Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Fellow 'Mer-landers'...

We have gotten about 7 or 8 inches of snow today. We were told by the so-called 'experts' that we would see only about 2 inches between Baltimore and Washington. Obviously, they were wrong, and there is only one person to blame...

George W. Bush!

Let me be perfectly clear, the weather we have here today is in no way my fault. I have inherited this mess from the previous administration, but make no mistake, I have hope that all of this will change, so that people will be able to go to work on Monday. The opposition has been obstructing us for too long and as 'Mer-landers' we need to stand up and say no to the evil special interests that have been dominating our weather for too long and demand that we have sunshine and warmer temperatures so that the children will have a better environment.

Mr. President...Butt Out.

I am as opposed as anyone to the travesty that is the Bowl Championship Series, at least from a football standpoint, but I also believe political grandstanding and meddling from the powers that be in Washington will make things worse. President Obama is using envy as a virtue instead of the vice that it actually is to attempt to eliminate the BCS. And why? Because people from Utah are pissed that the Utah Utes didn't get to play in the title game a couple of years back. It's envy, pure and simple.

The President and his administration should not be using his authority to interfere with business, especially when there is no crime being committed. Yes, I would prefer a playoff. But I would also prefer the state not get involved in a legitimate business deal. This goes beyond football. This is about the fundamental issue over where the government can and cannot stick its nose. Stick to prosecuting crimes, paving roads, delivering the mail, and you know, defending the nation from enemies, foreign and domestic.

God forbid the state does what it is supposed to do. Instead, it concerns itself with petty issues like how a bunch of colleges decide to divide money that it received from a television network. Unless a crime is being committed, butt out.

Super Bowl Countdown - Others To Consider

Over the next seven days, Lattanzi Land is continuing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - today, though, we wish to present some that we kicked around for our Top 10, but for whatever reason, just did not make the cut. Likewise, we wanted to explain some of the methodology in making the list.

Super Bowl XXX: Cowboys 27, Steelers 17 – the third matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers for once went the Cowboys way as they won their third championship of the 1990’s and their third in four seasons. The game itself had some back and forth, but mostly a lot of scoring by one time followed by a lot of scoring from the other team. Dallas went up 13-0 and 20-7, with Pittsburgh responding to make it 20-17 late in the 4th quarter. Two horrendously bad interceptions from Neil O’Donnell killed any chance the Steelers had, especially with about 4 minutes remaining and the Steelers driving with a chance to take the lead.

Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29 – this matchup between New England and Carolina bears some similarities to Super Bowl 43, but the difference to be made is ultimately in the fact that 43 had actual lead changes in all the 4th quarter scoring, whereas this game’s 4th scoring was a lot of tying and did not have a signature sequence like James Harrison’s interception return before halftime. The final score on a kick by Adam Vinatieri only broke a tie – we feel that tie-breaking, game-ending field goals just don’t have the same power as a come-from-behind kick would (except in overtime, of course).

Super Bowl XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31 – the second of the three matchups between the Cowboys and Steelers was probably the toughest one to keep off the top ten. For the first half, the game was about as evenly matched as it could be. The Steelers had a 21-14 halftime lead, but then the Cowboys were about to tie the score when Jackie Smith made his famous drop of a wide-open pass in the end zone (Go forward to 1:55). Instead, the Cowboys only kicked a field goal and made it 21-17. The Steelers then scored 14 unanswered points to make it 35-17 with just over six minutes remaining, but the Cowboys didn’t quit. The scored on a long drive, recovered an onside kick, then scored again, but could not recover a second onside kick, allowing Pittsburgh to run out the clock on their 35-31 victory over Dallas.

As for our methodology, certain things had to be considered. Blowouts, no matter how historic (i.e. Doug Williams in Super Bowl 22, Joe Montana in Super Bowl 24, or Steve Young in Super Bowl 29), just cannot be placed into a top 10 games list. Individual performances, yes, but overall games, no. Likewise, a close game doesn't necessarily qualify it to be on the list either. Super Bowl 5 was a close game, but no one would EVER place it on a top 10 list. The things we were looking for included (but not limited to) entertainment value, tension, big moments, competitiveness, and long-term importance.

Stay tuned as we unveil our top 5 this coming week. We hope you enjoy the list, and look forward to the feedback.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Time For Tax Changes

We are in the process of doing our taxes; we like to get them done at the earliest time possible to just get it out of the way and not have to worry about them. In the past, we have usually owed money to the federal government, but in the past couple of years we have gotten refunds, and this time around will be no different. But there is a big part of me that has a problem with that.

It begs the question: why are we overpaying taxes in the first place? It seems to me that we are ok with the government taking more than they should and then we feel grateful that we get a 'refund', i.e. money that we should have been able to keep to begin with. Many have this Pavlovian response every year at tax time...the promise of a 'refund' is like the bell that gets the dog's mouth to water.

A lot of people just pay their taxes quietly. Actually, they don't pay taxes at all; the money is withheld from pay every time. I wonder how many people would be quiet about it if they had to pay taxes every month like a bill. You ever notice that the one tax that people complain about more than anything is the property tax? Why is that? Because they get a bill for it. It doesn't get quietly sucked away from every paycheck.

Maybe it's time to eliminate withholding altogether. Or here's something radical - eliminate the federal income tax altogether and switch to a VAT (Value-Added Tax) instead. It would eliminate the need for a gigantic bureaucracy like the IRS and it would only be dependent on what we spend. Just a thought. I don't expect it to happen, but it is a hope.

