Bob Molinaro had a rant on HamptonRoads.com about the zebras in College football. “Another college football official has been suspended.
This week, it’s a Pac-10 zebra blamed for missing a “blatant and dangerous” facemask call in Saturday’s game between Southern California and Oregon State.
What’s wrong with the refs this season? Not a week goes by when big-time college officials aren’t being blasted by coaches, exposed by the media or
reprimanded by their conferences for horrendous calls.
Is officiating less reliable than it’s ever been? I began a Google search on the subject and came across this paragraph in a story from Sports Illustrated:
“Rarely has college football officiating experienced such a barrage of criticism. The public perception is that the officiating has been awful, a succession of inept decisions made by guys who wouldn’t know how to call home, much less call pass interference. Indeed, some of this fall’s foul-ups are already shoo-ins for the “Refereeing Hall of Shame.”
A strong indictment. But the story was written in October of 1990.
That was the year Colorado scored the winning touchdown against Missouri with two seconds remaining – after officials allowed the Buffaloes a fifth down.
It doesn’t get any worse than that. Nineteen years later, has officiating fallen off even more? I doubt it. I would imagine that the ratio of good to bad calls is about the same as it was in 1990. Maybe even in 1890.
Perspective is skewed when all we remember is the last thing we’ve seen. The difference now is that the spotlight is a lot brighter than it used to be. With the Internet and YouTube, where the worst calls can be replayed over and over, it’s getting harder for refs to hide. Even TV provides angles away from the ball that weren’t available a few years ago.
TV exposes officials, but it’s also meant to save them. Because of the replay system, expectations of perfection are higher than they once were. So when even a booth official botches a call, as it appeared to happen in Saturday’s game between Florida and Mississippi State, people start to wonder what’s going on.
Video evidence indicates that Florida linebacker Dustin Doe, who was running with an intercepted pass, was stripped of the ball before he crossed the goal line.
The replay official didn’t see it that way, and unlike his colleagues on the field, he was afforded several looks.
Can a replay official be suspended? That, of course, would create further embarrassment for the SEC, which a week ago suspended an officiating crew after a couple of horrendous fourth-quarter calls helped Florida come from behind against Arkansas.
The same crew aided an LSU rally the week before when one of its members called an excessive celebration penalty on a Georgia player. The only thing
excessive about the incident was the official’s interpretation of the rule.
The ACC isn’t shelving any of its officials this week, but it would like to suspend the verbal duel between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
After entertaining Hokie complaints, the conference confirmed four illegal blocks by Georgia Tech in the Yellow Jackets’ 28-23 victory on Oct. 17, but from the ACC’s perspective, airing dirty linen in public only erodes what’s left of the confidence in officiating.
We can all understand any conference’s desire for damage control, but so what? Partisans and coaches already believe that refs are clueless. Calling out
officials publicly will create occasional public-relations problems, but it won’t hurt the game and might just keep the men in the striped shirts more on their toes.
The axiom that says the best officials are the ones you don’t notice seems badly outdated.
Just keeping today’s officials off YouTube would be an improvement.”

Ray Ratto warned to be afraid this Halloween, “Or become a college fan, those are the choices.
Professional sports’ worst nightmare—running out of billionaires—advanced a little further with the news that the Glazer family, which owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United, are looking to get out of the NFL.
The NFL? The NFL. Take that, Rust-headed Roger. You thought you’d just beaten back Rush Limbaugh, now you’ve got this?
The Glazers own two billion-dollar properties, but the Bucs are horrible, making little money and stand millions under the league salary cap, and Man U,  one of the three or four most successful franchises in any sport on any planet, are carrying close to  $2billion IN DEBT.
This is why people go on about owners, like Al Davis and Chris Cohan and Yorkopolis. The safe-as-houses part of team ownership is now false.
And if you don’t believe that, checkout how incredibly nasty the McCourt divorce has become already, and how they’re using the Dodgers as a club to beat each other with. Don’t you just hate it when the kids get caught in the middle.
 The point? If the people who own Manchester United, a brand so large that it makes the NY Yankees seem like the Brandon Wheat Kings, have to get out.
The entire underpinning of professional sports is in the kind of jeopardy we haven’t seen since the 1930’s, when teams folded as often as they were formed.
Consider that the next time you demand that the Giants spend $100million for Jason Bay. Or the A’s spend $3million on Tris Speaker.”  

“Drat,” said Bill Dwyer in the LA Times. “There goes that 82-0 season.

It was Game 2 of 82 Friday night. A Lakers team whose last season seemed to end yesterday was back in full swing. The Dallas Mavericks were in town, as
was their energetic and entertaining owner, Mark Cuban, who can be more fun than the game.

There are only a few things to look for in Lakerland this early in the season.

The Lakers won it all last June, have 11 players back from that team, and are expected to do it again this season. Like the baseball fans in New York with the Yankees, Los Angeles pro basketball fans — except for the seven who root for the Clippers — have a sort of entitlement feeling about their Lakers and league championships.

Staples Center was full, including the usual corps of A-list celebrities. Into this stargazing came the Mavericks, always competitive since Cuban bought them —
winners of 50 games last season and a playoff spot, and sent home in the playoffs by the improving Denver Nuggets.

So this was not an ideal spot to be in for the Mavericks, especially after starting badly against the Washington Wizards. They lost their opener at home, 102-91, to a team that never had a scent of the playoffs last season, winning 19 games.

That made the Mavericks either pushovers, or stealth bombers. The Lakers’ Lamar Odom chose to see the latter.

“They know they gotta play,” he said before the game. “They are coming in here to play the team that just got crowned.”

His reference was to the ring ceremony before Tuesday night’s opener, when the NBA gave the Lakers their championship jewelry and even an extra gift: the Clippers, minus Blake Griffin, in the opener.

So, Friday night, the Lakers watch began in earnest.

Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant. Legitimate superstar. A given. Nothing new there.

Pau Gasol, injured and not yet playing, will be back soon. A veteran. Knows how to play. Probably played too much in the off-season in Europe and got hurt because of it, but will figure out how to pace himself. That’s what veterans do.

Derek Fisher, savvy point guard, back and the same.

Odom, married to a Kardashian famous for being famous, hasn’t changed a bit. Still friendly, still goes to the boards hard and slashes left for big baskets.

Andrew Bynum? The big center, famous for being injured, doesn’t seem to be at the moment. He seems more confident, more aggressive and a better fit,
although the percentage of stone content in his hands seems to remain high. He is in the category of those for whom Coach Phil Jackson likes to say, “Don’t let him hold the baby.” But he just turned 22, so maturity and skin softeners may improve everything.

And then, there is the fifth force from last year’s title team, Trevor Ariza.

Oops. He’s gone, off to Houston, where he has averaged 18.5 points in the Rockets’ first two games. So there is something to watch — his replacement, Ron Artest.

Artest is, of course, a veteran — of several things beyond basketball. And that’s not to downplay his basketball skills, which are considerable.

Enter Cuban, who has spent more in fines to the NBA over the years than several AIG executives make in bonuses. Which, of course, is saying something.
Cuban has this thing about free speech and his right to it. Something about our Constitution. The NBA doesn’t always see it that way. The ongoing
give-and-take is delightful, especially when Cuban ranges far afield.

He did so when the Lakers acquired Artest. Citing Artest’s tendency to occasionally behave unlike an altar boy, Cuban speculated that he might hurt the Lakers by becoming a “distraction.”

The needle thereby inserted, Cuban continued the fun Friday night, saying, among other things, that he had experience working in a Dairy Queen and if this Lakers thing didn’t work out for Artest, he could find him work.

“I could teach him how to make those neat swirls,” Cuban said.

Cuban got his Dairy Queen experience back in January 2002, when the NBA fined him heavily for commenting that some NBA refs couldn’t manage a Dairy Queen. After getting word that Dairy Queen was taken aback by his statement, he worked for a day at one, and more than 1,000 people lined up to be served by Mark Cuban.

Artest gathered his non-altar boy image by, among other things, breaking a TV monitor in anger after a game, asking the Indiana Pacers to give him time off during the season to promote his rap album, and going into the stands in Auburn Hills, Mich., for a ruckus with fans.

Nevertheless, the season is long and there is ample time for image rebuilding.

So let’s review Friday night’s Ron Artest effort: Fourth foul at 9:52 of third period. Followed by a technical for wrongly chatting with the official. Fifth foul at 10:04 of the fourth period. One for six from the field, three points.

Final score, Mavericks 94, Lakers 80.

Smiling, perhaps licking on a Dairy Queen swirl near the Dallas bench: Mark Cuban.”

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Norman Chad grumbles about a lot of things, including Sunday TV. “Every Sunday, I sit in a bar, look up at multiple TV screens and wonder,
“What am I doing with myself?” 
People, what are we doing with ourselves?
America is in turmoil – social, economic, diplomatic woes – and most of our energy revolves around challenging the spotting of a ball in the second quarter of an NFL game.
Here is an actual conversation I just had with a man sitting on the saloon stool next to me last Sunday:
Him: “The ground cannot cause a fumble.”
Me: “But it just did!”
A couple of Sundays ago, when I was taking my weekly stroll to the Manhattan bar where I watch the NFL, a 40-ish man approached me on the street, pushing a baby carriage with one hand and walking his dog with the other. And into his cell phone headset, this is what he says:
“You keep telling me you don’t like Steven Jackson, so just don’t play him.”
Frankly, I can’t take it anymore.
The problem is this: I love the NFL. But how much longer can I sit back and hear Tony Siragusa spitting out inanities from beyond the end zone? How much longer can I listen to Daryl Johnston overanalyzing and Shannon Sharpe salivating and Chris Berman boomerizing and Gus Johnson yowling and Brian Billick bloviating?
I have half-a-mind to say, “Bring back Joe Theismann,” but I fear he’d come back.
(I’ve actually tried to monetize my viewing vice: I contacted every NFL TV carrier, offering to be a studio commentator. Not only do they flatly refuse to return my calls, several have attempted to remove their network signal from my cable package.)
How many errant JaMarcus Russell passes can I witness? How many Terrell Owens blowup press conferences can I endure? How many dysfunctional
Redskins drives can I withstand?
Sure, I still get joy from watching the Ben Roethlisberger/Hines Ward/Troy Polamalu Steelers play – win or lose – but that doesn’t negate stumbling onto 15 minutes of any Cleveland Browns game.
Heck, I’ve lost 10 months of my life, I believe, to INSTANT REPLAY.
I don’t want to tell al-Qaeda how to do its job, but if I’m bin Laden, I would attack America on an NFL Sunday. These people could invade Chicago, and if
the Bears were in the red zone, no one would know until Monday rush hour. The fundamentalists could literally remove the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and the only way fantasy footballers might find out is if the news were interspersed with the stat crawl at the bottom of their screens.
It is time to re-examine who we are and why we are the laziest, richest, do-nothing people in recent Western history.
A reasonable American lifetime lasts 75 years or so. That means you are given 3,800 Sundays total, more or less, then you’re dead for a month of Sundays forever.
(When I die, I won’t be buried or cremated, I’ll be stuffed and mounted in an ESPN Zone, hopefully with a good view of the big screen.)
If you are given only 3,800 Sundays in your life, why would you spend 15 or 20 of them each year listening to Norman Esiason?
As it stands, two-thirds of my Sundays already are gone.
Aren’t museums open on Sundays?
Isn’t the park accessible on Sundays?
Don’t I have a family that lives with me on Sundays?
My goodness, I should bowl on Sundays before I waste another moment hearing an announcer tell me that the punter “outkicked his coverage” or that an injured player is “walking off the field under his own power.”
It’s time for all of us to get out. Smell the roses, or the asphalt. See the sun set through the smog. Sip a cup of real coffee as you walk past Starbucks.
Effective immediately, I’m not giving up another precious Sunday to the NFL.
Besides, I can now watch the UFL on Thursdays.”

Dick Heller said what it was like in the 1950’s with President Eisenhower and his golf game in the DC Times, “During the distant 1950s, political opponents
and gagsters frequently lampooned the 34th president’s passion for golf. A cartoon book, for example, referred to an imaginary Dwight D. Eisenhower doll this way: “You wind it up, and it hooks and slices for eight years.”
Nonetheless, President Eisenhower’s love of the game helped turn golf into a sport for the masses. According to one historian, 3.2 million Americans played golf when he entered the White House in 1953. When he departed eight years later, that figure had doubled.
It seems appropriate, therefore, that Eisenhower will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., on Monday, making him the first president to take up residence in a sports shrine.
Just as fittingly, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II will have his award – a Waterford crystal trophy etched with the signatures of most previous inductees – accepted by the leader of Arnie’s Army, fellow Hall of Famer Arnold Palmer. The two were close friends and played together numerous times.
“I don’t know if anybody else in golf ever has done quite what the president did for the game in bringing it to the world’s attention,” Palmer recalled last week.
“We started playing after I won the Masters in 1958. When he was playing pretty good, he shot in the low 80s.”
Despite Eisenhower’s stature, on the golf course, “He never acted like a president,” former Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Hord Hardin told Golf Digest in 1993.
“There was no ceremony,” Hardin recalled. “At the first tee, we’d throw up four balls, and the two closest were partners, the way we did with everyone else.”

Tom Robinson wrote on HamptonRoads.com, “For something so good, the NFL really stinks.
Not always, of course, and not even usually. But this season, so much of the NFL reeks so badly, leaf-raking and gutter-cleansing have become promising
Sunday afternoon alternatives.
Consider the shameful condition entering Week 8:
Three of the league’s 32 teams remain winless. Three have won but once. And then there are the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders, insults to
two-win teams everywhere.
And yet simultaneously, the NFL boasts three undefeated teams this far into the season for the first time since it merged with the AFL in 1970.
In that ironic light, the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, all 6-0, are absolute prodigies, veritable wellsprings of glory amid a
wasted landscape.
The plague is a shade coincidental, we can hope. Franchises that already weren’t much good – specifically Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis – all picked this year to begin major renovations with new executives and coaches. Those guys are a combined 3-31 through numerous uncompetitive and borderline-professional efforts.
And while nothing productive is ever assumed from Crazy Al Davis and his Raiders (2-5), who knew the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers – who won 13 and 12 games last year, respectively – would collapse into a collective 2-10 start, playing as if their cleats were two sizes too small?
The smoldering result of the meltdowns and makeovers is a stunning level of disparity in a league predicated on everybody being able to beat anybody on a given day.
Not this year, fans. Not this bunch. Here are some numbers. I won’t weigh you down, but they’re instructive:
Last weekend in six of the 13 games, the loser couldn’t come closer than 28 points to the winner, amplifying to pristine clarity the pox that’s settled over the league.
Suddenly, the NFL is Oklahoma vs. Northeast Southern Central State. I’m not crying for the gamblers, but an online story I saw noted such Blowouts R Us
weekends crush the Vegas sports books. The outcomes are so locked, the betting lines can’t be set large enough.
I counted. Of 103 games played so far, 42 percent were decided by at least 14 points. And in a full one-quarter of them – 26 in all – the point-differential was
21-plus. There’s been a lone one-pointer – New England 25, Buffalo 24 in Week 1 – and four two-point games, but none since Week 2.
Drama is pretty much on holiday, but back to the real routs: Last year at this stage, 23 percent of games had been pantsings of at least 21 points, so not much different, right?
However, the wild change is in the degree of humiliation. It’s mushroomed.
In ’07, there were five shutouts all season, by an average score of 18-0. Last year, six shutouts in all, and a 23-0 average. This season’s already seen seven
shutouts – from 24 to 59 points – for an average score of 36-zip!
Ah, but what of ’06 you say, when 15 shutouts beset the league, average shellacking 24-0? Well, yeah. But even then, the no-hopers were able, proud and combative enough to toss a 9-0, 10-0 and a 15-0 into that mix.
Little such optimism lives here in the NFL circa 2009, the Year of the Lambasting.”

Amalie Benjamin wrote, in the Boston Globe, about the inspiration for many of the Yankee player’s driving will to win- Mr. George  Steinbrenner. “The notes are no longer there for Andy Pettitte before his postseason starts. They used to contain scripture, verses, and encouraging words from a man often regarded as volatile and demanding.
But for Pettitte, and for many of the longtime Yankees, not having George Steinbrenner around this season has been unsettling, the comfort not yet there with the new era in New York baseball.
“It has been difficult, because to me he is the best owner there is in baseball, and for him not to be around too much is hard,’’ Mariano Rivera said yesterday.
“I only wish him the best, wishing that he was here. But unfortunately he hasn’t [been].’’
Steinbrenner has been little more than a ghost, an appearance in spring training yielding to a season without him. He appeared in Tampa recently, when the Yankees were there. And he is scheduled to be at Yankee Stadium today, for the Yankees’ first World Series appearance since 2003.
“He’s a big part of us,’’ Jorge Posada said. “He’s the reason why we’re here. That’s why we want to win it for him. He’s got us here in the beginning, the late ’90s, every year because of the team he provided us every year. Hopefully we can win it this year for him.’’
To some of the old guard – Rivera and Posada and Pettitte and Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi – it seems as if Steinbrenner is still around. As Posada insisted,
“He’s here, he’s here,’’ but Steinbrenner is not the force he once was. His health is deteriorating, the control of the club handed over to his children, especially his son, Hal Steinbrenner, and daughter, Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. It was those two who got the shower of champagne from Jeter Sunday in the Yankees clubhouse after the team clinched a trip to the World Series.
That used to be George.
“He used to pop in and out of the clubhouse,’’ said Jeter, who has known Steinbrenner since he was 18 years old. “Especially when you had bad games, he used to come here. You didn’t always look forward to seeing him. You were well aware of his presence. You’re still well aware of his presence.
“He was just in the clubhouse when we were in Tampa at the end of the year. For me, it’s always fun to see him. We have a long history together.’’
And Steinbrenner has a long history with the Yankees, starting when he was part of a group that bought the team in 1973. He has had six championship
seasons with the club. His relationships with the players on the teams that won four titles from 1996 to 2000 were sometimes contentious, but often far more mellow than his relationships with the Yankees of his early years. Like, say, Billy Martin.
“You’d see a lot of stuff that he did and stuff that was said, but even when I struggled, when I had my struggles, George was just always so supportive,’’
Pettitte said. “Just always coming up to me, asking if he could do anything for me, if I needed anything. So I never saw that side personally where he would
come at me with anything. It was always just support. I don’t know why.
“I think he knew me well enough to know that I was probably beating myself up plenty enough where I didn’t need to get beat up maybe by him, or was getting beat up by the media or something and I didn’t need it.
“So, he’s just, he’s always been great to me. I appreciate that. I hope that we can win another World Series, that he’ll be able to enjoy it, be able to see it.’’
It was strange, Pettitte said, when he returned from his three years in Houston, from 2004-06. When he got back, Steinbrenner was not the same. And being a Yankee was not quite the same.
“He’s still involved,’’ Jeter said. “I don’t know what info you guys are getting. He’s still involved.
“He’s the reason why we’re in this stadium. Bottom line, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. We wouldn’t have this team if it wasn’t for him. I don’t care how involved anyone thinks he is.
“One other thing you have to realize is that family is committed to winning. That entire family. That mind-set will never change.’’

Frank Deford talked about A-Rod’s change for the better on SI.com, “Someone once asked Fred Zinnemann, the director, what a certain famous movie star was like. “What makes you think,” Zinnemann replied, “that she’s like anything?”
In the same way, the more we learned about Alex Rodriguez, the more I’ve always asked myself: is he like anything? Ever? Certainly there’s never been anyone quite like him in sports — the best at his game, the world at his feet … but yet, also incorporated within such majesty: insecurity … jealousy … and
untrustworthiness. He could be so gauche he could make you cringe. Remember the magazine photograph of A-Rod kissing himself in the mirror? Good grief, even Narcissus was content merely to stare at his own reflection.
The worst of him was on display last springtime, which he himself refers to now as his “rock bottom.” A book grossly detailing his flaws and deceit was
published — most prominently with withering accusations of his employment of performance-enhancing drug injections. Somehow, that Rodriquez felt it
necessary to juice up when he was already the lord of the realm, at the peak of his game, was all the more incriminating. The other stars who had turned to
drugs had only done so when their great gifts began to fail them, like aging actresses fleeing to plastic surgery. It was lamentable, but human. But A-Rod? There was never enough. He had to top off the tank even when it was full.
His public mea culpa was strained and disingenuous, only adding to his unpopularity. But fortune comes in odd disguise. Shortly thereafter, Rodriquez found he needed hip surgery, and he was yanked off the stage. When he returned, it appeared that his ego had been operated on as well. As he struggled to regain his physical gifts, the man who always had to be the cynosure appeared not only vulnerable but satisfied to accept his part in an ensemble, even to defer to the young and articulate new Yankee star, Mark Teixeira.
A-Rod stopped bloviating, especially about subjects that were beyond everything but his vanity. In the past, he would have grandly exploited his romance with a tabloid actress. Now, his canoodling with Kate Hudson was as veiled as these things can be in a paparazzi world. After awhile, nobody even cared. And perhaps more telling: it didn’t seem that Rodriquez minded that nobody cared.
And then, of course, October — A-Rod’s month that had lived in infamy. Had any great player’s name in any sport ever so pitilessly been paired with the word “choke” in a succession of offseasons? But in his third at bat in this October’s first postseason game, he drove in a run and drove away the boos, and he was off  on a tear all the way to the World Series. By the end, Sunday night, when New York finished off the Angels, it was A-Rod that the Yankees surrounded. It was hard to believe he was the same person who started the season. He was a team-mate.
Why, no one even talks about his drug-scarred record anymore. And now, should A-Rod keep it up and lead the Yankees to the championship: What makes you think he’s like anything?”

Jim Litke of the Boston Herald looked at A-Rod’s post season performance and wrote, “Alex Rodriguez already has the richest contract in baseball and A-list actress Kate Hudson waiting for him after the game.
Now he’s got a chance at the last laugh, too.
“Pretty incredible,” Rodriguez said after the Yankees booked their 40th trip to the World Series and his first with a 5-2 win Sunday night over the Angels,
“especially with all the stuff I’ve been through this year.”
One of the more complex love-hate relationships in sports — A-Rod and New York — is back on again. All he had to do was hit rock-bottom in February,
when Rodriguez admitted using performance-enhancing drugs for some 18 months between 2001-03, then hit the Twins and Angels staffs this postseason like a tough town always assumed the store-bought Pride of the Yankees should.
“As tough a time as that was for Alex and the organization,” general manager Brian Cashman said recalling the events last spring, “it makes everyone appreciate how far he has come and what he has fought through, in life and his career.”
Five years ago, adding the best ballplayer of his generation to a lineup that already boasted a contender or two was one of those moves that sounded wonderful in theory. But like communism, it turned out not to be quite as wonderful in practice. No matter what A-Rod did, even in a town that reveres wealth, he always seemed to be dragging his price tag behind him like a ball and chain.  He volunteered to move from shortstop, where he’d already established Hall of Fame credentials, to the far side of the diamond to give Derek Jeter plenty of space. He was the first to show up for extra practice every day and often the last to leave. He tried being cocky, because he thought that’s what the town wanted. Then he humbled himself — even baring his soul about visits to a shrink — when pity seemed like the quickest way back into the city’s heart.
All the while, Rodriguez was a perennial All-Star and an MVP candidate. But the problem was always who A-Rod was never going to be: Jeter.
Never mind that Rodriguez single-handedly carried the Yankees for long stretches of every regular season and put up numbers that compared favorably with anybody in the game. What he didn’t have was a postseason performance worth owning up to, let alone even one of those signature moments that made Jeter an icon.
Until this year, in fact, most New Yorkers would have argued that A-Rod’s most memorable playoff move was getting dropped to the No. 8 spot in the order by then-manager Joe Torre in the 2006 playoffs.
“I will say that in other postseasons I failed,” he said, “and sometimes failed miserably.”
Something was different this time around, right from the outset.
Rodriguez finished the regular season with his usual flourish, then got better at-bat by at-bat. When he wasn’t crushing the ball — Rodriguez compiled a .438
average, five homers and 12 RBIs in nine playoff games — he was drawing a walk in crucial situations. Too often in the past, his confidence was a touchy
subject. This time around, it was contagious.
“It all started with Alex with the home runs, the game-tying home runs,” manager Joe Girardi said. “The home runs that he hit in the seventh, the ninth or the 11th. We’ve had big players do big things.”
The funny thing is that for all of his striving, the one thing Rodriguez could never quite manage was to be just one of the guys. The big contract and the photo shoots, the tabloid headlines and celebrity girlfriends always set him apart. But all of those things combined didn’t make him feel nearly as isolated as leaving the batter’s box empty-handed time after time in the playoffs.
“I just felt very happy and very blessed, and all I cared about this year was winning games,” Rodriguez said.
“A lot of great players have never had the honor of playing in the World Series,” he added a moment later. “I thank the good Lord for putting me with the greatest organization and 24 great teammates.”
Then again, loved as Rodriguez might be at the moment, all it will take is a big drop in production when the World Series starts Wednesday in New York for
the Yankee faithful to drop him like a bad memory. After all, there’s a reason people like to say if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

Bill Conlin, from the Philly Daily News, sent this position by position “tale of the tape”- just remember, please, that he’s from Philly. “In a World Series
comparison, a Tale of the Tape tradition dating to 1903 has matched the combatants by position.
While that gives a picture of relative strengths on an individual basis – third basemen Mike Schmidt and George Brett was a close matchup of 1980 Phillies and Royals stars – it ignores the roles of same-position players in the context of where they hit in the batting order.
Even the heavyweight champion Phillies and Yankees have different rules of engagement as a game unfolds. Let’s look at another 1980 matchup of first
basemen Pete Rose and Willie Mays Aikens. Rose, the patron saint of win-any-which-way-you-can small ball, was batting No. 2 in ’80 at a position normally
reserved for a power bat. Aikens, the prototypical cleanup hitter, was more the first-base business model. It was a no-brainer to give Willie a lopsided edge in a matchup with the aging Rose. He outhomered Pete by 20-1 that season, drove in 34 more runs.
Ah, but Aikens’ 20 homers and 98 RBI were pedestrian numbers for a cleanup hitter. Rose lashed 185 hits, stroked 42 doubles and scored 95 runs while
compiling a .352 OBP. Those are fine numbers for a table-setter whose job description is to get on base – he reached 251 times by hit and walk.
So, the edge clearly belonged to Rose when factoring in his contribution to the Phillies’ lineup chemistry.
Here is one man’s spin on how the Phillies and Yankees match up – not by position – but by positions in the batting order. (Using DH rules and the most recent starting lineups posted by managers Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi. I am also assuming Raul Ibanez will DH in New York and Ben Francisco will play left.
Most AL managers like to put speed in the No. 9 spot, but Carlos Ruiz runs well and I think Francisco will bat No. 7 behind Ibanez.)
Gentlemen, protect yourselves at all times and let’s have a clean, hard fight.
Leadoff: Jimmy Rollins vs. Derek Jeter
The Yankees’ captain is a first- ballot Hall of Fame lock. Rollins adds to his credentials year-by-year. Both are run scorers and producers. Give Jeter the edge as a pure hitter, Rollins check marks for power from both sides and speed. Jeter’s intangibles are off the charts. Rollins revels on the Big Stage.
RINGS:Rollins 1, Jeter 4.
EDGE:Even.
No. 2: Shane Victorino vs. Johnny Damon
Victorino was depicted on the front page of the New York Post Tuesday wearing a skirt. You’ve gotta be pretty good to rate a spot normally reserved for “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” Bernie Madoff and Jacko. Damon had a huge year for a table-setter – 107 runs, 24 homers, 82 RBI, .282 BA. Shane’s
numbers were solid, but his edge is in pitcher disruption – 25 stolen bases and his tremendous speed on base. Both are Red Light players.
RINGS:Victorino 1, Damon 1.
EDGE:Victorino.
No 3: Chase Utley vs. Mark Teixeira
The media needs to get used to the idea that even Supermen have slumps. These guys play their roles as engine-room coal stokers superbly most of the time so that whenever one slumps there has to be something “wrong.” Both had typically big regular seasons, but Utley had a streak of four straight 100 RBI seasons snapped, although he scored 112 runs and was 23-for-23 in steals. Both have had relatively quiet Octobers. Look for that to change. Teixeira is a Gold Glove first baseman. Chase has made two well-advertised fundamental errors turning DPs. The Phillies run much more at the top of the lineup than the Yankees – they had 79 steals at the top against 44 (30 by Jeter).
RINGS:Utley 1, Teixeira 0.
EDGE:Slim for Teixeira.
Cleanup: Ryan Howard vs. Alex Rodriguez
This is the best heavyweight matchup in New York since Ali-Frazier I. Two monster boppers with evil intentions. Howard was the NLCS MVP with a collage of huge extra-base hits. A-Rod has pumped five homers so far. This is his eighth postseason and first World Series.
RINGS: Howard 1, A-Rod 0.
EDGE:Howard.
No. 5: Jayson Werth vs. Jorge Posada
Werth is the main reason managers are loath to walk Howard. The 6-5 breakthrough bomber blasted 36 homers and drove in 99 runs. He also plays superb rightfield and can steal a base. The name of his game is clutch. Jorge played in just 111 games, but hit 22 homers and drove in 81 runs. I have a feeling Jorge will do a lot of hitting with A-Rod on first. (Hideki Matsui normally hits here against a righthander.)
RINGS:Werth 1, Posada 3.
EDGE:Werth.
No. 6: Raul Ibanez vs. Hideki Matsui
The best power hitter to come out of Japan battled through injuries to have a solid year – 28 homers, 90 RBI. Ibanez was headed for MVP consideration when he suffered a nagging groin injury. He still posted career numbers and this will be one of the tightest lineup matchups. (Posada will hit in this spot against a righthander.)
RINGS:Ibanez 0, Matsui 0.
EDGE:Even.
No. 7: Ben Francisco vs. Robinson Cano
Ben brings speed, power and a good glove to the role (and could still wind up batting No. 9) but has been lightly played since coming from Cleveland in the
Cliff Lee deal. Cano is New York’s Utley, a beast of an offensive second baseman with future MVP potential. He’s the elephant in the Yankees’ room.
RINGS:Francisco 0, Cano 0.
EDGE:Cano.
No. 8: Pedro Feliz vs. Nick Swisher
These guys are viewed by many as the weakest links in these powerful lineups. Well, Feliz specialized in hits with runners in scoring position. Where else do you get 82 RBI from the back end of the order (Pedro normally hits No. 7 in the NL)? Where else? Swisher’s 29 homers helped drive in 82 runs, as well.
RINGS:Feliz 1, Swisher 0.
EDGE:Swisher.
No. 9: Carlos Ruiz vs. Melky Cabrera
Two of baseball’s most quietly efficient players (and Chooch could still wind up No. 7), Cabrera can lead off an inning and set the table for Jeter and Damon.
Ruiz can pop one in Yankee Stadium Lite.
RINGS:Ruiz 1, Cabrera 0.
EDGE:Even.
Lineup scorecard
Phillies 3, Yankees 3, Even 3.

Thomas Boswell of the DC Post discussed the players who comprise the Yankees backbone, before game 6 of the ALCS was played. “The rain poured on the outfield grass but Andy Pettitte kept throwing, harder and harder, until he was almost at game velocity. Even though his start in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series had been postponed just an hour before, even though he will now pitch that game on Sunday night, he had work to do, ritual to render, a kind of resolute Yankee-ness to honor.
As the rain turned to a deluge, with no other players from either the Yanks or Angels anywhere in sight in this new blue pinstripe shrine, Pettitte ran alone, back and forth, from the right field foul line to center field, over and over.
On Sunday night, Pettitte may pitch the Yankees back to the World Series for the 40th time. Along with him on that trip will be three other classic veteran
Yankees — shortstop Derek Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada, all of them teammates on four New York world champions from 1996 to 2000 . All of them, each having another superior postseason, are dedicated to a last roundup (with $423 million in new trail hands along for the ride).
Let Pettitte, throwing and running alone in a long empty stadium in a steady storm, stand for all four of them. Hatless, in a blue Yankees T-shirt and pinstripe pants, drenched long ago but oblivious the 37-year-old left-hander continues a 90-season Yankee tradition of lifelong commitment to the endless boring regimen of greatness. The Yankees as an organization are rich and never play on a level field. But the individual Yankees who comprise the best of those teams are indeed a magnificent breed apart — in their own minds, to be sure, and, perhaps, to a degree, in reality, too.
“The four of them all exemplify what the best Yankees are supposed to be — classy, tough, gentlemen, winners, team first,” said “senior adviser” Reggie
Jackson, standing in the locker room. “If things don’t go well, you sit down and be quiet.”
“Oh, just like you used to?” I said.
Reggie laughed. “Those four guys set the example for everybody else,” Jackson said. “I can sum up what they have in two words — relentless carriage. They have a posture that they never lose no matter what’s happening. If there is no path, they cut their own and make a way for you. The circumstances of the [particular] game don’t dictate to them. They define the game.
“To have a great team, you need two or three giants who have it.”
Might the Phillies have a few sure men with relentless carriage.
“Yes,” Jackson said. “Ryan Howard has the physical presence and the talent to match it.”
But you can see he has trouble coming up with other names that fill him with enthusiasm. The Yankees, meanwhile, have their veteran foursome, plus three additional stars with equivalent gifts but not yet that Jeter-like perfect pinstripe posture — Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira.
All this sounds just peachy for the Yankees. But it’s not quite a perfect world for them yet. The Yanks didn’t want to play a Game 6 and probably shouldn’t
have had to. Pettitte has plenty of problems beating the Angels with an 0-4 record and 34 runs allowed in 39 1/3 innings in seven starts against them the last two years. He’s allowed at least three earned runs in all of them.
There wouldn’t have been any Game 6, or the fear of a one-game-season Game 7 (even if CC does get to start it), if the Yankees’ setup men — Phil Hughes
and Joba Chamberlain — who were so substantial in the regular season hadn’t suddenly looked scared to death on Thursday in Anaheim. With a two-run
seventh-inning lead, they blew up the bridge to the virtually infallible Rivera whose ERA this postseason is (of course) 0.00 and in 83 playoff games now has an 0.71 ERA, 36 saves and an 8-1 record.
“The image of a Yankee is Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera,” Jackson said. Pettitte and Posada are on a slightly lower level, yet not followers.
“They could both get into the Hall of Fame. They are on the cusp,” Jackson said. “Andy has 15 postseason wins. That ties the record. What if he gets No. 16 [on Sunday]. Or 17 and 18 [in the World Series]?
“Jorge was the class of his era as a catcher, along with Iván Rodríguez. Ivan’s probably a Hall of Famer. But if you had to start a team, you’d probably pick
Jorge over Iván.”
Game 6 may loom unusually large, even for a team as over-laoded with stars as the Yankees, because Pettitte carries such a central place in the locker room.
Once, he was more a sidekick to Roger Clemens. Now, “Andy is the leader around here,” Jackson said.
If the Angels gain momentum in Game 6, then even a Game 7 win by Sabathia would hurt the Yankees — perhaps badly — in the Series. If CC had to work on
Monday, the Yankees could only use the 290-pound lefty twice, at most, in the Series.
In the Bronx, only one goal is allowed after last offseason’s free agent spending spree — it’s either a title or failure. Everything about a CC start on Monday is a nightmare for New York. After A.J. Burnett (who definitely does not have relentless carriage) in the opener, who pitches Game 2? Chad Gaudin, with a 34-35 career record? Or Pettitte, who often likes five days’ rest, on only three days’ rest?
No, the Yankees hate the word “Monday.” They’re all about Sunday night, right now. Look for those four familiar names to cut a path for others to follow.
Jeter and Posada are hitting .314 and .308 in this postseason with five home runs between them — as many as the whole Angels team in the playoffs. Pettitte’s ERA is 2.84 and Rivera has been perfect — times seven.
On Sunday, the rain will stop. The new $1.5 billion Big Ballpark, this city’s duplicate shrine to what it means to be a Yankee, will show itself in all its
over-the-top blue majesty, right up to the restored white façade.
The great baseball tradition here will not be celebrated by monuments and pediments, or by 15-foot neon “Yankee” signs or video hagiography. Jeter, Rivera, Posada and Pettitte will carry it forward in its proper dignified manner. Like Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle, Jackson and Munson, they embody the best Yankee tradition — the relentless carriage of champions.”

Gary Washburn, of the Boston Globe, discussed the current ambitions of Sir Charles. “Charles Barkley has spent his entire basketball existence being brutally honest – about society, the state of the NBA, and the players who populate his beloved game.
His role as a television analyst on TNT has given him a perfect way to vent frustrations, bestow compliments, and even offer apologies for his own
transgressions. However, his tenure will be coming to an end soon, if Sir Charles has his choice. He has a serious desire to enter NBA management, and wants – no, thirsts – to be a general manager.
The Chuckster is tiring of criticizing teams and wants the responsibility to build a winner with his own hands.
“It’s time for me to be a general manager,’’ said Barkley, who has been at TNT for eight years. “I think everybody around me knows it’s time for me to take a different challenge.
“I always want to keep going as a person. I love my job. I love the people I work with. But now it’s time for me to take on another challenge as a man. I need to grow as a person and it’s time for me.
“And certainly I can do a better job than some of these guys have been doing.’’
Several Hall of Fame players have gone on to be general managers. Some have been wildly successful, such as Jerry West and Joe Dumars, while others floundered, such as Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor. There is no way to determine how Barkley would fare unless he receives an opportunity.
The question is whether an organization – likely a suffering one yearning for improvement and legitimacy – would take a chance on hiring a legendary player with a questionable track record, including a recent DUI arrest that led to a leave of absence from TNT. Barkley called his actions “stupid’’ and has remained out of t0 the headlines since.
“If a good opportunity came up, I would take it,’’ said Barkley, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. “I think people sometimes get confused with taking a job and taking a bad job. Every job is not a good job, but I think if a good job came up, I would take it. But I am not going to leave TNT for no bad job.’’
And there is no rule that says a flawed figure can’t put together a championship team.
“[Teams] are taking a chance on guys worse than me,’’ said Barkley. “First of all, I think my résumé is better than some of the other guys who have gotten jobs running NBA teams.
“I want my chance to fail, just like everybody else.’’
Of course, Barkley’s current job is to predict who will reign in the NBA this season, and he said there are five teams with a legitimate shot at winning the title:
Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, the Lakers, and San Antonio.
He said Rasheed Wallace may benefit from a secondary role with the Celtics. The key, he said, is preserving the older players.
“I think the main thing they have to do is worry about being healthy, just trying to stay healthy, just get through the regular season,’’ said Barkley. “They probably have more depth with Rasheed, who can play 4 or 5.
“They are a contender. They can win anywhere, on the road or at home. They are going to have one of the two or three best records in the NBA.’’
He is picking a Celtics-Lakers final.
“I think that would be great for the league, of course,’’ he said.
In his years as an analyst, Barkley has become a stern authority on league issues and troublesome players. And his take on social networking – players sending out Twitter and Facebook updates – is pure honesty:
“Things like that are a waste of time. First of all, I have always been very adamant about some loser worrying about what some celebrity is doing during the day.
[The player is] a loser and he should be concentrating on his skill as a player and his other aspect of his life, learning to invest his money, his family life, investing his time and energy into that.
“Sitting around talking to complete strangers about what you are doing during the day, I have been very critical of that. Professional sports is not a babysitting service. These guys at some point got to grow up and mature.’’

The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont answered that question and added, “Next Sunday, when the Bruins are in Manhattan to face the Rangers, Andy
Bathgate’s No. 9 will be hanging in the Madison Square Garden rafters as an eternal tribute to the former Blueshirt.
When in New York, every NHL goalie should take a moment to ponder Bathgate’s number and utter a silent thanks, not necessarily for his body of good work at center (1,069 games, 973 points), but for the one shot he took that proved to be a powerful agent of change for the entire sport.
It was that Bathgate shot, taken 50 years prior to next Sunday’s game, that opened up a seven-stitch gash on the nose and upper lip of storied Canadiens
goalie Jacques Plante. Whisked to the dressing room for a 20-minute suture job, Jake the Snake refused to reenter the action unless Habs coach Toe Blake
permitted him to wear the plastic facemask that Plante had been experimenting with since training camp.
Blake didn’t have much choice. Backup goalies in those days weren’t a luxury. They didn’t exist. Note Plante’s résumé for that 1959-60 season: He played in
69 of the Habs’ 70 regular-season games, posting a record of 40-17-12. His understudy Charlie Hodge, a true understudy, played in only one game all season.
Up until Nov. 1, 1959, Blake feared that by donning a mask, Plante wouldn’t have a clear view of the puck and would either allow more goals or be at greater risk of injury.
But Plante, tired of the stitches and scars, held his ground. Blake relented, and Plante resumed play as the first masked goaltender in NHL history. He also
finished with 27 saves in a 3-1 Montreal victory.
Like virtually all other hockey equipment, the mask has evolved dramatically in the last half-century, and today they are as much fashion statement as they are high-tech protective gear. NHL goalies sometimes spend thousands of dollars for their mask and the glitzy paint jobs that adorn them.
Check out the Canadian website tsn.ca, where you’ll find a poll to vote for your favorite mask.
For hockey fans of a certain age around here (read: old, like your faithful correspondent), the No. 1 goalie mask of all-time is the Gerry Cheevers model, basic white with mock stitches scribbled all over with black felt-tip marker. Who needs a poll when you know the winner?
The Cheevers mask was both macabre and whimsical, a piece of art that spoke of the damage a 100-mile-an-hour slapper could inflict, chronicling the averted hurt in faux catgut.
Imagine the pain and scars that goalies have been spared the last 50 years because of Plante’s innovative mind, his stubbornness, and his temerity. Imagine the plastic surgeons in those Original Six cities who had to look for moonlighting work.
Imagine shooters like Bathgate, and the thousands that followed him, who learned over time, contrary to what Blake believed, that a goalie with a good mask is a whole lot harder to beat.

 
Mike Penner pointed out in the LA Times that , “In the grand scheme of things, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco’s wearing the wrong-colored chin strap is but a drop in the ocean.

Still, the NFL decided to fine Ochocinco $10,000 for wearing a black chin strap instead of white during the Bengals’ loss to Houston last week.

The NFL also fined San Diego’s Larry English $7,500 for a horse-collar tackle in the Chargers’ loss to Denver.

A black chin strap earning a bigger fine than a potentially harmful tackle?

That’s the NFL, also known as the No Fun League. The NFL has a reputation to protect.”

 
Speaking of Ochocinco, Rick Morrissey of the ChiTrib bemoaned living in Snoozeville. “A week of Chad Ochocinco’s creative Tweets has brought home
something that once seemed unthinkable: We followers of Chicago sports figures are living in Snoozeville.

“We’re dangerously low on personalities. We’re lacking free spirits. We’re experiencing a critical shortage of true originals.

If it weren’t for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, we would be almost completely devoid of characters. All right, we will include Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who is given to violent outbursts and exuberant twitchiness. Let’s put it this way: There’s nobody in the non-Venezuelan division who makes you laugh or roll your eyes or even shake your head at another Gatorade container taking a beating.

