Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe Replay: Super Bowl Sampling

In addition to the bone-rattling hits, edge-of-your-seat tension and spectacular plays, the Super Bowl offers one more treat:  the first excuse since the holidays to pig out without guilt.  To prepare you for this culinary cornucopia, I’ve selected some of the recipes I have posted on Naptime Huddle that I think would be perfect for Sunday, whether you are the one hosting a viewing party or attending a potluck get-together.  Just click on each link for the full recipe.

Perfect for noshing, but make sure you have a crowd (and plenty of crackers) if you’re making the full recipe!  By the way, you may find it difficult to form the cheese mixture into a ball.  If you find this frustrating, you can do what a friend of mine did.  For her family gathering at Christmas, she spread it into tree-shaped mold and sprinkled the chopped pecans on top!  Instead of a tree, you could try to find a football-shaped mold.

Can you really have a sporting event without hot wings?!?

This meat-lover’s classic can be made in advance and will stand the test of a 4-hour party.

A refreshing compliment to the chili, this salad is also hearty enough to be the main dish for the herbivores at your shindig.

Sinfully delicious and easy to eat with your fingers, your guests will beg you for the recipe.  (Be sure to give them the Naptime Huddle address, will ya?)

Enjoy the feast--and the game!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Stars and Legends: Wide Receivers, Yesterday's Legends

I’ve written a few of these “Stars and Legends” posts, now, and each one has been a challenge. In a sport full of statistics, there are several ways to evaluate players, but deciding which to pick as the best in history is never easy. For one thing, many of the “Legends” played before I was mature enough to appreciate or remember them; still others played before I was even born. Another factor to consider is consistency: did a player’s performance ebb and flow or was he a consistent performer? Also, it’s hard for some players to stand out when they play on talent-stacked teams (like some of the legacy teams we’ve discussed before).

For me, though, picking the wide receiver “Legends” has been the toughest assignment of them all. There are so many stand-outs, and so little time to write, that I had to leave out some players that truly deserve to be on the list. I’m sure many of you will disagree with some of my picks, or lament the omission of certain players. Hopefully, though, today’s post will spark discussion, debate, and some memories.

All that being said, here is a list of those players whose performance at the wide receiver position stood out for me:

Jerry Rice (San Francisco 49ers, 1985-2000; Oakland Raiders, 2001-2004; Seattle Seahawks, 2004): The list of top wide receivers in NFL history must start with the most dominant pass catcher ever, Jerry Rice. Many consider him the greatest to ever play football at any position, giving him the moniker “The GOAT”, or the “Greatest of All Time.” Though his 20-year career ended with the Seattle Seahawks, Rice’s story developed with San Francisco as its backdrop. Jerry Rice attended Mississippi Valley State and was drafted in the first round of the 1985 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. It didn’t take long for the NFL to get a hint of what was to come: in his rookie season, Rice caught 49 passes for 927 yards, an impressive average of 18.9 yards per catch. His performance that season earned him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. With Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing balls, his career only went up from there—over his career, Rice would led the league in receptions and receiving touchdowns in six different seasons, earn an incredible 13 Pro Bowl selections, be named an All-Pro 12 times. He also won three Super Bowls with the Niners; his #80 jersey has been retired by the team.

Jerry Rice owned nearly every possible record for a wide receiver, and still holds several by a large margin. For example, his record 1,549 career receptions are 447 more than runner-up Marvin Harrison; his record for receiving yards stands at 22,895, which is nearly 7,000 greater than receiver (and former Niner) Terrell Owens. Rice also holds several all-purpose records. He is still the most prolific scorer in NFL history; his 208 touchdowns surpass those of second-place holder, running back Emmitt Smith, who scored 175 in his storied career. He scored a total of 1,256 points in his career, which is the most among non-kickers. It was a surprise to no one when, in 2010, Jerry Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Art Monk (Washington Redskins, 1980-1993; New York Jets, 1994; Philadelphia Eagles, 1995): James Arthur “Art” Monk attended Syracuse University and was drafted in the first round of the 1980 draft by the Washington Redskins. Monk was part of a three-receiver tandem known as “The Posse” that dominated passing defenses in 1989, with each amassing 1,000 yards in the season. During his tenure with the Redskins, the team won three Super Bowls and had only three losing seasons. Over the course of his career, Monk had 940 receptions for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and was included in the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team. In addition to several Redskins records, Monk held several NFL records at the time of his retirement. However, many of the league records, such as the record for career receptions, were broken a short while later by Jerry Rice. Art Monk was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Even his induction broke a record—for the longest standing ovation in HOF history, lasting four minutes and four seconds.

