Best NFL Day Of the Year

If you love NFL football, it doesn’t get any better than today.  In fact, I think today will probably be better than Super Bowl Sunday.

If you don’t follow the NFL, a rare thing happened–the actual four best teams are left playing for their conference championships.  The winners of these two games will then go on to compete in the Super Bowl.  Even though I’m a die-hard Bears fan and would love it if they were still playing, I think it’s great that the four clubs with the best records and/or the best overall teams are playing today.  Yes, I know the Patriots didn’t have one of the best records, but they are the most successful franchise of this century–I think we all knew they’d make it this far despite their wins and losses.

So, even if you’re not a huge football fan, today will be well worth your while.  You will see some truly magnificent offense and defense on display.  You’ll see the incredible defense and creative offense of the LA Rams.  You’ll see the superhuman twenty-three-year-old Kansas City Chiefs quarterback named Patrick Mahomes.  And, of course, you’ll witness the masters of their craft–Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

Let’s not forget that the Chiefs, Saints, and Patriots have some of the best coaches in the history of the game–respectively Andy Reid, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick.  And the Rams coach?  His name is Sean McVay, he’s only thirty-two-years-old, and he’s considered an offensive genius.

Each of these teams are highly skilled and deserve to be playing for the Super Bowl.  There aren’t any silly Wild Card entries who made it in due to a weak division and freak occurrence.  Today will be about as good as it gets.

Oh, and, of course, I’m obligated to offer my picks for the day.  Though I love the Chiefs and Andy Reid’s coaching, I think the experience of both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will prove too much for them.  Give Patrick Mahomes another year or two and he’ll know how to win these huge playoff games with Reid’s guidance.  Same goes for the Saints and the Rams.  I think all the battles Brees and Payton have fought together will ultimately win the day for them.  So, to be clear, I’m picking the Patriots and the Saints for the Super Bowl.

Just to be especially bold, I’ll go ahead and pick my Super Bowl winner, too.  I believe Brees and Brady will nullify each other, as will Belichick and Payton.  It’s going to come down to defense and special teams, and, in my opinion, the Saints are better at those two things.  So, I’m picking the Saints to win it all.

But I’m hoping it will be the Bears next season.

Enjoy the games!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Grin and Bear It

I had zero expectations for the Chicago Bears before the season started.  We have Green Bay and Minnesota in our division, after all, and those two teams are pretty good.  Then, right before the season started, we picked up Khalil Mack.  I honestly didn’t know who he was before we got him, but it sounded like he would be an impact player.  People suddenly began to whisper that, you know, maybe the Bears could do something.

I didn’t get my hopes up.

But then I watched that first game with Green Bay, and even though we lost, wow, I became a believer right then and there.  Between our intense defense, the refreshed offense, and Nagy’s general leadership, we seemed like a totally different team.  A confident team.  A capable team.  A championship team.

We had some silly losses along the way, but I truly believed we’d make it through a round or two in the playoffs.

Well, that didn’t happen.  I’m not getting into the double doink fiasco.  It still seems statistically impossible, but that’s football.  For better or for worse, football always finds a way to surprise you.

I have no idea if we’ll be as good next season.  It seems like we should be, but things can change quickly in the NFL.  Every team is just an injury away from having their hopes dashed.  Our powerhouse defense will certainly have to adjust now that Vic Fangio has left to coach Denver.

Whatever happens, I want to thank the Bears for giving me great happiness this season.  Their fire, competitiveness, and athleticism were a joy to behold.  Thank you for making NFL football fun again, Chicago!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

5 Quotes That Prove I’m In an Unhealthy Relationship With Jay Cutler

  • “People just don’t understand him.”
  • “He’s under a lot of pressure.”
  • “He may not show it, but he really does care.”
  • “He’s got so much potential, he just needs time to find himself.”
  • “It’s going to be different this time.”

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

The Bears Lose, But I Win

I’m a big Bears fan.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much I look forward to the NFL season, and I count the days until my Bears play.  Today encompassed much of my emotions concerning the Bears during the last twenty years or so.

They looked great today.  They looked terrible today.  To make matters worse, they lost on their home field to a team that is generally not considered a formidable opponent.

Did I get upset?  Sure, I did.  What sports fan wouldn’t?  However, during a brief car ride today, I heard the local sports personalities bashing the Bears to no end.  (I should note that I live two hours south of Chicago.)  They next played the Jay Cutler post-game media session.  Jay got a little lippy with them, no doubt.  But at the same time, the reporters asked him antagonizing, leading questions.  After the fifth or sixth one, he started going into what people call his smart-ass mode.  I can’t say I blame the guy.  They lost.  He threw interceptions.  They had bad penalties.  They’ll try to do better the next time.  What more is there to say?

After his press conference the host of the show I listened to starting mocking Cutler, laughing at him, and generally tearing Cutler apart.  This is part of why I don’t often listen to sports radio anymore.  Like any other media outlet, it’s all about sensation and getting the ratings.  When the Bears are up, the local media adores them.  When they are down, the media is on them like a pack of wolves.  And it’s all because that’s what the viewer and/or listener wants.

I don’t want to sound overly ra-ra-ra!, but that little bit on the radio helped put the game in perspective for me.  I don’t believe any of the Bears actively tried to lose that game, and I certainly don’t believe they deserved the tongue-lashing the local media dished out during the ten minutes I rode in my car.

I’m a Bears fan.  I root for the Bears.  Maybe they win, maybe they lose, and that’s part of competitive sports.  I’m looking forward to next week, the rest of the season, and while I hope for the best, nothing should stop me from enjoying watching my team play.

Go Bears!

