Sunday, January 31, 2016

What I Think About The Super Bowl

With Super Bowl 50 on our doorstep, everyone is getting more nostalgic than usual about what advertisers have to refer to as "The Big Game", because they won't pay the outrageous fees necessary to use the term "Super Bowl" in their commercials.

So, I figured, since I've watched 41 of the first 49 live (I was in Mama's tummy during Super Bowl I), I'd wax poetic, too. Yes, I'll list some obvious things, the "Best" ones, the "Worst" ones, but some other thoughts and lists, too. Since January 14, 1973 and Super Bowl VII, I only missed watching one game live: Super Bowl XVIII, as I had to work while my Los Angeles Raiders won, to date, their last Super Bowl.

They are all based on my personal experiences, and, while I try my best not to let biases influence (you'll note later none of my best Super Bowls mention the Oakland Raiders), sometimes life gets in the way (see "E")....

A) The Surprising Super Bowls (in no particular order) (NOTE: If you count historical perspective, Super Bowl III would top the list. But I'm going to ignore the NFL/AFL merger yadda yadda for the time being....)

--Super Bowl XVI: After San Francisco dealt Dallas the second blow to the end of its decade-plus run at the top of the NFC (Philadelphia got it started the year before) and Cincinnati took care of perennial bridesmaid San Diego, NFL fans collectively looked at their TV screens and said, out loud, "San Francisco and Cincinnati??". None of us could believe it. No Pittsburgh, Dallas, Oakland, even poor ol' Minnesota? A new era had dawned, and a great one at that.

--Super Bowl XLIII: First, the Cardinals were in. That was earth shaking enough. But I couldn't find many people outside of Steeler Nation fired up for Steelers/Cardinals. Then they put on a show. From James Harrison to Larry Fitzgerald to Santonio Holmes, it was an excellent game.

--Super Bowl XLVIII: On the flip side, there was Denver/Seattle. What a letdown, on so many, many levels. On Twitter that night, I had to explain to an entire generation that "this is what the Super Bowl used to be like year after year after year....".

B) We All Knew Who Was Going To Win.....also known as mostly "Poor Denver"....

--Super Bowl XII: I remember the mania that was "The Orange Crush". But they had no prayer against Randy White, Harvey Martin, and those hated Dallas Cowboys (I grew up with a Redskins fan for an older brother....). One of the best ledes in sportswriting history came from this game. I don't remember who wrote it (Google it, now!), but it went like this:

"All his life, Craig Morton dreamed of leading the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl win. On Sunday in New Orleans, he did."

Of course, Morton started for the Denver Broncos.

--Super Bowl XXIV: Denver should have won the toss and elected not to play. The only Super Bowl I've ever seen where you knew in the first quarter it was over. The only Super Bowl I can deem painful to watch. That 49ers team was a machine, but more about that later.

--Super Bowl XXIX: Stan Humphries versus Steve Young. How did these Chargers make the Super Bowl while Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow didn't??

--Super Bowl XXXIII: The shoe was on the other foot when Denver came in as defending champs only to find their former coach with the Atlanta Falcons and Chris Chandler. Credit to Atlanta for scoring 19 points. Funny thing is I can't remember how they scored. I just remember Elway on the ground in the end zone smiling.

C) Best Super Bowl Rivalry: Pittsburgh and Dallas

D) Worst Super Bowl Rivalry: Dallas and Buffalo

E) Failure To Launch: Most Disappointing Super Bowls (in order)

1) Super Bowl XIX: Everyone in the world went into the game talking about Dan Marino and the Dolphins. They had forgotten the 49ers went 15-1 in the regular season. By game's end, everyone had been reminded. It was supposed to be a titanic battle and the coronation of a new "best quarterback". Joe Montana snickered, and spoiled it.

2) Super Bowl XVIII: The year before, it was the highest scoring offense in NFL history, and defending champions, in Washington, battling the then Los Angeles Raiders, with our usual cast of misfits and outcasts from other franchises. People were split 50/50 in predictions. None of them gave a final score of "38-9". But that's what happens when you call for a screen pass just before the half that worked in the regular season. How Joe Gibbs couldn't think, "the Raiders may just have planned for that" is beyond me.

3) Super Bowl XX: I lived in Massachusetts in college when New England went on their improbable journey to their first Super Bowl, so I was around A LOT of excited people. And then The '85 Bears took the field. The most exciting thing about that Sunday ended up being the hoopla surrounding "The Silent Minute". I may have played a game of foosball in the adjoining room during the fourth quarter.

4) Super Bowl XXVII: This isn't higher because, by the time Buffalo made their third straight Super Bowl appearance, we all entered the evening wondering if they actually could do it. When it quickly became apparent they would even become the team that supplanted Minnesota as most disappointing in Super Bowl history, I can't say America wasn't surprised. It's a shame. That Buffalo team was excellent, but just couldn't win the big one. Fran Tarkenton, Chuck Foreman, and the Purple People Eaters were excellent, too. Go figure.

F) Super Bowls That Surpassed Expectations (in order) 

1) Super Bowl XXXIV: The Rams hadn't been to the Super Bowl in 20 years, the Titans (ex-Oilers) had never been, and could argue THEY should have played the Rams 20 years earlier (but there was no instant replay for Mike Renfro....). Grocery bagger turned MVP Kurt Warner and the "Greatest Show on Turf" vs. Eddie George. The Rams should have won by 14 points or more. The Titans played very well, and as we all know, they came up one yard short. All in an ice storm in Atlanta.

2) Super Bowl XVII: This game gets forgotten. It was the first strike year. The NFL turned the playoffs into a 16-team "tournament" to get to Pasadena. Miami and Washington did. The Dolphins score on a long TD pass, a Fulton Walker 98-yard kickoff return. And, while the iconic comeback play was John Riggins on fourth and one for a touchdown, how many of you remember Joe Theismann batting down his own batted pass to prevent an interception near the goal line in the second half? He saved the game on that play. The only disappointing part of the game? When it ended and I realized I still had homework to do at 10pm on a Sunday night.