Steve Largent (Seattle Seahawks, 1976-1989): Steve Largent attended the University of Tulsa and was drafted in the fourth round of the 1976 draft by the Houston Oilers. Before the season began, however, he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, which was in its first year of existence. While speed and agility are considered prerequisites for success at wide receiver, Largent did not quite fit the mold. What he lacked in speed, however, he made up for in consistency and sure-handedness. Over his 14-year career, Largent accumulated 819 receptions for 13,089 yards and 101 touchdowns—all records for receivers at the time of his retirement. He earned Pro Bowl selection seven times and All-Pro honors eight times. His consistency and work ethic were reflected in another record, for 177 consecutive regular-season games with a reception. Largent’s #80 jersey was the first to be retired by the Seattle Seahawks; the retirement was temporarily lifted when he gave Jerry Rice permission to wear the number when the latter joined the Seahawks at the end of his career.  When Largent was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995, he was the first Seattle Seahawk to receive that honor.

Don Hutson (Green Bay Packers, 1935-1945): Jerry Rice and Don Hutson make perfect bookends to our discussion of all-time greatest wide receivers. While Rice took the art of catching to new heights, Hutson is considered the first modern receiver and inventor of passing routes that are still used today. In fact, some experts argue that Hutson may have equaled, or even surpassed, Jerry Rice if they had played in the same era. During Hutson’s time, the league still relied heavily on running* and rules regarding interference favored defenses. Moreover, at the time Hutson played, there were only ten or twelve games in a season and only one championship game; there were no playoffs. Finally, like many other players in the early days of football, Hutson play all sixty minutes, on both sides of the ball. He actually excelled in every facet of the game, including kicking. Hutson had thirty interceptions in his career, and in one quarter in 1945, Hutson scored an incredible 29 points—catching four touchdown passes and kicking five extra points. 
After eleven years in the league, Don Hutson caught 488 receptions for 7,991 yards and 99 touchdowns. He was named an “All-NFL” nine times and held 18 records at retirement. Several of those records still stand today: 

  • most consecutive seasons leading the league in scoring (5—also the record for most seasons leading in that category);
  • most seasons leading the league in touchdowns (8);
  • most consecutive
    seasons leading the league in touchdowns (4); 
  • most seasons leading the league in receiving (8); most seasons leading the league in yards gained (7);
  • most consecutive seasons leading the league in yards gained (4);
  • most seasons leading the league in receiving touchdowns (9); and
  • most consecutive seasons leading the league in receiving touchdowns (twice—5 between 1940 and 1944 and 4 between 1935-1938). 
Not bad for an old guy, huh? Don Hutson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963; he passed away in 1997 at the age of 84.

*In fact, it was a timing quirk that put Hutson on the path to receiving legend. After college Hutson signed two contracts: one with the Packers, who were very pass-happy, and another with the Brooklyn (NFL) Dodgers, a team that relied heavily on the running game and rarely passed. NFL President Joe Carr decided that Hutson would be bound by the contract with the earlier postmark. The Packers’ contract was postmarked only 17 minutes earlier than the Dodgers’ contract. Wouldn’t it have just been easier if he had emailed them?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stars and Legends: Wide Receivers

Until recently, running backs have been considered the stars of football, at least statistically.  The current generation of team offenses has been primarily run-first, using the philosophy that the running game should be established first.  This makes defenses respect the run, giving the quarterback time in the pocket to find receivers when circumstances dictate a pass.  It also sets up defenses to be vulnerable against passes. 

The 2011 season has been an unusual one, however, in that offenses have been using their quarterbacks’ throwing skills to their advantage, relying more and more on the passing game.  This has turned the spotlight on the wide receivers of the league, and giving previously unknown receivers, like Victor Cruz of the New York Giants, opportunities to have break-out seasons.

In honor of this development, the latest installment of Naptime Huddle’s “Stars and Legends” series takes a look at the best wide receivers in the NFL today, and the best from yesteryear. 


Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions, 2007 to present):  Calvin Johnson (nickname “Megatron”) attended Georgia Tech and was drafted second overall by the Lions in 2007.  He has become quarterback Matthew Stafford’s go-to receivers and has amassed huge receiving totals every year he has been in the league; since his rookie season, he has had over 1,000 receiving yards each year except for one.  The one exception was 2009 when he missed two games.  However, he still managed to catch 67 passes for a total of 984 in that season.  This season he led the NFL with 1,681 yards, off of 96 receptions, including 16 touchdowns.  He has been named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams each of the last two seasons.

Wes Welker (Miami Dolphins, 2004-2006; New England Patriots, 2007 to present):  Wes Welker attended Texas Tech and was not drafted after he graduated in 2004.  He was signed by the San Diego Chargers as a free agent, but released after the first game of the season.  With the Dolphins, Welker was primarily and special teams player, earning impressive statistics in all facets of special teams, including kicking (having been a prolific kicker in high school).  Against the Patriots in 2004 he became only the second player ever to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal and make a tackle in one game.  Welker did not flourish as a receiver until being traded to the New England Patriots in 2007, where he has become Tom Brady’s favorite receiver.  Since joining the Patriots, Welker has been selected to either the Pro Bowl or All-Pro teams (or both) every year and has led the league in receiving three times.

Andre Johnson (Houston Texans, 2003 to present):   Andre Johnson attended the University of Miami and was selected third overall by the Texans in the 2003 draft.  If you are new to football, you might wonder why Andre Johnson is on the list.  After all, he only caught 33 passes for 492 yards this year.  However, the 2011 season was an aberration for Johnson; he missed nine games due to injury and the quarterback situation in Houston was anything but stable.  In several of the games he did play, he had a rookie quarterback in T.J. Yates.  If you look at his total body of work, however, it’s clear that he belongs in the discussion.  With over 700 catches for 9,656 yards and 52 touchdowns, Andre Johnson is among the league’s elite receivers, especially considering that he has been plagued with injuries in several seasons, including this past one.  He is currently first in the NFL for receiving yards per game over a career, with 80.7 yards per game.  Johnson has five Pro Bowl and four All-Pro selections to his credit and has led the league in receiving yards twice— in 2008 and 2009—only the second player to do so in consecutive seasons.

Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals, 2004 to present):  Larry Fitzgerald attended the University of Pittsburgh and, after his sophomore year, was selected third overall in the 2004 draft by the Arizona Cardinals.  He is currently fourth in league history for receiving yards per game over a career, with 76 yards per game.  Fitzgerald has been selected to the Pro Bowl and amazing six times in his seven-year career, and named an All-Pro four times.  He led the NFC in receiving yards in 2008 and was an instrumental part of the Cardinals team that made it to their first Super Bowl that year (they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-23).  Other than his rookie year, Fitzgerald has had at least 1,000 yards receiving every year except in 2006, when he missed several games due to injury (he still managed 946 yards).

Tune in next week when we’ll take a look at the wide receiver legends throughout NFL history.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Pros (and Cons) of the Pro Bowl

In today’s lesson, we take a look at the only game in town (so to speak) this weekend—the Pro Bowl.

So, what is the Pro Bowl, anyway?

You know how the other major American team sports—baseball, basketball and hockey—have their All-Star games in the middle of the season?  Well, the Pro Bowl is football’s All-Star game, except it happens at the end of the season.  The game features the top players from the NFC playing against the top players from the AFC.  Until very recently, it wasn’t held until the week after the Super Bowl.  However, in 2010 this changed and it is now held in the week between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl—so, this weekend.

How are players selected?

Players are voted into the Pro Bowl by three sets of constituents:  coaches, players and fans.  It used to be that only coaches and players had a say.  That changed in 1995 when the league gave fans the right to vote for their favorite players.  This approach has some detractors, who argue that teams in larger markets, like New York, or with broad fan bases outside of their markets, like Dallas, send an disproportionately large number of players to the Pro Bowl, regardless of their ability.  In addition to top vote-getters, Pro Bowl alternates are also invited; they will play if a voted player will be in the Super Bowl, suffers an injury or is unable to play for any other reason.  For a look at this year's roster, click here:  http://www.nfl.com/probowl/story/09000d5d82578253/article/2012-pro-bowl-rosters

Why is it played after the season is over?

