What Ride Are We On As Football Fans

There seems to be a connection between professional sports and a certain euphoria we get from our teams.  Sometimes we experience the highs and some times, the lows.  We experience this rush of adrenaline, emotion, and endorphins that work us up into a frenzy not seen since Bruce Banner and The Incredible Hulk

Call it what you will.  But we all pay some amount to maintain this feeling on a weekly basis.  Some pay to enjoy it in the safety of their home while various others dish out numerous amounts at the stadium to get their fix.  During tailgating and the game.

And just because one lays out more from their wallet does not mean their high is any better.  We all experience the same roller coaster ride of emotions equally no matter we each pay out.

We as fans get a rush from attending a game.   Sometimes the drug kicks in at tailgating.  Firing into a frenzy before the fireworks go off in the stadium. By the time inside, the high is contagious it spreads to everyone. When the action starts, its phase two.  Riding its ups and downs like a bad acid trip. Not knowing if it will end in a high or low.

But we come back for more.  They always know we will.  Every time.  At times we know the disappointment but we want to be surprised.  Let the win sneak up on us.  The rush is better that way instead of being fed it slowly through an IV.

For a long time it seemed the fans mattered.  The teams seem to know our pulse and at times, act accordingly.  The NFL treats the rest like addicts, knowing no matter their urge they will always tune in and be sucked into another Sunday vortex of advertising and football.

We all have a vice.  That one item that draws us in like a vacuum and we let it take us to our own personal state of euphoria.  But those who know what their audiences vice is, they exploit it to no end.  No matter the bad trip they throw at you, you keep focused wondering when the ride will get better.  Chasing the dragon in hopes of catching it.

Eventually we do, we grasp it hard and take pride in the accomplishment.  Knowing that our hard work and dedication to not only our team, but the sport we love will pay off.  Pumping our endorphins to heights we rarely see.  Rejoicing with others while sporting our warriors victorious colors.

There was a time when the fans voice really mattered.  When we could be heard before the marketing and advertising became louder and more dominant.  When it was the AFL against the NFL, they did everything they could to keep their fans.  The same needs to be done now.

We can see past the blinders they choose to acknowledge.  We know the difference between a quality product and when someone is trying to sell us a bill of goods.  The NFL is selling us baby powder instead of the high quality product they usually serve us each week.

We had a chance.  The fans and the critics had a chance to make a mark on the NFL.  But they knew their mistake long after we saw it pass us weeks ago.  Even with a deal made, reputations in the NFL are tarnished.  The NFL needs the Army as a clean up crew.  They re lazied it one blown call too late.  Ask Green Bay.

The fans collective conscious will never let the NFL forget the mistakes they made.  Not just to them, but to the players as well for creating havoc and stress in the workplace.  It seems the NFL offices are up just high enough in NYC where screams only come across as faint whispers, making it hard to hear the problems until it is too late.

And that, I think, was the handle – that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil.  Not in any mean or military sense; we as fans never look towards that.  The referees only wanted to work.  Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.  Using social media to voice displeasure and create a wave of force to be heard.

But now, driving on Route 3 East towards NYC, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark, that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back allowing the NFL to remain dominant and make all the right calls.

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Jets Tailgating Takes Flight Before Any Kick Off

Smell that?

Don’t get closer to your screen, what the hell is that going to do?

But there is a certain aroma, slowly being pulled in all directions by the passing winds.  If you concentrate hard enough, focus your senses, and tune in your palate you might be able to solve the quandary of what that is making you salivate more than a bulldog with a t bone steak.

DSC06894It is called opening day tailgating.  The central focus for many Jets fans hours before the opening kick off.  Some can sense the anticipation in the air and draw their energy from it for the day.

For some, adrenaline is what keeps them going from the moment they load their car until they get home.  Many draw their energy from their friends and other fans tailgating around them.  For the rest, they get it from 5 Hour Energy.

Anticipation builds each day like an internal fire.  It grows and grows until there is no containing it anymore.  At some point, opening day has to come to release the energy that has been building for weeks.  Energy that not only creates a spectacle for tailgating, but to assist the Jets from the stands towards a victory.

From burgers to brauts, steak to shrimp, and beer to…..beer, Jets fans can not wait until Sunday.  Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media application and some currently in development are being jammed with Jets fans eager to get the season started.

DSC07183Some tailgating groups use social media to not just set up their tailgate but to attract new tailgaters to their pack.  The L7 Tailgate was founded on Twitter and continues to grow with new members who only meet eight times a year.  More if there will ever be a home playoff.

Many from L7 meet in the off season and tweet on to be great friends.  It shows that distance and eight games will not stop those who feel the need to have that tailgate feeling all year.

I have walked from one end of the stadium parking to the other.  I even ventured over Route 120 and still made it back to the L5 tailgate in time for kick off.  Iver that distance, I have sampled my fair share of tailgating cuisine, Blacktop BBQ, and assorted Jets themed drinks.

