many of us fans, we think that picking up a microphone and calling a game is easy.

It’s not.  You are multi-tasking as you are describing the action in front of you.  You’re keeping stats, talking to your color commentator, checking to see if your sideline reporter has an update on the field, and constantly receiving updates from other key games that could have a direct impact on the game you are calling.

 

Dowling Catholic leaving the field after a 24-21 win over Ankeny in the Class 4A semifinals Friday night.

 

In my role as a stringer, I go online and find the latest updates on every game in Class 4A across the state.  I grab the score, and give them to Paul when he needs it.  If a big play or if a team scores in our game, we return the favor by posting it on Twitter to our followers and fellow colleagues.

The hashtag for high school football here is #IAHSFB (Iowa High School Football).  It makes it easy for anyone to follow the football stream, rather than shifting through their regular tweets to find out what’s going on.  What you have to do is go to the search box, type in “#IAHSFB”, and you’ll see what was tweeted throughout the night.

I could go on, but I want to show you some pictures I’ve taken throughout the year from the various pressboxes we have been too this season.

 

Council Bluffs Stadium

 

 

Waukee Stadium

 

 

Duke Williams Stadium at DSM East High

 

 

Valley Stadium

 

 

What happens when you have too many people in a small pressbox? Here's an example. This is the pressbox at Williams Stadium.

 

 

Here's Paul, Brian, and Dave during the pre-game show.

 

 

Lord Football Has Returned

Will the Hoover Huskies (green) turn things around on the gridiron? We'll find out tonight when they host Indianola at McGrane Stadium.

August might be the dog days of summer, but to millions of us, August gives us an opportunity to prepare, plan, and salivate at the notion that our favorite time of the year has graced us with its blessings again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, August marks an important month in the lives of a large sector of our fellow Americans. It’s a huge part of who we are, what we believe in, and in most cases, no one can object to. There is aura in the air anytime we think of this occasion and the next six months we’ll spend enjoying it like a deity.

Tyler "Bleeper Bleeping" Sash will be patrolling the defensive backfield for your Hawkeyes.

Kids, it’s Christmas Time once again.

Football’s back.

Lord Football returns, giving us gifts of hard hits, big plays, and fantasy action.  The Lord doesn’t discriminate, nor does he plays favorites.  The game of football is for all to embrace, with its pageantry, the scenery, and the countdown to kickoff.  Oh the wonder! Athlon, the NFL Network, the Iowa Prep Fanatic, and College Gameday.  Facepaint, pom-poms, and pulling out that old team jersey on game day.

It’s about the Bears, Chiefs, Packers, and Vikings.  It’s about the Hawkeyes, Panthers, Cyclones, and Bulldogs.  It’s also about the Storm, Mustangs, Kohawks, and yes, Knights .  It’s too hard not to include the Maroons, Bluejays, Scarlets, and Huskies.  For a certain few, it’s the Titans, Hurricanes, or the Rocks of Rock Island.

Monmouth (red) remembers how Wartburg (white) ended their playoff season on this touchdown catch by Justin Vetter in 2008. The rematch is on September 4th in Waverly.

Our nation should deem August 1st as an official start to the football season every year because this game, football, is one of passion, loyalty, and pride.  You rejoice on every touchdown, you cringe when they fumble.  You cry when they lose and yes, you cry when they win.

Football is a game that bring those from and far and wide to catch up on life, dissect each play, and come up with catchy chants to put down the opposing team.  Yes, my brethren, it is time for football.  No longer shall August be the dog days of summer as it has been referred to.

Get ready to take the field and march towards touchdowns galore!

The Anatomy of Tim Tebow

The 2010 version of "Everybody's All-American", Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow is not your ordinary student-athlete.  The senior, who attends the University of Florida, is unique.  He was the quarterback for the Gators.  Tebow was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.  He is regarded as a natural-born leader on the field.

