If Last Night Was Manu Ginobili’s Final NBA Game…

Then I must say: thank you, Manu Ginobili.

Ginobili is one of my top 10 favorite players of all-time. A great Spur in his sixteen years in San Antonio. I remember frequenting a sports forum back in the summer of 2006 that featured a member by the name of “koolaid”, who was a Los Angeles Lakers fan, a guy that believed Ginobili was on the same level as Kobe Bryant. Some might say that’s far fetched, and hey, in a way it is, but if you consider Kobe’s game to be ‘artistic’ in expression, in regards to his free-flowing offensive style, how can you not say the same about Ginobili, if you’ve watched him play? Sure, he was always a little awkward in his movements, but his dribbling and drives to the basket made for some of the best highlights in the history of the game.

My all-time favorite Manu game, prior to the 2005 NBA playoffs, was back in January 2005 when he scored 48 points on the Phoenix Suns! The 2004-2005 NBA season was a pretty damn fun one. It was Reggie Miller’s last year, the SuperSonics were damn good with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, it was Shaquille O’Neal’s first season in Miami with second year guard Dwyane Wade, the Spurs were potent and the Pistons were gung-ho on attempting a repeat (I loved that Pistons’ team, by the way; nowadays where a team must feature two or three stars, that Pistons squad functioned as a unit led by Larry Brown).

The Suns were fantastic in ’04-’05 with that “7 seconds or less” offense headed by Steve Nash! A lot of people call the Warriors of the last couple of years the greatest offense ever, but man, if you were too young to watch the ’04 or ’05 (especially the ’04, though) Suns, I feel sorry for you. Steve Nash was in the midst of his first of two back-to-back MVP season performances, and they were a thrill to watch if you enjoyed basketball.

Tensions were running high in January 2005 in the Western Conference. The Spurs and Suns were battling it out in an Old West duel for the top seed in the said conference. That night, January 21, 2005, I was finally switching to cable/broadband internet after having dial-up my whole life. It was an aggravation! However, while dealing with all that, the Spurs/Suns game was on ESPN and Ginobili, well, like I said, he lit the Suns up with 48 points and the Spurs won a thriller in overtime.

All my favorite players have just about retired!

Grillin’ and Smokin’ on Mother’s Day!

I used the new STOK drum grill multiple times last week, and it works better than expected! I’m in love with the cast iron grates (again, as a cast iron freak); they keep the temperatures super hot for an exceedingly long time. I cooked with it the first time on May 10th, when I flash smoked some chicken thighs and country pork ribs, while my best friend/quasi-brother brought over a 4-pack of ribeyes and I only teared them a couple of minutes on each side for a medium rare finish (a must). I also placed my small cast iron skillet directly on the grates and cooked some diced up potatoes along with onions. It all came out perfect!


On Wednesday, after mowing the yard, I cooked potatoes, hotdogs (not pictured) and three chicken breasts. Cooked the breasts on indirect heat for about 15-20 minutes and seared them for two minutes on each side; registered a temperature of 168, as I wrapped them in foil right after removing them from the grill.


On Mother’s Day, I hosted a big dinner for family and friends. I was up until 2am watching UFC 211 (Stipe Miocic starched Junior dos Santos) and woke up at 6am to start up my smoker.

I smoked two pork shoulders, a sirloin pork roast, two chuck roasts, two whole cornish hens, 12 chicken thighs, 15 country pork ribs, about eight or nine skewers of thick cut bacon, 11 bacon wrapped cheddar cheese stuffed jalapenos, and about 17 potatoes.

Needless to say, I was exhausted that night, but damn, everything came out great! I used my grill to smoke most of the country pork ribs (sans three) with a mix of pecan and cherry wood. Everybody loved them, as they were gone faster than anything else.

That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I smoke it, uh-huh uh-huh!

Enjoy the little ‘music video’!

Chicken thighs.
One of the chuck roasts! What a beautiful bark!

Finally Bought the STŌK Drum Grill!

I’ve been wanting this grill for about a year now. I finally bought it yesterday at Target, as it was on sale.

There were many days I wanted to say “to hell with it” and buy it at its full price, but the reason I never did is because one of my friends bought it at a discounted price last year. What made me go with the STŌK drum charcoal grill over the Weber is the cast iron grill grates.

