Sunday, January 31, 2010

Super Bowl week at the Fontainebleau

Less than a month following the Iowa Football team's stay at the Fontainebleau for the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl, the greatest sporting event in the world takes place in Miami. Below are a couple of the parties taking place at the former home of the Hawkeyes. (Courtesy Miami Herald)

First, five parties you can't get into....



And now five parties you can get into...

Rivalry or Good Natured Fun?

When I started this blog prior to the 2008 football season, my philosophy was to give a different perspective on the Iowa football team. My access to different places and people is what could keep it original. In that time Darren Miller of hawkeyesports.com has improved the athletic department web site. Good natured barbs between the two has been fun and here the two of us take time for a photo before the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl. Make sure to read Darren's columns on Iowa athletics, especially those on his daughter Missy Miller, a freshman on the Iowa track squad.
All of these photos are courtesy of Darren Miller at hawkeyesports.com.

Me alongside the Georgia Tech Ramblin' Wreck.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Expos or Cubs


My best recollection of Andre Dawson as a Chicago Cub came July 7, 1987 when at the plate facing the San Diego Padres. Dawson on a hot streak which resulted in three home runs in five plate appearances, stepped into the batter's box again to face Eric Show.

The pitch came high and inside and hit the Cub slugger in the face. From the 200 level of Wrigley Field I heard the contact as if I was in the third base dugout. Dawson when down instantly and lay motionless with Cub personnel rushing out to attend him. Dawson moved very little and the Chicago faithful expected the worse, but didn't expect what was to follow.

Dawson slowly came around. Like a boxer who took one of his final blows, but continued to come back for more, Dawson figured out where he was. He then figured out what just happened to him. As if shot out of a cannon, Dawson sprinted for the pitcher's mound and took one massive swing to the Padres hurler and the bench clearing brawl ensued. Also in the center was Chicago Cub pitcher, Rick Sutcliffe who was right there for the league MVP.

Now over twenty years since that Summer day Andre Dawson enters the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and the question is does he go in as a Montreal Expos or a Chicago Cub?

Dawson first came to the major leagues in the Montreal Expos system. While the Canadian team had little success and finally moved to Washington in the 2000s due to sagging attendance and little ownership support, the years that Dawson played there were some of best in the majors. However post-season success eluded them. After 11 years Dawson moved onto Chicago.

As a Cub Dawson gained national exposure with one of the more faithful fan bases around. Here he earned the MVP on a team that finished dead last in the National League. He earned the support of then St. Louis Cardinal manager, Whitey Herzog as he noted that without him the Cubs wouldn't finish near the top in triple A. But like in Montreal, post-season success avoided Dawson and after six years he moved on.

But the question was raised onto which hat Dawson would wear in the Hall of Fame. Arguments could be made for either side, but the committee got it right this time. He will be remembered as a Montreal Expos.

Dawson may have won the MVP as a Cub, but his best seasons came in Montreal with other great Expos as Tim Raines and Gary Carter. The Expos made Dawson the player he became in Chicago. However this came at a time when baseball games would be nationally shown twice a week and ESPN coverage isn't what baseball fans are accustomed to today. Had the national media been around there, today it wouldn't be a question. All would know "the Hawk" belongs in Cooperstown as a Montreal Expos.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

#4 Should Retire

The popular question following the victory by the New Orleans Saints over the Minnesota Vikings to clinch the NFC Championship and the right to play in the Super Bowl has been, "Are you happy now?" Happy is not the word I use.

Watching Sunday's game I grimaced at every painful hit given by the Saint defense onto the Viking quarterback. Every tackle that was borderline late, I winced at. But each time the veteran QB got up off the Superdome turf and returned to the huddle. Every time but one, then he was helped off the field at the end of a possession. While watching the trainers and doctors of the Vikings checked him out and re taped his ankle, many wondered if he would answer the bell. But like a great title fighter he came back in to take his licks and fight his team one more time.

But was I happy the Vikings lost? No, I was relieved.

I was relieved that the one time QB of my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers wasn't able to take the division rival to the Super Bowl. Throughout the year all Packer fans were expecting the "old" Favre to come back. We were waiting for Brett to begin forcing the ball, being intercepted and costing the Packers a possible victory. Green Bay fans would shrug it off as "Brett being Brett." We felt that is what made him the QB that Packer fans fell in love with.

But the divorce wasn't pretty and eventually Brett wanted to prove to the administration of the team that he parted ways with that he could still play. He did take Green Bay to the NFC Championship game in his last year in Wisconsin just two years ago and he knew there were still many touchdown throws left in that right arm.

