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Uncle Andy's Blog Archives for 2014-01

Home of the Brave


The experience of a flyover is one of the most awesome displays of military force in all of sports.  The sheer speed, deafening roar and the fact it all comes from above, are enough to demand everyone’s attention.  At that moment we are all one, Americans.  The flyover is not confined to just the Super Bowl.  College Bowl games, Indy 500, U.S. Open Tennis, Major League Baseball All-Star and World-Series games, NASCAR events, and the Army-Navy Football Game are included.  The flyovers are also used to celebrate or remember historical events that have occurred during time of conflict.  Flyovers over London, England and Normandy, France occur every year.    

I experienced my first flyover in person in 1992, during Super Bowl XXVII, at the Rose Bowl.  Garth Brooks sang the National Anthem as the Blue Angel Navy jets roared overhead at the end of the anthem.  Then the Cowboys promptly beat the Bills.  It was exciting, exhilarating, and powerful.  It made me feel patriotic, intense, and invincible.  The adrenaline rush makes the hair actually stand up on your arms and neck.  I have attended five different Super Bowls, several MLB All-Star Games and World Series Games, and many NASCAR events.  The flyovers at each of these events were incredible.  They just never got old.  The flyover has become tradition, a part of the build-up of some of the greatest sporting events in this country.  And to think it all happens right at the end of the singing of our National Anthem. 

The singing of our anthem can vary from one performer to another, but it generally lasts about one minute and 15 seconds.  On January 27, 1991, in Tampa, Florida, just seconds after Whitney Houston finished singing the last note of our anthem before Super Bowl XXV, four Air Force F-16 jet fighter and attack planes, in formation, thundered overhead at that precise moment.  How do they do that?  TOT, or “time on target,” is just another day for our military.  When you combine a specific time, with takeoff, distance, and air speed, and a forward air-traffic controller inside the stadium for last-minute guidance, you receive and experience the flyover as the last notes “and the home of the brave” are being sung.  These aircraft often come from long distances and there is a holding area provided above each event, out of sight of the stadium.  This is where the man on the ground comes in.  He is giving last-second instructions on the timing of the song, as the aircraft comes in sight.  The pilot can now actually hear the anthem being played inside his cockpit as they approach.  The Air Force B-52H Stratofortress Bomber, the Navy F/A-18 Hornet Fighter Jets, and the CH-53 Echo Super Stallion Helicopter have all been used at different sporting events.  The only challenge comes from the weather.

The average cost of a flyover is estimated at 450,000 dollars.  The costs of flyovers are part of our military budget.  Of course that bill is footed by us, the taxpayers.  Is it worth it?  According to the Navy, it’s more than worth their efforts.  They claim that operating during a time of all-volunteer armed services, it’s important to show the strength of our armed forces and that the flyovers attract many proud young men and women to the Navy or Marines.  These flyovers also provide our pilots more time in the air, which in turn keeps them sharp and ready.

On this Sunday, February 2, Super Bowl XLVIII will be played in New Jersey at Metlife Stadium.  It will look and sound awesome on television, but it will be nothing compared to being there.  At the writing of this article, the name of the National Anthem singer has not been released. 

As you gather with your friends and sit into that large comfortable chair, surrounded by football food and drinks, make sure and remember that the flyover is a reminder that we can all sleep safely tonight at home in our beds, because our military is out there literally watching over us from above and protecting our freedoms.  God Bless America!

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or andy.purvis@grandecom.net.

Don't Rub His Head


 

This guy can catch anything, including a falling star.  Action is the loudest and clearest statement of what people can do when they know they can.  His ability to play the “hot corner” was uncanny.  It was as if he could see into the future.  His mantra was, play as hard as you can and respect your opponent.  Meanwhile, catch everything within reach and knock the cover off of the baseball.  You didn’t look for reasons to take this guy out of the lineup; you looked for reasons to keep him in.  He looked so young; you would swear he was playing hooky.  His head was big, really big; when he flew on a plane, he needed a separate ticket for his cap.  He owned a smile that would melt chocolate, but at times could be cold-blooded like an icebox, especially if you rubbed his head.  He hates when people rub his head for luck.  It has also been rumored that he does not wear a protective cup while playing.  That makes it a lot more important to be able to handle those balls pulled in his direction from only 90 feet away from home plate.  He’ll be 35 on his next birthday, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him play.  When greatness meets class, you have Adrian Beltre.  When you meet Adrian, remember you may shake his hand, pat him on the back, but don’t rub his head. 

