Thursday, September 13, 2012

NFL Picks Week Two: Is the Best Year of My Life Over?

A few months ago a coworker of mine jokingly -- and hoping he would be wrong, it should be noted -- told me that 2012 was clearly going to be the "Year of Dave." On the surface this seemed like the silliest of reverse jinxes, but after a few months I started to wonder if maybe he had been on to something. After all, Northwestern basketball didn't make the NCAA Tournament, which was the basis for calling this the "Year of Dave" -- in fact they failed to in particularly crushing circumstances -- but the Wildcats probably got about as close as they've ever come to reaching the dance, and, well, when I looked beyond that, things were pretty darned good.

In fact, I think I would be particularly hard pressed to find a 12-month stretch in the world of sports in which more things went my way than during the 12 months that began on October 1, 2011. To wit:

-- On October 1, Geelong rocked Collingwood in the fourth quarter of the 2011 AFL Grand Final to win its third Premiership in five seasons.
-- On November 6, Frankie and I headed up to Foxboro, Massachusetts where we saw the Giants rally past the Patriots in the best sporting event I've ever seen in person, period.
-- On December 31, my constantly maligned Northwestern Wildcats reached their fourth consecutive bowl game, albeit a loss to Texas A&M in the mildly underwhelming Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
-- On February 5, for the second time in five years after a dramatic and unexpected playoff run the fucking New York Football Giants fucking won the fucking Super Bowl.
-- In early April, the Mets, somehow some way, were actually sort of kind of not bad.
-- On April 28, after seven years of angst, two relegations and financial troubles, my Southampton Saints rocked Coventry City to finally earn promotion and return to the Premier League.
-- On May 6, the New York Knicks did the remarkably unthinkable by actually winning a playoff game for the first time since I was a sophomore in high school.
-- On May 26, the New Jersey Devils righted 18 years of wrongs as Adam Henrique scored in overtime of Game 6 against the New York Rangers to seal a berth in the Stanley Cup Final.
-- On June 1, Johan Santana did what I never thought possible and somehow threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history in the franchise's 50th year.

So, uh, is it getting any better than this in the course of one calender year for me? Because, in all honesty, I really don't think so. This was a confluence of events that is virtually unrivaled for me in my life and quite possibly unrivaled by any person ever that wasn't living in Boston for the last 12 years. In fact the only stretch in my life that can even come close would be that magical period from October 2000 through June of 2001 when three of my favorite teams all reached their respective championship rounds, a feat I hadn't seen before or since.

But even in that particular case, which on a practical level, was amazing, on a visceral level it was painful as each team lost.

With all of that taken into account, yes, it seems hard to imagine that I ever have or ever will experience anything quite this amazing again. After all, two championships (and a league promotion which is roughly equivalent), three championship round appearances, a bowl game and a long-sought-after no-hitter don't arrive often, let alone within such short proximity.

All of that is well and good, but the problems start in that I'm slowly realizing that my Monrovian stretch of sports fandom just might be winding down -- or done completely. I know that eventually I'll have to accept it, just as resolution has so readily been accepted throughout popular culture in the most important of places.

That doesn't mean I have to like it though, and if we take a look at the evidence that my lucky period is done, well, it's rather compelling.

-- The Mets, plain and simple, are awful, and in the midst of the most dramatic, lengthy, sustained fall off a cliff I have ever seen in professional sports. How awful is it? Since the All-Star Break the Mets have won four games at Citi Field. Four. Atlanta has won five games at Citi Field in that stretch while Washington has won six. Even the mediocre Colorado Rockies have won four games at Citi Field since the All-Star Break, and those are the only four games they'll play there all season.
-- Johan Santana, meanwhile, hasn't pitched since August 17 after being shut down due to arm troubles and ineffectiveness that many chalk up to his lengthy start during his no-hitter. The massive contract of the former Cy young-winning ace is now seen as a tremendous albatross.
-- The reigning champion Geelong Cats, meanwhile, appeared poised for a potential run at the Grand Final after looking impressive over the season's closing weeks, but instead were unceremoniously bounced in the opening round of the postseason in an upset loss to Fremantle that saw them fall behind by a whopping 49-1 at one point.
-- Days later, Geelong full back, Matthew Scarlett, arguably the greatest defender of all-time, announced his retirement.
-- The Giants began their title defense by losing a frustrating season opener to the Cowboys.
-- Southampton began its return to the Premier League with three consecutive losses including two heart-breakers to last season's champion and runner up, Manchester City and Manchester United, in which the Saints let late leads slip away in potentially franchise-changing upsets in the closing minutes.
-- Even my fantasy baseball team seems destined to an unlikely frustrating playoff loss this week.
-- Northwestern basketball still exists.

Suffice it to say, it looks like the good times are pretty much over, although J.R. Smith did guarantee that the Knicks are going to win the 2013 NBA Championship, so I guess I've got that to hang my hat on. No doubts about it.

Otherwise, however, it appears fair to assume that my best days, certainly of the past year, and maybe forever are behind me. This is, naturally, difficult to take, but there are some things to take solace in. For one the Giants have plenty of time to turn it around after that rough opening last week.When they face the Buccaneers this Sunday I have confidence that, at least in the NFL, the world will right itself. In addition to that I got an unexpected boost yesterday when I got to plan potential baseball road trips for 2013 because Major League Baseball released its preliminary schedule, which is great timing since I had assumed the Mets' 2012 season was over anyway.

And then there is my traditionally hard luck Wildcats, who are 2-0 after opening the college football season with wins against Syracuse, though they tried their best to give that one away, and a fairly impressive comeback win against Vanderbilt this past weekend. In addition to that, the shocker of shockers came when I got a bright light from Northwestern basketball after the Knicks saw fit to sign NU's all-time leading scorer and perpetual 15-year-old faced three-point master John Shurna to a partially guaranteed contract for the 2012-13 Knicks' championship season. To put in perspective just how wild this is, take into account the fact that Northwestern hasn't had a player make the NBA since the legendary Evan Eschmeyer. Then take into account the absolutely bizarre nature of Shurna's shot, which has many wondering just how it'll translate to the NBA. Indeed, there is a very good chance that Shurna will not be on the roster when the Knicks break camp and open their season, but as a Northwestern alum all to aware of the University's historically impotent basketball program and a Knicks fan more than familiar with the 'Bockers' own remarkable ineptitude in recent seasons, it would be awfully sweet to see the Knicks continue to make strides -- and do so with a Wildcat on the roster.

Awfully sweet may not even begin to describe it. That probably won't change the fact that my best year as a sports fan is over, but it might dull the pain more than just a little bit. In the end, that ain't too bad.

In more depressing news, it's time for my weekly NFL picks.

Last week: 7-9-0
Season: 7-9-0

GREEN BAY (-5) over Chicago
NY GIANTS (-7) over Tampa Bay
BUFFALO (-3) over Kansas City
CINCINNATI (-7) over Cleveland
Minnesota (-2) over INDIANAPOLIS
MIAMI (+3) over Oakland
NEW ENGLAND (-14) over Arizona
Baltimore (+3) over PHILADELPHIA
New Orleans (-3) over CAROLINA
Houston (-8) over JACKSONVILLE
Washington (-3) over ST. LOUIS
SEATTLE (+3) over Dallas
NY Jets (+6) over PITTSBURGH
SAN DIEGO (-6) over Tennessee
Detroit (+6) over San Francisco
Denver (+3) over ATLANTA

Enjoy the games, and may your next year be as good as my last was.

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