New England Patriots Super Bowl XLIX Highlights Video

untitledNew England fans will no doubt want to have this video as part of their collection which has an hour long recap of the Patriots’ 2014 regular season and postseason games, with extensive highlights of the Super Bowl XLIX win, 28-24, over the Seattle Seahawks.

Other than being a New England Patriots fan, I would rate the video to be about average.  While it does a decent job of providing a nice recap of the regular season, it could have done more to build the drama throughout the season.  While New England ultimately went 12-4, there was some real drama early in the season.

Despite blowing out a poor Minnesota Vikings team in Week 2, the Patriots looked very mediocre after four games.  They were humiliated in Week 4 by the Kansas City Chiefs and not only looked like a pedestrian team, they looked like a bad team.  The offensive line was a mess, Brady didn’t look like Brady, and the entire team looked like it could be headed to “has been” status.  There was even talk in the media about Brady being benched.  That’s just how bad it was.

While this video plays up the fact New England looked pretty poor in that game and captured the theme “we’re on to [choose team]” mantra the coach and players adopted after the Kansas City game, it missed a lot too.  For example, it really should have included Belichick scoffing at a reporter when asking if the “QB position would be evaluated” implying Brady could be benched.  And it could have shown some of the commentary in the media about the Patriots being “a bad team.”  But it didn’t.  And that would have made what came next even more powerful.  The Patriots righted the ship and went on to win all but two of their remaining games.  One was a close loss to Green Bay at Lambeau field and the final game against Buffalo where most of the starters rested.  And of course, they won the Super Bowl.

The video does a better job with the playoff wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts and of course the Super Bowl.  The Ravens game was particularly close with tricky formations and a trick play to secure the win after being down by 14 points twice.

The New England Patriots seem to always be in heart stopping Super Bowl matchups that leave viewers on the edge of their seats until the final gun sounds.  Super Bowl XLIX in which the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 is no exception.  Seattle was able to pull off a miraculous drive at the end of the game to almost win it, only to be thwarted at the goal line by an interception by the unheralded rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler.  The video is at its best covering this game and its magnitude for the legacy of Brady and the Patriots

Of course everyone will remember the season for the ridiculous Deflategate drama at the end of AFC Championship Game.  The video never mentions it, and as a Patriots fan I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  It was definitely a part of the story leading into the Super Bowl and had to be a distraction for players and coaches so I feel the video should have somehow deftly handled it because it was part of the full story of the season.  That it’s completely missing seems odd.

The special features in this addition are nothing special or worth mentioning.  I wish they could have put together a better package for that as they have done in the past.

http://amzn.to/2oplcok

Overall, of course Patriots fans like me will love the DVD despite its drawbacks.

 

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Review of The Mannings

This book about the Manning family is execrably written, so much so that I frankly wanted to quit reading the book because it was horribly annoying. There are way too many times the author imputes emotions to individuals when he has no idea what the person was actually feeling. Worse, he constantly makes juvenile analogies that are trite to the point of making the reader cringe. It is a very amateurish writing style and a rather amateurish book.

While this is an advanced reading copy, two other items that were irritating is in one chapter Archie’s father is 5 foot 6, and in the next he’s 5 foot 7. In most instances it’s his father’s words, “just be a nice guy,” that drove Archie and his nice guy charm and demeanor, one that was not fake or a put on. But in one instances this is attributed to his mother. These are trivial in terms of the overall narrative, but noticeable and distracting nonetheless.

With that said the book did have some redeeming qualities which, overall, made it barely worth reading. First, I never fully understood the level of fame that Archie Manning had throughout the South, especially in his home state of Mississippi and adopted state of Louisiana. He was nearly a household name after his college stint at Ole Miss as its starting quarterback. Second, the book does an excellent job of describing how Archie’s stern but beloved father and his suicide drove Archie to want to excel on the field and in life, and later how it drove him to spend as much time as he could with is sons and tell them how much he loved them. Archie’s background and family history in a small Mississippi town to become regionally famous paints a clear picture of how Archie handled himself when in the pros, a very good quarterback playing for a horrible team. He kept his head up and marched on.