Super Bowl Countdown #6 - Super Bowl XXXII - Broncos 31, Packers 24

Over the next eight days, Lattanzi Land is continuing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - we move on to #6...

Redemption is a theme that overwhelms sports so much that it becomes a complete cliche' too often. However, sometimes, a redemption story is actually a worthwhile story to see and experience. Super Bowl 32 was one of those times that felt like it lived up to expectations and did not have the requisite letdown that so often occurs when the hype is larger than life.

For the Denver Broncos, the 1997 season was pretty good. A 12-4 record would be considered pretty good, except it was only good enough to finish in 2nd place in the AFC west behind the 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs. However, they did post the best offense in the NFL led by running back Terrell Davis, who had 1,750 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns and the threats of tight end Shannon Sharpe (72 catches) and wide receiver Rod Smith (70 catches - 12 touchdowns).

The centerpiece, of course, was 37 year old quarterback John Elway, who had an excellent season and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl with over 3,600 yards, 27 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions. Elway had been the recipient of many heartaches over the years - 3 previous losses in the Super Bowl, all by an average of 32 points, and several early exits from the playoffs, including the previous year when the Broncos were shocked at home by the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-27.

The Broncos entered the playoffs as a Wild Card; their road would not be easy in any way. After getting revenge on the Jaguars at home for the previous year, they had a tough way on the road, defeating Kansas City and Pittsburgh to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in 8 years.

Their opponent would be the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers led by 3 time MVP Brett Favre. The Packers rolled through the season and through the NFC to make their second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. They would open the game in San Diego as 11 1/2 point favorites, and while Denver had the better offense, statistically, the Packers were seen as the more complete team. Besides, no AFC team had won the Super Bowl since the Raiders won Super Bowl 18 against the Redskins.

The Packers took the opening kickoff and promptly marched down the field, getting catches by receiver Antonio Freeman, including a 22 yard strike from Favre. Incredibly, the Packers were just the third team ever in Super Bowl history to score on the opening drive. The Broncos were not to be denied as they got a great kickoff return and with the help of Terrell Davis' running and a timely penalty, they punched it in from the 1 yard line with Davis carrying it, tying the score at 7.

The Denver defense actually came through next as they intercepted a Favre pass early in the Packers' next possession to set up a short field at the Green Bay 45. Quickly, the Broncos shoved it down the Packers' throats and before everyone knew, the heavily favored Pack was down 14-7 on the strength of Elway's 1 yard touchdown run.

Lightning struck again as safety Steve Atwater sacked Favre and stripped the ball, which was recovered by Neil Smith at the Packers' 33 yard line. Unfortunately for Denver, they could not move the ball at all, and had to settle for a 51 yard field goal attempt by Jason Elam. Elam nailed it, which was the 2nd longest field goal in Super Bowl history (behind Steve Christie's 54 yarder in Super Bowl 28), giving the Broncos a comfortable 17-7 lead.

After stopping the potent Packer attack again, the Denver offense went back to work, but couldn't muster a single first down and gave the ball back to Green Bay with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half. Green Bay, pinned at its own 5 yard line after the punt, went on an epic 95 yard drive that took all the remaining time (save for 12 seconds) and made it a game on a 6 yard touchdown pass from Favre to once-accused statutory rapist Mark Chmura. At halftime, it was 17-14, and the game was fast shaping up as a potential great one.

Denver got the ball to start the second half and everything seemed to go wrong for them. Terrell Davis, who had missed a lot of the second quarter with a migraine (so bad, that it was causing blurring of his vision), fumbled deep in his own territory, giving the Packers instant scoring position. On third down for the Packers, the Broncos stopped them, but were flagged for an offsides penalty on the field goal attempt, giving the Packers a first down inside the Red Zone. However, the Broncos' defense held again and the Packers converted on their field goal attempt without incident, thus tying the game at 17.

Toward the end of the third quarter, the Broncos were staring at their own goal line, but with key plays such as a 36 yard pass to Ed McCaffery and the famous Elway run known as 'the Helicopter', the Broncos marched 92 yards on 13 plays, capped by Davis' second touchdown run of the game. The Broncos once again had the lead, 24-17, but the game was far from finished, and some twists still hadn't occurred yet.

The Packers actually fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Broncos a chance to push the dagger into them, but Elway threw an interception into the end zone, and the Packers had new life with the ball at their own 15 yard line. It only took 4 plays to tie the score - a 13 yard pass to Antonio Freeman on a play where the Denver secondary got confused over crossing patterns. With 13:32 remaining, it was 24-24 and a tension was continuously building. One screw up could doom a team from here on.

After a few punts, the Broncos got the ball in Packer territory after a poor Craig Hentrich punt with under four minutes to go. At the 2 minute warning the Broncos were inside the Packer 20 and on the next play Davis ran it down to the one yard line. What followed was a controversial sequence.

1:47 to go and it was 2nd and goal. Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren told the defense to let Denver score so they would have more time to try and tie it up. This was despite the fact that the Packers had 2 timeouts remaining and could have theoretically made a goal line stand and held the Broncos to a field goal. Instead, Terrell Davis scored his third touchdown of the game and the Packers found themselves down 31-24 with 1:45 remaining.