The reason for the delay is concern over players being injured and being unavailable for regular games.  This fear is more acute in football because of the higher degree of physical contact and risk of injury.  Also, with only 16 games in a season, any injuries are more significant when players who are obviously critical to the success of their teams (or else they wouldn’t be in the Pro Bowl) are unavailable.

When did the Pro Bowl start?

The first of these games was the “Pro All-Star Game” and it took place after the 1938 season.  After the 1942 season, the game was suspended because of World War II and not revived until 1951, when it was first called the “Pro Bowl.”

Where is the Pro Bowl played?

Until 1980, the Pro Bowl took place at venues all over the country.  From 1980 to 2009, the game was held in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The league has since determined that the game should be rotated among other venues in addition to Aloha Stadium; partly to increase ticket sales, and partly to increase television ratings, which are never stellar for this event.  In 2010, therefore, the game was played in Miami.  This was also the first year that the game took place in the bye week between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl—another change designed to improve ratings.  The 2011 Pro Bowl returned to Hawaii, where it will take place again on Sunday.

Who coaches the Pro Bowl?

Until recently, the head coach of each team was the head coach of the team that had lost its Conference Championship Game.  So, this year it would have been the Harbaugh brothers—Jim of the Baltimore Ravens and John of the San Francisco 49ers (which would have been pretty cool).  Now, though, the coaches are from the losing teams from the divisional round of the playoffs that had the best records.  This year, therefore, the coaching staff of the Houston Texans, headed by Gary Kubiak, will coach the AFC team and the Green Bay Packers coaching staff, led by Mike McCarthy, will coach the NFC team.  This new arrangement gives the coaching staffs more time to work with their teams.

Is this game played any differently from other games?

Yes.  For one thing, the “starters” won’t play long.  They usually only play for maybe a first quarter, then their alternates take their places.  Why?  To minimize the chance that they will get hurt.

For another, several rules are different; again, this is to minimize the risk to the players.  Among other differences, intentional grounding is legal (to let the QB get rid of the ball instead of taking a sack); there is also no blitzing allowed.  Also, there is no rushing allowed for kicking plays:  punts, point-after attempts and field goal attempts.  Finally, there are certain rules governing formations on offense and defense—e.g., the defense must be in a 4-3 formation and the offense must use a tight end.

So, the year’s big winners won’t play because they’ll be in the Super Bowl, the best players that do play don’t play for long, and the rules virtually eliminate the rough stuff.  Why should I watch?

That’s an excellent question.  Unfortunately, you're not the only who asks it, either.  The Pro Bowl has notoriously low ratings every year, primarily for the reasons mentioned.  This is a shame because election to the Pro Bowl is one of the Big Three honors a player can earn, with the All-Pro designation (determined by members of the press) and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Whenever you read a player's bio (like in Naptime Huddle's "Stars and Legends" series), the ones for the great players always mention these three accolades. 

One day the league might come up with a better way to honor the best players of the season--like maybe a ceremony instead of a game, with other skill events surrounding it (like baseball's Home Run Derby).  In the meantime, if you don't have anything better to do this Sunday, maybe you can switch it on?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gridiron Giving: Matt Birk's HIKE Foundation

Yesterday, the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award were announced.  This is an annual award given to one player who exemplifies the award’s standards for achievement both on the field, through game performance, and off the field, through service to the community.  As part of the selection process for this prestigious award, each of the 32 teams in the NFL nominates a single player from its roster.  These are narrowed down to three finalists.  I’m proud to say that charities of two of the three 2011 finalists were among those profiled in Naptime Huddle’s “Gridiron Giving” series:  Charles Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation and Philip Rivers’ Rivers of Hope Foundation.

To complete our look at NFL player charities, I decided to open the series back up for the HIKE Foundation, the charitable organization of the third Man of the Year finalist, Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk.  Matt was also a Walter Payton award finalist in 2008.

Matt Birk, a 14-year NFL veteran, played for the Minnesota Vikings for eleven years before joining the Baltimore Ravens in 2009.  An alumnus of Harvard University, graduating with a 4.4 GPA, Birk surely appreciates the value, and privilege, of receiving a good education.  In fact, in 2010 Sporting News placed Matt at No. 6 on its list of the top twenty smartest athletes! 

