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

Peyton Manning’s Real Legacy

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (Photo: (Mark Humphrey/AP)

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
(Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP)

There will be much talk about Peyton Manning’s legacy in the days, weeks, and months following Super Bowl XLVIII.

I will be honest…this wasn’t the Peyton Manning legacy story I was hoping to write this week.

The one I was prepared to write, had half written in my head was the one where he wins another Super Bowl, erases all question marks, and goes down in our hearts and minds as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

I didn’t scrap it, because…he’s still Peyton Manning. And he’s still playing (as far as we know). And it’s still stuck in my head. But, it got me thinking about Peyton’s legacy. And legacies in general.

And here’s what I decided…

The thing about titles is that they’re temporary. It’s kind of like being the prettiest girl in school. You may be right now…but there’s always someone younger and cuter coming up behind you. Or, in Peyton’s case…someone younger, stronger, and tanner, with more hair.

You can look at the numbers all day long. I won’t, but others will. Super Bowls, playoff wins versus losses, touchdowns, passing yards…but those records will eventually be broken. By someone. Someday. Possibly many times over.

The legacy that I think will stand the test of time…is how Peyton Manning changed the game.

Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, Peyton Manning came into the NFL, not just a quarterback, but a student of the game. Stories of his weekly preparation and near-photographic memory have become almost folklore amongst his former coaches and teammates.

The role of Peyton Manning is that of a quarterback/offensive coordinator hybrid. Manning’s longtime offensive coordinator with the Colts, Tom Moore, used to joke that calling a play out to Peyton Manning was “merely a suggestion.”

Manning raised the bar on the job of the modern era quarterback. Being a leader and gunslinger was no longer sufficient. Nor was relying on athleticism to win games. He had a laser rocket arm, but his real weapon was his razor-sharp mind. To compete against Peyton Manning, or even in the same league with him…all quarterbacks would have to adapt.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made headlines in 2013, when he declared that his quarterback, Tony Romo (an avid golfer), would be putting in “Peyton Manning-type time” during the offseason. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has talked openly about how much it changed his game when he started studying film and game planning for opponents.

Even Manning’s arch-nemesis, Tom Brady, has called him “the greatest of all time.” Speaking to the NFL Network back in 2011, Brady said of Manning:

“He’s a friend of mine, and someone that I always watch and admire, because he always wants to improve, he always wants to get better, and he doesn’t settle for anything less than the best. So, when you watch the best and you’re able to learn from the best, hopefully that helps me get better.”
-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Peyton Manning

And even after mocking him, saying he “throws some ducks,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman had nothing but praise for Manning on Twitter. Here’s what he tweeted shortly after defeating him in Super Bowl XLVIII:

Peyton is the Classiest person/player I have ever met! I could learn so much from him! Thank you for being a great Competitor and person”
-Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (via Twitter) 

I don’t need Peyton to win another Super Bowl or even another game to cement what I believe is his real legacy.

With class, humility, and a good old-fashioned work ethic, Peyton Manning changed the game of football. For the better. Forever. For all of us.

And that, my friends…will be his true and lasting legacy.

XO

Super Bowl XLVIII: The Future is Now

Peyton Manning congratulates Russell Wilson on his Super Bowl victory. (Photo: Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Peyton Manning congratulates Russell Wilson on his Super Bowl victory.
(Photo: Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

I still can’t believe it. I woke up this morning thinking, “Did it really happen like that?” Was Super Bowl XLVIII really the smackdown of my foggy morning memory?

And then, I remembered the conversation I had with my dad before I went to bed last night. He said, “Heather…it was a changing of the guard. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the quarterbacks of the past. The NFL belongs to Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and Andrew Luck now.”

And you know what? He’s right.

One of the things I loved about the matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks was that storyline. The guy who was the blueprint for the modern day quarterback meets…the modern day quarterback. Only this time, the blueprint is a little different. Today’s modern day quarterback is younger, stronger, shorter (in Wilson’s case), and a little more mobile (ok, a lot more mobile).

The writing was on the wall during the 2012 draft. We saw the new class of NFL quarterbacks emerge. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson didn’t just come out of college ready to play…they came out ready to win. Throw in Colin Kaepernick, who started in his first game for the San Francisco 49ers in November of 2012, and in just two seasons…all of those quarterbacks have taken their teams to the NFL playoffs, won playoff games, two (Kaepernick and Wilson) have appeared in Super Bowls, and now…Russell Wilson has won one.

The NFL has always been a young man’s league. But, at no time has that been truer than now.

So, what does that mean for football fans? Well, for me…it means a couple of things.

I am going to enjoy every last game I get to see Peyton Manning and Tom Brady play in. I will cherish every memory the future hall of famers have given me over the years and hope to add to that collection for seasons to come.

In the meantime, I will appreciate watching the new franchise faces of the league as they emerge from the shadows of the Bradys and Mannings, come into their own, and start writing their Road to Canton stories. Just like Russell Wilson did last night.

The future of the NFL is in good hands.

Welcome to the future.

XO

Lights out on Super Bowl XLVII and NFL season

Photo: @Rachel_Nichols

Photo: @Rachel_Nichols

The Baltimore Ravens’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans on Sunday was both an end and a beginning. It was the end of a long season, a long road, and a long career.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis retires a two-time world champion and vows to spend his time sacrificing for his children the way they have sacrificed for him during his career. He also vowed to hoist the Lombardi trophy and ascend directly into heaven. I’m not going to hold him responsible for not delivering on that one though. For all we know, there was some kind of electrical malfunction with the Superdome roof.

