Friday, November 20, 2009

Video: Weird and Whacky Moments in Sports [J. Mark English]

Video: Top 10 Signs Your NFL Team Owner is Nuts [J. Mark English]

New York Knicks: Fading Dreams? [J. Mark English

This week the Knickerbockers had the opportunity to sign Allen Iverson, and add at least a little moxy to an otherwise futile squad. As they flounder in despair, waiting in earnest for next summers free agent jamboree, some writers offer up thoughts about why Knicks dreams of what may be, may not be:

Mike Lupica of the Daily News:

It doesn't matter in the end whether it was James L. Dolan who didn't want Allen Iverson, or Donnie Walsh, or Mike D'Antoni. Knicks fans wanted Iverson. But they don't matter and haven't for a long time.

When it was reported in the last 24 hours that the Knicks were backing away from Iverson, I got a call from my friend Brian Koppelman, who has been a Knicks' season ticketholder for 21 years, who sits a few rows behind where the great Red Holzman used to sit with his wife after he retired from coaching.

Koppeman's son is 14 now and so was too young to really enjoy the last time the Knicks were relevant in New York or in pro basketball, back when they were a hot ticket in the decade before this one. His son was four when the Knicks made the NBA Finals in 1999, coming from the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference to do that. Even the next year, the spring of 2000 they still had enough, even with half the team hurt, to make it all the way to Game 6 against the Pacers in the conference finals before Reggie Miller scored 17 in the fourth quarter and got them again.

So Brian Koppelman's son has really only known, and seen, what everybody has known about the Knicks and seen from them for a decade: The worst team in the league. One now completely unwatchable. And more irrelevant than it has ever been. The New York Expiring Contracts.

"If they sign Iverson," Koppelman said over the phone yesterday, "and he plays against the Celtics (at the Garden on Sunday afternoon), then we stand and cheer when he takes the floor. It would have been a moment for Knicks fans to get up on their feet for the Knicks this season, not for a player like LeBron on the other team."

Koppelman said, "There is no moment like it that I can foresee for us over the rest of the season."

There have been all the lines and jokes about how Iverson has been known as The Answer, and how one 34-year old gunner, past his prime, could not possibly be The Answer for these Knicks, not this season. But you know what? He would have made them a better ticket.

Iverson wouldn't have made it worth the money Knicks fans who still go and watch and care are paying, but he would have made them better than Chris Duhon or Toney Douglas.

Jeff Neuman of Real Clear Sports:

Wake up and smell the powder, New York. LeBron's not coming.

It's hard to blame Knicks fans for clinging to hope. The most sophisticated basketball clientele in America has been saddled with a team that's richly embarrassing. The toxic remnants from the Isiah era remain in the form of mismatched players, empty seats, and the stench that comes with a 2-10 record.

Donnie Walsh has performed a miracle in clearing enough cap space to have room for a big free agent in the coming offseason. Mike D'Antoni coaches a style players love, one that lets them run the floor and make plays without looking to the puppet-master on the sidelines.

Doesn't matter. LeBron's not coming.

Why would he? As much as any superstar we've ever seen, he understands that it's a team game, and he always has. He has nothing to prove individually; it's about winning championships.

Add LeBron to the Knicks, and you're still three years away from being any good. He'd make them respectable, but why would he take such a great leap backwards? From a basketball standpoint, the move makes no sense.

But what about the dollars? He'd be coming to New York! The Big Apple! The World's Most Famous Arena! Think of all the off-court benefits that flow from being a big star in The Big City.

The notion that playing in New York has any significant effect on an athlete's value is an utter myth. It's a holdover from the "Mad Men" era, a relic from the days when you only saw endorsement opportunities if your name was Gifford or Mantle or Namath.

To begin with, how many more commercials does LeBron have time for? It's not as though he's underexposed. If he wants to release his own songs, make a movie, put his name on a fragrance or design a line of nonstick cookware, he can do it tomorrow without setting foot outside Ohio. He's at that level of fame where the world comes to him. (Have you even noticed that his last name hasn't appeared in this column yet?)

