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Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State SEC apparel on sale at the Sports Fan Playground

This season, the SEC West division has been absolutely dominant in the pantheon of college football & the Sports Fan Playground has new stores up for the top teams in the SEC West, including the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ole Miss Runnin Rebels & the current #1 team in the country, the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

This past weekend, Alabama absolutely destroyed Texas A&M, 59-0, on the back of future NFL #1 pick Amari Cooper & T.J. Yeldon running through the A&M defense. This was Alabama’s bounce back game after barely winning against Arkansas & losing to Ole Miss two weeks ago.

Ole Miss & Mississippi State are on a major collision course to slug it out in the Egg Bowl in November, a game that could decide the winner of the SEC & to possibly get into the new college football playoff, which debuts this year.

Alabama Crimson Tide Store

The new Alabama Crimson Tide store has now launched at the SEC store at store.sportsfan1984.com.

For more information, check out the Sports Fan Playground special items & other areas on the internet where you can learn more about the website as well as other opinions in sports -

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NFL Review – Week 7 – Peyton Manning Is The Greatest

When the next few pieces I write about regarding the NFL in week 7 are published, you will understand a couple of things – Peyton Manning is the best of all-time, the Detroit Lions are for real; so are the Dallas Cowboys & the Oakland Raiders along with the San Francisco 49ers are done. With that said, here is the Sports Fan Playground review of the NFL for week 7.

Peyton Manning Breaks Brett Favre Touchdown Record. In Style.

On Sunday Night Football, the biggest story of the week – and NFL history – unfolded as Peyton Manning broke the legendary Brett Favre’s NFL touchdown record for a career with his 4 touchdown passes, beating the San Francisco 49ers, who are having major problems of their own, 42-17, in a game that was clearly decided in about the first 10 minutes of the game.

Peyton Manning Touchdown Record

Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre’s all-time touchdown record on Sunday night in a big win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Many people will always say that Manning can’t be the greatest of all time because of his inability to win in the NFL playoffs, which is funny because he does have a SuperBowl ring that he won in SuperBowl XLI when the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears. Manning has led the Colts & the Broncos to the conference title games before & yes, he only has one SuperBowl ring on his record in 3 appearances, but at least he has been 3 times. Ask Dan Marino, Jim Kelly & Dan Fouts if they would like to have even the chance to have one SuperBowl ring. Marino went to the big game early on in his career & never got back. Kelly went 4 times & didn’t get the job done & Fouts was a great passer but didn’t get to a SuperBowl.

For Manning, this accomplishment is extra special, especially when you consider that the man almost didn’t come back to the NFL because of a severe neck injury that took out his 2011 season & ended his career in the Colts organization. He believed in Denver Broncos President John Elway when Elway recruited Manning to be the new face of the Broncos franchise, almost eclipsing the great career that Elway had in the Mile High city.

People can put Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers & Andrew Luck into the conversation into who is the best in the game today, but no player has ever had the impact on whether a team was successful or not has Manning has had on the Colts & on the Broncos. Manning calls his own plays, you rarely hear about the offensive coordinator in Denver. Any team trusts Manning to run their organization.

100% of the time – that’s a great business decision for any coach or executive.

 

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NFL Review – Week 6 – Detroit Lions Defense is Dominant

The Detroit Lions have been an enigma in the NFL for many years. It is true that the team doesn’t have a playoff win since 1991 & 1 since 1957, & the team can let people down from time to time, but this Lions team is far different than the great offensive teams of the past.

They are winning games based on defensive efforts. Let me repeat this……….THE DETROIT LIONS ARE WINNING GAMES WITH DEFENSE.

