Seau’s Suicide and Football’s Indoctrination of Violence

Note: Seau’s death is causing many to make opinions about the reasons for his suicide.  I am just one attempting to understand the possibly effects that massive brain trauma, concussions and violence have on retired football players.

Junior Seau

1969 – 2012

Suicide is a paradox.  It is, in my opinion, the penultimate act of an insidious mental disease but also can be seen as the ultimate act of cowardice.  On May 2, 2012, Junior Seau texted his children “I love you,” pointed a gun at his chest and pulled the trigger.  We will never know what mental and physical struggles Seau was wrestling with.  We can only speculate as to the cause of a despair so deep as it would force him to abandon his three children, family and friends by taking his own life.  But what comes from his death will resonate for decades not just in the NFL but at all levels of football, regardless of whether football’s brutal toll was responsible for Junior’s death or not.  Arguments about players assuming the risk are relevant and I am cognizant of the legal ramifications of such an argument.  This isn’t about the NFL’s defense toward a lawsuit, it’s about what is causing these former athletes to take their lives.

As Americans, football is our passion.  On Sundays in autumn, we are, as a people generally, involved with two events: Church and the NFL.  On Saturdays, we watch a few future NFL players on the college gridiron and on Friday nights, parents and families in neighborhoods across the country watch their sons play high school football.  At the youngest ages, children watch intently as eleven abnormally large men hurl themselves, often head-first, into eleven men moving at unbelievable speeds on the other side of the line.  Some of these young kids will begin playing Pop Warner football as early as age five.  Many of them will be enthralled with the running, passing and hitting, perhaps satisfying that male proclivity toward competition, fighting and destruction.  As with any industry or skill, the phenoms and prodigies will be identified early and groomed for a future in football.  Little do these children know that the skills they develop will be potentially dangerous, even deadly.

These young boys, short of adolescence by years, are indoctrinated into a scene of violence.  Football is pain, blood and filled with the prospects of great rewards with victory.  It is also a testosterone-filled event, times a billion.  Glory goes to those who survive and thrive.  These boys, who grow up to be monstrously-sized men, are used as weapons.  As a player rises through the ranks and hones his craft, he becomes a human being of amazingly destructive power.  If a young man is fortunate to become a professional football player, he has the capability of destroying the life and career of any man on that field.  His skill set is that dangerous.

Football is akin to war.  Football’s lexicon is replete with attack schemes, blitzes and battle lines.  The parallels are staggering though many will cringe at me using the analogy.  War is naturally the most dangerous circumstance in humanity’s arsenal of national self-preservation (and quite frankly, stupidity).  Football, being a game modeled after war, it isn’t hard to imagine the human cost.  War and football are “games” of attrition.  Casualties often determine the winner.  For centuries, we weren’t aware of the silent costs after peace was struck.  Now we know all too well.

With technology, we are now just learning about the silent killers.  As our brave soldiers in the Middle East are dying and suffering at the hands of massive brain trauma and PTSD, our football brethren are similarly being traumatized by multiple concussions and head wounds, leading to dementia, depression and death.  Be mindful also that legally-accepted acts of violence perpetrated by these men cannot be overlooked as a cause for their depression.  Nor can we ignore their transition from a life of violent aggression to one of regular citizen.  Football players, like our soldiers, are suffering from a form of PTSD.

For decades, nothing was known regarding brain trauma.  In fact, the evolution of football follows our knowledge that protecting the brain was incredibly importance.  Helmets, once non-existent in the game, evolve each season, helping to prevent concussive events.  Mouthpieces have changed.  Padding is different too.  The NFL has instituted massive penalties for head shots and its current punishments for the Bountygate scandal are blatantly obvious from a safety perspective.  Nothing can prevent all brain injuries.  Football introduces additional safeguards every season in exchange for a more acceptable level of violence but it will never be sufficient.  We will never eradicate concussions and brain trauma from the game.

As I said, football is the athletic, sports version of war.  These men leave our service at a young age and a vast majority of them are bankrupt financially and wounded emotionally.  They have no outlets to free themselves of the shackles of mental pain and anguish because they believe the machismo attitudes expressed in NFL locker rooms still apply.  These injuries are becoming an epidemic among NFL retirees and will shape the future of the sport, from the NFL all the way to Pop Warner.

