Tag Archives: Ben Roethlisberger

Experiencing Christmas light displays through a 2-year-old’s eyes was awesome. 2016 takes another pop cultural star before his time. And the Steelers and Packers look damn good

xmaslights-nate

There are certain things I expected I would love getting to experience through my child’s eyes one day. His first sporting event; his first steps, his first time realizing the traffic in New York City never, ever gets better. You know, the fun stuff.

But watching my boy’s first time experiencing Christmas lights was never something I thought of as being a “life moment.” For one thing, we’re, you know, Jewish. For another, we live in the city, where you get beautiful Christmas trees and some holiday lights on buildings, but not the full effect of a family putting up 43,000 lights on their property and paying off their electric bill for the next 11 months.

But Saturday night during a wonderful Hanukkah/Christmas Eve convergence, we went out to Long Island to my in-laws, and during the day we looked up where some of the best Christmas lights houses were in our area, and then drove over there.

And I have to say, Nate absolutely loved it. For most of the neighborhood he watched from his rear-facing car seat, and as we’d drive past there’d be a three-second delay and then he’d exclaim “Whoa!” after a really beautiful display.

A few times we got out and walked around, and his wide-eyed wonder and big smile as we got up-close to giant inflatable Santa, glowing reindeer, and even one light-up Elmo,  made me realize just how new the world still is to him.

It was really a pretty special sight.

**Next up today, 2016 has been a shitty year on so many fronts, but I gotta believe it’s the worst year for celebrities dying way too young that I can remember. With just five days left till we mercifully turn the page, Sunday brought news of George Michael’s death.

Only 53, he was a pretty fabulous musical talent, first with Wham! and then on his own. I about wore out my cassette copy of his huge album “Faith,” and for a while he was the biggest sex symbol in music.

Then his star faded, and we all heard about his drug use and his odd behavior in bathrooms, including an arrest at an airport in Los Angeles, and his sexuality was always kind of ambiguous.

George Michael’s music was big in millions of lives for a long time, and at only 53 it’s a tragedy he’s gone so soon.

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**Finally today, some thoughts on the penultimate week of the NFL regular season, as I contemplate the brilliant performance by those gutty New York Jets, who only lost to New England by 38 on Saturday. Way to go, Gang Green! Can’t wait till next week!

— This is around the time of year where a few teams who’ve kind of muddled through the season get hot and go on a run to the Super Bowl. I’m awful at predicting who will play in the big ole’ Roman Numeral-fest, but right now the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers would scare me if I faced them.

The boys from Pa. scored a rip-roaring comeback win over the Ravens Sunday night (somewhere, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis wept at that last game-winning Steelers drive), and the Packers dismantled the rival Minnesota Vikings (hey how’s that Sam Bradford trade working out, Vikes?) on Saturday.

The Patriots look unbeatable and the NFC has excellent teams in the Lions, Cowboys and Falcons. But I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Pittsburgh-Green Bay (and monster ratings) on the first Sunday in February.

— One team who won’t be in the Super Bowl but celebrated like they’d just won it Sunday is the Cleveland Browns. They won! No, really, the won an actual NFL football game, that counted! I was in a bar Saturday and watched the fourth quarter, and man was it painful rooting for Cleveland. The Browns tried every way possible to blow that game to the Chargers, but somehow San Diego wouldn’t take it.

Hey, I’m glad the Browns won, nobody deserves to go a whole season without a win. I just feel bad we missed the awesome juxtaposition that would’ve been the city of Cleveland winning an NBA title, getting within one run of winning a World Series, and then having an 0-16 NFL team.

— I still have no idea how the Arizona Cardinals could be this bad. Seriously, what the hell happened to that team? And how did kicker Chandler Catanzaro keep his job all season?

— Finally, gotta feel bad for Oakland Raiders fans. Finally reaching the playoffs after 14 years, then with one game left they lose MVP quarterback Derek Carr, and their season is probably toast. What an awful, awful break.

But hey Raiders fans, it could be worse: You could be Jets fans like me.

The Jets finally win, and I’m no longer a Red Zone Channel virgin. Matt Taibbi exposes more criminality at JPMorgan Chase. And a soldier learns to walk again

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My son turns two months old today, and until Sunday his lifetime had not included a New York Jets victory.

