Friday, January 31, 2014

The Church of Om Nom Nom

I'm a girl. I think this should come as no shock to anybody that I love food more than anything else in the whole world, including the necessary self-love. Heck, I have the ability to throw food into 2AM phone conversations. I think I might have a serious problem.

Food. Yummy.
Food can be a luxury, and for others it can be a rarity.
In general, food is a necessity.

With everything I've mentioned in the past month on this blog, every single little thing can be made into a game. If life itself is a game, then it's possible to make a sport out of just about anything that requires physical activity. Some of these sports can actually fit the description in a rather accurate fashion, while others could be completely asinine. This one just might make you sick to your stomach. I'm not just saying this, either. It actually could.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the world of competitive eating. Gluttony and an iron jaw are the rulers of this kingdom, and it definitely isn't for the faint of heart.

Every Friday before the Super Bowl, my hometown of Philadelphia is in a total frenzy--a frenzy for food. For over 20 years, the Wing Bowl has been a mainstay and a well-known event for locals and those who are total suckers for chicken wings. Guys like Bill "El Wingador" Simmons (who I believe is now in jail for stupid reasons) have become Philly legends thanks to this event. For the most part, you will see many local guys and girls competing in this event; however, it has become so immense, that legendary competitive eaters like Joey Chestnut have come through and destroyed this competition. Heck, even women have beaten the big guys in this competition, including this year.
[Personal aside: Honestly, the competition isn't a completely "family-friendly" event, but it has gotten slightly better over the years as it's trying to get national exposure (no pun intended). Yes, in the beginning there were a lot of sponsorships from strip clubs and other adult-related businesses. True story.]

The most popular and mainstream competitive eating contests held in the United States are Wing Bowl (which I mentioned above) and the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Contest held every July 4th at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. If you aren't familiar with any other eating contests, you may have heard of this one at some point in your life. An event that started over 40 years ago (wasn't annual at first), this was one of the first major displays of how many people can eat a specific food at one time. While the time limits were shorter (some good 6-7 minutes shorter), winners were wolfing about 10 hot dogs in the contest. The trend grew, and now it's a big televised competition that has become small talk at functions on the Fourth of July.

Is it as easy as it seems? Don't lie--you at one point thought that you could make a killing at a food-eating contest after the massacre you caused at the closest all-you-can-eat Chinese fusion buffet. It really isn't that easy at all. In fact, it's one of the most physically difficult things to pull off. Firstly, there are specific things you need to train your digestive system to do, considering the time and amount of the consumption of food during a competition could kill a small child. Competitive eaters will consume different proteins, such as dietary supplements or milk, in order to expand the stomach to prepare it for excessive storage. Others will resort to fasting and copious amounts of exercise in order to keep a speedy metabolism and prevent any other health problems to creep up while training. A running theory is that the slimmer and more fit the body, the more room a stomach can expand since it would be walled in by excessive fat deposits. With that said, it throws the philosophy that a really big fat dude could win every single contest possible out the window.

You have Takeru Kobayashi and Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas to thank for the theory backed by science.

If you aren't sick to your stomach just yet, there are still two things I should bring up to you: the kinds of eating contests that exist and how people are not the biggest fans of this "sport."

The two biggest contests I mentioned involve rather "American" foods: chicken wings and hot dogs. Seems pretty safe, right? There is also one called the Krystal Square Off that involves burgers. Okay, maybe I'm being too safe here. Wait, it gets worse. There are ones for jalapeno peppers, bratwurst, pumpkin pies, cheesesteaks, pizzas, water Italian ice, mayonnaise, soba noodles, tacos, and various cultural cuisines like Carribbean food. In 2002, a FOX-televised event called the Glutton Bowl even had contestants eating Rocky Mountain oysters and cow brains in the final round. On that note, feel free to put down whatever you're eating. This hurt to even type.

There are also a lot of people that oppose this kind of contest. Why? It's common sense when you really think about it. When you live in a country that is in good standing when it comes to food and resources, the exploitation of that and the way the food is consumed is enough to spur a discussion on why this goes on. Some will throw the cliched: "There are starving people in China." It's an exposition of gluttony and the waste of food that other people could eat to survive. The average human would just flick a hand and go "pfft" to this, but it's really a serious thing to ponder on.

