Saturday, January 29, 2011

Roger Goodell Unwisely Cares About His Legacy, Rather Than Saving NFL

When Roger Goodell finally does care to save the NFL from itself, enforces a convenient policy that pacifies owners and players, declares a consensus rule and caters entirely to the league within his discretion, the NFL can return to prominence and reestablish itself as the much-respected enterprise.

Sadly enough, in the wake of political wars, animus disputes and lingering labor talks, it's the one theme amid a perpetual crisis that has gradually smeared the tenor of the richest sports league in the world.

In the midst of fragile economic times of the modern era, as the NFL still pockets revenue and rises into a primary sport, the delirious minds of fans madly devote their hearts and souls on worshiping their favorite NFL teams.

In truth, if there's a labor stoppage by next season, Goodell announced he'll drop his salary to $1 a year, a glaring indicator of ridiculously the commissioner's salary, wealthy by millions and can invest into businesses or even purchase estates in parts of the country. Almost a week away from the Super Bowl, and the potential lockout clouds the festivities in which the lovely romance toppled and overwhelmed our consciousness.

The corruption looms for a disoriented, chaotic and corrupted industry, ready to self-destruct if Goodell is unwilling to cede his legacy, which it seems more important other than saving the NFL from a grotesque downfall. To this day, the two parties have reached an outrageous point, engulfed in one of the wicked disputes in regards of the NFL's collective-bargaining negotiations.

That is what the fuss is all about, two parties that cannot resolve their difference, cannot reach an understanding to reduce the infighting madness and, in all likelihood, cannot avoid a ghastly lockout. It's certainly not alarming to Goodell, once the sternest and ideal commissioner for installing his singular conduct policy constituted to punish players of wrongdoings, structure and kindness.

He surely, in retrospect, has allowed too much latitude and has been very kindhearted to renegade players, even if an NFL star unlawfully committed horrific crimes or violated that said policy. What's so bad is he hasn't inflicted harsher punishments for players of late, allowing a number of troubled stars to get away with their sins.

On the issue of stressing the significance of morality to set certain barriers and rid the tension or detriment that poisons the industry and places a maligned image on the league, Goodell is anything but an enforcer. With that in mind, thus he once was the NFL Sheriff, we are merely accustomed to his intolerant and bigoted nature, the personality that has earned him an awful reputation. He would rather protect his legacy at the helm for the troubled business, he is by virtue stuck in a storm with the NFLPA, until each party reaches a settlement and constructs a new collective-bargaining agreement.

If nothing else, assuming that Goodell chooses to instead to fascinate populace by simply promoting the sport with strategy to market the one of wealthiest business in existence, it's very important he tries negotiating for a new labor contract or else he can destroy his legacy and endure devastation. The reality is, he has no inkling as far as rescuing the NFL from embarrassment or destruction, and if he ever was the guy who emphasized the significance of integrity and dignity, then Goodell is a different man now!

We can only assume that he's soft and feeble, unwilling to sharpen the landscape of the NFL, disengaged in taking command during his regime tantalized by his lack of aggressiveness and indifferent mental outlook on such an unidentified plague which affects his image. Now it's clear, upon hearing the latest mess surrounding his legacy, that he's neither powerful nor influential in a way to communicate with union executive director DeMaurice Smith.

As for NFL overkill, Smith has the leverage in the ugliest argument emanated to add dismay in the middle weary labor negotiations, until the NFLPA and NFL comes to an agreement in terms on a new labor deal. Unsure of the future status, he's still trying to enhance an 18-game season as a way for stockpiling profit, especially if the primary necessity is for ticket sells to balloon, for people to reserve hotel rooms, for alcoholics to overcrowd bars and lastly for the NFL to become a global industry.

That's what Goodell wants us to believe. Over the next few weeks, this is by far the biggest issue, and instead of overlooking the truth, he should be anxious to resolve the problems before its too late, before the league lose out in profit and protests presumably begin in the streets and madness invoke.

All week, his image took a dramatic fall when he spoke face-to-face with Smith in New York on Wednesday, when he on Capital Hill in the presence of lawmakers and congressional workers including former players and when he said "there's not enough communication" between both sides.

When he uses his flimsy excuse to tell the world that he's not the one to blame, he is almost laughable if he expects us to believe he's not the scapegoat. I don't care that he installed a personal conduct code to bust misbehaved players, he lost tremendous credibility. If Goodell thinks the league is saved, then he's in a sense of denial and disbelief, suddenly an inept commissioner with no barriers or a rational blueprint to serve as an antidote in the NFL.

If football ever was to move forward, vanquish the hurdles of prolonged fuss as the deadline quickly approaches that adds to the horror of a potential lockout and a brutal storm which can dismantle the welfare of the game, it's now the moment for Goodell to sacrifice his ego and toss out the prestige. Like it or not, the NFL is stuck in much disarray, surrounded by the torture that could possibly paralyze the league. What lingers is very frightening in a way, particularly for the fans forced to likely endure the long-suffering lockout.

Logic is, fans couldn't care less who is responsible for the labor negotiations, but just want to witness football next season. And since Goodell and Smith feuds in arguments, with kickoff for the Super Bowl a week from Sunday, the lockout debates provoke conversations for what could be the worst and scariest stoppage in sports history.

If so, instead of elevating his legacy, the messy predicament ruptures Goodell's legacy and popularity. That said, if the NFL become pedestrian simply for the stoppage capable of delaying and depriving a nation of fans paranoid by football, owners will lose money once the games are cancelled, players won't be lavished with enormous paychecks or any signing bonuses and the networks will lose billions.

And because football is such an economic remedy for mostly every community, unemployment rates will inflate as a legion of jobs such as restaurants, bars or concession stands and stores won't create many job opportunities, but will probably downsize in employment rates. The issue is, Goodell hasn't taken none of this into consideration and still is inactive, unwilling to request more money to players, but in the meantime, owners are discontent in spending ridiculously on players and would like to spend less on their star players.

Either way, in the end, one of the sides have to compromise and, if so, it reduces the turmoil if Goodell takes command in his attempt to save the NFL from any financial collapses or fiascoes. These days, for sports of course, there's no national holiday greater than the Super Bowl, an event that takes place on usually the first Sunday in February, a moment in the season when people host a large-size party to come together collectively and feast on junk food as they rest near the television with their eyes glued to the world's biggest game, rooting on the favorites and catching an emotional high.

Now, just imagine if there's no Super Bowl in the near future, or nothing to relish on Monday nights. If this happens, in which the NFL could be labeled the self-righteous, hypocritical business with all the hysteria and turbulence that has demolished the perspective of football in America where it is ultimately a rite and has turned into a typical brand name.

As of recently, he is comfortable with his manipulation, a strategy that worked efficiently in his favor when he created and enforced the NFL's conduct policy. But now, there's no guarantee that his plans will dominate this time, and if not, Goodell's monumental legacy is disintegrated. If the dispute is handled in court, the situation only becomes worse for the bargaining issues, including the 18-game proposal and rookie wage scale.

Goodell, even after he inserted rectitude and a strong reputation for the NFL while on the throne, is eternally in a stressful position, well, somewhat. So there was Goodell, unsure and baffled of what is ruining the league, pledging to lower his salary only if there is a work stoppage after the current collective-bargaining agreement expires in March.

In the upcoming months, abandoning the mess is hurtful, even if the two sides try to relieve the situation that has been lingering for months and counting with all the ramifications. Every last bit of, Goodell's top negotiator, Jeffrey Pash's salary will be reduced, too, if the league essentially topples in the next few weeks.

This is partly what happens if a business is mishandled or run poorly, and potentially if there's a lockout, Goodell will lose $10 million that he makes annually and Pash can lose nearly $5 million. This is the disaster of a nightmarish dispute, a pointless disagreement and it turns into an absolute joke. Every NFL franchise is worth over $1 billion, and the average player is worth $1.7 million.

Whatever it is, it's the most distasteful war of the beginning to a repulsive lockout maybe, a standstill that can evoke an outcry.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Changed Man? Ben Roethlisberger Defies Every Law of Redemption

By now, he deserves to be treated as if he's a modest man, bearing the emphasis of humankind and goodness as a matured human being with a clear understanding of how to value the essence of life with a gracious and humbled disposition.

If he's not typified as a malefactor accused of sex crimes, simply when he wasn't charged in either case of his sexual assault allegations within the last three years, it's because Ben Roethlisberger happened to change his way of living to escape an impending doom. It's very telling that Roethlisberger is a different man when he acts respectful towards women, no longer feels he's above the law, no longer behaves as if he's superior with a powerful mind to influence weak-minded women into his abnormal trap.

Maybe at one point in his life, putting himself in jeopardy by partying on college campuses and mingling with women, he was an immature, reckless individual. Nowadays, he shows gratitude toward not only football, but life in general. And perhaps never have the Pittsburgh Steelers, a franchise that symbolizes personal excellence and emphasizes strong character, been caught in a dire crisis until its franchise quarterback faced repugnant accusations.

Shortly after, he wasn't identified as a savior, but classified as Rapethlisberger, wrongly accused of accusations although he was never charged with a crime in either incident given the lack of evidence. But any humane person in a forgiving nation has not forgotten the allegations of his horrific past. In the meantime, living in America, we have forgiven him of his wrongdoings, if he ever committed a pair of crimes. The frequent patterns of his unlawful occurrences nearly ravaged his credibility as the likeable figure.

