How sweet it was

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I do not know about you dear reader, but as I write today's column, my eyes are still blurry and maybe a little cross-eyed from watching so many different sports over the past week. It started with NBA Basketball and not to be left behind, there were some terrific College Games.

You would think that would be enough, but then the NCAA Football Bowl season began. When I was a kid, it was easy. We only had the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Rose Bowls. Today, it is quite different!  I think I counted over 35 actual Football Games with the title "Bowl" as part of their name.

You couldn't name them all, even using both your hands and taking your shoes and socks off. I believe, every sponsor in this down economy that had extra cash lent his/her name to a Bowl Game.

My Dad, the old footballer who was in the meat business, always thought there should be a "Sausage" Bowl.  I didn't see that one.  But Dad if you are looking down don't hold your breath.  I think there probably will be a "Kitchen Sink" Bowl", before one entitled "Sausage".

Nevertheless, there were some great games and some exciting record chases. One of those was that of Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings chasing the record of Eric Dickerson.  In 1984  while playing for the Los Angeles Rams. He ran for 2105 yards.

Peterson was closing in and Eric was interviewed on many shows about how he felt about Peterson possibly breaking his record.  Eric's answer was simple and honest.

Eric said, "I hope he continues to have a great season, remains unhurt and his team does well.  I hope he does not break my record."

This past weekend, Eric's prayers were answered.  In a game against Minnesota's arch-rivals, the Green Bay Packers, Adrian ended the season just 8 short of Eric's record, accumulating 2097 yards.

For the moment, I am sure Adrian is heartsick.  However, when he understands that in the long history of the NFL only 5 others have run for 2000 yds.,  or more, in a season, he will realize his achievement.  O. J. Simpson was the first to do it in 1973 with 2003 yds.

Realizing that I had been with the Los Angeles Lakers Organization during the 1971-72 season, I was bombarded by questions about the Los Angeles Clippers 17 game win streak. I thought about what Eric had said when he wished Peterson all the best, but not the record.

The Clippers are good and they have captured the imagination of  the Basketball World.

The reason I was asked so many questions was during the '71-'72 season when the Lakers won 33 straight games.  After losing  to the Golden State Warriors on  October 31, 1971, they  did not lose again until January 11, 1972. It was the Milwaukee Bucks with Kareem Abdul Jabaar who did them in. The same  Kareem who would lead the Lakers to many more titles.

However, the Lakers' first title was in the '71 season under Coach Bill Sharman. Bill, himself a Hall-of-Famer  as both a Player and Coach worked with such intensity that he completely lost his voice. Today, at 86, he still whispers to communicate.

That Laker Team was loaded with Hall-of-famers: Wilt Chamberlain, the only man to ever score 100 points in an NBA game.  Jerry West whose shooting style today remains the NBA logo and Elgin Baylor with his famous "floating-in-air" shot.

 Carrying on that 1971 wining legacy is Pat Riley that time, probably the best 6th man in the NBA. He didn't look like the suave executive of today.  Instead, he had long flowing hair with mustache to match. But before every game he would take anyone he could find in a game of H-O-R-S-E.

I never beat him.

Today's Clippers may also have one, or two potential Hall-of-Famers.  But for now, I breathe a sigh of relief. For the Laker Record, that I enjoyed as part of the organization, still stands.


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Sports Scrapbook
Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.