Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who Wants To Buy Part Of A Minor League Baseball Team?

Yeah, that's right. I don't know if any of you heard, part of the delightful fallout from that whole "Madoff thing" is that there's a baseball club that's looking for some minority investors. Some of you may never have actually heard of this "baseball team" because their performance over the past few years has called into question whether or not they are a "real" baseball team, but sure enough they've been playing 162 games a year -- no more than 162, let's be clear -- right here in the Big Apple.

Come on. You've heard of them.

Yes, that's right people. Mets chairman Fred Wilpon and his son Jeff announced this week both with a released statement, a press conference, and a personal e-mail to their fans which made me feel oh so special, that they have decided to explore finding new investors interested in a minority stake in the New York Mets. A real live baseball team!

Now, if you've been following the 'Ropolitans like I have for more than a decade, this announcement seems like a particularly odd one for the Wilpons to make for a few reasons. For one, they've done an extremely large amount of work over recent years to consolidate and improve the financial potency of the franchise. The introduction of SNY in 2006 has gone quite a distance to bring more money into the team's coffers and give them a financial base, ideally, more in line with those crosstown rivals in the Bronx. In addition to that, the recent construction of the Wilpon moneyfactory, also known as Citi Field, was further intended to strengthen the team's position. Lastly, and perhaps most notably, Fred Wilpon has tried awfully hard to make sure this team would belong to him and only him.

Obviously, given the track record of one Fred Wilpon, it seems patently bizarre that he would want to unload a chunk of his baby just as he's finally prepared the setup to make the team flourish financially even if it doesn't do the same on the field. So what gives?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

See, I Was Mostly Kidding About That SI Cover Jinx Thing

But maybe I should have thought about it a bit more closely. See, I don't really believe in curses. I think they're silly. Unless you happen to referring to the Chicago Cubs. But given that Sports Illustrated's cover jinx strikes as frequently as it does, a statistically significant percentage of the time, perhaps I should be thinking differently. I had often assumed there were inherent biases in the original study, such as the fact that teams featured on the cover are often more likely than not to be playing a major elimination game immediately afterward which they only hold a 50/50 shot at winning anyway. And when all else fails, I would always rely on the fact that after knocking off Green Bay in a thrilling 2007 NFC Championship Game at bitter Lambeau Field, Eli Manning was thrust onto the cover inviting certain doom.

But we all know what happened then.

So of course, the Giants' Super Bowl XLII victory was irrefutable proof that the cover jinx was just a silly joke to bring up from time to time and not something to fear perpetually. But this year may have changed my tune. After seeing both the Jets and Bears turn in performances that left them shy of reaching the big game, I started to wonder if this year's covers, and last year's covers, might be indicative of a trend. And sure enough, if you really want to search back through the seasons there are even more examples of the eventual Championship Sunday losers getting tossed on their hides one game short of the Super Bowl.

After years of only bringing up the SI Cover Curse for purposes of mock humor, perhaps it's finally time to start taking it seriously, or at least to campaign for the Giants, Mets, Devils, Knicks or Northwestern to never ever appear on the cover again unless it is immediately following a championship victory. Fortunately, I know I'll never have to worry about that happening with Southampton FC (who happens to be facing off with Manchester United in the FA Cup this weekend) or the Geelong Cats. Probably not the Devils or Northwestern either, who have all of three cover appearances between them.

That said, with the cover now laying both individuals, teams and even whole leagues in its wake, it could finally be time to give it real credence.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Those Bastards At Sports Illustrated Have Done It Again

Well, I'm sorry, Jets fans. Just when you thought your team was cresting at the right time and finally going to break through in their third AFC Championship Game appearance in the last 13 years, Sports Illustrated, for the second straight year, decided to take a big ol' cutlass and slice your dreams to pieces. How'd they pull that off, you say? Well, my worries regarding the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx are well documented in multiple posts on this here blog, and like any smart, rational person, I immediately assume that must be the reason things have not gone according to plan. If any of you remember, last year's Divisional playoffs spawned two regional covers, which featured both the Jets and the Vikings. In the case of Minnesota, the cover even proclaimed "Favre on Fire" just days before his foolish across the body pass would be intercepted by Terry Porter when the Vikes were driving for a game-winning field goal against New Orleans.

While the Jets also lost, one could easily argue that this was due not just to the editorial decisions in the Time Inc. offices, but also because they tried as hard as possible to jinx themselves. But that doesn't leave much of an excuse for what happened this time around. After publishing regional covers last year that resulted in both cover teams losing their respective conference championship games, you'd think the brilliant minds at SI would remember that unless we're entering a bizarre period of gonzo journalism, they're supposed to stay out of the way and leave the outcome unaffected by their presence.

Well they didn't learn their goddamn lesson.

