It's 888 Miles to Chicago...
Views
4335
Comments
0

The Playoff race is in the home stretch.  History will be made.  For some, a bleak winter is ahead, while for others this is just the beginning of something special. And finally, wives across the country look forward to reclaiming their weekends.  Yep, it’s week 16…we’ve come so far…

December is a strange month. 

For adults it’s a hurried rush to get everything done, and ready for the holidays.  There is shopping to do, presents to wrap, food to cook, cards to mail, houses to clean, snow to shovel, relatives to pick up, sleeping arrangements to be made…there is so much to do in such a short time, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it all.

For kids it’s a slow march to the excitement.  Unlike us adults running around, Christmas can’t get here fast enough for kids.  There aren’t as many hurried tasks to accomplish for kids…and so there is no distraction from the fact that December means they’re getting some gifts.

December has always had a slightly different vibe for me.  Of course the whole holiday aspect was in my blood, how could it not be?  But December is also the month I came into this world.  Yep, three whole days before Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes…little Josh was born.  Not literally 3 days…or that would mean I was over 2000…not that old…

So while the rest of the world was hurrying to celebrate a certain someone’s birthday, I was bugging my mom about my birthday.  People always say “Must be hard having your birthday near Christmas”…but it’s always been that way…so it’s not hard, it just is. 

As the NFL regular season grinds slowly to a halt…the Bears being thrown from the ride some time ago…let’s reflect on a few December birthdays.  Me and ol’ JC….let’s get to the picks.

Pittsburgh at St. Louis

This is the first Christmas where my daughter really gets who Santa is.  Not sure if she totally understands what it means, but she knows who he is, and gets excited every time she sees a picture of him.  She knows he’s coming to our house…but outside of that, I’m not sure. 

Every time someone asks “Are you ready for Santa to come to your house and bring you presents?”

She sort of looks at them like they’re crazy…as if she is thinking, “If he’s coming to my house, why is he bringing presents?  Can’t he just have a cup of tea?” 

In the last week, we’ve had impromptu visits at the house from…

Papa Bear (Of Bernistein Bear fame)

Bob the Builder (My Daughter’s favorite)

Sully (Of Monsters Inc fame)

Mary Poppins (Don’t think I need to explain)

And my Mom (Even though she’s in Chicago)

But they all did very different things... 

Papa Bear came by to check his email.

Bob the Builder fixed our car.

Sully had popcorn and watched a movie.

Mary Poppins helps her clean.

And my mom helped her cook some muffins.

Those are all very practical things, all things that she does everyday.  But randomly bringing gifts?  Don’t know if that makes sense.  Sounds like some sort of bribery ring.  So why would a little girl except a strange fat man to bring her gifts?  Who has time for that, the Grinch is stopping by carve some roast beast later. 

While my daughter tries to wrap her head around a strange man giving her gifts…the Steelers are trying to wrap their head around the fact that they could lose their division.  It wasn’t long ago that they were the #3 team in the AFC…and now, in the blink of an eye…they could lose the AFC North to the Browns.

Luckily, they have the Rams…a dead in the water team that is going no where.  The Steelers get the win, and their fans start to relax a little. 

Dallas at Carolina

Man, the Cowboys basically had home field in the bag.  And then, they cough one up to a division rival…and looking at the schedule, they have one more heated rivalry game coming up.  Not good.  They need to win out to ice this thing…or home the Pack fall flat in their big rivalry game this week.

Carolina meanwhile, is still mathematically alive for the playoffs.  But as we all know, math isn’t always the best way to look at something.  The reality is, this team has been floating in the toilet for awhile, just waiting for someone to flush.  Guess what? 

Flush.

The Boys get the win this week, and put it all on the line next week against the Skins.  Should be an epic battle…hope it all plays out.  Oh, the Panthers?  Yeah, um…some advice…draft a QB this year. 

Cleveland at Cincinnati

Is there a more amazing moment as a child, then that moment on Christmas morning when you spot the piles of presents under the tree?  That moment of anticipation is just flat out amazing.

Growing up, us kids had our bedrooms on the 2nd floor.  The stairs to the second floor were right off the living room across from our fireplace.  So that from the top of the stairs, you could see the fireplace.  Our Christmas tree was always located to the right of the fireplace… 

On Christmas morning, you could sit at the to of the stairs and see all the glory that is a Christmas tree on Christmas morning.

After many a Christmas morning that started at 6am…my parents set a Christmas morning curfew…we weren’t allowed to wake them up or go downstairs until 8am.  Some of the best moments of Christmas were spent at the top of the stairs with my siblings…staring down at the tree…making plans of what we were going to open first…sending someone to check the time…getting reports of “It’s 6:31”…the anticipation of the morning was something you never get back after leave childhood. 