Amidst all the personal issues and off-the-field misconduct that erased the nostalgia of his heroics for Pittsburgh's Super Bowl achievements, Roethlisberger finally has healed from the downfall and restored the memories of an accomplished career. If he leads the Steelers to a third title, giving Pittsburgh a total of seven titles in franchise history, he'll once again reign as the star quarterback, recapture endorsements and salvage his 8-year, $102 million contract.

In the brightest game of his redemptive story, when no one ever imagined the Steelers advancing to the Super Bowl after Roethlisberger had been forced to serve a 4-game suspension handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, he still engineered the Steelers to another Super Bowl appearance. Despite all of his boneheaded decisions in the past, along with all the distractions earlier in the season, a win cures everything. No more turmoil that nearly impelled the Rooneys to move forward without Roethlisberger by trading or releasing the troubled quarterback.

To his credit, he has handled the scrutiny and criticism with maturity, ready to move forward and release the dreadful memories on a mission to win his third NFL championship. In the midst of a dramatic week, he'll be the focal point of attention and surrounded by a swarm of reporters come Super Bowl Media Day held at Cowboys Stadium. It hardly seems as if he ever was accused of wrongdoings, unwilling to reflect on his troubled past and focus strictly on sustaining the hardware in Dallas.

Ever since he had the sexual assault complaint filed against him by a 20-year-old college student at the time in a small Georgia town, he was lambasted and despised by many for disrespecting women. Very quickly, the quarterback who led the Steelers to a pair of Super Bowl victories and proclaimed as a well-known hero in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger was defined as the polarizing athlete and forgotten in a town that applauded the god-like superstar.

This season is clear evidence of a redemptive period, a moment for Roethlisberger to clear his name of any unlawful madness that almost damaged his remarkable future and life as a respectable NFL star. The Steelers allowed him a second chance, an opportunity to confirm that he can rectify his mistakes to behave like a modest individual with a knowledgeable mind.

It's such a beautiful story, at a point in his life when he's not too reckless, dumb-minded or careless, but instead more serious and discerning about the concepts of life, willing to adjust his way of living to avoid poor judgment and potentially self-destruction. So really, it looks as if he has turned himself around and earned back the respect among ownership, players, coaches and fans.

Suddenly, he's the new Big Ben. Out with the old and in with the new.

For him, this is the road to redemption.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jay Cutler Quits on Bears, But Rodgers, Packers Take On New Brand Name

It was supposed to be the meanest, bloodiest postseason contest in history, a renewed rivalry for a pair of bitter teams, hungrier than ever before to knock heads into the turf and produce raw blood for one of the greatest NFC Championship Games of all time.

It was supposed to be an epic classic, a chance for the world to witness the rebirth of an intense rivalry, a chance for the world to traditionally catch an emotional feel of old-school, smash mouth football, but instead it was the rebirth of Titletown.

It was a time when the Green Bay Packers, a regal brand name in the NFL, captured Super Bowl triumph and proudly celebrated another historic feat. It's almost simple, particularly if the Packers are crowned champs in a few weeks, to refer to the Packers as America's team, adored customarily for its symbolic popularity and prestige, becoming not only noticeable for its resurgence but also for climbing onto the greatest stage of the grandest national holiday in sports.

The classy, friendly residences of Green Bay realized the Packers were inevitably the hottest franchise, when non-believers in any other town, any other state were peeved by the Packers hurried emergence. The lustful folks of Green Bay, wearing cheesehead hats to keep a silly but lovable tradition intact, are overwhelmed, really, almost ready to launch a party in an emotional, spirited town. And like that, the Packers are a unified and monstrous team in a season Green Bay adjusted the woeful struggles.

If the Packers hope to win the Super Bowl, in a sense, they can win the Lombardi Trophy by the end of the season when it seems Green Bay is invulnerable of a lost anytime soon as favorites to win the Super Bowl with the most efficient passer Aaron Rodgers, the premier quarterback of the league.

There is much to like about Rodgers, whether it's his humbleness to seize the national spotlight without acknowledging it, but instead, focusing on his team, whether it's his capabilities to play in the footsteps of a monumental legend and lead the Packers to glorious moments or whether it's his record-setting 98.4 career passer rating.

Whatever it is, he's an all-encompassing iconic figure, adored for the Packers revival and idolized for exceeding expectations in the leadership role with one of the most beloved franchise traditionally and nationally. If the Packers are the most popular team, lifting closely to greatness without a long-time legend in their third post-Favre season, then it won't be such a bad idea to acknowledge the much-improved Rodgers, who flourished in one season and has been portrayed as the top quarterback in the league.

The turning point, in all likelihood, was perceptible when he led the Packers to a pair of road wins, although Green Bay was taken into account as underdogs in each contest and still fooled the world. It had all come down to what was sudden death, and by virtue, a signature game that Rodgers, withstanding the toughest position by his maturity and talent, confirmed he truly is the best quarterback in the NFL.

As it turns out, optimism and vehemence plays a role in the Packers cultural differences, more alarming than ever was Rodgers manipulating the personality of the game, and more appealing was his delivery to each of his star receivers.

"It was a great start for us but you've got to give credit to our defense. Our defense has been playing lights out the last few weeks," Rodgers said. "The offense sometimes gets a little too much credit. They carried us today and we're going to the Super Bowl. It feels incredible."

A lot of people underestimated the Packers, a lot of people overlooked that Rodgers can make a touchdown-saving tackle. As the latest Packers-Bears rivalry ended wonderfully for Green Bay, against its archenemies in a decisive clash with implications, Rodgers tossed downfield passes and ran for a touchdown.

It wasn't too long ago, dressed casually on the streets of Green Bay, when he walked into Cheese Cake Heaven, a famous bakery near Lambeau Field with Packers' players. In there, he was greeted with warmhearted good luck wishes, and certainly, it benefited Green Bay Sunday afternoon.

As of now, with the only non-profit, community owned franchise in American professional sports, he progressively enhanced his level of play and can eventually win his first Super Bowl title, just one win away from immortality and glory. All of this came after the hallowed era of Vince Lombardi or even after the dramatic era of the wishy-washy diva Brett Favre. In contrast, Rodgers, 27, was never a worldwide leader in nuisance, but a worldwide leader among quarterbacks.

The Packers success is clearly from the emergence of the cannon-armed, pocket passer Rodgers and the relentless, hard-driven defense led by the ferocious Clay Matthews, a man whose family inherits football after the game has been passed on from generations. There was no bloody war, as expected, but there were the Packers playing their hardest to reach a triumphant level in the league, thrilled to be booking hotel reservations and flying to Cowboy Stadium in Dallas.

"It's a dream come true. It's an incredible feeling. I'm at a loss for words," said Rodgers. "You've got to give credit to our defense. I didn't play my best game. They stopped us. We just had enough points on offense and B.J. [Raji] had a big touchdown catch."

This definitely wasn't the most thrilling afternoon, and it never came close to an epic battle we, as football devotees, expected it to turn out. It wasn't pretty for the Bears, in fact, it was worse than we anticipated, particularly when it was the Packers versus the Bears in one of the most alarming clashes for the ages which was never alarming. Not one minute. Not even a second. And because it turned into a nightmare for the Bears, Jay Cutler was vulnerable for attack verbally following the game.

"First and foremost, we've got to stop the run and get after [Jay] Cutler," Clay Matthews said. "I think we did that to fruition. He couldn't finish the game. We really got after him and I think that's why we won today."

So now fairly enough, he's portrayed as a quitter for leaving in the second half with an injured knee, and he never returned but stood on the sideline in his coat. For much of the game, he mainly stood away from his teammates with a guilty facial expression on his face as if he was really sad for letting down his teammates and the coaching staff.

Where he stood, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher walked over and briefly chatted with Cutler. It wasn't as scary as Cutler, who is expected to undergo an MRI on the damaged knee Monday, advertised it, and he clearly blew his reputation by surrendering in a crucial game.

"I don't know exactly when it happened," Lovie Smith said. "He couldn't go and that was that. Let's go on to some other questions.

Seems he is merely America's worst enemy right now when a few Chicago players were defensive of Cutler after he was criticized heavily on Twitter. He is clearly the one quarterback not to be trusted, but his good friend, Rodgers, is a trustworthy figure and never has been polarized by the media or fans.

In fairness, he quit on his team at the worst possible time and let down thousands at Soldier Field Sunday afternoon, willing to quiver on a frigid afternoon as a way to support their Bears. The problem is, Cutler was soft and careless when much was at stake, which is why players and fans slammed him via Twitter, angrily fumed over his ill-attempt to try and return.

"Nothing like jealous people at home watching," Urlacher said. "I love jealous people when they are watching our game on TV while their season is over."

By the third quarter, he was replaced by Todd Collins but struggled in his two drives and finished 0-4, two passes almost intercepted. If there was one quarterback of the Bears, worthy of saving Chicago from itself, it was clearly Caleb Hanie, a second-year player with 14 career attempts but impressively almost led a magical comeback after he had replaced Collins. There were lots of moments, such as Sunday in his greatest adventure ever, when Rodgers continued to polish on his dignified postseason and completed 4-of-4 passes for 76 yards and scored on a 1-yard touchdown.

Wisely, he wasn't soft or intimidated by the Bears and took a knockout shot directly to the face on a dirty hit by Bears forceful defensive end Julius Peppers. He never quit but persisted in firing throws against one of the league's resilient defenses and he amazingly stayed calm, although he was picked twice and lofted an ill-advised throw in Chicago's territory that dropped into the arms of Urlacher.

