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Posted by on Aug 30, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

Why Vince Lombardi Had It Wrong

 

Vince Lombardi carried off the field at Miami’s Orange Bowl after winning Super Bowl II
Photo From: www.thegrindstone.com

 

If pro football had a face of God, it would look exactly like Vince Lombardi.

He’s the most revered sculpture on the gridiron’s Mount Rushmore — and deservedly so.

Lombardi won the NFL championship five of the ten seasons he was a head coach, including the first two Super Bowls.  Despite taking over two cellar-dwelling teams prior to his arrival — first in 1959 with the Green Bay Packers and then in 1969 with the Washington Redskins — he never suffered a losing season.

Lombardi is lionized — not only for the way he coached and his no-nonsense philosophy — but for the man he was.  Lombardi was a larger-than life character who symbolized honesty, integrity, hard work, and faith.  To those around him, he as also father-figure, a teacher, a poet, and above all else — a motivator.

He was also one of the most quotable sports figures in history.

Lombardi shared many powerful words and phrases over the course of his life that resonated with millions, including many people who had no connection whatsoever to the game of football.  Arguably, the most famous quote of all attributed to Lombardi over his storied career reads as follows:

Winning isn’t everything.  It’s the only thing. [See Footnote]

The message is clear — do whatever it takes to win.

But go back and read that quote again.  First, you’ll notice that the prose is confusing.  It’s even contradictory.  After all, if winning is “the only thing,” then winning would certainly be “everything.”  But Lombardi is alleged to have said “winning isn’t everything.”  Got it?

Well, neither do I.  But let’s move on.

The Lombardi quote tersely contradicts another equally famous sports quote, this one from old-time sportswriter Grantland Rice, who famously said:

It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

Vince Lombardi and Grantland Rice are clearly at odds.  The question is — can both men be right?  If not, then who has the more righteous credo, expressive of the virtue that’s most important?

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Posted by on Jan 29, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

How Socialism Made the NFL America’s National Pastime

 

History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.

— Karl Marx, Reflections of a Young Man (1835)

 

karl marx

 

Who is most responsible for making the National Football League into the world’s richest and most successful sporting league?

George Halas, the NFL’s founder?  Vince Lombardi, the great coach?  Pete Rozelle, the pioneer commissioner?  Joe Namath?  Joe Montana?  Tom Brady?

Try again.

The correct answer is Karl Marx.

That’s right, Karl Marx — otherwise known as the patriarch of the global and contemporary movement known as “socialism.” [*see footnote below]

Next Sunday, more than 100 million viewers will tune in to the Super Bowl.  Many of those watching will be red-meat ravishing red-staters and stalwart conservatives, their minds chained to some Dystopian philosophical mantle falsely asserting that fierce competition between businesses and among individuals combined with the prioritization of profits breeds two certain outcomes:  (1) strength and (2) prosperity.

But this isn’t true.  It’s certainly not true in professional sports.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Fact:  The NFL has enjoyed unparalleled national success over more than a half-century because it adopted virtually all of the principles of SOCIALISM.

Indeed, the NFL is a socialist enterprise.  Socialism works.  And the best example of this is American professional football.

Gather your jaws off the floor, and open your minds, my fellow football fanatics.

Read on.

*****

The NFL is a monster.

It’s the richest and most successful sporting institution in the history of the world.  It’s America’s true national pastime.  Forget Major League Baseball — which slipped off the pedestal as the nation’s premier spectator sport 60 years ago because of its rejection of socialism and embrace of me-first/fuck-everybody-else capitalism.

Football initially surpassed and eventually supplanted baseball as the national pastime in the early 1960s, when television became the new barometer of popularity.  Now, both college and professional football demolishes baseball in ratings to the point where Major League Baseball avoids scheduling post-season games against the NFL regular season.  Want proof?  Consider that nine of the top ten most-watched television programs of all time are Super Bowls.  Not baseball.  Football.  By contrast, the World Series of Baseball’s highest-rated game ever in history (played in 1986) drew about a third of what an average Super Bowl attracts.

How did this remarkable transformation come about?  Two words — revenue sharing.  In other words, the governing body redistributing wealth.

