Friday, January 28, 2005

The least wonderful time of year

No football this Sunday. No baseball, either. No major sporting events. Just the final round of meaningless golf events and maybe some unbelievably unexciting NBA games.

Get used to it. Aside from Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 6, the next meaningful weekend in sports television doesn't occur until March. And that's only because you can't change a channel without seeing college basketball. Conference tournaments, then the Selection Show, then March Madness tournament. That's a real triple crown, minus the legal gambling in every state.

Some will argue the NBA All-Star game is good viewing. These are likely the same people who organize their schedules around the NFL Pro Bowl and still eat ramen.

So we are stuck this weekend. Find a project quick. Go to the track. Pay attention to your wife. Do something, because there's no football and staring at the screen like the girl from Poltergeist won't help anyone.

This dark Sunday in between the AFC and NFC championship games and the Super Bowl is designed to make the Super Bowl fall in television's sweeps week, where commercial rates are set for the coming months. Is it fair to viewers? No, but then again, when was is the viewer's choice factored into anything except the MTV VMAs?

There will be an NBA game or two, UConn women vs. Notre Dame, and motorcross on television during the normal football viewing hours. If not for Geno Auriemma's wind-defying hair gel, I might unplug my television on Sunday. Sorry, but I'm waaaaay too young to appreciate non-major golf tournaments. And now that Phil Mickelson has already won a major, it's no longer fun watching him miss an 8-foot putt to blow the lead and lose the tournament.

We can only hope for ESPN to run a "Tilt" marathon -- all three episodes -- followed by "Hustle." Or maybe TBS will have a "Brewster's Millions" viewing, followed by every John Landis '80s movie. With any luck, Anthony Michael Hall as high school football legend Johnny Walker will grace my television screen in "Johnny B. Goode."

Gee, I wish there was some hockey on this weekend. Psych!


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Random sporting thoughts

* Jon Gruden was once considered the best young mind in the NFL. It's amazing how he jumped the shark after winning the Super Bowl two years ago, culminated by his hiring of Paul Hackett as quarterbacks coach for the Buccaneers. Phil Simms should pull an Archie Manning and demand that his son, Chris Simms, be traded from Tampa Bay. Let Brian Griese suffer with the Hack Daddy.

* I liked having the Florida Marlins being a professional sports franchise more when they were selling players for umbrellas and sun-tan lotion rather than buying players for $52 million. Bring back 1998, please, and preferably without some would-be-out-of-work-if-not-for-VH1 comedians.

* If Terrell Owens plays in the Super Bowl, he will be the new Willis Reed.

* For the second year in a row, Rodney Harrison remains the morning-line favorite to get arrested during Super Bowl week.

* What if they were the New Jack City Patriots instead of the New England Patriots? This thing is bigger than Tom Brady. Soon, Belichick will itch, and Andy Reid will be there to scratch the hell out of him.

* Geez, the Knicks really, really stink.

* For at least the third time in the last month, the NHL players are having a "last chance to save the season" meeting. This is getting painfully annoying. Just step up and make a decision. It's worse than a 14-year-old girl trying to figure out what to wear on the first day of school.

* Most annoying stories during Super Bowl week, in order:
1) Belichick's a genius.
2) The Patriots are just a bunch of no-names.
3) Eagles fans.

* Is anyone else dreading next Tuesday's Super Bowl Media Day? I'm wondering what ridiculous things will occur this year that will require me to waste precious moments of my life writing about.

* UNC will win the national championship.

* I hate half-points.

* Forget the Super Bowl parties this year. Let's arrange the "NHL is over" party. THAT is a reason to celebrate with chips, wings, drinks, salsas from around the world, and twins.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Super Bowl stories actually worth reading

Now that the Super Bowl matchup is set, get ready for two weeks of hell. During the next 14 days, you can expect to read stories on just about every member of both teams, including the water boy, the special teams coach, and the guy who uncoils the headsets on the sidelines.

With so many unnecessary puff pieces and sob stories flooding your brain, it can be easy to forget the real issues behind the game. Fortunately, Keyboard Quarterbacks is here to help. Here's a list of interesting topics and stories to talk about during the next weeks while we wait for Super Bowl XXXIX:

T.O. flaps his wings, his legs, and his gums

Even though he'll probably be watching from the sidelines on February 6, there's no doubt the Eagles' Terrell Owens will say something stupid during the next couple of weeks. Of course, we in the media will love it because it'll give us something to talk about other than the punters' shiny new kicking shoes. And the Patriots -- a team that has proven it does not need any extra motivation -- will privately vow to make him eat his words by embarrassing Donovan McNabb and the rest of his teammates.

