Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We Won, and I Will NOT Get Over It

On another blog on which I post -- I won't mention its name but it rhymes with "Flubway Gawkers," something Yankee Fans could be called these last couple weeks, right? -- a Met fan posted and said Yankee Fans need to get over themselves over taking 5 of 6 from the injured Mets.

Riiiight. As if the Yankees don't have their own injury problems. As if Met fans would ever shut up if they'd been able to win 5 of 6 from us. They've done 4 of 6 twice, but, really, the Yankees are New York's team, so the number I'm thinking of here is 7 of 9: Resistance is futile!

Yes, another crossover between baseball and Star Trek. If you don't like it, you are without honor!

We will not get over it, and we will not stop ripping the Mets. After all the trash their fans have talked about the Yankees, including when the Yankees were better, they deserve it.

As you can see, in some ways, the 1984-90 Met glory years, which included my high school days and some frustrating Yankee seasons, shaped my fanhood even more than the 1976-81 Yankee era, the 1st great baseball team I was aware of.

I didn't quite see the 1970s Oakland and Cincinnati teams at their best. By the time I got to see the Big Red Machine, Tony Perez was already gone, Tom Seaver had joined them, and the Dodgers had taken over the NL West. By the time I got to see the A's, Charlie Finley had dumped, or allowed to leave, everyone from his title teams but Vida Blue (and had already tried to dump him) and Billy North.

The 1980s were a rough time for a lot of reasons, and not just because of lousy music, worse cars and a President who drove me up the wall. A great era for baseball -- but not for a Yankee Fan. It's like I've gotten over 95 percent of it, but there will always be that 16-year-old kid who'd still like to be able to say, "You Met fans are so dumb to be rooting for them. They've never won the World Series in my lifetime" -- and suddenly it's no longer true.

Met fans were so smug in the 1980s, and based on what? In the end, one World Championship, and one other Division Title. That's all they got between late October 1973 and September 1999! An entire generation! Their mouths were writing checks that their team couldn't cash. In contrast, Derek Jeter had topped that at age 24. Come to think of it, Willie Randolph (in the preceding generation) topped it at age 23.

All that talk for them... All that action for us. Case closed -- and well before this season's games between the teams. Whether the current players deserve it is debatable; whether Met fans deserve it is a big fat yes. (Not to be confused with John "the Big Fat YES Anchor" Sterling.)

Let's look at it another way:

Mets from 1962 to 2008, 47 seasons: 7 postseason appearances, 5 Division Titles, 4 Pennants, 2 World Championships
Yankees from 1996 to 2003, 8 seasons: 8 postseason appearances, 7 Division Titles, 6 Pennants, 4 World Championships

Ah, but since then?

Mets from 2004 to 2008: 1 postseason appearance, 1 embarrassing postseason defeat, 2 September chokes
Yankees from 2004 to 2008: 4 postseason apperances, 4 embarrassing postseason defeats but only 1 as bad as what the Mets did in '06

And, of course, in the only true Subway Series since Ike's 1st term: Yankees 4, Mets 1, clinching at Shea, with 25,000 Yankee Fans chanting, "Let's Go Yankees!" and "Thank you George!"

No, I will not stop rubbing it in. Not until the Flushing Heaten stop deserving it. I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New York Mets: 1962-2009, Rest In Pieces

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to pay our respects to the recently departed, the New York Mets, who died last night at the age of 47.

The deceased began life as a stumbling child, unable to so much as stand up straight, but at least laughed a lot. His father, Mr. William A. Shea; his mother, Mrs. Joan Whitney Payson; and his godfather, Mr. Charles D. Stengel, were proud, no matter what.

He had a wonderful 8th birthday party, with 60,000 of his closest friends joining him on the lawn. There were some other nice moments in his school days, as his teachers, Mr. Hodges, Mr. Berra, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Kiner, Mr. Seaver and Mr. Staub pointed the way.

His teenage years were rough. He was awkward, and no one wanted to play with him, preferring the mature kid across town, with his cool friends Reggie and Catfish, Thurman and Sparky and Lou. They sure seemed to be having fun.

Then he came of age, and what a coming of age it was, showing the cool kid that it could be done by him as well. But he had a drug problem, and it all fell apart. Considering he only lived to be 47, perhaps this was his "midlife crisis."

He spent most of his 30s trying to find his way again, and he did, taking some bloody noses from the rednecks down South, but giving a few as well, and finally emerging as a successful man in his neighborhood.

But, once again, the guy across town was there to triumph, and show him that he was always going to be second-best. He never got over it. Still, the way things worked out, he was "the first responder" after 9/11, and earned another place in the town's hearts.

It seems patently unfair that what should have been a successful time for him also turned out to be his final years. He had such hopes for his children, Jose and David, and had even built a lovely new house for himself. (He had to: The old homestead was a dump.)

But it was not to be. One of those mean Molina boys ruined things for him. And then, just when it seemed like glory was in his grasp, he let it get away. And then did it almost exactly the same way again. It was time to get out of his parents' house, and into his own.

But what could he do? He was afflicted with all kinds of maladies. Dropsy. A control problem. Walking pnuemonia. A general listlessness. All kinds of bumps and bruises. And no way to relieve it.

The coroner, a man in a Pinstriped suit, Dr. Mariano Rivera, pronounced him dead last night, in his new home. He took one more walk around the body, just to be sure.

Survivors include some children, including Jose and David; a wife, Cyndi Lauper (hey, she's from Queens, and yes, "She's So Unusual"); many brothers and sisters, such as Jon Lewin, Greg Prince, Jerry Seinfeld, Gary Cohen and Joe Benigno; an uncle, Ed Koch; some gorgeous ex-girlfriends, including Susan Sarandon, Glenn Close, Hilary Swank and Julia Stiles; a spiritual adviser, named Metstradamus; and a pet, Mr. Met.

In lieu of flowers, watch the Yankees. Your tears will soon stop.

*

Ah, the National League, where pitchers bat -- even the best pitcher most New York baseball fans now living have ever seen, and I ain't talking about the Fresno vintner. Real baseball.

From this day forward, I don't want to hear any Met fans talk about how they play "real baseball." The best relief pitcher you've ever had (may Tug forgive me) walked a guy with 2 previous career at-bats. With the bases loaded. Turning a one-run deficit into a two-run deficit. You guys should now get down on your knees and beg Bud Selig to put in the designated hitter, because you can't even get Mariano Rivera out.
Mariano was happier about his 1st career RBI
than he was about his 500th career save.

There's an old saying: Fool Mets once, shame on you; fool Mets twice, shame on them; fool Mets five times out of six, and the ghost of Casey starts asking, "Can't anybody here play this game?" Yes, Casey: The team you took to 10 Pennants and 7 World Championships -- not the team that, in your own words, "showed me ways to lose I never knew existed before."

It’s time to put to sleep this idea that there's something special, even holy, about the National League. The NL wins the World Series every now and then, but it never wins the season series in Interleague Play, and whereas it was once unbeatable in the All-Star Game, now they haven't won that since 1996, when a steroided-up catcher for the Dodgers hit a long home run.

The National League... The American League drinks your milkshake! From Shake Shack or otherwise! Slurrrrp! We drink it up!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Radio Mets: The Hits Do NOT Keep On Coming!

Yankees 5, Mets 0. That's 4 out of 5, and the clinching of the season series, which Met fans should care about a lot more than Yankee Fans by now. Chuckle chuckle smirk smirk.

A.J. Burnett allows one hit, in the 6th. Afterward, Michael Kay and 2 guys who pitched no-hitters after leaving the Mets, David Cone and Al Leiter, spend the rest of that inning on the YES Network talking about Sandy Koufax, the signature pitcher of the 1960s, who pitched 4 no-hitters. Kay cued up a clip of Koufax's windup, and said, "Break it down." And Leiter said, "I can't believe I'm breaking down Sandy Koufax's mechanics!"

Cone explained it pretty well, though, talking about how Koufax used his entire back -- from neck to shoulders to spine to tush -- to generate enough power to make his curveball as fast as most pitchers' fastballs, and his fastballs something you could hear from the dugout, but not see from the batter's box.

Koufax, who pitched his entire career (1955-66) with the Dodgers, had to retire at age 31 due to injury, became the youngest-ever inductee to the Hall of Fame at 36, and is now 73 and, last I heard, living in Florida.

Anyway, in their last 18 innings, all against the Yankees, the Mets have gotten hits in exactly 2 of them -- 4 hits total. Granted, "the Initial Boys," CC Sabathia (he doesn't use periods) and A.J. Burnett (he does use them)j, are pretty good pitchers. And the Mets have had some injuries. Still...

Now it can be told: It's not that Citi Field is a dampening field for sluggers, it's that the Mets can't hit!

Injuries? The Yankees have 'em, too. As Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina would say, "Don't cry for me, Argentina!"

Speaking of whom, can you imagine if Manny Ramirez (for example) were to leave a baseball team for 5 days without telling them where he went? He'd be gone. But Sanford isn't resigning.

Tonight, the Yanks and Mets close it out in the Sunday night (N)ESPN telecast with El Baldo and the Little Red Machinist. Chien-Ming Wang is pitching. This could be a turning point: If Wang can pitch well -- and against these banjo hitters the Mets have, he'd better -- it could be a very enjoyable summer.

Now, if only I could afford to go to some games!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mets Defense's Day Off

Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain
...not to be confused with Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye

Squawker Lisa of the Subway Squawkers blog says that if the Yankees win this subway series (remember, lower-case letters unless it’s in, ha ha, October), Met fans will gripe about "payroll and injuries."

Met fans, gripe about payroll and injuries? Surely, you jest.

Met fans, gripe about payroll and injuries? Whose payroll, their own? Far and away the biggest in the sainted National League?

Met fans, gripe about Yankee payroll and their own injuries? Who do they think they are, Red Sox fans?

Actually, the Red Sox have won as many World Series in the last 5 years as the Mets have in the last 47 years. (And as many as the Yankees in the last 10... grumble... )

The last 2 games, Yankees 24, Mets 1. 15-0 two Sundays ago, 9-1 last night.

