Let’s get Gronk – Key Player Breakdown for Superbowl 2015

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Now you know a little about the coaches but they’re not really the ones you’ll be watching on Sunday and certainly not the ones bound to amuse us over the media parade that is this coming week. So let’s talk players.

Quarterbacks – Old Guard Vs. New Guard

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Tom Brady is quarterback Royalty. When you ask someone who doesn’t know football for the one name they know, they’ll give you his. But it wasn’t always so easy for him. Tom was the youngest child of 4, with three older sisters and those hair pulling sessions must have been more merciless than any line of scrimmage he’s seen since! But quite seriously at college he was hugely undervalued and when the draft came he was chosen a disappointing 199th overall in the 6th round. Analysts have since said that he was the greatest draft pick of all time.

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He struggled and worked his way into a starter position and eventually became the better half of the Brady/Belichick dynasty that has dominated football for the last decade. Brady has played his entire professional career with the Patriots and is in every sense of the word ‘a franchise player’ – he embodies the values that the franchise holds and is unflinchingly loyal. Thank goodness he looks good in Navy and Red – but honestly he’d probably look good in any colour. On top of his many football related achievements he has beaten out a bunch of other, very attractive men to become Glam Mags ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ for the second year in a row. On top of that he has three kids. A son from his beautiful ex girlfriend and a son and daughter from his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen who by the way, nearly broke twitter with all her excited emojies after the AFC win.

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But Brady has been on top a long time. He’s hosted SNL, voiced himself on The Simpsons and Family Guy and most recently done this just laughable photo shoot. To me, that dog collar says – I’m here and that Dobermans not taking me anywhere! But the next two weeks will be tough for him. The Pats were just accused of deflating their footballs below regulation in the AFC championship game. They’re being investigated over the next few weeks and unfortunately, this is one scandal he’ll have a hard time passing off on his evil looking coach. Brady has admitted to preferring footballs with less air and it’s hard to believe that one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time wouldn’t notice that his football didn’t feel quite right or that someone else would mess with them.

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But what about Russell Wilson? This is Russell’s third year in the league so his resume couldn’t possibly measure up to Brady’s. It’s impressive but he’s not considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time…yet. Wilson was slighted in the draft, like Brady. He was picked in the third round and just like Brady, was not immediately made starter for the Seahawks. He competed against two other prospects in training camp and just barely came out on top. Pete Carroll took a huge chance with him. Other teams were afraid to even look at him because of his size. The average height for a quarterback in the NFL is 6’3 (Brady is 6’4), Russell is 5’11.

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But over the past three years he has proven himself both on and off the field. He took his team to their first Superbowl ever last year and won against Brady’s biggest rival. His charity work seems to take up as much time as football. He runs his own foundation helping youth in communities in need. Russell Investments donates $3000 every time he throws a touchdown. This year he started a campaign to talk about domestic abuse when the NFL was in desperate need to have that conversation AND he runs a passing academy in the off season, donating all the proceeds to a charity for Diabetes in honour of his father. Russell has a big heart and two very adorable great danes.

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I also just want to quickly address the possibility that Russell Wilson might be psychic. Firstly he claims that when he was 14 jesus appeared to him in a dream. But visions can happen to anyone. What about this quote he gave on the Thursday before the game, predicting the way the game went. ““It’s gonna come down to the fourth quarter. It may go to overtime. I’m expecting something great to happen, some amazing play to win the game, or amazing drive, or a back-and-forth two-minute drill.” Then when they were down, he told his offensive coordinator how they would win the game “”I told Darrell Bevell I was going to get the look I wanted, make the check we’d practiced and hit Jermaine [Kearse] for the winning touchdown.” AND THEN HE DID. All I’m saying is that I think we should consider this as a possibility.

Now, while Brady and Russell share a similar history, their public personas are very different. Brady is a team man, he says what he’s supposed to say when he’s supposed to say it and always appears in stoic control. He never does anything unexpected. Russell is a little different, he’s still mild mannered but his emotions tend to be a bit grander than Brady’s. He was weeping after the NFC championship game…..weeping! They’re both deserving of this cup, it’s a battle of the new kid cementing himself amongst the greats and the King trying to stay on top – And I think the dog collar thing is just a bit too much so I’m going with the oracle that is Russell Wilson.

But let’s talk defence 

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman is a great man and the leader of Seattle’s incredible defence – the legion of Boom, known for their hard hits. Richard in particular is known for this trash talk and is the self proclaimed ‘best corner in the game’. The last time the Pats and Hawks faced off, he intercepted a throw from Brady and shouted “U mad bro” repeatedly in the QB’s direction. Later he posted a picture where he’s seen taunting Brady with the same caption – It went viral. Brady was noticeably ruffled and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try something similar at the Superbowl. For all his talk it must be said that Marshawn puts the game first. He’s a passionate player and a powerhouse on the field. In the NFC championship game he hurt his elbow but stayed on the field, cradleing his injured arm and rallying his team. He claims the injury is minor and he’ll be back on the field Feb. 1st.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, GREEN BAY PACKERS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

But he’s not my favourite defensive player for the Hawks. That title belongs to Michael Bennett. If you watched the highlights or saw much of anything from the NFC game, you most likely saw a weeping Russell Wilson and large bearded man riding a bike around the stadium. Michael Bennett, overcome with excitement after the win, saw a police bike and promptly took it He has since said it was the best bike ride of his life “like the first time you make love…really good”. He defended his lap by saying that he was giving the people what they want – he was right. He’s undoubtedly one of the most amusing men in football. Journalists love talking to him because he always says something great. During the playoffs, when asked how he was dealing with the stress, he answered “Doing the exact same thing we always do: not having sex on Wednesday’s, watching Homeland, just chilling.”

And whatever you do make sure you’re ready for his notorious sack dance. He recently said that is was the most important sack dance in history because it caused a baby boom in Seattle so don’t be caught unawares: it’s that sexy. I’ll attach a link below but for those too fertile to watch it, I can tell you that he recently described it as “two angels dancing while chocolate is coming from the heavens.”

Derrick Coleman, Jake Kovalcik, Riley Kovalcik, Erin Kovalcik

Lastly for the Seahawks defence (although there are plenty more where that came from) I want to talk about Derrick Coleman. You may know him from a Duracell commercial that aired leading up to last years Superbowl. It’s arguably the greatest ad ever made and called attention to the largely unknown fact that Derrick Coleman is deaf. Quite honestly when I watch it I feel the need to immediately go out and buy Duracell batteries and I’m not the only one.

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After seeing the ad a 9 year old hearing impaired girl wrote a letter to Coleman saying that he inspired her. He wrote back and the whole thing became the cutest thing to happen in football, maybe ever. Riley Kovalcik, her twin sister and the whole family ended up getting VIP tickets to the Superbowl last year and hung out with Coleman for an hour on game day. Since, he has become an icon for kids everywhere with hearing impairments.

But the Patriots have a few players worth mentioning too!

Tavon Wilson, Darrelle Revis

Derelle Revis is also considered to be the greatest cornerback in football. Two years ago, he and Richard Sherman had a lengthy twitter battle regarding who the best really was, but don’t expect him to be bated this year. Bill Belichick likes his players to be reserved and tight lipped off the field and when he was recently asked about Sherman, he changed the subject right away. This is Revis’s first year with Patriots and his 8th year in the NFL but he’s never been to the Superbowl before so this is a big deal for him. His spot on the field is nicknamed Revis Island which can be defined by urban dictionary as ‘a place where NFL wide receivers frequently get lost’ and Urban Dictionary is no joke. He also has his own shoes – The Nike Zoom Revis and they’re pretty cool.