As a Lions fan, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have guessed that this defense would be ranked #1 in the NFL by the end of week 6, but this is a real defensive effort that the team is putting together & its not a fluke either. The Lions are able to get great pressure from their front four, led by star defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh. Suh, who many in Detroit have been annoyed with in the past for his antics & some of the ways he treats the local media, has been every bit of the defensive force that the team felt he would be when he was drafted #2 overall by Detroit in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Ndamukong Suh

Ndamukong Suh has been an absolute monster on the defensive line for the Detroit Lions, leading the way in stopping the running game & helping get great pressure on quarterbacks through pass rushes.

Suh is able to get an amazing amount of pressure up the middle & is a rare breed in that he can play extremely well against both the run & the pass, getting great pass rushes right against the guards & getting great leverage to get to the quarterback. This great effort could be because Suh is in a contract year & there have been reports that Suh may want to leave Detroit after the season for one of the New York teams, but he also has to understand that he has the opportunity to be on one of the truly elite defensive units in all of the NFL.

But, Suh hasn’t been the only star on that Lions defense. His defensive tackle partner, Nick Fairley, has been a playmaker, especially since he has gotten his weight issues together & is in full playing shape. The Lions organization refused to extend Fairley’s contract deal this past offseason, which has been seen by many has a sign that it was time for Fairley to prove to the organization that he was worth a first-round pick in 2011, & he has shown that clearly.

The heart & core of this Lions team has been their front seven, which many people had expected would be the case going into the season, but even the secondary has stepped up quite a bit. The Lions have been getting turnovers at key points in games, which typically does not happen with this franchise. Yes, I know that the teams they have played and defeated didn’t have an offense that was ranked in the top 10, but you have to beat who is on your schedule, no matter how hard or easy the schedule is because in reality, in the NFL, there are no easy victories against any team.

Where do I see the Lions going? I can see where they are a true playoff team. They have shown that they can beat the Packers & even though the Packers aren’t the same offense as they have been  in the past, their offensive line is not strong enough to handle the Lions front seven. The Vikings have absolutely no offensive firepower on their team & the Lions just handled their offensive line to the tune of 8 sacks & 3 interceptions.

The Bears will be the best offensive unit the team will go against in the division all year & the offensive line is still suspect in Chicago. The Bears have more weapons on offense in the tune of Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall & quarterback Jay Cutler, but the Bears offensive line is still suspect & the true test of who wins this game will be decided with that defensive line play.

Keep your eye out for the Lions on defense. If this unit can keep up their play, this is easily a SuperBowl contender.

While you are reading the stories here at the Sports Fan Playground, check out the hottest women in sports category for some of the hottest WAGS in sports right now.

 

 

 

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Detroit Tigers Need Complete Reset – Starting With Brad Ausmus

Yup, we are back to regular posts now, thank you for all of the love & support as we have been going through some major updates over the last few weeks regarding the site & the Sports Fan Playground store.

Now, back to business, & the biggest disappointment of the 2014 baseball season, the Detroit Tigers. As I say this, I am a major Tigers fan, but even I had a hard time finding the full positives in the 2014 season from many different perspectives & view points. The team lost to the Baltimore Orioles in 3 games in the American League Division Series. It is the earliest that the Tigers have been eliminated in the playoffs in 3 years & is a complete wake-up call to the organization to make some changes – at least it should be.

The Tigers Went As Far As They Could Under Jim Leyland.

The Tigers are an organization that doesn’t make changes to their culture very easily, but one thing that the organization has tended to be strong at is listening to their fans & understanding their frustration of possibly being the next Atlanta Braves – full of talent, but no world championships. The Tigers have not won a World Series since 1984, & with owner Mike Ilitch getting older, the team would desperately want to win it for Mr. Ilitch, who has done so much to make the Tigers a legitimate organization for the last 8 years since their surprise World Series run in 2006. That run happened to take place under tenured manager Jim Leyland.

