Saturday, January 26, 2013

J-Speaks: Innovator and Chief of NFL Films Passes Away

Back in 1962, a father and son who put together a company back then when they secured the rights to chronicle the 1962 National Football League (NFL) Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. They impressed then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle so much with their high quality work that the company eventually became NFL Films. What was to follow was the evolution of how the game is seen, replayed and even heard. That evolution was pioneered by NFL Films president and co-founder Steve Sabol. Back in September 18, 2012 this great innovator who has taken how we watch sports, especially the NFL in a different way left us.

On that aforementioned date, Sabol who co-founded NFL Films with his father Ed Sabol passed away from brain cancer. He was 69 years old.

He leaved behind his 96-year-old father Ed, his mother Audrey, his second wife Penny, his daughter Casey from his first marriage Lisa and his sister Blair, who was the original namesake of Sabol’s production company, Blair Motion Pictures before it became NFL Films

Two understand how long Sabol has been a part of the NFL, the Sept. 20, 2012 Thursday night match-up between the New York Giants at Carolina Panthers was the first game since 1963 that Sabol did not have a hand in putting together a film in capturing the dramatic moments for all of us to enjoy.

On top of that back on Sept. 19 was the first time in the history of Inside the NFL, which airs every Wednesday on Showtime, the first time in 34 seasons that the longest running show on cable television was aired without what host James Brown called their, “leader, creative force and dear, dear, dear friend Mr. Steve Sabol.”

“Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work at NFL Films,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

“Steve’s passion for football was matched by his incredible talent and energy. Steve’s legacy will be part of the NFL forever. He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we look at football and sports, and a great friend.”

Sabol who was two weeks shy of turning 70, officially took the mantle as leader at NFL Films from his father who founded the company when it was called Blair Motion Pictures upon securing the rights to chronicle the aforementioned 1962 NFL Championship Game for $3,000.

Sabol began his rise at NFL Films in the 1960s and 1970s working behind the scenes as a cameraman and producer.

He first was introduced into the lives of the nation in front of the camera in 1979 when ESPN was founded and signed NFL Films as a production company.

He reinvented how we not only viewed football and all sports on television, but he brought us inside the game from all angles.

Sabol pioneered the innovation of slow-motion replays that we see now on a regular basis from normal slow-mo to fast speed replays. He also in the highlights in the look back at each game from the week before on shows like “Inside the NFL” he included music to heighten the drama of the contest. He also did something that was of very high risk, he put microphones on the players and coaches or as it is called now, they were wired for sound.

“He’s a guy whose done so much for the National Football League and just making football more interesting and more exciting and just more phenomenal,” NBC’s Sunday Night Football play-by-play analyst Al Michaels said.

It is that kind of innovation that made Sabol a legend and won him over 35 Emmys for his writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing. NFL Films itself has won over 100 Emmys.

Sabol along the way was awarded the Dan Reeves Pioneer Award in 2007 in recognition for his innovative ideas that have contributed to the game of pro football. In 2010 Sabol received the Sports Leadership
Award at the March of Dimes 27th Annual Sports Luncheon, one of the highest profile events of the year for the sports and sports media business in New York. One year later in March, NFL Films was recognized with the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football in recognition for their visionary leadership that helped the NFL become the preeminent pro sports league in America. In November Sabol and his father Ed were inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, which was followed in December by Steve’s induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

With all of those great accomplishments, Sabol’s most satisfying accomplishment of his great career was helping champion the election of his father Ed into the Hall of Fame.

When you accomplish all that Sabol was able to do, the question then is asked, how? How was he able to revolutionize what we see on the small screen?

For starters he was a fan first and then he was an artist. He thought like a Hollywood storyteller that was big, bold, honest and funny.

He saw the game through the eyes of an artist with an unwiring eye for details and a pitch perfect ear that allowed him to transform NFL Films from a simple chronicle of the game an epic myth maker that took chances and brought a closer look of the game to the viewing audience through slow motion cameras; the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the players and coaches through mics; reverse angle cameras, folly films and custom composed musical scores.

“If someone were to ask me how would I define our job at NFL Films, I’d say it is to bring a new understanding to something that has already been seen. To give the creative treatment to reality,” Sabol said once.

