Category Archives: sports

Who will win this year’s Super Bowl?

Greetings, readers. Three teams out of this year’s final four of the National Football League’s playoffs are, to say at the very least, surprises. Everybody and their mother’s uncle expected the New England Patriots to be there, but not many thought teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings or Philadelphia Eagles would be playing for their conference’s championship.

While the Vikings and Eagles are great teams, they are being led by backup quarterbacks. They are darned good ones, but backups nonetheless. Also, the Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles is a relative unknown. I would thoroughly enjoy seeing two teams such as the Vikings and the Jaguars play in this year’s Super Bowl. Another historic first would be if the Minnesota Vikings would be able to play in their own home stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played this year. In the history of the Super Bowl game, a stadium’s home team has never made it to the big game. If the Vikings beat the Eagles in the play-off game this weekend, it would lead to a truly historic event.

Just how likely is the Vikings and Jaguars matchup? Not very. It seems like the National Football League for some reason never wants to have a “home game” in the Super Bowl. Here is my prediction. Eagles to play the Patriots and the Patriots to win convincingly. You see dear readers, after many years of the New England Patriots winning championships in a plethora of ways, I just think that Tom Brady and company will find a way to pull it out of the hat once again. How boring! My two cents is that it would be wonderful for the National Football League to crown a champion that has never won a Super Bowl – the four-time losers, the Minnesota Vikings come to mind.

Lastly, on another note – and I will have a full R.I.P blog entry tomorrow – the wonderful lady camper Mrs. Jean Bennett passed away recently. She was one of my mom’s generation and it is sad to lose another Bear Spring Camper whom I knew as a child.

Until tomorrow, prayers go out to all the victims of the California mudslides, all who are caught in bad weather and storms, and good thoughts to all those who need it. Let’s think spring.

Until tomorrow, take care, have a wonderful day, and happy reading.

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I’ve been enjoying old school football games lately

Greetings, readers. I must say thank you so much to YouTube’s members. Over the past month I have been happily enjoying watching many college and NFL football games in their entirety and without commercials. The 1984 Orange Bowl comes to mind as one of my favorites, as well as many of the Oklahoma versus Texas Red River Shootout Games, played in Dallas in the Cotton Bowl. Every year, these two teams flip-flop being the home team, for this stadium is half-way between the university cities. People come from all over the country the state fair and this football game, which has been played for over a hundred years.

On the professional side, I’ve watched the Freezer Bowl, the San Diego Chargers versus the Cincinnati Bangles, in the early 80s. The temperature that day in Cincinnati was below zero and the wind chill made it feel far worse than that. Still the stadium was packed. Those were football fans.

I’ve also enjoyed a number of old Super Bowls. The one I watched most recently was the Minnesota Vikings versus the Miami Dolphins. A couple of these wonderful videos are played in stadiums that no longer exist. I think that is why I like them. I didn’t realize until recently just how old school I am. I love old cars, old shows, old everything. It’s funny; I like my technology, I think I would die without my PS3, but something keeps calling me back to those good old days.

Back in the 70s and early 80s, the North American Soccer League, or NASL, was rather popular. I found some games from that league and enjoyed them immensely. My dad taught me to love soccer, or football as it is called in the rest of the world.

Lastly, if you were a United States Football League fan, there are tons of games to choose from. Popular teams with the most videos are the two-time champions Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars, the New Jersey Generals, and the Michigan Panthers. No, play was not as good as in the NFL, but I loved it. The league folded after only three seasons. There is talk of it making a comeback one day. It was supposed to begin two years ago; it keeps being delayed. I don’t see that as a good sign of organization. If any of my readers just happened to be associated with the new USFL, I have two words for you: Please don’t. It would probably fail faster than the first league did.

There are many other things on YouTube besides sports that I enjoy and I will fill you in on those in a future entry. Until Friday, take care, enjoy the warmer weather, and happy reading.

Beautiful sunny day and my weekend plans, including the Super Bowl

Greetings, readers. This is today’s blog entry take two. I’m waiting on someone’s permission to write on a sad event that happened to her and my feelings about it. I was going to write it today but then realized it was inappropriate to do so without her knowledge and consent. So here is the back up plan.