By the way, did you see Owens celebrating and dancing around on the sidelines Sunday like a boy with new legs? Apparently that injury isn't so bad.

Eagles fans must be wondering why their best receiver was doing a samba on the sidelines while bums like Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell are trying to catch bullets from McNabb. But I guess nothing surprises me with the traveling sideshow known as T.O.

Perfect Pats vs. Dangerous Donovan

Donovan McNabb is one of the best athletes and quarterbacks in the game, and the best playmaker on the Philadelphia offense. But he faces a defense that has already humiliated Peyton Manning's Colts and a host of other top offenses this year.

The Patriots win games by not making mistakes, and forcing opponents to make a lot of them. If McNabb can keep the ball out of the arms of the Patriots defensive backs, the Eagles have a 50-50 shot to win this thing. Bonus points if Philly can actually pick off Tom Brady, who hasn't thrown a key interception since... well... ever.

The Westbrook factor

TV analysts made a big deal about Brian Westbrook being the key to the Eagles' offense with Owens out of the lineup. They're not wrong -- Westbrook is an exceptionally versatile back who can excel both as a receiver and a runner. But the Eagles would be wise to gameplan some other options.

After all, this is the New England team that shut down Marshall Faulk three years ago, when he was the best receiving/running back in the league. Westbrook can have an impact, but he isn't likely to gain the 135 all-purpose yards he picked up against Atlanta. Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel will make sure of that.

Will Philly decide to come out throwing, get McNabb some confidence and open up holes for Westbrook by forcing the Patriots' DBs to drop into coverage?

Halftime show mayhem

Now folks, I hate the Super Bowl halftime show just as much as the next real football fan, but after last year's chaotic spectacle, I admit I will be watching. Naturally, the execs at FOX will take the necessary measures to ensure that a repeat of last year's $550,000 peep show does not occur.

One of those measures was naming as a performer ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, the sight of whose right breast would only make the 200 women in the viewing audience over the age of 60 swoon with glee, not flood the FCC offices with calls.

Unfortunately, the FOX honchos can't prevent Ashlee Simpson from dressing up as McCartney, running on stage, singing a few bars of "La La" and causing the 82,000 in attendance to storm the field in defense of their eardrums.

Troy Brown

As far as I'm concerned, this is the only guy on either team who deserves as much attention as he will get the next two weeks. Never once opening his mouth to complain, Brown willingly accepted Coach Belichick's request that he help out the Patriots' wounded secondary by transforming himself into a nickel cornerback.

Bear in mind that just three years ago, Brown caught 101 passes and was one of the top receivers in the league. This year, he caught just 17 -- the same number as he had tackles. But his three interceptions were his biggest stat.

In an era where you can't even get a player like John Abraham to limp onto the field to play half the game, Brown sacrificed stardom in exchange for W's -- and exemplified exactly why the Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.

Who will win Super Bowl XXXIX?
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  • Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Hammering Hackett one more time

    I woke to the news of Paul Hackett's resignation as offensive coordinator for the New York Jets. (Yes, I tend to sleep late.)

    When is the parade? Are tickets on sale? Will it be in Manhattan or East Rutherford? Down the Canyon of Heroes? Please, Mayor Bloomberg, make the announcement quickly so I can schedule the day off from work.

    How could the day go wrong now? I no longer cared that the cold water pipe in my apartment was frozen. Nor did I give much thought to the two soda cans that exploded in my car trunk last night because of the below-freezing temperatures and likely ruined my clean laundry I left in there.

    If the snow started falling from the sky earlier than it did, I'd have run outside and made snow angels.

    As us Italians are wont to do in moments of extreme emotional disturbance/elation, I cooked. Some ziti, some sauce, some meatballs, some bragiole, some saw-zeech (that's sausage for those not fluent in broken Italian).

    Watching the water boil, my blood began to approach the 212-degree Fahrenheit level. It was a race to see which would steam first, the pot of water or my head.

    Hackett RESIGNED. He was NOT FIRED. That's a bunch of hoo-hah! Sure, it's semantics and I should be ecstatic that "Mr. Draw Play on third-and-6" no longer has Chad Pennington's helmet on speed dial on Sunday afternoons, but I was seeking much more degradation for Paulie.

    I was hoping for some public humiliation, perhaps a flogging. Or maybe make Hackett run draw plays by himself in Times Square during rush hour.

    I feel like a Red Sox fan right now: I got what I wanted but still find a reason to complain and suffer internally.

