Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Okay, so I was wrong about the Jets versus the Packers Super Bowl for this year. Or, perhaps another way of looking at it, was that I was half right.
Green Bay did defeat Chicago to win the NFC Championship, and will thus be in in two weeks. In the meantime, the AFC title went to the Pittsburgh Steelers again, for the third time in six years (a veritable dynasty, especially if they win) and for the eighth time overall, tying them for the most Super Bowl appearances with the team that normally plays in the new stadium that will host this year’s Super Bowl, the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas
So, what can we expect on Super Bowl Sunday? The Packers have looked awesome, and Aaron Rodgers seems to be the hot quarterback of the moment. The Steelers have looked consistently good, and perhaps at times close to great, throughout the season, and find themselves yet again having somehow survived to this stage more by surviving then dominating.
There have been points this season where both teams looked absolutely on fire, but yesterday’s conference clinchers certainly would not rank among these for either team. The Packers looked sluggish and vulnerable, and Aaron Rodgers, ironically, had one of his worst days in a long, long time on what was the most important day of his career so far (but the next one will really bypass that, one way or the other). And the Steelers looked like world beaters themselves in the first half, until the Jets had that furious rally in the second half and, seemingly, completely outplayed
on the road, almost mounting the greatest comeback in Championship Game history. But no dice, as the Pittsburgh ’s beloved team hung on. Steel City
So both teams looked vulnerable, all too human. What can we expect?
Rodgers should have a better game than he did in
, and the Packers will need to keep from making the critical mistakes that the Jets did. The Steelers are more than capable of winning without any help, so Chicago Green Bay will have to minimize any mistakes, and maximize ’s mistakes. The Steelers have the best defense against the rush, but Pittsburgh ’s strength is in the passing game, so they will perhaps stretch the vaunted Steel Curtain to the limit. If the Packers offense gets rolling (and offenses seem to have the upper hand these days in the NFL), then watch out! Green Bay
Perhaps the key match up will be from the less noisy sides of each team: The Steelers offense against the Packers defense.
is very dangerous, and Roethlisberger, while not the flashiest quarterback, is without doubt one of the most effective. Their overall game is solid, and while not the most explosive offensive team, the Packers defense will have to try and stop Pittsburgh Pittsburgh from keeping the defense on the field, killing the clock, and keeping the hot and dangerous offense off the field and cold, while the defenders grow fatigued from too much time spent on the field. This would likely be Green Bay ’s best strategy to winning, if they can manage. The Packers will have to find the way to stop the Steelers offense, and to get a lot of three and outs. Give their offense a chance to win it for them. Pittsburgh
Apropos of nothing, the momentum might be swinging back in favor of the NFC teams in the Super Bowl. The Giants toppled the Patriots a few years ago, and the Saints knocked off the Colts last year. What better way for the NFC to cement their newly favored status by beating that last of the AFC powerhouses that has yet to lose a Super Bowl under it’s current lineup?
Finally, as one side note that might have more significance than you might expect, I have to say that something tells me the Packers, who will technically be the home team in this Super Bowl, will follow the example of the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers themselves and choose to wear their white, away jerseys, which would quite rare. Why should this matter? Well, historically, the team wearing white jerseys in the Super Bowl have been far more successful than the teams wearing their dark jerseys, and that includes the last six straight Super Bowls, all won by the team wearing white. Not a guarantee of success, of course. But hey, why mess with what works?
Green Bay winning it and bringing back another trophy to , securing it with a clinching touchdown to put it out of reach late in the fourth. Packers, 28-17. Title Town
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Okay, so the Steelers and the Jets. Now, I am a Giants fan, first and foremost, but have never seen much sense in hating the other
area football team. In fact, the Jets have always been my second favorite team, and I root for them when the Giants have been eliminated from playoff contention (which is starting to be an uncomfortable pattern these last few years, but that another topic entirely). So, let me just say that I hope the Jets do it, and beat the Steelers, as they did last month in New York . It would be nice, for once, not to have to see the Colts, the Patriots, or the Steelers representing the AFC in February’s big game. Pittsburgh
That said, it does not go by what I want, now, does it? After all, the Giants are not in it, and have not really seriously been in the thing ever since they relinquished a 21-point lead with a bit more than seven minutes to go against Michael Vick’s Eagles, which has already been dubbed the “Second Miracle in the Meadowlands”. So I will put my personal wants aside, and try to see how these teams match up against one another, head to head.
