Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hold your loved ones dear and settle in. We could be here a while.

We knew it had to be this way. For two such perennially-maligned franchises as the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians to meet in a World Series, we knew the drought for each side had to be dragged out just a teensy bit longer. When this Series was set and we knew the World Series would be contested between two teams currently enduring a combined 176 championship dry spell I had multiple operating theories on what it meant for me, society at large and the perpetuation of the species in general. This wasn't supposed to happen. We weren't supposed to be in this corner, forced to steel ourselves for the end times as two curses ran head on into one another.

And yet here we are.

I often joked before this series began that I was predicting not a Chicago or Cleveland victory, but rather an apocalyptic event. After all, these are not teams that win the World Series. These are teams that raise their fans' hopes only to dash them incomprehensibly. These are the teams of a 100-win Indians team in a 144-game season coming up short against a historic rotation, or of a 3-1 NLCS lead against an upstart Marlins team vaporizing into thin air. These are the teams of Jose Mesa's blown save and Alex Gonzalez's booted ground ball (because, let's be frank, Steve Bartman was not really at fault).

These are two teams that only win the World Series if it happens on the big screen, but Henry Rowengartner and Pedro Cerrano aren't walking through that door. And Rick Vaughn definitely isn't walking through that door. Or at least not the bullpen doors.

Simply put, the reason we have reached Game 7 is because, somehow, we have two World Series participants that are fated never to win a title, and with no third option, the universe is stretching this thing out as long as possible until it discovers an exit strategy. That doesn't simply mean tonight's game was guaranteed to exist, it means that we may be in for 30 innings of baseball until the cosmos have sorted everything out.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

In which I keep a promise and New York's team becomes London's team

Some of you that know me personally, or that have read this blog, may recall that I have a sister currently residing across the pond in London, England. Many more of you probably know that this weekend, the New York Giants are following her so they can take on the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham Stadium. Lastly, there is a specific cross-section of you that know two and a half years ago, when my sister moved to London, I made her one promise.

"If the Giants play in London while you live there, I will fly to England and visit you the weekend of the game."

Some of you (probably none of you) may remember 10 months ago when I detailed the complicated and uncomfortable ("Fly Eagles, Fly?") process that led to this point, but the gist of it is, on Wednesday morning, I arrived at London-Gatwick International Airport, and on Sunday afternoon (though I suppose it'll be morning for the rest of you), I will be in the stands at Twickers watching Big Blue take on whatever team the Rams feel like being this week. I was never really sure that this day would come considering I thought me rooting for the Eagles last December was a sign of the apocalypse -- at least until I realized the apocalypse was still 10 months away.

It should certainly be an interesting weekend and I've heard rumor of how bizarre these matchups can be. My brother-in-law, who is a Giants fan and will be attending with me, has been to a few of these London games before only to find that the crowd is strangely unenthused as they view the spectacle with more curiosity than intensity, and they also wear whatever NFL jersey they happen to have lying around. That is to say that the Giants and Rams may be the only teams on the field, but I will almost certainly see Jaguars and Seahawks paraphernalia popping up in the crowd.

That is to be expected, however, I have a feeling the Giants will have a better showing than the average London visitor. For one, New York being as close as it is to London, the flight is a relatively quick jaunt compared to other past London participants like San Diego, New Orleans or, in this year's case, Los Angeles. By comparison, I've seen the Giants play in both San Francisco and San Diego, two locations that are only marginally closer to New York than London despite being in the same country. For another, New York has a significant number of ex-pats in London and Giants games are typically played at times that aren't too inconvenient for a New York transplant in the UK to watch, 6 pm or 9 pm local time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Writing the pages

The Mets' 2016 season ended last Wednesday in a heartbreaking one-game playoff against the San Francisco Giants, who, in turn, had their own heartbreaking denouement last night against the Chicago Cubs. When we experience trauma, it is a common human response to bury ourselves in work or other preoccupations so we don't have to face our own pain. I'm not sure fi that is exactly what I've been doing for the past week, but as my mom will be selling her house in the next few weeks, and I must clean out my childhood in the process, that outlet for keeping one's head in the sand is certainly available.

