Remembering September 11th, 2001.

Week one of this NFL season  marks the second time 9/11 falls on NFL Sunday, which happens to be the 10th anniversary of the darkest day in America, and the World, since December 7th 1941.

As is the case for those remembering where they were that infamous Sunday morning in 1941, we all know where we were that infamous Tuesday morning, September 11th 2001.

On the field at Invesco for Monday Night Football 9/10/01

I certainly remember where I was the night before the savage attacks took place. I was in the press box at the then Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. September 10th, 2001. The Denver Broncos were kicking off the season debuting their brand new jewel of a stadium hosting, of all teams, the New York Giants on ABC’s Monday Night Football.

An incredibly festive atmosphere in the Mile High City, I was covering the game for KREX, the CBS affiliate in Grand Junction Colorado, along with Scott Hennessee. We made the three hour drive east up I-70 early that Monday afternoon.

Old Mile High Stadium

It was a perfect day to christen the new stadium built adjacent to the old horse shoe of a stadium where I was fortunate enough to cover the last game played there the previous December.

Of course, I brought a little disposable camera (no digitals then just yet) so Scott and I could document with pictures that “we were there!” I’ve peppered some of the photographs for you to see. I remember thinking to myself that it was just an awesome building and why can’t we have one in Los Angeles. That’s another story of course.

The media credentials requested equaled those for a Super Bowl because, a) players from the Broncos two super bowl champions, including John Elway, were there for pre-game festivities, and b) plain and simple, the Broncos were playing the defending NFC Champion New York Football Giants who were destroyed in Super Bowl 35 earlier in January by the Baltimore Ravens, 34-7.

Scott and I were issued one field pass and one press box pass.  I drew the short straw. I was upstairs the first three quarters. I was then allowed to go to the field for the 4th quarter.

When I got to the press box, I was seated next to a Green Bay Packers advance scout. Reggie McKenzie was a former Los Angeles Raider who played pro ball for seven seasons. Ironically, he was an assistant coach at Dorsey High School in L.A. for one season after hanging up his cleats. We chuckled after I told him I was from L.A. and went to Hamilton High School.

Thanks, Reggie!

MacKenzie was scouting the Giants who were to travel to Lambeau Field the following Sunday to play the Packers. He was nice enough to take my picture in the press box.

A successful stadium debut for the Broncos as they beat the Giants, 31-20. I was down on the field taking in the sights and snapping a few pictures before going into the locker room for post game interviews.

Eric Dickerson interviews Broncos' RB Terrell Davis

Former Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson was the sideline reporter for ABC’s Monday Night Football. I snapped a picture of Dickerson interviewing Denver running back Terrell Davis who rushed for 101 yards in the win.

Everything was innocent and happy-go-lucky for everyone there that night. Scott and I did our interviews and didn’t leave the stadium until sometime after 11pm.

A self-portrait before leaving.

We packed up the vehicle and made our way back to Grand Junction arriving there around three in the morning.

Needless to say, I woke up around 11 that morning. Turned on the television, booted up the computer and watched in disbelief as all hell broke loose.

All innocence was lost forever. That Monday night game became an afterthought.

Since then, I’ve seen movies about 9/11 that refer to that game in Denver even playing the audio track as background ambient sound.

I was there.

There was a sellout crowd of just under 76,000 fans along with another 5,000 that included the media, the teams and their personnel, stadium workers, police officers and anyone else who made that game go off without a hitch.

I often consider myself extremely fortunate always asking myself, “What IF those lunatics who hijacked those planes had planned to do that the night before and fly a jet into that stadium.”

Then I reconsider and say, “What IF there were none of those lunatics and September 11th, 2001 were a day like any other.”

After all, one life, let alone 3,000 or possibly 80,000, lost to fanatical lunatics is one too many.

Here’s to those 3,000 innocent people murdered that Tuesday morning in New York, Washington DC and Shanksville PA. We continue to look ahead so there sacrifice wasn’t made in vain.

Remember, use my picks to wager $$$ at your own risk. If you lose, I had nothing to do with it. If you win beaucoup $$$, a 10% tip would be cool.  But, I’m realistic. This is just for your entertainment…or not, and for me to keep my sports “mojo” going until “I’m back in the saddle”. Remember the league’s unofficial motto…“ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, MONDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY OR SATURDAY……….

SUNDAY 9/11/11

NEW YORK GIANTS -2.5 @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS o/u 39.5
-This game will be emotional on so many levels for obvious reasons. I’ll take the home team in a close one. REDSKINS

DALLAS COWBOYS +6 @ NEW YORK JETS o/u 40.5
-Another emotional game on so many levels for obvious reasons. Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s back after breaking his clavicle last season. So what. I still believe Romo’s the most over-rated and over-hyped player in league history. You think Jets coach Rex Ryan is going to lose this game? No F@#$ing Way! Now, let’s go have some g@d dam dessert!! JETS

PITTSBURGH STEELERS +1.5 @ BALTIMORE RAVENS o/u 36 pts
-REALLY!?!? Right out of the gate? Bitter AFC North rivals with the winner getting the inside track on the division. Take the under. RAVENS

