Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Final Season at Yankee Stadium: Yanks v. Tigers, April 29












It was cold, we were one row from the top of the stadium, the Yankees lost (thanks in no small part to a monster home run by former Yank Gary Sheffield and starting pitcher Phil Hughes still not being able to figure out that he's supposed to be able to throw a ball better than I can...what gives?!?)...but since I don't know if I'll get there again this season, it was nice to be in that stadium one last time...

Fantasy baseball league...it's killin' me!

Okay, so after getting off to a horrendous start to the season with all five of my fantasy baseball teams (much like the Yankees' season so far), I finally figured out how to fiddle with my lineups, dropping players who weren't performing well (or at all), bolstering my bench based on how many points players had, and basically just padding my team with whatever Diamondbacks were available in my teams' leagues. Not an Arizona or even really a National League fan, but that team is off to a phenomenal start. So far it seems to be working, as most of my teams are racking up more points than their rivals since I made the changes (only this week). I don't think I have a prayer of winning this thing, but I'd like to avoid the humiliation of all five of my teams coming in last place in their leagues.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mets vs. Braves at Shea Stadium April 25

My best friend Dania, who is a huge Mets fan, was able to get us free tickets to the Mets game at Shea - even though I'm a Yankees fan, I'm also a New York fan, and this is the Mets' last season at Shea, which is actually kinda sad...although from what I could see of the new stadium with the stupid new name (Citifield? Really? Am not a fan of the corporate naming of stadiums...), it's going to be pretty sweet.


Anyway, the Mets lost and didn't play all that great, but it was still fun...I love the atmosphere of actually being at a sporting event - the camaraderie, the cheering, the possibility of catching a ball, the smell of hotdogs, the taste of beer, seeing David Wright (or insert your sports crush of choice here) in person...it's all good. And usually my friends and I are frugal fans, sitting in the nosebleed section, but Dania actually scored us decent seats on the mezzanine level (and when everyone left in the 8th inning cuz the Mets were losing, we moved up to the first row on our level). It would've been even better if the Mets had won, but it was a good time, and I'm glad I got to be at Shea at least one last time before the Mets move.












Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ode to Friday Night Lights, the best tv show about sports that's not about sports

Ok, so Friday Night Lights the tv show is based on the movie of the same name, which I have never seen, so I don't know how they compare. The show revolves around the Panthers, the high school football team in smalltown Dillon, Texas.

Now, I am Long Island, born and raised. My brothers played high school football, I went to my high school football games, but I know there are parts of this country where everything is high school football, where the players are local celebrities and where whole towns turn out to watch 16 and 17 year olds play football on Friday nights. I don't understand this culture, I think for the most part it seems a little silly to me, and yet I love Friday Night Lights the show.

I didn't watch it the first season, but Matt Roush at TVGuide (with whom I often agree on what shows are worth watching) kept raving about it, so I caught up with it over the summer on NBC.com. And am I so glad I did, because this is easily the best show on television that nobody is watching!

High school football is a big part of the show; if you watch the show, you're gonna watch a game or two being played. But Friday Night Lights is more than football - it is a study on small town America, it is a study on society and values and family, it is a study on people. These people are real - they do real things and react in a real way and have real emotions. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami are so believable as a married couple - you believe they have problems but you believe they love each other enough to work through them. As someone who has a boyfriend who had a serious accident and has been in the hospital for a long time and is learning to walk again, Jason Street's story of dealing with paralysis, and its effect on his girlfriend Lyla and his best friend Tim is especially poignant and meaningful (and realistic) to me. And you just can't help but root for them, and root for Matt Saracen to gain confidence and do well, and for Tim and for Smash Williams to make better choices and pull it together. Friday Night Lights is just well written and well acted, which is so much more than so much of the crap on television today.

It's second season had some problems in the beginning, finding it's feet and figuring out where it was going, and they were given a shortened episode order which sucked, but the good news is, the show, despite terrible ratings, has been picked up for a third season (yay!), which will premiere first on DirectTV and which will come to NBC during the midseason next year. So, so excited for that. If you've never watched it, this means you have plenty of time to catch up - both the first and second seasons are available to watch on NBC.com, and both seasons are also out on DVD (second season came out yesterday!)

Favorite movies about sports

If you enjoy watching any of these sport-themed movies, you may just want to try watching (or in some cases, maybe playing!) the actual sport providing the backdrop for said movie...just don't expect to have Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a coach or to actually see angels in the outfield...though I guess never say never!

