A Momentary Lapse Of Season

Miami Dolphins

We learned something about ourselves inside that darkest of nights. We learned that the cause was not lost, and that it hadn’t even been missing. And once seen, it could not be unseen. It possessed us with a most magical ability. We believed in tomorrow . . .

What a difference two months makes.

Exactly two months ago in this very spot, I penned a bad romance of a love letter to my favorite team in the world, the Miami Dolphins. There was no need to read between the lines since I was as brutally honest as a Jim Bob Duggar paternity test. The Dolphins were all set to rewrite history . . in crayon, and the only reason I wasn’t doing somersaults is because I am on a strict somersault diet. But I was all chips in on a losing hand because I was under the impression that less would equal more in the long run.

A funny thing happened on the way to NFL ignominy. The Dolphins stopped sucking.

By winning their third game of the season, the Dolphins would basically have to get Tony Soprano to serve as their draft point man in order to score a top three pick right now. Say adios to quarterback Joe Burrow and defensive end Chase Young- the top studs at their respective positions. A couple more wins and not even Tony Soprano will be able to un-fuck the situation.

And guess what? I’m kinda loving the zeitgeist of these formative moments that are busy trashing the temporal sensibilities- like standings and draft positioning. Because what Brian Flores is coaching up in South Beach is a bulldog mentality that doesn’t give a blessed fuck about gutted rosters and tank jobs.

Because maybe all this worrying I was doing about getting a top name in the NFL draft was for naught. Maybe it doesn’t matter one little bit whether we draft first or fifth . . or wherever. Maybe what matters more than that is what’s going on, right now. What Brian Flores is doing with the skeleton crew of a band that started the season 0-7 but has gone 3-2 since. He isn’t winning coach of the year, but he’s damn worthy of getting someone’s vote, out of principle. It would be a fitting apology, after Flores got trashed for presiding over what many sportswriters were calling the biggest sporting abomination of all time. Which is hyperbole at its most hypocritical when you consider all the real world shit the sports world has thrown at us.

This might sound strange, but this team is the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. Because that country club mentality which had worked its insidious vines into the heart and soul of a franchise for the better part of two decades is withering just a little bit. It’s by no means dead and gone, but it’s no longer being allowed to retrench itself. Because maybe they’re figuring out that most prized possession of all; more vital than a blue ribbon prize in the NFL meat market. Maybe they’re figuring out a culture that transcends big names and splashy acquisitions.

Ask the Steelers what culture means, because they pretty much wrote the book on it. They lost their star quarterback, running back and wide receiver in one calendar year and yet they’re standing at 7-5 after beating the Browns today. The Steelers have had three head coaches in the past fifty years. In that same span of time, there have been five Popes. Enough said.

And look at those Browns, with all their big name talent- including quarterback Baker Mayfield, who oh by the way . . was the first pick in the draft a couple years ago- who are busy making vacation plans for January after falling to 5-7.  If ever there was a cautionary tale when it comes to falling in love with top picks and big names? They are it.

If I had to choose one word for this season, it would be perspective.

Lamar Jackson beat the stuffing out of us in the opener, but he’s done that to a lot of really good teams since. And it’s worth noting that thirty teams overlooked him in the draft. And okay, putting up a thirty seven burger on this Eagles team isn’t nearly as impressive as it might have seemed back when everyone- including yours truly- was penciling them in as a playoff team. But it still counts.

And so what if they’re not the worst team of all time, destined to take home the top prize for their futile efforts? And so what if they’re light years away from having a legitimate shot at knocking off guys like Mahomes and Jackson? All that really matters is their allergy to the canvas, because they refuse to lay down on it. And it’s not much, not really.

Not yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NFL Double Issue Edition!

 

Football Players in Action

The NFL season is more than halfway cooked and the more things change, the more the Patriots still look like the favorites to fuck up a lot of Super Bowl parties come January. I mean, does anybody else see the irony here? A league that prides itself on parity has the most prolonged dynasty in sports history.

Despite the specter of that long national football nightmare moving into yet another decade, it’s been a fairly entertaining NFL season to this point. The Cleveland Browns are winning . . on TMZ.  The Oakland Raiders are actually winning on the field. The Titans, Seahawks, Steelers, Colts, Panthers and Lions have been plucky. The Packers, Cowboys, Eagles and Bills have been lucky. And the Jets? Still suck.

