Friday, December 31, 2010

NFL Picks Weeks Seventeen: In Which I Look Back on 2010

I'm not entirely sure how I did it, but after taking a few deep breaths and looking back, well, I'm not sure how I managed to come up with a nickname for each week of football picks that started with the phrase "In Which". Damn I'm good. It should be noted of course that this is one of the few that makes sense, and given that we're approximately 23 hours away from the dawn of 2011, well, it seems appropriate that I spent one last day checking out a brand new team I had never seen before. Granted, that this one team was the New York Islanders who don't play nearly as far from my home as most other new teams I've seen makes it less impressive, but if you understood the trials and tribulations that Debs Francisco and I undertook in our public transportation adventure to Uniondale, N.Y. and back, you'd understand why it was far more difficult than going to, say, Indianapolis.

Getting out to an Islanders game is, in fact, not even the least bit easy. Each leg of the trip from door to door took roughly two hours and 40 minutes and required going in the wrong direction at least once. Once there, however, Debs and I were not disappointed. Not only did we have fantastic seats, but, well, it was an awful lot of fun for a game I had no real vested interest in. While the Islanders won in a fourth-round shootout, with both goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Rick DiPietro standing on their heads the entire time, the real news of the night was that Sidney Crosby's 25-game scoring streak came to an end at long last. It's always fun to see a little bit of history.

I will say, however, the Islanders' postgame celebration was a bit much.

I've been told Nassau Coliseum is one of the more antiquated and awful arenas in all of sports, and I won't lie and tell you it isn't, but the atmosphere was tremendous last night, the setting intimate and fun, and the experience generally pretty enjoyable, even if the concourses felt like you were in a bowling alley from the 1970s. In many ways it felt like a Fenway Park for hockey, but without the charm. Many amusing things happened along the way and at some point I will have a full report ready for everyone, but for the time being, my trip to Nassau Coliseum, and my venture of the 37th different team I've seen in the flesh, is a nice capper to my year.

And what a year it was.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On The Docket: An Impromptu Trip To Nassau Coliseum For Team No. 37

Ah, yes, Nassau Coliseum. The old barn. If by "old" you mean "completely decrepit and falling apart" and by "barn" you mean "only fit for livestock". Or so I've been told. I've actually had one or two people tell me the arena is a decent place to watch hockey, but I'm going to reserve judgment either way until later tonight when I make my first ever trip to see the New York Islanders and knock yet another team off that vaunted list of 122.

What's that? Shocked that I've never seen a sports team play at home when its home is in the same metropolitan area I've spent 21 years of my life in?

Well, so am I. In fact, I find it downright mindboggling that I've never actually made a trek to Uniondale to see the Isles ply their trade or check out their home building. A rational look back on it reveals the reasons are many: a) I'm a Devils fan, b) the Devils and Rangers are both closer to where I grew up and live currently, c) it is almost impossible to get to Nassau Coliseum on mass transit.

Once I decided to do this whole "see every team in the MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL" thing I knew the day of reckoning that forced a trip out to Long Island would come, but for some reason I just continued to push it further and further back -- though there have been a few near misses and close calls. If it's right there, the urgency to get moving seems to not be particularly pressing. But at long last I've decided to finally get off my rear with the help of an equally eager coworker, which will see us take the LIRR from Penn Station to Hempstead, NY, then a bus from the Hempstead Transit Station to the Coliseum -- this is after I've already taken a subway from my apartment to Penn Station. All in all, it's a tidy 90 minute trip on mass transit to get to a suburban hockey arena with little around.

But oh boy, am I excited.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

NFL Picks Week Sixteen: In Which I Forget Week Fifteen

Let me tell you all, I have had a doozy of a week so far and once you're done reading through that riveting Senators-Predators preview you're reading I'm going to tell you all about it. Ok, good. Yes, I know things could be worse, and in general life is fine, but some of you might have noticed that I didn't write for a whole week, and that is because when some awful, horrifying, unexpected, gut-wrenching things happen you are left speechless.

I am without speech. Still.

Sunday's colossal debacle against the Eagles, which saw the Giants go from likely No. 2 seed to playoff life support in a matter of seven and a half minutes is not something that I have yet been able to comprehend or grasp. In fact, I'm still not able to speak about it out loud with thoughts of anger and depression over what could have been. Granted, the Giants aren't exactly done. If they defeat the Packers this Sunday they'll have clinched a berth and will still have an outside chance of winning the No. 5 seed lottery to face whatever dung pile "wins" the NFC West, but should Big Blue not come through in Green Bay they'll need help on the final day of the season.

And ain't all that just a bit angst-inducing?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NFL Picks Week Fifteen: In Which I Care About The Knicks Again

Holy shit.

After a decade of ambivalence towards a team that made mediocrity seem good, I actually care about the Knicks again. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, New York has won 13 of 14 games with their last being an impressive victory over the Nuggets Sunday afternoon. While another winning streak was halted last night in a heartbreaking last second loss to the Boston Celtics, there are a few things to notice here about this team. First of all, Amar'e Stoudemire is a monster in the front court, plain and simple. I was among the chorus of individuals who viewed him as a nice signing for the 'Bockers this offseason, but not one that could singlehandedly turn a franchise's fortunes around. His role was best as a second fiddle to someone like LeBron James, who shockingly landed elsewhere.

I was wrong.

Not only can Amar'e be "the guy", but he's thriving of late. Of course, second of all, for me to say he is the sole reason for the Knicks' recent good fortune would be shortsighted. Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler have all played parts in the resurgence. Third of all, this game, even as a loss, proves the Knicks can play with the big boys. This wasn't a fluke, this wasn't random and it could be a harbinger of the team's return to relevance in a League in which New York has been an utter non-factor for the past decade. I have at times lamented both the Knicks' absurd mediocrity and my own youthful foolishness in choosing to root for them, but perhaps, at long last, that may no longer be the case.

Wednesday night's wild shootout with Boston was the second time the Garden rocked this week, and MSG hasn't had that kind of basketball excitement in it since the Knicks lost to San Antonio in the 1999 NBA Finals, or maybe even since the days of Patrick Ewing and John Starks. Now things are different and even the opposition, in this case Paul Pierce, recognizes it. After the game last night Pierce noted, "The Knicks have arrived."

So, in the midst of all this excitement, I bring to the table a curiousity wholly related to the sudden rise of Mike D'Antoni's boys.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good Thing I Didn't Buy That Ticket To Minnesota

At the beginning of every NFL season I take a look at the schedule to see what trips I might be interested in taking around the country. Because the Giants only visit teams in the AFC once every eight years, those, clearly, are at a premium. Look no further than last season's trip to Kansas City, this season's trip to Indianapolis or next year's planned jaunt to New England for evidence of that. NFC trips I still like to make, but there is far less urgency, and it might be for that reason that I opted not to go to Minnesota this season for the Giants' Week 14 showdown with the Vikings.