The Browns are sitting at the top of the steps, looking down at a wondrous assortment of gifts.  No one would of guessed they would be here…and it’s been a long time coming for this franchise.  Now they sit at the top of these steps, waiting for the clock to tick off the final seconds of the regular season…and wondering if they get to unwrap a division championship or a Wild card spot?

Revel in the anticipation Browns fans, you deserve every moment of it.  But don’t over look this game, it’s going to be a hard fought one.  This game seems ripe for an upset…rivalry game…Bengals passing the ball well…but the Browns have the mojo.  Browns win a shoot out. 

Kansas City at Detroit

Well, that dream is over.  The Lions went from 6-2 suprises of the NFC…to 6-8 and out of the playoffs.  Ouch.  Man, that’s Wayne Fontes bad.

The question is…does Mr. Millen finally lose his job?  Or was the first half of the season enough of a rush to give him another year?  At some point he’s going to get fired right?  Right? 

The Chiefs add to the Lions misery.  KC wins, and the Lions sit on the sidelines staring 6-10 right in the face.  Hey, look at the bright side, there MUST be a WR they can take in the first round.

Green Bay at Chicago

Having a December birthday always made me jealous of my little brother Jake.  He was born smack dab in the middle of summer.  Why did this make me jealous? 

Let’s see…at the time my favorite thing to do was play baseball…I’ve always loved grilling out…swimming is another favorite of mine…and basically, any outdoor activity is a blast for me.

What did his birthdays always include?  Grilling out, baseball, swimming, huge game of kick the can, etc. 

What did my birthdays include?  Getting dark at 4pm, playing inside, a lot of kids running and screaming through the house, while the adults kept saying “Quiet!”

And while my birthdays always were fun, I’ve always envied my brothers setup.  Not to mention the fact that he got to spread out his gift getting evenly over the year.  A load of presents in the winter, a load of presents in the summer, a perfect set up. Me?  All of my presents came in a 3 day span, and then I had to wait a whole year to get more.  Blah. 

And that brings us to the Bears-Packers.  This game is a sibling rivalry at its best.  These 2 teams are joined at the hip; you can’t talk about one without mentioning the other.  The added beauty is that Wisconsin and Illinois sit right next to each other, and have their own pet names for each other.  The Northerners are of course the “Cheeseheads” which they take pride in…while us folk from Illinois are referred to as FIBs.  Ask a Cheesehead for the explanation.

And here us Bears fans sit, jealous as all get out of our brother’s birthday.  The Packers are fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs…and the Bears…well…I hear Cancun is nice in January.  But the great thing about a sibling rivalry, no matter what the records, anything can happen. 

In the end though, the Pack has too much to play for…and the Bears are just too inept on offense.  Green Bay gets the win, and little piece of me dies on the inside.

NY Giants at Buffalo

Due to the timing of my birthday, it was almost always spent at home.  During college, and even after I moved out, my birthday was almost always spent at home.  Hey, I was already heading home for Christmas, might get a great birthday dinner out of it as well. 

There was one particular birthday that kept me away from home.  Due to working at Best Buy, and the timing of my birthday that year, I had to stay down in Normal on my birthday.  It would be my first birthday that I was with my college friends for.  So we planned a night out.

There were 2 problems… 

A College town, 3 days before Christmas is dead.  Dead as a doornail.  The bars are all empty, with only the locals or a few stranglers like us…and some places are even closed.

And we all picked that time to get the flu. 

So my great birthday away from home with my buddies?  Was spent on the couch trying not to puke.  And no alcohol was involved.

And this brings us to the Giants.  Yes, yes, I’ve been beating on them pretty hard…predicting their doom every week, and yet they have been staying afloat.  But then they come out against the Skins and just lay a big egg.  Plus, Shockey breaks his leg.  That singing you’re hearing?  That’s the fat lady. 

Going into Buffalo, a team that always has a great home field advantage…and playing a young Bills team that is just starting to really hit their stride, and has many people playing for jobs or trying to prove themselves…this isn’t the game the Giants wanted to have to win.

And they won’t.  Sorry Giants fans, I really am…don’t hate you in anyway, and never disliked the G-men…just don’t have any faith in this current bunch.  Their D is great…but their O is all over the place.  Bills get the win, and the Giants are staring a game against the Pats for all the marbles. 