But was I relieved that he didn't take the purple to Miami and the Super Bowl? He did prove that he could still play at a higher level than anyone thought he could play. He is destined to be the league MVP for another time. Is it five? six? Packer fans know he earned the award every year for their team. And with arguably the best surrounding cast of his storied career, he proved to the Packer brass that he could've done this for their team had they listened to him and acquired such free agents as Randy Moss, who instead ended up in New England, and not showing off his rear end again in Lambeau Field. But this isn't why I was relieved.

I was relieved because it became painful watching him take brutal hit after crushing blow. I didn't want him to win the game, but I also didn't want to see him possibly close his career by being carried off the field and not being able to return. Regardless of what jersey he was wearing all fans of professional football want to see their stars play at the top of their game and retire at that same time. No one, including Packer fans wanted to see Brett take one critical blow that would send the iron man permanently to the sidelines.

Now the season is over and the "R" word will repeatedly come up. Should he or shouldn't he? For Brett's sake I hope this is the end. He has proven he can still play and the Packers may have made a mistake...although Packer issues aren't with the play of the QB...and with the proper supporting cast he can still take a team to play at the highest level possible. But as he did in his last play with the Packers, he also threw an interception to possibly end his career. But this time it is different. I would be relieved to not hear the constant retirement talk and relieved to know he is able to walk off the field to end his career.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hawks vs the Conference

The Iowa basketball team has had their share of obstacles recently. Some players have decided to transfer for reasons outside of head coach Todd Lickliter's control, and the fan support in Carver Hawkeye Arena has brought some of the worse crowds during its history. But the Big Ten hasn't done Lickliter or its fans any favors with the advent of the Big Ten Network. The Network dictates the start time of many of Iowa's games which has resulted in home tip offs that began at 7:30 or later. This late start time has kept people at home to watch on tv. But the latest issue has to do with a basketball school that rarely sells out its own football games.
This Sunday the Hawkeyes travel to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the home town Indiana Hoosiers. Originally the game was to start at 4pm CT to be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. However there is a conflict in the Hoosier State as the NFL team just up the road, the Indianapolis Colts will be close to finishing their game for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The move in start time is to accomodate fans of both teams. Now the Hawks and Hoosiers will tip it off at 5pm CT.

A similar situation occurred earlier this season as the Hawkeyes travelled to Champaign for a match-up with the Illinois Fighting Illini. That same night the Hawkeye football team played Georgia Tech in the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl. The Iowa administration requested a change in dates to allow their fans to watch both games, but since the game's rights belonged to Illinois, there was no change in date for the basketball game.
One could argue there isn't a big difference in starting the Iowa - Indiana game an hour later, but the Hoosiers aren't the team that's travelling. This means the Hawkeyes will spend another hour in a hotel while Indiana can relax in their familiar surroundings. And Iowa will also arrive in Iowa City at least an hour later than originally scheduled. And that hour can mean much during the dead of winter. All so fans of a basketball school, who cannot sell out their own home football games, can watch the Colts in the AFC Championship game.
The Big Ten allows its network the authority to start the games whenever viewership permits, even if that means at the worst possible time for the Hawkeye fans. But when a conflicts arises, the Big Ten conference takes a step back and tells the institutions to work it out themselves, yielding the final verdict to the home team. That is what is unfair. The conference office needs to do what is in the best interest of the student-athletes and the fans as well as giving each school a fair opportunity,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hawks Go National

Following the 2002 football season I attended the AFCA Convention. I can't remember where it was at, but I do remember visiting with one of the vedors on the showroom floor who approached me to sell me on his product. He looked at my name tag which included the school I represented and asked how the Iowa football season went.

I gave him a humorous look while in a sense of disbelief. The 2002 football team was one for the ages. It went undefeated in the Big Ten while having numorous All-Americans. Heisman runner-up Brad Banks, John Mackey winner Dallas Clark, as well as Lou Groza award winner Nate Kaeding were among Iowa's elite. The Hawkeyes went on to finish the season ranked #5 while taking on USC who was third at the time, as what could amount to be the greatest team ever in Iowa football history.

My response to him that day wasn't as expansive as this one, but I just smiled, briefly explained how we did and politely began my walk away from his booth.

In 2010 the story was different. The Hawkeyes once again entered bowl play with double-digit victories, and won on a stage that proved to be difficult in 2003. The '09 team didn't have the all-americans and award winners the '02 team had, but gave their fans lasting memories that arguably top those of 2002.