DSC07192That first game of the season has a certain feel to it.  Fans wait over eight months to come out of hibernation and seek out pigskin glory.  Take this two ways.  Glory for the team winning on the field and having winning flavorful, tender ribs off the field.

The excitement for the battle in the stadium builds throughout tailgating.  The tension is so thick one can cut it with a Jets flag.  Random J-E-T-S chants, whistles, and all sorts of inspirational celebrating is done to help inspire the 13th man.

We gather like warriors, celebrating our bravest who fight for their faithful followers on the gridiron.  We rejoice with plenty of meat, brew, and pride before watching our green and white gladiators battle before our eyes.  Praying they return to us with a victory.

Every Jets fan feels that excitement.  That this year will be different from the last.  That not only will Gang Green return to the AFC Championship, but to the Super Bowl this time.  Opening day tailgating bring about that excitement more than any other home game.

DSC06932Tailgating is about friends and family.  It gives us time to see those we do not normally see.  To share stories of battles gone by to younger generations.  We bring new members into the circle to spread the word on how damn great our tailgate is.  These are the moments we cherish because it makes us smile in a way only those in attendance can understand.

Every man who can flip a burger or time a steak right has another moment to prove they are the Baron of BBQ, the General of grilling, or the culinary charcoal genius that makes everyone salivate when they see you preparing the days feast.  But behind every great man is a woman muttering under her breath so faint only the grill man can hear.

Laugh or roll your eyes all you want men, we know it to be true.  Doesn’t mean  we listen, but it is true.

So as you prepare to make whatever trek you have to take to get the the Meadowlands, keep the faith.  As tomorrow only starts the first of eight battles on our home turf.  Have the strength to tailgate on even n the face of a losing season.

That is what makes true Jet fans have the best stories to tell to the ones we plan on leaving our season tickets to.

Inaugural Fantasy Football Fest Fumbles The Ball, But Room To Improve

Last weekend I was in Atlantic City to cover the inaugural Fantasy Football Festival, a one-of-a-kind fantasy football experience according to the organizers, ReedPOP.  This was the first time any festival or convention was organized and catered around fantasy football.

DSC_4086ReedPOP, the production company behind New York Comic Con (the largest pop culture convention on the east coast), PAX, PAX East, UFC Fan Expo,  & Star Wars Celebration organized the festival.  ReedPOP is dedicated to producing celebrations of popular culture throughout the world that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences for consumers and fans, is organizing the festival.

Headlining the festival were Philadelphia Eagles’ stars Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, New York Giants’ greats Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor, former Washington Redskins QB Joe Theismann, NFL Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith and Chris Doleman, Super Bowl XXV MVP Ottis Anderson, ESPN Fantasy Expert Matthew Berry and others as they participated in autograph signings, panel discussions and fan Q&A sessions throughout the weekend.

DSC_4091Aside from hosting your own fantasy draft live from the AC Convention Center with your friends, the inaugural festival in AC had a number of activities and special events throughout the weekend including fantasy expert round tables, video game tournaments, interactive athletic competitions (punt, pass, kick, sports memorabilia, & a tailgate party and beer tasting.

To read more about the festival and future events, you can visit their website at www.fantasyfootballfest.com.

Last Thursday night at 9 PM before the event, I was on the weekly Football Reporters Online BlogTalk Radio program interviewing our guest, Greg Topalian, ReedPOP’s Senior VP.  Gregg was excited about the coming event.  He mentioned the radio spots they ran, posting flyers on the boardwalk, and plastering any information about the event where ever they could.

Greg also mentioned how ticket sales were going very well and about 25000 tickets for the festival had either been sold or given out by the radio stations.  From all the information provided it sounded like the inaugural event was going to be a hot ticket in town.

DSC_4092But from those who attended, the event turned out to be a great effort rather than a memorable weekend.  Even Phil Simms could not wait to leave.  More on that later.

Day one started with about 25-30 fans waiting outside for he 10 AM opening.  I had this vision of a long line, maybe 100-150 people standing outside.  Chomping at the bit to get inside for a memorable fantasy football experience where one can also buy some memorabilia and meet some players for an autograph or two.

It was memorable all right, but not in the good way some may have liked.  By the time one was in the door, there was enough time and room to get everything done fast. Which many did.  Not many attended for fantasy football reasons.  Many came in and got the autographs they wanted and left.

Now some did come for fantasy football, but by the time the inquiries were done there was not much left to do.  Even though they had panels, fantasy football drafts on site, and video game stations lined up with Xbox & PS3 with Madden and NCAA football games, it was not enough to keep the patrons there.

The best part of the video game section was the original Nintendo Entertainment System with Super Techmo Bowl.  All one had to do was play as Bo Jackson to win the game.  Not a cheat, but a heavy advantage in the game.

