Wednesday, December 17, 2008


This post from the Borowitz Report is too funny for words! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Sportsbusters.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


WITH CC AND AJ in the bag, the Yankees are hardly sweating on whether AP accepts their offer of a one-year deal worth $10 million.

The AP I’m referring to is Andy Pettitte, who is hardly endearing himself to Yanks fans by humming and haaing over whether to re-sign for “the only team I want to play for.”

Now one well-informed baseball scribe is reporting that the reason for Pettitte’s prevarication is that another team is willing to give him a three-year, $36 million deal.

Even allowing for the fact that despite the recession, baseball clubs are still handing out long-term contracts like confetti, this story beggar’s belief.

True, Philadelphia have rewarded 46-year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer with a new, two-year contract. But then Moyer did play a leading role in helping the Phillies win the World Series this year.

Veteran pitcher wants better offer

For all his past achievements in pinstripes, Pettitte couldn’t even help the Yankees reach the playoffs last season. Reportedly troubled throughout the year by a nagging shoulder injury, he went 14-14 with an ERA of 4.54.

At 36 years old, Pettitte was said to be contemplating following Mike Mussina into retirement.

Now we are being led to believe by his representatives that he is actually considering pitching for another three years – and that someone is prepared to pay him $12 million a year to do so.

It’s the right time of year for fairy tales. Could this be another tall story leaked in the hope that the moneybags Yankees will increase their offer?

That’s quite possible, given that the agents representing CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett waited patiently in the wings until the price was right.

What general manager Brian Cashman should do now is call Pettitte’s bluff by telling him it’s now or never to accept the Yanks’ offer.

Monday, December 15, 2008


CHRISTMAS is a time for giving…and it seems the presents are being handed out early in the National Football League.

Buffalo Bills quarterback JP Losman gifted the New York Jets victory at the Meadowlands and quite possibly saved coach Eric Mangini from Santa’s sack.

Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher’s puzzling decision not to allow Rob Bironas to attempt a 49-yard field goal in the last two minutes in Houston resulted in his team’s second defeat of the season. Bironas, remember, kicked one from 60 yards in 2006.

And the officials in Baltimore overturned the ruling on the field that Santonio Holmes had caught Ben Roethlisberger just outside the end zone when TV replays failed to provide any conclusive evidence that the ball had in fact broken the plane of the goal line.

Such is the margin between victory and defeat, success and failure, in the NFL.

So what have we learned from week 15? That some teams are not as good as we thought they were – and that some are even worse than we could imagine. Take a bow the Detroit Lions, St Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.

Just as winning is a habit, so is losing. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that the Chiefs managed to blow yet another lead – this time a 21-3 advantage over the struggling San Diego Chargers in the third quarter.

Giants lose their aura of invincibility

“I’m still in utter shock right now,” said linebacker Rocky Boiman. “How we can come so close and still somehow let it slip away. It doesn’t seem possible.”

Anything is possible for Herm Edwards’
hapless Chiefs, who have lost 21 of their last 23 games.

The Jets, who looked like world-beaters when they were winning in Tennessee and New England, have been made to look distinctly average by the 49ers and Bills.

And, without Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs, the previously invincible New York Giants were left battered and bruised by the Dallas Cowboys.

For the second week running, the Giants offense was awful, leading to Eli Manning being sacked no fewer than six times.

Two weeks ago, a second successive Super Bowl looked a distinct possibility. Now the momentum has shifted to teams such as Pittsburgh, Dallas and the Carolina Panthers – the Giants’ next opponents on Sunday.

That word momentum holds the key to success in most sports. And now that the Giants have lost it, they’re not going to find it easy to get it back.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


AS USUAL, the Yankees upstaged the Mets by agreeing a deal with CC Sabathia less than 24 hours after their cross-town rivals had signed Francisco Rodriguez.

While the Yanks have the cash to splash on Sabathia, the Mets have made a more modest outlay on K-Rod and JJ Putz.

The Yanks are not finished yet. But when this winter’s wheeling and dealing is finally done, it may well turn out that Mets general manager Omar Minaya is the overall winner of The Price is Right.

Let’s to be honest, you don’t have to be the shrewdest businessman in the world to close a deal with the top free agent when you’re willing to outbid your competitors by more than $60 million.

Such was the Yankees’ desperation to sign a genuine No. 1 pitcher that no one was going to stand in their way – not even CC’s wife, Amber.

