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The View from the Cheap Seats

January 13, 2010 under Cheap Seats, College Basketball, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL

By Eddie Mayrose

New York Jets Both Lucky and Good

The Jets went into Cincinnati last Saturday having spent as much time defending their Wild Card position cheap_seats_3_owumas they had preparing for the game, itself.  Blasted for having punched their ticket through the generosity of the Bengals and Indianapolis Colts; two teams with nothing to play for that had virtually rolled over and played dead for Gang Green in the season’s final two games, the Jets took the field with a little something more at stake than just a playoff game.  They wanted to prove they belonged.

And prove it they did, behind Mark Sanchez’s best contest of the season.  They sent the Bengals home for the winter in a performance that, while not as dominating as the previous week’s, saw them control every facet of the game from start to finish.  Head Coach Rex Ryan had raised more than a few eyebrows with some of his pre game statements; like calling his Jets the Super Bowl favorites, but his charges made him look like a prophet, for the first round at least, and have some thinking that maybe Ryan is crazy like a fox.

While the Jets are still the longest of long shots, there is a budding sense among players and fans alike that something special could actually happen.  Cursed for most of their existence by some of the most excruciating losses and disappointments the NFL has seen, these Jets have actually had the breaks go their way over the last month.  Their late season matchups with Indy and Cincy could not have been better timed, the myriad of teams that needed to lose in order for the Jets to advance did just that, there could not have been a better first round matchup than the one they drew with the Bengals and, finally, Baltimore’s rout of New England brought a second round tilt with San Diego; a daunting foe, indeed, but a far more favorable opponent than Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Are these guys really the Jets?

The one thing Big Rexy and his boys need to guard against, however, is the idea that they’re now playing Jets Patriots Footballwith house money; as if last week’s win validated a successful season and whatever happens next doesn’t matter.  While each of those points is true, to a degree, the NFL offers a very small window for teams chasing a title.  No matter how young, no matter how talented, franchises can never be sure how many opportunities they’ll get for championship glory.  The Jets should know this better than any as their Super Bowl drought is longer than every team but the Detroit Lions and is marred by missed field goals, snapped Achilles tendons and muddy fields.  Ryan has given every indication that he’ll keep his foot on the gas pedal and his team’s confidence seems to be growing because of it.  Now, let’s see how much of the newfound good fortune they can transport to San Diego.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

In the aftermath of the Jets’ first round victory came the post game comments of SNY commentator Adam Schein and WFAN host Mike Francesa.  Schein, on the SNY post game show Saturday night, came BrownFrancesa02smtdown very hard on punter Steve Weatherford, who was held out of the game due to illness, according to the team.  Schein, who gives no impression of ever having worn a football helmet, questioned Weatherford’s character; stating that the illness had better be serious.  The Jets would later reveal that Weatherford had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, something he’ll need to have surgically corrected in the off season.

That revelation did nothing to dissuade Francesa, who went down the same path Sunday morning, only to be corrected by a colleague.  That he was unaware that the punter’s condition had been made public the night before is not surprising as his indifference is exceeded only by his arrogance.  Each of these gas bags missed what was obvious to most: that since Weatherford was, in fact, on the sideline and in uniform, his condition must have been very serious for the Jets to hold him out of the game.  But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of sounding like a big, tough ballplayer?

NCAA Basketball Shill Vitale Loses Credibility

After thirty years, it’s time for ESPN’s lead hypocrite, Dick Vitale, to pack up his self-proclaimed “one eyed ziggy” act and go away forever.  While it’s always been difficult to stomach the superfluous nonsense he spews during his network’s broadcasts, he now regularly ignores and, in fact, rewrites the history of the dick_vitale_1coaches and programs whose fannies he chooses to smooch.

During Tuesday’s matchup of Florida and Kentucky, Vitale went into a rant about Mark McGwire, repeating what he’d said that morning on “Mike and Mike”.  He used the term “cheater” numerous times, referring to how sick he was of the steroid mess in baseball and how he sought refuge by talking up the game between the Wildcats and Gators.  A game that, incidentally, featured one of the college game’s more infamous cheaters, John Calipari, who’d been identified as such just weeks before by Vitale’s ESPN colleague, Bob Knight.  Not surprisingly, Vitale chose to ignore the issue. Not only was much of the telecast filled with Vitale’s praise for Calipari’s coaching ability, a graphic soon popped up naming the Kentucky coach as Vitale’s selection as Coach of the Year through this point in the season.  Finally, he mentioned that Calipari is attempting to become only the second coach to take three teams to the Final Four.  A complete rewriting of the facts, actually, as both of Calipari’s previous trips to the Championship round with UMass and Memphis have been vacated due to NCAA infractions.  According to the NCAA’s own records, Calipari’s never been to a Final Four.  I guess Vitale didn’t get the news.  Regardless, until he’s told by ESPN to take his ball and go home; something that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be imminent, any game that he works will be an extremely difficult and annoying listen.

