Elster's World

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Change Of Heart

YES! It's another post about baseball. Aren't you all glad the Mets made the playoffs?

After Pedro’s dreadful performance the other night, I went through all of the necessary stages - denial, anger, sadness, weeping and, after the team announcement last night that Pedro will miss the playoffs with a torn right calf, acceptance.

But along with acceptance has come something else – something great. Optimism. Who cares about pundits and naysayers. The Mets are no longer the head/shoulder favorites to win the pennant, they say. They are right back in the pack. El Duque, Glavine, Trachsel Maine don’t scare anyone the way Pedro does.

Well that may be true but there still remains a difference between the Mets and all other National League clubs – top to bottom, they have the best offensive lineup. It’s fast, powerful and hits for average. And they won’t have to face too many lefties either. When you can trot out Jose Valentin as your number eight hitter, that should scare those other teams. The Reyes, LoDuca, Beltran, Delgado, Wright combo is the best 1-5 in the NL, bar none.

And really, am I supposed to be terrified by Brad Penny, Greg Maddux and D-Lowe? Really? That’s supposed to terrify me? That’s Brad Penny right? Isn’t Orlando Hernandez one of the best post-season pitchers of the last 20 years? Isn’t Tom Glavine still Tom Glavine? Won’t the Mets thumpers make up for many mistakes?

And don’t forget, the Mets have the best bullpen in the NL as well. If the starters can make it to the 6th inning, the Mets can trot out a whole series of special arms to finish out games. They have power arms (Mota, Heilman, Roberto Hernandez) and sneaky arms (Bradford/Feliciano) and rubber arms (Oliver). They also have a closer who, after a rocky start, has settled back into his (relatively) dominant way. (And yes, I will be spending part of Shabbos Shuvah praying that the Houston Astros and their starting pitchers don’t make the post-season because they actually DO scare me)

So when the Mets open up the playoffs next Tuesday or Wednesday at Shea, I will be there, in the upper deck in right field, eating kosher hot dogs and cheering on El Duque and the rest of the team – a team I fully expect to represent the National League in the World Series. And if you don’t feel the same way, leave you negative vibes and dark energies at home.

So there pundits and naysayers.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Aint No Denyin'

Four years, $53 million.

When Omar Minaya outbid the Boston Red Sox for the services of Perdo Martinez with more money and an extra guaranteed year, he brought Pedro into the organization for three reasons: (i) to bring a swagger to the team, a collective excitement that the Mets simply didn’t have, (ii) to help lure other free agents into the fold, and (iii) to win big games in October – at least for the first two or three years of the contract.

And on counts (i) and (ii) Pedro did everything and more. Every time Pedro got up on the hill last season, and for the majority of this season as well, the atmosphere at Shea Stadium was electric. It was a happening, a celebration of a master of his craft. He filled up Shea every time he pitched. And for the most part, Pedro delivered the goods. In 2005, his first season with the Mets, Pedro went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA and 208 strikeouts before arm troubles and a bad toe shut him down in September.

But it was more than the wins. It was his swagger, his absolute fearlessness. This is the same guy who, in the midst of a bitter rivalry with the Yankees, responded to a question about the Curse of the Bambino (on a night where he hit a couple of Yankees and almost started a world war) by saying “wake of the Bambino and I’ll drill his ass too”. Fearless. And that is what made him one of the greatest pitchers in the history of them game.

And his signing lead to all that happened afterwards in 2005. Carlos Beltran signed a huge deal, partially because of Pedro’s trailblazing. Tom Glavine became a number two starter, a role he was much more confident with, and the Mets became a team making some noise.

As the 2006 season progressed, the Mets began to roll past the competition and all of Pedro’s aches and pains seemed of little consequence. After all, there was plenty of time for Pedro to rest up that achy toe, that balky this and that painful that. Then came the tweaked calf. Pedro was shut down again, this time in September.

Still it didn’t matter. After all, the Mets were cruising and Pedro was resting. It was the best of both worlds. He’d be back in time to make 3 or 4 starts, tune up for the playoffs, then pitch the Mets to World Series glory. It was easy to pretend that Pedro was fine as long as the team kept winning without him. The script was basically written anyway. All the better that Pedro was going to do it while not 100% - it made everything more dramatic.

