Posts Tagged ‘Frank Caliendo’

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Former NFL veteran Mike Pritchard, a graduate of North Las Vegas’ Rancho High School, believes Peyton Manning will have the game of his life.

By W.G. Ramirez

As I approached my 5th annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll, I had a chance to catch up to former Rancho High School star Mike Pritchard, who went on to star at the University of Colorado and then in the NFL for three teams: the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Pritchard, who is the color commentator for UNLV football and co-host of the Mitch and Pritch radio show in Las Vegas, has plenty of ties to some key components in this year’s game, as he played with John Elway and has been coached by both Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips.

Retired for 15 years, Pritchard said he still gets excited this time of the year, watching the pre-game festivities leading up to Super Sunday.

“You try to live vicariously through everyone involved in the game,” he said. “You have a rooting interest and you kind of get excited about that.”

Pritchard said he remembers a time when he questioned his retirement, something most veterans go through a year after retiring, as the itch to return to the field remains for the first couple of seasons you become a spectator.

“After a season goes by, you start training and you start to think you can still do it,” Pritchard said. “It takes a couple of years to realize it’s over. It’s not like any other sport where you can retire, and then come back after a few years. There is only one guy who I can think of who did that and that was Randall Cunningham.”

But that was then, in the early 2000s.

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Mike Pritchard, who won a national championship with Colorado, played for the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks during his time in the NFL.

Now, Pritchard enjoys his time behind the mic, alongside his partner and co-host Mitch Moss, during one of the busiest times of the day. The two share their thoughts with Southern Nevada, speaking on the hottest topics in sports and daily breaking news. Most recently, that included the Oakland Raiders’ pending move to a new location. When Las Vegas entered the conversation, both Pritchard and Moss were two of the first to discuss the issue.

Pritchard isn’t sold this is the opportunity Las Vegas has been looking for, and isn’t sold the Raiders are coming to Sin City. But he does believe a top-notch stadium is the first step, and there is more important priority at hand, before landing an NFL franchise.

“If they’re going to build a stadium, it should be for our city and our university,” Pritchard said. “Can we attract an NFL franchise? Absolutely. But we need to build this for ourselves. If we don’t have that infrastructure, we’ll never have that option or decision to housing an NFL franchise.”

It’s not as if there isn’t talent spewing from Southern Nevada. Bishop Gorman High School recently completed its second straight undefeated season, and has been considered a national championship team by certain pundits the last two years. UNLV coach Tony Sanchez just announced a first-rate recruiting class in his second season in charge. And in Sunday’s Super Bowl, there will be two active players who went to high school in Las Vegas, and a third who is on a practice squad.

Brandon Marshall is a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, Ben Jacobs is a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers and Cam Jefferson is an offensive lineman on the Broncos’ practice squad.

“I love it. I think it’s great,” Pritchard said. “When I was at Rancho, there were 10 schools. If you made D-I or made it to the league, every one talked about it. Because of the growth in the valley, guys are getting more opportunities. Vegas is definitely on the map. And it speaks to the talent here and the guys making the most of their opportunities once they graduate high school.”

As for today’s game, Pritchard sees a defensive tussle ensuing early on, knowing how Kubiak and Phillips coach. He said watching the Broncos this year has been like reviewing a blueprint of teams he played on, while coached by both of them. It’s also why he believes the Broncos will send The Sheriff – Peyton Manning – off into the sunset with another Super Bowl ring.

“Coach Kubak has played and coached in Super Bowl games,” Pritchard said. “He understands what it takes to get to a Super Bowl and he certainly understands what it takes to win one.”

Pritchard said this year’s team is modeled after the 1998-99 Denver Broncos, who defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.

“You have two great defenses, and any time that happens, you have an opportunity for a great game,” he said. Carolina will try to dictate this one early on, because they’re confident about their speed. They run the ball successfully. Carolina has done such a great job of getting turnovers. Their turnover margin is incredible. They are a read and react football. At some point the action will be fast and furious. I think these are the two best teams in the league.

“Denver will try to run, but Peyton will have to make throws to help the Broncos win. I expect Peyton Manning to have an excellent game. I don’t think he’s going to make a lot of mistakes out there.”

PRITCHARD’S PREDICTION: I believe Peyton Manning will have his the game of his life. Broncos, 24-20


 

Here is my 5th Annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll for Super Bowl 50:

Laz Alonso, actor. Going to be a defense intensive game but Carolina and Cam are on fire and too much for Denver. Panthers, 35-14

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal. Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will help the Broncos cover, but not cover. Panthers 24-20

Paul Anka, singer/songwriter/entertainer. Panthers will win. I watched my friend Eddie DeBartolo get voted into the Hall of Fame, and now I’ll watch the MVP hoist the trophy. It’ll be close won. Panthers 24-20

R.J. Bell, Pregame.com. Carolina is the better team, but likely not as good as the Panthers have appeared so far in the playoffs. Denver likely better than they seem, and the Broncos big game experience should help them keep Super Bowl 50 close. Panthers 21-20

