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NFL

U Mad Bro? Brady Bashing

Posted by She's Game Sports October 18, 2012 04:07 PM

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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman posted this photo on Twitter, then deleted it, with the caption "U mad bro?" after Sunday's game. (Elaine Thompson-Associated Press)

Anyone can have a bad day - even Tom Brady. Two interceptions, two intentional groundings, and a bunch of bad passes made for one of Brady's worst outings in quite some time.

The Patriots had more problems than Brady last week. The secondary got burned to a crisp, coaching decisions were suspect and the running game hit a brick wall. There were issues across the board.

Somewhat surprisingly, a good portion of the Monday morning quarterbacking revolved around the quarterback.

The sports talk lines were lighting up - and this is what they were saying:
"Getting old." "Worn down." "Less arm strength." "Ducking under pressure." "Mental mistakes." "Throws into the dirt."

Wow. Brady bashing. That's something new around here - and totally ridiculous.

There is no question Brady's 395 yards were tarnished by the team's one for six in the red zone, and most importantly the final score. It was an uncharacteristic performance for sure, but let's not put the two-time Super Bowl MVP out to pasture just yet.

We have been spoiled through the years. People in New England have come to expect the miracles down the stretch, sticking the nail in the coffin, and the Patriots walking off with another win.

Brady can't do it all. His career-high 58 pass attempts meant nothing without a running game. 87 rushing yards on 26 carries won't cut it. If Brady is throwing it close to 60 times a game it can't be a good thing - no matter how many yards he's racking up.

It's not just fans and media picking on Brady, opposing players are getting into the fray. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, well known for his trash talking, posted a picture on his Twitter, which has since been deleted. The photo showed Sherman yapping at Brady as they walked off the field after the game. The caption said, "U mad bro?"

According to Sherman, Brady told him and a teammate to 'come see me after the game.' The Patriots were winning at the time.

On WEEI radio Tuesday, Brady said he didn't see Sherman after the game. (In the photo it looks like Brady's eyes are closed, so this could be true.)

Brady, as usual, took the high road.

"That's part of football," Brady told Dennis and Callahan. "Everyone is entitled to what they say and their behavior. We as Patriots have always handled it in a different way. But when you win, you can do whatever you want."

Sherman didn't stop with the Twitter comment. In the post game he had some words to say about Brady and the no huddle offense.

"Anytime you run a gimmick offense, you're a little bit afraid - you're not sound in what you are doing in your base stuff. There is a reason it's not effective, because there are great defenses out there who will stuff it."

A little bit afraid? Tom Brady... AFRAID? Right buddy. And who are you again? I never heard of Richard Sherman until he started flapping his mouth off.

So listen up people. No badmouthing Tom Brady. Especially if you have been paying attention the last 11 years.

Brady is a leader, he's a fighter, he's a winner and he still has his fastball. I like that he told Sherman to come see him after the game. It shows that he's cocky too - and there's nothing wrong with that.

With Rex Ryan and the Jets coming to town, maybe somebody should ask the Jets coach who he would rather have, Mark Sanchez or Tom Brady? Truth or dare.

I am picking the Patriots this week in a rout. "U mad?" Yeah, Brady is probably heated. And if anyone out there wants to talk about once great players who can't get it done -take a look at A-Rod. Now, that one is worth a discussion.
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NFL

Pete Carroll: the anti-Bill Belichick

Posted by She's Game Sports October 12, 2012 11:27 AM


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Pete Carroll will face his former team Sunday. (Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE)

If opposites attract, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick would be bosom buddies.

About the only thing that the two head coaches have in common is the New England Patriots. One has famously taken the team to the top three times and is considered a coaching genius. The other left town with a 27-21 record over three seasons, one playoff appearance and the same smile he arrived with.

Carroll and Belichick will face each other Sunday as opposing head coaches for the first time since 1994 when Coach Belichick was with the Browns and Coach Carroll was with the Jets. For the record, Belichick's team won that game, 27-7.

Pete Carroll's time with the Patriots was sandwiched between the imposing presence of Bill Parcells and the dour but effective nature of Bill Belichick.

I was there when each of these coaches was introduced, and it was Carroll's first presser that holds the big memory. As Carroll stood at the podium in the crowded room, a member of the media sneezed. Carroll looked over at the writer and said, "God bless you."

Right then I knew we weren't in Big Tunaville anymore.

Carroll is said to be the perfect college coach. At Southern Cal, his high fives, player hugging, and Heisman winners led him to national championships. It all worked perfectly in the world of boola boola, bowl games, and beautiful beaches. But when Carroll sensed the foul smell of an NCAA investigation, it was time to go. Pete left USC faster than you could shake a pom pom.

He took over as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.