Forget Ferris Bueller, this was Mets Defense' Day Off. The Yankees scored how many times? Nine times!

Right about now, the Mets may be saying about the next 2 games, "You fellas have nothin' to worry about. I'm a professional." And it would be understandable if Met fans said, "A professional what?"

I love that movie. One of the things I like to remember about 1986.

When is a starting pitcher a "relief pitcher"? When it's CC Sabathia coming back from his injury last Sunday. If CC had stayed hurt, the Yanks would be in serious trouble as far as reaching the postseason is concerned.

The weird thing is, last Sunday, my family had dinner at a certain restaurant (I won't say which one, but it's a steakhouse with a longhorn steer as its logo), where we hadn't eaten together (at least, not with me) for 2 years, and that time was the time Phil Hughes was pitching a no-hitter against the Mets and got hurt and hasn't quite been the same since.

Like I've said before, I don't believe in curses, jinxes or hexes, except when it comes to sports. But that's spooky. The food and service are good at this chain, but I ain't never eating at that particular location with the whole family while a Yankee game is in progress. Never again. Our pitchers are depending on it!

24-1? Ouch. Then again, that number reminds me of Steve Phillips' comment about one Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod 564, Reggie 563? Uh, no. I'll take the runs he drives in, but there's no way in hell a steroid user is a better player than a non-steroid user, no matter how much talent he has.

Case in point: In the wake of the death of Michael Jackson, everyone is talking about (among other things) what an incredible talent he had.

But suppose... there was a McGwire/Bonds situation. That is, a young man with a background similar to Michael's, with as much desire to excel, but not as much talent to carry it out. And suppose also that there was a drug that gave you as much ability as Michael Jackson, and this hypothetical kid took it, and came up with 7 Number 1 hits and a dozen Grammies.

Then we find out he took the drug. Then he lies about it. "Who's bad?" Would we ever consider him the Gloved One's equal, or dare we say superior? Oh hell no.

Of course, the 1 Met run (and 1 of the 3 hits) came on a home run by Gary Sheffield. Twenty years ago, if a player had as many home runs as Sheff (say, Reggie, or Mike Schmidt), we'd be counting off every one as he kept moving up the all-time list. How many does Sheff have? At this point, he may be the only one who cares. As far as I'm concerned, every steroid user who topped 500 is, morally speaking, forever stuck at 499.

As I said before, tonight's game is on YES and SNY, not Fox, so Yankees win. Tomorrow night's game is on (N)ESPN, so the Yankees will probably lose it, and Joe Morgan will be unable to contain his glee. The little fink. A truly great player, despite being only 5-foot-8 (even shorter than I am), but as a broadcaster he's a little fink.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Everybody Sucks!"

Looks like I hit another nerve.

To Stanley C.: The error you cited has been corrected.

Now, on to "local fan," who posted, "Boy are you a whiny bitch. Get over the fact that all your money did not buy a title. Suck on that."

At the rate your team is going, you won't be able to buy tickets to a major league game, and that'll have nothing to do with how much money you have. Unless, of course, you want to drive all the way to St. Petersburg. That is, if the Rays stay. If they have to move, too, you may have to go all the way to...

Atlanta? Oh, yuck.

Is that what it takes to get any kind of response? First I insulted Penn State (and they deserved it), now Miami.

Atlanta is a lousy sports town.

Dallas sucks. (Except for the Mavericks. I like Mark Cuban.) Especially the Cowboys. And Tim Cowlishaw's homerism.

Boston, as has been said before, is full of Chowdaheads. We don't even know who the truly loyal fans are anymore. We used to, but now it sure looks like it's all frontrunners. As they say in English soccer, "Where were you when you were shit?"

It reminds me of the yell from the Yankee Stadium Bleachers -- back when they were still at the real Yankee Stadium:

"Yankee Baseball! Mets suck! (current opposing team's name) sucks! (opposing team's right fielder, as he was the closest player) sucks! Box seats suck! Everybody sucks!"

Including ourselves, Creatures? They're dedicated fans, but sometimes they go a little too far.

No, not everybody sucks. But there sure are a lot of people who piss me off.

Did I mention Joe Paterno is a rat-faced hypocrite?

Anyway, after a lackluster series in Miami -- or is Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark Stadium in Miami Lakes? Or Opa-Locka? -- the Yankees have the day off, and then... visit Atlanta.

1864 YANKEES BURN ATLANTA
1996 SAME THING
1999 DON'T THEY EVER LEARN
2009 GUESS NOT

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Hate Miami

I hate Miami. I hate that it was where a Presidential election was stolen. But I hated it before November 2000.

I hate the fakeness of the place. I hate that it's pink and aqua-green. I hate flamingoes.

I hate the Miami Dolphins. I hate the Miami Heat. I hate the University of Miami Hurricanes. I know the Florida Panthers are closer to downtown Fort Lauderdale than to downtown Miami, but I hate them, too.

I used to root for Penn State when they played the thuggish Hurricanes. Of course, now that I've seen the true character of that damned Paterno... but that's a subject for another time.

And I hate the Florida Marlins. The first time the Yankees ever had to play an Interleague series, in June 1997, it was in Miami at Joe Robbie Stadium. Uh, Pro Player Stadium. Er, Dolphin Stadium. Ulp, Land Shark Stadium. (Land Shark? Who's throwing out the first ball, Chevy Chase?) And they lost two of three to the Marlins. The Marlins ruined the Cleveland Indians' best chance to win a World Series since 1948. The Marlins beat the Giants, Braves and Indians in the 1997 postseason; they beat the Giants, Cubs and Yankees in the 2003 postseason; in each case, even though all three teams were better. The Marlins got lucky. (I still hate Jeff Weaver.)

Two years ago, I was at a certain restaurant with the family when Phil Hughes got hurt while pitching a no-hitter against the Mets, and hasn't been the same since. Today, first time I've eaten with the family at that same restaurant since, and the Yankees are playing the Marlins, and CC Sabathia gets hurt and leaves the game in the second inning. As with that earlier game, the Yankees ended up losing.

I hate Miami, and I'm thinking of boycotting that restaurant chain. Or, at least, not eating there with the family while the Yankees are playing.

I know, I know, Florida voted Democratic last November. But I still hate the Marlins. And the Dolphins. And the Heat. And the Panthers. And the Hurricanes.

The only thing I like about Miami is that Jennifer Lopez basically lives there now. But then, that's another reason to hate Miami, isn't it? They took her! Bastards...

Screw Jeffrey Loria. He never should have been allowed to wreck the Montreal Expos and buy the Marlins AND win a World Series. A real Commissioner would step in, confiscate the Marlins, and move them to Montreal to take the place of the Expos/Nationals.

But then, baseball hasn't had a real Commissioner since Fay Vincent.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dusty Rhodes, 1927-2009; How Old Are You Now?

James Lamar Rhodes has died. Like many men with the name Rhodes, he was nicknamed "Dusty." 1927-2009.

He was a left fielder who played his entire major league career, 1952 to 1959, with the Giants, in both New York and San Francisco. He missed the Giants' 1951 "Miracle at Coogan's Bluff" Pennant, but was an integral part of their 1954 World Series win, still the last for the franchise, and was with them in 1957 when they moved across the country.

In Game 1 of the '54 Series -- it is shocking, knowing how late the season ends now, to know it was played on September 29, 1954 -- the Giants were playing the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan. In the 8th inning, with the score tied 2-2, Vic Wertz hit a ball about 440 to center field, where it was actually caught, by a guy you might have heard of named Willie Mays. Mays then made an equally amazing throw that forced Indians star Larry Doby to tag up from 2nd to 3rd, but not score, as he and the other baserunner surely would have had Mays not made what has become the most famous defensive play in the history of sports.

(I've long wanted to do "Top 10 Most Famous Defensive Plays In Sports History." Maybe this is the year.)

In the bottom of the 10th inning, Giant manager Leo Durocher pinch-hit Rhodes for his future Hall-of-Fame left fielder, Monte Irvin. Good guess: He hit the ball just 260 feet down the right-field line. Any other ballpark on the planet, and Indian right fielder Wally Westlake could have made the catch, or at least held it to a single. But it was a home run.

Actually, the film reveals a possible "Jeffrey Maier situation." A fan was sitting in the upper deck, and the ball bounced off his hand and back onto the field. But the hand wasn't out over the field, so, as close as the fence was, the homer was still legal. It was for three runs, and the Giants won, 5-2.

Rhodes also pinch-hit for Irvin in Game 2, and singled, staying in the game to play left, and hit another home run. Now, while the Polo Grounds was a ridiculously-shaped stadium, and these were cheapo home runs, they were not totally ridiculous: They were hit off Bob Lemon and Early Wynn, respectively, a pair of future Hall-of-Famers. The Giants went on to sweep the favored Indians, who also haven't won the World Series since.

These homers did not count along with Rhodes' regular-season totals. He hit 54 for his career. His lifetime batting average was .253. He wore Number 26, which has not been retired by the Giants, for Rhodes or for anyone else.

Rhodes was a native of Alabama, but appears to have had no problem with his black teammates Mays, Irvin or Hank Thompson. He appears to have been an ideal team player, if not a particularly impressive one. Durocher said he couldn't field, "But, boy, could he hit!"

After his retirement from baseball, he had a job on a tugboat in New York. Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, a Giant fan in the Fifties, remembered being on a tour bus at the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, across from then-brand-new Shea Stadium, and Rhodes was driving it. Bouton considered it an awful come-down for such a World Series hero.

But Rhodes never bemoaned his fate, saying he loved his tugboat job. If he was ever disappointed at playing baseball well before the era of big player salaries, he never publicly said so. He retired to Las Vegas, and attended the occasional memorabilia show and reunion with his teammates, before dying on Wednesday at age 82.

Dusty Rhodes may have been a superstar for only a week, but it's a week most of us will never get to enjoy.

It was a week nearly 55 years ago. And that's not the only thing that reminds me of how much time has gone by.

It's been 75 years since Babe Ruth last played for the Yankees, and Carl Hubbell struck out 5 straight batters in the All-Star Game.

It's been 60 years since the epic Yankees-Red Sox Pennant race of 1949, including Joe DiMaggio's comeback from injury.