After returning the kickoff to the 30, Favre made two quick completions resulting in 35 yards gained, and with just over a minute to go, the Packers were on the Denver 35 yard line. On first down, Favre completed a four yard pass to Dorsey Levens. 2nd and 3rd down passes were incomplete, leaving the Packers with a 4th and 6 from the 31. Favre looked for Mark Chmura, but the pass was batted away by Broncos' linebacker John Mobley, giving Denver the ball and their first Super Bowl, a 31-24 victory. Terrell Davis was named MVP, gaining 157 yards and tying the Super Bowl record with 3 touchdowns, and is the only player to rush for 3 touchdowns.

It's funny in a way, because redemption finally came for John Elway, but it came when he didn't have to do the heavy lifting. It is cliche' to say that it is always good to have a little help from your friends, but that help gave Elway a championship and another one the next season and the cemented his status as one of the all-time greats. As for Brett Favre, he had peaked in the mid-90's and while he would go on to have a great career, he would never hit the heights he reached in 1996 and 1997.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Super Bowl Countdown #7 - Super Bowl XLII - Giants 17, Patriots 14

Over the next nine days, Lattanzi Land is continuing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - we continue our presentation with #7...


The theme of our next Super Bowl is ‘What goes around comes around’. Two teams from opposite ends of the spectrum met in University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona on February 3, 2008 for what could be described as The Perfect Nightmare.

Back on a February evening in 2002, the New England Patriots marched into New Orleans as a big underdog and defeated the St. Louis Rams in one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history (Ironically, that also took place on February 3rd). Since the victory, the Patriots added two more Vince Lombardi Trophies as they cemented themselves as the team to beat in the most recent decade.

After two years of playoff losses, including blowing an 18-point lead in the 2006 season’s AFC title game against the Colts, the Patriots added new weapons to a thin receiving corps, most notably future Hall of Famer Randy Moss and a little known future All-Pro named Wes Welker.

Patriots were focused heading into the 2007 campaign but what transpired was unimaginable. Win after win happened; blow out after blow out, even, and the Patriots moved closer and closer to becoming the first undefeated team in the 16 game era (1978-present) of NFL history.

Along the way quarterback Tony Brady had his finest season with an NFL record 50 touchdown passes, while Moss tallied an NFL record 23 touchdown receptions.

In week 17, the Patriots were at the Meadowlands in New York New Jersey to face the New York Giants with a chance of finishing 16-0. Instead of resting their starters and key players, the Patriots played to win and succeeded with a come-from-behind 38-35 victory.

While the Patriots went into the playoffs unbeaten, the Giants gained confidence with their narrow defeat (Who said there were never moral victories?). The Giants finished the season 10-6 and were the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs. They rolled to three road wins in the playoffs against Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay to make the Super Bowl.

The Patriots continued their winning ways by defeating Jacksonville and San Diego to reach the Super Bowl. The Patriots were the heavy favorites while the Giants were viewed as a team with a lot of heart, but not enough fire power to keep up with the Patriots. Sound familiar? Super Bowl 36 between the Rams and Patriots (#8 on our list) was won by underdog New England, ending the Rams reign and starting the Patriots run through the decade.

One of the old cliches in football is ‘they can’t score if they don’t have the ball’. This simple game plan was utilized to great effect by the Giants on the opening drive of the game by going on the longest opening drive in Super Bowl history: 16 plays that covered 77 yards in 9 minutes and 59 seconds. The Giants converted three third-down conversations on the drive and kicked a field goal to take an early lead.

The Patriots, though struck quickly on their opening drive by scoring a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter with a one-yard run by Laurence Maroney for a 7-3 lead.

The Giants responded by moving down the field but a tipped pass from the hands of Eli Manning was intercepted by Ellis Hobbs. The scoring in the first half was over but the Giants' defensive game plan was evident: hit the quarterback, as early and often as possible. Throughout the game Tom Brady was under pressure seemingly every time he dropped back to pass. Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and especially Justin Tuck were in Brady’s face all night long.

Famous defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan once said a quarterback can’t complete passes if he is laying on his back. The Giants evidently took a page from Ryan’s book and continued to attack Brady on every play.

Several times in the first half, Brady had Randy Moss open on a deep route for a possible touchdown, but the defensive pressure disrupted the throw or resulted in a sack. The Giants ultimately sacked Brady five times in the game.

Most of the pressure was coming from the Giants' front four, which allowed the linebackers to flood passing lanes that seriously slowed down the Patriots record-setting passing offense. Brady finished the game with 29 completions but for only 266 yards; most of the passes, though, were check downs to the running backs and to Wes Welker. Brady’s longest completion of the game was a mere 19 yards.

On the first drive of the second half, Brady led the Patriots down to the Giants' 25 yard line but a sack by Strahan pushed the ball back to the 31. Instead of attempting a 49-yard field goal, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick went for the first down and missed, giving the ball back to the Giants.

The Giants' offense got rolling on the first drive of the fourth quarter as Manning marched the Giants 80 yards on 7 plays. On the final play of the drive, Manning hit reserve wide receiver David Tyree for a five-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead with 11:05 remaining.

After consecutive three and outs, the Patriots got the ball at their own 20 yard line with 7:54 remaining. Brady methodically moved the Patriots toward a go-ahead score and a perfect season with short passes to Kevin Faulk and Welker. With 2:42 to play, Brady found Moss for a six-yard touchdown pass to put the Patriots ahead 14-10.

