Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Watching the Knicks cuts into my AA time

The New York Knicks were seeing red last night. Every time 5'7 Nate Robinson looked up (isn't he always) before leaving the game with a strained groin, there they were-- Lebron James' hidoues new sneakers, a pair of bright reds that he debuted last night for his trip to the Big Apple.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, however, King James' "Brian Scalabrine red" kicks weren't the ugliest thing on the court last night. Nope, not even close. Take Lebron's sneakers, throw in Drew Gooden's haircut, Shawn Marrion's jump shot and Joakim Noah's face-- then you might have something that borders on the attractiveness, or lack there of, of the Knicks' embarrassing performance last night( embarrassing is an understatement. Like saying Hillary Clinton is a handsome woman).
Last night's game against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers was the first time the new-look Knicks took the court together. New look quickly turned into no-look, as I found myself unable to watch the massacre that was the 119-101 loss at home last night (Down 32 in the first half, the score did not justify the magnitude of the Cavs' victory).
When Knick fans learned of Jamal Crawford's exile last week, it was like opening a Warhead (remember the candy that gets sour before turning sweet). After suffering through six seasons of unwatachable basketball-- basketball that Knicks fans keep watching nonetheless-- it became clear that the Garden faithful would have to suffer through AT LEAST two more before things can POTENTIALLY get great. Despite a promising 7-6 start (the Knicks' best start since President Ewing owned the paint), New York took a step back last night, reminding Crawford-trade proponents, spoiled by the promising start, just how bad things have been and how bad they are going to be.
While my reaction to the Crawford trade was slightly negative (see below: Knicks' General Manager had too many dogs), I, like many Knick fans, was numb to the move that sent Zach Randolph to the Clippers for perpetual under-achievers Tim Thomas (sending him to Chicago in 2005 was addition by subtraction-- like trans-gender surgery) and Cuttino Mobley (hasn't been relevant since Stevie Franchise could dunk).
What many Knick fans didn't consider at the time of Walsh's second move: shipping Crawford to Golden State formally annouced that New York basketball will be in a state of hibernation until the summer of 2010. So Randolph's presence would be about as pointless and ironic as a Michael Jackson Save the Children Benefit concert. Alone, Zach would never be enough to keep the Knicks respectable, so keeping him around would be a mute point (would an extra five or six victories be worth his three-year/ $37 million contract).
Perhaps last night, however, was a necessary reminder for all who supported Walsh's recent moves. Not to say that the new direction is the wrong one for the New York Knicks, but it is important for New York fans to remember just how painful that direction has been since the post-Ewing era.
Awaiting the 2010 free agency of notable players like King James, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Richard Jefferson, Michael Redd, Steve Nash, Kevin Durant, Amare Stoudemire, Tony Parker, Chris Bosh and Greg Oden, Knicks fans will have to continue cutting out early and heading to the bar, the way I did last night and the way a 67-38 halftime score will often make you do.
Viva la 2010 Knicks fans. Until then, see you in AA-- I'll be the guy in the bright red sneakers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tom Coughlin was an Original Member of Puerto Rican Boy Band, Menudo

