Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ryan and Tannenbaum extended...Revis talks begin again

More good news from Jets HQ yesterday as Woody Johnson signed head coach Rex Ryan to a 2-year extension and re-signed GM Mike Tannenbaum to a 5-year contract, which means that the brain trust of the franchise is under contract until 2014. In addition, the Jets have once again started negotiating with their best player, CB Darrelle Revis, on a new contract. If the Jets and Revis are unable to come to terms on a long term deal before the start of training camp tomorrow, the hope is that they can increase the $1 million base salary that he is to receive this season as a stop-gap measure until after the season. Hopefully, a new deal or an increased base salary for this season will satisfy Revis enough to bring him to training camp on time.

It's an unusual time to be a Jets fan, if for no other reason than the fact that some portion of the fan base is typically dissatisfied with the front office. In my three decades of following the team, only the brief reign of Bill Parcells in the late nineties provided the same piece of mind. You can make a pretty good argument that the fan base feels better now than we did then, only because there was always the feeling that Parcells was only going to be with the club for a minute (which was fairly accurate, as he recorded 3 years as coach and 4 as GM).

Parcells was like the sports equivalent of your first pretty girlfriend, meaning that he was fun to call your own, but it was only a matter of time before he got a better offer and left you. Since he left New York after the 2000 season, he had a similar tryst with the Cowboys before settling in Miami. I don't think any Jets fan feels like the Ryan/Tannenbaum combo is going to leave for another team. They have both shown a commitment to make the organization a place that players want to play and coaches want to coach, a dream destination. They have the full confidence of the fan base, for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Media Finds A Narrative

Sports is truly the toy department of life. Anyone who is fortunate enough to find their livelihood from the world of sports should understand this right off the bat.

Sports media is just like the media at large, only that they are fortunate enough to be covering events that don't carry the same gravity as terrorism, or war, or our crumbling infrastructure. We shouldn't seem surprised when the same pitfalls occur in sports media as occur in the media at large.

One of the most popular trends in the news media today is for a storyline to be created, then parroted by all of the other voices in media. The most expensive undertaking for a news organization is investigation, because it requires significant overhead, and because it often doesn't yield results. Both government and corporations have found that they can publish news releases and have the media reprint them verbatim, because it's cheap and easy.

Once one news organization has constructed a perspective, you will find other news organizations copying that perspective. Why? Well, what's easier than taking someone else's idea and trying to make it your own? It's the new national pastime.

What does this have to do with the Jets? The popular refrain over the last few days is that the Jets have a little too much hype and a few too many questionable character guys to succeed. This was actually the narrative I was expecting, and I would imagine that Rex Ryan and company should have been expecting the same thing. In a 24-hour timeframe several days ago, there was the Mike Lombardi Kentucky analogy, followed by a Colin Cowherd show where he wasn't "buying" the Jets, followed by Bill Simmons saying that this season had "6-10 disappointment written all over it."

Being a sports fan in 2010 means that you must maintain an uneasy alliance with ESPN, for better or worse. Whether you like it or not, the ESPN brand is omnipresent, and simply getting sports news and programming requires you to be exposed to however they want to spin the sports world to you. Too often, both their on-air and online talent takes their exposure as something of an endorsement. Colin Cowherd actually encourages groupthink (are you in the herd?). Bill Simmons has taken his regional bias and made a cottage industry out of it.

As a sports fan, as long as you take these talking hair-dos for what they are, they are relatively harmless. Cowherd and Simmons are possessed of no special knowledge about sports above the level of a fan. As a matter of fact, I'm still waiting for any bit of expertise about anything from Cowherd. At least Bill Simmons has some grasp of the NBA salary cap for the purpose of transactions. Neither one is going to give you an actual "football" reason as to why they have an opinion about your team. Simmons is normally just left with comedy, telling us that the reason that Peyton Manning doesn't succeed is because of a face he's making. I wish I was kidding.

I don't blame these guys. Most sports fans would like to be compensated for the endless hours we spend engrossed in our interests. You're only a fool if you expect any of these personalities to provide you with an actual insight, which they're not capable of. Mike Lombardi should do better, though. He's an actual ex-front office employee. He should be able to provide me with a "football" reason as to why the Jets won't succeed in 2010. If I want a strained analogy about Kentucky basketball, I'll read Bill Simmons or listen to Colin Cowherd. And, trust me, I don't want a strained analogy, and neither do a lot of fans like me. We know enough football to handle the truth, even if the personalities in the media don't.

