Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Don’t worry, I wore a mask while writing this newsletter.
The first round of voting in the football regional “Biggest Icon in L.A. Sports History” is over. We received over 15,000 votes in the football regional alone. Today, voting in the second round begins and the matchups are intriguing.
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1. There are four regionals, with 32 people in each regional, seeded from No. 1 to No. 32. The winner of each regional will face off in the Final Four. Those two winners will meet in the championship round.
3. When voting, ask yourself “When I think L.A. sports, whom do I think of first?” and vote for that person.
4. A brief sentence or two accompanies each entrant below. It is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of their accomplishments, just a brief reminder of why they are on this list.
So without further ado, let’s get to the second round of the football regional. Voting ends at midnight Tuesday. Remember, you can vote by email by clicking here, on Twitter by clicking here, or you can click on the link after each matchup.
No. 1 Marcus Allen vs. No. 16 Jim Plunkett
Marcus Allen: He was a legend for two local teams. He won the Heisman Trophy while playing for USC in 1981 after becoming only the second person in NCAA history to gain 2,000 yards rushing in a season. Then, with the L.A. Raiders, he ran for 191 yards, caught two passes for 18 yards, and scored two touchdowns in the Raiders’ 38–9 victory over Washington in Super Bowl XVIII.
How he got here: Defeated Red Sanders in the first round, 88.1%-11.9%
Jim Plunkett: He won a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders in 1980, then after the team moved to L.A., he ascended from backup to starting quarterback to assist the Raiders in winning Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. He is the only eligible quarterback with two Super Bowl wins as a starter not to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
How he got here: Defeated Jack Snow in the first round, 64.9%-35.1%.
No. 2 Pete Carroll vs. No. 15 Jackie Slater
Pete Carroll: Let’s face it, most Trojans fans were disappointed when he was hired, but he coached the team back to prominence. Under Carroll, the Trojans reached the BCS title game two times (winning once) and seven consecutive BCS bowl appearances.
How he got here: Defeated Ricky Bell in the first round, 82.5%-17.5%
Jackie Slater: Offensive tackle for the Rams for 20 seasons, 19 of them in L.A. Slater was selected to seven Pro Bowls and broke a record for most seasons with one team. His number was retired by the Rams and he was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
How he got here: Defeated Roman Gabriel in the first round, 65.9%-34.1%
No. 3 Reggie Bush vs. No. 14 Howie Long
Reggie Bush: A two-time Pac-10 player of the year and Heisman Trophy winner, when he left USC he was 10th in NCAA Division I-A history with 6,541 all-purpose yards, racking up 3,169 yards and 25 touchdowns on 433 carries (7.3 avg) and 1,301 yards with 13 scores on 95 catches (13.7 avg).
How he got here: Defeated Gary Beban in the first round, 73.1%-26.9%
Howie Long: With the Raiders, this defensive end was named to eight Pro Bowls and helped them win the Super Bowl in 1984. He finished his career with 91½ sacks and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
How he got here: Defeated Tom Flores in the first round, 79.8%-20.2%
No. 4 Eric Dickerson vs. No. 20 Aaron Donald
Eric Dickerson: Broke the NFL season rushing record in his second season with the Rams and it still stands. He was with the team only four full seasons, but his number was retired by the team and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He remains very active in the Rams community.
How he got here: Defeated Jon Arnett in the first round, 91.2%-8.8%
Aaron Donald: The Rams have been back in L.A. only a short time but Donald has already been named the NFL defensive player of the year twice in that time and was a key component of their Super Bowl team.
How he got here: Narrowly upset No. 13 Pat Haden in the first round, 51.7%-48.3%
No. 5 “The Fearsome Foursome” vs. No. 12 Mike Garrett
The Fearsome Foursome: Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones and Rosey Grier was one of the most dominant defensive lines in NFL history. They transformed the Rams from a mediocre team to an NFL powerhouse.
How they got here: Defeated Kenny Washington in the first round, 87.4%-12.6%
Mike Garrett: Garrett won the Heisman Trophy after the 1965 season, during which he led the nation in rushing with 1,440 yards. He also caught 36 passes, returned 43 punts, returned 30 kickoffs and threw six passes, two for touchdowns. He was also USC’s athletic director from 1993 to 2010.
How he got here: Defeated Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch in the first round, 52.2%-47.8%
No. 6 John Robinson vs. No. 11 Matt Leinart
John Robinson: Was USC’s coach from 1976-82 and again from 1993-97, leading the team to four Rose Bowl victories overall and a national title in 1978. In between, he coached the Rams to two NFC title games and his 79 victories with the team are the most in franchise history.
How he got here: Defeated Dick “Night Train” Lane in the first round, 71.8%-28.2%
Matt Leinart: The third part of the Pete Carroll-Reggie Bush-Matt Leinart triumvirate that led the Trojans back to national prominence again in the 2000s. Leinart was an outstanding quarterback who won the Hesiman Trophy once and finished third once.
