Tag Archives: American Football

Why The Chances Of The XFL Returning Aren’t Great (For Now)

About The XFL

I love sports.

I love football.

For a good four months out of the year, I build my entire Sundays around watching football. Those are often some of the happiest days of the year for me. I’m also not alone. Here in America, football is the most popular sport by a stunningly wide margin. Despite recent political whining, the public’s appetite for football is as strong as ever.

However, in the time between the Super Bowl and the NFL draft, there’s a gaping hole in the sports world that neither hocky nor basketball can adequately fill. For decades, some have tried to fill that hole with spring football, but with limited success. As a lifelong football fan, I really wanted at least one to succeed, if only to make the wait for the next NFL season more bearable.

That was why I was so heartbroken in 2020 when the second iteration of the XFL went under, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This league had everything going for it. I even cheered it on. It had all the makings of a successful league that could finally succeed long term.

Then, COVID-19 happened it all went to hell. I cannot overstate how disappointing that was to me and fellow football fans.

For once, this wasn’t a matter of a league not doing things the right way. It was just a matter of the worst possible timing. Seriously, who could’ve predicted that a once-in-a-century pandemic would come in and upend the world, as we knew it?

Even though the XFL was eventually brought back from the brink of oblivion by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, my hopes are still very fragile. Earlier this year, the XFL tried to make waves by reaching out to the Canadian Football League for a potential collaboration. That went nowhere and understandably so. Neither league is in a position to take bold risks like that.

As disappointing as that was, the XFL did make an official announcement of sorts, courtesy of the Rock. In a YouTube video from the XFL’s main channel, the league announced its return in 2023. It’s keeping the same logo and the same motto. It wasn’t flashy, but this is probably the most we’ll get for now.

While I like that something official came out, a part of me remains skeptical. Don’t get me wrong. I really want the XFL to get another shot. If ever a league deserved a mulligan for circumstances beyond its control, it’s this one. No other failed football league had to deal with a global pandemic. This it not like the AAF or the USFL. This was bad timing and worst circumstances.

That said, this video leaves me unconvinced and worried. I know that 2023 is a long way off. As of now, this league has no coaches and no players. It has nothing both the Rock’s backing. While I’m never one to doubt the Rock, I just don’t know if the third time will be the charm for this league. It has had too much bad luck to this point.

If I had to put odds as to whether we’ll see another XFL game at some point, I would put it at 15 percent. Those are not good odds. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that, but after the heartbreak of last year, I just can’t bring myself to get excited.

Maybe something will change. I really hope it does. I had fun watching those XFL games. They felt like real football with real players who were following their dream. The XFL felt like the best possible chance for spring football to succeed, more so than the upcoming reboot of the USFL. I want it to get that chance. However, the odds of that chance becoming something more aren’t great at the moment.

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The Life Ryan O’Callaghan: A Sad (But Uplifting) Story About A Former NFL Player Coming Out

Ryan O'Callaghan #75 of the Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 14, 2010 in Denver Colorado.

For a brief moment, picture a typical gay man. Depending on when you grew up, where you came from, and what sort of media you consumed, you probably have a certain image in your head. I suspect that image looks nothing like Ryan O’Callaghan.

Unless you’re a world class NFL football nerd, chances are you haven’t heard that name before. However, after learning about his story, I hope he’s someone who has changed your perception of what it means to be LGBTQ. That’s because Ryan O’Callaghan’s story is a sad, downright heartbreaking story on many levels, but one that has a happy, uplifting ending.

We need more stories like that, especially during Pride Month. We need them now more than ever.

To appreciate what Ryan O’Callaghan went through, it’s necessary to appreciate how hard it can be to live life as a closeted gay man. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a story from decades ago. Ryan O’Callaghan was born in 1983. He’s pretty much the same age as I am. He was born at a time when things were steadily improving for the LGBTQ community.

However, that wasn’t much solace for him. He grew up in a very conservative part of California. After realizing he was gay, he had no idea how he was going to live that life in such an environment. That led him to hide his sexuality. At one point, he even made plans to kill himself.

It’s hard to imagine how agonizing it must be, having to hide a part of who you are from everyone around you. Forget, for a moment, how you feel about homosexuality in general. Imagine trying to hide a big part of who you are from everyone and being terrified of the truth coming out. Could we really manage keeping a secret like that?

I know I couldn’t. I question the honesty of anyone who claims they can. For Ryan O’Callaghan, it was too much. He really didn’t believe he could live a full life as an openly gay man. The best he could do was hide his secret as long as he could. That was where football came in.

This goes back to that picture I conjured earlier. Ryan O’Callaghan is 6 foot 7 inches tall. During his playing days through college and the NFL, he weight in between 250 and 330 pounds. He was an offensive lineman. He looked and played the part. In essence, he was the last person anyone expected to be gay and that’s how he liked it.

Through high school, college, and the NFL, he let football be his mask. It’s supposed to be the manliest sport in the world. Even after Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to play in the NFL in 2014, there’s still this perception that the men who play football fit a certain ideal and that ideal doesn’t involve being gay.

