Friday, December 25, 2009

Sudden Depth: Overtime Needs An Overhaul

The NFL overtime system is often criticized since both teams are not guaranteed to possess the football. The powers that be would tell you that the NFL is for tough guys, so you’d better take control of your own destiny and finish the thing in regulation or you may not get the ball.

It’s not an equitable system like college football in which each team gets a possession. Right? Wrong.

The college football overtime isn’t football. Starting 1st and 10 on your opponents’ 25-Yard line is a video game. All stats count in scoring situations which often lead to score totals that approach a college hoop game. It puts records in jeopardy, and the final score is often no indicator of the way the game went.

Worse than that, football staples like clock, field position and special teams have virtually no meaning. If you’re the punter (unless you’re also the holder) - you might as well hit the showers. If you’re a return guy – take the rest of the day off. By eliminating the specialists, you turn a game of chess into a game of checkers. It’s a hockey shootout on field turf.

So the college system doesn’t work either. But both teams need to have a possession, right?

Not necessarily.

Here’s the plan for both college and pros: One overtime period (15 minutes or 12 or 10). First team to 6 points wins, or whoever has the most when the clock runs out.

If Team A wins the toss, and they come down and score a touchdown, they win. Team B won’t be killed by a field goal, but they’ll have to answer. If they allow a TD, they don’t deserve the ball. Most importantly, the Touchdown is the walk-off Home Run. It’s the exclamation point. Not the question mark.

And there’s a world of strategy involved. It’s 4th Down, if you punt – will you ever get the ball back? If you make the Field Goal, do you squib it or kick deep? There are coffin corners and 2-minute offenses, safeties, and ties, yes the dreaded tie (obviously in Bowl games or Playoff games, you play multiple OTs if unsettled).

If two teams play 60 minutes to a deadlock, don’t take the coaches off the hook. They need to work overtime too.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Starkville Hit and Run

It had been eight years since I had been back to Humphrey Coliseum, aka “The Hump,” one of the most significant stops (for me, anyway) on the college sports landscape.

Starkville, Mississippi is one of those towns that is generally ridiculed by barnstorming TV personnel, who refer to it as “Stark Vegas.” But like most other “happening” college towns like West Lafayette IN, Manhattan KS, or Pullman WA, the desolate journey to the middle of nowhere is the problem. The towns themselves are alright. Lunch at the Cotton District Grill was very strong.

Starkville has sentimental value for me, since 10 years ago I met my wife while she was a grad student in MSU’s fine Broadcast Meteorology department, and she was living in this quaint, stand-alone house known as "the temple." An appropriate moniker considering the number of times she would shout "Oh my God!" on my visits there.

That’s where the roller-coaster ride began. Omaha. Kalamazoo. Savannah. Two kids. Our first house. And a future that is still unwritten. You’d think life would age me.

But fortunately video tape wizard and TV archivist “Hash” was on site with me this week (hadn't seen him in years either). And it just so happens he had pictures of me, taken at age 20 and 30.

Now I was blown away that my 40 looks so much like my 30. Must be all that clean living. That and I guess nobody will ever know if my hair turned gray. Even Hash is Gray (in more ways than one) and he's younger than I am. But he also extrapolated my looks to age 50, and it's not a pretty picture.

Dr. Evil, you complete me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What We're Not Talking About...Tiger's Game

It was 4 months ago when we saw something we hadn't seen before.

It would be wrong to say that Tiger Woods collapsed in the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine. But he seemed stuck in neutral while zero-time Major winner Y.E. Yang out-wanted it against the world’s most transcendent sports hero.

Tiger still had a great year. He won the Fedex Cup and half a dozen tournaments, but no majors. Which of course is his stated goal: To catch and overtake Jack Nicklaus.

And losing the duel with Yang was the greatest indicator that something was wrong. Because golf, more than any other sport is a mental game. It’s about standing alone over a ball and shutting out the world, focusing on one single thing. That’s usually when Tiger wins titles, before the point of contact.

It’s got to be hard to shut out the world when there’s disquiet in your soul. And that may not affect you on the driving range or even at the turn, but it does on the back nine of a Major championship.

And how could Tiger not be in a crisis of conscience while he was deceiving his family in such a distasteful fashion?

Sure plenty of men (and women) in the world have engaged in this kind of behavior and they can go about their lives with nobody knowing the difference. They just don’t have to sink a 12-foot putt in front of a billion people to stay alive on the 71st hole of a Major.

Nothing in sports compares. Maybe, if a guy stands on the foul line with nobody around him and no time left in a playoff elimination game. But even if he fails, there are teammates and a coach to pick him up. A golfer is truly alone with his thoughts.

Tiger has been the master of focus and mental toughness for so long. As a child, his father used to rattle keys next to his ear while he putted. But now he must fight the distractions in his own head which will be infinitely louder.

He’ll need to resolve that before he gets back on track to win Majors. And we will truly see how mentally tough Tiger is.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CG in CF? A No-Brainer

And this coming from the president of the unofficial Melky Cabrera fan club. So the Yankees have addressed a need, upgrading their weakest (offensive) position, without giving up any key players from the major League roster. Yes, they did trade highly-touted AAA CF Austin Jackson, but his greatest upside might be the known quantity they just acquired...Curtis Granderson.

Granderson is a better-than-average center fielder and a force in the lineup. This past year his average dipped to .249 but he still manged 30 HR and 20 SB.