How he got here: Defeated Tom Fears in the first round, 68.8%-31.2%
No. 7 Anthony Davis vs. No. 23 Troy Polamalu
Anthony Davis: AD led USC in rushing, scoring and kick return yardage for three consecutive seasons. He was also the first Pacific-8 Conference player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons: 1,191 in 1972; 1,112 in 1973 and 1,469 in 1974. For his career at USC he carried the ball 784 times for 3,772 yards and 44 touchdowns. On Nov. 30, 1974, he started an amazing rally that brought the Trojans back from a 24-0 second-quarter deficit against Notre Dame to a 55-24 win. Scored 11 touchdowns against the Irish in three games.
How he got here: Defeated Charles White in the first round, 61.6%-38.4%
Troy Polamalu: One of the best defensive and big-game players in Trojans history, Polamalu finished his college career with 278 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, six interceptions, four blocked punts, and three touchdowns.
How he got here: Upset No. 10 Terry Donahue in the first round, 53.1%-46.9%
No. 8 John McKay vs. No. 9 Jack Youngblood
John McKay: All McKay did in his 16 seasons coaching USC was win nine conference titles, five Rose Bowl games and four national championships.
How he got here: Defeated Carson Palmer in the first round, 73.1%-26.9%
Jack Youngblood: He anchored the Rams defense for years and played in the 1980 Super Bowl with a broken leg. If that doesn’t spell “Top 10 Football Icon,” I don’t know what does.
How he got here: Defeated Bo Jackson in the first round, 57.5%-42.5%
Don’t forget to vote
Helene Elliott thinks it is time to cancel the rest of the regular season. An excerpt:
The NHL, still clinging to its hopes of finishing the season — and still clinging to fans’ ticket money as long as it classifies games as postponed instead of canceled — has prolonged its self-quarantine recommendation through April 30. That means hockey won’t return before mid-May if at all, perilously near the point when it would be wise to lock up the Zamboni until next season.
Maybe that time already has arrived. But there’s one reasonable option left before the ice is melted: Ditch the rest of the regular season.
Cancel the remaining games, about 15% of the schedule, so ticket-holding fans can get their money back to buy necessities. Cancel those games so teams that were eliminated don’t have to go through a farce of a training camp to play a dozen games just so Commissioner Gary Bettman can say the season was complete.
JACKIE ROBINSON DAY
Today, Jackie Robinson Day would have been celebrated throughout Major League Baseball. There is not baseball right now, but celebrate it anyway. Let LZ Granderson explain:
Maybe if the significance of Jackie Robinson’s story started and ended with the integration of Major League Baseball, one could characterize the absence of Jackie Robinson Day as unfortunate.
After all, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, baseball is not being played right now so why bother celebrating a player? There are simply more pressing issues at the moment and we can go back to honoring Robinson next year … you know, when things return to normal.
The thing is, while the Cliffs Notes on Robinson’s life center on Ebbets Field in 1947, his story is so much more than that. The normalcy we long for is his story.
“We talk about breaking the color barrier in baseball, but Jackie’s plight stretched beyond that,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We are talking about breaking barriers of all kinds across more than baseball and more than sports. It’s not just about race. This is where people fall short. It’s also about gender equality, it’s about equality regardless of sexual orientation … all of this stuff is under this umbrella of equality. That’s why Jackie Robinson Day is so important. It’s beyond baseball.”
Last season, UCLA celebrated its ascent to the top of the college softball world with a walk-off RBI single, a dog pile and a trophy.
This season, when the Bruins finished atop two major polls, they settled for a Zoom call.
“It’s obviously not anything compared to a natty,” redshirt junior Aaliyah Jordan said, “but yeah, it does feel good to be recognized as No. 1.”
The Bruins, the unanimous No. 1 team in the final USA Today/NFCA Coaches and ESPN/USA Softball polls released on April 7, are still adjusting to the changing tides of the coronavirus outbreak that ended their championship aspirations last month.
After the NCAA’s March 12 decision to cancel winter and spring championships, the Bruins had finals, then spring break. Head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez let her players decompress by themselves during the break. Since then, the Bruins have convened for biweekly Zoom meetings: “Happy Hour” on Tuesday and a “Bruin Bubble” meeting on Friday.
BORN ON THIS DAY
1875: Boxer James J. Jeffries (d. 1953)
1942: Former Laker/Bruin Walt Hazzard
1956: Former Laker Michael Cooper
1957: Sprinter Evelyn Ashford
1967: Swimmer Dana Torres
1969: Football player Phillippi Sparks
1971: Football player Jason Sehorn
1978: Former Dodger Milton Bradley
1983: Hockey player Ilya Kovalchuk
DIED ON THIS DAY
2002: Football player/Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White, 84
2019: Former Kings coach Don Perry, 89
The top five moments in Michael Cooper‘s Lakers’ history. Watch them here.