Monday, October 4, 2010

Wasted Weekend

This weekend, I had a grand total of one beer. Which is one under my usual intake. But I still feel wasted.

Yes, on Friday night, East Brunswick High won, beating Woodbridge, 7-0. But those new helmets? Oy! Dear Old Alma Mater dropped the copies they made of the Jets' helmets ("EB" replacing "NY" and "BEARS" replacing "JETS"), and even dropped the green center stripe, for a helmet with outstretched bear paws. Ew! I loved the 1978-83 edition with the bear paw prints on the sides, and the 1984-97 version with the script "Bears" and the paw prints on the shoulders, and I was fine with the 1998-2009 look that mimicked the Jets. But this is awful.

Yes, on Saturday night, the New York Red Bulls beat the Kansas City Wizards 1-0 on a goal by Dane Richards. And, yes, the Yankees did beat the Boston Red Sox 6-5 in 10 innings in the first game of a rain-forced doubleheader. And they went into that second game with a chance of winning the American League Eastern Division title for the 18th time, including 13 in the last 17 years.

But on Saturday afternoon, Rutgers University lost. At home. On Homecoming. To Tulane. This is not 1934: Tulane is no longer a college football power. Rutgers was down 17-14 and driving into Tulane territory at the end, needing only 20 or so yards for a game-tying field goal, and they committed stupid penalties.

Then, in the second game of the doubleheader, again it went 10 innings, but this time the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, 7-6. And the Tampa Bay Rays, who obliged the Yankees by losing on Thursday and Friday nights, won, so for Sunday the Yankees no longer controlled their own destiny: Even if they want, Tampa would still have had to lose for the Yanks to win the Division.

On Sunday morning, it got worse: Arsenal, with all their injuries, went into Stamford Bridge and held defending Double winners Chelsea scoreless for the first 37 minutes. No Cesc Fabregas, no Robin van Persie, no Theo Walcott, no Nicklas Bendtner, not surprising that they hadn't scored. But no Thomas Vermaelen, and with the unreliable Lukasz Fabianski in goal in place of the slightly more reliabe Manuel Almunia, it was stunning that they were even. Sorry, forgot to "speak English" there: They were level.

Then Didier Drogba, as he always does against Arsenal (or anyone else, for that matter), scored. Can't blame it on the players who were hurt, or those who weren't, including "Flap-hand-ski": No one was stopping this one. Arsenal were still only 1-0 down in the 85th minute, so the one point that would have come with a draw, and maybe even the three points that would have come with a miracle 2-1 win, were not out of reach. They were still in it. But Chelsea's Brazilian midfielder Alex Rodrigo Dias da Costa (like many Brazilian players he is professionally known by just one name, Alex) scored another wonder goal to make it a 2-0 final.

On the one hand, Arsenal put up a great effort despite being, yet again, at half-strength. If they can do that at Fortress Stamford Bridge, think of what they can do with a healthy lineup. On the other hand, until they learn how to stop Drogba, they're not going to beat Chelsea, and until they can beat Chelsea, they're not going to win the Premier League. Same is true for every other team.

And finally, on Sunday afternoon, the Yankees just went through the motions, losing 8-4 to the Red Sox. In the top of the 8th, they were down 8-3, but had the bases loaded with 2 out. A hit, and they could close the gap. A home run, and they would be within 2 runs, and maybe they could get to Jonathan Papelbon again. But Jorge Posada, who is looking more and more done all the time, hit a weak grounder instead of his usual October output. In a game that turned out to be meaningless, the Rays beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 in 12 innings.

I said after the last Yanks-Rays series that if the Yanks could take 2 out of 3 in their 3 remaining series, 6 out of 9, they would win the Division. Instead, they won just 3 out of 9, and finished 1 game back. Had they won 6 out of 9, they would have finished 2 up.

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So the Rays win the AL East for the 2nd time in the last 3 years. They get home-field advantage against the Western Division Champion Texas Rangers, winning their 5th Division Title in franchise history, but their first in 11 years, and their all-time record in postseason games is a whopping 1-9. Of course, all of those games were against the Yankees. This is the first time they'll be facing someone else. I suspect they'll fall flat, and if we want a Yanks-Rays rematch for the Pennant, the Rays will probably hold up their end of the bargain.

The Yankees, meanwhile, go into the Playoffs as the AL's Wild Card, and will face the Central Division Champion Minnesota Twins. This is the Twins' 11th Division Title (4 in the old version of the AL West, the last 7 in the AL Central), and their 7th in the last 9 years. On 3 of those occasions (2003, '04 and '09) they played the Yankees, and their record against the Yankees in postseason play is a dispiriting 2-9, only slightly better than the Rangers'. And they will be without injured first baseman and 2006 AL Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau. But the Yankees have been a sub-.500 team the last 2 months -- 29-31 -- so who knows.

