Category Archives: Football

Super Bowl XLV Thoughts: A Bad Rendition of the Anthem, A Good Game, and an Overrated Stadium

My predicted score of Packers 27, Steelers 21 didn’t quite happen, but I’ll give myself a pat on the back for nailing the margin of victory. Anyone who claims he predicted 31-25 is a liar by the way.

All in all, Super Bowl XLV was another good one. Certainly not a classic, but anytime a Super Bowl comes down to a potential game-winning drive with less than two minutes remaining, it will be considered a memorable one. That now makes eight straight Super Bowls in which the games ranged from decent to outstanding. This is a far cry from a mostly dull run in the 1990s.

Looking a little deeper into my prediction from last week, the game wasn’t decided by anything fluky like a safety or blocked kick. However, you can say the fumble by Rashard Mendenhall and the ensuing Packers’ touchdown are what turned the game. Even though the Steelers answered right back with a touchdown plus a two-point conversion to get the game back to a three-point deficit, their huge momentum swing was thwarted just long enough for the Packers to regain their footing and their swagger offensively. In the end, despite having a crack at it with nearly two minutes left, the Steelers had too big a hill to climb.

The game itself gets an A- from me. The second half was about as good as it gets, but the first half woes of the Steelers keep this from being a truly great Super Bowl.

As for some of the peripherals, there weren’t many positives.

I’ll be blunt. Christina Aguilera was awful. Botching one line of the Star Spangled Banner, while embarrassing, didn’t even bother me all that much. It was the fact that she attempted to turn a two-hundred year old American classic (they don’t call it an anthem for nothing!) into her next radio single that irked me. It’s been going on for years now, but artistic freedom with the Anthem has gone way too far. I’m all for Christina singing it with passion and giving it some of her own personal touch, but contorting certain notes of the song to the point where I forgot what I was even listening to is not acceptable. If we want to hear your vocal range in all its glory, we’ll see you in concert—if you’re even still touring!

The Black Eyed Peas at halftime made me feel old. I didn’t see the appeal. Most of the songs sounded familiar, but didn’t bring up any emotions one way or the other. I enjoyed seeing Slash make a cameo, though I am sure Axl Rose spit up his beer after seeing Fergie give a karaoke-quality performance of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Despite the fact that the performance didn’t do much for me, I understand the NFL and FOX shifting over to a pop act after years of legendary/AARP rockers like The Who, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. I’m hoping for Metallica next year, but I doubt I’ll get my wish.

I really didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the commercials, so I’d be foolish to give a review. On the whole, as the Super Bowls have gotten better in recent years, the commercials have seemingly declined—but I’ll take that trade.

While I’m being a bit negative…can NFL analysts and broadcasters stop fawning over Cowboys Stadium? It’s huge, it’s state of the art, has every modern amenity you can imagine; I get all that. But it’s a football stadium, not a luxury hotel. It’s a hunk of steel with astroturf on its floor, if you want to get down to it. Football is rough, gritty game. To talk about the aesthetic beauty of Jerry Jones’ “palace” just doesn’t jibe with that. So this place hosted a Super Bowl, but what else has taken place there? 400 fans were turned away from the big game because the NFL didn’t get the OK for a chunk of temporary seats; six people were injured by falling ice in the week leading up to the game; the movie theater screen that covers nearly the entire field has had a punt hit it; and a worker died during construction of this massive stadium. I’m not placing any blame on any one person or groups of people for those things, but let’s settle down before we consider this thing the NFL’s version of Disney World.

Despite some of my complaints, it was an enjoyable late afternoon watching Super Bowl XLV while scarfing down a double-double and fries from In-N-Out Burger.

