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Mikey Mo returns to Dallas…I cry.

Driving into Dallas yesterday afternoon, I could swear my arm hairs were standing on end – just seeing the city skyline gave me goosebumps. It had been nine years since I was at American Airlines Center to see the Stars and what a night to come back. Mike Modano would be returning to the city and the arena that was his home for so many years, but he would be suited up for one of the Dallas Stars most hated rivals – the Detroit Red Wings.

Stepping into American Airlines Center, I was surprised to see so much red. I always knew the Wings were one of the Stars biggest rivals, but had no idea how many Red Wings fans showed up to Dallas when their team played. Of course, there were tons of Zetterberg and Datsyuk jerseys, but it wasn’t until I saw a #90 Modano jersey that it really hit me. Mikey Mo was no longer a Dallas Star after almost 20 years with the organization. Like many other hockey fans, Mike Modano was one of the reasons I started watching. In the late 90s the Stars were electric and seeing guys like Modano and Nieuwendyk remain a part of the organization for so long was really inspiring. Being there really took me back to a time when I first fell in love with hockey…the days when the “eagle” Eddie Belfour guarded the net for the Stars..days when the team won the Stanley Cup.

The opening video for the Stars however was a look at the future. With Mike Modano playing on the other side of the ice and Marty Turco up in Chicago, the Stars were a new team.  When the opening notes of Jay-Z and Rihanna’s “Run this Town” started playing and the images of the Stars players around the city of Dallas flashed across the screen, a new kind of chill ran through me. This was one of hope, of promise of uncertainty for the future. This was a team that, although it has a very capable captain in Brendan Morrow, looks to each other for success. From top to bottom of the roster, I feel like these players draw on each other’s experience and work to find ways to exploit the areas where each excels. And this is the kind of team that wins.

Of course when they put Mike up on the big screen with a “Thank you Mike,” and the crowd went to their feet, I could not help but hold back tears. Tears of joy? Sadness? I am not sure, but I was certainly overcome with emotion. Seeing his face and the emotions he was experiencing was just incredible. Mike Modano is one of the reasons I fell in love with the great sport of hockey and the Dallas Stars. This moment was more than worth the price of my ticket.

Dallas went on to win the game 4-1. When the Wings scored their first goal of the night, I got chills again when the crowd started chanting, “It just doesn’t matter.” Despite the love everyone felt for Modano, this night was really about the team, the future, these Stars. The win over the Red Wings put Dallas at 3-0 for the season..somewhere many thought they had no chance to be this year. While the Stars did lose their first game Monday night, they have already accomplished more than many believed they could. I have a feeling the Dallas Stars will continue to surprise people this year.

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I suck as a QB – Week 5 NFL Wrap-Up

So this week I got distracted by a sport I don’t really even follow – baseball!! I went to watch the Texas Rangers game last night and honestly, I’ve been swept up in the magic that is playoff baseball. Never really had a dog in the fight so to speak, but guess I’m a Rangers fan by default since I love all of the other Dallas teams (except the Mavs ’cause I’m a Spurs fan)!! Not to mention, this past weekend was the Texas Stars opening weekend as well! I did get to catch a little NFL action though and watched my dreadful Cowboys lose to the Tennessee Titans…we’ll start with that one.

TITANS over COWBOYS – Does anyone else remember this same conversation with Jerry Jones we had last year? “Wade Phillips’ job is safe.” Why?!?! This team has extremely talented players on both sides of the ball, but lacks discipline.  I read somewhere this week that ESPN’s John Clayton said “Too bad there isn’t a penalty for excessive underachievement. The Cowboys would be flagged.” I’d like a do-over on the start to this season please. On the flip side, gotta be happy for my boy VY. He seems like he is finally getting more comfortable in the pocket and of course he’s always got the option to scramble. 2 TDS and no interceptions this week – congrats Vince! And good on you for throwing the “Hook ‘Em” sign in Dallas.

JAGUARS over BILLS – Two wins in a row for Jax?!  Kinda feel like David Gerrard’s got his groove back, even though he lacks options at receiver.  Gerrard was able to connect with Marcedes Lewis for two touchdowns though and the lowly Bills drop to 0-5. I’ve said it before and I will say it again…Bills needed a lot more than a QB change to turn this season around.

RAVENS over BRONCOS – This game was a lot closer than a lot of Ravens faithful thought it would be. Broncos’ QB Kyle Orton logged his 4th consecutive game with over 300 yards, but costly penalties and turnovers, combined with a Ravens running attack led by Ray Rice led to the Broncos defeat. Interesting to note that Joe Flacco had no touchdowns in the game.

COLTS over CHIEFS – Indy redeems itself after last week’s loss to Jacksonville and the Chiefs are no longer unbeaten. Honestly I’m glad the Chiefs lost one…the team wasn’t good enough to be 5-0 in my opinion and I was tired of hearing analysts talking about their unbeaten season. Peyton Manning appears to be in a funk the last few games though (sorry for you fantasy owners); he did not have one touchdown in this game, had an interception, but still threw for 244 yards.

REDSKINS over PACKERS – As a Cowboys fan, I hate, hate, hate that the Redskins are atop the NFC East right now. Things would only be worse if it were the Eagles, but either way…seeing the maroon and gold leading the East is awful and even worse now that Chris Cooley is not on my fantasy team thanks to a completely bunk trade.  The Packers defense is beaten up right now and Aaron Rodgers isn’t really doing much to hold his offense together. A last minute interception by LaRon Landry is what set up the game-winning field goal.

