Thursday, December 31, 2015

N.Y. Mets: 2015 Review - The Year That Was Podcast

Here's our final podcast of 2015
a/o December 29th

On behalf of the crew at 

Happy New Year

The three Rising Apple veterans,
Sam, Rich, and I, talked about the 2015 season that was. 

Gary Mac from called in to wish a Happy New Year.

Michael Conforto, Bartolo Colon, Curtis Granderson, Wilmer Flores,
Thor, Jeurys Familia, the departed Daniel Murphy, 
where's next year's offense coming from, 
favorite moments, and much more.

We actually exercised some discipline 
and limited ourselves to a one hour show.



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A rainy day, is still a great day at Coney Island

Mid-December 2015

Someone got a new paint job.  Lookin' good!
Agreeable weather has no doubt helped work crews perform much needed off-season renovations 
to Brooklyn's famed Cyclone Roller Coaster.  By the looks of things, 
she'll be in great shape for next season.


Built 1920
Made a NYC Landmark ~ 1989

Work crews are also grinding down the exterior of Deno's Wonder Wheel 
in preparation for a new paint job as well.

The next hot dog eating contest is still a ways away, but there will be a fireworks show at the Parachute Jump for New Year's Eve, and I think the Wonder Wheel might be open as well.  Sounds like a new cool way to bring in the New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Force is Strong in B'klyn

Sorry for my inactivity, folks.
Sometimes life leaves one no choice but to step away from our hobbies.
Be sure, however, this Trolley is still rollin', and as usual, closer than you think.

I WILL see Star Wars this week ... at some point.
I was 10-years old when Episode IV came out.

I couldn't resist..

Picture from the latest edition of The Brooklyn Paper.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Knicks Victorious in Season's First Battle of the Boroughs

From the desks of:

Friday Final
Nets        91
Knicks  108

Knicks rookie backs up his words.

Add trash talkin' New Yorker to his resume...

As a lead-in to the season's first East River showdown, the freshly minted Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month said Europeans know the Knicks well, but the Nets, not so much.

Kristaps Porzingis then backed up his riff in so far as Knicks fans being better than Nets fans with 19 points and 10 rebounds during Friday night's 108-91 lopsided victory over Brooklyn at Madison Square Garden.

Indeed, twenty games into the Knicks season Porzingis has turned boos into cheers, and is easily the lead story in town.

His selection was met with resounding disapproval by fans at the 2015 draft, but a quarter of the way through his first season as a pro, he has won fans over with 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game - but doing so with smoothness and skill.

Most importantly, Porzingas has Carmelo Anthony believing he's here to help expedite the rebuilding process, and elevate Melo's game - not hinder it.

Proof lies in the numbers.  The Knicks improved to 10-10 with Friday's victory.  This time last season, they were a mere 4-16, en route to a 17-65 regular season.

This time, they really, really mean it..

The Brooklyn Nets have become notoriously poor starters (among other things...).

The Nets were 11-9 after the first twenty games during their inaugural season, and were playing .500 ball in late December when they decided to fire coach Avery Johnson.  Under P.J. Carlisimo, the Nets posted a 35-19 record the rest of the way.

The Nets started 6-14 in the 2013-14 season, and posted an 8-12 record after twenty games last season.  Each time, they rebounded well enough in order make the playoffs.

This season, the Nets are 5-14 to date and appear really, really, determined to keep a steady course.


Friday night, the Nets had 15 assists for the entire game.  The Knicks Jose Calderon led all players with 10 assists by himself.  Joe Johnson led the Nets with four assists, and got ejected for a flagrant elbow foul late in the game.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Rivalry Comes to Brooklyn: Rangers vs. Islanders - I

From the desks of:

The Rivalry

New York Rangers
New York Islanders

Six points separate the (#2) Rangers and (#5) Islanders in the Eastern Conference standings. 

Sandwiched between them are Washington and Pittsburgh.  The gap between them, however, is now far closer than New Yorkers are normally accustomed to.

This evening, the Rivalry prepares to cross the East River, and invade the Borough of churches.

Lord Stanley pray for us all....

Both Nassau County leadership, and locals, rejected further financing of the decades long campaign, and ultimately pulled the plug on constructing a new base of operations for their NHL hockey club.

Forced to move on, the crossroads of Brooklyn are the new battle front between Tex's Rangers, and the seemingly nomadic Islanders.

The Battles of Uniondale are done.  The fight for Flatbush, is on.

Now it's Borough against Borough - or maybe it will build up to that over time, as Long Islanders are the one's largely attending games during this early going.  On that note, you can bet there will be hoards of Rangers fans in the building.

It's going to take some time in order for the Isles to establish their settlement along Flatbush Avenue.

In the meantime, enjoy the first regular season game between the Islanders and Rangers in Brooklyn.

The Skates of 'Rath...

Kevin Klein's promotion to the top defensive line didn't last very long.  He is due to miss the next few weeks with an abdominal injury sustained against Carolina.

As they say, one man's injury is another man's opportunity, meaning, Dylan McIlrath will finally get a block of consistent playing time (whether Alain Vigneault likes it or not).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

N.Y. Giants: Piling Weight of the Season on Eli's Shoulders

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Youngster no more.  
The old vet must be the Mann from here on out.

