Category Archives: Sports

Thank you, Steve Sabol

Slow motion replay.  Mic’ed up players and coaches.  Close-ups of players on the sidelines.  Steve Sabol, the President of NFL Films, helped us see the NFL in a different way.  He helped us learn more about the game we love.  He helped us love the game even more.  Sabol died this week at 69 years old, but his innovations will live on as long as professional football exists and even longer.

NFL Films was founded by Steve’s dad, Ed and became successful pretty quickly.  This despite the fact that Ed’s only previous film experience was Steve’s high school football games and a movie about whales, which flopped when he couldn’t find any whales.   From 1962, when Ed convinced Commissioner Pete Rozelle to let him film the NFL Championship game, NFL Films became as much a part of the game as tackles, touchdowns and bemoaning the calls of the referees.   ESPN, HBO, ABC, NBC – anyone who broadcasts football games uses their images, their shots and their discoveries.   Even Hollywood got into the act with directors like Ron Howard crediting NFL Films for inspiring aspects of their movies.  Ed may have been the founder but, in a 2008 interview, he said about his son ““I may have started it, but he has been the engineer behind it…he comes up with these great ideas and is a great student of the game.”

To honor his memory, the NFL has created an extremely powerful video, which is going to be shown at stadiums across the country, prior to games this weekend.  Perhaps one of the most important things that can be said about a person after they pass, is that they made a difference.  Sabol did that and more.  He helped millions of people understand the game a bit better, created phrases we’ll never forget (Frozen Tundra, for example) and helped propel the NFL to the height of popularity.  Here is the video and I know I speak for all football fans when I say “Thank you, Mr. Sabol.  You’ll be missed!”

Just another thought-filled Monday…

Happy Monday all!  Random thoughts from the weekend:

Politics:

  • It appears that President Obama may have gotten a 5-7 point bounce out of his convention.  According to several polls (great graphic here), Obama’s bounce has sustained, even despite a weaker than expected jobs report on Friday.  We won’t know the full bounce for a few more days, because most of these polls include some percentage of interviews conducted before key convention moments.  So, there is still the potential for a larger bounce, perhaps as many as 10 points.
  • For months we’ve been hearing that this election is a “base election.”  In other words, given that most people have already made up their mind, turnout will be the key to winning.  That’s why you saw the Democrats hit social issues so hard in Charlotte – they are trying to fire up their base and get key constituents out to the polls.  And therein lies the advantage for the President.   The New York Times calculated that, if everyone who is registered to vote shows up at the polls, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning based on party registration etc…This blog has a great breakdown of how that figure was identified and what it all means.  If you are interested in party registration over time, check this out.
  • The debates are going to be more important this year, than I can ever remember them being.   Between now and election day, Romney and Obama will debate 3 times and Biden will square off against Ryan once.  In an election where both sides are willing to say anything (true or not) and the challengers have steadfastly refused to provide specifics about their economic plan, it will be super interesting to see how much the moderators or candidates push for information and call people on their lies.  Who can say the things that will motivate and excite their base, while not turning off the few undecideds or the ones who could still be swayed?  That, ultimately, will decide this election.

Sports:

Football is back and I could not be more excited!  All you need to know is that, at the Red Sox game on Saturday night (another loss), the fans started chanting “Go Pats” in the 7th Inning.  And I was among them!  After a great first weekend, here are my winners and losers:

Winners:

  • New York Jets

I don’t think you can understand how painful it was for me to type that.  Look, their top two QBs (Sanchez and Tebow) didn’t score a single TD in the preseason (see below).  And they were facing the Buffalo Bills, who sport a revamped, and very expensive defense) in Week 1.  Many, including me, were convinced it would be an embarrassing display by Ryan’s boys, but were we ever wrong.  How they managed to put up 48 points is beyond me.  This was more shocking than Brady Anderson’s random 50 homers in 1996.  Which reminds me, someone check the Jets’ offensive coordinator for steroids!

  • Peyton Manning

In the you’ve gotta see it to believe it category, I give you Peyton Manning.  After not playing in a game for 600+ days, Manning returned to the field and, against a pretty good defense, led his team to a comeback win.  Seeing him in Bronco orange was defintely strange, but the result was not.  He’s still got it, folks, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.

