Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nolan Ryan Makes Play For Pettitte

By Tony Mangia

Maybe the the Texas Rangers realize they won't be able to sign pitching ace Cliff Lee and want to really zing the Yankees as revenge.  Rangers president Nolan Ryan is playing this off-season like when he was on the mound---hard and fast.

Ryan might not be planning for a Lee exit but reports say he is making an attempt to lasso home-grown Texan star, Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte to ease the pain if it happens.  Cue the harmonica and start the first verse of "Home on the Range."  Nothing Pettitte likes better than being back home--in Texas.

According to sources, Pettitte called Ryan to congratulate him after the Rangers eliminated the Yankees in the ALCS---leading to Texas' first World Series appearance.  At that time, any contact with Pettitte regarding  a stint with the Rangers would be considered tampering.  Ryan waited until the Yankee lefthander became a free-agent before reaching out to him.

Pettitte hasn't declared his intentions for next season, but always expresses a desire to be near his family in Deer Park, a town outside Houston.  Pettitte spent two seasons with the Houston Astros before returning to the Yankees in 2007 to be closer to his children.  The Texas Rangers play in Arlington, only 250 miles from his family's home.

Pettitte, 38, has pitched well the past two post-seasons but is disappointed in the hard-line stance Yankee GM, Brian Cashman, took in an incentive-filled contract in 2009.  The pitcher feels he getting paid as a No. 4 starter, when in reality he is the No. 2 behind CC Sabathia.  He started last season with a 11-2 record with a 2.70 ERA but later missed a couple of months with a pulled groin. 

Pettitte has been doing his annual 'Will he or won't he retire' routine.  A couple of weeks ago, Pettitte told a Houston radio station he would play in "New York or nowhere for sure." Ryan has not denied expressing interest in the Yankee (he declined comment through a Texas spokesman), but Pettitte might be using this as leverage to get back at Cashman.  Pettitte has never showed any interest in playing for the Rangers but it looks like logical plan B.

It seems improbable that Pettitte will leave the Bronx.  He has stated many times his desire to finish career in pinstripes and has turned down offers from other teams including the Los Angeles Dodgers when Joe Torre was there.

Pettitte was paid $11.75 million last year, well below the erratic A.J. Burnett's $16.5 million.  Burnett was a complete washout and Pettitte could be the most important key to next season's success. Unless Burnett completely turns it around--which is doubtful--he looks like dead weight until his contract is up.

If the Yankees land Lee and pair him with Sabathia, they will have the best 1-2 punch in the majors.  Add that pair to Pettitte and Phil Hughes and it is the best starting rotation in baseball.

There are reportedly six teams still in the mix for Lee.  The Rangers are climbing out of bankruptcy and a $130 million contract would take almost 30% of their total budget--not advantageous considering MVP Josh Hamilton's contract is up for renewal next year.

The Yankees are clearly the front runners for Lee, but Ryan is not going to let his ace go quietly into the Texas sunset. What the Rangers can offer  family men Lee and Pettitte is the convenience of being near their homes and Ryan's reputation as  a legendary Texan has a lot of influence. He might even offer  a plan where the two pitchers could fly to their families on off days--ala Roger Clemens.

If by chance the Yankees lose Pettitte, they could be in a bad place.  There aren't many quality starters of Lee and Pettitte's caliber.  Sticky negotiations with two other members of the Core Four have already got Cashman and the Yankees crunching numbers.  Derek Jeter has been told to 'test the market' and Mariano Rivera turned 41 the other day.

Everything looked so much easier for the Yankees only a few weeks ago.  Cashman's unsentimental hard-line stance might have to soften.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Some Reasons For Derek Jeter To Leave NYC

By Tony Mangia

The Yankees claim they have not upped their offer for Derek Jeter.  Sources say Jeter's agent has lowered his demands and another report said that the two sides have not spoken in over a week.  Its finally come down to this and it may be too late to save the popular Yankee's image.  Even WikiLeaks is having a hard time deciphering this mess.

The chinks in Jeter's armor began to show this summer.  A weak performance at the plate, the bad acting after the "phantom beaning" in Tampa and culminating with the howls of disapproval after the shortstop won a Gold Glove.  A disappointing post-season and now a very public contract dispute have led to the prince of the city sporting a tarnished crown.

Since 1996, the brightest and most recognizable face in New York not named Giuliani and the poster boy for major league baseball quietly handled success and all the notoriety that goes with it.  Not an easy thing to do under the glaring New York City lights.  Jeter did it with class and a beautiful woman holding his arm.  A difficult feat considering the frenzied New York City media was chewing on the other hand.

The day of reckoning has come.  Jeter must face up to the fact he no longer has the legs of a young colt or the power of a buck.  The flashes of brilliance are more apt to be flashes of the paparazzi these days.  Jeter has changed in the last fifteen years.  The city is not the same one I knew either.

Everything changes.  New York City has transformed since the young shortstop with a fade haircut rolled in from Kalamazoo.  While Jeter and the iconic Core Four were piling up victories and championship parades and the city picked up the pieces from 9/11, Manhattan evolved into some kind of adult amusement park.

If Jeter ends up in a San Francisco Giants uniform or even a (no way) Red Sox flannel, New York will survive.  Maybe the following list of peeves which annoy New Yorkers could help make Jeter's possible relocation to a faraway place easier.

Jeter already has his Trump penthouse up for sale.  He is off the dating market, but was told by GM Brian Cashman to test the open waters of baseball, so maybe something is up. As a lifelong New Yorker, I serve up these irritants to living in New York City nowadays. 

First thing wrong with New York City right now, the Kardashians, have roosted here.  The publicity hounds have made inroads into select places I never venture, but its the thought of them foraging here and filling the tabloids with their photos that makes me wish for more Jersey Shore.

A few years ago, while Jeter was the most sought after bachelor in New York,  the starlet-magnet would have probably been hitting on Kim or vice-versa.  Jeter has been in a long-term relationship with Minka Kelly (still don't who she is or what she's done) and there have rumor of upcoming nuptials, so we won't go there with Kardashian.  Anyway, the last time Kim, with an ass which could be a Macy's Parade balloon by itself, was spotted she was at ribbon-cutting ceremony for public toilets in Times Square.  Isn't there anything this chick won't do to get some pub?

Speaking of the Kardashians, Bed Bugs have overrun the city.  The little critters have infested Abercrombie and Fitch, the Waldorf and other high-class stores and hotels.  Roscoe the bug-sniffing dog has been very busy and sleepovers are not the rage.

Speaking of pests, stepping from the brown J-M-Z lines comes the Hipster---the fedora-topped, hip-hugging jean wearing, messenger-bag toting 'artist' mass-produced by the clone factory of Williamsburg.  When not handing out coffee at a Starbucks, these creatures can usually be spotted at some "dive" bar nursing a two-hour micro-brew and talking about their band.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Let's not forget the Tourists.  Who says the Euro was in trouble and if I hear "Vair is zee toilette?" one more time, I'm calling the INS.  It's called a bathroom!  And stop walking arm-and-arm-and arm down the sidewalk and clogging it up for working New Yorkers.  It's not NYC in 1984!  No one is going to snatch you from your flock!

In 1996, only Wall Street blow-hards showed off their cell phones, now Texters act like a public walkway is their living room.  God forbid you bump into some one yakking on their phone while holding their cup of latte and walking their dog---simultaneously.  Oh yeah you won't have to divert your eyes while you chat with Dog-walking friends, while they hold a baggie of dog poop like a Chinese fan .

If Jeter and Minka have children in New York, they will most likely grow up to be DJ's or Designers.  All rich kids in the city end up posing as one of those.  It's a phenomenon I still can't figure out.  Who buys those clothes any way?

I could rag on with all the other things that have changed for the worst since Derek Jeter graced the diamond at both the old and the new Yankee Stadiums.  There are Food Trucks, which stink up whole blocks (I'll take a $5 cupcake!), Pedicabs which charge $50 for a $8 cab ride,  Pedestrian Courts on major avenues and  Little Italy is well...littler.  There are no Wal-Marts and too many Yankees games can only be seen on ESPN.  Thank goodness Joe and Jon won't be lulling me to sleep anymore.

Some changes are heartfelt.  George Steinbrenner is gone.  So is Bob Sheppard.  The World Trade Center is still a big hole in the ground, but Yogi has returned from his self-banishment.  Some good news there.

If the Yankees give Derek Jeter the bum's rush like they did to his fellow teammate and pal Bernie Williams, the player's highlights will still remain. Good memories. While the Mets, Knicks, Jets and Rangers produced nothing in fifteen years, Jeter has five championship rings, "the dive" and "the flip"to remind us how important he was to the Yankees and the city when it was wounded.

This is a New York City which is ready to hire a school chancellor with a publishing background, never spent one day in a public school and sends her kids to a private school in Connecticut to oversee over a million city school kids.