New York Giants: Unfairly, or not, Big Blue needs Eli Manning to be elite down the stretch.

The Fates are looking over the Giants.  I mean ... what more could Jerry Reese's broken pieces ask for?

Thanksgiving Day effectively eliminated the Cowboys from any meaningful conversation, and put the Eagles dysfunction on full display for the nation to see.  The Giants now get an opportunity to act on their own behalf by putting their last remaining division rival to pasture once and for all.

Yes Virginia, as improbable as it may seem, the stage is set for Big Blue taking one small step forward in the standings, and a Giant leap towards capturing an NFC East division flag by Christmas.

It's theirs for as long as they step up, keep their wits about them, execute, and take it.  But, as we've seen numerous times this season, particularly in the final minutes of games, that's been a task easier said than done.

Defensively, the Redskins have allowed 370 yards per game, while the Giants have surrendered 420 yards per game (2nd most in the NFL).  Yet, both average 25.3 points allowed per game, placing each in the bottom third of the league.

Offensively, the Giants average 27.3 points per game, while the Hogs have posted an average of 22.1 points per.

But let us not forget what Kirk Cousins did to the Giants secondary in Week Three.  Yes, he threw a pair of interceptions, but was also 30/49 for 316 yards, and a touchdown. Washington outscored the Giants 15-14 in the 4th quarter, in what ultimately ended up being a 32-21 Giants victory.

Just saying....

The return of Coach Spagnuolo means the Giants once again rank among league leaders in takeaways.  In fact, the Giants rank second.

There's your game.

Washington runs the ball as atrociously as the Giants do.  Both team's running games are ranked 7th and 8th worst, respectively.  So, the Giants better make sure they take away what little running game the Redskins possess, thereby putting Kirk Cousins in bad throwing situations.  Then it's a matter of Cousins offering the Giants defense opportunities to make big plays.

On the Blue side of the ball, the Giants lack of an effective running game makes the marrow in my bones boil over with frustration.  While injuries to the offensive line pose their own issues, this four-headed backfield they employ is nothing more than a mythical creature that needs to be eradicated.

Throughout football, I can not believe such learned minds have let the art of rushing to daylight become the road least traveled.  In the Giants case, it's avoidance by design.  But I digress...

If throw they must, then throw the damn thing with fury.

Time and again throughout Eli Manning's career, his leadership, and that ridiculous "elite" tag has been brought into question.  Unlike his earlier years, he no longer has a top grade offensive line, a punishing running game, nor a top ranked defense that made the Giants a well balanced team.

Today, there's only Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., a scratch-off lottery system of playing opportunities, and a litany of question marks.  Yet, many unfairly demand Eli Manning put any lingering questions regarding his leadership beyond the late Autumn shadows of doubt starting Sunday.

Fans want another miracle run from him, but I'd offer his support group is immensely inferior than that of previous Big Blue contenders.

Hakeem Nicks is a nice blast from the past, but hard to gauge his impact on the immediate future before they play the games.  There's an old saying - players become available for a reason.  Just ask Jon Beason....

My biggest takeaway from today's game will be how Coach McAdoo utilizes Orleans Darkwa.

We'll revisit everything, then.

Here's what I said in my PIGSKIN PICKS:

Giants -2 1/2 (D.C. HOGS)
This is not your father's NFC East of the 1980s, folks.  If the Hogs win, they'll tie the Giants for the division lead with sub par 5-6 records.  A Giants win, however, would at least somewhat legitimize their standing in a poor bracket.  Many would argue the Giants could, and should be 8-3 right now.   They had their chances, sure, but as Bill Parcells would say - they are what their record says they are. That said, the Giants should be better than Washington, period.  I'd be thankful if they just went out there and seized the day.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

PIGSKIN 2015: Week Twelve


Week Twelve

Week Eleven

Week Eleven Record:  4-8
Overall Record:  68-63-3
Schmear of the Week:  6-5
Bagels in the Basket:  +5

1st and Ten:
  • Two undefeated teams: New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers.
  • The Giants can win the futile NFC East division title, if they want to.
  • Speaking of futility, the leaderless AFC South continues with the Colts and Texans both playing at home.
  • A win by Minnesota puts them in firm control of the NFC North.

2nd and Long:
  • See Vikings game - literally.  The Packers will be watching.  They've created a world of trouble for themselves (because Aaron Rogers continues having too much Lego time with Olivia Munn).
  • The Eagles and Cowboys both played like a bunch of turkeys on Thursday, clearing the way for a potential Giants division title.  All Big Blue has to do now is dispatch the D.C. Hogs once and for all, and be done with it.  Easier said than done!  The Jekyll and Hyde G-Men can easily blow this, leaving the NFC East ripe for the taking (with five games still remaining).
  • The Seahawks were starting to sneak up on the Cardinals ... before Marshawn Lynch was lost for the season, that is.
  • The Wild Card picture is absolutely wacky.  So why bother, other than to say at least ten NFL teams face must win situations this week.  The NFL is proving an old adage, that it's not how you start, but how you finish that matters.

