Monthly Archives: November 2009

A beautiful Jets win, the Dolphins blow a gimme, and Bo knows Tecmo Bowl

Ah, what a much happier Sunday this was for me.

The weather was warm. I’ve just returned from a wonderful visit with family and friends. There were no new wars breaking out, as far as I knew.

And oh yeah: The New York Jets remembered how to win. Finally, Mark Sanchez played under control, the running game was good enough, and the defense harassed Carolina into four interceptions. Gang Green won, 17-6, and it should’ve been at least 27-6 or so.

Don’t worry, I’m not dreaming about the playoffs again; they’re still 5-6, and there are lots of teams ahead of the Jets, still. Of course, if they beat Buffalo Thursday up in Toronto, the Jets will be 6-6 and I’ll have 10 days to start figuring out how, exactly, my boys can get into the postseason.

But first things first: our franchise QB did exactly what he needed to do: He made safe throws, he didn’t force the ball, and when there wasn’t a play to be made, he scrambled. He scared the hell out of Jets fans when he looked to have injured his knee in the third period, but he seemed to be OK.

The Jets got a gift TD to start the game (when have you ever seen a ball bounce off a receiver’s ankle and right into the hands of a defender? Thank you, Darrelle Revis, for catching it), but the defense really played well. The Panthers’ running game never got going, and good Lord, there was a Kerry Rhodes sighting! The Jets’ safety who used to be a star and now, frankly, stinks, made TWO interceptions Sunday.

So yeah, it was nice to break a three-game losing streak. This is the kind of game the Jets played earlier this season, and it was nice to see it again. I thought it might be gone forever.

Couple other thoughts on Jets-Panthers:

**Boy, Jake Delhomme is horrendous. Two of his four picks in the fourth quarter were simple “chuck and ducks,” where the Carolina QB just stepped back, chucked the ball off his back foot and didn’t even try to follow through. What has happened to that guy?

** Jets were lucky in many ways Sunday, especially when replay overturned that Steve Smith touchdown for Carolina that would’ve made it 14-10. Looked like a catch to me.

**Dustin Keller, you’re KILLING me with these fumbles. Again the Jets’ terrific tight end tries to reach out for the goal line after a great catch and run, and fumbles. If he scores there, game is pretty much over. Just go down, please. Thank you.

Other NFL thoughts…

**Fantastic game Sunday night, with the Ravens nipping the Steelers. I don’t want to say I’m psychic or anything, but at 17-17, 3rd down and 6 in OT, I said out loud (to no one), “This would be a good time for Dennis Dixon to remember he’s a guy making his first-ever start, and throw a pick.” And then he did, setting up the game-winning field goal. Still, for a third-string QB, kid played pretty damn well.

**Houston Texans = frauds. Complete, utter frauds. 17-0 against Indy, at home, and they lose by eight.

**I’ve tried to avoid talking about the guy all season because I’m still pissed at how he sabotaged the Jets’ season. But good lord, Brett Favre is playing insanely good right now.  Three more touchdowns Sunday. He’s completed 69 percent of his passes, with 24 interceptions and just three interceptions. I don’t care that he’s got a great running back, O-line, and defense, those are ridiculously good numbers.

**Brutal, brutal losses by the Dolphins and Jags Sunday. Miami was tied with Buffalo, 14-14 in the fourth, and then gave up 17 straight points to lose. And Jacksonville failed to show up in San Francisco. If I were an optimist, I’d say everything broke right for the Jets to get back into the playoff hunt.

**Can’t wait for tonight’s game: Saints-Patriots. Should be a fabulous matchup.

***So while I was in New York last week something fabulous happened: My friend Andrew showed me that you could download the original Nintendo Tecmo Bowl game onto your Wii for like, $5. There is no way that I’m NOT doing that next weekend, and probably wasting a good four hours playing. God I loved Tecmo Bowl, and the two unstoppable forces of the game: Lawrence Taylor on defense, and Bo Jackson on offense.

I once read an interview with Bo, done about five years ago I think, where he said no matter where he goes in public to go give a talk or anything, he’s always asked about Tecmo Bo and how amazing he was.

