Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random, oh so very random..

Wait a second, isn't Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy the same person who said, not so long ago, that he had no interest in the Ryder Cup? Now, not only is he participating, he is also stealing all the headlines?

Is it just me or is he about as likable as spinach? (I hate spinach) On another Ryder Cup note, flamboyant Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has paid out, or settled in advance, all Ryder Cup bets on Europe to win. That is the very definition of bad sports Karma. Between their players spouting off pre-tournament, to this stunt, this will not end well for Europe, just watch!

The Bears were 33-1 last week, for the Superbowl. Just saying.

Want an example of good Sports Karma? Check out this quaint story, US golfer Jim Furyk and his $30 putter!

Good to see the classless and imbecilic Dallas Cowboys think it's a hoot to spend $55 k on a team dinner, ordering everything off the menu to 'haze' rookie Dez Bryant. What's the homeless situation like in Dallas these days?

Today is the 50th anniversary of The Greatest Hitter of all times, Ted Williams, final home run, which came in his final at bat. Do yourself a favour and read this wonderful, timeless and beautifully written article by the great John Updike on Williams.

Wonderful writing, lyrical writing, tinged with saddness, check this part out;
For a stretch, he was hitting a home run every second game that he played. He passed Lou Gehrig’s lifetime total, then the number 500, then Mel Ott’s total, and finished with 521, thirteen behind Jimmy Foxx, who alone stands between Williams and Babe Ruth’s unapproachable 714.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Boston Irish Week 3 NFL Picks

The Boston Irish NFL picks – Week 3
NFL Week 2 results 9-7
Season to date 20-12

Cleveland Browns (0-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
Yap, yap, yap. All off-season we had to listen to the talking heads and pundits telling us Joe Flacco is going to ‘join the elite’ this season. Right now, Joe Flacco is bottom-rated in QB rating, at 41.2. If every pass an NFL quarterback attempts clangs to the ground incomplete, he receives a 39.6 rating. Therefore Flacco is barely rating higher than a QB that throws all incompletions. However, what does it tell you about the Browns that Baltimore are a nailed on lock this weekend?
Baltimore 24-9

Buffalo Bills (0-2) at New England Patriots (1-1)
This could have been a close game. The Patriots are reeling after a nightmare second half last weekend against the Jets. They themselves are in something of a transition. This could have been the week that the Bills broke the insane streak of 13 straight losses to the Brady Bunch. Instead, Buffalo are making changes at QB and are showcasing a washed up veteran RB instead of riding a healthy young future stud. Lynch is vulturing half Spiller’s carries just so the Bills can get something good in return for a trade from someone desperate for running back help, like Green Bay. Or New England for that matter. Chopping and changing like this the week before traveling to New England is not a recipe for success. Combining the Bills tactics with the Patriots anger from losing last week, with Brady, Welker and Wilfork’s professionalism, with the fact that the game is in New England, with history telling us the Patriots this decade always come back hard after a loss, it’s impossible to see anything but a serious trouncing for the over matched Bills here.
New England 42-13

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at New Orleans Saints (2-0)
The Saints will have to alter their game plan slightly, with the sad loss of the super talented Reggie Bush, who does so many things for their game plan week to week. The Saints are on a short week, having played Monday night, and have traveled a long distance also. However, their ridiculously passionate home field crowd will not allow them to slip up on their own turf. The Saints may hit a slow patch, however this week isn’t it. A closer one that some will expect probably, but the Saints at home will find a way.
New Orleans 23-20

Tennessee Titans (1-1) at New York Giants (1-1)
The Giants from seven made Joseph Addai look like Barry Sanders last week in a completely pathetic showing for such a highly rated unit. To make things even worse for Giants backers, Chris Johnson is hurting inside after a sub-par performance against an admittedly excellent Steelers defence. It’s all adding up to a massive weekend for Johnson. Couple of things to consider before you write the Giants off. The Titans have issues of their own. They benched their starting QB (Young) in favour of a washed up seventy year old backup, mid game! The Giants will no doubt want to bounce back on their home turf after a sour loss to the Colts. All things considered, just a feeling, the Titans will find a way. Close one though.
Tennessee 26-24

Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-2)
Sure, sure, the Panthers are 0-2 and starting rookie Jimmy Clausen for this one, but does that mean you are willing to back The Bungles on the road, in a tough atmosphere, against a hard running team that is better than its 0-2 start is showing? Home field and 0-2 desperation will push the Panthers to an ugly, hard fought, tight win.
Carolina 19-14

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
Both teams come into this one playing with house money. Everyone thought Pittsburgh would struggle without Big Ben. However, if you had told them Dennis Dixon was out, and that Charlie Batch was now at the helm and still the Steelers were 2-0, they would have thought you were crazier than the people who voted for that loopy Tea Party lady who admits she's tried witchcraft. Meanwhile, how many people thought Tampa would be 2-0 at this stage?! Josh Freeman, their young QB, looks like the real deal. Pittsburgh has not scored an offensive touchdown this season in regulation time this season. That's horrific. Their 'D' has completely carried them. Just a hunch, but the long journey to face a young, talented and suddenly successful Buccaneers side wears the Steelers 'D' down. Just too many potential 3-and-outs from Charlie Batch and their anemic offense. Tampa to win a big shocker at home, and go into the bye week 3-0!
Tampa 24-13

San Francisco 49ers (0-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
When picking NFL games, people often tend to get to wrapped up in details and stats. As Theroux said, 'simplify, simplify'. Kansas hosted a very good San Diego side and beat them, San Fran traveled to a very mediocre Seattle side, and got walloped. Kansas are going to cause a mild shock here, and send the 49ers into freefall. It has never been easy to win at Arrowhead stadium, as the Chargers can tell you.
Kansas 34-27

Detroit Lions (0-2) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
There's something brewing in Detroit. They are very patiently building an extremely talented, young squad, full of high draft picks. Meanwhile, the Vikings are reeling, injuries and poor play have results in a disastrous 0-2 start. The temptation here is to go for a big upset. However, honourable as Detroit's two losses have been, they are still 'L's in the win-loss column, and they lost at home to a Eagles team that's not exactly world beaters. A combination of home field and 0-2 desperation to see the Vikings home, but don't go anywhere near that ridiculous point spread. The Lions can keep it close.
Minnesota 28-21

Dallas Cowboys (0-2) at Houston Texans (2-0)
Some day people are going to look at Dallas and say 'Look! The emperor has no clothes!' The Cowboys are as toothless as they are inept, and the truth is, despite the constant adulation from certain quarters of the media, they have been for a long time. Ask yourself, when's the last time you were truly impressed by a Cowboys win? You think they are going to come out and beat a Texans team dripping with talent on both sides of the ball? On the road? Exactly. Not going to happen. Cowboys get punched in the mouth, and, as always, act confused and shocked.
Houston 34-24

Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)
The Jaguars are quietly slipping towards complete NFL anominity. Michael Vick will lead his dog pound to an easy road victory in front of a half empty Jaguars stadium, and, will anyone care?
Philadelphia 27-17

