December 31, 2000: Mississippi State and Texas A&M Play Thrilling Independence Bowl

On this day in 2000, Mississippi State beat Texas A&M 43-41 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. Played in unexpected snow, it was the most thrilling game of the whole bowl season.

2000 Independence BowlOn this day in 2000, Mississippi State beat Texas A&M 43-41 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. Played in unexpected snow, it was the most thrilling game of the whole bowl season.

Before the number of college bowl games exploded in the 2000s, spending the holidays in Shreveport was considered to be the worst postseason for any team.  However, the game for years featured strong teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 and was generally a good one.

Both teams rolled into the game with 7-4 records. Just before kickoff a snowstorm rolled in and covered the field in snow, making the game was bit sloppy with missed extra points and numerous turnovers. A&M led 20-14 at halftime and 35-21 in the 4th quarter.  The Bulldogs rallied with two touchdowns to send the game into overtime.

A&M struck first with running back Ja’Mar Toombs scoring a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime. But Terence Kitchens extra point was blocked and returned for two points. Down 41-37, Bulldog quarterback Wayne Madkin scored on 6-yard touchdown run to seal the game.

College football purists have expressed concern that some of the playoff bowl games will be played on New Year’s Eve. If the games are half as exciting as the 2000 Independence Bowl, planning New Year’s Eve around football will not be an issue.

December 30, 1977: Ted Bundy Escapes From Jail

On this day in 1977, serial killer Ted Bundy escaped from the Glenwood Springs Jail in Colorado. It was his second escape from jail and led to more murders.

Ted Bundy's FBI 10 Most Wanted List PhotoOn this day in 1977, serial killer Ted Bundy escaped from the Glenwood Springs Jail in Colorado.  It was his second escape from jail and led to more murders.

Bundy was awaiting trial for the murder of Caryn Campbell in 1975 and had already escaped once in June of 1977 but was caught six days later.  In December, Bundy began plotting his second escape by sawing a hole in his cell’s ceiling. On December 30, he put books in his bed to appear that he was sleeping and went in through the ceiling to the apartment of the chief jailer, who was out that evening. Bundy then slipped past the jail’s skeleton crew and walked out the front door.

He ended up in Florida and on January 15, killed two women and brutally assaulted three more in the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University in Tallahassee. On February 9, Bundy abducted 12-year-old Kimberly Leach from her school in Lake City.  Her skeletal remains were found seven weeks later.

On February 12, Bundy was pulled over by Pensacola police officer David Lee. After an intense fight, he was arrested. Bundy was convicted of the three murders and sentenced to death. Shortly before his execution in 1989, he confessed to committing more than 30 murders between 1974 and 1978.

December 29, 1989: Jane Pauley Leaves The Today Show

On this day in 1989, Jane Pauley announced that she was leaving The Today Show. The departure marked the end of an era for the number-one morning show in America.

Jane PauleyOn this day in 1989, Jane Pauley announced that she was leaving The Today Show. The departure marked the end of an era for the number-one morning show in America.

Pauley hosted the show with Tom Brokaw from 1976 to 1981. He then left to be the anchor of the NBC Nightly News and was replaced by Bryant Gumbel. She decided to leave the show to pursue a primetime news opportunity and in June of 1990, Real Life with Jane Pauley debuted and ran for 15 months. She then served as co-anchor of Dateline, which became NBC’s first successful news magazine show.

Deborah Norville, who did not appeal to Today Show viewers, replaced Pauley. In the spring of 1991, she was removed for the much more popular Katie Couric.

December 28, 1984: Sam Peckinpah Dies

On this day in 1984, Sam Peckinpah died of heart failure in Inglewood, California. The hard-living, volatile filmmaker was 59 years old.

Sam PeckinpahOn this day in 1984, Sam Peckinpah died of heart failure in Inglewood, California. The hard-living, volatile filmmaker was 59 years old.