If sports ain’t your thing, here’s an alphabetized list of teams complete with a cocktail party anecdote or observation for each. You’re uh . . welcome?

Arizona Cardinals- Investing in semiconductors is the same difference.
Atlanta Falcons- There is a Chick-fil-A in Mercedes Benz Stadium. Chicken Jesus doesn’t do business on Sundays, and this year? Neither do the Falcons.
Baltimore Ravens- Lamar Jackson is to quarterbacking what Jimi Hendrix was to acoustic guitars.
Buffalo Bills- The fan base is known as “Bills Mafia”. They guzzle beer, smash tables and have a guy named Pinto Ron who has a condiment fetish.

Because . . sports fans!

Carolina Panthers- The peeps in South Carolina take great pride in the fact that the Panthers play in North Carolina.
Chicago Bears- True story. Bears fans traveled to Nashville once, and drank the town dry.
Cincinnati Bengals- If Kandahar ever gets an NFL team, they’re perfect.
Cleveland Browns- The NFL version of Apple TV’s “Morning Show”- flashy, big name cast with little payoff.
Dallas Cowboys- Sugar Daddy Jerry Jones, built them a $1.2 billion dollar crib (Arlington taxpayers forked over $325 million). The Boys have a grand total of three playoff wins there since 2009. Only Congress offers up a weaker bang for the buck.
Denver Broncos- Unless you live in Colorado, the Denver Broncos will never come up in casual conversation. If you live in Colorado, just use lots of four letter words.
Detroit Lions- Motown legend Marvin Gaye once tried out for the team.
Green Bay Packers- They are the only publicly owned franchise in the league.
Houston Texans- They became only the second expansion team ever to win their first game when they defeated the Cowboys in September of 2002. It remains the high point.
Indianapolis Colts- In 1983, the franchise packed their shit on Mayflower vans and left Baltimore in the middle of the night. It doesn’t get any more Paul Simon than that.

Jacksonville Jaguars- Like the car, they’re expensive and rarely worth it.
Kansas City Chiefs- They have more offensive weapons than the US Army and a weaker defense than the French Army.
Los Angeles Chargers- Most peeps don’t realize they left San Diego. And most of those peeps live in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Rams- Warren Beatty remains the coolest player to ever don a Rams uniform. And I know it was a movie, but it still counts.
Miami Dolphins- They’re not the worst team in football.
Minnesota Vikings- Unless you live in Minnesota, the Vikings will never come up in casual conversation. If you live in Minnesota, just bring the sausages, cheese curds and beer. 
New England Patriots-
 Before the Russians started rigging elections, they re-calibrated a middling football coach named Belichick and created a cyborg named Brady. The idea was to create a hatred of the red, white and blue. Those Russians are crafty.
New Orleans Saints- Charlton Heston starred as an aging Saints player in the film Number One. 
New York Giants- 
Jimmy Hoffa wouldn’t be caught dead in the Giants end zone.
New York Jets- Haven’t appeared in a Super Bowl since Joe Namath was wearing pantyhose on purpose.
Oakland Raiders- Will relocate to Las Vegas next year . .  move back to Oakland in 2030 . . relocate to Germany in 2035 . . . move back to Oakland in 2042 . . . relocate to Mars in 2050!
Philadelphia Eagles- Their former digs- Veterans Stadium- housed jail cells. And if you ever attended a game there, you understand why.
Pittsburgh Steelers- They haven’t returned to the Super Bowl since Bane blew up their fictional stadium in Dark Knight Rises. Not a coincidence.
San Francisco Forty 49ers- Joe Montana was chosen with the 82nd pick of the 1979 NFL draft. It worked out alright.
Seattle Seahawks- They aren’t the first pro football team to go by the name Seahawks. That would have been the Miami Seahawks, who did their business back in the ’40s.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- See my suggestions for Broncos and Vikings. After which, feel free to mix and match.
Tennessee Titans- The designers of their uniforms imagined Masters of the Universe having sex with Ross Department Store.
Washington Redskins- No team matches its locale so perfectly. They’re corrupt, inept and divisive as fuck. 

