Archive for October, 2012

Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks

Posted: October 31, 2012 in Bunker

Hurricane Sandy’s devastation brought New Yorkers from all five boroughs together in a common bond over tragedy at worst and inconvenience at best. A storm so influential, it postponed one of the more exciting events in the city’s recent history. The Brooklyn Nets hosting the New York Knicks.

I’ve been asked by most of my friends outside of the Big Apple if I will be jumping on the Brooklyn bandwagon. Born and raised in Brooklyn it’s only logical that I get on board. But I’ve been through too much with the Knicks to bail now. I’ve spent too many years being laughed at for defending Patrick Ewing’s greatness, while being laughed at some of his worst moments. I sat through a time where Keith Van Horn, Allen Houston and Latrell Sprewell were the answer. The Starbury era. The Isiah era(s). I would be a turncoat and fair-weather fan to leave now.

But the chasm I find more interesting is what the two teams will represent culturally. The demographics of Brooklyn have been changing over the past 5 to 10 years. However, the stigma of Brooklyn exuded by some of the legendary black entertainers (Spike Lee, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Chris Rock, to name a few) still remains. With the influx of Yuppies in neighborhoods like Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Red Hook and Crown Heights (traditionally Caribbean and Latino dominated areas) Brooklyn has a whole new style now. It feels as though it’s all-inclusive. Yet it still has a sense of exclusivity with its “swag” and the Nets with their black and white simplified color scheme exude that style.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=393l5zWQULY%5D

 

The Knicks on the other hand seem passé, old-school, traditional. In an attempt to keep up with their counterparts, the Knicks have introduced new jerseys. While not the fashion statement of the Nets, you have to give them credit for trying. The Knicks have the advantage of playing the remaining basketball institution in this country, Madison Square Garden. The Knicks are the family’s team, Grandpa was old enough to remember when Willis Reed limped out onto the court, and Dad was old enough to remember when they finally made it back to the Finals in 1994. The Knicks won’t go for cool points, they’ll rely on nostalgia.

I know who I’ll root for this year, but as long as the symbol of Knick leadership remains James Dolan and the Nets Sean Carter, it’ll be hard for me hold onto that allegiance.

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I was too poor to go to Cooperstown when I was younger. But I was obsessed with baseball statistics. I borrowed books in the library to study up on all things related to the history of the MLB. One of the impressive feats I remember reading was Reggie Jackson’s three home runs on three pitches in the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers.  But like I said before, I was only concerned with statistics and the statistical anomalies that would pop up from time to time. 

 

When I finally got access to the Internet, I searched the baseball Hall of Fame and found Reggie Jackson, a man whom I only identified as a Yankee, naturally wearing a Yankee hat. I began to read articles related to Reggie Jackson, I soon discovered Reggie’s contentious relationship with the Yankee brass, specifically George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin. While Jackson was widely revered in Yankee circles, (he participated in Old Timer’s games and he’s enshrined in Monument Park, the Yankee equivalent to the Ring of Honor) he spent most of his Hall of Fame caliber years with the Oakland A’s. For as miserable as those years were dealing with the New York media, I don’t understand why Reggie Jackson was so gung-ho about being enshrined as a Yankee. His case was one of the one’s cited as the Hall of Fame changed the rules such that they (as in the committee) chose what hat they wore into Cooperstown. 

 

Here are some other situations similar to Jackson’s: http://espn.go.com/page2/s/hat/HOF.html

 Image

This brings me to Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod has never truly been welcomed to the Bronx. He was a clear upgrade from Aaron Boone the year he arrived in a Yankee uniform in 2004. He was a part of the team with one of the all-time great Yankee lineups never to win a championship:  (the famed 3-0 collapse) and (murderer’s row and Cano). 

A-Rod didn’t make the case for himself either, having poor postseason efforts, where he consistently underachieved, especially in so-called “clutch” situations. Money was not an issue for the Yankees as they realized true multiple MVP season that they had the best player in baseball if not one of the top-3. 

