Thursday, October 17, 2013

NFL Picks Week Seven: Because I'm too damn tired to write something long

As I told you all last week, I was quitting football following a devastating loss by Northwestern to Ohio State and the Giants' continued ineptitude. I should make it clear right now, however that I was only actually "quitting" football, not quitting football. This, it should be noted, was apparently a big mistake.

Why do you ask?

Well, for one, the Giants lost at Chicago on Thursday night to run their season record to a tidy 0-6, in yet another game where they actually played kind of decently for two and a half quarters before it all fell apart like a jenga tower after 25 minutes. With such a remarkable and unexpected run of failure to start the season, it's anybody's guess as to why I'm actually making my way to MetLife Stadium on Monday night to see the Giants play the equally hapless Vikings when I could watch from the comfort of my couch. (Answer: The tickets, food and booze are all free.)

That was then compounded by the fact that Saturday afternoon, Northwestern got the tar kicked out of it by Wisconsin in the first game the Wildcats were completely uncompetitive in in about two years. Given that my sister is a Badger, this is something I'm likely to hear about for several months.

So, I might be quitting football. Also, I'm tired and rushing to get to work today, so there will be very little of me complaining about how awful football has been for me the past two weekends (and we haven't even gotten onto the topic of the winless New Jersey Devils). Instead I'm just going to put my picks down and pretend none of this is happening.

Sound good? Great.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

NFL Picks Week Six: I'm quitting football

So I'm going to keep this short and sweet for a few reasons this week. For one, I'm exhausted today and I'm not really sure why since I actually got eight hours of sleep last night. These things happen I guess. For another, I'm rushing to work right now. Thirdly, did anyone catch how the Giants played the other worst team in the NFC East, rallied to take the lead in the second half and then proceeded to turn the ball over three times and lose by 15 to a backup quarterback against their biggest rival? I know I did.

Lastly, Northwestern did almost everything they needed to do Saturday night against No. 3 Ohio State in what had the makings of a statement game and probably played the best game on both sides of the ball that I've ever seen the Wildcats play since I got my acceptance letter 11 years ago. In the second half they had a 10-point lead against the consensus favorite to win the Big Ten and a potential National Championship contender.

And then they lost.

I'm still not emotionally ready to talk about this, which to anyone who knows me, watched the game or watched the game with me, probably isn't surprised by. As such, rather than re-watch NU's final series of the first half in my head again, a drive in which the Cats got inside the OSU 10 yard line with a chance to take an 11-point and get the ball to start the second half (the potential for a three-score lead on the No. 3 team in the country), but instead settled for a field goal and a seven-point edge that would be easily erased, I'm going to just pretend football isn't happening this weekend. Instead I will submerge myself into the baseball playoffs even though the two teams I was actively rooting for (Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh) are now out of it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NFL Picks Week Five: Let's talk about Northwestern instead of the Giants

Why? Because I'm actually looking forward to this weekend of football, and while a visit from the equally-as-hapless Eagles might pave the way for the Giants' first win of the season, I'm far more concerned with the college game this time around. For you see, my alma mater, Northwestern, is on the cusp of something special. The Wildcats are 4-0 and ranked No. 15 or 16 in the country, depending on which poll you favor. Fresh off its first bowl win in more than six decades and returning most of the roster that ended the drought, Northwestern appears poised to jump in the Big Ten's upper echelon on a consistent basis, quiet the naysayers (of which I know many), and maybe take a run at the Rose Bowl for the first time in 18 years even if they probably should have taken a run last season.

We're not even the only ones who think so. This much was made clear to me in an exchange I had with an Ohio State fan while waiting to use the bathroom at the upper west side sports bar NU's New York alumni chooses to congregate at each Saturday. But it was that very same conversation, offered with subtle unknowing condescension, that illustrated what can be so frustrating about convincing outsiders of why you believe in this team.

"Northwestern's pretty good this year."
"Yeah, we're pretty excited."
"Yeah, I even think they could go to the Rose Bowl. You know, since they might finish second when Ohio State goes to the national championship game."

The point was offered without humor, without sarcasm and with total belief. We are a force to be reckoned with now, but that force is still equivalent to the little engine that could. Most people, no matter how clued in to the empirical evidence of wins and losses they might be, still refuse to believe the Wildcats are ready to consistently play with the big boys. I suppose there is plenty of legitimate reason to hold that belief. After all, Northwestern's football history before even a few years ago was an ignominious one at best. There were fits and starts and flirtations with success in the 40s, 50s and 60s as men like Otto Graham, Pappy Waldorf and Ara Parseghian came through Evanston, but by the late 1960s a dark age set in that wouldn't end until the mid-90s and included such horrors as a record 34-game losing streak and Dennis Green.

Northwestern turned it around and had a miracle Rose Bowl run in 1995, and since then the school has been at least a mildly successful contender, but it has hardly established anything close to consistent top-15 or even top-20 credentials. The chance, finally, to serve notice that those days are over, however, comes this weekend.

Ohio State is coming to town.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The uncharted territory of October baseball

If you're a Mets fan like I am, it may shock you to know that Major League Baseball actually continues its season when the Mets stop playing each fall. In fact, there's a whole tournament of games in October that ends up actually determining whom we consider the champions of North American professional baseball, culminating in what is known as a "World Series." It's ok if you're unfamiliar. I was once unaware myself. It's probably a side effect of living in Queens. Now, however, I'm more than aware and actually excited to see what good baseball looks like. We got our first glance of it last night when David Price, who has both the world's best first name and wears the world's greatest number, pitched a seven-hit complete game gem to put Tampa Bay past Texas and into the final Wild Card slot of the 2013 MLB playoffs.

Of course, saying they've earned a playoff berth is kind of silly when last night's game was effectively a playoff already and tomorrow night's win-or-go-home date with Cleveland is basically the same thing, but who am I to tell baseball it can't use whatever taxonomy it thinks will help it sell more merchandise? Nobody, that's who.

What I can do, however, is tell you whom I think will be winning this whole shabang when its all said and done. I warn you that these predictions may be slightly biased by disliking other teams or the desire to see a fresh matchup (Who wouldn't find it kind of fun to have a Rays-Pirates World Series? You know, aside from FOX executives.) and I also warn you there is a good chance they will be wrong.

Yes, I know that sounds funny of me to say when my preseason prediction for who would play in the 2012 World Series was completely spot on even if I didn't pick the right winner, but I'm willing to admit I'm not perfect. And if you don't believe I'm not perfect, well, you can just take a look at my preseason predictions for this season and realize that folks in Toronto have already turned their attention to hockey season (which starts tonight, by the way).