New Jersey Devils Star Toils in Virtual Anonymity

If Devils’ goalie  Martin Brodeur  had been as dominant over the course of his career in any other sport or for any other New York area team, there’d already be a statue of him standing in front of a stadium.

New York Knicks Haunted in Oklahoma

During their two day stay in Oklahoma City, New York Knicks forwards Eddy Curry and Jared Jefferies complained that they were unable to sleep due to the fact that their hotel, The Skirvin, is haunted by ghosts.   I’ll leave you to your own punchlines.

Mark McGwire’s Weak Apology Does Settle One Score

Why would we have expected anything different from Mark McGwire?  Why would we think that, unlike all of the other steroid cheats who have come forward, sort of, that he’d be the one to completely open up mark-mcgwire-congressabout his own use?  Sorry, wasn’t going to happen.  Despite the earnest attempts of MLB Network’s Bob Costas to guide him to the full disclosure necessary for forgiveness, McGwire resisted throughout.  As a result, he looked like someone who came forward only because it was a requirement for his employment with the St. Louis Cardinals.  However, despite the fact that we learned very little that we didn’t already suspect, McGwire inadvertently settled one major debate about himself.

Forget his ridiculous assertions that the steroids were low dosage, that they did nothing to improve his performance or that he always wanted to come forward about his use of PED’s. It’s all nonsense.  Focus, instead, on his admission that, due to his frustration with chronic injury, he decided against retirement and started using steroids in 1996 to help him overcome his physical woes and get back on the field. By that very statement, he is also confirming that in no way does he deserve to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Prior to the ’96 season, McGwire had posted 220 HR and 657 RBI over his first ten seasons; a far cry from consideration for the Hall.  He had appeared in just 74 games over the previous two seasons, prompting his thoughts of retirement.  In 1996, however, McGwire embarked on a four year slugfest that saw him launch an inhuman 245 home runs. So, if we connect the dots, what McGwire actually told Costas was that, had it not been for steroids, he’d have retired with the 220 dingers that would have left him off of every voter’s ballot.

Baseball is a game in which cheating has long been revered.  Hitters cork their bats while teams grow the grass high to aid slow infielders and water down the dirt to foil basestealers.  The 1951 Giants won a pennant aided by an employee in the scoreboard stealing the other team’s signs, journeyman pitcher Mike Scott won a Cy Young by scuffing the ball and spitballer Gaylord Perry has a plaque in Cooperstown.  Oddly, fans and players alike look at these indiscretions with a kind of twisted admiration.  To that end, baseball got exactly what it asked for with these steroid cheats.  I just wish they’d have a little more respect for our intelligence when they come forward and not hand us the ridiculous crap that we saw from McGwire on Monday.

The View from the Cheap Seats

September 23, 2009 under Cheap Seats, MLB, NBA, NFL

By Eddie Mayrose

Giants Lost in the Shuffle

With the Jets off to a stunning 2-0 start, much of the sports discussion in New York cheap_seats_3_owumhas become different versions of, “Everything you always wanted to know about Rex but were afraid to ask.” Unfortunately, the media frenzy surrounding Gang Green’s unexpected success under its fiery, new Head Coach has pushed an even better story off of the back pages.

In the August 31st edition of Sports Illustrated, Giants’ GM Jerry Reese discussed how the team’s Wide Receiver position would be impacted by the loss of Plaxico Burress and the organization’s decision not to trade for an established veteran.  “We love developing our own guys and we feel like we have quality receivers to get the job done”,  he said at the time.  Reese looked very smart Sunday night as  Mario Manningham and Steve Smith each pulled in ten balls for over 100 yards and a touchdown in the Giants big win over Dallas.

The thing is, Reese’s quote was just a different take on similar statements he’s made regarding Head Coach Tom Coughlin, QB Eli Manning and an untested Offensive Line over the course of the last few years.  Under Reese, the Giants have established themselves as a consistently competitive team simply by sticking to their guns; making sound evaluations and then supporting them when things get tough.  So far, it’s produced four straight playoff appearances and a Super Bowl.  So, enjoy the excitement of the Meadowlands’ other tenants.  The Giants actually prefer that you do.  But don’t lose sight of the fact that consistency beats occasional success every day of the week.