I think that it’s fair to say that the Jets are the hotter team. With all of the brash trash talking, which they actually backed up on the field against Belichick, Brady, and the rest of the Patriots, they seem capable of playing the mind game effectively, before the kickoff, even. It clearly either fired the team up, psyched their opponents out, or both. Plus, it is a fine
tradition in sports, predicting victory and then delivering. From Namath’s guarantee of victory over the powerful and heavily favored Colts for those same Jets in 1969, to Mark Messier’s predicting a Game 6 victory over the Devils in 1994, which propelled the Rangers to enjoy the run that earned them the Stanley Cup after 54 years without, to the more recent Giants Super Bowl victory over those same Patriots, who were of course vying to be only the second team to complete a perfect season, and to be then classified as the greatest team ever, New York has more such magical moments in it’s history than any other city in sports in North America. Remember that Plaxico Burress even predicted the score to be 23-17, and he was not that far off the mark. Perhaps only New York can even remotely compete, with the “Super Bowl Shuffle” in 1985, and with Michael Jordan’s predictions (which proved remarkably accurate, actually) that the Bulls would win yet another championship, which he did in both 1997 and 1998. But these famous episodes in Chicago sports live on because of the brashness that it took to make these predictions under the circumstances, not to mention the delivery, and thus tended to be more powerful and mythical, especially in the case of Namath’s Jets. New York
That said, I would be remiss not to mention that such guarantees have not always been successful either. Remember Patrick Ewing’s annual tradition of predicting an NBA Championship for the Knicks? Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, he is not alone. Guarantees and predictions have kind of lost their novelty, since everyone started doing it. And all too often, whoever makes the most noise winds up being a non-factor, and often even ends up on the losing side. So, yeah, that kind of grew old in a hurry. Still, would it really be surprising if this week was filled with as much trash talking as last week? Not really.
When the defense is on for the Jets, it plays very intense, and can keep the Kets in any game. There have been lapses, like in the earlier meeting at Foxboro, or with the
game. But that is not likely to happen this Sunday. The Steelers are good, but the motivated Jets should rise up to the challenge. Chicago
Still, the Steelers are no slouches themselves. You don’t win two Super Bowls in four years by being purely lucky, and that is why they are trying for a third in six years, which would make them a bona fide dynasty, really. They are fighting for no less than that, and if they beat the Jets, they will most likely be favored to win the whole thing. After all, they have more experience on this level than any other team still alive, and have a very productive and dangerous offense that knows what it takes to win, to go along with their trademark, hard-nosed defense, which will surely give Mark Sanchez and the Jets more difficulties than the Patriots were able to.
But the Jets defense will probably be very stingy, and I see this being a low scoring affair. After having beaten Peyton Manning’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots in consecutive weeks (the first team to ever do that), the Jets really are flying high. So
will have their work cut out for them, trying to put points on the board. Pittsburgh
The outcome of this game will most likely be greatly determined by turnovers, and it would not be surprising to points scored by one (or both) of the defensive units. Any mistake by either team could conceivably be the game.
That said, I’m going to go with my heart on this one, and say the Jets will win. Trying to look at it objectively, the Jets are the hotter team. The Steelers are not the most explosive unit, and
should be able to contain Roethlisberger, although that passing game cannot be completely shut down. Look for the Jets to bend but not break, and for the offense to do just enough to hang around, with the Jets taking this game in the final minutes, 20-16. New York
J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!
The 2010 NFL season was a strange one, indeed. It was the first season in a very, very long time where no one had an even remotely exciting run with perfection. Following so many seasons where teams had some incredible starts, (five teams managed to reach at least 10-0 in the past five seasons, with all but one of them reaching at least 13-0,), only three teams (Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Kansas City) managed to reach even modest 3-0 starts, and none of these managed to go any farther than that without a loss. Also, much more obvious than in other years, there were a few divisions that seemed to lack any really standout, quality teams. That was particularly true with the NFC West, which sent the only team in NFL history to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record, but it was also true with the AFC West and the AFC South, despite the presence of traditional powers in the Colts and the Chargers in these divisions. Indy had a season that was not up to their usually high standards, and lost in the first round of the playoffs, at home. The Chargers suffered through a long, difficult, and embarrassing season, ranking near the top statistically in both offense and defense, yet never really having a record that could have allowed them to seriously contend for a playoff spot. The Chiefs, who eventually did manage to win the AFC West, did not show remarkable consistency or strength, and it would seem unlikely that they will be serious contenders in the near future. Building on their success this past season would be difficult, if the Chargers, specifically, begin to play more consistent football.