The book also does a good job of telling the story of Cooper Manning and how, while not a great athlete, would have very likely had a solid college career as a receiver at Ole Miss and how his discovery of a spinal condition that forced him to quit football drove his younger brother Peyton to strive to greatness and professional football to fulfill Cooper’s unfulfilled dreams.

Peyton’s personality has a hard worker, studier and leader comes through strongly in the book as well. His vast knowledge of football, football history, and studying the playbook are legendary. The contrast with the demure Eli Manning is very interesting. Much has been made of Eli’s laid back demeanor, shyness, and some would argue lack of leadership. But it turns out that Eli has been shy and laidback since he was a child. And he never studied football, at least its history, like Peyton did. But he has been successful in his own way nonetheless.

The insights into the personalities of the Archie, Peyton, Eli, and Cooper, along with their family history are very interesting and shed a lot of light on this famous football family.

I do have a few more complaints about the book, however. This book seems to be more about Archie Manning than this two football playing sons. Peyton Manning gets a lot more airtime in detailing his recruitment to the University of Tennessee and his years in college and the pros than Eli. Eli, in some respects, especially his college and professional career, seem almost an afterthought.

Two controversial issues that did not get enough detail or interpretation include the sexual assault allegations about Peyton Manning when he was at Tennessee, and the “forced” trade of Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants when he was drafted number one overall by the Chargers.

In the first instance the author does, again, a very amateurish job reporting the incident. He basically takes some things he heard in the media and throws them in the book to check off the box. And some of what is stated in the book is disputed in other media outlets. It’s a really sloppy job of reporting the event.

And very little is detailed about all the behind the scenes actions that lead to Eli being traded from the Chargers to the Giants after he was drafted, with Archie and Eli essentially saying he would not play for the Chargers. Odd given the Chargers were not that bad of a team at the time. There is a big gap in the book on this issue.

The book concludes with Peyton’s ultimate retirement after Super Bowl 50 and does decent job of describing the proud Manning family and the difficulty but inevitability of Peyton’s decision.

While this book has some redeeming qualities, that it’s poorly written and structured makes it a bit frustrating. The Manning’s deserved a better chronicler of their journey.

http://amzn.to/2b7eGZY

 

 

Troy Brown: Patriots for Life

5182Gc8256L__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_This is a very workman like autobiography of Troy Brown.  And that’s fitting, because Troy Brown was a very workman like special teamer and wide receiver for the New England Patriots for 15 years.

The first few chapters Brown tells about his life growing up very poor in South Carolina and sports being his primary outlet.  Being on the smaller side he had to work hard and out compete other players to get ahead.  His entire football career is defined by that.

While he had a standout career in high school, he was not highly recruited and ended up playing junior college.  Luckily he caught the eye of a coach at Marshall University in West Virginia and received one of the last scholarships.  He went on to have an excellent career at Marshall winning the 1992 Division I-AA National Championship as a receiver and kick returner.

Troy Brown was drafted in the 8th round by the New England Patriots in the 1993 draft and almost didn’t even make the team.  He was cut at the end of Preseason and thought his football dream was dead, but luckily for the Patriots, Coach Bill Parcells re-signed him in October.  He spent most of his first seven seasons with the Patriots primarily as a kick returner, and slowly got a chance to start getting in the rotation as receiver as time went on.

His first year as a full-time starter was 2000, when new coach Bill Belichick saw something in his work ethic and talent that he really liked.  It was the right call.  In 2001 Brown had 101 catches and a pivotal role in the offensive as New England went on to upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.  He also had an excellent year in 2002.

But, when 2003 rolled around, Troy Brown was relegated to a lesser role in the receiving care.  He had been in the league 10 years at the point and the younger, fresher legs of the likes of Deion Branch were highlighted.  But Brown played a pivotal when New England went on to win back to back Super Bowls in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX.

