Tag Archives: Northwestern

Otto Graham: The Greatest Pro Football Quarterback Ever

Ottobanner1 ottobanner21390174447012-USATSI-7685836The NFL conference championship games that were played today were as thrilling and satisfying a pair of gridiron contests as a football fan could desire. It was great to watch two veteran quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face off for the AFC title – and then enjoy the next generation of star quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, do battle for the NFC crown.

otto-grahamHowever, in the lead-up to these games – and undoubtedly in the two-week media hype extravaganza that will precede the Super Bowl, there’s one thing that will bug the hell out of me.

In all the talk about Manning and Brady and Wilson and Kaepernick and the great quarterbacks of all time – there’s one name that won’t be mentioned.

It’s the one name that should always be mentioned.

Otto Graham.

A couple of months ago I was listening to sports talk radio host Colin Cowherd hosting a discussion of the greatest NFL quarterbacks on his morning radio show. Cowherd had the nerve to say he didn’t want to hear about guys like Otto Grahama who played in the “no face mask era”.

JETS DOLPHINS AFC CHAMPIONSHIPWell, Colin, here’s proof that Otto Graham wore a face mask in the NFL.

(Later in this post, I’ll show why Cowherd’s comment proves there’s an even deeper gash in his NFL football knowledge regarding Graham and face masks.)

imagesThen, last month, The Los Angeles Times ran an article by Mike DiGiovanna ranking the top 10 sports records that’ll never be broken. Candidates were chosen from professional sports, the Olympics and major college sports programs – and the writer limited his choices to records set from 1940 on.

Otto_GrahamBut DiGiovanna did not find a spot on his list for the most unbreakable professional sports record of all post-1940. It’s a record that will always be held by Otto Graham.

After his brilliant college career at Northwestern University was interrupted – and his professional career was delayed — by his service in the Navy during World War Two, the great Hall of Famer Otto Everett Graham, Jr. played 10 seasons of professional football for the Cleveland Browns – and took his team to the championship game all ten years!

otto-graham-brownsThat’s right, ten out of ten.

Let me say that again.

Otto Graham played 10 seasons of pro football for the Cleveland Browns – and took his team to the championship game all ten years!

And he won 7 of those 10 championship games.

Can you imagine a more unbreakable sports record?

13543826d76ec7bffd208f621ebdb2adFrom 1946 to 1949, Graham and The Browns dominated the All-America Football Conference. Then, they joined the NFL in 1950. Did Otto and his Browns struggle as an NFL expansion team? Hardly. They simply ran off an unprecedented and unequaled string of 6 straight NFL title game appearances from 1950 to 1955.

After that, the legendary Otto Graham retired as a player at the top of his game. (Just like another Browns legend, Jim Brown, would do in the following decade.)

tom-brady-bill-belichickjpg-95e8c0ab5d279e48_largeIt drives me crazy to hear otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable football pundits talk about Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick as perhaps the most successful quarterback and coach combo in NFL history.

Really?

Brady & Belichick? Oh, please…

otto-graham-1Paul Brown was coach of the Cleveland Browns during Graham’s entire career. Did Brady and Belichick get to the title game 10 seasons in row?

Okay, let’s throw out the AAFC years and stick to Brown and Graham’s NFL years. Have Brady & Belichick gotten to 6 NFL championship games in a row? And Brown & Graham won three of those title games, including Graham’s last game, the 1955 championship. Like I said, Otto Graham went out on top.

And, for all you stats geeks, consider this:

hof-grahamWith Graham at QB, the Browns posted a record of 114 wins, 20 losses and four ties, including a 9–3 playoff record. And while many of Graham’s records have been surpassed in the modern era — he still holds the NFL record for career average yards gained per pass attempt with 9 yards per attempt. That’s not 9 yards per pass completion – that’s 9 yards per pass attempt.