    By resigning, Hackett can be perceived as a sympathetic figure, a man who knew his time was up and bowed out gracefully. Basically, he did what Evander Holyfield should have done seven fights ago. He'll be forever mocked by Jets fans, but even Mike and the Mad Dog talked more about the Jack Johnson PBS special than they did about Hackett during the first few hours of their WFAN radio show. Has hammering Hackett fallen out of favor that quickly?

    This guy was awful and he deserves his time in the spotlight of Hades. Jets fans are still twitching at his 5-yard pass plays on third-and-6, and his 2-yard quickouts on third-and-18. Just because the man is down does not mean we cannot kick him. It happens all the time in professional wrestling, which was less farcical than Hackett's continued employment.

    The nicest thing that can be said about Hackett's four-year stint in New York was that he stuck to his guns the whole time. He came in loving the draw play. He went out loving the draw play. It's somewhat admirable, but not too much. My favorite thing about Hackett is this: As soon as he left USC as head coach in 2000, the Trojans won two national titles and produced two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks. Through this guerilla math, Pennington will win the MVP next season and the Jets will at least reach the Super Bowl.

    I'm of the belief that Herm told Hackett he was going to be fired, but allowed him to resign and save face. I can't fault Herm for being a class act, but still, maybe Hackett deserved in a kick in the patoot on his way out of the office.

    January 19, 2005: A proud moment in Jets history. It should definitely be listed in the "Memorable Moments" section of the Jets' 2005 media guide.

    Special shout out: Props to Graphic design friend Rich for that gem at the top of this blog. See more of his work by clicking here.

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    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    One way or another, it's up to players

    Forget all the rhetoric and back-and-forth about who is to blame and who needs to concede what. The NHL and the players union are run by the two biggest obstructors to peace on ice since Bob Probert and Tie Domi. Both sides are to blame. Blame is irrelevant. What matters is what can be done, and what must be done, to save the NHL.

    There is one group of men who can forge a deal that will save the league. (Hint: It's not the guys who wear suits and ties and watch games from luxury boxes.)

    Only the players have to power to end this whole sorry affair. Because they're the only ones who care.

    Let's face it: The owners are rich, and probably will stay rich whether or not the NHL goes under like the Rangers on a playoff run. Gary Bettman will tell you how much he loves the game, how much it hurts him to not be playing hockey. But the fact is, Bettman doesn't play hockey. Probably never has. Hockey may provide him with a title and a lot of face time, but the fact is, he collects a paycheck no matter how long the NHL rinks stay empty. For most of the owners, it's the same way.

    To the extent that their teams are successful and money is in their pockets, the owners are fans of the game. But money is decidedly flowing out of their pockets, right into those of the players. Which means they can and will wait as long as it takes to reverse that trend. And that tells you all you need to know about the extent of their interest in the great sport of the frozen pond.

    The players, on the other hand, have a couple of incentives to get the league going as soon as possible. First, they have a livelihood to think about. Most are young, naive, not particularly well-educated, with young wives and families to think about. They play a game they love and are well-paid for doing so. Even with the possibility of alternate North American leagues or pro teams in Europe, they must realize that the type of money to be made off the prestige and popularity of the NHL is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

    Second, the players are hockey players. Say what you will about the greedy, jaded athlete of the 21st Century -- when it comes down to it, these guys know they are living a dream come true. Today's NHLers grew up idolizing stars like Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Patrick Roy... And now they are wrecking the chance to build on that legacy, all in the name of an ancillary million here or a few thousand there.

    Even in the face of a stern, wagging finger from NHLPA head Bob Goodenow -- who if nothing else has been a remarkable champion for the NHL agent -- it's becoming clear that some of the game's stars won't stand by while their boyhood game is destroyed.

    Brendan Shanahan organized a summit on rules changes that could improve the game. Jeremy Roenick spoke out about the need for a deal to get done soon. Trevor Linden spurred on a new round of labor talks which he hopes will bridge extensive gaps in the two sides' bargaining philosophies. And remember: It was the players who took the first step towards reconciliation, offering a 24 percent salary rollback in December.

    No one is criticizing the union for bowing under the enormous pressure of the fans, the owners, and the skeptical players themselves; and no one should if and when they do crack. The players must come to the realization that it is they -- not the owners -- who have everything to lose by sitting out. The owners are not the ones uprooting their homes and leaving their families to play pro hockey in places like Italy and Norway for $1,000 a week. The owners will retain their millions, NHL or not.

    The only question left is, How long before they come to their senses? How long before the players grasp the harm they are doing to their careers and the game they love by haggling over a few million dollars? How long can they shoestring it out working on farms and selling printer ink while the owners uncaringly flip through stacks of money?

