Leland Stein III

Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

Super Bowl XLVII Storylines Fascinate

In sports column on February 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm
COLIN KAEPERNICK came just short of joing Doug Williams in Super Bowl lore. – Gary Montgomery photo

COLIN KAEPERNICK came just short of joing Doug Williams in Super Bowl lore. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

NEW ORLEANS – Not only did Super Bowl XLVII produce an all-time great contest, it had more storylines that a Steven King novella or Quentin Jerome Tarantino motion picture.

Questions, questions!!!

Which quarterback will come through with the key play? Can the Ray Lewis and the Ravens’ defense keep the electric 49ers’ pistol offense misfiring? Could Joe Flacco‘s big arm bring some excitement to Super Bowl XLVII? Which Harbaugh brother would hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy? Would the New Orleans Saints loyal fandome accost NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell after the failed bounty-gate scandal? Could second year Niner quarterback Colin Kaepernick keep the magic going? Would the Super Bowl commercials be the most memorable aspect of the broadcast?

All these and more were answered at the conclusion of the NFL’s 2013 Super Bowl XLVII.

As I perused New Orleans beyond the City Center, it is still evident that after enduring Hurricane Katrina, one of America’s worst tragedies.

First, Super Bowl XLVII was a storybook ending for future NFL Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis. After suffering a possible season ending arm injury, he came back just in time for the Raven’s playoff push.

How important is Lewis to Baltimore? The Ravens were 5-1 to start the season and after he went out they went 5-5. After his return the team went 4-0. What more needs to be said?

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

Lewis has the ability to galvanize a collective like no athlete ever. The Ravens would not have won this title without Lewis . . . plain and simple.

Lewis joins Jerome Bettis and John Elway, just to mention a few that announced their impending retirements and won a NFL title after it.

Baltimore’s Joe Flacco showed all that he is the real deal. The first half was all about Flacco. He went 13 for 20 for 192 yards and the three scores over the opening two quarters, becoming only the sixth quarterback in 47 Super Bowls to throw for that many TDs by halftime.

Flacco finished 22 of 33 for 287 yards in winning Super Bowl XLVII MVP. Keeping up with his noteworthy playoff run he crushed the Niners’ defense. To get to the Super Bowl, he led the Ravens past Denver’s Peyton Manning and New England’s Tom Brady for two of his league-record six career postseason road victories by a quarterback.

Then there was Jacoby Jones seemingly breaking the game wide-open with a Super Bowl record 108-yard sprint with the second-half opening kickoff. That came after Jones latched onto a thrilling 56-yard catch and run touchdown from Flacco.

A New Orleans native, Jones, one of the heroes in a double-overtime playoff win at Denver, could have been or should have been the MVP.

Next, John Harbaugh beat his younger brother Jim to claim the title a Super Bowl winning coach. In the 47-year history of America’s Game, there have never been two brother oppose each other in a Super Bowl. Hey, there have never been two brothers even coach in the NFL, let along challenge each other in the Big Game.

Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is 15 months older than San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh.

San Francisco second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick fell inches short of joining Doug Williams as the only African-American quarterback to lead a team to Super Bowl glory.

Instead he joined Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair as African-American signal callers that led their teams to the Super Bowl but fell just short of the big prize.

Kaepernick couldn’t get the Ravens into the end zone on the final three plays—there was contact on Crabtree on the final pass that appeared incidental, and Jim Harbaugh insisted it was pass interference. But that is what it is.

Before the game began, with 100 million or so Americans expected to tune in on TV, a chorus of 26 children from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 students and six adults were killed in a shooting rampage in December — sang “America the Beautiful,” accompanied by “American Idol” alum Jennifer Hudson.

My personal highlight was Grammy winner Alicia Keys performing the national anthem. She joined Marvin Gaye and José Feliciano with iconic renditions of America’s anthem.

Beyonce rocked the Super Bowl 2013 halftime show. She brought out her girlmates from Destiny’s Child to help her bring the noise

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

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Ravens withstand 49ers rally and power outage, surge to championship

In sports column on February 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Baltimore blackouts San Francisco

ED REED and Ray Lewis celebrate. – Gary Montgomery photo

ED REED and Ray Lewis celebrate. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

COMMENTARY

NEW ORLEANS – I knew this already, but this weekend simply reaffirmed the fact the gladiator game of American football, and, it signature event, the Super Bowl is an unquestionable American iconic yearly event.

Major League Baseball, NBA, and National Hockey League all have to take a back seat to the Super Bowl that has become America’s once a year national corporate playground.

With this fact securely a reality, Super Bowl XLVII actually lived up to the enormous hype machine, as the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens engaged in a thrilling contest full of twist and turns. However, when the smoke cleared the Ravens were hoisting the valued Vince Lombardi Trophy after a hard fought 34-31 victory.

Sure The Big Easy is legendary for partying and food, but now we can add blackouts. For over 35 minutes XLVII was shutdown when the lights went out in the stadium. The power outage put the nation’s biggest sporting event on hold, interrupting an otherwise electric, back-and-forth game.

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

When the lights finally came back on the hot Ravens had cooled off and momentum appeared to have swung over to the 49ers. When the lights dissipated the Raven was holding a commanding 28-6 lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the third quarter.