While it has it's own organized league in Major League Eating, this sport isn't exactly the cup of tea for a lot of other people, myself included. Don't get me wrong, I love food just as much as the next person, and the training process for this interests me, but this is a little too extreme, and the means of the events are against some of the things I value in life. There, I said it. A writer should never throw too much philosophy into a piece like this, but c'mon, how can I not? People can do what they want, and they can display their talents in whichever way they want; thing is, I just wouldn't do this myself, is all.

It is a feat to do just about anything that involves consumption of something and being able to function afterward. Plus, these kinds of contests could actually kill you if one is not conditioned to do this activity. Then again, there are a lot of things out there that can kill you. Oh well.

While I'm not a huge advocate of it, this is a sport, and it's going to be around until our world's food supply says no more. Welcome to the era of The Church of Om Nom Nom.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Red Whines: Tyke Abuse

It should come as no surprise to most people that I rarely watch television. However, I saw some people talking on Facebook and Twitter about this show and I had to check it out for myself. Good Lord, did this give me good material to write about. Thank you, random people I know on Twitter and Facebook. Invisible pancake breakfasts for you all.

Reality television is all the rage these days. People who are as average as you and me are becoming celebrities overnight. It makes us wonder how they got to be where they are and why we could never come up with that kind of idea. Well, if you thought semi-unscripted shows could get any worse, we've got a sports-related one on our heels, and it's certainly bound to be one of the most controversial shows on cable.

The show is called Friday Night Tykes. It debuted this month on the recently-established Esquire Network (formerly Style Network--I don't see a real difference other than gender preference here), and it tells the story of five junior-league football squads in the San Antonio, Texas area. From the very beginning, these eight-and-nine-year-olds are running, tackling, and getting conditioned as if they were the NFL stars themselves. Just as children do, they'll cry in pain, and their coaches tell them to push on. They'll enforce the kids to literally knock the taste out of the other kids' mouths in any way possible. While this may be normal for various American cultures who treat youth/high school/college football like an officially recognized and organized religion, this might literally scare the living crap out of everyone outside of the circle.

Here's a link to the first episode of the series, in case you want to take a look. The first two minutes or so should be enough for you, really. If you can get through more of it, good for you.

I had an inkling of awareness that there are practices like these that exist around the country. I tried watching the first episode online and I couldn't get myself to finish it. I'm not a wimp in the least bit, but what they were teaching the kids and how they went about it made me angrier than the kids actually going through with what they were told. Grant it, the kids are learning a sport at a young age, but pushing them this hard and influencing them to literally cripple the other team is grounds for child abuse. That could just be me being a 23-year-old woman who doesn't have kids and hasn't played a contact sport in five years, but if a coach was telling my child to make sure they hit the other kid hard enough that they don't get up, I'd get a little angry. This may mean that I'm a sensitive person, but you're also desensitizing the child and making them brutal. It's like dogfighting--if you teach the dog at a young age to tear another dog apart, that's going to be infused in their psyche and it's never going to leave. A child's brain is like a sponge; if you start encouraging these practices in them and they go through with it, what are you really teaching them? Plus, if they're taking super hard hits like you might see on the show, how the heck are they going to be physically and mentally by the time they turn 18? Is the thought scaring you? It better.

In turn, this material is the exact kind of stuff that will draw attention and gain a response from viewers. They wouldn't be showing this on TV if it wasn't going to stir up conversation. It's extremely dirty, yes, but this sells. Why? Because it's shocking. Because it's going to make you gasp, just as it made me gasp the first time I saw two young boys go helmet-to-helmet. Even if it makes you look away, it makes you want to watch more just so you can scoff at the practices portrayed in the show. And that's what they want. It's entertainment and it's money for them.