Peckinpah was born in Fresno, California, and worked odd jobs before taking a position in 1954 as a Dialogue Director on “Riot in Cell Block 11.” In 1961, he made his directorial debut with “The Deadly Companions.” From there, he fought with countless producers, actors and executives, drank tequila for breakfast and made some of the most important movies of the 1960s and 70s. Here they are.

  • Ride the High Country (1962): The only pairing of Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea is a classic. While it was not as provocative as Peckinpah’s later work, it is one of the 50 greatest westerns ever made.
  • The Wild Bunch (1969): Worth seeing for so many reasons, including the look Ernest Borgnine gives William Holden before they take on a Mexican army.
  • Straw Dogs (1971): The story of a pacifist mathematician and his wife being terrorized in their small British town will have you full of rage by the time is it over.
  • Junior Bonner (1972): This amusing tale of a dysfunctional Arizona rodeo family showed Peckinpah’s warmer side.
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974): Some found this movie appalling. Others thought it was a masterpiece. Either way, it is hard to forget.

December 27, 1986: Les Miserables Opens at Kennedy Center

On this day in 1986, the musical “Les Miserables” opened at the John F. Kennedy Perform for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The eight-week run was the U.S. debut of the most popular musical of all time.

Les Miserables LogoOn this day in 1986, the musical “Les Miserables” opened at the John F. Kennedy Perform for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The eight-week run was the U.S. debut of the most popular musical of all time.

The initial French concept version of the musical ran in Paris in 1980. It was then expanded and reworked for English-language audiences and opened in London in October of 1985. By the end of the 1986, the musical was ready for its U.S. debut.

To ensure that it would work on Broadway, the show was “tried out” at the Kennedy Center. The production ended there on February 14, 1987, and opened at The Broadway Theatre in New York on March 12.  The show won the Tony Award that year for Best Musical.

Les Miserables” played on Broadway for 17 years and through touring companies, has played in every major city in the world. Its popularity amongst theater and non-theater aficionados is unprecedented.

December 26, 1919: Babe Ruth Sold to New York Yankees

On this day in 1919, Boston Red Sox Owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees. The move permanently altered the course of baseball history and created the “Curse of the Bambino (Ruth’s nickname).”

Babe Ruth - 1918On this day in 1919, Boston Red Sox Owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees.  The move permanently altered the course of baseball history and created the “Curse of the Bambino (Ruth’s nickname).”

Ruth signed with the Red Sox as an ace pitcher in 1914. During his 5 years with the team, he compiled a record of 89-46 and won three World Series titles. However, Ruth also emerged as a one-of-a-kind power hitter during those five years and had expressed wishes to focus on that part of his game.

For reasons ranging from Frazee wishing to finance a musical to not wanting to meet Ruth’s salary demands, he sold his star player to the Yankees for $125,000 ($1.6 million in today’s dollars). You know the rest of the story. The Yankees won their first four Worlds Series titles with Ruth (The franchise now has 27.) and the Red Sox would not win another championship until 2004, finally breaking the “Curse.”

December 25, 1992: Trespass Released

On this day in 1992, “Trespass” was released in U.S. movie theaters. This flick is one of the more underappreciated movies of the 1990s, but was quietly released in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Trespass PosterOn this day in 1992, “Trespass was released in U.S. movie theaters. This flick is one of the more underappreciated movies of the 1990s, but was quietly released in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Back to the Future” co-writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis conceived the movie, originally called “Looters,” as an update to “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” This time, two Arkansas firemen (played by Bill Paxton and William Sadler) and a crew of drug dealers (the leaders played by Ice-T and Ice Cube) battled over the lost treasure in an abandoned building in East St. Louis, Illinois. Legendary action director Walter Hill helmed the picture and the result was a wickedly entertaining cat-and-mouse action picture.