I lived in Michigan in 2007, and got to watch CG on a day-in, day-out basis. He had one of the best offensive years I can recall. As a leadoff man, he hit .302 with 122 Runs scored and was 26-for-27 stealing. That alone would have been enough, but throw in 38 doubles, 23 triples, and 23 HR.

Granderson was a legitimate MVP threat until the pitching blew up, and the Tigers gave up 1st place in their division with a 31-38 finish.

Now that he's in the Bronx, how do the dominoes fall? Some questions will need to be answered, starting with the big one:

Is Jorge Posada a Catcher or a DH?

If he's still a Catcher, then you simply move Melky Cabrera to LF. Then you make the call which World Series hero you cut ties to, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. They're both leaders, they're both clutch, they can both still contribute at the plate, and they're both awful outfielders.

If Posada's a DH, then you'll need to cut ties to both Damon and Matsui. And you either hope that Jose Molina and Francisco Cervelli can do the job without being a complete hole in the lineup, or you'll need to get another backstop. Either way, the offensive upgrade you get from Granderson is negated in this scenario.

I personally think Posada is now a DH, so the Yanks may have just begun to re-tool.

Next question - who bats leadoff? Granderson is a career leadoff hitter. But the Captain, Derek Jeter, probably feels pretty comfortable in that spot.

This is why baseball still has year-round appeal more than any other sport.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Send the Heisman to Daniel McCoy, c/o Austin, Texas

Was there ever really any doubt? You don't want to say he was robbed last year since Oklahoma's Sam Bradford had an earth-shaking season as well. But D. "Colt" McCoy certainly got the short end of the stick.

Now after some merely adequate performances in the first half of the '09 season, he is definitely revving it up around hardware time. The 304 pass yards, 175 rush yards and 5 total TD against A&M was Vince-esque...only better.

Now he's just one win and an Ndamukong Suh from a a date with an engraver.

This season has had some intriguing darkhorses, but they're fighting for NYC plane tickets now.

Alabama's Mark Ingram was pacing the field, but looks like he needs some new tires on the last lap.

Clemson's C.J. Spiller was spectacular enough, but he'd need a Reggie Bush type of win-loss record to go with his Reggie Bush type of season.

Stanford's Toby Gerhart is a legit contender with 26 TD runs, but his games are on too late serving too regional an audience to impress enough voters nationwide.

But McCoy is in position to complete the trifecta: Tebow, Bradford, McCoy. They each get one. Everyone's happy, socialism at its highest level (as is the BCS itself but that's another post). I do have a friend who is a resident of Texas' capital city and calls it "The People's Republic of Austin."

My pick:

How about a little love for the Longhorns' other #12?

Texas CB Earl Thomas and his 8 INTs for the Thorpe Award!

He's just a sophomore. Has one school ever has a Heisman and Thorpe award winner in the same season with the same number???

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Larry David and the Duberstein Dilemma

The problem with reaching comic nirvana is that the bar is now set too high. I’m sure that very issue tortures creative types like Larry David. While the season finale still looms, the epic conclusion of the Seinfeld reunion arc, this past season of Curb Your Enthusiasm may be the greatest in the history of TV comedy.

So when we say goodbye to the cast of Curb Your Enthusiasm AND Seinfeld (again) on Sunday night, will this be the end of it all? That’s why Larry David is at the crossroads – will he return to try to cement his place in history as the Neil Armstrong of comedy, or is he already there? That this simply is as good as it gets so why bother to try again?

Because Larry David can’t just retire. He doesn’t fit in the real world, where he is a walking disaster. He belongs on set as the visionary executive producer, where he has power and respect, and gets to make the rules. On some level I can relate.

But whatever he decides, we’re just going to have to enjoy this particular train’s last stop. And what a ride. To see Larry and Jerry create, bicker, and feed off each other really gives us a clue how Seinfeld’s quirky dynamic came about in the first place.


Think about the intricacies in the “episode within an episode” of the faux Seinfeld reunion.

Like Elaine having a baby with Jerry’s sperm donation, and her kid calls him Uncle Jerry.

Or George making millions on his iToliet application, only to invest it with Bernie Madoff.

But the real genius was the way the Michael Richards situation was handled and the epic comedy scene with “the two Kramers.”

Leon, Larry’s housemate, serves nearly the same purpose as Kramer did in Jerry’s apartment – a hilariously dependant and oblivious sycophant. And Larry, like Jerry, is just as co-dependent as his friend/neighbor is.

Larry sends Leon into Richards’ trailer as an impostor for “Duberstein,” a dead man who passed from Groat’s disease, a malady that Richards has now been diagnosed with, in order to encourage him that he’ll pull through.

When Richards answers the door, Leon is wearing horn-rim glasses and a bowtie (failing miserably to represent as Duberstein the accountant). But Richards thinks he’s a black Muslim and cowers in fear, “Look I made a mistake…It’s been 3 years…Don’t hurt me! Please!”

While Larry David’s exposition of Richards’ public humiliation wipes his slate clean in one line, the scene-stealer is Leon’s wild portrayal of Duberstein at Richards’ expense. The lie just keeps getting more and more outrageous. I almost fell off the couch while I was sitting on it.
Leon spoke of himself in the third person telling Richards that “Danny Duberstein’s good at two things, that’s Math…and fucking.”

Leon tells Larry after the fact that he “Dubersteined the fuck out of that goofy motherfucker.” Meanwhile, Leon has never seen Seinfeld in his life and has no idea who anyone is while he wolfs down grapes on the set.