There ere not many vendors inside as well.  There were a bunch of fantasy experts and websites to gain valuable knowledge from, but it was not enough to keep people there for an extended period.  After certain autographs were obtained, many fans left.  It seemed the players were more of a draw for some rather than learning how to draft your fantasy players.

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ESPN’s Matthew Berry & Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick & LeSean McCoy

Over the two day period there were less than five fantasy drafts overall.  Tables were set up to handle at least 12-15 per day at a time.  The panels also drew little listeners.  The only panels people sat and listened to were to the Eagles cheerleaders doing trivia and when the Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and ESPN‘s Fantasy Analyst Matthew Berry were taking questions.

Besides the typical fantasy booths like RotoExperts, FantasyGuru, Fantrax.com, Gameday Fantasy Football, and a slew of others, companies like Fathead, Steiner Sports Collectibles, Jack Links Beef Jerky, World Poker Tour, Point Pong. and others tried to offer up football merchandise.

DSC_4208Sirus XM radio had their Fantasy Sports Radio show broadcast live as the event was going on.  Fans could listen in to fantasy experts give their opinion as well as former athletes give their analyst opinions on who to draft for your fantasy team.  94WIP Sports Radio, 97.5 The Fanatic, 97.3 ESPN Radio, & 103.7 WMGM Rocks were also doing certain live broadcasts or reports from the event.

For those wanting a true taste of playing on the gridiron, there were interactive areas where one could catch a pass, kick a field goal, or throw passes for accuracy.  The Giants Perry Williams was having fun along side the fans in the passing section.  Jets/Giants Billy Taylor was giving defensive stance tips to the Lingerie Football League ladies who were also a part of the festivities.

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Jets/Giants Billy Taylor with the ladies of the Lingerie Football League

One could notice some of the other players and former players in attendance wanted to get their time there over as soon as possible.  Many of the fans and even the vendors noticed how some shortened their time on purpose due to the low turnout.

For example, Michael Vick was originally scheduled for his autograph session from 1:30-3:30 PM and then a panel discussion with Matthew Berry breaking down the QB position from 4:15-5 PM.  LeSean McCoy was scheduled from 2:30-4:30 PM for his autograph session.  The only session that did not change was the QB panel discussion.  LeSean McCoy took part in that as well and it became a general Q&A session as well.

Both Michael Vick & LeSean McCoy had their autograph sessions changed from their scheduled times  to 5-6 PM.  $100 for Vick to sign any item and McCoy $60 for any item.  As soon as 5:30 came they both left before the end of their scheduled times.  This could be due to low autograph requests, low attendance, or the fact not many stayed until the 6 PM day one close.

They were great with the fans and signed whatever people presented and answered tons of questions.  One has to wonder why they would leave early.  If they got paid for one time and left before that scheduled time, they really made out like bandits.

DSC_4093Day two of the event saw less fans attend.  Even some of the vendors did not come back for day two.  Some even came in after the 10 AM start time.  The demeanor of the vendors showed their displeasure with the event.  From the supposed 25000 tickets either sold or given away it appeared less than 2000 attended the event.

My wife and I stayed at the Sheraton, less than 50 yards from the convention center.  One of the Sheraton’s attendants mentioned he had no idea the event was going on that weekend.  According to him, he saw no posted advertisements for the event.  While my wife and I walked, we barely saw any ourselves.  The only ads we saw were on a revolving billboard and light post flags leading to the convention center.

DSC_4254Outside the convention center, there was a tailgating section.   WMGM Radio was broadcasting live outside alongside the the worlds largest portable bbq grill.  It takes p the whole trailer of an 18 wheeler.  Johnsonville has three trucks and brings them to various events across the country.  The next stop after the Fantasy Fest was to Bristol, TN for NASCAR.

It appeared there were more food vendors inside than outside.  The driver of the Johnsonville truck was also the grillmaster.  Johnsonville was at the event to help raise charitable funds for the Marines.  But they felt let down by the event.

DSC_4253They claim there were no signs or posters inside to direct fans outside to the tailgating section.  After checking the event floor, there really was no signs.  They were all posted outside the doos of the event in various parts of the convention center.  We went outside both days and each time the tailgating section looked empty.

The guys from Johnsonville felt disappointed as they look to help raise funds for charity.  This event let them down as they could not raise the kinds of charitable funds for the Marines as they had hoped.

Day two also saw former Giants QB Phil Simms as the autograph attraction.  Phil was great with the kids and more than happy to talk to the fans and sign whatever they wanted.  I found out from one of his handlers that he drove himself down there that morning.

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NY Giants QB & Football Analyst Phil Simms

Phil Simms was scheduled from 11AM-1PM.  And like a few others the day before, he could not wait to get out of the event.  His line for autographs was short and he left the event before the end of his scheduled autograph time.  Phil Simms sped out the door so fast he beat Usain Bolt’s world record in the 100 yard dash.  I should know, I was behind him taking video.

