Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Psyched? You might say that

Finally, a long, cold New York winter has subsided. For Mets fans used to spending the majority of the offseason trying to justify a junk heap's worth of hot stove moves, it was the most satisfying winter in team history...
* * *
...It was one of those signature sporting moments -- the day I found out the Mets signed Carlos Beltran. I was at my friend Kevin's house, had just woken up after a three-hour sleepover at Penn Station obliged due to a missed last train home. The Broncos-Colts playoff game had quickly devolved into a reasonable facsimile of Super Bowl XXIV (possibly the worst sporting event ever propagated upon mankind). So like a good (bored) Newsday.com minion, I decided to see how our site was looking.

That's when it hit me.

Beltran! The Mets were supposed to sign Beltran that day. Sure enough, like clockwork, Jon Heyman had sent in an early-for-web story pronouncing the good news. Beltran was Amazin'. The era of the New Mets had officially begun. And a half-decade of second-guessing finally ended.

For Mets fans, there's no need to rehash the whole painstaking itinerary. But for the sake of dramatic effect, I'll do that.

First there was the A-Rod debacle, the tipping point that led to the decline following the Mets' 2000 World Series appearance. Then came the Robbie Alomar trade, the can't miss deal that did -- badly. The Mo Vaughn trade (shudder). Jeromy Burnitz. Cliff Floyd and Tom Glavine, not the difference-makers the Wilpons claimed them (and paid them) to be. The Vlad disaster of '04. And ohhhh the talk radio. The way fans -- fans of the Mets! -- would lambaste Fred & Jeff and Phillips & Duquette. The only thing missing was another idiotic Bobby Bonilla or Roger Cedeno acquisition -- or no, wait -- there was one of those, too, wasn't there?

But at last -- at long, long, sweet last, Mets fans have what they've been longing for. Not one, but TWO, difference-making players who actually have a shot to earn some of the ridiculous money they're being paid to play ball.

Are there problems with Pedro? Sure, there could be. Is it possible Beltran will suffer a meltdown? Yeah, I guess. But is there anyway you can second-guess Omar Minaya for bringing them to Shea? I can't imagine there is.

With the instant credibility a pair of stars like Pedro and Beltran bring to the Mets, they've suddenly got one of the most star-studded lineups in baseball, not to mention a decent pitching rotation. Of course, Mets fans have become used to disappointment from their top stars. But it hasn't always worked out that way. Mike Piazza sure delivered on his promise, didn't he? In fact, wasn't the Piazza trade -- a deal for a high-impact, high profile star in the prime of his career -- the singlemost significant deal in Mets' rise from mediocrity in the late 90s?

This was the kind of winter Mets fans have only dreamed of until now. And as with the heady optimism of spring, there will be great expectations and disappointments and peaks and valleys throughout the season. But the Mets are in the ballgame. They matter again -- and right now, that's all that matters. Welcome to the New Mets.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Random Thoughts on Madness

Some things that scurried through my brain while watching this weekend's Madness:

* Pittsnogle needs to shave that squirly goatee off.

* Roy Williams did his best to avoid another letdown in the Final Four by nearly tanking games against inferior opponents.

* I wish I DVR'd the Duke loss. Would have enjoyed viewing those events. It's always fun watching the fall of an empire.

* Lots of poor coaching on display this weekend.

* Third worst coaching move: Tubby Smith, Kentucky. Wow, that was some play he drew up at the end of the first overtime, where the Cats wasted as much time as possible before dribbling to the baseline and letting the buzzer sound before shooting. Ashley Judd must have been beside herself. Or perhaps that made her forget about her starring role in "Double Jeopardy."

* Second worst coaching move: Rick Pitino, Louisville. This guy showed his Long Island roots by entering the game in a bold, brash and punkish manner. He opened in a zone against West Virginia, which just happens to be the hottest shooting team from the perimeter since the people assembled for the NBA's three-point shooting contest. He actually gameplanned this strategy. Unbelievable. Perhaps that's why the Cardinals got blown out in the first half and had to scrap their way toward overtime.