So looks as if he was red hot with a pair of turnovers that were unnoticed, once the Packers clinched the NFC championship game in a decisive 21-14 win in one of the oldest rivalries and earned its first trip to the Super Bowl in 13 years. As the clock trickled, if you've noticed, the sellout crowd at Soldier Field were stunned in disbelief and witnessed Hanie foolishly deliver an awful pass that landed in the hands of Packers' nose tackle B.J. Raji to clinch the nicest win in years.

With one of the sharpest creative minds in football, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers opted to exploit a zone blitz, and it fittingly ended in their favor on an 18-yard return for a touchdown by the 325-pound nose tackle that gave the Packers a 21-7 lead over the Bears.

"I think when you play a team three times, a familiar opponent, you have to be able to mix it up a little bit in order to present new problems, Matthews said. "I think we were able to do that for the most part."

All the credit goes to Capers for calling the zone blitz at perfect timing, on a day when much was on the line, when the Packers were innovative and when the Packers were hungrier and much better than their archrivals. And because of it, Cutler left the game 6-of-4 for 80 yards and had a horrible passer rating of 31.8 with one interception, a trait pretty much nerve-racking for Bears fans. Only difference this time is that he bailed on his teammates and coaches, and even more so, he bailed on the fans.

"Hey, I think the urban meyer rule is effect right now...When the going gets tough........QUIT." Maurice Jones-Drew tweeted during the game. "All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee...I played the whole season on one."

Unlike Rodgers, he quit.

Unlike Cutler, Rodgers stayed red hot even though he never had a great game, but a convincing win as one of the top quarterbacks.

Take it from this reaction: "FOX HAVEN'T SHOWED ANY TRAINERS LOOKING AT CUTLER, UMMM," tweeted Derrick Brooks, a former NFL player.

Let us not take anything away from the Packers. They were the better team and wanted it more. From here, the Packers can fly to Dallas for a party and the trophy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears Rivalry Renewed, Only Bloodier, Meaner

If there's a villain in Chicago, hailed as one of the passionate sports towns in America where the masses gather in the local bar or even crowds Lou Malnati's Pizzeria joint alarmed by the Chicago Bears turnaround, it's the pretentious Jay Cutler. With the entire world watching, as much as Cutler dislikes the spotlight, he is the most annoying athlete in Chicago.

And now, as of lately, he is a risk factor, fully capable of turnovers late in the game with his brash throws that normally results in a disastrous pick. Come now, as if he's the hottest quarterback in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers is well-deserving of plaudits more than Cutler, an emotional griper and softy who takes matters personal and thinks the sport revolves around him all the time. So now, after his eye-opening season, fascinating like never before by his maturity and humbleness in command of the leadership role, Rodgers is on fire and has played with more awareness and consistency.

The other night in Green Bay, where the town is obligated to be grateful for the Packers, obsessive fans were traditionally loyal to its symbolic pro franchise. It's too bad the Cheesehead maniacs won't come together this weekend to launch a tailgate party outside of the historical venue Lambeau Field, since the Packers travel to the Windy City for the much-anticipated NFC Championship.

A side of me cannot stand Cutler, a quarterback bust in Chicago when the fans honestly felt as if he was the cure for the lackluster Bears in a community which has already witnessed long-lasting droughts from the futility and hopelessness that had the entire town depressed deeply by the unending downfalls. Turns out he's not really a cure after all, but instead a franchise bust.

Maybe it's his unnecessary arrogance that bothers me, the I am-better-than-you attitude. Maybe it's because he disdains the media and rebuffs interest in news conferences, although he is willing to provide brief messages. Or maybe it's his personality on the field that bothers me, too. But whatever it is, he's nothing compared to Rodgers, who has widened the smile on faces of the fans in Green Bay, where the city is now called Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood. Years from now, he might even have a street nearby named after him.

What we're observing is Rodgers sprout beyond greatness for the Packers, while his good friend, Cutler deflowers as a firm quarterback. For those who doubt Rodgers, he is arising into a legend before our very eyes, braced as a gifted iconic figure with the intangibles of being the top quarterback in the league. He's just that damn good. Even now, on the verge of the Packers third post-Favre season, Rodgers is the face of the franchise and has improved mightily.

There's no reason for Green Bay homers to miss Brett Favre, dismissed after he kept the Packers hostage with his flip-flopping retirement, toying with general manager Ted Thompson's mind during the draining saga that publicly become worse in the summer months as days progressed. The Packers knew exactly what the intentions were when they shut the doors on Favre and promised the starting job to Rodgers.

With all due respect, for a sizzling passer engineering the Packers amongst one of the longstanding rivalries in sports, he's ready to prosper as a premier quarterback in the league. Let's brace ourselves for Packers versus Bears, an intense matchup from the retro days which lived into the modern era. It's not only Packers versus Bears, but it's also a theatrical quarterback duel with two quarterbacks who are actually good friends. Good friends? Well, for now.

Once, the Packers and Bears storms onto Soldier Filed for a Sunday afternoon matinee in 19 degree weather, with a wind-chill temperature at approximately 10, winds blowing at 10 mph, the matchup itself will turn violent. As always, another bloody war is quickly upon us and it should be appealing to see which team survives by the end. In all, this is Rodgers versus Cutler in one of the watchful duels in ages. This is Capers versus Martz in one of the most eventful offensive and defensive draws in decades. And lastly, this is Matthews versus Urlacher.

The other integral piece for the Packers is defensive coordinator Dom Capers in a game that he'll be battling against the Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz. With the exception of Martz's play calling and masterful brain for grooming his players, Cutler vastly improved even though he still mistakenly missed his intended receiver or either delivers a poor pass that results into an interception.

And standing in his way is Capers, a fundamental voice of a relentless defense that has been dynamic to Rodgers this season. He was harassed by the Bears bull-rushes, abused literally by Brian Urlacher as all of his target receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were shut down. Surely, he spent time in a hot spa after the Bears defenders sent him to the turf, despite that Rodgers can scramble and buy time in the pocket. Every single defender know he's flexible and versatile with running the ball to gain yardage, and usually, scores whenever he likes as well, racing to the end zone unlike many quarterbacks in the NFL.

Many of them are pocket-passers, not very mobile at avoiding the pressure or smashmouth hits. As we often point out, Rodgers is quick with fabulous feet and a powerful throwing arm, but the Packers' division rivals, which would be the Bears, of course, stifled Green Bay's drives in previous games. Against the Bears in 21 possessions, Rodgers led the Packers to three touchdowns and two field goals, but went scoreless in the other 16 possessions and tossed two picks.

When they play on Sunday, Rodgers could enter the game with an urgent mindset, a moment he'll approach probably the biggest game of his career with a must-win attitude, just as much as Clay Matthews, Green Bay tremendous linebacker, from an inherited football family with a knack that comes from the Matthews' family genes, will play with much strength to interrupt Cutler and the Bears. And so it seems, even better than expected, particularly when the Bears lifted its self-confidence with a win over the improbable Seattle Seahawks, Chicago has the advantage in the hard-driven, defensive front at the line of scrimmage.

More so, the Bears are led by defensive studs Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. Their presence and strong impact can be the x-factor come Sunday, the one day when everybody must perform at their highest level in order to advance to the Super Bowl. By now, within his five-year career, forgotten and hated by many, he's not a lovable player in the league. He's not popular, but more than anything, is unpopular every since his abrupt departure in Denver.

His arrogance and choosy personality, during a relationship which was in shambles, broke a bond with then-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. Next thing, the Broncos were forced to trade him to the Bears once the relationship in Denver was irreparable. So he's not as popular as his good friend, Rodgers. This year, he has turned into a worthy legend and has been appreciated with a myriad of popularity as he continuously develops into an authentic star, leading the Packers to a pair of postseason victories on the road in upsets over the Eagles and Falcons.

As for Cutler, he has played with Type I diabetes thought his disappointing career, after he was diagnosed with the illness in 2008. Where he is different from Rodgers is his petulance and frustration on the field. In contrast, he's nowhere near as efficient as Rodgers, and the only way he can enhance his level of dominance, is with a fiery and calm attitude.

It's also imperative that he eliminates making poor decisions on the field, and think wiser as a team leader. At the age 27, a product from Vanderbilt is not even close to matching the talent of Jim McMahon, the star quarterback who led Mike Ditka and the '85 Bears, which reflects on the finest championship and the last time Chicago party with the Bears.

This win is for the right for the Super Bowl. And what better way with much at stake to play against an archenemy. The Bears hate the Packers, just as much as the Packers hate the Bears. It would figure, given his enthusiasm for sports, that President Obama was obviously picking the Bears to win over the Packers. And since we now know he predicted Chicago, his team growing up, we know he'll be glancing at the game in the White House. Hopefully, this doesn't jinx the Bears.

Either way, it's going to be fun, exciting, intense and classic. It's Packers-Bears. It's humbleness versus arrogance. It's Rodgers versus Cutler.

Lance Armstrong Can Become Fraud or Endearing Hero: False Alarm or True?

As difficult as it seems to locate bits and pieces of the truth, whether it's because the allegations are inaccurate, whether it's because the entire news hasn't surface or whether it's because the average individual doesn't know what to believe, we can assume that Lance Armstrong never swallowed or injected himself with steroids.

