Takeaways from Monday Night and the end of the replacement ref era

The end of Monday’s Packers/Seahawks game was unlike anything I had ever seen in sports.  Aside from being a great finish, it was everyone’s biggest fear with the replacement refs coming to a head.  It also yielded 2 of the most must-see sports hours in recent memory.  Sportscenter received a 4.5 rating (it’s highest rating in 17 years) at midnight on a Monday night and they only talked about one play.  Everyone craved post game comments, reaction and needed to share in the unbelievable finish that had just occurred.  It also really felt like anything could be said by the players after that game.

Twitter was an entirely different outlet that became must-see in the 2 hours following the outcome of the game.  I watched the game by myself, but after reading twitter, I had already heard the opinions of an entire nation.  From bad gambling beats to snarky replacement refs jokes to clever memes and images that summed up the evening’s events.

The replacement era was a disaster and although they were doing the best they could, it was not good enough.  The league was going down a bad path – an unsustainable path that was doing the impossible and making the NFL not that fun to watch.  Everything was exposed Monday night (also on Sunday night as some questionable calls prompted the loudest “bullshit” chants I’ve ever heard) and the problem needed to be solved immediately.

I will miss the replacement ref era because it was entertaining but I’m also grateful that the games will be back to normal and the outcomes will be decided by the players.  The chaos surrounding the replacement refs and the clear lack of control they had on the field did make the NFL feel like the WWE or possibly what Vince McMahon envisioned for the XFL – and that was entertaining.   In the end though, I’d rather be entertained by the players and outcomes of games and not by the refs. This week when I watch football, for a second or two, I will miss the “on-edge, anything can happen” feeling the replacement refs brought.  Then when I see the games back under control and players focused solely on their responsibilities, I’ll remember what makes the NFL so great in the first place.

Re-living the Greatest Night in Baseball History

I have only seen 23 years of baseball and I have a conscious memory of about 15 years of baseball.  Without a doubt, that is a small fraction of baseball’s history but for me September 28th, 2011 was the greatest night in baseball history.  Within minutes fortunes changed drastically thanks to dramatic comebacks that capped off not one but two historic collapses a month in the making.  You literally could not write a better movie script than what actually played out that night and if you did script those events, everyone would say it was too unbelievable and unrealistic.

The video above only tells half the story too.  That’s how great that night was – that video only covers the AL Wild Card. The Braves All-star rookie closer Craig Kimbrel also blew a save at almost exactly the same time as the drama was unfolding in Baltimore and Tampa.  This allowed St. Louis, who had shut out Houston that night, to earn the NL Wild Card.  Fittingly, the Cardinals would go on to win the World Series.

Great sports moments are immediately given names so that they can be identified and referenced quickly in conversation.  That night quickly became known as Wild Card Wednesday or simply Game 162.  I still get goosebumps watching what played out that night.  Funny that the greatest baseball night I ever witnessed had nothing to do with my favorite team the Mets (they haven’t won a World Series in my lifetime so of course that might upstage Wild Card Wednesday).  It was everything that is great about baseball summed up in 15 minutes of real-time madness.  Check out the reactions of former players when the games were coming down to the wire.

That is exactly how every baseball fan reacted that night.  Baseball isn’t exciting from start to finish.  Excitement builds throughout the game and sometimes it culminates in the most unlikely of outcomes.  A 6-month long season came down to one inning and it was a perfect reminder of why we love sports and why we love baseball.  I don’t know if there will ever be another night like September 28, 2011.  With the addition of the 2nd Wild Cards, maybe there will be another dramatic finish or two.  For my money though, Game 162 or Wild Card Wednesday or whatever you want to call it will go down as the greatest night in baseball history.

Giants Return to Form with Dominant Win

That’s how it’s done.  2 games in 4 days and next thing you know we’re 2-1 and a force to be reckoned with again in the NFC.  In their 2nd nationally televised game of the season, the Giants played one of the best all-around games from start to finish in recent memory.

6 months from now when we are looking back on this season wondering where we established our identity that led us deep into the playoffs (hopefully), I think we will be looking at this Week 3 win over Carolina.  There were lots of questions and concerns going into this game including working on a short with week with injuries to key offensive players (Bradshaw, Nicks and Diehl), the Giants porous secondary and recent trouble containing mobile QBs to name a few.  None of that mattered though, as the Giants came out and dominated the game from the opening kick off.

