Archive for April, 2011

Grading The Draft: Day 1

// April 29th, 2011 // 9 Comments » // Uncategorized

Here are the grades for the first round of the NFL Draft.  The Raiders didn’t have a pick because, well, they are dumb.

Panthers: Cam Newton.  Whether this turns out to be a good pick or not remains to be seen.  But it was the right pick for the Panthers, who needed to make a splash this offseason.  New head coach and now a new franchise QB.  Newton has a huge ceiling, but there is also a huge chance he turns into JaMarcus Russell.

Grade – A.  For now.  Taking a risk on a QB at #1 means there is no margin for error with the rest of their picks.

Broncos: Von Miller.  Don’t the Broncos already have a player like Miller in Elvis Dumerville?  How could they not take Dareus, who would have immediately patched the holes in the middle of their front seven?  Was the Bills front office involved in this process by osmosis?  I want answers.

Grade – B-.  Hard to bash them for taking  the best LB prospect in years, but he isn’t a great fit for the Broncos system.

Bills: Marcel Dareus. The Bills got the player that they needed the most.  They should send a basket of mini muffins to the Broncos for bricking and allowing them to draft Dareus.  He will make an immediate impact, and allows them to build a defense around him the same way the Patriots’ was built around Vince Wilfork.

Grade – A++.  Maybe the bad juju surrounding the Bills on draft day got lost and wandered over into the Broncos war room.

Bengals: AJ Green.  This is a great pick on paper.  The Bengals needed a number one WR and they got one of the best prospects at the position since Calvin Johnson.  My only question is what good is a franchise WR if you don’t have a QB?  Green is an exceptional athlete but the man can’t throw the ball to himself can he?

Grade – B.

Cardinals: Patrick Peterson. Much like Von Miller, it’s hard to argue with picking the best CB to come out of the draft in years.  Unlike Miller going to the Broncos, I actually like this pick.  Peterson can impact the game in so many ways.  Whether on defense locking down WRs or in the return game, he will be a playmaker.  The Cards have a lot of holes to fill, most notably at QB, but I think going with Peterson and solving the QB situation later was the right move.

Grade – A.

Falcons (From Browns): Julio Jones. HUH? The Falcons, who got beat down by the Packers in the playoffs last year because of their defense, traded up to take a WR.  Don’t get me wrong I think Jones is a great player and will be a top NFL WR, but if the Falcons were going to trade up, shouldn’t it have been to take someone like Aldon Smith, Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, or JJ Watt.  If you’re the Falcon you now have one of the scariest offenses in the league, but couldn’t we have said the same thing last year? Was a WR the piece that was missing and the reason they got bitch slapped by the Packers? Plus they gave up a ton to take Jones here, and they could have used those picks to improve their defense.

Grade – D.

49ers: Aldon Smith.  I love Smith to the 49ers.  I had thought they might take Robert Quinn here but Smith gives them a great athlete at DE and will immediately improve their defense against the pass with his ability to get after the QB.

Grade – A.

Titans: Jake Locker.  The Titans needed a QB but taking Locker over Gabbert, who is more talented, or Ponder, who is more NFL ready, makes no sense to me.  Like the Panthers, they now have no room for mistakes with the rest of their picks.  A top ten pick should be ready to get on the field right away and Locker isn’t.

Grade – C-.  Wonder what Chris Johnson thinks about this pick.

Cowboys: Tyron Smith. Not much to say here.  Fills the Cowboys biggest need and they get the best player at the position.  And there was much rejoicing throughout Dallas…Yaaaa.

Grade - A.

Jaguars (From Redskins): Blaine Gabbert. Jacksonville is probably one of the best places a rookie QB like Gabbert could have landed.  He won’t be expected to save the team from day one like Newton in Carolina, and he will have time to learn the NFL game.  I have to question the immediate impact of trading up to take a back up QB, but I think this ends up being a great move.

Grade – B+.

Texans: JJ Watt. With Wade Phillips and his 3-4 coming to town, you knew the Texans were going to bring in a quality DE with this pick.  Watt is a beast and while not as athletic as Robert Quinn, he has a terrific motor and fits their new scheme perfectly.

Grade – A-.  Have to wonder what scared them off about Robert Quinn, who most people had higher than Watt.

Vikings: Christian Ponder. I was a bit confused by this pick at first but the more I’ve thought about it the more I see the Vikings logic.  Ponder, who has been compared to Chad Pennington (Is that a compliment?) is a smart NFL ready QB.  He should be able to play well enough for them to compete next year.  They couldn’t waste a year of Adrian Peterson by trying out different QBs.  They needed a solution for when camp starts, if it starts, and I think that Ponder will be a decent short term answer.

Grade – B+

Lions: Nick Fairley.  The best pick in the first round so far.  The Lions have been steadily improving over the last few years and now feature a solid defense, led by last year’s first pick Ndamukong Suh.  Adding Fairley to that front line is a great move for Detroit.  They now have two special players, playing right next to each other, who will give opposing teams fits trying to scheme for them.  I had the Lions taking an OT because I never expected someone like Fairley to fall this far.  They should thank Atlanta for jumping up to take Jones.  The Lions are like Albert Haynesworth with boobs when it comes to WRs. When they see a decent one, they have to grab it.

