Morning Struggles and Eventual Bliss

Taco Bell

AT THE KITCHEN TABLE, NJ - Taco Bell started serving breakfast on March 27th. Today is April 11th. To say I’m disappointed it took me this long would be an understatement. After the breakfast menu announcement I was literally counting down the days, drawing giant Xs through each day on the calendar as the days passed, salivating over the different combinations — I eventually settled on the idea of just ordering one of each.

Taco Bell breakfast was especially meaningful to me, as a person who all but gave up on breakfast years ago. Sleep became my breakfast. Ten minutes more of sleep beat out any amount of breakfast food. Only recently – with the discovery of bacon – did I realize the error of my ways. All I know now is I wasted 23 years of my life hating bacon, and I beg, every day, for bacon’s forgiveness.

But getting to Taco Bell before 11 AM has proven to be the closest thing to impossible I’ve ever been faced with. It’s not all laziness…

Ok, it’s mostly laziness.

On days off it’s hard to want to get out of bed and dressed that early. On work days, it’s hard to want to get up even earlier to stop by a place that might give me diarrhea while I’m at my place of work.

Lucky for me I work near Penn Station. A very central and busy location with it’s own Taco Bell. Despite the potential bowel pitfalls I decided it was worth the risk. Of course, nothing great in life ever comes easy. The Taco Bell at Penn Station, for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, was not open for breakfast. It was perhaps my harshest defeat yet.

I stayed positive. I had the day off today, and thought for sure I’d be able to wake up in time. A last minute trip to Philly, and the subsequent drive home put a damper on that. What had once seemed to be a leisurely stroll to the nearest Taco Bell turned into a mad scamper to beat the 11 AM deadline. I left my house in pajamas, boat shoes, unkempt hair and without glasses. But I made it. Sweet lord, did I make it.

Granted when I actually got up to order, “everything on the menu” seemed like a bit much. I settled on a crunchwrap, and even built up the courage to get a cup of coffee.

***As a side-note, I can’t tell how I feel about myself that I had no problem was over-the-top excited for Taco Bell breakfast, but was somehow worried they’d screw up the coffee***

It all was fantastic…sorry, that wasn’t descriptive enough…

It reaffirmed my spirituality, for only a divine being could have been responsible for the creation of something as wonderful as that crunchwrap.

Crunchwrap

The hash brown was expertly salted and offered the right amount of crisp, the egg was both fluffy and melted in your mouth, and the bacon bits offered the perfect exclamation point to every bite. All of that was wrapped perfectly in a tortilla that almost made me feel cultured (gotta stress the almost).

Each bite was better than the last, and before I knew it the wrap was gone. An especially sad revelation when I realized it’ll probably be a long time before I get to Taco Bell for breakfast again. In the end it was worth it. I might not be Ronald McDonald, but I think that endorsement should mean something.

With One Game to go: Recap of a Magical Night in Philly

Union Hockey

ON CLOUD NINE, PHILLY – Union is now 2-0 all-time against Boston College. That’s just an outrageous statement. A few years ago very few people outside of  Schenectady — the small Upstate New York town that’s home to the Dutchmen – had heard of Union. Now they’re undefeated against arguably the greatest college hockey program of the last decade.

But if you’ve been following college hockey you know that’s no longer that crazy. Union has now been in four straight NCAA tournaments — a big accomplishment when only 16 teams in the nation make it. They’ve won three Cleary Cups in the last four years (awarded to the regular season champion of the ECAC conference), and three straight Whitelaws (the trophy for the ECAC tournament winner). This season marked their second trip to the Frozen Four in the last three years.

Last time they made it was my senior year at Union, and the games were in Tampa Bay, Fla. Armed with a press pass and a place to stay I made the trip, only to see them fall flat in the final period to Ferris State; a closer game than the 3-1 score indicates. I stayed to watch BC dismantle Minnesota. Even came back that Saturday to watch BC win its third national title in six years. All that did was build the legend of BC and Jerry York in my mind, making this 2-0 record even more mind-blowing.

This year I didn’t think I’d be able to make the trip. There was no way I’d miss the championship on Saturday, but Thursday was proving to be difficult. On Wednesday that all changed. I got a call from a friend who had an extra ticket and, when my boss realized I was a Union alum, I was offered the day off. It was a sign. I took the day and the ticket, and was ready for my trip to Philly.

