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Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

While You See a Chance – Take it

In Life, Life Lessons on February 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Take a Chance

“When some cold tomorrow finds you…When some sad old dream reminds you…How the endless road unwinds you…While you see a chance – take it…Because it’s all…on you!” 

It is said that success begins at the end of your comfort zone.  Most people don’t find out whether this statement is true or not because they don’t want to venture outside of their comfort zone.  After all, it is called a “comfort” zone for a reason.  For some people, like top athletes, fear of failure is a greater motivator than achieving success.  On the other hand, fear of failure can also be a paralyzing factor that causes you to remain inside of your comfort zone and promise yourself that you’ll do something when the timing is right.  The problem with this mindset is that life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the timing is never right!

Life just happens, and time slips away faster than any of us care to admit.  When we lie to ourselves about “someday,” we are simply setting the stage for future regrets.

I recently came across a video entitled “What if Money Didn’t Matter?” (see below).  It is only three minutes long, but that is all the time that it took to make me take action and start making changes to live the life that I want to live.

 
If you took the time to watch the video, you may have also had an “a-ha moment” that made you think twice about your future.  The day that I watched the video, I decided that I would replace “someday” with today, and immediately sprang into action.

It has been a few weeks since I watched the video, and a lot of progress has been made in a short amount of time.  I reached out to people from my past that I thought could help me achieve my goals.  Each of them agreed to help me in whatever way that they could, just as I would for any friend that needed my help with something.  One former colleague in particular has been instrumental in helping me come up with a unique idea that will lay the foundation for the future.

The action that I have taken over the past couple of weeks has been on my mind for a while, but I was guilty of putting it off until the timing was right.  Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of motivation to put plans into action.  And though there have already been bumps in the road, and more will certainly follow, there is a lot of satisfaction derived from putting the wheels into motion and enjoying the ride, no matter where your journey takes you.

As “The Great One” – Wayne Gretzky – famously said…“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”   Steve Winwood’s lyrics  go hand-in-hand with Gretzky’s message…“While you see a chance – take it!” 

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2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contest – An Epic Failure by the NBA and TNT

In Sports on February 17, 2013 at 11:11 am

Terrence Ross Slam Dunk

Remember the days when the NBA Slam Dunk Contest featured the stars of the game?  Those days are seemingly over, but if the NBA wants to make the contest relevant again, they better do something to get actual stars to compete in the All-Star Weekend competition that people look forward to the most.  After the competition was over, Kenny Smith talked about how the contestants were great dunkers, but that they were nervous.  To which Charles Barkley replied…“The reason those guys were nervous…they actually got in the game.” 

Get the hint NBA?  No one wants to watch relative unknowns dunking, no matter how good they might be.

Of course, if you live on the East Coast, you may not have heard the post-game analysis because it ended at a ridiculously late hour thanks to TNT’s attempt at prime time scheduling.  Anyone who planned on watching the competition on their DVR better have recorded “Sir Charles at 50” because that is where the final dunks and the announcement of the winner took place.

TNT may do a great job of covering the NBA during the regular season, and even the playoffs, but their coverage of the Slam Dunk Contest was abysmal.  It started much too late on the East Coast and there was a lot of unnecessary filler.  Aside from the friends and family of Fall Out Boy, does TNT really believe that any basketball fan tuned in to see their awful musical performance?  Was it really necessary to delay the Slam Dunk Contest further to squeeze that in?

Nick Cannon may have some talent, but his innocuous questions in the middle of the competition did nothing to add to the coverage. In fact, it made it worse.  If he had asked a meaningful question, the audience at home wouldn’t have heard the response because the audio quality was terrible, and Cannon’s microphone work was shoddy at best anyway.

With LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant and the like watching in street clothes, NBA fans were treated to Eric Bledsoe, Kenneth Faried, Jeremy Evans, Gerald Green, James White and the winner of the competition, Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors. Of the six contestants, only Faried is an NBA starter.  In retrospect, perhaps TNT scheduled the event so late in the evening so that they had scapegoat for poor ratings.

There were some impressive dunks in the competition, but nothing that will ever be remembered years from now, or even talked about by basketball fans by the time that they return to work this week, especially those who have off for President’s Day.  At one point in the competition, Shaquille O’Neal jokingly called Ross “what’s his name” to get under Barkley’s skin because the “round mound of rebound” was clearly disgusted with the lack of star power in this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

The lack of star power was not the only problem with the Slam Dunk Contest.  The format is absolutely absurd.  It’s doubtful that there is a single NBA fan that cared about the East vs. West competition.  The NBA got lucky that two of the better dunkers were on opposite teams, but if there had been two dominant players on one side, it would have been a travesty to have only one of them advance to the finals because of some arbitrary, dumb format.