Everything seems under control, until of course it isn’t (thanks Marty Funkhauser). And those results ultimately pay off the Richards situation even more brilliantly.

While Seinfeld bragged often that it was “a show about nothing,” Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show about too much, or is it too much of nothing? The line is blurred forever.

We hope that tonight’s episode is the end of a great chapter in comedy history, and not the end of an era.

Larry David’s been Dubersteining all of us for 20 years. Why stop now?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Same Old Jets

This has been the mantra of the Jet fan for the last 40 years. A stretch in which they’ve had fewer playoff wins (6) than head coaches (12).

You can change the coach, the culture, the QB, the uniform, the attitude. But the Jets still find unbelievably inventive ways to lose. This week, it was Maurice Jones-Drew sliding down just short of the goal line so the Jaguars could drain the remaining seconds and kick the game-winning FG, which was really essentially an extra point.

You could make the argument during the Jets' 40 years wandering in the desert, that for Bill Parcells’ 3 years in charge the Jets had turned the corner for the turn of the century and were headed in a more positive direction.

Year 1, 1997 – Parcells took Rich Kotite’s sorry 1-15 bunch and made them a 9-7 contender for the playoffs overnight.

Year 2, 1998 – Took the Jets to the AFC Championship game. Had a 10-point lead before succumbing to eventual Super Bowl champion Denver. Enough said.

Year 3, 1999 – After Vinnie Testaverde tears his Achilles tendon in the opener, the Jets start 1-6. But behind 3rd string QB Ray Lucas, the Jets (who had nothing to play for) won 7 of their last 9, beating 5 playoff teams down the stretch to finish 8-8. It was as inspired as I had ever been as a Jet fan.

If Bill Parcells walked up to my front door and told me to “run up that hill!” I would have said “Yes sir!” But Parcells didn’t come to my front door, he walked out the Jets back door in the face of an ownership change.

Parcells installed Bill Belichick as Head Coach, and that lasted 1 day. Belichick took Charlie Weis up to New England and won 3 Super Bowls. But the Jets reverted to that same old script.

Jets fans are generally a pessimistic lot, but my outlook is tempered because I’m still basking in some New York Yankees afterglow, so I gave the Jets and Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez plenty of slack early.

But halfway through the season, the Jets were 4-4. They were coming off a bye week, and had finally put away those dumb throwback jerseys. I had been tough on their wins, thinking about what they needed to shore up. And I had seen hope in their losses, knowing the razor-thin margin between their .500 start and being 7-1. And star players like Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington were gone for the year.

But now it’s mid-November and as long as you’re still competitive (unlike Eric Mangini’s pitiful Browns), it only matters if you win or lose.

And Jets fans had their hearts broken again. Next stop for the 4-5 Jets...Foxboro. Maybe the Jets can summon a late-game stop, a mistake-free QB performance, or a big play on special teams (god forbid). They'll sweep the Patriots and climb right back into the playoff picture when they return to Jersey. But they probably won't.
"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is there something worse?" Bruce Springsteen, The River

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One Door Closes, Another One Opens: The Mad Men Season 3 Finale


I was always mesmerized but never quite understood the Mad Men opening animation. But now it's all falling into place.

Designer suit-wearing, slick and handsome ad man is nameless and faceless. Since everything is built on lies, he is ultimately alone and lives constantly in the shadow of his own demise. Have you met Don Draper?

He is an anti-hero of the caliber of Tony Soprano, and why do we love him? For his charisma and his skill. He sells people on ideas. He is calculated and instinctive. He is the smartest man in the room.

As a viewer I wondered why we were being sold that Don's wife Betty was the bad guy when she filed for Divorce. Yes Don is thoughtful, and a loving father, but his identity is a fabrication and he's been a serial philanderer. If it weren't 1963, Betty would have made minced-meat out of him in court.

While the scenes documenting the final split are heartbreaking, the confrontation over Betty's "life raft" Henry Francis, and telling the kids that Dad is moving out, it is still the secondary storyline. There's Don's "other" divorce.

When Don learns from Conrad Hilton that Sterling-Cooper is being sold for the second time in a year, the wheels go in motion. It takes just a few short days to turn Sterling-Cooper into a rogue ad agency that pirates the guts of the old agency in a weekend ransack.

First Don convinces Bert Cooper, the company's patriarch to forgo his "golden tomb" to give it one more shot. Then he sells Roger Sterling. Then Layne Price, the London bottom-line-man assigned to gut (and unknowingly liquidate) Sterling-Cooper. Then he has to sell Cooper and Sterling on Price, "can any of you do what he does?"

While balancing the time spent as his family is ripped apart, Don sells the once snot-nosed, now ever-evolving account man Pete Campbell to join in, if he brings his accounts of course. And finally Peggy, who takes a little more convincing. It's great to see elitist copywriter Paul Kinsey shattered when he realizes that Don took Peggy instead of him.

Throw in the triumphant return of Joan Harris to whip their outfit into shape with her organization and logistical wizardry and voila, "Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price."

The nameless, faceless ad man once again exudes confidence, as he sits in his position of power. And what difference does it make what his true identity is? You'll believe whatever he tells you. You'll buy whatever he's selling you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Send the Heisman to Lake Hartwell

In a year where the big names of college football have not individually distinguished themselves (though Tebow and McCoy's teams certainly have), there's a multi-threat speed demon coming on even faster than his team is.

