Category: Sports

My Thoughts on The NFC Championship

SeahawksLogoI wanted to write this post well before tonight’s NFC Championship; lest anyone think that I might be one of those phony bandwagon fans who only jump on board when a team is doing well and then disappears when the wheels fall off the bus. That’s hardly the case with me. I’ve been an east coast Seattle Seahawks fan for thirty years.

That’s right, I said thirty years.

It all began back in the early 80s. I was one of those disappointed Philadelphia Eagles fans lost in the wilderness and looking for a new home after a bitter, painful defeat at the hands of some dude named Plunkett and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Ok, I’ll admit I was one of those creeps who ditched the ship when it sank, just like the ones I opened this post talking about. But in my defense, I was only twelve years old at the time and didn’t know any better.

Yeah, let’s go with that.

CenturyLink-MeIt was a cold Monday night a few years after that Super Bowl when I first saw the Seattle Seahawks on television. At the time, I had absolutely no idea who they were. They had some left-handed quarterback (Jim Zorn), a wiry, fast as lightning receiver (Steve Largent) and this rookie running back from Penn State named Curt Warner. A “hometown” connection.

I couldn’t even tell you the team that they played that night. All I remember is that the Seahawks lost the coin toss and started the game out with an on-side kick. An on-side kick!!! Something almost unheard of in the NFL.

The Seahawks wound up getting the ball and scoring on that drive….and the seed was planted.

As you can imagine, the 1980’s were a time before the Internet and satellite football games became common place. So getting to see my new team was nearly impossible. About the only time I ever saw them on TV was when they played against the Eagles or New York Giants, and considering that the Seahawks were in the other conference at the time, those games were even rarer.

The Seahawks actually almost made it to their first Super Bowl the first year of my fandom, but lost to (ironically enough) the Oakland Raiders in the conference final. But this time, instead of ditching I stayed a fan. Reading updates in the newspaper about loss after loss. Some years good. Some years, very bad.

In 1992, we were so bad that we were awarded the #2 overall pick in the NFL. A time when we were in dire need of a quarterback. We wound up with a bust named Rick Mirer, while the New England Patriots got this guy named Drew Bledsoe (the “parent” QB to Tom Brady).

More years of mediocrity would follow, but I stood tall.

CenturyLink2

I was there when Seahawks owner Ken Behring tried to move the team out-of-town to California in the dead of night. That attempt failed and Behring would eventually sell the team to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. With Allen on board, the team hired Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren and a slew of other talent, planting the seed for a run to greatness that came to fruition in 2005.

SeahawksHatDuring my time as a 12th man there has only been one low point, and that was Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As any fan of the NFL will tell you (and even Steeler fans too, if they’re honest), the referees decided that game. For me, it was stinging. Imagine waiting 23 years for a shot at a Super Bowl and then being cheated by a bunch of turds in pinstripes.

The thing is, in the NFL there are no guarantees and the days of dynasty left once the salary cap was initiated. You only have so much time to make a run before players and coaches leave for other pastures. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to my team following that “defeat”.

It’s taken eight years for the Seahawks to get back to the NFC Championship game. Eight long, often-times miserable years. But I never lost hope. I watched as Marshawn Lynch caused an earthquake with one of the greatest runs in NFL history and knew that the stars were aligning again….

I even took a weekend 2,856-mile trip to Seattle by myself two-years ago just to see them play the Atlanta Falcons. The first time I was ever a part of the 12th man.

They lost.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for this game. I’ve even been having dreams at night this past week where the game is on and I am sitting around checking the score. Every time I looked, the score was changing. Thankfully, we were winning.

I don’t know what’s going to happen when it’s all over. Hopefully, dreams do come true. But all I can ask is that the refs let it be settled on the field. And may the better team then kick the sh$t out of the Patriots or Broncos.

Go Hawks!

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In Honor of A Champion: Larry Holmes

holmesIt was June 9th, 1978. I don’t remember much more than that. Heck, at this point I’m lucky enough to remember what happened last month, let alone every little nuance of something that happened thirty-five years ago. I do remember that I was on the verge of being nine years old that summer, and the reason I most likely was oblivious to what was going on was probably because there were reruns of The Incredible Hulk and Dukes of Hazzard on television that night.

But somewhere 2,500 miles to the west of my home in Easton, Pennsylvania history was being made. June 9th, 1978 was the day when a town of 25,000 strong became a household name. It was the day when boxer (and Easton resident) Larry Holmes beat Ken Norton to become the WBC Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Over the next seven years, whenever Holmes would defend his title, it was a holiday in Easton. Newspaper articles, television, man on the street… you name it. Wherever you went, from the back alleys and corner bars on South Side to center court at the high school gym, everyone was talking about the Easton Assassin and whether or not he would vanquish his next foe and emerge victorious.

