Deflating the game

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Champions don’t cut corners. They don’t make excuses. Champions don’t sneak, spy, or steal. Champions push themselves, challenge each other, and elevate the game they love.

The New England Patriots were the better team in the AFC Championship game. It was apparent from the start. They dominated the Indianapolis Colts in every way. And they won by a large margin. 45-7 to be exact.

They didn’t need to give themselves an unfair advantage. But from all angles, it appears they did. Someone did. And now, with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl upon us, football fans aren’t talking about the Patriots’ decisive win, the dramatic overtime victory of the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers, or the biggest game of the year. They’re talking about deflated footballs. You can’t turn around without hearing a ball joke and “deflategate” has been the top news story all week.

The NFL kicked off the season embroiled in off-the-field issues surrounding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the fallout from which called into question the integrity of the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Now, it closes the season with an on-the-field issue, which takes direct aim at the integrity of the game itself.

What did the Patriots know? When did they know it? And who was responsible? We may never know.

My brilliant and witty friend, Shandon, coined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “The Blue Jasmine of football.” If you didn’t see the movie Blue Jasmine, the script was loosely written around disgraced financier Bernie Madoff’s (now estranged) wife, Ruth, an “innocent bystander” who benefited greatly from her husband’s greed. Bill Belichick in the role of Bernie Madoff doesn’t seem like a stretch. Except, of course, for his wardrobe.

The problem is, this Patriots plot has more holes than an adult film. Belichick, a notorious control freak, admits to scheming to make practice balls uncatchable, but wants us to believe he’s never thought about a football on game day. And Brady, who has a process for picking and preparing balls, has never actually squeezed one. For the record, my sister Jennifer (who is a Tom Brady fan) says even she can tell the difference in a fully inflated ball when she’s throwing it around the backyard with my nephews.

This franchise is no stranger to cheating scandals. In 2007, Belichick was imposed a $500,000 fine (the maximum allowable) for his role in taping the defensive play calls of the Patriots’ opponents, earning the nickname “Belicheat.” Now, with their team headed back to the Super Bowl, New England fans find themselves in the position of defending the Patriots and their accolades once again.

If the game isn’t fair, then the game means nothing. And this game means too much to too many people for that. The attention created by deflated footballs is not silly. As Tony Kornheiser said on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, “It shows you what the NFL means to this country.”

A strong stance is needed from the man in charge of defending the NFL shield. And with the game on the line, Roger Goodell can leave no doubt as to which team he’s on.

Time for a big play, Commissioner.

I hope you have it in you.

XO

On to the ‘Rex’ one. In Ryan, Bills find new leader.

Bills head coach Rex Ryan (Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Bills head coach Rex Ryan
(Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills introduce Rex Ryan as their new head coach. And I reintroduce Bills fan and guest blogger Maggie Zuffranieri with her reaction.

The Buffalo Bills is an organization recognized by fans and football connoisseurs for its rich history. A history that includes: a valiant victory in the “greatest comeback game ever played,” multiple division titles and conference championships, an appearance in four consecutive Super Bowls, and a franchise composed of multiple Hall of Famers. Though Bills fans are proud of their rich history, we continue to yearn for a reputable present and a prosperous future following a 15-year playoff draught.

2014, a season flourishing with great potential, quickly became a rollercoaster ride for fans after the passing of our beloved owner, Ralph Wilson Jr. Uncertainty around the team’s future and fear of franchise relocation shook the “Queen City,” HARD.

*Enter Terry and Kim Pegula* — *Sighs of relief*

The regular season instilled “billief” for fans of Buffalo Bills football. Playoff hopes were alive and attainable in December for the first time in many years. While Buffalo ultimately failed to reach the playoffs, the Bills found themselves with a winning record for the first time in ten years. However, as fate would have it, the season did not end at the conclusion of that victorious game in Foxborough.

Just days later, quarterback Kyle Orton announced his retirement from the NFL – a slap in the face for those hoping to employ his veteran poise for one more season. Nevertheless, this news was trivial compared to the blow felt when second-year head coach, Doug Marrone, opted out of his contract, essentially abandoning his team.

The Bills immediately scrambled to find a new head coach, interviewing numerous – and I mean numerous – offensive/defensive coordinators and former head coaches. Meanwhile, the fallout from Doug Marrone’s departure haunted Bills fans. He was characterized as having a poor attitude, lack of respect, and a sense of entitlement in sports and NFL blogs. Emotions intensified when rumors circulated that Marrone made negative comments about the organization to prospective “football czar,” Bill Polian.

But the conversation shifted Sunday morning, when chatter on the airwaves suggested that the Bills were preparing to make an offer to former New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan. The news was unpredicted and shocked many. Opinions flooded social media. But by Monday morning, it was official. And on Wednesday, the Buffalo Bills introduced Rex Ryan as their new head coach.

Though much remains to be proven, I believe Ryan possesses the skills and intellect needed to develop a winning franchise. He brings with him invaluable football knowledge and NFL experience. And his extreme distaste for the Patriots and Bill Belichick is just an added bonus!

Rex is recognized throughout the league as a defensive mastermind, giving Buffalo a unique opportunity to further improve its dominant defense. Ryan wasted no time tackling (pun intended) the need for a great offensive coordinator, securing Greg Roman, former 49ers offensive coordinator, and a perfect fit for Buffalo. Roman’s offensive schemes are heavily invested in a “ground and pound” philosophy and the Bills possess both talent and depth at running back, which should take pressure off of third-year quarterback EJ Manuel.