Kevin Bollinger, FOX-TV Las Vegas. While everybody would love the storybook ending for Peyton Manning, the diminished skills make it tough for Denver to come back after falling behind. Panthers 27-16

Bryce Brentz, MLB player. Logic says to go with Cam’s Panthers, but I would love nothing more than to see Manning go out on top (if he does call it a career) so screw logic! Broncos 35-28

Jared Brentz, long-drive golf champion. I have to believe Payton goes out on top. I mean he deserves this ending. Broncos 21-17

Cindy Brunson, Pac 12 Network. I’m going with the guy/team that has me trying Dannon Oikos yogurt and I don’t even really like yogurt. Call it the power of Cam Newton, the MVP who threw 35 TD passes and ran for 10 more this season. Carolina reminds me so much of the Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seahawks with a stifling defense and dual threat QB. The game will be close early, but I think the Panthers will prevail. Panthers 35-21

Chet Buchanan, KLUC-98.5 FM, Las Vegas. I like The Sheriff riding off into the sunset, mostly on the shoulders of the #OrangeCrush16. Pat/Caitlyn Bowlen is able to get his face to move enough to say, “And THIS one’s for PEYTON!” Broncos 27-20

Frank Caliendo, Comedian. Panthers 30 – Broncos 17 or flip that. Broncos 30 – Panthers 17. Can I do that? (In his own voice)

Steve Carp, LV Review Journal. Cam Newton backs up all the talk and Carolina closes out a magical season in style. Panthers 38-13

Freddie Coleman, ESPN. I think the Panthers defense makes the Broncos offense play one dimensional and their defense won’t be able to hold up. Panthers 27-16

Kevin Curry, founder Fit Men cook. I’m rooting for Cam Newton! He’s a beast. Any dude that can throw the ball and run it like a linebacker has my vote. He takes me back to the early Vince Young days, and of course he’s from Texas and I’m a Texas guy. Panthers 28-24.

Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press. Peyton Manning falls one Super Bowl ring short of his brother, thanks to Josh Norman, who cements his place on Thieves Avenue with a last minute pick to seal the first SB win for the Panthers. Panthers 27-24

Dave DeNatale, ESPN 850 AM, Cleveland. Peyton Manning in his Nationwide voice: “Painful way to call it quits.” Panthers 31-20

Randy Faehnrich, UFC, I’ve been a big believer in Denver’s defense all year. If there is a way to stop Cam, it’s to put pressure on him, and you’d be hard-pressed to find two better at applying pressure than Ware and Miller. I think the game really depends on how those two perform, and I’m banking they perform well. Give me the Broncos and Peyton Manning w/ the storybook ending. Broncos 24-20

Royce Feour, Retired Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer. Cam Newton will be better than the old veteran Peyton Manning. Panthers 27-17

Chris Fedor, Cleveland.com. The Panthers proved to be the league’s best team during the regular season and will punctuate it Sunday, led by Cam Newton, who will show he belongs on the league’s biggest stage. Panthers, 27-17.

Marcus Fizer, retired NBA player. My pick is with the Carolina Panthers and with #SuperCam. They are playing on a level unmatched. Although you can never count out “The Sheriff” Peyton Manning, I think Cam is ready to change the dynamics of the NFL QB! Hoping for a close game, I love thrillers. Panthers 48-42

C.T. Fletcher, Powerlifter/Fitness, no score, just a mother fu*kin Broncos win! Manning and the Broncos. Admittedly not a huge fan of either team. But it’s probably Manning’s last game. He’s 40 and the underdog. I gotta pull for the “old man” cause I’m one. Gotta pick the underdog cause I’m one. I think Manning and I love to prove all the fu*kin experts wrong!

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL player. While I would love to root for my Broncos and fellow Vegas Cimarron Memorial-alum Brandon Marshall, I have a hard time believing even with the stellar defense, that Denver slows down this high-powered Panther team! Panthers 28-17

Randy Gatewood, Retired AFL player. I like the Panthers because they have been very consistent all year and they have the league MVP in Cam Newton. As great as Denver’s defense is, I don’t think they completely shut down Newton. And I think Cam Newton will also be the Super Bowl MVP. Let’s get ready to rumble! Panthers, 24-20

Bud Geracie, San Jose Mercury News. Panthers too fast and too hot. Panthers 23-14

Mike Gillespie, ABC-TV Columbia, S.C. Despite it being Manning’s last game and a pro-Denver crowd, Von Miller won’t be dabbing. That Panthers secondary is far too fast and smart to allow Manning to throw like he did against the Pats. Plus Newton, unlike Brady, is a true threat with his legs. Manning’s last game is a loss to the Panthers in Santa Clara. Panthers, 27-13

Geoff Grammer, Albuquerque Journal. I cover college sports in New Mexico so what do I know about big football games? I’ll take better story (Peyton rides off a winner) over better team for this one. Broncos 20-17

Ed Graney, LV Review Journal. If Peyton Manning can’t win this on his own, I’m sure his attorneys will send a few guys in black coats to do it for him. Panthers 24-20

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN, Panthers 27, Broncos 26.

