Results tagged ‘ NFL ’

Catching up with Eli Manning – again!

While the Yankees are enjoying an off day in the midst of winning six of their last seven, their football counterparts – the New York Giants – are getting prepared for mini-camp this week. Each year, the day before football activity starts, two-time Super Bowl champ and MVP Eli Manning hosts the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic at the Mount Kisco Country Club.

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Last year I had the pleasure of covering the event, and as fate would have it, I was given the assignment yet again this year. This year marked Manning’s seventh year as host of the outing; the QB speaking with the press, then demonstrating what it’s like for a blind golfer to sink a putt on the green.

Instead of simply blogging about the experience of interviewing a legendary player as I did last year, I’ll post some video I took of Manning’s demo, and him answering a couple of my questions, as well as my story for the newspaper.

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Note: part of my first question was cut off at the beginning (didn’t hit record until I after had asked the first part of it). The question to Eli was, “What kind of advice would you give to young athletes in New York, like Matt Harvey, who are following in your footsteps, becoming franchise players very quickly?

Another side note: Shout out to the gentlemen from the Public Access TV station. Afterward they approached me and gave me a proverbial “pat on the back” telling me I asked a couple of good questions. Thanks for that, fellas.

Anywho, on to my story from the day…

MOUNT KISCO – The 2013 NFL season will surely bring plenty of storylines and work for the New York Giants, yet every year, before the football madness ensues, quarterback Eli Manning dedicates himself to a worthy cause. Guiding Eyes for the Blind put on its 36th annual golf classic at the Mt. Kisco Country Club Monday afternoon, and for the seventh consecutive year, Manning was on hand serving as host.

The MVP of Super Bowls 42 and 46 started golfing at a young age, and was introduced to the Guiding Eyes tournament by blind golf champion Pat Browne – a longtime friend of the Manning family. The Giants’ QB looks forward to the outing every year, and has noticed steady growth and participation over time.

“It’s really grown over the years,” Manning said. “I got to meet a lot of people whose lives have been greatly impacted by Guiding Eyes and the guide dogs, so it’s been a pleasure to work with them over the years.

Seeing first-hand some of the success that these people have because of their guide dogs; the impact it’s made and how it’s changed their lives, and how the guide dogs have helped them go on to have successful careers in anything that they want to do. There’ve been a lot of amazing stories that have occurred because of this. I’m really proud to be involved and keep helping out.”

Manning also spoke about how impressed he is with the blind golfers, who year in and year out make the Guiding Eyes golf classic a tremendous success.

“Having been in this tournament a number of times and played with some of the blind golfers, it’s amazing to watch them go out there and compete, get around the course, and make pars,” he said. “It’s incredible, it’s a lot of fun to be here and watch them do their craft.”

Taking to the practice green, Manning put on a blindfold, and got a taste for what it’s like for a blind golfer to sink a putt. Standing 14 feet from the hole, Manning swung his putter and came up just short during the demonstration, missing the hole by about three inches – contrary to last year when on his first attempt, he sank the putt from 10 feet away.

Manning also offered a look into the Giants’ upcoming season, which will begin with an automatic bang when the G-Men face off with the Denver Broncos in Week 2; Manning being pitted up against his older brother Peyton for the third time in his career. Although Peyton has won the first two meetings between the brothers, Manning wants nothing more than to turn the tables and make the third time the charm.

“At the end of the day one of us is going to lose,” he said. “I’ll look forward to the day, it’ll be the third time I’ve gotten to play against Peyton’s team before and I don’t know if it’ll be the last one – it could be, so hopefully I’ll get a win under my belt. He’s already got two wins.”

Manning might have all the incentive he needs to want to beat his brother this season, yet reaching Super Bowl 48 when it’s all said and done may be on the top of his to-do list, considering the big game will be held on his home turf: MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands.

“I think anytime you have the Super Bowl in your home town or in your home stadium, you’d like to play in it and be a part of it,” he said. “You want to win a championship, it’s always your goal, but it would be very special to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in your own stadium.”

Manning then finally offered some words of wisdom to up-and-coming athletes in New York who’d like to follow in his footsteps: a path that’s led to a legendary career, one that will undoubtedly live forever in the minds of New York area sports fans.

“Work hard, be a good teammate, try to earn the respect of your teammates, coaches, and fans,” he said. “Enjoy being an athlete in New York – and if you win a championship, it makes things easier.”

Catching Up with Eli Manning

Look out, baseball world. The Yankees have caught fire.

A power surge in the eighth inning of last night’s game led to a 6-4 win for the Yanks over the Atlanta Braves, the fifth consecutive win for the boys from the Bronx. The Yankees have now won 15 of their last 19 games and are in sole possession of first place in the American League East – a game ahead of both the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.

Alex Rodriguez did his best Superman impression, saving the day for his team. The Bombers trailed 4-0 in the eighth, and with the bases chucked, Rodriguez delivered. He launched a game-tying grand slam, a screaming line drive off reliever Jonny Venters that took practically no time to leave the yard.

It marked A-Rod’s 10th homer of the season and his 23rd career trip to granny’s house, tying him with another Yankee, Lou Gehrig, on baseball’s all-time grand slams list.

One more homer with the bases loaded, and Rodriguez is the all-time leader.

Nick Swisher then finished the job with a two-run homer later in the frame, his ninth of the year, to put the Braves away for good.

While the Swisher and A-Rod came through in the clutch last night, this week I had the opportunity to meet and interview (along with a number of other reporters) another New York sports hero who always comes up big when it matters: two-time Super Bowl Champion and MVP Eli Manning.

For the sixth straight year Manning hosted the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Golf Classic in Mount Kisco, N.Y.  The Giants’ quarterback was asked by Pat Browne, a blind golf champion and friend of the Manning family from New Orleans, to attend the event six years ago. He happily accepted and each year since, he’s come back.

When I got the call from my editor to cover Manning’s appearance at the golf outing on Monday, I was absolutely ecstatic. Obviously I followed the Giants during the regular season this past year, and certainly enjoyed their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots on Feb. 5.

I arrived to the Mount Kisco Country Club where the tournament was held and there were a lot of other media outlets present – both local and national. The Journal News, Patch, News 12, the New York Daily News, and even ESPN were all on hand.

Manning arrived and met with the press in what’s called a “media scrum,” or an informal press conference in which journalists/reporters gather around an interview subject and ask questions. On the High School sports scene, media scrums aren’t very common, so it felt extremely good to be a part of one among a group of fellow press members.

That’s me…well, the back of my head, on the right, next to the cameraman.

One reporter asked him about the recent arrest of teammate David Diehl, who was charged with a DWI earlier this week. Not knowing a lot about the situation, Manning had no comment.

After he fielded some questions, the reigning Super Bowl MVP then stood on the practice green for a demonstration. He sank a putt blindfolded, getting the feel for what blind golfers like Browne experience when they are putting.

He felt attempting to golf without sight was more difficult than throwing a game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of a football game.

“I don’t think I could play football blindfolded,” Manning said of the demo. “It’s a totally different game and I had no idea how long I was going to hit that putt.”

I then got a chance to ask him how excited he was, being that not only was he at a good event for charity, but after the golf classic he was heading to mini-camp with the Giants.

“It’s always been the day before mini-camp starts, so it’s an exciting week,” Manning answered me.

“The tournament is fun and it seems that it’s just grown and grown each year, and Guiding Eyes has grown – it’s moved on to helping kids with autism, so I’m just happy that it affects so many different people and helps peoples’ lives.”

Since no one had mentioned anything about it up until the end, I just had to go there…

“I heard Denver got a new quarterback during the off-season, and I heard he’s pretty good. If the Giants happen to play the Broncos in the future, what are you going to be thinking about?” I asked.

Manning kind of shot me that all-too-familiar “awww shucks” expression; he darted his eyes and smirked, right after I mentioned the Broncos.

“I’ll be thinking, how are we going to get some points on the board against that guy?”

Manning, myself, and the scrum of reporters let out a good-spirited laugh.