Grade – A++

Rams: Robert Quinn.  I didn’t expect Quinn to fall this far but he is a great addition to the Rams defense.  They now have two great young DE to pressure QBs.  It is the same way that Spagnola built a championship defense with the Giants.  Quinn is a gifted athlete who can also play LB, and I’m sure the Rams are thrilled he dropped to them here.

Grade – A-

Dolphins: Mike Pouncey.  I’m a little surprised the Dolphins didn’t go after a QB or a RB here.  Nonetheless Pouncey will be a great addition to their OL.  He has the size and athletic ability to thrive in their system and was the best prospect at center in the draft.  You can never have enough quality offensive lineman in the NFL so I agree with the pick.  Just would have thought there were bigger holes to fill.

Grade – B.

Redskins (From Jags): Ryan Kerrigan. The Redskins had a chance to draft Blaine Gabbert, Robert Quinn, Nick Fairley, and JJ Watt.  Instead they traded down and took a solid DE.  Kerrigan has a great motor but I think he got hyped up last year and is over rated.  It’s not that he isn’t a good football player; he just isn’t a special player.  The Skins needed a special player so I’m confused as to why they traded down to take a DE when there were special talents at that position to be had at number ten.

Grade – C-

Patriots: Nate Solder. Great pick for the future.  Probably the best place for a guy like Solder, who has unlimited potential but is a little raw when it comes to technique.  The Pats have the veteran leadership on the OL to get the most out of Solder.  The Patriots are ready to win right now so I would have liked them to address their pass rush, which is a more pressing need.  Hopefully they grab Brooks Reid with their first of three picks in the second round.

Grade – B-.

Chargers: Corey Liuget. Great pick for a Chargers defense that was ranked number one last year.  Liuget is big enough to play DT or NT, and athletic enough to play on the edge as well.  Fills a need, but unless he has been brainwashed to kill Norv Turner, like Zoolander was with the Malaysian Prime Minister, I don’t expect the Chargers to get over the hump.

Grade - A

Giants: Prince Amukamara. There were too many players on the board here for the Giants to take a CB here.  They have decent players at CB, and there were options later on if they really felt it was a need.  I think they would have been better off bolstering their OL or grabbing a RB here.  Amukamara has loads of talent but needs work to correct some technique issues.

Grade – C+

Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn.   This is a good pick for the Bucs, who needed to improve their pass rush.  I think they missed out on some more talented guys, such as Jordan and Wilkerson, but Clayborn has shown flashes of brilliance.  If he returns to his 2009 form this would be a steal.

Grade – B+

Browns (From Chiefs): Phil Taylor.  Taylor is a good pick because he fills a hole in the heart of the Browns defense.  But why they would trade out of the sixth pick, where they could have grabbed Julio Jones, makes no sense to me.  The only positive is it will allow Mike Holmgren to play with all sorts of picks this year, and he is great at building a team.

Grade – B.

Colts: Anthony Castonzo. The Colts needed to find a RT and Castonzo has played there in the past.  Gives the Colts a great player on their OL, and helps ensure that Peyton Manning stays on his feet.  I think they might have been eyeing DT Phil Taylor, which explains why the Browns traded up to take him.

Grade - B+

Eagles: Danny Watkins. The Eagles are built to win right now and so grabbing an OT who is ready to play makes a lot of sense.  They need to find some help at safety but there wasn’t a first round talent in this year’s class.  Watkins will help protect the QB and will be an asset to the run game.  He is mature enough at 26 to handle the transition from college to the pros better than most rookies.

Grade – B+.

Saints: Cameron Jordan.  Jordan is going to be a monster for the Saints.  He needs to improve on his fundamentals but he has the raw athletic ability to wreak havoc on opposing QBs.  I think he could have gone a lot higher, especially to a Patriots team that needed to improve its pass rush, so the Saints will be thrilled to have him.

Grade – A.

Seahawks: James Carpenter. Not a very exciting pick, but he fills a need for a Seahawks team that back doored its way into the playoffs last year.  I expected Seattle to take Andy Dalton here with the way that the first round shook out but maybe they are planning on grabbing a QB later on.  Either way they needed to improve their OL and Carpenter will help.

Grade – B-.

Chiefs (From Browns): Jonathan Baldwin. I love that the Chiefs went after a WR here.  They needed to add another WR weapon besides Dwayne Bowe after their second leading receiver had 25 catches last year.  My only question is why Baldwin? I think he is a good player and at 6’5” a huge target for Matt Cassell, but I had Leonard Hankerson as a better pick.  I also think they could have gone with defense here and waited for Baldwin, who would have been available in the second round.

