Touring Mile High Stadium

Two nice thing about my recent trip to Denver (aside from seeing family and friends I haven't seen in years): 1) Got a nice road trip with three of my boys and lots of time together. 2) We were able to take a tour of Mile High Stadium. (Yeah, I know it's Sports Authority Field at Mile High but that's not what I call it.) The overall trip was some good bonding time and the two hour tour of the stadium was a blast for me and the kids and something I hope the boys will remember for a long, long time.

Me and the boys. November 22. That white stuff on the field helps keep the heat in while letting enough light through.

Sign above the Broncos locker room. Says it all!!!!

What the visiting team sees when they walk out of their locker room. Just a friendly reminder to watch out for altitude sickness. :)

My Kids: Hardcore Football Fans

For the last couple years I’ve bought a family pass to Utah’s forgotten college football team. It’s turned into something that the oldest four kids really look forward to. And even though I spend more time keeping up with the kids than watching the action on the field, it’s something I look forward too as well.

This season has been an ignominious one for Weber State. They’ve only won one game and are struggling on offence, defense, and special teams.  Today was the team’s last home game. If anything it was a garbage game as both Weber State and Northern Colorado had nothing to play for but pride. To make things worse, Mother Nature dumped 12 inches of snow in the last 24 hours and the forecast called for temperatures to be below freezing. Because of the freezing weather, I decided to give the kids a choice: we could go to the football game or we could go to the game or a nearby entertainment center and play laser tag and (indoor) miniature golf.

Much to my surprise the all four kids voted for the football game. There wasn’t any hesitation to their decision either. They all wanted to spend the afternoon at the game no matter what the weather. So I dressed the kids as warm as I could and packed blankets and other warm things into the van and off we went.

Even though we only made it until half time (it got too cold for the younger ones), everyone had a good time playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate, and huddling under blankets for warmth. Yes, Weber State put in another lackluster performance, but that’s not what mattered. What was important that the kids had a fun-filled afternoon with Dad and we all made lots of memories together. In that respect the cold, the snow, and watching Weber State lose was worth it.

Can’t wait to do it all again next year.

A Halftime Show Worth Watching

When I attend college football games with the kids, halftime is used to stretch my legs and make sure that the kids take bathroom breaks so we don't have to make an emergency run to the potty while the home team makes a last minute, fourth quarter drive.  But then the halftime shows I catch fleeting glimpses of are not anywhere near as amazing as what the Ohio State marching band puts on. If they were, I'd be happy to do bathroom breaks at the beginning of the third quarter. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAzzbrFgcUw

My SuperBowl XLVI Prediction

This is the first time in years I don't have a gut pick. I can see both teams winning. That being the case I need to go with the Giants simply because I like to  underrated Eli Manning beat Tom Brady again. And they'll beat them by the same 17-14 score when these teams met in the big game three years ago.

But No matter who wins, I intend to have another fun Super Bowl party. Hope you all enjoy it too.

God Loves Denver

Due to a million other commitments, I wasn't able to watch the Broncos game today. However, I've been watching the highlights non-stop since I've got home. Admittedly, I was a Doubting Thomas. I didn't think St. Timothy had what it took to deliver the Broncos from the jaws of the Mighty Steelers. Yet God delivered another miracle for the Broncos faithful. It was beautiful.

I shall doubt no more.

Why I Love Tim Tebow

As a lifelong Broncos fan, I have to admit my interest in the team has waned over the last decade. Season after season of losing and subpar performances severely taxed my interest. Still, like all fans, I keep waiting for the preverbal “next year” to arrive and deliver the Broncos from the wilderness to the promised land of playoffs and Super Bowl rings.