* First worst coaching move: Lute Olsen, Arizona. Twelve seconds left in overtime, your team trails by one (after blowing a 15-point lead in the final four minutes, oh by the way.) How does Salim Stoudamire not touch the ball. Instead, some other guy gets the inbound, dribbles, passes to a guy who is two feet away from him, gets the ball back, waits, then throws up a brick three-pointer as the buzzer sounds. Nice clock management and crunch-time decision making. Perhaps Olsen should retire. I hear the Herm Edwards School of Clock Management is looking for a new assistant dean.

* Illinois = good.

* North Carolina = very good.

* Duke = home.

* The Villanova traveling call at the end of the game against North Carolina may have been the worst call in a big spot in the history of worst calls in a big spot. Even a Tar Heels fan such as myself can freely admit that call was bogus. Even a Tar Heels fan such as myself can freely not complain about the call.

* Tom "H to the" Izzo deserves commendation for beating Duke and Kentucky in a 48-hour span. Regardless of what kind of teams those schools fielded this year, beating two storied programs such as those is an impressive feat.

* Can't wait to see Roy cutting down those nets in St. Louis on Monday night!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sleeper City Update

Over there in Bracketville, I'm the village idiot. In case you need proof, I've got four brackets at the ready.

But here in Sleeper City, I'm the mayor, town planner, comptroller and ombudsman. In case you need proof, here we go with a review of my sleeper picks offered here last week:

Syracuse Regional -- Villanova.
Oh, lookee here. 'Nova has a date to the Sweet Sixteen with big, bad UNC. No. 5 Villanova's run will end here against the eventual national champion, but seeing how the Wildcats never fully achieved until this year, it's a nice step forward for Jay Wright. Plus, it's always good to see the local kid, Amityville's Jason Fraser, play big. As Editor friend Tim would say, "Felton, May, McCants, Jawad, Roy, whoozzgonnabeeeetem?"

Austin Regional -- Vermont, Utah.
Here in the Stone Cold regional, I'm dropping bombs. No. 13 Vermont was a monster call, and that 43-foot three-pointer for no reason was beautiful. Bye bye No. 4 Syracuse. However, I declined to pick the Catamounts in most of my brackets because I tweaked. I had a gut-check moment like Johnny Moxon at Jules Harbor's burger window in "Varsity Blues." But at least I take comfort in Vermont ruining Jim Boeheim's year. That's always a pleasurable feeling.

Don't look now, but we've got the Ashley Judd-Rick Majerus remix. Set up your DVR, or your TiVo. It's all about Judd Cam! (Ashley, if you're reading, drop me an e-mail). No. 6 Utah made it to the Sweet 16 and faces No. 2 Kentucky. I don't particularly care who wins this game, but more Kentucky games on TV mean more Ashley Judd sightings on TV, so I guess I particularly care who wins this game. Go 'Cats. And as Jamal Magloire once told Lexington lawyer friend Munster, "Man, they play in the WAC!"

Albuquerque Regional -- Georgia Tech/George Washington.
Oopsies. Looks like I missed one. No. 4 Louisville hammered No. 5 Tech, so the bet-against went against the bettor. Oh well, they can't all be winners. Even Tommy Lee dated an ugly girl once.

Chicago Regional - Arizona.
Amazingly, these Wildcats haven't self-imploded yet, thus making my sleeper pick look extra explosive. Mustache friend Ernie, a displaced Arizonan, wasn't very happy with my pick because he knows the deal. No. 3 Arizona always finds a way to mess things up. Not this year. They're taking out No. 2 Oklahoma State, then No. 1 Illinois. And I'll be dancing all the way to the bank . . . and asking for a loan to pay off my debts.

Sweet Sixteen sleeper: Texas Tech.
Can Bobby Knight get to the Final Four? Yes he can!

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Back on the radar

Has it really been six weeks since I last felt inspired to contribute anything to our wonderful blog? I guess so...

Contrary to popular belief, I have not gone missing for any of the following reasons:

1) Suspension due to derisive comments regarding women's college basketball. Turns out, a lot of people agreed with me.

2) Overdosed on anti-depressants following cancellation of 2004-05 NHL season. Thank God for March Madness. But the Mets had better be playing 'meaningful games' this September...

