June 28, 2012: Score One for “You Never Know”

On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of Obama’s health care overhaul.  The 5-4 vote makes it certain that Obama-care will move forward and have an effect on just about every American.  This is a crucial break for Obama who now has the cornerstone piece of legislation he needs for his re-election campaign.  The healthcare upheaval has been a key point of contention for Republicans – some even accusing Obama of socializing the U.S.  So it was especially surprising that staunch conservative Chief Justice John Roberts (appointed by the Bush administration) was the swing vote in favor of Obama.

Roberts had been pegged as a reliable vote for the conservative side.  But on Thursday, he proved the old adage “that’s why they play the game” and gave life to the saying “you never know.”  His decision re-affirmed that the country’s highest court is independent and does not play by party lines.  Roberts channeled one of his idols – Charles Evan Hughes – a Republican who was Chief Justice during the FDR’s administration.  When Roosevelt clashed with the Supreme Court over the New Deal, Hughes prevented FDR from appointing additional justices (essentially FDR’s  “yes men”) that would push through all of his New Deal measures.  By doing so, he established the Supreme Court (with only 9 justices) as an independent institution.  The assumptions made about Roberts being a reliable conservative vote challenged the Court’s independence again and assumed that he would play politics.  But to the surprise of many, Obama included, Roberts proved that his sole duty was to decide the law, not to pick the political winners.  You never know exactly what is going to happen until it happens.

This is a landmark decision and probably the most important Supreme Court decision since the Bush/Gore decision in 2000.  Only time will tell how this decision plays out.  Romney has already come out and said that if he is elected he will work hard to repeal Obama-care – thus setting up a major debate topic during the upcoming campaigns.  Without getting too political, I don’t have any problem with the country guaranteeing that everyone will be eligible for the medical attention and resources that they need, regardless of pre-existing conditions.  I do understand that many conservatives benefit from the previous healthcare system, where Americans (or their employers) pay for their coverage individually instead of the government.  The Supreme Court categorized Obama’s Affordable Care Act as a tax and in order to have enough money to care for everyone, we are of course risking piling onto our country’s already unfathomable $15 trillion debt.  But, I believe the amount of people that Obama-care affects and will help outweighs the costs the government will have to incur and helps make America an even better place to live.

Mark Cuban puts Skip Bayless in his place

First Take on ESPN is something that I watch but am not proud of at all.  I can’t watch the show for more than 1 or 2 segments but I also can’t avoid stopping on the channel when I see it is on.  This is probably exactly what the show wants and it succeeds in its mission to draw ratings by being controversial and argumentative.  At times, I’m not sure whether I’m watching it to genuinely see what Skip Bayless thinks about the sports topic d’jour or if I just want to see how much I disagree with what smoke he is blowing up the viewers ass.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, took a shot at Bayless via twitter during Tuesday’s NBA Finals Game 4 between the Heat and Thunder.

Cuban answered the call on today’s show – the day after Skip’s biggest target Lebron James won his 1st NBA championship.  Skip is often fun to watch and sparks many different emotions spanning from “oh, that’s an interesting and valid point” to pure rage.  Today, Cuban put him in his place, calling Skip out for his generalities and lack of facts.

Cuban 1     Skip 0

I’m ready for Round 2.

Adam Corolla says women aren’t funny

Adam Corolla made it into the news this week by claiming that women aren’t funny.  For all we know, that could be the exact reason he made the comments in the first place because he hasn’t been in the news much recently for anything else.  Regardless, here’s the generalization that set Twitter ablaze with reactions and opinions:

“The reason why you know more funny dudes than funny chicks is that dudes are funnier than chicks… When you’re picking a basketball team, you’ll take the brother over the guy with the yarmulke. Why? Because you’re playing the odds. When it comes to comedy, of course there’s Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin—super-funny chicks. But if you’re playing the odds? No.”

He also continued about how female comedy writers are usually the least funny people in the room.  Some of my favorite comedians and show-runners are female – specifically Tina Fey.  The general consensus seems to be that Tina Fey is funny.  Whether people agree with Corolla or not regarding this debate, everyone feels the need to clarify that they think Tina Fey is hilarious – Corolla even does so himself.