3) Super Bowl XIV: No one gave the 9-7 Los Angeles Rams a chance against defending, and three-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. But Vince Ferragamo and company (quick! name a wide receiver!) led into the fourth quarter. While the Steelers ended up doing what we all expected, they had to scratch and claw to do it. Kudos to Ray Malavasi, and to Jack Youngblood on essentially one leg.

G) If I Need a Game-Winning Field Goal, I Go With: Adam Vinatieri (2 times)
H) If I Need a Game-Saving Interception, I Go With: Rod Martin (SB XV)
I) If I Need a Game-Saving Sack, I Go With: Reggie White (SB XXI)

J) My Super Bowl Voices (in order)

1) Pat Summerall and John Madden
2) Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen
3) Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier

K) Worst Super Bowl MVP's

1) Larry Brown, Super Bowl XXX: Brown should have shared the car with Neil O'Donnell, who essentially threw two passes right to him. He got a fat contract with, of course, my Raiders, and never did anything ever again.

2) Dexter Jackson, Super Bowl XXXVII: Let's face it, under special circumstances, Jon Gruden should have been awarded MVP because he knew everything the Raiders would do on offense. I think I could've had at least one pick in that game.

3) Eli Manning, Super Bowl XLII: I'll catch it for this one. I know he miraculously got out of harm's way to set up David Tyree, and hit Plaxico for the game-winner. But the Giants defense held the highest scoring team in NFL history to 14 points. The impetus was the front four. Randy White and Harvey Martin shared the award once, why couldn't the Giants defensive line? The NFL could afford four cars. Their pounding of Brady in desperation at game's end was a work of art if you love good defense (which I do).

L) My Iconic Super Bowl Plays (in chronological order; I witnessed all but the first two...)

--Max McGee's one handed catch with a hangover in Super Bowl I
--"65 Toss Power Trap" by Mike Garrett, Super Bowl IV
--Garo Yepremian's "pass" that led to the Redskins' only TD in Super Bowl VII
--Lynn Swann's midfield acrobatic catch in Super Bowl X
--Willie Brown's Pick Six for Oakland in Super Bowl XI
--Plunkett to Kenny King for 80 yards (before YAC was a statistic) in Super Bowl XV
--Riggins' 4th and 1 AND Theismann's bat down in Super Bowl XVII
--Wide Right: Super Bowl XXV
--Don Beebe doesn't quit on Leon Lett, Super Bowl XXVII
--John Elway's helicopter ride in Super Bowl XXXII
--David Tyree's Helmet Catch, Super Bowl XLII
--James Harrison's 100-yard interception return, Super Bowl XLIII
--The Onside Kick: Super Bowl XLIV
--Mario Manningham's Catch, Super Bowl XLVI
--Malcolm Butler intercepting what should have been a Marshawn Lynch running play, Super Bowl XLIX

M) Worst Winning Super Bowl Quarterbacks

1) Trent Dilfer, Super Bowl XXXV
2) Morrall/Unitas, Super Bowl V
3) Brad Johnson, Super Bowl XXXVI

N) Best Super Bowl Quarterback Performances

1) Steve Young, Super Bowl XXIX
2) Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIV
3) Joe Montana, Super Bowl XIX
4) Doug Williams, Super Bowl XXII
5) Phil Simms, Super Bowl XXI
6) Jim Plunkett, Super Bowl XV

O) Where I've Watched The Super Bowl

At Home In Glen Allen: 17
At Home In Beaverdam: 11
At My Mama's House in Louisa: 5
At A Friend's House: 3
At A Hotel: 2
At College: 1
At Work: 1
At My Parents Apartment After Moving Home From College: 1

P) My Super Bowl Tidbits and Anecdotes

--I watched Super Bowl XI during a snowstorm in Beaverdam.
--I watched Super Bowl XIII in the Days Inn in Ashland because an ice storm knocked out power in Beaverdam for 48 hours starting the night before the game.
--I watched Super Bowl XIX, my last in Beaverdam, during a huge snowstorm with some of the coldest temperatures I've ever dealt with. It was the arctic blast that drove President Reagan's Second Inauguration indoors the next day.
--I got married on the day of Super Bowl XXII (January 31, 1988). I did not see the pregame show, nor did I see the third quarter.  :)
--For five straight years, we had a tradition of going to my Mama's to watch the game. I sure miss that.
--I missed the start of Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 driving home from WRVA in Church Hill during an ice storm. I had a shift on the school closing phones that afternoon, then gingerly made my way back to Glen Allen.
--I surprised my brother for Super Bowl XLII. He's a Giants fan, so am I, so I drove down that Sunday afternoon. My sister-in-law knew I was coming. He did not. It's impossible to catch my brother in a surprise and speechless. But I did it that day when I walked through the door. Then the Giants blessed us with a miracle win. It doesn't get better than that.
--On the flip side, it hurts more to watch your child's favorite team lose a Super Bowl than it is to watch your own. I learned that three years ago when Robbie's 49ers fell short in New Orleans.

Q) Worst, Most Forgettable Super Bowls (They Were Just Bad Games....)

1) Super Bowl V: Yeah, it had a game-winning field goal. That didn't save this game. Turnover city, baby. I'm glad I was too young to remember. Reading up on it and watching the highlights were brutal.

2) Super Bowl XXVII: Couple Buffalo's third straight loss with the avalanche of how it happened. Yikes.

3) Super Bowl XXIV: It was only a fun evening for 49ers fans. Nobody else took joy in their dismantling of the Broncos and John Elway.

4) Super Bowl XLVIII: When Denver's first offensive snap went awry, we should have known. But us old-timers fell into the trap of thinking, "the old days of Super Bowl blowouts are gone, right"?

R) Most Underrated Super Bowl Quarterbacks (Beyond Montana, Bradshaw and Brady...)