Matt began the HIKE Foundation (which stands for “Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge and Education”) while in the Twin Cities and turned its focus to Baltimore-area youth when he joined the Ravens.  The mission of HIKE is to provide at-risk children with the programs and resources they need to navigate the key transitions in their education:  from elementary to middle school, then to high school and college.  To achieve these goals, the Foundation has two signature programs:

Ready, Set, Read!:  This program encourages students to read by offering incentives for accomplishing reading goals.  They can win a variety of prizes such as gift cards, autographs and even tickets to Ravens games.  The grand prize is a school assembly and party with Matt, who is also serving as the “reading spokesman” for Baltimore’s elementary and middle schools.

Read and Rise:  The Foundation has partnered with Scholastic Books to commit to providing over 15,000 books to more than 5,000 at-risk children in an effort to support children’s literacy.  The Read and Rise program also aims to help schools and families prepare kids for learning by fostering positive attitudes, skills and behaviors needed to get kids engaged in, and excited about, learning.

To learn more about the HIKE Foundation, including information on how you can help the Foundation and its mission, visit the Foundation’s web site at www.hikefoundation.org.

In case you missed them, here are the links to the other posts in our “Gridiron Giving” series:

To see all of the Gridiron Giving posts, you can also click on the "charity" label in the left sidebar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

We've Been the CHAMPions... We've Been the CHAMPions!

In anticipation of this weekend’s Conference Championship Games, I want to give you a look at the playoff and championship histories of the four teams left in this year’s hunt for the Lombardi Trophy, just to give the games some context.  All four teams have won Super Bowls and have an impressive number of playoff appearances to their credit.

Let’s start with the youngest team, the Baltimore Ravens, who have only been in existence since 1996.


Seasons with Playoff Appearances:  7

Conference Championships:  1

Super Bowl Victories:  1 …Super Bowl XXXV (2000, beating the New York Giants 34-7)


Seasons with Playoff Appearances:  30 (tied for the most with the Dallas Cowboys)

NFL Championships (from the days before the Super Bowl):  4… in 1927, 1934, 1938 and 1956

Conference Championships:  4

Super Bowl Victories:  3… Super Bowl XXI (1986), Super Bowl XXV (1990) and Super Bowl XLII (2007, beating the New England Patriots 17-14 to end the Pats’ dream of an unbeaten season...remember the miraculous helmet catch by David Tyree?)


Seasons with Playoff Appearances:  18

Conference Championships:  6

Super Bowl Victories:  3… Super Bowl XXXVI (2001), Super Bowl XXXVIII (2003) and Super Bowl XXXIX (2004).  Their last Super Bowl appearance was the loss to the Giants in 2007.


Loyal readers will recall that the 49ers of the 1980’s formed one of the NFL’s great dynasties.  However, the Niners have the longest championship drought of the four remaining contenders, as they haven’t won the Big One since 1994.

Seasons with Playoff Appearances:  22

Conference Championships:  5

Super Bowl Victories:  5…. Super Bowl XVI (1981), Super Bowl XIX (1984), Super Bowl XXIII (1988), Super Bowl XXIV (1989) and Super Bowl XXIX (1994)

So, how will the 2010 contenders put their stamp on history?  We'll have to wait a few more weeks to find out!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Breaker, breaker...What's your handle?

Today’s topic focuses on a tool used by teams that most people know about, but they may not realize that there are rules governing its use.  It’s used on every play and is critical to both teams.  What can this vital gridiron instrument be?  The helmet speaker!

If you watch football on a regular basis, there are two images you see several times a game:  the coach talking into a headset (usually with a huge play sheet covering his face) and the quarterback staring at the sideline between plays (sometimes with his hands over the ear holes on his helmet, like he’s trying to keep his brains from spilling out).  Without needing an explanation from the commentators, you know that the QB is getting instructions from his head coach, or maybe some assistant coach, like the offensive coordinator.  What you may not know is that the defense also has a player on the field with a speaker in his helmet.  You may also not realize that, like everything else in football, there are rules for how this means of communication between the field and the sidelines can be used.