From the day he gushed the words "I am pumped and jacked" back with the Jets, Carroll has been viewed as a coach whose enthusiasm is maybe a bit over the top. He is definitely a guy who always sees the glass half full - even if the liquid it holds is toxic.

Carroll is not the type to strike fear into the hearts of his players or the media. There is a hesitancy to ask Bill Belichick the tough question- especially after a game- win or lose. Anyone who watches the Patriots 5th Quarter postgame show knows how awkward and brief those Q & A sessions can be.

No question was too inane for California Pete. I remember a writer asking Carroll about the dynamics of the coin toss. The question was, "Are you a heads guy or a tails guy?" And there was Pete, with his boyish grin answering, "Hmmm. I am definitely a tails guy." Everyone laughed, including Carroll.

On the day he was let go from the Patriots, the news vans were lined up in the Foxboro Stadium parking lot. Local TV stations figured they could at least get a shot of him walking out of the team offices for the final time. Instead of walking hastily to his car on one of the worst days of his life, Carroll approached the throng of reporters, photographers and cameramen. He shook each and everyone's hand and said thanks for everything.

Carroll owns the second-highest winning percentage among all Patriots coaches (.549). No need to tell anyone who leads the pack.

In 2007, Carroll was asked by Sports Illustrated about his experience with the Patriots. He said, "I was there for three years, and it was the hardest 10 years I ever had."

Carroll had some tough times in New England, but his memories aren't all bad.

"I loved living there and representing those fans. I thought they were awesome," said Carroll in a press conference earlier this week. "They were so intense and loved the team so much in all the sports, not just football. Whether it was basketball, hockey, baseball, this is a great fan base, and I loved being connected with them. And I appreciated it more the tougher they got on us, because I knew how much they loved it and how much they cared about it."

Pete Carroll did not work out for the Patriots. It doesn't make him a bad guy- just not the right guy. Two years after Carroll was fired, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions, and no team in football has had more success since.

The Patriots have the right guy to thank for it- Bill Belichick.

NFL

Explaining the controversy: poor calls against the Patriots

Posted by She's Game Sports September 24, 2012 02:26 PM

In the wake of the Patriots 31-30 loss Sunday night, there has been much discussion over the poor officiating and very costly penalties that hurt the Patriots in the game. While the officiating alone should not be an excuse for a loss, there were quite a few calls that deserve scrutiny. For those who missed the game or don’t quite understand why there is so much talk about certain plays, we put together a list of the top five plays that Patriots fans are upset about in the aftermath of the loss to the Ravens.

1. Holding on Devin McCourty – Fourth quarter, 6:18 remaining, Patriots lead 30-21

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The situation: With 6:18 left in the game and Baltimore facing a second-and-14 situation at their own 16-yard line, Joe Flacco threw a pass that was incomplete to Torrey Smith. The incompletion would have resulted in a third-and-14 situation at the Ravens’ own 16 with 6:11 left in the game, but then the refs called a defensive holding penalty on Devin McCourty.

Definition of holding: when a player illegally grasps or pulls an opponent other than the ball carrier when trying to prevent a block or cover a receiver.

The controversy: McCourty never grasped or pulled at the opponent. If anything, he may have tapped the opponent on the play, but it was never even close to holding. Even the announcers were left speechless by the call.

The result: The penalty cost the Patriots five yards and gave the Ravens an automatic first down, meaning what should have been a difficult-to-convert third-and-long from deep in the Ravens’ own end turned into first-and-10 at the Ravens 21. The Ravens later scored on the drive, tightening the game to 30-28. The moment was a huge turning point in the game for the Ravens and likely changed the outcome of the evening.

2. Holding on Brandon Spikes – Fourth quarter, 4:15 remaining, Patriots lead 30-21

The situation:
The Patriots were hurt once again later in the same drive as the McCourty call by another holding call, this time on Brandon Spikes. With 4:15 left on the clock and the Ravens facing second-and-goal at the New England 10, Chandler Jones and Kyle Love rushed in and sacked Joe Flacco for a loss of 12 yards. The play was negated, however, when Spikes was called for holding.

Definition of holding:
when a player illegally grasps or pulls an opponent other than the ball carrier when trying to prevent a block or cover a receiver.

The controversy:
Spikes, like McCourty, didn’t seem to hold Dennis Pitta on the play at all – in fact, it was Pitta who grabbed Spikes’ jersey and yanked him down to the ground. The call easily could have been holding on Pitta, not Spikes.

The result:
Instead of a third-and-22 situation from the Baltimore, 22, the Ravens received a first down five yards from the end zone. On the very next play, Flacco completed a touchdown pass to Smith to cut the Patriots lead to 30-28. Had the penalty never been called, it is very likely that the Ravens would have had to kick a field goal, and in a game where the difference in the final score was one point, that touchdown ended up really hurting the Patriots.