Junior Seau is just the latest in a series of deaths and suicides of former NFL players.  He just happens to be the most well-known.  He is a future Hall of Famer and arguably one of the greatest linebackers of all-time.  His death will beg all sorts of questions, many of which I have outlined.  He may not have died as a result of football but the fact is, the lack of evidence makes the case against football all the more damning.  Assumptions will be made against the NFL.  The league may survive the court rooms but could be decimated by public opinion.

The National Football League must act now.  It must invest heavily in new helmet technologies, mouth guards and neck braces.  Concussive events must be dramatically decreased.  An 18-game season should be shelved indefinitely and not spoken of for years.  They must take pro-active steps to see that all its athletes, from superstars to journeymen players to undrafted washouts, effectively transition to regular civilian life after their careers are over.

The NFL unfairly bears the burden of being the last career stop for a football player.  Unfortunately for the League, they inherit the previous wear and tear these men have before they put on a NFL uniform.  But all these men aspired to be professional football players most of their lives and the NFL has a responsibility to them and the massive fanatic appeal this game has to an adoring nation to protect them as best they can.

If the National Football League, the NCAA and other football organizations are unable to protect football athletes and there is a steady rise in dementia, PTSD, depression and death, football will cease to be relevant.  Parents will find other outlets for their children’s athletic prowess that will not subject them to a future of mental disease, physical debilitation, emotional distress and untimely death.  Parents will slowly acknowledge that football isn’t worth the risk of fame and fortune for their boys and ask them to seek a glory without a helmet, pads and a pigskin.  Football could be reduced to a shell of its former violent self, unappealing and unpopular.  Perhaps there is no happy medium and football is either deadly or boring.  In that case, we Americans must decide what it is we want for our sons and for ourselves.

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What Year Did He Win His Ring?

With the absurdity that is Tim Tebow to the Jets insanity, I just thought it would be interesting to see how long it took for each Super Bowl winning QB to win his first Lombardi Trophy.  So before the Jets decide to bail on Mark Sanchez, perhaps they should consider that two AFC Championship appearances in three years is excellent work for a player entering his fourth season.  I went back twenty Super Bowls to see how long it took each Super Bowl winning quarterback to win his first ring.

Five QBs in the past twenty years have multiple rings: Troy Aikman and Tom Brady, three; Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and John Elway, two.  Among those five players, the average time it took them to win a Super Bowl as a starter is 5 seasons.  Without Elway’s 15 starting years included, the average among the four remaining drops to 2.5 years (John Elway’s first SB appearance was in his fourth season and also fourth starting). Do you or I think Sanchez is any of the aforementioned yet or ever will be? Including all the players listed below, the rough average of starting season prior to a championship season was 5.07 years.

In other words, Sanchez wouldn’t even be due to hoist the Lombardi Trophy until the end of the 2013 season. Ironically, if this were to actually happen with the Jets, Mark Sanchez would be lifting the trophy at Metlife Stadium after Super Bowl XLVIII. Forgetting that dream scenario, what today’s “what have you done for me lately” NFL mentality shows is that patience is a vice. Winning now or soon is far more preferable. Nevermind the talent and team unity you need to do so. The Jets will have none of that.

But take some guys on this list, including Giants QB Eli Manning. Eli was selected with the first pick in the 2004 draft. If anyone remembers, many Giants fans were calling for Manning’s removal because of his rocky starts. Hell, Eli had some crappy games this season! But finally, in season four, he won his ring. This, a year after his brother, the legend that is Peyton, took home his first ring after waiting nine years! I am not comparing Mark Sanchez to either Manning, or anyone else who’s won a Super Bowl. The case I’m making is that Sanchez’s inconsistencies are in-line with other quarterbacks who’ve won in the past.

The ultimate question that must be asked is whether you think, with the right pieces and the right system, Mark Sanchez can be on this list? I believe he can. It’s blatantly obvious from their actions this week that Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson are agnostic to the idea that Sanchez will ever win a championship anywhere. Funny, because that’s what I think of their chances in their current roles as GM, head coach and owner, too.