Then comes along Tim Tebow and everything changes. The Broncos, with him at quarterback, are 7-1. Today they beat the Bears in what can only be described as a series of miracles: Marion Barber getting knocked out of bounds with 1:06 left giving the Broncos a fighting chance. Matt Prayer hitting a 59-yard field goal as time expired. Then, in overtime, Barber fumbled the ball. The Broncos recovered and kicked the winning field goal a few minutes letter. The Broncos just won their sixth game in a row thanks to the arms, legs, and heart of a quarterback most people thought would never play a game in the NFL. You couldn’t write a better Hollywood script. It was like the Gods of Football want Tebow and the Broncos to win.

Despite a 7-1 record as a starter, Tebow’s still a polarizing figure. He wins ugly. He believes in Jesus—big time. He’s driving all the football experts crazy. But I don’t care about any of that. Thanks to Tebow, Broncos games are fun to watch again. They’re in sole position of first place in the AFC West with a great shot of making the playoffs. For the first time in years, I’m actually looking forward to the games.

As a Broncos fan, that’s all that matters.

College Football = Family Time

As a kid my dad took me and my brother to Utah State football games. Some of my fondest memories as a 5-year-old were sitting about as high as one can sit in Romney Stadium watching the action on the field.

We moved soon after that and though I watched a lot of football with my dad, we didn’t attend any Utah State games for another 10 years or so. The only reason we went back was because Utah State offered family passes to their football games. Since they were cheap, I was able to talk my dad into getting one. I think the family only attended the first game. I believe my dad and I were the only ones that used the pass after that. Most of the time we watched the Aggies get their butts kicked by unheralded college teams like Pacific and Cal State Fullerton but we had a good time anyway. It was football, after all. It was hard not to have a good time.

Looking back, I realize the games we went to as a kid and a teenager were fun not because of the football but because I got to hang out with my dad. Now that I have young kids of my own who like watching games the occasional game on TV and playing football in the yard with me, I thought it would be fun to take them to some college games. The problem was finding a close and fun place to take them.

The popular college football tickets in this state are to Utah and BYU games. Having attended games in both stadiums I know from firsthand experience that neither are places I want to take young kids. The passion and intensity that can be found in both places is great if you’re in college or an adult who has his or her identity wrapped up in a football team, but there not so good if you’re a dad trying to spend a fun Saturday afternoon with the kids. (Utah State games aren’t much better.)

Last year I got word that my alma mater, Weber State, was offering family passes for its home football games. I bought one on a whim even though I wasn’t sure if my kids were going to enjoy it. At the very least I figured it would give me an excuse to go to a couple of games—even if I ended up going with just one or two of the kids. Besides, I figured the kids would have a good time since Weber State games are about as family friendly as a football game can get. On a good day the stadium is half full. That means if your kids get bored about halfway through the game, there’s plenty of empty bleachers to play on and tons of other bored kids to befriend. And the fans that do show up for games never have high expectations. If Weber State wins, everyone goes home happy and somewhat pleasantly surprised. If they lose, everyone shrugs their shoulders and goes home happy. It’s kind of the way sporting events should be.

Much to my delight, the kids loved going to the games. Granted they seemed to enjoy the kettle corn and root beer I bought them just as much, if not more, than the action on the field but the loading up the van on Saturday afternoons and making the 90 minute drive to Ogden become something they really looked forward to.

This year renewing the family pass was a no-brainer. The tickets arrived in the mail yesterday and the kids were thrilled when I showed them what was in the envelope. We marked the games on the calendar and the kids went to bed tonight chattering about kettle corn and upcoming football games. And to be honest, I’m just as excited about it as they are.

When they look back at these days I hope they realize the reason I take them to football games isn’t because of the action on the grid iron. It’s because I enjoy spending lots of uninterrupted time with them. Football games just happen to be a fun way to do just that.

NFL = No Fun League

Back when I was in middle school, the NFL started to be called the No Fun League because the league became über concerned about its brand and started cracking down on showboating players like Jim McMahon. Over the years players like Terrell Owens tried to liven up the game by spiking the ball on the Cowboys star or autographing footballs after a touchdown and the NFL predictably fined players and created new rules about player behavior least the game where grown men hit each other at breakneck speed appear too uncivilized.