Leyland had quite a bit of traction & experience, leading the Pirates & Marlins to the World Series in his career, so many people didn’t question his actions early in his time with the Tigers, but in 2013, the team did not get past the eventual World Series Champion Boston Red Sox & consequently, Leyland stepped down & the team brought in a new face to the helm. A face that was seen as someone who could be a fresh voice to the organization & possibly a way to get to get a new infusion of energy into the team. Many people wanted & speculated on a variety of names of who could be the new manager of the Tigers. All kinds of names were thrown around – Mike Hargrove, Bruce Bochy, Kirk Gibson, & many other people who have experience in the field.

The Brad Ausmus Era Begins.

Instead, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski went with the person that absolutely no one knew anything about as a manager in Brad Ausmus. Ausmus is a long time MLB catcher for various teams, including the Tigers for a stint. Ausmus clearly has the baseball knowledge & smarts to be a Major League Baseball manager, but he was missing the experience.

Detroit Tigers Brad Ausmus

Brad Ausmus introduced as the Detroit Tigers manager.

But, because of Dombrowski’s history & his ability to find great talent & put together a team that was a consistent contender for the World Series, the fans of the Detroit Tigers but their trust in Dombrowski & in Ausmus that maybe is the type of manager who can gain the respect of a veteran squad, only a season after being an active MLB player.

In theory, the team had a good year, they won the American League Central Division, a division that did not have to be as difficult as it ended up being, especially after taking out the Kansas City Royals 13 out of 19 times during the regular season. But there were many times during that year that people had some interesting things to say about the managerial decisions that Ausmus would make & the unwavering loyalty he would make to his players, which is great – accept when they are costing games that the team would end up needing down the stretch of the regular season.

The Detroit Tigers Bullpen Has To Change – No Ifs, Ands or Buts.

Ausmus showed strong loyalty to the Detroit Tigers bullpen all throughout the season, the same bullpen that cost the Tigers a trip to the World Series last season after having great starting pitching all year long & a Cy Young campaign from Max Scherzer.

During the season, many times closer Joe Nathan should have easily have been replaced for other options in the bullpen, whether it was Al Albuerqerque, Joakim Soria when he became a Tiger, or someone else. Nathan was not automatic when he came into the game & even with blowing a few saves during the season, Ausmus stuck with him & refused to make change until the team’s season was at its breaking point.

Not everything was all on Brad Ausmus, however. I won’t use this as strictly an Ausmus-bashing session (but trust me, we will get back to him soon enough). Ace pitcher Justin Verlander did not have a great season, won 15 games, but that’s par for the course for Verlander, considered one of the best pitchers in the industry & a possible Hall-of-Famer down the line. It was revealed during the season that Verlander & Miguel Cabrera, quite possibly the best hitter in the game, both had core muscle surgery last offseason & neither were never quite right throughout the year.

Many fans have said that Verlander was not only fighting the injury, but was also distracted by his relationship with actress/model Kate Upton. It may be a folk tale, but it seems as though when the relationship is strong, Verlander has had down years & when they weren’t actively dating, Verlander was back to being his dominant self. Verlander had a strong showing in the playoffs, but many can argue that Verlander did not deserve to start in game 2 because he had not earned the right to pitch due to his record, that Ausmus was making a decision based on his career achievements, as opposed to his current record.

Back to Brad Ausmus. Ausmus led a team that was already geared towards winning in the playoffs back into the tournament, which is great and fine, but during the season, a major component was not addressed & it was the severe lack of a bullpen presence. Soria was brought in to help sure up that area, but more times than not, Soria wasn’t himself & when the bullpen continued to implode at points throughout the season, Ausmus did not make the proper moves to keep his team in position to win those 5-10 games that could have been a big help in having home field advantage & maybe give the Tigers a more advantageous matchup in the playoffs.

Let’s be honest, Ausmus is a young manager who still has so much to learn about the business, but this Detroit Tigers team may not be the team that has the time to help a new manager along if it means that the window could close on winning a championship. This team can not waste Verlander, Scherzer, David Price, Cabrera, Victor Martinez & other top players who are either in their prime or possibly ready to be out of their prime. In that case, Ausmus does not need to be the manager of this team. I think it is important to keep him in the organization, but a true veteran needs to be the leader of a veteran lineup.

