Tag Archives: NFL

Football, I can’t quit you

During the NFL’s regular season this year, I didn’t watch football. I’d read about how concussions were affecting players after they left the game (in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere), and I found it hard to enjoy watching knowing that some players on the field would have serious health problems in a few years because of the sport.

Kathy Newman today posted an excellent summary of the reality of playing in the NFL as part of a post on football and the working class:

Do all NFL players make millions of dollars for years upon end?  The statistics might surprise you.  The average NFL career lasts 3 seasons, due to the high rate of brain and leg injuries.  The median salary in the NFL in 2009 was $770,000.  While that might seem like a ton-o-cash, factor in a 35% tax rate, and 6% to the agent.  Now factor in a college education that was not completed or which was poorly attended to.  And this:  78% of all NFL players are bankrupt within two years of the leaving the league.

So this Sunday, whether you are munching on Polish sausage or pierogies, chew on this.  78% of the men suited up in black and green and gold will be bankrupt in the next 5-10 years.  They will be replaced by younger models, who will be encouraged to play even more aggressively, while at the same time threatened with fines totaling in the hundreds of thousands when they do.  They will be coming out of college earlier, with less schooling, and less guidance about what to do with their money during the brief period of time in which it is flowing.  It seems too outrageous to be true, but those of us watching our storied teams do epic battle this Sunday, whether we be plumbers or professors, likely face a more secure economic future than the chiseled, wild-haired, hard-hitting football players that so beautifully represent out Rust Belt pride.

My football boycott started well. I did fine not watching football during the regular season; I particularly enjoyed having Sunday afternoons free.

But once the Steelers made it to the playoffs, abstaining from football became much harder. Now that they’re in the Super Bowl, it’s nigh on impossible to avoid being sucked into the excitement. It’s like a holiday: Stores and restaurants in western PA are closing at 4 or 5pm so employees can watch the game. Terrible Towels are everywhere; everyone seems to be wearing black and gold. I saw a school bus yesterday with “Go Steelers” written in the dirt on a back window.

So I’m heading to my parents’ house tonight to watch the game. And at the same time, I hope the NFL will address the problems that concussions and other injuries create for players.

The cheering squad

Yesterday for the Steelers-Chargers game, my two-year-old niece wore her Steelers cheerleader outfit. We said the Steelers needed her support and she should give them a cheer.

She started shouting sounds. “Ah! Oof! Whoa! Ack! Yeah!”

We all stared. After a minute, my brother realized that she was imitating us — those were the sounds we made while we watched the game.

Which is absolutely true. Whoa!

Rachel says Go Steelers!

Older posts on football and the Pittsburgh Steelers:

The very best Steelers song EVER (Jan 24, 2006)

Drink of the Super Bowl: No. 43 Trophy Cup (aka The Polamalu) (Feb 3, 2006)

“We tried everything to give that game away, but they darn well wouldn’t take it” (Jan 16, 2005)

Comeback Season

Comeback Season book cover

Consider this excerpt:

With a heavy heart I watch that Sunday’s game between the Colts and the Jets. With 2:24 remaining in the game, Peyton Manning completes a 2-yard pass to tight end Bryan Fletcher, ending a 68-yard Colts drive. Colts 24, Jets 21. The Colts offense retreats to the bench, but before they can even sit down, the Jets kick returner Justin Miller runs the kickoff 103 yards to give the Jets a 28-24 lead with 2:20 remaining. Peyton Manning has just picked up the phone to talk to the quarterback coach Jim Caldwell when he looks up and sees Miller run down tiny little Martin Gramatica, the Colts temporary replacement kicker for Adam Vinateri. Manning hangs up the phone and quickly puts his helmet back on.

That may not sound like a paragraph from a woman’s memoir about trying to find true love in Pittsburgh, but it is. And amazingly, it works.

The book is Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love, by Cathy Day. It tells her story of what it’s like to be successful but single — or possibly single because you’ve been so busy being successful. But it also tells the story of coming back from failure, whether that failure is losing in the NFL playoffs or being passed over, yet again, by someone you cared for and who you thought cared for you.

The NFL comeback in question is that of Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, who lost (to the Pittsburgh Steelers, rah) in the playoffs of the 2005 season and then returned in 2006 to win the Super Bowl. We know from the start what will happen with the Colts, but we don’t know whether Cathy will be able to mend her broken heart and find someone to love. Therein lies the story.