He also said once, which is his motto, “Tell me a story that will live forever.”
With over 1 million feet of game film, dozens of pieces of art and other important pieces related to football at the NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel, NJ and having One NFL Plaza being renamed One Sabol Way, Sabol who was an art history major and former running back at Colorado College and his great work will live never be forgotten.

What also will live forever is the respect he gained from some of the finest that broadcast the NFL games to us for so long.

“He treated everybody with kindness and he had respect for all human beings and I think that was his greatest trait,” NFL on CBS color analyst and “Inside the NFL” host Phil Simms said.

“I think you have to think about Steve through a child’s eyes. We all fell in love I think, or at least I did with those highlights,” NBC Sunday Night Football color analyst and “Inside the NFL” host Chris Collinsworth said. “He made you fall in love with the game on an emotional level with the work they did I just don’t know you can compliment a man more than that.”

He began his 20-year run at NFL Films as a cameraman. He was the driving force behind HBO’s pro football series “Hard Knocks.” He oversaw the evolutionary role of NFL Films’ when the launch of the NFL Network nine years ago created a demand for more content of a game that has become the best in American sports. He was an author of the poem “The Autumn Wind,” which later was adopted by the Oakland Raiders as their unofficial anthem. He had a vision, a goal and a mission and Steve Sabol accomplished that mission and them some. He changed how we saw, thought of and cared about not just football, but all of professional sports.

It will be a shame that he physically will not be there in one week from tomorrow for Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens versus the San Francisco 49ers, but Steve Sabol will be there in spirit and his influence will definitely be all around the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA next Sunday night.

Information and quotations are courtesy of 9/18/12 5:30 p.m. ESPN Bottom Line update during “Pardon the Interruption” with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon; 9/18/12 8 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” on ESPNEWS; 9/19/12 Newsday article in the Nation section “Steve Sabol, 69, innovative NFL Films chief;” 9/20/12 8 p.m. contest New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers on NFL Network Pre-Kick; 9/21/12 1 p.m. edition of “Inside the NFL” on Showtime Extreme with James Brown, Phil Simms and Chris Collinsworth;

J-Speaks: Nets Slide Cost Head Coach Johnson

After the first two months of the season it looked like the Brooklyn Nets who are in their first season in the borough opposite of Manhattan and the archrival New York Knicks they looked like a true contender. In the month of December they have come back down to earth in a major way going back to even in the win and loss column. With their season in a major downturn, the team decided to make a major change.
That changed came on Dec. 27 2012 was relieving coach Avery Johnson of his duties as the team’s head coach.

To put this firing in perspective, the Nets (16-14) had their best start in franchise history going 11-4 in the months of October and November. In those first 15 games, the team averaged 95.7 ppg and giving up just 90.4 points per contest, surrendering just 32.1 percent from three-point range and committing just 13.4 turnovers a game. Johnson was named the National Basketball Association’s (NBA‘s) Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.

In the month of December, the Nets lost 10 of their first 13 games, which included a five-game losing streak from Dec. 1-Dec. 11. The last straw was when they lost on national television on Christmas Day versus the Boston Celtics (14-14) 93-76 and they followed that up with 108-93 at the Milwaukee Bucks, which was their 13th straight loss to the team from Wisconsin.

The Nets in December averaged just 93.1 points per contest and giving up 98.9 ppg, 40.4 percent shooting from three-point land and committing 15.2 turnovers per game.

“Being a head coach is not always fair. I think its kind of like the fine print,” Johnson, who went 60-116 in his nearly three years with the Nets said on Thursday to the media. In his three and a half seasons on the sidelines with the Dallas Mavericks, Johnson went 194-70 winning NBA Coach of the Year award in 2005-06.

“Your not gonna always get a fair shake and since we don’t own the teams we coach, I’m not coach, president and owner. If I was owning the team, I wouldn’t have gotten fired today. I wouldn’t have fired myself.”

The team will be coached now on an interim basis by assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo, whose has coached in the NBA at the Portland Trail Blazers (1994-97), Golden State Warriors (1997-00) and Seattle Supersonics (2007-08), who moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder in 2008-09. In between that time he was an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs from 2002-2007. In 2010 he was an assistant coach under head man Jay Triano and the Toronto Raptors. On December 8, 2011 he was hired to be an assistant with the then New Jersey Nets.