After eight plus inches of snow in a couple of days, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to a beautiful sunny morning today. I’m always much happier when it is sunny with blue skies. This afternoon I have very little to do but I will enjoy a walk to the bank, perhaps a light snack out, and then back to the apartment. Upon getting back it will be time for Keekee’s dinner and a few chores to tidy up the apartment. Then the rest of the day is mine. I think I’ll continue to search YouTube for ambiance videos and then play some PS3 baseball.

My weekend plans are as follows. I’ll be getting back to D&D gaming on Saturday; we were snowed out last week. My character Catrana and her partner Tessara will battle the evil monsters once again. It really is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

When Sunday rolls around, I have two choices. If the weather holds, Darren has asked me to come over and watch the Super Bowl with him. Wouldn’t you know though, we are expecting another big snow storm. If that happens, I’ll watch the game in the apartment building’s community room, where friends of mine are throwing a party. There’s a slight dilemma in our building right now, no names used here, but if I attend the Super Bowl party here at home, I’m going to help clean up.

I’m going to be rooting wholeheartedly for the Seattle Seahawks. The whole Deflategate thing has me so annoyed that even though I vacation in New England and love their other sports teams, I will not root for the New England Patriots until steps are taken to straighten that franchise out. I don’t know if that means a change of coach, owner, quarterback, ball boy or all of the above, but a small fine just won’t cut it for me. My office manager told me she heard that only $2,500 would be the penalty. Unbelievable! What I am looking for is the fine of half a million dollars and loss of draft choices. If it’s true that 11 out of 12 footballs were under-inflated, in my eyes they cheated to get into the Super Bowl. Shame on them.

Readers, please feel free to chime in with your opinions in the comments. I would love to hear them. Until Friday, take care, dig out of the snow if you are in it. Be well, and happy reading.

My thoughts on the United States soccer team

Greetings, readers. U.S. soccer fans will have to wait another four years to see our national team in the World Cup. They were eliminated yesterday by Belgium. The final score was 2-1. Since Major League Soccer began over a decade ago, the popularity of soccer in this country is on the rise. I doubt very seriously though whether what we call soccer will ever be as popular as baseball or football.

The rest of the world calls soccer football. It is the universal sport. The United States just isn’t that good at it yet. We come close to moving on in the World Cup every four years but can’t seem to take that last big step forward. Many years ago we either didn’t quality at all or we would play three games and not score a goal. This year we very easily could have won all three of our first round games. Luck just wasn’t on our side.

I predict by the 2018 World Cup, we will be a foe to watch out for. Major League Soccer will have another four years under their belt and hopefully by then soccer will have continued to grow in popularity in the U.S.

My dad taught me to love soccer when the family would go over to Europe. When I was a kid we would watch soccer matches in the evenings in the hotel lobby. Sometimes we would watch the German or Dutch national teams. Then other times it might be one of the smaller league contests. Pop didn’t care. He just loved soccer. A very happy memory of mine, when Dad was in his golden years, is when I recorded the 2006 World Cup games for him, so he could watch them whenever he wanted.

Years ago, our cable provider had, and may still have if I could find the right channel, the Fox Soccer channel, which showed games, highlights, and news of soccer 24 hours a day. Dad was extremely happy to watch that channel. He would watch the German league, the Dutch league, and of course the English Premier League.

Getting back to the World Cup, when … notice I didn’t say if … the United States wins the World Cup, we will be able to say to the rest of the globe, we are mastering your sport. I certainly hope it happens sooner rather than later. Young kids today still want to be baseball pitchers or quarterbacks rather than star soccer players. Progress is inching towards soccer, but we have a long way to go. As I close this piece, I make a prediction: The United States of America will make it to the quarter finals in 2018. If we are going to think, think big.

Until next time, enjoy the quarter finals, take care, and happy reading.

Report on Madden25

Greetings, readers. It’s official. I am addicted to this game. After scrimping and saving for months, I was able to save up just enough to purchase Madden25 (the 25th anniversary of Madden) online via the Playstation store. Here is my report on this game and my rating.

Having not played the last two Madden versions, I did not know that they had switched their announcing team from Cris Collinsworth and Gus Johnson to Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Sorry Cris and Gus, but Jim and Phil edge you out. That’s not to say that the old team didn’t bring style and class all their own. Now on to game play.

