At The Center Of It All – America Hugs It Out

(Image Credit David Hale Sylvester)

Twenty-four hours ago I had never heard of David Hale Sylvester.

Twenty-four hours ago people he was high-fiving and hugging had never heard of him either.

A story by Jenice Armstrong in the Philadelphia Daily News got me up to speed on “Big Dave” (as his friends call him…6-3, 260 Lbs., all muscle) who bills himself as the “HumanHigh5.”

Dave was in Lebanon, Kansas yesterday high-fiving and hugging strangers. Why? On 9/11 he lost a friend working in the World Trade Center. A second friend was also working there but managed to get out safely. A third was out of his WTC office on a business trip to Japan. A fourth overslept that morning.

Shortly after the memorial service for his buddy he decided to trek across the US on his bike to raise awareness and money for charity.

He’s still at it having biked across 15 states and 21 foreign countries. Last year he drove around the US, stopping in places touched by gun violence…high-fiving and hugging folks. This year he wants to bike across all 50 states, high-fiving and hugging as many people as possible.

How did the intersection of Lebanon, Kansas and Valentine’s Day come into view on Dave’s radar? Another friend mentioned to him last month how frustrated America seems to be with itself lately – Dave takes it from there:

“A friend was talking about how divided we are as a nation and how we need some good news. I got the idea of being in the center of the country on Valentine’s Day and giving hugs and high-fives to everyone.”

Lebanon, Kansas is the geographic center of the lower forty-eight states. Mayor Rick Chapin on Dave’s plan:

“Anymore, not too much surprises me. He’s traveled quite a bit of the world spreading unity. You’re always a little skeptical but everything seems OK. The premise is good. We are pretty divided right now. One side sees it one way and another sees it the other way. This may not help but it won’t hurt.”

Lebanon only has a couple hundred residents or so but they’ve seen other visitors on-location of late as its unique location makes for a symbolic storyline…where the country divides in half.

This is not my first “visit” to Lebanon…the little town is featured on the CW series Supernatural as the adopted home of Sam and Dean Winchester, living there in a former base of a secret society known as the “Men of Letters.”

A man of hugs, on Valentine’s Day Dave wasn’t in Philadelphia serving as a personal trainer at a fitness center. He was instead in the middle of the country serving as an example…looking to make strangers feel good…as well as those learning of his visit.

Getting people to smile. Giving them some peace.

Dave summarizes it in six words:

“We just need a good story.”

Posted in Culture, Faith, Family, Life, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Okay Google Or Alexa: What The Hell Happened Last Night? – Super Bowl LI

Google used last night’s Super Bowl LI to promote its Google Home device. You’ve probably seen them already – those cute little smart speakers promoted to be able to do sooooo many things to improve your existence.

Their ad logically featured someone saying “Okay Google…”

Which logically proceeded to activate and confuse units in Google Home homes across Earth who could pick up that start-up instruction from whatever device the commercial was airing on.

Just a month ago a morning news anchor in San Diego was relaying a story about a Dallas family where a 6-year-old ordered a $170 dollhouse and four pounds of cookies via Alexa, the start-up voice assistant for Google competitor Amazon’s Echo device.

Which logically proceeded to activate and confuse units in Amazon Echo homes across San Diego who could pick up that start-up instruction from whatever device the newscast was airing on.

“Okay Google or Alexa, who are the greatest head coach and quarterback in NFL history?”

“The greatest head coach and quarterback in NFL history are Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.”

Let there be no doubt if you also ask me this morning who the greatest head coach and quarterback in NFL history are it would be New England’s Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, who helped orchestrate the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history as the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.

The first overtime in the history of the game no less.

On February 5th, 1922 the first edition of Reader’s Digest was published. Still going strong today its long history includes featuring abridged versions of stories, turning novels into novellas if you will.

On February 5th, 2017 more history was made in Houston as Belichick and Brady added yet another title to resumes already reading they’re the winningest head coach-quarterback combo in NFL postseason history.

For me any post about Super Bowl LI has to be written in condensed format – too many storylines.

There’s just no way to describe what took place in NRG Stadium last evening. No, I’m not talking about Lady Gaga and her array of drones (things in the sky when she jumped off the roof, not her dancers…although she and her troupe were excellent).

