Thursday, September 28, 2006

Typical me, typical me

25 million reasons to want to be alive

I got an email yesterday from Brian, asking if I had any intention to chime in on the Terrell Owens saga in the blogosphere. The truth is, I have sent off a piece to popmatters and am waiting to hear back from them. If I don't hear anything by tomorrow EOD or I get a negative response, then I will just paste it up here and on TS for some weekend reading. As I said in my response to Brian, I was not really sure what my reaction would be to the news about T.O. I have never been shy about my dislike for Owens (especially Owens, the showboat) and I truly believe that the best case for all parties involved--from the media to the fans, to T.O.--would be to just ignore the guy, and everything he does. But realistically I know that isnt going to happen. I started my popmatters piece thinking it would be a rip-job on Owens and his publicist for not having the audacity to at least be honest about what happened that led to a 911-call from Owens' publicist (whose job is to keep Owens out of headlines involving things like drug overdoses, police reports, and hospitals.) I mean, she had "25 Million reasons" not to pick up that phone to call, to turn her own phrase around. There is really only ONE reason to call the police in that situation: you think someone's life is in danger. And when that someone reports he is trying to hurt himself, delirious or not, there are some issues there. Anyway, I changed my opinion on how I feel about T.O. in this circumstance, while I was writing, because on a personal level I could empathize, and I think we often lose touch of the fact that athletes are human-beings. Some of them just aren't very good ones. I speak about this more coherently in the piece I submitted so I will either link to it, or post it within the next few days. Update: the piece is in the Sports Editor's hands at Popmatters, so until I get a definitive YES or NO it won't be posted here.

Lanes Merge Ahead (or Some Thoughts on Old Konine)

Listen. Next time I say to anyone, "I am going to live with my parents for a few weeks between moving, and commute 90 minutes to work each way, while I work for 10 hours a day, and then go home eat, take care of my dog, plan my move, and try to apply for grad school..." just take me out back and bitch-smack me.

I mean seriously. Just brutalize me. I deserve it. I can't be waking up 75 minutes before the sun, any longer. It's not good for my sleeping habits--I just cannot get to sleep before midnight, never have, never will--and it has totally exacerbated my coffee intake habits. I tried to watch a baseball game last night and couldn't stop focusing on my hearts strange rhythmic beating. I felt like I was on a bad pill. And then I realized I was watching National League baseball, and one is wont to bore oneself so terribly doing such things, that it isn't unusual to find oneself meditating on one's own heartbeat. Truth be told, I am actually kind of hoping for the Phillies to make the play-offs...if only because it will be tremendously entertaining to watch my father try to repress the urge to root for--and ultimately berate--the team that, in his younger years, got him so worked up, he threw a radio out of his window when they folded during a pennant race.

Here's a quick (well, long) tidbit on my dad: it doesnt matter whose fault it really is when his team (Jets, Red Sox, Phils, whomever...) starts to mess up. It is always the manager or coaches fault. Last night there are men on first and second, one out, and Jeff Konine comes up. (I mean, this is Jeff Konine, if the guy can't bunt, you don't have any use for him anymore. Kids at an Orioles game this year called to him during batting practice once, and asked "hey coach, can you get some of the players to sign for us?" That's no joke.) So I say, "they should bunt here." and my dad gives me a wave of the hand" if Konine can contact, he can drive in a run." Now I am not a big fan of the bunt to push the runner over but A) this is National League baseball and B) Did I mention it was Jeff Konine hitting? Well Konine dribbles into the predictable double-play to end the inning and my dad hisses: "great job Manuel." Now, given the situation there are really two people you can blame for the circumstance that had just occured. And while Charlie Manuel is somewhere on the totem-pole of idiotic managers between Grady Little and Ron Gardenhire--he really cannot be blamed for Jeff Konine grounding into a DP there (unless of course you think Konine should have bunted, but we have established, already my father wanted the stick in Konine's hands.) So the two people you can blame are Jeff Konine (because he sucks) and ("Stand") Pat Gillick (because he decided to hand the Yankees one of the 15 or 20 best hitters in the game, along with a legitimate 5th starter for...uhm, well...So anyways, I mention this to Peter, who bristles and responds: "this team wouldn't be in the position they are in (by this, I suppose, he meant scrapping for a wild-card in the sloppy National League) if Abreu was still a Phillie." Ahh, the grand logic of it all. The Phillies troubles aren't ("Stand") Pat Gillick's fault for giving away Abreu and declaring to his fanbase that the Phillies had no chance of being a playoff team this year or next. No, the Phillies troubles are all to be blamed on Charlie Manuel, for...well, for...being in the dugout while Jeff Konine dribbled into a DP, of course. Nevermind that Abreu would look a little better than Konine in that 5-hole right now.