And I sure as hell didn’t see that first win since the opening week of the NFL season coming yesterday, against Ben Roethlisberger, who had thrown 12 touchdown passes over the past two weeks.
But in one more reason why  I never, ever wager money on the outcome of a football game, the Jets dominated and befuddled Pittsburgh and left the 40,000 Steelers fans who invaded MetLife Stadium quiet and sitting on their Terrible Towels most of the day.

Look, I know it’s crazy to feel happy that a 1-8 team finally won another game, and I know it changes nothing. But for the first time all season, I actually smiled and marveled at my favorite football team, while being amazed at some of the things that were happening (the Jets caused four turnovers? And converted in the red zone? And the Steelers kicker shanked a 25-yard FG? It was bizarro world out there).

Two and eight is still a disgusting record, and maybe this win cost the Jets the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft and a shot at Marcus Mariota, the stud QB from Oregon. But you know what? I didn’t care. It was just nice to enjoy one tiny slice of this pathetic Jets season.

Some other NFL thoughts a typically dramatic football Sunday…

— So I finally was able to abandon Time Warner Cable and switch to Verizon Fios cable service last week, a move I’d been begging my apartment complex to allow since the day we moved in last year (Seriously, Time Warner is the worst company in America.) And with my new cable package came the slice of crack cocaine I’d heard about for years, but had never inhaled: The NFL Red Zone Channel.
Oh yes, I could finally see what the cool kids were watching.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Red Zone Channel is like viewing football on speed: On this orgy of pigskin, you the viewer get bounced around to every single game where a scoring play either might happen or is about to happen, every time a team gets inside the 20-yard-line. Sometimes tje screen is split into 3 or 4 boxes if multiple teams are about to score, and all the switching is narrated by a dude in a studio pressing buttons furiously.

REdZonechannel

I have heard it’s more addictive than cigarettes and cocaine, but I dipped a toe in Sunday, watching some of the 4 p.m. games on Red Zone. It was dizzying and whiplash-y and sometimes they literally cut away from one game before a scoring player’s buddies had even reached the end zone to celebrate with him.

I’m a master at watching multiple games at a sports bar, but this Red Zone channel was just too herky-jerky for me. I’d be really getting into a game, and then suddenly be thrown over to another one. Red Zone Channel is perfect for our 2-second attention span world, but I didn’t like it.

I’m putting the pipe down and walking away.

-Nice effort, Bears. Always nice when you can turn off a game before the first quarter is even over.

— What the hell happened to Drew Brees? Didn’t he used to be an elite QB? He was pretty terrible, a lot of times, on Sunday.

— How much fun would a Detroit-Cleveland Super Bowl be? Talk about 2 tortured fan bases. I know it won’t happen, but both teams are in first place and man that would be fun. I have a feeling ticket prices would be through the roof because both teams’ fans would sell body parts to see their team in the Super Bowl.

— Finally, the NFL line of the day on Twitter from the hilarious @PourMeCoffee, about inept Jacksonville playing in London again: “We fought side-by-side with Britain to beat back Hitler and fascism and we send them the Jaguars twice in two years. Shame on us.”

**Next up, Matt Taibbi is back with another explosive Rolling Stone article, exposing yet more disgusting, criminal behavior from bankers and managers at JP Morgan Chase back in 2007 and 2008, behavior that helped lead to the economic meltdown in America.

A brave whistle-blower named Alayne Fleischmann bore witness to the NINE billion dollar fraud and has spoken out. The details are chilling and so brazen that it will make you angry all over again that none of the financial head honchos were ever sent to jail for what they did.
Just hideous.

**And finally, a heartwarming video from World Wrestling Entertainment, and yes I’ve never written that sentence before. A wounded soldier named Dan Rose stands and walks, in a beautiful moment that will hopefully brighten up your Monday.

