Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein III
INDIANAPOLIS – Wow, what can one say? From teetering towards the NFL outhouse to elevating to the NFL pinnacle, that’s the amazing story the New York Giants implemented in closing out the 2011-12 NFL season with a rousing 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
In a season that has seen offenses run wild at times, both the Giants and Patriots defenses came to play and produce some old fashioned smash-mouth action. In a relatively low scoring Super Bowl it came down to two of the better quarterbacks in the NFL – the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Patriots’ Tom Brady.
In the end Manning did everything asked of him in the final minutes, which has become par for the course with this underrated quarterback. In fact, he has led the Giants to seven fourth quarter comebacks this season alone. Even better, Manning, an eight-year veteran, took a struggling 7-7 team and helped turn that team into a 13-7 Super Bowl champion.
Manning has beaten the Patriots in two thrilling Super Bowls and now has two Super Bowl MVP awards, the same number as Brady – winning this one in older brother Peyton’s house no less.
“His performance, coming down the stretch was outstanding,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He is the guy who has done it for us all year. He is the guy who put us in position.”
Said Manning: “It was tough out there on both teams. Offensively, it was tough getting into the end zone, tough to score touchdowns. It took great toughness and great faith by our guys just believing, and some big-time plays by a number of guys.
“I’m just excited for my teammates, Coach Coughlin, the fans and the Giants organization. This is not about one person. This is about a team coming together. We had some adversity this year, but we never got discouraged, because we knew if we could get on a run anything could happen.”
What happened in Lucas Oil Stadium was a repeat of Super Bowl XLII. Once again Manning, just as he did four years ago when the Giants ruined New England’s perfect season, he guided his team 88 yards to the decisive touchdown, which the Patriots didn’t contest as Ahmad Bradshaw ran 6 yards with 57 seconds left.
Brady, who completed 16 straight passes over the second and third quarters, breaking Joe Montana’s Super bowl record of 13, had the look of a man who could get his team over the hump. But a couple of dropped passes led to a last second desperation pass that fell to the turf as the last second ticked off the clock.
Manning started the game with nine straight completions, a Super Bowl record. He finished 30 for 40 for 296 yards and one touchdown, while Brady was 27 for 41 for 276 yards with two TDs and one interception.
Manning set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. He showed that brilliance in the clutch on the winning drive, completing five passes, starting with a sensational 38-yard sideline catch by Mario Manningham.
This was the fifth trip to a Super Bowl for Brady and Coach Bill Belichick, tying the record. And it looked like a successful one when they stormed back from a 9-0 deficit and led 17-9 in the third quarter.
“What I was concerned with was these guys making their own history,” Coughlin said, clutching the Vince Lombardi Trophy. “This is such a wonderful thing, these guys carving their own history.” Coughlin got his own piece of the record book as the oldest coach, at 65, to win a Super Bowl.
It was the Giants’ fourth Super Bowl championship, more than any franchise except Pittsburgh with six and San Francisco and Dallas with five, and they became the first team to finish the regular season 9-7 and win the title.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 17:21
Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein III
INDIANAPOILS — The Big Ten was well represented in the Super Bowl with 22 former student athletes and eight coaches with conference connections on the rosters of the Giants and New England Patriots.
The Big Ten and the SEC (23 players) were the only conferences with 20 or more players on the two Super Bowl squads, followed by the ACC (17), Pac-12 (13) and Big East (11). Michigan tied for second among all schools with four players, followed by Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue with three each. Three assistant coaches have ties to Penn State, while two spent time at Iowa and Michigan.
The 14 former Big Ten standouts to earn Super Bowl rings with the Giants were Illinois tackle David Diehl and punter Steve Weatherford, Indiana tackle James Brewer, Iowa safety Tyler Sash, Michigan center David Baas and wide receiver Mario Manningham, Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones and wide receiver Devin Thomas, Nebraska defensive back Prince Amukamara, Ohio State tight end Jake Ballard and center Jim Cordle, Penn State defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy and offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie and Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum.
Eight former Big Ten players appeared on the Patriots’ roster in Iowa linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, Michigan quarterback Tom Brady and punter Zoltan Mesko, Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer, Penn State offensive guard Rich Ohrnberger and Purdue linebacker Niko Koutouvides, offensive tackle Matt Light and linebacker Rob Ninkovich.
Eight of the Giants’ and Patriots’ assistant coaches have ties to Big Ten schools, including incoming Penn State head coach and New England offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Patriots’ tight ends coach Brian Ferentz (played at Iowa, son of current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz), defensive line coach Pepper Johnson (played at Ohio State) and offensive assistant Josh McDaniels (graduate assistant at Michigan State) have also spent time with Big Ten teams. Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty (assistant at Iowa and Penn State), secondary and cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta (assistant at Penn State), linebackers coach Jim Herrmann (played and served as an assistant at Michigan) and running backs coach Jerald Ingram (played and served as a graduate assistant at Michigan) also have Big Ten ties.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 17:20
Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein III
(Special Chronicle interview with Fielder in June 2009 at Comerica Park)
Prince Fielder, 25, in his short time as a Big Leaguer, has proven to be one of the game’s best young players.