Later on, the immortal Tom Gordon blew a save giving up 17 balls on 26 pitches. The guy gets paid millions to come in for the ninth inning during close games, to, y'know, not blow it. Well he blew it. How did Pete respond? "Nice work, Manuel!"

A Defining and Profound Moment With a New Album

Well it wasn't Bonnie "Prince" Billy's new album that moved me most from the collection of CDs I purchased most recently. The Letting Go is good, but chalk this up as a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I just really can't say much more about the album then our friends over at pitchfork. It is, indeed, "cozy," and it is more standardly composed than his typical stuff. If it has any brethren in his previous catalog, it would probably be SuperWolf but the female vocals add a sense of celtic mysticism that is suprisingly pleasant with the otherwise rock-influenced sound. It's good, but I am not sure I have given it enough listening. Hopefully, it will grow on me. For now, I am not going to tell you to "go out and get it, immediately!" It's not for instance..

Destroyer's Rubies, which is the best album I have purchased since Sufjan Stevens' last. The thing is, in case I haven't made it abundantly clear, I am not a music writer. I don't understand the intricacies of music the way I comprehend the minutae of sports. But I know what I like and don't like, though I cannot say why sometimes (it just pleases me to hear some stuff, and doesn't please me to hear most) but since I have made a concerted effort to care about music the way that I care about sports, books (and to a lesser extent, films) I have had very few moments where music transcends simple pleasures and morphs into an experience of mind-blowing proportions. I realize it has become a bit passe to refer to specific songs, books, or movies as "mind-blowing" or worse, "life-altering." I don't know if I am just incapable of feeling this strongly about music, or if it is more simple: I hear music so often, and music is much more prolific (but not profound) an influence on my every day life than books and films. I mean, music is on at work, music is on in the car, music is on the stereo when drinking a beer and reading a book, music is on at Target...So I am constantly processing, and often enjoying (see Tapes n Tapes, or Calexico) some very fine music. But I rarely need to pause from it, and go "wow...." the way I have with, say, Ulysses or The Book of David or If On a Winter's Night, a Traveller or White Noise or...on, and on. Well this morning I did have that experience.

It was about 6:20 a.m. and I was plowing East on Rt. 78 (where a disturbing amount of profound shit has been coming to me, as of late) and the sky ahead was a perfect mix of autumn purples and pinks, and I was just digging on my Phillipsburg Deli Coffee, enjoying the fifth or six time through Rubies when I had a moment. I was perfectly at peace with the fact that I was up ridiculosuly early, driving for 90 minutes to sit in a cubicle and do mind-numbing work (when I am not sneaking away to work on blog-posts.) I realized that for all of the imperfections of Dan Bejars voice, and for all of the texture of musical sounds, and lyrical references in the album, there was an essential theme that wasn't very different than the theme of my own life, at this point and time. He is truly grappling with who he is, and how to define himself (artist or con-artist) and he is stuck in this meta-literature critique of who he is and wants to be, but is terrified of being insignificant, or worse, only being significant because he is something different and new. I am not really at the point in my life where I can fret my own significance, but I can relate to his fear of selling himself short to try to write and produce stuff that illicits immediate accolades. The fact remains, trends die fast and hard. Good sustainable art needs to be honest, and needs to be prudent to more than a small self-appointed elite. For Bejar the crowd to fear is the "precious American Underground" (see, aforementioned For me, right now, it is the people who will soon be dissecting each piece of my best writing collected over the past 5-10 years, and wittled down to a "Sample Portfolio." I have submitted the first portfolio this morning, and it is comprised of alot of work that might not suit the MFA crowd (maybe because it sucks, and maybe because it just isn't what they are looking for) but it is stuff I am proud of. And that's the most I can ask for from myself. As for being pertinent and sustainable...well, for the time being, let's just leave that to Bejar. Much like my father's penchant for Manager-hating, Destroyer's Rubies is as vital today as it was yesterday, and will be just as vital, or more-so, tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The blog world is having twins! (and I am one of them...)

The good-looking one, of course

Two tremendous slouches were born today!

I found what I love

Welcome back, Gammo. I'll let the comissioner speak for himself.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent.

Personified in this case by an 'orrible...ahh, Bill Belichick. Did God put you here to punish me?

Four things by way of introduction: The sports section of this post is decidedly not a bitter “my-team-should-have-won” rant; with that in mind, the Jets really are not terrible; with that in mind, the Pats really aren’t that great; moving sucks.

