Monthly Archives: February 2012

Football On A Wednesday?

The NFL has announced that the Giants will open the NFL season with a game against an undetermined opponent Wednesday, September 5th.  The reason they aren’t choosing to start on Thursday is that the Democratic National Convention runs that week and Thursday night will be President Obama’s speech.  (Side note, in 2008 the same conflict occurred with the Republican National Convention and the NFL moved the Giants opener to 7pm to try and avoid a conflict with Senator McCain’s speech.)

I’m all for moving the game so people can watch the speech. I should probably note here that politically I have voted for Republican, Democrats and would classify myself as someone who is not a fan of either political party. Whatever you think of all the BS that surrounds these elections, the two speeches worth watching are the acceptance speeches by the candidates and a lot of football fans wouldn’t be watching if the game was on Thursday. That being said, why not move the game to Friday? Wednesday is an awful night to do something compared to Friday and the convention will be running on Wednesday.  In fact, that is the traditional night for the Vice Presidential candidate to address the convention, so maybe we should conclude that the NFL doesn’t like Joe Biden?

If the NFL scheduled the game on Friday they would give the majority of the fans attending the game the opportunity to have the day off the following day.  They would still be able to legitimately call it “Opening Weekend”, something that will look dumber than usual now. There shouldn’t be any problems with turning things around if the Jets happen to have their opener scheduled for Sunday because, so I don’t really get why they picked Wednesday. It’s been 60+ years since the NFL last played on Wednesday, maybe that’s the reason?

Stop Talking

I am not one of the many who sanctify the memory of George Steinbrenner.  He did some good things, he did some bad things.  I didn’t like his methods, but I never questioned his desire to win.  Personally, I like Hal Steinbrenner’s approach to running things better than George’s, so I am quite content with the current Yankee ownership.

Contrast that with the mess that has become of the New York Mets. Fred Wilpon is either oblivious or he just doesn’t care anymore.  How else can you explain the quotes he gave yesterday?  His team cut payroll from $140 million to $90 million this offseason, yet Wilpon suggests that the cuts were not financially motivated.  He complains about overpaid and underperforming assets, but who exactly authorized the Mets to make those expenditures?

One thing he did get right was his statement that “fans are not going to come back because they love Citi Field.”  It’s a nice park, I enjoyed my time there, but it is not an iconic ballpark.  Fans will go, but they will only go if the team is good. The Mets attendance was down over 2,000 fans per game last season from 2010.  

And it’s not just the product, the team has made some stupid moves.  Take the move from Shea to Citi Field.  The Mets took away the playoff rights of their weekend plan holders. When the team played in Shea, each weekend plan holder was given the opportunity to purchase tickets to one game of each playoff series the Mets were in.  When they moved to Citi Field, that was taken away and weekend plans were expanded to add week day games.  Guess what happened?  The weekend plan holders cancelled in droves and now lo and behold, the playoff rights have been added back to those plans.  

The other problem this year is that the team has decided to offer seats with dynamic pricing. Anyone who has ever gone on Stub Hub knows why they are doing this, but the problem here is that why would you commit to a season ticket plan when you know ticket prices could go down?  Now sure, you are taking a risk that the Mets suddenly get good and prices go up, but knowing what you know about the team, how big a risk is that really?  So, you could shell out big bucks for a ticket plan now, or you could just wait and pick and choose the games you want to go to knowing that there is a decent chance those tickets will cost you less down the road than they do now. 

So instead of flapping his gums about the payroll, chartering helicopters to the Heat-Knicks game and handing out “underdog” t-shirts that upset your star player, maybe Jeff Wilpon should just keep quiet. I don’t think Mets fans would mind that at all. 

“And This One Will Last A Lifetime”

If you are a Rangers fan who was around in 1994, you remember that breathless pronouncement from Sam Rosen after they won the Stanley Cup. For awhile after that magical June night, those words seemed to capture the way Rangers’ fans approached the club. We had seen something we had never thought possible happen so we just wanted to see the team go out and compete regularly.