And it’s great fun. Granted, I may be a bit biased in this assessment, being a somewhat successful and chronically single woman in western Pennsylvania who also happens to adore NFL football. My first thought on hearing about this book was, "Damn, I should have written that."  I started reading, and I had repeated jolts of recognition: Hey, I’ve been set up at parties too! Ooh, I thought I needed to write polite responses to everyone who wrote to me on Match.com also! Yes, I judge people by their command of spelling and grammar as well! After only a dozen or so pages, I was enjoying the book so much I was glad I hadn’t had to write it.

Then as I read further, and I saw where the story was going, how smoothly the storylines were woven together, how real the people were, how perfectly it all worked. And I started to feel a little envious again, this time because I knew I couldn’t have written this book — not as well as it’s written. Boy, it’s good.

I’m not the only one who enjoyed it:

“Cathy Day’s gutsy memoir is the stuff of a great Lucille Ball episode. Comeback Season is funny, sad; wise, idiotic; realistic, hopelessly romanticized. It’s a book to read all the way through — no flipping and skimming…How her season plays out is the stuff of good living presented as artfully as did the Queen of Comedy, who taught us misadventures have a place in prime time." —Nuvo: Indy’s Alternative Voice

If you know Pittsburgh, you’ll find little treats along the way: the Church Brew Works, Polish Hill, the Beehive on the South Side, and the Gist Street Reading Series all make cameo appearances, along with so many other local haunts. Pittsburgh’s sudden, stunning vistas pop up, just like in real life. And although she’s not from ’round here, Ms. Day paints a fair picture of those of us who are — which is impressive, considering she’s a lonely Colts fan stranded in Steelers Country.

(She does make one unfortunate reference to black and gold garb making local fans look like bumblebees. I’m only glad that the Colts and the Steelers never played each other during the season she chronicles, or there might have been real trouble.)

Comeback Season starts out as a clever premise but grows into a thoughtful treatise on the intersection of romance, success, confidence, and identity. Does Cathy win in the end? You’ll need to read the book and find out.

Order Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love online or buy it at your favorite bookseller.

Cathy Day currently teaches in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, so there’s a chance you’ll bump into her wandering around the Burgh. You can find her website at www.cathyday.com.

Better yet, you can hear her read from Comeback Season on Tuesday, February 12 @ 7PM, at the Joseph Beth Booksellers in the Southside Works, 2705 East Carson Street. UPDATE on Feb. 2: Due to a big ol’ winter storm, the reading is postponed. I’ll post the rescheduled date when that’s set. Stay home and stay warm!

Best part of the Super Bowl


The best part of the Super Bowl this year was the commercials.

Ah, who’m I kidding? This was the best Super Bowl in years. Exciting, tense, closely fought. Great defensive performances from both teams, clever strategizing on all sides. Bill Belichick and his staff made a great call asking for a review of a play in which a Giants player turned out not to get off the field in time — key reversal there. Eli Manning held himself together in his non-showy way, and pulled off a couple of outstanding plays, especially in the play where he pulled off a bunch of defenders and threw an awesome pass to … well, frankly I don’t know to whom, because I never watch the Giants. But today they were impressive, and they won resoundingly.

An aside: What was the deal with Bill Belichick leaving the field with time left on the clock? I wouldn’t expect that his team would score, but it seemed unsportsmanlike to leave while the game was still in progress. That’s a Randy Moss move from way back, and as Uncle Crappy pointed out, even Moss stayed on the field until the end this time.

The commercials were not as exciting as the game, for once, but I still felt compelled to watch them. One I was particularly pleased to see was for the Pixar movie WALL-E. The first trailer for this movie was not impressive: It focused mainly on the genesis for the idea, which is interesting only to John Lasseter, and maybe not even to him.

The commercial shown during the game focused on characters from Toy Story, which was marginally better. But the commercial was enough to remind me that the movie will be out this summer, and that led me to search for any other trailers that might be about.

This brought me to the video I’ve embedded above. In each Pixar movie, there’s at least one new thing that they haven’t been able to do before. In Monsters, Inc., it was realistic fur. In The Incredibles, it was realistic animated water and hair. In this case, the new thing appears to be dust.

WALL-E lives in a future world in which he and the roaches are the only ones still around. Everything else is desolate — Mad Max desolate. From what I can see in this trailer, the surfaces, air, and light all play on each other like what you’d see in a spaghetti western. That’s gonna be awesome.

UPDATE: I forgot to add that you can see a much clearer version of this trailer, plus a lot more WALL-E stuff, at the Apple website.