    Their resolve is admirable, but their sensibility is not. Eventually someone surely will realize the owners have no impetus to return the game to the ice unless a deal is in place that guarantees them an opportunity to advance their position on the Forbes 500 list. And when that happens, no amount of Goodenow posturing will prevent the avalanche of support the players will receive. In the end, the players have the opportunity to come out looking like the good guys. It's an opportunity they'd be foolish to pass up.

    Monday, January 17, 2005

    Weekend Update: Brien is Finkle, Finkle is Brien

    Doug Brien.

    There, I said it. For the final time in my life, I used those two words in succession. From here onward, he'll be known simply as D.B. Deal with that as you wish. It's as bad a curse word as that former Philadelphia Eagles coach who guide the Jets off a cliff like he was playing chicken against a leather-jacket tough guy in some 1958 movie.

    After a week off from the Weekend Update (judging by the 32 million e-mails I received last week, you were clearly unnerved by its absence), we're back with a vengeance. No themes this week, though. Just straight-up hardcore mockery and brutality, the bulk of which will be directed at the New York Jets. So let's get started:

    * Dick Curl should call Flavor Flav for some help coaching the clock. Surely, Flav can give the "clock coach" a few pointers on how to tell time. Or, at the very least, Curl should be forced to wear the Flavor Flav alarm clock (yes, it exists) around his neck AND that big wristwatch worn by the Fresh Prince's mother in the video "Parents just don't understand" since he clearly doesn't know how to tell time.

    * D.B. in Finkle. Finkle is D.B. Am I suggesting D.B. have a sex-change operation, become a police detective, kidnap Chad Pennington and try to sabotage the Super Bowl when the Jets make it there next year in some sort of bizarre real-life twist to "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective?" I am suggesting D.B. have a sex-change operation, become a police detective, kidnap Chad Pennington and try to sabotage the Super Bowl when the Jets make it there next year in some sort of bizarre real-life twist to "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective."

    * Laces out, Toby!

    * The Hackett Watch is on. Another three-point outing by his offense has us Jets fans wondering why we jumped the gun and recruited from USC so soon. We get Hackett, USC gets Norm Chow, Pete Carroll and two national championships.

    * Well, at least we have eight more months before the next draw play.

    * It's going to be a shame watching LaMont Jordan rush for more than 2,000 yards next season as a member of the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    * Heath Miller is a unanimous All-American tight end from Virginia who declared himself eligible for this year's NFL draft. That is worth repeating. Heath Miller is a unanimous All-American tight end from Virginia who declared himself eligible for this year's NFL draft. That, too, is worth repeating, especially in the April days leading up to the draft.

    * How does a person such as D.B. continually get jobs in the NFL when his success rate on field goals between 40-49 yards is 73 percent? That is not very good. I'm sorry but a 49-yard field goal or shorter has to be made. He gets financially compensated to perform the responsibilites outlined by the job description. It's always pitiful when someone can't do their job properly yet still collect a paycheck. Look around your office right now. Surely, you see at least three people in a similar situation. D.B. will get cut soon, if not by the Jets then likely by a subway rider or cab driver. In my high school, 73 was a failing grade. And we didn't get extra-credit chances at redemption like D.B. did.

    * Gotta love Donnie Henderson. Let's just hope he stays with the Jets for a few more seasons.

    * Chad Pennington, meet Dr. James Andrews. Dr. James Andrews, meet Chad Pennington.

    * Perhaps a new offensive coordinator finally will figure out how to effectively utilize the speed of Santana Moss.

    * Does anyone know if Joe Beningo is still alive?

    * D.B. poisoned my Kool-aid.

    And in other sports news:

    * Peyton Manning took a dump on himself again. In the playoffs. In Foxboro. Against the Patriots. Against Bill Belichick. Perhaps some of that magic brother Eli has rubbed off on Peyton during a family dinner.

    * Tom Brady = Joe Montana.

    * We must root for Atlanta to beat the Eagles this coming Sunday. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is I will be able to write: "After losing a fourth straight NFC championship game, the Philadelphia Eagles can only aspire to the greatness achieved by the Buffalo Bills, losers of four straight Super Bowls." Oh what a glorious paragraph that will be.

    * The Knicks? Yeah, they still stink. And getting stinkier by the day.

    * Minnesota's Mike Tice still remains the worst coach in the NFL not named Jim Haslett.

    * The Yankees didn't sign anyone over the weekend. Such winter rarity begets noteworthiness.

    * People care so little about the NHL, I'm wondering if anyone even remembers there is still a lockout going on.