The last time that Carlesimo was the head man on the sideline when he was with the Thunder and was let go after a 1-12 beginning to the season.

The last true moment that we remember from Carlesimo’s coaching career was back in 1997 while with the Warriors. It was during practice when then shooting guard Latrell Sprewell chocked Carlesimo for close to 15 seconds until he was separated by several teammates.

The team terminated Sprewell’s contract, which had three years and $23.7 million dollars remaining and the NBA suspended him for one year. The suspension was reduced to 68 games by an arbitrator.
“Obviously it’s the worst way to become a head coach,” said Carlesimo, who owns an NBA coaching record of 204-296 in the regular season and 3-9 mark in the postseason.

“It’s clearly not an ideal situation, but it’s the way of the NBA.”
As far as his message to the players Carlesimo said, “We need to play hard.”

He followed that up by saying, “I thought the mood was very good [at shoot around]. I thought they tried to (a) move on, and (b) do a good job.”

It has not helped the Nets cause that they have had a hard time putting the ball in the hope this season as they have scored an average of just 94.5 ppg (22nd NBA) and 20.5 assist per contest (22nd NBA).

On top of that the backcourt, which the Nets had hoped this season would led them to greatness this season have not lived up to the hype.

Lead guard Deron Williams, who the Nets signed to a big-time contract this off-season is scoring just 16.6 ppg, his lowest since his second season in the league and a career-lows from the field 39.8 percent and 29.5 percent from three-point range.

Shooting guard Joe Johnson has an up and down season himself as he is shooting just 42.1 percent from the floor, his lowest since his second season with the Phoenix Suns and is averaging just 16.9 ppg, his lowest since the 2003-04 season.

“I didn’t expect it. I was over there riding the bike when Billy[King] came in and told me. It caught me off guard,” Williams, who earlier in the month said that Johnson system was not working, said on Friday.

“He was just coach of the month. We did struggle the last 13 games or so, but I felt like we had a great team and a great head coach.”

Williams also said that he does not feel responsible for Johnson being fired, but he does wish that he played a whole lot better.

“Nobody feels worse about the way I’ve been playing than me. It just hasn’t clicked yet. My confidence is gone right now, and I gotta play my way, fight my way out of it.”

In the first two games under Carlesimo, the Nets have shown signs of progress beating the Charlotte Bobcats (8-23) 97-81 on Dec. 28 and squeaking by the Cleveland Cavaliers (7-25) on Dec. 29.

They came back down to Earth on New Year’s Eve when they were lambasted at the San Antonio Spurs losing 104-73, scoring just five points on 2 for 20 shooting in the third quarter to drop their 11th in a row to the Spurs in their building.

They bounced back in a big way when they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on their home court 110-93.
Johnson led the way with 33 points going 11 for 19 from floor, including going 5 for 10 from three-point range. Lopez had 25 points on 11 for 17 from the field. Williams had 19 points 13 assists and five steals.

While Carlesimo may have the job on an interim basis, there was also speculation that the Nets will reach out to 11-time champion head coach Phil Jackson to see if he is interested in the head coaching position.

According to NBA on TNT/NBA TV Insider David Aldridge, Jackson is not interested “at this time.” Sources do say according to ESPN Los’s Ramona Shelbourne that Jackson would entertain the idea if the Nets called him.

Regardless if Jackson does decide to coach or they go with Carlesimo for the remainder of the season, this is on the players. The good thing about all of this is the Nets have a talented team that if they get it together can still make this a special season.

It however comes down to them. There is no more room for excuses, especially when the starting five of Williams ($17.2 million), Johnson ($19.7 million), Gerald Wallace ($9.7 million), Kris Humphries ($12 million) and Lopez ($13.7 million) is making the kind of money it is and the salary cap for the Nets is tops in the league for the 2012-13 campaign of $58 million.

The Nets have gone 12-3 under Carlesimo so far and sit in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race and are just a half game behind the Chicago Bulls and one game behind the division and borough rival New York Knicks who are in second place.

If this inaugural season is going to be as special as the Nets want it to be, it comes down to this talented squad continuing buckle down and keep winning at the clip they did back in November.

