It was the most bittersweet weekend in my recent sports memory…perhaps the most bittersweet ever.
Just before Blues game time on Saturday, we learned that The Man, Stan Musial, had passed away at the age of 92. People said Stan reflected St. Louis, but I kind of think, after 72 years of living here, that our community reflects HIM. He was gracious and kind and generous and fun, all words that describe the typical St. Louisan. I believe that the generations that grew up being able to listen to Jack Buck doing Cardinal baseball and seeing and hearing from Stan the Man took a little bit from them. “If they can be that nice to ME, I can be that nice to everybody I meet, too.” That was the way Jack and Stan lived life, and I truly think their approach rubbed off on most of the people they met.
We often say that a person is a “one in a million.” Well, I’ve asked most of my sports fan friends if they can think of another guy who was The Man in a town where he played his entire great career in a town that he lived in afterwards. We can’t think of anyone. Unfortunately, Johnny Unitas was traded at the end of his career; otherwise he might be the example in Baltimore. Cal Ripken could be, but I wonder if he passed Unitas?
There’s Ted Williams in Boston, but was he The Man in a city that also had Bobby Orr, Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Tom Brady? New York and Chicago just have too many teams and athletes. Can Dick Butkus be The Man in a city that also had Bobby Hull and Michael Jordan? Cincinnati had Pete Rose, but Johnny Bench equals him there. Roberto Clemente never moved to Pittsburgh, and most of the Steelers moved away from that town. I guess the best similar example is Jim Kelly in Buffalo.
Here in St. Louis, there never will be another Stan Musial. Albert Pujols had that chance, but left. His loss is a blow to our city.
Then the Blues game started…and fittingly they scored 6 goals in a 6-0 shutout of the hated Red Wings. Vladamir Tarasenko scored two goals, hopefully giving Blues fans a glimpse of a great future…which may be close. If the Blues stay healthy, they could win the Stanley Cup. This year.
Sunday brought us more great memories. It will be great to see former Mizzou stars Justin and Aldon Smith in the Super Bowl. A team that the Rams battled to a tie on their own home turf and then a win in St. Louis will play in the Super Bowl. If San Francisco wins, the Rams can legitimately say they’re as good as the best team in the NFL.
Sunday evening brought us, as Ravens running back Ray Rice called it,”heaven.” After the Patriots grabbed a 13-7 halftime lead, Baltimore shut them out 21-0 in the second half and advanced to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady was found to be vulnerable against good teams again if he doesn’t have the benefit of the opponents’ signals. In Brady’s first four years as a starter the Patriots won three Super Bowls.
Since then, and since Eric Mangini outed their taping of opposing defensive signals in 2007, Brady hasn’t been able to lead his team to a championship. I have to give the Ravens offense credit here. Anquan Boldin was superb, Rice was great, and Joe Flacco emerged as a Super Bowl quarterback with a 28-13 victory.
Since 2008, Brady is 3-4 in the playoffs, and Flacco is 8-4. The emperor has no clothes. The Patriots have been exposed against good teams in the post-season.
While the Ravens win was extraordinarily sweet, the Super Bowl will be great theatre. Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh will be an historic event. Someone is going to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to a place it’s called home before.
And for Flacco and Colin Kaepernick, they’ll take their first shots at becoming The Man in their community. Those are really large shoes to fill.