A real ageless wonder in the NFL

It is widely believed by many that a career for your typical NFL player usually runs about 5 years. By the time most players reach 30, they are already contemplating retirement. The game is just to violent for your typical player to have a long career in the NFL. The human body is just not built to withstand that type of punishment for any long-term amount of time. A particular player during this year’s playoffs has really gone against that belief and is one of those freaks who has actually had a long and very storied career. His name is none other than Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots. The fact that he is still performing at a very high level is one of the most amazing sports stories ever. And the guy is 40 years old! Sometimes I wonder if Brady is really human. The man is a total freak of nature!

I don’t know if Brady is still the best quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers might have surpassed him, but it is hard to argue that anyone else is better than Brady. If not the best, Brady is certainly the second best quarterback in the league and you could also consider him as being one of the better players in the league. In how many other leagues is a 40-year-old considered one of the top players? Most players reached their peak during the late 20’s and decline after that. By the time many players are 32, it is time to think about being a role player on the team. Here you have Brady at 40 still dominating the league; how amazing is that? In all my years of watching sports, I have never seen an athlete perform like that so late in his career.

Perhaps more athletes can learn from what Brady is doing and his habits off the field. He reportedly is very disciplined about taking care of his body and has a very strict diet. Maybe he has found something in the fountain of youth that other players can use. Sure, Brady has for the most part avoided any chronic injuries that shorten many players career, but his willingness to take his craft serious with that much discipline should be applauded whether you are a fan of his or not.

Brady says that he wants to play until  he is 45, then retire. Heck, why not play until you are 50? He could probably still be somewhat effective even at 50. We are witnessing a very special athlete in our midst. Professional sports are supposed to be leagues dominated by young 20 some year olds. Brady is blowing that myth that players cannot play at 40. Maybe more players will realize that they too can play well at that age. Maybe 40 is the new 30 in the world of professional sports.

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The most jinxed team in the NFL

The NFL playoffs started yesterday and the odds makers in Las Vegas have listed the New England Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings as favorites to reach this year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis. These playoffs mean a little more to me personally because I have been a diehard Viking’s fan for all of my life and there would be absolutely nothing better than to have my favorite NFL team win the Super Bowl in my home state. But will it happen? I have my doubts. You see the Vikings might be the most jinxed team in the NFL. They are like the Chicago Cubs of the NFL, a curse seems to be over this franchise. Will this be the year that curse or jinx is removed? I am not holding my breath!

Anyone who follows the NFL should know about the Vikings record in the Super Bowl, yes it is 0-4. In all fairness, the Vikings were only favored in one of those games, but that 0-4 tag is a huge thorn in the sides of many people here in this state who follow the purple. The lack of a Super Bowl win really stings but there have been some devastating  playoff loses that I vividly remember. The 2009-2010 team had  all the components on winning the Super Bowl and lost a gut wrenching overtime game to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game after having a first and 10 in field goal range late in regulation. The 1998 team might have been one of the best Vikings teams ever and also lost the NFC title game in overtime when the Vikings very accurate field goal kicker missed a short field goal in regulation that would have iced the game. There have been other blown playoff games due to dropped end zone passes, penalties and missed opportunities.

Yes, being a Minnesota Vikings fan is an exercise in emotional torture. Just when you think this team will do something special, the bottom drops out and they break our hearts. This year’s team has pretty much come out of nowhere to be in this position. There is no way I expected them to reach the Super Bowl after they lost their starting quarterback earlier this year. Perhaps a playoff disappointment would not sting as much, but the table is set for them. They are the favorites and I believe they can beat any AFC team right now should they make it to the big game. A golden opportunity to redeem 50 plus years of disappointments is staring them right in the face.

The Boston Red Sox eliminated a long curse when they won the World Series some 14 years ago. The Chicago Cubs ended their long jinx last year of never winning the World Series. Maybe the sports gods will be kind to the Vikings this year and they will win their first Super Bowl in their own building. How sweet would that be?!! As Vikings fans, we can only dream. We all know that something has to go wrong. How can we expect anything different?