If New York can do that, I think the Yankees could find room for a 36-year-old shortstop coming off a down year with the desire and a quest for 3,000 hits in a New York Yankee uniform.  If neither side budges on the negotiations, Jeter could be in the wind.  That might be one change New Yorkers will really hate.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gangstas Using Cincinnati Reds Caps For NYC Court Intimidation

By Tony Mangia

The Cincinnati Reds baseball cap has become a prominent fashion accessory in New York City courthouses and authorities are not happy about it.  This recent penchant for the Reds is not an affectionate nod to NL MVP Joey Votto or even a disrespect to the Mets.  The baseball cap with the iconic 'C' in the middle has become popular with Bloods gang members as a way to intimidate witnesses and show gang solidarity.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, more than a dozen men appear at Queens Supreme Court wearing the black-and-red caps with a red 'C' in the front.  Gang prosecutors claim that these young men are members of the Bloods---one of the most notorious and dangerous gangs in the nation.

Prosecutors say the Bloods gang members use the red 'C' on the cap as a poke-in-the-eye to their rival gang the Crips---who use blue as their wardrobe theme.  The members use other more subtle methods to show their gang red in other courtrooms, but are usually not noticed by anyone outside of the police.

Bloods consider the bright red 'C' a bitch slap to the Crips and a brazen message to testifying witnesses.  Officials attribute the high presence of Bloods in the Queens courthouse comes from the gang's stronghold in the nearby Far Rockaway housing projects.

Baseball caps as part of a gang's attire is nothing new.  The Raiders black-and-silver caps with a pirate's face was all the gang rage in Los Angeles during the '90's and the Pittsburgh Pirates hat is favored by the Latin Kings.  Right now the Reds cap is the color of choice by other gangs in Chicago and Indianapolis.

New York Yankee caps with gang colors were pulled from the shelves by manufacturer New Era in 2007.  The red or blue bandanna-patterned lids were lifted because of their gang-related colors.  Stores also removed others with a crown hanging from a gold 'NY' insignia after it became popular with the Latin Kings.  Regular citizens were afraid of being affiliated with the gang and beaten by a rival clan.

While the hats cannot be worn inside the courtrooms, court officers can only watch and let their own presence be felt.  A federal judge's 2003 decision to ban bikers colors in a Nevada courtroom was shot down and state laws are guided by it.

Court officers claim the gang members use their colors in other ways to make a silent statement.  They might wear red shoelaces or sneakers.  Even if they don't physically threaten witnesses inside the court, enough red-clad thugs staring one down could be enough to sway some one's memory or miss a court date.  What the glut of red says is 'We know who you are and why you are here.'

Not everyone who wears a Reds cap is a Blood.  Rapper Lil Wayne has made the hat (red with a white 'C') popular.  He wears it as a tribute to his son who was born in Cincinnati.  The Reds baseball cap is the third highest selling hat on the market.

Right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers cap is ranked the #1 gang-related sports cap, while the Reds is now #2.  Watch where you wear them.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Madison Square Garden Literally Putting Fans On Top of the Game

By Tony Mangia

Madison Square Garden is bridging the gap between fans and the teams they root for.  No, James Dolan isn't stepping down.  If hazardous material falling from the attic last month didn't scare you away from the rafters of the arena MSG has announced, as part of it's four-year, $775 million renovation, it is adding two spectator bridges which pass over the center of the arena and let fans look down onto the court or ice.

 The spans will give a whole new perspective to watching hockey and basketball.  The innovative walkways will be 200 feet long and hover 65 feet above the players below.  They will run the length of the refurbished Garden and be accessible to any ticketholder inside.

The artist's rendering of the cutting-edge design shows table and chairs scattered among strolling fans with a bird's-eye of a Rangers hockey game. MSG said there will be concession stands and fans will be able to spend as much time as they want on the unique attraction.

The "World's Most Famous Arena" will be completely modernized after 42 years at it's current location according to Garden officials.

MSG president, Hank Ratner, compared the revolutionary design to the Green Monster seats at Fenway Park.  "They'll be like no other seats in professional sports or entertainment," he bragged.

The two spans will join New York City's other spectacular bridges and construction is expected to be completed in October 2013, before the Knicks and Rangers seasons begin.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giants' Nicks Out; Playoff Hopes Sliding Away

By Tony Mangia

Eli Manning might want to remove "The Slide" from his resume.  He will always have "The Drive" as his legacy, but his bone-headed run on Sunday cost the New York Giants any chance of beating the Philadelphia Eagles and could ultimately cost head coach Tom Coughlin his job.  Fans are still wondering how the quarterback could have fumbled on a tackle which had less contact than a TSA pat-down.

Just a couple of games back from unofficially being called the best team in the NFL,  the Giants now are reeling and scrambling for a playoff position.  It's another second-half swoon that have characterized the Giants since 2004--or, coincidentally,  the first year Coughlin took over the reins of the team.

The Jacksonville Jaguars--who looked like deep-sea chum a few weeks ago--roll into the New Meadowlands Stadium this Sunday with the same record (6-4) as the Giants and something the Giants can only reminisce about--a three-game win streak.  The Jaguars are tied for first place in the AFC South.

The Giants continue to shoot themselves in the foot.  Every week the team takes stupid penalties (Jason Pierre-Paul is their latest poster boy), hand over the ball like Christmas gifts and give up big plays on the special teams.

Manning may blame himself for not sliding after getting a first down, but the whole offense is contributing to the slide.  Ahmad Bradshaw still holds the ball like basted turkey and there are still too many tipped passes which end up in the opponent's hands.

Maybe if the Giants  bric-and-brac running backs, Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, did their job, Manning wouldn't have to stumble the extra few yards before that fumble.  Bradshaw gained only seven more yards than Manning on the day and the flat-footed quarterback actually had twelve more yards than the powerhouse Jacobs!  How's that for Giants football?

Manning said he regrets taking the awkward flop, but confessed he thought he could run through the Eagles' Asante Samuel and Dimitri Patterson for six points before coming to his senses.  "Should have gone feet first," he said. 

Don't blame everything on the team or coach.  Injuries keep piling up.  The receiving corps should have their own infirmary. The latest addition is Hakeem Nicks.  Nicks was Manning's go-to guy and was having a Pro-Bowl worthy year with 62 catches, 800 yards and 9 TDs.  The wide-out was kicked in the lower left leg in the Philly game and has "Compartment Syndrome" in that calf.  The injury is a compression of blood vessels and nerves which could lead to serious problems if no care is taken.  He's looking at three weeks on the bench.  Hakeem, go join the three offensive lineman nursing themselves.

This leaves Manning without Nicks or Steve Smith--one of the most-dangerous wide-out duos (Stevie-Nicks?) in the league.  He is now dependent on Mario Manningham and a depleted bunch of pass catchers with journeyman names like Derek Hagan and rookie Duke Calhoun.  Sounds like one of the cowboys in "True Grit." Even safety Antrel Rolle has volunteered to fill in.  That's how bad the situation is--everyone knows DBs are pass catchers who can't catch. The receivers roster --which was deep at the start of the season--is down to bare bones.  Funny, Eli's brother Peyton has the same problem with the Colts, and he has turned a group of no-names into stars.  They both had bad Sundays.

Manning and Coughlin still have time to avoid another second-half collapse.  Coughlin has to crack the whip and coach like the red-faced taskmaster never coached before.  Critics, be damned!  The Giants are looking up at six teams in the NFC with better records and six games to go. There is no time for anything but flawless play.

The Giants D is still one of the league's best. Their aggressive blitzing last week did a decent job of containing Michael Vick, but it let Eagles running back, LeSean McCoy, roam free after breaking the scrimmage line.  The Jaguars' David Garrard can run, but will never be compared to Vick.  The Giants will have to mug Garrard, but the safeties will have to be ready for the open field running of 5'7" fireplug, Maurice Jones-Drew,  if they expect to stop their losing ways.

The Giants last two losses came against a Cowboys team which was rejuvenated after a coaching change and playing for respect.  Philadelphia was just a better team, but was beatable.  Now Jacksonville comes in and it is not as bad as advertised.  They are now battling for a division title, but outside of an emotional victory against the Colts, most of their wins are against bottom-feeders.  The Jaguars are one of those dangerous teams which other teams take lightly.  Not a smart thing.

The Giants talk a lot about not succumbing to a second-half swoon.  "Moaning doesn't help," said  Manning, whose occasional bad decisions still haunt him, "You start complaining about it, you start going 'Woe is me,' it doesn't fix anything, it just makes it worse."

What does get worse is the upcoming Giants' schedule.  After the Jags, they meet the Washington Redskins--who are suddenly in the wild card conversation--the Eagles once again, the Green Bay Packers and another desperate team with a new coach and a squandered season, the Minnesota Vikings.

The injured Steve Smith called this Sunday's game a "must win."  The Giants defense is more than capable of wrapping up the pedestrian Jaguar offense.  Eli Manning has to play error-free football and Coughlin must coach the team back into contention. If he doesn't, the swoon will be in full swing and the anti-Coughlin chants will once again fill the New Meadowlands Stadium.