Earlier, I alluded to Pete Rozelle, who really is the most important figure in the history of professional football.  If the game has a Karl Marx figure, it’s most certainly Rozelle, who ran the NFL for nearly 30 years and was the architect of the NFL-AFL- merger in 1970.  I suppose it’s Friederik Engels would then be Dallas’ Lamar Hunt, who held the same power over in the American Football League (AFL).  When the two pro football leagues signed huge national television contracts, Rozelle and Hunt had the tremendous foresight to divide profits and share the millions in revenue equally between all teams.  That meant money from CBS, ABC, NBC (and later FOX and ESPN) would be divided into equal shares between New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — and much smaller cities like Green Bay.  Despite the big market teams enjoying significantly greater numbers of fans and viewers, Rozelle and Hunt (along with team owners) understood that the overall game — the COLLECTIVE (remember our Marxism, classmates) — would be much better off if all teams were given an equal chance to compete, win, and prosper.  In 1970, the two leagues merged and adopted this same policy for all teams.

Wow, talk about a chapter straight out of Das Capital.

Today, all NFL teams receive an equal share of the profits generated from the league’s coffers.  For this reason, Green Bay (population 70,000) can compete with New York (population 8,000,000).  Both teams can also be just as profitable.

By contrast, baseball maintains an economic system reminiscent of the robber baron days, an area of “haves” and “have nots.”  In baseball, big market teams reap and keep the lion’s share of their television money and horde their profits from merchandising.  Accordingly, big and powerful teams like the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Angels, and Dodgers can buy up all the talent every year when players around the league become free agents.  Smaller cities like Kansas City and Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay — with far less money to spend on good players — can not compete.  The competitive imbalance causes fans in some cities to lose interest.  The entire league suffers.  That’s one reason why baseball’s TV ratings are in the shitter.

Indeed, while professional football is based on the principles of socialism, baseball remains very much wielded to the principles of capitalism.  And based on any tangible metric, the evidence is abundantly clear as to which system is more successful.

*****

Socialism’s intent is sharing resources and encouraging cooperation.

Let’s examine how the NFL operates as a business model.  Consider the following:

REVENUE SHARING — All 32 NFL teams share television money in equal shares.  “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.”  Sound familiar?

MERCHANDISING PROFIT — Until 2010, NFL teams shared most of the royalties earned from merchandise sales.  However, courts ruled that this policy violated anti-trust laws.  Now, the 32 teams will be able to make their own deals, which ruins a system that has worked well for the past fifty years.  So, Jerry Jones becomes the owner of the NFL’s most valuable franchise, despite not winning a championship in a quarter-century (admit it — you knew the attack on Jones was coming).

THE NFL DRAFT — Every year, the weakest teams are given an advantage.  Sorta’ like the poor.  Losing teams are given the opportunity to make the first picks when drafting new players.  This gives bad teams a greater opportunity to improve and perhaps become better.  By contrast, the best teams must pick last in the draft.  This is the way taxation should work, according to the principles of socialism.  Tax the wealthy — they’ll still do fine.  At least the poor teams have the chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

SCHEDULING — The teams at the top get penalized.  They are required to play tougher schedules the following year.  The worst teams play a weaker schedule.  Whatever you think about this system, it works.  Chalk up another win for NFL socialism.

GAME DAY — All NFL teams play games on the same day at the same time (in rotation).  They are equals.  No team gets special treatment.  It’s not like baseball in which teams can play pretty much whenever they want.  No NFL team is permitted to schedule its games apart from the rest of the league.  The league strictly dictates pro football’s regular-season schedule and game times are known and expected by fans.  No outlier competition.  Total cooperation.  More socialism.

And so, virtually everything the NFL does is patterned on the principles of sharing and cooperation.  Profits are divided equally.  Teams needing help are given competitive advantages.  And teams that consistently perform well are asked to sacrifice more.

Conclusion:  The NFL is the best illustration of the success of socialism.

Footnote:  Okay, so this isn’t totally true.  But “Karl Marx” rolls off the tongue easier than Auguste Comte or Saul Alinsky.

