Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tommy Lasorda Gets No Love from San Francisco's Italians

We've seen some pretty amusing pieces of legislation out of the Board of Supervisors, but this one beats them all: Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier wants organizers of the San Francisco Italian American parade to boot Tommy Lasorda as grand marshal. And my initial question is: Doesn’t she have any more important things to do? Her district suffers from bad roads, bad drunks and a sagging economy (like everywhere else). Is Tommy Lasorda at the Italian American parade really reside at the top of her list or priorities?
For those of you who don’t know or care, Lasorda is the former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who've had "an intense rivalry" with our hometown Giants for years and "nobody embodies that more than Tommy Lasorda," states the resolution.
The Giants aren't doing so great, it continues, and "Dodger fans are boastful and smug." Furthermore, there are "many other distinguished local Italian American athletes" like Giants pitcher Barry Zito "or even Joe Montana" who could do the important job of waving from a convertible. (I can see Montana, but Zito? He made a ton of cash from the Giants this season and played consistently bad baseball.
The parade is scheduled for Oct. 12, so Alioto-Pier is trying to get the legislation passed at the board's next meeting, Oct. 7.
But is this really how the supervisors should be spending their time?
"We can't have Tommy Lasorda come to San Francisco for the Italian American parade!" Alioto-Pier said. "He's like enemy No. 1 right now. If you don't think this is important, you should move to L.A."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Yo, Meathead!

So it looks like I was dead wrong. Despite all the things going for them, the Mets found a way to blow it and miss the playoffs—the same way their bullpen found a way to blow all those games in which they were handed the lead. I don’t have the stats on hand right now, but I know they are pathetic—as of mid-September, the bullpen had 16 blown saves since the All-Star break, 11 in the ninth inning. While the Mets’ fall was not as precipitous as last year, in some ways, it is even more disappointing, since the players and fans have the specter of 2007 sitting on their shoulders. It was also sad that the team didn’t have enough resolve or firepower to find a way to win in the final game at Shea Stadium.

There is no question that Jerry Manuel should be retained as manager, finally having the “interim” removed from his title. But I am a little bit shocked that General Manager Omar Minaya has been handed a four-year extension, essentially laying the blame for last year, and indeed, the horribly poor start to this year—which has to be considered with the final numbers—at Willie Randolph’s feet. Randolph couldn’t make his players hit or field last year, and he surely did not assemble one of the most miserable bullpens in all of baseball this year. I think Mets personnel management should be handed over to someone else, and Minaya should be relegated to the dustbin. What happens next year, if the Mets fail to make the postseason for a third straight year? Will Minaya be fired then, too late to save all that money he’s being given, and walk off like a Wall Street CEO with a golden parachute?

Honestly, once the Mets started their current poor streak, losing 10 of their last 17, I started to tune out. At first, I’d have the game on, but as soon as they would give up their first lead, off would go the TV in my confidence that the team didn’t have the heart to come back. I was right almost every time. By the end, I couldn’t even get myself to watch the start of the game, and I’m sad that as a result, I missed Johan Santana’s pitching gem to preserve the season on the second-to-last day. But in the end, it didn’t matter, and like all Mets fans, I’m faced with the prospect of a bitter offseason.

Congrats to Ed’s Dodgers for making the playoffs. In the NL, there’s no dearth of teams I could root for: Dodgers, Cubs, Brewers—anyone but the Phillies, who have only added to Met misery over the last two years. In the AL, my favorite will be the upstart Rays, and I have to say it makes it at least a little easier that the Yankees are out for the first time in years and years.

It also makes it easier since the football Giants are still undefeated and currently the tops in the toughest division in the NFL. Now that everyone’s favorite, glamorous Super Bowl pick, the Cowboys, have finally lost to a team they were predicted to defeat (where was the vaunted defense against the Redskins?) maybe the Jints will finally get their due and be recognized as one of the best teams in the league. I’m definitely looking forward to the Dallas–New York game the first week of November. Oh, yes, and my thanks to the Bears for taking out the Eagles last night and adding to the Giants’ supremacy in the division.

I know, I know, the game can humble you, and the Giants could be another injury or bad game away from a fall. But as of now, they are still the reigning champs, and they look darned good so far, so I might as well smile while I can and forget the lousy baseball season (my favorite AL team, the A’s, didn’t even contend) until next year.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rudy II

