Monday, November 30, 2009

Vince Young

While I was busy knocking the recent spat of poor play in the National Football League, Ta-Nehisi Coates stepped up to remind the rest of the world how sports continue to surprise, delight and inspire. Here he is on Vince Young's truly remarkable 99-yard touchdown drive yesterday against the Arizona Cardinals. 
I love the Cowboys and my son loves the Giants, and my Dad loved the Eagles. (Except when Doug Williams played for the Redskins.) But I don't just remember Troy Aikman hitting Alvin Harper in the 92 championship. I remember Steve Young hitting Terrell Owens in the divisional playoffs against Green Bay. I remember Randall Cunningham hitting Fred Barnett for 95 yards, with Bruce Smith breathing down his neck. And every time I think of those moments, I get warm and happy. Vince Young gave me, my partner and my kid one of those moments yesterday. I swear it makes living a little easier.
I'm still trying to get an accurate read on football. The game just doesn't grab me, or resonate with me, the way baseball and basketball do. More specifically, football's varied cover schemes and myriad strategies and game plans don't always reveal themselves to me. Viscerally, sure, I get it. I mean, I was as geeked as anyone when Eli Manning found David Tryee, but in general the NFL for me is like hearing kettle drums when expecting guitar. But, if my other site proves anything, I can at least say I'm trying and I can admit that Vince's drive remains a thing of orchestrated beauty.
   

“Hovering Is Never Good.”

The other big story this Thanksgiving was Tiger Woods’ “car accident,” which occurred early Friday morning, around 2:30 a.m., outside of his Florida compound. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what really happened. Rumors of infidelity. Bloodied lip. Facial abrasions. Shattered back window. We all know what happened, but so far only Wanda Sykes has had the balls to say it publicly.

Parity Begins At Home

Believe it or not, the New York Jets, losers of six of their last eight games, still have a puncher’s chance at making the playoffs. Granted, this isn’t because the Jets have distinguished themselves on the gridiron; the team's barely beating playoff chances are in reality a byproduct of an AFC-wide level of mediocrity. 

As of this morning, there are as many AFC teams with losing records (8) as there are teams with winning records—and two of those teams (the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens) are sitting at 6-5, one tenuous game over .500. Only the Indianapolis Colts (10-0), the Cincinnati Bengals (8-3), the San Diego Chargers (8-3), the New England Patriots (7-3) and the Denver Broncos (7-4) seem assured of a spot in the NFL’s postseason. (The undefeated Colts clinched a division title with last night’s win against the 5-6 Houston Texans).

This, I guess, is the NFL’s vision of parity. A few really good teams, mixed in with a bunch of middling-to-flat-out-terrible teams. Most of the AFC's franchises are mired in prolonged periods of mediocrity, which doesn’t really reflect well on the NFL's decade-long attempt at leveling the playing field, not to mention the often sad quality of play exhibited around the league on any given Sunday. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nate Robinson

When all is said and done, I believe Robinson will probably be remembered as much for this incident than anything else he’ll ever accomplish in the National Basketball Association. Sad, but true.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Hand of Henry

Merde a dieu. Historically, the Irish national football team has had a rough go of it in international competition. In 1990, for instance, the Irish qualified for their first World Cup, advancing to the quarterfinals, largely behind the stellar play of keeper Patrick "Packie" Bonner, who saved Romanian Daniel Timofte's penalty shot during the knockout stage, famously depicted in the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle's "The Van." 



The country's glee was short-lived, however, as in the Round of 8, Ireland drew Italy, the host team, in Rome. The Irish, playing in front of about 75,000 hostile Italians, played well before falling 1-0, behind a cheap goal in the 38th minute by Salvatore Schillaci, a name that ranks right up there with Cromwell, as far as some Irish are concerned. It was a brutal loss, almost unfair in its letdown. 

Yesterday's World Cup qualifying match against France, though, has to sting even more. In the match's 104th minute, Frenchman Thierry Henry, one of the best players in the world, settled, practically caught in his hands, an errant pass along the Irish back line, before passing the ball to a streaking William Gallas, who headed it into the back of the net. Henry's handball is, shockingly, even more blatant than it sounds-- and, arguably, as egregious as Diego Maradona's "Hand of God."  


The equalizing goal (2-1 aggregate) assured France a place in the World Cup and eliminated the Irish from contention. The Irish are understandably upset. Their coach, God bless 'em, has gone so far to say Henry, who admitted he handled the ball, and his countrymen have a moral obligation to replay the match. That ain't gonna happen. The French team is off to South Africa, while the Irish are headed home. 

Merde happens, I suppose.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When Smart People Say Dumb Sh*t

I've said my share over at my other site. There's just something about the Patriots--and their fans--that gets under my skin. Maybe it's the organization's arrogance, or the head coach's smugness. Either way, both traits seem to have rubbed off on their fan base, like an incurable contagion. I'm a Jets fan, which means I'm infected with hostility and delusion, and a virulent strain of self-defeating perversity. Ours, then, is a symbiotic relationship, entirely dysfunctional and borderline hostile. The sickly Ying and gangrenous Yang of sports. At least it makes for good copy.    