If the NBA and TNT cannot figure out a way to get the stars into the competition, they might as well cancel it, especially if they are going to show it so late in the evening.  The competition – which was once the highlight of NBA All-Star Weekend – is quickly becoming as relevant as the NFL Pro Bowl.  If the true NBA stars care about this competition, they need to step up and participate, and put the back-ups back on the bench where they belong.

Valentine’s Day 2013 – “Here’s to Us”

In Family, Life on February 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Here's to Us

Valentine’s Day is the one day each year where couples acknowledge their love with tokens of affection, but the other 364 days of the year are what matter most, because real love happens in the middle of the chaos of life.  When my wife and I started dating over 20 years ago, we looked forward to Valentine’s Day because we would always do something special to celebrate the occasion.  Things were easy back then.  We had plenty of disposable income and all the time in the world to spend it.

Time goes by faster than any of us realize.  Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and months turn to years.  As the years go by, it gets harder to recreate the Valentine’s Day moments that we had when we were dating, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because I am one of the lucky ones whose relationship goes much deeper than mere tokens of affection.

Roses are beautiful, but even if they are maintained with great care, they still die in a week or so.  Most women love chocolate, and my wife is no exception, but they usually don’t last more than a few days…especially with kids in the house.  Romantic dinners are nice, but don’t make for memories that will last a lifetime.  Those memories are made during the other 364 days of the year.

My wife and I have been fortunate enough to celebrate many Valentine’s Days over the years because of what we have built together amidst the chaos of life, not because of romantic gestures that happen one day each year.

Life certainly isn’t as simple as it was when we were dating.  Like most couples, we have been through our share of trials and tribulations dealing with the curveballs that life can throw at you from time to time.  We have moved halfway across the country and back, and we have lived in more houses than most.  But as the lyrics to Kiss’ song “Beth” go…“a house just ain’t a home.”   No matter where we live, we always have a lot of joy and laughter in our home, and that’s what matters most.

Being married to a dreamer is not always easy, but to my wife’s credit, she has always been there to stand by me under every circumstance.   I am truly blessed to have a wife whose definition of happiness has absolutely nothing to do with what we have, and everything to do with who we are as individuals, as a couple and as a family.

On this Valentine’s Day, I dedicate Halestorm’s “Here’s to Us” to my wife.  It has quickly become one of our favorite songs.  And even though all of the lyrics don’t apply to us, some of them seem like the soundtrack to our life…

We stuck it out this far together

Put our dreams through the shredder

Let’s toast ‘cause things got better

And everything can change like that

And all these years go by so fast

But nothing lasts forever

Here’s to us

Here’s to love

All the times that we messed up

Here’s to you

Fill the glass ‘cause…

Through the years, we have learned that our dreams don’t always come true, but as long as we stand together, there is always hope that they may in the future.   We have had our share of disappointments, but things can and do get better.  Life is filled with highs and lows, and neither lasts forever.  Like most couples, we spend most of our life somewhere in the middle, and that is where most of the memories are made.  I appreciate the significance of Valentine’s Day and grand romantic gestures, but I know that the other 364 days of the year are what matter most in our lives.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.

 

Showtime Original Series – “Shameless” – An Entertaining, Sensory Overload of Depravity

In Television on February 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

Shameless

Pushing the envelope on television is something that we have come to expect and accept as a society.  After a while, the shock value tends to diminish, and it becomes harder to rise above the din to make a viewing audience shake their head in disbelief.  Showtime’s Original Series “Shameless” has always pushed the envelope more than others, but this week’s episode – “The Helpful Gallaghers”  – has proven that there is no low that is too low and no subject is too taboo for a show built on a foundation of depravity.

Shameless has the potential to make you laugh out loud at the hi-jinks of the most dysfunctional family in the history of television, but it also has the potential to make you cringe when it goes way beyond the boundaries of good taste.  The worst offender is the patriarch of the family – Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) – a scheming alcoholic who thinks nothing of using his children to get what he wants.

The current storyline has Frank hitting a new low.  In an attempt to get free tickets to a Chicago Bulls game, he shaved the head of his 10-yr old son – Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) – to convince people that he is dying of cancer.  Though he wasn’t able to make his own Chicago Bulls dream come true, the consolation prize was a week at sleepaway camp for Carl with other terminally ill children.  However, Carl is perfectly healthy.  He just has a maniac for a father who convinced him that he has cancer.  It is an infuriating storyline, but somehow, you manage to stop focusing on Frank’s disgusting antics long enough to enjoy watching Carl’s impact on other kids at the camp.

While Carl is away at camp, the chaos at home continues.

The oldest of the six siblings and de facto head of the family – Fiona (Emmy Rossum) – holds a get-together for her fellow co-workers  to discuss the sexual harassment that each is dealing with at their supermarket job.  There isn’t another show on television that would discuss the harassment in such graphic details, but that’s what Shameless is all about.  There is no such thing as innuendo on the show.  What you see is what you get.

