Posted on: September 5, 2012 6:08 am

And So It Begins - the 2012 NFL Season

For fans of the NFL, the offseason can be particularly brutal.  Once the stadium lights are shut off and the cameras have gone, we mourn the end of a season, feeling the first symptoms of withdrawal.  We commence the countdown of months, days and hours until the first kickoff of the next season. In the process, we satiate our need by watching replays of the games from the past, build our warboards for the draft and above all, realize we no longer have an excuse not the clean out the garage.  We might follow players on Twitter and Facebook just to keep that connection.  Read and re-read reports from the Combine, the draft and training camp. 

In less than twenty-four hours, the party in Arlington, Texas will begin. Opening day of the 2012 NFL season will be ushered in with the trumpets from heaven and a chorus of angels in the splendor that is known as Cowboy Stadium. With the first kickoff, flashes of light will erupt, as if the very stars from the galaxy came down to bear witness.  And fans, in jubilant proclamation will shout out, "it's here, it's finally here."

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a bit, but you have to admit, Mariah Carey has one heck of a voice. 

NFL 2012 will be a bittersweet season for me.  As a Steelers fan, I will miss the smile of Hines Ward as he gets up from a play.  And to no longer hear James Farrior name be mentioned and missing Aaron Smith on the line. Time marches on though and with that positives advance.  Which diamond in the rough will shine this year?  What play will leave me pondering? Of course, my ponderings aren't limited to just the Steelers.

The New York Giants come into this season defending their crown and are the team to beat this year.  The watch is on to see how long they can go before they are defeated and who will be the team to do it this year. My recommendation is lose a game early, get it over and done with and get rid of that one distraction.  Giants seem to do better when they're the underdog, the team that might not be perfect to garner the attention of the media.  The David against the Goliath in a division where their nemesis have been perceived as trying to by championships.  They quietly got the work done last season.  Can they do it again this season though?

And on the other side of the coin, you have the Dallas Cowboys, who are faced with their own distractions.  There's no doubt that quarterback Tony Romo is frustrated with the questions about the window of opportunity closing.  And of course there will be the attention paid to wide receiver Dez Bryant, unfortunately more for what he's doing off the field than on it.  Have the Cowboys front office done enough to beef up their defense to help the team get over that hurdle? 

Focus has been on the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason, mostly due to the hold out of Maurice Jones-Drew.  It's not likely that the attention will lift anytime soon as we watch to see how last season's top rusher will perform.  If his numbers drop, chances are great that analysts will point to the hold out as the reason.  Still, in a way, I'm pulling for the Jags to have a decent season.  I like coach Mike Mularkey.  I believe, given time, he can acquire the talent to get the team to the playoffs.  But it's easier to pull the trigger than it is to have patience to grow a team. 

One wonders what the direction of the Oakland Raiders will be now that Al Davis is no longer with us.  It was always believed that the late owner was holding the team back with his hands-on approach in ownership.  I'd like to see Terrelle Pryor get his shot and do well.  Pryor made his name as the number one prospect coming out of Jeannette High School.  I like to see kids that graduated from the same school I went to, make good.  Pryor is no exception.  Still, one can't argue that the Raiders have no talent.  It's just a matter of finding the right magic to make it work. 

If there is any team that is facing distractions this season, it will definitely be the Saints.  No one will argue that they, as a team will be under a microscope with both the press and the fans, watching to see how they rebound from the scandal and if "bountygate" was the reason for their past success.  They have two options, shoot everyone the bird and come out with a "we'll show you" attitude or succumb to the pressure.  I'll say it's the former.  Quarterback Drew Brees is nothing but a passionate and consumate leader who has the ability to rally his troops in the face of adversity. 

One thing I do know, that as with each season it will be electrifying and disappointing on the road to the playoffs.  The days of manicured nails and quiet Sunday afternoons are now gone until February.  And if one is disappointed that the window of opportunity to clean out the garage has gone, well, there's always the bye.