Making the Family Skeleton Dance

This weekend was about family, in good ways, and in bad. My brother, it seems, has lost his goddamn mind. It would not shock me in the least, if when Roger Clemens eventually comes to the Red Sox he kicks off their season opener with 7 perfect innings, and my brother picks up the phone during the 7th inning stretch and says “You know Rocket has a perfect game going, here?” Apparently this kids’ proclivity to curse a team on a roll is uncanny. To wit: First quarter of the ND game, the Irish are off to a bit of a slow start. They finally get some offense going with a nice drive, and follow that up with a nice sack and an interception on the defensive end. Great. The Irish D is playing pretty good ball. They took a lot of flack in the pre-season as a glaring weakness, and were identified as the reason Notre Dame couldn’t win a championship. 2.25 games into the season they seem to be proving some doubters wrong. Joe calls at this point, and excitedly declares: “This is NOT last year’s defense. With this D they can beat Ohio State.” Over the course of the next two Quarters the Wolverines score 24 unanswered, the Defense gets embarrassed, and Brady Quinn throws his way out of the Heismann conversation and maybe even the first round of the draft. College football needs to change their rules. Your team loses one game, and essentially there is not much of a reason to watch the remainder of the season. Thanks Joe.

Then get this: a little divine intervention gets me a quadruplet of tickets to the Jets game yesterday. I invite Joe. He can’t come. Doesn’t seem to have a reason. But whatever. So I invited my dad, obviously, and Uncle Fred, and then invited my Aunt along as well. Poor lady is a Jets and Phillies fan. So we are at the game, and if you watched you know that the first half was the most atrocious half of football the Jets put up since opening day 2005 (and that is saying something.) But you also know that the second half was probably the most promising half of football they have played in a couple years. After trailing by 24, the Jets make a run to get 14, and are knocking to make it a 3 point game. On the Pats 20 they have first and ten. The phone rings, and it’s Joe. “Hey you guys are watching an unbelievable comeback!” Like clockwork, the Jets inexplicably run twice for no gain, and then Chad gets sacked. They kick a field goal, the Pats manage the clock Brilliantly, so that even when they have their field goal blocked late the Jets don’t have enough time to march back and try to tie it. And the tone in my brothers voice was almost sadistic. Its like he was calling to jinx them. I kid you not.

The good news? I spent some time with some family members whom I probably don’t see enough, got to complain about the Jets with people who know what they are talking about. (Fred’s knowledge of team history is tremendous.) And just as importantly, the Jets played valiantly in a loss, which is more than you can say about almost every loss under Herm last year. I said at the beginning of the year that I would rather have a few extra losses, but at least a glimmer of hope that the team had a decidedly different character, and they showed that yesterday. Losing sucks, always, but it sucks a little less when you know your team is playing every down like it counts.

A few game notes, and then I will end the football meanderings:

Bill Belichick is smart. But he is also a hot-headed, arrogant, prick. Guys like this do two things, as coaches: they win; and they, inevitably, alienate themselves from other teams, league officials, and eventually their own players. I repeat, this is not a fan-boy rant, but Billy-boy made just as many STUPID moves, trying to be cute and arrogant yesterday, as he made smart ones.

Some smart ones from the GEEE-NEEE-USSS: rushing the offense when the Jets were mixing in packages so that they had to burn TOs or were caught offgaurd; short routes to get 5 when that’s exactly what they needed; clock management (how is it possible that the Patriots seem to be the only team in the NFL who know how to manage the damn clock?)

Some stupid Billy-moves: a pitch on 3rd and 7 when they were up 24 early in the third quarter. It was a message play: “I can do whatever I want. We are running all over you, and I will probably gain 6 yards and get this first down. If I don’t, oh well.” What ensued was 17 unanswered. Tom Brady didn’t get any rest (and got roughed up a bit in that final quarter, when he should have been resting with a secure lead.) and the Pats narrowly escaped with a win, when they really should have been marching out after a trouncing. The red-flag on the Cotchery play. Everyone in that stadium knew Cotchery got the TD. Bill was pissed at his D, didn’t take it out on them, and instead looked like a whiny child who didn’t get his way, debating a clear-cut TD. He threw away a TO for nothing. Taking the delay of game to push back your kicker 5 yards. If you hit that kick you have a ten point lead with less than a minute and a half to go. If you push it back five yards and burn the clock? Well the Pats did that, the kick got blocked and the Jets had almost a minute to try to tie the game. Something tells me that against better teams the Patriots fans are going to be pining for a few guys that Bill and the brain-trust decided were expendable. Their names are Branch, McGinest and Vinatieri. On the positive side for Pats fans: Teddy Bruschi is not overrated. Nor is Tom Brady.

Moving. Just Keep Moving.