Fiona’s boyfriend – Jimmy Lishman (Justin Chatwin) – does his best to help her run the dysfunctional household, but he is dealing with issues of his own.  When the couple met, he introduced himself as Steve Wilton, in an attempt to conceal the fact that he came from a wealthy family.  His indiscretions made him the black sheep of the family, which is probably why he was able to blend in with the low-income, scrapping-to-get-by Gallaghers.  In this episode, the skeletons in his father’s (Harry Hamlin) closet come out in a shocking way.  On any other television show, it would have been the one shocking moment, but on Shameless, it is just par for the course.

Meanwhile, the eldest Gallagher son – Phillip “Lip” (Jeremy Allen White) – goes with his girlfriend to pick up her half-sister after the girl’s mother dies of an overdose.  Because the girl’s father is a child molester, they choose to bring her back to the Gallagher home until they can find her a proper place to live.  The girl instantly befriends Debbie Gallagher (Emma Kenney), an 11-yr old girl who runs a daycare center in the house to help the family earn money.  During an ordinary conversation between the two, something extraordinary happens.  Any further detail would be a huge spoiler for those who haven’t seen the show yet, but suffice it to say, the turn of events only could have happened on Shameless.

Any of the events that took place in this week’s episode would have been the primary storyline on any other show.  But Shameless is not like any other show.  It is a weekly sensory overload of depravity that keeps the audience coming back for more to see what will happen next.   It may be hard to believe, but this week’s show featured even more depravity that cannot even be described without requiring proof that all readers of this article are at least 18 years of age.

Shameless is definitely not for everyone, and should not be viewed with children anywhere in the vicinity, but if you’re looking to watch a show that seemingly has no boundaries, then this show is must-see television.

Grammy Awards 2013 – Why I Watched THAT METAL SHOW Instead

In Music, Television on February 10, 2013 at 11:14 pm

That Metal Show

The Grammy Awards are viewed as the biggest music night of the year…for music fans who love mainstream music.  For people who don’t like mainstream music – particularly those who are fans of Hard Rock and Metal – it is just another night.  The Grammys reduce Hard Rock/Metal to one category even though hit is a huge genre with many sub-genres.  As a result, artists nominated in this category usually do not belong together, but they are lumped together to compete for what amounts to an obligatory award that isn’t even presented on television during the three and a half hour broadcast.  Instead of drudging through endless performances and awards that do not interest me at all, I decided to watch an old episode of That Metal Show instead.

Scrolling through my DVR looking for an episode of That Metal Show to watch, I decided on the one featuring Don Dokken and George Lynch, which originally aired on 6/26/10.  The first discussion between Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson was about David Ellefson returning to Megadeth as the band planned to perform “Rust In Peace” in its entirety on tour.  Ironically, Florentine casually mentioned that the album was once nominated for a Grammy, and then joked…“I think that it lost to the Moody Blues in the Metal category…it’s ridiculous.”  To which Trunk sarcastically replied…“That means a lot…Grammys and Metal.

In the Hard Rock and Metal communities, the Grammy Awards are basically a joke, and have been since Jethro Tull beat out Metallica for the Grammy in 1988.  Jethro Tull is a great band in its own right, and their misplaced Grammy categorization had more to do with an out of touch nominating committee than it did with the band, but they felt the wrath of metal fans just the same.

Tonight, the award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance was given to Halestorm, an up-and-coming hard rock band from Red Lion, PA that features a kick-ass female vocalist named Lzzy Hale.  They are definitely a much better fit than Jethro Tull ever was in the category.  However, their victory is likely to receive some criticism from metal fans because they beat out Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Anthrax and Lamb of God, all of whom are highly regarded in the metal community.  The sad part is that no one would have questioned Halestorm winning a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance against other similar bands if they had their own category.

The Grammy Awards have continuously tripped over themselves when it comes to the Hard Rock/Metal category.  Their limited knowledge of the genre ensures that they will continue to do more harm than good with their nominations.  If they had any respect for the genre, they would have a minimum of two categories and the awards would be presented on the air, not off camera as they currently are each year.

If VH-1 was smart, they would create an awards show around Trunk, Florentine and Jamieson and go head-to-head against the Grammys with a live broadcast.  Until that time, hard rock and metal fans are better off watching old episodes of That Metal Show than they are watching an awards show that makes no effort to cater to their musical taste.

Top 25 Hard Rock Cold~Winter~Snow Songs

In Music on February 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Hard Rock Winter Music

In October of 2012, as the Northeast was waiting for Hurricane Sandy to arrive, the Top 25 Hard Rock Rain and Storm Songs was posted on Waldo’s Life.  Once again, the Northeast is in the midst of another historic storm.  This time it’s a blizzard named “Nemo” that is targeting the Northeast.  Since most of us plan on being snowed in, it seemed like the perfect time to release the Top 25 Hard Rock Cold Winter Snow Songs to help pass the time.  If hard rock music fans were given the chance to name the storm, it most definitely would have been named “Ozz.”  It would have been so cool (pardon the pun) to hear weather people around the country calling this storm the “Blizzard of Ozz.”