Posted on: December 22, 2011 5:04 pm

From My Family to Yours

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season.  Whether you're observing Hanukkah, celebrating Christmas, participating in Kwanzaa, or observing the Yule.  May your days be bright, your nights peaceful.  May you have the love of friends and family surround you.

Happy Hanukkah
Merry Yule
Merry Christmas
a Prosperous Kwanzaa

From my family to yours...with luv ... Happy Holidays ...

Category: General
Posted on: September 15, 2010 5:58 am
Edited on: September 15, 2010 5:59 am

Jets, Sainz and a Long Buried Can of Worms

Early this morning, a friend of mine, that I’ll call T, popped up on my instant messenger.  Now I had became acquainted with T when he emailed me to comment on one of my CBS Sports blogs from several years ago.  So it wasn’t a surprise with how the conversation went.  

T:  So what do you think about what’s going on with the Jets?

Me: They have no offense

T:  No not that.

Me:  Rex Ryan looked like he had eaten rotten crow at his press conference?

T:  No, no, not that

Me: Look T, I can’t read my families minds and I live with them, what makes you think I know what you’re talking about, especially since there’s a lot going on with them right now.

T:  About the woman reporter, I‘m sure you have some thoughts about it

Me: Oh, okay…I don’t know just yet.  I haven’t looked at it too closely

T:  You’re going to blog about it, right?  It’s perfect for you

Me:  Why, because you believe I have this fantasy of being in a locker room with 52 naked men?..puh leeze

T:  Well, there is that.  No, remember that series you did on sex?

Me:  Yeah but that was because Gregg Doyel had to write about Danica Patrick and the SI Swimsuit edition.  Doyel’s been rather quiet on this one, and so has Freeman

T:  Honestly D, it’s right up your alley

Me:  Let me think about it.

T:  So D, what if it were you who had gotten the cat calls?

Me:  I’d probably turn around, smile sweetly, thank them and comment if I was able to illicit that kind of response, I could only imagine what kind of welcome John Madden might get.

(Thank you T for agreeing to let me use this btw)

The investigation by the NFL into allegations of  conduct inside the Jets locker room by players.  Apparently,  Ines Sainz of Mexico TV Azteca had tweeted about being made to feel uncomfortable while waiting to interview Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez

While the internet is buzzing with talk about this, it has once again brought to the surface of a debate that’s been raging for decades.  How much access to players should women sports journalists be allowed?  There’s an added twist to this debate now, how much access should any journalist be allowed to sports figures?

T was right in mentioning the Sex, Sexuality and Sports series that I wrote a couple years ago on CBS Sports.  In a way, as Clinton Portis was quick to point out (and apologize later), it’s kind of a natural thought process when seeing someone of the opposite sex to believe that thoughts of a sexual nature wouldn’t cross someone’s mind.  However, the issue goes beyond the sexuality and goes into professionalism. 

For some reason I have a feeling that this is going to turn into as an extensive project as the SSS did.  Okay T, I see the challenge, I’m up for it…

Stay tuned….

Posted on: October 16, 2008 6:24 am
Edited on: October 16, 2008 6:26 am

From Hard Hitting to Pansy Football

While the NFL front office is planning one spectacular Christmas party, partly due to two fines levied against Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward for god only knows what, criticism on the new direction under commissioner Roger Goodell is coming from an surprising source, Troy Polamalu.  The 5’10, 207 lb, hard hitting, soft spoken, Steelers strong safety believes that direction is becoming a “pansy game”.

"I think regarding the evolution of football, it's becoming more and more flag football, two-hand touch. We've really lost the essence of what real American football is about. I think it's probably all about money. They're not really concerned about safety."

Perhaps Polamalu is correct, especially when he compares the old school NFL and the likes of Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott and how their style of play would have drawn fine after fine under the new guidelines.  Given the enormous contracts and the need to protect the franchise arm, more and more rules have been put in place to protect the quarterback.

"You have to figure out how to tackle people a new way," he said. "There's such a fine line. I guess, hitting quarterbacks late and whether they're going to slide or come forward -- it's too much.”

