Gaining Super Bowls and Gaping Sinkholes

There seems to a growing trend in the National Football League, and that is if you want your city to host a Super Bowl, simply build a new stadium. On Tuesday the NFL announced that Minneapolis will be the host city for Super Bowl LII, that’s 52 if you’re not the Roman Numerals type.

Granted, the building of a new state of the art stadium does not always guarantee the worlds media descends into your city for a fortnight each year, but it does help. Just recently we have had the big game played in Dallas’ house that Jerry built, and of course the 50th anniversary Super Bowl will be held in Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

One thing that maybe swayed the voting away from New Orleans and Indianapolis, who finished second and third respectively in the voting, was the fact that almost half of the $1 billion stadium has been funded by the public, something which the NFL smiles greatly upon and they like to give back to those that give out in the first place. Also the city has plans to upgrade many downtown areas of the city in advance of the season finale in 2018.

Minnesota’s only other occasion hosting the game was back in 1992 when the Washington Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24 in the recently demolished Metrodome.

Away from the bright lights of the NFL and the glory of the Super Bowl comes a tale of small town woe. On the same day that Minnesota were celebrating landing the big one, another big one appeared in Tennessee.

Unfortunately for the good people of Clarksville, and in particular the Austin Peay University Stadium it was in the shape of a 40ft by 40ft sinkhole in the corner of one end zone.

At first construction workers on a $19 million facility facelift discovered a small 5ft by 5ft hole, but when they started digging deeper to find stable bedrock so they could fill it in, the problem escalated.

“As they began digging, it became bigger and bigger and bigger,” said Bill Persinger, spokesman for the 10,000-student university, located about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. Persinger is confident that the hole will be filled and the stadium will be fully operational come the start of the football season in September.

Is there a problem with Michael Sam?

Michael Sam doubled up as Defensive End and Offensive Tackle when playing in High School, and while he attended Hitchcock in Texas he was All-District four years running for his play on defence. He went on to receive several scholarship offers, but yearned to play for Texas A&M.

In the end he accepted an offer from the University of Missouri. Playing in the Big 12 Conference he steadily made a name for himself with big play capability and tough tackling. In 2012 Mizzou was transferred into the Southeastern Conference and it was here where he truly made his mark.

His senior year in 2013 was stellar. Named Defensive player of the Week in consecutive weeks, he led the conference in tackles for a loss, and sacks. This ultimately led him to be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

A unanimous selection for All-American, he graduated and played in the 2014 Senior Bowl at Outside Linebacker, a position that he struggled to adapt to. The position move was after many said that he was undersized to play Defensive End in the National Football League.

At the annual NFL Combine he was measured at 6ft 2in, and 261lbs., running the 40 yard dash in 4.92 seconds, a 25.5in vertical leap, and a broad jump of 9ft 6in. This was a somewhat disappointing display and led to his early projection of going in the third or fourth rounds, slipping down to the later rounds if selected at all.

On Saturday May 10th the St.Louis Rams were on the clock with the 249th overall pick in the seventh round. With that pick they selected Michael Sam and another young promising football player had his prayers answered.

Michael Sam is gay.

Is this a problem? No of course not.

His selection was the profit of a well rounded football player whose professional career has only just started. The mere fact he has been selected is just the beginning of his journey. If he feels hard done by with the lowness of his selection he will have to battle it out in training camp to prove his doubters wrong.

He may of course feel that the lateness of his pick was due to his “coming out” in August 2013, and that teams avoided him due to the uncommonness of having an openly gay man in their locker room. The flip side of this is that some would say he made his announcement to benefit him in some way, and maybe a team would pick him for the warm handshake they would receive for making such a bold choice.

Let’s get real here for a moment. Football is a business first and foremost. There is nothing to be gained by making a good public relations selection in the draft if it then goes on to become a bust. Draft picks are like an untouched gold mine. You don’t get many gems, so why risk wasting one just because it puts you in a good light for a few months.

In the weeks building up to the draft Baltimore, Atlanta, New England and Indianapolis were all said to be keen on Sam depending on how the boards looked in the latter rounds. Those teams always manage to excavate a diamond from the rough so Sam wasn’t just going to be someone’s PR exercise in those buildings.