    * St. John's came very close to beating a talented Notre Dame team. In football, this is a huge feat, especially since St. John's no longer has a football team. Yet, in men's basketball, it's an even bigger feat.


    Friday, January 14, 2005

    Let the Moon man shine!

    What did Randy Moss do that was so bad? He faked mooning fans in Green Bay, so why is American lashing out at him?

    I believe the answer is one most people don't want to hear. That answer is race.

    If Brett Favre scored a touchdown in such an emotionally charged game (instead of lamely throwing the ball away 5 yards in front of the line of scrimmage), and imitated mooning the crowd (in a town famous for the pants-all-the-way-down moon), would the NFL have stepped in and fined him $10,000? What about Brandon Stokely? Peyton Manning? Drew Bennett?

    OK, maybe Bennett would be fined because only fantasy football players and people in Tennessee know who this guy is.

    It's pretty funny, to me at least, that Moss has to fork over "straight cash, homey" (one of the best sound bites of the last 10 years). He showed less of his patoot than team cheerleaders, and heaven forbid the networks from using "Cleavage Cam" before and after commercial breaks. For the record, I'm not against "Cleavage Cam," but the parallel is amusing.

    Media people have been bashing Moss for his actions as if he had a wardrobe malfunction. Moss has this reputation of NFL's bad boy, some of it he deserves - walking off the field during a game because he's frustrated qualifies as deserving.

    On Monday's "Cold Pizza" on ESPN2, TV personality/newspaper columnist Skip Bayless was outraged by the Moss moon. He said it just one part of why he doesn't like Moss. Another part was "the hair." Yes, Moss rocked an awesome afro, one rivaled only by Dwayne from "What's Happening?" But when a white man says he doesn't like a black person because of his hair, I must wonder if this country will ever become unilaterally tolerant of its citizens.

    ESPN's Mark Schlereth (yeah, I know) bashed Moss for disrespecting the game, himself, his team, the fans, blah blah blah. Take it easy there, slugger. He may have offended you, or maybe you've just decided to have an opinion, but I'm not offended. Nor were many people I know. It was funny. That's it. And when a man nicknamed "Stink," as Schlereth is, and he gets upset about a mooner, where the parallels are too funny to contemplate today.

    Not to mention it's tradition for Packers fans to stick around after the game to moon the visiting team's bus as it leaves Lambeau Field. Those are real cheeks exposed to people. And frankly, if given a choice of exposed posterior flesh to see, Wisconsin slobs loaded on beer and brats wouldn't be my first, second or 38th choice.

    Moss said he might expose something else this weekend against Philadelphia. I can't condone that "something else" but I have a better idea for the randy Randy. He should really moon Philly when he scores the first touchdown of the game. On his left cheek, he should draw a big T. On his right cheek, he should draw a big O. Yes, that's right. Scrawled across his patoot for the all the world to see would be T.O. What better way to show up Philly and its injured star receiver?

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    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Random thoughts on Randy

    I watched the second half of the All-star press conference doubleheader this afternoon. (I woke up at 12:30 today, thus costing me a chance at experiencing Omar Minaya starting 10 sentences and finishing a different 10 sentences in response to one question).

    In viewing the 6-foot-10 mullet-less Randy Johnson speak, I began to think:

    * What is Mike Mussina thinking when he hears Michael Kay and Suzyn Waldman say the Yankees finally have a No. 1 starter?

    * Where is Johnson's wife? Usually at these press conferences, the wife has some primo real estate location on the dais.

    * How many people can the Yankees possibly introduce before introducing the only person we want to hear speak? It began with Yankees public relations savant Rick Cerrone, who then brought up team president Randy Levine, who then brought up general manager Brian Cashman. This was ridiculous. I was waiting for the entire starting rotation from 1991 to come up and say a few words. (For those wondering, that gem of a staff was Wade Taylor, Jeff Johnson, Pascual Perez, Scott Sanderson, Dave Eiland.)

    * Some Steinbrenner rules are good, such as the one that bans long hair. Though I'm all about expressing yourself as you wish, those nasty white-man gheri curls Johnson wore had to go.

    * Damn, this guy is tall!

    * It will be such a pleasure to watch games on YES this year, because that means I won't be listening to them on the radio, which means I won't be listening to Waldman calling the games on the radio. She's a very nice lady in person, but the voice, oh lord, the voice. She is the antithesis to Demi Moore's voice, perhaps the sexiest ever.

