GOAT

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There is no doubt about it now. The stats and on field performances tell it all. Tom Brady is the greatest of all time. With 5 Super Bowl rings, the first quarterback to fill one hand, and owning more records than the avid record collector, he has earned his spot atop the football mountain.

The New England Patriots epic comeback in Super Bowl LI was one of the greatest moments in sports, right up there with the Chicago Cubs World Series championship. After they were down 28-3 and struggling offensively, I didn’t think a comeback was very possible but little by little the Atlanta Falcons defense was worn down and eventually turned to Swiss cheese. Tom Brady proved he deserves the title of GOAT by marching the Patriots 91 yards down the field to tie the game at 28 and then send the game into overtime, the first in Super Bowl history, and then drove them 80 yards in a hurry to score the sudden death game winning touchdown. The Patriots never led in the game; when they scored in overtime, the game was instantly over and no time passed. An extra point wasn’t needed so the final score was 34-28.

 

Super Bowl Time

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And so we are back to Roman Numerals again. I can’t wait for Super Bowl 59, which would be written as Super Bowl LIX (pronounced “licks”), as if the game would showcase people taste testing food or would be about shredding awesome guitar solos.

The Super Bowl is just around the corner again and I’m starting to get excited because of course my favorite and one of the most storied teams of this century is in it again: the New England Patriots. They’ve fought through cheating scandals and the four game suspension of Tom Brady to once again prove that nothing will stop them from being successful year after year. Bill Belichick just outsmarts them all with his brilliant gameplans. The Patriots can plug in just about any player (Chris Hogan?) when key ones are down (Gronk) and still manage to win 10+ games

I haven’t been following the season or the playoffs as much as I did in the past but one thing is still certain: the best teams always make it to the Big Game. I was a little skeptical that this Super Bowl would provide the hype and excitement of last year’s big anniversary game or that it would start to feel old and boring but now that the smoke has cleared and the teams have been set, the talk and festivities have started and the real anticipation can start to bubble. I can now fill the spirit rising within again, shaking off that feeling that I was suddenly tired of football, that all of those Thursday night games made it too saturated, but now that I’ve had some time to reflect I feel good again. There is of course a lot more to life than just football, with the recent death of Mary Tyler Moore making headlines today and all of the updates on Donald Trump’s plan to actually build the wall on the Mexico/US border, but it is always there give me that competitive spirit and determination.

I wasn’t at all expecting the Atlanta Falcons to make it the Super Bowl this year but they had one of the best offenses in Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones. I didn’t even know the name of their head coach until today, Dan Quinn, which tells you how little I’ve been following the team or how little I care. The Falcons finally got the job done this year, after failing so many times in the playoffs, but would they be the most worthy team of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? I’m not sure. They were only a couple yards away from making it to Super Bowl 47, but lost to the San Francisco 49ers, but after that they seemed to disappear from the playoffs altogether, never making it past the first game. They beat a red hot Green Bay Packers team that just managed to get into the playoffs after such a lousy start to the season filled with injuries.

I expect this game to break all kinds of records again, in television ratings, social media mentions, and money spent on commercials. Last years most amazing commercial in my mind was Puppy Monkey Baby by Mountain Dew, a bizarre combination of sorts that raised some eyebrows. What craziness will the ad geniuses come up with this time?

Lady Gaga’s performing in the halftime show this year. It’s a good choice I guess because I can’t think of anyone else who is as big as her right now as Katy Perry has already performed, and Taylor Swift turned down the opportunity (she would have had some awesome songs to perform now that she’s fully transitioned from a country singer to a rocking pop superstar). Since it’s Lady Gaga, I can expect some out of this world performance with elaborate costumes, exotic stage setups and props, and enough surprises to get the internet buzzing with excitement. Will she come flying in on a winged horse? Many of the die hard football fans could care less about the halftime show and would love to see the game get going as soon as possible again, and I can’t blame them, because sitting through 15 minutes of something that has very little to do with the game being played can be hell.