Is it exposure to a serious issue at hand? Well, considering that they have been doing this for a long time, this is considered humane and that there is no major problem. Obviously, because of the shock value, this falls into the current category of what is "sellable television material." Personally, I don't like it, but people are going to watch it anyway. I don't know why--that's just how things are now. On a separate road, this could be seen as an extreme end to what junior and pee-wee football may be in other regions as opposed to what you may be used to seeing if you know a little one who plays. If your child/relative plays this kind of ball, BLESS YOU AND BLESS THEM. Seriously. I don't know how they can do it. It isn't right in my eyes, but if it's something they enjoy, there is no point in taking that right away from them.

What this truly does is that it brings the thought of how to push children when teaching and enforcing a sport into question. How much is too much? Are some coaches even teaching the children the correct methods? I watched the first two minutes of the video again and I see the kids putting their heads down on a tackle. While I scream and flail my arms in the air out of anger, I throw the "red challenge flag," as it were. It's almost as if you're sending your kids to the slaughter. You might see the parents showing concern about the kids, saying that they're "practically babies," but what's being done about it? Oh heck, something might have been done, but I was too disgusted to watch the second half of the episode. It was one of those "I want to play Whack-a-Mole with a coach's head" kind of things that doesn't deserve my time and energy. To make a long story short [too late], while it sucks in viewers through controversy, it can make you think about how we're teaching kids and how we're instilling values and morals into their minds. Some kids need more encouragement than others, yes, but there are still some sensitive kids in the bunch, and we do need some of those in the world, too.

These are only my opinions. What are yours? Have you truly thought about this?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Freeze Frame! Splitting Hairs! Different Sets of Eyes!

Geez, if Big Brother wasn't watching us before, it certainly is with all of this instant replay business, eh? (rimshot) No, really. There's going to be a lot more reviewing from this point forward. Too bad Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox aren't around for this. It could've saved them a lot of ejections. In actuality, I don't think they'd have cared either way.

Last Thursday, a landmark ruling was made in American baseball. It was unanimously approved that the rules for instant replay be expanded in the league. On the agreement, Bud Selig--in his last official year as commish of MLB--was elated and relieved that they have been granted this ability. "Because they won't disturb the game as we know it. Yes, there will be some differences. But because of [MLB Advanced Media], because of our own technology, because of everything else, we've been able to do this." [1] While it is safe to say that the advances in technology had to be perfect in order for all of this to be possible, this day was a long time coming for baseball players, managers, and officials.

While there have been certain things that were reviewed and scrutinized before this era, there was no concrete rule on when to use an instant replay system. Just about every call was a "judgment call" from the umpiring crew, and it was their way or the highway. While many have admitted their faults, their mea culpas will certainly result in softened blows with thanks to this expansion.

Official instant replay in Major League Baseball made its debut during the 2008 season in the controversial Tropicana Field. You would think that it hit something awkward in there considering that park is rafters and low ceilings galore, but it was to dispute a home run call that hit the foul pole. (If you want to guess who hit that ball, it's the guy who isn't allowed to play this year.) After requests from players and coaches, a review was finally made and the call was decided. Since then, instant replays were utilized for home run calls only to the discretion of the umpiring crew and not team management. Also, this was not bound to the regular season. Instant replay made appearances during the playoffs and in the World Baseball Classic. Good job, MLB. Since the origin of the home run review, many key games were decided, especially when they involved walk-off homers.

Here we are, six years later, and the rules will finally be expanded.

Beginning this upcoming season, the rule expansion is as follows:

"...each manager will start a game with one challenge. If it is upheld, he retains his challenge but can never have more than two in a game. If the manager exhausts his challenges before the start of the seventh inning, he is out of luck, adding a new element of strategy to the game. Beginning in the top of the seventh, the crew chief is empowered to institute a review." [2]

It looks like they ripped a page out of the NFL's book, but with good intentions. Also, just about every disputable call can be reviewed through these "challenges" except for minor issues like obstruction. To name a few instances off the bat (no pun intended): tag/force plays, ground-rule doubles, fan interference, and timing plays can be reviewed. However, they will not be reviewed by the umpiring crew on-site. Instead, the angles will be sent to Toronto New York where MLB Headquarters is located. It is there that a different umpiring crew will review the play and send their decision. In the meantime, just as in football, reviews will be shown on the boards at the stadiums for the crowd to see and react toward. While these rules and regulations are fairly new and haven't officially been tested yet, there will be room for fine-tuning and improvement on these reviewing practices as the season moves forward.