Here is the problem: If he really used performance-enhancers on his remarkable journey to win seven consecutive Tour de France races, clearly as the world's greatest cyclist at the end of every stage to perpetually celebrate in ecstasy and fulfill triumph each summer in the annual event, he could tarnish his image and potentially face unlawful troubles. Amazingly, he made it all look too easy as a phenomenal cyclist who couldn't lose, conquering the sport and fighting off a malicious disease with prostate cancer to simply become one of the likable and inspirational symbols, an American icon everyone cherished greatly.

Sadly, in an age that sleazes poison the integrity of sports with their sicken motives to inanely outsmart the rules and beat the system, the focus shifted towards his accusations, not even the historical achievements he produced in recent memory. As far as people are concerned, without any doubt in our minds, all they are asking is for Armstrong to address the never-ending ordeal by telling the truth and putting a crisis to rest.

If it's true that performance-enhancers helped his cause, then he needs to be spotless and honest for protecting his reputation and credibility as an inspirational figure, someone many admire for not only his miraculous wins, but also for his battle with cancer. Throughout the years, since he established the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997, he has raised a mere $325 million for the fight against cancer, becoming a modest hero for many ailing with cancer.

But it still doesn't justify that he's an innocent man of his wrongdoings, particularly if gruesome news constantly comes to light of his steroid usage in the past, flashing back to the days when he was unbeatable and enticing to watch when he pedaled and rode on a long, exhausting course in France. So now he remains silent, not providing specifics in the convoluted story. Sadly enough, it's unclear if he really doped ever in his momentous career, with the exception of hearsay and assumptions that has turned the unknown issue into an irregular and ambiguous mess.

All of the sudden, he's an embattled man, ridiculed after the latest accusations were released and treated as if he's the saddest fraud in the sports world, a pariah no one has stopped dwelling on when all of this might be nothing more than just a false alarm. In this world we live in, critics are fast to bring down an athletic personality, without reserving judgment. All of which scandals these days are foreshadowed. And now, with evidence that he probably lied, fooled us and deceived us, the latest issue of Sports Illustrated released that US federal investigators had amassed enough proof in the shameful plague.

In a sense, it's not surprising to believe that the seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong is now the center of attention for a federal grand jury inquiry in Los Angeles. It comes as no surprise in a fraudulent era when the myriad of sports figures inject or swallow performance-enhancers to reduce pain or even to disrespect purity in sports and boost their performance levels that gives athletes an advantage in competition, but unbelievably kills competitiveness.

With many feeling betrayed and hoodwinked, after the latest news broke of Armstrong having access to a blood substitute in clinical trails, he leaves me with suspicion that he's not telling the truth and mistakenly is keeping secrets. It turns out we owe his counterpart, Floyd Landis, much credit for coming clean in his emotional confession. It's easy to forgive him faster when he admitted using testosterone patches, EPO and other banned substances for nearly a decade, unlike other fraudulent athletes who haven't had the audacity to confess.

Following his admission, he claimed there was doping within Armstrong's US Postal team in the 2002-04 season. It takes guts to bring down one of your counterparts, unless the individual is very compassionate like Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds, weight trainer, when he testified to a federal grand jury that organized a perjury investigation of Bonds and spent 15 days in federal prison for refusing to testify to a prior grand jury. Not since then has someone jeopardized much to protect the life of a personal friend.

To some degree, Landis informed the world that he wasn't alone in the doping scandal, and quickly pointed his finger towards Armstrong. If you had to compare Armstrong to Landis, only to invoke a needless debate that creates headlines, you'd honestly believe that Landis is loyal while Armstrong is portrayed as a liar and cheater. In contrast, he is ashamed of the humiliation and that he was caught, merely becoming worse with the recent reports. The ugliest accusation to smudge the image of a lovable hero in our country is hatching a report that states the investigators have information.

What's even worse, upon the difficulty of finding out the truth and proving if Armstrong is innocent or liable, is that none of this is healing anytime soon, not when he allegedly gained access to HemAssist in the late 1990s but it remains unknown if he actually used the drug. By animal studies, it has proven to enhance the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity, but limited risks as EPO.

For now, maybe forever hopefully, he denies ever taking HemAssist, according to his lawyer. But one of his former teammates riding with Armstrong, ex-USPS cyclist Landis alluded to the time Armstrong flew into St. Moritz and said that he had drugs in his bag after officials requested for everyone to open their bags to search for explosive items or concealed weapons, which Armstrong denies ever happening.

"If a court finds that Armstrong won his titles while taking performance-enhancing drugs, his entourage may come to be known as the domestiques of the saddest deception in sports history," written in the story.

Because of his generous heart and soul as a person, he has lifted spirits across the world and helped save lives. Still, the lamest excuse is that steroids served as a cure to strengthen his health status, a risky situation which could have really affected his health and added to the scare of possible death. In fact, he had the courage and determination to fight after cancer almost killed Armstrong, a Livestrong advocate with a heavy heart and has raised money and donated much for hopeless, ill patients battling for their lives each day.

His Livestrong bracelets mostly describes the type of individual he is, a loving and kindhearted man, even if he's proven guilty of his sins in cycling after we clearly believed that he was one of the cleanness athletes in America. But it's hard to believe anything these days. Once again, only this time deeper than before, reporters delved through documents to unveil the specifics of the investigation's evidence in a perplexing case. But in the upcoming weeks, known as a savior, he can suddenly be known as a liar, fraud or worse a criminal.

If so, he deserves to be stripped of all his achievements, simply for enhancing his competence by taking in drugs. In fairness, he shouldn't be permitted to keep his awards when the IOC vacated three of Marion Jones' gold and two bronze metals. Surely, he's not a bad man, but a nice guy we admire in this country, and come to think of it, we need other people as useful as Armstrong. He saves lives, but this doesn't mean he gets a free ride if he used drugs.

After all, he jumped out of his deathbed and raced. As he tries to live a perfect and healthy life, we are curious to know if he doped or not.

If so, what's next?

That's an excellent question.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

After All The Misfortune, Curses, Blake Griffin Captivates Hollywood

Blake Griffin's arms are so massive, on the bench press he performs 22 reps on the 185-lbs bench, a muscular specimen with strength as if he's Hercules or one of the world's strongest men who can incredibly pull a 7000 lb truck. As one of the tallest men in the NBA, he stands at 6-foot-7 with a humongous shoe size and remarkable wingspan.

Now, he is becoming one of the greatest forwards/centers in the NBA built with much physique and has improved his craft to dominate the paint at will, fully capable of mounting as the symbol in Hollywood, an adored icon in a city that embraces basketball more than any other professional sport. By the time the game is over, following a star-studded performance by Griffin, he routinely soothes his overworked body with ice packs wrapped around each knee and places both feet into a bucket with ice water.

Need I remind you that the Los Angeles Clippers were cursed and poorly ran for 34 consecutive seasons, knocked down by misfortunes and hapless injuries every time they assembled talent and solidified an incompetent roster? It was the early '70s when the NBA honored Buffalo an expansion franchise and proudly satisfied the fans near north of the border, an age when the team was known as the Braves to signify prior history in America, an age when the team endured an abiding curse, spiteful enough that sent the Clippers on a loathsome drought.

It was almost as if the defunct team in L.A. other than the Lakers had perished, and had been overshadowed by the mystique, tradition and celebrity of purple and gold. In any other town, the Clippers, no doubt, would've been accepted as a lone basketball franchise. But suddenly, the people residing in the entertainment capital are obligated to worship the other team in town, cheering rightfully so for the development of Clippers' star rookie Griffin, who is the attractive, precious star to adopt limitless publicity.

So now the Clippers, in one of their lovely seasons, are attractive and grabbing headlines on the front page of local newspapers. All of a sudden, as none of this was ever anticipated, the Clippers are filling in seats at Staples Center with Griffin as the bait. And for all the years of disheartened woes, the Clippers phenom is a ticket-seller, even if the fans predominately wear purple and gold and appreciate the Lakers. This season, therefore, signifies belief and aspiration, an onset of the Clippers recent progress in what has ultimately shifted into a fascinating turnaround.

As it seems, with all the latest streaks of wins for an organization that has never withstood so much love, ghost and evil spirits are no longer a burden on a franchise with hopelessness in the past. One of the differences with the Clippers, finally garnering typical fans and not bandwagoners, I hope, is Griffin's rapid growth. If they continue to dazzle a cult of passionate populace in Los Angeles, after inheriting a talented brand of players in potentially a promising recovery since their unbelievable postseason achievement in 2005, it's simple to assume that the limelight solely belongs to the Clippers.

Nobody here in Los Angeles, a place used to customary rituals of the gorgeous event in the spring that ignites a glorious festivity at Staples Center, is talking about the second-best team? That event in the spring would be the playoffs obviously, and as long as the Clippers play consistently and compile wins, they'll be eligible to contend in the postseason and can encounter the dream matchup against their cross-town rivals the Lakers in an appealing battle.

This after the Clippers endured a sequence of downcast seasons, failed lottery draft picks that were ill-advised selections, dreadful memories of awful trades, and lastly, cheesy offers given to free agents who eventually opted to leave for the riches or the betterment of advancing to new heights with a playoff contender. But the Clippers, especially after putting together a plethora of victories lately with their pedigree, are much-improved with the contributions of prolific guards that create scoring opportunities in the paint for Griffin. As a menace underneath the basket, he manipulates inside with his size advantage and vertical leaps near the rim, delivering off the drive and on the post.