No Gain:
  • The Sad Diego Chargers have lost six in a row!  The Browns have lost five straight.  The Raiders, Rams, and Falcons have all lost three straight heading into Week Twelve.
  • In fact, the Falcons (6-4) have blown a 5-0 start, and are now just 1-4 in their last five games.

  • Tony Romo is out for the season.  Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys will be moseying along now.
  • Johnny Manzeil needs to grow up before becoming an NFL quarterback.

Thanksgiving Day Record:  1-2

WEEK TWELVE continued:
Friday Line ~ NYDN

Giants -2 1/2 (D.C. HOGS)
This is not your father's NFC East of the 1980s, folks.  If the Hogs win, they'll tie the Giants for the division lead with sub par 4-6 records.  A Giants win, however, would at least somewhat legitimize their standing in a poor bracket.  Many would argue the Giants could, and should be 8-3 right now.   They had their chances, sure, but as Bill Parcells would say - they are what their record says they are. That said, the Giants should be better than Washington, period.  I'd be thankful if they just went out there and seized the day.

Dolphins +3 1/2 (JETS)
When it rains, it pours.  The Jets lone victory over their last five games came against the Jags (insert punchline, here).  Now, Todd Bowles is about to find out what Jets fans have long known - bad things happen when the Dolphins come to town.  Darrell Revis is out, and Eric Mangold's hand and neck remain items of concern.  A quarterback coming off thumb surgery and throwing INTs, wide receivers dropping passes, and a running game gone MIA, are all actually recent developments in the Green scheme of things.  It's the defense which has failed the Jets ever since visiting the Black Hole on November 1st.  Moreover, the Jets have been terribly slow to adjust ... to anything.

TEXANS -3 (Saints)
If T.J. Yates was able to shred the Jets for (16/34, 229 yards) two touchdowns, what do you suppose he'll do against the Saints tissue soft, powder puff defense?  Plus, Drew Brees will be up against the fiercest pass rush he's encountered to date.

Vikings +1 (FALCONS)
Stop Adrian Peterson!  Oh the Falcons... they must be kicking themselves.  They haven't done much right of late, but, they have yet to allow 100 yards rushing in a game.  They're still potentially a good team, but presently in free fall.  We'll find out if they have a backbone, or if they'll wilt like a boiled noodle.  The Vikings on the other hand, had their five game win streak snapped by the Packers (then look what the Packers did in turn against the Bears; Just saying).  Nine out of ten times, I would have picked the Falcons in this game.  You caught me on #10.

BENGALS - 8 1/2 (Rams)
The Rams have lost three straight, and enter Sunday's game with QB problems, and a real life matter (Stedman Bailey).  The Bengals are in damage control having lost two straight. Look for them to straighten things out.

Bucs +3 (COLTS)
The Colts struggled this season with Andrew Luck in the line-up.  They're even worse with him out of the line-up.  It's that simple.  Plus, that was a pretty thorough whooping the Bucs put on the Eagles in Week 11.  At 5-5, they suddenly have as good a chance at making the NFC playoffs as any.  Go with the suddenly feisty pirates of Tampa.

Raiders -2 (TITANS)
Home or away, the Titans just can't score.  If the Raiders plan on turning things around, this would be the week and the team against which to do it.  Time is not on their side.

CHIEFS -6 1/2 (Bills)
Quite frankly, I feel this game should be pick'em.  It has trouble written all over it.  So, don't ask me why I'm inclined to lay 6 1/2 to the Bills.  Then again, I see easy victory as well.  You've been warned.

JAGS -4 (Chargers)
This line has more to do with Sad Diego's obscene underachievement, and less to do with anything the Jaguars are capable of.  But hey, the sun shines on a dog's ass at least once a day too.  The Chargers ... SMH.

Cardinals -10 (49ERS)
Pigskin wise, the Cardinals have been the gift that keeps giving.  On the field, there's something about these team's recent respective histories against one another that makes me think Arizona is out to rub it in Sunday.

SEAHAWKS -4 (Steelers)
I'm struggling on this one - not wanting to go against the rumblin', stumblin', bumblin', Big Ben.  He works magic in unlikely situations and tons of traffic.  If anyone can pick apart the 'Hawks secondary, he can.  But, how healthy is he?  A foot and knee injury to the same leg perhaps makes him a stationary target.  Much of his ludicrous success comes on broken plays outside the pocket.  If the L.O.B. keeps up coverage, the front line will catch up to Ben, I think.

Patriots -3 (BRONCOS)
The Broncos are going without Peyton Manning, while the Patriots will be without Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.  The Patriots are dazed, but not out.  We'll get to see just how plug and play the New England Patriots roster really is.  We know Denver's defense has carried them of late, but who is gonna score for them?

Schmear of the Week:
Cardinals -10

Guten Appetit:
Fuhgeddaboudit!  Don't even fix your face to talk about food.

Otherwise, Good Luck, and have a great Football Sunday everyone!

Montreal Canadiens Conclude Week Long Siege of Metropolitan Area

From the desks of:  

Eastern Conference Standings:
#1 MON  18-4-2 (38)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
#2 NYR  16-5-2 (34)
#8 NYI  11-8-4 (26)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
#10 NJD  11-9-2 (24)

Les Habitants posent le siege a la region metropolitaine; distancent NY/NJ dans la ruine.

