Super Bowl 50 & My Chicago Bears

This year is the first year that features a Super Bowl matchup between two former first-overall draft pick QBs in Peyton Manning (1998) and Cam Newton (2011). Seems fitting for a milestone event such as Super Bowl 50. This is Peyton’s last shot at proving he can win the ultimate prize without the help of the losing team *coughRexGrossmancough*. On the other side of the field, Cam Newton and his flamboyant ‘dab’ celebrations are being compared to Donald Trump. The short of it is there’s no shortage of high profile stories to go around. Even Michael Oher of ‘The Blind Side’ fame is in on the press tour, with reporters hounding not only him, but the entire Tuohy family about what it means to see him in the Super Bowl.

That’s all well and good but I’m not exactly one to follow tradition (ever). I do like the Broncos, and will wholeheartedly root for them come February 7th, but I can’t shake my love for my hometown team: the Chicago Bears. So with that in mind, I present to you this list of five Chicago connections to Super Bowl 50:

  1. Ron Rivera is known for his defensive-mind. He honed those skills as a DC with who? The Chicago Bears.
  2. Ron Rivera won his last Super Bowl as a player with who? The Chicago Bears. And his last Super Bowl appearance as a coach was with who? The Chicago Bears.
  3. Both Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak ousted Head Coach John Fox to take over their respective teams. Who does John Fox coach now? The Chicago Bears.
  4. Carolina went 15-1 in the postseason. Who was the last Super Bowl winner to notch at least 15 regular season victories and clinch the title? The Chicago Bears.
  5. The last and *only* time Peyton Manning has won a Super Bowl? February 4, 2007 against who? The Chicago Bears.

So basically, my Bears are in the Super Bowl.

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

chicagobears

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Why the Replacement Ref Situation is More Ridiculous Than You Think

The Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football game was the absolute last straw. With the real NFL referees still in a lockout, the replacement officials are just simply not cutting it and the league is to blame.

I was one of those people in the beginning of this whole thing saying, these guys aren’t doing that bad for the situation they are in; they only had a few weeks to learn all the rules, cut them a break, blah blah blah. What do I say to that now? “Rule #76: No Excuses, Play Like a Champion.”

Oh yeah, I went there.

Except, I’m not saying that to the refs, I’m saying that to the league. Indulge me in the following analogy:

Remember the NFL lockout last year? Ok, what if instead of creating a work stoppage, the NFL decided to put AFL players in there and still call it the NFL? Guess what? A weed by any other name is still not a rose people. It wouldn’t be the NFL- it would be the AFL, with NFL rules and venues. How can the league think that bringing in Division III collegiate referees can serve as a legitimate substitute for the real thing? Not only do I not call that fair- I call that ridiculous.

What I’m getting at is that the integrity of the game is at stake. Just ask Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh, who called Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles ‘chaotic’ because of the officiating. Joe Flacco flat out said the replacement refs are affecting the integrity of the game. While Harbaugh isn’t by any means known for his mild manner, Joe Flacco is. When you have one of the least controversial and well-respected quarterbacks in the NFL calling these guys out how can you not acknowledge this is a real problem?

Monday Night’s game was just embarrassing. Not only were they blowing basic calls that my grandmother could have called right (she’s 83 and barely speaks English), they did things like give the Broncos an extra six yards on their touchdown drive that ended the first half. Oh by the way, the first half? It lasted almost two hours. The first quarter alone took AN HOUR. I watched the entire two hours of The Voice and still was able to catch most of the second quarter. Could it be because the Geneva Convention followed every flag thrown, which happened to be every other play?

If these refs can’t call the basics and get spots right, what chance do they have against the ever-problematic pass interference? The answer is none. Too many times in these first two weeks of the regular season I’ve seen great plays by corners negated by bogus 15-yard penalties. Those are game-changing penalties. They are penalties that have changed these games.

These refs have zero control over the game. I heard someone say the players are treating these guys like substitute teachers, which is absolutely accurate. These guys are fighting and jawing at will. What do the refs do? Call off-setting penalties so neither team actually gets penalized. Is it coincidental that one of the most topsy-turvy starts to the NFL season in decades comes when the NFL referees are on strike? Doubtful.

Steve Young said last night that despite all this, the desire for the game hasn’t changed so in the end, the NFL doesn’t care. That might be the truest thing anyone has said about this debacle. It is just sad.

