Category Archives: Sports

Wrapping Up April

During my many months at “Below the Belt Sports”, I have managed to write long posts about the NHL points system, reasons why MLB should have an earlier trade deadline, and my dislike for preseason football.  Based on this, you are probably shocked that I have managed to experience these past three weeks without writing several long posts.  Nope, I have actually written nothing in three weeks.  Granted, if these three weeks were in late February/early March or in August, you could understand my inactivity.  However, these past three weeks have seen an NFL Draft in which both locals picked in the Top 3, Mike Francesa coming out of retirement, Matt Harvey being demoted to the bullpen, and the Devils playing and losing their first playoff series in six years.  (That is not to mention anything about the Yankees or NBA Playoffs, but I do not often touch upon those subjects.).  As for the four main topics that I missed, you are probably sick and tired of hearing of three of the four.  That said, you are loyal readers of my posts, and the five of you deserve to know what I think about these matters.  Therefore, here are my quick thoughts on each of the afore-mentioned topics.  You are welcome, Mom.

  • Mike Francesa’s return is as big a “d-bag” move as I have ever seen in the sports world, but I will listen to him anyway. Callers and guests spent a year and a half feting him for retirement, only for him to return four months after retirement.

Mike Francesa’s return has bumped “CMB” from 2-6:30 to 1-3.  That is a big step back for Carlin, Maggie, and Bart; and it is rather cruel to demote a show that has had a mere four months to grow.  Granted, I agree wholeheartedly with Chris Russo when he says that a) you should not have a new show with three hosts (Note: the successful three-host shows in the area evolved into having three hosts; they did not begin this way.), and b) you cannot have a sports talk-radio show in this area with someone who does not know baseball.  The latter describes Bart Scott.  Scott is great with football, but he does not know baseball….and WFAN’s shows talk Mets and Yankees from February to October and for plenty of the other three months too.

I actually love Maggie Gray.  I think she is fantastic.  She is an ideal Mets fan – she is very knowledgeable and falls perfectly on the Mets-fan spectrum between the annoying “sky is always falling” Mets fan and the less-often-seen “everyone on the Mets is awesome” Mets fan.  Plus, she is a Bills fan, which is a cool and unique dimension to add to football discussion.  Lastly, her voice is incredible.  I would actually watch golf if she were announcing it.

Meanwhile, Carlin too often interrupts callers before they have a chance to speak, and I do not like that he gives people silly nicknames when he answers calls.  That said, he is a Jersey guy who knows his sports.  He has done plenty of time on WFAN, and he is a good fit for New York sports radio.  He has plenty of the Francesa arrogance, but fortunately without the complete misery Francesa sometimes shows…

…but Francesa’s back.  As I have said, it is a total d-bag move.  However, I get why he did it.  He has a huge ego, and I think he assumed that people would be lining up to give him a lucrative contract.  He was wrong.  Apparently, there is not a large national market for a guy who hangs up angrily on 75% of his callers and who knows little about sports beyond the Mets, Yankees, NFL, horse racing, and college-basketball teams coached by his friends.  Thus, he is coming back to WFAN with his tail between his legs.

Image result for mike francesa

It is going to be incredibly awkward in the beginning, and it is a d-bag move by WFAN to bring him back.  However, money talks.  I am going to listen to Francesa.  So will everyone else who has ever listened to him.  The awkwardness at the station will eventually fade away.  In fact, things will likely return to how they were in December.  Many people at WFAN could not stand him then; many people at WFAN will not be able to stand him now.

The truth is that I actually think his show will be better this time than it once was.  Francesa is the only person with a regularly scheduled solo talk show on WFAN or ESPN Radio New York. (Can you imagine anyone, post-Mad Dog, wanting to partner with such an egomaniac?)   Moreover, he hosted the longest show (5.5 hours) of any show on the two stations.  That is ridiculous.  Nobody should ever have a 5.5-hour show by himself.  That is insane!  It makes me understand Francesa’s crankiness a bit.  If I had to spend 5.5 hours in a row (OK, 3 hours minus commercials) answering the same questions about Matt Harvey over and over and over again, I might too lose my mind.  Therefore, having Francesa for only 3.5 hours as he is now scheduled should make him better.