Information, statistics and quotes are courtesy of 12/27/12 9:45 p.m. ESPN Bottom Line news wire reports during the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl between Baylor and UCLA; 12/27/12 7:15 a.m. edition of TNT’s Inside the NBA with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal; 12/31/12 8 p.m. edition of NBA TV’s “The Beat” with Vince Cellini, David Aldridge, Sekou Smith and Howard Beck of The New York Times Article by Mike Mazzeo of ESPN, “P.J. Carlesimo To Take Things Slow;”;;;;

Friday, January 18, 2013

J-Speaks: The Crimson Tide Roll Back-to-Back

It takes a lot to win a championship. You have to have the will, commitment, steadiness and confidence to win at a high clip in the regular season and handle the aforementioned task at hand in the postseason to get to that title moment and then you have to seize it. The Alabama Crimson Tide understand that all too well. That is what they faced in 2009 and they got to the door step and came through versus Texas. They got that same chance against their South Eastern Conference (SEC) rival Louisiana State University (LSU) two years ago and won their second Bowl Championship Series (BCS) 21-0. Eleven days ago, the No. 2 ranked Crimson Tide tried to do something that no other college football program has done in the BCS era. Win back-to-back titles. They not only accomplished that, but they made some history both as a school, for their conference and some of the players and the team’s head coach.
In defeating No. 1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-1) 42-14, No. 2 ranked Alabama (13-1) became the first team in the BCS era to win back-to-back championships. They won their 15 title overall in school history.
Their title victory was the seven straight for the SEC dating back to 2006 when the University of Florida led by current Ohio State head coach Irvin Meyer and current New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow helped the Gators win the title in 2006 and 2008. In that same time span LSU won college football’s ultimate prize in 2007 and three years later, their conference rivals the Auburn Tigers led by Heisman Trophy winner and Carolina Panthers’ signal caller Cam Newton where to the top of college football’s greatest mountain.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban won not just his 3rd BCS championship in four years at Alabama, but he became just the fourth coach in the Poll era dating back to 1936 to win at least four titles.
He joined Alabama legend of the sidelines Paul “Bear” Bryant who won six titles (1961, 1964-65, 1973, 1978-79); Fighting Irish legend Frank Leahy who won four titles (1940, 1943, 1946-47, 1949) and former University of Southern California (USC) head coach John McKay, who won four titles (1962, 1967, 1972, 1974).
“I’m satisfied with this because of what they were able to accomplish. I’m really proud of this team. This team did a great job from the word go two days after we beat LSU last year in the championship game,” coach Saban, who joined Leahy as the only two coaches to win four championships in an eight-year span, said to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after the game.
“They started working and they never were entitled and I’m proud of what they were able to accomplish this year, but two days from now we got to start on next year.”
To reach the level that the University of Alabama has reached does not happen by accident. It was not that long ago that this proud program was an afterthought in the college football world. When Saban came to Alabama, he brought a style of discipline, commitment and attention to detail that turned them from a pretender into the team that they are today.
That plays well together on offense and defense. Possesses a mental toughness and physical toughness and does not beat themselves.
 That is how Alabama led the country in total defense (246.0 yards per contest), rush defense (79.8 yards per contest). In the SEC, the Crimson Tide was No. 1 in scoring defense (10.7 ppg) and they allowed just 79.9 yards on the ground per contest. On the offense side they ranked second in scoring (38.5) and in rush offense (224.62).
Two Mondays ago they ran for 265 yards and held Notre Dame to 32 yards. Offensive Player of the Game junior halfback Eddie Lacy, who back on January 11 along with cornerback Dee Milliner and right tackle D.J. Fluker announced that they were going to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, which will be this April rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also had a receiving score. His understudy freshmen T.J. Yeldon rushed 21 times for 107 yards and a touchdown.
“The offensive line came out and they got great push and opened up big holes and I was able to be successful running the ball,” Lacy said to ESPN’s John Saunders after the game.
The running of Lacy and Yeldon allowed Alabama signal caller junior A.J. McCarron, who became the first QB in the BCS era to win back-to-back national championships, to have to dissect the Notre Dame defense as he went 20 for 28 for 264 yards four touchdowns and no interceptions. This is off last season’s title match where he went 23 for 34 234 yards no touchdowns, but no interceptions and he was named Offensive MVP.