Monday, November 22, 2010

NFL Using High-Tech Forensics In Favre Probe

By Tony Mangia

The NFL has reportedly hired forensic experts in an attempt to determine if the dirty cellphone photos of a man's private parts sent to a New York Jets sideline reporter are the of the football great Brett Favre.  Call it CSI: NFL.

Investigators will use the the latest technology to examine a SIM card, phone records, and a cell phone to find electronic fingerprints on the pictures.  The lewd photos were allegedly sent by the former-New York Jets quarterback in 2008 to the comely Jennifer Sterger.  The exchange happened during the Jets training camp and she was a sideline hostess for the team.

Sterger turned over the incriminating  material to the NFL in a 3-hour  meeting with NFL officials on November 12.  The owner of the phone has not been disclosed.

The cutting-edge technology, used by criminal forensic experts, could uncover evidence leading to an electronic trail to the owner of the photos.  One of the photos sent to Sterger reportedly contains an image of a penis, according to ESPN.

In October , the beleaguered Favre confirmed that he left lusty voicemails with Sterger, in an attempt to hook up with the pretty reporter.  He told then NFL's vice-president of security, Milt Ahlerich, that he sent the voice mails but denied sending the X-rated photographs.  The high-tech forensic equipment could trace all messages between Favre and Sterger.

The nasty messages were first reported by the website Deadspin.com after purchasing them from an undisclosed third party.  The website claims the penis-pics and dirty messages came from the same phone number.  Witnesses have claimed that Sterger showed them the photos and joked about it.

One of the romantic voicemails was a note from Favre inviting the 26 year-old Sterger to meet him in his hotel room.  "Just got done with practice, got meetings here for a couple of hours, then I'm going back to the hotel to chill," he says...Send me a text.  I'd love to see you tonight."

At first, Sterger was reluctant to cooperate with the NFL but was later fired (for unrelated reasons--bad ratings) from her duties as a host of a sports-interaction show on Versus and then reached out to them.  The former Playboy model hasn't publicly commented about the incidents.

Meanwhile Favre, a married grandfather, struggles with the alleged fidelity issues at home and injuries and losses on the field. He is facing suspension if the NFL determines he lied about sending the pornographic images to Sterger.  After the Sterger incident became public, two female massage therapists with the Jets came forward with sexual text message allegations against Favre.

Favre, whose Minnesota Vikings were soundly beaten by the Green Bay Packers, 31-3, yesterday, is considered one of the NFL's all-time greats.  The 11-time Pro-baller won a Super Bowl and has a all-time consecutive game streak on the line.

  At yesterday's press conference after the humiliating loss, the weary 41 year-old QB said he will "Go home and reevaluate tomorrow."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Big Ten Reconfigures Wrigley Football Game

By Tony Mangia

It took 72 years for football for college football to reappear at Wrigley Field and Big Ten officials waited 24 hours before game time to decide  the layout of the field was awkward and unsafe.  The Big Ten geniuses waited until the 11th hour to figure out that fitting a rectangle into a triangle isn't as easy as it sounds and announced that all offensive plays will face into the west end of the stadium.  Don't they have tape measures in Chicago?

Tomorrow's Northwestern vs. Illinois game will be altered after both teams complained that the six-inch distance between the east end end zone and the "padded" wall was too dangerous.   Now the teams will only play towards the west end zone--meaning teams will switch sides after each possession.

The ivy shrouded brick walls are now covered with padding which makes the whole stadium look like a giant high-school gym.  Oh yeah, watch out for the third-base dugout which borders the east end zone.

Apparently the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley only applies to one end.  Talk about 'old-school', this takes it to a new level--backyard football.  Did anyone mention that the oak tree on the left side is out-of-bounds and someone should mark that woodchuck hole at the forty-yard line.  There's a 'three-Mississippi' count too.

I don't know what all the fuss is about.  Officials should be commended for looking out for the player's safety but if arena football can be played with a wall on every side, what's a bumper at one end?  The people who paid premium prices for seats behind the Mel Hall Memorial in right field should be angry.  They'll be looking at the offensive linemen's giant asses all day.

The Big Ten announced the drastic rule changes due to the unique layout of the field and the problems the squared football boundaries posed in the baseball stadium. The novel rule changes include:
--All offense will be played into the west end of the stadium
--All kickoffs will be directed to the east end
--After a change of possession, the ball will will be switched so the offense faces west

There was a coin-toss conference call on Friday morning and it was decided that Illinois will occupy the west-team bench for the first half.  Northwestern will take the west-team bench for the second half and any overtime periods.

In between all of the teams' switching sides and general confusion there's bound to be a bunch of off-sides and too-many-men-on-the-field calls.  This could be more fun than outdoor NHL. Here's hoping a swirling wind blows in from the east, adding to the calamity. 

While # 25 Northwestern plays for a better bowl game position against the Fighting Illini in the "Land of Lincoln Trophy" game in the first collegiate football game at Wrigley Field since 1938, Notre Dame and Army gear up for the new Yankee Stadium's first game.  Hope those officials in New York took measurements beforehand.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hopkins: Pacquiao Should Fight African-Americans. Arum: Bring on Mayweather

By Tony Mangia

Manny Pacquiao still can't get any respect.  Just days after pummeling Antonio Margarito, Bernard Hopkins comes out and says that Pacquiao wouldn't be so good if he faced more African-American fighters.

Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, today said he is giving Floyd Mayweather "a couple of weeks' to announce his availability to get into the ring with his fighter and, according to the Philippine Star, if Mayweather doesn't respond, Arum said Pacquiao will look for another opponent.  So there!

Meanwhile, Hopkins, the 45 year-old light heavyweight, says the African-American style of fighting would be hard for Pacquiao to adjust to and wonders if there is a reason why the Filipino boxer hasn't faced one significant black fighter?  "He hasn't faced any top-notch black fighter," shrugged Hopkins.

There was one black fighter last year. That one fighter was Joshua Clottey (from Ghana) and Pacquiao thoroughly beat him in a unanimous decision last March.  Hopkins has dismissed Clottey by saying that the Ghanaian is "black" but not a "black boxer from the states with a slick style."  Most observers of the fight would agree that Clottey had no style at all and didn't even deserve to be in the ring that night, but what's Hopkins' underlying point?  Is he saying Hispanic boxers can't fight as well as African-Americans?

While Hopkins verbally bashes Pacquiao, the Filipino smashes opponent's faces and wins titles.  Sure Pacquiao fought other Filipinos and Asians early in his career and devoured Mexican fighters over the last decade, but look at the weight classes he was in.  He has won ten titles in eight weight classes--HIS weight classes.  Ask Margarito if he looked into the mirror yet after Saturday's beat down--and he gave up seventeen pounds to Pacquiao!

This all leads to the $64 million question:  Is it still possible Pacquiao (52-3-2) will fight Floyd Mayweather?  Arum has laid the cards on the table...again. Who else is there--Shane Mosley?  He's an African-American but, even with Hopkins' race-baiting, that match-up won't generate enough hype.  After Margarito's poor showing, most fans won't be willing to spend big money for another sparring session.  What they do want is "Money."

Here we go again (sigh) more talk of the "Fight-of-the Decade."  Wasn't that last decade anyway?  Could Hopkins, who is a partner of Golden Boy Promotions (which has contracts with both Pacquiao and Mayweather) be priming the pump for the fight everyone wants?

While Mayweather (41-0) pushes around security guards and wrangles in domestic and criminal courtrooms and Pacquiao talks about settling into politics, Hopkins may be setting the tone for making the big fight happen--make it a race thing.

Hopkins says it isn't racial, but what else could it be?  The Executioner didn't mince words when he said,  "Floyd Mayweather would beat Manny Pacquiao because of the styles of the African-American fighters--and I mean black fighters from the streets or inner cities."  Last time I checked, Pacquiao didn't exactly grow up in a penthouse suite, but Hopkins may have a point.  Tough neighborhoods (white, brown or black) breed fighters--kids who must scrap for food, clothes and respect.

The great Italian and Irish fighters in the 40's and 50's came from rough and tumble backgrounds.  Now, after they assimilated into the mainstream, they're scarcer than plaster-of-paris in Margarito's hand wrap last Saturday. 

Let's be real. Pacquiao hasn't ducked anyone and he can only fight who's available, worthy and in his weight class.  Arum defended his fighter and questioned the talk about him steering clear of foes of a certain color. "I've heard that, he said,  "The notion he would not fight an African-American is ridiculous.  The selection of an opponent has nothing to do with race, creed or color." 

Two times before, both Pacquiao's and Mayweather's camps have tried to set up the big fight only to have it squashed by drug-testing demands and refusals--mostly by Mayweather's camp.  Maybe Hopkins is re-building interest for the match-up by tossing around fightin' words  like, "I think Floyd Mayweather would pot-shot Pacquiao and bust him up."  Fight fans might say to Hopkins, "Just tell Floyd to put up or you shut up!"