 

 

Love Moderately

You probably know that I’m first and foremost a Bulls fan.  It’s been a tough couple of years, but I think we are finally on the upswing and ready to seriously compete.  But as good as my Bulls are, I can’t deny the Cavaliers are going to be extremely good, especially with the impending acquisition of Kevin Love.

How good?

That’s a matter of debate.

I heard on ESPN today that Vegas is placing the Cavaliers as three-to-one favorites to win the whole enchilada next season.  Wha-huh?  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, guys.

Yeah, LeBron James is the best basketball player in the entire world – no doubt.  Yes, the Cavaliers look great and if they get Ray Allen to join they are only getting better.  But you cannot discount the Bulls, and you certainly can’t ignore the eternal phenomena known as the San Antonio Spurs.  The Trailblazers, the Warriors, and the Clippers could also go all the way if they get hot.  Heck, I’ll be honest, I think the Heat have even recovered from James’ exit pretty well.

Yes, Kevin Love is fantastic and I’m glad he’s going to get a chance to play for a team trying to win immediately.  But, as Miami’s big three can tell you from their first year, there’s something called chemistry that must come into play.  Irving, James, and Love have never played together on the same floor at the same time as far as I know.  They each excel at their position, they each spread the court, and they each do their own unique thing that shouldn’t trample on the others’ egos, but I think they’ll still need a year to build that elusive chemistry.

So, let’s take a breath and slow that championship talk down.  What’s going on with the Cavaliers is wonderful for the league, for the players involved, and especially for the community, but I think we need to avoid getting caught up in the moment.  Will they escape the East?  Yeah, I can see that.  But can they beat the West?  Right now I’m inclined to say no, but we’ll have to wait and see the guys actually play together before we can know for sure.

Wait and see … that’s not a popular concept among people who talk sports, is it?

You know I love my Billy Shakespeare, and as he told us in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, “Love moderately.”

Stop “LeBroning”

Let’s get two things out of the way …

  • I am a Bulls fan
  • I do not follow LeBron James on Twitter

That being said, mocking LeBron James because of his leg cramps needs to just stop.  The primary reason it needs to stop is because it’s indicative of a very ugly society, one I (obviously) cannot abide.  We crave celebrity, we demand perfection from athletes, we build people up to demi-god status, and then it seems we cannot wait to tear them down at the first opportunity.  Were it simple criticism, that would be fine.  But it’s not.  Oftentimes, it’s personal, degrading, and downright mean.

If you must be unhappy with LeBron James’ leg cramps, then focus instead on the fact that the arena’s air conditioning went out, creating ninety-plus degree temperatures.  Blame LeBron and his training staff for perhaps not recognizing the signs and hydrating him enough throughout the game.  (It should be noted, however, that they had him take seven anti-cramping pills during the game.)

I contest that his leg cramps are simply one of those things that happens to athletes  It cannot be helped.  LeBron James has a history of leg cramps dating all the way back to high school.  I challenge you to find a better conditioned athlete in the NBA.  This is not a matter of being soft or weak-willed.  As any athlete will tell you, when the body seizes, nothing can help but time and rest.

So why are people so eager to tear this man down?

Is it “The Decision?”  Okay, that was a bad moment, a stupid moment, a moment we all wish never happened.  But please take a few things into account.  LeBron did not act alone in that. ESPN was more than happy to turn it into a circus, and then, ironically, led the charge in criticizing LeBron for the move.  Also, LeBron has been king of the hill since the age of eighteen.  He has not needed to answer to anyone.  This is a man who has successfully navigated professional sports, the business world, and society’s infatuation with “celebrity” with no more than a high school diploma.  Haven’t we all made bad decisions in our mid-twenties?  Don’t we all have that one moment we wish we could take back.  Furthermore, can many claim to come out of such calamity wiser and more mature as has LeBron James?

To be honest, I happen to believe LeBron is highly intelligent.  His missteps have been few. By and large, he walks that fine line of celebrity without crossing over.  By all accounts he is a wonderful teammate, a caring father, a charitable citizen, and a decent human being.

Think of all the young people who achieved his level of fame and fortune and did not crash and burn.  Think of all the other young people who allowed their career to die, who became more invested in their celebrity than their craft, who drowned from various vices.

Yet, here’s LeBron James.  A multiple MVP.  An Olympic champion.  An NBA champion.  A man who has not relented in his quest to win, who has improved upon his physique and skill set with each passing year.  In LeBron James we have a sports icon in the making.

Are people mad the way James, Wade, and Bosh came together?  Get over it.  That’s the way it is in the NBA.  LeBron found that out during his tenure in Cleveland.  Rose is discovering it in Chicago.  Nobody hated Pierce, Garnett, and Allen for forming a triumvirate, and they did it before LeBron.  Couldn’t it be argued that Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman were a similar situation?  It takes three any more.  Need I mention that Duncan has Parker and Ginobili as his running mates?

To be honest, we have two admirable NBA franchises vying for the trophy this year, two teams that do things the right way.  Everything I just said about James I could also say about Tim Duncan on most accounts.  I want the Heat to win because I love teams that stick together and continue winning, players who take less money to keep something special rolling.  But the Spurs fall into that same category, so for me, this is a win-win situation.  (Of course, I would be happier were the Bulls in contention, but alas …)

I sound like a LeBron James apologist, but I’m not.  I do believe in defending people treated unfairly.  LeBron James gives every indication of playing his ass off all the time.  He clearly wants to win.  He seems like a guy trying to behave and give back to family, friends, and the community.  I wish we could all say the same, including me.

So stop with the Lebroning.  The man had unrelenting leg cramps.