Washington Redskins (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (0-2)
The Skins let one slip against the Texans, but get it much easier this weekend against a feisty but rebuilding team. McNabb understands what is required here, he hasn't thrown many TDs yet but has a high completion rate and has hit the ground running in Washington.
Washington 33-27

Indianapolis Colts (1-1) at Denver Broncos (1-1)
Wait a second, before you pencil this in for a Colts win. How awful did the Colts look on the road in week one? How often have you seen teams go into the Mile High stadium and come out wondering what just happened? Kyle Orton is quietly making people forget Tim Tebow is on the sideline, and that's a shock in itself. He is throwing very accurately (46 complete out of 68) and has two really nice weapons in Eddie Royal and the hyper talented Demaryius Thomas. This time last week people were asking were the Colts washed up. Not many are going to agree with me, but a trip to Mile High against a highly emotional Denver team, who just smashed Seattle all over the park, will get people asking again, what's up with the Colts?!
Denver 36-30

Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
Goodness me, can we flip a coin? The Raiders do seem to have a little moxy on the defensive side of the ball. If you had to pick one team to be on the upward trend, it would be Oakland. If this was a cross country trip, I would think twice, but against a brutal Arizona side, Oakland can battle to a big road win.
Oakland 19-11

San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
The schedule makers did not cut the Chargers any favours with their two opening road games. On the road at Arrowhead (lost) and now up against a Seattle side that are almost unrecognizable at home in front of their incredibly raucous fans. Seattle laid a stinker last week at the Mile High while the Chargers beat a really, really brutal Jaguars team. But wait, Seattle took advantage of some really pathetic play on the 49ers part in week one. San Diego are no schmucks, and are more talented on all sides of the ball. They can sneak out of here with a nail biter of a win.
San Diego 27-26

New York Jets (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (2-0)
They should hand out Advil just for the people watching this one. Not for the feint hearted, for sure. Just last season, Miami swept the Jets, beating them twice and slapping a whopping 61 points on them. With the self anointed greatest DB of all time out after getting posterized by Randy Moss, and with more distractions than Lindsay Lohan’s average Friday night, the Jets will come back down to earth with a bang. Plus, they just won their Superbowl, right? Isn’t that where they were calling it just a year ago when they played the Patriots, their Superbowl? Miami to quietly and efficiently get the job done.
Miami 20-13

Monday, Sept. 27
Green Bay Packers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (2-0)
You had to admire the way Mike Martz, Cutler and the Bears adjusted beautifully in-game to the Cowboys relentless blitzing last weekend. Their quick, effortless and efficient adjustment to short, quick passes and two RB protection was a joy to watch, as they ripped the Cowboys secondary to shreds on the road, no less. Meanwhile, the Packers running game got ‘found out’ a little last week. Brandon Jackson was a back-up for a reason, apparently. The Bears are going to be talked about a lot after this one. They will be 3-0 and definitely will not be 33-1 to win the Superbowl (their current odds). You shouldn’t be too shocked. They have a powerful, athletic and stifling ‘D’ with an all pro linebacker in Brian Urlacher. Matt Forte continues to run hard, and whether you like him or not, Jay Cutler is a fantastically talented QB. Best game of the week, should be a beauty
Chicago 36-34

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three for the show: Three NFL teams currently good value for the Superbowl

As we careen towards week three in the NFL it appears the bookmakers haven't adjusted their odds according to the results as yet, at least not in terms of Superbowl odds. There are a few teams out there priced too high, and a few that are priced very low. Here are three that look like very, very good value right now. Absolutely not saying they will win, but, if they continue showing their form to date, the odds below might make for very good value down the road.

Houston 14-1
These guys have a serious whiff of Superbowl-ness about them. They have talent absolutely everywhere, on both sides of the ball, and have already submitted two 'statement' games. Their come-back win on the weekend was good, but their week one demolition of the Colts was made look all the better after the Colts took care of business against the Giants. Houston appears to be trending upwards towards a peak. 14-1 is fantastic value for a team off to a 2-0 start, a team that has made two big statements already. Watch this price tumble week to week if they keep it up.

Pittsburgh 18-1
It looks like the Steel Curtain might be back. The Steelers stifled a very good Falcons offence two weeks ago, and last week they completely stopped dead the best running back in the universe at time of writing. They beat Vince Young up so bad, confused him so completely, that he was benched in favour of a 72 year old back up, Kerry Collins. Two weeks in, they have wrecked two very good offences. This Steelers 'D' looks for real. With Big Ben back, their offence should take off, and that's when this ridiculous price will start to tumble.

Chicago Bears 33-1
These guys are a little bit more of a long shot but still worth a few bucks, particularly if you are a fan of their work. The Bears admittedly struggled to overcome the Lions in week one, but their stunning win in Dallas should have opened eyes all over the NFL. With Brian Urlacher back the Bear 'D' looks awesome, swarming to the ball carrier and harassing the QB all day long. Much maligned Jay Cutler looks focused and in great shape. This price will collapse like a house of cards with a couple more wins, so grab it while you can.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Baseball Ireland finals: A strange day at the office.

It was, as they say, just a strange day at the office.

Baseball Ireland - we do it wetter

Saturday past saw the final of the Irish Baseball 'A' League, placing long time rivals the Spartans and Hurricanes together, no other team has won the league since 2001 when the now defunct Panthers took the title. The Spartans (6) and Hurricanes (2) have won every title since. Saturday, the Spartans added to their trophy haul on a dull, wet and cold day at Corcaigh Park. Congratulations to them.

It should have been a day to celebrate all things Irish baseball, however there were two very unusual added elements to the day.

First up to the plate, for the first time ever the Irish Baseball finals experienced 'crowd trouble', as a small group of drunken, rude and disrespectful fans kept an abusive and loud stream of 'noise' going for the best part of both games.

Their boisterous and disrespectful chanting and shouting crossed the line of acceptable 'fan' behaviour. They were, for example, shouting just before a pitch was delivered, name calling individual players, shouting 'swing' at players who were just about to face a pitch, using profanity (at a game attended by several children) and generally making a terrific and embarrassing nuisance of themselves.

These fans appeared to be 'rooting' for the Spartans, although it should be noted they appear to have been players from the Munster Baseball club/association.

Whatever about the lack of respect shown for the game of baseball by these idiots, you do have to wonder about the priorities of someone who takes a day of their life and spends it heckling and verbally abusing amateur players in a sport that they themselves aren't good enough to make the final, at which they are now behaving like morons.

Their asinine behaviour helped create a weird and uncomfortable atmosphere on the day. This was disrespectful to both the Hurricanes and indeed the team they were 'rooting' for, the Spartans, who had both worked hard and had successful seasons towards getting to the finals, unlike the team they play for themselves.

The sad fact is though, you will get cowards like that in all walks of life, who will rain abuse from the safety of a viewing area behind a fence, and then go quiet when confronted about it.

