No NFL team adoption for me

When the Rams left STL, my NFL team affiliation left with them.

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When the Rams left St. Louis on January 12th, my team affiliation was gone. For good. While I hold a special place in my football heart for Peyton Manning(something that has been there since his debut), I won’t merely drop my Rams devotion and pick up another team like I would buy a new shirt at a clothing store. Where’s the special in that?

I’ve always been a traditionalist when it comes to sports. I root for St. Louis sports teams, because those are the teams I grew up on. I don’t root for a team because everyone else does or because it’s cool or would create millions of hot take articles. I was born into the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team but was too young to know about the Cardinals football team in St. Louis. When the Rams came calling in 1995, I saw it as a chance to truly love and follow an NFL team. I was 13 years old. Ready for get fully acquainted.

Now that Stan Kroenke has come, waved his money flag like a can of rogaine in the late 1990’s, I see no reason to cheer for the Rams or any other football team. I laugh and sneer at the people who grab another team within a week and change their Facebook and Twitter profile or cover images to that team. How is that even possible? How can that happen so fast? The NFL isn’t even that great of a sport to just switch to another team.

A bunch of guys smashing into each other repeatedly, lowering their brain strength and longevity in life one head smash at a time. The NFL sucking millions of dollars from fans while not caring about their own players. The writing has been on the wall for years. Maybe having an NFL team like the Rams, horrible or not, concealed the wound. That blockage is gone now. All I see is greed, a waste of time and a pure vault of energy to be relocated elsewhere.

So when 2016 begins, I won’t be following a team. Manning will be retired and there are other players worth watching, but the blood pressure drive and addiction to follow the sport will be gone. That deteriorated when the Rams left town and the true ugly of Roger Goodell and the NFL showed their colors.

The NFL stabbed St. Louis in the back. How? Before you toss dome guidelines at me, let me tell you the NFL didn’t have to drag this out. They could have simply saw the money potential in LA and agreed to move the team to LA. Forget rules. The NFL makes up rules as they go along. Who cares about the thousands of fans in St. Louis who saw a good stadium plan come to fruition and some hope restored. Dave Peacock got it all in place, and even got the funding from the city and state. Forget how late Francis Slay or Jay Nixon was to the party. It got approved. Instead of giving St. Louis an extra 100 million, Goodell offered 100 million EACH to Oakland and San Diego to stay put. That’s a knife into the back. The NFL didn’t just tell us no. They showed us a secret pathway to the promised land, led us there for months and in the end all we saw was a brick wall of denial.

The NFL will never get my money again. It barely got much of it. I’ve slowly moved away from the league, covering it and watching it over the past 2-3 years. It goes deeper than the Rams moving. I moved to Arkansas in December of 2014 and didn’t even seek out the NFL Network package. I didn’t do it in 2015 either. While I followed the Rams from afar and wrote about them a little, I started to detach. That could have been from being distanced, knowing Stan would get his way or maybe a slow disinterest in a league that ONLY cares about money and promotes greed. It all just started to stink. Why should I lend passion to a league that doesn’t give back? If I do that, my son may think it’s a good idea. No way. I am done.

Super Bowl 50 may be the last one I really watch with intent. Thank Manning for that. That’s loyalty that may be flawed but it’s real. It’s my last ride too. Next year, I may watch. I may not. One thing is for certain. Passion will be less if not remote. I won’t watch with that burning desire to get a certain outcome. That’s gone.

For all of you who jump to the Kansas City Chiefs or Arizona Cardinals or another team this summer, I won’t judge or mock you. I may laugh a bit. Question your reasoning and newfound loyalty. Some people need the NFL for financial(fantasy football) or personal reasons. Some of you just need it.

I don’t need it. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I can’t just pick up another team and act like the Rams never existed to me. Where’s the special in that?

Doubting Peyton Manning is futile

At the age of 39, Peyton Manning is still getting it done.

(Photo by Anthony J. Causi)
(Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Peyton Manning is 39 years old and still winning football games. Four neck surgeries. Constant doubt. Predators lurking waiting for him to finally fall and the man just keeps firing pigskin ribbons like he just stepped on a football field. Unlike former Iron Man Brett Favre, Manning has made adjustments and endured. He’s surprised many, including his boss and former Bronco legend John Elway and his rival, Tom Brady.

When Manning had a rough opening week this season, a game that followed a weak preseason round, the vultures flew in. He only threw one touchdown, and had a passing rating below 50. Oh no, he’s finally done. Call the referee or the NFL quarterback coroner. Peyton may finally be relegated to being a commercial comedy king. Well, four days later, on Thursday night against Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, Manning turned back the clock to…well last season.