"What do I think it is that has enabled Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo, to withstand the test of time?"
Well. I'm glad you asked that imaginary generic reader. As with most pop culture phenomenons (Paris Hilton excluded), success comes from hard work, stability and and a resolute work ethic. When famed producer Edgardo Diaz founded Menudo in 1977, it was those very principles that served as the basis. As evident in early hits like "Fuego" and "Mi banda toca rock," all the way up to Menudo's 2008 SMASH HIT, "Lost,"Menudo has shown what it takes to keep us movin'. Despite the band's revolving door tendencies, the band has pressed on through the ages.
This is not to say that Menudo didn't undergo its fair share of controversy and hardship. When famed pop star Ricky Martin left the group to pursue a solo career in 1989, many Menudo fans feared the worst: the end of the road for the iconic Puerto Rican boy band. Much to the delight of Menudo fans all across the globe (believe me, they do exist), however, the band came back with more fire in 1990 with songs like "A force do rock" and "Os ultimos herois," proving two things.
1) You don't need Ricky Martin to be the hottest boy band on Earth
2) Menudo's main catalyst for sustainment through the ages is a world class feeder system.
On Sunday, the New York Football Giants proved themselves, once again, to have a feeder system that is comparable to Menudo's.
When seven-time defensive end Pro-Bowler Michael Strahan announced his retirement in the summer of 2008, few critics gave the reigning Super Bowl Champions a shot in hell. Even more skeptics stepped on the Giants when two-time Pro-Bowler Osi Umenyiora tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee during a pre-season match-up with the New York Jets. With the additional loss of tight end Jeremy Shockey and defensive cornerstones like linebacker Kawika Mitchell (Buffalo Bills) and safety Gibril Wilson (Oakland Raiders), New York fans knew that Head Coach Tom Coughlin would have his work cut out for him. What has been the result?
A resolute New York Giants that have thrived under the emergence of up-and-coming stars like tight end Kevin Boss, wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Brandon Jacobs and defensive ends Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka-- this, of course, in addition to veterans Plaxico Burress (wide receiver), Amani Toomer (wide receiver) and Antonio Peirce (inside linebacker).
After an off-season characterized by the questioned validity of the 2008 New York Giants team, as well as that of 2007 Super Bowl Champions, the G-men have established themselves as (fairly indisputably) the best team in the National Football League. They have done so as a result of a feeder system that has replaced the aforementioned stars of yesterday's team.
Whether the 2008 success is a testament to Assistant General Manager Kevin Abrams, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo or Coughlin himself is unknown-- perhaps it's a combination. Whatever the case, what's at work for the Big Blue is quite impressive.
After a 9-1 start, the Bombers finally appeared to be getting the respect that they deserved before Jacobs (knee) and Burress (hamstring) were sidelined for last weekend's game.
Playing against the offensive juggernaut Arizona Cardinals, which consists of rejuvenated quarterback Kurt Warner, along with wide receivers Anquan Boldin (starring in Face-off 2) and Larry Fitzgerald, few bought the Giants' ability to keep up.
Once again, however, Coughlin's "Menudo" feeder system proved invaluable. With "Plax" and Jacobs (Ricky Martin and Fernando Romantico) both relegated to the bench, up stepped the baby boomers.
In Jacobs' absence, Wind (of Earth, Wind and Fire) Derrick Ward rushed for a respectable (game-high) 69 yards, while special teams standout Domenik Hixon caught six passes for 57 yards and carried the ball into Cardinals territory on more than one kick return.
Much to the dismay of Eagles and Cowboy fans abound on Sunday, the Giants proved more than capable of stepping up to a challenge, advancing to a league-best (tied with the Tennessee Titans) 10-1 record, even in the absence of Mr. T, I mean Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress. That is why the New York football Giants are without a doubt, the Menudo of professional sports and the best team in the national football league