Right now, Chicago is about as funny as a Milton Bradley speech on what’s wrong with the world. Somebody needs to step up, and, frankly, clown shoes
wouldn’t be a bad look.

We used to have former Bear Jim McMahon, but that was a long time ago. He recently moved to Florida, and there’s no one around here who seems inclined to moon a helicopter the way the Punky QB did during preparation for Super Bowl XX. More’s the pity. I think.

Dennis Rodman, the tattooed, nose-ringed, rainbow-coiffed ringmaster of a traveling circus, is long gone, too, and his post-basketball career has sunk into a pit of reality shows and criminal troubles.

We still have Mike Ditka, who was the larger-than-life coach of the Bears in the larger-than-life 1985 season. But Da Coach just turned 70, and, c’mon, how
long are we going to rest on his laurels? (And devout Bears fans answer: Forever and ever, amen.)

Who is our Ochocinco? Who lights up a cold, rainy October day the way the former Chad Johnson does? Who, just for the heck of it, would think to declare himself Mexican and ask to be called Esteban Ochocinco, as the Bengals receiver did last week?

Lovie Smith? I don’t think so. What’s Spanish for “I’ll have you drowsy within two minutes of my pregame speech”?

In anticipation of the Bengals’ game Sunday against the Bears, Ochocinco called out various Monsters of the Midway, via his Twitter account.

“When I finish Lance Briggs, he’s going to be pedaling all game long like his last name is Armstrong!”

Ochocinco is the bard of Twitter. He’s genuinely humorous, but not nasty. Colorful, not beige. Everybody’s in on the joke, even the people he insults.

“Chad does that just to be funny,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said on ” Chicago Tribune Live” on Comcast SportsNet. “I don’t think he’s mean about it.
I think he gets humor out of it. I get humor out of it. It’s good for the sport.”

We used to have the late Rod Beck, who would say almost anything and say it with a cigarette on his lips. The most popular Cub now? That would be Ron
Santo, who works in the radio booth. That a flyover of Santo’s toupee at Wrigley Field would attract more fans than an Alfonso Soriano hitting clinic is not a good thing.

We used to have Steve Lyons, the former Sox player who once absent-mindedly pulled down his pants to shake loose dirt before realizing he was standing on first base in Tiger Stadium. There’s a lot of freedom in being a free spirit.

We used to have Mongo and Danimal and Samurai.

Now we have Derrick Rose, Derrek Lee, Paul Konerko, Robbie Gould and Jonathan Toews. Nothing against them, but if the five had a party, how would
anyone be able to tell?

And, no, the Hawks’ Patrick Kane does not rise to McMahon status by virtue of an early morning skirmish with a Buffalo cabdriver.

What we’re missing here is creativity, someone who brings a smile to your face. The Bears’ Tommie Harris has potential, but he has been hurt and he’s stuck in  a fairly humorless environment.

The Bulls’ Joakim Noah has possibilities, but he’s going to have to raise his nonconformist game to give us hope.

The other young kids? Gordon Beckham and Matt Forte? Nothing there yet from either of them.

We’re floating on a calm sea. Give us some chop, please.

Some people have asked me why I quote Guillen so often. For the same reason a dying man crawls across the desert for water.

We used to have Mark Grace. We used to have the 1977 Sox.

Now we have Vinny Del Negro.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but: Where have you gone, Sammy Sosa? I miss your mad dash to right field.

We’re at low ebb here, folks. When is Guillen’s youngest son eligible for the Major League Baseball draft?”

LONDON PATRIOTS

October 25, 2009

Dan Shaughnessy, of the Boston Globe, sent this from London: “Tom Brady, international icon?
Not quite.
Tom’s wife is internationally famous. Gisele is a goddess in Europe and just about everywhere else on the planet. Tom is not even an international man of mystery. Over here, he’s just a good-looking American football player who occasionally shows up on ads for Nike, Glaceau Smartwater, Stetson cologne,
Visa, and Netjets.
London Fog?
That account belongs to Gisele. She’s famous like Jacko and Bono.
Tom? He’s not David Beckham, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James. Over here, he’s not even Serena Williams.
I’ve been checking for three days. Haven’t seen a poster of Tom. Haven’t seen Tom’s photo on the cover of any local newspapers or magazines. Went to
Waterstone’s bookstore in Piccadilly Circus Friday night and there wasn’t a single copy of Charles Pierce’s “Moving The Chains.’’ For that matter, there
wasn’t any book regarding American football, though I did see the Beckham bio in which the uber-star rips the Braintree Sheraton.
The only Brady shirts in town are worn by New England yahoos who have made the flight across the pond for today’s Patriots-Buccaneers game at Wembley Stadium. Hundreds of them assembled last night at a UKPatriots fan club party at the Sports Cafe on Haymarket Street (special guest: Bob Kraft).
Tom spoke with the British media a couple of times this past week. He submitted to an overseas conference call when the Patriots were still in Foxborough Tuesday. On Friday, he stood behind the podium in the Long Room of the stodgy Brit Oval Cricket Club (built in 1890). In typical tacky American form, Tom was positioned in front of a Dunkin Donuts/Mass. Lottery/Patriots logo, which was placed between sconces in front of a wood panel memorializing the club members who lost their lives in World War I.
There were surprisingly few Gisele questions. Tom was treated less invasively than your typical Wimbledon match winner. Sample questions: Has Kraft put any extra pressure on you to impress the locals? Can you pick out one moment when you were growing up that inspired you to become an American football player? I was wondering if you’ve researched your Irish ancestry at all? Any specific concerns with your knee on the field at Wembley? When you came here four years ago, were you recognized?
“The Americans, they recognized me,’’ Brady said. “But the English people, they’re not too familiar with football.’’
A followup question was, “What is it like to think of yourself as a global icon?
“I don’t think of it like that too often,’’ he said. “I’m very much who I’ve always been. There are certain circumstances in your life . . . opportunities that happen in your life that you take advantage of, and obviously with the success of our team, the quarterback gets a lot of the attention, a lot of the focus.
“That’s just part of it. You don’t have success as a quarterback without a great team, great coaches, and great leadership from our owner, Mr. Kraft. Believe
me, there’s a lot of people that I’m very proud to be associated with, and this team, we’re all privileged to play for this team.’’
Typical Tom Teamspeak. No Ali in this guy. And that’s good when you play a team sport.
On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if the NFL has an international superstar in Tom Brady.
“I think so,’’ said the Commish. “I think clearly Tom Brady is a global star. Joe Montana was a global star. Refrigerator Perry was a huge star in the ’80s here.’’
It hurts to think that Tom is not even up to Fridge Fame. I checked the local rags yesterday to see what kind of splash Tom made after Friday’s media sessions at the Oval.
The Daily Mail? Not a single word about American football in the massive tabloid.
The London Times? The paper featured a dozen or more pages on soccer. There was an interesting story on “The humungous sadness of Britain’s fattest man’’ (Paul Mason tips ’em at 70 stone – “displacing the previous record holder, who shed half his bodyweight in preparation for his marriage to some lucky, lucky girl’’), plus a feature on “How we finally fell for Yoko.’’ Simon Barnes wrote two paragraphs on the American football, describing Brady as “massive and modest . . . the Patriots’ main man.’’
In the pullout section of the Daily Telegraph, I found a substantial feature on Brady, written by Ian Chadband, called, “Salute the ‘golden boy’ living American Dream.’’
“The man with a claim to being the finest American sportsman to compete across the Pond quickly had his Limey hosts eating out of his hand,’’ wrote
Chadband. “It was like watching David Beckham using his matinee idol glow to win over LA . . . Becks and his Posh might indeed be a match for you and
your Brazilian supermodel wife . . . he follows that fond tradition of sporting folk heroes such as Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Unitas, beloved for their grace and humility while achieving greatness.’’
The Daily Express featured a column by Andrew Elliott comparing Brady to Beckham: “[Brady is] the most marketable player in the NFL thanks to the
clean-cut image and chiseled good looks (you can see your own reflection in those teeth). If the rumours are to be believed, he was even lined up to replace Beckham as the face – or crotch, considering the poses, of DKNY.’’
That’s more like it.
Finally, Tom gets some love in London. But he can still walk across Hyde Park without being recognized.”

 

 

This is from Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, “If any man on the street, or on the job for that matter, was likely to know about the NFL, it seemed like it
would be Gaheem.
It wasn’t.
Gaheem punches betting slips out at a William Hill betting parlor on Edgeware Road in a section of London that seems in some parts to resemble Baghdad
more than Britain. The streets are filled with Iranian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Turkish restaurants, and women wear not only the Islamic hijab but also the
fundamentalist black niqab that covers them from head to toe with the exception of a thin slit around the eyes.
Many signs are in both English and Arabic, and each night men gather at outdoor tables drinking tea, smoking hookahs and talking about football – but not your kind of football.
“Why do you call it football?” Gaheem asked, quite logically when you think about it, after a visitor sought the odds for tomorrow’s NFL International, Volume 3, between the Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium.
“You hardly use your foot. I don’t understand that. Why football?”
Maybe because handball already was taken?
“I don’t understand the game, really,” he added, somewhat unnecessarily.
Gaheem, though, understood the odds because he works in the business of odds. So while he didn’t know much about American football he did know one team playing tomorrow at Wembley must be a lot better than the other.
“That’s about 10-1,” he kept saying as he read the various numbers from a computer screen, the winless Buccaneers being on the sad end of those odds and rightfully so.
“The Patriots must be quite good. Some people like your football over here, but I don’t really understand what’s going on. I like basketball. Easier to follow.”
Maybe that’s why basketball is bigger internationally, including here in the United Kingdom. But this is now the third year a regular-season NFL game has been played at Wembley – Europe’s second-largest “ground,” as they call the stadiums here when they’re not calling them a “pitch,” which sort of sounds like Jon Lester should be involved – so they’re getting there.
A crowd of around 86,000 is expected for the 5 p.m. kickoff tomorrow (that’s 1 p.m. in New England or Tampa), the game having become a bit of a cult
gathering in these parts. According to all reports, it sold out in a half-hour, which makes it the sporting equivalent of a Springsteen concert except that not everyone there understands the music.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explained yesterday that regular-season games were substituted for the preseason ones originally used to sell the sport here three years ago after the local sporting public, not including Gaheem obviously, came to understand the difference between exhibition games and the real things.
It will be televised live on Sky Sports tomorrow because, unlike Jacksonville or Oakland, they don’t have to black out the game because the stands are full.
One reason the NFL likes coming to England is because the American game has been entrenched here for many years, beginning when former Patriots kicker John Smith, an ex-English soccer player, used to narrate a weekly highlights show before the NFL Game of the Week.
As the years passed, the sport grew on television and the Internet, until now, once a year, the NFL knows it can jam Wembley.
Yet two days before kickoff, few of the dozen or so daily newspapers had much to say about the game. The ones that did, the Times and the Guardian,
focused on Pats owner Robert Kraft’s dalliance with buying the Liverpool soccer club in 2005. What that meant is they were writing about futbol not football, but if you’re the NFL you take the pub where you can and then go to a pub.
Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner bought controlling interest in Aston Villa a while back. The Glazer family owns both the Bucs and Manchester United (and is doing far better with the defending Premier League champion than with the winless NFL team, which suggests they and Gaheem may have something in common).
Kraft, however, was quoted in the Guardian saying he balked because “in the end we only go into business ventures where we think we can compete at a high level because we like winning and we like to win consistently. I love competing with fair management – how well I can manage against you – but I don’t like losing and at some point it’s not economic, people just throwing money at it.”
In other words, they have no salary cap here so they have no Kraft here.
“Maybe one day,” he said.
Until then, Bob Kraft will be content with bringing the NFL around until even guys like Gaheem get it, which didn’t sound like it would be any time soon.