__________

 

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Posted by on Feb 14, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 0 comments

What’s the Worst Date You’ve Ever Been On?

 

 

Happy Valentines Day!

Let’s do something different.  Today, we’re going to have a little fun.  We’ve earned it, right?  On this special occasion, we’re going to try and recall the absolute worst dates of our lives.

I considered asking my faithful readers to post stories about their best dates.  It is Valentines Day, after all.  Thing is, the very best dates either lead to weddings, or if they’re truly amazing — maybe really wild and happened at the end of the night which might best remain unspoken.

So instead, let’s find some common ground and focus on the worst dates we’ve ever had.  Everyone’s been on a bad date, so we should all be able to play along.

I got married at age 29.  That means I spent about ten years playing the dating game.  Like most everyone, I went out on some good dates and some bad dates.  Most of them, I don’t remember much.

But I sure remember a Saturday night that happened sometime in 1987.

My worst date happened when I was around 25.  I met a girl somewhere, I forgot where exactly.  Attracted to the girl, I gave her my phone number and asked to call if she wanted to go out sometime.  To my surprise, she called just a few days later.  We talked for a few minutes and agreed that I’d pick her up Saturday night and take her out to dinner.  We may even have discussed going to a movie, as well.  I think Platoon had just been released.

Saturday comes around and I’m supposed to pick her up promptly at 6.  I get into my car and the piece of shit won’t start.  The bastard battery was dead.  Frantic, I tried getting a jump start but didn’t have any jumper cables.  Utterly desperate for transport and the clock ticking fast to 6, I called up my friend, Iranian Mike, a gambling buddy of mine who lived about a mile away.  I begged him to borrow his car for the night.  He said okay.  Iranian Mike even agreed to drive his car over and let me have it so I wouldn’t be late for my date.  Man, what a pal.  I think he might have owed me some money, so this made us even.

When Iranian Mike pulled into my apartment complex, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  He drove a dark blue Oldsmobile.  A Cutlass.  It was filthy.  There was dog hair all over the seats.  He had a small Shitzhu and the dog rode in the car all the time.  It was summer in Texas, so the dog shedded like crazy.  Worse, Iranian Mike’s car had a flat tire a few days earlier and was riding on one of those small donut-shaped emergency tires that was only intended as a temporary replacement to make it to a service station.  Iranian Mike tossed me the keys and told me to bring it back in one piece.

I can’t even fathom what must have gone through the girl’s head when I pulled in to pick her up, driving that dark blue Oldsmobile Cutlass of a shitbox with dog hair all over the seats and a tiny tire that made the car pull off to one side.

Hey, the night was still young.  Then, things went downhill from there.

I feel bad not remembering the girl’s name, right now.  So, I have to call her “the girl.”  If you’re reading — sorry girl.  She listened to my sob story about the car not starting and having to borrow a friend’s car at the last second.  I think she kinda’ appreciated the effort.  She even believed me for a second.

We pulled into one of the best Italian restaurants in North Dallas, Lombardi’s on Lower Greenville.  This was my go-to place.  Great food.  Live jazz on weekends.  I’d even made a dinner reservation in advance.  What a gentleman.  A player.

The next 90 minutes were excruciating.  Ever been in a confined space, trapped in a sit-down situation, and within 5 minutes you know it’s already a disaster?  How about this:  Ever been crucified?  That was this date.

We had absolutely nothing in common.  I mean, nothing.  Everything she liked and enjoyed, I detested.  Every topic I brought up, she took no interest in.  But, she had a great ass.  Man, I couldn’t get the check fast enough.

We both went through the motions.  We gave it the old college try.  I remember as we were looking across at each other one of those cozy two-top tables meant for couples truly in love, recalling that many odd relationships start off sailing on rough seas before calmer waters.  Indeed, many love affairs do begin when the two people can’t stand each other.  But this wasn’t that.  She didn’t dislike me.  And I didn’t dislike her.  The date pretty much just ended up like walking up to a stranger on a bus and saying, “hey, let’s hang out together for a couple of hours.”  What would one expect?  Rolling the dice like that, what are the odds it’s going to work out and you’re going to keep hitting your point?  Dating is/was just a numbers game.  Keep tossing and eventually, you hit the 7.  But along the way, there’s a few boxcars and snake-eyes.  This date wasn’t like crapping out.  It was like misfiring with two dice bounding off the table.  A miscue.  A bad roll.