I will be perfectly clear on my opinion of this: we're really nitpicking this to the bone, and since this is going to benefit every party in play, this is absolutely huge and necessary for baseball. The umpires are all for this. I guess I can't blame them. Considering that human error is under such scrutiny all down the board these days, any slip-up that can be checked upon can really save time and avoid unnecessary confrontations between manager/player and umpire at the plate. Could you imagine how this could have changed history if this was incorporated sixty-some-odd years ago? That home plate play in the 1955 World Series could have changed the outcome and ultimately changed a lot of other things as well. This is going to be a godsend for a lot of close calls that were accepted by teams and managers because the umpiring staff was the "final say," now and forever amen. What baffled me was that every voting side was compliant with the ruling, and that everyone agreed that a change was necessary for baseball to be as fair and as balanced in officiating as possible. They handled this transition incredibly well, considering that they started off small with just reviewing home run calls as opposed to throwing every single thing that can be reviewed into the mix. It was like a trial period, and now they're going from Pull-Ups to big boy underwear.

I never thought I would want to pat Bud Selig on the back, but I sort of want to and it makes me feel a little dirty. Don't ask me why--he's just made awkward decisions in the past that didn't always work. Then again, the introduction of the Wild Card wasn't a bad idea. I digress.

As expected, this will definitely change the game of baseball forever. In lieu of the addition of the ban of home plate collisions, this tool is really going to be efficient in judgment precision and the overall time it takes to negotiate what was right and what was not so right. On that note, Jayson Stark noted in his ESPN column that: "New rules governing home-plate collisions were not approved by owners, for now, however, because baseball still hasn't agreed with the players' union on the wording of them. However, MLB's COO, Rob Manfred, said enough progress has been made that 'we fully expect to make an agreement with the union on home-plate collisions.'" [3] History has been made, and while it seems like baseball is going to be splitting hairs a little more often than usual, it is all for the best. We've gotten things wrong 99 times out of 100. Let's make that 100th time count.


(Quotes 1 and 2 from this post were from an article written by Paul Hagen on The full article can be found here. Quote 3 is from an article written by Jayson Stark on The full article can be found here.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A-head of the Game[r], Part II: A League of Their Own

I will gladly admit that I have watched videos of video game tournaments at 4AM if I'm sick. That stuff is exciting. It also robs me of some precious sleep. I will also admit that I played Tecmo Super Bowl to prepare for writing this part. My mother could tell you that I get very vocal while playing that.

In Part I, I had made a lovely introduction into the sports genre of video games. We explored how, despite the animosity toward the medium in general, this is a great way to express love for a sport and to keep athletes fresh and focused on different scenarios occurring in-game. When you think about the history of video games, it was a tiny baby in the 1970's that was destined for greatness.


Gaming studios and the various franchises created by these studios are slowly becoming an everyday conversation in households containing the 10-40 demographic. Almost every child in a fortunate living situation has experienced a video game of some kind, and that experience may culminate into indulging into systems and various genres of video games in the future. You will have [young] kids that beg their parents to get them the latest Call of Duty game, or you will see the grandparents buying their children the latest Madden or NBA installment for Christmas. They may have absolutely no idea what their children are playing (Grand Theft Auto V, anyone?), but they are giving children a kind of outlet to send them to a world that stimulates the brain.

While this is mostly mental stimulation as a opposed to physical-leading-to-a-mental stimulation in the world of sports, we're seeing a paradigm shift in what can be done with a mighty force such as video gaming. After all, there are numerous games that can be played two-player, or up to 20 on certain games over the Internet. Two-player games like those in the sports or fighting genre are shoo-ins when this paradigm is mentioned, but when it comes to the 20-player melee, you wouldn't expect something to this caliber. No pun is intended here; these 20-player melees occur in the Call of Duty and Battlefield series of games.