Super Bowl winning QBs, how long it took them and what starting year it was when they won their first championship: (bold italicsmultiple winner)

  • XLV: Aaron Rodgers (6th season, 3rd as starter)
  • XLIV: Drew Brees (9th season, 8th as starter)
  • XLII: Eli Manning (4th season, 3rd as starter)
  • XLI: Peyton Manning (9th season, 9th as starter)
  • XL: Ben Roethlisberger (2nd season, 2nd as starter)
  • XXXVII: Brad Johnson (9th season, 6th as starter*)
  • XXXVI: Tom Brady (2nd season, 1st as starter)
  • XXXV: Trent Dilfer (7th season, 6th as starter)
  • XXXIV: Kurt Warner (2nd NFL season, 1st as starter)
  • XXXII: John Elway (15th season, 15th as starter)
  • XXXI: Brett Favre (6th season, 5th as starter)
  • XXIX: Steve Young (10th NFL season, 5th as starter*)
  • XXVII: Troy Aikman (4th season, 4th as starter)
  • XXVI: Mark Rypien (4th season, 3rd as starter*)

Screwing Sanchez: The Ultimate Story of the Jets Inferiority Complex

Two consecutive AFC title games are never enough for the reactionary Jets front office. Sanchez’s stats in his first three seasons are virtually identical to Giants QB Eli Manning but that means nothing. Lest I remind everyone of how many rings Eli Manning now possesses. A terrible O-Line that almost got Sanchez killed last season is not a concern. A play-action-oriented QB with no run game to speak of is not an issue. A trouble-making receiver had nothing to do with it. What does everyone say? Sanchez will never win and must go. Patience is a word Jets fans abhor and quite frankly, don’t understand.

Jets fans are uncomfortable, miserable people. They believe the football gods have conspired against them in favor of anyone else. Joe Willie Namath was from an alternate universe. They have no grasp of football reality. Jets LB Mo Lewis knocks out Drew Bledsoe and ushers in the Tom Brady era. “Cursed Jets we are,” the fans say. 3-13, it can’t get any worse. Ha! Oh yes it can. Thanks Kotite.

The run-of-the-mill Jets fan immediately bought into Rex Ryan’s “Super Bowl or bust” mentality. Of course they would. Look at them all. I’m guilty too. Desperation makes fools of people, especially Jets fans. The Jets were one of the last four standing two years in a row, thanks partly to Mark’s great post-season play, on the road, when he was a rookie! But naturally, there was no Super Bowl. Jets fans began to panic once again. Then the Jets fell apart last season, Rex’s bombastic attitude allowed his players to rebel, they missed the playoffs while our crosstown rivals both knocked the Jets out and then defeated Tom Brady’s Patriots in the Super Bowl, again. It was all Sanchez. Look at the facts and you will see that is not true. But Jets fans are blinded by the truth. Jets fans say, “Next!”

You know what would make Mark Sanchez a better leader and football player? Practice, patience and weapons. Two sets of offenses will make Sanchez worse, not better. It will also make the team worse. Schotty was an anchor to Sanchez’s success and so too will Tebow’s “Wildcat packages.” These gimmicky offenses never last long. Who wins Super Bowls? Legendary defenses and prolific offenses. The Wildcat as our saving grace is a joke and bringing in this Tebow media circus is equally hilarious.

I have been a Jets fan my entire life but I am prepared to dump these guys if Tebow starts. This front office has no real aspirations to win with Mark Sanchez, the better quarterback. They are willing to forgo winning in exchange for a publicity hog whom everyone has bought into as some saintly figure. Denver gave you a choice. Why’d you pick my beloved New York over your hometown, Tim? Jacksonville is sight unseen. NYC is bright lights, big city.

