Monthly Archives: January 2012

The So Dull Pro Bowl

Last year, the NFL began an experiment with their annual all star game in Honolulu. The Pro Bowl, as they call it, would be played during the week before the Super Bowl, rather than the week after. Ideally, more people would still be interested in a somewhat casual football game if the sport hadn’t officially closed its season. What the NFL powers-that-be failed to realize is that you simply can’t make a boring game more appealing to audiences if the players who perform in the contest are only playing at half-mast.

Yawn.

Even with a score that combined for triple digits (59-41), receivers were practically just jogging through their routes. They were having a great time joking around and playing for fun. Fans, however, were bored out of their minds. Some even turned it off before the end of the first quarter, lowering the ratings more than 8 percent from last year.

On the off chance you came looking for the winner, the score, or the summary of Sunday’s matchup, here’s a quick recap: the AFC beat the NFC with a score of 59 to 41, bringing the series to a 21-21 tie, Brandon Marshall took home honors as the MVP, and, well, that’s basically it. No one was seriously injured since no one was moving fast enough to be at risk (we’ll pause for a moment of half-hearted laughter).

Bring on the Super Bowl!

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Jason Derulo Gets an “Eye Opener”

Jason Derulo first exploded on the Pop R&B scene as a singer/songwriter in May of 2009 with song after song pulsing the feet of almost every dance floor. From ‘Don’t Wanna Go Home’ to ‘Whatcha Say’, the hits are primed to keep coming. But after the events of January 6, 2012, Derulo has had to cancel his entire Future History tour and rethink his, well, future history.

While rehearsing for the tour, Derulo broke one of his vertebrae, causing an immediate fear of paralysis. Fortunately the star has overcome the potential of any long term risks, but he’ll have to be incredibly careful to avoid those Usher-type dance routines for a little while. While recovering over the last several weeks, Derulo has managed to take up piano and start writing some softer songs that don’t require any fast movement. For an artist such as he is, slowing it down will always be a challenge, but fans will be anxious to see a more romantic side of his music. Rumor has it that he and Jordin Sparks, American Idol’s Season Six winner, have been secretly dating for quite some time. Apparently, she pampers the musician with breakfast in bed. He has called the accident an ‘eye opener’ and vows to come back stronger.

Considering that Derulo’s injury might have ended up in a more serious, life-altering situation, perhaps the singer should take some time to croon his fans (or Sparks alone) with the lyrics of his most recent hit:

I’m still alive, hope there’s a reason
Can’t move my lips, but my heart is screamin’
I only miss you when I’m breathin’
I only miss you when I’m breathin’
Without your love, don’t know how I survive
It’s you, it’s you just keepin’ me alive
I only miss you when I’m breathin’

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Oh, Those Aching Thighs

Aliona Savchenko, a three time world champion and 2010 Olympic gold medalist, has a face that figure skating fans have become accustomed to seeing at almost every major event. Her beauty continues to electrify, her skill is always unmatched, and her absence in the upcoming European Figure Skating Championship will be a lucky break for every other competitor. That’s right. Savchenko will not be defending her pairs title with Robin Szolkowy when the program airs on January 26.

According to reports, while practicing a throw jump on January 12, she injured her left thigh after a harsh fall on the ice. And just when she was almost sure that the nagging ache was gone on Wednesday, another spin caused the pain to flare up. German physicians have said that “she is in pain and unable to perform all elements,” which makes a decision to withdraw all that more difficult. Could she do some of the stunts? Sure. The problem is that she cannot perform all elements, which essentially means her ‘unmatched skills’ from before will not be so unmatchable.

Training coach Ingo Steuer has said that “it was a very tough decision to take because we have come this far but we cannot take the risk of aggravating the injury.” Tough call, but good decision. Savchenko will live to skate another day.

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2012 NFC Championship Game

Unlike the earlier game on Sunday between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots, the NFC Championship is a contest between two teams that no one predicted. The New York ‘football’ Giants were altogether awful during the first half of the year, battling injuries and posting one of the worst defenses in the league. If the Giants had been torn apart by Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys on the last game of the regular season, their chances of playing any game in the post season would have come to an end in a heartbeat. The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, have been absolutely stellar all year, but the reason no one gave them a shot at making the big game was simple: they weren’t supposed to be that good under a first year head coach.

Now that the NFC matchup is a contest of unexpected players, it’s only fair that a few of the key injuries be discussed.

For San Francisco, tight end Delaney Walker is tentatively coming back from a fractured right jaw he received on the night before Christmas (a gift from Santa’s Seahawks). With Walker back in play, quarterback Alex Smith has more options across the middle of the field on first and second down throws. However, for those over-anxious Niners fans, Walker hasn’t been cleared by the medical staff yet. Could be a game time decision.

