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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

June 23, 2009 under NBA

Say this for the 109th US Open at Bethpage; it certainly wasn’t boring.  There was Lucas Glover, the surprise winner whose steadiness belied the fact that he cheap_seats_3_owumhad but one previous Tour victory on his resume.  Ricky Barnes, another unknown who set a thirty-six hole Open scoring record, collapsed in the final round and finished tied for second.  David Duval, the best player in the world before Tiger, found some of his old magic and was one of three runners-up; his first top ten finish in seven years.  The third to finish two shots off the pace, Phil Mickelson, enjoyed a weekend long outpouring of love and support from New York fans sympathetic to his wife Amy’s battle against breast cancer.  And, then, there was the rain.  Rain that postponed play, soaked fans, diverted parking, moved tee boxes and, mostly, exposed the USGA as an organization that really doesn’t think well on its feet. 

 In sending golfers out for Thursday’s opening round in a steady downpour that was predicted to get much worse, tourney officials not only made a terrible error in judgment but also set into motion a full four days of bad decisions.  First, they informed fans who saw very little golf that their tickets would not be refunded or honored on another day, a decision they rescinded after being beaten up in the press and on the airwaves.  Then, on Friday, they stayed with the original schedule of tee times, resulting in the very strange situation where many in the field played two rounds while others, namely Tiger Woods, played just twelve holes.  Finally, late Friday and then again late on Saturday, the USGA had players start the next day’s round, even though there would only be enough light for two or three holes, at best.

 Here’s what should have happened.  Thursday’s first round never should have started.  Those that went off that morning were put at a severe disadvantage for the rest of the tournament simply because, over the first two rounds, they played a distinctly different golf course than those who played thirty six on Friday, the only day that saw decent weather.  Those golfers enjoyed a second round with soft greens and fairways; conditions that changed on Saturday.  Had the first round been postponed, officials could have sent foursomes, not threesomes, off of the front and back nines in the morning and afternoon, creating a level playing field for everyone.  As it was, not one of the more than sixty golfers who teed off early on the first day finished the tournament below par while just three were in the top twelve. 

 The allure of holding the Open at Bethpage is that it’s a public course, one played by the best in the game as well as the fans behind the ropes.  Maybe next time, they’ll take it a step further and enlist the services of a local starter, as well. 

 

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Did a double take while watching the Mets the other night.  During an in-game spot advertising Thursday afternoon’s game, the Mets urged kids to, “play hookey from school.”  Not such a big deal, as public schools close this week, but I couldn’t help wondering how someone in the PR Dept. thought it was a good idea.

 

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Kudos to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for cleaning up the mess left by the criminal justice system in Florida. Despite pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter, Cleveland Browns’ receiver Donte’ Stallworth will serve just thirty days in jail.  While Stallworth will also serve two years of house arrest, compensate the victim’s family and have his license permanently revoked, none of these sanctions would have prohibited him from resuming his career.  Goodell however would have none of it, suspending Stallworth indefinitely. 

 

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We may never know the actual reason behind Alex Rodriguez’s absence from the Yankee lineup in Florida.  His two game benching may have come about as a result of a conference call between ARod, Yankee brass and team doctors, been mandated by Brian Cashman or handed down by Joe Girardi after Rodriguez broke curfew.  While each version of the story was reported in some publication and debated at length, the one constant theme was that the third baseman’s poor production is a result of his being fatigued.  Funny, fatigue is the chief symptom of the withdrawal experienced by many after prolonged steroid use.  But that couldn’t be true of ARod, as he only used the juice that one time when his cousin, Sancho Panza, stuck the needle in his fanny.  Just that one time, right, Alex?

 

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It’s become the common belief among Knick fans that all of the team’s troubles will disappear next summer when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sign on with the team.  That the odds of that actually happening are much longer than their optimism would allow them to admit is a subject not often addressed.  The reality, however, is that it is more likely than not that neither will be in a Knicks uniform on Opening Night 2010.  To that end, team President Donnie Walsh must focus on the more traditional avenue for building a team; player development.

 

New York has the eighth pick in this year’s draft and many have projected that it’ll be used to select Davidson’s Stephen Curry, the best shooter in college basketball who can also play the point.  With Curry in the fold along with last year’s first rounder, Danilo Galinari and holdovers Wilson Chandler and David Lee, Walsh would accomplish two things.  Establish a core group solid enough to attract big name free agents or, if that fails, a collection of young stars capable of growing into an elite squad.  Either way, the only logical way to proceed is under the impression that the draft is significantly more important than free agency.   At least until next summer. 

 

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