Can Awesome Pitching Carry Mets to the Promised Land?

Mets logoAlderson

People have been screaming about Sandy Alderson‘s relative inactivity the last couple of seasons.  It’s been blamed on the Madoff scandal…it’s been blamed on ownership’s reluctance to sign big deals after the Jason Bay fiasco…it’s been blamed on the economy…why then is this man smiling?

P I T C H I N G.  Awesome PITCHING.

Last week Mike Francesa stated on WFAN  (I’m paraphrasing here) the NY METS have an awesome pitching staff top to bottom, and it may be the best in all of baseball.  I think I agree.  I have to admit that I am one of those fans who has been begging Mr. Alderson to sign a professional bat,  or two, to bolster the Mets offensive attack.  But I will also be the first to admit he has done a wonderful job creating a situation with the team’s pitching that is rapidly becoming an embarrassment of riches.  The starting five is solid all the way around. Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Niese and Colon.  Wow.  Not to mention Dillion Gee, with Syndergaard and Montero in the minors just waiting to join the bandwagon.  Obviously someone is going to be traded and someone is headed to the pen as the long relief man. maybe a professional shortstop is in the offing?

Matt HarveyZach Wheeler

DeGromJon Niese

Colon

and speaking of relief, the METS are so deep on the back end they could truly be a scary playoff contender.

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Familia…Meijia…Black…

Vic Black Parnell

and a healthy Parnell returns to close.  maybe not this year,  but this could be the makings of a perennial contender.  And that makes this guy happy too

Cuddyer

Leftfielder Michael Cuddyer ha expressed his opinion that with a healthy David Wright,  Granderson in right and an improving D’Arnaud behind the plate,  these METS could be the start of something special in New York.

Yes…there just might be a Santa Claus in Flushing.

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Meet the New Boss..Same as the Old Boss?

It’s exquisite suffering being a JETS fan…they being the New York Jets Football Club…a team that represents New York and plays and trains somewhere out the swamps of New Jersey. Back in 1967 I remember watching Joe Namath dismantle their old AFL rivals The Oakland Raiders at a game at Shea Stadium. I was smitten.  About 18 months later Broadway Joe was seen running from the Orange Bowl field, wagging that famous finger signaling that these same underdog Jets were quite incredibly, the champions of the football world.

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Being young and not exactly in tune with the ways of sports, and the ways of the world in general, I assumed more wonderful things were to come and why not? We had a great QB with plenty of swagger. Our defense was quick and athletic and ranked tops in the AFL They had just made the vaunted Colts offense look silly in the Super Bowl. And we had a core of talented players like Boozer and Snell…Don Maynard…John Schmitt, Gerry Philbin, and John Elliot who had helped Namath accomplish his grand task. We even had a coach who not only talked the talk, but walked the Championship walk. They should have named the stadium The Weeb.

Weeb and Namath

 

After The Chiefs barely dethroned the Jets in January of 1970, a revolving door of both players and coaches began spinning a frustrating championship-less web of ineptitude that has lasted for 46 years. Wow.

The early 70’s were a mess what with the likes of Charley Winner and pre-Notre Dame Lou Holtz running the show. Many of the Super Bowl heroes got old, got traded, got tired and retired leaving the franchise with bad players, bad coaching, bad bad bad. But after a heavy rain there usually appears a rainbow. A flash of color and hope. The Jets hired Walt Michaels…

Michaels

a tough guy with a plan and one of my all time fave coaches. His 6 years rebuilding the JETS were some of the best in the post Weeb Eubank era. He was intent on building a defense.

Joe Klecko

Gastineau

Joe Klecko arrived shortly thereafter followed by Marty Lyons and Mark Gastineau. The offense boasted an improving Richard Todd, Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker, Mickey Shuler and Rich Caster and suddenly the JETS were once again relevant. Unfortunately that dream died in the Miami mud of the Orange Bowl. Amid rumours of paranoia and alcoholism Michaels was dismissed.

O'Brien

When Ken O’Brien arrived, the JETS were a pretty solid contender.  They were in the playoffs  through most of the 80’s but once again they just couldn’t climb the mountain. We heard the chants of JOE MUST GO and then he did ushering in the Coslet era.

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The team achieved respectable mediocrity but not much else. Pete Carroll got his shot and Marino’s fake spike was his coffin nail. You may know the name…he of the Seatlle Seahawks, in the Super Bowl 2 years running. Leon Hess was so desperate for a winner he hired Richy Kotite.

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Mr. Hess was a good man with good intentions but apparently knew little about football. And we all ke know how this hire turned out.  But before his departure Kotite did the team one huge favor. He discovered a fellow by the name of Chrebet. Thanks Richy.