The opening drive was impressive capped off by Eli’s  pin point TD throw to Bennett.  It continued from there with breakout games for back-ups Andre Brown and Ramses Barden.  Eli managed the game brilliantly and helped the offense score a TD or FG on 9 straight possessions over a 2-game span (last 5 of TB game and first 4 of CAR game).  The defense stepped up big time and proved that it is better than what it displayed in the 1st 2 weeks of the season.  3 INT and the defensive line was back with lots of pressure to help the D completely shut down Cam Newton.  It was an outstanding overall team effort.

When a team succeeds, it’s on-the-field leader deserves recognition.  I have been saying this for a while but I would take Eli over any other quarterback in the league right now.  It’s not always pretty but he gets it done – all the time and it’s not a coincidence.  It is becoming funny to watch every talking head belittle Eli’s accomplishments by saying he was lucky or the secondary he faced had an off day.  He is well-prepared, can work with anyone whether it’s starters or back-ups and everyone trusts him to succeed.  Eli’s a leader and he might be the best one in the NFL right now.

It’s no fluke that the team would play it’s best game of the season missing it’s starting running back, wide receiver and veteran offensive lineman.  When Kevin Boss and Steve Smith left last season, Eli made stars out of Nicks and Cruz.  When Nicks goes down this season, he makes stars out of Barden and Randle.  The Giants have talented receivers and credit to Jerry Reese for having a deep roster that can overcome injuries, but none of that happens without Eli.  He’s the glue and he’s also the reason we won 2 of the last 5 Super Bowls.

As long as we have Eli and the team believes in him, there’s no reason to believe the Giants won’t be playing in the 2nd season.  Big game next week against Philly but in the mean time, we can sit back, stress-free and watch everyone else on Sunday.  Let’s go GMEN.

Check out this trailer

I’m very excited for this movie.  Chadwick Boseman (who played Ernie Davis in The Express) will play Jackie Robinson and that trailer definitely gets you pumped.  As a baseball fan, I hope this movie is great because it is tackling such a historic moment in the game’s and American history.

It’s well-documented what Robinson went through while breaking the color barrier but it’s been so long since it happened that there are few baseball fans alive today who witnessed it first-hand.  If this movie is done right, it will be an eye-opening look at what a hero Jackie Robinson was and show the hardships he faced in order to pave the way for today’s stars of varying races and ethnicities.

Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard” was the perfect song for the trailer too.  Warner Brothers got it right with “Moneyball” and I trust they will do it again with “42.”  Unfortunately, we have to wait until next baseball season for it to come out.  On the bright side, April will not only bring a new baseball season but also a good movie to help ring in Opening Day.

Apple has us all in the palm of its hand

It’s truly amazing what Apple has been able to accomplish over the past decade.  In any company’s growth model, the growth rate must decline otherwise the company will approach infinite value over time.  Apple might be exception to that rule as it continues doing the impossible by getting more valuable over time.

I can’t think of a company or product in any business sector that has more buildup and anticipation than Apple’s latest iPhone and iPad.  Every time they release a new version, the entire world stops what they’re doing and gushes over it.  It literally turns people into babbling idiots and liars as you can see in the video.

This video is hilarious but I couldn’t help thinking about how it is also a comment on our iPhone-addicted, Apple-obsessed culture.  I’m just as guilty as everyone – I have an iPhone and I’m genuinely excited for the new iPhone to come out.  I just wish I wasn’t.  It’s a credit to Apple for making a superior product and marketing it in such a brilliant way that people crave it – like it were a food or any other life-essential necessity.

Clearly, a lot of what we like about the new products is in our heads.  Apple has us brainwashed, so much so that when it releases the new iPhone, it will increase the U.S. GDP.  That’s right, one product will affect the entire country’s gross domestic product.  I would hope that if someone handed me an iPhone 4s and told me it was the new iPhone 5, I would say it looks and acts a lot like the old one.  But I probably wouldn’t because of the excitement of holding what I thought was Apple’s latest product.  At least Apple’s control over us elicits funny videos like this one, that reminds us that people are gullible and Apple has us in the palm of its hand.