Super Bowl XLVII also marks the end of the questions surrounding Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and whether he is an “elite” quarterback. Flacco is elite. How do I know that? Because #EliteAsFu** is trending on twitter. And because the Super Bowl MVP is about to be paid as an elite quarterback.

“Steve Bisciotti (Ravens owner) told me that if this happens, that I can go pound on the desk and really stick it to him. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

-Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco

Bad Flacco just walked off into the sunset. Never to be heard from again. Wearing Ray Lewis’ white suit.

Sunday also marked some beginnings. The beginning of what is sure to be a long and exciting career for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And for all the talk of his mistakes on Sunday, let us not forget…the Super Bowl was this kid’s tenth NFL start. He could pee his pants in the huddle and I wouldn’t look down on him. He gave his team a chance in the second half of the game, just like he did the second half of the season…and just like he will continue to do for a long, long time. We hope.

It could also be the beginning of some awkward family dinners for the Harbaughs. Do you think that maybe (after a few drinks) that no-call in end zone will come up at Easter dinner? And Jim Harbaugh is sure to throw a tantrum. And color all over John’s eggs with his red sharpie.

And perhaps, the beginning of the end of New Orleans hosting Super Bowls (at least for a while). I think they can pretty much rip up that 2018 Super Bowl bid. And I wonder if Mercedes-Benz will renew their naming rights for the stadium. They already have reliability issues with electricity in their vehicles.

But the 49ers should be grateful, because the lights going out was the only thing that got them back in that game. I would also like to express my appreciation, because when the Superdome went dark…the Twitterverse lit up like a Christmas tree. Here are some of my favorites:

 

Yes, the end of Super Bowl XLVII is the beginning of a long offseason for football fans. Thanks, all…for hanging with me this season. I have loved every minute of it. You have made my first season as an official football blogger not only a success, but a new beginning for me as well. Where this will go…I have no idea. But I couldn’t do it without each and every one of you taking the time to read my musings. I thought I was just entertaining myself.

In the meantime, don’t be a stranger. It’s going to be an eventful offseason and I’m going to need someone to mock the ridiculous with.

Thanks also to my husband Michael, who has been very patient with the household chores I have neglected in the meantime. I promise to keep up on laundry…at least until August.

And so, the lights go down on the season. And the Superdome. Again.

Boom!

XO

How to get your girl to love the game. Or at least like it.

Photo: Pigskin ‘N Pearls

She’s the one. She’s everything you ever wanted. Even your mom likes her. There’s just one problem: she doesn’t like football. If you’re like me (and if you’re reading this, you are)…that is a big problem. Because football for us isn’t so much a sport, but a way of life.

Well, fear not. You shouldn’t have to choose between the woman you love and the sport you’re obsessed with. That would be so unfortunate for her. Instead, let’s see if we can make them get along.

Here’s what you need to know if you want your girl (to want) to watch football:

1) Make it about the people. Even if she doesn’t understand the game yet (or doesn’t care to), surely she can appreciate the story of two brothers whose teams are battling each other in the Super Bowl. Or the young quarterback starting in just his tenth NFL game. Or the poor guy he replaced on the sideline. And then there’s Ray Lewis. Maybe you don’t go there…

2) We love gossip. Who’s married to who? Who used to be with who? Any pop culture or celebrity references will instantly get her attention. Hmmm…this would be so much easier if it was anyone BUT the 49ers and Ravens playing. But, you could always show her Joe Flacco’s wedding pictures. They’re amazing!

3) Truth: Women can’t get excited about anything until they know what they’re wearing. Get her a cute blinged out top with her team (or your team) logo and let her start accessorizing. We love All Sport Couture. And Meesh & Mia just came out with a fabulous Super Bowl line. Honest…we’ll look forward to a funeral if we’re excited enough about our outfit.

4) Make a day of it. The game is three hours long. Surround it with stuff she likes to do…and she’ll be more likely to start liking game day. Go to a mimosa or bloody mary brunch before. Go to a nice dinner after. Do both!

5) Make it social. Watch the game with some of your favorite couples. Preferably, couples with other women who like football. Their passion will rub off on her. They’ll talk about the players and their tight ends. They’ll make sure they include her. They’ll make fun of her. And before long, she’ll cave. To fit in.

6) Get her some training. Most NFL teams hold a Football 101 course for women. They bring players in, go over the rules, line up on the practice field, try some plays. Nothing will help her appreciate the game like understanding the game. And in the process, she may teach you a thing or two.

7) Now you’re getting desperate. If nothing has worked so far…bribery will. You may have to trade your football Sunday for Saturday night at the symphony, or the ballet, or karaoke. I know.

8) There’s this great football blog that mixes game day with pop culture, witty humor, and a little bit of girly bling. It’s called Pigskin ‘N Pearls. Ya. You know it. You read it. And I love you for it. Introduce me to her. We’ll bond.

9) We can be bought. Obviously. If you’re just learning this now, I feel bad for you. But, your life is about to get much easier. I did not say cheaper.

10) And if she still refuses to watch football…why are you together again? She must make up for it in other ways. I won’t judge. I know Jim Harbaugh can’t keep you warm at night.

And one last thing…you’re not going to convince her overnight. So, above all else…be patient. God knows she’s had to be with you.

Now, would you please pick up your socks? And put down the toilet seat.

Sigh…

XO