The fact of the matter is, most of the Jets fans I read online haven't put all of their eggs in the 2010 basket. The Jets have a solid core of talent around age 25 (Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris, Darrelle Revis, etc.) and if the moves that GM Mike Tannenbaum made in the offseason don't pan out, this team will be built for the next few years as well. There's no need to panic. I've been waiting for thirty-three years, and if I have to wait one or two more, I think I'll live.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We're #4! We're #4! We're #4!

The NFL Network has been counting down the 32 teams from #32 to #1 over the last month, devoting about a 10-minute segment on their nightly show, Total Access Live. This ranking was determined by a vote of the fans, so it's more of a gauge of how the rest of the football-viewing public views your team. As we progressed through the league's teams starting at #32, I expected the Jets to be considered a top 10 team through a combination of how we finished the season and the acquisitions that were made to improve the club.

The Jets finished 2009 at 9-7. Down the stretch in December and January, they played their best football of the season, and were also fortunate to close the season with two opponents that didn't share the same incentive to perform. The Colts rested their starters in the 3rd quarter of their game with the Jets, and the Jets rallied from behind to win. The Bengals followed with a half-hearted effort the following week, and the Jets rode the momentum all the way to the AFC Title game.

So, there's reason enough to be excited by my team's prospects for 2010. The fans of the NFL Network agreed and ranked the Jets at #4 entering 2010. For the teams within several spots of the Jets, the experts on set provided clear football-based reasons why they agreed or disagreed with the fan assessments.

But, when the Jets were up, the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi and Solomon Wilcots spent the 10-minute segment blasting the Jets selection. Both of these "insiders" claimed that there are too many character risks on the Jets team, too many guys with a "me-first" attitude that won't buy in to the team message when it's time to lace them up.

Lombardi wrote, "New York Jets: If Denver reminds me of Butler University, then the Jets remind me of the University of Kentucky. The Jets, like the Wildcats, are extremely talented, with many different egos who might only play together for one year and have the potential to explode at any point during the season. Jets coach Rex Ryan and Kentucky coach John Calipari might not look the same, but they both are master motivators and recruiters who don't mind handling an eclectic collection of players. The question you must ask yourself about the Jets is the same one you ask about Kentucky when you fill out the office pool in March -- can they get past the Sweet 16? I never have Kentucky in my Final Four, so I cannot put the Jets there."

While I don't begrudge Lombardi his opinion on the Jets, I beg to differ with his methodology. The Kentucky analogy is strained, simply because while the acquisitions the Jets made in the offseason may be around for only one season for cap reasons, there really isn't much of a question as to whether or not the guys the Jets signed can actually play. What will determine future success in the NFL for new Jets like Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes are not the numbers they put up, but rather how well they fit into the team concepts the Jets have developed under Rex Ryan.

And Mike Tannenbaum understands that completely.

The Jets risked very little to get Cromartie, Holmes, or vets like Ladainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor. As a rule, it isn't the risks your team takes, but rather the price they have to pay for the risk. There's a reason why most teams shy away from top-10 draft picks. If you swing and miss at the top of the draft, the price you pay for that miss is tremendous, as you now have a huge contract on your books and you're getting very little in value for your money. Tannenbaum knew that he could go after the pieces he required, and, if the pieces didn't pan out, the Jets weren't stuck with a big contract or a missing high value draft pick.

If the Jets have a successful year, win 10+games and make a deep run in January (and hopefully February), and Holmes, Cromartie, and the rest of the acquisitions are productive players, then all of the new Jets will reap the financial reward, regardless of the individual numbers. Taylor and Tomlinson only need to be efficient, neither is being called upon to play full-time, or carry the load at their position. Cromarite and Holmes only need to fit in, stay out of trouble, and play like the rest of the league knows they can. I'm sorry, I don't see how these goals run contrary to the goals of the team at large.

From my seat, as objectively as I am capable of being about my beloved Jets, the front office took a 9-7 team that made a run and significantly upgraded several positions at very little risk. The only positions that the Jets turned over that may under-perform are left guard and kicker.

