Yet Another New Day In Tampa Bay?

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Perhaps it was an aberration of some kind. During the course of the NFL season, such aberrations happen – because it’s a very rare event for an NFL team to go undefeated. But alas, my hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-21 to go 2-0 in this young 2018-2019 NFL season.

If you asked even the most die-hard of Tampa Bay fans before the game yesterday if the Buccaneers had a chance at winning, and if they were honest in their assessments – I’d think very few of them would have picked against the Eagles, even though they were only three-point favorites in the views of the oddsmakers.

The difference so far this 2018 season seems to have been the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick, helming at quarterback while Jameis Winston is off serving a three-game suspension for some questionable conduct in a recent off-season involving an Uber driver in Arizona. With Winston gone, the passing game is flourishing for the journeyman quarterback from Harvard – as has the offense, scoring 75 points in the first two games, adding the record-tying 48 they tallied in New Orleans the week prior.

Will it last? Can it last? Who knows. But not a bad idea to drink this moment in if you’re a Bucs fan. They haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2007-2008 campaign, so maybe this could be the year that wait may finally end.

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Football’s Bastard Stepchild Night

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It is a package of NFL games that nobody seems to want, but also always seems to find a home. Yes, I’m talking about those Thursday Night games which for the next five years which will air on the NFL network, with most games also available on FOX.

I remember there being Thursday night NFL games as early as 1978 when the Monday Night Football crew got to work these bonus games. Those would occur a few times during the course of the year, maybe four times at most – not every week of the season. But when I think of Thursday nights growing up in Florida in the fall, I actually think of junior varsity high school football. “JV” football on Thursday nights, varsity games Friday nights, youth league games all day Saturday.

Everyone tries to lay claim to Thursday night – they’ve played college games on ESPN going back decades, for example. But, no one seems all that successful of making it a “signature” night for football. There’s been a furor as of recent seasons to cut back on NFL games being played on Thursdays other than Thanksgiving Day – which may come to a head when the players and owners work out their next work agreement in the coming years. But seeing those all-important dollar signs and money to be made, they keeping scheduling the games, and the various networks play “hot potato” with the package.

Personally, I think that as the league continues its declines (ratings for the first week of the 2018-2019 season were a bit down), I think Thursday night games wind up being the first casualty. It will take a few years (at least until 2023), but if the NFL ever just focused on Sunday and Monday night games – I don’t think anyone would miss these Thursday nights where these games just take up space unnecessarily.

47

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I got another number added to my age today. It’s been a peaceful birthday so far, which is how I like my birthdays as I’ve gotten to this age – so I’m happy.

Everybody on Facebook is wishing me a happy birthday – but if I didn’t disclose to social media that it is my birthday, would they know? Probably not. I haven’t posted on the FB for several days now, my “cold turkey” apparently is working this time – but I will tomorrow to acknowledge everyone for their birthday wishes.

Not too many famous people have passed on my birthday – though that changed a bit today with the death of the actor Burt Reynolds, the former Florida State football star who made it big on the silver screen. RIP.

The NFL season commences tonight, and I’m thinking the Patriots dynasty finally crumbles – and that Super Bowl LIII (counting fingers and toes – yep, we’re up to 53 now) in Atlanta will feature the Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams. But hey, I could be mistaken.

Another day in the can, almost – and “year 48” is well underway.

That Wasn’t In The Game

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I’m pretty aware that nothing I say on this blog will likely change the world. I only try and comment on the world I see through my eyes. Some might agree – some might not. But I feel what I do here is for a greater good, to serve as a document as to what’s going on in my time.

The events in Jacksonville that took place this past Sunday (captured live on an Internet video stream) hit me in many ways. I’ve been playing the John Madden video games back to when you need a PC to play them. One day in 1990 I went to Radio Shack and bought one of the first computer versions of the game. I didn’t have a PC back then, but my workplace, WTAN, had a PC that I thought would work with it. It didn’t, so I wound up giving the game away.

I’ve also been to Jacksonville Landing before in my radio travels – as one of my radio buddies took me to the Hooters there when I was working for the People’s Radio Network in White Springs.

Fast forward to the 2000’s, the oughts, or whatever was this last decade before the current one. I would religiously watch a reality/sports series called Madden Nation on ESPN. The best gamers back then would ride a version of the “Madden Cruiser” across the country and play games to decide who the champion would be, and a $100,000 prize went to the winner.