He threw for 256 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. More importantly, with his team down 24-17 late with 1:51 left in the game, Manning led the team down the field in the 2nd most hostile environment for a road team like a technician. It didn’t matter the defense laid in front of him. He was going downfield and that’s all. He led them back and tied the game at 24 with a 19 yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 36 seconds left. Vintage Peyton Manning on full display for the world to see.

Peyton Manning isn’t done yet. He won’t let the 2014 playoff one and done be his swan song. He still wants that second championship to easily put him into the top 5 quarterbacks list. Everyone’s list. He did something else on Thursday. He threw for his 70,000th yard. That’s right. Manning has thrown for 70,122 yards, or in other words, nearly 40 miles worth of completed passes. He’s thrown for 533 touchdowns, or 533 more than me or you.

The world of sports is a frenzy and causes many to jump to conclusions. We all do it. The speed of this mobile cultural driven world means move from one topic to the next. Most people want to deem Manning finished because it means they can move onto the next hot specimen in waiting. Well, as the old cowboy said when he was down on one knee, Manning has something to say about that.

We need the Peyton’s to stay upright. He’s a throwback, a man who doesn’t use twitter or take shots at other players. A guy who doesn’t like he belongs on the front of a bodybuilders magazine. He’s the classic pocket passer who has been silencing doubters ever since he made it into the league. People said he didn’t have the arm strength when he broke into the NFL in 1998. 17 years later, they are saying the same thing and Manning just keeps completing passes. It’s not how hard you can throw in this league. It’s about how accurate you can be under pressure. In a new system with a patchwork offensive line, Manning is still getting it done.

Go ahead and keep doubting him. Manning seems to like this kind of pressure and won’t make excuses for being old as long as the doubters refrain from thinking a bad week means a burial is in order.

Talk at me, @buffa82 on Twitter

Why St. Louis fans should care about the Rams

How can the St. Louis Rams fans help NFL football in the Lou? Just keep showing up.

If you care about football in St. Louis, you should care about the Rams. It’s as simple as that as the Rams have their second home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers today. There’s an old saying that I can’t let go as I creep up in age. Don’t let something that you can’t control affect you. The situation with the Rams and how the team arrived at this fork in the road is not a fault on the fans and that is why they shouldn’t give up just yet.

For the past 10 years, while losing teams and miserable times mounted around the Edward Jones Dome and Rams park, they showed up to watch something begin again. Unlike most fan bases of losing teams, the Rams fans never gave up and whatever owner Stan Kroenke “didn’t” say, the attendance was respectable. Watching this Rams team play football the past decade is the equivalent to watching a car suddenly lose power steering and go screaming off a cliff, rolling down the nearside hill hitting every bump on the way down. It hasn’t been easy.

Yes, the owner has something to do with that. Kroenke makes Harrison Ford on a talk show seem chatty. He doesn’t say a word but he sure does speak volumes with headlines. He pushes pawns all across the board, wages the future of his football team on a dream lot in California, and doesn’t say a word to fans. He helped bring the team here and waited for his opportunity to snag ownership of them back. He’s never fully invested in this team in St. Louis. If Stan played poker, he’d make even more money. His poker face is a 24/7 gauntlet. Don’t even try to read it. I’ll sum it up. It reads, “I don’t care about you.”

That doesn’t mean stay away from the games downtown. Do St. Louis a favor and SHOW UP. Cheer for your team. Show them that you care. That is the best and only way to hurt Stan’s plan. Show that the city is a viable place for NFL football. Pack the dome. Light up the city on Sunday mornings and afternoons. Don’t let the hard work of stadium task force leaders Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz die in vain. Create a frenzy and see what happens. If the team does leave, at least you can say you did something about it. You did your best. As a football fan pleading for its team to remain in St. Louis, it’s the only thing you can do.

The Rams team is a young group once again. A bunch of young men trying to create something special out of improbable parts. Their quarterback, Nick Foles, is a transplant from Philadelphia, looking to start anew. Their running back corps consists of a few bodies. The receiving core is a group of men still trying to find their true potential and seeing their 4th or 5th different quarterback throw passes towards them. The defense is the white snake of this plaza. Powered by defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and linebacker James Laurinaitis. Their front seven is among the best in football, a feared group of tacklers that dares opposing teams to run the ball.