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An Obligatory Super Bowl XLV Pick

As promised last week, here is my prediction for the Super Bowl. Rather than pretend to know what I’m talking about as far as things like blitz pickups, eight-man fronts, snap counts, and pass protection go—I do some of that on the weekly radio show—here is a simple prediction based mostly on what I’ve seen from the two teams and also what my gut feeling is:

Packers 27, Steelers 21

This might be the first time in a while where I have basically zero confidence in a Super Bowl pick. I really don’t see much of a talent differential in these two teams. I think the Packers might be slightly better based on what I’ve watched in the playoffs, but then again you can’t underestimate the fact that the Steelers have been here twice before within the last six years while the Packers are new to the party.

So I’m going with the eye test a bit for this pick. This is probably poor reasoning because it isn’t necessarily the Steelers’ style to obliterate teams. They win ugly, but more often than not they win. The Packers have been playing nearly perfect football since Week 16 of the regular season and while they haven’t blown every team out since then, I never really felt they were ever seriously challenged in any of the last five games. Throw in the fact that Vegas likes them—a little bit anyway (2.5-point favorites in most books)—and that’s good enough for me.

I usually have actual football reasons for picking Super Bowl winners. I felt pretty confident in picking the Saints last year. Even though they were underdogs I actually thought they were a superior team to the Colts. It’s much too close to call this time around. I have a sneaking feeling that something out of the ordinary will decide this game; maybe a blocked punt, a safety, a bad call and the coach is out of challenges.

After all the analysis before last year’s Super Bowl, the two biggest plays were an onside kick following halftime and a rare Peyton Manning interception that turned into a touchdown. No one could have predicted those events, and in a game that on paper appears to be an even match, it might take something just as strange to decide this Super Bowl.

And though I have no particular reason to be confident in my pick, I was 53-36-1 in picks against the spread that we did on the show this season (including playoffs). Entertainment purposes only of course.

As much as I’d like to be right, I’m just hoping this game is as good as advertised. The Super Bowl has been on a pretty good run in the last decade, and this one may need to tide us over for two years if there is no 2011 season.


Predicting the Super Bowl XLV Storylines

Super Bowl XLV is less than two weeks away, so prepare for nonstop coverage of the game from every angle possible from outlets like ESPN to E! Channel. I’ll give my thoughts and prediction on the game sometime next week. For now, here are predictions of a different sort: the stories we’ll be bombarded with from now until February 6.

The Obvious Ones

  • Ben Roethlisberger – You can be sure that we’ll be hearing plenty about Big Ben, and not just because he’s the Steelers’ quarterback. Roethlisberger’s fall from grace—which included a four-game suspension—was probably the biggest story of the NFL offseason. His ability to bounce back and supposedly mature will be front and center leading up to the Super Bowl.
  • Aaron Rodgers – Rodgers has gone from the guy who took over for Brett Favre in Green Bay to being an NFC-Champion quarterback in just three years. Expect to hear a lot more about how he waited behind Favre all those years and how he’s climbed the mountain to the point where he’s playing for a title.
  • Brett Favre – This could be a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl and somehow Brett Favre would find his way into the discussion. But the fact that the Packers have made it this far just three years after Favre took them to the brink of a Super Bowl in 2008 means that old gray beard will be talked about. Cue up the old highlights of Super Bowl XXXI where Favre was running toward the sidelines, hoisting his helmet high in the air in celebration after the Packers won their last Super Bowl.

The Less Obvious Ones, But Still Likely

  • Hines Ward/Donald Driver – Ward is 34 and Driver is 35 and the similarities don’t end there. Ward had the more productive career, but both were All-Pro WRs during their prime years and are now possibly getting their last cracks at winning it all; Ward already has two rings of course. One of the networks will probably try to get Ward and Driver side by side for an interview before February 6.
  • Mike Tomlin – Tomlin will look to become the first black head coach to win multiple titles. Tony Dungy is the only other to win a Super Bowl. There are currently seven black head coaches in the NFL, and Tomlin’s success can only continue that progress.
  • James Starks – Even the most serious NFL fans had probably never heard of this guy before the playoffs. But the Packers have finally settled on a full-time running back with Starks. The rookie sixth-round pick from the University of Buffalo will no longer be a secret: As a starting running back in a Super Bowl, Starks will get plenty of attention over the next week and a half.
  • Vince Lombardi – This isn’t the first Packers Super Bowl since Lombardi passed away over 40 years ago, but the current run of the Broadway show, Lombardi, has rekindled even more memories of the legendary coach.