Letting Jay Feely go was necessary for the Taylor signing, as the Jets had to give up a free agent to sign one thanks to the "Final Four" rules the league adopted for the offseason. Nick Folk is a question mark, but if Taylor is productive in this scheme, the front office has done the right thing. As for Alan Faneca, his pass production was slipping quickly, so it's misleading to simply refer to past Pro Bowl appearances. If second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse performs well quickly, left guard won't be thought of as a downgraded position.

The rest of the moves the front office has made are significant upgrades. The normal caveat for health aside, the Jets should be a much better team in 2010. The coaching staff, especially Rex Ryan, welcome the pressure of expectations according to all of the media exposure they've courted in the offseason.

Anyone who has followed the Jets for any length of time is fully aware of the myriad of disappointments inflicted upon the fan base, but I think, at least if the fan sites are indicative of our collective mind set, we all feel pretty good about our chances. The players report this weekend for training camp. I think we're ready.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Camp Franchez

If the 2010 season turns out the way I hope it does, I plan to combine the words "Sanchez" and "franchise" in as many irritating ways as possible. The good news for the Jets this week was that their young quarterback, Mark Sanchez, has paid to fly all of the skill position players to California to work on the passing game. Sanchez had offseason knee surgery and missed all of the team's minicamps, which means he missed valuable time working with his receiving corps in the offseason.

If this was 1975 and the Jets had a 6 to 8 week training camp, it wouldn't matter as much as it does in the 2 week camp world of 2010. Sanchez obviously felt the team would be better served by getting in this extra work. Although Sanchez looked awful at times last year, I am confident that he's the right guy for this team, now and into the future.

I also can't help but feel great about having my team's young QB, who is fast becoming a darling of Page Six and the back page, also be one of the team's hardest workers and most conscientious players. It's not easy playing in New York for a young guy, especially when he's going to make the mistakes that every young player at his position makes. Sanchez took a lot of heat during the regular season, but he was poised in the postseason and played his best football. His regular season numbers were poor, but most of the mistakes came in a few games. He threw 15 of his 20 interceptions in just 4 games, spacing the other 5 picks over the remaining 11 games (he missed a game due to injury).

Sanchez has said that he'd like to keep his interception total in the single digits. If he accomplishes that goal and plays 16 games, the Jets will be in excellent shape in 2010.

RIP Sheppard and Steinbrenner

Unlike most fans of the New York Mets, I am not a Yankee hater. In fact, ever since I left New York City in 2001, I find myself pulling for the Yanks if the Mets aren't involved. I know this is blasphemy to most Mets fans, but so be it. I like it when my town gets to celebrate, especially after all it's been through.

I have always enjoyed taking trips to Yankee Stadium, because of the history of the place (the old place) and because baseball is really enjoyable in person and amazingly boring in every other form. Anyone who had the opportunity to visit Yankee Stadium prior to 2007 left remembering the voice of the public address announcer, Bob Sheppard. Sheppard died last Sunday at the age of 99. He will be missed by anyone who enjoyed the element of class he added to Yankee games, especially when there was little else classy about the South Bronx during much of his tenure. In an age of PA announcers who engage in a relentless act of self promotion (think Stu Scott on crystal meth and cappuccino), there was something haunting and beautiful about, "Now batting...the shortstop...#2...Derek...Jeter...#2". Just simple and straightforward.

Apparently Sheppard enjoyed reading books between hitters and sprinting for the exits once the Chairman of the Board started letting everyone know about the city that doesn't sleep. I would think he's the most famous speech teacher ever at St. John's.

As for The Boss, has anyone ever had such a perception transformation at the end of their life, outside of Ebenezer Scrooge? Just think how different George Steinbrenner's obituary would have read if he had died in 1995 instead of 2010. Luckily for him, he finally figured out how to handle the baseball side of his operation towards the end of his life, and, as a result, is remembered much more for who he became, rather than for who he was.

Steinbrenner exists as Exhibit A to one of the most true maxims you will ever hear, which is that no one wants to tell the rich guy to shut up. Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973 for about $8 million, and began running them almost instantly as if his hair was on fire. He had the mentality and background of a football coach, and never seemed to come to terms with losing, which is awfully hard for a sport where the best teams lose about 60 times a year. He arrived just in time to exploit the new free agency rules, and within 4 seasons had the Yanks in the World Series again after more than a decade out of contention.

His main problem at the beginning of his tenure is that he seemed to think he knew everything there was to know about baseball, and that he could buy a championship at any time without building the necessary foundation for success. The great Roger Angell once said (and I'm totally paraphrasing) that when he went to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees in the 80s, he felt like he wasn't watching the Yankee players on the field, but rather Steinbrenner's shadow, hovering over everything.

