Last Sunday came, and all the appropriate tributes were paid to the heroes and the fallen of 9/11, and then it was on to football's opening-day games. We've looked forward to the NFL's opening week since, oh, about the day after the Super Bowl. It's a time of joy and celebration, and rebirth and hope. Ok, it's really about drinking, tailgating and gambling, but those activities don't sound quite as poetic and moving. Remembering the tragedy of that September morning a decade prior to this past Sunday should put everything in perspective, though. Football is just a game, of course. But then it's kickoff time, the game progresses and Rex Grossman is looking like a trusted, savvy veteran doing his Joe Montana impression. Eli Manning is throwing an interception that leads to a Redskins touchdown, and it all goes downhill from there and I want to toss my TV out the window. Anticipation and promise can turn to fury in a heartbeat. Perspective (but ultimately not my TV) goes flying out the window. Which begs the question: Why does the thing I love the most make me so angry?
The New York Giants game on Sunday was three hours of agita. Around the world in New York sports, Bobby Parnell threw away a game on Saturday afternoon, ruining Jason Bay's eighth-inning heroics. The New York Yankees could barely muster a hit off Anaheim pitching on Friday and Saturday. Both teams were throwing the ball all over the field as well. Just the sight of A.J. Burnett makes New Yorkers want to throw their remote controls at the TV screen (why did Burnett wait until the middle of the night EST to pitch his best game in months?). The New York Mets were swept by the Washington Nationals in a four-game series and looked as if they were just playing out the string (apparently, Terry Collins knows how I feel). The Wilpons keep popping up in the news, giving us a weekly reminder of their incompetence. Even the New York Jets were going down the tubes on Sunday night until the final miraculous seconds. That is one combo platter of unhappiness and complaints we have to pick from when rooting for our local teams. There are so many different levels of negativity on the menu, we just don't know where to start.
Do other leisure-time pursuits and activities make non-sports-fans furious? When going to a museum do they scream obscenities at a painting they don't care for? When reading a novel do they hurl it across the room and curse out the author when the ending is not to their liking? And then go into a weeklong funk about the whole thing? Is there jeering and booing and taunting at the opera? But, I guess, all the horrible gruesomeness in the games we watch just means that we love our teams and we love sports. If Burnett or the Kareem McKenzie missed that cut-block that led to a Washington touchdown, I asked myself, "Is this really what I do for fun?" The answer is, of course, "yes." And I wouldn't have it any other way.or the Mets didn't make us furious, we'd just click off the TV, slip into a nice comfortable sweater, turn on Mozart and live a calm, relaxing life. So, as
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
Redskins Beat Giants, 28-14: Well, it looks like it might be a long season for the Giants. All the concerns, anxiety and red flags that surrounded the Giants coming into the season were well-founded, at least in the desultory opener. No offense to Grossman and the Washington Redskins, but if you can't stop him, who can you stop? The Giants didn't execute properly (can't anybody catch a pass around here?), nor did they play with urgency or energy. They seemed to be waiting for Rex Grossman to turn back into Rex Grossman and throw the game away, but that never happened. The Giants looked disorganized on offense, and they didn't stick with the run, which was successful early in the game, they couldn't convert on third down (and they weren't so hot on first or second down either, making for many third-and-longs), they committed too many penalties, missed blocks, dropped passes, missed assignments, had a field goal blocked, couldn't stop the 'Skins' passing game nor did they muster up any extra incentive from the 9/11 anniversary that meant so much to the team and their fans. A passionate Chris Canty summed it up best: "We came down here to get a win on a very important day for this football team, a very important day for the New York metropolitan area and we did not get the job done." Let's not be all negative, though. It was only the first game, and with a shortened training camp and guys like thrust into a starting role at the last minute, there's time for improvement. Jake Ballard (who caught two more passes than anyone thought he would) and Henry Hynoski showed flashes of promise during the game. Jason Pierre-Paul had two big sacks and a forced fumble. Canty and Dave Tollefson also had a sack each. Hakeem Nicks caught seven passes for 122 yards. And Steve Weatherford didn't commit any Matt Dodge-like bloopers. Now it's on to the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football (and they'll have a new receiver in tow, in Brandon Stokley who was just signed). But if they can't beat the beat-up Rams, well . . .