1. Angels in the Outfield (1994) - Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a foster kid who just wants a family and when his deadbeat dad (played by sexy Dermot Mulroney!) promises him they can live together when the Angels (a terrible team) win the pennant, Gordon-Levitt starts seeing angels who help the team play better and help them believe in themselves. I cry every frickin' time. And this is a frickin' children's movie. Good grief. Christopher Lloyd, Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Adrien Brody, and Matthew McConaughey are also in it. I'm reminded of this movie now every time Angel Pagan hits for the Mets because the fans in the stands flap their arms (like wings), the signal Gordon-Levitt uses in the movie to help manager Glover whenever he sees an angel. I think I'm gonna cry right now...

2. Little Giants (1994) - I am a sucker for these kids' sports flicks! And I was 15 when both of these movies came out!...anyway, this movie is awesome. Rick Moranis and Ed O'Neill are brothers. O'Neill, a former Heisman Trophy winner, coaches the town's peewee football team and only picks the good kids, except for his niece and Moranis' daughter, Becky aka Icebox, who is the best player of them all. So Moranis starts his own ragtag misfit team to play O'Neill's team to see which one will represent their town in the league. So many of the gags crack me up. Look for a young Devon Sawa playing Junior. Kids who just want to play football because they love football - this movie is definitely another tearjerker for me...

3. Remember the Titans (2000) - based on the true story of a southern high school football team that in its first year of being racially integrated was led to an undefeated season by its black coach, played by Denzel Washington. By learning to respect each other and understand each other and be a team, the team helps the school and town to do the same. Blah blah blah. Makes me cry every time. Will Patton, Ethan Suplee, Donald Faison, Kip Pardue, Hayden Panettiere, Kate Bosworth, and Ryan Gosling are among the star-studded cast.

4. Major League (1989) - I love frat boy comedies and I love physical comedy, and I love stories about misfits who are a complete mess and have to come together as a team. Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes, and Dennis Haysbert are among the cast. I also enjoy the 1994 follow-up.

5. The Replacements (2000) - when the pro football players go on strike, the has-beens and never-weres get a chance to take centerstage. Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman headline this movie, but Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau, and Rhys Ifans steal the movie with their hilarious antics. Oh, as do the scab cheerleaders (aka strippers). Also, if you're a fan of NBC's "The Office," look for David Denman (Roy) playing a deaf player.

6. Bend It Like Beckham (2002) - girls, this is a sports movie for girls about girls who play sports! Soccer, to be exact. Jess Bhamra comes from a strict Sikh family that won't let her play "football" (the movie takes place in England). David Beckham is her hero and she's really very good so she sneaks around to join a team where she befriends Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is her coach. It doesn't make me cry (although it does make me sad that Jess and the other girls aspire to play pro soccer in the US, which no longer has a women's league), it does make me laugh, I did fall in love with Rhys Meyers, but it's just a fun, feel-good, sports movie about girls for girls...watch it!

I'll update this list as I think of more...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Something in the air today...

It's so beautifully gorgeous out today that it must be making everyone around here think: BASEBALL!!

I got invited to not one, but two baseball games today - New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium this Friday, and New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium next Tuesday. Of course, said yes to both, and am now very excited. You may not be able to see the game as well as when you watch it on tv, but there is nothing like the atmosphere inside a sporting arena...

Extreme sports - mountain climbing

I am obsessed with mountain climbing. Not actually doing it, of course, but reading about it and watching it and learning about it and trying to figure out what it is that drives a man or woman to the tops of the world, usually over and over again.

In general, I've enjoyed various accounts of climbers in Alaska, the Colorado Rockies, the Andes, and K2, but in particular, I am obsessed with Mount Everest. I can't even explain it, but as an avid reader, I have pretty much put aside any kind of fiction to devour everything I can get my hands on about Mount Everest (usually first person accounts by those who have climbed it). I would say in the past 3 or 4 years my collection has grown from 0 to maybe 10 or so.

I think it's because in part, I admire these men and women who have the drive, ambition, and talent to overcome so many obstacles to climb these mountains. But mostly I think it's because I still can't wrap my head around the fact that they sacrifice their savings, their families, and in many cases their lives chasing these dreams. Is it bravery or is it stupidity? I don't think I've decided yet.

Other aspects that intrigue me: true mountaineering vs. tourism mountaineering; the irresponsibility of many people allowing others (or themselves) to climb mountains like Everest without the necessary knowledge or skills; how the extreme nature of climbing mountains like Everest brings out,especially in times of disaster, the selfish and animalistic parts of human nature, but also the heroic and self-sacrificing aspects. The 1996 Everest disaster and the 2006 death of David Sharp and rescue of Lincoln Hall in particular really make me think about these things.