If They Dig Deep Enough…

  • Shaun Suisham – The Steelers kicker was out of a job this season until Pittsburgh signed him on November 16. It came as a bit of a surprise as mainstay Jeff Reed was sent packing. The fact that Suisham went from jobless to kicking in a Super Bowl could be a story.
  • Hair – Somehow this will come up at some point. Between Troy Polamalu, Clay Matthews, and A.J. Hawk there are lots of long locks of many colors and styles. The fact that these guys are really good players will draw attention anyway, but you never know which network or newspaper will decide to focus on something that has as little to do with the game as hair length.
  • Primanti Bros./Ed Rendell vs. Bratwurst/Scott Walker – You can be sure that the tradition of a governors’ bet will be taking place. More than likely Pennsylvania governor—an Eagles fan by the way—Ed Rendell will send Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, a famous Primanti Bros. sandwich if the Packers win, while Walker would send Rendell a brat if the Steelers win. Or would the winning governor send the food? I don’t know. Whatever it is, there will be food exchanged by the states’ respective govs. They’ll probably do a jersey bet too, where the losing state’s head man has to wear the winning team’s jersey.
  • Cheese Heads vs. Terrible Towels – Good chance you’ll see a comparison of the favorite accessory of each of these teams. My research shows that the Terrible Towel has been around since 1975, while the Cheese Head has been worn proudly by Packer fans since 1987. We’ll see a more in-depth history lesson over the coming days I would think.
  • Miscellaneous – I can’t predict which players, but most likely during media day we’ll find out about a special talent or strange superstition that various players have. Player A takes stuff animals on road trips, Player B can yodel, Player C plays the oboe. You get the picture.



Character Assasination of Aaron Rodgers is Downright Offensive

I heard about this story a couple of days ago and I’m surprised it’s actually gained traction. I stumbled upon a blog with a post entitled something like, “Aaron Rodgers Ignores Cancer Patient.” Of course I had to check it out, and after reading it and seeing the video clip (embedded here), the title was a prime example of tabloid drek.

Upon arriving at the airport following the Packers’ 48-21 Wild Card-round win at Atlanta, Rodgers apparently walked by Jan Cavanaugh, a breast cancer survivor. Cavanaugh, clad in pink, with pen and paper in hand, didn’t get the autograph from Rodgers that she came for. Nor did Rodgers even seem to acknowledge her. Television station WBAY was there with cameras to document her endeavors.

Mike Florio, editor at ProFootballtalk.com—the site recently became an affiliate of NBC and Florio appeared during Sunday Night Football telecasts—jumped on the opportunity to blast Rodgers for his utter disregard for the people that help pay his salary; specifically a passionate longtime Packers fan who has survived cancer. Although the title of Florio’s article wasn’t quite as trashy as the one I referenced above, I can’t say the same about the content of the piece.

While Florio must believe he has video evidence of Rodgers snubbing Cavanaugh, in reality the video gives us about three seconds of footage of Rodgers walking by the woman, but doesn’t tell us for sure whether he purposely ignored her or was simply oblivious.

Maybe Rodgers did see her and pretended not to. Maybe he was on the phone (as the earpiece might suggest) and didn’t notice. I have no idea. And while I’ll admit Rodgers doesn’t exactly come off looking good here, for Florio to insinuate that Rodgers doesn’t care about a fan who has gone through a great struggle in her life is a dangerous assumption.

Whether Florio intended it or not, some people will read his article and come to the conclusion that Rodgers is a soulless piece of shit. And in this age where word travels tweets to millions at the click of a mouse, an unnecessary firestorm is created.