    * Through my limited exposure to sportscaster Duke Castiglione, I'm of the opinion that he is the poor man's Jim Rome. I could be wrong, but I also could be right. I'll have to investigate further. Castiglione is the CBS reporter involved in the Randy Johnson-cameraman scandal. He pressed the situation a bit and declined to agree that Johnson tried to be nice about the whole thing afterward. Research shows that Castiglione hosts some sort of sports roundtable show on Sundays on CBS. I wonder if it's called "Castiglione is burning."

    * Where is Derek Jeter?

    * Seeing that Yankees sign as the backdrop always reminds me of a 1995 cover of Yankees Magazine where Don Mattingly announced his one-year sabbatical, which was in effect, his retirement. Always a sad, but proud moment in my fandom.


    The definitely-not-sarcastic list of why Carlos Beltran will fail

    Greetings, sports fans. I'm sure most of you are wondering what nuclear power plant is affecting my brain to make me diss the Mets' newest acquisition. But let me assure you, no brain cells were harmed in the making of this blog.

    Like most Mets fans, my initial reaction to the news of Carlos Beltran's signing was satisfaction, followed by glee, joy, and a Namath-like desire to kiss everyone. Could you blame me? Beltran has speed, power, defense, and clutch-hitting... He's like a miniature Griffey, circa 1998. He's the most exciting player in Mets history; and the biggest free agent signing they've ever had.

    But after listening to hours of wonderfully insightful sports talk radio calls from jilted Yankees fans and ultra-cynical Mets fans, I came to realize something: Boy was I wrong!

    I should have known all along -- there are plenty of excellent reasons why Carlos Beltran will fail! Here's my list, with regards to the fans who helped set me straight:

    1) The Yankees didn't want him. Well jeez, isn't that reason enough? If the Yankees don't want him, he must not be good, right? I mean, think of all the great players they've added in the past few years -- Javier Vazquez, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Alex Rodriguez -- all champions... Or wait, umm....

    2) Shea is not a hitters' park Of course, this is particularly applicable because Beltran is solely a power hitter. Sure he's got a career .284 average, steals 30-40 bases, and hits 30-40 doubles per year. But the only thing we fans care about home runs. So what if he doubles and triples the hell out of the ball? Triples are so BORING! Mets fans want more one-dimensional stars like Jeromy Burnitz, Dave Kingman, George Foster, and Mo Vaughn! Ahhh Mo Vaughn... now there was a star!

    3) It's hard to play centerfield at Shea Stadium No one who watches the Mets could disagree with that assessment. With a cavernous outfield and deep power alleys, you could run for days and not get to some fly balls. Ask Mike Cameron. But really, what makes Shea so tough is the wind -- at least, that's what one WFAN caller said on Sunday night. And, you know... the more I think about it, the more I realize he's right. Because I don't think Carlos Beltran has ever dealt with the wind before. I'm pretty sure he's played all 885 of his Major League games inside a dome, right? Isn't that how he got his reputation as one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game?

    4) He won't be able to handle the media The New York baseball media is as tough as they come, although maybe not as obsessive as Boston's and not as unforgiving as Philly's. And we all know the long list of MLB players whose careers have been failures because of their inability to handle the media: Let's see, there's Randy Johnson and Eddie Murray and Barry Bonds, and Steve Carlton... All bums!

    5) Carlos Beltran hit .267 last year Nothing is a surer sign of a player who is washed up than when his average dips 40 points. I know that despite that he hit 38 home runs, 36 doubles, stole 42 bases, and drove in 104 runs. And I know he hit over .400 with 8 home runs in last year's playoffs. But let's get real: the playoffs don't matter! What matters is that the Yankees didn't want him! And Shea is not a hitters park! And my astrologer told me Saturn would not pass through Ursa Minor this year, which clearly means that the Mets drastically overpaid and Carlos Beltran will be a flop!

    What? You don't buy that???

  • How will Carlos Beltran do as a Met? E-mail Mike Casey
  • Read Newsday's Carlos Beltran coverage. Click here.
  • Sunday, January 09, 2005

    Jets know their ABCs

    Minutes before kickoff to what would prove to be a blueprint New York Jets football game, Unemployed sitcom writer friend Jann remarked of the pleasure he receives from watching sporting events on ABC.

    He claimed their production skills as the best in network television. He worked on the set of “Spin City” a few years back, so I trust his judgment.

    But, clearly, a Jets fan chloroformed the usual production assistant in the ABC truck at the end of regulation and took his spot for overtime. After the Jets won in regulation then didn’t (Eric Barton threw a haymaker into Drew Brees’ head, perhaps trying to knock that dirt patch off Brees’ face, perhaps not), San Diego predictably put itself in position to win in overtime.