The first three books I read on mountain climbing and still my favorites are: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston; Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. Recommend them to anyone. Well written and really make my emotions dance between lamenting the stupidity and being overwhelmed by the bravery and triumph of the human will.

My interest is not just limited to books about mountain climbing - have also enjoyed the Imax movie Everest and Discovery Channel's Everest series Beyond the Limit.

Sometimes people who know about this weird obsession of mine ask me when I plan to climb Mount Everest - pretty much never. I would definitely be one of those people who died. I walk into walls and trip over my feet and have mental blocks at sea level...but I would like to trek to Everest Base Camp someday, just to see it once in person.

My personal mountaineering hero: Ed Viesturs. Look him up!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Buh-bye

Buh-bye Devils! Rangers on to the next round...

Buh-bye Isiah! It's been real...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All or nothing

Alex Rodriguez actually proved me wrong this inning, but 95 percent of the time, it's all or nothing with him. I think he irritates a lot of baseball fans (including a lot of Yankee fans) because when he's striking out 4 times in one game or hitting into double plays, it's hard to justify or wrap your head around the obscene amount of money he gets paid. When he's on fire, it can still be irritating to think about the fact that he's making more money than probably the entire populations of some nations, but at least he's winning games. I think he's the youngest player ever to reach 500 homeruns. He's well on pace to break the homerun record. But if he's not hitting homeruns, he's driving me nuts. When we're down and it's two outs, bottom of the ninth, he is not the man I want coming up to the plate (that would be Derek Jeter). Even if there's only one out, I'd rather see anyone but him. Because if he's not hitting home runs, he's getting out (I breathe a sigh of relief if he only strikes out, because it means at least he didn't get two outs with a double play)...

And then there are innings like the bottom of the 8th tonight when he actually does something normal and productive, which is always nice.

On and on and on

Jeez louise, Yankee-Red Sox games go on forever! You can, almost without fail, count on a game that starts at 7 pm to go to 11:30 pm, midnight...I think it's because both teams are so patient at the plate, waiting for their pitch to hit. And as a diehard Yankee fan, I thoroughly enjoy the New York-Boston rivalry, but when I'm trying to get to bed early so I'm not dead on my feet at work in the morning, it's rough.

Monday, April 14, 2008

New York wins

My mom was an Islanders fan, so maybe she's not too thrilled that the Rangers are up 2 games to 1 against the Devils, but I take New York wins where I can get them...considering the sorry start to the season the Yankees are having. Reminiscent of last year's horrific start which turned out not so bad (playoffs were made, although we all know how well that turned out), so maybe things will eventually turn around...but their losses are killing me in my MLB fantasy league!!

I think what I'm trying to say is...go Rangers!

(And after spending the weekend in Minnesota and getting to watch the bar crowd break out in excited cheers after the Wild won one of their games, let's say go Wild, too!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A quick NHL note

I, myself, know nothing about hockey. I am not a hockey fan. I've been to one hockey game, the NYPD vs. FDNY game at Nassau Coliseum, but I was with my boyfriend, who we have all learned preferred tailgating at a sporting event to actually watching the sporting event, so we missed the first half of the game. And I watched the second half through a beer haze. I know the Rangers won the Stanley Cup the year the Knicks lost in the NBA Finals. I know the Islanders play at the Coliseum. That's the extent of my hockey knowledge.

But there's a New York hockey team in the playoffs and apparently, my mother was a hockey fan. I never knew that. And I know my dad told me what team she rooted for, but I don't think about hockey so much that I've forgotten whether she was for the Rangers or the Islanders. Anyway, this post is for her.

NY Rangers vs. NJ Devils tonight, first game in the first round of the playoffs. Ranger fans are probably stoked. I hear on WFAN that Islander fans, who are vehemently anti-Rangers, are rooting for the Devils. So if they have sports bars in heaven (and Lord, I hope they do!), my mom is gonna be rooting for one of those teams. I'm a New York gal first and foremost, so though I won't be watching the game, I'm for the Rangers all the way at this point...

Wearing the cleats in the relationship

You're watching the baseball game, you're excited that the Yankees just won (or lost, if you live outside New York or are a Mets fan), you want to talk about it with someone...you know your girlfriends couldn't care less, so you think, 'Hey, my boyfriend's a guy, he'll want to recap the awesomeness that just occurred,' but somehow, the blank look of total disinterest on his face at the mere mention of the words "ninth inning rally" makes your girlfriends look like uberfans.

Welcome to my world.

I am not a jock, and my boyfriend is not an artsy, poetic, intellectual, touchy-feely metrosexual type (no offense to those men who are - my boyfriend just isn't one of you), and yet somehow, I am the sports fanatic...I wear the cleats in our relationship.

