Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Reason I live in Florida

The wife & I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and we did what all good transplanted Floridians do on such occasions- drove a whole 15 minutes and found a little place on the beach for a 1-day paradise getaway.

The place we found was a beach house converted into a B&B-style inn called Granger House, located at 610 Gulf Blvd. on Indian Rocks Beach;it's like a little slice of the Keys amidst all of the big-time developments and high-rise condo towers popping up along the Gulf coast. The owner, Beverly Granger was extremely accommodating of our requests for a beachfront room and 1 night stay. She set us up in a little efficiency that was a 2 minute walk to the shoreline, where we spent the better part of Friday sipping adult beverages and getting scorched by the still-intense late September Florida sunshine. Then we took in a spectacular Florida sunset, something that you can never tire of no matter how many times you see it.

After an Anniversary dinner at the wonderful Guppy's sea food restaurant (a mere 5 minutes from our room) and a re-enactment of our wedding night I went back to the shore and spent the next few hours in the dark listening to the waves, watching some spectacular heat lightning and smoking a stogie while basking in the glow of another night spent in paradise.

Thank you honey, for 10 terrific years of marital bliss. Thank you Beverly for enabling us to enjoy our short but sweet stay at your place. And thank God for the tropical paradise that is Florida's Gulf Coast. When you only need to drive 10-15 minutes to completely get away from all of life's problems and lose yourself in a sun-drenched haze you know you're living in the right place. At least I do.

Boston you may be my original home, but Florida is the place I will spend the rest of my days.

Also, special birthday wishes for my sis, Meliss. Sorry we seem to overlook your day because it falls the day after our anniv. Happy 30... sis. We love you and hope you and Paul had fun and we'll see you guys at the wedding.


Nothing Doin' Saturday

Last week's mega-hyped Separation Saturday featured a slew of ranked teams playing each other and a ton of quality games to choose from. This week, there's 2 games worth watching.
Well maybe not 2. If you are a true college football fan maybe you get in to the West Virginia/East Carolina tilts, or the always epic Marshall/Tennessee battles.
But for pure marquee value I only see two games on the board today worth watching:

1.) 24 Penn St. @ 1 Ohio St.
Jo-Pa takes his Lions to the Big Horseshoe to find out what all the fuss is about surrounding this years Buckeye squad. And guess what, Jo-Pa and the Lions are going to find out the fuss is about 2 legit Heisman hopefuls spearheading the Buckeye offensive attack. QB Troy Smith & RB Tedd Ginn Jr. are both elusive, creative and dangerous, and the Nittny Lions defense is going to be chasing their tails around all day. This looks like (another) rebuilding year for Jo-Pa
and the Lions, and the Horseshoe is no place to rebuild. Plus the Bucks want revenge for the loss last October in Happy Valley, the last time Ohio State has lost a game.
MY PICK: Ohio State, 31-20

2.) 12 Notre Dame @ Mich. St.
The Irish are reeling from the 47-21 beatdown laid upon them last week in South Bend by the Wolverines. But East Lansing is not a particularly great place to get healthy. Not when the Spartans boast Senior slinger Drew Stanton (22 TDs last year), a 3-0 record, and confidence from last years 44-41 OT thriller win in South Bend. Look for the Spartans to give the Irish D all they can handle, and I also look for another high-scoring, knock-down drag out affair. If the Irish lose again will the bloom officially be off the Charlie Weiss rose? My guess is yes.
MY PICK: Spartans 37- 31


Thursday, September 21, 2006

NBC's Must-See Comedies

The two-headed comedic monster that is MY Name is Earl and The Office both had their season premieres tonight and let me tell you I almost ruptured a body part laughing so hard. This double dip is without question THE BEST HOUR OF COMEDY ON TV.

The Earl episode turned out to be a two-parter (not unheard of with premieres but not what I was expecting from this show.) This one was also unusual because it focused on Joy, Earl's hottie/hick ex-wife played to a tee by Jamie Pressly. She gets it in her vacant head that she wants to put a giant entertainment center in her and Crabman's double-wide. But when it won't fit and she can't get a refund she steals a truck from a Big Box store and keeps it for ransom.
This is where Earl and his list enter the picture as he decides to cross off No. 183- 'never took Joy's side.' Unluckily for Earl, taking Joy's side in this case could mean felony raps for grand theft auto, selling stolen property, and kidnapping. See, the poor delivery guy was in the back of the truck when Joy boosted it and now they are stuck with a stolen truck and kidnapped hourly worker. What's a poor Karma-challenged gut to do? Earl tries to get Joy to forget her mission to get her money back and let's the guy get away in the truck. But with Joy's recognizable features she quickly winds up in jail and we have to wait till next week to see what happens.
Not an all-time great opener, but all the elements were present. There were some classic lines, like Earl's comment at Joy's "surprise" birthday party: "C'mon out we've got a pinata full of cigarettes just waiting for you to hit it." Some classic Randy: do you think monkey's are embarrassed by how they look?" And there was of course Earl, that comforting beacon of karma and goodwill shining a couple of watts brighter than all the dim bulbs around him. Can't wait till next week to see how they wrap this up. Oh and I guarantee there's a quality guest star in next weeks show,too. It's just a question of who it will be.

