Posts Tagged: Football


Each year, ESPN The Magazine produces the ‘NEXT’ issue: an annual look at the athletes that it feels will be the breakout stars in the not-too-distant future.

But the “Worldwide Leader” got it wrong with the cover subject of its most recent edition. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton isn’t “next.” He’s right now.

In the magazine, ESPN advises us that the faces in the ‘NEXT’ issue are the ones to watch in 2012. But we’ve already spent the past four months watching Newton toy with opposing defenses, racking up ridiculous numbers in his wake.

This season, not only did Newton set the record for most passing yards by a rookie (4,051), but he single-handedly accounted for 35 touchdowns in 2011 (21 passing, 14 rushing). Newton also became the first player in the history of the NFL to pass for more than 4,000 yards and rush for more than 500 yards in a single season.

Not bad for a player who was red-flagged by many teams as someone who would have difficulty grasping a pro-style offense.

Newton’s play has already spawned a number of accolades, as well as his fair share of nicknames (“Superman”, “The Black Clark Kent”, “The Black Panther”). But while awards and adulation are all well and good, Newton has his eyes on the true prize.

"I want to be the symbol of success in this league," said Newton in an interview with ESPN. “I want to win multiple Super Bowls.”

Even as a rookie, Newton realizes that true greatness comes with wins, and those will come over time. With two picks in the top 40 selections of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Panthers are in prime position to surround Newton with the talent that he’ll need to make a lasting impact on the NFL.

But after amassing over 4,700 yards of offense with a team whose No. 2 and No. 3 receivers were Brandon LaFell and Legedu Naanee, it’s fair to ask the question: Just how good can Cam Newton be?

"I know I have the talent to change this game, and I don’t see no ceiling," said Newton in an interview with ESPN. “So I’m not knocking on the door, like tap-tap-tap. I’m gonna kick that door in, like SWAT.”

Newton’s rookie campaign hasn’t been without its fair share of missteps, but most of them have occurred off of the field. In an early December interview, he erred by referring to the Carolina Panthers as a “tarnished house where losing is accepted" and implied that teammates needed to get on his level of play.

In another interview with ESPN, Newton invoked the names of two other black quarterbacks in response to allegations that much of negativity surrounding him prior to the 2011 NFL Draft was fueled by race.

"I can’t sit up here and look at it like, oh man, my critics are racist," Newton said. "I blame JaMarcus Russell and to some degree Vince Young. If you have the opportunity to make that kind of money doing something you love to do, why would you screw it up?"

For whatever reason, Newton inexplicably compared his situation to two players who have no discernible link to the former Auburn quarterback. The pre-draft criticism of Newton—whether thinly-veiled in racism or not—is in no way analogous to the self-inflicted damage Russell and Young inflicted upon themselves.

Fortunately for Newton, in today’s attention span deprived society, his comments will soon be forgotten. He will learn from these mistakes just as he learns how to attack opposing defenses each week during film study.

What’s unfolding in front of us is the perfect case study in taking the road less traveled towards NFL superstardom. 36 months ago, Cam Newton transferred to Blinn College in Brenham, TX after being suspended by the University of Florida for being in possession of a stolen laptop. Today, he’s the next big thing in the NFL.

Scratch that. Newton is already a big thing. And it’s safe to say that his advice to his critics is the same advice he’d give to those who still aren’t paying attention.

"Just sit back and watch the show."


This past Sunday afternoon, tens of thousands of Philadelphia Eagles fans sat at the Linc, in their living rooms, or in their neighborhood watering holes, rooting on their beloved football team.

And as we watched the Eagles slowly unravel in the fourth quarter yet again this season, the question that many of us have been trying to avoid for weeks slowly began to create a sense of doubt in the backs of our heads…

Are we going about this the wrong way?

It’s clear that something needs to change. When a team loaded with offensive talent adds Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a busy offseason, there is no reason that team should ever begin a year with a 3-6 record. None.

We all know what needs to happen. We also know that nothing is going to happen unless the wheels completely fall off of this debacle known as the 2011 season. And while it’s hard for many of us to reconcile the fact that losing games is a good thing in the long term, it may be the only way for our team to reclaim its past glory.

Because at this point, isn’t rooting for Andy Reid akin to embracing mediocrity?

