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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Beltran, Castillo and Perez: Get Rid of This 'Brat Pack'

Anyone want to take a guess which three Mets WON'T be a part of the baseball team in Flushing next season?

Look no further than this article from the New York Post's Mike Puma that identifies Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez as failing to show for a New York Mets team visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Tuesday before the Mets took the field in what was to become a 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Don't misunderstand, if this trio were to not wear the uniform of the New York Mets next spring, it certainly wouldn't be because they skipped out on this good faith gesture to our wounded troops, it would be a result of the lackluster and downright pathetic play of these individuals over the course of this season and last - aside from some sporadic spurts of production from Beltran, mostly last season.

However, the fact that these three skipped the event - and then issued sorry excuses after-the-fact - shows not only how far this trio has fallen from grace, but it also illustrates how far they've fallen in character; although that's assuming their character was ever in high enough esteem from which to fall.

Take Castillo's comments about why he missed the trip to see our wounded warveterans, for instance: "I don't like to see people like that, so I never go there," Castillo said. "Sometimes you see people with no legs, no arms. I don't like to see that."

There are no less than three "I"s in his statement, which consisted of only three sentances; "I don't like", "I never go" and again, "I don't like." The "I" tells us all we need to know, It's all about Luis Castillo - the self importantand above reproach Luis Castillo - and no one else; not the Mets fans at Walter Reed who may have forgiven him for dropping that popup against the Yankees.  For that part, the folks at Walter Reed have probably experienced enough in this world to know how insignificant a dropped popup is in the big scheme of life.  

It's quite obvious that Castillo has no regard for the troops who put their lives on the line for their country, at least that's the perception.

Nor was there any regard for the organization that issued him a contract that was worth exactly $24 million MORE than he is worth.

In the world of Luis Castillo he may believe he's the star, but on this day- when he chose to ditch our troops because he might see a couple of them without legs - he was a coward and he let us all down.  But more importantly, he let himself down as a man.

Welcome to reality, Luis Castillo, troops lose legs in war. The least you can do is go pay respects with the rest of your teamates, or even.

The troops probably don't like watching you drop popups any more than you like seeing them without a leg.

As for Beltran's "foundation meeting" excuse - LAME.

Again, it's all about Beltran, not the troops who have put everything on the line so that Carlos Beltran can make his millions playing a boy's game.

Good on Carlos for building a high school in Puerto Rico, but he couldn'tmove a meeting time a little bit to accommodate a good cause? And are we to believe that he really provides anything to these meetings anyway, aside from maybe signing a few checks?

He's probably sitting there daydreaming telling himself how great he is while the agents and advisors do all the work; after all, he is Carlos Beltran - he's above all that.

As for Ollie Perez, he showed what he's truly made of when he decided to reject a trip to the minor leagues and instead burdened his teamates and fans with his little league stats until finally being banished to the disabled list.

"I don't answer anything about outside the stadium," Perez said.

In otherwords, "I don't give a dam."

But we already knew that.

It's a good thing our troops DO give a dam.

And here's a kicker; an excerpt from Beltran's statement after the last trip he took to a veteran's hospital: "You see a lot of young people having brain damage and stuff like that, it'svery tough," Beltran said. "At the same time they were happy to see usthere, so it was a good experience for me."

Poor Carlos Beltran - it was tough for him to witness people brain damage. Howabout the victims, Carlos? Think it's tough for them, or is it all about you again?

"Good experience for me," he added.

Sorry to bust the bubble, but the intent of these visits is not to give CarlosBeltran a good experience. It's about lifting the spirits and morale of the wounded troops, of which only is worth a thousand Carlos Beltrans to this country.

When will these guys realize that it's not all about THEM?

Never, that's when.

In today's day and age, they just won't get it like Roberto Clemente did.

There's no "I" in team, but there's plenty of "I" in the actions of the"teamless" Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez.

If these guys never wear a Mets uniform again, it'll be too soon.

Maybethey ought to don the uniform of a US serviceman or woman and live a day in his or her shoes; maybe they'd realize that there is a whole lot of reality out there in this world that does not begin with "I".

Not only would the Mets be better off without these three, but so would baseball.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LeBron James, to New York? Ignore the Critics Until 9 PM

After the LeBron James camp announced that The King would only reveal 'The Decision' on a July 8th 9PM ESPN special, did anyone believe that watching hour upon hour of sports news give the fan any insight into which way he was leaning?

The rumor last night that the Knicks were a done deal, this morning it's back to Miamai - and Cleveland always has a great chance of retaining LeBron, but with the entire saga coming to fruition on the ESPN network, it's hard for anyone to believe that all of the "sources" which the ESPN broadcasters continue to site are worthwhile.