Jets’ Fast Start Fools Even Most Loyal Followers

Cheap Seater and Jets season ticket holder Lou Ricciardi, who would have opted to start Kellen Clemens over Mark Sanchez because of what he expected to be a disastrous start, chimed in this week on the euphoria sweeping Jets’ nation.  “I can’t believe how wrong I was but I hope they continue to prove me incorrect all year” said Ricciardi.   “I’ve had season tickets for twenty years and I’ve never heard the Meadowlands that loud.”

We’ve seen this kind of quick turnaround under a new head coach before.   In his first season, Herm Edwards won the AFC East only to oversee three ensuing flops while Eric Mangini was dubbed “Man-Genius” after his first year netted a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance.  It seems a little different with Ryan, though, if only because he’s recognized that the first thing that needs to be changed is the team’s attitude.  He’s imposed his attack mentality on his defensive charges and fired up the fans in the process.  That he rubbed one in the face of archrival Bill Bellichick is even better. But, after all of the phone calls to ticket holders and pregame speeches, this is still a team with a rookie QB that has struggled in December throughout its history.  If Ryan and Sanchez can finish the season the way they’ve started it, the Jets may finally have themselves a winner.

On The Joba Training

Now that Phil Hughes has firmly established himself as a reliable eighth inning reliever, the Yankees have no alternative but to use Joba Chamberlain as their fourth starter in the postseason.  With that in mind, it’s probably a good idea to get Chamberlain some more work; as his latest outing in Seattle clearly indicates that the Joba Rules put in place to limit his innings are also limiting his effectiveness.

Shooting Guard

Apparently misunderstanding his coach’s instructions to “drive and shoot”, Cleveland Cavs’ guard DeLonte West was arrested last week for carrying two unlicensed handguns and a shotgun while riding his motorcycle.  After two years of passing the ball to LeBron James, seems like West finally decided it was his turn to take a shot.

Sore Loser

When Bill Bellichick offers his dead fish handshake to an opposing head coach after a game, he looks like a jerk.  But when he brushes off a rookie quarterback who goes out of his way to shake his hand, as Mark Sanchez did on Sunday, he deserves a smack.

Manuel Labor

A few weeks ago, I wrote in this space that it was impossible to hold manager Jerry Manuel accountable for the Mets’ terrible record because of the team’s extensive injury list.  However, after watching how his undermanned charges have begun to phone in the balance of the season, I’m wondering if Manuel has actually lost his squad.  Bad is one thing.  Apathetic is inexcusable.

Fans Enjoying Last Hurrah?

Lost in the euphoria of the Jets upset of New England in their home opener was the fact that many of the fans that made up the most raucous crowd I’ve ever heard at a Jets’ game will probably not be there next season because they can’t afford the Personal Seat Licensing fees. And, it may be a more difficult transition than they think, as local TV blackouts of home games loom if the Jets can’t fill those seats.

Out of Timeouts

Though it’s completely understandable that a coach would want to use a timeout to freeze the opposing kicker before a last second field goal attempt, someone needs to explain to me how it’s more effective when it’s called at the last possible second.  We see this nonsense every week; most recently on Sunday night in Dallas.   The kick goes through, the winners start to celebrate and the line judge comes running in to wave the whole thing off.  It’s something that the NFL needs to address before a player is injured on one of these non-plays.

Redskins Rookie Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot

Sunday night, after the Redskins stumbled through a 9-7 win over the hapless Rams in a game that left the hometown fans dissatisfied, Skins’ rookie line backer Robert Henson, listed by Washington as inactive for the first two games of the season, shared this little missive on his Twitter account. “All you fake half hearted Skins fan can .. I won’t go there but I dislike you very strongly, don’t come to Fed Ex to boo dim wits!!” “The question is who are you to say you know what’s best for the team and you work 9 to 5 at Mcdonalds.”

Ignore for a second the obvious flaw in his thinking that anyone working 9 to 5 at McDonald’s could even afford the absurd cost of a Redskins’ game ticket.  Focus instead on the ironic point that, after leaving  TCU without a degree and no real indication from the Skins that he has a future in the league, Henson may very well become the biggest employee at his own local McDonald’s.  That is, if the fast food giant deems him a qualified applicant.

The View from the Cheap Seats

July 7, 2009 under Cheap Seats, MLB

cheap_seats_3_owumSports Illustrated runs a small piece each week called, This Week’s Sign That The Apocalypse Is Upon Us.  Often funny and always eye popping; it lists incredibly bad decisions or actions from all areas of the sports world.  It’s one of the features I immediately turn to when the magazine arrives in the mail.  Every once in a while, I have my own ideas about something that should be listed, like the Little League All Star team I recently saw that had four players wearing the following numbers: 02, 05, 07, 08.  Or the marketing of a weekday afternoon game by an MLB team that encouraged students to “Play hookey from school.”  I didn’t have to wait for my SI this week, however, as FOX Sports and fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers gave early notice.