It is a newsworthy story of course, and you may well berate me for writing this about what i feel is a non-issue and contradicting myself in adding to the circus. I’m not denying that a significant breakthrough has been made and Sam’s announcement may well help others in the future, that is if he becomes a success for his play on the field and not by the media scrum it has so far provided.

The cameras were there when he received the call from the Rams, and he reacted like all other picks have by hugging their closest to them and thanking them for their support and help through their college careers. The subsequent repeat of his moment in the spotlight for the days after is not the correct way of promoting Michael Sam the football player. Judge him by his game film like the Rams have, dissect the tape of how he bullrushed his way to nearly a dozen sacks in his excellent senior year.

I congratulate all the 256 selections in this year’s draft as much as I do Michael Sam. Their hard work for the past three or four years has paid off. We will of course see more headlines about Sam in the near future, let’s just hope it’s for football reasons.

Sam’s replica jersey is the second highest selling of all players coming out of the draft, behind only a certain quarterback whose stock also dramatically slipped in the draft, but that’s an entirely different story…

NFL Schedule: An alternative Top Ten to watch

With the National Football League off-season feeling longer than usual, due to the moving back a month of the annual Draft, it was no surprise that the schedule release was also delayed.

The announcement of the schedule has become so eagerly anticipated that it even has its own three hour show on NFL Network.

This year with the ever growing clamour for something more than trade rumours and mock drafts, it was no surprise that leaks of the schedule found their way onto social media sites in the two hours prior to its official release.

We found out that Seattle will start the defence of their first title in the now traditional Thursday Night opener, against the Green Bay Packers. A chance to relive all those Fail Mary moments.

Of course, there are the usual suspects playing out the Thursday, Sunday and Monday night slots with marquee matchups to catch the Prime Time audience. Away from those headline acts each week there is a weekly fix of football which will have a huge impact on the outcome of who wins the divisions, and which teams get to play playoff football in January next year.

After analysing each week here are ten games that may just have a big say in who does what away from the big lights of Prime Time.

WEEK ONE – 49ERS at COWBOYS

When these two meet its always drama, and this will be no different. An early chance to lay down a decent conference tiebreaker.

WEEK THREE – BRONCOS at SEAHAWKS

Rematch of February’s Super Bowl. Seattle has home field advantage, and should have too much in their locker again, even with the Broncos new additions.

WEEK FIVE – CHIEFS at 49ERS

Alex Smith returns to San Francisco and will want to put one over the team that dumped him. A good test for both teams as the dust has now settled a month into the season.

WEEK SEVEN – BENGALS at COLTS

Two teams that will need to keep pace with New England and Denver. A win for here will add credence to their status as the teams that could be the new breed of excellence in the AFC.

WEEK NINE – CHARGERS at DOLPHINS

Another two teams that will want to be in the mix come December. They will be riding the coattails of their divisions rivals but will be waiting for any slip up. Tiebreakers cost Miami last time.

WEEK ELEVEN – EAGLES at PACKERS

A traditionally tough game. No real edge in the weather for either at this time of year. Two division favourites could be jostling for playoff seeding.

WEEK TWELVE – LIONS at PATRIOTS

Detroit wants to be considered a legit contender. To do this they must win the big games down the stretch. Win in Foxboro at this time of year they may open some eyes.

WEEK FOURTEEN – PANTHERS at SAINTS

It’s going to be loud – and fun. Huge potential for big points here as well as the small matter of a division on the line.

WEEK SIXTEEN – LIONS at BEARS

Two that could be on the outside looking in, but with any kind of slip up from the teams above them in the playoff chase they will be eager for this win. Another chance for Detroit to be taken seriously.

WEEK SEVENTEEN – RAIDERS at BRONCOS

Oakland would love nothing more than to put a dent into Denver right before the playoffs. That is of course if they aren’t in the mix themselves…

X’s and O’s on the line in NFL fan event

Were starting to get spoiled now by the good people at the NFL. Such is the frequency of their NFL fan forum events, and their continued success in both entertaining and educating.