3. Bill Belichick grabs the referee – Postgame

The situation: With two seconds left in the game, Justin Tucker kicked a 27-yard field goal that was ruled good by the referees to give the Ravens the 31-30 win. The kick appeared to have just barely made it over the uprights, but it was a close enough play that the Patriots seemed to want a review. In the postgame craze on the field, Bill Belichick rushed to the referee asking for an explanation of the call and grabbed an official.

The rule: According to Mike Pereira, a rules analyst for FOX Sports, “a field goal that goes over the top of an upright is not reviewable because you cannot determine when exactly the ball is directly over the pole.” A field goal is considered good if it makes it above the crossbar and through the uprights or when above the uprights, between their inside edges.

The controversy:
The field goal was very close and it was above the uprights. From some angles, it looked as if it was definitely between the outside edges of the uprights, but from other angles, it was harder to tell. The referees did not take much time to call the play good, and an angry Vince Wilfork stormed over to the referees in an attempt to ask them to review the play, which apparently, they could not do anyway.

The result: The Ravens won the game, and Belichick will likely receive a fine from the NFL for abusing an official.

4. Pass interference on Jerod Mayo – Second quarter, 15 minutes remaining, Patriots lead 13-0

The situation: At the start of the second quarter, it was all Patriots. New England led, 13-0, and the Ravens were tasked with converting on third-and-6 at their own 22 to start the quarter. On the play, Joe Flacco appeared to throw an incomplete pass to Ray Rice, but the incompletion was negated when Jerod Mayo was whistled for a 2-yard pass interference call

Definition of pass interference: When a player makes contact with an intended receiver after the ball is thrown but before it is touched by another player in a way that prevents the player from catching the pass (i.e. holding a receiver’s arms down, cutting off the receiver’s path without making a play for the ball, restrictive contact with a player without making a play on the ball etc.)

The controversy:
Mayo did not seem to do much that would constitute a classic pass interference call, and you very rarely see pass interference calls made on a 2-yard play.

The result:
The call gave the Ravens a first down, their first of the game, therefore marking a huge turning point in the game. If not for the call, the Ravens would have had to punt on fourth-and-6 at their own 22. Instead, the Ravens drove 82 yards down the field to score their first touchdown of the game.

5. Offensive pass interference on Julian Edelman – First quarter, 1:48 remaining, Patriots lead 10-0

The situation: Toward the end of the first quarter, Tom Brady and the Patriots were facing a third-and-11 on the Baltimore 30. Brady appeared to complete a pass to Julian Edelman at the Baltimore 11 that would have given the Patriots a first down, but it was called back due to an offensive pass interference call against Edelman.

Definition of pass interference:
When a player makes contact with an intended receiver after the ball is thrown but before it is touched by another player in a way that prevents the player from catching the pass (i.e. holding a receiver’s arms down, cutting off the receiver’s path without making a play for the ball, restrictive contact with a player without making a play on the ball etc.)

The controversy:
It’s hard to understand where the pass interference on Edelman was since he was shoved in the chest by the defender who did not turn around or make an attempt to make a play on the ball. Since Edelman caught the pass, it looked like the play should have stood as it was.

The result:
The penalty cost the Patriots 10 yards, but it was repeat third down, so the Patriots attempted to convert on third-and-21 from the Baltimore 40. Brady moved the ball up nine yards thanks to a pass to Wes Welker, and the Patriots had to settle for a field goal instead of having an easier chance at scoring a touchdown on what should have been first-and-10 at the Baltimore 11.

NFL

After an ex-NFL player's crime, a grandmother shines as a beacon of love

Posted by She's Game Sports September 21, 2012 10:57 AM

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Rae Carruth is serving an 18-to-24-year prison term after killing his pregnant girlfriend. (photo from SI.com)

About 13 years ago, Rae Carruth had the world in his hands, the soft hands of a young and talented wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers. He made the NFL All-Rookie team in 1997, was adored by fans, feared by defenders and loved by a young woman who was carrying his baby.

Now, Carruth is serving an 18-to-24-year prison term after being found guilty in 2001 on three charges to conspiracy to commit murder. Even though he had plenty of money, Carruth was not intent on paying child support, so he hired a couple of thugs to murder the mother of his child and the baby too.

It was a crime that snuffed out the life of 23-year-old Cherica Adams. Her baby survived. Chancellor Lee Adams was born by C-section the same night his mother was shot 5 times on dark road in Charlotte, N.C. As Cherica hemorrhaged blood, the baby lost oxygen, causing tissue damage to his brain.

