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What I’m Thankful For This Year (New York Sports Edition)

11/27/08

A happy and healthy Thanksgiving to everyone out there.

On this day of thanks, I thought it would be fun to list the 10 things I’ve been thankful for in 2008 when it comes to New York sports.

As a fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks, Rangers, and Syracuse basketball team, I tried focusing on my teams but had to stray to come up with 10, especially with the teams’ lack of success.

10. The Major League Baseball All Star Game

I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the final All Star Game ever at Yankee Stadium.  As I sat out in the left field bleachers, I couldn’t see everything, but I made sure I stuck around for all 15 innings and all five-plus hours in watching the American League pull out the victory and claim home field advantage in the World Series.

Seeing all the legends like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron was a once in a lifetime experience, and the whole night was as good as it gets for a baseball fan.

9. October Baseball without the Yankees

Now, the Mets weren’t part of the postseason either, so I know I’m opening myself up here for major criticism. However, after having to watch the Yankees extend their season for 12 years in a row, enough was enough.

The fact that the team wasn’t able to make the playoffs in the final season of their historic ballpark was icing on the cake.  It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fanbase.

Of course it only made things sweeter seeing Joe Torre get his Dodgers into the NLCS.  However, his firing was still the correct decision, right George?

8. Henrik Lundqvist

I’ll admit it, I don’t watch a ton of hockey, but when I watch the Rangers, I can’t help but marvel at how dominant king Henry can be between the pipes.  He stands on his head night after night keeping the team in games when the offense struggles.

Back in the spring, when the Rangers were looking to earn a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals, Lundqvist was sensational against Pittsburgh. Lundqvist led the squad when they weren’t able to capitalize on power play opportunities.

Lundqvist is quietly one of the five best athletes this city has to offer.  Write it down.

7. Jonny Flynn

After two seasons of missing out on the NCAA tournament, the orange have jumped out to a 5-0 start, including road wins on back to back nights against Florida and Kansas.  The big reason behind their early success has been the play of sophomore point guard Jonny Flynn, who is making a case as one of the best one-guards in all of America. His name has been mentioned in the same breath as guards like Darren Collison and Ty Lawson.

Flynn forced overtime Tuesday night with a game tying three with 6.4 seconds left. His ability to create shots for his teammates and score the basketball will make Syracuse a contender throughout the year.  He’s the best pure basketball player Jim Boeheim has coached since Carmelo Anthony.

6. Leon Washington

The Jets’ most valuable player in my eyes, Washington makes something happen every game.  You can pencil him in for making at least one game-changing play, whether it’s a long touchdown run or taking a kickoff back to the house.

Leon has been important in spelling Thomas Jones, and the two have formed a dynamic rushing tandem that has helped put the Jets on top of the AFC East, and in contention for a possible postseason run.

The quarterback handing Washington the ball has been a pretty big reason for their success as well, but more on him later.

5. The Escape, the Catch, the Upset

I’m not a Giants fan, but unlike the Mets-Yankees hate I’ve developed growing up, I always root for the Giants unless they’re taking on my Jets.

While my Jets were nowhere to be found in January, the Giants’ playoff run last season was something that any sports fan could appreciate.  Going on the road and winning games in Tampa, Dallas, and Green Bay, when the wind chill was -20, and defeating the previously undefeated Patriots was all sorts of fun.

Of course the moment from that game that I, like everybody else, will think of first was the escape of Eli Manning and the throw and catch to David Tyree, who pinned the ball against his helmet on the Giants’ final touchdown drive, setting up the game-winning score.

The game was phenomenal, the Giants won a hard earned championship, and the Patriots were denied their piece of football immortality.

4. Johan Santana

While the Mets’ season ended up being a waste, the performance of Johan Santana was anything but that.  Santana was brilliant, winning 16 games and finishing third in National League Cy Young voting.

It was his final two performances of the season, including his complete game, a three-hit shutout on the second to last game of the season (a game I was at), that electrified Mets fans and gave them hope that they would be able to avoid a second consecutive late season collapse.

Of course they didn’t, but that was no fault of Santana, who was pitching with a torn ligament in his knee.  For all the prospects and money Omar Minaya and ownership gave up to bring him to Queens, and in the midst of a very disappointing season, Santana certainly shined.

3. Donnie Walsh

I could have given Isiah Thomas a spot and spoken about how I’m thankful for his removal, but I’m going to group that with Walsh. Since being hired by owner James Dolan, Walsh wasted little time in removing Thomas as coach.

Walsh not only was able to effectively end the dreadful Isiah Thomas era, but he hired a proven winner in Mike D’Antoni. He has already begun to clear cap space for when LeBron James, among others, becomes a free agent in 2010.

The trades of Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph clear nearly $28 million of cap space going into the summer of 2010, when the Knicks will be primed to start a new era with James leading the way.

Walsh would have topped my list, but still hasn’t gotten rid of Stephon Marbury, although that probably isn’t too far off from happening.