The Habs Lay Siege to the Metropolitan Area; Leave NY/NJ Behind in Ruins

While most Americans were busy preparing for, then partaking in our nation's annual Thanksgiving Holiday, les Habitants de Montreal sprung hockey's version of Tet (Offensive) into action against the NY/NJ metropolitan area member clubs.

Their week long siege of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Newark, concluded Friday evening with one last 3-2 shootout victory over the Devils at the Rock.

In truth, Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, and the Prudential Center all crumbled under Montreal's Godzilla-like rampage through downtown Tokyo.  The combined forces of the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils are thus far 0-5 versus the Canadiens in November, and were outscored by a heavily tilted 24-9 margin.

Heading into Saturday's Devils/Canadiens game, an area team has yet to defeat the (now) Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens.

Oct. 15 - MON 3; NYR 0
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Nov. 5 - MON 4; NYI 1
Nov. 20 - MON 5; NYI 3
Nov. 22 - MON 4; NYI 2
Nov. 25 - MON 5; NYR 1
Nov. 27 - MON 3; NJD 2 (so)
Nov. 28 - NYD @ MON

As of Friday night's final scores, the Montreal Canadiens lead the conference with 86 goals scored.   The Rangers are a distant 5th with 70; the Islanders 64 goals rank 6th, and the Devils 53 goals are 11th in the Eastern standings.

Defensively, the Rangers 47 goals allowed are still best in the NHL.  Montreal's 53 GA rank 4th; the Devils 55 GA are 6th, and the Islanders 57 GA are 7th in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey Devils: Cory Schneider Keeping Newark Within a Pitchfork's Distance of Top Eight.
The Great White North

With little question, Cory Schneider is the lead story in the Devils .500 start this season. Were it not for Schneider's play, where would New Jersey be other than much lower in the Eastern Conference standings?

For the moment, there are four NHL goalies with at least 17 starts: Cory Schneider, Henrik Lundqvist, Ben Bishop, and Braden Holtby.

Newark is playing representative defense, as Schneider has faced the second fewest shots, is second with a .927 Sv% among the four aforementioned goalies, while his and Henrik Lundqvist's 2.05 GAA average rank tied for 3rd.

The Devils obviously lack in the scoring department, which doesn't forecast to be changing much as the season progresses.  New Jersey is averaging the least shots on goal per game in the league.

Adam Henrique, now the seasoned vet, leads the team with 10 goals.  Winger Mike Cammalleri leads with 22 points.

  • Patrick Elias made his first appearance of the season against the Florida Panthers Friday, and after a change in scoring, he was credited with the 612th ever assist career, giving the Devils all-time points leader 1,018 for his career.

The Devils were the only team of the three locals able of taking the Canadiens beyond regulation time.  While that's no consolation, New Jersey did expose some chinks in Montreal's amour and gained a point.  Losing in shootout was just plain unfortunate, and should be taken as a failed opportunity to at least tie idle (#9) Tampa with 25-points.

And so begins life under a new regime.  Head coach John Hayse is an AHL promotion, while Ray Shero, whom constructed a Cup winner in Pittsburgh, assumed GM and Vice Presidential duties from the departed Lou Lamoriello.

It's still too early in their respective tenures for them to impact this team.  Instead, certain players should bet they're being evaluated very closely - maybe Adam Larrson among them. Otherwise, Patrik Elias will be moving on after the season.  The face of the Devils will begin changing in earnest either at the trade deadline, or next off-season for sure.

There's certainly several teams behind them in the standings that should not be underestimated.   Florida and Columbus might interfere with even the best laid plans of clinching the 8th seed.  But, Tampa, NYI. etc., will factor plenty as well.

The Devils, in other words, have no margin for error.  In a sense, not much has changed, then.  They have no star player to speak of, and must rely on a highly disciplined system in order to get by.

The Canadiens and Devils will finalize their home-and-home engagement north of the border on Saturday.

New York Islanders: Flatbush Itching for a Fight?
Sunny Hot Florida

Just as the New York Rangers and Devils learned, Montreal is fast turning into the Eastern Conference team of all measure.

The Islanders are already 0-3 against them this month alone.  They fell 4-1 in Montreal on Nov. 4, then dropped a home and home against the Habs just prior to hosting, and defeating the Flyers 3-1 on Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve.

But, to hear Casey Cizikas put it, you'd think the Islanders arrived upon the Rubicon.

As the 3rd period against the Flyers devolved into typical mayhem, fists flew as one could expect.   But, Cizikas (as per Thurday's Newsday/Laura Albanese) thought -

"that's exactly what we needed.  A good, hard game like that ... They're fun.  When they get testy like that, when they get physical like that.."

Despite losing in a shootout at Sunrise, Florida, against the Panthers Friday night, the Islanders brought that same fighting spirit with them, and employed their hands once things got chippy for a second straight game.

When the Islanders play aggressively, and utilize their size and physicality effectively, the Islanders play their best hockey - Friday's outcome withstanding.

They're starting to feel good about themselves ... Clutterbuck, Martin, and Cizikas that is - which spells trouble for any team.

Under those circumstances, Jarolsav Halak could, and really should play well enough for them.  He's only made 12 starts so far (and therefore was not included in my previously sampled goalie comparison).  He's pitched two shutouts, with a .921 Sv%, while a 2.03 GAA puts him right there with Schneider and Lundqvist.

The newly transplanted Brooklynites seemingly tightened up their defense this year, particularly on the penalty kill.  They are presently 11th best, which as Isles fans know is a marked improvement over previous seasons, when they routinely averaged among the league's bottom tier PKs.

Ponderous, however, has been their inability to consistently score on the power play this season - which has traditionally been their strength in previous seasons.  To date, the Islanders are 24th on the power play.

The Islanders play Tampa and Colorado before they welcome the New York Rangers to Brooklyn, in what will undoubtedly start the next chapter of their long running rivalry.

Now it's Borough against Borough - or maybe it will build up to that over time, as Long Islanders are the one's largely attending games during this early going.  Expect hoards of Rangers fans in the building as well.

This intra-city situation has a way to go before getting ironed out.

New York Rangers: Some Things Just Never Change...
33rd Street and 8th Avenue

Fellow Rangers fans, I want you (us) to consider what (NYI) Casey Cizikas said for a second.


Now I want you to consider the hit Boston's Matt Belesky put on Derek Stepan Friday afternoon.

Matt Belesky is a marginal NHL player at best, whom enjoyed one decent season last year with the Ducks - perhaps the product of being on a good team, aye?  Although he does not usually go about the ice accumulating an obscene amount of brutish penalty minutes, his hit on Stepan was nevertheless a gross disregard of common sense.  Avoiding that play is constantly being drilled into player's minds.   It's outright dangerous.

Derek Stepan is now out indefinitely with several broken ribs.   Seems like a fair trade-off, right?


We know teams have freely taken their liberties against the Rangers for several years now, because they're generally secure in the fact there will be no reprisals.

Enter Dylan McIlrath, whom followed the play and proceeded to throw Matt (marginal player) Belesky a beating.

Thank you Dylan McIlrath!  That's the kind of element that makes other teams think twice about taking runs at your mates, or goalies for that matter.

But therein lies the physical player Alain Vigneault has no use for.  McIlrath has only played in five games, and has accumulated 17 penalty minutes, most of which came Friday.  Are there deficiencies in his game?  Sure.  But, I'd argue he needs playing time.  In return I would ask if his physical presence on the ice is becoming more critical by the day?  And to that I say unhesitatingly, absolutely, resoundingly, yes.

In fact, I find this whole start disturbing.  Pretty crazy to say considering the Rangers are third in all the NHL with 34 points.  But is it really, after the way they played Montreal on Nov. 25th?  I don't think so.  What was supposed to be a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy, instead turned into the Rangers poorest performance of the season.  One bad line change very early on got Montreal started, while the Rangers night just continued deteriorating.

In two games against the Canadiens to date, the Rangers are 0-2, and have been outscored by a commanding 8-1 margin.

Next item...  Time to start keeping tabs on Henrik's playing time.  He's been brilliant thus far, as usual.  The soon to be 34-year old, is arguably enjoying one of his best seasons, and is easily carrying the team.

Prior to Friday's disappointing loss against in Boston, Henrik was leading the league with 542 saves made, a .939 Sv%, and a 1.94 GAA.

Henrik Lundqvist is now tied for the league lead with 19 starts entering Saturday's action.  He also leads the league with 611 shots against.  He's the only goalie in the league above the 600 mark.   There's many reasons for that, which I'll get into another time.  Ottawa's Craig Anderson is second with 588 SA.

We're basically talking about an untenable situation over the long haul of the season, and we're only one-quarter of the way through.

Defensively, the Rangers have given up the third most shots on goal.  It is what it is - Rangers defensemen do not have enough physical presence, and as a result, fail to clear traffic effectively.   They rely on positioning, stick work, and anything but moving bodies around.

Offensively, this also means the Rangers aren't spending nearly enough time in their own zone.  It's usually one shot and done, then back the other way.  They've only taken the 20th most shots on goal.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Now and Then: Thankful For Our Troops

I'm thankful for all the men and women whom ever served, and are presently active in the Armed Forces of the United States of America - and to those whom find themselves in harms way during this holiday season.

My mind is with you, and your families as well.

If I may, as a veteran, when we take the oath to defend and preserve this great nation, we do so willingly and with great understanding into the perils that obligation potentially entails.

To that affect, our forces are supremely trained, and when called to deploy, their minds are fixed towards performing the task at hand. As young as 18-years old, our various members are experts at their respective crafts.  They execute their individual skills to the best of their abilities as part of a greater coordinated effort.

In a sense, they enter hostile situations prepared for the moment.

Families, however, are the ones who stay behind.  Even when seemingly surrounded with a supreme support group, there comes a time in every day or night when they suffer in silence.

These our our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and loved ones, whom serve our country under increasingly dangerous circumstances.  Likewise, they are the ones awaiting our nation's loved one's safe arrival back home.

Families are as much a part of theater of operations as any component of the military.

I'm thankful for all you do.

Giving Thanks to the Maryland 400: The Battle of Brooklyn

The (Nov. Vol. 38, No. 46) recently revisited the development of a known Revolutionary War battle site at 9th Street and 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, where local historians believe lay the remains of the famed Maryland 400 - the First Maryland Regiment - whom fought in support of General George Washington during the Battle of Brooklyn.