I’m talking about New England scoring 31 unanswered points to capture a game even Google and Alexa were reporting lost.

If Reader’s Digest ever runs a story about this Super Bowl you can be sure the whole story will be published. A condensed version ain’t gonna get it done.

Of course to keep the delicate balance of nature in check…for every miracle comeback it is most often accompanied by a heaving, gagging, retching sound…cue Atlanta.

On Christmas Eve a massive sinkhole the size of a football field damaged a regional sewer line affecting over 300,000 people in Macomb County, Michigan. A public works chief worried about a massive, collective trip to the bathroom for residents during the Super Bowl halftime as the line is not yet repaired and more homes than the original three could be cratered.

Fortunately, initial reports are that suburban Detroit region did not simultaneously flush away the night.

Like those Falcons did.

As great as New England’s effort was to come back and win this game it also has to be said this was one of the biggest collapses not just in the history of the Super Bowl, or the NFL, or sports…but in history.

All.

History.

The irony is a lot of criticism today is about how the Falcons didn’t play it safe and conservative toward the end of the game…which is what teams usually get blasted for when they get caught from behind…being too safe and conservative.

Look, in an implosion of this grand magnitude we can all size up blame from now until the start of training camp.

On second thought don’t ask Google or Alexa how this all went down…too much information to process.

Posted in Football, Humor, Life, News, NFL, Pro Football, Pro Sports, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Riverdale – A Nice Place To Visit And You Just Might Want To Live There

(Image Credit Katie Yu, The CW Network)

My first full-time gig after graduating from college was managing a movie multi-plex. That experience in itself is truly worthy of a blog post or two down the road but for now I just want to extract one moment in time. I’m standing in the lobby near our ticket-taking usher one winter afternoon when a patron comes out from one of the theatres and says, “Geez, could you turn the heat up in there? It’s freezing.”

Neither the usher nor I moved off our spots.

Precisely one minute later a second patron comes out of the same theatre and says, “Hey, could you turn back the heat in there? It’s a furnace.”

We’re all different. People are unique.

One person’s “hot” is often another person’s “cold.”

My mind occasionally drifts in the direction of this moment whenever I set out to offer opinions in highly subjective areas most often followed by the word “critic.” Food…Music…Book…Film…TV.

We each know what we like; we all know what we don’t like.

There are a ton of choices out there. We can’t possibly take in everything people recommend we consume. Choices have to be made regarding trying new experiences based on preconceived notions.

Yet, allow me to tell you about one choice you might want to sample…even if your first inclination upon hearing what it is leaves you more inclined to move off this spot.

Last Thursday evening the CW raised the curtain on their new show Riverdale.

A couple bullet points to get us started:

  • The main characters are drawn from the world of the iconic Archie comic strip.
  • This series has already been compared to several others including Twin Peaks, Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.

Still here? Good.

I thought some of you might have taken off upon hearing this show references a comic strip almost 80 years old.

I thought others might have departed upon hearing those other show references.

Look, it would be v-e-r-y easy to dismiss Riverdale as just another youth-centric CW show. The stars are all attractive and look at least a tad older than the high school students they’re portraying. There is all sorts of teen angst hovering in the air within the small town’s borders…and a very dead body floating between the banks of the small town’s river.

riverdale-river

(Image Credit Diyah Pera, The CW Network)

But the debut episode really clicked with me. An awful lot was stuffed into the opening hour. It was witty. It introduced intriguing characters within a visually stylish setting. You could cut the atmosphere in that town with a knife. There’s way more than just one mystery to be solved. And it was so…self-aware.

The creators took all the stereotypes you could potentially pin on this show before giving it a look and got them “dealt with” in the pilot. The attitude I came away with of the writing was…”Here’s what you thought you’d see…but now that THAT’s out of the way…”

Some observations from others:

“Pilot episodes are difficult enough as an entry point but ones that truly capture the world of a series – almost instantly – are even harder to come by. And Riverdale does that here, keeping true to its source material but with a twist.”

LaToya Ferguson, A.V. Club

“Dares are about attitude, not aptitude. They’re about taking a ridiculous challenge and going with it, not necessarily how well you execute. The CW’s new drama series Riverdale is a crazed dare of a TV show and while it may defy conventional qualitative norms when it comes to things like narrative coherence and character consistency, it is utterly committed to the strange thing it’s doing.”

Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

“As predictable or artificial as the show can seem, when you take stock of it – even in its dark themes and situations – it is vital and inviting, fundamentally true to its characters and hard to put down.”

Robert Lloyd, L.A. Times

Riverdale in fact is the sum of all trends: franchise extension, comic-book adaptation, theory-baiting crypto serial, edgy Y.A. romance and densely ironic deconstruction. Riverdale is keenly aware of this: coded within its solidly satisfying juvie pulp is a sly spoof of itself and the business of reinvention.”

Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly

A final observation…someone directly associated with the show…Sarah Schechter, head of production for Riverdale:

“It’s not just for teenagers: it’s for people at every age because being a teenager is one of the few universal experiences we all have.”

Riverdale. I planned for a day trip but now I’m staying…to tour some more.

Posted in Culture, Entertainment, Media, Opinion, Review, Reviews, Riverdale, Television, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Not A Dry Ice In The House – A Brief History Of Poor Decision-Making

My wife’s birthday is later this week and after all these years the question gets more challenging as each one approaches…what to get Kathy this time around.

Inspiration came in the form of something that happened over the weekend. The specifics aren’t nearly as relevant as the result. I figured out what she would appreciate most.

A sincere apology. Not just for one thing.

For many things.

Sunday night I asked my wife to come up with all the really dumb, idiotic, stupid things I’ve done since we met.

That went on for a while.

The list has since been pared down (she requested that qualifier) to a reasonable number (at my request) and it is now time to issue her this very public, very heartfelt all-inclusive apology for the ten most questionable decisions I’ve made since we married…in no particular order.

The Tire

We came out one morning to find a car tire a little low on air. I eventually located the head of a small nail on the edge of the tread. I swore up and down to my wife I could easily remove the nail and the tire would be just fine until I could drive the vehicle to the shop for repair. I decided to do just that.

A half-hour later the spare was on and the now-completely-flat tire was resting in the trunk as I headed off for the repair shop.

The Ladder

I had the day off from work but my wife did not. I wanted desperately to take a look at our gutter drains in one location to see if I could clean out some leaves before the next scheduled round of steady rain rolled in. I knew there was some type of blockage up there. My wife insisted we should put it off until the end of the day so she could steady the ladder. I indicated it should be my decision to make and off she went to work.

Later that morning I went off the ladder from about a height of seventeen feet. Somehow I was not injured. No, I didn’t tell her it happened that night…hell, I didn’t tell her for two years.

The Deck

We had lawn underneath our deck that required mowing with a push mower. I needed to lower my head about a foot to avoid smacking it against the deck’s base. I insisted to my wife I’d always remember to avoid hitting my head on it…and also announced I had decided I didn’t have to do it separately because I was determined to maintain my nicely mowed rows.

At no point did I ever think I was going to black out but it did leave a mark for a while…both times…OK, the two times she knows about.

The Cars

We had a horrible ice and snow storm early one January. Our two automobiles were encased like fossils in the Ice Age. The morning the weather broke I told my wife to stay warm while I got them cleared off. To expedite things I used a snow brush from one of the cars to crack the ice off. I decided to use the scraper end, not the brush end.

Several friends felt we could go to adjusters once we had our next hail storm and they’d have to insure us for all the dents on the hoods and trunks. Years later the trade-in values reflected the morning in question.

The Codeine

I got so sick one day…by nightfall my temperature was a robust 102. Fortunately, the doctor had evening hours and I was prescribed codeine syrup. I told my wife I was well aware of its effects and if I had to get up in the middle of the night to not worry. I could certainly decide on my own if I was OK to go to the bathroom.

She found me on the bathroom floor. She said she heard a noise – “did you fall?” I have tried to convince her since that night I simply got tired and laid down. She remains to this day completely unconvinced.

The Movie

My wife wanted absolutely no parts of a Johnny Depp movie called “Mortdecai.” She begged me to wait for it – if we had to see it at all – to come on cable and didn’t want to spend time and money on it at the theatre. I insisted we could both benefit from seeing a funny film. My decision was final.

We now have a name for the look my wife gives me when she’s thoroughly disgusted with me. It is known simply as the “Mortdecai Look.”

