November 17, 2011

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An Interview with Curtis Granderson

By: Lionel

AL MVP candidate Curtis Granderson took a few minutes to sit down and talk with us as we gear up for the AL MVP announcement in just a few days.

There were few players this MLB season who were as impressive as the New York Yankees Curtis Granderson. The All-Star Centerfielder was amazing both at the plate and in the field, and helped lead his team to the ALDS.

In his second season with the Yankees, Curtis Granderson had career bests in Runs (136), Home Runs (41), RBI’s (119), and Walks (85), so we thought who better to sit down with before the announcement for the AL MVP? With the announcement coming on Monday, we wanted to see what else was on Granderson’s mind as he awaits to hear the winner.

Curtis Granderson has been great in his two years with the New York Yankees.

 1.       Now that the MLB season is over, are there any TV shows you are excited to watch?

For me I’m excited for Dexter and college hoops, NFL and college football.

 
2.       You’ve been on TV yourself as a post-season analyst.  What makes you more nervous—being behind the analysts’ desk during a live broadcast, or stepping up to bat with two outs in the ninth and the tying run on second?

The countdown to going live the first time I did broadcasting was one of the most nervous I had ever been.  My palms were sweating and I couldn’t slow my speech down.  

 
3.       You’re known as one of the nicest, friendliest guys in the league.  I’m also considered a nice, friendly guy, but when I’m golfing poorly, I become much less nice and friendly.  Is there anything out there that can bring out the “unfriendly” side of Curtis Granderson?

People who complain about things they can change. 

 
4.       As an ambassador for MLB, you’ve done some international traveling.  What’s the scariest thing you’ve eaten while abroad?

I ate duck brain in china, wasn’t scary but was interesting.

 
5.       Pizza—Chicago Style or New York Style?

Chicago style

 
6.       As one of the guys in the AL MVP discussions, what do you think of the talk that former teammate Justin Verlander is getting MVP consideration?  Should pitchers be considered for MVP awards?

Verlander has had a great season, and if people think he’s the best for his team then yea consider him and other pitchers.

 
7.       Outfielders get a lot of heckling.  What’s the best heckle you’ve heard while in the field?

It’s normally the same ol same ol, “you stink” “boo” etc…  The difficult thing is most of the time I usually can’t really hear the people, cause they are so far away and the noise muffles. 

 
8.       You’re a big WWE fan.  If you were a wrestler, what would your name be?

CHI-Town night

November 2, 2011

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An Interview with Fran Tarkenton

By: Anson Whaley

(Editor’s note:  One lucky reader will WIN an autographed Fran Tarkenton Fathead!  Just leave a comment–along with a legit email address–on this article for your chance.  We’ll randomly select a winner at the end of the week.  Good luck!)

In the past decade, athletic quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb have gotten a lot of press, but before any of them, there was Fran Tarkenton. In the 1960s and 1970s, Tarkenton was arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. He led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances over his career, and he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in completions, yardage, and touchdowns. We recently had a chance to catch up to Fran to ask him about a variety of topics including Tim Tebow, Monday Night Football, and his new fantasy football website FantasyFran.com.

Fathead Blog:  Many younger fans aren’t familiar with the AFL, but you were drafted in both the NFL Draft and the AFL Draft in 1961. Can you explain a bit how that happened and how you ended up signing with the Vikings instead of going to the AFL?

Fran Tarkenton:  There were two separate drafts for the two leagues, and you had to choose which league you were going to play in. I was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, an expansion franchise, in the NFL, and the Boston Patriots in the AFL draft. Minnesota offered me a $12,500 salary with a $3,500 bonus, while the Patriots offered me $15,000 with a $5,000 bonus. But I chose the Vikings because I had to prove to myself that I could make it in the big league. The NFL was certainly considered the dominant league at that time.

Fathead Blog: Soon after that, you played your first game. Most rookie quarterbacks struggle miserably, but you came out and threw four touchdown passes in your initial contest. We’re seeing a bit of that type of success with Cam Newton this season. How were you able to drastically shorten the adjustment period and become a contributor immediately? What’s the key to succeeding early on as a rookie quarterback?

