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Red Sox and Lakers: Comparing Two ‘Dream Team’ Disasters

February 25, 2013

As a Boston Red Sox fan living in Los Angeles, I have experienced a bit of déjà vu this year watching the Lakers’ disappointing season unfold.  It’s like I’m back in 2011 watching the Sox.

When the Lakers signed Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, fans were practically promised another championship.  Sound familiar?

The Red Sox were dubbed the best team in baseball, after they added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to their already super-star-studded roster.

Neither team lived up to the expectations.  In fact, in very Titanic-esque fashion, both “dream teams” sunk to new lows.

In 2011, the Red Sox got off to a rough start, dropping six in a row.  Then, they managed to claw their way into first place, only to miss the playoffs, after suffering the worst September collapse in baseball history.

The Lakers went 1-4 to start the 2012-2013 season and are currently sitting one game below .500.  If the season ended today, they would miss the playoffs for just the third time in 30 years.

When “good” teams fail, the coach is usually the first to go.  In 2011, the Red Sox gave Terry Francona 162 games to try to right the ship.  In 2012, the Lakers gave Mike Brown five.  Brown, of course, didn’t have two rings under his belt like Francona, and the Lakers, presumably, had Phil Jackson waiting in the wings.

Then came the surprise.

In a move that made even less sense then the Red Sox hiring Bobby Valentine, the Lakers chose Mike D’Antoni over Jackson.  At least, when the Sox hired Valentine, they didn’t have a clearly better choice.  They didn’t leave Joe Torre or Tony La Russa waiting by the phone.

Still, Valentine’s style didn’t mesh well with team, and he was fired the day after the 2012 season ended.  D’Antoni may suffer a similar fate, if the Lakers don’t make the playoffs or even if they lose in the first round.

One thing is for sure; the Lakers don’t stand a chance, if Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard can’t find a way to play nice.  Bad chemistry can derail a team full of super-star talent.  Having the best players does not guarantee having the best team.  The Red Sox learned that lesson the hard way.

For reasons that are still not completely understood, Adrian Gonzalez was not a good fit for Boston.  His swing may have been tailor-made for Fenway Park, but he never looked comfortable playing there.  Thankfully, the Dodgers bailed the Red Sox out–again–but the NBA trade deadline came and went last Thursday without the Lakers making a move.

Instead, they chose to roll the dice with the team they have now, even though their postseason chances are slim and there is no guarantee Dwight will stay in LA next season.

In order to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, the Lakers need to post a winning percentage close to .714, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com.  In the words of eternal optimist, Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Lloyd isn’t wrong, a glimmer of hope still remains for the Lakers, and it got a little brighter when they blew out the Celtics in an emotional game last Wednesday, just days after their owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, passed away.

In addition to the victory, the Lakers honored Buss with a moving tribute, but when beloved player and coach Johnny Pesky died in August of 2012, the Red Sox came up a bit short.  In their first home game after his death, each player wore the No. 6 in memory of Pesky, but they couldn’t get the win.  The Red Sox fell to the Los Angeles Angels 3-5.

Looking back, the 2012 season came to an end that day.  If the Red Sox couldn’t rally together in such a moment, there was really no hope that they could do it at any other time.

Today, with two disastrous seasons behind them, it will be interesting to see how the Red Sox fare with a new manager (former pitching coach John Farrell) and a clean slate—it can’t get much worse.

The Lakers will likely be uttering the same phrase next fall, when they embark on a mission to right this year’s wrongs, unless they can make good on Kobe’s guarantee of a playoff berth.  They have won three straight.  (Although, as this went to press, the Lakers were losing to the Nuggets by ten in the third.)

The Red Sox and Lakers will eventually rebound.  All great teams do.  Regardless, let their story be a cautionary tale to all those who try to buy a championship—ahem Dodgers.

Lights Out: The 2012 Football Season is Over

February 5, 2013

It’s official.  We have entered the dreaded void between football and baseball.  The minute the confetti began to fly, I felt a pang of sadness knowing that there would be no more meaningful football until September.  That’s a long time!

Plus, this year, we won’t have the thrill of being Super Bowl champions to tide us over.

The Ravens are the champions now, and I admit, I was wrong with my prediction.  I thought the 49ers would edge out Baltimore by four.  Instead, they lost by three, in what was almost the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

The game was rather boring before the black out.  There is a sentence I never thought I’d write. Super Bowl XLVII will go down in history as the Black-Out Bowl, which happened to feature two head coaches who were related.

It’s amazing how drastically one event can change everything.  Like momentum, it can swing on a fumble, a dropped pass, or a power outage, but time is momentum’s greatest threat.

After the championship games, I was confident that the 49ers would keep on rolling and walk away with the Lombardi Trophy.   Then, I realized that two weeks is a long time for a young team to wait, and, conversely, plenty of time for a veteran team to prepare.

It was obvious that Colin Kaepernick was nervous.  The enormity of the situation got to him, but can we really blame him?  It was, after all, only his 10th NFL start.  He also ran up against a good defense and was the victim of poor play calling.