In comparison to the $161 million, seven-year deal handed to Sabathia, K-Rod is a steal at $37 million for three years.

He may not be the best closer in baseball – I’d put Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon ahead of him – but neither of them had anywhere close to 62 saves last season.

But while Rodriguez was a straightforward money signing, Minaya had to get creative to acquire the services of JJ Putz in a three-team, 12-player trade involving the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians.

K-Rod and JJ to pack powerful one-two punch

Putz, who will be 32 in February, was among the best closers in baseball in 2007 with 40 saves and the lowest ERA (1.38) among Major League relievers.

He was troubled by injuries last season but still managed 15 saves an ERA of 3.88.

If Putz stays healthy in 2009, the Mets are going to have the best eighth and ninth inning combination in the National League.

Compare that to this year when the bullpen blew an amazing 29 saves and gave up 61 home runs from the seventh inning on.

But for their ninth inning profligacy, the Mets would have finished the regular season five games ahead of the Philadelphia in the NL East…and we all know what the Phillies went on to accomplish.

All Minaya gave up to acquire a man with 101 saves in 308 games were Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith and Endy Chavez. 

Of those three, only Smith could be considered a major loss. Heilman was a disaster this year in key situations and while Chavez made some spectacular catches in the outfield, he was a lightweight with the bat.

On paper, the Yanks have more cracks to fill in than the Mets. But they may live to regret the folly of handing out long-terms deals to seasoned players.

Judging by his physique, Sabathia is going to be a hungry player. But whether that hunger is for success or merely fast food remains to be seen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


SHOULD YANKEES FANS be elated, relieved or concerned now that it appears CC Sabathia will be wearing pinstripes next year?

Elated because above anything else, the Yanks need an ace pitcher who can compete with the Josh Becketts of this world.

Relieved because for the last three weeks it seemed that Sabathia didn’t want to come to New York for all the tea in China.

Concerned because giving any pitcher a seven-year deal is a major risk, let alone one of CC’s build and age (28).

His ability is not in doubt; he has a career ERA of 3.66. But he’s already pitched 1,659 innings so has plenty of miles on the clock.

After their gamble backfired on giving youth a chance rather than pursuing Johan Santana last winter, the Yanks were not going to make the same mistake twice.

That’s why general manager Brian Cashman has used every trick in the book to persuade CC that New York City can be his kind of town.

Opt-out clause seals deal with Yanks

Mind you, reports suggest that the $161 million, seven-year deal includes an opt-out clause after three years, just in case life in the Big Apple doesn’t suit the father-of-two from California.

Sabathia had a close relationship with the fans in Cleveland, so much so that he took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper thanking them for their support after leaving for Milwaukee.

He will soon discover that there are no in-betweens with the fans in New York. They idolize you when you’re playing well, but turn on you pretty quickly when you’re out of form. A-Rod can tell CC all about that.

There have been some concerns expressed about Sabathia’s weight, but he has been a willing workhorse throughout his career and was able to pitch successfully on short rest for the Brewers at the end of last season.

Another worry is his record in the postseason – one win against three losses in five games. He went 0-2 with a 10.45 ERA against the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 American League Championship Series.

But after being eliminated from the postseason for the first time since 1993 this year, the Yanks priority is actually getting there next year. Playing in the same division as the Red Sox and emerging Tampa Bay Rays, that’s going to be no easy task.

It’s also why Cashman and the Yanks will continue to pursue the other free agent pitchers, notably AJ Burnett and Derek Lowe.

Add one of those two to Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and probably Andy Pettitte and you should have a pretty decent starting rotation, especially with Phil Hughes waiting in the wings. 

Being greedy, I would like to have seen the Yanks leading the race to sign Mark Teixeira as they need a first baseman who can hit and he’s a perfect fit.

As well as their well-chronicled pitching problems last season, we shouldn’t forget that the Yanks fell well short of their projected runs total too.

Teixeira would go a long way to solving that problem but, sadly, that’s one deal that doesn’t look like happening.

Baseball’s hot stove is sizzling now and with the Mets capture of K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez), New York fans are going to be treated to seeing two of the best three closers currently playing the game.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


NEW YORK baseball fans will no doubt be glad to hear that even if they can’t afford to go to the city’s two new ballparks next season, they will still be making a significant contribution to the clubs’ welfare.

The Associated Press reports that the Yankees and Mets are asking New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city for an additional $450 million in public bonds to finance the building of their new stadiums.

