Friday, November 30, 2012

Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest Plays Reviewed

Another book fair at school means another 30 bucks wasted...usually.  We usually fork over our hard earned money so DLG can buy a shark book that she's too scared to read at home, or so C can buy a basketball book, a copy of which is already in his room.  This year, G actually purchased a book that was interesting to read.  Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest.  A picture coffee book.  Yes my 8 year old son just bought a coffee table book.

Now the book is chock full of lists like footballs greatest wide receiver and teams.  But one list really stood out.  Football's Greatest Plays.  This afforded us a great opportunity to look at some of football's history (which interests me) and perhaps will get G excited about football even more.

Immaculate Reception.  G loved this play.  Franco Harris catches a ball at his shoe tips after it ricochets off of the primary receiver.

"It looked like he was out of bounds right before he scored."  Not even close but I liked his thinking (he's not a big Steelers fan). 

David Tyree's Catch.  No need to dwell on this.  "How did he catch that?"  Luck.  "He caught it on his helmet."  "Is David Tyree still playing?"  No, because he's terrible.

The Catch.  How is Montana a great quarterback he had three interceptions in that game.  When you watch that play, it's certainly iconic, but not one of the best plays of all time.

Miracle at the Meadowlands.  That was cool.  "But why didn't he just take a knee?"  Even my 8 year old son called out these guys.

Santonio Holmes catch in the Super Bowl.  Yawn.

Music City Miracle. Paul Maguire and Joe Thiesmann and Wade Phillips were all involved in this play?  Outstanding.  I loved how the entire stadium surrounded the referee as he was under the hood reviewing the call.  G thought that the quarterback made a great throw.  And by the way, that was a LATERAL!

James Harrison's Return for a Touchdown.  Seriously, 2 of the top 10 plays of all time are from the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl?  Could they not get rights to any other games?

The Tackle.  Dyson was involved again on another play involving the 1999 Tennessee Titans.  Mike Jones made a great play in this super bowl

Lynn Swann's catch.  Meh.  I do notice though that the Steelers are involved in 4 of the top 10 plays of all time.  Where is Adam Vinitieri's field goals.  What about Wide Right?

Drew Pearson Hail Mary.  That was offensive pass interference, but that's OK.

Now where will that book be in December?  Yes, you're right.  It will be in a drawer somewhere collecting dust.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mike Napoli is the Red Sox Best Option?

Is Mike Napoli on the way to Boston?  Jeez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia cannot catch a break.  C and G both think that he strikes out way too much, the Red Sox bring it yet another catcher to share duties with him (David Ross), the Red Sox highly touted prospect always seems to be Ryan Lavarnway, even though he has been highly-touted for about 8 years and now, the Red Sox are seriously courting Mike Napoli to takes some catching away from him and to play some First Base.

But What's wrong with Saltalamacchia?  Or more importantly, what's so great about Mike Napoli?  Consider these 2011 statistics...

24 HRs 56 RBIs .227 BA .343 OBP 110 OPS+

Saltalamacchia didn't have that bad of a year did he?  Except that these aren't Saltalamacchia's statistics, they're Napoli's playing in a batter friendly Rangers Ballpark.  The Rangers didn't even bother extending Napoli a contract for 2013  meaning that if Napoli signs somewhere else, the Rangers won't get any compensation.  Now Napoli is reportedly trying to squeeze a fourth year from the Red Sox while Saltalamacchia is left twisting in the wind.  But how can a guy be so important if his own team won't even offer him a deal?

Don't get me wrong.  Napoli is a decent, if not outstanding, player.  He's a pretty good clubhouse guy.  He has hit 9 home runs in 24 career games at Fenway Park, and his swing is tailor made for the Green Monster.  And the Red Sox do have a huge hole at First Base now that Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez have both been shipped out of Town.

But is Napoli the Red Sox's best option for replacing Gonzalez' bat?  Are things that bad in the free agent market that the Red Sox are seriously considering giving 40 million dollars to someone like Napoli believing that will solve a lot of their problems?   

And is Saltalamacchia now going to be the next one shipped out of Town?  With Lavarnway, David Ross and Jonny Gomes in the fold already and Napoli perhaps joining them, the Red Sox are rich in no-field, big hit hitters at catcher/first base.

It's going to be a long 2013 campaign at Fenway, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Celtics Now Have The Brooklyn Nets to Hate

It wasn't that long ago that the Celtics only major rival in these parts was the New York Knicks.  Yes, I know about the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, but those aren't geographic rivals, they are rivals of convenience, almost made up for television.  Geographic rivals, especially between New York City and Boston, take on a new dimension.  There is hatred amongst fans, players and media alike.  The games just meant a little more when the opponent was New York City.  I really don't fee that with LA or Miami.