There's a reason why The Office won the Emmy for best comedy this year after only 2 seasons on the air: it is the funniest, best- written show on TV, narrowly edging out Entourage. And the difference maker is Steve Carrell, who is becoming more like the modern day Jim Carrey every year. His gift for line delivery, hilarious facial expressions, and-love-him-but-hate-him pathos is unmatched and an absolute joy to watch. He is one of those comedians who makes me laugh just when he is standing there in anticipation of what he will do or say.
And the award-winning bunch definitely did not rest on their Emmy laurels for the premiere. We pick up the story months after Pam & Jim's infamous long-awaited kiss in the finale. We learn that Jim is now at the corporate office working alongside Jan in an environment similar but not even close to his old office in Scranton. Here they have snobby business types who barely crack smiles, think about things like profits and growth, and most importantly, not a Pam to be found. It was eerily reminiscent of the Seinfeld Bizarro Jerry episode, and I don't think it was a coincidence as this show is now the anchor of the new Thursday night NBC Must See TV lineup like that landmark show was a decade ago.

The shows main focus is a touch subject in today's workplace: having a gay co-worker. Michael tackles the subject of Oscar's homosexuality head-on when he unintentionally intentionally "outs" Oscar to the rest of the crew, setting off a tidal wave of effects: outrage (Jan, Oscar), shock (Pam) disgust (Dwight) fear (Angela) and laughter Kevin.)
The whole mess culminates in another diversity awareness meeting, but Michael takes it to another level when he forces Oscar to declare his orientation to the rest of the office, with painfully hilarious results. After much ridicule and embarrassment, Oscar does what everyone in Dunder Mifflin has been wanting to do for years: tells Michael off. As Michael tries to embrace and kiss Oscar in a sign of unity with gays, Oscar pushes him aside and screams: "NO, I don't want to touch you, ever consider that. You're ignorant, and insulting and small." The look on Michael's face could have spoken a hundred words: shock, pain, anger, embarrassment and confusion are just a few emotions his expression conveyed. Realizing he has wounded his boss more than he intended, Oscar does embrace Michael, and as a horrified staff looks on Michael and Oscar embrace in one of the most painful (and hilarious) on screen kisses in recent memory.A stark contrast to the Jim/Pam smooch of last season. "See, I'm still here" Michael proclaims, but I'm not- I'm on the floor rolling with laughter.
After wiping away tears the ending brought them right back: Michael claims that he spurred social change by addressing this hot-button issue, and also says that he is glad he can put the matter to bed. Followed by his trademark "that's what she said...or HE said." As he looks out the window and sees Oscar getting in the car with his partner, he utters this classic outro:" Oh there's Gil, Oscars roommate ; I wonder if he knows."

This ep was completely over-the-top and hilarious, a new breakthrough in comedic television tackling a taboo but relevant subject in today's workplace in a different way from the Will & Grace or Ellen's of the past.. Only these actors with this script and this kind of talent could have pulled it off without it being completely offensive.
Did Michael & Co. teach us anything about tolerance and prejudice? I'm not sure, but it taught me that this show is not letting it's foot off the gas as the best comedy on television, bar none.

Must see TV indeed.


Big Papi is Boston's HR King

Papi hits 2 for good measure as Foxx' record falls
He's getting used to these curtain calls now

By hitting his 51st home run of the season, a bomb over the bully in right, in the first inning of Boston's 6-0 victory over Minnesota, David Ortiz became the Red Sox all-time single-season home run leader.

The fact that he did it off the potential AL Cy Young winner (and the 2004 winner), Johan Santana and that he added another shot in the 7th for good measure was mere icing on the cake.
What Papi takes more pride in is passing a man who is one of the greats of the game and a Boston icon, Jimmie Foxx, whose record of 50 stood for 68 years. The fact that he was greeted at home plate after the record breaker by another legendary former Sox player and current coach Johnny Pesky was an appropriate bookend to the historical value that the moment had-

the legends of the past melding with a man who is sure to remembered as fondly and reverentially by members of the Nation as those players for decades to come.

Also lost in the shuffle was the fact that Josh Beckett pitched his best game since about mid-May. He went 8 scoreless innings, allowing only 6 hits, striking out 5 and walking none. A far cry from the scruffy-bearded powder keg who was either walking half a dozen men or giving up multiple titanic blasts per game for the better part of the last 3 months. Maybe it's the new beard trimming?

All in all in there were some good feelings going around Fenway for the first time since the Massacre II, and it was a night that will be remembered by Boston fans for a long time. Papi has been the heart, soul, and backbone of this group of underachievers all year. It's only fitting that the most important memory that will be left from this season is him officially entering the pantheon of all time Sox greats.

As if he weren't there already.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Papi hits # 50, but Sox still lose

Papi takes a curtain call after hitting his 50th homer of the season

What should have been a night of joy and celebration turned into yet another disheartening loss for a team staggering to the finish line of this massive disappointment that has been the 2006 campaign.

David Ortiz blasted his 50th home run of the season last night, a solo shot off the now infamous (not just for his name) Tampa product Boof Bonser that did what we expect from Papi- gave his team a (2-1) lead.

But that happiness was replaced with the all-too-familiar feeling of despair and crushed spirits when another familiar sight took place in front of 36,00+ pairs of eyes: the bullpen, specifically Craig "Hit Me" Hansen, gave up a 3-run bomb to Tori Hunter over the Volvo sign atop the Monster seats that helped the Twins to an 8-3 win which officially eliminated the Sox from the playoffs.

A bitter and ironic twist that a home run that should have meant so much ended up meaning so little in the scheme of the standings for the season. In a perfect nation, that homer would have been the game winner against a Twins squad fighting with Boston for the Wild Card, and Papi would have been carried off the field as the conquering hero who helped push his team into the post-season. Not even the return of Schill to the hill could make this night memorable for a win instead of just symbolic records.

But this season of miracles and milestone moments (Schill's 200th win, Tek's games caught record) has been reduced to just that- cheering for a momentous home run for the man who carried this team for so long that it hurt his heart. Congrats for tying the Sox single season HR record, Papi.

If only you know how bad Sox' fans hearts are hurting today.

Oh yeah, the Stanks clinched their 9th straight AL East title last night- by the Sox losing.

How fitting.


Finally-some good news

With the rash of bad news recently it was great to read this piece of awesome news yesterday.
For those of you who don't know, Peter Gammons is the God of Baseball Reporting. I grew up reading him in the Globe (along with Montville, DeFord & McDonough) and literally used to rip open the Sunday paper to devour his weekly baseball column. He was definitely one of my inspirations who made me want to be a sports writer.

When it was learned that he had suffered a brain aneurysm while at his Cape home this summer I, like millions of other baseball fans, was shocked & devastated-" Please don't let this man who is such a fountain of knowledge and stories be taken from us so suddenly. "

Luckily for him, his family, and all of his legion of fans, Gammons has made a speedy and near miraculous recovery. The news that he is scheduled to return to ESPN tonight nearly brought a tear to my eye; I guarantee seeing him back on Baseball Tonight will open the floodgates.

Congrats on your recovery & hope you can stay healthy- baseball reporting just isn't the same without you.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Power Outage

We just experienced a complete power outage here in the lightning rod known as the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Power surges are pretty common around here, but usually only last a few minutes. This was a full-fledged outage- everything dead, including AC. It only lasted an hour, but still got us thinking about what would happen if and when we do get hit by a hurricane (knock on wood.) I discovered it would suck. Bad.

But what made matters worse was our neighbor decided to use the minor inconvenience as an excuse to fire up his brand new generator, the one he bought in 2005, the Year of the 'Cane.

This is when I also discovered that people without generators (me) do not care for the people who do (him.) It's the time honored tradition of 'to have & have not;' and when it comes to hurricane preparedness, if you are a 'have', well things can start getting all Stephen King in a hurry. As in the rest of the neighborhood 'have nots' storming his lawn wielding sticks, axe handles and pitchforks and attempting to wrestle the beloved machine away from its pompous owners clutches, stopping at nothing until one of us can make sure that our steaks and cold beverages will suffer no harm.

But then it came back on.

Until next time, neighbor...


Nomar helps win a SD/LA classic

How ya like that, Theo! I'm playoff bound & you're not!

In what is being called one of the greatest regular-season comebacks in history the LA Dodgers (otherwise known as RedSoxWest), and the game, Nomar Garciparra hit a walk-off 2-run homer in the 10th inning last night in a game vs. the Padres.

What made it so dramatic was the fact that the game was dripping with playoff implications as there was only 1/2 game separating the two teams going in, and the game-winner was made possible by LA's miraculous 9th inning comeback.

In that inning the Dodgers were trailing 9-5 but then pulled off the near impossible- they homered 4 straight times, the second 2 off of sure-fire Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman, only the 4th time that has been done in MLB history. Jeff Kent, JD Drew, Russell Martin and Marlon "don't call me Tito" Anderson, who had a career-high 5 hits, did the deed.

After the Padres took the lead back in the top of the 10th, which could have demoralized a team that had just fought so hard to tie the game, the Big Blue Machine went back to work in the bottom of the 10th. A lead off walk of Kenny Lofton by none other than exiled Bosox reliever Rudy Seanez set the table for the hobbled Garciaparra (translates to persona-non-grata in Bostonian), who had sat out the last 2 games with a strained quad. In a scene eerily reminiscent of Kirk Gibson's game winner vs the A's in the 1988 Series, right down to the Vin Scully call but with a lot fewer peole in the stands, the former Boston SS crushed Seanez' offering into the left field bleachers for an emotional, gut-wrenching (for SD) come-from-behind win.

Kudos to the former Boston icon for resurrecting his career in LA after 2 injury-plagued seasons with the Cubs, and after being willing to try a new position (1B) just to show he could still play.

Fitting that with one of the greatest comeback home runs in history he probably wrapped up the Comeback Player of the Year award and potential playoff berth as well.


Mo Clarett agrees to prison time

Disgraced former Ohio State star RB apologizes in court

In a somewhat surprising development yesterday former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, who as a freshman helped lead the team to a National Championship, has agreed to a prison term of up to 7 years for aggravated assault. The question is now 'has there ever been a bigger fall from grace?' Well, probably Tyson.

Just as Clarett's trial for an attempted armed robbery on a couple outside an Ohio nightspot this past New Years' Eve was set to begin, his lawyers informed the judge that they would agree to a plea deal that sentences Clarett to 7 1/2 years in the slam, with at least 3 1/2 to be served before he can get out for good behavior. Assuming he is capable of good behavior.

I remember watching the games when he was playing on that National Championship team and he was just something special on the football field. He brought an electricity and excitement to the game and the entire NCAA as well- he was one of those players. He set OSU freshman records for TDs (18) and rushing yards (1,237.) and the Buckeyes finished the year 14-0. That 2002 season was capped by the Buckeyes appearance in the Fiesta Bowl vs. Miami, a game they won in double-overtime on a TD by Clarett; it is considered to be one of the best title games in college history (let me tell you, it was.)
But then came the troubles: allegations began to surface about payoffs and privileges given to the talented youngster. He was accused of lying about property missing from his stolen car, an auto given to him by a booster of the team. He also was said to have not attended classes and being given automatic passing grades. All of these issues are almost routine for star players at big money athletic schools (see: Reggie Bush, USC.), but then Clarett decided to leave school and fight the NFL to let him enter the draft. NFL rules say no player can enter the draft after his freshman year, but Mo was determined to have the rule overturned, just for him.

Clarett and his legal team tried and lost the case and that's when his life started to take a drastic turn for the worse. He sat out of football, moved to LA to party with rappers, and went downhill fast. Despite an offer to participate in training camp with the Broncos last year, he squandered it away by being overweight, overwhelmed, and possibly under the influence during camp.

This lead to the New Years Eve incident and more recently his arrest for driving around with 4 loaded weapons in his vehicle near the home of the women set to testify ion the assault trial. Uh-oh. Thankfully he was caught before something really terrible could have ended a few lives for good.
With the plea deal his life can come full circle- he's seen the highest of the highs and his time in jail should be the lowest of the lows. Let's just hope he cleans himself up and gets the help he needs to make something positive of his life; his daughter will be 4 when he is eligible to be released.
Because if he doesn't, I'm afraid the next story we may read about him will be his obituary.


Jags dominate World Champs, 9-0

Roethlisberger did not like what he saw Monday night

Big a-Ben-dicitis was back for the Steelers, but it didn't matter. The way the Jacksonville Jaguars played defense tonight it wouldn't have mattered if Terry Bradshaw was back under center for Pittsburgh.

In an old-school smash mouth game the Jags took the Steelers out to the playground, pushed them in the sandbox and stole their lunch money. In the process they helped set a number of first & worst records: held the Steelers to their lowest rushing total (26) since 1982. Shut out a defending Super Bowl champ for the first time in 25 years (Raiders in '81.) And they contributed to the lowest scoring game in the storied history of Monday Night Football (36+ years & 540+ games.) Whew.

The Jags swarming defense not only stymied the ground game that Pitt loves to employ but they also battered Roethlisberger repeatedly and intercepted him twice, both by Rashean Mathis in the 4th quarter. Ben was obviously tentative in his first game back since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Sept 3rd, and the Jags showed no mercy in mauling him at every opportunity. they're the champs-they wear the bulls eye.

A sign of what was to come could be found in the pregame intros. Instead of the tedious "player announcing what school he went to" and the inevitable responses of "Da U" or "Prescott Country Day School" (that stuff's tired guys), the new & improved MNF uses one player from each unit on each team to introduce his teammates. This has been providing some interesting results, none better than Jax LB Mike Peterson's priceless intro of his defensive cohorts:

"Welcome to Duvall (Co.). Prepare to be hit.
Physical defense, starting with the D line.
2 Pro-Bowlers- what else needs to be said?
Linebackers, 3 guys, they hit everything that moves.
Secondary, covers everything that moves.
What do you get? Complete defense.
Best in the league.
Believe it."

Oh we do Mike, we do.


Monday, September 18, 2006

There is a God!

Why do bad things always always happen to good people?
Terrell Owens broke his right index finger in the first quarter of the Cowboys' 27-10 win over archrival Washington last night.
It is believed that after surgery to insert a plate in the finger (must be a big finger) Owens could be back on the field in time for his reunion with the Eagles on Oct 8th in Philly.
I hope he gets back in time for that game. Or else how is he going to get hit in that gi-normous cranium with an Energizer D-cell?


Cut Simms Some Slack

Yes,the QB has been pretty bad this year-
hello, so has the whole team

"Excuse me while I go see a chiropractor"

It's no government secret that the quarterback for the Bucs, a team that has totalled 3 points in its first 2 games, has been, shall we say, less than spectacular. Some of his numbers (45-82, 446 yds) don't tell the full story; others do (zero TDs, 6 INTs, 1000 batted balls). And other problems, both tangible (balls being dropped by receivers) & intangible (not throwing with confidence or authority) have caused him to lose the faith & patience many Buc fans.