Game 1 will be Wednesday night in Minneapolis, the first-ever postseason game in the Twins' new Target Field. Game 2 will be Thursday night in Minneapolis. Game 3 will be Sunday night at the new Yankee Stadium. If Game 4 is necessary, Sunday night at Steinbrenner Memorial Coliseum. If Game 5 is necessary, Tuesday night in Minneapolis.

The National League East was won by the Philadelphia Phillies, for the 4th straight time (the first time a Philadelphia team has ever reached 4 straight postseasons) and the 10th time overall. They and will have home-field advantage over the Central Division winners, the Cincinnati Reds, winning their 10th Division title but only their 3rd in the Central after moving over from the old NL West (and that counts 1994 when they were in first place when the strike hit -- I could it, MLB officially doesn't). They have faced each other just once in postseason play, in 1976, when the Big Red Machine, in their last year before they began to get broken up, swept the rising Phils of Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton.

The San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres on the final day to clinch the NL West, and allowing the Atlanta Braves to win and beat the Padres out for the NL Wild Card. For the Giants, it is their 8th NL West title. The Giants and Braves had a memorable duel in 1993 for the last title in the old version of the NL West, with the Braves winning 104 games to the Giants' 103. However, this is the first time they have ever faced each other in postseason play.

Overall postseason berths, counting only in the cities where they currently play:

Yankees 49 -- 50 if you count being in 1st when the Strike of '94 hit.

Braves 17 -- 18 if you count being in position to win the Wild Card when the Strike of '94 hit, and 22 if you count their Boston and Milwaukee appearances.

Reds 13 -- 15 if you count being in 1st when the Strike of '94 hit and their lost '99 "play-in game" against the Mets for the Wild Card.

Phillies 13.

Twins 12 -- 15 if you count what they did as the original Washington Senators.

Giants 9 -- 10 if you count their lost '98 "play-in game" against the Cubs for the Wild Card, 26 if you count their New York days.

Rangers 4 -- 5 if you count being in 1st when the Strike of '94 hit, but they never made it as the new Senators.

Rays 2.

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Nice to see Philadelphia Eagles fans give Donovan McNabb a standing ovation when he came back to Lincoln Financial Field as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins. They booed him when he arrived, and they booed him through much of his tenure as the quarterback for the Broad Street Birds. Now, they cheer him, knowing that, at the end of last season, the Eagles had Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb, and chose to dump the wrong one. Oh yeah, the Redskins won, 17-12.

Nice to see New York Giants fans give Tiki Barber a standing boo when he was introduced as part of the Ring of Honor at the new Meadowlands Stadium at halftime of yesterday's game. A, It was only by getting rid of Tiki that the Giants became a Super Bowl winner; B, Is it just me, or do the Giants only seem to have problems with Coach Tom Coughlin when Tiki opens his fat mouth? He may be the all-time leading rusher in New York Tri-State Area pro football history -- 10,449 yards, while Curtis Martin got 10,302 of his 14,101 yards with the Jets -- but if Tiki were as smart as he thinks he is, he would have sent identical twin brother Ronde Barber (who did get a ring, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of all teams) to take the boos in his place. Who among the 82,000 on hand would've known?

Oh yeah, the Giants won, 17-3, beating the Chicago Bears thanks to 10 sacks of Bear quarterback Jay Cutler. And the Jets throttled the Buffalo Bills, 38-14 in Orchard Park. As Governor Mario Cuomo used to say, the Bills are the only NFL team in the State of New York, but at the rate the Jets are going, come February, they may get a parade up Broadway in Manhattan, thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In the increasingly unlikely event that the lying hyocritical lunatic Carl Paladino wins the Governorship, he wouldn't spend the money on a parade for the Jets.

Not because he's a crazy conservative who doesn't think the government should spend any money, except on him, but because he's from Buffalo. His home team hasn't gone as far as the rules of the time allowed them to go since 1964 and '65, when the Bills won the last 2 AFL Championships before the AFL winners were allowed to play the NFL winners in a World Championship Game. The Bills never got to play Super Bowl -II against the Cleveland Browns or Super Bowl -I against the Green Bay Packers.

The quarterback of those Bills teams was Jack Kemp, who liked to tell his political audiences, "I suffered 11 concussions as a professional quarterback. Eleven concussions. Nothing left to do but run for Congress!" Always got a laugh.

He also liked to say, "People say I'm arrogant, but I know better!" Well, he wasn't as arrogant as Crazy Carl Paladino.

Kemp was a conservative, but he wasn't a Tea Partier. He liked to say that, due to his sports background, he had showered with more black people than most Republicans had ever met. He believed in cities. He believed in helping people get jobs. He also believed tax cuts were the way to do it; well, nobody's perfect.

He died of cancer in 2008, at age 73. If he had lived 2 more years, and seen just how far the Republican Party had strayed from what he tried to build in the 1970s and '80s, I think he would have died of a broken heart.

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