The event may not have been an overall success for some, but for those who got what they paid for, they left satisfied.  I guess if you are a true fantasy football fan and you had your questions answered before you could draft your players, then it was a success.  If your kids saw the players you grew up watching and had them sign the autographs you wanted, then you left smiling.

If ReedPOP plans to do this event next year, there is a lot that needs to be rethought and restructured.  Not only do the fans who attend need to leave happy, but so should your exhibitors.  They pay for space on the floor and should be given a true chance to make a profit on top of their expenses for the festival.  If the exhibitors leave the event pleased, then they will plan  to return next year.

If there had been video game tournaments where players could play Madden, NCAA 13, or Siper Techmo Bowl with prizes and sponsor tie ins from EA Sports, Nintendo, Sony or others could have added more of an interactive feel to the event.

ReedPOP could show live status feeds from Twitter to encourage the use of social media to get people to the event immediately.  Even a prize every hour for the best tweet.

I enjoyed myself at the event.  The Philadelphia Eagle cheerleaders formed lines to welcome fans in and I ran threw.  I took my attempt at the field goal kick.  If you want to know how I did, come back when the video is up.  Plus I interviewed New York Giants Otis Anderson, Howard Cross, Perry Williams, Billy Taylor, Jets Bruce Harper, Ravens Tony Siragusa, ESPN’s Matthew Berry, and more.  So in order to know what we talked about, you WILL have to come back for the video.

DSC_4199If ReedPOP decides to do this event next year, I will come back.  I’d like to see how they can improve in their second year to increase attendance.  This convention can be a success with the right adjusting.  Take advantage of the successes it had and capitalize on it for next year.  You will find football fans do enjoy events like this as it provides the interaction fans welcome from players.

When the players are signing autographs & laughing, fans obtaining signatures and memorabilia, and vendors are interacting with sales and valuable fantasy information, then everyone is happy.  That is how you measure an event’s success.

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2012 Season Preparation Begins For Jets & Their Fans

Over the past week, training camp began across the NFL.  The Jets reported to training camp with more questions than answers.  Even though the Jets will not be on Hard Knocks there is always enough drama and media following around Gang Green.  Just turn on SportsCenter.

From the release of information regarding locker room issues to the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow so called “QB controversy”, the cameras will keep rolling through Jets training camp.  Let’s face it, the Jets provide more drama than TNT.

The veterans need to let what happened months ago slide off their back and get down to business.  If Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez, and the other starters want to look ahead to the 2012 season, they need to forget about how the 2011 season ended.  The incoming rookies need to be led by the veterans example and act as a cohesive unit.

But as much prep work the Jets need to do, so do the fans.  Why should fans do prep work?  What could possibly be so important that fans need to do prep work for the 2012 season.

It’s called tailgating.

Majority of you are probably thinking all one has to do is pack food, beer, and a grill.  Then drive to the stadium, find a spot, set up and enjoy.

Sure, for the basic one timer this is a great idea.  But to the experienced season ticket holder who makes a day of tailgating, there are many steps taken for the quintessential tailgating experience.

Before MetLife Stadium & parking permits, one would be able to arrive as early as they wanted to.  At the old Giants Stadium, my wife Gina & I would get there as early as 7 AM before a 1 PM game.  A few others would arrive before us.  We made a day of it, breakfast and lunch before the game.  Everything packed the night before and finding a prime spot the next day.

The best part about arriving at least 6 hours before kickoff was that there were no employees at the entry gates.  One could drive to their stated parking destination and not pay $20.

I am 37 and I talk about 5 years ago as if I was referring to 1943.  Like technology, everything seems to be moving faster these days.

Some groups already established like L7 Tailgate, Dave Fier and the group at L5, and “Flagman” Frank Conway staked their clam the minute they were first allowed into the newly established MetLife lots.  They get there early enough to the same location to ensure there is room needed to support their tailgating experience for everyone involved.

MetLife Stadium is set up  according to your parking permit.  The more you pay for it according to its list price, the closer to the stadium you are.  This could play a factor in your tailgating.  The farther you are, the earlier you may have to end your tailgate.

This is why the Jets have preseason games, to work out the kinks before the season starts.  Same should go for those wanting the best tailgating experience during the season.

First off, not many die hard season ticket holders attend preseason games.  One could go and scout every location needed.  To go from colored lot to colored lot is not easy, but it can be done.  Attend one or two preseason games and you will find your prime spot for the season.

Here is a layout of the MetLife Stadium parking situation
Parking lot B was formerly a non PSL parking area.  In 2011, it was converted to yellow PSL parking.

By viewing the map, the areas that fill up first are the outlined black areas in each parking section.  Look at is as real estate while tailgating.  You can have a small plot to host a tailgate and not have to compete with drivers looking for a place to park.