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And then there’s Brandon Browner who played for Seattle last year – this is his first time facing off against his former team. It’s also however his first Superbowl. He was suspended last year for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs rules although from what I can tell, it was a claim from his time with the CFL. In an interview with The News Tribune he said “Those guys are like my brothers over there – they’re my best friends. But on the day, I’m trying to win. I’m headhunting.” He has been the only Patriot player (other than Brady) to come forward with his thoughts on Deflate Gate, coining the new and influential, trending hashtag – #inflatethis

So who’s got heart on Deffence – Seahawks

Offence

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The Hawks certainly have some players worth noting. The first is Marshawn Lynch and his infamous Beast Mode. You’ll hear a lot about him on press day because he’s a fan favourite, everyone will want to talk to him and he will try and skirt them all. In 2013 he was fined $50,000 by the NFL for failing to speak to the press. Seahawk fans raised that amount to pay the fine for him and forced the NFL to back down. In the end the NFL said that he had to donate the fan money and gave him a firm warning. This year, when he failed to comply again he was fined $100,000. He was also fined twice this year for unsportsmanlike conduct after grabbing his crotch post touchdown and another $10,000 for wearing ‘Skittles’ cleats on the field. Lynch has been eating Skittles during games since high school. For a while Seattle Fans threw Skittles on the field when he would score. This year an official deal was announced and during the Superbowl, Skittles will donate $10 000 to Lynch’s charity every time he scores a touchdown. But he isn’t all rosy. During his time with the NFL he’s been suspended for carrying a weapon, received a DUI and pled guilty to a hit and run.

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He did however get this Seahawk Grill made and it should be noted that while he doesn’t like talking to the press he’s the heart of the Seahawks offence and is idolized by his team mates.

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Luke Willson is the Seahawks Canadian Sensation. He’s in his second year but has only begun starting consistently this season, when another player was injured. He’s young but he has made some incredible plays this season – including a mind boggling catch in the NFC championship last Sunday when they needed it most. Sports writer Zito Mado said that “Luke Willson was the Luke Skywalker missile that destroyed the death star” and he also has great hair. Pete Carroll sees a lot of chemistry between Luke and Russell Wilson with Russell noting “It’s always nice to pass to another Wilson.”

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And then there’s Doug Baldwin who gives Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett a run for the Hawks Mr. Congeniality. Doug Baldwin can come off a little angry. He’s best known for his rants which usually all boil down to a common ‘Haters gonna Hate’ philosophy but he usually apologizes after he’s cooled down and had a popsicle. A few days after his most recent, angry rant after the NFC win, he spoke to the News Tribune saying ““All the frustrations I had in the entire course of that game and the entire course of the season came out…I don’t know, man. I’m just a fiery, passionate guy. I don’t try to ruffle feathers on purpose. Sometimes it just happens that way because of the mentality I have.” Baldwin also hosts a Youtube Channel called Fresh Files that is 50% confusing, 40% funny, 10% boring and certainly worth a look if you don’t have much else to do.

And the Patriots…

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If you’ve never heard of Gronk, then you are missing out. The Gronk is a frat boy, offensive beast for the Patriots and if you haven’t heard of him, you may have heard of his trademark touchdown ritual, Gronking. This is where he throws the ball down as hard as he can and gets a little crazy eyed. (links attached)  It’s very charming – the ladies just swoon. Earlier this week he actually claimed responsibility for the Patriots deflated footballs, saying that his sheer Gronking force had led to the deflation. It was very a noble admission and the ladies swooned once more.

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Gronk, also known as Rob Gronkowski will be a big player in the Superbowl and you’ll here his name thrown around a lot. Here are some things you might not know about him. He has his own cereal called ‘Gronk Flakes’, a sponsorship deal with Dunken Donuts and his very own party bus. He was on a reality TV show called the’ The Choice’ where he tried to find love AND he has a charity; the ‘Gronk Nation Youth Foundation’ – just try and say that three times fast. In conclusion – Gronk is great.

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And then there’s Julian Edelman – the Patriot nice guy. He posted a video this week titled ‘Growing Pats’ in which heartwarming photos of Patriot players before they were great are played alongside the Growing Pains theme. It’s cute alright. He has a great chemistry with Tom Brady – not quite Gronk level, but still pretty good. Both he and Brady were overlooked in college and in the draft. Besides Gronk just can’t express his feelings like Edelman can – this week our boy Julian told reporters about Brady, “I truly love that man.” It’s worth noting that he’s a real babe and his dad has an absolutely killer stare.

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Over all, The Patriots have a killer offence but I’ll only talk about one more. In November a young, likable player named Jonas Grey played the game of his life. I won’t get into details (he rushed 200 yards in one game) but suffice it to say that Jonas Grey, who had been relatively unknown the week earlier, landed himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Two days after that his phone died during the night, his alarm didn’t go off and he did the one thing that a Patriot can never do. He missed practice. Bill Belichick has some pretty strict rules about lateness and just showing up in general, so to make a point he benched his new star running back. Since then Jonas has played minimally in 4 games and not played at all in 3. And that very same week the Patriots resigned the much less likable LaGarrette Blount who has mostly replaced Jonas. Jonas Grey being a smart fellow knows he’s a story this week and is doing his very best to avoid the media and keep his coach happy but it will be interesting to see if he’s given a chance on Sunday.

Who’s got heart on offence – I’m going for Pats. There’s just something about Gronk.

LINKS – Seattle

Marshawn Lynch Opens up in a Skittles Interview http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2015/1/26/7919385/marshawn-lynch-happily-answers-questions-in-skittles-ad

A really great and serious Marshawn Lynch article http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2014/story/_/id/12232435/the-misunderstood-marshawn-lynch-why-seattle-seahawks-running-back-trust-media

The Onion pokes fun at Beast Mode http://www.theonion.com/articles/panicking-marshawn-lynch-unable-to-deactivate-beas,35147/

Richard Sherman meets a fan with a custom prosthetic leg http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2015/1/27/7920939/richard-sherman-fan-prosthetic-leg-seahawks

Michael Bennetts Sack dance  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l7729sPB_k

Derrick Coleman’s Duracell commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzQFA2hxyRQ

LINKS – Patriots

Edelman’s Growing Pats Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY9BBjLOwQM

Derrell revis shoes http://www.nicekicks.com/tag/darrelle-revis-shoes/

Gronking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETJykq-JTLc

Gronk/cat photo explanation http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24881285/bill-belichick-shows-rob-gronkowski-cat-photos-to-entire-team

Gronk party bus http://fansided.com/2015/01/18/patriots-rob-gronkowski-given-party-bus/

 

 

 

Who’s Got Heart? A Comparison of Coaches

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The Desert Bowl approaches!!! The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are vying to win themselves a cup on the biggest night in football and the annual question of which colour face paint to buy is looming in the distance.

I’ll tell you right now, you’re safe either way with Navy but over then next two weeks I’ll explain as concisely as possible all of the reasons why one team deserves your support and cheek space. Now before I begin, I must point out my incredible bias in this particular Superbowl. I really love the Seahawks! They’re very lovable and I’m going to tell you why but I also solemnly vow to dig up all the positivity I can muster for the Patriots. Let’s start with the Coaches.

Coaching Style – One Hundo Pete

There are three stereotypes of football coaches. The first is a large screaming man, reliving his football glory days, chewing tobacco, rubbing his championship ring and calling absolutely everyone ‘son’. The other is the kind they make movies about, the unorthodox guy that comes in and replaces guy #1. Think Matthew McConaughey in We are Marshall and the beloved Kyle Chandler as Coach Tayor in Friday Night Lights – This is the Pete Carroll type.

Then let your mind wander to type #3. The aging bachelor who will do anything to win because winning and the pile of money that comes along with it is all that they have and all that they want. Think Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday but with a winning streak. Here is Bill Belichick.

Now if football movies aren’t your thing (you crazy kid) then let me explain further. You couldn’t ask for two more different coaches. Pete Carroll doesn’t coach in a typical sort of way. One of his players, the ever amusing Michael Bennett, recently described him as being “Like google man – he’s just laid back”.

