NY Giant Victor Cruz pays tribute to a Newtown victim

When New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz found out that Newtown victim Jack Pinto, 6, was a huge fan, he decided to dedicate Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons to the first-grader. Cruz, the father of an eleven-month-old girl, decorated his cleats and gloves with tributes to Jack, calling the boy his "hero." Normally, writing on uniforms or gear would be cause for a fine in the NFL, but Cruz -- and the rest of the Giants and the New York Jets, who had "SHES" written on their helmets (Sandy Hook Elementary School) -- won't be in trouble. (The Giants' playoff chances? Another story.) Jack's family has been in touch with Cruz since the weekend, offering any needed assistance, and he has promised to try and meet with them in person, even if just for a short time. He's also promised to give the Pinto family the cleats as a keepsake. If the final score of that game wasn't enough to make a Giants fan weep (present company included), then this story certainly is. (via TIME)

Photo credit: Victor Cruz on Twitter

Beyonce, owner of very red lipstick, will perform in the Super Bowl's halftime show

In a photographic announcement on her blog, Beyonce let the world in on some important pop culture news: duck-face is alive and well! And she is also going to be the main attraction at the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show on February 3. Actually, that's a pretty good act for the halftime show, what with her widespread appeal among fans of the National Football League. (via Huffington Post)

And now, the ballad of the the NFL ref strike, as performed by the replacement refs at the Seahawks-Packers game

Storytime: Last night, during Monday Night Football's presentation of the Seattle Seahawks versus the Green Bay Packers, an insane thing happened that illustrated exactly why the NFL's referee strike is a very bad thing for the game (as great as it is for ratings). In the last seconds of the game, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard Hail Mary to the end zone, where Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings caught the football half a second before Seattle receiver Golden Tate got his own hands on it -- after Jennings pulled the ball into his chest, establishing possession (aka "MINE!"). What you see pictured is a screenshot of one referee signaling a touchdown for Seattle. The other referee is signaling an interception by Green Bay, meaning the touchdown didn't happen. As a result, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers, 14-12 -- the Green Bay Packers. After the jump, the insane play, followed by the incredibly bad call. Packers fans (including my Uncle Bobby): my deepest condolences.

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If NFL players were characters from Game of Thrones

Rob Bricken of Topless Robot has compiled a list for Maxim Magazine, a magazine that generally has nothing for me to look at. However, this list is a list of NFL players if they were characters from HBO's Game of Thrones. And it's slightly biased towards the NY Giants, so, therefore, I am biased towards this list. It's the perfect combination of nerdery and football! (via Rob Bricken on Twitter)

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has a few choice words for a Maryland politician

In case you were wondering how some NFL players feel about marriage equality, Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, is in support. Vocal support. Very vocal support. He also supports fellow player Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, who recently voiced his own support for marriage equality. Why? Because this November, there is a ballot initiative in the state of Maryland to legalize same-sex marriage, and Ayanbadejo thought his opinion might interest people in the state for whom he plays professional football. Well, one Maryland politician who does not support marriage equality, one Emmett C. Burns Jr., said that an NFL player expressing such an opinion "has no place" in the sport, and that team owners should "inhibit such expressions from [their] employees." Really. A politician -- a defender of the United States Constitution -- told a football team to "inhibit... expressions" by their players -- expressions that are explicitly allowed to be uninhibited by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Kluwe, writing in a guest post on Deadspin, was not pleased with Mr. Burns' request, and he has responded using some delightfully colorful language that may or may not include the word "cockmonster."

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NFL fans deal with watching the best game ever -- and the concussion crisis that comes with it

As a football fan, it's always painful to hear the increasing number of stories about players sustaining head injuries that range from your standard (but still dangerous) concussions to chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It's easy to let oneself be ignorant of it while rooting for our favorite players during the truly suspenseful and exciting 60 minutes of game play. But at the end of the day, many professional athletes (and their families and friends) are suffering, some of them attempting -- and sometimes succeeding -- to end that suffering via violent means. It's the NFL fan's dilemma, and Travis Waldron at Think Progress articulates it well. (via Think Progress)

The NFL kindly reminds everyone that some women actually really love football

Condoleezza Rice and I have very few things in common, but here is one thing we can probably break bread over without too much shouting: NFL football. Good gravy, do we both love football. (And from the looks of the jersey she's wearing, we share a predilection for wide receivers.) But even while we may differ on teams -- Rice is a Cleveland Browns fan, I bleed blue for the New York Giants -- at least we both be sure of one thing: the NFL is recognizing its lady fans more and more, like in its latest ad campaign featuring the former Secretary of State and several other notable gridiron girls. I won't say it's been impossible to find women's apparel in actual team colors (rather than pink and/or covered in glitter), because it's quite available and becoming easier to find all the time. But nothing annoys me more than the commercials that perpetuate the stereotypes of by portraying a bunch of dudes "getting ready for the game" while their hapless "football widows" go make them snacks. Thanks, but some of us female humans are actually more interested in watching that game ourselves (and eating those snacks). Like me and Condi. (Good luck with your Browns, LOL.)

So, thank you, NFL, for rolling out this new ad featuring a variety of women who love the game and are ready to wear the team colors in shirts that were made for them. As someone who likes sports and doesn't care who knows, I find this awesome.

Condoleezza Rice models Cleveland Browns jersey in NFL ad [AdWeek]