For New York, linebacker Michael Boley went down with a hamstring injury when his Giants were playing San Francisco on November 13. At the time, New York was playing like an average team with average goals. Boley fell, Niners won. Since that injury, which kept him out for two and a half weeks, Boley has been playing with a chip on his shoulder. Now he wants to bring down Alex Smith and prove that this group of Giants is different than the ones who played San Francisco in November.

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2012 AFC Championship Game

Between the two conferences vying for their chance to play in the Super Bowl, only the AFC managed to turn out as everyone expected. On Sunday, the New England Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens, two teams that have been ‘in the hunt’ for the better part of the last decade. During the last ten years alone, New England has won four AFC Championships and three Super Bowls; Baltimore has also earned a Super Bowl win and an AFC title. Even when neither team was in the AFC Championship, their presence was almost always felt in the playoffs. So now that it’s down to a relentless defense from the Ravens and a star studded offense from the Patriots, let’s talk injuries.

Word has it that Tom Brady skipped practice on Monday because of a lagging injury to his non-throwing shoulder. For those who sat down to watch Brady teach Tebow how to play football last weekend, it’s hard to remember a time when the New England quarterback was even touched by the defense. So why rest the shoulder? No one knows, but you can bet Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens will be looking for a chance to put Brady on the ground and further injure that shoulder.

On the other hand, the Baltimore defense was a little shaken up in their win over Houston. Safety Ed Reed slammed into the grass while trying to capture an interception and hasn’t been quite the same since. Apparently, his ankle twisted in the backwards fall, but x-rays determined that he had no serious injury, even though he got up slowly and hobbled off the field. Whether that leads to a shaky performance against the Patriots, well, that’s why they play the game.

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Injuries Aboard the Costa Concordia

When the captain of a Costa Concordia cruiseliner attempted to ‘show off’ for a friend along the shore, his vessel ran aground. He then abandoned the 4,200 passengers and has since been taken into custody for manslaughter. At least six people have been found dead, two dozen are still missing, and dozens more have been injured since the crash on Saturday.

The chairman of Costa Cruises, Pier Luigi Foschi, has quickly apologized for the incident, admitting that much is still under investigation. The captain, Franscesco Schettino, was attempting to salute a colleague nearby and went off his route ever so slightly, causing the bottom of the ship to gain unexpected damage. A transcript of the conversation on board appears to have included these words spoken to Captain Schettino:

“What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue? Captain, this is an order, I am the one in charge now. You have declared abandoning ship, There are already bodies.”

Those close to the situation have claimed that there was a mutiny on board the vessel, causing incredible confusion at a time when evacuations could have been more effectively executed. Before any clear and precise decision had been made, the 114,000 ton ship was already on its side and many passengers were either drowning or becoming trapped by the walls and the water.

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Brad Pitt: “It Was Either Her or Me”

On Monday, the New York Film Critics Circle Awards gave homage to filmmakers and actors throughout Hollywood and beyond for their contributions to film in 2011. Among the notable winners were Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help, and Take Shelter), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), and Albert Brooks (who took a dramatic turn from comedy in Drive). But the star turning heads during the evening was Brad Pitt (Moneyball and The Tree of Life), who walked across the red carpet with a cane.

Apparently, Pitt was carrying his daughter, Vivienne, down a hill and then, as he put it, just tripped like an old man. The way he came down, either his daughter was going to crash on the ground or her daddy would block that fall with his own body. And like we all imagine the seemingly flawless Pitt, a father’s instincts were fully intact when it counted. Pitt recalls the moment with a few simple words: “It was either her or me.”

The result for Pitt was an injured ACL. Angelina Jolie, who was mentioned on the Brace Shop last summer because of her own injuries, couldn’t help gushing about her husband, saying that he hasn’t milked the injury at all. Even she had gone through a similar issue several years earlier:

“When [Maddox] was younger,” said Jolie, “I took a fall and cracked my elbow because I wanted to make sure he didn’t have the fall. Every parent has injured themselves. Every parent will stand in the line of fire for their kids so it’s a normal thing.”

Well, perhaps not every parent. But for the picture perfect couple, at least they’re setting an example. According to Pitt, who won the award for ‘Best Actor’ on Monday night, the cane won’t last long. His ACL pain should go away over the next several days.

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Gabrielle Giffords: One Year Later

This past Sunday marked a significant memorial in the tone of American political discourse. In January 2011, at the height of nationwide vitriol and seething anger among U.S. citizens, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range by a young man who took the life of several others, including a judge and a nine year old little girl. And on Sunday, just a year after several in the media had already declared her death, Giffords confidently returned to a candelight service in Tucson, Arizona where she led the pledge of allegiance and moved an audience to tears with her undeniable strength.

