Being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, it doesn’t happen very often that you get to see two of the top teams in the league battle it out but that’s what happened when I saw the Bruins play host to the San Jose Sharks. After a minor ticketing fiasco, we ended up sitting in box seats for the game which was a much better result than the nose-bleed section. The game had a couple of fights, plenty of scoring opportunities to get the home crowd excited but the result was a disappointing 2-0 loss. Take away that shutout loss for Boston, and they have scored 19 goals in their last 4 games – it just happens they don’t score anything the night I am there. It was my first ever game at TD Gardens but the arena is definitely worth a visit with all the memorabilia inside of the legendary Celtics, the Great #77 for the Bruins and even jerseys of Brady and Manning during their rivalry years.
On the other end is Green Bay – By far the smallest city to have a professional sports team is once again the champion. This marks only the second time since I moved out here to North America that a professional team out of the four major sports that I root for has won the championship – it was also the Packers in 1997. As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993 when they won it all for a second year in a row, while the Leafs and Raptors have struggled just to make the playoffs this past decade, never mind being a contender to win it all.
I think I moved maybe once or twice from my seat once the game began and even tortured myself through the god-awful half time show just so I wouldn’t miss the beginning of the 2nd half especially since Pittsburgh had just scored to the end the half and the momentum was definitely beginning to shift. Most definitely the worst quarter to watch all season was the 3rd quarter. Packers struggled to do anything, punted on every single drive while gaining only 17 yards in the entire period.
What arguably feels like the longest week in a very, very long time is about to end. Last Friday I flew into Boston for the weekend to visit a friend to watch a hockey game and then the Super Bowl to see my beloved Packers play the Steelers. I was initially scheduled to come back from Boston Sunday night which I fortunately got changed to Monday morning. After having gone to bed after midnight, waking up at 4:30am and taking an hour and a half commute to the airport followed by a 100 minute wait and a 90 minute flight from the greatest airlines in North America (maybe outside of Jet Blue) and I was at work in Toronto at 11 – a lovely 576 mile international commute.
I don’t know how people in the US make those long commutes in NYC and Boston on a regular basis but I could never pull that off on a regular basis. Having spent the rest of the week playing Left 4 Dead 2 much later during the night than I really should have has really compounded my lethargic week. At least tomorrow is Friday which hopefully means I can sleep in at least one of the two days but knowing how my weekends go here, I really doubt it.
[Edit:] Note: my brother says the first game we saw might have been an earlier Packers/49ers game from 1996. He could be right because the only thing I remember for certain was that it was those two teams playing each other. [/Edit]
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many success stories regarding the teams that I follow. The Toronto Blue Jays last made the won the World Series (or made the playoffs) since before I moved here in 1995. The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won a championship in 44 years and haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years. The Toronto Raptors had minor success making the playoffs 3 years in a row from 1999-2001 and twice in 2007 and ’08 but have struggled mightily the rest of the decade. The Green Bay Packers have won the division four times in the past nine years and made the playoffs seven times this decade but have not reached the championship game since 1997 (when they did back-to-back years). The last time the Green Bay Packers were in the Super Bowl, I was only 10 years old at the time and still had not started following football.
There is a funny story that goes with me and how I got introduced to the game of “football”. I moved here from Pakistan in the winter of 1995 and was just getting to know the western sports when I started school here in the 3rd grade. I went up to a new friend of mine and asked him if he wanted to play ‘futbol’ which I had known and meant as soccer as it is known here. The kid looked at me like I had three ears or two noses and probably thought why is this skinny, tooth pick of a kid wanting to play football? After spending all of recess trying to convince him that I knew and had played ‘futbol’ before, I gave up for the day. I did come to know the sport as soccer but I had forgotten about what the kid thought I meant when I said “football” – until 3 years later. I still chuckle to this day thinking what might have happened if I had played American football that day.
However, It wasn’t until the playoffs of 1998 when the Green Bay Packers were robbed of a playoff win against the San Francisco 49ers that I watched my first ever American Football game with my brother. That game had NFL legends like Brett Favre, Reggie White, Steve Young and Jerry Rice – not a bad time to catch your first game. Even though they lost, that was the defining moment where I became a Green and Gold fan for life and my brother took the 49ers. Neither of us has waivered since.