The news comes at a time when the Yankees have made an offer of $140 million to one player, CC Sabathia. The Mets are already committed to paying Johan Santana $137.5 million over the next six years.

In the Yankees’ application, the club is asking for another $259m in tax-exempt bonds and $111m in taxable bonds. This is on top of the $965m in bonds already granted for the $1.3 billion new Yankee Stadium.

The Mets are requesting an additional $83m, on top of the $615m already approved for their $800m Citi Field.

The reason? Rising costs, which are far greater than predicted in 2006, notably to replace the parkland on which the new Yankee Stadium is being built and construction of the Metro-North rail station nearby.

City officials claim they will still make a net profit on the bonds and that the new ballparks have generated thousands of construction jobs.

Taxpayers taken for another $450 million

But they’re certainly providing critics of the deal with plenty of ammunition to fire back that the cost to taxpayers far outweighs the economic benefits.

In the current economic climate, when people are losing jobs through no fault of their own, this story is bound to raise eyebrows.

As a fan myself, I know just how much pleasure the Yankees and Mets bring to the community in New York and far beyond.

Baseball remains America’s favorite pastime. It’s also an “industry” that generated a record $6.5 billion in revenue this year alone.

The salaries paid to the top players are obscene, the ticket prices charged so high that the average fan can no longer attend games on a regular basis.

At a time when the U.S. Government is having to bail out the banks and car manufacturers, surely Major League Baseball – and especially the moneybags Mets and Yankees – should be told to pick up the tab.


THE YANKEES are used to getting their man but surely it must be crystal clear by now that CC Sabathia is not in a New York state of mind.

More than three weeks after the Yanks first dangled a $140 million, six-year deal in front of baseball’s most sough-after free agent, the hefty lefty has yet to take the bait.

General manager Brian Cashman is preaching patience and he’s right…imposing a deadline would probably only succeed in driving the ace pitcher away.

“These free agents, especially when they’re the high end, can dictate the pace,” said Cashman.

“Now I’ve had a chance to meet CC he’s a quality guy. Whether he picks us or doesn’t pick us, I think he’s going through this process with genuine, sincere effort to make the best decision for himself and his family, simple as that.

“We’re not being played, we’re not being manipulated, we’re not being used. I just think that he’s making an informed decision.”

Such are the club’s pitching needs that Cashman and Co. can’t sit around forever in the vain hope that Sabathia will eventually agree to take the Yankee dollar.

Ace pitcher prefers LA to New York

As an ardent Yanks fan, of course I want to see CC in pinstripes. But if he can’t share my passion for the Bronx Bombers then I’d rather he go elsewhere.

Reports suggest that after plying his trade in the baseball backwaters of Cleveland and Milwaukee, Sabathia is concerned about the scrutiny he and his family would be subjected to in New York.

The Big Apple brings out the best in some players, but the bright lights and mass media attention are not for everyone.

The Yanks are pulling out all the stops to persuade Sabathia he would fit right in. They have even enlisted the help of Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, who knows all about hero worship in New York.

But despite all this, Sabathia seems desperate for someone else to come up with comparable offer so he can play on the West Coast, preferably in the National League.

So much so that his representatives have even made overtures to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have money to spend now that they have withdrawn their $45 two-year offer to Manny Ramirez.

Cashman no doubt has a backup plan or two if and when Sabathia officially rules out a move to the Yankees.

But after deciding not to pursue Johan Santana last winter, the Yanks are desperate to land the big one this year…and it shows.

Monday, December 8, 2008


TALK of a Subway Super Bowl proved premature. The New York Giants are fallible, after all, while the Jets are proving a real enigma.

Nerveless in New England, titanic in Tennessee, losing big at home to the Broncos was bad enough, but they were 3.5-point favorites in San Francisco and lost by 10.

Even allowing for a questionable holding call, which ruled out a 99-yard kickoff return by Leon Washington and robbed the Jets of a 21-17 fourth-quarter lead, Gang Green was once again in disarray.

A lack of unity, highlighted by the sniping comments aimed at Brett Favre by Laveranues Coles in the San Francisco media leading up to the game, is almost as concerning as the lack of leadership by coach Eric Mangini.

Mangini is clearly no Bill Belichick. He is either unable or unwilling to change his game plan when it isn’t working. And the inability of the Jets defense to apply any real pressure to the quarterback continues to hurt them against supposedly inferior opponents.