I’m a sucker for cast iron cookware. For over five years now, it’s almost all I use!

What I also enjoy about it is the temperature gauge (yes, I know that Weber grills also typically feature this as well). I plan on smoking a little bit with this one. At any rate, this grill should be a good ‘outside cooking’ buddy with the vertical smoker that my girlfriend’s parents gave me.

I have a pork shoulder, a chuck roast and two family packs of chicken thighs ready to throw in the smoker in a few days, but after catching this beautiful, sturdy badass grill on sale yesterday, I’m tempted to defrost some chicken thighs tonight and let ’em sit in some water and salt to brine ’em for tomorrow to cook on this beauty.

Perfect timing, too, since our local, closest grocery store — Food Lion — had twin packs of Kingsford charcoal marked down to $7. About 120 lbs. of charcoal for $21… not too shabby.

Above are pictures from our time visiting the little lady’s family in Alabama back in late March. Well, at this point they are my Alabama family, and her parents are pretty much my Alabama parents by default. They’ve been sweet to me from the get-go!

Top pic: her dad rotating two pork shoulders that wielded the combined weight of 20 lbs. One was mild and the other one, well, since we (me, her dad and buddy Robert) enjoy the spicy side of things, was seasoned up with Caribeque honey heat seasoning and Killer Swarm hot sauce from Pex Peppers. Absolutely delicious.

Second pic: bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed jalapenos (one of my favorite things), chicken thighs, sausage and bologna (yes, bologna… it’s damn good smoked! Seasoned with Tony Chachere’s creole).

I haven’t smoked anything for the last couple of months, at least since the Super Bowl. Time to get back to it soon, as I’ve promised not only one of my neighbors some pork shoulder, but also one of my friends who’s willing to drive an hour for it.

Can’t wait to fire up the new grill and the smoker. I haven’t wrote about sports in a while because my life has been far too busy for it. Might be sticking to food and other miscellaneous posts for the time being! A lot more interesting than a prospective third Cavs/Warriors NBA Finals and bitching about the UFC!

Grave Before Shave Beard Products (Beard Oil) Review

I’ve had a beard for the majority of the last 12-13 years. I usually keep it trimmed but lately I’ve been rockin’ it out. The problem with this is that the skin can become dry. Daily showering + shampoo’ing (with traditional shampoo) will sap the natural oils on the skin underneath your beard and cause dryness, resulting in itchiness.

Prior to my experience with Grave Before Shave, my only experience with beard oil (I’d used Clubman Pinaud’s beard conditioner for a couple of years) was Dollar Shave Club’s (which is a good product, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted something new and different).

Jim Brakewood, Jr. from Chaos and Pain posted about how awesome the beard products from GBS are. I checked out the website, thought the graphics were cool and enjoyed the prospect of free shipping, but… hesitated on buying any. You see, I’m the type of person that feels guilty/remorseful if I buy anything for myself. I don’t know why; I’ve been this way for quite some time. I feel like I’m wasting money if I buy something that I might enjoy. I would rather spend money on somebody I love, y’know?

I told Dana about Grave Before Shave. She surprised me with this:


She bought me four beard oils from GBS: the cigar blend (my personal favorite), the caramel mocha, the ‘head hunter’ (tropical) and the gentlemen’s blend! She ordered them on a Friday night; they shipped on a Monday (from California) and got here (the other side of the country) on Wednesday!

The day after I received them, Wayne Bailey and Grave Before Shave released a brand new product: tequila limon! I couldn’t help myself; I went ahead and ordered it and the pine scent from the site in a duo pack. The new beard oils shipped out on a Friday and I got them today: Monday.

Needless to say, I love them. They all smell fantastic and they get the job done in regards to replenishing the oils you lose from a hot shower. I’ll eventually try out the beard wash they offer. The oils aren’t greasy nor will your beard feel like it’s weighed down upon using it.

I’ll rank my favorites from most favorite. They are all great.

1.) Grave Before Shave Cigar Blend ~~ I knew this scent would be my favorite before I even tried it. I love the smell of vanilla/pipe tobacco. My all-time favorite fragrance is Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille! This smells just about like it, or at least in the same vein! I get random whiffs of it throughout the day when I wear it (just like the other ones) and I absolutely love it. Doubt this will ever be topped as my favorite.

