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The other 53 men of my life

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Peyton Manning Super Bowl

My husband knows that he is not my first and only love. He lives in that constant shadow and accepts the fact that I have carried a torch for 53 other men, since 1977.  It’s an open marriage that he has learned to accept and even encourages.  He understands the parameters of our relationship, and has never come between me, and my undying affection for the Denver Broncos.  

The AFC championship game between those who I hold so dear and the New England Patriots was supposed to be it for the season. Hubby surprised me with scalper-acquired tickets, with the financial justification that we go and show support for the team in this last game of the year, and say goodbye to Peyton Manning. Done. Finished. Move on. Better luck next season.

Peyton Manning Super Bowl

Graphic by Riki Takaoka

O ye of little faith.

We didn’t think twice about going to Santa Clara. Well, actually that’s a lie. Anyone who even considers going to the big game will be immediately shocked by the cost involved (don’t ask, I won’t tell you).  You hesitate to tell your friends and family, out of fear of judgment. You live in a paranoid terror that they suspect you either maxed out your credit cards, have more money than you lead on, or you don’t care about the starving children who could benefit from the money you have spent.

I kept it under wraps for just one week. We were going to the Super Bowl.

The two-hour plane ride to Oakland felt more like an aboveground Broncos pep rally of orange and blue-attired Merry Pranksters, aboard an airborne Further (substituting Ken Kesey’s variety of hallucinogenic-inspired enjoyment with the in-flight mini bottles of booze, of course).  The party continued, on an actual bus, to our designated San Francisco hotel, 20 miles due northwest.

On our sightseeing day it became obvious  the Bay Area wasn’t entirely embracing the Super Bowl hosting thing, Even going so far as corralling the masses into a designated “Super Bowl City” locale, away from the central portion of the city.  

There is no polite way to write this, but Super Bowl City was a expletive-mess.  The closest we came to it was a police barricade, keeping what appeared to be the entire combined population of Pueblo and Colorado Springs out.

The bus ride over to the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, felt more like a funeral procession of Panther and Broncos fans than a trip to the big game. Maybe I should have started a “Here we go Broncos” chant to see if people were breathing.

I don’t think it really dawned on me where I was, and what I was about to be a part of, until that moment I first saw Levi’s Stadium. This would be just the first of numerous times of which my emotions would revert me to an infant. I have to hand it to the people of Santa Clara, they know how to do football palaces.

“Oh my God, Karl Mecklenburg!” Yes, I really screamed that, no more than two inches from #77, the Albino Rhino, Mr. Ring of Fame. I’m sure the entire pre-party fan bash attendees heard me.  I’m pretty sure the mountains moved from the reverberation. Thankfully, I regained enough composure to ask for an autograph and picture, before he could file a restraining order.

I probably need to confess here – I’m very emotional when it comes to the Broncos.  I cry when they win and cry when they lose. My husband knows that this loss of rational behavior is temporary, from September through January, and, as was noted in our marriage vows, is included in that “better or worse” clause.

As we entered the massive Super Bowl compound, the first thing that surprised me was the security fortress around Super Bowl 50. Pardon the embellishment, but it truly seemed as if there was a heavily armed protector for each person attending the game. Between the choppers circling the skies, to the bomb-sniffing dogs on the ground, the employees at Cheyenne Mountain might have felt slighted.

Once to our seats, and back among Broncos fans who are unafraid to show their team spirit, it’s very apparent that orange is the dominant color choice at the game.   Our locale, in the second tier, on the Broncos side of the field, near the end zone, were worth the upgrade. Yes, I do care about the starving children and no, we didn’t win the lottery, nor are we headed for the poor house.

The Super Bowl is no ordinary football game, which is obvious by the pomp and circumstance, before the first ball is snapped. For someone who is used to watching it on TV, the magnitude of display, in person, is incredible, and yes, very emotional. Once we got past the Super Bowl MVPs (yes, the Tom Brady booing was painfully loud), the fireworks, Lady Gaga (who killed it on the National Anthem), and the Blue Angels flyover, it was time for Super Bowl 50.