3) Bought time-share in Port St. Lucie to be closer to the 'new' Mets. No, I'm not one of those. I'm glad I'm not one of those. By "those" I mean people like the Cowbell Man at Shea, the Yankee superfan who paints the logo on his face, and the lady Cardinals fan from the "I Live for This" commercial who says she cries before every game. I like baseball, but I mean, c'mon. Should MLB really be rewarding these people by putting them on television?

4) On sabbatical to discover the meaning of life. Actually, there's an element of truth to this one. But all I really discovered was how much I hate saturated coverage of spring training, the NBA in general, and the fact that I have memorized the outcome of every 2004 World Series of Poker tournament.

Now that I'm back, I plan to write at least once a week, provided I'm not commandeered to do other things -- like work. In the meantime, don't worry folks: I'm not planning any 1,000-word masterpieces on the NHL's new blue ice.... yet.

Here are some interesting sports things I've got kicking around my head these days:
  • NFL committee proposes 19 rule changes
  • Sabres draw attention with blue ice
  • Regis wins Class B state title
  • Friday, March 18, 2005

    Diary of a Madness man

    Today is Friday, which makes yesterday Thursday, which just so happened to be the second greatest sports day of the year behind baseball’s Opening Day.

    The first day of March Madness is an amazing sporting event. Games all day, office pools changing as quick as a game of no limit hold’em.

    The following is a diary of my day with bonus coverage of the baseball congressional hearings. Here’s a good time to mention that I have four different brackets, none of which are the same. Good and bad. You’ll see.