Houston at Indianapolis

Well, Indy has everything wrapped up that they can.  Thanks to the Pats incredible season, they can’t go any higher than the #2 seed.  And so, they have 2 weeks to get ready for the playoffs.  Just want all your guys that have Manning on your Fantasy team wanted to hear.

But word has already come down, Manning will play Sunday.  And with him on the field, this team will not lose this game. 

Colts win, and the Texans take solace in the fact that they have shown quite a spark this year.  Maybe next year is finally the year they make some noise.  Or maybe they’ll be the AFC version of the Cardinals…

Oakland at Jacksonville

The Jags went into Pittsburgh and won a huge game.  Thereby putting a strangle hold on the #5 seed, and also sending a little message to the other Playoff teams…”Don’t look past us, or you’re in for trouble”. 

And still needing to win to lock up their spot, they aren’t a team the Raiders want to play right now either.  Especially with Fargas, the only bright spot on Offense, injured.

Jags get the win, and move closer to locking up the 5th seed.  The Raiders inch closer to a top 5 draft pick…man, being a Raiders fan right now has got to be hard work

Philadelphia at New Orleans

Back before my wife was…well…my wife.  Back when she was just “my girlfiend”…our first Christmas together was spent in Chicago with my family.  It was a first for both of us…her first Christmas away from her family…and my first Christmas bringing a girl home.

A couple weeks before we flew from Seattle to Chicago, I wasn’t sure what to get her.  My mind was a complete blank…spent hours looking at all different stores trying to talk myself into all manner of gifts. 

“Hey, she doesn’t have a DVD player!  Wait, she doesn’t have a TV either…and I’m not carting a TV to Chicago on the plane.”

“Who wouldn’t want the complete Vacation movie set?” 

“What is a fondue set?”

“Do they let men into Victoria Secret?  And how do you know a woman’s size?” 

Finally, I broke down and called my sister for advice.  Her simple advice?  “Jewlery always works.”

Why didn’t I think of that?  Well, I’m an idiot, that’s why.  So I headed out to a jewelry store and bought her a great bracelet.  Snuck it into my luggage and wrapped it in Chicago. 

Gave it to her, and she loved it.  Although the reaction wasn’t quite what I expected…there was a little hesitation in her voice…but she’s worn it ever since.  Figured I had done a great job.  Then a year or so ago, she leveled with me…

“When I saw the jewelry store bag in your luggage, I assumed it was an engagement ring.  And so when I opened it and it wasn’t…well, I was disappointed.  But I love the bracelet.” 

Yep, that about sums up my gift giving record with my wife.  Always manage to get her something that is okay…never quite able to nail the “frickin’ awesome” gift.  But I’ll keep trying….”Hey honey, how would you feel about snow tires?”

Going into the season, the Saints and their fans were expecting a shot at the big ring.  And now, due to an up and down season, they are playing for a shot at a consolation prize.  Not a bad one mind you, making the playoffs 2 years in a row would be considered a miracle in New Orleans, but it’s not as exciting when there was talk of a Super Bowl before the season. 

But to have a shot, they need to win out…and here comes the Eagles, fresh off a huge upset of the Cowboys…

But true to form with this season for Philly, they won’t be able to string together 2 big wins.  The Saints get the win, and hold onto the hope of a playoff spot for another week.  “Honey, what about a table saw?” 

Atlanta at Arizona

Wow, wake me when this is over.

On second thought, let me just keep sleeping.  Thank God there is no chance this game will be on in my area…this is one that would get the TV shot. 

The Cards win, just to give their fans hope for next year…when they’ll again enter with high expectations, only to struggle and miss the playoffs.  And Atlanta is just playing to impress a new coach.  One that will most likely come in and clean house.  Fun times.

Tampa Bay at San Francisco

Hey, the Bucs could get the #3 seed if they win out and Seattle stumbles again.  But one glance at their schedules, and don’t think either of these teams will lose. 

And the Niners?  Well…wow…guess they’re playing for pride.  Woohooo!

Bucs get the win, cause honestly, do you really think the Niners can beat anyone?  Can they just win the “Most over-hype offseason” award now? 

Miami at New England

Last week, in this blog, the subject of drinking games came up.  I have always maintained that the best drinking game is a game called Baseball.  Seeing how the most epic game I have ever played happened on my brother in laws birthday…it is loosely fair game for the theme of this post.  And seeing how I make up the rules, it’s in.

The drinking game of baseball goes like this… 

Take a shot glass, 8 oz glass, 16 oz glass and a 32 oz cup.

Fill each with beer. 

Now, its basic quarters with baseball rules.  Miss the glasses it’s an out.  Shot glass is a single, 8 oz is a double, 16 oz is a triple and 32 oz is a home run.