It should have come as no surprise that the NFL decided postpone the Vikings-Eagles game because of a blizzard. Yet, I was stunned. Unlike baseball, football is played in any weather condition. I’m not a fan of either team, but I’ll tune into just about any game played in pouring rain or twelve inches snow. And since Sunday night is about the only time I have to watch football nowadays, I really would have relished a chance to watch an entire game taking place in blizzard-like conditions.

While the safety of fans and players should always be a concern, (hence I have no problem with them postponing a game because a stadium roof collapses) there comes a time when you have to treat people like adults and let them decide for themselves what level of risk they’re willing to take. Ticketholders who don’t want to brave the snow can give the tickets to someone else and watch the game from home. Buying tickets to an outdoor football game in Philadelphia comes with the risk of – gasp! – cold and snow.

Now that it’s painfully obvious that the No Fun League is run by a bunch of business people whose neckties have cut off circulation to their brains, don’t be surprised if more games get delayed because of snow. In fact don’t be surprised if more games are postponed because it’s raining, too hot, too cold, or too much wind. After all, the biggest game of the year be played in less than ideal conditions. Heaven forbid if regular season games are as well.

How to Play Real Football

This fall I’ve taken my kids to three college football games. One of the unintended consequences of this activity is that they think I don’t know a darn thing about how to play the game.

Take Saturday, for example. I take the kids to the park so we can play football. I divide everyone up into teams and hand the ball to my oldest kid. He gives me a quizzical look and hands the ball back to me.

“We can’t play yet,” he says.

“Why not?” I reply.

“Because we haven’t run out of the tunnel yet,” he says matter-of-factly.

Now it’s my turn to give him a quizzical look. “What are you talking about?”

“Before the game starts the players run out of the tunnel and you say what team you’re playing for.”

Now I get it. At the games I’ve taken them to, the teams run out of tunnels on the other side of the field. He wants to do the same thing.

“OK,” I say, “run out of the tunnel.

He and his brother run around the park and yell “Denver Broncos!” at the top of their lungs. They run back to me and I hand the ball to him.

“Hike the ball,” I said.

“We can’t Dad,” he said. “You haven’t run out of the tunnel yet.”

“I don’t need to—“

“All the teams run out of the tunnel,” he says. “Oh, and you’re the Indianapolis Colts.”

The Colts? I don’t want to be the Colts. I open my mouth to object but realize it could be worse. He could have asked me to be the Oakland Raiders.

So me and my daughter run around the field and let the world know we’re the Colts. When I get back to the ling of scrimmage the oldest hands me the ball.

“You start,” I tell him.

“No, Dad. You need to kick the ball to us.”

“What?”

“They kick the ball off to start the game,” he says as tosses me the ball.

The kickoff. How could I forget that?

I walk back to the goal line. My boys back up. I kick the ball over their heads. Laughing, they both run after it.  My oldest picks up the ball and I wrestle him to the ground. He jumps up and gets ready to hike the ball to his brother.

“We’re going to get a touchdown!” he says before hiking the ball.

Let the game begin.

The Perfect Game

Football Cake

Tonight was one of the most fun Super Bowl parties I’ve ever had, and it had nothing to do with the Saints 31-17 victory over the hapless Colts. What made it so special was, for the first time, my two oldest boys took an active interest in goings on before and during the game.

My 5 year old helped me make and decorate a cake (pictured above) along with making some sauce for my hot wings. My 4 year old watched the first and fourth quarters with me while updating me on scoring changes along with making comments after every play. (Why did he drop the ball, Dad? Hey, he just scored a touchdown!) And they both ate more food than was good for them.

The result after all was said and done was two happy boys and a happy dad who are looking forward to more moments like this in the days and years to come.

My Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

Super Bowl XLIV Saints Colts

I'm really looking forward to this year’s Super Bowl party because of my oldest boys increasing interest in football. Ever since I took them to their first college football game last fall, they’ve become much more interested in watching it on TV. And though I think they’ll probably make it through the first quarter before going off to play with their cousins, I’m looking forward to watching at least part of it with them.