After his 3-year banishment from baseball for hiring a gambler to dig up dirt about Dave Winfield, he came back to the Bronx and embarked on a period of success that is as impressive as any other today in sports. The Yankees have won 5 championships in the last 15 years, the franchise is worth about $1.5 billion, and they're in a position to contend ad infinitum. The main reason for this (outside of the pure dollars) is that he finally realized that perhaps he should let his baseball people run the baseball team. Easy as pie.

I've always felt that any fan of a New York team secretly wishes that his sport operated under baseball's financial rules, where you can spend until your heart's content. New Yorkers pay more taxes, more for a loaf of bread, have to deal with endless traffic and congestion...why shouldn't we enjoy a built-in advantage of a big market when we have to pay the price in so many other ways? I wouldn't feel that a Super Bowl trophy would be less legitimate if we didn't have to deal with a salary cap, or if we actually got to take advantage of the fact that we have one of the wealthiest owners in sports. It hasn't cheapened the Yankees titles, why would it cheapen ours?

I recognize that the NFL's brand of all-for-one, one-for-all is better for the long term health of the game, but the Jets fan in me hates it. Just being honest, baby.

Anyway, I think most sports fans would have enjoyed having Steinbrenner in charge, if only because he always put winning first, no matter the cost. As a fan, you can't ask for anything more than that, knowing that the guy in charge is not looking purely at the bottom line, and wants to win as much as you do.

Luckily for Yankee fans, Hank Steinbrenner seems to have the same priorities as his father. And luckily for New York sports fans, he seems to enjoy owning the back pages of the tabloids and suffers from the same lack of a filter when addressing the media. So, the future should be interesting enough for both of us.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Future Champion at 170

Although only 9 years old, Antares Porter of the Tang Soo Do Karate School has exhibited the quickness, form, and heart of a rare few in the world of martial arts. Porter is dedicated to the mastery of his craft, both as sport and art as he quickly rises through the ranks at his local school.

Those in the know see superstardom for this young student, as he is on pace to contend for belts in the UFC by 2025. Everyone who witnessed his display in his most recent testing session agrees that there is a lot to look forward to from this young phenom in the near future.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Final Word on The Decision

It's nice to be back sleeping in my own bed after 8 days away from home. I believe that the air mattress was created for people who are less than 100 lbs.

I'm glad, now that the whole LeBron debacle has ended, we can put the NBA to rest for the next several months. In the words of the brilliant and funny Jason Washington, when considering the NBA once the football season ends, "Is this what we're reduced to?"

When you take a step back from the LeBron situation, it begins to make a lot more sense, and, when you consider LeBron's career path, his decision is a clear window into who he is as a pro and as a person.

Few people in the history of sports (or any other endeavor, for that matter) have led as charmed an existence as the self-proclaimed "Chosen One". LeBron has been one of the most famous basketball players in the country since he was a junior in high school, when he petitioned the NBA to be draft eligible before he had graduated high school. He has been celebrated as a superior player to all of his peers, and many of the legends of the game, even before he had an opportunity to develop. James was embraced as someone who combined the best parts of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, someone who could create his own shot from anywhere on the floor, but also possessed the court vision to make everyone around him better.

To give LeBron full credit, he is one of the best athletes I've ever seen, and, in my opinion, the best athlete in the history of the NBA. The only combination of size and speed that I would compare to LeBron would be Bo Jackson, who also was in the category of "force of nature". Because LeBron came to the NBA fresh out of high school to a terrible Cleveland team, any hiccup in his development was excusable. The most familiar refrain for LeBron was, "When he develops a mid-range game, look out!" It was almost an after thought that he would care enough about his legacy as a player to become as great as possible. Once Cleveland put the players around him, James would start to win titles, and there would be no stopping him.

A funny thing happened on the way to immortality. LeBron never produced the titles or developed the varied offensive game necessary to win in the postseason. When the chips were down, LeBron had to barrel to the basket hoping to draw fouls, or pass off to less talented teammates and hope they produced. After flaming out in six games to the Celtics in 2010, LeBron James got a taste of something different.

Criticism. Lots of it.

