Monday, February 22, 2010

The American Way

The hockey game last night between team USA and team Canada was a classic. I love the Olympics, and I always root for the US athletes to take home gold, but last night was the first time this Olympics I really felt passionate about the result. During the game, I was going crazy everytime the Americans scored. I thought about why I was so into this game and I came up with two main reasons.

First off the obvious reason is that Hockey is a great sport and simply more fun to watch than many Olympic games. Secondly, and more importantly is the fact that we were the underdog. So far this Olympics we have dominated the medal count which has been fantastic to watch. That being said though, a little bit of the luster is lost when we do win gold. This hockey game though gave us a chance to be David taking on Goliath, to beat a border rival in their own game. The game did not dissapoint. The Americans celebrated a 5-3 victory which featured excellent goaltending by Ryan Miller and the US capitalizing on scoring chances.
I guess the only point I am trying to make is that, although it is awesome to win as many medals as we do, it was fun being the underdog for a night.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heart Ripped Out

As an 18 year old Vikings fan, I have probably experienced more heartbreak than many will experience in their entire lives as fans. Now let me first say that I know how lucky I am that in only really 11 years of following a team, I have seen them play in three NFC Championship games. That being said, Vikings fans have no question felt the most heartbreak in my years of being a fan. Also remember that this does not include heartbreaking events that occurred before my time as a fan (four lost Super Bowls and the original Hail Mary)

1998-The Vikings cruised through the regular season with ease. Led by MVP QB Randall Cunningham, future Hall of Famer Chris Carter, and rookie sensation Randy Moss, the Vikings put up more points in a season than any team had before them. They finish the year with a 15-1 record, their only loss coming at the hands of the then division foe Bucs in week 9. In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Vikings annihilated Jake Plummer's Cardinals and found themselves in a conference championship match up with the Atlanta Falcons. Although the Falcons had finished the season with a 14-2 record, the Vikings were still 7.5 points favorites. The Vikings were in front the entire game even though they fumbled away points (sound familiar?). The Vikes lead 27-20 with just over two minutes left, when they called upon their reliable place kicker Gary Anderson out to attempt a 38 yd field goal which would seal a trip to Miami (also familiar). Anderson had made 122 consecutive kicks and hadn't missed in two years. As Anderson took his calculated steps back to attempt the kick, John Madden said, "now this guy hasn't missed in two years, if you were gonna bet on whether he will make this kick, you would have to say yes." Wide right. The Falcons march down score a touchdown and then win in overtime when their kicker Morton Anderson hits a, you guessed it, 38 yd field goal to end the Vikings dream season. For many Vikings fans, this is the most painful game of all time simply because of the potential this team had. I may have been lucky to only be seven at the time of this one, although I remember crying at the end I was too young to appreciate just how bad that loss was.

2000-Although Jeff George had played admirably the season before, there was no question it was time to hand the reigns over to 1999 first round draft pick Daunte Culpepper. The Vikings played their way to a number two seed despite losing their last three games of the regular season. In the first round they took care of the Saints 34-16. The Vikings were back to the NFC Championship for their second time in three years. This time they would take on the number 1 seed Giants. Even though the game was at the Meadowlands, the Vikings were favored, and most so called "experts" picked Minnesota to reach the big game. The game was once again a disappointment, yet this time in an embarrassing fashion. 6 minutes into the game the Giants already lead 14-0 thanks to a touchdown drive and a Moe Williams fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Giants would go on to destroy the Vikings 41-0. The loss was followed up by a 5-11 season in which Dennis Green was fired.