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He throws big BBQ’s during training camp, takes his teams bowling and plans elaborate practical jokes often involving celebrities. He brings in rugby players to help with tackling and a goalkeeper from the US National Soccer team to help with kicking. His weekday practices are themed – Tell the Truth Mondays, Competition Tuesdays and Turnover Thursdays. In 2005 he was interviewed by Mens Vogue who described his personality as “a nine year old boy who’s having a very good christmas.”

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Seattle player Richard Sherman certainly doesn’t mind, saying “I don’t think anybody thought his system could work, It shows you can win with positivity, with having a great mindset. They say you have to be a hard coach to win in this league, but that’s not who he is. We love it.”

In an interview with Jim Trotter Pete says his coaching style “…basically comes down to taking care of the people in your program and making them the best they can be—not giving up on them and never failing to be there for them.” But I think his coaching style can be summed up better by Jefri Chadiha of ESPN who recently wrote “He seems capable of having more fun in one afternoon than most coaches have in an entire season.” and “he’s a man who ultimately wants to see the best come out of everybody, mainly because of how much joy he would take in seeing somebody else attain that level of success.”

Now Bill Belichick would never be called Joyful. This is his face post win.

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Although I should note that a few of his players have tried to tell the world that he can actually be quite funny – We’re waiting on proof. He’s certainly very stoney to the rest of us and he’s not throwing any BBQ’s either. He doesn’t like talking to the press and he’s not one for elaborate gestures – though one time he did bury a game ball with his team after a terrible loss. He scoffs at hints of emotion in football believing that winning comes down to hard work and diligence. He runs a very tight ship. More than one of his players have admitted being nervous around him.

But his approach does work. He is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time. He starts off each week with a quiz where a wrong answer is not taken lightly and he recruits players that come from notoriously disciplined programs because those are the ones that thrive in his incredibly tough and disciplined program. But that’s not to say he doesn’t occasionally lead with positivity. Kevin Faulk has spent his whole NFL career with Bill Belichick and insists that he gives praise. When asked for an example though he answers “No one would really understand it.”

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It’s worth noting that there are only three coaches in the NFL who act as Head Coach AND General Manager to their team. Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are both on this list. This gives them huge amounts of control over all aspects of their team and is something that both of them wrote into their contracts as conditions upon being hired. I must say, it seems to be working for them.

So it’s really a matter of preference, they certainly both get the job done but In an annonymous ESPN survey 320 players were asked who was the coach in the league they would want to play for. Who do you think won? Pete Carroll received 72 votes claiming him 1st place in the poll. Bill tied for 5th with 22 votes. So I’ll let the players decide this round for us!

Before The Bowl – Pete

This is Pete Carroll’s third NFL team. He was considered a failure with both of his previous teams for using the same coaching style he uses now. When no NFL team would look at him for a head coaching position he took a year off and then decided to follow his volleyball playing daughter to USC where he was their 4th pick for head coach of the football team. Lucky for him the other three turned it down, because it was here that he found his stride. He drastically turned the program around becoming one of the most celebrated coaches in college football. After ten years he was finally offered the kind of coaching position he had been waiting for – the head coach and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. He took it and after two unsuccessful seasons he took his team to the Superbowl last year and won them their first ever Superbowl title. He’d like to get them a second.

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Bill Belichick hit his stride with the New England Patriots after their owner fired Pete Carroll. That’s right, Bill Belichick replaced Pete Carroll and went on to be the winningest coach that the franchise has ever seen. That’s got to sting just a bit. This is his 15th year with the Pats and in that time he has taken the team to 5 Superbowls winning three of them. Since he became Head Coach the Patriots have become Football royalty, holding the record for most wins in a decade and dozen other accolades. Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has said repeatedly that the Patriots are the Lannister’s of the NFL and Drew Karyshyn, a Star Wars video game writer has named Bill Belichick as most likely to become the Sith. So there.

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Bill has a better resume and this is his 6th Superbowl appearance but he hasn’t won this title in 5 years. This is only Pete’s second Superbowl appearance but he coached the reigning champions and overcame such adversity to get there that I think he can take this round too.

Side Line Style – It’s a Wash

Pete is always smiling, Bill is always frowning. Pete is a silver fox. Bill is balding. Pete has squeaky white shoes that have become a running joke on twitter but Bill looks great in a hood. I’ll let you decide this one. Twitter links attached.

http://network.yardbarker.com/nfl/article_external/the_sklar_brothers_riff_on_pete_carrolls_white_shoes/18117449?linksrc=story_team_seattle_seahawks_auto_module_head_18117449

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots

Nerve– Bill

Pete Carroll was nicknamed Big Balls Pete at USC but honestly Bill Belichick is going to win this category. Before being named Head Coach of the Pats, he was named Head Coach of their biggest rival – the New York Jets. He held that position for exactly 1 day before resigning to a stunned press group and very stunned Jets staff. Then he promptly took the Pats up on their offer. He also seems to have no qualms about cheating. In the 2007 ‘Spygate’ incident he was fined $500 000 (the largest fine ever imposed on a coach) for illegally taping the defensive hand signals of the New York Jets. Just this Sunday the Pats were accused of deflating footballs in the AFC championship.

This isn’t to say that dear Pete hasn’t gotten into his fair share of trouble too, but he doesn’t do it in that same ‘Bull in a china store’ way that Bill does and I think we owe him this one. 

Off Field Personality – King Pete

I would love to say that Bill is an evil old man who dates cheerleaders half his age but the reality is that he isn’t evil at all. He grew up with football. His dad played for the Lions and later started coaching with the US Naval Academy Football Team – that’s where he learned how to breakdown game tapes and no doubt inherited some of his more militant tyle. In fact his dad came on as an advisor early on his career. He has three kids, all of whom are athletic and two of them coach in their own right. His son Steve works alongside his dad as an assistant coach to the Pats.

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And he’s not dating a cheerleader. He’s in a relationship with an age appropriate, seemingly lovely lady by the name of Linda Holliday who has a great sense of humour and seems to lighten up his stoney persona. In fact just last yeat there was a fun little rumour going around that he even named a play after her , after Brady shouted ‘Cougar, Cougar, Linda’ before a play. Oh – and he’s good friends with Jon Bon Jovi!

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So Bill is not evil but Pete is a bit of a saint. Pete is still married to his college sweetheart Glena and they have three kids as well, plus two adorable grandkids. Their son Nate works with the Seahawks as a Wide receiver coach. But what puts Pete a notch above is his charitable work. When he worked in California he was strongly impacted by the youth and gang violence he saw in low income neighbourhoods. He started a charity called ‘A better LA’ that aims to reduce youth and gang violence and provide better opportunities for the impoverished to succeed. When he moved to Seattle his work continued and he developed ‘A better Seattle’. He even has the headquarters in the Seahawks building so he can be around as much as possible and gets the players to help out and raise awareness at events. He doesn’t just donate, he takes a very active role in what they do and for that, he wins the off field category. Oh and he’s pretty close with Macklemore and Will Farrell.

If we were just looking at coaches, The Hawks would most likely have earned your support. BUT stay tuned for posts on key players and team overviews and find out Who’s got heart!

 

Hawks and Kings and play off things

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Hockey is nearing it’s end and thus as a nice Canadian girl – I am enthralled. I was going to write about the Rangers/Habs series first, but instead I have chosen not to play favourites and write about teams I know a little less about – The LA Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks. The two teams have a lot in common. Mostly they have similar lineups with both teams having a strong core of scorers who have been with the team for most, if not all of their careers. The two teams faced off last year in the same series with Chicago going forward to finals.

So let’s start with the underdog….

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The Kings are a big, tough team with a few incredible players. They won their first and only Stanley Cup in 2012 with one of the most unlikely seasons the NHL has ever seen. Before that they were largely mediocre, with the exception of their Gretsky years. When they were first conceived, they wore gold and purple (which they call Forum Blue, though it is indeed purple) They still wear these uniforms for special games but you will most likely recognize them as the white, black and silver team (which they call aluminium).