With no new talks scheduled between the NFLRA and the NFL was the Monday Night game still not enough to nudge the commish? Wise up, Goodell. Can I get a ‘Roger, that’?

The NFL Preseason: Why so serious?

Football preseason is in full swing. HALLELUJAH we have all survived the purgatory known as the NFL offseason. But before you get too excited- don’t. I want to talk about the fact that people can and will absolutely take the preseason entirely too seriously.

Preseason football has little to no implications on how the team will do in the regular season. I repeat: preseason football has LITTLE TO NO implications on how the team will do in the regular season. Notice I said team.

People, the preseason is an individual affair. Preseason games are for rookies clawing at each other like crabs in a bucket for a spot on the roster. Preseason games are a time to preview newly acquired players and see how they mesh with their units. Preseason games are a time to feel out how ‘in shape’ the players have stayed during the offseason. Preseason games are a time of evaluation. Period. It does a great job gauging the successes of individuals ON the team. However, for the team as a whole, not so much.

Yes, my Bears got blown out last week by the Denver Broncos who started Peyton Manning. The Bears, didn’t. They didn’t even start Veal Cutlet (otherwise known as Jay Cutler). So as far as I’m concerned the game, and point for that matter, is moot. Yet, the amount of flack I caught after that game was ridiculous. Scared of big, bad Peyton? Hell yeah we were. If you were a rookie corner trying to keep a receiver from catching a Peyton Manning pass you would be too. But so what? It was the first game of the preseason. Relax.

Last year the New York Giants went 2-2 in the preseason, losing to the Carolina Panthers and the New York Jets. In fact, they had a rather unimpressive regular season as well going 9-7 and just squeezing into the playoffs. You all know the rest of the story.

So before you get all caught up in the preseason games and results, save that sh*t talking for the regular season. Until then, I’m not going to waste my breath arguing with you. I’m nothing if not efficient, you know.

Tale of the Quarterback: Eyes on NFL Training Camp

My nose is acute with the smell of fresh practice field grass, my lips are already fixed for criticism on a cover two versus a man to man, my fingers are (wo)manned on my mouse ready for my impending fantasy draft in a few short weeks. Yes, ladies and gentleman, training camp is upon us, which only means one thing: FOOTBALL IS BACK- CAN I GET AN AARON RODGERS BELT THRUST!? And before you say anything, yes, I’m a die hard Bears fan but you just can’t hate him. Trust me I’ve tried.

This past week NFL players have been reporting to the confines of their cozy college dorms where they will study playbooks and play obscene amounts of NCAA and Madden 12 like the grown up frat boys they are. Throw in some two a days and we have got ourselves some content my friends. I would like to take a look at just which teams will have the most eyes on them this preseason. And so it begins…

Once Upon a Time, there was a quarterback of an NFL football team. His name was (insert really important football sounding name here) and he played for (insert team here), this is their story…

The Denver Broncos: If Peyton Manning doesn’t scream football player name, I don’t know what does. He was literally born to play this role: see related Mannings i.e. Eli and/or Archie. Following (a couple) hush hush neck surgeries and Manning sitting out the entire 2011 season, not only is he back, but he is back with none other than John Elway’s Denver Broncos, despite his already published legacy with the Indianapolis Colts. This Broncos team easily has the biggest target on their back as far as the media sh*tstorm goes. I have to say I have a good feeling about this, and not just because I’m listening to Avicii. The way I see it, Peyton wouldn’t even attempt to come back unless he had complete and total faith that he would return to Peyton Manning form. If Peyton Manning has faith in himself, who the hell are we to say or think otherwise? If Peyton says it, it must be so. End of story. I can’t wait for this next chapter in his career, and have to give a special shout-out to three guys from a certain southwest school I also attended who will be along for the ride. Brock- you learn everything you possibly can from that man, I know I don’t have to tell you twice. O, words can’t describe how excited I am to see you back on that field- and with the Champ! G-Rob, do your thing- and don’t you dare drop a Peyton pass! SD4L 🙂

The New York Jets: Ahh, The Timmy Tebow Saga continues. I can’t wait to see what Rex Ryan version .50 has up his sleeve. Wildcat? Convert Tebow to fullback entirely? Make him the starter entirely? I have to say when they picked Tebow up I totally thought that was it for Sanchez. He’s got the SC quarterback curse, all hope has got to be lost. But maybe Mr. Hard Knocks hasn’t given up just yet. And side note: seriously, can they make Hard Knocks permanently on the Jets? That was by far the most entertaining season. I’m not wrong.