The second element to the unusual finals day was simply bizarre. It should be strongly noted that the plate umpiring in the first game, by veteran Irish umpire Glen Poor, was excellent, as always. Glen has developed into a top class and most of all, fair, umpire. Sadly, the same can't be said about the 'blue' in the second game.

The 'blue' for game two had what can only be described as an 'interesting' day calling balls and strikes, calling a zone that seemed to move and hover between the toes and the neck, depending how he felt at the time. It should be noted that he called this completely ridiculous strike zone both ways. In no way did his surreal 'umpiring' affect the outcome of the game which the Spartans won fair and square.

The most serious issue was his completely bizarre confrontational behaviour.

During game two Hurricanes batter Brian Carter took exception to 'striking out' on a pitch that almost hit his feet it was so low. Several Spartans players and fans actually laughed out loud at the call, it was so bad. Brian politely queried the fact that the ball nearly hit him in the foot, to which the umpire replied, 'don't worry, Ill get you a putter next time', while laughing at Brian.

This caused a commotion, as the Hurricanes skipper Chris Foy and the batter, Brian demanded an explanation as to why the umpire thought it was okay to make such a bad call and then, effectively, talk trash about it, during the finals of the Irish baseball league.

Worse was to follow.

Later on, as Brian waited on deck, a Hurricanes batter grounded out, leaving his bat about three to four feet from home plate. The umpire in question took the bat, and violently spiked it, slung it forcibly at the ground right at Brian's feet. He threw the bat so hard it dug a divot of turf up. His actions were aggressive and dangerous and completely uncalled for.

Have you ever, in your life, seen a baseball umpire throw a bat at a player?

Irish baseball is a wonderful thing. Every now and then though, it can be confusing and disappointing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Boston Irish Week 2 NFL Picks

Let's talk NFL...

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Lots and lots of people picked The Bungles to stroll into Gillette Stadium last weekend and come out with a win. Those same people are abandoning ship as fast as they can get the lifeboats off the decks after The Bungles were absolutely creamed by the Patriots. The Ravens, meanwhile, looked ferocious against the Paper Tiger Jets. The Bungles had a very poor end to ’09 and look to have carried this into ’10, while the Ravens look the real deal. This will be close as it’s a crucial game and The Bungles will be trying to show their home fans they are a legitimate team, however the Ravens will be just too strong.
Baltimore 21-17

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Hey, the Bears close fought ‘win’ over the Lions was nothing to be ashamed about, in general. However, once Mathew Stafford left the game, the Bears still let Shaun Hill almost beat them. That’s not a good sign. Frequent readers of this site will know I am no fan of the Cowboys, however they do tend to spread their clunkers around. This week, they will look like world beaters and everyone will be fawning over them, until their next clunker.
Dallas 42-17

Jay Cutler body language - coming to a NFL stadium near you!

Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons almost came away from Pittsburgh with a win, against a tough ‘D’ in an imposing enemy stadium. At home in front of their brethren, with the urgency of needing that first win, they will walk all over the completely unrecognizable Cardinals.
Atlanta 30-10

Let's not count Matt Ryan out just yet

Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers
This could get ugly. Yes, the Packers have lost Ryan Grant for the season, however reports were that Brandon Jackson had moved into at least a tie on the depth chart with his off-season and pre-season work. Now he gets to pound the rock against an absolutely woeful Bills run defence. If the Packers score early, this could turn into an absolute white-wash, as Buffalo are ‘built’ for a run game with short passing, they simply won’t be able to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers
Green Bay 44-9

Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions
It is early days yet in the career of Jahvid Best, but 14 carries for 20 yards, or 1.4 yards a carry, is not exactly Barry Sanders now, is it? Shaun Hill isn’t Mathew Stafford either. The Lions are no walk over at home though, and have one of the finest wide outs in the league in Calvin Johnson, who caught the ‘winning’ touchdown last week against the Bears. It should be noted that Shaun Hill was under center for that pass. The Lions are going to be a good team, they have too much youth and talent not to be, in fact they can be a dominant force in a few years, if they keep all the pieces together. This game, though, is too much too soon.
Philadelphia 24-21


Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans
Okay so, let’s see Dennis Dixon on the road against a superb defence. The Titans are still available at 20-1 to win the Superbowl. That won't be the case after this weekend. Vince Young looks confident, Chris Johnson will get 25 touches and close to 200 yards, and Tennessee will rubber stamp their official entry as Superbowl contenders. Remember, this team is now 9-2 their last 11 games.
Tennessee 30-10

Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns
Two teams going in very different directions. The Browns are turning to the likes of Jake Delhome, while Kansas are finally seeing the fruits of three years of stockpiling draft picks. Too much Jamaal Charles for Cleveland to handle.
Kansas 24-14

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
This could be a low scoring bruiser. Tampa will be decent in a couple of years, but on the road, against a run-heavy Carolina team, they will struggle.
Carolina 24-10

Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings
Brett Favre looked rusty in the opener? Gosh, really? Did he skip training camp or something? The Vikings, however, will force Miami to throw, their huge defensive line stopping the run, and Henne will throw the ball away. Just you watch. Home field and desperation mean a Vikings win.
Minnesota 27-17

Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos
Seattle and Matt Hasselbeck looked very, very good last week against a highly touted 49ers team. Pete Carroll has the Hawks excited about the game of football again, and there is energy in all aspects of their play. Meanwhile, Denver are searching for an identity. Seattle to sneak in on a smash and grab and show their week one was no aberration
Seattle 27-26

St. Louis Rams at Oakland Raiders
Oh boy, what’s this, the antithesis of the Superbowl? Alabama could probably beat these two. Can they both lose?
Oakland 14-13

New England Patriots at New York Jets
How can more people not see this Jets slump coming? Remember, they quite literally snuck into the playoffs last season. Admittedly they played well when they got there, however they were very lucky to get in. Since then they have been wildly over rated. Their QB can barely throw the rock 40 yards, and have you ever heard the term 'sophomore slump'? The Patriots will stack against the run and dare the Jets to throw. Meanwhile the Brady bunch will not have it their own way against the Jets blitz and corners, but should do enough to win. The Jets arrogance will add to their demise, people will start picking those non stop blitzes up, leading to huge plays down the field.
New England 24-13

Houston Texans at Washington Redskins
Arian Foster, not a bad start eh? Foster’s stunning rookie explosion last week should have sent serious shock waves through the NFL. Houston has no problem chucking the rock downfield, the scary part for the rest of the league is, they can now run it equally well. Watch Houston's Superbowl odds tumble as they come out of Washington with the result Dallas should have, you know, if they weren’t a pack of clowns, a win. This Houston team has a serious whiff of Superbowl friskiness about it.
Houston 21-20

Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers
The Empire strikes back. The Jaguars are going to get thumped. Two elements, traveling cross country to take on a team licking its wounds after losing a game they should have won. Rivers and the Chargers are going to come out fired up and the Jags are going to pay.
San Diego 34-13

New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts aren’t starting the season 0-2, particularly against a team with a poor intermediate pass defense, but also with Peyton at the helm against a jittery looking Eli. This feels like an exciting shoot-out.
Indianapolis 43-38

New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
Was Mike Singletary awake on the sidelines against the Hawks last weekend? Some completely confounding coaching decisions in that one. The 49ers were a lot of peoples pre-season sleeper/darlings, the problem is San Francisco look like a potentially talented squad with no rudder to steer them. If New Orleans get an early lead, watch out, this score could get out of control.
New Orleans 36-17

Thursday, September 16, 2010

John Valentin to enter the Red Sox Hall of Fame

Absolutely delighted to hear former Red Sox great John Valentin is to enter the Red Sox Hall of Fame at a ceremony before their game on Friday.