    Thursday, March 17, 2005
    10:28 am – Wake up on couch. Perhaps that second game of no-limit Wednesday night wasn’t the best idea.
    10:41 –- Wake up on couch.
    11:27 -– Wake up on couch.
    12:14 p.m. –- Wake up on couch.
    12:19 -- Picture-in-picture technology (PIP) was made for days like this. Madness on the big screen. Silliness (a.k.a. steroid hearings) on the little screen.
    12:21 -– Tipoff. Here we go. Back in college, we’d be in front of a television at Lawyer friend Scurvy’s apartment, brackets in hand, classes somewhere else on campus .
    12:22 – Eastern Kentucky takes a 2-0 lead over Kentucky.
    12:39 – I get the brilliant idea to turn on the television in my other room. It’s the 13-inch TVCR and it gets 12 channels, but one of them is CBS. So, in case I need to send an email for some reason, I can stay updated on the games. MacGyver ain’t got nothing on me!
    1:02 -- Alabama trails, 38-28. Damn! Where are my bracket sheets? They’re at work. Not good. A mental mistake like that can be costly during the tournament.
    1:05 -- I know I have Pitt in at least two brackets. Will Pitt ever hit a three-pointer today?
    1:13 –- Please get Pitt off my screen. They’re destroying me.
    1:18 –- Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) is now rambling about nothing on the big screen during the congressional hearings on steroids in baseball . Dear Lord, let’s go back to the Pitt game.
    1:27 –- At the Half! Clark Kellogg time. No thanks. Time to take a shower.
    2:09 -– Uh oh. Kentucky only up by 5 with four minutes left. Will have to call Lexington lawyer friend Munster should the Wildcats choke. Mockery is a great byproduct of Madness.
    2:21 –- Kentucky wins. No phone call for me. Boooooooo!
    2:22 –- Oh great. More of the Pitt game. Someone at CBS doesn’t like me.
    2:27 –- Mark McGwire just walked into Congress. Pop that sucker on the big screen.
    2:31 –- Jose Canseco says steroids are bad. A complete contradiction to his book. Funny.
    2:36 –- Since when does Sammy Sosa need an interpreter? Back in 1998, he spoke just fine while chasing the home run record.
    2:38 –- Can’t wait until SNL parodies this hearing. Must DVR that one.
    2:43 –- Rafael Palmeiro, no stranger to pitching drugs (he’s a Viagra spokesman), points at the committee and vehemently denies ever using steroids. Ladies and gentlemen, we just witnessed history: a man with a mustache has proven himself trustworthy. It was an amazing moment. A watershed moment. My children’s history books will have a chapter solely devoted to this moment.
    2:49 –- Schilling is yapping away. What, no cheap shot at A-Rod?
    2:49 –-PIP technology rules! Pitt stinks!
    3:07 –- ESPNEWS replays McGwire’s "emotional" statement. Emotional my patoot! He’s nervous. Scared. Afraid he’ll just blurt out the truth. He looks like a man who knows he’s lying and he’s not happy about it.
    3:10 –- Let’s see what you got, B.C. The time for half-measures and talk is over. Take your 4-seed and beat Penn by at least 7.
    3:15 –- Damn! Time to leave for work. I should have called in sick. It’s Madness.
    3:32 -- B.C. up 10 as I pull up to work and get out of the car.
    3:37 -- At my desk, B.C. up 13. Whew.
    3:38 -- Where the hell are my bracket sheets? Bingo. Top drawer. Damn. 3 Pitts, 1 Pacific. 3 Alabamas, 1 UW-Milwaukee. But alas, the Pacific and the UW-Milwaukee are on the same bracket.
    4:02 -- At work now. Bumming. TV to my left, with no audio. TV to my right, with no video. But it appears B.C. is smacking Penn, 48-28, at the half.
    4:11 -- Nick Williams. Cincinnati. Stud. Making that second-round knockout of Kentucky looking nice. At least in 2 of my 4 brackets.
    4:26 -- McGwire doesn't discuss androstenedione. Ah, the squirming continues.
    4:28 -- I keep looking in the background for Ozzie Canseco. Sure, it's not the same as Pentangeli's brother showing up in Godfather II, but it's as close as I'll ever see in my lifetime.
    4:40 -- McGwire squirming. The Big Irishman getting treated like this on St. Pattie's Day is the best thing I've seen since a New York City cop took a picture of three drunk college kids posing on the hood of his car during the St. Pattie's Day Parade in 1998.
    4:46 -- "Is steroids cheating?" a committee member asked. "That's not for me to determine," McGwire responded. The committee member asked McGwire what his message would be to people as a spokesman for baseball. "That steroids are bad," he responded. The committee member then asked, and I'm paraphrasing here because of laughter issues, "How do you know?" No answer. McGwire makes Pete Rose look like angelic.
    4:47 -- Note to self: Find out who that committee member was, then move to his district and vote for him twice each year.
    4:52 -- Gotta love the ticker on the bottom of ESPN2. I can watch McGwire twitch and still keep track of games. B.C up 14 with 5:11 left. This is looking nice.
    5:09 -- B.C. up by 19 with 35 seconds left. I think it's safe to assume the Eagles will cover the 6.5-point spread and I'll be a little richer this evening.
    5:16 -- Amid the squirming of McGwire and the revelry of B.C., it appears UTEP and UTAH are tied at 54 with less than a minute left. BRACKET CHECK ALERT! BRACKET CHECK ALERT!
    5:17 -- "The story is Utah, Frank."
    5:23 -- u-TAH! u-TAH! u-TAH!
    . . .