On Saturday, during steroid cheat Manny Ramirez’s second game back after serving a fifty game suspension, FOX cut away from their Mets-Phillies broadcast to show each of Manny’s at bats against the Padres.  Just as they would if a player was chasing 3,000 hits, 500 HR or some in-season record or streak.  In other words, FOX afforded Ramirez, the first big star to violate MLB’s current policy, the same treatment given the likes of Henry Aaron, Rod Carew or George Brett. That no one at the network thought this was a bad message to send is shameful.

And what of the Dodger fans that drove to San Diego to cheer their hero from underneath their Manny wigs?  This is the same guy that had no concern for his organization, teammates or fans while he was so carelessly using the PED’s that forced his suspension.  Do you think any of them experienced such strong feelings of forgiveness when Alex Rodriguez was caught?  Or Roger Clemens?  To single out the fan base of any one team is unfair, though, as steroid cheats are welcomed back by fans throughout the game as long as they are productive.  Something to keep in mind the next time someone gets his shorts in a bunch about whether any of these guys belong in the Hall of Fame.  No matter how many times fans say, “No”, their actions tell a completely different story

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Speaking of Manny, is anyone smiling more than Red Sox GM Theo Epstein?  Last year, faced with the impossible task of getting equal value for one of the game’s superstars, Epstein not only removed a problem from his clubhouse but replaced him with Jason Bay, currently the AL’s RBI leader.

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All right, I’ll admit it.  I did watch much of the fifth set of the Wimbledon Men’s (I’m sorry, Gentlemen’s) Final on Sunday.  In what turned into a marathon contest, Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick for his record setting 15th Grand Slam title.  One thing that made no sense to me, however, was that the fifth set went thirty games as Federer finally prevailed 16-14 while, in contrast, Federer posted 7-6 victories in sets two and three via tiebreakers.  My question is, how can a championship event be governed by two sets of rules?  Some will say that a title shouldn’t be decided by a tiebreaker.  I get that.  Others point out that, without the tie breaker, sets two and three could have gone as long as the fifth.  Another valid point.  But neither explains away the silliness of two different rules being used in the same match.  Isn’t it possible that Roddick may have won one of those sets absent the tiebreaker?  Whatever your opinion, I’ve already spent entirely too much time discussing tennis.

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Many are impressed by the intensity that Jimmy Rollins brings to each of the Phillies’ matchups with the Mets.  That he is able to raise his game to such a high level during every meeting with his hated rival is amazing.  I’m wondering, however, if Philly brass is a little annoyed that he’s batting about .200 against the rest of the NL.  They’re paying him to play against every team, aren’t they?

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So, let me see if I’ve got this straight.  Despite Joba Chamberlain’s tremendous success as a reliever, the Yankees are adamant about keeping him in the starting rotation no matter how much he struggles.  But, when it comes to Philip Hughes, they refuse to return him to his natural position as a starter because of his success in the bullpen.  Huh?

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Complain all you want about MLB’s All Star selection process, and much of the griping is warranted, but every once in a while, they get one right.  Such is the case this year with Tim Wakefield, a true professional and one of baseball’s good guys.  Since bursting on the scene with the Pirates in 1991, Wakefield has fashioned a very impressive career, mostly in Boston, that has included just about everything except an All Star appearance.  That it comes to him for the first time at 42 years of age is a thrill for his many fans, one of whom, I must confess, is me.

About twelve years ago, the Hausier’s Krowedum Fantasy Baseball League’s annual junket took its members to Fenway Park.  Well, Boston actually, as more than a few of the boys never made it out of the Cask and Flagon.  Those of us that did make it to the game found that our seats were in the first row behind the Bosox bullpen in right field.  Wakefield wasn’t pitching that day and was hanging with the relief crew.   Sometime around the fourth inning he came out to get a little work in and struck up a conversation with us.  He proceeded to pull a chair up to the fence and spend the rest of the game as one of our contingent.  He went into detail about the knuckleball; how he holds it and files his cuticles for a better grip.  We laughed at his response to the question of his catchers’ opinion of the knuckler: “They hate my guts.”  There were arguments over the worth of certain players in the game as he marveled at how our team loyalties dictated how we felt about different guys.  When one of them, Bobby Bonilla, came up to bat, we bet him a hot dog that the ex-Met would strike out.  Wakefield demanded we pay up after Bonilla’s double and happily downed the dog.  I have no recollection of who won that game, but I still have the baseball he tossed me when it was over and won’t ever forget how much fun it was to watch a game while getting a big leaguer’s perspective.  Here’s hoping AL manager Joe Maddon recognizes the opportunity to do something special and gives Wakefield the ball next Tuesday.

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