Alabama had 529 total yards to 302 for the Irish. The Crimson Tide was 8 for 13 on third down, while the opposition went 2 for 8.
“We take great pride. We have team goals every time on defense and we do our best week in and week out to complete those goals so at the end of the day we did what we had to do to get the win,”  junior linebacker C.J. Mosley, whose was named Defensive Player of the Game for his eight tackles, five solo, including one for loss, said to Saunders after the game.  
To repeat as champions is not easy. Alabama understand this better than anyone, especially playing in the SEC where each week, they play against a great team. What has helped them is the fact they are a team that plays at a level where they have not reach a level of greatness and even when they do, they understand the amount of hard work from the players to the coaching staff, to the tremendous amount of support that they get from the students to the fans in the community.
Saban said to Saunders during the presentation of the coach’s trophy after the victory that the team is where they are today because of the school’s president, chancellor, athletic director and all the supportive fans. At the end of the day though, it is up to the players to take the coaching and to be discipline individually and collectively to take care of the task at hand on the field and to represent themselves, their families and the University itself off the field.
McCarron echoed that culture of work to ESPN’s Heather Cox after the game when he said how his success is due to his teammates and especially his coaches who put together an amazing offensive game plan for Notre Dame’s strong defense. He also said that there was never any talk about repeating or the word dynasty. That it was all about taking it one game at a time.
“Everybody’s got their own opinion. You can label us what you want.  I just felt this team worked hard to get to the point were at. It was a total team effort and I couldn’t be more proud of my guys,” McCarron said to Cox after the game.
Saban echoed that same feeling about the success that Alabama has had when he said to Saunders that, “We have a tremendous amount of positive energy and enthusiasm with the supporters that we have. We had a lot of great football players who have worked really hard and we have a great coaching staff who has done a great job in developing our players. So because we have a great team, we’ve been able to have a significant amount of success.”
While they did not win their first championship since 1988, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had an incredible season.
While their top ranked defense was not up to pair on the big stage giving up a school bowl record 42 points in the title game, their defense was the best in the country surrendering just 10.3 points per contest. They finished 6th in total defense giving up just 286.8 yards a game.
The team’s QB freshmen Everett Golson finished the regular year with 2,135 yards passing and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 305 yards and five scores. In the title game he went 21 for 36 for 270 yards, TD and an interception. He also ran for a score
 Senior linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o finished the regular campaign with 103 tackles, which was his third consecutive season with 100-plus stops and he finished his career with 427 tackles. In the championship game Te’o had 10 tackles, but none for loss.
Senior offensive guard Mike Golic, Jr., who is the son of ESPN NFL Analyst Mike Golic and co-host of Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN 2 weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and ESPN Radio helped the team average over 200 yards rushing and passing per game.
John Mackey Award winner senior tight end Tyler Eifert had 44 catches for 624 yards and four touchdowns.
“We want to thank our senior for what they’ve done bringing this football program back to the top echelon. Now we saw what everybody else has to do,” head coach Brian Kelly, whose team is now 0-4 all-time in BCS bowl games losing by 14 plus points, said to Cox after the game.
“Now that they have helped this program develop to where it is now, we’ve got one more step. We saw that tonight that were not there yet. Alabama showed us that the way they played the game. It’s up to everybody else that’s coming back to take the next step. They’ve left us in great shape and now we’ve got to take the next step.”  
This BCS Championship showcased two storied football programs going in different directions with Alabama rising with its third BCS title and Notre Dame still looking for its first championship since 1988 when they were coached by current ESPN College Football Analyst Lou Holtz. What will happen next year and the years that follow is anybody’s guess. It looks like Alabama will be around for a while as they have the best coach in the game in Saban and with another great recruiting class coming in Notre Dame can only hope it can reach the mountain top of college football soon.   
Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 1/7/13 BCS National Championship between Alabama and Notre Dame with Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi; ESPN Bottom Line news crawl;;;;