Friday, November 21, 2008

Knicks' Donnie Walsh Had Too Many Dogs

As a kid, the closest thing I ever had to a pet was a little sister (sorry Sam). Air Bud showed me at a young age that all it took to gain the adoration of your peers was a Golden Retriever who could dunk a basketball with his nose. Needless to say, I was infatuated with the idea of finding a partner in crime and using him to get in and out of sticky situations, much the same way Michelle Tanner used Comet in Full House (what crazy schemes that Olson twin cooked up. This, of course, was before she learned to cook up other things).
Day after day, I pleaded with my parents to get me that dog.
"You're too young," my dad would say.
Finally, on my eighth birthday, more than likely to end the constant badgering, my family came around: "Steve, on your tenth birthday we'll get you a dog."
The next two years of my life were blissful. Daydreaming about dogs in sunglasses and puck-handling golden retrievers, I had little a care in the world (other than my concerns over why any Ninja Turtle would choose purple as his badge of honor).
The day was finally approaching-- November 13, 1995.
My birthday list read as follows:
1) Dog leash
2) Dog collar
3) Dog house
4) Dog pen
5) One eight ball slammer to complete the ultimate pog collection.
November 13 came and went. My soccer party was a big hit and there was even an extra goody bag for me (thank you for not showing up Allan Amusen). Still, no dog. I was sure, however, that at some point, a young Golden Retriever would come scampering out of my mom's minivan. But the afternoon turned to evening--nothing. Time to unwrap the gifts...
"Awesome... the collective works of Rafi. How'd you know guys? Does anybody have a cassette player so we can rage to rising smash hit "Brush your teeth?"
My birthday came and went and so too did my confidence in getting a dog. It never showed.
The moral of the story: Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
Apparently, that's a lesson New York Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh never learned. He had four dogs as a kid and they were all great at sports-- spoiled bastard.
Seldom has that moral been more relevant than it is today.
As ESPN the Magazine's Rick Bucher confirmed early Friday morning, " The Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks have received league approval to complete a trade that will swap disgruntled Warriors forward Al Harrington for Knicks guard Jamal Crawford."
As a die hard Knicks fan, I find myself baffled. Was Walsh drinking the same shot of Jamo that Steinbrenner was when he offered a record high contract to CC Sabathia (see below article-- Big Pimpin Baseball in the Bronx)?
Of course, there is one underlying factor that was clearly the catalyst for what would appear otherwise to be an absurd blunder of a trade. Why else would the New York Knicks trade their all-star caliber shooting guard for a head case like Harrington, who has spent the majority of the season on the bench hampered by a back injury (see Danilo Gallinari)? After playing in only five games, the disgruntled Warrior has averaged 12.4/ 5.6 rebounds a game compared to Crawford's 19.6 in a Mike D'antoni offense that is much better-suited for a run-N-gun player like Jamal.
And don't the Knicks already have enough side-show acts to take over the Big Apple Circus, which appears to have hit the Garden early this winter? Between the Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry sagas, don't New York fans have enough to deal with. Throw Harrington into the mix and we might as well give Isiah a uniform.
Despite an obvious need for a big man (see below: Knicks come up short-- and small), a run of the mill center like Kendrick Perkins would have done the trick in a locker room that prides itself in putting up points in a hurry. New York averages a league-leading 105.3 points per game while giving up a league-worst 105. 9 points per game defensively. While making the Orange and Blue a much worse offensive team, this trade has succeeded in making them a slightly better defensive team, something that a stubborn D'antoni never preached anyway.
So why did the Knicks make this trade? Because they counted their chickens before they hatched.
One of the biggest selling points for Harrington is his contract which pays him $9.2 million this season and $10 million next season, meaning the Knicks can shed themselves of the big man by the summer of 2010, when free agent to-be Lebron James will become New York City's most attractive prostitute.
Didn't Donnie Walsh ever learn that a Jamal Crawford in the hand might be worth a Lebron James in the bush? While many New York fans might not agree with me on this one, I say that it's so, especially since there is no guarantee that Lebron will come to the Knicks in the first place (isn't he best bud's with New Jersey Nets owner, Boss Hove aka Iceberg Slim aka Jay-Z? The fact that the Nets won't be moving to Brooklyn should hurt their bid for the American idol, but it certainly doesn't kill it).
What if Lebron doesn't come to the Knicks in 2011? Haven't Knicks fans suffered through enough titanic seasons? Are we seriously expected to suffer through two (two being best case scenario) more? I don't think there's a Knick fan in the world who won't take a trade like this for a guaranteed shot at Lebron James. But in life, there are no guarantees-- just Jamal Crawford for Al Harrington swaps.
Don't count your chickens before they hatch Donnie Walsh. I wish you never had a dog!!
What do you think New York fans?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mussina-- a professional athlete