LIONS over RAMS – The Detroit Lions have spent this whole season being “this close” to winning a game, but have come up short each week. Against the Rams on Sunday afternoon, the Lions weren’t about to let that happen again. Shaun Hill came out swinging and threw for 3 touchdowns this week. Who woulda thought that Shaun Hill would be a killer fantasy QB this week?! Bradford is finally showing a few kinks in his armor after an injury to his favorite WR target Mark Clayton. It’s 1:44 am and OU still sucks.

BEARS over PANTHERS – I must be tired…reading that last paragraph and starting this one, the saying, “Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” jumped into my head..haha. Well, the Bears came back this week and took their team to 4-1. Actually, let me rephrase that..the Carolina Panthers are awful and Julius Peppers stuffed his former team’s quarterback with a ridiculously acrobatic interception.  The Bears are thanking Matt Forte for the win Sunday despite FOUR Todd Collins interceptions…Looks like Jay Cutler should be back this week. I am sure the team is relieved.

BUCCANEERS over BENGALS – Oh Carson Palmer. Get ready to experience the wrath of T.O. and OchoCinco. We all know what happens when these receivers are unhappy with their quarterbacks. I have a feeling Palmer is on a short leash and another game like Sunday is going to lead to a Bengals breakdown. 3 interceptions when you have this many talented guys on a team does not look good. However, the receivers need to take some of the blame on this one as well. Palmer had three balls dropped by wide-open receivers on third down opportunities and 2 of his 3 interceptions were in the hands of his receivers. I think the Bucs just might surprise a few people this year.

FALCONS over BROWNS – I’m torn about this Cleveland Browns team. It looks like due to injuries to both Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace that Longhorn Colt McCoy will get his first NFL start this weekend. Great that he is getting an opportunity, but honestly, could it have been against anyone but the Steelers?! Praying for Colt..this will not be easy. Roddy White gets the game ball again this week after a 45 yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan and the Falcons are 4-1.

GIANTS over TEXANS – Giants defense how I love thee. You have kept me in my fantasy league and taken me to third place in the league after I tried unsuccessfully to quit.  New York completely shut down Arion Foster and the Texans running game and flustered Matt Schaub with 3 sacks, an interception and 2 forced fumbles. Even the return of Brian Cushing to the Texans couldn’t put enough pressure on Eli Manning and the Giants. Despite two interceptions, Manning threw for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead the Giants to victory.

CARDINALS over SAINTS – Without Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas the New Orleans Saints are falling apart. Drew Brees isn’t even putting up big numbers like last year because he doesn’t have a balanced offense like he did before. Arizona tried something new at quarterback, starting Max Hall (who?!?!) but he was less than effective in the game. The credit for the Cardinals win definitely goes to the defense as the team scored off an interception and a fumble.

RAIDERS over CHARGERS – Chalk this one up to another team who can put up the big stats but can’t win games. A big shout out to Phillip Rivers – my fantasy team thanks you! – unfortunately even 431 yards and 2 touchdowns can not keep the Chargers from losing.  Michael Huff (hook ’em) actually got to Rivers as he was leading a late drive, forcing a fumble and returning for a touchdown. Good on Jason Campbell coming in and leading the Raiders to two touchdown drives. I still believe that if the team shows faith in him he could be a better quarterback than he ever was with the Skins.

EAGLES over 49ers – The 49ers are like the Saints of two years ago..close, but no cigar. They have lost SO many games now that are separated by just a few points. Alex Smith had perhaps the most bi-polar game of any quarterback this week – flashes of brilliance after a tongue lashing by coach Mike Singletary, but also costly mistakes. Gotta be hard on the ego when the San Fran fans start chanting “We want Carr!” Kevin Kolb looked good in his return to the Eagles…expect this to be the quarterback controversy that lasts all season…Eagles are lucky they have got options.

JETS over VIKINGS – Without going into an extremely long rant about why I hate Brett Favre, Randy Moss and therefore the Vikings, I will just say I am very happy with the result of this game. The more the Jets keep winning, the closer I am to collecting on my $100 bet that they make the playoffs and the more Brett Favre keeps losing, the closer he is to retiring. The beginning of this game was SUPER BORING…field goal, field goal, field goal, field goal. Then Favre found some magic and tried to make it a game for awhile, but then he returned to his interception-throwing-self and the Jets capitalized and held on to the win. A little worrisome for the Jets though that Sanchez and company can’t seem to find the end zone.

A side note: some might say the jersey curse was broken this week, but I am not so sure. I wore my Vince Young jersey from 11 am until 2:30 pm and then again from the third quarter until the end of the game.  Texas Stars hockey opened their season in San Antonio on Sunday afternoon and I was at the game, wearing my Stars jersey. Not only did I not have my jersey on the entire game, but I wasn’t working at Third Base on Sunday. Stay tuned…I’m going with Phillip Rivers (crossing my fingers this does not kill my fantasy team) on Sunday and Vince Young on Monday night.

Texas Stars game meet up planned!!