Tom Robinson talked about Andy Reid’s use of Michael Vick’s use with the “Iggles” on HamptonRoads.com, “Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid actually said this about Michael Vick in one of his usual mumbling, obfuscating news conferences the other day:
Declaring Vick’s controversial hiring a success to date, Reid said “we signed him as a backup quarterback. We have gotten probably a little bit more out of him than I thought we would have out of our other backup quarterbacks.”
Wow. It’s hard to decide whether Reid was more disingenuous, condescending or insulting with that statement.
A backup quarterback! When Eagles owner Jeff Lurie publicly wrung his hands and decided to shoulder Vick and his extraordinary baggage, Reid implied Vick could do wondrous things from the Wildcat formation once he got some semblance of his legs back.
Visions of Reid, a respected offensive schemer, at his drawing board were born. Quarterback Donovan McNabb even made a magnanimous show of endorsing Vick and slyly suggested ways they both could be employed simultaneously.
Vick’s been eligible for three games. Considering the Eagles have gotten next to nothing from him, and for that matter have barely let him try to contribute, Reid comes off as a fraud – all the worse because of the Eagles’ disastrous 13-9 loss to the ridiculous Oakland Raiders last Sunday.
Even as the supposedly potent Eagles were inexplicably flaming out, Vick entered for just two plays; he was a decoy on one and ran for minus-4 yards on the other.
Here’s the thing. In Vick’s first two NFL games after two lost seasons, it made sense he was conservatively used. The few times he wasn’t a decoy, Vick ran
just five times for 17 yards and completed 1 of 5 passes for 1 yard.
Because those were easy victories over weaklings Tampa Bay and Kansas City, the reasonable thought was, don’t worry, Reid will spring Vick as soon as he needs him to help win a tough game.
No need to feed tougher opponents any looks at something other than a tame Wildcat.
Well, it shouldn’t have been, but Sunday was kind of tough for the Eagles. Their offense was horrid, McNabb was under pressure and out of sorts, yet Reid never asked Vick to try to provide a jolt.
It’s a mystery that was compounded a day later by Reid’s bogus explanation. Left to evaluate from the surface, we reach a few conclusions:
Vick in practice has not shown he’s physically or mentally ready yet to compete in the NFL. Or else the Eagles collectively aren’t equipped to run the Wildcat, though they’ve had success with receiver DeSean Jackson taking direct snaps.
Or else McNabb was blowing smoke when he insisted he was all for getting Vick on the field, realizing it could take him off the field. Remember, when Vick shuttled in and out of his first preseason appearance, McNabb wearied of trotting off and was spied motioning “no more” to the sidelines.
Or else it’s maybe this; Reid has no idea how to incorporate what’s left of a guy who was once among the NFL’s most dangerous weapons. A coach can’t
come out and admit such a thing, though, can he?
Vick perhaps has been effective in his league-mandated new side job as an anti-animal abuse crusader. To suggest, though, he’s been worth the trouble so far on the field is just a bunch of yapping.”

 
Steve Buckley talked about the Patriots’ road trip to London in the Boston Herald, “While reading Larry Tye’s biography of Satchel Paige the other day, I was fascinated by the author’s account of how Negro League teams often would tote portable generators from city to city in order to play night games.
Night baseball. A big deal back in the day, now it’s something we take for granted. Same with instant replay in football, the shootout in hockey and the 3-point line in basketball.
And so it will be, 10 or 15 years from now, perhaps sooner, when pro teams from North America routinely are playing games in Europe and beyond.
For now, sure, it’s all new and shiny that our own New England Patriots are off to the original England, where, come Sunday, they will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yesterday at Gillette Stadium, as the Pats were packing up, players offered good-natured commentary about the trip, including the obligatory remarks about rain, fog and the bad exchange rate between the dollar and the pound.
“Man, I’m not going to do any shopping over there,” Benjamin Watson said.
But there is a reason the NFL is staging this game in London, and it has nothing to do with fostering goodwill between the United States and England
Ditto with the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics opening up the 2008 major league season in Japan. And the Celtics opening up their 2007-08 training camp in Rome.
It’s called money, and, before we go any further, let’s make it clear: There’s not one thing wrong with this. We do, after all, live in a capitalistic society.
What the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB are doing is reaching out to global markets. Bring the NFL to Europe, and that’s more T-shirts, caps and Tom Brady bobblehead dolls being gobbled up by fans. MLB is helping teach kids how to play baseball in China. The NBA is hot everywhere.
Many American baseball fans deride the World Baseball Classic, but they’re being naive if they can’t see that it’s the first, unsteady baby steps of what one day will be a global World Series.
Pats players who were interviewed yesterday seemed excited about the novelty of going to London. But they also seemed to understand what the future may hold.
“I think you may see the NFL in Europe on a regular basis someday,” Jarvis Green said. “I look at it this way: The whole world watches football already. And us going over there to Europe, that’s all part of it.”
Added Wes Welker: “If that’s where it goes, then that’s where it goes. I think it’d be kind of cool if it did take off like that.”
Asked if he envisioned an NFL team in Europe in 20 years, Welker said, “It’s hard for me to see, but it’s a possibility.”
Jerod Mayo also liked the idea.
“I think it would be good for the league, as far as the exposure and the popularity of the sport goes,” he said. “Right now soccer is probably the biggest sport in the world, but I hope that one day American football will be the biggest sport in the world.”
Of course, there’s always room for an opposing point of view.
Come on down, Laurence Maroney!
“It would be nice to go out and play in different countries, but to be honest, I’d rather just stay here,” he said. “Less traveling, less jet lag. And I know my area and surroundings.”
Fair enough.
But that’s the present.
The future is what this trip is all about.”
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe was also on that flight. “The city is beautiful. The people seem to like us again. The Patriots are officially the most popular team in the United Kingdom and there will be a lot of Tom Brady and Randy Moss jerseys at Wembley Stadium when the Patriots take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tomorrow afternoon.
Fine. But what are the Patriots doing here? Not to sound xenophobic, but the NFL works perfectly as the No. 1 sport and television program in the United
States of America. Our football is neither basketball nor futbol. It will never be global. Kids in Europe and South America are not going to grow up playing Pop Warner, dreaming of Friday night lights. You can’t buy shoulder pads at Harrod’s.
Despite all of the above, the NFL is determined to bring its product to London. This is the third year the league has played a regular-season game here and there is talk of expanding to two games (“fixtures’’ they call them here) soon. Patriots owner Bob Kraft yesterday said he believes there will be an NFL franchise in London within 10 years.
Are you kidding me? Would the Brits bring a major cricket match to Fenway Park? Or Gillette Stadium? Would the Bruins and Canadiens throw down a sheet of ice in Rio and treat the locals to something they’ve never played nor understand? Would the NHL talk about putting a franchise on a continent that doesn’t know a hockey puck from a Big Mac?
Playing NFL games in London is just a bad idea. It’s not necessary. Patriots fans know I am right. Tomorrow’s joust is a “home’’ game for the Bucs. Imagine how you’d feel if this Wembley whim cost the team one of their precious eight dates at Gillette? Imagine how much Bill Belichick likes flying six hours across the ocean and getting his team into town around 5:30 a.m. two days before a game that counts.
Armed with all this skepticism and negativity, I had a chance to talk to Roger Goodell. The Commish got into town Thursday, went to Winston Churchill’s war museum with Kraft Thursday night, and spoke with a handful of reporters in his downtown London digs yesterday.
“This is a way to expand our game on a global basis and to broaden the interest in our game,’’ Goodell started. “Every time we’ve played or brought our game, they take to it in a very positive way. They find it exciting. They’re intrigued by the strategy and certain aspects of the game and the pageantry. Every time we’ve done it, it’s created more excitement.’’
Sorry. Not buying. This is the league’s worst idea since somebody decided it would be great to play a Super Bowl in Jacksonville.
Who exactly is going to the game? Logan Airport has delivered several plane-loads of thirsty Patriots fans in recent days. Can there really be 85,000 New
Englanders here?
No, says the Commish. The British are coming.
“I think we had 5,000 fans in the stadium last year that came over from the United States,’’ said Goodell. “It’s the Brits who are coming to the game and it’s the Brits who are watching the games on B-Sky [Skysports] and BBC and [London-based] Channel 5. That’s the most encouraging thing for us.’’
Do the fans here know what they are seeing?
More than they used to, said Goodell.
“We started this with broadcast coverage back in the early ’80s,’’ said the Commish. “It was more a novelty then. Then NFL Europe was here and media
coverage expanded. We played a series of international games. As the fans became more knowledgeable they realize now they’re seeing regular-season games. They want to see the real thing. You’ll see, during the game, they react at the right times. They understand the game.’’
Why does the NFL feel the need to do this when the sport is never going to be part of the local culture like soccer, or potentially basketball?
“Well just because you can’t be No. 1 . . . there’s still tremendous demand and passion for your sport. Why wouldn’t you feed that? Why wouldn’t you bring
your team over so they can experience that? Just because we’re not played more broadly than soccer or basketball, I don’t think that that’s the standard
necessarily. The standard for us is – is there a sufficient audience here that wants to see our game and should you expand your audience by bringing your game to those folks?’’
How do the NFL teams feel about it?
“We want to make sure they have a good experience and when they go back they feel good and that it didn’t harm them in a competitive way.’’
An NFL franchise in London?
“We’re thinking about it. As long as what we continue to do continues to get a positive reaction . . . and you saw that reaction continue to grow, you’d
probably put yourself in a positive where you’d be comfortable that it could support a franchise on a full-time basis . . . It may be a possibility.’’
OK, moneybag owners like this. What about players and coaches?
“We get great reaction from players and coaches from the last couple of years. It’s a unique opportunity for them. I’m not telling you it’s everybody.’’
Some coaches – especially one who wears a hooded sweatshirt – love control and are not wild about this.
“Some coaches would play every Sunday at 1:00,’’ said the Commish. “I understand. I read a quote from Bill. He said, ‘I’m a coach. I’m supposed to prepare my team to win games. The league is supposed to worry about these other issues.’ That’s a fair comment.’’
And it’s fair to want to play games in America. At normal hours. In front of fans who grew up playing the sport.
Again, I try. The NFL works perfectly in the States, Mr. Commissioner. Why this?
I sense Goodell has had enough nattering negativity.
“Is this changing anything?,’’ he asked. “We’re still successful in America, aren’t we? Why can’t you do both? I don’t understand why if your game has
interest, this is allowing us to take our great game and globalize it in a way where we’ll have people all over the world watching our game. It doesn’t change anything in the United States.’’
That’s why he’s the Commissioner. He has vision.
Me? I’ll be looking to see how many fans applaud when penalty flags are thrown.”

