Friday, January 30, 2015

DeflateGate and the NFL's Genius Marketing Ploy

Let me start off by saying that I have never been a fan of the 2 week break between the Championship games and the Super Bowl.  My opinion is that the NFL should either play the game the following weekend (and let injuries be what they may), add a second bye week so the NFL season ends up 18 weeks long or have the Super Bowl fall on the President's Day weekend (with a two-week break) so people have the following Monday off.  The two week break is just too long, particularly for hungry sports media and fans.

Deflated Footballs anyone?
Which brings me to DeflateGate.  By the time this is published, this is an old news story.  You know why?  Because after the weekend between the Championship games and the Super Bowl, teams and fans start arriving at the Super Bowl location, Media day starts and all of the hoopla associated with the Super Bowl begins in earnest.  The NFL doesn't need anything to keep fans and advertisers tuned in starting the Monday of Super Bowl week.  Which was part of the problem all along.

Stories were popping up everywhere last week.  Brady likes the balls under inflated.  A ball boy took the balls into the bathroom and the NFL has video.  The balls were checked before the game.  Belichick actually sounded convincing and human-like in answering the questions.  (He wasn't too worried about the DeflateGate during the first week.).  Where did all of these stories originate?  The Colts? the Ravens? D'Quell Jackson?  Bob Irsay (well, maybe)?  No.  It was the NFL!  The same organization that failed to inspect the balls properly.  The same organization that took weeks to decide what to do and is still hemming and hawing.  The same organization that failed to interview any of the players involved.  The same organization that has been battling a image problem for years...

Many will say that the slowest sports news week during the season in the week after the AFC and NFC Championship games.  The NBA and NHL are in the middle of their seasons.  Baseball and soccer are outdoor sports no one plays in the Winter.  There were no Olympics or other news stories that could distract the media from the stories that the NFL did not want anyone to talk about - Concussions, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  What better way to get the media in a frenzy about the sport than to leak a story about how the Patriots - notorious cheaters - some how cheated their way to the Super Bowl?!  You have a harmless violation that people can have very strong opinions about.  You have a wonderful villain.  And you have a readership that is thirsty to talk about anything football.  No one is talking about Ray Rice, or Adrian Peterson, or the latest guy to get arrested for domestic violence.  They are all talking about Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft and their deflated balls. 

The NFL got off scot-free.  It was a genius marketing ploy.

I don't have any misconceptions.  Our favorite team is hated - HATED - outside of New England.  We are not going to be getting any breaks this week.  Almost every former player on TV has some axe to grind because of the Patriots or the players involved.  Yes, I'm talking to you Ray Lewis, and Marshall Faulk, and Mark Brunell and Troy Aikman.  Brady and Belichick have been around for so long that they are hated by everyone who played football between 1986 and the present.  That's another story for another time.  Did they cheat?  Yes, of course.  Every team does it and the Patriots allegedly got "caught."  The NFL failed to check the balls and the slight deflated balls that Brady likes using were permitted.  Did it mean anything to the game or the outcome?  No, but it doesn't matter.

There are some smart people int eh NFL after all.

Patriots 23, Seahawks 17.  Pound the under on this one.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Celtics Halftime Show to Kick Off 2015

"Dad, what was coach talking about when he said we would have a team field trip to Boston on Friday?" G asked me.  "Are we going to play the Boston Bobcats," the AAU basketball team he faced a couple of times last Spring.  G's basketball coach had talked about the field trip at practice on Thursday.  It was after Free Throw shooting but before the sidelines they had to run.  G would continue to badger me trying to figure out what was going to happen on Friday.

"You'll find out on Friday."  My standard answer to questions like that.  Usually I add a little but of sarcasm to my answer, but this time, I wasn't going to spoil the surprise for him.  Although in retrospect I should have told him we weren't going anywhere unless he read for 2 hours on Friday, I was excited for him.  Although he ended up finding out from one his buddies on the team what they were doing, I still told him to keep it on the down low.  Maybe some of his teammates didn't know what we were doing.

The secret?  His 5th Grade travel team was going to play at half time of Friday's game against the Bulls.  It was going to be the Blue team vs the White team. 6 on 6. Mano y Mano.  Well not really, but 6 on 6.

The Celtics had traded away Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.  They also traded the some of the Flotsam and Jetsam that they got for those two guys, leaving Brad Stevens and a bunch of D-League guys (Sorry Jared, it's true).  So it was not a stressful game from the perspective.  As an assistant coach on the team, I was nervous for them.  It was going to be a sell out crowd and having gone to these games before and observing the unforgiving nature of the crowd, I was a lot more nervous than I needed to be.  G's biggest concern going to the game was whether he was going to take an NBA 3 pointer or not.

8:30pm.  Boston.  With 5 minutes left in the second quarter, we take the elevator down to the runway below the stands.  You know the stark concrete runways that they show on TNT when stars walk in to the stadium before the game in their suits.  It was just as I imagined it to be.  Large buses, strange paraphernalia, random security guards.  The boys get together for some pictures as a team and with Brandon LaFell who came underneath to say good luck to the boys.  And yes, I thought it was Brandon Browner.  I took some pictures myself so it must have been important.  All the time though, I was watching the game clock count down.

With 30 seconds left in the half we walk out of the tunnel.  As the horn sounds we immediately get going.  The funny thing was, we were 6 on 6.  The emcee helping us out shouted to the boys "Do you want to play 6 on 6?" We thought it wasn't a great idea, but then decided that the Court was big enough to accommodate us.  6 on 6 it was.  The 12 boys got in their positions.  I was not partial to one team over another, I just wanted to see some boxing out and everyone having fun.  When the HC said to not play any defense, I knew this was a perfect situation for G and his jumper.  Who cares that he's our tallest kid and our starting Center.  He could shoot his jumper!  And that is exactly what he did.  He spotted up on the left baseline and took his jumper.  Now normally, the shot would be from 20 feet, but somehow he managed to get to within 6 feet.  The ball clanged around the rim, hitting all sides of the cylinder before dropping in for the first bucket!  I don't know what I was more proud of, the fact that he scored the first bucket of the game on the first shot, or the fact that he took the shot from within 8 feet and not from behind the 3 point line.

The rest of the 7 minutes went by like a blur.  We tried to get everyone a basket.  We told them to stop playing defense any time someone looked like they were going to try and steal.  And we saw a lot of smiling faces.  As we come off the court, the boys were greeted by high 5s by everyone on the Court.  Although the boys weren't playing defense, they still looked fluid on offense.  Everyone was really psyched.  This is something that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Oh yeah, the Celtics lost by 16 points.  But we weren't there for the big boy game.  We were there for the little kids.