So I’ve gotten my awesome ticket rep, Chris O’Brien to put together a group for us to attend the Texas Stars home game on Friday, October 22nd at 7:30 pm. If any of you are able to make it up to Cedar Park earlier, we typically happy hour at Buffalo Wild Wings, located at Hwy 1431 & Hwy 183A.   The Stars began their season on the road this year with a 3-0 win over rival San Antonio Rampage and they will be facing the Lake Erie Monsters on the 22nd.  The block of seats is limited but will be luxury seats in Section 101 & 102, which are right next to each other on the end where the Texas Stars shoot twice.  My regular seats are slightly lower in this section, but you can get a good idea from the photo of me here where the seats are in relation to the ice. Fun times for sure!!

The normal price of these seats is $20, but we are getting them at a group rate of less than $16.00. You can purchase them online via the Ticketmaster link here, just use the promo code DANN. If you have any issues, you can contact Chris directly at 512-600-5008.  Seats are limited and must be purchased by October 21st.  Please comment here once you have purchased tickets so I can keep tabs on the size of our group, as there is a chance it can be expanded if necessary. Also, if you are coming from downtown Austin, please feel free to use the comments section below to arrange carpools. I KNOW Cedar Park is far, but it is not so bad if you ride with a friend!!

**Also, forgot to mention that every Friday night at Cedar Park Center is 3-2-1 night!!! $3 domestic 12 oz draft beers, $2 regular sodas and $1 hot dogs. Also, the Texas Stars just launched their new merchandise website at http://texasstarsgear.com so get yourself geared up before Friday!!

Week 4 NFL Wrap-up

Welcome to October!! The only month I can support pink in the sport of football (Jessica Simpson and her pink #9 Romo jersey can stay away)! It was great to see the guys out there this weekend supporting breast cancer awareness and rocking the hot pink shoes, gloves, wristbands and skull caps. Cowboys had a bye this week and yes, unfortunately the jersey curse lives on! I wore my brand new Jordan Shipley Bengals jersey this weekend…Bengals lose to the Browns and Jordan Shipley is the victim of a nasty hit that sidelined him with a concussion. Call your bookie or go to Vegas – Cowboys play the Titans next week, Vince Young jersey it is.

JETS over BILLS – No surprises here. The Bills are still struggling and the Jets defense looks good even with Revis out with a hamstring injury. Mark Sanchez looked good in the victory, but Sunday was all about the ground game. Shonn Green had 117 yards and LaDainian Tomlinson finally had his coming out party for the Jets – 133 rushing yards, 22 receiving yards and 2 TDs. Go LT.

RAVENS over STEELERS – Tough matchup of the week – two strong defenses and an AFC rivalry like no other. Neither offense was particularly impressive in the victory, both QBs had an interception, mediocre statistics. Both teams ground out the running game and honestly, this game could have gone either way.

BRONCOS over TITANS – Well, the Broncos did what was necessary to squash the Titans – shut down Chris Johnson. Fantasy owners everywhere cringed as Johnson only racked up 53 yards and no TDs this week. The Titans managed a strong defensive game with 6 sacks and an interception, but Kyle Orton threw for 353 yards and a kickoff blunder by Marc Mariani (who previously had a 98 yard return for a touchdown) put the Broncos ahead to win the game.

PACKERS over LIONS – If the Lions could have done a better job of scoring touchdowns rather than four consecutive Jason Hansen field goals, they would have won this game. Aaron Rodgers and Shaun Hill both had two interceptions in the game, but otherwise put up good numbers – 3 touchdowns/181 yards for Rodgers, 2 touchdowns/331 yards for Hill. The Lions fall to 0-4 for the season. Coach Jim Shwartz was quoted as saying, “This team doesn’t need me to stand up here and say how close we are. I think it’s obvious to anybody that watches our game, anybody that follows us, the people in the locker room, everyone else. It’s our job to get over the hump. We’re right on it, we just can’t get over the hump.” Close is only good in horseshoes Jim, not football.

FALCONS over 49ers – The 49ers are another 0-4 team that seems close to their first win, but they didn’t get it Sunday against the Falcons. While the offense on both sides of the ball really couldn’t get it together it was WR Roddy White that made a game-changing play on defense. After the 49ers Nate Clements intercepted Matt Ryan’s pass late in the fourth quarter, White chased him toward the end zone and knocked the ball out, forcing a fumble and keeping the drive alive.

SAINTS over PANTHERS – If the story last week was that kickers suck this year, this week a few people definitely managed to turn that around. Saints re-signed 46-year old John Carney and he knocked three field goals through the uprights this week to give the Saints the win. I was quite amused at the number of people in the bar Sunday that were crying over the fact that Garrett Hartley was their kicker and obviously was replaced. Come on people, watch the news, make pickups accordingly. I’m pretty sure no one drafted John Carney this year. Saints offense is still looking a little sluggish, but they managed to get it done.

RAMS over SEAHAWKS – Oh Seahawks. Last week they were riding high after their victory over the Chargers, but this week it looked like last week was a fluke. The Rams trounced them 20-3 and Sam Bradford once again looked like the quarterback the Rams paid the big bucks. Steven Jackson also played with a groin injury and proved to doubters that there is no crying in football.

