Month: November 2016

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Joe Schmidt

Contrary to popular opinion, Detroit’s Joe Schmidt did not invent the middle linebacker position; he just played it better than it had ever been played before. Few have played the spot better since.
In his first two seasons with the Lions, 1953 and 1954, the former University of Pittsburgh star played as an outside linebacker in the then-prevalent 5-2 defense (five linemen, two linebackers). But when a weakness developed up the center, Detroit coach Buddy Parker switched to a 4-3 with Schmidt moving into the middle.
The 4-3 required an unusually versatile middle linebacker. He needed to be strong enough to move into the line and stop running plays, quick and agile enough to evade 250-pound blockers and run down plays to the outside, fast enough to drop back to cover pass receivers, and smart enough to diagnose enemy plays before they developed.
It was a big order, but the 6’0″, 222-pound Schmidt (born 1932) filled it admirably. The Lions won the NFL championship in his rookie season and the division title in 1954.
Two frustrating seasons followed, but in 1957 the Lions were back in the championship game. Their 59-14 dismantling of the Cleveland Browns was one of the most one-sided routs ever seen in the long history of NFL title tilts. Schmidt and company held the great Jim Brown to only 69 rushing yards.
Schmidt’s college career had been checkered. He returned an intercepted pass 60 yards to help upset Notre Dame 22-19, and he received some All-American mention as a senior. But mostly he’d been dogged by injuries. The Lions waited until the seventh round before drafting him because they questioned his durability.
During his 13-year NFL career, Schmidt developed middle linebacker into the dominant pro defensive position, setting the standard for later outstanding middle men like Sam Huff, Ray Nitschke, and Jack Lambert.
He was All-NFL nine times and chosen for nine consecutive Pro Bowls. In 1973, he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Should you hang up your landline during a thunderstorm?

Here is a list of things you probably know you shouldn’t do in a thunderstorm: (1) fly a kite, (2) stand under a tree, (3) wrap yourself in metal armor and play touch football, (4) put an antenna on your head, (5) stand on top of the Empire State Building and taunt Mother Nature or (6) call someone and make her sing “My Favorite Things” to calm you. Some of these, of course, result in more damage than others. After all, annoying a friend with your best rendition of Julie Andrews isn’t going to result in the same traumatic neurological damage that, say, a wannabe Ben Franklin would suffer during an electrical experiment in a howling storm.
Or will it? Because many of us have long been told that talking on a landline telephone during an electrical storm could cause an electric bolt to shoot straight to our ears. And while it sounds a little bit too neurotic and alarmist to be legit, there certainly is truth in the rumor. If you’re safe at home during a storm, it’s probably best not to call anyone for a long-winded chat.
To understand why the landline is going to send fatal shivers up your spine during a storm, you have to respect how fast electricity likes to travel. It doesn’t mosey along: It runs as fast as it can to the ground. So if your house is hit by a lightning bolt, the electricity will immediately find a perfect path in the metal wiring on your home [source: MythBusters]. And if you’re speaking on the phone, the end of the wiring just happens to be your ear.
That means exactly the grim outcome you’re expecting: a dose of electricity that can burst eardrums and even lead to cardiac arrest. In fact, one or two people die from lightning-through-phone strikes every year [source: MythBusters]. But don’t think it’s just the telephone that leaves you vulnerable; handling any electrical equipment (like your television or blender) during a storm also puts you at risk for a traveling current [source: Donahue].
Even more disconcerting is that the New England Medical Journal has documented that iPods (or other personal electronic devices) present their own small hazard in thunderstorms. Basically, a bolt of lightning often doesn’t hit a person directly. Instead, it jumps from the target to the human. That often results in a more superficial electrical jolt. However, if you have metal earbuds plugged straight into your ears, you’re at risk for a more damaging internal shock — and one that goes straight to your head [source: Heffernan]. The big lesson? Give your workout a break during thunderstorms. It won’t kill you to sit on the couch one afternoon. A run in the storm, however, might.


Hockey Helmet History

Known for its speed and rugged physicality, hockey can be an extremely dangerous sport due to the razor-sharp skates, swinging sticks and rock-hard pucks, not to mention the slick playing surface. Players must wear extensive equipment to protect themselves from the game¡¯s various rigors. Incredibly, the hockey helmet, which should be the most obvious piece of safety equipment, wasn¡¯t always part of the standard uniform.
While the first hockey player to don a protective helmet remains open to debate, Boston¡¯s Eddie Shore became the first high-profile National Hockey League star to wear a helmet. In December 1933, Shore, a punishing defender for the Bruins, viciously checked Toronto¡¯s Ace Bailey, sending Bailey¡¯s unprotected head crashing to the ice. Bailey suffered a fractured skull and nearly died. He recovered, but Bailey never played hockey again. Shaken by the incident, Shore wore a helmet for the remainder of his career. However, in those days, helmets consisted of little more than strips of leather stitched together in a crude skull cap and chin strap.
Despite the Bailey incident, NHL players remained reluctant to wear helmets until tragedy struck once more in January 1968. Bill Masterton, a center for the Minnesota North Stars, fell and hit his head on the ice in a game versus the Oakland Seals, causing a fatal brain aneurysm. Masterton became the first and only player in NHL history to die due to an on-ice incident. Incredibly, it still took the league until 1979 to make helmets mandatory, and even then it only affected players entering the league; veterans had the choice of whether or not to wear one. The last NHLer to play without a helmet was Craig MacTavish, who retired in 1997.
Numerous manufacturers, including CCM, Bauer and Reebok, have entered the hockey helmet marketplace. Most modern hockey helmets feature the same general construction, with a hard outer shell made from plastic and other composite materials encasing a series of foam padding designed to cushion the head. Hockey helmets also feature vents for cooling and adjustable chin straps for a precise fit.
Young hockey players and all high school and collegiate players in the United States must wear helmets with full cages that protect the entire face. Canadian junior players aren¡¯t required to wear cages, although many opt for clear visors that extend down from the helmet to protect their eyes from errant sticks and pucks. While free to wear cages or visors, many NHL players still shun the extra protection, with cages only seen when players are recovering from a facial injury.

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