Much as America must love seeing Tom Brady look like a five-year-old who just saw his prized blankey and teddy bear make like Steve Buscemi in Fargo, and as awesome a photograph as that picture of Jay Cutler approaching the line in snowy Chicago is, something about this just seems plain wrong -- as if Sports Illustrated, knowing its curse-wreaking power, has consciously selected whom it wants to play in Super Bowl XLV. It just ain't right, or at least it won't be if the anticipated effect takes place.

Granted, with four classic franchises like Green Bay, Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh making up the Final Four, we're pretty much guaranteed a great, traditional matchup no matter what happens. And more over, with Green Bay title-less for 14 years now, Chicago in the midst of a 25-year drought and the Jets now a stunning 42 years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance, we've got a 75% chance of seeing a Champion we haven't seen an a long while. All of these things bode well for an end to the season that will seem both classic and refreshing all at once.

But given Sports Illustrated's dirty tricks, we're pretty much guaranteed a Packers-Steelers matchup in Super Bowl XLV, right?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why, Yes, I Will Make A Point About Picking The Jets Rather Obnoxiously

Some of you, that is to say my close friends I was watching the first round of the playoffs with, gave me a rather hard time for insisting the Seahawks would get absolutely pasted by the Saints in the first round nine days ago. My reasoning for making this bold, bold proclamation was because Seattle, based on some rather compelling empirical evidence, were terrible this year. Well, as some of you saw I ate my fair share of craw last weekend, when the Seahawks somehow toppled New Orleans, but I suppose I got a measure of vindication yesterday afternoon when Seattle revealed its true High School caliber selves after a loss to the Bears that was about 50 times worse than the score would indicate. My true vindication came about three hours later, however, when those pesky, bizarrely arrogant Jets pulled off an upset win over the dominant New England Patriots that just about no one expected.

Well, except me. Duh.

That's right, while most people had the Patriots not just advancing to this coming Sunday's AFC Championship Game, but to win the whole shabang, I stood strong, and boldly, confidently and fearlessly picked the Jets to topple their division rivals and make a second consecutive AFC Championship Game appearance. If "So yeah, let's go with the Jets, I guess. Why not?" doesn't sound like steadfast belief to you, I'm not sure what does.

Now, I have made it more than abundantly clear that I'm a Giants fan, first and foremost, but the Jets are a peculiar case for me. I wouldn't say I'm a Jets fan, obviously, but the Giants and Jets play once every four years, making a rivalry somewhat hard to maintain. Really, I have no actual distaste for the Gang Green. Frankly, I actually like to see them win and find myself rooting for them more often than not. Granted, if they lose next Sunday it won't kill me, whereas if the Giants were to make the NFC Championship Game and lose I'd be utterly devastated, but it's still nice to see the Jets succeed, which really may have accounted why I picked them as opposed to football acumen or reason. And if they should actually reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 42 years, well, it'll basically seem like one of those wild events that you just never thought you'd live to see.

Friday, January 14, 2011

So I Guess I Was Wrong Again

I neglected to mention on Wednesday that January 12 was my first Blogversary for this all-too-heavily trafficked site. It's ok if you forgot to buy me a present. I can't blame you for perhaps getting distracted by what was, perhaps, one of my more depressing entries, but the good news is that since today happens to be my half-birthday -- at 25 1/2 I'm pretty ancient now -- you still have the time to buy me a present. It's the least you can do after all the trouble I've gone to to bore all of you for the past 12 months.

One might say I already got a present yesterday when Cam Newton announced he was entering the NFL Draft (what, he didn't think he'd be eligible at Auburn next year?), but if none of you can find it in your hearts to be so generous, however, I'll manage to be ok because I got a gift of sorts already this week in the form of my tickets to next month's Knicks-76ers game in Philadelphia, a venture that will knock Team No. 38 off the list and get me one step closer to that ultimate goal of way too many stadiums than the average person should see -- though considering the Sixers and Flyers both play at the Wells Fargo Center, I guess I've actually seen this arena already.

Regardless, Feb. 4th in Philadelphia should be an exciting day, if for no other reason than the fact that the Knicks, by some remarkable mystery, continue to to be good and this will mark the third city I've seen them in outside of New York. And considering how mediocre the Sixers have been this season, I've managed to snag rather decent seats at a stiff discount from the face value price.

Go me.

Of course, I've had some difficulty actually seeing the new tickets with all of the egg on my face from last Saturday, and if you're wondering what egg I'm talking about you either didn't read my entry on picks last week (extremely likely) or didn't watch the Seahawks stunning upset win over the Saints last weekend (let's be honest, you just didn't read my blog entry). But the long and short of it was, I think the Seahawks are a terrible football team. Still do, actually. And yet they knocked off the defending-champion New Orleans Saints in a first-round playoff upset that is, well, really pretty damn remarkable.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hail To The Cheaters And Other Observations

I'm not going to be the first person to obnoxiously congratulate Oregon on its retroactively awarded 2011 BCS Championship for a few reasons. A) The BCS National Championship Game was already two days ago and I clearly wouldn't be the first, and B) It is, in fact, quite obnoxious.