Before this year, it was just the Knicks.  Now there are two teams in New York City that can fight each other and fight the Celtics.  When the Brooklyn Nets were in New Jersey, they were every bit as futile as their poor record would indicate.  We went to the Celtics - Nets game a couple of years ago, right when the Nets were challenging the 76ers record for fewest wins in a season and determined that indeed they were the worst team in the NBA.  Things have changed a lot since that cold, winter night back in 2010.  The Nets were purchased by Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov back in 2010 and he immediately made wholesale changes, using his vast oil resources to change a moribund franchise into a go-to basketball destination.  One of those changes was to move with Jay-Z to Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn from NJ.  New York State of Mind and all. 

More importantly, the personnel has changed as well.  Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez now lead a team that is 4-2 in the Atlantic Division, percentage points ahead of the Celtics.  No longer are the Brooklyn Nets the Celtics' little baby, they are a legitimate team looking to compete with the Celtics and the New York Knicks for the coveted Atlantic Division spot in the playoffs (meaning the third seed).  I mean this team was 22-44 last year!

C and G are even fascinated enough to join me for this game.  And LC joins in if only to see some drama with Kris Humphries and the Kardashians (They split up a long time ago, sweetheart, I don't think any of them will be there - no matter where Dash might be).

7:30pm.  Welcome to the Barclays Center.  Nothing like a European Bank sponsoring an arena in Flatbush.  Welcome to the USA! 

Rajon Rondo is out with a bad ankle, meaning Leandro Barbosa takes the starting spot.  Immediately I think he will have a bad game since he can't come in in the Fourth Quarter and light things up, he will probably end up with 10 points on 3-12 shooting.  The Celtics are also playing a second game in two nights, which is not good for an old franchise like the Boston Celtics. 

Brooklyn, itself comes out in the most drab Black and White home uniforms.  They definitely don't look like they will light anything up.  The drabness is almost to the point that the simple design is brilliant.  I guess it's an ode to the old Brooklyn Dodgers?  The funny thing is, is that they show the banners up in the rafters and they all have the Nets colors.  Not many championship banners hanging there, by the way.  And no I don't really care about the ABA Championships.

I love the pre-game analysis about the Celtics once having the biggest team in the league with Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal and Kendrick Perkins - uh...they never played together...But in listening to Marv Albert, I'll let Steve Kerr go.  It's ok. 

The crowd seems a little more subdued than one would expect though.  I guess, for a new franchise, situated just a couple of miles from the home of another team, the team has to generate some new fans.  I'm curious whether Brooklyn-ites actually root for the Nets, rather than the Knicks.  Welcome to the new New York.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not Everyone Can Win the Super Bowl

G now knows how the Patriots feel.  And the Vikings and the Buffalo Bills, too.  Anyone can MAKE the Super Bowl, but not everyone can win the Super Bowl once they get there.

It all started back in the end of July.  I had just got done doing double duty coaching little league and summer baseball for C and G.  I was also an assistant for DLG's Tee Ball team (Mom was going to coach that team, thank you very much).  I had coached G last year as a 2nd Grader in football, but only in an assistant's capacity.  Because of that "experience," I was named head coach of the 3rd Grade team this year the last week of July.  My first thought was that we needed to improve on our 0-7 campaign last year.  Well my first thought was actually how I was going to pull this off while busy at work.  My second thought, was improving our record.

What followed was three weeks of intensive coaching and league requirements.  I felt like I was on a job interview when I first met the League President on a warm summer afternoon at the field.  I grabbed the roster and the equipment bag and started doing some game and practice planning in my head as he was explaining the dos and don't of coaching in this league (Had my reputation from baseball proceeded me?).  That job interview turned into a full time job, I soon found out.

And as the days turned into weeks leading into our first game, I had a feeling that we were going to be pretty good.  Maybe even a playoff team.  We had a good QB, a good running back and a lot of aggressive kids who wanted to play defense.  G was our starting Right Tight End, and for those of you who know youth football, that's the position that the kid who can catch a pass plays.  And G can really catch a pass.  And while 87 was unavailable (Gronkowski's number is popular in our league), he was just as psyched to get 83, Wes Welker's number.

Not even an uneven performance in our first game could deter my confidence.  That game turned out to be the only game we lost in the regular season, going 6-1-1 over our 8 game schedule.  We ended up winning the coin toss to be the 1st seed and went into the playoffs as the 1st place team. 

In our first playoff game, we played probably our best game, beating a tough East Bridgewater team 26-0.  But did we peak too early?  The week before the Super Bowl was met by a Nor'easter, practices in gyms rather than our normal field, a pasta dinner the night before the game and a police escort for our team bus the afternoon of the game.

I think we probably did peak a little early.  We looked flat during the pregame warm ups.  Even our pregame speeches fell on somewhat deaf ears.  But our kids found a way to stay in the game.  After scoring a touch down in our first series, we could not get anything else going as we went into the half tied at 6.  When our opponent came out and scored a quick touch down to start the second half, I knew that we were going to be facing a tough up hill battle.  The team ended up losing the Super Bowl 12-6.  The kids made a valiant effort, we just ran out of time.

So now off season planning has begun.  Off season work outs will be instituted.  I want to do some weight training as well, but that just sounds psychotic.  I won't go that far.

Until my kids get into the 5th Grade, that is.