That’s not to say there haven’t been gay players in the NFL. In fact, there have been quite a few. One of the best tight ends in NFL history, Jerry Smith, played his entire 13 year career in the NFL as a closeted gay man. There’s a good chance there are active players in the NFL right now who are gay, but in the closet.

Be that as it may, it offered no comfort to Ryan O’Callaghan. Football was still his mask, but he loved playing it enough to keep going. It also helped that he was very good at it. He was so good that he managed to get a college scholarship with the California Golden Bears. He went onto play well enough to get drafted by the New England Patriots in 2006.

That’s a level of success very few football players ever reach, regardless of position. The fact that Ryan was able to go that far is a testament to both his skill and his talent for the game. Doing it all while in the closet just makes it all the more harrowing.

However, that success didn’t change his plans. Ryan still believed he could not live life as an openly gay man. Once his playing days were over, he still planned to take his own life. At one point, he even wrote a suicide letter, bought guns, and built a cabin. That’s how close he came to ending it all.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.

Before he took that fatal step, he got help from a clinical psychologist. She helped him out of that dark place. Eventually, he was able to come out, revealing his secret to the general manager who had drafted him. It’s hard to overstate how big that moment must have been for him.

I certainly can’t do it justice. I’ve only touched on some of the details surrounding Ryan O’Callaghan’s story. For a more a more complete picture, check out his book, My Life On The Line. Also, I highly recommend that everyone read this story done by Outsports. It covers Ryan’s struggles in far greater depth.

I should offer a bit of a trigger warning, though. Some of the details are difficult to take in, but it’s worth noting that this story has a happy ending. Here’s a brief snippet.

Outsports: Former Patriots and Chiefs tackle Ryan O’Callaghan comes out as gay

Very early on in the process he felt it was mandatory to share his truth with Pioli, the man who had brought him from New England and helped keep his career — and his life — moving forward.

Just after the 2011 season, O’Callaghan visited Pioli in his office.

The day before he had called his general manager, who had become a good friend, to ask him for a meeting. Pioli had known about O’Callaghan’s drug abuse, and the gravity in his player’s voice over the phone told him that something dire was on his mind.

“He had built this up like he was coming in to tell me that maybe he had done something truly terrible,” Pioli remembered.

O’Callaghan trudged into Pioli’s office the next day. After a hug and some small talk, O’Callaghan turned serious. He told Pioli he had been visiting with Wilson and had gotten “clean.” It was good news to Pioli.

“I’ve got something else I’ve got to tell you,” O’Callaghan said. At this point he was fighting back tears. Pioli’s mind raced, wondering if his player had harmed or killed someone.

“I’m gay,” O’Callaghan said.

His private announcement was met with immediate support from the GM. Then:

“So what’s the problem you wanted to talk me about?” Pioli asked.

O’Callaghan looked at him, bewildered, 27 years of fear, anxiety and self-loathing meeting Pioli’s stare.

“Scott,” O’Callaghan said, “I’m… gay.”

Pioli acknowledged that and asked again if O’Callaghan had done something wrong.

“People like me are supposed to react a certain way, I guess,” Pioli told Outsports. “I wasn’t minimizing what he was telling me, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. He built this up and built this up to the point where he said he was nearly suicidal. What Ryan didn’t know is how many gay people I’ve had in my life.”

O’Callaghan also didn’t know that, according to Pioli, he wasn’t the first gay NFL player whom his GM had counseled.

The two men talked more and Pioli assured O’Callaghan that their conversation changed nothing, he was still there to support him, and they were still friends. O’Callaghan was shocked by the reaction. Pioli handled it pitch-perfectly, as though he had known all along. So O’Callaghan asked if his boss had, in fact, known.

“Ryan, how would I have known?” Pioli responded.

“Do you really think I like coffee that much?” O’Callaghan asked.

Pioli had no idea what his player was talking about.

O’Callaghan had, since his time in New England, headed to the training room after every practice to consume copious amounts of coffee, a convenient excuse to avoid being in the showers with the rest of his teammates.

Pioli got emotional at the thought of one of his players having to go to those lengths to keep some distance from his teammates. The mental toll this had all taken on O’Callaghan had come into focus.

As they rose to say goodbye, Pioli came around from behind his desk and opened his arms to embrace O’Callaghan. They had hugged countless times before, after games, after the offseason, even just moments ago when O’Callaghan walked into his office.

This time O’Callaghan stuck out his hand to shake.

“What’s with the handshake?” Pioli asked.

“I just told you I’m gay,” O’Callaghan replied sheepishly.

Pioli was having none of it and grabbed O’Callaghan.

“Dude, it’s OK,” Pioli said. Then, in his signature sense of humor, “Just don’t grab my butt.”

That broke the tension and O’Callaghan burst into laughter. The humor was a sign to him that Pioli wasn’t going to change. They could get along just as they always had.

“Don’t worry,” O’Callaghan replied, “You’re not my type.”

I sincerely hope this story resonates with others for all the right reasons. Whether you’re openly LGBTQ, in the closet, or just know people who are struggling with their sexuality, I hope the story of Ryan O’Callaghan offers insight and perspective.

Yes, we’ve made progress as a society. Life for the LGBTQ community is better now than it has been in the past. We still have room for improvement, as Ryan’s story perfectly illustrates. If you or anyone you know is struggling, I hope this story helps you in some way.

