Friday, October 28, 2011

NFL Picks Week Eight: So I Was Watching Baseball Last Night

Now, before I say anything about whether or not we might have been witness to the greatest baseball game ever played last night, I should note, as I did earlier this week, that I'm pretty partial to this one, and I probably will continue to be so until the Mets win the World Series again. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Mets' last World Series championship, and it was curious to note that that World Series ended on October 27, the same date that saw the conclusion of the 2004 World Series and the 2006 World Series. The running vein through those two games is that both of those World Series were the last two to be played in St. Louis.

And as Texas had a chance to clinch the World Series last night, guess where we were?

So that was one of the curious tips that I figured we might be in for the end of the baseball season last night, and as the Rangers pushed the Cardinals down to their last strike in the bottom of the ninth inning, I assumed I was right. But then something crazy happened. Dave Freese hits a two-run triple in the ninth to tie it, Josh Hamilton hits a two-run homer in the 10th to put Texas back on top, Lance Berkman ties the game in the bottom of the 10th, Dave Freese clocks a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th, and we'll see you tomorrow night.

As I said earlier, I don't want to necessarily say this was "the greatest baseball game ever played", but seriously, given the stakes, the craziness, the multiple storylines and potential heroes, the fever-pitch-level drama, and the fact that leading up to the ninth inning this was still a pretty damn good game in what has been a great series, and, well, calling this the greatest game ever played wouldn't necessarily be the dumbest thing anyone has said this week.

To put it plainly, this was one of the greatest games I've ever seen in any sport at any time. Granted, that is a large category of events, and I would hesitate to call this the greatest, but sweet lord what a game it was. As I sat there I couldn't help but think at how absurd it was and how I could never imagine a team battling back from the last strike of the World Series in consecutive innings, nor could I imagine seeing a team score in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings to stave off elimination.

That's because it had never happened before. Ever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Fun Little Experiment I May Never See The Results Of

If you love sports as a child, and, well, I kind of did, then your lifelong dream is to play for your favorite sports team. If you're a Jewish child like myself, then some might argue that you have a slightly different dream as Arn Tellem did when he told Sports Illustrated in 2002, "Bar mitzvah age is when a Jewish boy learns he has a better chance of owning a professional sports team than of playing for one." But failing the chance of playing for your favorite sports team or of owning it there is always that dream of simply getting to watch your team in person whenever you want.

That is, to say, owning season tickets.

Now, when I was 20 I put myself on the Giants season ticket waiting list and expected to get my number called sometime in 2025. As I wrote about earlier this year, it didn't quite turn out that way, and when given the opportunity to buy in 15 years earlier than I expected, I eventually declined due to the enormous cost and my own muted desire to bother selling all of the tickets. However, New York has tons of things to do what with it being the greatest city in the world and all. Some other cities may lack the comparative excitement.

This brings us to Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Green Bay Packers are the essence of everything that is great in the NFL. Their tradition is rich and fundamentally steered the game for decades, their legacy permeates all aspects of American football right down to the Super Bowl Trophy, and, as I've said before, seeing a game at historic Lambeau Field just might be the most incredible game-day experience in American professional sports. Also, the football team is pretty good these days.

So naturally, any youngster growing up in Wisconsin would hope and pray for the chance to have season tickets one day at Lambeau Field, but if you aren't aware, much like so many other fanciful aspects of childhood, the dreams of getting those tickets any time soon is pretty much nil. The waiting list for Packers season tickets is roughly 55 years depending on who you ask these days, which prompts many parents in Wisconsin to put their newborn children on it so they might get the chance to enjoy season tickets by the time their children are out of school and they can begin dipping into their IRAs.

Friday, October 21, 2011

NFL Picks Week Seven: The Bye Week Rears Its Ugly Head. Again.

Should I even bother watching football this weekend? It's a plausible question considering the Giants are on their bye and as I've said before, I utterly detest the bye week. But it exists, such is life, and let's be frank. There's pretty much no shot in hell that I won't be dedicating Sunday to watching NFL football even if the Giants aren't going to be playing. I mean, after all, they're guaranteed not to lose, which means it'll be a pleasant Sunday. So at least I've got that going for me. And in addition to that the rest of the weekend isn't half bad considering that Northwestern is playing Penn State Saturday night and there's this other thing going on called the "World Series of professional base ball".

That World Series is starting to shape up like a good one, too, considering that both Games 1 and 2 were decided by one run and Game 2 featured a ninth-inning comeback for the Rangers, the first in a World Series game in 10 years. Even more notable is that the Rangers' rally Thursday night has put them in the driver's seat as far as home field advantage is concerned. Of course, for this to really take impact, they'd have to sweep Games 3 through 5 at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington this week, which I don't really anticipate happening. The first two games have been too close for this series not to come back to St. Louis -- after all, when has a series opening with consecutive one-run games not gone longer than five and therefore given the impression that the series was a total blowout even though every game was obscenely close? That never happens. And fans of the losing team certainly won't hear misplaced, ill-defined bragging for the next decade as a result.