Grade – B-

Ravens: Jimmy Smith. Baltimore is a perfect fit for Smith because of the veteran leadership.   The Ravens players will keep him inline and help correct the character issues that plagued him at Colorado.  Their defense needed an upgrade at CB, and Smith has top tier talent.  If he can stay on the field I think this is a fantastic pick for Baltimore.

Grade – A.

Saints (From Pats): Mark Ingram. The Saints said hello to Mark Ingram and basically said goodbye to Reggie Bush.  They can’t official say it yet but Bush tweeted an adios to New Orleans.  If the Saints can develop a solid running game with Ingram they would be scary on offense.  This was the Patriots pick originally and since they would be just as scary with a quality RB, it makes no sense why they traded out here.

Grade – A+

Bears: Gabe Carimi. The Bears needed help on their OL and Carimi is a great addition.  He was a beast for Wisconsin and should be able to start right away.  He is a tough minded player and will help protect the delicate, reality star dating QB over there in the Windy City.

Grade – A-

Jets: Muhammed Wilkerson.  Wilkerson can play DT and DE and is a good pick for a Jets team that needed help for its front seven.  He is a big dynamic athlete and I think the Jets are thrilled he dropped here.

Grade – A.

Steelers: Cameron Heyward. Heyward has the size and talent to be a solid DE in the NFL, but he has been labeled as soft and that won’t fly in the Steel City.  That aside, how could the Steelers not go after CBs Aaron Williams or Brandon Harris?  They have major issues in their secondary and both could have started next year.

Grade – C+

Packers: Derrick Sherrod. Super Bowl champs get a solid piece to add to their offensive line.  It is a smart pick for a team with very few holes.  They have the luxury of adding good players that won’t need to play right away and Sherrod is definitely a first round talent.

Grade – A.

Check back this weekend for complete grades for every team.

Quantum Leap Albert?

// April 29th, 2011 // 5 Comments » // Uncategorized

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APRIL 2002 – Volunteer Alumni Albert Haynesworth, the pride of Hartsville South Carolina, is drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round. Feeling jilted by falling so far in the draft, Haynesworth makes it his mission to rise to the top of the league, thus proving his doubters wrong.

Flash Forward:

APRIL 2008 – Haynesworth elected to the Pro Bowl the prior season for the first time in his career. Albert is widely considered around the league to be the most dominant defensive tackle.

Flash Forward:

APRIL 2011 – After logging a total of eight pitiful games with the Washington Redskins in the 2010-2011 season, Haynesworth is charged with one count of an unwarranted booby grab.

During the morning hours of last Tuesday, Albert Haynesworth (currently) of the Washington Redskins was indicted on a misdemeanor sexual abuse charge after being accused of fondling a female server’s breast at a hotel restaurant in downtown Washington. Apparently when Albert was ready to pay for his meal, the waitress “allegedly” claims Haynesworth slipped his credit card into her bra and started a one-handed juggling act while inside her blouse.

Haynesworth told police there was no way he would ever have touched her because he doesn’t even like black girls. He was further quoted as saying “I know what this is about, she is just upset I have a white girlfriend. I couldn’t tell you the last time I dated a black girl. She was trying to get with me.” We’ll have to wait and see if that argument holds up in court. Regardless, I don’t think Haynesworth’s prior run-ins with authority are going to help his cause any. Let’s see, viciously stomping on the head of an opponent, partially paralyzing someone after smashing into their car with his Ferrari, “allegedly” impregnating a NYC stripper and not paying the baby mama, punching a guy in the face during a road rage incident. Hhhhhmmmmm, I wouldn’t say those are the ideal notches for a championship belt of innocence. At this point, it’s probably anti-climactic to mention the default loan charges against him.

Where did it all go wrong for Prince Albert? In 2007 he was at the top of his game, ripping through offensive lines like a fairly agitated silverback gorilla. In the 2009 off-season, Haynesworth inked a ridiculous seven-year 100 million dollar deal with the Washington Redskins. Despite all the hiccups in the past, Haynesworth had finally reached the pinnacle of his career, and was poised to dominate until his inevitable decline. For some odd reason it didn’t pan out that way, but why?

This was a perfect example of a player’s work ethic being destroyed by a huge contract. It isn’t anymore complicated than that. Haynesworth worked his ass off to get where he was, the top defensive tackle in the NFL, and he just stopped trying after he hooked the big deal. If it wasn’t blatantly obvious when he signed with the Skins, Albert’s end all be all wasn’t a Superbowl ring. It was stealing a cool 50 million from Dan Snyder, which he successfully did when the idiot owner signed him to that horrible contract.

It doesn’t really matter whether the money soured Albert’s ambition or his drive faded away by itself. It doesn’t matter if Shannahan pushed him to the brink or Haynesworth quit on his own. What matters is Albert Haynesworth sucks at football now, and it’s all because he stopped trying. When you get down to the brass tacks, Albert really has no one else to blame but himself.

And if things seemed like they couldn’t get any lower for the fading 317-pound defensive tackle, Haynesworth’s credit card was actually declined at the restaurant that night. In this business, we like to call that a double whammy.