Also, if you need help or are at all feeling suicidal, please check out the resources of the Trevor Project. Thank you an have a Happy Pride Month.

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Filed under football, LGBTQ, NFL, psychology, real stories, sports

My Top 5 Most Anticipated Games For The 2021 NFL Season

NFL delays deciding on expanding regular season until 2021 | Yardbarker

For lifelong football fans like me, this is often a bittersweet time of year. The most eventful parts of the NFL offseason have come and gone. Both free agency and the NFL Draft are behind us. All 32 teams in the NFL are very different compared to what they were when the 2020 season ended. For many fans, especially of those whose teams had major overhauls, it’s an exciting time.

As of now, every team is 0-0.

Every team has the potential to go from worst to first.

Every player has the potential to become the best at their position.

At this point, most people know what they’re team is going to look like when the season starts. Now, we also know who, when, and where they’ll play because the NFL just released the full 2021 schedule. It all starts on September 9, 2021 with the Cowboys facing the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Even if you’re not a fan of those particular teams, that’ll be a glorious day if you’re just a football fan in general.

Given how crazy last year was with games being delayed and no fans being in the stands, I am ready for a full season that isn’t utterly chaotic because of a once-in-a-century pandemic. I can’t wait to see the day when full stadiums of cheering fans are a regular thing again. It’s something I hope players and fans alike never take for granted.

While that wait is going to be long from here on out, the release of the schedule already has me excited. So, to help pass the time while I wait for kickoff, here’s a brief list of the games from 2021 that I’m most excited about. Please note that this is just my list. Yours may differ considerably, depending on your favorite/most hated team. If you think there’s another game worthy of such hype, please mention it in the comments.


#5: Jaguars @ Texans in Week 1

Jaguars news: Trevor Lawrence thanks Clemson as he looks ahead to NFL

This is likely more of a curiosity than anything else. It’s the debut of the all new, fully rebuilt Jaguars and their new number one overall pick, Trevor Lawrence. Some call him Football Jesus. Some think he’s a once-in-a-generation quarterback who will take the Jaguars to a whole new level. We may not know how true that is with this game, but I’ll certainly be curious to see what he and Urban Meyer can do.

Plus, Tim Tebow could be back. That can only make this game more exciting.


#4: Steelers @ Chiefs in Week 16

Chiefs vs. Steelers recap: Kansas City moves to 2-0 with emotional road win

These are two perennial playoff teams with high-flying offenses. They both have Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Hall of Fame coaches who have won Super Bowls. This is one of those match-ups where you know you’re getting the best and at this point in the season, this match-up could very well determine which team has the top seed in the playoffs and which team will have to travel on their path to another Super Bowl.

Then again, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers didn’t mind traveling last year on the road to their championship, so there’s that.


#3: Packers @ Chiefs in Week 9

Packers vs. Chiefs: Three questions with Arrowhead Addict

I know. It’s another Chiefs game. No, I’m not playing favorites. I’ve just been watching football long enough to know that Patrick Mahomes makes any game worth watching. However, add future Hall of Famer Aaron Rogers to the mix and this could be must-see TV. Now, it’s not yet clear what’ll happen between the Packers and Rogers. I’ve been following the trade rumors along with anyone else. I don’t think there’s enough there to think someone different will be under center by the time this game is played. Hopefully, it’s still the match-up we all hope it will be.

Plus, this should’ve been the Super Bowl last year. It really should’ve.


#2: Ravens @ Steelers in Week 13

Steelers vs. Ravens: A decade by decade breakdown of one of the NFL's  greatest rivalries - CBSSports.com

I don’t think I need to say much to justify this. It’s Ravens versus Steelers. They’re not just division rivals. They’re two of the hardest hitting teams in the AFC. Both are regularly in the playoff hunt, especially by mid-season. Both have top tier quarterbacks and quality defenses. It’s usually at this point in the season where one team separates themselves from another and it’s usually in a match-up like this when we see these teams at their best.

If you’re a fan of old school had-nose football, this is your game.


#1: Buccaneers @ Patriots in Week 4

Tom Brady's 2 TD passes, Ryan Succop's 4 field goals lift Buccaneers over  Giants

It’s Tom Brady’s first time playing in Foxboro for a team that’s not the Patriots. Need I say more? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to every play and his greatness brought six Super Bowl titles to New England. Him leaving was a big deal. Him coming back as a Buccaneer after winning them the Super Bowl will an even bigger deal. This is one of those games that’ll have a lot of drama to it. It’ll feel like a playoff game and it’ll only be Week 4.

For that reason, this will likely be the most anticipated game of the season for many, myself included.


I’ll say it again. I am so ready for some football. I know I’ll have to wait a few more months for it to arrive, but I’ll be ready when the time comes. The wait will be agonizing and these five games are just a small slice of a much larger, more delicious cake that is the NFL season, but it’ll be worth it.

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A (Longview) Question For Those Who Fought To Change The Name Of The Washington Redskins

It’s really happening.

I doubt anyone expected it to happen in their lifetimes, but after years of protesting and pushing, it’s finally happening. The Washington Redskins are changing their name. As someone who has followed NFL football his entire life and knows way too much about the history of every team, I am genuinely shocked. I really didn’t think this was going to happen, especially with how stubborn the owner of the team has been.