1) Jim Plunkett: He was a Heisman Trophy winner, then a bust in both New England and San Francisco. Only a broken leg to Dan Pastorini gives Plunkett a shot in Oakland in what turned out to be a Super Bowl year in 1980. First wild-card team to win it all. Plunkett's passer rating in Super Bowl XV? 145.0. Three years later, they win it again.

2) Bob Griese: He gets Miami to Super Bowl VI, gets creamed, learns from it, brakes his leg the following season, heals in time for Super Bowl VII, and the end of the perfect season, and gets them back in Super Bowl VIII. He managed the game. Quarterbacks weren't expected to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns every week in 1973 and 1974. You were expected to give Csonka and Kiick the football and find Warfield every now and then. Two championships for a franchise that wasn't even 10 years old yet. You think Jacksonville or Houston would like to have done that?

3) Jake Delhomme: Yes, Jake Delhomme. He only completed half his passes, but he found six different receivers, threw three touchdowns and no picks and matched Tom Brady in a frantic final quarter. The team with the ball last won. That he couldn't control.

S) Most Exciting Stretches In Super Bowl History

1) Super Bowl XXXVIII, The Fourth Quarter: 37 combined points, two bad decisions on two-point conversions, an 85-yard touchdown pass and a chance for Adam Vinatieri to kick his SECOND Super Bowl-winning field goal, which he did. Just may be the best 15 minute sequence of football of all time, if defense is not your thing.

2) Super Bowl XVI, The Second Half: It was 20-0 San Francisco at halftime, and nothing had made us think Cincinnati would make it a game in the second half. But they did. The 49ers' goal line stance in that second half was, arguably, the best four defensive downs put together in Super Bowl history.

3) Super Bowl XXV: Opening Drive of Second Half: The Giants get the football, down 12-10. To beat the hurry-up, high-powered Bills, you keep their K-Gun offense off the field. Ottis Anderson does just that, helping power a nine minute, 29-second drive (over HALF the quarter), a drive with four straight third down conversions. By the time Jim Kelly got the football back, there's less than six minutes left in the third quarter and the Bills hadn't run an offensive play that mattered in over an hour of real time.

4) Super Bowl XLIII: The Fourth Quarter: Trailing 20-7, the Cardinals catch fire and score 16 unanswered points, taking the lead with less than 2:30 remaining. The Steelers calmly march the field, and take it in the end on the Santonio Holmes catch for the ages.

T) Best Catches In Super Bowl History

1) David Tyree, Super Bowl XLII: Nothing can top this. Eli Manning should never have been in a position to throw it, Tyree had had problems catching balls all week in practice, Rodney Harrison is all over him, it's a mini "Hail Mary". Then, to beat all, he uses his helmet to hold it down and gain possession? Miracle. Plain and simple. The unbeatens go down.

2) Lynn Swann, Super Bowl X: Nope, not a game winner, but let's face it, whether you like the Steelers or not, Lynn Swann, before Jerry Rice, changed the perception, and the utilization, of the wide receiver position. You could use balance, yes, even grace, to win the battle over the defender and catch the football. His other memorable catch from that game, tapping two feet inbounds down the right sideline, is almost as good. Remember, the Super Bowl we know today didn't exist in 1976. It played in the afternoon. CBS showed golf after the game. It wasn't in prime time. But teams like the Steelers and Cowboys and performances like Swann's helped push it all in that direction.

3) Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl XLIII: Yes, this did win the game. Perfect pass over three defenders, and the work of the feet to stay inbounds. Unbelievable.

Honorable Mention: Jermaine Kearse, Super Bowl XLIX. That was just sick.  :)

U) Best Super Bowl Commercial Of All Time: Reebok: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker, 2003

V) My Super Bowl Starters:
K: Adam Vinatieri
P: Ray Guy
KR/PR: Devin Hester
QB: Joe Montana
RB: Marcus Allen
RB: John Riggins
WR: Lynn Swann
WR: Jerry Rice
TE: Mark Bavaro
C: Mike Webster
OL: Jerry Kramer
OL: Joe Jacoby
OL: Gene Upshaw
OL: Art Shell

DE: Reggie White
DE: Michael Strahan
DL: Randy White
DL: Joe Greene

LB: Rod Martin
LB: Mike Singletary
LB: Nick Buoniconti

DB: Ronnie Lott
DB: Mel Blount
DB: Jake Scott
DB: Richard Sherman

Special Teams: Steve Tasker, Reyna Thompson

W) Best Super Bowl Decisions

1) Move It To Prime Time: I wish they'd push it back to a 6:05 kick rather than 6:30, but I know it's because of the West Coast. East Coast kids, get your homework done Saturday this coming weekend!  :)

2) Cold Weather Sites: I personally believe the Super Bowl should be held in Lambeau Field every year, unless the Packers qualify. Then the game would move to Soldier Field in Chicago. I applauded the New Jersey game two years ago and want more of them. Domes suck. Why do you think Minnesota hasn't been to a Super Bowl since leaving Metropolitan Stadium for the now-defunct Glad Trash Bag Dome??

3) Postgame Outside: Why give your ultimate trophy to a team in a cramped locker room? Bring it outside and let the fans enjoy. Also a nice touch to let a former champion bring it to you.

4) Keeping the Game on Over-The-Air TV: Don't know how much longer this will last, but it's been the right move.

X) I Won't Be Completely Satisfied With The Super Bowl Franchise Until....

1) Cincinnati finally wins one for Rachel.
2) San Francisco gets one more, one that Robbie can remember and enjoy.
3) Detroit and Cleveland get to appear.
4) The same with Jacksonville. Before they're no longer Jacksonville.

Y) How Did They Not Make The Super Bowl....
1) The 1979-1982 Chargers
2) The 1986-1987 Browns
3) Any Los Angeles Rams Team Between 1973 and 1978
4) The 1998 Minnesota Vikings
5) The 1985 Miami Dolphins (You lost to Tony Eason??)

And now.....

Z) The Best Super Bowls Ever (in ascending order....)

5) Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24: It was to be Brett Favre's king coronation with a second Lombardi trophy. Terrell Davis and his offensive line didn't get the memo. Davis, migraines and all, ran or decoyed his team to victory. John Elway showed heart and guts, and Denver's defense stopped Favre in the end in a physical final drive where Denver defenders were playing so hard, two of them violently ran into each other, forcing backups into key roles in the final plays of the game. Easily one of the most evenly matched Super Bowls in history, though we didn't think that way in the two weeks leading up to the game.

4) Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14: This game proved you could have a classic without a lot of points. As it was 17 years earlier, the Giants key to victory was slowing down a prolific offense. That they did. Fans who like 41-38 shootouts will never list this game, but I will. It was a test of strength, a test of wills. And, in the end, the Giants, who had lost a shootout to the Patriots a month earlier to end the regular season, learned from it, held the Patriots to just two scores, and answered their late one with the drive for the ages, thanks to Tyree and Burriss. No history, just an historic upset.

3) Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23: I used to argue against this game being great, saying it's people using their recent memories to overblow a game's significance. I stand corrected. Kurt Warner's performance, save the James Harrison interception? Pretty darn good. The 16-point outburst to take the lead? Shocking. The Holmes catch over three defenders? Mindboggling. And it gave the Steeler franchise the record for most Super Bowl wins with six over a team so close to ending 61 years of frustration.

2) Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31: It's mindblowing when you think about it. How many Hall of Famers were on the Orange Bowl field that day? The defending champion Cowboys looking for back-to-back titles and revenge on Pittsburgh from three years earlier? I didn't do this, but there's no better Super Bowl quarterback rivalry than Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. Big plays, back and forth action, then Pittsburgh gets the 35-17 lead, but Dallas roars back, gets one onside kick, but couldn't get another. Add the Jackie Smith "non-catch" and just how popular these two teams were in 1979, they, once again, kicked the image of the Super Bowl up to a new level just as they had in 1976.

1) Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19: This game is a work of art from start to finish. The underdog Giants, having ended the "three-peat" hopes of the 49ers, against the burgeoning new dynasty of Buffalo. New York doesn't even have their real starting quarterback, as Phil Simms was hurt the month before against....Buffalo. The Bills want to pile on points, the Giants want to hold onto the football. It's 12-10 Bills at the half, then the Giants put on the aforementioned 9:29 touchdown drive to start the second half. Save one touchdown, it helped put a crimp in the Buffalo offensive flow. They were able to set Scott Norwood up for a 47-yard field goal attempt. 47 yards wasn't "automatic" in 1991. It's much closer to automatic for most kickers now, a quarter-century later. He was wide right, and the Giants win a game with so much strategy and guts. Add the backdrop of the Gulf War and Whitney Houston's rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, and it was an unforgettable night, as well as an unforgettable, and unbelievably well-played game.

OH!  Let's not forget.....

AA) The Greatest Super Bowl Teams

10) The 1976 Oakland Raiders
9) The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
8) The 1992 Dallas Cowboys
7) The 1966 Green Bay Packers
6) The 2004 New England Patriots
5) The 1973 Miami Dolphins
4) The 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers
3) The 1984 San Francisco 49ers
2) The 1985 Chicago Bears
1) The 1989 San Francisco 49ers

(Honorable Mentions: 2013 Seattle Seahawks, 2009 New Orleans Saints, 1999 St. Louis Rams, 1996 Green Bay Packers, 1986 New York Giants, 1977 Dallas Cowboys)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Snow Memories On The Doorstep Of Another Storm.....

If you know me, you know I am, and have been many things. In my latest incarnation, I'm known as the "sports guy". But I'm also a weather buff. I've always been fascinated by it. So, without some classmates knowing it, in 1980 in the eighth grade at then-Liberty Junior High School, after I finished my first oral project presentation in French class, I was dubbed "Weatherman", thanks to my delivery.

I've spent 48 of my now 49 winters here in the Richmond area, missing the Winter of 1985-1986 in Massachusetts. I can remember some pretty crazy storms, a few of which have been referenced in social media and on TV in the days leading up to our latest winter "event". My most vivid memories?

February 10-11, 1983: 17 inches in 24 hours. A very simple, but potent storm that hit on a Thursday night as, on my black and white television, I watched Michael Jordan and then #1 North Carolina defeated Virginia 64-63 in an absolute classic. I went to bed, woke up, and watched the snow. We didn't return to school (I was a sophomore at Patrick Henry at the time) until the following Wednesday.

January 19-20, 1985: Super Bowl Storm I: The snow was heavy, but the real story was the cold temperatures and wind. It was absolutely brutal. I watched Joe Montana and the 49ers capture their second Lombardi, beating Dan Marino and the Dolphins, with temperatures outside in the single digits, forcing Ronald Reagan's Second Inauguration inside the following day two hours north.

January, 1987: Back-To-Back/Super Bowl Storm II. Nobody has referenced this event. We had two rather significant storms within about five days of each other. I had only been home from Massachusetts for three weeks, trying to regroup after my college closed. I watched Phil Simms and the Giants win Super Bowl XXI with a deluge outside my parents' East End apartment.

January 6-8, 1996: The Blizzard of '96: Everyone who lived through it remembers it well. A 36-hour nightmare. My three-hour newspaper route (yes, I delivered the Times-Dispatch for 14 years) became a 9 1/2 hour odyssey that included Good Samaritan customers letting me sit by their fireplace so my socks could dry out, getting my wife's uncle to come with his Jeep after HE finished HIS paper route, pulling me out so my wife could drive the car home while he and I finished MY route in the Jeep. That night? My wife and then three-year old son got violently ill. I also had three disc jockeys at the two radio stations I oversaw in Chester, stuck there because no one could get there, or get them out. There was nothing positive about this storm.

