Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nobody Asked Me, But...

December 5, 1973, 40 years ago: Jimmy Cannon, who practically invented the newspaper sports column as we know it today, died.

In his spirit, many a columnist has begun a column with his tagline, "Nobody asked me, but... "

Well, here I go, with a few random thoughts. Nobody asked me, but...

Nelson Mandela did a little boxing. He knew Yankee Stadium as the place where Joe Louis struck a blow against bigotry, using the decidedly non-Nazi Max Schmeling as a stand-in for Adolf Hitler and all other fascists.

When Mandela came to New York in June 1990, 4 months after being released from prison, he knew who had supported him. He knew America had been home to much of his support.

Although not all of America supported him: President Ronald Reagan vetoed sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime in 1986. That vote was overridden: 78 Senators voted to override, 11 more than necessary; 21 opposed, all Republicans; but 31 Republicans voted to override. Among the members of the House of Representatives who unsuccessfully voted against repeal was Dick Cheney of Wyoming, and he has publicly stated that he didn't regret the vote, calling Mandela a "terrorist."

The difference between a "freedom fighter" and a "terrorist" is often the difference between winning and losing. Mandela was no terrorist. He was a freedom fighter. He was even a "community organizer." His community was a tribe, then it became a subset of a country, then the entire country, then a continent, and finally a planet.

And so, when he came to New York in June 1990, there was a rally in his honor at Yankee Stadium. He put on a Yankee cap and a Yankee jacket (even though it was June -- South Africa gets plenty hot, so he wasn't fazed by the weather), and declared, "I am a Yankee!"

The next night, Yankee Stadium was sold out... by a Billy Joel concert. "Mandiba" and "BJ" could sell The Stadium out that year; the last-place, 67-95 Yankees couldn't.

*

Speaking of the Yankees:

Signing Brian McCann as the new catcher was a good move. He can field the position, and he can hit. He'll wear Number 34.

Signing Jacoby Ellsbury was a good move. With Curtis Granderson leaving, we need a new center fielder, and there will be no dropoff in hitting, speed or defense. Maybe in power, but not by much.

It was cute that the Daily News and the Post had the same back page headline: ELLSBURY DOUGH BOY.

Red Sox fans are already in full "traitor" mode for Ellsbury. Well, to hell with them.

Ellsbury wore Numbers 46 and 2 in Boston. Yeah, he's gonna need another number with the Yankees.

The Yankees will, of course, need at least one new starting pitcher, probably 2. So much for the Sons of Steinbrenner keeping the Yankees under a $189 million payroll, so as not to be hit with the luxury tax for the 2014 season.

The aforementioned Grandy Man is gone. To the Mets!

Now, I still like the guy, but I have to question his judgment. Why would he leave Yankee Stadium II and its short porch in right field for Citi Field and its pitcher-friendly environs?

And how are the Mets, their finances still recovering from getting Madoffed, supposed to afford Granderson? A serious what-the-hell move by the Other Team.

Look, if Curtis Granderson is on the market, and I own a team, and I can afford him, I go after him. The question, is, can the Mets afford him? Last I heard, no. And yet.

So, whither goest Robinson Cano? The Seattle Mariners -- who are also, supposedly, cash-poor at the moment -- are said to have made him a bigger offer than the Yankees thus far have.

Cano has to be bluffing. No way he goes to Seattle, where the team is terrible, the ballpark is pitcher-friendly, attendance is way down from the M's 1995-2001 glory days, and the media exposure and chances for endorsements are significantly below what they are in New York.

But even if he's not bluffing, and we lose him, getting Mark Teixeira back for a full season (and he says he's already ready to go), plus getting Derek Jeter back for a full season, and replacing Granderson's production with Ellsbury's, puts us at least a little ahead in the hitting department.

*

The Alabama kicker is getting death threats. Seriously?

I'm not going to tell you football -- especially the Iron Bowl -- is "just a game" or "only a game." But death threats?

But even if you only want to blame him, and do no worse than heap scorn upon him, you're an idiot. It was a 57-yard field goal attempt. Even the best pro kickers have trouble with that.

How about blaming the Alabama offense for not getting him closer?

How about blaming the Alabama offense for not stopping the return?

How about blaming the Alabama defense for not holding Auburn to 27 or fewer points, making the attempt unnecessary?

How about blaming coach Nick Saban for not anticipating the possibility? The guy's won 3 National Championships (2 there, 1 at Louisiana State), so surely he's smart enough to have figured it out!

How about crediting Auburn for winning the ballgame?

Prior to Alabama vs. Auburn, there was Ohio State vs. Michigan.  O-State won 42-41 by stopping a 2-point conversion.

This was 29 years, minus 1 day, before the most devastating loss in the history of East Brunswick High School sports: December 1, 1984, a date which leaves in Emerald infamy. We lost the Central Jersey Group IV title -- essentially, the State Championship -- and an undefeated season when a receiver, wide open in the end zone, dropped a pass for a 2-point conversion that would have ended it.

And yet, I didn't think of it at the time of Michigan's 2-point attempt.

For me, that's progress. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Both times, as with the Nebraska failure at the Orange Bowl 11 months before, costing them the National Championship and giving it to Miami, going for 2 was the right call.