If you have ever seen the film Rudy, then you know that it’s about a kid who wills his way onto the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team against incredible odds. Rudy is a 1993 film directed by David Anspaugh. It is an account of the life of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger who harbored dreams of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite significant obstacles. It was the first movie the Notre Dame administration allowed to be shot on campus since Knute Rockne, All American in 1940. In 2005 Rudy was named one of the best 25 sports movies of the previous 25 years in two polls by ESPN (#24 by a panel of sports experts, and #4 by espn.com users).
In the movie, the main character Rudy Ruettiger defies all odds to make the team. He doesn’t have the grades, so he goes to another college to get them, and he doesn’t have the money, but he works his tail off to get to the necessary funds. Rudy wasn’t a very good football player—he was slow and undersized—but he wouldn’t take no for an answer and eventually made the team at Notre Dame. He gets in for one play late in a meaningless game and his teammates pull for him, because the one thing he has cannot be denied—and it’s called “desire.”
This movie is significant to me because I happen to know a real-life Rudy. His name is Christopher Gurries, and he is the son of my best friend from high school. Chris walked-on at Notre Dame and miraculously made the team. A star at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, he was a very good football player. Since no major Division I colleges recruited him, he decided to not play football and attend Notre Dame.
During his freshman year, Gurries walked on and although he didn’t make the team that time, he didn’t give up, either. This off-season, he worked hard and trained like crazy. Well, it all paid off; because Gurries made the team as one of the few walk-ons to successfully make the varsity.
Whether he gets significant playing time is another question entirely. But, it doesn’t matter—because he made the team and will be able to tell his kids and grandchildren that along with Knute Rockne, Joe Montana and the Gipper, he played for the Fighting Irish and made the squad.
Congratulations to Christopher Gurries. You’re our Rudy and we admire your passion. Look for him this year if you ever get the chance to watch a Notre Dame game. He’s number 38, a 5’10” 180 lb. long snapper and wide receiver with a heart bigger than South Bend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yo, Meathead!

I was planning on posting after the first week of NFL games were finished, but our puppy just got spayed, and one of her medications gave her severe diarrhea for a few days. Yuck! Believe me, I’d rather be posting than cleaning up messes like that!

I’ve been keeping my eye on the Mets lately. I hope they don’t have another late-season collapse like they did last year, humiliating the franchise and their fans as Philadelphia came from 7 games back with 17 to play to win the NL East and knock the Amazin’s out of the playoff chase on the last day of the 2007 season. Is there the same kind of potential swoon in the 2008 version of the team? I don’t think so, and here’s why:

First, Jerry Manuel is the manager. Now I’ve said many times how I like and respect Willie Randolph, but the plain fact was that he didn’t get it done. The players were just not playing for him earlier this year, and maybe it was due to his lack of fire as they fell apart last season. Willie is old school and expects his players to play without coddling or cajoling—but in this day and age, all those spoiled multimillionaires need something more. Manuel, who replaced Randolph, seems to have his finger on the pulse of the team, and he knows how to speak to his players on their own levels. Though Manuel shows that he has fire in the belly, he also hasn’t panicked as he’s lost one of his starters (John Maine), another (Pedro Martinez) has had a big drop-off from his Hall of Fame numbers of previous years, and his closer (Billy Wagner) needs surgery that will prevent him from pitching this year and next year.

Second, the Mets are finding ways to win instead of ways to lose. True, they lost two of three to the Phils over the weekend, but they could have been swept. Carlos Delgado is possibly on the best hot streak of his long and storied career, and where he leads, the other Mets are willing to follow. He had two homers in the last game against Philadelphia, and then two more yesterday to lead the Mets to a 10–8 victory over the Nationals. It’s only the Nats, you might say, but those pesky Nats seem to get better the less they have to lose, and until the late innings yesterday, they found a way to answer every time the Mets scored. Carlos Beltran and Delgado had back-to-back homers to give the Mets the lead for good, and the new bullpen tandem of Brian Stokes and Luis Ayala finished off the game.

On the other team in the NL East race, Jimmy Rollins isn’t coming close to duplicating his MVP season from last year, and the Phillies have shown a penchant for blowing the big game as much as any team. Those MVP chants you hear now at Shea are for Delgado, and if the Mets stay hot and win the East, Delgado must be considered as a serious candidate, despite his lousy start to the season.

So—no guarantees here, but we’ll see how the rest of the month plays out. I won’t be shocked if the Mets storm into the playoffs while Philly has to watch from the sidelines: a little payback from the 2007 season.

SEASONINGS: So the Giants are still the second football team in their own town, despite winning the Super Bowl, and despite showing a still-ferocious defense in their 16–7 defeat of the Redskins last Thursday. Brett Favre led the Jets to a win over a bad-but-rebuilding Dolphins team Sunday, and now everyone has Gang Green going to the Big Dance this year (where they will undoubtedly face the Cowboys, who have been picked to represent the NFC by everyone, including the newest member of the sports media, none other than ex-Giant Michael Strahan). Now that Tom Brady is out for the season, the Jets fans are in a feeding frenzy, and they have all but guaranteed winning the AFC East. But I say, watch out, Jets fans! Even without Brady, it pains me to say that the Pats will remain competitive, and Buffalo also seems to be much improved this year, though it’s hard to say after only one game. There’s a long road ahead, and as we saw last week, injuries can happen to anyone and change the complexion of the season in an instant.

By the way, Curt Schilling opened his mouth yesterday, blasting New York fans for being happy that Brady went down and saying it’s only because they are so bitter that the Yankees are bad this year. Well, I’ve got news for you, Curt. I’m also happy that Brady is gone—not that I’m glad he was injured—and I root for the Mets! I’m an out-and-out Yankee hater, so how does he justify my glee? Plain and simple, I’m sick of the Pats and many of the in-your-face Boston fans, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them all get taken down a notch for a change. And as a Giants fan, I’ll be glad that the G-men won’t have to face Brady if they actually make it to the Super Bowl again, even though their defense drilled him into the turf plenty of times on their way to victory last season (don’t be surprised if the Giants make another run this year). Have a speedy recovery, Tom, but don’t rush back on my account!