Happy Thanksgiving – Sports Style!!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate everything we have and everything we’re grateful for. From our health and family to our job and pets, we have SO MUCH to appreciate! And since you know I’m a sports lovin’ junkie – what more could I appreciate besides the aforementioned than sports – especially on Thanksgiving!!

Since I was brought home from the hospital, sports have always been front-and-center in my life. I spend day after day, hour after hour immersed in sports in some capacity. As a kid, I’d play any sport you could think of with my friends from the crack of dawn till the street lights came on. If I was by myself, I’d either play Tecmo Super Bowl or Ken Griffey Jr. ’94 on my Super Nintendo, and practice my play by play skills. Now, I comb through articles and websites preparing to host my own, daily 2-hour sports talk show.

Yesterday afternoon, while everyone was cooking, catching up with relatives, and maybe stealing a deviled egg or two, the Chicago “Monsters of the Midway” Bears showed up to Ford Field in Detroit to take on the “hapless” Lions. This was the first of three contest featured on Turkey Day.

Even without their regular starting quarterback, the Bears managed to claw their way to victory over their N.F.C. North Division rival 23-16. Thanks in part to their ferocious defense – which came up with the go-ahead pick 6 and clinching interception late in the 4th quarter – Chicago moves to 8-3 and remains atop the division in first place.

At 4 o’clock, the Redskins and Cowboys took center stage in Dallas with the division lead hanging in the balance. Washington was also without it’s regular starting quarterback, but unlike the Bears, the Redskins couldn’t overcome the glaring weakness and Dallas won 31-23. Both teams are now 6-5, and tied for the N.F.C. East division lead. Dallas has won three straight games, while Washington has lost it’s last 2. Without a proven signal caller to rally the ‘Skins, my money is on Dallas to win the division.

The night cap contest of Thanksgiving Day came courtesy of the team in the Big Easy. The New Orleans Saints hosted their N.F.C. South Division rival – the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons DESPERATELY needed to win this showdown to have any shot at getting back in the Wildcard race for the postseason. Instead, the Saints put those thoughts to bed as they pounded the Falcons 31-17. The Saints won their 10th game in a row and are arguably the best team in the NFL. You may see them in February…

I hope you enjoyed my recap and reflective thoughts on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Check back next week to read my newest article – “The Game”

30 Years of Sport’s Memories

I’m officially 30 years old. Boy, does that sound weird….When I was a kid, it felt like it took an eternity to get to my birthday, Christmas Day, or summer vacation. Yet, in the blink of an eye I’m now three decades old. So, in honor turning the BIG 3-0 I thought I might look back on some of the greatest moments in sports history I’ve been around for.

  • The Buffalo Bills lose 4 straight Super Bowls (1990 – 1993)

Entering the 90s as a toddler, I didn’t have the cognitive function to understand just how difficult it is to make it the Super Bowl, let alone make four in a row. Somehow, the Buffalo Bills accomplished this incredible feat, but never brought home the Lombardi Trophy. With a roster stacked with Pro Bowl talent at every position, it’s still bewildering to realize this team never won a ring.

Behind the undaunted leadership of quarterback Jim Kelly, a freak athlete running back in Thurman Thomas, deep threat wide receiver Andre Reed, and a defense led by sack machine Bruce Smith, it still blows my mind the Bills never won the Super Bowl in four consecutive trips. But that’s why they play the game….

  • Michael Jordan leads the Bulls to 6 titles (91-93, 96-98)

Ask anyone who’s 30 or older – who’s the best basketball player of all-time?? The overwhelming answer is Michael Jordan. His “Airness” transcended the modern game and took the NBA to new heights. Every kid growing up in the 90s wanted to be “like Mike.” He had a flare and style that no one had ever seen before and made basketball must watch tv. Jordan guided the Bulls to six championships in his time with Chicago, and won every finals in 6 games. He and the Bulls kept so many future Hall of Famers from winning a ring and cementing their legacy. Jordan and the Bulls were simply to good. I will never forget watching Jordan sink his final shot from the free throw line to bury the Jazz in game 6 of the NBA for the second straight year. If you’re too young to have seen it live, you missed one hell of a performance.