Video gaming, in many circles, is considered a competitive sport.
I sat down and thought about this for twenty minutes and it satisfies every modern-day category for a spectator sport. Heck, poker is considered one, you guys. Why not this one too?

Ever since the inception of YouTube, I have been aware that tournaments were held for fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. In fact, when arcade cabinets were still cool, there would be exclusive tournaments for those specific games. Now that the idea of "arcades" are practically ancient history in the United States, tournaments are strictly held to console gaming at either a convention center or a hotel. For example, one of the biggest international tournaments held in the United States is the Evolution Championship Series (EVO), held every year on the west coast for fighting gamers. Cash prizes and legendary nerd status is acquired through numerous bouts of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Soulcalibur V, and Street Fighter X Tekken. These matches are extremely exciting, and from a gamer's point of view, these guys know the games inside and out, just as an athlete would know their sport.

The only tournament that is held for games in the sports genre is FIFA. To be honest, it doesn't shock me considering it's an internationally-appreciated sport and is much more tactic-based than games such as Madden and MLB. Plus, it can be argued that this is the perfect way to get people into pubs in other countries during the offseason. The controls are easier than other sports games, so it's easier to pick up and play. Also, you can watch your buddy beat the snot out of a rival team 23-0. When you have so many teams to choose from, it's rather easy to see this played in tournament format because you won't be seeing the same three teams each time.

It was brought to my attention this past week that there are tournaments that exist for men and women who play Call of Duty. Yes. There are tournaments based on warfare. Strange, but again, this is a lifestyle for people, and they actually get a huge cash prize if they win. Even if the spectator isn't there in person, there are numerous websites that exist that will stream coverage of the tournament, so you can see who the best "camper" is and who the best sharpshooter is. To diehard fans of the game, this is a showcase of the best without Internet lagging, and it also provides helpful hints on how to completely decimate your opponent the next time you decide to try multiplayer. It's like The Hunger Games or Battle Royale without any real person actually dying. [Hopefully people leave the dying to the character models.]

In less-realistic warfare, one of the more popular gaming tournaments that exist are ones for the StarCraft series and League of Legends (a.k.a. LoL). These PC games are based on real-time battle planning, and you (or teams if you're playing League of Legends) must devise plans based on individual abilities and tactics to demolish the opponent. These tournaments are insane. Like, Wembley Stadium concert insane. Take a look for yourself. Just like in the culture of spelling bees, this is a sport of the mind, and the one who can outsmart the other will become victorious.

In the past, there have been numerous pushes to make specific game franchises officially recognized as a sport. In the mid-naughts (2000-2009), there was a brief push to get Dance Dance Revolution recognized as a sport. I could not make that up. There were some real freaks at the game that were fun to watch, and you would see them at arcades playing the most difficult songs as bunches upon bunches of arrows fly up on the screen. It was a sensation that promoted fitness and foot-eye coordination as well. It may still be popular at the elusive arcades around the country, but the culture has died a slow death over the years. In the heyday of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, competitions--err, "gigs" were held all over the place as well, tying music in with a video gaming sports flair. Whenever you can play a game with someone else, there is always competition, making the will to succeed a "sport" to anyone who dares to play.

Will video games be considered an official sport someday? Most likely. With the advances in technology, and the theories that someday we will be able to take part in a virtual reality where anything can happen [Thanks for the hope, cheesy 1980's futuristic film genre.], there should be more competitions where gaming will come to life in a Real Steel style. Although we were supposed to have flying cars by now, people will find a way to get together and compete in a way like no other. I guess you could say that video gaming is in a league all it's own.


If you want to do more perusing on the topic, check this video out on PBS Idea Channel. I love this guy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A-head of the Game[r], Part I: The Sports Genre

I've been a gamer since the age of three. I might also do something related to that as a real-life job. This might mean that I have a way cooler life than you. Then again, there are way cooler things I want to do aside from this. Oh heck, let's just get on with the posts.