At least that was the plan. Then came a horrendous first outing against the Pirates where he had no fastball and lasted like three plus innings. Then came an “inconclusive” 5 inning job where he couldn’t seem to get his fastball over 84 mph. But still we didn’t panic. He’d be fine.

Then came tonight’s disaster. Pedro lasted 2 and two thirds, giving up 7 runs. His fastball velocity was up, but he had no command. When he did get it over, he was tossing batting practice.

Do you remember in the Red Sox win over the Yanks in the 2004 playoffs? Well, a depleted Yankee team was forced to send out Kevin Brown to start game 7. I’ll never forget when Fox cut to his face when he was tossing his warmup pitches – he looked absolutely terrified. Like he would rather be stuck with AIDS infected needles than have to pitch this game. Well, that’s how Pedro looked tonight. He looked terrified. Because he knew he didn’t have it. And he knew that an entire fan base was watching to see if he did. And now, all of a sudden, we can’t pretend anymore that Pedro will be right for Game 1 of the playoffs; that he is going to ride in with his Superman cape and fix everything with a few masterful curveballs and an elusive 89 mph heater. Instead Met fans are panicking. Who will pitch game 1? Who will pitch game 5? Do we really have to send out a shaky Pedro AND Steve Trachsel? All of a sudden, the World Series seems more like a distant wish than a slam-dunk.

And all because of Pedro. The savior has become the downfall. In the back of our collective minds, we always worried about the whispers out of Boston – that giving Pedro four years was a mistake, he would never last that long. And maybe his shelf life wasn’t even three years, maybe it was about a season and a half. And maybe, just maybe, his shelf life is going to wreck an otherwise fantastic season.

And we can no longer pretend this isn’t happening.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's All In The Face

Yesterday Joe pointed out that the Mets are clearly on cruise control - just playing out the string - and he stated that he now believes the Mets will be defeated in the first round of the playoffs. Of course, Joe isn't the most optomistic person on the face of the planet, but I'd be lying if I said that even I haven't been having similar feelings recently.

The Mets recent lack of fire is evident to anyone watching the games - or even following the scoreboard. And, most troubling of all, it seems to be coming directly from the Manager, Willie Randolph.

During the course of the season, Willie would sit on the bench all dour and surly - barely managing smiles even for home runs and wins. And the Mets took on a similar personna, going about their business and winning games - going through the national League like a wood chipper going through dry tree branches. Ever since the Mets clinched the NL East and home field advantage in the playoffs, we have seen a whole other side to Willie. There he is smiling on the steps of the dugout. There he is sitting and joking with Manny Acta or Sandy Alomar Sr. - barely acknowledging that there's a game going on in the stadium. It's very disconcerting.

Last night Willie made a number of post-game comments pooh poohing the recent landslide and basically saying we will turn it on for the playoffs. Well, here's hoping he's right. here's hoping we see a return of the dour Wille face and a return to that team from the majority of the season who played as though the sole purpose of each game is to win.

P.S. - As optomistic as I remain, it's impossible to feel good about a starting rotation that includes a very shaky Pedro Martinez, a very hitable Tom Glavine, the 124 year old Orlando Hernandez and the beyond shaky Steve Trachsel to close things out. It bothers me that the only one of these guys I feel totally good about is El Duque.

***

In other news, I have given up hope on receiving a Storytellers submission from Bellany - and I await with some skepticism for a supposedly half completed story from my good friend Jameel. I guess I'll believe he will finish it when it's in my inbox. No offense Jameel!

I am, for the very first time in my writing "career", suffering from a mild case of writer's block. The issue isn't getting words out- the issue is I cannot think of any topics to write. I was recently challenged to write something not about detectives, cops, killers etc. I think that it is wise to try and branch out. However, I am having trouble thinking of a good branch-out topic.

But as soon as I can come up with something, I will be starting Round II of Storytellers. Of course, all are welcome to write a second story (or even a first one) - I have not rejected anything yet so there's hope for you fledgling storytellers out there.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Over

No, I am not referring to the Chag of Rosh Hashanah - I am not one of those types of people who cannot wait for the holidays to be over (I actually relish the gift we receive, three days on the calendar to clean up all of the messes we make over the course of the year) - rather, I am referring to the Jets seemingly ugly 28-20 win over the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo yesterday.