But in those days, I wasn’t worried one bit about Larry losing the title. I knew he’d always take care of business in the ring. No, my favorite part of the entire night was listening to his introduction:

“From EASTON, PENNSYLVANIA…… THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD…LARRY HOLMES!!!!

Hearing that announcement come out of my parent’s 19″ color television was something that made me feel special. I mean let’s face it, you’d always hear big city names like New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles being announced on television, but you’d never hear anyone say “Easton, Pennsylvania”. It was a surreal moment, because they weren’t just talking about Larry Holmes, they were also talking about ME!

After listening to them announce Larry and my hometown over the airwaves, I’d often wonder how many people around the country were tuning in and asking themselves where the hell Easton was. And even more importantly: that if someone like Larry Holmes already hailed from Easton, what other greatness would soon be coming out of there?

Larry Holmes not only gave us “Eastonians” a voice, he gave us hope and inspired us to be the best we could be. To know that we had a man who carried the weight of our small community with him to every fight was the best feeling in the world. I still remember proudly wearing my black “Easton Assassin” t-shirt, and was even lucky enough to go to school with Larry’s daughter, Lisa.

In a world where MMA fighting has become the norm, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how great things once were. But consider this: Larry Holmes held the boxing title from 1978-1985. He won his first 48 professional bouts (coming one shy of tying Rocky Marciano’s record). His victories over Muhammad Ali, Gerry Cooney, Earnie Shavers, Ken Norton, Mike Weaver, Tim Witherspoon and Marvis Frazier simply can’t be ignored. LarryHolmes

After losing the title and a rematch to Michael Spinks (and when many people in the sport believed he should have been finished), Holmes made several comeback attempts.

He fought a young Mike Tyson when Tyson was a monster in the ring (and before he had started acquiring a taste for auditory organs). Larry then managed to add even more victories and title shots to his record (including falling short in a split decision to Evander Holyfield), before ultimately retiring for good.

But perhaps the greatest thing that makes Larry a champion to me was the fact that rather than hit the road for greener pastures once success came calling, he decided to stay in Easton and invest much of the money he earned from the ring into his hometown.

Holmes was instrumental in developing restaurants, nightclubs, a training facility and even an office complex in the town he gave credit to each and every time he stepped into the ring. In his honor, the city of Easton fittingly changed the name of Riverside Drive, the main thoroughfare that connects the Pennsylvania and New Jersey borders, to “Larry  Holmes Drive”. An apropos gesture, because Larry Holmes connected us.

Some people might be able to boast about having a Hollywood star or a musical genius in their hometown while growing up, but not many can say they have a champion and a legend. I can.

Thanks Champ!

A Letter To Green Bay Packer Fans

Dear Green Bay Packer Fans,

I’m sorry. Sorry you had to feel the sting of a bitter Monday Night Football defeat. Last night’s game against my Seattle Seahawks was shaping up to be one for the books. Now, it will only go down in infamy.

Not only were both of our teams the victims of multiple phantom penalties, but you had to endure watching your beloved Packers be on the losing end of a controversial interception/touchdown on the last play of the game. Then, to add insult to injury, after the touchdown was upheld and your team left the stadium, you had to watch them make their way back out of the locker room and on to the field for a moot extra point.

Far be it for me to rub salt in your wound. The truth is, I’ve been in your shoes before and know what its like to get stiffed by the referees. One only has to go back to the 2006 Super Bowl to see when it was rather obvious the REAL refs favored the Pittsburgh Steelers. Why just last year, one of the referees who officiated that game admitted that he had made serious errors.

Sour grapes? I think not. Losses like these are hard to take and not soon forgotten. Take comfort in the fact that you got gipped in a regular season game and not on the biggest stage of all.

As a footnote to my letter, and in a bizarre case of irony, the NFL’s officiating supervisor, Phil Luckett, had this to say about the need for an extra point attempt: .

“The PAT is an extension of the game, so we have to finish the game. When a touchdown is made on the last play, you have to do the extra point, in regulation.”

For those with short memories (not for Seahawks fans like me) Phil Luckett is the same man who officiated over a botched coin toss in a Pittsburgh Steelers / Detroit Lions game, and awarded a phantom touchdown to Vinny Testaverde and the New York Jets against Seattle back in 1998. A “touchdown” that ultimately became the deciding factor in implementing instant replay the following season.

Best of luck with the rest of the year Packer fans. Hopefully, the next time we meet again on the grid iron, the real refs will be back.
Sincerely, a Seahawks Fan.

Article first published as “An Letter to Green Bay Packer Fans” on Technorati

Enough With The Jeremy Lin Sterotypes

Rant: ON:

I don’t know about you but I’ve sure had enough of these news stories about New York Knicks’ star Jeremy Lin being stereo typed.