Many campers, diesel trucks, and u-hauls tailgate on the “outer rim”(Star Wars reference).  “Flagman” Frank Conway has room to fly his 546 flags this way.  If there is a section of concrete or grass that can be occupied, those will go first.

Next to go are the parking lot lights with the lot location on it.  Hence the L7 Tailgate and Dave Fier with L5.  Get a bunch of friends to park side by side and in some cases, on the opposite side as well to have a central hub for tailgating.  Some of the guys at L5 have a fun and entertaining way to mock the opposing team each game day as someone drives through their tailgate.

Once the outside rim and the lot markers are gone it all spreads out from there.  The prime spots are usually gone in about an hour.  This is why many line up at least 1-2 hours before the gates are opened.  They know by waiting, even for that long, you can guarantee yourself a prime location.

Relax, one does not have to line up as early as fans did to watch Peyton Manning practice for the first time with the Denver Broncos.

Just keep in mind the larger your tailgate, the earlier you want to arrive to secure a spot that can hold not just all the people, but what everyone brings with them.  So act like Indiana Jones and choose wisely.

August is a great time to get those needed essentials for tailgating.  Many stores view August as the end of summer.  So many tailgating essentials for grilling or barbecuing will be available for a discount.  One can find coolers, utensils, charcoal towers, certain portable grills, and more for prices lower than some expect.  Stores would rather sell them for a deep discount than not sell them at all.

One item that is an essential for any tailgate is a pop up tent.  They come 10’x10′ standard and usually start around $95.  It comes it handier than an umbrella in rainy situations.  Keep your grill and food dry so your tailgate can continue in any weather.  Many put them over the back of their car so friends always have a dry place to stand.  Trust me, if it rains and you do not have one, you will wish you did.

Other items like chairs, tables, flags, inflatables, air horns, fire pits, flat screen TV’s, satellite dishes, couches, end tables, or whatever else makes your tailgate a memorable one is up to you.  I provide the basics.

Maybe a future article will focus on the more extravagant and stranger tailgates out there.  I have pictures on some and they will definitely make you laugh.

One could use the above guidelines for either the Jets or Giants home games.  The parking doesn’t change.  Only the fans tailgating.

Overcoming Obstacles Before The Warrior Dash

For a few days now I have been pondering what to type up next.  Not much Jets news besides Wilkerson’s crash and the usual Sanchez/Tebow drama.  Training camp begins soon.  I assume the drama will start up soon.

I am not going to be working on my Jets documentary forever.  It led to me covering the fans and giving them their chance to shine when no one else really does.  Not just on video but in print.  But there  is more going on to talk about than just the New York Jets and it is time I branched out and started to write about many other topics.

Let’s face it, diversity is key.  Need some variety here.  The Bakery is getting stale with the same old topics.  It needs to be freshened up with some new topics and coverage.  And maybe some more about myself, what I am doing, and what I have been through.

What better way to start than to talk about my foray into the Warrior Dash this Saturday.

What is the Warrior Dash you ask?  Check their website at Warrior Dash.  I can not be bothered talking about it so find out for yourself.

Just kidding.

The Warrior Dash, the World’s Largest Running Series,  is a 3.20 mile long course made up of 14 “hellish” obstacles.  They take place on off terrain paths, in water, over walls, in mud, over fire, and many other obstacles.  There are 45+ races in the United States every year and also Australia.

Some of the obstacles change from course to course, depending on the environment.  This is the first time Warrior Dash is in New Jersey.  It is being held at Lewis Morris County Park in Morristown, NJ and this is my first time running in this event.

Even the walking I would do filming at a Jets game is not enough cardio for an event like this.  I would begin by parking at the Sheraton on the other side of Route 3.  Then with some maneuvering, use a NJ Turnpike exit bridge to the stadium to cross the highway.  Then  walk from one end of MetLife Stadium parking to the other side, and back again.  Even over to the Izod Center and everywhere in between.

I have been training for this since March considering I have not been in a gym for about six years.  So I knew I had to dedicate time and energy to make sure I could at least finish the event.  The Warrior Dash website does outline certain training routines for different skill sets.  I am glad I trained beyond what they recommend.

The event begins at 9 AM.  The first 500 warriors will line up for their dash through hell.  Then in 30 minute intervals, waves of 500 Warriors will line up for their opportunity.  I line up for my chance at 1:30 PM.

You can track my start of the event and when I finish on Facebook or Twitter.  Pictures will also be posted by Warrior Dash’s in house photographers as well as race day updates by myself.

As I write this my mother sends me an e-mail saying she just read what the Warrior Dash involves.  Then she asked if I was crazy.

I responded yes.

The race does involve and obstacle where one has to jump over a wall of flame.  It is just a line of Duraflame logs.  To get an more in depth review of Warrior Dash and other running series like Spartan Run, Rebel Race, Tough Mudder, and others go to Travelete.com.