The Kings have a history of hiring GM’s with personality. Their original GM and team founder was a man by the name of Jack Kent Cooke. He was a huge advocate of hockey in LA. His thinking was that LA had a large Canadian Ex-Pat community and Canadians love hockey. He built an arena for the team and had nicknames for all of the players like Bill ‘the cowboy’ Flett. He only lasted about 10 years after having trouble filling the stadium. The current GM is a man by the name of Dean Lombardi who took over in 2006 and is a huge part of their recent success. When he came in, he completely changed the line up from what it was. Instead of looking for players who would could create short term solutions (rental players) he invested in players who would stick around. He brought in young and talented franchise players who have grown up together and have given the team a strong, likable personality.

Let’s start with their scorer.

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The first ever Slovenian NHL player is a handsome fellow by the name of Anze Kopitar. Every year the Kings do team awards and recently Anze won Most Valuable Player, Best Defensive Player, Leading Scorer and Most Popular Player – So he’s sort of a big deal. He also speaks 5 languages and is really very handsome when he’s not dripping sweat and pumped up with testosterone. His father was a professional hockey player as well but due to the communist regime in Slovenia at the time, he was not able to leave the country to try out for the NHL. They got a chance to work together this year when Slovenia participated in Olympic hockey for the first time. Anze was captain and his father was Head coach, so that was pretty cute.

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His partner is crime is the much gruffer team captain, Dustin Brown. Dustin like Anze plays both offence and defence, something specific to the Kings starters, but their style of play is very different. While Anze is quick and smoothe, Dustin is a bulldozer. He is known for being an incredibly aggressive player and is the best in the NHL at drawing penalties. This can mean two things. One, that when he is hit, he makes it look worse than it is so that the other team gets a penalty. The second is that he is very skilled indeed, in provoking the opposing team into doing things that cause penalties. It is hardly the most noble skill but every team needs one I suppose, and whenever I find myself hating Dustin Brown, I remind myself that he has a slight and endearing lisp, is heavily involved in the LA community, has 4 adorable children and has been with his wife since he was 15 – and I like him again. 

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The scorers on the team are impressive but the same can certainly be said of Chicago. What sets the Kings apart in the series in Jonathon Quick. You may recognize his name from Sochi where he was Team America’s saving grace. He’s the goalie for the Kings and is really good – even Eddard Stark agrees.

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The franchise is very interested in keeping Quick around and last year he signed a 10 year contract extension. Quick’s one downfall may just be that he is a bit of a bore, he comes off as the perfect boy next door but any guy that can split like this, just has be interesting. So I’m holding out for his autobiography. 

But if you want heart look no further than Drew Doughty. Doughty got a mini stick for his first birthday, started skating when he was two and played his first hockey game at four. When he was five he wrote to Wayne Gretzky and shortly after received a letter and jersey, which he hung on his wall. Since then, he has been a huge Kings fan.

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When Dean Lombardi went to scout him, he was shown Drew’s bedroom, which by that time was filled to the brim with Kings memorabilia including a full bed set and a Kings themed phone. Dean was impressed and he was drafted by the Kings. He has only ever played professional hockey for his absolute favourite team. He is a walking, talking dream fulfilled. Also, he’s named after former Dallas Cowboy Drew Pearson and according to Mike Babcock (Team Canada Head coach), he has ice in his veins. Making him the hockey equivalent of Iceman.

I should mention that nearly all the Kings know Ellen and a few have made appearances on her show.  Oh and watch out for Brad Richardson too. He looks like a backstreet boy. 

The Kings coach is a man by the name of Derryl Sutter. He came in midway through the 2012 season and turned the team around, winning them their first ever Stanley Cup. Derryl comes from a big hockey family. He is one of 7 boys and 6 of them, including himself, went on to play in the NHL. When he became the head coach of the Calgary Flames, 4 of his brothers worked for the team in some capacity and it doesn’t stop there. His son is currently team captain of the Charlotte Checkers.

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Deryl played his entire career with, none other than the Chicago Blackhawks. He even went on to be their head coach some time later, so there is a curious tension whenever the two teams meet. He is however widely hated by the press. He gives terse, mumbled answers to reporters after a barely veiled look of disgust upon hearing the question they have dared to ask. He has the perfect, vague, old school hockey coach response to nearly every question – something along the lines of – “Let’s let the boys answer that on the ice tomorrow night.”

Yet another wonderful thing about the Kings is their epic kissing cam. Celebrities, sick of all the hot, beautiful, LA sun seem to take turns appearing in the cold arena with their beautiful spouses and kissing for the kissing cam. Naturally as the home to Hollywood, they also have their fair share of celebrity fans, most notably Matthew Perry who is so close to the team that he attended Anze’s wedding in Slovenia. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEr7VzLXW9w

And now….The Blackhawks

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The Blackhawks are an old and loved team. As a member of the original 6 their team history is richer and deeper than LA’s. My favourite part being one of the greatest sports curses of all time – The curse of Muldoon. After their first season, their team owner Frederic McLaughlin fired head coach, Pete Muldoon. When he did, Muldoon responded with “Fire me…and you’ll never finish first. I’ll put a curse on this team that will hoodoo it until the end of time.” Now years later, Globe and Mail reporter, Jim Coleman admitted to making it all up BUT from 1926-1961 the team did not finish first in the league once, despite winning 3 Stanley Cups. So the Hoodoo worked.

Over all, the team has won 5 Stanley cups which sounds like a lot, but they went through a rather sad, mid century slump, not winning a cup for 49 years. Their slump ended in 2010 and then they won again last year, making them the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

It is remiss when writing about the Blackhawks not to mention that their logo is an incredibly out of date Native American head. The franchise is named in honour of McLaughlin’s Machine Gun Battalion from the 1st world war. Turns out that Blackhawk was a leader of the Sauk Tribe. He fought with the British in the War of 1812 and led the Blackhawk war in the 1830’s in an attempt to drive the Americans off his land. When he was captured he was taken on a grand tour of America with other war chiefs and is now bizarrely celebrated as an American Treasure. They should definitely get a new logo.

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While the Kings had their shake up with Dean Lombardi in 2006, for the Blackhawks everything changed in 2007 when long time owner and most hated man in Chicago, Bill Wirtz died, leaving the team to his son Rocky Wirtz. Bill was a penny pincher. He built an incredible stadium for the team but seemed unwilling to spend money on players. He also refused to allow home games to be broadcast on television. A ploy aimed at creating greater attendance and honouring season ticket holders but it mostly just alienated fans. He once fired a head coach by slipping a pink slip under his door on Christmas eve.

When Rocky took over, the team was losing money. In 2004 ESPN gave the Blackhawks the title of ‘Worst Franchise in Professional Sports’ and his father was included in another article – ‘ The Top Ten Greediest Team Owners’. Rocky made the brave decision to spend much more money and immediately started changing things. He finally allowed Chicago to televise the games, he brought back the teams longtime broadcaster who had been fired by his father, he reached out to popular players who had been alienated in contract disputes and had them re-join the team in a variety of roles. He brought in a new coach and most importantly he started spending money on young, talented players. First he drafted Jonathan Toews, then he drafted Patrick Kane.

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I spoke a little about Kane and Toews in my Olympic posts but all you really need to know is that they are best friends who were drafted in the same year and ARE the key to the Blackhawks success. They have more youtube fan videos than Noah and Allie in the Notebook. Toews is a nice boy, Kane is a wildcard. Picture Dawson and Pacey. Only Dawson is less sentimental and loves hockey and Pacey is prone to violent outbursts and occasionally sports a mullet. Both of them are very good and Kane is an ever entertaining character. Every time he scores a goal he makes an air heart and then punches it – Shot through the heart….get it? I love it!