The formerly empty lot in question adjoins the VFW Post (pictured below), which is now being developed into a pre-kindergarten center.

Affixed to the  front edifice is a plaque that reads:

Here lie buried 256 
Maryland Soldiers who fell 
in the Battle of Brooklyn
Aug. 27, 1776

The New York Times originally featured local historian and president of the Brooklyn Preservation Council, Robert Furman, in 2012, regarding the site (once dug up in 1957 but revealed no evidence of a burial ground/grave site).

Nevertheless, in Mr. Furman's words, "These men saved the Revolution."  They protected Gen. George Washington's rear during the Continental Army's strategic retreat out of Brooklyn, and in doing so, suffered casualties among two thirds of their unit against advancing Red Coats.


The Maryland Regiment is also recognized a few blocks away 
at 3rd Street between 4th and 5th Avenue at the Old Stone House.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015




Week Eleven Record:  4-8
Overall Record:  68-63-3
Schmear of the Week:  6-5
Bagels in the Basket:  +5

As a Giants fan, I'd be very thankful for victories by the Lions over the Eagles, and the Panthers over the Cowboys.  Sure, I'm thankful Big Blue is in first place, but I'm serving that turkey with a grain of salt.

I'm particularly thankful for all those whom ever stopped by and visited my blog.  Thank you for spending some of your time, with me.

From my family and I, to you, and yours, Happy Holiday.

Game One: LIONS PK (Eagles)
There's an old saying - Never bet against the Lions, at home, on Thanksgiving.  How true is it?  Since 1934, the Lions are actually 35-38-2 all time on Thanksgiving Day.  But, they've suddenly woken from their slumber, and head into Thursday's game winners of two straight over the Packers and Raiders.   Are they still bad?  Yeah.  The Eagles, however, are only a game better, and in truth, they're just a mess.  They've lost two straight since beating the Cowboys (minus Tony Romo) in Week Nine.  I'll bet the Lions feasting on some Bird at home, straight up.
WIN; 45-14 Lions

Game Two: COWBOYS +1 (Panthers)
I tried predicting the Panthers first loss of the season twice previously, and obviously failed.  Here goes attempt number three - because I just can't help myself.  I know ... the Cats are coming off a romp over Washington, and that they're averaging 30-points a game, and that they play good defense. What's the sense in being a contrarian, then?  Dallas can still play defense too.  With Tony Romo back, I'm thinking the Cowboys are about to go on a small run.  They'll play just well enough to dupe Jerry Jones into thinking he's a good general manager yet again.  For now, it's party time at Jerry's House.
Loss; 33-14 Panthers

Game Three: PACKERS -9 (Bears)
I picked the Vikings over the Packers last week, and lost.  It was a trending pick.  That's what I get for not sticking with my convictions.  While the Pack managed to snap a three game skid, they're nevertheless bringing a sense of desperation into this game.  The Packers and Bears both have a recent loss to the Broncos in common.  The Broncos spanked the meat packers 29-10 in Week Eight. The Bears lost 3 of their last five games - none bigger than last week's 17-15 heart breaker against Denver.  The Packers defeated the Bears 31-23 in the season opener in Chicago.  Laying nine points at Lambeau Field seems very reasonable to me.
Loss; 17-13 Bears

Good luck, and have a great Thanksgiving Day of football everybody!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brooklyn Nets: Rebuilding the Future One Bean at a Time

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Brooklyn Nets: Boston Fans Shower Appreciation Upon Billy King For Helping Rebuild Celtics.

Let's be clear, before reaching court level, reasons why the Nets find themselves in this position start at the top.

Soon after purchasing controlling interest of the team, and on the eve of the 2010 Draft Lottery, Mikhail Prokhorov confidently proclaimed - May 2010/N.Y. Daily News:

"If everything goes as planned, I expect us to be in the playoffs next season ... and (win a) championship in one year minimum and maximum in five years."

On signing potential free agents:

"The excitement is with the Nets.  We will have a desire to win that is unmatched anywhere in the league.  This will be a first class organization with all the support it needs."

He's been relatively hands off, even preoccupied at times, and has yet to profess any personal long term commitments to the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center.

Financially speaking, however, there's no arguing the man puts his money where his mouth is.  As promised, the willingness and the resources have been available.

It's his front office I've fretted since day one.  The owner didn't necessarily tell them how to win a championship, so long as his appointed executives got it done.

On that note, the Nets never did win that NBA title (within five years), obviously.  Billy King proved money alone does not buy championships - or much else for that matter.  And so he's presently working on the next course of action.  I'd offer the plan is dubious at best - after all, King's constant roster manipulations have only served to plunge Brooklyn deeper into the depths of the Eastern Conference second division.

This blog has long maintained a displeasure for the way Rod Thorn was effectively shoved out the door, and at the time thought little of Billy King being named his successor ... and think even less of the job he's done to date.

The results speak for themselves.  After winning 49 games during their inaugural season in Brooklyn, they dipped to 44 victories two seasons ago, then fell below par with only 38 wins last seasons.  Now they're off to a dismaying 3-11 start this season.