The Washington Redskins and/or The Indianapolis Colts: Picking up the first two picks in the draft, both quarterbacks, mind you, you can bet these teams are on the radar. RGIII was pronounced starter out of the gate. With a definitive ‘guy’ you have to think Shanahan will show at least glimpses of those glorious Denver days. With the Peyton Manning departure, and Andrew Luck of the draw in place, look for the Colts to show up like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. They may not be effective right away, but with the ever accelerated learning curve of Mr. Stanford grad, you gotta think they will get it right by midseason, maybe in time to catch the playoffs? Wildcard at least?

And last but certainly not least, for my own personal benefit, The Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler is healthy. They have signed their workhorse Matt Forte to a sufficient deal. They have gelled their offensive line quite a bit as well as made a key offensive pickup in Brandon Marshall, a familiar target to add to their Cutler-y (ya see what I did there?). The defense, yes, is becoming increasingly more ‘veteran’ but with a more high powered offense hopefully we can preserve those guys a few more years by not having them take the field every 37 seconds.

All I can say is thank God we have the Olympics to hold us over til the real fun begins. Happy training season everyone!

Are You Not Entertained?

Patience is a virtue I will readily admit I do not have. When I get something in my head, I want it done. Like, right now. You can bet that if my neck and millions of dollars are on the line, I’m jumping in faster than LeBron’s hairline is receding. For this reason (among others), I wouldn’t be a very good franchise player.

However, this same ‘patience’ got quarterback Drew Brees a record-breaking $100 million dollar contract with his beloved NOLA Saints. It got Matt Forte a deal right before the deadline of his franchise tender expired with the Chicago Bears. It got the hungry Ray Rice the compensation he is worth.

Maybe I should get some of this patience stuff after all.

I have to wonder though, is this all necessary? As I have mentioned before, professional contracts have gotten out of control, see What Happened to the Nice Guys? Allow me to venture the idea that maybe, the teams, leagues and even we as fans, are actually responsible for all of this.

I mean, didn’t Drew Brees know that the Saints would do whatever it took to keep him? Didn’t the Bears know they didn’t have a fighting chance without Forte, even with Chicken Cutlet healthy? You gotta think the Raven’s knew that Rice’s contributions allowed Flacco the flexibility of a 9-year-old Chinese gymnast offensively.

In situations like Brees, Forte and Rice, these players made it blatantly clear they wanted to stay. When you as a team, know you are gonna give the players what they want anyway, why all the hoop-lah?

I have an answer for you: because it keeps people interested. At the most basic level, sports are just entertainment. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. While you men may think women are crazy for being so consumed with 50 Shades, is your constant monitoring of ESPN and NFL Network really any different? Three words guys: Dwight Howard Trade. Hashtag: #thingsmorecomplicatedthanwomen… can I get a trending topic??

Yeah, it’s patience alright, if patience is spelled D-R-A-M-A.

Maybe if we stopped and smelled the Old Spice we’d all realize that sports would exist without all the twisting plot lines and insane amount of money because of the simple fact sports are a love affair. But they build bonds, they forge new friendships and subsequently break relationships (if only on Sundays). The athletes themselves love to play and we as fans, love to watch. So in the end, that little bit of drama makes it all worth it, God help us all.

Just next time your girlfriend is on the phone catching up with her friend about the latest happenings of The Bachelorette instead of rolling your eyes, think about you and your buddies convos at the bar. You might just be surprised that with a few name changes and metaphors, the nature of the conversation isn’t so different after all.

What Happened to the Nice Guys?

After my latest post about the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship I was having a conversation with my father and we honed in on one particular subject: dynasties. His argument was that dynasties are a thing of the past, they don’t exist anymore for one simple yet powerful reason: money.

I have to say I see his point. Players these days go where the money takes them. As if the contracts themselves aren’t big enough, some of them have even been smart enough to realize while they can sign big time deals to play the sport they love, they can sign even bigger deals in endorsements. Endorsement deals are where the big money hides. A player could make $15 million/year playing but conceivably make $150 million in endorsement/advertising deals

That is just plain insane.