Merril Hoge, ESPN. Teams win championships and the footers to a Champion football team are the Offensive and Defensive lines!! The Panthers win both of those match ups. Panthers 28-21

Jay Kornegay, Westgate LV SuperBook. Broncos start off on a good foot and puts the Panthers in an unfamiliar position. Denver’s D forces two critical 4th quarter turnovers and holds on. Broncos 24-20

T.J. Lavin, BMX Legend, Tom Brady 35-27!

Gilbert Manzano, LV Review Journal. The ferocious Broncos defense will give the Panthers fits early, but I see Cam Newton rallying in the fourth quarter and dabbing with the Lombardi. Panthers 27-24

Brian Mahoney, Associated Press. They’re Stephen Curry’s team, and Curry’s teams don’t lose in the Bay Area. Panthers 27-17

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette Journal. Cam Newton and the Panthers dance and dab their way to a Super Bowl title as a scourge of white Baby Boomers flood their local newspapers with letters to the editors title “What about the kids?!?!?” Oh, my, gosh, the kids! Panthers 27-17

Rock Newman, Retired Boxing Manager/Promoter. Owner Gibraltar Promotions LLC. It’s the year of Cam and the Panthers. Dab baby Dab! Panthers, 31-28.

David Purdum, ESPN. The best thing Peyton Manning has done this season: throw interceptions. Carolina’s D is a turnover machine. I feel like Manning’s good for two picks, which is just too much to overcome, at least for me to bet on the Broncos. I know all the sharps are Denver, but here’s a pro tip: Sharps lose, too. Panthers 27-16

Tim Reynolds, Associated Press. Peyton Manning gets the fairytale ending. Broncos 27-23

Anthony Rodriguez, KMET Online Radio, Denver. Broncos 23-20.

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations. Luke Kuechly and the Panther defense will turn the lights out on Peyton Manning’s storied career. Panthers 33-13

Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports. I’m a Raiders fan. Panthers 99, Broncos 0.

Danny Webster, Bleacher Report. The Broncos did well against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Denver’s defense hasn’t played a quarterback like Cam Newton. Not only will Carolina’s defense do enough to stifle Denver’s offense, but this year’s MVP will throw for 225 yards and run for another 100 as Carolina wins its first Super Bowl. Panthers 27-17

Jamieson Welsh, The Score 670-AM Las Vegas. It’s Cam’s league now. Panthers 24-20

Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal. The Panthers pack more big-play firepower, but the Broncos’ top-ranked defense can do enough to contain Cam Newton. I like Carolina to win, but on a neutral field this line looks high. Panthers 24-20

FINAL TALLY: Panthers 31, Broncos 10, Caliendo 1, Lavin 1

 

 

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By W.G. Ramirez

Randy Gatewood will always be one of the greatest athletes to hail from UNLV.

He will also be one of my all-time favorite human beings. Great guy, fantastic football player and a personality most might think Marshawn Lynch could learn from.

I hadn’t spoken with Randy in a couple of decades, until last September, when I caught up with him for a story I wrote for UNLVRebels.com, commemorating the 20-year anniversary of his record-breaking performance while he was playing for the Rebels.

While UNLV lost a marathon on Sept. 17, 1994, 48-38 to Idaho, Gatewood set NCAA single-game records for receptions with a mind-boggling 23 and receiving yards with 363. He conceivably was the reason the Rebel offense stormed back from a 45-10 deficit to nearly defeat the Vandals. Gatewood, who played the slot position in UNLV’s three-wideout formation, caught 13 passes for 207 yards in the fourth quarter alone at Sam Boyd Stadium. The 6-foot senior from Wichita Falls, Texas, also contributed with 56 return yards, giving him 419 all-purpose yards – in one game.

And since I was covering the Rebels at the time, and covered the game for the now-defunct Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, the state’s only African-American newspaper at the time, I was delighted at the chance to catch up with him and talk about that game. Now, roughly four months later, I thought it was only fitting to catch up with my old friend for a second time.

Gatewood

Randy Gatewood starred at UNLV and went on to become one of the greatest players in Arena Football League history during a Hall of Fame career.

We spoke early in the week, so he could give me his pick for my annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll, but given he resides in Scottsdale, and has been soaking up the Super Bowl atmosphere this past week, I couldn’t think of a better person I’d rather feature as the lead item for this year’s Super Bowl story.

After all, we’re talking about someone who was part of one of UNLV’s best football teams, he won a bowl game with the Rebels, he was an all-time great in the Arena Football League and is now in the organization’s Hall of Fame and he still holds an NCAA record. He epitomized what the sport of football stands for, and has always been a great representative of UNLV’s program.

Retired since 2007, Gatewood is now involved in the fine wine business, working with Quench Fine Wines, a division of Hensley Beverage Company. He is also a sideline reporter for the Arena Football League, so he keeps tabs on plenty of friends he’s played with or against.

“Football is one big fraternity, and being able to still talk to some of those guys, that’s been the most fun for me this week,” Gatewood said. “The Super Bowl undoubtedly is the biggest event in the world. And anytime it comes to your town, and you’re able to be a part of that – meeting up with some of the guys, having some drinks and dinner and sharing stories – that type of thing is what makes it fun.”