Chrebet

After the disasterous 1-15 season, Mr. Hess finally came up with a smart football move and brought in Bill Parcells.

Parcells and Hess

He turned around the team in a flash and had the JETS in the 1998 AFC Championship game. Vinny from Elmont had an awesome season and played a spectacular game in the winter weather in Denver. Unfortunately the rest of the team didn’t help him and once again the Jets fell.

Testaverde

The following year, the heavily favored Jets Super Bowl train was derailed in the first quarter of the first game of the season with Testaverde’s Achilles injury. As was his modus, Parcells disappeared into the night leaving the reigns to Al Groh who after one non-playoff seson caught the last train to Virginia.  And along came Herm. He played to win the game, and Chad Pennington did his best to oblige but alas, no championship during their time in Green and White.

Herm

Chad Pennington

The JETS have the most playoff wins of any team since the merger that have not appeared in a Super Bowl. An odd stat indeed. A sort of successful losing streak…? Woody Johnson decided he needed a MAN-GENIUS to run the show and if it weren’t for Brett Favre’s bad shoulder late in the 2008 season, a Super appearance looked pretty good.

Favre

Belicheat wouldn’t shake Eric Mangini’s hand.  Too bad.  His quiet intense demeanor was  soon replaced by BULLYBALL…as a loud intense Rex Ryan blew into town with a swagger and an attitude never before seen in JETLAND. He called out Belicheat and even handed him a few nice losses. It was refreshing and I must admit he quickly became one of my favorite JET coaches.

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But after two more losses in successive AFC Championship games, followed by 3 non-descript seasons including a totally bizarre flirtation with Tim Tebow and the John Idzik disaster that destroyed the 2014 season things had to change once again. Idzik’s lack of key player signings, combined with the ineffective play of Geno Smith and Mr. Johnson was moved to act. Idzik was sent packing and Rex shuffled off to Buffalo.

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And this is where Jet fans find themselves in 2015. Will Todd bowl us over or is this just another blip on the grid iron screen? I like Todd Bowles. A tough guy with a winning resume who demands accountability from his players. Parcells gave him a strong recommendation and it’s pretty obvious that he is a man on a mission. But wasn’t Parcells also on a mission? Mangini? Herm? Rex?

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Winning a championship in any sport is a difficult and daunting task. Winning the Super Bowl is a nearly impossible mythic event in this day and age. Can the new GM, a superb talent evaluator in Mike Maccagnan,  team up with Todd Bowles and finally bring JET NATION a Super Bowl champion?  Maccagnan needs to bring in a group of talented players to add to a mix that has some young talented players, particularly on the defensive front.  The offense needs an upgrade, cornerback has been a problem, a speedy linbacker wouldn’t hurt and what does he do about Geno Smith?!??!  Good luck Mike.

We are once again reminded it’s a process. Hope you’re not going anywhere fans. This may take a while.

 

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I’m Calling It The STUPID BOWL

In the interests of beating a dead horse into a nice equestrian filet, and even though every conceivable pundit, prognosticator and sports talk expert has already flogged this topic into utter submission,  I simply can’t let it go without a few thoughts and words of my own.

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Let me say right at the start, as many of you are aware,  that I am a longtime NY JET season ticket holder. Being in the same division with The New England Patriots puts me at odds with them anyway,  but their continued dominance of said division,  and their underhanded methods only serve to heighten my negative feelings about them.

Basically I despise them.

As such I have nothing but distaste for their classless grunting lowlife of a coach, one Bill Belicheat and his band of  Merry Tricksters. He may be a great coach,  but as a human being he leaves much to be desired.

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I find them to be representative of everything that’s wrong with sports these days.  Win at all costs, regardless of questionable, sneaky tactics that in many cases violate the spirit of fair competition..  They have a coach and star quarterback who are utterly graceless in defeat. Anyone remember their troll of a coach refusing to shake hands with Eric Mangini after a loss to the Jets?  And their owner? He is a classic example of the phrase “conflict of interest” with his chummy relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  Goodell has had his own share of problems this year but this relationship is rather absurd and just one more blot on Goodell’s record of questionable leadership.

According to an article by Cork Gaines on the BUSINESS INSIDER, February 3, 2015, In a recent story for GQ magazine, titled “The Season from Hell: Inside Roger Goodell’s Ruthless Football Machine,” Gabriel Sherman outlines just how close Goodell and Kraft have been and how it was Kraft that backed Goodell during the uproar over how the league handled the Ray Rice domestic assault scandal.  According to the story, when the Rice case began to spin out of control, it was Kraft who arranged for Goodell to do his first on-air interview, on CBS with a woman as the interviewer. It was also Kraft who lobbied other owners to publicly support Goodell.  Goodell and Kraft were so close, at least one NFL executive refers to Kraft as “the assistant commissioner.” Kraft was also the owner who “vigorously defended” Goodell’s $44 million salary.The relationship between Kraft and Goodell was further cemented in the public eye when the two were photographed together at a party just days prior to the AFC Championship game. This led Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks to speculate that the league won’t punish the Patriots over Deflategate because of the conflict-of-interest.

