Sunday, February 27, 2011

Apparently, I'm A Masochist. Who Knew?

If being a Mets fan has made anything clear it's that I, apparently, have an insatiable lust for pain. Yesterday I realized that hadn't changed when I got an e-mail from the team offering five-game flex ticket packs for the upcoming season. Typically, I ignore these e-mails because the tickets are too damn expensive, but I was blinded by a huge segment of block text said "NO ORDERING FEES".

You know those things: the transaction fees that enable teams to needlessly add five bucks onto every ticket, but in actuality are complete nonsense.

So I, foolishly assuming I was about to get a deal, promptly bought a Mets flex package for this season, a season that is sure to be disappointing just like they all are. For any evidence of that, look no further than yesterday's spring training opener against Atlanta that ended in a 5-5 tie.

Yes, a tie. In baseball.

Sister kissing is an unusual phenomenon in this sport, which, as we've seen, could theoretically go on forever in a regular season game, but in the spring training no one really has the patience, which means when a game is tied after nine innings, the managers debate whether or not they really care to bake out in the sun much longer. In this case, Terry Collins and Fredi Gonzalez decided that 10 innings would be enough, and it seemed like it would be for Atlanta after they took a 5-3 lead in the top of the inning. Of course, then former-Met killer Willie Harris, who was signed this offseason with the apparent idea of "even if he sucks he won't kill us anymore", smacked a two-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the 10th, and that was how it would stand. Were it not for my discovery that my supermarket now sells Sunset Wheat, this would have been the highlight of my week.

Considering that this was the second rally by the Mets to tie the game I'm pretty sure Saturday's tie marks the high point of New York's 2011 season. It's all downhill from here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Carnegie Deli Sparks The Great Sandwich Debate

Those of you who have seen me either at meal time or in my pre-16-year-old days know that I enjoy eating quite a bit, and as a result, from time to time I have to face startling questions of a gustatory nature. Periodically, I even take up those issues right here on this blog, which is to say I've done it once. But make no mistake, the debate of cake vs. pie remains volatile. In any event, I bring this up to you because the Knicks' acquisition of Carmelo Anthony this week has prompted the Carnegie Deli to make a bold foray into the sports arena that has torn the very fabric of New York's sandwich community asunder.

And that, my friends, is the 'Carmelo Anthony'.

Yes, the Carnegie Deli knew there was a power vacuum in the sports-themed sandwich hierarchy in this city and the biggest trade to clog up our twitter feeds maybe ever provided just the opportunity for Carnegie Deli owner Sandy Levine to steal the throne. Indeed with this collection of corned beef, pastrami, salami, bacon, lettuce, tomato and Russian dressing on rye bread he makes a compelling argument as for why this sandwich should rule the roost, particularly since each ingredient was chosen for a specific reason, like a master tactician composing his cabinet of advisers. For instance Levine noted that the sandwich includes bacon because, "we want Carmelo to bring home the bacon to New York." In a quirky touch the inclusion of Russian dressing was an obvious jab at bold, and possibly crazy Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, though Prokhorov may have made a fairly bold statement this morning anyway.

Now, this is hardly the first time sandwiches have made their way into the sports world. Peppi's Old Tyme Sandwich Shop made waves several years ago in Pittsburgh when they introduced the Roethlis-burger, a hearty collection of sausage and hamburger topped with fried egg and American cheese. It sells for an appropriate seven dollars.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alright, Devils. I'm In. Let's Do This Thing.

Let's be serious here. About four people read this. Maybe more, but I doubt it. So most of you probably don't know, nor will you know what my thought has been regarding the once-moribund and now flourishing New Jersey Devils, though I've mentioned it a few times. And that thought was this. The Devils haven't had a decent first-round draft position in nearly two decades because, well, they've always been pretty good. New Jersey hadn't missed the playoffs since 1996 and it seemed unlikely that that would be changing any time soon. Some pegged the Devils as Stanley Cup contenders this season and they looked every bit of it the first ten minutes of the year before letting an early two-goal lead slip away against Dallas in a game they'd eventually lose in overtime 4-3.

Then Zach Parise tore up his knee. Then the team was terrible. Then coach John MacLean was fired. Then the team was still terrible.