Believe me, he was THAT amazing. Check this out, you young’uns:

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Who should be SI’s Sportsman of the Year, and some New York thoughts

So this Tuesday, Sports Illustrated, the greatest magazine ever invented, will announce its annual choice for Sportsman of the Year. It’s one of the few announcements of awards I still get a little excited about. When I was a kid, the Sportsman of the Year issue was always huge, a double issue at the end of the year. I also remember that my first ever issue I got as part of the subscription my Grandpa got me when I was 9 was the Mary Lou Retton/Edwin Moses Sportsman of the Year issue, from Dec., 1984 (I’ve been getting SI ever since).

Anyway, unlike last year, when a blind sea turtle could’ve predicted it would be Michael Phelps after his eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, this year doesn’t have a clear-cut winner.

So, in case SI needed my help, here’s my Top 5 for 2009:

1. Roger Federer: He would deserve one as a lifetime achievement award even if he did nothing this year (He absolutely could’ve won it in 2006 (they gave it, oddly, to Dwyane Wade) or 2007 (even more bizarrely, they gave it to Brett Favre). But the guy has been sensational this year in re-juvenating his slightly leveled off career. After a crushing loss to Rafael Nadal in the Aussie Open finals, he won his first French Open, completing the career Grand Slam, then outlasted Andy Roddick in five sets in Fed’s second consecutive epic Wimbledon final. In so doing, he broke the career mark for Grand Slams won by a male, with 15.

He’s also the classiest guy you’ll meet, and he fits the true definition of sportsman.

2. Usain Bolt: I know his big year was the Olympics in 2008, but the guy was even more phenomenal in 2009. He shattered his own track and field world records in the 100 meters and 200 meters, two marks that should’ve stood for years, not months. He made people care about track in a non-Olympic year, and that’s damn hard to do.

3. Kobe Bryant: I know, I know, I hate the guy and think he’s egotistical and a jerk and maybe even a rapist, although that, sadly, was never brought to a court of law in Colorado. But he did will his team to the championship of the NBA, and did it without Shaq.

4. Sidney Crosby: Won a Stanley Cup on the road, in a Game 7, against the Detroit Red Wings. Hard to do. He’s so young, and his Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot more winning to do.

5. Kim Clijsters: All she did was unretire, play a few tournaments, and then win the U.S. Open. Her smile lit up Flushing Meadows, and she’s such a wonderful story, a mother rediscovering her love for the game after a few years away. She won’t win the award, but she certainly is worthy.

Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, the grandest time of year to eat leftovers, here are a few leftover thoughts from my brain after four days in NYC (yeah, I know, that was a REAL stretch for a segue there.)

***I cannot get over the 1,000 percent improvement in the bathrooms at Penn Station. When I went there as a kid, and then again when I worked in NYC from 2000-2002, the bathrooms were atrocious. Dirty, smelly, dark, with this crap powdered soap that never came out above the sinks. It was truly an unpleasant experience.

Now? It’s like a hotel bathroom or something. Clean, bright, with no terrible smell. Actual, real sinks, not one big trough, and actual, real soap coming out of the dispensers. Bravo, New York City.

***I love riding the subway. I know it’s probably one of those things where if I did it all the time like I used to, I’d take it for granted and not think twice about it. But that’s another major improvement in cleanliness and safety by New York City. All the subway maps are clearly marked and easy to read, the cars are well-lit, and I just never once felt at all unsafe.

**I raked leaves for an hour Saturday. It was actually fun, I hadn’t done it in so long. We don’t do much leaf-raking in Central Florida. It made me miss fall even more, but this was a good temporary fix.

And my question is this: Is there ever an age when you’re too old to rake a big pile of leaves, then jump happily into them, spraying them everywhere?

Didn’t think so.

My friend Brian Hickey, 1 year after. And a review of a book I really liked

There are some days in our lives that when they come up every year, you always think about what once happened on that day.

Certainly 9/11 will always do that for people who were alive in 2001. More personally, the memory of a serious event in their lives, like a wedding, divorce (I can still remember the exact date and day of the week my parents told my sister and I they were splitting up) or something else, will bring memories flooding back.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, until last year, always meant a reunion with my childhood friends. The five of us are a little scattered across the country now, but ever since college we’ve always made it a point to get together the night after Turkey Day, to catch up, tell old stories, and just treasure the fact that our friendship has lasted 25 years.

