NFL Survivor Post-Mortem and Divisional Quick Picks

Posted on January 16, 2010. Filed under: Football, For Entertainment Purposes Only, General, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Without survivor to play for, I just couldn’t get motivated to do a full preview and picks post. Plus I’m still devastated over losing last week thanks to Green Bay’s failure. After the come back! And winning the toss! Oy, Packers. You killed me. And everybody else for that matter. One guy picked Arizona. He won. The survivor pool is, to quote Iron Chef, “o-vah!”

Survivor Post-Mortem

1. I apologize to the Cardinals and Cardinals’ fans for not picking them last week. I say this not just because it knocked me out of the survivor pool, but because I should have picked them based on the fact that I went to a game at University of Phoenix Stadium this season. And it was an awesome crowd. And I had so much fun. Just look at this picture!

Just look at this crowd. Awesome!

2. More importantly, I really should have picked the Ravens. If you look at my pre-game preview, I was not sold on the Patriots at all. And I hate them. So I would have aligned my rooting and gambling interests. Which is always ideal. Oh well.

Divisional Quick Picks

I don’t have time to do a full pro and con breakdown for this weekend’s divisional games, but here are my quick picks:

Saints over Cardinals

  • This comes down to home field advantage. Both teams have big-play capability and are in some ways mirror images of one another.
  • The Saints are at home, the crowd will be insane, so I’m taking the Saints.
  • Also, did you see what Green Bay did to the Arizona defense last week? Yeah, me too.
  • I think they miss Boldin more this week than last. Just a hunch.
  • Caution: takeaways can disappear. Saints had 26 takeaways this season, 3rd in NFL. The Packers taught us this lesson last week. Just something to keep an eye out for.
  • P.S. I would gladly root for either Arizona or New Orleans over both Dallas and Minnesota, but alas, I have to choose.

Ravens over Colts

  • I don’t like the Colts’ lying down the last two weeks and the football gods will punish them.
  • The Colts have lost their last 3 games coming off the bye week to start the playoffs.
  • Ravens have momentum and Ray Rice.
  • Flacco is healthier.
  • Plus, the Michael Oher factor. Do not underestimate the Michael Oher/Blind Side factor
  • Also we know that Indy’s home field advantage no longer exists since they moved to the new dome.

Cowboys over Vikings

  • This hurts. A lot. I hate both teams so I would really love to see them both lose. Seeing as that’s not possible, I am picking the Cowboys. They are playing great and I think they will contain Brett Favre.
  • On a personal note, I will root for the Vikings because even though I hate He Who Shall Not Be Named, I have a lot of friends in the land of 10,000 lakes, and they love their Vikings. So Go Vikings!
  • But I’m picking the Cowboys. Sorry.
  • I need to shower I feel so dirty.

Upset special: Jets over Chargers

  • Yes, the Chargers are hot. Yes, the Chargers are at home. Yes, the Chargers are everybody’s favorite to go to the Super Bowl.
  • But I’m sticking with the recipe of great defense and great rushing. The Jets have both. The Chargers do not. Period. End of story. I said last week that great rushing and defense wins playoff games on the road. I’ll say it again.
  • And if it rains, that benefits the Jets.
  • Plus, Revis shuts down Jackson. I am worried about Antonio Gates.
  • I expect to lose this one, but might as well go with my heart.
  • I do like the Jets to cover even if they don’t win outright.

Enjoy the games and see you next week for the Conference Championships!

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Jets-Bengals with my Dad: The Tale of the Tweets

Posted on January 10, 2010. Filed under: Comedy, Family, Football, Sports, Tale of the Tweets | Tags: , , , , , |

As many of you know, I extended my stay in LA for another few days largely so I could watch football with my Dad (and see my adorable nephew Sam). I have always been a daddy’s girl and my love of sports (and sense of humor) definitely comes from him. He’s awesome and hilarious and I love watching games with him. Since I live 3000 miles away, we don’t get to do it too often, so I wanted to take advantage of some prime playoff-watching with him yesterday.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Tale of the Tweets post, and yesterday’s Jets-Bengals wild card playoff game provided some outstanding material. I mean, with the #announcerfail and #coachingfail running rampant, how could we lose?  Without further ado, here we go:

Tom Hammond is the picture of #announcerfail

Sticking with my gut and going with the Jets.

I really really hope that doesn’t happen. Really. RT @joshqpublic: i really really really hope the jets get crushed today. really. really.