    6:06 -- Work is crazy. Just looked to my left for the first time in a half-hour. It's freaking Ernie Anastos. Guess I missed the end of a game or two. This job is really starting to get in the way.
    6:59 -- Dammit! Start the night session.
    7:24 -- Never really watched Wake Forest play this season. Chris Paul is fast.
    7:38 -- Watching McGwire opening statement again online right now. Hi-larious.
    8:01 -- Still haven't come to grips with getting rivered twice last night in hold'em tournaments. Must seeking counseling from the mighty Eddie Mac.
    8:08 -- Bug Selig talking I can't believe these hearings are still going on. Wonder how much this will cost taxpayers when Congress files its overtime slips.
    8:25 -- Work is really starting to interfere with things. I need a Wake score. Let's check.
    8:25.38 -- Dear Lord, Wake trailing 26-25 to No. 15 Chattanooga early in the second half. Maybe I'm glad I missed most of the first half. Must have been ugly.
    8:32 -- Editor friend LaRonda e-mails me. Seems Arizona, my super sleeper, is struggling. Damn those Wildcats. I guess after 12 years, I'll never learn. I vowed never to pick Arizona again after losing to Santa Clara as a 2-seed back in 1993. And I never did, until this year. Karma? Krapola!
    8:50 -- Breathing easier now as Wake begins to pull away. Nothing worse than losing a Final Four team on the first day, except for losing a Final Four team on the first day on ALL FOUR of your brackets.
    9:02 -- C'mon Winthrop. Smack those Zagoffs back down to reality. You're tied at 56 with 7:22 left. Have some heart, Winthrop. We'll pulling for you in New York, North Cacalaka and Compton. I'm tired of those mid-major morons. Gonzagian popularity is 38 times worse than when the Jamaican bobsled team rose to cult status. At least they had cool accents. All Gonzaga has is a whiny coach who won't accept his mid-majordom.
    9:18 -- Let's go Texas. Let's go Nevada. I'm too confused now. I've got Texas in two brackets, and Nevada in the other two. But seeing how the Nevada bracket is the same as my UW-Milwaukee bracket, then it's Nevada, Nevada, Nevada.
    9:31 -- Winthrop = garbage.
    9:55 -- Reaching that point of saturation now. No major upsets or buzzer-beaters. Hmm, this 11-10 Illinois lead over FDU seems like fun.
    10:07 -- Wait just a second here. FDU is trailing 17-14 with 10:44 left. I don't usually root for anything involving New Jersey, with Bon Jovi being the obvious exception, but since Bostonian broadcaster friend Andy always admired the FDU-LIU rivalry from afar, maybe I could root for the upset.
    10:08 -- 19-14, Illinois. So much for the upset.
    10:12 -- 20-19, FDU. Two big dunks for the "Big Ital" Andrea Crosariol. (TURN ON CHRIS BERMAN VOICE) From? (TURN OFF CHRIS BERMAN VOICE; TURN ON TOM JACKSON VOICE) Long Island Lutheran! (TURN OFF TOM JACKSON VOICE.)
    10:21 -- 30-20, Illinois. The dream is dead. Time to go do some work before I get fired.
    10:30 -- Halftime. 32-31, Illinois. Get the shock sticks, rub 'em together, CLEAR! We're breathing again. Tamien Trent knocks down a three for FDU at the buzzer. (TURN ON CHRIS BERMAN VOICE) From? (TURN OFF CHRIS BERMAN VOICE; TURN ON TOM JACKSON VOICE) Center Moriches! (TURN OFF TOM JACKSON VOICE.)
    10:33 -- An Illinois loss would destroy all but one of my brackets. It's likely Illinois will win, what with no 1-seeds ever losing in the first round. But I can't deny myself a chance at witnessing history. This would be just as amazing as watching the Red Sox rally from 0-3 down to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. Maybe even more so.
    10:56 -- Back from the bathroom. FDU down, 39-31. What the f-bomb? All I did was No. 1, and it wasn't even one of those Ogre trips from Revenge of the Nerds. This isn't good. So much for history.
    11:05 -- 46-33, Illinois. Next game!
    11:12 -- Not for anything, but can LSU at least show up? Geez. UAB is wiping their patoots with LSU right now. Somewhere, Shaq is pissed.
    11:36 -- OK, this West Virginia three-point shooting is getting annoying. BRACKET CHECK! BRACKET CHECK! Damn, got Creighton in two pools, West Virginia in the other two. Why do I do this to myself every f-bombing year?
    11:37 -- Why?
    11:37 -- Oh, yes, I know why. I'm an idiot!
    11:41 -- It's official. Mighty FDU is again just a school in Dirty Jersey. Illinois wins, 65-54.
    11:47 -- Creighton is crap. Tied at 61. Watch them blow this and screw my local bracket and my web bracket but keep me living large in the Lexington lawyer friend Munster pool.
    11:49 -- Unbelievable! Creighton screwed it up. This is why mid-majors don't belong in the NCAA Tournament. The point guard falls, the shooting guards gives up a good look from deep, drives into traffic with three seconds left on the shot clock and passes it off to a doubly covered teammate at the three-point line. Airrrrrrrrrrr-ball! Airrrrrrrrrrr-ball! And a West Virginia fast-break layup for 63-61 lead with 2.4 seconds left. This won't end well for Creighton.
    11:53 -- It doesn’t end well for Creighton.
    11:58 -- Texas Tech handles UCLA. Three minutes left in the UAB drubbing of LSU.
    12:13 -- UAB finishes off LSU. An embarrassment. Time to go home and break down my brackets. Oh wait, I need a few drinks first. Guess I'll go meet Joey Colskore and The Kinger for some Gorney Justice at the bar. Holla. What a day. I barely had time to mock people waring green.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2005