The waiter brought over the check and by this time there was no chance in hell we were going to that movie.  Even if I really wanted to see Platoon.  All I wanted to do was pack her into the passenger seat with all the grey dog hair and wheel her back to her street, prop open the side door, and slow down enough to let her get a running start when the stilettos hit the asphalt.

But first I had to pay the bill.

Uh oh.

Dallas — we have a problem.  When I reached for the check that’s when I suddenly realized this night was about to become so far beyond a humiliation that I think I just lost it right then and there and began to burst out laughing.

A few hours earlier while trying to find a jump start for the car, I’d switched jackets.  That meant I’d left my billfold in the other coat pocket.  The billfold had all my money and credit cards.  So, I was sitting at a dinner table on a Saturday night penniless.  Flat fucking broke.

I think I was laughing by this time.  Crying, maybe.  I don’t remember.  The girl must have thought I was insane.  If there was a bridge nearby, I probably would have jumped off it.

“Umm, you’re not going to believe this, but umm…..”

Whatever syllables followed next from my trembling salty lips aren’t important, nor are they remembered exactly word for word, some three decades later.  However, I do remember this.  My date actually gasped for air.  Then, she just stared.  Sort of like a death stare.  Then, she calmly reached into her purse, tossed some money on the tabletop, and confessed she needed to go to the ladies room immediately.  Yeah, I totally got that.  I could surely understand.  I’m stoked with empathy.  The girl needed to catch her breath.  Take a little break.  I’m sure our date had been quite overwhelming.

Well, I sat there by myself with my hands over my face in silence for the next ten minutes.  The agony seemed a lot longer than that.  It sure seemed like a long time for her to be using the restroom.  So, I left her money on the table and approached to the hostess stand.  I was still clueless.

“Hey, did you see a brunette lady in a polka-dot dress up here?  She’s my date.  I can’t find her.”

 “Yeah, she jumped in a taxi and left five minutes ago.”

Can you believe that?  I didn’t even get a kiss.

Well, at least I got a free dinner out of the worst date of my life.

 

Note:  ‘Tis the season of love.  Now it’s your turn.  Please join our fun at Facebook where readers can post their WORST DATE EVER stories in the “comments” section.  My last poll question got about 230 replies.  This one should be a blast.  CLICK THE LINK BELOW:

 

 

 

__________

 

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Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Blog, Essays, Sports Betting | 6 comments

The Ten Greatest NFL Dynasties of All Time

 

Joe-Montana

 

Which are the greatest dynasties in NFL history?

I define a dynasty as team of prominent players and coaches which achieves an exceptional level of success over multiple seasons.  Obviously, lots of subjectivity is involved when trying to chose teams and decide where they should be ranked.  A number of key factors were taken into consideration including — (1) league championships won, (2) conference championship game appearances, (3) playoff appearances, (4) regular season wins, (5) number of Hall of Fame inductees, and (6) the team’s lasting legacy.  Note that I’ve limited my selections to the modern era which began in 1960, when the American Football League was formed and the NFL began expanding into new cities.

First, here’s my list of teams from eras that didn’t quite make the top ten list:

1962-69 Kansas City Chiefs — Although the Chiefs played in the old American Football League and much of their success came before prior to 1970 NFL merger, Hank Stram’s-coached Kansas City teams of the 1960’s were as good as any team from that period.  Kansas City won three AFL titles, appeared in two Super Bowls, and perhaps most importantly, they destroyed the Minnesota Vikings (which were a 13-point favorite) in the final inter-league championship game before the AFL was officially dissolved.  The Chiefs ended the 1960’s as the winningest team in the AFL’s ten-year history.  They produced five Hall of Fame players, in addition to head coach Hank Stram and owner Lamar Hunt.