2. Shea Goodbye

I’ve been going to Shea Stadium for nearly 15 years, and at 21 years old, aside from the places I’ve called home and the classrooms I’ve been in, there isn’t a place I’ve spent more time than the former home of the Mets.

Although the season didn’t end as planned, I was able to drive home from Syracuse to attend the final three regular season games in the history of the ballpark.  It was an emotional weekend, and it was great seeing the likes of Mike Piazza, Doc Gooden, and Tom Seaver one last time at Shea.

The final season at Shea also included Billy Joel as the last entertainer of the stadium, and I was lucky enough to be there when Paul McCartney came out.

All in all, some of my best memories were at Shea, and knowing I’ll never be there again to watch baseball is something that probably won’t sink in until I’m watching games at Citi Field.

1. Brett Favre

I can’t think of anything greater than one of your favorite players joining one of your favorite teams.  Such was the case when, in early August, the New York Jets acquired one of the greatest to ever play the game to be their quarterback.  Brett Favre was the centerpiece to an offseason makeover following a disastrous 4-12 season.

Bringing his one of a kind skills and child-like exuberance, the Jets find themselves at 8-3 and in contention for a division championship.  Favre has completely changed the culture in the Jets locker room.  Over the course of the season the group has come together as a unit and played the type of winning football Jets fans aren’t all accustomed used to.

Favre is easy to like and easier to root for, especially when he’s getting his team victories.

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November 27, 2008 Posted by | Personal, Sports, Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brett Favre a New York Jet….Seriously

8/13/08

(the following was originally posted on my Sports Illustrated blog about an hour after the Jets acquired the future hall of famer, very early Thursday morning)

It isn’t often I’m woken up in the middle of a great sleep more excited than I was at 12:09 AM when I found out the shoe in Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Favre will be wearing a different shade of green this season when he suits up for the New York Jets.

Favre, 38, had retired only 5 months ago following a season which saw him revive his legendary career while taking the Green Bay Packers on a Super Bowl run that ended with a loss in the NFC championship game to the eventual world champion New York Giants.

Now, after playing his entire career in the quaint confines of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Favre will now deal with both the bright lights of New York as well as the flashbulbs generated by what should be an unprecedented media circus which should be awaiting Favre’s New York arrival.

The immediate impacts of this deal will likely be Chad Pennington seeing his Jet career end as Favre’s begin.

Pennington’s contract is an easy asset to subtract for salary cap purposes, as Favre, a Super Bowl champion with the Packers in 1996, comes in not only with his hall of fame credentials but a hefty salary to boot.

The trade, which as early Thursday morning was confirmed by several media outlets, sees the Jets swaping a conditional draft pick (likely a 3rd or 4th round pick) that depending on both the performance of Favre and the Jets can become as high as a 1st or 2nd round pick.

This move gives instant credibility to a team that is clearly second string in New York behind the Giants, something that has been apparent even before the Giants knocked off New England in Super Bowl XVII.

Favre will now be taking snaps in the same stadium the team many believed he had ended his career against (his pass that was intercepted by Giants CB Corey Webster led to the Giants winning the NFC championship game back in Jan.).

Favre can expect early fan support, however unlike in Green Bay where he was comperable to the Pope, the honeymoon may not last in New York should Favre not produce.

Make no mistake, that upon his arrival and throughout his first few home games, the reaction should be nothing short of overwhelming, however New Yorker’s have been and always will be a ‘what have you done for me lately’ type of town, so simply being Brett Favre won’t be enough to maintain cheers should the Jets find themselves in the midst of another disappointing season.

Not since Joe Namath has there been a football presence wearing Green in New York, and Favre joins New York far more established and accomplished than Namath ever was.

When he retired back in February, he was the NFL’s all time leader in touchdown passes and retired as the league’s only three-time most valuable player.

He brings a hard working, blue collar attitude to a Jets team that lacked everything from talent to toughness last season, yet instantly improves their ballclub in both regards with the acquisition of the 17 year veteran.

Favre now makes the Jets at the very least a playoff contender, however calling the Jets a Super Bowl favorite or even playoff lock is outrageous.

However, right now, the Jets have made the splash of the NFL offseason, adding arguably the biggest name in the sport (or as of Sunday the biggest name back in the sport) in Brett Favre.

It takes a lot to upstage the team you share a stadium with who is coming off a Super Bowl winning season, however it’s fair to say Favre’s 2008 season in New York, with the Jets, pushes the champion Giants off the back pages, even if only for a little while.

For Jets fans critical of this trade, as a fellow Jets fan who has been suffering with the irrelevant play of this team, it’s tough not to be a huge fan of this move, as neither Chad Pennington or Kellen Clemens had me convinced this team was any better than a 6 win team, regardless of the off season spending spree the team went on.

Head coach Eric Mangini should provide Favre with the kind of winning mentality and toughness he appreciates, and hopefully with an improved roster desperately in need of a competent quarterback, the Jets can make some noise in 2008.

This move not only makes the Jets credible, it makes them competitive and worth watching, and sends a message to the rest of the AFC that they are for real.

Like it or not, Brett Favre gives the Jets something that only a handful of other teams in this league have, and thats a reliable Quarterback who has a Super Bowl ring and a winning pedigree.