The boyfriend is not not athletic. He played basketball and swam competitively in school, and actually really loved playing lacrosse. He enjoys watching Notre Dame college football. He's a WWE aficionado (which, as I've stated in another entry, I'm not sure qualifies him as a sports fan). He's loves going to the gym and working out. And he's been to more sporting events than I have, but that's mostly for the tailgating aspect and he sometimes doesn't even make it inside the sporting arena.

All his friends are diehard NY Giants and Mets fans, and they all spent a lot of time hanging out in a bar that is usually showing sporting events on its seven tvs...but while six of those tvs are tuned to Monday Night Football, the boyfriend managed to persuade the bar's owner to set aside one of those tvs so he could watch his WWE Monday Night Raw.

It doesn't bother me. Maybe a little, when I want to gush about how well the Yankees are playing and he just rolls his eyes at me (brat!), but even after more than 2 years with him, I'm still trying to wrap my head around how someone who works out, who has an active, athletic job, who's such a frickin' guys guy doesn't find a single sport on the face of the planet remotely interesting.

There are times I've given in and watched wrestling with him, and to be honest, not only have I learned a lot about it but I've grown to even enjoy it (though the fact that I can rattle off 10 wrestlers without even thinking - Batista, John Cena, Randy Orton, the Undertaker, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Jeff and Matt Hardy, Umaga, the Big Show - slightly disturbs me and is just a tad embarrassing). The boyfriend is fair and trades off with me, letting me make him watch baseball every now and then too, though I'm not sure how much time he spends watching it and how much time he spends sleeping through it.

But I'll never forget the day we were just lying there watching a Yankee game and he said to me, "Chien-Ming Wang is pitching, huh? He's doing pretty good today." The boyfriend had expressed an opinion about sports (and even not only recognized a player but knew his name!)...it was one of my proudest moments with the boyfriend, and I realized that day that there might be hope for him as a sports fan yet.

The WWE...a soap opera for guys?

As far as real sports go, I'm not sure how much World Wrestling Entertainment qualifies...two years ago, I knew very little about the WWE, though thanks to my uberfan boyfriend (possibly the only uberfan of the WWE over the age of 15? Can anyone help me dispute that?), I was forced to watch it on more than one occasion and therefore forced to learn about that crazy world. (In fairness, I forced him to watch baseball on more than one occasion. I'm not sure which of us felt more tortured by the other).

Anyway, the WWE. It's not like high school or college wrestling. It's not like Olympic wrestling. It's not like sumo wrestling. It's more like ballroom dancing, only more violent. Every move is choreographed. Every move is rehearsed. Every move is a show, which isn't to say that nobody ever gets hurt. The Undertaker may be pretending to punch Edge repeatedly, John Cena might have rehearsed that fall when Randy Orton takes him down, but when people are body slamming other people, jumping from the ropes, throwing people into tables, hitting people with ladders and chairs and doing all the other fun things wrestlers do, there are times when they get legitimately hurt. You have to be in shape and you do take a beating when you're fake wrestling.

But forget about that. The most important thing I've learned about the WWE in the past two years is that it is a complete soap opera. It's fascinating. From a writer's standpoint, I am completely fascinated. There are twisting, turning storylines that go back years, that play out every week, that culminate in pay-per-view events that might set entirely new stories in motion or twist others completely around. There are romances. There are rivalries. Alliances with sworn enemies are made. Alliances with good friends are broken. People retire or are fired or disappear only to return triumphantly years later. Older wrestlers go out in a blaze of glory or fade gently into the night. There are personal vendettas and family feuds. Illegitimate children and secret family ties, affairs, broken hearts, broken heads...I can't find stories this intriguing and captivating on Guiding Light, the actual soap opera I watch. I almost wish I had known about wrestling when I was in college writing my senior thesis on television, because I could have found so much to write about.

Anyway, my boyfriend will tell you he watches the WWE for the fights, as I'm sure, will every male WWE fan out there (except for those who watch for the Divas)...but he sure can tell me a whole lot about the intrigue and story surrounding every wrestler and fight...and which really makes me think that a guy who watches the WWE is more like a girl who watches soap operas than he'd like to admit...


Congrats to the Tennessee Lady Vols...

In the pool he was participating in, my friend picked Tennessee to win the whole college basketball championship, which turned out to be smart...unfortunately, he picked them for men's basketball, not women's basketball. The Lady Vols beat Stanford 64-48 on Tuesday.