For the first few years after that cup victory, the Rangers did just that. They made the playoffs and won at least one round before bowing out. They weren’t the best team in the league, but they were in the upper tier and they kept you entertained.  But all of that changed with the 1997-98 club.  That was the first club to miss the playoffs since the 1992-93 edition and it kicked off a streak of eight-staight seasons without a playoff appearance.  Somewhere in the depths of that misery, the equation for Rangers fans changed, 1994 wouldn’t last us.  As greedy as it may sound to Cubs and Browns fans, we wanted to see the Rangers win it all again.

And this year, you have to think the Rangers have as good a chance as anyone in the Eastern Conference to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. They have the best record in conference and more importantly, they have the key ingredient to a playoff run- a great goalie. In 1994 the Rangers fortified a great team with some very smart additions at the trade deadline.  They added key depth like Craig MacTavish, Glenn Anderson and the “immortal” Stephen Matteau.

So, I was surprised today that New York basically did nothing today.  Sure, they added a defenseman who can drop the gloves, but that seems to be more a case of making a move to make a move.  The Rangers had some needs they could have filled today.  A scorer would have been a big boost, either at defense or forward.  Someone who could win some faceoffs and a defenseman who could move the puck would have been great adds.

But, the Rangers didn’t do any of that.  Maybe Chris Kreider will come over from BC and provide some scoring punch. Other than that, it’s hard to see what moves the Rangers can make now to improve things.  Maybe Wade Redden can suddenly turn back the clock to 2003 and give the Rangers the defenseman they need. (I’m joking people)  But it seems that the team that has led the Eastern Conference in points so far will stay the same for the rest of the season.  The question is, will it be enough to win it all?


Aiming For Nash?

A move made and a move not made today show the Rangers are probably going to take a run at Rick Nash.  First, the Rangers got Florida to give them a third round pick for Wolten Wolski, a guy rotting on their bench.  Dropping Wolski gets the Rangers more cap space.

Next, the Rangers did not request reentry waivers on Sean Avery.  I don’t understand why they would have, but doing so would have cost them over $200k if a team had claimed him.  (I get the idea that Avery has been a good soldier and gone to Hartford without much complaining, but he isn’t working there for free.  He gets $4 million this season, split between Dallas and New York for playing in the minors.  If he doesn’t like it, the NHLPA should let him tear up his contract and sign as a free agent somewhere, but those are the stupid waiver rules that exist in the minors.  Look at Wade Redden who will earn $10+ million in the minors over the  next 2+ seasons in the AHL for more evidence of the stupidity of this process.)

Now, they could be making these moves to free up cap space for something else, but Larry Brooks just tweeted that Tim Erixon is in play with Columbus.  It seems we know where Glen Sather’s focus is.  If he pulls the trigger, he had better be right on this move.

Sour Nash

Rick Nash is a wonderful player, but he is also completely wrong for this New York Rangers team. Nash can certainly put the puck in the net, something these Rangers are not overly adept at, but acquiring him would present a number of problems.

First and foremost, Nash is going to cost a lot in terms of talent. You can never tell exactly what another club wants, but it seems fair to say that Columbus would want at minimum Brandon Dubinsky, a couple of draft picks and probably someone like Ryan McDonagh. While I have no problem trading future picks right now, I really worry about the Rangers trading current players.  Sure, Dube is having an off year offensively, but that neglects his heart and presence on this club. Add in McDonagh, possibly one of the best young defensemen in the league and I think the cost in players is too great.

That doesn’t even address the problem of Nash’s salary. As great as he is, his contract is ugly. Nash is going to earn almost $8-million a year through the 2017-18 season. Nash is 28, in his prime now, but how will he play over the next six-plus seasons?

The Rangers are in a tough spot this trade deadline.  They have an eight-point lead in their division and a seven-point lead in the conference.  They are clearly positioned for a deep run into the playoffs.  But, they could use some additions.  Nash would be great for their offense, but they could also find some lower-cost guys who might be great fits as well. It’s worth remembering that the guys the 1993-94 Rangers brought in were more role players than superstars. Nash is a superstar, will bringing him in upset the great balance this team has created?

Take A Step Back

Would beating Miami tonight in Miami be a good win? Absolutely, but does it really tell us anything about the Knicks future?  I don’t think so.  Hey, it’s always fun to beat LeBron and his buddies, but the Knicks should have one focus right now- winning the Atlantic Division.