Parking proved to be a problem. It didn’t matter. I was making it rain in every and any attempt to make it to the game on time. Unfortunately I arrived a couple minutes into the first period. I was walking up the stairs when the buzzer sounded for the first BC goal.

Down 1-0 is never a time to panic. That didn’t stop my inbox from filling up with texts from panicked friends. But I was there with Zach Pearce. My WRUC Sports Talk radio co-host, and partner for the Union Hockey fan blog. One of the few guys who might be as big an optimist as I am. “Ya Gotta Believe” should be tattooed to our foreheads.

I realized it was the third straight year I had made a trip to an NCAA Final Four. Two years ago it was for Union in the Frozen Four. Last year it was for Syracuse in the Final Four (I went to Syracuse for grad school), and, of course, now this year for Union once again. The last two times my team lost in the semis, while I stayed around and watched some other team hoist the trophy. “This time,” Zach told me, “It’s going to be different.”

It’s crazy, but I hadn’t seen Zach since we graduated back in 2012. Zach is not the easiest person to get a hold of, even for a text or phone call. But he’s oddly dependable when it comes to hockey, and that’s what it took for the two of us to finally catch up after almost two years. Sports can ultimately be viewed as meaningless but they have a strange way of bringing people together, whether it’s old friends or complete strangers hugging over the outcome of a game.

When Union scored their first goal there were no strangers in our section. Everyone yelled, jumped, hugged and high-fived. After the 2012 Frozen Four loss to Ferris State, and the 5-1 loss last year to Quinnipiac it’s hard to take goals for granted in these games. Each one is like winning the lottery, and Union added a second for good measure. BC added their own goal to tie it at 2-2 before the period had ended, but the tone had been set. Union could hang with the big boys in this one.

You just shouldn’t have bothered telling that to us. We literally walked laps around the arena until the next period started in an attempt to lower our heart-rate and calm ourselves down. It didn’t really work.

Our mind was only taken off the game when a nervous undergrad from Penn State walked up to us. He was a writer for his school’s paper and was working on a story. Penn State had recently changed their hockey program from a club sport to Division I. With Union’s recent ascension, he was trying to find a way the Nittany Lions could make a similar climb.

To be honest, it’s a question I’ve never really been able to answer, and have never found someone who could answer it. The three things I settled on was 1) Great coaching. Both in terms of improving skill level, and building a strong in-game system. 2) Players who both fit into the system and buy into a team approach. 3) Depth. This point plays into the first two, but this school isn’t built on stars. Union has never had a top recruiting class, and only one player on the team has been drafted (And that was after his freshman year, while most college prospects are drafted before they commit to college). In contrast BC had 10, and Minnesota and North Dakota each had 14. Without relying on a top-line or player, Union doesn’t worry about rough stretches. There is always a player that manages to step up.

The third period was tense. No one made a sound until Union took the lead again with a power play goal. It was Daniel Ciampini’s second goal of the night, and I’m pretty sure I lost my voice right then and there. But with any great game there are as many lows as there are highs.

After throwing a vicious hit, Union forward Matt Hatch was tagged with a major penalty that sent him to the locker room and gave BC a five-minute power play. It was a moment that could not only give BC the lead, but bury Union before they could get their fifth skater back on the ice. And yet, I wasn’t worried.

It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s that I fully believed in this team. That’s probably one of the main characteristics of this team: they don’t get flustered. They have been through every situation imaginable and have found ways to win. If there was a team that could fight off this penalty, they were on the ice draped in garnet.

To just say they killed the penalty would be an insult to their effort. BC only managed three shots on goal; they barely had time to set up before a Union player would send the puck sliding down the ice. It was arguably the greatest penalty kill I have ever seen in my lifetime. The entire section knew what was happening before it was over. With three minutes left in the power play everyone was on their feet screaming, clapping, buzzing and getting louder each time the puck hit the far wall.

When the power play ended Union did us one better. With a steal in the neutral zone, Kevin Sullivan had the puck on his stick and flew down the ice on a breakaway. Two BC defenders were at his side trying to catch up and knock the puck away. Sullivan was able to get the shot off, and when the puck rebounded right back to him as he and the two BC defenders flew to the right of the net, he somehow managed to throw the puck back into the slot where a trailing Mike Vecchione was there for an easy goal.

