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Sport’s Role in Times of Tragedy

When devastating events such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut occur, it takes us away from the personal problems that we have with our lives and makes us come together as one to take a step back and look at the big picture. Suddenly, the things we held in such high regard in our own lives temporarily become irrelevant. America is a very diverse country filled with countless amounts of races, religions, backgrounds, and views. However, when something of this magnitude happens it brings us altogether for something that all human beings can agree on, the value of life, especially that of a child. 20 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old at Sandy Hook had their lives taken away from them before they even had a chance to do any wrong or right in this world. They were pure and innocent beings who in a world as cruel as it is today, gave society hope for the future. The other children who survived now have to live with the trauma they felt on that day for the rest of their lives.

No matter how small or large your role in society may be, whatever that role is, it takes a back seat. Even comedians who usually make light out of any situation step back and they are in just as much shock as ordinary people. It’s times like these where professional athletes have to remind people that they are human as well and that even they need a moment to process what they are seeing before their very eyes.

While sports seem irrelevant to many in times of grief like this, they also have the power to give people an escape from the cruel harsh realities of this world, even if just for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. Today, every team in the NFL will have a decal on their helmets to honor the victims of the unfathomable events that took place just over 48 hours ago. Tommorow night the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans will pay the same respect. While sports do not have the power to bring lost loved ones back to life, they do give people a sense of normalcy, something to smile about no matter how brief the smile may be.

I will use an event in my personal life as an example. When I was thirteen years old my father was taken away far too soon from this world when his private twin prop plane crashed into a pond due to engine failures. I was absolutely devastated. I thought how could something so terrible happen to me and my family? It was a very dark time for me, it changed my perspective on everything. It was on that day that I felt my innocence be stripped away in an instant. It made me question everything I thought I believed. For a few months every day I woke up still in complete disbelief that my father was gone and that he would never be coming back. (at least not in the physical world) I found it very difficult to find motivation to do anything. There were very few things that helped me get through the battle I was fighting called “everyday life.” The support I received from my family and close friends was extremely heartwarming and it made me realize how blessed I was to have great people in my life despite having lost one of the people responsible for my existence. The one other thing that kept me going in these trying times was sports. They didn’t make the grieving process any easier, but it gave me the one thing I desperately needed, a distraction. Sports allowed me to take my mind off of the emotional roller coaster ride that ensued after my father’s passing. Whether I was playing football in a schoolyard after school, or just sitting at home watching the Jets and Yankees, I was able to find something to smile about, or something else to be upset or angry about. As brief as the happiness lasted, sports taught me the life long lesson that times of adversity are when your character is truly defined. I learned that no matter what happens, the world keeps on turning and there is always hope for a better tommorow.

With that being said I hope whoever may come across this post can understand where I am coming from. I want it to be clear that I am in no way trying to belittle this absolutely tragic event. I don’t think I said anything to make anybody think that I am, but just in case something gets lost through misinterpretation, I just wanted to clarify that. I just wanted to offer a little bit of my own personal experiences to try to relate with the grief that so many parents are going through right now. However, I also understand that a child’s loss of a parent does not compare to the pain caused by a parent’s loss of their child. With that being said, my heart goes out to the entire community of Newtown, Conneticut. Words can not describe what this small town is going through right now, but I am very confident that the community will become even closer because of this and they will rise up and overcome this tragedy that can’t even begin to be put into words. Image

Jets vs. Titans: Preview and Prediction

I wonder what the NFL scheduling committee was thinking when they slated a late December match up between the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans to be the Monday Night Football game of the week. I guess maybe they were thinking both teams would be fighting for dear life in their quests for January. To their credit however, one of the teams is in that exact situation. The Jets go into this game with a 6-7 record, facing elimination from the playoff picture if they lose. The Titans, who have had a very disappointing 2012 season come into this game at 4-9 with nothing to play for but pride. It would be easy to sleep on a deflated team like the Titans but it is a primetime game and they probably want to prove in front of a national audience that they are a better football team than their record would indicate. I would not be surprised if the Titans came into this game with a chip on their shoulder. I believe that we are in for another low scoring defensive slug fest  Mark Sanchez’s struggles will likely continue in this game. However, as bad as Sanchez might be, I expect Titans quarterback Jake Locker to be even worse. Rex Ryan’s defense will rattle the inexperienced signal caller early and often, and they should be able to keep the suddenly average running back Chris Johnson in check. I don’t expect to see much out of Braylon Edwards in his first game back as a Jet since their hopes and dreams were crushed in the 2010 AFC championship, as he is nursing a hamstring injury. I believe the Jets’ offensive struggles will keep this one close, but I like the defense and the running game to take control of the game in the later stages. Final prediction: Jets escape Tennessee with a win by the score of 19-13 to keep their season on life support.