Turn your attention back towards last Friday in Boston, and let's call the night for what it was - utterly embarrassing!

No, I'm not necessarily talking about getting smoked 120-95 by the Celtics.  I'm talking about getting dumped on by the Boston "bean eaters" in attendance.  Billy King was in the house, so you can well imagine how that went over.

The Nets' general manager was treated to chorus of...

  • Thank - You - Brook - lyn!
  • Brook - lyn - Draft - Picks!
  • Clap - clap - clap clap clap!

Thing is, had Billy King just slept in a Holiday Inn the night of July 11, 2013, perhaps the Nets could have avoided this whole mess.  Instead, he woke up on July 12 inspired to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston, in exchange for five players (Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph), and a treasure of Nets draft picks:

  • 2014 - #1 draft pick.
  • 2016 - #1 draft pick.
  • 2017 - option to swap #1 draft picks.
  • 2018 - #1 draft pick.

In other words, the Nets do not have control of their first round pick until 2019.

In the meantime, one could argue Billy King is rebuilding the Boston Celtics far more effectively than he is the Brooklyn Nets.

The Cetics outscored the Nets by a combined 221-206 scored during their recent home-and-home series.

Just saying...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

N.Y. Jets: Texans Will Test Gang Green's Flee or Fight Response

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS' REVENGE

Is Woody Johnson to blame 
for handing off the same problem to different regimes?

New York Jets: Like Herm Edwards, Eric Mangini, and Rex Ryan before him, Todd Bowles approaches the Rubicon lacking a field general.

The Jets had an opportunity to greatly impact the Wild Card standings last week, and instead played their worst game of the season against Buffalo.

Or, maybe they played their worst game of the season three weeks ago in Oakland?

In either event, this is not the conversation Jets fans wanted to be having leading into Week Eleven - certainly not analyzing one Green-faced performance over another..., again.

There's indeed a familiar odor to this.  I mean, talk about passing gas in a space suit - there's no escaping the fact they completely stunk during two of their last three missions.

Now recall how Herm Edwards, Eric Mangini, and Rex Ryan, all previously found themselves in this very situation?  Then consider how Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East throughout the entire span of all three aforementioned Jets coaches.  It makes me think how little has changed over the last 15 years.

Enter Todd Bowles.

I remember when he played for Joe Gibbs.  Bowles was about quality of play and professionalism even then.  That's all Gibbs dealt in.  Under Gibbs, Bowles gained the experience of becoming a Super Bowl champion.  He brings at least that much to the table.

But, what is Todd Bowles really bringing to the Jets that will affect tangible change?

It's still too early in his timeline to say.  During the week, however, we learned his sense of urgency is greater than that of the general manager.

Coach Bowles also knows the NFL does not stand for the National Forgiving League.  Parity inevitably rules the day.  League wide mediocrity giveth, and taketh away.  Yet, despite disappointing losses against Oakland and Buffalo, he recognizes opportunity is kindly staring him in the face once again.

The situation couldn't be any more friendlier.  Texans' starting QB Brian Hoyer will miss the game, with T.J. Yates starting in his place - whom will be playing behind a pedestrian offensive line to begin with, just ask Hoyer.  So, as a defensive minded coach, the hope is Coach Bowles dials up the necessary intensity, takes the home crowd out of the game, and gets out of Houston with a sure handed victory.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is returning from surgery on his non-throwing thumb, which makes me think a heavy dose of Chris Ivory is in order.  And why not?  The Texans are among the league's worst against the run.  The only real question lies in Chris Ivory's enigmatic injury (hamstring) status.

All eyes, then, will be on the offensive line - namely Eric Mangold (presently listed as questionable). They'll have two main functions: creating daylight for Chris Ivory, and keeping J.J. Watt away from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Easier said than done, as the Texans are feeling sky-high after toppling the previously undefeated Bengals.  Therein lies your built-in excuse in the event of a Jets loss.

And, there's the rub.

Distinguishing himself from previous Jets coaches was already going to be a daunting task in and of itself.  That's why any meaningful advancement must start with Todd Bowles owning Week Eleven, and his Jets seizing this moment - for the sake of change, progression, and advancement.

The Jets can still exert a firm measure of control over the second Wild Card with a victory over the Houston Texans (Pittsburgh presently tops the Wild Card standings).  Only then can they hope New England defeats Buffalo Monday night, and pushes the Bills back with rest of the AFC pretenders.

In that respect, no, some things have not changed.  Although general managers and head coaches have changed over the last 15 years, the Jets are still chasing down the Patriots without a franchise quarterback.

Todd Bowles indeed faces a daunting task, and has Woody Johnson to thank.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

PIGSKIN 2015: Week Eleven


Week Eleven


Week Ten Record:  4-9
Overall Record:  64-55-3
Schmear of the Week:  5-5
Bagels in the Basket:  +6

1st and Ten:
  • Two undefeated teams remain: Patriots and Panthers.  If you remember, the Patriots defeated the Panthers in pre-season game #3 by a 17-16 score.  Just saying...