2.) Grave Before Shave Tequila Limon ~~ I found out this was released, because Dana shouted, “Damn it!” When I asked her what the hell was wrong, she told me, “Grave Before fuckin’ Shave released a new scent today. Why couldn’t they have released it last week?!” When I saw the new scent, I was floored. I had to have it. I’m an occasional tequila enthusiast with a knack for, ahem, occasional imbibing. I couldn’t pass this one up. Well, it arrived, and holy shit. The new tequila limon smells so friggin’ good! I should just post this as 1B to Cigar Blend’s 1A, because it stands up to it as my favorite! It’s a strong, but not an overpowering smell, of tequila. The lemon lime apparent in the scent blends so well with it. It’s super refreshing and I know I’ll be getting some more pretty soon.

3.) Grave Before Shave Gentlemen’s Blend ~~ This is by far Dana’s favorite of the bunch (albeit she says that the tequila limon is a very close second). It smells terrific. It reminds me of getting a fresh haircut in a barbershop. It has an extremely clean bourbon smell to it. But again, it reminds me of getting a fresh haircut in the barbershop. So clean, fresh and inviting. It makes Dana sniff my beard often, for better or worse!

4.) Grave Before Shave Caramel Mocha ~~ This is an interesting one. I love it, but it smells just as it’s described! Like a sweet coffee! I enjoy it, but damn if I don’t smell like dessert. I think the chocolate ends up being stronger than the caramel or coffee notes. Little lady says I smell like a chocolate chip cookie. The caramel is very apparent at first when you apply it, but fades into the background.

5.) Grave Before Shave Head Hunter ~~ Love this stuff just like I do the others. It’s going to be a fantastic summer time scent. Makes me want to go to the beach, kick back on the balcony with some beers and chill out. This is little lady’s second or, er, third favorite after Gentlemen’s Blend and Tequila Limon.

6.) Grave Before Shave Pine ~~ I couldn’t decide what to get with the Tequila Limon beard oil, so I opted to go with the pine. It smells good, but it also smells similar to the Dollar Beard Club beard oil, which is a slight negative. I should have gone with GBS’s Bay Rum.

I can’t recommend their beard oil enough. Like I said, I’ll eventually try out the beard shampoo and the balms. Top notch products — so far — backed by an American company with the consumer’s interest in mind. Wayne Bailey is a cool dude. Support his hard work!

Sugar, Spice and… Everything Nice?

(“Remedy” has been stuck in my head all morning. The Black Crowes are one of my most underrated bands ever. “Remedy” is such a damn good song. Love that  southern honky tonk/bluesy twang in their music.)

The nutritional science community needs to make up its mind. At this juncture, I can’t help but laugh at anyone who speaks in absolutes. It doesn’t matter which community that does this — Paleo, vegans, keto/carbers, low fat’ters, Ray Peat worshipers — there’s not a single agreed upon consensus. This became even more clear than ever to me when I read somebody post on a forum I occasionally visit that “avocados are hepatotoxic and negative to your health! They have too many PUFAs! Avocados will destroy thyroid activity!”

That was the first time I’d ever heard a negative thing said about avocados asides from picky eaters claiming they dislike them.

There’s nothing wrong about giving credence to that claim. You don’t have to eat avocados. Luckily there’s so many different types of food out there to get the same vitamins and minerals from. It also doesn’t hurt to do your own research to figure out your very own conclusion about avocados instead of bashing the researcher/the studious one making the claim.

My take? For us men, avocados are one of best pro-testosterone foods out there. They are full of monounsaturated fats and loaded with over 20 different vitamins/minerals. Let’s not forget they contain a compound called oleuropein, which halts aromatase (enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen) activity. Avocado detractors say that the PUFA (polyunsaturated fats) content is the reason to avoid it, and they’d be right about PUFAs having adverse effects, buuuut avocados contain a big chunk of vitamin E, which negates PUFAs’ effects on the body. There’s more studies out there that backs that up, but I’m too lazy to go out and look for them.

That’s not the purpose of this post, however. There’s something else that’s been demonized to hell and back.

