Why Does Sports Matter So Much?


It has been two days since the Atlanta Falcons’ heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.   I am still trying to emotionally recover from it.

Yeah, I know how silly that sounds.  It’s “just” a dumb game right?   It’s “just” sports.  I have repeated that to myself a lot since Sunday.

Why should it bother me this much?   I don’t play for the Falcons.  I have absolutely no interaction with any of the players except for a tweet response from Atlanta Falcons’ Tight End Austin Hooper.  What happened on Sunday doesn’t have any affect on my life or my job in any way.

So what is my problem?

Not only am I climbing out of my funk but I am also mad at myself for being this way.  Why should any of this matter?

Psychologists say that rooting for a sports team provides us a sense of belonging.  Sports offers an escape from the daily grind of work and life.  It bolsters our self-esteem and creates a sense of pride.  We tend to love the distraction from our everyday lives and like to identify with something bigger than ourselves.

Okay, it sounds like I need a psychiatrist.

I have asked myself the same question over the last two days:  “What does sports matter this much to me?”

I don’t really know the answer.  I have always been this way.

My first memory of how I started this psychological path was with high school football.  The first sports game I ever attended was a high school football game.  It was an exciting game and I have been hooked since then.  I guess it was a way of escape for me – to leave reality for a few minutes and try to be a part of the team I was supporting.  I even tried to play football in high school but quickly realized that I couldn’t overcome my physical limitations.  So, that left me with the only option of supporting my teams in being a fan.

I once had season tickets for the local high school football team where I lived and I never attended the school and never had anyone playing yet I was totally involved as if I did.   Even now on Friday nights during the fall, I still listen to Georgia high school football games on the Internet and keep track of what’s going on even though I am living in Tennessee.

Since the beginning, my fan behavior expanded from high school football to other sports.  I used to follow basketball but after I spent several seasons covering high school basketball games for local newspapers, I was done with basketball after that.  I don’t follow high school, college or professional.  I might watch an occasional game but I never keep up with how any of the teams are doing.

So why am I taking the Falcons’ loss so hard?

I started following the Falcons in 1977 when they were starting to be a good team for the first time in their history and made the playoffs in 1978.  Then there was that “heartbreaking” loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980 playoffs which has now been replaced with Sunday’s loss to New England.   I guess it’s like a movie, you follow the story of each season.  The good and the bad.  Then when you reach the place of an ultimate accomplishment, you feel as if you have done it.  Now, that sounds weird when I see it on the screen.   What the Falcons do on the field doesn’t reward me with more salary at work and I don’t get a trophy to put on display.

I don’t even live in Atlanta or in the State of Georgia anymore.   I have even added teams in Nashville to my fan following.   So now I have been emotionally involved in the Titans and the Predators.  Don’t even get me started on the Predators and last year’s playoffs.

After Sunday, I have to ask myself why I need something else to stress me out?  Why add these sports dramas to my life?  They are supposed to be an escape – not added stress.

I’m taking a break from sports.  I’m not watching the Predators or anything else for a while.  I don’t know how long but I just need a break.  Somehow my personality just gets way too involved and emotional about it.

If it’s true that we use sports as an “escape” from our lives, that may have been the case for the first 46 years of my life, but it isn’t now.   I don’t need an escape or attach myself to a sports team for some kind of self-esteem issues.   My life is good and my self-esteem is in pretty good condition these days.

I do love sports.  I guess that part of me will never change.  Had things been different, I may have had a permanent career in sports writing.   I will still write in my blog about sports, but for now, I just need to back it down.






The Day After….


This one hurts.   For years, the most devastating loss in Atlanta Falcons’ history was in the 1980 NFC Playoffs when the Dallas Cowboys rallied from a 27-17 deficit with 6:37 left in the game to beat the Falcons 30-27.  Last night’s loss in Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots replaces it.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Falcons had a 28-9 lead.  Tom Brady led the Patriots on a historic comeback to defeat the Falcons.

Some might say that this was the most exciting game in Super Bowl history because it went into overtime.  It was not.  Had BOTH teams been engaged in some kind of shootout it would have been, but the Falcons wilted away and had not fight in the fourth quarter and the Patriots just totally dominated to leave the Falcons one quarter short of their first Super Bowl title.