Given that I have a good friend at the University of Minnesota and I have a soft spot for the upper midwest, it was certainly a consideration, but boy am I lucky I opted to pass on that trip this year. For those of you who haven't seen, a blizzard hammered Minneapolis this weekend, which despite the Giants' best efforts to beat the snow to the punch -- they left 3.5 hours earlier than scheduled -- the weather was so bad New York was actually diverted to Kansas City for the night. There were serious concerns Saturday night over the fairness of holding a noon CT game Sunday afternoon that would require the Giants to leave Kansas City at 7 a.m. for a game five hours later, and while the Vikings pushed for the game to stay on schedule -- with the inherent competitive advantage, who could blame them -- the logistical nightmare of mobilizing an entire football team at such short notice finally pushed the NFL to postpone the game until tonight, still to be played at the Metrodome.

At this point, with Monday and Tuesday off from work at ticket prices dropping precipitously in Minneapolis due to the scheduling change, I once again began looking up plane flights, and very nearly purchased one that, because it was cheap, was nonrefundable.

Good thing I chose to wait a few hours. While most of us were sleeping, God intervened.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

NFL Picks Week Fourteen: In Which I Talk About John Lennon

Unless you decided to spend your free time under a rock yesterday, you probably heard that it was the 30th anniversary of John Lennon being shot to death outside the Dakota apartment building in New York City by an awfully disturbed individual named Mark David Chapman. Now, I'm pretty quick to point out that my favorite band of all time is The Beatles, without a doubt, and while I actually enjoy George Harrison's solo work the best of the Fab Four, Lennon's individual oeuvre is still fantastic, and his musical genius is clearly evident throughout The Beatles' musical arc.

I try not to be a sap on too regular a basis, but I spent most of yesterday listening to Lennon's later work -- Imagine, Double Fantasy, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band -- on a loop for most of the afternoon because, well, if you watched ESPN for four minutes at any given time yesterday you were reminded that Lennon's death was first announced to the world by Howard Cosell during a Patriots-Dolphins game on Monday Night Football. ESPN put on a fairly interesting piece, which, bizarrely, didn't mention that New England's kicker that night, who was preparing for a game-winning kick as the news was announced, was the only Englishman in the game at the time. A written version of the story takes a much larger focus on Smith.

The most interesting thing for me about this entire thing is that the piece shows behind the scenes footage of Cosell debating with Frank Gifford on whether or not to reveal the news. In retrospect, I have difficulty finding it appropriate to announce the murder of a cultural icon during the midst of a football game, to say nothing of the bombastic tone of Cosell's voice at all times, but it's a fascinating moment both because of the news being announced and because of the remarkable contrast with today's media circuit. With the immediacy of 24-Hour News channels, the internet and, maybe most importantly, twitter, that kind of information would never be kept under wraps before falling in the lap of a sports announcer, regardless of how famous he is.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Channukah Gift To All Of You

Some of you might remember the original purpose for this blog, and if you don't, well, that certainly seems reasonable. For those of you who don't, the original plan was to make this a forum for me to occasionally discuss sports while mostly keeping track of my travels as I seek out all the various and exciting sporting events this country has available at its professional ranks. Lately, however, it hasn't really been doing much of the latter, which, clearly is my fault.

In fact, the last time I posted a story about my trips -- aside from last month's visit to the Northwestern-Illinois game at Wrigley, was July 11th. Oops. I suppose I should post one of these more often than once every five months. After all, the idea, originally, was to do it every week. But that might have been shooting a little high.

Either way, I know you've all been experiencing a life that is, in general, severely lacking without these stories, so I've come to cure your ills. And while this story is still pretty rough, distended and doesn't quite come full circle in the conclusion like I'd like it to, but it is a totally awesome stadium, a vaguely interesting, and given that we're currently in the middle of the annual Jewish festival of lights, and that this story is excerpted from a chapter that is supposed to deal with my Judaism, it seemed reasonably prescient for you all to see at this time of year.

And so, without any further ado, I present to you my long, distended, and unlikely-to-be-read-in-its-entirety-by-anyone story of my trip earlier this year to see the Giants get absolutely waxed by the Indianapolis Colts.

Originally written September 28, 2010.

It was on a bus in a rest stop just outside the southern Israeli City of Eilat that Brian Garfinkel said something that let me know I wasn’t alone in my own insanity.

“I heard it through the grapevine that you have a short-term plan to see all the professional sports teams,” he said.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NFL Picks Week Thirteen: In Which We Learn Oil Money Can Buy ANYTHING

One of the great things about this summer's 2010 FIFA World Cup was not just the inspiring and then heartbreaking performance of the U.S. team, but that it was an event uniting a continent and a nation with a history of racial and social tensions so profound, that putting on such a successful show for the world was an accomplishment in and of itself. While South Africa is now experiencing some issues filling its World Cup venues, the tournament itself was a tremendous and uplifting event for any fan of the beautiful game.

So with the decisions to be made for 2018 and 2022 today, it's good to see that FIFA had absolutely no interest whatsoever in maintaining that inspiring storyline. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that my personal preferences for each event -- that would be England in 2018 and the United States in 2022 -- would have had the same uplifting social impact that the Cup in South Africa did, but at least England is a nation with a soccer history as rich as any could be, as well as one that would be 52 years removed from its last turn as host by the time 2018 rolled around. In the case of the U.S., people can bash soccer fandom in this country all they want, but the blunt fact remains that the United States is still a vibrant, growing melting pot of numerous international cultures that all put a dramatic importance on the game. Include the fact that by 2022, the increasing Hispanic population will no doubt be a potent force in U.S. society, and that for the 2010 World Cup more tickets were bought by Americans than any other nationality, well, the U.S. seems like a pretty reasonable place to bring the World Cup back to.

Instead, however, the 2018 World Cup and the 2022 World Cup will be played in Russia and Qatar, respectively, proving once and for all that you just can't beat oil money. Now, I don't want to come off as bitter here, nor do I want to appear ignorant of the nation Qatar, which, yes, I did know existed, if for no other reason than because Northwestern has a campus there. But, regardless, there's no way around the fact that these are two countries feeding off petroleum, a source of energy the world is supposed to be weening itself off of, and the fact that either nation would otherwise be an unlikely candidate makes it seem almost obvious that some foul play might have been involved. To any impartial observer -- though I admit, I'm not one -- there are a number of concerns and questions to be asked. After all, Qatar is a country of less people than nearly every U.S. state and it happens to be smaller in size than Connecticut. In fact, only Delaware and Rhode Island have it beat on the minimization scale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NFL Picks Week Twelve: In Which I Eat Turkey

Last year I discovered something magical, which is that I absolutely, positively, completely, entirely, 100 % hate when the Giants play on Thanksgiving. Now, I love watching the Giants play, so why would I not want to combine that with what is, easily, my absolutely favorite holiday?