If you hit a double, the other team has to drink the 8 oz and the shot glass of beer.  They can divide it up amongst the team however they see fit, but it must be drunk. 

You play innings just like in baseball, and score runs based off the normal rules.  You decided the amount of innings to be played ahead of time, and the loser after that inning has to finish everything on the table.

On my brother in laws’ birthday, we had an epic 9 on 9, 9 inning game…complete with umpire.  The umpire was only needed cause my brother in law was already too drunk to play the game…and wanted to be involved since it was his birthday.  Made it even more fun to have a very drunk guy doing the whole “You are OOOOOOOOUuuuuuuuttttt!” after every missed cup. 

Needless to say, with the right group, this can not only be total fun, but it also gets really competitive.

The Phins got their first win…but they only chance they have of winning Sunday is if they convince the Pats to play a game of baseball against them before hand.  But something tells me, the Pats would win that too. 

Pats win, and inch closer to history.  Miami is just happy they aren’t headed there as well.  No curse of the 72 Dolphins will help this week…

Baltimore at Seattle

Well, the Ravens are now the answer to the Trivia question, “Which team gave Miami it’s only victory in 2007?” 

Ah, history, its fun isn’t it?

Yep, this team has quit on Billick.  They’re done with a capital D. 

If you’re a defense lining up, and you look across at the QB…is there a better possible site than Kyle Boller?  He’ll make some plays, but you know that every game, at some point, he’s just going to implode and throw a couple balls up for grabs.  Just the type of throw where you go “Wait, he is trying to throw it to his own team, right?” 

The Hawks get an easy win at home.  Can’t help but think the Hawks are rooting for the Giants to limp into the playoffs at #6…just because that would make for a very easy win. If you’re not Hawks fans, start rooting for it.

NY Jets at Tennessee

One birthday, many years ago, one of my cousins got me a GI Joe guy.  It just so happened that I had this particular one.  Upon opening the gift, and seeing what was inside…did I say… 

“Why thank you, I love GI Joe guys.”  And then casually hand it to my mom to be return later?

No, I went for the more direct approach… 

“Mom, they got me Sci-Fi!  I already have him!  Now I have 2 what do we do now?  Man, can’t believe you guys got me Sci-Fi, I already have him.”

My mom had a very embarrassed look on her face, and quickly said “Josh, we’ll take care of it later.” 

It wasn’t until years later, looking back on that moment, that I too felt completely embarrassed by the whole situation.  And every time I think of it I feel like such a jerk…crap, thought of it again.

Crap, thought of it again…anyone up for a drink to wash this out of my brain? 

Getting back to the game at hand…the Titans have to feel like they’ve gotten this gift before.  Last year they were in the same position…playoff hopes alive, but on the outside looking in…needing a miracle to get them in.  Let’s see if they handle this situation with any more dignity than I did…

Titans get the win this week or a Jets team just going through the motions.  But they’re still on the outside looking in, and that is not a good place to be at this time of the year.  When you can’t control your own destiny, it’s always an uphill battle. 

Washington at Minnesota

As my siblings and I stared down from the top step every year, peering out over the bounty that is Christmas…there would be 4 piles of gifts circling the Christmas tree.  One for each of us from Santa.

Often there would be a big ribbon around all the separately wrapped gifts with a name tag on it. 

The first move was always to the stocking, but the second move was always that pile from Santa.

Until one year, things went horribly wrong….well, not horribly, but it sounds more dramatic than “sort of” or “Mildy” or even “annoyingly”. 

Before we get to specifics of this particular Christmas, let me give a quick run down….

My mom was the one that always handled the big Christmas shopping tasks.  She was the one that knew our lists, knew what we wanted, and how much it all cost.  She would get the majority of the shopping done a few weeks ahead of time, and take care of most of the wrapping. 

My Dad believed in waiting until the last minute, and always felt the need to get us extra presents…things from him.  Sometimes they were dead on…other times…well, the whole shopping at 5pm on Christmas Eve sort of showed through.  His heart was always in the right place, and his adventures with gift giving could fill a blog by itself.

This particular Christmas, after my mom got all her gifts out and had all the piles arranged, she went to bed.  My dad, as was normal, was still wrapping gifts, and doing his normal last minute routine.  After he got all his gifts under the tree, and stepped back and decided things didn’t look right….looking at the piles, they weren’t even…and for some reason this was something he had to fix. 

So, not really knowing what was in each pile, he moved a few gifts around in the piles to even things up.

The fun started the next morning when my brother opened a gift and my OTHER brother said “Hey, that’s the one I wanted!” 

My Mom had this look of surprise on her face…and then when it happened again…she had a different look.  The Look that every kid knows they don’t want.  And it was aimed right at my Dad.  Now, by this time I was over the Santa thing, as was my sister…so cleaning up the mess with us was easy…but my brothers were still in Santa mode, so it took a little more wrangling.  After a little fancy work, my mom convinced them that Santa had made a small mistake, and the crisis was averted.

But to this day, I remember that Christmas as “Present Roulette”. 

These two teams live out the roulette theory every week.  You just never know which team is going to show up.  The Skins can look like a team on the verge of greatness one week…and then look like they’re just going through the motions the next week.  The Vikes?  Well after their sorry start, they seem to have woken up and got on a little hot streak…but then they played a god awful first half against the Bears and opened a world of doubt.  Plus, with Tarvaris Jackson…he’ll make a play that makes you love him one minute…and the next he’ll show off that he has terrible mechanics and has only made 12 starts.

So who shows up in this one?  Before last week, I would pick Vikings.  But I’m going to use the theory of “if the Bears can play them close, the Skins can beat them”.  It’s not a very robust theory, but it worked last week, so let’s run with it again.  Skins get the win, and keep their playoff hopes alive. 

Denver at San Diego

In my family, on your birthday, you got to pick whatever you wanted for dinner.  My mom would make whatever it is your heart desired.  It became my Dad’s favorite tradition…cause it was a guaranteed great meal.

On my birthdays it was often always steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, cheesy cauliflower, and Ice cream pie for dessert.  Knowing this meal was coming always got my dad excited. 

But my brothers had different ideas.  One year, my brother asked for “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and hot dogs.”  My mom was fine with it…cheap, easy to prepare.  But my dad?  Well, let’s just say, that didn’t go over very well with him.  He spent a week trying to talk my brother down.

“Hey Jake, wouldn’t you rather have steak?” 

“Mmmmmm….this is some good pork roast, man, it would make a great birthday dinner.”

“You like lobsters don’t you?  Wouldn’t you want a pet lobster for a few hours?” 

“Listen, if I give you $20, can we have steak for dinner on your birthday?”

Unfortunately for my dad, Jake isn’t one to be easily swayed.  And so, we had Mac and Cheese and hot dogs for dinner.  My brother was happy as a clam.  My dad on the other hand…well…I have a feeling he made a late night run to Burger King to get his beef fix. 

This season was supposed to be a steak dinner for the Chargers.  They have one of the most talented teams in the league, and they were coming off of a 14-2 season.  And now, they’re the division champs of the worst division in the NFL…and are headed into the playoffs with Norv Turner as their coach.  Mmmm…mac and cheese.

Seeing as this is the 18th time these 2 teams have played this week, and the 53rd meeting of AFC West teams this season, it should be an epic battle.  Wait, must have my math wrong on that one, just seems like these guys have played that often. 

One thing is for certain, Mike Shanahan is a jerk.  He just comes off as one of those guys that would kick a man while their down…don’t know what it is.  I can’t think of anything more exciting to him, then to get revenge on the Chargers for the beating they gave his team at home then by dealing a blow to their playoff seeding.  Sort of a “Hey San Diego, how do you like those Pats” present.

Broncos get the win.  Shanny can be seen smirking on the sideline.  And Norv can be seen calling his agent wondering if anyone would take a shot on a 3 time loser as a head coach.

And that’s how I see it. 

Want to wish you all a happy holidays, whatever holiday it may be.  Have 3 or 4 cups of cheer, eat a lot, overdose on family, and have a great time. 

I’ll be asking Santa for a new offense for the Bears…the whole thing…want it new from the ground up. 

But that leaves me with two questions….

What Christmas present would you love to get for your team? 

What’s your best gift giving or receiving story?

Just a little something to get us in the holiday spirit. 

Comment

Remember to keep your posts clean. Profanity will get filtered, and offensive comments will be removed.


Start Your Own Blog

Start Now

Truth & Rumors

MOST POPULAR

  1. 1
    'Melo wants to be wooed (like, Howard wooed)
    Views
    2455
    Comments
    1353
  2. 2
    Vogel coaching for his job
    Views
    917
    Comments
    786
  3. 3
    Cashman scratching his head over Pineda
    Views
    2021
    Comments
    744
  4. 4
    Farrell defends Fenway's 'sleep room'
    Views
    2230
    Comments
    481
  5. 5
    Foligno called his OT game-winner
    Views
    1157
    Comments
    324

SI.com

SI Photos