Archive for May, 2011

Hollywood’s Gift to Us

Each year there seems to be one movie that comes out sports related that tends to be a big hit at the box office. Some of them are big flops while some of them become classics, staples in a team’s film watching before a big game, encyclopedias for motivational quotes, or just feel good high-five your friend kind of flicks. Coming across one of my all time favorites over the weekend, it prompted me to put together this article, to help ease the tension on the ruling coming up later this week on the lockout. Now this will probably create more controversy than most articles due to people’s likes and dislikes, but hey there is no football news to discuss right now, other than the moron coach from Ohio State stepping down.

Top 5 Football Films

1) Rudy – Out of all four major sports, this has to be the biggest feel good, follow your dreams, tear jerker movie for any sports fan. If you don’t get goose bumps when Devine throws him in the game, you have no soul.

2) Any Given Sunday – This movie was filled with stars, over dramatic hits, football, and hot chicks. Pacino’s locker room speech for the title has become the foundation for a certain beer’s radio commercial, and any movie with LL Cool J in the backfield is a good thing. The only thing that would make this better is if Pacino ran off with the hooker at the bar.

3) The Program – When a juiced up defensive end smashes his head through a windshield for cracking the starting lineup, you know the movie is going to be a good one. This was a great depiction of how college programs can be run, some of the adversity these guys have to face, and how James Caan can really play any role.

4) Little Giants – Polk High’s Al Bundy as the antagonist, a wannabe Ghostbuster as the protagonist, and a female linebacker who turned out to be an adult film star when she became of age and you have the makings of a great kids football movie.

5) Necessary Roughness/Varsity Blues – Kathy Ireland kicking and a whipped cream bikini, enough said.

Top 5 Basketball Films

1) The Pistol: The Pete Marovich Story

2) Hoosiers

3) Blue Chips.

4) Glory Road

5) Semi-Pro

Top 5 Baseball Films

1) Major League 2

2) Field of Dreams

3) Rookie of the Year

4) The Scout

5) For the Love of the Game

Top 5 Hockey Films

1) Mighty Ducks 2

2) Miracle: 1980 Olympic Story

3) Slap Shot

4) Mystery, Alaska

5) Mighty Ducks

Top 5 Golf Movies

1) Happy Gilmore

2) Legend of Bagger Vance

3) The Greatest Game Ever Played

4) Caddyshack

5) Tin Cup


Vision Quest, Rocky Series, The Fighter, The Wrestler, Invictus

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Some of the Sophomores

A player’s leap between their rookie season and second year gets mentioned as the most important. They have been entrenched in the team’s system, in season and off season programs, training camps, and inside the locker room. A draft full of diaper dandies last season makes 2011 (if the owners and players get their heads out of their asses) to be teed up as one of the most interesting in regards to player development. The Patriots inserted some massive widgets into the offensive and defensive engines in 2010 with both sides having marquee playmakers. Here we will dissect some of the integral players who could see a major jump in not only playing time, but in the highlight reel presence as well.

WR – Taylor Price
Taylor got some playing time in at the tail end of the season when home field and the first round bye were sewed up. I am confident that missing OTA’s, due to Ohio University being the only school on the planet graduating so late, seriously hurt his rookie development. Taylor is a big, physical wide receiver who I think will replace Brandon Tate this year on the depth chart. He could be that missing piece to stretch the field and (I hate this term more than anything) take the top off the defense. However, I do see the Patriots addressing a ‘go-route’ type veteran WR to help mentor him. Let’s just hope they don’t turn out to be Joey Galloway and Torey Holt.

TE – Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
Emerging as two of the best young TE’s in the NFL during their rookie campaign speaks for itself. Gronk, with probably the worst training camp hair cut butchering of all time, played at a Pro Bowl level in both the running game and passing game. He was an absolute beast in the Red Zone and made some big, TOUGH, catches in games on the road. I think of the laser that came out of Giselle’s Lady Boy’s hand in Pittsburgh. Hernandez, a late round pick due to smoking some ganja in college, made teams pay for passing on him. I’ll never forget being at the Meadowlands when he faked a safety out of his jock strap for a massive gain. Right then and there I knew this kid was going to be good. Both of these guys are only going to improve and make opposing defensive coordinators lose sleep on Saturday nights planning for them.