Let's be frank for a minute. The NCAA is a complete joke and just about every major football or basketball program that contends for national titles -- and many that don't -- are at the very least fudging the rules and at worst, not so subtly breaking them. There is a very valid argument that many of these players who solicit money for their services should, in fact, be allowed to do so through more legitimate means because the money they bring into the school they represent is remarkable deluge of cash that by rule can't see its way into the hands of those responsible for it. And anyone who tells me players are rewarded with their educations can stop deluding themselves.

College football and basketball athletes are not students. They are employees.

That said, however, rules are rules, and the fact that Auburn's season is yet to be nullified or that star quarterback Cam Newton was allowed to play in the National Championship or SEC Championship games is an absolute joke. That Newton's father allegedly shopped his son's services around the SEC when he was looking to make a transfer is reprehensible, but not that surprising given the modern state of college football. The fact that Cam Newton has continued to tow the line that his father did this without his knowledge despite prior reports -- and plain ol' common sense -- is simply unbelievable. That the NCAA bought it is simply mindboggling.

Now, I know in the grand scheme of things, this is really not the worst thing to happen in the world, and as recent events have shown, not even the worst thing to happen in Arizona this weekend. But simply put, with the rules as they are, and the fact that Cam Newton almost certainly lied to NCAA investigators, there is no way on Earth that Newton should have been in uniform Monday night for Auburn's National Championship victory over Oregon. The fact that Newton's father Cecil was at the game despite assurances that he was to keep his distance from the Auburn program is just another sign that the Newtons didn't feel the need to conform to the rules throughout this entire process and considered themselves above the fray.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Playoffs Start This Weekend? Who Knew?

Ok, that's a lie. I knew. Still more than a little bummed about the tragic second annual collapse of my Giants, I've done a fair bit of ignoring the passage of time and the football games it will bring tomorrow afternoon, but who am I kidding. I love football. I love the playoffs. I'm not actually going to miss any of it. That would be silly.

Unfortunately, with the Giants out I'm kind of stuck in a malaise with no team to root for or care about -- an unusual place for me considering that at least one of my teams is usually competitive at any given time. But here we are. The Giants' place is obvious. The Devils are in the midst, unexpectedly, of the worst season they've had in my lifetime. Pitchers and catchers don't report for the Mets for five weeks, and I'm not sure that'll even be a good thing. Northwestern just lost its eighth bowl game in a row in heartbreaking fashion. Northwestern Basketball is slowly starting to fritter away a promising season due to an injury to John Shurna and general ineptitude. And the Knicks are, well, the Knicks.

Wait, what's that? The Knicks are suddenly awesome?

Yes, I was shocked, too, but on Tuesday night I decided to go to my first Knicks game in at least two years, and I experienced something unlike anything I had ever seen before in the Garden. That'll happen with a decade that makes mediocrity seem palatable. But here I was, watching the 'Bockers put up 72 first-half points against the League's premiere defensive team of the past decade and seeing MSG rock in a way I had yet to really experience. It was exciting. It was intense. It was fun.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Funny Story: The Giants Beat The Seahawks This Year. By 34 Points. In Seattle.

I suppose I ought to start this by saying I don't believe the NFL should forsake its divisional breakdown. Divisions are necessary for creating a structure that enables an easy schedule rotation and fosters rivalries and fan interest. Also, I haven't done the math, but I'm fairly certain the odds of one team beating another on the road by 34 points, and then winning 43% more games during the course of that season, staying home while the pounded 7-9 division champ takes aim at a Super Bowl is pretty close to about a bajillion to one.

Oh, but that's why they play the games. Or at least that's why the Rams and Seahawks did whatever it was they did Sunday night to send at least one atrocious team to the playoffs.

Yes, some of you out there might have noticed that I'm a teentsy bit bitter about how the 2010 New York Giants season wound up, and before I continue I will acknowledge that the Giants had three chances to seal a playoff berth and were unable to do so. But let's be real. The Giants finished 10-6 this season, which, while hardly spectacular, is usually more than enough to get a team into the annual postseason tournament. And failing that, I think it's fairly plain to see that the Giants are better than the Seahawks.

The 7-9 NFC West "Champion" Seahawks.

Lest I put too much focus on the fact that, even with Seattle being a markedly difficult place to play the Giants absolutely beat the living shit out of the Seahawks earlier this season, let's remind ourselves that the Seahawks are 7-9. They lost more often than they won this season and yet somehow are actually in the playoffs. In fact, and this is where it gets fun, the only way Seattle can go down in the books as having finished the 2010 NFL season with a winning record is by winning the Super Bowl.