I have been at this, on and off, for several months now, and each trip uncovers a new bevy of new gems, be they a fantastic unused homework organizer that features Bill Pulsipher, a Devils championship and Bryan McCabe, Wade Redden and Todd Bertuzzi in Fisherman jerseys, an inside look at your artistic skills when you were nine or your nuanced grasp of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The true gems, however, are the ticket stubs. My obsession with pristine ticket stubs is a curious quirk to many, but I feel quite strongly about their utility as record keepers. As I like to say, "Our lives are a book and ticket stubs are the pages." Of course, I didn't really feel this way when I was younger, but the idea must have been percolating, as I've discovered stubs dating back as far as a circus I attended in 1991.

I was hoping to find more ticket stubs over the course of this search than I have, but the few I've come across as well as references to games I attended in letters to and from my mother while I was at summer camp, have helped me color in my sports experiences more than I would have thought. On my most recent trip this past Monday, I found one of the true white whales of my youth. Late in the afternoon I was sifting through papers and tests from my middle and high school years, much of which would head straight to the recycling bin. It's astonishing that my attic has so many old algebra testss in it to go along with the occasional paper examining Catch-22 from Mr. Pedulla's sophomore-year English class. Lost in the muck of those old papers and Five Star Notebooks, however, was one of the white whales of my youth.

On Monday, I found the ticket stub from my first hockey game.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

NFL Picks Week Four: The possibility of missing those special moments

Last weekend did not exactly go according to plan. The very first part of it, a 5:30 am wake up on Friday morning so I could watch Geelong play Sydney with a spot in the Grand Final on the line. What I got in lieu of slumber was an opening quarter so brutal and unpleasant that I was reminded why I try to sleep as late as possible on Yom Kippur every year. The Cats showed up and put on a display by a team of mine in a big spot so poor that the only parallels that come to mind are Tom Glavine's meltdown on the final day of the 2007 season of Super Bowl XXXV. While the rest of the weekend had its positives, a Mets sweep of Philadelphia as the Wild Card race reaches its climax, a resounding win by Southampton against West Ham on Sunday morning, losses in a winnable game by Northwestern and a should-have-been-won game by the Giants left me with a bad taste in my mouth come Monday morning.

Fortunately, the Mets came to the rescue during the week, setting up what could be a postseason berth tomorrow night. Yes, the Mets lost handily on Monday. That came in an uncomfortable position, as New York faced the Miami Marlins in their first game following the tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez. I will not go into detail on my thoughts on that right here -- at least not now -- other than to say the weight and pain felt by the Marlins in that first game back must have been so deep that to mention it in the context of these silly games we watch trivializes its magnitude. But putting that topic aside, after the Mets lost a game in which the baseball was clearly secondary, they rebounded to win two straight as the offense becomes more and more potent as well as supplemented by, dare I say, Jay Bruce? Those victories, as well as a poor week from the Giants and Cardinals has allowed the stars to align just such that the Mets might be able to clinch a postseason berth tomorrow night for the second-consecutive season. That's something the Mets have accomplished just once prior in franchise history, and not in 16 years.

There's just one problem. If it does happen, I won't get to see it.

I had an emotional crisis last October when the Mets held a 2-1 lead in the NLDS against the Dodgers with an opportunity to clinch on their home field and the three hours of game play happened to coincide almost exactly with a plane flight I was taking from a wedding in Montana, via Denver. It is, of course, sometimes impossible to plan these things or, at least to expect others to plan their major life events around you (though I strongly feel that fall weddings are a crime against nature). Still, I try the best I can to avoid those uncomfortable scenarios. And yet, here we are.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's been 12 hours and I still can't believe this happened

Over the past 26 years I know that I have definitely been to at least 156 New York Mets games either in New York or elsewhere. The true number is almost certainly higher by a handful, but that is the number I can track through ticket stubs, mental photographic research or records in old letters, such as two games I was able to pin down after finding a record of them in a letter my mother wrote to me at summer camp in 2000 just a few weeks ago. I have seen the Mets lose at least 73 times. There is a good chance it is a few games higher (though somehow I've actually seen them win more than lose).