It certainly feels like there are fewer female comedians than male comedians out there.  When you go to a random comedy club in New York City, it is 80% male comedians unless it is a special show featuring all female comedians.  I’m not sure if that has something to do with the opportunities available to female comedians or the career path of a comedian attracts more males than females.  Obviously both genders are possessive about holding the comedy crown so it’s not surprising that his comments sparked outrage.

Here are some of the witty responses to Corolla’s comments…

Sandusky Trial is Nauseating

The defense has rested its case and the articles chronicling the events of the courtroom will now cease – at least until a verdict is reached.  It was tough to read about some of the testimonies from the victims so I can’t even imagine what it was like inside the courtroom, hearing the accounts first-hand.

All you need to know about this trial to surmise the outcome is that the defense will not let Sandusky take the stand.  If he really didn’t commit these crimes, wouldn’t he be eager to prove his innocence to the world by speaking under oath?  The one time Sandusky did field direct questions regarding his alleged child sex abuse, he was obliterated by Bob Costas, who was simply direct and to the point with his questions.  The fact that the defense feels that Sandusky taking the stand will hurt him more than it will help him should be the tell-tale sign that he will be found guilty on the 51 counts and spend life in prison.

Rick Reilly wrote an article bringing up a valid point – Sandusky not taking a plea and forcing 8 of his 10 victims to testify, thus reliving everything right in front of him is another form of torture.  Isn’t is bad enough that he abused these kids in the first place?  Now they must go in the spotlight to make sure that the source of all of their pain is locked up for life.  Furthermore, to have 10 victims describing the same exact story proves the veracity of his crimes.  That’s not an isolated incident.  It hasn’t been fun reading about the trial. I will feel a sense of relief when a guilty verdict is read, but it will pale in comparison to the relief felt by the victims.

USGA Rules make no sense at all

Something pretty remarkable is happening on a golf course in San Francisco right now.  Beau Hossler, a 17-year old, braces wearing amateur, is 3 over par entering Sunday’s final round and tied for 8th place at the 112th U.S. Open.  Only 2 players are under par at what is historically the most challenging of the major championships.  Looking at the leader-board Sunday morning, Hossler’s name sits on top of names like Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson (the latter 2 failed to even make the cut).  And oh yeah, he’s beating 14-time major winner Tiger Woods too.  To say that the story line of Hossler fighting for a Top 10 finish or maybe even a Top 5 finish at the U.S Open is unexpected is an understatement.  But what should be a tremendous, life-changing day for the amateur is clouded by the fact that he can not receive what he earns because he is just that – an amateur.

The USGA does not allow amateurs to collect prize money earned during a tournament: “An amateur golfer may participate in a golf match, competition or exhibition where prize money or its equivalent is offered, provided that prior to participation he waives his right to accept prize money in that event.”

This year’s U.S. Open has a purse of $8,000,000, with the winner set to take home $1.4 million and the 10th place finisher becoming $185,086 richer.  Unfortunately, Hossler is eligible for none of it but that doesn’t make his story any less impressive or compelling.  I’m sure he will have plenty of time to earn money for what he does on a golf course and he will make a comfortable living do so, but the USGA  has to do something about this antiquated rule.  More than a century ago, amateurs may have been second class, but its 2012 and the nomenclature should not matter.  If a golfer qualifies for the Open and wins, they should get what they have earned, no matter whether he is in college or committed to play in college and not yet professional (like Hossler).  17-year olds are used to playing sports for fun, so the lack of monetary incentive shouldn’t deter him in his final 18 holes at Olympic.  I’m sure a top 10 finish in a major before graduating high school would be deserving of a little extra spending money from mom and dad.

Scott Van Pelt’s Late Night Sprint

I really enjoyed these tweets from Scott Van Pelt during Matt Cain’s perfect game.  He is in San Francisco to cover the U.S. Open Golf tournament which was set to begin bright and early the next day.  But like any sports fan, he started thinking about being a part of history.

Unfortunately, he got started a little late…

I love that a regular season game in June can get a sports anchor to full on sprint to the stadium to see something very special.  I love that he’s a sports anchor professionally but at that moment he was just another fan trying to witness a historic moment.  Finally, I love that the picture shows exactly how far he made it – close enough to hear the roar of the crowd, but not quite close enough to see it for himself.  Really great stuff.