JAGUARS over COLTS – Who would have thought the Colts and Jags would both be 2-2 at this point in the season? Likely not Peyton Manning. This one was an offensive battle that capped off with one of the best celebrations I have ever seen by a kicker. Josh Scobee went absolutely nuts after nailing a 59-yarder for the victory. Another one of those statements by the kicker this week that said “We don’t suck.” On a side note, David Gerrard also didn’t suck this week – 2 receiving touchdowns and one rushing.

TEXANS over RAIDERS – I’m not sure why Arion Foster was benched at the first of this game (dude, whatever you did to make coach mad, just stop), but he sure came back and tried to convince the Texans it was a mistake. Foster is having a breakout year so far and is adding another dimension to Matt Schaub’s air attack.

CHARGERS over CARDINALS – Oh boy do I love having Philip Rivers as my fantasy quarterback. Consistency is key and the Chargers ROLLED over the Cardinals Sunday afternoon. Rivers had 241 yards and 2 touchdowns and Antonio Gates again showed Vincent Jackson that he is the team’s top receiver…even though he’s a tight end. Gates caught two touchdown passes and logged his 500th career reception. The Cardinals? Yeah they are just awful.

BROWNS over BENGALS – Gotta blame this one on the jersey curse. Terrell Owens had a career day with 222 yards and one touchdown, Carson Palmer had 371 yards and two touchdowns and the Browns had a costly penalty. However, the Browns were determined to win this one and fate was determined to continue the curse. Jordan Shipley was also sidelined with a concussion as a result of what Palmer and Owens would later characterize as a “cheap shot” by rookie safety T.J. Ward.

GIANTS over BEARS – Ugh. This was an ugly game, ugly win for the Giants, but you have got to give it up for the Giants defense. They racked up 10 sacks and an interception – poor Jay Cutler.

PATRIOTS over DOLPHINS – The first half of this game was what I expected – a tough battle between two balanced teams in what I think is the best division in the NFL right now. The second half? Not so much. The Pats special teams ran away with this one – a blocked punt, a blocked field goal and a kickoff return for a touchdown led to the second half slaughter of the Dolphins.

While I am sure the recent personalization of my Texas Stars jersey is going to land me on Puck Daddy‘s Jersey Fouls post, I can honestly say I am very happy with the way it turned out. I bought my Texas Stars jersey last spring when I moved back to Austin after a four-year stint in our nation’s capital. Hungry for hockey after falling in LOVE with the Washington Capitals, I returned to my roots and decided to check out the Dallas Stars’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Austin…the Texas Stars. Having never watched AHL hockey, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that the game is just as exciting as watching the big club. Some of these players bounce back and forth between the AHL and NHL clubs and often are traded around to fill in gaps on the parent clubs rosters throughout the season.

For this reason, it’s very hard to remain “player loyal” in the AHL.  I feel terrible for the merchandise team as they are constantly struggling to figure out who the “hot” player of the moment is, often only to fill t-shirt orders just in time to see a player traded or called up to the big club. The Texas Stars don’t sell their jerseys with numbers or names on them for this reason. Personalization is not cheap and jerseys have to be shipped off to Frisco to be embroidered, but fans are permitted to customize a jersey pretty much however they wish.

During last season’s Calder Cup run, I had a few favorite players for the Stars – forwards #14  Jamie Benn (who I KNEW would be headed back to Dallas this fall), #11 Aaron Gagnon (who I figured had a decent shot with the big club), #27 Greg Rallo (who I hoped would be back, but knew was on a one-year deal with Texas) and goalie #33 Matt Climie (who I would have placed bets would be gone Day 1 of free agency after the stellar playoff run he had). I was hesitant to commit to a number/player’s name for my jersey because I didn’t want it to be outdated in less than a year and honestly wanted it as a memory of our storybook first season in the AHL.

So, the solution? Make it mean something to me. The spring of 2010 was when I first started covering Texas Stars hockey forExaminer.com. Many will argue that Examiner is not a legitimate news outlet and honestly, I can’t say that I truly disagree. I don’t have an Editor, I don’t get assignments, and I don’t have deadlines. However, I write in the journalistic style of a major news outlet and I believe I give the Texas Stars some of the best coverage out there. Rather than simply regurgitating press releases, I write my own stories and look for my own twists on things. As a result of this coverage and my connection to social media, I was able to connect with agent Scott Norton of Norton Sports via Twitter, who represented Matt Climie of the Texas Stars. Climie was about to face a difficult free agency period and I wanted to do a profile piece on him.  Norton was nice enough to hook up this rookie journalist with an interview and as a result, I wrote one of my best pieces to date. So that is why the #33 – first ever exclusive interview and true turning point for me where I knew that there was no option for me but a career in sports.

As for the name, I didn’t want to do Climie for two reasons. First, there are enough female Texas Stars fans who swoon over him I was afraid I’d totally give the wrong impression. Remember, I’m not a puck bunny!! Second, I knew he would be gone as soon as free agency started. Instead, I decided to go with the name that now almost 1,000 Twitter followers and hundreds of readers at Examiner.com know me by: TXSTARSGIRL. It’s the end of my bit.ly link and my Twitter handle and I knew that no matter what I went on to do in sports, this was always going to be the true beginning.

So what does the future hold for me? I still don’t know. I have applied for several jobs around the NHL and AHL, but still haven’t landed the perfect one. I’m holding out for a sales/marketing/PR type job and have realized that I just don’t want to settle. In the meantime, I am still bartending at Third Base downtown and writing. I’ve picked up a couple of new mostly unpaid writing gigs, which I’ll be talking more about soon. They will be added to my “Blog Roll” here as well in time. Thanks to all of you that read…I have really enjoyed connecting with new fans and friends this year.