Last night was one of those 73. Some of those 73 losses have been comical blowouts such as a 15-2 drubbing at the hands of the Cubs and the immortal Cory Patterson on opening day in 2003. Others, such as Ryan Church's flyout to end the Mets' season and close down Shea Stadium in 2008, were of a far more brutal variety. But never, ever, ever, in my life, have I experienced a loss that inspired the particular brand of disillusioned funk-inducement that I found myself trapped in last night. Fans of famously hard-luck teams like to say their clubs continue to discover new ways to lose.

Well, the Mets pioneers on that frontier. Last night, they proved they just keep learning new things.

To appropriately paint the scene for which we found ourselves, one must understand the circumstances revolving around the team at this moment. The defending National League champions were, if not the most popular, certainly not an unpopular World Series pick this spring, largely on the backbone of a superb, young pitching staff that was coming into its own and likely to be bolstered by the return of Zack Wheeler from Tommy John surgery sometime this summer, as well as a competent lineup with one or two superb pieces (Yoenis Cespedes) or savvy additions (Neil Walker).

By mid-September the Mets have had three of their four highly-touted starters miss significant time, with only one, Steven Matz, returning at any point this season. Wheeler, meanwhile, never pitched a game and is hoping to be ready for Spring Training 2017. Cespedes, despite a superb season, has had nagging injuries, while Walker and David Wright are both done for the season with back issues, Lucas Duda has missed significant time with a spinal fracture, and several other players have spent time on the DL in an almost comically endless series of lineup crippling injuries.

And yet, somehow, the Mets, with 10 games left to play, through the sheer might of moxie, an ageless 43-year-old overweight pitcher, a blast from the past at the top of the lineup whom many thought they'd never see in a Mets uniform again, and a surprisingly large contribution from a farm system that was thought to be barren after last season's trade deadline, the Mets are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants in a Wild Card Bermuda Triangle in which one of the three teams will disappear in, at most, 11 days time. No team should be able to survive what the Mets have gone through to this point, and even with their favorable schedule and odds, there are still those head scratching moments that make you wonder where this team could be if it hadn't had so many inexplicably slip-ups. The prime example of this is the Braves, to whom the Mets have lost 10 of 19 games this season and been swept by twice at home. Twice! These are the same Braves who have played 133 games against the rest of Major League Baseball and won just 51 of them. The same Braves who are the worst team in the National League and second-worst in all of baseball.

Monday, September 19, 2016

NFL Picks Week Two: Hello, Hat Trick Day! It's been a while.

If I had a nickel for every time I started one of these blog entries by discussing how I've not held up my end of the bargain in writing regularly, I would continue to write about not holding up my end of the bargain so I would earn enough nickels to actually make the process worth while. It's a self-sustaining cycle, really. That, however, is not the case, so you should all feel lucky that I'm still doing it. This screed about missing my mark, you guys get for free.

So yeah, typically during football season I write every Thursday (or occasionally Friday) so I can give you the lowdown on how bad my picks for this weekend's NFL slate will be. This weekend, I assume, was no different (I honestly haven't checked them yet), but I really don't care. Why don't I care, you ask? Because, NFL picks aside, this was a pretty sweet weekend, culminating in a pretty sweet, much-needed Hat Trick Day as the denouement.

To wit: On Friday morning, that irksome Aussie Rules team we all know to hate -- the Hawthorn Hawks, duh -- had its incessant threepeat championship run snuffed out in an elimination final defeat to Western Bulldogs that made virtually everyone in Australia and approximately five people in the United States overjoyed that their reign of terror is done.

