Predators’ Win, $100-Million Dollar Man, and more…

No Friday Flashback post today.  Instead I have a few sports-related rants and observations to share with you.  Yes,  I have a blog and I intend to use it.

The Nashville Predators beat the Winnipeg Jets last night to even their Western Conference Semifinal series at 2-2.  Yes, Pekka Rinne was in goal and played better than he has in recent games.  I still would have started Juuse Saros and I’m not so sure I can be very confident about Rinne even with last night’s win.  I also applaud the move to put Scott Hartnell in the game.  He’s a veteran player and definitely added the physicality to counter Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien.  I really was tired of hearing the endless comments from NBC’s AJ about how big and strong Byfuglien is.  I’m also glad that Patrik Laine FINALLY scored a goal so now the NBC commentators will shut up about it.  Enough already about how many games he had gone without scoring.  The young, goat-bearded wonder has scored now, let’s move on.

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with quarterback Matt Ryan on a five-year, $150 million contract with $100 million guaranteed.  Are you kidding me?  Why?  Yeah, I know they call him “Matty Ice” (which is detest) but has he won any Super Bowls?  I won’t deny that Ryan is good but I wouldn’t necessary say his consistent.  Speaking of highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL, when I asked Siri about it you won’t believe the top five:  Kirk Cousins (seriously??), Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr and Drew Brees.  What are owners and general managers paying all this money for?

Nashville’s Metro Council is set to vote on proposal to move our Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium which was originally supposed to be built on the Fairgrounds near downtown.   There is some consternation about the location.  A Nashville MLS spokesman fears that failure to support the site will cost Nashville its proposed MLS expansion which was awarded in December.  It’s a bit crazy to me that they can do this much work for a soccer stadium but they can’t come up with a plan to fix the traffic mess.  They will eventually approve and build a soccer stadium but it will be a mess trying to get there.

President Trump is going to appoint Bill Belichick to his sports council.  Yet another reason to dislike both.  Was deflate-gate not enough?

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart got a new 7-year , $49 million dollar deal from Georgia.  I’m a bit on the fence about this one.  At least Smart got the Bulldogs to the National Championship game right?  The Southeastern Conference is brutal.  It will be very difficult to repeat the success from last season.  Smart becomes the fifth highest paid coach in the big-time college football division.

Someone recently told me they would like the Kentucky Derby more if not for the horses.  They prefer all the hoopla (i.e. fancy hats, mint juleps) to the actual horse race.  You would hope they treat those awesome animals well and don’t abuse them.  Sorry, I’m not a fan.  It’s a horse race.

Who is Josh Rosen and why is he stirring up junk?  His feelings are hurt that he fell to 10th in the recent NFL draft before the Arizona Cardinals traded up to select him.  Really?  What exactly did he do in college football?  Well, he’s with the Cardinals.  It won’t matter much anyway.

I’m still disappointed that Georgia Running Back Nick Chubb got snagged by the Cleveland Browns.  I was hoping the Tennessee Titans would get him.  Poor Chubb.

In case you’re following the NBA playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors 128-110 last night to take a 2-0 lead in their series.  Toronto is the #1 seed in the East but looks like they are fading fast.  To be honest, I haven’t been interested in the NBA playoffs since Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson retired.

I really wish the Washington Redskins would change their stupid name.

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Is It Finally Time to “Turn off the lights” on Monday Night Football?

 

The best reason that John Gruden has returned to coaching again is that he won’t be on Monday Night Football anymore.  Have you heard that the new announcers will be Joe Tessitore and former Dallas Cowboys’ Tight End Jason Witten?  I know who Jason Witten is but I have to admit that I had to click on Joe Tessitore’s name link to refresh my memory on who he is.  We have come a LONG way from the days of Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and Don Meredith.  Frankly (no pun intended), I think they should finally put an end to Monday Night Football.  Turn out the lights and let the party be over.

Yesterday my wife gave me a Savannah Bananas shirt from the Coastal Plains League team.  It will go along with the Macon Bacon shirt I ordered a few weeks ago.  I think the Portland (Oregon) Pickles and Montgomery (Alabama) Biscuits will be next on my list.