Troy admits being upset that he didn’t start in the Super bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers but he played a pivotal role catching eight passes for 76 yards.  The following year Brown spent larges amounts of time playing defensive back because of injuries and again played a pivotal role in Super Bowl XXXIX covering the Philadelphia Eagles slot receivers.  He is a jack of all trades.

Troy Brown certainly didn’t want to retire after his 15 years in the league but father time caught up with him.  He had a great career as a lifelong New England Patriot.

This book will give the reader lots of insights into the character of Troy Brown and what it was like to be on championship winning teams and what it means to persevere.  In this case the underdog comes out on top.

Here is my tribute to Troy Brown written the day I heard he was announcing his retirement:  https://cdbaker.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/tribute-to-troy-brown/

Patriot Pride: My Life in the New England Dynasty

 

Great Biography of Bart Starr

51XyD5-M7kL__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Biographies of sports heroes usually come in one of two forms.  The first is a very shallow, quick, surficial look at the life and sporting career trying to earn a few dollars on the fame of a particular player.  The other is a truly in-depth look and accounting of the life and times of that sports hero.  This biography is clearly in the second category.  It does a phenomenal job of bringing Bart Starr to life for the reader.

Starr’s early life was marred by the death of his brother and subsequently was estranged from his father.  He became a star football player in high school but even there struggled with injuries but by his senior year was an All American.  Unlike most star athletes, however, he was more introverted and self-reflective.

Being an Alabama high school football star he wound up at the University of Alabama.  There he was an on again off again starter and after a back injury his junior year he hardly played as a senior.  His pro football prospects certainly seemed dim.

With recommendations from Alabama’s basketball coach Green Bay selected Starr in the 17th round of the 1956 NFL draft.

Again Starr started out as a back-up and then as an on again, off again starter for the Green Bay Packers.  When Vince Lombardi took over as coach of the Packers in 1959 it took some time for him to win over the coach’s trust as the starting quarterback, but he eventually did.  And the rest is a glorious history of championship football as the starting quarterback for arguable the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

One of the best parts of the biography for football fans is of course Starr’s role as the leader of the Green Bay Packers from 1960 to 1971, with five NFL championships, two of which were Super Bowl’s I and II.  This is a superlative career in an era where quarterbacks called their own plays and defensive backs could mug receivers down the field.

The book does a fantastic job of detailing Starr’s early struggles and his overcoming those struggles to become the undisputed field general and leader of the team other than Lombardi.  It also details his unique relationship with the tough minded Vince Lombardi who ultimately embraced Starr as his quarterback and trusted him in the most critical on-field situations.  While there were a lot of great moments for the team the infamous Ice Bowl where Starr changed the play and called a quarterback sneak to win the NFL championship against the Dallas Cowboys in one of the coldest games every played was thrilling relayed in the book.  And the pressure on the coach to win the first Super Bowl, and the second one is well told here.

This biography also brings out Starr’s unique qualities as a human being.  A very modest, honest, player who didn’t curse or go carousing with the guys, he nevertheless earned the respect of the players around him.  The biography really brings out this humble side of Starr and how it juxtaposed to that of his bombastic head coach and other players.  But he was a very tough competitor on the field, demanding the respect of all around him, including that of his head coach.

Another endearing quality to Starr’s life is he married his high school sweetheart and love of this life Cherry Morton and remained a faithful husband.  The love affair between these two is interwoven through the biography and is refreshing.

After his career he jumped into coaching and broadcasting.  He eventually became the head coach of a then struggling Green Bay Packers team from 1975 to 1983.  Unfortunately his stint as a head coach did not go quite like his football career.  He ended up with a 52-76-3 record as a head coach and the pressures of the job, especially after such a fantastic run as a player, was difficult.  He even admitted he probably was initially in over his head but did not want to quit.