As for the NFL season, there’s still time for the resistance to thwart the Evil Empire. And if Sam Rothstein were to ask me for a top ten best bets to take down Darth Vader Inc., Imma go with these . . .

1- Ravens: They kicked the shit out of New England last week so they get the top spot.
2- Chiefs: They’ve got Patrick Mahomes.
3- Packers: They’ve got Aaron Rodgers.
4- Seahawks: They shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, but they’re doing it anyway.
5- Texans: They’ve got Deshawn Watson.
6- Eagles: Because they kicked the shit out of New England in the Super Bowl . . what, five minutes ago? It seems like it. And I still love Carson Wentz, even if I think he’s got to step up big time.
7- Browns: There’s a better chance Drew Carey plays center for the Cavaliers and leads them to the playoffs, but hey . . this is a top ten and I need warm bodies.
8- Cowboys: Yes, I put them below the Browns because they piss me off and I’m not even a fan. All that talent and they can’t beat Kirk Fucking Cousins . . at home?
9- Raiders: Because Jon Gruden deserves some props from those clowns (me) who said he was a mistake. His Raiders play hard, they came together after the Antonio Brown debacle and they’re fun as hell to watch. And while I really don’t think they’ve got a chance to sustain over the rest of the season . . who wouldn’t want to see Gruden and the Raiders back in New England in January? Almost twenty years hence from the “Tuck Rule” game that began the Patriots dynasty.
10- Dolphins- Again, this is a top ten list and since I can only come up with a legitimately serious top fourish, why not Miami to put a cap on it? Because I believe they have as much a chance to win it all as the Vikings and Bills. And that might be none at all, but that just makes it equal. And I cannot and will not include the Saints on any list after how they carried on after the NFC title game last year. The same franchise that brought us Bounty Gate . . . railing on about a bad call? Nope.

Up until a couple weeks ago, Miami was destined to go down as the worst pro football team of all time. I even wrote about it, somewhat excitedly at that. Because I wasn’t so much interested in the ignominy of a possible 0-16 season, as in the idea that my team actually had a brain trust in place that wasn’t an oxymoron.

History is toast now that the Dolphins are on an actual winning streak. And maybe we blew our chance to score Joe Burrow in the draft- a kid who happens to be the latest QB du jour. And I don’t care right now, because all I know is that Brian Flores has a gutted roster playing as if it’s the Super Bowl. So let the Jets and Skins, the Bengals and maybe even the Falcons dog it out for the top spots in the draft. Because maybe my team has something they don’t have.

A plan.

 

 

 

 

 

The Audacity Of Nope

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys

If you haven’t watched the Miami Dolphins play football this season, it’s perfectly understandable because well . . . . nobody has. Four games into the 2019 season, they’ve already been mathematically eliminated from postseason play. Their record stands at 0-4, which is bad. They made the plenty good but certainly not great Baltimore Ravens look like Joe Montana’s ring bearing 49ers teams, which is worse. And in their four losses, they’ve been outscored 163-26. Which is history’s way of saying “Are you fucking kidding me?”.

In case you were wondering, and I’m not sure why you would be wondering, but okay . . . the Dolphins point differential through the first four games of the season is the worst in NFL history. If you’re playing along at home, the league was born during the W administration, as in Woodrow. Wilson. Which means that when teams were playing football with cinder-blocks and no helmet whilst their head coaches pointed a gun at ’em for motivation, the worst team was still coming up bigger than these Fins.

So yeah, my boys are a lost cause on the level of a pair of Isotoners gifted to Johnny Cochrane. And you know what? That is plenty fine with me, because as Jimmy Stewart is my witness, lost causes really are the only ones worth fighting for in this world. And don’t take my word for it, here’s Jimmy to provide . . .

Alls I know is, my Dolphins are relevant for the first time since Dick Cheney’s twenty eighth heart attack (That would be 2008). It would be the last time a team from the AFC East not named the New England Patriots won the division. Since then, my team has gone through ten quarterbacks, six head coaches and a handful of uniform changes.