  • Replacement Officials

Look, they weren’t perfect, but they survived and this ragtag bunch of retirees, teachers and insurance salesmen got some difficult calls right.  Although they did their best by giving Seattle an extra timeout at the end of the Seahawks-Cardinals game, they didn’t change the outcome of any game and that, my friends, is a win.  Of course, regardless of how long this strike lasts, they also made history by counting in their numbers the first woman to ever officiate a NFL game.  Congratulations to Shannon Eastin and I hope you blaze the trail for more gender equality in the sport.  Way to go!

Losers

  • Preseason footbal

It means nothing, as the Jets showed, and 4 games is way too many.  It looks like the NFL may, finally be making the change.  Week 1 showed just how meaningless those games really are.

  • Rookie QBs

It’s a tough jump from college to the pros, no question about it.  All the rookie QBs starting this weekend, with the exception of RGIII looked way over matched and out-of-place.  Weeden, Luck, Wilson and Tannehill all may be great NFL players but, on week 1, they looked very mortal.

  • New Orleans Saints

After quite the offseason, I thought the Saints would come out firing on all cylinders.  Us against the World would be their motto and, especially playing at home, they would steamroll over any opponent unlucky enough to be on the other side.  That didn’t happen.  They looked flat for the first half of the game and, to me, didn’t seem like there was any motivation or desire to beat the odds.  They tried to recover in the 2nd half, but it was too little too late.  Let’s see which team shows up next week.

Some Wednesday Thoughts…

What a crazy few days of news items!  It’s like the world community has realized that Hollywood is out of ideas and has come together to create real-life stories that will make even better movies.  Each of these news items is bizarre, weird, mysterious and just plain strange.  And, yet, each is totally true and no doubt stranger than even we know at this point.  And all relate to sports or politics 

  • Of course, I have to start with this alleged Russian spy ring.  This story has everything a good spy story should have – suburban couples living a “normal” life; a young hot female spy with a ex-husband who wants to tell-all; kids who, supposedly, knew nothing of their parents activities; a spy released on bail (oh yeah, that was smart) who vanishes.  Of course the fact that they, apparently, weren’t able to learn anything at all makes it even better!  And now, word comes today, that USA and Russia are negotiating a spy swap.  What do you want to bet Hollywood already has three movies about this in the works.  Summer of 2011 will be the year of the spy movie!
  • What a crazy story out of Japan regarding Sumo wrestling and organized crime.  And I so thought the big guys were above it all!  In case you missed it, authorities in Japan are investigating alleged links between the top Sumo stars and leaders of organized crime families in Japan.  Again, this is another story that has it all.  Sports, organized crime, prime seats, blackmail, tons of money.  Stay tuned because this story is sure to get stranger and stranger.  And you thought the NBA had problems!
  • The World Cup has sure given 15 minutes of fame to some unusual people.  You have the officials who seem to have forgotten how to call a game.  You have model Larissa Riquelme announcing that she would run naked through the streets if Paraguay were to win the world cup.  And, then announcing that, even though they lost, she would do it anyway (nothing like sticking to your guns).  You have the coach of the Argentina squad, Diego Maradona, making the same offer to considerably less excitement.  With Argentina out, no word on whether he will follow Larissa’s lead and do it anyway.  And now, you have a group of porn stars offering to do something very special to all their Twitter followers should the Dutch (who are still alive) win the cup.  Remember when memories of a big sporting event used be related to what happened on the field? Ahh, the good old days!
  • At the Rangers game last night a fan was, apparently, reaching for a foul ball from the upper deck, lost his balance and tumbled down into the seats below.  Amazingly he was ok, but this video of the reaction of the players and umpires is quite something.

Ok, that’s all I have for you.  Enjoy the day!

World Cup Fever!!!

For those of you who have been living under a rock, the United States men’s soccer team won their group at the World Cup and have made it through to the elimination round which, for us, starts tomorrow afternoon against Ghana.  To get you ready, here are some World Cup related links and thoughts.

To start with, check out this awesome video of reaction to the group-clinching goal by Landon Donovan to keep us alive.

For those of you who are planning to watch tomorrow – and really why wouldn’t you – and want to seem to know what you are talking about, here is a pretty good preview of the game and here is the roster

Finally, check out the hilarious video of John Oliver welcoming the USA to the third world because of their soccer winnings.

Prediction for tomorrow’s game:

The United States will score 4 goals to Ghana’s 1.  However, two of those goals will be disallowed so the USA will end up winning 2-1.  And, post-game, the NBA will announce they are replacing all of their officials with soccer refs.  Enjoy the game!