Ever since the TV deal was announced, it all became about drama and ratings. The anonymous "sources" play right into that game and all ESPN is trying to do at this point is create buzz - and when you look at it that way, they're boring the hell out of us with the same old rumor reports repeated every ten minutes.

It's a bad case of overkill.

That said, I'll be tuning in tonight at 9PM to see LeBron announce his decision to join the New York Knicks.

He can come to the city that never sleeps and has so much star power that LeBron can truly be named King of a franchise is desperate need of revitalization.

His name and face will be plastered on the back (and probably front) pages of the New York tabloids for weeks to come, and if the Knicks finally win the big one that eluded Patrick Ewing, then his legend will be cemented in the history of the greatest city that the world has to offer - New York City.

I think the prospect of that legacy is too much for this guy's ego to refuse.

Hopefully tomorrow's headlines read: "Welcome to New York, LeBron".

For the time being, ignore the hype and rumors. ESPN and the LeBron camp are just trying to create hype so that you watch tonight - unfortunately, that hype is probably pushing viewers who are being bombarded with information from anonymous "sources" to the point of overload.

C'mon, ESPN, we love ya, but we don't take you seriously anymore.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Mike and The Mad Dog Back Together Again - In Their Criticism of the World Cup

Mike Francesa and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo have long since parted ways after having dominated the New York sports talk radio scene for years as 'Mike and the Mad Dog' on WFAN NY.

Francesa does the WFAN show solo these days and Russo has since jumped ship to SiriusXM satellite radio where he airs his own show 'Mad Dog Unleashed' from 2-7 PM every weekday on the 'Mad Dog Channel.'

Apart the former comrades now may be, but re-united the pair have been over the past week, if not in the radio booth, then most certainly by their take on the World Cup, soccer's largest stage.

It's no secret that soccer - or "football" to everyone not living in the United States - has had its share of troubles catching on in the sports mainstream of the USA, although it reigns undisputed as the most popular sport in the world.

However, comments from both Francesa and Russo regarding the topic this week have demonstrated a closed-mindedness about sports and culture and border on downright ignorant.

Let me preface by saying that I understand sports radio - you've got to spark controversy or your product doesn't sell, I got that. I think that was part of Russo's game plan when he was slamming the World Cup, but Fransesa has no such excuse. Although entertaining and knowledgeable, this guy often spews garbage and claims it as gospel.

Such was the case earlier this week when he boldly informed his listeners that the only reason that soccer has any sort of following in the USA is because of the "Soccer Moms" that don't want their kids playing football. He went on to teach us that the term "Soccer Mom" turned into a political term only after first being used to describe a mother that did not want her kid to get hurt while participating in football games. After all, Mike said, when he was growing up you played football and baseball, soccer was forbidden - unless your mom was a 'Soccer Mom.'

This attitude is typical, especially in Sports USA - the closed mindedness of living inside one's own box without peaking out. I say that because the USA is made up of so many different cultures, heritages and walks of life that it is completely ignorant for one to state that people play soccer only because some moms out there are afraid their kid will get hurt playing football.

It was an off-the-cuff, weak comment that doesn't even deserve to be countered. Even Mike seemed to realize the lunacy of his statement as he was uttering the words - only he realized it was too late to retract them.

As for the Mad Dog, his absolute disgust with soccer (on air) has more to do with firing up the listeners than it does dogging the sport, in my opinion. His on air tirades often compel objectors of his position to call in, and if you're in sports radio, then that's what it's all about. Because of that fact I'll give him a pass on some - but not all -of his comments.

Russo spent a good fifteen minutes on Monday afternoon deriding soccer for its lack of action, lack of scoring and lack of excitement. He insinuated that he can run up and down the field just as good as soccer's best and chided those who could get into a game where few points are scored. He also commented on the lunacy of not being able to re-use a player once he's taken out and criticized the game because situational kickers could be used to win it in the end.

Sound like he was on a tirade? I think so, and I think ratings had more to do with it than anything.

I'll give the Dog this much, there's not much scoring in soccer. Everything else he said is just plain wrong. At one point in my life I may have had thoughts similar to those of Russo's, but the pace of soccer and the quickness with which a scoring opportunity can materialize will have you glued to the screen when you're into the game.

Compare it American sports, which I love them all, by the way - we've got commercials every five minutes and the way Russo dogs soccer for being boring, foreigners look at our sports and wonder where the action is. More often than not you're sitting there watching a commercial or a replay than you are watching the sport. Take football - four quarters of 15 minutes each; how does that equal a game time of over three hours? Then there's baseball; you could easily sit down and read a paper while watching a ballgame. You look up when the pitcher pitches and then read half an article while he throws to first, scratches his cajones and adjusts his cap.