I thought I saw it all when C.J. Spiller ran, caught, returned, and ran some more on his way to a Clemson record 310 all-purpose yards two Saturdays ago in a thrilling 40-37 overtime win in Maimi. But he wasn't done.

Last night against Florida State he bested his own brand-new school mark with 312 in a 40-24 win over Florida State, sending Death Valley into a frenzy.

If there has been any knock on Spiller, it's that he's not an every-down back. That didn't seem to bother Reggie Bush supporters, whose numbers Spiller's compare very favorably to. But in his most recent tour-de-force, Spiller carried 22 times for 165, with a lot of hard yards late in the 2nd Half.

Spiller and teammate Jacoby Ford work year-round for Tiger athletics, running indoor and outdoor track for Clemson.

Ford is the NCAA Champ in the 60m. And Spiller is the anchor on Clemson's 4x100 relay team. Come to think of it 100 meters doesn't seem like too much ground to cover for a big-time return guy. Try 6 career kick return TDs.

Spiller is the most exciting player in college football, and Clemson with their team speed, pass rush, secondary play, and surprising poise from frosh QB Kyle Parker may well be a rematch vs Georgia Tech away from an ACC Championship and BCS bid.

Then expect to see Spiller in New York. And expect him to bring home the hardware. Go ahead, name a better candidate to run against him.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Bittersweet Time for a Yankee Fan

I always try to be a champion for the underdog. My annual NCAA bracket is filled with irrational pie-in-the-sky dreams. So it's a wonder to many that I am an obsessive Yankee fan and they want to know why.

The old baseball adage is "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Absolutely true, but I prefer another mantra "It's the journey, not the destination." My love for the Yankees is my love for the routine of life.

While football (my other love) also stirs my passions, a football weekend is generally either spent working, or spent with the kids. But baseball is for weeknights. Kids are asleep, you can watch your team and multi-task. 162 games a year - it becomes part of you.

That's why I don't kill John Sterling, the bombastic voice of the Yankees. Because he's seen every Yankee game for the last 19 years. He sees things on the field and relays them because he notices. He's seen every pitch of Mariano Rivera's career and every at bat of Derek Jeter's. And that's what I feel like when I watch over 100 Yankee games a year from a couch in Savannah, Georgia. And I can turn on the YES network during the day and digest all the buzz with the equally bombastic Mike Francesa, because he knows what's going on too.

Being a baseball fan, much like being a baseball player, is an everyday job. Baseball is about the day-in, day-out grind. About who's pitching today, who's in the lineup because someone's injured, or who needs to bust out of a slump.

I love checking in on sites like Pinstripe Alley and throwing out arguments for Molina vs Posada or Chamberlain: starter or reliever. To bitch about Joe Girardi's over-managing or blast Johnny Damon's defense, or praise the relief work of Alfredo Aceves, or live the late-game heroics of Melky Cabrera again and again.

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in MLB by far. So they have A-Rod the lightning rod. So what? Nothing can stain the beauty of the game or make me lose interest in the season.

I watched Game 6 on Wednesday night and reveled in World Championship glory, but ultimately a 5-4 victory in June over Oakland is just as exciting. Only now it's time to take a hiatus and see how to build on this for next season. The goal remains the same.

Yet I am sad now because opening day is almost 5 months away. Even a World Series ring has a hole in it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Feeling Blue about Rob Green

Our friend Rob Green has passed away at 47 years young. Thanks to Bob Borts for furnishing this iconic picture of Rob captaining a TV tape room with his trademark Detroit Tigers hat.

I had lunch with Rob on Saturday, just about 3 hours to kickoff at Wake Forest University. He was himself, bitching about Tim McCarver's World Series commentary, recalling classic movie lines and favorite Kids in the Hall sketches. He was fired up about his Central Michigan Chippewas taking on BC later that afternoon.

I even tried to rope him into working the Detroit Bowl game the day after Christmas. He asked if I was going to pay for his divorce.

On this day he was also complaining of excruciating back pain, that had been with him for weeks. As a free-lancer, he was (as most of us are) afraid to go to a doctor because he was under-insured and he needed to keep working.

A couple of hours later he was suffering from chest pains and EMTs came to the truck to take him to the hospital.

Two days later, he had surgery in response to a brain hemorrhage. He made it through the procedure, but died during recovery.

He was a cantankerous sort, just gruff enough to be beloved by so many. A true character in a business filled with them.

I didn't know him as well as a lot of people I work with, but I did live in Michigan for 3 years and we crossed paths there and everywhere. I was proud to be one of his 463 Facebook friends and I will miss his frequent status updates featuring rock'n'roll song lyrics.

RIP Greener. I will rock my infamous green corduroys today in your honor.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pettitte and Forgettitte

When there’s money on the table, you want a money pitcher. And Pettitte’s postseason history and 1,000-yard stare speaks to that.

I remember all the way back to Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, when Andy Pettitte was just a 24-year old 2nd year starter. He outdueled the best pitcher in baseball, John Smoltz, in a 1-0 squeaker. The Yankees closed out Fulton County Stadium winning all three in Atlanta and took the World Series in 6 games.

Then in 1998, Pettitte outpitched the best pitcher in baseball, Kevin Brown, in a 3-1 win in Game 4 in San Diego, completing a World Series sweep.

Now, he hasn’t always come through in the World Series – a couple of different Game 6’s come to mind, including getting pummeled by Arizona in ’01 and losing the clincher to Josh Beckett and the Marlins in ’03.