When one examines the history of fathers that have ascended to the professional level in any sport, and then we look at many of their offspring, it is safe to say that having a parent as a professional does not mean the kid or kids will follow. However, there have been a few that have inherited the valued sporting genes from Mom or Dad. Considering the long history of professional sports in America, the numbers are miniscule in relation to the thousands and thousands that have entertained us as professional athletes.
Noteworthy on the list are Calvin and Grant Hill, Bobby and Brett Hull, Nate Williams (Olympian) and Natalie Williams (NBA), Muhammad and Laila Ali, Joe and Kobe Bryant, Joe and Marvis Frazier, Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr.
Standing out in the father and offspring phenomenon are Bobby and Barry Bonds. Barry matched his father in the exclusive 30 home runs-30 stolen bases club. Anthony Dorsett matched his NFL Hall of Fame father, Tony Dorsett, as the first father and son to start in a Super Bowl.
Maybe top on the list are Cecil and Prince Fielder. There has never been in the long history of Major League Baseball a father smash at least 50 home runs and the son later matches him. Cecil, playing for the Tigers in 1990 slammed 51 dingers and in 2007 Prince blasted 50 home runs. Both led their league in home runs.
“I lived in Detroit from the first grade to the sixth,” Prince told me. “I use to hang out at Tiger Stadium all the time. I was friends with a lot of the players. I really have fond memories of my time in Detroit. In fact, I had to take a trip over to the stadium just to look at it.”
Prince acknowledged that his dad exposed him to baseball but he never expected what has happened to him as a player.
“When you grow up you always hope to be a big leaguer,” Prince said, “but I never expected it to happen like it has. Being an all-star and leading the league in home runs is way more than my dreams allowed me to dream. I just wanted to be in the league and compete.”
Cecil was 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, and it is no doubt his son has his genes, as Prince is 5-foot-11, and 270 pounds.
Shorter but heavier, there was some concern about Prince’s weight, but he has dedicated himself to arresting that problem.
After he produced a remarkable 2007 season, at 23, where he 50 home runs, 119 RBI and a solid .288 batting average, many were wondering if it was a fluke. Many experts pegged him as a very average fielding first baseman that was destined to be a career designated hitter.
However, Fielder told me that he looked at himself in the mirror and declared that he had to control his eating and weight. So he made the wise choice for his career and for his long-term health; he went on a vegetarian diet after the 2007 season.
Eating vegetables, he still produced in 2008 34 home runs, 102 RBI and a .276 batting average. As the 2009 season progresses, he now has 17 home runs and close to 70 RBI’s, Prince is on tract to slam close to 40 home runs and drive in over 100 runs (He indeed exceeded my 2009 projections slamming 46 home runs, with 141 RBI’s).
With the weight loss he has turned himself into a better fielder, his speed is increased and by all accounts he is playing the best all-around game of his life.
“I’m listening and trying to learn as much as possible,” Prince said. “I’m working on everything about my game — training, nutrition, being patient at the plate, reading the pitchers and my defense. I want to continue to grow as a player.”
Prince has already placed himself and Dad as one of the greatest father and son professionals in any sport, and it appears he will be tearing up the league for a while. (At the time of this interview neither of us had any idea that in three years he’d be a Tiger.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2012 18:23
Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein III
INDIANAPOLIS — Former University of Michigan receiver Mario Manningham made the catch New England’s Wes Welker did not make. It’s a main reason why the New York Giants, and not the New England Patriots, have the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“That’s what it comes down to in football,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told reporters. “It’s one play. Certainly, you look at our game four years ago, and it was a miracle play that they make. We had a chance to make one of those today and didn’t come up with it. It always comes down to one or two plays in this game. If you make it you’re celebrating. If you don’t, you don’t sleep for a week.”
Brady, also a former UM star, was referring to the miracle play made by Giants receiver David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII, when he used his helmet to secure the ball under intense pressure from the Patriots secondary.
Manningham’s catch was not quite as theatrical as Tyree’s, but it had the same effect as it thrust the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLVI, again over the Patriots. His catch will forever link him to Tyree in Giants’ lore. His 38-yard catch late in the fourth quarter was the linchpin that allowed the Giants to score the game-winning touchdown with 57 seconds left, culminating an 88 yard drive.
“Eli [Manning] put a great ball up there,” Manningham said. “After I caught that, man, I kind of figured like, ‘We’re about to win this.’ It gave us confidence, getting way down there, knowing you have three minutes left or something like that.”