This past Thursday was described as a night for the hard core fan as we were about to be shown how the guys who do the dirty work in the trenches do their business, to allow their headline grabbing colleagues to do theirs.

The night was hosted by the evergreen Neil Reynolds, and he is now a well oiled machine in these circumstances, and not even an interval break where a chosen view could win prizes by shouting out the names of players linked with animals and palaces could throw him off course.

Onto the main event and the two guests on the night were Jonathan Babineaux, the nine year veteran of the Atlanta Falcons defensive line, and center John Sullivan who is no stranger to these shores, having played in one of last years International Series games for the Minnesota Vikings, and also being part of a hugely popular NFL roadshow of events around the UK in the early part of last summer.

As usual there was a chance for audience members to ask questions related to the nights talk, or those slightly left field – “What’s the craziest thing you’ve bought?” (Sullivan = a boat, Babineaux = a house, a BIG house)

It was when the questions turned to what makes them such great lineman in todays NFL that the room fell silent. Such is the fascination we have with the sport that we all hang on every word by those in the hot seat. You could tell Sullivan was more used to our style of interviewing than his colleague, and took the lead in most part, but Babineaux was not to be withdrawn, and perhaps came out with the best line of the night which we will reveal later.

Sullivan talked us through how he would literally line up, from stance and balance, to how he drives off his feet to gain maximum balance and power. Eagerly listening, as well as those in the auditorium, was Babineaux as he will come up against the Vikings this year and was perhaps trying to get some inside knowledge on his future opponent.

When it was Jonathan’s turn to go through his drills he come up against two people that he was a little surprised on how to handle. First off was a light heeled young lady that made it a little uncomfortable for the Falcon to demonstrate leverage through the breastplate, and then he had to be quick off the mark to use his outside speed to get past a more than capable Farnham Knight.

As the night was entering its final stages the talk turned to London and how the two men saw the future for the NFL here. Sullivan spoke very highly of his experiences here both on and off the field last year, saying it was one of the most memorable moments of his career, Babineaux couldn’t wait to get home and tell his teammates of the reception he got on this night and the glowing report he got from his colleague on the night.

Both were very optimistic about the possibility of a London based franchise, Babineaux saying its just a matter of time and its exciting to be part of it, whereas Sullivan was thrilled about the fact that when we look back 50 years from now the people helping to push this through would be classed as pioneers of the game, and what better a legacy for Commissioner Goodell to have than that of the one who truly globalised the sport.

Oh, that remark that Babineaux made…well it was the day of Johnny Manziel’s pro day and when asked how would the two feel about protecting, or going after the future star. he simply said “I’m gonna kiil him, and then say welcome to the NFL”

Super Bowl Report: Quotes from the game

The Seattle Seahawks have been crowned Champions after their hugely dominant display on Sunday night in New York. As always, but no different to any other Super Bowl winning team, they had a lot to say about it all afterwards.

“We are the best defence ever,” said Michael Bennett, following the Seahawks’ 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos. “We could have played anybody today and have done the same thing.”

“Our receivers were called pedestrian, and also called appetizers,” Richard Sherman said. “I think if anybody took a bite out of them, they’d be pretty full.”

“I woke up jumping, bouncing,” game MVP Malcolm Smith said when presented with a truck amid the confetti-strewn field after the game. “It turned out great for us tonight.”

“The only way we could say we were the best defence was to take down the best offense,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said.

“We’ve been relentless all season,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “Having that mentality of having a championship day every day. At the end of the day, you want to play your best football and that is what we did today.”

“This is an amazing team. Took us four years to get to this point, but they never have taken a step sideways,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “These guys would not take anything but winning this ballgame.”

“It’s all about making history,” All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said. “This was a dominant performance from top to bottom.”

And word from the vanquished…

“We played a great team. We needed to play really well in order to win, and we didn’t come anywhere close to that,” Denver QB Peyton Manning said.

“I can’t really say it out loud, right here, because I get into trouble,” Denver coach John Fox said when asked if the loss tarnishes Manning’s career. “Ludicrous would be proper English.”