We have had a tradition going back many years of gathering up a whole bunch of family members and watching the big game together. I’m not certain how well that will be this year since I am north of the border but I’m guessing there’s got to be some pack of Cheeseheads here that want to watch the game. On a related note, I had scheduled a trip to Boston last year which happened to fall on this upcoming Super Bowl weekend. Initially I had no problem with it because my plane would land in downtown Toronto just in time for a “normal” kickoff time because I had thought it would be around 8:30PM but apparently they go with a much earlier kickoff time of 6:30 which I only noticed a couple of days ago. I will be making a friendly call to the wonderful people of Porter Airlines later today and hopefully get that switched up with the one that will get me here in time for the game.
Boy, do I wish I was back home – just for that weekend. I have got to schedule a trip home for the Super Bowl weekend if I am still here next year.
One more game, Green Bay. One more.
There is no argument in my mind about who should have been this year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year and that was Charles Woodson who did end up getting 28 of the 50 votes with New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis coming a distant second with 14.
According to the ESPN.com article, “the versatile Woodson tied for the league lead with nine interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, and was a key to the Packers’ turnaround on defense. His role in Green Bay’s performance — second in the league in overall defense, first in interceptions (30), takeaways (40) and turnover margin (plus-24).”
Following the Packers all year long certainly made it obvious that he should win even though the local Revis came on strong towards the end of the season shutting down key #1 receivers but this is an award for the entire year, not just the first half or the second half of the season.
One thing to notice from today’s announcement was Rex Ryan’s reply and standing up for his player. He said, “a number that I think is interesting is eight. No, that’s not the amount of touchdown passes Green Bay gave up against Arizona. That’s the amount of touchdown passes we gave up all season. The biggest reason for that is Darrelle Revis.”
The Jets’ coach has a big mouth but he always backs his team and doesn’t hold anything back. You can respect that in a coach but no way was he winning the award this year. This year it belonged to Charles Woodson.
For a very long time, Brett Favre could do no wrong in the hearts and minds of Green Bay Packers fans all across the country. That probably all changed when he flipped and flopped on a decision whether to retire or to play another season with the Packers following the great 13-3 season in which they fell a game short of the Super Bowl. When he couldn’t make up his mind whether he could play another season and he retired, the Packers finally decided to invest in their future quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A lot of fans including myself were finally able to close the greatest and longest chapter in NFL history on the arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
Although the relationship between quarterback and the Cheeseheads faithful have been rocky ever since, it probably took an irreparable turn (at least for the near future) when he stepped onto the podium yesterday wearing a #4 Purple Jersey. One will continue to wonder how the Vikings fans will treat a guy who has beaten them year in and year out in their division — will they still root for him if he struggles early? Will they root for him if he does well but can’t beat the Packers or Bears? Clearly, anything short of a Super Bowl run this year will be a disappointment and there’s nothing more that I would like than to see Brett struggle in Minnesota.
Favre got what he wanted Tuesday. He got the team he craved, the salary he could live with and the NFC North Division he knows by heart. But the nanosecond he signed that two-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings was the nanosecond he burned the last few remaining wooden bridges between him and Packers fans. He became Fredo Corleone in “The Godfather: Part II” — the one who betrays the family. Packers fans became Michael Corleone, who tells his older brother, “Fredo, you’re nothing to me now.”
Fredo got popped on a fishing boat in the middle of Lake Tahoe. Favre could get his on national television in the middle of the Metrodome. Or he could lead the team with the league’s best running back and one of the league’s best defensive lines to Super Bowl XLIV. – Gene Wojciechowski (ESPN.com)
I am hopeful that one day I will get over what he did to the Packers franchise but don’t expect it anytime soon. Hopefully by the time he has finally retired for good and is up there in Canton giving his Hall of Fame speech, I will watch him as the great quarterback he was for all these years instead of the drama queen he had become in the late stages of his career – even if that stage began in his last few seasons with Green Bay.
A great peice I quoted earlier by ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski so be sure to read it: Favre’s Left Green Bay Behind, For Good.