Here's a profile I wrote on Johnny Val back in 2007. Enjoy.

John Valentin, SS/3B, #13 (1992-2002)

Ted Williams on Johnny Valentin: 'That little guy at Third Base, I like him. He's good. I love him'

Before the 'Holy Trinity' (Jeter, Garciaparra and A-Rod) and subsequent statistical explosion, the Major League shortstop was known primarily as a glove man, someone who was going to scoop the ball up and chip in a few hits here and there. Two shortstops in particular came along in the nineties to break that mould, Cal Ripken Jnr of the Orioles and John Valentin of the Boston Red Sox.

Born February 16th, 1967 in Mineola, New York, Valentin attended Seton Hall University. Valentin's college roomate and Seton Hall Pirates team mate was Mo Vaughn. Another team mate was Craig Biggio. They played together on Seton Hall’s 1987 Big East Championship team, which went 45-10.

There has actually been a book written about that Seton Hall Team.
David Siroty penned ''The Hit Men and the Kid Who Batted Ninth: Biggio, Valentin, Vaughn, and Robinson: Together Again in the Big Leagues''

Valentin started his professional career in the Red Sox minor league system in 1988. and made it to the Majors in 1992. He would go on to have an eleven year career, ten of those with the Boston Red Sox.

Valentin always had a nose for the dramatic. He is one of only 12 players in modern major league history to complete an unassisted triple play. Valentin completed the rare play on July 8th in 1994 in a loss to Seattle. In the 2nd inning. he caught a line drive off the bat of Marc Newfield, stepped on 2nd base to retire Mike Blowers, then tagged runner Keith Mitchell who was heading (slowly!) for 2nd. As is often the case in MLB, once a player makes a great play in the top of an inning he often follows it up with some good stick work in the bottom. Naturally Valentin hit a home run in the bottom of the second. To make the game more notable still, Seattle uber-prospect Alex Rodriguez, 18, was 0-for-3 in his ML debut that night.

Statistically John's best season came in 1995. He hit at an impressive .298 clip and added 27 home runs, 102 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Red Sox fans who are possibly new to the fold and know little about Valentin should take this one on board and chew it over. 'Val' was Boston's short stop the last time the Boston Red Sox won the American League East Division championship, in 1995.

Valentin simply had a spectacular 1995. On May 2nd in a 8-0 whitewash of the hated Yankees, Boston scored all eight runs in back to back innings by former college teammates (Seton Hall) Valentin and Mo Vaughn.That was the only time ever that two grand slams account for all the runs scored in a game (Source: SABR statistician David Vincent). That two former Seton Hall lads did it only makes it more unusual and indeed unique. On June 2nd of that shining season for him, Valentin and the Sox beat the Mariners 6-5 with 'Val' going 5-5 with three home runs and four runs scored. At the time he was the first shortstop ever to total 15 bases in one game. Again at the time he was the 8th Red Sox player to hit three home runs in a single game.

On September 29th The Sox slipped past the Brewers 11-9 and Valentin reached a personal landmark 102 runs batted in, becoming just the 4th Red Sox shortstop ever to drive in 100 runs in a season.

Furthermore, when Boston's big bats (Vaughn and Canseco) completely disappeared in the playoffs first round that season against the Indians, it was Valentin who led the way, blasting a memorable two run bomb in the third inning of game one to get the Sox going. Sadly that would be one of the few highlights as the Sox went meekly into the night 0-3.

John was rewarded for his excellent 1995 season by being awarded Major League baseball's Silver Slugger Award. As a measure of the achievement, the same award, since '95, has been taken by either Garciaparra, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Miguel Tejada. That is a fine collection of slugging shortstops.

Valentin was by no means a fast man, but he was always an extremely clever base runner, and this was displayed physically in the tremendous amount of runs he managed to score, particularly between '95 and '98. In those four seasons he clocked up an incredible 400 runs scored.

Perhaps John's finest hour as a member of the Red Sox came in the form of the '99 playoffs. The Sox were up against the mighty Indians, the first team to score 1,000 runs in a season in nearly 50 years. The 'Tribe' looked like they were going to simply brush the Sox aside and took a 2-0 lead going into game three in Boston. Cometh the hour cometh the man and Valentin got to work. In the bottom of the sixth Val hit a lead off solo shot to put Boston ahead 3-2. After the Indians tied it Val came through again with a bases loaded double, putting the Sox ahead for good on the way to a dramatic 9-3 season saving win. What happened next was nothing short of historical as a suddenly reeling Cleveland side caved in and Boston won game four 23-7.

Valentin exploded in that game knocking in an incredible seven runs. No Red Sox fan will ever forget what happened in game five when Troy O'Leary went yard twice and Pedro came in from the bullpen to shut the door on the Indians, however none of that would have been possible without Valentin's heroics in games three and four in particular. In five games against the Indians John batted .318 with three home runs and a fantastic 12 runs batted in.

Perhaps the Sox gave too much in taking the ALDS against Cleveland as they went out in the ALCS against the Yankees, disappointingly losing 4-1. Valentin still gave Red Sox fans reason to smile in game three at Fenway. With the crowd already energised by Pedro mowing down the Yanks in the top of the first, Jose Offerman jolted them further with a lead off triple against former Sox great Roger Clemens. Up stepped Johnny Val and the roar could be heard in Mineola as he lifted a majestic two run blast over the Monster in left to give the Sox a 2-0 lead on route to a dramatic 13-1 win. Although the Sox were eventually knocked out, Valentin did all he could, reaching base ten times in the five games.

Sadly Valentin's career became plagued with injuries and in his last two seasons with the Red Sox Johnny Val only played 31 games before spending one more season with the New York Mets and then calling it a day. Since hanging up his cleats Val has worked as a part-time television analyst for the New England Sports Network and has branched out into the culinary world as owner of Julia's Restaurant in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. He has also spent time working as a hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays AA affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Red Sox history is littered with shining stars who own often spectacular statistics. Although Valentin didn't have a 40 home run season or hit .400, he helped pave the way for a new breed of slugging shortstops and was a part of the gradual renaissance of the Boston Red Sox, which started in the nineties and culminated in '04. If anything Valentin should be remembered for his clutch hitting, particularly in the playoffs. In his time, when the bell rang, John Valentin always answered.