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New SEC, Florida State, Notre Dame Stores at Sports Fan Playground

The Sports Fan Playground store has been undergoing major changes over the last couple of months & we thank you for being patient with us while we are taking care of those changes. We are able to announce now that some of our teams are now available for shopping in their respective stores – the stores for the Florida State Seminoles, Notre Dame Fighting Irish & the entire SEC.

The items available include t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats & much more, all at some of the lowest prices available online. For the SEC, the Sports Fan Playground has apparel available for the entire league, including Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida & others.

Notre Dame flag

Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish flag is available for $9.00 at the Sports Fan Playground Notre Dame store.

At Florida State, the school has many items available commemorating their 2014 National Championship season in which they defeated an SEC school in Auburn to win their first championship since 2000.

Alabama Crimson Tide parking sign

Alabama Crimson Tide parking sign on sale for $5.92, down from $25 at the Sports Fan Playground store.

With Notre Dame, they are a brand in itself. The team has been strong all season & with the rebirth basically of Everett Goldston, the Fighting Irish look like a team that could surprise people in college football.

For more information, check out the Sports Fan Playground store at store.sportsfan1984.com.

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Devin Hester Shows Why He is a Hall Of Famer

On Thursday Night, the Atlanta Falcons basically took the Tampa Bay Bucs behind the woodshed & beat the daylights out of them, 56-14. It wasn’t that close……….

However, Devin Hester of the Falcons broke Deion Sanders’ record for most punt returns for touchdown in the history of the NFL with 20. It could have been more but penalties called back some of the action.

Hester was the best offensive option for the Chicago Bears during the Lovie Smith years when they went to the SuperBowl. Everyone who was & is an NFL fan knows that Hester was & is something special & showed that he is truly an NFL Hall of Famer. The emotion & the special moment that he shared with Sanders on the set of NFL Network after the game showed that Hester is a Hall-of-Fame person in many ways.

In a week where we hear nothing but negatives about how guys are committing so many heinous acts of violence against women & children, its finally nice to see a story & a moment that shows what is really good about sports. Congrats, Mr. Hester. See you in Canton.

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The NFL Is Full of Boys, Not Men Unfortunately

The National Football League, also known as the NFL, has always been known for having the best athletes in the world in its organization, from the top all the way down. It was considered to be one of the most manly activities that you could do in terms of being an athlete & or in society as a whole.

The last two weeks, as we have all heard, have been some of the worst times in the history of the league. We all know about the incidents with Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, Ray McDonald & Greg Hardy.

5 men. Allegedly. But for this piece, we will say 5 men who supposedly have been allowed to be in the NFL & who are supposed to act like men, but real men are supposed to be role models for the rest of society & for those who look up to them. These 5 men have been right in the face of an issue that we tend to overlook in the United States until this week – abuse.

In Adrian Peterson’s case, he is accused of child abuse against his 4-year-old son. In Goodell’s case, its abuse of power. In Rice, Hardy & McDonald’s case, its abuse against women. Why is it that we are having these issues about simply being immature in that these men want to throw their power around when they are in a status in our country that wields an immense amount of power in society?

I will not go into the situations individually, but I would pose one question to the NFL & the men that were mentioned – What do you do when you have young men, women & parents look up to you & want to be like you guys as they get older? If you are all going to act like complete bitches, what is there for the future of the league?

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Sports Fan Playground Store Under Construction

Hello everyone!

We apologize for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks, we have been going through a massive overhaul of our Sports Fan Playground store. It is currently under construction but will be back up on Saturday, September 6. Check back later today with a new fresh post talking about last night’s Seahawks win against the Packers.

 

Thanks for the support everyone!

