Sunday, October 4, 2009

Last Day of Baseball Season

At first glance, that may not seem like news. To understand why it's notable, you would have had to have been reading my work for at least the past couple of years. (You can catch up here and here, if you're so inclined.)

Those past couple of years have featured some marathon days of baseball and football watching, requiring some fancy television maneuvering on my part and some luck in the television schedule (the Jets on network television for my rabbit-eared TV, with the Mets on the baseball package on the cable TV).

The days with the above set-up have ended in utter disappointment, making me wonder which is worse - that one day of disappointment, capping half a month of terrible play by the Mets where they miss the playoffs on the last day of the season (not much worse the second year than the first, to be quite honest), or elimination from any chance at contention by June. I would say each leaves a bad taste in your mouth, with the latter bringing back bad memories of my high school years to go along with the disappointment. The only good news here is that early on I knew this Mets season wouldn't come down to missing the playoffs on the last day of the season.

So much, though, conspired against me having my usual "Last Sunday of the Baseball Season" set-up. To wit:

(Continue to 200 Miles From the Citi)

Nearing the End of First Quarter

So much can be learned about your NFL team by the end of Week 4 because that means there are only three quarters of the season remaining.

When I was a beat writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the early part of the Jon Gruden Era, I can remember Coach Gruden using that quarters analogy quite often in order to keep his team on an even plane. Even if they were winless at the end of the first month, he would say something like, "The first quarter is behind us. If we can turn things around in the second quarter then there's still the second half of the season left for us to salvage something."

Back in 2004, the Bucs lost their first four games but bounced back to win five of their next eight in the second and third quarters. They sat at 5-7 with four games remaining and still were alive for a playoff berth, but in that all-important fourth quarter they went 0-4 to finish 5-11.

(Continue to NFL Guru)

New-Look Dolphins Take on Bills

It's not the ideal time to break in a new starting quarterback, but the Miami Dolphins will try and make the most of it as they take on the Buffalo Bills at home Sunday. Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m.

At 0-3, it's panic time for Miami, which suffered a huge blow in losing starter Chad Pennington for the season last week.

That means Chad Henne, who has thrown all of 31 professional passes in his NFL career, is now the starter.

Henne struggled last week off the bench against San Diego, completing 10-of-19 passes for 92 yards. But Eric Weddle intercepted Henne, and returned the ball 31 yards to clinch Miami's third straight loss of the season.

(Continue to Dolphins Watch)

A Finn's Feel Good Trip Home

I sure didn't have to wait too long to pick my early season favorite moment in the NHL.

On Day Two of the 2009-10 campaign, an unheralded 27 year-old defenseman made me believe that these NHL Premiere games being played over in Europe actually have value beyond the standings points awarded to the winners---and overtime losers.

Ville Koistinen---OK, raise your hand if you knew his name prior to Friday---played the unlikely role of hero in the Panthers' season-opening 4-3 shootout victory over the Blackhawks in Helsinki, Finland.

(Continue to Jim Cerny's Rink Rap)

Islanders' Opener a Thriller

It's only Game 1 and it resulted in a loss, but the Islanders put on a good show for opening night at the Coliseum.

John Tavares had a heck of a debut, scoring his first career NHL goal and recording his first assist. He also missed a key breakaway, flubbed a shot in the sudden death shootout and whiffed on two shots from the left flank on power play situations. The good thing is that he was able to get himself in those situations and through time, he'll make good on those opportunities.

The crowd was electric - more so than any other regular season game at the Coliseum in the last five years. That was expected.

(Continue to Thin Ice)

Greinke and Impotent Royals

Playing in front of a national TV audience against the playoff contending Minnesota Twins Saturday in Minneapolis, the Kansas City Royals showed you why Zack Greinke is the American League Cy Young award winner for 2009.

Greinke himself didn't necessarily show you why he's the best pitcher in the AL, however, and one bad inning (the bottom of the sixth) may have cost Kansas City's ace the Cy Young in question. Twins starter Nick Blackburn took a perfect game into the fifth against the impotent Royal offense, but Mike Jacobs and Alberto Callaspo led off the fifth with consecutive singles. Any legitimate major-league lineup would score at least those two runs in a similar situation, but KC has no legitimate major-league lineup.

Mark Teahen bunted the runners over to second and third like a true pro, but Miguel Olivo grounded Blackburn's first pitch -- a fastball in front of his neck -- weakly to shortstop for out number two. Blackburn -- who yields a .323 batting average with the bases empty yet .234 with runners in scoring position -- coaxed an inning-ending pop-up out of Alex Gordon to preserve the scoreless tie.

(Continue to Sport Imitates Life)

Calling for End of Bowden Era

In a column that will likely bring great joy to Joe Paterno and Penn State fans, Steve Ellis of the Tallahassee Democrat has called on Florida State officials to step in and tell Bobby Bowden that this season will be his last.

"Let players — current and future — know that the Jimbo Fisher Era has a starting point — and that starting point begins once this season is over," Ellis writes.

Florida State was the preseason pick to win the Atlantic Division of the ACC, but Saturday's 28-21 loss at Boston College left the Seminoles 0-2 in league play for the first time since joining the conference in 1992.

(Continue to The Wiz of Odds)

Huskies Fall in OT in South Bend

The Washington Huskies had their chances to put Notre Dame away and they could not do it. At the end of the third quarter Washington had an opportunity to go up by more than 10 points, but QB Jake Locker was stopped on a 4th down QB sneak.

he thing that sticks out the most about this game is that Steve Sarkisian has the Huskies headed in the right direction and he has not been in Seattle for a full year yet. Sarkisian is instilling an aggressive attitude that may not pay dividends until next season. The Huskies went for it on fourth down three times, converting 1 of 3 fourth down attempts. Going for it on fourth down is something that Pete Carroll did on a regular basis when Sarkisian was on the staff.

The attitude and fearlessness that makes up the Trojans program is being poured into the Washington Huskies by Steve Sarkisian and former Trojan defensive coordinator Nick Holt. Washington just lacks the horses right now.

(Continue to Inside the Pac-10)

The Serve in Modern Tennis

“Unless you're one of those rare mutant virtuosos of raw force, you'll find that competitive tennis, like money pool, requires geometric thinking, the ability to calculate not merely your own angles but the angles of response to your angles. Because the expansion of response-possibilities is quadratic, you are required to think n shots ahead, where n is a hyperbolic function limited by the sine of opponent's talent and the cosine of the number of shots in the rally so far (roughly)”.

If your thoughts on court are less analytical of David Foster Wallace's ones, the difficulties in answering increase. And the serve, as a fundamental of the game but principally seen as the stroke to start and determine your game, becomes more and more relevant. But how much? A possible answer, a first rough evaluation of the importance of service in determining the result of a tennis match, could arrive analysing the percentage of tiebreaks played out of the total amount of sets run off.

The data presented here consider this percentage only in Grand Slam tournament since 1980 to 2008, so considering also the not-so-world class last Australian Open editions at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. This index has the advantage of being simple to be read and immediate to understand, giving a clear image without implying an excessive sacrifice to heuristic deepness.

(Continue to ATP Tennis 360)
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