But more often than not, he’s going to gettitte done for you. And last night was a perfect example of that. There was no need to panic after giving up 3 early runs. Andy pretty much shut down the Phils the rest of the way, and added a key Pet-hitte RBI-single off of 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels for good measure.

Pettitte finished with 6 solid innings and his major-league record 17th postseason win. The length of the start is nothing unusual for the Yankees’ hurlers. All 12 postseason starts have gone at least 6 innings.

Next up is CC (aka Cruise Control) Sabathia. He’ll take on Joe Blanton instead of Cliff Lee, whom the Phils are hesitant to use on 3 days’ rest. Can Blanton beat CC? Not likely. But the Phillies lineup sure can.

But the bottom line is the starting pitching. As long as the Yankees keep getting high quality starts, they will surely take home the title. And maybe we won't even need to see our man Andy in Game 6 (his bad number), as it may already be wrapped up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Life is just a Fantasy..."

It's not just a cheesy rock anthem/music video from a Canadian one-hit wonder in 1982. It's a mantra.

Just when you think your double-edged candle has run out of wax. When you're fighting off jet lag, the flu, and your manic kids, you are allowed one day of complete fantasy.

And while my fantasy of white sand beaches, Salma Hayek, and Patron popsicles might be on hold for the time being, my fantasy football team offered me one day of unadulterated bliss.

Read it and weep. Single Coverage just cleaned your clock and set a league record. I can't believe Heath Miller and Larry Fitzgerald didn't join the party and bring it to the house. That's OK, the Jets defense had me covered from all angles.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Last Week on a Very Special Curb Your Enthusiasm


Two weeks after Larry David made cancer the centerpiece of an episode of his HBO comedy, he has slaughtered another sacred cow: Physical disability.

Insensitivity has never been so hilarious. Did Larry actually two-time Denise Handicap with Wendy Wheelchair? There’s no way Larry would get busted when they both wound up at the same classical music recital, right? And there’s no way Larry would run up the stairs to flee from disaster…with Rosie O’Donnell chasing him. Crazy you say. Too over the top. Genius.

Especially since Larry is enjoying the benefits that accompanying a paraplegic brings – better parking, favorable treatment, and his friends look at him differently.

But the key added ingredient is Larry’s extended houseguest Leon (J.B. Smoove).

While Larry’s best friend/manager Jeff appeases him, and Richard Lewis and Ted Danson do nothing but argue with him, Leon enables him. Leon tells Larry he’s gotta “Bring the ruckus to that ass.” That he’d “Twist that ass up like a pretzel.”

And after Susie throws Larry’s Blackberry into the Pacific, Leon is there for Larry to help him try and find Denise’s house since Larry had only known her as his phone entry “Denise Handicap.” Leon says it's OK, he's got "Susie Big Tits" in his phone. Larry can do no wrong with Leon, he can even call him “brother,” which amuses Larry to no end.

While the Seinfeld “reunion” arc continues next week, it is these stand-alone episodes that make the show what it is. Pretty, pretty, pretty…intristing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Please come to Boston for the Fall Time

"Hey ramblin' boy, why don't you settle down, Boston ain't your kind of town" -Dave Loggins
Despite snowflakes falling outside my hotel window Friday morning, it was a pretty good stay in New England.

I was actually just outside the hub in Chestnut Hill, and my weekend was all work, so I couldn’t attend the Head of the Charles Regatta or frolic in the fall foliage.

But the performance of BC’s Montel Harris (264 yards, 5 TD) against NC State notwithstanding, there were still plenty of significant events.

I met Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson and his wife in an elevator in Newton, Massachusetts. Now that’s odd. The Heller School at Brandeis for Social Policy and Management was celebrating its 50th year, and that is where Mr. Mayor got his doctorate. I asked when they’d be flying home. They said they’re driving. So no fiscal shenanigans from Mr. & Mrs. HizzHonor.

Cheering on the Yankees to a pair of wins over the Angels in crowded Boston establishments like Legal Sea Foods always goes over well. A scenic shot of a desolate, empty Yawkey Way during our broadcast which elicited a line from our play-by-play man, “You know your producer is a Yankee fan when…”

I had to interrupt my own production meeting because the reggae music from the hotel bar was so good. What house band plays a deep album track like Sublime’s “Pawn Shop?” I later met the musicians and told them they were great.

Even something as mundane as making out my fantasy football roster had an amusing aside. Joe Flacco is my QB, but I was a little nervous about starting him at Minnesota this weekend. Tony Romo is my other QB, and he’s on his bye week. So I scoured the Free Agent list for another starting option.

Brian Griese? He would have been a poor choice, not just because he’s unaffiliated, not because he can’t get it done anymore. But because he’s with the good guys now. I just spent the weekend with him and I doubt he will be trading in a headset for a helmet any time soon.

Just as well - Flacco threw for 385 and 2 TD.

Life is funny. I guess that’s why you have to write stuff down.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This weblog was written before Mark Sanchez's public self-immolation, and comments regarding such will be ignored.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Watching My Yankees Old School

It's rare in a life with kids and flights and work and general responsibilities, that I ever get to plant myself and watch an important Yankee playoff game from start to finish.

But I had a block of time and I dusted off my Bob Carpenter's Scorebook and decided to keep score. It's something I had done hundreds of times in my youth, and occasionally as a professional, but I did it tonight for fun and to take me inside the game.

