Elster's World

Friday, February 29, 2008

Jets Buzz

Tons to talk about here including:

- Jets trading for 3 time pro bowler Kris Jenkins for a third and fifth round pick (good - even if his health is somewhat suspect)

- Jets being a front runner for the services of left guard Alan Faneca (at 8 million bucks a year) to stabilize the left side of the line and tutor D'brick and Mangold (good - hey, it's not my money and the cap got bigger)

- Jets trading Dewayne Robertson or moving him to an end position if they trade for Jenkins (depends on what they get)

- Jets trading Jon Vilma for a conditional pick in 2009 - topping out at a third rounder terrible terrible terrible)

As I have said may times, Vilma is a talented play maker who didn't fit in as the middle guy in the 3-4 of Mangini. So.....move him outside. He can't be as good as the Victor Hobson's of the world? Wouldn't you want this guy blitzing from the outside? It makes no sense. The Jets defense needs help now - getting a possible third rounder in '09 isn't going to stop the run or sack the QB this season.

AND A BIT OF MET BUZZ

Johan Santana gets his first start today. Gentlemen, start your engines.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Be Nice To Me...

I'm giving blood today. To me this is not a big deal. Some people get all creeped out watching their life force escape through a thin, clear tube, but not me. Nor do I suffer any particular after effects. So yeah, it's pretty easy. Not to mention free apple juice.

But it got me thinking about what this simlpe act symbolizes to the recipients of all this blood - the idea of basic human kindness. Basic Human kindness. The process by which you stop and help someone carry their groceries to their car, carry their suitcase up a flight of steps for them at Penn Station, or hell, even saying good morning to them on the street.

Basic human kindness. It's such a no brainer. Say hello, ask if you can help, say thank you. Don't wait to be asked to help alleviate someones burden - as the great Nike would say "just do it".

Sadly, I feel the modern era is an era of great selfishness. It's all about me, what's in it for me - how do I get mine. And like everything else, the further away we get from something, the harder it is to do. The further we sink into self-centered-ness, the harder it it to think about other people.

I'm no saint. Often, I help people because it makes me feel good about myself, not necessarily out of any sense of altruism. But at the end of the day, this certainly is a case of the ends justifying the means. After all, what's the downside of being nice to someone, even if you get something out of it too?

So be nice to me, I'm giving blood today. And remember, what goes around often comes around. Many cultures incorporate the idea of karma into their philosophies in some form or another. Do good to others and, perhaps, the karma gods will smile on you.

And besides, you never know when your back will be hurting and someone might offer you help with the groceries.

Or, heaven forbid, it might be you who needs that pint of blood.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thoughts In Green And Orange

While I formulate a few non-sports posts (perhaps even a foray into fiction again?), a couple of notes to hold you over:

- So Carlos Beltran has decided to step into the void and become a Team Leader. After giving the impression the last two seasons that he was possibly mute, Beltran provided the Phillies with some early season fodder by saying the Mets are the team to beat in the East this season after getting Santana from the Twins. Take that Jimmy Rollins!

Even more bizarre (and I'm using the version of the story I heard on Boomer and Carton, not the one reported in the papers), Beltran complained to manager Willie Randolph that the batting practice pitchers (usually fringe guys trying to make an impression) were bringing too much heat/pitching too inside/not letting him go out there and hack 1o homers. So Willie, being the guy he is, says sure, no problem. He then has Johan Santana pitch to Beltran. Santana then immediately drill Beltran in the arm so hard, the stitching of the ball was still imprinted on his skin several hours later.

I can't help but love this story (assuming it's true). I'm all for Beltran stepping up as a team leader but seriously son, where were you during the September collapse? Where were you while David Wright stood in front of the cameras last season and took it like a man? You want to be a team leader, earn it.

As for Santana - shows he has a nasty streak in him as well - definitely something you want to see from your ace.

As for this dividing the clubhouse - I am not concerned. I think this type of behavior, if properly cultivated, galvanizes everyone.

- Rumors are now out that the Jets are actively shopping both Jon Vilma and DeWayne Robertson. Robertson's huge contract (I believe he has a 6.8 million dollar salary with a 3 million dollar roster bonus coming soon) makes him definitely worth trading but, I imagine, very hard to trade. Word on the street is that the Broncos are interested in the 26 year old underweight nose tackle if they can restructure his contract. I'd take a third rounder to get rid of him - assuming the cap hit won't be too monstrous.

As for Vilma - I simply cannot understand it. As I've said many times before, if Vilma truly is not a good fit to play inside backer in Mangini's 3-4 scheme,fine. Make him an outside linebacker. Are you telling me he's not a vast improvement over guys like Victor Hobson and Bryan Thomas? You are telling me he can't cover a running back out of the backfield or rush a quarterback. He's fast and strong. In fact, he's probably BETTER suited to play outside. I'm much more comfortable knowing I have a Vilma and a David Harris on my roster rather than just having one. Imagine if the Jets draft a Ghoulston type at 6. Then you have Ellis and Ghoulston at the edges, nose tackle X, Harris, Vilma, Linebackers X and Y - and a pretty decent secondary behind them. all of a sudden your defense just upgraded from Crappy to Not So Bad.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Living a Torah Life in a Very Un-Torah World

Some anonymous comment in Joe's blog linked to this op-ed in the Five Towns Jewish Times (be sure to read the highly entertaiing comments attached at the bottom of the page). Without me getting started on my personal thoughts about Mr. Gordon and his weekly right-wing agenda filled paper (yes, they are almost entirely negative - and not a week goes by where at least three "articles" in there make me riled up enough to send an angry letter in - until I realize that they wouldn't print anyhting with four letter words in it anyway; and hey, if they want to push their agenda, what right do I have to stop them? After all, no one is forcing me to read it - I could use it for a better purpose like kindling for firewood), the op-ed did, unintentionally, bring up a very interesting line of thought for me.

The op-ed itself discussed a story of a Rav who was told that some rich dude from the Five Towns spend a quarter mil on a private plane to go to the Super Bowl in Arizona and watch the Giants defeat the evil Patriots. This Rav could not wrap his mind around the fact that people would spent so much money on frivolity while there are people in the neighborhood who can barely afford their kids' tuition bills.

[A quick aside (rant): Now, just about everything that there is to be said on the subject of tuition, giving tzedakah and the like has been said. I am not going to sit here and say that Rich Person X has no right to spend his money on frivolity, nor am I going to tell you Rich Person X should spend his money this way. I am also not going to tell you how or where people should give their tzedakah, nor will you be hearing me giving any halachic rulings on maasar money like Mr. Gordon does in his. (I am no expert on the "20% rule" as he appears to be.) I am not going to bemoan the fact that there are so many people in my neighborhood (and I bet in yours too) that feel that they must take the family on vacation over winter break even though they really cannot afford it, that they must spend $6,000 on sleepaway camp even though they can't really afford it. Pretty much everything that can be said on these issues has been said. I understand social/economic pressue and how it can rip a hole in a family. I understand (whether right or wrong) the people who do these things but then ask for a tuition break from the school because they cannot afford to send their 4 kids to school at a cost of 12 to 15 thousand dollars a kid. Because why should your kids be the only ones who have to stay home during intercession or over the summer? That's the new world order that we live in. That people who make decent livings can no longer providers for their family. The pressure to provide for your family is immense these days. So yes, somewhere along the line we went trerribly wrong. But I'm not going to get into that today - it's a topic for another time. End rant)

The op-ed did touch upon an issue which almost all orthodox jews struggle with in modern times (yes, even the rich ones) - the fine line we all must walk between being a so called "Torah Jew", but one who lives in a modern society. Rabbi Hershel Billet, Rabbi at the Young Israel of Woodmere, often mentions in his drashas that these are extremely difficult times to live in. At first glance, this sounds silly. After all, these are (current real estate recession notwithstanding) generally prosperous times - people are making lots of money and living well above the poverty line. (Of course this is not the case for everyone - but again, the idea that we all must give tzedakah, while imperative, is not the thrust of this article.)