Gatewood came close to playing on Sundays, as he spent one camp with the Miami Dolphins, before being released in the final cut before the season started, in 2005. After a year off, he joined the Arizona Rattlers, and became one of the biggest stars the league had ever seen, right along with former UNLV standout Hunkie Cooper. And while he admits the NFL lingered in his head occasionally, the time off between the Dolphins’ camp and jumping to the AFL led him to a life of happiness as a family man, and playing for one of the AFL’s storied franchises.

“There’s no doubt in my mind I had the ability to play on Sundays,” he said. “Basically I chose to be a part of everything surrounding my family and chose to be with my wife and kids. I am happy and content with everything I was able to accomplish.

“And when I look back on my run, and when I chose to walk away from the game of football, I was one year removed from my second Ironman of the Year Award. I knew I was nearing the end of my career … the Rattlers were entering a new era and I felt I had accomplished everything I was going to accomplish in my career. I really felt like there was nothing left for me to accomplish.”

Gatewood was named first-team all-AFL three times, second team three times, he made the all-Ironman team thrice and was named one of the AFL’s all-time 20 greatest players (#17) in 2006. He was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

“I can honestly say I was one of few guys who walked away with no regrets,” Gatewood said.

Now, he enjoys the wine business, soaking up the sun on Scottsdale’s finest golf courses and, of course, entertaining friends, colleagues and clients when the Super Bowl happens to be in Glendale.

“It’s good for the city, good for football and it’s really been a great week,” he said. “The exposure has been amazing.”

And with that, we lead this year’s poll with Gatewood’s pick for the game, after he’s been to all the big events – media-wise and socially – leading up to Sunday’s game.

“The emotional side of it tells me Seattle, but when I look at it from a football sense, I see New England winning this game,” Gatewood said. “What the Pats did during the offseason for their defense, puts them in a good position to win this game. Because now it’s not on Tom Brady’s shoulders, and I think they’re in a good position to win. As I look at his game unfold, New England is the better team. This will come down to coaching, and as much as I respect Pete Carroll, I think Bill Belichick might be the best coach in the NFL today.

“It would be nice to see a back-to-back champion, and I wouldn’t be disappointed if Seattle won. But I think the Pats have the better team and as good as Russell Wilson is, I don’t think Tom Brady is going to lose three Super Bowls in a row.” RANDY’S PICK: Patriots 27, Seahawks 24

———-

As for me, well, I like the defending Super Bowl champs to get it done. We’ve seen tough battles in the NFC Championship the past several years, and to me, that shows the NFC team being battle-tested and better prepared to scrap in the Super Bowl. The NFC champion is on a 5-2 run in the big game, the Seahawks are the defending champs and I don’t think even the Patriots will deflate that this year. MY PICK: Seahawks 23, Patriots 20

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This year I separated the picks by team, rather than one long list in alphabetical order. I compiled the picks by either email, text message, phone call, direct message on Instagram or Twitter or some simply replied to my announcements on Twitter by directly tweeting to me. Some included a short blurb, other just a score. Thanks to all who participated!!!

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Mark Anthony, 2013 Men’s Physique Mr. Olympia – Seahawks, 28-14
Kevin Bolinger, Anchor/Reporter FOX TV Las Vegas – Seahawks, 27-20. Seattle establishes Marshawn Lynch early and wins the turnover battle for the repeat.
Cindy Brunson, Fox Sports/Pac 12 Network analyst – Seahawks, 35-31. Hoping for a “Re-Pete” for Seattle. Just like last year, AFC is favored but unlike SB48, this should be crazy close. Seahawks win.
Chet Buchanan, KLUC-FM, Las Vegas – Seahawks, 31-21. Seahawk D scores points and makes the difference! BACK TO BACK! Go Hawks!
Candace Buckner, Indiana Pacers beat writer, Indianapolis Star – Seahawks, 23-20.
Steve Carp, LV Review Journal Senior Writer – Seahawks, 38-24. Russell Wilson bounces back and Seattle goes back-to-back.
Freddie Coleman, ESPN Radio – Seahawks, 24-20
Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press – Seahawks, 22-19
Digital Underground, Hip Hop Group who brought us the Humpty Dance – Seahawks, 48-32
Randy Faehnrich, UNLV’s The Rebel Yell, Senior Staff Writer – Seahawks 27-23. When it comes to close games, I tend to go with who has the better rushing attack on both sides of the ball, and that’s the Hawks.