Here they are having a dance off

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9XAuNazcDI

and here they are just being bro’s

toews and kane

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Also on the Blackhawk team is Chicago’s sexiest man (according to Victoria’s Secret) Patrick Sharp – or Sharpie as he’s known to fans. He was also on the cover of Chicago Magazine’s ’50 Most Beautiful Chicagoans’ issue. So if you had any doubt in your mind, rest assured, he’s pretty attractive. He also acts as a mentor for the younger players on the team and loves photo bombing and playing mediocre pranks on his team mates. Video’s of course can be found on Youtube.

The Blackhawk team is filled with great players almost all of them just stupidly good looking. Defensive star, Duncan Keith had 7 teeth knocked out in playoff game agains the Flyers. He returned minutes later to help them win the game and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Both he and team mate Brent Seabrook made cameo appearances on ‘Chicago Fire’ this year.

Their GM is the son of coaching legend Scotty Bowman who serves in as a senior advisor for the team. Stanley Bowman is named after the Stanley Cup that his father won a month before his birth. So hockey seems rather pre-destined for him.Joel Quenneville looks on The Blackhawk coach is a man named Joel Quenneville, affectionately known as Coach Q. He is the opposite of Deryl Sutter. Where Deryl is tight lipped, coach Q maybe says too much but it all comes out nicely because he has a great moustache. He has his own radio show – sponsored by Hooters!

I’m trying to be fair here but Chicago has a special song that makes me want to two step, has fan Zamboni rides and there is nothing cuter than the Blackhawks ‘Joey the Jr. Reporter’ segment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3md2YCTiUeQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_Dn9CejwRc

So it’s round up time. What have we learned?

Underdog Assessment – The Kings win it here. They are the only team left in the final four who is not an original 6 team. So they are much younger. Also, the Blackhawks won the cup last year after beating them in this very series.

Team character – Here are two videos. They are very similar and have the team answering a very similar question. You decide.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUKwFheGuGY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prZjWIAx7ns

Just kidding – The Blackhawks are sooo much more charming and the obvious charm winners.

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City Assessment – I personally come out pretty strong for Chicago in this one. Look at what they did after they won the Cup in 2010. There are three buildings in this photo that lit up for the team. One has the Blackhawk logo, one says ‘Hawks Win’ and third says ‘Go Hawks’.

Fans – I found this excellent quote on a Reddit thread titled ‘What are the Sterotypes regarding all of the NHL teams?’ My wise friend ‘Zanchbot’ said that ‘every Kings fan is either a bandwagoner or a celebrity who thought they were attending a Lakers game.’ I don’t know how true this is but it sounds right.

Chicago fans are are notorious for their support in nearly every sport, and in hockey it is no different. Since Rocky Wirtz took over they went from having the second worst attendance in the league to the best attendance in the league three years in a row. Chicagoans are fierce about their sports.

So who’s got heart? In my opinion it’s the Blackhawks. I tried so hard to root for LA and the Hawks absolutely do not need another Stanley Cup, but I’m just so darn charmed. They seem to be having such a good time so… Let their fall from grace happen some other year, this year, I hope they Hoodoo those LA Kings.

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Final Four and Fancy Free

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So…We are down to the Final Four and as usual, it’s not who anyone predicted. This tournament has had some huge upsets, the largest of which was probably the 2nd seeded dynasty team, Duke being defeated by 1st time tournament team and 14th seed, Mercer. My favourite’s, the Wichita State Shockers were finally defeated after a 34-0 season ,in their 2nd round by 8th seed Kentucky and all that are left of the top 12 teams I covered in the last article, are the Florida Gators and the Wisconsin Badgers.

The Gators will face off against 7th seed, University of Connecticut who have been a surprising addition to the Final Four. Remember that the lower seeds face a tougher bracket than the higher seeded teams, so while they are outranked by Florida,  they have already bested a 1st seed this tournament. On the other side of the bracket we have The Badgers, who just beat top ranked Arizona in a crazy, tight game that made Arizona fans so mad, they started a riot. They will face 8th seeded  Kentucky in their next game and the winners go on to the championship.

So….How to decide now? All the teams have obviously earned their spots winning four consecutive games in the last few weeks, and with two of these teams ranked as 7th and 8th seeds, they have unseated teams that were classified as much better. However, instead of focusing on all that talent and all those statistics I have decided to talk about their mascots, because the way this tournament has played out so far, it seems as good of a way as anything.

Without further ado…

Florida has a great couple of mascotsnamed named Albert and Aberta. They are alligators and should be given extra points as they are the only male/female pairing this year. Actually, I think Alberta might just be the only female mascot in the tournament. So they are very equal opportunity. They are also a very charmingpair – check this out.gators

What a lovely pair! But don’t underestimate them, they can be very scary and intimidating too…like here in logo form Albert doesn’t seem cute at all.

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And did I mention that they do magic??

But Albert and Alberta may be at a disadvantage, because the University of Connecticut has a REAL HUSKY PUPPY as their mascot. It’s not Florida’s fault really, its much harder to keep an alligator on campus, but still. This is Jonathon XIV and he is very cute indeed. Jonathon is just under a year old and is cared for predominantly by ten students on the mascot committee.

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Uconn redesigned their logo last year, making it a more menacing husky than it used to be. Unfortunately, one student took offence and wrote an open letter to the school president requesting they not change their logo. She said that the new logo promoted rape. Now this might be a bit of a stretch but having read the letter, I think she was trying to use the logo change as a way of talking about the changing attitude of the athletic program at the school, with two sexual assault cases that year involving athletes. 

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However, this caused quite a backlash. A bunch of awful people tried to make light of her protestations by making rape memes with the Husky logo, putting a rather unattractive blemish on the otherwise adorable dog. They are all too awful to post but if you google ‘UConn Husky Rape Meme’, I promise you will be repulsed.

But, the husky logo itself is not to blame for the internet. And I don’t find his new sharp jaw particularly aggressive. Certainly no more than Albert up there. However if you thought he just got a make over, you’d be wrong. Here he is training with the great George St. Pierre, so It’s going to be a hard won fight.

Jonathan XIV could certainly tear the head off the costumed Albert and Alberta but in a real alligator/dog fight, I don’t think that husky stands much of a chance. So Gators to the final!

Now the Wisconsin Badgers have one of the cutest mascots in all of sports. His name is Buckingham U Badger, Bucky for short – and there’s a history there too. Apparently Wisconsin was named ‘The Badger State’ in the 1800’s because the minors who lived there were forced to dig tunnels into the landscape to survive the winter cold. In 2003 the school purchased a real badgers a live mascot, but he turned out to be very hard to control – who knew? He was briefly replaced by a raccoon who they tried to trick everyone into believing was a badger, but that didn’t last long either. 

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Bucky is tiny but has a real attitude, as you can see by his strut. He doesn’t mess around okay? At football games he does push ups based on the score after touchdowns and picks fights with other mascots. It should be noted that Mascot fighting was banned by the NCAA. My original thought was ‘Do mascots really fight often enough for this to be a rule?’ And then I stumbled upon this…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U033uQr6Xo

and this…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pgWHzRFtZk

and this…involving Bucky himself, although this one was clearly unprovoked.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPWXPeNsbRw

Oh and Bucky has his own dance too!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxDkvLdupoM

But he has a challenger in the Kentucky Wildcats who is ferocious indeed. Of all the Wildcats I’ve talked about this year, this one is by far the most intimidating and compared to a badger, he’s rather big too.

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Kentucky has two dress up mascots. One of them is named Scratch and he occasionally stands on stilts. His partner is mysteriously unnamed – just known as ‘The Original Wildcat’, which I find oddly impressive

Here is ‘The original Wildcat’ presumably being a little bit racist.

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They also have a live bobcat named Blue that lives at a Wildlife center because, surprise surprise, bobcats don’t like screaming crowds. I don’t know why either of these schools didn’t see that issue coming.

Now, If a Wildcat and a Badger faced off in the big bag wild, it really wouldn’t be any competition. The Bobcat would destroy the badger, but I think in mascot world, the badger may just come through. Bucky really looks tough. So…I’m going Wisconsin and Florida in the final, though that means eliminating the lower seeded underdogs. I console myself with it being March Madness, so it’s anyones game. 