After an 11-Inning thriller over the Twins, this becomes part of the archives of baseball history. Well at least my baseball history. I have a couple of framed scorecards in my office, that are mounted with my World Series ticket and New York newspaper headline.

Like when I watched Jim Leyritz tag Mark Wohlers in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series. Leyritz had replaced Joe Girardi at catcher, who had been 0-2. Rookie-of-the-Year Derek Jeter was 2-4 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored. I had FOX seats so I sat next to Jerry Glanville, but that's a story for another time.

The scorecard is a historical document. With a good scorecard you can reconstruct any baseball game, and thumb through the pages of history. The previous entry in my third BC Scorebook was from June 11, 2006. Oregon State defeated Stanford 15-0 in Super Regional Game 2 in Corvallis en route to the CWS and the first of two NCAA Championships. Catcher Mitch Canham drove in 5 runs and Pitcher Jonah Nickerson cruised.

So what was the inside dope on just another Yankee walk-off Home Run in the bottom of the 11th?

1) Joe Girardi is still manging very tightly.

Especially his handling of the bullpen. Joe, why on earth do you need 8 pitchers to get through 11 innings? He shouldn't have pulled Joba Chamberlain after getting only 2 outs in the 7th. He shouldn't have pulled Alfredo Aceves after a scoreless 10th. They weren't prepared to fight this out until the 15 or 16th inning. I was wondering at what point Game 1 winner CC Sabathia was going to start warming up.

2) The Yankees were very lucky in this game.

The Twins left 17 men on base, including at least one in all 11 innings. AJ Burnett walked 5 and hit 2 batters in a very erratic 6 innings. But he only gave up one run. The Twins made a brutal baserunning error in the 4th, costing them a run. And Joe Nathan was 3-0 to A-Rod in the 9th, but tried to get him out. Not too effective. It got A-Rod a curtain call and a seat in first class.

3) When the game is on the line, you want Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees' MVP had the leadoff single in the 9th, setting the stage for A-Rod's game-tying HR. Then he made two very strong defensive plays in the top of the 11th to help a very green David Robertson out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam. Then there was this:

And that was that. Close the book on that one.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Good Riddance, Homer Dome

Yes the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome will continue to be an eyesore amid the Minneapolis skyline, but fortunately later today it may host its last Major League Baseball game ever.

I'm not just rooting for the Tigers because the Twins are the hotter team, and thus a tougher opponent for the Yankees, but because The Metrodome is an atrocious baseball stadium.

It was a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility when it opened in 1982, but let's face it - it was never really meant for baseball. And the Twins themselves were always second-class citizens there in their home stadium.

Just yesterday, with a rare jewel of a baseball game - a 1-game Divisional Tiebreak (they only come around so often) against the Detroit Tigers on tap, the Twins were forced to move the game to Tuesday because the Favre/Vikings had a Monday night game.

I was actually witness to this type of mess on October 2, 2004. I was the producer for Penn State - Minnesota at the Dome. It was a 7 PM CT start. The fact that Minnesota won 16-7 to run their record to 5-0 was beside the point. Read: Multi-purpose facility.

Earlier that same day, the Twins, who had secured a playoff spot, were fighting for home-field advantage in the final regular season weekend versus the Cleveland Indians. The game started at 11 AM CT to accommodate the Gopher football game later that same day. But after 11 Innings and a 5-5 score, the game was suspended so that Metrodome personnel could ready the field for football. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire was irate.

"We're in the middle of a mess now...We don't need a stadium? C'mon."

The Twins wound up winning in the bottom of the 12th, on Sunday.

The way the Twins have been treated by their landlord is only part of the story. While the building has hosted two World Series Championships, it is still a joke as a baseball venue.

There's that ridiculous baggie in right field covering up the folded up extra football seats.

The air conditioning system can be manipulated to create more/less intense wind currents to help/hurt the team that's batting.

And we've seen countless quality Major League outfielders lose the ball up against the Dome roof, which of course is the same color as the baseball.

Next year, the Twins will finally move to their own stadium, and I look forward to my first trip to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis - where the home team will really be the home team.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Before they go anywhere, the Jets need to Fix Six

Here's the Mark Sanchez/Jets timeline

1) The Jets trade 5 players, including 2 defensive starters for the rights to a 1-year Major College QB.

2) Mark Sanchez captures the hearts of the die-hard Jet fans and his veteran teammates while seizing the starting job in camp.

3) Sanchez is praised for his poise and presence as the Jets take off to a 3-0 start.

But there were red flags along the way. Sanchez threw the ball up for grabs too many times, though he was rarely punished by opposing defenses. He also carried the ball recklessly, both in the pocket and on the run. And again, he mostly had gotten away with it.

Yesterday in New Orleans, it all caught up to our Golden Boy. Four turnovers, two of which led directly to Saints TDs. And it's a shame because the defense shut down Drew Brees and the League's #1 offense in a 24-10 loss.

Nobody wants to take away Sanchez's bravado, but he needs to make better decisions. This week his decisions cost the Jets on the road against a tough opponent. If he doesn't straighten out his act soon, it will cost the Jets in a game they're supposed to win. And then it will cost them playoff seeding.

And then he may wind up having to watch and learn from the bench.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ramp Up Your Enthusiasm

It is Season 7 of Larry David's ground-breaking comedy, but unlike other shows which traditionally jump the shark at this point, Curb Your Enthusiasm is still getting better.

