By Bruce Penton
We’ve seen our share of clear No. 1s. Like, would anyone dispute the assertion that Coke is No. 1 and Pepsi No. 2?
Music’s No. 1? The Beatles. No. 2? The Rolling Stones.
In hockey, it’s the Great One, Wayne Gretzky at No. 1, with, take your choice, Orr or Howe at No. 2.
Same thing in the recent National Football League draft of college stars. No. 1 was a quarterback from Louisiana State University, Joe Burrow. The other stars were clumped in a group of No. 2 through 100 or so.
So it was with absolutely no surprise that Cincinnati Bengals, who wrapped up the No. 1 selection with a 2-14 record in 2019, ‘earned’ the right to pick first. And since quarterback has always been a trouble spot for the Bengals, there was no doubt that the Burrow-Bengals coupling would be a marriage made in football heaven.
The Burrow story is one over which Hollywood script writers might drool. He was a star QB in high school in Athens, Ohio, and longed for the chance to suit up for Nebraska Cornhuskers, where his father and two older brothers had played. But the Nebraska braintrust wasn’t interested, so Burrow went to his second choice, and where he was wanted, Ohio State.
Alas, he got hurt in his first year, and then lost a competition to Dwayne Haskins for the starting quarterback job in his second year. When it was clear Haskins would be the starter again the following year, Burrow transferred to LSU, where he became Coke, the Beatles and Gretzky wrapped up in purple and gold.
Burrow’s list of accomplishments is long. After a 2018 season at LSU (10-3 record) where he firmly established himself as the team’s No. 1 QB, he went all Joe Montana in his senior year, leading LSU to the national championship, winning the Heisman Trophy as the best college player in the U.S., and leading LSU to an unbeaten 15-0 season. Oh, by the way, he also threw 60 touchdown passes and had a mere six interceptions.
College football in the U.S. is hardly of NFL quality, though, and some rookies find the learning curve to be steep, especially when the comparative supporting cast — blockers, offensive weapons — might be weaker than what he was used to in college. And goodness knows the Bengals — 21 wins and 42 losses, with one tie, in the past four seasons — have a lot of weaknesses.
If a winning record is in the cards for the Bengals this year, Burrow will have confirmed to the world that he’s no ordinary Joe.
• SI.com’s Joel Beall, recalling golfer K.J. Choi’s cameo in a film called ‘Seven Days in Utopia’ where he plays unflappable golfer ’T.K. Oh’. Of the film, the late critic Roger Ebert wrote, ‘I would rather eat a golf ball than see this movie again’.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Overzealous college boosters, embracing the spirit of social distancing, are now including a tiny bottle of sanitizer with every $100 handshake.”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on Twitter, after learning that sports guy Bill Simmons of ESPN owns five L.A-area homes: “On the downside, you cannot believe the amount of candy The Sports Guy has to purchase every Halloween.”
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