Monthly Archives: March 2012

Thank You, Islanders!

As a Rangers’ fan, I usually have very few nice things to say about the Islanders.  Ok, I never have anything nice to say about the Islanders, but today is different.  That’s because last night the Islanders completed a somewhat improbable home-in-home sweep of the Penguins, which put the Rangers in a very good position to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference. And that will be a huge deal this year.

There are a lot of ways to judge how good a hockey club is, but let’s just use points for now.  Based on that the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference are all in the Atlantic Division and the 4th-best team is either the Devils or the Bruins. So, it is very possible that the top-4 teams in the Atlantic Division will also be the top-4 point getters in the Eastern Conference.

The problem is, for playoff seeding that won’t matter a bit.  The three division winners are guaranteed the top-3 seeds.  That means that right now Pittsburgh, the second-best team in the conference will be the #4 seed.  Even worse, the Flyers who are the third-best team will be the #5 seed and open on the road at Pittsburgh. So, winning the division is a HUGE deal this year especially.

Luckily, the Rangers are in good shape.  Hockey magic numbers work a little differently, but theirs is 5.  If the Rangers earn five points, the title is theirs. If the Penguins lose a game the points they didn’t earn get taken off that number.  So, if the Rangers beat Pittsburgh when they play head-to-head next week, they would need only one other point to clinch. And, for those of you looking way ahead, the Rangers are one point behind St. Louis for the Presidents’ Trophy, but they also have a game in hand.

This has really been the best Rangers season since 1994.  Sure, there were teams like the 1997 version that got to the Conference Finals and the 2007 and 2008 teams that did pretty well, but none of them played hockey like this one. This is not a flashy team. They don’t score goals easily, but they play terrific defense and grind things out. They also have a great goalie.  I would pick the Penguins to win the conference based on overall talent, but I hope we get to see the Rangers take them on. We know the Rangers will be no lower than the 5th seed, but fans in New York are hoping for a lot more.

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Not A Bad Choice

I’m not disappointed, but I’m also not thrilled with the NFL’s decision to have the Cowboys serve as the Giants season-opening opponent. Sure, Dallas-Giants is always a good game, but there were some other interesting possibilities.

Start with the Green Bay Packers. They would have been a fun way to open the season considering the playoffs and the game they played in December.

An awesome choice would have been the Steelers. Consider the history of the two franchises and the somewhat unique fact that their family ownerships have combined to produce an Oscar-nominated actress.

I also think the Saints would have been a great matchup, but obviously the NFL isn’t going to showcase the Saints right now.

So, we get Dallas. It’s better than when the Giants last won the Super Bowl and had to play Washington, but I think Green Bay or Pittsburgh would have been better.

Boom Goes The Dynamite!

It took a bit longer than usual, but that was my bracket you heard blowing up tonight.  Michigan State and Wisconsin went down as my faith in the Big-10 cost me big time.

I watched more of the Wisconsin-Syracuse game than the MSU-L’ville one, so I can only talk about that. Wisconsin had the worst last possession I have seen in a long time in basketball. Down by 1, with the ball, 18 seconds or so left and all you get is a 25-foot shot and a desperation heave? Ugly, ugly, ugly….

I will continue to watch and I have decided to go “all in” for my favorite conference, the Big East.  My team (St. John’s) may not be there, but I can root for the league. After all, before tonight is over they may have 3/8th’s of the Elite Eight (Syracuse doesn’t count as they are traitors and should never be spoken of again. Got it?)

With MSU out, I think Kentucky walks into the final game.  The question is the other side. The likely matchup or UNC-KU should be an amazing game.

Sadly, the Madness is down to only 11+ games. Catch it while you can.

Witch Hunt

Jeremy Shockey was one of the hardest players to figure out. He was a lot of fun to watch between the hashmarks, but a nightmare outside of them. He would make a great catch and have no problem showing up his QB or other teammates when things didn’t go his way.  His exit from the Giants was ugly, not Tiki Barber ugly, but ugly.

That being said, he deserves better than what is happening to him now. For those of you who missed it, Warren Sapp took to Twitter yesterday and accused Shockey of being the guy who snitched to the league about the Saints.

I have no idea if Shockey did or didn’t do it, nor do I really care, but plenty of players and coaches around the league will.  Whoever snitched on Shockey should have the guts to come forward and make his accusations public and provide evidence to support them.  Until then, let’s stop hunting for a “culprit”.  After all, should’t we applaud the person who brought this issue to light?