It's been 50 years since the 1st West Coast World Series, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox.

It's been 40 years since the start of Divisional Play, Mickey Mantle's retirement, and the combination of the Chicago Cubs' "September Swoon" and the Mets' "Miracle" World Series, including their coming together in the fulcrum of the "Black Cat Game."

It's been 30 years since Thurman Munson's crash and the "Family" winning Pittsburgh's last World Series.

It's been 25 years since Detroit last won a World Series, and since Harry Caray and Ryne Sandberg made the Chicago Cubs a national phenomenon over "SuperStation WGN."

It's been 20 years since the Pete Rose gambling scandal and the earthquake that stopped a World Series -- still the last one won by a San Francisco Bay Area team (the A's over the Giants).

And it's been 10 years since David Cone's perfect game, Robin Ventura's "Grand Slam Single," Kenny Rogers' Pennant-losing walk and the Yanks winning their 25th World Series, thanks in part to the Chad Curtis Game.

This year, I will turn... 40. Yeah. The Big Four Oh.

Reggie Jackson, my guy, just turned 63. That's impossible: Mister October can't be 2 years away from Social Security. (Like he needs the money.) He's now as old as DiMaggio was when I first became aware of him -- and as old as Mantle was when he died.

I did the math. Presuming that a fan was approximately 7 years old when he first began regularly watching baseball on television, as I was...

If you remember the Yankees' return to glory in 1996, or Milwaukee being an American League city, then you're at least 20 years old.

If you remember the Mets winning the World Series at all, Bill Buckner as something other than an unfairly-cast goat, and Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens as skinny rookies, then you're at least 30.

If you remember Chris Chambliss' Pennant-winning homer, Reggie's three-homer game, Billy Martin as a World Series-winning manager, the Boston Massacre, the Bucky Dent Game, Thurman's crash, Rickey Henderson as a rookie, and Joe Morgan as a great player and not an annoying, clueless broadcaster, then you're pushing or past 40.

If you remember Carlton Fisk doing the Fenway Twist, or the Oakland dynasty of Reggie and Catfish, or Lou Brock rewriting base-stealing records, Pete Rose picking fights with Ray Fosse and Bud Harrelson, or Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew and Al Kaline as active players -- and Roberto Clemente as a living, breathing, still pretty effective player -- then you're around 45, or more.

If you remember the Mets winning in '69, and Brooks Robinson's third-base clinic of the following October, or Washington being an American League team, then you're at least 47.

If you remember Sandy Koufax as an active pitcher, the Red Sox "Impossible Dream" season, and the Year of the Pitcher (Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA and 17 Ks in Game 1 of the Series, Don Drysdale's six straight shutouts, Denny McLain winning 31 games and Mickey Lolich saving the Tigers' bacon in the Series), or Caray as a fully-engaged broadcaster for the Cardinals (either half of that would be shocking to people who only know him as a doddering Cub announcer), or Kansas City having a team wearing green instead of blue, then you're at least 50.

If you remember Shea Stadium as brand-new, and Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Roger Maris as productive players, Stan Musial as an active player, and the Braves being in Milwaukee, then you're at least 52.

If you remember Ted Williams as an active player, Casey Stengel managing the Yankees, and Mantle and Maris gunning for 60 homers, and there being no Mets at all, then you're at least 55. As you would be if you remember Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Denver, Miami, Toronto, Seattle, San Diego, Montreal, Houston and Minneapolis all as minor league cities.

If you remember the Giants being in Manhattan and the Dodgers being in Brooklyn, with guys like Mays, Irvin, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider and Gil Hodges being on the field, then you're at least 60. That's right, the youngest Brooklyn Dodger fan is now 60. You're a long way from Erasmus Hall High School, bubbe.

If you remember the Dodgers winning their only Series in '55, or the '54 heroics of Mays and Rhodes, or Bob Feller as an active pitcher, or Ralph Kiner as an active slugger instead of a malaprop-prone Met broadcaster, or Phil Rizzuto as an active shortstop instead of a teller of strange stories on Yankee broadcasts, or there being American League teams in Philadelphia and St. Louis and a National League team in Boston, and Baltimore, Milwaukee and Kansas City as minor league cities, then you're at least 62.

If you remember "the Shot Heard 'Round the World" describing something that happened at Lexington, Massachusetts, not something that Bobby Thomson hit, then you're at least 65. (Even if you don't know baseball, you know someone who does, and you've heard the name Bobby Thomson.) As you would be if you remember the Phillies being the Whiz Kids of Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts, and the A's still being managed by Connie Mack.

If you remember before Jackie Robinson, if you remember when baseball was all-white, which means you also remember when DiMaggio, Williams, Musial and Feller were at their peaks, then you're at least 70.

If you remember DiMag's 56-game hitting streak, Williams batting .406, and Mickey Owen unable to handle Hugh Casey's curve (spitball?), then you're at least 75.

If you remember Lou Gehrig as an active player, and Hank Greenberg hitting 58 home runs while Jimmie Foxx (who'd previously done it) also hit 50, then you're at least 78.

If you remember Babe Ruth at anything close to his best, and John McGraw as manager of the Giants, then you're well over 80.

If you remember the Babe at his very best, and Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and George Sisler as active players, then you're approaching or past 90.

If you remember when Ruth was a pitcher, Shoeless Joe Jackson was an untainted player, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson were still active and home runs were hard to come by, then you're almost 100 years old.

And if you remember the Chicago Cubs actually winning the World Series, you're probably dead -- or lying. The Guinness Book of World Records lists 30 people alive today in the U.S. who are at least 110 years old, the oldest being a woman in Los Angeles named Gertrude Baines, who's 115. No word on whether she likes baseball, but if she does, then she might be old enough to remember Jack Chesbro, Wee Willie Keeler, and even Ed Delahanty. But, being black and from Georgia, they probably never let her into a big-league ballgame until she came to L.A.

All those years ago...

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
-- William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Shakespeare was right... until the end. I would love to see what he would have done with baseball. There is a line of his where talks about "base players," but that's got nothing to do with sports.

Baseball is the most fun game there is, but time flies when you're having fun.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Few Scattered Thoughts

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers, for winning their 11th NBA Championship -- their 16th if you count their Minneapolis years, which would put them 1 behind the Boston Celtics for the most, all-time.

(And you shouldn't, even though "Minneapolis Lakers" makes much more sense than "Los Angeles Lakers" ever could. Frank Layden, who coached the Jazz in New Orleans, where the team's name made sense, and Utah, where it didn't, suggested the teams change names: "Utah Lakers" would make sense, and if you know music, then so would "Los Angeles Jazz.")

Kobe Bryant has finally won a World Championship without Shaquille O'Neal. Now, let's see if he can win one without the referees giving him every call imaginable.

Hey, maybe he really is, finally, "the next Michael Jordan." Jordan never won a title without the referees ignoring the traveling rule.

So how come Patrick Ewing never won one? He wasn't just a favorite of refs, he was the New York guy, the one Commissioner David Stern wanted when he fixed the 1985 Draft.

*

The Washington Nationals come into Yankee Stadium II tonight for a three-game series. They're ahead of the 1962 Mets' pace for most losses since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders went 20-134. Now, I don't expect the Nats to do worse than the 40-120 the Mets did in '62, or the 43-119 the Detroit Tigers did in 2003, or even the pathetic 36-117 the Philadelphia Athletics did in 1916 (when owner-manager Connie Mack apparently coined the saying, "Well, you can't win them all"). But I do expect the Nats to be bad enough for the Yankees to take three straight.

The English Premier League fixture list comes out tomorrow morning. Two months exactly until it kicks off again.

Two and a half months to Rutgers football, less than three months to East Brunswick football. The NFL? I won't stop you from caring, but I just don't love it anymore.

Less than four months to the 2009-10 NHL season. Didn't we just end a hockey season? (Actually, no: We ended it a bit further back than that. Two goals in the last minute-twenty of Game 7... )

I have to remind myself that June 15 isn't the trading deadline anymore. I'm wondering why the Yankees didn't make a big trade yesterday.

The only thing they really need to trade is their 0-8 record against the Red Sox this season for a World Championship.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Nice Summer Sunday at the Beach

Today was supposed to be the day of "All-Stars For Hope," a charity soccer game between a group of players from English and European teams, and another team that was never finalized, at Giants Stadium.

Cristiano "Purseboy" Ronaldo of Manchester United (now signed by Real Madrid). Ryan Giggs of Man U. Didier "Dogbreath" Drogba of Chelsea. Nicholas Anelka, formerly of Arsenal but now of Chelsea. Frank Lampard of Chelsea and all the pies he can eat. Emmanuel Adebayor of Arsenal (for now). William Gallas of Arsenal (for now).

And a few other players that I actually like. Thierry Henry, the Arsenal legend now at Barcelona. Patrick Vieira, the Arsenal legend now at Internazionale Milan. Current Arsenal players Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna. All of these players had committed to the benefit, and more seemed sure to follow.

The benefit, organized by former Man U now Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre, was to raise money for homes and schools in Africa. It was a great cause, and it would be held just 33 miles from home base, and it was my 1st chance (since I started watching international soccer) to see Premiership players live. Barring a vast increase in my fortunes resulting in being able to fly to Britain or Europe, it might have been my only chance.

But it was cancelled. Apparently, they couldn't get the sponsorships they needed to play it, due to the international credit crunch caused by the economic collapse last Autumn. Rats.

UPDATE: I have seen seen many such stars, in friendlies at Red Bull Arena, in U.S. team matches at the new Meadowlands stadium and RFK Stadium in Washington, and in a Real Madrid vs. AC Milan match at Yankee Stadium. But at the time, that was beyond what I could imagine.

*

So, with nothing else to do, I spent the day at the Shore. Got on the bus to Atlantic City, took another bus to Ocean City. (The nice little town in South Jersey, not the sprawling, tacky, high-rise-laden sandbar on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a place that, at heart, is more "Old South" than the "New South" is.)

Nothing like sitting on a bench, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, with a Mack & Manco's pizza slice in one hand, a birch beer in the other, with the headphones giving you a ballgame.