But I digress.

I'll take Texas to win this series because I simply think they're the better team in general, but I also think there's an accountability factor evident in the fact that the entire team spoke to the media after their tough Game 1 loss, while the Cardinals apparently did not do the same after Game 2 slipped away. Perhaps I sympathize with the World Series-covering media, but baseball players make quite a bit of money. Speaking to the media in both good and bad situations is a requirement that comes with said money. So, in other words, I think the leadership and good ethics evident in the Rangers' behavior will lead them to victory.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Of All The Annoying Losses I've Experienced This Is The Most Annoying

See everyone, the wording here is key. Annoying doesn't necessarily imply heartbreak or devastation, because as I watched Northwestern's 41-31 loss to Iowa Saturday night, I wasn't heartbroken or devastated or even surprised really.

But I was annoyed.

The reason for this is that this was not a game where Northwestern ever held a lead, nor was it a game where you ever got the feeling they were going to win or on the brink of doing so, unlike last week's loss by the Giants to the Seahawks. No this was a loss of a different sort, because in general the Wildcats never looked like they were going to pull it out. I never convinced myself that it was the case and I never felt overly confident that it would happen.

But holy lord it should have. And here's why.

Yes kids, that's the boxscore for the game, and I don't really expect you all to look through it like I have because it's an irritating and tedious process, but if you actually bother to take the time you'll notice some pretty remarkable discrepancies, and said discrepancies will leave you with the remarkable impression that Northwestern actually didn't just play better than Iowa, but the Wildcats pretty much dominated the Hawkeyes in nearly every metric you can find.

To wit: Northwestern had nearly doubled up Iowa in the following categories by the time the game ended: first downs (29-17), total offensive plays (92-50), and time of possession (38:23-21:37). NU outgained Iowa by 116 yards, had 15 more pass completions than Iowa had passing attempts, converted 16 third downs to Iowa's one third-down conversion and had more scoring opportunities in the red zone. By just about any way you want to look at it, Northwestern had the advantage in just about every facet.

So, uh, how the hell did the Cats lose?

Friday, October 14, 2011

NFL Picks Week Six: So I Took A Little Time Off Because I'm Famous

Six or so of you out there actually read this junk, and as a result, you might have noticed that I didn't write at all this week, something I'll attribute to the increasingly hectic schedule I live in because of the fame I've gotten as a result of my recent TV interview. This fame is, of course, a total nonsensical figment of my imagination. I am, in fact, not famous at all. Even though I was on TV. If you're looking for an actual cause of the fact that I did not write all week, it probably has far more to do with the fact that I crawled into a hole for a little while after the Giants' irritatingly frustrating loss to the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday.

Perhaps you didn't see it, but let's look at a few statistics here. For one, the Seahawks have the notable disadvantage of being a West Coast team that endures exhaustion, travel, and the treachery of time zones whenever it comes East. This disadvantage seems particularly pronounced for the Seahawks, so much so that they hadn't won a game in the Eastern time zone in some four years or so before this past Sunday. To boot, the Giants have sort of owned Seattle in the past few years, and by owned I mean, beat the utter crap out of them last year in Seattle even though the 10-6 Giants spent the playoffs at home while the 7-9 Seahawks got to the second round, which, you know, makes a lot of sense.

Add into that that the Giants played pretty poorly through most of the game and caught a few bad breaks, most notably on the fluky interception that sealed victory for Seattle, and it was a bit frustrating. That frustration is only partially salved by the fact that Philadelphia lost again, which is complicating for me because a) it was a golden opportunity for Big Blue to take a three-game edge in the standings and b) if the Bills are actually good, it makes me antsy that the Giants have to play them this week. Those are words I never thought I'd ever say.

But hey, it's cool. Because even though the Giants wasted a totally awesome catch by Victor Cruz and any number of other myriad botched opportunities, sometimes you just don't win. Because come on, the Seahawks are good. After all, they got to play half the game with this guy at quarterback. Just look at that mustache. It's almost as bitchin' as the fact that he only has three career interceptions. IN HIS ENTIRE CAREER. That's almost as small a total as his career touchdown passes. Because, you know, Charlie Whitehurst has three touchdown passes. In his entire career.Three. In nine games. In six seasons. He's played in nine games in six years. And he beat the Giants.

Friday, October 7, 2011

NFL Picks Week Five: So Basically I'm A Huge TV Star Now. In Canada.