Francesa Falls Asleep on the air

When you’re on the air for 25 hours a week, sometimes you have to take a snooze on company time.  This is what happens you give one guy a show for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

This is absolutely priceless and I love how when he wakes up, he’s not even sure if Sweeney is still on or if it is a caller.  The Yankees have been struggling recently, but Mike is literally sleeping on the Yankees.  Talk about mailing it in.  I can’t say I haven’t dozed off in class and had the same look when you wake up and realize you just were just snoozing, but falling asleep on the air is in a completely different league.

Whether he’s going on a rant about the Mets or falling asleep on the air, Francesa is must-see and must-listen radio every day.

Images from September 11, 2012 – 11 years later

 

 

 

September 11th is always a very sad day that makes you stop and appreciate everything that you have.  We can never forget the victims and it is vital that we pass along the history of the day as the years pass.

I appreciate the palpable sense of community on September 11th that reminds everyone that we are all in it together.  Yesterday made me proud to be an American and a New Yorker. #WeRemember

History at the U.S. Open

Yesterday, the U.S. Open men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray summed up everything that I love about the U.S. Open.  The 4 hour and 53 minute battle was a classic that not only tested the finalists’ physical limits but their willpower as well.  They fought through high winds and put on an epic display of tennis that will not be soon forgotten.

Murray was carrying the weight of a nation on his back, in search of the 1st major victory for a British player since 1936.  Djokovic was trying to earn his 2nd major of the year and reestablish himself as the dominant figure in the sport.  Compelling enough as it was, but add the fact that the two were born 7 days apart in 1987 and have competed against each other since they were 11 years old.  Not to mention, they had already played an epic 5-set match earlier this season in the Austrailian semis – with Djokovic coming out on top.  A thrilling, drama-filled and exhausting 5-setter was gravy and only makes the story even more amazing.

The final was being played on a Monday for the 5th straight year due to the tournament being delayed by weather.  The 4 PM start time rendered Arthur Ashe relatively empty when the match began.  By the time the match reached a 1st set tiebreak, the seats filled up and it became clear that this final was going to be a classic.  Both players are so fun to watch because of their court coverage and quickness.  There was plenty of both of those on display throughout the match as points were often decided after 15-20+ rallies.  Neither player was willing to budge, battling the elements and of course each other.    Finally, Murray edged out Djokovic 12-10 in the tiebreak to take the 1st set.

The 2nd set was more Murray and he was able to hold off a Djokovic charge to secure a 2-set lead.  Murray said through tears after losing in the Wimbledon final this year that “he was getting closer.”  Now he was the closest he’d ever been – up 2 sets and just 6 games away from his 1st career major title. Possibly the gravity of the situation got to Murray a little, or Djokovic turned it up a notch, or maybe it was a combination of both.  But Djokovic cruised through the next 2 sets and evened up the match at 2 sets apiece.  Novak has always been the ultimate competitor and I don’t think anyone in the audience or watching at home expected him to rollover after falling behind 2 sets.

After 4 hours of tennis, it was all tied and the huge advantage Murray held evaporated.  He had to have been feeling the pressure and realized that his best chance at a major was slipping through his fingertips.  Murray didn’t show any signs of that being true though and he came out and broke Djokovic’s serve in the first game of the 5th set.  Murray had the upperhand after that and the crowd was behind him.

As the 5th set progressed, surprisingly it was Murray, with drastically improved fitness, who outlasted Djokovic instead of vice versa.  Novak began dealing with a groin cramp late in the match and it might not have decided the match but it definitely curtailed any comeback he could muster after Murray got the early 5th set advantage.

Murray didn’t take his foot off the gas, and by the time Djokovic’s ball flew long on match point, you could feel the weight-lifted off his shoulders.  He always said he enjoyed playing in New York and if Monday’s crowd was any indication, New York was happy to have Murray’s first grand slam come at the U.S. Open.

It was a sensational tennis season, with 4 different men winning each major.  It was also a memorable U.S. Open that saw the rise of a couple of stars after the usual suspects exited earlier than normal.  It should be a very interesting upcoming year in tennis with Nadal’s health in question, Federer continuing to age and Djokovic and Murray appearing to establish themselves as the next Federer-Nadal like rivalry.  Don’t discount the likes of  Ferrer and Tipsarevic either, who both had strong showings at this year’s U.S. Open.

