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 as 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 with 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 down 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 coaches 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 about 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.