Chancellor is now a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy caused by near suffocation at birth. His grandmother, Saundra Adams, has taken care of him since the day she lost her daughter who died in the hospital one month after the shooting.

Thomas Lake wrote a story for Sport’s Illustrated that did not focus on Carruth’s horrible crime all these years later. Instead, Lake wrote the story of a strong woman with a huge heart. It is a supreme testimony to the power of love and forgiveness.

In the touching piece at SI.com, Lake writes that Chancellor is a happy kid despite his physical challenges. His grandmother does not see the need to explain the details of how Chancellor’s mother died and what caused his disabilities.

“Well he knows that Mommy was killed and that Daddy did, you know, Daddy did a bad thing,” Saundra told Lake. “And he’s in jail now paying for the bad thing he did. And we just say, that he, you know, he made a mistake.”

Saundra Adams witnessed Chancellor struggling to do the things other kids do at certain ages. He could not hold and shake a rattle at 14 months. He could not sit up, let alone take his first steps. Walking seemed like something Chancellor never would do- but he can now.

At age 42, Saundra Adams became a grandmother. She spent her first 28 days as a grandparent watching her only child die while her grandson was tied to wires and machines.

During the trial of Rae Carruth, Saundra Adams was called to testify.

“Chancellor has cerebral palsy because of this act,” she said from the witness stand. “We do thank God that he’s still alive. You know, he is our miracle child. Because he was not supposed to be here if that plan had been implemented properly. But Chancellor is alive and he’s got such a strong will. Just like his mom. He is fighting for his life.”

Later in her testimony, in all her sorrow and pain, Saundra said this to the judge, jury and defendant:

“Because I do believe in miracles, I know Chancellor will be better. We’re going to give him lots of love, and I know that God is working things out already for him to be totally happy and completely well. And in my heart, even though Rae Carruth has not shown one single ounce of remorse, to me or anyone in my family, there’s not been one ‘I’m sorry about our daughter.’

“But in my heart, because I am a Christian, as an act of my will, and because I know it’s out of obedience to God, I am forgiving Rae Carruth.”

Saundra Adams went on to devote her life to Chancellor, who is called Lee. She is there for his therapy, there to make his breakfast and there to say good-night. Saundra is “G-Mom” to Lee, and Cherica is called “Angel-Mom.”

Like his father, Chancellor Lee Adams is an athlete. He won a gold medal last spring in the 30 meters in his motorized wheelchair at the Mecklenburg County Special Olympics. He plays flag football from his motor chair with G-Mom cheering from the sidelines.

Saundra said that after everything she can thank Carruth for her grandson.

“You can focus on what you’ve lost or what you have left, she said. “So I didn’t lose. I have my grandson. I have my daughter with me in my heart, always. I have her with me through Lee. So I don’t focus on loss. I mean, I think she’s in heaven with God, so that’s definitely not a loss. So I’ve got a lot left, and a lot of hope left, and a lot to live for, and to be able to help my grandson to become the wonderful man he’s meant to be. I haven’t lost anything.

“Really, I’ve gained. I’ve been pushed into my role and destiny.”

Rae Carruth’s crime is undeniably the worst in sports. His projected release date is October 22, 2018. Chancellor Lee will be 18.

Saundra Adams will look into the eyes of the person who set the plot to have her daughter killed. She will witness her grandson meeting his father man to man. This grandmother could be filled with hatred, and who could blame her?

Chances are that Saundra will stay with forgiveness – not that Carruth deserves it, but because she wants it that way.

G-Mom is into love, not hate. And somewhere up there Angel-Mom is smiling.

Top 10 reasons to love NFL Sundays

Posted by She's Game Sports September 14, 2012 10:00 AM

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Looking at Tom Brady is another great part of football Sundays. (Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE)

I admit it. I am a pro football junkie. When the NFL Network introduced the "Red Zone" I thought I died and went to heaven. After covering the Patriots for over 20 years, I have seen it all. Sitting in a press box is not like sitting in the stands, and it's definitely not like sitting at home. The best part of "being there" was running on to the field after a big win and interviewing players in the heat of the moment. Asking Lonie Paxton about his snow angel just feet from where he made it - now that's a moment.

When the days get shorter, the leaves turn colors and the air cools down- there is no better sport than pro football.

Here are my top 10 reasons.

1. One game a week

Unlike the other pro sports that have either 82 or 162 games per season, the NFL offers only 16 regular season games. This means every game is a huge game, and every game is worth watching. Light a fire in the family room, make the Mexican dip, grab a cold one, and watch football. That's my idea of a perfect Sunday.

2. Family

Sunday afternoons watching football have become a household ritual. It is also one of the few times when parents and kids will watch the same thing. My kids knew Drew Bledsoe was the Patriots quarterback before they were in preschool. They also learned what a Cheesehead was before they knew about the state of Wisconsin. The year was 1997 and the Patriots were playing the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. I have home video of my daughter saying the Patriot’s coach is a "Big Tuna."