And finally a tragedy.  Starr lost his son to drug abuse in 1988 after Starr and his wife constantly did everything to help him overcome the demon.  He eventually moved to Florida and fell back into his drug habit.  After not hearing from his son Bart flew to Florida and found him dead in his house.  This was obviously a very tragic and painful time in Bart Starr’s life.

The only quibble I have with the book is the claim that Bart Starr is the greatest quarterback in NFL history.  With his five NFL championships and great record as a player, the author makes a great argument.  I am not sure where I would place Bart Starr and he deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest of all time but I would not place him at the top.  But I did enjoy the statistics are arguments on his behalf.

Any football fan will enjoy this well written and thoughtful biography of one the greatest quarterbacks of all time, one of the winningest quarterbacks of all time, and one of the humblest and good natured athletes of all time.

Bart Starr: America’s Quarterback and the Rise of the National Football League

Review of Perfection: The Inside Story of the 1972 Miami Dolphins Perfect Season

griese-cover-198x300Perfection: The Inside Story of the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ Perfect Season by Bob Griese and Dave Hyde
John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-118-21809-9 (hardback)
272 pages

The Miami Dolphin’s 17-0 perfect season in 1972 is also a look back at what professional football was about in the early 1970’s – running the ball and defense.  Bob Griese was a cerebral quarterback but he did not put up gaudy stats.  In fact, most of the season Griese was on the sideline injured while a 37 year old Earl Morrall lead the team, or at least managed the game by handing off to Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, and Jim Kiick.

Isn’t it truly amazing that he Miami Dolphins went undefeated with a backup quarterback at the helm most of the season?  In today’s NFL that would almost certainly be impossible.

Griese’s retelling of that 1972 team is an interesting inside look at historically one of the best teams in football.  The only drawback to the book is that it really doesn’t have a lot of new material in it.  Much of these stories have been told in other places through various medium.  Nevertheless it is still an entertaining look back a great team.

There were a few key themes in the book that I found particularly interesting.  First was the fact the running game with Larry Csonka smashing people and the No Name Defense lead by linebacker Nick Buoniconti were really the heart and soul of the team and the reason for the undefeated season?.  Running the ball and defense wins championships.  Where did that go in today’s NFL?  Unfortunately, for players like defensive tackle Manny Fernandez, who definitely should have been the MVP of Super Bowl VII and in the Hall of Fame, suffered because nobody really paid attention to the individuals and they didn’t get as much public credit for their efforts as they deserved.  The middle linebacker position was already a glamour position because of players like Sam Huff and Dick Butkus so Buoniconti became the face of the defense.

Second was team unity.  Griese recounts that Marv Fleming, a tight end from Green Bay, came to the team and noticed the segregation between black and white players.  There was not racial tension on the team, but that was alien to Fleming in Green Bay.  He took charge of making sure the players integrated the locker room and to some degree their social lives, which likely helped team chemistry.  In other places Griese talks about team unity and its importance to their accomplishments.

A third theme is a reminder of just how crazy and brutal the game was in the 1970’s even though players were not making all that much money at the time.  Getting out of hospital beds to go play in a game, playing with injuries that would keep some players today on the sideline for weeks, and the pain pills and other pills to get players though the game.  While Griese does not go into excruciating detail on this, he clearly acknowledges it.

As mentioned earlier another very important point is just how vital it was to play together as a team.  That is what makes championship football.  Jim Kiick wasn’t happy about getting demoted so Don Shula could get the speedier Mercury Morris on the field, but when he got his chances he made the most out of them.  And when Earl Morrall was taken out of a game in the playoffs and then Griese handed the starting job going forward, he might not have liked it but he took it well and Griese acknowledges how much that meant to him and the team at the time.  And of course on the field, a tight knit group of players who played well together as units.

This book is full of great stories about the players taking us through the season a week at a time, with certain larger points being made in each chapter.  And clearly going 17-0 wasn’t easy.  The Dolphins had some close calls in a few games.  But they achieved perfection, and cling tenaciously to their legacy to this day.
Perfection: The Inside Story of the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ Perfect Season

New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl XLIV Champions: Another Average NFL Films Production

The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XLIV highlight package is rather average, but a bit better than the last few years.  Of course, for any New Orleans fan it is a great keepsake, no doubt.