Personally, I’m not a big follower of NBA basketball but it’s concerning to me that in this day and age we still have this racial nonsense going on.

In case you’ve been asleep under a rock, Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate whose parents are of Taiwanese descent, was a bench warmer for the Knicks but finally got the opportunity to play and became an instant sensation.

His success helped the Knicks win several games with tremendous efforts and last second wins. “Linsanity” became the word of the day in daily sports reports.

But one day, in the midst of a nice winning streak, Lin had an “off night” and the Knicks wound up losing their first game with him as a starter.

So what do you suppose the headline read on the ESPN website?:

“CHINK in the Armor”

You’ve got to be kidding me. You mean there was no one who proof read that article before it was posted, saw that title and didn’t raise a red flag?

The article was removed thirty minutes later after backlash and the person who posted the article was suspended.

But wait, it gets even better (or, worse in this case). Today I read a story that  Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company, decided to make a flavor to celebrate the success of Lin.

Ben & Jerry’s has named a frozen yogurt flavor “Lin-sanity” for the current NBA superstar Jeremy Lin. The frozen yogurt was originally intended to feature a honey swirl with fortune cookie bits in it.

After appearing briefly in the Boston area, the frozen yogurt was changed to include waffle bits instead of fortune cookies. Ben & Jerry’s has apologized for any potential offense that was taken for the use of the fortune cookies.

Fortune cookies? Nope, don’t see any stereotype there either.

Come on, we’re living in 2012. Shouldn’t we be past this lunacy by now?

Rant: OFF

Penn State: The Conspiracy of Silence

Shhh! Don’t make a sound. We can’t let this get out. It needs to be kept very quiet.

From 1998-2011 that’s pretty much what it was like on the campus of Penn State University. That was the time frame that the allegations of child molestation against a long time assistant coach and heir apparent to the legendary Joe Paterno remained concealed.

Jerry Sandusky now faces a total of 460 years in prison if the alleged offenses are proven true and deserving every single one of them. But I wonder, how many years would have been taken off his sentence if his conduct would have been stopped when they were first observed instead of being allowed to continue under a shroud of silence?

Shhhh.

Considering that the education they peddle at a college institution is to better prepare individuals to be more well-rounded human beings it’s ironic that when these horrific acts first came to light the  Penn State University brass decided putting brand first was more important than human life.

Shhhh.

When Joe Paterno was alerted of the alleged abuses he decided to tell his athletic director instead of the authorities. Washing his hands of the situation and looking the other way is appalling considering JoePa IS Penn State. Had he done the right thing sure, there’d still be a scandal but he would now be the HERO instead of being disgraced.

But Joe’s from a time when there was no Internet, no Facebook or Twitter and no 24/7 tabloid media. Things like this happening in his day were simply brushed under the rug and never spoken about again. If a human life had to be collateral damage for the good of the brand well then so be it.

Fact is, Joe KNEW what was going on and did only what he was “legally” required to do. I guess we’re lucky he at least went that far. So from a legal standpoint he may have succeeded but as a human being he’s failed miserably. Even he himself admits that in hindsight he should have done more.

Coincidentally, when now former university president Graham Spanier, who also had to have known about Sandusky’s indiscretions chose brand over boy he forfeited his human being membership card too.

But what’s most appalling of all is when then graduate assistant and now assistant coach Mike McQueary actually walked in and noticed Sandusky in the act of molesting a ten-year old boy and did nothing but tell Joe Paterno instead of the authorities essentially keeping it quiet. Why this man didn’t first stop the abuse he witnessed and alert authorities is beyond me. And why he is still an employee of Penn State is even more of a travesty.

How can this man even look himself in the mirror? How many times has he walked past that shower room and not thought about what happened there?

Worse still: How many times did he tell himself over the years to keep quiet?

Shhhh.

The House That JoePa Built

Penn State University: The House That JoePa built. A man who spent the last 61 years of his life at the famed college, 46 of which as the head coach of the football team. The legacy he created there with all the notoriety and championships lost in a single night when the university’s board of trustees fired him over allegations he failed to do more when assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting young boys on campus over a period of years.

It will be the first time in more than half a century that Joe Paterno won’t be included in the final Penn State home football game of the season this Saturday.

You don’t need to be a genius to know that for most of his tenure, JoePa was seen as the anointed ruler of Penn State and for him to not have done more when hearing about sexual molestation of a child being done under his watch is unconscionable. But what’s even worse has been the reaction of fans and some of the student body: putting football, of all things, ahead of children who’ve been victimized.

Attention students and fans: children were RAPED on your college campus!