3. Friends

As the kids got older, the parents figured out watching the Patriots on a Sunday afternoon sure beat the heck out of standing on soccer fields all day Saturday. Burgers on the grill in the good weather, chili when it got cold. Your house or ours? And there is NO TALKING except during commercials. Chatty girlfriends were warned in advance, “We need to hear the play by play. Non-football related chit-chat will not be tolerated.”

4. Action

I love hockey live, but football is by far better made for television. Both are violent sports with great speed and high impact, but football lends itself to a television audience better than any other game. With 15-20 cameras all over the field, we see every angle on replay. Last week I "heard" the football hit the crossbar in the Niners/Packers game like I was sitting under the goalpost. The first time I was on an NFL sideline during a game, I could not believe what a full speed, helmet-to-shoulder pads collision "sounded" like. With improved technology and boom microphones all over the field we not only see the game; we can "hear" it too.

5. Build up

Because the teams play only once a week, we get at least four solid days of pregame hype. By game time we can recite the story lines for the afternoon. Trash talking is strictly prohibited in some locker rooms and encouraged in others. The media naturally loves trash talking, and will try to bait the players all week. Few Patriots players ever took the bait, although Rodney Harrison was always good for a "knock their heads off" quote. The networks have become masters of weaving in the story lines before and during the game, so it makes it even more fun to watch a game on TV. You want reality TV? I'll take the NFL over Survivor any day.

6. Rivalries

Patriots/Jets. Packers/Bears. Giants/Cowboys. Classic.

7. Food

There is always food involved when watching football. Do we order in pizza and chicken wings for a baseball, basketball or hockey game? No. A typical Sunday diet during football season includes grease, carbs, and enough salt to make you float away. And from experience I know that it’s not just at home where the feeding frenzy is happening. NFL press boxes across America serve up three course pre-game meals, hot dogs, huge soft pretzels and cookies at halftime, then finally pizza at the end of the day as writers furiously work to make their deadlines. Pass the Pepto.

8. Beer

As much as I love my wine, football goes with beer. A noontime bottle of suds is the way to go. Chardonnay does not cut it. For one thing, wine causes late afternoon sleepiness that can totally inhibit watching the primetime game on NBC (although after 6:00, switching to wine is not a bad way to go).

9. Community

Have you ever noticed that the lawn mowers go silent for a few hours on Sunday afternoons in September? If you are a shopper and not a fan, it is by far the best time to go to the mall. I had to run to the grocery store at half-time once, and the place was a ghost town except for the employees (I updated them on the score). People plan their day around the game. If it ends at 4:00, the stores are busy at 4:30. If it starts at 4:00, the rush is between 2:00 and 3:00. Really, you can set your watch by it.

10. Tradition

Last but not least: this is America and we love our football. I like the anthems, the flyovers, the Minutemen in the Patriots end zone. I even like that fireman dude we've been watching forever at the Meadowlands. J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets. The Lambeau leap, end zone dances, Hail Mary passes, and massive sacks. Snow games, mud games, wind chill and wind factor. Whatever the weather brings. This is FOOTBALL- not even Mother Nature can stop it.

When I was in Dallas two years ago for the Super Bowl, a nice gentleman approached me in a store and asked, “Are y’all here for the football game?”

I said, “I sure am!”

He then said to me, “You know, I like baseball better. It’s a ‘cerebral” game. It’s all about anticipation, knowing the next move. Football is a “social” game. Fans “react” they don’t think ahead. Y’all can miss a play, then watch three or four replays. Oh, and by the way, all the ladies can be yakking in the kitchen and run out like they didn’t miss anything.”

And then I understood. I admit it. I am social. I am without a doubt the reactive type. And I have never been accused of being cerebral.

Thank God, because I love the NFL!

Sunday at 1:00 is the best time of the week. How many hours until kickoff?

When sports and politics intersect

Posted by She's Game Sports September 10, 2012 09:33 AM

It’s an election year in the United States -- as you already know thanks to the divisive coverage at every level of media and probably your own very personal stake in the matter of who will become the next president. Sports have often have a strange relationship with politics, since an interest in sports can bring people together across lines of ideology in a very unique and peculiar way. Whether because of an interest in the game itself or an allegiance to a particular team, stadiums, arenas, and bleachers are always filled with fans whose backgrounds, voter registrations, religions, morals, and social policies are vastly different, even when they cheer for the same athletes.