I hate moving. You throw out tons of crap that you never should have had in the first place, and give away even more of said “junk,” you put your life into boxes, and sit around in desolate empty rooms, waiting to trade spaces. You spend your weekend in Lowes and Linens and Things, and you tread water. Then you move and it takes weeks, or months to settle in and get things the way you want them to be. It sucks. But in this case it will be worth it. Some good news: you get to eat out more often. I had an amazing hamburger on Friday night, as well as the best Oktoberfest I think I have ever had. Brewer, in particular, is confused about the wreckage that is our former apartment. Maybe he is just wondering why his peoples cut his hair down.

Nick Cafardo gets it wrong (and his editor doesn’t bail him out.)

Not sure what the hell Nick Cafardo was thinking when he decided to write this little bit in his article about how David Murphy (for some unspecified reason) needs to live up to his hype on a shorter time-frame because he was a first round pick in 2003:

“The '03 draft produced Rocco Baldelli, Mark Teixeira, Jose Reyes, Joe Mauer, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana, Travis Haffner, Hanley Ramirez, Rich Harden, Lastings Milledge, Brandon Wood, Nick Markakis, Chad Cordero, and Rickey Weeks.”

The truth is that Johan was drafted in 1995 (and won the Cy Young in his FIFTH year in the league, 2004.) Mauer and Teixeira were draftees in 2001, Hafner (with one, “F,” Mr. Cafardo) was drafted in 1996 but didn’t make the pros until 2002, and Morneau was drafted in 1999! That is just atrocious reporting. But it amazes me that it made it past an editors desk. I am not the smartest baseball fan in the world and I noticed most of these errors on first glance. The rest I identified with about two minutes of research. How does an editor not pick these up?! Good question, Geoff. I emailed the Globe and will let you know what I hear.

Going to pick up the new BPB album tomorrow and will hopefully be able to provide a little more insight than you might find elsewhere. Don't drink and review, people. Also, I have a review of To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever, that I never submitted to I will try to get that posted here, soon. This week: packing. This weekend: fun with the college gentlemens. But we’ll talk before then, won’t we?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Things I don't Remember: How the Hell'd We Get Here?!

The Artist Formerly Known as "NBB" and before that "TBK" (now given an 82 out of 100, by Dr. Benjamin Cooper.)

Yet another name change, folks. Just to review, this is now the third title for this blog, and I guess with each name-change, I have shifted focus a little bit, so why make this any different. TBK (or The Bees Knees--which this site remains, in concept) was something of an extension from the myspace blog...a way for me to share the blog with people who didn't y'know, have fashion mullets, read Kierkegaard, and listen to Depeche Mode. People like my parents. Anyway, the idea there was to talk about everything "culture" from books to sports to politics to music. Then I realized that I wasn't talking so much about, well, ANYTHING, except sports. So I got a little one-track-minded, shifted the name to "Namath's Booze Breath" to honor my favorite child-hood hero turned drunken slob, turned national embarassment. I guess my goal is to mesh the two a little better. That is, to still discuss sports but perhaps in a more relevant way, and to (however incongruous it may be) discuss whatever else is going on: what I am reading, a little voyeurism into my own life, midterm elections, TV, movies, music. A virtual bar discussion. Or "bar monologue" as it may be (hence the name, harkening back to the old German Beer Halls...and thanks to Tim for the suggestion.) Hopefully the result will be more palatable for more people...something more along the lines of what I had going on in the first incarnation of my blog, at the previous site. They say "You can never go home again," but we'll see. To start off on the right foot: a little football, followed by some voyeurism, and some closing thoughts on a few CDs. Thanks for the patience as Darwinism does its thing to my site.

Like Deja Vu All Over Again

"The Patriots front office doesn't miss a trick." -- This statement comes from Don Banks' Sports Illustrated write-up from week one. Like almost everything the mainstream media says about the Patriots, I found it hard to actually take-in. (I was too busy plugging my nose from the scent of Kraft-excrement on Banks' breath.) Banks makes this gushing exclamation as an introduction to what, I can only assume, Banks thinks is a cute little story: Last month as the Pats prepared for their season-opener against the Bills, the team went out and signed on a former Bills receiver who was under the impression that he would be on the starting day roster. For the next three weeks they grilled him for every bit of info he had on the Bills defense. Then they cut him. Banks, of course, finds this sooo clever. Nevermind the fact that Jonathan Smith (the ex-Bills receiver in question) was probably looking forward to being a member of an NFL team, and taking home a paycheck to feed his family. Nobody cares about the replacement-level receivers here, people. The story, here, is how SMART that Foxboro front office is! Wing-ding-diddly-doo, how brilliant they are!! And little anecdotes like this are the reason I am truly starting to believe I hate the Patriots more than I despise their baseball doppelgangers from the Bronx. The thing about the Yankees is they go about their business (that is to say "winning") the right way. Say what you will about the pay-roll. It sucks, and it bores me to tears that teams can, and do, buy rings, but that's the nature of the league as it is currently constituted. The best teams are the ones who can afford the best players. Just ask my '04 Sox (second highest payroll in the league.) Outside of this (admittedly significant) abberation, the Yankees are one of the "classiest" organizations in sports. It sickens me to hear their fans talk about this quality, but in alot of ways it is true. Witness the events of the past few weeks. Following the comments Ortiz made about Jeter, "The Captain" responded brilliantly and with the kind of leadership, and team-player attitude that Papi should be showing in this awful stretch, something along the lines of: "we don't worry about individual awards, here. We are playing for a championship." After John Lester was diagnosed with Lymphoma, there was a giant boquet of flowers sent to his locker within 24 hours. The sender? The New York Yankees. See? Class. And at every opportunity the sports media has, they try to paint the Yanks as a villified franchise. But the Pats? Nah, the Pats breaking some guys heart and punching out his last breath of hope at staying in the NFL? Well that's just smart work by the suits in Foxboro. Disgusting. (I need a few minutes to wash my face after that Yankees brown-nosing.)

