Draft Day

This weekend 253 lives changed as the 32 NFL teams selected their 2017 draft picks.

For three days, hundreds of athletes waited waited nervously, hoping that they would get that phone call that would determine their future.

They had already put in all of the work that they could. They played fiercely in college (most of them), they attracted the eye of the scouts and they performed well in the combine. Now, they wait.

Wait to hear their name called on the stage in Philadelphia.

As school winds down and graduation day looms over the heads of many students (including myself), one can’t help but think of graduating and applying to jobs as a draft.

For years, we students have been training for the moment that we graduate and can use our skills in the real world. We sharpen our skills in classes, we put them to the test through internships, and then we send out our applications to the recruiters who hold our futures in their hands.

And then we wait.

And wait.

And hope that we get picked.

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This is real life

But once that coveted job offer comes in, the work is only just beginning.

Next, comes the task of separating yourself from the pack, proving that you were worth the chance that the recruiters took on you.

253 young men may have gotten drafted over the weekend, but will they all make the coveted 53-man roster come September? Only time will tell.

Many corporate companies have programs that recruit recent graduates. I myself was a lucky recruit of such a program out of undergrad. My company hired over 500 recent graduates that they trained and invested in to become the future of the company.

Or so I thought.

The reality is that companies that hire like this are often looking only for the top talent. They figure the more the hire, the more chances they have to find what they really want. They hire in bulk and gradually trim the fat until they are reduced to only their Grade-A meat.

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This is all you are until you prove yourself otherwise

This is the reality that these young football players now face. They must prove themselves worthy of their rookie contracts, lest they do not make the final roster, or get relegated to the practice squad.

But if they do succeed and prove their worth in their rookie years, then they have the option for a massive payday further down the road.

Just like in the real world these athletes must start from the bottom and work their up.

Athletes do not simply get drafted into the starting lineup. They have to prove that they are ready for it though extensive training camps.

Young graduates do not simply get recruited to upper level positions. They have to prove that they are ready for it by first succeeding in their entry-level positions.

The draft is a day on which many dreams come true for athletes who have worked towards this moment for most of their lives.

Graduation day is that same day for the rest of us not blessed with super speed, strength, or height (thanks mom and dad). It is the day that we get into the real world and have to begin to prove to our employers that we are worth their investment.

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Draft day for the Plebeians aka non-athletes

Getting to draft day takes hard work and determination, but the real work starts the day after.

 

 

 

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I Got It From My Mama

To a lot of people sports are still seen as a great opportunity for father/son (some progressives will say father/daughter) bonding time. The quintessential picture of American “family time” is of a father and son basking in the sun at a baseball game, eating hotdogs and sipping an ice-cold lemonade (maybe I’ve watched too many movies set in the 1950’s).

But for me that is not the case.

My love of sports was given to me by my mom. Growing up, I can recall a steady lineup of sports being on the TV on the weekends.

But I don’t think I was always very appreciative of it. I remember Sundays where my mom would want to watch football, but I wanted to watch Lizzie McGuire or whatever preteen Disney show was on TV at the time. To compromise, my mom would simply record the games she wanted to watch so I could watch my shows…and then we would watch football later (it felt like I was winning the battle at the time). Gradually, I began to see reason and would just watch the games live with my mom.

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I still consider this one of the best Disney shows of all time

These Sundays almost always included a New England Patriots game. My mom and I both love Tom Brady. Let’s face it,  I was a teenage girl, there was never any hope not to like Tom Brady circa 2004.

Growing up, I felt like my mom’s interest in football and sports was normal. It never occurred to me that not everyone is into sports, and especially not all girls.

When I went to high school I was excited for Friday night football games. Our school’s team was good- small Catholic school, people care, or at least act like they care. My friends and I went to all of the football games…except I was usually the only one actually watching the game. Don’t you know high school games are about socializing and not watching the game? I did…but I didn’t care. If it was a good game I wanted to watch it.

Flash forward to college and beyond when I now help explain rules to my friends who want to know more about sports because now it’s “cool” if girls know sports. I would always much rather be the girl who knows what she’s talking about, rather than the girl who wants to ask a boy to explain something.

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Goals

A couple of months ago, my mom and I were in an Uber on a Sunday in the middle of the football season. We’re all dressed up because we are going to the theatre. My mom starts chatting to the driver (it’s what she does) about the games going on that day and recent trades and coaching decisions in the NFL. After about ten minutes of this conversation, the driver says, “Wow, you really know your football.”  The tone of surprise is never quite absent when males realize that girls can know about sports too. But at this point I’m used to it. Girls like sports. It’s not a weird thing anymore.

But my mom really does know what she’s talking about (sometimes to my dismay).

Everything I know about sports started with my mom… and sacrificing the Disney channel for football on Sundays.

Perfect Illusion

“They [the Falcons] are the underdogs.”

“The Patriots have more experience.”

“Ryan is good, but you can never count out Brady.”

“It will be a close game, but the Patriots will win.”

Turns out…they were right.

In the greatest Super Bowl comeback in history, the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime to win Super Bowl LI.

The Falcons came out of the gate strong Sunday night, leading 21-3 at halftime. Their defense sacked Brady twice in the same drive in the first quarter, against an offense who has only allowed fifteen sacks on Brady all season. The Falcons scored a pick-six off Brady to put them ahead 21-0.