But enough about the Patriots.  If millions upon millions of advertising dollars weren’t riding on THE STUPID BOWL, we wouldn’t still be waiting for a conclusion to DEFLATEGATE.  Now that the game is over,  Goodell can sweep this under the rug and say no one ever told him about it.

On the other side of the ball we have The Seattle Seahawks and their budding dynasty…NOT.   They were quite fortunate to even be in this game thanks to a series of almost impossible events in the waning moments of the NFC Championship game. Simply put the Green Bay Packers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  It was an epic and truly astounding collapse of monumental proportions. It was right up there with the 86 Boston Red Sox.

So now these two talent, powerful yet tainted winning teams come to the big game, with lots of controversy. After three and a half quarters packed with some truly great football by both sides, as the cliche goes they saved their best, last heroic moments for the end.

The unstoppable Tom Brady made the Legion of Boom look more like the boom boom line at a local burlesque joint. Brady systematically carved up the Hawks vaunted secondary culminating with Julian Edelman’s 3 yard TD catch with just 2:02 remaining.  The Patriots found themselves up 28-24 after trailing most of the second half.

So here was Seattle with the ball beginning what will be remembered as one the greatest drives in Super Bowl history, until it wasn’t.  Russell Wilson hit Marshawn Lynch for 31 yards on a swooping sideline pass play.  Then Jermain Kearse made what may have been the single most incredible catch in Super Bowl history (move over Santonio Holmes and David Tyree)  The Seahawks were sitting at the 5 yard line with about half a minute to go. They handed the ball to Lynch, in full beast mode as he carried 3 Patriot defenders to the 1 yard line.

And here my friends is where I decided this would forever be known to me as THE STUPID BOWL. I understand this game was a classic.  I understand this game was chock full of excitement and amazing plays.  I understand it was great entertainment for the millions who never watch an NFL game until the season is over. I get all that. But it ended on one of THE most absurd…ridiculous…over thought… nonsensical… STUPID play calls in the history of the sport,  and maybe of all sports.

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I like Pete Carroll.  I really do.  I had wished that Leon Hess had given him more of a chance back in the day when he was the HC of the NYJ.  It wasn’t to be. Dan Marino made rookie Aaron Glenn look silly and that was that. Having said that,  what the hell was he thinking about on that last play call?  I listened to Mike Francesa go apoplectic on his show for over an hour whilst discussing the end game sequence. And I agreed with everything he said!  Pete Carroll is most certainly not a stupid man.  But the play call was absolutely WRONG WRONG WRONG!  Coach Carroll explained after the game that the idea was  to catch the Pats defense off guard with a quick pass in the obvious running situation.  OK…then why in the world would you come out in a shotgun formation telling everyone on both sidelines, everyone in the stadium and the millions of people watching the world over that you are about to pass??!?! If they had lined up in a jumbo set and then threw a quick fade to the back of the end zone, they might have possibly fooled someone.  And if that pass fell incomplete,  the clock would have stopped and they would still have two chances to gain the winning yard with a Lynch run.

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RUN THE BALL.  RUN THE BALL.  RUN THE DAMN BALL!

No sorry.  We’ll throw it in a sitution where Marshawn Lynch could have, and should have won the Super, I mean STUPID BOWL.

So a rookie DB…who probably would have been trampled by the beast that is Marshawn Lynch,  makes a last second interception on a play that should have never happened in the first place.  A tight quick slant over the middle?!?!?! STUPID STUPID STUPID.

Getting back to my hatred of all things Belicheat,  did we really need to hand him yet another Super Bowl victory they should never have won?  Uggghhhh

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ISIS’ Latest Atrocity Turning off Potential Terrorists?

Earlier today,  Islamic militants, or more accurately, Islamic terrorists, those whom we call ISIS, outdid themselves with an incredible act of  barbaric cruelty and senseless inhumanity.  The captured Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh,  was shown in a video being burned alive, trapped in a cage.  The authenticity of the video is still being investigated,  but that seems neither here nor there.  The intention of ISIS was to show the world that they did this horrific thing to a human being that doesn’t happen to fit their concept of what is right.  As ISIS crosses the line from civilization into depravity, the more difficult it is for the Islamic world to ignore the insanity. Muslims worldwide are now watching the actions of ISIS with contempt and disgust.  In Jordan vast throngs of people reacted to the news with a mixture of anger, sadness and nationalistic fervor as they chanted anti terrorist slogans.  Jordan, a bordering country to the Islamic State, has backed the international effort against ISIS since the beginning of the conflict.  Moderate Muslims in that country have denounced the almost NAZI-like behavior of ISIS.  The King of Jordan, described ISIS this way after hearing today’s news. He said, “Muath al-Kaseasbeh dies at the hands of a cowardly, terrorist and criminal organization, which has no relation to our noble religion.”