—–Seth Newton

Tons of Fun…But a Book?

// April 27th, 2011 // 5 Comments » // Uncategorized

Jets Camp Football

Does Rex Ryan’s new book, “Play Like You Mean It” come with a bulging gut spilling over its spine, or sweat and shake like a bowl full of rapist in church jelly?

I didn’t think so.

The reason that Rex Ryan is so entertaining isn’t just because he is a loud mouth who isn’t afraid to call people out. Part of his appeal comes from the inarguable fact is that he is a fat ass.

Before you go getting all angry and spit some PC riddled venom at me for saying that fat people are entertaining, like circus animals, hear me out.

Chris Farley, may he rest in peace, was a brilliant physical comedian. As was John Belushi, who I hope is resting peacefully as well. Both men were horribly out of shape but they used it to create a persona. Their obesity was no laughing matter, but they turned the tables on it and made it work to their advantage. It was that physical quality that made them impossible to keep your eyes off of.

Which brings me back to Rex Ryan. If he wasn’t so overweight that it made us nauseous to think of him having sex with his wife, do you think the country would have made such a big deal over the whole foot thing? If his rolls didn’t have rolls, would him changing shirts at a hockey game to don the home teams jersey have been on Sportscenter the following morning?

The answer is no.

So why would Ryan think that he can transfer his gift for physical comedic entertainment into a book? This bothers me as a writer who sees another ass clown devoid of any writing talent getting a book. That’s one less book for quality writers who devote their lives to their craft, but that’s a story for another day.

There are no groundbreaking revelations in “Play Like You Mean It”. He doesn’t admit to having his original title shot “Eat Like You Mean It” shot down by editors. Ryan does use the book as another opportunity to talk about Tom Brady. Pointing out that every man in American should hate Tom Brady because of who he is married to. For all the energy, and let’s face it, for a man that size talking is an aerobic exercise, he spends talking about Brady, one might be inclined to think he has quarterback envy.

medium_kerry-rhodes-rape-case-investigationThe book also slams former Jet Kerry Rhodes for being ‘selfish’, a ‘hollywood guy’, and for not wanting to put in work. Rhodes was considered one of the best safeties in football before Ryan came to New Jersey. One has to wonder if the comments are based on fact, or stem from some personal beef the two men had.

Ryan calls Vernon Ghoulston ‘a phony’. To which Ghouslton replied, ‘I’m rubber and you’re glue…’

The book also discusses last year’s sideline tripping incident. Ryan claims that neither he nor Special Teams coach Mike Westhoff knew anything about it. I think we need to get Daniel Kafee in there and ask whether Col. Ryan ordered the code trip, then maybe we will get the truth. Hopefully we will be able to handle it.

I have to give Ryan some credit, Wes Welker insisted. He is a good football coach. falling-down-original

The problem with this book, and the reason I would never read it, aside from the fact that Jets green makes me want to go all Michael Douglas in ‘Falling Down, is that Ryan tells us all these things in person. Or in live post game interviews. His honest, pull no punches mentality makes him a big fat ball of sound bite brilliance.

But why would we bother wasting money on this tell all book from a guy that can’t keep his mouth shut?

Maybe next time Rex should come out with a cookbook. I would definitely buy that.

—–Corey

I’m Mad As Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take it Anymore

// April 27th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Uncategorized

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Why isn’t the Bruins/Canadiens game on TV in the New York area?

It’s Game 6 in what is probably the best rivalry in professional hockey and it is nowhere to be found on Time Warner cable. Some of the “must see TV” that one can find at 7pm on Time Warner; The Bad Girls Club, The Real Housewives of Orange County, Law & Order: SVU , Ultimate Cake Off, and Bones.

Too bad I’m a Bruins fan and not an overweight Reality TV junky with a jones for rapists and murderers.

I’m going to answer my own question, since you are physically unable to respond to a hypothetical question that I am posing aloud in my empty apartment.

The reason is that the NHL does a shitty job of marketing itself as a brand.

The NFL is so popular that people tune in to repeats of playoff games that happened fifteen years ago. The NBA has every playoff game televised, as does MLB. The NHL has been stuck in professional sports purgatory for so long that Game 6 of the B’s/Habs series is on CBC.

FYI, that’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. And you know what? Those simple folks across the border are offering the game for free on the CBC website. Unfortunately you have to live in Canada. The inept stewards at the helm of the NHL are offering to broadcast the game at NHL.com for $19.95.

I understand that they have partnerships with NBC and Versus. Apparently Extra and Access Hollywood draw a better market share than playoff hockey would. Think about that. Maybe there is some other reason that NBC doesn’t carry NHL games any time other than the early afternoons on weekends, but doesn’t it speak to a serious lack of drawing power?

As far as Versus, they have to pick when there is more than one game on at a time. I don’t fault them for going with Game 7 of the Flyers/Sabres series. It ‘s Game 7 after all.