LeBron had spent 7 years as emcee of his own sideshow with the Cavs, immune from the normal pressures of other athletes. He would choreograph elaborate skits for his teammates to perform before the game, always letting the crowd know that it was about fun to him. When he was booed in the second half of his poor performance in Game 5 of the Boston series, for the first time as a pro, he was being held responsible for what he wasn't, which was an outstanding athlete, but far from a complete player.

The Cavs front office went out of their way to make LeBron and his loyal entourage as comfortable as possible. This meant constructing their practice facility as close to James' residence as possible, employing some of his friends within the organization, and acquiescing anytime they had another opportunity to prove to him how important he was. It's been a charmed life in Cleveland for LeBron. Cleveland invested in LeBron, hoping it would pay off with championships. Part of getting the perks of stardom is shouldering the responsibility when it goes bad. If LeBron's choice revealed anything, it was that he really doesn't want any part of that responsibility.

LeBron's a free agent, meaning that he's earned the right to go wherever he pleases. This is part of the collective bargaining agreement that his predecessors earned, and I don't begrudge him his choice. I always felt that Chicago was the best fit for LeBron. The Bulls need someone like LeBron, they have all of the other pieces to win it all. What they need is an alpha male besides their point guard, the outstanding Derrick Rose. But, choosing Chicago (or New York, New Jersey, or anyplace else) would have meant taking responsibility for success or failure. And LeBron wants no part of that responsibility.

Choosing Miami meant that LeBron could play second banana to Miami's BMOC, Dwayne Wade. Wade owns Miami, already a champion from the 2006 Heat. Whatever the new crew in Miami accomplishes, LeBron will have one less than Wade. And he's fine with that. We're used to our NBA greats wanting their own team, so when it gets to be nut-cutting time, there's no doubt as to who's in charge. James' decision is such a departure from that way of thinking. Maybe future players in this position will go the same route. Whatever he achieves in Miami, it will go with the caveat of choosing to be Dwayne Wade's backup dancer, so he will never get to the level of a Jordan, or even a Kobe. And that's OK. Not everyone is meant to be "King".

As to how this relates to Darrelle Revis, Will Leitch had a great article about how the whole ESPN show about LeBron made him feel stupid to be a sports fan, and a lot of what he had to say rings true for me. It was funny to hear Revis' rumored threat to hold-out a few days ago (since denied, by the way), and the reaction of fans to that threat on fan sites like Whether the fans knew it or not, the ones that root for both the Jets and the Knicks seemed browbeaten enough that they no longer gave a shit. There were several that said, "Fuck him, we can get 2 first rounders for him." All it takes are a few disappointments and fans begin to wonder why we bother in the first place. The players don't share the feelings we do, as much as we'd like them to.

Anyway, this should be it for the NBA for awhile, thankfully. David Stern got what he deserved when he chose to promote the player and not the game, which is a sport made up almost entirely of divas. With each new autumn comes more of a team game, whether it's football or fútbol. It will be here soon enough.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The last day

The last day of my vacation is upon me, and I am taking every last opportunity to catch as many waves as possible. A little later today I plan to weigh in a final note on LeBron LeBreaking the hearts of Cleveland, and a possible Revis hold-out, and how the two may even be connected, at least in the hearts and minds of New York sports fans. Until then, here's a little sign you encounter as you enter Mexico. Enjoy your Saturday afternoon!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More LeBron

Our long national nightmare will end this evening as it appears that LeBron is going to LeCop out and choose Miami, thereby making him the world's most famous second banana to D. Wade. Taking this path will ensure that he will always be a rung below Wade, so having the largest brand in the NBA must not be that important to him. I'm still not even sure that LeBron/Wade/Bosh and 9 guys from the YMCA are the team to beat next year in the NBA.

As for all my snarkery, should James choose the Knicks, all bets are off, and LeBron becomes the greatest player of all time. EVER!

One down, three to go

The Jets took the first step towards handling their most serious contract issues yesterday by signing D'Brickashaw Ferguson to a six-year, $60 million extension. The new deal features $34.8 million in guarantees, which is a record total for an offensive lineman.

Ferguson is one of the four Jets who are most mentioned for new deals this offseason. I am a firm believer that one of the most important aspects of successful offense in the NFL is offensive line continuity. Every assignment that an O-line has is a group assignment, and the familiarity of having the same five guys up front year after year is a comfort few teams can afford in the modern era. While the left tackle position isn't as important as it was in the days of mostly seven-step drops while the defense was always lining up their best pass rusher at right end (the QBs blind side if he's right handed), it's still the most important position on the offensive line, and Ferguson has established himself as one of the top 5 (or so) tackles in the league.