To spare you from repetition I’ll simply state that we went crazy after that goal. Crazier than we had for any other goal that game. And that process repeated itself for each subsequent goal.

With a 4-2 lead you’d think you could rest easy, but with less than two minutes left BC made it a one-goal game again. They pulled their goalie with over two minutes left, and with the extra attacker knocked in their third goal.

After a center-ice faceoff the Golden Eagles were setting up in the Union zone again, but this time Union defenseman Mat Bodie was able to intercept the puck and fling it down ice. Ciampini was ahead of the play, killing any chance of an icing, and easily tapped in an empty-netter to give Union a two-goal lead once again.

BC made one final attempt scoring a fourth goal with just over four seconds left, but that was as close as they’d come. And just like that Union was heading to the national championship game. The moment wasn’t lost on anyone.

No, Union wasn’t a heavy underdog in this one. If you isolate the event, a win wasn’t shocking. But for a program that had never made it to a national title game, that less than a decade ago was a joke in their own conference, a win against BC in the Frozen Four meant everything.

People came out of the woodwork to either congratulate the team or book their tickets for Saturday. No matter how closely they followed, no one wants to miss the chance to see Union win its first national championship.

Zach and I celebrated the only way we knew how. We hugged and cheered with everyone in the rink until the very last person had left. We then went to the lobby and did the same. Finally we found the one bar in the rink and had one to celebrate. They gave us our drink in a souvenir Flyers cup, and even that didn’t affect the taste. Not today, nothing could chase the taste of victory from my mouth.

At the bar we met an older looking Union fan. We quickly started up a conversation with him. We thought if this meant a lot to us, it must be indescribable to him — presumably a fan for a lot longer. To our surprise he wasn’t a Union alum. In fact, he had played hockey for St. Lawrence, one of Union’s ECAC foes. He was donning Union apparel because his son was on the team.

His son was Mark Bennett, a player who was a freshman when we were seniors. The crazy part is Zach and I were talking about him during the game. It was another example of how deep this Dutchmen team is.

Our senior year Bennett seemed like one of the top recruits. He was a hard-nosed player, who played the game the right way. We both thought he had a bright future ahead of him. But he was a healthy scratch for the game against BC, and might be one again on Saturday.

His dad was upset, obviously. Any parent wants to see their kid playing in the big game. But Mark didn’t complain and, when pressed, his dad didn’t really either. “How do you complain about a guy who’s led his team to two Frozen Fours?” he said. Even he realized this team was incredibly deep, and that – not any shortcomings from his son – was the reason Mark was on the bench for this one.

We got one more story out of the interaction: what the recruiting process was like. When Bennett was recruited, Nate Leaman was still the head coach (he has since moved on to Providence — a school that can give out athletic scholarships — while Rick Bennett (no relation) has taken over as head coach). Leaman told Bennett that he had personally gone to seven games of his. That he saw immense talent and projected him to be a top-six forward and a special teams contributor. He told him no other ECAC coach could honestly say he spent as much time scouting him.

It goes back to the question posed by the Penn State student. What made Union College so good? That story gives us a glimpse of their recruiting. They find the players that fit in their system, that fit the qualifications they’re looking for, and they get them. For one last example, look to Ciampini. The junior had a hat trick against BC, and has been one of Union’s top players all season. When asked why he picked Union he simply said, “They were the only ones that offered.”

Now he and the Dutchmen have a chance to face another college hockey powerhouse in Minnesota, one win away from the ultimate prize.

Bracket Busting, RA Derek and the Biggest Loser On A Night For Champions

FROM MY RECLINER, NJ - March Madness is over, and the UConn Huskies stand victorious. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. Now stop lying and put your hand down.

What do RAs and the NCAA Have in Common?

Outside of diehard Connecticut fans, people using darts to make picks, and clueless kids I can’t imagine many, if anyone, picked the Huskies. Not like Resident Advisor (RA) Derek picked them.

 

Derek might be the biggest loser of the night. Something tells me his floor made CenturyLink Field seem like a library well past midnight. But honestly, how ballsy was that email by Derek? In one email he preemptively scolded his floor AND trivialized an event that was exciting and important to way more than just the entire campus. Then he had the gall to remind everyone that they still have to live with each other for another month…maybe use that same logic before sending the email??!