I never did get a chance to see the legendary Ozzy Osbourne perform. Sadly, the Prince of Darkness was last relevant before my time, despite a brief reality TV stint on VH1 that brought him to near Youtube superstardom (Who ever thought that the prince would be mentioned in the same sentence as Gary Brolsma? To save you a trip to Wikipedia, he's the fat Numa Numa guy who took over everyone's facebook walls when he mimed O-Zone's "Dragostea din tei" in front of a web cam).
I would imagine that Ozzy put on quite the live show, however. Engulfed in a minefield of explosions, decked out in bedazzled black vests and tight leather pants (which by today's standards would probably be considered pretty homosexual), belting out "Bark at the Moon" to a brigade of screaming fans. I can imagine it was a sight to see. Ozzy, however, is most notably heralded for his run-in with animal cruelty activists, a clash that began after Osbourne bit the head off of a bat during a 1982 show in Iowa.
Today, with the announced retirement of New York Yankee Mike Mussina's, we are reminded just who the five-time all star truly was-- the anti-Ozzy Osbourne. As a director of the International Little League Baseball Association, the only thing Mussina ever took a bite out of was crime (sorry, too easy). In fact, Mussina makes the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo look like John Rocker (Romo, the man who spent yesterday treating a random Dallas bum who apologized in advance for the obtrusive stench that resulted from his inability to shower, to a movie-- true story).
Fact is, as opposed to many of his colleagues, Mussina will always be remembered as a baseball player, not an entertainer. You rarely see Mussina so much as pump a fist after a big strikeout or yell at an umpire after a questionable ball. The 17-year veteran who began his career in 1991 with the Baltimore Orioles will never be confused with Roger Clemens, who ended his career in a quagmire of controversy. The seasoned control pitcher--despite beginning his career with a 4-seam fastball that topped out at 95 miles per hour-- quietly and efficiently did his job with never a peep of controversy (often to the discontent of the media).
In a me-first, "wide receiver" dominated-era that rewards big egos with bigger pay checks (Boxer, Floyd Mayweather, Jr closed the year out with $40,250,000 in earnings, while Los Angeles Dodger Manny Ramirez, the third-richest baseball player in the world, closed the year out with $22,500,000 in green (Ramirez trails only New York Yankees Derek Jeter and alex Rodgiguez, two of Big Pimp Steinbrenner's most productive hoes).
Mussina, however, one of only four Major League Pitchers to reach 20 wins in 2008-- accompanied by Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay-- earned $11,071,029 from the Yankees. That's almost $2 million less than designated hitter Hideki Matsui who missed nearly half of the 2008 season (93 games played). As a journalist still forced to sleep on a set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bed sheet's in the room that I grew up in at my parents' house, Mussina's salary is of course nothing to laugh at, but somehow, he still doesn't seem to get the respect that he demands.
Less than 24 hours after Mussina's announcement, journalists and baseball analysts everywhere are caught in a frenzy. Does the 270-153 (.638 winning percentage compared to a league average .501) career pitcher deserve to be enshrined in Cooperstown?
My sentiment is yes-- if Abbot and Costello, the goofy pair responsible for the "Who's on First" bit, earned the right to be forever immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so too has Mussina. The former Bomber is one of only 20 pitchers to retire over 100 wins above .500 and he is nineteenth all-time in strikeouts. Considering that the man spent his entire career in the DH-dominated American League East in the midst of a steroid-infused era, I'd say Mussina has earned the right to date my future wife, let alone grace the Baseball Hall of Fame, if he so chooses.
Amidst the controversy surrounding Mussina's retirement and his status as a future hall of famer, it leaves baseball fans wondering, are we simply overlooking the quiet family man in an era dominated by dog fighters and killers (not to throw OJ under the bus)? Are we forgetting what it means to be a PROFESSIONAL athlete? PROFESSIONAL!! If Mussina was known for wild strike out celebrations or off-field flings with Madonna, would his legacy even be in question?
Couple Mussina's stats with his off-field demeanor in a league that was nearly sabotaged just a few year's ago by a steroid crucible that still taints the league today, and I think you have your answer.
What do you think baseball fans?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big Pimpin' Baseball in the Bronx

The leaves, they are a-changin’ and the clocks have moved backward. Yep, it’s that time of year again in turkey land (no, not the Mid Eastern nation sandwiched between Greece and Syria known primarily for its rich exportation of olives and livestock). It’s Thanksgiving—time to be grateful for all the year’s blessings while dining on a smorgous board of pumpkin-spiced, cranberry-gelled, tryptophan-packed dishes.
On Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the eclectic group of relatives that is family—the sweet old grandma who keeps confusing you with Mr. Bookman of Good Times, the overtly friendly cousin who isn't safe to be left alone at the kids' table and the gay uncle who seems to have a new "friend" every November.
Then, of course, there's the deep-pocketed, quick-to-spoil you uncle who sneaks you cash and candy every time mom turns around to baste the turkey. Without hesitation, that's the uncle who bought you Grand Theft Auto when your parents deemed it unfit, and he's the guy who bought you a new bike every time a tire needed pumping.
For the New York Yankees, that man is Uncle George (or more recently, perhaps Uncle Hank). Not the gay uncle that is, but the rich one (although he does have quite the collection of festive summer cabana wear). Every off-season, it appears that Uncle Steinbrenner has a new toy for Brian Cashman and company to play with. This year appears to be no different.
So let the games begin...
Like the token drunk at the local bar, the Steinbrenners throw money around with zero inhibition. Only one shot of Jamo is drunk talk for a CC Sabathia offer that exceeds Johan Santana's previous record of $137.5 million for 6 years-- quite the bar tab (apparently the Yankees held out on Santana because their days of big money pimping were "over"-- really?), and perhaps Nick Swisher, previously of the Chicago White Sox, was the result of some late-night (or off-season) beer goggles. Only Yankee fans won't have to roll over to see what they're stuck with until mid-July rolls around and he's in the midst of a 4-42 slump at the plate-- that's a $3,600,000 shot of Jamo (must have been a city bar).
At this juncture, it has become increasingly clear that Jay-Z and Hank Steinbrenner have so much in common that if things don’t work out with Beyonce, the two of them will probably find compatibility on E Harmony (“Big Pimpin…spendin’ G’s, we be… big pimpin’ in B L A D’s, we be big pimpin down in P A T, it’s just that Jigga Man, Pimp C and B U N B”).

