Monthly Archives: September 2012

Missing The Point

I get it, a blown call, or blown calls on the final play of last night’s football game cost the Packers a win.  But, that ignores the two biggest truths about the NFL ref lockout.  First, wins and losses are not the biggest problem the replacement refs pose.  Second, last night’s play never should have happened.

Yes, wins and losses are important, but the biggest problem the replacement refs pose is an increased risk of injury.  If you’ve been watching the games, you have seen helmet-to-helmet hits gone uncalled, handchecking like we haven’t seen in years (including on that final play last night) and just a generally physicality beyond normal NFL standards. Someone is going to get hurt because the NFL won’t put the real refs on the field. In a sport without guaranteed contracts, that is a HUGE deal.  Guys could lose their livelihoods because of this stupid impasse.

That’s my biggest concern with the ref lockout, I am really afraid that we will see someone seriously hurt because of the replacement refs.  My sympathies for Green Bay don’t extend very far. That’s because the Green Bay defenders failed to execute the most basic of protection against a Hail Mary- they failed to knock the ball to the ground. That’s a mistake I don’t think Green Bay, or any team will make again.

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Playing With Fire

The NHL has officially locked out the players.  This is a self-inflicted wound that could quickly go from superficial to critical because the NHL simply cannot afford to alienate its fanbase a second time in 8 years.

It was the current Commissioner, Gary Bettman, who claimed that the 2004-05 lockout provided “cost certainty” to the NHL.  Well, if it did, why do they need to lockout the players now? And while the lockout may have provided cost certainty for the NHL, I cannot help but notice as a former season ticket holder, my costs increased a lot once “cost certainty” had been achieved.

Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daley, had this gem of a quote tonight:

“I’m sure we will keep in touch in the coming days and schedule meetings to the extent they might be useful or appropriate. We are sorry for where we are. Not what we hoped or expected.”

I’m sure we will keep in touch?  Does he understand that the season is supposed to open in 25 days?  The first exhibition games are supposed to be played in 10 days. The NHL is coming off their lowest-rated Stanley Cup Final since 2007.  The powers that be need to realize that in the U.S., hockey comes in fourth, a distant fourth, to the other major sports.  I’m just not sure that U.S. fans will forgive hockey for a second work stoppage in eight years.

And think about this.  When the salary cap came into existence in 2005, it was set at $39 million.  This past season, the MINIMUM salary floor for a team was $48 million while the cap was $64 million. Since the cap is set based on a percentage of league revenues (57%), that means league revenues have grown from $2.06 billion to almost $3.5 billion since the lockout started.

Now, the players shouldn’t escape some of the blame for this mess.  They could have been willing to agree to things like delayed free agency and an end to ridiculously long contracts.  But, the fact remains that the owners best offer to the players was 49% of hockey revenue to start.  That would have chopped $7 million off the cap of each team, but that offer also lowered the players’ percentage each year.  That’s an unrealistic proposal and the owners need to realize that before they destroy the goose that has made them all rich.

Time For A Roof

I don’t know if you are watching or following any of the U.S. Open tennis in Queens, but the conditions are pretty ridiculous right now.  For one, the Womens’ Final has already been postponed until tomorrow because NYC is going to get blasted with bad weather, but for now the men are being forced to play in the approaching storm.  That means they are fighting with huge winds and you can see the ball moving in all sorts of strange ways when they try and toss their serve or hit a lob. It’s the third set of the first semifinal and it will take a miracle to get in a second set.

Weather delays are nothing new for the U.S. Open, the tournament hasn’t finished on time since 2007.  The solution of course is a retractable roof, something the USTA has never embraced.  I understand that covering Arthur Ashe Stadium, a ridiculously-large 23,000 seat TENNIS stadium, is not an easy task.  But, covering Armstrong Stadium, a stadium the USTA plans to demolish and rebuild, should be feasible. The new Armstrong Stadium is projected to have 15,000 seats along with a new grandstand court with 8,000.  Combined, those two courts would seat about what Ashe Stadium seats, but you obviously can’t play a tennis match in two places at once.