2003-The Vikings did not make the NFC Championship in 2003, but the way the Vikings ended this regular season could not have been worse. Coming off of an injury plagued 6-10 2002 season, The Vikes were healthy and ready to shoot out of the gate in '03. They started 6-0 and the offense was clicking on all cylinders. After that the season took a turn for the worse, the Vikes reeled off 4 straight losses and were 3-6 since that 6-0 start going into week 17. As bad as the second half of the season had gone, the Vikings still controlled their own fate after giving the Chiefs an old fashion butt whooping at the Dome. All they had to do was beat the 3-12 Cardinals and the Vikings would be NFC North champions once again. I was on vacation with my non Vikings fans family on a cruise during this game. The boat had a sports bar but I was devastated to find out that it did not have DirecTV's Sunday ticket package. Thankfully though (or maybe not) fox switched to the Vikings game with just over two minutes to play. I had been frantically checking the score but it was still calming to see that the Vikes were up 17-6. A few plays later though and they were up 17-12 after a Cardinals touchdown and failed two point conversion attempt. Still I wasn't too worried, what are the odds the lowly Cardinals recover an onside kick and take it down the field and score a touchdown in less than two minutes? Uh oh. Recovery Cardinals. They then drove the ball with ease down the field to the Vikings 14 yard line. The Vikings D then came up big with 3 consecutive sacks of Quarterback Josh McCown. This brought up 4th and 24 from the 28 yard line with only 4 ticks left on the clock. "McCown drops back, looking for a receiver, rolls out to his right, fires to the endzone, CAUGHT CAUGHT, TOUCHDOWN TOUCHDOWN NATE POOLE, AND THE CARDINALS HAVE KNOCKED THE VIKINGS OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS." I proceeded to go to my room on the cruise and lock myself in for hours. It should be noted that Nate Poole was ruled to be forced out because he did not have both feet in bounds. This would not have been a catch in today's rule book. To add insult to injury, the Vikings loss allowed the hated Packers to win the division and get into the playoffs. The mayor of Green Bay then gave Nate Poole a key to the city.

2009-I'm not going to go into detail about the season other than that all Vikings fans knew that with Favre likely only playing here for one year, it was all in. After embarrassing the Cowboys in the divisional round, the purple and gold headed to the Big Easy for a championship game with the Saints. The Vikings outplayed the Saints on nearly every level of the game. They out gained them 475-257. Sadly though, the Vikings were dominated in the most important part of the game, turnovers. The Vikings laid the ball on the turf six times, three of which were lost (2 inside the 10 yd line) and the ageless wonder had thrown an interception. Despite all the turnovers, The Vikings were still in great position to win the game at the end. The score was tied 28-28 and the Vikings had marched the ball down to the Saints 34 yard line. It was as if at this moment, the Vikings remembered that they were the Vikings and were destined to lose this game. Coach Brad Childress called two runs up the middle, seemingly settling for the 51 yard attempt from one of the best in the game, Ryan Longwell. I may not have agreed with the conservative play calling yet I was still confident Longwell would kick that ball long enough and well enough to propel the Vikes to Miami. That was when, coming of a timeout, 12 men were in the huddle. That’s right, 12 men were in the huddle. With a chance to go to the Super Bowl, 12 men were in the huddle. Incredible. The penalty backed the Vikings up pretty much out of field goal range when Favre tossed what may be the last pass he will ever throw in the NFL, an interception that sent the game into overtime. I'm not going to address all the bad calls made in overtime, because quite frankly, when you turn the ball over five times, you don't deserve to win. But when that ball off of Saints kicker Garrett Hartley flew through the uprights it was like every Vikings fan in the country and overseas got punched in the gut and their heart ripped out. Maybe what was sadder is how familiar the feeling felt. This season may have been the worse because of the uncertainty for next year. The 98 team may have had more of a shot at the Super Bowl, but at least fans knew that next year they would have virtually the same team. Now, Vikings fans are left wondering what will happen next year? Odds are that Brett won't return which means what, back to Tarvaris? So I would say this is so painful because we were all in and we lost, and now we don't know when we will get those chips back.

In the end, is it worth it? Is it really worth being a Vikings fan for all of this heartbreak. The answer is yes, because being a Viking fan is about more than football. It's about an escape from our everyday lives. And more than that, it's about being part of a huge family. I always feel I am connected to any Viking fan I meet. The Viking fan club which I attend is a small close part of that family. During football season, my favorite part of the week is going to watch the game with all of my Viking brothers. But really, it is all about keeping the faith that one day our year will come, and the Purple and Gold will hoist the Lombardi Trophy high in the air for the whole world to see.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


With the sports weekend filled with shocking news and breaking stories perhaps the most important of all of them was merely mentioned throughout the sports world. Gaines Adams death seemed to be a lost topic this weekend. With the NFL playoffs going on, the Mark McGwire saga continuing, the NFL coaching carousel rotating, and other stories the Gaines Adams story got lost. Not even cracking the "Top Stories" on

Adams who just finished his third season in the NFL was a tremendous defensive linemen prospect coming out of Clemson. Adams was taken with the fourth overall pick in the draft by the Tampa Bay Bucs, but did not live up to the towering expectations. Adams was then traded to the Chicago Bears before the start of the 2009 NFL season. Adams totaled 13.5 sacks during his time in the NFL.