It certainly seems like if I had to pick a Jet win to miss, this was it. (And no, Joe, that doesn't mean I wanted to miss it, or that I was happy I missed it or that I'm secretly a Giant fan.) They gave up over 450 yards of total offense and gained less than 260 total yards of their own. The gave up over 150 yards rushing to Willis McGahee, gave up over a hundred yards to two different receivers and gave up over 300 hundred yards to JP Losman - yet still managed to win the game by playing opportunistic defense (Victor Hoobson returns one of Kerry Rhodes' two forced fumbles for a score, Eric Coleman makes a huge stop on fourth down, etc) and a well managed game by the resurgent Chad Pennington. All of a sudden, the Jets are 2-1 heading into Sunday's home game against the Colts and instead of staring 0-4 0r 1-3 in the face. The team could be a very respectable 2-2 after a month of play (I'm not quite ready to declare victory a possibility in this game but who knows?).

Fantasy wise, things were looking terrible for Elster entering the night game last night. He was down 92-86 to Akiva with only two of his players remaining (Richard Seymour and Mike Dunn) vs. three of Akiva's (including Drew Brees, Alge Crumpler and some defensive player). But after the night session, I have cut the lead to 2 points and it's Dunn vs. Brees and Crumpler. If this wasn't the first game in the 'Dome since Katrina, I would be picking an Atlanta blowout and maybe even a fantasy victory. But the Saints will have all of the emotion propelling them - basically I will need Drew Brees' arm to fall off in order to win. Still I'm proud of my boys for fighting through Chad Johnson's one 16 yard catch and Jeremy Shockey's benching (not the post-bread kind) to give my an opportunity to win.

Go Falcons.

Two more fantasy notes - The problem with picking three players form one high powered offense (counting Shockey who I benched but wish I didn't) is that there will be times when they will collectively lay a bomb like the G-men did in Seattle yesterday - thereby almost single handedly sinking my fantasy squad as well.

Also, Laverneous Coles is making it very difficult for me to bench him ever again. There may very well be a top-flight receiver to be had if the right offer comes my way...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rally For Israel

Today during lunch I attended the The Standing Together With the People of Israel Solidarity Rally on 47th Street between first and second Avenues. And yes, that's quite a mouthful. I guess We Are All Gathered Here Today To Show Our Support For Israel, Our Hatred Of Iran, To Support The Missing Soldiers And To See All Of Our Friends From Camp was already taken. You can see the flyer for the rally here.

The rally's purpose, sponsored by the entire spectrum of orthodoxy (including, of course, the ever important bangitout.com), was twofold; it was (i) a cry against Iranian president Ahmajejadenbejahjerdan and terrorism against Isreal in general as well as (ii) a show of support for Israel.

I think these rallys serve little purpose outside of public relations victories (or defeats, when only Rabbi Avi Weiss and seven of his most loyal followers show up), but I also feel that certain rallys are more important than others. This rally was considered a MAJOR rally by the Jewish powers that be - important enough that all of the usual suspect yeshivah high schools bussed in their students (more on that in a minute). The local rabbanim in my neighborhood were pushing it hard (including one rabbi who said, sure Ahmajegdamshedf is a nut - but so was Hitler. Imagine, he said, if Hitler would have come to speak at the UN in 1936. Would the jews of America have stood outside and raised their voices? This man denies the Holocaust. He is calling for Israel, a memebr of the UN, to be wiped off the map. Yet he is invited to speak there? How then, can we not raise our voices in protest? - Some very solid points if you ask me, and well worth y Wednesday afternoon lunch hour).

The rally itself was the usual jewish person's event. Eclectic speakers ranging from the wife of one of the kidnapped soldiers to a preacher from Harlem who did everything but scream "Can I get an amen my brothers?". Incidentally, he was my favorite speaker. It was filled with hundreds, nay thousands of shreiking high school girls. I was jostled and bumped about like a piece of wood plank in an ocean tempest.

And let's not forget the inevitable appearance from our friends the Neturei Karta - which supposedly started a near riot at one point, forcing the police to get involved. With Jews like these, who needs enemies?

