Archive for December, 2009

I’m home, and watching a rom-com with my wife, all in all a very relaxing day. Time I thought to put on my NFL goggles and reminisce about the past decade. Someone pass the dry roasted peanuts please.

This giant Jason Taylor greeted UK NFL fans at Wembley in 2007

1) THE REAL NFL COMES TO ENGLAND IN 2007

It was a dream that I had since I first watched highlights of the Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys in 1985, getting to see real NFL football that mattered over here in England.

Guess I didn’t know back then that the NFL had already sent the St Louis Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings to Wembley in 1983 to play a preseason game. 

 Now I was too young (and didn’t have enough pocket-money saved up) to go and see the Chicago Bears play the Dallas Cowboys (1986) or the Los Angeles Rams battle the Denver Broncos (1987) in preseason games in London, but I did make up for it.

From 1988 to 1993 I went to every NFL preseason game in London, watching the likes of the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys and even the Detroit Lions.

It was incredible fun (even though back then the NFL organisers had no bloody clue what an NFL tailgate party is) to see real NFL superstars play in front of me, even if it was only for a quarter or even in some cases a single sustained drive.

By the time we got to 1993 I was one of thousands of now quite educated NFL fans who found it a bit insulting to fly the likes of Troy Aikman and Barry Sanders over to London only to see them suit up for 5 minutes and then watch them spend the rest of the game eating sunflower seeds in jeans and t-shirts.

This must have got back to the NFL who pulled the trips over the pond, and instead focussed on other parts of the world, including Japan, Mexico, Canada and Australia.

Fast forward over a decade and we still have no further NFL games in England, but the rumours began after Roger Goodell becomes the NFL Commissioner in 2006, replacing the steady but not so ‘blue sky thinking’ commish Paul Tagliabue.

When it was announced at the end of 2006 that a REAL regular season NFL game was going to be played at Wembley Stadium I was more excited than Tiger Woods with a free VIP all access ticket to the Playboy Mansion.

He wore Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemmmmmmmoonnnnnnnn !

Yes the game between the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins actually sucked. Primarily this was due to the godawful weather in London in late October, but we also had to witness the Dolphins trying to win a game with the legendary Cleo Lemon behind center (sorry Cleo I love you really).

The score really didn’t matter, nor did the quality of the gameplanning or execution of the plays, the fact we had an NFL contest that actually contributed to the storied history of the league was all that mattered.

Ted Ginn Jr’s first NFL touchdown will forever be frozen in time in the memory bank of each and every fan that was there at the game.

I for one will never forget the humongous Jason Taylor animatronics robot, nor the way the Giants and the Dolphins tore the hallowed Wembley turf to shreds, nor will I forget that each run, each tackle, each kick and each pass will be entered for real into the NFL Record and Fact book forever more.

Eli warms up for his Superbowl win with a win in London in 2007

Roger Goodell you did all of the UK and European fans of the NFL proud, and to boot the winning team from the 2007 game, the New York Giants, went on to win the Superbowl with a late late Eli Manning touchdown.

 Two further games down the line and it looks like the NFL will have TWO regular season games in the UK in 2010.

Can’t wait !

Advertisements

I'm glad I'm at home in the warm and not in the stands at the Vet !

Just a small note of Merry Christmas and a big festive thankyou to everyone who has visited my blog, commented on a post or even sent me an email.

I have been having a football packed Christmas time since breaking up from work on Tuesday. Watched ‘We are Marshall’ today and have also been trying to guide the Penn State Nittany Lions to a bowl game in NCAA College Football on my PSP.

I’m also in the 3rd quarter of Cal v Utah bowl game. I think its called the Porcupine Bowl or the Pointy Dog Bowl or something like that.

These college football bowl games have such stupid names, and such long winded sponsor names its a wonder that fans can keep up.

It grinds me to say it but I still have the Philadelphia Eagles as my Superbowl favourites.

Whilst the Saints are the hot NFC team they still have not dominated teams. Their defense seems to be fading, and the Eagles are just too disciplined to get blasted by Brees if they meet in the NFC Championship game.  

I doubt Santa Claus will have any NFL merchandise for me, and instead i’ll have the usual ‘sensible clothes’ from my wife and a random bottle of Scotch from one of my wife’s relatives.

Whoever told them I like whisky – it’s just not true….now Kaluha or Baileys – now that’s a mans drink hahahahaha.

The Frank Gore signed helmet and Nate Clements signed ball

I had a lot of fun taking pictures of all the merchandise NFL teams had donated for prize draws at the Patriots versus the Buccaneers tailgate party held outside Wembley stadium in October.