I bring that up because some obstacles seem worse than they sound.  They do not want it to be impossible where only few finish.  That is the Tough Mudder, (recognize my sarcasm yet?).

If there is someone struggling, others have been know to provide assistance on the course.  Many do act like sportsmen and want to see others overcome and finish.  You can sign up as a group  as well and run with your friends.

To me, the Warrior Dash is just another physical activity I enjoy putting my body through.  I know a few may not like to hear that, but I enjoy doing extreme activities.  I wrestled professionally for about 13 years (mostly on weekends), bungee jumped, went to Mountain Creek when it was Action (Traction) Park, played tons of sports when I was younger, and just enjoy a great challenge.

When it came to physical activities when I was younger, I was lucky to do what I did.  My vision provided some, not major, limitations in activities my parents would let me do.  Football was out.  The one sport I wish I had played in my life.

At the age of 10 in 1984, wrestling was the one sport I stayed with.  Did not give it up.  Loved to wrestle.  In eighth grade, I went through the season undefeated in the heavyweight weight class (149-275 lb, I weighed 163) and took first place in two county tournaments.   was able to climb the ropes in gym class using just my arms.  My sophomore year in high school I made varsity at 189 lbs.

I held my head just a little higher after making varsity after years of being teased, bullied, and made to feel insignificant by my peers.  To many, it didn’t matter and some teasing continued, even from some of my teammates.

But it never stopped me from quitting wrestling or anything I did.  I persevered though it.  I have always had this mentality that I can do anything I put my mind to, no matter what my limitations are in life.  I never like to hear the word “NO” or “you can’t do that”.

My attitude is “Yes” and “watch me”.

That was until some news I received over the summer of 1991.  I noticed a change in vision.  I had to visit a specialist in New York because my condition could not be diagnosed by my specialist in New Jersey.

I was attended to by one of the three leading specialists in the world regarding my vision issue.  I underwent three and a half hours of testing to determine what my vision issues were.

It was determined I had subretnal neovascularization with pathological myopia.  Say that three times fast.

I can.

To sum up the condition, imagine looking through two scars on your eyes everyday.  You can see, but not perfectly and with some vision loss.  That is me.  Doctors told me no more wrestling.

I was devastated.  I cried for a long time on that one.

At the age I was diagnosed, I was informed my condition occurs in one out of three million my age.  It is a form of wet macular degeneration that normally happens to people in their 60’s and 70’s.

I was officially a winner in the unlucky lottery.

If I strained the blood vessels in my eyes significantly it could increase the scarring from blood leakage behind the eye.  This was what the doctors were worried about and advised me not to wrestle or do any extraneous physical activities.

So, for my final two seasons on the wrestling team I was the team manager and recorded all the wrestlers matches.  My senior year I was an assistant freshman wrestling coach.  I had good knowledge, what can I say.

Yes, I know I had on a sweater.

But after high school I went into professional wrestling.  Yes, I know I was told not to wrestle but I did it anyway.

It was what I wanted to do and I was not going to let anyone tell me otherwise.  I miss the physicality.  I enjoyed hitting and being hit.  Not too hard of course.  But I enjoyed it.  I love putting my body out there.  The adrenaline rush makes me smile.  If I could have gone into MMA instead of wrestling,  I would have.

For years I wrestled and did other physical activities, including weight lifting, with no other damage any doctor can make out.  I have been in the clear.  I have always said every time I go out there and do something I risk the odds.

Odds makers in Las Vegas have gone broke betting on me.  I am pretty good with numbers.  I can figure rough odds playing poker.

Knowing my limitations and abilities does keep me a step ahead.  If I need to pull the plug on something or realize a limitation.  I will stop with no hesitation.  I may be crazy, but I am not stupid.

I am a very headstrong, determined individual.  When I set my mind to something, I set to accomplish what I start.  I went headfirst into filming a documentary and learned on the fly about film making.  Major thanks to Anthony Artis and others on their guidance.

The Hardcore Champion. Retired undefeated with the belt. I still have it!

The Warrior Dash is just another challenge I KNOW I can accomplish.  If you don’t challenge yourself you will never know what you are able to accomplish.  One can never realize their full potential.

I never want to look back and say I never tried.  It is better to attempt and fail, than to not try at all.  OK, so someone may have said that before me but it works well here (Thanks Ant!).

I keep repeating a scene from the movie “Rocky Balboa” in my head.  Rocky tells Rocky Jr. that it is not about how hard you get hit it is about how hard you come back from that hit.  That no matter how much you feel you are being hit further down you fight back that much harder.

Hey, draw inspiration from whatever adrenaline boosting IV you can get it from.  As long as you do something about it.