Link for 12-29 – AFC East Champions

Despite one of the most rollercoaster seasons the Pats have had in a long time, the drubbing of the Jags yesterday meant that we are, once again, AFC East Champions.  This has been a challenging few months for the Patriots but they really seem to be rounding into form now, when it matters most.  Brady is playing better, the D is thriving under the new and simplified schemes, the O Line is playing really well and Faulk, Taylor, Morris and Maroney have given the Patriots a respectable running game.  To be sure questions remain: Who is the third receiver? Can Maroney get those tough yards at the goal line without fumbling? How will the young defense hold up in the playoffs?  Answers to these questions will go a long way towards determining if the Patriots have a real chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy again this year.  What we do know about the team is that they are hungry and they have heart.  The enthusiasm I saw on the field last Sunday will certainly help them going forward.  That, combined with the best coach in the NFL, makes them a scary team in the playoffs – even if they may not be the most talented on paper.  Should be fun to watch!

Now, if you are a fan of any of the teams on the bubble, ESPN has a great rundown of exactly what you need to have happen to make it to the playoffs.  Good luck sorting it all out!  So who will the final 2 in the AFC be?  For my money, I think Denver and Baltimore will be those lucky teams to sneak in.  But we shall see.

Link for 11/30 – This annoys me

Shame on those Steelers players (reportedly 50%) and others around the NFL, who are questioning the toughness of Ben Roethlisberger because he sat out the football game last night against the Baltimore Ravens after suffering a concussion in overtime the previous week.   I am as big a football as the next guy, but in no way shape or form is one game worth a player’s life.  Putting your life on the line for a football game is not a measure of toughness.  This is not like playing with a sprained ankle or a broken finger.  This is a HEAD injury and you don’t mess around with those.  I applaud Coach Tomlin and Roethlisberger for making the right choice, even if it was the hard one, to put a player’s health above the game. 

When a popular player, such as Hines Ward, insinuates that players are questioning the QB’s toughness because he didn’t lie to his doctors and followed their advice it sends a really bad message to all those young kids who dream of being a pro someday.  Kudos to the NFL for beginning to recognize the dangers of head injuries and put policies in place to protect their players.  Here’s hoping Ward and friends learn someday that you aren’t tough if you lie to doctors; that sometimes what makes you tough is making the hard choice.

Confession

I’m a big football fan, always have been.   I love watching games and, as my wife will tell you, it is not unusual for me to be in front of the TV from 11 AM – 11 PM on Sundays watching football or football-related programming.  I play fantasy sports, pick the games each week, and always feel a let-down after the super bowl.  I am a Red Sox fan, Bruins fan, Celtics fan…but I am a football fan who also happens to root (hard) for the Patriots.  So I am ashamed to tell you that, until yesterday, I had never experienced the wonder that is the NFL Redzone channel.

For those of you who were like me on Saturday – that is to say horribly uninformed – Redzone is a Comcast invention and is hosted each week by the immortal Scott Hanson.  Essentially the idea of this brilliant channel is to “whip” you around the NFL to make sure you see the most exciting moments of any game.  As a team enters the red zone, the channel will bring you live to that game (with the regular announcers)  You stay there until something happens (ie. commercial break, score, turnover) at which time you are moved to another game.  Now, if two teams happen to be approaching a score at the same time, they switch back and forth as plays happen or, if the snaps happen simultaneously, we stay in split screen and Mr. Hanson handles the play-by-play for both games.  

If there is no redzone activity we either see highlights from big plays we missed or they just choose a game for us to watch.  But NEVER do we go to a commercial break or are subject to announcers killing time with their “witty” banter.  Is a Calvin Johnson TD catch being reviewed?  Fine.  Let’s go watch 4th and 1 from the Packers 47 yard line while the official in the Browns-Lions game (and what a game it was) sorts it out.  Then, when he is ready to make the call, let’s switch back.  AMAZING!  One final note – if you play fantasy sports this is a must-have.

Now, if you really care about a team (like me with the Patriots), you do not want to have Redzone on.  However, if your team isn’t playing, it is the perfect way to watch football.    Don’t make the same mistakes I have and make NFL Redzone a part of your Sunday experience.

*And no, Comcast didn’t pay me to write this or ask me to review their channel. *

Link for 11/23 – Really? This is a penalty?