Ostensibly, New Jersey was awful, having, for most of this season, the worst record in the League, and by a fair margin at that, but then things started to change. The Devils shipped off captain Jamie Langenbrunner and players began buying into Jacques Lemaire's philosophy. Now New Jersey is the hottest team int he League, which left me with a decision to make. Do I lament the loss of what could have been a top-five pick for a team that despite its hot streak is so far out the playoffs are a near impossibility? Or do I throw my emotion behind it and invest myself for what is still an unlikely occurrence?

I opted to wait and see the progress and I decided that if New Jersey could trim a deficit between it and the No. 8 seed, which once was as high as 27 points, down to 10 points by the end of their 60th game, I would start to believe. In New Jersey's last 18 games, the Devils are an astonishing 15-1-2. On Saturday night they played their 59th game, and their third in the last 12 games against eighth-seeded Carolina, and walked away with an impressive 4-1 win.

And just like that, with 59 games gone in the season, the deficit is down to 10.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh, Hey. Pitchers and Catchers Reported This Week

I'm not sure if you noticed, but the earliest parts of baseball season are upon us, meaning pitchers and catchers reported this week. Now, in years past this news was unbelievably exciting, to the point that I would make sure the entire world knew all about it. Of course that remnant of my college years there came in 2007, four months after the Mets had been tantalizingly close to a World Series berth and seemed primed to challenge for another one. This season is another matter. Pitchers and catchers reported this week and I was, well, kind of ambivalent.

And how did that happen, you ask?

Well, despite all seeds of optimism -- such as the realization that the Mets actually have a pretty decent roster if they stay healthy -- most people agree this could be an awfully long season in New York, and that apparently extends to players who haven't even been on the roster for 20 years. Then again, unlike the players on the current team, Tim Teufel actually won a World Series. Regardless of the misfortune affecting Mr. Teufel, I am almost overwhelmed by how not overwhelmed I am by the Mets this season. This is the first time in at least a decade that pitchers and catchers have reported and I've been almost ambivalent about it in every sense.

Don't get me wrong. I will still be watching baseball enthusiastically all season long, and I am currently planning a trek to the southwest to see the Mets visit Arizona and San Diego in August -- remarkable considering they're likely to be well out of the race by then -- but something about this season just doesn't excite me like it has in seasons past. We'll see if a few spring training games actually get me back into the swing of baseball fandom.

In the meantime, at least there's one team that's giving me a reason to get excited about the next few months.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Anyone Notice That The Devils Are Kind Of Really Good Right Now?

I am faced with a massive quandary as a Devils fan right now. In what has been a trying season -- New Jersey has spent most of the season with the League's worst record -- my team is suddenly hot as a pistol and making a wild, bizarre run at the final playoff spot in the East. That playoff spot is still a far, far ways off, but it's an awful lot closer than it used to be. Last night, New Jersey trailed in the third period in Toronto before Ilya Kovalchuk pushed himself end-to-end and fired a game-winner past James Reimer in the waning seconds of overtime.

And just like that the deficit was down to 13.

Now that may not seem like the most exciting revelation. After all, New Jersey is still third to last in the Eastern conference. But that 13-point deficit was 24 points not so long ago, and with 27 games remaining there is ample time for that deficit to start dropping bit by bit. In fact, that win over Toronto Thursday night has pushed New Jersey's mark to 11-1-2 in its last 14 games, which easily makes them the hottest team in the League at the moment. Thursday night was the Devils' second consecutive overtime victory after defeating the Hurricanes in OT Tuesday at The Rock -- a game I was actually in attendance for -- and it now may have the New Jersey building the adequate momentum to make a serious run at the final postseason seed.

The win in Toronto also put coach Jacques Lemaire in the 600-win club, a feat that was written up by some anonymous lackey at NHL.com.

Lemaire's accomplishments are a pivotal part of the story, of course. The man who led the Devils to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 1995, has showed a remarkable ability to get the most out of his teams -- as he did with the Devils a season ago in what was expected to be a one-season return to the Garden State before moving on into retirement. What he has done so far this season, however, may eclipse anything else he's done. New Jersey was 9-22-2 when Lemaire was brought in to replace company man John MacLean on Dec. 23. At that point the idea of a playoff run was well off the team's radar -- and in likelihood it still is. Instead for the Lemaire, the challenge was to remind the players that not only were they professionals, but they were expected to be Stanley Cup contenders when the season began.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Power Of Willie Lives!