January 20--30, 2000: Back-To-Back II/Super Bowl Ice Storm: The last third of this month was one big hit after another. I had just begun my job at WRVA, still located on Church Hill. Try going up the Hill on Broad trying to get to 22nd in a major snowstorm. I remember one light turned yellow on me, and I just started blowing the horn of my van to let the world know "I AM RUNNING THIS RED LIGHT. SORRY!". But I made it there, and home, through two snows and, then, the Super Bowl 34 Ice Storm on a Sunday afternoon. Rams 23, Titans 16. Oh, and we got stuck in North Carolina on a Sunday night in the midst of all this.

Since then, we've had some near misses and close calls (President's Day Weekend 2003 comes to mind), and historically, Richmond is almost ALWAYS "on the line". I've never actually seen this magical, mystical "line", but it always defines our storms as to whether it's gonna be snow, sleet, freezing rain, just rain, or some crazy combination. We've had several storms with over a foot (or well over in some places in the RVA) that weren't "officially" one foot storms because they didn't get 12 inches at the airport, which is east of town, and therefore, in the zone where the mixing (or just the rain) seems to always show up.

I didn't even bring up 1977, 1980, the ice storms of 1994 and Christmas 1998, Rachel's "surprise" first March storm (that she remembered) in 2009, and the early and late storms of 2010, and the annoying storms of the last two winters.

I don't know if we'll "hit the jackpot" in the next 48 hours or not. As usual, one place will get six inches, and, 30 miles west of it, there will be 18 inches. No surprise. That's Central Virginia. Always has been, always will be.

So, to my Twitter friends, enjoy the time off (but study for exams!!) and soak it all in. This might be the storm you tell your kids about in 2040.  :) :)

Harry and I say: Stay Safe!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rob's Fearless (And Usually Wrong) 2015 NFL Predictions!

Why not?

1) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): I don't see any team in this division capable of going 12-4. Can Sam Bradford actually start sixteen games? I don't see that, either. I also don't see Chip Kelly keeping the attention of this team over that stretch, either. But they're the best team in a mediocre division.

2) Dallas Cowboys (8-8): If they can't run the football (thanks for taking Darren McFadden!!), we're back to 400 yard passing days for Romo, with a key interception along the way to kill comebacks or allow another team to steal a win.

3) New York Giants (6-10): Eli Manning's shelf life will be shorter than his brother. The Manning dynasty's best days are behind them. Teams should be able to score at will on the G-Men this year.

4) Washington Redskins (3-13): With the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft......

1) Green Bay Packers (12-4): This division has the potential to be the best in the league. Note the word potential. Aaron Rodgers makes receivers better. One player won't replace Jordy Nelson's numbers, he'll spread the love. Pack fans have nothing to worry about. NOTE: MUST beat Seattle next Sunday for home-field advantage in January.

2) Detroit Lions (9-7): On the cusp playoff team here. They desperately need a legitimate second wideout to free up Johnson to only double teams (!) and, of course, they need someone to replace Suh up the defensive middle. I think they'll be okay.

3) Minnesota Vikings (9-7): Also on the cusp. It's all about Bridgewater and who steps up to be his go-to weapon. If Peterson even has a decent season, the Vikes will be in it. But they have to go to Green Bay week 17 while Detroit gets....

4) Chicago Bears (5-11): John Fox won't be able to keep this dysfunctional bunch moving in the wrong direction. Will probably go 1-5 within the division, maybe 2-4 if they can beat Minnesota and Detroit at home.

1) Atlanta Falcons (11-5): I can't see Ryan, Jones, White, etc. missing the playoffs again. I can see Dan Quinn immediately bringing improvement to the defense, first by confidence, second by using schemes to take advantage of the talent they do have. But I won't be surprised if they win a lot of 34-31 games, something Quinn's not used to.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): My surprise team of the NFC. Not a playoff team, but Winston gets them a couple of wins, and a healthy Doug Martin can be very dangerous.

3) New Orleans Saints (7-9): Where is the defense? The loss of Jimmy Graham isn't the issue.

4) Carolina Panthers (5-11): It will be a struggle this year for Cam Newton and the Panthers. Their defense takes a step back, and losing Kelvin Benjamin was 10 times worse for them than Green Bay losing Jordy Nelson.

1) Seattle Seahawks (12-4): Even without Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks find good players for that defense, which certainly proved me wrong in 2014. Russell Wilson doesn't strike me as a player who goes complacent now that he has the big contract, and if Fred Jackson stays healthy....he and Beast Mode are very good friends from their Buffalo days. Could easily be the best running combo in the league.

2) San Francisco 49ers (9-7): Everyone is writing off the 49ers. I think Jim Tomsula uses this a la Harbaugh (but not as ingratiating) and takes the "underdog" team to a better than expected season. Obviously, multiple players must step up defensively, but Torrey Smith is a good pickup and I'm hoping Tomsula allows Kaepernick to be himself. Run the read-option. Let him run. It got you to the Super Bowl three years ago, remember?

3) St. Louis Rams (6-10): Is this the last year for Jeff Fisher?  Is this the last year in St. Louis, period? This season could end up like "Cleveland 1995" if ownership isn't careful. Foles must stay healthy, and there's no one in the backfield healthy enough to scare me if I'm a DC.

4) Arizona Cardinals (4-12): Collapse. Carson Palmer becomes Carson Palmer again, Larry Fitzgerald is another year older. Changes on the defensive side don't help.

NFC EAST: Philadelphia
NFC NORTH: Green Bay
NFC SOUTH: Atlanta
NFC WEST: Seattle
WILD CARDS: Detroit, San Francisco

BYES: Green Bay, Seattle

Atlanta over San Francisco
Detroit over Philadelphia

Green Bay over Detroit

Seattle over Atlanta

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Green Bay over Seattle (payback....)

1) New England Patriots (11-5): They won't be as dominant as they were down the stretch last year, but they're certainly in the Super Bowl conversation. Until we see a definitive slip in Tom Brady, don't bet against him. How much do they miss Vince Wilfork?

2) Buffalo Bills (10-6): I think this is the year they return to the postseason. Tyrod Taylor manages the game, and if McCoy and Spiller stay healthy, they could run the ball down your throat, then let their defense do the rest. Time of possession is huge. Now, if the oft-injured aforementioned go out, flip the record. Or worse.

