At the end of every September, the sports world is on fire with the NFL season in full swing, baseball’s playoffs about to get underway, and preseason basketball just around the corner. Hockey was supposed to begin in two weeks, but those plans have been foiled due to yet another work stoppage. Players have begun signing with teams overseas and while they could return once the legal situations have been taken care of, this lockout seems to be headed in the same direction as the lost 2004-05 season. What’s worse is that those employed by the NHL have been informed that their pay will be cut by 20 percent and their hours will be shortened. Enduring its third lockout since 1993, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman should be ousted immediately.
After the replacement refs faired surprisingly well during the NFL’s first week, they quickly spiraled out of control during the second. We saw many of them look completely puzzled and not sure where to spot the ball, throw flags well after the plays were over, and make some rather unusual calls. Steelers WR Mike Wallace shoved an official without penalty (usually an automatic ejection), games were unnecessarily delayed, and while one ref was booted just hours before he was supposed to oversee a game involving his precious Saints, another supposedly told Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, “I need you for my fantasy [team].” The NFL is far and away the richest sport in North America: Would it be asking too much to get a fair game going?
While the New York Yankees have been streaking over the last week or so, those resilient Baltimore Orioles just keep nipping at their heels. This race appears to be coming down to the wire and with a week remaining in the regular season, who will come out on top? Unless something drastic happens, both will advance to the postseason—only one will be playing in the dreaded wildcard game. The Yanks are finally getting healthy (though Mark Teixeira’s status is still a question mark) and their hottest hitter of late has been Ichiro Suzuki, who is batting over .320 as a New Yorker. However, the pesky O’s continue to win late-inning games and will keep on fighting. Baltimore may have the easier schedule down the stretch but with the Yankees’ experience, I’m still sticking with them to win the AL East.
Even though most of the division races in the National League appear to be wrapped up—with the Nationals, Reds and Giants winning their respective divisions—it’s not certain who will garner the fifth and final playoff spot. The Atlanta Braves will most likely be one of the wildcard teams, but who will be the last? My nonexistent money is on the Cardinals, who still have a potent lineup post-Albert Pujols. Chris Carpenter made his first start of the year last week and if he can pitch like his usual dominant self, the Cards could be contenders. Whether it’s St. Louis or Atlanta that advances, I like both their chances against the Nationals sans Stephen Strasburg.
The story to keep an eye on over the next few days will be whether or not Detroit’s powerful third baseman, Miguel Cabrera, can become the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Cabrera is leading the AL in average, RBI, and is trailing Texas’ Josh Hamilton by a single home run at press time. The MVP award appeared to be Mike Trout’s just a little while ago but with his outstanding play over the last few months, “Miggy” is putting together one of the greatest seasons we’ve ever seen. Whether or not it’s enough to push Detroit into the playoffs is still up in the air, but with Cabrera constantly launching baseballs into orbit, don’t count them out just yet.
Beijing Ducks PG Stephon Marbury recently made some critical comments about the pairing of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. “Amar’e needs a point guard like Steve Nash,” Marbury told ESPN New York. “He’s a pick-and-roll guy, a pick-and-pop guy. He can’t play in the half court where everything’s slowed down.” There might be some merit to his comments, but it doesn’t necessarily take a mastermind to realize something we’ve all discussed about the duo. Then again, if anybody knows what it’s like to lose and struggle repeatedly, it’s him. “Starbury” single-handedly burned franchises down to the ground before leaving the NBA in ’09. Arguably the most hated man by Nets/Suns/Knicks/basketball fans everywhere, it’d be great if Marbury stopped being so envious now that the Knicks are finally recovering from the storm he brought on several years ago.
New Jersey lost one of their own when filmmaker Steve Sabol passed away last Tuesday at the age of 69. President of NFL Films, Sabol made glorious videos and was one of the main reasons I became infatuated with football. Like countless others, I relied heavily on watching his films during my youth. He went on to win more than 40 Emmy awards, was an extraordinary innovator, and changed the NFL forever. Thank you for everything, Steve Sabol.