Deion Sanders was predictably loquacious, but less than astonished Saturday night upon becoming the 13th member of the Cowboys organization to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When he learned the news via phone call, Sanders was at a charity event at Lancaster Recreation Park, having spent most of the day coaching youth football games against squads coached by rapper Snoop Dogg.
The Hall’s 44-member panel voted in the maximum-allowed seven of the 17 finalists. Among the bypassed were Dallas native Tim Brown and former Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley. Sanders, meanwhile, hurried to the Sheraton Hotel Dallas, where the Class of 2011 was announced on the NFL Network.
“Nervous? No, I wasn’t,” he said with a smile. “I was more nervous about playing against Snoop Dogg. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I am grateful.”
Sanders had no reason to wonder about his Hall chances. As perhaps the greatest shutdown cornerback ever and an electrifying talent who scored 19 career touchdowns in a record six different ways, he was a lock. The main question Saturday was whether he would be a first-ballot inductee.
“I’m excited, are you kidding me?” he said, after taking the stage and hugging fellow Class of 2011 members Marshall Faulk and Shannon Sharpe. “It’s unbelievable. It’s hard to describe the feeling.”
Also voted in were Bears defensive end Richard Dent, contributor Ed Sabol of NFL Films and senior committee nominees Chris Hanburger of the Redskins and Les Richter of the Los Angeles Rams.
Saturday’s voting process took more than seven hours. The first step was shaving the 15 modern-day finalists to a list of 10. Brown and Haley were among those who didn’t make the final 10.
The other perhaps disappointing news for Raiders standout Brown, a Woodrow Wilson graduate, is that fellow receivers Cris Carter and Andre Reed also failed to be voted in Saturday, so a longstanding logjam remains at that position.
Like Brown, Haley was in his second go-round as a finalist. But for Haley, the only player with five Super Bowl rings, the potential good news is that the election of Super Bowl XX MVP Dent means next year’s ballot will have one less standout pass rusher.
As is the case each year, the announcement produced poignant moments. There was NFL Films president Steve Sabol taking the stage to represent his 95-year-old father Ed, who created NFL Films in the early 1960s.
There was former Rams and Colts running back Faulk becoming choked up when asked whether he had spoken to his mother since receiving the news.
“There’s guys in this Hall of Fame that I look so far up to,” Faulk said. “I never thought I would be in the same room as them.”
Most emotional was former Broncos and Ravens tight end Sharpe. He spoke of how much he looked up to older brother Sterling, whose NFL career was cut short by a neck injury. Shannon also spoke of his 88-year-old grandmother, who was instrumental in raising him.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Sharpe said. “All the work that I did, got up this morning and worked out again and took four showers, told my sister I was going to take a nap . . . . but I couldn’t sleep.
“All I could think about was whether it was going to happen today.”
When he failed to get voted in two years ago, his grandmother had had her leg amputated and suffered a heart attack. She is in a nursing home, the same one in which she worked while raising him.
“All I wanted to do was make her proud,” Sharpe said. “I said, ‘She’s never going to hear me thank her, give a speech and say, ‘Granny, thanks for everything that I am. The man that people see today comes from you.’ ‘
“I don’t know what I did to deserve this. . . . If I had a thousand tongues, I couldn’t say how happy I am and proud I am at this moment.”
Warburton – pretty level playing field.
SIX NATIONS IS WIDE OPEN – WARBURTON
Grand Slam Winner 2011 Win Outright: England 9/4
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Wales flanker Sam Warburton has predicted a wide-open Six Nations Championship this season – with no team winning the Grand Slam.
England put themselves in pole position for a full-scale assault on their first championship clean sweep since 2003 with their 26-19 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
Englands next three games – against Italy, France and Scotland – are at Twickenham before they conclude the campaign by tackling Ireland in Dublin.
But Warburton said: I dont think any team is going to win the Grand Slam this year – its a pretty level playing field.
England are probably the (title) favourites, but it is wide open.
From our perspective, there are still four games left, and a lot can happen in that time. Weve still got to believe in ourselves.
While England have teed themselves up to target Six Nations silverware, Wales must reflect on an eighth successive Test match without a win.
They face Scotland at Murrayfield next weekend, before heading to Rome and finally Paris after hosting Ireland seven days previously, and the victory drought is leaving its mark.
Not since the final game of last seasons Six Nations – against Italy in Cardiff – have Wales tasted success.
The margins are so small, added Warburton.
One missed tackle, and its suddenly seven points conceded, which is a large gap in international rugby. You are chasing the game.
Its the same for us every time, always silly little errors.
It is impossible to go 80 minutes without making errors, but weve maybe got to be more clinical in attack and just build the scoreboard.
The errors we are making stand out like a sore thumb. You make one small error and you get punished at this level.
Credit to England, they committed numbers to the breakdown and kept the ball for phases, which really put our defence under pressure.
They played pretty well. They are probably (title) favourites now, whereas weve got three away games and its looking uphill.
The mood in the squad has been really good over the last couple of weeks, and we dont feel that far away, but weve said that so many times. Weve played pretty well again and we havent won.
We know the Six Nations is about results. but weve got to move on and focus on areas where we can exploit Scotland and do our best to get the win.