Overall, it was a great experience; one I hope to experience again with other big-ticket athletes. Manning was a great interview subject and it was a little bit of a challenge for me to keep my cool; maintain my excitement level (even as a reporter) being such a huge fan of his and the Giants.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what I am: a fan.

That Championship Season

*To all of my football lovers out there: this one is for the Giants. Because we were ALL IN.*

Before Super Bowl XLII in February of 2008, then-Giants’ wide receiver Plaxico Burress predicted his team would beat the Patriots by a score of 21-17. New York wound up beating New England in exciting fashion, 17-14. It may have taken another four years but last night Burress’s prediction finally came to fruition.

In Super Bowl XLVI the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17, in another exhilarating title match.

I can’t really explain why – maybe it’s just God’s way – but whenever the Giants and Patriots meet, the Giants seem to have their number. Two weeks ago I wrote about all the similarities between this year and their last Championship season.

And both Super Bowls proved to be just as comparable.

2007: The Patriots led at halftime, but not by a lot: 7-3.

2011: The Patriots led at halftime, and again, not by much: 10-9.

2007: Eli Manning had the ball on his own 17-yard line, Giants trailing 14-10 with just 2:39 left in the game.

2011: Eli Manning had the ball on his own 12-yard line, Giants trailing 17-15 with just 3:46 left in the game.

2007: On third and five Manning evaded what looked like a sack, threw up a Hail Mary, and miraculously hit David Tyree, who pinned the football up against his helmet for a 32-yard completion and a first down. The catch laid the groundwork for the winning touchdown.

2011: On the first play from scrimmage, Manning found Mario Manningham near the sideline and beating double coverage, hooked up with him for a 38-yard gain, giving the Giants prime field position to set up a score.

2007: Manning hit Burress in the end zone for a TD with just 35 seconds left on the clock. Tom Brady and the Patriots failed to move the ball into field goal range as time ticked down and lost by three points, 17-14.

2011: Ahmad Bradshaw hesitantly ran the ball into the end zone for a TD, leaving Brady and the Pats with only 57 seconds to score a touchdown. And once again, Brady and his receivers failed to move the ball down the field, losing by four points, 21-17.

2007: Manning wins the Super Bowl XLII Most Valuable Player award. He went to Disney World and the Canyon of Heroes – in that order.

2011: Take a guess who won Super Bowl XLVI MVP….Yes. It was Manning again. Today Manning was once again at Mickey Mouse’s home – and tomorrow he’ll be with his teammates in the Canyon of Heroes.

This year truly was, as Yogi Berra would say, déjà vu. Or déjà blue, depending on which way you want to phrase it. New York once again triumphs over New England, and gets the opportunity to celebrate a huge win.

Jubilation in New York. And for the fans in Boston; New England: more heartache.

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe had it right today when he wrote,

“History Repeats:

Instead of celebrating a grand slam–championships in every major sport over a period of four years and four months–New Englanders are spitting out pieces of their broken luck, bracing for the avalanche of grief from those annoying New Yorkers.”

Yeah, pretty much spot on.

Every fan of the Patriots must be saying “Mario (bleeping) Manningham” right now, the same way four years ago they were undoubtedly saying “David (bleeping) Tyree” – and just like most Red Sox fans in the past have exclaimed, “Bucky (bleeping) Dent” and “Aaron (bleeping) Boone.”

A win like yesterday is the type of victory that can carry New York bragging rights over New England for a long way.

I know as a fan of the Giants, and as a fan who doubted they would go anywhere this season, I was enthralled; fascinated. The familiar feeling of sports joy overcame me. One of my favorite teams won a title and I was so happy I got down on one knee and…I’m not calling it “Tebowing.” In the spirit of the win, I prefer to call it “Manning’ing.”

That’s what I did.

Tom Coughlin, the Giants’ Head Coach, seemed just as happy as I was, seeing as how he was on the hot seat when the Giants scuffled. Coughlin became the oldest Head Coach in the NFL to win a Super Bowl at 65 years. He is also only the second coach to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl win. Bill Parcells was at the helm of the squad for the Giants’ first two Super Bowl victories in 1986 and 1990.

As for Manning…well…

At the outset of the season he called himself an elite quarterback; a top five-caliber manager who deserves to be put on the same level as Brady. The media jumped all over that statement and put Manning under the microscope. When he struggled, they doubted his words.

But now that he has beaten Brady three times in his career – and twice on the worldwide stage – his bold words are now inarguable. Manning is an elite quarterback, and he is as every bit as good as Brady, if not better. He led his team in a total of eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter this season (including the postseason).

If that isn’t considered clutch, what the heck is?

And now, if anyone tries to call out Manning; say he isn’t one of the best QBs in the league, their point will be invalid. The proof of his greatness lies in his stat columns and the number of Super Bowl rings on his fingers.

No more Manning-bashing.

The Giants became only the fifth team in NFL history to win four or more Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers own six titles, the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers both have five. The Green Bay Packers have four, and now, so does the so-called “Big Blue Wrecking Crew.”

That’s right. The Steelers have the most Super Bowl titles in history with six. Football certainly is a different game than baseball as far as the Championship goes, looking at the 27 World Series titles the Yankees have.

And speaking of the Yankees, Spring Training will be starting shortly. Pretty soon camp will start and before we know it camp will break, bringing the 2012 MLB season. Now that football season has come to a dramatic and happy ending, baseball is soon to begin.

And while we wait, we can enjoy yet another New York Championship.

Déjà Blue

Editor’s note: I know this blog is basically reserved for baseball highlights, personal Yankee-related stories, and analysis of the Yankees, but given the circumstances surrounding yesterday night’s game, I made an exception to write about my favorite football team, the New York Giants.

I spent Yesterday night in the same place I spent Game One of the 2011-12 NFL season on Sept. 11 – at my best friend’s house watching the New York Giants.

The Giants played the Washington Redskins in Week 1, and didn’t look very good coming out of the gate. Sometime during the first half of the game, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning was under heavy pressure, he scrambled, and ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown.

I jumped out of my seat and yelled out in sarcasm,

“Rushing touchdown for Eli Manning! Hey, this might be a good year after all.”

After getting laughed at by my friends and hearing from certain people how “The Buffalo Bill” (yes, the Buffalo Bill, not the Buffalo Bills) were the “only New York team” (inside joke, being that the Giants and Jets play their home games in New Jersey) the Giants went on to lose 28-14 to the typically bad Redskins.

Yet, my skepticism didn’t start during their first game. I was incredibly skeptical before the season even started. The so-called “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” allowed a number of their players to walk away, losing them to free agency. I thought for sure it would be another season in which the Jets – the other New York team – would overshadow them on the back pages of the newspapers.

The Jets had been to the last two AFC title games and came dangerously close to winning them both times, nearly punching their ticket to the Super Bowl. Not to mention the Jets added former Giant hero Plaxico Burress, who caught the game-winning TD in Super Bowl XLII to beat the 18-0 New England Patriots.

We all remember that happy story, right? I thought so.

Knowing the Giants were playing the Jets on Christmas Eve when the NFL schedule broke, I called and text messaged some of my friends who are Jets fans saying, “Congrats on the win on Christmas Eve. The Giants are going to have a horrible year.”

My faith in the team was just nonexistent.

However, it picked up a little bit as the season progressed, and the G-Men got on a little bit of a roll. They sort of came together, going 6-2 after eight weeks. The Giants began playing smash-mouth football, and most importantly they got healthy.

A number of their key players on the defensive end and their secondary were hurt, rendering them vulnerable to teams that weren’t necessarily stronger, but dictated games a lot better.

Case in point: their game vs. the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 9.

The Giants were certainly playing like the better team, but a few miscues on defense and a big mistake on offense – a fourth quarter interception by Manning – cost Big Blue the game.

Still, they were able to hang with teams, stay in the playoff race, and they obviously got healthy and red-hot at the right time. And it all started with, believe it or not, their game against the Jets.