More importantly I hate the laundry argument. HATE IT! It boils sports down to its most basic, and in the process eliminates everything that makes them special and loved. This isn’t to say Derek should love sports, but it’s unfair to take the joy of sports out of context like that. Sorry you hate sports D-Rock, but believe it or not there are plenty of people who disagree with you. That includes the NCAA who make tons of money off these “student-athletes.” And on that topic (courtesy of Grantland’s Mark Titus):

A reader named Joe S. sent me an email Saturday night, not long after Kentucky beat Wisconsin. It’s pretty perfect:

Don’t Kentucky and UConn making the final basically put another nail in the coffin of the NCAA’s “student-athlete” fantasy? One team had such bad grades they were suspended from the postseason last year (and had a 10 percent graduation rate) and the other has five freshman starters who will most likely leave for the NBA after one season.

Points granted, but as long as the NCAA keeps referring to these basketball players as “student-athletes,” I’m sure no one will notice this farce. Speaking of which, look at this picture of the record-breaking crowd at AT&T Stadium and, without laughing, try to convince yourself that the NCAA’s primary interest is its “student-athletes.”

A Tough Road to Climb

It’s not that Connecticut was a bad team. They were ranked to start the season, were one of two teams to hand Florida a loss, made it to the AAC Conference title game, and might’ve featured the best player in the tournament.

You’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think there was a good chance Shabazz Napier could steal a game or two for the Huskies – even if it was just nostalgia for 2011 and Kemba Walker. Napier was a strong scorer who just got better in crunch time. If that’s not a tournament killer on paper, I don’t know what is.

The problem was the Huskies needed to steal more than one or two games. They were coming out of arguably the toughest bracket in the tournament. Just to make the Final Four they had to beat St. Joes, Villanova, Iowa State, and Michigan State. That’s no small feat.

An opening round victory wasn’t shocking. Even beating Villanova seemed reasonable. After all, Villanova might’ve been a tad overrated.

***But that’s life in the new Big East. The top two teams – by a wide margin – were Creighton and Villanova. Both teams lost in the second round (I’m refusing to count those four play-in games as a round). And Creighton didn’t just lose, they got dismantled by a good, not great, Baylor team. The next best Big East team was Providence. Realignment really ruined what was once the greatest college basketball conference***

But Iowa State and Michigan State are no slouches. And again, that was just to get to the Final Four.

For Shame?

On the other side of the bracket was Kentucky. If there was any team that had a harder road than UConn, it was Kentucky. The Wildcats had to get through Kansas State, an unbeaten Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan. Those last three teams each could’ve reasonably won a championship. In fact, two of those teams were in the title game just last season, and the third was a Final Four participant.

So in some ways “Mr Tattoo” (Tyler) did get value.

Kentucky Tattoo

It’s not like the guy got the tattoo right before the title game. He went all in before the SEC tournament even started. Back when Kentucky was losing to Arkansas and South Carolina. So 1) you could argue he clearly didn’t care if the tattooed result came to fruition 2) holy smokes did that come close 3) he’s got visual proof he’s walking around with two coconuts between his legs, just saying. Bravo Tyler. While it might look stupid to most people, I’m sure it’ll be a pleasant reminder to him. And if he doesn’t care, what’s wrong with it?

In comparison, Florida and Wisconsin slept walked to the Final Four. Florida’s toughest game was against a good UCLA team, but otherwise only had to get through Pittsburgh, Dayton, and Albany. Wisconsin had American, Oregon, Baylor, and Arizona. A set of opponents that easily puts Florida to shame, but doesn’t compare to the onslaught Kentucky and UConn had to navigate.

So what does that say? Does facing the toughest road prepare you more?

No. Every season is different. But a year where two above-average regular season teams – at best –made the championship, there is no downplaying their credentials.

 

Dear Jesus, why did you make the Mets so bad?

harvey

From my recliner, NY – Below is my open letter to Charlie, the dear little boy who wrote this:

Dear Charlie,

As a God-fearing man, I, too, struggle with that question from time to time. I’d be breaking the ninth commandment if I told you I hadn’t fallen on my knees, begging for one more hit, one more out, one more chance, only to be cast into the wilderness for another 40 years.