LB – Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes
Thank God Shaq beat out Cunningham for the longest lingering calf injury of all time this year. Cunningham, for the most part, underachieved in 2010. He showed some glimmer of promise in back to back games late in the year, but was never a player you noticed or heard mentioned during the broadcast. Cunningham has great awareness and field vision at the LB position. I won’t compare him to Tedy Bruschi, but he has that type of nose for the ball. Brandon Spikes has a same nose for the ball as well, but doesn’t have the speed of a top flight LB. With a few off the field issues in 2010, you can’t argue it derailed his development as a player and a professional.  Let’s not forget Dane Fletcher too.   He made some significant contributions in 2010.  I feel out of the rookies on the defensive side of the ball in this column, Cunningham will make the biggest push in 2011.

DL – Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick
Following Kyle Love on Twitter, I see that he is working out like an animal during this ridiculous lockout. Love played a great role with Mike Wright and Ron Brace both going down to injury this year. Brother Love was tough against the run, but a bit weak in the pass rush. Then again, the entire Patriots pass rush was horrid except when Buffalo or Miami was on the schedule. Deaderick, as we were told during the season, had some attitude issues that effected his play time. He had a few games that I sat there saying, this kid could be good. Those games were few and far between though. Also that flat top? Come on man …. (insert all time Patriot Hater Chris Carter voice)

CB – Devin McCourty
There really is nothing else to say about this guy. He took a few lumps early in the season, but was learning from covering the best WR and best QB possibly of all time every day in practice. McCourty was a second team All-Pro in just his rookie season, and the sky is the limit for this kid. With lighting fast closing speed, better than average tackling skills, and an eagle’s eye for the ball, I think he is a year away from being a true “shut-down” corner.

Some predictions for 2011 for our 2010 Rookies..
Devin McCourty – 2nd Team All Pro (Pro Bowler)
Jermaine Cunningham – Leads Patriots in Sacks with 8.5
Brandon Spikes – 3 INTs , 2 FF, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski – 55 Receptions – 780 Yards – 9 TD (Pro Bowl alternate)
Aaron Hernandez – 46 Receptions – 610 Yards – 6 TD
Kyle Love – 4 Sacks – 34 Tackles
Brandon Deaderick – Cut in Training Camp
Taylor Price – 36 Receptions – 452 Yards – 3 TDs

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Champions Are Made Not Born

Driving home to Boston from Long Island after a wedding at 1:00 AM has its advantages and disadvantages. Of course being tired, having to drive with the window down from Route 84 onward, and fearing for your life while dozing off aren’t too positive, but you are able to do a lot of thinking and pondering while moseying on through that 150 mile stretch of dead space people call Connecticut. I drove by the Storrs, Connecticut exit which is home to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion UConn Huskies. I saw the sign that mentioned them as champions. Champion is one word that gets thrown around far too much now a days. Everyone is the champion of something or some place or some league. The definition of a champion goes far deeper than being at the top of the podium, or looking down on the other teams in the standings at year end, or even the ones who hoist up the “championship” trophy at the end of the season. Being a champion consists of so much more and not many athletes, coaches, owners, etc embody it the way a certain few do.

I was told at a young age when doing judo, that winning consists of many elements. Now as a young kid I didn’t understand it and what is scary is now people my age and older still think Charlie Sheen is “winning”. This guy is a washed up TV actor, with multiple kids, and marriages with a serious drug problem. That my friend’s is not winning. Winning comes from leadership, excellence, confidence, discipline, respect, perseverance, goal setting, and modesty. Many athletes are great at excelling, but their character completely over shadows anything they accomplish on the field. Look at Lebron James, he is one of the best players in the NBA, and he is finally now starting to show some of these other traits that make up a champion. I can think of handful of others right off the top who are piss poor role models whom are self proclaimed champions, Desean Jackson, Santonio Holmes, Albert Haynesworth, Plaxico Burress, the list goes on and on. On the flip side we have some amazing players who are the spitting image of a champion, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, and even Adrian Peterson. Granted Adrian hasn’t won anything yet outside of some individual awards, but he goes about his business, there is no showboating, and just an all around great person/athlete. Much like Larry Fitzgerald, he is the same way. I bring this back to Patriot Nation and our draft. Bill wants to draft football players who love to play and love to win.

Winning isn’t a sometime thing, it isn’t a when you feel like it kind of thing, it is an all the time thing. It starts when you wake up, lift those weights, do those runs, sprints and hill climbs. Winning are those workouts you have to drag yourself to or practice you don’t feel like getting off of the couch for. Winning is being a sportsman and being classy both on and off the playing field. Winning is handing the ball to the ref after a touchdown or shaking an opponent’s hand after the game. Winning is striving to outdo your last results and always raising the bar, and never settling for mediocrity. I think we as a society have become too comfortable with being average. Sometimes it takes seeing others succeed, us failing, or having other champions that we are surrounded with motivate us to excel to hit that extra level we didn’t think was possible. The Patriots as a team have a mixture of each of those players. We have the classic underachievers, whom we ask why they even dress each week. There are those workmen like players who show up each week and do their job. Then there are the champions, the guys we know are giving 1000% percent each week that embody what being a Patriot and a winner is all about.