Eli Manning now had 83 yards to go to spoil the Patriots' dream of a perfect season. After the game Manning said one of the critical things about the drive was the Giants were down four, which made them more aggressive instead of only trying for a field goal if they were only down by three of less.

Manning moved the Giants to their own 44 yard line, which included a fourth and one run for a first down by Brandon Jacobs. What followed is a play Giants fans will remember exactly where they were when it happened, while Patriots fans will get sick to their stomachs, at least until their next championship. On third and five, with 1:15 remaining, Manning was nearly sacked by several Patriots, he escaped and ran around avoiding defenders, then threw a prayer to the middle of the field. The prayer was caught by David Tyree, who used the side of his helmet to hold onto the ball while falling to the ground. The play went for 32 yards and gave the Giants new life. Manning then completed a 12 yard pass to Steve Smith to the Patriots 13 yard line on third and 11.

The very next play Manning threw a fade to Plaxico Burress, who beat Ellis Hobbs on a slant and go, for what would be the game winning touchdown with 35 seconds left. The touchdown and extra point made it 17-14 and was the third lead change in the fourth quarter, a Super Bowl record. It took a lot of time, but the hunter eventually became the hunted - in yet another 3-point Super Bowl margin.

As for the Patriots, they have not seriously contended for the AFC title since their heartbreaking 18-1 2007 season. Their win over the Rams in Super Bowl 36 began a dynasty and the crippling loss to the Giants in Super Bowl 42 ended the Patriots' reign on top of the NFL. For the Giants, it was lightening in a bottle. While 2008 actually produced a better overall team from the Giants, they lost their first playoff game and they missed the playoffs altogether in 2009.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Super Bowl Countdown #8 - Super Bowl XXXVI - Patriots 20, Rams 17

Over the next ten days, Lattanzi Land is producing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - we now present #8...

Sometimes, there are just those games that can be classified as 'shockers'. Games that, at least on paper, contain teams that should not be mentioned in the same breath. Super Bowl 36 had these elements, along with many others that put it onto #8 on this list.

The St. Louis Rams, called the 'Greatest Show on Turf', breezed through the 2001 season with a 14-2 record, scoring 503 points and racking up nearly 7,000 yards in total offense. Anchored by offensive superstars Kurt Warner (4,830 yards and 36 TD passes), Marshall Faulk (2,147 yards from scrimmage and 21 TD's), and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt (each with over 1,100 yards), the Rams rarely had any trouble moving the ball and seemed to score at will.

The defensive side of the Rams has been spoken of very little due to the prolific offense, but they should have ever been underestimated. In the previous season, the Rams were amongst the worst defenses in the league, but a return to health and the signing of key players made their defense a force with which to be reckoned. The defense boasted standouts such as Leonard Little, Aeneas Williams, London Fletcher, Dre Bly, and Grant Wistrom. The great offense enabled the defense to focus on making turnovers and disrupting the other team to maximum effect.

The New England Patriots were relative newcomers to the postseason at this time. They had their share of turmoil even from the beginning as starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe got injured early on and little used Tom Brady had to step in and guide the offense. He was efficient and proved capable even after top receiver Terry Glenn was benched for insubordination after Week 4. It was the defense, however, that was the bread and butter of the team. The Patriots had a 3-4 attack let by linebackers Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, and Willie McGinest, with Richard Seymour anchoring the front line and a good set of defensive backs in Otis Smith, Ty Law, and Lawyer Milloy

The Patriots finished 11-5 and earned a first round bye during the playoffs. They barely escaped the Raiders in what would go on to be known as the 'Tuck Rule Game' and defeated Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in the AFC Championship Game as Bledsoe came back to lead the Patriots to victory after Brady went down with a sprained ankle.

The 2001 season had been disrupted by the events of September 11th and the Super Bowl was scheduled to be in New Orleans on January 27th. With an entire week's games postponed and a deal cut with the Automobile Dealer's Association, they were able to push the game back to February 3rd and play the entire season out without canceling a single game overall.

Early on, the Rams looked like they could move the ball at will, but were stopped on third down a few times and had to settle for field goal attempts by Jeff Wilkins. Wilkins made the first one, from 50 yards, but missed his second one, from 52 yards. With just under nine minutes to go in the second quarter, the Rams looked like they would move again, but on third down, Warner threw a pass intended for Isaac Bruce and Ty Law stepped in front and returned the interception all the way to the end zone for a 7-3 Patriots lead.

The first half ended in a nearly apocalyptic fashion for the Rams as they turned the ball over on a Ricky Proehl fumble in Patriot territory after the two minute warning. Brady led a scoring drive that would end as he threw an 8 yard touchdown pass to David Patten with about 30 seconds remaining. The Patriots had a 14-3 lead at halftime and they would be receiving the opening kickoff of the second half!

The start of the second half did not fare well for the Rams either, as they punted on their first couple of possessions and Warner threw another interception that led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal and a 17-3 lead. The Rams were lucky that it was only a two score game at the time, considering the disaster that nearly struck next.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Rams were driving and had gotten down to the Patriots' 3 yard line. After being unable to punch it in, they were faced with a 4th and goal. Warner tried to sneak it in but was stripped and the Patriots picked up the fumble and ran it back 97 yards for a touchdown to make it then 23-3...or so they thought. A flag had been thrown and defensive holding was called against Willie McGinest, giving the Rams a first down at the 1 yard line, where they pushed it in another Warner quarterback sneak.