    Sleeper City, Baby!

    You've been staring at the brackets since Sunday night, searching for the one or two picks that will make the difference between you being the king of office pools and being the king of office fools.

    Rub your eyes, splash water on your face, and for the love of Pete, shower. Then take a look at my super sleeper picks for this year's Madness.

    (Note: For those keeping track, Thursday is the second best sports day of the year.)

    Syracuse Regional
    No. 5 Villanova -- Strange internal feeling right now as I select a Philadelphia-based sports team to be successful. But Nova's likely second-round opponent will be No. 4 Florida and I'm really excited about the prospects of watching Gators coach Billy Donovan overcoach in the first half, undercoach in the second half and lose it in the last minute. Ordinarily, I'd choose a Nassau gel specialist such as Donovan (Rockville Centre) over a Philly gel wonder, but Villanova coach Jay Wright has some Nassau gel skills. Remember, he coached Hofstra. Wow, never thought I'd call that a positive. But of course, the Wildcats will fall to North Carolina, as will the rest of basketball's free world this year.

    Austin Regional
    No. 13 Vermont -- Sentimental underdog. Plus Syracuse is not as good as they should be. Coppenrath vs. Warrick will be fun to watch. Besides, a 13-seed has won a game in nearly every tournament for the last 20 years. My fellow 'Cuse alumni will squeeze my oranges for picking against their beloved Boeheim, but I only went there for graduate school, so my loyalties run shallow. Plus, Boeheim wasn't so beloved until he won a national championship. Should the Catamounts sneak past Orangina, then the Spartan Factor will come into play and Vermont will beat Michigan State and reach the Sweet Sixteen. Duke will win that game because J.J. Redick will sink 18 three-pointers.

    No. 6 Utah -- This is for purely selfish reasons. No, I'm not a mormon. But I love Ashley Judd. What am I talking about? Here goes: Rick Majerus, formerly the Utah head coach and currently ESPN's college basketball version of John Kruk, had this to say near the end of broadcasting a particularly bad game on ESPN, give or take a word: ''Well, there's not much to look forward to from here on out, so I'm trying to find Ashley Judd in the crowd. It beats the adult videos at the hotel.'' Wow. I'm throwing up from laughter. But if Utah makes the Sweet Sixteen, they could likely play Kentucky, which means Kentucky fan Ashley Judd will likely be in attendance, which means plenty of oh-so-necessary camera shots of her cheering for the Wildcats. She quite possibly could be the hottest white woman in the world. And a second helping of inane Majerus comments are quite tasty, provided he can remove the double-meatball parm hero from his mouth long enough to talk.

    Albuquerque Regional
    No. 5 Georgia Tech/No. 12 George Washington -- This is clearly the bet-against pick. Since a 12-seed always win a game, this one could be the upset. But regardless of who wins this first-round pairing, it's a lock for this team to beat Louisville. Rick Pitino did a great job getting his Cardinals this far, but they struggle to win big games and will end up losing in the second round. Hate to go against the Long Island guy, but I did it with Donovan up above, and Pitino is his basketball godfather, so the whole family will crumble in the second round. Where's Sebastian Telfair when you need him?

    Chicago Regional
    No. 3 Arizona -- I know what you're saying out loud right now: "Wow, way to go on a limb there, tough guy. You picked a 3-seed." Well, consider this: I'm picking Arizona to win the region and make the Final Four. It's even more of a bold pick when you realize that every time Arizona gets a high seed, they choke in the first round. Hellooooooooooooo, Santa Clara's Steve Nash, a.k.a Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash. He beat Arizona a few years ago in the tourney as a 15-seed. But the guess here is that Salim Stoudamire will find that can't-miss spot on the floor in Nintendo's Double Dribble and drop 33 points to beat Oklahoma State in the Sweet Sixteen and 36 to upend Illinois at home in the Elite Eight.

