Monthly Archives: January 2013

Drop The Puck!

Some of you who have been paying attention to this blog have probably figured out that I am a hockey fan. Guilty as charged, I love the sport. In fact, next to baseball, I think hockey is the best sport to see in person. So, you may be wondering how I could have missed commenting on the start of the NHL season last Saturday.

The answer is, I took this idea to heart. Well, almost I guess. I don’t know exactly how many games the Rangers didn’t play as scheduled after 12/21/12, but I skipped the first five games of their 2013 schedule in retaliation. I can hear the cries now, it was an empty gesture. You are probably right, but I really have no idea what else I could do to try and send hockey a message that they have behaved insanely over the last 18 years. So, I haven’t been a part of the first five Rangers games, but I am coming on board now. (Full Disclosure- My wife, who is the biggest Rangers fan I know, didn’t join me in this boycott so I have heard a lot about the Rangers’ uninspired play despite the fact that she is a girl.)

So yes, I know the Rangers are 2-3,  Lundqvist looks ordinary and they can’t score unless the Gaborik-Richards-Nash line is out there. That’s ok, these 48 games are not about proving who is the best team, they are merely about qualifying for the playoffs. In 1995 the Rangers were the 8th seed, but knocked off the #1 seed in the first round. I would prefer they took an easier path to the playoffs, but barring injury, this team can play with anyone and that’s what matters.

43 games to go, I’ll be here for the duration.

 

Who Do You Root For?

I can usually find a team to root for in the Super Bowl, but this matchup has me perplexed.

On one hand you have the 49ers, a team the Giants have had a long and bitter rivalry with. I don’t think any Giants fan can root for them.

But on the other hand you have the Ravens, the team that humiliated the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. That may have happened 12 years ago, but the wound is still there for me. How could I ever root for Baltimore?

It’s not that a Falcons-Patriots matchup would have excited me, but I could have found someone to root for in that matchup. I don’t like either of these teams and I am really struggling with what to do.  At this point I am seriously considering going to the movies in two weeks.

How about you Big Blue fans, where will your rooting interests lie in two weeks?

The Barclays Center

I finally made it to the Barclays Center last night and came away with a mixed review of the place.

First things first, the arena is three subway stops from my house or a 20-minute walk. For me that’s really awesome.

The arena is setup in an interesting way. The upper deck is severely sloped to bring the seats closer to the action.  That’s fine, but management has decided to make the upper deck dark, I mean really dark without much light. The combination of darkness and cupholders on the backs of the seats in each row make me worry about someone taking a pretty big fall at some point. Barclays management should consider putting a bit more light in the upper deck.

Getting around the arena isn’t the easiest task, especially between levels.  I walked a considerable way around the arena and saw only one escalator between the upper and lower decks. There are elevators, but I found it surprising.

The food is great, just what you would expect from a modern arena. As an added bonus for me, five or so of my neighborhood favorites have recreated their businesses inside of the Barclays. A special shout out to Paisanos, my local butcher, and their tri-tip steak sandwich.

The crowd is an interesting mix of old-time Brooklyn, hipster Brooklyn and people who are just curious to see the new place. I saw a lot of Brooklyn jerseys, but I can’t say the crowd was into it. The Nets are being very smart and they have created a Brooklyn-centric experience. They will win over a lot of the borough, but it is going to take time. Last night there were more Knicks fans there than Nets fans, and the Knicks weren’t playing.  One note, putting David Price, Clinton Portis and some safety from the Colts on the Jumbotron won’t win over the crowd. You need either New York athletes or real New Yorkers for that. (Best moment was when Price was on the Jumbotron and the crowd booed him and started the Let’s Go Yankees chant)

I don’t think I will go back to the Barclays Center for a Nets game, I just don’t care about them enough to go. But, I am very excited to catch college basketball there and I will certainly try and attend when the Knicks and Rangers come calling.

Buyout Mania

The Rangers put an end to the Wade Redden “Era” today. Redden will receive a buyout of the remaining $13-million owed to him because under the new CBA, the Rangers can no longer “hide” his salary in the AHL. So, for $39-million the Rangers got a grand total of 40 from Redden.