Playing in Chicago didn't exactly limit Michael Jordan's income. Indianapolis hasn't prevented Peyton Manning from appearing in more commercials than the ShamWow! guy. Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken became endorsement juggernauts from their bases in Texas and Baltimore respectively. Tom Brady met Gisele Bündchen despite the handicap of being in New England. Brett Favre did okay playing in the smallest market in sports. (His one season in New York only hurt his reputation.)

Who exactly has reaped the rewards of New York exposure? I don't recall Patrick Ewing getting a lot of endorsements. Mariano Rivera is considered the greatest closer ever, featured in loving closeup for dozens of hours of postseason television. What's it given him in off-field opportunities? Jason Giambi, C.C. Sabathia, even Alex Rodriguez - they came to New York, and didn't exactly set business hearts a-flutter.

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A Few Tidbits [J. Mark English]

  • Recently someone suggested the idea that the new "Giants" Stadium should be called JetBlue Stadium. If, that is, both the Jets and the Giants plan on allowing a company to purchase the name of the stadium, would that not be a perfect name to cover both teams? Of course as someone pointed out to me, JetBlue may not be able to afford the lofty cost of buying the rights to the stadium. We shall see.
  • Another fun bit of information that was tossed around the other day is that the New York Yankees have just as many wins in November as do the New York Jets, New York Giants, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, and the New York Rangers combined. That is pathetic. But I'm sure Yankee fans would prefer to have the championship instead of a few more wins from the local teams.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Video: Sesame Street Turns 40; Vince Carter & Grover; Harlem Globetrotter[J. Mark English]

Friday, November 13, 2009

Topps Ticket to Stardom Case Rip [J. Mark English]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

West Pointers - ESPN Video [J. Mark English]

Some College Fooball Thoughts [J. Mark English]

On Notre Dame Fighting Irish - - Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun Times:

Evidently, being honest and forthright while answering questions is not something Notre Dame captains should do. If they puppet whatever coach Charlie Weis says, even if it's less than the full truth, they are leaders. If they say what really happened, what the opposing coach admits happened, they're not leadership material.

Notre Dame may be one of the prestigious private universities in the country, but football players are not allowed to express original thoughts -- or at least that was the message sent after another loss that ranks among the most embarrassing in school history.

This isn't a ''fire Charlie Weis'' column. I'm content to reserve judgment for a few more weeks. Personally, I think the Irish will upset No. 8 Pittsburgh on Saturday. Anybody who has followed Dave Wannstedt's career knows this is the type of game that his teams usually lose.

If nothing else, a win over Pittsburgh would mute the blue bloods who claim losing to Navy is ''unacceptable.'' What a joke. First of all, in case nobody has noticed, the Irish haven't contended for national titles lately. Secondly, if losing to the Midshipmen is ''beneath'' Notre Dame, why is Navy on the schedule?

But I digress.

What fries my egg more than any of Weis' on-field failures was what was said in the wake of the loss.

Let's start at the beginning.

Navy's triple-option offense racked up 257 rushing yards in a historic upset of Notre Dame two years ago. In last season's game, defensive coaches Jon Tenuta and Corwin Brown devised a scheme that limited the nation's then-second-ranked rushing offense to 157 yards.

The Midshipmen ran wild for 348 yards in Saturday's win, after which Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said: ''I really hope this doesn't come across wrong, but I think the thing that helped us this year was last year. We knew that they'd line up the same way. We didn't execute very well last year. They did a great job against us last year defensively. So we had a pretty good clue that they were going to come back and do the same things.''

In other words, Niumatalolo assumed the Irish would defend his offense the same way as last season and made adjustments that allowed fullback Vince Murray to gallop through the Notre Dame secondary for 158 yards.

Weis prides himself on his ability to manipulate Xs and Os better than opposing defensive coordinators. Well, guess what? In this case, his defensive coordinators got out-schemed. There's no other way to explain it. Hey, it happens. It was logical for Weis and his staff to stick with what worked well the previous year. If they hadn't, Weis would've been ripped for ''out-thinking'' himself, which has been a frequent criticism.