The rules governing helmet-to-sidelines communications are found at NFL Rule 5, Section 3, Article 3.  Here are some of the highlights:

² Only one player from each team may have speakers in his helmet while on the field;

² Players with such helmets must display a league-provided decal on the back of his helmet;

² Each team can have a maximum of three helmets with speakers for its QBs, and a maximum of two such helmets for defensive players who have been designated as the “primary” and “backup” users;

² If an offensive player who is not normally a quarterback, but who can be used as a quarterback, he must have two helmets—one with speakers and one without;

² When a QB enters the game for the first time, or re-enters after being out, he has to report to the referee;

² Similarly, the backup user for the defense must report to the umpire when entering the game and the primary user must report to the umpire when he returns to the field; and

² If the primary and backup users for the defense are both out, no other players may have a helmet with a speaker.

When the primary user on defense is on the field, the backup user can still be in the game.  However, he has to keep his speaker helmet locked up on the sideline.  All speaker helmets not in use must be secured in a storage trunk that will be provided by the league.  The trunks are located in off-limits areas and access is controlled and monitored by NFL personnel during the game.  Yeesh.  You’d think they were protecting the nuclear football or something…

Contrary to popular belief, if one team’s communication system between the coaches and the players malfunctions or shuts down, the other side does not have to discontinue use of its system to talk to its players.  It is a different story, however, when the intercom system between coaches (i.e., between the coaches in the team boxes and the coaches on the sidelines) malfunctions.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, the frequency employed by the system is encrypted, making it impossible for a third party to listen in.   Very secret agenty!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recipe Time Out: Buddy's Best Eggplant Parmesan

OK, I’ve been keeping this one up my sleeve for a while.  I’ve hesitated to share it for two reasons:  (1) it’s not a recipe of my own creation or from family or friends; and (2) I’m afraid that once people will know about it I won’t look like such a great cook to people I’ve made it for. 

But, for the sake of the blog, and to thank my loyal readers for their patronage, I give you…  Eggplant Parmesan, from the TLC show “Kitchen Boss,” hosted by Buddy Valastro, a.k.a. the Cake Boss.

Some people might be afraid of eggplant because it can sometimes taste bitter.  I know I was, but I’ve never had an issue with bitterness using this recipe.  Also, even though it’s vegetarian, I’ve been assured by meat lovers that it is very filling in a stick-to-your-ribs kind of way.  It is a little labor-intensive, though, so be sure you’ve allowed yourself plenty of time to make it, or enlist an assistant (even a willing child can help, since there’s no cutting involved after slicing the eggplant).


2 medium-to-large eggplants, peeled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated parmesan, divided, plus another 6 Tablespoons
6 large eggs
2 cups breadcrumbs (you can make your own, but I just buy them)
12 oz. sliced mozzarella
3 cups of any marinara sauce (again, homemade or store-bought)
Olive oil, as needed, for frying


Cut peeled eggplants into ¼-inch rounds.  Set in a colander, salt them liberally and let them “weep set”* for one hour.  Dry by patting them with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 375°.  Lightly oil a 9” x 13” baking dish and cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of marinara sauce.

Set up your dredging station for the slices.  I use pie plates, but a regular plate or wax paper is fine, too.  Flour is your first station.  Next to the flour, set your eggs, which are beaten with ½ cup of the grated parmesan.  Finally, the breadcrumbs, mixed with the other half cup of the parm.

Heat a large skillet medium-high and add enough olive oil to come up a bit on the sides.  Dip the slices in flour (tap off excess), then eggs, then breadcrumbs.**  Fry the slices in the oil until they are golden brown on each side (maybe 3-4 minutes total).  As you remove them from the oil, place them on a baking rack with paper towels underneath to drain.  Salt the fried slices.

Now you’re ready to start building your dish!  I don’t wait until all the slices have been fried.  Since I have a small kitchen, the counters get crowded fast.

Place an overlapping layer of eggplant in the baking dish.  Sprinkle with two tablespoons of the grated parmesan (remember, you should still have 6 Tbsp. left).  Ladle over a layer of sauce.  Cover with a layer of mozzarella slices.  Repeat:  eggplant, parm, sauce, mozzarella.  Finish off with the last two tablespoons of parmesan.