Billy Joel sang “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway”, and thats how it’s felt for a while despite some occasional success for gang green.

With Brett Favre a Jet, expect those lights to be shining brighter than ever.

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanks For The Memories

3/4/08

brett.jpg

Today is a sad day in the world of sports.

Brett Favre, (the soon to be former) starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, was as synonymous with both the Pack and Football as the pope is with religion. For that matter, Brett Favre might as well have been the leader of those loyal cheese heads, playing the role of minister for the last 17 years inside the football cathedral that is Lambeau Field.

While we’re on the subject, I have a confession to make before I continue.

I am not a Green Bay Packers fan by any stretch of the imagination. When they lost to the Giants this past January I couldn’t have been happier for all the Giants fans I know.

Despite not being a Packer fan, I am proud to say I am and always have been a big Brett Favre fan.

And I’m willing to bet most people out there feel exactly the same way.

Brett Favre represents all that is right with sports.

For 17 years, he has played the game the way it was meant to be played.


He was tough and he was durable.

He wore number 4, the same number as legendary New York Yankees first basemen Lou Gehrig. It should be no coincidence that among all the accomplishments of both of these legendary sports figures shared the distinction of being Ironmen in their respective sports. Until his record of 2,130 consecutive games played was broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr., Gehrig was the gold standard for durability. Favre’s feat may be even more incredible, considering the sport and position he played while not missing a start over the final 15 years he played. For 253 (275 including postseason games) consecutive games, Favre was under center at the start of each and every game. What makes his accomplishment so incredible is that he plays the most physically demanding professional sport out there, and happens to play the most important position within his sport. Whether it was fighting off injuries, the frozen tundra of Lambeau and a few years back the death of his own father, Brett Favre made it a habit to make sure nothing was going to stand between him and the playing field when Sunday rolled around.

He was talented.

No quarterback in the National Football League is starting over 200 consecutive games without being good as what he does. And Favre wasn’t good, he was great. With his rocket right arm, Favre was able to throw the ball down field with the best of them, right until the end of his brilliant career. Among the records he holds:

  • Most Career Touchdown Passes (442)
  • Most Career Passing Yards (61,655)
  • Most Career Wins as a Quarterback (160)
  • Most Consecutive Starts (253)

Favre consistently had one of the best pure arms in the game, regularly connecting downfield with some of his favorite targets (Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver and Sterling Sharp to name a few).

He wasn’t afraid to take risks.

Favre holds a number of prestigious passing records; however one dubious honor he also holds is the all time leader for interceptions. All of his success could not have come without the risks he took, and while you could argue whether or not you trusted Brett Favre with the football in a big spot, you can’t look past the fact that for the 288 picks he threw, there were 442 balls which made their way from his hand into the end zone. Unfortunately (although in a sense maybe fittingly), Favre’s final pass was an interception which found the arms of Giants corner back Corey Webster in the NFC championship game 2 months ago, which would spark the G-Men and thrust them towards their eventual Super Bowl title.

He played with passion.

Competitive might as well have been Brett Favre’s middle name (plus it sounds a lot better than Lorenzo). For all the interceptions he threw, all the sacks he took and the hits which leveled him, Favre always got back up, got back out on the field week after week and competed. It might not seem like much, but Favre almost always gave his team a chance to win. He hated to lose and you could always see it on his face. You could see his will to win with the frustration in his eyes after every pick. You could see his pure thrill of winning with that fire in his eyes. And you knew he loved to the play the game as he was never shy to smile.

He was accomplished.

Look past all of his records, Favre was able to reach the top of his sport in 1997, when his Packers defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. Favre was more than good enough, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another, and could have been the game’s MVP had the show not been stolen by Heisman Trophy winner and return man extraordinaire Desmond Howard. Appropriate that Favre was able to hoist the Lombardi trophy in his career, the trophy named of course after the immortal head coach who also happened to find success in Green Bay. Favre also was the first and only player to ever win three Most Valuable Player awards, and did so in consecutive years (’95, ’96, and ’97). With a resume like that, it should surprise nobody when Favre becomes a first ballot hall of famer upon eligibility.

I could probably list a dozen more qualities Brett Favre showed during his illustrious NFL career, however simply put, he is a living legend who will be sorely missed by fans- not only in Green Bay- but everywhere.

You didn’t have to like the Packers to root for a guy like Favre.

He was one of the good guys, and unless your team was playing his that day, a part of you was always on the edge of your seat during that 2 minute drive with his team driving to win the game.

Favre will undeniably be missed in a league where he was hardly the most recognizable figure, despite all he has accomplished.

While the names of Brady and Manning probably sold more jerseys, the NFL just doesn’t feel like the same league with Favre having departed for the NFL afterlife.

On behalf of everyone out there who just liked Brett Favre because he was a guy worth rooting for, a guy who you always pulled for and for a guy that always kept things exciting and unpredictable, I would like to congratulate him on a hall of fame career.

Thanks for the memories Brett.

March 5, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , | Leave a comment