Indeed, the new rules have not only taken away a lot of the physicality of the game, but has led to a lot of inconsistencies in the calls by the officiating crews.  How often have we seen a Steeler defender this year get penalized with a late hit just as the quarterback releases the ball, yet, an obvious late hit doesn’t draw a flag?  This isn’t something that’s unique to Steelers games, but have been seen against other teams also. 

There’s been an obvious shift that we’ve been noticing in professional football where it seems to have gone from a game in the trenches to one of finesse, that could be equated to “grass basketball”.   No doubt that high scoring games seem to be the fave among fans and add to the increasing popularity of free and pay-to-play fantasy football, could it be that the rules are being adjusted to accommodate these trends?  After all, where’s the attraction in putting together a fantasy team if your quarterback isn’t going to have the chance to throw for 400 plus yds in a game? 

The argument that the rules are in place to protect the players, but at what point does it stop being about protecting the players and becomes about babying the players?  Rules are already in place to protect quarterbacks and other players from obvious season or career ending injuries.  Helmet-to-helmet hits, horse collar tackles, chop blocks, have all been deemed as against regulation and will draw penalties, if not fines.  However, the very nature of the game poses a risk of injury to all players, even when the hit is clean.  You can only do so much before you take away, as Polamalu puts it, the very essence of the game.

Posted on: September 10, 2008 6:24 am

Ten Things That Have Me Pondering

Early mornings, my brain seems to go haywire trying to defuse all the information that I take in while I sort through all the news, and all the extraneous garbage trying to put it in order.  The coffee helps, but not enough, so this morning I thought I'd try to sort out all my question and perhaps find some answers to them...

1)  Really, what is the appeal with NASCAR?  Okay, so there's fast cars going around in a circle.  How's that exciting watching that on the tv screen? 

2) Why is it a win over the South Carolina Gamecocks, deems a college team the best?  Even Steve Spurrier had questions about this season.

3)  Will the Pittsburgh Pirates ever win the pennant again before I die?

4) Why is it that the media darlings always end up disappointing?  A rookie Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers had all the attention on them his first year out, yet they failed to get past the Patriots.  Both the Colts and the Bengals were the glamour team the next year, they never made it to the playoff.  Chargers were the team to watch the year after, the Colts won the Superbowl.  Even Patriots fans got tired of hearing about all Patriots, all the time.  David brought down Goliath.  Cowboy fans, think the attention your team is going to garner might not be a good thing? 

5)  Why do people get upset when the media doesn't think their team is going to win?  Seriously, I love it when the majority of analysts pick against the Steelers, seems the Steelers like to prove them wrong.  Alot of  analysts picked the Texans to win over the Steelers.  All I have to say is keeping picking against them baby.

6)  Why is it that kharma comes back to bite you? Lot's of people giving Bengals fans grief about their "misfit" players, only to turn around and find that players on your own team had their own trouble with the law.  Chargers fans had to hear about Merriman and his roids...oops, someone was suspended for a few weeks for HGH.  Now people who've given that player grief about HGH, are seeing members of their own teams suspended for banned substances. 

7)  I have to clarify something before I ask this question.  The other day, on a thread on the NFL board, I caught a Patriots fan yacking about how a Steelers win over the Patriots this year would be a "paper only" win, because Tom Brady went down.  If this is the case, then isn't the Patriots 16-0 season paper only?  After all, Troy Polamalu was out for that game and we know that no matter how great Tom is, he wasn't going to exploit Samson like he exploited Anthony Smith.  Steelers were holding their own until Brady lit up Smith.  Just saying....

8)  Why is it a playoff team is considered a nobody, trying to take away, not only Buffalo's win but Seattle's accomplishments. 

9)  Why is it that fans of a team are referred to ALL fans?  Seriously, I'm getting tired of hearing that ALL Steelers fans are  a certain way, just like I'm getting tired of seeing ALL Patriots fans are a certain way. 

