Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season

There are a lot of things I want but, oddly, I look forward to the small things at Christmas. Sure, it's nice, and always a pleasant surprise to get the big ticket item, but it's never really been about that to me (I won't get into the whole thing about the season of giving, because, let's face it, we're trained from a young age to get at this time of year). Some of my favorite things, though, are what my six-year old daughter manages to give me because she really is giving for the sake of giving, and when she spends five or six bucks for a gift, she's spending more than a whole week's salary on me.

Don't worry, this will tie back to sports soon, bear with me.

Part of my problem with getting gifts for family and friends is that I hate buying off people's lists - I feel like I'm not putting any thought into the item by going to someone's Amazon list and picking something off it.

As for people buying for me, there are a number of small things those buying for me know I would enjoy - Dennis Lehane and Raymond Chandler novels, a fine six pack or case of micro-brew or Guinness, Bogart films on DVD are just a sampling.

There is, however, a much more selfish list that no one can really buy me - and at times, I have to admit, it's at odds with the Christmas spirit. That said, here's my selfish list...

  1. A Patriots playoff appearance. Failing that, Chad Pennington carving up the Jets secondary and garnering the MVP vote. There's a lot of talk about where the Colts would be without Peyton Manning this season, but we've already seen where the Dolphins would be without Pennington - and let's face it, it's a special sort of ugly.
  2. A resolution to the Mark Teixiera sweepstakes...ideally at the expense of Scott Boras who seems to be losing his golden touch. In recent seasons he has looked bad in several of his highest profile negotiations - blinking in the game of chicken with the Red Sox over the Daisuke Matsuzaka contract, and getting a public spanking by Alex Rodriguez in the most recent dealings with the Yankees.
  3. A Celtic Christmas. I know that during this time of year you're not supposed to wish misfortune on others (yeah, yeah, I know I already did in items one and, but I want to see the Hibernians of the Hardwood lay the smack down on the Lakers to extend their winning streak.
  4. That enough members of the Baseball Writers of America are visited by three really pissed off ghosts on Christmas Eve that show them the error of their ways and a guy named James Edward Rice gets the love he deserves in the next Hall of Fame vote.
Those are the big things the relatives won't be able to purchase. A little more seriously, I hope that the families that are apart due to the current military action have a safe and happy Christmas.

To my readers, you can all find a little bit of Christmas cheer here.

One final note - my sympathies go out to the family of Dock Ellis who passed this week. Ellis, who had a mostly solid, but unspectacular 12-year career split between the Pirates, Yankees, Athletics, Rangers, and Mets. Were it not for his no-hitter and a dominating 1971 when he went 19-9, Ellis would likely have faded into the nameless masses. As it were, Ellis, a contemporary of the Sox' own Bill "The Spaceman" Lee, was one of the true characters of the game, and will likely be most remembered for being high on LSD when throwing his no no, rather than his work as a spokesman in the fight against drug and alcohol addiction.

Rest in peace, Dock, the game was more interesting for having you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Thanks to the Seattle Seahawks, the Patriots still have life in regards to the playoffs. The Jets, less so.

New England handled business in The Razor with a thorough dismantling of the NFC West champion Cardinals in every phase of the game. Any euphemism you can think of to describe this game, it's what the Pats did to the warm weather team that hasn't played a game in the snow in two and a half decades.

Matt Cassel outplayed Kurt Warner, Jabar Gaffney pretty much outplayed Larry Fitzgerald, hell, Cassel, Sammy Morris, and Lamont Jordan all put up better rushing stats than any running back on Arizona's roster.

Mike Wright and Jarvis Green did something rare this season - put pressure, regularly, on the Cardinals signal callers. Even wide receiver Matthew Slater got into the act while playing safety, springing Brandon Merriweather free on a blitz.

It was a good win for the Patriots who needed it, and a bad loss for a team looking to make some noise in the post season.

Looking at the rest of the AFC East still alive for the playoffs - the second life of Brett Favre is paling in comparison to that of Chad Pennington. If Eric Mangini doesn't do something drastic, the Dolphins will almost definitely be the AFC East champs next weekend.

One quick thought on that -

There's a very strong possibility that the Pats will go 11-5 and miss the playoffs. If that happens, so be it - it has already been a better season than I could possibly have imagined given the litany of season ending injuries to the likes of Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Laurence Maroney, Tedy Bruschi, and others on the Pats roster. It is also reassuring for next year.

There will be a lot made about how the rest of the AFC East has closed the gap, pointing to the records - and they have indeed closed the gap, but I don't think that either the Jets or 'Phins split with the Pats if New England has a healthy Tom Brady.

This is what I believe in regards to the AFC East -

Chad Pennington has helped the Dolphins close the gap significantly more than Brett Favre has.

I think the end of the season Brett Favre is more likely what we will see for the majority of next season than the beginning of this past season Brett Favre. The tank is running on empty. At best, he has eight good games left in him. It would be nice if one of them came next weekend.

The injuries to the Pats this year could be a blessing in disguise, as it will make competition at linebacker and defensive back much more fierce next season. I expect more from the defense next season, and also believe that the Pats brain trust will address that side of the ball in the draft.

I'm not convinced Scott Pioli is going anywhere, but there will be a lot of rumors about where he's going to end up.

I do think Josh McDaniels is going somewhere, but I don't know if he's ready to run his own show yet.

One last note - Detroit is one game away from a perfect season. I'm rooting for the Packers next weekend.