Sugar.

Low-carb this, low-carb that. That’s all you hear about when it comes to someone cutting weight and hoping that it’s body fat.

I used to be in the anti-sugar camp. Back in January and February 2011, I went full blown keto (almost) for just about two months. I wasn’t a fan. I missed carbs. My energy levels were rather stable but I felt no creativity or drive (then again, it could have been the time period also — winter). I eventually realized that my feelings about sugar being unhealthy were backed by popular opinion and the nutritional science hivemind.

Anyway, people like to claim that sugar is why America is a nation full of fatasses, but that’s actually wrong. I saw a study, called the “Australian Paradox” that states otherwise. From 1980-2003, sugar rates dropped 23% but obesity increased. Hhhhmmm….

Just about every bit of your body uses glucose as a source of energy and production. Lacking it will cause said organs to derive glucose from protein by way of gluconeogenesis. Eventually the body will use fatty acids and break them down the same way, forming ketones (which has some benefits but can cause metabolic stress).

Fructose is bad-mouthed, too. Probably thanks to sodas that wield high fructose corn syrup in the ingredients. But fructose isn’t unhealthy — it’s the amount of fructose that is unhealthy. The dose makes the poison. Don’t go above 40-50grams of fructose a day, I say. 60g max. Fructose is pro-thyroid and anti-SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). Less SHBG in the bloodstream = more free testosterone.

I’ve been eating a lot of raw honey the last couple months, and let me tell you, honey is one of the greatest foods you can put in your body. All you need to know is that not only is it pro-thyroid, but it contains chrysin and boron (good for your bones and blocks aromatase).

Another reason I didn’t care for staying on the keto wagon is because I love potatoes. Maybe it’s the Irish in me, or maybe it’s because I’ve ate ’em my whole life so I’m well conditioned, but I love ’em in so many different ways, they are delicious and… guess what? Pro-testosterone. Maybe that’s why I’m such a hairy son of a bitch with a deep voice; I grew up eating potatoes and eggs cooked in (real) butter and bacon grease.

99% of the time, I drink my coffee black, but my girlfriend bought us two International Delight (they were 2 for $5) creamers the other night, the Almond Joy and the southern butter pecan, and they are damn good. 35kcals per tablespoon; 6g sugar (from cane sugar). Sugar ramps up your thyroid. Another way to ramp up thyroid production is to cook with coconut oil.

Kurt Warner says... 'sup?!
Kurt Warner says… ‘sup?!

I’m not saying to go overboard with sugar or to go crazy with it. All I’m saying is that it’s not the hellspawn everybody says it is. Hell, maybe you think it is! You are well within your right to believe so. But I just don’t believe it’s the devil everyone wants to make it out to be. There’s a yin to the yang.

By the way, sugar can help mitigate the effects of coffee’s cortisol raising properties.

Spicy foods have their benefits, too. They kill inflammation, help control/regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure. Some people can’t handle them (stomach cramps, spice intolerance, etc.), but yogurt/bananas before and/or after can help one deal with the side effects.

I, for one, love spicy foods and always have. The burn and the flavor! The burn is part of the experience! It’s addictive.

assscorcher
I call the above impromptu concoction of mine, the “Sparky’s Ass Scorcher” burger. Seasoned with Weber’s garlic habanero, this burger sits on top of a Sriracha mayo and @davesgourmetinc’s ghost pepper blend. On top lies a slice of cheddar cheese and a second helping of Dave’s ghost pepper sauce, followed by a bed of onion slices, part of a large jalapeño pepper (I may have snacked before putting this beauty together), a whole habanero pepper and a piece of lettuce. I feel the onions complement the sauce and gives the burger a delicious mix of varied heat.

I appreciate damn good flavors in my food. Even though I love jalapenos, I love the fruity flavor of habaneros even more. So delicious. Give my little recipe above a shot, why don’tcha! Add some bacon in the process.