Regarding the bussing in of high school kids. Despite the fact that all they don't listen to a word of the speeches, are generally disruptive and don't take these events seriously (they are like giant camp reunions to these vapid teens) I am all for them being there. As I said before, these rallys are all about how many people showed up? Better to say 10,000 than 4,000. Incidentally, seeing the next generation acting like a bunch of idiots in public scares the crap out of me - these are our future??? - until I remember that I probbaly acted the same way when I was in 10th grade (though I had shorter, less bushy, hair).

Speaking of which, I have no idea what the guesstimates were on the final tally, but the turnout seemed pretty big to me. 47th between 1st and 2nd were jammed with people, even spilling over to between 2nd and 3rd. Also, more people were streaming in at 1:00 as we were leaving.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Before I Can Even Think Of Working Today

Congratulations to the 2006 New York Mets, who clinched the National League East with a 4-0 victory over the Florida Marlins in front of well over 40,000 fans in a wild, partlylike atmosphere at Shea Stadium last night.

The Mets, due to fortunate (or unfortunate) circumstances were able to clinch the playoffs at home due in large part to a strange combination of Philly victories and an incomprehensible sweep this past weekend by the Pirates. But the end result was a party at Shea that we have not seen in some time.

There was Cliff Floyd bringing in the last out of the game and clutchinjg the ball like he never wanted to let go. There was Carlos Delgado, a long time veteran, feeling the thrill of making the playoffs for the first time in his very good career. There was Pedro, wearing goggles to block the sting of champagne, skipping like a little kid to get his NL East champion t-shirt.

Better still, there was the much maligned Steve Trachsel going six and a third very strong innings for the win, probably clinching (though never really in doubt) his spot in the post-season rotation. There was Jose Valentin launching two big home runs to right field. There were Jose Reyes and David Wright, celebrating with the fans like only 23 year old kids can do.

Much can go right or wrong with this ballclub over the course of the next several weeks. They can march to the World Series and perhaps, with the right amount of luck and destiny, even win it. They can make the series and lose. They can even get unceremoniously bounced out of the first round of the playoffs by the wild card team or by a weak western club like the Padres or Dodgers. It is impossible to predict how far this talented, but flawed, team can go. Their offense is a powerhouse but their starting rotation is weak and they can't seem to hit lefties.

So before the dust clears and Met fans are either happy beyond reason or scarred beyond repair, let us take a moment to reflect on this achievment. The Mets have not won the NL East since 1988, when the cruised through the regular season only to be shocked by LA in the playoffs. In fact, they have not even been to the playoffs since 2000. This is the first step in what we hope will be many. But should disaster strike, the fans can at least remember the good feelings on display September 18th on a warm night at Shea.

Fantasy Update: Thanks to the Jacksonville Jaguars defense, and Bill Cower's decision to play Big Ben Rothleidnfjcndcde a week too early, I was able to soundly defeat TO despite his going into the Sunday night game down by just 10 points with TO and Fast Wille Parker still going for him. Well the fantasy gods were smiling on me as TO broke his finger and Fast Willie was stuffed - allowing me to waltz into a share of first place with Jetsphan before my showdown next week with Team Akiva.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reactions

Quick Note first - McAryeh's long awaited effort is up at Storytellers as of about 10 minutes ago. Check it out.

- Did not see, or hear anything about, the Mets loss to Pittsburgh. Yes, the Mets got swept by the Pirates this weekend and were shut out of clinching the playoffs and home field advantage the whole weekend. Lowlights included Pedro crying like a little girl in the dugout on Friday night and Aaron Heilman's stinker on Saturday night.

And you know what I say to all that? Big deal. In '86 the Mets lost 5 in a row before finally clinching against the (I think) Phillies. Let's all relax and remember that if you were up by 15 or 16 games in your divisional race, you would also have trouble finding the fire and motivation every night. Besides, I love any and all parallels to the '86 team. Keep 'em coming.

- After watching the Jets' inspired comeback against the Patriots fall short, I was left with a few observations:

--The Jets simply cannot run the ball. Blame Barlow and Blaylock. Blame the offensive line. Blame the Iranian President. Doesn't mater. For two games in a row, the running attack has been atrocious. If things don't improve soon, it will become harder and harder for Chad Pennington and the air attack to get anything done. Lowlight of the afternoon - Blaylock being inadvertently tackled by Brandon Moore on a sweep to the left, causing me to actually laugh out loud. The offensive line is very raw and it is showing. It's also hard to tell how well the rookies are doing. D'brickashaw Ferguson was clearly overmatched on a few plays. Harder to rate the performance of Nick Mangold. His name was barely mentioned, a pretty good sign.