Forget for a moment that Larry David and HBO hoodwinked NBC out of a Seinfeld reunion, which begins its story arc this Sunday. Forget we're going to see Jerry Seinfeld act (not Jerry Seinfeld's act) for the first time in years. Forget we'll see the possible redemption of iconic comedy actor Michael Richards.

This would still be Curb Your Enthusiasm's best season ever, and we're only two episodes in. CAUTION - SPOILERS.

First, Larry's quest to break it off with Loretta while she's undergoing cancer treatment has been brilliant. And just because Loretta just left Larry, taking her kids and Auntie Rae with her, doesn't mean "LD" has seen the last of her.

Especially since Larry's real soulmate Leon (Loretta's brother) isn't going anywhere. Leon said they were Leggos (interlocked). Leon will surely be goading Larry into confrontations, to "get up in that ass" for some time.

Meanwhile, Larry's best friend/manager Jeff Green, who we always knew was a sex fiend, has gone beyond the bounds of the conventional comedy. Two weeks ago he bedded Marty Funkhauser's sister, who was a mental patient. Larry was traumatized by the cries of "Fuck me fat boy!" while he was in the house.

Then last week, Jeff's intolerable wife Susie went down on him in the car on the way to party, causing a wreck that Larry happened upon.

But the best individual exchange, what the show is all about really, was when Larry broke a pair of glasses while hugging his former next-door neighbor in the cancer doctor's waiting room.

It wasn't just typical of what happens regularly to our protagonist, but was able to weave in money, insensitivity, guilt, shame, disgust and cancer.

Conventional wisdom is that George Costanza channeled Larry David on Seinfeld. I really think Larry's character is a mix of Jerry and George, the unwitting and the unscrupulous, the shlameel and the shlamazel.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Autumn Wind is a Bronx Bomber

I live in the past sometimes but I know that when I look forward, I do so with such idyllic hopes and expectations. And that's why a Yankees Divisional Playoff exit (like in '05, '06 & '07) would be heart-breaking.

Because this year is different.

This off-season the Yankees signed the probable MVP (Mark Teixeira - forecast on Backtime June 3rd) and the possible Cy Young winner (CC Sabathia). They also signed AJ Burnett, though his results have been hot & cold. And they traded for Nick Swisher, who has exceeded all Yankee fan expectations. Now the Yankees have often lured in high-priced talent, but these guys have all been valuable to the productivity on and off the field for a 100-win team.

Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each are over 200 hits. The Bombers have 7 guys with 20+ Home Runs. There are no holes in the lineup. And while Teixeira is the only one over 100 RBI, 4 Yankees have 100 or more Runs Scored.

And while the bullpen sucked (universally accepted term) for the first 6 weeks of the season, they found Alfredo Aceves (10-1) as a valuable innings-eater and shut-down guy. And Phil Hughes (8-3) as set-up man has been as dominant as Joba Chamberlain when he mastered that role two seasons ago.

But it all leads back to him, the most underrated player in the history of sports.

Although Mariano Rivera turns 40 in November, this may have been his best season.

Despite the unusually high number of HR allowed (7), he is 44-46 on Save Opportunities, and has been lights out for months.

And did I mention A-Rod? Or Posada? or Johnny Damon? Or Andy Pettitte? Or The Amazing Melky Cabrera. This team was born to tear through the 2009 postseason.

And if they don't and I have to turn my partisan interests to the NFL, at least the Jets are 3-0.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trying to re-org Sterling-Cooper? Break a Leg!


This most recent hour of Mad Men was the best twist-of-fate rollercoaster ride in series history.

I felt Joan's story really shared the main stage with Don, as her life is becoming very difficult. On the day of Dr. Harris' residency exam, Joan readies to leave the office that she runs (on some level) to live the good life as a surgeon's wife.

But as we've learned, while Dr. Harris appears to be a dreamboat he is quite flawed. Joan waits home all night for a drunk doc who was told he'll never be a surgeon, and has to extend his internship one more year.

But the announcements have already been made at the office, and Joan's goodbye cake has already been wheeled out...Until a tragic mishap. Now Jane has the perfect excuse to return to Sterling-Cooper, to hold things together after a crisis.

Roger Sterling's character re-emerges from his short funk with a series of quips, one-liners, and even some practical wisdom.

In Putnam, Powell & Lowe's grand plans for re-organization, Roger was marginalized, completely left off an overhead projector flowchart. "My name's on the wall, but not the chart." He sold the ad agency and now the new boss has exposed him as an empty suit. But at least he doesn't lose his sense of humor.

And then there's Don Draper. Always under control, always has the smart answer. Never tips his hand. Even when Pete Campbell tried to expose him as an imposter in Season 1, he played it cool and won. In this episode we saw a little more of him.

Don was practically giddy when rumors of PPL's visit to the office likely meant a promotion for the creative director and a London office. He was genuinely excited, then was put back in his place with his position on the chart, working alongside (though slightly beneath) London's new hotshot account man.

But just as we see Don as angry as he gets, telling Peggy the champagne sucks, his fortunes turn upward. They always do. Conrad Hilton calls him in for a meeting based on a chance encounter they shared at Sterling's party a few weeks back. And Don talks "Connie" into a deal.

Then Don finds out that his new boss Guy McKendrick had his foot severed in a freak accident at an office party. So Don continues to step in shit. And even though he's a scoundrel, lothario, and a phony, I feel a personal connection to him.

Because as a Dad, he's got all the answers at home too.

Nine-year old Sally Draper has become a very compelling character. You can see the conflict and confusion in her with the death of her new best friend "Grandpa Gene" and the nearly simultaneous birth of a baby brother named after him.