Well, last year, I learned the reason was pretty simple.

The Giants played in the final matchup of the NFL's annual Turkey Day triple-header with a visit to Denver against the Broncos. What resulted is that Big Blue, in the midst of the playoff race, laid an absolutely massive egg at Invesco Field, accelerating the downfall of a once promising season that started 5-0 and ended 8-8.

And perhaps worst of all: it ruined my fucking day.

Thanksgiving, you see, for me is an amazing 24 hours. You have very few requirements for Thanksgiving and they're almost all related to sitting on a couch, eating and watching football. What the hell else could be better? Now, I will admit, of the various types of meat or fowl available, turkey is hardly my favorite. Unless it's cooked by someone exceptionally talented, there is a tendency for the bird to wind up dry and unsatisfying, but fortunately, there are newer, more exciting remedies for that if the usual pooling of gravy doesn't do the job.

But by and large the combination of food, family, friends and football all seem to add up to the absolute greatest holiday an American can experience, and I generally love every minute of it. Last year, however, Big Blue's embarrassing display took my favorite day of the year and soured it to almost absurd lengths. No food, family, friend or other football game could have made that fun. And so this season, when the schedule came out and I saw that the Giants were nowhere to be found on the third Thursday of November I was as relieved as can be.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Overdue Wrigley Wrecap

Surely, y'all noticed that I mentioned on more than one occasion that this past weekend I headed out to Chicago for the first time in three years to catch Northwestern lay a big, fat second-half egg against Illinois at Wrigley Field. The fact that the Wildcats rallied from a rather surprising early 14-point deficit only to turn belly-up after the long break notwithstading, the whole experience was pretty tremendous and unique for a whole host of reasons. Also, the trip had some pretty amusing moments. As a result, I'm here to give you a way-too-long recap of the festivities from start to finish in that discursive way you've all come to expect from me.

Here. We. Go.

I had been looking forward to this trip for several reasons, most notably because I have an awfully large soft spot in my heart for the Windy City and it had been far too long since I had been there -- nearly since I graduated from Northwestern, in fact. To boot, I'd be seeing several good friends in a massive defacto reunion, and the chance to see my college football team play in one of the most legendary venues in American sports only added to the excitement.

The night before jumping my 9 a.m. flight to Chicago, however, I was stuck at work past 1 a.m., which meant I'd be getting very little sleep before booking it to the midwest. This was mitigated by the fact that part of my late stay at the office was the result of some very exciting and potentially life-altering career news. I found 18 hours later that a few of my friends wanted to congratulate me by bringing some balloons by the office, which they then realized would go for naught as I was in the Norris Student Center Bookstore in Evanston, IL at the time. Either way, it was clear by the time I arrived at Laguardia that I was going to be extremely tired and in need of a nap on the plane.

So it's just my luck that I was sitting in front of a loud five-year-old who had a delightful habit of kicking the back of my chair.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NFL Picks Week Eleven: In Which I Go Back to Chicago

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this weekend I will be making my first visit to Chicago in more than three years, which, to put it mildly, is far too long. New York is my home and the greatest city in the world, but my four years in Evanston, Illinois and in close proximity of the City of Broad Shoulders will always give Chicago a fond place in my heart. This week it will likely cost me the chance to see most of this weekend's NFL action -- though don't worry, my flight lands in time for me to comfortable catch kickoff of Giants-Eagles --but it's a worthwhile endeavor.

And why, you ask?

Well, as you can see the marquee on Chicago's Wrigley Field was painstakingly painted Northwestern Purple for this Saturday's Northwestern-Illinois game, which will be the first college football game played in the friendly confines in more than 70 years. Squeezing a regulation football field inside has proved something of a challenge, and in some cases, like the distance from the end of the east end zone to the right field bleachers, it is almost laughable as to how tight the game will be played. Since the last college and professional football games were played in Wrigley club seats have been added to the field level which have squeezed the area a bit. The orientation Northwestern seems to be going with is a bit odd considering that the field ran north to south when the Bears played in Wrigley, rather than west to east. Looking at artists' renditions, however, it seems clear officials anticipated this considering they didn't bother drawing uprights in the east end zone in their early depictions.

Clearly it was much easier to build a hockey rink there, even if they had to come up with ice.

Either way, the field is finally starting to come into shape and I can't help but be outlandishly excited about it. Or at least buy all the crap merchandise that's being churned out for the occasion. Personally, I opted not for the ephemeral, but for the eminently reusable Northwestern football jersey. I chose Dan Persa even though I know he will be out with a torn achilles after spearheading last week's stunning upset of No. 13 Iowa, but he'll be back in full force next season to lead NU to its inevitable 2011 BCS National Championship. It's totally gonna happen. Just wait for it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Redemption Song

Sports are funny things sometimes. As a sportswriter -- either real or wannabe, depending on how you look at it -- I know one of the key things you're always looking for is a common theme or the best story, which typically means trying to determine what player has shamed himself and must do what he can to pull him from the depths. Rarely does it happen quite so quickly though. This week, however, Ilya Kovalchuk managed to do just that. Of course, it's a bit far out for us to readily assume this will change what has been a bitterly disappointing season for the New Jersey Devils, but their high-priced winger may have finally tallied the big goal fans and ownership alike have been waiting for.

And it may have come at just the right time for everyone.

For those who watch hockey, it was hard to escape notice of Kovalchuk's flubbed shootout goal, which capped a loss against Buffalo earlier this week. The video played all over major hockey news stations like TSN and CBC, was a fixture on Sportscenter for the proceeding 48 hours and inspired me to go through every painful loss I've endured as a sports fan.

But Kovalchuk is too good to stay down for long. Now his track record is yet to prove that he's the type of player who can shine in those big moments or carry his team to the playoffs, but his goal-scoring talent is too obvious to deny to any hockey viewer worth their salt. But in a season like this one for New Jersey, that flubbed shot seemed less a one-time error than a symbol all this season has been.

For me personally, I've started to react to the Devils in a way I had only reserved for Mets teams of the late 2000s, and so when I checked my phone Friday to see New Jersey was down 2-0 early against equally as mediocre Edmonton -- I was occupied most of the early evening -- I simply had the feeling of bemused resignation.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NFL Picks Week Ten: In Which I Forget About Thursdays

Boy those NFL Thursday night games sure do throw a wrench into things, don't they? When the NFL decided to inexplicably begin its Thursday Night Football slate two weeks before Thanksgiving, when one traditionally begins to associate Thursdays with football, the League may not have accounted for the frustrating lapses in setting fantasy football lineups and, er, weekend football picks.