Saturday, January 5, 2013

J-Speaks: A Rose Parade Host Returns to the Air

When we begin a new year there are certain guarantees. Some of will be resting after a night of partying and fun. We will all begin to make our New Year’s resolutions a reality. Also one current ESPN “Sportscenter” anchor and one former “Sportscenter” anchor will be broadcasting the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). This particular parade was very special not because of the amazing floats and bands that were in the parade, but that one of the broadcasters was making her first appearance on television since early December.
This past Tuesday, ESPN’s “Sportscenter” anchor Hannah Storm was alongside Good Morning America news anchor and former “Sportscenter” anchor Josh Elliott for the 124 Tournament of Roses Parade on ABC for the fifth consecutive year.
This was very special reunion because back on Dec. 11 Storm, who is known for her high profile interviews of the likes of New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow sustained first and second degree burns on her neck, face, chest and her left hand from her propane gas grill when she was cooking dinner outside at her Connecticut home for her husband NBC sportscaster Dan Hicks and her three daughters-15-year-old Hannah, 14-year-old Ellery and 11-year-old Riley.
Along with the burns that she sustained in the accident, she also lost nearly half her hair as well as her eyebrows and eyelashes.

 This incident happened on the aforementioned December night when she was grilling dinner outdoors. She went outside to on a chilly night to light her propane grill. Storm went inside for a moment and then came back out to check out how hot the grill was. She noticed that the flames blew out.
The cover of the grill was open and Storm came to the logical assumption that there was no gas in the air.  
What Storm told Muir on Tuesday is that propane is much heavier than air, especially in cold weather. It has the tendency to set on top of the grill and cool inside of it and underneath the grill.
The moment Storm reignite the grill after the flame was out a huge explosion occurred with so much force that it blew the doors of the grill completely off.
The explosion was so loud that a neighbor across the street thought a tree had fallen through his roof. In that split second, Storm’s hair, chest and the shirt that she was wearing caught on fire.
She did not know what to do, so her first instinct was to take her left hand, reached for her shirt to get it off as quickly as possible.
“I yelled inside to my 15-year-old daughter [Hannah} who was in the kitchen, “Mommy’s on fire. You have to call 9-1-1,” Storm said to Muir.
She quickly came out, got her cell phone and called 9-1-1. 
Storm was taken to and treated at Westchester Medical Center in Westchester, NY. During Tuesday’s telecast of the parade she thanked everyone from the Trauma and Burn Center who treated her.
In the days that followed she received numbers of calls, text messages, e-mails, tweets and other supportive messages from the likes of Tennis star Mardy Fish, ESPN colleagues like college basketball color analyst Dick Vitale, “Baseball Tonight” and Major League Baseball analyst John Kruk, and the Rev. John Jenkins, president of her alma mater Notre Dame.
You are probably wondering how someone who went through that kind of ordeal could be back to do a broadcast.
Storm said to David Muir on Tuesday evening’s edition of ABC “World News” with Diane Sawyer that she had access to hair and makeup people that can prep her and it can look like all was okay. She looked amazing as she always does, but her left hand was noticeably wrapped.”
“I spent an hour in hair and makeup this morning,” Storm told Muir on Tuesday. “This is all fake hair. When the makeup artist brushed an eyebrow on me I almost stood up and kissed her this morning.”
While she was back doing what she loves to do, she was the first to point out that despite being back at work doing what she has done for the past five years on New Year’s Day, she is far from being back to normal.
The explosion has left some serious red marks on her skin from the neck up. Doctors have even told her she has to keep the most serious burned areas out of direct sunlight for the next six months. On top of that doing the most common things like taking a shower or getting dressed she said are difficult. She had some trouble turning pages on her script or even taking notes because she is left handed.  
“I was very disfigured,” Storm, who was not able to see the aftermath of the ordeal she went through until the next day. “Without eyelashes, eyebrows it was a sight to behold let me tell you.”
Having her husband, who according to an article from said he rearranged his whole schedule to stay home during her recovery and having her three daughters with her in California has help in her recovery.
"It was good that the girls got to see mommy doing what she usually does. Being on TV, being on the set, that brings a sense of normalcy," Storm said. "I could be myself today, just talking and reacting to what I saw. It was a very familiar place."
It was even heartwarming that Muir during his interview with Storm on Tuesday said to her, “You look as beautiful as ever.”
For most people a moment like this would break them to a point where they would want to run and hide until they fully recovered. Storm has decided to turn something that could have been much worse into an opportunity to talk about how to operate a propane grill safely and how to move forward from being a burn victim.
She told Muir that if you light your grill, but the lighter did not ignite for any reason, the chances are pretty good that there is a lot of propane still sitting in the area. Just turning off the grill and relighting your grill is not sufficient enough. You must wait for a long period of time for all the propane to dissipate before trying to reignite your grill.