The media has an awkward stigma against video games. Whenever you hear about a shooting massacre, there's always some assumption that the accused is a fan of video games. However, we're all familiar with the "correlation does not imply causation" idea. Plus, there's also this thing that exists called "morality" and such. Because this is a sports blog, I'm not going to be bringing up anything that had to do with Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook. Besides, they never said anything about Madden being a bad influence.

I'm getting off-topic, so I'm going to flat out say it: Today, we're going to talk about sports video games and how it makes the realm of sports so much better in interaction and fan participation.
There. That was easy enough.

Ever since the beginning of arcade cabinets and video gaming systems, the sports genre has existed. Games such as Ice Hockey were all the rage, and it fed the needs of casual gamers and sports fans alike. While all they saw were blocky pixels, it was as real as it could get. As technology got more and more advanced, we saw cleaner graphics, off-the-wall additives like NBA Jam (BOOMSHAKALAKA) and NFL Blitz, and accurate mechanics that were true-to-life. You could pretty much say this is exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to not only promoting your brand, but promoting teams that gamers and fans alike have never heard of or looked into.

Although I've been playing video games since I was a super tiny thing, I am absolutely terrible at sports games. The only games I have played that are in the sports genre are the Backyard Sports series (Pablo Sanchez ftw), the older FIFA games, Punch-Out!, Super Mario Strikers, and Tecmo Super Bowl--which is still one of the greatest games ever made. Admittedly, I have tried Madden twice and I felt like I was on an alien planet both times. With that said, just because you can play the sport physically doesn't always mean that you are going to be good at it in virtual form. There are a myriad of things you can do with a game controller, for one, in the NCAA Football series, you can actually get one of your players to move their arms and amp up the sound level of the crowd. That seems easy enough, right? There's more. For example, in those games, as well as the Madden series, you can call audibles, draw penalties, and do pump fakes. With the XBox [360 and One] Kinect, you can literally call plays that the system can pull off. Plus, with the Kinect (for the One), you need to be careful what you say during the game, as it could get you in trouble with your opponents and even the referees. Scary. The things I've mentioned above can be a lot to swallow if you have never played one of these games in your life. It really wouldn't be your fault if you can't catch onto the whole thing, since there is technology out there that can almost outperform a human brain.

On the other hand, there are some athletes that are actually avid gamers and they take advantage of the power of the console gaming revolution.

I once read a statistic that stated the reaction time and decision-making skills are much higher in those of a person who plays video games. There are NFL players who have openly admitted to playing Madden in the offseason or even in the current season to help with play-making and routes. The same also applies to hitting mechanics in baseball or routes in basketball. Game producers such as Electronic Arts (EA) have separate studios that put a lot of work into the physics and overall realism of the game. Current and next-generation systems aren't all about graphics and processing speed--it's about fluidity and real-life application. If someone gets bumped on the court, they need to get bumped for a reason. If you need that free kick to have a tight bend on it, you have to watch your approach to the ball. These games will make you think; they'll make you create a strategy. Oh, and heaven help you if you're playing against an opponent online. Those guys (or girls) can think on the same level as you as opposed to playing an AI. That's where the real challenge comes in. This isn't something where you stare at your television screen for six straight hours doing mindless tasks while your brain turns to mush; this is something that keeps you fresh in the mind even though your bottom may start to get numb after a while.

The biggest counterargument that will come from this is simply: "It is keeping people from going outside and playing the actual sport [and it's causing obesity and the lack of a social life]."
Response: I'm a gamer and I find the time to be active. Your argument is invalid.

No, really, it all comes down to will, upbringing, and lifestyle for sports and gaming. Sure, you're probably not going to see someone who is a huge fan of Madden or FIFA popping in World of Warcraft on the PC, but it's different strokes for different folks.  Also, playing video games doesn't necessarily make you a mentally ill person or someone who plays in the basement and only sees sunlight when their PC add-on gets shipped through FedEx. They're a hobby, and everyone gets different benefits from them. Yes, considering the prices of consoles and the games themselves--brand new games with sales tax come roughly around $65--it is a luxury for some people to indulge on their favorite sports in the virtual world. However, there's always the option of buying the earlier games instead. While graphical quality and some of the physics may not be as clear-cut as current games, the magic and purpose still exist. On a bright note, a perk of buying the older games could be seeing the rosters and going: "Hey! I forgot he played for them," or "Wow, why is he terrible in this game? I thought he was supposed to be good." Ah, nostalgia. As far as activity, I highly doubt there are some people that want to play football in a blizzard. Plus, they might not have as many friends that would play said sport with them outside. In this sense, it is a good alternative for them. In turn, they just need to find other ways to be active, that's all.