Fast forward to present day and the Dolphins are relevant again. Problem is, it’s in the same way a Trump tweet or Ebola is relevant. Because once the shit gets loosed into our cranium or bloodstream, all manner of zombie apocalypse prevails. And the Dolphins are fifty three dead men walking . . no, marching. Loudly. Right onto the four lane highway those horsemen from the law firm Pestilence, War, Famine and Death are busy crunching their radials on whilst blue-tooth deep in negotiations with God and Lucifer.

Pro football experts are shouting mighty daggers into the Dolphins organization for tanking a season so obviously. Welp, I guess these geniuses didn’t watch the final season of Game of Thrones. Because those fuckers had WAY more talent and money going on than the Dolphins do.

And yes, the results are uglier than Gordon Ramsey in traffic. But it’s not like it ain’t been done before. Once upon a time, teams like the Cubs and Astros gutted their roster and started from the bottom. And it paid off with titles in both instances. In basketball, the 76ers took half a decade off during “The Process” in order to compile high draft picks in the hopes of fielding a winning team and now they’re one of the favorites to win it all. And the Browns transformed losing into the kind of art form that would’ve inspired Andy Warhol to buy them. And while they ain’t won jack yet, their team is interesting as hell with a punchers chance to do some real damage this season.

Optically, the dynamic blows. Because to charge major league money to the fans whilst rolling out a minor league product is certainly not good business practice. Last week’s game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami was played to a half empty stadium, which shocked the hell out of me because I was wondering what in the hell was wrong with the half that showed up.

So the Dolphins will take a hit- both in the sports columns and in their bottom line. And it’s the latter that will keep this tanking expedition from going on indefinitely, because billionaires like Stephen Ross ain’t made their money by mistake. I figure a year, maybe two of really putrid football will result in enough draft pick sustenance to build a solid foundation. And yes they have to hit on their picks, as well as be smart with the free agent acquisitions, but to my way of thinking, it’s a chance worth taking.

I’ll take breaking bad over plain old mediocre every day of the week and for sixty minutes every Sunday. Because over the last eight seasons, the Dolphins are 66-66 with exactly nothing to show for it. There is nothing worse than mediocrity, and that includes a possible 0-16 campaign.

I’m done with asshats like Jeff Ireland running things into the ground and then skipping town for greener pastures. I’m sick and tired of clowns like Jay Cutler receiving a ten million dollar retirement package to achieve absolutely nothing. And I absolutely cannot stand the country club atmosphere that has held sway over the organization since Dan Marino stopped throwing footballs in anger.

Several weeks ago, when it became clear that the Dolphins mission was to suck balls, several prominent Dolphins players got on the phone with their agents and told them they wanted out. And that’s when I realized something was very different about the current brain trust. Because instead of sweet talking these guys back with drinks at the Clevelander and a cushy bonus . . they traded them. The message was clear as day.

You’re in or you’re out. No more in the middle.

It’s uncomfortable sure, but that signals growth. Change. Difference. And I could kiss Brian Flores and Chris Grier for having the cojones to undertake a strategy that might end up costing them their jobs. I hope it doesn’t, because they’re good football men who give a damn and I want to see them hoisting some hardware for all the shit they’re gonna be put through.

If things work out, the Dolphins’s fortunes should start looking up right around the time Tom Brady and the Patriots are decommissioned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And so I’m rooting for my lost cause of a football team . . to suck mightily. For now. Because I’m done with the middle. In an all or nothing NFL world, I’m willing to take the latter for now. Because it’s a chance, which is something we haven’t had since Bill Clinton was installing a strippers pole in the Oval Office. And if this tanking strategy doesn’t work, the Dolphins can always dial up Pat Riley, who’ll be cooling his heels in retirement down in the Keys by then. And so what if he doesn’t know a lick about football.

He’d be perfect.

Damn Patriots

I was talking to a friend after the AB circus was cancelled in Oakland, leaving the deranged diva as the most toxic free agent since Kim Kardashian filed for divorce five minutes after marrying some NBA player.

“As long as Brown doesn’t sign with the Patriots, I’m good,” I joked.

“Dude . . Brown just signed with the Patriots . . ” My friend replied.

Of fucking course he did.