At this point, no matter how much he's overshadowed, he's not only a rookie sensation, but a sensational star that the NBA truly adores. Normally, if the NBA tries selling its sport to an alarming audience, it comes from the influx of star players. After all, it's an association built on superstars, which seems to grab the attention of fans, captivated by the celebrity of breathtaking stars, such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. It's an industry that redefines itself as talent transcends to elevate television ratings and ticket sales, and culturally the NBA survives by the superstars it features, a strategy worthy for marketing its product each season.

And this is why Griffin is an attraction in the NBA, a gifted star born to install life in an uneventful sport at times and produce excitement. And he has done that, ever since ascending as a godlike player to entice the media after nearly each game, particularly following his magnificent 47-point spectacle for an NBA season-high over the Indiana Pacers. So now, it's logical to conceive that he is the Rookie of the Year hopeful among all candidates, specifically the hottest character in the league.

At age 21, Griffin is a unique breed and the tallest player in the middle. He's a ubiquitous forward on the floor and can levitate and literally pulverize defenders in the interior. At such a young age, he's not fully matured or a charismatic leader, and even with lack of experience, he still plays like an All Star. There's no doubt in my mind, quickly developing into a newborn legend, that he should be voted in to play for the All Star Game, a fun event for the fans as the players are usually determined by popularity and how the general public votes.

By reputation, in the meantime, the Clippers are a disoriented franchise and lost a number of players in the past, good players at that. See, there are times, such as this season when he and Baron Davis weren't blending in as player and boss and exchanged words in verbal altercations, for which Sterling has a stubborn mind and refuses to satisfy the players he employs with richer deals. This season, already, if we can recall, Davis was unhappy and demanded a trade elsewhere.

But of late, he seems as if he's content with the Clippers and has been sizzling in scoring. The constant gossip, despite his unhappiness with the team earlier in the season, is true if you are thinking of his recent contributions scoring-wise. Yet he joined the Clippers a few summers ago to unite with Elton Brand, who reneged on staying true to his word when he said he'd be willing to return but instead fled Los Angeles to sign an enormous deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, he is finally playing at the highest in his lifetime.

This is because Griffin is getting touches and inevitably is taking control with his size and sturdiness. This is because he has a dynamic force to depend on inside the post, a dominant forward at last replacing another potent forward. With the luck of being alongside Griffin, he's averaging 14.6 points per game and plays at the most 30 minutes a night, but has shot 46.5 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, the third-year guard Eric Gordon is a town savior for Clippers' lovers, and fans have fallen wildly in love with the smart-minded, streaky scorer. What makes him newsworthy is that he can drive in traffic, not afraid to penetrate and throw in a reverse layup over the taller defender.

Griffin, no doubt, is a far more superior player and steals the excitement away from his teammates, but Gordon plays efficiently with his own style and attempts his pull-up jump shots or explodes to the rim and somehow finishes on the play he creates himself. That, after all, was very telling that he improved as a proficient basketball star, born and raised in a town that adores its hoops. Nearly every kid in his home state is introduced to the sport and begins to take part in basketball at such a young.

That was what Gordon decided in his childhood, and now it has benefited, not only himself but his family as well. All of this gives Griffin a valuable supporting cast that allows him to minimize exhaustion or even lesson the risk of injuries. Without him, the Clippers' nucleus declines and they can return to the old days, when Los Angeles suffered from disappointment and mortification. When he occupies the fans, he normally leaps into the air and throws down a monstrous dunk. He averages a double-double regularly from his rebounds and points scored.

While the Clippers future seems brighter, eternally Los Angeles will still always be a Laker town, no matter how much the Clippers excel, no matter if Griffin takes over the spotlight and no matter if they advance to the playoffs. For the Lakers, a franchise that eclipses the Clippers with plenty of championship banners hanging from the rafters, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are the symbolic features of Los Angeles. For now, if not forever, the Lakers are the social activity in a diverse town, a common ritual that arouses the population here in L.A., leaning strictly on purple and gold as a way to extend a tradition and exhilarate the fond culture.

That's not to say the Clippers won't be recognized, though. If Griffin is the future plan and Los Angeles intends to reload around him, the team will always draw attention, as folks really enjoy his display regularly. It should come as no surprise that there are actually a few Clippers' fans. One of the noticeable maniacs is Clipper Darrell, a crazed fan sporting red and blue apparel. Quite regularly, Billy Crystal attends Clippers' home games at Staples Center on the rotated floor, of course.


It seems he's a well-known fan of the other team in Los Angeles, which is not the preferred team. The Clippers were once disregarded by the entire city, until the 2005 season after the Lakers were dispatched from the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Suns. That is when it was called Clipper Nation. Is Clipper Nation back? It's a bit too early to tell, but at this rate the fans can awaken and rename it Clipper Nation, even if Lakerland sounds fitting. So, as if all the misfortunes and curses have disappeared into the darkness, from a span that included 1994 to 2004 when the Clippers had 10 picks in the first 10 selections of the NBA Draft, Griffin is the savior in a town where Southern California Got Talent and beholds the newest talented star.

There's no telling what the future holds, but as of now, Griffin is the future.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jay Cutler Impeccable, But Only Because of Bears Relentless Defense

So this is what Chicago has become, an enthusiastic sports town of believers, very optimistic the Chicago Bears can reach a pinnacle.

All week, after the beloved Bears escaped hibernation, the fans in the sizable community have raved about the Bears, one of the likable pro franchises in a town afflicted by futility and championship misfortunes. If Chicago wins the NFC Championship Game, which takes place next weekend against the divisional nemesis Green Bay Packers, the Bears earn a trip to the Super Bowl.

"We're both familiar with each other, so nothing's going to be new," Jay Cutler said. "We have our hands full."

A win over the Seattle Seahawks, the flukiest contenders in the playoffs, wasn't enough to convince people that the Bears are the toughest, competent competitors of the Midwest. For the Bears, a relentlessly defensive structured franchise ready to encounter an epic showpiece in NFL history, this would be an incredible rebirth. So pathetically, for a passionate community that embraces sports and crowds Soldier Field on frigid afternoons, rain or shine, to observe their Bears play, the fans really believe they can ride all the way to the Super Bowl.

But frankly, the Bears had the easiest draw of the divisional round with the 7-9 Seahawks for a respectable date in the bone-chilling confines of the Windy City. A sellout crowd, finally optimistic that a remarkable joyride is under way, believes he's a franchise quarterback after reaching another level in NFL playoffs for the first time in his disillusioned career, a career that has been a nightmare in hell. No matter how fascinating he was on the field for a critical game, when times called for desperation measures, he's not always consistent.

It would be wise, not to mention that he's disliked by many or that he's arrogant, to tell the world that Jay Cutler is a pompous, spoiled individual. He doesn't care to talk with the media much, nor does he like the spotlight. For those of you who have no idea, he dates reality television star Kristin Cavallari. But it shouldn't really matter, right? All that really matters is, not only his attitude as far as his personality, but how he plays each week.

It seems absurd to adulate a shaky Cutler as a primary star in Chicago when there have been numerous occasions that he struggled and had anger outburst on the sideline if he underperformed in the quarterback role. As aloof in public, very private in sharing personal beliefs or even his life outside of football, he does somehow find a way to save the town from further mortification and disadvantages. With strong beliefs and proud faces, the Bears faithful offers moral support, but are they really good?

With the exception of his mobility in the pocket to fundamentally outrun an ineffective defense, Cutler ran for two touchdowns. That alone was, oddly enough, a beautiful highlight if you were rooting for the Bears, confirming logically to the world that the improbable Seahawks were a mirage and barely qualified for the playoffs because of their weak division. This was a breakout game for Cutler, a quarterback who is nearly a franchise bust in the Windy City, disappointingly stumbling in the hardest role on the field.

But now, as he gradually improves and matures, no longer taking issues personally but as a business matter, he was an overmatch for Seattle. Although it seemed as if the Seahawks weren't supposed to be in the playoffs, especially after the Bears dismantled Seattle 35-24 on Sunday, they were supposed to be here with a pitiful record. It's always fun to watch the underdog attempt the unbelievable or the improbability in sports, a storybook display that fuels the heart and soul of fans.

From the outset, though, the Seahawks were no match for the Bears, pummeling their opponent while the snowflakes dropped from the overcast skies in Chicago. At home, as expected, the Bears are accustomed to playing through the elements, and the weather conditions were anything but friendly in the first-half. For one thing, the Bears were in command and scored 21 first-half points that pretty much doomed the momentum of the highly confident Seahawks.

But the truth is, with coach Lovie Smith attuned to running the Cover 2 style defense, the Bears consist of a hellacious and brawny defense, a violent style of punishing, brutal hits to shut down their opponents. The fact is, the defense once again was monstrous and violently interrupted the capacity of a talented offense that compiled 41 points against New Orleans last week.

In his first taste of postseason action, flawless essentially to remove doubtful looks from the faces of people who don't believe, Cutler is efficient for rising as a top quarterback in the league; he was splendid in the pocket and had a six-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a comfortable 21-0 lead. It might be fitting to realize that the Bears defensive force stayed intact, with the presence of first-year defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who constantly encourages his defensive players to watch film and make useful adjustments to sharpen the persistence and firmness in the platoon of a compelling defense.

But it's an unavoidable question whether or not the Bears can win it all. Turns out, with the pedigree of the Packers, it will be tough to beat the hottest team thus far in the playoffs. This time, facing maybe the best quarterback in these playoffs, the Bears will be tested mentally and physically. It's hard to imagine that Chicago will beat the Packers after barely clinching a playoff berth with two games left, claiming its first NFC North championship since 2006, the last time they appeared in the Super Bowl in which the Bears lost to the Colts.