Kaepernick’s rocket-like arm is certainly a weapon, but it was his legs that were slaying defenses throughout the playoffs.  There may have been some missed calls on their last drive, but why were the 49ers throwing the ball?  Where was the option?  Not giving Kaepernick full use of his arsenal, throughout the game, cost the 49ers their sixth Super Bowl ring and robbed Kaepernick of the opportunity to run in the winning touchdown, which would have certainly clinched him the MVP.

San Francisco also wasted two time-outs and let the Ravens back into the game.  If the defense could have prevented that last Baltimore touchdown, then the outcome would have been very different.  That was the ball game.  It’s all about momentum.

Even though we have to live with the fact that the Baltimore Ravens are World Champions—ugh—at least the black out did not “decide” the outcome of the game.  If it had, someone at the Superdome would have had some serious ‘splainin’ to do, and the rest of us would have had to endure weeks upon weeks of listening to ridiculous conspiracy theories debated on ESPN and talk radio.

Now, this story can die out, and we can focus on more important matters, such as the Giants winning Super Bowl XLVIII at home in a well-lit MetLife Stadium, a day after Michael Strahan is voted into the Hall of Fame.  How incredible would that be?   As I have said many times before, a girl can dream.  We can all dream.

New York Giant Glory Days Are Not Over

January 23, 2013

It has been a while since my last video post, so let’s get right to it.

 

Conservative Play Ends Season for Manning and Broncos

January 13, 2013

Never. Rush. Three. How many times have I said that? It never works. Sometimes you may get lucky, but, more often than not, you get burned like the Broncos did on Saturday. They had the situation they wanted–double coverage on Jacoby Jones–and it wasn’t enough. The extra man gained them nothing. Instead, Flacco had plenty of time to find Jones and fire a 70-yard missile to tie the game.

My utter disdain for prevent defense stems back to the days when Broncos head coach John Fox was the Giants defensive coordinator. I like John Fox. He was a good coach for us, but too many games during his time were either blown or unnecessarily stressful because of the three man rush.

He hasn’t changed. The man’s middle name is conservative. Case and point, you have Peyton Manning and 31 seconds and you choose to kneel down and take your chances in overtime. That was mistake number two. The third mistake–Peyton’s interception–would be the error that would ultimately cost the Broncos the game, but it never had to happen.  Denver had chances to end the game before the Ravens tied it.  It should have never gotten to that point.

Now, there will be no Manning in the Super Bowl. No chance for the brothers to go back-to-back again. I was looking forward to that possibility.

The door is also wide open for the Patriots who no longer have a Manning standing between them and Super Bowl glory. Just Ray Lewis and a red-hot Joe Flacco, but, given the choice, I bet the Pats would take a rematch with Baltimore at home over a trip to Denver for a date with their nemesis’ big brother.

With 31 seconds, Eli could have gotten into field goal range. To quote the movie Ted, “Tom Brady could do that.” Aaron Rodgers did it to us last season, albeit with 58 seconds, but he only had one time out. If Joe Flacco can throw a 70-yard bomb to tie the game (no offense to Flacco, I have a new-found respect for that guy), then Peyton Manning certainly could have done the same. He should have at least been given the chance.

I wonder if any of the Broncos saw what Atlanta did yesterday and thought we could have done that. The difference was the Falcons and Matt Ryan had no choice. It was get in field goal range or lose. Sometimes it is better to only have one option. That’s why Eli thrives when he is down by a touchdown in the final minutes.

Still, you play to win the game. You don’t play not to lose, especially when you have one of the best quarterbacks in the league (or ever).

Fox’s decisions will be discussed and debated for weeks to come. Hopefully, every coach and coordinator will be taking notes. I’m not saying play with reckless abandon, but there is a difference between playing conservative football and playing smart football. That thin line separates the good from the great.

With Peyton out, who do we root for now? Yikes, that’s not an easy choice. For the sole reason that Tony Gonzalez deserves to win a Super Bowl (he played 11 season in Kansas City after all ), I’ll be pulling for Atlanta.

Disappointing End to Giants Promising Season

January 1, 2013

Since Sunday, I have felt a lot like Ralphie from A Christmas Story. I’m surrounded by happier kids, who all got what they wanted for Christmas. All we wanted was a trip to the playoffs. It’s not as if we asked for an official Red Ryder carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock.

Plus, a few weeks ago, it seemed like a done deal. The Giants were poised to win the division, and, after they destroyed Green Bay, it appeared that no one would be able to stop them. Left and right, analysts were saying the Giants had the NFC East “wrapped up,” but then the unthinkable happened. The switch the Giants usually flip in December didn’t work.

In the past, it had been so reliable, but it failed them this year. Why? It’s simple really. In 2011, the Giants had to win. This season, they expected to win. They got complacent and failed to show up for every game.

Repeating in this league has never been easy. Even when you are practically perfect, it can feel like an impossible task, just ask the Green Bay Packers. When you don’t play your best football, it becomes only that much harder.

The Giants had the talent, and although they played like a championship caliber team on Sunday, it was too little too late. A season, full of potential, wasted. It’s dissapointing, but, perhaps, it just wasn’t our year.