One question does remain.  Is Mayweather physically and mentally ready to face Pacquiao?  While Money steps in and out of courtrooms, Pac is hopping into boxing rings.  Money has a January date in a Las Vegas court and he is looking at serious jail time if convicted--a scenario which could either speed up or wipe out any potential fight.  The drama continues.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Justin Tuck: Giants Will Not Sink in Second Half of Season

By Tony Mangia

It was all in the cards for a Giants last week.  The team was being called the best in the NFL, they were two touchdown favorites over a reeling Dallas Cowboys squad and it was the first game of the second half of the season.  It was the perfect storm for a let-down and the Giants didn't disappoint.  In what has become an annual occurrence under the realm of Tom Coughlin, the Giants began their end-of-season meltdown.

Quick what's 16-31 and blue all over.  If you said the Giants second half record since 2004 you win a prize.  With the exception of 2005, the finish the season with a .500 or worse--usually worse. This year will be different, the players say.

It's too easy to use last Sunday's blackout in the New Meadowlands Stadium on as a game summary.  Sure, the offense had a power failure...the Cowboys played lights out...but I think the fans, themselves, felt like passengers on that cruise ship drifting off the coast of Mexico--plied with leftover liquor for a wonderful while, then getting fed Spam.

Justin Tuck is all too aware of the team's second-half failures.  Except for the Super Bowl championship season in 2007, the Giants (6-3) have either not made the playoffs or lost in the first round since Coughlin became head coach.  He is adamant it will not happen this year.

Tuck said, " This team is different.  I think we learned our lesson.  Guys understand how it felt last year to have the debacle that we had."  Funny, I think he said that last year too.  "I think we're poised to make sure that doesn't happen again.  I think as a whole , we were completely sick to our stomach by how we finished the season last year."  The fans know that feeling too.

Then he used that old standard excuse that is supposed to knock a team out of their complacency.  Here it comes, "I'm kinda glad that the things happened to us [Sunday] night, because it puts us back on alert, it puts us back to thinking," the defensive end said.  I hope that Eagles quarterback, Michael Vick gets the message.

Vick, who is having his game jersey sent to Canton for his rampage over the Redskins Monday night, will be waiting for Tuck's defense this Sunday. Jon Kitna (?), who lit up the Giants last Sunday, is one thing, but Vick is a totally different animal.  I won't use the phrase "pit bull" like Vick's teammate, DeSean Jackson,  used last week to describe his team's demeanor, but he has a dog-like tenacity.

Quick, what has wings, is red hot and is green all over.  Sounds like a nacho plate but no it is Vick.  The Eagles QB, who is less than two years away from 3-squares-and-a-bed, is on his way to an MVP caliber season.  He has yet thrown an interception this year and was the first player in NFL history to throw for 300 yards, run for 50 yards and score two TDs on the ground and throw for four more in NFL history.  All this after coming off a cracked sternum--one of the most painful injuries-- after getting sandwiched between two 300 pound men just a few weeks ago.

With Vick calling the signals, the Eagles (6-3) look invincible.  Their total devastation of Washington on Monday night should leave Giant fans feeling more seasick than the passengers on that stranded ship.  Even Donovan McNabb's new $78 million contract couldn't rally the Redskins.

Now Big Blue will be traveling into hostile Philly, with their rowdy fans, for the biggest game of the season and first place in the NFC East up for grabs. The Eagles soar in with momentum and a hot signal caller.  The Giants limp in with a depleted receiving corps and a busted up offensive line.  A consecutive division loss could be the beginning of another second-half swoon.

Are the Giant players cognizant of the collapses?  "It's a new season, " said Eli Manning, "Play this year.  Why don't we talk about '07 then?" None of the veteran players really want to talk about the past--and it is the past--but it has been the team's history. 

The Giants hope to return to being the team that plowed over Seattle, 41-7,  two weeks ago and made the Texans wish they were the Oilers again. There have been flashes of brilliance by Eli and Company in their victories, but penalties and stupid turnovers have cost them games and deservedly so. 

The Giants hope they shake off the ugly defeat to Dallas.  "You prepare.  You play Philly," said Manning, "You prepare for your next game. It's all you can do.  It's all you think about."

The G-Men were flying high at 6-2 until that loss to the rudderless Cowboys.  Will their second half history repeat itself?  The past is hard to ignore and so will be Michael Vick.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mayweather Avoids Pacquiao But Hits Security Guard

By Tony Mangia

A security guard has accused boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. of jabbing him in the face and threatening him over parking violations outside the undefeated welterweight's Las Vegas home, according to police reports filed on Tuesday.

Police were called to Mayweather's residence on Monday night and misdemeanor battery charges were filed and submitted to the Clark County district attorney's office for possible prosecution according to Las Vegas police.  The unidentified guard has refused to publicly speak about the incident.

The guard told police he was writing a a new batch of tickets for cars parked improperly outside Mayweather's house.  He claims that's when the boxer ran from the house and physically attacked and verbally threatened him.

The guard said Mayweather has been in a dispute with him and other security officers from the local homeowner's association over parking cars outside the five-bedroom home.  He said Mayweather ran from the house and "became agitated."  A police spokesperson said, "When the guard rolled down the window, he (Mayweather) poked the security guard in the face with his finger several times.

The officer said Mayweather refused to come out of his house after police knocked on his door.  Mayweather told them--through the door--he wouldn't come out and to have a good night.

Mayweather has a ton of personal and professional problems right now.  He is due in a Las Vegas courtroom in January to answer unrelated charges of felony coercion, grand larceny and robbery associated with a dispute with his wife in September.  Vegas prosecutors also claim the boxer threatened his sons at that time.  Mayweather is looking at up too 44 years behind bars if convicted on those charges.

Pretty good timing for the flamboyant fighter.  On Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao battered Antonio Margarito in dominating fashion in Texas.  Mayweather has been ducking a fight with the Filipino and the unofficial title of greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world.  It was being called the "Fight of the Decade."

While Mayweather pushes around women and pokes security guards, Pacquiao continues to add to his legacy by pummelling opponents twenty pounds heavier than himself, and by avoiding the Pac-man, Money has played the fool and turned his nemesis into the people's choice.

Pacquiao is now being mentioned in the same breath as Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep and Ali while Mayweather is being called a coward who is afraid of losing his undefeated record to the speedy Pac.

Who's left for Pacquiao to fight? Shane Mosley?  He barely beat Margarito--even though the Mexican fighter was suspended after that bout for wrapping his hands with plaster-of-paris and isn't a draw.  It's a shame for boxing and Pacquiao that Mayweather is the only opponent left and he isn't worthy enough.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Middlebury Routs Tufts For Quidditch World Cup

Story and photos by Tony Mangia

On Sunday, under the night lights of a Hell's Kitchen park in New York City, Middlebury College defended it's title in the fourth Quidditch World Cup by defeating Tufts University 100-20.  In a sport where the the most prominent pieces of equipment are brooms, it was fitting for Middlebury to sweep seven games over two days to win the Quidditch World Cup.

The whimsical sport, made popular by the beloved series of Harry Potter books and movies, was played by 40 participating high school and college teams in DeWitt Clinton Park on the west side of Manhattan.  Teams from schools like Yale, NYU, St. Lawrence, U Mass and Pittsburgh entertained a few thousand fans who filled the park for two days.

The weekend's festivities came right before next weekend's release of Part 1 of the the final chapter "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." 

The complicated game mixes a combination of dodgeball, basketball, soccer and a little rugby into a fast moving sport. Players pass a ball and toss it through one of the opponent's three hoops to score ten points--all while holding a small broom between their legs.  In the books, contestants actually fly like witches.  If you can get past the sight of young adults hopping around with broom sticks between their legs, it actually looks like a really fun game and it's a lot more physical than that other broom sport--curling.

The co-ed teams play for about 20 minutes and the action is fast and rough.  The first aid tent was treating a lot of scraped knees and elbows, but an EMT said there were a few iced sprains too.

Teams with names like the "Violet Hipster Horcruxes" and the "Butterbeer Broooers" field 7 players from a roster of 20.  Headbands are mandatory. The game features player positions like "seekers', "beaters," and "keepers" who try and grab the "snitch"--a small purple sock in the waistband of a neutral player dressed in bright gold.  The snitch runner is probably the best athlete on the field because he is constantly running away from his pursuers or wrestling them to the ground.  He whizzes around the 30x 40 meter field like a canary after a couple of Four Lokos.

Even for someone unfamiliar with J.K. Rowlings' fantastically popular books about the young wizard, and doesn't know a Muggle from a huddle or thinks Quidditch is a specialty sub at Quizno's, the game still has appeal.  There are currently over 500 college and 300 high school teams in leagues all over the country, so it's getting attention.