But then, on three of its first four possessions, Chicago expanded the lead with touchdowns, in which middle linebacker Brian Urlacher bullied Matt Hasselbeck at the line of scrimmage. As always, he leads a defense that has potential to clinch the NFC and play for the Super Bowl title, along with his counterparts Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs.

If the Bears defense continues to polish as formidable as the 2006 defensive unit, it's because of the boisterous pass rush, partly for the presence of Peppers that presumably gives Chicago a slight chance to hoist the proudest prize in football.

While Cutler is flawless lately in the national scene, particularly bailed out by the superlative defense, he can focus on limiting harmful mistakes. And with that, he fired a perfect throw downfield to tight end Greg Olsen for a 58-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a 7-0 lead. On the field long after the first drive, several plays later as the Bears strategy was to create an onslaught in the middle of the field, Cutler found Johnny Knox for an 18-yard pass. So next week, it will be Cutler vs. Rodgers in an epic quarterback duel and could turn out to be a breathless classic.

"If Green Bay comes out and plays like they played [Saturday] night against Atlanta it's going to be a tough day for us," said Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, who made life miserable for Seahawks receiver Mike Williams.

Still, from the last matchup, Cutler can recall when he was a victim of turnovers and abused against the Packers fierce pass rush. If he plays poorly, the Bears can forget it.

"It doesn't get any bigger than this," said Cutler.

No, it doesn't.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers Takes Advantage of Sloppy Ravens, But Can't Be Discounted

By now, however, a rivalry of bitterness was inexplicably in full bloom. The prior history, of course, has developed an intense clash, centering a pair of divisional foes by cast members of the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It reminded us, upon hearing the hype of what has become an attractive event in the NFL, about the past episodes with the Steelers and Ravens.

In specifics, it reminded us of the time when the Ravens threatened to place a bounty on Hines Ward, when Bart Scott threatened to "kill" the Steelers' veteran receiver or when the Ravens delivered a nasty blow to the Steelers quarterback's nose. Each time they meet, it turns into a verbal altercation and eventually escalates into a physical skirmish on the field, a heavyweight battle like no other in a contest that becomes so brutal.

Now, along comes the sudden impact of Rashard Mendenhall in a pivotal matchup of mutual hostility, of boundless violence and hard hits that identify a hard-nose, turnover-forcing defense. This wouldn't be a rivalry without any feisty trash talk that notably fueled the meanest rivalry in the NFL, which accelerated earlier this week after Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs wore a T-Shirt featuring a bird with a murky gesture and read, "Hey Pittsburgh."

All of this trash talk formulated a wonderful theater, just as earlier in the week when Suggs called it the "best rivalry in sports." Consider it, however, not only a breakout game for the Steelers, but a breakthrough for the skilled running back Mendenhall. And he never disappointed, even after he declined as a factor in the Steelers' enigmatic running game in prior weeks. So the Steelers survived on the Ravens' second-half meltdown, and clinched a berth to the AFC Championship Game by the heroics of the stud running back.

He's a third-year speedster out of Illinois, a beneficiary who emerged into the spotlight, and if he continues to advertise his knack by bursting to the end zone, he'll clearly be known as an icon with his heroics and athleticism. Between now and as early as February, his presence will be felt immensely—another way to reduce the workload off Ben Roethlisberger, who has proven unflappable in critical situations but also vulnerable at times.

Because it's entirely a total team effort, even though Mendenhall was the primary difference-maker in such a tense, must-needed bout, he probably won't be heard of much over the next week. That is unfair for a helpful player after lifting the momentum and exciting the fans with his explosive eight-yard dash to the 4-yard line on Pittsburgh's first drive. The masses at Heinz Field, dressed in Steeler yellow and black, screamed loudly and swung the Terrible Towels, a frenzy that traditionally defines a die-hard Steelers fan.

He didn't have to finish with all-purpose yards or have to conclude his impressive statement with 50-plus yards, but settled for merely 46 yards on 20 carries. Rather remarkably, he scored two touchdowns and caught a 13-yard pass. In a sense that the Steelers are America's favorite, we were all convinced by the Steelers rally, thanks to the Ravens miscues that contributed to Pittsburgh's miraculous comeback.

As minutes dwindled on the clock, with 1:33 remaining in a tight, nerve-racking AFC divisional playoff game, Mendenhall pushed into the end zone from the 2-yard line to give the Steelers a 31-24 comeback win over the clumsy Ravens on Saturday. That's partly because the Ravens collapsed and inexcusably stumbled. Presumably because they were too relax and took a lead for granted, Baltimore was doomed by the second half in its hardest matchup against the Steelers, a championship-caliber team that trailed 21-7 at halftime when turnovers produced two Ravens touchdowns.

The timing couldn't have been worse, as the Ravens bailed on their aggressive defense and no longer seemed vicious. For whatever reason, they abandoned the bull-rushes and stopped harassing Roethlisberger, which allowed him ample opportunities to elude pressure and find his intended receivers late in the game. Once, they were the fiercest defense around, known for punishing opponents. But by the third quarter the Ravens were harmless—a rarity in their everyday approach that was a non-factor with so much on the line.

If you believed in the Ravens, a monstrous, defensive-minded unit, it's because Baltimore nearly walked out of a hostile territory in celebration. If so, Ray Lewis and Suggs would have flew out of the town with bragging rights, granted by an appearance in the AFC Championship Game next weekend against either the New York Jets or the New England Patriots. As in any hurtful loss, the Ravens were left in despair at the end, and the bench stared hopelessly in disbelief and mourned a dreadful letdown.

It was an avalanche of costly mistakes committed by the Ravens in the second half. All together, Baltimore had three turnovers, and a holding penalty to deny Lardarius Webb's punt return score. It seemed the Ravens, entering the contest with much firepower and confidence, were in position to tie the game late, but Anquan Bolden dropped a pass in the end zone. Then, came the missed opportunity when T.J. Houshmandzadeh, on 4th-and-18 on Baltimore's final drive at Pittsburgh, lost control of the ball that bounced off his mitts.

This certainly wasn't the Steelers' finest game, nor was it Roethlisberger's greatest. Early on, he had trouble with his accuracy, but somehow, he completed a pass to Ward on 3rd-and-10. And on a few plays later, on a third down and sudden-death situation, he heaved one to Antonio Brown, following a shrewd call by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. But mostly his passes were short or either incomplete, pretty much creating a scare for the Steelers by his faulty performance.

The point is, the Steelers' relentless, brutal defense conducted by the brilliant defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who calls useful plays to complete stops, bailed out Pittsburgh with the persistent rushes by James Harrison, the aggressor on the Steelers defense. Perhaps, the toughness from a hard-driven defense saved the Steelers. And as a result, the Steelers sacked Joe Flacco five times, with only very limited protection in the backfield.

And yes, there are plenty of people rooting for the Steelers, as usual, when Roethlisberger has already won two championships with a 9-2 postseason record. The die-hards in Pittsburgh, once furious and irritable with Big Ben over his sexual harassment allegations, can finally eulogize not only him as the franchise quarterback but the Steelers in general for defeating their divisional enemies on the day that defied the laws of wills and resiliency.

The humanity in a city that honors football, among other sports in the town is contagious and spiritual as the fans celebrate in delight, elated by the Steelers. Sure, they took advantage of the Ravens miscues, but either way, they won it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

With the Birth of Jets-Patriots, There's No Rivalry Like Any Other

We all have flashbacks on moments when rivalries in sports came alive, moments we espoused the antipathy involving a pair of teams unable to stay above the fray and maintain a sense of calmness.

If you were a Jets' supporter dating back to the late '60s, you probably recall Joe Namath, the famous pretty boy with gorgeous features who chicks were dearly obsessed with.

Back in those days, he led the New York Jets in the bitter rivalry against the then-Boston Patriots. But today, in which a rivalry has renewed lingering debates in what has become newsworthy, the latest installment of the Jets-Patriots rivalry is what we demand as a way to amaze our senses, as every football lover craves the sentimental high and the beauty in witnessing the birth of an intriguing rivalry.

There are episodes, a number of episodes, when Rex Ryan loud-mouthed opponents at press conferences by his silly antics he exhibited, quickly considered to be the funniest clown in the NFL for belittling the Patriots and his own belly.

So how does a proud, accomplished franchise known as the New England Patriots respond after Ryan and Antonio Cromartie made inane comments towards a hard-driven team that earned its fair share of Super Bowl greatness last decade?

By now, the Patriots are motivated, and it is now clear that Brady's Bunch is angry, hearing Cromartie boldly slur Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

It should be interesting to see how the Patriots, the favorites by many to reach the Super Bowl with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, answers to the Jets. And as usual, it will be appealing to see how New England answers to the Jets cornerback for lashing out on the enemies of football.

As for Ryan, he's a bombastic clown to many, simply because he is constantly trash-talking or saying sarcastic stuff that pisses off the average critic or opponent, particularly the emotional Patriots.

After hearing that, as always, the Patriots are alarmed and ready to meet on a collision course against the Jets for what could be an epic showdown.

It's abundantly clear, no matter if this is the eventful matchup of the weekend or one of the greatest clashes in sports, that there's bad blood involving a pair of sinister franchises, whether it's because of Belichick's Spygate scandal or Ryan's bombastic post-game interviews.