Shocked or not, it’s happening. The Washington Post announced it and the team made it official. They are changing their name.

Washington Post: Redskins To Retire Team Name

In an interview July 4, Coach Ron Rivera – who is working with owner Daniel Snyder to choose a name – said he hoped the new name would be in place by the start of the 2020 NFL season. Others have said it will be revealed as soon as within two weeks.

Two people with knowledge of the team’s plans said Sunday that the preferred replacement name is tied up in a trademark fight, which is why the team can’t announce the new name Monday.

Many are already celebrating this victory. In the battle against offensive sports mascots, this was the equivalent of Goliath. It’s one thing to get a publicly funded college to change their name. It’s quite another to get a private multibillion dollar sports franchise with an 80-plus years history. It’s a huge feat. Let’s not deny that.

Granted, it’s a feat that only happened once money became a factor. This was not done for moral reasons or because someone made an impassioned plea. This was a business decision done for the sake of doing future business. If there’s any lesson to be drawn from this endeavor, it’s that. Moral arguments do nothing. Money does all the talking.

It’s because of that, I suspect this is one of those issues that will still divide people. No matter what the new name is, people are still going to see them as “that team that used to be called the Redskins” or “that team that used to have a racist moniker.” Even though the team eventually did what some saw as the right thing, they’ll still be scorned because they didn’t do it soon enough.

That’s just the world we live in. The people who protested the name aren’t going to say “thank you.” They’re more likely to say, “It’s about damn time you racist piece of shit. Now, suffer for the rest of your life while we shame you, your children, and everyone you ever associate with and take it with a goddamn smile.”

That might be hyperbole, but that’s the power of outrage. It’s kind of addictive. The idea of turning anger into kindness, friendship, and harmony just feels like a bridge too far. People do get bored with outrage eventually, but only because they find something else to direct it towards.

That being said, I have a question to all those who are celebrating this feat. I want to ask that same question to everyone who passionately protested this name for years, protesting its racist connotations and use of caricatures. It’s a sincere, simple question that I hope people seriously contemplate.

What real, tangible benefit will changing the name of a football team accomplish for Native Americans communities in the long run?

The key word in that question is tangible. I’m aware of the various studies regarding the psychological impact of Native American mascots and caricatures. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this. However, psychological impacts don’t always translate into tangible impacts. You can feel and think all you want. If you don’t do anything with it, then the impact never goes beyond brain chemicals.

As I write this, nearly a quarter of Native Americans live in poverty and the unemployment rate on many reservations is around 40 percent. That’s a trend that has not improved substantially in recent years, regardless of how many or how few mascots a sports team uses. The Native American community has a host of other critical issues to deal with that include, but are not limited to:

  • Violence against Women and Children
  • Native Americans are Less Educated
  • Poor Quality Housing
  • Inadequate Health Care
  • Unable to Exercise Voting Rights
  • Native Language is Becoming Extinct
  • Limited Financial Institutions in the Native Communities
  • Natural Resources Exploitation

These are complex issues. I’m certainly not equipped to discuss them in detail. Some are more urgent than others, but plenty involve real, tangible impacts on a community. A lack of adequate health care, decent housing, and good education all incur tangible impacts. That’s beyond dispute. How will changing the name of a football team affect any of these issues?

I’m not being facetious. I genuinely want to know how much or how little that changing the name of an NFL football team will impact Native American communities in a tangible way. I don’t doubt that some will feel better about not having a football team with a racially insensitive name, but is that the only extent of the impact? Does that impact justify all the time, energy, and resources that went into this effort?

Please don’t answer that question now. Preferably, I’d like someone who is in touch with the Native American community to answer at least four years from now. By then, there will have been enough time for the impact of this event to play out. Whether it’s a decrease in poverty or an improvement in life expectancy, it should be clear by then. If it isn’t, then that poses another question.

Was all that effort to change the name of a football team a quality use of time and resources?

Again, that’s not a facetious question. I ask this as someone who really wants to know just how much a football team’s name actually impacts a large number of people within a minority community. I don’t expect to get clear answers now, but I hope they become clearer in the next few years. I also expect those answers to raise even more distressing questions.

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How The NFL Might Have Just Guaranteed A Work Stoppage In The Future

I’m no expert on labor laws, union contracts, or the general business operations of professional sports. I’d never claim otherwise. I’m just a typical guy who loves watching sports. I have about as much expertise to judge a labor dispute as I do in performing brain surgery.

While I lack the expertise, I’ve been on this planet long enough to know when there’s potential conflict down the line. It’s not always obvious, but the signs are usually the same. People see an opportunity to resolve a conflict in the short term, but lay the foundation for greater conflicts in the long run. Like treating a symptom rather than a disease, it simply delays a bigger problem rather than resolving it.

That’s my initial take on the recent approval of the NFL’s new 10-year collective bargaining agreement. At a time when the news about sports has been historically bleak, many see this as a rare bit of good news from the sports world. To some extent, it is. By approving this deal, the NFL avoids a potential work stoppage that could’ve occurred after the 2020 season.