Congrats to Murray and congrats to Great Britain.  First the Olympics and now a victory at a major has changed the script.  Murray will now be as revered as Fred Perry, instead of being the next Brit in line to try and match his accomplishments.  Only Murray and his recently hired coach Ivan Lendl had lost their first 4 grand slam finals.  Lendl would go on to appear in 8 straight U.S. Open finals and now with Lendl’s guidance, Murray seems poised for a similar stretch of great tennis.  He has proven his name belongs up there with the current Big 3 – perhaps now it is even the Big 4 of men’s tennis.

A Disappointing Opening Night

To say that I was pumped up for the NFL Kickoff last night would be an understatement. Wednesday crawled along until finally it was 8:30 pm and we were ready to kick off. Having football back was fantastic and it was especially great because it came with the knowledge that there will be football to watch every week until February. I just wish Wednesday’s opener had a different outcome.

This game was crucially important to the Cowboys franchise. Jerry Jones even said so himself. The Giants had owned the Cowboys of late and this was the ‘Boys chance to get revenge on a national stage. While this game was important to the Giants, it was not our Super Bowl like it seemed to be for the Cowboys. We played and won 2 of those in the last 5 years.

With that being said, the Giants missed out a number of opportunities. The fumble by the rookie Wilson and having to settle for 3 after returning a Romo interception to the Cowboys 2 yard line hurt. It also didn’t help when Cruz was held in the end zone and we did not get the call. This ended up being the turning point in the game. All of the sudden our defense could not stop Romo and Murray. Our pass rush disapperared, which was surprising against a makeshift and unproven Cowboys offensive line. I did see a lot of holding going on, as Giants players noted after the game. (Kiwanuka even said he was held more during the game than he was as a baby. Zing!) There was holding on both sides of the ball though and it’s no excuse. The replacement refs missed a few calls but they did not do a bad job and they are not the reason the Giants lost. In the 2nd half, Murray was rushing for about 6 yards every carry. Romo played a great game, successfully checking off at the line a handful of times. The Giants were never able to establish the run and our secondary did not impress. They are banged up and we need to sure up the holes in it immediately.

Even with all of those errors, it still came down to the wire. The Giants needed a stop on a 3rd and 11 to get the ball back to Eli with 2 minutes left down 7. Romo hit Ogletree who beat 5th string cornerback Justin Tryon and the game was over. I was sure that Eli would lead the game-tying touchdown drive if the D got the ball back. That’s his specialty and we did it against the Cowboys last season. It would have been horribly deflating, possibly season-changing had the Giants done it again to Dallas. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and the Cowboys did what they needed to do to secure the win.

It was a deflating, frustrating, disappointing and humbling loss. It sucks that the Giants were the first team to lose the Week 1 NFL Kickoff after winning the Superbowl since it started 8 years ago. It sucks that we’re 0-1 and don’t play again for 11 days. It sucks that we lost to the Cowboys, our division rival. It sucks that Jerry Jones feel vindicated.  Here’s everything you need to know about Jerry Jones:  He has someone clean his glasses for him…

The Cowboys additions in the secondary did make a difference but not so much to the point where I don’t think Eli can still tear apart Rob Ryan’s defense.  Our offensive line needs to do a better job of giving Eli more time and our receivers (specifically Cruz who admitted he needs to play better than he did on Wednesday) can not drop balls like they did.  There were plays where Cruz, Hixon and Nicks had Carr and Claibourne beat by a couple of steps.  When we see the Cowboys again on week 8, I will not be worried about our ability to move the ball on their defense.

Overall, this was a humbling loss because the Giants spoiled me as a fan. They won the final six games of last season (Jets and Cowboys in regular season to ensure a playoff spot then Falcons, Packers, Niners and Patriots to earn the franchises’ 4th Super Bowl). I forgot what this feeling is like – losing. It didn’t go our way this time and it was a reminder that it doesn’t all come easy. We were spoiled as fans, at least I was, and our next victory will be that much sweeter now that I have been reminded of that feeling of defeat. Every game in the NFL is so important, especially division games so the Giants definitely put themselves in a little hole here with this week 1 loss. It’s a long season and there’s a lot of football left to be played. I can’t wait to play the Cowboys again. Let’s put this one behind us, learn from it, and focus our energy on beating Tampa next Sunday. #buildthebridge

Game Day

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Get upppp!  It’s gameday!  The quest to repeat starts tonight.  Let’s raise that Super Bowl banner while the Cowboys watch and start this season off right. Lets go GMEN!