But the NHL is putting out a quality product that no one (at least no one in the New York area without Direct TV) will be able to see tonight. It’s not like it is a regular season game. Playoff hockey is a steel cage death match on ice, and that’s coming from someone who is only recently becoming a fan.

Do you think that the NFL would allow the AFC Championship to be broadcast on CBS while the NFC’s version went unseen in a market as large as New York? If you do than please stop reading and slap yourself right in the face.

It is time for the NHL to use this momentum to expose their brand to as many people as possible. The way to do that is to find some way to get every game in the playoffs broadcast in every market, at the very least the major ones. If that is not legally possible, then go guerilla style and show that shit for free on your own website.

floyd_mayweather4This isn’t a new problem. A few years back the same thing happened with Game 7 of the Bruins/Hurricanes series. It’s time for the NHL to heed the words of Floyd Mayweather Junior and step ya game up.  You know he keeps a private jet don’t you?

The best way to do that is to get the NHL playoffs to the masses.

If you show it, they will watch.

—–Corey

Touch Football

// April 26th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Uncategorized

It is an unseasonably warm Saturday morning in mid-October. The phone rings. An unfamiliar voice asks, “Is this Charles…?” He hesitates a moment on my last name, as if he’s reading it off a card. A telemarketer, I think. “Yes,” I say, as my mind races to come up with some excuse why I can’t take the call.

“Well,” he says, “this is Charles Glover.”

I have not heard this name in ten years, maybe more, but I recognize it almost immediately. Charles Glover is one of the lost boys, and the image I have of him at that moment is of him running. Darting in and out of human traffic. Like quicksilver, he ran, his feet hardly touching the ground, a football in one outstretched hand, as if he were going to hand it off to anyone who got close. But he never did and we hardly ever did. Instead, once he worked up a head of steam, no one could catch him, and the outstretched ball was just a tease, a cruel taunt. “You think you can catch me, sucker? You think you can take this ball away from me? Well, go ahead and try…”

Ten years or so ago, Charlie Glover ran so far, so fast, that none of us has seen him since. There were all sorts of rumors. He was in jail. He was strung out on drugs. He was living in Texas, training to become a nurse. But now he’s back and I think I know why.

“It’s great to hear from you,” I say, and I mean it, as we exchange pleasantries excitedly, as if we were long, lost best friends. But the truth is, I hardly knew him. Where he grew up. What his real name was. Where he went to school. If he was married. What he did for a living. But then that’s the way it was for most of us. The less we knew, it seemed, the closer we became. What I did know was that for some twenty odd years, rain or shine, no matter what the temperature—I recall playing when the mercury dipped as low as single digits—every Sunday morning, from late August to early June, he and I and two to three dozen strangers would gather in Central Park to play touch football. We were not friends. We were barely acquaintances. No phone calls were exchanged during the week to confirm the game. No socializing before or after the game. In fact, it took years before we even knew each other’s names. Instead, we were known by nicknames, like “Acid,” or “Crazy David,” or “Tex,” or by a random number we might have on our athletic shirt. Occasionally, a famous person, like H. Rap Brown, Jim Bouton and Geraldo Rivera (who became somewhat of a regular) wandered by and got into the game.  But mostly it was just a bunch of guys who led anonymous lives.

But not on Sunday. On Sunday they were feared, or awed, or mocked, depending mostly on that day’s performance.

And tomorrow, Sunday, we are scheduled to hold our tenth annual reunion game in Central Park. That, I think, is why I am speaking with Charlie Glover. He is calling to chat about the upcoming game. But I am wrong.

It began almost thirty years ago on a very similar October Sunday morning. I had just finished a stint at graduate school, had moved back to New York and, slinging my cleats over my shoulder, I headed into Central Park, looking for a touch football game. In a large expanse known as Sheep Meadow, I found more than I was looking for. It was an amazing spectacle. A full-scale, 11 on 11 touch football game with maybe 10 to 15 people on the sidelines waiting to get in. Having never played in anything bigger than an intramural game of eight on a side, I was at first astounded, then hypnotized. I wanted in. But there was no room. The next week I returned, and with my cleats dangling from my shoulder so they knew I meant business, I stood on the sidelines, watching. Finally, when one of the players was injured, I noticed someone motioning toward me. “Hey, you. Wanna play?”

And so it began. Every Sunday for twenty years, I played—I was afraid to miss a day, lest I be forgotten and someone else be called in from the sidelines and usurp my position. The game was democratic that way: if you were among the first twenty-two there, you were chosen in, more than enough incentive to get to bed a little earlier Saturday night so that you could make the cut.

After a while, the players, the camaraderie, meant more to me than the game. I never socialized with these men, yet I did get to know them, sometimes better than I knew my own friends. I heard them talk about their lives, their families, their jobs, their hopes and dreams, and it wasn’t all pleasant. Some spoke about how they cheated on their wives, others made lewd remarks as women passed within sight of the game, others told tall tales of what they had accomplished in life or, even sadder, what they hoped to accomplish. They grew and I grew along with them. I saw some become successful in their chosen fields, like a lawyer whose nose I accidentally broke during a game became a judge and has handled some high-profile cases; while others disappeared into poverty or even worse drugs.