It’s been a rough first week of baseball, I know.

Sixty one strikeouts in six games aren’t promising.

Travis d’Arnaud might need an exorcism.

I don’t believe the Trinity should describe a first base platoon (especially when a man named Satin is involved).

Quick, grab some oil and the elders and maybe we can still help Bobby Parnell’s elbow.

But us Mets fans need to stick together. So, I’m here to tell you that it’s not your fault. Look at me son, it’s not your fault. No, it’s not your fault.

I’ve been a Mets fan for 23 years. Every Opening Day they sucker me in, filling my head with promises of hope and a future (I call it being Jeremiah 9:11-ed). Every year I believe them. Believe me, it doesn’t get easier only more predictable.

I wish I had more answers for you. I don’t know why this happened.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this, after this.

For the life of me, I can’t explain why God, in His infinite wisdom, has given so much common grace to Yankee fans.

I can only tell you not to give up.

The day after the Mets were eliminated in 2006, I wore my David Wright jersey to school. On the afternoon the Mets announced Matt Harvey’s injury I wandered around like a creature on The Walking Dead, only to find myself driving to Modell’s to buy his jersey.

We are a resilient bunch, us Mets fans. Have faith. Believe in something.

Believe in Matt Harvey. Believe in Zack Wheeler. Believe in the Son of Odin.

Believe in the Captain friggin’ America.

I’ll leave you with a passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans: “But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …”

Ya gotta believe.

The Man Machine, 1988-2014

manmachine4

FROM MY RECLINER, NY – My car, a 1988 Toyota Camry Wagon known as The Man Machine, which might have been but probably wasn’t also owned by Jon Voight, was taken off the road this week. It was 26.

That’s old for a car, very old, older than me. The stereo system stopped working long before I got it. The motorized seat belts, which were meant to descend over your chest when the car turned on, had gone dormant. I needed to disconnect the battery each night for fear of it dying completely.

These days, the air conditioning didn’t quite work, which was fine during winter, except the heat didn’t quite work either. Like a muggy island breeze, the fans just blew a frustratingly coolish-warm air that was either too hot or too cold for the elements outside my window.

It was also blue, very blue, blue inside and out. The steering wheel was blue, the chairs were blue, the dash was blue, the carpet was blue, and the ceiling was blue. My dad called it the Blue Streak or the Blue Goose, but it was The Man Machine.

It was given its name by a college friend of mine, a guy named Ryan, who makes his own hummus and has locks of wavy blonde hair and an impressive collection of penny loafers. He’s a man with a lot of interesting stories, many of which I’ve heard over French toast and bacon slices at the breakfast joint we both like. That’s one – of many – reasons why I like Ryan so much, not because he reminds me of maple syrup and confectionary sugar, although he does, but because he appreciates a good story. A good story like The Man Machine.

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A good story like the time an old woman broadsided me while I was returning home from buying a gallon of milk. She hung too wide a right and smashed into my car’s front passenger side door, only you’d never be able to tell because there wasn’t a scratch. On The Man Machine, at least.

I’m not sure why that name stuck in my head the way it did. Despite its scars and old man grumble of an idle, I didn’t view the car as particularly manly (and neither did my friends who made fun of it mercilessly). Maybe it’s because I dig the way it flies in the face of traditional manliness, of muscle cars and big egos, or how it survived a Syracusean winter and lived to tell the tale.

I got the car after my freshman year in college, a freebee from my dad’s boss or something. I probably don’t remember because, at first, I wasn’t too enthused about it. But despite the musty smell and nest of yellow jackets, which fortified themselves somewhere in my side-view mirror (and then came surging out to sting my brother mid-drive), it was mine and that meant something.

Fast cars and freedom, am I right?

The Man Machine has been semi-retired as of late. It’s Juwan Howard winning a title with LeBron James or Kirk Gibson on one bad leg in the World Series. It’s the wily old vet who can’t make long road trips but still comes up clutch. As Jalen Rose would put it, a “keep gettin’ them checks” all-star.

The Man Machine spent its final days driving me to and from internships and on retainer for my brother while his BMW was in the shop.