So obviously, the business of athletes being individual human beings with political thoughts of their own is bound to get lost somewhere in translation. Athletic abilities and being a good teammate aren’t things even remotely related to political affiliation. But the current drama of American politics isn’t excluding professional athletes from the line of fire — in fact, many have put themselves directly in it, and the blow-back has been harsher than it would be in any other entertainment industry because of the fact that interest in sport, in and of itself, is relatively apolitical.

Sports are unlike films, visual art and music, which often wear their sociopolitical context on their sleeves — and we, as viewers, accept that. Sports are another story. Sports culture is where things can get very tricky.

Many sports fans vehemently resist politics entering into their conversations on sports, which to a degree seems fair — having something in our culture that provides an element of unity and leisure is worth having. Yet there seems to be some kind of misconception that because athletes are such public figures, often styled as heroes and role models, that their opinions are less welcome or even insulting to their fan base, and this is simply not the case.

Their level of responsibility to the greater public begins and ends with doing their jobs and being a good citizen — and in a democratic society, there is no way that expressing an opinion can be categorized as bad citizenry, even when that opinion is unpopular — as long as it isn’t downright violent or hateful.

Take for example the controversial action by Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who refused to visit the White House with his team and the Stanley Cup following a dramatic championship performance of a lifetime. Thomas is a Republican. At the time, he stated on his Facebook page that he was exercising his right as an individual to decline the invitation due to fundamental disagreements with the federal government. While the act was perceived as disrespectful to President Obama and caused some apparent tension between Thomas and the Bruins organization, he was well within his rights as a private citizen to refuse to go.

Thinking of Thomas as a Boston Bruin player first and foremost, it isn’t going to be a popular move. But very few people are singularly beholden to their jobs–and indeed, Thomas announced a hiatus from hockey shortly after the incident, with the intention of focusing on his family and personal life. We like to romanticize the teammate relationship as fans, but being a pro athlete is both a job and a business, and it obviously doesn’t satisfy every human need.

This sentiment was echoed by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has been a vocal supporter of gay marriage and gay rights. His team’s owner, Steve Bisciotti, was contacted late last month by Maryland politician Emmett C. Burns requesting that Bisciotti force his employee to “cease and desist”, referring to Ayanbadejo’s public support for gay marriage as “injurious actions.”

Ayanbadejo tweeted on September 4th: “Football is just my job it’s not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!!!”

Team owners have power over players’ salaries and behavior while performing their jobs — the same as if he or she worked at Starbucks or in an office — but not when they’re off the clock. But Burns seemed to think that possible fan disagreement and the entertaining nature of the NFL precluded Ayanbadejo from making such a statement. Burns’ letter drew a rather colorful and strongly worded counter-letter by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, which specifically cites Burns’ request to Bisciotti as being in violation of the First Amendment among other more metaphorical accusations (read: the language is quite NSFW).

Maintaining the professional sports industry as something that can be enjoyed by everyone is important if we want our favorite teams to continue to bring people together on a plane separate from politics. It’s one of many ways that we can engage each other in America and come to understand each other as people rather than election results and Gallup polls.

However, this also involves recognizing the athletes we root for as private citizens themselves with rights to their opinions, no matter what those might be. Acting like it’s some violation of their contracts to have public opinions is tantamount to objectification. Let them do it. If you have a problem with it, it might be you who is politicizing the sport.

The jury is out on replacement referees

Posted by She's Game Sports September 7, 2012 09:24 PM

The NFL has started the season with replacement officials. The league that turned football into a multi-billion dollar industry (and America’s favorite sport) could not settle its differences with the men in stripes.

For the first time since 2001, the NFL kicked off the season with replacement officials. Regular officials have been locked out since June. The two sides talked over Labor Day weekend before discussions broke off.

The issues are both financial and non-financial. Some NFL officials have other jobs outside of their weekly commitment to the league. Others do not. Along with more pay, the guys who make the calls want a pension plan.

Having replacement referees during the exhibition season is one thing, but what happens now when the games “count?” Ultimately the players decide the outcomes of games, and on occasion, the officials do too.

If the season opener between the Giants and Cowboys is any indication, this may not be such a big deal. Aside from missing an obvious hold on Giants receiver Victor Cruz at the goal line, the substitute officials did not embarrass themselves.

The same cannot be said of the preseason, which was chalk-full of follies and faux pas. Everyone knows that officials make mistakes. Just like the players, and the rest of us, they are human. But if the lockout continues, there is sure to be at least one big blunder that could be the difference between a “W” and an “L.” In a 16-game season that is huge.

After the season opener in East Rutherford, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was diplomatic when asked about the non-call that cost his team a touchdown.

“I think it was more than a hold. There is another word for it. But you have people in a position and they’re trying to do the very best they can. We can yell and scream on the sidelines all we want, but that’s the nature of what we have in front of us right now.”