Friday, September 10, 2010

S.A.M.M - The Boston Red Sox 2010 obituary - Part 1 the batters

And so it ends, with a whimper, not a bang. The last two or three weeks the Red Sox have lost their last chance to make the playoffs for 2010. Well, they have really kind of just watched their chances gently slide away into the murky distance. How can I say this with such certainty? I am one of the twenty five most positive/optimistic people on the planet Earth so therefore if even I think they have blown it, there is a pretty decent chance they have indeed, blown in.

Boston’s last chance was sweeping Tampa, and their inability to do so is the final nail in the injury ridden coffin of a season that was 2010. On the plus side (see? Glass half full!) we can all now start burping out obituaries like so much pollution pouring forth from a sewage pipe.

One thing we like to do at Boston Irish is to mix movie quotes with reviews and analysis of baseball and or other sports. S.A.M.M – sports and movie mixes! Here’s what we have thrown at you, the esteemed reader, to date.

Previous S.A.M.M articles
Old School
Out of Sight
Stranger than fiction
The Hangover

What better way to summarise the Red Sox season than by using quotes from ‘The Departed’? Such a fantastic plethora of colourful quotes to choose from. So what if I had to spend an hour ‘censoring’ the piece. My goodness, they swore a lot in ‘The Departed’. Good times!

Today, the batters. Monday, the guys that chuck and duck. Enjoy.

Victor Martinez
Frank Costello: What we generally do - in this country - is one guy brings the items, and the other guy pays him. "No tickee, no laundry"!

Boy oh boy has free-agent-to-be V-Mart shown the tickee, now it’s time for the Red Sox to show the laundry. Break the bank. Bring the house. Show V-Mart the money! Pay that man his money! There are not enough quotes and or clichés to cover the simplicity of this situation, make Victor Martinez one of the highest paid catchers in baseball and then sit back and enjoy a hard working, knowledgeable, passionate and talented player at work. Victor doesn’t need the Red Sox, the Red Sox (badly) need him.

in this country...

Jason Varitek
Cousin Sean: You know... you know what you usually say at these moments?

We are fast approaching ‘that moment’ – the end of Varitek’s tenure with Boston. Greatest Red Sox catcher of all time, no debate at all. Nothing even close to a debate when you consider the length of tenure, the two World Series rings and the commonly held knowledge that V-Tek was and still is one of the most intelligent game calling catchers in Major League Baseball. You know what you usually say at these moments? Thanks for the memories, Jason.

Dustin Pedroia
Billy Costigan: I'm going f-----g nuts, man. It's been a year of this. I've had enough of this s--t!

It is sad to see Pedroia ‘going nuts’ as he sits out, in effect, the entire season. Pedroia didn’t deserve this, and here’s hoping he comes back strong in 2011.

It's so funny, and also kind of sad, that you get people, often Red Sox fans, shaking their heads and blaming everything from Tito to the Sox Front Office for Boston’s inability to keep in the race with fully healthy New York and Tampa squads. It’s not rocket science, people, missing players akin to Pedroia and Youkilis, amongst others, for the length of time they have been out, would be catastrophic to any other team also. The Yankees would not be leading the AL East with Jeter and Texiera, for example, missing the entire season. Stop looking for answers everywhere else, it’s pretty obvious what ‘happened’ to Boston in the lost season that is 2010.

Bill hall
Ellerby: Our target: microprocessors. Yes, those. I don't know what they are, you don't know what they are, who gives a f--k?

Bill Hall has never seen a neck high fastball he didn’t like. Amazingly he swings at them every single time. Just like the microprocessors, he doesn’t know what they are, and yes, he is going to keep swinging at them, he doesn’t give a f--k!


Mike Lowell
Billy Costigan: You're seventy f------g years old. One of these guys is going to pop you. As for running drugs, what the f--k. You don't need the pain in the ass, and they're going to catch you. And you don't need the money.

Goodness gracious, the Red Sox are going to look different in 2011. Mike Lowell? Gone baby, gone. He doesn’t need the money. He needs a hip replacement, is what he needs. As eloquent a baseball player as you will find, we can all look forward to Iron Mike’s imminent career in sports broadcasting.

Adrian Beltre
Billy Costigan: When you say "the family," who do mean exactly? You?

Is Bangin’ Beltre going to be part of the Red Sox family in ’11? His impending free agency should serve as a good barometer as to how serious the Red Sox front office are about doing everything they need to do to win it all, as opposed to simply balancing the books. If Boston signs Beltre, they will be showing everybody they mean business. If not, they don’t. As with V-Mart, Boston needs Beltre, not the other way round. Pay that man his money.

Sign him up, again!

David Ortiz
Colin Sullivan: Yeah, you got a tail. Two cars, not very subtle. They're not gonna be very subtle from now on. That's what I've been trying to tell you.

How subtle is Boston going to be this off season when handling Ortiz? To now, the front office has largely let Tito handle affairs, however they might take it out of his hands by bringing in a younger DH or first base type. Ortiz will go down as one of the greatest Red Sox of all time, but right now it’s painful watching him try to hit anything faster than 90/91 mph. He is a great, proud man, and it’s been a fantastic ride, but my guess is the Boston front office forces matter this off season by bringing in someone like Adrian Gonzalez or even Prince Fielder. Not very subtle!

Colin Sullivan dropping David Ortiz off his fantasy baseball team

Darnell McDonald
Oliver Queenan: We have a question: Do you want to be a cop, or do you want to appear to be a cop? It's an honest question. A lot of guys just want to appear to be cops. Gun, badge, pretend they're on TV.

McDonald came into the season as a minor league journeyman. Now he looks like a Major League player. He has brought his average up, he plays fearless defence and has added in some big home runs. He looks like a Major League player. The question is, will the Sox give him the chance to win a backup outfield job.

JD Drew
Colin Sullivan: What Freud said about the Irish is: We're the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis.

Oh JD, what goes on in that head of yours?

Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellerby: Marriage is an important part of getting ahead: lets people know you're not a homo; married guy seems more stable; people see the ring, they think at least somebody can stand the son of a bitch; ladies see the ring, they know immediately you must have some cash or your cock must work.

Personally I couldn’t believe it when Dan ‘The hatchet man’ Shaughnessy openly questioned Ellsbury’s manhood when writing a complete hatchet piece on his rib injury. It was one of those ‘I am not going to question a guy with an injury, but, I am going to openly question the guy right now in print’ jobs. It would be fun to watch Dan Shaughnessy run after a flu ball with a broken rib or two. My guess is having to do that would possibly temper his feelings on Ellsbury. In the meantime, what does Ellsbury have to do to prove himself to people, start wearing a wedding ring? Will he seem more stable then?

More beat up than Jacoby Ellsbury

Ryan Khalish
Frank Costello: You do well in school?
Young Colin: Yeah
Frank Costello: Good. So did I. They call that a paradox.

Khalish has done exceptionally well ‘in school’, rushed to the majors well before his time, he has shown a flair for the dramatic, heady defensive skills and a hard nosed Trot Nixon like style that has already endeared him to Red Sox fans.

You know what drives me nuts? You know what really grinds my gears? People who say Jack Nicholson was not the right guy to play Frank Costello. You know who you are (cough Bill Simmons cough). Every time I see The Departed, his performance gets better and better. Like fine wine, it matures with age. From the opening scene, Nicholson owns the movie. Even when he isn’t on screen, you can’t wait to his next line, his next scene. Put it this way, you doubters out there. Think about the role of Frank Costello, now name one other actor who could have delivered it as perfectly as Jack. I dare you, I double dare you, name one guy who could have brought everything to the role that Nicholson did. See? Not so easy, right?

Marco Scutaro
Billy Costigan: Frank, how many of these guys have been with you long enough to be disgruntled, huh? Think about it. You don't pay much, you know. It's almost a f----n' feudal enterprise. The question is, and this is the only question, who thinks that they can do what you do better than you?

Can there be any position in sports more frustrating to play than short stop for the Boston Red Sox? Scutaro must already be looking over his shoulder to see who the Sox are lining up to bring in and play short. The sad thing is, I think Scutaro did a decent job in 2010. Forced into the leadoff spot by Ellsbury’s injury, he got on base, drove in a few, scored a few, and played decent defensive short stop, He played hurt too. In a world where ‘it is what it is’, though, no doubt the Sox will bring in someone else to play short.


Jed Lowrie
Frank Costello: One of us had to die. With me, it tends to be the other guy.

One thing you can not accuse Lowrie of is being a quitter. Life has thrown all sorts of curve balls at Lowrie, and he has kept coming back for more. With another off season of preparation Lowrie could be a super utility man for the Sox to have on their bench next season. The kid just keeps coming back for more.

Kevin Youkilis
Frank Costello: The point I'm making with John Lennon is - a man could look at anything, and make something out of it. For instance, I look at you and I think "what could I use you for?"

The Red Sox certainly have made something out of Youkilis. First base, third base, anything from second to fifth in the order, you give Youk a job to do, he does it. As it turns out, maybe some people didn’t realise how indispensable Youkilis is to the Red Sox chances of success. Well, we sure found out in a hurry, didn’t we? His absence through injury is nothing short of glaring.

Daniel Nava
Fitzy: She didn't notice us, she must be a cop. Delahunt: Yeah, she's probably the f-----g Police Commissioner.

You think when he is walking down Newbury Street, anyone knows who Daniel Nava is? Still? He could be the f-----g Police Commissioner for all anybody would know!

Coming soon, Dice-K, Lester, Beckett and the boys.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sports writer cat fight alert!

Sports writer cat fight alert!

It’s on! It’s so on! Gregg ‘I know more than you!’ Easterbrook had this to say about fellow ESPN sports scribe Bill ‘Sports Guy’ Simmons.

I won't clog your cell phone with thought-ettes about the weather or Snooki. TMQ needs only 18 million more Twitter followers to catch Bill Simmons.

It’s on! Sports writer cat fight alert! Come on Billy, don’t let us down. Easterbrook has laid down the challenge by taking a cheap shot at your enjoyment of Jersey Shore. Luckily for Simmons, there aren’t many easier targets than Easterbrook.

Simmons: It's so on!

Easterbrook likes to write about Black Holes and Star Trek. Both easily assailed. Also, for all his often sanctimonious output, he is quite often completely off the mark. For example, he loves to take pot-shots at New England, however this haiku was pretty inaccurate

Turning off the spy cameras turned
this team human.

The New England Pats.

But wait, didn’t they ‘turn off the cameras’ before New England’s record setting 2007/2008 season? For someone who spends thousands of words debating facts, science and presenting an image of perfection, pretty shabby analysis there!

The haikus keep coming…

Can you name any starter
except Matt Ryan?

Atlanta Falcons.

Um, Michael Turner? Roddy White? Come on Gregg, you can do better than that. Of course, any time you get a chance to make a joke about rape, you have to pull the trigger, right Gregg?

At this team's road games
the crowd will chant -- "She said no!"

The Pittsburgh Steelers.

The ammunition is right there for you Billy, just pull the trigger!

Ps: you should hear what he said about your Mom!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

...maybe he had a flight to catch

Check it out, a completely amazing no strike 'strikeout'

Sometimes you have to wonder if the blue has either;
  • Some cash on the game
  • A flight to catch

Sad, sick and pathetic. A team's season is on the line and this 'blue' decides he is going to just screw around with the game of baseball. The amazing no strike 'strikeout'.

Just fantastic.

Friday, September 03, 2010

New England Patriots season preview

A great man once said, ‘it is what it is’, and that has never applied to the New England Patriots as much as it will this coming NFL season. For all the questions around defence, the running game and Tom Brady’s bizarre mullet, the answers are sitting there, staring at us all unerringly in the face.

Before leaping to the glaringly obvious conclusion, a closer look at the elements that will make up the Patriots year.

When it comes to defence, Bill Belichick is going to earn every cent of his pay cheque over the next several months. The Patriots have a severe lack of defensive depth, particularly at defensive back, and will at times resemble a frat house with the number of fresh, young faces in the defensive eleven. This works two ways. You could argue that the Patriots are going to be way too raw on defense. Or you could argue that Belichick is working with fresh ‘clay’ to mould. What is clear is, the Patriots ‘D’ is going to be young. Real young. The Patriots drafted and signed twelve prospects, with five of those coming in the first 90 selections of the NFL draft. Several of those dozen players are going to see plenty of field time right out of the gate, most of them on defence.

You could say the ‘D’ is a question mark, but in reality it is fairly obvious that it will struggle at first, the real question is, will Belichick be able to turn this raw crew into anything resembling a functioning NFL ‘D’? We should have some idea by week six, October 17th as the Patriots take the field against Baltimore after their bye week.

The good news is on the other side of the ball. With Wes Welker’s timely and speedy return from injury, the Patriots look set to be explosive through the air yet again. Randy Moss will continue to draw double team, deep coverage while Welker and his ‘Mini-Me’ version of himself, Julian Edelman, mop up ‘under’ the coverage. Meanwhile, Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski has been drawing rave reviews in the pre-season, and looks like a nice new set of hands for Brady to aim at. ‘It is what it is’, the Patriots are going to have no problem moving the rock through the air.

There's a new kid in town; Rob Gronkowski

Of course, with the lack of solidity in the running game, they are going to have to.

Has anybody seen Laurence Maroney this off-season? Maroney sightings are akin to Bigfoot sightings, few and far between. The Patriots look like they are going to run by committee with, right now, Taylor, Taylor and Morris leading the way (sounds like a law firm!). That could change at a moments notice.

The thing is, New England has done this before, and done it quite well. While it is a veritable pain in the neck for Fantasy NFL owners, who can’t pick a Patriots RB with any peace of mind, it can be effective. Throw in the ageless Kevin Faulk on third-downs, and the Patriots will run more effectively than some people give them a chance to. Probably not well enough to make people stop saying ‘the Patriots running game is an issue’, however.

Everything ‘is what it is’ so far, and there’s no reason to get away from that mantra when talking about the chap behind center. In this day and age of (rightfully so) protected Quarterbacks and (more debatably) frequently penalized defensive backs, the ‘Field General’ position is more important than ever before. Lucky for New England, they have one of the best. A truly fascinating season lies ahead for Tom Brady. He is now two years removed from reconstructive knee surgery. He should be able to plant and throw with more ease than last season. His crew of wide receivers is deep and talented. He now has a new tight end to play with. He has plenty to prove with the Patriots dragging their heels on his contract.

Add everything up and number 12 is primed for a huge season.

When all is said and done, there should be no great mystery, definitely in the early to mid sections of the Patriots season. As the season progresses, Belichick will have the defense playing tighter, better football and the Patriots will be tougher to score on. For the opening section though, they will continue to struggle to get teams off the field on third down, however they will have no problems scoring their own points. Ready for some high scoring shoot-outs? You better be, ‘cause they are on the way.

That’s the predictable part. What we don’t know is, will the Patriots find a way to come out on top in close games? Can Belichick weave some more defensive magic, using essentially ‘lesser’ components?

One sure thing, with an initially suspect defensive group and, on the flip side, a potentially explosive passing attack, the Patriots certainly are not going to be boring.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

How to spend 24 years rooting for the Patriots (from over 3,000 miles away) - version 4.0

If you had gone back in time, to a period where the Patriots were, well, awful, and if you had looked me straight in the eye and told me that the Patriots would be one of the most hated and most successful teams in the NFL from 2001 onwards, I would have looked at you as if you had four heads. Five, even.

Then I would have exclaimed, ''Wait a second, you say they get good eventually?!''

How fast people forget. From the mid 2000’s to last season the Patriots were in a position the 49ers and Cowboys were in during the eighties, they were hated simply on the basis of their success. Incredibly, we are already seeing a slight shift in hatred levels, with the extra exposure the Jets are getting. The focus is no longer on the Patriots, thanks to the obnoxious, loudmouth crew down in New York. Take a bow, Rex Ryan.

Isn’t it funny, people hated the 49ers and the Cowboys for longer, back in the day, the length and depth of hatred has shrunk in accordance with the brevity of the Internet age.

It is as if people have already forgotten to hate New England.

The Patriots have been a big part of my life since roughly 1984, I fell for them then, and followed them through thick and thin. It was, and is, a passionate long distance relationship. They have been a part of some awful nights, personally speaking, and a part of some of my best memories.

Taking a step back, what does it actually involve? Supporting a team from the distance of Ireland to the United States. Well, first of all it involves spending a quarter of a century rooting for, supporting a team that seems like it is going nowhere slow. Try that and see how you like it. The Patriots were so, so, so bad for most of the eighties and nineties. Functionally speaking, in the days before the Internet this long distance relationship involved snippets on late night English sports shows, which graduated in the early nineties to flashy reports off the new fangled Internet, and the new glossy Sunday night coverage on Sky Sports TV. Now it involves daily visits to the Boston Globe, herald and ESPN for the latest news on the boys from ‘the Razor’, and wearing a throw-back 'Grogan' jersey to the cinema on a Friday night before a big game on the forthcoming Sunday.

Grogan the great

It all started in 1985. I was on holidays with my parents and my Aunt from Connecticut, Essie, and she gave me a present of a stat book from the '84 NFL season. It wasn't much to look at, small, red, with a picture of a San Francisco player on the front (I want to say Roger Craig?!), but it was stacked full of statistics, results and hundreds of pages of ways of clogging up my fertile teenager's imagination.

I devoured it. I would check every statistical category and hope that a Patriots player was in the top ten. Having been actually born in New England they were the obvious choice of teams to root for, and besides, I kind of liked their logo, Pat the Patriot, and they had cool players like Steve Grogan, Mosi Tatupu and Stanley Morgan.

The old Patriots logo, 'Pat the Patriot', doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents, but looked pretty cool to a 13 year old..

Mosi Tatupu became something of a legend even after his career with the Patriots was over. Always a charismatic, interesting guy, he achieved global notoriety status when his name was invoked by some South Pacific tribes peoples on the Simpsons. I remember I was watching a video of the episode when I heard one of them shout 'Mosi Tatupu, Mosi Tatupu' and I rewound a few times wondering if I was hearing things.

'Mosi Tatupu, Mosi Tatupu!!' – Rest in peace, Mosi

Sure enough Tatupu was mentioned on the The Simpsons during Treehouse of Horror III. His name, said twice, was intended to be translated "The blue-haired woman will make a good sacrifice!"

The Patriots were a hard nosed, working class team and had a good '85, a time when American Football was covered pretty comprehensively by the new, chic, Chanel 4 of the UK. C4 had lots of new drama and some pretty controversial shows, you were pretty much guaranteed a couple of topless shots in some show or another late at night, which, at the time, caused pickets in Ireland with people protesting that C4 was allowed on Irish TV. I am not kidding, actual real protests.

Sunday night C4 had highlights of the early games, extended highlights of one game along with some decent commentary and analysis. It was exciting stuff, long before the Internet, WAP. Long before sitting at dinner on a Sunday night following the Patriots on WAP with a phone hidden between my legs, watching every play in text format.

At mass in my early years I would close my eyes and visualise Tony Eason dropping back to throw a touchdown. I would construct whole drives in my head, then dash home to see if the Patriots could do it that night.

Tony Eason

Along came the '86 season, and the wonderful Patriot's run to the Superbowl. They were underdogs every week but the Patriots won three road playoff games on their way to Super Bowl XX and a date with the Bears.

Everyone knows what happened next. It was, at the time, the worst Superbowl loss ever

The team then floundered a good bit, splashing around uselessly for a few years, years where Chanel Four lost it's right to cover the game to then new station 'Sky' (Think Fox, slightly less inane) which in those days was essentially pay per view.

Working in Cape Cod for the summers of '93-'95 I got a first hand look at the rebirth of the Patriots, after the drafting of the amazing Drew Bledsoe. People are so quick to forget. Bledsoe was basically the catalyst that gave birth to these new Patriots that all of New England loves and calls their own. He was a superb pocket passer and a class act to boot. The Superbowl run of '96 was a lot of fun

I'll never forget what Bledsoe did for the Patriots.

One of my favourite Patriots memories was the AFC Championship game in '01 where Brady, the new guy at the time, twisted his ankle and Bledsoe came off the bench to quite literally lead the Patriots to the Superbowl, throwing two touchdowns, one an absolute beauty. And that was all she wrote on the Bledsoe era. In the Superbowl, with Drew on the sidelines, with the incredible drive to set up the winning field goal Brady announced his arrival.

I was watching the Super Bowl in Dublin at home with my brother and Father, and good friend Paul, the same people I watched the 1986 slaughter with. I'll never forget watching as Brady spiked the ball with just a few seconds left, it was like it was all in slow motion, the ball bounced back up, he twirled it on his finger for a second and flipped it to an umpire. How unbelievably calm and poised for, basically, a rookie.

As the winning field goal split the uprights my brother and I literally jumped off the sofa and hopped around the living room hugging. The unbelievable, upset win over the Rams in the 2001 Superbowl was the first Championship any team I had supported in my early teens, from 1987, to adult life had won. I simply had no clue how good that felt!

That signaled a bizarre period of several years leading up to today where the Patriots suddenly became the class of the NFL. Winners of three Superbowls and the team no one ever wanted to cross paths with.

Brady just gets the little things, like turning up at several Red Sox games and wearing the cap to press conferences (or, as below, jogging). Basically he knows how to appeal dorks like me who should know better. Call him the 'anti LeBron'

Brady completely epitomized this sudden transformation from also rans to NFL Champions. The best part was he did it the hard way and the right way. From a difficult College career where he had to share time with a lesser player (anybody seen Drew Henson lately?) because of shady insider team politicking, to standing on the sidelines his first NFL season, to being the first player at training every morning Brady became the hard working face of the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick awards a prime parking spot to the player who is most dedicated to the offseason conditioning program. Brady had earned that coveted piece of real six years running up to this season. Call him the anti T.O.

Allot of Brady's appeal is he is not a incredible athlete like Michael Vick, he doesn't have Aaron Rodger’s arm, but he has a little bit of all the good qualities that make a terrific Quarterback and he has something 80% of them don't have, the most unbelievable will to win. This guy just despises losing. His focus is shockingly concentrated.

I will never forget settling in to watch the 2004 AFC Championship game, having been reading the last couple of days that Brady had a debilitating flu, and watching the Patriots slide from 3 to 5 point underdogs going into the game against the powerful Steelers. The pundits said Pittsburgh were going to get revenge for 2001, the Patriots, with their QB sick and probably wishing he was in bed, would be swept aside.

As Brady stepped under centre I saw it immediately. The same look Ali had the night he beat Foreman. The same look Wade had against Dallas in the NBA playoffs in ‘06. The same look David Callaghan had against Serbia in the 2004 European Baseball Championships. He just was not losing that game. Flu be damned.

''Brady played his best game of the year in Pittsburgh despite requiring IV treatment the previous night when he had a temperature of 103 degrees.'' The Patriots torched the Steelers 41-17.

Back in '01 Brady was the darling of the NFL. Now, on the cusp of the new season, what is he? Coming back from knee surgery, going into year two of playing on, basically, a new knee. Adored still by Patriots nation, he has become hated by a large portion of 'the masses', somewhat in the same way Bono is hated in Ireland, for being too successful. Begrudgery, I believe it is called.

When I first wrote this piece a few years ago, I wrote;
Just remember though, before you label the Patriots boring and call them the new Yankees. This didn't come easy, all this success. There were plenty of sour years before the sweet. Go easy on us Patriots fans. We had dozens of years in the wilderness before we could enjoy this, this absolute steam train that's rolling through the NFL right now.

That rings very true right now, I am guessing if you polled 100 people what their least favourite NFL team was, 80% at least would say the Patriots.

No better example than one crazy night in Mexico.

At the turn of the year, 2008, I found myself in Cancun, in a large, dark theatre with a huge screen for the game, settling in for the Superbowl. There were hundreds packed into the theatre and there was a fantastic atmosphere. Amazingly, I was the only person rooting for the Patriots in the entire building. To my left there were a group of Jets fans, completely understandable that they would root for the Giants, on a couple of levels. Behind me was a raucous group of Dallas Cowboy fans.

Seriously, I have absolutely hated the Dallas Cowboys ever since. Not just for the fact that they are a joke of a team. A spineless, bad joke who will never see any success in their current make up, but mainly because that night, those Dallas Cowboy fans showed me everything I needed to know about their ilk.

First things first, how can Cowboys fans root for the Giants? It just does not make sense. They hate each other! This group though, this group of brainless Seal like gimps, you would have had to have seen them to believe them. There were about twenty of them. Most of the guys were wearing beige slacks and had their cell phones clipped externally on their belt, you know, in case something important came up during the Superbowl, obviously. While they were in Cancun. ‘Hey – I am in Cancun, watching the Superbowl, what’s the 411?’ Their fake blonde, fake breasted wives formed the single most annoying group of women I have ever seen. Clearly their two Coors Lites had gone to their heads, as they 'whooped it up', screaming, shouting all game long. One of them kept drunkenly screamed 'Go Cowboys!' every few minutes until she finally went outside to vomit, I assume, never to re-appear.

That night, that game, had such a surreal 'feel' to it. As Tyree caught the ball against his head, as Manning threw that final touchdown pass, the night started to spin for this Patriots fan. I started looking for the exit as fast as I could, only to walk into two of the group of Cowboys fans. They started teasing me and I 'lost the head' as we say here in Ireland, screaming expletive laden abuse at them, to the point where a hotel staff member had to ask me to leave. As I slipped out into the inky black Mexican night, I heard one of the Cowboys fans mumble in an injured tone, 'Man, what's his problem, it's only a game!'

See that's the thing, it wasn't only a game. It was decades of watching an awful team turn into a great team, turn into a dynasty team, and watching as that team slowly became hated by so many. It was watching the incredible '07/'08 run come to a crashing halt against a mediocre team that hit the right note at the right time. It was having to listen to Dallas Cowboy fans rooting for a team they would hate 364 days of the year.

Now, at this stage, that hatred has simply become part and parcel of being a Patriots fans. People, like those imbecilic Cowboys fans that night in Mexico, love taking shots at them. That's just how it is. It means nothing to them that ten, fifteen years ago Patriots fans were wondering if they would ever come close to touching success, even for a day. We imagined a sneaky Superbowl success which we would have gladly taken. Then came the three championships, and everything changed.

Maybe it had to happen though. Maybe that loss, that night, followed by Brady getting injured in 2008, followed by a major house cleaning of defensive veterans, maybe all that had to happen so we could reach this point, and, basically, start again.

On a longer time frame, for a long term fan, it kind of feels like the Patriots are starting over.

Now, more so than ever, the Patriots stand at an unusual cross-roads. And for that reason most of all, amongst the dozens of others, this NFL season is going to be absolutely fascinating.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

NFL QB ranker

Well now, this is about as much fun as a body can have with their clothes on. Having said that, a healthy interest in the NFL is probably required.

Maybe I should have started this with, 'If you love ranking Quarterbacks..'

Enough chit chat
Go rank some Quarterbacks

Then read this excellent piece
on the way you should have ranked them!

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports


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