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’?

Why I Don’t Hate Ohio State… Anymore

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Image courtesy of AnnArbor.com

So I went to a school called Arizona State, far away from Middle America in the land of the Pacific-12. Palm trees, sunshine and hazy mountains were a far cry from the picturesque cornfields of the B1G Ten (is that how you write it now?).  However, I did always have an allegiance, albeit a blindly led one, to the University of Illinois though. This then became concrete when my best friend from high school attended the university.

Now, my very first weekend visiting her came in 2007. It was the weekend Illinois played Ohio State in Columbus when the Buckeyes were ranked #1 in the country. If you claim to be any degree of B1G Ten fan… you know what happened that night. The Illini went in there and buried those Buckeyes. Call it overconfidence on OSU’s part; call it Illinois being underestimated. I called it: glorious.

The years following I learned more of this Buckeye football program. Of Jim Tressel and that wannabe Bill Cosby sweater vest he liked to subject the viewing public to. I hated everything he stood for. I hated the overconfidence of his players. The way the fans acted as if he, and the program, could do no wrong. The way they referred to themselves as The Ohio State (which for the record I still don’t like). Yes, I hated Ohio State.

I quickly learned I was not alone in this attitude. No, no. Ohio State was the USC of the B1G Ten. Everyone hated them. Except Ohio State, of course. My best friend growing up ended up at Michigan State. She also hated that God-awful football program. Fantastic. It was settled.

Yet, today, with another heaven-sent season of college football looming, I find myself at a crossroads. Jim Tressel, and his woolen vest of vomit, is no longer the head coach. The program has paid its debt to the college football society in the sanctions imparted on them by the NCAA.  My two best friends from the B1G Ten are no longer in school. The Buckeyes were on ESPN’s Training Days– the damn white boy manager DID THE DOUGIE… and ya know what? He did it well. So tell me again, why do I hate Ohio State?

Not only is Jim Tressel not the coach anymore, Urban Meyer is. The same Urban Meyer who made me love the University of Florida and is responsible for my irreprehensible-one-of-only-a-couple athlete crushes on Tim Tebow. I feel those eyes of judgment. Just deal with it.

That episode of Training Days, Meyer got those boys fired up. ASU’s practices never looked like that. I didn’t see 250lb linebackers getting rewarded with mid-day naptime on air mattresses in the field house. This was adorable. This was real. This ladies and gentlemen, was college football.

While every fiber in my being is telling me “No! Carmen! Don’t do it! Think of the children!” I am forced to face the reality: I no longer hate Ohio State.

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.

We Talkin bout PLAYOFFS?

College football is.

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It’s here! It’s finally here! I know it’s my go-to phrase but this really is better than Christmas. College Football will now have a playoff system to determine the National Champion. While this won’t ensure Bama and LSU won’t meet 27481 times in a season, it will be earned and not decided by some phantom committee more elusive than Napoleon Dynamite’s Liger. Is that a collegiate mascot yet?

Here’s how it goes: there will be four teams selected by a committee with ‘preference’ given to conference champs and teams with tough schedules…this is still the BCS people. Can’t expect a miracle. I don’t know about you but I’ll take what I can get. RPI ratings, which aid in how NCAA men’s basketball determines March Madness teams, may be used as well.

The games will be played on neutral grounds most likely at the Orange, Sugar, Rose or Fiesta bowls on a rotating basis. The National Championship location will be determined by the highest bidding city- similar to how the Super Bowl location is decided. The four cities that facilitate the major BCS bowls will have the opportunity to bid as well as other cities.

As far as the revenue share goes- and it’s estimated to bring in $400-500 million, the five major conferences will get majority share of revenue, the Big East being the bastard child thrown scraps of benjamins under the stairs.

Convenient that Notre Dame is ‘independent’ when it comes to football. Speaking of, the committee deciding on this playoff system includes the FBS Commissioners AND THE NOTRE DAMN ATHLETIC DIRECTOR. And no that wasn’t a typo. WTF Notre Dame? This is why everyone hates you.

The majority of bowls will remain, including the main bowls. In fact, one or two more may be added to include teams not in the 11 FCS conferences.

This is all barring an approval by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, whatever that is.

Point is, we should all be ecstatic. After years of pestering, AN ACTUAL PRESIDENTIAL OPINION and countless middle school persuasive essays on why college football should include a playoff it’s happening, albeit a limited basis. Yes, we can.

Where’s Jim Mora when you need him? I expect a SportsCenter segment ESPN.

My Letter to the Editor

To Whom It May Concern:

It has come to my attention that the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Derrick Hall has allegedly offered a position to exonerated former high school football star and USC commit Brian Banks following his release from prison/parole. Banks has tryouts scheduled with various NFL teams to try and pursue his football career further but you are telling me that as a backup plan he has a cushy front office job waiting for him with an MLB franchise?