So what players went to Notre Dame or were in the Olympics? Tom Hammond knows those guys. #notannflannouncer

Tom Hammond quoting Ochocinco: “Please, child.” #tomhammondfail

The Oregon State? Ok, that was funny Ochocinco.

Wowowowowowowowowowow! Jets defense!!!!!!!!

That was a fumble. I know you need to challenge, but it will be lost.

OMG. Sanchez completed a pass! He is competent. OMG.

Joe Theisman just said Buddy Ryan would challenge. Yet another #announcerfail. Can we make that a trending topic?

We would be better off watching this game on mute. #announcerfail

Please don’t let this game come down to the Jets’ punter. And what happened to him?

Can someone please explain how Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez went to high school together? Carson is like 8 years older.

That was an emphatic catch signal from the official. You shouldn’t challenge that.

On dear god I forgot about how terrible Braylon Edwards is. #jets

“You can’t win the game when you drop touchdown passes.” Ladies and gentlemen, my dad.

Tiki Barber: you are just terrible. This is just epic #announcerfail.

Tom Hammond: “Cotchery calls for a fair catch.” My dad: “No he didn’t!” #announcerfail

The Who is rightfully making its first Super Bowl halftime appearance ever. #becausetheyarenotrelevant

I just seriously stood up and screamed, “I love Shonn Greene!” #jets

Awww. RT @dwag29: I would rather read commentary on Jets-Bengals by @amandarykoff and her dad than listen to these jokers. #announcerfail

“WHAAAAAAAAAT???????” Me and my dad on that “illegal contact” call. #officiatingfail

BTW, Carson Palmer is also a pretty boy from Southern California. #justsaying


Consider this everyone’s formal introduction to Darrelle Shavar Revis.

Mark Sanchez is a liability and can’t pass. #liesliesdamnlies

Dad: “I would challenge that. Oh, wait. HAH!”

RT @dwag29: Tom Hammond: “And he’s ridden out of bounds! ❤ second pause> No, touchdown!” #channelingchipcaray #jets #bengals #nflplayoffs

For the record, my dad really didn’t know about Darrelle Revis. He lives in LA. They don’t get many Jets games.

#announcerfail RT @ChetRazzball: Hah! RT @NFLFanHouse: THAT WASN’T BRAD SMITH, YOU IDIOTS! #theismannistheworst

NBC only has an “F” announcing team. #announcerfail

Dad: “I seem to recall that Neil O’Donnell got a huge free agent deal w/someone and was a complete flop.” Me: “Yes, the Jets.”

Flag flies. “Holding.” In unison. #daddysgirl

You know, the Bengals don’t have a good history when it comes to injuries in playoff games.

RT @dwag29: Halftime already? These announcers are just getting warmed up! Let’s trend #announcerfail in the 2nd half. #jets #bengals

I was going to listen to the radio broadcast of the 2nd half, but I don’t want to miss out on #announcerfail.

What the hell was that Jets? And could the announcers have been less helpful? Oh nevermind. #announcerfail

How do Bears fans feel every time Benson busts out a great run?

What is up with the penalties? Terrible terrible call. #officiatingfail

My dad will confirm that I put the curse on that kick. And it worked! #jets

That was a good catch. But oh btw, Marvin Lewis, you are OUT OF CHALLENGES. #coachingfail

RT @dwag29: “The Jets… uh uh, Bengals can’t challenge’ – Tom Hammond. #announcerfail

Thomas Jones sighting! In the end zone! And if his knee was down? Well, we’ll never know.

Ooh, I see what you did there! RT @ChetRazzball: It’s not unusual to see T Jones score a TD

RT @dwag29: RT @grmeyer: #announcerfail The announcers of Jets/Bengals game are better suited for this venue:

RT @ChetRazzball: RT @NotJayCutler: I’d like to have a guy like Cedric Benson playing for the Bears.

Andre Caldwell should not be in the game. What is the medical staff thinking?

Great game plan and play calling by Schottenheimer. Brian, that is. #jets

Dad wanted to know if there was a moment of silence for Casey Johnson before the game. I don’t think so.

Oh, thanks to @stackmack, it appears that there was a moment of silence for Casey Johnson. Sad story.

Well @TheBigLead, you said it. This is the Jets. It is never over. #gack

Ok, Mark Sanchez, are you ready for your close-up?

This play calling has just been brilliant. Brian Schottenheimer!

My dad is pacing. And he’s not even a Jets fan. #tense

I put the hex on Graham again. And it worked again!!!!! #jets #bengals #kickerfail

Damn. Even Ochocinco is thinking, “I can make that kick.”

