Dec 262012

bowl-logosWidows and Fans, I totally get that this is an NFL site, although I can only assume that many of you also indulge in a little bit of college football in addition to the steady diet of the NFL, especially at this time of year. Having attended a Big Ten school myself, with a football program that has typically waxed and waned (mostly waned) in terms of their performance, and having come from a family of Michigan State fans, I have paid attention over the years to the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, etc. Getting a “Bowl Bid” was a big deal.

Bowl Bid- once upon a simpler time, this was an honor bestowed upon only the highest rated teams, who were invited to play in one of 5 post season games. Over time, the definition has changed to include the invitation to play in one of 35 post-season games.

Bowl games, once a New Year’s Day tradition, are now played beginning in mid-December and don’t end until early January. Teams with as few as 6 wins can be invited to play in one of these games. I found many in the sports blogging community that share my outrage at the deterioration of tradition. I also found someone who shares my sense of humor at the absurdity of it all. I can’t do it better, so here is a link to a 2010 blog post of the 10 worst (and funniest) college bowl sponsorships.

Some may disagree with my assessment that 35 bowl games is excessive and argue that it is still an honor to be invited to play in the post-season in spite of a team winning only half of their games. To me, it smacks of a “get-a-trophy-for-just-showing-up” mentality that takes away some, if not all, of the integrity of the bowl series. One of the large criticisms of the generation of young people entering adulthood these days is the expectation of reward for meeting basic expectations. Corporations like the San Diego County Credit Union, sponsors of the Poinsettia Bowl, and R+L Carriers, sponsors of the New Orleans Bowl, have found a great way to reward that mentality. Understand that I am in no way trying to diminish the college athlete and his accomplishments, or those of any team for that matter. I just thought that bowl games were about being the best, not about putting a company name out there for all to see, while placing the dubious distinction “Played in the 2012 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl” on a Bowling Green graduate’s resume.

Since this has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime in my humble, Football Widow’s opinion, I have come up with a few ideas of my own as corporate sponsors court opportunities to support NCAA football and vice versa. With women representing a large part of the market share, some of these will also appeal to my sisters in crime.

1. Tampax Tampon Freedom Bowl- If there is one thing more American than college football, it’s freedom. You know I’m right…
2. “He Went to Jared” Bowl- Holy subliminal advertising, Batman! That one would get rings on the fingers of many a young lady in the new year!
3. Secret “Strong Enough for a Man, Made for a Woman” Bowl- Teeheehee! This one needs no comment!
4. Activia Regularity Bowl- Regularity is important, folks.
5. L’Oreal “Because You’re Worth It” Bowl- Hey, if car wax or local credit unions can sponsor a bowl, why can’t a quality drug store makeup and hair product company?

Now I will climb off of my soap box and get back to the business of planning the menu for the first annual Gridiron Rats Super Bowl Party, to which I will be wearing my brand new Patriots Breast Cancer Awareness t-shirt! Thanks, Ghost Rat! I love it!!

Dec 202012

christmas-treeMy goodness, Widows. We are nearing the end of the road on this year’s regular NFL season. I am sure that your fan is eagerly awaiting the most exciting day of the year. The day that fills a football fan’s home with sounds of cheer and delightful smells of food from the kitchen. The day when friends and families gather to celebrate that which is truly important…FOOTBALL! Oh, wait…did you think that I meant Christmas? Sorry, Widows. I meant the Superbowl.

Just so all of you know that I have not been truly converted from Widow to Fan, I turn to one of my tried and not-so-true methods of choosing my teams for this week. Quarterbacks. In particular, which one that I would rather see in my stocking this year if Santa were giving me a cute Quarterback for Christmas. To be short, sweet and to the point so that I can get back to wrapping presents and baking cookies- I appreciate the ability to see nice looking young men when I watch the games and if you can’t be grateful during the holiday season, when can you?

This week, due to the way the holiday falls, we have no Monday night game. In fact, no more Monday night football until next fall. (pausing for any shouts of joy…). Instead we have a Saturday matchup between the Falcons and the Lions. I find Matt Ryan more aesthetically pleasing, so I choose a Falcons win.

Here’s the rest. Happy Holidays to all three of my readers!

Week 16 Widow’s Picks

Falcons over Lions (see above)

Packers over Titans (Locker is cute. Rodgers is cuter)

Panthers over Raiders (I love a Cam Newton smile)

Dolphins over Bills (Ryan Tannehill…and his wife is gorgeous too)

Bengals over Steelers (I usually don’t go for red heads like Andy Dalton, but I can’t wrap my head around finding Ben Roethlisberger the slightest bit attractive and I certainly don’t want to wake up Christmas day and find him under my tree.)

Patriots over Jaguars (Probably not a surprise, but I NEED Tom to come through for me this week and show us that is a far more than a pretty face.)