However, to be truthful, A-Rod never stood a chance. It was Derek Jeter’s team. The beloved 4-time World Series champion (at the time) would never take a backseat for A-Rod. Jeter didn’t exactly always give Rodriguez his most resounding endorsement either. Not to mention the most beloved manager in Yankee history, Joe Torre, batted a slumping A-Rod, 8th in the 2006 ALDS vs. the Tigers. Has there have been a bigger slap in the face to a reigning MVP than to be demoted to 8th? A-Rod kept his cool through all of it. He couldn’t win.

Until he did. The 2009 New York Yankees World Series Championship should read: Alex Rodriguez becomes a “Real Yankee” [Sidebar: Full disclosure, I am a Yankee fan. I love being a pretentious snob when it pertains to my Yankee fandom. But the “Real Yankee” trope is about as obnoxious as we can get. I’ve never heard that associated with anyone in my lifetime except A-Rod. He’s the only guy who dealt with that. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a “Real Yankee” as much as us Yankee fans were overprotective of our patron saints of the 90s and early 00s, Joe Torre and Derek Jeter.] Hitting over .360, A-Rod was finally worth the money and the headache. 

 

[youtube:www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWnPHkYqidE]

 

Since then, he’s been God-awful. He’s hit below .200 in four straight postseasons series. His 2012 postseason campaign was both comical and painful watch simultaneously. If his 3-27, 12 K performance wasn’t bad enough, the media caught wind of A-Rod being, well, A-Rod. A new faux-scandal emerged involving A-Rod flirting with an Australian model during Game 1 of the ALCS. Not to mention, there were talks of trading Alex Rodriguez to the Miami Marlins in the MIDDLE OF THE ALCS. 

 

Alex Rodriguez has been kicked around and stomped on by the fans, the Yankee organization and the guys within the clubhouse. I’m not sure how he can look back at his years with the Yankees as media whipping boy and fall guy for all that has gone wrong with the New York Yankees since he’s arrived. The contract doomed him in many ways, but Alex has suffered enough. [I’m leaving myself wide open for my sympathies for a man who will make nearly $130 million over the next 5 years for being basically a glorified role player. And I’m okay with that] Dozens of fan bases would have killed for a guy who has produced like Alex Rodriguez. Most fans would be happy to say they were able the witness one of the 10 best players of all-time play for their city. Not New Yorkers, not Yankee fans. I hope when it’s time for Rodriguez to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame [still up for debate considering that whole PED admission] he wears another hat. The Yankees never deserved him. 

 

Response to Scoop Jackson Article

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Bunker

We’re reminded why Scoop Jackson isn’t allowed to write often on ESPN.com. I have no problem with Scoop Jackson generally speaking, but I now understand why he was so viciously criticized by Jason Whitlock. I read this article about the Kansas City Chief fans cheering Matt Cassel’s injury during Sunday’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

I was asked what I found problematic with the article:

This article gave a quite embarrassing justification for the fans actions. Given the state of the NFL and knowing the terrible lives most of these players live after giving their bodies for the game (dementia, paralysis, lack of pension etc.) you can’t boo a guy who has just been knocked out of the game with a head injury. Boo a guy if he performs poorly, not when he’s unconscious and we don’t know what will happen with his career. As I told Linton before, the Michael Irvin situation referenced in the article was appalling and after that nothing would shock me. I wasn’t shocked by this, but I’m shocked when people try to justify their awful behavior in the stands by saying I paid $X for this ticket. You don’t have the right to throw out decency for your fellow HUMAN BEINGS just because paid the price of admission. Much like you can’t say I’m not paying taxes, because I don’t like what the government spends my money on.

Moreover what’s not often mentioned is what Roger Goddell has done is to humanize the game a bit more. The realities of the dangerous game that football have become much more apparent and exposed in the national media as a result of the regulation of head injuries etc. The media has caught up, the NFL has caught up, it’s time for fans to do the same. Especially people who have NEVER played. There’s a disconnect with the fans where they view players through some sort of video game lens. It’s alienating and the problem is that Scoop Jackson is justifying that alienation rather than bridging the gap.