Cowboys, 27-24: While the Giants' plan of waiting out Rex Grossman didn't pan out, the Jets had more luck in hoping for a Tony Romo implosion, which is exactly what happened, as the Dallas quarterback handed the game to Gang Green on a silver platter in the form of throwing a pass right into the waiting hands of Darrelle Revis (along with fumbling the ball, as well). Sometimes being lucky is just as important as being good. The Jets' special teams went above and beyond, bailing out the offense and defense, with a blocked punt/touchdown return and a last-minute 50-yard Nick Folk field goal to win the game. There was no running game, Mark Sanchez made a couple of crucial mistakes, the offensive line allowed four sacks (which left Sanchez groggy and woozy after the game) and the Cowboy offense made the Jet D look like Swiss cheese, but LaDainian Tomlinson had a good receiving game, Mike DeVito came up with a sack and forced fumble (recovered by Sione Pouha), Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and Eric Smith also recorded a sack, Santonio Holmes caught six passes for 70 yards (though he seemed frustrated by Sanchez for not giving him the damn ball), and Dustin Keller and Plaxico Burress caught touchdown passes. You can call them lucky or fortunate or charmed, but you can also call the Jets 1-0.Beat
Comfortably in First: The Yankees got a little peek into the Mets' world recently when injuries forced Eduardo Nunez into playing right field and Jorge Posada had to catch for the first time this season. Alex Rodriguez has been out with a sore thumb. Russell Martin also has a thumb issue. Francisco Cervelli has a concussion. And Nick Swisher missed a handful of games with a bum elbow. For a few games they kind of, sort of knew what their crosstown rivals had been dealing with all year. But the Bombers still have Robinson Cano. And Curtis Granderson. And Mariano Rivera (who picked up his 600th career save on Tuesday). And David Robertson. And Mark Teixeira. And Brett Gardner. And CC Sabathia. After the Yanks' offense looked like the 1975 California Angels on Friday and Saturday in Anaheim, they turned things around, and slightly resembled the 116-win 2001 Mariners in Seattle (with Austin Romine making his first MLB start and notching his first hit as well), before losing the last game of the series in extra innings. They ultimately went 3-3 on their West Coast swing, but with the collapse of the Red Sox, the Yankees actually gained ground and are sitting pretty in first place. They can now stand aside and watch the Rays and Sox battle it out for the wild card.
Hat-Gate: On Friday night, the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs on Justin Turner's game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth, and the never-say-die, underdog Amazin's were at it again. But sloppiness and sluggishness soon followed, and those scrappy Mets kept losing and losing, and like the Giants' offense they couldn't execute (can't anybody bunt around here, or hit with runners on base?). Not even the inspirational tributes and ceremonies of the 9/11 anniversary could spur them on to victory. And, in fact, the Hat-Gate incident from Sunday may have gotten in the way of their daily focus, as Terry Collins theorized (and he did more than theorize after Thursday's loss, when he went on a well-founded rant that his team may have packed it in for the season). While all the pregame ceremonies (and during the game, too, with in-booth interviews of Mike Piazza and other 2001 Mets, along with Bobby Valentine broadcasting the game for ESPN) were done the right way, MLB, Bud Selig and Joe Torre dropped the ball on the Mets' cap issue. The whole thing turned into a he-said, they-said war of words, but what has Selig ever gotten right? Would anarchy have run roughshod through the baseball world if the Mets were allowed to wear special hats for one game? And how can the New York native Torre have let this happen? Shouldn't he have known that a seemingly minor gesture such as wearing NYPD, NYFD and NYPA caps would have meant a lot to the first-responders? In this case, doing the right thing would have been so easy, but the MLB powers-that-be turned it into a mess. In other Mets news, John Franco is coming to Queens to mentor and tutor the struggling Parnell. Who knows more about escaping pressurized, bases-loaded jams than the former Met closer?
The New Captain: Ryan Callahan was named the 26th captain in New York Rangers history this week, with Marc Staal and Brad Richards each getting an "A." The right winger was the obvious and perfect choice for this version of the Blueshirts. Callahan exemplifies everything that's right about sports, and he represents the shot-blocking, play-the-right-way, blue-collar (after all the free-agent, free-spending years, who would have ever thought we'd describe them as such?). Other notable Ranger captains throughout the years: Bill Cook, who was the first, from 1926 to 1937, and he led them to a pair of Stanley Cups ('28 and '33), Art Coulter (captain of the 1940 Cup-winning team), Harry Howell, Andy Bathgate, Bob Nevin, Vic Hadfield, Brad Park, Phil Esposito, Dave Maloney (who was the youngest), Barry Beck, Ron Greschner and Kelly Kissio, and of course we know the ones from the last 20 years, with Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury all wearing the "C."
Trouble in Jersey? Are the New Jersey Devils in financial trouble? They missed a loan payment to the bank, and rumors spread like wildfire that they may be heading for bankruptcy, but the team has flat-out denied they are in trouble. It looks like it was only a scare, so they won't be shipped back to Kansas City where they started. And speaking of going back in time, they invited old Devil Petr Sykora to training camp for one more go round.
The Franchise: And in good news for the New York Islanders, John Tavares signed a six-year, $33 million contract. With the Islanders stacked with young talent and on the upswing, could this be the year that all three local teams contend for a playoff spot once again?