 

The Madness that is March

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March is here and hopefully spring will follow suit BUT March is also the time of the most exciting and unpredictable tournament of the year – March Madness.

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If you’re not familiar with March madness than you need to know 2 things. The first is that it is a college basketball tournament know for it’s upsets and unpredictability. The second is that you should make a fantasy bracket.

Here’s why…Because the tournament is so hard to predict you don’t need to know tons about basketball to have a chance at winning. In fact people often get their toddlers to choose their picks for them. But for those of you who a) don’t have any handy toddlers crawling around and b) like to make mildly informed decisions I will give you some basic information on the top teams.

A few things you need to know….Last Sunday was a very special day called ‘Selection Sunday’. On this magical day the top 64 teams in college basketball are selected to be in the tournament. They are divided into 4 divisions and each given a seed # from 1-16. The seeds tell us how the team is ranked within their division and 1st seeds are the best.

Upsets happen any time a lowly ranked team beats a team that is of a higher rank and while a 16th seed has never beat a 1st seed, 15th seeds have beat 2nd seeds 3 times in the last 2 tournaments. These teams generally become known as Cinderella’s.

To give you some context, 1st seeds have won the tournament 63% of the time since 1985 and the new tournament format. However only once have all 4 1st seeds made the Final Four. The lowest seed to ever win the tournament was 8th Seed and the lowest team to make the final four was an 11th seed so keep that in mind when predicting upsets. If you’re at all superstitious don’t pick a 7th seed to go all the way because they have never won the tournament.

I have decided to talk  about the top 12 ranked teams because chances are most of them will stick around a little longer, and if they don’t, at least you’ll have an idea of who just got knocked out of the tournament by a team we’ve never heard of. So without further ado – the first seeds.

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The Florida Gators are a mammoth team this year. They are led by a killer coach by the name of Billy Donovan who is in his 18th year with the team. The Gators won their first tournament championship in 2006 due mostly  to 5 talented players (drafted by Billy Donovan). The Gators were so happy that they bought the floor of the Indianapolis court that they had won on and installed it in their court. After that season, all 5 players decided to try and nab the title again, despite the fact that they were ready for the NBA draft. They did it too, becoming the 2nd team to win back to back championships and the 1st team to do it with the same starting line up.

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Billy Donovan is an interesting guy who crouches a lot during games but more importantly, took a program that had only ever been mediocre and has made it one of the best basketball programs in the country. After his second national championship in 2007 he was offered the head coaching position of the Orlando NBA team and he took it. Lucky for us, in a real Coach Taylor move, he only lasted 6 days before realizing he was a college coach at heart and returning to the gators. Fun fact about Billy here, before he decided to go into coaching he became a Wall Street stock broker for a year. Fun fact #2 and this one is really good…..HIS SON IS ON THE TEAM!!!! #42 is Billy Donovan Jr. So they should probably win it right there.

Lastly, for the record, the Gators are fronted by a lovely alligator couple by the names of Albert and Albertine. Their student section is the Alligator Army.

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But the Arizona Wildcats hardly shudder in their shadow despite having a fairly tame looking mascot in comparison. They have one tournament championship under their belts and their success is due in large part for longtime former coach, (best name award winner) Lute Olson. They won in 2001 after the players dedicated their season to Lute’s wife Bobbi who had died of cancer earlier that year. With Lute the team made 25 straight NCAA appearances (second only to Duke’s streak of 27) and he coached the team from 1983-2008 when he retired due to health concerns. When he left, the program had no real leadership for a year and then Sean Miller was hired. In his first season he failed to make the tournament breaking the aforementioned streak, but he was redeemed by bringing along star player Derrick Williams who helped lead the team to success over the next few years. Sean Miller won Pac 10 coach of the year this year, so he’s not doing so badly.

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But my favourite thing about Arizona is its student section. I have a feeling that sitting in the Wildcat stands must be a little like one of those awful drama games where words are replaced with sounds. It seems that every play has a corresponding sound or chant and once you figured it out, I imagine would be quite fun. The band is great and play before, during and after each game. They have recently had to change their game day tradition of turning their backs on opposing players as they enter and yelling ‘sucks’ after each player is introduced but I like to think of Arizona as a bit of a snot faced, punky teen so I say ‘Let the tradition live on.’

Forwards onto the Wichita State shockers who got their name from the fact that many students used to payed their tuition by shocking wheat in nearby fields. In fact, early football games were played on old wheat fields and up until 1948 their mascot was the ever intimidating wheat bushel. Now they have an incredible mascot named WuShock who looks like a really cool Archie character who just happens to have rolled around in some hay. He’s great!

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Want to know something else sad/cute about the Shockers? Basketball is their primary sport. In 1970 the Shocker’s football team were involved in a plane crash that killed nearly all of it’s players and the school cancelled their football program out of respect. Their town is like Footloose but replace dancing with football and Kevin Bacon with real people.

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So they really like their basketball, but up until a few year ago, they haven’t been very good at it. They have never won a tournament championship and only made it to the Final Four twice, one of those times being last year. But they are on quite a streak and just finished their season at 34-0. That’s unheard of. Now a lot of people don’t seem to give them the credit they deserve because they have yet to come up against any power teams. Basically everyone is waiting for them to fail once they start facing highly seeded teams and they have an insanely difficult bracket. But If you can’t tell I am sincerely hoping they prove everyone wrong.

Wichita State is coached by Gregg Miller and has a few players worth watching. Nick Wiggins (brother of Andrew Wiggins, who you’ll hear about later) will be looking to prove himself and watch out for (ugh, so many great names) Cleanthony Early and Fred VanVleet as well.

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But the Virginia Cavaliers just sound important, don’t they? Their mascot only buffers this by looking like a bad ass Zoro. And Virginia already has one national title this year. Their fans won “Naismiths Student Section of the Year Award.” I couldn’t quite figure out what put them over the edge of other fans until I found out that they hosted trivia nights with the basketball team. Also Alex Ovechkin has picked them for the win, although his bracket has some pretty questionable upsets.

They are coached by Tony Bennett who comes from a big basketball family. Hi dad, sister, uncle and cousin are were/are head coaches as well. He even played for his father in college. This years team is a good one who just won the ACC championship title over Duke. They were expecting a high rank but were not expecting to be a first seed in the tournament. Although it is clear that Virginia is very good, particularly on defence, I really can’t say much else about them. They’re good, they’re boring and they’ll probably make the final four.

So onto the second seeds. I should warn you though, in case you get attatched that second seeds seem to be ripe with upsets and have only won the tournament 11% of the time.

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First up for the second seeds we have The Villanova Wildcats – It would appear Wildcats are hot this year. But in a ranking of the two felines I would have to say that I like the Villanova cat much more than the Arizona cat. He at least has some personality. Villanova has been the tournament champion only once in 1985.

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They have a great coach named Jay Wright who is in his 13th year with the wildcats. He wins big time heart points for being married to a former Villanova cheerleader and is most importantly a multiple inclusion in GQ’s ‘Fashionable Four’ award. Here for some inexplicable reason, GQ decides they should have an annual competition to decide who the four best dressed coaches are in college basketball…and of course they should!

Other than that I could find very little interesting about Villanova except that one time 50 cent and T-pain performed at some sort of basketball event at the school – which is something.

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But let’s talk about the Kansas Jayhawks. There are a lot of things I like about Kansas. For one thing, their first coach was also the inventor of the game so they have some serious credibility. Also you might think that their colours are blue and red but you would be wrong. Their colors are blue and ‘crimson’ and they sing a song of the same name prior to each home game. When the opposing team is introduced fans hold up newspapers and pretend to read them.

When the Jayhawks are introduced, they tear up the paper and throw it as confetti. Who doesn’t love confetti? They also hold an open first practice every season and call it ‘Late night in the Phog’ where former players and notable fans return and put on a little show.