As far as returning to work on “Sportscenter,” Storm said she will wait and see. She had hoped to return tomorrow, but wants to see how this upcoming week goes and after that she will make her decision.
Whether we see her soon or a little later the fact that she is okay and that her family is there for her is a comforting feeling. It is moments like this that make all of us thankful for the little things and to never take the simple things for granted and the importance of safety, especially when dealing when dealing with cooking appliances.
Information and quotations are courtesy of 1/1/12 6:30 p.m. edition of ABC “World News” with Diane Sawyer: substitute anchor David Muir; article, “Hannah Storm Hosts Rose Parade Show: ESPN Anchor Returns, Talks Propane Gas Grill Accident.”

Friday, January 4, 2013

J-Speaks: Ravens’ Face of Franchise Announces Retirement

For his entire 17-year career in the NFL, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has inspired himself as well as his teammates and the whole organization to greatness. His play on the field along with his amazing inspirational speeches and his well spoken words in press conferences after victory and sometimes in defeat are treasured moments that can only be believed if seen. Individually he has accomplished a lot and his has helped to guide the Ravens to greatness. Like all great players before, present and after, there always comes that moment to begin a new course in life. That moment came this week for the face of the Ravens.
Lewis, who has not played since Ravens (10-6) 31-29 victory versus the Dallas Cowboys due to a torn triceps muscle suffered in the aforementioned contest announced this past Wednesday that he will retire from the National Football League whenever the Ravens season concludes in the postseason. That drive for the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the back-to-back AFC North champions begins on Sunday in the Wild Card Game versus the No. 5 Seeded Indianapolis Colts (11-5).
“Everything that starts has to end. It’s just life...,” Lewis said to the media on Wednesday. “I just felt so much peace in the way I am with my decision because of everything that I’ve done in this league. I’ve done it…There’s no allocate that I don’t have individually, but I’ve never played the game for individual stats. I’ve only played the game to make my team be a better team.”
There are very few players who can both inspire others to play at their highest level and they go out and play that way and inspire others to do the same. That is what this spectacular 37-year old linebacker with 17 years of greatness in the NFL has done.
The 26th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft won Defensive player of the Year in 2000 and 2003. He was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of Super Bowl XXXV as his  five tackles and four pass breakups aided the American Football Conference champions in the 34-7 victory over the National Football Conference Champion New York Giants. On top of that, Lewis has been selected to 13 Pro Bowls is a seven-time First Team All-Pro selection and three-time Second Team All-Pro. His 10 All-Pro selections at linebacker are tied with Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.  
While all the individual allocates are nice, Lewis has he mentioned two days ago does not define his great career by just those achievements alone. He looks at his career as one of making others in the organization from the players he goes into battle each Sunday with to the coaches who have coached him to the whole entire organization.
To put this in perspective when the Ravens first came to Baltimore after moving from Cleveland back in 1996, they did not make the playoffs in their first four seasons. That all changed in 2000 when they went 12-4 in the regular season.
In the Wild Card Round, they won versus the Denver Broncos 21-3. In the Divisional Round, they won at the Titans 24-10, where Lewis made the game clinching play as he took an interception 50 yards for a touchdown. He also had 12 tackles in the contest. In the AFC Championship Game, they went on the road and defeated the Oakland Raiders 16-3.
While the Ravens have not gotten to another Super Bowl since, they have made the playoffs in eight of the last 11 season. They have won the AFC North Division four times in that span.
While the players have changed around Lewis from the likes of Duane Starks, Tony Siragusa, Rob Burnett, Rod Woodson, Sam Adams on defense and on offense to Trent Dilfer, Brandon Stokley, Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis, the team has still continued to succeed with the likes of Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Paul Kruger on defense and Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Matt Birk.
“One of the hardest things in the world is to walk away from my teammates because that’s my brotherhood,” Lewis said.
“The only thing I ever play for is to be right there…That’s one things I share with them in that meeting I’m going to give you everything I got because this is our last one and whenever it ends it ends, but I didn’t come back for it to end in the first round.”
History when it comes to how the Ravens are going to do in the postseason seems to be on their side.
Since 2000, the Ravens are 5-1 in the Wild Card round. Their only loss came versus the Titans back in 2003 when they were defeated 20-17.