The Sticker

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania required owners of vehicles to renew their registrations annually. This involved – after payment – sending a sticker to owners to affix to the license plate in question. One day I was home first and got the mail. The sticker was here and I decided I could handle the simple task of making our car legal for the twelve months ahead.

We found out just how serious the Commonwealth was making sure their stickers stayed put as we tried in vain to remove the newly-arrived sticker…newly-affixed to the wrong car. Pennsylvania has since eliminated the sticker aspect of registration renewal – there is no truth to the rumor my action was in any way responsible for its discontinuation.

The Face

We had a Zero Turning Radius mower to cut the majority of our lawn with. When we bought it the advice was to not operate it in wet conditions on uneven terrain. After a light rain one afternoon I insisted to my wife it would be OK to mow. Not agreeing with the decision, she grudgingly came outside to do some gardening.

When she got to the massive rose bush I had skidded into at the edge of our driveway I tried my very best to assure her I was OK even though my face felt like half the skin was gone. She gave me the once-over and calmly stated, “You’ll be fine.” Two years later she admitted she thought the cuts would never heal.

The Rose Bush

No, not THAT rose bush. We had a couple small rose bushes that resided happily side by side for years thanks to my wife’s loving care. She was working at the time. I was not. Fall was nearing conclusion and they desperately needed their annual trim, a technique called deadheading. She took great pains to train me on exactly what needed to be done but didn’t feel very confident in letting me fly solo. I defended myself vigorously and assured her the rose bushes were in good hands. I could make the decisions about just how much to cut from each.

After reviewing my work, she didn’t talk to me for a couple of days. Surprisingly, the rose bushes were not dead. I might as well have been.

The Dry Ice

My wife’s parents sent us a gift from Omaha Steaks one Christmas. We had never gotten anything from the company before but were impressed how frozen the food was considering how far it travelled. After we got everything out of the big Styrofoam cooler all that remained was a large packet of dry ice. I noticed the label said “Do Not Touch.” I apparently forgot that moments later when my wife said she wanted to keep the cooler and I decided to reach in and take out the packet.

Medical and science professionals alike compare injuries like this as very similar to a burn and often require medical attention. Fortunately, I was able to peel both hands off the dry ice. My wife told me to get it out of the house so I wouldn’t injure myself further…once I was able to wear gloves again of course.

Should anyone be able to identify with these or similar incidents please outline your experiences in the comments section. It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one who has made a poor decision or two…or ten…in life.

To my wife Kathy: “Happy Birthday and I’m sorry…again.”

Posted in Family, Home, Humor, Life, Personal | Tagged , , , , | 65 Comments

The Only Super Bowl LI Post You’ll Ever Need To Read – Volume Three

Am I a narcissist just by having a blog?

Or…perhaps just an egocentric?

Off to Ye Olde Internet for definition and clarification…

A person who is egocentric apparently believes they are the center of attention…just like a narcissist…but they don’t get gratification from their own admiration.

Heck, I don’t think I’m the center of anyone’s attention…outside of my wife when she’s trying desperately to get my attention.

What passes for news media these days certainly has no issue utilizing these two words…narcissist and egocentric. They started to make the rounds more often when social media exploded. I don’t think they really got their freak on until the run-up to electing a new President.

One can indicate pretty quickly they’re pretty much into themselves just by opening their mouth.

Or just opening up their smart phone channel in the case of one not-so-smart Antonio Brown. Wide Receiver. Pittsburgh Steelers.

Look, it’s pretty much a pre-requisite star NFL wide receivers are egocentrics. Being a narcissist is optional. That in part is what makes them great on the gridiron.

But it’s truly impossible to know precisely what is in someone’s head and heart.

And, if you judge someone you too shall be judged by the same measure.

So while I continue to contemplate off-line whether or not I qualify to be a narcissist – or at minimum an egocentric – it would be logical of me to tread lightly on-line regarding what Brown chose to do after his Steelers escaped Kansas City with an 18-16 victory Sunday night to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

However…his decision to roll Facebook Live amongst the scene in the Steelers locker room while Head Coach Mike Tomlin was busy employing motivational cursing and ironically enough…asking his team to keep a low profile…lifts us up to a whole new level of egotistical narcissism. Or with less judgement applied, a whole new level of “me.” (Even for Brown…who has a career of “me” moments)

It wasn’t anything seen or heard that was embarrassing. Far from it. What we’d expect in a fired-up locker room after an emotional game.