Even so, with great wealth, they say, comes great responsibility. Not to mention great difficulty. We all have computers giving us access to pretty much anyhting and everything there is (including high risk areas for our kids such as instant messenging, Facebook and Myspace). We all have 52 inch LCD tv's to watch people like Brittney Spears and Lindsey Lohan self destruct for all to see in glorious high definition. Even if you do not allow a television in your home and have Koshernet, our kids are exposed to things that would have been completely unheard of 20 years ago. You can't even walk in the City anymore without being exposed to many images which don't fit in to most people's idea of tznious. Especially in summer.

So yes, despite our relative prosperity, or perhaps because of it, these are difficult times with many challenges. More money means the ability to blow; if not $250,000, then maybe 10 grand on going to see your beloved Giants. It means dropping between 6 and 8 thou on 5 glorious days in Miami over winter break - where you get to see a jaw dropping amount of activity that makes you wonder if our children are even being taught Jewish subjects in school. It means packing up the family for Pesach at the Biltmore.

And it's not just about money. It's about ideas and attitudes that change (erode?) over time. My dad is a very smart man. But he's also a man very set in his ways and ideas. His beliefs when it comes to Judaism tend to be very rigid. I tend to be more open to new ideas than he is. I tend to take the position that I believe what I believe, you believe what you believe, and neither one of us is necessarily "correct" - rather, each person must live the way they so chose based on what they know.

Without trying to sound preachy or corny, there is a framework that we all must work within - the framework of the Torah. And as each generation goes by - as each generation becomes more and more receptive to the outside influences, well then I guess we all lose just a bit of that connection we have with our past.

Do I have answers? Of course not. I know it's easy to say "go live in a cave". It's more difficult to try and navigate the world. It's also impractical to tell everyone to go live in that cave. After all, someone's father-in-law is paying for all the cave dwellers.

So navigate the world we must. In trying times with trying challenges. So regardless of whether you are rich as hell and blowing your money on silly, pretty things or late every month on your cell phone bill in order to make sure you can have company this shabbos (average price of that, about $200), these are problems we all have to face. No one is immune from the slow shredding of a moral fiber.

Perhaps Mr. Gordon will provide us with the answers we seek in next week's FTJT.

We can only hope.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thoughts From The Last Few Days

- Yes Georgetown is 20-3 and controlling the Big East with a 10-2 conference record. Yes, they has the best field goal defense in Division I. Yes, they have a franchise type college center and a number of athletic swing guys who can shoot and play D. But this team is seriously flawed.

Consider:

* The guards consistently fail to run more of the offense through Roy Hibbert despite the fact that not only is he 7 freaking 2, but he's a very good passer.

* John Wallace (and Jesse Sapp) all of a sudden can't hit threes.

* The team looks severely disinterested on offense for large stretches of them game.

* They won a game on a miracle Ewing block, a miracle Villanova fouls with .1 seconds on the clock, a miracle Hibbert three - they could just as easily be 17-6 right now.

* DaJuan Summers has not taken the leap forward i was expecting since last year. Therefore, G'town lacks the second scorer. Summers has a good shooting touch and is athletic and tall enough to get to the rim. He seems to lack the motivation.

Yikes. When you factor all this together, a sweet 16 "upset" in the NCAA tournament wouldn't shock me at all.

- This is an excellent breakdown of yesterday's congressional Clemens hearing. Enjoy.

- And now the antithesis of the Clemens scandal - Johan Santana has reported to spring training for the Mets. This is huge news and very exciting for Mets fans. But please can we stop with the prognosticating of a 25-4, 1.60 era and 300 k's? Please?

- How long until the NFL draft?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Congress Grill Clemens

I'm watchig this live on ESPN.com. WOW.

But seriously, is this really what we are spending our tax dollars on? Poor Mike Stanton just got his name thrown under the bus.

And Jose Conseco's BBQ? sounds like a good time. Roger claims he was playing golf at the time. Riveting stuff.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Not Quite Belichick But.....

Some thoughts for a Friday:

- While my dislike of Miami turncoat Pat Riley doesn't get to the level of disdain I have for that coach of the Pats, it's still pretty high on the hate meter.