Basically, Otto Graham was good for a first down every time he threw the damn football.

otto-graham-signed-image-3Graham also holds the record for the highest career winning percentage for an NFL starting quarterback, at 0.814. If winning is the greatest measure of a pro quarterback – Otto Graham was better than Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady and all the others.

And he was tough as nails, Colin Cowherd.

In fact, Mr. Cowherd, for your information — Otto Graham played a role in ushering in the face mask era in pro football.

pro53chinOtto Graham led the Browns to 11 straight wins to start the 1953 season. (Their lone loss came in the season’s final game against the Philadelphia Eagles.) Late that season, in a game against the 49ers, Graham took a forearm to the face that opened a nasty, bloody gash it took 15 stitches to close. Was he done for the game?

No way. This was Otto Graham.

His helmet was fitted with a clear plastic face mask and he came back into the game — which The Browns won. Graham’s injury helped inspire the development of the modern face mask.

Browns HOF galleryAll right, I’ve had my say. Look it all up yourself. I’m tired of getting pissed off and wanting to throw things at the radio and TV when I hear all this yakking about the best NFL quarterbacks ever – and never any love for Otto Graham.

Now, onto the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning is amazing. Russell Wilson is exciting. But Otto Graham was the best ever.

And I’d say that even if he weren’t a fellow Northwestern alumnus.00066

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A Wild Winter Weekend in the Windy City!

Brad Hall and I flew into Chicago on Thursday, February 3rd, to work on “Rock Me!” — our rock musical set to be performed by a Northwestern student theatre group on March 7 and 8.  The fact that Chicago had just been blasted by an epic snowstorm, the third largest on record, did not deter us. Harrowing tales of “thundersnow” and dozens of cars being abandoned on Lake Shore Drive could not keep us from our appointment with the brilliant musician, Steve Rashid, my daughter Emilia (an NU sophomore) and the other students involved in the production that we were hoping to meet despite the havoc caused by the tons of white stuff dumped on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The blizzard had stuck on Tuesday, February 1st, and by the time we flew into Chicago late on Thursday night, the skies were clear. So clear in fact that, as we made our final approach into O’Hare Airport, we were greeted with as spectacular a view of the city as we had ever seen. The city lights reflected off the snow blanketing every surface to create a stunning golden glow.

These pictures don’t quite capture the wondrous sight we beheld – but they’ll have to do.

Once we were on the ground, we drove northeast to Evanston, where we were Steve’s houseguests. As we arrived in his neighborhood near Central and Green Bay Road, the city street crews were hard at work clearing tons of snow from the main street. Clearly, every city employee that could drive a snowplow or a Bobcat was being pressed into service for every overtime hour they could stand to work.

This video was taken at the corner of Central Street and Central Park.

And here’s where they dumped all that snow: Lovelace Park. (No, it’s not named for Linda.)

And BTW – these are not rolling hills dusted with snow.  This is a flat parking lot on which they just dumped these man-made mountains of snow. The Evanston kids were loving it! King of the hill!

Over the weekend, our meetings with Emilia and the musical director and director of “Rock Me!’ took us to the Northwestern University campus on the frigid lakefront in Evanston, which had been transformed into a winter wonderland.

Brad and I had been on campus for the great Blizzard of ’79, so this fabulous frosting brought back many snowed-under undergraduate memories.

We left Chicago on Monday, February 7th – and it was snowing again. Here’s Steve’s neighborhood on Hartzell, just before the flakes began to fall…

In this video, shot in front of Steve’s house, you can see the big flakes falling. It was time for Steve’s industrious neighbor to get his snow blower out again – and time for Brad and me to get out of town while we still could.

Getting back to the relative warmth of a February night in Los Angeles, I hurried to the Terminal 4 parking garage and found that my car battery was dead. As I waited for AAA to arrive, I was comforted by the thought that at least I wasn’t waiting while stuck in a three-foot drift on a slushy road in Chicago. And that I didn’t end up like one of those unfortunates snowbound on Lake Shore Drive.