Was the story of Adams' death lost because of the fact that he was not a star player? Or was it the fact that with the playoffs going on it was just too hard to squeeze his story in? Or was it that Adams died of natural causes? Those are the reasons why I believe his death was a side story throughout the weekend. None of those reasons are good enough to overshadow the premature death of an athlete and man. He was only 26.

Gaines Adams deserved better from the sports world. The playoffs, McGwire, Pete Carroll, all could have gone to the back of our minds for just a bit while we remembered the life of Gaines Adams. It is so hard to see a man's life cut so incredibly short. The NFL has had a very tough year prematurely losing four active players; Gaines Adams, Chris Henry, Corey Smith and Marquis Cooper. While it is easy to get caught up in the flash of the playoffs, we can not overlook this story.

R.I.P Gaines Adams
June 8, 1983-January 17, 2010

-Matt Houston

Thursday, December 31, 2009


After a two month hiatus due to work and college apps, in the words of T.O. I'm BAAAAAAAAAACK and I'm better than ever. It's amazing how much can change in the world of sports in such a short amount of time. The last time I made a post the Vikings were flying high and were virtually locked into the number two seed, Mike Leach hadn't locked Adam James in a closet, Tiger Woods was thought of as just a golfer, and the Wizards looked promising in their first four games. Of everything that happened in the last two months, the issue that really got to me was Jim Caldwell and the Colts giving up on their quest for perfection.

The Colts were leading the Jets early in the second half, at home nonetheless, when head coach Jim Cladwell elected to pull some starters including Peyton Manning with whom he replaced with rookie backup Curtis Painter. Nothing against Curtis, but when you put a rookie against a Jets team playing for a playoff spot and that has a physical defense like Rex Ryan's, he has no chance. The Jets cruised to a win in the second half 29-15.

This decision raises the question, is it more important to assure health to your starters or go for an undefeated season? The clear answer is to go for an undefeated season. Simply put, going undefeated is awesome. The members of the '72 Dolphin team can say that they were part of the best team to ever play and no one can really argue with them because NO ONE beat them. Without the undefeated season do we really remember Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka, and Bob Griese the way we do? Had the Saints still been undefeated and they did this I would have had slightly less of a problem because they would be going for the franchise's first Super Bowl. But when the Colts, a team in which half of their players have rings, they needed to go for something more special.

The decision also does not secure the Super Bowl by any means, if anything it may hurt their chances. Prior to 2006, we saw the Colts rest their starters the last two games of the regular season and then collapse in the playoffs. The year they won it all they were forced to play to win every game in order to secure a division championship. After Peyton was pulled, he was visably upset, and obviously did not agree with the decision. Manning stood on the sideline sulking with his helmet on and chinstrap buckled as if he was ready to go back into the game. And as much as everyone worries about Peyton Manning's health, the guy has started every single game of his career; I think he knows how to take care of himself for one extra half.

In the end, Jim Caldwell has only put more pressure on himself because now if the Colts don't reach the Super Bowl, his decision will certainly be criticized.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Houston's Finest Week Eleven Picks

Miami-Carolina: Carolina- No Ronnie Brown means no dominant wild cat. This could be the first game Chad Henne has to really play, and I am not sure he can beat a tough Carolina D.

Indianapolis-Baltimore: Indianapolis- No Suggs could create a problem in rushing Peyton Manning.

Washington-Dallas: Dallas- With Fat Albert out for the Skins and Felix Jones healthy for the Boys, Dallas should win, but maybe not as big as expected.

Cleveland-Detroit: Detroit- After watching Cleveland on monday night I came to the conclusion that unless they do get Lebron James they will not win another game this year.

San Francisco-Green Bay: Green Bay- This should be a good game, after a big win last week against the Cowboys I think that Green Bay will use that momentum to win this one too.

Buffalo-Jacksonville: Buffalo- This pick might be because being a Texans fan I need the Jags to lose, but I think that T.O. is going to show up today and get his team the W.

Pittsburgh-Kansas City: Pittsburgh- Easy choice here, Steelers looking for revenge for last weeks loss. Good luck Chiefs

Seattle-Minnesota: Minnesota- Even though I have an insider at this game who has never seen the Vikings win in the Metrodome in 5 tries, this one will be the first W he sees.

Atlanta-New York Giants: New York- No Noorwood. No Turner.

New Orleans-Tampa Bay: New Orleans- I almost picked the Bucs here, then my senses kicked in.