Upon entering the convention after this season, adorned in my Hawkeye-issued clothing the responses were overwhelming. Coaches from different schools representing the different levels of play consistently approached me to congratulate me on a great season. On a 30 second elevator ride, three different coaches from as many schools each wished me the very best on the performance of the Iowa football team.

In display booths, any company that has any association with the Hawkeye program boasted of their connection to the #7 team in the land. Display boards congratulated the team on their Orange Bowl victory. Someone else who has conducted little business with Iowa had the Hawkeye football helmet prominently displayed with other BCS qualifying teams.

It was a display of appreciation and an attempt to make contact with a staff member of the Fed Ex Orange Bowl champions. It went beyond that. This Iowa Football team gave the nation a reason to watch college football. Every week fans tuned in to see a different story unfold. They wondered how could the defense continue to stop teams? How will the Iowa offense fare if they have to come from behind? Is this Iowa football team worthy of their top 10 status? Game after game the outcome would become the same, but the path was very much the different.

This Hawkeye football team didn't have the stars, and had fewer blowouts, but it was a storyline that all living across the country followed. And perhaps it gave that vendor from 2003 a reason to follow, too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

AFCA

Annually the largest congregation of football coaches takes place days following the BCS National Championship game. This year's American Football Coaches Association convention convened in Orlando, Florida at the World Marriot Resort and Convention Center. AFCA attracts coaches from all levels allowing them opportunities to sit in clinic sessions from masters of the game, listen to the best in the college coaching profession talk about their philosophy and what makes them so successful as well as learning from the different manufacturers on how their program can be better with the newest and latest technology available.

AFCA is the true networking center of football coaches. While much time is spent inside the different ballrooms listening to the X's and O's from the nation's best, time is also well spent in the informal meeting of the lobby area to talk with different coaches, see old friends and possibly make that initial connection that may lead to a future job possibility. Among the notables being seen in the lobby of the World Marriott are Rich Rodriguez, Vince Dooley, R.C. Slocumb, Mike Riley, and Brian Kelly.AFCA is also attracts vendors from around the football community. Companies representing video technology, clothing and gear, on-field equipment, travel, recruiting and strength training assemble trying to get minutes of the coaches time to show them the importance of their product to the success of their football team.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the AFCA convention for up and coming coaches is the opportunity to interview for potential jobs. On the above bulletin boards are countless resumes of coaches looking for any opportunity. It is also customary for head coaches to conduct interviews. This allows a coach to meet many people over a short period of time. Graduate Assistants as well as other young coaches at lower levels find this as a great opportunity to get their foot in the door.



Saturday, January 9, 2010

Goodbye Fox

Tuesday night's Fed Ex Orange Bowl marked the end of BCS college football games on Fox Sports. They will continue to broadcast another traditional bowl game, the Cotton Bowl, but the college game's elite will move exclusively to the ESPN / ABC family in 2011. The Rose Bowl will continue to be shown on ABC while the other BCS match-ups will be on ESPN.
I give Fox much credit for becoming a player in college football. More exposure over more networks is always good for any sport. They thought outside the box and tried producing games differently from what we are accustomed to. However at the end of the day, college football fans are conditioned to how ESPN portrays the game, and that is how we expect it every Saturday.
Walking onto the Land Shark Stadium field prior to the Hawkeye's battle with Georgia Tech I saw Holly Rowe, typically the sideline reporter on ABC's #2 college broadcast team. She, along with play by play man, Sean McDonough and analyst Matt Millen were handling the duties for ESPN radio. My first comment to her was that I wished she was there to be on television with her broadcast partners. Dick Stockton, Charles Davis, Laura Okmin and Chris Meyers had the call for Fox.
McDonough, Millen and Rowe have been around the college game all season long. Stockton and crew were calling their first college game together ever. They, along with Fox showed their inexperience during the night. Mispronounciations were common, especially that of Iowa head coach, Kirk Ferentz, facts were incorrect, and an introduction by Jimmy Carter seemed very odd and out of place.
Each year over half of the teams that earn BCS bowl games are not regulars to the party. It is unfortunate that a team like Iowa will remember a historic win with a broadcast team out of touch. Fox tries to show the college game in a different perspective than the traditional networks, but for less than five games a year, they risk ridicule for presentation. Beginning next year, the broadcasts will be more like what ESPN has made us believe the game should look like.
(Photo Courtesy, Scott Southmayd)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Night Out on the Town