High fives all around here at Casa Rykoff. #jets

I went with my gut and it paid off. Well, actually Rex Ryan’s gut paid off. #jets

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Survival of the Fittest NFL Style: Wild Card Sunday Edition

Posted on January 10, 2010. Filed under: Football, For Entertainment Purposes Only, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Well helllooo there! If you’re reading this, it’s because the Jets upset the Bengals in Saturday’s AFC wild card match-up and I’ve lived for another day in my survivor pool. For Saturday’s pick and analysis, click here.

The good news is that the Jets win knocked 6 people out of the pool. The bad news? I have to make another “sure thing” pick. And one thing we know about the NFL this season, there are no sure things. Well, except when it comes to the Rams losing. And since this is the playoffs, there are no Rams. Or Browns. Or Buccaneers. Or Lions. Or Chiefs. Or Raiders. Or Redskins.

Just a quick reminder: we’re only allowed to use a team once. So if they advance, we can’t pick them again. Ever.

So without further ado, let’s get to the game breakdowns.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

Let’s start with the Patriots:


Tom Brady's dreaminess is an X factor

  • Undefeated at home this season (8-0)
  • Belichick and Brady have never lost a home playoff game (8-0)
  • They have Tom Brady and Randy Moss (if Moss decides to show up).
  • Very QB friendly officiating and rule changes


  • Wes Welker is out. And that is a very bad thing, though Julian Edelman is an able replacement (and MOT!)
  • Suspect defense (and I’m being generous here)
  • Sketchy running game
  • They’re really not the Patriots any more.

And now the Ravens:


  • Ray Rice is a beast and will be hard to contain. Even Willis McGahee is back from the dead and is getting in on the party.
  • If they can establish the run game (see point 1 above), QB Joe Flacco should be able to have time to make some plays downfield.
  • Good but not great defense (they are no longer the super-vaunted Ravens defense, ok?)
  • Michael Oher of The Blind Side is a starting O lineman for the Ravens in case you hadn’t heard!


  • Ray Lewis. Oh, right, he didn’t go to jail. Nevermind.
  • Prone to too many penalties and you know that the NFL has sent a memo to the referees to protect comeback player of the year Tom Brady.
  • Weak receiving corps
  • And they played in a weak AFC North. Yes, I said it. The Bengals were the division champs and you saw what the Jets did to them, didn’t you?

The pick: Patriots. I would love to pick the Ravens. Really, I would, since I hate the Patriots. But I have to stick with New England. I don’t think they go any further, but a first round win is not too hard to picture.

Moving on to the late game in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals

Let’s start with the Green Bay Packers:


Aaron Rodgers = stud QB

  • Aaron Rodgers is a total stud. And a monster on 3rd down conversions. Over 65% completion rate, double digit TDs and zero interceptions.
  • Solid running game
  • Solid defense, including Charles Woodson, a leading candidate for defensive player of the year.
  • Wins over good teams including Dallas, arguably the best team in the NFC right now


  • Playing on the road
  • Do they incur the wrath of the football gods for running up the score on the Cardinals last week?
  • NFL’s youngest team
  • Aaron Rodgers has no playoff experience (I don’t count his garbage time 2 years ago)
  • Two losses to Minnesota (a good team, but 2 losses?)

And now the defending NFC champion Arizona Cardinals


  • Defending NFC Champions
  • Kurt Warner’s veteran leadership plus Larry Fitzgerald’s ridiculous awesomeness
  • A much improved running game with emergence of Beanie Wells
  • Decent defense


  • Injuries to Anquan Boldin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Boldin will likely miss the game. That is terrible news.
  • Playing at home where they were only 4-4
  • Champions of an extremely weak division (NFC West is the weakest division in the entire NFL)
  • Look at their schedule: Minnesota is the only good team they beat all season. And bad losses to bad teams including San Francisco and Carolina.

The Pick: Green Bay. It’s hard to pick against the defending NFC champions who were in this exact same spot last year before making their improbable run to the Super Bowl. But lightning does not strike twice and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have the momentum. And this Cardinals team didn’t beat anybody good.

Survivor Pick: New England or Green Bay? Green Bay! Yes, I’m going all-in with the boys from Wisconsin.

Hope to see you again next week. And if not, it’s been a blast.

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Survival of the Fittest NFL Style: Wildcard Saturday Edition

Posted on January 9, 2010. Filed under: Football, For Entertainment Purposes Only, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

As most of you know by now (and if you don’t, where the hell have you been?), I’ve been making my weekly NFL Survivor Pool picks here on the blog. And I somehow managed to go 17-0. That’s right – I correctly picked one team to win each week. If you want to see the entire season’s picks, just click here.