The baseball world is upside down

Now, I know it's only been one week and things usually start out a little lopsided, but it's still bizarre for me to see certain teams at the top of their divisions...Baltimore in first, the Florida Marlins in first, Kansas City of all frickin' teams (no offense to you Royals fans) tied for first?!?

And the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets in last? Detroit, one of the better teams in the American League, was considered to be the best team by many people before the season began, and they haven't won a game yet! Such is the crazy world of baseball. By the time September rolls around, the standings should (I hope! Again, no offense to the Royals!) look very different.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Joba in the 'pen

For most of last year, all the buzz in the Yankee empire was about Phil Hughes, a minor league pitcher with amazing talent who was going to be the future of the team. The Yanks quickly fizzled in the postseason, but not before calling up their minor league pitcher and introducing the baseball world to the amazing arm on one young Yankee phenom named...Joba Chamberlain.

He's not perfect, but with the precision and movement of his throws and a fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph, Chamberlain is, for all intents and purposes, unhittable.

Chamberlain and Hughes are both currently pitching for the Yanks, Hughes in the starting rotation, and Chamberlain in the bullpen. Chamberlain pitched out of the bullpen last year as set up man for closer Mariano Rivera, and his arm was considered so valuable that manager Joe Torre instated the Joba Rules, that he could only pitch one inning, that he couldn't pitch two games in a row etc. etc. This year, Chamberlain is still unhittable and Hughes is having a rough start to the season, still winless in all his starts. And now King Steinbrenner is calling for Chamberlain to be moved to the starting rotation.

I have mixed feelings about this. Hughes hurt his arm after his first major league outing last season, putting him out of commission for quite some time, and from the way he's been pitching this year, quite possibly injuring him enough to have altered the promising future of his career. Most starting pitchers don't last longer than six or seven innings. Most closers don't last more than one or two innings, which means there could be as many as two innings between starter and closer, and many teams lose games due to weak outings by poor pitching out of the 'pen. So far, Chamberlain has proven to be a pretty much guaranteed, seamless bridge from starter to Mo.

So, first off, is it smart to risk his arm by asking him to pitch six innings every five games? Second, can he pitch six innings every five games? Sprinters can't run marathons. Marathoners can sprint. He's phenomenal for 30 pitches, but would his arm hold up for 100 or more? Third, if Chamberlain moves to the starting rotation, who becomes that bridge to Mariano? Fourth, who are we grooming to take over as closer when Mariano inevitably retires soon?

I think maybe some people see being a bullpen pitcher as a being a less talented pitcher - someone who wasn't good enough to make the starting rotation. Maybe that's how Chamberlain feels. But I think that in this era where pitchers aren't pitching complete games anymore, there's more than a bit of prestige attached to being a great closer, and that teams will pay big bucks for a guy they know can seal their win for them. Mariano Rivera for the Yanks, of course, but Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox also immediately comes to mind. Have you ever been to a Yankee or Red Sox game when one of these guys comes out? It's deafening. These guys are like rock stars.

Anyway, I think Steinbrenner is looking at the Yanks' .500 start and immediately gunning as he is wont to do for the quick fix to the situation instead of giving these players the time they need to adjust to a new manager, a new team, etc. etc. Who knows? Maybe Joba would be a brilliant starting pitcher and Yankee management needs to stop treating him with kid gloves. But we already know for certain that he's brilliant in the bullpen.

Yes, girls watch sports...but don't they play sports, too?

As a matter of fact, they do! Now that we're almost an entire decade into the 21st century, besides playing high school and college and club sports, women do in fact play sports professionally as well. Tennis, for instance. Female athletes can find a lot of great role models in professional tennis. I don't watch tennis, mens or womens, because I find it incredibly boring. There is also professional women's golf...quite possibly the only pro sport more boring than tennis...what about soccer? Yes, women used to play soccer professionally, women with names like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly and Michelle Akers, names that probably millions of foreigners could name after the United States team won the 1999 Women's World Cup championship but probably very few Americans, since Americans don't watch women's soccer (which is why the women's pro league here no longer exists)...and while there is still, of course, a men's pro league, let it be known that despite David Beckham crossing the pond stateside, Americans don't watch men's soccer either (though apparently in slightly bigger numbers than they don't watch women's soccer)...

Which leaves us with the WNBA, which I think is still around, but I don't know of anybody personally who follows them.

I think the point trying to be made, though, is there is much I have to say on men's sports and so far, very little on women...for instance, did you know there is also a women's college basketball championship being played right now? Until a few days ago, I actually did not... embarrassing, right? I'm not ignoring women who play sports - I'm ignoring sports that don't interest me. Unfortunately, this includes tennis (men and women) and golf (men and women). And as I've stated before, a lot of the sports I watch, while eventually end up being for enjoyment of the game, draw me in with the eye candy. I'm shallow that way.