I realize players have been cast in a negative light in the media for years, but if you want to judge Rodgers as someone who doesn’t care about a fan who has survived cancer I’ll need to see more than a few seconds of video of Rodgers strolling past this woman.

Florio’s article has been blasted by bloggers everywhere from Yahoo! to yours truly. And as if that’s not enough, Cavanaugh herself said, “I am very unhappy with people making so much out of this, because this really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s up to the players to decide who they want to give an autograph to, and that’s their prerogative.”

This is certainly not the first time an autograph seeker has been snubbed. And I’d even venture to say that it’s not the first time a cancer survivor has been snubbed, as harsh as that may be. I feel badly for Cavanaugh; she deserved better. But for Mike Florio to get atop his soapbox and take this opportunity to stir the pot with Aaron Rodgers is unfortunate.

If every article was written based on three seconds of video, we’d have even less truth in the media than we do now. For a guy whom I’ve seen reporting “news” on NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage all season, I assumed Florio was better than this. My mistake.


What I’ll Be Watching

I seemed to have abandoned the “What I’ll Be Watching this Weekend” section of the blog. And because it’s so vital to everyone’s well being, it has returned on this, the second weekend of 2011.

And now…what I’ll be watching this weekend:

  • NFL playoffs
  • Knicks-Suns tonight and Knicks-Lakers on Sunday
  • Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network on Sunday night

That’s One Crazy Mother Tucker!

Tucker Carlson (the bow-tied, adolescent-looking dweeb who formerly hosted shows on CNN and MSNBC) has been filling in as the host of Hannity this week. In case you missed it, on Tuesday, he discussed President Obama’s call to Philadelphia Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie in which the President thanked the Eagles organization for signing Michael Vick and giving him a second chance. In regards to Vick’s treatment of dogs, Carlson opined, “I think, personally, he should have been executed for that.”

First, let’s look at Obama’s phone call, which was the basis for Carlson’s off-the-wall proposed death sentence for Vick. I lean towards thinking it wasn’t the best of ideas to be praising the Eagles for allowing Vick back into the NFL, if for no other reason than it causes a ton of unneeded backlash (see video above). But the timing seems completely out of whack. The Eagles gave Vick this second chance about 16 or so months ago; where was President Obama’s call then? It seems odd to wait until the end of his second season with Philadelphia to place a call.

Now onto the “execution” comment from Carlson. I’ve been checking comment boards from various sites that have stories and video of this, and the consensus is that this was a pretty ridiculous statement, and I am without a doubt part of that majority. I see no reason how Vick’s actions warranted the death penalty. The only good that would have come from it would be the Giants probably would have won the NFC East this year.

I’ll give the obligatory, yet sincere disclaimer that I don’t condone what Vick did with those dogs, and if no NFL team chose to sign him after his release from prison I would have been OK with that.

But execution? If that’s really what Carlson wants, then he’d have to rearrange the whole justice system. If killing dogs gets you executed, then parking in a handicap spot might get you six months in jail; jaywalking would be a $10,000 fine; not having exact change at a toll would get you deported. You get the point. It’s over-the-top nonsense coming from a guy who looks more like he should be tearing your movie tickets rather than talking news.

But it’s so crazy that I had to take a step back and think about my good old communication courses that I took at UMass, which taught me to take just about everything I hear and read in the media with a grain of salt. Fox News didn’t become the #1 rated cable news channel by being predictable and boring. Just like a sitcom or drama on TV, ratings are the bottom line for a news channel.

If Tucker Carlson only said he didn’t like the fact that Obama called the Eagles and left it at that, then Carlson is not making news today and I’m not writing about him. That’s some extra attention for Fox News. See, it worked!

Does Carlson really believe that Michael Vick should have been executed? I say no. But by saying what he did, he’s in the news today. It’s basically shock journalism and it gets people watching and talking. Right now he’s a substitute teacher in a way; he doesn’t have his own show, so his ability to stir the pot like this might be appealing for a cable news channel to bring him in full time for his own gig.