Madden25 has something called connected owner mode. It is simply fascinating. After one season of play, you can move a team, there are seventeen cities to choose from, and change the team name or keep it the same. There are usually three or four team names to choose from. For instance, the Rams could go back to Los Angeles or become the LA Aftershocks. Other cool team names are the Toronto Thunderbirds and the London Black Knights.

As always, you can adjust how many minutes per period you play and the skill levels. Even though I am using what they call custom sliders, I’m still winning rather easily. My made-up team the Portland Lumberjacks (I moved the Rams to Portland) are 8-3. Next season I will probably increase the difficulty level. As you know I am a glutton for punishment. My next season test will be to move a team to Barcelona and choose one of their two or three name choices. I’ve had the game two weeks now and I’m still learning. Such fun.

Now to the very slight negatives of this game. Sorry Mr. Simms but I gotta tell you that even though your commentary is excellent, I have two criticisms. And I don’t know whose fault they are. Number one I suppose is the developer’s fault for making a lot of your commentary way too repetitive. Second, I’m not sure if you do this in real life, but they have made you a very negative and picky broadcaster. When I say out loud to the TV screen, “Oh, shut up, Phil,” I know I’ve heard one of your picky comments, such as, “That’s just a bad play call by the offense,” too many times.

Other than the commentary being a bit too repetitive, this is probably one of the best video games I’ve ever gotten my hands on. As some of you know, I am a MLB TheShow baseball nut and Madden25 made me shelve the baseball game mid-season. As with all addictive personalities, the newness from this game will wear off, and I’m sure I won’t play it quite as much in the weeks and months to come.

Now for the four final grades.

Gameplay: A+

Commentary: B-  (The sideline reporter, Danielle Bellini is a definite highlight.)

Ease of Game Play: B+ (The verdict is still out on this one, for I am still experimenting.)

Other intangibles, such as ambiance and team movement: A+

Final rating: A- (A good solid 9.75)

Ok folks, let the debate begin and please do chime in with comments if you wish. I will respond.

Until next week, have a good weekend, take care, and happy reading.

The Show – MLB13 vs MLB12

Greetings, readers. This is my second, and possibly final, report card on MLB13: The Show. As usual, OMG I love it. However, there are a few things, much to my dismay, that I either don’t like as well or fail to see any significant upgrade from last year’s version.

First off, and to me most important, is the replacement of Dave Campbell with Steve Lyons. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry on this topic, I believe the franchise was going for someone more youthful – just my personal opinion. For someone new, it seems like Steve was not allowed to bring his own personality into the game by receiving new lines to say; when playing the game, I hear Steve saying some of Dave’s lines almost verbatim. I would have preferred that the writers come up with a different way to say the same thing.

The lines of dialog this year seem to be more repetitive than in years past. Especially in beginner’s mode, where there is lots of computer assistance in the defense. The same situations come up with the very same dialog supplied. I briefly tried the next level the other night, with less computer assistance than I was used to, and noticed that the more errors I committed, the more play specific dialog was used. For example, “Oh, the catcher just threw the ball into center field,” an error which would almost never happen in computer mode.

The graphics are as good as they are going to get with current PS3 technology. The faces and stadiums look the same as last year. There were a few changes to details, like fireworks displays after a homerun or a home victory were moved from being shot into the sky to the stadium’s Jumbotron, but graphic-wise it looks the same. When the PS4 comes out in a year or so, I will be very interested to see whether or not the graphics and all the subtle nuances will have substantial improvements. Obviously, there is only so much realism you can put into a game. This is not Star Trek holodeck technology we are talking about. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

MLB13’s biggest gold star, which 12 did not have, is to load up your favorite teams in the appropriate brackets and do the playoffs without having to play a full season. With newer camera angles, more exciting music, and a brief shot of the pre-game team’s line-up announcements, I was more than happily surprised at that part of the game’s realism. I watched a few YouTube videos on this game and learned that the online features and the Diamond Dynasty mode have also been improved. I must admit, I have only tried Diamond Dynasty a few times and I don’t play online, so I really can’t make a fair judgement. If any of my readers are avid online gamers, please chime in with a comment.

MLB13: The Show … I’ll say final report card grade: A-. Though I didn’t blog about it at the time, last year I gave MLB12 a grade of B+. I gave this year’s version the bump up because of the post-season mode, which is actually my favorite part of real baseball.

Until next time, have a great day, take care, and happy reading.

The new USFL update … and ouch, I hurt!

Greetings, readers. Yes, blog readers, as my title tells you, this is a double subject blog entry. The biggest reason is that both topics are not long enough to warrant their own entry. I don’t usually do this, though I have in the past. I shall start off with the new and improved United State Football League.

I have lost all enthusiasm for this new league. According to internet sources, the league was supposed to begin last year (March of 2012). Then, a last-minute notice said that they were going to do some restructuring and that play would begin March of 2013. I couldn’t wait. I opened up the website to check for teams names and cities, and was disappointed to find that the project was purchased by another owner, and the “new time-table to begin play” is March of 2014. I now say, why even bother? To me it appears painfully obvious that you can’t get it together. If I were the PR person for this league, I would have strongly advised against putting out any start date. I think I would have just said stay turned, we’re coming soon, and kick-off will happen when we are ready.

As some of you might remember, the old USFL failed miserably after three seasons. The new USFL, I fear, will never get off the ground at all.

On now to something else. Usually at eleven o’clock in the morning on work days, I walk over to Panera Bread cafe and have a cup of coffee while I wait for Rebecca. Not ten minutes after I sat down in that comfy booth my back went into total spasm. At first I thought I could ward it off before Rebecca arrived. Not so. I told her that I would do my very best not to let it ruin the work day and in my opinion I haven’t.

These attacks don’t hurt per se. It’s more of a feeling of tightness and a jumping leg muscle. I suppose that is the most embarrassing part when I am out in public. I was mentioning to a friend of mine just a half hour ago that one time my spasm was so bad that it actually side-lined me for the whole day. Now, readers, I don’t have back spasms that severe very often. Well, it is time to edit this now, so I’ll say my good-byes until later in the week.

Think spring, take care and happy reading.

5/8/13 Update: Today, while editing for the book, we clicked on the link for the new USFL website in this post and found it no longer working. Rebecca and I literally spent a half hour trying to locate said website. Either the new league has given up all hope or whoever is promoting it has given it a new website which we have yet to find. We took out the link that had been in this post since it doesn’t go anyway anymore.

Preliminary report card on MLB13 The Show

Greetings, readers. As all my frequent readers know by now, I am a gamer. Being a tremendous baseball fan, my favorite video game, since its inception six or seven years ago, has been MLB The Show. I, yet again, eagerly anticipated March 5th when the latest version of this game hit the stores. I, like a little boy at Christmas time, with debit card in hand, pre-paid for my copy the day before. I was taking no chances.

After arriving back at my apartment, I cancelled most of my day’s plans and got down to the fun of figuring out the game and all that it has to offer. The first thing I did was to adjust the sliders, as they are called. These control how easy or difficult the game is to play. Once I peaked and tweaked those, I played a one-inning game in each of the brand new, fictitious, minor league and exhibition stadiums. Fantastic! With my eyes blitzed after several hours of playing, I took a short break before finishing the evening with three more short games, checking out the teams alternate uniforms. The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking good. Can we say mid-to-late 70s? Love those old caps.

As a fan of ultra-realism, I always enjoy the commentary or play-by-play, of the game. Steve Lyons replaced long-time original announcer Dave Campbell, who had been with the franchise since 2007. Dave Campbell, 71, was replaced by Steve; for youth, I think. That’s fine. But I miss old Dave Campbell with one of my favorite expressions in the game, “Close, but no cigar.” The other two announcers from last year, Matt Vasgersian (who has been there since the game’s inception) and Eric Karros, are still there. Though I enjoy what Steve Lyons brings to the broadcast, in my opinion, from what I’ve heard so far, Steve and Eric’s voices are too similar.

There are many changes to the game this year, too numerous to mention. Here is a link which will allow you to not only read about that, but all the highlights in this new version.

I’ve titled this entry preliminary report card, because it will take me several weeks to go through everything to my satisfaction to where I can post an update. But at first glance, after having the game literally 24 hours, MLB13’s preliminary grade is … A-.

Until soon, stay warm, stay healthy and happy reading.