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On the Iowa Hawkeyes - - Darren Everson and David Biderman of the Wall Street Journal:

Iowa's upset loss to Northwestern on Saturday didn't fundamentally change the college football season. The unbeaten triumvirate of No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Alabama continues to steam toward the most predictable finish in years.

But here's what hasn't been said: Iowa's improbable winning streak, which had reached 13 games and taken them as high as No. 7 in the Associated Press poll and No. 4 in the BCS standings, was one of the most stunning—if not inspiring—stories in the recent history of college football.

In a day and age when star coaches at schools in the country's richest recruiting grounds have been hoarding the top talent, the Hawkeyes were an unlikely candidate to threaten them. The team has never won an outright national title, it's only had one marquee recruiting class in the past five years and was ranked No. 22 before this season. Even its coach, Kirk Ferentz, said he was surprised by its performance. "Realistically, I have a hard time even picturing us in the top 10," he said last month.

Yet the Hawkeyes started 9-0 this season and beat so many solid opponents that they were ranked No. 1 at one point by the computer polls. Even the loss to Northwestern wasn't an indictment—the Hawkeyes had opened up a lead in the game that collapsed only after junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi was forced out with an ankle injury.

What's remarkable about the Iowa program is its relative isolation. The ride to campus in Iowa City cuts through endless farmland. "I mean, a lot of corn on the drive up," says Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki. The lack of population puts the team in a peculiar fix. Other top football schools fill their rosters with scholarship players from their home states—roughly 59% of Florida's recruits the past five years were from Florida, and a whopping 93% of Texas's were from the state, according to Rivals.com. The Hawkeyes have taken only 22% of their recruits over this period from Iowa, which is one of the smaller states to have a major-conference football program.

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Andre Agassi on CBS 60 Minutes [J. Mark English]

Video: Girls Gone Wild? [J. Mark English]

Friday, November 06, 2009

New York Yankees Day! [J. Mark English]


From Connor Ennis, of the New York Times:

Thousands of people streamed into Lower Manhattan on Friday to help the Yankees celebrate their 27th World Series championship with a ticker-tape parade.

It was the Yankees’ first return to the Canyon of Heroes since their last title, in 2000.

The parade started at 11 a.m. at Battery Park Place and finished roughly two hours later at City Hall Park, where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave the team keys to the city.

For the Yankees and many of their fans, the parade was a long-awaited celebration, especially after the team’s success in the 1990s.

“It’s been too long, hasn’t it?” Derek Jeter said from the dais at City Hall. He was answered by loud cheers.

People began lining the streets early in the morning — with crowds as large as 20 people deep in some spots — and toilet paper and confetti littered the streets hours before the official festivities began. Construction workers took in the view while standing above the crowd on scaffolding.

Yogi Berra was among the participants, drawing cheers as he sat in a convertible that was near the lead of the parade. Mayor Bloomberg joined Manager Joe Girardi on the lead float, which also featured the World Series trophy.

The mayor’s office said that it expected anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million people to attend the parade. Performers like the cast of the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys” were scheduled to entertain the crowd at City Hall. It will be a rare day of celebration in an area of the city that has been severely affected by the economic downturn.

Hal Steinbrenner, the managing general partner of the Yankees, called it “a magical day.”

Public officials, both current (Senator Charles E. Schumer, Gov. David A. Paterson) and former (Mayors Edward I. Koch and Rudolph W. Giuliani), took part in the parade, while the hip-hop star Jay-Z stood next to Alex Rodriguez on one of the floats. He later performed his song “Empire State of Mind” on stage to conclude the ceremony.

One of those not in attendance was the Yankees’ principal owner, George Steinbrenner, who is in ill health.

“You think about the Boss,” the former Yankee Reggie Jackson said. “I wish he was here.”

Mayor Bloomberg presented Hal Steinbrenner with a key for his father, calling him “the biggest Yankee of them all.”

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Here is a look back at the first ticker tape parade ever:



Also, have you ever been curious as to how a ticker tape parade ever came to be?

Here is a bit from wikipedia:

A ticker-tape parade is a
parade event held in a downtown urban setting, allowing the jettison of large amounts of shredded paper products from nearby office buildings onto the parade route, creating a celebratory effect by the snowstorm-like flurry.