As to why Ferguson was first, instead of Mangold or Harris (or even Revis), I would imagine it has something to do with how well the market is established for left tackles. If the Jets had their way, Revis would have been first, especially since he's been the squeaky wheel this offseason. But, given the uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement and Revis' willingness to wait until he's bowled over with a huge offer, Revis may wind up playing the waiting game for the dollars he feels he deserves.

If I were a betting man, I would think that Mangold would be next. Mangold may already be the league's best center, and he's shown a willingness to discuss his contract situation openly. From a PR perspective, signing Mangold quickly would further demonstrate the front office's willingness to spend to ensure future success.

I don't want to wish the summer away (especially considering some of the waves I've caught the last few days), but I wish we were kicking the season off tomorrow. This is easily the most anxious I've been to see a new Jets team since 1999. We need not revisit how that turned out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Drama King

This just in...LeBron James has announced that he will reveal his new team in a primetime special on ESPN beginning at 9 pm EST on Thursday. The star-studded show will feature a swimsuit competition for the prospective GMs and a rose presentation to close the show, with the winning suitor getting a special pink rose and the reward of having James' entourage run the team for the next 5 years. Be sure to tune in !!!!

What Would Revis Do?

In an offseason full of roster turnover and great expectations, perhaps the biggest story of the offseason for the Jets has been the ongoing contract negotiations for Darrelle Revis.

The Jets moved up to take Darrelle Revis in the 2007 NFL draft, and he has become the cornerstone of the best defense in football in just 3 seasons. Revis allows the Jets to play man-to-man on the best receivers in the game, while freeing up the rest of the secondary to play zone coverage on the other side of the field. There are several corners in the NFL who have this ability, however, none of them cover the other team's best receiver exclusively (most remain on one side of the field), and no one has had the kind of success that Revis enjoyed in 2009, at least since the rules have changed to penalize virtually all incidental contact as illegal contact.

If the Jets are at fault, it's that they promised Revis a new deal, then spent the better part of a year telling anyone and everyone that Revis was the best defensive player in football. When Revis came to collect, he wasn't going to settle for less money than Oakland Raider CB Nnamdi Asomugha, even if Asomugha's deal from the Crypt Keeper (the nearly-fossilized Al Davis) was ridiculous (3 years, approximately $45 million). Revis hasn't seemed willing to compromise off of his desire to be the highest paid corner in the game, even though the Jets face potential problems re-signing many of their key guys (C Nick Mangold, LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and MLB David Harris, to name a few), and with no idea if there will be a salary cap in 2011, and what that cap would be if there is one in place. Also, there is 3 years remaining on the contract Revis signed coming out of college, a contract he held out for 3 years ago.

Like most conflicts that involve money, there is plenty of blame to go around. Hopefully, both Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum have learned a lesson about how to discuss their own players to the media. If you run around telling anyone who will listen just how special your players are, there's probably a pretty good chance that player is going to use those words against you in re-negotiation. From Revis' perspective, he may want to take into account his teammates who are in the last year of an expiring deal in this situation. I know that football is every man for himself 99 times out of 100 when you are bargaining for a deal, but the Jets have a chance to contend with their core group for years to come, and if any of the other potential free agents have to leave New York so that Revis can stay, well, let's just say that the fans will remember just how selfish he chooses to be.

I don't think you would be able to find any Jet fans who want to see Revis in a different uniform as long as he's in the NFL. He has a chance to be the best player in the history of the franchise if he's able to maintain what he's started with New York. There are still financial incentives available to players in the largest media market, incentives that are exclusive to the tri-state area. Just ask any former champion from a New York City team how much income they are able to generate after they hang it up as part of the sports history of the city.

As far as the New York's front office is concerned, they must handle this deal the right way, because it will have long term ramifications if they blow it. The Jets are already fighting the perception that their word isn't worth anything, as several ex-Jets who were promised deals from the front office were left with nothing, namely Chris Baker and Pete Kendall. The Jets fan base wants to see the kind of commitment from their front office that serious contenders undertake every year, especially right after requiring PSL money from a large portion of their season ticket holders to help finance their new stadium. Hopefully, this contract situation will be resolved before the start of the season. A slow start in September has a tendency to bring unresolved contract issues back into the media. With a fair share of distractions already on the agenda for 2010, beginning with the Hard Knocks series on HBO, the Jets can ill afford anything else that can disrupt their plans for a deep run in January.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

UFC 116 recap

After Brock Lesnar submitted Shane Carwin to retain his heavyweight title and cap off a great night of fights at UFC 116, Dana White must be feeling like the cat that ate the canary. It's rare that any promotion going through the kind of media blitz that the UFC has undertaken over the last week truly delivers the kind of excitement that they promise, but last night virtually every fight was outstanding and showcased the UFC in the best possible light, even to the casual sports fan.

Any trip through the morass of sports talk radio can be frustrating, especially if you're a fan of a sport that is still struggling to be accepted into the mainstream. The typical host of the sports talk radio show (especially the local variety) is like the worst bully in the schoolyard, equipped with a cadre of like-minded fools in the studio, cackling at any lame-brained attempt at comedy. To these idiots, MMA is at least loosely associated with WWE, and the focus is typically placed on the occasional violence and gore of MMA rather than the skill and focus it takes to compete at the highest levels of the sport. Any fighter that can contribute in turning MMA into more of a cartoon and less of a sport is welcome fodder for the dopes of the airwaves.

For these reasons, Brock Lesnar has been an enemy and the ultimate black hat for the UFC. With Lesnar's WWE background and post-fight histrionics, he has grown to embody everything that the UFC has fought to overcome, and many of the hardcore fans of the sport have been slow to recognize what he has accomplished in just 5 MMA fights before last night. Last night's showdown with Shane Carwin was just what Lesnar needed to get the recognition from UFC devotees, a trip into deep waters with an opponent of equal strength, someone who can truly bring out the best he has.

There will be many in hindsight who will say that had Carwin not punched himself out trying to finish Lesnar, he would have won the fight easily. But, most of the truly great fighters in MMA have been in the position that Lesnar was in last night and not many have been able to recover to not just win, but finish. This fight solidifies Lesnar's place at the top of the heavyweight division, and should make his many enemies cringe at the thought of a long run at the top. If not Carwin, who has the strength to withstand Lesnar and trade with him, much less take him to the ground and submit him?

MMA, and the UFC specifically, are in a unique position at the start of the decade, and it will be interesting to see where the next 10 years takes the sport. Mixed martial arts has a chance to be one of the world's biggest sports in the years to come. The sport combines international flavor with a compact presentation, featuring athletes at the peak of conditioning. The NFL has turned to MMA to assist with conditioning, with many of the sport's best players swearing by what MMA training has provided them in terms of improving their cardio and overall fitness. On virtually every card offered by the UFC, you will get at least 2 or 3 of the 5 fights on the card with more action in 15 minutes than any combat sport offers in a calendar year. The vast majority of fighters care mostly about interesting and exciting fights, not maintaining a stellar record against weak opponents, which has hindered boxing's growth for years. When your sport's best athletes are eager to face each other, knowing that the results won't exclude them from reaching the top eventually, then you are giving the fans what they want, which is the best that combat sports has to offer.

Happy 4th of July!

Much like the rest of the NFL, I'm enjoying a little R & R before the season begins in earnest with the opening of training camps a little later this month. We here at The Big Kovalsky hope you enjoy the fourth of July, a special time when we celebrate our independence as a nation, as we continue to allow our abundant natural resources to be raped and pillaged by a bunch of business criminals who destroy our environment and leave us holding the tab. Wait...did I just say that out loud? Nevermind...Yay America!!

Anyway, my family is enjoying the portion of the Gulf that hasn't been glazed with crude oil. I hope you take the time today to scarf a hot dog and blow something up with a bottle rocket. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yesterday's action...Form-2, Function-1...Payback still a bitch, 4-2 on penalties...

Most of the world feels pretty bad for Asamoah Gyan this morning after he rifled a penalty off of the crossbar to deny Ghana a trip to the semifinals at the World Cup, which would have been a first-time occurrence for an African side. Luckily, I had to witness Gyan's choreographed routine after each of his goals this tournament, including a midfield gyration following their victory over the U.S. last weekend, so I lack the empathy that most of the world has expressed for Gyan. Since I've never been a huge fan of taunting, perhaps Gyan's miss is a little instant karma. I like a little celebration, but show some class, or at least do a full scale tumbling run, something a little dangerous.