The NFC North will likely be a very tough division for a very long time. It already showed glimpses of being a bruising division this past season. The Vikings were one of the favorites in the preseason, but obviously had a tough season filled with distractions and misfortunes. What should help them out will be the lack of distraction and drama surrounding Brett Favre, and finally ending their reliance on a quarterback in his forties. But that said, they will need to adjust, and could easily find themselves struggling, with the likes of a very explosive and tough Packers franchise, along with the rejuvenated Chicago Bears, and a strongly improved Detroit Lions team. Still, we cannot forget that this Vikings team went 12-4 in 2009, advancing all the way to a Championship Game where they strongly outplayed the eventual Super Bowl champs Saints, in
, and might have won it had not Favre thrown an ill-conceived interception that likely kept them out of the Super Bowl. So the Vikings still can prove dangerous, and could still contend. New Orleans
The Lions have long been the basket case in the NFL, and the cellar dwellers in their division for the vast majority of seasons over the last decade. But this Lions teams was one that showed some real signs of life for the first time since starting off 6-3 in 2007. They finally managed to win not one, but two road games, including one that, for all intents and purposes, knocked
from the playoff race, en route to winning their last four games. Matthew Strafford has shown glimpses of greatness, and should he remain healthy, he could become one of the top tier quarterbacks. To say that this Lions team is a very different one from the historical 2008 Lions, who made history in all the wrong ways by becoming the first team to go 0-16 since the league extended the regular season to 16 games. They left that legacy behind them, and now look forward to a seemingly bright future. Let us also remember that they came close to beating both the Packers and the Bears on the road this season, and really deserved to win that game against Tampa , which was taken away from them because of a bad call. It seems obvious that the Lions are at least on the right track. Chicago
Finally, the Packers, who have a star quarterback leading an explosive offense, and a defense that is underrated, but played consistently as one of the league’s best units. This is a very strong team all around, but they would need to remain healthier than they have the past two seasons, when losing starters proved to be their main Achilles Heel, at least in the regular season. The one thing that the Packers have not done under Aaron Rodgers during the regular season is win a division title, but the Pack figure to be contenders for a good long time, assuming this lineup remains intact and can stay healthy.
So following a season of some disappointing divisions as a whole, the NFL should rejoice, now, at the prospects of the NFC North, which seems poised to rank with perhaps the AFC North and the AFC East as divisions with a number of strong teams that could at least seriously contend for the playoffs, and could send elite teams with the potential to go quite far in playoff runs in the near future. I will venture to say that, of the leading candidates to potentially assume the title from the Patriots as the next “Team of the Decade” (assuming the Patriots don’t hold on and win it again, which would be quite unprecedented), the NFC North, specifically, has two teams that could be early front runners to contend for this lofty status in the Packers and the Lions, and these two teams should become a hot rivalry over the next few years, having already played two tough and close games this past season, splitting with successful home stands. Add Jay Cutler’s Bears in the mix, and things could be interesting during the fall out by the
Great Lakes for some time to come.
Well, the NFC Championship match is set up, and it will be the Chicago Bears hosting the
Packers. Cutler versus Rodgers. The two top teams of the NFC North end up being, apparently, the two top teams in the NFC, period. It is a storied rivalry, the oldest and most intense one in the NFL, and one of the most intense in North American sports. Yet, it is only the second time that these two clubs are meeting in a playoff meeting. But this one will be to see who moves on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Green bay
The Bears really had their way today against Seattle, much like the Pack did yesterday against the Falcons. And now, a seemingly unlikely scenario, as these two storied franchises from the NFC North will face one another, seemingly against all odds. There were points where it seemed both teams were struggling and on the brink of disaster earlier this season. When the Bears started off red hot with a 3-0 record, and then got absolutely dismantled by the Giants, it seemed that
New York had exposed some severe weaknesses that other opponents could expose against , and that the Bears would struggle the rest of the way. And it began to look that way, too, until the Bears finished the season off strong. Chicago
They proved to be sharp, as well, taking it to the always dangerous Philadelphia Eagles on the road in the Wild Card round, and then utterly dismantling the Falcons in Atlanta, despite their supposed dominance in their home stadium, and their earlier victory over the Packers in that same stadium earlier in the year.
So now, two of the most storied teams in sports meet in one of the oldest and bitterest of rivalries in sports, for all of the marbles in the NFC.
It should be a really good one.
For my part, let me just say that I believe that
, at their best, should prove to be the better team. They are playing on such a level, that it would be hard to go against them right now. They are beginning to seem like the team with the caliber that many people predicted they would play at going into the season. The Bears have had a fantastic season, a division title under their belts, and their first playoff victory since the 2006 season, the last time that they were in the playoffs, when they went all the way to the Super Bowl, before losing to Peyton Manning’s Colts. Green Bay
The Bears have their trademark tough defense, yet the Packers defense has been very tough all season. Really,
has one of the league’s best defenses, and it has more or less risen to the occasion when it needed to this season. They should continue that trend next week, as well, and frustrate Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense in a way that the Seahawks were never able to do (and yes, I’m still wondering how Seattle actually got into the playoffs, let alone hosted a playoff game, with a 7-9 record, when not one, but two teams in the NFC missed it with a 10-6 record). Green Bay
Yes, the Bears indeed enjoyed a great season, and this should cap it off well, a playoff victory that gave them home field advantage for the Championship Game, for the second time in five season.