That night, the Mets kicked off a three-game series against the Twins with a shutout win and my grandmother met my girlfriend for the first time and, as far as I know, approved/was grateful I had a serious girlfriend.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

NFL Picks Week 1: We've got a Wild start to the 2016 season

Friends, I'm feeling wild these days. No, no, not simply because the Mets have erased a 5.5-game deficit and climbed into a virtual tie with St. Louis for the National League's second Wild Card spot. I've got a different kind of "wild" on my mind -- a Wildcat if you will.

I'm not speaking of any current Wildcats, obviously, not after their latest debacle. Instead I'm speaking of a Wildcat who has moved on to greener pastures, or, well, at least higher ones, both literally and figuratively, though given that it's Colorado I suppose we should be careful about saying that. Tonight, Trevor Siemian, perhaps the sixth or seventh best player to fill the role of quarterback for Northwestern since I began my freshman year there, will be the starting quarterback for a defending Super Bowl champion in its season opener.

Why is this interesting? Well, it's been a while.

Let me take you back to 1955, when an actual Wildcat legend by the name of Otto Graham was playing his final season with the Cleveland Browns. Yes, I know. Cleveland is not exactly known for its champions considering this year's Cavaliers were the first to call the city home in 52 years, but for a decade-long stretch the Browns were actually pretty good at that whole football thing, winning four AAFC championships, three NFL championships and appearing in the title game for the respective leagues for 10 straight seasons.

That's a pretty remarkable record, and throughout that entire run, the signal caller for Cleveland was the Hall of Famer with the number 14, a fact I only mention because it is my favorite number. Why this matters is because, like Siemian, Graham was a graduate of Northwestern University. While other NU alums have made appearances at Quarterback in the six decades since (Mike Kafka, anyone??), Graham is the last Wildcat to be an NFL team's No. 1 starting quarterback.

Until tonight.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thank the sweet, (maybe) merciful lord. College football is back.

It's been a while since I've graced these pages, and I will chalk some of that up to my annual summer jaunt outside the United States. This year's winner was a 20-day excursion through England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and then back to England, and while some of you might have visited this blog and assumed the lack of updates indicated a waning interest in sports, allow me to calm your fears.

1) I still love sports
2) I didn't update because of a brutal combination of busyness and laziness
3) The joke is on me because no one is actually visiting this blog

Not only has my interest in sports remained constant, but I've spent a chunk of August preoccupying myself with football. No, not that normal football we Americans are familiar with, but the Australian variety (Geelong is pretty good this year!), the English variety (Why can't Southampton win a game??) and, during my weekend in Dublin, football of a whole new variety. What is this zaniness, you ask? Why, that's Gaelic Football, a sport mostly played in Ireland that is totally bizarre looking, totally off the wall and totally awesome in just about every way.

When I travel I often try to expose myself to new experiences both sports-related and not, and this time around, that experience was standing in the middle of 'Hill 16' at Croke Park for a doubleheader of the All-Ireland Senior Gaelic Football quarterfinals. I originally bought these tickets because they were the only ones remaining at 5 am when I woke up early to buy them online only to fall right back asleep. As I sat through the first quarterfinal, between Tyrone and Mayo, more and more Dublin fans slowly began to file in until it became apparent to me that I was actually standing in the middle of Dublin's main supporters section.

If you squint really hard you can see me.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Entering my Mike Piazza year

Every year around this time -- and by this time I mean, "on July 14th" -- I complete another trip around the sun and begin to get more and more confused by how high the number gets. After all, in a practical sense you always know you're going to age. You know one day you'll grow older, you'll have gray hairs if you have any at all, you know one day you will no longer by young.

You know that one day, you'll turn 31.

Then again, if you look at my lifestyle, you might question that I've actually gotten this old, but that's an entirely different discussion. I still live in the same apartment as when I was 22 and the growing collection of bobbleheads on my window sill remains a testament to my refusal to grow up completely, but I suppose I'm trying. On that window sill is one bobblehead that may stand out the most, a bobblehead of Mike Piazza acquired a few years ago and long pursued because in the salad days of 2002, bobblehead dolls were limited to those 13 and under, and I was denied a Piazza giveaway at the gates of Shea Stadium.

