Sunday, November 25, 2007

Feast, Giving Thanks, And Looking at Our Famine.

Thanksgiving - complete.

The season of giving, sharing and everything else that feels good has begun. However, before heading out to the malls, before making plans for the holidays and before hanging the garlands and opening my heart to the carols, one has to take a moment to slow down before moving forward. After all, this is a time when all moments tend to enter a warped vortex that fast forwards the remaining days of the year. And with just that, a mere few days, giving thanks before the end of the year is essential. Now you may say, aren't I a bit too late? Possibly. However, one day to give thanks cannot capture how much you have appreciated 2007. Yes, as we turn the corner on the final stretch of the new year, this weekend has opened my eyes to give thanks for a few things.

Yankees 1st Round Exit in 2007 Playoffs - One has to be thankful for the early exit as it allowed us to realize the greatness of an era, the class of a manager, and the sudden need to change the philosophy of the organization. Thirty may be the new twenty in Jay-Z's world, but in the industry of sports, thirty is just old. The Yankees now realize this, and have decided to go in the direction of the youth movement. I am thankful for this. One also has to give thanks that they haven't suddenly become cheap (Over $400 million to re-sign three players).

Mets Collapse Down the Stretch - One has to be thankful for the New York Mets collapse. As hard as it may be to find something positive from such a catastrophic collapse, the Mets were humbled, basically punched in the mouth as they stumbled over themselves, coughing up a seven game lead in the month of September. The Mets now realize that they are not as invincible in the NL East as they thought. The Mets now realize how unreliable their band-aid pitching staff is. I am thankful for the collapse.

New York Jets Abysmal Record - One has to be thankful for how lifeless the Jets have been in the 2007 campaign of a season. Coming off of a playoff year, many knew the Jets were not a great team, but far from a horrible one. The Jets have lost games not by being outplayed, but by showing no heart at all. Their will to win has gone as far as a Chad Pennington deep ball. The Jets and Mangini now realize that a 3-4 is not a defense in their future, nor is Chad "I can lead, but I can't throw" Pennington. I am thankful for this season.

New York Knicks & Circus - One has to be thankful for the circus the Garden has become, and the sideshow that follows it in the 07-08' New York Knicks. This year was one full of anticipation and enormous hope as Knick fans everywhere were finally ready to exhale a breath of hope, followed by an inhale of success. Instead, we received a guilty sexual harassment case, a missing player on a milk carton, an eight game losing streak, and a revolt of the entire Knick fan base. All this has exposed not just the issues surrounding the team or Isiah Thomas, but the lack of leadership throughout the entire organization (Pointing right at you, James Dolan). I am thankful for the beginning to this season.

G-Men Consistency - One has to be thankful for the Giants consistency. The Giants are able to get on a winning streak and as always, have shown signs of burnout as the season winds down. It has been their blueprint. However, in their consistency, they bring some sort of dignity and success to New York. I am thankful for the New York Giants.

Yes, thanksgiving is complete. The curtain is closing on 2007. New York fans have a lot to be thankful for, but so little to show for it.

Our famine continues...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life In It's Simplest Form

"From now on, it can never be the same as before.
Cause the place I'm from doesn't exist anymore."

Life can seem hard as you look forward, plotting and calculating a future of potential moves. Improving and motivating yourself to reach that potential is an everyday grind that is rigorous and demanding. The ins and outs, the yes and no's, the options, the commitments, the failures, the triumphs and the tragedies, all can make life as complicated as we have already known it to be.

However, it all seems so easy sometimes, when we "try" to reduce life down to a simple formula. We recognize life for it's ability to change, alter, and form into different forms. Times change. People grow. Eras come to an end. We've come to grips with our current reality so much so, that we embrace our new adventure whole heartedly- and a half, in order to blanket our feelings for the past. With each chapter, we bring a piece of us (or at least attempt to) into our new beginnings. These new beginnings which are undoubtedly inevitable, are undeniably supported by a past.

It's a past we sometimes feel skeptical about. A past which now has no bearing on your current status to cause direct connection or influence on your goals and aspirations. A past we have deemed outdated not in quality, but in ability to replicate, and thrown into a vault, only useful for stories and morals.

We need a past to hold onto. A past to carry forward. We need that past. A past which can help direct and support the way you follow through into each new era, each new day, each new you. It's life in its simplest form. A solid foundation.