Arizona-St. Louis: St. Louis- Steven Jackson is going to go off this game, they played the Saints very close last weekend and this is not a bad team.

San Diego-Denver: San Diego- Broncos are crashing and burning while the Chargers are on the rise.

New York Jets-New England: New England- Patriots did not forget their week 2 game against the Jets.

Cincinnati-Oakland: Cincinnati: No Jamarcus, still no win.

Philadelphia-Chicago: Philadelphia- Donavan shows up big in his homecoming.

Tennessee-Houston: Houston- Texans need to win to keep playoff hopes alive.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

JG's Week 10 Picks

I apologize for being M.I.A. the last couple weeks, I had to write some articles for someone else.

Denver (-3.5) @Washington- The Broncos may be getting the losing fever after dropping their last two, but the Redskins are the perfect remedy. Denver's defense will keep Washington to no more than one touchdown.

Denver 21- Redskins 10

Cincinnati (+7) @Pittsburgh- Cincinnati won the first meeting and if they can pull one off today it would put them in great position to win the AFC North. The Steelers though, after a rocky start, have been playing some of the best football in the league. I like the Steelers in a close one.

Steelers 24- Bengals 21

Jacksonville (+6.5) @New York Jets- The Jets started off as a hot team, and caught the eye of many as a possible Super Bowl Team. Right now though, this is just a game of two 4-4 teams in which 6.5 points is too much. The Jags don't only cover but get the straight up win.

Jaguars 20- Jets 17

Buffalo (+8) @Tennessee- With Vince Young at the helm, the Titans have scored 30 or more in two consecutive weeks, both wins. Buffalo, has struggled mightily offensively and the troubles will continue this week. The Bills are unable to avenge the Music City miracle.

Titans 27- Bills 14

Detroit (+16.5) @Minnesota- Don't expect a trap game here with the Vikings coming off of a bye. They will be ready to get back on the field and bring it to the woeful Lions. Stat of the game: The Lions have not won at the Metrodome in 11 years.

Vikings 31- Lions 14

New Orleans (+14) @St Louis- The teams playing is all that needs to be said.

Saints 41- Rams 20

Atlanta (-1.5) @Carolina- Last year these two teams were the two best teams in the NFC South and two of the best teams in the NFC. Now the Falcons are trying to keep in the mix and the Panthers are attempting to salvage the season for coach John Fox. Matt Ryan has not been nearly as consistent in his sophomore campaign but in the last couple weeks the burner Turner has stepped up. Expect a slugfest that the dirty birds win.

Falcons 17- Panthers 14

Tampa Bay (+10) @Miami- The battle of south Florida got a little more interesting when last week rookie Josh Freeman lead Tampa Bay to their first win against Green Bay. The Dolphins have put some good games together yet still find themselves at 3-5. Tampa Bay will be pumped up and keep this one close.

Dolphins 24- Buccaneers 17

Kansas City (+2) @Oakland- In what may be the least watched game in the history of the NFL the Raiders win simply because they are less inept offensively than the Chiefs.

Raiders 14- Chiefs 10

Seattle (+8.5) @Arizona- Seattle may seem like they are out of it at 3-5, but in the West, a win today would bring them within a game of first place. Matt Hasselbeck plays like his former self and the Seahawks get the straight up win.

Seahawks 27- Cardinals 24

Philadelphia (+1) @San Diego- The Chargers slipped passed the Giants in New Jersey on a last minute Phillip Rivers touchdown toss. Cross country trips are never easy to overcome. This week the Chargers stay hot.

Chargers 30- Eagles 27

Dallas (-3) @Green Bay- This is the most ridiculous line of the day. The Cowboys are the far better team and will prove it today. The cowboys o-line will once again fail to protect Aaron Rodgers and this one is a blowout.

Cowboys 34- Packers 14

New England (+2.5) @Indianapolis- This may be the greatest out of division rivalry in football. Dating back to 2003 the teams have faced each other every year, and multiple times in the playoffs. The Colts may be 8-0 but we all know Tom Brady loves the national stage. Tom Brady has a fantastic day and the Patriots hand the Colts their first loss which will make Don Shula and company very happy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Houston's Finest Week Ten Picks

San Francisco-Chicago: Chicago
New Orleans
New York Jets
Kansas City
Green Bay
New England

Studs and Duds

Joe Flacco
Donavan McNabb
Adrian Peterson

Kevin Smith
Cedric Benson
Santana Moss