The term originated in New York City after a spontaneous celebration held on October 29, 1886 during the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, and is still most closely associated with New York City. The term ticker-tape originally referred to the use of the paper output of ticker tape machines, which were remotely-driven devices used in brokerages to provide updated stock market quotes. Nowadays, the paper products are largely waste office paper that have been cut using conventional paper shredders. The city also distributes paper confetti.[1]

In New York City, ticker-tape parades are reserved for special occasions. Soon after the first such parade in 1886, city officials realized the utility of such events and began to hold them on triumphal occasions, such as the return of Theodore Roosevelt from his African safari, and Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight. Following World War II, several ticker tape parades were given in honor of victorious generals and admirals, including General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Admiral Chester Nimitz. The largest was given for World War II and Korean War General Douglas MacArthur in 1951.

Through the 1950s, ticker-tape parades were commonly given to any visiting head of state, such as Habib Bourguiba representing the fight over colonialism. In the 1960s, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, they became increasingly rare.

They are generally reserved now for space exploration triumphs, military honors and sports championships. The section of lower Broadway through the Financial District that serves as the parade route for these events is colloquially called the "Canyon of Heroes". Lower Broadway in New York City has plaques in the sidewalk at regular intervals to celebrate each of the city's ticker-tape parades.

Many famous ticker tape parade celebrate sporting events such the Giants winning the Super Bowl in 2008 and the Yankees winning the World Series in 2009


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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Video and Photos: New York Yankees Win 27th Championship [J. Mark English]

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NFL Fanhouse: America's Team? It's the Saints Now [Terence Moore]

From Terence Moore of NFL Fanhouse:

Go ahead, because this is the right thing to do: You should spend the rest of the NFL season hugging whatever team you traditionally love, but you should kiss the New Orleans Saints in the shadows.

If you prefer to do so in the sunshine, that's fine, too.

The Saints have replaced the folks with stars on their helmets as America's Team. In case you weren't paying attention, Hurricane Katrina blew this franchise into the hearts of all those who had them. That unofficially happened on Sept. 25, 2006, the team's first home game back in New Orleans -- a Monday night when, just like this Monday night, the roof of the Superdome threatened to explode because of the noise generated by inside, as opposed to the wind outside it.

A game that was also against the Falcons. And that, too, was a victory for the Saints, along the way to their first and only NFC championship game.

Get the picture in black, old gold and white? When you cheer for the Saints, you're still cheering for this city, which has come a long ways since water nearly drowned its existence, but it remains a sometimes-ugly work in progress.

So the majority of the citizens do what they've done forever in New Orleans -- and that is, they live through their NFL franchise. Well, they mostly die with it. But after decades of gasping, it has a strong heartbeat seven games into this season.

In fact, given the Saints' rise to an unblemished record after a 35-27 victory over Atlanta, with the home team excelling before a deliriously loud gathering screaming "Who dat?," and with all of those watching on national television still recalling the death, destruction and despair that smothered these parts four years ago after that hurricane ...

Given all of that ...

Well, who knows what this team might accomplish this season?

Yeah, we know. These are the Saints. A gifted bunch of Saints, with explosive players throughout their offense and with a defense that terrorizes foes at crucial times, but the Saints nonetheless. In the end, they'll likely continue to sit with the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams never to reach a Super Bowl.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't pull for the Saints, because they are playing another season for themselves and everybody else.

Aren't they?

"I don't know. I mean, we're always playing for the city, because our fans are so great," said Saints safety Darren Sharper, in his 13th NFL season. Then he added, "A couple of years ago, it was a different situation, especially coming off of Katrina. There was a lot more emotion into it back then, but now, we're just trying to win."