The 8-5 Jets are now in a three-way tie for the lead in the AFC East with the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins.

They have the ideal opportunity to bounce back when fast-fading Buffalo come to town this Sunday.

That really is a “must win” game as the Jets – 0-3 on the West Coast – then have to go to Seattle before playing their final game at home to the Dolphins.

It’s all building up to a massive showdown between Favre and the man he usurped at quarterback, Chad Pennington, for a playoff place – and perhaps a divisional title – on Sunday, December 28.

Giants stumble, Jets fall from grace

Defeat for the Giants was not so costly, and perhaps not so surprising, even though they were favored by 7.5 points against the Philadelphia Eagles.

This was a much more important game for Donovan McNabb and the Eagles than it was for the Giants. And after the media circus following the Plaxico Burress shooting, they have clearly taken their eye of the ball.

The good news is that the Dallas Cowboys’ 20-13 defeat in Pittsburgh means the Giants have now clinched a playoff berth and the NFC East title.

The bad news is that they have to play in Dallas this weekend and, just as it was for the Eagles, this is a game the Cowboys simply cannot afford to lose.

With their last two games against Carolina (home) and Minnesota (away), there’s going to be no easy ride to the playoffs for Big Blue.

That’s why it is vital that coach Tom Coughlin has a week without off-the-field distractions to enable the Giants to regain their focus.

Eli Manning, normally so good at executing Coughlin’s game plan, was strangely out of sorts, along with most of his teammates.

And it was a complete mystery as to why, on a freezing cold day, the Giants went away from their usual running game.

Surely they should have learned by now of the threat posed by the Eagles multi-talented running back Brian Westbrook? Far better to let McNabb try to beat you in the air than give Westbrook the freedom of the Meadowlands.

Giants fans can only keep their fingers crossed that this was a one-off. But, as Jets supporters will testify, one bad performance can lead to two.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


BASEBALL’S HOT STOVE is still on simmer, the majority of free agents waiting for CC Sabathia to set the benchmark for salaries.

Sabathia is clearly in no hurry to accept the New York Yankees’ offer of $140 million over the next six years.

And until he does, his fellow pitchers, notably AJ Burnett, Jake Peavy and Derek Lowe – or, more accurately, their agents – don’t know just how high to set the bar for their wage demands.

Sabathia, it would seem, has no great desire to play in pinstripes. The word on the street is that he and his wife, Amber, would rather live on the West Coast – even if that means him playing for the struggling San Francisco Giants, some 30 miles from his home town of Vallejo, California.

In stark contrast, Andy Pettitte has made it plain that New York is the only place he wants to play. Perhaps he should have added the rider…at the right price.

Reports suggest the Yanks have offered the 36-year-old left-hander a one-year deal worth $10 million – $6 million less than he earned this year, when he went 14-14 with an ERA of 4.54.

Pitcher should accept Yanks $10m offer

With Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers waiting in the wings, Pettitte’s agent, Randy Kendricks, clearly believes his client can get more. Which begs the question: is there even one degree of loyalty left in modern-day sports?

Just remember that Pettitte has already left the Yankees once for a better offer. In 2003, he joined the Houston Astros on a $31.5 million, three-year contract.

And let’s not forget either than the Yankees stood by him – and their contractual agreement – almost exactly a year ago after the Mitchell report revealed that he had taken human growth hormone.

Pettitte neglected to inform the Yanks that he had spoken to investigators before signing his new, $16 million contract.

Later, at an emotional news conference, he apologized to the organization and the fans for his mistake. And, before, during and after last season, he has maintained that he wants to finish his career in the Bronx.

If that truly is the case, then Pettitte should accept the Yanks’ offer.

After all, if anyone deserves a “cut price” deal then it’s the Yankees. They’re the club that have set him up for life. Any other move would be nothing short of treason.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


PLAXICO BURRESS didn’t just shoot himself in the foot (sorry, thigh); he blew a big hole in the New York Giants’ plans to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Can the Giants win without Burress? Yes. Are the Giants as good a team without him? No.

Make no mistake, Burress’s likely absence in the coming weeks is going to hurt Big Blue. And, perhaps of even greater concern, is the affect the incident will have on his teammates, two of whom – linebacker Antonio Pierce and, possibly, running back Ahmad Bradshaw – were with him at the Manhattan nightclub in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Yes, the Giants are 11-1, despite the fact that Burress has missed several games this season due to a persistent hamstring injury. And, true, they were comfortable winners in Washington without him last Sunday.