It’s hard to imagine that Joe didn’t know what was going on under his nose. When Austin Scott, a promising running back recruited from my home town, was unjustly accused of raping a woman, Paterno and company were quick to lay judgement on him and kick him off the team. Although he was eventually vindicated, his tenure at the university and any possible chance of a career in the NFL was ruined. Joe and the school pounced on that incident without knowing all the facts but then some how took a blind eye to a horrific incident involving an assistant coach?

Once the announcement of Paterno’s immediate firing was made public, students were seen railing in the streets and tipping over a news van. Police needed to be called in to pepper spray them in an attempt to restore order. A scene we might have seen during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. And why? Not because a black woman had to sit at the back of the bus or couldn’t drink from a “White’s Only” fountain. No, the students were raising hell because a football coach got fired.

You can talk about tradition and JoePa’s legacy all you want. I’ve even heard people calling it an outrage at how the Trustees fired him over the phone. “What about the 40 some years he coached?” they would scream. “Surely there’s something to be said for loyalty right?”

Wrong.

My mother worked for the same hospital for forty years. Pretty much gave her life to that place. Then a few days ago while at work she was called and told that her position was eliminated effective immediately. No reason given at all. She was just let go. But I think no reason at all (it’s just business) is still better than why Joe was let go.

You know, I was once a student of Penn State (albeit only for one semester) and never got the chance to experience the whole “University Park” and football Saturday experience. But I tend to think that even if I did I’d still be one of the ones calling for Paterno’s ouster. How people can look past what was done there just because it’s football season is as much of a tragedy as what actually happened there.

So what can Paterno do now? How about using his king-like powers for the final time and telling his subjects that the University did the right thing for the school and end the senseless protests. Stop making the University and America for that matter look bad.

In the end Sandusky will get what he deserves, any evidence of a cover-up will come to light and the University will find another coach to carry on the tradition. I’m sure at some point down the road there will also be a Joe Paterno tribute day to celebrate being the all time winningest coach in Division 1 football.

But before you put on your PSU jersey and start chanting “WE ARE” for the final home game this Saturday, ask yourself one question:

If someone came to you distraught and told you that an old man was sodomizing young boys in your house – what would you do?

NFL Reporters – Stop Playing Favorites

I am a die-hard Seattle Seahawks fan. So much so that this year I flew out to Seattle on a Friday, watched them play (and subsequently lose to the Atlanta Falcons) and fly back.

Sadly, they are now 2-6 halfway through the season with pretty much zero chance of reaching the playoffs. I’ll be the first to admit to you that they stink. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to know that a team playing with that kind of win/loss record is not Super Bowl caliber. Unfortunately though, I’ve been noticing a trend a late with some sports reporters who don’t seem to feel the same way when it comes to other teams around the league. It was tolerable years ago but has since gotten much worse.

Want to know if bias exists in the news media? Look no further than the so-called “reporters” of major news organizations on the NFL where only one simple rule seems to exist:

The Dallas Cowboys are good no matter how bad they are playing or what their record indicates.

Here is a team that gets so much media attention because they are called “America’s Team”, a quote coined in 1978 by an NFL Films editor. The fact is, the Cowboys could lose every game one year and be the laughing stock of the entire league but still find itself having three prime time games the following year along with a Thanksgiving Day game at home. What’s wrong with this picture?

I watched my Seahawks play the Cowboys this past weekend. The game was tied at halftime 6-6. Both teams equally bad but all the announcers seemed to keep focusing on was the Cowboys. What they needed to do, how they should make adjustments, the great play of their running back. Quite hardly a peep about the “other” team.  Sure enough, when the Cowboys managed to win the game the announcers seemed to have already punched the golden ticket to the Super Bowl for them.

But what’s even more appalling than the Cowboys of late is the media circus surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles. Here is a team who brought in a bunch of talent in recent years to a bruhaha of attention. Visions of championships filled every news article about them. A rehabilitated quarterback (himself a convicted felon) was going to lead them to the promised land. That was until they started losing.

The team with the Super Bowl or bust mentality had lost four games in a row and reporters, rightfully so, lambasted them on their horrific playing. Some even calling for the coach to be fired. Then the Eagles man handled the Dallas Cowboys last week, brought their record to 3-5  and now suddenly the past four losses were instantly forgiven by this same press in favor of one game where they put it all together.

I took a quick peek at who CNN considers it’s “Fine Fifteen”.  The top 15 teams it considers to be the best out of 32. They ranked the Eagles (with a LOSING record) at #11. Ahead of teams having much better years (and better records) than they do.

Last night, the team with the losing record played in prime time against the Chicago Bears (with a winning record) and looked as bad as ever. Of course, the Bears were ranked worse than the Eagles on the “Fine Fifteen” list. Go figure.

You could call it sour grapes on my part because my team isn’t even on the radar and that’s ok if you feel that way.

The truth is I’m just tired of seeing the SAME teams getting all the attention no matter what.