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Kenny Hill Replaces Johnny Manziel – Easily

It has been a while since we have conversed, & much has happened in that time frame. We now have the future of Texas A&M football here in quarterback Kenny Hill, who, in his first start in his life & after the Johnny Manziel era, threw for 511 yards in a Texas A&M stomping of South Carolina on Thursday night in the first game on the new SEC Network.

Hill looked poised, relaxed, & in a loud environment, on the first drive of the game, he led the Aggies to a touchdown. The 80,000 Gamecocks fans were quickly silenced just as quickly as they were amped up to begin the season.

Hill made the South Carolina defense, a top-10 level team even without Jadeveon Clowney, look like a high school team that wasn’t ready for varsity level. Hill didn’t take unnecessary shots down the field & scrambled when needed, but didn’t take needless hits in the open field. The situation is only one game old, but if Hill keeps up like this, people will say the phrase that we never thought they would -

Johnny Who?

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NFL Preseason Is Pretty Much As Bad As Pulling Teeth – But I Gotta Watch

Yup, I am an NFL junkie. Actually, a football junkie. In the first week of the NFL preseason, what was I doing like a complete dope? Watching meaningless football that featured many players that will mostly work at Speedway before the end of the camp & definitely by the time we get to week 1 of the 2014 NFL season.

Why would I watch? Because we get absolutely no football from February all the way until July. NFL & college football have the longest breaks out of all of the major American sports, & it just so happens that football is the most popular sport in America. Even with all of the talk about the Redskins name controversy, concussions, HGH, violence, is it safe to play football, etc., the NFL still gets extremely high ratings for games that are most times absolutely unbearable to watch.

This preseason, the main talk has been all about what would happen in the matchup of the century in Cleveland, also what could be known as The Decision III – Cleveland Browns edition – the decision on whether Johnny Manziel or Brian Hoyer would be the starter at quarterback. The first game of the preseason against my Detroit Lions, Manziel looked like he was a world beater & Hoyer was just keeping the seat warm. In week 2, both looked like crap, the game against Washington was crap because no team looked as though they belonged on the field, & again – the people watched bad football – in masses.

Johnny Manziel

The Johnny Manziel Cleveland Browns saga has made the NFL preseason somewhat watchable.

Then, let’s look around the league. The NFL referees are calling absolutely every single play that could possibly be a penalty, thus making games that are already not watchable after the 3rd quarter, even worse with having stoppages in play every 5 plays. I completely get that the league is trying to clean the game up & make sure that hands to the head & basically all touching is taken out of the game, but when the NFL wants to charge regular season prices for bad NFL preseason football, there is a very big issue & disconnect.

But we watch. We watch because we are excited. We watch because we are yearning for that first big hit. That first big roar of the crowd on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon. It puts us all in a happy place. We have something to do during the winter months & during the fall when the leaves are turning & for many, it has tons to do with fantasy football. With the rise of the fantasy football leagues, the preseason is great for scouting talent on a regular basis.

No matter what happens at the end of the day, we know that the goal is to get to September 7, the start of the NFL season. But the league needs to take a long, hard look at how their preseason is set up. I know that you need 4 weeks to have the starters ease their way in, and this particular week – week 3 – is basically the “dress rehearsal” where the starters play into the 3rd quarter & its the last time they are seen until the regular season, while week 4 is basically useless, but because Americans are football junkies, just like myself, we will watch just a little bit, which is exactly what Fox, CBS, NFL Network & ESPN want us to do.

However, I would say that if you are thinking about going to the NFL preseason games this week or next, just think to yourself – wouldn’t you enjoy those preseason games so much more by having the ability to change the channel after you saw the actual “real” NFL players take the field & be done, thus allowing you to be done to do more productive things than watching bad preseason football, such as watching paint dry?

Here’s hoping that the league will understand that the preseason is not a good product & decides to cut the preseason schedule down to 2 games & go into the regular season from there. Even if the games aren’t right together, but 2 games in the month of August, continue camp & then go into the NFL regular season.

Hey, we are going to watch anyway, let’s at least get a real football product.