Look, I don’t know if Tim Tebow is truly a good person. Same goes for Mark Sanchez. Take emotion out of it. Who’s the better QB that could lead your team to the Super Bowl with the right constituent parts around him? Tebow fans are blinded by some ridiculous notion that God is divinely making him win. If that’s the case, Eli Manning is the Jesus of New York. Mark Sanchez has the tools to lead a pro-style offense to the big game. In his first two seasons, we were sixty minutes away because of him. The odds Tebow can do the same are farcical. His arm in a pass-oriented league is an indictment of his skill set. Tim Tebow has the ability to play in the NFL but not as a starting quarterback. I do not accept the premise that Tebow’s last season proves he is a viable starter. I also reject that same fact about Sanchez. Who’s better?! Mark Sanchez. And Mark will start… for a while.

Go ahead Rex, play Tebow. Start him. Let Tebow play against the Niners, Texans and Steelers. Try this hybrid, two-QB garbage against the Bills’ Mario Williams with our current offensive line. Was the Patriots mediocre defense’s domination of Tebow not enough proof? This is desperation to the highest degree. Every team you face will smell the blood and sense the fear.

Driven by the greatest inferiority complex in football, the Jets act as if the fates have already declared them irrelevant. In response, the Jets create a media circus with all the trimmings. Gang Green has become relevant again! Yes, relevant in the minds of delusional Jets fans and Tebow lovers. People with blind faith are irrational people. Tebow followers have an unbreakable allegiance to him. No matter his flaws, it will never be Tim Tebow’s fault. But a lucky gust of wind that inexplicably blows a field goal through the uprights is all Timmy.

My disgust for the Jets exists on so many levels today. From a business standpoint to how I believe this will impact the chalkboard X’s and O’s, Jets fans should be universally calling for front office heads to roll. But they aren’t because some actually believe this will work. If it does, I will apologize for this rant. But it won’t. I don’t see the evidence. Show me the facts that indicate we will be closer to winning a Super Bowl with Tim Tebow taking reps away from our starter. How does a gimmick offense win a Lombardi Trophy?! It doesn’t. How does a gimmick-oriented player like Tim Tebow win Super Bowls? He never will.

Lee and Jesse Play Name Those Sox – Part 1

As March begins, Lee and Jesse – the resident Red Sox Fans here at I-95 – decided to try and pick the 25 man roster that the Red Sox will break camp with this season. Thrilling – we know. Here is the resulting back-and-forth:

From: Jesse Martineau
To: Lee Lubarsky
Subject: Red Sox starting 25
Starting position players
I will start with the starting 9.  And, to make things even more impressive, I will attempt to put them in the original batting order.
The entire wild card here, of course, is Crawford.  The Red Sox 1st 5 should be Ells, Petey, Gonzo, Youk, and Papi – in that order.  After all, that is the order that had the Sox score more runs than anyone last year.  So, clearly that line-up works.
However, should Bobby V. actually post that line-up for the first game, Crawford will start crying uncontrollably and will have to be coaxed out of the locker room.  And since we can’t have another season where Crawford is absolutely horrendous (seriously, Jason Stark ran the numbers, and Crawford had the worst season of a Red Sox starting outfielder EVER.  How amazing is that?  He was worse than Darren Lewis’ wost year.  Or Darnell McDonald.  Or anyone!)
So, because Carl is a Captain Sensitive, we need to make him hit #2.  Which fucks up everything else, but still needs to happen.  (Note: I am making the assumption that Carl will be healthy for opening day.  He is already hitting, so I’m guessing he may be ready.  If he is not, all the easier.)
So, my projected starting line-up:
1.) Ellsbury, CF
2.) Captain Sensitive, LF
3.) Petey, 2B
4.) Gonzo, 1B
5.) Greek (Jewish) God of Walks, 3B
6.) Papi, DH
7.) Salty, C
8.) Ross, RF
9.) Aviles, SS
(Quick aside: I am beyond thrilled to be pencilling in a guy who, only last year, couldn’t hack it as the fucking Royals utility man as the opening day shortstop.)
Bench
This now brings us to the bench.  Here are the guys that I think are a lock to be on the bench:
INF- Punto
OF- Sweeney
C- Shoppach
Guy I think is most likely to be the final guy on the bench:
OF- McDonald
I actually think McDonald is a solid final player on the roster.  Plays capable defense in every OF position.  Can pinch run (overlooking how he ran us out of a couple of games last year).   Seems like a likable guy.  Can’t hit for shit.
Others I can conceivably see making the team:
C- Lavarnway
It is tough to keep 3 catchers.  But he is probably major league ready, at least as an offensive player.  Would be the best right handed hitter off the bench.  But, considering Papi doesn’t like being benched, and that they already have 2 other catchers, I don’t see how he plays.
UTL- Nate Spears
I actually am going to make Nate Spears my pick to be on the 25 if Crawford can’t go on opening day.  He had a cup of coffee with the big boys last year, and the people in the organization seem to really like his professionalism.  He can also play pretty much every position besides pitching and catching.  The big problem is that Spears is not on the 40 man roster, so they’d need to make a roster move.  But I think they would probably just move Rich Hill to the 60 day DL.
Pitchers
OK, I’ll start with the starting pitchers, in rotation order:
1.) Lester
2.) Chicken Eatin’ Texan
3.) Computer stealer
4.) Bard
5.) (more on this later)
I think the top 4 are pretty straightforward.  Feeling pretty confident about the order as well.
Guys who will definitely be in the pen:
Bailey (will close)
Melancon (primary set-up man)
Morales (best lefty option)
Albers (was real good last year until his arm fell off due to overuse caused by the fact the rest of the pen was terrible)
Guy who will definitely make the team, though role is still up for grabs:
Aceves
I think the Sox clearly want this guy to be in the pen, because he was ridiculously valuable there last year.  That being said, if all the other 5th starter options prove to be terrible – a very real possibility – they may have to start him right off the bat.
Guys who I am pretty sure will make the team, though also not sure if they will start or come out of the pen:
Doubront/ Miller
Both of these guys have the same story.  They are both lefties.  Both were thought to be top prospects at one point in their lives.  Both also have yet to prove they don’t suck as major league pitchers.  Fortunately for them, both are also out of options, and the Sox don’t seem to want to give up on either yet.  So, unless either has an ERA of about 100 this spring, I see both on the team.  Best case scenario for the Sox, one of these guys starts.  That would make NH Ben’s wildest dreams come true.
This leaves 2 possibilities.  Situation 1 is if one of Aceves, Doubront, or Miller start.  Situation 2 is if the Sox really want to keep Acevez in the pen and Doubront and Miller use this spring to confirm they suck.
If situation 1 is a reality, there are a number of options for the final bullpen spot:
Bowden
He was also once thought of as a major prospect… now, not so much.  He is also out of options.  Seems that the Sox have given up on him starting, but they may not want to let him go altogether.  That being said, he kinda sucks.
Chris Carpenter
Might be kept just so the Sox brass don’t have to admit they let go of a top class GM for a minor league middle reliever.
Clayton Mortensen
Might be kept just so Sox brass don’t have to admit they traded their starting shortstop for a minor league middle reliever.
Jesse Carlson
Former NH Fisher Cat makes him a personal favorite.  Can actually be a serviceable LOOGY.  But, considering I already have 3 LHP in the Sox pen, I don’t think another LOOGY is necessary.
Scott Atchinson
Also a serviceable option, but signed to a minor league deal.  If he was competing on an even playing field with Miller, Dubront, and Bowden, I bet he makes the team.  That said, he is the only one that doesn’t have to pass waivers, so he starts in Rhode Island.
Ross Ohlendorf
Has a funny name.
Padilla Flotilla
I somehow see him making this team.  More on this below.
If situation 2 is reality, there are a number of options for that final starting spot:
Aaron Cook
The new pitching coach loves him, so that should count for something.  Unfortunately, he can’t pitch.
Carlos Silva
Used to be good.  Unfortunately, he attends the El Guapo school of conditioning.  Rumors he only signed with the Sox for the free chicken and beer and now might be looking to get out of his contract.
Padilla Flotilla
Seems mental.  Completely mental.  But also seems to be the kind of guy that can impress in very small amounts… say, over the course of a spring.  Come the heart of the season, nobody will have any idea what you will get on a day-to-day basis, in a Dice-K kind of way.  He is almost guaranteed to drive me crazy, which is why he is guaranteed to make the team.
My prediction:
The final starting spot goes to Padilla.  Doubront and Miller move to the pen.  Bowden gets cut, doesn’t clear waivers, and starts for some garbage team, such as Houston.