Barring a crazy turn of events, Miami and Chicago will grab the top two spots in the Eastern Conference.  They are followed by a pack of four teams, Orlando, Philadelphia, Indiana and Atlanta, that are all within three games of each other.  Look a bit further back and you have the Knicks and the Celtics in the 7th and 8th spots. Therefore, if the season ended today the Knicks would Chicago in the first round with Boston getting the Heat. How many people out there think the Knicks can advance to the second round if they face Miami or Chicago?  <crickets chirping>  That’s what I thought.

Instead, the Knicks need to use the final 32 games of the season to figure some things out and also grab the Atlantic Division. By winning the division, New York would be guaranteed of no lower a seed than the #4 spot- missing Miami and Chicago until Round 2.  We need to see Jeremy Lin prove he can do this for more than three weeks. We need to see if he can mesh with Carmelo. (Interesting side note, what do the Knicks do if he can’t?) What can Baron Davis give them? How about J.R. Smith? In short, there are plenty of question hanging over a team that is currently 17-17.  No matter what happens tonight in Miami, we won’t even have begun to get our answers.

Don’t Let MSG Win

I have missed a lot over the past six weeks. I have missed the Rangers surge into the Eastern Conference lead and I have missed “Linsanity”.  Why have I missed all this?  Because Time Warner Cable and MSG Network can’t agree on a new programming deal and therefore the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders and Devils have disappeared from New York City TV’s.

It’s a somewhat surreal thing. The biggest story in sports is going on right in my backyard and unless I want to pay hundreds of dollars and see it personally, I am out of luck.  You walk into most bars and instead of a Knicks or Rangers game, you see whatever ESPN happens to be showing that evening. For six weeks New York City sports fans have lived in this cocoon and now comes word that things might be changing. I’m all for getting the games back on TV, but not if it means giving into MSG’s demand of a 53% increase (Yup you read that right)

I won’t pretend to like Jim Dolan and his methods, but this goes beyond that.  This goes to the simple fact that cable pricing is out of control. Now, I recognize that I am responsible for a large part of that. I am a sports fan and since the advent of the DVR, live sports programming has become the one thing that most people won’t tape and then watch. Because of this, rights fees have exploded and programmers who carry live sports have demanded higher and higher fees. The problem is, it has gotten to a crazy point.

Everyone wants their own network now. Look at New York. We have the Yankees and Nets on YES. We have the Mets on SNY. We have the Rangers, Knicks, Islanders and Devils on MSG. And while having those networks gives you access to most of those games, you still need ESPN, ESPN2, NBC Sports (nee Versus) TBS and TNT to make sure you don’t miss any of them. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is happening out there in cable land. The Big Ten has a network, so does the Pac 10.  The University of Texas just created one, so you can see how this trend is exploding. If you are a sports fan, how many different things will you need to have access to in 10 years to watch the “big” games?

And here’s the other thing, sometimes you want these networks and sometimes you don’t. Once the regular season ends, you don’t need YES to watch the Yankees. You don’t need MSG to watch the Knicks. And from this season forward, NBC Sports (nee Versus) has the rights to all NHL playoff games from Round 2 onward, meaning MSG goes dark for Rangers fans sometime in late April.

If Time Warner Cable gives into MSG, everyone will see their cable bill jump a couple of bucks a month. Sure, I might be willing to pay that now, but what will that mean in a year or two when it comes time for ESPN to renegotiate their contract, or YES? The simple solution would be for cable consumers to have the right to pick and choose the channels they want. In a perfect world, I could stop paying for the channels I don’t watch (most of them) and only pay for the channels I do. I could also pick and choose according to the season. When November rolls around I stop paying for YES. When May comes, MSG drops off the bill. Despite various attempts to get to that point, we aren’t there yet.  For now, I can only hope that Time Warner Cable doesn’t cave in to MSG. It’s worth remembering that even without a resolution to this dispute 14 of the remaining 36 Knicks games and 12 of the remaining 27 Rangers games will be on TV in New York, thanks to all those other channels we pay for.

Why Shoot A Three?