***

Yes, on paper the Saints/Colts matchup looks to be wildly entertaining, and I hope the game lives up to the hype. I’d love to watch a game with a dozen lead changes and last second touchdown to win the game.

But I don’t see it.

If anything I see a blowing coming—something we haven’t seen in the big game for many years. I’m rooting for the Saints to win because I have a soft place in my heart for the underdogs. Plus it’s nice to see them finally playing in the big game. But I think Peyton Manning and the gang have been here before. I think he’ll shred the Saints defense and have things nicely wrapped up by the third quarter.

My pick: Colts 44-17 but I’d rather watch a nail bitter—no matter who wins.

The Sports Kids Love

I was contemplating taking the kids to another college football game yesterday but a steady snowfall and temperatures in the 20s make me reconsider. Even though I would have loved to watch a game in the driving snow storm, I doubt the kids would have lasted past the first quarter. And since I want them to enjoy going to football games, it’s probably not a good idea to have them associate them with freezing temperatures and snow—at least until they’re old enough to want to do something like that. Instead we stayed home and played copious amounts of Chutes & Ladders, war, rogue chess, and many other card and board games. A good time was had by all.

Last weekend I took them to their first Utah Jazz game. This means in the last year or so they’ve attended a major league baseball game, college football game, and an NBA game. Aside from making them spoiled rotten, it’s been interesting to see how they act at different events and which ones they enjoy the most. For any parents in the crowd, here’s my take on how young kids (say, 6 and under) enjoy different sporting events.

Best: (college) football. There’s enough stoppage between plays that they can stand up and do whatever they want then focus their attention back on the field. And since most plays take up quite a bit of the field, there’s a lot to focus on. By the end of the game the boys understood the basics of the game and could read the scoreboard. (Read about the experience here.) And after watching a game in person, whenever we throw the football around the yard, they now want to play “real” (read: tackle) football. Final Weber State game is next Saturday. If the weather warms up, I’ll consider taking them.

Okay: baseball. The game is slow enough for them to follow the action while still act like kids and find all sorts of ways to entertain themselves during the breaks in the game. The problem is that when the action does occur, 90% of it takes place between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. It was hard for them to pay attention to that small area or watch the ball get thrown back and forth. They enjoyed it more when the bat and ball made contact. Will probably take them to a handful of minor league games next summer and see how they handle it.

Too soon: basketball. Despite row 7 seats, the Jazz game was too fast for them to follow. They got the concept of putting the ball in the hoop but that was about it. Score changed too fast for them to follow. Parts of the game were too loud for them—something they didn’t enjoy. The best part of the game for them was watching the Jazz Bear. Might wait a few years before trying this one again. Might consider some Utah Flash games if the chance arises. Those games aren’t as noisy and they won’t have to watch Carlos Boozer screw things up.

Fathers and Sons and College Football

Weber State Wildcats Football

One of my earliest memories is attending a college football game with my dad. I was four or five at the time when he took me to Romney Stadium to watch Utah State take on BYU. I don’t remember who won but I do remember sitting near the top of the stadium watching a packed stadium of people enjoy the game. I also remember feeling really special that I could go to such a big event with my dad who was usually busy working to support a family and trying to finish his MFA.

As the years passed, my dad and I bonded a lot over football. There were Denver Broncos games that were watched fairly religiously every Sunday and a period of a few years when I was a teenager when he bought a family pass to Utah State games and most Saturdays would take the hour drive to Logan and watch most of their home games. Those were good times--even if Utah State fielded an awful team (and even worse schedule) year after year.

Though I don’t watch as much football as I did ten or even fifteen years ago, I still watch it and, recently, the two oldest boys have enjoyed watching it with me. After seeing their interest in the sport (or at least their interest in spending time with Dad), this weekend I took them up to Ogden so they could watch their first college football game and get some good bonding time with dad.