But I do like soccer (men and women) and there's a summer Olympics coming up with lots of fun, talented females that I expect to want to talk about to no end. While we still get the short end of the stick professionally (and that's not just in sports), despite what I may talk about in this blog, female athletes (just like female fans) are alive and well.

College men's basketball championship reminder

9:21 p.m., Kansas versus Memphis on CBS...in case you're interested. I've been enjoying the games so far, though I have to admit that knowing these players with their big arms and big talent are all younger than my youngest brother makes me feel old. I don't enjoy that part of it. But it is interesting to watch knowing that someday I may be watching some of these young men (now I sound old!) playing in the NBA...that is, if I ever decide to start watching the NBA again.

Memphis is the favorite, Kansas is the "underdog"...may the best team win!

Basketball hall of fame class of 2008...ah, the good ole days!

Wow, I actually know some of these people! Not personally, of course. But a few members of this class actually mean something to me. Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon...they definitely represent the NBA for me. I don't watch pro basketball anymore but I used to love it, back before I even loved baseball (and I almost don't remember a time when I didn't love baseball...apparently, my memory only goes back 10 years...), and back when I was a fan, Riley, Ewing, and Olajuwon were some of the big names, converging of course when Olajuwon's Houston Rockets won the NBA title over Ewing's New York Knicks (coached by Riley) in the 1994 finals. Boy, did that suck...but boy, was it a fun ride...

Was never really a Riley fan (I much preferred Van Gundy as coach), and was never even really a Ewing fan (though I think a lot of that was my mother's prejudice against him as a player coming through), and I enjoyed Olajuwon a lot more in 1995 when he wasn't playing against the Knicks, but the late 1990s, and these men, are who I look to to remember this game fondly when I think of how much I don't enjoy the game today.

MLB Fantasy League line-ups

They look promising. My teams, thanks to my prerankings, are loaded with a lot more Yankees than I expected. A few Joe Mauers in catcher. Let's see, who else do I know is good...David Ortiz (Red Sox) at first, nice...Red Sox pitching, all right... Nick Swisher (White Sox), Magglio Ordonez (Tigers), Matt Holliday (Rockies), all play well...Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay), one of the fastest if not the fastest base runners in the game right now...and Travis Hafner (Indians) and Vladimir Guerrero (Angels), both of whom always do well against the Yankees so hopefully also do well against other teams...not bad. Hopefully will do better this year than last, when I lost the wildcard berth by, like, one point.

Hitters get points for hitting singles, doubles, triples, home runs, scoring a run, getting an RBI, stealing a base...lose a point for being caught stealing...

Pitching gets points for winning the game, number of strikeouts (the more the better), number of earned runs allowed (the fewer the better), and the number of hits and walks they allow (the fewer the better)...I feel like last year I sometimes ended up with negative scores in pitching, that you lost points for losing, but that doesn't seem to be the case this year. Today is the day I get to start scoring points, so wish me luck!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Rooting for the "underdog" in the Final Four

If you watch the Final Four this weekend and are looking for some kind of "underdog" to root for (how can there be a real, true underdog with four top-seeded teams playing, is what you're probably asking), my friend (who after his top pool pick Xavier got knocked out at first reluctantly threw his hat into the UCLA ring, but which I'm happy to report has returned to his going-against-the-grain attitude) has decided to stand behind Kansas. Out of all the teams that made it this far, they were the closest to being upset in the Elite Eight. While the other teams won by huge blowouts, Kansas, a No. 1 seed, beat No. 10 seed Davidson 59-57, pretty much by the skin of their teeth. So can they hold their own against another No. 1 when they just barely beat a No. 10? I guess that kinda makes for underdog status, even if being the worst of the best still means you're pretty frickin' good.

Top sports crushes

Forget about celebrities or the boy next door. More than a few athletes are more than physically fit - some of my top sports crushes are super cute, others are just adorable in how nice or funny they seem.


Sports crushes...expanding girls' sports horizon since the invention of the ball!


Not listed in any particular order:


1. Joe Mauer, catcher, Minnesota Twins

Every year the ballpark out there has a Joe Mauer Day where they give out fake sideburns to the kids. My good friend who lives there had to beg her 5 year old niece for hers to send to me as a gift for my birthday, for which I am very grateful. The only baseball T-shirt I own that isn't Yankee related is a Joe Mauer Twins one. Won the American League batting title in 2006, the first AL catcher to do so and the youngest at 23 since Alex Rodriguez did it in 1996 at age 21.