It became apparent that, as odd as it seems, the game really was about life and death. Players had children, bringing them out to the field, first strapped to their backs, then in strollers. One player, an older fellow named Jerome Snyder who was a fairly well-known magazine illustrator, actually died on the field, the victim of a heart attack. Another player, a cab driver, was murdered in his cab, and several of us, who never knew him as anyone but Dom, somberly attended his funeral. Another older player, who had been playing in the game much longer than I, suffered a heart attack on the field. The next week his son appeared with a football for us to sign and word that his father was in the hospital to have a bypass operation. Miraculously, the next year he was back, playing again.

The connection between us was palpable and there was little doubt that if I needed help off the field I could count on any one of these men. I had proof. “Acid,” whose real name was Sean (well, not really his given name, but one he’d chosen for himself,) had trouble holding a job. And no wonder. He was fired from one job for tacking up the Communist manifesto on the office bulletin board. He took a job at a newsstand in Times Square. One night, he got into an argument with a customer, which soon escalated into violence. He was thrown into jail. One of his cellmates happened to be another fellow who played in the game. They put their heads together and called a third player, a lawyer, who came down in the middle of the night and got them out.

Several years back, I was asked by an editor friend to write an article about the game and, reluctantly, I did. Several months later I received a letter forwarded to me by the magazine. It was postmarked Jakarta, Indonesia, and it began this way: “If you’re the person I think you are, this is what you look like…And if you are, you’ve given me the best Christmas present I could have asked for.” He went on to say that he’d always bragged about playing in this strange touch football game in Central Park, but none of his friends believed him. But the other day, a friend of his who was in Cairo called him up and started reading him an article about a touch football game and a player described only as “Ralph, an artist, who played barefoot.” “That’s me,” he wrote.

Another lost boy.

We re-established contact and a few years later, when he heard we were planning a reunion game, he called me up and asked if he could spend the night on my couch. And so he did, he flew in from Indonesia arriving Saturday afternoon, slept on my couch that night, played in the game the next morning, and then flew back to Indonesia that evening.

“Will you be at the game tomorrow?” I asked Charlie. “What game?” he replied. It turned out that his call to me was purely coincidental—he was simply touching base with someone from his past, someone who represented better times for him. He knew nothing about the game or any of the other reunion games we’d had for that matter. I explained it to him. “I don’t have my cleats,” he said, after explaining that he’d been in Florida for the last few years and now he was back to take care of his ailing father. I told him it didn’t matter. I told him to just show up, and if he did decide to play, even without cleats, he’d still give us plenty of trouble.

I hung up the phone fairly certain that Charlie would make it to the game. That night I had trouble sleeping in anticipation, not only of seeing Charlie again, but at the thought of reliving, at least for a couple of hours, the glory of youth, not so much on the field but in the bond that I had established with these men over the years. I knew that seeing these men, playing along side them, our steps slowed at pretty much the same rate, would keep me going for at least another year.

By: Charles Salzberg

Email: Hoke5@aol.com

www.charlessalzberg.com

Getting Defensive.. and Moving On Up

// April 26th, 2011 // 4 Comments » // Uncategorized

1303368044-23Well at least the Rangers had good weather on Sunday for their first golf outing of the off season. Hope you enjoyed your short stay in the playoffs Ranger fans. Your summer fun starts early again at the hands of the Washington Capitals, and in 5 games just to smear it in a little deeper.

Capital fans could not be happier, not only do the Caps make it on to the second round but get the bonus of an early series end to get players healthy. Dennis Wideman will hopefully make his post season debut with the Caps and Mike Green, who needs to learn how to block a puck without taking it off the head, can use the extra time off as well. This series victory also puts to rest any questions about the decisions made to change the team’s focus from offense to defense. Both George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau do not get enough credit for making this happen. McPhee was not even mentioned for General Manager of the Year which I think is complete bullshit. Not only did the Capitals win the Southeast Division (AGAIN) and finish the season with the #1 seed in the East (AGAIN) but used the defense first mentality to grind down the Rangers and win a tightly contested playoff series. It would be nice if the NHL, and some of the talking heads, finally recognized the Capitals as one of the best franchises in the league.

I might also add the Hershey Bears, the Capitals top affiliate, have won 3 Calder Cups in the past 6 years which means the Capitals have been built from within its organization. Washington did make late season moves to get Arnott and Wideman, but most of the roster is built with players who came up through the system.

Now the Capitals can sit back and wait to see who they play next. Personally I do not think Capital fans care which team we see in the second round. There is not one team in the Eastern Conference playoffs that scares me going forward. Montreal plays a similar style of hockey and after the series loss last year it would be nice to have the chance for revenge on both the Habs, and their classy fans who enjoy booing the American Anthem.