And so, when everyone realized the Falcons were playing the Ravens last night about 90 minutes before kickoff, it set off a furious mad scramble around the world to make sure all the appropriate lineups were set and bye weeks had been avoided. In the case of one NFL beat writer I know, the thought of making sure Matt Ryan was starting in place of the bye-week bound Philip Rivers completely slipped their mind. And such is the nature of those newfangled Thursday games.

Yes, those of us who watched were treated to one of the most tremendous games we'd see all year, as the Ravens managed an impressive fourth-quarter comeback only to see it unravel on a stellar final minute drive that was called by Ryan's touchdown pass to Roddy White, but because it was Thursday, and with a stunningly small amount of pregame fanfare, most of us didn't notice and the whole thing felt somewhat artificial.

But at least the Falcons were wearing those totally sweet throwback uniforms. Even if they weren't their sweetest throwback uniforms being displayed here by wrestling superstar Goldberg during his brief NFL career.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes You Just Want To Hit Your Head

Friends, enemies, acquaintances, I am no stranger to heartbreak. Both in real life and as a sports fan I have taken my fair share of difficult metaphorical stomach punches -- though fortunately far more in the sports department. Over the years just about all of my teams have had at least one utterly frustrating, deflating brutal defeat that has thrown me into emotional disrepair. To wit:

The Mets -- This team is a special breed with numerous tough losses to swallow since I started paying diligent attention, but the Kenny Rogers Ball Four in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS, Armando Benitez's inability to strike out Paul O'Neill in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, the final games of the 2007 and 2008 regular seasons and Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS all bring a special kind of pain with them.

The Giants -- At long last in February 2008, I was rewarded with the greatest upset in football history, but prior to that, a tough beating in Super Bowl XXXV, an almost absurd Trey Junkin-capped collapse in the 2002 postseason against San Francisco, Jay Feely's three missed field goals in Seattle in 2005 and the blown 21-point lead in 10 minutes at Tennessee in 2006 had left me wondering if glory would ever come.

The Devils -- Even a team with 16 consecutive playoff appearances and three Stanley Cups has had its share of tough setbacks, with Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Final chief among them. Oh yeah, and this gut punch which I still wince while watching.

The Knicks -- The entire decade of the 2000s. Isiah Thomas.

Northwestern -- This season alone has been a bitter pill with a blown 21-point lead to Penn State just last week to go with collapses at home against No. 7 Michigan State and a broken, battered Purdue team. But just for good measure, let's throw Michigan State's 35-point comeback in 2006, last year's Outback Bowl and the 2008 Alamo Bowl in there for good measure. And don't forget that Northwestern is the only school in the BCS conferences to never make the NCAA Tournament.

Hell, even Southampton FC, with its Inigo Idiakez botched PK against Derby County in 2007's flirtation with Premier League Promotion, and Geelong FC, with this year's painful Qualifying Final loss to St. Kilda and the departing of Gary Ablett have gotten in on the act.

But given all of that pain, what happened to the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk last night was something else entirely.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NFL Picks Week Nine: In Which I Look Toward The Future

It's probably a little too soon to be talking about this already -- the trip isn't for two more weeks -- but the bye week and a flurry of bad news related to my Devils periodically causes the mind to wander. Fortunately, the Giants return to action this weekend against Seattle so I won't have to wander much longer, but I couldn't help but get jazzed upon seeing the photo to the right.

Yeah, you're seeing that right. That's Northwestern's home gridiron painted in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago. For those of you who aren't aware, on November 20 the Wildcats will be leaving their regular home of Ryan Field (nee Dyche Stadium) for the mecca of National League baseball when they take on Illinois. It will be the first college football game played at Wrigley in nearly 72 years and the first football game of any type since the Bears left for Soldier Field in 1971.

The novel setting, the joy of watching my alma mater in person and the excitement of returning to Chicago for the first time in three years all add up to an awfully pleasant distraction from what has been a two weeks in sports ranging from boring to depressing -- though I guess the Knicks' 2-2 start is mild cause for excitement. Beyond the anticipation of the Wrigley game, however, the biggest cause for excitement for me has been Southampton's race back up to the promotion zone of League One, which I'm sure you've all been paying attention to.

Oh, and the Giants won the World Series, which I guess is pretty cool considering it ended one of the more underrated title droughts in baseball history. The best part about it for me, however, was getting an e-mail from a friend in Australia congratulating me when she didn't realize that the San Francisco Giants are not the New York Giants. Really, it's a pretty honest mistake, and considering she was the absolute first person to congratulate me when the Giants actually did win the Super Bowl three years ago, I'd say she's earned a lifetime of sports-centric passes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

This morning I think it's easily apparent that I made one of the funniest mistakes of my life earlier this fall. What was that, you say? Well a cursory glimpse at the my NFL season preview details this amusing and noteworthy prediction:

"NFC East

1. Dallas - DID YOU HEAR THE COWBOYS MIGHT PLAY IN THE SUPER BOWL IN THEIR HOME STADIUM OHMYGOD. 11-5."

So there you go. With the season yet to begin I, like, many thought that the Dallas Cowboys' combination of proven talent and chips on various shoulders would propel them to a division title -- to say nothing of the excitement that could come with being the first team to play in a Super Bowl on its home field.

But I did think Wade Philips' overly lax, player friendly style would lead to a lack of discipline that cost Dallas in its Super Bowl quest. I didn't, however, think it would cost them seven games into the season, but after yesterday's utterly hilarious 35-17 loss at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars that is exactly what has happened.

And hot damn I couldn't be happier.

Dallas' near absurd tumble into sub-mediocrity is almost so ridiculous -- the team is clearly better than 1-6 would indicate -- and so unexpected -- Tony Romo's injury could never have been predicted -- that if you happen to like, well, any other team in football, you can't help but feel giddy over the catastrophe in Big D.

Fucking giddy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

NFL Picks Week Eight: In Which I Suffer the Interminable Bye Week

Good lord I hate the bye week. Seriously, it drives me nuts. I know that a week to relax and heal all wounds is a necessity for a team that plays a sport as brutal and physical as American football, but if you're a dedicated soul who spends the first six days of the week anxiously awaiting Sunday, the bye week is like getting a date with the hottest girl in school and being picked up by your parents right before you're about to make out with her.

It's totally lame.