I ordered some hot sauces from Heat Hot Sauce. Lucky Dog’s Extra Hot Fire-Roasted Pepper Sauce (with Trinidad scorpion peppers) and Pex Peppers’ “Killer Swarm” (an insanely hot all natural sauce made with fresh Moruga Scorpion peppers, wild flower honey and lime juice.)

luckydogkillerswarm
I decided to try out Pex Peppers’ Killer Swarm first.

killer-swarm-and-beef
I browned up some ground beef with a whole onion, four itty bitty habanero peppers, two gloves of garlic and some salt and pepper. I gave it a couple dashes of Killer Swarm. Damn good stuff! I ate it with some Sriracha mayo on a few hoagie buns. I couldn’t feel my lips for 40 minutes, but the flavor was so spectacular. If you are a chilihead or otherwise love spicy food, give Killer Swarm a shot… AND that simple recipe of mine. I used 73%/27% ground beef because it’s always on sale (5 lbs. of beef for $10 at a local grocery store) and drained the excess fat/grease after browning it. Not only is the ‘recipe’ in the above picture quick, simple and easy, it’s also damn good for you and your immune system.

But health be damned! I’m going to end this post talking about some whiskey!

I’ve always had a connection to the state of Tennessee; I grew up right next to it and I was born in Johnson City, Tennessee. East Tennessee rocks, and so does Gatlinburg. Aaaand so does mango habanero whiskey…

mango-habanero-whiskey

This is the smoothest alcohol I’ve ever consumed. The burn you get from this whiskey is not a typical alcohol burn — it’s a pepper burn, and it’s incredible. At first, you taste the sweetness from the mango, but when you swallow you feel and taste the burn of the habanero. Ole Smoky has a plethora of awesome bottled beverages, but the mango habanero is by far my favorite. If you ever find yourself in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, holler at the only LA Rams fan around.

Tom Brady is the Greatest Quarterback I’ve Ever Seen (In My Life)

I’ve had almost 36 hours to digest what the fook (*Conor McGregor voice*) happened on Sunday evening.

Sunday was quite the tiring day. The wind was blowing heavily outside as I had the damnedest time getting my fire started on my smoker. I was going to get everything ready to go, though! I smoked a 10 lb. pork shoulder on Friday, in which leftovers existed for Sunday evening, and on that Sunday I smoked 11 bacon-wrapped, cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers, a family pack of chicken thighs and about 5 lbs. of country pork ribs. Dana and I also made pepperoni rolls.

Our guests for the evening were my de-facto Falcons fan-brother (that I wrote about at the end of this post; I will refer to him as “Falcons Broski” for the rest of this post), his girlfriend, his girlfriend’s son and a mutual great friend of ours that is a Cowboys fan. They brought chips, cupcakes and 8 lbs. of chicken wings (all 8 lbs. of which I deep fried).

Everything was set! Delicious food had been prepared by yours truly, and it was ready at about the time the big game came on.

Falcons Broski was pumped (of course) from the get go, when Devonte Freeman busted out a big run to open the game for the Falcons. Falcons Broski’s palms were sweaty as he kept wiping them on his jeans. And then LeGarrette Blount fumbled the ball away. Not long after, Matt Ryan led the Falcons down the field and Devonte Freeman ran for a touchdown to put the Falcons ahead 7-0 in the second quarter. A little while later, Ryan connected with Austin Hooper in the endzone for another Falcons’ touchdown. 14-0. Falcons Broski was singing Atlanta’s praise at this point. It got even better for him when Robert Alford picked off Tom Brady and ran it back for an 82-yard touchdown. 21-0 Falcons.

And so all was good during the first half as the Falcons took a 28-3 lead into halftime. I was mindblown at how Atlanta was dominating New England. Tom Brady was missing throws and Julian Edelman couldn’t catch a cold. Everybody in the living room was laughing and talking up a storm. I didn’t watch much of the halftime show as I excused myself to the kitchen to fill up on some grub.

Into the second half, the Falcons continued their dominance when Ryan hooked up with Tevin Coleman for another score. 28-3 Falcons. We debated who would win the Super Bowl MVP, Ryan or Julio Jones? Jones had been on fire.

The Patriots scored a little while later, but missed the extra point. 28-9 going into the fourth quarter. Falcons Broski was still all laughs, all a good time… the Patriots hit a field goal to make the game 28-12. A little while later, Matt Ryan fumbled and Brady led the Patriots down the field for another touchdown, this time to Danny Amendola (he’ll always be RAMendola), and they converted on a 2-point conversion to make the game 28-20!

I still figured the Falcons had the game in the bag, y’know? They had been tearing up the Patriots all night with their running game, so all was good. Falcons Broski started getting quiet. Everybody in the whole damn living room was quiet as we locked in on the game.

Y’know that part about the Falcons destroying the Pats with their running game? Yeah, about that… they only ran the ball a few times after securing that 28-3 lead! In the drive following the one where the Pats made it 28-20, the Falcons kept passing the ball! When they were setting up a great drive after what would have been a historically awesome Julio Jones reception, they… passed, and Ryan got sacked. They passed once more… another Ryan sack. Third and long, they passed, and I believe this one went to Mohamed Sanu for little gain. In hindsight (I know it’s always 20/20), the Falcons could have ran the ball, used some clock and hit a field goal to make it a two score game. Instead, they nonsensically passed and it ruined ’em.

Brady cut through the Falcons’ defense on the next drive, when Julian Edelman made one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen… the Patriots scored and a quick pass to Danny Amendola secured the 2-point conversion.

The Super Bowl saw its first overtime in 51 games. The Patriots won the coin toss, got the ball and the rest is history. Falcons Broski sat in complete silence for about 15 minutes. I reckon we all did. I still can’t believe what transpired. The Falcons completed the biggest choke in the history of the NFL.

My feelings were bipolar on Sunday evening. I say that, because when the Falcons went up 28-3, I thought, “Welp, there goes my thoughts about Tom Brady. I mean, hell, I used Peyton Manning’s 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in 2014 as a way of saying, ‘Brady would never lose like that!’ And here Brady is, losing 28-3 to the Falcons!”

I was also thinking, “Damn, the NFL has evolved and passed Bill Belichick up! The Falcons have all these playmakers that are eating the Pats away, while the Pats have next to no playmakers! Belichick needs to up the ante and draft some playmakers!”

By the end of the game… holy hell!

Yes, the Falcons choked the game away. Kyle Shanahan made piss poor calls (by not running the football more). However, the Patriots’ D played out of this world, and Tom Brady was invincible, as if you were playing All-Madden on a Madden video game and trying to stop the CPU.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback I’ve ever seen in my life. Albeit a short life, I’ve watched Brady from the get go.

Let me tell anybody who cares to read this story: on February 3, 2002 I watched my St. Louis Rams, a team that was heavily favored in Super Bowl XXXVI, shockingly fall to the New England Patriots 20-17. The Rams were down 17-3 but battled back with a HALL OF FAMER Kurt Warner quarterback sneak and a Warner-to-Ricky Proehl touchdown pass. In the Patriots’ final drive, a young man by the name of Tom Brady, who took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe earlier in the season, stepped up to the plate and led the Pats down the field as John Madden recommended that the Pats play for overtime. Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard field goal and gave the Patriots their first Super Bowl win in NFL history after they were embarrassed by the Bears in ’86 and clowned by the Packers in ’97.

I was pissed off. I watched the game next to my dad, and he grinned from ear to ear. You see, I think deep down my dad liked the Rams and thought Kurt Warner was a hell of a quarterback, but he liked to get under my skin in order to aggravate me. I digress. As we watched the post-game celebration and Tom Brady was anointed the game’s MVP, I rolled my eyes. “He’s the MVP with just 107 passing yards and a touchdown? That’s crap!” My dad looked over at me and said, “Tom Brady is going to win a bunch of Super Bowls. He plays with poise and he’s a winner. He doesn’t let the pressure of the big stage get to him”.

My dad had no reason to say something like that. No bias. He was a fan of the Miami Dolphins, a divisional rival of the Pats. He passed away a week before Christmas in 2003, so he didn’t see the Patriots’ subsequent Super Bowl appearances and victories (at least in this realm), but he was absolutely right in his prediction that Brady would win a ‘bunch’ of Super Bowls.

