Welcome back to the Naborhood—-hard to believe we’re closing in on Christmas and almost gift wrapping the bowl season. Appreciate you entering this un gated community where our early 2013 resolution is to give you more rants and raves from the world of sports and beyond.

THE CRYING GAME: First off, I respect and want to associate myself with anybody full of passion which is why I have no problem with football players crying at the end of emotional games. The latest case in point in Army QB Trent Steelmen who saw a fumble wipe away Army’s 1st win over Navy in over a decade–afterwards he couldn’t wipe away the tears. The ironic part of this story is that nobody (including myself) had a problem with his emotions but many of the same people were all over Tim Tebow crying during an SEC Championship loss to Alabama just a few years ago. Crying isn’t a weakness in an athlete, to me it shows they care and if I’m a teammate and especially a coach, I want my guys to care that much. Another example were the tears of joy from Bama QB AJ McCarron after the Tide came back to beat LSU this season—-I thought it was another honest example of emotions taking over. Once again—nothing wrong with that.

MORE THAN A GAME: It was a special Saturday for me attending my first Army/Navy game. Many talk about the atmosphere being one a kind and I agree but the true unique aspect of this rivalry are the guys playing the game. Its been said that the toughest thing for most college players is practice and the easiest thing for these athletes is well…practice. The game is just that where the Midshipmen and Black Knights know its simply a minor part of their workload. Enemies will turn into teammates after this one where they will join forces for our country just like they come together to pay homage to each school’s alma mater after each game—-my favorite part of the game by the way. I had a chance to do a story on Navy return man Marcus Thomas after the game—-he already knows when his football career is over what his game plan will include. Thomas plans to serve time in Afghanistan. Certainly a different path than getting ready for the combine.

JOHNNY BE GOOD: Really glad the Heisman voters made the right move and gave the trophy to the first freshman in history. Funny, Johnny Football still isn’t the youngest winner– its Bama’s Mark Ingram who was born just over a week later back in 1989. Yeah 1989?! I love the story of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o who certainly symbolizes everything that college football wants its athletes to be but Johnny Football was the clear choice. Many say it was a weak year for the Heisman but I disagree—it think it was one of the most intriguing. You had a freshman besting Cam Newton’s SEC record by piling up 4600 total yards–nothing weak about that. Had a chance to talk to Johnny Football leading up to the award and he admitted the fact that he couldn’t talk to the media all year was a plus but he’s glad the world can now know that he can handle the spotlight as well. That was evident in his acceptance speech where the highlight was paying homage to Doug Flutie—gotta admit that made me feel old.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: Making my first trip to Jersey’s Met Life Stadium, I “met” a personal milestone. I’ve now officially been to all 31 stadiums. Its been quite a journey covering the Jaguars, Bucs and now the Saints for the past seven years but the tour (for now) wrapped up on Sunday. So with that said, I will now deliver my the best of the best—your top 5 stadiums. The survey is based on the quality of the stadium, parking, food and of course the atmosphere.

(5) RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM/TAMPA: One of the most picturesque stadiums in the league. Not the best looking stadium from the outside but
inside its a different look where you have the pirate ship and of course the cannons. They also have the best desserts—serving the media Bananas
Foster at the half, which certainly gives this place bonus points.

(4) M&T BANK STADIUM/BALTIMORE: Underrated and like its baseball counterpart Camden Yards–one of the first of the new stadiums which sure
set the tone for all the other nice newbies around the league like Houston’s Reliant and University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona. Its huge jumbotron
was the first of its kind and they serve crab cakes in the press box as well–always a plus.

(3) CENTURY LINK FIELD/SEATTLE: One of the nicest in the league for sure and one of the loudest. The 12th man in the Emerald City sure fires you
up. A great looking stadiumlodged smack dab in the middle of the city. Great looking stadium which an unbelievable view of Seattle in the background
not to mention great parking and easy access as well.

(2) LAMBEAU FIELD/GREEN BAY: The best atmosphere of the bunch and a definite must see. Fantastic neighborhood across the street with the best
tailgating houses I’ve ever seen. Inside its been renovated which gives it a unique new school/old school look with all the tradition it possesses. The
smallest NFL market houses some of the friendliest fans around as well. Oh yeah—the food ain’t bad either.

(1) COWBOYS STADIUM/DALLAS: Everything is bigger in Big D and Jerry’s World doesn’t disappoint. From the biggest jumbotron of all time to the
top of the line stadium features all around–this place is the best in the league. The press box is spacious and sharp and despite its size its easy
to get around as well. From the Cheerleaders to the tradition, this place also serves up quite the backdrop as well where everything is first rate.

Mike Nabors.

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