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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

May 8, 2008 under Cheap Seats

When the Mitchell Report was first released in December, many speculated that the mere mention of a player’s name would serve as its own punishment. We had already seen what the consequences of even suspected steroid use would be when Mark McGwire became eligible for the Hall of Fame. The man who broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record and slugged over 570 in his career was remembered more for his selective memory during a congressional hearing than he was for his exploits on the field.
Possibly because of McGwire’s example, or maybe due to the desire to put the cloud of performance enhancing drug use behind them, player after player came clean and admitted their guilt. After all, hadn’t Jason Giambi gotten himself back into the fans’ good graces with an apology? From former player Fernando Vina to current star Andy Pettitte, many of those named copped to the charges and moved on. And why not? Senator Mitchell himself had advised Commissioner Bud Selig that no sanctions be handed down to any active players named in his report. It was time to cut losses and move on.
Roger Clemens, however, decided to fight. In what has become an incredibly tragic display of arrogance, Clemens has staunchly insisted that he never used performance-enhancing drugs of any kind and that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Ironically, since he first characterized himself as a victim, he has steamrolled down a destructive path leaving a long trail of his own victims.
First, there was the libel lawsuit filed against former trainer, Brian McNamee. Then, after demanding his day in court, he appeared before a congressional committee and firmly stated that Pettitte, who had confirmed all of McNamee’s accounts of their relationship, had misremembered their conversations, stopping just short of calling his good friend a liar. It was during this hearing that it was revealed that Clemens’ wife had used steroids. Regardless of his innocence or guilt, the Mitchell Report was no longer Roger’s biggest problem.
Now, we find out that Clemens carried on a long-term affair with country singer, Mindy McCready, which started when he was 28 and she was only 15. Once again, Roger denied any wrongdoing while, at the same time, McCready confirmed everything. Perhaps the most amazing part of the whole saga is that much of the focus seems to be on the affair itself rather than the fact that it may have been carried on with a minor.
So, to recap, in December, Clemens was suffering the embarrassment of being named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report. Now, because of his misguided and unsuccessful attempts to discredit any and all who accused him, he is being investigated by the Justice Department as to whether he committed perjury. The IRS is investigating his finances to determine if he purchased steroids. His wife’s steroid use has been exposed, it has now become known that he is possibly guilty of statutory rape, and his chances of ever being voted into the Hall of Fame are virtually gone. His reaction to all of this? Everyone else is lying. Our reaction? Clemens has now joined Barry Bonds as the face of the steroid era in baseball.
* * *
When Moises Alou went down with a hernia during spring training, the Mets’ general manager, Omar Minaya, came under a lot of fire for trading away prospect Lastings Milledge to the Nationals during the off-season for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Now, however, just a month later, Church is probably the Amazins’ MVP. Displaying not only the proficiency versus left-handed pitching that was the biggest mark against him in Washington, he has also shown himself to be an excellent defensive outfielder with a cannon arm. That such a strong defensive catcher like Schneider was also acquired in the deal makes it one of Minaya’s best.
* * *
Is there a more exciting basketball player in the world right now than Chris Paul? He currently has the entire New Orleans Hornets squad strapped to his back as he barnstorms through the NBA playoffs. It has been a long time since a point guard has been able to dominate games the way Paul has all season long. He gave notice of an official changing of the guard during the first round as he made the Mavericks’ Jason Kidd look very old, averaging close to 30 points per game while dishing out more than 10 assists per contest. Dare I call him the best since Magic Johnson?
* * *
Growing up, I played ball all over Brooklyn. From Shore Road to Bay 8th Street, from the Parade Grounds to Marine Park, I traveled the length of the borough to get to games. Actually, I was a passenger on all of those trips since my Mom did a lot of the driving. And sitting. She did a lot of sitting. She sat down the line in an overcoat during those April games when the weather had forgotten that it was springtime. She sat under an umbrella on those hot days in August to watch me pitch when she could have been at the beach. To me, it was her job in a way. I couldn’t drive, so how else was I supposed to get there? Now, as an adult with a parent’s perspective, I appreciate her being there more than I’ve ever told her. She taught that you can’t give your children anything more valuable than your time. Thanks, Mom.
* * *
When my oldest was 9, he made his pee-wee football all-star team and was excited about traveling to Virginia for a “bowl game.” That is, until we realized that the game was the day after his aunt’s wedding and he assumed he would have to miss it. My wife, however, would hear none of that. Realizing how important it was to him, she decided that after leaving the reception on Long Island at midnight, the kids could sleep in the car as we drove through the night to Newport News, Va. in order to get our son to his 9 a.m. game. Exhausted, she was the prettiest mom on the sideline, still in her hair and makeup from the wedding.
I learned a lot that day, just as I’ve learned a lot sitting with her through all of the ball games and competitions in which our children have participated. There have been championships and heartbreak, a lot of travel and many weekends where the grass grew too long in the backyard or the laundry didn’t get done. Through it all, she has always maintained that we only have a short time to enjoy watching the kids be kids and that we can’t miss it. She has made the whole ride more fun for all of us. Happy Mother’s Day, Gin, from a guy who clearly outkicked the coverage on his wedding day.

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