I often wonder what my dad would say about Brady now. Dad was born in 1954, so he grew up watching Joe Namath (he always said that he and his brothers idolized Namath when they were young boys), then he became a Dolphins fan in the early ’70s and remained one the rest of his life. He got to witness Joe Montana’s greatness in the ’80s, and I mention that because he always told me that Montana was the greatest ever. Since he was a Dolphins fan, I asked, “What about Dan Marino?” And my dad would say, “He’s great, he has the stats but he didn’t get it done in the playoffs. He couldn’t rally the troops.” I went and looked at Marino’s playoff performances and noticed how many times the Dolphins were ousted by double digits. Dad had a point.

Since my dad’s death, I’ve had a billion dreams about him where we talk about sports, from football to basketball to boxing to MMA. After Sunday evening’s game, I’d love to be able to talk to him about what transpired.

My dad also made a bold prediction about another quarterback, and although he ended up being wrong, he was almost right about this next prediction. I’ll never forget one day when my dad and I were passing a Nerf football around in the driveway in the summer of 2001. I remember that Peyton Manning was on the box. Manning was coming off his third year in the NFL. Dad thought that Manning was robotic on the field, when I asked him his thoughts about ol’ #18. “He’s robotic and a control freak. You don’t want that in a quarterback. Makes the rest of the offense nervous. He’ll never win a Super Bowl.”

Years later, with Peyton and the Colts’ meeting failure after failure, being dominated by the Pats in ’04 and ’05, stifled by the Steelers in ’06… I thought my dad was going to be correct in this prediction, too. As luck would have it, in January 2007 the Colts’ defense came into full fruition, with safety Bob Sanders (remember how dominant he was?) leading the charge. The Colts had the luxury of playing an overrated Chicago Bears team in the Super Bowl, a Bears’ team that featured Rex Grossman, the worst quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl (at least since Vince Ferragamo with the ’79 Rams). For a while the game was close, but Grossman’s incompetence as a quarterback failed the Bears and Peyton won a Super Bowl with a score of 29-17.

I always thought Peyton lucked out by playing the Bears in that Super Bowl. When the Colts made it back to another Super Bowl when they played the Saints in 2010, the Saints won by two touchdowns, including a pick-6 from Peyton Manning that sealed the victory for ‘Nawlins. A few years later, Peyton went to Denver and we saw him and the Broncos go to another Super Bowl, this time in 2014, against a Seahawks team. The Seahawks blew out the Broncos 43-8; Peyton couldn’t do anything to stifle the Seahawks’ defense that game, and the majority of the game Peyton spent his time on the sidelines, looking down and sulking. A year later, the Seahawks played Tom Brady and the Pats, and well, even though the Seahawks screwed their chances in the closing seconds, Brady and the Pats came out with a close victory.

A hobbled Peyton Manning that could no longer effectively play the quarterback position won a Super Bowl with a stacked, all-time top 15 defense on the Broncos last year in 2016, but that was effectively the Denver defense’s doings.

I digress. I’ve tried so hard to hate Tom Brady over the years, but I just can’t. I watched my Rams lose to them in upsetting fashion 15 years ago in Super Bowl XXXVI, and ever since — as I’ve watched my Rams’ toil in losing season after losing season since 2004 (I still love ’em, whether they are in St. Louis or Los Angeles) — I’ve watched Brady go to seven Super Bowls. Brady would have seven rings if his defense would have stymied the Giants in ’08 and ’12. (I always thought that the Super Bowl on February 3, 2008 — five years after the Rams’ loss — was poetic justice as the 18-0 Pats fell to the underdog Giants…. y’know, once upon a time I always thought it was my dad looking down from heaven and preserving the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins’ perfect record from being broken by the Pats….)

Last week, when the little kid at media day asked Tom Brady who his hero was and he kinda choked up and said his dad, I’m not gonna lie… when I watched that, I shed a couple of tears and thought about my hero — my dad. My dad was the smartest, most hardworking man I’ve ever known. He believed in true hard work and embracing the grind. He believed through hard work and perseverance that you could accomplish anything and everything, all criticizers’ and detractors’ words be damned! He passed that mindset on down to me, I’d like to hope/think. He always believed that hard work beats talent all seven days of the week. My dad was only about 5’6″ or 5’7″, his nickname among his brothers, his two sisters and his childhood friends was always, “Stubby” because of his hands (although he always had an inappropriate — albeit hilarious — joke about that), but he was genuinely the strongest, smartest and relentlessly hard working person I’ve ever known. And when I say, “smartest”, I don’t mean naturally. I mean he craved learning! When he wanted to learn something, he’d go and do it. We got a computer in the early ’90s and he learned how to use it himself. He was incredible at math. He wasn’t all that great at spelling (he’d be happy with spell check these days), but he was a pretty damn good writer, too! He was a businessman that treated people the way he wanted to be treated, and he loved joking/teasing the hell out of everyone. I’m so damn proud to carry his name. If I can even become 1/4th the man he was, I will be happy.