I will go as far as saying that Tucker Carlon’s whole persona—the bow tie, the irritating nerdiness, and statements like this—are a calculated move on his part to create a unique niche in the cable news landscape.

So before anyone gets up in arms over what he said about Michael Vick, keep in mind that Fox News is in the business of getting ratings and making money (as is MSNBC, to be fair), so more often than not entertainment value trumps logic.

UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST: On second viewing of the video clip, I see that Carlson was not wearing his signature bow tie, which puts a couple of holes in my argument. Damn you, Tucker Carlson!


“Just a Game?”…I Wish

AP Photo

Us sports fans are sick. We really are. I’m talking about the die-hards, not the ones who just tune in for the big games. There is something totally irrational about letting the outcome of a game affect one’s mood for an entire day, week, etc. Why do we care so much?

In a way I envy those who can simply say, “It’s just a game.” I know my life would be much less stressful, much more productive, and probably more enriched if I could heed that philosophy. But at this point, having been a sports fanatic for nearly a quarter of a century, having worked in sports in various capacities for almost a decade, it would be just about impossible to brush off any game of consequence involving one of my teams.

It’s certainly not a coincidence that I’m writing this the day after my favorite football team, the New York Giants, suffered what can be considered the worst single-game collapse in NFL history, surrendering a 21-point lead to the Philadelphia Eagles with about seven-and-a-half minutes to go in the game. I don’t need to rehash any more of the details. Anyone who happens to be reading this probably knows how it went down, and besides, it’s already painful enough.

In a strange way, this kind of mirrors what my favorite baseball team (my favorite team in all of sports), the Mets, did in 2007 and to a lesser extent in 2008. The Mets’ collapses in those years were slow deaths. The Giants-Eagles game was the rip-the-band-aid-off equivalent.

It’s moments like these where I wish I didn’t care so much. I had nothing to do with it. Hell, I was about 3,000 miles away from the debacle. Not one person in the Giants’ organization knows who I am or that I’ve supported the team for the last 20+ years. During my worst days no one on the Giants was miserable because of something I completely screwed up. If it weren’t for geographical or hereditary reasons I would have no interest in the Giants.

For me to be crushed because a bunch of millionaires crumbled against another group of millionaires in different colored jerseys sounds crazy. But then again, there are people like me all over the world; people that live and die with their teams. Just how did this sickness spread so far and wide?

It’s easy to ponder all this after a horrendous loss. But believe it or not, I’ve asked these questions after the best moments too. When the Giants won the Super Bowl in the 2007 season I was obviously elated and could not wipe the smile off my face for at least 24 hours after the game ended. But a few days later I admit I thought to myself, “Why exactly am I so thrilled? I didn’t do anything.”It’s not as if at the victory parade in New York one the players thanked me during his speech. I don’t exist as far my teams are concerned, yet these guys have the power to either make me feel like I won the lottery or feel like I’m at a funeral.

It’s too simple and completely inaccurate to say the fans aren’t important. We all knows sports wouldn’t exist without them. And a home advantage can be huge, especially in key moments. But fans are vital to other forms of entertainment too. Without fans, there would not be concerts or movies or Broadway shows.

But there is a huge difference in those forms of entertainment and sports. If you see a bad movie, you’re probably disappointed, maybe a little annoyed. And you’ll tell your friends not to see it. A band plays a horrendous show, you’re pissed. But there’s no real equivalent with those types of performances to what the Giants did yesterday. It’s an empty feeling for me, with DeSean Jackson adding that little extra knife twisting into my heart as he tight roped the goal line with the clock showing all zeros yesterday.

If the Giants win next week, they are in the playoffs. That would take a lot of the sting away. And if that happens, I’ll surely be in a good mood Sunday night. But if they lose? Well, it’s just a game, right? I wish.