Lee’s Response to come in Part II

Valentine’s Day in Boston

As the resident Red Sox fan here at I95, I feel it is my duty to weigh in on the Bobby V announcement in Boston. That and no one has posted since August and our ad revenue needs to bump up before the holidays.

I’m firmly in the “this is a good thing for the Red Sox clubhouse” camp. Valentine brings with him major league managerial experience (which is important to the owners) and is a self-described Bill James disciple (which is important to GM Ben Cherington and his advisors). But what does he bring to the rabid fanbase that is partially to blame for Terry Francona stepping down, and a number of players to question whether or not playing in Boston is worth the drama.

My take? As fans – we’re in good hands. Valentine not only did a really good job of getting the ’99 Mets to play as a team, but he kept Rickey under control, which is kind of like getting Manny Ramirez to not do steroids for ten minutes. Yes, he called Beckett out this year for taking too long during pitches (which Beckett does)  and yes, he said he was faster than Carl Crawford, but I’m sure it will all be water under the bridge come the spring. [Insert nail biting]
 
What Valentine has done is win. His Mets teams were far less talented (Sorry guys) than the 2011 Sox, he brought the Chiba Lotte Marines their first Japan Series title (which is a big deal), he is LOVED in Japan for harmoniously mixing the American style of training with the fighting spirit that is the hallmark of Japanese baseball (which is an even bigger deal for an American gaijin), he is the Director of Public Safety for the city of Stamford, Connecticut – the man invented the wrap for crying out loud.

Valentine has been criticized for never winning a division title.  Newsflash –  the Red Sox won exactly one AL East title under Terry Francona – arguably the greatest Red Sox manager in the last 75 years – and that was partly due to the fact that the Yankees “only” won 94 games in 2007. Valentine’s Mets won the Wild Card in 1999 and 2000 partly because the NL East was won by a little team from Atlanta led by a starting rotation of Millwood-Glavine-Maddox-Smoltz and had a lineup featuring  NL MVP Larry Jones and NL ROY Rafael Furcal. I know the late-90’s Braves didn’t exactly have the same offensive firepower as the early-2000’s Yankees (insert steroids joke here) but the NL East was the AL East before the AL East was the AL East.  

I think that he has the personality (or ego if you’re so inclined) to be able to go into the clubhouse, lay down the rules and rally this team, all the while deflecting the media spotlight from the players. And after the chicken and beer fiasco, the players could use a little less media spotlight.

Peter Gammons noted that as long as Valentine and Cherington have the opportunity to work together, this partnership will work. HOWEVER – if the Red Sox front office [John Henry/Larry Lucchino] continues to undermine the “baseball people” in the organization by going on talk radio to complain that they were personally opposed to the Crawford signing, and leak information inappropriately – be it about Francona’s pain medication or about hiring a new manager before they tell all of the candidates – it won’t matter who the manager is.

No New Taxes: Exit Polls Look Terrible For Islanders

Numerous news outlets are reporting that turnout is “abysmally low.”  It was thought that holding an August vote would be advantageous for the team considering most voters would be diehards.  Apparently, the turnout is so low that not even the diehards are showing up.  In some places, the vote is 3-1 against the bond issuance.

Ladies and gentleman, I hate to break this to my fellow Islanders but our hockey team will be playing elsewhere in October 2015.  In fact, I’m sure more than a few Canadian city mayors will visit Long Island tempting Charles Wang to move his team to the Great White North.  Nassau County seems to have lost any reasonable links to its Islanders.  Essentially, no one important remembers Trottier, Bossy, Gillies, Nystrom and Smith.  If you ask anyone with enough money to save this franchise, none could accurately describe the magic of the early 1980s.  Simply put, hopes of a dynastic revival are dying.

