An even more mixed bag than usual this morning. My favourite is a book by the jilted mother of an NFL star's fifth child written, she says, so other women don't make the same mistakes as her. There's talk of the Packers coming back better than ever next year; Ron Artest's inner-most thoughts; mutiny on the Canadian women's soccer team and no, maybe the world doesn't need an academic study discussing whether Sidney Crosby is an uber Canuck or a whiny, entitled, brat, but it's here.
1. A new dynasty in Green Bay?
The Super Bowl is barely over, but a look at the season past and the season to come and it's hard not to like what you see, at least as far as the Packers are concerned: The Green Bay Packers are poised to put the brakes on the remarkable parity that has existed the past decade in the National Football Conference ...."I think the core and nucleus of this team is intact to make a run like this for a few years," said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at a news conference Monday. Rodgers is the obvious big reason for Green Bay's bright future. Even though he's a six-year NFL veteran, he's only 27 years old. He proved again Sunday he is a great quarterback, passing for 304 yards in winning the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. Every conference winner leaves the Super Bowl feeling good about its future. But success has not been easy to sustain in the NFC. Six of the last 10 NFC champs, have found themselves picking in the top 10 of the draft not too long after their Super Bowl appearance. They include St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Seattle and Chicago. Philadelphia and the New York Giants have not been back to the big game since their appearances in the 2004 and 2007 seasons, respectively. New Orleans was not able to repeat this year. Green Bay, however, has young studs at key positions all over the roster. Beside Rodgers on offense, Green Bay's best receiver, Greg Jennings, is just 27. The Packers made the Super Bowl despite the fact two of their best offensive weapons missed most of the year to injury. Jermichael Finley, one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL, is only 23. Ryan Grant, one of the best all-purpose running backs, is 28. Three of their starting offensive linemen are in their 20s and their center is 30. On defense, the outlook is just as good. The Pack's best defensive lineman, dominant nose tackle B.J. Raji, is 24. The Pack's best linebacker, All-Pro Clay Matthews, is 24. Their best cover cornerback, Tramon Williams, is 27. So is Nick Collins, one of the top safeties in the league.
"This is an excellent football team I feel will grow and get better," said coach Mike McCarthy, who walked into Monday's news conference clutching the Vince Lombardi Trophy in one hand. "You give a good message (as the coach) that it's about the team and growth and development."
2. See Phil Kessel, this is how you let the world know you're unhappy: Michael Young wants out of Texas:
It's fairly normal for that an athlete has pretty much had it with his employer and wants a change; that they come out and say it in no uncertain terms is not. The Leafs Phil Kessel seemed to be hinting at that Sunday when he allowed that he and Ron Wilson don't really talk. Of course he did the whole "taken out of context" thing the next day and told everyone how much he loved everything. Okay, sure, whatever. But say this for Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young -- he gets right to the point, and we respect that: "I asked for a trade because I've been misled and manipulated and I'm sick of it." Young was drafted by the Blue Jays, in case you didn't know. Just saying.
3. And how about those Blue Jays?
Spring training is barely a week away so it's time to trot out those story lines as a much-anticipated Blue Jays season begins to warm-up. Rob Macleod has a primer as Jays camp approaches and their season; among the developments to watch: how will Jose Bautista respond to being a full-time third baseman? Nobody is expecting Bautista to match the kind of year he had last season when he more than tripled his season-best by swatting 54 home runs to lead the majors. But you don't want to mess with a guy's psyche after that kind of year, which is precisely what the Blue Jays, barring another move by general manager Alex Anthopoulos, will do with Bautista. The 30-year-old will be Toronto's full-time third baseman this season, switching from right field, where his cannon of a right arm made runners think twice before trying to take an extra bag. Bautista can play either position with authority, but has expressed a preference to remain in right if he has the choice.