  • The New York Yankees win 4 World Series in 5 years (1996-2000)

As a lifelong Yankees fan, growing up in the late 90s was sublime. After years of toiling in misery and mediocrity, the Yankees had a young core of talented players who gelled perfectly with veteran leadership. This squad became the most dominant team in baseball since the Philadelphia Athletics of the early 1970s. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera came of age under the bright lights of October, as David Cone, David Wells, and Roger Clemens led them to the promised land. This was the Golden Age of Baseball for this Yankees fan, and I’m so glad I got to watch it.

  • RED SOX FINALLY BREAK THE CURSE OF THE BAMBINO (2004)

As a Yankees fan, this feels like a knife through my pinstripe heart. With the Yankees leading the Boston Red Sox three games to none in the American League Championship Series in 2004, NO ONE gave Boston a shot to comeback. It had never been done before in MLB, let alone the NBA, NFL, or the NHL. Yet, somehow, someway, the Red Sox stormed back to sweep the final four games to win the American League Pennant. Their poor, unsuspecting opponent – the St. Louis Cardinals – didn’t have a prayer in hell to beat Boston. The Red Sox swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series since 1918, and forever banish the curse of the Bambino. Since then the Red Sox have won 3 more Fall Classics. Maybe there is something about exercising our demons…

  • TIGER WOODS MAKES GOLF COOL

When Tiger Woods made his final putt on the 18th hole to win The Masters in 1997, it was the coronation of professional golf’s newest savior. Before Tiger Woods came along, golf was mainly perceived as a sport old, white men played. It was great background noise to fall asleep to on a Sunday afternoon on your couch. But after winning his first green jacket, no one was falling asleep on Sunday afternoon anymore. Audiences across the world were glued to their tv to watch Tiger Woods stride down the fairway in his red shirt and black pants to win another tournament. Woods won 14 Majors in a 12 year span…no one had ever done such a thing. Watching Tiger in his prime was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in golf. I just hope a new “Tiger” will come along soon…

  • TOM BRADY AND THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS DYNASTY

In February of 2002, no one in Vegas or around the NFL gave the New England Patriots a prayer in Hell to beat the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl. The Rams were the defending champions and had established themselves as the “Greatest Show on Turf” for their prolific offense. When Adam Vinatieri’s kick sailed through the uprights to pull off the upset of the new millenium, it ushered in a new era of dominance – one that we may TRULY never see again. Since that fateful kick, the Patriots have brought home 4 more Lombardi Trophies. Behind the undisputed moxie and leadership of quarterback Tom Brady, and mastermind head coach Bill Belichik, the Patriots have DOMINATED the NFL competition. They’ve won the AFC East Division 20 times, set the record for most consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins, and won 5 of 7 Super Bowls. The New England Patriots are the Gold Standard of NFL franchises.

  • STEPH CURRY AND BASKETBALL’S 3-POINT REVOLUTION

Everybody knows that 3 is worth more than 2, but Golden State Warriors Guard Stephen Curry has DRAMATICALLY inflated that value. With jaw dropping range and machine gun like quickness, Curry buries 3-pointer after 3-pointer, and it’s not even fair how easy he makes it look. Night in and Night out he confounds opposing defenses with his ridiculous dribbling ability and nail in the coffin 3-point shot. In fact, he makes so many 3-pointers he’s already 4th on the all-time list for most made shots behind the arch – and he’s been playing for less than a decade. Steph Curry is single-handedly responsible for the contemporary style of basketball played at all levels. His amazing ability and talents have inspired an entire generation of ballers to seemingly forego traditional jumpshots and other “old school” 2-point tactics, and instead, elect to shoot 3-pointers like they’re going out of style. It’s not just guards or smaller players who shoot 3s at will either, it’s players of all shapes and sizes who hoist up the triple. I’m not a fan of this new style of play because it has caused players to lose a fundamental ability to score inside the arc, but I’m an old school kinda guy, and since I’m officially 30 I guess I can start shouting, “GET OFF MY LAWN!!” Hope you’ve enjoyed my 30 years of sports memories recap.