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New York’s Newest Rivalry

One of the beautiful things about being a sports fan in New York is having the liberty to choose between two teams for each sport (sometimes even three if you count Buffalo!), and trash talk your family, friends, classmates, and coworkers when your New York team defeats their New York team. Only about a 45 minute train ride separates the Islanders and Rangers from each other, and every time the two teams clash the it is a very hostile environment regardless of how far apart the teams are in the standings. The “subway series” between the Yankees and Mets is always fun. It’s the one weekend in June where the Mets fans come out of hiding under their rocks in hopes of their team somehow finding a way to upset the Yankees. The Jets and Giants only meet once every four years because of the way the NFL schedule works, but the roommate rivalry got taken to a new level last Christmas eve when both teams were in dire need of a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and after that game the two teams went spiraling into completely different directions. 

All these years there has been something missing though. The Knicks were the only basketball team in New York and their cross Hudson rivalry with the New Jersey Nets never caught on the way the New York rivalries did. Jay-Z told us he was, “movin the Nets to BK” and the new kids on the block have finally moved into their beautiful new home the Barclays Center right in the heart of Brooklyn. While the Knicks represent the entire state of New York, whereas the Brooklyn Nets only represent one borough, the Nets are making their presence in this city known. The two teams were supposed to kick the season off against each other in Brooklyn early November but that game had to be postponed due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Both teams got off to good starts this season, especially the Knicks who currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference. It all led up to the two teams facing off in a late November showdown at the Barclays Center. While I was not there firsthand, I did watch the game on television and I believe it is safe to say that the air was electric in the arena that night. The crowd energy was ecstatic and the teams fought each other to the bitter end where the Nets were finally able to emerge victorious in overtime by the score of 96-89. When the outcome was decided and  the final seconds ticked off of the clock the crowd began to chant, “Broooooklyn Broooooklyn!” I could not think of a better first chapter in a rivalry that should provide many more memorable moments for years to come.

Round two of the NBA’s newest rivalry was very similar to the prequel. The energy in the Barclays Center was once again able to be felt through the TV screen. Once again the game came down to the bitter end. The Nets led by as many as 16 points at times in the game but they let the Knicks hang around long enough, and if you let a team like the Knicks stay in the game for that long, the odds are usually not in your favor. This proved to be true  as the Knicks fought their way back and Jason Kidd hit a three point shot in the final seconds of regulation to give the Knicks a 100-97 lead which would hold up as the final score.

With both teams proving their cases as legitimate contenders, and two more meetings with each other at Madison Square Garden, I only expect the bad blood between these two teams to increase as this season goes on. As a fan of New York basketball I want nothing less than for these two teams to end up meeting again in the postseason, in a series that will go down to the very bitter end.ImageImage

Jet for Life? Not so Fast

Let’s go back to  the summer of 2010 when Darrelle Revis  struck fear into the hearts of Jets fans everywhere when he held out for nearly the entirety of the preseason. While the two sides took a little too long for comfort to reach a new deal, the common ground that both the Jets front office and Revis Island shared was the idea of him being a “Jet for life.” At the time it seemed like a no brainer  to give the all pro cornerback a long term deal and make him a one stop player, which is a rarity in any professional sport today. As we all know the two sides did not reach a long term deal, but they were able to get their once in a generation caliber player back on the field with a 4 year $46 million contract. However, both sides knew very well that if he were to be a Jet for life they would have to renegotiate in a couple of years. 

At that time if anyone even attempted to present the idea of Revis playing for another team at some time a possibility, I would have told them to have their brain examined. Now however, with the turn of events that have occurred here in 2012, letting him walk might be such a bad idea. There is no doubt that barring a career threatening injury that Darrelle Revis is a first ballot hall of famer, and personally he is my second favorite Jet of all time next to Hall of Fame Running Back Curtis Martin, and it would be very upsetting to see him leave. However, what people need to remember is that this is a business and sometimes you need to make very difficult decisions for the benefit of your organization. Without a doubt, Revis deserves to be the highest paid corner , and one of the highest paid PLAYERS in the league regardless of what team he plays for. But if you take a minute to think about it, there are so many other holes in this roster that need to be addressed, and the amount of money the superstar will be asking for would make it very hard for the Jets to address other areas of need. What also needs to be taken into consideration is the way Antonio Cromartie has played this season. After Revis Island’s season came to an early finish when he tore his ACL against the Miami Dolphins in week 3, Cro has emerged as a top tier cornerback in the NFL. Plus if you think about how terrible the Jets offense has been this year, do you really think that this team would be significantly better if Revis were healthy? I really don’t know if they would be. The way the NFL is today, having a shut down corner is more of a luxury than a necessity,  and to have so much money invested in two shutdown corners with so many other points of weakness does not make sense. If Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples can develop into a premier pass rushing duo, then it takes a lot of heat off of the cornerbacks. The New York Giants have arguably the best defensive line in the league and their defensive backs are average at best. Yet they still managed to win the Super Bowl last year despite having one of the worst secondaries in the league. 