10)  When did we lose our common sense when it comes to elections?  Some of the stuff I've been hearing simply defies logic.  If Obama is a muslim, why isn't Michelle and his daughters wearing burkas? 

Okay, I seriously doubt that I'll really find any answers, but I bet we can come up with some interesting reasons to this.
Posted on: April 2, 2008 6:21 am

People Who Care

It’s a character issue.  Professional athletes especially in the NFL, are nothing more then a bunch of thugs.  I’ve heard this characterization, I’m sure you have also.  Perhaps it’s easy to believe this, given the headlines concerning Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Tank Williams, Cedric Wilson, Adam “Pacman” Jones and more.  Of course, this is nothing new.  We remember the drug issues with the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s and the legal problems with the Cincinnati Bengals players.  It’s not uncommon to see a bench clearing brawl in the MLB and NHL.  The NBA isn’t immune from it either, after all, how many times was the brawl during Pacer-Pistons game replayed on ESPN and other sports shows?

Then of course, we have the South Carolina doctor who was arrested for giving athletes performance enhancement drugs, there’s the Mitchell Report and the infamous “spygate”.  Okay, maybe spygate doesn’t need to be there, but it left questions to character.  Even team cheerleaders aren’t exempt from it, given the incident in Florida by a few Panthers cheerleaders a few years ago. 

Okay, let’s admit it.  We love the sensationalism that these stories bring.  Come on, how many slow down to get a glimpse of the nasty accident on the side of the road?  Why did the slow speed car chase with O.J. Simpson make national news?  Why was it replayed and reported on, over and over again.  The media knows what brings in viewers and readers.  They feed our desire for that “dirty laundry”.  Let’s face it, all you have to do is look at the boards on Sportsline and see that some of the most popular threads are the ones that point out the human error. 

I’m not saying we don’t follow the feel good stories.  The relief effort and the volunteerism by numerous sports figures to those affected by Katrina.  Watching the amazing progress that Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills has made since his injury.  We pulled for the Saints to have, at least a good year, during their displacement after Katrina.  Nothing new, Lou Gehrig won peoples heart when he disclosed he had ALS. 

Yet, even these feel good stories tend to get pushed back into the recesses of our memories, or just dumped from it, because soon another story, another incident comes around and we’re eating up these misdeeds, twisting and turning them until we’ve worn them out, then just wait for the next one to come up.  And as we’re feeding on them, we ask ourselves the stupid question of what happened to integrity?  The thing is, that integrity is still out there and is more the rule then the exception.  Yet we focus on the ill-begotten and miss the what goes on every day, outside of the spotlight. 

I had often heard that there aren’t people like Roberto Clemente and Walter Peyton around anymore.  People who care about others, who don’t have the “me me me” attitude.  Interestingly enough, there are more individuals who are like that.  Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphin’s is one of them.  He’s this years recipient of the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award.  Actually, the exception in professional sports is the thug like mentality and the rule are individuals who give back to their communities.  And the sports “franchises” encourage this.  Why else would the NFL present the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award or the MLB give out the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award?  Yet it’s often just a small blurb in the news, perhaps buried somewhere on the back of a sports page that gets overlooked, more often in the community section.  It’s only news when there’s an award attached to it.  It doesn’t get much play time, unless, like after Katrina, there’s a national effort.

So why does it matter, why write about it?  Well, it matters to me, after all, I’m not only a big one for activism, but also volunteerism.  I guess where there’s a call or a need to help, I’m there.  I quit counting how many March of Dimes walkathons I’ve been on.  I’ve been a girl scout volunteer, not only as a troop leader but also cookie mom (don’t ask me how I got conned into that one) and recruiter for the girl scouts.  I was at one time a certified Red Cross CPR instructor, then there’s the times I’ve acted as a “hugger” (had to be a hugger, nothing less would do) for the Special Olympics events.  The weekend time at the orphanage in Korea, fundraising coordinator for the United Way, blood drive coordinator, organized a few Toys for Tots events, a toy drive for Katrina victims, and the list goes on.  Oh and now that I’m in shape, will be walking in the local Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer. 