3) Miami Dolphins (7-9): They start well, and, as usual, nosedive after the leaves fall. Brief MVP talk for Tannehill in late September, followed by "bench him!" by early December. And that's it for Philbin....

4) New York Jets (4-12): I really like Todd Bowles. But this is just a mess. In fact, if the Redskins didn't exist, the Jets would be "team dysfunctional". I'm sorry, Jets fans.

1) Baltimore Ravens (10-6): A good final year for Steve Smith, another good season for Forsett, as he may be about to turn 30, but he has plenty of wear left on his tires. Add the always tough defense, and the Ravens survive the wars of the AFC North the best.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7): Big Ben isn't as big as last year, but he'll have a good season. It's all about the defense at Heinz Field this season. They rise and fall on their fortunes, or lack thereof.

3) Cincinnati Bengals (7-9): This is it for Marvin Lewis. Four playoff "one and dones" followed by missing the playoffs this year, and there's simply no justification to keep him after all these years, and chances. They need to sign AJ Green to eliminate distractions. And, as much as I like the guy, there will be calls to replace Andy Dalton before the year is out. Good news? Jeremy Hill will be a beast and become an elite NFL running back.

4) Cleveland Browns (6-10): Quick, name five important players! I said important, so that eliminates Manziel.  :)

1) Indianapolis Colts (13-3): Winner by default, sweep the division, best record in the NFL. They get Brady, Brees, and Peyton Manning all at home, only tough December game is at Pittsburgh.

2) Houston Texans (8-8): Bryan Hoyer will do reasonably well. Would've done better with Arian Foster starting Week 1. JJ Watt equals at least two wins on his own. They'll sweep Jacksonville and Tennessee.

3) Tennessee Titans (4-12): Rough first season for Marcus Mariota. Very few weapons. Gonna be a tough season.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13): They tie Washington for the worst record in the league, and still can't get the #1 pick in the draft. More coaching changes coming in 2016. Here's hoping Josh Wells gets healthy soon!! I do like TJ Yeldon at running back. They need him desperately, as Julius Thomas could be the biggest free agent bust of the year.

1) Kansas City Chiefs (10-6): Jamaal Charles wins the rushing title, Alex Smith continues to be somewhat underrated, and actually throws a TD pass to a wide receiver. I really like their defense. They need to win 20-17 games. They'll lose games that are 31-27.

2) San Diego Chargers (9-7): Circle October 12th. A win over Pittsburgh that night could clinch the #6 seed in the playoffs. Rivers is fine, Woodhead is fine, Melvin Gordon could compete for Rookie of The Year. But again, they'll be a team that needs to score 30 a game because their defense may allow 25 per game....

3) Denver Broncos (6-10): It finally happens. The quick decline of Peyton Manning is in 2015. Hate to see it, because history will judge him harshly for going 1-2 in Super Bowls while his rival, Tom Brady, went 4-2. No running game to speak of, and he can't chuck the ball 50 times a game anymore.

4) Oakland Raiders (5-11): Improvement for my favorite team, but if you can't win a few games in your division, it makes it hard to go 8-8. Carr was better than I thought, I was wrong about Mack, and I love Amari Cooper. But teams will double team him and dare Carr to go elsewhere, and we don't have a good second option.

AFC EAST: New England
AFC NORTH: Baltimore
AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis
AFC WEST: Kansas City
WILD CARDS: Buffalo, San Diego

BYES: Indianapolis, New England

San Diego over Baltimore
Kansas City over Buffalo

San Diego over Indianapolis
New England over Kansas City

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: New England over San Diego

SUPER BOWL 50: Green Bay 30, New England 24: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix deflects the game-winning touchdown in the final minute in a classic case of role reversal, and Aaron Rodgers holds Lombardi for the second time. Appropriate that the winner of Super Bowl I will take #50.

Enjoy the season! You now know, since I said this, it likely won't happen.  :) :)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dusty Rhodes...

I'm sitting here decompressing from a brutally hot day of state tournament action, complete with an electrical storm with torrential rain, reminded of the sad news of Thursday as "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, aka Virgil Runnels, had passed away at age 69.

Knowing a bit about the professional wrestling lifestyle, and trying to help my son avoid as many of its pitfalls as possible, I can only imagine how many nights closed one bar while Ric Flair and the Four Horseman closed another because, God forbid they be seen "in public...if you will..." together, breaking kayfabe. Rhodes and Flair were killing each other earlier at the Coliseum, they cannot "wine and dine" at the Marriott afterwards.

Boy, was the business different back then. But for many of us in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, for a long time, Dusty Rhodes was a larger-than-life figure we saw mostly in Pro Wrestling Illustrated at Standard Drug Stores. He was mostly in Florida, then in Georgia on Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS. That's where his legend really grew, then finally coming to the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1984, where he reset the bar for babyface promos.

Before him, you had some great babyfaces in the ring: Ricky Steamboat, Johnny Weaver, Wahoo McDaniel (who I also felt made a terrible heel when cast that way. He always seemed constipated to me), but no Dusty Rhodes.

In under two years, we knew about being the son of a plumber, about hard times, about wining and dining with kings and queens and also eating pork and beans.

Which brings me to my earliest memory of wrestling. 5pm Saturdays on WTVR-TV6. Saturday night was hot dog and baked beans night and we ate watching Rip Hawk, Swede Hanson, the Anderson Brothers and more.

But I digress. While in my top five talkers in wrestling history, Rhodes isn't number one. But he accomplished something no other wrestler, in my opinion, has ever done, and that is be the superstar babyface without a great physique, but compensating by connecting to the fans on the mic and in the ring like few have, or will ever do.

Rest in Peace Dusty. And thank you!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Surreal Saturday.....

It's early Sunday morning as I get a chance to type this, trying to decompress from a myriad of emotions. This will be done in a stream of conscious matter, just allowing me to get out everything I continue to process.