Young disenfranchised Muslims living in poverty,  in many countries,  are easy targets for terrorist recruiters.  Dissatisfied people,  living hand to mouth, struggling to get along are easily convinced that they are beset by imaginary enemies and ficticious dangers all around.  It’s one of the oldest and most effective techniques to control people.  Right now in Russia,  Mr. Putin is telling his constituents that the West and the United States in particular, are trying to keep the Russian people down..subservient to their Western Masters.  This has become a very effective way for Mr. P to whip up the fervor of his countrymen and as a result, a most convenient system to raise his poll numbers, which were in the tank a shortly while before the Ukraine crisis, and are now hovering in the 80% approval area.

By continually coming up with more outlandish and horrifying video events,  ISIS believes they are attracting more converts.  I think they have made a tactical error. They are fueling an anti-extremist movement amongst young Muslims amazed by the cruelty shown to many of their own, the Jordanian pilot just the latest victim.  Several weeks ago ISIS slaughtered an entire company of Syrian troops, presumably all or nearly all of them young men of the Muslim faith.  They were afforded no hearings, no trials, just unceremoniously executed in the desert.  They were innocent soldiers killed because their version of Islam did not match up with their captors.  Can you say Middle Ages?

Many of the policies of the Western World,  and the United States in particular,  can be directly attributed to the rise of Islamic militants around the world.  And the more we strike back, the more we seem to foster we an environment conducive to recruiting converts to these terror organizations.  We have been expert at stoking the flames of extremism in the Muslim world since Abu-Graib, Gitmo etc.  But now it may be that the very despicable actions of ISIS themselves may be turning the tide of moderate Muslims into militant anti-terrorists.  Perhaps their own terrorist propaganda is what will ultimately defeat ISIS.  Contrary to what many in the West believe, a great many influential Muslim leaders have been denouncing terrorism consistently for a long time. An article written by Hesham A. Hassaballa on beliefnet.com  quotes the following prominent Islamic leaders.

On August 11, Nabil al-Arabi, the Arab League Chief, denounced acts committed by the Islamic State in Iraq as “crimes against humanity,” demanding that they be brought to justice. According to Al Arabiya News, he said in a statement that he “strongly denounced the crimes, killings, dispossession carried out by the terrorist (ISIS) against civilians and minorities in Iraq
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2014/08/think-muslims-havent-condemned-isis-think-again.html#Ylqll0jYFuefgEcz.99

Turkey’s highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, decried the Islamic State’s declaration of a “caliphate” and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community, according to Reuters:  “Such declarations have no legitimacy whatsoever,” Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the highest religious authority in Turkey, which, although a majority Muslim country, has been a secular state since the 1920s.

On August 19, Al Jazeera reported that Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, the country’s top religious authority, said that terrorism is anti-Islamic and said that groups like the Islamic State which practice violence are the “number one enemy of Islam”: Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2014/08/think-muslims-havent-condemned-isis-think-again.html#Ylqll0jYFuefgEcz.99

As the Huffington Post reported, 100 Sunni and Shiite Imams from the U.K. came together to produce a video denouncing the Islamic State, releasing a statement that they wanted to “come together to emphasise the importance of unity in the UK and to decree ISIS as an illegitimate, vicious group who do not represent Islam in any way.” Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2014/08/think-muslims-havent-condemned-isis-think-again.html#Ylqll0jYFuefgEcz.99

Time for the leaders of the civilized world to stand together and make a forceful, and quite necessary, overwhelming MILITARY response to the evil that is ISIS.   They are nothing more than a band of criminals using Islam as a way to connect a loose band of misguided patriots, outlaws and lost souls.  The time for talk is passed.  At the very least an increase in both air attacks and drone strikes is nneded to seriously degrade ISIS ability to continue to function.

How many more innocent people have to be subjected to the barbarism that is ISIS before the world bands together and stops this insanity?