--How good were the touchdown plays by Jerricho Cotchery and Laverneous Coles? Just two outstanding plays by the receivers - which, by the way, made Pennington's otherwise very average performance look better. Tight End Chris Baker was silent and Brad Smith barely got into the game.

--Tom Brady is still great, but he is missing a number one receiver. He still makes all the clutch throws, but you could see him struggling to find guys getting separation - and he made some really poor throws (like Barret's interception, thrown short and into double coverage). He also underthrew Ben Watson for a sure touchdown.

- Fantasy wise, I am up by ten points over TO and we each have two players still alive, The problem is, his two guys left are Terrel Owens and Fast Willie Parker. I have two defensive players. So despite a MONSTER Eli Manning performance, it looks like Team Elster is about to go 1-1. If I have any chance to win this thing, I am going to need a huge game from my best defensive player, Troy Palumalu. Chad Johnson, Dwight Freeney, where are you guys?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Musings Are Back?

Yes, indeed they are. I know you love my musings.

Sorry for the long delay - I know how hard it is for my loyal readers to not hear from me on a regular basis. However, work has been crazy and I have been spending my evenings watching season 2 of Battlestar Galactica (which I have been Tivo-ing all summer) in anticipation of season 3 which commences some time in October - all of which has severely curtailed my blog time. Oh yeah, I spent some time with my family too.

Anyway, on to the musings:

- So I worked fairly hard to get this Storytellers concept going. I sent a lot of emails, begged, cajoled and even lied to many people to get them to write some stories for me. And for the most part, people have done as promised. With some notable exceptions who I will now proceed to tear to shreds:

McAryeh was going to get it the worst (I had a number of excellent barbs all ready) until he emailed me and promised me I'd have the story by Sunday. Thus he gets a short term repreive. But I hope he's late so I can rip him a new one.

Jameel - Listen to me. The war is over. There is no more live realtime war blogging. It's not erev shabbos and there are no chickens to grill. Get to it.

(As an aside, you may want to invest in a gas grill because I've never seen someone take so much time grilling chickens before. Do you even have time to shower before Shabbos? Oh wait, you are Israeli, you don't take showers.)

Bellany, Bellany, Bellany. The Yankees are cruising, you have internet again - What's the story? I know Mariano has a bad wing. Hey we all got problems. Get over it and get it done.

- Too much being made of the Eric Mangini vs. Bill Belchichkiebnhc this weekend. The coaches are not the story. The story is Jets and Patriots and how the Pats are the class of the division - though slightly on the decline - and the Jets are the bottom feeders trying to knock on the door. Based on their respective performances last week, there is at least hope for the Jets though I wouldn't get too excited for Gang Green just yet.

- Despite the so-called Elster Jinx (supposedly well documented by Joe), the Mets are sitting pretty - 16 games above second place Philly - and with a magic number of 2 with 17 games to go. They will have well rested Pedro, El Duque and Glavine going for them in the playoffs and 14 GAME WINNER Steve Trachsel on the staff as well. Can we officially put an end to the Elster Jinx, or will Joe just roll it out whenever the Mets eventually end their run?

Speaking of rolling out, I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I'd rather roll out John Maine and not Trachsel in the playoffs. I don't trust Trachsel at all in big spots. In any case, the Mets starting rotation is their biggest weakness, followed by their inability to hit lefties, followed by a bullpen with no Duaner Sanchez. Still, I believe they are the class of the NL and I think anything less than a World Series appearance is a bad outcome. Of course, getting rolled by the Yankees in 4 games would suck too.

And for the record, as much as I hate to toot my own horn (well, not that much), I have been right about this Mets team from opening day (including my phenominal post back in April called The Boys of Summer which included 10 things to love about the Mets [which I wrote 11 games into the season] - see how I predicted Zambrano would be gone by the All-Star break? I'm good). Despite the naysayers, the Mets have been great this season, refusing to let injuries to Zambrano, Bannister, Pedro, Glavine, Floyd etc. derail their season.

