Monday, February 28, 2011

Marking the Anniversary of the First World Trade Center Attack

Article first published as Marking the Anniversary of the First World Trade Center Attack on Blogcritics.

Those of us who remember can think of February 26, 1993, as just another ordinary Friday, until we learned of the bombing of the World Trace Center in Manhattan. That night instead of watching my usual Knicks game, I was flooded with images both surreal and disturbing as news reports tried to cover every angle of the attack. I remember seeing the words "Terror at the Towers" splashed across the screen and thinking how could the world have come to this.

This first attack on the WTC, of course, seems nothing more than a footnote in history now, but it should never be forgotten because people lost their lives too. Also, it was a wake-up call that we Americans failed to heed, leading to the more remembered and far more devastating attacks on September 11, 2001.

Perhaps because the response was swift, there was no major loss of life, and the buildings seemed invulnerable after this attack, we quickly fell back into complacency. While New Yorkers especially remember the day, it always seemed like something we did our best to overcome. Even the perpetrators were caught and put on trial and sent to prison, so the story seemed to end there.

But, as we all well know now, the story does not end. Those backers of the terrorists who carried out the attack knew this was the target they wanted, and eight years later they would strike on a beautiful blue sky Tuesday morning and change our city, country, and world forever.

John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen A. Knapp, William Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, and Monica Rodriguez Smith (pregnant with her first child) died that day in 1993. It could have been many more had the terrorists had their way and toppled one building against the other. We cannot forget these people lost, and it is fitting that when the 9/11 Memorial opens this September, their names will be included with those killed in the 9/11 attacks inscribed in bronze for all eternity.

Many people, including myself, can only wonder why February 26, 1993, didn't do more to shake us out of our collective slumber. Maybe we were too involved in other things, or perhaps it is the way of the world to ignore such events because we want to believe they are isolated and do not affect us personally.

An anniversary is usually considered a happy event, but not in this case here. I didn't know anyone who died in 1993, but I certainly did on September 11, 2001. So did so many other New Yorkers and citizens of this nation. Now we can never forget - ever. As long as we live we can give voice to what that loss did to us, but sometimes I wonder if anyone is listening.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, my greatest fear is that we will fall into a complacency as deep as the one after the 1993 bombing. If we allow that to happen, whom do we blame when the next big attack comes?

9/11 was a case that caused most of us to say "Never again." The 9/11 Memorial is going to be a very visible reminder to everyone of what happened, how many people were lost, and a permanent fixture in the American consciousness. My only question is after ten years, how many of us are still saying "Never again," and if we're not, what words will we utter if the unthinkable happens on our soil again?

Photo Credit: ABC News

Mets Mess: MLB Gave Mets $25 Million Last Year

Article first published as Mets Mess: MLB Gave Mets $25 Million Last Year on Blogcritics.

If the dire situation on the field was not enough for Mets fans, the situation in the executive offices can make them worry even more these days. Today, the New York Daily News is reporting that team owner Fred Wilpon borrowed $25 million big ones from Major League Baseball to help "shore up the team's liquidity." In other words this was a one-time bailout that helped the team get back on its feet.

At the heart of all this is the shadow of Bernie Madoff, Ponzi schemer extraordinaire who bilked many investors, including Wilpon, out of hard earned money. While this may make Mets fans squirm as they hear about this loan (that, by the way, must be paid back), they think about the future of this organization and fear things are quite grim indeed.

Last month Wilpon announced that he was searching for a limited partner to buy a stake in the Mets. It seems everyone from Donald Trump to Justin Bieber has been rumored to be looking to get involved, but what price will be ultimately paid besides money? How will this affect day-to-day operation of the club, and more specifically, what happens on the field?

Right now Mets fans have little if anything to look forward to this season. Johann Santana will probably not pitch until after the All Star break, and with no major trades and returning players who, besides David Wright and Ike Davis, inspire little if any confidence, 2011 is shaping up to be a long wait until next year exercise in more futility.

The only bright side is that perhaps this revelation will lend credence to Wilpon's plea that he too was a victim of Madoff. We will have to see what happens in court in regards to that, but right now we Mets fans might as well settle in for the bumpy ride this season; from all indications things are going to get worse before they get any better in Metsville.