Plus, he has realized where his bread is buttered – New York sports radio.  That is what he knows.  Even though he can be downright irascible on many occasions, he is the one person who can best sift through the bs with big topics. For years, he has been right about the big ideas with the Yankees, Mets, and NFL.  Additionally, he is the one person who can speak eloquently about controversial topics.

It is like he has an “a-hole switch” that he turns off when talking about touchy things.  In the months leading up to the 2016 election, he actually made some of the most cogent, non-extreme commentary on now-President Trump.  Similarly, Francesa is the only sports person I know who touched the Kaepernick issue, said the most important point of the saga, and generally avoided blowback: Protesting is fine, but you do not automatically have the right to do it when representing a large organization that signs your paycheck.  Had the NFL acknowledged Francesa’s logic early on, I think it could have better handled the whole issue, but I digress…

Francesa made a d-bag move.  He is taking a pay cut, but he is still going to make plenty of money off his d-bag move, and we are going to listen.  There are still times when he can be the voice of reason, even though he is often a jerk.  Meanwhile, Carlin has made no bones about his disdain for his former boss, and I applaud Carlin for admitting his disdain.  His reaction is human, and I think people appreciate his genuine emotion.  Maggie and Bart, who have much less history with WFAN, have taken the high road, and I commend them for that as well.  Maggie is delightful.  Have I mentioned that?  Hopefully, “CMB” become sympathetic figures, and hopefully this issue helps propel them to great radio futures.  As for Francesa, he made a d-bag move, but we are going to listen to him.  Moving on…

  • The NFL Draft happened. I am sure you heard about it.  Likewise, I am sure you know that I think it is time for the Giants to think about Eli’s replacement.  Actually, I am sure you are aware I thought we reached that time a few years ago.  That said, I have full faith in Dave Gettleman.  As I have advanced in age and now sit at the ripe old age of 36, I have grown to have a lesser appreciation for people who substitute clichés for reason and a greater appreciation for people who see through those clichés.  Well, after the draft, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan talked about how he likes all his draft picks, while Gettleman joked about the fact that every GM loves his own picks immediately after the draft.  Yes, it stinks to be a Jets fan.  I already loved Gettleman from his commentary on being offered hot dogs and bagels for the #2 pick but nothing more.  Now, his joking about “We love our draft” cliches put me over the top.  This guy gets it.  I would follow this guy over a cliff.  If Dave Gettleman believes that neither Darnold, Allen, nor Rosen is a franchise quarterback; I believe him.  It is time for Saquon to deliver Eli one more championship, and I greatly look forward to the Kyle Lauletta era from 2020 through 2039.

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One more draft thought.  It is annoying that people are mad at Josh Rosen for saying nine teams made a mistake by passing on him.  Rosen should absolutely feel that way.  Do you know who else is motivated by teams passing on them in the draft?  Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.  How have things worked out for them?  People worry about Rosen being a rich kid who does not “need” football success.  First off, to me, that is silly logic.  If you really need the money, hate football, and are great at football; you are going to try to make it to the NFL.  However, if you do not need the money and are great at football, you will only try to make the NFL if you love football.  That said, if you cannot follow that logic, you should at least like seeing a guy motivated to dominate and stick it in the faces of the teams who did not draft him.  Great quarterbacks are always super-competitive.  Rosen seems to have this trait.

The people who have a problem with Rosen’s comments are likely the same people who lost their minds over Jay Feely’s prom tweet.  It is a joke, people.  I hate guns, and I will never be a gun owner….but funny is funny.