What Are The Jets Doing?

Can someone explain to me what the Jets are doing this offseason? They try and get Peyton, fail at that but give the guy he would have replaced a big contract extension.  Then they go out and trade for Tim Tebow? Seriously, I don’t get this at all from a football standpoint.

I get it from an off the field standpoint. The Giants own the city and the Jets felt the need to make a splash, but Tebow?  Seriously?  I have nothing against the guy, but he can’t throw a football!  For his career, he has completed less than 50% of the passes he has attempted.  Sure, you could say he will grow into the QB position, but the JETS ALREADY HAVE A GUY TRYING TO DO THAT!

I reached out to one Jets’ fan about this move, but he was used words that I won’t print in a family blog. So, I ask you internet, why have the Jets summoned Tebow to live among us? Is this some plot by Woody Johnson to turn New York into a red state? I just don’t get it.

But think of this. Next fall we can look forward to Linsanity and Tebowmania at the exact same time in the exact same city.  The lights sure do shine bright on Broadway!

Strange How Things Work

Consider this for a moment.

The Baltimore Colts drafted John Elway out of Stanford, but Elway refused to play for them and he was traded to Denver. The Baltimore Colts then moved to Indianapolis where they floundered in the standings and considered moving from there before they lucked into the #1 pick in the draft and selected Peyton Manning.

Meanwhile, in Denver, Elway takes the Broncos to five Super Bowls and wins two of them, earning a spot in the Hall of Fame. In early 2011 he becomes Executive VP of the Broncos.

Back in Indy, Manning starts breaking all sorts of records, takes the Colts to two Super Bowls and wins one of them. He becomes such a force in the league that many suspect that his younger brother, Eli, is made the first pick in the draft simply because of his last name. Eli, refuses to play for San Diego, and they work out a draft day trade with the Giants. Ernie Accorsi, the Giants GM, is widely criticized for the move at the time.

Peyton ends up having neck surgery and the Colts end up bottoming out in the standings, securing the #1 pick and chance to take a QB from Stanford, Andrew Luck. They cut ties with Manning and he ends up in Denver when John Elway signs him.

It almost sounds like a Hollywood script, doesn’t it?

 

 

The Finest Day(s) in Sports

Sports has many great days during the calendar year, but I think the first two days of March Madness have to be the best. You get 16 games each day spread out over 12 hours. With CBS sining a sensible TV deal, every game is televised, though you may have to find Tru TV on your cable lineup. (TWC customers in NYC, it is channel 79 or 779 for HD)  Along the way we will see nail-biters, a few upsets and plenty of great basketball.

As for my bracket, I give you this story. In 2000 or 2001, I forget which, I nailed my bracket.  Absolutely killed it, I went from picking 15-of-16 in the Sweet Sixteen to not getting another pick wrong the rest of the tourney.  Needless to say, I won in a landslide. Two things about this story.

1- I worked in an office with about 8 people, so it wasn’t a very lucrative endeavor.

2- Since then, my brackets are usually a disaster. In fact, I usually lose one of my Final Four teams in the first round.  So take the following with a big, big grain of salt.

My FF- Michigan State, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Kansas with Michigan State winning it all over Wisconsin.

 

You Can’t Fire The Players…

That’s the old adage and that is exactly what the Knicks did today. And make no mistake, this was a firing.  The Garden is calling it a resignation, but remember this is the same place that Jeff Van Gundy “resigned” from, not to mention Lenny Wilkens. I don’t know why they like to pretend these guys resign, but they do.

The thing is, it isn’t the worst idea in the world. I still don’t think D’Antoni’s seven-second offense can turn a team into a NBA champion. Sure, if you have Steve Nash, you might win 60 games with it, but you need to be able to play some defense when you get to the playoffs. And in the Eastern Conference when you have Wade and LeBron waiting for you, you really need to play some defense.

But what this move clearly is is a last attempt to placate Carmelo Anthony. Anthony gets rid of a coach he didn’t like. A coach who apparently tried to get him traded. I think this is the equivalent of giving Carmelo the ball and saying go score. We know Jim Dolan won’t accept the blame for the Knicks, so the pressure is now on Anthony to deliver at least a playoff spot. If not, I suspect we will see him traded this offseason.