Still, massive kudos to Riley for not only trading away a 35 year old, out of shape player for a better talent, but he managed to trade away Shaq's huge (over 50 million remaining over the next 2 and a half years) contract. Unbelieveable trade for the Heat and a huge gamble for the Suns.

- Can't see this Schilling thing ending well. Sadly, now the Sox only have 5 front line starters (The Ace, Dice K, Buchholtz, Lester and Wakefield) going into the season to battle the hated Yankees. I hope they can be ok (sarcasm).

- The stunning footage of the Israeli policeman shooting the suicide bomber in Dimona is just that - stunning. It's right out of a movie. One wonders if this first bombing in over a year was an isolated case or if more will follow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Foil Theory

I know someone who makes terrible decions. I mean realy, truly, deeply terrible decisions about how to live her/his life. Relationships, opportunities, etc.; you name it, he/she seems to pick the dead wrong approach 9 out of 10 times. That's a 90% Wrong Rate for you non-math majors.

After hearing a story about a recent poor life choice by this person, it got me thinking. Why do people make poor choices? Who is making poor choices more often and why? Is it intelligence? Is it an inability to think critically on an issue? Certainly these things all play a part, but there seems to be more to it. Many smart people make dumb choices. So why?

And from this grew Elster's Foil Theory.

Now, I fully admit to not being particularly learned, so if this is some famous psychological theory, well I didn't steal it - I'm just not a very original thinker. With that disclaimer out of the way, onto the theory.

The Foil Theory is simple. When making decisions of any type, but especially when making major decisons, it is very helpful for a person to have a foil - that person or persons who can examine your idea from an impartial distance and let you know if it makes sense or it you are making a horrible mistake. Someone to say to you "um, I think that maybe sleeping with that hooker with the red blotches on her face and neck isn't a very good idea".

You get my point. Sometimes a person is too close to an issue to see it clearly from both sides. That's when mistakes get made. That's where the foil comes in.

When you are a kid, your foils are your parents. They guide you and help you make (hopefully)smart decisions. As you get older and stop listening to your parents, your friends become your foils (and this is the reason that it's important to surround yourself with good, smart and trustworthy friends - as if you needed a reason). Eventually, your spouse/partner becomes your foil.

In fact and upon further review, part of finding your "soul mate" is finding that person with whom you have a symbiotic foil relationship with. For example, in my house the missus makes sure my tie matches my suit (foils can help with the small stuff too).

Foils are key to our decision making process. How often we regret making uninformed, spur of the moment decisons versus decisons that were properly contemplated? The truth is I don't know, but if I had to guess, it makes sense to say that the former is more regretted.

It also brings up an interesting issue. When people get married later in life, we often admonish their decisons and cal them "too set in their ways". Well, isn't that the same thing as saying they lack foil? A 40 year old (wo)man isn't going to listen to their parents, their friends are married and out of the day to day of their lives, and they don't have the partner/spouse foil. Thus, they begin to make all of their decisions on their own - without the voice of reason telling them that x, y or z may not be such a good idea.

Of course, older, unmarried people can have foils too. I'm not suggesting otherwise. You can find your foil in many places, not necessarily in the Big Three (parents, friends and spouses). I do not mean to say that the Big Three is all inclusive. But those are certaily the most common.

So...the Foil Theory. I kind of like it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What Does This Say About Me?

As I walked through Penn Station this morning on the way to the office, I saw literally hundreds of Giant fans decked out in blue (or white), smiles on their faces, as they headed to the Canyon of Heroes and the Giants ticker tape parade.

Am I resentful of them? No. Do I wish they hadn't won the Super Bowl? No again. I hate the Giants but their team did win one for the ages, so let them have their celebration.

But as I watched them gather - as I saw a father and son get off the train together to head to see their guys, for the first time really I realized how badly I want to go to that parade. Before it was always about how badly I wanted the Jets to win the Super Bowl - but now I see it's something more than that. I want to take part in the celebration of that win. And for the first time, I'm starting to wonder if it will happen in my lifetime. I mentioned this in my post yesterday as well. The Jets are a crappy franchise, snakebit by bad luck, poor management and poor coaching. They have had exactly one transcendent player in their history (Joe Willie) and have come ohsoclose already a few times, never being able to seal the deal. There were bad losses in the mud in Miami and the thin air of Denver - always coming up just short of the ultimate date.