As I have stated on my previous post, in today’s NFL it is much more important to be able to score than it is to stop the other team from scoring. Theoretically they are equally important, but in 2011 Aaron Rodgers the Green Bay Packers went 15-1 in the regular season with the 31st ranked defense. In 2009 the Jets were 9-7 with the league’s top ranked defense. I know the Jets made a great run that year to the AFC championship game but we must remember it was a miracle they even squeaked into the playoffs, and once Peyton Manning figured the Jets’ defense out, the offense did not have a prayer of keeping up with them and lost 30-17 after having a 17-6 lead late in the second quarter. 

At this point all of this is nothing more than speculation. However, it is some food for thought. While it would be very sad to see such a prolific player like Darrelle Revis walk, it could potentially provide a better balance for a team that is in desperate need of play makers on the offensive side of the ball. You may think this idea sounds crazy, and that’s perfectly fine by me. However it just may be crazy enough to improve the team if the front office can lure in some offensive firepower with the money they could potentially save by not locking themselves into another deal with Darrelle Revis.Image

 

Why Tanny’s Gotta Go

Over the offseason New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum has made quite a few questionable decisions. After quarterback Peyton Manning immediately declined to meet with the Jets to discuss the possibility of playing for them, Tannenbaum decided to give Mark Sanchez a three year contract extension as a band aid for hurting his feelings. The three year extension includes $40.5 million in “new” money that he was not making in the previous contract including $20.5 million guaranteed over the span of 2012 and 2013. I thought this was a bad idea from the start. Despite 2011 being Mark Sanchez’s best year statistically, if you had a set of eyes and actually watched him play, there were many signs of regression. He threw for 26 touchdowns but he also turned the ball over just as many times. He often looked scared in the pocket. What Mark needed coming into this season was motivation to get better, and money, especially when it is guaranteed is the ultimate demotivator. Even in his rookie contract I would say given his production (or lack there of) that he was rather overpaid. What’s even worse is it appears that he has regressed even more here in the 2012 season. Now practically all Jets fans want a new quarterback. Even some of the players have anonymously hinted that a quarterback change might work in favor of the team. Unfortunately because of all the guaranteed money the Jets owe Sanchez it will be very hard to cut him even if he continues to struggle down the stretch. Releasing Sanchez would have very significant implications on the salary cap, which would make it harder for them to address other areas of need on the team.

Now I hate Mark Sanchez just as much as any other Jets fan but in his defense, his regression is not entirely his fault. In 2010 Mark Sanchez had a great chemistry with three wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Jericho Cotchery. Cotchery and Braylon both walked, after they signed Santonio Holmes to a 5 year contract.  After replacing Braylon Edwards with Plaxico Burress in 2011 which I thought was very questionable considering both players got the same contracts, (1 year $3 million) they let Plaxico walk after 2011. I believe that continuity is very important especially for a young quarterback. I think that all of the wide receivers they shuffled around really hurt Mark Sanchez’s development because he was never truly able to develop a consistent chemistry with any of his weapons. Then this year after Holmes was lost for the season with a foot injury, the Jets’ extreme lack of depth at wide receiver was exposed. Jeremy Kerley has shown great strides of improvement in his second year but I believe he is too small to be a true number one or two wide receiver. I see him as more of a speedy slot receiver like Victor Cruz without the stupid dance. Anyway, after Kerley Sanchez really doesn’t have many weapons. Dustin Keller has been plagued by injury this year and in my opinion has not played up to expectations this season. Chaz Schillens, and Clyde Gates are doing next to nothing to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night thinking about how they are going to stop them. Additionally the offense has gotten almost no help from the running game. Although I will admit they have ran the ball much better in the past two games against the Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars. Aside from that however, the running game has been virtually non existent all season long. So much for bringing back the “ground and pound.” “Ground and punt” is more like it.