It is a solid foundation built upon more than memories, but feelings. The things you have experienced, the people that have entered and exited your life, and most of all, the feelings and maturity that you have gained from it all, are a solid rock anchoring your soul. It may not ever be the same again, and more than likely it will never exist again, but it's still alive. Somehow, somewhere, it is still alive.

And one day when it clicks, when its alive, truly alive...you will realize life, in it's simplest form.

R.I.P. E91st St.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Thick Line Between A Superstar and A Winner

Kobe Bryant.

Alex Rodriguez.

Much has been made and analyzed about these two athletes regarding their constant pursue of excellence, championships and their own happiness. For Kobe, its about wanting to be on a team that has a chance to contend for a championship. A team that is not rebuilding and is committed to winning. Bryant has made his demands clear through the media and his own actions. He wants to win. Can you blame him?

However, Kobe had that opportunity. It wasn't too long ago Kobe had a seven-foot monster named Shaquille O'Neal. Following a crushing defeat in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, Kobe wanted the spotlight. Kobe wanted the Lakers to be his. His team, and his only, like a spoiled child that wanted his toys back. He ruined what could've been a long run of dominance by the two superstars over the NBA scene. Kobe had what he wanted.

What Kobe is seeking is the power to dictate the terms of his own trade, while ending up on a contending team, where he is the main focus. After all, Kobe is a superstar.

Then there is Alex Rodriguez. Alex, the star-crossed athlete that has such a twisted dynamic that has never been seen before. Unlike Bryant, Alex does not have a core fan base which adores him unconditionally the way that Los Angeles embraces Bryant. A-Rod was on the track to garnering such a fan base until he alienated New Yorkers, opting out of what seems now like a destined divorce between the two sides.

A-Rod claims he wants to play for a city and organization where he can win a World Championship. A-Rod claims he wants to be linked to a franchise as he pursues almost all of baseball's greatest records. A-Rod wants to win. Can you blame him?

Nonetheless, like fellow superstar Kobe Bryant, A-Rod had what he claims he wants. A-Rod was embraced this year by the biggest market in all of North America. He plays for an organization that contends every year and is devoted, almost religiously obsessed with pursuing a World Championship. A-Rod could've cemented his name amongst the greats in the sport and have a plaque amongst the Yankee greats. A-Rod had what he wanted.

A-Rod is seeking is money, period. His sheer lack of respect for those participating in the World Series by announcing his free agency (Which has been the only breath of his name heard during a game in late October) proves that A-Rod is about one person, A-Rod. After all, he is a superstar, he should be paid like one.

Now granted, Rodriguez and Bryant are the greatest players in their sport respectively. However, one has to ponder, why is there so much turmoil around them? Why do so many people hate them? And in A-Rod's case, why are teams giving him away? This would never be the case with Michael Jordan.

The Answer is simple. They're not winners. I said it.

Winners are athletes that put the game first, and team success above everything. Winners are guys such as Derek Jeter, John Elway, Wayne Gretzky, Bret Favre and yes I must admit as a Knick fan, Michael Jordan. These player's unparalleled understanding of the word "Team" is matched by few and comprehended by even less. Bryant and Rodriguez surely are far from grasping that. Actually, not even in the ballpark. Which is why their motives are so transparent.

Bryant and Rodriguez both need to take notes from this generation's most underrated winner, Tim Duncan. He's not a sexy name amongst the masses, however, his lack of personality, flair, charisma and self-indulging attitude is made up in one thing, and on thing only - success. Multiple NBA Championships (1999,2003,2005,2007), NBA Finals MVP (1999,2003,2005), NBA MVP (2002,2003), NBA Rookie of the Year (1999), and NBA All-Star Game Co-MVP (2000). Duncan has humbled himself enough to learn from players the likes of David Robinson, and a great basketball mind in Greg Popovich. Duncan has taken less than his market value to help the Spurs fiscally surround him with players that make up the NBA's best basketball organization, a gesture A-Rod may find comical. He does it quietly, with heart, with skill, with integrity and with class.

So Bryant can keep the headlines and the back pages of the papers. A-Rod can keep counting his money and wishing for a spot in the hearts of baseball fans. Tim Duncan will keep quiet, and collect hardware. Year, after year, after year. For after all, he isn't a superstar, he is a winner.