Boy, can he blister a fastball; some say he could hit .300 with a pool cue.  He hits baseballs like Floyd Mayweather hits a chin.  Just maybe he has a coupon for all-you-can-eat fastballs.  No doubt he can shrink a ballpark with one swing of his bat.  He has become known for his signature home-run swing, where he drops down to one knee when he connects with an off-speed pitch.  In the last three years with Texas, Beltre has hit .312 at the plate.  With an average of over 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s a year, this guy is used to doing the heavy lifting for the Rangers.  My guess is that he’ll be number fifteen, right after Chipper Jones, to take his place in Cooperstown as a third baseman.  If he continues to play at his current level he could end up being statistically one of the top two or three third basemen of all time, behind only Eddie Mathews and Mike Schmidt.  With two years left on his contract and an additional one year player’s option, he is poised to take advantage of the Ranger’s new acquisitions, Prince Fielder and Shin Soo Choo.  Fielder should provide plenty of protection at the plate while Choo will more than likely be standing on a base when Beltre comes to bat.

Beltre grew up in the Dominican and signed with Los Angeles in 1994.  Adrian Beltre spent some time in the Minor Leagues with the Dodger Double-A affiliate, San Antonio Missions.  The Missions are in the same division as the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League.  Beltre made his debut with the Dodgers on June 24, 1998, against the Anaheim Angels.  Interestingly, six days after his debut, Adrian hit his first Major League home run off Rick Helling of the Texas Rangers.  Beltre would start slowly with the Dodgers, but build toward a terrific season in 2004, where he led all of the Major Leagues with 48 home runs.  He was honored with the Babe Ruth Home Run Award.

In 2005, Beltre signed as a free agent with the Seattle Mariners for 64 million dollars, spread out over five years.  The large confines of Safeco Field and the added pressure of a big-time contract created additional weight.  While playing in Seattle, he disappeared faster than the big kid in a dodge ball game.  His numbers suffered at the plate and his number of errors also increased.  Other than making a lot of money, Beltre did accomplish several things.  On July 23, 2006, he became the first to hit an inside-the-park home run at Safeco Field.  On September 1, 2008, Beltre became the fourth Mariner to hit for the cycle and, third, his decision to not wear a protective cup would come back to haunt him.  On August 13, 2009, Beltre took a hard-hit ground ball to the crotch.  He ended up on the disabled list.  During his first at-bat when he returned to the lineup, teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. had the P.A. announcer play the waltz from The Nutcracker Suite. 

On November 5, 2009, he was declared a free agent; next stop, Fenway Park.  His one-year 9-million-dollar stop in Boston paid big dividends for the Red Sox and himself. 

On January 5, 2011, Beltre signed a five-year deal for 80 million, with the Texas Rangers.  This three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner has continued to get better while leading the Rangers to three consecutive playoffs and two World Series appearances.  On August 22, 2012, I watched Adrian Beltre become only the sixth player in Major League history to hit three home runs in a regular season and a postseason game.  The others were:  Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, George Brett, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval.

For eleven of his sixteen seasons, Beltre has worn the #29.  He now approaches 400 home runs, with 2,426 hits and has tallied over 1300 RBI’s.  If it weren’t for his five miserable years in Seattle, his career batting average would be near .300.

As for rubbing his head, it’s the real deal for him.  He hates it.  The story goes that while in Seattle, Cy Young winner, pitcher Felix Hernandez, discovered Beltre’s dislike of someone touching his head.  When Adrian was traded to Boston, King Felix told Red Sox catcher, Victor Martinez, about Beltre’s issue with people touching his head.  Of course Victor told all his teammates and the picking on Adrian was on.  Heck, even Superman had issues with Kryptonite.  Now the Rangers all take their turns, especially shortstop Elvis Andrus.  Even Skipper Ron Washington got into the act last year.  How far it will go is anybody’s guess.  But as long as Beltre keeps putting up numbers, that noggin of his will remain a target.

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or andy.purvis@grandecom.net.

 

 

Perfect Storm


 

He was the shark in the movie “Jaws”, an unstoppable quarterback eating machine.  No one who saw him play will ever forget him.  They will never forget how strong, how agile and fast; how nothing could stop him when he set his mind.  Some said he was a genetic mistake.  It was scary for a quarterback to look into his eyes, round, lifeless, charcoal black eyes, like a doll.  He forced teams to use two tight-end sets, to keep an extra back in the backfield to block (H-back).  He changed pass-rushing schemes and offensive line play.  It has been said that one of the greatest freedoms in life is the freedom from fear.  This theory does not apply in the NFL.  When this guy walked down the street, people stepped aside.  Hitting people “hard” was strictly a business decision for him.  He thought it was a good one.  So, who was the most dominant force in the NFL during the 1980’s?  No, it wasn’t Joe Montana, Walter Payton, John Elway, Dan Marino, or Jerry Rice.  He was the first New York Football Giant to ever make one-million dollars a year playing football.  His name was Lawrence Julius Taylor.  His mother called him Lonnie but his enemies called him “L.T.”  Football will remember him as the “perfect storm.” 

