Dad’s favourite sport was baseball, and he was good at it. I know that he played little league, back in the 50s, and he played for years after that. When he became an adult, and went in the mines, he continued playing Fastball, which is what we call fast-pitch softball, or “whip” around here. I first was introduced to the sport following my Dad around in the 70s, when Fastball was huge in Cape Breton, and the competition was fierce. Dad was a good hitter, but he was known as a glove man. I have some really great memories of watching him play, but my best is probably from the very first Bobby Routledge Memorial Fastball Tournament, named for his identical twin brother, who was killed in an accident in 1976. Dad’s team won the tournament, and he received the award for leading hitter after batting over .700 for the tournament (really). That’s not something you see every day.
Dad continued playing Fastball pretty much up until he was diagnosed with his heart condition. Told that he should quit sports, Dad took up Slow-pitch softball, which I guess for him was the equivalent of not playing at all.
Dad loved baseball, and even after he couldn’t play anymore, he continued to watch on TV, following the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a fan, rarely missing a game on TV right up until the end of the 2009 season. On November 9th of that year, Dad passed away, which is why I’m telling you all this.
I miss Dad every day, and I’d love nothing more than to be able to have one more catch with him in the back yard.
This weekend also marks the anniversary of the first time my wife and I slow-danced together. We met because of the marriage of her cousin and my best friend, and a couple of years after that, we were both in attendance at the wedding of another of her cousins. I think it’s neat that their anniversary is also an anniversary of ours. I have no idea what song was playing, but that’s ok, because she doesn’t remember either. That’s one of the reasons that our relationship works so well. Another is the fact that, although she knew practically nothing about football before we met, she has embraced the game and has become quite a knowledgeable fan, with a keen eye. Watching a game with her is like having an extra pair of eyes, because she often spots things that I miss. She has become quite the Pats’ fan, due to the fact that she predicted Tom Brady’s rise to greatness way before anyone else did. I was watching with my friends and my wife that fateful game versus the Jets where Drew Bledsoe ruptured his spleen and was replaced by the green Brady. While the rest of us were laughing at the pathetic Pats and making fun of the kid, my wife calmly pointed out to us that the team was responding to his determination, enthusiasm, and ability to make plays. For those of you who don’t remember, Bledsoe never got his job back, and New England went on to win the Super Bowl that season against the heavily favoured Rams. As for Brady, he’s had an ok career, I think.
Last, but certainly not least, this Sunday is Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth (Veterans Day in the US), the significance of the date being that November 11th was the day the First World War ended. In Canada, Remembrance Day is the day we honour all the men and women of our military, as well as their families, who gave of themselves for a greater good, and who continue to do so. At 11:00 AM, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we observe two minutes of silence to honour our country’s war dead, as well as those who perished in all wars (even our buses will pull over if possible). It is a day where we remember sacrifice, and hope for peace. It is the most important special occasion on our calendar here in Canada.
The Bills seem to have hit bottom. They have the tools on offence, but there’s no organization, and as for the defence, well, it’s awful. The Pats seem to be striving for consistency on offence. At times, they look unstoppable. I expect the Pats to score a lot in this one. The only chance the Bills have is to establish their ground game early, which will be a tough task against Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and the rest of New England’s talented front seven. Winner: Patriots
Titans at Dolphins
Last week, the Colts wisely eschewed the run against Miami, and it worked. That’s how to beat Miami. You have to have the players to do it, though. There’s been a lot of talk about the return to form of Chris Johnson, but I’m not convinced. Forgive me for getting a little stat-heavy, but his past three games looked like this:
Ø 195 yards against the Bills—Buffalo’s defence gives up, on average, just a hair under 170 yards per game, and a huge chunk of Johnson’s yardage came on an 83 yard TD run.
Ø 99 yards against the Colts—Indy’s defence gives up, on average, about 120 yards rushing per game, a number the Titans failed as a team to achieve.
Ø 141 yards against the Bears—Now this looks impressive, until you factor in the 80 yard TD run in garbage time, with the Bears leading 51-12. Johnson also lost 2 fumbles in this one.
Go for 100 against the Dolphins, and keep it off the ground, and I’ll be impressed. Winner: Dolphins
Chargers at Buccaneers
Let’s see… the Bucs have a better offence, better defence, and they’re hosting a California team in an early afternoon, East-coast game. Oh, and just for the heck of it, fire Norv Turner and AJ Smith. Winner: Buccaneers
Broncos at Panthers
No way am I picking against the Broncos the way they’re playing right now. They are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Winner: Broncos
Raiders at Ravens
Neither of these teams impresses me all that much. The way to beat the Ravens this season is to run it early, play tight defence, and keep it close. I think Oakland is too banged-up at RB to pull it off. Winner: Ravens
Lions at Vikings
I feel like a broken record (you see, kids, back when I was a young, they had these things called records, and… oh, never mind), but until Christian Ponder gets his stuff together, opposing defences are just going to key on Adrian Peterson and dare Ponder to beat them. At least that’s what a smart coach would have his team do. I have no idea what the Lions will do, but, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Why, I have no idea. Winner: Lions
Falcons at Saints
This is the game where the Falcons show me what kind of team they are. They are playing in New Orleans, against a team to which they have been playing second-fiddle for the past few seasons. When this Falcons offence takes the field against the pathetic Saints’ defence, they had better go for the throat. Anything less than 40 points by Matt Ryan and Co. should be considered a reason for some serious soul-searching. Winner: Falcons
Giants at Bengals
I’ll admit that this one has me a bit flummoxed. The Giants have been underwhelming of late, while the Bengals season thus far has been a disappointment. I think that the Giants will play well, sadly, because being on the road is probably better than being at home right now. Winner: Giants
Jets at Seahawks
I was going to talk about what the Jets would have to do to have a chance in this one, but I couldn’t think of anything. Only a total collapse by the Seahawks would give Mark Sanchez a hope in hell of accomplishing anything in the Seattle noise factory. Winner: Seahawks
Cowboys at Eagles
Two teams I love to root against. I like Tony Romo, though. I don’t think I like anyone on the Eagles. The Cowboys have been unlucky lately, but their luck will change this week as their very capable defence shuts down the disorganized Eagles offence. Winner: Cowboys
Rams at 49ers
Someone should tell Jim Harbaugh that he has a really good team, and that the tantrums and the cheating just turns everybody off. I love watching San Fran play, but I hate that they have a knob for a coach who gets much of the credit, even if he does deserve it. Winner: 49ers
Texans at Bears
This is the game of the week: two 7-1 teams (both lost to the Packers; interesting, no?), two great defences, each featuring a top Defensive Player of the Year candidate(Watt and Tillman), two offences keyed by excellent, versatile RBs (Foster and Forte) and big, talented WRs (Johnson and Marshall). It’s a dream matchup for any football fan, one that I am especially looking forward to watching. It’ll be the QBs who decide this one. We have Matt Schaub, workmanlike, dependable, tough, methodical, versus, Jay Cutler, streaky, mercurial, cannon-armed, mobile. In a game like this, a guy like Cutler, if he’s a winner, takes over, eager to prove himself against a top defence. That’s what Aaron Rodgers did. I’m going with Cutler. Winner: Bears
Chiefs at Steelers
The Chiefs are a disorganized mess. The Steelers keep getting it done, despite a slew of injuries. I hate to say it, but I’m more impressed with this Pittsburgh team than I have been in past seasons, because of the way they have overcome adversity. Just stay away from the fake owies, Steelers; if you want to cheat, go play for Jim Harbaugh. Winner: Steelers