Growing Up “Sports Tough”

Ever since I could walk, sports have been an integral part of my life. As a kid growing up, I was undersized and doubted in every sport I played. Kids would crack jokes because I was the shortest kid on the field, or I didn’t throw the fastest pitch. Little did they know, all their teasing was fuel for my competitive fire. I was bound and determined to outwork and out hustle any foe in my path, and earn their respect. I spent countless hours on the diamond, pitch, hardwood, golf course, tennis court, and sandlot, training and competing. There were days when I’d walk away smiling in victory, and there were times when I came away humiliated in defeat. Each experience allowed me to learn a new lesson, and reflect on how my preparation had paid off.
Even though each sport I participated in demanded a different skill set, the principles to become successful were identical across the board – hard work, dedication, communication, sacrifice, attention to detail, trust, resiliency, respect for yourself, your teammate, your opponent, and authority.
I can say with complete confidence that the trials and tribulations I experienced playing sports molded me into the person I am today.
I may get disappointed at times in life, but I never just stay on the canvas, looking up at the lights, and wonder how I’ll go on. I rise from the mat, dust myself off, and wipe my brow as I smile in respect to the blow life landed. The resilient nature sports instilled in me won’t allow me to feel sorry for myself. If there’s still time left on the clock, then there’s no excuse for giving anything but your best effort.
I firmly believe that people like myself, people who grew up playing, training, and competing in sports, are a different breed than your average person. We grew up Sports tough. We grew up accepting the challenge of never settling for mediocre results, and we still don’t accept them. We grew up committing to practice and play in the pouring rain, freezing cold, burning summer heat, and any other conditions mother nature threw at us. We are the warriors who woke up early and stayed late for practice. We believe that it doesn’t matter if you’re down to your last strike, as long as you worked hard and tried your best, anything is possible.
Next to joining the military, growing up sports tough prepares you for just about anything life can throw at you. 
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win” is one of the most commonly quoted phrases in sports. It’s said ad nauseam because it’s the gospel truth. The greatest sports figures of our time all faced adversity many times throughout their careers, but they never let that stop them from accomplishing their goals.
If you don’t believe me, take the 1960 U.S. Open for instance. Arnold Palmer faced a 7-shot deficit at the start of the final round. He could’ve easily packed his things and left, and no one would’ve blamed him. Instead, he marched out to the first tee and proceeded to birdie 6 of the first 7 holes. Palmer ended up winning the tournament by two shots over Jack Nicklaus.
If you’re looking for a team triumph that best epitomizes growing up sports tough – look no further then the 2004 Boston Red Sox. As much as it pains me to use them, (since I’m a die-hard Yankees fan) they pulled off the greatest comeback in the history of professional team sports. In the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Red Sox trailed 3-0 in a best of 7 series. No team had ever overcome that deficit to win a series. Yet, they never stopped believing in themselves and swept the final 4 games of the series to advance to the World Series. They also won the World Series that year and ended an 86 drought.
The workforce is dominated by people who grew up sports tough too. The world’s largest car rental company, Enterprise, a multi-billion dollar company, employs thousands of former college athletes. The reason is simple – Enterprise knows these new employees grew up sports tough. Their work ethic, commitment to excellence, communication skills, etc are all top level. They developed these stand out traits by growing up sports tough.
I am 9 days away from turning 30 years old, and without question, growing up sports tough is the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t know what life has in store for me in my next 30 years, but rest assured, I grew up sports tough, so I’ll be ready for it.