 

In defense of the NFL

The National Football League might be arguably the most popular professional sports league in the world. It is without question the most popular of the many professional leagues here in the United States. The recent anthem protests by several players has really put that popularity to the test. Many fans seem to be tuning out and ratings of the games are in a downward spiral. I hear many fans saying they are through with watching professional football and talks of more boycotts are sure to come if these protests continue by these disrespectful players.

As a huge lifetime fan of the league, I thought hard and long about boycotting this season and refusing to watch any games. Seeing players disrespect our flag by taking a knee during the anthem rubbed me the wrong way. How could a player who is privileged to be making millions of dollars by just playing a game show such lack of appreciation for this country? It seems like these protests are a direct slap in the face for many fans like myself who love this country. Then it dawned on me that these players represent a small minority of players in the league. A huge majority still have enough common decency to stand for just a few minutes and show some respect to our country. I am sure many are not entirely totally happy with what has gone on with the recent police shootings of unarmed black men, but they put those things aside to show just a little appreciation for how fortunate they are to be living in the United States.

Furthermore, many of these NFL players are extremely active in the community. Many use their off days to visit hospitals and schools. I saw a number of players from our local team visit a hospital and surely brighten the day of a young boy who was undergoing cancer treatment. These type of stories go widely unnoticed by the media. They like to focus on all the bad things that players do. Included among those players are probably some who are protesting. And let us not forget about J.J. Watt, a young player who organized a relief effort for victims of Hurricane Harvey. If you are going to criticize players for being unpatriotic, you might want to look at players such as Watt who has given so much time and effort to help those in need. There are many other players just like him who will sacrifice much to help out a fellow American. That is what this country is all about.

When I think of this acts of helping others, it makes me forget the actions of just a few knuckleheads. There are plenty of good dudes in the NFL and they are really worthy of our support. They do a lot for our country. I know many people are really upset with some of the players and the league’s response to these protests. I just think that we need to look at the total picture and understand that this league is filled by a majority of players who love this country. I don’t think boycotting the league at this time is the answer. I will still continue to watch and enjoy what is by far the best professional league going today.

Show some respect, stand for the anthem.

It started with Colin Kaepernick,  then several other prominent athletes joined this practice of kneeling during the playing of the national anthem to protest certain atrocities going in this country. With the upcoming NFL season just a few weeks away, this controversy of not standing during the anthem is not going away anytime soon and more players are bound to take a knee this year as well.

It is absolutely true, this is America and you have a right not to stand during the playing of our national anthem. Whether an athlete wants to stand or not stand is their own decision. However, with all decisions of that nature come consequences and many players fail to realize how much they are turning off fans like myself. It is also my right as a fan and a consumer of the league to turn off the NFL and distance myself from this complete disrespect of our nation.

Do these spoiled athletes realize how many opportunities are given to them in this country? Is it too much to give just a few minutes of gratitude to stand and show appreciation for the opportunity to earn a lot money by growing up in this great country? Or maybe honor many brave young men and women who gave their lives in honor of this country? Instead I hear whiners like Kaepernick and other athletes talk about all the wrongs going on and how they feel they must make a statement. Outside of protesting the national anthem, what have you done to help fix these problems. I often wonder how involved some of these athletes are in the inner city where many of these problems of our society originate. How many actually go to the police departments and talk about how they can work with the police to help ease racial tensions?

I think I speak for a lot of fans in seeing a very disturbing trend among some of these athletes, especially athletes of color. Many years ago, black athletes were on professional rosters because of their skin color. That has dramatically changed. As I mentioned in a previous post about Confederate symbols, we have come a longs ways in helping bridge the gap between whites and blacks in this country. I just wish some of these pampered athletes would look at the whole picture and realize how lucky they are to be playing ball and making a ton of money in this country. Disrespecting our country by failing to stand during the anthem is a huge turnoff for me and many fans. I have no time to feel sorry or support those disrespectful, pampered, crybabies.