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL player – Seahawks, 20-17. Brady won’t hold up in this one. He will crack. The extra focus and attention by a tandem of good safeties will make it an underperforming day for Gronk. The run will never get going for the Pats and Wilson will only be required to do enough to win the game with Lynch doing what he does.
Mike Gillespie, Sports Anchor ABC Columbia, SC – Seahawks, 27-24
Joe Grande, NBC Sports Radio – Seahawks, 31-17
Ed Graney, LV Review Journal columnist – Seahawks, 27-20. Given their level of trash talking, it doesn’t appear as if the Seahawks need anyone to inflate their balls.
Paul Gutierrez, ESPN NFL Reporter – Seahawks, 31-27. #YouMadBro
Jay Harris, ESPN SportsCenter anchor – Seahawks, 31-27
Robert “DJ R.O.B.” Hathcock, Music Producer – Seahawks, 41-24
Matt Jacob, Editor of Vegas Seven magazine – Seahawks, 24-17
Jay Kornegay, Westgate sportsbook – Seahawks, 23-17

Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press – Seahawks, 27-21
Steve Lavin, Head Coach St. John’s Men’s Basketball – Seahawks 24-20.
Allen Leiker, LV Review Journal Assistant Sports Editor – Seahawks, 26- 20. The Giants beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl because they were able to get pressure on Tom Brady, who threw for less than 300 yards in each game despite 48 and 41 attempts. Seattle’s defensive line isn’t as good as those New York lines, but its defense is far superior overall and will deny Brady his fourth ring.
Brian Mahoney, Associated Press – Seahawks, 26-24
Tracy Murray, Retired NBA player/Pac 12 Analyst – Seahawks, 31-24
Kathrine Narducci, Actress from Starz’s Power and HBO’s The Sopranos – Seahawks, 34-27.
Mike Pritchard, Retired NFL player – Seahawks, 21-16. Back-to-back.
Crystina Poncher, NFL Network – Seahawks 31-28
Jason Poston, Four-time IFBB physique champion and Top-3 Mr. Olympian – Seahawks 27-24. Repeat champs, led by the man Russell Wilson.
Mike Sando, ESPN NFL reporter – Seahawks, 27-17

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations – Seahawks, 23-21
Marc Spears, Yahoo Sports NBA reporter – Seahawks, 31-28
Sage Steele, ESPN NBA Anchor – Seahawks, 31-28
Danny Webster, UNLV’s The Rebel Yell, Managing Editor – Seahawks 27-24. Russell Wilson gets the MVP, then gets paid.
Jamieson Welsh, NBA radio analyst – Seahawks, 27-19. MVP Marshawn Lynch.
Roy Wood Jr., comedian – Seahawks, 30-22

Anthony Rodriguez, Sports Director KMET Radio Denver, Seahawks 24-20

———-

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal Writer – Patriots, 27-21
Paul Anka, Legendary Singer/Songwriter – Patriots, 31-28
RJ Bell, Pregame.com/ESPN contributor – Patriots, 23-16
Bryce Brentz, Boston Red Sox outfielder – Patriots, 35-28. The Patriots, this team has been here before, and they have the mindset that they’ll treat this like just another week.
Jared Brentz, 2013 World ParaLong Drive Champion – Patriots, 31-21
Frank Caliendo, Comedian/Impressionist – Patriots, 24-18
Jay Crawford, ESPN SportsCenter anchor – Patriots, 27-24
Jay Cutler, 4X Mr. Olympia Bodybuilder – Patriots, 28-25
Dave DeNatale, ESPN Cleveland – Patriots, 26-24
Tyler Farr, Country Music Artist/ACM New Artist of the Year candidate – Patriots 34-21

Jay Feely, NFL placekicker, Chicago Bears – Patriots, 24-20
Royce Feour, retired Las Vegas Review-Journal – Patriots 28-20. The Patriots have it in the (deflated ball) bag.
Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman & CEO UFC – Patriots, 31-28.
Randy Gatewood, Former UNLV standout/AFL Hall of Famer/Sideline reporter – Patriots, 27-24.
Jesse Granger, Editor UNLV’s Virtual-Rebel.com – Patriots, 27-21. MVP – Rob Gronkowski.
Jake Hager, Major League Baseball player, Rays organization – Patriots, 35-21
Merril Hoge, ESPN NFL analyst – Patriots, 28-13
Jemele Hill, ESPN His and Her’s co-host – Patriots, 33-31
Lacey Jones, Spokes model/professional poker player – Patriots, 27-24. What can I say, I’m a sucker for those pretty-boy looks of Tom Brady, not to mention his gorgeous wife – that has to amount for something. I do know a guy who sports Ugg boots won’t lose three straight Super Bowls. Why, that would be downright deflating.
TJ Lavin, Retired BMX star/TV Host – Patriots, 27-24. The Patriots and Tom Brady have a lot of distractions but they will overcome it to win the Super Bowl

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal – Patriots, 27-21. Belichick hoists trophy, yells “Yep, we deflated those balls,” gives crowd Marshawn Lynch crotch grab, drops mic.
David Payne Purdum, ESPN sports betting reporter – Patriots, 28-24
Michael Pittman, Retired NFL player/Bodybuilder – Patriots, 34-17
Tim Reynolds, Associated Press – Patriots, 33-24
Jon Saraceno, former USA Today columnist, freelance writer – Deflated Balls 27, Seanags 20
Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal Columnist – Patriots, 23-20. The Seahawks are not as strong as last season, and I’ll bet Belichick and Brady don’t lose a third straight Super Bowl.