Nice day. Very nice day. Yankees 15, Mets 0. Phillies 11, Red Sox 6. In other words, teams I wanted to win 26, teams that SUUUUCK 6.

Upon hearing the score -- 13-0 at the time, with the Phils and Red Sox then tied 5-5 -- in the manner of Phil Rizzuto, I yelled out, "Holy Cow!"

Nice bounce-back for the Yankees after losing 6-2 to the Mutts yesterday. Some Met fans are already saying, as bad as this was, the Luis Castillo Game -- or do you prefer the title "The Popup"? -- was much worse, because they literally held the win in their hand, and dropped it.

Oh, did I mention the Yankees strafed The Great Johan Santana this afternoon? Scoring 9 runs off him. Gave him a 27.00 ERA for the day. Wow, Santana's really making a difference for the Mets, isn't he?

Amazingly, those 15 runs included only 2 homers, by Hideki Matsui (who's really coming on lately) off Santana, and Robinson Cano off replacement Brian Stokes, both in a 9-run 4th. By contrast, A.J. Burnett pitched 7 shutout innings, allowing only 4 hits. (But also 4 walks. He's going to have to cut those down.) This included getting out of bases loaded, no out following the Yanks' 4-run 2nd. David Robertson pitched a perfect 8th, Phil Hughes a decent 9th.

So the Yankees take 2 out of 3 from The Other Team at, to use the phrase of Jay Mariotti of ESPN.com (and formerly the Chicago Sun-Times), the House That Ruthlessness Built. The 1 loss was unpleasant, the 2 wins breathtaking but in verrrry different ways.

The only downer was that, since Harry Kalas died earlier this year, I can't really get into the Phillies' broadcasters on AM 1210. Harry used to be one of the voices of summer. Now? Chris Wheeler and Larry Andersen do nothing for me. Maybe they can ask Bill Campbell to do the occasional broadcast. If the Mets can still have Ralph Kiner, who's a year older (86 to 85), why not the man who called the Eagles' last NFL Championship in 1960, Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962, and the Phils' 1964 rollercoaster?

*

Here's my take on Brian Bruney's swipe at Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez's ridiculous celebrations: My Yankee Fan/Met hater bias aside, K-Rod should have had the moral high ground, since, A, he's a proven great reliever; and B, he has something very few Mets of the last 20 years have had, something Bruney doesn't have yet: A World Series ring.

Before he went berserk about it, he had the right reaction: "Who's he?"

Many years ago -- hard to believe I'm using THAT phrase in connection with the New Jersey Devils -- John MacLean (now an assistant coach with them) made the All-Star team, and an opponent (I forget who) asked whose tush he'd kissed to get on said team. Johnny Mac, a borderline Hall-of-Famer, asked the other guy whose ass HE kissed just to get into the league. Same deal when somebody was whining against Patrick Roy: "I can't hear you, I've got my Stanley Cup rings in my ears."

But no, K-Rod had to go and act like exactly what Bruney said he is. He had the moral high ground as if it was an easy popup from A-Rod in the 9th inning -- and, unlike Luis Castillo, instead of dropping it, he threw it away.

Bleat the Mets.

*

Now, if only the Yankees could beat the Red Sox, we'd really be "restoring the universe to order."

Days until the Yankees-Mets series at Shea -- I mean, Citi Field -- begins: 11, a week from next Friday night.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 52, August 6 at The Stadium.

Days until the Emirates Cup kicks off the next Arsenal season: 54.

Days until the next Premier League season begins: 61.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 80.

Days until East Brunswick plays football again: 85.

Days until the Devils play hockey again: 109 or thereabouts.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 164.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Unless You Belong

One of my favorite movies is Fever Pitch -- the original English soccer version, not the Red Sox version that I, a Yankee Fan, consider a horror movie because of the way it ends.

Colin Firth is ruminating on how much the team he loves, London soccer club Arsenal, has cost him, and not just in money but in relationships and heartache. At the time the movie takes place, 1989, Arsenal was on its way to winning the league for the first time in "eighteen fucking years." (To which a Red Sox fan from the U.S. version would say, "Boo hoo, poor you. Try eighty-six fucking years!")

But, like the Red Sox -- or the Cubs, or, dare I say it, the Mets -- Arsenal had provided fans like Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay based on his original book version, with devastating moments where they should have won but didn't. By 1989, Arsenal was no longer "shit," and has rarely been since, but the point Firth, as Hornby's fictional stand-in Paul Ashworth, was trying to make, still fits:

Football has meant too much to me, and has come to represent too many things.

After a while, it all starts to get mixed up in your head. You can't remember whether life is shit because Arsenal is shit, or if it's the other way around.

I've been to far too many games, and spent too much money, fretted about Arsenal when I should have been fretting about something else, and I've asked too much of the people I love.

All right, I accept all of that.

Perhaps it's something you can't understand unless you belong.

That sums it up, really. Maybe Yankee Fans and Met fans feel it more than most, because (this is one of the few things we agree on) New York is the baseball city. But isn't there a Seattle Mariners fan, or a Houston Astros fan, out there who mopes about why his team can never win, but doesn't switch teams, or drop baseball entirely?

It's the best drug of all: The highs are incomparable, and the lows don't kill you -- not even in October 2004 (or September 2007, as the case may be), when you might wish you were dead.

And then I read Greg Prince's book version of his blog, Faith and Fear In Flushing," and the inside cover blurb compares his Metdom with Nick Hornby's Arsenal love in the original book version of Fever Pitch.

As a fan of both the Yankees and Arsenal, I was a little offended by that. But both are terrific books, less about the teams involved than about the nature of fandom itself.

You see your team lose, especially to a team you hate, when you know they're a good team, and you wonder, "Why do I put myself through this?"

And if the Mets beat the Yankees today -- a pitcher the Yanks have never seen before? Televised by those Yankee-haters at Fox? If not necessarily a good sign for the Mets, then usually a recipe for disaster for the Pinstripes -- I'll be asking the question, and I'll have to remember the answer:

Because I chose this. Because I belong. And because I've had opportunities to get out, when the Yanks were awful and the Mets were good, and I didn't get out.

I didn't abandon the Yankees in 1979, or 1982, or 1990, or after the crushing defeat in the 1995 Playoffs -- and I was rewarded with 1996 through 2003.

I didn't abandon the Devils in 1984, or after the crushing defeat in the 1994 Playoffs -- and I was rewarded with 1995, 2000 and 2003.

I didn't abandon Rutgers football in 1985, or 1997, or 2001 -- and I was rewarded with what they've done since 2005. No National Championship, no Big East Championship, no major bowl game, but definitely enjoyable, with hope for more.

I didn't abandon the Nets in 1989, or 1995 -- and I was rewarded with, well, 2002 through 2004 didn't give us an NBA Title, but it was a lot better than what came before.

And while I just concluded Season One with Arsenal, there were plenty of times in that season when I could have said the hell with it, why am I watching this team from across the ocean, which I never heard of a year ago, with whom I have no connection, logical or otherwise, to whom I owe nothing and vice versa... and stuck with them to the end, and didn't switch to Liverpool or Chelsea or Manchester United, and now I can't wait until this coming Wednesday morning when the 2009-10 Premier League schedule -- excuse me, "fixture list," forgot to speak English there -- is released.

Arsenal since 2008. The Devils since 1982. The others as far back as I can remember, which would roughly be 1977, when I first saw the Yankees on TV, the Nets moved from Long Island to New Jersey, and I began to realize there was such a thing as college football and could read about it in the paper then known as The Home News.

I'm sure there are only a handful of people on the planet who root for exactly that combination of teams. Are there a hundred, or even a dozen? I'd be surprised.

But whatever team you root for, in any sport, there will come a time when you feel as if you belong, as if, no matter what bonehead decisions come from the front office, the team can't trade you, and you reach the point where you would never, ever trade them.

Not after the Captain died in a plane crash. Not after the Royals finally beat us on their 4th try. Not after the Dodgers finally beat us on their 3rd. Not after Reggie's homer off Guidry in his first game back since Steinbrenner let him go. Not after the Mets won the '86 Series. Not after Andy Hawkins' not-really no-hitter. Not after Jeff Fucking Weaver blew a World Series we should have easily won, with one pitch in Game 4. Not after "the Idiots" came all the way back and, for all intents and purposes, ended Yankee Stadium's postseason history.

Not after the most overrated hockey player of all time called your team "a Mickey Mouse outfit." Not after "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" Not after ex-Devil (and ex-Met) broadcaster Gary Thorne slobbered over Ray Bourque after the Devils blew a three-games-to-two Finals lead. Not after freezing your ass off walking across the desolate, winter-wind-swept Meadowlands parking lot too many times after losing to some scrub squad (NBA or NHL, take your pick). Not after two Carolina goals in the last 1:20 of a Game 7.

Not after the Nets drafted (take your pick: Dennis Hopson, Yinka Dare, Ed O'Bannon, someone else). Not after John Starks clotheslined Kenny Anderson. Not after the team you struggled with all those years finally began winning, and THEN some bastard billionaire buys them and says he's moving them out of your home State.

Not after "The only bowl Rutgers is going to is the one I just got off of." (Way to stay classy, Glenn Foley.) Not after Notre Dame 62, Rutgers 0 in 1996. Not after 0-11 in 1997, which included 50-3 to Syracuse (I was there) and 49-7 to freakin' Temple. Not after Syracuse 70, Rutgers 14 in 1998. Not after West Virginia 80, Rutgers 7 in 2001. (Nope, that's not a misprint: Eighty. To seven.)

Like Bruce Springsteen said, "Everything dies, baby, that's a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back." That's what a fan lives for. And, sometimes, he is rewarded.

In the meantime, there's gonna be a rumble on the promenade, and the gambling commissioner's once again hanging on by the skin of his teeth.

*

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning the Stanley Cup last night. This was a team that, two years ago, was thisclose to moving because they couldn't get a new arena deal. The got the deal, their new arena will open in October 2010, and they get to play the last season at the Civic Arena/Mellon Arena/Igloo as World Champions.