Week 3 NFL Wrap-up

Yes, I realize I’m a day later than last week and I’m sure you were all waiting on pins and needles for my post…talk to Third Base – they scheduled me a double yesterday. Either way, now you get a bonus write-up of Monday night’s game as well. I will start off this post by saying that the “jersey curse” is still holding strong. For the last three weeks of football, the team whose jersey I have worn to work has lost. Case in point:

1. Week 1 Sunday – DeMarcus Ware – Dallas Cowboys – Cowboys lose to Redskins, DeMarcus Ware gets a stinger in his neck.

2. Week 1 Monday – Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers – Chargers lose to Chiefs, Rivers has a breakdown on the field.

3. Week 2 Sunday – Vince Young – Tennessee Titans – Titans lose to Steelers, Young gets benched.

4. Week 3 Sunday – Houston Texans (You better believe I did this on purpose!) – Texans LOSE to Cowboys!!!!

So yes, jersey curse lives on and I am a happy girl because my Cowboys finally showed up to play some football on Sunday.

COWBOYS over TEXANS – This game at least got me an edge in my pick ’em league. Not many had faith that the ‘Boys would beat the Texans who looked strong in weeks 1 & 2. I had a feeling it was time for the team to show up. And show up they did. 4 sacks (2 by my fave DeMarcus Ware), and some explosive offense, including a coming out party (FINALLY!) for former Longhorn Roy Williams. This is the Cowboys team that experts were predicting to go to the Super Bowl…let’s hope they stick around for awhile.

TITANS over GIANTS – The Titans don’t ask a lot of Vince Young when they are playing their game, just not to make errors – Chris Johnson runs and the defense forces turnovers. That is exactly the game they played Sunday and it worked. Giants were an absolute mess with three turnovers, two missed field goals and five personal fouls. Coughlin has got to get his team under control if they want to turn this season around.

BENGALS over PANTHERS – Despite the lopsided score, this was definitely not a pretty game for the Bengals. Palmer had two interceptions and Benson a fumble for the winning team, but Clausen just could not get it together for the Panthers, committing four turnovers himself. Of note in this game, Cincinnati has a trio of great receivers. For the third week in a row, Jordan Shipley has been hanging right with the second receiver, be it Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens in stats. This week he had 3 catches for 37 yards, including a long of 22 (3  more yards than Ochocinco).

STEELERS over BUCCANEERS – The Steelers are way better than many thought they would be without their starting or even backup quarterback. In his first start in three years, 35-year old Charlie Batch took the black and gold to a romping over the Bucs this week. Batch had 186 yards and 3 touchdowns and actually made the Steelers look like more than just a great defensive team. I just don’t think the Steelers can win another Super Bowl though…Seven-burgh just doesn’t have quite the same ring.

PATRIOTS over BILLS – The Bills were hoping for a spark by switching up their quarterback this week and they definitely got it. The change was not enough to best the Pats, but Ryan Fitzpatrick had a pretty darn good game. This one was a shootout that I think the Bills might have won were it not for a few costly errors and the fact that they couldn’t convert in the red zone and had to settle for field goals on three first-half possessions. Looks like the Bills liked what they saw Sunday though, as they cut Trent Edwards yesterday.

CHIEFS over 49ers – Alright, alright. I said last week I still wasn’t sold on Matt Cassel and he looked great this week. Surprisingly, the Chiefs are now 3-0 and Cassel is leading the team to their success; this week with 3 touchdowns, including an awesome fake play and a 45-yard bomb to Dwayne Bowe, who my fantasy team thanks for finally showing up this season. 49ers just could not get it together offensively and as a result fired their offensive coordinator on Monday.

RAVENS over BROWNS – Joe Flacco came out and hushed the Ravens doubters, returning to form with 3 touchdowns to Ravens off-season pick up Anquan Boldin. Boldin proved the Cardinals were crazy for letting him go and the Ravens offense made up for their slacking defense who let Browns’ Peyton Hillis to have a career rushing day, didn’t force a turnover and allowed their first touchdown of the season.

VIKINGS over LIONS – Brett Favre really needs to retire…again. He is looking less and less like he can keep up with the pace of the game. Despite the win on Sunday, he looked awful, throwing two interceptions and taking several hard hits. Star running back Adrian Peterson carried the Vikes on his shoulders with a little help from a defense that held Lions’ Jahvid Best to only 26 yards.

FALCONS over SAINTS – Saints fans now know how Cowboys fans felt in Week 1 – You think you have a win, but then, NO! That blocked field goal didn’t count because your coach called a time out. This is one instance where trying to ice the kicker really backfired on the Saints. I’m wondering if all of the good kickers went off to play soccer or something. It seems a lot of good teams that have had historically consistent kickers (see Raiders later) have been having big issues this year. Kickers can win or lose games for you. I think some of them need to start practicing. Both of these teams definitely came out gun-slinging on Sunday and Brees and Ryan looked sharp. The Saints running game was lacking though and certainly had analysts kicking around the words “Super Bowl hangover” on Sunday night. My take? They are still 2-1 and this was far from a blowout.