This realization prompted me to ask my father what Jordan made as far as his NBA salary went. His response? Enough. Huh? You mean Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, made… enough?

His Airness was the original one to be smart enough to realize opportunities outside of his playing career. He was a pioneer who paved the way for modern day player endorsements and he is still reaping the benefits. But it’s gotten out of hand- because major professional sports contracts have gotten outta hand, especially in the NBA and NFL.

Where did this ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ (not Kardashians) mentality within the professional community come from? Well John Wall is making this much and Kobe is making this much, so I should be making this much. Or I’m the franchise quarterback- pay me and kick that no name dude off the team #Kanyeshrug.

Shouldn’t the fact that these players CAN make up so much money in endorsements afford them the opportunity to stay where they are for lesser pay and betterment of the overall team? Therefore, making dynasties more prominent and likely? Have these players become so greedy that the game really is all about the benjamins for them?

From a PR standpoint- taking a pay cut to remain with your team is solid gold. It would go SO far with regards to loyalty, reputation and overall likeability. So much so that endorsement deals would come flooding in. Everyone wants the nice guy because in theory, the nice guy doesn’t exist. I don’t gotta tell my lady readers twice.

I’ll give you an example: Peyton Manning. Who doesn’t like Peyton Manning? He’s taken on this nice guy persona quite well. Here’s a guy who once offered to cut his own salary in order to better the overall team. A guy who still writes handwritten notes to the legends of the game thanking them for their contributions to the sport he loves so dearly. Now think of Peyton Manning’s endorsements… See my point?

But Manning is rare. Too rare. What happened to the nice guys? Are they all weeded out by the combine? Or does it start earlier than that? In college, perhaps?

Want my advice athletes? You get the opportunity to stay with the team who has molded you, who’s fans adore you, who has given you the support you need and paid you all they can afford- you take it. Make up the money with the hoards of endorsements thrown your way, and trust me there will be hoards. Be the nice guy. The game needs it.

Rootin for Rose

Inspired by this ESPN Chicago article on Derrick Rose and his ACL rehab I decided to be ambitious and write another post. Especially with Chicago sports season at its ‘slimmest’ time of year, here’s something to celebrate about our beloved Derrick Rose. According to the article he’s ‘ahead of schedule’ regarding his recovery time.

When he- and subsequently the entire Chicago Bulls 2011-2012 season- went down,  I was disappointed and saddened, but I was not panicked. If anyone is coming back from a torn ACL, it’s him. He’s Derrick Rose and those my friends, are the rules.

I want to take this opportunity to examine some other notable players who have come back to some of the best years of their playing careers after suffering torn ACL’s. Here are my Top 5 (in no particular order):

1. Jerry Rice– We all know Jerry. Tore his ACL in 1997, returned the following season in 1998 to record 82 receptions for a total of 1157 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also returned to the Pro-Bowl that year. Did I mention he was 34 at the time? He would have two more 1100+ yard seasons before his eventual retirement. He’s now sittin pretty in the HOF. Yup, he good.

2. Tom Brady– While it pains me to put him on this list as I’m not his biggest fan, he serves as a great example of an athlete who has come back just fine. Lord knows those UGGs aren’t providing any support. Brady suffered his injury in 2008. Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, no less. Not only did he suffer a torn ACL, but also a torn MCL, complicating the surgery. While Cassel held down the fort and avoided a complete meltdown by the Patriots, much to my chagrin, Brady recovered, returned in 2009 and has been going strong ever since. Dammit.

3. Andrew Brunette, Chicago Blackhawks– Now he may not be on your well-known list but this Hawk sure makes mine. While playing for the Minnesota Wild in 2008, Brunette suffered what was later diagnosed as a torn ACL. I say later because the dude KEPT PLAYING. Not only the rest of the game… but the rest of 2008-2009 season before he had surgery on it. He then went on to tally 25 goals and 36 assists for the Wild the very next season. All at the age of 37 years old. If that isn’t resilience people, I don’t know what is.

4. Tiger, Tiger Woods y’all– You knew this was coming. While it can be argued his best years of golf were pre-2008, it remains to be seen. But he didn’t take a ‘leave of absence’ from golf due to his physical indiscretions- I mean injuries… oops 😉

5. Derrick Rose– I’m putting him on here because I have absolute and total faith he will come back, strong as ever. Bring on the 2012-2013 season. The Bulls, and Rose, are comin for that title.