This is a fact I expect to earn interest from almost none of you and sympathy from even fewer, but I bring this up because when I think of 31, the first -- only -- thing I think of is Mike Piazza. As sports fans, we are most malleable in our youth, most prone to developing loyalties and emotionally connecting with favorite players. We have not yet realized that there is a business side to the game and that players often jump from team to team because rather than aiming to fulfill the emotional bonds you imagine they are often just professionals looking for a job. In my youth, there were very few that entered that exclusive club. Phil Simms, Martin Brodeur, Claude Lemieux and Mike Piazza. And of that group, Piazza stands above them all.

As a result, I have come to playfully calling 31 my "Mike Piazza year". Indeed, in two weeks I will be at Citi Field when Piazza's 31 becomes the fourth number retired in Mets franchise history, and I've insisted to friends that I'm only turning 31 out of tribute and deference to my childhood hero and his fantastic, always-evolving facial hair. Otherwise, I would just make time stop.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

You can, briefly, go home again

There comes a point in everyone's life when the house they grew up in is no longer their home. It is a significant developmental milestone for some of us and while I won't claim that moment for me is now -- I haven't lived there in eight years -- there are some times when its place and what it holds are thrust back into your consciousness. For me, that time has come.

My mother has decided to sell my childhood home, and with that comes many responsibilities on everyone in the family, in particular the need for me to clean out my bedroom for the first time in 30 years. Apparently, using your parents' home as a storage facility isn't the greatest idea, and bit by bit I am chipping away at the monumental task of clearing out the house.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. In sorting through old drawings of football players and Wolverine from 1993, postcards my grandmother sent me from Spain in 1989 and a copy of the 2001 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue that I have apparently been hiding in a draw for 15 years I've entered a lengthy and at times overwhelming walk down memory lane. In between issues of Sports Illustrated proclaiming that nothing could stop Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods or Michael Vick, I uncovered some shocking discoveries such as the fact that Westminster Abbey hasn't changed its tickets in 20 years and the circus somehow cost $45 back in 1991.

As you might have guessed, though, while English cathedrals and parades of elephants are fascinating, the real finds (with the notable exception of one nearly complete technodrome toy from my fifth birthday) were generally of the sports variety.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Facing our pain: 2016 MLB season preview

This is now the fourth time I've paid a visit to Kansas City, the Paris of the Plains, the City of Fountains, Cow Town. I like it here. I'm not sure I could really live here, but my friends in town are a good group, the atmosphere is overtly friendly, and as the menu at tonight's restaurant declared in the most Kansas City-ish of statements, the food is right up my alley.

If there is one food item it lacks, however, it is a good bagel. I know this because at 6:45 this morning, I went to my local bagel shop in Long Island City and bought two dozen of them before immediately boarding a plane for the plains. As I disembarked in Kansas City from a jet filled with dozens of Mets and Royals caps, one of which was worn by Royals fan Rob Riggle, I grabbed the bagels out of the overheard compartment and a young man in a Royals hat next to me asked if that was me fulfilling my end of a bet after last year's World Series. He and his friends wagered the cost of fantasy camp.

He was spot on.

Before the 2015 Fall Classic matchup was set, I had already discussed plans with my KC crew to visit them for the opening series of the 2016 season as it had been announced that the Royals would host the Mets in the first game of the year. What followed was an unexpected chain of events that led the two otherwise unconnected franchises on a collision course with a championship at stake. If you know me, which I assume you must if you're bothering to read this, you know how that went.

I need not re-hash the pain and inner turmoil I experienced when the Mets lost the World Series just five months ago, but I will have to face it this week as I make my way to the K to watch the Mets and Royals open the 2016 Major League Baseball season. I will decide in the next 18 hours if I want to pony up the cash to see the Royals raise their 2015 World Series champions banner on Sunday night with the runner-ups watching from the third base dugout, but I already have tickets to see the Royals receive their rings on Tuesday afternoon, and that might be brutal enough.