4. Sid the Kid -- idealized Canadian male or Mario's pool boy? Discuss:
A sociologist at Trent University (is there any other kind?) started flipping through the coverage of Sidney Crosby over the years and found a bit of a dichotomy which she turned into an academic study. I'm in no position to raise an eyebrow about how people make a living, but you go right ahead. The question is simply, is Crosby a humble Canadian superstar who carries his team on his back through big games and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in the corners, or prima donna who lived in Mario Lemieux's house just a little too long and whines to the refs about a paper cut? Pundits and fans have branded the Pittsburgh Penguins captain with both reputations over his six seasons in the National Hockey League, and a new study examines those different versions of Sid the Kid and how Canadians see their national identity reflected in him - and those Tim Hortons commercials."He is celebrated as the saviour of hockey. There's a lot invested in him as the replacement to Wayne Gretzky and in terms of national identity. It's been a long time since we've had a true Canadian superstar hockey player that we can rest a lot of national hopes on," says Kristi Allain, a sociologist at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. "The way he's presented in the media, in some ways, tells a story about what we think it means to be Canadian: hardworking, honest, soft-spoken, polite, tough when we need to be, fair."
5. Canadian women's soccer mutiny:
The Canadian women's soccer team has a chance to be the feel-good story of the summer as they head into the World Cup in Germany as the No.9 ranked team in the world and fully capable of winning a medal at the global event. But before that happens they have some major issues that need to be worked out with the Canadian Soccer Association; things are going so well they've announced they're going on strike to protest how their coach - who just told the CSA she'll be quitting after the World Cup -- is being treated and how they're getting paid. Otherwise, everything is fine: They plan to board a plane Friday for a training camp in Rome with Morace but say they will refuse to play in the Cyprus Cup tournament, which starts Feb. 28, until the coaching issue is resolved."Ideally we go to Rome and then we go to Cyprus and we play the games," said Sinclair. "But we can't let this go on any longer and we feel like it's our time to make a stand." A CSA spokesman said the association had reached out to Morace in the hope of speaking to her. The impasse comes at the worst possible time. The CSA is in the midst of bidding to host the 2015 Women's World Cup. Under Morace, Canada has risen to ninth in the world. Morace's coaching record with the national team is 19-8-5, which included a record 11-game unbeaten streak. "This was not a decision taken lightly, knowing that this is probably our best chance at a World Cup medal," Sinclair said of the potential boycott. "And knowing that we are potentially giving up camps and games. But there's a bigger picture here. "I've been playing on the national team for 10 years and nothing's changed. In fact things have probably gone backwards in terms of the CSA's dealing with the women's team. And I feel I'm in a position in my career and a position on the national team where you're fighting for the bigger picture, you're fighting for future national team players, the young ones on the team, the young kids that are playing soccer now throughout Canada.
"This is something that needs to be fixed and we're in a position to do that."
6. Antonio Cromartie -- not the greatest spouse:
This may have been evident when the New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie lost track of his kids -- he has nine with eight different women -- on HBO this past summer. But in case you were wondering the mom of kid No.5 has written a book to help other women avoid falling into the same trap she did. My humble suggestion: When a guy who has four kids from as many women asks you to have his kid too; maybe take a pass. Anyway, interesting reading in the 'you've got to be kidding' vein: She depicts him as a champ in bed but a cheat who dumped her days before their $200,000 wedding and left her to give birth to his sixth child alone. "Love, Intercepted: A Tale of Football, Falling and Failing in Love" is her account of their on-and-off relationship, but Patterson never uses Cromartie's name, referring to him only as "he." "It goes nameless because the story is bigger than him," Patterson told The Post. "This is not a book to bash him. It's meant to help women avoid making the same mistakes I did." She doesn't blame Cromartie, noting he was raised poor by a single mom -- a "less-than-ideal environment to learn how to be a man." In a romance that started on Facebook in 2005, she says, Cromartie lacked conversational skills, but communicated between the sheets. "I will give it to the man -- he's talented, well endowed, and . . . it was truly the best sex I'd ever had," she writes. "He was one of those lovers who would caress you, stroke your hair . . . look you in the eyes and ask you to have his child. I thought his asking me to bear his child meant he loved me."
7. Inside the mind of Ron Artest:
They Los Angeles Lakers spent some time on Twitter last night and in case you ever wondered what he's thinking; well, objectively speaking it seems a bit disjointed. A sample: i also have a pet rhino. super greedy. sometimes he chases me around the house. i just start screaming."ahhhh. the brits are coming
I'm don't have a pet rhino -- well, not one I'm going to tell YOU PEOPLE about -- but you can follow me on Twitter: @michaelgrange, just so you know.