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Rays of Light

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As a Boston Red Sox fan — and make no mistake as you read these words to follow, I am a Red Sox fan — I was, of course, sad to see them lose the American League Championship Series to the scrappy, upstart (I’m legally required to refer to them as such) Tampa Bay Rays last night.  But the only other team I care about at all is that same Tampa Bay team, so I was also quite happy to see them win it.  Even more importantly, as a baseball fan, I was thrilled to see the Rays advance to the World Series.

When big championship-level sporting events come around — especially, but not exclusively, ones where I haven’t paid a damn bit of attention to the regular season — I almost always root for either the underdog or the team which hasn’t won in a long time or has never won before (provided, of course, that I don’t have an actual rooting interest in either team involved).  I really like seeing new teams win championships, knowing that fans who haven’t gotten to see Their Team win are enjoying that experience, knowing that a new generation of kids is learning to support their favorite team and knowing that sometimes that love they feel for their team is rewarded.  I think it’s good for any sport for fans to think that any given year, their team could win it all — “Hey, if the Rays can make it to/win the World Series, maybe we can, too!”  

For this year’s Series, the “Who’s Suffered More?” criteria’s almost, but not quite, a toss-up for me:  the Rays have never been to the Series, while the Philadelphia Phillies were there 15 years ago.  But the city of Philadelphia, though they have teams in all four major sports [1], hasn’t won a championship in any of them in a combined 743 years.  (I’m guesstimating on the math there.)

The Rays, though, have thoroughly, thoroughly sucked every year of their existence before this one.  Yes, surely Philly fans have suffered more than Tampa fans, but that’s partially because until this year, the Rays have been utterly insignificant.  They’d never finished higher than fourth in their five-team division, and even that was only once. The reality is that teams with payrolls as miniscule as Tampa Bay’s aren’t really able to compete every year; magical seasons like this one come around infrequently, if ever, for most small-market teams, and I’d like to see the Rays win it all while they can.  (And it’s hard to be too upset as a Sox fan, seeing as how they just won it last year and then three years before that.)

The way baseball tends to work, chances aren’t bad that next year the Rays will still be competitive but will be back toward the middle of the statistical pack while the Red Sox probably will again be a World Series favorite.  If I had to make a quick-impression prediction right now, I’d say Tampa Bay ends up somewhere around 84-78 and out of the playoffs, while the Red Sox and Yankees will both win 90 or more games and again fight to win the AL East with both teams quite possibly in the postseason.   This might be their one shot, so go you Rays; you Red Sox, don’t worry — I’ll be cheering you on again come April.

[1] Assuming you still count hockey as a major sport, of course, which I suppose is kind of debatable for a league which broadcasts its championship series on the Outdoor Life Network.

Written by Allen

October 20th, 2008 at 11:01 am

A Giant Victory

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Well, hell.

I want to get this out of the way first: the Patriots did not lose that game — the Giants won it. Period. The Pats were simply outplayed; most specifically, the Pats offense was outplayed by the Giants’ defense. That wasn’t lousy officiating (the officials didn’t even have that much to do tonight), that wasn’t crappy play by the Patriots, that wasn’t any other lame excuse. It was just superior play by the Giants. New York deserved to win that game, and if I wore hats, I’d tip mine to them.

I originally picked the Pats to win this game in my initial thrush of excitement after beating San Diego in the AFC Championship game, but over the last few days I was starting to re-think that decision. The Patriots were themselves tremendous underdogs to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36, and they stunned the team that they supposedly had no chance to beat. That fact had been tickling the back of my head, apparently with good reason. I still thought New England would win, but my confidence in that victory shrank slightly as the days went by.

Over the last six weeks, I’ve watched every game played by both the Patriots and Giants, and over the last six weeks, the Giants have been the better team. The Giants nearly beat New England in Week 17; they went into Dallas and beat the Cowboys; they went into Green Bay and beat the Packers. Everyone kept saying this team had no chance, and yet they kept winning game they were supposed to have no chance to win. And then over the last two weeks, being disrespected and trivialized that way by almost everyone, telling the Giants that they were just a speed bump on New England’s expressway to history… well, that can have an awfully powerful motivating effect on a bunch of professional athletes.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tom Brady take that kind of beating before. Even with three Pro Bowlers on their offensive line, New England could do almost nothing to stop New York’s front seven — hell, I think I could count on one hand the number of times anyone from the Giants’ secondary was even mentioned during the broadcast, that’s how dominant a performance that was by their D-line and linebackers. Even a quarterback as tremendous as Brady isn’t going to be able to do all that much when he’s under constant pressure, especially when the running game has also been totally shut down. Brady’s going to be having nightmares about being chased by Giants for quite awhile, I’d imagine.

Win or lose, that was a helluva game and the Giants deserve all the credit in the world for a damn impressive win. And I hope that this loss doesn’t minimize what an amazing accomplishment it was for the Patriots to make it through the regular season undefeated (though of course it will). My sincere congratulations to the New York Giants, a deserving, if surprising, Super Bowl champion.

Written by Allen

February 3rd, 2008 at 11:24 pm

The Falcons’ Cursed Season Continues

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Wow, Bobby Petrino, way to see a commitment through.  You just made Nick Saban look like Tom Landry.  Way to go.

Petrino quit as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons after a thirteen-game stint which featured as many starting quarterbacks as it did wins (three of each).   He’s ditching the Falcons to take the head coaching gig at the University of Arkansas, which might actually be a step up in prestige — even if he’s taking a million-dollars-a-year pay cut.  (Let that number sink into your head for a minute.)

The man’s got the right to change his mind, of course; from all accounts, he simply wasn’t a good fit for the NFL.  He wanted to be able to treat his players in the same dictatorial fashion he did at Louisville, but it turns out that treatment doesn’t work out quite as well with multi-millionaire 28-year-olds as it does with 18-year-olds.  My main gripe with his decision was that he should have known before he took the job that the pro game works differently than the college game and that the players have more power — hell, he could have called Saban and asked him about his aborted two-year experiment as the Miami Dolphins head coach.  Or called Steve Spurrier or Dennis Erickson or Pete Carroll or any number of coaches who’ve gone back to the college ranks after terms in the pros.

I feel bad for Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who seems to be a good guy who truly wants to put a winning — and high-character — team on the field.  He keeps getting burned by people he trusts to make that happen:  he gives Michael Vick the largest contract in NFL history, and Vick decides to spend that cash on finding new ways to execute dogs, lies to the feds and gets himself sent to federal prison; he gives Jim Mora Jr. his first opportunity to be a head coach, and after taking the Falcons to the NFC title game, Mora openly lusts for the University of Washington coaching job in a radio interview; he gives Petrino his shot as an NFL head coach, and he leaves town even before his rookie season is finished.

Hey, Arthur, here’s an idea I’m sure has already been floated there at Falcons headquarters in Flowery Branch:  Atlanta’s not too far from Raleigh.  Maybe you can convince Bill Cowher to make the relatively short commute…?

Written by Allen

December 11th, 2007 at 9:27 pm

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