An epic loss at the Super Bowl

Shortly after Tom Brady and the New England Patriots finished off the Atlanta Falcons in the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever, my thoughts were not on where Brady ranks among the greatest of all-time quarterbacks. Nor were my thoughts on the jubilant Patriot players and fans who just won their 5th Super Bowl title. My thoughts were of the many Atlanta Falcons fans and the organization who had their hearts ripped apart in dramatic fashion. Imagine for a second if your favorite team had blown that type of lead in the Super Bowl. Your team was cruising along with a huge lead and an almost certain chance of winning their first ever Super Bowl, then disaster strikes!  In all my years of watching sports, it might go down as the biggest collapse ever with so much at stake. The rumors that the psychiatrists in Georgia were probably overbooked with appointments last week is probably true.

I don’t know where to exactly place the blame on the collapse, but one series of events during the game pretty much defined the collapse. After the Patriots had cut the score to 28-20 with about 5 minutes left in the game, Atlanta got the ball back and promptly marched down the field. They had a first and 10 around the New England 20 yard line. All they had to do was run a few running plays and kick a fairly makeable field to go up 2 scores with probably about 2 minutes left in the game. A fairly reasonable plan, right? The Falcons have a good tandem of running backs and the Patriots did not show all during the game that they could stop any running plays. For some unknown reason, the offensive coordinator of the Falcons decided to run a couple of passing plays which resulted in a holding penalty and then a costly sack. Those plays pretty much backed the Falcons out of field goal range and gave the Patriots a chance to tie the game which they did. Now I am far from being a football genius and the offensive coordinator is far smarter in football then I am, but the rationale behind this particular offensive series has me scratching my head! I just don’t understand the logic behind it.

Winning the Super Bowl is a very difficult task and most teams are lucky to even reach the big game, let alone winning the game. This was a golden chance that the Falcons let slip away. They may never get another opportunity to win their first Super Bowl in years. This game will be a deep permanent black mark on the organization forever. And what about the poor fans?! Having your team win the Super Bowl makes you feel so good inside. Very few things make you prouder to be a fan of a particular team than having that team win the Super Bowl.

If you are a fan of the Falcons or a member of that organization, all is not doom and gloom for the future. I still rank them as one of the favorites to win next year’s Super Bowl. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a nearly unstoppable offense to rely on. Their defense is very young and will get better. It would not surprise me at all to see them back in the Super Bowl next year. But for the time being, how can you even sleep at night if you are a Falcons fan? This game was the big one that got away! Ouch! That one has to hurt.

A few ways to make the Super Bowl better

The Super Bowl is arguably the biggest sporting event in the country and ranks up there with maybe one of the biggest in the world. Millions of people will be watching the game. Many of those millions are probably not even football fans, but the enormity of the event and lets not forget the commercials are enough to lure just about anyone to pay some interest.  The Super Bowl and Super Bowl week is always an event that is marked on my calendar. As a sports fan, this is like a national holiday for me and I treat it like such. My mind is mainly in football mode today. The event is very spectacular, but there are a few things that I would like to see changed for the Super Bowl. Some of my ideas are very radical and the league would probably shoot them down in a split second. Without further delay and rambling, let me give you some changes that I would like to see for the Super Bowl.

1) Location. The game should be played in some warm weather neutral  location every year. It has never happened, but one of these years, some NFL city that is hosting the Super Bowl will end up having their team represented. That is not fair! Furthermore, the weather becomes a huge factor when a northern city hosts the game. Next year the Super Bowl comes to my backyard. Suppose we get a major snowstorm on the day of the game? Why not always have it in Las Vegas? Just a thought.

2) Have the game a week after the conference championships. It seems like a long time ago when Atlanta and New England won their games for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Many people like myself want to see the game right away, not 2 weeks later. It seemed very odd to have no games outside of the meaningless Pro Bowl game last week.

3) Day of the week. I don’t know this for a fact, but I am willing to bet that the workplace absentee rate sky rockets the day after the Super Bowl. Many folks will be attending parties and having a good time with plenty to drink and eat. After the game, many have to rush home and get to bed so they can start the work week again. Why not have the game on a Saturday such as Saturday night prime time? People could rest on Sunday and recover for a day before going back to work.