2nd and Long:
  • After the Jets waited to play their worst game of the season against the Bills, both are pressed to keep pace with (idle) Pittsburgh.  Buffalo plays the Patriots Monday night, so if the Jets intend on taking flight, this would be the week.
  • First things first, there are all of five teams in the NFC playing above .500 football. That said, things aren't so cheesy in Green Bay anymore, are they?  The Packers have regressed to the level of the Falcons.  After those two teams, the rest of the NFC members are as threatening as the Little Rascals.

No Gain:
  • Parity hovers over the NFL like smog over Los Angeles.  I'm going against the Colts, Bengals, and Packers.  Go figure...

  • Ray Rice lecturing Greg Hardy.  Think about it...

Week Eleven:
Friday Line ~ NYDN

Jets -2 (TEXANS)
The Jets blew a chance to control the Wild Card picture last week, but get a second chance this week. I don't think they're in trouble, so much as they just need to clean up their act. Houston is vying for the division lead with a losing 4-5 record.  They're lacking at key offensive positions which should translate into a good day for Gang Green.  All eyes, however, should be on the Jets offensive line.   While Houston's defense has tightened up of late, they still can't stop the run.  You would think, then, with Ryan Fitzpatrick coming off (left thumb) surgery that Houston should expect a heavy dose of Chris Ivory, right?  The big boys up front have two main objectives then - create daylight for Ivory, and keep J.J. Watt away from Fitzpatrick (and hope Nick Mangold's neck is up to the task).
Loss; 24-17 Texans

PANTHERS -7 (D.C.Hogs)
These ain't the Saints!  Dance, Cam, dance.
WIN; 44-16 Panthers

Raiders -1 (LIONS)
A young, upcoming, albeit inconsistent Oakland team that got taught a lesson in focus against the Vikings last week, versus a woefully underachieving, just plain bad Detroit team that caught Green Bay at precisely the right moment last week....
Loss; 18-13 Lions

Heads I win, tails you lose.  Actually, the Cowboys are just better.
WIN; 24-14 Cowboys

FALCONS -6 (Colts)
Here's one of those games that just makes you wanna shake your head.  The Colts are playing like they suffer mad cow disease.  The Falcons magical flight, meanwhile, is losing altitude fast.  They've gotta be kicking themselves after losing three of their last four against some very pedestrian competition (Saints, Bucs, 49ers).  Go with Atlanta's ability to pull their heads out of their posterior before the Colts can.
Loss; 24-21 Colts

Rams -2 1/2 (RAVENS)
Necessity is the mother of all invention.  The Rams need to figure out a way of posting more points. In a proactive measure, Jeff Fisher is benching his starting QB, in favor of Case Keenum.  That's what good coaches do.
Loss; 16-13 Ravens

VIKINGS -1 (Packers)
This game is screaming follow the trends.  The Vikes couldn't be any hotter - the Packers couldn't be any colder.  Blaming Olivia Munn for Aaron Rogers' performance is laughable.  She's far from being Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry (or Tom Cruise - doh)!
Loss; 30-13 Packers

EAGLES -5 1/2 (Bucs)
All I have to offer is an exasperated sigh.  If the Eagles defense plays halfway decently, then laying two field goals at home seems almost too reasonable.
Loss; 45-17 Bucs

Broncos +1 (BEARS)
Crappy weather, cold, and confusion...  The Bears suddenly wanna play football.  They're 3-2 in their last five games.  I get that.  But, a healthy Jay Cutler versus Denver's Plan-B is a wash.  Yeah, that's an exercise in hyperbole, but defense was meant for inclement weather, and the Broncos aren't exactly a dome team.  Wear long-johns and take the point.
WIN; 17-15 Broncos

CARDINALS -5 (Bengals)
Game of the day!  This is only Week Eleven, so have a little fun this weekend.  Watch this like a Super Bowl preview.  Two good defenses; Cards hold the edge in scoring.  Covering this is going to be tough, but I do like the Cards to win (perhaps barely).  Proceed with caution.
Loss; 34-31 Cardinals

SEAHAWKS -12 1/2 (49ers)
With or without Marshawn Lynch, this is going to be one of those days!
WIN; 29-13 Seahawks

CHARGERS +3 (Chiefs)
Everything says take the Chiefs.  Sometimes I'm just such a contrarian.  You're on your own with this one.
Loss; 33-3 Chiefs

Schmear of the Week:
Cowboys (Pick'em)

Guten Appetit:
Flag on the play!  Kitchen Encroachment - I've been banned from cooking anything this week.  The wife has commandeered the entire first floor of the house in preparation for Thanksgiving.  I've been restricted to my Man Cave (when not being ordered to do something, that is).

Good Luck, and have a great Football Sunday everyone!

Post Game:
Week Eleven Record:  4-8
Overall Record:  68-63-3
Schmear of the Week:  6-5
Bagels in the Basket:  +5

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

N.Y. Mets: The Getting On With Life Podcast

Here's our latest podcast at 

The Rising Apple veterans threw their first log into the Hot Stove.
Sam hosted, joined by site editor Danny, Rich, and myself.

Favorite moments of 2015, and what's next for the Mets.
Free agency, the bullpen, defense, Dominic Smith
 and a New York Rangers hockey rant as well!

2015 New York Mets Recap, and a Look at What's Next

senior staff writer/Rising Apple