But let's step away from the slings and arrows and be realistic here. Last season at this time everyone was clamoring for Simms to replace Cryin' Griese remember. After 6 games when Griese got hurt Simms stepped in to lead the overachieving team to the playoffs and he was the toast of the town. Now less than a year later, because he hasn't single-handedly taken this mediocre team and carried it on his shoulders by playing like a Manning, everyone is ready to park him on the bench for rookie/flavor of the month Bruce Gradkowski. People, do you even realize that Chris Simms has only played in 18 NFL games, 13 as a starter- NOT EVEN 1 FULL SEASON AS A STARTING NFL QB. I mean are we such a fast-food high-speed mega-pixel what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-nation that we can't even give a young stud QB with a rocket arm, sharp NFL mind and strong lineage (his dad is a Super Bowl winner) more than 1 full season to develop as a starting QB?

It's long been a rite of passage for QBs to take a few years to mature before they become leaders & winners (well, except for Tom Terrific.) You know what Troy Aikman's record was in his first full NFL season as a starter? 1-15. Three Super Bowl rings and 1 Hall of Fame enshrinement later and I'd say he ended up doing fairly well in the league. How 'bout the legendary Joe Montana? 2-14. Hmm, I wonder if he ever amounted to anything? Oh yeah, only one of the greatest, most clutch quarterbacks of all time and proud owner of 4 rings & 3 SB MVP trophies.

Now I'm not sniffing glue or doing Redi-whippets and suggesting that Simms is in the same category as those guys or will ever come close to any of their accomplishments. But I am trying to suggest that if the owners of those teams had pulled the plug and benched them in favor of their backups, we might have been denied the joy of watching those maestros weave their magic throughout their legendary careers. More likely as talented as they were they would have made their marks with other franchises.

And that is the dilemma the Bucs face with Chris Simms. He is young, smart, and strong. He is also playing behind a patchwork O line, with a confusing & complex offensive system that doesn't seem to be working and a bunch of guys who either don't know their roles or can't execute them; in other words the entire team is a huge mess. It was his 13th NFL start.

So go ahead and ride him into to the bench, run the new guy out there and trade the dejected & rejected Longhorn to another team. And when he goes somewhere else, like say his college home state Texans, and explodes into a quality NFL quarterback all the johnny-done-latelys can say "I knew he was gonna be good- why did the Bucs ever get rid of him?"


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Redemption Song:Sox take 3 of 4 from Stanks

Coco's HR-robbing catch & 9th inning bunt propel Sox to face-saving series win

After his pathetic 1-19 performance in the Boston Massacre II, in which he was outplayed in the field, at the plate and on the bases by the Demon he was hired to replace, Coco Crisp had to be feeling pretty down. He had already faced a major obstacle in his debut season with the Sox when he suffered a broken finger 1 week into the season and missed 42 games. Then he couldn't get his rhythm back at the plate, lost his leadoff job, and was ripped in the media & RSN for his poor OBP and girly arm.
Well last night Coco proved how valuable he can be when his two huge plays made the difference between a big win and another disheartening defeat for the Sox.

Boston had scored 2 runs to tie the game at 4 in the top of the 8th on a single by Tek and a wild pitch by Mike Myers,but the Stanks came right back in the bottom half and threatened to swipe the win right out from under them. Giambi singled off of Javier Lopez, and then Georgie Posada hit a towering blast to deep centerfield that seemed destined to land in the fabled monument area with the force of a sucker punch to the Nation's underbelly.

But our man Coco was all over it; he tracked the ball all the way to the fence, timed his leap, jumped up and snagged it as it was falling over the other side. It was a breathtaking play, Coco's 3rd or 4th like that this year, and one that the Demon himself would have been hard pressed to make at this juncture of his career.

Having escaped a certain demoralizing 2-run homer, the Sox rallied immediately in the top of the 9th, and little Coco was a factor again. Carlos Pena led off with a clutch double off flamethrowing reliever Kyle Farnsworth and was lifted for pinch runner Alex Cora. Coco stepped in and in an attempt to get the runner to 3rd laid down a bunt that dropped right in front of Georgie. But Coco's blinding speed forced Posada to make a wide throw, pulling Andy Phillips off the bag, and Coco was safe at 1st while Cora scampered to 3rd. Wow. Two dazzling, clutch plays in the span of about 6 minutes for the guy. When Loretta hit a sac fly that scored Cora thanks to Bernie's worm-killing 8-hopper to the plate the Sox had the 5-4 lead and would hold on for the win as Tired Arm recorded his 3rd save of the series. He had a taste of redemption as well.

Although they will not make the playoffs thanks to the bludgeoning at the hands of the Bronx Bastards in mid August, taking 3 of 4 in this compacted weekend series had to provide a small bit of satisfaction for the Sox: the Stanks couldn't clinch the division right under their noses, Demon was held in check (3-11, 2R), Papi hit his 49th bomb, and Coco crawled out of the hairy shadow left by his predecessor.
In two weeks he will get a clean slate and hopefully play a full season next year.
Let's see how he measures up to Judas then.


2 sad stories rock sports world

I had to take time out from all the football & baseball news to write about some truly important stories related to the sports world.

I was shocked and saddened to hear that 5 Duquesne basketball players had been shot after trying to pacify a non-student who had been disruptive at a school function. When the players attempted to walk away the man pulled out a gun and started shooting, injuring the players, one critically with a gunshot wound to the head. As the president of the Catholic Pittsburgh university said "what motive could there be for unloading a pistol into a group of students?" Absolutely none, and this story illustrates that anything can happen at any time, even in a secure campus area with plenty of people around. Let's just hope that they catch this a-hole quick and punish him to fullest extent of the law.

As if that news weren't bad enough it has been learned that Cubs slugger Derrek Lee will take the rest of the season off to attend to his ailing 3 year old daughter; she has lost partial vision in one eye and he wants to spend as much time with her as possible, as any good father would. But for a man who has already come back from a devastating wrist injury that caused him to miss almost 100 games this year, this is another cruel blow to a player widely regarded as one of the better guys in the league. "You break your wrist and you think that's a big deal," Lee said. "Then something like this happens and it kind of slaps you in the face of what really matters." Amen to that.

Let's just wish the 5 players and Lee's daughter the speediest of recoveries. It's one thing when someone gets hurt on the field of play, or during an attempted crime, like Charger linebacker Steve Foley. But when people seeking to help others are attacked or innocent children are stricken with senseless illnesses it just makes me realize how very unimportant sports really are.


Pats hang on for 24-17 win over J-E-T-S

The Master teaches the student how to pull out a big division win

What looked like a cakewalk turned into a nail biter as the Protege gave the Master all he could handle in the first matchup between Belichick's Pats and his former asst coach Eric Mangini's Jets.

New England was coasting along with a 24-0 lead midway thru the 3rd quarter when all hell broke loose. Thanks to some shoddy tackling by the normally sure handed Pats D the Jets scored 2 TDs in a span of 5 minutes at the close of the third to cut the score to 24-14. On the first one WR Jericho Cotchery was sandwiched between two pats defenders, went down almost to the turf, but his knee never touched so he got up and raced to the end zone as thge Pats looked around and scratched their heads.
But as if that one wasn't bad enough to watch then the next one was possibly worse. Laverneus Coles caught a short pass from Chad Pennington and appeared to have a minimal gain. Not so fast my friend. Before you could say Free Shoes U the former Seminole castoff zigged and zagged his way around the entire Pats secondary before weaving his way into the zone for a dazzling 46yd TD that brought the Jets back from the brink of being embarrassed in their home opener and gave them the confidence they needed to think they could win the game. That confidence was boosted even further when a blindside hit on Tom Terrific knocked the ball loose and the Jets recovered and tacked on a FG minutes later to make it a one score game with over 9:00 minutes to go in the game, 24-17.

Ah but that is when Brady started being Brady and the Pats went on one of their patented spirit-killing drives that ate up almost the rest of the quarter. They amassed 5 first downs on the drive that started at their 30 with Clock Killin' Corey Dillon (20 carries, 80 yds, 1TD) netting 26 yards and promising rookie RB Lawrence Maroney (16 rush, 65 yds, 1st NFL TD) gaining 11 on 4 carries. too bad it went all for naught as rookie kicker Steve Gostkowski had his 29-yd FG blocked by Jonathan Vilma; luckily he was tackled quickly and the Jets had 90 yards to go with under 2:00 left and no timeouts.

Yet they still made it interesting because the Pats went into the prevent defense knowing that plays in the middle of the field would waste valuable time off the clock. But when Pennington's
last ditch effort at the end zone was tipped by Rodney Harrison into the arms of Tedy Bruschi
New England could finally rest easy and escape from New York with a hard-fought win over Belichick's former disciple and sole possession of first in the AFC East.


Sox take Game 1 of DH #2, 6-3

Papi hits HR # 49 as Sox assure Stanks won't clinch on their watch

Big Papi got one HR closer to Jimmie Foxx' team record, David Murphy hit his first career HR, Youk had 3 RBI and Brian Corey got the win.
That's really all there is to say about this one. Too much football going on.


Bucs setting football back 50 years

Ugly 14-3 loss to Atlanta has team searching for answers- and offense
Don't look at the final score and the fact that the Bucs only lost by 11 points. And don't look at Chris Simms' numbers (28-53 for 313 yds) as an indication that he played well.
Instead get a load of these numbers to understand where the Bucs stand after two inept weeks of football:

*3o6: total yards rushing by the Falcons, a new team record. Warrick Dunn, who wasn't good enough to play in Tampa , ran for 134 yds and Mike Vick, whom the Bucs usually corral, also rushed for over 100 (127 & 1 TD). In contrast The Bucs ran for 40 yds, 37 of them by Yugo, errr, Cadillac Williams. He now has 59 yds rushing in 2 games *3: the amount of points the Bucs have scored in 2 games, and that lone score came with the clock winding down in the 1st half. They also missed 2 FGs and had an INT return for a TD by DBrooks called back on a questionable block-in-the back call against Ryan Nece. Also the number of INTs Simms threw today, but it could easily have been 5 or 6 if it weren't for some drops by the Falcon D and one called back on a penalty.