“I’d love to have been in a room full of former NFL defensive legends– say, Deacon Jones, Jack Tatum, Ray Nitschke and Jack Lambert — on Sunday when the image of Dante Wesley’s hit came flashing across the television screen. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t understand all the commotion.
First off, they would be misguided in their indifference. Wesley’s second-quarter collision with Tampa Bay punt returner Clinton Smith, in the second quarter of Carolina’s win, was vicious and unnecessary. It might even warrant a suspension. But it’s remarkable to consider the change in both rules and perception, over the years, when it comes to mean-spirited tackling.
I’ve got an enormous VHS library of NFL Films, and I’ve spent much of the past month transferring it to DVD. Watching footage from the Sixties, I’ve been slack-jawed at the sight of unbridled clotheslining, leg-whipping, blind-siding and out-of-bounds mayhem. I mean, it was anything goes back then — without even the hint of consequence.
Featured spots on Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger and Packers cornerback Herb Adderley, each considered among the best who ever played, showed them delivering savage hits with precisely launched forearms to the head. These were their trademark plays. Here comes an unsuspecting quarterback or wide receiver, and WHAM! You’d think his neck would snap right off. On a number of clips, players are rudely bashed or slammed to the ground when they’re a good two yards out of bounds — without so much as a penalty being called.
Steve Sabol, whose father, Ed, founded NFL Films, addressed the issue as he looked back at the Sixties. He couldn’t believe some of the unchecked chaos,
especially when compared to today’s NFL. He also noted that until Dick Butkus came along, in the mid-Sixties, there was no such thing as a defensive highlight reel. It was all about glory and touchdowns, and it took Butkus’ singular style of mayhem to bring attention to that part of the game. In the “Lost Treasures” series, Sabol made a point of uncovering some brutal, never-shown defensive action from around the league, and the sequence is almost painful to watch.
There’s no doubt that today’s NFL has bigger, faster and stronger players, and that the performance-enhancement revolution has many of them playing out of their minds. There is also far more helmet-to-helmet violence in today’s game, a pattern stretching back several years, which is just plain stupid on the tackler’s end. Not only is the method technically unsound, it’s a good way to get a concussion — or worse. If league officials continue to legislate against unnecessary hits, they’re on the right track. There’s no question, though, that it was a tougher league back then. The films don’t lie.”
Dan Daly of the DC Times also said, “It’s always amusing when football – the sport that gave us the clothesline, the head slap, the crackback block and Dick Butkus – gets an attack of politeness. Or rather, it’s funny for a few seconds, and then it’s as annoying as Ochocinco.
The object of my wrath this morning is the Record That Wasn’t Broken. Perhaps you’ve read about it. Early in the third quarter Sunday against Tennessee, the Patriots’ Tom Brady threw his sixth touchdown pass of the game, putting him one shy of a mark that has stood for 66 years. But Bill Belichick, sitting on a 52-0 lead, decided to show the Titans some mercy and took Brady out. In the 25 minutes that remained, Tom Terrific almost certainly would have tied or even surpassed a record that’s shared by, among others, Sid Luckman, Y.A. Tittle and George Blanda.
I’m beginning to wonder whether Sid, Y.A. and George are safe for all eternity, whether no quarterback will ever get the chance to dislodge them from the record book, whether conscience will keep coaches from letting their QBs make history. This, after all, isn’t the first time this has come up in recent years. It happened twice to Peyton Manning, who threw for six TDs against the Saints in 2003 and for six more against the Lions in ’04, then spent the fourth quarter on the sideline in a baseball cap.
Of course, Manning was pulled by “Everybody Loves Tony” Dungy, who never met an opposing coach he didn’t empathize with. Belichick isn’t quite so
tenderhearted. Bill’s the guy who, when the Patriots were rolling to a perfect regular season two years ago, never left a touchdown on the table. (In the space of five games, the Pats racked up 48, 49, 52 and 56 points.) The Hooded One has never been too concerned about how many Christmas cards he gets.
Belichick is also a history buff who once let Doug Flutie drop-kick an extra point – for the sheer anachronistic pleasure of it. If any coach would allow his
quarterback to keep chucking TD passes – seven, eight, however many the QB’s arm could stand – you’d think it would be him.
So when even Bill Belichick says, “No mas,” well, it’s a bad day for record aficionados everywhere. And this is a pretty cool record, you have to admit It’s cool because of who holds it. It’s cool because of how long quarterbacks have been shooting at it. It’s cool because chicks love touchdown passes as much as they love the long ball. (And they might love long touchdown passes most of all.)
But there are some NFL records you can break, it seems, and some you can’t. The record for rushing yards in a game, for instance, is eminently breakable. In fact, after lying undisturbed for 25 years, it has been broken three times in the last decade – by Corey Dillon (278), Jamal Lewis (295) and Adrian Peterson (296).
Of course, there’s a big difference between rushing yardage and TD passes. A rushing yard is a rushing yard; a TD pass is seven points. When Dillon had his
big day – and Lewis and Peterson, too – the game was close going into the fourth quarter. The defense was being embarrassed, sure, but the score wasn’t embarrassing.
But 52-0 is another story. You’re entering piling-on territory there. And if you leave in your quarterback to chase a record, you’re exposing him to untold horrors at the hands of a wounded and vengeful foe.
And for what? That’s what it always comes down to for coaches. How could I explain my QB getting hurt with five minutes left and the score 56-21?
To which I reply: For what, you ask? Why, to go where no man has gone before. If seven TD passes is landing on the moon, eight would be touching down on Mars. Sports is all about exploring limits – the four-minute mile, the 2,000-yard rushing season, the Triple Crown in baseball – and pushing through them.
Backing off when you get close to something for fear you’ll hurt somebody’s feelings – or maybe just your own neck – is about as inspirational as playing for a tie.
Don’t misunderstand. Running up the score – to no end except to humiliate the opponent – is one of the worst crimes you can commit in athletics. But pursuing a meaningful record in a one-sided game is another matter entirely. I mean, when Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello like the rest of the world wishes it could play the cello, does the conductor stop him as he’s about to hit a high note and say, “Take the rest of the night off, Yo. You’re making the string section feel bad”?
On Sunday, Tom Brady was Yo-Yo Ma, throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker through the snowflakes, playing quarterback the way it was meant to be played – the way it almost never is played. And then, suddenly, he wasn’t. And it wasn’t because he busted a string. I believe the medical term for this is
Quarterbackus Interruptus.”

 

 

I feel for John Feinstein, of the DC Post. In NY, we have the NY Knicks, owned by James Dolan who doesn’t have a clue.                                                                          “There are certain defining moments for sports franchises: John Riggins’s fourth-down touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII for Joe Gibbs’s first tenure with the Redskins, Joe Montana’s touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC championship game for the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl era. There are moments like that for individuals too: Tiger Woods’s 12-shot victory at the 1997 Masters; John McEnroe’s first victory over Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon in 1981; Bob Beamon’s long jump in Mexico City in 1968.
Then there are those moments that define futility: Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series symbolizing the Boston Red Sox’ World Series drought that didn’t end until 2004; Scott Hoch and Doug Sanders missing three-foot putts that would have given them major championships they never won; the Portland Trail Blazers choosing Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft.
For the Washington Redskins under owner Dan Snyder, that defining moment came late Sunday afternoon before no more than 10,000 fans left from an
announced crowd of 79,572.
The Redskins trailed the 0-5 Kansas City Chiefs 12-6 and their offense, having failed to score a touchdown all day, trotted onto the field to try to drive 93
yards in 31 seconds. Quarterback Todd Collins, thrust into the breach by a clearly desperate Coach Jim Zorn, dropped into the end zone to pass and had
absolutely no chance to even look for a receiver. The Redskins’ tattered offensive line couldn’t hold back the Chiefs. Collins tried for a moment to scramble and then went down in a heap in the end zone.
Safety.
This is what has become of the Redskins after 10 years of Snyder’s ownership: a quarterback tackled in his own end zone in front of thousands of empty seats while the few fans still around booed angrily as the hapless offense trotted off the field.
Does anyone seriously think a new play-caller is the answer to what’s wrong here? Snyder and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato have
accomplished the impossible: They have turned a significant portion of this town against the Redskins. People are so angry and so frustrated and so sick of management’s excuses that they almost want to see their beloved team lose.
They have finally graduated from the notion that this is either the fault of the quarterback or the head coach. Oh sure, Jason Campbell is going to be long gone at season’s end, and Zorn might not last that long. But everyone who is paying any attention now understands where the fault ultimately lies.
To quote “Deep Throat,” explaining to Bob Woodward during “All the President’s Men” that Watergate was no third-rate burglary: “It leads everywhere, right to the top.”
The situation has become sad because, for better or worse, this has always been a Redskins town, willing to forgive mistake after mistake, selling out an
inconvenient stadium and paying for the privilege just for the chance to — someday, maybe — see the team get turned around and recapture the glory days of . . . Norv Turner. That would be more than enough right now for most people.
The worst part of the whole mess is the lack of accountability for those truly responsible. There are lots of bad teams in the NFL — the Redskins have played almost all of them this season — but the only one other than the Redskins in which the owner refuses to admit any complicity is the Oakland Raiders. At least there, Al Davis once knew enough about football to build a great franchise.
If nothing else, Snyder owes it to his remarkably loyal fan base to explain his role in how a once-proud franchise turned into a punch line.
There’s no short-term solution here. If Snyder won’t sell the team, he should call Bill Belichick at season’s end and offer him 25 percent ownership in the
franchise and a promise: The day you take over, I’ll clear out of Redskins Park. If you need me, call me. Otherwise, you are in charge.
Until something along those lines happens, the lasting image of Snyder’s years of Redskins ownership will remain what we saw Sunday: Todd Collins lying in
the end zone while thousands and thousands of empty seats looked on.