Yes, the secondary isn’t exemplary and the offensive line will need patch work throughout the season. With a new offensive coordinator comes hope of a more exciting system but also the dreaded Jeff Fisher override. Will the passing game be opened up? Will Tavon Austin and Brian Quick be turned loose? Or will the Rams die via check down boredom? All of that is up in the air.

Here’s what is known. There are 16 games to play, and eight of them are at home. The fans need to show their pride one more time. Stand up for not only the Rams but the prospect of NFL action in St. Louis in general. Instead of grunting about Stan and his evil ways from your chair in St. Louis county, get down there and mix it up with the fans. Tailgate, barbecue, scream, shout and cheer. This young team will be empowered by it. This fanbase will seem stronger than ever. The city of St. Louis may just fly on it.

It’s all we can do. Show up, make our presence known and see what happens. It all starts today.

Nick Foles makes a grand entrance with Rams

Meet Nick Foles, he’s the new Rams quarterback and he’s pretty good.

The mark of a great quarterback is refusing to give in when the stakes are set high against your team and the momentum isn’t pointed in your direction. The great ones create their own momentum and bring their team back against adversity. On Sunday in front of a fiery St. Louis crowd begging for something to hang their pride on, Nick Foles brought the Rams back, steering them towards a 34-31 upset victory over the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.

Instead of taking to Twitter to promise victory like Russell Wilson did, Foles just went to work when the whistle blew. After a few hiccups early including a sack strip and fumble return for a touchdown and a few ill-advised throws, Foles was dynamic in the second half in reversing another fate that would have been labeled “Second Half dooms Rams again.”

For years, that has been the Rams motto. Start fast and deflate quicker. Foles wasn’t going to have any of that Sunday. He went 18-27 for 297 yards, throwing the game tying touchdown to Lance Kendricks late in the 4th quarter and also rushing for a touchdown earlier in the game. He completed 66 % of his passes and didn’t think twice about the Seahawks aggressive defense. Some young players may have let the early troubles get to them and mentally shut down, but it seems like the harder the situation became Sunday, the tighter the focus Foles showed.

This is a quarterback driven league and every team treats their QB like a general, rather they are a star or not. The defense can play a great game, but if the quarterback can’t do something with the ball in their hands it all goes to waste. The offense needs him to guide them down the field. Be their navigator at all times. If the QB fails, the operation is finished. Forget the flags, the coaches, the head sets and the practice.

It hasn’t been easy for Foles. He was set up behind Michael Vick in Philadelphia and had to wait for his opportunity to shine. When he did in 2013, winning 8 games and throwing for 27 touchdowns, the credit was given to Chip Kelly’s offense and not Foles. He came into his first game with St. Louis with a 15-9 record but little respect and credit given. He was looked at as injury prone for damage taken to his shoulder in 2014. Any Rams fan that had reservations about the trade for Foles isn’t holding them today. The 26 year old has turned heads with his performance.

Sure, it’s only one game. It’s just a blip on the schedule for most NFL teams. For the Rams, it was oxygen to the brain and blood flow to the heart. The fans needed this. His teammates needed him to be sharp. Foles’ unsung hero work in the second half against the Seahawks may not make the Sportscenter highlight reel or get a four minute speech from Jon Gruden about mental toughness, but it will be remembered by anybody who was in attendance Sunday. Along with a stout defense that stopped Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson when it mattered, Foles was the X-factor in the Rams first win.

His postgame Twitter comments was more team oriented.

The rest of the schedule won’t be easy but the Rams have all the confidence in the world at the moment. To them, the possibilities are endless. That is the power of a huge Week 1 victory. The fanbase is energized and the rest of the schedule doesn’t look at tough. Nick Foles will probably have a few bad games and rough moments with the Rams. It’s a team pre-requisite to suffer through harsh times. However, Sunday’s play showed a taste of what the man brings to this team and why the Rams extended him before the first snap.

Nick Foles has something to prove and that is he can produce results in any offensive system and with any team. He’s off to a good start in St. Louis.

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Meet Todd Gurley, the Rams new running back

Meet the new running back in St. Louis, Todd Gurley.

Since I am not your average college football addict, when I heard the name Todd Gurley this spring, I wasn’t completely aware right off the bat who the Rams got with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft. And since I am a George Carlin fan, I immediately thought, “Well, Todd sure is a weak name for a boy.” However, if you heard my neighbors down here in Little Rock, Arkansas, you got all the analysis a man could need. In other words, sounds effects.