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Recipe: Creamy Smoked Salmon over Penne

In keeping with my intention of talking just about anything in this blog, (*much to the chagrin of those who wish to pigeon hole me)   here’s a favorite recipe of mine.  Of course you sorta have to like smoked salmon to begin with otherwise nothing else I say is going to do you any good !  ;-)

  

I start out with some smoked salmon slices or chunks.  Most grocery stores have them. a I cut them up into pieces about an inch by inch.  I then cut up some  sundried tomatoes.  They can be the ones in olive oil already julienne sliced, or the fresh dried variety. I like them a lot so I cut up and add about 10 pieces.  I add a bit of garlic and some olive oil into a flat frying pan. Set the stove to a medium heat but not too hot.  I add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and depending on how much pasta you’re cooking,  and how many people are eating,  I add a bit more or less.  I let it sizzle just a bit and then I add the tomatoes and salmon.  I toss it around for about a minute or two.  I then add a tablespoon of capers, 1/3 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper, 1/3 teaspoon of fresh ground sea salt (I like the pink Himalayan salt)

if I’m in the mood I also chop up and add some black olives (drain them first).  Let it all cook together for about 5 minutes.  While I’m stirring I also add a teaspoon of horse radish, a few dashes of parsley, cumin, cardamom, 1/4 cup white wine and one teaspoon of onion powder.  Stir it gently (don’t want to mash the salmon) for about another 3-5 minutes.

Just when it’s all blended and the delicious smell is filling the kitchen,  I add three or four large spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt. Blend that together with the mixture in the pan.

Turn down the heat and let it just sit for a few minutes.

While you’re making the salmon boil up the pasta.  I like it a little firmer rather than too soft ( al dente ) I like bow ties or penne the best with this dish.

Some people combine the salmon mixture and the pasta in a large bowl and then serve it. I prefer to put the drained pasta on the plate and then spoon the mixture over the pasta.

I then grate some Pecorino Romano cheese over the pasta and as they say in Italy…M A N G I A! A nice chunk of crusty Italian bread goes nicely,  and though some people say they must have a white wine with this dish, I always go for a full bodied red.

Broccoli rabe, mushrooms or string beans all work well as side dishes to this dinner.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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Carmen Lundy’s SOUL to SOUL

Carmen Lundy's latest collection of original contemporary jazz music is nothing short of a revelation.  It is about 70 minutes of jubilation spewing forth from a confident artist and her band upon achieving a higher level.  Allow me to say a few words about my favorite works in the collection.

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The opening track KINDRED SPIRITS may be Carmen’s life story though it sounds like it could be the biography of any of us and I think that’s why it connects.  I am particularly taken by both her chord changes and the elastic fluidity of her searching voice. It’s quite an accomplishment that she brings such power and depth to a song that could be on the Top 40 jazz charts. Drummer Jamison Ross and Darryl Hall on electric bass push the track to places with an uplifting feel generating a power seldom felt in modern jazz.

 

The second cut in the collection entitled LIFE IS A SONG IN ME lays down a sultry groove that serves as the perfect foundation for Carmen’s vocal journey.  Patrice Rushen’s work on Rhodes is a smooth atmospheric ride over the relaxed rolling track.  The chorus almost becomes a sort of African chant and once it’s in your brain it’s there to stay.

 

The title tone SOUL TO SOUL adds Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn and Ava Rovatti on the tenor sax. Ms. Lundy’s voice floats gently above a dreamy track that slides between keys and time signatures with an ease and grace. There are few if any serious jazz vocalists taking the chances Carmen Lundy is taking. This sort of exploration is common amongst instrumentalists but seldom is it practiced by a vocalist and even less seldomly by a vocalist of the breadth and depth of Carmen Lundy.  Jamison Ross is a wonderful drummer who twists and turns and pulls everything together with a tasty light tough and impeccable feel.

When I saw the show at The Jazz Standard in NYC in December 2014,  Carmen did the song WHEN WILL THEY LEARN and she prefaced the song with the explanation that the lyric referred to drugs.  I found that an interesting inference because upon first listening I was drawn to a possible political explanation of the lyric.  Again Carmen wraps her voice around a beautiful melodic slant complimented beautifully by her comfortable band. Carol Robbins work on the harp adds a completely unexpected dimension to the track.