Photo credit: Simmons/Daily News

Friday, February 25, 2011

Knicks Knack: Anthony Debuts in 114-108 Win Over Bucks

Article first published as Knicks Knack: Anthony Debuts in 114-108 Win Over Bucks on Blogcritics.

There are magic moments in sports; sometimes we get to experience them, and sometimes we wish that we did. Can you imagine seeing Don Larsen's perfect game during the World Series? My father saw that one. What about being there when Lou Gehrig said he was the luckiest guy in the world? My great moments include when Cleon Jones caught that last ball of the 1969 World Series. Another was when Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox let a ball hit by Mookie Wilson roll through his legs. Those were the days.

Last night such a moment happened: Brooklyn-born Carmelo Anthony came home, and what a homecoming it was. He scored 27 points, had ten rebounds, and helped lead the New York Knicks to a 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. This was not a blowout, but that was not necessary. The Knicks are now 1-0 in the Carmelo Anthony era; let's hope there are many more wins to come in the weeks ahead.

Even if the Knicks win 20 of those last 27 games, they aren't going to catch the Celtics, but that is not why Anthony stepped on that court last night. It is all about perception and intention: team owner James Dolan wanted to let the fans know that he is committed to win, and nothing makes that more clear than seeing the new forward wearing that number 7 in a Knicks uniform.

Anthony got the welcome we would expect from New York fans. Madison Square Garden was rocking last night, and many fans have not heard that kind of thing for too long at MSG. I remember one other time in my life when a sports arena rocked like that; it was when Mike Piazza came to Shea Stadium for the first time. Old Shea rocked like it hadn't since the Beatles played their songs on a stage erected over second base. It was that wild and that loud and Piazza brought the same kind of hope to New York that Anthony brings now.

In the end we fans all want the same thing: a championship. It almost happened for Piazza in 2000, but the Yankees got in the way. Now it's Anthony's turn. He needs to do a lot more of what he did last night, but his stature and the confidence that he brings to the team is immeasurably important. Now the Apostrophe Boys ('Melo and Amar'e) can work together for the cause. We believe because in essence we see something that makes us do so.

This 114-108 victory is a great start. There are more wins coming, and fans can feel it. We know the playoffs are coming too, and that's something Knicks fans haven't been able to feel sure about for a long time now. Stoudemire started this whole thing. If he were not here, Anthony wouldn't be either. Now things have changed dramatically, and next year the Celtics will be on notice just as the Patriots will be. The Jets are for real and now so are the Knicks. That gives New York fans something to smile about this morning.

Photo Credit:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Knicks Sell the Farm to Get Carmelo Anthony

Article first published as Knicks Sell the Farm to Get Carmelo Anthony on Blogcritics.

If you are a New York Knicks fan, you are probably smiling this morning. The Knicks finally made the big trade to get Carmelo Anthony, but to make the deal they had to give - and give a lot to be sure. I know, the sight of the Apostrophe Boys, 'Melo and Amar'e, together on the court at Madison Square Garden in their Knicks uniforms is enough to make our heads spin, but we should be a little worried about how Denver got a good deal more than anyone expected to give.

Consider if old McDonald wanted to get a certain famed milking cow to add to his herd, but in order to get it he had to give up all his chickens, pigs, and half his crops too. Would he give away most of his farm for that one cow? Well, the Knicks sent Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, and Timofey Mozgov to the Nuggets to get the Brooklyn-born Anthony. They also gave Denver $3 million in cash plus a 2014 first-round pick and two second-round picks. His homecoming is coming at a very high price, and you wonder if the Knicks are letting the future slip away (especially with rookie Mozgov) in order to secure something right now.

Knicks fans need only to look to the standings for a reality check. The 28-26 Knicks are twelve games behind the Boston Celtics. Even with Anthony, there is no conceivable way that they are going to catch Boston. Of course, fans will say that was not the purpose of this trade. The idea is to get through the last twenty-eight games better than the first fifty-four, secure a spot in the first round of the playoffs, and give Knicks fans more than they have had to hope for in quite a long time.