Manning began a 29-14 rout of the Green Team with a 99-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz, who seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the Giants’ top offensive weapons – and one of the league’s top receivers. The 99-yarder tied an NFL record, and his 89 yards after the catch is the most by a receiver on a 99-yard TD.

Not bad for a player who went undrafted.

Needless to say I was extremely happy the Giants beat the Jets and I learned a valuable lesson from that game: never lose faith in your team. Always have faith and always believe in them, even when it’s hard to and it looks as though defeat is imminent.

For a fan who congratulated fans of the other team months before the game even took place, and to have my team win – and win by a lot – was certainly humbling, to say the very least.

From there the G-Men just got on a win streak: a 31-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys to get into the playoff dance, a 24-2 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Wild Card weekend, a 37-20 spanking of the heavily favored, 15-1 Green Bay Packers, and finally a 20-17 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers.

And now we’re back to where we were in 2008: Giants vs. Patriots in the Super Bowl.

As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu, all over again!”

There are so many eerie similarities between this season and the 2007-08 campaign in which the Giants defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Let me count the ways…

2007: The Giants lost their first two games, but eventually caught fire and held a 6-2 record after eight games.

2011: The Giants lost their first game and became a bit streaky, yet held a 6-2 record after eight games.

2007: Up against tough odds, the G-Men played an undefeated 15-0 Patriots team on the last day of the regular season. Big Blue hung step-for-step with the Pats, but wound up losing 38-35.

2011: Again, up against unfavorable odds, the Giants played the defending champion Packers, who were 12-0 heading into their game vs. New York in Week 13. The G-Men kept themselves in it, and looked to be clicking on all cylinders. However, some sloppy defense at the tail end of the game led to a loss, 38-35.

2007: On the road, the Giants won 10 straight games – and if you include the Super Bowl, 11 wins in a row away from the Meadowlands.

2011: The Giants are currently on a four-game win streak on the road – and they will be the away team in the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5.

2007: In the NFC Championship Game on the “Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field,” the Giants and Packers played to a 20-20 tie in subzero temperatures. In overtime, a key turnover by Brett Favre (an interception, which was picked off by cornerback Corey Webster) set up a field goal for the Giants. Kicker Lawrence Tynes, from 47 yards out, booted Big Blue into the Super Bowl.

2011: In the NFC Championship Game at a wet and soggy Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the Giants and 49ers played to a 17-17 tie after regulation, forcing the title game into overtime. Niners’ punt return specialist Kyle Williams was stripped of the ball by New York linebacker Jacquian Williams. The fumble was recovered by Giants’ wide receiver/specialist Devin Thomas, a costly turnover. The play set up a 31-yard field goal – which was made by Tynes to send New York to the Super Bowl.

2007: The Patriots beat the San Diego Chargers in the AFC title game, only to lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl.

2011: The Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC title game, and will once again play the Giants in the Super Bowl.

It’s pretty incredible how many parallels can be drawn between this year and the magical championship run the Giants put together a few years ago. I never thought when I was sarcastically saying “this could be a good year after all” and when I was giving the Jets the win over the Giants months before the game that the G-Men would be where they are now.

After the big win over the 49ers, Giants’ safety Antrel Rolle said, “No one gave us a shot.”

Yes sir. I will admit I was guilty of that, even as a loyal fan.

 Yet Rolle even admitted that at times throughout the season, the team didn’t even give themselves a shot – so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself as far as my wavering faith in the G-Men.

I went into this NFL season as a fan with the lowest of expectations. The Giants just by making the postseason proved me wrong. And now as NFC Champs, going to their fifth Super Bowl in franchise history, have gone above and beyond anything I ever expected out of them this year.

There might not be as much pressure on the Giants, being that New England isn’t playing for an undefeated season this time around. The Giants had to win Super Bowl XLII, otherwise they would always be remembered as “that fluke Super Bowl team who the Patriots beat to go 19-0.”

Instead they became “that pesky, resilient team who stopped the Patriots from going 19-0, and embarrassed them in front of the world.”

As far as the rematch goes, I don’t know what to anticipate; I have no idea what to expect. But if history has shown us anything, things look good for the New York Football Giants. It’s bound to be another good game; one the world will undoubtedly be watching.

Think of Yankees vs. Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS – that’s the type of feel this game is bound to possess.

No matter what happens in Super Bowl XLVI, I am proud of the Giants. They turned a season in which I expected nothing into a season that could very well be something special.

True Colors: Athletes and Expression of Self

Famed martial artist and actor Bruce Lee once said, “Always be yourself, express yourself, and have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

One could say any professional athlete is successful at what they do. If they were not, they wouldn’t be where they are. Whether it is starting shortstop for the New York Yankees or starting quarterback for the New York Giants, pro athletes are where they are because of their capabilities.

But what about their personalities? Should they be allowed to express themselves on the field after they accomplish something or reach an achievement?

A lot of critics these days are saying no.

When Joba Chamberlain was first called up in the summer of 2007, he was a flame-throwing middle reliever who tossed fastballs clocked in the high-90s and he sometimes struck triple digits on the speed gun. Usually after he fanned a batter to end an inning Chamberlain would wildly pump his fists in pride as he gleefully marched off the mound.

     

Fist pumping is defined as, “A celebratory gesture in which a fist is raised before the torso and subsequently drawn down and nearer to the body in a vigorous, swift motion.

The fist pump is sometimes carried out in parts of the Western Hemisphere, Europe, and Japan (where it is known as guts pose) to denote enthusiasm, exuberance, or success and may be accompanied by a similarly energetic exclamation or vociferation. The gesture may be executed once or in a rapid series.”

Knowing that, a big strikeout can call for a little fist pumping.  So why exactly did critics jump all over Chamberlain and call him on his jubilation, turning his joy into a topic of debate?

Some analysts and sports pundits suggest that getting overly excited and expressing it is a way of “showing up the other team” or in other words rubbing it in their faces after they have failed to some capacity.

I don’t happen to see it that way. I see it as a player simply being honest and outwardly showing how they truly feel after they have done something noteworthy.

And it can work both ways. When a player is on the other end of it – losing – should they be allowed to express it?

I think so.

Think back for a moment to Oct. 16, 2003: Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, otherwise known as the famous “Aaron Boone game.”

When Boone crushed that home run in the 11th inning sending the Yankees to the World Series – and broke the hearts of every fan in New England – the Red Sox were, for the lack of a better term, crushed. I specifically remember the reaction of one Boston player, namely outfielder Trot Nixon.

On his way to the clubhouse, Nixon took his frustration out on a Gatorade cooler, picking it up and then slamming it to the dugout floor in what looked like unadulterated anger.

Nixon and every other Red Sox player were well within their rights to be frustrated in terms of the outcome of that game and the series overall – and they had the right to express that frustration after it was all over.

These days expression in sports has gone to a new level. Looking outside the world of baseball for a minute, ESPN and every other form of sports media seem to be on the case of a young quarterback by the name of Tim Tebow.

After the Denver Broncos’ stud scores a touchdown, or when his team wins, he takes a knee, bows his head and offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God. In fact, the pose has taken on a life of its own and people have turned it into a verb: “Tebowing.”

Everyone and their mother has put Tebow under the microscope and criticized him for this particular pose after a TD or a win. Tebow let it be known when he played football at the University of Florida that he lives his life a certain way (I.E. he has chosen to remain chaste until he gets married) and strongly holds onto what he believes in.

Is it wrong of him to show it when he does something good?

In my view, no. I think it is perfectly fine.

If Tebow feels taking a knee and praying is how he wants to express his happiness when his team wins, I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, I view it as a more civil way to show a good feeling when something positive happens.

A lot of people have made claims that, because it’s a sort of religious action, it’s wrong and should not be permitted. But it’s not as if Tebow is constantly projecting his beliefs onto other people; he isn’t standing on the sideline with a microphone in hand and trying to get every fan who attended the game to convert to Christianity.

If that were the case I’d be opposed to it – and probably feel Tebow is out of his mind.

