Top 5 Sports Stories

Happy Monday everyone, here's my Top 5 for January 24, 2011 from Len Berman at

1. Quick Hits

* Green Bay is favored by 2 1/2 points to beat Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.
* Adding fun to the American League East, former Red Sox "Idiot" teammates Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon sign with Tampa Bay.
* Andy Roddick is bounced in the fourth round of the Australian Open. There are no Americans left in either draw.
* Tiger Woods, who begins his season this week in San Diego, drops to #3 in the world rankings. Lee Westwood is #1, Martin Kaymer who won in Abu Dhabi yesterday, moves up to #2.

2. Big D

It's fitting that this year's Super Bowl is in Big D. Because it's the "D" that got these teams into the big game. Here we have two of the storied franchises going head to head. No team has won more Super Bowls than Pittsburgh, 6. And Green Bay is the great franchise that started it all with Vince Lombardi, winning Super Bowls I and II. There's an old NFL axiom that goes, "offense is for show, defense is for dough." You saw yesterday how true it is. Defense carried the day for Green Bay, and the lack of a run defense sunk the Jets in the first half. And the Steelers forcing the Mark Sanchez fumble and turning it into a touchdown, plus their big goal line stand, was the difference for them. I have to admit with two weeks of talking I'll miss Rex Ryan for his entertainment value. But the two best teams are heading to Dallas. That's the way it's supposed to be. For more Super Bowl thoughts, I was on CNN's American Morning today. Check it out.

3. Say Hey

What a great story last week, as Willie Mays returned to his New York roots and talked to schoolkids in the shadow of the old Polo Grounds in Harlem. From all reports, he was a hit. Particularly when he ran out of memorabilia and handed a stunned kid a hundred dollar bill. Willie has never been considered "warm and fuzzy," but he certainly appeared that way on Friday. Maybe Willie just missed kids, like the ones he used to play stickball with in the streets. "Can Willie come out and play?" It really happened. I wouldn't recommend knocking on the doors of any star athletes today.

4. Wilfrid Sheed, 1930-2011

Wilfrid Sheed died last week. He was a well known American writer. Yet nowhere in the obituaries did it note that he was probably the first TV sports critic. After the 1969 World Series, he wrote a scathing article about the NBC announcers in Sports Illustrated. It was the birth of a column called "TV Talk." It was the first time I ever saw sportscasters being taken to task in print. The next week, two letters to the editor appeared in SI. One was from the great Roone Arledge. "Instead of any kind of enlightened criticism, we apparently are going to be fed a weekly serving of sarcasm, carping and nitpicking." He said cherrypicking isolated, meaningless sentences out of 15 hours of World Series broadcasts is not only "unenlightening but unfair." By the way, the other letter to the editor 42 years ago was from a wise-ass college radio announcer. Me. It's as close as I ever got to Roone Arledge.

5. Hat Trick

Announcing the first ever Top 5 Super Bowl contest. Guess the winner and final score of Super Bowl XLV and win a prize! No, not a trip to every Super Bowl for the rest of your life. Almost as good. A "Len Berman That's Sports hat."
Just click here to enter.
Only one entry per person accepted.

Happy Birthday: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton. 43.
Bonus Birthday: Sweet Caroline. Singer Neil Diamond. 70.

Today in Sports: How did that work out exactly? A Major League rules committee declared that umpires will strictly enforce the rule whereby pitchers have to deliver the ball to home in 20 seconds. Yeah right. 1955.
Bonus Event: I think he started something. A guy finds a gold nugget in California. You may have heard what happened the following year. If he never found that nugget, we'd be calling the San Francisco 49ers something else. 1848.

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