Anytime you say, “I’m not justifying, just explaining”, you’re justifying. “Kansas City should have seen this coming”? Really. Blame the GM for the fans’ frustration with a player’s performance is one thing. To blame the GM for not putting the best product on the field is one thing. To blame him for the callous response from a frustrated fan base is lazy.

32 Questions and More: Week Five

Posted: October 7, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , ,

Finally snapped out of my 9-7 streak with an impressive 11-4 performance.  Good to see everyone pleased about the return of the regular referees and then turn on them with the quickness of a WWF Attitude Era plotline.  As usual, my picks and questions for the week.

Cardinals at Rams

Kolb was sacked eight times last week and their starting quarterback is out due to injury.  Could there be a worse omen going forward into trap game Thursday?

Sam Bradford’s comeback trail has been lackluster but he doesn’t need to be brilliant to win against the fourth best team in the NFL.  Can he get enough protection to complete just enough to pull off the upset?

Dolphins at Bengals

Dolphins are in the bottom three in pass defense.  Bengals have given up some yards in chunks.  Can Ryan Tannehill continue overachieving long enough to exploit a weak, between the numbers secondary?

Can the Bengals return to the playoffs by only beating teams with under .500 records for the second straight season?  If so, that is an awesome accomplishment that defines a good football team.

Packers at Colts

Can the Packers play a single game without an egregious call against them?

How quickly will the Chuck Pagano story be shifted to match the Colts performance on Sunday?  If they do well, it’s an inspired performance playing for their coach.  If they do poorly, it’s the natural letdown to such a huge loss.  Get better, Chuck.

Ravens at Chiefs

Ravens got up for division rival Cincinnati and AFC elite rival New England.  Can they avoid a letdown on the road at Kansas City?  (Trap game #2)

The clearest advantage for the Chiefs is in the ground game with Jamaal Charles against the Baltimore edges.  With a slower Ravens defense, can Charles get established early and often to control the game opposite Flacco’s no-huddle?

Browns at Giants

If Browns fans were told after four weeks they would be keeping pace with the New Orleans Saints, how many would be disappointed by that reality?

Is it time to give Manning, Eli some credit as a quarterback who makes his teammates better after looking at the great start by perennial butt of the joke tight end Martellus Bennett?

Eagles at Steelers

Accurately picked the Eagles win against the Giants but don’t like their mistakes.  Both teams have porous offensive lines.  Can the Eagles pass rush outperform the Steelers counterpart?  If so then you have a win.

How much will the addition of James Harrison add to the top three pass rush defense going against a turnover prone quarterback?  Not much but it cannot hurt.

Falcons at Redskins

Can the Falcons stop the Atlanta, Georgia sports weekend from hell (Braves screwed in the Wild Card game and Georgia Bulldogs no-showed against South Carolina)?

Where does the Redskins pass defense begin in trying to contain Julio Jones and Roddy White?

Seahawks at Panthers

Russell Wilson is completing exactly 60% of his passes which is good until you see it’s for 600 yards and four touchdowns.  How poorly does he need to play before Carroll considers two game hit wonder Matt Flynn?

Seattle has an elite defense.  If they opt not to blitz, is Newton good enough to make tight throws and know when to throw it away?

Bears at Jaguars

Is it troubling for Bears fans that their franchise quarter back is playing as well as Blaine Gabbert? (Same completion percentage, touchdowns, more interceptions)

The problem with MJD vs. Forte is that Jones-Drew runs against the Bears defense.  It’s a pretty formidable challenge.  Can the Jags get Laurent Robinson going to ease the burden on their running game and reestablish a potential red chip wide receiving talent?

Titans at Vikings

Hasselbeck and Johnson.  Possible tagline for the season “Titans Football: Turning back the clock too late?”