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2010: The First Year In Review

This snapshot by Rob Mendel (above) appears to have been taken at The John Lennon Auditorium at 703 Howard Street in Evanston, Illinois on what looks to be New Year’s Day 1982.  (Note my Beggars’ Holiday hair and beard.) My 18-month old daughter Maura appears to be grasping a champagne bottle in her right hand, the stage looks as though it’s set up for a Rockme gig, and the numerous empty beverage containers and crumpled gift-wrapping all suggest a big holiday party the night before. (Maura certainly didn’t close the party, so this must be the day after.) Of course, I’m on clean-up duty. (I trust the amazing Rush Pearson will let us know if my photo analysis is correct.)

30 years after this picture was taken — and just one year ago — I started this blog.

So far, it’s been a fine voyage.

As of this writing, Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 22,250 views. I’ve made 73 posts and readers have contributed 565 comments. That’s a pretty healthy start — and I’m grateful for everyone’s interest, enthusiasm, and participation in this admittedly idiosyncratic forum.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little...

I’m especially gratified by the 63 subscribers who have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And when Mark Lancaster gets his e-mail address straightened out, we’ll be back to 64.) Are you a subscriber? If not — just look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey, then look below the photo and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!” I know most of us just can’t get enough e-mails stuffed into our inboxes, but I promise my posts will be at least marginally more entertaining than the daily onslaught of Viagra ads, MoveOn broadsides, replica watch ads, and assorted unrelenting spam you’re already inundated with.

My posts on this blog largely stuck to the main topics I established at the outset: history, adventure, politics and rock & roll — including a four-part history of The Practical Theatre Company. And to what type of posts were readers of this blog most attracted? What follows is a list of The Top 12 Posts of 2010, listed in order of the most views. Taken as a whole, they represent a sort of oddball Year-in-Review.

THE TOP TEN POSTS OF 2010

Note: Just click on each the title of each post to access the original article.

1. The Saints Come Marching In…

The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles twenty years ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after decades of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints?

2. All About The Rockme Foundation

It’s not possible to write everything about Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation in one article, but I tried my best in this post to tell the basics of the band’s ongoing legend. A spring reunion gig at SPACE in Evanston was the catalyst for telling the story. The band is making plans to play SPACE again this year. Rockme-mania lives.

3. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 1

One of my goals this past year was to tell the story of The Practical Theatre from start to finish. (Is it ever really finished?) This first chapter covered the period from the company’s founding and the establishment of The John Lennon Auditorium  — to just before our 1982 comedy revue, The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee, brought the PTC to SNL.

4. Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

Readers loved those Mud Hens. What was written as a tribute to The Practical Theatre Company’s contribution to the Chicago Theatre 16-inch Softball League became a post that hundreds of Toledo Mud Hens fans found online, attracted to the info and photos of Toledo Mud Hens history — especially that picture of Jamie Farr. Go figure. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!

5. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

20 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! It’s true. I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog.

6. The Vic & Paul Show

After more than two decades off the stage, Victoria and I once again wrote and performed in an original musical comedy review, The Vic & Paul Show, in June at PUSH Lounge in Woodland Hills. It was the most fun we’ve had in years. We hope to bring the show to Chicago sometime in 2011. If you’re curious about what the show looked like — there are a series of clips on my YouTube channel. Click here to get there.

7. “I have not yet begun to fight!”

History and politics are two of my greatest passions — and this article combined the two. I’m gratified that so many people have continued to find it and read it since it was first posted on January 20, 2010 at the time of President Obama’s first State of the Union Address.

8. Le Salon de Crawford

I wrote this tribute to the incredible Crawford family early in the year — and I feel as though I must already write another. Ron and Sydney Crawford and their fabulous children are a gift that keeps on giving. I cannot imagine what this blog would have looked like in 2010 without all those wonderful Ron Crawford drawings lifting each post into the realm of true art. We love Ron & Syd. And we can’t say it enough.