Fran Tarkenton:  I had a coach who was a former quarterback himself in Norm Van Brocklin (who still holds the single game passing yardage record, and had won the NFL Championship with the Eagles as a player the year before). He was a brilliant offensive mind, and I learned from him. I listened to him, and I worked hard, and I used my brain. I learned and came to understand what I was supposed to be doing, and that helped me succeed right out of the gate.

Fathead Blog You were one of the first scrambling quarterbacks to have major success in the league. As the years have gone on, we’ve seen quite a few others – Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, and Steve Young, to name a few. Since you retired, who’s been the best you’ve seen?

Fran Tarkenton:  Michael Vick by far. He’s an athletic freak. The way he can just take off and run is amazing, and there’s nobody else really like him. Never in a million years would I expect the fastest player on the field in an NFL game to be a quarterback, but he is. When I scrambled, it was mainly to buy time to throw the ball downfield. Vick recently set the new record for rushing yards by a quarterback, and he’s only 31, because he’s able to pull the ball down and just take off.

Fathead Blog: Along those lines, Broncos’ QB Tim Tebow has been one of the most polarizing players in the league since he was drafted. Have you watched him play? Do you have any thoughts on him yet or is it still too early to tell in your opinion?

Fran Tarkenton:  I think Tim Tebow was a great college quarterback. But I’m not sure that he’ll be able to make it in the NFL. From what I’ve seen from his first few games, his ability to throw the ball is very questionable. Now that doesn’t mean he won’t succeed. He can prove me wrong and improve on his passing skills. He has all the other intangible things that you want from a quarterback, and I know he’s an incredibly hard worker. He’ll do everything he can to succeed, and I’m very curious to watch his career and see if he can do it.

Fathead Blog: Even as a great scrambler, you still were an incredible passer. Your 47,003 yards still rank 6th all-time. After you had some success it was probably easy to sell the idea of being a mobile quarterback, but was it ever difficult trying to convince coaches and other football personnel that it was possible to succeed with your style of play early in your career?

Fran Tarkenton:  All coaches want their quarterbacks to be able to make plays, put points on the board, and make first downs. Those are the measuring sticks. From the first game that I played, I was able to do that, and it’s like anything else: if you produce, you can play, but if you don’t they’ll get rid of you. My style of play drove the establishment nuts at the time, but the results were undeniable. The standard mold for a quarterback at the time was a big guy with a big arm who delivered the ball from the pocket. The scouting report on me was that I was small but slow, which, needless to say, didn’t fit the prototype. But football has always been measured by results, and people eventually learned to accept my style of play.

Fathead Blog: You once played in 71 consecutive games, spanning several seasons. It’s hard to do that at any position, but to do it as a quarterback is even more remarkable, in my opinion, because defenders are trying to knock them out of the game on every single passing play. What do you remember about that streak? Do you recall any of the injuries you played through to keep that streak going?

Fran Tarkenton:  I only missed 5 games my entire career because of injury. That was because I broke my leg against the Bengals in 1976. The other games I missed were because in the early years, we were so far out of the race that late in the season they would put in my backups to get them some playing time. I was able to avoid injury because I never took direct hits outside of the pocket. When I scrambled and ran, I had to learn to avoid big hits, because I got hit a lot early in my career playing for an expansion team. You have to avoid those hits to stay on the field, and I managed to avoid most of the big shots that knock players out of the game.

Fathead Blog: As a former Monday Night commentator, I’m curious about what you think of the current product. It’s obviously a different situation since the average consumer has hundreds of channels to pick from, but the broadcasting crew has changed so much over the years with guys like Dennis Miller, Tony Kornheiser, and Rush Limbaugh having come and gone fairly recently. It’s hard to build up a brand when the key personnel change so frequency. What are your thoughts on the show as it’s evolved over the years?

