Monday, February 11, 2008

Trying to Fill the Super Bowl-to-Opening Day Gap

Somebody once asked Paul Gallico, one of the great sportswriters of all time, who moved on to novels (including The Poseidon Adventure), why he quit writing sports. His answer was "February."

This was in the days when basketball was considered a minor sport, hockey was considered a Canadian sport, horse racing (though much, much bigger then than now) was restricted by weather to Florida and Southern California, and there just weren't enough major prizefights to fill the gap between the end of football season (then on New Year's Day, since the NFL Championship Game was usually around Christmas in those pre-Super Bowl, pre-Sammy Baugh years, and besides the college game was still bigger anyway) and the start of baseball season. There was no "March Madness" at the time.

But as basketball has never been my game, and the hockey season is in a bit of a lull, and pitchers and catchers haven't yet reported, let me get a few thoughts off my chest (there's a mixed metaphor) to fill the Super Bowl-to-Opening Day gap.

* Even if Roger Clemens is guilty, it neither invalidates the 1996-2003 era of Yankee greatness nor "vindicates" Brian McNamee. All it means is that two of them are scum, rather than one. And we still await the proof that McNamee claims to have handed over.

(Update: That "proof" was later found wanting, and Clemens was acquitted.)

* Curt Schilling is hurt. Maybe out for the year. May never even pitch again. Wow, if you bet me that Pedro Martinez would still be pitching after Curt Schilling's last game, I would have taken that bet. But not now.

(Update: Schilling did, indeed, retire. Pedro pitched another 2 seasons.)

* Pedro at a cockfight. In the Dominican Republic, it's legal and, according to Pedro, "part of the culture."

Now, I don't want to cast aspersions on a nation that has given wonderful people to America, including many fantastic baseball players, but... in the Southeastern U.S., dogfighting is often defended as "part of the culture."

Now, we can't say Pedro has been living in a cave since the Michael Vick case hit the airwaves, since the video is apparently from 2004, 3 years before the horrifying Virginia dogfighting case directly involving Vick. Still, it doesn't make the Fenway Punk look all that good.

* I really thought the Devils were gonna have a better season in their first year at the Prudential Center. Certainly, coming into Newark hasn't put the fear of God -- or the fear of any kind of Devil -- into opposing teams. I guess that's the downside -- the only one -- of the city's comeback from 40 years in the urban wilderness.

But then, the Devils got off to a similarly ordinary start in the 1994-95 season, and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe it's time for Lou Lamoriello to pull off a trade like he did around this time of year then with Neal Broten.

Or maybe he'll just fire coach Brent Sutter and find someone else. I might support that, because Sutter just hasn't been doing the job in my opinion.

On Saturday night, they beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 6-1. A good team. The team that beat them in the 2006 Playoffs and then went on to win the Stanley Cup. The team that, if the current standings hold to the end of the regular season, the Devils will play in the first round of the Playoffs. And at the end of what should have been a real confidence booster, Sutter didn't even smile. What's with this guy?

* Mike Teel, a good O-line, and several good receivers are back, but with no Ray Rice (or Brian Leonard for that matter), what kind of offense is Rutgers going to have in 2008? Hopefully, coach Greg Schiano will find a good back to help "Keep Choppin' Away."

(Update: Rutgers lost 5 of its first 6, but won its last 6 to become bowl-eligible, and won their bowl, and finished 8-5. Teel was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2009, but never played a down in the NFL. He became an assistant coach at Rutgers after Schiano moved on and was replaced by Kyle Flood.)

* Is it still all right to root for a New Jerseyan the Nets, who have now been a lame-duck franchise for as long as the Montreal Expos were?

* Kudos to those few fans I've seen still wearing Jets stuff since the Giants beat the 18-1 * Patriots in the Super Bowl. You didn't have a very good team this year, but you've got guts, and you've got loyalty. Hopefully, you'll have a healthy team next year, who can put together a good run. As the Giants proved, once you make the Playoffs, anything can happen.

* Johan Santana has never pitched with New York-style pressure. He won't be the answer any more than Tom Glavine was, or Pedro (so far) has, or Carlos Beltran (so far) has, or Carlos Delgado (I think we can now put him in past tense) was.

* Pitchers and catchers report in three days. Hard to believe, especially with that sideways snow that was blown across the sun yesterday. That's the freakiest weather I've ever seen, here in Central Jersey or anywhere. Opening Day in 7 weeks.

* Just 81 more games at the only Yankee Stadium we ever needed. Plus, we hope, postseason games. The only way to close the Stadium out is to win the World Series in the final game.

Anything less than Title 27 as we say goodbye to the greatest sports building ever is unacceptable.

(Update: It didn't happen.)

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