“Whoooa!” “Oh mannnn!” “That guyyyyyy!” Gurley, who collected touchdowns at the University of Georgia like you collect diet cokes on a long day at work, put the Arkansas Razorbacks through the trenches during his time in college. So when my neighbor told me months ago, “your Rams got a great running back,” I couldn’t help but smile. His shoe prints were still being felt down south.

The 21 year old Gurley came into Rams camp fresh off knee surgery in the offseason, which has slowed his development this summer and will keep him out of preseason games(a good thing when you think about it). Gurley has started to practice with the team and looks as imposing as his draft card read back in April. The 6 foot 1 231 pound back drew comparisons to Marshall Faulk at the draft, and NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock liked the comparison a lot. His description of Gurley for NFL.com puts it bluntly why the Rams took this kid.

“I like the Marshawn Lynch comparison. St. Louis wants to win games the same way that Seattle and San Francisco do in the same division, that is by running the football and playing great defense and special teams. Gurley has Olympic-type speed. I love this pick for St. Louis, which already has a great defense and Gurley will help out Nick Foles.”-Mayock

Gurley doesn’t come with the wrapper untouched. He was suspended for four games for accepting 3,000 dollars to autograph memorabilia and his knee had other teams wondering if he could get that burst of speed back post ACL surgery. However, it has been nine months since Gurley’s surgery, and his limited participation in practice drills continues a normal rehab. An injury at an early age does project a healthy return.

There’s a lot to be excited for. Gurley was the second freshman in Georgia history to run for 1,000 yards and set a new record with 17 touchdowns. In a head to head clash with Clemson, Gurley ran for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2013. Watching the man work in videos, Gurley has a unique blend of speed and power. This bulldog has some bite. He can barrel through you or spin away. In 2014, he collected 62 percent of his yards after contact so his motor doesn’t stop when he is hit, it’s just getting warmed up. Instead of getting wrapped up by linebackers, Gurley will shred them like a house of cards and can cut back to the outside. He’s a multi-dimensional back who will fit right into head coach Jeff Fisher’s offense.

With Nick Foles driving the offense downfield yet needing that safety valve in a reliable back, Gurley should get plenty of action when the knee is stable and ready to roam. Together with Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham, Fisher is building a Game of Thrones type kingdom with his running backs and that is how the Rams will run for years. Gurley is a Fisher prototype.

The silver lining in Gurley’s suspension and injury is that he has plenty of football life in him. Unlike a guy like Jake Locker, Gurley didn’t lose a lot of his impact talent and tenacity in ugly college football battles. He’s still a brand new toy with some of the plastic attached. Unlike quarterbacks, running backs like Gurley don’t need to digest an entire system or adapt from shotgun to under the huddle. The transformation is apparent but not overwhelming. Gurley, when healthy, should be a force in this offense and an impact talent.

When it comes to young players in the draft, look at the tape and forget the combine. I don’t care how he did when the stadium was quiet and he was jumping, sprinting and moving without anyone around him. I want to know how he did in a packed house in Georgia with the pressure of the SEC barring down on him. That’s where the true analysis is dug up. From what I’ve seen, Gurley looks like a weapon of mass destruction. A healthy knee and discipline is all the kid needs. Todd is no “girley” man on the football field.

Under the tutelage of Fisher and company, Todd Gurley should run a long way for the St. Louis Rams.

Will Smith tackles head trauma in the NFL in “Concussion”

Will Smith stars in Concussion, the true story about NFL players and brain trauma.

“You’ve turned on the lights and given their biggest boogeyman a name.”

Watch out, NFL, because Will Smith and producer Ridley Scott are coming after head trauma in football with their latest film, Concussion.

Just in time for the kickoff of the regular season in the National Football League comes a movie about Bennet Omalu(Smith), a doctor who located the disease troubling football players. A condition called CTE(chronic traumatic encephelopathy), where the repeated hits to the head caused the brain to be “choked”.

The film co-stars Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin as men who warn Smith’s Omalu about the door he is walking through. A door that started with Junior Seau taking his own life by shooting himself in the chest instead of the head, a maneuver that allowed doctors like Omalu to use his brain for research. No run knows if Seau did it on purpose or not, but it was the beginning. CTE was found in Seau’s brain.

The film arrives on Christmas and features Smith in a serious role that will command Oscar attention. He features an accent and is the face of a timely film that will get people talking, whether it’s in an NFL owners meeting, a family’s kitchen table or schools across the country. Writer/director Peter Landesman knows exactly what he is doing. Putting a well known face in front of a controversial movie about one man who decided to taek something further than anyone else and challenge the most popular sport in the world.