Excuse me for a second. Hold on …

Sorry, my brother was being waterboarded by irony again.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is because, well, I like to tell stories and The Man Machine has been a great one. I’ll never regret owning the Rudy of first cars and even though it will probably be sold and crushed Breaking Bad style my next car has mighty big, blue, rusty shoes to fill.

Let’s Talk: Cold weather Super Bowls, Peyton’s legacy, and final predictions

Jacksonville Jaguars v Denver Broncos

FROM OUR RECLINERS, NY/NJ – In tribute to Bill Simmons, the king of writing 10,000 words about nothing, we’ll be posting semi-regular email features about trending topics. This week we’ll be talking about a Super Bowl in New York, Peyton Manning’s legacy, and who will win the big game.

Evan: Well, James, it’s finally the week of the Super Bowl. The media didn’t have to try too hard to hype this matchup. On top of these teams being the top seed of their conference and the preseason favorite, we have the best defense vs. the best offense. And I’m not just talking total yards. It seems both teams are the top ranked unit in almost every category.

Where do you see this year’s matchup ranking in the history of the game?

James: I don’t think I’m the best person to answer a question like this, mostly because I wouldn’t particularly consider myself a student of NFL history. I know about the Lombardis, Starrs, Bradshaws, Sanders, and Montanas of the game, but wasn’t around to see them play and therefore don’t think I’d be the best judge.

With that said, the two best Super Bowls I’ve experienced, at least the ones I’ve enjoyed the most, were Super Bowls XLII and XLIII. Both games, Giants vs. Patriots and Steelers vs. Cardinals, featured two heavy underdogs who made things more interesting than expected, and in the case of the Giants, won the game.

Despite not being born, let us not also forget to remember one of the greatest Super Bowl’s ever, Super Bowl III, when Joe Namath guaranteed a victory and the underdog Jets beat Johnny Unitas (a three time champion, including one SB) and the Colts.

My point being, I don’t think this game will be a guaranteed all-timer. It could be, sure, and you can call me pessimistic all you want, but I think we could be in for a letdown. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the top defense and top offense have faced off in the Super Bowl five times and only twice has the game been within five points. The other three games included two 49ers blowouts and the Buccaneers trampling over the Raiders.

So, I could easily see the Broncos going up two scores and never looking back just as easily as I could see the Seahawks slogging through a defensive struggle in which Steven Hauschka kicks four field goals. A close game maybe, but nothing special. Do you dare to disagree?

Evan: James, I live life dangerously. I do disagree. I can’t imagine the Seahawks winning this game by a wide margin, and I can’t imagine them losing by one either. If I was a betting man I would pick the Seahawks straight up for this game, even though I am strongly rooting for Peyton and the Broncos.

And even in a low-scoring field goal oriented game, I imagine it’ll be fun. One of Peyton’s strengths is dissecting defenses. On the other hand, there isn’t much to dissect with the Seahawks. They might be one of the more basic defenses, succeeding primarily off of superior talent. Still there are ways Manning can find favorable matchups for his receivers. It dictates like one hell of a chess match and I can’t wait to see it unfold.

And let’s not forget how exciting it is that this will be a cold weather affair. I know it’s not ideal for those attending, but I won’t mind watching it in my warm house with my giant television. More importantly, how awesome have some recent snowy playoff/conference championship games been? I for one can’t wait to see a cold weather Super Bowl. What do you think about a NYC Super Bowl?

James: I’m SO glad you asked that question. As a native New Yorker, I’ve been pumped about the Jets and Giants hosting the Super Bowl since the announcement was made a couple years ago. I was even more pumped after the Farmer’s Almanac predicted the snowstorm of the century on game day. Why? Because I believe football is meant to be played in any and all weather. It’s like the mailman, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow should stop it. It’s football after all!

Predictably, the backlash started almost immediately and, presumably, will continue until kickoff and beyond. I can see the Monday morning First Take debate raging already. Calm down, Stephen A, my god.

Terry Bradshaw, Don Shula, and Richard Sherman are among the many others who have voiced their opinions against a cold weather Super Bowl, so naturally I’m here to put them back in line. There’s almost nothing worse than ex-players and media types getting on their high horse about something, especially when they invoke B.S. platitudes like the integrity of the game, blah, blah, blah. (And no, I’m not doing that here! Stop it! Okay, maybe I am.)