So what do I feel? Bitterness, jealousy, hell even a touch of sadness. As i come tantalizingly close to 35, I would have thought winning a Super Bowl would have been a been there done that experience by now. Instead, I'll be watching a weak armed Chad Pennington figh with interception machine Kellen Clemens for the right to get sacked 75 times next year behind a terrible offensive line. Not exactly the kind of thoughts you should be having whrn your city is gearing up for a Super Bowl champions parade.

On second thought, yeah - I DO hate those Giant fans after all.

Monday, February 04, 2008

And David Flung The Stone At Goliath....

And so it all ended last night. The game ended with a Giants victory. The Patriots season ended with a horrific thud - the perfect, copyrighted 19-0 season vaporized like the Pat offensive line behind a wall of Big Blue. My evening ended with a stomach ache featuring too many buffalo wings, too many beers and too much hard Calabrese salami.

And sure, as a Jet fan watching the hated Giants beat the even more hated Patriots wasn't any fun. In fact, it was downright awful. My buddy Andrew ket muttering "Giant fans don't deserve this" under his breath as Eli pulled a Peyton and kept getting the Giants back. Not after they had turned on Eli all season, not after they had pushed to fire the coach all season.

Maybe he's right and maybe he's wrong but last night, a 12 point underdog went to Arizona and pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in Super Bowl history (though not bigger than my Jets beating the Colts with Broadway Joe and putting the unified NFL on the map).

Sure, it could have gone the other way. Manning threw a number of wobbly floaters that could/should have been picked off. Assante Samuels dropped a killer on the final drive. David Tyree's catch seemed more miracle than skill. Toomer got away with a very obvious offensive pass interference on a scoring drive.

But at the end of the day, you need to give credit where credit is due. The Giants defensive line was the best unit on the field and Super Tom looked very human while sitting on his butt and glaring at his offensive line. The Giants are Super Bowl champs. Eli justified the draft day trade and goes into the New York Legends sports book alongside Joe Namath and Phil Simms. An old and angry coach is a media darling and earned himself a fat new contract. A defensive coordinator is about to become a well paid head coach. Good for them (I saw with bared teeth and deep bitterness).

As my 35th birthday rapidly approaches (March 8 - Elster is taking gifts of all sizes), I am begining to wonder if my beloved Jets will ever win a Super Bowl in my lifetime. I've seen a Stanley Cup (greatest sports highlight of my life) as well as a World Series (and who knows, maybe another is in my future...you listening Mr. Santana???) but nothing would mean more to me than a Jets Super Bowl win. But will it ever happen? The Jets seem to be a snakebit franchise constantly made worse by poor management.

On the bright side, at least the Patriots lost - their dream of perfection laying tattered on the turf. Though it's hard to root against that Wes Welker.

On a final note - not to be outdone as the sleazeball I keep telling you all he is, Bill Belichick ran off the field with time remaining on the clock. He's a real class act all the way. At least he shook Coughlin's hand.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Super Bowl Prediction

I've been running this game around in my head for a few days and none of the numbers I come up with make me comfortable....still I need to get on record.

The spread is 12 points as of today. Barring a miracle, the Giants should cover. The Pats are a boring story which is why all the press coverage has been focused on Eli's miraculous string of games, Plaxico's insane prediction and the Giants ability to get after a one legged Brady. This is putting the "buzz" in the Gint's corner.

But you can't give Belichick two weeks to prepare for anything. Belichick could win the war in Iraq if he had 2 weeks to prepare for it. Throw in the Giants decent but not great secondary vs Wes Welker and Randy Moss and the inevitable Eli Manning horrible interception...

All that being said, tough moral dilema here. I'm a New York fan who hates all of the other New York teams. But I also hate the Pats. Also, shouldn't I root for the AFC over the NFC?

No contest. I'll be (begrudgingly) rooting for the Giants, who will lose to New England 41-20.