1984-1991 Chicago Bears — The 1985 Chicago Bears are usually a popular choice as the “greatest team of all time,” going 15-1 during the regular season and establishing a level of dominance over their opponents which hasn’t been seen since, especially defensively.  Mike Ditka’s teams, which included Buddy Ryan as the brassy defensive coordinator, would have made the rankings had they been able to win more titles, or at least make some deeper playoff runs in an eight-year stretch when they won 90 regular season games (averaging 11 wins per year).  These Bears teams sent four players to the Hall of Fame, plus Mike Ditka.

1986-1990 New York Giants — The Bill Parcells’-coached teams of the late 1980’s included 72 wins in seven seasons, plus two Super Bowl titles (in 1986 and 1990).  However, they sent only two players to the Hall of Fame, in addition to Parcells and team owner Wellington Mara.  This is a marginal choice at best, but still worthy of an honorable mention because the 49er’s teams from this period were so dominant as were the Redksins within the same division.  Perhaps had these Giants teams not had to compete with the great San Francisco and Washington teams within the same conference, they would have posted better results and might have cracked the top ten.

 

Now, for a countdown of the top ten list:

10. 1988-1996 Buffalo Bills — One probably doesn’t think of a team that lost four Super Bowls as a dynasty.  However, Marv Levy’s teams won 88 games within a span of just eight seasons (averaging 11 wins per season), appeared in five conference championship games (winning four), and then made four futile Super Bowl appearances.  If expanded though 1999, the Bills can add two more 10-plus win seasons plus two additional division titles.  The Bills merit inclusion on this elite list of teams by virtue of their dominance of the AFC over a decade, in addition to sending seven players in the Hall of Fame, plus Marv Levy, Bill Polian (General Manager), and Ralph Wilson (owner).

9. 1982-1992 Washington Redskins — Head Coach Joe Gibbs and General Manager Bobby Beathard clearly built one of the great dynasties over a decade when they made four Super Bowl appearances, winning three NFL championships.  Perhaps most impressive, Gibbs accomplished this feat with multiple quarterbacks (four different starters).  These Washington teams made the playoffs in 8 of 11 years, all 10-plus win seasons.  The Redskins played in what was unquestionably the league’s most competitive division (competing with the great Giants’ teams coached by Bill Parcells, Tom Landry’s Cowboys, and Buddy Ryan’s Eagles).  In addition, they competed with the great Bill Walsh 49ers’ teams within the same conference.  Posting three Super Bowl wins is quite impressive given the opposition, leading to arguments these Redskins teams could be ranked higher.

8. 1970-1974 Miami Dolphins — Lots is made of the perfect 17-0 season achieved by the 1972 Dolphins, and that remains the unmatched benchmark of achievement.  Miami won 57 regular season games within a five year span (keep in mind these years had a 14-game season), played in three straight Super Bowls, winning two titles (1972 and 1973).  Don Shula’s trademark during this era was defense and the Dolphins were certainly one of the greatest of all-time.  Six Miami Dolphins from this era were inducted into the Hall of Fame, plus Don Shula, who finished his career with the most all-time victories.

7.  1992-1996 Dallas Cowboys — Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys were always an enigma.  They began as undoubtedly the worst NFL franchise when Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989 fire sale and immediately brought in a college football coach from the University of Miami which brought widespread ridicule.  Within four seasons however, Dallas won their first Super Bowl and went on to achieve three NFL championships (the last in coming 1995, while coached by Barry Switzer).  The Cowboys posted regular season wins of 11, 13, 12, 12, 12, and 10 in six remarkable seasons.  Dallas sent five players into the Hall of Fame.  These Cowboys were an enigma because Jimmy Johnson’s departure from the team while at his peak raises even more questions about how great this team might have been among the very best and how long the dynasty might have lasted had he remained with the team for several more years.

6.  1970-1983 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders — Al Davis’ Oakland Raider teams of the 1970’s often get overlooked because they competed in the same era with some other great teams (most notably Pittsburgh and Dallas).  However, the John Madden-coached Raiders appeared in five straight AFC championship games (1973-77), won one Super Bowl, and sent a whopping eight players into the Hall of Fame.  Following Madden’s retirement, Tom Flores assumed control of the teams and proceeded to win two more Super Bowls — in 1980 (when in Oakland) and 1983 (when in Los Angeles) .  That made for three titles in nine seasons.