Okay, I am all for that, but I am worried that the Knicks as an organization were played. What does that say not just about this year but the future. And, if the reports of Isiah Thomas acting as an "advisor" to owner James Dolan throughout the negotiations are true, then the writing is on the wall: Donnie Walsh, head of operations and against giving up too much in this trade, may be gone and Thomas may be back. That is bad news for the team and for the fans as well.

Tomorrow night at the Garden a new page in Knicks history begins. Anyone who has been there and heard the crowd will get a lump in his or her throat when the Knicks take the court against Milwaukee. The place will be shaking to the rafters, and visions of Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, and Dick Barnett running across the court will be dancing in our heads. Yes, that team was pieced together too from trades that resulted in that big championship season, and we can dare to dream a little and that's fine.

Still, when all the cheering is done, Anthony and Stoudemire then have to walk the walk. They have to fill some pretty big shoes out there if history is going to repeat itself. Maybe this year, but maybe not. I keep hearing Mets announcer Ralph Kiner saying what I have heard him say over and over again through the years, "The best trades are the ones you don't make." Let's hope that's not the case with Carmelo Anthony, but we'll start finding out tomorrow night at the Garden.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Makes Someone Presidential Timber or Kindling Wood?

First published on Blogcritics.

On this President's Day I was thinking about makes someone a good President of the United States? Is it the age he (or hopefully someday she) was born into? Would Abraham Lincoln have been a less effective chief executive had he governed at the turn of century rather than during the Civil War? Or is it something inherently presidential in the person? Is it just predestined for this one to be a sequoia while another one is kindling wood?
Sometimes I think it is perception. Someone like Harry Truman could say "The Buck Stops Here" and make it sound absolutely presidential; someone like George H. Bush could say "Read my lips" and slip into infamy faster than Charlie Sheen on a bender. I guess it could be the times and world events that shape a presidency, or it may just be that one guy is just better than the other.

I look at Presidents and think of accomplishments; I also think family influences us a great deal in thinking about them as well. For example, my uncle always kept a beautiful picture of a young John F. Kennedy on his office wall. I was greatly moved every time I saw that picture, and my uncle's feelings about the man were also told in stories. While I don't remember JFK as being President, I know of his legacy from history but also have strong positive feelings about him from family.

I have also heard very negative things from family members about Presidents. So growing up and hearing negative things about Herbert Hoover and positive stories about Franklin Delano Roosevelt would probably slant my feelings in a certain way. Also, as a student of history, I was certainly taught very positive things about FDR where the thing that stands clear in my mind about Hoover is the Hoovervilles: the many homeless shantytowns that sprung up all over the nation due to the Great Depression under his watch.

I am very conscious now of how I speak about Presidents to my children. Since I remember Watergate vividly, it is hard for me to say anything positive about Richard Nixon, yet I still manage to say something like "he opened the door to China" and even of Jimmy Carter "he brought Israel and Egypt together in the peace process." While I may personally think of both men as kindling more than presidential timber, I am not going to let those thoughts warp my kids' perceptions of these men: they'll get enough of that in school someday.

I have always thought of the great Presidents as being larger than life, and those faces on Mount Rushmore provide clear evidence that many other people agree in reference to those four faces etched in stone in South Dakota. Is that monument in and of itself a greater influence than history? Well, many of us grow up with these thoughts: George Washington - Father of Our Country! Thomas Jefferson - Author of the Declaration of Independence! Theodore Roosevelt- Speak softly and carry a big stick! Abraham Lincoln - The Great Emancipator.

Surely, these four men stand out as exemplary presidential timber, yet they were not perfect. Of the four, I have always held Lincoln in the highest regard. Perhaps it was because he kept a divided nation from falling apart, or maybe it was that "Gettysburg Address" I memorized in fifth grade. Without question he has always been the one I have held other presidents up against, and many of them fail to make the cut.

I think JFK may have made his presidency legendary in his Inaugural Address. He uttered one of the greatest lines ever spoken by President: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country!" Man, that still gives me the shivers as I think about the power of those words. They remain a shining example of what it means to lead and to do so with distinction. The fact that he was cut down by an assassin just as Lincoln was doesn't hurt our perceptions either, making us feel they were both martyrs for their country.