What I find strange about the criticism of Tebow expressing his faith is that other athletes also express their faith – yet nothing is said about it, or even mentioned.

Before Derek Jeter steps into the batter’s box, he makes the sign of the cross. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, a one-time Yankee and journeyman catcher always makes the sign of the cross; as a matter of fact, he crosses himself before every pitch during his at-bats.

Where is the barrage of criticism and religious outrage directed at Jeter and Pudge?

Nowhere to be found. It just doesn’t sound very fair to me.

All Tebow is doing is expressing his true personality and incorporating it into what he loves to do – just as I incorporate my personality sometimes when I write these blog entries, with funny inside jokes and obscure references.

As good as it for an athlete to show off their personality, it can get out of hand. It doesn’t happen so much in baseball, but in football and other sports it can certainly be brought to a whole new level. The NFL has banned touchdown celebrations, and if a player crosses the plane, scores, and expresses it, that player’s team will be penalized.

In my view, that’s fair. It’s fine for a player to be happy, and to express that positive energy when they score a touchdown; maybe leap up and bump their teammates’ chests. But spiking the ball and dancing around just makes the player look like a fool, and the NFL did the right thing by outlawing such unprofessionalism.

Perhaps in football things are a little different because there is more contact and physicality; maybe more “heat of the moment” moments. But that’s not to say it hasn’t happened in baseball.

In 2007 former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon began to exhibit a different side of himself when he Irish step danced at the conclusion of the American League Championship Series. After Boston defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games, Papelbon danced around the Fenway Park infield like a loon celebrating the win.

There was no need for that. It’s fine to be happy and celebrate a pennant, but do it in the clubhouse with your teammates. There is no reason to run back out onto the field and commence dancing like a ballerina.  

The bottom line is, it’s fine to express yourself as an athlete. Be creative and be yourself; incorporate your personality into your playing style and do it in a respectful, professional manner.

If you’re excited, pump your fists.

If you’re mad, body slam a cooler or two.

If you have a certain belief system, feel free to show it, without projecting it onto to others.

If you want to dance though, become a Rockette not an athlete.

It’s OK to wear your heart on your sleeve.

The MLB Draft: What Does it Mean and Does Anyone Care?

At the end of April every year, football fans flock to Radio City Music Hall, bars, or friend’s houses to watch the spectacle known as the NFL Draft. College players eligible to be drafted by NFL teams, coaches, draft analysts, fans, and Commissioner Roger Goodell are all in attendance to watch the draft take place.

The MLB Draft takes place during the regular season (in June) and is hardly anything compared to the NFL Draft. This year’s draft is currently taking place this week and a number of high school players and collegiate athletes have been drafted to MLB teams.

To be honest, I had no idea the MLB Draft was happening until I saw it on Twitter. In fact, as I was writing this, ESPN acknowledged that there has barely been a word uttered about the MLB Draft, and right now it is in its third day.

There are so many reasons the MLB Draft is, in a lot of ways, meaningless.

First I will start with an obvious point: popularity. The MLB Draft does not get mainstream media attention because high school and college baseball is not nearly as recognized as high school and college football, basketball, and in some areas of the county high school and college hockey.

Simply put, more is known about prospective players in other sports than baseball.

To another point, many players who get drafted to MLB teams do not see an MLB diamond until years later. These kids get drafted but in no way make an immediate impact. In fact, some don’t make the majors at all.

Consider this:

31 of the first 53 picks in first round of the 1997 MLB Draft eventually made the majors. But only 13 of those 31 players appeared in more than 100 innings as of 2009.

In the sixth round of the ’97 draft, only five of the 30 players selected eventually made a big league appearance – and only two of those five (Tim Hudson and Matt Wise) have played more than 40 innings in an MLB game.

MLB drafted 64 players in the first round of the 2007 draft. At the end of the 2008 season, those 64 players – combined – totaled one inning of MLB playing time. What’s more, as of 2009, the majority of the players selected in the 2008 draft were still in the minor leagues.

Now compare that to the NFL.

Every first round pick in the ’08 NFL draft had played in the league by the end of the season.

On last night’s broadcast of the Yankees vs. Red Sox game, former Yankee Paul O’Neill made a great point when he and the rest of the commentators were discussing the MLB Draft:

“If you get drafted, you have a chance to make it,” O’Neill said.

“You go to minor league camp and find there’s 400 other guys trying to do the same thing you are.”

It’s such an excellent point. In baseball, you really are not guaranteed anything. You can be the best player on your high school or college team, but it doesn’t mean you are going to see an MLB diamond anytime soon. If a player gets drafted, they get a chance.

What the player chooses to do with the opportunity is up to them.

If a player gets drafted, tears through the minors, and demonstrates ability on and off the field, then he has a great chance at success.

However, if they falter in the minors and can’t keep up, the odds of making the majors are slim.

As far as first overall picks, there’s a little bit of a difference between baseball and football. For example, football has produced 28 players (drafted as the first overall pick) that have gone on to play in a Pro-Bowl, football’s version of the MLB All-Star Game.

12 football players who were picked first overall went on to become Hall of Famers.

21 overall first round baseball picks became All-Stars and two won Rookie of the Year.

Yet, what struck me is that two players in baseball who were drafted first overall retired without ever playing a Major League game.

That just proves the point: you can be as good as it gets, but still not make it to the show.

None of the first round overall MLB picks have gone on to the Hall of Fame, but keep in mind: the NFL Draft began in 1936. The MLB Draft only started in 1965, giving the NFL Draft 29 years on the MLB Draft, and thus more time to generate Hall of Famers.

Ken Griffey, Jr. was selected first overall (by the Seattle Mariners) in the 1987 MLB Draft, and in all likelihood, he will become the first player, taken first overall, to make it to Cooperstown. Alex Rodriguez was picked first in the 1993 draft, but with his admission of PED usage, his future in terms of the Hall of Fame is uncertain.

24 out of the 46 overall first round MLB draft picks were drafted out of college. In my mind, that demonstrates maturity. I have always maintained, whenever speaking about sports, that athletes who play in college are more mature than athletes who sign right out of high school.

Prime example: Tino Martinez, one of the more dominant players during the Yankee dynasty.

  

Martinez was drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school, but instead opted to go to the University of Tampa. His father always told him, “Anything can happen to you and you might not be able to play. Get a college education, and if they like you enough, they will draft you again.”

And that they did. But the second time he got the call it was from the Seattle Mariners. He was then traded to the Yanks, and the rest is history.

Bottom line: I respect those who play in college more than the players that sign right out of high school.

Another advantage football has over baseball in terms of the draft is the scouting combine. The NFL scouting combine takes place every year after the season ends, and coaches get the chance to see the draftees in action about two months before the draft – giving them ample time to see what their choices are before making their picks.

There is no equivalent in baseball. Scouts from different organizations go around to high schools and colleges across the country, with a book and a radar gun in hand. The scouts are the only ones who get to see the potential draft picks, the manager and coaches don’t see them first hand.

This spring season, I mostly covered high school girls’ lacrosse for the newspaper I work for. I did however get the chance to cover a baseball game last month. A Lakeland High School (Shrub Oak, NY) pitcher was two outs away from a perfect game, and he surrendered a home run.

I had the chance to cover him again last week, as he was named New York State Gatorade Player of the Year for the second year in a row. He became the first player from New York to win the award twice and on his senior night, Tommy John personally came to the game to watch him pitch.

Overall he tossed 40 innings this season and only issued five walks. He also racked up 59 strikeouts over those 40 innings and he only gave up seven earned runs all season. He finished with a 6-1 record and his ERA was 1.22.

Next year this player is going to Richmond to pitch.

Do all of his accolades mean he will get drafted?

Perhaps, but only if he keeps it up in college. He has a good chance to get a call from an MLB team and sign after his junior year.

Yet, does it mean he will see an MLB field and play Major League Baseball?

Who’s to say? Nothing is guaranteed in baseball.