The question that exists now is to where the Islanders will call home after they bid adieu to Long Island.  I suspect Phoenix and Nashville will have already relocated by 2015.  One of those teams will occupy Quebec, the other will possibly take KC or Milwaukee.  Understandably, Kansas City has been linked numerous times with the Isles.  For years, Hamilton, ON has been lobbying for an NHL team and they may yet have their wish granted.  More than a handful of teams are in unsustainable situations.  It is unfortunate because the Islanders are in a terrific location, just outside NYC.  Perhaps if the worst occurs, Wang can relinquish our four Stanley Cup banners to the county. And when the time is right, Nassau can build a true arena meant for a future Islanders team, and those banners can hang from the rafters once again.

Randy Moss Will Be Back

Does anyone truly believe Randy has said goodbye to football?  I think not.  Randy Moss is dramatic and arrogant.  I have no doubt this is a stunt because Randy can’t find a suitable partner.  Once the calendar turns from August to September, there will be gaping holes in more than a few teams receiver positions.  They’ll be a taker somewhere and Moss will be up to his old antics within days.  His new team will regret their purchase and wonder if they can trade the troublemaker for draft picks.  Oh wait, the Patriots pulled off that maneuver last season while Titans looked like morons holding the bag.  Make no mistake: Randy Moss will be catching footballs… or riding the pine in September.

Islanders Vote: Long Island Hockey on the Line

Nassau County residents head to the polls today to vote on a $400 million bond issue to finance a new coliseum for the New York Islanders and a minor league ballpark for the Ducks.  Polling indicates there is opposition to the plan because Nassau is in financial ruin.  The county is already running a huge deficit.  Nassau’s financial situation is so tenuous that it remains under the auspices of the state’s Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) which was created to get the county’s spending under control.  If the deal is approved by voters, both NIFA and a supermajority of county legislators must approve it.  It’s still an uphill battle for Isles owner Charles Wang and County Exec. Edward Mangano to sell the plan to NIFA and the Legislature even if the voters approve the bond.

I’m was born and raised on Long Island.  Hell, virtually every 17th century town charter has a signature of one of my ancestors on it.  I’m a proud Islander.  I hate the damn place so that should show you my affection for it.  Some things are just wrong.  The Islanders moving away fits that definition.  It would be as if Billy Joel suddenly disowned Long Island or the Montauk Lighthouse fell into the Atlantic.  OK, those would be travesties but local hockey fans will have a collective stroke if the Islanders bolt.

Multiple plans have been put forth over the past decade to replace Nassau Coliseum.  None have been acceptable to a broad base of residents or politicians.  Suffice it to say, the Coliseum is a dump and should be razed immediately.  The Islanders cannot profit there.  Unfortunately, the best option that would’ve relocated the Isles to a new venue across from CitiField was obliterated when the Madoff scandal hit.  Another option would be Brooklyn’s new basketball arena but it is not designed for hockey, although that is an easy retrofit.  The Brooklyn option assures the Islanders technically stay on Long Island but what sort of fan base could they muster being so dislocated from their old home.

Wang has consistently stated that if the Islanders don’t have a new home when their lease expires in 2015, he will move the team.  Unless Wang sells to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov or some pro-Brooklyn group, I highly doubt Wang himself would move the Isles there.  If by some miracle the Flushing idea is resurrected, then Wang would move them there but that idea is dead, dead, dead.  Several Canadian cities are vying for a franchise.  No doubt these cities will court Mr. Wang in the next few months if the vote fails.

Does this bond pass? No. I’m betting it’s dismissed by voters.  In the event it does pass, NIFA will not approve the deal.  The county is essentially bankrupt and New York state officials will not allow more ‘reckless’ spending.  For thousands in Nassau County, ditching a hockey team with the NHL’s lowest attendance (a scant 11,000 per game) is a no-brainer.  Though Islanders management will point to the Coliseum as the main cause for their problems, others will argue that a better product would’ve led to the Coliseum’s replacement when the economy was booming.