Last year, though, a different memory got added to this day: A college friend of mine, and a hell of a journalist, was struck by a car in a disgusting hit and run accident in New Jersey. Brian Hickey was two years ahead of me at Delaware, and anyone who met him never forgot him. He was brash, opinionated, incredibly funny, and a fearless journalist.

Yet last year at this time, he’d been struck while walking home by a  person who doesn’t deserve to be free. Brian was in a coma for weeks, and there were moments when we all thought he might die. His incredible wife, Angie, kept Brian’s hundreds of friends updated on his condition through his Facebook page, one of the best uses of social networking ever.

Slowly, miraculously, Brian recovered. He was able to leave the hospital, and after a ton of rehabilitation, is writing great stories again, like this one detailing his accident and recovery. The individual who hit Brian has yet to be found and apprehended.

So today, I am sure that all of his friends spent a few minutes thinking about Hickey (as everyone called him). We’re lucky to still have him.

Of course, now that I’ve written this, he’ll probably email me something nasty about Duke basketball or the Yankees, perhaps suggesting Mike Krzyzewski has an improper relationship with his mother.

 But it’ll make me smile, because that’s how Brian shows his love. And we very nearly lost him one year ago Friday.

***In case you haven’t figured it out by now from reading this blog, I’m a huge political nerd. I love the horse race quality of elections, I love the drama and the intrigue, and all that good stuff.

If you’re at all like me, I think you’ll really like the book I just finished, The Battle for America, 2008 It’s by a pair of Washington Post reporters, Dan Balz and Hayes Johnson, who followed the 2008 campaign for more than two years.

There’s some great insider stuff in here, from the battery in Obama’s tiny plane dying in the opening pages, to all the backbiting and negativity in Hillary’s campaign, to the amazing rescue from the dead of John McCain’s campaign.

Even though I followed the race pretty closely, I learned plenty. Just a good all-around read, written in conversational style with great quotes from all the key players.

The irrelevance of Notre Dame football, and a touching Thanksgiving movie moment


A short blog today while I wonder why, exactly, that third piece of pie was deemed absolutely necessary by my stomach:

So as I read yet another headline the other day about Charlie Weis’ job status, I wondered why the sports media is still so obsessed with Notre Dame football.

Honestly, the stories have been just short of breathless: Will Charlie Weis be fired? Who will take his job? The Notre Dame AD, Jack Swarbrick, tells Weis he’s not allowed to go on a recruiting trip after the last game of the season, does that mean he’s gone?

And I’m wondering what the big deal is. The Fighting Irish have a big national following, I get that. I know all about Joe Theismann and Knute Rockne, Joe Montana and Rudy (by the way, I hated that movie. Hated it. And I always love a good inspirational flick.)

But seriously, Notre Dame, with the exception of Ty Willingham’s first season in 2002, hasn’t been really good in a long time. They haven’t seriously contended for a national title in two decades, and even though their games are on national TV every week, is anyone but the diehards really watching?

I don’t know, I think Notre Dame football is another one of those things that older sports writers and broadcasters think is REALLY important, only the rest of us don’t agree.

I am glad, though, to see Weis, who seems to be a pompous ass, fail just as miserably as Willingham, who is a good, decent man who didn’t deserve to be fired. The Irish coaching job is an impossible position.

**On a better note, here’s the final scene of my favorite comedy ever, which I always think about on Thanksgiving. The ending of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” which always touches my heart a little:

My favorite holiday of the year: Thanksgiving. And a poem to make you think.

God I love today. Always have, always will. You can have Christmas or New Year’s or the Fourth of July, but I will always take Turkey Day ahead of all of them.

So many reasons I love Thanksgiving, but here are just a few. It’s the best eating day of the year. Between turkey and stuffing and gravy and sweet potatoes and desserts, I gorge more on this day than on any other. I love the feeling of positively stuffing myself, realizing I’m full, then plowing ahead anyway, just because it’s the fourth Thursday of November.