Fully healed she is not. And no one would expect her to be. As Giffords spoke the words of the pledge, her voice terribly soft and frail, her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, helped lift a tender hand to her heart, since her body was simply too weak to manage the gesture.

Traumatic brain injuries are rarely overcome with such grace and calm as that which flows from the relationship between Giffords and Kelly. Often, doctors warn spouses that these types of tragedies will require the marriage to start from square one, rather than simply recovering from where it left off. In the case of Giffords and Kelly, the endurance and patience they demonstrate with one another is remarkable and certainly sets an example for other marriages that must undergo similar battles.

During the service held at the University of Arizona, each of the six fatalities and the twelve wounded were given the same reverance. With the presence of Giffords at the memorial, a reminder was given to all Americans that our national conversation can always be firm and passionate, but it must never drive us to hate those with whom we disagree.

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The Legend of Tim Tebow Rises

Lovers. Haters. Whiners. The home-schooled, Bible-touting, end-zone-kneeling sophomore-winning Heisman champion just took the NFL playoffs by storm. In a weekend where most of the wild card matchups were a blowout with victories in the double digits, the Denver Broncos and their star quarterback, Tim Tebow, turned the final game into an overtime thriller. During the second quarter alone, where Denver has generally produced the worst offense in the entire league, they lit up the number one ranked defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers, scoring 20 points on fast and well engineered drives. But it was a single play in overtime that made history.

At the end of regulation, referee Ron Winter (who doubles as a professor at Western Michigan University) took several minutes to explain the newest change of rules to playoff overtime. Why? Because even though the rules had been enacted more than twenty months earlier, the previous season had no overtime contests. The new rules were supposed to end the arguably cheap version of sudden death, where the coin toss winner moves 40 yards and kicks a winning field goal. But no so fast. What if the coin toss winner gets a touchdown? Well, the officials say, that’s okay.

So to sum up the first ever non-sudden-death overtime in NFL history, here’s how it went. Denver won the toss and elected to receive. Pittsburgh punted the ball to their opposite end zone and Denver got a touchback to start from their own 20 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Tebow throws to Demaryius Thomas on the run, Thomas stiffarms the defense, then runs 80 yards for a fast and furious touchdown. No whistles. No flags. And no arguments. Just like that, the Broncos move on the number one seeded New England Patriots next Saturday night at 8pm. No one can blame the tough, but injured Pittsburgh Steelers QB for playing his heart out on a high ankle sprain. He certainly gave the game everything he had. Unfortunately for him, someone else proved to be better on this given sunday.

Some have called it magic. Some have called it faith. Others just believe. But for now, the legend of Tim Tebow will continue to rise.

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The Replacement Quarterbacks

On Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm EST, NFL fans will be treated to their first playoff game of the year between the Houston Texans, who have never been to the postseason, and the Cincinnati Bengals, who haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. Essentially, this is a game where everyone just sighs and waits for the real game between the high scoring Detroit Lions and the always high flying New Orleans Saints at 9pm EST. So why should anyone tune in to watch the early game? Because this is the first time in NFL history that two rookie quarterbacks have competed for a playoff win. One of them is even vying for bragging rights with a credit as Rookie of the Year.

The Texans QB is T.J. Yates, a virtual unknown from the University of North Carolina. Why is he playing? Because Matt Schaub injured his foot and Matt Leinart broke his collarbone. That makes Yates the third string quarterback. His play has been strong under the circumstances, but no one expects him to go very far.

The Bengals QB, on the other hand, is Andy Dalton, a 2nd round draft pick in 2011 who was chosen to replace long time Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer. Palmer had lost his Ohio mojo and wasn’t en route to get it back. Palmer left for Oakland (and failed to help them reach the playoffs), Dalton signed a $5 million dollar contract, and Cincinnati has been singing the praises of their star redhead ever since.

That’s right. He’s a redhead. And with a win on Saturday, Rookie of the Year might not seem so farfetched, especially since all the talk has been about Cam Newton, who failed to lead his team to a winning season.

While this is still just a battle of rookie quarterbacks, most fans know that on any given Sunday (ahem, Saturday), someone’s gonna win and someone’s gonna lose. Could a rookie quarterback make it all the way to the Super Bowl? Crazier things have happened. Anyone remember when Big Ben was a rookie in Pittsburgh? Or when Tom Brady showed up out of nowhere in New England to replace an injured Drew Bledsoe? Both men went on to win multiple championships and continue playing at the highest levels today.

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