Our last two Presidents - George W. Bush and Barack Obama - have had war become the thing that frames their presidencies. Bush had a relatively quiet first year until 9/11 shook everyone's world, and nothing (including the presidency) would ever be the same. Bush's reaction to that event shaped his presidency, forcing him to almost have to recant his campaign slogan "I'm a uniter not a divider" and become the hunter of evildoers. How history will see this man is debatable, but many felt he focused too much on foreign concerns and forgot about the people at home - most notably during the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

Obama had to walk into a wartime presidency. One could say that he knew what he was getting into, but I don't think anyone knows what it will be like until he has to sit in the Oval Office everyday. Obama has been tough - the strong sequoia against the battering winds - but we have to hope he can stay strong amidst the onslaught of all the negativity that is out there. As we witness the fall of governments in the Middle East (some of which have been staunch allies for the US in the region), you have to wonder what beasts will eventually slouch toward Bethlehem, and how ready Mr. Obama will be for a new world order that could include wars on a large scale across that region. It seems it is going to get a lot harder for Mr. Obama before it gets better.

So what makes outstanding Presidential timber? I think it is something innate, some kind of genetic ability to stand tall and strong. Lincoln had it, and in my opinion so did Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, JFK, and Ronald Reagan. Whether I liked or disliked what they did in office, I am able to see them as standing above the rest, the tall sequoia trees above a birch forest.

Barack Obama may one day join that group because I think he has that same innate strength, but he will have to be able to withstand the many axes (both foreign and domestic) that are ready to be plunged against his trunk in the years ahead.  Only then will we know if he stays standing or becomes kindling wood for history.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mets Mess: Trump Wants to Buy a Stake In Team

Article first published as Mets Mess: Trump Wants to Buy a Stake In Team on Blogcritics.

Donald Trump - the man known for strange hair and the iconic line "You're fired" - has made it known that he would like to buy a piece of the New York Mets. Why, you may ask? To help a friend? Well, yes he and Mets owner Fred Wilpon are chums. Could it be exposure? The Donald likes exposure as much as the south wall of your house. What other reason is motivating Trump to get in on this? My thoughts are that he probably thinks the Wilpons are going down, and who better to be there to pick up the pieces and take on the whole team once Fred and Jeff are gone.

One thing is very certain: if Trump comes on board things will get interesting very quickly. The Wilpons have never been interesting. They don't even register a blip on New York sports pages - except if they are involved with the infamous Bernie Madoff. Living in this town we Mets fan have always had to endure the back page headlines about another sports owner - the late George Steinbrenner (and now his sons). He was always hiring and firing Billy Martin, warning Reggie Jackson (and everyone else from Horace Clarke to Joba Chamberlain), and basically creating for himself a colorful personality that increased the Yankee brand.

Even famed New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo couldn't resist creating a recurring cartoon character in Steinbrenner's honor. Mets fans had one too - the oh so lovely Basement Bertha. This figures to be the Mets' fate: the Yankees get a general and we get an overweight woman living in the cellar. That is our lot in this town.

But, oh how things would change with The Donald in charge of the show. Can you imagine the press generated by Trump as he came to games? He would be more exciting than Lady Gaga sitting in the stands in her pajamas. Never one to mince words, there are probably hundreds of different headlines just ready to burst out of his mouth over the course of the season. Trump's presence in the owner's box would be an event, would help ticket sales, and most certainly bolster sagging TV ratings.

Heck, I even propose if The Donald is in that the Mets TV channel (SNY) create a new series - Donald Trump's NY Mets Apprentice. This would be a fabulous weekly series where players had to work for the Donald - on and off the field. Wouldn't it be worth it just to see the Donald sitting across the table from Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez saying, "You're fired!"

As a Mets fan, I am totally behind Trump buying into the Mets. I think lots of fans would agree with me. So come on, Fred Wilpon. Take the Donald's call and lets get the ball rolling. It might not save this season, but it certainly will make for a hilarious time, and we Mets fans need a reason to laugh right now.

Photo Credits:

Donald Trump - celebritysmackblog

Basement Bertha - NY Daily News

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spring Training Kind

Article first published as The Eternal Sunshine of the Spring Training Kind on Blogcritics.