2. David Wright, 3rd base, New York Mets

Along with Jose Reyes, makes the SS-3rd base side of the infield a force to be reckoned with, both offensively and defensively. Just seems like a decent guy too, and I only just realized that in looks (as well as demeanor) he reminds me of former Yankee first baseman Tino Martinez, which can do nothing but help him stay one of my top crushes as Martinez is my All Time Top Sports Crush.




3. Grady Sizemore, outfield, Cleveland Indians


Female fans of Sizemore's (and there are a lot of them!) call themselves Grady's Ladies.








4. The Manning Brothers - Peyton, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts; Eli, quarterback, New York Giants

Some people may find Peyton's many commercial endorsements. Personally, I find them hilarious, and his stint as host of SNL showed that he could act naturally in front of the camera, that he had decent comedic timing, and that he had absolutely no problem poking fun at himself, which might be the most endearing thing of all. His brother, Eli, took a lot of flak for not being the leader the Giants needed and finally stepped up to the challenge, coming into his own at the end of the 2007 regular season and successfully pulling his team together. Both the Mannings led their respective teams to Super Bowl championships.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Note to Donnie Walsh, new team president for the Knicks...

Please, please get rid of Isiah Thomas! His being stripped of the title of team president is a step in the right direction, but New York fans, I believe, are not above begging on our hands and knees for you to do whatever you can to get rid of Thomas as head coach as well. It makes me sad, because I remember with great fondness the 1989 tv movie "A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story," a really inspiring story about Isiah's mother trying to raise her kids right in a poor, dangerous neighborhood...

Sidebar: At one point in the movie, when some thugs come looking for Isiah, Mary greets them with a sawed-off shotgun and the words, "There's only one gang here and I lead it." From that moment on, my mother dubbed our family "The Gorry Gang," a name by which many people still know us.

...but now, is there anything redeeming to say about Mary Thomas' son, either on or off the court? This season is lost, but it's not too late to start fresh for next year...

The Melkman delivers: a Yankee update

Melky Cabrera played a crucial role in the Yankees 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the final home opener at the current Yankee Stadium last night. He caught two fly balls, one a leaping catch, to take away extra base hits from the Jays and he hit a just-over-the-fence home run to tie the game. See, this is what happens when you put a little faith in your young talent and give them time to grow instead of trading them for the quick fix.

Other notes: A-Rod continues to produce...both important hits and runs as well as still hitting into less impressive double-plays...Joba Chamberlain threw a one-hit, scoreless eighth inning, and how adorable was he over his excitement about that? I'm very excited to see him throw this year and in seasons to come...Joe Girardi looked good back in a Yankee uniform.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

MLB Fantasy League

For the past three years, I've participated in the Major League Baseball fantasy league on MLB.com. I love baseball, but as I've said, there are so many games in a season (162) that individual games don't always have that do-or-die feel. Because I get points for how my players do, it can add a bit of excitement, looking for big plays from certain players, in a game that might otherwise be fun to watch but not necessary to win. Also, it expands my horizons as I might have players on my team that I wouldn't follow otherwise - would I normally care how the Dodgers or Cardinals or Rangers played? Probably not, but I would if I had one of their players on my team.

Anyway, this year I'm playing four teams. I feel too unknowledgeable to participate in a live draft (actively choosing the players for my teams) so I'm participating in a list draft set for 2 am on April 3 - the computer chooses my players based on prerankings chosen by MLB or which I can set for myself. I don't have great draft spots. 5 and two 8s (out of 12 spots), which are frustrating middle-of-the-road numbers, and one team which is 12, which is seemingly the worst pick of all, but which every other round gets to pick first. So that could be helpful. I'm anxious to who I end up with on my teams.

Sports radio: feeding the obsession

So, when I get excited about something, I reaaallly get excited. Let's just use the word "obsess" and get it out there in the open. When I get excited about something, I obsess about it. I want to talk about it, listen about it, learn about it, read about it. I eat, sleep, and breathe it. Sports are no exception. Let's use the New York Giants as an example. When they made it to the playoffs, I watched every game. The day following every game, I read every article and column about it in Newsday, the Post, and the Daily News. Sometimes the New York Times. And on MSNBC and Sports Illustrated.com. I like to get the other (losing) perspective, too, so then I would check out the Websites for Dallas newspapers or Green Bay newspapers or New England newspapers and read those articles too. Post-game analysis, pre-game analysis, recaps, everything, I devour it all. Sports-wise I'd only ever really done that with the Yankees, so it was interesting to see that the obsession is all-encompassing. You'd think I didn't have a job or friends to take up any of my time.