The show had some flaws to it. During one season, one player got into a fight with another on the bus, resulting into an ejection the show’s producers had to abruptly explain. As the tournament started to head towards its conclusion, tempers would flare through some spirited trash-talking that gamers would do with each other.

In real-life sports, if trash-talking takes place, there is usually an effort after a point where referees or umpires would step in to tell the players to cease their efforts or be ejected from the game. After a point, the smack becomes useless, because the players are aware that their foe isn’t going to sending them a Christmas card. What shocked me watching the series was the lack of anyone stepping in, a producer or some sort of official to hem the trash-talk in.

I remember thinking that someone would take the ill feelings to an extreme one day, not knowing how prophetic that thought wound up being in 2018.

I can’t help but feel bad for John Madden, who’s now retired at the age of 82. I’m sure he’ll get some of the blame for all of this, wrongly. I don’t think when he created the series with Trip Hawkins back in the 1980’s that he could have ever envisioned a tournament where emotions ran so high that gunshots were fired, fatally, and tragically. My condolences to the victims and their families as well.

The shootings will be used as a political football (no pun intended) for both sides. I can’t help but notice that there is one common thread through all of these shootings, regardless of the motivations of the shooter. That seems to be poor mental health. We are all, on one level or another, addicts to the technological advances of our society. We are all encouraged to consume the technology in a number of ways. Not too many have the courage to tell us the ways all of this consumption harms us.

On days like this Sunday past in Jacksonville, we are reminded of the harms. Then, the games, real and simulated, played on.

Tiger Sighting

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Watching the British Open this past weekend that Francesco Molinari won, it was interesting to see Tiger Woods take the lead a couple of times the last 36 hours.

Yes, that Tiger Woods. You mean there’s another one?

That raises the question of whether or not Tiger ever wins another major. Well, his game is improving – though I don’t know if he will ever return to the peak of his career and the style of play he had back in the 2000’s.

But at this point, I’d say yes – I think Tiger can win another major at some point in his remaining career. Plus, he’s 42 – Jack Nicklaus was well into his 40’s winning the 1986 Masters. So yes, Tiger still has time to pull one off – though I think his chances at beating Jack’s record for most majors won seem slim.

An Ode To The Shootout

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The 2018 World Cup is in the process of winding down. By this time next week, either England, France, Belgium, or Croatia will be in seventh heaven as the winning nation.

I’ve always liked soccer, growing up in the Tampa Bay area and being so close to the Rowdies, the local pro team. As I’ve probably mentioned before, they were part of the NASL that attempted to gain national prominence in the 1970’s by signing Pele, who is considered to be one of the great players of all time in the sport. But once he left, the popularity of the sport has waned in our country.

Interest hasn’t been too high in this year’s World Cup because, for the first time since 1986 – the United States didn’t make the final batch of teams playing for the championship. Germany was booted after the round-robin stage. Brazil lost in the second knockout (single elimination) round to Belgium. In a way, it’s been a good tournament to watch – so many teams that haven’t had the chance at to be at this level for a long time (or ever) are close to making history for their respective countries.

The one thing that drives me crazy about soccer, and not in a good way, is the penalty kick shootout at the end when the 30 minutes of extra time is completed and a winner is needed. It always seemed to me to be a stupid way to decide a winner, because penalty kicks have very little to do with soccer in a general sense. It would be like deciding a baseball game by a home run derby, or a basketball game by free throws.

Other sports (with the exception of hockey to some extent) – they decided games that need a winner by continuing to play the game some more. The problem with soccer deciding outcomes the way they do is that a penalty kick doesn’t happen every game. In fact, you could go and watch a handful of games and not see a PK being taken.

No, I’m not “soccer savvy” enough to tell you what I’d replace it with. I always thought the Florida high school soccer playoffs had a fairer system when I was of that age. First, they played an “extra time” format, but instead of going right to a shootout – they played up to two five-minute “sudden death” periods. I always liked that – that way, teams couldn’t play passively in extra time and hope to get lucky in the shootout. And yes, I once saw a playoff game get decided in the “sudden death” portion on, you guessed it, a penalty kick.

I’m pretty sure FIFA can’t get rid of penalty kicks entirely, but I’d love them to add a “sudden death” element to their tiebreaking format. They experimented with it back in the turn of the century, but then went back to the “extra time, then a shootout” format. Hopefully, they might revisit this soon – pretty please?