For me, it was just embarrassing Brown just could not live in the moment without having to broadcast the moment.

Hell, he wasn’t even paying attention to the moment.

To Tomlin’s credit he didn’t try to downplay being “covered” by Brown without his or his team’s knowledge:

“It was foolish of him to do that. It was selfish of him to do that. It was inconsiderate for him to do that.”

And that’s thatstreaming on now to our Championship Weekend (again, rematches from earlier in the year).

Green Bay at Atlanta – The Packers lost in Atlanta on Week 8 by 33-32. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw an 11-yard TD pass to Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds left to conclude a wild display of offensive firepower. Last week I suggested whomever had the ball last in Green Bay’s game at Dallas would win. There’s simply no reason to not express the same feeling this week…the last team with the ball in this game wins. Both offensive lines are very impressive. Atlanta’s is the only one in the NFL that started every regular season game together. The Packers’ o-line hasn’t been quite as lucky in the health department but is still stout. The Falcons have a very balanced offense. Green Bay – not so much. We know quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going to drop back, roll out and fire downfield on almost all of their possessions. It’s Aaron’s world and we all just live in it right now. It remains to be seen if Rodgers will have favorite weapon Jordy Nelson. Ryan’s top target, Julio Jones, is nursing injuries of his own but he’s in no danger of missing the game like Nelson may be. Rodgers and Ryan have both been playing at a MVP-pace and certainly elevate the play of those around them. Neither team habitually turns the ball over. Watch for turnovers to have critical implications because neither defense is going to be able to muster many stops. Atlanta has given up 28 or more points NINE times this season. Green Bay’s defense features players who were out of jobs when the season began. In 2011 the Packers won the Super Bowl after emerging as a #6 seed from the NFC. Green Bay got to the NFC Championship Game that season by going into Atlanta’s Georgia Dome and burying the Falcons 48-21. Aaron Rodgers was nearly perfect in that contest. The Georgia Dome will be seeing its last NFL contest ever Sunday. Atlanta won’t want to see Rodgers ever again after this weekend. WINNER – GREEN BAY

Pittsburgh at New England – The Patriots won in Pittsburgh on Week 7 by 27-16. The Steelers did not have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and New England was able to key in on running back Le’Veon Bell. Pittsburgh’s defense had issues with Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount who managed 127 yards and 2 TD’s. The Patriots now have a healthy Dion Lewis – he wasn’t around for the first meeting. Lewis just became the first player in NFL history with a touchdown rushing, receiving and kick returning in the win against Houston last weekend. Speaking of those Texans they did get to quarterback Tom Brady and disrupted the New England offense but, a) Blount was ill and, b) the Texans have a nasty defense. Blount should be good-to-go and the Steelers defense is so not Houston’s. Roethlisberger and Brady will obviously be asked to win the game should the defenses make it difficult to run. I think both teams will actually be able to run. But Brady should be better able to exploit the Pittsburgh defense. In six games against HC Mike Tomlin’s Steelers…Brady is 5-1. 19 TD’s. 2 INT’s. Last weekend Pittsburgh repeatedly could not get the ball into the Kansas City end zone and settled for field goals. That won’t get it done here. (Comment for NFL Commish Roger Goodell, who has not been to a Patriots home game in a couple of years now since Deflategate and reportedly will be in Georgia this weekend instead of Massachusetts: You screwed up yet again Roger. Could have gone to this game and taken the air out of the pressure built up about you continually avoiding the Patriots. Good luck with that in a couple of weeks. Really now, do you think the world revolves around you?) WINNER – NEW ENGLAND

Enjoy.

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The Only Super Bowl LI Post You’ll Ever Need To Read – Volume Two

Green. Color of money. The Super Bowl dumps a gigantic amount of green into a local economy, which is why NFL owners compete behind the scenes for it to be held in their neck of the woods. The Houston Chronicle reported recently one study expects $350 million will flow into “Space City” next month. However the same report indicates not only do two earlier forecasts differ greatly – one up, one down – but the upcoming financial windfall for any mega-event ultimately depends on what revenue any company’s auditors choose or don’t choose to figure in.

