Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quest for Perfection

As we witnessed the Green Bay Packers' dominating performance against their rival Minnesota Vikings last night, talks of a perfect season began to heat up. The Packers are now 9-0 and would still need 10 victories to complete something that has never been done before, a perfect 19-0 season. As much as the old Dolphins want to downplay the additional games, 17-0 is not 19-0. Every game comes with added risk. Success has always been counted by championships and the Patriots of 2007 might never get the respect they deserve for being the first team to go 18-0. The Patriots also own the longest win streak of 21 games which spanned from 2003 into the 2004 season. That is more than a season’s worth of wins and included a Super Bowl championship.

Every time a team starts the season with a dominant streak, like the Colts and Saints in 2009, people are quick to say it is better to lose in the regular season so the pressure is off. I am sorry, but as a fan, I think comments like that are pathetic. The Patriots had nothing else to prove and their legacy will be remembered forever. 19-0 or bust, their season was one to be respected and they were probably the most complete team in NFL history. They lost to a team that had to complete three upset wins, all of which could have been easily lost. Patrick Crayton doesn’t let the ball go straight through his hands; Brett Favre doesn’t throw a ball to a receiver he couldn’t really see, and the Patriots pull down Eli instead of letting him spin away from what seemed like a sure sack. But this is the NFL, and any given Sunday, even a 9-7 team can beat a 16-0 team.

Eli will be remembered forever, not because he won a Super Bowl, but because he ruined the closest thing the NFL had to a 19-0 season. Eli is one of 29 quarterbacks who have won a championship. On average, I am sure people can only name 10 to 15 starting quarterbacks with rings. The 2007 Giants are a below average Super Bowl winning team at best, but thanks to what the Patriots accomplished, they became

So back to the Packers, who are now 6 games away from tying the Patriots win streak and 9 wins from tying the most wins in a single season. This team isn’t afraid of talking about going for perfection and refuses to be the pitcher left on the bench in the middle of the 8th inning of a perfect game. They have embraced it; they accept the possibility of the ultimate letdown. Last night, ESPN mentioned that 19 of the 25 offensive players were drafted by the Packers themselves. This team, like the Patriots, was built with patience and with only one major free agent signing, Charles Woodson. There are many tough games ahead including the Bucs, Giants, Bears who have been hot of late, and two against the up and coming Lions. And the Ravens can tell you after losing to Seattle that you can’t take it easy any week, so let’s not overlook the Raiders and Chiefs either.

The Packers are now buzzed about as having one of the most dominating short stretches in history but now is not the time to settle. The quest for perfection isn’t easy. It would be an amazing accomplishment for the 2011 Packers to be the third team in history to complete a perfect regular season and have the opportunity to be the first team to go 19-0.

Always looking for an excuse to post the video below, and since this celebration has been retired after the Pack have gone and claimed their belt. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Time to Refocus, Penn State

One thing I love about my wife is that she puts up with my love for sports. She knows that it's a fundamental aspect of who I am. I grew up playing soccer, baseball, and basketball. I learned to swim and play football at a young age. I have picked up golf after college. I don't think it's too far-fetched to say that many people who know me associate me with sports.

Sometimes I remember what day it is not by looking at a calendar, but by thinking about what sports are on TV that day. It's not so much Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Under normal circumstances, barring an NBA lockout, it's NFL Sunday, Monday Night Football, dead sports day, NBA on ESPN, NBA on TNT, NBA on ESPN, college football, repeat. Like I said, one thing I love about my wife is that she puts up with all of this.

The other day, she asked me why guys love sports. I told her, in simple terms, that it was drama. Anything can happen on that field, and at any given moment, you could witness something that you'll never forget for the rest of your life. But it's more than that. There's a magic to sports that nothing else in the secular world can conjure. After Hurricane Katrina, even though I'm sure we were all weary of hearing every talking head mention it, the city of New Orleans rallied behind their Saints. You could just sense that they needed that Super Bowl victory, that atmosphere, to feel like everything was gonna be alright. That things could be normal again. Sports bring people together like few other things can.

But there still has to be a line. A point where people step back and realize that some things are greater than their beloved teams. A chance to do the right thing.

Only a few people know the full truth about the Penn State scandal, and I'm not pretending to be one of them. All I've done is sit back horrified as I read the Grand Jury report on Jerry Sandusky and his helpless victims. I can't imagine how someone could live with himself after abusing his position of authority to commit such heinous crimes.

But this isn't about Sandusky.

I am still bewildered by how Penn State could have let all of this slide. I hope it wasn't all about sweeping everything under the rug for the success of the college football program, but unfortunately, that wouldn't surprise any of us. Time will tell who is liable and should be held responsible for not contacting the police.

But this isn't about Penn State.

Joe Paterno has been an icon, maybe "the" icon, of college football for decades. The controversy is about whether or not Jo Pa did enough when he learned about Sandusky's actions. He alerted university officials, but he failed to notify the police. I, for one, think Jo Pa should have resigned immediately instead of talking about retiring after the season. The university responded by calling him yesterday and firing him over the phone. I don't have any allegiances to Paterno, but after everything he's done for college football and the university, it was a terrible way to have to exit. People responded to Jo Pa's disposal by rioting. Hundreds showed up outside his house with love-ridden chants and messages to show their outrage at how he was treated.

But this isn't about Joe Paterno.

This is about those nine victims and counting. This is about kids who placed their trust in an organization, The Second Mile, whose motto was "providing children with help and hope" but ended up providing children with abuse and trauma. This is about the sexually abused children who finally have a voice after being silent for so long.

What kind of backwards society do we live in when a tragedy like this happens and people are rioting, not for the victims, but for their football coach? God, help us.