Survivor rules still apply in the playoffs

Admittedly, this is a great accomplishment, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of some very bad NFL teams. That’s right, I’m talking to you St. Louis. I picked you to lose 7 different times out of 17 and you did not disappoint. Thank you thank you.

Special mention also goes to the Cleveland Browns, who lost for me 3 times. And to the rest of the Sucky Six, thank you. I need to tip my cap to Oakland who beat Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Denver to knock out a lot of my competitors. I’d be remiss if I also didn’t thank the Kansas City Chiefs for beating Denver in Week 17, eliminating over half of the remaining pool.

So even though going 17-0 seems impressive (I’d certainly never even come close before), 14 other people in the pool did the same thing! Which is also unprecedented.  So we decided to split a portion of the pot and walk away now with a nice chunk of change. We also agreed to continue into the playoffs for a winner take all pot.

Playoff Survivor Rules

We have to make five picks (Wild Card Saturday, Wild Card Sunday, Divisional Round, Conference Championship Round, Super Bowl). And just like the regular season, once you use a team, you can’t pick them again.


Here’s the kicker: if at any point you are unable to make a pick because you have no teams left to use, you are automatically eliminated.

This also means if say two people are left and one has no teams to use, and the other has one left to pick, the person that is capable of making a pick wins, regardless of if that teams wins or not.

Wild Card Weekend

WILD CARD SATURDAY (Pick #1) – Either NYJ, CIN, PHI or DAL.  If your pick wins, you can submit a Wild Card Sunday pick.  If your pick loses, you’re out.

WILD CARD SUNDAY (Pick #2) – Either BAL, NWE, GB or AZ.  If you’ve picked both Sat/Sun correct, you advance to the following weekend.  Lose and you’re out.

And here a couple of quick notes from the guy who organized the pool:

1) If for some reason, 15 people pick incorrectly Wild Card Saturday and 1 person picks correctly, that person wins and it ends there.  But if say 10 people incorrectly pick Wild Card Saturday and 6 are correct, and all 6 of those people pick incorrectly Wild Card Sunday, the 6 people will split the pot.  Basically, treat Wild Card Saturday as its own week.

2) If at any point, like the example above, everyone remaining loses at the same time or multiple people make it all the way through to the end, the pot will be split amongst those involved.

Without further ado, let’s get to the Wild Card Saturday breakdown: Jets at Bengals and Eagles at Cowboys.

Remember: Wild Card Saturday is separate from Wild Card Sunday. Also, I am applying one of my rules from regular season survivor here: no saving a team. If I think a team will win, I will pick them, regardless of whether I think they will make the Super Bowl. Got it? Good. Ok, let’s get going.

Jets at Bengals

Let’s start with the Bengals:

  • I am not sold on this Bengals team and in my opinion, they are paper tigers (heh heh – see what I did there?)
  • The AFC North was weak this season and their win total is padded as a result. They haven’t beaten a playoff team since November 8. Also, they finished with only a +14 point differential. (These great stats courtesy of the playoffs preview by Andrew Katz of  No You’re A Towel).
  • Ocho Cinco is banged up. And will be covered by Darrelle Revis. ESPNews showed a remarkable graphic: the Jets have held opponents’ #1 receivers to less than 30 yards per game this season. That, my friends, is what is known as a shut-down corner. And his middle name is Shavar. Come on, how awesome is that? Darrelle Shavar Revis.
  • I do like Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson (did I really just type that?) but I think the Jets will have a great defensive game plan to shut them down.
  • Finally, I know the Bengals “lay down” last Sunday when they got crushed by the Jets, 37-0. But I have a problem with any team that “lays down” and then expects to just turn it on a week later. The football gods do not approve. And neither do I.

And now the Jets:

Ladies and gentlemen, Darrelle Shavar Revis

  • This is my basic breakdown and why I’m picking them: #1 defense and #1 rushing offense. Defense and an effective running attack win games on the road. And win playoff games.
  • Yes, yes, yes, Mark Sanchez is a liability. But my expectation (well, really my hope) is that he is not a factor. Someone asked if I was ok relying on Sanchez to lead a game-winning drive down by 5 with 2 minutes left. The answer is absolutely not. But I am banking on the fact that the game does not go that way.
  • In other words, if the defense and running game do what they’re supposed to do, Sanchez won’t be put in a position to win or lose the game for them. I mean, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl with the same basic concept. I’m not picking the Jets to go that far, but you see what I’m saying.
  • Did I mention Darrelle Revis? He plays for the Jets.  He’s good.
  • I see a big defensive play by the Jets making the difference in this game.