For the better part of 13 years, Reid has been the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. And for the 13th year - barring a miracle from on high - Reid will not be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end.

In just two short months, the mood surrounding this team has gone from excitement to concern to flat-out apathy. We’ve pretty much resigned ourselves to cheering for a squad that’s no better than mediocre, despite a roster filled with former Pro Bowlers.

Yet we continue to watch. Granted, it’s probably ingrained somehow in our double helixes, but we continue to hope and wish and pray that the Eagles win each week, even though that just means we’ll get more of the same out of Reid.

Andy Reid apologists will be quick to suggest that their beloved coach deserves a mulligan for 2011. After all, the Eagles haven’t had a losing season since 2005, and the team has won six division titles and an NFC Championship during his tenure.

But here’s the thing: Andy Reid doesn’t deserve anything. As those mutual fund commercials have taught us, past performance is not an indicator of future success. So if Andy Reid isn’t the best option to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl, then the team owes it to itself - and to us, by extension - to hire the best man for the job.

That isn’t to say that the team has quit on Reid this year. But there’s no excuse for losing to a 2-6 Arizona team at home, especially with the Cardinals missing the services of Kevin Kolb.

Sure, the Eagles were without one of their most potent weapons on offense (Desean Jackson) on Sunday. But with the best dual-threat RB in the NFL (Lesean McCoy), a Pro Bowl-caliber wideout (Jeremy Maclin), and a $100 million man at quarterback (Michael Vick), scoring 10 points on offense against the league’s fourth-worst pass defense is completely unacceptable.

Clearly, this isn’t as bad as 1998 - the final year of the Ray Rhodes era when the team went winless on the road and only scored 161 points for the entire season. Nor is it as dreadful as the 1994 campaign when the Eagles lost their last seven games, ushering in the end of the Rich Kotite era. But it isn’t far off.

This weekend, we saw the Eagles blow a 4th quarter lead for the fifth time in nine games - an NFL record. And yet after the game, Reid provided the same rote answers he always does when speaking to the media.

Not that we should have expected anything of substance. These days, Andy Reid press conferences are nothing more than the verbal equivalent of a paint-by-numbers exercise.

Let the record show that this is a man who was arrogant enough to name his offensive line coach his defensive coordinator, and then bristle at the suggestion that it wasn’t the most logical choice. Of course, this is also a man who has enjoyed carte blanche ever since he arrived in Philadelphia back in 1999.

But until that’s taken away from him, we are forced to deal with someone who - after more a decade at the helm - still struggles with the not-so-finer points of time management. A mediocre talent evaluator whose recent draft history leaves plenty to be desired. And a head coach who can make decisions without consequence until the one man who can effect a change finally comes to the realization that most of us have consented to long ago.

Jeffery Lurie? Time’s yours.


Ten years ago, the Temple University football program was on life support.

The school was not-so-politely asked to leave the Big East Conference in 2001 for a number of reasons, one of which included the notion that the Temple Owls were considered “non-competitive.”

Four years later, the school’s Board of Trustees agreed—by an 8 to 7 margin—to keep Temple football at the major college level. Along with that vote came a pledge to commit the resources needed in order to restore the program to its former glory.

That commitment appears to be paying off rather nicely these days.

Following Saturday’s 34-0 homecoming win over Buffalo—the team’s fifth victory this season by more than 30 points—the Owls have won 20 of their past 27 games.

In junior Bernard Pierce, Temple boasts one of the best players in the nation: a running back capable of breaking off touchdown runs reminiscent of those typically seen in video games. And the man who leads the latest iteration of the Owls—head coach Steve Addazio—previously earned two national championship rings as a member of Urban Meyer's staff at Florida.

In a few short years, the Owls have risen from the proverbial ashes of the late 80s and 90s. Not only are the Owls dominating their own conference, they’re winning games against nationally-recognized programs that boast dozens of four-star recruits.

Even those who had completely written the team off are beginning to pay attention once again. The renaissance on North Broad is rapidly approaching its final stages.

When it comes to Temple football, everything is different now.

In the not-too-distant past, Temple gave away thousands of football tickets to area schoolchildren.