- I don't watch nearly as much television as I used to (a very good thing) and my decision to stop actively following the Rangers this season should free up even more time. I mention this only because, despite the fact that word is that tv is enjoying a renaissance of good shows in recent years, I have limited myself dramatically. I will watch 24 (of course), Lost, my guilty pleasure Veronica Mars and the aforementioned Galactica. Thank the lord for Tivo. What a show. I'm two thirds of the way through Season 2 and I'm amazed by the high quality of this program. Decent acting, excellent characters and tons of surprises. And despite my wife's protestations, you do not need to be a sci-fi lover (geek?) to enjoy it. It's a great drama in its own right (that just happens to take place in space where the last vestiges of humanity flee from the Cylon pursuers).

- Let's see, I covered Storytellers, sports and tv. Did I miss anyhting? Well, only important things. I know I had other stuff I wanted to write, but I'm blanking. Alas.

- I didn't write a 9/11 post, but I think I probably should have. 9/11 is my generation's "Where Were You?" moment - much like the assasination of JFK was for the previous one. Everyone has a story, relevant or not. Actually I take that back. Everyone's story is relevant to themselves and their world outlook. Many peole's entire mindsets changed on that day. My friend Darren went from being a tree hugging democrat to republican because of the events of that terrible day. Airing, telling or blogging their stories was therapy for a number of the people who were affected by the sight of the towers falling to the ground - people flinging themsleves off of a hundred story building - the horrible 911 calls which are released every so often. I'll never forget any aspect of that day - I'm talking minute to minute stuff - It's all seared into my brain. So consider this my 9/11 post, 3 days too late.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Drained

Note - New Storytellers post up from Anysara. The Storytellers link is on the right if you are interested.

What can you say after an opening day win like the New York Jets put together against the Titans this afternoon? I’m utterly drained. The game made me almost snap. Mercifully, I missed two of Mike Nugent’s missed filed goals or I might be writing this from the emergency room hooked up to a heart monitor. Or maybe I’d simply be on suicide watch.

Instead, the Jets managed to regain a lost lead and win 23-16 in a game that I’m not sure how to describe. This game contained a little bit of everything. The Jets dominated the first half yet somehow managed to squander a 16 point lead – due in most part to Nugent’s 2 missed very make-able fg’s and his missed point after (that’s 7 points given back to the Titans for all of you scoring at home). I ran the absolute gamut of emotions. From pleasant surprise, to cruise control, to upset, to panicking, to elation, to some serious fingernail biting back to elation. I think I need Prozac.

On a more heartwarming and happy note, the game also marked the triumphant return of quarterback Chad Pennington, who bounced back after two years of shoulder surgery to go 24 of 32 for 319 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. A healthy and effective Pennington is probably the most important factor in saving this season for the Jets. He looked really good running the no huddle – making good throws and controlling the clock despite an ineffective running game. If Pennington can stay healthy and find his old form, the Jets suddenly have many less holes on offense (i.e., they are set at quarterback and the receivers suddenly look much better). Of course, those are giant ifs. So, onto the good the bad and the ugly:

The Good: Pennington was phenomenal, all things considered. The defense was stout for most of the game (except for a bad stretch in the second half when the wheels came flying off and Kerry Collins started looking like a cross between Peyton Manning and Joe Montana) – picking Tennessee off three times and flying around to the ball. The Jets held the Titans to under 90 yards rushing (though it certainly didn’t seem that way at certain points in the game) and looked ok in pass coverage (except for two drives). They even sacked the quarterback twice. The linebackers, led by Jon Vilma and Eric Barton (12 and 9 tackles, respectively), were very solid. Victor Hobson and Bryan Thomas each recorded a sack. There is work to be done in getting the 3-4 base down but there is hope. Waiver wire wonder Laverneous Coles was HUGE (more on that later), as was new starter Jerricho Cotchery. Chris Baker is becoming a reliable target at tight end. Dyson looked good at corner.

The Bad: The running backs, Blaylock and Barlow couldn’t really get anything going. Thus, I’m putting the offensive line in the “bad” category even though that is pretty unfair. Brick Fergeson and Nick Mangold played pretty well in their first game, though Fergeson missed a couple of key blocks early and was called for one false start. On the bright sidem Pennington was sacked only twice against a pretty good defense and the Brick only had one penalty. Also, unless I missed anything, all of Mangold’s snaps were clean.