The Patriots simply deserved to win.

The Falcons deserved to win for three quarters but that’s why you play every quarter of a game.  The defense, which has been the Falcons’ weakness all season, clearly was tired and couldn’t stop the Patriots’ offense.

The agony of defeat.

Atlanta Falcons’ fans  have known this feeling many times.  Once again, we wake up the day after with that sick feeling in our stomachs about what could have been.  We replay the game over and over in our minds.  Missed interceptions.  Costly mistakes.  Failed third down conversions.

People will say:  “They’ll be back!”   That doesn’t help for how close they were to it now.  You just don’t know when or if you will ever be back in that position again.  Injuries, trades and coaching staff changes will make this a different team next year.  You just can’t think they will be back next year.  Look how long it took last time to make it back.

Instead of Danny White sticking the dagger into the hearts of Falcons’ fans this time, it was Tom Brady.




My Top Five Super Bowl Games


This weekend will be the 51st game of the Super Bowl.  The Atlanta Falcons will play the New England Patriots for the title on Sunday.  Today, I am looking back at the top five Super Bowl games I have watched.

I’m not quite old enough to remember the first Super Bowl, which was not yet known by that name when Green Bay defeated Kansas City.  That was in 1967 and I was two years old.  The first Super Bowl that I remember watching was 1977 when the Oakland Raiders beat Minnesota 32-14.

Looking back, here are my favorite games:

XX – Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10 

Yes, it was a huge blowout but I was all about the Super Bowl shuffle, Refrigerator Perry running the ball and Walter Payton finally winning a championship.  The Patriots stunned everyone by getting to the game for the first time.   They have been back a few times since then.

XLIX – New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24 

I didn’t really like either of these teams but of the two, I liked the Patriots more.  It will always be a mystery why Pete Carroll decided to go with a pass at the New England 1-yard line with 26 seconds left.  Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass to save the game for the Patriots.  We will never know why the Seahawks didn’t give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch.  Conspiracy theories over this abound.  The Patriots were fresh off the “deflate gate” win in the AFC Championship Game.

XXV – New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

This was the first close game in several years.  Buffalo’s kicker Scott Norwood missed a field goal in the closing seconds.  This was the first of four straight Super Bowl appearances – and losses – by Buffalo.  Giants running back Ottis Anderson was the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) as he had 21 carries for 102 yards and one touchdown.

XXXIV – St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

It was indeed a game of inches as Tennessee Titans receiver Kevin Dyson was stopped one yard short of the goal line as time expired to give the Rams their first Super Bowl title.  The Rams were lead by a potent offensive attack lead by Kurt Warner.  The Rams jumped out to a 16-0 lead but it took a game saving tackle by Rams linebacker Mike Jones in the end.   This was probably one of the most exciting games on this list.

XIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

We will always wonder how this game would have turned out if Cowboy’s tight end Jackie Smith had not dropped a pass in the end zone in the third quarter with the Cowboys trailing the Steelers 21-14.   Dallas had to settle for a field goal.  That point differential was crucial in the end.  The Steelers went up 35-17 in the fourth before the Cowboys rallied to close within 35-31 with 22 seconds left.

Another close one this year?

According to Madden NFL, the video game predicts that the New England Patriots will beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-24 in another close game that comes down to the final seconds.

Driving 101: Going Round-and-Round 

Roundabouts.  My stomach already gets shaky just to mention the word.  I dread roundabouts about as much as I do four-way stops.  Even if you know what you are supposed to do, it’s not always safe to assume others know what to do. 

A roundabout is supposed to help traffic flow and nicer cousin to the four-way stop.  

The single-lane roundabout is pretty easy to understand and navigate.  It’s the two-lane that causes a lot of confusion.  Specifically, what’s the deal with the inside lane?   You could get in it and never get out!

Keep calm and drive on.  

The inside lane of a roundabout is for when you want to go straight, make a left turn or u-turn.  The key thing to remember is that you stay in the same lane when you get out of the roundabout. (See the diagram below)

To go straight or right, get in the right lane. 

To go straight, left or make a u-turn, get in the left lane.  

Entering the roundabout can be tricky.  Choose the appropriate lane before you enter the roundabout.  Look to your left and yield to drivers already in the roundabout in both lanes. Once a gap appears, merge into the roundabout and proceed to your exit.  