But, as the 6ft 5in wide receiver showed in the Giants’ upset win over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl earlier this year, and in the NFC  Championship game in Green Bay, he is a man for the big occasion. The Giants have other options. But, when he’s healthy, Burress is far and away their best WR.

The world and his wife have had their say on perplexing Plaxico, most notably New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is calling on the authorities to impose the mandatory three-and-a-half-year sentence if and when Burress is convicted of criminal possession of a weapon.

Why was he carrying a firearm and what were he and the other Giants players doing at the nightclub at 1.20am on Saturday, the day before a game?

Star receiver hurts himself and the team

I have both respect and sympathy for those players who have overcome a tough upbringing to make a name for themselves in the Rollerball world of the National Football League.

They must be besieged by family and friends wanting a share of their fortune and fame. And, of course, some of the hangers-on have not been so fortunate in turning their lives around.

Having said that, no one is above the law. Both the Giants and the New York Presbyterian Hospital were unwise to attempt to cover up the incident. It was bound to get out.

Burress has been nothing but trouble for the Giants this season – even after general manager Jerry Reese gave into his demands and renegotiated his contract. Fortunately, most of the financial incentives were based on him actually playing.

Now, he seems sure to be suspended, if not by the Giants then by the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell has made his reputation on establishing a code of conduct among the teams and players.

The Giants have overcome so much adversity in the last two years: the retirements of Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan, the departure of Jeremy Shockey, the pre-season injury to defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

Already the best “team” in the NFL, the Burress affair may make them bond even tighter as a group. But it could also backfire on them when they need to make a big play.

Domenik Hixon is a more than adequate replacement. But he’s three inches shorter than Burress and a lot less experienced.

Burress’s absence leaves Eli Manning with one less option when he’s looking to thread the eye of the needle and find a receiver in the end zone.

Friday, November 28, 2008


WHAT'S been the best American soap opera of the last decade: General Hospital or the New York Knickerbockers?

Hardly a day goes by, it seems, without some sex scandal, row story or off-the-court controversy emerging from Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks are rarely off the front or back pages of the New York newspapers. They are a constant topic of conversation on talk radio shows. Sadly, from their loyal fans’ point of view, it’s hardly ever for their achievements in the National Basketball Association.

You have to go back to 1973 to find the last time they won the NBA Championship. And they haven’t captured an Eastern Conference title since 1999.

The Patrick Ewing era is a distant memory. Since then, a succession of high-profile coaches and players have come and gone, none of them managing to bring back the glory days to one of the most famous franchises in basketball.

Worse still, they have plunged the Knicks deeper and deeper into the abyss, saddling the organization with long-terms contracts that have left it with little or no room for maneuver within the salary cap.

Larry Brown’s much-heralded arrival ended with an $18.5 million buyout of his five-year contract. The decision to let Isiah Thomas take over the day-to-day running of the team had even more disastrous effects.

Not only did the Knicks stink under clueless coach Thomas but he then landed them with a sexual harassment lawsuit that resulted in a jury awarding $11.6 million in punitive damages against MSG.

All this has been presided over by owner James Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, the parent company of the Madison Square Garden corporation.

Still some weeding to be done at the Garden

Dolan’s latest move has been to appoint former Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh as team president and ex-Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni as head coach.

Walsh and D’Antoni are now attempting to clear away the wreckage left by ten years of mismanagement…and it’s proving no easy task.

Not surprisingly, there is no quick fix. That’s been the underlying problem of the past decade: too many quick fixes aimed at achieving overnight success.

D’Antoni has cleared out the cupboard to such an extent that the current team is now playing short-handed. In other words, the Knicks don’t have enough bench players.

This has been accentuated by the fact that the Knicks last remaining star player, Stephon Marbury, refuses to play for the team. D’Antoni has made it clear that Marbury has no future in New York and Marbury has made it clear he has no intention of accepting a bit part.

Marbury, who is owed $21.9 million in wages this season, seems content to sit at home and wait for one of two things to happen: a contract buyout or a trade. Whichever happens, Dolan’s wallet is going to take another big hit.

Once Marbury has gone, D’Antoni and Walsh can begin planning for the future, namely the summer of 2010, when four of the biggest names in basketball become free agents: LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors and Amare Stoudemire of the Suns.