MLB 12 The Show … I’m drooling

Greetings baseball fans and blog readers. In early March, Christmas day #2 comes for me. It is the release date of my favorite video game for the PlayStation 3 console, MLB12 The Show.

I have been playing this game for at least five years, if not longer. I began on my PS2 system, where the graphics were good but not exceptional. Since switching to the PS3 system, I have been blown away by the game’s realism. From the players’ faces and body movements to their swings and throws, every aspect of the players have been designed as realistically as possible.

Also, every stadium is impeccably rendered with details, such as working clocks that keep accurate time, and ivy at Chicago’s Wrigley Field that does not start growing until a month after the season starts. But now back to the game play itself.

This year, the added highlights are going to be enhanced play-by-play (mimicking more accurately the game’s situation), more realistic game play (the balls might hit a base and take a strange hop, for instance), and finally more realistic throwing and hitting motions. For someone like me who enjoys the subtle details, like the added realism of the New York and Boston crowds with their specific accents, it’s just an added bonus to an already perfect game.

The MLB The Show franchise is a Sony exclusive and in a couple of years the PS4 is due to come out. OMG. I have no reason to believe that this game will not survive into the PS4 era and I can only imagine that Sony will achieve even more realism. What I would like to see are subtleties such as rain-outs in franchise mode, where a player would somehow have to play two games to make up for it, the occasional snow flurry for early season games in Boston, Chicago, and Toronto, and perhaps an easier method of taking your very own photo and incorporating it into a created player. I would also like to be able to play games in such recently closed stadiums as Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Riverfront in Cincinnati, and Tiger Stadium in Detroit, as well as any others they may wish to incorporate – hint, hint.

The truth will now be told. I only purchase two games per year. John Madden football and MLB baseball. Though the Madden game is excellent, MLB baseball is my personal favorite and I have no doubt that I will be thrilled with this latest installment. Yes, sometimes games do get ruined by their developers trying to improve them, but so far MLB The Show has been extremely careful not to do this. They just keep adding to the realism.

Many, many years from now, when the PS15 comes out, I would love to have the chance to hear… somehow… announcers of years gone by. To be able to hear Vin Scully say, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”, or Phil Rizzuto utter, “You got that right, White,” or his classic, “Holy cow!” would complete my ultimate baseball experience.

Until next time… : )

P.S. Forgot to spellcheck before publishing last week. Oops. Sorry, folks. I just went back and fixed the mistakes.

Virtual Sports Reality

Hi there, readers. As I continue to do research for the blog entry about my father, I’d like to share something with you, which to me is a personal revelation. I was thinking about this Monday night as I was having one of my frequent insomnia bouts. It finally dawned on me why I love Madden football and MLB baseball for the PS3 gaming system so much.

As a youth, I was completely uncoordinated, clumsy, and awkward. A star athlete, I would never be. All the highlights that school age young men get to do, I never did. For instance, I never tried out for the high school football team. Heck, I could barely run, much less tackle anybody. The only football I could throw any distance was a Nerf, and my balance was such that being a running back or a wide receiver was out of the question. I would have had my own personal stretcher.

I didn’t try out for the baseball team, or softball, or basketball. Same rules apply there, I just didn’t feel myself a strong enough person to compete, mentally or physically. So when school was over, I got in my mom’s car and we drove home. I entertained myself with records, TV, and the occasional touch football game with kids from my neighborhood who knew my physical limitations and took it easy on me.

The video games in the early days were laughable as compared to what they are today. As of the last three years, sports games for the PS3 system are ultra-realistic. I watched a video on YouTube yesterday for MLB12 The Show. It was their official trailer. I didn’t think the game could get anymore realistic. I was wrong. Can’t wait ’til March 4th! Well, getting back to the topic of this blog post, the reason I love these games so much is simply this: It allows me to pretend that I am the coach, the manager, or even one of the players on these great professional sports teams. When I hit the X button on the controller, it’s me hitting the home run or striking out the powerful batter.

The other night I actually said to myself out loud, why don’t you quit being a writer and go work for either EA Sports or Sony? Well the answer is simple. I like being a writer too much. Sure I’ve got some ideas for improvements for their games; that is what email and phone numbers are for.

Well, I’m off to email my Dutch cousin to hopefully get the final few puzzle pieces that I’ll need for the blog post about my father. Until very soon, take care and have a great day.