We didnt really take advantage when England had a player (lock Louis Deacon) sin-binned.
You should be looking at scoring seven to 10 points when an opposition player is sin-binned (Wales scored three), and we were suddenly chasing the game.
We always seem to be in that situation, and we couldnt quite haul it back.
But there is definitely no doubt in the squad that we can win games and still go for the championship.
The Wales camp reported only bumps and bruises at their training camp on Saturday, despite the punishing nature of Fridays encounter.
Number eight Andy Powell went off in the first half and had an ice pack immediately applied to his left shoulder, although there appears no major concern surrounding the Wasps forwards fitness for Edinburgh.
He could, however, find his place under pressure from former Wales captain Ryan Jones, who made a considerable impact in all areas after replacing Powell six minutes before the break.
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President Obama speaks during a news conference in Washington with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The two expressed hope that a peaceful and meaningful transition will take place in the Egyptian government.
(EPA / Michael Reynolds / February 4, 2011)
Super Bowl XLV
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This might be remembered as the week that reality trumped the Super Bowl.
In ordinary times, the week before the Super Bowl is all buildup to the big game. The media is abuzz as national and international press descend on Super Bowl City to generate colorful features about fashion, food and celebrity-filled fun.
But this past week has been anything but ordinary. Look out your window and you see evidence of the extraordinary times North Texans have been slip-sliding through — ice and frigid temperatures for several days, topped by a blanket of snow on Friday. And instead of Super Bowl frivolity filling television screens all week, news broadcasts have been a continuous stream of images of Egypt erupting in street warfare. That is, when they weren’t showing the snow-swept effects of the “monster storm” that blew over 30 states and 100 million people, shutting down airports and burying city streets.
The result: Reality has upstaged the showiest show of the year, the Super Bowl. Not the game itself, which, pitting two tradition-rich teams, has all the makings of a classic match-up. What has been upstaged is the Mardi Gras-style, made-for-media event of the days building up to the Super Bowl. If there are 12 days of Christmas, there are at least five or six days of Super Bowl.
“The confluence of events over the last week is amazing, unprecedented,” said Matt Eventoff, a communication and messaging strategist with Princeton Public Speaking. “With the situation in Egypt, you’ve got an unfolding drama that could change the world. And with the storm, you’ve got something that has broken up the daily routines of millions of people.
“And the fact is, there is almost no way to get a message through to someone when his or her daily routine has been disrupted. If I’m trying to figure out how to get to work or when the lights are going to come back on, I’m not interested in stories about what the hot T-shirt is at this year’s Super Bowl.”
For all the silly excesses of our celeb-centric, Charlie Sheen-this, Lindsay Lohan-that mediascape, when the planned and packaged events around pop culture’s biggest day collide with the sudden and historic events of the real world, it turns out the real world wins.
“In a normal week, we would have already begun,” said Alex Wallace, senior vice president for NBC News, during a phone interview Wednesday. “You know, the usual sort of scene pieces and talking about the game.
“But between the storm and the historic events in Egypt … that story, especially, is so dynamic, moving so fast, changing every hour.
“It’s hard to break away from it and not feel off-point.”
That’s the downside of this fateful fluke of timing: an absence of buzz. Bemoaning lost opportunities for the glitzy-gaspy coverage preceding the big game in less headline-riddled circumstances, however, would make for more problems.
“The NFL and Dallas deserve credit for not trying to out-shout what’s been happening,” said Jason Maloni, a crisis and litigation expert specializing in sports and entertainment with Washington, DC-based Levick Strategic Communication. “There’s a tendency when dealing with a time-sensitive event to overreact when you feel time is being lost.
“And while there’s no shortage of interest among sport media and sports fans, what is being lost is some of that crossover, mainstream interest around the Super Bowl. But the NFL and the city have handled it just right and stayed sensitive to overwhelming events.”
Whether that deft display of sensitivity is the result of unerring judgment or existential futility is a question probably best left unasked. But let’s ask it anyway.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’ve been doing a little of both this week,” said Bill Lively, chairman and CEO of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee, during a phone call Friday morning as yet more snow fell on the icy plains of North Texas.
“When things get as crazy as this, you’ve got to find the silver lining someplace. And the reality is that the stadium is how we got the Super Bowl in the first place, and it’s going to be an incredible experience in that stadium come game day.”
Locals are similarly philosophical.
“I was a lot more excited a week ago than I am now,” said Amanda Dickstein. She and her husband, Mike, braved Friday’s ski-resort conditions to make a food run to Dallas’ Central Market.
She works at a downtown sports bar and restaurant, the Press Box Grill, that’s cut back on this week’s expanded staffing. “We were expecting to be slammed all week.”
“But we’re still looking forward to the game,” Mike Dickstein added with his best silver-lining optimism. “We’ll probably watch it at her bar, and it’ll be fun.”
Arlington resident Anita Foster said that, like many North Texans, she had been looking forward for months to the excitement of having the Super Bowl in her city. “I don’t think there’s any question the weather has put a damper on the Super Bowl,” she said. “It’s just very, very sad.”