--Prince George County, where I pastored for nine years, is devastated to learn of the death of a Royals senior who died en route to her graduation at the football field. I cannot imagine the heartbreak her family is enduring right now, and how in the world I could ever serve a family in that deep, deep level of sorrow.

--A 44-year old woman in Hanover that many of my friends knew is senselessly murdered. My heart breaks for her family, and my friends.

--My brother lost his mother-in-law today, as she suffered a massive stroke Friday and never regained consciousness. My heart breaks for my sister-in-law, as I know how it feels to lose your Mama, for my niece and grand-niece. My brother preaches on in the morning, and I agree with his decision. I preached 12 hours after my Mom passed. Had to. Totally therapeutic.

--I'm just sorry we cannot come and support our North Carolina family. Margaret's funeral will be on Rachel's graduation day. There's nothing that can be done about it. It is all in God's timing and He understands, and we trust in His handiwork. We will miss them, but we know how proud they are of Rachel, that is for sure.

--I was honored to officiate a beautiful wedding late this afternoon in Innsbrook as Lee Coe and Rebecca Windle became husband and wife. The weather held out well, the ring bearer and two flower girls, ALL of whom were TWO, played their parts perfectly! I tripped up a couple of times (yes, ministers get nervous, too!), and their sand ceremony was the best I've seen. What a work of art, and great representation of two becoming one. I asked the Lord to hold off the rain until after 7pm. As I left around 7:15, the rain began.

--Off I went to Deep Run as Clover Hill and Douglas Freeman was in a rain delay. I arrived for what would be the final five innings of a ten-inning game that, actually, had already been decided. Clover Hill would score a run in the sixth, Freeman would answer, then we stayed tied until the tenth when Clover Hill scratched one across, then ended things to win 2-1 and clinch a 5A State Tournament berth.

--Only it wouldn't happen. Douglas Freeman filed a protest mid-game about their opponents using a pitcher one inning too long per VHSL rules. I get home, do some dishes, reload Twitter and it has exploded with questions about the protest. I work and work to confirm it independently. I talk w/a local TV station. Finally, we went with a confirmation just after midnight.

--I have a great interview with two elated Clover Hill players, including the one who scored the winning run. The video now stays on my phone. I am so, so disappointed for the Cavaliers, who have to be devastated that in, maybe an hour's time, they went from jubilation to the news that their season was over. Reporting that news is a part of my craft I do not enjoy.

--I also don't like goodbyes. So as news came that both Hanover and Glen Allen softball lost their Region Semifinal games in Tidewater today, I thought of great seniors whose careers are now over. Specifically, I think of Eryn King, Hanover second baseman, who never failed to yell, "HI ROB!" when she would see me approach the diamond on game day as she practiced or warmed up. Hanover softball won't be the same without her. Our loss is VCU's gain.

--Oh, and today was the 30th anniversary of my high school graduation. Standing in Monroe Park across from what was then "The Mosque" in 1985, I can remember a moment standing there, asking myself where would I be, what would I be doing in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years....

--The answer to the "30 years" question is now laid out before you. Some days pack so much in, it may take a day or two to simply process it. And I'd better do it quickly.

Because Tuesday's coming. And I gotta be on my "A" game when my baby walks across the stage at Siegel and gets that diploma.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thank You Dave.....

I've only attended two television tapings in my nearly 48 years. 

On June 16, 1983, me, my Dad and my brother-in-law Dave got in line in "beautiful downtown Burbank" and witnessed the maestro. It was "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson". His guest that night was Robin Williams. You cannot imagine. The comedy during the commercial breaks was unbelievable.

There it was, the stage, Doc, Ed, the orchestra, Johnny's famous desk. I saw the magic work before my very eyes. At just shy of my 16th birthday, it was nothing short of a phenomenon.

Late night television had a profound effect on me, my attempt at wit, my philosophy on humor (I'm a huge proponent. Jim Valvano was so right: laugh every day. A good laugh, too.) The summer before my trip to California, my weeknight viewing consisted of Benny Hill at 11pm, Johnny Carson at 11:30, then David Letterman at 12:30. 

Ah, David Letterman. 

Now, I can honestly count myself as among the few to loyally watch his ill-fated morning talk show in the summer of 1980. Our Richmond affiliate never aired it, opting for the "Good Morning Movie". So I'd have to run outside, twist the ground-based antenna to the north so I could pick up, with snowy success, WRC-TV Channel 4 in Washington, who did air the program.

Edwin Newman had news updates during the show. Let that sink in for a moment. Want to see one? CLICK HERE.

Alas, it didn't last long, but NBC realized what didn't work at 10am would do pretty well at 12:30am. And here came Dave.

I forget the pundit who said this recently, but as Carson was the quintessential talk show host, Letterman was the "anti-host". He literally turned a genre that had been dominated since its inception for decades by Allen, Paar, Carson, Griffin, Douglas, tore it apart, and rebuilt it from a different set of eyes. And, for me, watching comedy from this prism was mesmerizing.

Example: Out of nowhere, cue an idyllic scene that reminds you of "The Sound of Music", then start that song, but when you get to "Muuu---sssiicccc!", cut to a shot of a stick of butter and have long-time announcer Bill Wendell growl, "Buuuuttttteeeerrrrrrrrrr!". 

Simple. Brilliant. Capable of inducing doubled-over laughter. I was 14 when Late Night premiered. Watching Letterman during my high school years was gold.

Chris Elliot screaming out of the studio. Asking the person at the laundry mat to overfill all the washers with detergent. Oh, and, back to the "The David Letterman Show" for a second, the wedding reception whose last scene was people using fire extinguishers to stop tons of petals that were released but caught fire due to some snafu, all as the credits rolled and the hired band played on.

David Letterman is the very definition of "surreal".

Which is why Dave didn't get "The Tonight Show", though he most certainly deserved it. NBC wanted safe. Traditional. Leno could give you a "Carson-like" performance. NBC wasn't ready for Dave, even after having him for over a decade. He also wasn't a "company guy" (right, GE? Like, you couldn't accept a lousy welcoming gift??).