We're back. Y'know, I can't remember the most recent time the Jets beat the Pats? That's not Hyperbole. That's a fact. Some research tells me it was week 16, 2002. I really can't remember where I was, then. Logic tells me I must have been at Lehigh. But I wasn't 21, so I wasn't at a bar... The point of this? I remember Jets games. Particularly important ones. For instance, I rememer week 17 of that same year very distinctly: a W over Green Bay to eek into the playoffs. I was in Meg's parents' attic. I remember a week 16 game against the Patriots at the end of a very unspectacular 2003. A certain sideline incident lent its name to the second incarnation of this blog. And perhaps that moment is very telling as to why I can't remember the last time the Jets beat the Pat-men: it epitomized what a painfully, excrutiatingly embarassing stretch the last three years of this rivalry has been. It's been one-sided. It's been what the Sox-Yanks was from the mid-90's to 2004. And perhaps that's why this rivalry is consuming me in ways that the Yankees one no longer can: because, as much as Sox fans hated to admit it, what kept that rivalry thriving was the sense of entitlement the fans from the Bronx had, and the vitriol that cockiness stoked in the hearts of a fan-base with a painful inferiority complex. Nobody likes to root for a constant loser. And when they have to they get angry, and they get brash (and often drunk) and the results are often mayhem. For all the media-hype about the Sox-Yanks rivalry, you just don't see that much anger, anymore. Tim and I went to a game, where he wore a Yankees T-shirt in the belachers, in the middle of a five-game embarassment at the hands of the Sox "daunted rivals." He barely heard peep. That wouldn't have happened 5 years ago. No doubt about it. There is an understanding there. For the time-being the Sox fans have a tenuous choke-hold on the Yanks fans. And noone really knows how to act. I have a feeling that the folks who plan on wearing their Tom Brady jerseys to the meadowlands on Sunday are not going to be received with as much acceptance as Tm saw in Fenway last month. Dr. Z, in fact, thinks the scene is going to be so insane that its going to tilt the odds in the Jets favor. Dr. Z predicts an upset special in this weeks forecast. Dr. Z is an idiot.

Pats 27-Jets 13

Feeling Voyeuristic Today? (feels good to say that again)

"That was the day man became his god, man became his devil. Man became his good, man became his evil. Tomorrow will be the 22nd Century." -- Nina Simone

I know I am late to the table on this one, but given the fact that Monday was the five-year anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to share a really nice tribute piece that Tim forwarded me, written by a "friend-of-a-friend." The reason I share the piece is two-fold. First, because it was the most appropriate thing I read on Monday. It wasn't cynical, and it wasn't bogged down by rah-rah, "kill-'em-all for doing this to us," righteousness. It was just a great tribute, and one young guy's personal story. The second reason I share it is admittedly a little narcissistic. If that's problematic for you, stop reading. Blogs are nothing if not a tool of narcissism. While my own recollection of September 5 years ago is nowhere near as tragic or personal as Billy's, he brings up a point that I really connected with, an issue that has been at the forefront of my conscience lately: and that is the elasticity of time, and how over a stretch of time (and for me, the stretch of time in question is the same 5 years, as the time that Billy discusses. I use this period for reasonns totally unrelated to what happened that day.) But over any certain stretch of time things can change so utterly, while so many things do not change at all. In the past 5 years we have seen the explosion of technologies that brought us the main-stream usage of the I-Pod, Hybrid Cars, "blogs", phones that film videos, and on and on. Highways have been expanded, cities have gone through renaissances, or depressions, and the world has changed. And yet, we still debate issues of abortion, religion, taxes, wars.