Fortunately, this year I get some vague distraction during the bye week because that whole World Series thing is happening, but since nothing has gone right for any member of the Texas Rangers -- with the possible exception of Bengie Molina -- that may not be lasting much longer. San Francisco has toppled Texas in the first two games with a combination of deciding to actually have an offense and apparently distracting Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton with some particularly unorthodox means. That may not be the best way to throw the recovering drug addict, who claims pot was never really his thing, but he certainly isn't making it up if the local media corroborates his story and it clearly isn't prevented the local establishments from trying to do what they can for the Giants.

Of course, with the Series headed back to Texas for Game 3 on Saturday night, I hardly think the series is over, but a two-game edge with a win over Jesus impersonator Cliff Lee in their back pockets sure makes the Giants look good with five games to go. I suspect the Rangers offense can't be held down for ever, so expect a breakout in Game 3 in Arlington that extends the series into next week, but I can't fathom the Rangers winning four games if it means going through Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez twice.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Curious Case of Bengie Molina

When the always interesting Brian Wilson struck out Ryan Howard looking to end Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS, several noteworthy things were accomplished. Perhaps most importantly, the Philadelphia Phillies were stopped in their hunt for a third consecutive National League pennant, which means that a measure of sanity and justice has been restored to the world, and that I can watch the World Series again without contemplating if I'm a masochist.

All good things.

This will also provide us the chance to see a new and interesting World Series champion, either the Texas Rangers, who were previously one of three franchises -- along with Seattle and Washington -- to never appear in the World Series, or the San Francisco Giants, who have not won a championship in 56 years and not once since moving to San Francisco.

But perhaps most interestingly, this matchup is providing us with the perplexing situation of those always ubiquitous Molina brothers. Bengie and Jose Molina already have World Series rings from their years in Anaheim and Jose's season in New York last year, while Yadier Molina won a title with St. Louis in 2006. Interestingly, the three always tend to wind up with a big hit, or at least as good as a .274, .236 and .268 career light-hitting catcher can, and this time Bengie didn't disappoint, whopping a massive three-run homer in Game 4 of the ALCS that woudl eventually help to topple the mighty Yankees and send the Rangers to their first ever World Series. And perhaps his biggest reward is that he gets to see his old teammates and is guaranteed a Championship ring in what might be his final season.

Wait, what? Doesn't he still have to win four more games to do that? Apparently, the answer is, no, not really.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NFL Picks Week Seven: In Which I Tell You About Buffalo

Yes, some of you might have noticed that I didn't write anything at all this week. One of you, in fact, demanded to know why I hadn't said anything about the Giants' impressive 3-1 (now 3-2) series lead over the Phillies. Come to think of it, that person may be the only one who reads this with any regularity. Either way, fear not, because I have a justified reason for being so damn lazy with updating this little-trafficked writing space.

And that is because of the beautiful city of Buffalo, which you see to your right. The Queen City is a remarkable place in just about every way and if you have a chance to visit, well, the food is pretty good.

The beer, too.

Either way, I was unable to write and entertain you all because I was on a business trip up to the shores of Lake Erie in Western New York where I got to see the 2010 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Inductions. And if you didn't know that, you clearly weren't talking to me at all this week. Or at least you weren't having me foist my stories in your face the entire time. Either is possible.

I won't begrudge you for not having read them, but know that you missed out on brilliance.

In any event, I'm back now, and fear not, I have, in fact been paying attention to those wild and crazy stories of the day, namely the fact that if the San Francisco Giants can win one more game I will officially be able to watch the World Series this year, but also the very interesting debate going on over the new rules the NFL has levied regarding dangerous hits and tackles.

Friday, October 15, 2010

NFL Picks Week Six: In Which I Mostly Talk Hockey

As you've all no-doubt noticed, hockey season is underway, and that means any of you who see me socially will probably seeing a lot less of me because I'll be busy churning out exciting stories like this one. I hope you're able to handle it. One of those days in which I will not be in the office, however, is tonight, and I am celebrating the occasion in the only way I possibly know how.

I'm going to a hockey game.

Yes, it seems like an odd choice, but I do enjoy seeing them in person once in a while, particularly since my Devils actually got off the shnide and won a game on Wednesday. Hopefully that'll be the release that gets the team moving, and I suppose I'll be finding out tonight when I take my mother to see the glory that is the Prudential Center. Tonight's foe will be the Colorado Avalanche, which almost certainly will stir up angry memories in me of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, but what can you do? More than anything, I'm just happy to get out to my first hockey game of the year, even if it isn't a new or exciting arena.

Sometimes you go with what you're comfortable with. I'll get to those new buildings eventually.

Now, I know going to this game will cause me to miss the first half of Game One of the ALCS, but I'm prepared to except this eventuality as the cost of seeing one team I care about immeasurably as opposed to two teams I'm highly ambivalent about. Besides, I'll still catch the back end of it, and while I'll be watching both the ALCS and the NLCS, where the Giants will be taking on the Fighting Satans, most of the next 48 hours really just involve counting down the minutes until I get to watch football.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lightning Strikes In The Meadowlands

Alright kids, if you can pull yourselves away from that awesome Blackhawks-Predators preview you're reading, I've got two things I'd like to talk to you about. The first one has to deal with that oh so irritating presence of thunder and lightning at the Meadowlands. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the Jets have been on national TV twice this year and both times they had to put off their start times because of weather.

Now, for a sport that prides itself on playing in the elements this has raised some irritation both over the decision not to build a roof at the New Meadowlands Stadium and the concern over lightning. These complaints are silly. Lets point out a few things.

A) Retractable roofs are nice, but watching football outside is nicer. As someone who has seen football under a retractable roof just one month ago in Indianapolis, I can attest to the fact that the feeling of being connected to the elements simply isn't there even with the roof open. Also, weren't those images of the Vikings and Jets playing through a rainstorm totally awesome to see in HD?

B) You may want to go to bed and the fans may have places to go so they can be at work in the morning hours, but you can't play through lightning. Why? Well, it's pretty damn dangerous. No that's not a joke. An entire soccer team was killed by lightning in a match in the Congo 12 years ago.

I think it's ok to delay the kickoff. You'll all be a little tired in the morning, but that's the price you pay for being a fan sometimes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

NFL Picks Week Five: In Which I Blame Sports Illustrated

See, I thought I made a relatively reasonable and plausible pick for my baseball preview earlier this week when I tabbed the abundantly talented Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series. I want to make it abundantly clear however that I wouldn't have made that selection had I written it after receiving last week's Sports Illustrated in the mail. SI decided, for its baseball playoff preview, to go with an almost brutally hubristic picture of Rays ace David Price blowing up a piece of bubble gum for its cover. And we all know what that means.