DAYBREAK is a peppy ode to Carmen’s “baby”.  It’s a jumpy little piece of  bop.  Just when I expected to hear a tenor sax break cutting through, Warren Wolf threw me a curve with his thoughtful vibes.
The next track is called BETWEEN THE DARKNESS AND THE DAWN, and it’s a syncopated word poem in a bluesy style made memorable by the interesting flights of Carmen’s scat singing.
One of my faves on the collection is GRACE.  I can see the African plains…a long line of women in white…under a bright blue sky and great puffs of white clouds…the Mississippi delta in June..this music evokes so many images.  The relaxed mood allows the vocals to breathe in a completely new light finding their way above a nostalgic track. The lyric is a thankful prayer for the amazing grace that has woven itself through so many lives.
The mood become more uptempo with GRATEFUL.  Patrice Rushen’s piano pushes the track ever forward as Ms. Lundy expresses her gratitude in a bright and engaging swing.  Bennie Maupin’s tenor say is just the right accompaniment to the spirit of the song.
EVERYTHING I NEED is a mid tempo bossa nova groove that pulls us in to Carmen Lundy’s warm and engaging vocal performance. Her expressions of love for her special one are both genuine and flowing.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY, MORNING GLORY wraps up the collection.  It’s an odd little tune.  It’s sort of a collision between Carmen’s classic past and her newer musical explorations.  It comes together in an easy sultry kind of  meltdown.  An interesting end to a very interesting collection of music.  If you haven’t discovered Carmen Lundy and her amazing music, SOUL TO SOUL is as good a place to start as any.  I would also highly recommend her albums CHANGES…and one of her oldies NIGHT AND DAY.  Truly brilliant stuff !

 

 

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Goodbye Rex…and Good Luck!

Yesterday Woody Johnson,  the owner of the football menagerie known as the New York Jets, cut loose his General manager John Idzik,  and his coach Rex Ryan.  Idzik didn’t do much after two years on the job and Rex hadn’t really done much since his back to back AFC Title Game appearances in years one and two of his time with the team.  This circumstance certainly wasn’t a surprise to anyone who follows the JETS.

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If you know me at all you know I am a passionate (bordering on maniacal) Jet fan, who has had season tickets since 1977.  I’ve followed this team closely since 1967 and I’ve seen all of the ups and downs…highs and lows…the coaching carousel that never seems to stop long enough to contemplate a man’s era.  Rex had six years.  That was a pretty good run.  If the JETS had gone 9-7 this year and snuck into the playoffs I wouldn’t be sitting here right now writing yet another obituary for a coach that just didn’t get it done. He didn’t have to get to he Super Bowl in 2014.  I think after last year all he had to do was get to the playoffs.  Unfortunately for him and the JETS he didn’t make it.  John Idzik’s salary cap maneuvering should have guaranteed Rex would have made it.  What with all those millions of dollars of cap space just begging to bring in higher quality players. But Idzik either didn’t understand Ryan’s defensive system,  or simply ignored it for whatever reason. Cornerbacks on an island?  Remember that? Knock knock…?  Hello John?  Anybody home? Idzik’s plan this season was like asking Phil Jackson to win championships in Chicago without Scottie or in LA without Shaq.  John Idzik made a big boo boo that buried Rex and the Jets and ultimately himself.  Idzik made a point of informing us all that the JETS would be primarily built through the draft.  OK.  That’s a reasonable plan. Unfortunately for John and the JETS of his 12 draft picks this past year,  only 2 made the team.  He drafted 3 wide receivers…none of them are around now. If the draft is your baby then you need to show some tangible results.  NADA Zippo Nothing.  On top of that his free agent signings did little to help get Rex where he needed to be. Ivory…good.  Decker…good.  Dimitri Patterson?  Not so good. Even though this year’s offense wasn’t much to write home about,  had the JETS had the professional corners they needed to plat Rex’ system,  I think they would have been a lot closer to 9-7 than 4-12.

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Rex Ryan definitely put his stamp on things but in the final analysis he ended up with a career record under .500 as so many of his predecessors did. he was 4-2 in the all important postseason.  But he never got them to the promised land…a Super Bowl appearance…close…but no cigar.  Parcells took them to one AFC Championship game.  Rex did it twice.  No small feat for sure but he couldn’t take the JETS to the next level.  It certainly wasn’t a lack on his part.  Sometimes you need to be lucky and rex didn’t have a bunch of that commodity.

I have nothing but good feelings for Rex Ryan.  I found him to be a breath of fresh air in a JET landscape littered with dull, joyless seasons.  Rex brought a bravado that I really appreciated.  Hey…back to back AFC Title Games ain’t nothing to sneeze at,  but I’m just sorry he didn’t finish the job.  That second game against Pittsburgh was winnable…and probably should have been won.  Ughhhh

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Good luck Rex!  I’m sure you’ll land squarely on your feet.  Your future is full of promise.  I hope you do great things…actually I’m pretty sure you will.  Just do all of us long suffering Jet fans a favor…and do it in some other division so we don’t have to be reminded of yet another JET shortfall.

I was pretty impressed with what Woody Johnson said at the press conference. The image of the know nothing owner was dispelled as he got into the specifics of why the JETS were no-shows in 2014.  Now he has Charlie Casserly and Ron Wolf as his latest brain trust.  These guys know what they are doing.  Let’s hope the owner listens…and makes the right decisions.