This man, 26 years old, never went to college, never had an internship, never took a business class yet you are telling me you are OFFERING him a position because you feel bad for him? His only qualification is that he attained a scholarship to USC for FOOTBALL. Last I checked the pigskin was not small, round and white.

I feel for Banks- I truly do. The charges of rape brought against him were proven to be a lie and his life has absolutely not turned out as it should have. But the fact of the matter is there are thousands of extremely qualified, freshly graduated and experienced individuals clawing at each other like crabs in a bucket for a measly entry-level position in sports. Individuals that are competent and able to better the organizations they work for.

Hall says that after seeing interviews with Banks he saw a “[…] very smart, articulate, good looking kid,” Hall said. “I think there’s so much that he could do.”

Is good looking a qualification to work in the front office now? What happened to having to walk before you run? While this may be an extremely personal matter to me as I am currently job searching in the sports industry this still just feels like a huge slap in the face to the collective newly graduated. All the long nights spent after the stadium is shut down and the fans are long gone. All the filing, clipping and coordinating. All the memorization of stats, facts and rosters. All to try and get a step ahead of the game to maybe have a shot at getting a job offer after you graduate from a major university.

We are told we are doing everything right. We have fantastic resumes. We would be a great asset to the organization inevitably followed by a ‘but you are just not right for this position.’ It’s always about the position- not the candidate. Now, you are telling me you feel bad for this man and so you will find a position for him? Doesn’t that just go against what your HR rep told me over the phone as to why I didn’t get a position I’m in fact OVER qualified for?

I’m starting to lose faith in this industry. An industry that is founded on passion. Let’s face it- we don’t want to work in sports for the money. We want to work in sports because it’s all we have ever seen ourselves doing. It’s all we want to do. It’s all we have known. We live for those late nights staring at the empty field. The kid who’s day we just brightened  by bringing his favorite player to his school. But when an inexperienced high-profile person gets offered a job while there are countless others out there who want it infinitely more is just disappointing. Forget the exoneration- that’s another issue entirely. The fact of the matter is he has not graduated college, let alone attained a master’s degree. He has not had any internships working for that minor league team. He has not at all had to work for this position.

I refuse to accept the fact that this wasn’t supposed to be public knowledge and therefore was not some sort of publicity stunt. If you understand anything about running a sports team you knew this was going to come out. You knew it would be publicized. And you took the “any publicity is good publicity” mindset entirely too literally. This is not good for a struggling franchise like the Diamondbacks- nor for professional sports in general.

I sincerely hope that there is a similar attitude toward Derrick’s Hall decision to offer Brian Banks a job. I sincerely hope that this is not what it takes to get a job in sports. Being a good-looking male former football star is not something I could have aspired to, some biological differences being the main roadblock, of course. I have aspired to be a hard-working woman working at something I love in the hopes of inspiring other young women to do the same. Tell me this is still possible.

Signed,

Experienced and Unemployed

Double D gets the D-Ball on DWTS

Super Bowl ring shmuper bowl ring… Donald Driver has won the coveted Disco Ball trophy on Dancing With The Stars. Future Hall of Fame be damned- this will surely give him street cred. That is- if the street they are referring to is the one the cast of Rent sings about in the musical numbers “On the Street #1-3”.

But in all seriousness this is the kind of jackpot story you ladies can take back to your man and impress him. You can mostly talk about DWTS but by throwing in a few key facts about Donald Driver (such as his nickname is Double D) you guys can finally be on the same page. Warning: it’s temporary.

Now I’m not the biggest DWTS fan- in fact I’m not really one at all. The fact that athletes win it all the time just proves that Sports > everything else on the planet. Period. But this isn’t to say that dancing isn’t a sport. An argument I regularly get into with my guy friends. I was a dancer growing up and I guarantee you if you ask Double D, Hines Ward, Jerry Rice, Ochocinco they’re opinion of dancing has changed. These guys have some of the most gifted hands/feet/limbs on the planet. Their brains are designed and conditioned to absorb intricate patterns and routes. Yet you watch the show and they struggle sometimes. DWTS is the single greatest piece of evidence to the fact that dancing is indeed a sport and for that I commend it.

I also commend Donald Driver on his win- despite the fact the colors green and gold physically make me cringe. Jay Cutler on there, while the outfits would suit him, not sure the fancy footwork would (have you seen his three step drop? Awful). Wouldn’t mind seein Mr. Urlacher out there though. Bet he has a set of twinkle toes on him…

I’ll just leave you with that thought. Congrats Donald!