Ironically, Redden wasn’t the only big contract bought out today. Scott Gomez received a buyout from Montreal. Gomez will get the remainder of his seven-year/$51.5 million deal as a result.  And who signed him to that deal? Why Sather of course.

And don’t forget that Chris Drury’s buyout will cost the Rangers approximately $1.7 million of cap space this season.

All three of these contracts came from Glen Sather. For these three alone he spent over $100-million and got very little in return for it. In fact, if you go back to his start as Rangers’ GM, Sather has probably spent well over $250 million with, until last season, very little to show for it.

Yes, yes, I know you are going to tell me to shut up and notice that the Rangers are stocked with young talent and should be one of the favorites for the Cup. I won’t disagree, but I hate to point out that there is a window here. A lot of the young guys will be free agents soon. A lot of the older guys may not have much left. The Rangers are in a great spot, probably for this season and the next two. But after that, they are going to need a savvy GM to guide them going forward. I know Sather got them to this point, but I can’t help but remember all of the majors blunders along the way.

A Day Late

Lance Armstrong has reportedly admitted to Oprah that he used PED’s. I hope that everyone goes on with their lives comforted by this “revelation”.

The time for this confession was years ago. If Lance had really wanted to come clean he should have done then or at worst in August when he decided not to keep fighting the doping charges. Instead he chose that moment to do what he has always done, deny the charges and slander his accusers.

So, why is he coming clean now? My only guess is that after five months of huddling with PR types he has come to the conclusion that this is the only way he can ever rescue his reputation. I’m not falling for it and I hope other won’t either. This is a man who perpetuated a fraud and ruined the reputation of countless others to protect himself. A few tears on a couch with Oprah won’t even begin to make up for all of that.

Enough!

I can’t handle the moralizing I am reading about the Hall of Fame vote. Tom Verducci wrote a column that was titled “The Hall of Fame Remains Clean” after the vote. (Note, you will have to Google his name and that title to find it because the title has been changed.) Goose Gossage is out today saying that he won’t visit Cooperstown again if Clemens or Bonds get elected. These are just two examples of the general sentiment that the baseball writers did something noble when they refused to induct anyone into the Hall of Fame this year.

But look at the truth. Gaylord Perry has admitted to cheating for YEARS and he is in the Hall of Fame. Why doesn’t that bother Goose and how can Verducci make the claim that the hall if “clean”? And personally, I would rather share the Hall with someone who cheated than with Ty Cobb and Cap Anson, two of the biggest bigots ever. Yet, they are in the Hall of Fame because they were amazing baseball players.

I’m not saying that I want to see Clemens or Bonds in the hall, but I have a serious problem with keeping them out. Clemens denied using PED’s and went to court to clear his name and won. How can we then judge him as guilty? Bonds is slightly more cut and dry because he actually admitted to using PED’s, but claimed he did so unknowingly. Last I checked, Craig Biggio was never accused of PED use, but his 3,000 hits and other great numbers didn’t get him into the Hall this year. And Mike Piazza has been the subject of plenty of rumors, but there is zero evidence to date that says he used PED’s.

I view this as retribution from the writers for missing out on the biggest baseball story in decades. They were the ones writing the adulatory pieces in the national press while the steroid era raged on. Now they seem like jealous ex-lovers, determined to hurt the ones who made them look foolish.

I’ve said this before in different forums, but the Hall has a choice. Either they simply vote straight up and down on the accomplishments of the players in the last 25 years or they have to separate them from the rest of the Hall someway. Because here’s the thing we all know, even if we don’t want to admit it- anyone who played baseball in the last 25 years could have been clean or they could have been dirty. We simply don’t know and we never will.

What Are We Rooting For?

Two thousand years ago in Rome it was fashionable to watch men fight each other and animals to the death. The Coliseum in Rome sat about 50,000 people, a bit more than modern Yankee Stadium, but presumably without all of the luxury boxes. I bring this up because I am wondering exactly what we are watching today when we flip on or attend a football game? I don’t believe anyone has ever died playing in a football game, but as the news today of Junior Seau’s brain study reminds us, there is an awful toll on some of the players in them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love football. I played it for a few years and I have watched countless hours of it on TV and in the stands. I am as guilty as anyone for the glorification of the sport. But these continuing stories of severe brain damage in former players are making me question my devotion. No, I don’t expect to stop watching the Giants next year, but I am not feeling as enthusiastic as I once did.