But I don't see Michigan fans issuing death threats to their quarterback for throwing that pass, which was intercepted. (And not returned all the way.)

Ohio State scored 42 points against a very good Michigan team. Michigan scored 41 points against a great Ohio State team.

And Rutgers, who lost to 1-9 Connecticut at the same time, wants to joint he Big Ten?

It's gonna be a long 2014 season On the Banks of the Old Raritan.

*

Why can't the Devils win in a shootout?

You know all that goodwill that Peter DeBoer got for winning the season's first 2 games against the Rangers? Yeah, that's gone.

The clock is ticking.

*

Being American, I don't watch the BBC program (or "programme," as they'd say) Match of the Day -- England's late soccer roundup. But my sources (Gooners on Twitter) tell me that, an hour into the show last night, they still hadn't discussed the day's win by the first-place team in the Premier League.

That would be Arsenal, who beat Hull City 2-0, thanks to goals scored at the beginning of each half, one by the little-used, mainly-mocked Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner; and one by the much-hyped, mainly-lauded German midfielder Mesut Ozil.

Arsenal are top of the Premier League, and top of their Champions League group. "Group of Death," my ass: It's a group of death because Arsenal are in it.

Meanwhile, David Moyes, who managed Everton for 11 years, finally saw Everton win at Old Trafford home of Manchester United. Problem was, Moyes is now the manager at United.

*

I expect Time magazine to name either Pope Francis or Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Afghan girl who was a victim of religious extremism and has survived to become the leading voice against its opposition in her part of the world, as its Person of the Year.

Time, Inc. also owns Sports Illustrated. I don't know who they're going to name Sportsman of the Year. It won't be LeBron James, as they've never had a back-to-back winner, or even a 2-time winner except for Tiger Woods -- who, as we all know, isn't even an athlete, he's a golfer.

In 2004, SI collectively named the Red Sox, including David Ortiz. We now know the Red Sox in general, and Ortiz in particular, cheated.

Yet Ortiz is still permitted to play baseball, and the Red Sox won the World Series again in 2007. Ortiz was exposed as a cheater in 2009, and yet he was still permitted to play baseball, and not only did the Red Sox win the Series again in 2013, but Ortiz, the known cheater, was named Most Valuable Player of the Series.

Yeah, yeah, the Boston Marathon got bombed, and Ortiz helped the city heal. He gives to charity? So does Hamas. So did Al Capone. So does Don Imus.

If SI names Ortiz as its Sportsman of the Year, no Yankee should ever buy that magazine again.

*

Hours until the Devils play again: 20, tomorrow night, at 7:00 PM, home to the Detroit Red Wings.

Days until the Devils next play a local rival: 2, on Saturday night, at 7:30 PM, against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.  They next play the New York Islanders on Saturday, December 28, at 7:00 PM, at the Nassau Coliseum.  They next play the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at 7:30 PM, at home.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 2, on Saturday night, at 7:30 PM, vs. the University of South Florida at Rutgers Stadium. (I won't use the corporate name: This year's Scarlet Knight squad has had few high points, and no solutions.) This will be the last game of the season, as they've blown their chance to become bowl-eligible. It will also be the last game for Rutgers in the American Athletic Conference, the new name of the Big East Football Conference. Next year, the Big Ten. Oy vey...

Days until the Devils play the Rangers at Yankee Stadium: 52, on Sunday, January 26, 2014, at 12:30
PM.  Under 2 months.
Days until Arsenal play again: 3, on Sunday morning, 11:00 AM U.S. Eastern Time, home to Liverpool-based Everton.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 58, on Saturday, February 1, at 5:00 PM (2:00 Pacific Time), vs. the Republic of Korea (a.k.a. South Korea), at the StubHub Center (formerly the Home Depot Center) in Carson, California, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. For the moment, this is the only match in 2014 before the World Cup, but, most likely, there will be tuneup matches between the end of the European club season in May and the start of the tournament in June.

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 59, on Sunday, February 2, 2014, kickoff at around 6:25 PM.

Days until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia: 64, on Friday, February 7, 2014.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 94, on Saturday, March 8, 2014, 7:30 PM, away to the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Under 3 months.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 101, on Saturday, March 15, 2014, at White Hart Lane.

Days until the Yankees play again: 119, on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, time to be determined, away to the Houston Astros.  Under 4 months.

Days until the Yankees' home opener: 125, on Monday, April 7, 2014, at 1:00 PM (well, 1:07 or so), vs. the Baltimore Orioles.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 128, on Thursday, April 10, 2014, at 7:00 PM (well, 7:07 or so), at Yankee Stadium II.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 130, on Saturday, April 12, 2014, 2:30 PM, vs. D.C. United, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.

Days until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil: 190, on Thursday, June 12, 2014.  A little over 6 months. Tomorrow is the draw, when we find out who plays whom, and in what groups.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown, as the schedule has yet to be released.  Most likely, it will be on the 2nd Friday night in September.  If so, that will be September 12, 2014, therefore 282 days.  A little over 9 months.

Days until Rutgers makes its Big Ten Conference debut: 283 days, on Saturday, September 13, 2014, time to be determined, against old enemy Penn State.

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 358, on Thursday morning, November 27, 2014, 10:00 AM.

Days until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1,006, on Friday, August 5, 2016.  Under 3 years.

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