The following are the Top 25 Hard Rock Cold Winter Snow Songs listed alphabetically by artist…

AC/DC – “Snowballed”

Accept – “Winter Dreams”

Ace Frehley – “Snow Blind”

Badlands – “Winter’s Call”

Black Sabbath – “Snowblind”

Breaking Benjamins – “So Cold”

Cain’s Offering – “My Queen of Winter”

Cinderella – “Long Cold Winter”

Crimson Glory – “Lady of Winter”

Crossfade – “Cold”

Cry of Love – “Too Cold in the Winter”

Dimebag Darrell – “Snow Blind”

Drowing Pool – “Turns So Cold”

Judas Priest – “Out in the Cold”

Kix – “Cold Blood”

Mudvayne – “World so Cold”

Rob Halford – “Winter Song”

Savatage – “Dead Winter Dead”

Skid Row – “Frozen”

Spread Eagle – “Dead of Winter”

Static X – “Cold”

Stratovarius – “Cold Winter Nights”

Three Days Grace – “World so Cold”

Tyketto – “Long Cold Winter”

UFO – “Mr. Freeze”

The Bizarre National Signing Day Story of Alex Collins and his Mother

In Life, Sports on February 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Alex Collins

Imagine being one of the top high school running backs in the country.  Imagine having your choice of full scholarship offers from top college football programs to choose from, but on National Signing Day, your mother disappears with your letter of intent, leaving your college football career in limbo.  If you are Alex Collins from South Plantation, FL, you don’t have to imagine this scenario, because he is living it.  And though he finally was able to get his father to sign the letter of intent to allow him to become an Arkansas Razorback, this bizarre story still continues.

It is not unusual for parents to want to be close to their children, even after they have graduated high school.  Every parent can appreciate what it would be like to be separated from their children. Parents can also appreciate that they think that they know what is best for their children, but that is not always the case.  And even if it were true, sometimes children need the freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes.

Alex Collins made a verbal commitment to attend the University of Miami and play for the Hurricanes, but in November, he re-opened his commitment because he fell in love with the University of Arkansas and its campus.  It happens.

The world may look at these recruits as football commodities, but they are still high school kids who are prone to indecision and bad decisions.  Anyone who needs further proof of this need look no further than Reuben Foster, one of the top recruits in the country.

When Foster, a Georgia native, made a verbal commitment to become an Auburn Tiger, he moved to Auburn, AL.  Getting caught up in the excitement, Foster got an Auburn logo tattooed on his arm for the world to see.  Undoubtedly, Foster is regretting his decision, given the fact that he did a total one eighty and decided to sign with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn’s bitter in-state rival.  Collins may have had a change of heart, but at least he doesn’t have a permanent reminder of his first choice tattooed on his body.

Unfortunately for Collins, his mother, Andrea McDonald – in her attempt to keep him close to home – has turned one of the most important days of his life into a national embarrassment, and a story that is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

Even though Collins’ father, Johnny, signed the National Letter of Intent, and faxed it back to the University of Arkansas, this bizarre story continues.

Rather than just accept the fact that her son is going to attend college in Arkansas, McDonald has hired Cochran Firm (founded by Johnnie Cochran) to “represent the family’s interests.”  Sadly, the only interests being represented by this latest development are those of McDonald, an overbearing, albeit loving mother, who simply cannot accept the fact that her son has made the decision that he feels is best for him.

Perhaps the time has come to allow those who are at least eighteen years of age to make their own decisions without a parent’s signature.  If they are old enough to vote and be drafted, they should have a say in what school they attend on a scholarship.

Ironically, the 18-yr old Collins is taking this all in stride, which only goes to show that he is mature enough to make this decision for himself.  Rather than getting justifiably upset with his mother, Collins simply stated…

“She cares about me so much, she doesn’t want me to make the wrong decision.”

Top 5 Super Bowl Commercials of 2013

In Sports, Television on February 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Babyland - Kia

In the world of DVR’s and on-demand programming, there is only one day each year when viewers don’t look to skip over commercials.  There is seemingly no time to take a bathroom break during the Super Bowl because no one wants to miss the commercials that we all try to avoid during the rest of the year.   With an average price of around $3.8 million for a 30-second spot, you would think that advertisers would do whatever it takes to put their best foot forward.  This year, only a handful of advertisers hit the mark with their Super Bowl commercials, while most of the others were forgettable at best.