If there was any debate as to the most reviled franchise in professional sports, the New England Patriots just won it, again. Seriously . . gimme a more hated group than the boys from the 508. And no, ISIS doesn’t count.

Once upon a time, my beloved New York Yankees held that title with a seemingly eternal grip. In a swath of history that began with the Murderers Row lineup of 1927 and plowed through war torn lineups in the ’40’s, the golden age of baseball in the ’50’s and expansion in the ’60’s, the Yankees remained the most recognizable symbol of enmity in sports. They were immortalized on stage and screen as Damn Yankees, harmonized in Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson and despised by opposing fans everywhere.

They answered an eleven year championship drought- from 1964 to 1975- with a bunch of mercenaries and sons of bitches when the “Bronx Zoo” iteration won three straight pennants and two World Series titles in the late ’70’s. After which came ever more creative rivals to their most hated throne. The Los Angeles Lakers held a time share for most hated team in sports in the eighties, but Magic buffered any possibility of nuclear enmity. The Dallas Cowboys took up Mickey’s mantle in the ’90’s, but not for long enough a time to breach the gap.

The Russian hockey team was hated whenever the Winter Olympics came calling, but that was a matter of Stalin and Sputnik more than sport. The Edmonton Oilers were hated until Gretkzy was traded to America, after which all was forgiven. The Mets moved out of the Yankees basement in the mid eighties and became a renegade team of hate-worthiness, but their hard partying ways derailed any chance of a long term reign.

By the time the James Gang Miami Heat went Banksy on the Association in 2010, it was too late. The Yankees had already lost their Evil Empire to the New England Patriots. And it wasn’t even close.

The nexus of this changing of the guard came in the fall and winter of 2001-2002. The Yankees were at the height of their villainy entering a campaign in which they had added ace pitcher Mike Mussina from the rival Baltimore Orioles to a team that was favored to win a fourth straight title. When September 11th happened, it muted the national hatred for the pinstripes. Some fans even forged a temporary alliance with the Yanks on account of a city’s gaping wound. When the Yankees lost the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, it signaled both the end of a dynasty as well as their title as the most hated team in sports.

We just didn’t know it yet.

In February of 2002, the Patriots upset the heavily favored Rams in Super Bowl 36. To that point, Bill Belichick had been a middling disappointment as head coach and Tom Brady was a little known backup QB turned starter. The irony is that the Patriots shouldn’t have even made it to the Super Bowl that year, but for the “Tuck Rule Game” in which a Tom Brady fumble was ruled . . get this, an incomplete pass. Oh, and the team they beat in that infamous game? Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders. You really cannot make this shit up.

Fast forward seventeen years and the Patriots just screwed Gruden and the Raiders again with their signing of Antonio Brown. Unlike that first Super Bowl victory, the Patriots are no longer a feel good story. They have presided over an unprecedented run of success and scandal in the time since, collecting 6 Super Bowl titles, 9 Conference titles 16 division titles and more -Gates than the poshest neighborhood in Hollywood.

So now the most hated team has the most hated player. It’s the sporting equivalent of the Manson family adopting Pennywise. And okay yes . . Tom Brady is probably going to start acting his age this season and the Patriots can’t possibly make it back to the Super Bowl again and oh wait . . hold on I’ve got a phone call. Hey! It’s me calling, from this time last year!

Hey what’s up? Oh really, I said the same shit this time last year? 

Umm . . . never mind.

It doesn’t seem possible that a team birthed by monarch butterflies on a farm (I read it on the dark web) . . a team that once wore uniforms straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting . . a team that calls itself Patriots, could elicit the sort of rage my Yankees once took for granted.

It’s gotten so bad that after my pal Big Papi’s Orioles were basically eliminated from postseason play back in June, he told me he would be rooting for my Yankees to win it all. To which I replied with “Fuck you,”

I wonder if Antonio Brown plays baseball.

 

 

 

 

Snide of the Yankees

All that romance I was painting when I wrote about a day at the ballpark turned out to be a much needed prescription for my home town Bombers. Because after being held to one run in that eleven inning loss last Saturday, they exploded for thirteen runs the next day. And they haven’t lost since. I like to think we served as a baseball talisman for the pinstripes. It’s not the coziest notion, seeing as how there are thirty thousand peeps who think the same thing. But it still counts.