9. Will California Buy a Used CEO this Election Year?

In an otherwise bleak mid-term election for progressives, California turned back the conservative tide by rejecting the self-funding, millionaire ex-CEO candidates, Meg Whitman for Governor and Carly Fiorina for Senator. Instead, liberal Democrat Barbara Boxer was returned to the U.S. Senate — and former “Governor Moonbeam” Jerry Brown was sent back to the California governor’s mansion (where he refused to live back in the 70’s). Maybe Jerry will pass on the mansion again. But thank goodness California passed on Meg and Carly.

10. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 3

This installment of my Practical Theatre history covered the insanely creative and productive period from the aftermath of the PTC’s headline-making success in 1982-83 to the closing of The John Lennon Auditorium in 1985. Looking back, it’s hard to believe a bunch of inexperienced, counterculturally-inclined twenty-somethings accomplished so much in so little time. That Practical spirit lives on today — and I hope this blog has helped in some small way to keep it alive.

11. The Matey’s Log: Sailing Season Begins

This blog has a nautical theme for one reason: Captain George Moll, who invited me to sail with him some years back, and instilled in me a love of the sea that had first been aroused by my reading of the entire Patrick O’Brian canon. I am grateful to Captain George for allowing me to serve as a crewman aboard his fleet of racing sailboats — and my accounts of several of our races proved to me among the most popular series of posts on the blog this year. And did I mention we won this year’s TGIS Series Championship? Hats off to Captain George!

12. A New Day of Glory for the Great (you heard me right) Cleveland Browns!

Great football teams bookend this list. When my beloved Cleveland Browns upset the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints in the early part of the 2010 NFL season, I was moved to write this remembrance of the Browns’ glorious past. Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar are just a handful of the memorable stars that made history with the Cleveland Browns. Now, it’s up to Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis to write the next glorious chapter.

So, that’s the best of 2010. Stay tuned. Subscribe. Post those replies!

Here’s to another fine voyage in 2011!

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Practical Theatre: The Last Laugh

I’ve finally wrapped up my four-part personal history of The Practical Theatre Co. To read the final chapter of the Practical Theatre story click here — or click on the graphic above. You can also find a link to all four chapters under “Landmarks” on the right hand side of the home page.

It only took me two decades to finish this project — so please enjoy!

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Mr. Crawford Goes to Washington

Our favorite artist, the brilliant Ron Crawford, went to the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington DC this past Saturday, November 30th and captured his impression of the crowd of over over two hundred thousand folks. (Which dwarfed the crowd at Glenn Beck’s rally.)

If you look closely, I think Ron has actually drawn every one of the quarter of a million progressive sanity enthusiasts at the rally, hosted by The Daily Show host John Stewart and Stephen Colbert (yet another funny Northwestern University alumnus.)

Click on Ron’s drawing to enlarge it. You don’t want to miss all those Rondraw details!

And because Ron couldn’t draw ALL the inspired signs, placards and banners he saw, Gardner Loulan sent me this link to the 100 Best Rally for Sanity Signs.

Enjoy, folks! And don’t forget to vote tomorrow. Early and often.

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More Thrills & Glory…

THRILLS & GLORY: THE BRIEF, BLESSED HISTORY OF THE PRACTICAL THEATRE CO.

Part Three: A Tale of Two Spaces

To read the latest chapter in my personal history of The Practical Theatre Company, click here.

After you’ve read our ancient history, you can check out video clips of far more recent PTC-style comedy if you click here.

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Rockme Music Goes Online!

Make the kids jump at CD Baby!

Just in time to fill those 2010 Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza) stockings — the newest Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation tunes — and a collection of all-time Rockme classics — are now available online at CD Baby:

Click here to be a part of Digital Rockme-mania…

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/RiffmastertheRockmeFoundation

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