Just picture if that were the Patriots. Imagine Bill Belichick’s head exploding on national TV the first time he disagrees with a lame call that could be a game-changer.

Up in the broadcast booth we hear Jim Nantz say, “A pass interference call on Devin McCourty leads to a Titans touchdown with one second left on the clock. I don’t know Phil, the replay seems to clearly show the Patriots defender made a clean play.”

Phil Simms: “Bill Belichick not only ripped his headset off; he is now being restrained by his own players!”

In my ten years covering the Patriots, I learned this about Belichick. He has little patience for ineptitude- not from his players, not from the media (the worst offenders) and not from officials who steal a win from his team because of a bad call.

There is no doubt that coaches and any other team personnel have been instructed by the league to stay out of diatribes having to do with bad calls. They know where their bread gets buttered, and the owners clearly want to win this battle.

So for now it is up to the replacements. Where do they come from?

Everywhere from Pop Warner to high school to college to the Lingerie League. Yes. Lingerie League.

Imagine a game between the Bears and Packers being decided by a referee who once officiated women running around in bras and panties.

How much will the replacement officials change game plans?

If I were the Patriots, I would run the hurry-up faster than the speed of light. Before a whistle could get into an official’s mouth, Tom Brady will have taken the next snap. It’s a sure fire way to create mass confusion- not just for the opposing defense, but for the officials.

It’s September and football is back. No labor dispute would ever stop me from watching. The sport is that good- even if the officials are not.

In the words of Coach Hoodie, “It is what it is.”

Fifty Shades of Tom Brady

Posted by She's Game Sports August 24, 2012 08:49 AM

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Tom Brady in a collar for his VMAN shoot. (photo from sportscracklepop.com)

Tom Brady has been on plenty of magazine covers, from Sports Illustrated to GQ. Most recently, No. 12 was captured on VMAN baring his ultra white teeth next to a fierce looking Doberman.

It’s certainly not the all American guy or even the top designer look we are used to seeing on Brady since the quarterback became a sports and fashion icon.

It’s a whole new kind of sexiness for Brady who has modeled Gap clothes, UGG boots, Under Armour, Stetson Cologne and Movado watches through the years. Let’s hand it to his publicists – they know how to mix it up and keep it fresh.

Brady has done it all on the field no question. He deserves to wear any look he wants, and quite frankly, he can get away with just about anything. The baby goat shoot he did back in 2005 was pushing it, and his teammates gave him a rash of grief, but if anyone can pull off a spread with farm animals, it’s Tom Brady.

The VMan photos make him look tough, and he is. Seeing Brady in a dog collar is a bit “Fifty Shades of Gray” and millions of women everywhere know exactly what I mean. As the saying goes, “women love Tom Brady, and men want to be him.” It’s the best of both worlds.

Yes, in Boston we look through those Patriots colored lenses. He is “our” quarterback, and we would take him any day over Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers or — gulp — Tim Tebow.

Back in 2001, when Brady replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe, we reporters couldn’t even find Brady in the locker room. He was a second string quarterback living in the shadows. When the spotlight finally hit Brady in the third week of the season, no one could have predicted the storyline to follow.

I remember Brady’s initial locker room interview during his first practice week as QB 1. He was polite, well spoken, and mature beyond his 24 years. I went back to the station that day and dropped the tape on our producer’s desk.

My words: “I have no idea how well Tom Brady plays football, but I will say this: he is genetically perfect.”

Over the next 10 years the world learned how well Brady plays football. What never changed was the way he handled himself. There was never a time that I heard him insult a reporter or a question. And as his popularity grew, there were many irritating, silly and inappropriate questions.

Anyone could see that Tom Brady was raised right. It is a testament to his family, and I remind myself of this all the time as a parent. Tom Brady never got too big for his shoes, and he has some pretty big shoes (expensive too).

Following his third Super Bowl win in 2005, I had the chance to congratulate Brady on a great season at the team’s after-party. It was the first time that I’d ever talked to him away from a stadium or in a “non-football” situation.

Brady shook my hand and said, “Thanks for all your help this year, Alice.”

Excuse me?

Please. Brady did not have to say that, and obviously, I had nothing to do with any success he and the Patriots had on the football field. Brady and his teammates did all the work, but in some way I think he appreciated the efforts football beat reporters put into a season. For a player to acknowledge something like that is pretty unusual and cool.

Brady once again made the “best dressed” list in the September 2012 issue of Vanity Fair. When asked his favorite item of clothing, he said, “my football uniform.”

Nice.

So about those Doberman photos. A shade naughty? Sure. But in a good way.