This consistent level of great seasons, even though they have not finished with another Vince Lombardi Trophy comes from the fact not only from the greatness of Lewis, but the fact that he has had a consistent level of great communication with his teammates on both the offensive and defensive sides. That has allowed and level and trust and respect that it comes down to the collective whole to be on the same page, even in the toughest of times. It’s one thing for the leader of the team to preach it. It is another thing for the rest of the roster and the coaches to believe it. One person in particular who believed in what Ray Lewis sold was Super Bowl XXXV quarterback of the Ravens and current ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer.
“I always tell people when they ask about Ray Lewis that he’s the best,” Dilfer said on Tuesday on Sportscenter to Bram Weinstein.
“Now we say that about a lot of NFL players, but when you’re talking about Ray I mean it and not just the best players, he was the best player on the field every time were on the field, but he was the best leader I’ve ever been around. He was the best when it came to preparation and when you have a guy that’s that dynamic in those three elements, his message always resonates.”
What also resonates is the respect from former players who played the game before you and how the way you handled your business during your time, in this case on the gridiron brings them back to when they played and how much they respect what you did and even how much better you did it.
“I think it’s been such a great career in so many ways. Not only the skill set he brought and you remember back when was a youngster, I’m talking about the sideline to sideline is what defined the way he played,” ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown host Tom Jackson said on Tuesday’s Sportscenter to John Anderson.
“He was also great in coverage, but I think what separated him is the inspiration that he became not only to his teammates, but maybe every guy that played in the NFL. We all are a little bit jealous and wish we could have inspired our teammates to be as good as he has inspired his to be.”
There is a lot that defines a player. From their numbers they put up, to the games that they play in, particularly memorable ones. The true great mark sometimes of a great professional athlete is their stay with an organization.
Lewis who was drafted by the Ravens in 1996 and led them to a title in 2000 is just the third active player in the four major professional sports to begin their career with a team from their rookie season to today and win a championship. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA) was drafted by the then Charlotte Hornets (now New Orleans Hornets) and traded to the Lakers has played for the team for 17 seasons and has helped them win three titles. “The Captain” of the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB) Derek Jeter has also played 17 years and helped the “Bronx Bombers” win five titles.
The other thing that separates the great ones from all others is the fact that they are willing to do things that are hard and take commitment to do. Like train in the offseason at a level when others are not paying attention; to be there for others in times of tragedy and above all to be engaged when someone is telling you something.
Dilfer talked on Tuesday Sportscenter is that no matter what the Ravens went through or what an individual player was going through personally, Lewis was always there to lend a hand or to just talk if needed.
He also said that Lewis did not mind taking on things that most other people in general would throw in the towel and give up.”
“When most people don’t have the ability to tap in the personal reservoir again and again and again, those are the moments that Ray Lewis embraced,” Dilfer said.
The beginning of Lewis’ final postseason with the Ravens is very ironic. The first of his 41.5 career sacks came against current San Francisco 49ers Jim Harbaugh when he was the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. The Ravens current head coach is the John Harbaugh, Jim’s younger brother.
As the 2013 NFL Playoffs begin we will have an opportunity to see the conclusion of the journey of a young man who grew up in Bartow, FL. Became an All-American linebacker and wrestling star at Kathleen High School in Lakeland, FL. Became one of the greatest linebackers at the University of Miami and one of the best in Big East history, when the school was in that conference. He has gone on to have a remarkable 17-year career that will come to a conclusion whenever the Ravens season ends. That journey begins this Sunday at 1 p.m. versus the Colts and it can be seen on CBS.
“From the time I got hurt, everything that I’ve done up until this point has been to get back with my team,” Lewis said on Tuesday.
“I think we all get to enjoy what Sunday will feel like knowing that this will be the last time 52 [Lewis’ jersey number] plays in a uniform in Ravens Stadium.  
Information, statistics and quotes are courtesy of 1/2/13 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s “Sportscenter” with John Anderson and Bram Weinstein; 1/4/13 2:30 a.m. of ESPN’s Bottom Line News scroll during NBA Tonight with Jonathan Coachman and Bruce Bowen;;;