Middlebury College, where the real life version of Quidditch originated in 2005, is like the New York Yankees of the game.  They are big and fast and were heavy favorites going into Sunday's game. Kate Olen, a returning chaser on last year's championship team was optimistic but cautious before the title game. "Tufts has a good finesse game," she said, "But this is the first time we ever played them, so we'll find out." Peyton Manning couldn't have been more diplomatic.

Even with the growing popularity of Quidditch, it's nice to see the simplicity of it.  From the trophies constructed of gold and silver painted paper plates and cups to the hula hoops held onto poles with duct tape, everything rings backyard fun.  Even the out-of-the-box remarks from the game announcer--a snide reference to computer software or a nod to liberal politics (look at the schools)--and pop-culture exclamations about a rough play over the loudspeaker are erudite. "They (the players) are like extras in a Jackie Chan movie!" is just one verse of his color commentary.

The booming event manages to stay as innocent as most of the youthful characters at Hogwarts.  No drug testing here and no Cam Newtons either.  They even have their version of the Heisman, the "Mansnel Award" for good sportsmanship.

I have seen the future sports star and he wears a headband and carries a small straw broom.   The sport's fans have top SAT scores and MBA's in their futures and they yell "Get the Snitch" from the stands.  Players who get yellow or red penalty cards are "sent to the hoops."  Maybe in the future, when either a bored Harvard or Yale genius kicks around some crazy idea one night, those brooms will fly.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

LT Called For Hit On Sick Daughter

By Tony Mangia

Former New York Giants football great Lawrence Taylor is once again dancing with the bars.  On Friday, the ex-grid star was a no-show in a New Jersey court where he is trying to reduce his monthly support payments to his sick out-of-wedlock daughter. 

Taylor--who is already awaiting trial for allegedly having sex with a 16 year-old prostitute in a Holiday Inn--emailed the judge a last minute doctor's note blaming a medical condition prohibited him from flying into New Jersey for the mandatory hearing.  The "condition" has not been made public.

This excuse apparently didn't fly too well with Judge Peter J. Melchionne.  "Why shouldn't I issue a bench warrant?" the angry judge scolded Taylor's lawyer, James Keys. The judge warned Keys that he was ready to sack Taylor with a warrant if he missed another court date.

While LT was willing to blow $300 for an hour with the alleged prostitute last May, the troubled Taylor wants to slash as much as $500 off the estimated $1825-per-month payments to his daughter Erielle.  The 12 year-old lives with her mother, Ebony Washington, and suffers from Crohn's disease.  The chronic intestinal illness was diagnosed earlier this year.  Taylor has never publicly acknowledged Erielle.  She is one of seven children Taylor has fathered with a number of different women according to court papers. 

Taylor made the motion after Washington filed in Bergen County family court to increase her support deal.  Washington says part of the extra money will go towards Erielle's medical bills.

Erielle's mother claims Taylor, who lives in Florida, misses more than court dates.  She said Erielle rarely sees her father.  "He promises to visit her when he's in the area, but he's never shown up, not once," vented the mother. She claims her only contact is via text messages or through his lawyer.

Washington also said Taylor had promised to increase support payments when his other children grew up and he was financially more stable.  Melchionne ordered both sides to show financial statements next month and set a February trial.  Taylor has already been accused by the judge of reducing amounts on checks in bank statements previously turned over to Washington's lawyer.

The "Dancing with the Stars" contestant will be waltzing in and out of a lot of courthouses in the next few months.  Taylor is looking at up to five years in prison and sex offender registration if he is convicted on felony 3rd degree statutory rape and 3rd degree patronization involving the Holiday Inn arrest.  He plead not-guilty in July.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Steve Lavin Wraps Up Top 5 Recruiting Class With A Big Man

By Tony Mangia

St. John's capped off what is being called one of the top-five basketball recruiting classes in the country and, without question, the most anticipated in the university's history. Yesterday, head coach Steve Lavin got a verbal-commitment from one of the country's top big men to join the five other blue-chip  recruits already lined up.

Norvel Pelle,  a 6-8, 200-pound power-forward/center, announced his decision on national TV and said," It feels like home away from home," about heading to New York.  The California product is the nation's No. 19 recruit according to Rivals.com and picked the St. John's over other premier schools like Kansas, Washington, Oregon and UCLA.

It might all seem to be happening too fast for Storm fans who have waited for the basketball program to return to prominence.  Lavin is taking the fast track to better days and it can't come soon enough to the Queens campus.

Lavin was hired last spring. Skeptics immediately dismissed Lavin as a west coast coach with no New York City ties.  He wouldn't be able to connect with the city schools and junior leagues.   They said his years as an analyst for ESPN kept him away the coaching game too long and he couldn't revive the St. John's program to where it once was--elite.  Those critics had their points and they were well taken...until now.

Lavin has already quieted  those who said he couldn't return the school back to it's glory days by bringing basketball to the forefront at St. John's.  Depressed fans are once again excited about college basketball and the new head coach did it with players from every corner of the country--including New York!

Now with Pelle signed, Lavin has signed five top-100 recruits--an unprecedented feat for the Queens school.  The coveted big man from Compton joins Dominique Pointer of North Carolina, JaKarr Sampson from Ohio, D'Angelo Harrison from Texas, Nurideen Lindsay from Pennsylvania and Maurice Harkless from a few F train stops away in Queens, New York--who all signed on Wednesday.

Rivals.com already rated Lavin's class the fifth best in the nation behind Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Arkansas before they signed Pelle.  Not bad being mentioned in that company.

Pelle brings a qualified big man to the Red Storm, something the most of college basketball lacks.  Pelle claims he picked St. John's because, "Coach Lavin is a very smart guy.  He's a very smart coach.  I just loved the way he approached the situation."  Looks like Lavin's talk is smoother than his hair.  "He knew other schools wanted me and he gave me space and also made sure I knew they wanted me," said Pelle.

Lavin inherits a senior-laden team which made the NIT last year.  The Red Storm hasn't seen their name on an NCAA tournament bracket since 2002, but this year's squad includes the athletic freshman Dwayne Polee and is brimming with tournament optimism.  Big East coaches picked the team to finish sixth in the conference and that would be good enough for a tournament bid. The buzz around Carnesecca Arena is now louder than one of Louie's old sweaters.

St. John's kicks off it's season with a nationally-televised 2 a.m. game at St. Mary's on Tuesday. Lavin would probably want nothing better than to fill up Madison Square Garden like the old days. Only now with Red Storm fans--who have been scarce of late--and bring some life into the dormant arena once again.  He seems to be making quick in-roads to success.

"The way we build teams is by signing players who have competitive spirit, quality skill and basketball intelligence," said Lavin, "We're highly excited about the first wave."

So are Red Storm fans, who would be glad to have a product to cheer about.  Echoes of teams past that would shake the rest of the asbestos from the Garden's rafters.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Top 10 Athletes: Careers Cut Short By Injury

By Tony Mangia

It's sad to see an athlete like Yao Ming go down again.  While the Houston center limped off the court after only six minutes last night,  the fresh legs of one of the opposing team's players was making a big statement.  The Big Panda could only watch as the Washington Wizards emerging star, John Wall, became the third youngest player to score a triple-double.

Ming, the Chinese behemoth is no stranger to aches and pains.  His career has been pockmarked with injuries and rehabs and hopefully last night's stress fracture of his left ankle tendon isn't career threatening.  The seven-time all-star is a warhorse from his thighs up, but but a fragile piece of china below.  Trotting a 300 pound body up and down the court can do that to you.

Another rising star, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, was knocked out  last Sunday's game because  of a separated shoulder--his second one this season.  Stafford has been one of the brightest beacons for the Lions and a major reason the team is actually winning after a decade of futility.

There was an interesting discussion on ESPN this morning about pro athletes whose careers were cut short in or before their prime.  As usual, the commentators went back to screaming at each other before finishing the debate, so I've come up with my own list.

The criteria: injured before prime, made team better, showed consistency and showed great promise (won or lead a major category or title).  Winning a championship is a bonus and being in a hall of fame is acceptable.

Some players still had major bodies of work in a short time--Sandy Koufax comes to mind--while others were hurt  (Ken Griffey Jr.) but still marched on to great careers.  Others, like the Cubs Mark Pryor, the Nets Jayson Williams and the Reds Don Gullet were peaking before their bodies gave out too soon.  Some managed to hang on for a few years.

While young players are laid up and compared to their contemporaries--Greg Oden to Kevin Durant--or come back from different kinds of diseases which could have hastened their careers--Josh Hamilton--there will always be the athletes who achieved greatness but make me wonder "How much greater could they have been?"

In all fairness, some of these athletes didn't benefit from the modern conditioning programs or surgical procedures of today.  There wasn't even 'Tommy John surgery' until...well, Tommy John.  Whatever fate has in store for Ming, Stafford or Oden, time will tell.  For now here are the athletes who should have had more time on the courts, gridirons and diamonds.