A Nice Baby BoSox Player

The world might be ending. I never thought I would say nice things about a potential Boston player.

I am just about finished with my summer internship with the Hudson Valley Renegades these past two nights have been eventful, in terms of speaking with more players. I wrote the other night about the Staten Island Yankee who interestingly enough hates the big Yankees and how he wanted to go home.

The Renegades host the Lowell Spinners this weekend

To close out the season the Renegades are playing the Lowell Spinners, a farm team of the Boston Red Sox, in a three game series. In game one on Friday night, the Spinners beat the ‘Gades 11-3.

At one point in the game, the Renegades pitcher came set to deliver to one of the Spinners. Right before he was about to throw the pitch, the batter called time and stepped out of the box. Our man on the mound said, “Are you going to get in the box and hit or stand there and watch it all night?”

That didn’t go over very well.

After that exchange there was a little bit of a standoff between both sides. The Renegades stayed in their dugout (albeit their defensive players were on the field, obviously) but the Spinners looked ready to pounce. They all came out of their dugout and stared down the Renegades before order was restored.

However, one player toward the end of the dugout looked at me. I was working in the third base pit, standing less than five feet away from him. He smiled at me and some of the other interns who were working. One of my friends smiled back and jokingly said, “You guys need backup?”

He couldn’t help but laugh.

I wound up talking with him for the better part of the night. His name is Garrett Rau, an up-and-coming reliever. Honestly, he was a nice guy. He was asking me where the best local bars were, because he was contemplating a night out after the game. I told him about a bar down the street from the Stadium and gave him the drink prices.

“$3.50 for a bottle of Bud Lite,” I told him.

He nodded, as if to say, “Not bad.”

I saw Rau again tonight, as I was back in the third base pit for tonight’s game. The Renegades won 6-2.

“Did you go out last night?” I asked.

“No, I was just too tired to go out, so I nixed the idea,” he replied.

“I hear you,” I said, sympathizing with the exhausted feeling after last night’s game.

Garrett Rau: A Baby Bosock. A nice guy.

We chatted for a little while longer about the silly games that take place on the field in between innings. The Renegades have a different theme every night and tonight was (no joke) “Child Please Night.” We honored the end of summer and the start of the NFL season with different football style games on the field.

One contest was the touchdown celebration game. We picked contestants out of the crowd and gave them a football. They had to do their best touchdown celebration and the winner was decided by loudest ovation from the crowd.

None of the celebrations were all that original.

Rau looked at me said, “That was lame.”

I agreed.

“They should have come up with something cool, like Terrell Owens falling asleep on the ball,” I said.

Rau agreed. He then said that we at least change up the games every night. According to him, the interns at the Spinners’ ballpark in Massachusetts conduct the same contests every night and the players get tired of them.

It’s good to know we are at least providing everyone with new material on a nightly basis.

The ‘Gades and Spinners will play the rubber game tomorrow night to finish off their 2010 New York Penn League seasons. Rau was a little annoyed about the start time of tomorrow’s game. Before the game ended tonight, he asked me what time tomorrow’s game started.

“Seven, I think,” I answered.

“Great,” he sarcastically remarked. “It’s our last game of the season and we’re going to be starting later than usual.”

Normally Sunday games begin at 5:00 but since it’s the last game of the year, it starts later.

Perhaps I’ll see him again tomorrow, but driving home I got to thinking: is it bad that I was conversing and almost cultivating a friendship with a baby Red Sox player? After all, I am one of the most die-hard Yankee fans there is, so is it wrong for me to be talking to this guy?

I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s not his fault he was drafted by Boston. It’s just like the Staten Island Yankee who hates the Yankees–he is not playing for the team by choice, he is only playing for them because they drafted him.

Maybe one day Rau will make the majors. If he does happen to go all the way and he becomes a member of the Red Sox, I will not like him so much.

But for now, I’ll say that he’s not a bad guy.

Five Players to Watch This Spring

What’s up Yankee fans?

 

The date is February 15, 2010.

 

 


It's been a busy winter in the sports world 

As for news around the sports world, the NFL Super Bowl is over. The great Peyton Manning fell to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in what was (in my opinion) the best Super Bowl game since the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

 

The winter Olympics are in full swing in Vancouver and at press time the U.S.A. has claimed six medals.

 

The NBA is at their All-Star point and Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks became the only player in history to win the Slam Dunk Contest three times.

 

And last but never-the-least, MLB pitchers and catchers report to camp this week. We now know that baseball is almost back. Almost back, but we’re not quite there yet.

 

The Yankees obviously made a number of moves in the off season, bidding farewell to players like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Chien-Ming Wang.

 

But they welcomed in new (and old) players like Curtis Granderson, Randy Winn, Javier Vazquez, and Nick Johnson.

 

Some of these moves haven’t been very popular among Yankee fans, but it remains to be seen how these players will perform. The best time to find out how well each player might do in the season is obviously in spring training.

 

With that being said, here are my five players to keep an eye on in March:

 

5) Javier Vazquez

 

 


Javier Vazquez is ready for his second stint in pinstripes 

At first, I was completely against the Javier Vazquez deal and part of me still is. I never liked him during his first stint with the Yankees in 2004. The only lasting image I have of him was that meatball he served up that Johnny Damon clobbered for a grand slam in the 2004 ALCS–a bomb that solidified the Yankees’ Game Seven collapse.

 

 


Vazquez picthed in the Yankees' losing effort in the 2004 ALCS 

But I suppose I’ll give him a second chance as the number four starter in 2010.

 

Everyone keeps talking about how Vazquez had a very low ERA these past few seasons, so who knows. He may surprise us. After all, I thought Hideki Matsui was going to have a horrible season in 2009. He went on to win the World Series MVP.

 

I have decided to give Vazquez until July 15–if he has decent numbers then, I’ll approve of the trade. But if he is basically hanging on by a thread with an inflated ERA and a record of .500, then I’ll stand by my initial thought: what are the Yankees thinking?!

 

I realize the Vazquez trade was a panic move to counter the Red Sox signing John Lackey. But the Yanks could have figured out another way to get a pitcher without having to give up a promising outfielder (Cabrera) for a one-year rental (Vazquez).

 

We’ll see how he does. But without question, he’ll be under the microscope in Tampa.

 

4) Jesus Montero

 

 


Jesus Montero is a top-ranked prospect we'll see this spring 

I have heard a lot of great things about this kid. I get the feeling he’ll one day be a star, but he’s just too young right now. Nonetheless, non-roster invitee Jesus Montero will be a player to watch this spring.

 

At 20 years old, Montero has been named the Yanks’ best prospect and the fifth best player by Baseball America. In his 2008 minor league season with the Charleston River Dogs, Montero batted .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBIs. He only stole two bases, but hey…he’s a catcher, we cannot expect a ton of steals from him.

 

The highest level he’s played at is AA Trenton Thunder, but mark my words; he’ll probably make it to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2010.

 

With Jose Molina leaving the Yankees, it’ll most likely be Francisco Cervelli backing up Jorge Posada. So in all likelihood, we won’t see Montero in the show this year. In 2011, he’ll more than likely be on the Major League squad.

 

But Montero will undoubtedly be on the field this spring. This is his chance to show Yankee Universe what he’s made of and for us to get a feel for what he is about.

 

3) Brett Gardner

 

 


Brett Gardner can run, but must improve on offense 

Brett Gardner has given the Yankees something they haven’t had in recent times–speed. And I’m not talking about just a decent pair of wheels. I’m talking the Flash/Sonic the Hedgehog type horse power here.

 

I mean, if he sprinted on the highway, he’d probably get a speeding ticket.

 

Gardner has also offered a great deal of defense in the outfield. With the departure of Melky Cabrera, the Yankees are obviously putting a lot of stock in him. Gardner can run and he can play some unbelievable defense. But he needs to get on base and become a better offensive player.

 

In 2009, Gardner had 67 hits in 248 at-bats, which translates to a .270 average–not too shabby. He drew 26 walks and stole 26 bases, which again, are decent stats.