To be honest, it feels more like RGIII’s year. The Redskins seem to have some of the magic we had last season. Or maybe it’s Adrian Peterson’s year or Tom Brady’s. Patriots fans are more excited about the Giants being knocked out, then they are about their own team snagging a first-round bye. I guess that’s something–we’re in their heads.

Still, it’s a shame. If we had gotten in, I think we could have gone all the way, but there is no reason why this team can’t be right back in the hunt next year. As Ralphie’s father told him, “There’s always next Christmas.” Or in our case, next season.

Unlike Ralphie, we won’t find a secret present behind the desk that will send us to the playoffs. All we can do is set our sights on 2013 and Super Bowl XLVIII.

Happy New Year Everyone!

The Giants are Defending Champs, Why Don’t They Play Like It?

December 24, 2012

I have never been a defending champion. In order to defend a title, one needs to win one, and in ten years of youth soccer, two years of girls softball and three years of competitive drama (you heard me, competitive drama), not once did I hoist the big trophy.

The only year my soccer team made it to States, it was by default. We were the only team in our league, and, while we fought valiantly, we eventually lost to a bigger and better team. We won a few league championships, but, if I remember correctly, those games were played by the second and third place teams (the first place team went to States), so that doesn’t really count.

I also lost two league “championship” games, both on penalty kicks–the absolute worst way to lose anything.  Imagine if the NFL decided that after the first quarter of overtime, games would be decided by a field goal kicking competition. As entertaining as that might be, it is also an extraordinarily heartbreaking and stupid way to lose.  

In softball, my team was never very good. Although, like the Giants, we would gain momentum in the playoffs. There was something about making the postseason (every team made it) that got us into a groove, and my parents would start worrying that they’re entire weekend would be lost, if we kept winning.  We never did.

I came the closest to winning a championship in the Rhode Island State Drama Festival. Technically, one year we did win, but an arithmetic error committed by the judges kept us from advancing. By the time the mistake was realized, it was too late (I am not at all bitter about this). Frankly, I should have known better. My father always taught me never to compete in anything without a finish line.  You can’t rest your hopes on the subjective and vindictive nature of an East German judge.

I’ve never known what it is like to win or defend a championship. I don’t understand the pressure of repeating or what it is like to have every other team gunning for you.  Perhaps that is why I can’t seem to understand, even though I tried to wrap my brain around it all last night and today, why the Giants play the way that they do.  I don’t understand how this team can dismantle some of the best teams in the league but can’t seem to muster the energy to play like defending champions when their season is on the line.  Maybe it’s the pressure.  Maybe it’s exhaustion or even over confidence. 

Whatever the cause, it is maddening.  The Giants have flushed this season down the drain.  They have wasted so much potential.  I wish I could offer a better explanation as to why this has happened, but I have never been in their shoes. Plus, it’s Christmas and it’s time to focus our energy on happier things.

Merry Christmas Divided Fans!

Oh…and in case you were wondering, if the Giants beat the Eagles, and Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota also lose, then we’re in. If I had to bet, which thankfully I don’t, I’d say that all those other things will happen, but then the Giants will lose to the Eagles.  Probably in overtime.  Probably by a field goal. At least it won’t be by penalty kicks. Penalty kicks are the worst.

Win Out and We’re In: The Giants Road to the Playoffs, Revised

December 17, 2012

Two weeks ago, our sights were set on winning the NFC East. In my post on December 8th, I wrote:

“The Wild Card is much more complicated and less likely. We can cross that bridge if and when we get there, but for now let’s focus on winning the NFC East.”

Well fans, we are standing on the bridge. Let’s cross it.

The Giants still control their own destiny but only for the Wild Card. Win out and we are in.

The division is still possible but it requires a Dallas or Washington loss next week, which is possible of course, but we know it’s never going to happen. At least, we can’t count on it. I wouldn’t recommend even watching those games, because they only end up adding insult to injury—thanks a lot Cleveland and Pittsburg!

The new goal is to win two games in a row, and what ever else happens is icing on the cake. Division or Wild Card, our playoff picture is practically the same, with the exception of one home game. So losing to Atlanta is not the end of the world.

Granted, that doesn’t really help all of us who wasted three hours of our lives yesterday watching the Giants march up and down the field only to come away with nothing. Zero points!

But, look at the rest of the NFL. These types of games are happening to good teams every week. It happened to the Falcons just last week against the Panthers. We did it to the Saints and Green Bay, and they bounced back. Even the Patriots are vulnerable. They destroyed Houston. They made them look like a last place team, and then they lost at home to the 49ers, after falling behind 28 to nothing.

We could worry about our loss, but what’s the point? Win out and we’re in.

To make sure this was actually the case, my father and I considered all the scenarios and tiebreakers at length last night. Then, my brother sent us a link to the ESPN NFL Playoff Machine. All you do is plug in who you want/need to win and it calculates the playoff seeds for you. Genius! Gotta love computers. My dad and I were glad to see our predictions were correct, but this would have saved a lot of time. Have fun and forget about yesterday’s game. Win out and we’re in.

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