The Patriots went into the locker room at the half having only managed to score a field-goal.

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Falcons’ fans rejoice at this sight of Brady

Troy Aikman repeatedly reminded America that no team has ever come back from more than a ten-point deficit in the Super Bowl.

And let’s not forget,  the Falcons also had two important groups in their corner. The puppies and the pigs.

I am of course referring to Live with Kelly’s  and The Tonight Show’s Super Bowl predicting pigs and puppies, respectively.

Kelly Ripa and guest co-host Carrie Ann Inaba raced pigs this week to predict who would win the Super Bowl. The Notorious P.I.G., representing the Falcons, immediately ran down the field to the end-zone. Meanwhile, Piggy Smalls, repping the Patriots, took his time moseying down the field, while periodically stopping and grazing. By all accounts of the first half of the actual game, it seemed like these pigs were on to something.

Jimmy Fallon’s puppies were equally tuned in to the Falcons’ bandwagon. The majority of the hungry puppies went straight to the Falcons bowl, ignoring the less popular Patriots bowl.

Yet, while the Falcons seemingly had everything going for them as they took the field in the second half, there was one important factor that may explain why they lost the largest lead in Super Bowl history and gave away 31 unanswered points- Bill Plaschke.

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Readers of the Los Angeles Times may be familiar with writer Bill Plaschke who has, by self-admission, correctly predicted three out of seventeen Super Bowls. That’s fifteen miscalled Super Bowls. Bill recognizes his own short-comings and even apologized to the Falcons for predicting that this was their year. He regretfully wrote this morning, “The Falcons seem like like such a nice bunch of folks, it’s a shame to jinx them like this, but all the human signs point to a huge upset of arguably the greatest dynasty in NFL history.”

Well Bill, you predicted an upset alright, just not quite what you were hoping for. There are many unpredictable things that have happened over the past several months, but it’s comforting to know that taking the opposite view of Bill Plaschke is still the closest one can get to a sure bet.

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Matt Ryan can take comfort in the fact that it wasn’t his fault. This epic comeback was destined to happen. All he had to do was read the Los Angeles Times this morning.

Four Years Later, No Redemption for Seattle in Atlanta

January 13, 2013– The Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons met in Atlanta for the NFC Divisional Playoff.

The Georgia Dome may have a roof, but the temperature inside was cold as ice. At least for Seahawks fans who saw their post-season dreams freeze when head coach Pete Carroll iced his own kicker Steven Hauschka, who then missed what would have been a game-winning field goal.

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This post-season match-up featured two teams who had only one previous Super Bowl appearance each and zero Super Bowl championships. Fans of both teams were on the edge of their seats as Atlanta, who had the early lead with 20-0 at the half, watched Seattle make an incredible comeback run in the fourth quarter and narrow the score 30-28. With 0:08 left on the clock, Seattle lined up for the infamous field goal attempt.

Winning the game 30-28, Atlanta went on to keep chasing the Super Bowl dream for one more year, while Seattle went back home to the drawing board.

Four years later-The Seahawks have a Super Bowl championship and back-to-back “rePETE” Super Bowl appearances. The Falcons are still hankering for that Super Bowl ring.

The Seahawks have been in the playoffs every year since 2012. The Falcons have not made it to the playoffs since 2012.

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Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator for Seattle’s top ranked defense, who led them to two Super Bowl appearances and a championship ring, is now the head coach for Atlanta.

Seattle’s 2016 season has been riddled with inconsistencies and injuries from key players including safety Earl Thomas III, quarterback Russell Wilson, and wide-receiver Tyler Lockett. The team continues to carry around the weight of the infamous 2015 Super Bowl pass call that resulted in an interception and the loss of a second championship. But Seattle is determined to prove they are still the championship team they were three years ago.

Atlanta’s 2016 season has been one for the records. Quarterback Matt Ryan finished the season with career highs in touchdowns, passer ratings and completion percentage. However, the Falcons, who boast the number one offense in the country, are still being dubbed by critics as merely a good “regular season” team.

Each team continues to have something to prove.

January 14, 2017- The Seattle Seahawks met for the first time in the post-season since 2013. Once more the NFC Divisional Playoff was held in Atlanta.

History seemed to be repeating itself in this game, as Atlanta scored a safety and twelve unanswered points, leading 19-10 at the half.

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Yet, this time there was no fourth quarter comeback for the Seahawks. Seattle allowed nineteen unanswered points before quietly responding with a 26-yard field goal late in the third quarter, making the score 26-13 with Atlanta leading.

Gaps from injured Seattle defensive players were felt, and more injuries continued to plague the game, including cornerback DeShawn Shead who suffered a serious knee injury. Huge penalties called back what yardage Seattle’s special teams could muster.

This time around Atlanta routed Seattle 36-20.

For the Seahawks, there was no redemption in Atlanta.

For the Falcons, there was the continuing spark of hope.

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Matt Ryan proved that he can get it done under pressure, throwing 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dan Quinn proved that he could beat his former team and still be classy by taking a knee at first and goal in the remaining seconds of the game. Atlanta gave their fans something to cheer for as they played what could have been the final game at the Georgia Dome before the Falcons move into their new stadium next season.

Once more Seattle returns home to the drawing board (or more likely the rehab facility) while Atlanta thinks ahead to the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.

The Super Bowl dream is still in the cards for Atlanta. Maybe this time around they will actually make it a reality.