There’s little recognition that goes with volunteerism, and we do it, not for the recognition but for the ability to help others and how it makes us feel.  So since it’s not done for recognition, why write about it?  Perhaps to offset the negativity that is so often seen in the national media.  Perhaps to remind us that integrity in sports on the field and off the field still exists.  For this reason, I’ll be featuring a Wednesday blog extolling the virtues of past and present sports personalities and their charitable works and volunteerism.  It deserves to come off the back pages, it deserves to be recognized.  It’s not something new.  The Fedex Air and Ground Awards gives contributions to the players favorite charities, as does other awards in sports.  Of course, I am not in a financial position to give out large (or even small) checks to every charity or cause, but I am in the position to give my thank you to these individuals (even if they don’t read them).  This is my thank you to them.

Next Week:  A former Baltimore Raven and current Raven front office person and his struggles with ALS,  a former Pittsburgh Steeler and his haven for abused and neglected boys,  A former LA Laker and his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

Posted on: March 21, 2008 12:03 pm

Whose Problem Is It?

It is rumored that there is a law still on the books in Newberry County SC, that a man can take his wife to the court house steps in Newberry , on a Sunday and beat her publically with a stick.  This law, at one time did exist.  Given the states increased crack down on domestic violence and tougher criminal domestic violence (CDV) laws, I doubt it’s still in effect. 

We have evolved as a society that once encouraged the husbands to beat their wives to keep them in line, to ignoring the issue and it just being a dirty little secret, to it being an act that should not be condoned.  Although we have made great strides to educate, prevent and rehabilitate, domestic abuse is still a major issue faced in this country.   In 2007, the National Domestic Violence Hotline released their Decade For Change Report in which they’ve estimated 33 million American women have experienced abuse.

The report also goes on to site that:

One in four women have been physically assaulted or raped by a partner vs One in fourteen of men having experienced the same.

Women are 7 to 14 times more likely to report being assaulted, choked, threatened with a gun or knife, or had their partner attempt to drown them.

The Justice Department had determined that 30% of female victims were killed by an intimate partner, compared to 3% of male victims.

That same sex couples were not immuned from being victims of abuse. 

With the numbers in this finding, it is not surprising that since, professional sports is a slice of American society, that the various leagues and franchises in all sports, would be faced with players who have either abused or been abused by their partners.  The recent release of Cedric Wilson from the Pittsburgh Steelers and the report of James Harrison’s assault on his girlfriend, once again shows that, despite education programs provided, makes no team, no sports franchise or figure immune to what is a major problem in society. 

Indeed, abuse and violence by major sports and entertainment figures tend to glaringly point out an issue that often times is under reported. From the most extreme violence, as in the tragedy with WWE’s Chris Benoit’s double murder, suicide and the Carolina Panther’s Ray Carruth, conspiracy to murder charge, to the custody situation with Najeh Davenport, to Darryl Strawberry’s abuse charges, to improperly accused charges against Randy Moss

Incidents like Strawberry’s and Warren Moon’s assault on his wife, has led the MBL, NFL, NBA and NHL to institute programs and policies to address spousal abuse and violence.  These programs are no different then what employers like the military and various large police departments have in place.  However, the police departments are the only employers that I’m personally aware of that actually fire an officer if arrested on a CDV charge.  Others provide intervention.  Most employers tend to release abusers only if their productivity is effected or if it’s outlined in a morality clause in their contract.  Given this, how far should we expect the major sports franchises to go in reprimanding their players for the same things that most of us would get a pass on?

At the time of the release of Wilson, the Steelers organization came out and stated that they have been taking the incidents on a case by case basis.  Often times in the NFL, a player rightfully accused of abuse has faced with some sort of suspension, whether it’s one game or eight.  In two incidents over the past year, only the Steelers and Rams released a player due to a second incident.  The Decade for Change points out that the situation in abuse is complex, especially since no group is immune from it. 