You can't read the paper and watch soccer because you might miss something. Maybe not a score, but there's more to sports than the points on the board, there's a strategy of getting those points that matters.

America is the land of overabundance and extreme, so it's no surprise that Russo isn't happy with low scoring games. Ironically enough, however, I bet Russo - being the old school baseball guy that he is - would love a 1-0 pitching duel between Lincecum and Wainwright any day. There's no difference between a game like that and 1-0 soccer game, except in soccer you only get one bathroom break.

Like a good pitching duel, soccer is all about strategy, and it's ignorant to not acknowledge that point just because you don't like it or don't understand it.

The Mad Dog's most ridiculous comment was the one about using 'situational kickers' to win a game if there's a tie at the end of regulation. How can he criticize that rule like it's not done in America? What the heck does he think a punter is in football, or a situational lefty in baseball? You see these guys for about five seconds at a time. This is why I think Russo is more about firing up the listeners than the actual argument sometimes, because his rationale sometimes doesn't make sense.

What both of these guys are also missing, is the fact that most of the world follows soccer - and most are avid soccer fans. You think an on-air Chris Russo tirade is bad, then go sit in a bar in Portugal, Spain or England and see how seriously those fans follow their sport. We, in America, have nothing on the intensity with which the rest of the world follows soccer.

And these people live in the US, too, and have brought that intensity here through the immigration of either themselves or their ancestors. They've swarmed the fields of their local neighborhoods for years in order to kick the ball around, and they've watched their home teams play on satellite TV, but the US version has never struck a competitive chord until only recently, and if that level of competitive play remains, then the fans will follow.

So, does Mike Francesa really believe that the Argentinian or Brazilian family that might live down the street from him has their kids playing soccer because their mommies are afraid they'll get hurt playing 'futbol Americano?' If he does, then he needs to get out more, or peak out of his box once in a while. The soccer-loving immigrants don't give a rat's booty-call that Mike Francesa played football and baseball and that's the way it should be.

Both of these guys need to travel to Europe or South America and catch a few matches - real matches, with real rivalries. As the old saying goes, don't knock it until you try it.

Soccer in America may never equal the popularity of the top four, but there's no doubt that the popularity of the sport is growing - and the more publicity America's pitch-stars gain in the media at home and around the world, then the more interest that the sport will be paid by the next generation of youth, who will undoubtedly grow up considering the game of soccer just as appetizing an option as any other sport.

Only thanks to the "Soccer Mommies" who don't like football, however, huh Mike?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

VFC's Top Stories From the Vancouver Olympic Games

Whether it be a feel-good story, a controversy or an Olympic milestone, the Vancouver games came with enough fanfare to keep the world interested for nearly three weeks, as fans across the globe rooted for their home country - that's what it's all about.

Here's VFC's top stories from the Vancouver Games, and please keep in mind, these are only based on the events and stories that I watched, I couldn't see it all:



One: THE US MEDAL COUNT

After amassing 37 total medals, seven more than second place Germany and three more than the Salt Lake City games, the United States is officially a Winter Olympics powerhouse. It used to be the Soviet Union, Russia, Germany and Norway that dominated the Winter Games, but after three consecutive top two finishes, Team USA is a force.



Two: The Cross Country Skiing Relay That Saw Norway Take Silver

There was many a fine moment in Vancouver, but how about that Cross Country race where Petter Northug from Norway, who was not even within screenshot of the Czek and French skiers moving into the final leg of the race, came out of nowhere to secure Silver and drop France into the fourth slot?

And he made it look easy.

Trust NBC to do all they could do to reduce the drama of the moment, however; after Northug moved in directly behind the Czek and French skiers, NBC cut to the Gold Medalist from Sweden, Marcus Hellner, who was looking for a flag of his country. By the time the camera panned back on the real action, Northug had already passed the other two and had pretty much secured Silver; the Czek and French participants were fighting for Bronze at that point. Good move, NBC, no wonder you guys are fourth in the ratings and are set to lose millions on the Olympic Games.

Northug is renowned for his ability to close a race, but this guy wasn't even close to being within screenshot with only a few minutes to go.

THAT was an Olympic moment.

Those that might enjoy seeing the cocky French get knocked off the pedestal probably enjoyed the moment even more.



Three: Shen and Zhao

Ordinarily I wouldn't find myself rooting for China in anything, with all those human rights violations lingering over that country's head, but the Shen and Zhao love story was compelling enough that I couldn't help but root for them.