When the Patriots encounter the loudmouthed Jets this weekend, they'll be alarmed and fiercely approach the Jets by their ferocious style with a greedy and masterful offensive scheme.

For Ryan, that is, he should be very careful of ripping Brady with his nonsense. Once again, as for what has become a daily rite, he blasted Brady about his work ethic. Not too long ago, he said the Jets substantial matchup against the Patriots "is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan...There's no question, it's personal."

It's certainly an event that features two disdained coaches, one of whom is Belichick, a disloyal con artist and usually has a genius/deceptive idea of pulling off the victory. He stands on the sideline, and on Sunday across from Ryan, he'll acknowledge the Jets head coach by gazing at him directly with an evil stare, reminding us of the old days when Belichick barely exchanged handshakes with his ex-partner and former demon Eric Mangini after a relationship unraveled for the infamous accusation in 2007.

Ryan's personality is so molded, he couldn't change his ways if his life depended on it, wearing the same Jets vest in every appearance. Pretty much, he's set in his ways and there's no suggestions for shifting the identity of a man who allows his emotions to send him on a laughable tirade. The difference in Belichick's traits is that he is very vague and close-minded, unwilling to release a number of specifics to the press.

Instead, he is serious and dull in his coaching role, not really the kind of coach comfortable with alerting or exciting the media. Don't you hate Belichick? Haven't you given him the nickname BELICHEAT??

There are not too many people outside of New England who really cares for Belichick, an evil-doer responsible for the corruption of scandals in the NFL, when Spygate literally embarrassed the Patriots and their remarkable dynasty that even turned into an asterisk.

Many believe, if not everyone other than a Patriots fan, that the titles won last decade are tainted by the scandal.

You don't have to like Ryan or his characteristics, but if he does somehow backs up his nonsense by winning the Super Bowl unexpectedly, then he clearly deserves respect when the Jets reach gratifying heights under one of the most unlikable coaches in the game.

The timing couldn't be better for Ryan definitely to confirm that he's worthy of his coaching job.

However, even though he's an owner of four Super Bowl rings, Belichick can't significantly be undermined. The history in the past is an indicator that the Patriots can be victorious in the AFC Divisional showdown, of which adds to a bloody war.

The horror, which all the remarks that the Jets publicly said magnified the Patriots mentality level, is staring directly at the Jets. For now, as times in the season becomes intense and crucial, it's not so surprising to hear Ryan jabber from the mouth when it actually could be a solution that inspires mental toughness, tenacity and stability.

But, on the other hand, his words may have just taunted the Patriots badly that it has awakened them, energized them and enraged them. If anything, however, Ryan is a sportswriter's best friend whenever he takes the podium to give his animated news conference.

Clearly the face of the Jets and its organization, he is unique and hilarious unlike many coaches, a majority of whom take a moral stance in the business, but also take their jobs very seriously.

Not Ryan. He lives for the moment. He assures victories. Each week, it seems, he is teased in the New York tabloids, while his star quarterback accepts all the praise.

The headlines focus strictly on Mark Sanchez or either Ryan, but more than ever, the tabloids absorbs its attention on Sanchez, a beloved superstar in a town where fans love to cheer on their sports franchise, in a town where he's compared to Namath with his sex appeal.

And as a result, he's as well-known as Derek Jeter. But this weekend, in reality, we'll learn if he's a pretty boy or a franchise quarterback, a vital element for the Jets future of possibly capturing multiple titles.

He's nowhere near as superb as Brady, yet he is the face of the Jets, but with much on the line, he has to beat the Patriots and then he'll earn more cheers from a rabid fanbase in New York.

It's one thing to be defined as a good quarterback, but he still needs to perform amazingly in a game that he's placed under the radar until he produce eye-opening wins and elevate his legacy.

His 54.8 completion percentage and 75.3 quarterback rating, which ranks low in the NFL, is evidence that if he desires to validate his legacy and improve as one of the league's top quarterbacks, he'll need to beat the Patriots.

If so, maybe this can shut Ryan's mouth.

Who cares??

As long as he backs up his trash-talking, I couldn't care less what he says. His trash-talking, dirty mouth doesn't bother me. And it shouldn't bother you, either.

Aside from Ryan's mouth, in the playoffs alone, his quarterback, Sanchez is 3-1 as a starter. Although he settles for the entire spotlight given to him, he's matured and ignores the media, including the critics that belittle his performances each week.

The underdogs of such a watchful playoff game are the Jets, even if New York is loaded with supremely talented running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a veteran star everyone thought was washed up and well past his prime.

Along with running back Shonn Greene, who had 35 carries for 152 yards in the Jets' 17-16 win at Indianapolis last Saturday, and Braylon Edwards, a lengthy and explosive wide receiver, Sanchez is surrounded by reinforcements and Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

The luxury of having a coordinator as confident as Schottenheimer is that he trusts Sanchez and allows him to call the plays.

Ever since the summer, when the overblown reality TV show "Hard Knocks" bothered us, the Jets created unnecessary drama, from the television chaos to the revelations of Ryan's foot fetish.

The Jets are caught in the middle of bedlam, but amid the insanity, they are managing to win when it matters. There's no doubt that he's not an excellent football coach, not even an average coach, but a funny man with a unique style of coaching.

It turns out that Ryan cares about his mind-blowing ego, but not so much about winning games. In many ways, he's concern with not only his legacy but winning as well, especially outlasting the Patriots in this intense rivalry.

Where there is bad blood, Ryan is definitely inclined to open his mouth and rip his foes, such as the Patriots, ready to face the Jets and silence their babbling.

This is the fourth time in the last two seasons that Belichick and Ryan meet. More troubling is that the Jets talk too much, but the Patriots let the game speak for itself.

In Ryan's tenure, the Jets have trailed painfully by a score of 24-7 and 24-3 in two road meetings at New England, but it's a new year, so none of this is relevant. Whether the Patriots are the stronger team of survival, the Jets are committed to an assertive, play-making defense.

Whether the Patriots utilize a systematic style, as agile running back Danny Woodhead could be a problem for the Jets to handle since New England diagrams running plays out of the shotgun, New York has the deepest secondary with Darrelle Revis and Cromartie, even if the shut-down corner was a factor in the Jets win over the Colts.

Facing a tougher assignment this postseason, Revis is expected to cover Brady's go-to receivers Deion Branch and Wes Welker. So obviously, as the Jets have spent much time talking, the Patriots have spent time preparing.

By now, however, the Jets-Patriots enlarge as an intense rivalry, from the nonsensical chatter to the preparations and quietness by New England. That's what we love, a rivalry like no other.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Carmelo Anthony Is Fittingly a Coveted Resident for Nets

The ridiculous farce is heard at full volume in Denver, heard throughout the community that is left in uncertainty and now is curious to know if Carmelo Anthony is really leaving the Rocky Mountains for Brooklyn, N.Y., his native town where he blossomed as a ballplayer.

In the wake of the lingering speculations, this is certainly turning into a tiring charade, as it's still uncertain whether Anthony would be willing to sign an extension with the New Jersey Nets, a team that has explored roughly to acquire Anthony. From what it seems, these days of course, the Nets are optimistic it can obtain Anthony, who hasn't signed a three-year, $64.47 million contract extension and could opt out of his deal and declare for free-agency next summer.

But there is a clear understanding that the Nets need him, just as much as he needs them and he could very easily lift into a megastar for a town that endears sports, anxious to witness a stud produce an enthralled masterpiece near the entertaining parts of New York City.

In such an ultimate transition, which is a dreaming process until it finally turns into reality, he'd bring in revenue and Jay-Z, one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs operating his fruitful business, would pocket more money with the presence of a superstar. So now, as if the Nets faithful implores for Anthony's availability, he assured that it wasn't his final game in a Nuggets uniform, still the considerable megastar in Denver.

"This is not my last game," Anthony said after win over Phoenix at the Pepsi Center. "I'll be here playing against Miami Thursday. You all will have another interview with me Thursday. Guaranteed. I guarantee you that."

Surely, he's known as the icon for the Nuggets, and no matter how we view it, he possibly could re-sign with Denver. Few believe, though, that he'll accept a proposed deal to play for New Jersey before the trade deadline comes to a closure by Feb. 24. And while most people won't dwell on Anthony's talent, he is a strong, gifted forward with streaky shooting and muscular upper body strength to make an impact in his sturdy interior game.

So far, according to reports, whether its accurate or inaccurate, he's reluctant to sign an extension with the Nets. It wasn't figurative to assume that he was a Net by the next 24 hours, not because of the Nets, but because of his demands or ever changeable mood. The next time facts surface, in mere hours maybe, he could be on his way to New Jersey, and stand as the big-name player near Broadway. Anthony, cramped by inquisitive reporters regularly these days, responds vaguely and handles the hearsay of potential trade rumors that seems truthful in a way.

This is figured to be one of the overzealous sports environments in America, filled with a cult of cheerful fans who honestly revere their pro franchises for a sense of sanity and excitement. It's like a cultural habitude, with cheerful nights at the Madison Square Garden, a place where traditionally epic performances are witnessed, to simply worship sports figures and their brand of talent. Then, if so, New Jersey is fittingly a nice landing spot for Anthony to convert from a smaller city to a famous sports town that glorifies the infatuations of sports.