    The Final Four:
    North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest (unless Chris Paul goes junk-hunting again), Arizona.

    The National Championship:
    North Carolina 83, Wake Forest 78.

    Margin of error for all these picks: +/- 42.

    Happy Madness!

    E-MAIL ME

    Friday, March 11, 2005

    Random Sporting Thoughts

    Things that ran through my brain this week:

    * What does it mean when singer Ricky Martin looks more like Jose Canseco's twin brother than does his actual twin, Ozzie?

    * If you haven't seen the movie "Friday Night Lights" yet, don't waste your time. Of course, that is provided you have already seen "Any Given Sunday" and "Varsity Blues."

    * Another week with no hockey. Such joy in March.

    * We need a Met or Yankee to say something ridiculous soon. Otherwise, we've reached that point of spring training where stories about backup infielders, No. 7 starters and the fourth guy out of the bullpen appear important.

    * Who's the bigger idiot: Mike Tice or Mike Tice? He got caught scalping his own Super Bowl tickets. It doesn't get more Suffolk than that!

    * Madness is looming!

    * We're slowly approaching Clark Kellogg time. God help us all.

    * I wonder if Randy Moss ratted out Mike Tice.

    * I hope Randy Moss ratted out Mike Tice.

    * Don't bet against Geno Auriemma. He locked down another Big East title for the UConn women. Can he win a fourth straight NCAA title with a team that, by comparison to his previous championship teams, wouldn't even make the WNIT?

    * Get those Coles jerseys out of the Dumpster. The bald and bitter receiver is back in Jet green (and he's got a lot of Dan Snyder's green, too).

    * No Plaxico Burress for Giants = no way to avoid another 8-game losing skid this season.

    * How long until Ken Griffey Jr. gets hurt again?

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    Sunday, March 06, 2005

    UNC 75, Duke 73. E-yeah!

    It's 10:24 p.m. Sunday at the start of this most joyous blog session. I'm 14 minutes removed from returning to my palatial imitation apartment after a weekend on the Jersey Shore and in the poker room at the Borgata with Lawyer friend Steve and Fiancée friend Jamie. And 11 minutes removed from discovering that my beloved North Carolina Tar Heels obliterated Duke, 75-73.

    But this story really began Friday afternoon.

    I stopped off at my parents' house around 4 p.m. to mooch a ride to the train station so that I didn't have to risk leaving my car at the train station all weekend. There are heathens out there. Heathens, I say, heathens!

    I checked my e-mail. Editor friend/Duke fanatic and alum LaRonda popped up in my inbox. She offered kind words of wisdom to a DVR newbie: Be sure to set the program manually and tape the extra half-hour in case the game goes long.

    F-bomb!

    Right there I knew it was a lost cause. I knew something absurd would happen in the final minutes and I'd miss it.

    Jump ahead to Sunday. Something absurd happened. I missed it.

    UNC goes on an 11-0 run in the final three minutes to smack Duke upside the head and win the ACC regular-season title outright for the first time since 1993. Oh by the way, that was the same year UNC won the national championship. (Gotta love C-Webb still. "Timeout. Timeout.")

    I didn't know any of this until I did my research.

    I checked my e-mail as soon as I got home and had 19 e-mails. None were from Editor friend/Duke fanatic and alum LaRonda. Ah ha! Clearly, UNC won. Or, she was slow-rolling me like some Doyle Brunson wannabe tried to do in the poker room early Sunday morning. I ain't no tourist, pal. Maybe it's in my bulk mail folder under some alias so I could walk right into an onslaught of anti-Heels propaganda. No such luck. All three e-mails in there were indeed spam. So I knew the answer. Duke lost. UNC won.

    But to confirm, I went directly to ESPN.com. And there he was. The savior. Roy Williams holding scissors in one hand and a piece of the net in the other. You don't cut down the nets when you lose. Eeeeeeeeee-yeah!

    It must have been an amazing run. ESPN.com said fans in the record crowd stormed the court at the Dean Dome. Beating Duke is always a treat, even if it has only happened four times in the last 19 games. OBJECTIVITY ALERT! OBJECTIVITY ALERT! Over the past 10 years, Duke has been a better program than UNC. I'd get kicked in the teeth, punched in the gut and kneecapped with a Kerrigan stick if I said that in Chapel Hill, but truth must always reign supreme regardless of geography.