*161: yds gained on 9 catches by Joey Remember me? Galloway after he had none last week. it's not often that you have a receiver go over 150 yds and lose the game and not score a TD

*382: total yds allowed by the vaunted Bucs defense, a unit that was No. 1 in the NFL last season. Suddenly the are looking very old, slow and confused. Throw in 78 yds on the INT returns and the Falcons ran around the Bucs to the tune of 460 yards. Not good.

*0-2: record of the Bucs, along with the other NFC South underachieving cellar-dweller Panthers. And with Atlanta and the Saints sitting at 2-0 the Bucs already have a big hill to climb to defend their division crown.

All I know is that I need to either get DirecTv or go to the local sports bar every Sunday from now on because I cannot bear to watch this team play any longer. It is actually painful to sit in front of the TV and witness this dreck. Two games lost by a combined score of 41-3 with no running game, a clueless offensive unit and an ancient-looking defense. And those Panthers come to Ray Jay next week, themselves having scored only 19 points in their 2 hideous losses.

Something tell me that seats will be available at the sold-out New Sombrero for the rest of the season. Any takers?


NFL WEEK 2: 5 Games to keep an eye on

As Week 2 ramps up let's take a look at five games of note today:

1.) Bucs @ Falcons
The Bucs always play Michael Vick & Co. tough- the defense loves it when Vick tries to do his crazy legs routine so Brooks, Barber, Simeon & the rest of the D can tee off on him like a wobbling pinata- I've witnessed a few of these beatings firsthand. But after the Bucs got their asses kicked at the hands of the Ravens, and with Atlanta having mauled Super Bowl favorites Carolina at their home, things should be different today. Buc castoff Warrick Dunn had the most yards rushing in the league last week 132). Can he do it again against his former team?
MY PICK: Falcons 24, Bucs 12

2.) Patriots @ Jets
The Pats did not look sharp in their 19-17 snoozer vs. the Bills last weekend, and Tom Terrific admitted that the Deion Branch contract situation distracted him all week. Well now his #1 target is in Seattle, so the only distraction will be which receiver is going to step up and replace the former Super Bowl MVP? Troy "Older than dirt" Brown? Reche Caldwell? Bam Childress? Look for a lot of running by Maroney & Dillon, and watch the tight ends- Ben Watson could have a breakout game and emerge as Brady's fave target. Chad Pennington looked good (319 yds, 2TDs) in his return from rotator cuff surgery last week in the Jets 23-16 win over Tennessee. But this is not the Titans, despite the lack of quality receivers on the Pats squad. The division is on the line; who will emerge with the lead?
MY PICK: Pats 24, Jets 21

3.)Bills @ Dolphins
Which team that "nearly" won last weekend is the better loser? The Bills gave the Pats all they could handle in Foxborough before succumbing by a safety; The Fins took a 17-10 lead into the 4th Q against the defending Champ Steelers before allowing 2 4th Q TDs to lose it. QB Duante Culpepper will be making his first start at home for the Fins- think he wants to impress the home crowd? With the Pats & Jets squaring off, 2nd place in the AFC East will be on the line.
MY PICK: Dolphins 27, Bills 17

4.)Redskins @ Cowboys 8PM NBC
Whaddaya know it's the home debut of T.O. The jackass who once angered everyone in Big D when he stomped on the hallowed star in the middle of the field at Texas stadium as a 49er will now be running across it dressed in Cowboy blue. Clinton Portis will not play for the Skins, so that hampers their running attack. But if TO and Drew Bledsoe don't get on the same page today against their NFC EAST arch rival, things could get ugly quick in Tunaland. let's keep our fingers crossed that that happens. Please.
MY PICK: Cowboys 28, Skins 14

5.)Giants @ Eagles
Little bro Eli gave big bro Peyton and the Colts all they could handle before falling to the Colts 26-21 last Sunday night. Donovan McNabb looked like he had shed a 220-lb weight last week in the Eagles 24-10 win at Houston (oh wait, he did). But the Giants look strong and they most certainly are not the Texans. And with RB Brian Westbrook hurting (knee injury) but starting it will be tough for Philly to control the ball. In my opinion New York is just the better team, even in the City of Brotherly Hate, and I think they'll prove it today.
MY PICK: Giants 17, Eagles 14


How 'bout "Desperation Saturday"?

Billed by the ESPN hype machine (and repeated ad nauseum throughout the day & night) as "Separation Saturday" because of 2 ranked teams playing each other in 7 games, the real story became desperation for quite a few teams who saw their championship hopes go up in smoke.
There was some wild and wacky action throughout the day, which produced outcomes large (Michigan's ass-whipping of Notre Dame,47-21), small (Auburn's 7-3 squeaker over LSU), and incredible (2 last- minute wins). Let's review:

-Wolverines devour Irish in South Bend
MY PICK: ND 28-24 SCORE: Mich 47-21
This one got ugly early for Charlie Weiss' boys as Michigan jumped out to a 34-14 halftime lead, rendering the entire 2nd half garbage time. So how did the Maize & Blue win their 1st game in South Bend since 1994? By utilizing power running from Mike Hart (31 carries, 134 yds, 1TD) and fantastic receiving from Mario Manningham (4 catches, 137 yds, 3TDs; I guess you could say that he was the man.Sorry). Plus ND had 5 turnovers, 2 returned for scores. The only question now is how far with the Irish fall from their cushy #2 perch? BTW, the next time an anchor calls the Wolverines "Meeshegan" I hope he chokes on his mic cord (are you listening Reece Davis?)