There is nothing more scintillating for me as a baseball fan than when I hear the words, "Pitchers and catchers report for duty today in Florida." That sentence makes the hairs stand up on my arms, and I think back to the countless cool spring days that I played ball myself, with the dream of being like my heroes Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, or Tom Seaver. Any kid whoever pounded a glove on the cool wet grass of a field on a spring day knows the feeling, and that is why spring training makes us all young again and filled with hope.

Of course, every team - whether it is the major league franchise or the pee-wee league variety - has the fever that spring brings. No one has any wins or losses that count; everyone's batting average or ERA is zero, and there is the feeling that this year we will go all the way. The eternal hope of spring training manifests itself in these cool bright days, and the only way you become boys of summer is by first being the ones of spring.
Reality will set in eventually for all of us as the long schedule that drags its feet through March produces some malaise even among the most ardent fans. We want opening day to come quickly, but as injuries happen and old knees creak, the prospects begin to look less rosy and some of us may even wish to put off that first pitch of the season if we could somehow.

As a New York Mets fan, I don't have that much to be happy happy about this spring. Other teams have signed free agents of note and are ready to compete, but for the Mets fans we are stuck with mediocrity and the prospect of a quiet spring that will blossom into what seems like it will be another one of those wait until next year scenarios.

You know you're in trouble if the most promising new signings are people named Boof Bonser. I mean, even George (the Stork) Theodore had a more baseball appropriate name than that. The Mets are going to struggle this year because of a lack of starting pitching, a suspect bullpen, and question marks about regular players like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay. In fact, there are so many questions about this team, I think they should adopt the Riddler costume as their new uniform. Can you imagine Luis Castillo walking around saying, "Riddle me this; riddle me that; does anyone dare, give me a bat?"

Still, I want to think of those springs long gone and the ghosts of players who once wore the orange and blue. Where have you gone Tommie Agee? I know you're somewhere up there with Gil Hodges, Tug McGraw, and the rest of the gone but never forgotten Mets greats. At one time we dared to dream and we got a team that beat Hank Aaron and the Braves and Brooks Robinson and the Orioles. That's when they earned their moniker The Amazins. Man, that does seem like a long, long time ago.

So as baseball fans everywhere get ready for a glorious spring, pound a ball wet with dew from the grass inside a glove. Tilt the hat back on your head and look up at the endless blue sky. In the eternal sunshine of spring, anything is possible, even for Mets fans. Even we can dare to dream these days for a little while, or at least until that first pitch on opening day when everything counts and reality sets in.

Photo Credits:
Cleon Jones -
The Riddler -

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Founding Fathers Would Be With the Crowd in Egypt

Article first published as The Founding Fathers Would Be With the Crowd in Egypt on Blogcritics.

As difficult as it has been for our government to respond to what is going on in Egypt, we the people of the United States have to be in their corner because we have been there. How can we forget that we are born from revolution ourselves? We overthrew a pompous ruler who treated us unfairly, and now the Egyptians have done the same thing. Way to go Egypt, right? Then why does everyone here not seem to be so enthusiastic about it?

President Obama definitely came down on the side of the protesters well before Hosni Mubarak resigned, and that not doubt hastened the winds of change that the dictator must have seen as inevitable. Just as the writing was on the Berlin Wall, so too was it etched on the pyramids of Giza. The power of the people overcame the power and might of a strongman.

We have seen it before throughout history, but perhaps because this is the Middle East people are more worried about where this is ultimately going. People are thinking of the Iranian revolution which brought in something just as bad as it replaced, or perhaps the dismal prospects for democracy in war-ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan. Should we use these places as guides or should we not think that a different direction is in order?

Imagine how the Founding Fathers would see this revolution: would they not support their brethren freedom seekers? If Patrick Henry could say, "Give me liberty or give me death," should not the Egyptian people seek the same thing? Thanks to the immediacy of the Internet and the spirit and resolve of the Egyptian people, it did not take them years to overthrow their King George: they only needed seventeen days.

None of us can be sure where this is going, and people everywhere from Jerusalem to Islamabad to New York are no doubt thinking the worst, but I have a feeling that they should be thinking the best. An amazing thing has happened in Cairo that we should be applauding vigorously. We can't not believe in freedom for some and not for all: the Egyptians have just as much right to throw off the yoke of oppression as did the French, Germans, Russians, Iranians, and Americans.

The next steps will be tenuous, but the world should show its support in a myriad of ways to Egyptians. For now they have won the battle, but the goal for them has to be to win the war and avoid falling into chaos. If they can truly embrace democracy, can find a way to create a constitution and a government of and for the people, then they will be on their way and other Middle Eastern dictators and despots should shake in their boots because the dominoes will start to fall.

New York City's Hell Gate: Bridges Over Troubled Waters

Article first published as New York City's Hell Gate: Bridges Over Troubled Waters on Blogcritics.

People have long known about the Bermuda Triangle as being a dangerous place for ships and boats, but New York City has its own version know as Hell Gate. This name was earned because this narrow straight, where the swirling waters of the East River push against the churning ones of the Long Island Sound, had very dangerous conditions and claimed hundreds of ships over the years going way back to when the Dutch called the place New Amsterdam.

There were (and still are) many jagged rocks along the shoreline on both sides, and the clash of river and water from the sound make a whirlpool with no safe harbor that would have challenged Odysseus as much as the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy that legend says the ship destroying monsters Scylla and Charybdis called home.

Hell Gate remained a ship captain's nightmare over the years until the Army came in during the late 1800s, blasted rocks, and tried to make navigation of this waterway safer. One could say they were mostly successful, but the greatest disaster of all took place in June 1904 when a ferry known as the General Slocum caught fire in Hell Gate, floundered, and then eventually became grounded. Over a thousand people (many women and children) died that day, and the waterway once again lived up to its name.

On a recent very cold, bright winter's day, I went for a visit to see Hell Gate. You can get there easily by car or take the N train to Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Street; it is a quick walk to where Ditmars Blvd. ends and Astoria Park begins. Walking through the snow covered park there was a chill in the air, but the view is spectacular where the imposing Hell Gate railroad bridge hovers over the northern tip of the park.

As it is today, the water still seems to be swirling and churning like a whirlpool, but there are no imposing rocks lurking under the water as in the past. There are still dangerous looking rocks on the shoreline. Looking north under the railroad bridge, one can see Wards and Randalls Island on the other side.

Looking south from under the railroad bridge, one can see the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (once known as the Triborough Bridge) with the cityscape of Manhattan behind it; the troubled waters of Hell Gate lie underneath these two bridges.

It was a quiet day and I waited as long as I could in the sub-freezing temperatures, but no ship came through the water as I stood there. In a way, not seeing any ship navigate its way through the narrow passageway kept the legend alive for me, and I could just imagine the fear the old ship captains had going through these tempestuous waters with those rocks being so close on both sides.

Tourists should note that on a spring day this would be a lovely place to visit, with the park containing playgrounds and having a beautiful view of the river, bridges, and the city. A picnic would certainly be in order then, but on this day it seemed fitting that the park was as quiet as a graveyard overlooking the water where so many ships were lost.

Hell Gate remains an interesting and solemn part of New York City history, and it is worth a visit to see the view and experience something different in between shopping, Broadway shows, and dining out. As for New Yorkers who may have never ventured out to Queens, this would be a good excuse to do so, and don't forget your camera.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

As Gang Green Turns: Ryan and Wife Take in a Knicks Game

Article first published as As Gang Green Turns: Ryan and Wife Take in a Knicks Game on Blogcritics.

Bloviator par excellence Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets who lost their second AFC Championship Game in a row last month, took in the Knicks game at Madison Square Garden last night along with his lovely wife Michelle. Whatever happened on the court - Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were blowing out the hapless Knicks 113-96 - mattered less since King Rex and his queen were in the house.

The story told in the New York Daily News includes a headline about Rex and his wife playing footsie courtside, referencing the now infamous YouTube video with a woman (who may or may not have been his wife) talking about her foot fetish. In the soap opera As Gang Green Turns during the course of a tempestuous season, this incident was just another case of adding to the drama that seemed to happen on a daily basis.

