Again, some quick thoughts on the NFL. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not Ã¢â‚¬Å“the morning afterÃ¢â‚¬Â since I generally wake up after 1 p.m.
- IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been a fan of Chad Pennington dating back to his Jets days. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gutsy, smart and tough. I think my arm is stronger than his, but his guile and heady play have always set him apart in my opinion. He validated that last year by finishing runner-up for the MVP Award while leading an overachieving Dolphins team to 11 wins, a stunning turnaround and a division title. Pennington blended seamlessly with the Wildcat offense and was a joy to watch. But the problem with Chad has always been his inability to make it through two seasons in a row. And sadly, he was unable to prove the skeptics wrong in that regard. FootballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a tough sport, and you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blame someone for having his shoulder shredded. But with Pennington paying greater attention to fitness at this stage of his career, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a bad break. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see him play again, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a real shame: Pennington is a gentleman and a fine player. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just too bad that he lived up to his reputation, in a negative sense.
With the baseball playoffs fast approaching and the football season in full swing, it still seems that LeBron James is everywhere. You have books on the market, movies on the way, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s at the Cowboys game, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on the Daily Show. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even open your front door without LeBron being there selling you Nikes and clapping some chalk in the air.
It turns out I was right about Floyd Mayweather winning his match against Juan Manuel Marquez by decision, and also that MarquezÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s history of being a slow starter would hurt him, as Floyd downed him in the second round and dominated the early portion of the fight. But what I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t right about is that Marquez would make an impact in the middle rounds, as he was pretty much completely shut out.
I knew Floyd was bigger than Marquez, but I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect him to show up two pounds heavier than the catch weight at the weigh-in, a significant amount. He had to pay per pound to allow the fight to go off. And though Floyd doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fight like a big man, using his fluidity and quickness to his benefit, he obviously used his size advantage.
Mayweather lost a deal of respect by being either unable or unwilling to make weight, essentially making this a fight between a good big man and a good small man. The good small man never wins that fight. This isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the Tour De France.
Though I know football, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not really my thing. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll give it a shot. Here are a few observations I have from watching some games this weekend.
- I think the Jets are for real, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tough to truly commit to them. In the past, every time they won a huge game and it seemed like they were going to take that leap to the upper echelon of the NFL, they lost their next game in crushing fashion and it was back to square one. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rare you find a franchise as snakebit as they have been, at least since NamathÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s knees went. But the defense truly does look legit, Mark Sanchez looks like the quarterback theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been waiting for perhaps since Namath Ã¢â‚¬â€œ i.e. a star, albeit one not asked to carry the mail just yet Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and you have to be impressed that not only did they say they were going to beat the Patriots, they went out and did it. Challenging the Patriots is like calling out Floyd Mayweather Ã¢â‚¬â€œ usually not a good idea. But they pulled it off. Their next three games are home against the Titans, at the Saints and at the Dolphins Ã¢â‚¬â€œ two explosive offenses and a divisional rival. If they go 2-1 in those games, things may be different.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always thought that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an inherent loneliness that comes with preternatural talent.
Reflecting on the great moments one can produce with sheer physical or mental genius can be like walking through a hall of mirrors, fated to see endless glimpses of moments in time that can never be recaptured except through still or moving images.
When I look at Michael Jordan, I see a man trapped by his own greatness. The man was like Icarus; he reached heights unlike those reached by anyone else, but the problem with tasting a nectar that sweet is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult to put up the rest of your life by comparison.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve long been fascinated by JordanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ascent from mere mortal to demigod. Over time, as his talents and accomplishments grew, he metamorphosed from a high school kid to an NCAA championship hero, to a hotshot rookie to an NBA scoring leader, to an MVP to a champion Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and eventually to the greatest of all time. Not to mentionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ a worldwide icon.
But at what cost to the manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s soul?
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll make this brief since I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think I could tell you any more than the brilliant 24/7 series has on HBO: Juan Manuel Marquez will not defeat Floyd Mayweather this Saturday night.
But heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll give Floyd a tough time.
Suffice it to say, I look up to Michael Jordan. I have a poster with the words he speaks in that ad above hanging as the centerpiece of my living room Ã¢â‚¬â€œ along with a framed picture of the Twin Towers.
And I have my own perspective to share on the man as he enters the Hall of Fame. But not on 9/11. I believe they should have moved the induction out of respect for the remembrance of this day, but I guess eight years after the fact, maybe itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to just let this be something of just another day.
That said, I want to let the Piazza/9-11 post breathe up there. Look for my thoughts on Jordan sometime during or maybe after the weekend; Derek Jeter and Ichiro for their milestones, too. As great as all three athletes are, I personally still believe they should take a back seat today. Others agree with me; Mike Francesa on WFAN had Ari Fleischer on today and is mostly taking calls about 9/11.
So congratulations to Jordan, Jeter and Ichiro. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll get back to you guys in a few days.
Jay-Z and 9/11 have always been linked. The typical Tuesday drop of his first Blueprint CD Ã¢â‚¬â€œ generally regarded as his best work Ã¢â‚¬â€œ was Sept. 11, 2001, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spent the time since doing benefit concerts and donating to relief funds, something IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always appreciated.
Jay dropped the Blueprint 3 album this past Tuesday, pushed up from Sept. 11 (today) because of leaks. Or at least thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s his story; itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more likely he wanted a full week to sell CDs to pump up his sales numbers. Regardless, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obviously trying to recreate the magic of the first one with the release date, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cool by me.
Two days after Mike PiazzaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inspirational home run, the NFL resumed its games as well. Before the Dolphins played the Raiders, quarterback Jay Fiedler, who IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always been partial to Ã¢â‚¬â€œ we Jews have to stick together Ã¢â‚¬â€œ led the team onto the field while waving an American Flag that had recently been flown in Afghanistan.
Fiedler was a capable but unflashy quarterback whose best attribute was his toughness. But on that day, he was a true champion, even before what he did on the field.
That said, he performed brilliantly. Fiedler, with no time left, made a gutsy dash up the middle and crashed into the end zone to score the winning touchdown of an 18-15 victory over a team that would play in the Super Bowl that season. Though a solid athlete — in fact, a former decathlete — Fiedler was no speed demon, but like Piazza, he wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let his team lose that day after such an emotionally charged beginning.
And through his act of sheer athleticism and joyousness, Mr. Fiedler ended up with his first and only Sports Illustrated cover.
I remember the Piazza game more vividly, particularly since I was there, and because it was in New York and had a lot more significance as such. But I remember FiedlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mad dash as well, and if that’s the main thing you take from his career, that isn’t such a bad thing to hang his hat on.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t talk about tennis here much, but as a former high school great Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I sound like Al Bundy here Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I do follow it.
And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always been impressed by Novak DjokovicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ability Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and his sense of humor, as he has a history of mimicking other players, though that hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always ingratiated him with the stuffy tennis crowds, who apparently have no sense of humor. He also had a well publicized feud with Andy Roddick last year.
Djokovic must go through Roger Federer to win the U.S. Open, something I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe will happen. But hopefully it does, and I have nothing against Federer, who I admire. The thing is, Djokovic has been quietly hosting the children of people who died on 9/11 at his matches.
Djokovic is from war-torn Serbia, so he understands what these kids are going through:
We’re trying to enjoy. We’re young. They’re young. They’re trying to enjoy their life, and they came to tennis. So this is the positive message. We don’t want to, you know, get back in the past. What already happened, happened. It’s life.
This, my friends, is someone to root for. Djokovic, while always making things more interesting for a sport that often isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, is a winner regardless of what happens against Federer.