Colts over Chiefs (Two nice looking quarterbacks, chosen by likelihood of actual winner)

Cowboys over Saints (Tony Romo over Drew Brees)

Redskins over Eagles (I am a big RG III fan)

Buccaneers over Rams (Freeman over Bradford)

Ravens over Giants (I don’t find Eli attractive. At all.)

Texans over Vikings (Matt Schaub over Christian Ponder. I just prefer his looks)

Browns over Broncos (Sorry Manning…See comment above re: Eli…)

Cardinals over Bears (I like the Cardinals’ new guy)

Seahawks over 49ers (Tough call. Colin Kaepernik is a cutie. In the end, I opted for less ink.)

Chargers over Jets (I had to change this one 6 times during the season due to the Jets quarterback crisis.)

Dec 122012

Widows, this was a good week. Rat’s Orphan and her roll of the dice put me in the position to do better than my husband with my predictions. It all came down to the Monday night game. He chose the Texans and the Orphan and I chose the Patriots. (Pause for gasp!) Ladies, do not adjust your computer monitor. You read that correctly. My husband, a loyal Patriots fan, DID NOT choose them to win. It was amazing to watch the cognitive dissonance created as he wished to be wrong about the outcome of that game! Being wrong, however, meant that this week would mark the first week that I came out ahead in my predictions. December 10, 2012 is a day that will live in infamy. Not only was I right about the Patriots, my husband was actually rooting to be wrong! Now I have seen it all and I can leave this earth as a happy woman!

I give Ghost Rat a hard time. I tease him about how loudly he claps and yells, pretending to cower in fear. I scheduled a Christmas shopping run that lasted most of the first half of Monday night’s game on purpose. I told him to develop some sort of SOS code to use if he keels over since he watches the game in the basement and I may not hear him collapse. In spite of myself though, I have grown to enjoy my time in the man cave, eyes glued to 6 different games on NFL Sunday Ticket. I have opinions now about players, coaches and teams. I may not be well informed, but I know just enough to be dangerous, and probably more than a little bit annoying. I realize that many men need to be careful what they wish for. I wonder if they really want us to sit down next to them on the couch, pop open an adult beverage and talk about wisdom of starting a rookie quarterback. Maybe what they really want is to be left well enough alone. I need to issue a warning: If it can happen to me, it can happen to any woman. Any woman can end up a FAN.

That got me thinking, Widows. What if women ran the NFL? I think that there are many who would like to see the resignation of Roger Goodell, but are they ready for a woman in the role of Commissioner? Or would that make her a Commissionette? If women ran the league, I think some things would change!

The latest controversy centers around a proposal to ban the kickoff. Without going into elaborate detail, this is being batted around as a way to reduce injury to players by eliminating the opportunity for a surprise on side kick. I have tried repeatedly to re-type the logic for choosing the field position, the rationale behind making it a “4 down and 15 yards to go” situation, and quite frankly I deleted it 4 times before I decided to abandon my efforts. A female commissioner probably wouldn’t choose a strategy that was that hard to explain. That isn’t to say that a female commissioner would embrace a practice that creates great risk for injury, but with that logic, she would probably turn the league into the NFFL (National Flag Football League).

Regarding the violence issue, I think a female commissioner may approach rough, hazardous play differently. Teams are penalized in terms of yardage and players are sometimes fined or suspended for their conduct. Yardage penalties don’t seem to deter thugs from acting accordingly and those guys have paychecks that aren’t even touched by the fines issued. If we invoke Kindergarten rules, when players can’t play nice, maybe he shouldn’t be allowed to play at all! Bench him. Immediately. Remove him from the playground and make him sit in time out while his buddies play nicely.

When I began musing about this topic, my husband pointed out that Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State, has had her name bandied about for the top spot in the NFL. A die hard football fan, she is a lifelong follower of the Cleveland Browns. She has been quoted several times saying that the commissioner job is her “dream job”. She recently appeared in an advertisement for NFL football apparel for women. Not only is she a fan and now a model, but she is also both a football orphan (her father was a football coach) and a football widow, having had a long term relationship with an NFL player in her younger years. I don’t know if the world is ready for a woman in that position, but her resume looks good. Watch out, Mr. Goodell!

Since this week’s focus is on women ruling the football world, I am turning to my own intuition again for the picks.

Widow’s Week 15 Picks
Bengals over Eagles
Packers over Bears
Giants over Falcons
Buccaneers over Saints
Rams over Vikings
Redskins over Browns
Dolphins over Jaguars
Broncos over Ravens
Texans over Colts
Lions over Cardinals
Chargers over Panthers
Seahawks over Bills
Steelers over Cowboys
Raiders over Chiefs
Patriots over 49ers
Jets over Titans

Nov 272012

Well, Widows, last week I took on the coin toss to see if I am actually able to do better than chance when I make my weekly picks. Even though I am ahead of the Idaho Quarter (IQ for short) over all, this week the quarter and I were tied. Incidentally, so was Ghost Rat, so I have earned the distinction of being as right as he is!