As a die-hard football fan, which I’ve affirmed more than once on this site, I’m glad to hear that this issue wasn’t drawn out. The last time this occurred, there was a full-blown lockout that almost bled into the season. I understand why labor deals are such a big deal in professional sports. Football, especially, requires unique protections for players who want to make money playing an objectively dangerous game.

However, the news on this deal has some details and circumstances that give me pause. It’s not just that certain players are already criticizing it. That’s bound to happen with any deal. The fact that this deal was approved amidst a massive crisis that has rocked the sports world to its core and by such a narrow margin is somewhat telling.

In general, when something is approved by a narrow margin, it’s a sign that neither side is all that happy. It implies there are still many unresolved issues and the presence of a deal doesn’t make those issues go away. Just look at how often narrowly decided Supreme Court decisions tend to cause more issues down the road.

The issues between the players and owners are many, but most boil down to who gets how much of the massive revenue that the NFL generates every year. This new deal gives the players a larger share of the revenue, but also sets the stage for an 17-game season, as well as an expanded playoffs.

As a football fan, I love the prospect of more football, but I also don’t deny that issues that tend to arise whenever you ask workers to work longer. These players already put their bodies through more rigor than most fans can ever fathom and now they’re being asked to push themselves even more. Even if it’s for more money, is the amount they got enough?

It’s hard to say since I’m not an NFL player, but the fact that the players approved the deal by such a narrow margin leads me to believe it’s not. Some may not oppose it, but I think the stage is already set for a much bigger conflict down the line. Once players start playing this 17-game season and see the amount of revenue it generates, they’re going to want more for the grind they endure.

Given the circumstances surrounding this deal, I suspect the only way they’ll get what they want is by going on strike, like they did back in the early 1980s. It might be their only recourse if the NFL continues to grow at its current pace. It will get ugly. Fans will hate it and so will the owners. However, it might be the only way they can get what they want.

I hope I’m wrong about this. I look forward to every new NFL season with great excitement. I want to keep enjoying football as a fan and I want the players to benefit as much as they deserve. Hopefully, cooler heads prevail in the end. For now, though, I think it’s only a matter of time before the NFL faces a bigger conflict that they won’t be able to blame on a pandemic.

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My Reaction To Week One Of The (New And Improved) XFL

Two years ago, I expressed intrigue and excitement about the prospect of the XFL returning almost 20 years after its initial failure. Part of that is because I’m a lifelong football fan. My annual excitement over the Super Bowl is proof of that. Another part of that is because the months between February and April, when baseball season starts, is a sports desert.

The NBA and NHL regular season is winding down.

The NCAA basketball tournament hasn’t started yet.

There’s a real void to be filled. Many have tried to fill it with spring football, including the first version of the XFL. To date, all have failed. It has led some to believe that spring football just isn’t possible. I respectfully disagree with that sentiment.

I believe there is a market for more football and I believe this new version of the XFL is doing everything right in pursuing it. They took their time, using the past two years to make sure they had plenty of money in hand and refine the rules. After plenty of waiting and anticipation, week one kicked off this past weekend. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Given how the first XFL failed, it could’ve been a disaster.

After watching all four games and seeing the quality of the product on the field, I have just one thing to say. As it just so happens, Morty Smith said it better.

I know it’s premature.

I know a lot can change between the first week of the season in the last.

For now, that doesn’t matter. I’m in. The XFL 2.0 has sold me. It’s real football at a time when the sports world needs it. I was rooting for it before. Now, I’m rooting even harder. The world of football and the world of sports, in general, will benefit from the XFL succeeding.

I still miss the old XFL cheerleaders, but I’ll manage.

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A Message To Those Who Whined About The Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show

I promise I won’t keep obsessing over the Super Bowl and how great it was this year, even though it was an objectively amazing game. I originally intended to take a break from sports references for a while, if only to prepare myself for baseball season.

However, those plans went out the window when I saw the equally amazing Super Bowl halftime show featuring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. To say it was stunning would’ve been an insult. I’ll go on record as saying it’s the greatest Super Bowl halftime show of all time. I don’t see how it will be topped in the near future.

That said, I knew before it was over that it was going to piss some people off. I didn’t even need to check my Twitter feed to know who those people were. I could already sense the collective gasps of a certain segment of people who identify too much with Helen Lovejoy.

We know who these people are. Some of them identify with a particular religion. Some identify with a particular ideology. It doesn’t always come from one point in the spectrum, but it always comes from the extremes. It’s annoying, frustrating, idiotic, asinine, selfish, and just plain stupid. I put it on the same level as those behind those awful car insurance commercials that I despise.

To these people, there’s no arguing with them. They see two beautiful women dancing, singing, and energizing a crowd and they don’t see fun. They see something dangerous, subversive, and perverse. To them, such a thing shouldn’t even exist. It’s not just offensive. It’s dangerous and could corrupt the minds, bodies, and souls of children and adults alike.

To those same people, I have a message.

Grow up or get out.

If that sounds too harsh, I’m sorry. I don’t know of a nicer way to say it.

If you’re the kind of religious zealot who see women doing anything other than obeying her husband, birthing children, and keeping her mouth shut, then you’re in the wrong part of the world.