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My Georgia Dome Memories

DOMEPHOTO2As the Georgia Dome was imploded this week and finally gave way to another new shiny sports facility, I remember the handful of times that I actually attended events at the Georgia Dome.  I wasn’t a frequent visitor and my experiences are limited compared to others but I enjoyed my times of walking inside of Georgia’s first domed stadium.   Honestly, when they first announced that they were building a domed stadium in Atlanta, I thought it was silly since Georgia wasn’t exactly the coldest place to need such a facility but as time went on, I saw that it was a huge success for Atlanta.   The Georgia Dome has been home to the Atlanta Falcons, Peach Bowl, SEC Championship Game, NCAA Men’s Final Four and the 1996 Summer Olympics.

During the Georgia Dome’s 25-year existence, I believe I have been inside four times – all football games – here is a recap of my times in the Georgia Dome:

  • October 9, 1994
    • Atlanta Falcons 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13
    • This was the first-ever NFL game I attended.  I went with my co-worker from the newspaper as we were there to cover the game.  The press box was nothing like the high school games I had covered.  People gave you stats and you got all the information you could ever want to write about the game.  After the game, my job was to interview Atlanta Falcons’ Running Back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.  I was in a group of reporters asking questions of Heyward who was the leading rusher in the game with 87 yards and two touchdowns.  The unique thing about this game was that Sam Wyche, who was the Buccaneers coach at the time, elected to go for a 38-yard field goal trailing 34-10 at the end of the game.
  • December 24, 1994
    • Atlanta Falcons 10, Arizona Cardinals 6
    • I returned two months later with my co-worker to cover the final regular season game.  The Falcons finished 7-9 that season.  My job was to interview Atlanta Falcons’ Wide Receiver Andre Rison because there were rumors that it was going to be his last game with the team.  I joined a group of reporter – a large group – gathered around his locker only to learn that Rison had ducked out and left.
  • December 9, 1995
    • SW DeKalb 7, Warner Robins 0 (State Semifinals)
    • I returned to the Georgia Dome a year later working for a different newspaper and covering the Warner Robins Demons in their semifinal playoff game against SW DeKalb.  This was when the Georgia High School Association were playing the semifinal round games at the Dome.  On this trip, I actually had the chance to walk down on the playing field and sideline.  It wasn’t at all like I had expected.  The turf wasn’t very good at all.  It was a hard fought game but SW DeKalb was led by Quincy Carter at quarterback.
  • December 11, 2010
    • Clinch County Panthers 24, Savannah Christian Raiders 14 (State Championship Game)
    • This was the first time I had ever attended a game at the Georgia Dome as a fan.  It was probably the most memorable one for me because I attended with my father.  He played at Clinch County and is a big fan.  We both joined in with the fans as the game was tight early but a punt return broke the game open on their way to the state title.

Of course, I have watched many games that were played there.  It’s was one thing to see it on television but an entirely different experience to go in person.  Like many people, I was in awe the first time I walked into the place.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to walk inside the new Mercedes-Benz Field next door to it.   As for the Georgia Dome, I left there happy 3 of the 4 times I was there.  Thanks for the memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Does Sports Matter So Much?

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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.

 

 

 

 

My Top Five Super Bowl Games

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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.

This Hooper Is Super

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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.

 

Falcons To Play In The Super Bowl

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I can hardly believe it myself.  Did I just type that headline?

For the second time in team history the Atlanta Falcons will play in the Super Bowl.

As I wrote in a previous post, it has never been easy to be a Falcons’ fan.  To be a follower of the Falcons has meant many years of frustration with a few good years mixed in.  This is one of those good years.  I am enjoying it while it lasts.

The Falcons won their biggest game in the last game to be played in the Georgia Dome.

Even at halftime with a 24-0 lead, I couldn’t relax.  I had hoped they would assume that no lead was safe with Aaron Rodgers.  It wasn’t until the Green Bay Packers put in their backup quarterback late in the fourth quarter that I was finally able to breathe normally again.  With Rodgers on the other team, you can never assume any lead is safe.  I was glad it didn’t come down to another Hail Mary pass at the end.

What a difference a year makes.