Monday, November 16, 2009

The 100 Best Quotes from The Wire

The Yankees are on hiatus. The Knicks stink, and the Jets are nearly irrelevant. What's a New York sports fan to do? How about enjoying this extended collection of the 100 best quotes from "The Wire," the greatest show in the history of television. Stringer Bell's right: there's games beyond the game. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seriously, What Happened to Yesterday?

Last year, after Doc Ellis passed away, I wrote about his no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in 1970, while high as a kite. Well, over at No Mas, artist-in-residence James Blagden cobbled together a pretty entertaining animated clip of Ellis recounting his psychedelic no-no. Blagden's four-minute video has been getting a lot of hits, but that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out, or passing mentioning here. Pass it on.   

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Who's Next

Buried deep in SI.com’s “Hot Clicks” page is the totally awesome news that the Who, the greatest rock band ever assembled, is scheduled to play the Super Bowl. Fuck. Yeah. If this is true, it just kicks the crap out of the alternative, Bon Jovi, whose worldwide fame continues to confound. Speaking of which, even at Pete's and Roger's advanced ages, the Who should put on a better show than Springsteen's embarrassing debacle last year. Here's the band, which now features Zach Starkey, Ringo's kid, on drums, rocking out last March to "Won't Get Fooled Again" in Brisbane, Australia.  



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fat Chance



It's nice to see Eddy Curry finally get back down to his fighting weight, particularly after all he's been through in recent years. But I can't really get too excited about it, one way or another. Once considered the centerpiece of the Knicks, Curry has been nothing short of a disaster ever since he arrived in New York, practically dogging it from day one. He alienated fans and members of the Knicks' front office to such an extent people started to seriously question his desire to play professional basketball. His off-the-court issues didn't exactly help dispel this perception. To his credit, though, Curry's always said he wants to have a long career in the NBA. Judging by his appearance alone, he's finally doing something to help him reach his stated goal, even if it's way too late to make good on the promise he once demonstrated as a teenager. 

I doubt very much Curry can make much of difference this season. A bad team is a bad team, after all. Ironically, Curry's only real chance of helping the team that basically mortgaged its future for him is to show the rest of the NBA that he can still perform on the court, so the Knicks can trade him and his salary to make a real run at LeBron or any other free agent from the celebrated class of 2010. Regardless of his body shape, Curry's playing days in New York are probably numbered. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Good As Gold

As if winning the World Series weren't enough, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira each also got themselves an American League Gold Glove. The awards, voted on by league managers and coaches, were well deserved. This season, Teixeira made only four errors in 1,275 chances, while saving about two or three dozen other Yankee errors with his nifty glove work at first. The Gold Glove is Tex's third overall, and the first since 2006, when he was still working cheap for the Texas Rangers.

Jeter, who committed only eight errors in 554 chances, picked up his fourth Gold Glove, the first since he won the award three years' straight, from 2004-2006. Of the two, I'm more pleased with Jeter's win. Tex is a phenomenal defender; everybody knows that. Jeter, on the other hand, has been knocked for his play at short for years. Sabermetrics, baseball's answer to the Cato Institute, seems to have it in for him, even going so far as to label him the worst defensive short stop in the league. Total nonsense. Jeter, though, took this criticism to heart, and spent this past offseason working on his footwork, speed and agility. 

I have to say, I wouldn't have had the discipline, especially if Minka had been waiting for me at home. But Jeter put in his work, and produced one of his best seasons to date.

Monday, November 9, 2009

San Francisco, Chronicled

I spent last week in San Francisco. I’ve visited the city a number of times, but never experienced it through the eyes of a native. The experience is vastly different and much more rewarding. For four days, I knocked around the Richmond District, which runs along Golden Gate Park until the Pacific, and is home to one of the best sushi places in the Western world. I also ate my weight in Mexican food at a tacqueria in the Mission and stopped by City Lights, where I picked up a copy of William Carlos William's In the American Grain and Ron Hansen's Desperadoes. Two solid purchases. 

Speaking of literature, while cutting across Haight Street, I came up with a short story about a gang of affluent kids who go around beating up hippies. If I ever get around to writing it, I'm going to call it "Nixon's Holiday." 

Later, my mind once again clear, I took in this stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge at Baker Beach, which I captured on my cell phone, before reluctantly heading back to New York Saturday evening. 

This was my fourth trip to San Francisco, and it really is an amazing, beautiful city. It's such a calm, inviting place. A fact that was further illuminated almost immediately after I landed, when I was scrunched in the back of a smelly New York City cab, while the driver, screaming into his headset, raced on adrenaline, instinct and blind luck across the Belt Parkway through Queens. 

I can't say I missed New York, at least not entirely. Although I would have liked to have been in town during the World Series. I did manage to catch Game 6 in San Francisco. I have to say, having a World Series game wrapped up before 9 p.m. is an odd feeling. I honestly didn’t know what to do after the final out. I felt a little bit cheated when I couldn’t turn to the YES’s postgame show to see the locker room celebration. I got over it, though, and spent the rest of the evening enjoying my new favorite city. The next morning, still on East Coast time, I fired a final salvo at my co-conspirator. My post elicited the desired response. 

Afterward, enshrouded in fog and heavily caffeinated, I started to feel like blogging, particularly blogging about sports, is undignified, and a total waste of time and energy. It probably is, and silly, too. I’ve come to terms with this. I expect to get back into a regular schedule this week.