After a quick three-and-out by the Patriots, the Rams started deep in their own territory and got the ball into New England territory, but a sack and two incomplete passes forced a punt and allowed the Patriots to keep the ball until the two minute warning.

The Rams got the ball back with under two minutes to go and showed their quick strike capabilities that got them the nickname 'Greatest Show on Turf' - 55 yards in 21 seconds, including a 26 yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl that tied up the game at 17 with 1:30 remaining.

Unfortunately, that was too much time for Tom Brady. Despite having no timeouts and starting at their own 17, Brady completed a series of passes that moved the ball through their territory and into St. Louis territory. A 23 yard completion to Troy Brown and a 6 yard pass to the tight end Wiggins allowed Brady to spike the ball and set up a long field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri.

From 48 yards, Vinatieri nailed it, but even to this day, there is some controversy in the time of the ending. There were 7 seconds left when the ball was snapped, and somehow, all 7 seconds managed to tick off. Nevertheless, the Patriots had pulled off the upset and would be the watershed moment in a period of dominance.

The Rams, on the other hand, would never be the same again - it was the beginning of the end for the 'Greatest Show on Turf' as players moved on, got older, and lost effectiveness. For Tom Brady, it was the first of many memories as he won his first Super Bowl MVP award and while the Patriots would go on to win 3 more AFC titles and 2 more Super Bowls, none were as sweet as that glorious evening in New Orleans as they shocked the world with their 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Super Bowl Countdown #9 - Super Bowl XLIII - Steelers 27, Cardinals 23

Over the next eleven days, Lattanzi Land is producing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day around noon, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - we move along to #9...

This game can be classified not so much as a great game but moreso as one of the greatest quarters in NFL history, which is the reason why it finds itself number nine on our chart, rather than a higher position.

To set the stage, Super Bowl XLIII featured two teams from opposite ends of the spectrum: the five-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, coming in with a 12-4 record; and the once (and seemingly perpetually) lowly Chicago St. Louis Phoenix Arizona Cardinals, who attained a 9-7 record.

The Steelers were returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years, whereas the Cardinals were making their first appearance after more than a half century of futility (and yet somehow they always seemed to beat the Redskins and Eagles once each during their annual 4-12 seasons, but we aren't bitter or anything), not appearing in any championship game since 1948!

The game was a great match-up between the top ranked Steelers defense and the high octane Cardinals offense led by quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. However, on this night, the quarterback with the worst rating ever for a Super Bowl winner took center stage as he led his team to a comeback victory during a furious fourth quarter finish.

Ben Roethlisberger, who had led the Steelers to Tampa after defeating the Baltimore Ravens for the third time during the 2008 season, moved the ball quickly down to the one yard line after the opening kickoff. The Steelers were unable to cash in and therefore had to settle for Jeff Reed's 18-yard field goal.

The Cardinals sputtered from the very beginning, giving the ball almost immediately back to the Steelers. Later in the first quarter, the Steelers mounted a drive, which included Roethlisberger's Tarkenton-esque scramble to escape the defenders on a 3rd and 10 play from midfield, to complete a pass to tight end Heath Miller and move the chains. Steeler running back Gary Russell later scored from the one yard line to increase the Steelers' lead to 10-0.

The Cardinals began to show signs of life with a nice touchdown drive, sparked by a 45-yard catch and run from Warner to Anquan Boldin to the one yard line. Warner finished the drive with a one yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Patrick to cut the lead to 10-7.

Unlike a lot of other great games, Super Bowl XLIII encountered a lull in the second quarter action, with each team doing next to nothing, offensively. Then with 2:10 remaining in the first half, Roethlisberger had a ball tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted at the 32-yard line, allowing the Cardinals a shot to score and the opportunity to at least tie the game before halftime.

The Cardinals moved into scoring position with 18 seconds left and the sequence that followed was the turning point of the game and arguably the great play in Super Bowl History. When the ball was snapped Warner read blitz and threw a pass intended for Boldin at the goal line but the pass was intercepted by 2008 Defensive Player of the Year Jerome Harrison right at the goal line.

In order to make this play, Harrison at first faked his blitz, and then stepped to where the ball was thrown and raced 100 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that increased the Steelers' lead to 17-7 at halftime. A closer look shows how Harrison’s faking of a blitz fooled Warner at the snap. Harrison’s great individual positioning and play had its origin in the mind of the godfather of the zone-blitz and Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau, and with that 14-point swing at the end of the first half a major difference had been made in the game.

During the third quarter, most people would have been able to take a nap without missing much as each team traded multiple punts. The Steelers did mount a scoring drive late in that quarter, but for the second time in the game they were unable to score a touchdown from inside the five yard line. They settled for another short field goal by Jeff Reed and built a 20-7 lead.

Once the teams took the field in the fourth quarter, more than 100 million people around the world were treated to one of the finest quarters in Super Bowl history.

The scoring did not start, however, until midway through the quarter when Larry Fitzgerald started to take over the game. With less than eight minutes remaining, Warner threw a fade route to Fitzgerald who made a leaping catch for a touchdown. That score cut the Steelers' lead to 20-14.

On their next possession, the Cardinals were able to drive into Steelers territory but were unsuccessful in their attempt to score. They were, however, able to back the Steelers up against their own goal line with a punt that was downed at the one yard line.

On 3rd and 10 from his own one yard line with 3:02 remaining, Roethlisberger made what was his best pass all night by connecting with Santonio Holmes for a 19-yard gain and a first down. But it wasn't to be as a flag was thrown in the end zone and the Steelers were called for holding. A safety was the result and cut the lead to 20-16.

More encouraging for the Cardinals was the fact that they would receive the ball on the free kick that occurred after the safety. Two plays later, with 2:48 remaining, lightning struck in Raymond James Stadium as Larry Fitzgerald on a crossing pattern took the Warner pass 64 yards for the go-ahead score and a 23-20 lead.

Now, for the first time during the game, Roethlisberger and the Steelers were playing from behind. Big Ben, however, did not fold as he marched the Steelers right back down the field. The initial key play was on 2nd and 6 from the Cardinals' 46 when Roethlisberger hit Holmes on a comeback route that Holmes turned into a 40-yard gain.

With 43 seconds remaining, Roethlisberger surveyed the field, looking left then coming back to the right finding Holmes in the back corner of the end zone for a six-yard double toe tap touchdown (see the picture!). The throw was perfect, the catch was perfect and the footwork was perfect.

The Steelers held on for the 27-23 victory and their sixth Super Bowl title. Holmes was named the games Most Valuable player with 9 catches 131 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

What ultimately sets this game apart from other Super Bowls that had great quarters (i.e. Super Bowl 38 - Patriots vs. Panthers) is the fact that there were lead changes in the fourth quarter, and both teams had to play down with only a short span of time remaining. The fact is also this : Super Bowl 43 had not one, but two signature plays, but we will be the first to admit that it is a fine line to draw and the difference between games such as Super Bowl 43 and Super Bowl 38 is small indeed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Bowl Countdown #10 - Super Bowl III - Jets 16, Colts 7.

Over the next two weeks, Lattanzi Land will be producing a top ten countdown of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. This is a collaborative effort between myself and my good friend and football expert Dustin Holt. Every day around noon, Monday through Friday, the next one will be put up, climaxing with #1 on Friday, February 5th. Some of these may surprise you, and some may make you ask what we are smoking. Enjoy, and any feedback can be made in the comment boxes or via email at joshua.lattanzi@gmail.com or dholt13@gmail.com - let us start with #10...

Long before Super Sunday parties, six-hour pre-game shows and million-dollar television commercial spots, the Super Bowl was played between two rival leagues: the traditional National Football League (NFL) and the renegade American Football League (AFL). What you know as the Super Bowl today was not the way the game started. In fact, it was not even called the Super Bowl, but rather the 'NFL-AFL World Championship Game'. The first game was played January 15, 1966 between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before a meager crowd of 61,946 people, approximately 30,000 less than the stadium could hold.

To make the game look more appealing on television, fans were moved to the middle of the stadium so people watching thought the stadium was full. The game was broadcast by both NBC and CBS, although neither network broadcast was saved after the game because some suggested it was not going to end up being a viable sporting event.

In the end, the Packers routed the Chiefs 35-10, an expected outcome by much of America. In the next year's game, the Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Miami’s Orange Bowl.

Many have argued that the game was in danger of being canceled because the AFL was seen as an inferior league to the traditional NFL. That all changed the following year in Miami as one game, one performance, and one major upset gave life to the Super Bowl; a life that has increased every year since.

During the 1968 NFL season, the Baltimore Colts tallied a 13-1 record, and were considered one of the greatest teams of all-time. The Colts, coached by Hall of Famer Don Shula, scored 402 points, allowed 144 points in the season and were led by NFL MVP Earl Morrall. In the NFL Championship game, the Colts defeated the Cleveland Browns by a score of 34-0, so confidence was very high as the Colts made their way to Miami to play the AFL’s New York Jets in Super Bowl III.

The Jets, led by Joe Willie Namath, recorded an 11-3 record and punched their ticket to Miami by beating the Raiders 27-23 in the AFL Championship.

Much of America saw the game between the Colts and Jets as a mismatch. So much that the Colts were favored to win by more than two touchdowns. Several days before the game, Namath caused a media storm during an interview by saying the Jets would win the game and even guaranteeing it.

Namath’s prediction was on the money as the heavily favored Colts were thoroughly outplayed by the Jets in the first half. Behind the throwing of Namath, the catches of wide receiver George Sauer, the running of Matt Snell, and the Jets' defense, the Colts were down 7-0 at the half. The Jets scored the game's first points with a four-yard touchdown run by Snell in the second quarter. Namath mixed the running of Snell, who finished with 121 yards rushing, and the receiving of Sauer, who had 133 yards receiving, to move the ball for the Jets.

Sauer benefited from Colts taking away Jets receiver and Hall of Famer Don Maynard by double covering Maynard. Maynard did not catch a pass in the game but Sauer burned the Colts with receptions of 39 and 35 yards in the game.

The game’s memorable play (at least to us) occurred near the end of the second quarter when the Colts attempted a throw-back pass. Colts receiver Jimmy Orr was wide open for an easy touchdown, but Morrall never saw Orr and threw the ball to the middle of the field, which was intercepted. The play would have tied the score and the Colts would have gained needed momentum going into halftime.