 

Here are the Top 5 Super Bowl commercials of 2013…

 

[1]  KIA – Space Babies

Every parent dreads hearing the inevitable question from young children… “Where do babies come from?”  After this year’s Super Bowl, it’s safe to say that many parents will use Kia’s “babylandia” explanation…

 

[2]  Doritos – Fashionista Daddy

Just as much as parents don’t want to explain where babies come from, most dads have no interest in playing princess, no matter how much they love their daughters.  Of course, with a little incentive…

 

[3]  NFL Network – Deion Sanders (a/k/a – Leon Sandcastle)

Not your ordinary Super Bowl commercial.  NFL Network’s entertaining way to get people to tune in for the upcoming combine coverage in February will have more appeal to true football fans than to those who only watch football one day a year…

 

[4]  M&M’s – Love Ballad

M&M’s Super Bowl commercials are always entertaining.  The latest, featuring Meat Loaf’s “Anything For Love” is not as funny as the 2012 naked M&M’s in a club, but it was creative enough to stand out as one of the best of the year…


 

[5]  Budweiser – Clydesdales

Anyone who has watched the Super Bowl in previous years is certainly familiar with Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdales.  This commercial, which tugs on the heartstrings with Steve Nicks’ “Landslide” playing in the background, is a sort of prequel to all of Budweiser’s previous commercials…

Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens Send Ray Lewis Out on Top…Hollywood Style

In Sports on February 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Ray Lewis Lombardi Trophy

If the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl run was written as a Hollywood script, it may have been sent back to the writers asking them to make it seem more realistic.   What happened last night in Super Bowl XLVII at the Superdome in New Orleans is as improbable as any sports championship that any of us will likely experience in our lifetimes.  The word “destiny” is often used, but the Ravens’ journey to Super Bowl glory may be proof positive that it actually exists in sports, and may also be the reason that Ray Lewis got to end his illustrious 17-year career on the ultimate high note.

When Lewis tore his triceps in the middle of the year, it looked like his season was going to be over.  The usual recovery time for injuries like this would have given Lewis no chance to return, even if the Ravens made it to the playoffs.  But Lewis was determined to make it back, and convinced the Ravens not to place him on injured reserve.  At the time, no one but Lewis and his family knew that he was planning on retiring at the end of the season.

Wearing a cumbersome arm brace, Lewis made good on his promise and returned for the Wildcard game against the Indianapolis Colts, physically limited, but determined to carry his team to the Super Bowl.  Despite his limitations, he led his team to a victory over his former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, who also had an improbable return to the sidelines after an in-season battle with Leukemia.  The home crowd erupted when Lewis did his famous dance one last time on his final play at M & T Stadium.  It was a tremendous sendoff to the man who has meant so much to the organization.

The victory over the Colts meant that the Ravens would go on the road to face Peyton Manning, and the top-seeded Denver Broncos.  The Broncos, who were riding an 11-game winning streak into the playoffs, had only lost one game at home all season long.  The Ravens were 4-4 on the road, and more importantly, they had lost 4 out of the last 5 games of the season, including a 34-17 home loss to the Broncos.

In recent years, it has been proven time and again that the best NFL team doesn’t always win the Super Bowl.  Often times, the hottest team is the one that ends up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.  The Broncos were the hottest team coming into the playoffs, and the Ravens were the coldest.  Most people, including diehard Ravens fans, realized that the odds of Lewis making it to the Super Bowl by beating the red-hot Broncos on the road, was a longshot at best.

The Ravens played the Broncos much tougher than most people expected.  It was a back and forth game that left the Ravens season hanging by a thread as they trailed by a touchdown with less than a minute to play.  On third down and three from their own 30-yard line, and only 31 seconds left in the game, Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones – who somehow managed to get behind the Broncos defense – with a 70-yard bomb for a touchdown.  The team with no hope was suddenly looking like a team of destiny once again as they tied the game.  The Broncos were in such shock by the turn of events, that they didn’t even let Manning attempt to try and move them into field goal range to win the game in regulation.  They simply took a knee and headed to overtime.

Neither team was able to score in the first overtime, but then opportunity knocked for the Ravens early in the second overtime when Manning threw the type of pass that you expect from gunslinger quarterbacks, across his body, while rolling to the right.  The pass had no velocity on it, and was easily intercepted.  Five plays later, Raven’s rookie kicker, Justin Tucker, nailed a 47-yard game winning field goal, and the team of destiny was headed back on the road to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a re-match of last year’s heartbreaking AFC Championship Game.

Beating the inexperienced Colts at home wasn’t surprising, but beating the Broncos on the road in such incredible fashion was more than anyone realistically expected from the Ravens.  Could an aging Ravens defense possibly go into Foxboro, MA and shut down Brady and the Patriots?  The odds were heavily stacked against them.  After all, the Patriots had only lost one game at home all season long, and had won 9 of the last 10 games of the regular season.  If that wasn’t daunting enough, the Patriots were relatively fresh, while the Ravens defense had played 87 plays against the Colts and 87 plays against the Broncos in the thin Denver air.