I posted a number of my favourite pics on my blog and was pleasantly surprised when one of the prize draw winners contacted me.

Samatha Connors, a lifelong New England Patriots fan, was the lucky winner of the 49ers prize draw – a Frank Gore signed helmet and a Nate Clements signed ball.

It turns out Samantha is a big big NFL fan and even collects NFL merchandise, a hobby she has had since the 1980s.

Whilst I am sure she would have preferred to win the Jerod Mayo signed jersey it looks like Samantha was very happy with her win.

The former US resident had this to say: “Most people think that girl fans just support one team and don’t know anything about the rest of the NFL but I am an american football fan so I watch it all. When I moved home my boyfriend asked me to marry him and move in but before I said yes I had to make sure we could have Sky Sports in the living room and the bedroom!”

Why can’t all members of the fairer sex be like that eh?

Samantha must know all the right people as she was at the New England Patriots UK party, held at the Sports Cafe in Haymarket the night before the London game.

Patriots legend (well my favourite Pat ever too) Troy Brown

Samantha was kind enough to send me some pictures from the Patriots party, where she met a number of Pats legends, including John Smith the old kicker, Troy Brown the multiple Superbowl winning wideout and kick returner and owner Robert Kraft.

I will say one good thing about Samantha, who despite not being a 49ers fan, decided to keep her prizes.

Unlike the person who won the Matt Hasslbeck signed Seattle Seahawks football.

The winner of this fantastic NFL prize put it on Ebay last week and managed to get £92.00 see here.

Ok I understand it’s Christmas time and we all need the money, but I hope the person who sold this ball one day wakes up and regrets it. After all Hassleback quarterbacked the Seahawks to a Superbowl not so long ago and even tossed a touchdown in the big game.

I’m sure selling the ball on Ebay was not exactly the aim of the NFL marketing executives.

I’ll enter the draws next year if they have them – and I promise that whatever team it was if I won I would keep the item forever.

Another monster fantasy week from Chris Johnson helped me finish 9th in the planet in Week 14

I had a feeling that I had done quite well in picking 7 players and a team defense in the Sky Sports (UK based) weekly NFL fantasy football competition after 6 of my 7 picks had absolute monster games last Sunday.

The likes of Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson, Ray Rice and Drew Brees performed admirably and my few secret picks were doing pretty well too.

In this game you get to change your line up every week (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 team defense) all within a set budget.

Well to cut a long story short any score of 150 or over will see you in the top 100.

I calculated that by the end of Sunday night I had 152 points and still had Vernon Davis yet to play on Monday Night Football against the Cardinals.

To say I slept light was an understatement of epic proportions. Tuesday morning first thing I did was go online on my phone to check the MNF result and discovered that Davis had a poor game yardage wise (37) but a touchdown, making my total score 161.

With that in mind I started dreaming that I had won the weekly contest, which means an NFL football, an NFL shirt and a one in eighteen chance of winning tickets to the Superbowl in a season ends prize draw.

I had won the weekly contest around this time of the season about 4 or 5 years ago and got a huge buzz from seeing my name on tv, as well as having Nick Halling make a sarcastic comment about me (following the many emails I used to pepper the Sky Sports studio with).

I checked the standings around 1pm on Tuesday during my lunchtime on my phone and was absolutely gutted to find out that I finished joint 9th.

Some guy called ‘big shooter’ managed to get 175 points, using many of the same players as I had, except he had DeSean Jackson on his team, and he to me was the so-called ‘x-factor’, unlike Joe McElderry who will in 12 month be the z-factor.

‘big shooter’ certainly hit his target in week 14. All I can do is reload my weapon and fire it a bit more accurately in week 15….and no I wont be revealing my team to anyone until the week is over !

Good luck to all Sky Sports fantasy NFL players and I look forward to seeing more of Britball superstar Mark Cohen in the Sky Sports studio.

In 1967 The Hammer went from Superbowl I to meeting English boy scouts

I simply can’t help it, after a day at work talking about marketing plans and communications strategies I do like to somehow alter the office conversation to the NFL.

Today I was talking to a chap who is temporarily based in my office to support our communications planning, and inevitably we swapped personal website/blog info.

When I explained to this gent that I liked NFL football he went all retro on me and asked if the Kansas City Chiefs still existed.

I said yes they did but they were not playing good football at the moment.

This chap recalled how, as a teenager in 1967, he went over from England to Missouri as part of a ginormous boy scout camp.