For only the 4th time ever, and the 1st time in the Super Bowl era, a city or metropolitan area has the reigning champions of both the NFL and the NHL: Chicago with the Bears and Blackhawks from April to December 1934, and Detroit with the Lions and Red Wings from April through December 1936 and again from December 1952 through April 1953. Now, at least from now in June 2009 to February 2010, Pittsburgh with the Steelers and Penguins.

Now, if the Pirates can just get their act together for the first time since George Bush was President... the father, not the son...

Yogi Was Right: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over!

It is appropriate that the Mets have a minor-league affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, named for a rollercoaster. The Mets put their fans on a rollercoaster all the time. Sometimes these fans end up saying, "Wheeee! What a ride!" Sometimes they end up throwing up all that Blue Smoke and Shake Shack stuff they ingested.

We have now had Interleague play long enough to know what a typical Yankees-Mets game is like. Last night's game, the 1st between the teams not at the original Yankee Stadium or at Shea Stadium, was typical.

1-0 Yankees. 2-1 Mets. 3-2 Yankees -- and I knew then that this game was not going to end benignly. Something was going to happen to make those who watched it, in the seats at YSII or on TV, talk about it for the next 50 years. 4-3 Mets. 6-3 Mets.

Has any broadcaster ever driven his own team's fans crazy as much as John Sterling? John, please, if you're not completely sure it's going to go out, don't get us going. No more, "Theeeeeeee pitch, it's swung on! And it's driven to deep right!" unless you know it's going to be A, over the fence, and B, a fair ball. Three times last night, he did that, leading me to think the Yankees had just hit a home run, but it turned out otherwise. On top of the times they actually did.

But then, as Hideki Matsui came up, on his 35th birthday no less, Sterling left no doubt: "It's swung on! And there it goes! Deep to right field! That ball is high! It is far! It is gone! It's a thrilla from Godzilla!"

7-6 Yankees. Still, I knew it wasn't over. Yogi Berra managed both the Yankees and the Mets, and was managing the Mets in the whacked-out NL East race of 1973, when he said, "It ain't over 'til it's over." And at 7-6 Yankees, I knew this game was far from over.

Sure enough, Phil Coke wasn't it -- again. And Joe Girardi used Joe Torre's panic move, bringing Mariano Rivera in for the 8th inning. Like most panic moves, it didn't work, and it was 8-7 Mets.

Now it was over. I was sure. Well, I've only been watching these 2 teams play for 33 seasons, so what the hell do I know?

Bottom of the 9th, 2 out, the Yankees down to their last chance, but with the tying and winning runs on, and who's up? Alex Rodriguez. Oh, well, game over. A-Rod will strike out or pop up. He can't be trusted in a situation like this. And, sure enough, Francisco Rodriguez, who hasn't blown a save since he became a Met, got him to pop up! I knew it! Game over!

Met 2nd baseman Luis Castillo settled under it, can o' corn, easy play. I could have caught this. Game over.

Except... HOLY COW! He dropped the ball! Castillo dropped the ball! Tying run scores! Winning run scores! Yankees 9, Mets 8! Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win! HOW ABOUT THAT!

This was less a "classic Yankee win" than a "classic Met loss." Once I got over the shock and stopped laughing, I felt awful for Met fans.

This was in the bag. K-Rod pitching against the Yankees (which he sure knew how to do for the Angels)? Needing only to get A-Rod for the last out? This was as close to a sure thing as exists in baseball.

And K-Rod didn't blow it. He got A-Rod do to what A-Rod does so well, screw up in a clutch situation. A-Rod knew it, slamming his bat down in disgust. (Well, at least he does one thing as well as Mickey Mantle. Or Paul O'Neill.)

Met fans were ready to party like it's 1969. Or 1986. Then Luis Castillo turned it into 1962. Or 1979. Or 1993. Or 2002. And Yankee Fans partied like it's 1999. Or, more accurately, October 2000.

Did Met fans deserve this? Well, some of them. But this was a game practically already in the standings. The Daily News headline writers were already coming up with something -- maybe along the lines of "WHOSE HOUSE? Mets win first Subway Series game in new Stadium." Bill Gallo was already drawing his "goat-horns" cartoon. And then... It's going to ring in Met fans' (pardon me) minds for generations: "Castillo dropped the ball!"

I know, I know, it's only June 12. Not September. A regular-season game, just 1 of 162.

Still... And the Mets couldn't take advantage of the Phillies losing to the Red Sox, either. (Though they did spare the Yankees dropping another game behind The Scum.)

Greg Prince, author of the blog Faith and Fear In Flushing (and the terrific book of the same title), says he has a friend who calls rooting for the Mets "Metsochism." How true, how true.

This would have been bad enough for Met fans against any team. But against the Yankees? Not the Braves, not even the Phillies, but the team they truly hate the most, the Yankees?

I suspect that, somewhere, there is a Met fan now writing what I was writing after various losses to Boston: "This is unacceptable... My team has no heart... Clean house! If you can't win, then at least don't lose with the same guys!"

Do I have sympathy for this hypothetical fan? Do I have sympathy for all the Met fans who feel like this? Yeah, I do. Damn, maturity sucks sometimes.

Two more games in this series. And you just know at least one of them is going to be another epic.

Meet the Mets, meet the Mets.
Step right up and BEAT the Mets!
Bring your kiddies, and bring your wife.
They'll beat the Mets to within an inch of their life!
Because the Mets are really dropping the ball!
They've got their backs up against the wall!
East Side, West Side, they're all watching the Mets go down!
Yeah, they're the M-E-T-S, Mets, the New... York... Clowns!

An oldie, but a goodie.

You know, with all that money he makes, the least A-Rod can do is buy Luis Castillo dinner. Or introduce him to Kate Hudson, or whatever chick he's dating this week.

Which reminds me, there was an awkward moment at the game. Sarah Palin came back, and she gave David Wright a gift certificate for a free week's stay at an Alaska hotel. And he dropped it.

She laughed. She wasn't laughing when she got back to her seats, next to Rudy and Judi Giuliani, and found out that Rudy was in the process of divorcing Judi, and marrying and then divorcing Bristol!

*

As you can see by that New York Post headline, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings last night, clinching the Stanley Cup and reversing the result of last year's Finals.

Sidney Crosby has his 1st Cup. I hope it's his last. He shouldn't even have had this one. Fuck Gary Bettman and his little pet project.

UPDATE: It wasn't Crosby's last.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Fleeting Moment, Now Fleeted

Or should that be "Now Flut"? "Now Floot"? I'm not sure what the proper conjugation is in this case. Maybe, with the rain, it should be "Now Flooded."

To borrow a phrase from the musical Camelot, for one brief shining moment... a moment that lasted a month, a very nice month, it was possible to believe that the 2009 Yankees were less like the 2008 Yankees and more like the 1998 Yankees, a team that didn't care how good their opponents were, they just won anyway. And that this would continue against the Boston Red Sox in the three-game series now concluded at Fenway Park.

It was possible to believe that this would be, if not 2000, or even the last Pennant season of 2003, then at least 2006. Talk about a fleeting moment: The Yanks were awful for the 1st 3 months, then took off, and in August swept a rain-forced 5-game series at Fenway.

I was there the day of the 4th game, and on that hot Sunday afternoon in New England, I heard the fans and heard the WEEI hosts, and they were all acting as if things were back to the way they were, with the Yankees in the Sox' heads, as if they just couldn't beat the Yanks when it mattered, as if those ten amazing autumn nights of two years earlier -- October 17 to 27, 2004 -- had never happened, as if their first World Championship in 86 years was less than a fluke, but an actual mirage, perhaps even a myth.

The Yanks finished 12 games ahead of the Red Sox, and the Sox even finished behind the Toronto Blue Jays, third. It was a very good time to be a Yankee Fan. (Then came that awful Playoff series against the Detroit Tigers.)

For a fleeting moment, I thought that we might be back to that level, going into this Yanks-Sox series at Fenway.

Then the series happened. A 7-0 loss in which the Yankees got just two hits. A 6-5 loss in which the Yankees came back but fell short. A 4-3 loss in which the Yankees led 3-1 in the 8th.

This is unacceptable. The Yankees have let the Red Sox back into their heads. The Scum triumphant, the Yankees reeling and back out of first place, and looking like there's no way they'll ever be able to beat the Red Sox again.

Think of it this way: Suppose the Yankees and Red Sox both make the Playoffs -- even if it's with the Yanks as Division Champs and the Sox as the Wild Card. Suppose then the Yanks win their Division Series and the Sox lose theirs. Suppose then the Yanks go all the way and win the World Series.

What changes? Sox fans will have to get rid of their "Got Rings Lately?" T-shirts. But what else? Nothing. We'll still say we've got far more than anybody. They'll still say we can't beat them. We'll say we're the World Champs so fuck you. They'll still say we can't beat them, so fuck us.

No, for 2004 to be avenged, there must be a day of reckoning, where the Yankees either beat the Sox in a Playoff series, or beat the Sox in such a way that the Yanks make the Playoffs and the Sox don't, and the Yanks then go on to win the Series.

This will leave Sox fans to talk about 2004 and 2007 -- and leave them sounding as pathetic as Met fans talking about 1969 and 1986. Someday soon, this must happen.

Speaking of the Mets, they come into Yankee Stadium II tonight for a three-game series, weather permitting. And they're reeling, too, having lost 2 of 3 at home to the Phillies, the 2 losses being rather embarrassing ones, cancelling out their 1 win. They're now 4 games behind the Phils; the Yanks, 2 behind the Sox. Each New York team might as well be 12 games out.

Yeah, yeah, I know, cue the line from Fever Pitch -- the soccer one, the one with the happy ending: "Jesus, Mike! You need medical help! You've got some sort of disease that turns people into useless bastards!"

Yeah, well, I caught it from the Yankees.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ninety Percent Is Not Enough

Woody Allen once said, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up."

On Tuesday night, the Yankees may have been present at Fenway Park for the opener of their crucial series with the Red Sox, but they didn't "show up," and lost, 7-0, getting only two hits.