“Maybe another year we’ll have another shot,” said Foster, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross’ Dallas-area chapter.
There may yet be some good news for the Super Bowl and its North Texas site amid this week of bad and/or scary news. While monster storms here and historic protests in Egypt may shrink the footprint of media coverage, they may also intensify the country’s experience of the game itself.
After all, if you’ve spent the week shoveling snow and watching the Middle East boil over, you probably don’t just want to escape into the drama and passion of a football game. You need to. And as NBC News’ Wallace pointed out, much of the country will have spent the week building up to Super Bowl Sunday, stuck indoors and glued to their televisions.
“In the best of times, the Super Bowl is a national obsession,” said Adam Hanft, social trends expert and co-author of Dictionary of the Future. “But we’ve been in this huge, intense news cycle — not just Egypt and the storm but also the shootings in Tucson, the debate over health care.
“People are looking for some relief. They need to lose themselves in something they care about deeply but that really doesn’t matter.
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Meanwhile, a Rangers off-season I never thought I would live to see continues to boggle the mind.
The teams World Series run took them to November, by which time Wade Phillips and the Cowboys hopes of amounting to anything in 2010 were gone.
The quest for Lee kept the Rangers atop the local news scene well into December. After failing in that bid but at least watching somewhat successfully as Lee fled to the National League, not the Yankees the Rangers are poised to add Beltre to what already is one of the American Leagues best lineups.
Playing Beltre at third base and Michael Young as a combination DH-everyman is superior to what the Rangers had last year with Young at third base and Vladimir Guerrero.
And they reached the fifth game of the World Series with that combination.
Consider that the Angels tried and failed in their pursuit of Beltre, and that the Rangers remain the best team in the American League West. Until further notice, I rank them four to six games ahead of Oakland, eight games ahead of the Angels heading into the spring.
And while everyone fawns over the Red Sox and their additions of Carl Crawford (another failed Angels bid) and Adrian Gonzalez, you have to put the Rangers on the same level with Boston and, I would argue, Chicago. And thats one step ahead of the Yankees and Minnesota for best team in the American League.
You can argue that in acquiring Beltre, the Rangers are overpaying for a player whose best production has come in contract years.
Its true that he turned a rare 48-home run season as a Dodger into big money from Seattle. But its not as if he never produced for the Mariners in that awful home run park they call home, hitting 25-26-25 in a three-year span.
Last year, calling a decent hitters park home for the first time in a 12-year career, Beltre had 28 home runs and 102 RBIs in the middle of Bostons league-best lineup. His .918 OPS allowed him to finish ninth in the MVP voting, two spots behind the much adored Crawford.
Beltre is an instant defensive upgrade over Young, which means that the Rangers able pitching staff can now depend on good gloves at every infield position.
No, its not as good as a Lee signing would have been because of the pitchers obvious Cy Young credentials. But its also not as risky.
Long-term contracts for pitchers blow up on teams more often than not. Lees erratic past indicates the Phillies are taking on some element of risk in the contracts later years even while establishing themselves as the team to beat in baseball for 2011.
Beltre has spent basically his entire career up until last season as the lead dog or something close to it in either questionable lineups or unforgiving home parks.
Now he can be just one of the Rangers big bats.
As much as Guerrero became a beloved figure in Arlington last summer, he faded after the All-Star break.
Theres no reason to expect the same from Beltre this year.
Theres every reason to think that Ron Washingtons lineup card could produce another AL West championship and playoff run if it looks like this most of the season:
Elvis Andrus, ss; Michael Young, dh; Josh Hamilton, cf; Adrian Beltre, 3b; Nelson Cruz, rf; Ian Kinsler, 2b; David Murphy, lf; Mitch Moreland, 1b; Yorvit Torrealba, c.
There are options, of course, such as playing Julio Borbon in center and moving Hamilton to a corner spot.
Options are good to have. The coming addition of Beltre along with Youngs willingness to play a Mark DeRosa-type role for this team make this a winning off-season for the local team thats closest to a title.
The Raiders cut ties with coach Tom Cable on Tuesday, announcing in a news release that they wont pick up the two-year option on his contract.
Cable was two days removed from completing his second full season as the Raiders coach and guiding them to an 8-8 record, their best in eight seasons.
A phone call to Cable was not returned. He posted a 17-27 record during his two-plus seasons as the Raiders coach.
Raiders owner Al Davis had until Jan. 17 to decide whether to exercise the two-year, $5 million option on Cables contract.
That Davis dumped Cable so soon portends his desire to head off other teams from making a play for offensive coordinator Hue Jackson or, perhaps, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. The Raiders on Tuesday morning granted the 49ers permission to interview Jackson for their coaching vacancy.
The news of Cables ouster didnt sit well with Raiders players.
It was obviously a huge surprise with the progress we made from last year to this year, but I guess the owner made a decision for his reasons, left guard Robert Gallery said. Our locker room is definitely behind Coach Cable.
This is going to hit 99 percent of the locker room really hard, because people respected how he dealt with us and where we were headed. Its definitely a step back from what weve done going forward the last year or two.
Punter Shane Lechler, one of the two longest-tenured Raiders, said he is in shock over Cables firing
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