Games, whether physical or virtual, are a testament to our appreciation of sports. It helps us to learn more about it, and it brings everyone together in a awkward, yet loving way. While there are "dark sides" to video gaming, the real-life feel of each gaming series gets better and better every time, and gaming companies do everything in their power to make sure that you are in the action as much as possible. I'd say it's a win on both the gamer and the company's ends.

Heck, video gaming outside of the sports genre may be a skill all its own. We'll get more into that in our next installment.


What? I'm actually making this a two-part series? Blasphemy! Hush. I'm attempting to do something daring for a change. This should give you all the more reason to actually come back and read a Part II. Great games came from their sequel: Street Fighter 2, Portal 2, Kingdom Hearts 2. Okay, I'm rambling. Just come back for the next one, OK?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The NFL Postseason Slant for 2013-2014 - High Tides

Hello, 2014. Let's have some fun with the world of sports, shall we?

I won't lie, this season was FUN to watch. Three NFL playoff positions were decided in a fiery fashion, while the other teams that had qualified were fighting for seeding. Needless to say, it was a crazy Sunday had by all. Plus, with almost as many NFL personnel firings on Black Monday as Charlie Chaplin has had wives, the NFL regular season ended with a real bang.

There is also news coming about containing changes for teams not in contention for the playoffs. Before the ball dropped in Times Square Tuesday night, word got out that Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien will be taking the head coaching position with the Houston Texans. While those in Happy Valley are anything but happy, we could be seeing a crossover trend from college into the NFL. Why, you ask? You'll get an inkling of an idea when you see a few thoughts below. Plus, word just got out that Lovie Smith will be making a return to head coaching, this time as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Maybe with some new leadership, we could be seeing a huge shift in contention in the next year. Speaking of, shouldn't we be talking about the teams we'll be talking about for the next month?

This postseason should be tough for each and every team, regardless of what their records show. But THEY'RE NOT THE KIND OF GIRLS WHO GIVE UP JUUUUUST LIKE THAAAAAAT....



East Division - New England Patriots (12-4) - It's okay--you can say that you're absolutely tired of seeing these guys in this position year in and year out, but admit it: these guys are just too darned good. All controversies aside, Tom Brady continues his streak of clutch playmaking in the QB slot, while all receivers are adding to the mix--including the running backs! These guys are versatile, and they're pretty chipper in any kind of terrain. They'll be a threat as usual. [Side note: I have officially run out of things to say for this team in this particular Slant. That is all.]

North Division - Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) - This is fresh, to say the least. After a much needed Bye week, they stayed strong and fought hard against their divisional rivals (except for the Steelers, whom I'll briefly touch on later) to keep their hold onto the North title. The defense is as scary as ever, and Andy Dalton in the driver seat is making things look sharp and secure in the pocket. While their track record in the postseason hasn't been the cleanest in years' past, there is some spark in this squad to do whatever it takes.

South Division - Indianapolis Colts (11-5) - Chuck Pagano's squad looks as strong as ever here. What was once a pool full of strong rookies post-Manning era is now a crew of scrappy fighters that have proved their worth on the gridiron. Each end has helped each other out in their victories--the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" philosophy that I love so dearly. While there is attention on many other teams in the AFC, these will be the silent killers that could knock off the titans of the conference. We can bet on this.

West Division - Denver Broncos (13-3) - When you have a guy like Peyton Manning having a career year like he is, there is no doubt that good fortune is going to come to this team. Receivers like Eric Decker are now hometown legends, and a consistent defense that can screw you up at a moment's notice will make you wish that your team was godawful. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh, but with star power and strong momentum, they're bound to give anyone a hard time if their guard doesn't let up.