 This year Kansas managed to recruit ESPN’s #1 pick – Andrew Wiggins, who recently scored a career high 41 points in one game. He is a force to be dealt with and just so happens to be Canadian. The team is led by coach Bill Self who coached the team to their third tournament win in 2008 and is hoping to do it again this year.

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Chugging right along we have the Wisconsin Badgers. We are now dealing with a seriously cute mascot and a fan base called ‘The Grateful Red.’ They haven’t won the tournament since 1941, their first and only tournament win. Their coach is named Bo Ryan an author of 3 whole books on the subject of himself and coaching.

I perused the internet for quite some time trying to find anything interesting about Wisconsin and really couldn’t. I even looked up their notable alumni and I got nothing, so I’m just going to throw it out there – there is seemingly no reason to root for these guys…other than their talent and statistics…and their adorable mascot.

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Lastly we have Michigan – the wolverines. Now this is not specific to them but I have noticed something great about college basketball teams and that is that they seem to downright refuse to call their uniforms by the standard rainbow colours. For instance, Michigan’s colours are yellow and blue but they call them Maize and blue. I am all about this, and have come to think that teams with creative colour names are superior to the others. Besides this Michigan is obviously a good team. They have one championship title which they won in 1989 and they are coached by a man named John Beilien.

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Unfortunately Michigan is best known for a money laundering scandal that took place in the late 90’s involving a few key players and a team booster. It’s called the Ed Martin Scandal and involved a 6 year investigation and more years of sanctions. Because of this Michigan’s records can be difficult to understand. The NCAA sanctions were (as usual) fairly harsh and the team had titles stripped, scholarships revoked and a few years of ineligibility. During that time they are also well known for having the Fab Five. A group of 5 popular and talented starters who took the team to two consecutive championship games in 92/93.

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But the team has moved on from all that, they were runners up last year and this years teams is looking very strong especially Nik Stauskas, an amazing offensive player. John Beilein sort of scares me. He has tons of experience, coaching 4 different teams to the NCAA tournament and he has never been an assistant coach, he just starting leading and never looked back I suppose. He’s very intense but you should know that his mother’s cousins family was the basis of ‘Saving Private Ryan’. So there’s that.

Those are the  top ranked 8 teams heading into the tournament. If you can take another 4, read on!

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Syracuse, the first of our 3rd seeds doesn’t have a mascot as much as it has a fruit, but they don’t seem to mind. The Syracuse Orange(s?) are an impressive team. Their coach had a bit of a melt down this year and had to be ejected from a game after a bad loss to Duke, but we should not fault him for being passionate. In fact we should pay him respect because he was been coaching the team for 36 years!

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 Syracuse lost a big player to injury this season and have bounced back admirably with a strong team. In other news Jimmy Fallon rooted for Syracuse last year. He announced on his show that his reason for doing so was in large part due to starting forward, Rakeem Christmas, the fact that his name is Christmas and his # is 25. We’ll see what Jimmy says this year, but when I think about how much I love Christmas, I’m tempted to put on some orange too.

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The one team that can never be ruled out is Duke who’s unfortunate mascot is the Blue Devil. In 2008 ESPN said that Duke had the most prestigious college basketball program in the country…and they pretty much do. They have 4 NCAA championship titles and have appeared in ten championships. I like to think of Duke as Meryl Streep, who maybe you don’t really want to see in another move but is certainly entertaining and always does such a good job. Duke’s teams, love them or hate them are always pretty great.

 ImageThey are coached by Mike Kryzewski or ‘Coach K’ as he is called by his players. He’s also the coach of the National men’s basketball team with whom he has won two gold medals. From 1969 to 1974 he served in the army and coached service teams. I’m all about ‘Coach K’ even though he looks like a mobster. And his team is pretty good too.

The Blue Devils have a fan section aptly named the Cameron Crazies. Coach K calls them the 6th man because of how distracting they can be to their opponents. The crazies take tailgating to a whole new level building a small temporary city on campus prior to big games. This city is called Krzyzewskiville and it’s pretty legit. Fans will live in tents for weeks. You can even get pizza’s delivered.

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The crazies have had to change up some of their methods after Coach K himself asked them to stop their viscous campaigns against rivals. They specialized in throwing things onto the court – twinkies at overweight players, records at an opposing player caught stealing a stereo, But now they mostly cheer. And the cheers are always new and pertinent to the team and players they are competing against. NBC once asked for a delay in broadcast in an attempt to censor them. And while they may go a little far sometimes, I have to say that I like their enthusiasm.

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Continuing right along we have the Iowa State Cyclones who also have chosen to call their red uniforms by a more fitting name – their colours are gold and cardinal, which is almost as great as crimson. The cyclones have never won the NCAA tournament and have only made the Final Four once, 60 years ago. Also of interest, the head coach of Creighton’s team was the head coach at Iowa State from 2006-2010. He was replaced by an excellent man named Fred Hoiberg.

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In my humble opinion Fred Hoiberg could be even more attractive than Jay Wright and I think GQ magazine should perhaps take notice. Not only that but he wins heart wise because he grew up in Ames Iowa, his dad was an Iowa State sociology professor and he played for Iowa State in college before playing professionally for ten years. He IS Iowa State basketball. They liked him so much that in 1993 he received multiple votes for Mayor of Ames, giving him his nickname, Frederick “The Mayor” Hoiberg. Oh and he married a local lady and they have 4 beautiful Iowa State claden children.

The Cyclones mascot is not a giant tornado but a cardinal named Cy but in 2005 an actual tornado touched down during a Cyclone football game, so watch out. As for their chances, well their division won’t be an easy one, they would have to beat out Virginia and Villanova to make the Final Four. If they do face Villanova in the second round and the game will go down in history as the two best looking coaches face off to make the Elite Eight.

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Last but certainly not least we have the Creighton Bluejays who have also never won the tournament – they’ve never even made the Elite Eight. They are coached by Greg McDermott who left Iowa State to take the head coaching position with Creighton. I can’t believe I’m saying this but he also has a son on the team, a star player at that, only they don’t share a name. His son’s name is Doug McDermott and he’s really, really good. I’m very excited about all these father/son match ups but it is worth noting that it isn’t always a good thing to have your father as your basketball coach. If “O” – the incredible 90’s retelling of Othello has taught me anything, it’s that.

So, Those are the top 12 teams heading into the tournament but experts say that over 20 teams have an actual shot at winning. I figure this has been a good enough start. Chances are you will see most of them in the ‘Sweet 16’, a handful of them in the ‘Elite 8’ and hopefully a couple in the ‘Final Four’.

As for my personal Final Four picks I’m going Florida, Creighton, Iowa State and….well I don’t know the last one. The issue is that with all the heart that Wichita State has, and their winning streak, they have been put in a nearly impossible division. They would have to beat Louisville (incredibly undervalued as a 4th seed) and Duke to progress to the final. So while I will attach my bracket, my 4th spot is certainly subject to change.

As for the final I think I’m going Florida…if only to see the adorable Billy Donovan/Billy Donovan jr. hug that would naturally follow a tournament win.

Enjoy the Madness!

Here is my incredibly sentimental bracket

http://games.espn.go.com/tournament-challenge-bracket/2014/en_CA/entry?entryID=6037919

and here is the whole tournament as decided by cats

http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/18/5521468/ncaa-bracket-2014-picks-march-madness-cats

Team USA – Kane and very Able

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Who could be more anxious for Olympic Gold than the 2010 silver medalists?

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Team USA wants to de-throne Canada pretty bad, and they just might. They have a sassy, young team with some great goalies and a solid offence but here are a few extra tidbits so you can make up your own mind.

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Let’s start with Patrick Kane. I mentioned him in my team Canada post because he will will playing against his Blackhawk team mate and BFF Jonathon Toews, but his interest does not just lie in his cross-border friendship. Kane has a fairly awful/amazing tendency to make an ‘air heart’ after each goal and then sort of punch through it. He should probably trademark it soon. It’s all very Brett Hart – both his trademark and his mullet.