Anyways . . I figured since I was gifted with some free baseball at no additional cost (since the MLB hasn’t figured out how to tack that on yet ), Imma pass it along in kind.

  • The only time a hot dog is an entree is at the ballpark. Something happens to the little fuckers on the other side of the gates that ups the flavor equation exponentially. There’s nothing like having a dog at the game, because the game is the only place it tastes like Kobe beef with a fried egg on top.
  • That thirty thousand (or thereabouts) was the attendance for a Saturday afternoon first place showdown in which the weather was picture perfect says everything about the insane price structure of game tickets. In the quest to make each game an “experience”, the MLB has beaten the living shit out of the sticker price. I’d be sadder if I didn’t have the MLB network on speed dial.
  • As for those prices, it ain’t reserved for the seats. We grabbed a foot long, a bucket of chicken tenders and garlic fries with three drinks for the princely sum of $51 U.S. Mantles. I could have hosted a BBQ block party for less.

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  • And no, alcohol was not included in that price, which would have added a ten spot to the bill.
  • Because I do not drink alcohol when the sun is in prime time. It’s not because I’m an alcoholic vampire, but thanks to the memory of a football game in Baltimore in the middle aughts when I made merry under the sun. The resultant headache had me wishing I was Tracy Mills from the movie Seven.
  • The wave has made a comeback at stadiums across the country. And it made me wonder where this collective psychosis originated, so I found this article that settles the matter.
  • It should be illegal for a man to wear a jersey . . even at the ballgame. It also should be illegal for a woman not to wear a jersey, wherever they like. Sorry dudes, they’re just better at it.
  • Is it wrong to feel provoked when I see a flat bill on a baseball cap?
  • Eleven dollars for a 16 oz Bud Light is only worth it if there’s a bottle of Jim Beam inside the can.
  • If you’re not in line to see Monument Park before 11:50 am, you’re out of luck. The gates open at 11:30 am. We were unaware of this short window as we strolled over to find our seats and then grabbed some dogs before heading over. We made it with three minutes to spare. Babe Ruth’s number was three. Coincidence? Probably, but I like to think the dogs worked in our favor. Even at six bucks a pop.
  • As we waited in line to get into the Stadium, a sixty something dude who was six pack pregnant took off his t-shirt to put on his Rays jersey. If I hadn’t already spent forty five bucks to park my car, I’d have given him a fifty spot to keep his t-shirt on. We’re standing right in front of a fucking sign that prohibits just about everything short of breathing but this guy can go horror story on our eyeballs. Jesus!

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  • Why is it that conversations about sports always seem so smart when you’re spikes deep in them, but mindless when you’re eavesdropping?

About that Seinfeld skit: I spotted a fella of Italian descent several rows below us sporting a Jason Giambi t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. And my mind went here . . .

George: (Laughing) Jer, check out the guy in the fake Giambi jersey . . . amateur.
Jerry: Wait a minute . . are the sleeves cut off?
George: They are! Do you think he cut them off on purpose?
Jerry: What other possible explanation is there?
George: Who does that?!
Jerry: It’s unheard of!
George: There’s no room for people like this in civilized society!

From there, Jerry engages the fan in a conversation that goes sideways. After which Jerry and George end up being escorted from the Stadium by security.

  • The shift is the new phone booth stuffing. Scientifically speaking, it’s when the defense only butters one side of the bagel. It’s done so’s the hitter can’t pull the ball into real estate where they ain’t and it looks something like this.

The Shift

  • Players don’t know how to bunt any longer because bunts don’t get them paid.
  • It’s frightening how many dudes leave the men’s room without washing their hands.
  • What do you answer hot dogs, chicken tenders and a pound of garlic fries with? The responsible choice would’ve been salads, ice water and laxatives. Let the record show that a case of White Castles ain’t the responsible choice.

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Welp, that’ll do it. I’d like to send out a special thank you to Gary Cooper’s stylish Brylcreem, Derek Jeter’s tarnished reputation and the lost (then found) files of Kate Smith.

Always bet diamonds.

