It was not a good week for New York/New Jersey sports. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Though the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils scrounged up a few of wins during the week, the weekend was a complete washout, with every team losing. The New York Giants went down in flames. The New York Jets couldn’t catch up to the New England Patriots. The New York Rangers lost back-to-back games to open the season (though they picked up two consolation points). And the Islanders and Devils were both shut out in their opening games.
Maybe what we need right now is a distraction. "Family Guy" fans know what Peter Griffin would say: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty." But he’s not here to help us. Or maybe we need to take a cue from Monty Python and look on the bright side of life. We’re now eight days away from the joyless, "the season’s a failure if we don’t win the World Series" New York Yankees’ postseason elimination, where the results are all that matter (what happened to the old optimistic New York battle cry of "Wait until next year"? – oh yeah, different team and different era). But does that mean we have to act like the Yankees and not enjoy the thrill of the ride? Or the process itself? Every local team lost this week, but does that mean we can’t smile just a little bit thinking of Victor Cruz’s acrobatic touchdown catch? Can’t we enjoy that for a few moments? Or Jake Ballard’s Mark Bavaro routine? Or Joe McKnight’s 88-yard kickoff return? How about Antonio Cromartie’s interception just before halftime, which was the first red-zone pick Tom Brady has ever thrown at home? And can’t we savor Jamal Westerman’s pair of sacks? Or just the sight of Nick Mangold back on the field at center? Or Brad Richards’ first goal as a Ranger? Not to mention Ryan McDonagh’s threading-a-needle pass? Or Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Brodeur and Al Montoya standing on their heads to keep their teams in the game even though the outcome was bad?
There’s still plenty of season left in football and, of course, hockey, and things could always be worse: the Phillies, Braves and Red Sox could all be playing in the LCS, the Eagles and Cowboys could be ahead of the Giants in the standings, the Rangers could be forced to play in Europe all year long, and on and on. So maybe things weren’t that bad. . . OK, I tried. Let’s face it, the week was a nightmare. And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
A Self Inflicted Loss: The Giants just can’t handle prosperity. Coming off three consecutive wins and being heavily favored over the never-win-on-the-East-Coast Seahawks, Big Blue handed the game right to Seattle, with fumbles, penalties, interceptions and lack of a running game, and they lost two of their starters with concussions along the way, as Chris Snee and Zak DeOssie join a long line of injured Giants, not to mention Henry Hynoski leaving the game with a neck burner (and Jimmy Kennedy’s gone for four games himself, after being caught using PEDs). Sure, there were some positive moments: The continuing emergence of Jake Ballard as a pass-catching threat, Victor Cruz making a dazzling catch and running it all the way into the end zone, Jason Pierre-Paul recording two more sacks, Osi Umenyiora coming up with two of his own along with a forced fumble, Eli Manning throwing for over 400 yards with a trio of touchdown passes and Jacquian Williams making eight tackles and looking like a quality starter. But the mistakes overshadowed all of that, as the Giants resembled last season’s shooting-themselves-in-the-foot squad, and they deserved to lose. Why does it take being the underdog and playing the nobody-believes-in-us card to get them to come out victorious? With the Eagles continuing their nosedive and the Cowboys and Redskins idle, the Giants missed a golden opportunity to gain ground in their division. Next up is the streaking 4-1 Buffalo Bills. The Giants don’t have a chance, right? Maybe that’s just what they need to get back on track.