Manningham might not have gotten a chance to play the part of hero, though, if Welker hadn’t turned himself into the anti-hero only seconds earlier. Though Welker led the league with 122 catches and had only five drops this season, he dropped the biggest one of his career. The Patriots held a 17-15 lead with 4:06 remaining when Brady, from the Giants 44, had Welker wide open at the 20. Welker couldn’t hold on.
“It’s one of those plays I’ve made a thousand times,” Welker said. “Just didn’t make it. I’ll have to live with that.”
The Patriots punted two plays later, and on the Giants’ first snap, Manning found Manningham single covered on a go-route against a Cover 2 defense. He squeezed both feet down as he latched onto an over the shoulder pass.
“I saw the safety cheating a little bit and threw it down the sideline,” Manning said. “Mario made a great catch, even better was him keeping both feet in. That was a huge play in the game because we were backed up and to get a 40-yard gain in that situation to the middle of the field, allowed us to pace ourselves a little bit. It was a big-time play right there.”
Said receiver Hakeem Nicks: “Mario’s play pushed us over the top. It was clutch and he made the catch at the right time.” Manningham added “I did not have to make a catch like Tyree’s or leap over five people. It was more a great throw from Manning. He makes the plays when we really need them.”
Manningham finished with five catches for 73 yards, three of them coming on the game-winning drive for 56 yards.
“It was great for him to come up big when we needed him most,” receiver Victor Cruz said. “He’s been coming up big this entire playoff run and to come up big in this game on this stage is just great.”
With the Giants trailing 17-15 late in the fourth quarter on their own 12, Manningham’s catch is very similar to Tyree’s, whose grab with New York trailing 14-10 late in the fourth quarter propelled the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XLVII. Thus “The Catch II.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 17:18
Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein III
What has happened to civility in this country? Simple respect for your fellow humans has to be the real spirit behind the Constitution, even if you disagree with them . . . right? I think the founding fathers wanted us to debate and have choices in competitive but civil discourse.
By now I’m sure that most know Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tim Thomas elected not to go to the White House recently with his teammates, who were at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to be honored for their 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
President Obama was honoring the hockey champions for their on-ice effort and for the Boston Bruins Foundation’s off-the-ice charitable work which has donated more than $7 million to charities in New England.
The question is why did Thomas, the winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in the regular season and the playoff MVP last year, give President Obama the cold shoulder, or as they say in the ’hood, “give the prez the brush-off?”
Apparently the Bruins star goalie simply could not stand to be in the same room with America’s current president. The Flint, Mich., native backtracked after his rebuff hit the media airwaves, saying it wasn’t about “politics or party” and yet he also took the time to slam the government for being “out of control,” which sounds kind of political to me.
According to the Boston Herald, Thomas is a big fan of Glenn Beck, expressing a secret wish to one day be a guest on his show. He is also a hunter and concerned about Second Amendment issues, has expressed his support for the Tea Party movement by wearing a mask emblazoned with “In God We Trust” on its front, and the Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”) flag on its back panel.
Thomas released a statement via Facebook: “I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties and property of the people. This was not about politics or party. This was about a choice I had to make as an individual.”
It sure sounds like a Thomas Tea Party political rant to me, full of generalizations with hasty scare tactics in the face of evidence to the contrary. Still, I support anyone’s right to free speech and freedom of choice. But what has happened to agreeing to disagree while still having cordial interaction?
Is it any wonder that this country is so politically fractured when a bunch of guys can’t agree to just get together and talk sports?
What Thomas did was take a harmless event for and about his team and turned into an event about himself. It was a selfish act, plain and simple, but more importantly, it was bad manners and a slap in the face to the leader of the free world.
What has happened to civilized conduct, courtesy and politeness? Wasn’t Obama’s acknowledgement of the Bruins a simple polite act? Shouldn’t a gesture like the president’s be received amicably and harmoniously?
Unfortunately, in this reality TV era, civility and courtesy are taking a back seat to the antonyms of civility such as discourteousness, impoliteness, incivility, rudeness, surliness, discourtesy and ungraciousness. All have engrained themselves in the spirit of too many Americans.
Thomas’ self-described non-political stance is an unquestionable Tea Party position, and is in keeping with the uncivil behavior that has been permeating America’s discourse concerning the Obamas. The socialist rhetoric, Hilter references, being called a liar during his State of the Union Address, reference to his wife’s body parts and on and on it goes.
Everyone has the right to voice their opinion, but as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick noted, “It just feels to me like we’re losing in this country basic courtesy and grace.”
“I didn’t think much of President Bush’s policies – two wars on a credit card, prescription drug benefits that we couldn’t afford, deficit out of control – but I always referred to him as ‘Mr. President.’ I stood when he came in the room,” Patrick said in segment of “Ask the Governor”.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2012 18:20
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