Taking 5- and 3-year-old boys to a game was somewhat of a gamble since I didn’t know if they’d have an attention span to sit through a three hour game. Unlike watching a game at home where they can sit on the couch for five minutes, go play with toys, and then come back to the couch, they wouldn’t have many entertainment options at the game.

On the other hand, if I was going to take them to a game, Weber State games are a great environment for kids to develop an interest in the game. Since Weber State plays in the football championship subdivision and has three Division I teams within a 90 minute drive of their stadium, most college football fans in the state don’t even know or care what the Wildcats are doing. The fans that do show up are passionate without being over-the-top about their team. And since the 15,000 seat stadium is usually half-full, there’s plenty of room for little kids to spread out and run around if they get restless. And since the stadium is small, there’s not a bad seat in the house so they’re always close to the action.

We showed up to the game 10 minutes before kickoff. I bought the boys some kettle corn and something to drink and we settled into the general admission seats just as the game started.

The boys were too busy munching kettle corn to pay much attention to the first few minutes of the game. But once the settled down, I was surprised by how much they actually watched the game. They learned to cheer when “the purple team” did something good and “the white team” messed up. By halftime the 5 year old was able to read the scoreboard. And in the third quarter, when the 3 year old got tired, he simply used Dad’s leg as a pillow for a quarter but kept his eyes on the field and would occasionally ask a question about what happened.

But they were both awake and active through the fourth quarter, and, in the end, they sat through the whole game. And even though Weber State lost, as we climbed in the van to go home both boys told me how much fun they had and asked if we could go to another game soon.

I told them there was another game in two weeks and, if they wanted, I’d take them to it.

The boys excitedly said “Yes!”

As I drove home and listened to the boys talk to each other and laugh, I realized that, as a dad, I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon with my sons.

My Super Bowl XLIII Prediction

Arizona Cardinals Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl XLIII

I haven’t followed football as closely this season as I have in years past. Still, I was as floored as anyone when the Arizona Cardinals dumped the Falcons, Panthers, and Eagles on their way to the Super Bowl XLIII.

Everyone is touting the Cardinals as a sad-sack organization that won’t stand a chance against the vaulted Pittsburgh Steelers.

I don’t see it.

They have a starting quarterback who’s won the big game already and has plenty of weapons to throw too. Their defense had no problem stopping the best teams in the NFC. Yes, the Steelers have QB that's played in the big game but Roethlisberger's play hasn't been consistent. Watch for Arizona will find a way to stop them when they really need to.

The Steelers are a good team – don’t get me wrong. It’s just that the Cardinals have the intangible factors of momentum and underdog spirit that’s going to carry them past the Steelers and a victory in their very first Super Bowl appearance.

Look for the Cardinals to jump out to a large and early lead. The Steelers will rally in the second half and close the gap to a touchdown in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter but, unfortunately for them, Roethlisberger won’t be able to tie it before the clock runs out.

Final score: Arizona 31 Pittsburg 24

Utes Prove Why BCS Schools Fear College Football Playoff

Utah Utes Beat Alabama in Sugar Bowl

Final score from the Sugar Bowl: Utah 31 Alabama 17.

This is why BCS schools resist a college football playoff: They’re worried that some unheralded team from an “weak” conference will run the table and beat more storied, talented programs. BCS schools would loose their recruiting edge and suddenly college football teams would be a lot more balanced on the whole.

I think if there was a playoff system this year the Utes would have run the table and knocked off anyone in their path including Oklahoma and Florida*.

Congratuations, Utah.

Too bad you play in such a crappy post-season known as the BCS.

* I'm not a Ute fan. Just a football fan who wishes college football had a post season worth watching.

My Super Bowl XLII Pick

Super Bowl XLII

After the big game on Sunday, the New England Patriots are going to be known as the first 19-0 team in NFL history or the team that laid the biggest egg in this history of professional football.

Either way the New York Giants are going to be overshadowed by what is probably the best NFL team to ever play the game. Even if they manage to beat the Patriots (which they won’t), everyone will be talking the next day about what the Patriots did wrong and not what the Giants did right.