The final "Night Out on the Town" from our trip to Miami for the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl is the Bleau Bar loacted in the heart of the Fontainebleau Hotel.
The Fontainebleau Hotel has many different dining and drinking options, but we found the Bleau Bar to be the most comfortable and enjoyable of them all. On the first two nights of the team's stay at the hotel, famous musician Max Wineberg performed with his orchestra in a makeshift stage situated in the corner of this circular bar. Concerts seem to be a rarity, and this free presentation offset the price of drinks during our stay.
The Bleau Bar is the ideal place to people watch in the entire hotel. It is located across the lobby from the hottest night club on South Beach, LIV. From the blue tinted bar it was perfect to not only see the hottest stars staying at the posh resort, but see club-goers of all ages sporting the latest styles and fashions.
Drinks were higher priced than what many are accustomed to. However bottled beer was the one beverage to stick to at the average price of $6.50 (incl. tip). Any mixed or well drinks totaled up to $18. No matter the prices, during the holiday season the Bleau Bar was packed nightly.

Game Night Video at the Orange Bowl

Video from the night of the Orange Bowl

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Team arrives to Land Shark Stadium. Over 30,000 Hawkeye fans were in attendance, many of them awaiting the 2009 Hawkeye football team on the night of the game.

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The team gathers from the locker room prior to taking the Land Shark Stadium Field.

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Kool and the Gang perform at halftime of the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl Halftime

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Images from the Orange Bowl

Below are images from the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl with the victorious Iowa Hawkeyes. Due to issues beyond my control in Miami, we are behind updating the blog. Check back again for more photos and video from the trip to South Florida.

Iowa Football players Ricky Stanzi and Adrian Clayborn, along with head football coach, Kirk Ferentz accept the championship and MVP trophies from the president of the Orange Bowl committee, Phyliss Oeters.

The Scoreboard says it all

The team enters Land Shark Stadium minutes before kick off

Sean McDonough calling the game for ESPN Radio (back to the camera) speaks with the Iowa head coach during pre-game warm-ups.

The Iowa head coach enters Land Shark Stadium prior to the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl

Monday, January 4, 2010

Picture Day

The day before Iowa's date with Georgia Tech in the 2010 Fed Ex Orange Bowl, the Hawkeyes got their first look at Land Shark Stadium. The field is freshly painted and final touches are being completed.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Final Full Practice

It was the final full day of practice at Barry University. On what would be a Thursday practice for the Hawkeyes, BCS rules allowed members of the media access to the first fifteen minutes of practice. It may have been the coolest day for practice in Florida for Iowa as temperatures were in the 60s with a breeze throughout the afternoon. Following practice the team went for dinner and a movie.

Friday, the Hawkeyes will return to Barry for a quick walk thru followed by the team photo at Land Shark Stadium

Below are the members of the police escort for the Hawkeyes who lead them around town.



Saturday, January 2, 2010

Preparing to Win

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi spnding his evening watching some Georgia Tech game video.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Night Out on the Town

Blocks down from the fames South Beach entertainment area is a local favorite called Ted's Hideaway. As stated earlier, this could be placed into the "dive" category, but that may be harsh, however it is nowhere near the "club" level of some on Ocean Avenue.

Ted's is definitely the neighborhood bar. A good variety of bar games such as pool, darts, and video arcade are in one small area while the bar and tables fill up the rest. There are enough televisions give patrons a view of their favorite game from anywhere within the little hole in the wall.

What impressed me the most of our trip was the service of the bartenders. Upon ordering our first drink the young lady introduced herself to us and made sure we would be well taken care of. It was a Heck of a Deal.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Orange Bowl Police Escort

What puts the Orange Bowl among the elite are the special services they provide. One of those is the police escort. Some bowls only provide one or two officers to escort the team to practice or events. The Orange Bowl has over 15 officers. Below is video from today's trip to Barry Unviversity for practice.
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Bringing in the New Year with Lady GaGa

Happy New Year to all.

At the Fontainebleau Lady GaGa ushered in the New Year to a packed crowd. The show started at the strike of midnight with three songs, "Bad Romance," "Just Dance," and "Pokerface." Rumors were circulating the performer was unhappy her "demands" weren't satisfied and only performed those three.




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Before access to the roof of the Fontainebleau was closed to members of the Iowa Football Orange Bowl party, we were able to get a closer look at the set-up and performance area of the concert.




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