 

But centerfield is a position that requires power; you need to have some pop coming from that spot on the field. Gardner only hit three home runs last year, two of which left the park (and yes, it was pretty sweet watching that inside-the-park home run on May 15…it was even sweeter because I saw it in-person!)

 

This spring, the Yankees will be trying out a number of different outfielders. There’s even talk that if Gardner is good enough, recent acquisition Curtis Granderson might play left field and Gardner will man center.

 

Well, that scenario remains to be seen, but in any event, Gardner has to take his game up to the next level. We’ll see how he responds next month.

 

2) Robinson Cano

 

 


Can Robinson Cano hit without Melky Cabrera on the team? 

Boy has this young man come a long way. I can remember the day he was called up to the big leagues in 2005 and how nervous he looked. He would make frequent errors and he looked so uneasy at the plate.

 

But Robinson Cano worked his game up to a Major League level, finishing in the top three in the 2006 batting title race. He was even compared to the incomparable Rod Carew. And from there, the rest is basically history. In my opinion, he’s unlike any other second baseman in the American League–and that’s a good thing.

 

He plays defense so well, gliding across the infield and making spectacular plays. I still believe he should have won a Gold Glove Award this past year. His hitting has certainly improved, as well. In 2009 he set a career-high in home runs with 25 and averaged .320 at the dish.

 

I have to say, of the younger players who are currently on the Yankees, Cano is my favorite. You can mention Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and all the legendary players of the so-called “core four,” but (for me) Cano has been the most exciting Yankee these past couple of seasons.

 

But some philosophize that Cano only performed so well for so long because of the presence of his best friend Melky Cabrera. The two became bosom buddies in 2007 and since then, both have played very well in each other’s friendship.

 

But Cabrera is now an Atlanta Brave and Cano is on his own.

 

I am anxious to see how Cano is going to perform in the absence of his best friend. I still feel he can play the same way he has these last few years. However, the only minor concern I have is how Cano played in 2008 without Cabrera; when his buddy was sent down to the minors because of a nasty slump, Cano struggled a little bit and fell into a funk of his own.

 

Hopefully nothing like that will happen to him this upcoming year. But if Cano gets off to a slow start and cannot find his rhythm, I might have to side with those philosophers.

 

1) Joba Chamberlain

 


Will Joba Chamberlain be the fifth starter?   

 

It’s no secret that Joba Chamberlain had a rough 2009. It started back when he was arrested for a DUI after the 2008 campaign. Then he was put back on the “Joba Rules,” only being allowed to toss a certain amount of innings according to the Yankees’ discretion.

 

He had some forgetful starts and some brilliant starts in ’09, posting a record of 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. If that wasn’t enough, the 24 year-old flamethrower was sent to the bullpen for the playoffs and World Series as the Bronx Bombers chose to go with a three-man rotation. In relief, he posted an ERA of 2.84 and was 1-0 with one save and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.

 

Not too bad, if you ask me. Chamberlain seems to excel when he knows his role.

 

There’s a lot of speculation on which pitcher will land the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Chamberlain seems to be the logical choice, unless they either opt to pull Phil Hughes from his spot in the bullpen or allow Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin the opportunity.

 

It all depends on who is performing at the highest level in spring training. If we see Chamberlain in a dominant form next month, it could be him. But if he is going to be that fifth pitcher, the Yankees NEED to take him off the “Joba Rules.”

 

Chamberlain will have his growing pains, all young players do. But if they do not take the leash off, the only thing he’ll ever be is a caged animal.

 

I understand that the Yankees are not trying to wreck his arm because it’s happened to too many young pitchers (Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez…etc.) But the Yanks should not tell him exactly how many innings they want him to throw. I think that can upset the balance of his psyche.

 

So who will be that fifth starter? We’ll know when we see what they all bring to Tampa.

Football or Baseball: Part II

Welcome to part two of my analysis of baseball and football. Let us continue! Here’s part one if you missed it.

 

 


Baseball or Football??? 

Why Football is Better than Baseball, Part II

 

13) The NFL draft is actually relevant.

 

Agreed. The MLB draft is not nearly as talked about as the NFL draft. Since 1936, the NFL draft has attracted people from all over the world; people come from everywhere to find out which pro teams the eligible college players are going to go to. As long as I can remember the NFL draft has been on TV and everyone I know talks about that last weekend in April.

 

Only up until recently has the MLB draft been televised and simply put, nobody cares about it. Analysts on ESPN have gone as far as saying that the baseball draft is just not interesting. Some of these baseball players who get drafted do not show up in the MLB for years, if they make it at all.

 

In football, there are a large majority of players who get drafted out of college and the next year they are either starting or at least standing on a pro football field.

 

This kind of leads into the next point, which is…

 

14) College Football matters.

 

Excellent point. My philosophy has always been, the more years you play organized before turning pro, the better and more disciplined you will be as an athlete.

 

There just are not a lot of baseball players who go to college, whereas basically all the NFL players go to school. In fact, before some of the football games (when the teams are going through their starting lineups) the players come on and give their name and alma mater. For example, Eli Manning will come on and say, “Eli Manning: Ole Miss.”

 

I tend to have a lot more respect for the baseball players that do educate themselves. Mike Mussina is a perfect example. He attended Stanford University and pitched there for four years before turning pro.

 

Mussina was never the most overpowering pitcher in the MLB, but he had wits; he was one of the smartest pitchers in the game. He could change speeds like no other pitcher during his playing days. He never threw a 100 mph fastball but it didn’t matter. He perfected his craft on the collegiate level before turning pro and he’ll probably be a hall of famer because of it.

 

15) Every football team has a specific philosophy on offense AND on defense.

 

I see where he is coming from, but I don’t know if I completely agree. In football, there are certain ways to execute different plays on offense and defense. For instance, if a quarterback is in the pocket looking to hook up with an open receiver, the defensive end must fight to flush him out, apply pressure on him, and force him to scramble.

 

On defense in baseball, you have to make plays. If the ball is hit to you, it’s your job to ensure an out by making a putout, catch, or assist. I guess you can say philosophies are quite different, but I’m not sure what he was getting at with this point.

 

In my view, in both baseball and football, teams have to play both sides of the field.

 

16) The American and National Football Conferences play by the same rules.

 

ABSOLUTELY YES. This is an advantage football has over baseball. The same rules apply to both conferences whereas the National and American Leagues in baseball have a different format, in terms of one position.

 

I never understood the designated hitter rule. Why does the AL have it and the NL doesn’t? It’s an unfair advantage the NL has over the AL in the World Series, not to mention the DH extends players’ careers. Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, and countless others have been able to keep their careers going because of the DH rule.

 

I suppose in that regard it’s helped players, but to me it’s ridiculous. I’ve even heard people say it should be done away with. Both leagues should go by one rule. Either have the DH in both leagues or don’t have it at all.

 

17) Coaches spend more time coaching in football. Baseball managers only manage.

 

I can’t really speak for this statement.

 

In baseball spring training and in batting practice and in football mini camp and practice, I really have no idea what goes on and neither does anyone. Unless you are standing on the sidelines or on the field with the team, you have no clue what the manager or coach is telling their players.

 

I agree that baseball managers are simply there to manage, with their coaches doing a lot of work (bench coach, bullpen coach, hitting coach, base coaches, etc.) but they are also most likely doing a good amount of instructing as well.

 

Yet in football, there are defensive and offensive coordinators, wide receivers coaches quarterback coaches…and so on and so forth.  

 

I do know that head football coaches manage games just as baseball managers manage games; collectively they are in charge and (in certain ways) dictate what’s happening on the field. Baseball managers decide who plays and who sits but football players can take themselves out of a game if they want.

 

18) Football plays can be diagramed and discussed. Baseball only uses sequences.

OK, it’s a point. Football players can literally sit down and map out with Xs and Os what to do in certain offensive and defensive situations. There can be numerous scenarios on what plays are being used and what to do when those plays are utilized by the opposition.