The NFL referee lockout and what it means

Posted by She's Game Sports August 20, 2012 10:23 AM

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Shannon Eastin proves that women have what it takes to hang with the boys of the NFL. (Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE)

Have you ever heard the shouts of “C’mon ref!” or “Ref, you suck!” during a football game? This season, we may be criticizing a whole new roster of officials and it’s likely to get dirty.

Veteran referees of the NFL are protesting the league’s proposed changes for the 2012-2013 season. Negotiations between the NFL and the National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA) have been going on since June 3rd and no agreements are in sight. Let’s break down each issue on the table, taken from ESPN.com, and what it would mean for officials, players and fans:

- The league wants to add three additional crews to support the existing refs. League spokesman Greg Aiello said "this would reduce stress on the officials by allowing each official to work fewer games, would reduce travel, would allow us to do more intensive training, integrate younger officials more effectively, increase diversity, and improve quality of officiating." The union disagrees.

This will affect the veteran referees in a big way. Not only will they probably be limited in the amount of games they call, it’s a very real possibility that their pay will be cut because of the addition of such a large amount of employees.

In terms of players, they will be dealing with a bevy of rookie refs and it’s inevitable that they will take advantage of the inexperience and fight more calls. There’s also talk that the players fear for their safety with newbie officials; players say they feel that newer referees need a lot of experience making calls at the speed of an NFL game. It would be really hard to replace the 1,385 collective years of experience that the current refs hold. Lastly, fans might lose interest in the game, not unlike the MLB lockout of 1994-95 due to pure frustration.

- Currently, the majority of NFL officials are part time employees with full-time jobs in other industries. The league is proposing revising the program to only include full-time officials but the union has its complaints about that as well.

"The NFLRA is not opposed to full time officials if they are fairly compensated," the union said Thursday. "While the NFL has never made any compensation proposal, comparable positions in other professional sports at the 20-year level earn approximately $350,000 to $400,000 and are provided health insurance, a pension, time off with pay and numerous other benefits."

The veteran referees aren’t entirely convinced that all of the benefits of their current full-time jobs can be replaced by the opportunity presented by the NFL. If they can come to an agreement, it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep the same officials throughout the season; consistency in such an inconsistent league should be welcomed with open arms.  Fans and players alike will appreciate the personal level that full time refs would integrate into the games.

- Not surprisingly, salary is an issue between the two groups. The veteran officials concede that the league is publicly claiming a 5-to-11-percent increase in salary but say that it is a false statement. Instead, the officials said the proposal "includes aggregate game fee compensation increases of 2.82 percent per year, not the rates publicly claimed by the league.

In fact, the NFL's proposal does not contain any salary schedule. Rather it contains aggregate game fees for all officials to be paid per a schedule to be developed by the NFLRA."

The league claims that if the salary pool permits, the salary increase might be an option for select employees, but that answer won’t fly with a union that represents ALL of the vets. If the league is expecting to pull experienced officials out of their respective full time positions, they better have the paycheck to back it up. Knowing that an official must have five years of experience just to call a Super Bowl game, it would be a great disservice to everyone if the NFL would have to rely on rookies because they were too stubborn to pay the veterans the money they deserve.

- The last item in negotiation is the existing pension plan. The union said the league plans to freeze and ultimately terminate it. The NFLRA offered to "grandfather" the current defined benefit plan only for current officials.

It’s unknown how this will impact anyone other than the families of the veteran officials, but the league last proposed a 401(k) that would average annual contributions of $20,000.

So how are the replacement officials doing so far? It seems to be a mixed bag.

History was made this month when Shannon Eastin became the first woman in the NFL's 97-year history to officiate a preseason game, and she was give the opportunity due to the referee lockout. Eastin has 16 years of college experience and appeared to make all of her calls correctly during the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers game earlier this month.

Conversely, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh began to comment on the calls made by replacement referees during his team's 20-9 loss to the Texans on Saturday but then retracted anything else he was going to say.

“Was it us? Was it them? Was it … things I’ve been instructed not to comment on, so I won’t comment on them and don’t even ask me,” he said.

An erroneous call by the replacements made during the San Diego/Dallas game on Saturday may have cost the Cowboys the game. After an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit by Chargers safety Eric Weddle during a Cowboys pass, linebacker Donald Butler came up with the interception before it hit the ground. Even with automatic review, the officials called the foul on the Chargers but gave them the ball. What should have happened was that the interception should have been revoked and the ball given to the Cowboys. The ‘Boys lost the game and are likely going to appeal to the league.

If calls like these keep happening and it trickles into regular season, the NFL will have a huge problem on its hands. Stay tuned for more updates on the lockout and how it will affect football season as we know it.

About the author

She’s Game Sports is a new media company dedicated to sports-loving women around the world. We are here to entertain, serve, empower and inspire women by delivering the “heart of More »

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