Football NFL Non-Traditional

Wandering with Family!

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I had the privilege of hosting my brother Wayne, sister Peg and brother-in-law Dave, for a quick trip to the desert recently. It’s been a while since they visited so we were looking forward to catching up.

After their arrival late Saturday afternoon, we hung out at the house to catch the Penn State vs Ohio State game on TV. The odds-makers didn’t give the Lions a chance in that game, calling them 14 point underdogs. But as they say, that’s why they play the game. The under-manned Lions didn’t disappoint the white-out crowd – keeping the game close in spite of the worst officiating I’ve ever seen.

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Can it get any more obvious?

Early on, the Bucks were awarded an interception to set them up in PSU territory that would eventually lead to the first 7 points of the game. Replay clearly showed – and I mean CLEARLY showed, the ball was on the ground. The official explanation – technical difficulties prohibited the officials from viewing the proper angle, even though the in-stadium replays were clear. Result – the call stands.

As the first half came to a close, Ohio State lined up for a 49-yard FG attempt. With time winding down, they were late getting to the line. As the play clock hit zero, it you would think there’d be a flag. Nope. OK, get the snap off. Nope. Another couple of seconds. Now throw the flag. Nope. A full 3 seconds after the play clock ran out, OSU snapped the ball and converted the kick. Sure there’s some leeway on the clock, but 3 seconds?  Could the freshman kicker hit a 54-yarder? 17-0 at the half.

The Lions could have folded in the 2nd half, but not this crew. They came out of the halftime break with passion. A quick pick-six put them right back in the game and the defense held strong for the rest of the game – shutting out the Bucks, who were coming into the game averaging 56 points in their previous 4 outings.

There were other questionable calls, but nothing as egregious as those two game-changing calls. In spite of that, they took the heavily favored Buckeyes in to overtime, where yet one more questionable call finally put the nail in the coffin for the Lions.

A rarely called “leaping” penalty was called against Mike Hull on the point after attempt for the Buckeyes. You would think that the rule would either allow a re-try (if the leaping actually resulted in a block) or you decline the penalty and accept the point after. Not so. The Bucks get the extra point and then the benefit of setting up shop at the 12-1/2 yard line in the 2OT. At this point, the weary Lion defense couldn’t hold and OSU scored what would be the game winning TD. As many others suggested, the final score was Penn State – 24, Ohio State 21, Officials 10.

The calls were so bad, the B1G actually came out and agreed that there were significant issues with the calls. Oh well. There’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.  Sounds eerily familiar to the over-reaching sanctions.

What makes the calls even worse is that the head official for the game was John O’Neill.  This is the guy, who in 2011, supposedly told Devon Still, during a game, to stop complaining about being held because “you guys are lucky to be still playing”.  And he’s the same guy that officiated the 2012 PSU/Nebraska game that ruled a fumble as Matt Lehman was going in for the go-ahead score in the final 8 minutes of the game.

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Control and over the goal line

And later in the game, when the Lions still had a chance for the go-ahead score, he called McGloin for grounding in the endzone.

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Tackle Box
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Outside the Tackle Box
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Past the Line of Scrimmage

Oh well, as Jimmy Buffett says, “breathe in, breathe out, move on”!

On Sunday morning, we were up and out the door early to set up shop on the Great Lawn for the Battle of the Birds – Cardinals vs Eagles. As I’ve said many times before, the Great Lawn is a game-changing in the world of tailgating.Cardinal Stadium

With the gates opening 4 hours before kickoff, anxious tailgaters race to pick their prime spot on this huge swath of desert oasis. Popups, grills, generators, TVs, fans and any other creature-feature you can imagine cover the grass from end-to-end.

We got there about 20 minutes after the gates opened and were lucky to find a spot to set up camp. It doesn’t take long to strike up conversation with your neighbors. On this day, it just so happened they were Ohio State fans. Ugh.

You would think that 4 hours of tailgating is a long time, but the reality is, it’s not. Subtract the time it takes to set up and tear down and you’re at about 3 hours. Throw in grill time and a game or two of Baggo and before you know it, it’s time to tear down and head inside. Still, there’s nothing like it.

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The Crew

One of our neighbors was sporting a “MidFirst Bank Tailgate of the Year” popup. When asked about it, he lit up and explained how they won – with the food. This particular day, they had four tents all together. It made for a mall-like atmosphere underneath with multiple rooms. There was the kitchen where they had set up the side dishes and utensils; the bar, complete with a full complement of liquor; and the great room, with two TVs – with DirecTV of course; and all kinds of seating areas, including fancy red Adirondack chairs.

The sights, sounds and smells get you in tailgating mode as soon as you arrive. You never even realize that you should be eating bacon and eggs. Instead, you’re eating sausage and peppers and cracking open a beer by 10am. Our gracious “Tailgater of the Year” neighbor even shared some of his citrus chicken he was grilling up. It quickly made me realize how inferior our spread was.

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Breakfast of Champions!