Along with seeing real live native indians he was introduced to some giant people in shoulder pads from a team called the Kansas City Chiefs.

When I asked the chap if he could remember the names of any players he said no, but even though it was 42 years ago he remembered the nickname of one of the players – ‘The Hammer’.

I did a quick Google search on my mobile phone and found that this chap was referring to Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson, a defensive back who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs in the 60s.

It happens that ‘The Hammer’ became an actor and director and has quite a long history on the silver screen, including a number of blaxploitation movies in the 70s. ‘The Hammer’ even posed naked for Playgirl in the 70s (too much information I know).

I’m not sure this chap realised that he met a guy that played in the first ever Superbowl (a Chiefs loss to the Green Bay Packers) in the same year he played in that game.

Once I explained that this colleague seemed genuinely impressed.

It made me think, I’d love to go back to the 1960s and the time when the traditional NFL and the new upstart AFL league were competing for players and supremacy.

For those who want to know why Fred Williamson was called ‘The Hammer’ it was because his imposing forearm actually cracked opposing players helmets.

Williamson actually played himself with an adapted three bar facemask so opposing teams could not snap his neck back – here is a replica of the helmet he wore back in the 60s.

'The Hammer's' unique 3-bar facecage from the 1960s

Fascinating stuff eh! – Boy scout meets Superbowl athlete and 42 years later realises the significance !

Like the moon orbits the earth it was inevitable that the Washington Redskins would sack kicker Shaun Suisham.

The question remains – is Suisham the Redskins goat after missing that short field goal that would have given his team a 10 point lead against the 11-0 New Orleans Saints?
 
Or is he the scapegoat for an offense that should have punched in a touchdown for a 37-23 lead with under a minute to go against Drew Brees pinball wizards.
 
I’ll go for GOAT. He missed a field goal against the Cowboys two weeks ago that would have given the Skins a bigger lead than six with under five minutes left.

A former NFL kicker or a goat - spot the differerence

 
He also should have nailed that 23 yard field goal to give the Skins a ten point lead, but he failed.
 
I never liked Suisham, as I think he never made a mind-blowing kick that I can remember.
 
Kickers in the 21st Century need to be like designer womens’ handbags – CLUTCH.
 
Suisham is about as clutch as a wet paper bag.
 
Goodbye you will be missed as much as your pathetic field goal kicking.
 
Maybe Suisham can go and play in Europe for a Swiss team.
 
That way at least he will be amongst his own in the Alps where he can eat Toblerone, wind up his cuckoo clock and play with all the other grass chewing goats.
TJ gets no love but keeps racking up the yards

Thursday Night Football (Dec 3 2009) was hardly the greatest advert for NFL football, but it did have at least one magic moment.

 
New York Jets running back Thomas Jones, who has been more ‘under the radar’ than a Russian sub in the Cold War, reached his fifth consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season.
 
Considering he was not seen as a fantasy stud at the start of the 2009 season, Jones has shown the skills that makes a running back quite special.
 
He has tremendous durability, and Thursday’s game was his 60th consecutive game in the backfield.
 
At present Jones is scheduled to rush for 1,424 yards, his best ever total in his 10 years of NFL football.
 
The Jets stand at 6-6 and have a shot at a Wild Card (just about) despite rookie QB Mark Sanchez doing his best to throw the ball to the other team. Jones has helped to stabilise the J-E-T-S with his great vision and gutsy running.
 
With Shonn Greene the rookie RB waiting in the wings Jones has been inspired to play some fantastic football, having only fumbled twice (and lost none) in 239 carries so far this season.
 
Jones is only 1,117 yards away from 10,000 rushing yards,  putting him 30th in NFL history, having already surpassed legends such as Jim Taylor, Roger Craig, Priest Holmes and Larry Csonka in the all time regular season rushing charts.
 
I say give some respect to Jones. This is a player who played for the Chicago Bears in a Superbowl and finished with more rushing yards (112) than Walter Payton (61) did in his only Superbowl performance, and Jones has another feat over Payton in that he scored a Superbowl touchdown too.
 
I read that Jones’s mother worked night shifts in a coal mine, talk about being inspired from an early age.
 
Jones deserves another Pro Bowl appearance to go with his 2008 appearance (his only one in his career) but I suspect that he may be overlooked by the mind blowing season being had by Titans speedster Chris Johnson.
 
I hope for the sake of Jones and his family that the Jets win out and finish 10-6 but I suspect 8-8 will be where they will finish and Jones’s season will be lost amongst the annals of faceless NFL statistics.