    Nate Kaeding set up a 40-yard field goal. I noted that he looked like he was raised in a trailer on a toxic waste dump site (think “those two guys that John Candy and Eugene Levy go to visit in “Armed and Dangerous”).

    Here comes the superb production skills. ABC flashes a graphic that read Kaeding was the first rookie in NFL history to attempt an overtime field goal in the postseason. Only, they used Doug Brien’s headshot. If you pressing your luck at this point, you just got whammied. Restaurant friend Rob noticed the mistake. It was an impressive observation from a man who watched clutches moments in a Jets game as if he were coaching third base in the eighth inning of a tie game. Even more impressive considering he spent the overtime switching between a brand new Jonathan Vilma jersey and the old-school Santana Moss jersey depending on who had the ball.

    I noticed the Doug Brien mistake a second after Rob. I was still struggling internally with the sweet and soggy pork from some Chinese restaurant we ordered from. (Note: I was skeptical when the delivery guy showed up basically right after we hung up the phone.)

    Quickly, Rob and I verbally assaulted Unemployed sitcom writer friend about the screw-up.

    “If ever there was an omen, that was it,” Rob screamed, in his Vilma jersey.

    The toxic waste baby/Chargers kicker shanked it. HE SHANKED IT!

    The Jets are still in it. After having won the game, then not, then having lost it, then not, the Jets had the ball.

    This was the quintessential Jets game. The next time someone says, “I want to be a Jets fan,” show them a copy of this game and say, “This is what you are getting yourself into. Can you handle the truth?”

    Here comes Chad onto the field. Curtis for 4 yards. Santana for 18. Curtis for 3. McCareins for 11. LaMont around the left side for 19. LaMont right for 3, then up the middle for 2. Field goal, Brien. Jets win!


    Marty Schottenheimer called a timeout, or at least the referees claimed he did. So, the Jets won again, but they didn’t. A celebration would have to wait until Brien kicked it again. He hit it, against all Jet odds. 20-17, Jets win. San Diego loses.

    We flip to ESPNEWS to wait for some Herm quotes. They show the highlights of the game first, then right underneath, the ticker reads: “Chargers’ Marty Schottenheimer voted 2004 AP NFL Coach of the Year.” Such irony.

    That, my friend, is some impressive television production.


    Tuesday, January 04, 2005

    Life imitates art, Vol. II

    In our first installment of how life imitates art, we saw the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team face a situation similar to Rocky Balboa fighting Ivan Drago in Russia in Rocky IV.

    Our second installment comes from the West Coast, specifically Lo-Cal (some may know this region better as SoCal, but Lo-Cal and Hi-Cal are funnier.)

    The Anaheim Angels no longer exist. Huh? How can the 2002 world champions go belly up in two years? Well, not exactly.

    The franchise changed its name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. You're thinking two things right now: 1) Morons! and 2) "Yeah, Anaheim."

    Such a name change is, as Anaheim city executive John Nicoletti said, "geographically confusing and absurd."

    In the movie Swingers, Sue tried to claim Los Angeles as his hometown. The dialogue went like this:

    Sue: "You don't know what it's like out here. I'm from L.A."
    Trent: "Yeah, Anaheim."
    Sue: "Whatever."

    Can't you just see Derek Jeter telling people he's going to Los Angeles to play the Angels? Or any other American League player trying to be taken seriously saying that? It's too funny.

    I'm going to weasel my way into Yankee Stadium the day before the first West Coast road trip just so I can ask Jeter, "So, Derek, you start in Seattle, then go to pitching-depleted Oakland. Who's the third series against?"

    Jeter will respond: "Los Angeles."

    I will respond: "Yeah, Anaheim."


    Monday, January 03, 2005

    Weekend Update rings in the new year

    Well, we’re another year into history, and the Jets are still the Jets. With life’s success or demise in 2005 to be determined in the coming 361 days, it’s comforting to know our beloved Jets are the planet’s one constant.

    They didn’t need to win to reach the playoffs, so they didn’t. But before you Jets fans put a picture of Paul Hackett on the office water fountain and pray for plumbing problems, consider this: The Jets are 10-6 and in the playoffs.

    The Jets started 5-0, then went 5-6 and still made the postseason for the third time in four seasons under coach Herm. Final record at the end of the regular season: 10-6.

    But if the Jets started 5-6, then went 5-0, Jets fans would be pillaging Modell’s and other sporting goods stores looking for AFC Wild Card qualifier T-shirts. Interestingly enough, the final record at the end of the regular season would be . . . ? Bingo, 10-6!