WPC: Graceful

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Soccer is a graceful sport, a sport of finesse and planning a strategic way to the goal. It is known as a beautiful sport because of the graceful and fluid movements involved in the game. The sport is celebrated with a religious passion and many people that enjoy the sport die loving it. I love that the sport has finally started to gain traction in America, and has become more popular than before. When I see people, like this guy, wearing gear from some of soccer’s (football’s) top powers, it makes me happy because a rich tradition and culture is being welcomed. Soccer is the world’s sport, played in more countries than any other.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Graceful

Seven-Time

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History has been made, even if some don’t totally agree with the thought of it.

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jimmie Johnson won his seventh championship tonight, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr. on the all-time list. It is quite a monumental achievement, since not many would have thought the number would be caught after Dale Earnhardt won his seventh in 1994, 22 years ago. Jeff Gordon won four very quickly and there was a great possibility that he could have won more had the Chase not been implemented and Jimmie Johnson hadn’t suddenly started tearing up the racing scene, but Johnson and co. have set a new standard that cannot be easily replicated now.

The historic run was completed in only 15 years and eight of those were run for the championships; Jimmie won all of his championships since winning his first in 2006, five in a row at one time. He now has 80 wins after winning at Homestead-Miami for the first time, just 13 from tying his mentor Jeff Gordon. The run has been quite efficient and if you do the math, that is at least 5 wins per year.

I’ve been watching NASCAR racing for 13 years now and have seen drivers come and go: old timers like Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, and Bill Elliott and newcomers like Joey Logano and Kyle Larson. Of the 13 championship seasons that have come and gone, seven of those ended in a Jimmie Johnson victory, so yes, I have gotten to know this driver pretty well. In 2006, I managed to get his autograph at the airport as he and his wife were driving away in their SUV, he scribbling his short-hand signature on a piece of paper I had with me, looking like he was in a hurry to get out of there after having just raced at Michigan. That was the summer before he won his first championship and shortly after he won his third Coca-Cola 600 in a row. I still have that autograph, being stored in a yearbook of mine until I decide what to do with it once the X-time champ has finally retired.

There is nowhere to go but up now, to go for eight and possibly more. As long as Jimmie Johnson stays competitive, there is no end in sight for one of the greatest drivers of all-time. Sure, he won all of his titles in the Chase for the Championship era, an era that die-hard fans say isn’t real racing and is quite watered down, but hey, Jimmie won it fair and square and really is the only driver who has mastered the format in all of its versions over the years. After he won six, I like to say NASCAR tried to Jimmie-proof the Chase, making it harder to win the championship, but after getting a feel for it and failing at first, the team overcame the setbacks and claimed what was rightfully theirs: Lucky Number Seven.

The legendary Hendrick team of Johnson and Knaus have enjoyed scorching their competition and don’t look to be letting up just yet.

#NaNoPoblano2016 Day 20

One Last Time

Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow / From the prevailing 30 mile an hour southwest wind / When my last remains go flying over the left-field wall.

– Steve Goodman

After 108 years, the world can finally say these words:

The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions!

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Steve Goodman, a lifelong native of Chicago, wrote this great song in 1984 as a follow up to an earlier song of his “A Dying Cubs Fan Final Request”, meant to be a more uplifting song and to serve as the official song of the Chicago Cubs. He died six months after penning it (September, final month of the season) and it now serves as a lasting memory of his love for the city of Chicago and the Cubbies.

Now that the Cubs are World Series champions, what’s next in store for this lovable team? Keep winning I suppose and really make these rare celebrations a tradition. The parade today throughout Wrigleyville and beyond was sensational and really well put on. For the first time in 108 years, the North side of Chicago got to see their team celebrate and up close and personal, just like the White Sox did back in 2005 when they broke their 87 year drought. Back then, way back then, fans would have came to the parade in stagecoaches or on horses, sloshing through muddy grounds, fighting to get a good view of the hometown heroes.

A city was revitalized today. A fanbase uplifted. It is the dawning of a new era for the Chicago Cubs and everyone can thank Theo Epstein for building the team, getting the players, and getting them out of the dark days that was pre-2009 before the Ricketts family took over. There are truly great days to come but of course planning ahead is always necessary to ensure that the team stays successful, because to tell you the truth, Cubs nation is not used to being on top for so long and it would only be natural for them to fall back down and be humble again as they have learned to be for so many years. But there is no Curse to blame for losing anymore – only theirselves. All of that stuff from the past is history. Baseball is a truly pure game now that all of the hoaxes, jinxes, curses, and other foolish stuff has been erased.