Last week, I neglected to award my Widow’s Scorn award. It wasn’t for lack of inappropriate behavior, but rather due to disorganization on my part. This week’s award goes to…drum roll please…Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions! On Thanksgiving, he unceremoniously kicked Matt Schaub in the, shall I say, “groin”. I saw the replay and it looked very intentional to me, and to most who saw it. This isn’t Mr. Suh’s first offense. Last year on Thanksgiving he stomped on the shoulder of a Green Bay Packer. Earlier this year, he temporarily rendered Bears quarterback Jay Cutler unconscious, even though the play was deemed “clean”. Again I am convinced that the rules of Kindergarten apply to the gridiron. In this case, don’t kick boys in the nuts and don’t lie and pretend it was an accident when it was clearly on purpose. He is high on the list of the dirtiest players in the NFL.

As the old saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman. In the case of the NFL, this comes in the form of the wives and girlfriends of the players who are the ultimate football widows. I think I have it bad when it comes to losing my husband every Thursday, Sunday and Monday to the flat screen, but I got nothin’ on these ladies. In fact, I have developed a list of reasons why it is better to be the widow of a fan versus the widow of an NFL quarterback.

10. 300 pound men don’t get paid to try to knock my husband down.
9. No one rates my level of “hotness” among football widows on the internet. (True story. Google it!)
8. Screaming fans don’t yell at my husband when he has an off day.
7. I get to sit inside where it’s warm to watch football games in support of my husband.
6. At half time, my husband can carry on a conversation with me instead of his coach.
5. After a win, I don’t have to worry about my husband fending off hot football groupies.
4. After a loss, my husband doesn’t ever embarrass himself at a press conference.
3. My husband only gets a little bit sweaty during games.
2. Two words: NO CHEERLEADERS!

And the #1 reason why it is better to be the football widow of a fan…
Ndamukong Suh never gets close to my husband’s groin.

This week, I am paying tribute to the ladies who stand behind the quarterbacks. They are the REAL football widows. I’m not gonna lie – I’d love to have a quarterback’s paycheck to spend on all manner of shoes and purses, but I wouldn’t trade places with any of them.

When I did my research, which is as exhaustive as I have patience for and may not be flawless, I found some interesting stories of high school and college sweethearts, women who join their husbands in charity work, mothers of multiple children, and women who are stars themselves.

Drew Brees’ wife, Brittany, was his college sweetheart. They have 3 sons, the middle of which was named with assistance from Drew’s Twitter followers. That makes the woman a saint (no pun intended) in my book. The couple does charitable work in New Orleans, San Diego where they make their home in the off season, and near Purdue where they went to college. Russell Wilson, Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Matt Moore, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer are all married to women that they have been with for many years.

Among the ranks of the NFL women-behind-the men are athletes in their own right. There are softball, soccer, tennis and golf standouts from their respective colleges, as well as a Czech national gymnast and a US gymnastic medalist in the Beijing games.

Ryan Fitzpatrick proposed to his wife, Liza Barber at McDonald’s over Chicken McNuggets. It doesn’t get any more down to earth than that. There were married in 2006 and have 3 children. Melanie Weeden has been through not one, but two professional sports careers with her husband. He spent 5 years playing professional baseball prior to coming to the NFL. The brothers Manning both have wives and children, including a set of twins for Peyton and Ashley.

Tom Brady is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen.  Since 2004, she has been the highest paid model in the world, is a former Victoria’s Secret model, and was the 16th richest woman in the entertainment industry, with an estimated $150 million fortune in 2007. In this case, and in spite of his greatness, perhaps the great man stands behind a greater woman.

Tiffany Rivers wins the Ultimate Widow award. The couple began dating in the 7th grade and married after their freshman year of college, with the blessing of his football coach. They have 6, count ‘em, SIX children! She wins the prize!

Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger are newlyweds. Robert Griffin III is engaged. Among the girlfriends, there is a reality tv actress, an ESPN reporter, actress Eva Longoria, and R&B star Ciara. Matt Stafford continues to date his college girlfriend. It is a classic case of quarterback and cheerleader. What makes her noteworthy is that she plays fantasy football!

This week, my picks are based on my personal assessment of the widows that sit on the sidelines while their husbands entertain the football fans that we know and love. We’ll see if that is a good basis for choosing winners.

Widow’s Week 13 Picks

Saints over Falcons
Seahawks over Bears
Packers over Vikings
49ers over Rams
Cardinals over Jets
Chiefs over Panthers
Lions over Colts
Bills over Jaguars
Patriots over Dolphins
Texans over Titans
Broncos over Buccaneers
Ravens over Steelers
Browns over Raiders
Chargers over Bengals
Cowboys over Eagles
Giants over Redskins

Nov 212012

Greetings Football Widows and Happy Thanksgiving to all! This year, the NFL gave me the greatest gift EVER for Thanksgiving. I know…Thanksgiving is not typically a gift-giving holiday, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that they had bestowed something on me that is truly special. My husband’s beloved Patriots are playing on Thanksgiving Day! But wait…there’s more! They are playing none other than the most despised JETS! Apparently I am on the “naughty” list this year because not only do I lose my husband for 3 hours on a national holiday, but there is a risk, albeit a small one, of a possible humiliating loss to Rex Ryan’s crew. Perish the thought!

