Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some sporting thoughts

My heart is back to its normal rate and I'm no longer shaking.

Just like the infamous goal-line stand from 2003 against the Colts, the Pats let slip a sizable lead on the road to a rival, only to escape at the last second with a win. Like those old Pats teams, they were extremely opportunistic on defense and rudimentary on offense.

They infuriated. They frustrated. They excited. They gave me a near heart attack.

And they won.

There's a ton to criticize after this one. The offense needs to pick it up in the first half. Matt Light needs to take off his roller blades. The hands team should have been on the field for the onside kick. Brandon Tate needs to make an impact.

We Pats fans have been spoiled the past few years with 38-14 blowouts. We've been used to Brady-to-Moss for 50-yard touchdowns. Now that those days are gone, we hearken back to the Super Bowl years with rose-colored glasses.

Those teams blew leads. They missed tackles. They struggled to get going on offense. We tend to forget this looking back on it. Those teams did make just enough plays to win. It's trite. It's a cliche, but it's true.

This year's edition was alert enough to pounce on the ball after that Chargers receiver just dropped it on the ground thinking the play was over. This edition made a heads-up play picking up the ball after the lateral by Philip Rivers while the Chargers just stood around thinking about what dance they were going to try after their next touchdown.

When your offense is gaining 30 yards in a half like the Pats, these are the types of plays (and breaks) you need.

And for the Chargers, who talk trash like they are the Miami Hurricanes of the 80s but play like the 'Cane from today, this loss must eat at them. They're a flashy, talented team. They're also sloppy and play terrible situational football. Frankly, they play like your average Cranston West dropout. The Pats of this season play like Cranston East honor roll students (for the most part. The 15-yard cushions on 3rd and longs are driving me crazy.)


Oh no! The Rangers and Giants are in the World Series. How boring! The ratings will be terrible! Baseball is dead!

Hog wash. Even speaking as a Red Sox fan, not every World Series needs Boston, New York or Philly to be interesting. Many always complain that its the same teams in contention every year in baseball. Now we have a team that's never been to the Fall Classic in the Rangers and a team that has the second longest championship drought. (You know who's No. 1 there.)

And who cares about the ratings, besides Fox TV executives? Sure, they're not doing jumping jacks. It's not Yankees-Phillies, but I don't remember last year's breaking records. People will watch a competitive World Series, no matter who's in it. Angels-Giants was great. Marlins-Indians was an all-time classic. Non-Northeastern teams can play great series as well. And there are plenty of interesting players involved in this one.

Cliff Lee vs. Tim Lincecum in Game 1. Josh Hamilton, who put a David Ortiz-like fear of God in the Yankees. Nelson Cruz, who hit the home run that ended New York's season. Elvis Andrus, who ran the Yankees crazy and was ten times better than Derek Jeter. Neftali Feliz, an electrifying rookie closer. Buster Posey, one of the best young catchers to come along in a while. Matt Cain, a criminally underrated pitcher. Brian Wilson and his fake beard. The ballpark formally known as Pac-Bell, for my money the best field in the country not located on Yawkey Way.

So if fans don't watch this series, they can never complain again about East Coast bias or Yankee over-saturation. The storylines, players, angles and hungry fans are there for the taking. Take a week off from Dancing with Bed Bugs and Iron Urologist and watch this series.


As for my pick? The Rangers have the better lineup. They have more power and better base-runners. They play superior defense and they have the best postseason pitcher going right now in Cliff Lee.

So of course I'm picking the Giants.

I'm going against my brain here, but this San Francisco club has all the ... intangibles. I can't believe I'm saying this. I swear Joe Morgan hasn't overtaken my blog. But they've proven they can win one-run games. They don't rely on any one player, mostly because they don't have one who is good enough to rely on. They've been in playoff mode since early September.

And their pitching has been phenomenal. Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez are better than Lee, Wilson and Lewis all together. And the Giants bullpen might be even better than the starting staff. Old friend Javy Lopez, who loved to come in against a lefty while playing for the Red Sox, only to promptly issue a four-pitch walk, has been dominant. Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Guillermo Mota, former Boston great Ramon Ramirez and, of course, heart attack closer Brian Wilson comprise the best bullpen of any playoff team has this October.

A good bullpen is essential in this era of six-inning starts and La Russa-style specialization. The Giants are well equipped with versatile arms. The Rangers will not abuse this pitching staff like they did the Yankees.

And Bruce Bochy just played around with good ol' boy Charlie Manuel in the NLCS. Then again, Manuel is a terrible tactician. He went to the Jimy Williams/Grady Little school of southern drawl, go-with-the-gut managing. Ron Washington is a fine skipper, but Bochy is better. And he has the Dave Doyle charm going for him, which means only good things can happen.

With home field and the gods of baseball on their side, the Giants take a seven-game classic to win their first title in the beautiful City by the Bay.

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