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2009 World Series: Various Perspectives Following Game Five [J. Mark English]

  • Bob Ford, Philadelphia Inquirer: Now comes the hard part....Monday night's World Series win over the New York Yankees was hardly a sure thing, but it was the surest card the Phillies had in their hand as they attempt to play their way out of the deep hole they dug in the first four games of the series....Cliff Lee settled down after a shaky first inning, got some run support and was able to pitch aggressively against the Yankees. The only reliable starter left in the makeshift rotation wasn't as sharp as he was in the opener, but he didn't have to be. New York hasn't been able to hit him consistently, but, in all likelihood, won't get a chance to prove that again....Whatever carryover momentum they hope to take with them will become moot at approximately 8 p.m. tomorrow night when Game 6 begins. After that, it's all up to the starting pitchers to provide the advantages and disadvantages. The Phillies will feel a little better about their chances (having awakened still having some), but everything that follows rides on what they can get from Pedro Martinez in the first game back in Yankee Stadium and whatever mix-and-match special Charlie Manuel dials up for Game 7.
  • Harvey Araton, New York Times: Aided by his bat and an astute apology, Alex Rodriguez is ending the baseball season not as a former steroids user but as a home run hero. In the process, he may be clearing a path forward for himself and his much-maligned sport...This may go down as the season that the fans forgave baseball — or perhaps just grew tired of worrying about performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte, two high-profile Yankees stars who were exposed as past users, are shining in the 2009 World Series....Until recently, players accused of cheating selected from two popular options: vehemently deny, as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have chosen, or remain silent, as McGwire has. But beginning with the admission last season by Pettitte that he had used human growth hormone, a third option has emerged: quickly apologize and move on....“Obviously, success on the field has helped, but isn’t it something how they beautifully and effectively transcended their humiliation?” said Richard Emery, one of the lawyers representing Brian McNamee, the physical trainer who cited Pettitte and Clemens in George J. Mitchell’s investigation into steroids for Major League Baseball.
  • Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated: The biggest catchphrase in this World Series, besides instant replay of course, is short rest. Who's getting it? Who's giving it? Who's refusing it? Charlie Manuel did not ask Cliff Lee to pitch on short rest in Game 4 and the Phillies lost. Joe Girardi did ask A.J. Burnett to pitch on short rest in Game 5 and the Yankees lost. Both managers exposed themselves to criticism even though they made exact opposite moves...The problem was not with their decision-making. It was with their reluctance to reverse those decisions when the circumstances changed. After the Phillies lost Game 3, they had to win Game 4 to stay afloat, but Manuel still stuck with Joe Blanton over Lee. After the Yankees took Game 4, they no longer needed Game 5, but Girardi still went with Burnett on three days rest. It was the bold call, an attempt to press the action and ride the momentum, but given the Yankees 3-1 lead, it was completely unnecessary....In their haste to close the door on the Phillies, the Yankees have left it cracked. Burnett gave up six runs in two innings Monday night, making the case against short rest in an 8-6 loss. Now the Yankees will likely ask Pettittte to do what Burnett could not. While Burnett is in his prime, Pettitte is 37, has not pitched on short rest in three years, and is 4-6 with a 4.15 earned run average when he has tried it in the regular season...The Yankees are gambling heavily in a series that should have been a sure thing. If Pettitte falters in Game 6 on Wednesday against Pedro Martinez -- yes, the self-proclaimed "old goat" is back -- the Yankees will still have Sabathia for Game 7. Sabathia is more comfortable than most on short rest, but even he was not as dominant as usual Sunday night, giving up three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Short rest takes a toll on everyone.

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Video: NY vs. Philly - - Clash of the Cretins [J. Mark English]

Video: WS Game Five - Phillies Bring it Back to the Bronx [J. Mark English]

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NBA: Some Wild Predictions [David Stefanini]

After a very long off season, basketball is finally back. Does anyone other than me care? Probably not, but I'm still going to throw out a few predictions:
Dwayne Wade is going to win the MVP.
Blake Griffin is not good. Just like Greg Oden he will be a complete bust.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will make the playoffs this year.
The Chicago Bulls will win more games than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Knicks will win less than 25 games.
The Knicks will not get LeBron this upcoming off season.
The Boston Celtics will win the Eastern Conference Finals, beating the Miami Heat in 6 games.
The Los Angeles Lakers will win the Western Conference Finals, beating the Dallas Mavericks in 5 games.
The Lakers will win the NBA Finals after beating the Celtics in 7 games.

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