Old and tired is not usually a recipe for success against the Patriots high-powered offense, but somehow, some way, the Ravens defense, having played a combined 174 plays in the two weeks prior to the Patriots game, were able to travel to Foxboro on a cold winter’s night and make Brady look ordinary.  Heavy underdogs once again, the Ravens dominated in a 28-13 victory that sent them to the Super Bowl for the second time in team history.

In true Hollywood fashion, the script writers made sure that Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco Forty Niners would overcome a huge deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons and end up as the opponent to John Harbaugh’s Ravens in what many dubbed the “HarBowl.”   This brother vs. brother matchup almost happened last year, but both the Ravens and Niners found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in their respective championship games with heartbreaking losses.

The Ravens overcame adversity and proved their detractors wrong throughout the playoffs, so why should the Super Bowl be any different?

Often times, media day brings out some controversy during Super Bowl week.  However, under the Harbaugh brothers’ guidance, neither team was likely to have anyone say anything inflammatory to provide bulletin board material to the other team.  But that didn’t stop an outsider from trying to leverage the Super Bowl media hype to stir up controversy and promote his own agenda.

To a man, everyone who has ever been around Lewis looks at him as a leader who works as hard as any other player in the game to stay in shape.  And while his recovery from torn triceps seemed miraculous, it’s hard to believe that Lewis defied the odds by using a banned substance found in Deer Antler Spray.  But his accuser, who owns a company that sells the spray, created more adversity for Lewis and the Ravens to overcome.  To their credit, they all stood together and didn’t let this controversy cause them to take their eyes off of the prize.  If anything, the opposite is true.

After all of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the Super Bowl, it was finally time for the game.  Despite the stakes, we were reminded that the Super Bowl is merely a game in the scheme of things as we watched the kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School sing “America the Beautiful” with Jennifer Hudson of American Idol fame.

The captains met at the 50-yard line for the coin toss.  Lewis called it, the Ravens won and elected to defer until the second half.  The Niners started the game at their own 20-yard line after the opening kickoff sailed out of the end zone for a touchback.

On the first play from scrimmage, rookie quarterback, Colin Kaepernick drilled the ball to tight end, Vernon Davis for a big gain, but the play was called back because the Niners lined up illegally.  The young Niners were clearly feeling the Super Bowl jitters much more than the veteran Ravens, and they didn’t move the ball at all early on.  The Ravens’ first possession started near mid field, and they marched down and scored a quick touchdown, aided by a Niner penalty that extended the drive.

The Niners seemed to move the ball at will on their next possession, but the Ravens defense tightened up in the red zone as they usually do, and held the Niners to a field goal.

One of the questions coming into the game was whether or not Joe Flacco was an “elite NFL quarterback.”  He looked poised from the beginning of the game, and proved that his first touchdown pass was no fluke when he hit wide receiver, Anquan Boldin on a long pass, an especially impressive throw considering that he was rolling out and wasn’t set when he launched it down the field.  The Ravens ended up punting on that drive after a sack on Flacco knocked them out of field goal range.

When the Niners got the ball back and started moving down the field with ease, it looked like their speed was going to be too much for the Ravens defense.  Even Lewis, who had been a dominating presence in his previous playoff games, looked slow and was getting beaten by the quicker Niner players.  But the Ravens are an opportunistic defense.  They stripped LaMichael James, recovered the fumble and gave the ball back to a red-hot Flacco, who marched the Ravens down the field for his third touchdown pass of the half.

Even though the Niners managed to score right before the half, they were held to a field goal, so the momentum didn’t swing in their favor.

When Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a Ravens touchdown, it looked like this was going to be another Super Bowl blowout, however, Hollywood scripts require drama to be effective.  So, with the Ravens holding a commanding 28-6 lead early in the third quarter, something had to be done to challenge the Ravens and make them earn their team of destiny status.

The Niners were facing third down and thirteen yards to go for a first down when the lights went out in the Superdome.  Darkness enveloped the stadium momentarily, and the broadcast booth lost all communication.  Total confusion ensued.  It took 34 minutes for the power to be fully restored to light the stadium and to allow for communication between the sidelines and the coaches booths.  Even in Hollywood, this would have seemed like an unrealistic turn of events.

In sports, the one thing that you never want to do is lose momentum.  There is nothing that can be done about the extended halftime at the Super Bowl, but the 34-minute power outage delay was an absolute momentum killer for the Ravens.  Because they ran back the opening kickoff of the second half, it was 84 minutes of real time between offensive possessions.  Quite frankly, they lost their offensive rhythm and opened the door for a comeback, something that the Niners had done in every playoff game leading up to the Super Bowl.  But the layoff also hurt the Ravens defense, especially the older players who don’t warm up as easily.