1.  Gayle Sayers.  The NFL's 1965 Rookie of the Year ran lights out his first four seasons.  It was the eighth game of the Chicago Bears 1968 season when Sayers battered knees first gave out.  The Kansas Comet was averaging 6.2 yards a carry and couldn't return until 1970 when he re-injured the knee and was sensibly done.  Sayer's heroic attempt at rehab was a sub-plot in the TV weeper "Brian's Song." He is still the youngest player ever elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.

2.  Bill Walton.  Big Red's first two seasons in Portland were marred by injuries and it wasn't until his third season under coach Jack Ramsey that the seven-footer made an impact and the Trailblazers won a world title.  While some of today's centers have names like Turiaf and Krstic, Walton battled against the likes of Jabbar and Unseld.  Early in 1978, Walton broke his foot, then broke it again in the playoffs.  It's hard to believe that  he was an all-star only twice and languished until being revitalized with Larry Bird and the Celtics in 1986 when he was voted "Sixth Man of the Year."

3.  Bo Jackson.  What can you say about the first two-sport performer named as an all-star and all-pro in MLB and the NFL?  Jackson might have been known for his Nike "Bo Knows" commercials but a Monday Night Football game where he rushed for 231 yards and knocked hot-shot Brian Bosworth on his ass made him famous.  A hip injury in 1991 put and end to his Oakland Raider days and he was never the same in a Kansas City Royals uniform either.

4.  Kerry Wood.  The flame-throwing rightie was a Chicago favorite.  In only his fifth start in 1998, the Cub pitcher had a one-hit, 20 strikeout game and many believe the hit should have been scored an error.  Tommy John surgery in 1999 put Wood out of action until 2001 when his fastball was called the fastest in the majors.  Wood struck out 266 batters in 2003 but a torn rotator cuff in 2006 sent him to the bullpen. His career as a starter was over and he became the poster-child for an excessive workload.

5.  Don Mattingly.  The six-time all-star and nine-time gold-glover may not seem like he should be on this list, but it is about the potential lost due to injury.  Donnie Baseball brought average, power and defense to the Yankees.  His MVP year in 1985 was one of the greatest all-round seasons in MLB history.  A 1987 back injury--attributed to horseplay with pitcher Bob Shirley--limited Mattingly's power numbers and reduced him to more of a slap-hitter.

6.  Joe Namath.  Another athlete who had a great career but makes you think what could have been.  Namath's world-famous knees were ravaged after his fourth season.  The 1965 Rookie of the Year's Broadway Joe persona could have contributed to Namath's health too.  Four knee operations and the numerous times his knees were drained at halftime will never compare to his partying and Hollywood lifestyle.  In between 1970-73, Namath missed 30 games.  He was the first QB to throw for 4,000 yards in a 14-game season, but also ended up with a dismal career QB rating of 65.5.

7.  Terrell Davis. Literally carried the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl wins before blowing out his ACL in 1998.  Elway isn't compared to Marino thanks to the team's 6th round pick.

8.  Tony Conigliaro.  Maybe one of the most gruesome sports injuries in history.  At age 22, Conigliaro already had 100 home runs and was on his way to stardom when he was almost killed by a Jack Hamilton pitch to his head in 1967. Who can ever forget that Sports Illustrated cover with the Red Sox player posing with what resembled a purple plum in his eye socket.  Conigliaro was Comeback Player of the Year after returning to the team two years later.  He only hit 62 more home runs for the Sox.

9.  Mark Bavaro.  Rambo is the prototype for all tight ends today: they catch and block.  Phil Simms' go-to-guy.  Monday Night Football 1986:  Bavaro catches pass and runs down field with five 49ers on his back.  That one play made Bavaro a Giants legend then and now.  He once played six weeks with a broken jaw but bad knees finally knocked the big guy out.  He was never the same after the age of 29.

10.  Ernie Davis.  The Browns 1962 draft choice never got the chance to play alongside Jim Brown. Sadly, after a brilliant career at Syracuse, the running back was diagnosed with leukemia.  He wore # 45 once at a preseason ceremony at Cleveland Municipal Field in 1962.  After battling segregation and prejudice, Davis couldn't beat the dreaded disease.  What could have been?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pacquiao's Mom Says It's His Last Fight!

By Tony Mangia

While Manny Pacquiao prepares for this year's biggest fight--basically carrying the rating-starved sport of boxing on his sinewy shoulders and, if you believe his mother, and the unconfirmed rumors that have dogged the world champion since his last fight--this will be Pacquiao's last bout.

A Youtube video shows Pac-man's mom, Dionesa Pacquiao, making it clear through an interpreter or that she will be ringside at her son's WBA fight Saturday night on the condition it is his final boxing match.  Now what mother hasn't said that before and what son didn't listen.  It's a standard plot which dates back to boxing films of the '30's.

Saturday night, Pacquiao goes into the ring against Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium in an effort to clinch the vacant WBC Super Welterweight World Title.  Pacquiao will attempt to win a historic 10th world title in eight different weight classes.

Rumors of Pacquiao's 'retirement' have swirled incessantly around the Filipino since he defeated Joshua Clottey in a one-sided decision last May.  Pacquiao was elected congressman in the Philippines House of Representatives after the fight which fueled more talk of his permanent exit from the ring.

Pacquiao's  trainer, Freddie Roach, has admitted his fighter's political responsibilities have taken a piece of the world champion"s training routine. Now his mom has thrown a towel into the ring.

His mom's attendance at this fight will be the first time she has seen her boy inside the ropes. The religious woman said she doesn't go to his fights but always prays "he will win."  She knows her support is important to her son.

If this is Pacquiao's last fight, it could be a classic.  He is facing a devastating puncher in Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) a boxing pariah who is fighting in the U.S. since being suspended for using illegally-loaded hand wraps in an upset loss against Shane Mosley last year.  The lanky Margarito is sure to test the champ's chin even without the plaster-of-paris padding. In 2005, the Mexican fighter literally ripped Sabastian Lujan's ear in half and later beat Miguel Cotto into a bloated pulp.

Many fans have called for the lifetime ban of Margarito for his corner's dangerous and disgusting stunt. His camp denies the allegations and  claim the 'confiscated, saved and analyzed wraps' were legal and blown out of proportion.

Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 KOs)  will have his hands full and his belly empty. He believes his speed was being compromised by going up in weight classes and has opted for being lighter and quicker against Margarito.  On fight night Pacquiao could be 20 pounds lighter than his opponent.  Even Roach is concerned about Pac's lack of bulk, but has faith in his fighter.  "He has been doing this a long time," the trainer said,"He knows what he is doing."

While California wouldn't allow the fight, Texas welcomed the bout with open arms and without a hearing.  Top Rank  (which represents both fighters) put the fight together after "The Fight of the Decade" with Floyd Mayweather didn't pan out.

Pacquiao is arguably the best-known fighter in the world but Mayweather has the undefeated record and is the only fighter in his class with the box office clout as Pacquiao.  The flamboyant "Money" has continually made excuses for not fighting Pac-man.  Meanwhile, Mayweather has a laundry list of domestic and criminal charges to contend with and was a recent no-show at his arraignment in Las Vegas.  Mayweather is equally adept at avoiding the ring as well as the court.

So the biggest fight of the year pits the people's champion against the cheater.  Margarito has a huge following in Mexico, where legions of fans turned up in support of his last fight in May.  This will be his return to U.S. boxing and his biggest payday.  As a thank you to the Pacquiao camp his trainers recently released a vulgar video spoofing Freddie Roach's Parkinson's affliction and stutter.  Margarito may have risen above the cesspool of his California license revocation but he still stinks.

Margarito might picture himself as Zorro in silk shorts repaying Pacquiao for his well-publicized dismantling of South-of-the-Border fighters like Eric Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera among others. He should draw a sizable home-crowd advantage in Arlington, Texas.

Mayweather has picked his nemesis Pacquiao to win.  In an interview with Fight Hype, he said," I'm going to tell you the truth.  It doesn't matter if he (Margarito) lay down or not--Pacquiao will still whoop his ass."

Mayweather's dad, Roger, chimed in and boasted his son was still better than the Filipino politician.  Sorry Mama Pacquiao, maybe there's still one more fight on the congressman's agenda.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Isiah Thomas Is Hazardous To Knicks

By Tony Mangia

Name two hazardous materials which appeared in the New York air last week and disrupted the Knicks week.  If you said asbestos you are correct but if you added Isiah Thomas you are a true blue Knickerbocker fan.

After last week's asbestos scare at Madison Square Garden postponed Tuesday night game against Orlando, Thomas, currently the head basketball coach at Florida International University, did a one-hour, commercial-free phone interview with  Michael Kay on ESPN radio.  Zeke professed his desire to become a part of the Knicks organization--once again. Knicks insiders took it as an attempt by Thomas to promote himself in an attempt to take over team president Donnie Walsh's job when he retires.

Walsh is recovering from spinal-cord surgery and is in the option year of his contract.  The contract can be renewed by owner James Dolan in March.  When asked about leaving, Walsh responded hastily," When I hear the word retirement, it's a choice I make!"