So this is a new one for me.  I didn’t realize if you tried to fool the defense, that was a penalty (watch out Peyton Manning!)  There is a rule in College Football against faking a substitution, but the BYU QB clearly was not doing that.  In fact, I can’t think of a single good reason this TD should have been called back.  Of course, up 31-7, running a trick play is very Bill Belichick.  Maybe the officials just felt bad for the other team?  I’m fully expecting next week to have a score called back for “stiffing arming in a mean way” or “pumpfaking” or “running too fast while being chased by a Linebacker.”

On a related note – I just posted a video on the blog! Not a link to a video, but the actual video.  I’m very pleased with myself.  If you do want to see the blog in on youtube, here it is

Link(s) for 11/17/09 – Sports AND politics

Today I give you a few links for a few different worlds.  I’ll try to keep my commentary to a minimum and just let you enjoy the link.  However, I do want to point out that I am very close to 100 comments – I think what I will do is give a little prize to the 100th person to post a comment on my blog…and it could be you 🙂 I think I’ve given you a wide enough range of subjects so everyone has something to say. 

If you read back a couple of entries, you will see that I said that I understood the rationale of the choice Belichick made to go for it on 4th and 2.  Now, statistics and percentages have proven me right!   (Sorry Tony Dungy)   This article does make the REALLY good point that, if you were planning to go for it on 4th down, running it on third down would have made more sense.

According to ABC news, the Congressional Budget Office is about to release their findings on the long-term costs associated with the health care bill and, according to sources, it will be good news for the majority party and the president.  We’ll have to wait and see for specifics but this may help some moderate senators get on board if they see it might actually reduce the deficit in the long-run.  Of course, the really interesting question becomes if those opposed to the bill will ignore the CBO findings and make up their own numbers about the impact of the bill on the economy.  Can’t wait!

Yeah right.

Oh, Senator Sessions.  Why must you go back on your word?    Senator Sessions is reportedly considering a filibuster of Judge David Hamilton, an Obama nominee to the 7th circuit court of appeals.  However, back in 2003, Sessions (who was denied a floor vote in 1985 for a nomination to be a Federal Judge) said ““Of the many reasons why we shouldn’t have a filibuster, an important one is the Article I of the Constitution. It says the Senate shall advise and consent on treaties by a two-thirds vote, and simply “shall advise and consent” on nominations.”  But now, with a Democrat in the White House, he has changed his mind.  This continues the long-standing practice of the majority party deriding the minority trying to block the business of the senate and impose their will, only to change their mind when they lose the majority.   It’s like not stopping for a pedestrian when you are driving, but then calling the police when a driver doesn’t let you cross at the EXACT same intersection.  It is so transparent and is one of the many reasons people don’t trust their congress is actually working for them.   Just look at this quote from another article addressing this important issue “Two dozen conservatives led by former Reagan-era Attorney General Edwin Meese have signed a letter calling on senators to invoke the justification of “extraordinary circumstances” to block Hamilton’s nomination…Nine of the individuals who signed the memo also signed the 2005 letter to GOP leaders calling for them to abolish the filibuster of judicial nominees…”  The explanation for the about-face might go something like this ‘See, uh, the thing is, uh, well Sarah Palin told us, no, I mean I got a letter from Bill Belichick telling me to always go for it.  Yeah, see the economy is in trouble and, well, I don’t want to be dramatic, but we have to filibuster sometime, otherwise how am I going to get in the news and then campaign that the majority doesn’t do anything….also what if Barack Hussain Obama nominated his cousin Osama?  What then.’

Because I want another sports link and this list is priceless! (fair warning, a few are a bit creepy)

Candidate Tuesday coming later today on Joe Kennedy…No, no, no.  Not that one.  The other one.

A miserable weekend for pro sports in Boston

I remember stretches of days where I just LOVED being a sports fan.  You know that I’m talking about – those days where every team you root for manages to pull it out and it just seems like nothing can go wrong.  Here in Boston, this past weekend was the opposite.  From the Celtics to the Bruins to the Patriots, each team managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and it was hard to watch.  On the bright side, none of the teams were eliminated from anything and, even in defeat, there are some positive take-aways. 