Bake approximately 20-30 minutes, until it’s hot and the cheese is bubbling.  Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.  I like to serve it over spaghetti or angel hair, but you may need a little more sauce with it.

Serves 6, but is great left over!

For more recipes from “Kitchen Boss,” click here.

*I leave the colander with the eggplant in the fridge.  If you take a peek during the hour, the slices may look like they’re actually weeping—water beads up on the surface.

**Your fingers will soon be caked with egg and breadcrumbs, so for the sake of efficiency, I use my left hand for dipping in the flour, then my right for the eggs and breadcrumbs.  That way, only one set of fingers becomes a sticky glove of gunk.

Monday, January 16, 2012


A while back, I wrote a post on fouls that occur before the snap for the next play.  One category of infractions was “procedural penalties.”  I promised more detail at a future date, and today I deliver…

Substitution Penalties

Teams are allowed to substitute players on the field with players from the sideline throughout the game, and this happens between just about every play.  Teams can even substitute as many players as they want.  However, there are limits on how and when substitutions can be made.  An obvious example is that it is illegal to make a substitution during a play.  Others, though, are not so obvious:

& A offense substitute must proceed to the area between the numbers painted on either side of the field;

& Any substitute on offense that approaches the huddle and talks to a teammate must stay in for at least one play; and

& If there is a substitution on offense, the offense must wait to snap the ball until the defense is able to respond with its own substitutions; no “quick” snaps are allowed to try to get the defense to commit a penalty, like having too many players on the field.  The umpire prevents this by standing over the ball until the referee determines that the defense has had a “reasonable” opportunity to make personnel changes.

Note that these rules only apply to “substitutes.”  The rules define a “substitute” as a player who “is withdrawn from the game and does not participate in a least one play.”  Therefore, if a player comes off the field by mistake, he can return to the field without entering the area between the numbers.

So, what’s the point of these rules?  Fairness.  The idea is to prevent teams from attempting to confuse the opponent unfairly.  It would be unfair to not let the other team get a clear view of the opposing players who are on the field, and with enough time to make any adjustments it needs based on that personnel. 

Eligibility Changes

If you thought there was no significance to the players’ jersey numbers, you were wrong.  Players on offense must have jersey numbers in specific ranges to be eligible to play certain positions.  For example, wide receivers must wear numbers 10-19 and 80-89; tight ends must wear numbers 80-89.  However, a team can allow an otherwise ineligible player (e.g., an offensive lineman) to line up in a formation as an eligible receiver (or vice versa) if it follows the following rules:

& The player must immediately report the change in his status to the referee, who will inform the defense;

& That player must participate according to his changed status as long as he is continuously in the game;

& Prior to each play, he must again report his status to the referee, who repeats his announcement to the defense; and

& The player can only change back to his previous status if he leaves the field for one play, or after one of several events:  a team timeout, the end of a quarter, a score or the two-minute warning, among others.

Illegal Motion

You may recall that the offense must remain completely still in the moments immediately before the snap; any movement, no matter how slight, may draw a “false start” penalty.  “But wait,” you may ask, “I know I’ve seen players moving around, running back and forth, before the ball is snapped.  What gives?”  Excellent question.  There are, naturally, a few exceptions:

& Receivers:  Eligible receivers are allowed to change position or stance before the snap.  However, they must “reset” prior to the ball being snapped.

& Shifts:  One or more players on offense may “shift” one or more times before the snap.  However, after the last shift, all players must stop and be “set” for at least one second.

& Quarterback:  If the quarterback has lined up directly behind, or “under,” the center, he is allowed to go in motion, usually stepping back.  However, he can’t do it using quick or abrupt movements and he must come to a stop before the snap.

& Players in motion:  It is legal for one player in the backfield (that is, positioned behind the line of scrimmage) to be moving when the ball is snapped.  However, that player must be moving parallel to or away from the line of scrimmage; no player may be moving toward the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.

If all of this seems like a lot to keep track of, it is.  That’s why there are so many officials on the field:  the referee, umpire, linesman and line judge are the primary arbiters of the action near the line of scrimmage, so they will be the ones to throw the flags for these infractions.  The back judge also keeps an eye out for illegal substitutions.  After reading this, you probably also realize that a lot more happens on the field than what you see on TV.  So, cut the officials a break next time you think they missed something at or before the snap, OK?