I am dedicating my race on Saturday to two groups.  For those visually impaired, who can see and do more than their limitations let them.  Also,  for those younger who need the confidence to fight back and overcome obstacles & realize their full potential.  I am not sure if there is a non-profit or .org for that one.

I think the obstacles I’ve faced in life have set me up well mentally for the obstacles at the Warrior Dash.  Glad I was able to get my body physically capable as well.

I know the Warrior Dash is going to be fun.  Another event in the long line of physical activities I decided to sacrifice my body to.  I know I am going to hate the cardio in between the obstacles.  I hate doing cardio, but a necessary evil.  It is the obstacles I am looking forward to the most.  Getting down and dirty, using my hands, climbing ropes, jumping over walls, stopping speeding bullets.

OK, I got carried away.

I plan on doing one of these events a year.  My wife Gina wanted me to do the Super Spartan Race in September as well.  No way I am ready for an 8 mile race.  But for my 40th birthday, I do plan on running the Tough Mudder.

Here comes another e-mail from my mother.

Jets Lower Ticket Prices; Fans Hope To Raise Expectations

It has been a while since I actually sat down to write.  Had some distractions that interfered with the creative flow.  So I guess I needed a mental vacation.  An opportunity to dump the mental waste and fill it with fresh thoughts that makes me want to sit, down and make this seem seamless.

For a while there I felt robotic, pushing myself to churn out something I felt had no heart behind it.

Sometimes it takes a wave.  To fully reach its potential with a lot of mass, force and power behind it.  But to be the one to ride that wave, derive its energy and untapped potential.  Riding that wave to mastery.  Those are the best writers.  The ones who take that untapped potential and ride that wave past the crest.

Once I read the Jets had lowered ticket prices in the upper deck, I knew I had a reason to sit down just to get back up on my soap box.  For the few that gather, it just makes sense.

Apparently, the New York Jets are lowering the price of some 12,000 upper tier seats at MetLife Stadium for the 2012 season.

Jets President Neil Glat said that seats in the end zone, corners and some along the sidelines that cut in from the corners will drop in price for next season.  The seats farthest from the 50 yard line are generally the ones least sought after.  With many not wanting to sit next to the clouds this is another opportunity to make the upper deck attractive.

The last seven rows of four sections of sideline seats will fall from $105 per game to either $75 or $50, depending on the row. Those in the corners and in the end zone will drop from $95 to either $75 in six rows or $50 for the last seven rows.

DSC05962The upper deck has been a hard sell to Jets fans.  Even with single game seats the transportation alternatives and costs could add up.  Even a day at the game is not cheap for some in a down economy still.  A reason I am sure the Jets took into consideration when lowering ticket prices.

“After taking a hard look and having analyzed the 300 level, we are going to adjust the price,” Glat said. “We think we can do better in that area for our fans. The goal is to ensure that we have a lot of season ticket holders up there.”

I think their hard look came from ticket sales to date.  I am sure they see less being taken in the non PSL region.  A down economy and unemployment will be two reasons the team will not acknowledge often.  They have before, it would be a relief if thy would do it again.

Saying what they did was a more PC way of acknowledging the reasons without saying them, but we all know.

Jets fans will be able to purchase a season ticket for as little as $500, including two preseason games.  A parking permit could cost a few hundred for the season so add that into consideration.

“This was not an issue about worrying about getting games on TV,” Glat said, “but what is the right price for the value for the fans. And there’s really an emphasis in the NFL on season ticket holders, the lifeblood of the league.”

But wait, there is more dangling off the hook of being a 300-level Season Ticket Holder:

  • Great savings off the individual game ticket price (duh)
  • Special concessions offers including $3 value menu snack items (dollar dog)
  • Meet & greets with two Jets Alumni before every home game (ones who are there anyway like Greg Buttle & Joe Klecko)
  • Complimentary team roster cards located on the 300-level concourse (low cost printing)

I can see how this could be attractive to some who want to get their kids to a few games, give them some perks and not be tied to a PSL.

It may encourage those already in the upper deck to spread their claim to more seats.  I see this working well with younger fans but not the older fans.  It would take an effort and a few elevators to get up there and not an attractive option.

JetsBlog2I bring that up because a lot of older fans, the season ticket holders who had seats for more years than some current PSL holders have been alive, might like the prices slashes.  But they may not like the seats location and the journey it takes to get to the top of the Roman Coliseum.

I admire those long time season ticket holders for not going to the new stadium.  They knew when to say when.  When to make a new experience away from the new American Dream MetLife Mall that will soon exist.

Now a football Sunday can start with tailgating and commerce.  Players can go from a personal appearance in one facility right into the lockers before a game in the other.

With all the bonus features, v.i.p. sections ,and coaches club attractions in MetLife Stadium is football even a feature attraction?

The days of tailgating before the game, going to the game, then leaving will soon be a memory faster than Derrick Mason.