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Can the Knicks really be THIS Bad?

The New York Knicks have always held a special place in my sports heart.

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Walt “Clyde” Frazier…Willis Reed…Dave DeBusschere…Patrick Ewing…Charles Oakley…Allan Houston..The “dunk”…LJ’s magical 3…Willis against the Lakers…it’s been a long long stretch between championship seasons but with the arrival of Phil “the Zen Master” Jackson, it seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel was shining a bit brighter. And why not?  12 Championships makes for a pretty impressive resume.  Of course he had Michael and Scottie and Kobe and Shaq, not to mention Cartwright and Paxson and Rodman and Fisher and Gasol etc etc etc etc .

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Let me state that I am not one of these Knick fans losing their mind at the current state of affairs. Am I amazed by the futility?  yes I am.  Am I astounded by the inability to finish games?  To play defense? To make the big shot? Frankly …yes I am.  It’s no secret this team is flawed.  It’s no secret that there is little or nor scoring punch after Carmelo Anthony and when your best defensive player is a 30-something guard, the chances for success are limited indeed particularly after they traded Tyson Chandler, a defensive force in the middle.

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But there are professional players on this team.  Stoudemire is old and beat up but he has played well and is a hard working example for young players. JR Smith,  the enigma, is only a year removed from the sixth man award. Iman Shumpert? Tim Hardaway Jr?  Not exactly a hall of fame caliber roster but 5 and 26??  Are you kidding me?  Maybe Derek Fisher is in over his head? Some of his moves have been perplexing but we all must remember that Fisher is only a season away from playing.  Though he has been a champion several times and an articulate and intelligent basketball mind,  he is still a rookie in a market that is incredibly unforgiving. A market that has lost all patience with losing.  This is a market that has limped through the follies of Isaiah Thomas…the Larry Brown saga…the Donnie Walsh era and the head scratching firing of Glenn Grunwald… the numerous, ridiculous decisions of  owner Jim Dolan.  This fan base has had enough.  And yet I am willing to go through this miserable season in the hopes that Phil Jackson can deliver on his Christmas message when he said via Twitter, “#knicknation Merry Christmas to all and Peace on earth. Please be assured your hopes and wishes are getting through to Santa. He will bring #knicknation a better 2015 than 14. The effort and skill of our team will grow as the players learn how to play with and for each other.”

I could be wrong but I think Santa Phil has a pretty good handle on what has to happen in New York before these Knicks can win a championship. Even though we are mired in an absurd low-light of a season, I do believe the franchise will rise again in the next couple of years.

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34 Years in An Instant…

I remember 1980 was an unusually warm year. Even the month of December seemed sort of balmy.  It was a Sunday afternoon like any other.  I was packing up my briefcase to head off to work at Oceans New York, the tropical fish import company I owned at the time. Big shipments were due in from overseas that evening and since it was about a 45 minute drive from Port Washington to the warehouse, I liked to get rolling around 130 in the afternoon..  I had paperwork to do for US Fish & Wildlife Service and US Customs.  I always checked in with my partner and my key people to make sure everything was in order. Everything was on time and the whole import process was going smoothly.  I kissed my wife and my young son goodbye,  and said I’d see her the next day.  I knew I wasn’t getting home until 6 or 7 Monday night.  This was the toughest stretch during the week…a 30+ hour marathon of saltwater and shriveled hands.  A test of mental and physical acuity to which I had become accustomed.  I remember thinking that it was lucky that such a large amount of valuable live fish were arriving at a moment when the weather was not as frigid as it could be.

 

I began my drive on the Southern State Parkway heading towards JFK Airport. I was feeling tired.  The week before myself and the crew had put in well over 70 hours of hard work.  The schedule we kept was grueling  but I was young and strong and used to the grind. And anyway I loved my work and I was making a lot of money.

 

At 430am the next morning, after a night of relentless work, I crashed at my desk, sleeping in soaked sneakers and stained T-shirt.  At exactly 6am the clients would be lined up at the back door waiting to gain entry to the warehouse to scoop us what goodies they could find from what had just arrived from overseas.  I awoke at 530, stumbled into the shower and let the hot water bring me to my senses.  The clients began streaming in and by 12 noon the Monday Morning Crush, as we used to call it was over.

 

I remember eating lunch and reading the New York Post.  The Jets were completing a miserable season…John & Yoko had released a new album, his first in 5 years…Ronald Reagan was preparing to be the next President and there was a story about Ted Turner’s new venture CNN.

 

That night I remember arriving home exhausted from the day and being so mentally fried  that even the cries of my colicky son couldn’t keep me awake.  I watched the news and then fell off to sleep.