Patriots: Let’s start with the most painful one first (and the one with the most to discuss).  Quite simply, this was a game we should have won.  We totally outplayed the Colts for 56 minutes, but couldn’t close the deal.  And it wasn’t just the ‘interesting’ clock management and decision making by the head coach.  With 4 minutes left we were up 13 and the Colts were 80 yards from the endzone.  Giving up the game at that point is inexcusable.   Looking back over the entire game, however, we see that the Patriots left, at best, 10 and, at worst, 18 points on the field because of failures to convert key plays and redzone turnovers.  Despite dominating throughout they let the Colts hang around and, in this league, when you do that you often pay for it. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on “the play.”  I am not one of those who is going to jump all over Belichick for going for it on 4th down at his own 28 with just over 2 minutes remaining.  I don’t agree with the call (and I said so before the play) but I do understand the rationale.  A first down seals the win and a punt allows one of the top 2 QBs in the league a chance to win it.  Think about it.  When the Pats were facing that 4th down, was there any doubt in your mind that Manning was going to be able to drive his team down the field and put them in a position to win?  None in mine.  Do I trust a banged-up and tired D vs. Manning or Brady to get two yards against a fairly inexperienced Colts D?  Tough choice. 

I’ve looked at replays and pictures of Faulk’s catch and boy is it close.  It seems to me that he initially made the catch somewhere around the 31 yard line and did bobble the ball momentarily.  However, he regained full control at the 30 yard line which would have been enough for the first down.  Either way, don’t you think it odd that the official who made the call was positioned in such a way that he could NOT have seen Faulk’s arms.  He made the call looking at Kevin’s back.  Sure, the Patriots should not have been so careless with their timeouts so they could have had the option to challenge the play, but that doesn’t excuse the official being in the wrong position to make that call.  However, I am pretty sure (and I’ve read a few others who agree) that Faulk did have enough for what should have been a game-winning first down.   One final note on this: If Coach Belichick knew he was going to go for it on 4th down (and I’m sure he did) why not run on third down to keep the clock moving and get you a bit closer.  I have more of a problem with that call than I do with the decision to go for it.

What are the ramifications?  Well the failure to put the Colts away will cost us any shot at the #1 seed and, because the Bengals are playing so well (I can’t believe I just wrote that), will make getting a first-round bye a real challenge. Does this mean we won’t go to the Super Bowl?  Absolutely not.  But it does mean that the road to Miami won’t go through cold and snowy Foxboro and that, my friends, will make the road much more difficult for Brady and company.

Bruins: The B’s have been tough to figure out all season.  They have some real talent on their roster yet have had trouble scoring.  They have one of the best goalies in the NHL, yet have had days where they seem to forget how to play defense.  However, they are still a fun team to watch and that is why I, and many other Bostonians, were so keyed up for the tilt against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.  Sadly, the incredible excitement when they scored twice in three minutes to take a lead with just over 2 minutes remaining was so cruelly dashed.  Even when Pitt. got possession of the puck in their defensive zone with about 10 seconds left, I NEVER thought there was any chance they could mount an attack in time.  But attack they did and, old friend, Bill Guerin put it past Thomas with a scant .4 seconds on the clock.  We were .4 seconds away from a HUGE win against one of the best teams in the NHL.  After that, it was no surprise we lost in OT and the one point we got was no consolation. 

Celtics: The Celtics are one of the best teams in the NBA and will certainly be one of the top seeds in the playoffs again this year.  However, this weekend, they played like they were all hung-over or thinking about something other than basketball.  Losing to Atlanta can be excused – the Hawks are a good team and seem to always play the Celtics tough.  However we have so much more talent than the Pacers and our sloppy and unfocused play pretty much handed them the game.  It is time to get back to fundamentals.  Losing 2 in a row and 3 out of 5 makes me nervous! 

With all that gloom out of the way, let’s end with some positive take-aways.

1. The Patriots were about 24 inches (or an official’s mistake) away from knocking off an undefeated team, on the road. Even in defeat we showed we are still among the top teams in the AFC and, by extension, the NFL.

2. The Brady to Moss connection worked a couple of times and, once again, we were able to establish a running game.

3. The Bruins showed that they can play in a high-scoring game against a very good offense.

4. The Celtics are, well, the Celtics. They will be fine.

5. Even with all the losses, the Pats still lead the AFC east by 2 games and are only 1 game behind the Bengals for the #2 seed in the playoffs.

6. The Celtics still have a 2.5 game lead in their division and are .5 game behind Atlanta for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Finally, not to be cheesy, but I got to watch the games with some pretty awesome and fun people and had a really fun time watching the games. At the heart of it, isn’t that what sports are all about. Having fun watching with good people. Ok, you caught me. I’m just saying that because we lost, but it sounds good right? 🙂