The Ugly: Two words – Mike Nugent. He was a total an unmitigated disaster. He missed two field goals AND an extra point. AN EXTRA POINT! Those are kicked form the two yard line. Good lord, are we really going to have to put up with this aggravation for the entire season? Or will Nugent be cut tomorrow as a shining example of what happens when you get into coach Mangini’s doghouse?

On a happier note (so far), I am beating MoC in our head to head fantasy football matchup this week, 85 to 76 – and I have more players still gaining points than he does (7 active players to 5). Unfortunately, one of his active players is LaDanien Tomlinson. Hwever - this morning, while fretting over Steve Smith’s hamstrings, I realized that I couldn’t take a chance with Smith (the news wasn’t final, but I need to go to the grocery store and wasn’t sure if I’d be back before the one deadline to make a move– you think this stuff ever happens to Mike Tannenbaum?), I scanned the waiver wire, looking over all the open receivers. After passing on TJ Housmanzadeh (who ended up also not playing) and a couple of others because of matchups, I went with Coles - trying to regain some positive Jet karma and figuring he’d be Pennington’s go to guy. And it paid off in a big way (23 fantasy points – a monster game). I decided that I love fantasy football. I also decided that I am not in any rush to drop Coles – though he might be available for the right price.

Well, I could go on for hours but I think I’ll wrap this up. Over 850 words about opening day is enough. Especially an opener like this, which took just about everything I had.

Are there really 15 more to go?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hot Books Books Books


New Ed's Note: I have added a new category in italics below. Shame on me for forgetting it to begin with.

Ed’s Note: This post (actually started weeks ago) has not developed exactly how I wanted it to. The truth is, I’m having trouble with my recall. In other words, I’m struggling to remember the books I have read which were so important to me. At least, I’m having trouble remembering the semi-literate ones. Alas, I feel as though I can wait no more so this is what you are stuck with. Really though, I’m not a boor…

So blog buddy McAryeh tagged me to write about some of my favorite books - what I read, what books/authors have impacted me - the whole nine. As an aspiring (wanna be) author, how could I refuse?

A word of warning for all of you intellectuals out there who have come here looking to be impressed by the breadth of my literary prowess. I read for mostly for entertainment and escapism. After taxing my limited cerebral capabilities all day at work, do you really think that I want to try and understand the deeper meaning behind Waiting For Godot? If you are looking for books that will make you think, I’d make a beeline right back to A Whispering Soul. If you are looking for some darn good reads, keep it here:

Oh, and another thing. I don’t know who started this idea that every category needs a list of exactly three. Being the nonconformist that I am, I shall answer as my whim takes me.

Books that made me (for the lack of a better term) laugh out loud:
- Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)
- The Choirboys (Joseph Wambaugh)
- The early works of Carl Hiaasen

Catch 22 was actually something I read in high school for a paper. I am so glad I did. This is the literary equivalent of M*A*S*H or Hogan’s Heroes. I picked up Wambaugh early in my reading career when I was looking for good police stories and accidentally stumbled onto a book that was so funny it had me giggling like a 13 year old girl at a drunken slumber party. Think of Hiaasen as a poor man’s Dave Barry. He is a regular columnist for a Florida paper (and a staunch defender against the destruction of the Everglades by over development and sewage dumping) who also happens to write madcap novels which take place in one of my favorite states - Florida. Before they became slightly repetitive, these novels always made me laugh.


Books that scared the living, um, daylights out of me:
- Phantoms (Dean Koontz)
- It (Stephen King)

I read Phantoms when I was about eleven years old. Koontz set up the back-story beautifully. I remember the ending being a little disappointing but by that time I was too creeped out to care. Oh and for the record, I was eleven, and way too young to know that I should not be reading talent-less hacks like Koontz, so sue me.

If you have read It, and I assume many of you have, I really don’t need to explain this to you. The beauty of this book is that not only is it a scary read, Kind did a masterful job writing a nice “regular” story in there as well. In fact, these two books could probably go into the books I read which changed my life category (below) since they got me addicted to horror novel and, thus, my current fear of vampires.