FINAL TALLY: Seahawks 37 votes, Patriots 26 votes

 

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Retired NFL veteran Vernon Fox predicted a Denver Broncos win in Super Bowl XLVIII. PHOTO COURTESY: Eric Bakke

By W.G. Ramirez

LAS VEGAS – Nothing better than getting a random sampling of predicted final scores for the Super Bowl every year, especially when you mash up members of the media, former and/or current pro athletes and celebrities.

It’s one of my favorite columns to write, and always makes for good reading.

Before I get to the list of 48 additional people who I have for my poll, let’s take a look at what former Denver Broncos safety Vernon Fox had to say about the game, given the now-retired football player has exchanged his cleats for a whistle and a clipboard and recently coached Faith Lutheran High School to the NIAA Division I-A state championship.

Fox, who spent eight years in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and Broncos, admitted his loyalty is with his former team in Super Bowl XLVIII, but expects a tight game between the league’s top-ranked offense and top-ranked defense.

“The obvious big story is the best player in the game right now and potentially best-ever quarterback to play the game, playing against the best defense – that makes the game exciting in itself,” said Fox, who concluded his career after the 2009-10 season. “Either (the Seahawks are) going to stop them, or (Peyton Manning is) going to hurt them.”

Fox said you can’t discount the other sides of the ball for both of these teams, either, as he’s seen the Broncos’ defense improve, and knows how dangerous the Seahawks can be if running back Marshawn Lynch gets in a groove with quarterback Russell Wilson.

“You have the other story about a young quarterback brewing, who has emerged as one of the better younger players in the league,” Fox said. “What we have here are two good teams that deserve to be there, and it really could go either way. From the standpoint of a coach, it really is going to boil down to who plays the best football that day.”

In similar fashion to how his Faith Lutheran team worked its magic through the playoffs to win the state crown in November, Fox said the Broncos will have to find ways to neutralize the Seahawks’ top weapons, comparing his Crusaders’ win in the state quarterfinal against Desert Pines High School.

“They had weapons all over the field and we had to find ways to slow them down, and outscore them,” Fox said. “The next opponent, it was all about shutting down the biggest offensive weapon – we had to attack their big quarterback. They were averaging 40 points and we held them to 7. Then we played a team that averaged 50 points with a big passing game and a strong rushing attack. We put more defensive backs on the field and forced the quarterback’s hand. It worked out for us, we blanked ’em.”

That all being said, if Fox were coaching the Broncos, he said it’s all about neutralizing Lynch, a bruising running back, and immobilizing a quarterback who can move horizontally, and throw the ball.

“It’s not an easy task, but obviously you have to neutralize that run,” Fox said. “Get pressure on them and put the Seahawks on their heels.”

And when it’s all said, Fox said he sees a one-point game brewing, in what could be an exciting finish.

“It’s going to come down to the wire, because I believe in Denver and believe what they do on offense, and I also believe in Seattle’s defense,” Fox said. “I know they’re going to play one heckuva game, but I’m going with a final score of Denver 28-27.”

MEDIA/CELEBRITY/ATHLETE POLL FOR SUPER BOWL XLVIII

Brittany Anderson, ESPN Radio, Las Vegas … “I think it’ll be high scoring… 34-31 Denver”

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal Sports Writer … “Seahawks 24-21. It’s basically a toss-up, but I like Seattle’s pass rush as a key factor.”

Paul Anka, Singer/Songwriter … “This is just another game. Seahawks win 31-28.”

RJ Bell, Founder Pregame.com … “Denver 24-23. Seattle is the best home team in NFL, but Super Bowl is a road game. Manning’s big game experience makes difference in tight battle.”

Ray Brewer, LV Sun Sports Editor … “Seattle 26, Denver 21”

Cindy Brunson, Pac-12 Network Analyst/Reporter, Fox Sports Reporter, Former ESPN Veteran … “Seahawks 24, Denver 17 Top-ranked offenses are 0-3 in Super Bowl vs. top-ranked defenses.  I have to hang my hat on most consistent and fierce part of SEA game, stout D. Go Hawks!”

Chet Buchanan, Radio Personality, Las Vegas … “31-21 Seahawks!  Yes…I am DELUSIONALLY biased! Been a 12 since year 1!”

Frank Caliendo, Comedian/Impressionist … “Broncos, 31-24”

Steve Carp, LV Review Journal Sports Writer … “Seahawks 24, Broncos 20. Seattle is better built to handle the elements and Marshawn Lynch will do his talking on the field.”

Lori Cox, UNLV Rebels columnist, LV Review Journal … “Broncos 31 Seahawks 27 OMAHA! OMAHA!”

Randall Cunningham, Retired NFL Quarterback … “Seattle 24-21”

Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press Sports Writer … “I like Seattle 23-14”

Sean DeFrank, Vegas 7 Magazine, Associate Editor … “Seahawks 24, Broncos 21”

Will Edwards, Late-night talk-show host, Las Vegas … “Seahawks, 27-13”

Tyler Farr, Country Music Artist … “Broncos over the Seahawks 27-21”

Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports Football Writer …  “Broncos, 27-17”

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL Safety … “It’ll be a close one, but Broncos win, 28-27”

Ed Graney, LV Review Journal Columnist … “Seattle, 27-24. Bob Marley said trust the universe and respect your hair. I trust most in Seattle’s defense and Richard Sherman’s mop of locks.”