Nick Cafardo, of the Boston Globe, said that ” Don Mattingly says he’s ready to be a manager. He has spent a lot of time learning under Joe Torre, and Mattingly feels he’ll not only interview for jobs but would strongly consider taking one if offered.
Mattingly, the ex- Yankees great and currently the Dodgers’ hitting coach, was supposed to be the heir apparent to Torre in New York, but when Torre was fired, Mattingly was passed over for Joe Girardi. Now in Los Angeles, Mattingly again appears to be the heir apparent to Torre, who says he will manage the Dodgers through next year, the final year of his contract.
Under normal circumstances, there would be a natural transition to Mattingly, but all bets seem to be off because of what could be a lingering and bitter divorce between team owners Frank and Jamie McCourt.
Mattingly, 48, is expected to draw the interest of the Indians and perhaps Astros.
Asked if he would entertain job offers outside Los Angeles, Mattingly said, “Oh yeah, no question. It’s not something I really want to deal with at this time because my focus is here on the team right now. But there’s no question I want to manage. I hope it happens sooner rather than later, but the more you’re around this game as a coach, I feel, the more you learn.’’
Would he be picky about where he goes?
“It depends,’’ he said. “I don’t want to go anywhere that doesn’t want to win. I’ve been around this game now long enough and played for and coached some very good teams, so you want a team that’s on the verge of making the playoffs.
“It doesn’t mean you wouldn’t go manage a young club that’s building toward that. As long as the organization wants to get there, I’d be fine with that. I’d
understand the situation from the standpoint of I know you have develop younger guys, but I would want a commitment from the organization to back where I’m trying to go.’’
Dodgers bench coach Bobby Schaefer said Mattingly is ready.
“Donnie played for me [in the minors] in 1980, and he’s still the same guy,’’ said Schaefer. “He’s very humble and he’s learned a lot.
“A lot of great hitters can’t be good hitting coaches, but he’s been both. He really relates well to the players. I think he’d do a great job if he gets the chance.
He’s ready.
“He’s worked with some pretty outstanding people and learned from being around them. I think if the right thing came along, he’d take it.’’
Mattingly, the 1985 American League MVP (145 RBIs, 211 hits), would be an interesting mesh of several managers rolled into one.
“I think everybody you played for or worked with is your mentor,’’ he said. “I played for Lou [ Piniella], for Billy Martin, Yogi [ Berra], Buck Showalter,
Dallas Green. It’s been a long list of guys, but Joe’s been the one, while coaching, he’s been the one I’ve been with. I’ve seen his side of managing more than anyone since I’ve been a coach, but even on our staff we have guys like Bobby Schaefer and Larry Bowa, guys who really know the game.
“Bowa sees so much in any given game, it’s just amazing what he sees. And being around him I’ve been able to start looking for the things he notices. These guys have been around the game so long.’’
How would Mattingly fall on the numbers and percentages and all the statistical material available to managers, particularly the “Moneyball’’ organizations that rely heavily on it to make personnel decisions?
“I fall into a little bit of everything,’’ he said. “As a player, I learned from guys I wanted to be like and I also learned what I didn’t want to be from certain guys.
There were managers I’ve seen and I played for that I liked how they treated the team. And there were others I didn’t like as much.
“I use numbers, obviously, when I’m working on pitchers to get my hitters ready. I’m using numbers and percentages, but you also have to have some common sense in there. It’s a mixture of everything.
“Not everything can be a number. There’s also got to be information. At the end of the day, it’s still baseball. You’ve got to get good pitches to hit. You’ve got to take the information and make common-sense decisions with it.’’
Mattingly says he manages every game in his head. Picture the situation, think how you would handle it, then see how the manager does it.
“I’ve been doing it for a while,’’ he said. “There are times you can’t do it as much when you have a game going on and there’s a lot of stuff going on. You have to look at things from all angles. I don’t second-guess, but sometimes I say to myself, ‘Hey, I didn’t see that.’ That’s where guys like Bowa and Schaefer are really good.’’
Relating to players shouldn’t be a problem. He was one of the best. He made six All-Star teams and won nine consecutive Gold Gloves. His high strikeout total for a season was 43.
“I feel like I can relate,’’ Mattingly said. “I teach young guys and work with veteran guys. I came up with no fanfare and turned into a pretty good player. I’ve been through all the stages. You take your experiences and they form you.’’
At the time Torre was fired, Mattingly was pretty upset with the Yankees. That has passed.
“I’m not sad at all,’’ he said. “I understand what happened. Joe Girardi is a friend of mine. He’s got a great mind. I think he’s a good manager. Can’t fault them for what they did. They had success. That experience has been good for me.’’

 
Sean McAdam looked at the ALCS for the Boston Herald. “In the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 10-1 shellacking of the Los Angeles Angels in Game 4 of the
ALCS last night, came an announcement in the press box.
“That home run by Alex Rodriguez was his fifth of this postseason,” said an Angels PR employee, “tying him with Reggie Jackson for second-most in club
history.”
And there it was. Alex Rodriguez and Reggie Jackson mentioned in the same sentence.
Favorably.
It used to be that whenever A-Rod and Mr. October were linked, it was in a less-flattering context. As in: Why can’t A-Rod be more like Reggie?
Now, amazingly, he is. The home run last night wasn’t just his fifth of this postseason. It was his third in this ALCS; third in as many games, as a matter of fact.
Rodriguez has been called plenty of things over his career, including – but by no means limited to – narcissistic, overpaid, insecure and vain. Now, kindly add another to the list: clutch.
He has driven in at least one run in every one of the Yankees’ seven playoff games this fall. With 11 RBI so far, Rodriguez has a chance to break the club
record for most RBI in a single postseason (15, held jointly by Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius).
Last night, he golfed a pitch from Jason Bulger into the left field seats, prying open a 3-0 New York lead to a 5-0 advantage. Earlier, he singled and with an
aggressive slide at the plate, scored the first run of the night on an infield grounder. He later doubled and scored in the ninth as the Yankees padded their lead.
“I don’t remember a player on our club having, you know, back-to-back series so far like this,” said Yanks manager Joe Girardi. “He’s been unbelievable. I know Bernie’s had some big series and Paul O’Neill had some big series. But Alex is . . . wow.”
Beginning with the Red Sox comeback in the 2004 ALCS, Rodriguez was the player opponents secretly wanted to come to the plate in a big spot. Rodriguez seemed to lug all sorts of baggage with him to the batter’s box.
The weight of expectations – his own, those of his teammates, the owner – seemed to almost crush him.
This year, something is different and it’s not just the results.
“All you have to do is watch what he’s doing,” said teammate Nick Swisher. “He’s in that good place.”
This kind of production is nothing new for Rodriguez in the regular season, of course. You don’t hit 583 homers and knock in 1,706 runs without having some epic streaks. But until this year, his Octobers were exercises in frustration.
That began to change right from the first game of the ALDS against Minnesota when, after going hitless in his first two at-bats, he stroked run-scoring singles in his next two.
“He just looks comfortable,” Derek Jeter said. “Sometimes, you get here, you get a hit there and your confidence goes up. I’m not saying he was lacking
confidence, but right now, he’s pretty comfortable.”
Rodriguez isn’t sure he’s in the clear just yet, however Asked if the last seven games had erased questions about his ability to come through in the clutch, he wavered.
“I’m not sure about that,” he said. “I will say that in other postseasons, I failed – and sometimes, failed miserably. It certainly feels good to come through for my team and help the team win.”
The battle, internalized, goes on.

 
Kevin Baxter wrote in the LA Times, “If the stodgy old Yankee Stadium was the House that Ruth Built, then the glistening new ballpark next door is the House the Three Stooges Inhabit.

Because in addition to changing addresses this season, the team has changed attitudes thanks to the winter additions of free spirits A.J. Burnett, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. And that, more than anything else, may be the best explanation why the newly relaxed Yankees find themselves a win away from their first World Series in six years.

“On the field we’re businesslike,” captain Derek Jeter said. “And that’s still today. [But] now it seems like people may have more fun.”

Adds pitcher Joba Chamberlain: “There’s so many different personalities, it’s great. Everybody meshes well. The front office did a fantastic job bringing these guys in and knowing what kind of character they have.”

And the biggest character of all is Burnett, an incurable prankster who has made a habit of delivering a whipped-cream pie to the face of any player delivering a walk-off hit.

Not surprisingly, the Yankees led the majors with 15 walk-off hits this season, then got two more in the playoffs.

So it’s only fitting that Burnett will take the mound today at Angel Stadium with a chance to deliver an American League championship to New York.

“A.J. has been a big part of the looseness in the clubhouse,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. “His attitude is great. He brings a lot of energy every day. Ever since spring training, when he started taking pitchers out to do things after practice.”

That’s something the Yankees may not have expected when they signed Burnett to a five-year, $82.5-million contract last December. Certainly they knew about his blazing fastball and his hellacious curveball. But in the clubhouse, he had a reputation for making as many enemies as friends.

He was suspended, then run out of Florida when he was with the Marlins after a confrontation with a coach during a pennant race. His tattoos and body
piercings and the bats he used, inscribed with the name of shock rocker Marilyn Manson instead of his own, created a bad-boy aura that Burnett furthered by feuding with teammates and managers.

“For the longest time A.J. kind of fought the demons of not living up to the potential of what people expected of him. And what he expected of himself,” says longtime friend and agent Darek Braunecker. “Through his growth and maturity, he had to figure some things out on his own.”

That process started before the 2006 season, when the Marlins let Burnett leave for Toronto, where he was reunited with former Florida pitching coach Brad Arnsberg while joining a pitching staff led by All-Star Roy Halladay.

“I went there for a reason, I believe,” Burnett says.

Early in his stay there, Burnett asked Halladay to sum things up.

“And he’s like, ‘Well, for one, you’ve got to forget everything that you hear,’ ” Burnett says he was told. ” ‘Your expectations, your contracts, living up to this and that. You’ve got to forget that. And for you, it’s one pitch at a time.’ ”

The transformation was immediate. Rather than pressing, Burnett let his natural talent take over, winning 38 games, posting a 3.82 earned-run average and striking out more than a batter an inning in three seasons with the Blue Jays.

“I don’t know if it’s helped me or not during games,” Burnett says, “but I literally stare into one spot and tell myself a thousand times, ‘One pitch at a time, one pitch at a time.’ ”

The change off the field has been even more striking.

“I don’t know that there’s been necessarily a single event,” Braunecker says. “The bottom line is he’s a good person. He has good intentions. I’m proud of him on so many levels.”

Still, Burnett admitted he had some soul-searching to do after signing with the Yankees last winter. The corporate attitude, the team projects — “straight up and down, like 6 o’clock,” Swisher says — did not appear to be a good fit for a player whose trademark was more vaudeville than Carnegie Hall.

And at first, Burnett said his whipped-cream pies met with criticism. But as the Yankees began to come together as a team, they warmed to the idea.

“You can’t go there and try to be somebody you’re not,” Burnett says. “I understand that it’s the New York Yankees. So I understand that some people don’t like it. But it’s a new team, it’s a new stadium. And as far as the locker room, it’s a new tradition.”

How ironic, then, that the person who rubbed whipped cream all over the face of Yankees tradition is now tasked with rekindling that tradition by taking the team back to the World Series for the first time since 2003 — when they met A.J. Burnett and the Marlins.

“I don’t take it for granted,” Burnett says of a journey that has taken him full circle. “I feel like I’m part of something.”