Ladies, don’t feel left out. The NFL has given you a gift as well. There are no more bye weeks. Everyone plays every week. If you don’t have your Christmas lights hung outside yet, you may need to kiss the neighborhood “Clark W. Griswold Christmas Decoration Award” goodbye because your fan will be unavailable to hang them each and every Sunday for the duration of the season.

There was a discussion that happened over the weekend that inspired the title of my article this week. While talking about the upcoming Patriots game, I said something to the effect of “If WE don’t beat those people…” The “we” in this case was The New England Patriots. Very quietly, with a smile in his voice, Ghost Rat replied “you said ‘we’!” My proverbial Thanksgiving goose is cooked. I have apparently drank the Kool Aid and I am now one of those people that talks about a football team as if I either own it, play on it or coach it. I must invoke the “F” word in this case. FAN. How did that happen? Regardless, I said it, and my husband will never forget it. I fear that I am one foam finger away from being completely sucked into the vortex of fandom.

In weeks past, I have taken on the social conscience of the NFL, have scoffed at the NFL cheerleading franchise, attempted to choose winners based on aesthetics, and tried to outwit my husband. This week, I am taking on my biggest rival when it comes to accuracy in prediction of game winners: CHANCE! I am going “mano y mano” (Widow y Coin-o?) with none other than the Idaho Quarter. Since I tend to be only slightly ahead of the coin toss in the standings, I have elected to directly match wits with an inanimate object to test my mettle. Here it goes, with commentary. Where the quarter and I disagree, it is noted. The Quarter and I differ in our picks in 8 games this week. On a positive note, my husband and I only disagree on the outcome of 2 games, which means that I have another shot at being almost as right as he is. This is a real feat for a quasi-fan such as myself.

Widow’s Week 12 Picks

Texans over Lions (the Texans may have looked bad last week, but the Lions are worse)
Redskins over Cowboys (the Redskins are 0-6 against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Maybe they are due)
Patriots over Jets (Duh…!)
Bengals over Raiders (Based on season record, I’m good with this one)
Steelers over Browns (The Quarter apparently hasn’t been watching football and has the Browns)
Colts over Bills (I defer to home field advantage and vote against the Quarter)
Titans over Jaguars (With 9 losses for the Jaguars, I am siding with the Quarter here)
Broncos over Chiefs (Sorry Chiefs, I think the Quarter is wrong with Peyton Manning in the house)
Vikings over Bears (The Quarter and I are not liking the Bears if Cutler remains questionable)
Buccaneers over Falcons (I think the Quarter is wrong and the Falcons are due to lose another one)
Seahawks over Dolphins (Silly Quarter, the Seahawks need a win on the road and this could be it)
Ravens over Chargers (Again I disagree with the Quarter, mainly based on the Ravens’ defense)
49ers over Saints (I have 2 words for the Quarter: Colin and Kaepernick!)
Cardinals over Rams (based on my own coin toss, I agree with the Quarter)
Giants over Packers (the Quarter and I discussed it and we think the Giants are motivated to win)
Eagles over Panthers (the Quarter picked the Panthers, but with 2 equally bad teams, home field advantage has its, well, advantages)

Nov 072012

Before I go into my process for selecting winners for Week 10, I feel duty bound to comment on how I did last week when I deliberately chose opposite of my husband, Ghost Rat. We went into Monday night’s contest TIED!! I unfortunately lost along with the Eagles as my husband chose the Saints to win. Still, I declare victory that it came down to only one game. By my count, that makes me almost as right as he is! Yippee!!

On to Week 10…I enlisted some help this week from my 15-year-old son to assist me with my picks since the topic is of great importance to him. I am speaking, of course, of the NFL cheerleaders. I am coming to terms with grown men getting paid enough money to run a small country to play football for around 20 weeks a year. I lag behind in my understanding of the use of “cheerleaders”.

The criteria used to choose an NFL cheerleader are surprisingly not rigid. They are chosen based on their ability to entertain the audience. Prior dance experience in NOT required, and there are not age, height or weight requirements for most teams. In fact, while the average age of NFL cheerleaders is 25, they range in age from 18-42. Shoot!! I just missed my window of opportunity to become one! Women from all over the country can try out, but must be willing to move to the home community of the team in order to make it to practice. They are required to have another full time job in spite of the huge commitment of time required to be an NFL cheerleader. They must have a minimum of a GED or high school diploma.