Morrall had a terrible day with three interceptions and no touchdown passes. He was eventually replaced by Johnny Unitas in the second half, who did not have much better luck against the Jets defense, which forced five turnovers in the game. In the second half, Snell continued to gain yards and eat up clock as the Jets added three field goals to push their lead to 16-0 in the fourth quarter.

The Colts eventually scored to make it 16-7, but the day belonged to the underdog Jets and the AFL. The Jets showed the country the AFL was legitimate with their convincing 16-7 victory over the NFL’s best. Namath was named the game’s Most Valuable Player by going 17 of 28 for 206 yards, even though Snell probably deserved the MVP with a rushing touchdown, 121 yards rushing and 40 yards receiving.

The game did not produce many fireworks or memorable plays but what the game lacked in flair, it made up for it with its historical significance. In the following year's Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs thumped the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings by the score of 23-7. By the 1970 season, the AFL ceased to exist as its teams were absorbed into the NFL in a merger to form one unified league.

Of all of the Super Bowls, the Jets and Colts game was the first one to officially bear the title of Super Bowl. Every great moment has a beginning, and the Super Bowl really became the Super Bowl in Miami on January 12, 1969.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pat Robertson, Danny Glover, and Human Contribution

As is my standard operating procedure, I always wait until stories blow over a little before commenting on them. The earthquake in Haiti is a tragedy of epic proportions. My heart goes out to the victims and the survivors - I hope they find solace wherever they can get it. A whole generation of orphans may well have been created. It will take years to recover from this disaster.

There are, of course, stories-within-the-story. The one that has most fascinated me are the remarks made by Pat Robertson and Danny Glover. The way I see it, both are opposite sides of the same coin. Both Robertson and Glover have come off as complete fools with their comments regarding the earthquake and the supposed reasons for its occurrence. Robertson said in essence that the earthquake was punishment for a pact that Haiti made with the devil to eliminate colonial rule at the end of the 18th century - in other words, it is God's judgment being visited upon them.

Where to start? Let's start by saying that this is ridiculous in so many ways, but it is certainly consistent with other Robertson comments through the years. I find it a tad odd that an alleged minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to wander back to particularly Old Testament forms of judgment, especially when it is clear that judgment is after this life. Robertson reminds me of the doddering old uncle who says crazy crap at family gatherings. You tap him on the head and say, 'Ok, Uncle Pat', and push him back into his corner.

Glover, on the other hand, blames the earthquake as the earth's response to the fact that the countries of the world didn't sign a global warming climate change deal in Copenhagen during December. Right, the weather caused an earthquake. So, for Glover, mankind's screw-up is also to blame for this natural disaster.

Regular people look at this earthquake and say, 'it's a tragedy and sometimes, sh*t happens, and we have to respond to it the best that we can'. Pat Robertson and Danny Glover look at it and say - 'these people brought it on themselves!' In a way, it's reminiscent of the biblical Book of Job when Job's friends kept trying to get him to repent, because it MUST have been sin that caused all of these disasters to occur. Robertson and Glover are saying the same thing in different languages - people have sinned and they need to repent to assuage an angry deity - in Robertson's case, it is God; in Glover's case, it is "Mother Gaia".

The unanswered question, though, is this - why is Robertson getting a lot of crap for his comments, and why isn't Glover? I think I know what the answer is.

Live Blog - 1 PM: Vikings vs. Cowboys

Replay of Vikings vs. Cowboys Live Blog

Monday, January 11, 2010

Harry Reid and the *Remark*

The big hubbub now is over Harry Reid's statement, according to the book Game Change is to the effect that because Obama is 'light-skinned' and doesn't speak in 'Negro dialect', he is worthy to be the candidate for President. This took place sometime during the campaign season of 2008. Many have lambasted him as being a racist for saying it.

I disagree.

This whole episode reveals certain things, both about Harry Reid and about our society.

First, I think this, more than anything else, shows Harry Reid's crass political cynicism at work. What I took from his comments basically was that Obama was 'white-enough' to be elected despite his ethnic background - and he said this to a group of Democratic boosters. So if Democrats have to be convinced that this guy was not a threat to victory, then what does that say about their racial/ethnic views?

Secondly, as a society we are too damn sensitive to everything. Political correctness has overtaken our language - to the point that thought control is being exhibited over us. Anything that could be *perceived* as a slight is discouraged. Basically, Harry Reid spoke a truth, however unfortunate that truth may be, that a stereotypical black man with a stereotypical 'preacher' voice could not be elected in this country right now.

Thirdly, the double standard that exists with the political parties is on display once again. It is true that if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner (or any Republican or conservative) had said what Reid said, they would be finished. Witness the Trent Lott episode from eight years ago. It is a good point, but the Republicans ought to be careful in how often they play this card. It could very well backfire on them.

So where does this leave us? It remains to be seen how this will affect Reid and his ability to get legislation through, but it does leave people with a certain unease, whether it is warranted or not. We have become de-sensitized to violence, but over-sensitized to slights. More's the pity.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Live Blog - 8 PM: Eagles vs. Cowboys

Replay of Eagles vs. Cowboys Live Blog

Live Blog - 4:15 PM: Bengals vs. Jets

Replay of Bengals vs. Jets Live Blog

Live Blogs All Weekend

I will be live-blogging all of the NFL Playoff games - beginning with the Jets and Bengals at 4:30 this afternoon and then the battle royale of the Eagles and Cowboys at 8 PM. Tomorrow will show the Ravens and Patriots at 1 PM and the Packers and Cardinals at 4:30. Join in, and share your comments in the windows and witness hard-hitting and reactive analysis of all four games! Predictions for each game will be found within the live blogs.