I love being with family, some of whom now I only see once or twice a year. I love catching up with their lives, the good, the bad, and the strange. With all this Facebooking and IM’ing and emailing and cell phones, there’s something to be said for looking right into a person’s eyes and seeing their hurt or joy. I love Thanksgiving traditions, which in my family growing up meant the four of us cousins jumping up and down on my grandparents’ bed, and yelling the time out loud, (Don’t ask. I have no idea why we did that), predicting when my Grandma would finally come out of the kitchen and sit down and join us, and guessing which relative would fall asleep first (My money was always on my cousin Marni.)

I love watching football on Thanksgiving with relatives who never watch it the rest of the year. I love watching the Macy’s Parade and wondering just how freakin’ long it took to blow up those balloons (Fortunately, this year I ‘ll get an answer. My sister-in-law Lauren is dating a guy who has an apartment overlooking the spot where they blow up Snoopy and Shrek and Spongebob, and she spent Wednesday night watching the whole thing in rapt attention. I can’t wait to get the scoop.)

Most of all, though, I love the whole idea of Thanksgiving. We take a day out of our lives and stop and say to our loved ones and friends: I’m thankful for you. I appreciate having you in my life.

I think I’m pretty grateful guy; I say “please” and “thank you” as much as anyone I know. But on this day of all days, I think I should take some time to be grateful for all that I have: A job I love. A wife I love even more. Amazing and supportive friends and relative. And lots more stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and go ahead, have that extra helping of cranberry sauce: You deserve it.

On a final note, I wanted to reprint my favorite poem of all time, one I feel is a credo of mine: Never forget your friends, and always make the time for them. It’s called “Around the Corner,” and it’s by Charles Hanson Towne:

Around the corner I have a friend,

in this great city that has no end;
Yet days go by, and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone,

And I never see my old friend’s face,
For life is a swift and terrible race.
He knows I like him just as well
As in the days when I rang his bell

And he rang mine.

We were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men;
Tired with trying to make a name
Tired with playing a foolish game.

“Tomorrow,” I say, “I will call on Jim,
Just to show that I’m thinking of him.
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And the distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner! Yet miles away …
“Here’s a telegram, sir.
Jim died today.”

And that’s what we get and deserve in the end
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

A fun flight home, the NFL gets serious about concussions, and a classic TV food fight

Greetings from the state of my birth.

Julie and I flew home to New York from the Fla. tonight. And boy are our arms tired (Ba-dum-bum). This is without a doubt my favorite time of the year, because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It contains three of my favorite things (eating, football, and family), so how could it not be great?

More on why I love Thanksgiving in Thursday’s post. Tonight, a few quick thoughts before I fall asleep at the keyboard:

**So we’re on the Southwest flight from Orlando, a route we now know so well we could direct the pilot if needed. And there’s a little kid, maybe 3 years old, sitting behind Julie, kicking the seat and crying hysterically for a good, I don’t know, 45 minutes.

And not once, not once, does the adult sitting next to this little terror pick the kid up, walk him around, move his seat, anything, to acknowledge the disturbance and try to rectify it.

Look, I know traveling with small children is extremely hard, and I have the utmost respect for parents. But isn’t there some societal obligation that kicks in there, that the person who paid a couple hundred bucks for a seat doesn’t deserve to get kicked for 45 minutes? Just wondering.

**I have bashed the NFL for a while for what I feel is their refusal to take the issue of concussions and their symptoms seriously.

But I was very happy to see that the league is actually working to rectify one of the biggest problems: NFL team doctors, under pressure from management and the team that pays their salary, putting players back in before they’re ready.

This week, though, came a big breakthrough: It was announced that teams will now be required to consult with independent neurologists while treating players with brain injuries, the New York Times reported.

Comissioner Roger Goodell and his execs were humiliated by Congress last month, which pointed out that the NFL clearly wasn’t doing enough to protect its players.

Now, with outside doctors who don’t care if Brian Westbrook or Tom Brady or anyone gets back on the field to help win the game, there’s a much better chance the players’ brains will be truly looked after.

Good step, NFL.

**Finally, this cracks me up every time I see it. The classic Thanksgiving food fight from “Cheers.” The good stuff starts at the 5:20 mark.