My favorite crime fighters:
- Dave Robicheaux (James Lee Burke)
- Jack Reacher (Lee Child)
- Elvis Cole (Robert Crais)

About as different as three “heroes” can be, these characters have provided me with not only countless hours of entertainment, but actually inspired me to write and complete my own novel. To say that I liberally borrowed character traits from this list would be a giant understatement. Burke’s Robicheaux is a disgraced New Orleans cops and ex-boozer who struggles against the bottle as well as countless miscreants who inhabit his town of New Iberia, Louisiana. Robicheaux will always provide justice for what he believes is right, regardless of the collateral damage to himself and others. Extra point awarded to Burke himself, who writes about ugly topics with an unparalleled beauty. He has even been dubbed the William Faulkner of crime, no small praise. (Best of the Series: Black Cherry Blues)

Reacher is the other side of the spectrum. A former army MP, Reacher wants nothing more than to travel all of the United States and enjoy his life in anonymity. Of course, that would be boring. Reacher is brilliant and emotionless, a great warrior and an even better thinker. Child gets extra points for managing to take a seemingly one-dimensional character and giving him added layers of depth. (Best of the Series: Close call, but I will go with Tripwire)

Cole is a wise cracking, damaged Los Angeles PI who makes me laugh. Extra points to Crais because you can really see him grow as a writer in each book of the series. (Best of the Series: LA Requiem)

Books I read (as a kid) which impacted my life:
- Boy’s Life (Robert R McCammon)
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien)
- I’m sure there are morew but damned if I can conjure them up.

From McCammon’s Boy’s Life foreward: “See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churned out, spanked out, washed out and combed out. We [are]…told to be responsible. To act our age. To grow up, for G-d’s sake…” This book is an ode to the magic inside of all of us. Besides being a great read, it was a lesson to me that I will never forget. Don’t let the child inside of you become completely swallowed up by the adult you become.

As for the Trilogy, what’s to say? People fall into two camps on this; they either love it or they hate it. I’m in the former camp. Sure the prose is stifling and the history of dwarves is about as relevant as daily events taking place on Saturn, but what a story. This is all about the journey. And you either loved the journey of Frodo and Samwise, and the corresponding adventures of the rest of the Fellowship or you didn’t. I, for one, did in a huge way. Major extra points to Peter Jackson for making the movie exactly as I imagined it when I was a kid. And when I re-read it in high school. And when I re-read it in college. And law school. And a few years ago. Etc.

My favorite Classics:
- To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- Tom Sawyer - Rush. Haha, just joking, Mark Twain
- Oliver Twist/Bleak House/ - Charles Dickens

To Kill A Mockingbird was a classic great book great movie situation, which just makes you have faith in talented people. I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just say this: Free Boo Radley!!

Tom Sawyer is a good, quick and entertaining book. The funny thing is that I don’t love Twain. In fact I have started Huckleberry Finn no less than three times in my life and have put it down less than halfway through each time. Yet Sawyer, the ultimate bad kid with a good heart, is such an engaging character. Think a smarter, dirtier version of Bart Simpson. His good-natured mischief makes the book work.

Yes, Dickens is a tough read. I read somewhere that he got paid for his serials (most of his books were monthly installments in local papers) by the word and took full advantage of that. But the man told a good story.

Almost making the cut: The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas.

Books I’d like to see published:
- Undertow – (the working title my novel) Elster
- McAryeh’s hopefully soon to be completed novel – McAryeh
- How I Made 100 Million Dollars and Gave It All To My Kids – Elster’s Dad

Sadly, this is the best I can do. But believe me it isn’t for lack of trying. I’m suffering from a major brain freeze on this topic. And it hurts me more than it hurts you. Anyways, happy reading.

Whoops - In my haste to get this out, I forgot a very important category - Best Post-Apocalyptic novels. Two winners here: The Stand by King and Swan Song by McCammon. If you are into the whole good humans struggle to survive against evil after a dread disease/nuclear holocaust pretty much destroys the world, then you must must my=ust read these two classics. I would say more but I missed the boat.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Storytellers

The next episode of Storytellers is up and running. It is the work of a relatively new, but very talented blogging voice - Ayala. We are happy to have her aboard.

In other news - my list of stories is shrinkng. I need my committed storytellers to get me their stories. You know who you are.