5.  1966-1982 Dallas Cowboys — Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboy’s were the winningest NFL franchise for a very long time, making the playoffs 16 out of 17 years, winning two Super Bowls (1972 and 1977), appearing in seven NFL championship games, as well as 12 conference championships.  Even the championships lost by the Cowboys (1966 to the Packers, 1967 to the Packers, 1970 to the Colts, 1976 to the Steelers, and 1978 to the Steelers) all went down to the final drive, meaning the Cowboys could conceivably have far more titles.  Most impressive — this dynasty was accomplished with four different quarterbacks (Meredith, Morton, Staubach, White).  Landry remains one of the most innovative coaches in NFL history, both offensively and defensively, and ended up ranked third in all-time wins among head coaches.  The Cowboys sent seven players to the Hall of Fame from this period (actually, 11 overall), plus Landry as a coach and Tex Schramm as General Manager.

4.  1972-1979 Pittsburgh Steelers — Some will be surprised not to see these powerful black and gold teams ranked closer to the top.  There’s compelling evidence that these great Chuck Noll-coached teams of the 1970’s could be the very best.  Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls within six seasons (no other team has accomplished that, except Green Bay during the 1960’s).  During seven of these eight seasons they won 10-plus games.  Moreover, the roster of Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame may be the strongest argument for moving them up higher.  Nine Steelers are in the HOF, plus Chuck Noll (coach) and two of the Rooney’s (owners).  This team also had to compete in the same era with the great Dallas and Oakland teams, which were nearly as good and consistent.

3.  1960-1967 Green Bay Packers — Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers are legendary, and with good reason.  They set the bar of excellence during the era when pro football became the true national pastime and remain a benchmark of team accomplishment.  Now iconic in stature, the players on this team came together in a small Wisconsin town and became heroes to millions of fans across the country.  Green Bay won five NFL championships within seven years (and played in another).  Oddly enough, Green Bay’s regular season win totals weren’t quite as impressive, which is one reason they don’t quite match the top two choices.  Ten Packers are inducted into the Hall of Fame, plus Vince Lombardi.

2.  2001-present New England Patriots — No one could have possibly imagined that when QB Drew Bledsoe was knocked out of an early-season game in 20o1, that would ignite a dynasty which continues to this day (and could continue for a while longer).  There’s ample evidence to suggest the Patriots will go down as the greatest dynasty of all time.  However, it still remains to bee seen where they’ll finally stack up in terms of number of players in the Hall of Fame, overall wins, championships, and so forth.  Even with the incomplete grade, Bill Belichick’s record of achievement, entirely under the consistent on-the-field command of Tom Brady, is unlikely to be equaled — 182 regular season wins within 15 years (averaging 12 wins per season).  Six Super Bowl appearances and four wins (including three out of four 2001-2004).  Seven conference championship game appearances.  Even with all the sideline controversy, these numbers are irrefutable.  This team could go down as the greatest dynasty ever, since they aren’t quite finished yet.  (Update:  Patriots play in Super Bowl 51, which is not factored at the time this article was first written)

1.  1981-1998 San Francisco 49ers — The Bill Walsh-George Seifert teams of the 1980’s and 1990’s achieved an unrivaled level of excellence, perhaps matched only by the New England Patriots of the present era.  San Francisco won 10-plus games during a staggering 17 of 18 season run (192 regular season wins in 18 years).  They also won five Super Bowls during an 11-year stretch (not losing any appearances).  The 49ers also appeared in 10 NFC championship games within this period.  They inducted nine players into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with Bill Walsh (coach) and Eddie Debartolo (owner).  Let the debate begin as to which of these top two ranked teams are better, but I’ll give a slight nod to the 49ers who have achieved success just a bit longer and have fielded many of the greatest players of all time at their respective positions (Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Charles Haley, Ronnie Lott).

 

Agree?  Disagree?  Which other teams should have made the list?

Feel free to leave your choices and comments.

 

138888540_crop_north

 

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