In the four minutes and ten seconds following the power outage, the Niners outscored the Ravens by a 17-0 margin.  Suddenly, the Ravens’ insurmountable lead was tenuous at best.  They had to know that there was no way that 28 points was going to be enough to hold off the young, hungry Niners who had all of the momentum.  With their backs against the wall, Flacco stopped the bleeding and put together a drive that ended in a field goal, and an 8-point lead.

With just under 13 minutes left in the game, the Ravens were clinging to a 31-23 lead, but they had no answer for the inexperienced, but incredibly talented Kaepernick.  It didn’t take long for him to march the Niners back down the field for a touchdown.  The team of destiny had a 22-point lead reduced to a mere two points after the power outage, and a 2-point conversion would tie the game.  But Kaepernick’s inexperience was no match for the Ravens savvy veteran defense.  They stopped the conversion and held on to the lead.

The Ravens offense responded with another drive that ended in a field goal, but a 5-point lead meant that they could still lose if they gave up a touchdown, and the Niners would get the ball back with over four minutes left in the game and two timeouts remaining.

With just over two minutes left in the game, the Niners were inside the Ravens’ 10-yard line, and threatening to take their first lead of the game.  As they have done time and time again in the playoffs, the Ravens defense made a stand when it mattered most.  The game came down to 4th and goal, and the Ravens knew that they had no choice but to blitz and leave every receiver in one-on-one coverage.  When the ball fell beyond Michael Crabtree’s outstretched hands in the end zone, and no penalties were called on the play, the team of destiny was ready to put the final stamp on this improbable Hollywood ending.

The Ravens punter killed 8 seconds before running out of the end zone for a safety, leaving only 4 seconds on the clock.  The Niners had one last chance to return the free kick for a touchdown to complete the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, but when the Ravens tackled Ted Ginn Jr. near midfield, the Hollywood ending was complete.

Years from now, this classic Super Bowl will be remembered for brothers facing each other as head coaches and a power outage that caused a 34-minute delay that nearly caused an improbable comeback.  But most importantly, it will be remembered as the final game in the illustrious career of Ray Lewis, an incredible linebacker and leader who willed his team to a championship with all of the odds stacked against him…just the way that they script it in Hollywood.

NFL Honors 2013 – A Truly Entertaining Awards Show

In Sports, Television on February 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Alec Baldwin

Most awards shows seem to drag on forever as they honor the same things all night long.  Some have entertaining hosts, but often times, the hosts just add to the boredom.  Alec Baldwin, on the other hand, made sure that NFL Honors 2013 was entertaining from beginning to end, and ensured that it will be something that football fans look forward to each year.  You had to be a football fan to appreciate all of the jokes, but realistically, that is the target audience anyway.  The theater was filled with current and former NFL stars, all of whom were seen laughing whenever the camera panned to them to capture their reactions.

 

There was no subject that was too taboo for Baldwin to handle…

“It was a tough season for the Saints, who kept insisting that there isn’t, nor has there ever been, a bounty system in New Orleans.  And no one is hoping that’s more true than Commissioner Goodell.”  To his credit, Roger Goodell laughed, as he truly seemed to appreciate the humor.

 

Speaking about Peyton Manning…

“After four neck surgeries, he left Indy for Denver and led the Broncos to the AFC West title, capped off with 11 straight wins…Is it me, or did Peyton stop feeling the pain right around the time Colorado legalized marijuana?”  Peyton tried to hold in his laughter, but couldn’t contain himself.

 

On Adrian Peterson coming up nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time rushing record and the replacement refs…

“Nine yards…do you know how short that is?…That’s like one first down to a replacement ref.  Remember those guys?  I know that Aaron Rodgers does.  Actually, some of the replacement refs are working this show tonight, including the guy running the teleprompter…and everything is going just fine…

“Hello, and welcome to the NFL Honors, banana underpants, next page, goodnight and thank you!”

 

On Archie Manning…

“A lot of folks in these parts consider Archie Manning to be the unofficial mayor of New Orleans.  Of course, if he were the real mayor, he would be on trial for corruption charges.  I’m just kidding, New Orleans politics is clean…like Ndamunkong Suh’s game.”

Baldwin’s monolog lasted just over ten minutes, and set the tone for an evening of entertainment amidst the presentation of awards.

 

Robert Griffin III (RG3) took home the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, while Carolina Panther rookie LB, Luke Kuechley took home the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.

Bruce Arians was named Coach of the Year, the first time that an interim head coach has ever won the award.  Considering the circumstances that he faced with the Indianapolis Colts this year, this award was well-deserved.

J.J. Watt being named Defensive Player of the Year was no surprise at all, as he was in a class by himself this season.

