First and foremost, welcome to TJRSports.com. John Canton has asked me to be a contributing blogger and I couldn’t be happier to join his team. This is my first ever piece of writing for pleasure that hasn’t been forced upon me by any sort of educational institution. If you don’t like it, please bear with me as I’m kind of the rookie around here, so to speak.

First off, I guess I should give a little introduction of myself. My name is Brad. Like John, I am a self-proclaimed sports junkie and self-proclaimed semi-professional chirper. I consider those capabilities a few steps below the likes of Jeremy Roenick, Matthew Barnaby and Paul Bissonette and of course, my good friend Sean. Come to think of it, maybe calling me a junkie is a little too harsh. Let’s call it a sports enthusiast for the time being and after reading this, you can decide for yourself. My main love is the NHL but in a close second place is the NFL. Rounding out the list is the MLB and the PGA and any fantasy sport that I can manage. I`ve had my most success in fantasy football, winning the fantasy Super Bowl last year. What I guess I`m trying to say is, is that I love them all!

This article`s purpose is to offer insight into me and my appreciation for many all athletic avenues. I really do appreciate them all. I can`t stress that enough. Except soccer. I`m sorry if you are a fan. I can`t do it. There`s just not enough action and don’t get me started on the flopping! I can appreciate the athletic abilities and stamina of those involved in the game, but I`ll choose not to watch. I’d rather go without any sports on TV for a night than watch a soccer game. That, to me, is like entertainment genocide. I can`t seem to scratch the entertainment itch watching the same way with sitcoms. Sure, there`s great TV and some really amazing movies out there but they all seem to play second fiddle to…..

Sports!

One of a few things I find and I truly love, is how sports can really unite people. Whether it’s international competition like the Olympics or the World Cup, your local rec-league hockey, a round of golf with the boys, your softball team, a fantasy baseball league or sitting around having some beers with some friends, sports will most likely always be brought up in some way, shape or form in the conversation. It’s always up to you and the company you keep around you as to how in depth and intense the conversation gets and how long it lasts. While conversations and discussions can usually lead to arguments about favourite teams and players, it’s always wise to pick your spots appropriately and have good judgement with who you are discussing or perhaps, arguing with. Take if from a self-proclaimed sports enthusiast and chirper-extraordinaire!

Like most young and stereotypical Canadian boys, my earliest and fondest memories are on the couch in the living room watching Hockey Night in Canada with my Pops and brother. Growing up in Southwestern Ontario we are forced fed Toronto Maple Leaf propaganda and my dad would always be saying something like “Gimme an update of the Habs game!” If he wasn’t bitching about watching the “Toronto Make Me Laughs” as he so eloquently called them (I’m pretty sure he might have coined that nickname), he would be yelling at the TV about the refereeing. “Fucking Koharski!” was his favourite saying on Saturday nights after having a cold one or two. If he wasn’t complaining about Don Koharski, it was Kerry Fraser. “Looks like Kerry must be trying out a new hair product tonight!” was always something that made me laugh by the time the final buzzer went in the third period because Kerry’s wicked hair-do wouldn’t have a single hair out of place.

I knew my relationship with my Dad changed for the best when the Montreal Canadiens won their last Stanley Cup in 1993.  See, as a young lad, I cheered for the individual players and not the team. I didn’t have the sense of appreciation for the dedication and commitment to the “team” as I now recognize and in most cases, yearn for. I used to sit in front of the TV with my bowl of cereal and instead of cartoons, I was glued to TSN`s Sports Desk. That may show my age just a little bit! HA! My favourite players waivered from the likes of Brett Hull to Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros to Teemu Selanne and yes, if you can believe it, Wayne Gretzky.

So on the morning of June 10, 1993 when I woke up to get ready and go to school, I asked my dad if the Habs won the night before and he said, “YES!” That Bleu, Blanc et Rouge officially won over a new fan. Call me a bandwagon jumper if you will, that’s cool. At that same moment, I remember seeing in my dad’s eyes a new sense of pride that I have seen about a couple of hand full of times since.