Steve Guiremand, MyLVsports.com Sports Writer  … “Seattle 23, Denver 20”

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN NFL Nation Sports Reporter … “Seahawks 26, Broncos 24”

Jake Hager, Pro Baseball Player TB Rays Organization … “Broncos, 42-38”

Adam Hill, LV Review Journal, Sports Writer … “Denver 31, Seattle 23. A far superior offense and an improving defense will combine to cement Manning’s legacy.”

Jemele Hill, Co-host ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie … “Broncos, 28-17”

Mike Hill, Host FOX Sports 1 … “Broncos, 23-17”

Merril Hoge, Retired NFL Running back … “Broncos, 28-24”

Matt Jacob, Vegas 7 Magazine Sports Reporter  … “I’m going Seahawks 24, Broncos 20”

Ron Jaworski, Retired NFL Quarterback … “Broncos, 27-24”

Josh Johnson, MLB Pitcher, San Diego Padres … “Broncos, 38-24”

Nick Kingham, Pro Baseball Player Pittsburgh Pirates Organization … “27-23 Broncos!”

Jay Kornegay, LVH SuperBook  … “Broncos, 23-20”

Chris Latham, Retired MLB Player … “28-17 Broncos!!”

TJ Lavin, Retired BMX/X Games Champion … “27-24 Denver!”

Wally Matthews, ESPN Reporter … “Let’s say Denver 31-27”

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal Sports Writer … “Broncos 27-20”

Tracy Murray, Retired NBA Player … “Broncos, 28-24”

Terry Norris, Retired Boxing Champion … “Denver, 21-7”

Mike Pritchard, Retired NFL Wide Receiver/Sports Radio Talk Show Host … “I think it will be 23-21 Denver”

David Purdum, Sports Betting Journalist … “Broncos 34, Seahawks 24”

Anthony Robles, Former NCAA Wrestling Champion … “I say Seahawks 27-24”

Anthony Rodriguez, Founder & Publisher for LightningRodSports.com, Denver … “Broncos 27, Seahawks 20”

Jon Saraceno, Thrive Sports/Former Sports Columnist USA Today … “Broncos, 24-17”

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations … “Seattle, 27-24”

Jerry Stackhouse, Retired NBA All-Star … “Seattle 34 Denver 31”

Sage Steele, ESPN Sports Anchor … “Broncos win 31-21”

Maronzio Vance, Comedian/Actor on Fox’s “Enlisted” … “Broncos 34, Seahawks 24”

Danny Webster, Sports Editor, UNLV Rebel Yell … “Seahawks 24, Broncos 21. Russell Wilson for President”

Barry Wong, Photographer for KLAS-TV, Las Vegas, Sports Reporter for MyLVsports.com  … “Broncos, 27-21”

Roy Wood Jr., Comedian/Finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing … “Seahawks, 35-24”

Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal Sports Writer … “After too much waffling … Seahawks, 24-20”

FINAL TALLY: Denver Broncos 29 votes, Seattle Seahawks 20 votes

By W.G. Ramirez

I admit it, when I was a kid I used to have my portable Panasonic cassette player and while watching Monday Night Football would record myself calling the game in Howard Cosell’s voice.

I played Pop Warner football, but also loved the idea of broadcasting. Ask me what I wanted to do back then and the answer is easy: I wanted to play in the NFL. Nevertheless, here I am a 26-year veteran of writing sports. I’ve also done television and plenty of radio.

Never, though, have I revisited those days of impersonating arguably the greatest big mouth in sports broadcasting, rest his soul. So you’ll have to excuse me if I get a little giddy when I watch comedian Frank Caliendo impersonate not just one, but at least a dozen sportscaster personalities from time to time on ESPN.

Seriously, can you imagine an all-star sports-casting roster that would include John Madden, Jim Rome, Colin Cowherd, Stephen A. Smith, Adam Schefter, Mel Kiper, Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, Mike Ditka, Charles Barkley, Bill Walton and Shaquille O’Neal?

Caliendo_Gruden

Frank Caliendo impersonates Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden on ESPN.

Catch him during an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike, and Caliendo might provide you with every last one of them, and then some, leaving you in tears of laughter when it’s all said and done.

The stand-up comic, who will be appearing in Las Vegas at the Orleans Hotel on Friday and Saturday, has successfully carved a niche into the sports world, by slicing his brand of comedy and impersonation into pre-game shows on Fox and ESPN the past 13 years. After doing his famed-Madden on Fox NFL Sunday during the 2000 season, Caliendo was invited back as a semi-regular guest the next two years before joining Fox’s pre-game show as a prognosticator in 2003. That lasted until 2012, when his tenure came to an end, and a new one began on ESPN.

Since signing a contract with ESPN, Caliendo has not only expanded his arsenal of characters, but has grown his popularity among even more diehard sports fans while portraying some of the most lovable characters on the entertainment and sports network.

“The people who watch ESPN are a different group than that watch Fox overall,” said Caliendo, during a phone interview on Tuesday. “I think ESPN people tend to watch a lot of ESPN and know everyone on ESPN. … Some of these guys, it plays way better to do it on ESPN than it would anywhere else cause you’re playing for the right audience.

“They see it, and they go crazy.”

FRANKLY SPEAKING

A regular guest every so often on the Mike and Mike show, Caliendo was announced as a newcomer to ESPN’s pre-game show by Berman, and the comic immediately broke into an impersonation of the host, explaining how the panelists each take their turn at frustrating “Boomer.”

But it wasn’t until his Gruden impersonation took off, and later his Kiper bit, when viewers normally interested in whether or not quarterbacks were available for their fantasy teams or just interested in updated news on their teams, were tuning in to see who Caliendo would portray next.

Caliendo_Kiper

Frank Caliendo, l, appears as Mel Kiper in a bit alongside analyst Todd McShay.

“The one thing about the football sketches is you have one shot every week,” the 39-year-old veteran comedian said. “If you’re on Saturday Night Live, there’s eight sketches, there’s a cast. If two of ’em are great, if two of ’em are good and the rest aren’t very good at all, people think it’s a great show. If I go on and do one, and it stinks, people remember for it a month. You’re trying to do new stuff, you’re trying to play it safe. It’s a difficult thing.”

Other than the Sports Show with Norm Macdonald, a short-lived sports comedy series, Caliendo said he can’t remember anyone that’s been able to sustain a calling for sports comedy. In fact, he said, there were times while at Fox he felt his time to leave was overdue, simply because there were some weeks he felt out of place.

“Fox is like a magazine; nice pictures, a layout, a Bacardi insert you can sniff,” he said. “You go to ESPN, it’s like a newsroom. Everybody’s in cubicles, there’s stats everywhere … it’s just a completely different feel. Not to say one is better than the other, it’s just a very different type of thing.

“What I like about ESPN (is) we kind of do stuff when I have an idea, or when they have an idea they think I can do. Usually the stuff for me parodies ESPN and that’s what I found really works there. It’s a very different kind of feel from Fox to ESPN.”

It also make it easier that the targeted audience is the right demographic, one that already watches the network daily and understands the nuances and smallest details of the people Caliendo is poking fun at with his bits. Throw in the fact the sports anchors and personalities at the network have no problem being a part of the skits, and Caliendo says there’s legitimate feeling that allows for an element of surprise that not only makes his job easier, but also a bit more fun.

“At ESPN, they let me have way more creative freedom in terms of the sketches,” he said. “At Fox, it really just became a formula of ‘we’re going to take topical jokes and try and do ’em with whatever character.’ At ESPN, it’s really making more fun of ESPN than anything. The fact that ESPN is doing that themselves, I think you can’t beat that, because (they’re) in on the joke.

“It creatively, especially last year, was one of the most fun times I’ve had because I got hungry again to do something different.”

QUITE FRANKLY

ESPN wanted him to do even more this year, but Caliendo said he didn’t have the ideas to support the networks plans, and so rather than be tied to a contract he couldn’t honor – basically not biting off more than he can chew – he has spaced his appearances out and plans on returning to the pre-game show as the playoffs approach. He revealed he’s working on several personalities, including former Philadelphia Eagle and football analyst Ron Jaworski, but also said there a couple of things that don’t include impressions.

Caliendo said he’s also had plenty of opportunities to tackle other new projects, but above all things, he said he remains focused on what he calls his No. 1 priority: being a father.

“My career is kind of second,” Caliendo said. “I’ve got two little kids, and most of the time I’m more worried about them and helping them with homework and stuff like that than anything else.”

And while long-term projects take a backseat to his children – because at the present time they’re at the point in their lives “they still like me,” he joked – short jaunts to Las Vegas, like this weekend, he doesn’t mind.

“The great thing about the city is, there’s pretty good food there,” he said, laughingly. “There’s always stuff going on. The entertainment, the amount of different things you can go see, even in one night, is amazing.”

But don’t expect to see his ESPN characters while he’s on stage at the Orleans, where you’re more likely to be entertained by his George Bush, Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, Morgan Freeman and of course the always-popular John Madden impersonations. Sure, he’ll probably throw Charles Barkley and/or Shaquille O’Neal in there, but it’s all a matter of finding a groove with the audience he’s performing for at the time.

“It may vary a little bit from city to city, but with Vegas I generally have to keep it pretty broad,” he said. “You kind of just feel it out to see what you might spend a little more time on than something else. That’s the weird thing about a Vegas … you might have somebody from Baltimore, sitting next to somebody from Mississippi, sitting next  to somebody from Los Angeles. They’re going to laugh at different things. It’s not a cohesive group. I just try to hit a little bit of everything and whatever people like I stick with a little bit more and maybe improvise a little off of that.”

Who knows, maybe he’ll even throw in a little Cosell for yours truly.