At the half Ryan spoke to a reporter and once again the mouth that roared predicted that the Jets will win it all next year. If this doesn't get old it's because Rex is so good at spinning his yarn that he would give FOX News' Bill O'Reilly a run for the money. When Rex speaks we just have to listen and, even if the tale is one full of more sound than fury, he is no idiot and we are compelled to listen.

After all this time I must admit I like Rex Ryan, but I think he has not faced the facts about his team the last two years. Sometimes all the buzz off field, no matter how entertaining, takes a negative toll on what happens on the field. As he enters his third year as head coach, maybe he can talk less and stop putting the team in difficult situations because of his bold and sometimes over the top blustering. I know, it's not going to happen.

If Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni were to take a page from Ryan's book, he could pronounce that the Knicks (ironically chasing another Boston team called the Celtics) were going to acquire Carmelo Anthony, take the division, and win the championship. Now, if he could just get his wife to take her shoes off and put it on YouTube - well, you get the idea.

Rex Ryan made a dark winter night seem a little brighter last night at Madison Square Garden. Yeah, the Knicks lost, but we Jets fans have to wonder if Rex believes everything that comes out of his mouth as much as enjoys all the stuff that goes into it. Until training camp and all the changes that are undoubtedly coming for Gang Green, we might as well watch the Knicks and hope D'Antoni can spark some fire in his squad before it's too late.

Photo Credits:
Ryan & Wife - Simmons/Daily News
Mike D'Antoni - Gallardo/AP

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NY Mets & Madoff Mess: Wilpons Considers Selling a Stake in the Club

First published in Blogcritics

NY Mets & Madoff Mess: Wilpons Are Selling More Than a Stake in the Club

The long reach of ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff included Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets. The numbers here are insignificant because they are so astronomical, but let's suffice it to say that Wilpon's former pal is still affecting the man and the team he owns. Those bilked out of their savings are seeking to get assets from Wilpon because he invested money with Madoff and actually made a profit. Can he still be considered a victim? Apparently not by those injured parties who seek justice anywhere they can get it.

Now it is reported that Wilpon is considering selling up to a quarter stake in the team. This is because of the lawsuits that could come from Madoff's victims (most of whom did not make money with Madoff the way Wilpon did). There are lots of people interested in buying into the Mets, but therein lies the biggest problem. Up to this point the Mets have been owned exclusively by the Wilpons (since 2002). Not even the Steinbrenner family can say that about the Yankees (they own less than 50% of the team).

Some Mets fans might argue that the Wilpons haven't done such a great job lately, so maybe some new blood is needed. They could argue that the Steinbrenners built a winner with lots of other fingers in the pie, but we also know that old George (and now his sons) controlled that team anyway. So maybe we Mets fans shouldn't worry all that much.

Still, I am worried because Wilpon has deep Mets roots: they go all the way down and curl around the carcass of Ebbetts Field. Wilpon is a dear friend of Sandy Koufax, the Dodger pitching legend. The Brooklyn Dodger's blue blood and the New York Giant's orange blood were the transfusion that gave life to the Mets, a hodgepodge team that was the Frankenstein monster of baseball for a while. Still, despite the sewn up parts of other teams that made up the limbs of that early franchise, those fans came along and stayed loyal - most of them all these years.

So in essence Wilpon is the keeper of the flame. He's the gotta in "You gotta believe!" He's the go in "Let's Go Mets." We know what we get with him, even if it is not an awful lot at times, and we know he loves the team as much as we do (when we're not hating them too).

What is at stake here is not just selling off a piece of the pie, but the legacy of this franchise. If some "investors" come in and buy up a quarter of the team, what's that going to do to the Mets? What will happen could be something most of us dread: they might become something like those arch enemies across the river, and don't go thinking that will be a good thing.

I think the worst fear of a Mets fan is not the Yankees beating the Mets so much as the Mets becoming like the Yankees. I don't mean in terms of winning; I mean in everything else. We don't want that corporate nightmare where winning at all costs means people-very good people-like Bernie Williams, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and many others get pushed out the door like damaged goods. Hey, that's like Popeye becoming Bluto, or Batman becoming the Joker. Mets fans would never stand for that.

So my idea is that we, the fans, should start putting money up to buy that quarter of a stake. I've got my twenty-five dollars ready to throw in the pot. Anyone else in?