I Got 99 Problems But A Pitch Ain’t One

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Going to the new Yankee Stadium is an exercise in the megalomaniacal excesses of old money crashing head long into new money and making babies; entitled little creatures whose trust funded silver spoon was upgraded to platinum in the reboot. For a culture stuck in a perpetual hunger for all things next gen, this joint plays a peach melody.

I’m plenty fine with the new digs, really. It’s just that, as a Yankee fan of a certain age . . I adhere to the bargain basement sensibility that asks, “If it’s swimming just fine, why the harpoon?”. Of course, just like Jeopardy whiz James Holzhauer, I know the answer before the question is set into its stone foundation. Yankee Stadium Part 3 is a masterstroke of inevitability run amok. Where sports stadiums have become premium tier caviar cribs, loosing a greed-think philosophy which has turned a day at the ballgame into a Disney vacation replete with fine restaurants and overpriced everything else. Seats have become investments, patrons have become guests and season tickets have turned into catching a couple games a year, maybe.

I miss the Yankee Stadium that was replaced by this one. The history of that place alone should have placed it on the National Register of Historic Places. The names that played its stage define an epoch of sporting accomplishment. From Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio to Mantle, Jackson and Jeter. Not to mention the rivals who graced the coliseum of a golden age: Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Satchel Paige and Hank Aaron. And that’s just the first chapter.

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And oh yeah . . Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi coached there. Joe Louis and Max Schmeling fought there. The 1958 Title Game (“The Greatest Game Ever Played”) between the Colts and Giants was played there. And Pope Paul VI and later Pope John Paul II celebrated mass there. And that’s just chapter two.

As we’ve seen, Cathedrals do fall and time is an impatient beast when it comes to change. Hell, the game has been transformed into a stat geek’s paradise; what with infield shifts that resemble pileups on the BQE and players who don’t know what a bunt looks like, and feast or famine box scores. But through it all, the game is really still as simple as a pitcher telling a little white pill what to do while a batter tries to talk it into doing something else.

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So it was that I took my son and his young bride to see the Yankees play the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon, in a battle for first place in the American League East. A match-up of team aces, with the Yankees sending out Masahiro Tanaka and the Rays answering with 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell. Thing about aces, there are expectations. The crowd expects A plus cooking, so when he starts scribbling B work, the chatter can get colorful. I happen to think there’s a beauty to watching a pitcher negotiate outs from the third rail. And these two pitchers ransomed zeroes from their respective arsenals, as if devils at the wheel. Tanaka’s four seamer was flat lining and his slider called in sick and yet, he was able to muster six scoreless innings before getting hit on the shin and becoming the latest Yankee to hit the injured list, which reads like a Hemingway tally.

His counterpart, Blake Snell, has stuff that’s more wicked than a trigger happy ridge runner. And while his curve ball wasn’t fooling anyone, his Hi-Lo game kept the home team at bay; with a fastball that salted the rim and a change up that tossed them into the drink time after hopeless time.

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One of my favorite things about the game is the down time, with which a writer chisels out Longfellow, Hopper and even a little Seinfeld. I talked with my son about that magical ride of a ’96 Yankees club. And then I studied the iconic facade that wraps itself around the holler of blue seats whilst pitching a Seinfeld skit inspired by the Goombah with the Giambi t-shirt a couple rows south of us that had the kids cracking up. We figured out the Yankees Rushmore somewhere in between.

As is my baseball ritual, I honed in on the infinite ripples of a game. Like how Tanaka stops on a dime at the quarter pole of his delivery. And how Luke Voit plays first base like the most earnest of rugby players. And how Kevin Kermaier of the Rays became my Grand Master of a most favorite baseball funk, with his insane between pitch stretches and his bantering to teammates and that Tarantino howitzer of an arm.

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As is the new age custom, the bullpen took the keys a little more than halfway through and outside of a few hiccups, they made it into extra innings after a Gio Urshela drive to deep right died two feet short of a walk off home run celebration for the Bombers. In Kermaier’s mitt, because of course. And then Austin Meadows of the Rays tore a moon beam into those same right field seats two innings later to give the visitors the lead for good.

The 2-1 win gave the Rays temporary possession of first place. And from the looks of it, these guys are intent on being a thorn in the sides of baseball royalty this season. Talent is the greatest equalizer, and when you have the chops to do something about it, you always got next.

