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The View from the Cheap Seats by Eddie Mayrose

March 27, 2008 under Cheap Seats

It has become the greatest event on our yearly sports schedule.  The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament sends even the most casual fans into a three week frenzy of bracket watching.  Last Wednesday, not many of us were aware that Western Kentucky had even won its conference tourney.  As they lace up their sneakers tonight, however, most of us now know that the Hilltoppers’ leading scorer is senior guard, Courtney Lee.  Every year, even with all of the whining on Selection Sunday from the teams that were left out, a Goliath like Tennessee finds itself hanging on for dear life against Davids like American and Butler.  Any of the so called experts that think the tournament accommodates too many of the smaller conferences should test his theory this week in an open forum on the campus of Davidson College.
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As the curtain rises on another baseball season, it’s hard not to notice some conspicuous holes in the rosters of our two local teams despite all of the money each has spent.  In Flushing, general manager Omar Minaya may very well have assembled the National league’s best pitching staff but, it remains to be seen how often the Mets will be able to put a healthy lineup on the field behind those hurlers.  Over the bridge, on River Avenue, the Steinbrenners put their $200 million dollar Yankees into the hands of three young pitchers and a manager with only one year of experience.  It will be interesting to see how either team reacts to a slow start.
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It was ironic to listen to Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach, Seth Greenberg, moan about his team’s exclusion from the tournament.  Do you think the Hokies’ fortunes may have been changed had they bothered to recruit Davidson guard, Stephen Curry?  After all, Curry’s father, longtime NBA sharpshooter, Dell, is one of only four Virginia Tech players to have his number retired.
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After three months, six tournaments, five days and a rain delay, Tiger Woods finally lost in 2008.  Only 32, Woods already has 64 Tour victories; just 18 shy of the all-time record.  You have to go all the way back to Babe Ruth to find an athlete dominating his sport the way Tiger is right now.  Even more amazing is that he is just entering the prime of his career.  Jack Nicklaus raised some eyebrows a few years back when he predicted that Tiger would win 10 Masters’ titles. At this point, 10 looks like an understatement.  Good luck to the rest of the field next month in Augusta.

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I guess Bobby Knight is finding out that this media gig is a little tougher than he always thought.  On ESPN’s Selection Special, Knight, when asked his opinion of those bubble teams who may have been unjustly left out of the tourney, instead went on a two minute rant about how the field should be expanded to 128 teams, leaving the others on the panel dumbfounded.  It is interesting, however, to see the contrast of the sweater-clad General seated next to Digger Phelps, a man so dapper that he switches his highlighter pen to match the color of his tie.  Memo to Knight:  Wearing the sweater instead of a suit does not in any way diminish your hypocrisy.  You have spent your career railing at the media but now, when a network is willing to throw some cash in your direction, it’s all of a sudden not such a bad deal?

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The term, “March Madness”, has taken on a completely different meaning for St. John’s hoop fans as their beloved Johnnies have failed to make the Big Dance since 2002 and have managed to log just one appearance in the Big East tourney
during the four years that coach Norm Roberts has been at the helm.  Adding insult to injury is the fact that so many rosters in both the conference and national fields are populated with kids from New York City.  There was a time when prep stars from the Big Apple put other schools on hold as they waited for St. John’s to call.  Longtime coach, Lou Carnesecca, used to joke that his recruiting budget consisted of a roll of subway tokens.  Not anymore.  This year alone, two Mc Donald’s All-Americans, Sylvan Landesberg of Holy Cross and Rice’s Kemba Walker, have declined invitations to play their college ball in Queens.  If Coach Roberts continues to swing and miss in his own backyard, his fifth season with the Red Storm could be his last.

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How could we open a Baseball season without making bold predictions for the coming year that seem well thought out in April and become laughable in October?  Well, here goes.  In the Senior Circuit, Joe Torre will create enough stability in the clubhouse to forge a productive union between veterans and young players and propel the Dodgers to the West division crown.  Francisco Cordero becomes the final piece of the puzzle in Cincinnati as Aaron Harang, Adam Dunn and Brandon Phillips help Ken Griffey return to the postseason.  A season long nail biter will develop in the East with the Mets riding their superior pitching to a narrow victory over the Braves, who grab the Wild Card. In the AL, the Mariners take advantage of injuries to the Angels’ pitching staff and steal the West title.  The Tigers and their new third basemen, Miguel Cabrera, will hardly be tested as they coast to the Central title.  In the East, the Red Sox ride a healthy David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to their second straight East title while the Yankees barely hold off the Blue Jays for the Wild Card.  In the Fall Classic, look for the Tigers over the Braves.  As for awards,   start engraving the MVP plaques with the names of Atlanta’s Jeff Francoeur in the NL and the aforementioned Cabrera in the AL.  Cabrera may actually win the Triple Crown.  As for the Cy Young, Johan Santana celebrates his first year in New York with his third while Jonathan Papelbon is recognized for carrying an injury riddled Red Sox staff to the crown.

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With all of the focus on college basketball, I’ve been a little distracted.  Are the Knicks still in the NBA?


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