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DEMS FIGHTIN' WORDS.
December 6, 2002

by Bill Hogan

 
 

When an NFL player or coach says something about an opposing player, coach or team, the disparaging remarks will often end up on the inflicted team's locker room bulletin board.

The locker room bulletin board is a premium source for motivational material. Call a lineman a sissy or a defensive unit overrated and you've thrown down the gauntlet.

 
 


And when the comments are printed in the local paper, there's no taking them back. Too late, they've already been clipped and thumb tacked.

When you call out the schoolyard bully in the middle of a crowded cafeteria, you better be prepared to fight; with honor and reputation at stake, it isn't likely the big guy will let you off the hook.

The recent flap between Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp and Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman has produced a ton of bulletin board material - should the two teams meet in the playoffs (which is a very real possibility). Sherman wasn't happy with a hit Sapp put on Packers lineman Chad Clifton (a shot that would end Clifton's season). Sapp wasn't happy Sherman chose to berate him on the field after the game. Both teams have an ax to grind.

There's no shortage of players shooting off their mouths and no shortage of media outlets to spread the word. But I'm skeptical that the motivational bulletin board really has any impact on the outcome of a game.

Every week there seems to be a new war of words between opposing players but it's usually the better team that wins the game – not the most motivated team. And weather conditions, turnovers and league parity contribute more to an apparent upset than "their guy called my guy a sissy".

Though that may not have always been the case. Sixty-two years ago the Washington Redskins beat the Chicago Bears 7-3 in a regular season game. Afterwards, Bears coach and owner George Halas complained that poor officiating was the contributing factor in their loss (sound familiar?).

Redskin owner George Preston Marshall responded by calling the Bears a bunch of "crybabies". Break out the scissors and thumb tacks, this comment did not go unnoticed.

A couple of weeks later, on December 8, 1940, the teams would meet again - this time for the NFL Championship. Halas was looking for revenge. Revenge for the earlier loss, and revenge for Marshall's public comments.

The Bears scored a touchdown in the first minute of the game. Then another, then another and so on. The score at halftime was 28-0. Four more touchdowns in the third quarter made it 54-0 with fifteen minutes to play and the final score was a whopping 73-0.

In all, the Bears crossed the goal line eleven times and converted seven extra points. (I wonder if Halas was miffed that the special teams blew four extra point tries).

Did I mention that the most lopsided game in the history of the NFL was played at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C.? Bet it was pretty easy to get a beer by the start of the second half.

Famed sports announcer Red Barber called the game on radio. It was the first-ever nationally broadcast NFL Championship. Mutual Broadcasting Systems paid $2,500 for the right to air the big game over 120 radio stations.

Red must have been jumping through hoops trying to hold the interest of a national audience. I'm sure there were more than a few listeners who thought the entire broadcast was a hoax.

And Madden thinks he has it rough trying to keep sleepy viewers tuned in to a Monday Night Football blowout.

Do you think George Preston Marshall had any regrets calling the Bears "crybabies"?

These guys weren't a bunch of pampered millionaires. They wore leather helmets without facemasks and played with broken bones for a few dollars a day. They stayed with one team their entire career and built bitter rivalries. A war of words was more than just lip service – it meant something - something more than just a good ESPN sound byte.

There was no collective bargaining agreement; it was every man – every team – for himself.

This was 1940 – the world was at war. And exactly one year later – to the day – FDR would announce to the nation that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese. America, too, would be going to war.

"Call us crybabies, will ya. We'll show you."

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