Archive for July, 2013

IMG_1124[1]I am an optimist, someone who will always see the glass half-full.

It’s the reason every few months I will do a random search on Ebay for rare NFL merchandise, especially items from the 70s or 80s.

It’s the reason I love browsing in second-hand bookshops, the reason I like going to bric-a-brac stalls at Summer Fetes and the reason I always look for an NFL treasure.

As recently as yesterday I was at work, in a new office in Birmingham, England, when I found out there was a book exchange in the ground floor foyer opposite the staff canteen.

Not sure if other companies do it, but this is where people bring second hand books for you to read, keep or give back, and then donate to.

I made a comment to my manager that it would be amazing to find any sort of sports book, hoping for something like a former Premier League football player or manager biography.

As I cast my eye over an eclectic range of second-hand books, from a text book about AIDS to the usual heavily thumbed Danielle Steele novels, I almost fell over when sitting on the bottom shelf was the book I have pictured in this post.

Yep I had willed a book about the greatest sport on the earth to be there on the metal shelf.

I snatched it up and found it to be the American Football Annual 2 by Ken Thomas. I immediately realised that the Minnesota Vikings player on the cover, number 81, was someone I actually didn’t recognise, so the book must have been published in the early 80s.

I was right, this annual was published in 1984, and to put me out of my misery I checked on page  and found out the Vikings  cover star was Joe Senser, a 5th year tight-end from West Chester State.

Having looked up Mr Senser he went to the Pro-Bowl in 1981, but it all went downhill after that. It looks like he suffered a similar fate to those NFL players who were cover stars on the Madden game.

Firstly he had only 15 more catches and zero touchdowns in his NFL career after featuring on the cover, with a career that ended at the conclusion of the 1984 season. Coming into the recent past Senser’s wife is currently in jail  having been found guilty of killing someone in a hit and run in 2011.

Senser also owns a chain of self-named restaurants he started in 1988. For those of you who want to have a heart-attack you could try his special – The Beast – a 2.5lb burger on a 10 inch bun, served with 1.5lb of chips (yes that is what we call fries in England!).

Senser is one of only eight players from his college, the West Chester University Golden Rams, to have played in the NFL, the most recent, former two-time Pro-Bowl linebacker Lee Woodall, a Superbowl winner with the 1994 San Francisco 49ers.

Back to my recently acquired annual I browsed the full 1984 Vikings roster and perhaps the most remarkable name I came across was that of a 14 year veteran quarterback, number 4, Archie Manning. Yes the same Archie Manning who is now the father of two Superbowl winning sons.

Another standout name was another tight-end named Mike Mularkey. Yep the same Mike Mularkey that was head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars before he was sacked at the end of the 2012 NFL season.

So somehow I have managed to link an NFL book published in the UK 1984 with the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars are playing at Wembley Stadium, England in October.

On top of my fortune of finding the book I also had a much anticipated email from the NFLUK offices confirming that I have two tickets to meet five NFL stars who are visiting Birmingham (England) next week.

One of them had to be a Minnesota Vikings player, and I will have the pleasure of meeting the mullet stubble beast with the 69 on his chest – none other than defensive end Jared Allen.

Can’t wait….and it’s only July.

For the first time ever, the NFL will be playing two games in London during the 2013 season. On September 29th, the Pittsburgh Steelers will face off against the Minnesota Vikings, while on October 27th, the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite both teams having plenty of games beforehand, here is a preview of how those two games should play out.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings
As far as being competitive, this should be the better of the two games at Wembley Stadium this season. The Vikings are coming off a playoff season, and they feature the reigning MVP and fantasy football superstar Adrian Peterson on their team as well. Although the Steelers struggled in 2012, they have won a pair of Super Bowl titles in recent memory and they look to get back in contention again this season. This will be the first time either team has made the trip to Europe, so this should be the more anticipated game. The Steelers have gained quite a following worldwide thanks to their multiple Super Bowl rings, and Peterson is one of the biggest stars in the NFL today. When it comes to the game, the Vikings actually have the chance to be even better in 2013. Last season, Peterson had to carry the offense, but with a more mature Christian Ponder and the addition of Greg Jennings, Minnesota should have a balanced offense. Their defense is also stellar, but so is Pittsburgh’s. That means that London fans will probably see a low-scoring affair. Take the Vikings to come away with the victory though.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 17-14

San Francisco 49ers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though this will be the 3rd trip for the 49ers over to London, many of the players will be making their first trip ever. However, the 49ers have plenty of other advantages when it comes to playing the Jaguars. Last season, the two teams basically had opposite years. The San Francisco 49ers made it to the Super Bowl, while the Jaguars struggled to win the few games they did. Although Jacksonville was able to obtain some young talent heading into 2013, this should be a game the 49ers win. Fans of defense will love the 49ers, and they might have the best defense in the NFL this season. Of course, they also have plenty of offensive firepower, headlined by Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and Frank Gore getting most of the carries on the ground. If Jacksonville is going to challenge, they will need some of their young talent to step up and gain momentum going into this game. Luke Joeckel and Jonathan Cyprien, their top two picks, should step in right away and provide value, but neither one of them play glamorous positions. The Jaguars lack star power, which could hurt the attendance numbers somewhat, but the appeal of the 49ers will make up for it.

Prediction: San Francisco 27-10