Seeking an Explanation for the No-hitter phenomenon

After Matt Cain’s perfect game 2 nights ago, in which he struck out a career-high 14 hitters, the exceptional pitching in baseball jumped from a trend to the norm.  Something is happening, especially in the last 4 seasons where we have seen perfect games and no-hitters become less and less of an aberration.  Cain’s gem marked the 22nd perfect game in MLB history and the 5th since 2009.  That is not including the 28-out imperfect game with Armando Galarraga in 2010.  Of course the only thing that wasn’t perfect about that game was the umpire’s call on the final out.  Nevertheless, that means that about 23% of all perfect games in the last 140 years have occurred in the last 4 seasons.  For more perspective, there have been 21 official no-hitters since the start of the 2007.  That’s the same number of no-hitters in the previous 13 seasons.  There have already been 5 no-hitters (including the 2 perfect games) already this season.  An average MLB season sees 3 no-hitters – we’ve already seen almost double that and it’s not even July yet.  There was almost even a no-hitter on the same night as Cain’s perfect game but the league upheld the official scorer’s decision to give B.J. Upton a hit denying R.A. Dickey the Mets a 2nd no hitter in as many weeks.  So what is the reason for the proliferation of historic pitching performances in the past four seasons?

Logically, my first thought was that there must be better pitchers now than there were in the first 136 years of baseball history.  But that was quickly disproved after looking at the list of names who accomplished the feat…

2009

Ublado Jimenez, Mark Buehrle (perfect game), Jonathan Sanchez

2010

Dallas Braden (perfect game), Roy Halladay (perfect game), Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay (postseason no-hitter)

2011

Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander, Ervin Santana

2012

Philip Humber (perfect game), Jered Weaver, Johan Santana, Mariners (combined no-hitter), Matt Cain (perfect game)

While there are definitely names on this list that you would throw in with the all-time greats (Halladay, Verlander, J. Sanatana), there are also some names that will only be remembered because they threw a no-hitter.  Also there have always been great pitchers throughout history and it would be very hard to argue that the current crop of pitchers is superior to those that came before them.

Next, I thought maybe the hitting is sub-par.  Is there any trend developing with the team’s that are being no-hit?  Tampa Bay is the only team to repeat (3 times) on the list of teams that have been no-hit since 2009.  Cleveland would also have been included on that list if Galarraga’s perfect game was called correctly.  Of the 16 no-hitters in the last 4 seasons, 7 came against NL teams, while 9 came against AL teams.  3 no-hitters came against teams that would eventually make the playoffs that season, including one occurring in the postseason.  Furthermore, as a general trend in baseball, teams are scoring more runs than in seasons past.  Therefore, I don’t believe that sub-par hitting is causing this spike in superb pitching performances.

Steroids is always another variable to consider but both hitters and pitchers used PED’s and now hopefully the playing field has been leveled again with rampant drug testings.  Ballparks and fielding can also be playing a role in this phenomenon.  It seems as if there are more pitcher’s parks now and manager’s are beginning to conquer the fielding frontier – figuring out more effective ways to defend specific hitters with shifts.  I don’t think that any of those are enough to be solely responsible for the last 4 years.

Baseball is a numbers game with a plethora of statistics to try and explain what is happening and what should be happen.  Having said that, maybe there is no explanation for the recent pitching dominance.  Throughout baseball history, there have always been ebbs and flows and we search for answers to explain those changes.  Just like we do in life.  There is no explanation for some things and although there might be a unique explanation for this recent pitching dominance, I’m not sure it really matters what that is.  It was another great night in baseball 2 nights ago.  Cain’s perfect game was a joy to watch and it felt as if he would have had a harder time placing the ball on the corners than he did throwing it there.  Seeing so many no-hitter so fast is by no means diluting the experience for me.  I am really enjoying each dominant performance and get just as emotionally invested in the game each time it occurs.  I can’t think of a more dramatic half hour in sports than the final innings of a no-hitter or perfect game.  At this pace, 2012 might give 1884 a run for its money for most no-hitters in a season (8).

2 perfect games in the same season has only occurred 3 times in MLB history.  2012, 2010 and 1880.  That should be enough right there to realize how special the last couple of seasons have been.  So instead of continuing to search for an answer, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

We’re going to Mars

The plan is already in motion to have 4 people move to Mars for the rest of their lives, with 4 new people joining them every 2 years to eventually set up a colony on Mars.  That’s right, people will be picking up everything and moving to another planet, never to return.  According to Mars One, by 2023 there will be life on Mars – if there isn’t already.