For the kids, it was a rare opportunity to watch a football game in an NFL stadium. For the university, it was a philanthropic way to fill the building.

Attendance was a priority for Temple in those days, especially since the Big East was threatening to revoke the school’s membership due to lack of fan support.

However, even with free tickets readily available, convincing people to spend their Saturday afternoons watching college football at Veterans Stadium was a hard sell.

It’s not hard to figure out why: Temple simply wasn’t very good.

From 1985 to 2006, the Owls had exactly one winning season. There were two years (1985 and 2005) in which the team didn’t even win a single game.

To borrow a phrase from Malcolm Gladwell, the tipping point for Temple football came on December 6, 2005. On that day, the school announced that their new head coach would be former Virginia defensive coordinator Al Golden—a fitting last name for the man who would spark the rebirth of the Owls’ football program.

Golden was all of 36 years old when he accepted the job, and the former Penn State tight end brought with him an energy and a passion that hadn’t been associated with Temple football in decades.

The season before Golden arrived on campus, the team finished 0-11. Four years later, Temple ended the regular season 9-3 and earned an invitation to the EagleBank Bowl—the school’s first postseason appearance since 1979.

Golden was showered with accolades for his work reviving a program many had left for dead. And with those accolades came job offers: last December, he decided to take his talents to South Beach to become the head coach the Miami Hurricanes.

Many wondered if Temple would be able to find a coach who could continue the success that Golden ignited during his five years in North Philadelphia. Those worries were put to rest less than three weeks later when Steve Addazio was formally introduced as the 25th head coach of the Temple Owls.

As a former offensive coordinator and associate head coach for the Gators, Addazio is keenly aware of what it takes to compete at the major college level.

He wasted little time in garnering his first major win—a 38-7 rout over Maryland in College Park on September 24. The victory marked the first time Temple had ever defeated an ACC school.

"[The win] was great for recruiting, and it was also great for the development of our football team in the big scheme of things," said Addazio in an interview on The Broad Street Line last week.

The energy surrounding Temple this season is hard to ignore.

The team has been featured in a number of national articles, and the Owls routinely find their way into ESPN highlight packages, thanks in large part to the on-field exploits of Pierce.

The Bristol-based network seems to have something of an affinity for the Owls. When ESPN was forced to find alternative programming after the NBA canceled the first two weeks of its regular season, what did it choose?

Temple football.

Last week, the Owls’ early November matchups against Ohio and Miami University were moved from ESPN2 to ESPN. The Miami game will mark the third time that Temple will appear on ESPN’s primary network this year, and the contest is one of the school’s record-setting eight national TV appearances this season.

Seemingly overnight, the Owls have turned into appointment television. More than 1.9 million people watched Temple nearly upset Penn State earlier this year—a record TV rating for the university.

There are still a few things missing, however.

The pomp and pageantry that surrounds most other Division I schools isn’t yet present on North Broad Street.

There is no ceremonial walk through the heart of campus, nor is a singular hand gesture that unites the team with the fans. Traditions such as those will come with time and, most importantly, success.

Success is precisely what the Owls have enjoyed in recent years—barring an epic collapse, they will likely be bowl-eligible for the third consecutive season.

Even so, fans have been slow to warm up to the new-look Owls.

More than 57,000 came out for the Temple-Penn State game, but the Owls have averaged less than 27,000 for their other three home dates this season.

"I think [the fans] are missing out on a great experience," Addazio told The Broad Street Line. “The atmosphere is electric.”

The recent revival of the Temple program has led to the belief that the school may soon receive an invitation to a major conference, possibly for all sports.

Temple would seem like an ideal candidate for the Big East, but according to several reports, Villanova (who competes in the conference in all sports except football) balked at the league adding another team from the Philadelphia market.

However it shakes out, Temple clearly has the credentials worthy of major conference membership.

This season, they’ve defeated a top-level ACC team (Maryland) and almost beat a nationally-ranked Big Ten team (Penn State). Last year, they notched a victory against Connecticut—the team that would eventually win the Big East title.

Off the field, the school’s Board of Trustees recently approved a $9 million expansion to the team’s practice facility. The upgrades will quadruple the size of the current complex, and will allow Temple to be more aggressive when it comes to recruiting.