Anyway, turns out that wasn't enough. Which was how I discovered sports talk radio.

In recent years, I had discovered sports radio out of necessity. Maybe I was on an assignment for work, maybe I was meeting a friend or going shopping or whatever, but I wasn't at home in front of my tv. Or maybe I was at home but I was on the computer in my bedroom, not in a room with a tv. In those scenarios, radio broadcasts were a way I could follow these games. My dad might have been the one who turned me on to them. He's always extolling the virtues of radio commentary over tv commentary, which might be true - radio commentary actually has to be descriptive and make a person "see" the action. Tv commentary has to fill in time between the action. Tv commentators usually make me want to become violent with my television set with the inane drivel that spills from their lips at times.

So I knew about sports radio. I always had an aversion to talk radio due to the dull talk shows my dad would make us listen to when we depended on him to drive us around (sorry, Dad!), but during the Giants playoff run I discovered that while I might finish reading all there was to read about the topic in an hour or two, I could listen to talk radio shows about the games and the team: on the ride to work, on the ride home from work, during my lunch break, while I was checking my e-mail at home, for hours and hours all day and all night because apparently, these guys can obsess about sports with the best of them. It's impressive. It's taken that whenever I'm driving, I don't even listen to music anymore. I turn immediately to 660 AM WFAN. After years of making fun of my father, I may have become him.

Mets update

The New York Mets, behind newly acquired ace Johan Santana, beat the Florida Marlins 7-2. The Mets also had their highest Opening Day television rating ever.

Yankees Opening Day, take two

It's still raining. It's supposed to stop by 4, and the game doesn't start till after 7 tonight, which if it works out, actually means I'll be able to watch it live on tv instead of the play-by-play on my computer.

Some notes for this season: it's the last year in the old Yankees Stadium, so this year, starting with tonight's game, is going to happen with a lot of fanfare, pomp and circumstance.

Hank Steinbrenner, son of George, is now officially in charge. Not sure that will mean any changes.

Joe Girardi is the new Yankee manager. This is huge for me, as I don't know the Yankees without Joe Torre at the helm. I liked Torre and was sorry to see him go, but I think even though change is hard, change can be good, and a shake-up was needed. I really liked Girardi when he was a catcher for the Yankees, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does as the team manager.

The past couple of seasons, the Yankees have refused to let go of young, talented up-and-comers like Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain. There was a time, 12 years ago when the Yankees again became a force to be reckoned with when they were a team of young, talented up-and-comers named, among others, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter. In the past couple years, those in charge have traded away prospects and gone for the quick fix of expensive, proven but faded superstars to fill their areas of need (I'm not a super Alex Rodriguez fan, but starting last year, he's grown on me; Randy Johnson was just a huge mistake from Day One) instead of putting in the effort to cultivate homegrown talent and take a few years to rebuild...Steinbrenners want results now. But maybe this new crop of future superstars is a sign of good years ahead?

Now that it's April, let's talk about March Madness

Most of March Madness is almost over. It's down to the Final Four, which is arguably when those who aren't mens college basketball fans might start to find the tournament worth watching.

The big news at the beginning of the NCAA tournament were the upsets - West Virginia over Duke, Davidson over both Georgetown and Wisconsin. Now the big story is that this is the first time since the NCAA began seeding teams in 1979 that all four No. 1 seeds have made it to the Final Four. Which is kind of weird when you think about it, since they are supposed to be the top four teams. I guess I can see how a No. 2 or No. 3 seed has a better game than a No. 1 to knock them out, but when it comes down to it, it is surprising that this is the first time it's happened in almost 30 years.

With 4 top seeds playing, will the games be more exciting? I don't know. Will they be more competitive? I hope so. In my opinion, there have been too many blowouts so far in the later rounds - Davidson vs. Kansas was edge-of-your-seat exciting because the score stayed close and there was a possibility of an upset up to the very last second.

I spoke of my disillusionment with pro basketball and how college basketball was just recently recommended to me by two different people as being a more pure and better form of the game - the players aren't there for endorsements or big paychecks; they're there for love of the game. I don't know if I'm sold yet. But I enjoyed watching Davidson's and Stephen Curry's run and it filled some of the gap before baseball started.

Anyway, the Final Four are UCLA, UNC, Kansas, and Memphis, playing this upcoming weekend. I've heard UNC touted as a favorite and a friend of mine has picked UCLA to take the whole thing. With no real underdog, it's hard to go against the grain, as this contrary Mary likes to do, so I think for now I'll just see how the rest of the tournament plays out, focus on baseball, and maybe remember to check it out again next year.