A lot of people are sure the Patriots are going to blow out the Giants. Last time I checked, the Patriots were 12 point favorites in Vegas.

I don’t buy it.

The Giants are on the upswing coming off three road playoff victories including a great victory on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. They have momentum and nothing to lose by throwing everything at the Patriots – something I fully expect them to do. They’ll make it interesting but it won’t be enough.

The Patriots looked awful against the Chargers and if it wasn’t for their defense, the Chargers would be the AFC Champions. But that’s what makes the Patriots such a good team. If one part of their team breaks down, the rest of the team more than makes up for it. Tom Brady can have an awful day (3 INTs against the Chargers) but their defense will rise to the occasion and stop the other team. Someone is injured and they have someone just as good to take their place. There’s just no way to win against a team like that.

I expect the Giants to put up a good fight – even a better fight than they did in the last game of the regular season against the Patriots – and make the game exciting from start to finish. However, they’ll lose it the waning moments to a Patriots touchdown or field goal.

Patriots 24 Giants 21

How to Fix the NFL Playoffs

Satire: How to Fix the NFL Playoffs  The NFL needs experts and computers decide what teams are truly worthy to advance to the Super Bowl.

Those cries of despair you heard after last Sunday’s NFL Divisional Playoff games weren’t from distraught Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts fans mourning the upsets of their highly touted teams. Rather, it was from professional football fans around the world that now have to settle for a low quality AFC and NFC championship matchups.

Instead of watching Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts defend their Super Bowl title against the undefeated New England Patriots, we’ll be forced to watch a bunch of nobodies try to stop Tom Brady.

Zzzzzzz.

And we won’t be wondering if Jessica Simpson will curse Tony Romo into playing poorly against the Green Bay Packers. Instead the other, unheralded Manning (What’s his name? Oh yeah, Eli.) slide around on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

Boring.

The NFL owes it to its fans to deliver high quality postseason matchups – one with overhyped stories and intriguing rematches that professional football fans live for. To avoid even the possibility of letting down their fans next year, the NFL needs a system where only the best teams are selected to play in the AFC and NFC Championship Games. You know, one where sports writers, coaches, and computers decide what teams are truly worthy to advance to the Super Bowl.

And no one knows better how to pick champions than college football.

Since 1998 college football has used the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) to pick teams to play for the national title with wild success. If the BCS has taught us anything, it’s that many schools simply don’t deserve a shot at upsetting, more highly respected football programs. This year Hawaii got a shot at BCS glory and they were pounded by Georgia 41-10.

Face it: The AFC West was this year’s equivalent of college football’s Western Athletic Conference. Even letting the Chargers play the Colts was an insult to the defending Super Bowl champions. Instead of holding Wild Card and Divisional playoff games, the NFL should have simply let the sports writers take a poll and runs some stats through a computer program or two to determine the best teams.

The results would have undoubtedly put the Colts against the Patriots and the Packers against the Cowboys. These matchups are what every real NFL fan wanted to see this Sunday and the Chargers and Giants would be where they really belong — at home watching the game on TV instead of being anywhere in the vicinity of a football field. Instead, football fans have to settle for games without the hype and interest that computers and sports writers could have given us.

A BCS-type system for the NFL's postseason would have other advantages too. Pitting the two best teams in each conference would guarantee a quality Super Bowl. The way the system is set up right now we could be watching the Giants play the Chargers on February 3.

Please.

Not even a glitzy ad with a naked supermodel could get me to watch that game.

And with no Wild Card or Divisional Playoff games to watch we’ll get weeks of incredible, important hype in the papers, television, and online about intriguing quarterback matchups, which athlete is dating which supermodel, and the latest allegations against Randy Moss. The NFL owes its fans high-quality postseason matchups.

Going to a BCS-like system and eliminating the Wild Card and Divisional Playoffs is the only way to ensure exciting, memorable postseason games every year.

This column was first published on BlogCritcs.org.