On Sunday night the Mets and their fans who made the trek to this town so unlike their own, will come face to face with those three or four moments on which the 2015 World Series turned. Jeurys Familia's ill-advised quick pitch in Game 1. Daniel Murphy's crucial errors in Game 4. Matt Harvey's last pitch and Lucas Duda's errant throw home in the decisive Game 5. They will all flash through our eyes in addition to the Kauffman Stadium scoreboard, and even with the impending excitement of a new season full of promise and potential, these reminders will be harsh, and the belief will hang heavy that it very well could have been the Mets playing this opener with the bragging rights. It could be their fans claiming victory in these silly wagers.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Oh, screw it.

I've done a dangerous thing this spring. A very dangerous thing. After years of pain, disappointment and malaise, I've allowed myself to actually get excited about the upcoming 2016 New York Mets season. I have plenty of reason to be excited obviously. The Mets are the reigning National League champions after a stunning second-half run last season. In the interim they've bolstered their bullpen, improved their infield, somehow re-signed Yoenis Cespedes and, well, there is, of course, that stellar, young starting pitching. Everything seems in place for what should at least be a pretty decent shot at a repeat World Series appearance.

But then, on Thursday, this arrived in the mail.

I've said before how I pride myself on rationality and prefer to ignore ominous portents, jinxes and superstitions. They are all nonsense with little basis in logic or reason. Well, except for one. It is a scourge so vile, so effective, so all-encompassing as to inject fear into the hearts and minds of any fan base, particularly one as psychologically fragile as the hordes in Flushing.

The Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx is real. The magazine itself has statistically given credence to the notion, and in its wake lay dozens, nay, hundreds of broken hearts and, on occasion, limbs. In this arena, it is seemingly a plague unlike any other, and the Mets are no stranger to its far-reaching effects. As recently as last fall, then-Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was on the postseason tear to end all tears, earning him a spot on the cover. A week later Murphy's bat went cold and his glove was responsible for two crushing errors in a Game 4 loss as the Mets fell to the Royals in the 2016 World Series.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

March Madness 2016: The year of the perfect bracket

You guys. It's going to happen. I can feel it. After so many years of straining and stressing it's finally my time. After 16 years of filling out brackets, this is the year I go for perfection. This is the year I go 63-0 because play-in games are generally stupid.

This is the year I fill out the perfect bracket.

Now, I know what you're saying. "Dave, filling out a perfect NCAA Bracket is virtually impossible." Sure, there's that argument to be made. But in recent years I've recognized that I have a cause, a purpose, that I have been ignoring for years. For you see, I am a graduate of Northwestern University. And as a graduate of Northwestern University, I have committed to a life of never having a vested interest in the NCAA Tournament.

Rooting for the Wildcats is a nasty, brutish and, unfortunately, long experience in which you know the end result will never involve dancing. Northwestern, after all, is the only power conference program to never reach the NCAA Tournament and even our few mid-major comrades in arms are beginning to fall off the map. In recent years, Buffalo, Norfolk State, Stony Brook and Cal State-Bakersfield have all managed to reach March Madness and even NU's snake-bitten former coach Bill Carmody somehow rode a purple wave into the bracket this season. The Cats, however, will be watching on TV Thursday for the 77th year in a row.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. Much like Bender's inability to taste freeing him of personal preference so he can focus on pure flavor, I have no emotional pangs stretching me in awkward directions when it comes to selection bias. This is something I have not recognized prior to this season, when even 20 wins and some near upsets at Maryland and Michigan weren't even good enough to reach the NIT. Now, however, it is clear. As a Northwestern fan, I have been given a gift, and with my mind free of incursion from popular passions, as Thomas Jefferson might have called them, I am able to harness my mental energy toward picking the perfect NCAA Tournament field.

There's simply no other conclusion to draw. Why else would Northwestern's men's basketball program be granted such futility if not for the purpose of creating the possibility that one of its alums might be granted the opportunity to pursue this noble effort without interference? It must be the case. And after past flirtations with a perfect bracket that have lasted almost two full days into the three-week-long tournament I can only assume these were past hints of what is possible. It must be someone.