Sometimes good and evil do not live miles apart.  Sometimes they get tangled up together.  This may be the case for L.T., but there was no myth.  L.T. was very, very real.  The New York Giants had been bad for many years, but he changed all that.  Taylor’s teammates starting calling him “Superman” and joked that his locker should have been a phone booth.  No doubt you’ve heard a lot of stories about this guy, but today you’re going to read his. 

With the second pick, in the first round of the 1981 NFL draft, Lawrence Taylor was plucked out of the University of North Carolina.  Head Coach Bum Phillips of the New Orleans Saints had the first pick and took running-back George Rodgers.  Taylor, a college All-American, began training camp on the Giants’ third team defense.  Eventually he was moved up to the second team and before you knew it, the first team.  The joke was, this all happened in about thirty minutes.  Yes, he was that good, and it didn’t take his defensive coordinator, Bill Parcells, long to notice that he was different. 

Interestingly, Taylor was disappointed and unimpressed with the Giants and Giants Stadium; he had wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy.  Although Taylor wore #98 in college (he was projected to be a defensive lineman when recruited), he chose to wear #56 for the Giants in honor of his favorite player, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson.  That should have been the first red flag that Taylor was a little “sideways” when it came to discipline.  UNC later retired Taylor’s #98.

Taylor became the definition of euphoria.  Joe Theisman tells a story of how, when the Redskins played the Giants, they used a chalk board to draw up their offensive sets.  “We used letters to define the defensive positions,” said Joe.  “We used a D for down linemen, an L for linebackers, a C for cornerbacks, and an S for safeties.  But for Lawrence Taylor, we used his #56 with a circle around it.”  Everybody knew where L.T. lined up on every play:  the fans, referees, the offensive linemen, even the parking lot attendant.  He set the bar for outside linebackers.  In New York, the media capital of the world, Taylor became Babe Ruth with shoulder pads.

The 1980’s linebacker corps of the New York Giants was magnificent.  Gary Reasons, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, Brad Van Pelt, Brian Kelly, and Hall of Famers Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor roamed the defensive side of the ball like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, guarding the end zone. 

Most of us will remember a game played during the 1985 season on TV on Monday Night Football.  The Giants were pitted against their arch rival, the Washington Redskins.  Taylor claimed he in no way meant for the injury to happen.  Taylor’s sack of Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann, which resulted in a compound fracture of Joe’s right leg, ended Theismann’s career.  Taylor, upset at what he had done, screamed for the trainers to attend to Theismann.  Joe never blamed Taylor.

Taylor produced double-digit sacks each season from 1984 through 1990.  His career high (20.5) sacks occurred in the 1986 season.  At 6’3” tall and weighing 237 pounds, he could he could enter the opposition’s backfield many different ways.  Some historians believe that sacks became an official statistic in 1982 partly because of Lawrence Taylor.  Along the way he led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins ( XXI and XXV); Taylor was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1986, and he also won a record three Defensive-Player-of-the-Year Awards (1981, 1982 and 1986).  Add ten Pro Bowl selections and ten All-Pro Awards, and you have the most disruptive force at outside linebacker ever seen in NFL history.  Taylor was elected in 1999, on his first ballot to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Taylor’s controversial lifestyle during and after his football career, also became headlines.  He has admitted drug use as early as his second year in the league.  In the City of Lights (New York) everybody wanted to touch him, shake his hand, and say “hello.”  His money was no good as others made it easy for him to say “yes.”  He did fail several NFL drug tests and was suspended.  No doubt he led an addictive lifestyle.  In his mind, he grew too big for New Jersey, too big for football, too big for marriage to one woman.  Today he would tell you, “Drugs!  I did it because I could.”  Now he wears flip flops, smokes cigars, and copes with life by playing golf and laughter created from making jokes.

January 15, 1994, twenty years ago this week, Lawrence Taylor played in his last NFL game.  Later that year he officially retired.  At 34, Taylor, a troubled soul, went out of the game quickly.  “I retired when Head Coach Parcells left, I just didn’t tell anyone until three years later,” said Taylor.  Parcells and Taylor stayed mad at each other most of the time.  Parcells would accept nothing but Taylor’s best, while Taylor felt he was unfairly being singled out.  There was one thing you could count on.  On Sundays at one o’clock, L.T. would be standing next to Parcells when the National Anthem played.  I am reminded of Parcells’ acceptance speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Bill said in jest, “When they put my bust in the Hall of Fame, I asked them to place me close to L.T. so I can keep an eye on that sucker.” 