Now if we can only get the actual “leaders” of this lockout to start acting like champions, we might have some actual football stories to talk about.

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Welcome to New England: Nate Solder

Welcome to New England Nate Solder. I’ll be honest with you. You weren’t on the top of my list for draftees I’d be writing this column to. I, along with the rest of Patriots Nations, figured we’d be talking about Cameron Jordan, Mark Ingram, JJ Watt or Ryan Kerrigan. These were the “make sense” and playmaker type picks Patriots Nation was looking for. It turns out we drafted a fleet footed, Andre the Giant resembling, smack you in the mouth tackle out of the University of Colorado. Originally I was apprehensive and very judgmental of drafting a tackle so early, that many thought would be available at both pick twenty eight and thirty three. As the pick marinated, I thought to myself this could be good for a few reasons. This will free up cap space with Matt Light and allow us to potentially resign Logan Mankins to a long term deal, which he deserves more than anyone. He has dedicated himself to this team when on the field, and talking with him last week he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. You will learn a lot from him. Tom Brady said he is one the meanest dudes in the league, and the kind of guy you want blocking nose tackles and defensive ends who are trying to kill you. Once you sign, this will sure up the offensive line of monsters for a long time. Also don’t pull a Michael Crabtree on us. You don’t seem to be that kind of guy, so prove us right. Having this job comes with great responsibility. You will be protecting the backside of the most iconic sports figure in the area since Bill Russell. I wrote an article on this a week or so ago about his importance and divine image to the public here. The worst part about a letdown is, I’d hate to have to answer to Giselle, whom we all know wears the pants in that Commonwealth Avenue penthouse, if Tommy Terrific gets a scratch on him or has one of his lady locks torn out. Remember the little hip twist, white guy dance he did down in Rio with his small time pimp pony tail? Well Mr. Solder, you’d have to answer to the creator of that. I can speak for most of Patriots Nation when I say I’m excited to have you here. There is a movement towards youth on this team that has been very veteran populated during its iconic Super Bowl runs. You are also in very good company, when it comes to drafting linemen early in the Coach Belichick era, Logan Mankins, Ty Warren, Richard Seymour just to name a few. Coach Scar sees huge promise in you. Based on the scouting report, you have been raved about in regards to intangibles, being coachable, toughness, and of course greasy fast speed. Any Joe Bag of Donuts can have those traits, but being a good football player who loves the game is what will separate you from the others. We are all looking forward a long and successful career for you here in New England, and if it isn’t, getting an ass kicking from Giselle isn’t half bad.

Here is the NFL Scouting Report on this beast
Nate Solder spent a couple years as a tight end at Colorado, first as a redshirt in 2006 and then as a freshman in 2007. He played in all 13 games in 2007 (mostly on special teams, and in special situations as a blocking tight end). While he certainly spent most of his time blocking, he did catch three passes for 50 yards on the season. For his sophomore campaign Solder added 30 pounds and was moved to the tackle position. Despite the adding of the weight, Solder remained surprisingly quick and has been timed running a 4.8 40-yard dash.
Solder immediately stepped into the starting role at left tackle and did not miss a snap the entire 2008 season. While there was some time needed to adjust to the position, it was a pretty smooth transition since he spent most of his time blocking as a tight end anyway. The 2009 season continued to cement Solder’s status as a superb offensive tackle. For his efforts, Solder was the only offensive lineman who was not a senior to make the All-Big 12 First-Team. That led to many preseason accolades heading into the 2010 season and Solder has been a rock in the offensive line and continues to get bigger and stronger.
Solder has everything one could want from an offensive lineman. He is strong and quick and has gone up against some of the nation’s best defensive ends in the Big 12. A talent like his will not fall past the first two rounds of the draft.

I’d like to wish a big congrats to one of my long time friends Brad Leclair on his wedding this Friday. I wish you and your bride nothing but wealth, happiness, and house music.

Also I’d like to give a thank you from one of my twitter followers PatsPrincessLA for the idea for this column.

Up next will be Welcome to New England: Ras I Dowling

Feel free to comment, tweet, or post this to your wall. Also don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have any additional comments, feedback, want me to drink bleach, or jump off the Tobin.

Mike Procopio
Twitter: mikeprocopio

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Football: The New England Mindset and Connection

Listening to these idiots about birth certificates, fake deaths of the most evil man since Hitler, and a reality show star with awful hair, I wanted to reflect a minute on the game we have all come to love. With all of the hate and negative things going on in today’s world, people need something positive, something they can all share, and something they can all have agreement on even if it is for a few hours a week. Regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religious belief thousands of people flock together in one place once a week with the same common purpose.