The film was slated for summer release in 1992 and Premiere magazine projected it to be one of the top 20 grossing films of the season. However, the riots in May of 1992 prompted Universal Pictures to move the release to December and change the name to “Trespass.” The film is widely respected but was lost in the holiday shuffle and did not recoup its $17 million budget.

Nevertheless, the film is available on DVD and can be streamed and is worth seeing.

December 24, 1981: Mad Max 2 Released in Australia

On this day in 1981, “Mad Max 2” was released in Australia. Six months later, it was released in the United States as “The Road Warrior.”

Mad Max 2 PosterOn this day in 1981, “Mad Max 2” was released in Australia. Six months later, it was released in the United States as “The Road Warrior.”

The first “Mad Max” was released in 1979 and was an international success. Shot on a budget of around half a million dollars, this film about a ex-cop getting revenge on the bikers that killed his family in an apocalyptic future blew audiences minds with its amazing and violent car chases. The only country where it did not do well was the United States, in part because the Mel Gibson’s and all of the other actors’ voices were dubbed for the American release.

A sequel was inevitable and with it director George Miller upped the ante. With a budget of around $4 million, the plot centered around Max helping a town haul its tanker of gasoline past a degenerate biker gang to a better life. The climax is a 30-minute, 30-car chase that has never been duplicated.

Mad Max 2” was a commercial and critical success in the U.S. and made Gibson an international star (this time, he wasn’t dubbed in the U.S. release). Another sequel, “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” was released in 1985 and a prequel “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which takes place between the first two movies and stars Tom Hardy as Max, is scheduled for release in 2015.

December 23, 1923: James Stockdale Born

On this day in 1923, James Stockdale was born in Abingdon, Illinois. He became one of the most decorated naval officers in U.S. history, but is sadly remembered for his time as Ross Perot’s vice-presidential running mate in 1992.

Informal Portrait VIce Admiral James B. Stockdale, USNOn this day in 1923, James Stockdale was born in Abingdon, Illinois. He became one of the most decorated naval officers in U.S. history, but is sadly remembered for his time as Ross Perot’s vice-presidential running mate in 1992.

As a navy pilot, Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam and was a prisoner of war for seven and half years. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1976, promoted to vice admiral and retired as President of the Naval War College in 1979. Stockdale then served as president of The Citadel, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a board member of the Rockford Institute.

The man was a badass and had sacrificed more for his country than any American politician this side of John McCain. It was a true shame that he linked himself to Perot’s disjointed 1992 campaign. Stockdale was informed a week before the vice-presidential debate that he would be included (remember, third party candidates rarely are allowed to participate) and Perot did not discuss any issues with him beforehand. Against Al Gore and Dan Quayle, neither of whom is considered to be strong debaters, Stockdale came across as elderly and confused.

Stockdale passed away in 2005. Among many honors, the U.S. Navy has since named a destroyer after him and erected a statue of him at Naval Academy in Annapolis.

December 22, 1999: Any Given Sunday Released

On this day in 1999, “Any Given Sunday” was released in U.S. movie theaters. Director Oliver Stone’s take on professional football did not work in a lot of areas, but did feature the greatest speech ever captured in a sports movie.

Any Given Sunday PosterOn this day in 1999, “Any Given Sunday” was released in U.S. movie theaters. Director Oliver Stone’s take on professional football did not work in a lot of areas, but did feature the greatest speech ever captured in a sports movie.

When I heard that Stone would be making a film about football with Al Pacino playing the head coach and Dennis Quaid playing the aging quarterback, I got excited. However, in its near three-hour running time, it exposed nothing new about pro football and the plot about a team and immature quarterback overcoming their dysfunction to win the big game was bit clichéd. The film did have its bright moments, but as the late Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “if some studio executive came along and made Stone cut his movie down to two hours, I have the strangest feeling it wouldn’t lose much of substance and might even play better.” I have to agree.

All that being said, Pacino’s speech before the opening playoff is the greatest pre-game speech in movie history. You can have “Win one for the Gipper.” I’ll take “Piece by inches” any day.