DETROIT LIONS +1.5 @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS o/u 42.5
-Two teams on the rise with two good, young quarterbacks and solid defenses. If Lions QB Matthew Stafford can stay injury-free, Lions make the playoffs. On defense, Detroit has “that guy named Suh.” LIONS

ATLANTA FALCONS -2 @ CHICAGO BEARS o/u 40.5
-Falcons QB Matt Ryan has plenty of weapons. Atlanta’s solid everywhere. Bears QB Jay Cutler….who knows how he feels. FALCONS

BUFFALO BILLS +5.5 @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS o/u 39.5
-Not sure about the Chiefs. They won the AFC West last year with a weak schedule. They call the Bills “the team of misfit toys” because they’ve picked up players like LB Shawn Merriman who might’ve lost something but can still bring it. They also brought back their old school uniforms. Just for that….BILLS
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS +9 @ HOUSTON TEXANS o/u 44
-Colts will be without QB Peyton Manning for the first time since Clinton was President. Perfect opportunity for the Texans to finally grasp hold of the AFC South. Not so sure just yet. For some reason, I think out-of-retirement QB Kerry Collins gets a win for Indy here. COLTS

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -4 @ ST. LOUIS RAMS o/u 44
-Eagles “Dream Team” favored out of the NFC to get to the Super Bowl. I think QB Sam Bradford, RB Steven Jackson and the Los Ang…er..St. Louis Rams (Sorry, got ahead of myself) have a little surprise for Vick and the birds. RAMS

CINCINNATI BENGALS -6.5 @ CLEVLEAND BROWNS o/u 35
-Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is an excellent coach. His problem is he works for Mike Brown and the Bengals. Rookie QB Andy Dalton has to fill Carson Palmer’s retired shoes (he’ll be in Indy by Christmas). Poor Andy. I really like Browns QB Colt McCoy who was a steal in last year’s draft. BROWNS

TENNESSEE TITANS +1 @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS o/u 37
-Not respect for new Titans coach Mike Munchak. I don’t get it. He’s got a good veteran at QB with ex-water bird Matt Hasselbeck and RB Chris Johnson. The Jags got rid of QB David Garrard and are going with the rookie from Missouri….what’s his name…TITANS

CAROLINA PANTHERS +7 @ ARIZONA CARDINALS o/u 37.5
-Cardinals were like a rudderless ship last season playing without a quarterback. Enter Kevin Kolb traded from Philly and instantly the Red Birds are playoff contenders again. Solid defense. Solid running game and the best wide receiver in the game, Larry Fitzgerald. Panthers have Auburn rookie Cam Newton calling the signals. CARDINALS

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS +5.5 @ SAN FRANCISCO 4ERS o/u 37.5
-Forget about the game. I’m more interested in watching the sidelines and the post game handshake. Former Stanford coach and New Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh, faces his old Pac-10 nemesis, former USC coach now Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. These guys do not like each other. Oh yeah. The game. 49ERS

MINNESOTA VIKINGS +5.5 @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS o/u 42
-Vikings reload with Donovan McNabb at QB. He’s got Adrian Peterson running the ball. Chargers were tops in offense and defense last year but missed the playoffs. They had special teams a Pop Warner coach would quit over. They put it all together behind the new best quarterback in the league, Phillip Rivers (yeah….I think better than Rodgers or Brees) and the Los Ange….er…San Diego Chargers (Sorry, got ahead of myself) win the Super Bowl. CHARGERS

MONDAY

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -7 @ MIAMI DOLPHINS o/u 45.5
-Last year, the Dolphins won six games on the road and lost six at home. Patriots have reloaded  for QB Tom Brady adding Chad Ocho Cinco at WR. Don’t look now. There’s talk they’ll add Randy Moss before the season’s over. PATRIOTS

OAKLAND RAIDERS +3 @ DENVER BRONCOS o/u 40.5
-Broncos brought in former Panthers coach John Fox to right the ship. He’ll have unpopular Kyle Orton at QB ahead of fan favorite Tim Teebow who’s the third choice behind back-up Brady Quinn. Raiders destroyed the Broncos last season winning both meetings by a combined score of 98-37.
The Raiders have Darren McFadden and Michael Bush running the ball. They blistered Denver last season. RAIDERS

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (2009 Champions)+5 @ GREEN BAY PACKERS (2010 Champions) O/U 47pts (Thursday)

-Battle of the last two Super Bowl Champions and two of the top five quarterbacks in the league, the Saints’ Drew Brees and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. Last 11 defending Super Bowl Champions have won the season opener. Bodes well for the Packers who won it all last year with a full injured reserve roster. Imagine what they could accomplish when 100% healthy. This should be a high scoring game. PACKERS (42-34, PACKERS)

BYE WEEK:

*LOS ANGELES (16 seasons & one week) To quote former Falcons coach Jerry Glanville, “You know what NFL stands for. It stands for NOT FOR LONG.”  The disgraceful 16+ seasons BYE for the City of Angels will be over soon. I spell NFL this way…..AEG.

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