It’s hard to imagine that the Big East—or any other conference, for that matter—would refer to the Owls these days as “non-competitive.”

The school’s mantra this season is “Philly Proud, Temple Tuff”, and Addazio and his charges do their best to fulfill that motto every time they step out onto the field. And with each passing week, the renaissance of a proud Philadelphia football institution comes closer to completion.


Last Thursday, ESPN announced that they have agreed to an eight-year, $15.2-billion extension of their current Monday Night Football rights deal. The contract will allow the network to broadcast the NFL's premier weekly showcase through the 2021 season.

Aside from the actual games, ESPN also plans to produce 500 new hours of NFL-related programming each year: some of which (NFL Kickoff) will be engrossing and entertaining, while some (Audibles) will be borderline unbearable to watch.

On the digital side, the agreement allows ESPN to stream its NFL content to Verizon mobile phones, as well as to its WatchESPN application. Beginning this season, fans will be able to watch Monday Night Football on iPads or similar tablet devices.

"With a multitude of shows, networks and platforms, ESPN will continue to cover the NFL like no other media company can," said ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer.

The additional distribution channels will result in additional revenue streams for ESPN, but they won’t be nearly enough for the network to fully recoup the full expense of the deal.

Which is where you come in.

News of the extension—which represents a nearly 73-percent increase over the $1.1 billion per year that ESPN had been spending on Monday Night Football—led American Cable Association President Matthew Polka to issue the following statement:

"ESPN has struck a bad bargain for consumers. The sports network’s financially wanton deal will push the cost of pay-TV service into the stratosphere, making the product less and less affordable during a time of severe economic stress and high unemployment. Evidently, ESPN is pleased to be known as the worldwide leader of hyper-inflationary price hikes."

With more than 98 percent of U.S. cable providers currently offering ESPN, the network already generates billions in subscriber revenue each year, not to mention the advertising dollars brought in by the actual programs themselves.

There’s no question that the new agreement will result in increased subscriber fees for cable operators and, ultimately, consumers. As it stands now, ESPN charges the highest rates in the industry: the network’s entire suite of offerings checks in at more than $5 per subscriber per month.

As consumers of pay television—which is the case for approximately 85 percent of ]U.S. households—we don’t have much say in the matter. Currently, we don’t enjoy the freedom to select the channels that we want on an “a la carte” basis. The Family and Consumer Choice Act of 2007 was designed to give individuals that flexibility, but the bill continues to sit in committee more than four years after its proposal.

Besides, with ESPN continually building its portfolio of broadcast agreements with various leagues (including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, FIFA and the PGA Tour), it becomes increasingly more difficult for cable, fiber and satellite providers not to carry the Worldwide Leader on their respective systems.

As we learned in "Those Guys Have All The Fun," broadcast rights are key, which is why every major network made a play at the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games this past June. Expect to see a similar bidding war if and when the NFL decides to offer a package of Thursday night games.

ESPN executives clearly understand this, which is why they’ve paid a premium for the Monday Night Football broadcast rights ever since they acquired them back in 2006. More rights mean an increased demand for the network, at very little expense to them. After all, they’ll just pass the cost on to you: the consumer.

Are you ready for some (more expensive) football?


It began, of course, with a camera.

A 16mm Bell and Howell wind-up camera, to be exact. A Philadelphia overcoat salesman by the name of Edwin Milton Sabol had received it as a gift some years earlier, and the proud father used the camera to film the milestone moments in the life of his son Steve: his first birthday, his first haircut and his first football game.

"It’s the kind of story you would read in the old Saturday Evening Post,” said NFL Films president Steve Sabol, during a recent interview on The Broad Street Line podcast. “NFL Films began with a wedding present.”

That wedding present awakened something inside of the elder Sabol, who was less than enamored with his day job working for his father-in-law. So, in 1962, he did what any man with a few extra dollars and a passion for film-making would have done in his situation.

He bought the rights to film the NFL Championship Game. 

And ever since that moment, the National Football League has never been the same. 

On August 6, Ed Sabol—co-founder of NFL Films—will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Fittingly enough, he is the only person elected to the Hall who isn’t a former player, coach, commissioner or owner. 

It’s an extraordinary accomplishment, to say the least. But it’s been a long road to Canton for a man who is now known as the “King of Football Movies.” 

