Former Lions tight end Charlie Sanders was recently elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The honor was greatly deserved.Sanders was a marvel as a player. I have never seen a receiver make more “impossible” catches than Sanders did during the late 1960s and 1970s for the Lions. It was uncanny. He wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in there and block, either. Don’t believe it? Just ask Dick Butkus.Name a tight end. I don’t care which one, and Sanders was just as good - and probably better.What really hindered Sanders’ bid for The Hall was the fact he played for the Lions. Not only wasn’t he part of a championship team, he didn’t come close. Yet, honestly, he couldn’t have done more, from his position, to help his team win.It always leads to a perplexing question. How high do we place winning when accessing the performance of an individual player? Not to pick on the Lions (although they deserve it), but what type of player would Peyton Manning have become were he thrust into that mess? Conversely, how much better would Chuck Long, Andre Ware and Joey Harrington have been had they been selected by another organization? To take the question further, Barry Bonds has never won a title. Does that diminish his accomplishments? I loved Bill Russell as a player, but I don’t think he was as great as Wilt Chamberlain. Russell had Red Auerbach building teams around him. Wilt didn’t have the same type of smart GM working for him. When he did have comparable talent with the 76ers in 1966-67 and Lakers in 1972-73 - his teams dominated like few in NBA history.Jim Plunkett was a bad QB in New England and a champion in Oakland. Dan Marino was a better player than Bob Griese. He just was, but Griese has the rings and Marino - who might have been the best pure passer in history - carries this weird stigma because he didn’t win a title. Teams sports are not about one player. Even the truly great ones have sidekicks. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen, Joe Montana had Jerry Rice, Wayne Gretzky had Mark Messier, Babe Ruth had Lou Gehrig, etc.Who was Archie Manning’s sidekick?I think most times were a little too tough in accessing athletes as losers if they are put in the wrong spot. And a little bit quick with our praise of athletes when they are put in the right place at the right time.And it’s one of the reasons I am so pleased Charlie Sanders, who is also one of the good guys, finally got his due and reached the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- I heard some people talk about the Indians as if they are a real threat in the American League Central. I am not so sure. I like their power and their starting pitching, but their fielding and their bullpen are more than just a little questionable.
- The best high school football player I ever saw was John Miller from Farmington Harrison. The best high school basketball player was Chris Webber from Country Day. The best high school baseball player was Steve Howe from Clarkston.
- It’s just my opinion, but I think Paul Woods does a great job with his commentary on the Red Wings radio broadcasts. His knowledge of the NHL and hockey in general is extraordinary.