This week, I wanted to honor teams that, like me, don’t see cheerleaders as necessary. By my count, there are 6 NFL teams that don’t have a cheerleading squad, including the Browns and the Packers who have a bye week, as well as the Bears, Giants, Lions and Steelers. Since the majority of teams do, in fact, have cheerleaders, I made an effort to determine which teams had cheerleaders that provided the most value in society. I also had my son look at pictures of them and measured his “drool factor”. Sleazy cheerleaders equals a loss for the team. My research proved interesting regarding the ladies that cheer and there were some nice surprises about their contribution to the greater good. It is with clenched jaw that I speak in defense of the women who make up the NFL squads. All of them appear on behalf of the team to raise money, act as ambassadors and complete hours of community service. I sought to use my usual scientific method to make a judgment call, with the team with the most substantial cheerleaders winning. The harder I had to look for information about community service efforts, the more likely I chose the team to lose.

In the Thursday night game, the Colts face the Jaguars. This one was close for me. The team picture of the Jaguars cheerleaders revealed, no pun intended, some of the most well endowed women across all teams. The ROAR, as they are called, function as a community service organization in addition to a dance squad. The Colts cheerleaders, while also a community service organization, include women named Sable, Candi (with an “I”), Jenniphure, and Allegra. Is it just me, or do those sound more like stripper names? Jaguars win!

Here are some of the other noteworthy bits of information. The Broncos Cheerleaders log over 1,500 hours of community service per year. The Buccaneers Cheerleaders and the Oakland Raiderettes are considered elite squads. The Buffalo Jills visited the war zone in Iraq in 1996 and the49ers Gold Rush traveled to Bosnia to entertain the troops. These are just small examples of the positive work of these women.

I am choosing an Eagles win over the Cowboys on general principal due to the fact that the Cowboys have the most famous cheerleaders of all NFL teams. Also, the Eagles have the only squad that places a “mature content” warning on their web page. After looking at all of the web pages, I applaud their insight because most of the sites I visited contained fairly mature content.

I am introducing a new concept this week. I am calling it the Widow’s Scorn award. For the remainder of the season, I am going to select a recipient who, in my estimation, places the largest blemish on the face of the game for the week. This may be in the form of behavior on or off the field, and will likely include violations of my “everything I need to know about football I learned in kindergarten” principles. The first recipient of the Widow’s Scorn award is Sarah Jones, former Bengals Cheerleader. She has not been in the news since October 8th when she accepted a plea deal after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old male student during her time spent as a high school English teacher. She has admitted to the misconduct in open court as part of her plea agreement, although she is not going to jail and is not being required to register as a sex offender. However, she is the first winner of this award because of my focus on cheerleaders this week. It is by far the most damaging thing I found, and, unfortunately for the Bengals, this bad apple spoils the batch for this week.

May the most tasteful cheerleaders win!!

Week 10

Jaguars over Colts
Broncos over Panthers
Buccaneers over Chargers
Titans over Dolphins
Bills over Patriots
Raiders over Ravens
Giants over Bengals
Saints over Falcons
Lions over Vikings
Seahawks over Jets
Eagles over Cowboys
49ers over Rams
Bears over Texans
Steelers over Chiefs

Oct 312012

Please indulge me for a moment, Widows! I had a VERY good week last week, going 10 and 4 on my picks for last week’s game winners. I tied Brodrick Kincaid for the lead position among our regular contributors and, in fact, surpassed my lovely husband’s record for the week. Does gloating make my butt look big?

Our new term for the week is (drum roll please…) BYE WEEK!!

Bye week: One week during the regular NFL season, each team gets a week off without a game. Please look for signs of grief, depression and withdrawal in your fan as he tries to cope with a week without his beloved team during their bye week. Your fan may attempt to cope through watching other games or console himself with talk of the schedule that his team faces “coming out of the bye week”. His hope will likely be that the team will emerge well rested, healed from injury, with corrections made to any difficulties that they are experiencing and ready to continue with the season.

A well timed bye week can have advantages to you as a football widow. Depending upon where you live, there may be leaves to be raked. Regardless of where you live, there is a honey do list that has been gathering dust and holiday lights to be hung. If your fan’s team has already had their bye week, perhaps you have already taken advantage of his availability. If your fan’s bye week is yet to come, he may be able to accompany you to the mall to act as Sherpa for your holiday shopping bags.

Some of you will be less fortunate. This is the bye week for the Jets, 49ers, Rams, and The New England Patriots, which is a pretty big deal at my house. I excitedly informed Ghost Rat that I was happy to have “total custody” of him this Sunday. He responded in the form of a question: “do you think there aren’t other games on?” Some of you will still lose your husband to the man cave for blocks of time since his team isn’t the only team he watches. Yet, I submit that his resolve will be weak and you have a better chance of luring him out from in front of the television during the bye week.

Prior to the start of the season, I decided week by week how I would choose my winning teams. I wanted to do “Opposite Week” at some point during the season, choosing completely opposite of Ghost Rat. I selected the Patriots bye week to do it in order to avoid having to choose another team over them since a Patriots win is always what I want since it is cause for much rejoicing. He presented me with his picks this morning and I cringed when I saw some of them. My intuition tells me that he is probably right about many of his choices, so I am actually not going to do very well this week. Since I am riding the wave of a great week last week I decided to generally choose opposite of him, while invoking the Woman’s Prerogative Clause: the right to change my mind! I will note those games with an asterisk so that my 3 readers will know where I deviated from my usual scientific method of choosing winners and losers. My goal is simply to tie Ghost Rat in my record for this week. Cross your fingers for me, Widows!

Week 9 Picks

Chiefs over Chargers
Panthers over Redskins
Packers over Cardinals*
Jaguars over Lions
Bears over Titans*
Broncos over Bengals*
Ravens over Browns
Bills over Texans
Dolphins over Colts
Seahawks over Vikings
Buccaneers over Raiders*
Steelers over Giants
Falcons over Cowboys*
Eagles over Saints

Oct 232012

Greetings again, Widows. I realized that I have been neglecting one of my commitments that I made when I said that I would do a weekly blog about my survival of the football season–adding to the glossary of terms. Allow me to play a little bit of catch up.

“Line of scrimmage”: this is the imaginary line that the players who have the ball have to line up behind. Basically, they have to be behind the ball, and they have to use their imaginations, as well as their depth perception to make sure that they are lined up correctly. I have previously defined false starts and offsides in our glossary of terms. Both of these penalties relate to failing to follow the rules about staying in line.

“Pocket”: the imaginary area created to try to protect a quarterback in order for him to have enough time to pass the football. The people who provide this protection are typically enormous individuals. In playground language, these are the guys to whom you gladly give your lunch money to protect you from the guys who want to beat you up to steal it.

“Sack”: this is what they call tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. I had a terrible time trying to find out why they call it a “sack”. It may be because officials used to throw down a bean bag (sack) when this occurred, according to Wikipedia. (Sack is also a manufacturer of purses, offering a variety of stylish, yet practical, over priced handbags that can be found in any major department store near you! I have one and guess what?? It has a pocket. Coincidence?? I think not!)

“Intentional Grounding”: much as the name implies, this penalty is called when the quarterback throws the ball at the ground on purpose. Based on personal observation, it appears that this is done to avoid being tackled/sacked. (I intellectually understand why this is something that is not allowed, although if my son was a quarterback, I guarantee that I’d be the loudest person in the stands yelling “GET RID OF IT!”)

“Incomplete pass”: unlike intentional grounding, in this case, the quarterback has very good intentions of throwing the ball to another player, but it ends up on the ground by mistake. This results in the need for a do-over. Depending on who a fan is cheering for, it may also resort in loud use of profanity and questioning of why it is that people who are paid that much money can’t seem to do their job, whether it be the inept quarterback or the butter fingered intended receiver.

Now, watch me use all of this in a sentence! The quarterback stepped back into the pocket, and then intentionally grounded the ball to try to avoid a sack because he couldn’t get across the line of scrimmage, although the coach had the play reviewed because he thought it was an incomplete pass. Nice, right?

My dear Sisters of the Traveling Remote Control, I invite you to submit football terms to this website that defy your understanding. I promise to research them to the best of my patience and attention span, and to define them in a manner designed to increase your understanding of football as well as mine. I will gladly treat any questions or requests in the same manner. This will give me something meaningful to do while my husband assists to coach the Patriots for 3 hours per week from the privacy of our basement. (Does anyone know where I can get a 2012 Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick sweatshirt just like the one that he wears on the sidelines on game day? And do you suppose that he cut the sleeves off himself or does it come that way?)  Ghost Rat’s Note: Here it is, honey… in gray but with sleeves. Still very nice.  :-)

This week, in honor of Halloween, I decided to base my picks on the team with the “Best Costume”. Those guys at ESPN really “get” us and understand what is important: power rankings of current uniform sets following the Nike re-design!! I am a sucker for a good costume change every now and again to mix things up. See how ESPN ranked them (as well as pictures of the home and away uniforms) here:

Week 8 picks

Buccaneers over Vikings
Packers over Jaguars
Jets over Dolphins
Chargers over Browns
Colts over Titans
Patriots over Rams
Eagles over Falcons
Bears over Panthers
Lions over Seahawks
Steelers over Redskins
Raiders over Chiefs
Giants over Cowboys
Saints over Broncos
49ers over Cardinals

Oct 172012

Well, Widows, we have Week 6 under our belts. Between trips to the mall and the grocery store, I have paused long enough to hear that many teams are off to surprising starts, both good and bad. I wish I could say that the Patriots are leaning toward the good, but, alas, they are not, much to the chagrin of my husband. Those of you who are intimately connected to Saints or Packers fans are probably in the same boat I am in. If you are married to a Jets fan, you have my condolences as well. My recommendation: buy shoes! It helps! I bought a cute pair Sunday and was far less impacted by the scores of the games.