If Ed Sabol had resigned himself to a career of selling coats in the early ’60s, he would have had no reason to be ashamed. In his earlier years, he served in World War II, spent time as a vaudeville performer and was a champion swimmer who declined an invitation to the 1936 Berlin Olympics because he refused to swim in a pool that was built by Adolf Hitler. 

So it’s easy to see why a man who once served under General George Patton could easily decide that the day-to-day grind of being a salesman wasn’t how he intended to spend the rest of his years. 

At the age of 45, fed up with his current station in life, Sabol took a trip to the NFL offices in New York City and submitted a bid of $5,000 for the rights to film the 1962 NFL Championship Game. After a three-martini lunch at the infamous Jockey Club, the man known as “Big Ed” convinced then-commissioner Pete Rozelle to accept his offer. 

For someone who didn’t enjoy being a salesman, Sabol did an outstanding job selling himself as a viable candidate to Rozelle. After all, on his resume, Sabol listed “filming my 14-year-old son” as his only previous experience filming football. 

His years of filming his son Steve’s practices at the Haverford School paid off as Ed Sabol received a great deal of acclaim for his movie about the 1962 NFL Championship entitled “Pro Football’s Longest Day.” Buoyed by that success, he was able to acquire the rights to both the 1963 and 1964 title games. 

Less than three years after his initial meeting with Rozelle, Sabol convinced the league’s 14 owners to each invest $20,000 into his fledgling film company.

And thus, NFL Films was born. 

Long before the YouTube era, years before the instant gratification provided to us by the ESPN family of networks, the chance to watch highlights of a football game was a special occasion. A filmmaker in the truest sense of the word, Ed Sabol let the camera tell the story: purposefully shooting each play in slow motion, and not resorting to gimmicks and tricks to create his films. 

"We took what every fan felt, and added music and sound, and glorified it, and amplified it and put it on the screen," said Steve Sabol. 

Every football fan over the age of 25 is familiar with the booming baritone of John Facenda, or the unique cadence of the late Harry Kalas. Even so, it’s not often that we step back and think about those behind the scenes—those responsible for providing us with the moving words and pictures that stir feelings inside of us long after the games have been played. 

NFL Films’ dedication and commitment to their work has provided us with countless images that have been indelibly burned into our minds: Mike Singletary's menacing glare just prior to the snap; Dwight Clark reaching to the heavens to haul in a Joe Montana pass; Joe Namath raising his right index finger in exultation as he left the field following Super Bowl III. 

There is no comparison in any other sport to the work that NFL Films has done over the years. Simply put, Ed Sabol is the reason why most of us fell in love with football. 

"My father’s great talent was not only the ideas, but he created an environment here that promoted that kind of creativity," said Steve. "He put quality before any other consideration." 

Forty-nine years and 105 Emmy Awards later, Ed Sabol’s creative spirit lives on. 

It’s fair to question why it has taken so long for Sabol to have been selected for induction. Although he never played a single down of professional football, one could argue that he has contributed more to the game than anyone who has been elected to this point.

Until earlier this year, Ed never worried about being inducted into Canton. All he ever wanted to do was to make films, and he got a chance to do that with his son Steve, an accomplished artist in his own right. Ed handed the reins of the company to the younger Sabol some 26 years ago, and NFL Films hasn’t missed a beat since.

What began as a small outfit known as Blair Motion Pictures now occupies a $45 million complex in Mount Laurel, N.J. The corridors of the various buildings are lined with Emmys—tangible testaments to the work that has been done each and every year since an overcoat salesman to at trip to New York with a $5,000 check and a dream.

The ultimate recognition will come on August 6, however. Just as in the beginning, Ed—clad in his customary red socks—and Steve Sabol will be together again. This weekend, things will be a bit different. This time, all of the cameras will be turned on them.

Then again, some things will be as they always are. On Saturday night, you can be sure that they’ll find a way to tell a story or two. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s something that the Sabols are pretty good at doing. After all, they’ve been doing it for the better part of the past 50 years.

"Tell me a fact, and I’ll learn," said Steve Sabol back in January. "Tell me the truth, and I’ll believe. But if you tell me a story, it’ll live in my heart forever."