However, when the mechanical problems were finally arrested, a previously sleepwalking 49es’ team suddenly came alive and as quick as one came say Super Bowl, the Niners had trimmed the Ravens lead to 28-23 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

But Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco put his team on his shoulders and made every play he had to make to hold off a fast charging 49ers team. Flacco, voted the MVP, threw three first-half touchdown passes to cap an 11-TD, zero-interception postseason.

“I just made my reads and took what the 49ers gave me,” said a calm Flacco. “This has not sunk in yet, but I’m sure when I get time to reflect it will take on even greater meaning. Right now this is what we all work and train for, and, we made it happen.”

Next, Jacoby Jones returned the second-half kickoff 108 yards, a Super Bowl record, to give Baltimore a 28-6 lead. Jones became just the second player in NFL history to score via a kick return and reception in playoff history.

“I just saw a seam and got up in there and it opened up,” explained Jones. “This is what every kid dreams about doing while playing Madden or playing in the streets.”

Being down 28-6 at one point I had written San Francisco off, but team by the Bay had other plans. The Niners made a noteworthy run at overcoming the biggest deficit a team has ever had to surmount. The record for a comeback win in a Super Bowl is 10 points, and there were moments were it appeared San Francisco had a chance to better that mark. Instead, the 49ers lost for the first time in six trips to the Super Bowl.

The AFC champion Ravens (14-6), a franchise that moved from Cleveland to Baltimore 17 years ago, improved to 2-0 in the big game. They also won the championship in 2001, when linebacker Ray Lewis was voted the game’s MVP. Lewis was not a major factor this time, but he was a center of attention, playing in the final game of his 17-year career before retiring.

The 49ers struggled early in the first Super Bowl coaching matchup between brothers: Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is 15 months older than San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick did all he could to get his team a victory. Kaepernick and the 49ers scored 17 consecutive points, getting as close as 31-29 in the third quarter.

“We started slow and the hurt us as a team,” Kaepernick said. “But, this is a never say died group. We came back and made a run at it. WE had four shots at the end zone, so we came not blame anyone or look for any excuses.”

This was the 10th time New Orleans hosted the big game — tying Miami for most in a city — and first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy in August 2005

Leland Stein III can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Banks holding down Kronk boxing lore

In sports column on February 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

By Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein IIIBy Leland Stein II

The Motor City boxing scene has been on the international map for many, many years. Starting with the Brewster Center and legends Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Emanuel Steward.

Later Steward lorded over the most famous boxing club in the world, Kronk. Out of that mix came Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty and the McCory brothers, just to mention a very few.

Now on February 17th on live HBO Boxing, Detroit’s own Johnathon Banks, will be seeking to keep the magical Motown fisticuffs front and center in the international boxing discourse.

“We may not have a Kronk boxing facility since Emanuel’s passing,” Banks said, “but this February people will see the spirit of Kronk is still alive and making history.”

Banks works the speed bag. – Dan Graschuck photo

Banks works the speed bag. – Dan Graschuck photo

Banks, pepped at Detroit Western International Academy, graduating in 2000. With his size and obvious athletic ability, he could have played any sport in high school, but boxing was always in his blood.

“When I went down to the Brewster Center at a very young age,” Banks said, “and learned the history that had been made there, I was a fan of boxing forever. I started boxing as a kid and never wanted to do anything else. I did run cross country at Western, but that helped me with my boxing conditioning.”

Banks again proves that when a person has a true vision for themselves, he or she generally put everything into that dream and in most cases are better directed and focused at a young age.

“As I kept training, I finally met Emanuel, and he turned my life around in this business,” Banks exclaimed. “After Emanuel became my trainer, he started taking me to fighter camps like (Lennox) Lewis’, and, he hooked me up with Wladimir (Klitschko) whom I took over as his trainer following Emanuel’s death.”

The fact of the matter is in less than a month after Emanuel’s death, on Nov. 12th in Hamburg, Germany, Banks was in world champion Klitschko’s corner as head trainer.

Next Banks (31-1-1) claimed into the ring to contest undefeated Seth Mitchell, a former linebacker at Michigan State University, on November 17, 2012 in Atlantic City. He shocked the boxing world producing a second-round knockout over highly regarded Mitchell.

With that title Banks is now currently W.B.C International and N.A.B.O Heavyweight Champion. He has the unique distinction of being the only boxer in history to train the reigning World Heavyweight Champion to a successful title defense, and a week later compete for his own heavyweight title and win in stunning knockout fashion.

Concerning the double duty as a heavyweight champion and world-class trainer, Banks feels he is a natural for it

“I was taught by Emanuel and some other great coaches,” Banks relayed. “I have the ability to teach and being a good trainer is a job of teaching. A person could be a great or average fighter, but none of that will automatically transfer to a person being a great trainer.

“I think what Wladimir saw in me was that I was always looking at him to explore his best and natural assets. While some trainers try to make a fighter fit into their style, I try to fit into the fighter’s style. I’ve always been eager to help guys out and help them reach their full potential. Inside and outside the ring I try to live like that.”

Banks has always had the magic touch when it came to boxing, and, he said that is what Emanuel saw and helped bring out in him. Prior to turning pro, Banks enjoyed a great amateur career that saw him become a three-time National Amateur Champion at 178 lbs.

He went on to become IBO Cruiserweight Champion and now the heavyweight crown. Now in mid-February Banks says he ready to show the world that win was the real deal and to keep the memory of Kronk alive.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII