ErnBlog NFL Experts dissect the 2015 Season

Here we go!  Who do the experts like in 2015?

Source: logoinspirations.com

Source: logoinspirations.com

AFC East:

Mike Brown —

Patriots logo

13-3

 

Mike Gallaher (aka “Horhey”) —

Patriots logo

12-4

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

Patriots logo

11-5

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

Patriots logo

12-4

 

Ryan Dunn (The “Counselaah”) —

Patriots logo

14-2

 

Mike Greene —

Patriots logo

11-5

 

Ern —

Patriots logo

12-4

 

 

AFC North:

Mike Brown —

Steelers logo

11-5

 

Mike Gallaher —

bengals logo

10-6

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”)

ravens logo

10-6

 

Brian Brickley (The “Brick”) —

bengals logo

11-5

 

Ryan Dunn —

bengals logo

10-6

 

Mike Greene —

ravens logo

12-4

 

Ern —

browns

10-6

 

AFC South:

Mike Brown —

Colts logo

12-4

 

Mike Gallaher —

Colts logo

13-3

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

Colts logo

12-4

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

Colts logo

12-4

 

Ryan Dunn —

Colts logo

13-3

 

Mike Greene —

Colts logo

12-4

 

Ern —

texans logo

11-5

 

AFC West:

Mike Brown —

untitled (2)

10-6

 

Mike Gallaher —

broncos logo

10-6

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

Chargers logo

10-6

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

untitled (2)

11-5

 

Ryan Dunn —

broncos logo

10-5-1

 

Mike Greene —

broncos logo

12-4

 

Ern —

untitled (2)

11-5

 

NFC East:

Mike Brown —

cowboys logo

11-5

 

Mike Gallaher —

Philly Eagles logo

10-6

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”)

Philly Eagles logo

11-5

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

cowboys logo

11-5

 

Ryan Dunn —

Philly Eagles logo

12-4

 

Mike Greene —

cowboys logo

11-5

 

Ern —

cowboys logo

12-4

 

NFC North:

Mike Brown —

Packers logo

 

14-2

 

Mike Gallaher —

Packers logo

 

12-4

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

Packers logo

 

11-5

 

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

Detroit Lions - wikipedia

 

11-5

 

Ryan Dunn —

Packers logo

11-5

 

Mike Greene —

Packers logo

11-5

 

Ern —

Detroit Lions - wikipedia

11-5

 

NFC South:

Mike Brown —

saints logo

9-7

 

Mike Gallaher —

saints logo

10-6

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

Carolina Panthers - wikipedia

9-7

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

Falcons logo

10-6

 

Ryan Dunn —

Carolina Panthers - wikipedia

12-4

 

Mike Greene —

Carolina Panthers - wikipedia

9-7

 

Ern:

saints logo

10-6

 

NFC West:

Mike Brown —

AZ Cardinals

11-5

 

Mike Gallaher —

seahawks logo

 

12-4

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

seahawks logo

11-5

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

seahawks logo

12-4

 

Ryan Dunn —

seahawks logo

15-1

 

Mike Greene —

seahawks logo

13-3

 

Ern:

seahawks logo

12-4

 

AFC Wild-Cards:

Mike Brown —

dolphins new logo

11-5

 

broncos logo

9-7

 

Mike Gallaher —

ravens logo

10-6

 

texans logo

10-6

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop —

untitled (2)

 

9-7

 

Steelers logo

9-7

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

dolphins new logo

10-6

 

broncos logo

10-6

 

Ryan (The “Counselaah!”) Dunn —

Steelers logo

10-6

ravens logo

9-7

 

Mike Greene —

dolphins new logo

10-6

bengals logo

10-6

 

Ern —

Colts logo

11-5

Chargers logo

10-6

 

NFC Wild-Cards:

Mike Brown —

seahawks logo

11-5

 

Detroit Lions - wikipedia

 

9-7

 

Mike Gallaher —

AZ Cardinals

10-6

 

vikings logo

 

10-6

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

cowboys logo

10-6

saints logo

9-7

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

AZ Cardinals

 

10-6

 

Packers logo

10-6

 

Ryan Dunn —

vikings logo

10-6

cowboys logo

10-6

 

Mike Greene —

Detroit Lions - wikipedia

 

10-6

 

AZ Cardinals

 

9-7

 

Ern —

Packers logo

 

11-5

 

AZ Cardinals

11-5

 

Vince Lombardi Champions – Super Bowl L – Levi Stadium – Santa Clara, CA

– Sunday, February 7, 2016 –

Mike Brown —

NFL Champs –

Patriots logo

Super Bowl MVP –

Tom Brady (Source: zimbio.com)

Tom Brady (Source: zimbio.com)

 

NFC Champs –

Packers logo

 

Mike Gallaher —

NFL Champs –

Patriots logo

Super Bowl MVP –

Tom Brady (Source: zimbio.com)

Tom Brady (Source: zimbio.com)

NFC Champs –

Packers logo

 

Andrew Van Ogtrop (“Oggie”) —

NFL Champs –

Packers logo

Super Bowl MVP –

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers Source: wikipedia.org

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Source: wikipedia.org

AFC Champs –

Patriots logo

 

Brian (The “Brick”) Brickley —

NFL Champs –

Colts logo

Super Bowl MVP –

Andrew Luck will try to direct the Colts into the Divisional Round. Source: usatoday.com

Andrew Luck will try to direct the Colts past New England, and toward Santa Clara.                Source: www.usatoday.com

NFC Champs:

cowboys logo

 

Ryan (The “Counselaah!”) Dunn —

NFL Champs –

Patriots logo

Super Bowl MVP –

The Gronk

 

NFC Champs –

cowboys logo

 

Mike Greene–

NFL Champs-

seahawks logo

Super Bowl MVP –

Seattle's Russell Wilson has been part of the memorable Rookie QB Class of 2012. Source: www.seahawks.com

Seattle’s Russell Wilson was part of the memorable Rookie QB Class of 2012.
Source: www.seahawks.com

AFC Champs –

ravens logo

 

Ern —

NFL Champs –

Patriots logo

Super Bowl MVP –

Tom Brady (Source: zimbio.com)

Tom Brady (Source: zimbio.com)

NFC Champs –

seahawks logo

 

NFL Regular Season MVP —

Brown –

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers Source: wikipedia.org

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Source: wikipedia.org

 

Gallaher –

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers Source: wikipedia.org

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Source: wikipedia.org

 

Oggie –

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers Source: wikipedia.org

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Source: wikipedia.org

 

Brick –

Andrew Luck will try to direct the Colts into the Divisional Round. Source: usatoday.com

Andrew Luck will try to direct the Colts into the Divisional Round.
Source: usatoday.com

 

Dunn –

Cam Newton – QB – Carolina Panthers

 

Greene –

The Colts are familiar with selecting their QB from the Number One Overall Position on Draft Day. Here, Andrew Luck (right) receives his Indianapolis jersey from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) back in April. (Source: pigskinbuzz.com)

The Colts are familiar with selecting their QB from the Number One Overall Position on Draft Day. Here, Andrew Luck (right) receives his Indianapolis jersey from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) back in April 2012.
(Source: pigskinbuzz.com)

 

Ern –

J.J. Watt – Defensive End – Houston Texans

 

NFL Coach of the Year —

Brown –

John Fox – Chicago Bears

 

Gallaher –

Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers

 

Oggie –

Chip Kelly – Philadelphia Eagles

 

Brick –

Chuck Pagano – Houston Texans

 

Dunn –

Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys

 

Greene –

Joe Philbin – Miami Dolphins

 

Ern –

Rex Ryan – Buffalo Bills

 

NFL Rushing Champ – 

Brown –

Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins

 

Gallaher –

LeVeon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Oggie –

Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs

 

Brick –

Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks

 

Dunn –

LaSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills

 

Greene –

LeVeon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Ern –

Propelled by the incredible talent of Running Back - Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have surprised the NFL with a 6-4 record and a push toward an NFC Wild Card Spot. (Source: newsday.com)

Adrian Peterson is back with the Vikings, who are looking a push their way toward an NFC Wild Card Spot. (Source: newsday.com)

 

One Prediction for the 2015 NFL Season –

Brown –

“Peyton Manning turns in a sub-90 QB rating & retires before 3/1/16.”

 

Gallaher –

“Titans will be worst team in the league.”

 

Oggie –

“RG3 is released, and Kirk Cousins has a Pro Bowl year.”

 

Brick –

“The Redskins will win only 2 games.”

 

Dunn –

“The Washington Redskins remains the sole winless squad until Week 12 against the Giants, and goes on to a pitiful 1-15 record.  During the interminable period between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, the team announces they will change their name to the Washington Bullets.”

 

Greene –

“The Dolphins, mainly because of the Front 4, will lead the league in sacks and rushing defense.”

 

Ern –

“The day after Roger Goodell hands another Super Bowl MVP Award to Tom Brady, the NFL Owners fire the Commissioner on February 8, 2016.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the Warriors on the Precipice of Greatness, ErnBlog Turns Back the Clock to … 1975

Stephen Curry's jump shots have the grace of Reggie Miller and the precision of Larry Bird. source: thebiglead.com

Stephen Curry’s jump shots have the grace of Reggie Miller and the precision of Larry Bird.
source: thebiglead.com

When Stephen Curry, an honor roll student/athlete at Charlotte Christian High School in North Carolina, started looking at possible college options, the critics were loud and boisterous in promoting the national hardcourt power programs –  “Duke?, ….  North Carolina?, ….  or Kentucky even?” pined the peanut gallery.  However, young Curry was not quite as motivated by basketball (the trade selected by his father, Dell, a former Charlotte Hornets guard in the 90s) as he was in the classroom, by the Montessori brand of education instilled in him by his mother, Sonya.

Sonya Curry started a Montessori school in the Charlotte area, and taught her son there in the 90s.  So, what is a Montessori school?  Well, the Montessori style of education was developed by University of Rome physicist, Maria Montessori at around 1900.

Montessori is an educational program characterized by the following criteria:

– Mixed age classrooms for children 2.5-6 years old

– Student choices of activity from a prescribed range of options

– Uninterrupted blocks of work time, usually 3 hours

– A Constructivist model where students learn from working directly with materials

– Freedom on movement with the classroom

ErnBlog thanks Wikipedia.org for that little history lesson.

 

But, as for Curry, he attended North Carolina’s little Davidson College, with only 1,800 students, an institution that has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars.  “He’ll never make it to the NBA, like his Dad!  Going to a preppy little school like that??!” the experts interjected.  But in 2008, Stephen led the Wildcats all the way to the Elite Eight.

Now, in his sixth NBA season, Little Curry, who stands only 6’3″, has the Golden State Warriors on the doorstep of the NBA Championship.  The Little Engine that Could, which won 67 regular-season games (the most since Michael Jordan’s ’96 Bulls, who seized an NBA-record 72), needs only one more victory, either tonight in Cleveland (9 pm, ABC) or, if necessary, Friday night in Oakland (9 pm, ABC), to secure San Francisco Bay’s first pro hoops title since 1975.

40 years of waiting can produce a lot of pressure, something with which Warriors first-year coach, Steve Kerr is familiar.  Kerr, the former Chicago point guard, caught a pass from Michael Jordan in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the ’97 NBA Finals at the United Center, and then rifled home (with Curry-like precision) the championship-winning jumper for the Bulls.  In fact, 18 years ago yesterday, Peabody High School principal, Joe Patuleia referred to Jordan’s title-clinching pass as an inspiration to the Tanner graduates in attendance.

This season, Little Curry won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award, and starting tonight, he’ll have two opportunities to shoot the Warriors past this generation’s best player on the planet – LeBron James, and his Cleveland Cavaliers.

So what was going on back in 1975?  I don’t know because I wasn’t here!

But here are a few interesting facts:

– The Golden State Warriors, coached by Al Attles, swept the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) in the NBA Finals behind another sharpshooter – Rick Barry.

 

Rick Barry (father of 3 future NBA hoopsters) entertained American basketball fans throughout the 60s and 70s. source: tumblr.com

Rick Barry (father of 3 future NBA hoopsters) entertained American basketball fans throughout the 60s and 70s.
source: tumblr.com

 

– Richard Nixon, who had chosen not to entertain impeachment proceedings back in 1974, turned over the White House to new President Gerald Ford, who by 1975, was in the middle of a very uninspiring and unproductive Presidency.  However, President Ford did make some memorable contributions to comedy, highlighted by this “tumble” from Air Force One:

First Lady Betty with her husband, US President Gerald Ford, arriving on a business trip. source: newyorkdailynews.com

First Lady Betty with her husband, US President Gerald Ford, arriving on a business trip.
source: newyorkdailynews.com

In NBC’s brand new live comedy program, Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase depicted the event in hilarious fashion.

However, the late Ford may have suggested that his Presidency was not exactly uneventful.  2 different assassins tried to shoot him in 1975, one of which was Charles Manson in Sacramento.

– The Boston Red Sox won the American League pennant, and took on the Cincinnati “Big Red(s) Machine”, led by Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, in the World Series.  All looked lost for Boston at Fenway Park on the last Saturday night in October when Bernie Carbo tied Game 6 with a 9th-inning homer.  Then in the 12th inning, in dramatic style, New Hampshire native, catcher Carlton Fisk launched, in the words of Sox voice, Dick Stockton, “a long fly ball, down the left-field line.  Will it stay fairrrr???!  YES!!! … The Red Sox win!!!”

Although the Sox lost the seventh and final game, Carlton Fisk’s jumping and waving of his arms, successfully attempting to will his fly ball toward the foul pole, and the resulting Fenway celebration was embraced by millions on television.  In a generation where football was threatening to replace baseball as America’s pastime, the ’75 World Series inspired a resurgence in hardball popularity, as the Major League’s characters started to become more likable and human.

– Steven Spielberg, who had taken over the Cape Cod island of Martha’s Vineyard the prior summer, released his first epic film – “Jaws” about a shark with a really bad temper.

– The Irish Republican Army (“IRA”) bomb the London Hilton Hotel, killing 2 and injuring 63.

– The CBS game show “The Price is Right” became so popular that it was expanded from 30 minutes to a full hour.

– Spanish dictator Francisco Franco dies, and is replaced by King Juan Carlos, who reigns until 2014.  In the meantime, neighboring Portugal tossed out its prime minister, Vasco Goncalves.

– The NFL’s New Orleans Saints move into the brand new “Superdome”.

– Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa goes missing, never to be seen again.

 

Queen’s “We Are the Champions!” randomly came up in iTunes during my commute this morning, although last week, when the Cavaliers took a 2-1 Finals lead over Golden State, it remarkably came up then as well, and among 680 songs!  So I don’t know exactly what that represents?  Is it good for the Cavs, the Warriors, … or even the Chicago Blackhawks, who took home Lord Stanley’s Cup last night?  I guess we’ll have to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 NBA Finals – Evolving into A Classic

So the NBA Finals are here again, and for the fifth straight season, they feature LeBron James, the NBA’s preeminent star.  It’s been a storied first-half of James’ career, beginning with his 2003 entrance to the league straight out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.  In genuine fairytale style, LeBron of course joined his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, wearing, of course, number 23, in honor of his boyhood hero, Michael Jordan, who had strangely enough, just completed his 15th and final NBA season with the Washington Wizards.  40-year-old MJ played all 82 games with Washington that season, remarkably averaging 20 points per game.

From that point forward, the comparisons between James and Jordan would never end.  In the spring of 2007, after finishing just his 4th season, LeBron led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a place they had never been – the NBA Finals.  Residents of a hard-struck city (both in the financial and sports departments) at the dawn of the 21st century, Clevelanders were desperate for a winner.  A Cleveland sports franchise had not won a championship since 1964, when Jim Brown led the conveniently-named “Browns” to the NFL Title before Super Bowls were played.  Oh, and then there were the 1948 Indians, who defeated the Boston “Braves” (yes, before they moved to Milwaukee and eventually Atlanta) – the last Cleveland team to win a World Series.

The 2007 Cavaliers were greatly overmatched by Tim Duncan’s Spurs, who swept Cleveland away in the Finals.  However, James and Duncan would meet twice more in the championship series, but in the most unlikely of settings for the Cleveland die hards.  At the end of the 2010 season, after the second in the past three years the Cavs had fallen to Boston in the playoffs and watched the Celtics take their place in the Finals, LeBron made a “Decision” that would alter the course of NBA history.

Wearing legendary #23, King James aims to return to the NBA Summit. source: whitegloveinternational.com

Wearing legendary #23, King James aims to return to the NBA Summit.
source: whitegloveinternational.com

In a nationally-televised press conference (the proceeds of which would benefit the Boys & Girls Club of America), LeBron uttered the famous words that would be echoed for the next 4 years – “I’m taking my talents to South Beach!”  And just like that, the King leapt upon his magic carpet and departed Cleveland, seemingly forever.  Clevelanders erupted in rage, burning James’ game jerseys in the streets.  Cavs owner Dan Gilbert angrily proclaimed that LeBron would never win a championship in Miami, just like he had never hoisted the trophy in Cleveland.

But Gilbert was wrong.  Paired with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, James guided the Heat to 4 consecutive Eastern Conference Championships from 2011-14.  In 2011, Miami was outshot by a sharp Mavericks squad led by Dirk Nowitzki.  But in 2012, LeBron finally reached the NBA pinnacle, dominating Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to win his elusive NBA Championship.

It had now taken LeBron 9 seasons to win his first crown, versus Jordan’s 7 seasons.  At this point, LeBron was 1-2 in the NBA Finals, while Michael had been a perfect 3-0.  Remember, the comparisons would always be on the periphery of the King’s career.

In the 2013 NBA Finals, James would once again face off against Tim Duncan’s Spurs, previous winners of 3 Larry O’Brien Trophies.  Like MJ, Duncan was also undefeated in the Finals.  With San Antonio leading 3 games to 2, the series shifted back to Miami for its concluding act.  That’s when LeBron took the Heat on his back (ala Larry Bird in the ’84 Finals against Magic’s Lakers).  The King posted 32 points in Game 6 (an overtime Miami win) followed by 37 more in the decisive Game 7 to finally show the Spurs the taste of bitter defeat in the championship round.

Miami and San Antonio would square off for a rematch in last year’s Finals.  But this time, the Spurs would overpower the Heat, taking the series easily.

And that is when the pendulum of … Cleveland, of all places, would swing yet again.  For the second time in his career, the King was a free agent, and he decided to return home, just as in the J.R.R. Tolkien’s third trilogy installment.

A year later, LeBron’s New Cavaliers (no players or coaches remain from his first stint) lead the NBA Finals 2 games to 1, with Game 4 tomorrow night (9 pm, ABC) at Cleveland’s QuickenLoans Arena.  At this point, NBA experts can argue that James’ performance in these 2015 Finals versus the upstart Golden State Warriors is currently more impressive that Games 6-7 in 2013 against San Antonio.  That’s because Cleveland’s second and third-best players (Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving) are both injured, out for the remainder of the series.  In face, Love has been out since the first round against Boston, back in April!

Yet, LeBron has this time taken the Cavs on his back (ala MJ in the ’98 Finals versus Utah when Scottie Pippen was wearing down with injuries).  In three games, all decided by 8 points or less, the Cavs and Warriors have split 2 games in Oakland before LeBron thwarted a spirited Golden State rally last night in the Rock N’ Roll City.  James is averaging 41 points per game.

We don’t know if Cleveland will finally win a basketball championship this or next week, and we surely know that the comparisons between LeBron and Jordan will ever end.  But let’s all relish that we are enjoying something special here.  Although it doesn’t seem like it to those in their thirties, this is like when Jordan danced between Magic and Worthy in the ’91 Finals and reversed hands before tossing the ball lefty, over his head, into the basket.  This is like when Michael couldn’t stop nailing three-pointers versus Portland in the ’92 Finals, and shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know?  I can’t miss.”

And although Jordan’s 6-0 championship record cannot ever be matched by James (who will be 3-3 in the Finals if Cleveland holds on), let’s remember that LeBron has now reached his 6th Finals in only a 12-year career.  And Jordan never had to compete in the Finals with his next best and second-best teammates both out for virtually the entire series.

The point is: We can make all the comparisons we want.  Let’s enjoy these last days of basketball this spring for what they are – an NBA Finals Classic.

Turn Back the Clock – May 31, 1998

It was a rainy, stormy Sunday afternoon in New England, much like today – May 31, 1998.  Larry Bird was inching closer to leading his hometown Indiana Pacers to their first ever NBA Finals.  The critics had vociferously questioned Bird’s ability to successfully coach an NBA team.  “The great players don’t make good coaches,” quipped the experts.  In Boston, the Celtics had turned to Rick Pitino in favor of Bird to rescue a team that had lost more games in 1997 than any other edition of the legendary franchise.

So Bird went home to Indiana, taking over a veteran Pacers team featuring Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson, with a supporting cast of the Davis “Brothers” (Dale and Antonio), Rik Smits, and Jalen Rose.  By May 31st, no one was laughing anymore in Boston or anywhere else around the NBA, as Bird had directed Indiana to the precipice of the Eastern Conference summit, requiring only one more win to advance to the NBA Finals.

But, the final obstacle was the harshest of settings – Chicago’s United Center versus Michael Jordan and the back-to-back defending champion Bulls.  Leading up to the Eastern Conference Finals, His Airness had deemed the matchup with Indiana as “a bump in the road” much to the chagrin of his former hardcourt rival, Bird.

Chicago took the first 2 games of the series at home before hitting a fork in the road in Indiana.  The Pacers won the third game before the series reached a fever pitch in the fourth contest, when Jordan and Reggie Miller went toe-to-toe in the final moments.  With Jordan suffocating Miller near the top of the key, Reggie shoved Michael, no whistle, got free, and hit a three-pointer with time expiring to tie the series.

The two teams split the next two games to set up the epic final stanza in Chicago.  NBC faded into the game with Bird’s image hovering behind Jordan’s, potentially signifying Number Twenty-Three’s final great hurdle in his remarkable career.

Michael Jordan covers SI during the 1992 NBA Finals (source: cnnsi.com)

Michael Jordan covers SI during the 1992 NBA Finals (source: cnnsi.com)

 

The Pacers moved the ball efficiently, stifled Jordan on defense, and consistently led throughout the affair.  But, then in the fourth quarter, MJ (with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 massive offensive rebounds on the afternoon) fueled a furious Chicago rally that fully incorporated the entire Bulls’ contingency.  Toni Kukoc hit 4 straight long-range jumpers (3 of them three-pointers), and Steve Kerr (now the coach of the 2015 Western Conference Champion Golden St. Warriors) nailed a wide open triple to get Da Bulls back in business.

2 of Jordan’s offensive boards in the game came on missed free throws by himself (resulting in a basked he scored) and Scottie Pippen.  Michael didn’t have his best performance in this decisive battle, but Bulls/Pacers Game 7 suitably exemplified His Airness’s ultimate will to win.  In the fourth quarter, MJ took a jump ball against Rik Smits at which commentator Bob Costas remarked, “Michael can really jump, but Rik Smits is 7’4″ ! ”

Of course, the Bulls won Game 7, by a narrow margin, at home, in front of their raucous ChiTown fanatics.  MJ hauled down the last rebound, dribbled out the clock, and steered Chicago to a Finals rematch with Karl Malone, John Stockton, and the Utah Jazz.  Michael Jordan, criticized in the 80s for being the entire show in Chicago, had proven once again without a shadow of doubt, that he could make all the players around him better, and champions.  Seeing an artist perform at the height of his skills can make 17 years ago can seem like yesterday.

Blue Jays and Orioles , oh my!

As reported on the morning of Saturday, June 21 (the Ernifer Wedding date); several Blue Jays and Orioles were viewed soaring among the limbs of the highest Curwen trees.  Was it a sign that those two baseball symbols of Toronto and Baltimore would rule the AL East in 2014?

This morning gazing out through the window to the Kappotis Fish Pond, I was startled by another Blue Jay, buzzing over the pond and landing on the roof!  The Jays are everywhere here in West Peabody this summer.  And then as the Blue Jay took off, another bird took its place, a bird with a tint of … orange ??

As we pivot toward the All-Star Break (sponsored by “Ernifer-approved shopping vendor” Target), it’s the Orioles in First with Toronto just 2.5 games behind.  And yes, I know, Jacoby, the Bronx Bombers are firing right at the heels of the Jays.

So while it doesn’t appear that the playoffs are in the cards for Boston this season, let’s take a wide angle lens to this 2014 AL East playoff picture.  Sometimes, all you have to do is open your eyes.

photo (2)

Futbol Notes from Abroad

Ernifer was in sun-baked Europe (even the few hours at Heathrow sprayed some much needed sun on the new Kappotises!) for the Honeymoon.

But the real heat brewing among our new Greek friends was all about the FUTBOL !

Even though the action was stirring 7,500 miles away in Brasil, the Greeks and their media were not only bracing themselves for their national team’s inevitable drama against the Costa Ricans, but were also opening up their national soccer TV channels to embrace and relive some of the history of World Cup Futbol.

 

Argentinian futbol legend Diego Maradona (source: youtube.com).   Maradona lit the stage in USA during the 1994 World Cup, when he was still one of the world's premiere players. Maradona led the Argentines to the 1986 Cup in Mexico City.  4 years later, they returned to the Final in Italia, but lost to the Germans. On Sunday, Maradona's countrymen will face Deutschland again for the ultimate prize!

Argentinian futbol legend Diego Maradona (source: youtube.com). Maradona lit the stage in USA during the 1994 World Cup, when he was still one of the world’s premiere players.
Maradona led the Argentines to the 1986 Cup in Mexico City. 4 years later, they returned to the Final in Italia, but lost to the Germans.
On Sunday, Maradona’s countrymen will face Deutschland again for the ultimate prize!

So here are my notes from abroad to the North Shore Soccerroos – Brick and Ming:

 

Monday, June 30, 2014 –

“Hey Guys,

As you know, Jen and I are on our honeymoon in Greece, and we are having a fantastic time!

But I had to take just a few minutes to document some of the World Cup historical notes I’ve picked up during this past week in Europe.  Remember, when you’re in Europe during the Cup, futbol is everywhere!

On our British Airways flight to London (double-decker 747 by the way – awesome!), I watched a short film about Pele’s final team – 1970 Brazil – a team that won all six of its qualifying matches and then all seven of its tournament matches.  Futbol experts consider this club as one of the finest futbol organizations ever formed.  Pele (29 at the time) was discouraged by the Brazilian media to even participate in the tournament.  Brazil had won in 1958 – led by 17-year-old Pele.  But in 1970 it was widely believed that the superstar was beyond his prime.

But, like Michael Jordan in 1998, rumors of Pele’s demise were greatly exaggerated.  Although no longer the capital of Brasil, he was the squad’s inspirational leader and most veteran player.  Only 2 other Brazilian teammates outscored Pele over the seven matches of the 1970 Cup, culminating with Brasil’s 4-1 thrashing of Italy in the Brasil-hosted final in which Pele scored his record 100th career World Cup goal – his last.

Then, this morning in Mykonos, after the Greek soccer channel replayed last night’s Costa Rica dramatic penalty shots victory over Greece, they showed the replay of the 1986 Quarterfinal between Diego Maradona and Argentina and England – played in Mexico City.

While Jen and were chatting about the vacation, etc, I noted (just listening to the Greek commentator) how many times Maradona’s name was being mentioned.  Jen said that’s all she was hearing, “Maradona, … Maradona  …. Maradona”.  I said because that guy must always have the ball.  So I look up to the screen, and within a few moments, Diego steals the ball, dribbles toward the net, a deflection incurs, and then Maradona punches the ball into the net.  It is known as the “Hand of God” goal because the officials didn’t see that his hand touched the ball – obviously illegal.

Then, a few short moments after that, Maradona steals the ball from his British opponent, and starts racing down the field.  Approaching the center line, he starts passing Englishman (five or six) on his way to the goal.  Then outside the penalty line, he takes aim – sharply netting the ball to the exact opposite end of the goalie.  It was unbelievable.  They showed the replay like four times – and this was 1986 Greek TV!

Anyway soccerroos, just wanted to share these slices of the World Cup from Europe with you.  Enjoy the matches!

And let’s go USA!!!

– Ern”

 

 

 

 

 

 

ErnBlog Number of the Day

The ErnBlog Number of the Day is 115

Yankees superstar shortstop Derek Jeter (who will turn 40 in June) announced yesterday that 2014 (his 20th Major League season) will be his last.  If Jeter smacks 115 hits this season, he will pass Pittsburgh Pirates Hall-of-Famer Honus Wagner (mostly famous for his classic baseball cards from the early 1900s), and become the shortstop with the most hits in MLB history.  Jeter is currently 10th on MLB’s All-Time Hits List.  Pete Rose is 1st, and Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski (who wore number 8) is appropriately 8th on the legendary Hits List.

 

Derek Jeter source: wikipedia.org

Derek Jeter
source: wikipedia.org

 

Honus Wagner source: antiquesandthearts.com

Honus Wagner
source: antiquesandthearts.com

A Look Back: Where Were You, Red Sox Fans? A Dedace Ago?

I will never forget the Fall of 2003 (ten years ago) when former Philadelphia Phillies manager Terry Francona sat down with Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein, and accepted the position as Red Sox Manager.  Was the position of Mayor held by Thomas Menino more important or esteemed in the eyes of Bostonians than that of Red Sox Skipper?  Probably not.

These were the days following the Grady Little disaster.  Yeah, you remember – it was the Bottom of the Eighth at Yankee Stadium in the 22nd hour of October 20, 2003.  The greatest Red Sox pitcher of All (yeah, better than Clemens, and Cy, and El Tiante, and Lonborg, and all the rest) was on the mound trying to punch the Red Sox a ticket back into the World Series for the first time in 17 years.  But the Yankees were beginning a Game 7 Rally, and had runners in scoring position when Grady, Jason Varitek, and Nomar strolled out to the mound.  We will all remember the Glare – the Glare that Pedro Martinez gave to Skipper Little – with those wide-open white irises, and those dark brown pupils – the Glare that transparently echoed the theme of the Ace’s seven-year career in Boston: “These are the Yankees, and I am Pedro!  I’m the best pitcher in Baseball, and I want to finish these guys!”

Pedro Martinez Source: tripleinthegap.wordpress.com

Pedro Martinez
Source: tripleinthegap.wordpress.com

I remember thinking (and saying to my Dad and Papa) – “Yeah, it’s Pedro.  You can’t take the ball out of the hand that got you here.”

“But,” my Dad countered and questioned (a former baseball coach in his own right, and a Championship-winning one for the 1994 Babe Ruth Cardinals), “you have “Mike” Timlin and “Scott” Williamson in the pen – both ready to go?”  Both of the Red Sox finishers had been lights out in September and October.  I could see what direction the Super Big Ern was going on this one.

But the debate between Erns was irrelevant.  Only Grady could make the decision, and he nodded at Pedro, then nodded at Nomar, and walked back to the dugout.  I remember hearing the roar of Yankee Stadium at that point.  That’s what this Rivalry is all about.  None of the fans ever want to see reserves determine championships or even regular season games.  Both opponents only want the best.  Jorge Posada stepped to the plate, and eyed his nemesis – Pedro.  Early on in their AL East careers, Martinez had dominated the Yankee catcher’s at-bats.  But as the early twenty-first century had taken shape, the tables in this conflict had begun to turn.

Earlier in the night (before the Game had started), Papa had brought a vintage emblem to my parents’ house – a shiny old silver coin picturing Babe Ruth’s visage dawning the classic “NY” Yankees cap that had earned him Baseball immortality.  My grandfather (a jeweler – 72 at the time) had formerly been a coin collector, and had recently spotted this “treasure” in his basement.  I’ll never forget my brother Eric pulling me aside before the Game, saying, “Has Papa gone mad?  We finally have a chance to beat the Yankees, take their spot in the World Series, and he’s rolling in here with a BABE RUTH coin?!!  Is he crazy?”

And then as the Game was almost ready to start, FOX started showing images of Red Sox-Yankees Lore, and at the very end, the black and white video of the Yankee Babe winking at you, which had become the lasting television symbol of The fabled Curse that his untimely departure from Boston had spawned over Beantown and al of New England back in 1918.  Now (about 3 hours later) as Pedro gazed down on Posada, I recalled The Babe’s wink, and immediately thought of Han Solo piloting the Millennium Falcon – uttering “I’ve got a back feeling about this.”  The Yankee catcher ripped the ball into the right-center field gap, driving in two runs, and I wasn’t surprised.  As Posada glided into second base, he pumped his right fist, and the game was tied.  This was pretty much how my bad dream had already played out in my mind over the past 60 seconds.

Then, there was the next Glare of Pedro – yes, still the Glare, that Look of the pounded Title Fighter that had given all that he had, extinguished all of his fuel.  The only characteristics missing from Pedro’s face were bruised eyes and incomprehensible sweat.  Now Grady had to take the ball from Martinez, and I thought back to my own playing days when I couldn’t find the plate as a pitcher, and the coach (often times by Dad) would have to stroll out to the mound and say “Ern, you don’t have it today, and we can still win this game.”  Then, I thought back to my brother Eric – a skilled pitcher into high school, whose coaches would sometimes have to come out to the mound, and say, “Eric, you’re out of gas.  We’re gonna try to close this one out from the pen.”  And then, I finally thought of a great young pitcher – Jeff Allison (who I had just had the honor to coach that same baseball season at Peabody High).  I had even seen Allison (just drafted by the Florida Marlins in the First Round of the MLB Draft) subjected to these moments.  In the State Quarterfinals, legendary Tanner Coach Niz walked to the mound after his flame-throwing right-hander suffered his tenth hit allowed to the St. John’s Prep Eagles, and took the baseball from him.  The Coach had been wise, as Peabody would ultimately win that game.

But, I had never seen a pitcher leave the mound to this type of reception at Yankee Stadium – to the raucus echoes of “Who’s Your DAADDY?  Who’s Your DAADDY??”  Who’s Your DAAAAAADDY?”  Earlier in 2003, when questioned about Boston’s inability to defeat New York in critical games, Pedro was quick to tell the press that he wasn’t worried about the Yankees, that the Yankees in effect had no authority over him, that the Bronx Bombers didn’t own him – in essence, simply “the Yankees weren’t his Daddy!”

So, here, the Yankees had proven once again to be the Thorn in Pedro’s side.  We all know the rest of this story.  Wakefield.  Aaron “Mother &%#*()@&#^(@)#)” Boone.  Joe Torre.  Joe Buck.  Tim McCarver.  Yankees returned to World Series, although ultimately losing in 6 Games to Josh Beckett (who we would all get to know better) and the Florida Marlins.

Terry Francona Source: lehighvalleylive.com

Terry Francona (Source: lehighvalleylive.com) 

 

Then came Terry Francona.  I remembered him from Philadelphia.  I knew he had been a former Big Leaguer (playing a few different positions) for at least with the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers.  I owned some of his Topps baseball cards.  My previous impressions from hearing Francona talk was that he seemed like a nice guy.  Grady Little was a mumbling bafoon in the press room, not that I cared because he consistently won games in his 2 years as manager.  But Terry was definitely a better conversationalist.  And shortly after he took the reins in Boston, another vocal baseball figure joined the Red Sox ranks – All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling, who had been Francona’s Ace with the Phillies.  Schilling was not one to mince words.  He was an avid George W. Bush Supporter, and a Guest Speaker in MLB’s Testimony to the US Congress on Steroid Abuse.  Strangely (not known at the time), Schilling turned out to be the only one of those then-players invited to Congress that was not ultimately found guilty of using Performance Enhancing Drugs (“PEDs”).

Schilling now formed a Dual-Ace Rotation in Boston – joining Martinez.  With Pedro and Schilling on the mound on consecutive days, the Red Sox were poised to more seriously challenge the Yankees for the AL East Crown.   In 1998, ’99, and 2003, Boston had qualified for the Postseason, but only by virtue of the Wild Card (enacted in 1995 to give one second-place team in each of the 2 leagues a chance to contend in the Playoffs).  But it had been demonstrated by 2004 that the path to success in the Postseason was typically paved (with a few exceptions) by winning your division, and earning home-field advantage.  This was the path that Red Sox Ownership and Management knew to be smoother and richer.

But still (by the 2004 All-Star Break), things weren’t panning out the way General Manager – Theo Epstein had anticipated.  The Red Sox were substantially behind New York in the Division (and although the Martinez/Schilling combination was dominating), the Overall Team (in particular the offense) just wasn’t clicking.  And new closer Keith Foulke sucked.

Then came one of the defining moments of the 2004 Season.  It was a late-July game in the Bronx against (of course) the Yankees.  The Red Sox had managed to narrow New York’s Eastern lead to a reasonably obtainable margin (about 4 games).  It was the final game of a 3-game series, and if I’m correct, a Red Sox win would have reduced the Divisional Spread to only 3 Games – leaving about 2 full months left in the season.  That is when Nomar Garciaparra did not suit up to play.  Nomar had been consistently injured from 2002-04.  It is now widely thought that he tore muscles in his right arm due to using PEDs in the late 90s and early 2000s.  But back then, Red Sox fans had loved Nomar, and had been understanding of his physical problems.  Now that I look back, I believe Garciaparra had also been ridled with psychological anxiety.  His obsessive-compulsive trips to the batter’s box are now haunting.  While they were funny at the time (when I was a young guy in my late teens and early 20s), if you look back at the videos (I mean DVDs), these episodes now appear very disturbing, and are indeed stressful to even watch.  I hate to even imagine what Nomar may have been going through during those times.  But now that he is a commentator with ESPN, he seems to be doing much better, seems to be much happier, and I’m happy for it.

Nomar Garciaparra

Nomar Garciaparra

But in this game (which he unfortunately didn’t even compete in) would sink Nomar to the lowest depth of his mostly prolific career in Boston.  Nomar batted an American League leading.356 in his sophomore year of 1998 – a year after winning the AL’s Rookie of the Year Award.  Two years into his career, he was clearly better than the two other leading shortstops in baseball (both young like him, and both seemingly destined for the Hall of Fame) – New York’s Derek Jeter and Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez.  Then in 1999 (with the All-Star Game returning to Fenway Park for the first time since the 1960s) Nomar won his second straight AL Batting Title by hitting a staggering .372.  Now Ted Williams [himself staggering in old age (Teddy Ballgame had to be carted around the field before the 1999 All-Star)] was meeting with Nomar religiously.  Early in Garciaparra’s career, the Splendid Splinter (Williams) had become enamored with the young shortstop’s swings, and would spend Spring Trainings down in Fort Myers, Florida to mold the prospect’s batting techniques.  Now, by 1999, Teddy didn’t need to teach Nomar how to hit in the Big Leagues anymore; now he was instructing this Southern California kid (just like Williams) on how to become the greatest hitter in the history of baseball.  Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941, the last time any Major League player has been able to eclipse 2 hits in every 5 at-bats over the course of a full season.  Williams was convinced that Nomar would also bat .400 (and in multiple seasons).  Teddy Ballgame identified Garciaparra’s primary weakness as a lack of plate discipline.  Nomar was known (especially in 1997-98) for free swinging, often at high pitches above the strike zone.  While Garciaparra would drive several of those pitches into the gaps for doubles and over fences for homeruns, Williams knew that the young slugger would need more walks to hit .400.  You see walks (or bases-on-balls) don’t count as At-Bats.  Therefore, if a player can obtain a lot of walks (see Pete Rose, Wade Boggs, and Barry Bonds), that player would effectively require less hits to obtain a desired batting average.  Because even though you would obtain less hits (swinging at less pitches, and reaching first base often without a hit), your average would be calculated by dividing those fewer hits by a substantially fewer number of total at-bats.  In 1999, Nomar began this experiment, and it was paying dividends.

But alas, we need to return (or jump forward) now – back to this game in July 2004 that Nomar didn’t play in (and the Red Sox needed to win).  In the late innings, rival shortstop Derek Jeter dove into the third-base stands to haul in a foul ball for an inning-ending out, squashing a Boston rally.  The Yankees would win the game, and further bolster their divisional lead.  And I remember the feeling that night – the Yankees are willing to do what the Red Sox aren’t willing to do to win these big games.  They’ll dive into the stands, they’ll crash into the catcher at home, they’ll foul off a hundred pitches to tire a starting hurler.  And, specifically – it was Jeter who would do anything, push any envelope, to get a win.  While Nomar on the other hand was far more temperamental.  Was he feeling good?  Did he get enough sleep the night before?  Were the numbers all lining up right in his head?  Were the stars aligned properly?

And the next morning, all the local sports media had the same outlook.  That the Yankees (and individually Jeter) wanted the AL East more than the Red Sox (and specifically Nomar).  And had all this money during the offseason (for Schilling, Foulke, etc) been paid to produce the same old story?  Well, that question was definitively answered about a week later – right before the annual End of July Trading Deadline, when Theo Epstein announced that the Sox had moved the face of their franchise since 1997 – Nomar to the Chicago Cubs (through a 3-team deal) in exchange for two Minnesota Twins – slick-fielding shortstop Orlando Cabrera and backup first-baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.  Mientkiewicz had played high school baseball in the Miami area with Alex Rodriguez, who had ironically just signed the largest paying contract in MLB History ($25 Million/Year for 10 Years)] to play for guess who?  – the Yankees. So, as the Baseball Gods would have it, these two former South Florida schoolmates would ultimately collide in that October’s 2004 ALCS.

As soon as Cabrera was inserted into the Boston lineup, everyone started playing better.  It was as though Orlando had a magic wand at shortstop that bounced around the diamond, scrolled into the outfield, stopped by the bullpen, and then finally filtered into the Red Sox dugout – all along, sprinkling some dust onto each of the players and coaches.  The magic became undeniably visible shortly after the Trading Deadline, with the Yankees in town on a Saturday afternoon.  Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were back in the booth for the national FOX telecast.  An inside pitch came too close for A-Rod’s liking, and he started exchanging some bitter commentary with Red Sox backstop Jason Varitek.  After another pitch sailed by, the conversation escalated and the two All-Stars started yelling at each other.  A-Rod stuck his face into Varikek’s personal space and pointed his finger.  The Red Sox catcher violently extended both arms into A-Rod’s face, and It Was On!  Both benches cleared onto the field at Fenway, and the hatred, the bitterness, the animosity, the fever of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry ensued.

Well after tempers settled down, the Yankees still had a lead in the bottom of the ninth with their Hall-of-Fame closer Mariano Rivera on the mound.  The Sox had showed spunk, but at the end of day, it appeared they would once again lay victim to baseball’s most notable dynasty from the Bronx.  That’s when Sox third baseman Bill Mueller (in his second year with the team) changed the course of the 2004 MLB Season by driving a Rivera fastball into the bleachers – giving the Red Sox their biggest victory of the regular season.  Not only had the Red Sox responded to the Yankees intimidation motives, they had now actually also taken care of business on the field, and on the scoreboard.  With the Red Sox celebrating (for the first time in a long while) a critical regular season victory, it was now apparent that this AL East battle could go right down to the wire.

The Yankees ended up winning the division by just 3 games (far different from the dominant margins with which they dominated the Red Sox in the Division in 1998, 1999, and 2003).  But in 2004, it seemed “for some reason” that Boston was so much closer to the Yankees that in previous postseasons.  Even the national media was in many cases “predicting” that Boston would defeat New York in the ALCS because of the combination of Pedro and Schilling.  Those predictions would bode ominous as Pedro and Schilling would each consecutively lose the first two ALCS games at Yankee Stadium.  Then, the Bronx Bombers would invade Fenway on a moist Saturday night, and lambaste Bronson Arroyo, Tim Wakefield, and a plethora of other Sox hurlers in a 19-8 romping – to take a commanding 3-0 series advantage.

The question after Game 3 (for Games 4-7) wasn’t “What happened?”, but was really “What didn’t happen?”.  You (or I, or any baseball screenwriter) could have written the scripts for Games 4-7 of the 2004 ALCS, but none of those versions could have possibly lived up to the reality.  As they say in Hollywood, “Sometimes Life imitates Art!”

Looking back on Games 4-7 of the 2004 ALCS:

– 4 Games in 4 Days [2 Extra-Inning Games: 12 Innings in Game 4, and 14 Innings in Game 5 (both at Fenway)]

– 2 Extra Inning-Games won by hits from the same player – eventual ALCS MVP David Ortiz [who homered in the wee early morning hours on a Monday morning at Fenway (Game Four, which longtime friend Jimmy Pointek left because he “got tired”), and then who singled that same Monday evening at Fenway to conclude the 14-inning Game Five].  So, yes, the Red Sox won 2 different ALCS Games (both Four and Five) on the same day.

– Curt Schilling underwent an invasive ankle procedure in the Red Sox clubhouse at Yankee Stadium before taking the mound in Game Six.  The images of his blood-soaked sock still resonate through baseball lore.  I believe that sock is in the Hall of Fame.  And, yes, Schilling dominated New York through six epic innings.

– Schilling’s performance wasn’t enough to stand on its own in Game Six.  In the 8th inning, A-Rod [racing Sox pitcher Arroyo (now in relief) to first base] swatted at Bronson’s glove and knocked the ball down the right field line.  Jeter scored to tie the game, but “Not So Fast!” proclaimed the Umpire Crew of SIX (how fitting?).  Interference on A-Rod was the call, and Jeter was ordered back to second base.  Yankee fans begin to throw crap onto the field in protest, and NYPD (in full riot gear) flooded into foul territory at Yankee Stadium.  After the tempers “subsided”, Arroyo got out of the jam, and the Red Sox went on to win the game, and tie the series.

– Johnny Damon hits a grand slam in Game Seven (erupting from a series slump).

– Pedro Martinez is inserted into Game Seven in relief.  In the final season of his seven-year deal with Boston (and widely reported to be headed for greener pastures in 2005), Pedro wanted to imprint his final postseason stamp on Yankee Stadium.  He ironically never got to punch that stamp as the Yankees continued to solidly pound him (even now in New York’s Game Seven collapse).  In 2009 Martinez would return to Yankee Stadium – pitching for the Phillies in Game 6 of that World Series.  The Yankees would crush Pedro again that evening, and then celebrate their first World Title after the Joe Torre Era – and A-Rod’s only World Championship.

But by the end of that October 2004, Pedro did finally have the opportunity to point his right index finger up toward the heavens, but in St. Louis – after dominating Game 3 of the World Series.  And the next night it was Derek Lowe (who also clinched the Sox historic upheaval of the Yankees in the ALCS) who finished off the Cardinals.  Lowe (resurrected from the Boston bullpen) proved to be a postseason hero.  Keith Foulke got Edgar Renteria to hit a grounder right back to the mound to complete Boston’s first World Championship since 1918.  Despite what jewelry my Papa could now find in his basement, the Curse of the Bambino was now finally over!

Ironically, the Sox would replace Orlando Cabrera (who essentially started their late-July, early-August rally toward the postseason with sparkling defense and timely hitting) in 2005 with Renteria, who struggled offensively all year and was not invited back for 2006.  Renteria spent the rest of his career back in the National League, where he would again blossom.  Who figures?  Mientkiewicz (who was playing first base when Foulke fielded that last grounder from Renteria in the World Series) recorded that last putout of the Series, and then proceeded to “keep” the baseball.  And I don’t mean that Doug “held onto the ball tight” to make sure the Curse was broken.  I mean that Mientkiewicz quickly appraised the monetary value of the baseball and decided to “own the ball” personally as a collector’s item!  I don’t know if MLB ever got that ball back for the Hall of Fame.  But I do remember that Mienkiewicz at one point wanted some ridiculous amount of money for it.

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox finished the regular season 98-64 (like I’ve mentioned – 3 games behind the Yankees).  More importantly, we won the World Series.  In 2013, the Red Sox (if they beat Baltimore tonight and tomorrow to conclude the season) can finish 99-63 – one game better than ’04.  We have won our first AL East Title since 2007 (another World Series Title season), and currently lead Tampa Bay (who may still qualify for the Playoffs) by SEVEN full games.   Virtually all of the names (except Ortiz) have changed (Francona to Farrell, Pedro to Buchholz, Nomar to Pedroia, Foulke to Uehara), but the passion for Red Sox Baseball in New England right now is back at that “Fever Pitch” from 2004.  What will happen this October???

Ern’s Week 5 Football Selections

Sorry Big Ern hasn’t published his College/NFL Football Picks the past few weeks!  With business travel, alumni activities, etc, the Big Ern hasn’t really had a chance to catch his breath.  But this morning (on the road for business), I woke up an hour early.  Whew!  Here we go!

Ern’s 2013 Current Record (Against the Spread):

OVERALL RECORD:  18-22  OUCH !!

COLLEGE:                   12-13

NFL:                                6-9

All right – Let’s get it together, Big Ern!  It’s Week 5 !

COLLEGE FOOTBALL:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

All right, I know what you’re thinking – Hey Big Ern, You’re going to the big BC – Florida State game with your sixth-grade buddy (and constant questioner!) – Mike Greene.  So, obviously you wanna take a poke at that game, right?

The Seminoles favored by 21.5 in Chestnut Hill.  So far in 2013, the Eagles have played 6 Quarters of solid football, and 6 Quarters of lousy football.  Historically (discounting the last couple seasons), the Eagles always protect their home turf with respectable effort.  Perhaps one day I’ll write a story about some of the epic stands taken by BC Football over the years against superior nationally-ranked opponents.

But this is not the week to put my stock in Steve Addazio’s new regime at The Heights.  I have a feeling that the Seminoles might really lay a whooping on the Eagles Saturday afternoon.  Not touching this one!

#15 Miami (19.5 pt Fav) at South Florida                       Noon   ESPN-U

The undefeated Hurricanes with a local game against a winless Bulldogs program that showed signs of prominence in the final days of the Big East, but which has appears to have fallen back to Square One this season.  Miami Coach – Al Golden has recharged “The U” with a powerful Hurricanes running game fueled by sophomore sensation Duke Johnson.  I got to watch this guy tear up the Eagles just a year ago.  All Ern has to say is: “It’s Late September – Hurricane Season!!”

Ern’s Pick:  Hurricanes 34, Bulldogs 13

 

#14 Oklahoma (3.5 pt Fav) at #22 Notre Dame                    3:30    NBC

Sometimes we forget some of the truly BigTime college programs in the country.  During a recent business trip to Des Moines, Iowa (first time to America’s true epicenter of “The Heartland”), I was reminded of the rivalry and passion associated with that coming weekend’s Iowa-Iowa State annual battle.  My only regret is that I didn’t actually get to attend the game.  Then last weekend, Ernifer had the privilege of enjoying some breakfast with a mutual friend – a Soonerette in fact!  A 21st-Century OU Alumnus, she still tries to visit Norman for a game every two years.  She explained that coach Bob Stoops may as well be the Governor of Oklahoma because he certainly is the most powerful individual in the Sooner State.

Head Coach - Bob Stoops may as well be the Governor of Oklahoma, because he certainly is the most powerful individual in the Sooner State. source: nydailynews.com

Head Coach – Bob Stoops may as well be the Governor of Oklahoma, because he certainly is the most powerful individual in the Sooner State.
source: nydailynews.com

On the other hand, Brian Kelly has his hands full in South Bend this season.  Freshman star QB Derek Golson is gone – having failed to meet the academic standards of Notre Dame.  How unfortunate.  After leading the Irish to an undefeated 2012 regular season, and then into the National Title Game against Alabama, it’s “one and done” for Golson.  Now Coach Kelly (former St. John’s Prep student and footballer back in local Danvers, Mass) has been forced to turn over the steering wheel to Tommy Rees, who has been bounced around the Irish depth chart for his entire career there.  Ern is not big on Rees.  And at last check, neither was former colleague (and 21st-Century Irish Alum) Mike Regan.  Jimmy Pointek (always the ND supporter), however, is high on Rees, and thinks the veteran can lead the Leprechauns to a premium bowl in 2013.

Regardless of Big Ern’s season projection for Notre Dame (a totally different story), I see the Irish hanging tough at home this Saturday.  The Sooners are strong and undefeated.  While I expect Coach Stoops to earn a pivotal road win in the shadows of Touchdown Jesus, Ern thinks this one’s gonna be tight.

Ern’s Pick: Sooners 24, Fighting Irish 21

 

#21 Mississippi at #1 Alabama (16.5 pt FAV)                                      6:30         ESPN

All right, so the Ole Miss Rebels are undefeated so far, and they’ve even ventured on the road, into the Big 12, and taken down Texas!  I know what you’re thinking, the Longhorns are down this year, and Mack Brown (2005 National Title Winner with QB Vince Young) is now on the proverbial Coaching Tight-Rope in Austin.  But if you’ve ever BEEN to a game at Longhorn Stadium (archive your ErnBlog), you know that a win down on that campus is No Joke!

And then there’s Alabama.  Have they been as good as they were at this point in 2012 – there second-straight National Title Season?  Absolutely not.  The Crimson Tide surrendered 42 POINTS at Texas A&M a few weeks ago.  Sure the Aggies have “Johnny Football” piloting their ship, but please – the Tide was never at any point in either 2011 or 2012 where Nick Saban’s boys would leave six touchdowns on the field!  But, Alabama won that game, and they’ll win again on Saturday in their “Super Bowl” timeslot on ESPN – and convincingly.

Ern’s PickCrimson Tide 41, Rebels 24

 

#10 Texas A&M (10.5 pt FAV) at Arkansas                    7:00        ESPN2

Yeah, Texas A&M appears poised for a premium bowl game this season.  But this week, they’re on the road, and they’re back in the SEC for year #2.  Are they better than the Arkansas Razorbacks?  You betya.  Is this gonna be a walk in the park for Johnny Manziel?  No way!

Ern’s Pick:  Aggies 27, Razorbacks 21

 

California at #2 Oregon (36.5 pt FAV)                                10:30

Aah.  The Big Ern always likes taking a late-night West Coast game!  On an interesting note, in another PAC-12 contest Saturday night, Stanford visits Washington State, but wait – No!  The Cardinal actually doesn’t “visit” the Cougars, because the Washington State campus is in Pullman – in Eastern Washington!  That’s where Drew Bledsoe went to school.  Not that any of that matters, right Mike Greene???  But this Stanford/WSU game is being played in Seattle – home of the UW Huskies!  Why?  And,  what?  Gonna have to ask Western Apple State native Kristen Leigh Mitre about this conundrum!

But alas, I’m not here to talk Cardinal-Cougars.  The Big Ern’s PAC-12 Pick of the Week focuses on Eugene, Oregon where the nation’s second-ranked squad (with those awesome neon-green sneaks – Yeah, Big Ern has a pair!) play host REALLY LATE on Saturday night against the California-Berkley Golden Bears.  Can these Ducks really swim?  You betya.  Can they score a lot of touchdowns?  Oh yeah.  Are they gonna completely devour a PAC-12 opponent by 37 or More points?  Come on now.

Ern’s Pick:  Ducks 52, Golden Bears 24

ErnBlog Week 3 Football Picks

Some of you might think that this is Week 2 of the Football Season, but of course you would be wrong.  College Ball got underway on Labor Day Weekend, so for Big Ern – this is Week 3 Boys and Girls!!

So let’s see how the ErnBlog Football Picks are going so far in 2013.

Ern went 5-4-1 picking College against the Spread in Week 1, and then went a mediocre 5-5 against a combination of NFL/College in Week 2 (4-1 in College and a horrible 1-4 in NFL).

So for the Season, Ern is an Overall 10-9-1 (1-4 in NFL and 9-5-1 in College).

So what’s on tap for Week 3:

College – Saturday, September 14, 2013:

Boston College at Southern California (14.5 pt Fav)            3:00  PAC-12 Network

 

Lane Kiffin's Division 1-A Head Coaching stints have been disappointing to say the least. Source: www.usatoday.com

Lane Kiffin’s Division 1-A Head Coaching stints have been disappointing to say the least.
Source: www.usatoday.com

 

USC giving over 2 Touchdowns to Boston College after LOSING at home to the Washington State Cougars last week?  No way Jose!  These Eagles are 2-0, and this is the Steve Addazio Era!  Addazio knows big-time College Ball.  Remember how he orchestrated that Florida Gators Offense of the Tebow years?  Lane Kiffin (on the other hand) has been nothing but disappointing both in the SEC at Tennessee, and now in Southern California.  Yeah, the Trojans may win this game (like they barely held onto that San Francisco Bowl a few years ago against the Eagles), but BC is not going away without a fight!  Ever to Excel baby!

Ern’s Pick:  Trojans 24, Eagles 22

 

#1 Alabama (7.5-pt Fav) at #6 Texas A&M     3:30   ESPN

We all remember what happened last season when the Aggies rolled into Tuscaloosa and put a whipping on the Tide.  Sure the Tide made it close in the fourth, but that was the day when we all truly realized that Johnny Manziel had officially arrived, en route to the freshman’s Heisman Trophy.  Now it’s the Crimson Tide cruising into College Station, looking almost unbeatable.  This could be the wake-up call that Nick Saban’s boys need to get them charged for the brutal SEC schedule.  This should be a good one.  And I’ll get to watch it with Jimmy Pointek for the second year in a row!

Ern’s Pick: Crimson Tide 27, Aggies 24

 

Maryland (7.5-pt Fav) at Connecticut                 7:30

I’m actually going to this game with Jimmy Pointek.  Don’t know how he convinced me on this one?  Notice how he didn’t invite me to the Michigan Game!  Just kidding.

So Terrapins coach Randy Edsall (a former Boston College wide receiver and UConn head coach) returns to Storrs.  The only two things I really know about this game is that Maryland sucks (they allowed BC to earn one of the Eagles two wins in 2012) and I’m going – so I wanna see a Huskies win!

Ern’s Pick: Huskies 27, Terrapins 20

 

#16 UCLA at #23 Nebraska (4.5-pt Fav)              Noon       ESPN

PAC-10 offensive-minded team travelling to the Great Plains to take on Big-12 Power and Size.  I like the Cornhuskers any day of the week – especially Saturday in Lincoln!

Ern’s Pick: Cornhuskers 30, Bruins 17

 

#20 Wisconsin at Arizona State (5.5-pt Fav)       10:30       ESPN

The Wisconsin Badgers have decimated their opponents thus far in 2013 by a combined score of 90-0.  Not only has the Wisconsin offense been explosive, they also haven’t surrendered ONE POINT on defense!  Ern thinks the Badgers should be Ranked #2 right now behind Alabama.

And you mean to tell me the Arizona State Sun Devils are FAVORED over Wisconsin Saturday night in Tempe???  No way.

Ern’s PickBadgers 34, Sun Devils 14

 

National Football League – Sunday, September 15, 2013:

Dallas at Kansas City   (2.5-pt FAV)                              1:00                  FOX

Will this be the year that Tony Romo will pilot Dallas to the Super Bowl? Source: espn.com

Will this be the year that Tony Romo will pilot Dallas to the Super Bowl?
Source: espn.com

Sure, Kansas City won a game last week.  They beat the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.  And now, the Chiefs are FAVORED at home over a Cowboys team that won a key widely-viewed divisional opener over the Giants?  Sorry oddsmakers!

Ern’s Pick: Cowboys 27, Chiefs 13

 

Miami and Indianapolis (2.5-pt Fav)                      1:00         CBS

The Dolphins and Colts both won last night, both in close games that were probably tighter than they had to be.  One image that Ern has of Miami this year is of a team that will struggle to win games outside of South Florida.  The Big Ern has Miami going 7-9 this year for that very reason.  I think this game will provide an example for that blueprint.

Ern’s Pick: Colts 31, Dolphins 17

 

San Diego at Philadelphia (7.5-pt Fav)                                        1:00           CBS

So here we go – We have that West Coast Team playing the early game on the road in the East Coast Time Zone – typically a disaster for the Pacific dwellers.  However, in this case, the Chargers are just a better team than Philadelphia.  Monday night’s offensive wizardry by Chip Kelly’s Eagles was a fluke, while on the same night – San Diego let one get away at the hands of the Texans.  On Sunday afternoon, Ern thinks we get a better picture of 2013 Chargers Football with swing passes and pure athletes.

Ern’s Pick: Chargers 27, Eagles 20

 

San Francisco at Seattle (2.5-pt Fav)                                      8:30                NBC

This is where the rubber will meet the road in the 2013 NFC West.  NBC’s got a thriller on its hands.  Russell Wilson’s gonna make some moves in this one for the Seahawks, but in the end – Ern thinks Colin Kaepernick’s got a little bit extra.  And besides, Ern’s benching RG3 in Fantasy this week, and giving Kaepernick the nod.  So of course I’m picking San Fran!

Ern’s Pick: 49ers 23, Seahawks 20

 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (6.5-pt Fav)                   8:30           ESPN

The Steelers looked out to lunch on Sunday, letting the Tennessee Titans just vault into Heinz and wipe the turf with them?  What’s that all about, Coach Tomlin?

On the other hand (despite their close loss in the Windy City), the Bengal Tigers look poised to make a run at the AFC Central in 2013 behind now seasoned third-year QB Andy Dalton.

Ern’s PickBengal Tigers 27, Steelers 17