I digress. Before I finish this up, I just want to point something out. I will never understand the popularity contest and the polarizing love/hate-fest between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The country hates Brady but loves Manning. They see Brady as “smug and arrogant” (how?) and Manning as the everyday guy. This is 110% due to advertising and marketing. You don’t see Brady in very many ads at all. Yet you see Peyton advertising for Domino’s, Nationwide, DirecTV, Buick and Oreo. You see Manning on Saturday Night Live. Every time, he’s portrayed as the average everyday guy, when that couldn’t be more opposite. Brady is actually originally more of an ‘everyday’ guy than Manning will ever be. Manning was born with a silver spoon in his mouth; his dad was an NFL quarterback and is in the college football hall of fame for his time at Ole Miss. The Manning family is probably one of the richest in all of sports combined. Manning had the option to go to school anywhere, went to Tennessee and was the first pick in the ’98 NFL Draft.

On the flipside, Tom Brady embodies the All-American Dream. Brady grew up in northern California in a middle class family. His whole life as an unathletic quarterback was an uphill battle. No college coaches even looked at him. He was sending high school highlights tapes to every college he possibly could. As luck would have it, he attended the University of Michigan, but he had to sit for his first couple years. He had to battle with Drew Henson for a starting position in his last two years as a Wolverine. He was overlooked in the 2000 NFL Draft and was lucky to be picked in the 6th round, pick #199, by the New England Patriots. If Drew Bledsoe didn’t go down in the 2000 season, we might’ve lucked out and never seen him on the playing field. Brady has gone on to win 5 Super Bowls and appeared in 7.

Don’t get me wrong. I actively root against the Pats. I will always feel that Super Bowl XXXVI was emblazoned with controversy (Marshall Faulk being held, roughing the passer not being called when Kurt Warner was receiving late hits, Brady not being flagged for intentional grounding, etc.), but Brady truly embodies the All-American success story. I think that’s why my dad was an instant believer/fan of Brady, even as early as 2002, because he saw the struggle Brady went through, and he appreciated that.

I would love to be able to sit down with my dad and his best friend Sonny (who was like a second dad to me) one more time and listen to them trash talk each other’s NFL teams. Every time a wild or big moment happens in sports, I always wonder what my dad would’ve thought about it.

I know this post went all over the place. No rhythm, nothing. But I don’t care. I needed to write/document this.

Charles Barkley is Right About LeBron James

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time defending LeBron James over the years. Lately he’s been bitching about wanting more playmakers on the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think it’s just a ploy to stir up dust, something he seems to do just about every January (the last couple of Januarys) to light a fire under his team. No harm, no foul.

Charles Barkley said that LeBron is whiny; I agree.

“Daddy” (The Cleveland Cavaliers) told the child (LeBron James) he can’t have his toy. LeBron, who has a house full of toys, runs crying to “mommy” (the media) saying that “daddy” doesn’t love him. “Mommy” and “daddy” fight when the toy store worker (Charles Barkley) pipes in and implores the “daddy” and “mommy” to act like adults. “You spoiled that child and now he’s a whiny brat”, Barkley the toy store worker emits. “How many toys do you need kid?” And now the child is running to “mommy” saying that the mean man hurt his feelings. Just imagine what all the other parents (teams) and children (players) are thinking.

In all seriousness, why do we now have a society where the criticizer dishing out soft criticism is dubbed a ‘hater’? I’ve wrote about this in the past. I despise that word and I can’t help but view people saying it as childish or downright mentally ill-by-choice.

LeBron went on to Google some lurid facts about Barkley’s indiscretions and brought it to light. You can tell just how offended ‘Bron was/is, just by how emotional he is about it. He might just be the most thin skinned star in NBA history.