Last night, they showed up. They came back from 4-1 and 6-3 to make it 6-5. In the 9th inning, Alex Rodriguez, Mr. Anti-Clutch, actually got on base. There was hope. But the Yanks couldn't push him across.

Check the standings: No, the Yankees did not get credit for 90 percent of a win just for showing up and fighting.

Ninety percent is not enough. Useless bastards.

Now 0-7 against The Scum this season. Chien-Ming Wang is obviously not back yet. We can't beat the Sox. They still hold the hammer over us.

And after tonight's what's-the-point game, we have to defend the George M. Steinbrenner Memorial Coliseum against The Other Team. The boys from the House of Wilpon. The Blue and Orange. At least they're not doing so hot, either.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

And Just Like That...

The 2009 New York Yankees have no heart. They have no sense of pride. They have no awareness of drama, of knowing that there is a clutch situation in front of them and they must come through. And Alex Rodriguez getting healthy isn't going to change that. Come on, let's be honest: A healthy A-Rod wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference this weekend, because we know he turns into the $275 Million Bum when the lights get bright.

That was me, on April 27. By May 18, I was able to type, "The Fun Is Back In The Bronx." The Yankees had found their heart.

The Pinstripers were running like a finely tuned machine. They were the Bronx Bombers again. They were flashing leather in the field. They were pitching like the David Cone-led rotation of old. They were beating good teams, taking two of three or even sweeping. Minnesota. Toronto. Texas. Tampa Bay.

Hope was in the air, going into this week's three-game series in Boston against The Scum. The Yankees were in first place, one game ahead of said Scum.

And just like that... It's all over.

One hit off Super Punk Beckett in 6 innings. Two hits for the game. A.J. Burnett got knocked around. David Ortiz went back on his steroids -- or maybe he just need to hit agianst the Yankees again -- and hit another home run off us. Boston 7, New York 0.

It took three weeks to go from "The Yankees have no heart" to "The fun is back in The Bronx." Let's hope it takes considerably less time for this next paragraph to turn around:

It's over. The Yankees' 2009 season is over. They have no chance. They may get the Wild Card, but they can't beat the Red Sox. Forget it. No Pennant this year. Against the Red Sox, they have no heart, no drive, no will to win. They're a bunch of useless bastards.

They've got two games left in this series to turn that sentence around. If they don't, then this last month or so, filled with drama and success and hope for more, will have been a waste, and they will have proven themselves to be useless bastards.

Come on. Let's get in gear and beat The Scum!

UPDATE: Reverse jinx?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ripping Paterno: I Struck a Nerve (And I Liked It)

Wow, for the first time since I began writing this thing, I've had to make two posts in one day. And, no, it's not because I forgot that today was the 40th Anniversary of Mickey Mantle Day, June 8, 1969.

No, it's because, for the first time since I began writing this thing, I seem to have gotten an audience – and hit a nerve.

Who's complaining? Fans of what team? The Mets – a.k.a. The Other Team? No. The Red Sox – a.k.a. The Scum? No. The New York Rangers – another team I call "The Scum"? No.

Penn State. It seems I insulted Saint Joseph.

Yup. I struck a nerve – and I liked it.

The other day, I posted my Top 10 Most Hated Opponents – non-players' edition. And here’' what I had at Number 1, truncated to match the points of the response I got:

1. Joe Paterno, Pennsylvania State University football. Ol' Ratface spent the better part of 30 years picking on the teams now in the Big East… running up the score on weaker Eastern opponents, thus inflating their records. And also for and poaching players from other territories...

The last time Penn State played Rutgers, at Giants Stadium in 1995, Penn State was leading 52-34, and Paterno had his quarterback pass with an 18-point lead near the end of the game. Touchdown, 59-34. When it was over, Rutgers coach Doug Graber did not shake Paterno's hand afterward, instead telling him what a classless SOB he is. Well, that may not have been Graber's exact phrase, but it might as well have been. And this great patriotic conservative Christian known as "Saint Joseph" among his fans, he cursed right back. Later, he apologized to the press for his profanity -- but not for his classless coaching, saying, "I should not have to apologize for (my quarterback) doing what he has been coached to do." (I won't name that quarterback here: He's a henchman, not the villain.)

Now that Rutgers is a consistent winner, that cowardly old bastard won't play us. Come on, Ratface, you deserve one last lesson in manners before you head off to that great press box in the... core of the Earth…

When he finally dies, the Shittany Lions will probably mummify him and turn the Beaver Stadium press box into their own version of Lenin’s Tomb. They already call the stadium “Saint Joe Paterno Cathedral.” …

Congratulations, Penn State: You are Number 1. You dirty bastards.

*

Someone identifying himself only as "Jim" wrotes back:

Mike McQuery was the QB. He threw to Chris Campbell. It was backup McQuery's only pass of the day and backup Campbell's only catch of the day. Hardly running up the score with backups.

Bullshit, Jim. If you’re up 18 points in the 4th quarter, you don't throw end-zone passes, unless you're a classless piece of shit. So either Paterno is one, or he recruited one, which doesn't reflect well on him, either.

Also, if you take a broader look at Paterno's record, you will see that "running up the score" has not been part of his repertoire.

Okay, let's take a broader, and much more recent, look. Let's take a look at Penn State's results from last season:

66-10 over Coastal Carolina. They're Division I-AA at best, and thus hardly capable of standing up to a college football powerhouse, so throw that one out.

45-3 over Temple. It's Temple, so we can throw that one out.

55-13 over Syracuse. I know that the school I tend to call "Sorry-excuse" has fallen on hard times, but was scoring 55 really necessary?

48-7 over Wisconsin, ranked #24 in the nation at the time. That's an impressive result. But if Penn State had scored half as many, it would still have been a decisive win. Was 48 necessary?

46-17 over Michigan. Michigan hasn't quite been itself lately, so was 46 necessary?

34-7 over Indiana. By comparison, this was rather restrained.

49-18 over Michigan State, ranked #15 at the time. The Big 10 title was already wrapped up, so why hang 49 on the Spartans? It's not like they're arch-rivals like Michigan and need to make a point of embarrassing them.

It’s rather easy to conclude that, yes, Paterno does run up the score. He did so 6 or 7 times last season, depending on whether you count Indiana – 4 or 5 if you throw out the results vs. Coastal Carolina and Temple.

*

Someone identifying himself as "Scott" said,

You might want to take note that PSU and Rutgers will be renewing their football series in 2014. It's been finalized.

At which point, Paterno will probably be retired or dead. Not his problem. The coward.

Oh and your record over the last 8 years is 46–51. Hardly a regularly winning team... 

Over the last 4 years, Rutgers’ record is 34-17. That's twice as many wins as losses. Penn State over the same stretch? 40-11. Better, but not a lot better. And their bowl record is 3-1, exactly the same as that of Rutgers.

*

"John" said:

Hmm, I've never heard of anyone calling (Beaver Stadium) Saint Joe Paterno's Cathedral.

I can't remember where I first heard it. Possibly in some book about college football that I read. Well, you might as well call it that, since you worship Paterno.

*

"Kevin" says:

Shittany Lions, that one is new to me. 

That's because I made it up. If anyone else has thought of it, I'm not aware of it. But it's not like I hold the trademark. If anyone else wants to use it, I say, "Feel free."

Since when did 5 mediocre years out of 100 plus years of football make Rutgers a consistent program?

It didn't. Four good years – the last 4 years – made Rutgers a consistent program. No one's saying they're a "great program" – not yet. But then, the "great programs" – Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC, Miami, Notre Dame and, yes, now we know, Penn State (in fact, you could call this group "The Real Big Ten") – have had their issues.

Not running up the score is what many believe cost us a chance at the National Championship in 94. I can honestly say he doesn't do it.

Ah, yes, the ever-popular George Costanza Defense: "Jerry, it’s not a lie… if you believe it." So you're honestly delusional.

You couldn't find a Rutgers football fan before the program's moderate success and now they come out of the woodwork. 

A small price to pay for seeing more Rutgers T-shirts than Penn State T-shirts in New Jersey's malls and on New Jersey's shore boardwalks. Hell, I'm even seeing Rutgers T-shirts at Yankee Stadium. But then, George Steinbrenner was more ethical than Joe Paterno. (At least Steinbrenner had the decency to try to hide his support for Richard Nixon.)

Let's see who wins the recruiting wars in the next few years though. I don't want to hear any excuses when we play the next game. 

Don’t worry, we'll be firing off that cannon so many times you’ll be deaf for the rest of the weekend.

*

"Dave" says:

Sour grapes over Paterno. If Eastern teams were better coached and better performers, they would not have been such patsies for PSU. That Rutgers game? Paterno apologized for the "B*llsh*t" remark. 

But he didn't apologize for the horseshit play-call. Neither do you:

But his 3rd string QB (if recall correctlly) was given a designed run play, not a pass play. But he saw a receiver get wide open, and he did what he was trained to do, toss it downfield. Not HIS fault that Rutgers had a porous defense. 

What he should have been trained to do was not run up the score. Or, what he should have been trained to do was follow his coach's orders -- he did not. But I'm not going to blame the kid: As Mike Gundy, the coach at Oklahoma State, could have said, Paterno's 69! (At the time.) He's a man! Blame him!

In that game, Paterno showed he was no better than Tom Osborne, Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson or even Steve Spurrier.

Scheduling? No Big East team will agree to play PSU in anything but home-and-home series. 

So play them in a home-and-home series. Or are you… chicken?

Schiano is a fine coach at a storied program that is past its prime; 3 more year, and Schiano will be gone, sorry to say. 

I’ll address that point in a moment.

*

"BSmith717" says:

This is flat out adorable Uncle Mike, really it is. But seriously? You're going to hate Joe Paterno, who doesn't even do all of the recruiting incidentally, for out-coaching and out-recruiting your poor excuse for a football program? Come on buddy, this is flat out sad. I do, however, have to commend you on trying to turn one of the most lovable and respectable figures in all of sports into a cartoonish super villain. Kudos my friend. 

Anybody who respects Paterno as much as you do is no friend of mine. Paterno is no more lovable than his old Pitt rival Jackie Sherrill, one of the most contemptible coaches of all time.