Last but certainly not least who could forget about good ol’ Tim Tebow? On March 22nd, 2012 just 10 days after signing Mark Sanchez to that three year extension the Jets made one of the most controversial decisions in recent memory when they traded a 4th and 7th round pick to the Denver Broncos (who had just acquired Peyton Manning) for “quarterback” Tim Tebow. It was on this day that the New York Jets officially became the joke of the NFL. The next day was an absolute circus as hundreds upon hundreds members of the media herded into a room for the new backup quarterback’s press conference. Many people criticized the Tebow trade but personally, I actually thought that it could potentially be a good move. I thought it would allow offensive coordinator Tony Sparano to get very creative and install a “wildcat” package with Tebow. I envisioned a triple option threat of Tebow, Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight. However, as the season went on the move began to look more and more like a publicity stunt by owner Woody Johnson. It became very obvious after a while that it seemed as though Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano had no idea what to do with him. They would put him in every now and then to run the wildcat and every play for the most part was the same thing: a run up the middle for a gain of maybe 2-4 yards. During the preseason they acted like scientists in a lab with this wildcat package of theirs. They did not run any wildcat plays with him in the preseason and when they did not score a single offensive touchdown in the preseason (except when Greg McElroy finally found the end zone in the final game) they said fear not for we are keeping our plan secret to make it even harder to stop. The few occasions that they did let Tebow throw he actually completed almost every pass he attempted this year. Don’t get me wrong I think Tim Tebow is a great person and a great competitor and I even believed at points in the season that he deserved a shot to be the starting quarterback. However, the way they are utilizing him on the field they are basically wasting a roster spot on him. I see him as more of a commodity so that the Jets could profit off of the sale of jerseys T-shirts and other Tim Tebow paraphernalia. They had to have known what would happen. You’re bringing the most popular player in the NFL to the media capital of the world, of course it’s going to be a circus. They also knew damn well that as soon as Mark Sanchez began to struggle that everyone would be calling for Tebow to come in and save the day the way he did for the Denver Broncos last year. Like I said before, I do like Tim Tebow but bringing him here has done much more bad than good for the Jets in my opinion. They already had enough of a media circus the way things unfolded at the end of last season, but bringing in Tebow has brought it to a whole level. Unless they start to utilize his skills more efficiently, I think that whoever the general manager is in the offseason needs to seriously look into trading Tim Tebow elsewhere. (I’m looking at you Jacksonville Jaguars)

Now Tannenbaum hasn’t been a complete bust, he has gotten a few things right. After all he did draft Darrelle Revis who very well may be the best cornerback to ever play the game when it’s all said and done. He also drafted Nick Mangold back in 2006 and he has become one of the top centers in the league. In 2011 he drafted Muhammad Wilkerson who has developed into a great defensive lineman and might possibly become the dominant pass rusher the team has longed for since John Abraham. (fingers crossed) This year he drafted Quinton Coples who shows a lot of promise. However, in today’s NFL having a great offense is far more important than having a great defense. Right now the Jets offense isn’t even average, it’s just plain bad. Tannenbaum has been here since 2006, and I feel he has made too many mistakes managing personnel on the offensive side of the ball. Unless some miraculous things occur over these next final weeks of the 2012 season, I think it’s time to fire Mike Tannenbaum and find a new general manager who has a better eye for talent.fire tannylol

Bengals Vs. Eagles: Why Tonight’s Game Matters

Another Thursday in the NFL season and another lackluster match up to kick off week 15. Tonight the 7-6 Cincinnati Bengals who are the epitome of mediocrity march into Philadelphia to take on the 4-9 Eagles who are the epitome of, how do I say it nicely? Bad. All season long the NFL Network has had to try to find ways to hype up all of these Thursday night games between below average football teams to get people to tune in.

My logic tells me that the Bengals will handle the Eagles with relative ease. The Eagles defense is one of the worst in the league and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is quickly becoming one of the best in the league and already has a very impressive highlight reel through nearly two full seasons. The Bengals defense is above average and the Eagles are going with rookie quarterback Nick Foles while Michael Vick continues to recover from a concussion. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek will also be inactive due to concussions.

While my football logic gives me every reason to believe that the Bengals are going to win this game, I pray that I am wrong. After the New England Patriots slaughtered the New York Jets in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Jets’ season was put on life support. Many fans, (including superfan Fireman Ed) were quick to bury the Jets and pronounce their season over. However with two straight not so impressive wins and an easy schedule the rest of the way the Jets are currently sitting at 6-7 only one game behind the aforementioned Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers for the final wild card spot in the AFC playoffs. Theoretically, if the Jets win their match up on Monday night against the Tennessee Titans, The Steelers lose to the Dallas Cowboys (very possible), and the Bengals lose to the Eagles tonight (highly unlikely) the three teams would have identical 7-7 records. The Jets still would not control their own destiny because Pittsburgh holds the head to head tiebreaker after the 27-10 thrashing back in week 2. However the way things stand right now, the Jets hold a tiebreaker over the Bengals due to a better divisional record.