Perhaps the greatest attribute Rex will bring, is his genuine personality and the strong bond he’s known to form with his team. Not since the reign of Marv Levy, have the Bills had an outspoken coach who puts so much faith in his players – an essential component to a winning culture. Ryan’s reputation as a skilled motivator and a player’s coach has already created excitement among the players.

So, while 2014 was the rollercoaster ride no fan signed up for, it was one that forever changed our franchise. Though the future is unclear, it is clear that Terry and Kim Pegula are ready to do and risk whatever is necessary to make the Buffalo Bills a championship franchise once again.

Time for Peyton Manning to come home. For good.

Peyton Manning (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning
(Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

I love Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning made me a fanatical football fan. One of the most heartbreaking days of my life was the day Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts. And his homecoming as a Bronco was no easier. Peyton Manning is the reason I have football blogs, and Twitter followers, and talk on the radio.

Which is why it hurts me so badly to say this…

But, it’s time for Peyton Manning to retire.

He’s won football games, and playoff games, and a Super Bowl. He’s broken record upon NFL record.

But age and injury and surgery have finally caught up with him. Peyton Manning isn’t the Peyton Manning that I used to know. He may be at times. And his football mind is sharper than ever. But as each season goes on, his laser rocket arm can’t consistently deliver. And there isn’t enough time for his aging body to recover.

Peyton Manning got booed by his own fans in Denver last week. And selfishly, I just can’t stand to see it. I can’t endure a quarterback controversy or listen to screams to bench the future Hall of Famer in favor of someone younger. Not when that quarterback is My Peyton.

He’s got a family now and his health and more money than he can ever spend. And endless opportunities in football. And a fan base back in Indianapolis that aches to welcome him back. And retire his jersey. And build him a statue. And reminisce about the good old days while shedding tears of both joy and sadness…

And end his legendary career right where it began.

I’m coming home

I’m coming home

Tell the world I’m coming home

Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday

I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes

I’m coming home, I’m coming home

Tell the world I’m coming…home

Come home, Peyton.

We’re waiting.

XO

Jerry Jones and Chris Christie make strange bedfellows

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have a budding bromance

There was Carrie Underwood. And Jessica Simpson. And now, there’s…Chris Christie?!

Meet the new muse of the Dallas Cowboys.

The New Jersey governor is the latest public figure to be spotted regularly in the suite of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Last Sunday, when the Cowboys played the Detroit Lions in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs, Christie was photographed on the sideline, in Jones’ suite (in an awkward celebratory manhug), and going into the locker room afterwards.

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Which is all fine and good…if he wants to run for office in Texas.

The problem is, Christie represents a state with its own NFL team (even if no one wants to claim it), the New York Jets. And New Jersey is home to MetLife Stadium, which is shared by both the Jets and the New York Giants (a huge divisional rival of the Cowboys). I know, both teams say they’re from New York, but the Jets are actually based in New Jersey.

Christie’s brother Todd, who came to his defense on Facebook this week, says Chris is a lifelong fan of the Cowboys. Christie can be a fan of any team he wants. But showing up week after week in the owner’s suite is a bad look, even if it’s perfectly legal. It wreaks of big money power and influence. And it’s raised some ethical questions about a contract Christie pushed for a company part owned by Jones. Not to mention, Christie is reportedly preparing for the 2016 presidential election. You can bet those pictures in Jones’ suite will turn into campaign ads.

I can already hear them:

(Deep, dark male voice): “Chris Christie spent more time watching the Dallas Cowboys than watching government spending.”

(Concerned female voice): “Chris Christie cares more about football than children.” *A few of us (not naming names) may be guilty of that one.

Unlike Underwood and Simpson (both of whom were shunned when quarterback Tony Romo broke up with them), Christie may have some staying power with the Cowboys, seeing as the team is winning. Jerry Jones has said Christie is part of the team’s mojo. And he fully expects him to be at this week’s big divisional game against the Packers in Green Bay. God knows the Cowboys will need all of their mojo to beat Aaron Rodgers.

While it isn’t apparent at first, Chris Christie and Jessica Simpson actually have some similarities. They’re both Republicans. They’ve both endured public scrutiny over their weight and their attendance at Cowboys games. They both wear orange well. But only one of them has ever looked good in Daisy Duke shorts.

Are you happy, Governor? You’ve become a caricature.

Maybe you and Jerry are soulmates after all.

XO

With Adrian Peterson, the NFL finally gets it right

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
(Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Go back to September. We were outraged. We were embarrassed. And more than anything, we were done. Video of Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious followed by pictures of the four-year-old son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson with whip marks on his body was more than we could bear. We wanted a culture change and we wanted it now. We took to social media. We threatened to boycott (I didn’t, but others did). And the National Football League responded.

Armed with new advisors, new guidelines, and a new zero-tolerance stance on domestic violence, the NFL conducted a test of its revised personal conduct policy. And on Tuesday, Adrian Peterson became its poster boy.

In a statement released by the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that contrary to popular belief, Peterson would not be eligible for reinstatement by the league until April 15, 2015 at the earliest. His conditions (which include counseling, therapy, and community service) and reasoning were clearly spelled out in a letter addressed to Peterson and made public through the media.

“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old.  The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child.

 

Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.

 

Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct.  When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

 

-NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Adrian Peterson

In the end, Goodell left no room for doubt. It’s not perfect. There are still ethical, legal, and procedural issues to navigate. But in one long overdue ruling, the NFL finally demonstrated it’s not messing around when it comes to violence against women and children.

And for the first time in months, I was proud.

XO