RAMS over REDSKINS – Oh boy. Skins faithful are turning on McNabb already…didn’t see that one coming. Despite their highest rushing numbers of the season, the Skins had problems converting on third down and their defense wasn’t strong enough to stop the Rams, even without Steven Jackson. Lots of people saying Sam Bradford is the next Peyton Manning after this one. It’s going to take a lot more than a win over the Skins to impress me. He put up decent numbers this week, but face it, the guys from OU, I’m not convinced..yet. #Hookem

EAGLES over JAGUARS – Michael Vick for MVP?! The talk has already begun. Hold on guys, it’s week 3…and the Eagles beat the Jags..Really? Yes, Vick looked great this week and made Andy Reid look like a genius for making him the starter, but let’s see a real test before we start anointing Vick “the great one” this season. However, this is definitely the Michael Vick that I was really excited about coming out of VTech. Say what you will about his choices off the field, the guy is a baller.

COLTS over BRONCOS – Peyton. Peyton. Peyton. All day long. Even though Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton had a career-best day, it wasn’t enough to stop the rolling offense of Manning and company (insert whatever receiver shows up here). The Colts defense stopped the Broncos touchdown attempts five times in the red zone.

CARDINALS over RAIDERS – Ugh. Janikowski killed the Raiders in this game with three missed field goals. Is he getting too old or did he just go out and party too hard last night? Get it together kicker. The Raiders need all the help they can get. Neither team looked really good on offense, but Gradkowski threw for more than double the yards Anderson did, giving the Raiders a chance to win it.

SEAHAWKS over CHARGERS – I’m definitely never wearing my Philip Rivers jersey again. The kid threw for 455 yards on Sunday – unbelievable. However, Leon Washington had an amazing day with two monster kickoff returns putting the Seahawks up over the Chargers to end it.

JETS over DOLPHINS – My pick for game of the week this week. Great Sunday night game, although Miami’s bright orange unis were blinding. Explosive offense, with some amazing catches by Braylon Edwards and Brandon Marshall; some key defensive plays and solid quarterbacking by both Sanchez and Henne made this an exciting one to watch. Still my pick for toughest division of the year right here.

BEARS over PACKERS – I will be honest on this one. Was absolutely rooting for the Pack to win this one until I was exposed to some of the loudest, most obnoxious Packers fans ever last night. Everything the ref called was wrong apparently and the Packers should have definitely won that game. I saw it differently. The Packers played sloppy, their awesome defense led by Clay Matthews played ugly and their offense was far from sharp last night. The Bears are now the only 3-0 team in the NFC and are making their hometown Chicago proud. Hopefully they can avoid the Chicago curse and not let those fans down in a couple of weeks, but we shall see.

Monday Morning Quarterback – Week 2

I was planning to do this post last week as well, but honestly was so bummed about the Cowboys debacle of a game on Sunday night that I had to put the post on hold. After the Cowboys second loss yesterday, I have resigned myself to the fact that it just might not be our year and the show must go on. So here goes….my quickie wrap-up of the NFL week 2.

PACKERS over BILLS – Don’t think this outcome was a surprise to anyone. Aaron Rodgers is starting to really come into his own and look like the QB that is the reason the Pack let Favre go to the Jets. The Packers D is also looking really strong and I expect them to have a solid season if Clay Matthews Jr. and company can stay healthy. The Bills? Oh, the Bills..I hope no one really thought T.O. would be the answer for them last year. They still need a lot more athletes to become contenders. Today they announced that Fitzpatrick would be their starter for next weeks game against the Patriots.

DOLPHINS over VIKINGS – I personally loved this game. If you know me, you know my opinion of Brett Favre and how I think he should have just hung up his sneakers with Green Bay. All hatred aside for the Vikes, I have always had a soft spot for the Dolphins. Maybe it’s their far-from-intimidating teal and orange team colors, or the fact that they have my favorite dread-locked running back? Either way, it was good to see them win this one and I don’t think the Pats and Jets will have this division locked up as tight as some may think.

CHIEFS over BROWNS – Just barely. After the Chiefs’ Monday night performance last week, I think everyone expected more. I’m still not sold on Cassel as a premier quarterback.

BEARS over COWBOYS – Wow. Just wow. I am a fan and always have been, but I really want to know what anyone was thinking picking the Dallas Cowboys to go to the Super Bowl this year. It looks like they just can not get it together on offense this season and they clearly still have big problems at kicker (can we pick up a soccer player?). On the flip side, glad to see that Jay Cutler got to have a coming out party this weekend with 3 touchdowns. I think he’s a better quarterback than he’s looked since he has been with the Bears. Cowboys need to make some changes quick to salvage the season – next week at the Texans would be a good time to start that comeback.

FALCONS over CARDINALS – Who would have thought that getting rid of Matt Leinhart would have made the Cardinals worse? Kidding aside, Anderson is no Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald is still not looking 100% and the Falcons just ran all over the Cards defense. Even with injuries to their top backs, Atlanta’s Jason Snelling came in and got the job done for the Falcons. Pick him up for your fantasy league if someone hasn’t already scooped the guy.

BUCCANEERS over PANTHERS – Lots of talk about concussions this week. Matt Moore started for the Panthers, but was benched in the 4th quarter in favor of rookie Jimmy Clausen. Panthers made a lot of errors and the Bucs capitalized on their opportunities. Nice start for Tampa Bay.