Jets. Steelers. One win from a lifelong dream. And a great piece on Rafa

I am a nervous wreck as I sit here typing this, late on Saturday night.
I am excited beyond belief. I am nervous beyond belief.
For the fourth time in my lifetime, the New York Jets are one win from the Super Bowl.
The last three times they got this close, the Jets broke my heart.
In 1982, I watched from the basement of the house of my family’s friends, the Katzes, in Monsey, N.Y., as the Miami Dolphins turned Richard Todd into Ryan Leaf.
In 1998, I watched from my apartment in Wilmington, N.C., as fumble after fumble by the Jets in the second half gave Denver the win.
In 2009, I watched from a sports bar in Ormond Beach, Fla., as a halftime lead evaporated under a hail of Peyton Manning passes.
I don’t ask for much in life. I’m a pretty happy guy. I’m a man made joyous by simple pleasures.
I ask today for a New York Jets win, and their first Super Bowl appearance of my lifetime.
I have seen all my other sports lifetime dreams occur. I saw the Rangers win a Stanley Cup. I saw the Yankees win multiple World Series. I’ve seen Duke win four national championships in basketball.
If this can happen today … if Mark Sanchez can outduel Ben Roethlisberger, if the Jets defense can stuff the run, if LaDainian Tomlinson has just a little more magic left in those old legs … my sports dreams will be complete.
Notice, I’m not even asking for a Jets Super Bowl win. More than any other of the four major sports title games or series, I think just reaching the Super Bowl is an accomplishment to be celebrated.
Of course I’d want the Jets to win the Super Bowl. But I don’t want to be greedy. Just get there.
Four times they’ve been in a position to bring me to tears of joy. Three times they’ve broken my heart.
It has to happen today. It will happen today. Jets 20, Steelers 16.
Please, God, grant me this wish, and  I’ll never trifle you with sports requests again.

And now, to get you fired up if you desire firing up, a couple of clips:

And take it away, Mr. Pacino:

**I’ve linked to Jon Wertheim’s work before here; he’s a friend of a friend and a super nice guy, as well as being one of the finest sportswriters in America. He’s got a new book out, called Scorecasting; basically it’s “Freakonomics” for sports. It looks terrific, from the excerpt I read in SI.
Anyway, wanted to point you to a fabulous story Jon wrote on Rafael Nadal in SI two weeks ago.
It’s funny, the more tennis fans that I talk to who love Roger Federer like I do, the more they feel like me: It’s impossible to hate Nadal. The guy is humble, polite to fans, and so unassuming he flies coach, still.
He’s on a quest right now to win the Australian Open, which would be his fourth consecutive Slam title, something even the great Fed hasn’t done.
It’s a fairly short story, but Wertheim absolutely sums up the essence of Rafa.
Read it and tell me how you could root against him.

R.I.P., Jets season. A crazy, crazy Steelers win. And the best anti-Xmas song ever

If Sunday’s New York Jets game were Jeopardy,” here’s a clue: The entire second half.

The question: When were you certain the Jets were going to lose to the Atlanta Falcons?”

Yes my friends, 30 years of Jets-watching has allowed me to be Kreskin, at certain moments. And as me and the rest of my bar amigos at Houligan’s Pub here in Ormond Beach watched mistake after mistake by the Jets, missed field goals, interceptions by Mark Sanchez (geez, where have I written that before?) and blown chances, I knew this was going to end badly.

“How many times have we seen this?” I muttered into my Coke. “Jets dominate the game, can’t put a team away, the opponent puts together one good drive, and BAM, game over.”

So it was, in a way, a tiny bit satisfying as I watched the Jets fall to 7-7, in a crushing 10-7 defeat at Giants Stadium.

A few questions sprung to mind during this contest, besides “what the hell am I doing watching this for 3 hours?”

— OK, so Kellen Clemens stinks as a QB. He also stinks as a holder on field goals. What, if anything, is he good at?

— Was the Jets defense unaware Tony Gonzalez, one of the best tight ends in history, plays for the Falcons? Because he was awfully lonesome on that 4th and goal play when he scored the winning touchdown.

— How many bleepin’ interceptions did the Jets defensive backs drop Sunday? 4, 5, 6? Besides the three missed FG’s that was another sign it wasn’t going to be New York’s day.

— Mark Sanchez, Jets fans really, really want to see progress from you. But on two of those three interceptions (the middle one didn’t bother me that much), it looked like you’ve learned nothing from Week 1. Eat. The. Ball. If no one’s open.

— The defense was great Sunday, really great. I don’t blame them for the loss, even though they gave up the final TD. You just can’t kill a defense that allowed 10 points; they’re not the reason the Jets lost.