Fresh off a 60 minutes story about SpaceX, a California based aerospace company, I’m very intrigued by this idea.  The government has made it clear that they are not going to finance any space missions in the near future so producing the next landmark space moment falls into the hands of the private sector.  This could be it and it has a very interesting/brilliant financing plan.  Mars One plans to produce the biggest media event in history.

It is a very different time than the 1969 when we landed on the moon.  Essentially setting up the Truman Show on Mars is such a great idea.  Who wouldn’t watch that and want to know what they are doing and what life is like on Mars?  With all of the technology available including live streaming and being able to communicate instantly, it is the perfect time to start life on a new planet.

I would not like to be one of these 4 people going on the maiden voyage.  Yeah, you gain immortal status as one of the people that moved to Mars, but it honestly sounds miserable.  You have a 7-month journey constricted to a very small space, then you have the rest of your life to start from scratch and live on a new planet.  Although Earth is over-populated and we’re using up our natural resources too fast, I’m not starting over.  Credit to the people who want to do this and help us get closer to figuring out what else is out there.  I’ll be following this plan very closely over the next decade.

Reflecting on Johan’s No No 3 Days Later

Three days after Johan Santana’s no hitter – the 1st in Mets history, I’m still smiling from ear to ear.  After allowing the events of Friday night to sink in and talking to fellow Mets fans, my initial suspicions were confirmed:  That was the most important game for this franchise and its fan base since 1986.  Obviously, the team finally accomplished something that it had never done before, which makes the game important and memorable but the Mets needed this right now.  There was no guarantee that the first no-hitter would happen any time in the near future, but it did.  Given the events of the last 5 seasons (falling short of the World Series followed by 2 late-season collapses, then failure to make the playoffs after assembling what was supposed to be a World Series contender, the team’s financial problems, losing it’s home grown talent, and extremely low expectations for 2012), the fan base needed and deserved Friday night – and I didn’t see it coming from a mile away.

It was almost cathartic.  The no-hitter exorcised the demons of the last 5 years and allowed Mets fan to turn over a new leaf.  No more no no-hitter jokes, only the memories of a great night.  Other serendipitous factors make the night even more special.  The fact that Johan Santana did it was fitting because he is the ace of the staff and he worked so hard to return from shoulder surgery.  The fact that it was against the Cardinals was fitting because they sparked this recent era of mediocrity when Adam Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran to win Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.  Adam Wainwright started on Friday night and Carlos Beltran is now a member of the Cardinals.  Before Wainwright locked down the save in 2006, Yadier Molina hit a 9th inning homerun to break 1-1 tie.  On Friday, Molina hit the fly ball to left in the 7th inning that Mike Baxter made the spectacular play on to preserve the no-hitter.  Finally, it happened at home and served as a reminder of how special baseball in Queens can be.  The fans cheered so loud on each strike in the 9th inning, you would have thought they just retired the side.

The team’s good start has been a nice surprise and there is no doubt that the Mets has been overachieving.  Friday can be a spark though which ignites this year’s team to do more than just overachieve.  Maybe it will set this team on a path where no one gave them a chance to be – the postseason.  The next man up (a common theme this year thanks to injuries) after Johan, R.A Dickey tossed a complete game shutout on Saturday.  After 2 straight games that the Mets held the league’s top offense to 0 runs, Jon Niese threw six scoreless innings yesterday and the Mets won 6-1.  Without getting too ahead of myself; it’s only the beginning of June and it’s a long season, but I can’t think of one good reason that the no-hitter doesn’t give the Mets the confidence to maintain it’s good start throughout the rest of the season.

Finally, Friday night was another example of what makes sports so great and why we watch.  The definition of a fan or being fanatical is to be obsessively concerned with something.  That doesn’t sound like a positive trait but when it comes to sports fandom, there is nothing negative about it.  Of course, ups and downs are a part of being a fan and investing everything you have in a team.  There are usually more downs than ups but moments like Friday night keep everyone coming back.  It was supposed to be a normal, rainy June night but instead it became the most memorable game of the last 25 years.  You never what is going to happen and sports never disappoints.  Every Mets fan will remember where they were on June 1, 2012 and who they called and how they celebrated.  Friday night the Mets played 1 regular season game of 162 this season and 8,020 up to that point in the franchise’s history but it turned into one that left it’s indelible mark in Mets history.