Yeah, it sounds easy on paper right?

If you get stuck on the inside lane, stay in it until you can safely exit.  Some drivers will just stay in the right lane regardless of the rules.  Drivers not knowing the rules of roundabouts are the biggest problems. 

They key things to remember:

  • Yield to drivers in the roundabout
  • Stay in your lane
  • Do not stop in the roundabout
  • Avoid driving next to oversized vehicles

Believe or not, studies have shown that roundabouts are safer than traditional stop sign or signal-controlled intersections.  Honestly, that’s a little hard for me to believe but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says it reduced injury crashes by 75 percent.  

This can only work if everyone knows the rules.  

What Sport Will Expand To Nashville Next?


It remains to be seen what will happen with Nashville’s bid for an expansion team in Major League Soccer (MLS).  Nashville Mayor Megan Barry joined the group in New York City in their meeting with MLS to pitch Nashville to them.

While we wait for the fate of Nashville’s attempt to bring professional soccer to the Music City, I was wondering about other leagues that might consider adding Nashville.

Major League Baseball (MLB) – Probably not much of a chance of Major League Baseball relocating or expanding to Nashville.  We have the Atlanta Braves to the south of us and the Cincinnati Reds to the north.  Expansion to 32 teams is coming but Nashville is behind other hopefuls such as Mexico City, Montreal, Vancouver, Charlotte (NC), Portland (OR),  Austin (TX), Las Vegas (NV) and Columbus (OH).  Both Tampa Bay and Oakland are having battles with their stadiums so those teams could relocate as well.  Nashville has First Tennessee Park but it would need a major expansion for a major league team.

National Basketball Association (NBA) – The NBA hasn’t said when they would expand or how many teams they would add but you can be assured that Seattle (WA) will be one of them.  I’m not really sure that Nashville is an NBA city.  Bridgestone Arena is a top-notch arena that could support an NBA team but arena dates would be difficult.  Memphis has an NBA team but that’s Memphis.  I don’t know anyone that drives to Memphis on a regular basis to watch the Grizzlies.  The NBA’s short-list of cities includes Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Omaha (NE), Las Vegas (NV), Vancouver, Louisville (KY), Mexico City, Kansas City (MO), St. Louis (MO) and a second team for Chicago.   I could see the NBA going to Louisville before coming to Nashville.  Kentucky is a hotbed for college basketball and seems like a good fit.

Arena Football League (AFL) – Even with the league down to only five teams this season, the league is still alive.  Nashville had a team called the “Nashville Kats” through a ten-year span from 1997-2007.  The team was pretty successful on the field and at the gate.  They played in two ArenaBowls and had an average attendance of 9,000 per game.    The league is going to expand, probably by three more teams in 2018 but the league has not made public the cities with interest that could join their current roster of Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.  A new Nashville team would be a hit and a resurrection of the Kats would be good for the league.  The only thing that is a little iffy is whether or not the Arena Football League will rebound from its current state of life support.

National Lacrosse League (NLL) – Indoor lacrosse is a lot like hockey but is played without ice or skates.  The traditional outdoor game of lacrosse is scaled down to a hockey rink.  The games are very physical and high scoring.  The NLL currently has nine teams.  The closest team to Nashville is the Georgia Swarm.  Nashville would be a natural rivalry if the league placed a team here.  I think Nashville fans would love the NLL but it would be competition with the Nashville Predators.   If the lacrosse team couldn’t play in Bridgestone Arena, they could play at Municipal Auditorium.   The league is targeting owners who already have NBA or NHL franchises so Nashville could be in the mix.

Major League Lacrosse (MLL) – Outdoor lacrosse has become increasingly popular over the years and the MLL’s most recent expansion added the Atlanta Blaze to make it a 9-team league.  Most of the teams play in college stadiums so that’s a positive for Nashville.  The league plays at 14-game schedule during the spring and summer months.   The sport is on the rise in Nashville as youth leagues continue to spring up.  If Major League Soccer doesn’t come to Nashville, the MLL might want to take a chance on bringing a team to Nashville.

Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) – Indoor soccer has never been a “major” sport but the professional league still exists in the form of the Major Arena Soccer League with 17 teams across North America.  I’m not sure Nashville would support indoor soccer as much as they would an outdoor team.  With little exposure, and likely none by the local market, a team would probably not be able to play in Bridgestone Arena but might play at the Municipal Auditorium.

Other Sports Leagues – I think it’s just a matter of time until another indoor football league claims territory in Nashville.  The established Indoor Football League (IFL) snagged the Arizona Rattlers from the Arena Football League but have no teams east of Nebraska.   The Arena Pro Football (APF) league evolved from other leagues including the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) which had a franchise in Nashville (2014-2015) before the league folded.  Although the Nashville franchise won the league title in 2014, most Nashvillans didn’t have a clue……The NBA’s Developmental League might be a good option for Nashville.  Perhaps working with the Memphis Grizzlies although the Grizzlies have already decided to own and operate an expansion franchise in the D-League and plan to locate the team in Southaven, Mississippi in the Landers Center which will be closer to Memphis…..As for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), there is probably no chance since Nashville does not have an NBA team and the league is trying to remain stable with the teams they already have…..The American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) has a professional Frisbee league in operation as well and the Nashville Nightwatch will be playing in their third season this spring.  The team needs some serious exposure because it’s a great sport to watch.

Will Nashville Be In Tune For Major League Soccer?

nashvillesoccerToday, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, will be meeting with Major League Soccer (MLS) officials in New York City to support the cities’ bid for an expansion franchise.

Okay, I already jumped on the fact that she more important things to do than go to New York for a soccer meeting but apparently she had already planned to be in New York for some economic development trip.  Whatever that is.   I guess it’s a big thing that our mayor is not only supporting Nashville’s bid but also has plans for a stadium at the fairgrounds.  She will be joined today by John Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. who is said to be the lead investor in the Nashville group trying to get an MLS team for the Music City.

Today is the deadline for Nashville and 12 other cities to submit applications for four of the league’s expansion slots.   MLS is planning to add four teams and remain at that number for several years.  Other cities competing for an MLS expansion team are:  Sacramento, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida; San Diego, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Miami, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana and San Antonio, Texas.

The favorites seem to be San Diego and St. Louis which have lost their National Football League (NFL) teams.  Nashville’s chances is probably in the upper half of the group; however, Nashville’s metro population is the smallest of all the cities under consideration.

Can Nashville support an MLS team?  Absolutely.

Nashville has a solid support for soccer.

In the last major soccer event that was hosted in Nashville, a match between Mexico and New Zealand in October drew over 40,000 fans.  In December, Nashville was named one of 14 cities that will host matches in next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

A Nashville MLS team would also have no Major League Baseball (MLB) team to compete with but the same is true for other expansion hopefuls as well.

Nashville’s bid can only be strengthened by Mayor Barry’s presence and support for Nashville’s quest to become Music Soccer City.



This Hooper Is Super


It isn’t often that I see another person with the last name of Hooper in the spotlight but this Sunday you may see #81 for the Atlanta Falcons as one of the receiving targets for quarterback Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl.

Austin Hooper is in his first season with the Falcons playing at the tight end position.  Hooper was selected in the third round of the National Football League draft in April 2016 when he entered the draft after his sophomore season at Stanford.

During the regular season, Hooper played in 14 games and had 19 receptions for 271 yards and scored three touchdowns.  His longest reception was in week two at Oakland when he went 44 yards.  In the playoffs, Hooper has had three receptions for 33 yards.

In his two seasons at Stanford, Hooper had 74 receptions for 937 yards and eight touchdowns.  After redshirting his first year in 2013, he played in all 13 games at a redshirt freshman in 2014.  Against the University of Southern California in the 2015 PAC-12 Championship Game, he had two catches for nine yards and a blocked extra point against the Trojans.  He had three catches for 23 yards in the Rose Bowl against Iowa.  Hooper was a finalist for the John Mackey Award which is awarded to college football’s most outstanding tight end.

Hooper attended national powerhouse De La Salle High School in Concord, California where he played both tight end and defensive line.  According to MaxPreps, De La Salle only lost one game during the time he played for the Spartans.

Austin is only the second “Hooper” to ever play in the NFL.  Trell Hooper played for the Miami Dolphins in 1987 as a defensive back.

Austin will be the first Hooper to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday when he takes the field against the New England Patriots.