The point is, have you ever watched a cold, snowy game and said, “Man, this is terrible?” No! It’s impossible! Snowy games are the best. Period. Football just feels more real when you can see the player’s breathe as they line up. Or as a kicker prepares for a game winning field goal in a blizzard. I defy you to tell me that a Green Bay Super Bowl wouldn’t be amazing. Or Chicago. Or Detroit. (Okay, maybe not Detroit.) Bill Simmons had a good point in his latest mailbag – a city should only be considered for a Super Bowl if it could also double as a bachelor party destination or for a season of The Real World. New York obviously passes that test. Chicago probably does. Green Bay might be a stretch (A season of Survivor, maybe?), but it’s such a great football town that I think it could work.

As for the players and fans at the game, suck it up. Do you want to play in the aggressive and manly National Football League? Do you want to be a part of history? No? Then stay home.

Thoughts?

Evan: Couldn’t agree with you more. I’ll try to keep my response short so we don’t get too repetitive.

Why should the NFL refuse to host their biggest event in some of the biggest cities in the country because of weather? And how does it ruin the integrity of the game, when a trip to the Super Bowl can be decided based on that same terrible weather. Conference championship games can be held in any NFL city in the country. How do NFL players get upset about new rules trying to limit brain damage, but call foul when they have to play a game in snow?

I love cold weather games. Maybe there’s less chance of big passing games, but that’s not the only exciting aspect of football. I love sports because I love seeing guys fight through adversity. Think about how hard it is to be a professional athlete. How much time and effort you have to put in to get where these guys are. What’s more challenging than trying to pick up that extra yard in the snow? Or trying to locate the ball in a blizzard. What’s more awe-inspiring than seeing a guy put everything he has out on the field when all he really wants to do is wrap himself in a blanket and sit by the fire?

It’s looking like we won’t get the blizzard, or the wind, or even really cold weather. That may be a bit disappointing to us, but probably not the fans going to the game, and certainly not Peyton Manning and that passing offense. Much has been made about this game being legacy defining for Manning. Do you agree?

James: Without a doubt this is a legacy game for Manning. With a win, he will have a permanent spot at the G.O.A.T. discussion table, perhaps even at the head of it. With a loss, he’s the greatest regular season quarterback ever, an all-timer with a few post-season flaws.

Whether we like it or not, playoff runs, games, and even single plays can define legacies. That’s not always fair. Carlos Beltran instantly pops into my mind. I personally can’t fault him for striking out against Adam Wainwright to end that series, but I can guarantee any Beltran montage, career retrospective, or highlight reel from now until the end of time will have that clip in it. By the numbers, he’s the best outfielder in Mets‘ history and one of the most prolific playoff hitters of all-time, but right or wrong he won’t shake that curveball.

Think about Tom Brady. If David Tyree doesn’t hold onto that ball, Brady finishes off a 19-0 season by winning his fourth Super Bowl in sevens years and could walk away the G.O.A.T. right then. Tyree pins the ball to his helmet, Plaxico Burress catches the go-ahead touchdown, and all of a sudden a legacy is altered. Is that Brady’s fault? No, but it’s the truth.

Now, Brady has two Super Bowl losses on his resume, thanks to your New York Football Giants, and all of a sudden he hasn’t won anything since SpyGate. I’m not saying I agree with that line of thinking, but I’m just trying to point out how something as small as not swinging at strike three or catching a pass against your helmet can completely change how we reflect on a professional athletes.

That is to say, whatever happens on Super Bowl Sunday, Manning will never be the same. Ultimately, all we’re doing is nitpicking. Manning is a phenomenal football player, and one of the first all-time greats I’ve gotten to see in my lifetime. Same with Brady. Both are in the G.O.A.T. discussion along with Joe Montana, John Elway, and Johnny Unitas, but Manning has to top that list (or at least be in the discussion of the discussion to top that list) if he wins on Sunday, right?       

Evan: Here’s my problem with the Beltran/Brady argument. While Beltran won’t be able to shake that curveball, that wasn’t the prevailing sentiment this postseason when he was absolutely mashing. He was one of the few Cardinals who was still hitting in the World Series too. The curveball might stick with him, but so will his postseasons with the Astros and Cardinals. I’d even argue those successes will be the bigger story when he retires and the curveball will be as little as a footnote to anyone who isn’t a Mets fan.