Trust me on this though, you aren't going to be able to get PSU fans to consider rutgers an actual rival, however, this won't make the embarrassing ways in which we beat you in '14 and '15 any less sweet. 

No chance. The only way you're going to beat Rutgers then is if Greg Schiano gets lured into replacing the old man. Which ain't gonna happen, Dave and BSmith: He's already turned down Michigan and Miami, both top-tier programs. Which, considering how those programs have done since, turned out to be 2 good decisions.

And if he's going to turn down those two, who've actually won and earned National Championships since 1986 (well, January '87), he's not going to take that hick program in the middle of nowhere. Stick with considering Pitt a rival, and see if you can beat them: We can.

*

Then there’s "Jeff," who makes the guys who got here before him sound thoughtful by comparison:

Great. A 40 yo accountant who can't find a woman sounds off on a great American like Joepa! He's either a skinny weakling or loudmouth obese slob. 

Actually, Paterno is the skinny weakling, and while I don't care if you're obese, you're definitely a loudmouth, and definitely a slob. You'd have to be, to think that Paterno is "a great American."

Just because Joe wins in recruiting and beathing the eastern patsies doesn't even compare to the Yankess buying players, making the clueless fans pay for them and the team can't win anything anymore anyway LOL Joe recruits ethically and gives kids a genuine chance to start life with a good head start. 

He recruits ethically? You mean like those players he's had the last few years who've been charged with assaulting women and drunk-and-disorderly conduct? Check out the links.

Here's one from 2003. Isolated incidents? Here’s one from 2007, suggesting that he either lost control of these kids or that he looked their other way when recruiting wayward youth. Here’s one from last yearAnd here’s one from just last month.

That’s just what’s been publicized in the last 6 years. How do we know he wasn't hiding things all along, and got protected by the press? We can't trust a word he says, especially when he calls his program "clean." We certainly can't trust the word of anyone who says "JoePa does it right." Yeah, so does Bobby Bowden.

Who's next to hate? Hopefully TB's Joe Maddon a PA native who will dominate the aging Skankees for years to come. He's another classy guy like Joe, unlike Uncle Mike the NJ version of the 40 yo virgin!

Considering your homoerotic feelings for Paterno, I think you're on shaky ground talking about someone else's lovelife. Did you notice the rejuventated Yankees embarrassing Maddon's Rays this weekend? Maddon proved himself to be a whiny little dope with the umpires. He’' better enjoy that Pennant, 'cause the only way he'll ever see another one is on television. With the way the Yankees, Red Sox, and even the Blue Jays have been playing lately, the Deviled Eggs are destined to sink and stay sunk. In fact, forget about playing in the World Series again: The Rays may not even be playing in Tampa Bay much longer, if they don’t get that new park built!

*

So what do we have? We have Penn State fans with thinner skins than Met fans, Red Sox fans and New York Ranger fans.

That's a more stinging indictment than anything a Paterno player has ever faced in court.

Seriously: I've called Pedro Martinez and Mark Messier thugs, nearly killers, and hardly a response. But smear Saint Joe? Whoa, that's crossing the line! Apparently.

And I've noticed that not one of these Happy Valley Sallys even suggested an alternative, someone else who should be Number 1 on the list.

What does that mean? It could mean they were so angry they weren't thinking straight – which would be understandable, I suppose. It could also mean that they lack imagination – which is understandable, considering that Penn State still looks like a 1960s high school team with those uniforms. (Seriously, how hard would it be to put a block "P" or even a "PSU" on the helmets?)

But if they can see what other teams I don't like, surely they could find a reason to suggest Red Sox manager Terry Francona, for example. (I didn't put him on the list at all, but I suppose the explanation is a post for another time.)

The American college football fan now knows that the Penn State program has had its dirty moments, its dirty players, and at least one dirty head coach, just like most of the big winners and the less-big winners have, including some that I used to admire. And they know that Joe Paterno is a hypocrite, much like his Dallas pro counterpart, Tom Landry.

Which is fitting, because, like the Dallas Cowboys – and, I have to admit, also the Yankees – Penn State football is one of those teams that fans sometimes turn to when their own is inadequate.

You know how it is. Suppose you know a guy in your office went to, just to pull an example out of the air, Boston College. B.C. has had a reasonably good basketball team the last few years. During March Madness, this guy will cheer his guts out for B.C. But when B.C. is eliminated, suddenly, this guy will be saying, "Did you see Duke beat Would-Be Cinderella State by 40 points last night? I told you! Coach K is the greatest! I told you, man! Gotta love them Blue Devils! My Blue Devils are going all the way!"

In the immortal words of Jay Leno, "Oh shut up!" You probably threw away your Jordan 23 jersey as soon as Shaq and Kobe started winning with the Lakers. And is that a Favre 4 jersey I see in the hamper under your Brady 12? And under that Favre 4, an Aikman 8?

There will always be bandwagoners rooting for certain teams. But, thanks to what Greg Schiano has done with Rutgers, there's a lot more Scarlet Rs around New Jersey now, and a lot fewer Penn Traitors. If he goes on to do nothing else for us, that alone is enough reason to one day make it "Greg Schiano Field at Rutgers Stadium."

I don't care what Penn State fans think of me. But don't be blinded by the legend of Joe Paterno. He's like Wyatt Earp: The hero's story has been told for so long, it's hard to accept that the truth reveals something less than a hero. (With all due respect to Hugh O'Brian, a fine actor who played a heroic character who was based, only partly, on reality. The conflicted man played by Kevin Costner was closer to the truth.)

Maybe we can get Jack Nicholson to star in The Joe Paterno Story. He's already got the smarmy smile and the sunglasses, and a good chunk of the press in his back pocket – but not all of it. Nah, we don't need another New Jerseyan going to Slap-Happy Valley.

Of course, the ideal actor to play Paterno would have been Peter Lorre, who was the wise, admired Asian detective Mr. Moto one movie, a gangster's slimy henchman or a horror-film monster the next. But he's been dead for over 40 years. Paterno's not that old.

I close with this: Sports fans' blogs aren't like journalists' blogs, which are based on the facts the journalists can find. Fan blogs are about opinions, and have 2 purposes: To talk up your own team and to talk trash about your opponents. Most of them are just guys (or girls) blowing off steam.

Apparently, my little swipe at Ratface Paterno brought a little too much steam. Well, no one's forcing you to read this blog. If you can't stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen, because I'm not about to stop cookin'.

Dopes.

*

Postscript. This, of course, was written before the explosion of the Jerry Sandusky scandal forced the university to fire Paterno, who would have left the job soon afterward anyway, because, as it turns out, he was dying of cancer.

Penn State did beat Rutgers in 2014 and 2015, due more to Rutgers, under then-coach Kyle Flood, being incompetent more than to James Franklin leading Penn State well.

Greg Schiano did leave Rutgers for another team, the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he flopped.

Whatever Joe Paterno's name meant up until the Autumn of 2012, it now means a man who was more determined to win football games and keep control of a university's football program than he was to ensure that justice was done for the victims of what used to be known as "unspeakable acts."
Joe Paterno was evil. I was right... even before I had any idea of how right I was.

Feeling Like Kids Again

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the Yankees were comeback kids. Now, even the veterans feel like kids again.

Hey, I feel like a kid again, too: All those years of drinking sugar-loaded Pepsi have left me with 20 teeth.

But enough about that: Back to the New York Yankees. I'd love to believe that this team is performing like a champion. For the moment, they are.

Of course, there's always the elephant in the room, which is, "How is Alex Rodriguez, the Great Sham-bino, going to blow it for the Yankees this time?" (Note that I called him that well before I knew he was a steroid user and a lying bastard about it.)

Well, so far, he isn't blowing it for them. Instead, for the first time, he's actually making a teammate better. It's Mark Teixeira, who, after a tough start is, right now, the (lower-case) most valuable player in the American League.

Right now, the Yankees are clicking on all cylinders, which is good, because this could very well be the defining stretch of the season: Nine games, at home for defending Pennant winners Tampa Bay, 3 games on the road against The Scum, and 3 games at home against The Other Team.

Winning at least 6 out of 9 is, I believe, essential. So far, we've gotten 2 out of 3, meaning 4 out of 6 to go. Considering the way both the Red Sox and the Mets have been playing, I'm a little optimistic.

Then again, this is the Sox, 1 of 2 teams who've really had the Yankees' number since 2004. (The other is the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Year Angels of Anaheim, and in their case it's been for even longer.) So they really need to step up, and do one of the things that great Yankee teams have always done to prove their greatness, which is turn Fenway Park into a little green pinball machine.

Shred the Sox!

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Most Hated Opponents -- Non-Players Edition

A few weeks ago, I listed "My Most Hated Opponents -- Players." I said I would do it for non-players, and finally I have.

I have 2 eligibility rules: I will only consider post-high school figures, and only individuals who've been actively involved for at least 5 full seasons since I began watching sports on TV in 1977.

The no-high-school rule lets out Bob DeMarco, the head football coach at Old Bridge High School, arch-rivals of my Alma Mater, East Brunswick. Besides, DeMarco is a decent guy, and I find it easy to believe it was his players, not him, who chose to run up the score in certain meetings back when the school was still known as Madison Central. And his brother, former E.B. wrestling coach Greg DeMarco, is one of the most decent people ever involved in high school sports in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

I don't have a problem with Bob. It's his team I hate. I'm not sure I can even adapt, as British soccer fans have, the Monkees' song "Daydream Believer" to fit him: It doesn't feel right to sing, "Cheer up, Bobby D! Oh, what can it mean to a... sad purple bastard and a... shit football team!" He may wear purple and black, but he's not sad and he's not a bastard. As for his team, well, I've seen them win championships, but they'll always be shit to me.

The longevity rule lets out Walter O'Malley, the greatest villain in the history of baseball, because by the time I was old enough to start watching, the man who owned the Dodgers, in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles, in part since 1942 and fully since 1950, was already a dying man, and his son Peter was pretty much running the team. Walter Francis O'Malley died in 1979, and would top the list if I were just a few years older. He gets a Lifetime Bereavement Award.

However, unlike with my Most Hated Opponents – Players edition, collegiate coaches are allowed. I couldn't make this list without one in particular.