The worst parent in the world, and 10 great minutes of “The Wire”

There are certain crime stories you read where you literally wonder, “What could that person possibly have been thinking?”

The kinds of cases where you think they should just skip the pre-trial hearings, the pleas, the trial, the judge, the jury, all of that, and just sentence the individual guilty immediately.

Because there are some things for which there is literally, no POSSIBLE excuse.

I present to you the story of Kiara Medlock and her mother, of Ozark, Arkansas. Seems Kiara, age 10 and all of 65 pounds, was wildly misbehaving on the night of Nov. 12, and her mother called the police.

Officer Dustin Bradshaw arrived at the scene, and when he wasn’t able to subdue Kiara, her mother allegedly told the officer to “tase her if you have to.” Which, after Kiara kicked him, Officer Bradshaw did.

The child was then handcuffed and taken to a youth shelter.

This is despicable by the adults here on so many levels. One, by the officer, who sees no other option when outweighing a child by oh, 100 pounds, then to TASE them? Two, by the mother, for suggesting to the officer that he send volts of electric shock into her daughter?

I’m sorry, I don’t care how violent or unruly the kid is, this is despicable. Check out the brief police report here.

**I came late to “The Wire”. Everyone told me the HBO show about drug dealers and cops was truly amazing, and I heard them and didn’t believe.

Finally, I went out rented the first three seasons on DVD. Best. Show. I’ve. Ever. Seen. I positively worship all five seasons, with Season 5 being David Simon’s ultimate masterpiece. I can’t recommend this show highly enough if you’ve never seen it.

If you’re a big fan like me, you’ll enjoy this: Someone put together the 100 best quotes from “The Wire.” Warning: Not Safe for Work (a bit of colorful language, you might say).

Ah, the Jets, making all of New England feel better. More NFL thoughts, and the finale of “Curb”

Voicemail message from my father, approximately 5 p.m., as New England took a 21-0 lead:

“Why don’t you leave the bar, go home, talk to your wife, have a nice dinner, anything else but watching this.”

The man is a fountain of wisdom. I was sitting at Houligan’s, having just finished off a nice pulled pork sandwich (Mmm, pulled pork), and I was watching the Patriots systematically take apart the New York Jets.

The Pats ran on the Jets. They threw on the Jets. They stuffed everything the Jets tried to do on offense. They completely befuddled and confused Mark Sanchez (more on him in a minute).

So, I left. It’s not the first time I left a Jets game, and it won’t be the last.

Course, I get home, and I check the score, and it’s 24-14, so I start watching again, and of course they never got any closer and lost, 31-14.

Very few positives to talk about in this game, so let’s deal with the negatives, shall we?

— This defense is not only not good, not only can’t they tackle well, but they can’t cover a bedspread right now. What happened to Kerry Rhodes? Guy used to be great. Bart Scott, anytime you want to earn that contract, go right ahead. The pass rush was OK, but never there when it was needed.

— How does the Jets coaching staff come out SO woefully unprepared for the first half? They got outgained 273-34. That’s insane.

— I know Mark Sanchez is a rookie. And I do have faith that he’ll be a good quarterback one day. But man oh man, the kid keeps making the SAME mistakes over and over. Trying to throw into triple coverage. Throwing off the wrong foot. I just get worried that he doesn’t seem to be making any progress here. But I don’t want to bench him. Look, Peyton Manning was awful as a rookie, too.

— Four and six wouldn’t feel so bad if they hadn’t started 3 and 0.

Some more Monday NFL thoughts:

— I know this will never happen, but let a sports fan dream for a minute: Indianapolis is 10-0. New Orleans is 10-0. Wouldn’t it be incredible if they met in the Super Bowl, after BOTH having gone 16-0? I think the Internet might explode if that happened.

— Two more reasons I never, ever wager on NFL games individually: Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 24.  Oakland 20, Cincinnati 17.

— I think Jack Kent Cooke and Tom Landry were spinning wildly in their graves Sunday, as the Cowboys and Redskins combined to play one awful football game. I knew it was bad when the Cowboys fan sitting near me whooped at one point, really loudly. What happened, I asked.  Skins missed a field goal!, he exclaimed.