Peyton Manning to Owen Daniels on the first play of the game – a completion. Great way to get off to a fast start.  Still  59:30 to go and the very polite, almost subdued Panther couple next to us, clapped for the opposing team, while I acted like a Price is Right contestant, screaming like a banshee.

Cam Newton is an incredible quarterback. There, I said it, but Denver’s passing rush was all over him all game long. If there was any doubt that Super Bowl 50 was a Bronco home game, that was left in the end zone when Von Miller finds a hole, and sacks the NFL MVP, as the ball rolls into end zone, for a Malique Jackson fumble recovered TD. Denver 10, Carolina 0, and I’m pretty much losing my voice.

That Panther couple next to us recited, “That’s OK, that’s alright. Plenty of time.” They were right of course. The Panthers made a game of it until a world class Denver defense stepped up.  It was obvious this was not going to be the same disaster of a Super Bowl, from two years ago.

What’s very apparent about physically experiencing a Super Bowl in person, versus in a living room, is the amount of energy in the stands. I’ve never encountered anything so loud.  

We were pretty indifferent about sticking around for the halftime show.  No offense to Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé, but I think the NFL dropped the ball on essentially recycling a couple of acts for such an historic 50th anniversary game. If they were going to bring anyone back, I would have killed to see Prince and Bruce, or bring back U2, but I digress. We decided to stick it out, and take part in the audience participation portion, flipping colored cards on cue. To be honest, it was a quite a spectacle, but unlike the audience watching at home, our experience was missing a big component – we really couldn’t hear the music.

After securing a vegan hot dog for me, and a meat version for my husband, we were back in our seats for the second half. Just 30-minutes to go.  The Panthers couple held out hope, but you could tell the newest version of the Orange Crush defense was wearing them down as much as their team.  With every down, the Broncos fans got louder, and the Panthers fans were withering. The mass exodus of those wearing blue and black began right after the successful Bennie Fowler two point conversion.  Broncos fans began collectively singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”

Oh my God. We won Super Bowl 50. Cue the waterworks.

I pretty much lost the use of my legs, and fell into my seat, as I blubbered into my commemorative Broncos Super Bowl towel. The Panthers couple were the kind of opposing team fans you wished you could always sit beside.  Nice, polite, didn’t get up every five minutes to go to the concession stands, and congratulatory. They took the loss as well as could be expected…and they were concerned for my welfare. Seriously.

“Is your wife alright?”  They looked over and saw me bawling hysterically, once the clock zeroed out and the confetti cannons spewed little paper Lombardi trophies onto the field.

“This is what she does,” my husband said. “She’s a Broncos fan.”

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Some rules for the newest Olympic sport: 3-on-3 hoops

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The version of 3-on-3 coming to the Tokyo Olympics in three years isn’t exactly the same game seen on so many local playgrounds.

The IOC on Friday added 3-on-3 to the Olympic program for 2020 in an effort to give the games a more youthful and urban appeal. Basketball and Olympic officials hope the half-court game is as successful as beach volleyball – a smaller, faster version of the 5-on-5 sport.

Just don’t expect it to look exactly like the recreational sport you might be used to.

After scouring the short and long versions of FIBA’s 3-on-3 rulebook, here are a few key differences between the Olympic version of the sport and the kind played in gyms and on driveways:

— THE BALL AND COURT: The court itself looks a bit different than the one at a typical playground. The FIBA court measures 15 meters by 11 meters (49.2 feet by 36 feet), with a 2-point line that measures at the same distance for the international 3-point line (6.75 meters or about 22 feet) and a no-charge semicircle under the basket. The official 3-on-3 ball has a 28.5-inch diameter — an inch smaller than the standard men’s ball, making it easier to grip and increasing the chances that shots go in.

— THE TEAMS: They’re made up of four players — three on the court, plus a substitute. The sub may enter at any dead ball from behind the end line — there’s no formal check-in process from the scorer’s table — once the player leaving the game makes physical contact (think slapping a high five) with him. Plus, coaches, either on the playground or in the bleachers, are forbidden.