 

In baseball it’s different. When there is a runner on first base and the ball is hit on the ground to the second baseman, the shortstop must cover second base to get the lead runner out first, and then throw to first base to turn the 4-6-3 double play.

 

By that example, the point is valid. It’s just a sequence. The players do not have to diagram a double play and discuss it because the play is simplistic.

 

19) The climax of a football game always comes at the end. A baseball game can be over by the second inning.

 

This statement is false. The biggest play in any game can happen at any time. If anyone happened to catch the New Orleans Saints vs. the Arizona Cardinals this past Saturday, the game was over by the second quarter.

 

The Saints came out and absolutely dominated the Cardinals, and before halftime everyone knew which team was going to win. Just as a baseball game can be over by the second inning, a football game can be over by the second quarter.

 

Furthermore, a baseball game’s climax can also come at the end of a game. It’s called a walk-off home run.

 

20) A baseball game can theoretically go on FOREVER.

 

This is true. In football the game is designated to 60 minutes, but includes three timeouts for each team (in each half), a 15 minute halftime, injury timeouts, challenges, etc. But you know that unless the score is tied, by the end of the fourth quarter, someone wins and someone loses.

 

If there is a tie, 15 minutes of overtime is played. Whoever scores first wins. If no one scores, the game’s over in a draw. Those are the rules, I did not write them.

 

In baseball the game can, as stated, go one forever. Aug. 7 of last year comes to my mind. 15 innings of Yankees vs. Red Sox until Alex Rodriguez finally ended the game with a walk-off home run at 1:00 in the morning.

 

Fun game to watch, but absolutely brutal in terms of time. It was going on forever.

 

21) In football, team depth matters. The third-best wide receiver matters whereas the third-best shortstop does not.

 

A valid point. You could be the third, fourth, or even fifth best player at your position in football and still get a chance to prove yourself and play on the professional level.

 

I’m just going out in a limb, but Yankee farmhands who play shortstop and third base probably won’t be seeing the big leagues anytime in the near future. And…does Ramiro Pena really mean as much to the Yankees as Derek Jeter?

 

On the other side, Sinorice Moss can mean just as much to the Giants as Amani Toomer did; Toomer was a number one receiver, Moss is a second team player. And even though he’s a second team player, he’s made a touchdown catch in the NFL.

 

Not to single out Pena, because he has started at shortstop for the Yankees, but other Yankee farmhands have not even had the chance to hit a big league home run.

 

22) Football features team slogans and cheers: (eg.) J! E! T! S! JETS JETS JETS!!!”

 

This has got to be the worst reason on this list. I don’t even know if I should go into it or not. I’ve heard “Waltzing Matilda” chants from games at the World Cup in soccer.

 

“Let’s Go Yankees! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)”

 

I rest my case.

 

23) Football rivalries are bitter and plentiful.

 

There are rivalries in every sport.

 

The most significant rivalry in baseball and probably in sports in general is (gasp!) Yankees vs. Red Sox (it’s a shocker, right?) Other than that rivalry in baseball, I can really only think of Yankees/Mets, White Sox/Cubs, Giants/Dodgers, and Cubs/Cardinals.

 

I’ve noticed as a football fan that rivalries among division opponents are more prevalent. I am a Giants fan and I can see how badly the Giants hate both the Cowboys and Eagles. As a Yankee fan, we hate the Red Sox, but really don’t care as much about the Orioles or Blue Jays, who are also in our division.  

 

Plus, football rivalries extend beyond the division. I mean, the Ravens hate the Colts because the Colts moved out of Baltimore and into Indianapolis. Now whenever the Ravens play the Colts, the fans in Baltimore feel the Ravens should crush the Colts because in their eyes, the Colts ditched them for another city.

 

I guess in football things can get rather personal whereas in baseball, everything is basically dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry.

 

24) There is parity in football. You can stink today and win it all tomorrow.

 

I could not agree with this statement more. Equality is where it’s at.

 

When the Giants went on their incredible run in 2007-2008 to win Super Bowl XLII, they were coming off a miserable 8-8, 2006-2007 campaign. They were literally abysmal one year and won the whole thing the next year.

 

The Miami Dolphins are another example. They didn’t win anything from 2007-08, but in 2008-09 they came back to edge out the Jets, Bills, and Patriots to win the AFC East. They were horrible one year and won their division the next.

 

In baseball, all the same teams are expected to be there at the end–the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels, the Phillies…it’s almost like we already know who’s going to win the majority of the divisions and who’s not.

 

In baseball, do we really expect the Royals to be a playoff team at the end of the year? There are teams in baseball who haven’t been contenders in quite some time and are not getting any better anytime soon. Any given year, a football team can win.

 

Plus, many of the races are a lot more exciting in football; the Giants were in the race up until the second to last game of the year, and really it was any team’s title to win. The Cowboys and Eagles were also contending and there was no clear winner of the division up until the very end.

 

Eventually the Cowboys claimed it with the Eagles winning a Wild Card spot. Unfortunately, the Giants were left out, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come back next year and win it.

 

In 2009, the Yankees practically had the AL East won by the beginning of August. The baseball regular season almost got boring toward the end.

 

25) There is a salary cap in football.

 

Probably one of the biggest reasons many people feel football is fairer and more equal than baseball. It’s a great point and again, it goes back to fairness.

 

At the end of 2008, the Yankees spent almost a quarter of a $billion on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira…added on to the $290 million they are paying Alex Rodriguez…and so on and so forth.

 

There is nobody telling the Yankees no. They can spend as much money as they want without anyone blinking an eye. With that, they dominated their division in 2009 and subsequently won the World Series. I will never feel in my heart that money can buy a championship; titles come from team chemistry and the will to win, coupled with everything going right for the team.

 

But I can’t help but notice how much money the Yankees spent. And if you don’t notice a problem in payroll disparity, you are blind. I love the Yankees very much, but they helped create the problem of unequal payroll (even Yankee writers have noted this)

 

In football, each team is given only a certain amount of money to spend and with that they can sign players, draft picks, etc. With each payroll, every team has a chance to win every year. It’s equal, something baseball hasn’t been for a long time.

 

When free agency in baseball arose, it changed the game. And there’s free agency in football too, but even the best football player will not make the type of salary Rodriguez, Sabathia, and Teixeira make.

 

Yet…some people may not know this, but George Steinbrenner learned his baseball methods as a football coach. Quite ironic, if you ask me.

 

 

It’s a really tough argument. I think there are many great points the author made in his column as to why football has an edge over baseball. I personally enjoy both sports and baseball will always be my first love. But football is a great sport too.

 

There are some other reasons I thought up on my own as to why football might be considered better than baseball. For starters, the Pro Bowl (the NFL equivalent of MLB’s All-Star Game) has no bearing as to where the Super Bowl is played. I think that’s a great point.

 

The team with the better record should have home field in the World Series; MLB just instituted that stipulation to entice the players to care for the game and actually play. MLB says, “Winner gets home-field in the World Series.” They might as well just say, “Act like you care about this game and play.” Football doesn’t have that.

 

Another reason (and it kind of goes back to territory) is the Super Bowl location: it’s always played on neutral ground. The World Series is not like that. One team has an advantage and the other doesn’t.

 

I’ve read some silly arguments, like football is better because of the cheerleaders. Well, not that it’s too disturbing watching pretty girls cheer on their team from the sidelines, but baseball doesn’t need them. That’s always been my take. And it’s not like every football team has cheerleaders. The Giants don’t.

 

Baseball can be looked at as better because there is a game every day, despite the slow-moving action it is fun to watch, and players can be extremely smart and still win.

 

My overall opinion: it’s a tie. Baseball has been around a lot longer than football and it owns the label as America’s pastime. It always will. I think there are a lot of problems with the game today–payroll disparity, an unequal playing field on many levels, and greed among the players.

 

But I’ll always love baseball. I’ve developed unconditioned love for the sport.