Sorry to rain on the “Linsanity”, but does anyone out there think about basketball anymore?  I get it, he hit an amazing shot and won the game, but my question is, why did he take THAT shot?

Consider the scenario, the Knicks were tied with Toronto when they got the ball back with 44 seconds left in the game. They ran their offense and Iman Shumpert missed a 17-footer.  Tyson Chandler grabbed the rebound with 20 seconds and the Knicks kicked the ball out to Lin with about 15 seconds left. Now the Knicks had choices.  They obviously want to run the clock down, but they could also run almost any play in their offense.  Instead Lin kept the ball himself and drained a three with 0.5 seconds remaining.

It was a great shot, but it also was a dumb one. The Knicks didn’t need a three, they were tied. Lin is not a good three-point shooter in his NBA career (5-for-24 before that went in) and he wasn’t a good one in college, where the line is closer to the basket. (33%)  Why then did he settle for a 25-foot shot when he could have driven the ball and either dished it or shot from a much closer range? I don’t know the answer and in all the “Linsanity” I don’t hear anyone asking the question.

Have The Knicks Struck Gold?

The Knicks may have lucked into exactly what they needed when they needed.  The team was floundering, thanks to not having anyone who could truly man the point guard position in Mike D’Antoni’s offense.  But, thanks to the Giants, NYC wasn’t paying a ton of attention to them.  As we know, the Giants run ended Sunday and just in time, the Knicks discovered Jeremy Lin.

Lin had been singed back in December when the Knicks were banged up at guard and then sent to the D League for a few games.  Last Saturday, with the Knicks at 8-15 Lin got his chance to play significant minutes and he delivered.  In three games, he has scored 76 points and handed out 25 assists.  He is excellent at the pick and roll, something that will hugely enhance Amar’e Stoudemire’s game.

But can it keep happening.  This is a guy who wasn’t recruited from high school and went to Harvard.  He then was undrafted by all the NBA teams and the Knicks are the third team he has played for in the league.  Can this many people have been wrong about Lin?

We’ve certainly seen it before.  Jerry Rice played D-2 ball, though he was a first round pick in the NFL draft when the Patriots traded their pick to the 49ers.  Tom Brady played at Michigan, but he was a fifth rounder. Victor Cruz went to UMass and was undrafted, but basketball doesn’t have as many examples. There is one I can think of though.  A guy who just like Lin was undrafted and then signed by Golden State.  A guy who then was signed by the Knicks and became a pretty good player for them.  I am talking of course about John Starks.

For the Knicks to have found another John Starks would be a miraculous turn indeed and provide them with some hope in a season that looked to be a downer.  But before we all succumb to the “Linsanity” let’s see how he does over a longer period of time.  Flukes can happen, but if Lin can do this for 20 games or so, the Knicks may have hit the lottery again.


When Do We Get Our Winter Classic?

The NHL announced today that the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will face off in the 2013 Winter Classic at “The Big House” in Michigan. It’s a great selection and nice to see that the NHL has remembered that there were two Canadian teams in the Original Six.  With the Red Wings playing host to the Winter Classic, the Rangers and New York are now the only American team from the Original Six not to play host.  The Bruins and Blackhawks already have hosted at Fenway and Wrigley no less and Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have as well.  So when will New York get the classic?

The answer is a depressing, “not soon”.  The problem is the Pinstripe Bowl.  Yes, that bastion of mediocrity that the Yankees and ESPN insist on forcing down our throats along with 20 other pointless bowl games keeps the NHL from being able to setup the ice at Yankee Stadium. The NFL regular season usually doesn’t end until the start of January and with two teams calling Met Life Stadium home, there isn’t enough time to setup the ice there. That leaves Citi Field, but the Mets are so toxic right now that I can’t see the NHL going anywhere near them. Plus, Citi Field doesn’t have the cache that Yankee Stadium does.

So when will it end?  Well the Pinstripe Bowl contract runs two more years. Unfortunately, they have somehow managed to have attendance of 38,000+ for both games so it may get renewed. If that’s the case we can look forward to many more years of Rutgers-Iowa State at Yankee Stadium before we see something like Rangers-Penguins. That’s a real shame.