Figures.

Green. Color of real grass. I want my Super Bowls played outside on real grass. Neither will happen for Super Bowl LI. The roof is retractable but the NFL usually keeps the lid on. They used to have real grass at NRG Stadium but that quickly became known as the league’s worst field and they grudgingly switched over to fake grass.

Former Ground Crew - Houston Texans (Image Credit Universal Pictures) (Image Credit Universal Pictures)

Former Grounds Crew – Houston Texans

(Image Credit Universal Pictures)

I do believe grass is greener on the other side. I know this because for eleven years I’ve watched winter dump upon our property and development. The way our house is positioned almost half our lawn and driveway each receive zero sun this time of year. None. Across the street similar properties bask in glorious sunshine from dawn on (when it’s not snowing, icing or sleeting obviously). Those properties obtain residual heat which then rejects future precipitation, certainly during smaller storms. A fair share of our lawn…more importantly our driveway…retains every single, blessed grain of snow, ice or sleet as some kind of trophy from hell souvenir regardless of the size of the storms…or for that matter what sporting event is being played. There have been a few Super Bowls I’ve had to venture out after the game’s final drive to start warming our drive for the next day’s drive. And…the grass is greener on the other side.

But I digress…

Green. Lots of it. Super Bowl telecaster Fox is reportedly asking between $5-5.5 million for a 30-second ad spot this year. For many, commercials are the best part of the day. What would make my day? If this year or in future years the NFL, its broadcast partners and their sponsors all worked out an arrangement where a fair portion of this obscene amount of money got off everyone’s ledger sheets and really lent a real hand to the less fortunate in our country. Charities continue to scramble for money to help the poor, the disabled, the homeless. The Super Bowl should not just be historically entertaining but historically life-changing.

To this weekend’s games…where every Divisional Round game will be a rematch – the first time in six years.

Seattle at Atlanta – Seattle held on to defeat Atlanta at home in Week 6 by 26-24. No, really. They actually held on. Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman grabbed Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones’ arm late in the game to deny Atlanta a shot at a game-winning field goal. Jones and likely league MVP quarterback Matt Ryan lead a Falcons offense that is very balanced and very powerful. He has thrown at least one TD pass to 13 different players, an NFL record. Seattle is hurting on defense with DB Earl Thomas’ season-ending hurt. One note from their win over Detroit last weekend…Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford, even with a disheveled digit that kept him from passing effectively, managed to get several balls into the target area of wide-open receivers. Unfortunately his receivers treated the passes like hand grenades with pins pulled. The Seahawks secondary were struggling early on against the Lions. Atlanta’s defense has its own issues, allowing the 6th most points in the NFL this season. Interesting since Head Coach Dan Quinn used to be a defensive coordinator…with Seattle. The good news for Falcons fans is the Seahawks are not likely to light up the scoreboard. Seattle’s running game isn’t fixed just because they ran wild against Detroit. Their offensive line has been ravaged by inconsistency. And…QB Russell Wilson can’t (injury earlier in the year) or won’t (protecting against further injury) scramble. He just doesn’t look comfortable to me regardless of whether or not he took his knee brace off recently. The game comes down to how well Seattle can keep Ryan, Jones, the other pass-catchers and the Falcons’ running back tandem all under control. Matt Ryan is 1-4 in post-season appearances. The one win? Against Seattle. In Atlanta. History repeats. WINNER – ATLANTA

Houston at New England – New England toyed with Houston 27-0 at home in Week 3 with a third-string quarterback operating in Tom Brady’s Deflategate absence. For me the game is also notable for how Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien curled up his offense into a collective fetal position and simply prayed his defense could score instead. Brutal. The Patriots are healthier than they’ve been in a long time – long ago compensating for injured tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England has won seven straight games. Houston was 2-6 on the road this season. Brady is on a revenge mission to win a Super Bowl (28 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) and the Patriots haven’t failed to make the AFC Championship in the last five postseasons. Houston’s QB is Brock Osweiler. Houston, you have a problem…actually, too many to count. WINNER – NEW ENGLAND