 

I’ve been a football fan for about seven years now and I also have a great admiration for the sport. It’s a fast-paced, high-action, and fun sport to watch. I love the game and even though it wasn’t my first love, it still holds a great place in my heart.

 

But never mind my opinion. What really is better: football or baseball? After what I’ve written, it’s up to you to decide.  

Football or Baseball: Part I

 

 

Super Bowl XLIV is looming

With the National Football League playoffs in full force and the championship teams ready to play the final round before Super Bowl XLIV, I noticed some banter among some of my friends. There are some people who are bringing up the argument of which sport is better: baseball or football?

 

As a die-hard fan of both sports, it’s hard for me to say which sport is better. Baseball was the first sport I’ve ever loved, but in recent years football has captured my attention and interest.

 

I went to Google to find out what other people have to say about this argument and I found an interesting blog someone wrote for CBS. The author listed 25 reasons why football is better than baseball.

 

Although the blog brought up several excellent points, I’m just torn with this argument.

 

What I figured I would do was analyze each of his points objectively to determine which sport is better. I’ll list his points and give you my take on them. Since there are 25, I’ll break up the blog into two sections.

 

 


Baseball or Football??? 

Why Football is Better than Baseball, Part I:

 

1) Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players are involved in every play.

 

This one I have to agree with, to a certain extent. Yes, all players on the field need to be moving and participating, but there are still players off the field. If your team is on defense, the offense isn’t playing and vice versa. I do see where he’s coming from here; every player on the baseball diamond isn’t involved in every play.

 

A centerfielder can catch a high-fly ball for an out…and what was the first baseman doing? Whereas a quarterback takes a snap and his offensive line is blocking the defensive line, the wide receivers are sprinting out to catch the ball while the cornerbacks are guarding them to interrupt the pass…and there’s so much happening all at once!

 

2) Football can be played by anyone, anywhere. All it takes is at least two players, and a $15 dollar ball. Baseball requires two $40 gloves, a $7 ball, a $50 bat, and so much more.

 

I think this comes down to preference. Instead of baseball, there’s always whiffle ball and those bats and balls are about $5 altogether. Not to mention you can play whiffle ball with only two people.

 

When he was a young man in Panama, Mariano Rivera had to use makeshift bats and balls to practice. He even crafted a glove out of a milk carton. I can’t really agree with this point, because as I said, it comes down to what you want to do.

 

3) Football statistics are simple are require little mathematics to compute.  

 

I stink at math.

 

4)  The average fan can pick up and understand football. In baseball, the average fan cannot tell the difference between a two-seam, a four seam, or a cut fastball.

 

I think this point simply comes down to how fast you learn things. I myself am slow to pickup on things at times, other times I catch on relatively easy. It took me a few years to learn all the rules of both baseball and football, but I learned, didn’t I?

 

5) Baseball is hyper sensitive to the elements. Football players play through rain, snow, sleet and everything in between.

 

Excellent point. In football they do not care if it’s raining, snowing, freezing rain, below zero temperatures–they play in anything with the exception of thunderstorms because it’s too dangerous.

 

In baseball, a slight drizzle could cause a rain delay. The tarp comes on the field and the fans are waiting for the players to come back out, getting soaked in the rain. I can remember when I was a freshman in college four years ago, I was talking to this girl I had a crush on.

 

She asked me how the Yankees were doing, as she knew how big of a fan I am. I told her about how the night before they were in a rain delay and how the game was eventually called. Her response:

 

“A-Rod is getting paid how much money? I think he can play in the rain!”

 

Point taken.

 

6) Every baseball player is presumed a cheater until proven otherwise. Football has no such problem.

 

There are cheaters in every sport.

 

I guarantee that there are a number of players in football who have used steroids and illegal substances. The NFL’s policy is that the players are responsible for what they put into their bodies. If the players who use do get caught, they are suspended, which is also MLB’s policy.

 

As for baseball, we’re playing in the steroid era. There are literally hundreds of players who have (at some point) used steroids. I think (sadly) the point is applied to most sports. Everyone–not just in baseball–is a cheater until proven otherwise.

 

7) The individual baseball games are meaningless. Game 34 means just as much as game 134. What you’re watching has no bearing on the season.

 

Yes and no. This point really depends on who you are watching play. Sometimes it takes more than 162 games to get into the postseason; ask the Twins and Tigers of last year. They played game 163 to determine who would win the AL Central and it wound up being one of the greatest games of the season.

 

But if you are watching the Kansas City Royals, or the Pittsburgh Pirates, or the Baltimore Orioles, or any team with a low payroll in last place…or even the Yankees or Red Sox or any team with a high payroll in first place…then yes, I see the point.

 

8)  In baseball, a team can effectively remove the opposition’s best player from the game through the intentional walk. Football has no equivalent.

 

OK, good point. I’ve always seen intentional walking as a sort of loophole; many people use the term “bush league” to describe it. But if you’re a baseball fan, it works for your team and against your team in certain instances.

 

The only way to take out a football team’s best player is through physicality. If you hurt them on a play and injure them, then you have succeeded. But unlike baseball, there is no loophole to take a player out like the intentional walk.

 

9) In football, playoff games actually mean something. That one game decides who progresses and who stays home.

 

A good but sketchy point. Football has that no-nonsense mentality in terms of the playoffs. “You can’t win the game? Go home.” No matter what, one team will go “one and done,” so to speak.

 

In baseball there is a little more margin for error, considering it’s a series of games, not just one. But one game can mean something; for example, if the Yankees play the Twins in the ALDS, and they blow them out in game one, that can set the tone for the entire series.

 

In one game, a baseball team’s morale can go up or down, possibly determining a series.

 

10) Football rules make for dramatic comebacks. A team down by two scores can easily make up ground in the final period of play.

 

I can’t totally agree with this point, because there have been numerous baseball comebacks over the years. Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, and I can think of at least three other comebacks the Yankees made this past October.

 

Football rules are designed for comebacks. If the Giants are down by two scores in the last 2:30 of the fourth quarter, they could potentially drive the ball down the field, score, recover an onside kickoff, drive the ball again, and tie the game (possibly even win it if they go for the two point conversion instead of the point-after-touchdown)

 

It’s extremely difficult to do that, but so is hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to tie a game. It’s hard to accomplish in both sports, honestly.

 

And…a walk-off home run is just as good as sinking a field goal as time expires..isn’t it?

 

11) Football games are lively, upbeat, and exciting. In today’s world of instant gratification and limited attention spans, many cannot appreciate the finer points of baseball.

 

Excellent point. Baseball is a slow-moving sport, let’s not kid ourselves here. A pitcher can take literally 45 seconds to a minute to throw a pitch. A batter can step out of the box whenever he pleases, and it can be a full 10 minutes before there is even a base hit.

 

With football, there has to be action within a certain period of time, no matter what. There’s constant action, every player is moving and it can be exciting. I’ve fallen asleep during some baseball games, simply because there was nothing happening.

 

My younger sister recently became a huge sports fan (I’m not sure how) but I was talking football with her the other day. Then she starts going on about college basketball and I finally looked at her and asked, “Why aren’t you a baseball fan?”

 

She replied, “It’s too slow. There is no action. At least with basketball and football they move around!”

 

My grandfather over heard our conversation and he looked at me, chimed in, and said, “She’s right. You have to be die-hard to watch baseball. With other sports like hockey and football and basketball there is consistent action. Baseball does not have that.”

 

12) Myron Cope. Anyone in baseball ever come close?

 

I had no clue who he was until I looked him up. Apparently Myron Cope was a journalist and sports broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a legend in steel town, holding the title as “Voice of the Steelers.”

 

I’ve never heard of him, let alone his voice, but from what I gathered he was very good at what he did. And I certainly admire and respect him for it.

 

But there are baseball announcers who have done extremely great work; baseball has had announcers with distinctive voices and easily recognizable catch phrases.

 

“Holy cow!”–Phil Rizzuto. Case in point.

 

That does it for Part I of this blog. I will be back with the final 13 points as well as a wrap up on this subject.

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