EAGLES over LIONS – Oh how I love a good quarterback controversy!! Despite the fact that Kevin Kolb has been named the starter, Michael Vick showed this week that he can lead this Eagles team to victory. In my opinion, Kolb has failed to really impress and Vick’s stats do show signs of the talent everyone knew he had coming out of college. It will be interesting to see how this quarterback battle plays out over the season. In other news, the Lions, even without Stafford, are no longer awful.

BENGALS over RAVENS – Despite the fact that the Bengals have arguably one of the best 3-receiver groups in the league (and yes, I do count Shipley among that trio – he had only 2 yards less than Ochocinco this week), this game was all about defense. Ravens errors led to this Bengals win, specifically four interceptions by Joe Flacco…ouch. Even the Flacco faithful are calling for Marc Bulger to get a chance at the helm.

STEELERS over TITANS – Another game won by the defense. The Steelers managed to pull this victory off even without the help of their backup-starting quarterback Dennis Dixon. Biggest misstep in this game in my opinion though? Pulling Vince Young in favor of Kerry Collins. Vince is known for his ability to come back from tough games and to me this just showed that the team still does not have faith in him as their starter. Collins did not fare better, as his first series was ended by an interception.

BRONCOS over SEAHAWKS – This was not the Tim Tebow show…Kyle Orton all day long over the Seahawks. There is a reason the Broncos picked him up from the Bears. If he keeps playing like this, I doubt we will see as much of Tebow as we will his #1 selling (STILL!!) NFL jersey.

TEXANS over REDSKINS – This was definitely my pick for game of the week. Not only was I happy to see a division rival lose, it is good to see the Texans finally getting it together. I feel like the franchise has had so many things go wrong – pretty face David Carr never lived up to expectations behind a horrible offensive line, the team was severely criticized for their draft pick of Mario Williams (who has turned out to be an excellent pickup), sigh. And FINALLY icing the kicker worked! Go Texans..but please lose next week.

JETS over PATRIOTS – Although Randy Moss won the “I’m justifying my high-dollar contract” battle over Darrelle Revis in this one (that one-handed catch = cha-ching!), the Jets came out on top and Mark Sanchez started looking like the quarterback the Jets thought he was when they drafted him. Hoping this 3 touchdown outing shows the Ravens defense is just that good last week, rather than the Jets offense is awful.

CHARGERS over JETS – Hooray Philip Rivers! My fantasy quarterback had the kind of day he needs to have every week, racking up 3 touchdowns and 334 passing yards. Ryan Mathews is still not looking like the first-round draft pick the Chargers wanted, as he left the game early with a leg injury and also fumbled for his second straight week. Antonio Gates is still proving that with a great tight end you don’t need a big receiver (Vincent Jackson, you paying attention?).  On the other hand, the Jags are just BAD. Garrard was picked off four times by three different defensemen…ugh.

COLTS over GIANTS – Peyton is the better Manning quarterback.  The end.

Tonight’s game is Saints vs 49ers and I’m in San Francisco!! How did I miss this fact?!?! Oh, I’m wearing a Saints t-shirt and watching the game with a bunch of 49ers fans tonight apparently. Hilarity ensues.

I love NFL football. The weekly anticipation for games, the trash talk, the fantasy leagues, but most of all, I love me some Pick ‘Em. Just straight-up, win/loss record, no points or goofy rankings.  Simply, “Do you know your stuff?”  Of course, the thrill of the season always has some upsets and stunners, but that’s what makes it exciting.  So, how well do you trust your instincts?  Enough to beat me?  If you think you have what it takes, join my Pick ‘Em League.  It is $20 to play – all fees must be paid in person or via PayPal (jdfaught@gmail.com) by September 15th to be eligible for the cash prizes.  First pick must be made one hour prior to Thursday night’s kickoff in New Orleans.  Sign up here. The password is: texasstars

In Austin, Texas, football season starts FOR REAL this Saturday.  The Texas Longhorns open up their season on the road this year against Rice University in Houston. While they are projected to romp all over the Owls and the game should be a cakewalk, that does not mean that anyone is slacking on the tailgating preparations or game day plans. This fall, you will likely find me slinging drinks at Third Base Sports Bar downtown on game days. Football season is our busiest time of the year and it is tons of fun to watch games with a big crowd. I will be decked out in Longhorns gear on Saturdays and an appropriate NFL jersey on Sundays.  I will gladly wear a non-Cowboys jersey if it is provided to me (and it’s not the Eagles, Giants or Redskins) on game day to help support your favorite team – I wear a kid’s medium or woman’s small. If I can ever sneak a Saturday off, I will likely be tailgating with Royal’s Lounge.  My friends at Royal’s sure know how to pre-game (and game…and post-game) – I’ve known these boys since college and their tailgates never disappoint. Rumor has it they have made some improvements to “Champ” this off-season and this year will be rolling out the Sheriff’s Pudge, a new industrial smoker “that’s large enough to cook a Colorado Buffalo on.”