While Mom tries to buy her off with a Barbie doll, Don is patient and hopeful, and makes a difference.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The New Look Jets: Changing the Culture before our eyes?

I know it's only Week 2. But I saw something last week in Houston that I hadn't seen in quite some time: a Jets team that dominated on both sides, and pushed people around.

Head Coach Rex Ryan brought a defensive attitude that Jets hadn't exhibited since the Bud Carson defenses of the late 80s. Shifting to a 3-4 defense is really like a 4-4 if you count Nose Tackle Kris Jenkins twice. He looks to be the most disruptive force in the league from that position. His only flaw is that he's so big and plays so hard that he needs to come out of the game from time to time.

Ryan brought a couple of key cogs from his Ravens defenses as well. LB Bart Scott was all over the field last week. And Safety Jim Leonhard is a force in the secondary, as a run-stopper, and on special teams.

So the task for glamorous rookie QB Mark Sanchez is to not mess it up. And if Week 1 is any indicator, the Jets offense seems to be in good hands. Sanchez was poised and delivered time and again on 3rd Down. He threw an ill-advised pick which resulted in the Texans' only score, but the Sanchez ledger sheet was pretty well-weighted to the good. And his presence was able to keep the defense honest enough that after 3 quarters of futility for the Jets ground game, they owned the 4th Quarter.

Now is the Jets time to flex their muscles as they host the Patriots today. It was a Week 2 meeting in 2001 between the teams that changed the NFL landscape forever. You may remember Jets LB Mo Lewis crushing Drew Bledsoe's chest. That opened up the door for unproven 2nd year, 6th round pick Tom Brady and the rest is history.

Today the Jets can open a door of their own by punishing Brady and changing the landscape in the NFL themselves.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Athens Hit and Run

Apologies for not posting earlier - the DigCamera was MIA but it was ultimately unearthed. So while Georgia will have their hands full with Bobby Petrino's Razorbacks this weekend, the home opening 44-41 win over South Carolina had enough action for half-a-season.

Most importantly on September 12, it was a conference game.

The day was full of quirky missteps.

First after talking our way into the best parking lot, we wound up too close to the stadium. My personal vehicle was englufed by fans crowded around for Uga's arrival, and the band nearly ran us over. The crowd was getting a little hostile especially since my friend was in Georgia Tech colors (below).

Later (much later), I got a speeding ticket in podunk Adrian, Georgia. The cop was laying in wait on one of those country roads right after the limit changed from 55 to 45. Dude zapped me at 68. "We were at the Georgia game" - no response. "My friend needs to get home to his pregnant wife" also true - no response. No small talk, no break on the speed, no warning despite the fact that I was hopelessly sober. Adrian must need my $$$ (I called - $211 OUCH) for some kind of southern bridge to nowhere.

But in between, we got a unique vantage point for a thrilling game Between The Hedges.

I could have taken a million pictures down there, but you don't want to look too much like a tourist.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hard Knocks Rocks!

While I am a huge fan of good TV drama (and some smart comedy as well), there’s only one reality show that I watch. And it wraps up its short season tonight. The Bengals story is all the more inspirational when you see the level of commitment from these professionals, even while working for the least dynamic boss in the history of team sports. Mike Brown seems more equipped to be some middle-manager from the Dilbert comic strip than run an NFL franchise. Fortunately Head Coach Marvin Lewis is a strong leader, and he has the team’s attention.

The individual storylines are riveting as well.

Carson Palmer. Clearly one of the NFL’s top QBs, must be getting frustrated with more injuries. His good health is the only way the Bengals will make the playoffs for the first time since winning the AFC North in 2005.

Andre Smith. The mammoth rookie 1st Round OT out of Alabama held out, showed up out of shape, and suffered a stress fracture in his foot. It will likely take a long time for him to win over his teammates.

Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson). I know my perception of him has completely changed. Despite being a loudmouth, he’s not in trouble off the field like so many of his Cincinnati cohorts. And he clearly works his ass off. He’s very impressive in the swimming pool and the boxing gym. And he showed off his versatility earlier this preseason by kicking an extra point, and then launching a high, sailing kickoff to the 8-yard line.

Now Ochocinco is very much a poster boy for this generation of Wide Receiver, as a me-first attention seeker. But make no mistake, he is a player. And as for the name change, it’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

Marvin Philip Aufrichtig = Marv Albert

Reginald Kenneth Dwight = Elton John

Prince Rogers Nelson =

Obviously the position battles and who gets cut is where the real drama lies. Director of Football Operations Jim Lippincott is the ultimate badass "Turk." Completely unemotional in his overweight frame stuffed into coaches' shorts, "We're putting you on waivers today." What an awesome character. I had a similar job with my fraternity during rush week, but I was nowhere near that level of efficiency.

But Hard Knocks still has plenty of levity. Like DT Tank Johnson mixing up Bill Walsh (the late football legend) and Donnie Walsh (the NBA GM).

My favorite moment was from Jordan Palmer, Carson’s younger bro, who’s fighting for the backup QB job. Jordan Palmer’s side job is as a website creator and manager. Except he’s a little more innovative than I am. His site tracks first-run movies, and when it’s a good time to relieve yourself without missing anything or disturbing those around you. God bless the internet.

So while tonight is the season finale’ of Hard Knocks, the Bengals season opens this Sunday. When they finally take the field in anger, it will be hard not to root for them.