In my own life I have graduated college. I have gotten a promotion. I have been to weddings. I have had my own wedding. I have most recently bought a condo and added a young, furry, family member to my life. And yet, I can still think of few things better than a canoe-ride on an overcast morning in Maine; or a cold beer and a good book; or a Friday night spent shooting-the-shit with buddies at a quiet bar or Madamme Claude; or Sunday Afternoons wasted watching the Jets while my dad nervously paces and sweeps the kitchen floors. Life changes, and moves on. And so they say, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

I know I promised to talk CDs but I don't have it in me right now. I'm not a hipster from Chicago, so perhaps my opinion means nothing. But if you're looking for good mellow music, check these out: Band of Horses; M Ward. Plans for this weekend: I feel like I haven't seen some old friends in a while. Perhaps a trip to Brooklyn is in order. Sunday, I'll be with Pete, hoping against hope that this will be a Sunday to remember: the most recent time the Jets beat the Patriots.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Genie in a bottle (Coors Light, of course)

True story. My dad came back from the movies Saturday night and had two messages on the machine. It went something like this:

7:50 PM: “Hey Pete, it’s your brother, Fred. I’m sitting down with Fenway (his yellow lab) and a couple Coors Lights, going over the schedule, and I’m thinking 7-9. 7-9 seems pretty reasonable. Tomorrow’s a big one.” (yes, if you're the Jets and planning on going 7-9, beating a team with Kerry Collins at QB is, in fact, "a big one.")
9:45 PM: “Pete, Fritz again. Had a couple more Coors Lights. Going back over the schedule, and I have revised it to 9-7. I think 9-7 is definitely doable. Crazier things have happened.”

My dad called Fred at half past Ten and told him to just keep drinking until he got somewhere closer to 16-0. A couple things you gotta love about the blindly loyal fan: they almost never can truly understand the limitations of their own team, and they almost ALWAYS see the faults in every other team with clear and perfect vision. Fred could tell you in two minutes why the Pats can’t win the Super Bowl this year (no deep threats, Corey Dillon is getting older, loss of McGinest is killer, whose their defensive coordinator?) but ask him about the Jets chances and for as much as he knows about the Jets, as much time as he spends watching, reading, following the team, the answer will inevitably be something ridiculous like: “All depends on Pennington’s shoulder.” Why is this? Simple, it’s much easier to say the season hinges on the stressed tendons of a mediocre QB’s shoulder than it is to analyze all of the many weaknesses of one’s own team. In November, we can say, “we shouldn’t have put our faith in the arm of a guy with two shoulder surgeries in the last two years.” Sounds a lot better than, “the defense was soft against the pass, David Barret belongs in the CFL, our Special Teams were mediocre at best, any team who knew to Blitz our young line and shake-up our fragile passer was bound to smoke us,” and so on…So when Pennington threw for 315 yards on Sunday with two nice TD passes and no interceptions (debatable, and lets not mention the fumble inside his own five) and the Patriots look extremely beatable in the meantime, what does Fred have to say when my dad picks up the phone? “I am giving the Jets the victory at home next week. Make it 10-6.” He was kidding. I think. But with Fred, the truth is, you never know. You can’t fault the blindly faithful for their optimism.

And sometimes that optimism can get infectious. No joke. Here’s what I just did: I just poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, stretched out in my chair and pulled out the Jets schedule. I looked it up and down. I tried to be as unbiased as possible. I went over every game. I drew in the pre-requisite victories to the Patriots that Chad Pennington inevitably affords his rivals each season. In addition, I chalked up the following games as losses: Oct. 1 vs. Colts, Nov. 10 vs. Bears; Oct. 8 @ JAX. That’s it. Every other game is winnable as long as Chad Pennington can be an actual NFL quarterback. Outside of New England (and maybe they can steel one from the Pats, they’re due right?!) the division is very beatable. Non-conference games include Dee-twah, Houston , Oakland at home; and Minnesota, Green Bay, Cleveland on the Road. Say they win 3-4 against Miami and the Bills (maybe they lose in Miami on Christmas) Then say they cough one up to Minnesota on the road. Is it possible the Jets could still end up having a winning record? Even if the Jets are just an OK team (admittedly a stretch) if Pennington can stay healthy and the three-headed monster (tongue-firm-in-cheek) of Blaylock, Houston, and Barlow can combine for 125-175 yards a game, can’t this team put up some offensive numbers against an average defense? If the D plays like they did yesterday, can’t they hold the following QB/RB tandems to 17 P/PG: Lohsman/McGinest; Culpepper/Brown; Kitna/Take-Your-Pick; Carr/Davis; Brooks/LaMont? Why not? Why can’t the Jets have a winning record? Crazier things have happened.