Besides the awards mentioned above, the other awards won by Lawrence Taylor are too numerous to list here.  He is credited with 1,088 tackles, nine interceptions, and 142 sacks, including the 9.5 sacks recording during his rookie season before they were counted.  Taylor also scored two touchdowns, forced 33 fumbles, and recovered eleven of those.

You can still catch him occasionally in a movie role or on television.  He has appeared in Sports Illustrated on occasion and been interviewed by many different writers over the years.  He also worked on the TNT Sunday Night Football telecast as an analyst and appeared in a World Wrestling Federation match, where he defeated “Bam Bam” Bigelow.  While high on cocaine, he was present as his #56 was retired by the New York Giants in 1994.  His first wife and kids were there at his request.  His wife filed for divorce the next day.  He is now married for the third time.  In the last couple of years, his personal life has come under scrutiny.  In 2011, he pled guilty to sexual misconduct involving an under-age girl.  During his interview with Mike Wallace for 60 Minutes, Taylor described himself as an adrenaline junkie who lived life on a thrill ride.  “L. T. died a long time ago, and I don’t miss him at all.  All that’s left is Lawrence Taylor.”

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or andy.purvis@grandecom.net.

 

Never Again


 

Yes, I watched, watched even though it was football season.  I watched him step into the batter’s box for the last time.  It was the seventh inning, and you could tell he was emotional while standing there in the on-deck circle, and that he knew it would be his last at-bat.  He had already doubled in the first inning and scored a run, but he did not think about that now.  A loud roar rolled down from out of the stands as he approached home plate.  With his right hand, he tipped his batting helmet to the fans and then stepped in.  It was 3:02 p.m.  A few minutes later he would repeat the gesture.  Finally, he collected himself and focused as he had done 10,000-plus times before.  For twenty years, he had taken his turn in the batting order and always while wearing an Astros jersey.  Never again!

 

It’s gonna’ be tough to take that jersey off for the last time.  He knows it, knows that it will be the hardest thing he has ever done in this game.  The 3,060 hits and the 668 doubles were a piece of cake compared to this.  I wonder how long he will sit in front of his locker before taking it off.  At 3:04 p.m., a sharp ground ball to Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones and a frozen rope to first base, for Biggio’s final out, will be long remembered.  It will be scored a simple 5-3 on your scorecard, but can you ever imagine how much work and sacrifice went into getting to that last at-bat?  I can’t.  On this day, the record will show that the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0; but this day was really all about Craig Biggio and the fans of Houston.

 

On September 30, 2007, the city of Houston, Texas, said goodbye to Craig Biggio the only way they knew how.  They stood, cheered, whistled, cried, and pointed to their hometown hero.  They held their children up in the air, over their heads, so they could later tell them that they had seen Craig Biggio play baseball.  They held up signs confessing their affection for this little engine that could.  All the while, their hearts beat faster.  They knew that never again would they see him play the game he loves.  They didn’t want to leave the ballpark, didn’t want him to leave.  He had always been there, there for them, the fans.  Three million of them turned out this season to say goodbye to # 7.  His number will soon hang next to his pal; Jeff Bagwell’s # 5, high up on the wall in left field, with the other Astro legends.  It’s where they belong, together.

Baseball is built on memories and records.  There is no doubt that Biggio has certainly given us a lifetime’s worth to remember.  As the game ended, he moved onto the field to shake hands with his teammates and coaches.  He waved and tipped his hat to the fans for what seemed like twenty minutes, and still they stood and applauded.  He ran around the inside of the ballpark, touching hands with as many fans as possible, Cal Ripken style.  He stood as camera flashes went off at an alarming rate.  It was as if a disco ball hung from the ceiling at Minute Maid Park.  Then it was time, time for him to leave the field.  His two boys Conor and Cavan, waited for their dad in the dugout as they had for years.  They had waited many times for him to come home from a five-day road trip, waited for him to return from spring training, and waited for him to get home late at night after an extra-inning game.  He was all theirs now, along with his wife Patty, of course.  “It’s hard to put into words some of the things that are going through my mind right now,” Biggio said.  “I know I’m a very lucky man to have this many people come out.  The reason I play the game the way I do is because they expect it.  That’s the truth.”  Now the clock starts for the year he and his fans will celebrate again.  I will miss Craig Biggio.  See you in Cooperstown.

 

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or andy.purvis@grandecom.net.

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