- Gators, Leak pull out huge win in Knoxville
MY PICK: Florida 24-21 SCORE: Florida 21-20 (pretty close)
After the Gators scored the go-ahead TD with just over 6 minutes left on a nice play from Chris Leak to Dallas Baker and then held on for the win, the 2 Gator goats may have been tempted to go and lead the band in a rendition of the Gator Chomp. But as it is they will be happy to leave Knoxville with a deliciously sweet 1-point win against their arch (conference) rivals. Leak played well in stretches, especially when Coach Meyer decided to dust off his old Utah playbook and let him run a little to soften up the D. He also used Frosh phenom QB Tim Tebow in key 4th down situations as a runner, and he produced 7 carries for 29 yards. Meyer became the first SEC coach to beat Tubby's Vols in his first 2 meetings. Urban renewal indeed.

- Noles gag away game vs. Clemson, Baby Bowden
SCORE: Clemson 27-20
If this game doesn't prove that the preseason rankings are an absolute joke then I don't know what game does. The Noles started the year ranked #11 and moved up to #9 despite two less-than-stellar wins over Miami (who now looks way overrated as well) and Troy. Well they won't be overrated any longer as the sputtering Seminole offense just couldn't muster enough yardage (204) or points (offense scored 10 pts) to defeat Papa Bobby's son in Bowden Bowl 8. Whatever happened to that FSU offensive juggernaut? Even though they have plenty of talent, they cannot move the ball with any regularity; 200 total yards was good for one quarter in the Chris Weinke days. Makes me pine for the days of Chris Rix. At least they were exciting with him at the helm. This game won't do the offensive coordinator any good in his effort to retain his job; anyone?

-Oklahoma snatches defeat out of jaws of victory
SCORE: Oregon 34-33
The Sooners thought they had this one wrapped up; heck most teams would when they have a 13-point lead with less than 3 minutes to play. But two horrendous calls went against the Sooners and Oregon scored 2 TDs in the last 1:12 to pull off the stunning win. The loss can be blamed on the calls (ORE recovered an onside kick but appeared to be ahead of the 10yd barrier; OK was called for pass interference on a tipped ball that kept a drive alive), but certainly not on Sooner stud RB Adrian Peterson, who amassed 211 yds rushing on 34 carries, 145 yards coming in the 4th quarter alone. He's getting my Heisman vote right now (515 yds rush in 3 games). But this was the game of the day.

- War Eagles sneak by Bayou Bengals in a defensive struggle
MY PICK: LSU 21-20 SCORE: Auburn 7-3
With a puny score like that you would think this game was a snoozer. But it's the Bayou Classic, which is never boring. Sure it was not an offensive masterpiece (obviously) but it was a smash mouth, tough, hard-hitting affair. Amazingly Auburn won despite being out gained 182 yds to 309 yds where the only got past LSU's 39 on one drive. But the game came down to a thrilling conclusion as LSU marched down the field in the final minutes only to see QB JaMarcus Russell's last pass completed but about 10 yds short of the end zone as Auburn players raced around the field in jubilation and LSU players pulled a Led Zeppelin: dazed & confused.

-Miami spanked by Louisville, could end Canes ranked streak
MY PICK: L'ville 31-24 SCORE: L'ville 31-7
I knew L'ville would put up the points. I also knew Miami was offensively challenged (so why did I pick them to score 24?) But the Canes looked really bad and the offensive juggernaut that is the Cardinals look like they don't remember who Michael Bush is. The Cards only rushed for 95 yards (avg 300+ coming in) and lost QB Brian Brohm in the 3rd Q to strained thumb ligaments (out 4-6 weeks) , but plugged in Frosh QB Hunter Cantwell, who went 3-4 for 114 yds & a TD as the Cards sent the Canes, and their streak of being in the top 25 since 1999, packing at Papa John's. The Cards are a powerful team, and Brohm should be back for their big showdown vs. West Virgina on Nov 2nd. Can't wait.

- USC not sharp but good enough to beat Huskers
MY PICK: USC 52-17 SCORE: USC 28-10
Why was this the showcase game on ABC Saturday night? Well there's just something about a game in the Coliseum, with the brilliant sunshine, celebrity star power, dripping history, classic Trojan unis and high powered football. Usually high powered. The Trojans had trouble with Bill Callahan's pesky & improved Cornhuskers, even trailing 3-0 early. But John David Booty & Dwayne Jarrett (11 recs, 133 yds) got on track to put up enough points to get the win. Is it just me or does Callahan look more scholarly back on campus? When he was with the Raiders he looked like an inhabitant of the Black Hole!

But it was a terrific Saturday in the NCAA universe, no matter what you label it. I went 3-2 with my picks (no spreads), so I'm pretty happy. I guess it was a Separation day; but I still like my moniker: A Kick-Ass Weekend in College Football!