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.