Enough rambling. Here are the facts:
Last February, two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana signed with the New York Mets for $137.5 dollars in six years.
The Yankees passed for reasons stated by General Manager, Brian Cashman, that involved a commitment to players like Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and other up-and-coming youngsters.
Less than one year later, however, the Yankees have given Swisher the reported $3,600,000 to play first base (a position that Wilson Betemit, who hit 265 in 2008, was more than capable of playing for half the price).
Of course, with 20-game winner Mike Mussina recently announcing his retirement, the Pinstripes have been hard-pressed to find a pitcher or two that can fill his spot in the rotation. Clearly, the Yankees believe CC Sabathia or more recently, 32-year-old A.J. Burnett, to be the answer.
After a week-long span in which the Bombers offered $135.5 million to Sabathia and a reported $80 to Burnett, Yankee fans are wondering if one playoff race spent boozing in the Caribbean was all it took for Cashman to revert to his old philosophy of Big Pimp Baseball.
What do you think of the recent moves Yankee fans?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Coming Up Short-- and small

45-- it's more than just the atomic number for rhodium on the periodic table of elements. It's the weekend beer count for today's average college kid and the complete life expectancy for yesterday's indulgers. Walk through China Town with $45 and you'll leave a happy man.
More importantly to Knick fans, however, 45 is the number of points that the Orange and Blue were short of when they got blown out by the Boston Celtics in their first meeting of the Kevin Garnett era on November 29 of last year.
With Garnett suspended for tonight's contest-- the 11 time NBA All-Star planted a Buck shot in the face of Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut during last Saturday's contest-- the Knicks were primed to avenge last year's humiliating loss (the only thing more embarrassing than being a Knick fan on November 29, 2007, was being a Celtics fan for the entire 2006-07 season. Or being Isiah Thomas' beloved daughter).
Tonight, however, it was clear that the only thing shorter than last year's 59-point performance was this year's starting lineup. With Garnett relegated to David Stern's doghouse -- still dressed to impress, of course-- the Knicks, led down low by Zach Randolph, figured to have their way in the paint.
Instead, despite capturing an early first-quarter lead that was sparked by Quentin Richardson's marksmanship from beyond the arc, New York got handled on the block. The Knicks, inexplicably, made reserve red-head Brian Scalabrine look like Bill Walton on the boards and Kendrick Perkins, Moses Malone (how you allow a 5.5 point per game, 50 percent free throw shooter to develop a fourth-quarter swagger bigger than T.I.'s is beyond me).
Over the course of the game, the Knicks were outscored by a total of 32-12 in the paint. For a team that thrives within the running game and moves the ball in the open court like the Knicks do, the 20-point deficit in that department is not a positive omen.
Of course, this is not to say that watching the Knicks compete tonight was anything shy of impressive.
Before complaining about the now 6-5 Knicks' most recent loss, divide 45 by 5. For those of you who haven't figured out how to use your Blackberry calculator, the answer is 9. And that is precisely how much the Knicks lost by tonight-- by one-fifth of last year's humiliating debacle. If the Knicks can somehow manage to avenge four-fifths of last year's defeats, Big Apple fans are looking at more than a playoff contender.
In order to do so, however, the Knicks will need to find someone willing, or simply capable of filling the gaping hole that exists in the now Eddy Curry-less New York front court.
Yes, it did take 11 games for Curry's mere presence in the paint, if nothing else, to be missed. At 6-5, it is hardly justifiable for a Knick fan to question Head Coach Mike D'antoni's methodology, but after games like tonight, it leaves us wondering what will be done to fill the void.
D'antoni reminds the media after every game that, "we are not going to win an NBA Championship," and "this is a re-building process," but with a winning record, sitting amidst an Eastern Conference race that was about as competitive as a Hillary Clinton election last year, D'antoni has to start believing that he can at least make a playoff push. Weather that means re-instating Curry into the rotation upon the recuperation of his bruised right knee or simply finding a big man capable of defending in the paint remains to be seen, but if making the playoffs means anything to the Knicks (doesn't it always in New York), tonight was solid evidence that an upgrade at center needs to be made.

Monday, November 17, 2008

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