So, here’s my proposal.  Rebuild the two courts and put a roof on them.  Sell future tickets to the final rounds of the U.S. Open as follows- 15,000 with a guarantee that they will see live tennis and the remaining 8,000 or so without it.  If the rains come the 15,000 with the guarantee can take their “rain checks” and walk over to Armstrong Stadium where the match will be held.  Allow the 8,000 or so other patrons to walk over to the Grandstand Court and watch the tennis on giant video screens while they consume free hot dogs and soda. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but it would at least guarantee that tennis is played when it is scheduled to be played and that no one is forced to play in ridiculous weather.

That Was Bad

Two things became pretty obvious as you watched the Giants play last night.

1- They still can’t run the ball.

2- They still stink at returning kicks.

The stats say the Giants ran the ball 19 times for 82 yards, a respectable average of 4.32.  But, that includes Bradshaw’s 33-yard scamper.  Subtract that one play and the Giants’ average drops to 2.72.  Subtract the 10-yard touchdown run he had and you have 17 rushes for 39 yards- an average of 2.29 per carry.

I’m not sure if this is a fatal flaw, after all they won the Super Bowl last year with the worst rushing game in the league.  But, it led to the Cowboys dropping more guys into coverage and the Giants had a tough night passing the ball as well.  It wouldn’t shock me to see the Giants give the ball to Hynoski a few times just to see if he can pound out a few yards.

The Giants have spent a lot of draft picks in recent years on guys who are supposed to be good at returning kicks, but it hasn’t paid off.  The Giants returned only one kickoff more than 20 yards and they had a mere five yards on the only punt they tried to return. The worst part was they tried to return three kicks from their own end zone and ended up past the 20 on only one of them.  Take a knee fellas!  It’s impossible to see on TV if the problem is the blocking, the returners or both, but the Giants need to figure this out because it is a problem that has been around for awhile.

So, it’s not the start we wanted but Tampa is up next.  That’s a game they better win.

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Thankfully, the Giants start their season tonight which gives me an excuse to avert my eyes from the Yankees for three hours.  I could use the break. I love what the NFL does with opening weekend.  Games all over the place and the opener where it should be, at the home of the defending Super Bowl champ.  

So, what can we expect from the Giants this year?  Generally, post Super Bowl years have not been kind to this club. 

1987 saw the NFL strike and saw the Giants stumble to a 6-9 record.

1991 saw the start of the the Ray Handley era (if you don’t know what that means just be thankful.) and an 8-8 start.

In 2001, the Giants opened up on Monday Night Football, September 10th, 2001 to be exact and got waxed 31-20 by Denver before finishing 7-9.

And then there is 2008. In 2008 the Giants opened with a lackluster win against Washington, but then got off to an 10-1 start. Then Plaxico decided to shoot himself in the thigh and the Giants finished the season with three wins and two losses, but their 13-3 record got them the #1 seed in the NFC.  It was the first time a Giants team had qualified for the playoffs the year after playing in the Super Bowl.

Then came the humiliating loss in their opening playoff game as the Eagles came into Giants Stadium and beat them 23-11.  The Giants have suffered some painful losses in my lifetime, but this one had to be close to the worst.  Thinking back, I would put it at #3 behind the playoff meltdowns against San Fran in 2002 and Minnesota in 1997.

Looking at this year’s team I feel good about the running game again because I think Wilson will be a huge help.  Eli is elite in my book and his receiving corps looks great.  I worry a bit about the line, but I think the offense will be great.  On defense, the secondary is a huge concern.  On the plus side, JPP, Tuck, Osi and Kiwanuka are all healthy which should drive QB’s nuts, but when they don’t get pressure, their is going to be trouble.  

Despite my concerns, I think the Giants finish the season 11-5 and make the playoffs.  History has clearly shown the last few years that what happens after that depends on who the hot team is.