It all comes down to this Sunday. The fact is when you beat a mediocre team in an ugly game that should have been a blow out had your (second round draft-choice!!) kicker bothered to do his job, it’s pretty hard to know where your at. I mean a win is almost always positive, but a kicker who misses two chips of 35 yards or less is worrisome, as is the lack of any dominant runner. Teams have won games with the multi-pronged RB approach before (see 2004 Eagles) but almost always, at least one of those guys was better than average. I’m not sure Blaylock qualifies. If you can take a home opener against the division favorites, you have reason for excitement. But any time you win, the fact is, there is little reason to get dispirited. Pennington is healthy, the running game was serviceable (thanks more to the young line doing its job than to any impressive work from the back-field.) As for the D, the unit as a whole looks to be solid in the 3-4, even without Abraham (whom I will keep saying “never would have fit into this scheme”) and minus David Barrett, they all stayed within their zones. The fact is if you play smart team football with consistent QB work, and brainy coaching you can stay in a game with almost every team in the modern NFL. Do that against enough average or below average teams and you’ll find yourself playing games that matter in December. Even if you are the Jets. And even if I wrote you off for dead three days ago. It starts with a win that means something…say Sunday at 4. You never know. Crazier things have happened.


Big Papi shows his frustration and throws his teammates, along with just about every other talented baseball player in the AL, under the bus. Ortiz: Boston's Fall Shouldn't Impact AL MVP Vote. Yes it should. The Red Sox folded. An MVP keeps his team in the race. When the Yankees were hobbled Jeter kept them breathing, Santana (my pick for MVP) kept together a team that in mid-June looked lifeless. The Sox fell apart and Papi didn't do anything outrageous to keep them in the race. He can't be faulted for being ill, he can't be faulted for everyone else's bats slumbering. But the Red Sox blew up before our eyes, and MVP's shouldn't come from teams that implode. If he was that valuable he would have done something spectacular to keep the team afloat. This does not include bitching and moaning about individual awards when you should be focusing on the fact that your team just got fisted by the Royals. Shut up, David. Back with some Jets observations later in the day.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

The Prologue: The Good Lord smote the Sox, and declared of the JETS fans "Thy Faith Shall be rewarded (just not this year...or next)"

Before I get into the soon-to-unfold disaster that will be known as the New York Jets '06-'07 season, let's talk a little baseball.

The Sermon: One Last Hail Mary, Sunday Mornings Coming Down, Hope Springs Eternal (and more Mixed Metaphors)

For the masochists out there: what will it take over the next 10 Days for the Red Sox Season to mean anything? During the next stretch of games the Sox season will almost certainly become a total and utter disaster. One losing series to the Royals or Orioles, and/or a sweep in the Bronx will spell the OFFICIAL end. For the believers out there, who refuse to admit a season is over just because 3/5 of your starting rotation has never won 2 games in a row in the Major Leagues, there is still hope. It comes in the form of a schedule that, on paper, favors the Olde Town Team. However, a thing on paper doesn't always translate well to a thing in reality. So, yes, on paper, there is hope. To wit, schedules over the next 10 days:

The Walking Wounded: 3 v. KC; 3 @ BAL; 4 @ NYY
Hawk Harrelson's "Best Team in Baseball" (According to a July WEEI interview) : 3 v. CLE; 3 @ LAA; 3 @ OAK
The Dizygotics (Johan Santana and Boof Bonser? Decidedly NOT identitical) : 3 v. DET; 3 v. OAK; 4 @ CLE

So that's it. The question is, can the Red Sox score some runs? If so, it isn't outrageous to think they can sweep the Royals at home, take 2 of 3 in Bal-a-mer, and split a series in NY (with Schilling and Knuckles back in the rotation.) During that same stretch, you have to root for the West to take 4 of the 6 from Chicago; Cleveland to play like the team everyone thought they'd be in March; and just pray that Ron Gardenhire remembers he is Ron Gardenhire and gives away two to Dee-Twah, and lets his team get beat and possibly swept in OAK (Santana won't be pitching, so its a possibility.) If all of that happens the Sox can be in striking distance when they play the Twins in a week and a half. So that's it. Not gonna happen. Final records? I don't know. Try these:

Twins (WC): 94-68
CWS: 92-70
Pawtucket: 86-76

The worst thing my uncle ever did to me...isn't what you think. Christmas, 1994, football was on at my grandparents and, being 12, I didn't really understand much. I knew Dallas was good, I knew Barry Sanders was a (GREAT) running back. I think I knew Boomer Esiason was a Quarterback, whose job was (supposed to be) to throw the ball to his recievers. That's about it. Oh, I also knew the Jets sucked. To the point where my typically calm and quiet uncle was known to burst into a tirade of profanities while the rest of us quietly scraped our forks against our plates, and chewed our ham, all secretly embarassed for the maniac in the TV room wearing a hideous green jersey, yelling things like: "Why are you throwin' the ball to Ryan Fuckin' Yarborough? Godammit, Pete Carroll, you will NEVER win a game that counts!" (the Jets record at the time? 6-9. It was indeed "a game that counts.") That offseason, for whatever reason, I simply decided I was going to be a Jets fan. I think it was a joke at first. Or maybe it was because for all his yelling and frustration, my Uncle Fred seemed to be the only person at family Christmas who was actually enjoying himself. It's like he got a sick satisfaction out of losing. It allowed him to vent all the frustration that builds up around these ceremonial family gatherings. The rest of us held it all in during an awkward meal filled with small talk, and obvious avoidance of discussions involving politics, culture, or the fact that it was my father's fault (along with Joe Namath and John Lennon) that Fred tunred out this way. Meanwhile Fred could take it all out on Adrienne Murrel or Fred Baxter. Seemed like fun.

I mention all this, not because I feel it necessary to relive the awkward moments of Schmidt family Christmases, but because it is essential to understanding this generation of Jets fans: we were "born" losers. That is to say we came to the Jets at a time when hope was lost. We chose a team knowing full-well that we would be disappointed by them for years to come. Almost every Jets fan between 20 and 30 I have ever spoken to started rooting for the Jets as a joke or "because it was too easy to root for the Giants." One co-worker, who is slightly older than me, told me he started rooting for the Jets because in 1990 he was a Penn State fan, and when they drafted Blair Thomas, he decided since the Jets were just as close as the Giants, he would switch allegiances so he could root for a home town team AND Blair Thomas. Blair Thomas and the Jets. I've never seen this guy crack a smile. Essentially, all young Jets fans, like myself and my miserable co-worker, picked a loser. ON PURPOSE. Fans are sick people. Jets fans, in particular, are really sick people. We had a choice between perennial winners, and perennial punch-lines. We chose the agony. It's in our nature. In September of '95 a classmate offered to bring Brian and me to all of the Jets home games. His dad worked for M&M Mars, where his co-worker was a season ticket holder. Seaon-Ticket-holder guy's wife had terminal cancer. He gave us his tickets. In other words, the desire to escape from awful family gatherings and bond with my semi-normal uncle made me a casual Jets fan. Terminal cancer made me a fanatic. See where I am going with this? For the next six years of my life I attended almost every single home game. I merrilly chanted "Kotite Sucks" while they lost all but one in 1996. I booed Neil O'Donnell. I cheered on Vinny Testaverde while the Jets trounced the Jaguars in the playoffs in January, '99. I thought Chad Pennington was the next Joe Montana. Then, I made my dad a fanatic-by-proxy. He was forced to root for the Jets because for the last ten years a Jets loss almost certainly meant the inevitability of thrown breakable objects (or from Freshman year of college on, a drunken voicemail rant where I would threaten to drop out of school if Paul Hackett was not fired by Monday morning.) I became obsessive. I fully expected this team (which I picked because they were a bunch of losers) to actually start winning. Every single Sunday. I was an irrational fan. I was uncle Fred.

Enough with the credentials. The point is, for the last 10 years of my life (since 1997) I have been convinced that each year was "The Year." Whether the experts had them winning the division or going 8-8, I always had private reasons why the Jets could be the best team in the NFL. I always had hope. This year is hopeless. This year is beyond hopeless. It's the kind of year you wish you could fast forward. Our QB is a corpse. Our best offensive threat played all of last year like he was still suffering from flash backs of the things his family members did to him (much worse than making him a Jets fan) and our most exciting young stud is an offensive linemen. Try getting excited about a great play by an offensive linemen. Unless your name is John Madden, it can't be done. Seriously, try it. So what's a fan to do? I'll tell you what. Root, and root hard. For the other team. A 6-10 team is painful to watch (and doesn't provide nearly the comedic value of a 1-15 team.) A 1-15 team provides hope. Next year has to be better, and the year after that, with all your young top picks coming of age will be even better than that. If this team can be the 1996 Jets, then there is hope that in 2 or 3 years, they can be a contender. And hoping for something better is what being a Jets fan is all about. Just Ask the guy who sat behind us all those years (see the image of hope-personified, above.)

Epilogue: Take 'er easy, dude!

So in the end there just isn't much for all you Sox/Jets fans--errr, me--to root for. It's going to be a long autumn, but a good one. Sometimes the world is slightly bigger than sports. Plenty of time to enjoy the changing leaves, read some books, and get to know my new neighborhood. Plenty of time to focus on the Hot Stove season, College football (wait I'm focusing on sports, again.) Plenty of time to mentally prepare for this year's family Christmas. Where for once, Fred and I will be glad to watch the Jets lose.