Are you sold on this Vikings team that needed two improbable special team scores to beat the Lions?  Lots to pick apart with this team.

Broncos at Patriots

Can the computer pick apart the evil genius on the road?  It’s really the first and only meaningful Manning test I need to see.

Do you think the Patriots can afford another home loss following their last game against the Cardinals at Foxboro?  Key to this game is Stevan Ridley and getting to the 4.5 yards/carry mark.

Bills vs. 49ers

Who would’ve guessed that Ryan Fitzpatrick would be leading the NFL in touchdown after 4 games (12 TDs, 7 INTs)?

As dominant as their rush defense is, their pass defense has been that much better.  Can their offense avoid looking poorly in what should be a comfortable win?

Chargers at Saints

Chargers got worked by the NFC at home.  Hard for me to imagine this being different.  Can Rivers reassert himself in the top quarterbacks conversation that he woefully fell out of last season?

Things are much easier when you need to focus on just one threat.  Will the Saints put the clamps down on still recovering Ryan Matthews to turn this into a shootout?  Brees still can outperform Rivers – especially in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Texans at Jets

Since the Texans don’t really play good teams it’s hard to know just how good they are compared to others.  Certainly a top three team.  Do the Texans need to blow out the Jets to get the respect is probably deserves?  At least a ten point victory is needed.

How many offensive weapons do the Jets have?  *Waiting…waiting…* Yeah I guess that’s Sanchez’s fault too.

Don’t insult me. I know Miguel Cabrera is going after the Triple Crown and I will even concede Cabrera has been one of the best and most consistent hitters in the past three years. But don’t tell me that he’s having the best hitting season since Carl Yestremski in 1967. For some reason this has been a very popular narrative over the past few weeks while we (maybe 2% of the country) have been enthralled in Miguel Cabrera’s chase for the Triple Crown.

 

I’m not going to try to poo-poo Cabrera’s accomplishment, it’s a statistical anomaly in baseball. We should marvel at Cabrera’s accomplishment and even give him the MVP as he’s spearheaded the Tigers’ run to the AL Central Division title. But to try to debate that this is one of the top seasons of all time is embarrassing.

and irresponsible. Off the top of my head I can think of names such as Ted Williams, Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa even Alfonso Soriano who have had better seasons than the one Cabrera’s currently having.

 

Yes I get it, Cabrera’s numbers are as follows .329/44/137, impressive by any measure. But if we’re going to argue that the simple fact that he will win the Triple Crown is the reason why this is one of the great season of all-time, forgets that the Triple Crown is a very subjective statistic. Just last year Cabrera’s Triple Crown numbers this year wouldn’t hold up as a Triple Crown season. Why? Because there would be four players (including Cabrera) who would have hit for a better average. If Cabrera hit two less Home Runs, wouldn’t the MLB hand the MVP to Mike Trout? Probably. The accomplishment alone should not merit Cabrera anything more than an MVP nod. Let’s not get carried away with aligning Cabrera’s seasons along side some Pujols, A-Rod and Sosa’s seasons. Not to mention, Barry Lamar Bonds.

 

Again, don’t insult me. I was old enough to see Barry Bonds 2001-2004 seasons. I know what I saw. I saw offensive domination like no one had ever seen. Forget Bonds’ 73 HR season where he also hit .328, drove in 137 RBIs and set the record for walks, 2002 is the most devastating season a player has ever had without crushing more than 50 Home Runs. .370/46/110 with 198 walks. This is a season no one has ever come close to matching. Let’s not even mention that 2004 was not too far behind 2002.

 

The media should stop pretending that those Barry Bonds seasons didn’t happen. I can understand that Bonds was the face of the steroid era and the single-season and career Home Run records are forever tainted. But it’s important to remember that it did happen. If the media really wanted to do the job correctly, provide the necessary perspective. We can’t erase Bonds from the record books and not talking about those seasons won’t make the reality of those seasons any less true. So again, don’t tell me this is one of the best offensive seasons of all-time.