Save the link - Lattanzi Land

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Baseball Hall of Fame Day

It's that time of the year - the day to announce the newest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are a lot of men on the ballot, but as always, they need 75% of the vote to pass muster and at least 5% of the vote to even remain on the ballot. Certain first-timers are almost assured of being left off future ballots - guys like Pat Hentgen, Ellis Burks, Ray Lankford, and Robin Ventura, all of whom were good players, but that isn't what the Hall of Fame is for.

Instead of discussing the merits of whether Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, or Mark McGwire belong in the Hall, however, I would like to change the direction of the discussion to how players are selected/elected. I have thought about this for a long time, and I know I am not the first to suggest such a thing, but I think it is time for all sports that have Halls of Fame (not just baseball) to move to a straight up or down, one time vote. Yes, there should still be the five year waiting period, but I (and many others) find that the Hall gets watered down as players who probably shouldn't be in the Hall get in, especially as time goes on and the 'sympathy' vote becomes more apparent. If a player is a Hall of Famer, then it should be somewhat obvious.

It would work like this - all of the qualifications still need to be there: 10 years playing and 5 years after termination of playing would a player be considered. If those conditions are met, then a *cause* (yes, the theology/Catholic wonk in me is coming out) would be opened for that player. He and/or his supporters would have three months to make the case that he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and then a straight up or down vote would be done by BBWAA. Same numbers for voting (75%) apply. Either the player is in or he is not. End of story.

Now, there should be some ability to correct obvious injustices. Every 10 years, a veterans-type committee would be able to select up to 3 players who did not make it in the previous ten years. Voting would be even more strict - 85% of the veterans voting would be necessary, since they would have had the time to consider whether or not someone was truly Hall-worthy.

Granted, this will never happen. The electors have too much of a self-importance to let the system change, but know this - a guy who is not a Hall of Famer does not all of a sudden become one just because he is on his last legs, ballot-wise. The system proposed would also end the nonsense of making people 'pay their dues' and putting off electing others until it's 'their time'. A straight up or down vote would also force the electors to tell what they really think about player X - and any writer who lets his little petty feud get in the way of not voting for a player on the basis of the merits will have his ballot immediately stripped.

Could this work? Absolutely. Will it be implemented? Let's just say I am not holding my breath.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Overused and Ridiculous Words of 2009

Lake Superior State University just released its list of 'banned' words for the year 2010. Some are just tired and stupid, but others probably need to be used to get the message across. Some good ones...

'Shovel-ready' - a term that is jargon-esque in its use with another of the banned words - 'stimulus'. I am still waiting for the money in the pork-laden 'stimulus' bill from February to be used on those supposed 'shovel-ready' projects. But alas, it looks like all that money was borrowed for no real reason.

'Sexting' - this just sounds stupid, as most combined words/phrases are, because people are just too damn lazy to actually say what they want to say. People don't want to say 'sexually explicit text message', so they make up a word, which is precisely what George Orwell wrote about in 1984- think the elimination of descriptive words - double plus ungood! Ditto to...

'Bromance' - a romance between friends that is brotherly? What the hell is that? It is like the term 'frenemy'. I never heard this word until this past 6-8 months. All of the sudden, it's everywhere! 'Chillaxin' is a word on the list, but I had never even heard that until I read the list. I guess I am not hip and with it - whatever it is.

'Teachable Moment' - this term made the list, but I have to say that I am guilty of using it periodically especially in the classroom. However, I can see how it would annoy the hell out of people - especially as the article points out, we have a word for this - a lesson. Who knew?

What other words and phrases of recent vintage should be banned from decent usage of the English language? Put it in the comments and I'll update with the new entries.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Terrible Terrible Terrible.

The Eagles game is mercifully over, with an embarrassing 24-0 defeat at the hands of the hated Dallas Cowboys. I was able to watch some of the game thanks to the miracle of streaming internet, but ultimately that was too much to bear; the gamecast was better to follow. So what the hell happened? Basically it comes down to two things - 1) the team didn't show up and 2) they have no heart.

I am not sure the Eagles aren't now just a one and done team. Most likely, the Eagles have to return to Dallas next week for the wild-card game. Oh joy. If you want more up to date information and much wittier commentary than what I have to offer on it - visit Bleeding Green Nation. The postmortem that is sure to come from the Philly media and blogosphere will be stifling and harsh, and you know what, the team deserves every bit of it. To quote Jim Mora:
We couldn’t do...diddly poo offensively, we couldn’t make a first down, we couldn’t run the ball, we didn’t try to run the ball, we couldn’t complete a pass - we sucked. The second half, we sucked. We couldn't stop the run...that was a horsesh*t performance in the second half. Horsesh*t. I’m totally embarrassed and totally ashamed. Coaching did a horrible job. The players did a horrible job. We got our ass kicked in that second half. It sucked. It stunk.

No Live Blog Today - Eagles vs. Cowboys

I had looked forward to live-blogging today's Eagles-Cowboys game, but it just isn't going to happen. However, I will do post-game thoughts and possibly a post-mortem (if the Eagles lose).

Anyway, just for kicks, here it is.

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