Pittsburgh at Kansas City – Pittsburgh destroyed Kansas City 43-14 at home in Week 4. The score is indeed reflective of how badly the Chiefs were beaten. Kansas City, who fans normally associate with great defense, has given up the 7th most rushing yards per game in the NFL this season. Kansas City, who fans normally associate with having a great home field advantage, lost to both Tampa Bay and Tennessee at home in the second half of the season. As well…this is a franchise which has lost four straight playoff games at home. Maybe this isn’t as daunting for visiting Pittsburgh – winners of eight straight – as one might think? Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may be less mobile after a late-game injury vs. Miami last weekend but that’s never stopped Big Ben before. Running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown helped him overwhelm the Dolphins early and if these three start out like that this week it’s over early again. Kansas City’s defense has thrived off of takeaways this year – the team led the NFL in turnover differential – and that’s their formula for winning a bunch of games. It is a formula they’ll need to win this game. The Steelers simply need to take care of the ball and not hand KC ultra-short fields to work with. The Chiefs simply don’t have the firepower to hang in a shoot-out…although rookie wide receiver/returner/game breaker Tyreek Hill is a great weapon Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid desperately needs going forward…next season. WINNER – PITTSBURGH

Green Bay at Dallas – Dallas went into Green Bay in Week 6 and whipped the Packers 30-16. The two star rookies on the Cowboys offense, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, were complimented at that time for showing so much poise with so little NFL experience. They now have a whole season under their belts and anticipating postseason regression isn’t on my radar. Both teams have pass defenses that waved the white flag of surrender on several occasions this year. Two of Dallas’ three losses this season came at the hands of the New York Giants, who just got done getting burned by Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has led the Packers to seven straight wins with a stat line of 2,029 passing yards, a completion percentage rounding up to 70%, 19 touchdowns…and zero interceptions. One glaring issue for Aaron to contend with…bestie wide receiver Jordy Nelson will certainly be hampered – if not outright inactive – after taking a horrible shot to his side last weekend. Rodgers’ success rate is much healthier when a healthy Nelson is on the field. In order for Dallas to win they’ll wish to run Elliott early and often behind a powerful offensive front, using a lot of clock and lulling Green Bay to the line of scrimmage to make it easier for Prescott to throw…keeping in mind Dak’s longest pass completion to a receiver or tight end all season was only 56 yards. I see Elliott being able to run at will. I see Rodgers being able to throw at will. Whoever has the ball last advances. WINNER – DALLAS

Enjoy.

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The Only Super Bowl LI Post You’ll Ever Need To Read – Volume One

If you followed me a year ago you know during Super Bowl “coverage” I worked from the middle out. That is to say the theme was which two teams were eventually going to “open” for the band Coldplay because with a billion people watching… well, we know only a handful actually care about football right?

It’s all about that halftime show people.

Lady Gaga is set to perform at this year’s Super Bowl intermission. What I know about Ms. Gaga fits nicely on the head of a pin. I have heard a few of her songs. I know she’s very active in a number of worthwhile causes.

I also know she once wore a dress made of meat.

The suits at the NFL apparently had a talk with Ms. Gaga and her people recently about making sure she keeps her garments on – meat or otherwise – during the halftime show. After learning of this discussion I did a little research and it appears that’s actually a legitimate concern.

Now you might ask yourself – I certainly did – why would the NFL ever sign off on Lady Gaga in the first place since there’s prior precedent for her lady parts being part of her act?

Then again trying to understand the day-to-day activities of the National Football League would drive any of us…gaga.

The largest specialty retailer of health, wellness and performance products in the world, GNC is promising a massive 2017 push to try and reverse momentum from their worst year since going public some five years ago. Their stock dropped over 60 percent in 2016.

It sounds like a lot of inventory is nearing its expiration date.

To avoid nearing their expiration date GNC has decided to buy a commercial for the Super Bowl. Based on last year’s cost of a 30-second spot, that represents 8 percent of their entire advertising budget. It’s a bold move indeed because nothing speaks to the collective state of mind of a gigantic Super Bowl audience like trying to be healthy.

On a day and night full of spirits, sodium, saturated fat and sugar…by all means bring on vitamins GNC.