A few weeks ago when I was breaking down the likely predictions of who would win the Super Bowl, I noted that Green Bay, of the four final teams had a considerable obstacle in its way that the others didn't. The Packers had no players on their roster with a Northwestern degree. Now, Northwestern hasn't been a noted football powerhouse since, oh, 1929 or so. In fact in many years, it's been quite the opposite. But the last 20 years or so have witnessed an almost shocking football renaissance in Evanston, resulting in several graduates plying their trades in the NFL and an almost incomprehensibly bizarre streak of players winning Super Bowls.

In fact, last year Saints tackle Zach Strief made New Orleans the fifth consecutive Super Bowl champion to have a Wildcat on the field or the sidelines.

So this year, when Green Bay held on to win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday with nary a Cat on their roster, the streak was done, right?

WRONG!

For I missed something truly remarkable in my little-to-no research when I was writing that blog post, and that is that Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy was the Athletic Director at Northwestern University just eight short years ago. That I failed to remember this is almost embarrassing to me since I covered sports at Northwestern as an undergrad and Murphy's tenure there spanned my college years almost exactly, but the important thing is that I remember now, even if I specifically remember Murphy being named the President of the Packers three years ago and thinking, "Him? Really?"

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Sure To Be Mocked Probably Wrong Super Bowl XLV Prediction

I felt a strange twinge of nostalgia this week when I came across the news that Andy Pettitte, stalwart postseason pitcher of the Yankees' recent championship era, was announcing his retirement from Major League Baseball. Obviously, as a Mets fan this doesn't exactly change my life or make me yearn for the good ol' days, but Pettitte had a few things working in his factor me me. Most prominently, it was hard to ignore his ability to pitch in big games -- he is the winningest postseason pitcher in history after all. As well, he is, well, pretty likeable all things considered. But biggest among those quirks for me is the fact that despite not being a Yankees fan, it was impossible to grow up in New York or New Jersey in the 1990s and not have been impacted or influenced by the Yankees' dynasty one way or the other. And when I attended my very first Yankees game in person, it was Andy Pettitte who stood on the mound.

Because of those reasons, there is a twinge of sadness for me in seeing that Pettitte is retiring as well as a wariness of the fact that "is he a Hall of Famer" or not debates sprang up almost instantly. These are all silly since the Hall of Fame has rendered itself completely bunk, but fortunately for all of us, that bit of news has thoroughly been tossed to the backburner because there's a football game this Sunday.

You might have heard of it.

If not, no worries, but something tells me if you had no idea the Super Bowl was this evening, you probably wouldn't be the sort of person who spends their time reading this. Now, if you're part of the other 99% of the population (people cognizant of the Super Bowl, not people that read my blog), well then you must be pretty excited about the impending kickoff between Green Bay and Pittsburgh in 18 and a half hours or so.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Journey Continues In 2011 With Team No. 38: The Philadelphia 76ers

Yes, 2011 is almost six whole weeks in and here I am with not one new team knocked off the list. This isn't the worst thing if I'm planning on keeping pace with the needed rate. I decided a year ago that if I wanted to see all 122 teams by the time I was 55, this would require seeing roughly six new ones per year -- or one every two months. Well fortunately, I'm not too far gone for that pace to continue so far, and this calendar year could actually have me seeing as many as 11 teams or as few as, well, one.

But I will have one!

And I know that because Team No. 38 will be crossed off the list this Friday when myself and at least five other hearty souls attend the Knicks-76ers game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. While I've already attended this building once for a Flyers game a year ago, I'm extremely excited for a few reasons. Firstly) It's one step closer to my goal. Obviously. Secondly) While I was never not a Knicks fan over the last decade, this season has easily made me a reinvigorated one. Thirdly) Rather than traveling to meet one or two people, as is the usual situation, a whole group of my friends and I will be driving down to Philadelphia for the game. Fourthly) I'll be wearing the first Knicks jersey I've ever owned. Fifthly) There may be a potential tour of Lincoln Financial Field in the works provided I don't let my anti-Philadelphianism get the best of me.

And I am anti-Philadelphia. I have made this clear. But sometimes you have to go to the belly of the beast to get what you want, and I have a goal to accomplish. Sometimes we do unsavory things, even if there are cheesesteaks involved.