The following week, the NFL will kickoff with a big Thursday night game and then my beloved Dallas Cowboys will face hated rivals, the Washington Redskins on Sunday.  I drafted my fantasy football team last night, well sort of drafted my team. Somehow I was talked into picking up a shift at work and totally forgot I had my draft!  Luckily one of my tables was conducting their draft and I was able to make a couple of picks for my team. I ended up with QB – Phillip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, RB – Michael Turner, Ryan Mathews, Pierre Thomas, WR – Chad Ochocinco, Dez Bryant, Bernard Berrian, Derrick Mason, Dwayne Bowe, TE – Chris Cooley, K – Nate Kaeding, Defense – Baltimore, NY Giants. Overall, not too shabby, but will be interested to see if the computer did better than my couple of picks in Phillip Rivers and Baltimore D.

Lastly, I am starting a Pick ‘Em league. Rules are simple – straight up pick win/loss every week, one point for every game you get right except Monday night, which is worth 2 points, $20 per player, winning pot is determined by the number of players.  If you are interested, email me at txstarsgirl at gmail. All are welcome to play…this should be fun! If we get enough players, I will also throw in some random prizes throughout the season to keep it interesting. Can’t wait!!

Austin Aztex Soccer

A few weeks ago I was complaining on Twitter about how we had entered the “dead” time of the year for sports. Being a big football and hockey fan, the middle of the summer is tough for me, especially working in a sports bar!  Several of my followers were quick to point out that baseball season was in full swing and the British Open was coming soon. A reporter I know also happened to mention that he was heading to Austin Aztex practice to do a story on the local soccer team. I was intrigued.  I gave him a shout on Twitter, noting that I was interested in checking out a game soon and within a few minutes, one of the team’s star forwards, Jamie Watson, made me a deal.  He said he would get me to my first Austin Aztex game if I would return the favor during hockey season and take him to his first Texas Stars hockey game.

Austin Aztex Forward #77 Jamie Watson

Jamie is actually from Dallas and a big Dallas Cowboys and Stars fan himself. Watson played college soccer for the University of North Carolina, spent time in the MLS with Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas and earned League MVP Honors with the Wilmington Hammerheads. He is one of the few players to have scored at all four levels of US Soccer and has been a fan favorite in every city where he has played. Jamie was nice enough to hook me up with a few free tickets so I could bring friends and I counted down the days to the big game  – July 31st where the Aztex would be taking on the Miami FC Blues. Of course, I had to do a little pre-game research about the Aztex and I discovered that the team is actually leading the league this season!  Having been to DC United MLS games before, I wanted to make sure I got the full Aztex experience so I reached out to the leader of Chantico’s Army, the Aztex supporters group.  I was assured that I was welcome to meet at The Tavern before the game and would be required to bang on a drum at least 37 times and shout obscenities at the officials at least 7 times (of which 3 must be in Spanish). Sounds like fun, right?

Members of Chantico's Army cheer on their Aztex

The night of the game I met a few of the supporters before the game and was excited to see so many people really getting behind this team.  If there is one thing I know about soccer, it’s that the fans are some of the rowdiest of them all and they take every match very seriously. I was happy to see that this was true even in the USSF leagues. Chantico’s Army shows up in full force, complete with a Brazilian samba group that plays drum cadences throughout the game. Members of the Army also chant and keep time along with the drums on five gallon buckets, cowbells and even an empty keg. After each goal, the “She Devil” lets loose a flurry of confetti and the crowd erupts in celebration. I didn’t actually bang on the drum (although I’m sure they would have let me), but I definitely cheered along with the group and even brought a couple of signs for the team. If you are really looking to have a great soccer experience, sitting with the supporters group is the only way to go in my opinion (although if you have children, please know that the language is not always PG-rated. These guys are passionate about their team)!

From the time the first whistle was blown, I was hooked. The Aztex completed their season sweep of Miami during the July 31st contest, with a final score of 3-1.  Austin goals were scored by Eddie Johnson (assisted by Leonard Griffin) ; Lawrence Olum (assisted by Jamie Watson) and Kendell McFayden (assisted by Yordany Alvarez).  The game itself was exciting, but what really made the experience special was how the players interacted with the crowd. After the game concluded the team opens up the fence and allows fans to go on the field for autographs. It was really inspiring to see the athletes interacting with the children especially. It’s no surprise the Austin Aztex were awarded the Community Relations Award from the Austin Chamber of Commerce last year. I think the accessibility of the players post-game is certainly one thing that has led to such a strong fan base for the team. After the game, several fans headed to Cuatro’s for a small meet-up with the players and some post-game refreshments. Cuatro’s hosts the Aztex after every game and fans who didn’t get a chance to catch their favorite player on the field will likely find him having a post-game meal here.

The Austin Aztex are currently on a 7-game winning streak and will be traveling to Puerto Rico for a match against the Islanders this weekend. If you are looking for something to fill the summer void, I would highly recommend checking out an Aztex game. There are still 3 more home games (played at House Park – 15th and Lamar) remaining in the regular season. Tickets are affordable for the whole family or a group of friends. Come out to the Tavern pre-game and cheer on your local soccer stars!

*In the August 7 match vs. the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Jamie Watson had two assists, but he suffered a fractured shoulder. It is estimated that he will be out 2-3 weeks. He will likely be spending a lot of time on Twitter (@JamieWatson22) and playing Pro Evolution Soccer on XBox360. Wishing Jamie a speedy recovery!

*Complete photo album of the July 31st match, shot by my friend Mike Neumann can be found on Flickr.