After hitting a setback in the 2006 games, they were in top form in Vancouver and a Gold Medal would allow them to call it a career while on top.

And get their Gold they did, in an elegant and thrilling manner.

Now it's off into the sunset for Shen and Zhao, to start that family life that they've been looking for.

China still lets their people have families, don't they?

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Four: The Joannie Rochette Story

Joannie's is the number one triumph over tragedy story for the Vancouver games, winning a Bronze medal for her short program just three days after her mother's unexpected death.

The world embraced Joannie as she skated that routine, and she skated as if her mother was there with her, living a little girl's dream that ended on an Olympic podium.

Sometimes life's events transcend the stage that they are delivered on and for four minutes in Vancouver, Joannie Rochette was the world's biggest stage.



Five: Lindsey Vonn

Shortly before the Vancouver Games opened, Lindsey Vonn would have been at the top of this list after her controversial Sports Illustrated cover shot and subsequent swimsuit spread propelled her into the limelight and made her America's golden child - before she had won any gold.

Lindsey owned the opening days of the Olympics as the drama surrounding her ailing shin made her THE story, not just A story, especially as the weather rolled in giving her a few extra days to heal - which had some wondering weather it was the Olympic Gods at work, and not El Nino.

When Lindsey finally hit the slopes, she quickly turned in a gold medal-winning performance and America's Olympic sweetheart was well on her way to a story book life, with her golden locks, her golden smile and most of all - her golden medal.

But then something happened; nothing that will keep Lindsey from raking in the endorsements, book deals and talk show invites, but America's favorite sweetheart quickly became America's favorite drama queen, culminating when she wallowed in the snow for what seemed to be an eternity after crashing while on her way to a possible second gold medal.

Her prolonged stay along the fence line caused the run of Lindsey's Team USA counterpart to be halted, an action that led to a publicized rift between the two - and it became apparent that maybe making the games all about Lindsey wasn't such a good thing after all.

You have to admit, whoever does PR for Lindsey Vonn did a great job of making it all about her from the start, and managed to have her come away from Vancouver as both a good girl and a bad girl - ensuring that she won't just fade out as an afterthought just like NBC does every day.

Love her or hate her, Lindsey Vonn was - and is still - an Olympic sized story.



Six: Hockey's USA-Canada Gold Medal Game

There's no doubt that I'll take some heat for not rating this game higher on my list, but as much as I love Olympic Hockey and Team USA - it's just not the same when I'm watching the same guys play each other that I can watch on cable TV playing each other any night during the week.

What we saw was an NHL All-Star game, not Olympic Hockey - 1980? THAT was Olympic Hockey.

It was a great game and it was great publicity for the NHL, but it wasn't much of a compelling story. There weren't many who didn't predict a USA-Canada final.



Seven: Apolo Anton Ohno

America's all-time Winter Olympic champion.

'Nuff said.






Eight: Russian President Medvedev Ousts His Olympic Committee

This is more of an Olympic post-story, but the fact that the puppet President of Russia would force his Olympic committee into retirement for putting on such a dismal performance in Vancouver is comical. Maybe things really aren't that different between today's Russia and the former Soviet Union, but talk about a sore loser.

Hopefully the next Olympic crew can shape things up by the time the winter games show up in Russia in 2014, otherwise some heads might roll - literally.



Nine: The Opening Ceremony That Didn't Really Open

We all have a funny thing or two to say about Canada once in a while, but it was a shame - in a humerous sort of way - when that last piece of the Olympic flame puzzle would not rise during the opening ceremonies.

It really was too bad, as too many people worked too hard to make sure it all went right, but somethings things just go wrong.

The Canadians win the class prize for their handling of the situation when they rose the beam from the ground for the closing ceremonies - thanks to a mime clown.

Canada hosted a great show, gotta give them credit.

Wine Gift Baskets 125x125

Ten: Shaun White

There's still some out there that don't consider snowboarding a winter sport, but White makes the sport enjoyable with his almost goofy, but free-spirited personality.

B2C Jewels - Engagement Ring

I certainly couldn't get to everything, but these stories stood out in my mind.

Mention also has to go to Team Georgia, who left the Olympic Games one team member short, after luger Nodar Kumaritashvili dies in a tragic training-run accident before the games even started.

What was supposed to have been the greatest times of their lives turned into a bittersweet tragedy for Team Georgia, but they carried on and paid fine homage to their lost comrade.

We've also got to give a shout out to Morgan Freeman; no one can tell a story like that guy and it was almost inspirational to hear his voice on NBC telling us a brief story like no one else can.

It made you want to watch more, and more importantly, it made you feel like a part of the whole experience.

So long, Winter Olympics, see ya in Russia.