And maybe it's me.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

And so it begins.

It has been a long time since a baseball season has left me antsy and anxious for the next go-around to begin starting with the moment the previous one ends. And why is that, you ask? Well, if you've never read this blog or, you know, met me, you may not realize that I made the pivotal lifetime commitment of rooting for the New York Mets, a professional sports franchise that has turned sadistic treatment of its fans into a raison d'etre.

Make no mistake. I love the Mets. My dedication to this team has grown to be an irreplaceable part of my identity. But the last decade has been a trying one, with 97-win team letting the pennant slip through its fingers, back-to-back September collapses and then another half decade in baseball purgatory. I need not recount the pain. If you know me, you know it well.

But after years of walking through the darkness, something strange happened last season. The Mets became fun again.

The 2015 season, despite its painful, error-wracked ending, might have been the most fun I've ever had watching the Mets. It was a campaign so exciting, so packed with unanticipated child-like joy that I actually took a daily three-hour break each morning from my Japanese vacation to keep track of the Amazins' return to relevance. And from the moment that wild ride to the 2015 World Series ended in the early hours of Nov. 2, 2015, one though has remained a constant in my head.

"Is it baseball season yet?"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

If this blog were my baby, I would be in prison for neglect

And rightfully so. I should know, having recently visited my newest nephew in London, that infants can't really take care of themselves. That might be the only way in which infants and blogs are similar, but they certainly don't write themselves on their own, and in that respect I have failed, well, this blog. I don't think the rest of you were really waiting on pins and needles for my next entry, even if I took worse care of this space than Cam Newton took of the football on Sunday night.

But, you see, it's been a busy five and a half weeks or so since I most recently graced this space with my ramblings. Typically I'm pretty active here in the month of January because the NFL playoffs are happening and, man, I usually have way too much to say about the NFL playoffs. In this particular case, I totally dropped the ball in terms of giving you my thoughts and predictions, which is probably a good thing since I would have taken the Panthers to win Super Bowl 50 and the Cardinals prior to that.


This January though, I was a tad busy. My life has undergone some significant changes, which unfortunately left me too busy to blog most days. I'm sure this impacted your time, well, not at all, but there are some big topics I intended to write on that impact me both in terms of this blog and in terms of my life that I should probably get you all up to speed on. Brace yourself.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

NFL Picks Week Seventeen: The one time I'm rooting for the Eagles

Well, this is awkward.

I often tell people that while the first team I ever learned to hate is the Dallas Cowboys -- an uncontrollable emotional response that can be traced to Emmitt Smith's "Separated Shoulder Game" in 1994 -- the team I hate the most is a much closer rival. The Philadelphia Eagles lie just 90 miles south of New York City and over the years have been the root of so much pain and animosity. I was not alive for the Miracle at the Meadowlands, but I remember all too well the frustration of the Miracle's second coming, as do I remember all of the other difficult losses, thrilling victories and countless epithets thrown my way when I've so much as dared to enter Lincoln Financial Field. The hatred runs so deep that there is almost nothing on this Earth that could every get me to actually root for these Eagles on a Sunday in which they face my Giants.


This weekend, as the curtain falls on another fruitless campaign for the Giants -- as well as the Eagles -- we come to one of those ultra rare moments when these rivals are facing off and, for some obscure, highly complex reason, I'm actually hoping the Eagles fly.

How could this be? How did we come to such a pass? What confluence of events could possibly have led me astray to this unholy desire?

The answer stretches across nearly a decade of NFL history, as we look to Week 8 of the 2007 season, when the Giants and Miami Dolphins played in a rainy 13-10 snore-fest at Wembley Stadium in London. The game, which I told my father "set football back in England 10 years" was the first of the NFL's annual international series, which has now grown to as many as three games in London each season. While some teams, the Rams and Jaguars specifically, play there annually, the rest of the league seems to have been taking a steady rotation. The Giants, however, have not been back.