It’s no secret that James is the man most wanted. Rumor has it that his sponsor, Nike, will pay him $100 million if he joins a big-market team so James could well be attracted by the bright lights of the Big Apple, where he would become an instant hero (if he isn’t already).

New York fans actually cheered James when he played for the Cavaliers against the Knicks at MSG last week. Well, they’ve had little to cheer from their own team.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Knicks will land LeBron or any other of the “Big Four.” In the meantime, they’re going to be a sub .500 team for at least another two years.

That’s something long-suffering Knickerbockers supporters will be willing to put up with…just as long as no one turns off the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, November 24, 2008


SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1st. Save the date because we could be watching the first ever Subway Super Bowl.

Of course, things rarely go according to plan. Just ask the 18-1 New England Patriots. But, on current form, New York boasts the two best teams in football.

The 8-3 Jets have won five games in a row after ending the unbeaten record of the Tennessee Titans with an emphatic 34-13 victory. The 10-1 Giants are on a six-game winning streak after overcoming the Arizona Cardinals 37-29.

Big Apple football fans have never had it so good. But while the reigning Super Bowl champions have been good from day one, the transformation in the Jets has been nothing short of remarkable.

When they lost 16-13 in Oakland on October 19th, there were serious doubts being raised about the wisdom of acquiring legendary quarterback Brett Favre…and rightly so after he had thrown 11 interceptions in seven games.

Now, it seems Favre can do no wrong. He’s turned from gunslinger to sheriff, ensuring the gospel according to coach Eric Mangini is carried out to the letter of the law.

With the Jets successfully stopping the run, and running the ball themselves, there has been no need for Favre to take risks – and he’s been near perfect in orchestrating wins in New England and now Tennessee.

Linebacker David Bowens summed up the mood in the Gang Green camp. “I’ve never been on a team that has been on this kind of a roll. It’s euphoric. It’s like we have an attitude that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”

With home games against Denver, Buffalo and Miami, and road trips to struggling San Francisco and Seattle, it’s not inconceivable that the Jets could finish the regular season 13-3, which could well be good enough to win the AFC.

Giants and Jets on course to meet in Tampa

The Giants remain on course to win the NFC, although their run-in looks a lot tougher than the Jets. They still have to go to Washington, Dallas and Minnesota, with home games against Philadelphia and Carolina.

Mind you, no problem seems insurmountable for coach Tom Coughlin and his brilliant defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo.

Many expected the Giants to struggle when Tiki Barber called it a day and Jeremy Shockey broke his leg. Then, when Michael Strahan retired and defensive end Osi Umenyiora injured his knee in a pre-season game, they were dismissed as realistic contenders to retain their title.

Yesterday, they returned to the University of Phoenix Stadium – scene of their Super Bowl XLII triumph ¬– to take on the high-flying Cardinals without star running back Brandon Jacobs and their best wide receiver, Plaxico Burress.

It made little or no difference. Such is the strength in depth on the Giants roster that Domenik Hixon, Burress’s replacement, made six catches, ran three kickoff returns for 180 yards and finished the game with 269 all-purpose yards.

Eli Manning completed 26 of 33 passes and, as Coughlin said afterwards: “He just continues to do whatever has to be done to win the game.”

Football is such a ferocious sport that it’s unwise to look any further ahead than next week. Injuries play a key part and you can be sure that Favre and Manning will now be marked men.

Let’s hope both teams stay healthy. Wouldn’t it be great if on February 1st, 2009, in Tampa Florida, the Jets made their first Super Bowl appearance for 40 years and the Giants their first for 12 months! 

Thursday, November 20, 2008


HE NEVER won a Cy Young award or a World Series ring. In fact, only once did he win 20 games in a season.

Yet if, as reports suggest, Mike Mussina decides to walk away from baseball later this week, I believe that he should be walking into the Hall of Fame.

Mussina, who turns 40 next month, has decided to go out on a high. Not for the first time in his career, he proved the critics wrong in 2008, bouncing back from a disappointing year to keep the struggling New York Yankees the right side of .500.

“Moose” went 11-10 in 2007 with an ERA of 5.15. When he began 2008 with a 1-3 record, many (myself included) were calling for him to removed from the starting rotation.

Hank Steinbrenner, Senior Vice President of the Yankees, publicly criticized him for not daring to pitch inside like Philadelphia Philllies veteran Jamie Moyer.

Moose, however, has always done things his own way. Never one to overpower the hitters, he spent his career relying on finesse and an acute ability to paint the corners of the plate.

What he did do was improve his strikes-to-balls ratio, cutting down on the walks and challenging the hitters to make contact.

Veteran pitcher set to retire on 270 wins

In a season when “young guns” Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy failed to win one game between them, Andy Pettitte pitched poorly and Chien-Ming Wang was injured, Mussina became the mainstay of the Yanks rotation. 

He recorded his 20th win of the season – and 270th of his career – at Fenway Park on September 28th, finishing the year 20-9 with an ERA of 3.37.

The dilemma facing Moose this off-season has been whether to carry on pitching and go for 300 wins, or slip away gracefully to spend time with his wife, Jana, and their three children.

Family man Mike has always been concerned about his children growing up without really kowing their father. He was probably also concerned about being able to reproduce last season’s form should he decide to return.

Most baseball pundits agree that Mussina is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But they seem to be split right down the middle on whether he should eventually make it into Cooperstown.

In my view, he should. Not only did pitch all 18 seasons in the American League, he pitched them all in the unforgiving American League East.

Johnny Damon, his Yankees team-mate, told the New York Times: “His legacy is going to be one of the best pitchers to ever put on a uniform, a guy who was able to do it in the American League East his whole career.”

His first 10 seasons were spent with the Baltimore Orioles at batter-friendly Camden Yards. Yet he still ended up with a career ERA of 3.68, recording 270 wins against 153 losses.

Mussina pitched in the steroid era so you can also argue that he was at unfair advantage up against juiced-up sluggers. Although he never managed a no-hitter, he had now fewer than six one-hit games.

Moose, who earned an economics degree at Stanford University, was the thinking man’s pitcher. Now the Yankees have to think of a way to replace a 20-game winner and the heartbeat of their rotation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


MLS FANS will be tuned into ABC at 3.30pm this Sunday to watch the New York Red Bulls take on the Columbus Crew in the championship game.

I may watch the first half but at 4.15pm, I’ll probably be switching to FOX for the Giants game in Arizona.

When I moved from England to the United States four years ago, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that football – or what Americans term as football – would take precedence over soccer or association football.

I still enjoy viewing the live Premier League game on the Fox Soccer Channel on Saturday morning. I even take in the occasional Serie A match from Italy on a Sunday.

But when it comes to the MLS, well, quite frankly, I’ve had more fun watching paint dry.

There’s simply no comparison to the standard of play or level of entertainment produced by the leagues in England, France, Germany, Italy or Spain.

Average players, sometimes performing on pitches marked for American football, produce too many boring, low-scoring games.

At least, that was my view after enduring the 0-0 draw between the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire in the Conference semi-finals, first leg.

So much for David Beckham changing the face of American soccer. His arrival in the USA was greeted by a huge media fanfare.

New York Red Bulls go for upset win

But, less than two years on, his Los Angeles Galaxy team once again failed to qualify for the playoffs and instead of gracing TV screens in the USA, he’s joined Italian giants AC Milan on a four-month loan spell.

How MLS could use Beckham now. When I watched the Red Bulls beat Real Salt Lake 1-0 in front of a 20,000 crowd on Sunday, the only player I recognized on either side was former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel.

The Red Bulls scraped into the eight-team playoffs, despite losing more games in the regular season than they actually won.

Lady Luck was smiling on them again on Sunday, Real Salt Lake hitting the post on new fewer than four occasions.

The only goal of the game was scored in the 28th minute by Dutchman Dave van den Bergh, who made 12 appearances for Ajax Amsterdam at the end of the 1990s.

No doubt the Red Bulls will be underdogs again this weekend as they are up against the Eastern Conference champions, Columbus.

Juan Carlos Osorio, their Colombian coach, is happy to have it that way. “For a team like us that snuck into the playoffs, it’s a fresh start,” he said.

MLS are expecting their 13th title game to sell out, even though for some reason it’s being played in Carson, California. That’s convenient for fans of teams from New York and Ohio!

Call me cynical if you like but it’s going to take a lot more goalmouth action on Sunday to stop me changing channels.

Monday, November 17, 2008


A CRAZY Sunday in football left fans and bettors alike feeling disgruntled and dissatisfied.

It also raised the question: should the tie still exist in the National Football League?

After a futile three hours and 46 minutes, including overtime, Philadelphia and Cincinnati were still locked at 13-13 – the first tie in the NFL since 2002.

In soccer, the tie or draw is a common event, the two teams each receiving one point (compared to three for a win). But in US sports, it’s almost unheard of.

That can’t happen in the NFL, where the number of wins achieved in 16 games decides a team’s position. The tie leaves both the Eagles (five wins) and Bengals (one) in last place in their respective divisions.

For the Bengals, you could argue that the result – or lack of one – doesn’t really matter. But, for the Eagles, it could ultimately cost them a playoff place.

It was Cincinnati who had the only scoring chance in OT, Shayne Graham missing a 47-yard field goal attempt.

Blown call leaves bettors fuming

In snowy Pittsburgh, there were even more bizarre goings-on as the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to win by an 11-10 scoreline, against the San Diego Chargers.

History should have remained unchanged. The Steelers and Troy Polamalu should have been awarded a touchdown in the final seconds as the Chargers tried to keep the game alive with laterals.

Umpire Scott Green, who initially upheld the ruling of touchdown on the field before changing his mind, admitted afterwards that he got it wrong.

There was even some suggestion that Green may have been put under pressure to come up with a quick decision as the game had gone beyond its scheduled running time, delaying 60 Minutes.

His admission of guilt will come as no consolation to those who decided to place their hard-earned cash on the Steelers to cover a 4.5-point spread. Around $10 million is wagered on every NFL game and although the spread is set to promote a balanced book, apparently the ratio of bets taken on Pittsburgh v San Diego was 4-1 in favor of the Steelers.

In England, when the officials make a score-changing mistake like this, some magnanimous bookmakers agree to pay out on both results.

Somehow, I can’t see them being so benevolent in Vegas.

Friday, November 14, 2008


NO DOUBT Eric Mangini and his New York Jets players had to pinch themselves when they woke up this morning. 

Such has been the dominance of the New England Patriots over their East Coast rivals that any Jets win – particularly one on the road – is almost worthy of a ticker-tape parade.

After all, before last night’s emotional 34-31 overtime victory, the Jets had lost 11 of their last 12 meetings with the Pats.

Having already lost at home to the Patriots, defeat would have all but ended their hopes of winning the AFC East division and left them scrapping it out for a playoff position.

Instead, they’re in pole position at 7-3 and, suddenly, New York has not one but two genuine Super Bowl contenders.

So what are the Jets feeling most today…euphoria or a sense of a relief? I suspect a mixture of both.

Elation at knowing the balance of power has finally shifted. But, hopefully, also a realization that although they won the Battle of Foxborough, they’ve yet to win the war.

Brett Favre, who played with a reckless abandon at the start of the season, was simply immense when it really mattered.

His pass selection, judgment and self-discipline gave the Jets the upper hand. And, after they had blown a 24-6 lead, he kept his composure to lead them down the field again for what should have been the game-winning touchdown.

When will coaches ever learn? Prevent defense may take time off the clock but it also allows your opponents to get easy downs and, on this occasion, one last shot at the end zone.

Euphoria and relief after "massive" victory

It’s not in the Jets nature to do things the easy way. Randy Moss should never have been given the opportunity to make a fingertip catch from Matt Cassel’s pinpoint pass with one second remaining.

Mangini and his team looked shell-shocked. Their eyes were glazed. How could this be happening to us…again?

It was imperative that they won the toss and were able to receive in OT. I, for one, wouldn’t have fancied their chances had the coin landed heads instead of tails.

The mood in the Jets camp today would have been more than somber had the heroic efforts of Favre, Leon Washington and Kris Jenkins counted for nought.

Instead, they can enjoy a well-earned weekend off before they start preparing for another huge game at the unbeaten Tennessee Titans on Sunday week. The Pats, meanwhile, face a “must win” game against another divisional rival, the Miami Dolphins.

For Pats coach Bill Belichick, a perfect 7-0 in OT games up until last night, the good news is that he no longer has to worry about the quarterback position.

Matt Cassel threw for 400 yards in a losing effort and has proved a more than capable deputy for the injured Tom Brady.

And before Jets fans get too carried away, let’s remember that as well as Brady, the Pats were without safety Rodney Harrison, running back Laurence Maroney, linebacker Adalius Thomas and defensive end Ty Warren.

But when people look back on this result in years to come, the record books won’t show that the Jets were facing a much-depleted Patriots team.

I wonder whether they’ll also look back on it as the night that Mangini’s Jets came of age.