I am pretty certain the Capitals would enjoy that opportunity, but if Boston takes care of business that revenge will have to wait. It seems Buffalo and Philly are going to kill each other in their 7 game series so one would think the winner will be extremely tired and skating on fumes for the next round.

CROSBY1.jpgThat leaves, dare I say it, Pittsburgh. Hey Tampa, do us Capital fans a favor and loose this series so we might get the chance, once and for all, to beat those bastards in the playoffs. The past two years we have OWNED them in the regular season but the regular season means nothing. It has been nice to see Sidney Crosby in the owner’s box with his hand on Mario’s knee, looking into his eyes with that please take me now stare thanks to David Steckel in the Winter Classic. Penguin fans are still crying about that hit.

I just hope he gets cleared and can lace em up if the Caps get a chance to play the Penguins in the playoffs. The only thing worse than losing to those guys again would be beating them without Mrs. Crosby. I can hear them now, sitting out in front of the unemployment office, crying how the Caps would never have won if Crosby and Malkin were playing. Well let’s hope to hear those excuses. Let’s hope for another classic Capitals/Penguin match up in the playoffs!

Regardless who we see in the next round it’s nice to be moving on up, in the east conference, toward  that big Stanley Cup in the sky.

—–Sean the Caps Fan

Weekend Recap: Super Terrific Happy Hour Edition

// April 25th, 2011 // 3 Comments » // Uncategorized

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“You’ve, uh, you’ve been living in America too long. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to have no oranges.

The last few weeks have been pretty tough for Boston Sports. In honor of  finally remembering what it is like to have oranges again, I present the Weekend Recap: Super Terrific Happy Hour Edition.

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The media was all over the Red Sox when they were Bad News Bears-ing to a 2-9 start. Every edition of Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, and every sports talk radio program in the Northeast was praying on the insecurities of New Englanders by posing apocalyptic questions about the baseball season. And we bought into it.

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Not because we believed the season was already a washed up child TV star (aka lost cause), but because New Englanders believe that the best way to prepare for an emergency is to keep as much panic and self doubt stocked up in the cabinets as possible. We present a negative front in order to make it that much easier when we are let down.

If you check back, when I have mentioned the Red Sox, which hasn’t been often, I bitched and moaned, but never quite jumped off the bridge.

Now that we have gone 8-2 in our last 10 games, including 5 in a row, I’m happy to say that I had been living in the moment as a baseball fan. As I said, still complaining, but in a regular baseball fan way. My never ending supply of faith after 2004 is still intact and I even managed to avoid saying that our season, and all of our off season spending, were for naught and we were destined for the bottom of the AL East.

Maybe the New Englanders Anonymous meetings are starting to pay off.

Now if we could just find some steroids for Carl Crawford.

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In a land with no oranges, good guys finish in tears on the bench.

I wanted to give Brandon Roy a hug on Saturday. The poor guy has had his knees shredded, seen his playing time cut (somehow the Blazers always seem to thrive when their best players are hurt), and even broke down publically about his diminished role.

But through all that, the man stood tall. He apologized to his team for being a distraction and promised it wouldn’t happen again.

Not only did he make good on that promise, but he had one of the best 4th quarter playoff performances in history.

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The Blazers, down by a million points late in the 3rd quarter fought back and beat the Dallas Mavericks. Roy wasn’t on the bench watching, he was leading the charge. He was once again his team’s best player and once again leading by example.

Good for you Brandon Roy. You earned everyone’s respect, and more importantly, I think you earned back some of your own.

And good for you Dallas. You earned your reputation of always choking in the playoffs.

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In the land where there are no oranges there is also no playoff hockey.

If you haven’t gotten on board yet, do so immediately.

Monday and Tuesday feature three game sixes and two game sevens, with the possibility for three more game sevens on Wednesday.

Playoff hockey is like a high stakes game of Jenga, played on ice. The action is nerve shattering in the best possible way. Trust me, it took me a while to fall in line, but now that I have, my scraggily beard has a purpose and I can actually find Versus on my cable box.

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Did anyone see Chris Paul bitch slapping Kobe last night? Ok, so it was more of a metaphorical bitch slap but hell-a entertaining nonetheless.

In a land with no oranges Kobe Bryant wins another NBA Title.

After Kobe and the Lakers took control of the series in game 3, it seemed like the Hornets were donezo. But last night Paul carried his team to victory last night in a must win game against Bryant’s Lakers. He got bloodied. He got back up and barked in Kobe’s grill. Then he started destroying people.

Crossing over a helpless Andrew Bynum, when they switched on pick and rolls, before knocking down fade-away jumpers. Making his teammates, who are among the weakest in the playoffs (ignoring the 76ers and Pacers), look like capable NBA players with his precision passing. And as the shortest guy on the court he totaled as many rebounds as Bynum and Pudding Soft Pau Gasol.

Paul even said he would hit his mama if she was out there on the court against him.

The only thing better than Paul’s performance?