With the help of the team, we tore down in a matter of minutes and headed towards the game. It was very apparent that there were plenty of Eagles fans in attendance. Thankfully, Santa was nowhere in sight.

Another topic I’ve covered in the past pointed out the quality games that have already been played at the relatively young, University of Phoenix Stadium. A Super Bowl, a couple of BCS Championships, Boise State vs Oklahoma, Bills OT win vs the Cardinals, Cardinals wins over Green Bay and Philly in the playoffs. The list goes on.

Today’s game would be right up there with the most exciting. After a rather uneventful 1st half that ended 7-7, the game got very exciting in the 2nd half.

Larry Fitzgerald opened the half with an 80 yard TD catch on 3rd and 10 on the Cards first possession of the half. Later, the Eagles matched the big play with a one-play TD drive – a 54-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin to put the Eagles up 17-14.

The Cards “D” came up big by stopping the Eagles at the 2 to force a FG that put the visitors up 20-17 with less than two minutes to play.

The home team answered with a 3-play 80-yard drive capped off by a John Brown 74 yard TD pass that looked like a Willie Mays, over the head, basket catch. Cards go up 24-20!

With two time outs and 1:21 to play, the Eagles marched down the field and it all came down to a 3rd and 10 from the Arizona 16 with :01 left on the clock. The Bird Gang continued to put pressure on Foles who ultimately made the throw, but his receiver came down out of bounds to end the game.

Another thriller in Glendale and the Cards move to 6-1.

Could it be that, the road to Glendale goes through Glendale? Could the Cards be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium?

After Sunday, my sister and brother-in-law took a quick trip to Vegas while my other brother hung out here with us.

With work, my schedule didn’t allow for much time during the day, but I did break away for a couple of hours over lunch on Tuesday to hit the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa with him.

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The Museum houses several restored military planes, mostly from WWII, along with several exhibits of war artifacts. As we entered, we were met by a docent that introduced us to museum and shared some comments. We told him about our father, who served in WWII as a “Plane Captain” aboard a TBM Torpedo Bomber. The volunteer was extremely impressed and curious when we shared the story of how Dad’s captain, Lt. Robert H. Braun, translated when the Navy captured U-858 off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. He scratched some notes and Googled it on his phone. Very cool that we actually educated a museum docent.

My Dad also told the story of how he flew home from the Navy in the glass nose of a B26 bomber.  While they didn’t have the B26 there, they did have a B17. I could only imagine what it’s like to fly in that seat. No wonder Dad never flew again after the Navy.

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B17 “Sentimental Journey” Cockpit

One of the exhibits was that of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. In 2007, while visiting San Antonio on a business trip, I just happened to be staying in the same hotel that was hosting the 65th reunion of these 80 incredible patriots. I knew I had to find a way to meet the guys. As my colleague and I were wandering around the temporary museum displays in the lobby, we were told that there was a media gathering happening in one of the conference rooms. That’s all we needed to hear!

We walked in like we owned the place and were rewarded for our boldness by getting to shake the hands of every one of the 7 surviving members that were in attendance. Back then, only 14 member survived, today, just 4.

The stories of bravery, capture and torture were unbelievable and I can’t believe how humble these guys were in talking about their heroic efforts that forever changed the world. If you don’t know the story, much has been written about it so just Google it. If you’re lazy, you might just want to watch the movie, “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” or the end of the more recent “Pearl Harbor”.  Doolittle’s crew flew B25s.  The museum has a one on display, although not one from that mission.

As we were getting ready to leave, Wayne spotted what looked like a TBM that Dad used to fly in, but it was under restoration. Sure enough, he poked around and ultimately got to the gentleman in charge of the restoration process. We shared the story about Dad and the guy told us all about the plane. He offered up a quick peak and allowed me to jump up on the wing to check out the inside. Once up there, he must have seen my delight and offered me the opportunity to jump in the pilot seat for a quick photo. Unreal.  As we were getting ready to leave, he offered us some rivets from the plane saying “these were actually put in by Rosie“.  The rivets now sit with my Dad’s flag and his Victory Medal.

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TBM Cockpit

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I can’t believe the courage these guys had to hop into these planes and fly up and down the coast looking for U-Boats.

They plan on having the restoration complete by early 2015 and will be offering up rides in the old bird. On one hand, I’d love to do it, on the other… man this thing is old. We’ll see.

You can help with the restoration by donating at this site.

After Peggy and Dave came back late Wednesday afternoon, we hung around and reminisced about the “good old days”. One topic that interesting was about the number of old grocery stores in our old neighborhood in West Side – all within a few blocks of each other. The list included Longo’s, Bronzo’s, Galdieri’s, Skettino’s and Catalano’s. Hey, I just realized there’s a theme here.  But that’s for another time.

That wrapped up another great visit with my family. We were able to spend some quality time together and catch a couple sights along the way.

The older I get, the faster time goes by. I hope we don’t have to wait as long for the next set of visitors from Scranton.

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