While this is going on, millions of other “followers” are joining that same weekly rally with the same end goal in mind. Football has become a way of life in this country. Baseball has taken a backseat to the NFL. Debate it all you want, this NFL is America’s game now. From September until February, Sunday afternoons have become a bookend in American culture and our economy. Your supermarkets, casinos, liquor stores, and bar rooms all reap the rewards of the NFL. It has also become part of our culture as individuals.

I challenge each one of you to tell me they aren’t constantly checking their fantasy teams when their significant other has dragged them to some pointless baby shower, children’s birthday party, or in-laws house. We’ve also gotten the phone call at 12:30 on a Sunday to pick up some milk, eggs, or some other God forsaken item we’ll never use. Then we come to notice while in the supermarket, we see a dozen other fans just like us waiting in the express line with those God forsaken items we’ll never use wearing a wrinkled Ben Coates or Vincent Brown jersey checking their watch KNOWING kickoff is moments away. When I eventually take the plunge into wedlock, it will be understood that Sunday obligations outside of FOX, CBS, NBC, and ESPN will be few and far between.

Honey, if you are reading this, I’m dead serious.

Tom Brady has definitely given us some great moments since taking over for Drew Bledsoe back in 2001. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

We are lucky enough here in the New England area to have been spoiled in the last decade. Having four Super Bowl visits, two World Series wins, 2 NBA Finals appearances, and multiple Final Four finishes, we have seen more in these past ten years than other cities have had …. EVER. For the younger folks in this region, this “feeling” started back in 2000. Mo Lewis graced us with a brutal hit on Droopy Dog Drew while galloping towards the sidelines over a decade ago. Everyone remembers the Bledsoe gallop right? Watching him run was worse than witness Brady on the move.

It isn’t as painful as Bledsoe pulling his Brett Favre moments and just heaving the ball into no man’s land, or him holding onto the ball Tony Romo style and getting crunched, but it was bad, real bad. So Brady came in and eventually led this team to three Super Bowl titles and the greatest regular season in NFL history.

From there we met Bernard Pollard and Brady’s knee massacre in the season opener in 2008. By the way, we can thank Lil Wayne for the Brady injury just as much as Pollard. Kevin Faulk decided to go get stoned at the Weezy Young Baby concert and was suspended for that first game. Having him in that backfield most likely would have knocked Pollard on his ass rather than on his stomach for the patented “leg lunge” which ended Brady’s season and some thought his career. Tom rehabbed and has had one amazing season and one “Brady-like” season since his return.

Two early playoff exits still sting, especially in the manner which they went down. Though extremely disappointing and discouraging, here we are, wanting another helping of this sport we have all come to grow and love. The day after Aaron Rodgers hoisted the Lombardi trophy above his head, folks here in New England were talking about the draft, the combine, what we did wrong having a 14-2 season.

Think about that for a second. A 14-2 season and as fans were disappointed. Anything short of a Super Bowl with TB12 and BB running the show is a failure here. We have become extremely spoiled in this area by the success of the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, and fingers crossed Bruins, that the bar is set incredibly high. The bar is set that high, because the players and coaches have put it there. That is where my fondness of these teams comes from. How each of these teams, players, and coaching staffs make winning a priority and losing is not an option. The competitive spirit of each member of these teams has transcended to the public and why it has become a way of life for some people.

You may say that this is just sports, with guys making millions of dollars for suiting up to entertain us, but we as a society have become so inebriated with the success and failures of our teams that it seems to be more than that. Some people are self starters and don’t need motivation to succeed, but the fire and tenacity that is shown from these athletes and coaches alike are a great message for everyone, especially our younger generation.

Now if the owners and players can play nice and stop acting like toddlers we could start talking about real football related topics.

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Patriots Draft Review – Rounds 1-3

First off, I’d like to express my deepest thanks to the US Navy Seals who brought justice to one of the most horrific figures in world history. Osama Bin Laden was confirmed dead by President Obama just before midnight last night. A pretty significant sports event was transpiring when the announcement came across the wire. A major league baseball team from NY and another from PA were tied in a 1-1 game in the 9th inning. Numeric symbolism…. Perhaps, but this is a great win for our nation and for those who passed on ten years ago. The fight against terror does not stop, but this was a victory for all those who fight against it day after day.
I guess there is really no “good” time to get sick and be bed ridden. However, the NFL draft is one time where you hate to leave your TV. Being sick for the majority of the weekend, I was able to watch as much Rich Eisen and Jon Gruden as I could handle. Gruden, I could watch and listen to all day. His bromances with every “guy” on the board and in the draft is perfect for television. I could go on and on about some serious head scratchers, like Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and the Jets 3rd round pick out of Hampton, but I’m going to focus on the Patriots and why I feel this was a successful draft for the boys from Foxboro.

