LONGSHOTS: Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
by Dave Long
I spent Thanksgiving behind enemy lines in one of the most interesting visits I’ve ever made to the heart of the evil empire. Amazingly all the usual smugness that goes along with sports conversations was missing. In fact, no one even brought up baseball. And when football came up, it usually only was a shot at the bad sport Bill Belichick.
I originally thought it had to do with just the second title in four years. Because while Yankees fans couldn’t do the 1918 thing anymore after 2004, they could still use the “OK, it’s now 26 to your one — so big deal” line. But, since the Sox have won twice while the Yanks have won squat this decade and were on the verge of falling apart, the usual swagger was MIA. But after just one day reading the papers I could see it was more than that. The sports environment down south is an absolute mess, just as ours is in better shape than perhaps any other city has ever had it! It has the masses outraged, the papers out for blood and everyone else jealous!
It did my heart well to see the utter chaos underway.
Consider the following. The once highly touted Jets with the coach who squealed on his mentor are 2-9 and got roasted by Dallas on Thanksgiving. The Mets had arguably the most historic regular-season collapse in baseball history. The Yankees, of course, already own history’s worst playoff collapse in 2004 and got run out of the playoffs in the first round again, fired their very popular manager, and, thanks to the free agency of A-Rod, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, along with the possible retirement of Andy Pettite, they were facing the unacceptable prospect of closing historic Yankee Stadium in a rebuilding mode. The Nets were in the middle of a seven-game losing streak (with two losses being to the Celtics) and the Knicks are the biggest joke of all! Admittedly with the Rangers in first and Islanders and Devils right behind, hockey was a bright spot, but hey, who cares about hockey these days? Oh, they were also very high on the New York Football Giants, but I left before beleaguered Eli Manning threw three TD passes to the other team in an embarrassing 41-17 loss to Minnesota. The fans are disgruntled, dismayed and in complete disarray.
And I’ve got to tell you, it was hilarious. And since I’m the kind of guy who likes to share the rock, here’s a sampling of what I came across for folks who enjoy seeing the high and mighty knocked down a peg or two, or actually in this case about 12!
Remember when Dan Shaughnessy called Paul Gaston “Thanks Dad” after his father gave him the Celtics? Well, Newsday columnist Wallace Matthews says the Yanks are going from being run by George Steinbrenner to being run by Boy George Steinbrenner, with son Hank now in charge.
The Yankees spent $400 million on three guys last week. Not that money matters down there, but at the end of two of those deals they’ll be paying a 40-year-old closer and a 40-year-old catcher $15 million a year each. Seems to me that has more to do with making sure they won’t be rebuilding when they close the old stadium next year and open the new one in 2009 than fiscal sanity.
A-Rod also came back into the fold. He’ll be getting $30 million when he’s 42 as he tires to break the all-time home run record just as Barry Bonds could be getting home from the slammer. That’s going to seem a lot even for the Yanks, if he isn’t a lot better than Willie Mays was at 42. Newsday’s Johnnette Howard gave Boy George a knockout win over A-Rod and Scott Boras for getting them to crawl back to the Yanks. She also said Rodriguez is the new face of the Yankees after they committed to him for a 10-year deal. Wonder what Derek Jeter thinks about that?
As I said, the Jets are under fire, especially after their turkey of a 31-3 visit to Dallas on Thanksgiving. Eric Mangini’s coaching got a D from Newsday for that one.
They’re hammering Belichick for the running it up in blogs on Newsday and the New York Times (now a buck and a quarter!). Although, they are bracing for when ManGenius meets the Mentor for the first time since spygate on Dec. 16 and are clearly expecting the Jets to play Custer in an NFL re-enactment of Little Big Horn. The best line came from Ed McNamara while making Newsday’s weekly predictions in asking, “as a child did Bill Belichick enjoy picking the wings off flies?”
But the best of all was the soap opera at Madison Square Garden presided over by one Isiah Thomas. In the last 18 months he’s given away the second overall pick for heart condition-tainted Eddie Curry, who’s no good, gave Larry Brown a $50 million coaching deal and fired him after one year with the Knicks on the hook for the money, instigated a nasty brawl with dirty antics learned from his days with Detroit and lost an embarrassing $11 million sexual harassment suit that’s all over the media.
And oh yes, the team is so awful a kid in the Garden was carrying a sign on Wednesday that said, “I’m embarrassed to be a Knicks fan” when they got blown out on Tuesday by Golden State. The Post called Wednesday’s loss in Isiah’s old stomping ground the “Motown Meltdown” and had a picture of his head superimposed on a body of a holiday turkey. It was laugh-out-loud funny. Newsday had “Thomas Garden Tenure is Overcooked” — a slightly kinder theme, but the same message.
Anyone who remembers the dirty play of his Pistons and the tactics of Thomas the player during that time can’t help but get a kick out of this mess. Although the owner of the team, Jimmy Dolan, who is the biggest “thanks dad” dope of all, won’t pull the trigger despite all the clamoring. And that brings me to the message of this story. Dolan is the son of cable TV mogul Charles Dolan, who already was owner of the Knicks and Rangers when he offered more money to buy the Red Sox than John Henry and Tom Werner did, but thanks to Bud Selig he didn’t get the team.
So in addition to having a great Thanksgiving, my trip gave me one more thing to be thankful for. So, Bud, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for keeping the dope who presides over the Madison Square Garden mess away from the Red Sox, because the history would be much different and not for the better.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.