As for Brady, it’s true. The guy is just over .500 in postseason games since that 2004 Super Bowl. He has three AFC Championship game losses and two Super Bowl losses. In those 5 games he scored more than 20 points once. That epic collapse to the Colts in the AFC Championship game before the 2006 Super Bowl. But how many people consider Brady a choke artist in the playoffs? In fact, a recent poll shows that current players would want Brady to be their QB in the clutch. Yes, Brady isn’t alone as the G.O.A.T. but he is absolutely near the top of the discussion.

If anything I would argue Brady’s recent performance has given rise to Peyton’s legacy. Before, any debate about the two QBs began and ended with postseason success. It was easy to say Peyton underachieved and Brady was the guy with three Super Bowl rings. Even after Manning won in 2006, people downplayed the victory because Rex Grossman was the Bears starting QB. But now Manning has beaten Brady head-to-head twice in the playoffs. Both in the AFC Championship game, and they are the more recent meetings between the future Hall of Famers.

So do I think a Super Bowl loss tarnishes that? No, especially because the Seahawks have looked like the best team in the NFL this season. I know, both teams have dominated this season and were their conference’s top seed. But the NFC is clearly the better conference, and even if you just look at the postseason I think it’s easy to argue that the Seahawks have had the tougher road. A close loss to this Seattle team wouldn’t be devastating or shocking.

Granted, that’s not 100 percent what you were saying. I do agree that a win could enhance Manning’s argument for G.O.A.T. Two Super Bowls, including one which came in what could be determined as the greatest season by a quarterback in NFL history, and against a legitimate juggernaut in the Seahawks? Yeah that’s pretty impressive. But what happens next season if he loses as the favorite in Denver’s first playoff game? And would a win really definitively make him better than Joe Montana or Johnny Unitas. Would it even end the debate between Brady and Manning?

So a win doesn’t automatically make him the G.O.A.T. and a loss won’t eliminate him from the conversation. Hardly legacy defining in my book. Is it completely unimportant? No. No Super Bowl victory ever is, but I definitely think it has been hyped more than it deserves. And I say this as a big Peyton Manning fan, who truly believes he is the greatest quarterback I’ve ever watched play the game.

But anyway, do you think Manning has what it takes? Or are the Seahawks going to win their first ever Super Bowl?

James: I’m going to make this short and sweet and from the heart. Broncos 27, Seahawks 17. Seattle is a very good team, maybe even the most complete team in football, but Manning’s legacy is on the line. If I’m going to believe in something it might as well be that.

Evan: Going with your heart, huh? I want to be right there with you. I feel like I’m in a less perverted version of the chess match Jerry found himself in.

Right now my brain is winning.

The Broncos have looked vulnerable at times this season. They are also dealing with several injuries. And historically great defense has faired better than great offense in the postseason. And this Seahawks team has barely been touched all season. The defense has been dominant, and I don’t even think Peyton will inflict much damage.

I’m predicting a close 23-20 victory for the Seahawks. Now to steal a line from Bill Simmons, excuse me as I go light myself on fire.

Are the Rams moving to LA?

SITTING IN MY RECLINER, NJ - Rams owner Stan Kroenke recently purchased 60-acres of land in Inglewood, California leading to speculation that the team might move from St. Louis to Los Angeles.

It’s not the craziest idea. The NFL is the only major team sports league in the United States without a team in Los Angeles, the second biggest media market in the country.

The Rams were previously located in LA before moving to St. Louis prior to the ’95 season.

And the Rams can opt out of their lease with the Edwards Jones Dome at the end of the upcoming season. Meaning there would be nothing holding them to St. Louis.

But let’s not forget Kroenke is a developer who could simply be buying the land for private purposes. And the Kroenke group pretty much said as much in a statement they released:

“While we can confirm media reports that we recently purchased land in Inglewood, as a private company we don’t typically discuss our plans for commercial or residential investments.”

Rams fans certainly hope that’s the case. The team has been stockpiling talent, and will have two of the first 13 picks in the upcoming draft. Leaving now would be a gut punch similar to the Seattle SuperSonics leaving to Oklahoma City right before this team was assembled:

Actually out of respect to Seattle, let’s not compare the two *pours one out*