Does releasing a player solve the issue?  Probably not, nor will it prevent it, according to the study.  In fact, the Domestic Violence Service and Community Partnership Panel suggests we should avoid a simple solution to a complex problem.  Just releasing a player wouldn’t change the tide of abuse.  Can it send a message to other players, possibly, but it can also send a message to the victim not to report abuse because their spouse or partner may lose his livelihood, adding another issue onto an potentially volatile situation.

Perhaps all employers, not just major sports organizations need to join the fight against domestic violence to be able to reach out, not only to the abusers, but also potential abusers and their victims and provide resources, either through health insurance programs or access to community based programs.  Until we ask all employers to be accountable for their employees actions, how can we ask anything different from the the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA?

Posted on: January 25, 2008 2:38 pm

Weekly Rant

Okay, honestly, I'm not experiencing any hormonal effects here this week, since it may seem that I've climbed on my soapbox.  It's just the nervous energy being emitted lately has got me tense.  Some people have, in the past, thought I was empathic.  I scoffed at that idea (and then ran to www.m-w.com to find out what that meant).  Okay, so it doesn't mean pathetic, which at times I can be.  Trust me, you haven't seen me when I'm sick. 

- Empathy:  2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this

I'm thinking of how I just now made my dear grandmother (a retired english teacher), smile from her grave by learning a new word and passing it on.  It could be possible that I'm empathic.  If that's so, my Patriot fan friends may want to think of taking up yoga, meditation or valium to stay calm, just so ya'll quit affecting my ulcer.  (Just teasing).

It's going to be a long two weeks for those of us addicted to football.  Many of us have already resorted to watching old games and perusing information on past superbowls.  We'll try to keep ourselves busy, ignoring the mild shakes and withdrawals.  I suspect many of us come week two will be seeing pink elephants and suffering serious DTs. 

It's going to be a long two weeks for sports analysts too.  Having already gone through analyzing the stats, they're looking at other areas to report on.  Pete Prisco has introduced us to the possible drama that may unfold between Tom Brady and the paparrazi.  See Brittany, looks like you may not be the only one with those dread photographers following you all over.  I'm waiting for Clark Judge to come back and tell us about how Eli Manning was caught at a late night stop through a Wendy's drive through.  Sorry guys, I know there's only so many things you can write about and the different angles until it comes time to start reaching.  I wish all analysts luck for the next two weeks.

Steelers lost another casuality from the pro-bowl.  Troy Polamalu has bowed at due to an injury with his knee.  Guess it's the wisest thing, especially since he's been there before, why aggravate the injury?  But geesh, how many more injuries are going to come up for the Steelers.  Tyrone Carter dropping after the Denver game, Aaron Smith going on IR, Willie Parker in the Rams game.  It was reported that Hines Ward had knee surgery and now Polamalu with his knee strain.

Looking around the NFL and seeing the number of injuries being nursed, to include the surgery on Philip Rivers knee, I' m going to try to convince my daughter that sports medicine is the way to go once she looks into med school.

Okay I've heard of rats abandoning the ship when it's sinking, but not crawling back onto it.  Though Gamecock fans may not be too happy with the current game of duck, duck, goose, I think it's funny that Brian VanGorder decided to go back to the Falcons  as their DC after being hired by Spurrier.  Yes Steve, I'm sure you're neck was red for awhile.   Of course, news in the NCAA corrider does report that Ellis Johnson will be replacing VanGorder.  Can't blame VanGorder though, he is probably the best one that would know the strengths of the Atlanta Defense.  It will be interesting to see what Mike Smith will do with that team.

With Mike Smith leaving the Jacksonville Jaguars to become headcoach for the Atlanta Falcons, one has to wonder how that change is going to effect the Jaguars next year.  I'm sure Del Rio will find a capable replacement.

Anyway here's hoping for a good weekend...oh wait, there is no football.  Okay here's hoping we all survive the withdrawals that will accompany this weekend due to no games. 

Category: NFL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com