Because some things never go out of style.

It’s Deja Vu, All Over Again

Fucking Patriots.

They make me want to dabble in communism. They make me feel like the Brits were misunderstood. They make me want to subvert the steeple chase of a nut that Thomas Paine broke bread with once upon a time. The one that made babies with capitalism and stirred up tasty drinks in the form of monthly baby daddy payments to Uncle Sam’s house of rocket fuel.

This ain’t bitterness talking. It’s . . . wait for it . . . common sense.

How do we find ourselves here for the third time in five years? Because the Patriots are more buttoned up than Luca Brasi on a Smith and Wesson bender. While rival clubs engage in trade demands, holdouts and the kind of drama that would make Meryl Streep get all hot and bothered, the Patriots simply are. They are not exciting like the Chiefs, they do not possess the soap opera twists and turns of the Steelers and they are nowhere near as pretty as the Rams. All they’re good at is winning the last game of the year. And to that end, they are really, really good.

I’ll take Marco’s loose thoughts for a dollar, Alex . . .

  • Tony Romo is a maestro when it comes to calling a football game. And you know why that is? Because the dude is unpretentious, that’s why. He refuses to chime and dime on the dilly of the current template. Where “running north to south” and “going vertical” are downhill slang terms used by the so called experts who feel the need to justify the Armani. Until they’re cut loose for being nickels on a dollar’s worth of investment. Romo is different. He’s bright, he’s real, he’s effusive and he knows what is going down. On a Buffalo Springfield level of expertise.
  • Sean McVay didn’t lose his smarts overnight. But its funny how a dude twice his age kicked his ass in the biggest game of the year. Convincingly. Will rival executives have an “oh shit!” moment as a result? Because there were a lot of dudes hired because they worked under McVay or they were FB friends with McVay or they rode an elevator with him once. Moral of the story? Winning organizations act. Everyone else reacts.
  • My silver lining in Sunday night’s shit show was Brian Flores, the brand new head coach of the Miami Dolphins. His defense looked like the ’85 Bears. Now, he goes from a team that does its business the right way to the South Beach Social Club. I believe he’s up for the challenge, but time will tell.
  • Someone please tell Adam Levine that showing your nipples ain’t worth the price of admission unless you’re Janet Jackson.
  • Price of admission is Gladys Knight. She is velvet to the senses when her syllables take flight. I remember seeing her in Vegas and marveling at how she turned every single song into Friday night.
  • Remember back when everybody was bemoaning the lack of defense after that 54-51 game the Rams and Chiefs played earlier in the year? Peeps insisted the game had morphed into the NBA. Welp, the Vegas books put the over under for total points scored in the Super Bowl at 56 points . . to which these offensive juggernauts answered with 16 points. I guess defense still matters, after all.
  • Tom Brady looked like Mark Sanchez for most of that game. But for a couple passes in the fourth quarter that were bread basket perfect. Some players, such as Jared Goff, find it damn near impossible to face up to the big moment. Brady lives for it.
  • I dunno if the Saints would have been able to fare any better than the Rams against that suddenly tenacious Patriots defense. But I do know they could have done better than three points. Hell, the Dolphins could have done better than three points.
  • It’s pretty sad when, up until the fourth quarter the highlight of the game was a punt. I believe it was a record setting one, but I forget and you know why? Because it’s a punt . . .
  • It almost looked as if the Patriots D knew what was coming before the Rams snapped the ball. Which, if you’re a follower of the NFL, is always going to make you wonder, given the organization’s rap sheet.
  • Bravo to the Swiss Army Knife known as Julian Edelman for being the MVP not named Brady. Edleman missed the first four games of the season due to a PED suspension. If this were baseball it would have been a major story but in football, it’s an accepted fact.

And my one final thought on the national nightmare that is the New England Patriots.

They’re gonna have to be taken out the way Luca Brasi was taken out. By a band of young turks that wield knives on a doctorate level of Dante. The end of this reign must be certain, swift and surgical. And make no mistake, they will not surrender until the throne is taken from their cold dead hands. The team that slays this dragon is gonna have to do what the Patriots coaches are doing right now, as we speak.

Start planning.