4) An internet vote for the half-time show. I am not sure what goes into picking the half time show but what about having a huge internet vote by the fans to decide? The NFL could have a list of 5 finalists to choose from.

5) A better pregame show. I usually do not turn on the game until about 30 minutes before kickoff. Why? Because the pregame show or shows are far too longer winded, and quite frankly, boring! This year Fox is continuing their tradition of interviewing the president as part of their pregame game activities. Who really cares? I want to watch the game and the activities as an escape from huge amount of politics and news that is thrown at us. Sports is a great release from that stuff. Instead, Fox could have a huge UFC fight. No offense to President Trump, but I would rather see that.

I hope everyone really enjoys the game. I believe Atlanta has the better team and will come out on top in a close game 31-28. New England has more experience and that could play a huge factor in the outcome as well. But I believe when all is said and done, the city of Atlanta will have their second major sports title.

 

A few random thoughts and predictions on the 2017 NFL playoffs

Like many football fanatics, I view tomorrow as a day like an official holiday. We have a couple of outstanding games with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. What more could an NFL fan want? I join many in eagerly awaiting these games. The day of the AFC, NFC championship games is one of the best days of the year in sports. It is a day that we can forget about all the problems in this world and just concentrate on some football. Having watch many of the playoff games, I have a few random thoughts and predictions that I would like to share.

1) Is Green Bay running out of gas? The Packers are the sexy pick to win the Super Bowl. They won their last 6 regular season games and 2 playoff games. Each one of those final 6 regular season games had a great deal at stake along with the 2 playoff games. I wonder what kind of toll that will have on their squad heading into their matchup with Atlanta. Playing that many highly important games in a row has taken some kind of toll on their team. On top of that, the Packers have many injuries to deal with. Will this magic run of theirs finally come to a screeching halt in Atlanta?

2) The overrated bye week. During the final weeks of the regular season, I kept on hearing pundits talk about how important it is to finish as a top 2 team and garner a bye for the first round of the playoffs. Well look what happened to New England, Atlanta and especially Dallas. Those teams came out flatter than pancakes and their rust was very evident. I think it is important to keep on playing every week so you don’t lose that rhythm and timing. Sure it is nice to rest players, but I doubt an extra week of rest will really make that much of a difference at the end of the season.

3) MVP of the playoffs. How can anyone argue that it is not Aaron Rodgers? He is playing at an unbelievably high level right now and his 8 game stretch might be arguably the best that any quarterback has ever had. He is the sole reason that the Packers are such a dangerous team right now. Add his playoff experience and the Packers are very legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

4) Do not fret Cowboy fans. If I were a Dallas Cowboys fan, I think I would still be in complete mourning over their heartbreaking loss to the Packers. This was supposed to be the year that the Cowboys make it to the Super Bowl based on their regular season.  It was not supposed to be another one and out for the Cowboys. But as they say, wait until next year. This loss may be a blessing in disguise for a very young and talented team. They will be contenders in the NFC for many years to come. But first of all, they need to shore up that defense a bit.

5) Generally bad games. The Dallas versus Green Bay game was an instant classic, but the rest of the games were rather boring and lacked any real drama. How many of the games would you want to watch again? The only game that comes to my mind is the above game. The rest lacked any type of drama.

Finally, it is time for me to reveal my predictions for tomorrow and why. I like both home teams Atlanta and New England to meet in the Super Bowl. Nobody in the league can stop Atlanta at home; they have a bit too much firepower at home. If this game were played at a neutral site, I would probably pick the Packers, but it is not. Plus Atlanta has the type of offense with a strong running game that might keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. I look for the Falcons to win 42-31. New England has some issues and are very ripe to be beaten but I just like the fact that they are playing at home. Furthermore, how can you bet against a team coached by Bill Belichick? He will find a way to win again. I like the Patriots 34-23. I hope everyone enjoys the games and best of luck to the fans and the teams still remaining in the playoffs. I wish my team were still playing!