Fran Tarkenton:  I think Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, and Mike Tirico are great. This particular team has been together for a few years now, and I expect this team to stay together for a few more years. They work well together. It’s nice to have stability. Technology has changed so much, and the finished product is so much more polished and professional than when I was a part of Monday Night Football. They’re able to do things now that we couldn’t dream of doing then!

Fathead Blog: After retiring, you’ve had a number of successful ventures. Many athletes throw their names behind things, but you’ve been actively involved in those companies, including the recently launched fantasy football site, FantasyFran.com. Was going into business something you actively had your eye on as a player or did that desire come later?

Fran Tarkenton:  I didn’t wait until after I’d retired from football to go into business. I was starting up and running businesses the whole time I played. I actually got my first license to sell life insurance in 1959 for the Franklin Life Insurance Company. During my career, I did everything from life insurance to starting fast food chains to an industrial janitorial cleaning service!

Currently, I’m running a wide range of businesses, but my main focus is working with small business entrepreneurs and insurance professionals to make sure that they have all the tools they need to succeed. If anyone is interested in seeing what I have been up to, they can visit www.FranTarkenton.com.  FantasyFran.com is something we started doing for fun, because of how much I still love and watch football. We then realized that there was no place on the web for fantasy football players to get advice from people who’d been on the arena themselves! All the former players on the networks only give game analysis, not fantasy football. It’s something unique I could do, and have a lot of fun doing it! For 18 years, football was my profession, and it’s been my hobby ever since then. My outlook on the games and the players is one that I think is unique among all the voices out there.

October 13, 2011

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“Who Would Win?” with Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox

By: Lionel

The Boston Red Sox have taken a beating from the media over the last few weeks, with the team melting down in the last month of the regular season, the departure of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, and the recent accusations of players partying in the clubhouse during games.  We could get caught up in the drama, but we prefer to talk about happy things.  Besides that, we have a fun interview with Kevin Youkilis that we’re excited to publish while people are still talking about the Boston Red Sox.

We asked Kevin Youkilis to play “Who Would Win?” with us.  The premise is simple.  We just asked Kevin to tell us which of his Boston Red Sox teammates would win various hypothetical events.  His answers are below in bold:

“Kevin Youkilis, of your Boston Red Sox teammates, who would win…

1. …a game of Trivial Pursuit?”  Ryan Lavarnway, only because he went to Yale.

2. …a car race?”  Marco Scutaro loves fast cars.

3. …a political election?”  Jed Lowrie, because he went to Stanford and wears 3-piece suits.

4. …a singing contest?”  Daisuke has a good voice.

5. …a dance-off?”  No idea.  Luckily never seen some guys dance.

6. …a humanitarian award?”  Too hard to answer because we have a lot of guys that do a lot of charity work.

7. …a trash-talking contest?”  Pedroia for sure.  A daily routine for him [is] to talk trash, but it’s all joking around and never too serious.

8. …an arm-wrestling tournament?”  Varitek.  He is one strong dude.

9. …a stand-up comedy contest?”  Marco Scutaro for sure.  He is always making guys laugh and keeping the locker room loose and fun.

10. …a hot dog eating contest?”  Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon.  They can eat a lot.

September 15, 2011

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Joe Haden Answers a Bunch of Unrelated Questions

By: Lionel

Bolstered by quarterback Bruce Grakowski’s quick-snap, 41-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green, the Cincinnati Bengals came out on top of Joe Haden and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.  Don’t let that single play overshadow the performance of Haden, however, whose 5 break ups and 3 tackles, including 1 sack, made him “by far” the best cornerback of the week, according to ProFootballFocus.com.  Browns coaches suggest that Haden will be drawing the top coverage assignment often this season, and it’s no wonder.

Haden stopped by the Fathead office for the release of his new Fathead yesterday.  As gracious and down-to-earth as anyone you’ll ever meet, he shook hands, signed autographs, and posed for pictures with anyone who asked, the mutton chops on his cheeks framing his natural, easy smile.  We then sat down, and I asked him what I can only call “A Bunch of Unrelated Questions.”

Fathead Blog: It’s still pretty early in your NFL career, but who has been your toughest cover so far?