I am old school, I guess.  Football Sunday is meant for football and tailgating, that’s it.  Men need a day for themselves during the week to focus on football, it’s in a long standing rule book somewhere..  Look it up.  Maybe Wikipedia.

Those fans who saw the rise of the Titans of New York and early Jets years made a lot of sacrifices.  They came out before the games when they could.  They paid their dues.  Many never step foot in the new stadium.  For most of them, the magic was gone.

Not in the team, but in the way they experienced their football on Sunday.  Not just the extra entertainment but also in the way of portable devices, I-phones, and everything else that takes one’s attention off the game they paid to see.

DSC07225The Jet Nuts, Jets Pack, and many other long standing tailgating groups did not want to keep up with the costs.  Many said no to the ever changing price structures.  The Jets have not kept a single cost the same on both the tickets & PSL’s since they were first announced for MetLife Stadium.

When one overprices in a down economy, you have to make constant shifts.  For every step ahead they take with trying to lure fans to buy tickets, they take two steps back each time they change their price structure.

Many don’t mind.  They will take whatever price structure they can get just to be able to say they have New York Jets season tickets.  It has become a possession of status to some.  Trying to prove they are a bigger fan than others.

But no matter how you watch Mark Sanchez, Darelle Revis, and now Tim Tebow, we are all fans.  Opinions will vary between Jets fans on the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow QB controversy.  Spend as much as you want either viewing from home or the most luxurious seats in MetLife Stadium.  The organization only knows you from one perspective.

As a consumer.

Interview With NY Jets Sack Exchange Member Marty Lyons

A few weeks back at the National Football Foundation’s announcement of the 2012 Collegiate Football Hall of Fame inductees I had the chance to get some words from former New York Jets Sack Exchange member and 2011 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Marty Lyons.  Marty was a pleasure to speak with and offered great insight into both college and professional football.

Marty gives his thoughts on the Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez QB controversy, physicality of the game, differences from when he played to today, amongst other topics.  One can see Marty has a true passion for college football and the growth of its players.  When Marty was speaking with others before this interview, he captivated their attention and engaged them all on all topics football. Watching his excitement made me smile and captivated to hear more from this member of the Sack Exchange.

Former Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson At NFF HOF Announcement

Former Dallas Cowboys, Oklahoma State, and Miami (Fla) Head Coach Jimmy Johnson gives his thoughts and opinions on today’s collegiate and professional players, injuries, social media, and more.  Always great to hear candid opinions than one’s already prepared for press statements.

Also catch my other videos of the event on my YouTube page.  You can also find an interview with former New York Jets Sack Exchange member and 2011 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Marty Lyons.

NFF Announces 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Class

From the national ballot of 76 and a pool of hundreds of eligible nominees, Archie Manning, chairman of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, announced last Tuesday May, 15th the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Football Bowl Subdivision Class, which includes the names of 14 first team All-American players and three legendary coaches.

  • Charles Alexander-TB, LSU (75-78)
  • Otis Armstrong-HB, Purdue (70-72)
  • Steve Bartkowski-QB, California (72-74)
  • Hal Bledsoe-SE, Southern California (61-63)
  • Dave Casper-TE, Notre Dame (71+73)
  • Ty Detmer-QB, BYU (88-91)
  • Tommy Kramer-QB, Rice (73-76)
  • Art Monk-WR, Syracuse (76-79)
  • Greg Myers-DB, Colorado State (92-95)
  • Johnathan Ogden-OT, UCLA (92-95)
  • Gabe Rivera-DT, Texas Tech (79-82)
  • Mark Simoneau-LB, Kansas State (96-99)
  • Scott Thomas-S, Air Force (82-85)
  • John Wooten-OG, Colorado (56-58) – selected from the FBS Veterans Committee
  • Phillip Fulmer- 152-52-0 (74.5%) Tennessee (1992-2008)
  • Jimmy Johnson- 81-34-3 (70.0%) Oklahoma State (79-83) & Miami (Fl.) (84-88)
  • R.C. Slocum- 123-47-2 (72.1%) Texas A&M (1989-2002)

“We are extremely proud to announce the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Class,” said Manning, a 1989 College Football Hall of Famer from Ole Miss.  “Each year the selection process becomes increasingly more difficult, but George Corrigan and the Honors Court do an amazing job of selecting a diverse group of the most amazing players and coaches in our sport’s rich history.  This class is certainly no exception, and we look forward to honoring them and celebrating their achievements throughout the year ahead.”

The 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Subdivision (FBS) Class will be inducted at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December, 2012 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.  They will be honored guests at the National Hall of Fame Salute at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 2, 2013 and officially enshrined in the summer of 2013.

The announcement was made from the NASDAQ OMX Marketsite in Time Square, which has hosted the event the past four consecutive years.  XOS Digital produced the NFF web streams for the second consecutive year.  Enjoy video for the years inductions into this year’s College Football Hall of Fame.