I’ll be there to watch it. Will you? The trailer is below.

http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi162572313

Joe Buck stands up for St. Louis in calling Kroenke out

Sometimes, integrity stands taller than dollar signs. Thank you Joe Buck.

If you had any reservation about Joe Buck’s feelings towards his hometown before today, they surely are gone now.

With the St. Louis Rams relocation/new stadium/multi-faceted storm of uncertainty circling the team on a daily basis, fans need a pick me up from a national face. Today, they got just that in the form of local boy Joe Buck taking to Twitter to slam Rams majority owner Stan Kroenke and his plan to relocate the football team to Los Angeles. Check out Buck’s twitter profile for the stream of comments, but it pretty read like this.

What Stan Kroenke is doing to St. Louis Rams fans with this ordeal is a joke and an “insult”.

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After all, Stan pulled the team away from potential owner Shahid Khan years ago in a colossal shift in direction. Without publicly telling fans right away that the Rams would be in St. Louis for a long time, Stan just took the team back towards his corner of the room. He pulled his card and declared other potential owners useless, a little nugget he had built into the alliance with Georgia Frontiere.

When that happened, I had a sick feeling what Stan was up to. He didn’t care about the football fans in St. Louis. He cared about future dollars and cents. He always wanted to move these Rams west. It was never in question. He drove up ticket prices. He stayed in hiding while the Edward Jones Dome struggled to remain up to code. He checked out and bought land in Los Angeles to build a stadium. This was all part of the plan. At the end of the day, Stan was a shrewd decrepit businessman who played St. Louis for a fool. His intentions were clear from the get go. Now everybody is playing catch up.

All Buck did today was voice an opinion that many know and feel but don’t have the national weight to swing.  He called out Kroenke for being playing dirty, lying to the people of St. Louis and throwing a heavy hook towards the body of the Midwest when it comes to its football prospects.

Save me your talk about Stan Kroenke just doing what businessmen do and trying to make money. It doesn’t add up. You don’t see Bill DeWitt III trying to swindle St. Louis Cardinals fans while putting a crap show on the field for years. Tom Stillman has put his heart and soul into the Blues and making them competitive.

What Kroenke did here was lay the foundation for a move years ago. Threatening to move in order to get a new stadium deal financed. Having the dome(which has only been standing since the mid 1990’s) go on a year to year lease with the Rams and the NFL. Slowly but surely, Kroenke has worked all these moves into a plan to leave.

Kudos to Buck for unleashing the truth. Do me a favor and don’t focus too hard on the specifics of what Buck said and concentrate on the meat of the statement. What Kroenke is doing is 100% cutthroat, heartless and it has the potential to damage St. Louis for a long time. When it comes to stadiums/domes in the downtown area of a city, it’s not just about football. It’s about community growth, jobs and building something that can spark life downtown. Ballpark Village, Busch Stadium and Scottrade Center can’t do all the heavy lifting themselves. St. Louis needs the economic punch of a football stadium. It’s fuel for a city. With a new stadium, the Ed Dome could be left to schedule a number of events and dates and the Northern Riverfront could become a booming section of the city with the NFL’s full support behind it.

Stan was never on board with a new stadium here. Not for a second. He always wanted California. He’s holding the Rams over the Pacific ocean while Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz coordinate with the city of St. Louis, Governor Jay Nixon and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to keep the team in St. Louis in a frantic last ditch effort. While signs aren’t dismal for the underdogs, Kroenke is making it a tough fight. Instead of speaking with his words and keeping one foot inside a city, Stan is letting an empty suit jacket and checkbook speak for him. What a joke indeed!

Once again, Stan’s whole ordeal smells like garbage. He pried the team away from Khan with this plan in mind. He always wanted the team out west, where they came from. He’s a scoundrel for insulting a fan base who has shown up to see a pathetic team for years. Buck just called him out. He didn’t use a cryptic arrangement of 140 characters to zing Kroenke either. He threw a series of hooks, jabs and straight right hands to the temple of Stan’s phony initiative. Sometimes, integrity stands taller than dollar bills. Buck’s words won’t fix stadium issues. Just nice to see a big stick take a big swing.

Thanks for speaking up for a city of voices, Joe Buck. Thanks for stepping up for a city you grew up in and are attached to forever. A place you keep sacred roots. Buck didn’t have to say anything. He could have stayed quiet, walked the status quo, and hid behind the mighty Fox kingdom. Instead, he took to the most powerful modern outspoken device to prove his point and that’s social media. He wanted the fans to hear him.

We heard you, Joe. Loud and clear. Thank you for being the voice of the people.