AFC Wild Card
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) - They started the season 9-0. It's not like they dropped off the face of the planet. Once they clinched any kind of playoff spot, the coaching staffs started resting everybody. Whether that was a smart thing is yet to be determined. Then again, when you've had a lot of rough seasons before this, you can't be too careful. When you've got guys like Jamaal Charles in the mix, you have to be careful. Strong guys like him can actually help the bunch to succeed in the long run, no matter how strange the team looks to an outsider.
San Diego Chargers (9-7) - If you're looking for a team that was riding the good fortune train, it was these guys. After killing the Steelers' hopes and dreams by beating Kansas City in overtime, they have the fire to want to kick the snot out of any team that comes their way. They're hoping that their four-game win streak keeps the momentum going. Philip Rivers and company are capable of putting on a show, but are they experienced enough? With their backs to the corner? Oh yes.


East Division - Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) - With a new coach in Chip Kelly, we're seeing a team giving the playoffs--wait for it--the 'ole college try. Oh ho ho ho ho ho I kill myself sometimes. At any rate, this team looks scary. They started out slow, but their speedy offense and strong defense are hard to keep up with now. If we're looking for a dark horse in the NFC, it could be these guys. Nick Foles (GOSH) and LeSean McCoy are going to be bringing some pressure to any oncoming defense. This should be fun.

North Division - Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) - The Aaron Rodgers debacle from earlier in the season made one thing disgustingly evident: he is the captain of the team and can make magic happen when it is needed most. Sure, there are other guys on offense that exist like Eddie Lacy, to name one, but seeing him back really brought the fire in the team. It was something that the defense needed, as they might not be as strong as they were in their previous Super Bowl run. Are they rested up for their next test? We can only hope.

South Division - Carolina Panthers (12-4) - This was a long time coming since the beginning of the Cam Newton era. You're going to see one of the strongest defenses all-around in the NFC, and their running game on the other end of the ball will certainly make you pay. They almost remind me of the Falcons during the Mike Vick era, to be frank. These guys have surprised a lot of pools over the past year, but will inexperience hurt these guys this weekend? One could hope not, but it's entirely possible right now.

West Division - Seattle Seahawks (13-3) - Seeing the 'Hawks here is no big shock, as these guys have looked fantastic in every aspect this year. When you have a defense that practically shuts down every great offensive force thrown your way, the opposition feels pretty screwed after a while. Russell Wilson is also coming into his own as a great leader, and Marshawn Lynch is doing his epic running work as usual. They're fun to watch, and I'd definitely like to see them in the Super Bowl this year.

NFC Wild Card
New Orleans Saints (11-5) - Who dat? Oh yeah, these guys. When you have a strong offense led by Drew Brees, you can't help that. The return of Sean Payton has also given new life to the squad, as it seems like bygones are officially bygones. While they have been to the big dance, we're looking at a dome team playing in the wintertime. Here's to hoping that the strong defense keeps steady and compliments the atmosphere of the postseason. They could totally bring it. They just need to work together.
San Francisco 49ers (12-4) - These guys can kill you on the run each and every time, and it shows. A year removed from their Super Bowl appearance, their approach has changed slightly when it comes to offense, especially in the passing game. On the other hand, their defense looks about the same, as the personnel is stopping the run and keeping the games as close as possible. Admittedly, they were a novelty last year with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick. They're going to need more than novelty to succeed this time around.

And just like that, another NFL season has come and gone. Like I said above, this has been one heck of a year, and I enjoyed covering it again. While I did incredibly poor in my fantasy league this year (I was 4-10. Pukage.) things were extremely exciting and kept me going.

Just like in years' past, Andrew and I will be posting our NFL postseason predictions on Tumblr page, which is at We're doing things a little differently this year; I'll be handling the NFC matches, while he'll tackle the AFC. When it comes to the Conference championships and the Super Bowl, we'll go head-to-head, or something like that.

At any rate, let's see some flying bodies!