But I think the Packers are the ones that are having that very memorable, almost seemingly miraculous season, and they should take this one. Packers 21- Bears 17.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
First of all, let me thank those of you who are actually following this blog, which is still obviously very much in it’s infancy. It is a beginning, and has taken some getting used to. But I have plans to make it much bigger, and incorporate much more writings on various subjects, and to be able to divide it up by topics for easy reference, and all of that good stuff. Unfortunately, doing so will also take time, so all I can ask is that you bear with me through all of this.
Also, apologies about the long delay between messages. You know how the holidays are, right? You suddenly find yourself whizzing through a whirlwind of activities, with all of the shopping for gifts and holiday preparations, then Christmas itself (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, depending on your beliefs), which quickly finds New Year’s nipping at it’s heel. Time for new beginnings, new chances. New resolutions that most likely won’t last the full week, let alone the year. Sometimes, they don’t even last the first day (I’ve been there, believe me!).
Anyway, I wanted to add something new, but was not entirely sure what to incorporate into this very small body of work. Having just finished a book on Pat Tillman, “Where Men Win Glory” by Jon Krakauer, I was really excited to begin writing a review of the book, and got to work. Five pages later, to my amazement, was a discourse of all of my suddenly vented political frustrations of the decade staring me in my incredulous face. While this book certainly did not shy away from politics, it seemed somehow inappropriate to use it as a springboard to get on my soapbox and lecture about the evils of the era. So I decided to kick that soapbox out from under my feet, and teach myself a lesson in humility, jumping atop my fallen ego and pointing a finger in his face, laughing, taunting. Perhaps even sneaking a kick to the ribs of this not so much evil as annoyingly self-righteous (and yes, sadly, I will admit to possessing the not altogether rare qualities of hypocrisy) alter ego.
So I decided to search for something else, instead. And the piece that I am about to submit was actually written a couple of years ago, on the occasion of my son’s first day in school. I was working in
at the time, and the building that I worked at had a school in it. Well, it was probably more like a daycare center, but they called themselves a school. And for the purposes of this little piece of writing, I think it gets the point across, anyway. I was interested in learning more, and inquired about the possibility of registering Sebastien, my son, in the program. There was only one spot open, and so I jumped on it, feeling quite proud of myself (although looking back, I scratch my head and wonder exactly why). Newark
Some of you reading this might already have read it the first time around, when it was actually written. If so, I am sorry for repeating myself. Let me say this another way: my sincerest and most profound apologies for exposing you to the same material. Just in case I was unclear, I wish to express my regrets for forcing this upon you yet again. As you can see, it vexes me to repeat myself. In other words….
Okay, enough of that. Gotcha.
Anyway, it was, and remains, one of the few works that I actually shared with people at the time, and almost everybody who read it told me that they found it moving. One woman even claimed that she almost cried which, in turn, almost made me cry (not really….well….maybe).
It must be said, that I was kind of shocked to see just how brief this thing was, as well. For whatever the reason, it had seemed a lot longer at the time. I kept searching for the other parts to this, wondering where they could have gone to, until I actually read it, and realized that, indeed, it was the piece that I wrote two years ago, in full. It just was not nearly as long as my apparently faulty memory had believe it to be.
Also, I resisted the urge to do some editing or alterations, because this was written when it was still very fresh, and thus emotionally charged. So it seems important not to alter that, lest these efforts wind up taking away from the potential emotional punch that I hope it actually possesses. You be the judge:
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My son's first day at school today.
Well, I didn't cry, but felt emotional. Just seeing him there, alone, a tiny little person, almost defenseless and, up until this point, almost entirely reliant upon his parents and grandparents for his world knowledge and experience, and the enormity and reality that it largely began to end today. Each little step, he's more on his own.
Otherwise, he did cry quite a bit. Not initially, because he was so distracted with the incredible toys that were all over the place. Plus, mommy came and stayed with him for that first hour and change, wanting to make sure that he was okay. But about an hour and change later, during lunch time, he was apparently refusing to eat. Since I worked in the same building, I was called down. When I entered, he grew quiet and shrunk in a corner. I sat next to him and put my arm around him. Slowly but surely, the tears came down, until he was really bawling. And it was heartbreaking, even if I’m a guy. I held him, wanting to let it out of him, but he just did not stop. I had to go back to work, break time over, and there he was, trying to hold onto me, trying to hold his grasp of the reality that he had known up until that point, which was now being ripped away from him, at least in part. It’s only natural to resist the beginning to the end of pampering and unending, unquestioned comfort. I think that they sense this, but are young and naïve enough to resist
And the parents also have to begin to learn to let go. Neither side really wants to let it go, but both realize on some level that it is not a decision that is in their hands. You can’t stop the hands of a clock and pretend that you’ve succeeded in making time stand still. It’s time for letting go.