Walsh had been planning for the future though. He had been trying to hire former St. John's All- American Chris Mullin for the past two years in preparation for a successor after he left.  Dolan would not approve the hiring because he felt there were already a couple of candidates in waiting--Glen Grunfeld and John Gabriel.

Mullin, meanwhile, didn't wait around and last week took a job as an NBA in-studio commentator at ESPN where he can now complement his former teammate, Mark Jackson.  Jackson, with his real-as-a-schoolyard-foul game calling, is regarded as one of the best basketball analysts on TV while Mullin, with his gym-rat perspective and Canarsie accent, will be a nice bookend for his fellow New Yorker.

This brings everything back to Thomas, like he has a knack of doing.  The ex-Piston says he would be content in the role of a Knicks consultant.  He was hired in that position by the Knicks in August but was forced down after NBA bylaws forbid college coaches to hold an NBA job at the same time. How long has Zeke been in the league?  Doesn't Thomas have a clue about rules and conflict-of-interest regulations? 

It remains to be seen if the Knicks had anything to do with Thomas' radio conversation.  Three months ago, it was reported that Thomas was prevented by the Knicks from doing an interview on another ESPN radio show.  Kay said the Knicks brass prohibited the first interview.  Probably to keep his mouth shut and stirring up an already boiling pot. 

Why the sudden change of mind now?  If Thomas freelanced this interview on his own, does that mean he is pushing his return?  If he did, he has balls.  The Knicks are improving early in the season and the interview took place during Walsh's rehab and only one day after his Florida International team held its media day in Florida.  As one suspicious Knick executive put it, "Great timing, wasn't it?"

Thomas' self-promoting and hidden agendas are nothing new in New York or anywhere for that matter.  He said he still has visions of helping the Knicks win a title.  "I want to be on the float and I want to get my ring," the former NBA great said.

Walsh is now cleaning up a mess at the Garden, not the asbestos but Thomas'.  Walsh's predecessor left the team in shambles and still shows no shame.  Credibility?  Don't make me laugh.  Thomas and MSG were found guilty of harassing in a federal court.  It cost the Knicks $11 million.  He still calls Anucha Brown Sanders a liar and he has "forgiven" her. 

Thomas has amped himself into believing he is the key to the Knicks landing Carmelo Anthony. He bragged that he would have landed LeBron James if he remained team president. If he isn't campaigning for Walsh's job he must be waiting for him to keel over.  He claims he thinks about taking over for Walsh, "every single day of the week."

The delusional Thomas defends his track record (average 28 Knicks wins a season) with comments like, " I'll put my draft evaluation record up against any one's" and "I think if you take away that trial (Anucha Brown Sanders), I'm still there, we make the playoffs a couple of times and I don't know if Miami has LeBron or Wade."

Walsh took the high road after he found out about Thomas' remarks. His office has not released an official response, but Walsh said, "I'm not looking down the line.  I have nothing to say about comments made by Isiah."

If Thomas is planning a coup, Walsh better have a backup plan.  Mullin, Walsh's personal choice as heir is gone and it looks like Dolan is still ga-ga over Thomas.   The owner's favorite son must have cast some kind of spell that makes him look like a reincarnation of Red Auerbach.   Or maybe he has incriminating photos of his ex-boss? Whatever reason Thomas continues to be on retainer is not good for the Knicks.

There's no rationale why Dolan loves his Isiah.  It's like some Judd Apatow bromance.  The confused straight man partners with a twisted interloper to make illogical decisions, wreck everything in sight and not get the girl.  It is a tired routine.

Thomas says he wants to recruit James in 2014 when the Miami Heat player can opt out of his contract.  "I think when he comes to New York and he wins it (a title) in New York, I think he's the greatest player ever," spouted Thomas.  It looks like Dolan and his conniving cohort have been inhaling more than asbestos.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Eli Manning: 70% Chance Of Pain For Seahawks QB

By Tony Mangia

The New York Giants head into Sunday's game in Seattle teeming with positives.  They are well-rested after a bye week, have a four game win streak and lead their division with a 5-2 record.  Now, they've found out the Seahawks starting quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck will be out with a "slight concussion"and forced to the sidelines.  It takes away a chance for the Giants fearsome pass rush to make him victim #6.

The Giants defense was expecting to face Hasselbeck until yesterday, when the QB didn't pass his baseline test and was not cleared to play by the Seahawks medical staff.

In Hasselbeck's place will be Charlie Whitehurst, who will be starting his first NFL game and attempting his first regular season pass.  The Charger's 2006 draft pick will be facing a ferocious Giants defense which has already knocked out 5 quarterbacks in their first 7 games. Whitehurst must be wondering if he will become another casualty.  The odds look pretty high say the confident Giants.

Giants QB, Eli Manning, put it bluntly, "It's scary for opposing quarterbacks knowing going into a game they got over a 70% chance of getting knocked out."

The Giants defense may be unfamiliar with Whitehurst, who is more mobile than Hasselbeck, but there will be no compromises in their beastly pass rush.  "If Hasselbeck is back there we want to make him nervous," said defensive coach, Perry Fewell, "And if the next guy is back there, we want to make him nervous." It seems Whitehurst will have plenty to be nervous of.

While division rivals the Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys deal with QB comebacks, out-of-shape players and general chaos--respectively--the relatively even-keeled Giants are brimming with confidence.  They bring a balanced offensive attack and a rib-breaking D into Qwest Field--a place that hasn't been so kind to the G-Men in the past.  The Giants say they are prepared for Qwest Field, but history says otherwise.

First, a reality check.  The Giants haven't been very successful after bye weeks.  The team is 3-3 under Head coach Tom Coughlin.  Second, the Giants have never won at Qwest Field and have lost 4 straight in Seattle.  The Seahawks (4-3) are coming off of a 33-3 bashing in Oakland last week but are 3-0 at home this year.

Combine that with the noise factor.  Qwest Field is widely regarded as the noisiest stadium in the NFL.  Decibel readings reach indoor stadium levels and that doesn't bode well for the turnover prone Giants.  In 2005 the team was called for an comical 11 false starts in one game against Seattle and attributed it to the raucous fans.  Manning already has 11 INT's and the team has fumbled 10 times in it's first 7 games.  If Manning gets rattled by the crowd, his tinnitus could cause more turnovers than Democratic House flip-flops last Tuesday.

The Giants know they can make a big statement by beating Seattle on Sunday.  At this time last year, they started their downward swoon out of playoff contention. Losses to the Seahawks in 2005 and 2006 still reverberate louder the the ear-splitting noise.  Coughlin used the phrase "poise in the noise" at his mid-week press conference to prepare his squad for the home team's '12th man.'  He also used loudspeakers with jet engine decibels in practice to replicate Qwest Field acoustics.  Seattle coach, Pete Carroll called the crowd noise "a legitimate factor" in his team's unbeaten home record.

Carroll's defense isn't so shabby either.  His opportunistic bunch has a offense-numbing plus-eight in turnovers at home and allows only 12 points per game.  Manning knows he will have to be careful in the red zone.  "You have to block things up,"said the quarterback, "The routes have to be precise and throws have to be on the money."  Six of Manning's interceptions have been on tipped balls.

The main keys to a Giants win will be handling the noisy environment thus avoiding silly penalties and self-destructing inside the twenty-yard line.  If they hang on to the ball and rough up the raw Whitehurst early, they could prevail.

If Eli Manning's calculations are correct, the Seahawks might want to work out a third quarterback, just in case.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mets Slash Ticket Prices

By Tony Mangia

The Mets made their second big off-season move, after hiring new GM Sandy Alderson, and announced they were lowering the price of tickets for 2011. After another lousy year and looking at two months of barren stands at Citi Field, the team finally got the message and cut prices by 14%.

While not exactly the .45 cent New Jersey Nets bargain Stub Hub offers over at the Prudential Center in Newark,  it shows the Mets are listening and the sound of empty seats is deafening. 

Disgusted Mets fans endured another disappointing season in 2010.  Attendance dipped for the second year in a row---7,340 per game.  That's 600,000 fans fewer than in 2009.  The whopping 19% drop off was the largest in the majors.  The fans ran faster than Carl Paladino supporters after Tuesday's election night.

Even a shiny new stadium cannot hide the ugly tinge of losing.  The Mets have not made the playoffs since 2006 and are coming off two sub-.500 seasons.  Their annual September collapses didn't help.  

In a time of PSLs at Giants...I mean...the New Meadowlands Stadium and $2500 premium seats at Yankee Stadium, the Mets are taking the high road.  Dave Howard, the Mets Vice-president for business operations, said,"We are mindful of the team's poor performance and that's why you see Sandy (Alderson) as our general manager.  There's already a a new energy and a feeling of hopefulness."

Met fans might claim seeing Yankee players switching to blue and orange uniforms will give them hope. They are tired of watching a losing team. They also reason that the ticket prices should be lower than their Bronx counterparts considering the Mets futility.