I'm not sure how many of you noticed yesterday, but with a doubleheader on VERSUS and a third game in Toronto, the NHL season kicked off yesterday. As many of you have been made aware, I rather like hockey. Quite a bit. So as many of you can imagine, I'm pretty excited about the prospect of seven months of regular season -- and then two months of postseason -- hockey kicking off last night. Of course, the two teams I am partial to, New Jersey and Chicago, don't get the party started until Saturday and tonight respectively, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth watching, and indeed, Vancouver and Pittsburgh delivered a thriller last night that went to a shootout.

Now, those types of thrilling matchups are to be expected, but what is sometimes unexpected is that if you write a story like this, you might get an e-mail from a producer at CTV News asking if you can go on TV to do an interview. Now, I'm not entirely sure how anyone could think I'm really an expert on these things, either hockey or TV, but having never been on TV before, I figured it was worth a go, and so there I was at 3 o'clock yesterday at ABC News headquarters in New York waiting to do a live interview with a Canadian cable news channel to talk about hockey for three minutes.

The whole adventure started off pretty uncomfortably as I went over my answers several times in my head before arriving at the studios and going into not one, but two incorrect lobbies before finally finding my way to the correct studio. Other fun included staring awkwardly off to the side throughout the interview because the white dot they told me to stare at was off center, appearing as stiff as could possibly be partially because I was sitting in an awkwardly high chair and partially because I was nervous as all hell, accidentally calling the blue line the d-line because I watch too much football and having my earpiece that I needed to hear the questions fall out of place 10 seconds into the interview.

Rockin' right?

Otherwise, the whole thing didn't turn out so bad for a first-time television interviewee. If I ever do it again, hopefully it'll run a little smoother, but regardless of how you feel about it, you can see the final result right here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

This Might Be What Christmas Is Like

Being that I spent this week celebrating Rosh Hashanah, on Friday night I will be observing Yom Kippur, and that today is the 13th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah, or as I am calling it either my Bar Mitzvahversary or my Bar Mitzvah's Bar Mitzvah, those of you who don't already know me can probably figure out that I am, in fact, not Christian. In reality, I am very, very Jewish -- or at least neurotic -- and as such, I have never celebrated Christmas nor understood the joy that is opening up presents on December 25th.

That said, I have a hard time believing it could feel any better than the random combination of events I saw today on gridirons across America. Those events involved three teams in three cities with remarkable outcomes. For the first one we go to Philadelphia, where the Eagles, playing in front of their home crowd in what was, arguably, a must-win situation for the "Dream Team". Philly responded how you might have expected, by jumping out to a 20-point lead against the lightly-regarded 49ers. And then they did what the Eagles historically have done fairly well and proceeded to give up 21-second-half points to San Francisco, handing them a 24-23 loss and sending Philadelphia to a 1-3 record that leaves them in the NFC East basement.

This was the first great thing to happen to me on Sunday.

Meanwhile, at the same time the Eagles were doing their best New York Mets impression, Dallas had jumped out to stiff 27-3 lead against the undefeated Detroit Lions. I know what you're thinking. "The words 'undefeated Detroit Lions' make no sense to me in that particular order.'" It's ok. That's the natural reaction. But sure enough they are, in fact, undefeated. Regardless, the Cowboys, with a 24-point lead in the second half seemed to have all the cards in their hands, but then they realized that when quarterback Tony Romo didn't have the cards in his hands it was because he was too busy putting the football in the hands of Detroit defenders. Romo threw three picks in the second half, two of which were returned for touchdowns and one of those run back by linebacker Bobby Carpenter who was a groomsman at Romo's wedding. Suddenly there was a game in Dallas, and at that point, Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson decided to show up and lead the Lions to an eventual 34-30 victory.

As a lifelong Giants fan, it's easy to imagine the relish with which I viewed both of those collapses, but then with the clock striking 4:05 ET, it was time for my team to put on their own display in Glendale, Arizona. University of Phoenix Stadium is a special building for the G-Men in that it's a place they've never lost and have one particularly noteworthy victory, but despite stretches in which the Giants dominated the Cardinals, with time running down in the fourth quarter, it appeared New York was going to go home with a sour taste in its mouth. But then, Big Blue and Eli Manning did something that they have an underrated knack for doing and rallied to score two touchdowns in the final four minutes to erase a 10-point deficit and turn it into a four-point lead. Of course, as I noted to one person, when the Giants scored the eventual winning touchdown with 2:39 remaining I couldn't help but think, "too much time is still on the clock". Fortunately for me and all the Giants fans out there, the defense held strong -- and we may have caught a lucky break or two, also -- and New York held on for a big 31-27 win in the desert that leaves it tied for first place with... the Washington Redskins? Sure, whatever.

So let's recount what happened today, shall we?