We may have some clarity now as to why GNC is faltering…

To this weekend’s games…first a reminder three of the four match-ups are rematches from the regular-season. Oakland defeated Houston 27-20 (in Mexico City). Miami won at home against Pittsburgh 30-15. Green Bay won at home against New York 23-16. (I’ve always been partial to favoring the losers of a prior meeting come playoff time…)

Oakland at Houston – If you ever fancied yourself playing quarterback in the NFL I suggest you get to Houston stat. The Raiders are still reeling from recently losing potential MVP Derek Carr to a broken leg and will start a quarterback who has never started in the NFL. The Texans have been reeling with a recently-benched but healthy Brock Osweiler all season long. Whoever wins this game will likely depart from the playoffs the following week. Houston has been winning ugly all season, almost exclusively with a pretty good defense…and should have enough in the run game with Lamar Miller (expected to play) to emerge victorious. The Raiders really looked not just Carr-less but heart-less in Denver on Sunday when they still had a chance to get a first-round pass…but now they can’t pass at all. WINNER – HOUSTON

Detroit at Seattle – With head coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson the Seahawks have never lost a playoff game in Seattle. However running back Marshawn Lynch is retired and defensive back Earl Thomas is broken. The Seahawks running game hasn’t been the same since Marshawn walked away. The Legion of Boom hasn’t been the same since Earl’s leg bent the wrong way. As for Detroit, the Lions last won a postseason road game the year before I was born. (I’m 58) They “roared” into the playoffs by losing their last three games. Management actually had to confirm Jim Caldwell would indeed return as Detroit’s HC next season. Matthew Stafford’s dislocated finger isn’t supposed to be a big deal but he’s thrown five picks in the last four games…he only threw five in the Lions’ first twelve. The Detroit defense gets zero pressure on the opposing signal-caller. Does this sound like a team that’s ready to travel to Seattle and win in front of the Starbucks-infused, decibel-breaking Seahawks “12th Man?” Seattle has struggled to run the ball and also lost a valuable deep threat when Tyler Lockett also found his leg a bit out of position a couple weeks ago. But if Wilson just rolls out and creates some controlled chaos they should be just fine. WINNER – SEATTLE

Miami at Pittsburgh – It doesn’t sound like Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill is going to have his knee healed in time to play. Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi was said by many to have had a breakout season but consider the fact 33 percent of his rushing yards came in their two games against Buffalo. Pittsburgh’s defense has gotten better as their season moved towards its conclusion – 30 sacks since Week 8. The Steelers have running back Le’Veon Bell healthy for the first time entering the postseason. The dual-threat he presents by catching the ball should be quite troublesome for Miami, who have given up a ton of yards to lesser folks. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and Bell are all healthy and ready to roll. Oh my. Those Terrible Towels will wave in a win. WINNER – PITTSBURGH

New York Giants at Green Bay – Got to be the best game of the weekend. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has won both of his prior postseason starts at Lambeau Field. New York Head Coach Ben McAdoo is supposed to be an offensive genius but their play on that side of the ball has been nothing short of offensive. Speaking of offense…wide receivers Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz were seen partying in a nightclub in Miami with Justin Bieber after their win over Washington Sunday. (Athletes who have partied with Biebs have a fairly spotty record of achievement afterwards) Monday the two were seen hanging out on a boat with WR teammates Sterling Shepard and Roger Lewis. They were all doing it on their “off time” but the optics are really, really bad considering the timing…and the Giants’ offensive woes. (Sidebar – I always thought off time in the NFL meant to get treatment and rest up, especially entering the playoffs) The Giants give up points grudgingly. They score points in the same manner. Green Bay has a wide receiver playing running back but they also have Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback. Ben McAdoo was Rodgers’ QB coach in 2012 and 2013 so this shouldn’t surprise him: Rodgers during the Packers current six-game win streak – 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. New York has given no indication they can hang in a shoot-out so their defense must play lights-out. They just might do that. I still see a Packers victory…barely. WINNER – GREEN BAY

One additional thought on what should be a great game…Gary Myers of the New York Daily News wrote earlier this week about the last time anyone could remember hearing of Eli Manning being nervous. It was actually before one of his high school starts, a rare Thursday night tilt. He called home…which had his mother concerned because that just wasn’t like him. Turned out Eli forgot to set the VCR to tape “Seinfeld” and he needed his mom to make that happen. She did.

Manning has made this happen twice before in the Land of Cheese.

Green Bay…in the immortal words of Three Dog Night…Eli’s Coming.

Enjoy.

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