The Mets faithful shouldn't be expecting a quick turnaround for the boys from Flushing. Alderson has already said the Mets will likely stay out of free-agent bidding this off-season.  Looks like no Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford under the Citi Field Christmas tree.  But there is hope.  The team recently exercised shortstop Jose Reyes 2011 club option for $11 million and leaves open the possibility of reaching a long-term deal.  They are still looking to replace fired manager, Jerry Manuel.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Western Expansion Could Kill The Big East

By Tony Mangia

On Tuesday, all 16 Big East presidents met in Philadelphia and unanimously voted to expand the number of football playing schools in the conference from 8 to 10.  Using the excuse of 'survival', the Board of Director's decision to grow could just be a prelude to the elimination of basketball-playing Big East schools.

Commissioner John Marinatto, school athletic directors, joined Big East Advisor, Paul Tagliabue in laying down the tracks for football expansion by investigating the possibility of inviting Villanova and TCU or the combination of TCU, Houston, Central Florida and Temple into the family.  The westward migration could boost the chances of a merger between Big East football and the Big 12.

The Big East, still smarting from the cherry-picking of Miami, BC and Virginia Tech by the ACC in 2004 and scared stiff by the advances of the Big Ten last spring, claims adding teams could provide greater stability for it's football-playing schools.  The football-weak Big East figures this is the only way to survive and lives in fear that another raid could dilute the conference and endanger its BCS status.

Villanova--currently playing football (last year's national champions) in the Colonial Athletic Association in the FCS--is looking to move up to big-time football.  For TCU, the lure of joining a conference with an automatic BCS-qualifying bid has them drooling.  These two schools both have proven and successful programs and seem like the most logical choices. 

TCU is currently ranked 3rd in the BCS poll but is mired in that logjam of undefeated non-BCS schools which are in desperate need of national exposure. An undefeated season could guarantee nothing but more fodder for a college-playoff.  The Big East could be their spotlight.

Logistically, TCU seems like an odd choice to join the basically northeastern-based conference.  Geographically, it's campus is 900 miles from the nearest Big East school, but TCU brings a legitimate national power to the conference.  It's your classic 'I'll scratch yours if you scratch mine' deal for both parties. TCU would drop the Big East into the middle of a huge television market and fertile football recruiting grounds and, in exchange, they would become BCS-bowl eligible.

While the Horned Frogs basketball program is not such an attractive addition, the school will probably ask to become a full-fledged member.  The Big East brand name could slowly turn around their basketball fortunes.

What would it mean to the non-football schools in the Big East? Three of them (St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall) are founding members.

The Big East was built on the visibility and competitiveness of it's basketball teams. Conference teams have 40 Final Four appearances and 10 NCAA champions. It is arguably the top basketball conference in the country. When all is said and done, Big East football owes basketball.

A merger with the Big 12--and petition to the NCAA for the right to host their own playoff--and the formation of another super-conference could be a death sentence for the Big East.  Where would this leave the likes of Big East basketball schools like St. John's, Seton Hall, Marquette, DePaul and Providence? Fending for themselves, that's where.

The Big 12 is a victim of conference raiding itself.  It will lose Nebraska and Colorado after the 2011 academic year.  If 10 football-playing teams from the Big East join forces with the Big 12's remaining 10, it just seems improbable that the new Costco-sized conference could absorb those five basketball schools.

If the football schools do break away, it would leave the others clambering to realign.  They will not have the financial clout or TV contracts to back them up. These teams would be left to fend for themselves by either starting a new conference, relegate each other to mid-major  play or the purgatory of being independent.  I don't think the have-football schools are concerned with the plight of the have-nots.

The Big East schools should be supportive of local expansion but wary of the consequences of going too far west.  Texas Christian University in the Big East and St. John's anywhere but, just doesn't ring true.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Asbestos Scare Postpones Knicks-Magic Game

By Tony Mangia

Tuesday night's NBA game featuring the New York Knicks against the Orlando Magic in Madison Square Garden was postponed after hazardous materials fell into the arena last night.  The Garden will not open until all the debris is removed.  Contrary to New York fans hopes, the waste being removed did not resemble in any way, shape or form either Isiah Thomas or owner James Dolan.

Following last night's Ranger game, during overnight maintenance of the Garden, asbestos-related materials were knocked loose from the attic by workers and onto the arena floor.

A statement released by Madison Square Garden said, "Out of an abundance of caution, and consulting with the NBA, we are postponing tonight's Knicks v. Magic game.  We will not open the arena until the Garden is safe."

Earlier, hundreds of disappointed fans were sent home while crews cleaned up inside.  There was no word on how much material must be removed and the estimated time of completion.

"We will be working with the city and independent experts to evaluate and determine the most appropriate course of action," MSG's release said, "As the safety of our customers and employees are our top priority."

The Knicks were hoping to get their first home victory against the Magic who are coming off a tough loss against their Sunshine State rivals, the Miami Heat.

Madison Square Garden advised ticket holders to retain their tickets and get rescheduling information at nyknicks.com. They will announce information about future events as soon as it arrives.

The Knicks next home game is scheduled for Friday against the Washington Wizards.  The next Rangers game is scheduled for Sunday against the St. Louis Blues.

Shanahan Creates New Position: The Relief QB

By Tony Mangia

There have been plenty of head scratching moves by by NFL head coaches this season, but none of them are as nonsensical as the Redskins Mike Shanahan pulling his starting QB, Donovan McNabb, on Detroit's Ford Field Sunday with 1:50 remaining in the game.  Shanahan, acting like some baseball manager in the ninth, went to his bullpen (hog pit?)  and handed the ball to a pair of fresher legs and a livelier arm--and it backfired.

This could start a new trend in the sport.  Older baseball fans might remember a time when starters actually went nine full innings.  The relief pitcher was an anomaly--only used when a pitcher got hurt or his arm hung like a wet rope in the sixteenth or so inning. Alright, that was before Hoyt Wilhelm, but is it possible for football to start a QB for three quarters, use a middle man in the fourth and bring in a closer for the final two minute drive?  Shanahan might think so.

While Shanahan defended his imitation of Joe Girardi tapping his shoulder for Mariano Rivera by claiming McNabb wasn't in shape for the final two minutes, he also created a gully as wide as the Potomac between the head coach and his big off-season acquisition.  Don't even mention the gap its opened between him and Redskin faithful.

The Detroit Lions led the game 31-25, but the game was still winnable for the Skins.  Shanahan yanks McNabb for the backup, an unprepared and totally unsuspecting Rex Grossman, who promptly fumbles on his first play.  Is this the NFL's first blown save?

I like Shanahan's innovation and say we should take it further.  Tarvaris Jackson can come in and relieve Brett Favre...oh wait that happened last week. Or maybe football will follow baseball's lead and we'll start seeing sideline coaches in team uniforms. If the sight of Bill Parcells in a sweatsuit was funny enough imagine Charlie Weis imitating a giant tomato clad in Chief's red.

Grossman, who hadn't taken one snap this season, was inserted for the 6-time pro-bowler because Shanahan believed McNabb didn't have the "cardiovascular endurance" to finish the game. Grossman's jaw hit his clipboard and he looked as surprised as McNabb when the call came.

Shanahan defended his move by saying the game speeds up in the final two minutes and McNabb would be unable to keep up.  According to Elias Sports, McNabb has 24 come-from-behind winning drives in the final minutes under his belt.  Tom Brady has the same amount during that same time span.  Looks like dis-jointed thinking by the Redskins' chief.

While Shanahan starts the NFL's version of a bullpen (pig pen?) and tries making a point by benching McNabb and making bizarre excuses, he loses games and respect.  The team is 4-4 and falling behind the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.

One can only wonder what Shanahan's rationale was for publicly calling out McNabb during a crucial point of the game. Was it punitive or a show of power.  Shanahan should have admitted he was wrong and honestly give an answer for messing with McNabb's head.

Shanahan was lucky in Denver.  He had total control, Terrell Davis, John Elway and an owner as a best friend.  He laid down his laws, nobody questioned him and the Broncos had a good run. Now he just looks foolish and weak flip-flopping on excuses for the bone-headed move.

In his first season in Washington, Shanny has now alienated his two best players.  Albert Haynesworth felt his crazy eye gaze over the summer and now it seems doubtful McNabb will play out the season with any regard for the head coach who bought him over from Philly.
 Whether or not McNabb had a "sore hamstring" or is just out of shape remains to be seen.  The quarterback's reputation for bad practice habits goes back to his Eagle days.  Tim Hasselback--a teammate of McNabb's in Philly--said, "One of the things that drove them crazy in Philadelphia was the lack of tempo at which he practiced...Nearly every single day."

One can only wonder the rationale for Shanahan's public emasculation of McNabb.  Maybe the head coach has had enough of his aging starter's tempo, but you can bet McNabb's stay in D.C. will be 'tempo'rary.