I want to thank all NFL players who made it through the Week Without Violence without being violent off of the field. One member of the Pittsburgh Steelers was arrested for DUI. Alameda Ta’amu was arrested after crashing his car into several vehicles and attempting to flee. The counts he is facing are too numerous to mention. Unfortunately, the nice guys finished first only about half of the time this week. Of some small consolation is that the real Gridiron Rats contributors didn’t fare much better in their efforts this week. I am officially choosing winners and losers as well as a coin toss. Why does it feel more like a crap shoot? I am slightly under .500. Still I press on.

This week, my plan was to base my picks on my husband’s view of the coaches, with his favorite of the two in each match up being chosen to win. Instead, I am turning back to every woman’s ace in the hole: my intuition. The week I based my picks on my gut instinct, I did better choosing based on that than I even did in week 1 (prettiest helmet). I asked Ghost Rat to give me one important bit of information about each team and I am using that as the basis of my choices. Cross your fingers for me, Widows!

49ers over Seahawks (Not a fan of the Seahawks’ Sgt. Pepper stripe-down-the-side pants)

Redskins over Giants (I like RG3’s Subway commercials)

Vikings over Cardinals (This one is for my son the Viking fan)

Panthers over Cowboys (I have never really liked Cowboys…the team, not the profession)

Buccaneers over Saints (If the Saints were at the Dome, I’d go the other way…this is a “lesser of 2 evils” match up)

Packers over Rams (The Pack showed signs of life on Sunday.)

Texans over Ravens (Going with home field advantage)

Colts over Browns (Picking on the Browns is becoming my “thing”)

Bills over Titans (Why? Because I said so…)

Patriots over Jets (A team with one good quarterback beats one with two bad ones)

Jaguars over Raiders (Does it really matter?)

Steelers over Bengals (Somebody’s gotta win…)

Bears over Lions (The Bears are off to a great start. I hope they don’t disappoint.)

Oct 122012

I knew it was bound to happen when I began writing about serious topics related to the NFL that may be of interest to Football Widows. I knew that I would unwittingly write about something that would be attached to controversy. I had no idea that I would find that topic my first time deviating from the lighthearted fluffiness that is my quest to make sense of my husband’s first love, football. I am speaking of the NFL’s breast cancer awareness efforts.

This evening, my husband was discussing this site with two different people, in two different contexts, who mentioned that there is controversy over the percentage of the money that actually finds its way into the hands of organizations like The American Cancer Society. After I applauded these guys for their efforts to save the boobies, I did some research of my own to see what was being said. The first article I found unfortunately contained so much profanity within the first paragraph, that the author lost credibility. She also harpooned the ACS for the amount of money they spend on overhead and made some factual errors about the actual work of the ACS, so that turned me off further. Anyway, I went in search of a non-potty mouth account of the facts, and read the article that she referenced in her rant. Yes, I am judging it as a rant given the use of a word that rhymes with “brothertrucking” in first few sentences of the article. Come on, people, this is a family site! Besides, back to the Everything I Need to Know about Football, I Learned in Kindergarten philosophy, I am electing to “use my words”.

The NFL issued a response to the criticism. They do not dispute the fact that only 5% of the proceeds from the sale of pink licensed merchandise go to charitable organizations. In fact, the majority of money donated comes from the other initiatives, including encouraging fan donations. And, yes, $3 million over 4 years is not much compared to the NFL’s $9+ billion in profits annually. I get mentally bogged down by the fact that the NFL records multi-billion dollar profits, and I am not invested enough in learning how much of a profit is made from NFL licensed merchandise sales. I don’t know what a good percentage of the profits would be to donate and I don’t think it is my place to decide that on the part of the owners, players, or my next door neighbor for that matter. Once I get stuck there, it seems that they profit in all sorts of ways that I am clueless about, but I don’t have a dog in that particular fight. I just know that I could buy a lot of pizza to feed our hungry brood with that kind of cash!!

I am an expert in the area of consumer behavior related to purchase of NFL merchandise. I am, of course, referring to the volume of Patriots items that we purchase, which, believe me when I say, is certainly plenty to qualify me as a market research specialist! For example, we have a wheel cover on the Honda, a recently-broken lawn chair, clocks, flags, banners, mini helmets, slightly larger mini helmets, hats, a new game day jersey purchased for him by moi for his recent birthday, and the list goes on and on. Patriots merchandise is low hanging fruit in the gift-giving department. Here is a short list of some of the fabulous items that we don’t own. Not yet anyway…