I can proudly say that I am now a Cubs fan for life after the remarkable, magical season they had this year. I am glad I got to see one of my favorite teams, basically almost everyone’s favorite, win a championship at the age of 25. I now have a long life to live to see maybe more championships and more great stories. I am part of the new generation and am quite lucky to say that I got to witness history while so many before me lived and died waiting and waiting.

Song, Base

#NaNoPoblano2016 Day 4

#FlyTheW

The Cubs have won the pennant! The Cubs have won the pennant!

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The echo from the Cubs last World Series trip in 1945 finally was increased to a full on boom of cheering and ovation as the lovable team from the North Side shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 last night. It almost seemed too easy, save for a few bobbles of the ball to Cubs infielders and a late base hit in the ninth that immediately raised suspicions of the Curse of the Billy Goat rearing its ugly head again. But tonight was an entirely different story. The Cubbies were a team of destiny, as they had been all season long and through the playoffs. They were meant to win this time and not come up short again as they had done for the last 71 years.

My prediction in one of my previous posts is halfway correct.

There is now only one more thing to do: get four more wins and really shock the world and hope something devastating doesn’t happen. Because breaking a 108 year drought is not for the faint of heart. There are 108 more outs to go for the Cubs to win their first World Series since 1908. Eight of course goes into four, the number of wins they need. Eight divided by four equals two, the number of championships the Cubs have. The eights seem to be a pattern here. The Cubs were six outs away in the eighth inning of the 2003 NLCS up 3-0 before their dreams went down the long drophill of the Bartman coaster and the Marlins scored eight runs, forcing a Game 7 and winning that to go to the World Series. 2003 is irrelevant now of course now that the Cubs have finally broken through But Steve Bartman is a permanent part of Chicago Cubs history. If he came out during a World Series game next week, he would probably get the loudest applause Wrigley Field can manage (including the rooftops that act as an extension).

So they are in the 2016 World Series. Well, that is quite an accomplishment that was over 70 years in the making. If the ivy walls could speak, they’d tell us of the heartbreaks and disappointments over the years. The ivy wasn’t even on the wall at Wrigley back in 1908, being added in 1937.

It’s going to be the Chicago Cubs vs. the Cleveland Indians, two teams from two Midwest states separated by Indiana, so the traveling is going to be very short and straight forward.

The story is simple. The Indians haven’t won since 1948 and the Cubs haven’t won since 1908. One franchise’s drought is going to be snapped while the other will live on for God knows how long.

The epic 2 hour movie of the Chicago Cubs 108 year struggle will end fittingly if the Cubs win the World Series. If it ends in disappointment, well, there’s always next year as Cubs fans say.

May the best team win and let’s play ball!

This Is Our Year

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The Cubs are going to win, you bet your lucky stars
The Curse is going to die this year, the most ridiculous thing by far
All these years they’ve been dreamin’ only to come up short
Now Chicago’s north side will endlessly celebrate, sadness is no more
The Billy Goat force thought it could win again
But the true talent of the Cubs would not give in

And guess what? They did win!

UFC: The Ultimate Evolution

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“There are no rules!” – the original tagline that attracted the first UFC viewers.

I have recently started to get in on the often hyped and controversial extravaganza known as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and I have found that I am getting quite addicted for better or worse. Watching the UFC from the very beginning when it started in front of a minuscule crowd at McNichols Arena and seeing its evolution (I’m up to UFC X so far) is quite amazing. The multiple personalities and stars that emerged from those first fights is what gave the event sheer life, what gave it hope and something to shoot for. When you watch or come to a UFC fight, you immediately look for the stars and big names, if you know anything about the history of the sport. It’s good to see new faces as well and watch them work their way up the ladder towards MMA glory, going from unknown to superstar sometimes in the blink of an eye.

I feel that it’s quite hard for me to get interested in an entirely new sport without seeing it develop from the very beginning and getting to know some personalities, which is why I have mildly suffered through some laughable moments early on including Rich “G-Man” Goins’ weird announcing gimmicks (saying the last name twice) and fighter info being mixed up, not to mention the tacky on screen graphics.