So, for many people for whom Letterman was their cup of tea, there will always be the shots. Leno beat him, Letterman isn't funny, and, in later years, Letterman is old and bitter.

I'll agree with the latter. I've gone through long periods without a Dave fix. His final years at NBC were part of that "bitter" stage, but could you blame him? It was going to affect his comedy, that should have been a given.

I left Dave, very disappointed, again several years back when his political joking just became downright rude. He should have stuck with his mentor's stand on that issue. Johnny Carson dished it out evenly for decades. Letterman couldn't hide his far-left beliefs. 

I figure if Dave and I ever met for lunch, we couldn't talk 20 seconds about politics, but we would likely spend 20 hours on life, comedy, and observing the human condition.

But there are things about me my own wife doesn't care for, yet, she's still beside me tonight as I write this, patiently waiting for me to scratch her back.  :)

So, despite his flaws, and we all have them, I've chosen to look at all the comedy brilliance he's provided me for 35 years these past few weeks, and I've squeezed every moment out of his final broadcasts.

Man. What I'll remember from Late Night and The Late Show.....

---Jane Pauley on helium
---The rotating screen show
---Larry "Bud" Melman (especially his opening of the first CBS show, busting through the center of the "Eye" to proclaim, "This is CBS!")
---The suit of Alka-Seltzer
---The fastest grocery bagger
---Jay Thomas' Holiday Football Challenge
---Sue Hum
---Racing through the Rockefeller Plaza hallways
---The "water sprayer" along 53rd Street
---Rupert Jee (I ate at his deli. DELICIOUS!)
---Top 10 things that sound cool when sung by an opera singer
---Top 10 things that sound cool when sung by Barry White
---And pretty much every Top 10
---Wahoo, Nebraska
---The two original members of the "World's Most Dangerous Band": Paul Shaffer and Will Lee
---Every word Paul ever uttered to add the punch to the monologue that Ed McMahon did for Johnny
---TV's and Watermelons thrown off the roof
---Viewer Mail
---The revival of "Stump The Band"
---Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler
---Any trip to a drive-through
---"And DOWN the stretch they come!!"
---The Late Night Monkey Cam
---The 9/11 Monologue
---Having his doctors and nurses on his first show after heart bypass surgery
---Jamming the Jamba Juice across the street with superheroes
---Biff Henderson (especially reporting from any sporting event)
---Pies with Dave's Mom
---The Olympics with Dave's Mom
---Frankly, anything with Dave's Mom

and, of course, "Will It Float??" (based on the British game, "Is it Buoyant?")

There's so much more. Dave tapped a side of comedy not seen in 1980 on television, just as my generation was coming of age. The combination and timing couldn't have been more perfect.

I do hope he finally finds some peace in his "retirement", whatever that may consist of. I suspect he'll spend, and cherish, lots of time with his son Harry. He will find much more life value there than in any spat with a woman with just one name (Cher, Oprah, Madonna)...

And I'm just glad I got to experience that other television taping, when, on August 25, 2008, my wife and I entered the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Late Show. I had to be the most animated fan in the crowd that day. 

So I don't need to be at another TV taping. Carson, then Letterman. What in the world could be better than that?

I leave you with my all-time favorite Top Ten list, from his first week on CBS. Again, simple, but brilliant, and Dave being Dave, willing to share in the comedy, as the master of the countdown, Casey Kasem, pays a call.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Just a few random thoughts....

Wow. I'm on Blogger all the time, but never seem to have time to blog. Well, here.

So, I'm making myself rest after a trip today, first to cover Randolph-Macon volleyball in Ashland, then up to Spotsylvania to perform a wedding ceremony for a fantastic couple.

1) Gotta Walk: It's prime walking season, and I've got to take advantage. Humidity's gone, heat to follow, and before we get to 5pm sunsets, I've got to go find out which houses are for sale in the neighborhood. The Richmond Heart Walk 5K last Saturday was a little easier than last year's. I never walk 5K in my neighborhood, so it's the "annual ultimate test". I'm still a work in progress, 18 months after the heart attack, and 12 years after the sleep apnea diagnosis kicked off this era of "chronic illness".

2) Surprised? For some people who know me, and see me at football, field hockey, volleyball, and other events.....the last part of Item #1 may come as a shock. What you don't see is the scheduled down times where I make myself rest up, the many hours I'm sleeping, or when doing things online, doing them while in bed resting. Otherwise, the still undiagnosed nausea likes to kick in, sometimes in debilitating fashion. Rarely I can fight through it, 98 percent of the time I cannot.

3) A Thousand Kids: Covering high school and college sports helps me stay mentally young, it really does. It makes me have my finger on the pulse of pop culture, as much as I can, helps me understand my two adult kids better, too. Poor Rachel, sometimes she gets jealous of how much some student-athletes appreciate what I do. But I remind her, I feel like I have a thousand kids around the area, and it's an honor to cover every one of them, as well as get to meet their families. BUT....I only have two CHILDREN. They know who they are. :)

4) TV Analyst??: I went to Comcast at the request of the American Heart Association to do a TV interview for their public access channel to promote the Heart Walk. If you know me, you know I chose radio for a reason: I'm NOT television material. Imagine my surprise when I get a Facebook message from Cheryle Rodriguez asking me to come back to tape a segment talking about the NFL and players from the area!

So, Friday morning, we had a wonderful time talking about Russell Wilson, Jake Wells, Antone Exum, etc, etc. I wish I hadn't mentioned Percy Harvin, who was traded to the Jets within hours of taping! (GRRR...)

If you want to see me enjoy a conversation while looking uncomfortable on TV, it's Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8:30 on Comcast 95, and FiOS 36.  :)  I'd be honored to return sometime.

5) Change: Our cottage industry, HCS Media Network, is undergoing some changes to, hopefully, help it further reach its fullest potential. That'll be my focus Sunday afternoon while watching/listening to Red Zone.

That's my story. For now. What's yours?  :)