Growing up in the crucible of pro football, the idea of how you play mattering more than the actual result sounds completely foreign to me. One of the true learning experiences of being exposed to world football over the last several years is the idea that solid play does not always yield results, and, even more unusually (to me, at least), performing with flair can be more satisfying than a dull win. In the History of Football DVD box I purchased a few years ago, many of the soccer veterans of previous Brazilian sides took offense at the 1994 World Cup champs that were more concerned with victory than in opening the field and truly playing "the beautiful game". The 2010 version of "Seleção" were eerily reminiscent of that team, moving forward with caution, choosing at times to remain patiently behind the ball rather than taking the necessary chances to be spectacular. I wound imagine that Socrates and other past legends who have spoken out over the last several weeks to criticize Dunga for being too cautious are at least feeling vindicated this morning.

Of course, there is no guarantee that being more aggressive would have helped the Brazilians over the last few weeks. I would imagine that Dunga knew his team well enough to choose the right way to play to have the best chance to win. I doubt going out in a hail of bullets by 5-3 or 4-2 would feel any more satisfying if you're a Brazil fan today.

Friday, July 2, 2010

UFC 116

Since I'm off to South Padre Island for the 4th of July and I don't know if I'll get a chance to post tomorrow, here's my two cents on Saturday night's main event from Vegas. Thanks to Fedor Emelianenko's loss last weekend, there's little doubt that the Brock Lesnar/Shane Carwin match is for heavyweight supremacy regardless of the promotion. This is great news for anyone who doesn't want the garbled alphabet-soup mess that boxing provides us in most divisions.

Lesnar is obviously a monster, but anyone who has seen Carwin fight can tell you that he is legit and should be even money against Lesnar. Lesnar will not enjoy the size advantage he has in most fights, as Carwin has to cut to get to 265 and should enter the octagon on Saturday night at the limit. Yahoo sports has a feature about how Lesnar has had to change his diet following his bout with diverticulitis and no longer walks around at 300. He was supposedly 275 last week which should prevent him from having to have a major cut immediately prior to the fight.

Shane Carwin is also a former college wrestling champion, so Lesnar will most likely want to keep the fight standing, where no one has found success against him. However, I don't think that Lesnar has been with anyone close to Carwin's level of striking, and I think that Lesnar will be in serious trouble once Carwin lands any of the strikes that have spelled the end for his previous 12 opponents. I like Carwin by strikes in the first round.

RIP Don Coryell

We lost one of the true innovators in the game yesterday when Don Coryell passed away at the age of 85. Coryell was known for his efficient and effective passing game, first with the 70's St Louis Cardinals and, more famously, with the "Air Coryell" San Diego Charger teams from the early 80's. He was one of the first coaches to recognize the matchup problems an offense can create by consistently splitting the tight end wide and using the size advantage to both control the ball through the air and take chances down the field. His Charger teams were a joy to watch, and, although he never won anything beyond a division crown, he helped to progress the game to the modern passing free-for-all we see today. For better or worse.

Coryell never had a defense good enough to advance to a Super Bowl or win a title, but he'll get another chance in my NFL history replay. Perhaps whatifsports will be kinder than history was for him.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

In the Beginning...

First, the earth cooled...

I'm starting this blog with several ideas. First, I'd like my own spot in the series of tubes to put my two cents in on the NFL and my favorite squad, the New York Jets. For those of you that don't know, I have been a Jets fan since 1977. My parents began purchasing season tickets in 1964 and started to bring me to the games when I was five. It took several years for me to become fully hooked, since the Jets haven't typically been associated with success. In fact, most of my 33 seasons with the team have ended with one disappointment after another. As the 2010 season approaches, it appears that we've built a pretty solid team with legitimate championship aspirations. If we can stay healthy, we should be able to compete with anyone in the league.

Also, I like to create different projects incorporating, and I will use the blog to post game results of the various projects I decide to begin. Sometime towards the end of the summer, I am going to recreate the NFL postseason from 1941 to the present day with different rules than were used in the past, using an expanded playoff format. I haven't fully decided what other options I'm going to use yet, but I have found several sites with historical weather data (NERD ALERT), so I'm sure I will find a way to use that information when I replay the games from each year.

I'll also take the opportunity to weigh in other sports I enjoy, namely the UFC, college football, the NBA, world football, and anything else that comes to mind, in the world of sports and beyond.