Those shorts…

The UFC has been going on continuously since its founding in 1993 and has recently hit a surge in popularity with the rise of superstar fighters such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Junior dos Santos. I have to say I already know more about the old school UFC than the modern and can only name a couple of names off the top of my head. Some of the legendary names from what seems like the ancient past are Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, Tank Abbott, Big Daddy Goodridge, and of course Art “one boxing glove” Jimmerson, the only man to wear a boxing glove to a UFC fight. The first person to lose a UFC fight will always be known as Teila Tuli, AKA Taylor Wily, who had to leave after taking a foot to the face and losing a tooth. The fight lasted less than 30 seconds. That is one famous tooth, which was likely lost somewhere around the announcer’s table and swept up later on after the fight. That tooth would be worth millions today if sold online. Tuli was in only one UFC fight, the first. You can now find him playing Kamekona on the reboot of Hawaii Five-0.

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Royce Gracie at UFC 1

What was once quite an obscure sport slinking in the shadows of mainstream status transformed into a global sensation, but not without its controversy. Way back in UFC 9 of May 1996, as the UFC was just finally starting to get its bearings, Senator John McCain stepped in and declared that the bouts in the Octagon were like “human cockfighting”. He was successful in banning the event from many cable stations, thus stopping people from watching the upcoming pay per view, giving it a bad reputation. If this so called sport was going to survive, mixed martial arts would have to clean up its act. If you want to point the finger at the person responsible for making the UFC too sanitized, polished, and boring, point it at McCain. But on the other hand, if you want to point the finger at the person responsible for discussing the elephant in the room, the fact that this was teetering on the edge of being quite illegal, and motivating the sport to change for the better, point it at McCain.

Since a unified set of rules have been set in place for MMA worldwide, something that took decades to achieve, McCain has gotten off the UFC’s back, letting it grow and thrive into what it is today. It used to be quite a brutal sport, that while quite entertaining to watch because of the no-holds barred action and unpredictability, was quite barbaric and dangerous. Now its still quite a spectacle to see but a lot safer and fairer for both competitors in The Octagon. While I’m quite new to the whole sport of mixed martial arts, I seem to understand now why this has become such a popular attraction. You’ve got the Octagon girls, the merchandise, the video games, Fight Pass, TV, the Hall of Fame, reality shows, and numerous other things to check out. It’s quite the well rounded experience and takes the experience to the next level.

The creators of the original Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view event never in a million years thought they were going to create an entirely new sport: modern mixed martial arts. They most certainly probably never thought they’d be contributing to the evolution of a 10,000 year old activity in just two decades: fighting. That first fight was supposed to be a one time thing to see who would win in a fight. A wrestler vs a boxer? Karate vs jujitsu? It was like randomly drawing two disciplines out of a hat and seeing what came out. Now 300 something fights later and that idea has been developed to a level 100 times greater. The old and modern UFC can be divided along one point: before Dana White and after Dana White. He has greatly contributed to the development of the sport and the overall marketing  The evolution is still unfinished though. The next step is seeing if the UFC’s business model is truly sustainable for the long run.

The Hike to Glory

The football season continues
Warriors come to battle
These foot soldiers in colorful wear
Under the lights, Monday night

Defend your turf
Reinforce the gate
Because the object of this game
Is to keep the enemy at bay

And at the end of it all
The gleaming prize you see
Is the legendary Lombardi trophy
Going to the last standing team

Hike

Take the Cake

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The Colin Kaepernick kneeling controversial is perhaps the silliest story to come out this fall. It takes the cake as football’s first big scandal this season after months of afor the new season. In a preseason game, Kaepernick kneeled down while the national anthem was playing to protest because he didn’t want to support a country that oppressed blacks and minorities, based off the happenings in Ferguson and beyond. Another player joined him to support his views on the current state of things. Now U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who was on the 2015 World Cup winning squad, did the same thing as a “nod to Kaepernick”. And social media blew up.

I don’t see anything wrong with this kind of protest. Kaepernick had every right to express his opinion. The media will find anything they can to get a heated discussion going. The Deflategate controversy is all but exhausted. Let’s get our hands on something else that has little to no meaning on how the season unfolds.

Cake