Blame It on Brian: There may or not be dissent on the Jets, and a group of receivers may or may not be disgruntled, but fingers are pointing all over the place in Gang Green Land, with accusations and denials flying around. Whether these reports are true or not, one thing’s for sure: The 2011 Jets don’t look anything like the 2009 and 2010 versions. The talk has been there but that’s the only resemblance to the two teams that went to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. Actually, two things are for sure – the second being the fact that Derrick Mason is no longer a Jet. The powers that be claim he’s gone because of his lack of production and the potential of Jeremy Kerley, but Mason made waves when he stated the team had "cracks" that needed to be fixed. Apparently, he was the first "crack" that was fixed. On the field, the Jets played a whole lot better up in New England than they did in Baltimore but that’s not really saying much. They tried to get back to their ground-and-pound bread and butter, and while Shonn Greene and the offensive line (welcome back, Nick Mangold) did some good things, the offense had seven three-and-outs against a poor Patriots defense and they seem discombobulated and unsure of what they should be doing. Brian Schottenheimer is taking the heat, and it’s time for his offense to regroup and come up with a new plan. Though there are still 11 games left in the season, with the Bills in the race for the first time in years, the Jets have a little more competition in their own division now, and as Yogi once said, it gets late early around here. Maybe the 0-4 Dolphins will be the tonic for the struggling Jets, with the Monday night matchup being a turning point for the team.
How Sweden It Wasn’t: After slogging through Europe without much practice time, the Rangers lost their first two games and coincidentally played like they had been slogging through Europe without much practice time. The play of Henrik Lundqvist helped them salvage two points, after his teammates committed too many penalties and couldn’t generate much offense while the power play didn’t click, either. Marc Staal was surely missed, but Brad Richards recorded a point in each game (and won 19 of 24 faceoffs) and new captain Ryan Callahan was his usual demon self. If the team wasn’t up to regular-season speed, though, John Tortorella was in midseason form with his postgame comments: "Mindless, stupid penalties. . . . It smacked us right in the face. You take a stupid penalty at the end of the third and another stupid penalty in overtime, you’re not going to win." And after the second game, he was ready to go home: "I just want to get the hell out of here and get to a situation that’s a little better for how we want to play."
A Good Start After a Bad Start: The opening games for the Devils and Islanders looked like stale leftovers from the beginning of last season when each team’s poor play resulted in a coach being fired. The 2010-11 season for both squads was a tale of two seasons, and the Monday and Thursday games this week resembled the good from last season, as they each notched consecutive wins to show they are already better than the bumbling teams from last October. With the Devils’ lack of offense dooming them last season, they are still looking offensively challenged in the first three games this year, but their stars are leading the way when they do score, and having Zach Parise back is, of course, a big boost. And Islanders coach Jack Capuano stated after the second game that his goal scorers need to start scoring goals, and John Tavares answered the call with a two goal, two assist game in the win over Tampa Bay, and he did it all in the first period to boot. The teams’ goaltending has been a surprise for both teams, as Al Montoya has been in the nets for all three games (snakebitten Rick DiPietro has already suffered an injury before playing one game), while Johan Hedberg has shouldered the load for the Devils, with Martin Brodeur having to leave Thursday’s contest with an injury.
A League of Their Own: There are still no signs of life for an NBA season, and this week Amar’e Stoudemire even declared that the players should start their own league. Hey, Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones stuck it to an uncaring, malevolent owner and took matters into their own hands going off on their own in "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings," so why can’t Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony & Co. do the same thing? Of course, Bingo’s team started to fall apart and they ended up with a little person as their catcher along with a one-armed first baseman, but there was a happy ending to that movie, and their former owner was even booted out of the Negro National League. We can dream of that happening to James Dolan if the NBA ever resolves their labor issue, can’t we?
Panic in the Streets of Boston: The post-collapse fallout in Boston is now trickling down to New York and the Yankees, though mainly in the form of rumor. With Theo Epstein moving on to the Cubs and Brian Cashman’s contract running out at the end of this month, the Cashman to Boston rumblings are out there, but it’s more than likely the Yanks’ GM will stay in the Bronx. And David Ortiz expressed interest in switching allegiances in baseball’s biggest rivalry. He stated he was tired of the drama in Boston, and would gladly go play for the Yankees, which would make him the first player in baseball history to join the Yankees to escape dysfunction and turmoil since that’s usually what players find when they come to the Bombers.