Pick: the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: At this point, I’m playing with house money. I’ve already pocketed a nice amount of change for winning the regular season, so anything that I do in the playoffs is gravy. Would I normally put all the marbles on Mark Sanchez on the road in Cincinnati? Probably not. But you know what? I am going with my gut and my gut says the Jets will win this. And if they don’t? Well then I won’t have to worry about making any more picks.

Eagles at Cowboys

I’ll keep this one short and sweet: I am not going anywhere near this game. Here’s why:

  • Divisional rivals. And not just any divisional rivals: the NFC East rivals.
  • A team trying to beat a team 3 times in one season. This is not easy to do.
  • A rematch of Week 17.
  • This one has trouble written all over it.

If I had to pick based on just my gut: it’s the Eagles.  And DeSean Jackson is the difference. But I’m not putting my survivor pool on the line. And I would not be surprised in the least if the Cowboys win.

If the Jets win, I’ll be back with my Sunday Survivor pick. Here’s a hint: it’s not Arizona.

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Survival of the Fittest NFL Style: Week 17 Pick

Posted on January 3, 2010. Filed under: Football, For Entertainment Purposes Only, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , |

For entertainment purposes only, I’m updating my 2009 NFL survivor picks here every week. The rules are simple. Pick a team to win each week. If they win, move on. Here’s a quick recap of my strategy.

Rule #1: Focus on the Negative

Rather than focus on what teams are good, focus on what teams are bad (and in some cases, really really bad). And there are plenty of them.  St. Louis, Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Detroit.

Rule #2: Don’t Save a Team

Remember: don’t worry about “saving” a team for later. You can’t advance to the next week unless you survive this week. If there’s a sure thing involving one of the elite teams over one of the Sucky Six, take it. Don’t get eliminated because you left an elite team (i.e., New Orleans, Indy, Minnesota) on the table in hopes of using them later in the season.

I’m also keeping track of the teams I’ve used each week in a separate post.

So without further ado, here’s this week’s Survivor Pick:

Week 17

Carolina (over New Orleans)

Mark Brunell starting for the Saints? I'll take Carolina.

  • First off, I cannot believe I am making a survivor pick in Week 17. I mean, it’s the last week of the season. And I’m making a survivor pick! So, let me just say “Go me!”.
  • Second, I fully expect that this will be my last pick of the season. I can hear you snickering: but it’s the last week of the season, of course it’s your last pick. Fair enough. But my survivor pool actually continues into the playoffs! I’ll get into that next week in more detail if I make it.
  • Here are this week’s nominees: Baltimore (at Oakland), San Francisco (at St. Louis), Denver (vs. Kansas City), Carolina (vs. New Orleans), New York Jets (vs. Cincinnati)
  • I’ve already used Baltimore and San Francisco, so it’s down to Denver, Carolina and the Jets.
  • Let’s eliminate the Jets first. The game is on Sunday night and it will be effing freezing in New York (well, actually, New Jersey). I do not trust Mark Sanchez in those conditions – even if Cinci benches its starters. Sanchez has 1 TD and 8 interceptions in 2 cold weather games.
  • Now we’re down to Denver and Carolina. Earlier this week, I picked Denver without hesitation. They are in a must-win situation and hosting Kansas City, a team they already crushed once this season. And it’s Kansas City. Who is terrible.
  • But since I made that decision, here’s what’s happened in Denver: Brandon Marshall has been benched. Eddie Royal is out due to injury. And now tight end Tony Scheffler has been benched due to “attitude issues.” This is a team in total disarray. And I just don’t trust them.
  • What about Carolina? They’re hosting New Orleans, the #1 overall seed in the NFC. And a team that’s lost 2 in a row. And if you’re the Saints you don’t want to go into the playoffs on a 3 game losing streak. But 39 year old Mark Brunell is starting in place of Brees. And Pierre Thomas is out due to injury. In other words, the Saints appear to be playing to lose. And even Vegas thinks so. They’ve established the Panthers as a 7 point favorite.
  • We’re definitely in uncharted waters here. It’s Week 17 and it’s a pretty screwy situation. But I am actually taking a team that is playing the #1 overall seed in the NFC.
  • Another bonus point for taking the Panthers instead of the Broncos? The Panthers play an early game, so I’ll know by 1 p.m. PST if I’m still alive.
  • Let’s just say that tomorrow morning I’ll have Carolina on my mind.