The Isles have been abysmal, last sniffing a conference title twenty years ago.  An Islanders captain hasn’t lifted the Stanley Cup in nearly thirty seasons.  Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is part of the problem but is emblematic of a larger issue; the slow death of Long Island hockey fans.  If Islander fans were as loyal as they were decades ago, attendance figures wouldn’t be so dreadful and a new Coliseum would’ve been built years ago.  I fear no alternative exists to save the New York Islanders.  Even a win today could be a loss if turnout is exceptionally low as expected.  Canada smells blood in its southern waters and is poised to snatch the Isles out of the Atlantic.  Can Long Island snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?  Probably not.  A small miracle is needed to keep the Islanders on Long Island.  For me, vote Yes!  Save the Isles if you can.

Bradley Out, Klinsmann In – US Soccer Destined For Better Times

Can Klinsmann get US Soccer closer to the elusive star?

Yesterday, Bob Bradley was axed as U.S. Soccer’s head coach and for good reason.  He had very little to show for his tenure.  It always seems as if our men’s national team has incredible aspirations going into tournaments and then falls flat on its face.  They play well enough to win until they are winning and then choke it all away.  As a fan of the beautiful game, it was clear that Bradley’s purely America-centric view of the game was detrimental to our chances.  Enter former German soccer star and coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

America’s Gold Cup final performance was the last dismal outing that forced U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati to make a move.  Klinsmann has been on the U.S. team’s radar for quite some time but after the United States blew up against Mexico a few weeks ago, they’d seen enough.  Frankly, anyone who watches American soccer sees the potential but also can clearly identify the problems.  Hiring a non-American is an excellent step in the right direction.  Our coaching staff needs to have a better understanding of the true fundamentals taught in Latin America and Europe.

Jurgen Klinsmann will do well to go back to basics.  He needs to teach our young soccer talent to be crisper passers and targeted strikers.  And please make them learn proper defensive technique, especially when trying to hold a multiple goal lead.  American soccer players must learn about the first touch and equally become more adept students of the game elsewhere.  Klinsmann will likely demand more discipline from his players, a trait seemingly lacking within our team.

Don’t fret American fans who feel that hiring a German is a retreat for U.S. Soccer.  On the contrary, this is a smart move and one they should’ve made years ago.  Klinsmann wasn’t interested after the 2006 World Cup but I, like many others, knew that an opportunity to mold the United States soccer team into a winner was too great to pass on.  Klinsmann wouldn’t have taken the position but for knowing he would have absolute control over personnel, training programs and tactical schemes.

I’m thrilled with the prospect that our players will finally be given proper guidance and change the attitude surrounding our side.  American fans constantly worry that our defensive woes will turn a 2-0 lead into a two-goal deficit.  America’s support for soccer is growing and it was imperative that the federation made an aggressive decision leading us forward.  The message Gulati sent to American fans was being dreadfully bad at football considering the talent we possess is just unacceptable.  Perhaps our football will be a bit more German, but it will be a hell of lot better.

I Missed Everyone… I’m Back and so is Football!

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell uttered the words we’ve all been waiting to hear.

“Football is back and that’s great news for everybody.”

That is great news.  There are 32 reasons we watch football each autumn Sunday.  All 32 teams have distinct storylines, their own prima donnas and certainly enough entertaining aspects that we could have HBO Hard Knocks for eternity.  The National Football League rules our nation, not the president or Congress.  Hell, Pats owner Bob Kraft actually ripped our politicians for not getting a debt ceiling deal completed.  And if calamity strikes our economy because our whiny, narcissist leaders can’t get a deal finished by next Tuesday, be thankful that your NFL team is in training camp, you’ve already paid for DirecTV Sunday Ticket and that our whiny, narcissistic athletes are far more entertaining.

The free agent frenzy we are witnessing is unprecedented.  As a Jets fan, the prospect of signing Holmes and Asomugha is countered by the realization that this abbreviated signing period could scuttle any hopes for Gang Green to sign anyone to a big deal.  Fortunately, everyone wants to play for Rex.  But I digress.

I hope everyone enjoys being yanked toward the abyss, then pulled into the competitive light, only to be pulled back and forth in the span of two weeks.  Free agency this short will be impossible to follow in its entirety but I will try and keep up as will the whole country.  Just the other night, my wife told me she didn’t feel like watching sports on TV despite the absence of anything on the tube.  I flipped to NFL Network and pigskin talk was on.  Football is in our blood and it’s back!

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