This time last year, fans were torching Matt Ryan and Falcons’ Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shananan on Facebook.  It was awful watching Ryan throw interceptions and opposing defensive backs return them for a touchdown.  After opening up a 5-0 record last season, the Falcons crashed and burned with an 8-8 record.  The bright spot of the season was when the Falcons handed the Carolina Panthers their only loss in the regular season.  That game may have set the stage for the foundation for this season.

Quickly I looked up the biggest fourth quarter comeback in National Football League (NFL) history.  Even then, I was still worried.  I thought if anyone who could make NFL history it would be Rodgers.  Thankfully it never happened.  This game seemed to be destined to be in the Falcons’ favor.  The game might have been closer had Packers’ receivers hadn’t dropped a handful of passes.  So, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Rodgers had made headlines poking fun at the “fake” crowd noise the Falcons’ had gotten in trouble with in the past.  Quite honestly, it didn’t seem like crowd noise was much of a factor.  I was a little surprised that the fans weren’t louder but it might have been due to the fact that the game wasn’t close.  Rodgers’ ego was loud enough as he could be seen complaining to the officials every time he was hit.

So now, the Falcons will play the most successful team in Super Bowl history when they face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in two weeks.

New England Patriots in the Super Bowl:

  • XX lost to the Chicago Bears, 46-10.
  • XXXI lost to the Green Bay Packers, 35-21.
  • XXXVI defeated the St. Louis Rams, 20-17.
  • XXXVIII defeated the Carolina Panthers, 32-29.
  • XXXIX defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 24-21.
  • XLII lost to the New York Giants, 17-14.
  • XLVI lost to the New York Giants, 21-17.
  • XLIX defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24.

Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl:

  • XXXIII lost to the Denver Broncos, 34-19.

The Patriots are playing in their 9th Super Bowl game in team history.  That’s a lot of tradition that the Falcons will have to overcome.

So, now, I have two weeks to get my energy back and get ready for the big game.

 

The Turbulent Flight Of A Falcons’ Fan


I watched the Atlanta Falcons defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Saturday’s National Football League (NFL) playoffs.  It was a lot of work.  It’s pretty sad when you can’t relax and feel confident that your team can hold onto a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter.  

That’s the plight of being a lifelong Falcons’ fan.  Frustration.  Disappointment.  Finding defeat in certain victory.  

The first season I really followed the Falcons was in 1977.  That was the first year of the “Gritz Blitz” and a defense that set a record at that time for only allowing 129 points during a 14-game season.  

There have certainly been some bright spots along the way.  

The biggest moment was when Morten Anderson kicked the game winning field goal against Minnesota in the 1998 National Football Conference (NFC) championship to put the Falcons in their first Super Bowl.  I was a very elated fan.  

That elation was soon turned to another disappointment when the Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. 

Other disappointments that have conditioned me to be cautious over the years:

  • Dallas Cowboys 30, Atlanta Falcons 27 (1980 NFC Playoffs)
  • San Francisco 28, Atlanta Falcons 24 (2012 NFC Championship Game)
  • Green Bay Packers 48, Atlanta Falcons 21 (2010 NFC Playoffs)
  • Dallas Cowboys 20, Atlanta Falcons 17 (1978 NFC Playoffs)

So even with the victories, the Falcons have never had that “mojo” that a team needs to win consistently – especially in the playoffs.  The image of Danny White leading the Cowboys back in the 1980 playoffs is still burned into the memories of Falcon fans.  My stomach gets upset every time I see that game. 

So forgive me if this seems a little negative.  It isn’t just negativity, it has been my reality for the past 40 years. Expect disappointment but always hopeful.  

I mean, the Cubs did win the World Series so anything is possible right?

Please don’t call Matt Ryan “Marty Ice” because that will mean a pick six is going to happen.  I try not to be negative.  Really I’m not.  

When my wife asked me if I was excited about watching the Falcons’ game Saturday, I honestly answered “No” because it’s never easy.  Watching the Falcons is a lot of work.  I was physically worn out after the game. 

That’s the life of a Falcons’ fan.  

So now after a big win over the Seahawks, the Falcons will play again next week.  I don’t care about who they play.  It really doesn’t matter.  I know it’s going to be another three hours of work.