Reid ‘Em & Weep (2020.1)
It’s been awhile since we wrote the “Reid ‘Em & Weep” column of sports nuggets and other assorted issues that are on the “Dutch Lion’s” mind. So as Nike suggests, “Just Do It!”
What’s up with those NFL Conference Championship Trophies?
Ever since the NFL merged with the AFL in 1970 to combine into one super football league, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC) have played Conference Championship games, with their winners meeting in the league championship game, known as the Super Bowl. For the first fourteen years there was no trophy for these Conference Championship games (1970-1983). Then the NFL introduced the conference championship trophies as they honored their founding heroes by creating the George S. Halas Trophy to be awarded to the NFC victor (founder of the NFL) while the AFC Champion would receive the Lamar Hunt Trophy (founder of the AFL). These original Halas Trophy and Hunt Trophy were introduced in the 1984 postseason. Therefore, the inaugural winners were the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins on their way to Super Bowl XIX (19).
For whatever reason, after 26 seasons the NFL decided to have Tiffany & Co. redesign the trophy. These current trophies were introduced in the 2010 postseason. They remain the current trophies, as many of you saw on Sunday when the 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs dominated their opponents to win their respective conferences. These trophies are hollowed out silver footballs that look like lame miniature Super Bowl Lombardi Trophies. Only these Halas and Hunt Trophies look like cheap garbage compared to the old oak wood base topped by the conference logos and sporting a design of old-fashioned players on a silver platter background. It’s a shame. The old ones were amazing. We grew up with those incredible trophies and they stood for something. The new ones look cheap and unoriginal. Hey NFL, word to the wise. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team is for real!
Under Coach Brad Underwood, the Illinois basketball program is starting to turn the corner just as we suspected a couple of years ago. After years of disappointments followed by recent malaise, the Illini are really rolling as we enter the new decade. Now in his third season, Coach Underwood currently has his squad sitting in second place in the B1G conference with a 6-2 conference record and a 14-5 record overall. Illinois has now won five games in a row including Tuesday night’s huge 17 point victory at Purdue by a score of 79-62. Who wins at Purdue’s Mackey Arena? Not #11 Michigan State. They lost at Mackey by 29 points on January 12. So did defending National Champion Virginia on December 4, also by 29 points even though they were ranked #5 at the time. Nobody wins at Mackey, including Illinois every time they’ve played there since 2008. This year, Illinois has only lost two B1G games so far, at Maryland and at Michigan State. I’m really looking forward to the rematch with the Spartans on February 11. Mark that one on your calendar as it should be a crazy atmosphere at Assembly Hall, led by the Orange Krush. The House of ‘Paign will be rockin’ that night baby!
Led by sophomore Ayo Dosunmu and freshman Kofi Cockburn, this Illini team is better on defense than most years since 2006, the last really good Illinois team. The reason is because of the talent which includes some solid big men in Cockburn and fan favorite Giorgi Bezhanishvili. Don’t forget about sharpshooting Trent Frazier! Plus, a relentless style preached by Underwood has some insiders saying his practices are brutally tough, intense, and competitive. That’s what it takes if you want to be great. Currently ranked #21 in the AP Poll, this Illini team will go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. You can book it Johnny Red Kerr!
The Australian Open
I absolutely love the Australian Open. Have I written about this before? I feel as if I’ve gone there but whatever. Let me know if this is a repeat. Anyway, there’s something about the first big tennis event of the year. It’s the first of the four tennis Grand Slams. Every Winter here in the upper Midwest, I celebrate the beautiful hot Summer of the Southern Hemisphere. Australia is a hidden gem of a country, if you will. I can’t wait to visit someday. I’ll be going in January with a trip to Melbourne for the Australian Open on my agenda. It’s a bucket list event.
The AO started in 1905 and has been held in Melbourne since 1972. As for this year’s predictions, I’ll go with Rafael Nadal, the #1 seed for the men and Simona Halep, the #4 seed for the women. Nadal has only won the Australian once, back in 2009. This tournament has been dominated by Novak Djokovic (seven-time champ) and Roger Federer (six-time champ) over the last two decades. I think Nadal will win his second Australian Open Championship this year. As for Halep, she has never won this Grand Slam event, finishing as Runner-Up in 2018. I look for her to get off the schneid down under. Tune in and enjoy the beauty of Australia while watching some incredible tennis. Plus, I really enjoy ESPN’s tennis commentators such as Chris Fowler, John McEnroe, Brad Gilbert, Mary Joe Fernandez, Pam Shriver, and the eternally young Chrissie Evert.
That’s it for now. So long and farewell!
Reid “Dutch Lion”