He’s also a son of missionary parents, performed circumcisions during the summer on a missionary trip, and he’s a virgin.  Keep that in mind, ladies.  He might be someone to take home for dinner and let mom gush all over about.

That’s just the good qualities and the stuff everyone likes about him.

NFL pro scouts will tell you that he doesn’t have a great arm, doesn’t take snaps under center, and is not a “prototypical” NFL quarterback material.  Don’t blame him for his major drawbacks, except for his throwing arm.  What NFL scouts lazily have not taken into consideration is that Tebow played in a spread-option system, devised by his coach, Urban Meyer.  Don’t you think his coach has some responsibility in the style that Tebow plays?

Did you know that he’s going to be in a commercial on Super Bowl Sunday with his mom, Pam?  His mom will speak about on how she, against the advice of her physicians, opted to give birth to Tim and risked her health after she contracted a tropical ailment.  She was advised to have an abortion.  She made the decision not to do the latter and gave birth to Tim.

It should not be a surprise that the conservative religious group, Focus on the Family, is the sponsor of the commercial and is paying the moolah to have CBS run the ad.  Never mind the fact that the head of FOTF is Dr. James Dobson, a well-renown minister who seems to embrace being controversial when it comes to pushing religion into the political world and his anti-gay remarks.

What is interesting is on how Tebow is getting heat for “taking a position.”  Is he taking a position by being in this upcoming commercial, even if his mom and him never uttered the word “abortion”?  Does that makes him “intolerant” to those who are pro-choice?

Sally Jenkins, acclaimed sports writer for the Washington Post

Outstanding national sports writer Sally Jenkins, who is highly regarded for her stellar writing about women and sports, penned a thought-provoking column on Tuesday about Tebow and the commercial, as well as another topic that the media and fans talk about, but are split 50/50 over:  athletes taking a stance on issues.

Jenkins, on the Tony Kornheiser Show (M-F, 9am-11am, ESPN 980-AM) called out the Women Media Center and the National Organization of Women (NOW), a group that she has sided with on many issues in the past, for being idiotic for protesting the Tebow ad.  Jenkins and Kornheiser concurred that commercials with women wearing bikinis selling beer is less offensive to NOW than a 22-year old kid talking to his mom about her choice to risk her life and give birth to him.

To hear Mr. Tony and Sally, below is the link from Wednesday’s Part 1, and fast forward to the 17:05 mark of the clip to hear the interview in it’s entirety.

Sally Jenkins on the Tony Kornheiser Show

Jenkins brought up something else that merit discussion.  We, as a society, demand that athletes get out of their protective shells and gated communities and take a stand on issues like politics, poverty, economics, and religion.  When athletes do speak and take a non-sports position, we jump all over them for coming out saying what’s on their minds.  It’s hypocritical for us to demand that they speak out, but then act shocked and angry when athletes say what’s really on their minds.

We can’t have it both ways with athletes.

Either we want to hear from them or we leave them alone.  Plain and simple.  What sense does it make that we clamor and expect for Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan to be this generation’s Jim Brown, but Tim Tebow isn’t allow to profess his faith, his vow to remain chaste, and have everyone know that his mom made a choice to give birth or not?

NOW has crusaded for over 40 years for women to be allowed to make a choice regarding pregnancy, without government intrusion.  Pam Tebow made the decision on her own.  No one told her what to do, which is what NOW is in favor of.

You didn't know Mr. Tony has a radio show? Download his local show to your iPod or iTunes.

Athletes get put on such a high moral pedestal that politicians think it’s absurd.  From all accounts and from those who have seen the commercial, it is a rather benign (plain) 30-second spot.  There was no proselytizing, no endorsement of Focus on the Family, and it did not mention abortion.

I’m not one to tell you to watch the commercial in a certain way.  That’s not my job.   With that said, I have always believe that even if you agree with something, as Jenkins detailed in her column, do not be  afraid to disagree if you see, read, or hear something that is not right in your book.