Let’s look ahead to week 16 for a brief moment. Say all of the scenarios I just listed above come true and the Jets, Bengals and Steelers are all 7-7. The Jets face the San Diego Chargers in week 16 whom they have had a lot of success against in the Rex Ryan Era. The Steelers and Bengals face each other in a crucial match up. If the Jets can beat the Chargers and the Bengals can find a way to escape Pittsburgh with a win, then a Jets win in Buffalo  in week 17 and a Bengals loss to the Baltimore Ravens would give the Jets a 9-7 record and the final wild card spot in the AFC playoffs. A lot of things need to go right for the Jets but I’ve seen crazier things happen. Remember in 2009 after losing to the Falcons in week 15 Rex Ryan pronounced the 2009 season over, only to find out that every other game that had playoff implications for the Jets that day went exactly the way they needed it too? A big part of them getting into the playoffs that year was a late season match up between the Cleveland Browns (with nothing to play for but pride) and Pittsburgh Steelers where the Browns shocked the world and beat the defending super bowl champions at the time, so I wouldn’t write the Eagles off in tonight’s game too quickly.

Obviously none of this matters if the Jets decide to be the Jets and just lose the rest of their games, which is always possible when you’re talking about the New York Jets. However the thought of the Jets making the playoffs now is not quite as farfetched as it was on Thanksgiving night when the infamous “ass fumble” occurred. Many teams in the situation the Jets are in right now use the cliché, “one game at a time”. I believe that as fans we should think the same way. With that being said, Go Eagles!

http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/machine

play around with that link, you’d be surprised to see what teams can still get in!

Movie Review: Taken 2 (Spoiler Alert)

Let me start off by saying that even though this is a European film, this movie could not be more American. The movie begins with Liam Neeson showing up to his ex- wife’s house to pick up his daughter Kim to give her a driving lesson. After trying to lie to him, Lenore admits that Kim is at her new boyfriend’s house. In typical Liam  Neeson fashion, he finds out where he lives and shows up to his house right as the couple was about to get it on. Her boyfriend answers the door and attempts to shake Bryan’s hand but he declined the offer. He got Kim out of his house and took her for the driving lesson they had previously scheduled. Bryan then informs Lenore and Kim that he is going to Istanbul for a business trip but that he would stay and spend some quality time with them if they cared to join. Just as he was about to leave they showed up at his hotel in Istanbul to surprise him. Kim stays at the room while Bryan and his ex wife went out for a little date in the village. While the ex couple appeared to be rekindling things, family members of the men who were killed by Bryan in the first movie were plotting their revenge. It was basically the same movie as the first one, the only difference is this time instead of kidnapping the daughter, Bryan and Lenore get taken and it’s up to the horrified daughter Kim to save the day. While they are stuck in the torture chamber, Bryan gets his hands on a device and uses it to call Kim he instructs her to throw grenades around the city so he can judge how close she is to them based on how loud the explosions are. (How fucking awesome is that?) Then he tells her to draw some circles on maps and somehow the part where the circles intersect is where they were trapped. Bryan breaks free from the pole he was tied up, and meets up with Kim he was going to break Lenore free but she had already been taken away. Bryan meets with Murad (the man seeking revenge for his son’s death) and they confront each other, Bryan was in a position to kill him but offered to let him walk away if he left him and his family alone, after Murad agreed Bryan dropped his gun and walked away. Murad picked up the gun and tried to shoot him but Bryan was smart enough to unload the bullets before giving up his firearm. Insulted by his attempts at his life Bryan turns around and pushes his face into a wall with a spike sticking out which impaled Murad and killed him immediately. Bryan reunites with Lenore, and sets her free. They go back to Los Angeles, Kim passes her driving test and they get milkshakes to celebrate. Kim’s boyfriend unexpectedly showed up to the milkshake celebration and Kim begged her father not to shoot her boyfriend this time. They all laughed and that is the end. Overall I would give this movie about a 7 out of 10 but on the Taken scale it was a 10 out of 10. This movie had everything one could ask for in a Taken movie, a trip to another country, getting kidnapped, Liam Neeson being a boss, and milkshakes. What a great movie for America.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1397280/

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