I've discussed the fickle nature of the SI Cover Jinx before. Multiple times. While I wouldn't necessarily claim to fear it in all situations there does seem to be some pretty damning evidence this time around, most notably Price laying an enormous egg in his playoff-opening start against the Rangers Wednesday. On Thursday things, um, didn't get much better.

So yeah, I think it's perfectly reasonable to blame this entirely on the cover artists at Sports Illustrated rather than on my own ineptitude when it comes to predicting baseball games. This may still render my entire playoff preview moot, but at least I was on to something when I said the Giants had good pitching if Tim Lincecum's 14-K effort last night against the Braves is any indication. Basically I'm going to lean on that and ignore the fact that I'm clearly not the baseball prognosticator I thought I was.

I learned yesterday however, that if you thought I was a tremendous baseball brain that would be understandable -- assuming you also thought I had just gone on a months-long eating binge or never lost all that weight in high school. And that's because if you put about 60 more pounds on me and take about a half inch off of my hairline, I'm the spitting image of White Sox Assistant GM Rick Hahn, who just happens to be one of the main candidates for the Mets' vacant GM post. I'm not sure if I should be flattered or disturbed by the almost immediate comparisons brought on by a number of my friends, but if it nets me free tickets I can live with it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Even The Mets Get To Play October Baseball

Ah, October. The leaves are changing color, the temperatures are dropping, college football provides endless entertainment, political races obscure our sense of reality with an endless stream of TV ads and baseball reaches its climax: The postseason.

Now, some of you may be scoffing at my acknowledgment that the Mets are playing baseball in October, because, you know, they aren't playing baseball anymore.

Oh, but God Bless the schedule makers who decided to start baseball season a week late this year. Because of that peculiar delay, the Mets -- and the rest of the Major Leagues -- didn't play their last game until October 3, which, it should be noted, was the 12th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah, a Bar Mitzvah-versary if you will. And so, because of that scheduling quirk, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel will always be able to tell people that they took the Mets into October in their last year with the organization. Then again, considering Minaya's legacy it's probably better to have that as his final act than some other instances. As for Manuel, he's probably going to be remembered best for somehow assuming he wasn't going to get fired because he hadn't been told it yet, even though everyone seemed to know it was coming and Joe Torre had already publicly campaigned for his job. That may not be the wisest decision for Torre of course. He should already know what he'd have coming for him in Queens.

Wait, what's that? You don't care and want to hear about the teams that are actually playing?

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm Forcing Myself To See Parallels

Think back, if you can, into the past. To the way, way back year of "2007", when men were men, Weeds was having its best season and Twitter was a mystery to most of the world. Specifically think back to October 1, 2007, when a much maligned New York Giants team beat up on the Eagles on Sunday Night Football to the tune of a 16-3 win, the highlight being Osi Umenyiora's team-record six sacks as the G-Men piled up 12 in total. The game brought the Giants to 2-2. That same day, if you recall, a brutally painful Mets season was put to rest as they completed their first of two major collapses on the last day of the regular season. To cheer me up for having now-useless playoff tickets, the Mets sent me an apologetic e-mail promising changes.

And now lets fast-forward to last night. The Mets, once again, had polished off another bitter year early in the day, which prompted yet another apologetic e-mail -- though this one was due to ineptitude rather than heartbreak -- and the Giants, were set to face the Bears on Sunday Night Football. These same Giants, coming off two straight losses, have been heavily criticized and left for dead with even former players claiming Tom Coughlin doesn't have his house in order. The result? Another sack-crazy win, as the Giants whupped on the Bears, 17-3, with 10 sacks and two knocked-out Chicago quarterbacks. The defense was almost dominant enough to distract you from the fact that both offenses were completely discombobulated and that it was, possibly, the worst played football game ever played by two teams in the NFL.

And now the Giants are 2-2.

If you recall, in 2007 the Giants did fairly well after that victory, jumping up to 6-2 before, you know, winning the fucking Super Bowl. If you put the pieces together, these very, very vague bits of circumstantial point to one piece of irrefutable truth.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NFL Picks Week Four: In Which I Travel To Beautiful Minnesnowta

Don't worry. It'll only be October when I set foot in the great state of Minnesota this weekend so snow seems highly unlikely, though Saturday night's predicted low of 33 degrees does bring it within the realm of possibility. I suppose bringing my Northwestern hooded sweatshirt will now seem necessary.

Regardless of the weather, however, I'm awfully excited for the next trip in my journey, which, given how annoyed I am that Gary Ablett (The Genius!) showed up Friday night's Grand Final replay by announcing that he's taking his considerable footy skills up to the new Gold Coast club, is coming at just the right time. Seriously, what kind of economic system allows an expansion team to poach the best player in the league? It would be as if a new NFL team was allowed to offer a huge contract offer to Peyton Manning. And it's patently absurd.

I'm late to the Aussie Rules fandom bandwagon, but it's still a shame that my chosen team won't be seeing plays like this or like this from the best player on the ground anymore. At least I can take some solace in the fact that he's only 14 months older than me and he's already lost all of his hair.

But I digress. I only hope Geelong doesn't wind up experiencing the precipitous downfall Southampton FC did when I started following the Saints in 2002.

I'M NOW DONE TALKING ABOUT AUSSIE RULES. YOU CAN START READING AGAIN.

So yes. I'm going to Minnesota this weekend which I am enormously excited for. Now when I originally booked this trip I noticed that it would take me through the final weekend of baseball's regular season, and that it might possibly cause me to miss some crucial Mets games as they came through the final drive of the pennant race.

Man, what a hoot that idea was, huh?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apparently, Donovan McNabb Grew Up In Australia

Some might consider it unfair that I spend so much time making fun of Donovan McNabb. Not because he's a bad quarterback. He's not. In fact, he might just be a great quarterback and I was overjoyed to see that the Eagles traded him this offseason until I realized he would still be in the NFC East with the Redskins. No, his on-field skills are not to be argued. My mockery has come from an amusing incident two years ago when, after the Eagles tied the Bengals, McNabb admitted in a postgame press conference that he had no idea there were ties in the NFL.

This is, of course, patently ridiculous, but what you might not have known, and that McNabb perhaps did, is that not only are there ties in Aussie Rules Football, but they are, apparently, pretty pervasive. As McNabb opined, "I'd hate to see what happens in a Super Bowl ... if they settle with a tie." This was met with quite a bit of criticism because a) you should know the rules in the NFL if you're a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback and b) it is ludicrous to end the Super Bowl in a tie.

But that's not the rule down under. As I've mentioned more than once, over the last few years I have developed a big fandom for Aussie Rules over the past two years, and Friday night was the sport's big day, as Collingwood and St. Kilda met for the 2010 Grand Final. Bizarrely, and to protect how "unique" the championship game is, AFL rules actually stipulate that should the Grand Final end in a tie after regulation is finished, it will be ruled a draw and an entirely second Grand Final will be replayed a week later.