 

One of the most meaningful awards of the evening was presented to Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys.  He was named the winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the work that he has done outside of the gridiron in putting an end to domestic violence.  Witten’s father was abusive, so he understands what it’s like to live in that kind of environment.  He spoke about breaking the cycle of abuse, and not letting it continue from generation to generation.  Witten’s love and devotion for his own children is admirable given his upbringing, but being a “shining light” in the lives of other abused kids is the reason that Witten won this prestigious award.  With all of the negative headlines that come out of the NFL all too often, it was nice to see the good that players do for those less fortunate than themselves.

 

After Witten received his award, Baldwin took the stage again to lighten the mood with his comedy about more taboo subjects…

Talking about New York…

“Our area was hit pretty hard by a disaster of epic proportions this year.  Governor Christie estimates the recovery will take years, and cost upwards of $50 – $60 billion.  I’m talking, of course, about the New York Jets.  What a mess!”

“The only thing in football more imaginary than Manti Te’o’s girlfriend is the offensive package for (Tim) Tebow.”

 

The award presentations resumed with Adrian Peterson being named Offensive Player of the Year.

One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.  There hasn’t been much love lost since their days together on the Green Bay Packers, so seeing Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers on stage together was something to behold.

 

RODGERS:  “We’re here to present the award for Comeback Player of the Year.”

FAVRE:  “You know Aaron, everyone loves it when a great player makes a comeback.”

RODGERS:  “Yeah, but not always.  You know some people wish that great players would just retire and stay retired.”

FAVRE: (Patting Rodgers on the back) “Good to see you too Aaron.”

RODGERS:  “Yeah, you too man.” 

After a fake attempt at a man hug, Rodgers looked at the audience and said…“that was awkward.”  It was awkward and uncomfortable to watch, but entertaining just the same.

 

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award was given to Peyton Manning, the only real choice for the award.  Peterson’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous, but the fact of the matter is that he didn’t miss any games because he was hurt at the end of last season.  Since he didn’t leave, he realistically couldn’t come back.

Manning accepted the award graciously, and added some comedy of his own to the situation…

“What a tremendous honor to receive this award from two of the best quarterbacks of all time…Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.  It sure is great to see the two of them up here together.  It’s great for football.  I feel  pretty confident, me and Andrew Luck will be up here presenting this award one day together.”

Luck gave an uncomfortable smile, but it is clear that he and Manning have a much better relationship than Favre and Rodgers.

 

For all of his comedy and sarcasm, Baldwin showed tremendous reverence when it came time to honor Steve Sabol, the creator of NFL Films who passed away earlier in the year.

“This past September, the NFL family lost one of its most beloved members.  A man who never played a down, coached a down, or owned a team, yet he was able to change the way we experience football.  It’s hard to even imagine a show like this without the work of the great Steve Sabol…Tonight we pay tribute to the greatest storyteller the world of sports has ever known with some of the iconic moments that Steve Sabol gave to us.”

It is impossible to be a football fan and not appreciate what Sabol has meant to the game, and while he may be gone, his legacy will live on forever through the NFL.

The NFL family lost a number of other people this year, and they were all acknowledged in a montage after the Sabol tribute.

 

NFL Honors was brilliantly produced, and a lot of credit should be given to Baldwin for being able to transition out of the more serious moments to bring some levity back to the room.

Baldwin walked up into the crowd to interview Commissioner Roger Goodell and Samantha Gordon – a 9-yr old football phenom whose YouTube video went viral and made her an Internet sensation.

 

BALDWIN:  “I’m here with NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, and 9-yr old gridiron sensation, Sam Gordon, perhaps the most unstoppable player on any football field.”

GOODELL:  “Who knows Sam?  You may be the first woman to ever play in the NFL.  Would you like that?”

GORDON:  “No.  I’m coming after your job.” (The crowd erupted with laughter)

BALDWIN:  “Commissioner Gordon…I like the sound of that.”

GORDON:  “But first I want to try something easy, like hosting an awards show.”

The crowd erupted with laughter again as Baldwin gave a stoic look into the camera, and then gave her the chance to host as she announced the performance by the band One Republic.  Gordon was adorable and funny, but the musical interlude was the one unnecessary low-light of the evening.

 

The evening wound down with the announcement of the Play of the Year – Ray Rice’s incredible, improbable first down on a screen pass that occurred on fourth down with 29 yards to go, a play that may very well have been the stepping stone to the Ravens Super Bowl run.

The NFL Honors came to a close with the presentation of the MVP Award – given to Adrian Peterson, a running back who nearly broke the all-time rushing record on a surgically-repaired knee that usually keeps players out for at least 9 months.  Those who come back from ACL surgery typically take at least a full season to get back to normal.

In a quarterback-driven league, Peterson’s accomplishments stand out above all others even if he wasn’t coming back from a major injury.  He truly was the MVP, because without him, the Minnesota Vikings may very well have been picking at the top the draft rather than making the playoffs.

The NFL Honors is only in its second year, but if they can produce shows like this going forward, it will become a must-see over Super Bowl weekend for all football fans.

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