Saints vs Packers Spread, Trends, and Free Pick – September 8th, 2011 ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
NOTE: Frequent visitors to this site know that I tend to keep my columns, especially ones involving predictions, usually rather light and, as best I can, humorous. Iâm writing this quick note after finishing the article below because I realized that this is not in keeping with my normal style. Youâll find this a bit more serious and somber, but such was my mood today, for a reason you shall see. Just know this is a one-time thing â my normal style, bad jokes and all, will be back tomorrow with the playoff preview and the rest of the week one picks.
After months of debate and discussion, lawyers and commissioners, players and owners, fans and freaks, and more hours of talk radio than any topic, sports or otherwise, has ever generated, the long wait is over, and the NFL returns tonight. Leave it to our fearless leader to pick this night, of all nights, to give a speech on the economy (he just now figured out there might be an issue?) but thatâs another column on another site by another writer. This is about football, and when the Saints and Packers finally do kick off â from the 35 yard line, mind you â the entire offseason filled with posturing and empty promises will finally be replaced by down, distance, and yard line, and all will be right with the world again.
Except it really wonât be, not for me and thousands of other people who follow the sport of hockey. The sports community suffered another reality check on Wednesday, when a Russian plane carrying players, coaches, and team officials for the Kontinental Hockey Leagueâs Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team en route to their season opening game in Minsk, Belarus, crashed into the banks of the Volga River and killed 43 of the 45 people on board. Of the 45 on board the plane, 36 were members of the Lokomotiv organization and eight were crew members. One player â Aleksandr Galimov â and one crew member â Aleksandr Sizov â both are still listed in critical condition. Many on board had ties to the NHL with good careers, great families, and many bright days ahead. Instead, they all serve as a chilling reminder to how fragile life can be, and only added to an already devastating offseason in the hockey community.
Each sport has their own rituals and codes, but I have played many in my life and argue that no group are as tight knit and closely-bonded as hockey players. Perhaps it is because hockey is not a sport that can be played casually â the difficulties in learning to skate well enough to play the game at all usually dictate that hockey becomes the primary sport for anyone thatâs put in the time, effort, and money to reach that point. As someone who played at a high level in both high school and college and now coach the sport, I can say from first-person experience that most of the players Iâve played with, against, and coached were the finest people anyone would ever want to know â the same words that are being said today about those that died in the crash. Hockey truly is a brotherhood, and itâs rapidly growing into a sisterhood as well, and both male and female hockey players alike have responded with heartfelt grief, sadness, and despair at losing so many all at once.
In a way, this is akin to the plane crashes that claimed the lives of so many on the Oklahoma State basketball team or Marshall football team, but it doesnât feel as tragic to most because it happened halfway around the world to people whose names most of us can barely pronounce, let alone spell. But I encourage you, if youâve ever played a single minute of competitive sports, to stop and think about the devastating effect this has on the families and friends who just lose their loved ones. Itâs a hard day for sports to lose so many people, but itâs especially hard for the game â and people â of hockey.
Remember, too, that in three days the sports community will join with the entire nation to mourn, honor, and remember all of those who lost their lives on that tragic day ten years ago when our country was attacked by those who view baseball stadiums and skyscrapers as a sign of extravagance, who view a mosque, church, and synagogue all side-by-side as sacrilegious, who view freedom and democracy as blasphemous, and most of all who view America as a symbol of everything wrong in the world. True, weâve lost our way in many instances, and weâre right this second trying to figure out a way to recover from another mess we created ourselves, but that doesnât change the fact that the United States is the greatest nation this planet has ever seen, and we are all blessed with the ability to watch football on a flatscreen TV, or take our children to baseball games, or grab a stick and puck and head out on a frozen pond with good friends. That is why we watch with such intensity as players dunk basketballs and hit homeruns. Itâs not just because the athletes have the ability, itâs because theyâre allowed to showcase that ability in the arena of sport, to entertain and wow us with feats never before seen. So when Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees lead their teams out of the tunnels at Lambeau Field tonight, remember all of those who have gone before, and sacrificed so much, to allow us the ability â and the freedom â to sit back and watch in amazement at the athletic talents. It couldnât have happened anywhere else.
Packers 31, Saints 27 (Saints +4.5)
September 11, 2001. We will never forget. God Bless America.
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