For eight seasons with the New York Jets, six as the starting quarterback, Chad Pennington proved himself a model citizen and teammate. He and his wife founded a community charity. He bought steaks for every employee of the organization every Christmas. And throughout the rest of the season, he helped the Jets reach the playoffs three times.
There was spiritual modeling, too: Pennington led a weekly Bible study for players in his home.
But a combination of injuries, pressure from New York media, and a dismal 1-7 start to the 2007 season left the light-hearted play caller benched and broken. A year later, now at the helm of the resurgent Miami Dolphins, Pennington looks back on that dark point of his career with new eyes.
"There's no doubt I went through a lot over the last two years," he said in a recent interview with The New York Times. "After I was benched last year, I had seven or eight games to really take a step back and evaluate the situation and make sure that I wasn't cheating my family or my kids and letting football run my life."
Pennington's Christian faith had always pressed him toward service, dating back to childhood missionary trips to Central America with his grandfather. Now, it pressed him toward repentance. Football had become more than a game or career. It had become a cruel dictator, demanding time and emotional energy that should have gone toward being a husband and father of two children.
That's all changed, according to Pennington: "With the experiences I went through, I don't take anything for granted. I have a different outlook on things. The game's not my god anymore."
Pennington is back to the light-hearted leader many expected him to be when selected in the first round of the 2000 draft. He's throwing the ball far better, too, posting his best quarterback rating since 2002 and transforming the Dolphins from league doormats a year ago into an AFC East powerhouse.
With Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band slated to rock Tampa's Raymond James Stadium Feb. 1 during halftime of the Super Bowl on NBC, the race is on for competing networks to steal as many viewers as possible with all manner of sensational programming. ABC has announced plans to air a three-hour "Superball Sunday" marathon of its summer game show hit "Wipeout," including a special cheerleaders-vs.-couch potatoes segment during halftime. The motivation for such shameless broadcasting? Consider this: The number of U.S. viewers tuning in to last year's Super Bowl halftime show topped more than 148 million.
The new Yankee Stadium may not be the house that Ruth built when it opens for baseball this coming spring. But fans hoping to grab a first look at the ballpark will pay Ruth-era prices for the Yankees' first two exhibition games at their new venue.
In tribute to the 85-year-old structure, set for demolition in the coming year, tickets for bleacher seats will cost just 25 cents and grandstand seats $1.10, the same prices in effect when Babe Ruth slugged a third-inning homer to christen the first Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923. Terrace Level, Main Level, and Field Level seats will run between $20 and $50 for the two spring training games, substantially reduced from typical prices. Season ticket holders will gain admission for free.
Regular season prices at the new Yankee Stadium will range from $14 to $400.