If you’re the kind of dogmatic, moral values preaching conservative who think women and music that wouldn’t be allowed in a 1950s sitcom is a subversive plot, then your attitudes are 10 steps behind that of most children.

If you’re the kind of regressive, perpetually angry liberal who think any depiction of beautiful women in the media is akin gross objectification that deserves the same condemnation of human trafficking, you need to drag yourself out of the dystopian fantasy land you’ve been living in.

I’ve no sympathy for these people. Whether they’re priest, mullahs, liberals, conservatives, rabbis, feminists, misogynists, or college students with too much free time on their hands, they deserve nothing but scorn. This was an incredible show full of beauty, spectacle, and wonder. It brought joy and astonishment to many. If you can’t enjoy that because your politics or theology won’t let you, then that’s your problem.

There are parts of this world in which you don’t have to confront such joy. There are entire countries where women are subjugated and censored by law. There are remote islands, villages, and lands on which you can’t even access spectacles like this. Go there and create your own joyless world in which women can’t be beautiful, men can’t admire it, and music can’t be played.

The alternative is to just grow up and except that entertainment exists. It’s beautiful, sexy, and powerful sometimes. If you can’t be a mature adult about it, then you have problems beyond your inability to appreciate a great show.

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Super Bowl LIV Recovery Day (And Celebration)

First off, what a game!

I had to say that, especially after the snoozer we had last year. I’m not a huge fan of either team, but I’m a big fan of great, exciting football and Super Bowl LIV delivered. It was a close, exciting game for all four quarters. It showcased two teams that definitely deserved to be there. They both played hard. They both showed why they’re the best. In the end, the better team won.

To the Kansas City Chiefs, you earned this. They played their best game on the game’s biggest stage. Their coach, Andy Reid, finally exorcised some long-simmering demons about his lack of Super Bowl success. Their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, showed why he’s one of the NFL’s best rising stars. The entire team played like champions and now they are champions.

To the San Francisco 49ers, you put up a hell of a fight. Like the Chiefs, they proved they deserved to be there. Their punishing rushing attack and the steady hand of quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, made them one of the most dominant teams throughout the regular season and the playoffs. They beat some of the best teams in the league this past season, but in the end, they couldn’t beat the best.

I’ll be using this day to recover from both the excitement of the game and all the junk food I ate while watching it. To fans of the Chiefs, it’s a day to celebrate. Go on. You’ve earned it.

 

The NFL season is officially over now. While a part of me is sad, I still had a great time this season. It was fun to watch from start to finish. Once again, football made every Sunday feel special. I’ll miss it for the next seven months. Until then, I hope the XFL can fill the void.

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Happy Super Bowl LIV Eve!

It’s almost here. The holiest of days for football fans is finally here. I can already taste the cold beer, buffalo wings, and overpriced dip. In less than 24 hours, I’ll actually be tasting it. As a lifelong football fan, a sports fan, and a general fan of anything entertaining on a Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve been building my Sundays around football for months. Now, I get to do it one more time, at least until the XFL gets started. It’s the biggest game of the year, both in terms of importance and in terms of prime time ratings. There’s a reason why people pay millions for commercial time during the Super Bowl. I’m just one of those reasons.

In the spirit of preparing/celebrating this holiest of sporting events, I’d like to briefly share my Super Bowl plans. I don’t throw a party or stage some elaborate event. I did that in college and it got tedious at some point. Now, ever since I’ve been living on my own, I’ve developed my own Super Bowl ritual. It’s evolved over the years, but I feel like I’ve refined it to perfection.

It goes like this.

The day before the Super Bowl, I buy two big bags of chicken wings, two cases of beer, a giant bag of chips, two jugs of dip, and several bottles of buffalo wing sauce.

On the morning of the Super Bowl, I eat a light breakfast that consists of black coffee, oatmeal, and a couple eggs. I don’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Then, approximately four hours before kickoff, I work out and I work out extra hard. That includes a four mile run and weight lifting. I then shower and change into my most comfortable clothes.

An hour before kickoff, I start cooking my wings. I time it just right so that I’m tossing them in the sauce as the national anthem is playing.

During the coin toss, I get a cold beer ready, prepare a plate of wings, and lay out a bag of chips.

At the moment of kickoff, I open the beer, eat my first wing, and start watching the game.

Yes, I know it’s not the most elaborate setup for a Super Bowl viewing experience. For me, it maximizes my enjoyment of the game. While last year’s game wasn’t that exciting, I still had fun and my approach to the game definitely helped. This year, I’m hoping for something better.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers. However, I’ve become a big fan of Patrick Mahomes for reasons most NFL fans are well aware of. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m rooting for the Chiefs, but he’s proven his greatness thus far. Nothing would vindicate it more than a Super Bowl championship for a team that hasn’t even played in one since the Nixon Administration.

To the rest of the ardent football fans out there, I hope you share my excitement. I also hope the game caps off the season on the highest of notes. The Super Bowl is a culmination of a journey that few teams get to complete. It’s America’s most popular sport for a reason. When a team wins, it’s a hell of an accomplishment.

I’ll probably have a lot more to say about the game once it’s finished. Until then, my excitement will only build. In the meantime, please enjoy these spectacular highlights from the 2019/2020 NFL season.