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Kane is originally from Buffalo and still has a descent fan base there. In fact, when he went back to Boston for the first time as a professional hockey player to play against the Bruins, they still cheered for him.

Less so when he was arrested for punching a taxi driver in 2009 after there was an argument about change. Apparently the taxi was $14.80 and Kane paid $15 so obviously assault was necessary. In his defence, we don’t really know what went on…other than he definitely punched a taxi driver…But he does love hockey. During the 2013 lock out, he was not content sitting and waiting for contracts to be negotiated. He went and played for the a Swiss Club EHC Biel.

Moving right along, we’ve got Phil Kessel who plays for Toronto in the regular season. He comes from a big hockey family with a cousin and brother in the NHL and best of all, his sister is on the Team USA woman’s team so they get to be siblings in Sochi.

USA Hockey 2014 Olympic Portraits

Kessel gets some major heart points for overcoming testicular cancer. He was only 19 and a rookie with the Bruins when he was diagnosed and underwent a successful removal surgery. I should also note that this is his official Team USA picture. They must have been in a hurry. Anyway, he has done a great job at the Olympics this year, scoring a hat trick in their game against Slovenia – but don’t get too excited! In a 2012 Sports Illustrated NHL Player Poll he was voted the ‘Easiest Player to Intimidate in the League.” He’s just very sensitive I suppose.

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T.J. Oshie is not so easily intimidated. You probably recognize his name because earlier this week in an intense sudden death shoot out against Russia he was sent repeatedly onto the ice. He made four of the SIX shots he was sent out to make and won the game in the overtime. This is his first Olympics and he came with two team mates from St. Louis. Unfortunately his fiance couldn’t make it because she’s 32 weeks pregnant with their first child. It’s all very exciting, I’m  excited for them and look, here they are dressed up as Roger and Jessica Rabbit.

http://cdn.nextimpulsesports.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/tj-oshie-girlfriend-wag-lauren-cosgrove-pics-3.jpg

I highly suggest you google them some more and check out some of their other halloween costumes. They get major points for being so festive.

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James Van Riemsdyk also plays for Toronto and also has a pretty bad team picture. While he’s a very good hockey player that we are sure to see and hear about over the next week, I could only find two interesting things about him. 1. He’s a movie star – James made a cameo in ‘This is 40.’ And he nailed it. 2. His family and friends were incredibly relieved when he was traded to the Maple Leafs. Previously he had played for the Philadelphia Flyers and as his parents were die hard Islanders fans, this was apparently not a comfortable situation which the league had put them in. They’re probably okay with him playing for his country though. I’ll have to check.

63_1ryan_millerLastly I want to talk about Ryan Miller, previously named ‘Leaf Killer Ryan Miller.’ When he first started playing hockey he played forward and only tried goalie because he was frustrated with his team mate in the net. He also comes from a big hockey family with a brother and three cousins in the NHL. He has been the only saving grace of the Buffalo Sabres this year, who are quickly taking the title for worst team in hockey. He was a huge part of team USA’s success at the last Olympics, In fact he won MVP for the whole tournament.

As a team they are young, fast and offensively very strong AND they just happen to be playing Team Canada on Friday at 12!

Watch long enough and you may see this

http://i.minus.com/ibtbd2LL939l6D.gif

By the way this is Phil Kessel’s babe of a sister.

Team Canada’s Highlights + Delights

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I don’t know about you but I have been very excited about Olympic Hockey – Men and Women’s. And as much as I love the the fast, frenzied tournament style that the Olympics offer us, they don’t give us much research time for the final games. So I am starting early and will be giving you a few team profiles throughout the week starting with the reigning gold medal champions – The incredibly well dressed Team Canada.

Let’s get Sidney Crosby out of the way. Sidney is the hero of the last Olympics when he scored the game winning goal against team USA in the tournament final. He’s played for the Penguins since 2005 and when he was drafted, he was so highly sought after that the draft was nicknamed the ‘Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes’. When he first started playing in the NHL Mario Lemieux took him under his wing, teaching Sidney how to handle the press, the hype, the endorsements etc…Sidney even lived in his guest house for the first few years of his pro career.

Now, You can peruse his Wikipedia page for a list of his many achievements – and he has quite a few but it’s up to me to tell you some of his more interesting traits. For instance did you know that eats a peanut butter and jam sandwich before every game? Or that he has a ‘lucky cup’ that he was worn for years?

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He has the order of Nova Scotia largely for the plethora of charity work he has done in the area. In 2010 he donated his entire Olympic winnings to charities in Nova Scotia and has also a winner of “The Dapper Dan Sportsmanship Award.” I can’t say for sure what the award is celebrating but he is indeed dapper and a little bit of a heart throb. I find his lips very large but that hasn’t stopped him from dating a beautiful model named Kathy Leutner.

The man in the net is a familiar face as well. Roberto Luongo is playing in his 3rd Olympics but plays for his hometown, the Vancouver Canucks in the regular season. Before Vancouver he played for Florida and met his wife while he was eating at a favourite restaurant of the team – Pizza Time Trattoria. Gina Cerbone was the owners daughter and together they have a fairly adorable and perfectly Italian family with two daughters.

roberto-luongo-canada

Vancouver fans have mixed feelings about Luongo. He is easily the best goalie that the team has had and he has done a lot of great work with the Vancouver community, including buying a box where underprivileged kids can come and watch the game. He also gives away his goalie stick to a fan at the end of games where he is named MVP but last year when he was pulled from a game, his fans cheered. This will most likely be his last Olympics.

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Jonathan Toews (oddly pronounced Taves) is playing in his second Olympics and plays for Chicago alongside team mate and good friend Patrick Kane who will be playing for team USA. The two were drafted in the same year and are a huge part of Chicago’s success. They are very much looking forward to playing against one another for a change and it should be fun to watch them. Toews also played with American T.J. Oshie while they were juniors. The two were caught in a North Dakota Tavern drinking under age and had to do a fair amount of community service together, so this should be a nice little reunion for them. 

Also from Chicago is Patrick Sharp who was named Chicago’s sexiest athlete in 2009 so we’re absolutely covered in the looks department. Thank god.

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But my personal favourite player is Martin St. Louis who plays for Tampa Bay Lightening. The GM of Tampa is Steve Yzerman and he also happens to be the GM of team Canada, which means that he is in large part responsible for putting together the team. This year Martin St. Louis was not picked. He was snubbed by his own team’s general manager in favour of his team mate Steve Stamos but when Stamos had trouble coming back from an injury, St. Louis got his ticket to Russia.

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This scenario is typical to St. Louis’s career. He turned away NHL interest in his junior year at school wanting to graduate, but when he was finished college, the interest was gone and he went un-drafted. He was picked up and let go numerous times before finding his way to Tampa. Martin is one of the most unappreciated players in the NHL possibly because of his height. He measures at 5’8 and is often dwarfed on the ice but he has proven to be a truly sturdy player, playing in over 1000 NHL games and has great scoring records. Best of all he is a three time winner of the Lady Bying Memorial Award for…wait for it – The most gentlemanly player in the NHL.

He hasn’t received much ice time in the last few games but I hope they’ll bring him out soon.

Lastly I want to speak briefly about the guy who has been the star of every game Canada has played thus far. Drew Doughty plays for the LA Kings and was the youngest player on Team Canada in 2010. When asked about his tendency to come alive on the international stage, he responded “I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t score like this in LA, at all.” So in the very least, he’s certainly thought things out.

Drew Doughty

Are you excited?

Drew is!

Go Canada Go!

Here is a disgruntled Luongo after a reporter asks about his unsupportive fans

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5BRxc8NiCk

Here is Jonathan Toews telling a fairly boring , yet charming story about his BFF Patrick Kane

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCMaOKr7bPs

Here they are being best friends

Lastly we have a video by the very junior reporter for the Black hawks asking why Patrick Sharp is so beautiful

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_3IeL8lgAg