Where Do I Start?

Wow, what a night!  50 years and 8,019 regular season games in the making… The Mets have finally thrown a no-hitter.  You couldn’t have scripted any better – Johan Santana, our $137.5 million dollar ace, throws the franchise’s first no-hitter and he does it at Citi Field after missing all of last season while rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

That was an exhilarating, gut-wrenching and stressful 3 hours that ended in exuberance.  It felt like a heavyweight fight, dodging big blow after big blow, whether it was the blown call, Baxter’s catch, the 9th inning bloops that looked like for sure they were going to drop in for hits, Johan’s pitch count etc.  Finally we hung in the ring long enough for Johan to deliver the knockout blow and strike out the NLCS and World Series MVP with his signature change up.

After watching all of those ex-Mets throw no-hitters, and watching several Mets take no-hitters into the 8th and 9th innings only to lose them, I am still in shock and almost don’t believe it actually happened.  But not only did it happen, it happened against the defending World Champs and the best offense in the National League.

By the 6th inning, it became clear that not only Johan had a chance to do something very special but that there a dilemma brewing from Johan’s pitch count.  He had 93 pitches after 6 innings and in the pre-game interviews, Terry Collins said Johan was good for about 115 pitches.  Clearly he would need more than that to complete a no-hitter.  The club is being careful with his pitch count (rightfully so) since he had only started 10 games after having shoulder surgery.  Terry didn’t look happy about it but there was no way he was going to take Johan out of this game until he gave up a hit or completed the no-hitter.  I also don’t think Santana would have come out even it Terry had decided to make the move.  He ended up with 134 pitches but it wouldn’t have mattered if needed 200 pitches, Johan was going to be in until the end.

There was a controversial (if not just blatantly wrong) call on a ball hit down the left field line by ex-Met Carlos Beltran.  It definitely was fair but the ump called it foul and that’s all that matters.  There are definitely no asterisks in my mind and in the inverse of what happened to Armando Galarraga last season, an umpire’s call went our way to preserve history instead of deny it.  I also couldn’t help thinking that if Yadier Molina makes it to the plate with 2 out in the 9th, there was a 100% chance he breaks up the no-hitter.  Good thing Johan got Freese to end it because I don’t know if Mets fans can stomach another blow from Molina.

Mike Baxter, one of many Buffalo Bison who continue to step up this season, made a spectacular play in left field.  There is always one amazing defensive play in every no-hitter or perfect game, after which you say to yourself “Alright, maybe this is meant to be.”  He went all out to make that catch slamming his shoulder square into the wall.  It was definitely the most memorable left field grab in Citi Field and would have been the greatest left field catch in Mets history if it wasn’t for Endy Chavez robbing a HR against the Cards in the ’06 NLCS.

Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez were fantastic.  As was Howie Rose and his radio call – “Put in the books, the history books!”  Tremendous.  They all were emotional and you can see during the post-game how much it meant to Gary.  He felt exactly how every other Met fan felt and vocalized it perfectly.  It’s one of the shining moments in franchise history and the broadcasters lived up to the moment.  I know we will be hearing those calls for years to come.

Citi Field was electric all night – it was without a doubt the most juiced that building has even been.  One fan even ran onto the field immediately following the final out and jumped into the team huddle while they were celebrating with Johan.  The fan was wearing a Gary Carter jersey and his jersey blended in perfectly with the other pinstripes.  Running onto the field at any time is reprehensible (although often entertaining) but whenever that final out and ensuing celebration is replayed, it will look like Gary Carter is in there celebrating with everyone.  Given his courageous battle with cancer and his place in Mets history, I can’t help but think that it is fitting that “The Kid” somehow be a part of last night – even if it comes from a fan making a child-like impulse decision to run onto the field.

Johan is a class act and he couldn’t stop thanking everyone.  He constantly referred to the no-hitter as something “we” accomplished and for a clubhouse that has had excellent camaraderie all season, being a part of last night will only bring them closer together.  Johan will go down in Mets history, just as June 1, 2012  will go down in history, just as Baxter’s catch, the ump’s call and the fan who ran onto the field will go down in history.  It all happened and I’ll never forget it.