Leading up to Saturday morning's title game, only two Grand Finals had ever ended in a draw -- once in 1948 and once in 1977.

Well Saturday morning, AFL fans were treated to a wild championship bout, as St. Kilda rallied from 24 points down at half time leading to a frantic final few minutes. And when the dust settled, a lot of Magpies and Saints were kissing their sisters.

Friday, September 24, 2010

NFL Picks Week Three: In Which I Actually Watch the Giants On TV

Yes, it's true. This weekend is a slight change of pace from my apparently typical tradition of actually going to see the Giants play in person. I should note that prior to this season, that was, in fact, not usual at all. In fact, last season when I saw the Giants at home, in Kansas City and in Washington was a marked change from having simply watched them on TV every week for the past 18 years. The fact that I actually went to the new Meadowlands Stadium to open up this season and flew out to Indianapolis after a disastrous day of airport shenanigans was even more unusual.

And while none of you are probably going to watch what is actually the biggest football game of the weekend, I'm strangely looking forward to watching on the TV since football, really, is better presented that way, and it won't involve the stress of shlepping around public transit and dealing with arcane airport security rules. I am wary however because, as some people may have noticed, this week the Giants play one team that provides them an extremely bizarre kryptonite when they play once every four years.

Oh, the scourge that is the Tennessee Titans.

I ought to mention that I don't really dislike the Titans. I enjoy Jeff Fisher, a solid ground game and tough, physical defense, and those aspects have been a part of the Titans' game plan for more than a decade now. However, the two times the Giants have played the Titans in their current incarnation in the Volunteer State have ended in heart breaking disaster. I remember where I was, what I said and what I was thinking both times the Titans had a scrambling intangibles-full quarterback lead an improbable comeback to dash the best-laid plans of Big Blue.

Don't believe me? Let's take a look at the evidence.

Monday, September 20, 2010

That Did Not Go As Planned

Well, after a long, hellish day at Laguardia airport yesterday, I was treated to an even longer, hellish football game if you're a fan of the New York Giants. I had grown dizzy from watching numbers on the scoreboard go up faster than that sign on Sixth Avenue that announces our national debt watching the Giants lose to the Colts, 38-14 in Indianapolis last night. In fact, I have to imagine my buddy Dov is impressed that nothing in Lucas Oil Stadium was broken by me. Then again, after missing my morning flight to Indianapolis yesterday -- my ticket only said that the gate closed 10 minutes before take off and checked bags had to be in 45 minutes -- because I was three minutes late for the 30 minute check-in cutoff, being in a football stadium rather than an airport was a joy.

My big plans for yesterday after arriving around noon involved a number of possibilities, like touring the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, visiting the NCAA Hall of Champions or having dinner with the king of Indiana High School Football reporting, Pat Dorsey.

Instead, I missed my flight because of any number of minor items that would have saved me a few minutes. The seven took five minutes to arrive. The Q33 Bus just sat for 10 minutes before leaving 74th St and Broadway. I took an unnecessary shower. I made a sandwich from leftover roast beef from my grandmother's Yom Kippur breakfast spread.

Why did I feel the need to make a damn sandwich?

Clearly, any momentary issue or item from yesterday morning could have been skipped or altered to the point that I would have made my flight, arrived for a full day or touristy travel around Indianapolis, and not made Dov wait around downtown Indy by himself for six hours.

Friday, September 17, 2010

NFL Picks Week Two: In Which I Atone For Week One

Yes, once again I've been neglecting to update but I actually have a really good reason this time. I swear.

For the past three days I've been up in Boston covering some rookie games between the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, in addition to snooping around No. 2 2010 NHL Draft Pick Tyler Seguin and the No. 5 selection Nino Niederreiter. If you don't believe me, I have plenty of evidence.

Also, I have to admit I spent far longer than I should have leering at the brand new Bobby Orr "Superman" statue that's been erected outside Boston's TD Garden. Because, let's be honest -- it's fucking awesome. I took a few minutes to really take a good look at it because it wasn't up the last time I made my way to the Garden 19 months ago, and it just may be my favorite of all the numerous sports stadium statues I've seen. In fact, the brilliant statue of Willie Mays outside PacBell/SBC/AT&T Park is the only one that comes close.

I also received another distraction when the Mets released their 2011 schedule and I immediately began plotting ball park trips for next summer. Does a sweltering trip that includes Texas and Houston in late June or a scenic drive from Arizona to San Diego in mid-August sound exciting to anyone else?

Ugh. Didn't think so.

But don't worry, dear readers. Or possibly reader. Because I will not neglect you. In the midst of what is an absurdly busy week -- Boston from Tuesday to Friday, Yom Kippur Friday to Saturday, Indianapolis Sunday to Monday -- I'm still going to give you an insight into just how poorly I'm going to predict this week's NFL action.

And why?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back In The New York Groove

If you've ever been to a Giants game in New York, you've come to notice that after every touchdown they play the lesser known KISS classic "Back in the New York Groove". If you're Jeff Goldberg, and you just spent a handsome portion of your paycheck to see the Giants score 31 points against the Panthers, you get awfully sick of hearing "Back in the New York Groove". I was glad to see that the Giants brought this tradition over to their new stadium, which they opened yesterday with a big 31-18 win over Carolina that was typical mediocre Giant Football for the first 30 minutes and a dominant offensive and defensive performance in the second half that has Big Blue 1-0 on the young season.

If the traditions of the old stadium feel like they're making it into the new one that's probably because the old Stadium didn't a feel a whole lot different from the new one. As I got off the NJ Transit train to walk towards my team's new home, I noticed a Mrs. Fields cookie stand that was outside the new building and deduced that that must be what $1.6 billion gets you. Sure there are some obvious, noticeable differences. For one, the extend is covered with steel rods, which give it a slick and futuristic feel. As well, it better enables the stadium to project a blue or green presence depending on who is at home that day. To boot, the grounds on the outside seem much smoother, and neater.

The interior no longer has blue and red seats, which made it feel like the Giants home, but when one considers that the Jets footed half the bill for the stadium, that probably makes sense. The inside is not a combination of charcoals and grays that make it seem almost astonishingly neutral. In my mind that robs the building of some of the character that the old one had. Then again, the old one probably didn't make a whole lot of sense if you were a Jets fan.

