Houston bound

The last time I was in Houston for a Super Bowl was 43 years-ago when Hunter S. Thompson was the star of the show and "the Battle of the Blue Fox" upstaged the game. Houston, high among America's grittiest towns, and Soupey, foremost of America's pagan festivals, are made for each other. Take it from one who knows; strange things can happen when these two meet.

But otherwise, in my relentless effort to be negative especially where the fortunes of the Brady-Belichick axis are concerned, I can find nothing more substantive than such vague and freakish vibes about the setting to rattle the prevailing optimism. Doubtless the Patriots should roll. Nor will it be enough for them to merely win. They must dominate, thrash, stomp, romp. Belying their moniker, the Falcons must emerge defanged. Nothing less will satisfy ravenous Patriots Nation, thoroughly intoxicated with delusions of dynasty.

Never in my recollection has a championship event been more widely conceded. Having hopefully further raised the temperatures a tad or two we'll leave it there.

All Time All Stars -- NHL

As if to allow for a blessed calm before the storm, the weekend that precedes Soupey is the deadest of the winter presenting a vacuum that bogus all-star games are designed to fill but hopelessly fail. Not enough can be said of the moribund NFL Pro-Bowl's irrelevance and the even greater travesty of the NHL's silly gala.

Once fine occasions, they've become pointless. Get rid of them! Alas, there's still a buck to be made and not enough pride in either league to acknowledge that such sorry contrivances trivialize the games they purport to showcase.

Hoping to add needed luster to this year's occasion, the NHL staged a celebration of its alleged centenary. It was weak given that declaring 2017 to be their true 100th is dubious, at best. But any excuse apparently suffices with the climactic ceremony bringing together the survivors on the 100-man roster voted by a committee of experts to be the NHL's all-time greatest. It was at least pleasing to see how many endure, even thrive, still looking equal to the fine distinction.

But the declaring of the 100 best of anything is invariably a sticky business and often unfair. This one is no exception. You could quibble about their list 'til the cows come home. As usual, a few dozen choices are beyond dispute after which you begin splitting hairs and genes.

The Bruins are wonderfully represented with Brothers Orr, Schmidt, Shore, Bourque, Bucyk, Esposito, Ratelle, Park, and Oates, plus four more: Messrs. Sawchuk, Jagr, Plante, and Leetch who briefly bore the colors. Only Montreal's Canadiens -- naturally -- with 20 honorees fared better.

Still, cases could easily be made for others. If Adam Oates then why not Cam Neely? Had it been up to their teammates it would have been no contest. Where are Bill Cowley and Tiny Thompson? But then old-timers, not surprisingly, got short-changed in favor of moderns. So, why isn't Zdeno Chara there? Are we to accept Chris Pronger or Al MacInnis were better?

Is Jonathan Toews better than Patrice Bergeron? If there were a hundred more talented, how many played the game better or smarter than Mark Recchi? On the other hand, was King Clancy better than Ching Johnson; Syl Apps better than Aurel Joliat? Bill Gadsby, Gump Worsley, Bobby Baun, and certainly Pierre Pilote would have made my team. Gravest omission though was the illustrious Dit Clapper.In the end, it's great fun; all the more so because it can never be settled.

Stars in Cooperstown

It's at Cooperstown that such debates of course enjoy their heaviest intensity. The results of baseball's annual Hall of Fame deliberations posted a week ago will hardly lower the temperature up there.

In the end one predicts there's going to be a heckuva schism resulting within the ranks of the Baseball Writers of America, with hardliners who want to hold the line against PED cheaters warring with defecting scribes prepared to forgive and forget. The developing feud could get nasty with alarming repercussions.

The writers have held the main HOF franchise 80 years and dang well deserve to keep it. If they're not perfect, there's no better way. But there's a new breed of smart alecks -- baseball bureaucrats, you might call them -- who've gained control at Cooperstown and clearly favor changes in its workings. Now in the whispering stage, it better be taken seriously. They've already seized total control of the veteran's electoral process.

If only for their self-preservation the writers should demand the PED issue be firmly resolved by the game's top dogs. Yes, that means you, Mr. Commissioner, can no longer duck it. Who's eligible? Who ain't? Decide!

Last word

In the meantime, we get back to the games on the field. Bring on Soupey LI. Let Brady and his Commissioner battle it out in the post-game show. As for the "Battle of the Blue Fox," that's another story for another time, and place.

- Clark Booth is a renowned Boston sports writer and broadcast journalist. He spent much of his long career at Boston’s WCVB-TV Chanel 5 as a correspondent specializing in sports, religion, politics and international affairs.