1st Round – Nate Solder (OT – Colorado)
When it comes to drafting linemen early in a draft, the Patriots have had close to 100% hit rate in the BB era. Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, and now Nate Solder are all first round picks during Bill Belichick’s tenure here in New England. Solder was worked out by legendary line coach Dante Scarnecchia and Bill’s faith in him was definitely a key piece to making this draft choice. Solder has amazing speed for such a massive guy. One of the fastest linemen at the combine, Solder was described as a late first or early second round pick. Kiper and other analysts thought it was a reach to grab him at 17, but the Patriots felt he was the “best fit player for their program” and I feel he will make an immediate impact once Light leaves via free agency. The Solder pick should result in a Mankins long term deal, while also locking up the offensive line for the duration of Brady’s career.

2nd Round – Ras- I Dowling (CB – Virginia)
Besides having one of the coolest names in the draft, Dowling was a first round prospect at the start of the 2010 season. He is a big physical corner, an insane athlete, and has extremely long arms. However he comes with a price of the injury bug. Dowling had a variety of injuries last year but has been medically cleared by the Patriots staff. This is a pick when I first heard it announced, I let out an enormous F-Bomb. Another cornerback, really? Then I let the pick marinate for a little bit and some clarity came with it. There is Bodden coming back from injury, Arrington being a massive overachiever, and the jury still out on Wilhite and Butler, this pick does make some sense. Let’s also not forget about “Big Bang Clock” being part of, oh just a small thing called a shooting down in Florida in the off season. Maybe Dowling will be a great nickel back, maybe he will be slid into strong safety, we will have to wait and see once mini-camps start. The one piece that does aggravate me here is he could have been around much later in the draft. Address the pass rush! I said this until late Saturday afternoon. My buddy and I actually said via text message “Watch them go draft a tight end, because we are so depleted in that department.” Low and behold, we went and did it a few hours later.

2nd Round – Shane Vereen (RB – California)
Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger, so with the Patriots drafting a hardnosed running back in the second round, this should come of no surprise Vereen is great in pass blocking situations and was praised for his maturity and smarts by BB. With a strong emphasis on special teams, Vereen also has a history of playing the gunner position. Can we expect him to be a Kelly Washington type player? A possible replacement for Kevin Faulk is the most likely.

3rd Round – Stevan Ridley – (RB – LSU)
This was my biggest gripe of the entire draft. I hate to sound like a broken record here, but where is our pass rush coming from this year? Ridley is a grinder. He can tough out the short yards, keep the clock moving, and was a beast at LSU last season. I think of the last two draft picks as a Chris Johnson/LenDale White or DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart type tandom. Technically right now there is Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, The Law Firm, Shane Vereen, and Stevan Ridley in the Patriots backfield. Taylor should be retiring as will Kevin Faulk. Morris is a free agent who they will probably let go. Woodhead was signed last year and The Law Firm is also a soon to be free agent. Another question is, why not take Ingram at 28?

3rd Round – Ryan Mallett (QB – Arkansas)
If the successor to Tom Brady is going to be the Bode Miller of the college ranks, so be it. Mallett reportedly has a terrible work ethic and approach to the game, but he loves football. My message to Bill or anyone else who buys that line, if you don’t love football, you are in the wrong god damn game! Mallet loves football so much, he almost quit after his sophomore year, but his Dad talked him out of it. He transferred out of Michigan to head to Arkansas where he really transformed his game. Mallett has a rocket arm, amazing accuracy, and great pocket presence. Apparently his only issue is mental toughness and being coachable. If anyone can break this trait it will be Brady and Belichick. Out of all the picks, I am most interested to see how this guy performs come preseason. I am also intrigued to see if this pick becomes a Montana/Young, Favre/Rodgers type of mentoring project for Tom Brady.

This year was a successful draft for the Patriots however the glaring need is still in the pass rush. We loaded up on picks again though we could dump them to sign a free agent once free agency begins. That would be the most practical theory but practicality doesn’t seem to exist down in Foxboro. Whatever we think is going to happen, typically doesn’t. This weekend was a clear case of that. Some will say New Orleans had “our draft” this weekend. They had the Patriot “fan” draft, but also lost a first rounder and have to sign two first round picks in the process. The proof will be in the pudding once the season starts, if it ever does.

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