  • Matt Harvey is in the pen, and I love it! In fact, I wrote in the offseason that the Mets’ best path to success was to move Harvey and Wheeler to the pen and to sign someone like Jason Vargas.  I could not have been more correct.  The only things I messed up were that Wheeler is still in the rotation and has been decent, that Harvey has not yet done anything great as a reliever, and that Vargas’ Mets ERA is 22.09.  Everything else though has been spot-on.  Pardon me while I pat myself on the back.  Seriously though, I still think that Harvey has a chance to embrace the bullpen role, and I can envision him being a successful closer as the Mets make a 2018 World Series run.  I can see it happening!

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  • I am not going to write a post documenting the ins and outs of the Devils/Lightning playoff series. The better team (Lightning) won in 5 games, but it was delightful to attend two playoff games for the first time since 2012.  Hopefully, the Devils can build off this year’s playoff appearance to make a legitimate playoff run in 2019.

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The Top Five Hardest Positions in Sports

Obviously, anyone who is an athlete is going to have an argument that their position is the hardest. And they might have a few points here and there, as really no sport is “easy”. But if you’re going to tell me with a straight face that being a professional bowler is harder than trying to outrun 225 pound linebackers, then your opinion is invalid and you probably punt in Madden. You have to consider the likelihood of success, the necessary athleticism, the work that goes into being out there every day, and who your opponents are. With that said, here are the five hardest positions in sports.

5. Soccer Goalie

The thing about being a soccer goalie, which I can tell you from my four years of experience as a stud rec soccer goalie on an undefeated team, is that there is a lot of instincts involved. You have to know when to come out, when to stay, and even if you make the right decision, you can get a ball coming at your skull with the intention of taking you along with it into the goal. You also have a massive amount of space to defend (24 feet wide, 8 feet tall) when forwards and wings can be infinitely close to you. I mean, you’re telling me you, or anyone else, plans on stopping this?

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4. Baseball Pitcher

As some of you may know, I myself am a pitcher for Ramapo College baseball. And let me tell you, there are times when it’s physically impossible. Mechanics need to be perfect in order to have the ball go where you want to go, and even if you do everything perfect, the ball could still get absolutely creamed on by hitters. The reason why I don’t consider this to be higher on the list is some guys can pick up a baseball and throw 100 MPH with no problem, and they never have to put in the extreme amount of work other positions may have to. But, when your average guy is on the mound, the gif below describes perfectly what we, as pitchers, think is going to happen.

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3. Hockey Forward

The whole ice thing to me is just insane. Maybe it’s just because I don’t play hockey and can’t skate for more than seven seconds at a time without falling, but the fact that people can compete against each other at a high level on that terrain is unfathomable to me. Now you have to add in the ability to be able to stick handle, pass, and score on a goal that probably doesn’t have more than a foot (if you added up all the space) of open space to shoot at. I’ll get to goalies later…

2. Quarterback Football

Easily the position in all of sports with the most pressure, I don’t care what anyone says. Despite ability, if you are the quarterback for a team, you are automatically one of the faces of the franchise. You’ll never know the name of every back-up offensive lineman in football, but if I asked you who Brandon Weeden is, most of you would have a clue. Added to this pressure, you now have to guess where receivers will be down the field while dodging immensely large defensive ends and linebackers who wants to hurt you in every way known to man. Oh, and you have to know EVERY play in a playbook of 100+ plays, and tell everyone their assignment for 50+ times a game.

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1. Hockey Goalie

There was simply no doubt in my mind about this one. Let’s not forget that in addition to trying to stop 100+ MPH slap shots while another human, sometimes your own teammates, are entirely blocking your vision and have less than a second to react, they are also on ICE. ON ICE. LIKE DISNEY. Most people look like this on ice:

Image result for guy slipping on ice gif

But, now you have to stop guys, who train night in and night out for their whole life, from scoring on YOUR goal! You have to make sure nobody slips a 1-inch puck through your 5-hole. There is absolutely no harder position in all of sports than a goalie.

 

Maybe I left a few out, but these are the hardest in my humble, amateur opinion. Let me know what you think in the comments below.