See you next week. Or not. In either case, thanks for reading and it’s been a lot of fun.

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Survival of the Fittest NFL Style: Week 14 Pick

Posted on December 12, 2009. Filed under: Football, For Entertainment Purposes Only, Sports | Tags: , , , |

For entertainment purposes only, I’m updating my 2009 NFL survivor picks here every week. The rules are simple. Pick a team to win each week. If they win, move on. Of course you can’t pick the same team twice in the same regular season.  If you want to read the entire post and each week’s picks and analysis, click here.  If you don’t care (and I completely understand if you don’t, since those weeks have passed and we really should just be looking forward, right?), then here’s a quick recap of my strategy.

Rule #1: Focus on the Negative

Rather than focus on what teams are good, focus on what teams are bad (and in some cases, really really bad). And there are plenty of them.  St. Louis, Cleveland, Kansas City, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. If those teams (dubbed the “Sucky Six”) are not able to lose (if I’ve already picked their opponent), then consider the match-ups.  And all bets are literally off when one plays another (St. Louis v. Detroit in Week 8? No. Thank. You.)

Rule #2: Don’t Save a Team

Remember: don’t worry about “saving” a team for later. You can’t advance to the next week unless you survive this week. If there’s a sure thing involving one of the elite teams over one of the Sucky Six, take it. Don’t get eliminated because you left an elite team (i.e., New Orleans, Indy, Minnesota) on the table in hopes of using them later in the season.

I’m also keeping track of the teams I’ve used each week in a separate post.

So without further ado, here’s this week’s Survivor Pick:

Week 14

Tennessee (over St. Louis)

This is the Kyle Boller we love to pick against.

  • I made this pick on Monday night, as soon as I checked the schedule. Tennessee at home against the Rams (with Kyle Boller at QB)? Sign me up.
  • Here are the other contenders: New England (v. Carolina),  Baltimore (v. Detroit), Pittsburgh (at Cleveland).
  • Why did I list Pittsburgh even though the game was already played and Pittsburgh lost? Because I would never have picked Pittsburgh, even if they were still available. I don’t like taking road teams in survivor, and division rival games are even tougher.
  • I’ve already used New England and Baltimore, so Tennessee is my survivor pick. Did I mention they are hosting the Rams?
  • If you have New England or Baltimore available, those are safe choices as well.

See you next week. I hope.

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2009 Princeton Sports Symposium Recap

Posted on December 11, 2009. Filed under: General, Social Media, Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

As you’ve no doubt noticed already, a key component of my post-ESPN journey involves attending as many conferences and networking events as possible. And last week was no exception, as I attended the annual Princeton Sports Symposium, which took place on Friday, December 4 at Princeton University. Now in its fourth year, the symposium provides an interactive and informative forum for sports executives, professionals and students to learn more about the sports industry.

I won’t provide a detailed play by play summary, but wanted to share some of the highlights and most interesting insights. Normally, I’d do a “tale of the tweets”, but there was no signal in the building, so tweets were few and far between, forcing me to rely on a good old-fashioned notebook and pen (shocking!).

Roland Hemond Leads Off with a Home Run

My favorite speaker of the day was also the first: the legendary Roland Hemond. If you don’t know who he is, Google him to find out what an amazing career he’s had in baseball. At the age of 80 years young, he’s currently serving as the Special Assistant to the President of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Roland Hemond

Hemond spoke to the audience in an anecdotal, folksy and very unaffected way. He was so pleased to see so many young people in the crowd and so eager to help that he actually provided the audience with his cell phone number. No joke. He also encouraged anybody interested in getting into the sports business to take whatever job they could, wherever and regardless of salary.

Here are a few of the most helpful nuggets that Hemond shared with us:

  • “During my 1st 8 years, I did a lot of listening and not a lot of talking. Absorb.”
  • “Respect everybody in your organization, at every level. Including janitor and grounds crew.”
  • “Enjoy every moment. Particularly when it involves beating the Yankees.”

I had the pleasure of speaking with Hemond on a one-on-one basis during lunch. He is truly one of a kind and a legend in the game. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to Phoenix next June for the Yankees-Diamondbacks series during inter-league play.  As I summed up on Twitter: “Roland Hemond is awesome. That is all.”