Seeing Kobe on crutches.

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In a land with no oranges the Heatles sweep their way into the second round.

The aforementioned 99 cent menu roster of the 76ers, apologies to Jrue Holiday who is definitely the five piece chicken nugget of the group, pushed Miami to a game five on Sunday.

Philadelphia was down 4 with a minute to go.  They fought back with some clutch three point shooting by Holliday, and some guy I had never heard of before. This is great news because no one wants the Heat to win, and the longer their opening round series goes, the more likely they are to get worn down as the long grind of the playoffs continues.

Plus as a Celtics fan, there is no bigger orange than being able to rest while your second round opponent has to keep playing.

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Speaking of the Celtics, in a land with no oranges we trade away our starting center and drift aimlessly through the last few weeks of the regular season, causing us to question whether we can even survive the first round.

After completing a sweep of the New York Knicks, the Celtics looked reenergized. Maybe this team needs the playoffs in order to care. It is not a mentality that I condone, but with such veteran leadership, perhaps they have learned how to turn it off and then dial it back up again.

Every game featured a different player leading the way and most importantly, Rajon Rondo remembered that he can destroy almost every point guard in the league. Especially ones named Toney Douglas. He is the key to the Celtics making a run at their 18th banner, and he seems to have learned from Pierce, Allen, and Garnett how to elevate his game when it matters.

Chicago and Miami have to keep playing and we can use the extra time off to get players, like Shaquille O’Neal, back for round two.

On second thought, now that I’m back living in a land of oranges, and no longer sleeping in a chest of drawers, I don’t want to be relying on Shaq for winning anything, except maybe a pie eating contest.

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—–Corey

Monday Morning Punch in the Mouth

// April 25th, 2011 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Monday morning can usually suck a big bag of Richards (Thanks Sean).  So the FWG is introducing a new feature.  It is the Monday Morning Punch in the Mouth, featuring something to get you amped up so you can start your week.  If you don’t like it, well then mission accomplished,because anger produces adrenaline, which also wakes up the system.  So either way…you’re welcome.

——Corey

Careful Ryan Miller…

// April 24th, 2011 // 6 Comments » // Uncategorized

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I’ll admit it…

I was out with some buddies and may have gotten a bit to drunk to be coherent and write a recap for Game 3. Flyers won, and despite looking like they were trying to keep up a panicked pace for the back end of the first period, they slowed the game down and took control. Good game out of the Flyers and they took a win that they needed.

Game 4 mirrored game 1 in many respects. Both goaltenders played amazing hockey. The Sabres just snuck one in. I mean Boucher really impressed me-when he came in for Bobrovsky, I expected him to play well and be steady, but he practically went save for save with Miller….even a crazy alley oop pass to himself, Tyler Ennis break away:
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There was lots of good hockey, interrupted by lots of bad officiating…and I’m not just bitching that the Flyers got jobbed and always got the short end of the stick. It went both ways, though being a fan of the Orange and Black, I can more easily point that out. Perfect example for me is the 5 minute major that Jeff Richards got tagged with. Kaleta was coming and he put up his arm to defend himself. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have gotten a penalty-the elbow was clearly up-but a 5 minute major usually has to clearly show the intent to injure. I don’t think that was there, and it broke up the good run the Flyers were on. Some Sabres fans have said that the fact that they were blanked on the power play shows that it didn’t matter, but I disagree. It forced the Flyers to play back, be more defensive and protect their zone. It din’t allow them to flow forward.

Mike Richards quote via CSN Philly:
“He [referee Francois St.Laurent] wouldn’t give me an explanation,” said Richards, controlling his anger. “When you’re allowed to get away with murder out there and we get called on the Car Bomb [Dan Carcillo], every time he is on the ice. It’s frustrating. We have to battle through it.”

It’s getting angry and chippy out there. I just hope the refs let the guys play the game and let the players stay on the ice to battle this out.

All of that said, Miller stole another game, and I hope he slips in the shower and breaks his elbow.

—-Mike from Philly

Kegs and Easter Eggs at Ted’s!!

// April 22nd, 2011 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

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There are quite a few things that a miss about college…

A dining hall equipped with a waffle maker and an omelet station on the weekends.

150 person classes that didn’t take attendance.

The # 3 combo at Lizards Thicket (Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Mac N Cheese) with an extra large sweet tea.

The all day tailgating bonanzas with things like wamboozie and pink panty pull down, oh and the Gamecock football games that inevitably followed.

$1 Drafts, $2 Pints, $2 Jim Beam, $2 Pitchers, and 10 cent wings which could all be found on any given night in Columbia, South Carolina.

I could go on and on.

Well I may not be in college any more, but this Saturday, at UCONN’s best bar, those of us who aren’t can mix with those who still are for a good old fashioned Easter tradition…

That’s right kids.  Kegs and Easter Eggs is back at TED’S!!! Starting at 11 am you can enjoy $2 Pints and Free Pizza.

The password this Saturday will be Brown Bunny.

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