10. Bobby Valentine, New York Mets. The only man ever to manage The Other Team to back-to-back postseason appearances, and along with Davey Johnson (whom we’ll see later) one of only two to manage them to more than one at all. He was funny sometimes, but he was such an arrogant little bastard. When did he earn that arrogance?

Still, Bobby V never really hurt the Yankees, so he's at the bottom of this list.

UPDATE: Bobby V went on to manage the Boston Red Sox in 2012, which might have lifted him higher on this list, if that season hadn't been such a train wreck for the Sox, and so much fun for Yankee Fans to watch. And Terry Collins managed the Mets to back-to-back postseason appearances in 2015 and '16.

9. Earl Weaver, Baltimore Orioles. A genius, but also a raging egomaniac and a very nasty little man. Much like the Yankees' own Billy Martin, except fat rather than scrawny.
I'll never forget him conveeeeniently forgetting to put the tarp down at Memorial Stadium in that game in '78, when the Yanks were desperately trying to claw back into the race. And the '79 team that outdistanced the Yankees – took me 20 years to realize that Ken Singleton was a good guy.

But he didn't hurt the Yanks that much while I was old enough to watch. If I'd been around for his entire managerial run, 1968 to 1982 and again briefly in '85 and '86, maybe he'd be higher on this list.

8. Bobby Cox, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves. Despite the Yanks winning 8 straight World Series games against him in 1996 and '99, this is really more for what he did as Jays manager, particularly in that 1985 AL East duel. I was 15, and I don't think I've yet gotten over losing that race.
Still, it was sickening to see those unworthy Braves win the NL East year after year after year… Beats having the Mets do it, though, and hating Cox is one of the few people both Yankee Fans and the Flushing Heathen can agree on. That and his "Rain Man" pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Yeah. Yeah.

7. Bob Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers. There had to be at least one hockey opponent here, but what Ranger? Mike Keenan may have coached them for their only Stanley Cup win since FDR's 2nd term, but it was only for that 1 season. It's hard to bring up any feelings toward then-GM Neil Smith. Glen Sather? Nah, it's not like he was Jaromir Jagr, or Sean Avery, or his bald pal from Edmonton and The Garden, Mark Messier.

But Clarke, while undeniably a great and courageous player, was also first the leader of the Broad Street Bullies, the Flyers who beat up everybody including the early Devils; and then the GM of the Flyer teams that gave the Devils such fits from 1995 to 2004.

And, as Flyer fans will tell you, it was easy to root for "Bobby" Clarke the player, who is up there in the Philly pantheon with Connie Mack, Richie Ashburn, Mike Schmidt, Chuck Bednarik, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Tom Gola and Rollie Massimino; but it's a lot harder to root for "Bob" Clarke the GM, who made the Flyer roster respectable again, but made the Flyer front office unworthy of respect.

Granted, the Lindros family – Eric, Carl and Bonnie – weren't angels, but Clarke could have handled it much better. You didn't have to like Lindros to dislike Clarke. But I can't have him all that high on this list, simply because his greatest era of potential harm came before I was old enough to really understand hockey.

6. Dual entry: Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut basketball. Their successes cannot be denied, but neither can their arrogances. They do like to rub it into the faces of their opponents, especially Geno to his 2 main rivals, Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee and Vivian Stringer at Rutgers. The fact that both Calhoun and Auriemma are also big-time Red Sox fans is enough to induce vomiting.
Calhoun

Some people think of UConn as a New York-area school because Connecticut is part of the New York Tri-State Area. But it's also part of New England, and the Huskies' Gampel Pavilion is 86 miles from Boston's Downtown Crossing as opposed to 139 miles from New York's Times Square.
Auriemma

5. Jimmy Johnson and…

4. Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys.
They both had to be on here. At least Johnson wasn't a hypocrite: He knew he and his team were a bunch of, to put it charitably, rogues. Landry was a sanctimonious hypocrite who looked the other way as his crew claimed to be "America's Team," all the while looking more like "South America's Team" (because of certain players' copious consumption of drugs) or "America's Most Wanted" (other crimes), which got worse in the Johnson era.
This is why Landry is higher on the list: Because he gave off an aura of knowing better, but chose to look the other way for his criminals. Why separate entries for them, while I combined the UConn coaches into one? Because the UConn coaches coached (and still do) at the same time, while these Cowboy coaches were in 2 different eras.
3. Pat Riley, New York Knicks. Yes, he won 4 titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and 1 with the Miami Heat. But I liked him with the Lakers because, like most people with taste, I hated the Boston Celtics. And I excused him with the Heat, because I was a Nets fan, and he wasn't really the Nets' problem.

But as coach of the Knicks, he A, got in the Nets' way when they put up their best team between the 1976 ABA crown and the 2002 Eastern Conference Title; and B. practically ruined the NBA with his thuggish defenses, turning a game of 110-100 scores into a game of 84-78 scores. Fans want scoring. You think we give a damn that Chamberlain holds the record of 55 rebounds in a game? No, we talk about him scoring 100 points.
The player who symbolized Lakers-era Pat Riley was Magic Johnson.
The player who symbolized Lakers-era Pat Riley was John Starks.
The difference is the difference between 1980s and 1990s NBA.

It's one of the great ironies of sports that Riles won titles with the '80s Lakers, the ultimate fast-break team, the team known as "Showtime"; then, when Patrick Ewing could have been his Kareem, Charles Oakley could have been his James Worthy, and while he didn't have a Magic Johnson type (how many of those have there been? Very few), he could still have played fun basketball. Instead, he brought the mid-1980s Big East (all those cheap shots from John Thompson's Georgetown and Louie "the Sweater" Carnescca's St. John's) to the NBA Atlantic Division.

I wonder if it dawned on him that he didn't win another World Championship until he had another Kareem (Shaq) and another player who almost resembled Magic in style (Dwyane Wade)?

2. Davey Johnson, New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles. Although he's managed other teams, this is for his management of the Mets at their 1984-90 peak, when they were the most arrogant team in the history of New York baseball. Even John McGraw's old New York Giants, they of "the look of eagles," were modest compared to these bastards.

But if Davey was any damn good at managing, how come they only won the 1 World Series – and only the 1 Pennant? And only reached the Playoffs 1 other time?

Then, of course, there was Davey's O's, who tried a different drug from the one that the '80s Mets seemed to enjoy: Steroids. And yet, he had an unholy hissyfit when Derek Jeter hit that home run in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. As if it was Jeter's intention to "cheat." Davey, you insufferable snot, you lost all 3 games at Camden Yards in that series. If you can't defend your home field in the Playoffs, don't whine about some kid in the stands.
In fact, with the '86 and '88 Mets, the '95 Reds, the '96 and '97 O's, here is Davey's record at home in postseason play: 10-13. At home. This is not the mark of a good manager. (UPDATE: After managing the Washington Nationals to the 2012 NL East title, but choking in the NLDS, his home postseason record stands at 11-15.)

Yet he always thought the umps were against him. No, Davey, what was against you was your own ineptitude. The Mets won it all in '86 in spite of you, not because of you. A good manager would've gotten that team at least 1 more Pennant, and possibly as many as 4 more. (Then again, maybe they weren't really that great.)

But, as they say in the Highlander franchise, In the end, there can be only one.

1. Joe Paterno, Pennsylvania State University football. Ol' Ratface spent the better part of 30 years picking on the teams now in the Big East Conference, then went to the Big Ten. Penn State fans whine about how, with undefeated teams in 1969, 1970, 1973 and 1994, the Nittany Lions were not awarded the National Championship.
Admit it: He does look like a rat.

Maybe it's karma for Paterno running up the score on weaker Eastern opponents, thus inflating his team's record. And also for poaching players from other territories. Two of his best players -- Franco Harris of Mount Holly and Rancocas Valley High, and Kenny Jackson of South River -- were among the many he has poached from New Jersey, and whose first choice could have been Rutgers. He's taken New Yorkers away from Syracuse, New Englanders away from Boston College, and Chesapeake Valley players away from Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

The last time Penn State played Rutgers, at Giants Stadium in 1995, Penn State was leading 52-34, and Paterno had his quarterback pass. With an 18-point lead near the end of the game. Touchdown, 59-34. When it was over, Rutgers coach Doug Graber -- whose job was in jeopardy and was indeed fired after the season, though he has returned to RU as a radio broadcaster -- did not shake Paterno's hand afterward, instead telling him what a classless SOB he is. Well, that may not have been Graber's exact phrase, but it might as well have been.
And this great patriotic conservative Christian known as "Saint Joseph" among his fans, he cursed right back. Later, he apologized to the press for his profanity -- but not for his classless coaching, saying, "I should not have to apologize for (my quarterback) doing what he has been coached to do." (I won't name that quarterback here: He's a henchman, not the villain.)

Now that Rutgers is a consistent winner, that cowardly old bastard won't play us. Come on, Ratface, you deserve one last lesson in manners before you head off to that great press box in the... core of the Earth.
Among Rutgers' football opponents, there is no Number 2. Princeton? The last time Princeton football mattered at what we would now call the Division I-A level, I wasn't born yet, and besides, how can I hate Princeton? They have done nothing to upset me.

Syracuse? Nah, aside from their ugly uniforms, there's nothing truly offensive about them. Pitt? Well, Jackie Sherrill… Nah, he didn't piss me off enough. UConn? In football? Forget it. Probably the closest is Bobby Petrino from his Louisville days, but that was a brief interlude, much like the Mets-Braves "rivalry."

Paterno is eternal. An eternal evil. When he finally dies, the Shittany Lions will probably mummify him and turn the Beaver Stadium press box into their own version of Lenin's Tomb. They already call the stadium "Saint Joe Paterno Cathedral."

For longevity, for amount of defeats, for size of defeats, for style of defeats, for arrogance, and, yes, for ugliness (he really does look like a rat), Joe Paterno tops the list.
Congratulations, Penn State: You are Number 1. You dirty bastards.

UPDATE: You'll notice I wrote this 2 years before the scandal that brought him down, and probably ended his life months or years before it otherwise would have ended.