Beyond those key characteristics, aside from looking neater, there isn't a whole lot else about the building that sparks any interest unless you happen to be holding one of the outrageously expensive club seat tickets. Of course, those seats do provide some advantages -- particularly if you managed to spend an ungodly amount of money on the seats that allow you to literally stand on the sidelines some 46 feet away from the field. How these people are seeing beyond the legions of players, coaches and team employees that stand between them and the actual playing surface is a mystery to me, but the other exciting and noticeable addition to the new building is that even if you don't get to see the play live, you'll have no problem catching a replay. Fortunately, this isn't because the Giants and Jets decided to add a new gigantic video screen that can hang over the middle of the field and interfere with play like some foolish teams.

No, instead the New Meadowlands Stadium features four video screens in each corner of the stadium, which may not seem too big from your seat, but if your seat happens to be right next to one you realize that they're fucking massive.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

NFL Picks Week 1: Justifying Ineptitude With An Elementary Gambling Lesson

Happy first day of football season everyone! Yes, tonight is the big night the Vikings and Saints kickoff the 2010 NFL campaign with a rematch of last year's NFC Championship and I, for one, could not be any more excited. For those of you who used to read my old, horrendous Xanga from about six years ago, you know that I have an awful tendency to show how inept I am at predicting football games by making NFL picks every week and then tabulating my record for the course of the season.

This is a terrible idea.

Vegas, you see, sets the lines. And Vegas is awfully good at splitting the action. People often misunderstand the concept behind a Vegas betting line and assume that when the Giants are favored over the Panthers by, say, seven points, which they are this week, that it is an assumption that the Giants are a touchdown better than Carolina and should win by that amount. But in actuality that's not the case. The purpose of a betting line isn't to provide a more-than-likely prediction for the end result of each of Sunday's games. The point is to split the action.

Vegas isn't trying to give you an indication of how much better one team is than the other with any certainty. They're trying to create a situation in which half of the population believes Team A will win by X or more points and the other half of the population believes it will win by X or fewer points. So, really, the Giants aren't likely to win by seven points or more on Sunday. Half of the population just thinks they will.

Of course, half of the population thinks they won't. So, really, it's a 50/50 shot either way, which means that picking any game, with any certainty, at least at the pro-level, is more or less a coin flip.

Now of course there are betting strategies that enable you a better than 50% chance at making money, and various parlays that can help you reap a profit on a more likely scenario than a standard betting line, but for those of us who can't be bothered to really investigate betting with any real intensity or who simply don't care enough to do so, like myself, it is really, really, really unlikely that you're going to do better than 50% over the course of 256 regular season games by any margin that is statistically significant.

And yet, I still make these picks every week, just to open myself to unnecessary criticism. With tendencies like that, it's a wonder I haven't decided to get into politics yet.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2010 NFL Preview: Starting Off The New Year With The New Year

Those of you who know me know that I am an extremely reform observant of the Jewish faith, which gets its big celebrations underway tonight at sunset with the dawn of year 5771 for Rosh Hashanah, and the wishes of good health in the New Year are coming in from all the right people.

שנה טובה to you all.

This year, in a quirky twist of fate, the Jewish New Year happens to coincide with Thursday night's NFL Opener between the Saints and Vikings. And lest you think of the NFL, like most sports, as being a not-so-Jewish domain, let it be said that there is no endless list of Jews trying to convince you otherwise. One of these Jews happens to be, Marc Tracy, an editor for the Jewish news site Tablet Magazine, which last week had its annual NFL Preview on its podcast Vox Tablet, which included a discussion of, among other things, a guessing game of how many Jewish owners in the NFL there are -- the answer, depending on who you want to believe for Denver's Pat Bowlen is 11.5. Here's a written breakdown if you have no speakers.

That .5 you can credit to my beloved New York Giants, who are owned by the tandem of John Mara, who comes from a staunchly Catholic family, and Steve Tisch, who is Jewish and also holds the remarkable distinction of being the only person to win a Super Bowl and an Oscar thanks to his producer credit for Forrest Gump.

In any event,  most of the podcast circulated around which team should become the official team of the podcast due to its Jewish connections. Unsurprisingly, the winner of the discussion was the Washington Redskins because of the two characteristics that a) it is owned by prominent D.C.-area Jewish philanthropist/control freak Dan Snyder and more importantly b) it's the favorite team of Tracy, the podcast's host. They do note that this essentially only supercedes the Vikings because they recently traded Sage Rosenfels, who is of Jewish descent if non-practicing, after Brett Favre returned for a 20th season. Apparently this is enough to supercede the fact that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, a resident of my hometown in Short Hills, NJ, is a Jew born in Germany to two Polish Holocaust survivors.

Uh, That's pretty significant, no?

Curiously, the Redskins are somehow more worthy than the Patriots, whose owner, Robert Kraft, is such a major benefactor to the  Israeli Football League that his name is in the official logo (see above), or my beloved Giants, who are a) owned by the already-mentioned Steve Tisch, b) play in the largest Jewish community in the World outside of Israel, c) the Giants once employed Jewish Hall of Fame quarterback Benny Friedmann, who, as charted in the recent book Passing Game, fundamentally transformed the game of football in the 1920s and 30s because he was so good at throwing the ball.

Oh, and the Giants are also the team that acquired Sage Rosenfels. So that's gotta be worth something.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reason No. 841 That The NFL Is Superior to College Football

Don't get me wrong. I love college football. Seriously -- I can't get enough of it. As a child growing up I was somewhat ambivalent towards what I considered an inferior brand of gridiron, though I did fancy myself a Florida State fan after watching the 'Noles take a National Championship by topping Nebraska in the 1994 Orange Bowl. But it wasn't until I went to Northwestern and was fully immersed in the weekly craziness of the Big Ten that I truly fell for college football as an institution.

However, the NFL, beyond it's generally superior level of play and far more rational means of determining a champion, would never allow what you see to the right to happen.

I'm no big fashion enthusiast, but a good friend of mine once explained that sometimes you have to push the limits of acceptable fashion so that more subtly progressive advances in style seem less dramatic and thus more acceptable to mainstream society. But they never dreamed up the horrific duds Nike forced the Broncos and Hokies to trot out last night in what was otherwise a phenomenal game with wide-ranging National Championship implications. The only thing more disturbing than these uniforms simply existing is that it's almost impossible to pinpoint what, exactly, is the worst aspect of them.

Do we start with the random dark gray patches on Boise State's jerseys that were inexplicably placed in the worst possible location for an overweight offensive lineman? Why not bring up the peculiar circuit-board designs that made Virginia Tech's jersey numbers look like costumes from the movie Tron? Should I opine on the bizarre grayscaled Boise State logo that appears on only one sleeve and one hip? Or the fact that only one of the sleeves on the Boise State jersey is blue? Or the awkward "B" on the left knee of the Boise State pants?

Compared to all of that, Virginia Tech's shoulder-striping pattern looks downright normal, and I thought I had seen the worst of it with TCU's ridiculously busy outfits this weekend.