 

6am December 9th. The phone rings and wakes me from a dead sleep. It’s my sister in-law calling from her home in Stone Harbor way down south on the Jersey Shore. In my half wake state I’m confused as to why she’d be calling so early. She asks me if I had heard about what happened in New York the night before.  I say no thinking maybe there was some holiday festivity that I had missed.  She says someone shot John Lennon.

 

I sat in stunned silence for a moment and then I blurted out IS HE OK!?!?!?!?!  Quietly…in hushed tones she replies that he died from gunshot wounds. I remember my first reaction was overwhelming ANGER.  I yelled at her and said WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SAYING?!?!  She repeated the awful news once again and I could hear the terrible sadness in her voice. I was so crushed I wasn’t exactly sure what to say or think. I said NO WAY. HE CAN’T BE DEAD! ARE YOU SURE!??! WHO WOULD WANT TO KILL JOHN LENNON!?!?!  I put on the TV news and there right before my eyes this horrifying, senseless story was being recounted over and over.  I drove to the local deli and bought the newspapers as if hoping that the story was somehow a terrible mistake,  that it couldn’t possibly be true.

 

Life went on as usual that day and the days following. My insane work schedule did not relent.  I found myself crying on and off in front of (and with many of) my employees.  In front of my clients.  In front of my vendors.  The pain of the loss was so excruciating and so deep it was as if my mother or my dearest friend had passed on.

As the days passed I continued to buy newspapers and magazines telling the grim and painful story over and over again.  Each time I read through the articles I was searching, hoping that the story wasn’t true. I felt the pain for his wife,  his young child,  his friends. I felt the pain for ME. The more I listened to DOUBLE FANTASY the more bizarre and unreal the entire course of events seemed.

 

Eventually, like the whole world,  I had to simply accept the mind numbing sadness.

 

34 years have passed in what seems like an instant but the pain of the loss remains. Oh to think what might have been…what could have been.

 

English: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

English: John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Dysfunctional Jets Need a QB Again

 

Just when it couldn’t get any more ridiculous,  the NY JETS have found a plethora of ways to infuriate the fans, mystify the media and completely amaze and confound onlookers from around the league.

 

Where do I even begin with this morass of craziness?

 

 

 

First we took a developing QB who was on his way and treated him to a lack of offensive weapons.  Then we brought in another marquee QB to “back him up”  when all along it was obvious the intent was to compete with him and hopefully “push” him along. I’m not talking about Geno Smith and Michael Vick.  I’m talking about Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. So Sanchez is unceremoniously sent packing and through the typical NFL injury scenario he becomes the starter in Philly for the Eagles.  He plays just well enough to keep the Birds in contention.  I for one, am rooting for him.  Tebow is out of the league and doing color commentary on football telecasts.

 

Fast forward to this year’s continuing Geno Smith experiment.In the game against the Dolphins just played, Smith starts ostensibly to find out if he can be the leader of the future. I think we were all assuming he gets a 5 game “audition” if you will to see if he can actually do his thing in the NFL.  So what do the JETS do?  They run the ball 49 times,  and though the numbers are impressive, they lose once again.  Since the run game was so impressive wouldn’t it be a no-brainer that they mix in some play action and a few screens. Nope. So what exactly was the point?  They could have had Matt Simms handoff just as well as Geno Smith. Ahhh the absurdity of the NY Jets.

 

 

 

At this point I am convinced it’s a failure and the JETS need to seriously address the situation and decide where they are going. Smith might be an OK backup and who knows…some team might even want to continue to make him a starter in this league, but I just don’t see it.  I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again but that’s how I see it in December 2014. I am focused on the QB of the future and I think his name is Marcus Mariota.  Who?  The 6-4 219 pound Oregon signal caller seems to have all the physical and mental traits to succeed in the very tough NFL. His stats are so gaudy they seem fake. In three seasons totalling 38 game,  he has thrown 99 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for for nearly 10,000 yards and a 67% completion percentage. During this same time he has rushed for over 2100 yards!  Oregon Football at goducks.com described him thusly, The most prolific quarterback in school history has led Oregon to more wins (33) than any of his contemporaries in less than three seasons while holding no fewer than seven of the program’s season and career passing pinnacles, and eclipsing conference standards . . . Has accounted for a minimum of three touchdowns in 10 of 11 games and four scores eight times”

 

This guy can play and I believe that the JETS are a competent QB away from returning to the playoffs.  They have a few holes that need to be addressed.  Their defensive backfield is a mess and the offensive line needs quality depth.

 

Unfortunately the NFL is not a very forgiving environment.  Rex Ryan and his staff will most likely be gone after this disaster of a season but whomever takes over will have NO CHANCE of success unless they have the right QB to groom.  As far as I’m concerned that QB is Mariota.

 

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