The scary thing to me is how much is unknown. Seau became a star in the NFL and went through thousands of practices and games. He played linebacker, one of the most violent positions in the game. Was that the trigger for his CTE, or did it happen much sooner?  Simply put, how many hits are too many?  Nobody knows that, but it seems to me that until we do, we need to rethink the toll this game is exacting on those who play it.

What Exactly Happened?

Here’s what we know about the Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Garnett “incident” the other night. We know the two players were jawing at each other on the court. We know Anthony went outside the Celtics’ locker room to confront Kevin Garnett. We know that he was angry when he did. Finally, we know he went to the Celtics bus to talk to him, but was convinced by Mike Woodson to go home. What we don’t know is, why did he do any of this? I have a guess, Garnett said something pretty personal to Carmelo.

Garnett is very good at getting under the skin of his opponents. I imagine he tried a number of approaches with Carmelo until he found one that really worked. That’s the way the game works at its roots. When you are playing pickup games trash talk is a way of life. It’s not a necessarily pretty aspect of the game, but it is one that goes back a long way. Now, there are certain lines you don’t cross, but unless it is proved that Garnett crossed one, I don’t have a problem with what he did.

As for Carmelo. He has to show more control. This is the latest incident this year where he and a number of his teammates have shown a lack of cool under adversity. When the playoffs roll around the Knicks will face a lot of games like Monday Night’s. If they can’t keep their composure, their postseason will be a quick one.

There Will Be Puck

At 5 AM this morning the NHL and NHLPA reached a deal to end the lockout.

First off, what in the world took them so long?  Why did they wait until September to even negotiate and why did they not negotiate in earnest until December?

I don’t have a good answer for those questions, but I hope the owners realize that Gary Bettman deserves to be fired.  Under his watch, hockey has given away its opportunity to become a mainstream sport and it has suffered three HUGE work stoppages. Bettman reportedly earns over $6-million a year, I can’t begin to understand why. On the plus side, Bettman is 60 and since the new deal lasts at least eight years, this is probably his last chance to destroy hockey.

What will happen with the “Just Drop It” movement?  Assuming hockey starts around January 15th, the Rangers will have missed around 10 games after their deadline. Will the fans who signed up for their pledge follow through? (I didn’t sign.)

*****

As for football, I went 1-1 last night.  Today I am picking the Colts +7 and Washington +3. Indy has been one of the hottest teams in football and I think Baltimore is vulnerable. Washington represents a very rare thing- a home underdog in the playoffs. When you see that you take the points.

Not In New York- UPDATED

Since 2003, either the Jets, the Giants or both teams had made the NFL playoffs each year. That streak comes to an end with the start of the playoffs today. Despite the lack of a local interest, I think there are some really good games to watch both days.  I also thought I would make some picks, though I advise you to ignore them and remind you that gambling is illegal except in Vegas.

Let’s start with Houston versus the Bengals. What happened to Houston? For the first seven games of the year they looked like the best team in football. They seemed a lock for a first-round bye, but since their bye in Week 7, they have been very, very beatable. They barely beat Jacksonville and Detroit and got slaughtered by New England. They did beat a good Indy team a few weeks ago, but losses to Minnesota and Indy in the final two games put them in this spot.

Week 10 taught this Giants fan to respect the Bengals and they finished the season on a roll, winning six-of-seven to get a wild card spot. So, you have a hot team facing a cold team which is the usual classic formula for an upset. But, I’m not buying it. The Bengals are 4.5-point dogs, but I’m picking Houston.

The Minnesota-Green Bay matchup looks familiar because it is a replay of the Week 17 game that Minnesota won in overtime. I’m surprised that Green Bay is a nine-point favorite in this game. True, that is the margin that they beat Minnesota at by home earlier this year, but since that game the Vikings haven’t lost.  I think the line is too generous, so I am taking the points and the Vikings.

I’ll be back with my Sunday picks tomorrow, enjoy the games.

UPDATE 7:20pm The Minnesota line surged to 10.5 points with the news that Ponder is out and Webb is in. Call me crazy, but I’m sticking with Minny and Joe Webb.

UPDATE 11:00pm Yup, I am crazy.