Protect this house!

Heinz Field
Originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey

Tonight the Steelers host the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of playoff games.

All the experts are picking the Jaguars to win. The Steelers have home field advantage, but they are a banged up team and will be missing a lot of players to injury — players who helped gain the wins that earned the team this playoff berth. And Jacksonville has beaten the Steelers once already, in Heinz Field.

In addition, this Steelers team is very young, and inexperience can lead to mental mistakes in a high-pressure situation like a playoff game.

Still, of course I think the Steelers will win. Heinz Field is still a tough place for opponents, Ben Roethlisberger has been outstanding all season, other key players have been resting and recuperating for this week, and the coaches have been pounding everyone on the team with footage of that embarrassing regular season loss to the Jaguars.

Here we go Steelers, here we go!

UPDATE: Oh, sigh. The Steelers couldn’t hold themselves together. They had some brilliant moments in the game, and you have to admire the way they continued to press and attack even when they’d fallen far behind. But they lost all the same.

At least this frees up my weekend evenings and afternoons until next season.

Fantasy football 2007: Week 2 wrap

Official Lush Life team helmetFootball and fantasy football are back in session, much to my glee.

In past years as a fantasy football manager, I spent many, many hours pouring over player and NFL team stats, adding and dropping players, changing my lineup several times each week, and watching hours (days!) of TV coverage. This year I’m more laid-back. I have made a few judicious free agent pickups, but I’ve adjusted lineups only a few times, and I haven’t watched more than a few minutes of analysis on TV.

It’s only week three, but so far this laisse-faire approach is working for me. I’m 1-1-0 in the LFM League (with my fellow grad school alumns) and 2-0-0 in the Pittsburgh Celebrity Bloggers League.

Of the two leagues, the PCBL is the more interesting. More teams mean tougher competition for players and closer games, plus much more trash talk so far. And the fact that I’m undefeated makes it more fun as well, of course.

Something To Be Desired helmet My opponent last week was Justin Kownacki, Pittsburgh-based social media consultant and the force behind Something To Be Desired, a web sitcom also based in Pittsburgh.

(Please do check out STBD: It’s currently in season 4, but you can start watching from any point in the series. You’ll miss out on some of the ironies and jokes but you’ll catch on to the characters and situations quite quickly. It’s a bit bawdy and very funny.)

I’ve worked with Justin on PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 and the intro-level social media Bootcamp we ran earlier this year, plus on-going PodCamp Pittsburgh stuff, and he’s an all-around great fellow.

However, last week I put aside all that and whupped Justin in fantasy football, 145.27 to 94.07. My main weapon was Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, who brought me a gorgeous 43.30 points even as his team lost to Houston. Twenty-five points from the Minnesota defense helped as well.

Lush Life (my team)

(Sea – QB)
@Ari L, 23-20 14.50 13.17
(Car – WR)
Hou L, 34-21 14.07 43.30
(StL – WR)
SF L, 17-16 12.09 11.40
(Ari – WR)
Sea W, 23-20 9.75 8.30
(KC – RB)
@Chi L, 20-10 12.90 8.70
(Atl – RB)
@Jac L, 13-7 6.74 4.30
(NE – TE)
SD W, 38-14 5.55 10.90
(Den – WR)
Oak W, 23-20 7.78 8.20
(StL – K)
SF L, 17-16 8.67 12.00
(Min – DEF)
@Det L, 20-17 11.09 25.00
Total       103.14 145.27

STBD Gets Sporty (Justin Kownacki)

(Det – QB)
Min W, 20-17 19.43 14.87
(StL – WR)
SF L, 17-16 6.30 19.20
(Chi – WR)
KC W, 20-10 5.37 0.70
(NE – WR)
SD W, 38-14 4.11 9.70
(SD – RB)
@NE L, 38-14 26.34 5.80
(Car – RB)
Hou L, 34-21 8.51 5.10
(Bal – TE)
NYJ W, 20-13 7.07 13.60
(Det – WR)
Min W, 20-17 5.23 7.10
(Ind – K)
@Ten W, 22-20 8.91 7.00
(Pit – DEF)
Buf W, 26-3 12.24 11.00
Total       103.51 94.07

Images note: Both of these fantabulous helmets were created by Norm Huelsman, another member of the PCBL and my opponent this week. I offer him all kinds of kudos and thanks.

The helmets’ sheer wonderfulness will not prevent my team from pounding his into a whimpering mess, by the way.