    So forget how they got there. They started this season playing for the wild card (no one was going to wrestle the AFC East title from New England) and that’s what they got. Turn over that new leaf, Jets fans. Be happy.

    With this is mind, we begin 2005’s first Weekend Update with some events of the last few days and their corresponding New Year’s resolutions:

    * The Jets get the 26-21 lead, based solely on its defense, then give up the lead, based solely on its defense. They kick a field goal to tie it at 29 at the end of regulation. Oh wait, the field goal would have won the game had Herm Edwards not opted to go for two in the third quarterXX after getting the 26-21 lead. An extra point was all that was needed then. It would have given the Jets a 27-21 lead, and then a field goal at the end would have won it, 30-29. But nooooooooooooooooo! Then the Rams win in overtime.
    Herm Edwards’ new year’s resolution: I will coach to win the game.
    Paul Hackett’s new year’s resolution: I will stop calling draw plays every 46 seconds.
    Terry Bradway’s new year’s resolution: I will fire Paul Hackett and leave him in San Diego if we lose the wild-card game.

    * The Giants win the game! The Giants win the game! The Giants win the game! Tiki Barber ran it in with 16 seconds and no timeouts left to end the Giants’ eight-game losing skid. In the process, Barber became the single-season rushing king of the franchise and Eli Manning won his first NFL game. And it all happened on a draw play.
    Tom Coughlin’s new year’s resolution: I will build an offensive line next season.
    Eli Manning’s new year’s resolution: Peyton ain’t s-bomb!

    * Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury rang in the new year by proclaiming himself the best point guard in the NBA. Props to Starbury for believing in himself. You can’t get mad at that moxie. He then went out and pulled a Marbury: scored 31 points, assisted on 8 other baskets, lost the game to Jason Kidd and the Nets. Classic Steph. He’s a great point guard, but until he leads his team to a postseason series victory, he’s not the best. He’s just good. Point guards are floor leaders and possess that knack for the clutch play in the clutch moment. See: Kidd, Stevie Nash.
    Marbury’s new year’s resolution: I will continue to talk trash, back it up, lead my team nowhere, then demand a trade.
    The Knicks' new year's resolution: We vow to float around the .500 mark for as long as possible.

    * St. John’s men’s basketball stunned – STUNNED! – N.C. State . . . and everyone else in populated areas of the world. The Red Storm outclassed an ACC team ranked No. 17 in the nation, three days after the Wolfpack’s Julius Hodge vowed to “bring some of Rucker Park” to Madison Square Garden for this little Holiday Festival.
    Red Storm’s new year’s resolution: We’ll try to win a few more games, but if not, at least we won a tournament.
    Julius Hodge’s new year’s resolution: I will keep my mouth shut.

    * St. John’s women’s basketball played a meaningful game, but lost to UConn, 60-32. The Red Storm were 11-0 before the game, the Huskies just 6-3. That they lost mattered to the Red Storm. That people cared about the outcome mattered even more.
    Red Storm’s new year’s resolution: We will not shoot 1-for-29 during any stretch of a game anymore.
    Geno Auriemma's new year's resolution: I will continue to give outrageous quotes to reporters such as calling one of my players' shot "the worst in the history of basketball."

    * Florida State beat West Virginia, 30-18, to win the Cotton Bowl. FSU quarterback Chris Rix, arguably the worst quarterback in college football history, led a pair of touchdown drives in the second half to seal the win.
    Chris Rix’s new year’s resolution: I will stop playing football immediately.
    Bobby Bowden’s new year’s resolution: I will recruit a real quarterback one day.

    * Texas won the Rose Bowl, 38-37, over Michigan on Dusty Mangum’s last-second 37-yard field goal. It was an amazing back-and-forth game. Even more amazingly, it was the first meeting between these schools in the history of football.
    NCAA’s new year’s resolution: We will stop being stupid.

    * Randy Johnson became a Yankee.
    George Steinbrenner’s new year’s resolution: I will destroy the world before I conquer it.

    * Buffalo lost its playoff spot to a bunch of Pittsburgh backups. Denver won a playoff spot against a bunch of Indianapolis backups. Minnesota backed into the playoffs. Seattle earned its spot.
    Drew Bledsoe’s new year’s resolution: I won’t take the sack in the offseason.
    NFL’s new year’s resolution: We’ll stop talking about the NFC.

    * Maria Sharapova donated some money to the tsunami relief fund and kept playing tennis in the disaster-stricked region as part of a promotional tour for the WTA.
    Mark La Monica's new year's resolution: I will not stalk Sharapova. Well, at least, I promise not to get arrested for stalking Sharapova.