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Jack Fisher’s Predictions/Picks For The 2019 NFL Season

NFL Combine Football

It’s that wonderful, exciting, beer-soaked time of year again. A new NFL season is upon us. Football fans, like myself, have followed news, leaks, and rumors from the start of free agency to the NFL draft to the preseason. It’s all been building towards this.

We’ve all been anxiously waiting to see if our team has done enough to become a contender. There have been all sorts of bold predictions, rampant speculation, heavy hype, and even a little doom-saying. Some major stories about certain players have already thrown things into chaos. More chaos is sure to come as the season progresses. That’s part of what makes the NFL one of the best spectacles in all of sports.

Last year, I made my share of predictions. Again, I was dead wrong. I grossly overestimated how the Pittsburgh Steelers would navigate the chaos that is Le’Veon Bell and how much Kirk Cousins would underachieve after signing his historic free agency contract. This year, I’m sure I’ll make predictions that are every bit as off.

That’s another part of what makes the NFL season such entertaining. It really is unpredictable. You never know what team will go from worst to first. You never know what team will collapse. You never know when a bullshit call by the refs will cost a team a trip to the Super Bowl. You really can’t know until the games are played and it all starts tonight with the kickoff of the 2019 NFL season.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am ready for some football! Just as I’ve done the previous two years, I’m going to make my picks and predictions for division winners and Super Bowl contenders this season. Most of them will likely be wrong, but that’s exactly why I’ll be locked in to watch for the next several months. It’s sure to be a wild ride.


AFC East

Once again, the AFC east is the most lopsided division in the NFL. You don’t need to be a psychic to know how this one will play out. For the past two decades, the New England Patriots have dominated this division as though it were a bunch of tune-up games. I don’t see that changing this season.

The fact remains that Tom Brady has six Super Bowl rings. The New England Patriots have won this division almost every year since 2001. The only time they lost it in 2008 was when Brady was out with a knee injury. Unless he’s injured or retires, he and the Patriots will breeze through the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins.

All three of those teams are in a rebuilding phase. The only team that stands a sliver of a chance is the Jets, who have put together a decent team with Sam Darnold as their quarterback. However, neither he nor anyone else in that division is close to dethroning the Patriots. Until Brady and Belichick retire, that will not change.

Winner: New England Patriots


AFC North

Unlike the AFC East, this division has become less and less predictable with each passing season. Not long ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the most loaded team in the division. Their presence in the playoffs was almost a given. It was just a matter of them not underachieving at the worst possible time, which tended to happen.

Now, even with Ben Roethlisberger still playing at a high level, the Steelers have been losing ground to the Baltimore Ravens and the emerging Cleveland Browns. Last year, the Ravens really surprised everyone with how Lamar Jackson fared against top defenses. While I suspect opposing defenses will catch up with him, the team around him has what it takes to keep the Ravens competitive.

While I know the Browns have become a hot pick this season, thanks largely to some big time trades, they haven’t proved they’re capable of taking that next step. At the very least, they’ll keep the Steelers and the Ravens from running away with the division. They may even get into the playoffs as a wild card team. For now, though, I think the Ravens have the most balanced team and they’ll repeat this year.

Winner: Baltimore Ravens


AFC South

A few weeks ago, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how this division was going to play out. Then, Andrew Luck retired in the middle of the preseason at age 29. While I can’t necessarily blame him, given all the injuries he endured, his retirement caught the Indianapolis Colts off-guard and the entire AFC South, for that matter.

This division has become a lot more competitive in recent years. Both the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars made sure that Luck’s run with the Colts was painful. His absence can only help them. While Colts do have some play-makers outside of Luck, I don’t see them as being enough to compete this year.

Instead, I think this division might end up being the most dramatic, thanks to the arrival of Nick Foles in Jacksonville. While the Texans have big names like J. J. Watt, the Jaguars have a more complete team, overall. Poor quarterback play by Blake Bortles was the only reason they came up short last year and Nick Foles is a huge upgrade over Bortles.

Let’s not forget that Foles has one thing that no other quarterback in the AFC South has, including Andrew Luck, and that’s a Super Bowl ring. This is the guy who beat Tom Brady in a shootout. He brought Philadelphia a championship. I think he’ll get the Jaguars into the playoffs and he may even do some damage.

Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars


AFC West

Last year might have marked the beginning of a new era in the AFC. The season that Patrick Mahomes had last year was nothing short of gaudy. He established the Kansas City Chiefs as an offensive powerhouse and took his team to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl. He even managed to do this during a season when Phillip Rivers had one of his best years with the Los Angeles Chargers.

I see no reason why Mahomes and the Chiefs can’t be contenders again in 2019. However, I’ve been watching football long enough to know that any team can get hot one year and fall flat the next. While I don’t see the Chiefs collapsing, I also can’t see them being as dominant as they were last year.

At the same time, I don’t see any other team in their division elevating their game enough to challenge the Chiefs. The Broncos might give them some issues with Joe Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP, as their quarterback, but I have a feeling that Mahomes will come back down to Earth this season.

That said, I think the Chiefs have enough firepower and depth to repeat. The Raiders, Broncos, and Chargers will keep it closer this year, but not enough to get past Kansas City.

Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


NFC East

This is one of those divisions that I find frustrating because no team ever seems to sustain their success, once they get it. There hasn’t been a team to repeat as division champs since the early 2000s and I don’t see that changing this year. Between contract disputes with the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles losing their former Super Bowl MVP to free agency, I’m genuinely perplexed by the NFC East this year.

That said, this division did get somewhat simpler over the offseason. Eli Manning, despite his two Super Bowl rings, keeps showing his age. The Washington Redskins lost the quarterback who was supposed to keep the team stable for the next several seasons. As a result, the NFC East is basically a two-horse race, but both horses have some open wounds.

The Eagles and the Cowboys have playoff-caliber teams. The Cowboys have been more stable, but they haven’t done much in the playoffs. They also let the drama with Ezekiel Elliot get way out of hand. I can see both teams going back to the playoffs this year, but I think the Eagles have more going for them.

Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


NFC North

This is another confusing division, but for much better reasons. This division has steadily gotten more competitive over the past several years. It was once dominated by the Green Bay Packers and their all-pro quarterback/State Farm spokesman, Aaron Rogers. For the past couple years, however, the Packers underachieved while the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions only got better.

This year could be one of the most competitive to date, for this division. You could make an argument for all four teams winning the division. You could even make an argument for them being contenders in the NFC Championship game. They all have quarterbacks that can play at a pro-bowl level and defenses that can make a difference in any given game.

I’m tempted to go with the only quarterback who has won a Super Bowl. However, with a new coach taking over and no play-makers on defense, I can’t pick the Packers to do much this year. I’m also tempted to pick the Vikings again, but until Kirk Cousins stops choking in big games, I’m going to have to go with the growing success of Chicago. They may not compete for a Super Bowl, but they will start to establish themselves this year.

Winner: Chicago Bears


NFC South

Let me make one thing clear before I break down this division. The New Orleans Saints were robbed last year. They should’ve been the team playing the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. That bullshit no-call in the 2018 NFC Championship Game was one of the worst calls in NFL history.

That said, I think the New Orleans Saints are going to make up for that gaff this year. Drew Brees is a Hall of Fame quarterback. That much is beyond dispute. He’s got a great team around him, but the Saints have suffered two heartbreaking playoff losses in two years. At some point, that starts to wear on a team. Just ask the Buffalo Bills.

I also think the Saints benefited from a weak division in 2018, which was marred by injuries and a version of Cam Newton that was not at full strength. They won’t have those benefits in 2019. They’ll still be the team to beat. They’ll still probably make the playoffs, but I think the Falcons did enough in the offseason to bolster their team.

I know the Falcons may not have gotten over their epic collapse in Super Bowl LI, but they still have an elite quarterback in Matt Ryan and play-makers on offense that are finally healthy. That will be what tips the balance in their favor.

Winner: Atlanta Falcons


NFC West

Let me make another thing clear before I break down this division, as well. The Los Angeles Rams did not deserve to be in Super Bowl LIII, but they are still a team that can contend for a Super Bowl in 2019. They have a defense littered with Pro Bowlers and depth. They have an offense that is more balanced than almost any other team in the NFL. They can get back to the Super Bowl and they can win it.

It helps that their division is relatively weak. Other than the Seattle Seahawks, they really don’t have much in terms of obstacles. The San Francisco 49ers have a quarterback coming off a major knee injury and the Arizona Cardinals have a new coach and a new quarterback who haven’t yet learned how to win in the NFL. Their path to Super Bowl LIV is easier than most.

I admit I was among those who were very skeptical of the Rams. I thought they were just overachieving for a year or so. However, they’ve convinced me that they have what it takes to compete at a high level consistently. Their team, as well as their baby-faced coach, are young and hungry. I think they’ll take the division again. I just don’t think they can keep relying on the refs to hand them the game.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams


Super Bowl LIV Prediction

This year might be one of the least predictable years for the NFL in the past decade. We’re going into a season that has has no overly dominant team. There are a few with weak schedules and weak divisions, but that will only get you into the playoffs. It won’t carry you to a Super Bowl.

Given these uncertainties, I still have a gut feeling as to who will make it to the big game on February 2, 2020 in Miami. My gut feeling is usually wrong when it comes to sports, but right now, it’s telling me that the two teams that will face off on that day will be the Atlanta Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs.

These are two teams with immense talent at the quarterback position. Both Matt Ryan and Patrick Mahomes are among the NFL’s elite in terms of stats and leadership. They also have defensive talent on each team that can give them an edge once they get into the playoffs.

It’ll be a close game. One is an up-and-coming star. The other is a veteran hungry to avenge a previous Super Bowl loss. It could easily become an offensive shootout. In that battle, I think the Atlanta Falcons will make just enough plays to get the victory and become Super Bowl champs in 2019.

Super Bowl LIV Final Score: Atlanta Falcons 35, Kansas City Chiefs 31


As I’ve noted before, I tend to be very wrong about predictions this early in the season. Pretty much everyone is wrong at this point. That’s what makes this time of year so exciting. With kickoff slated for later tonight, I am ready! The path to Super Bowl LIV begins now.

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