Tony Ponturo: Keynote Speaker

Leverage Agency's Ben Sturner and Tony Ponturo

Next up was the keynote speaker, Tony Ponturo, who was introduced by Ben Sturner, CEO of the Symposium’s main sponsor, Leverage Agency. Ponturo is now with Ponturo Management Group after serving as President and CEO of Busch Media Group and the VP of global media, sports and entertainment marketing of Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

Ponturo presented a pretty powerpoint presentation on how the sports marketplace has changed over the years. It was helpful and informative. But he said one thing that really struck me: “Regardless of fancy titles, we’re all either buyers or sellers in the sports marketplace.”

Building Your Brand with Social Media

This panel appeared to be the most popular one of the day, as it was standing room only. And why not? Social media is THE hot topic of the moment in all businesses, and sports is no exception.  Sports media consultant and blogger extraordinaire Dan Shanoff served as moderator for a panel that featured:

  • Peter Robert Casey, the St. John’s basketball twitterer. Peter is the first person to receive media credentials for using Twitter during a sporting event.
  • Christopher Lencheski, Managing Member and Team Owner, Quad City Mallards
  • Lewis Howes, Founder,,
  • Amy Martin from Digital Royalty

    Amy Martin, Digital Royalty

The panel covered a lot of material in a short period of time, including how social media supports an overall branding strategy, the importance of listening and responding, and adding value through social media. Overall, I took three basic messages away from this session. First, don’t forget that social media is social. So, be social. Create original editorial.  Second, listening and responding is critical. Third, ask yourself what’s the value to follow you? Give people a reason, whether it’s discounts or additional behind the scenes info.

Digital Media and Technology I

Next up with the creatively titled “Digital Media and Technology I” panel moderated by Troy Ewanchynia, Senior Director, Comcast SportsNet Digital Media.  The featured panelists were:

  • David Birnbaum – Senior Advisor, Strategy and Acquisitions, Alloy Media + Marketing
  • Anthony Caponiti– Partner, Activ8Social
  • Robert E. Freeman, Partner, Proskauer Rose LLP
  • Derrick Heggans – Principal, HACE Sports Media Consulting
  • Greg Shaheen – Senior VP, Basketball and Business Strategies, NCAA

    Greg Shaheen, NCAA

This panel was supposed to be a roundtable discussion of the implications of digital media on the sports industry.  Though each of the panelists was extremely knowledgeable and qualified, unfortunately we didn’t get to much of the substance of the discussion beyond their biographies.

However, there were a few points that stood out. Derrick Heggans reminded everybody in the room that there is no substitute for hard work and your integrity. Always aim to underpromise and overdeliver. And don’t point it out to anybody.

Greg Shaheen, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the NCAA, won the panel (and probably the day) with one of the best lines I’ve ever heard. He’s had an interesting and varied career that started with one day of law school. He told us that after his first day, he decided to leave, telling his contracts classmates: “I’m going to leave here now and I’m going to make enough money to hire a******s like you to handle s**t like this.”

Teams (What’s Going on with the Nets, Redskins and Vikings)?

The final panel of the day, moderated by Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, focused on developments in the sports business from the team perspective. The featured panelists were:

  • Jeff Gewirtz, SVP and General Counsel, Nets Basketball and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment
  • Michael Rowe, President & CEO, Positive Impact Management Group
  • Shripal Shah, VP, E-Commerce and Web Strategy, Washington Redskins

    Shripal Shah, Redskins

  • Mark Wilf, Owner & President, Minnesota Vikings

I really enjoyed this panel, and thought it was one of the most interesting, informative and insightful of the day. Each participant was candid, and McIntyre kept it moving at a good pace.

Shah of the Redskins provided an impressive overview of the team’s digital endeavors, which appear to be far and away the most aggressive and ambitious in all of professional sports.  The team has embraced digital and social media via significant investments in, Twitter (via Redskins Twackle) and Facebook to engage fans, while also staying within the bounds of the NFL’s stringent content rules.  Shah also discussed the importance of digital media in sponsor packages, citing the Redskins Powerboard as a specific example of how the team has taken digital assets and moved them back into a core sponsor (in this case, Audi). According to Shah, Redskins sponsors want 25-50% of their packages in digital content. That’s impressive.

Mark Wilf, Owner and President of the Minnesota Vikings, managed to avoid mentioning He Who Shall Not Be Named as he presented the team’s three main goals: 1) Bring a Super Bowl championship (or championships) to Minnesota, 2) Focus on community involvement and grow the connection between the team and the community, and 3) Secure a new $900 million stadium with a retractable roof. The connection with the team certainly appears to be paying off, as Vikings games regularly achieve a 70 share of the television viewing audience in Minnesota. Wilf also demonstrated candor and a good sense of humor. When asked about the NFL’s international appeal, Wilf quipped, “The Vikings are very proud of their Norwegian fan base.”