1. New England Patriots Silver Team Logo Pro Toaster, which toasts the team logo onto the bread ($39.95)
2. New England Patriots Gameday Salt and Pepper Shakers in the shape of jerseys in the home and away colors ($15.95)
3. New England Patriots Flying Rally Monkey (What the…?) ($9.95)
4. New England Patriots 12” x 12” Family Car Decal Sheet (we’d need 2 at $14.95 each)
5. New England Patriots High Heel Shoe Wine Bottle Holder (I kid you not!) ($35.95)
6. New England Patriots ProToast Elite Toaster, black, different manufacturer… ($39.95)
7. New England Patriots 4-Pack Light-Up Party Ice Cubes (speechless) ($14.95)
8. New England Patriots ARMagnet (seriously, a life size magnet of an arm of a Pats player holding the ball that you stick outside the driver’s side window) ($22.95)
9. New England Patriots 6-pack Edible Helmet Pizza Prints (I think I am losing consciousness…) ($34.95)
10. And for the ladies, at the low, low bargain basement price of $1.95, a 4-pack of Temporary Nail Tattoos!!

I’m not even going to start on gifts for the family dog…It seems that people buy the stuff whether it is pink or not, and I am in no position to assess how much consumer behavior is impacted by the NFL going pink. My point is that I don’t know if it matters, and I respect that, to others, it may.

As an aside, I went looking for the American Cancer Society’s position on the topic. I only found a blurb from 2011 that talked about the partnership between their organization and the NFL. They reference the advocacy efforts in congress that have taken place as a result “A Crucial Catch” with the goal of increasing research funding. Again, I am not an expert on conducting extensive research, so maybe there is more out there that isn’t as favorable.

Another issue that is being taken up is related to the value of “awareness”. I have shared that I am 40-something-years-old, and I have had regular mammography since my 40th birthday. I know women who are my age who don’t. I haven’t taken a poll, but I am wondering if they know that breast cancer will impact 1 in 8 women. If they don’t, maybe more awareness isn’t such a bad thing. The proceeds from game day auction items go toward grants to fund awareness campaigns and access to screenings for women in underserved areas. In that case, awareness leads to screening, leads to earliest possible detection. It’s not medical research, but still a very valuable cause in my mind.

I own socks with pink ribbons, a lime green ball cap with a pink ribbon that I wore when I walked in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure a few years ago, a pink wrist band, a lunch bag from Lean Cuisine, and most likely some other things that I can’t recall. I purchased them without regard for the amount of money that would go directly to research. In point of fact, many makers of pink merchandise do so just for profit without any donation to any organization. I don’t think that it makes me a bad person, nor does it mean I was manipulated into making a purchase that I wouldn’t have made otherwise. I wouldn’t even be a bit surprised if Santa Clause placed a pink Pats jersey under the tree for me this year.

As I get older, I personally know more and more women who are diagnosed with the disease. My maternal grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. Because of early detection, she is alive and still kicking at nearly 92. I seldom wear pink, but when I do, it is also a show of solidarity. It is a visual symbol and a very minute gesture of support for the women in my life and the women in the lives of people that I care about who are impacted by this disease. It is a cause no more worthy than, say, colon cancer awareness (I have a dear friend who has been battling that disease for 4 years) or Autism Awareness (one of my dearest friends has a son with Autism) or St. Jude (I lost a cousin to leukemia). It is also no LESS worthy and I actually found quite a bit of evidence of additional support specific to NFL teams and players who have been personally impacted by breast cancer.

I invite Widows and Fans alike to comment on this topic. I don’t have the thick skin of, say, a lifelong Bears fan who has endured ridicule, or Ghost Rat who is much more passionate and able to defend his position easily, so be gentle on me, although not the issue. I don’t have a right or wrong answer about the topic. I was just enjoying believing that the NFL was acknowledging a good cause. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t leading (all 3 of) my readers astray. I merely hope to provide more food for thought.

Widow’s Update: Pro Football Talk posted this morning that the NFL made a statement to them stating that they does NOT profit at all from the sale of pink merchandise. Rather, they donate 100% of the “net profit”. Mike Florio goes on to question the accounting smoke and mirrors that go into determining “net profit”. I’ve been slaving away in the non profit work world 20 times longer than I have been a football widow and I guarantee that most people who don’t work in that sector are unaware of the associated costs of doing business and of launching an awareness campaign of any magnitude. Sure, we can make the NFL out to be the Big Bad Wolf in this case. After all, they are always the $9.5 billion dollar gorilla in the room. I just pose the question: “are we sure that this is a bad thing that they are doing?”.

Also, I don’t want to tip my hand, because I know that all 3 of the people who read my posts love the anticipation of knowing where my picks will come from, but stay tuned for more information about the charitable work of specific teams and players. NFL teams and many players have their own charitable foundations. Teams give back in their home communities in a variety of ways, including countless hours of community service in addition to the donation of money. So, while we are looking at this percentage of funds donated for Breast Cancer Awareness, perhaps we are short sighted if we don’t look at all that they give.