One day the Nets intend to establish a new home in their state-of-the-art arena, the $1 billion Barclays Center located in Brooklyn, New York, scheduled to open in 2012. In essence, the 22-acre project is expected to have 18,000 seats and will greatly create jobs in a jobless environment. And if Anthony comes along, it increasingly inflates the revenue in a poor community that has been struck hard by the recession, let alone reinforces the popularity of a young and talented team.

There's a side of me that says his presence, not only deepens the Nets fame, but also diverts the attention of a franchise with mediocrity and hopefulness. Anytime a team possesses a superstar, he's a ticket seller. All of which, the Nets are begging for Anthony, but hasn't been aggressive and instead stubborn to compromise with the biggest name on the trade block.

His arrival cures the dysfunction and could turn the Nets into an automatic playoff competitor, but the inactive Nets aren't pursuing him with assertiveness or desire, yet they are truly interested in snatching Anthony before the trade deadline passes. He's too special of a player to pass on, too athletic and durable to ignore if the Nuggets are willing to send the forward elsewhere. Truth be told, he is rightfully deemed as one of the active forwards in basketball and has the recipe to be an irresistible sharpshooter from beyond the perimeter, just as much as he has the finesse to score in the paint.

As the Nets are incapable to complete a deal for Anthony, Knicks star Amar'e Stoudemire has intently tried to convince the Nuggets star that he wants him to play in New York. If so, it forms a workable tandem, but as it appears, Anthony is unsure of what he desires even after he publicly announced at one point that he'd be willing to play with the Knicks. But as of late, hearing all the rumors and nonsense regarding his next destination, he tries to downplay the unknown and his future status.

It wasn't long ago, when he delivered dumbfounded messages that he is intrigued to sign a contract extension with the Nuggets and stay a resident near the Rocky Mountains. After all, he began his acknowledged career in Denver and mellowed into a primary star in a city that has pleaded for him to remain in a Nuggets uniform, satisfied with his maintenance and role. But what's more confusing is that he told a couple of his teammates he wouldn't mind joining the Nets, and encouraged his agent to organize a package that sends Anthony to the Nets.

Twice already, Denver general manager Masai Ujiri has reneged and pulled out on potential deals, although he has made calls to Eastern Conference teams trying to regulate a deal and acquire New Jersey point guard Devin Harris in exchange for Anthony. For now, the Nets are in pursuit of getting Anthony and know he's a fitted asset alongside the seven-footer Brook Lopez. If this deal ever happens, the Nets could be exciting to watch next decade and compel the fervid crowd to visit the modern creations of the franchise's new foundation in Brooklyn.

First, nonetheless, it's imperative the Nets actively seek the assistance of a valuable superstar that aids the team long term. The next week, minus the speculations and hoopla with the Anthony saga, he might be wearing a Nets uniform. It's been wildly a suspenseful week, regardless that Anthony said he wishes to stay in Denver, and divulged that his wife, LaLa Vazquez, a Brooklyn, N.Y., has not dictated his decision on where he plays next season.

It's time for a change, a different direction, now that Avery Johnson solidifies discipline and cultivates a dissimilar attitude to favor one of the youngest rosters in the league. As a way to avoid the queries, Harris insisted that he's not focused on reports of possible trades in a blockbuster deal to land Anthony. Earlier this week, he declined to speak with the media at practice Monday and Tuesday, but finally talked to the media for the first time since Saturday night.

"I've been dealing with it since the summertime," Harris said of the trade rumors. "Until it's imminent, we've just got to focus on playing basketball. That's all we can do."

For once, maybe it was a positive note that this marriage remains intact in Denver, but the Nets are still lurking, just as much as the Knicks are in conversations to obtain Anthony. Then again, the Nets can vow that he's a needed commodity to form a championship-caliber team and dominant at will in the much-improved Eastern Conference. And if the Nets are aiming for superiority in the league, Anthony is the proper name.

For now, anyway, the Nets remain in conversations for Anthony.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Epic Classic for the Ages Goes To Cam Newton and Auburn

What fun it was to watch a mesmerizing classic, one of the greatest games in collegiate football history that ended on a fascinating sequence to calm the nerves of the tense Auburn faithful in the stands, eventually witnessing the spectacular ending.

In command, when running back Michael Dyer worked in traffic and dusted by Oregon defenders, he was a basic factor in the sterling rush attack.

Finally, three players later in the series, he ran a mere 16-yards to settle for a yard short of the end zone. That led to the 19-yard, game-winning field goal that kicker Wes Byrum booted as time expired for his sixth career game-winning field goal, the one that salvaged perfection and gave top-ranked Auburn a thrilling 22-19 win over the No. 2 Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game Monday night.

This was, by far, a breathtaking finish for a contest that never had a dull moment, but hijacked our senses as we watched a memorable classic, a title game we'll discuss for years.

It's been awhile since the last time America has seen a galvanizing finish of a suspenseful game, as if the masses were gazing at a heart-stopping movie. But if not, it's apparently jolting for the Tigers, a university with a built program that was overdue of fulfilling goodness. It turns out, after all, that Auburn is a distinguished emblem of the Southern Eastern Conference, if not all of college football now that they claimed the noble prize.

"Winning a championship for the Auburn family, I can't really describe it right now," Chizik said. "To try would probably cheapen it."

The timing couldn't be better for Auburn's emergence to prevail on the brightest platform in college football and release the nagging adversity that nearly overshadowed a sensational season when the Tigers evidently startled the nation with its inconceivable streak of mind-blowing wins.

From there, Auburn wasn't viewed as darlings, but was allowed to qualify for a national title appearance and be one of the best teams in the nation for such an eye-opening upheaval.

"Anything is possible," Newton said. "I guarantee, five or six months ago, that no one would bet their last dollar that Auburn would win the national championship. And now we're standing here."

Now, he's portrayed as the beloved figure for a storied football program, worthy of applause in the South, a region where folks are devoted to football and immerse in the sport unlike any other territory.

It's not too often, particularly for an adverse player, when someone like Cam Newton can maintain calmness and handle the farce of absurdity and criticism from an unholy scandal, accused of breaking NCAA rules because of his father's bad judgment by foolishly auctioning his son.

Aside from all of the mess in the past, it was Auburn in a collision course against Oregon, and obviously, only one team came out victorious on a glamorous night in the desert. As the capacity crowd filled in every seat inside the University of Phoenix Stadium, Auburn won the school's first national title in football since 1957.

Back then, the popular toy kids played with were hula hoops and slinkys. Back then, Little Richard was the hottest album sold in record stores. Back then, President Eisenhower was in office.

When it was finally over, after it seemed like the epic classic was on its way to overtime, confetti rained down onto Newton's head and he smiled as coach Gene Chizik lifted his arms skyward, proud of his players and the Tigers as a whole.

"I've told my guys that it's not about them," said Chizik. "In 20 years it will be about them. But this game is about all of the Auburn people who never got the opportunity to be where we are."

In the stands, a cheerful crowd of orange-clad fans saw the Tigers celebrate an exciting win and hadn't experienced this much glory for almost six decades. It's common these days that an SEC school wins the national title, especially when Auburn won the fifth consecutive Southern Eastern Conference national title, the seventh victory of the BCS era.

The haze of uncertainty for Auburn dwindled in the end of a memorable night and its recent dominance offered seemingly a clear understanding, generally mastering its long-term goal in the Valley of the Sun.

Mostly, though, the Tigers executed with balance, poise and mental toughness in desperation and the moment when the majority were watching, no longer non-believers of Auburn.

It's hard to earn fame when a school is close to another renowned university, traditionally known as a popular program for inheriting national titles or dominating the conference as the powerful team.

Besides, the Tigers weren't always so good and played in the shadows of the cultivated Alabama, an archrival located nearby, and last season, the Crimson Tide won the national title.

Much vintage was stored in the convincing ending to a historic and accomplished season.

Most of the night, the Tigers heard the crowd madly chant and as a way of encouragement, they reacted to the fervid crowd and played at their highest this season against an effectual Oregon with a forceful, menacing, impetuous defensive strategy.

All of that, even if Oregon is the highest-scoring team in the nation, obstructed the accelerated rush attack led by LaMichael James, who is arguably the fastest man in the nation.

Of all nights, he wasn't the fastest man, he wasn't nearly as scary, but harmless and wore a frown of frustration and disappointment. It's a rarity when he's not capable of having a huge impact, and for once, he was held to 49 yards on 13 carries, battered by Auburn's firmness.

As it seems, by all standards, the university has a singular tradition from the Tiger Walk to the War Eagle yell. Off for 37 days, Auburn showed no signs of rust and attacked early on, as the nation debated whether or not the game would be high-scoring.

Respectively, the Tigers, standing as a symbol for the SEC, earned tons of adoration by capping a perfect record and surviving BCS mayhem with an impressive 13-0 record to define perfection.

But incredibly, the Tigers held Oregon to 19 points with the assistance of a beastly Nick Fairley, a primary factor on defense. His presence alone came handy and he had three sacks and the fourth down stop that prevented Oregon from driving.

There was assistant athletic director Joe Whitt, wearing his usual black hat, standing in the Tigers' locker room and had a warmhearted smile. The last time the Tigers went 13-0 it happened in 2004, the year the rural university was snubbed by the unfair BCS.

Before then, the Tigers went 11-0 in 1993, the year the school was unable to compete for the top-ranking in the nation due to postseason probation.

For now, if you are worried about an asterisk, don't panic. However, the investigation of the Cam Newton scandal is still pending, but until then, Auburn is 14-0 and the best in the nation.