A Fine Mess

Ah Carmelo, now you have really done it.  Trust me, the grumbles about you were already getting loud before today, probably because the team is 2-8 since you returned from injury, but now they are going to get very loud. You may not have formally asked for it, but the story that you want a trade is going to damage your reputation in this city for a long, long time.

See the thing is, most basketball fans while excited that you became a Knick were perturbed by how you did it. You could have taken the Amar’e route and come to New York after the 2010-11 season as a free agent. That way the Knicks could have kept some pretty solid role players like Raymond Felton and Danilo. Instead, you forced the Knicks hand because you didn’t want to lose the chance to sign a bigger contract extension. That’s fine, that’s business, but you damaged the Knicks by doing it that way. It’s probably worth noting that as much as everyone knocks LeBron for “The Decision” he also made a decision to take less money so Miami could sign Chris Bosh. Your decision Carmelo, meant that the Knicks would have to fashion a team out of spare parts and luck, but you would have to make it work.

And lo and behold, the Knicks got lucky. They got lucky that Tyson Chandler was suddenly available and gave them exactly what they needed. They got lucky drafting Iman Shumpert, who looks like he could become a pretty solid player at both ends of the court. And of course they got really lucky when they pulled Jeremy Lin off the scrap heap. Now, the Linsanity has cooled, but after 28 games I think it is fair to say that the Knicks have found at minimum a decent starting point guard. This guy is going to stick as a starting point guard.

But, since your return to the lineup, things haven’t been working. Part of it is that the Knicks are playing tougher opponents, but the big part is that your game and Lin’s game don’t mesh. Lin is a drive and dish type player. You are a take the ball and create something yourself player. You are both very good at your respective styles, but it doesn’t look like you both can co-exist on the same team.

Now if the Knicks could do a trade that centered around Dwight Howard for Carmelo, as suggested here, I would do it in a second. But, I’m pretty doubtful that that would happen. So, I suspect the trade deadline will come and go tomorrow with Carmelo still a Knick and MSG in full damage control mode. For the fans, I should point out that May 10th will mark the 39th anniversary of the Knicks last championship. Anyone care to bet we won’t be “celebrating” 40 years without a title in 2013?

 

An Interesting Night of Football Moves

Two moves caught me be surprise last night and they are both indirectly related to Peyton Manning.

The first was the trade between Washington and St. Louis. Washington gave up their first round pick this year (6th overall), their second round pick this year and first rounders in 2013 and 2014.  They have surrendered all of this apparently to draft Robert Griffin III a QB out of Baylor. With Indianapolis almost certainly to pick Andrew Luck, we should see QB’s go 1-2 in the draft for the first time since the 1999 draft when we saw three (Couch, McNabb and Akili Smith)

And that’s the thing, Washington is betting against history here.  Since the NFL-AFL merger, QB’s have been taken with the first two (or more) picks four times.  You have 1971 where Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning (how about that?) and Dan Pastorini went 1-2-3.  You have 1993 when Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer went 1-2. You had 1998 when Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf went 1-2 and you have the aforementioned 1999 draft.

Let’s throw out the 1971 draft because Archie Manning and Plunkett both had decent careers considering they had very little protection. (Both are in the top-15 career “leaders” in times sacked.) In every other draft one team made a good choice and the other(s) made a terrible one. Bledsoe turned out to be a very good QB while Mirer was a failure.  Peyton is a superstar while Leaf washed out of the league quickly. The 1999 draft is the only one where the #1 QB turned out to be a mistake as McNabb had a very good career and Couch did not. (Akili Smith made a total of 17 NFL starts.) So, history says either Washington or Indy will be a loser with their pick, but Indy didn’t give up on anything to earn theirs while Washington paid a huge price, apparently because they couldn’t get Peyton Manning to consider them. The pressure will be on RGIII from day 1.

And speaking of Peyton Manning, it appears the Jets were spurned by the Manning camp as well and decided to hand Mark Sanchez a contract extension. Talk about a 180!  If they had signed Manning, they would have had to have cut Sanchez. But, since Manning didn’t want to come to NY (shocker) they give Sanchez a contract extension when he had two years remaining on his existing deal!? I guess this is the way the Jets try and soothe Mark’s feelings, but if you really cared about that would you have pursued Peyton in the first place?