    But alas, I can revel in the revelry for today.

    Too bad all I got to see of this glorious Carolinian glory was a three-pointer by Lee Melchionni to put Duke up 73-66, a Marvin Williams tip-in to pull UNC within 73-66, and a Shelden Williams foul one possession later with 2:03 left. Apparently, that occurred at 6 p.m. EST, which meant the end of my DVR session.

    I can blame Cablevision for its narrow-mindedness in designing a product that goes based on pre-scheduled times. I can blame Florida coach Billy Donovan for not beating Kentucky earlier than he did and forcing a later start on CBS for the UNC game. I can blame CBS for not pulling a "Heidi." But that's all just misplaced anger at myself for DVR ineptitude.

    Now for the happier side of life:

    * Duke lost a game.
    * UNC beat Duke.
    * Duke fans had to sit through the ignominy of their team not scoring any points in the final three minutes.
    * Cameron Crackheads must have thought the game was in the bag up nine with three minutes to go.
    * An ACC title is always a wonderful thing.
    * A No. 1 ranking awaits UNC in the new polls due out Monday afternoon. (No. 1 Illinois lost to Ohio State -- Did Teddy Ginn play for the Buckeyes? Clarett?)
    * Didn't have to hear Billy Packer do color commentary on the game.
    * A bit of revenge for losing to Duke, 71-70, earlier in the season.

    Can't wait for this weekend's ACC tournament. It'll likely end with Duke beating UNC by two when J.J. Redick swishes a pull-up three-pointer from 42 feet. But UNC will get a No. 1 seed in March Madness and cruise to the national championship.

    Holla Back

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    LaMont Jordan is a lucky man

    LaMont Jordan is the rarest of athletes in this strange sports world. He left one team for another, signed for a whole bunch of clams, and fans really can't get mad about him doing so.

    Jordan, the talented backup running back for the New York Jets, is about to become the starter for the Oakland Raiders. Reports say Jordan will get $27.5 million for five years from Oakland, while the Jets were offering close to $3 million per year.

    That's $2.5 million difference per year, give or take a diet peach Snapple. Jordan's agent claimed it wasn't about the money. MIKE HAMPTON ALERT! MIKE HAMPTON ALERT! When they say it's not about the money, then it's all about the benjamins, baby.

    Only in this case, it could be the truth. Consider:

    * Jordan was the backup to Curtis Martin.
    * Martin led the NFL in rushing.
    * Martin has two years left, at least.
    * The Jets just signed Chad Pennington and Shaun Ellis to big deals.
    * John Abraham got the franchise tag.
    * Santana Moss wants cash, or he gets traded for Laveraneus Coles who makes more than Moss does or will.
    * All Jordan ever wanted to do was play.

    By signing with Oakland, Jordan will get what he always craved: a chance to start in the NFL. Jets fans cannot be upset or blame the franchise for losing Jordan. This was his opportunity. Let him go after it. The Jets simply cannot cut, trade, waive, release, whatever, Martin after his tremendous season. Thus, there's nowhere for Jordan to go but elsewhere.

    It's like those favorite pair of sneakers you had a kid. Eventually your feet outgrow the sneakers and it's time to buy a new pair.

    Of course, we all know that Jordan will now rush for 2,220 yards this year and Martin will tweak an ankle in Week 1, sprain a knee in Week 3, crack three ribs in Week 8, then limp in for another 1,000-yard season in the third quarter of Week 17. These things are givens. More truthful than any sworn testimony in a courtroom. More logical than the games section of the LSAT.

    But do not blame Jordan for making the smart move for his career. He did too well this year in limited time and the Jets would be foolish to pay him starter's money to not play for more than half the game. Jordan would be foolish to take that deal.

    Athletes are all driven by that inner fire, that quest for glory, that burning desire to be the best. Above the strength, the speed, the skill, it's that competitive edge that propels athletes to extraordinary feats.

    So when Jordan returns to play against the Jets, cheer him during pregame introductions. Then boo him during the game. Boo, don't hate.

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