The feature of all the team specific Super Bowl highlight packages is about an hour long highlights reel of the New Orleans Saints regular season.  This year’s edition does a decent job of showing the key highlights of every regular season game.  It moves at a much faster clip than most years, or at least seems to, and doesn’t even tease at making an attempt at building up any drama, which is the greatest failure of most of these highlight packages.  But unlike many previous years, where the film unsuccessfully feigns drama building, at least in this one you get what you get, a nice, fast paced journey through the New Orleans Saints’ 2009 season.  There is nothing particularly special about it, unless you are a Saints fan, and is entertaining enough if you are not.

This edition, however, does a horrific job of building up any of the drama of the Saints’ postseason.  It certainly shows all the Saints highlights from the Saints point of view.  But the drama building, especially of the Saints very close playoff win against the Minnesota Vikings, and their very close (despite the final score of 31-17) Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts is simply a joke.  You’d think the overtime victory against the Vikings and the win against the Colts were undramatic, almost foregone conclusions watching this compilation.  It just does a completely lousy job of it.

Worse yet, there are very few close breakdowns of dramatic plays and events during the season, and of the NFC Championship and Super Bowl wins.  It’s just a simply a highlights reel from the Saints’ perspective, and that is about it.

The Bonus Features are also a huge let down. You get the postgame celebrations, NFL media day, the halftime show, and a short personal close-up of the travails of Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, which is really the best of the Bonus Features.  The Bonus Features are simply thin and not very good.

The Saints made history with their first and rather dramatic win in Super Bowl XLIV.  While any Saints and NFL fan will enjoy the journey, the video robs the viewer of just what an amazing and dramatic run it really was.

NFL Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints Champions

The Story Behind the Wild but Winning 1990’s Dallas Cowboys

I sat down one Saturday to read Boys Will Be Boys, about the 1990 Dallas Cowboys, and couldn’t put it down.  This book chronicles the hard partying team that won three Super Bowls in four years and is definitively the team of the 1990’s.

Given the drinking, drugs, women, and super hard partying this team engaged in during their run in the 1990’s it is simply amazing that they were able to win championships.  I’m not sure if it is a testament to just what phenomenal athletes these men were, or their dedication to football and winning despite their debauched lifestyle off the field.  According to this book it seems nearly the entire team, with the exception of a few like stars like Troy Aikman, were engaged in a wild years long party off the field, while racking up wins and championships off of it.

Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame wide receiver and guard Nate Newton appear to be the ringleaders of this band of imbibers.  Of course Irvin has been busted enough times with drugs and women that it comes as no surprise.  What is surprising is just how pervasive the lifestyle was.  Certainly we all know there are a handful of players on every team that lead pretty wild lifestyles, but how a team that seemed to be immersed so deeply in drinking and womanizing (and presumably other illicit activities as well) could be so successful is really amazing.

Another completely bizarre character is defensive end Charles Haley.  Basically run out of San Francisco by his teammates for his horrible behavior, he nearly fit right in with the Dallas Cowboys.  This nasty fellow was known for exposing himself to his teammates and constantly harassing them and stirring up trouble.  Only professional athletes could ever get by with the horrendous behavior and bizarre antics of Haley.

There is also plenty of other inside information about the 1990 Cowboys.  We learn more about Troy Aikman and his leadership on the field.  And of course there is great detail about coach Jimmy Johnson who turned a blind eye to off field behaviors as long as the team kept winning.  We follow how he turned a losing team into a powerhouse with adroit drafting, his arrogant yet winning ways, and his falling out with owner Jerry Jones, when two Texas sized egos found they could not coexist.  We also get a view of the inevitable decline after the inept blowhard Barry Switzer took over as head coach.

All in all this was a wildly informative book about a wild but winning team.

Boys Will be Boys