Wrapping Up

Overall, I enjoyed the symposium and found it to be a great way to connect (and reconnect), engage, network and learn from people from all facets of the business. I only wish I didn’t have to choose between panels and could have attended all of them.

Look forward to seeing you all again next year.

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Shut up, haters. Derek Jeter is SI Sportsman of the Year.

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: Baseball, Sports, Yankees | Tags: , , , |

Yeah, yeah, I can hear you all bitching and moaning. Derek Jeter is SI Sportsman of the Year? This year?

What’s that you say? Derek Jeter is a media darling? Who’s worse? Jeter, Favre or Tebow? (This was an actual debate on Twitter yesterday, and honestly Jeter has got nothing on Favre or Tebow).

Jeter is Sportsman of the Year

Did you just say that Jeter is overrated? That the Yankees have the highest payroll in the league? He can’t go to his right?

Well, I don’t care. Honestly. I’ve spent years defending being a Yankee fan and a Jeter supporter. And you know what? You should all just shut up. The man is good. He’s a leader. He’s a solid citizen. He comes through in the clutch. And why shouldn’t he be recognized for his accomplishments? Despite being a Yankee.

And why not this year?

My friend Stefanie, an unabashed Jeter fangirl, saved me the time and effort of putting together Derek Jeter’s resume.

  • Minor League Player of the Year
  • Rookie of the Year
  • All-Star Game MVP
  • World Series MVP
  • 4 time Gold Glove winner
  • Hank Aaron Award winner
  • Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award winner
  • 4 time Silver Slugger Award winner
  • New York Yankees Captain
  • FIVE time World Series Champion

And if that isn’t impressive enough, I’ll add a few more for good measure:

  • Yankees franchise leader in hits (surpassing Lou Gehrig this season)
  • 10 time All-Star
  • 6 time All-Star starter

This year, he adds Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year to the resume. And deservedly so. Haters be damned.

Oh, if you want to read SI’s article announcing Jeter’s selection, it’s here. The reasons look pretty legitimate to me.

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Happy 40th Birthday, Mo

Posted on November 29, 2009. Filed under: Baseball, Sports, Yankees | Tags: , |

I have a lot of dates in my Blackberry calendar. Lunch dates. Doctor’s appointments. Dinner plans. Anniversaries. And birthdays. Lots and lots of birthdays. Birthdays of friends. Birthdays of friends’ kids. Birthdays of family members.

In all these dates – in all these birthdays – there’s only one birthday of someone I don’t know personally. Someone I’ve never met. So why is this date in my calendar?

Because this person deserves to have his birthday noted. But not just in my calendar. In the calendars of every Yankee fan who has ever seen him pitch. Check that – of every Yankee fan. Period. This date belongs to the one, the only, the incomparable, Mariano Rivera.

Happy 40th Birthday Mariano

Mariano’s birthday is November 29, 1969. And today he turns 40.

And like a fine wine, the man just keeps getting better with age. As I said in my recent Blogger Nine Innings Q&A in the Daily News with Jesse Spector, we need to take a moment to really fully appreciate just how awesome Mariano is. Since 1995, Mariano has been mowing down the opposition with such regularity that it’s astonishing. I’ve lived in New York City longer than Mariano has been pitching for the Yankees (gasp!), and yet it seems like yesterday he was a rookie.

Fast forward to 2009. In his 15th season. 14 years after his Major League debut. Think about it rationally. Logically. Did you really expect a 39-year-old coming off off-season shoulder surgery to have as incredible and dominant a season as Mo did this past year? Admit it. You didn’t. You couldn’t. How can he possibly keep doing this? Keep fooling the opposition. Sawing off their bats. Making them shake their heads in disbelief.

At the risk of sounding way too cheesy on his birthday, Mariano has been a gift to Yankee fans. I’m always surprised at how many people – Yankee fans included – take him for granted. We are truly fortunate to see him pitch.  And if having Mariano’s birthday in my calendar is one way to express my gratitude, so be it.

Happy Birthday, Mo. And here’s to many many more.

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Bob Sheppard’s 1st Lineup Card at Yankee Stadium – April 17, 1951

Posted on November 27, 2009. Filed under: Baseball, Sports, Things I Love About NY, Yankees | Tags: , |


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