— Sadly, thanks to the bumbling of some other AFC teams, I can’t officially write off this season completely. Denver lost and is 8-6, Baltimore is 8-6, while the Titans, Steelers, Jags and ‘Fins are 7-7, like the Jets. But here’s the thing: No way the Jets deserve to be in the playoffs, and there’s NO WAY they’re beating 14-0 Indy next week.

So yeah, the season’s over. And I’m OK with it. 7-7, with a rookie quarterback and the loss of two hugely important players to injury (Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington) is about where this team should be.

It just sucks to watch the same movie over and over again, and that’s what this team is.

**So there were some crazy endings to games Sunday, another reason to love the NFL. Oakland wins AT Denver? With JaMarcus Russell? Crazy. San Diego nips Cincy at the end on a 52-yard field goal? Crazy.

But without a doubt the most thrilling ending was Pittsburgh, scoring a TD on the game’s last play to beat Green Bay, 37-36. They overcame one of the stupidest coaching calls ever (Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, up 30-28, tries an onside kick late in the fourth quarter. Of course Green Bay recovered and scored) and won on the play of the game, Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace, fresh off the “60 Minutes” set, apparently.

Still, the onside kick was beyond nuts. I know Tomlin explained that he didn’t trust his defense, but still, that’s a crazy, crazy call.

— I have no idea who’s making the playoffs in the AFC. My best guess right now is Denver and Jacksonville, but who the heck knows?

**Boy, the Duke basketball team kicked the holy hell out of Gonzaga Saturday. That was nice to see. Still wanting to see more out of the Plumlee boys, Mason and Miles, but I’m not complaining. And it was nice to see Carolina lose, too. A good Saturday!

**Finally, if you’ve hung in there and want a good laugh this Monday, this is my favorite all-time “Christmas song.”  The 12 Pains of Christmas cheers me every December. Just listen to the “rigging up the lights” guy and try not to laugh.”

My main man Shaq

Shaq

A note on tonight’s post:

So I was pretty overwhelmed with emotion earlier; I got a letter back from my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Gehrhardt, after I’d written him six months ago and wondered if I’d ever hear back from him. He inspired me to do what I do. I want to blog about him but feel I’m too exhausted to tell the story properly. Tomorrow night, me and Mr. G.

Tonight?  Shaq.

I love Shaquille O’Neal. Really. I find him endlessly entertaining, and I’m not 100 percent sure why.

But I have a good idea. The guy just seems to have fun in everything he does. He doesn’t seem to take life too seriously, or anybody else too seriously. He has a perpetual grin on his face, he loves children, and he goes through life, mostly, trying to make sure everyone has a good time.

People say he’s incredibly cocky, but I think it’s mostly for show. I think he’s got a lot of Muhammad Ali in him, bragging so much about himself with his tongue firmly in cheek, all to get a rise out of people.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t really love watching Shaq play basketball. I’m bored with that. I like watching him do stuff on TV.

I actually watched several episodes last year of Shaq’s Big Challenge, which was a show about Shaquille trying to help overweight kids lose weight, by inspiring and working with them.

And I’ll admit that I tuned into ABC last night for the debut of “Shaq Vs.”

It’s a show where Shaq challenges some of the best athletes in all of sport in their respective fields (OK, so it’s not “Masterpiece Theatre.” Sue me.)

Shaq will swim against Michael Phelps. He’ll try to out-homer Albert Pujols. Last night he played quarterback against Ben Roethlisberger.

I was fairly riveted last night, only because of Shaq. The show is mostly terrible; the “announcers” for the challenge make me want to stick knives in my eyeballs, and there was more “padding” in that one hour of TV than in a hundred Sumo wrestling suits.

But Shaq was funny. He teased Ben, he harassed him, and he showed off some impressive athletic ability.

I don’t know, the guy just seems to get it: He was blessed with some incredible genetic gifts and tremendous ability, and he uses his privileged place in life for good.

So many athletes take themselves so seriously. Shaq seems to get that it’s all a big game. He’s the biggest real life cartoon character we’ve had in sports since, well, since Babe Ruth.

He says goofy stuff and makes crazy threats and says he wants to be sheriff one day.

And I love him for it.

As usual, the great Rick Reilly can sum up Shaq better than I could. Check out this terrific column on Shaq from SI in 2000.