— SCORING AND FOULS: You don’t call your own fouls in Olympic 3-on-3 ball — there are officials for that. Instead of merely keeping the ball on a shooting foul, players go to the free-throw line. Free throws are worth one point, and so are shots from inside the arc. Buckets from beyond the arc are worth two points. And there’s a 12-second shot clock and a rule specifically outlawing stalling or “failing to play actively (i.e., not attempting to score).”

— NO MAKE IT, TAKE IT: Just like in pretty much all other officiated versions of the sport, if your team scores, the ball goes to the other team. They will either dribble or pass from directly under the basket — but not from behind the end line — to somewhere behind the arc and can begin play immediately without “checking” the ball. Defensive rebounds and steals also must be cleared to the arc, but of course, there’s no such restriction on offensive boards. After a dead ball, play starts after a check-ball — just like on the playground — and jump balls always go to the defense.

— STYLE OF PLAY: Forget about fast breaks — especially with what’s essentially a half court and the mandatory clearing of defensive rebounds and steals to the arc. Expect more screens, isolation plays, quick backdoor cuts and offensive players backing defenders into the post.

— END OF GAME: FIBA games are timed — one 10-minute period — but the first team with 21 points during regulation wins. If it’s tied after 10 minutes, an overtime period follows and the first team to score two points in OT wins.

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Peyton Manning to put his head to good use for Riddell

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ROSEMONT, Ill. — Peyton Manning will be advising helmet manufacturer Riddell on product development.

The five-time NFL MVP, who retired after the 2015 season, wore Riddell’s helmets and shoulder pads throughout his career. His insights will be used to help inform the many aspects of helmet design and development for the company.

He also will work with the company as its first brand ambassador through its grass-roots initiative “Smarter Football.”

Riddell also designs and develops other protective sports equipment, head impact monitoring technologies, apparel and related accessories.

“I have been fortunate to play the game of football,” Manning says, “and partnering with Riddell is the right opportunity to positively impact the sport when protection is a constant focus for athletes of all ages.

“This is something I am personally invested in. I’ve always wanted to serve as an ambassador to the game and my role with Riddell enables me to expand my contributions to football.”

NFL players are allowed to choose their own helmets, though from 1989-2014, Riddell had exclusivity for on-field marketing. Other companies couldn’t have their logo on helmets used in games during those years.

Each year, the league and the players’ association test helmets, then release the results to the clubs and players.

“Peyton will leverage his strong connection to the game to highlight Riddell’s efforts to innovate protective equipment,” Riddell CEO Dan Arment said. “As a strategic adviser, Peyton will provide his perspective and insights to the Riddell team as the company brings new products to the field. His years of on-field NFL experience and involvement in the game will help provide guidance to the development of future protective equipment.”

Manning called his involvement with Riddell in enhancing player safety “the right fit for me.”

“Throughout my playing career I had great confidence in wearing and playing with Riddell equipment,” he said. “Riddell has always been on the forefront of innovation in football helmets and protective equipment. Together, we can continue to improve athlete protection in football and help foster growth in the game.”

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Six years after Obama comments Hank Williams Jr. returns to Monday Night Football

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FILE - In this July 14, 2011, file photo, Hank Williams Jr. performs during the recording of a promo for NFL Monday Night Football in Winter Park, Fla. USA Today Network-Tennessee reported on June 5, 2017, that Williams and his "All My Rowdy Friends Are Here on Monday Night" theme are returning to "Monday Night Football." (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Hank Williams Jr. is bringing his rowdy friends back to “Monday Night Football” six years after ESPN dropped the country singer for his comments about President Barack Obama.

ESPN says a new version of Williams’ longtime “MNF” theme and its “Are you ready for some football?” catchphrase will debut before the first regular-season Monday night game — a Sept. 11 matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings.

The network says in a statement that it’s bringing back what it calls “most iconic music video in sports television history” because fans missed it.

ESPN dropped Williams in 2011 after he compared Obama golfing with then-House Speaker John Boehner to Adolf Hitler golfing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

ESPN executive Stephanie Druley tells USA Today Network-Tennessee that she’s not concerned about any backlash over Williams’ return.
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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and https://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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