Joe Haden: My toughest cover has been Chad Ochocinco.  He’s really good.  He’s just fast, quick, and he comes out of his breaks really good.  I mean he does everything really well.

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FB: You were nicknamed “Rockstar” by fellow Gators because you can dance and you’re always well-dressed.  Which Brown is the worst dresser?

JH: I would have to give it to my boy Ahtyba Rubin.  Yeah, man.  He just doesn’t really care too much.  He’ll just come in with a big, black shirt and some flip-flops everyday.

FB: Who’s the worst dancer?

JH: Joe Thomas.  Yes.  I’ve seen him out at Barley House a couple of times, and it didn’t look too good.  It’s probably a tie between him and Alex Mack.

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FB: What’s on your DVR right now?

JH: Oh.  America’s Got Talent.  America’s Got Talent or America’s Best Dance Crew.  Those are my two favorite shows.

FB: Who do you root for on America’s Got Talent?

JH: I root for the dancers.  Definitely.  They’re always the best.

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FB: I read that you haven’t turned down an autograph request yet. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve been asked to autograph?

JH: I’ve been asked to autograph body parts a lot.  Shoes…iPhones.  Probably the craziest one is iPhones.  I was, like, “You seriously want me to sign your phone?”  Like, white iPhones!

FB: Does it stay on there?

JH: No, it smears off.  (laughs) They still had me sign it.

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FB: You played quarterback for Friendly High School.  Do you find it hard to intimidate opponents when your team is the Friendly Patriots?

JH: No, because when you’re that good, when you’re team is that much better, they see how good you are, and it doesn’t really matter.  We just tell them, “We play for the Patriots.”  We don’t put “Friendly” in front of it.

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FB: What movie or band or music do you like, but you’re a little embarrassed to admit it?

JH: All of my music–it would be okay for me to like.  Movie…  Lion King?  I mean everybody likes Lion King, though.

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FB: What’s your prediction for Tim Tebow?

JH: Oh man.  I hope it works out.  He’s such a good dude.  We played together, and he was just so humble and God-fearing.  I mean he’s just such a good person.  You always hope for the best for people like that.  I don’t really know what the situation is out there.  I mean, on TV, on ESPN, it’s not looking too good, but I just hope for the best.

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FB: If you were to put up anyone’s Fathead in your house, besides your own, whose would it be?

JH: Michael Vick.  No question.  That’s just my favorite player ever.

April 7, 2011

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A Bunch of Unrelated Questions Answered by Jamaal Charles

By: Lionel

Jamaal Charles has seen a lot.  A standout running back, he was part of the 2005 national championship team with the University of Texas, where he currently ranks fourth in career rushing yards, despite forgoing his senior year to enter the NFL draft.  Now three years into his professional career with the Kansas City Chiefs, he has become one of the best rushers in the NFL.

We figured that a guy who’s seen so much would have a lot of information to share, so we worked for weeks – brainstorming, researching, and surveying fans – to come up with the most interesting interview questions possible for Mr. Charles.  Unfortunately, we left those questions in the bar at the airport, so we hastily assembled a bunch of unrelated questions just to make sure we had something to ask him when we saw him.  Here are his answers to that second batch of questions:

1.       How did your NCAA bracket work out?  Good.  Had UConn winning it all.

2.       Name 3 things you’ll do more of if there isn’t an NFL season.  Lift weights, run track, more community involvement.

3.       If there was a movie about your life, who would be the star?  Me.

4.       Better barbecue: Texas or Kansas City?  Texas.

5.       Who, in your opinion, is the most intimidating defensive player in the NFLNo one.

6.       What are you surprisingly bad at?  Singing.

7.       If there’s no NFL season, and you can let your self go a little, what will you eat a lot of?  Nuts.  All kinds of nuts.

8.       What’s on your DVR right now?  I don’t have one.

9.       What movie do you like that you don’t normally admit to people?  Avatar.

10.   If you were going to put up anyone else’s Fathead in your house, whose would it be?  Adrian Peterson’s.