From that moment on, I admit, I’ve been a serious fan of the Montreal Canadiens. Say what you want about them, I honestly don’t care. To me, there are bigger fish to fry then to try and convert you to a fan or convince you to show just a little sliver respect. Most of you haters are probably Leafs fans anyway and to me, there`s no point in having a rational discussion about hockey with you. You’re already enough of a lost cause and in my eyes, you`re probably a plug. That being said, you might think the same about me being a Habs fan if you root for the Maple Leafs and to that my friends, the best thing we can say is: ``to each his own`` and move on. That sounds fair, right?

The NFL to me is a completely different animal than hockey. Aside from the obvious like size differential, I really have a hard time putting my finger on why. Maybe because there is only one game a week and that each game means so much more for the standings makes it so much more intense on for Sundays. Damn, I love the weekends. Saturday is all about Hockey Night in Canada and Sundays is all about the NFL. It’s really tough to beat.

I might as well start off by saying that I’m a huge Green Bay Packers fan and have been for many years. This goes back to the 1996-1997 season, before we finally made it back to the Super Bowl with Brett Favre leading the charge and winning MVPs. You see, there was this tight end for the Packers who share my last name. I don’t know if there is any relation between us. What I do know is that we share a relatively unique surname. From that moment forward, I was a fan. It’s highly uncommon but not completely improbable, for that name to be around in a professional sport, let alone the biggest sport in the USA. To say I became a fan because I shared a sense of camaraderie with this professional athlete isn’t uncommon but for me, it was monumental. I was sold. I was a Packers fan. Green and yellow were my colours on Sundays, just like the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge were mine to bear on Saturdays.

While my favourite tight end ever was never as much of a down field threat like Jermichael Finley is now, he put some numbers while he started during his tenure as a Packer. His 17 career TD total in 89 career games while recording over 2000 yards is nothing to shake a stick at. Neither is his 3 Pro Bowl Appearances. They are definitely solid numbers during a time when the tight end position wasn’t utilized in the same sense as it is today.  Oh, and did I mention he made two Super Bowl appearances, winning once? Could have potentially had two rings too, but this particular tight end either had the ball knocked away out of his hands or just couldn’t hang on to the football. To be honest, I haven’t seen a replay that has been clear enough to squash that debate.

At the end of the day, it just wasn’t meant to be. That game was meant for John Elway. He manned up and on the final drive decided to man up and dive head first while getting creamed by two Packers to set up Terrell Davis for the go-ahead and eventual game winning touchdown. I can respect those kinds of desperate efforts, the kind where one is winning to sacrifice everything they have for the ultimate goal: winning.

Much more can be said about this specific tight end. Legal troubles, being cast away by the Packers, trying to reclaim a job with the Redskins and Saints; his tales of redemption, not only with the Packers and being elected into their Hall of Fame in 2010, but there is a solid story of redemption within society and overcoming adversity to be a productive member after a malicious court case and investigation. Sure, mistakes were made. It shows one’s true character with how they deal with those mistakes. I feel he did a darn good job owning up to them and he moved on. So should we.

The last few years for me have been pretty special on the sports front. From a miraculous eighth seed playoff run in the Stanley Cup, to a Fantasy Football Super Bowl Championship, to a Wild Card entry in the playoffs and winning Super Bowl XLV, to a 15-1 season the next year, I almost get the sense that I’ve been relatively spoiled as of late. I’m definitely OK with it. I hope it lasts! It probably won’t last forever but then again, forever is a long time. I know you can’t win them all, as much as one would like to.

What humbles me most is the fact that I can say that my two favourite teams have each won 2 championships each in my lifetime and that’s more than 95% of you Leafs fans out there can say!

Regardless, I’ve stayed loyal to my teams through the peaks and valleys, the strange personnel decisions that I don’t agree with (see: Scott Gomes’ contract), and the odd managerial decisions that sent me to a state of rage. If you can do the same with your team(s), then we have something we can at the very least, relate to. Not everyone is entitled to my opinion and I’m most certainly not going to agree with all of yours. That being said, I’ve been loyal to only a couple of things longer and that those are: my family and a very select few friends. If you can say the same, then you have my respect.

Thanks for stopping by to read this article. I look forward to posting writing about more topics in the near future. These topics will most likely be focusing on the NHL but then again, you never know what is upstairs between my ears!

Follow me on twitter: @murleyG. FYI: my rants and raves are not always about sports! Reader discretion is advised!