–Who’s that guy in the picture above, you ask? Daytona Beach’s own Eric Weems, now an Atlanta Falcon. He caught at TD pass Sunday against the Giants. He’s a great kid; I’ve interviewed him a few times and he just never put on the attitude some guys have. He’s a great story; 5-foot-9, undrafted out of Bethune-Cookman University, makes the Atlanta practice squad for a few years, and now finally is getting his shot. Good stuff.

Finally, the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season finale aired Sunday night. It was pretty funny, especially the stuff when Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David were just riffing off each other. I also loved that they finally addressed the whole “George Costanza really is just Larry David” thing; that was always out there but never talked about.

Last week’s episode was still this season’s masterpiece, the equivalent of “Crazy Eyez Killah” and “The Producers” episodes from years past.

Anyway, good to see Cheryl back, and the still-pretty Elisabeth Shue, too.

For you “Curb” fans, here’s a little best of video I found on YouTube.

“South Park” nails it again, and the funniest hockey celebration ever

A couple of thoughts, and a couple of great videos for a lazy Sunday in November, as I prepare to watch my New York Jets get pummeled by the Patriots:

First, let me state right upfront I’ve never been a big “South Park” guy. I know, I know, everyone says it’s the greatest thing ever, and I admit that the few times I’ve watched it I’ve laughed. But I just never got into the show, though I acknowledge how wickedly clever Matt Parker and Trey Stone are.

This, however, absolutely slayed me. It’s Cartman, singing a song about … well, just listen. Brilliant stuff.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

**I have absolutely no faith that the Jets will beat the Pats today. As I said in an email to my friend, excellent writer, Patriots fan and FOWWOS (Friend of Wide World of Stuff; yeah, that acronym needs some work) Ali Taber this week, I figure either New England will be so mad about everyone criticizing Coach Hoodie’s strategy at the end of the Colts game that they’ll come out and pulverize the Jets, or the Pats will still be a little dazed and my Gang Green will have a chance.

It would be just like the Jets to win today and then lose three in a row.

**This is totally random, but has anyone else noticed that tubs of cream cheese in the fridge don’t go bad nearly as fast as they used to? This is definitely a phenomenon worth exploring. I had some Philly cream cheese today that I think I bought in, like, September, and it was still good. I seem to remember cream cheese in the past always would go bad after like a week.

**Finally, 30 seconds of comic hilarity. A player in the Swedish hockey league, Henrik Andersen, got really excited after scoring his first goal of the season. So excited that, well … just watch.

This woman’s bat-shit crazy like a Foxx, and proof that Florida’s a weird place

There are two kinds of shocking political statements. The kind that idiots like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh make, which aren’t even believable by them, but they just want to get a rise out of people (see Beck’s pronouncement that President Obama “doesn’t like white people.”

Then there are the shocking statements that are stunning because they’re said so matter of factly, and it’s clear that the speaker truly, truly believes them.

That second category is where I put Congresswoman Virginia Foxx’s pathetic attempt on Thursday to claim that the GOP was the party that was the driving force on civil rights legislation.

The gentle lady from North Carolina has clearly completely lost her faculties. Seriously, she said that the Republicans drove the Civil Rights legislation that Lyndon Johnson led. It was the Republicans who did that. Yes, when I think of great civil rights Congressmen from the 1960s, I think of racially-tolerant men like Barry Goldwater and Strom Thurmond. Ha ha.

Now, yes, it’s true that 21 Democrats voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a shameful act made mostly by Southern senators. But to suggest that the vast majority of civil rights legislation was done by Republicans, with “little help” from the Democrats? I’m glad Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Calif. called her on that.

The mind doesn’t just boggle. It’s doing 360-degree revolutions, backwards. Once again, I say that Virginia Foxx, you’re just bat-shit crazy.

 

**So my wife is always saying how the weird news stories are always from Florida. Well, now there’s proof! A web site called Tableseed.com has analyzed 2,000 Associated Press “strange” news stories that were released in the past year.

And the runaway winner? that’s right, the Sunshine State! New Hampshire was second, Alaska third.

Stand up and be proud, Florida. You’ve earned this distinction proudly. Here you go, just one delightful story of what goes on in our state.