Category Archives: Live Mike

MikeSmith

Column: Misery loves company

On Jan. 3, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills dashed the Jets’ playoff hopes with a 22-17 win over Gang Green. For a Giants fan like Sports Editor Mike Smith, the Jets’ loss was a bright spot in an otherwise terrible NFL season. Photos courtesy Wikipedia.com

On Jan. 3, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills dashed the Jets’ playoff hopes with a 22-17 win over Gang Green. For a Giants fan like Sports Editor Mike Smith, the Jets’ loss was a bright spot in an otherwise terrible NFL season. Photos courtesy Wikipedia.com

I swear that I’m not a spiteful person, but when it comes to sports, it seems like a healthy dose of “schadenfreude” is sometimes unavoidable.

Last Sunday, while watching my New York Giants put the finishing touches on a dreadful 6-10 season—and Tom Coughlin’s coaching career—the only thing that gave me any sort of comfort was seeing the Jets’ season come to an equally disastrous end.

I know. I’m a bad person.

The truth is, even for a Giants fan, this wasn’t a hard Jets team to root for. After jettisoning swagger-y blowhard Rex Ryan in the offseason, Gang Green was under new management in the form of Todd Bowles, a coach cut from the same cloth as the no-nonsense Coughlin. They played hard-nosed defense, had the franchise’s most explosive offense in more than a decade and had a likeable—if not imperfect—signal caller under center in Ryan Fitzpatrick. What’s not to like?

But jealousy is a strange emotion. I came into Week 17 with every intention of rooting for the Jets to beat the Bills—now helmed by Ryan—and clinch a playoff spot. But as the two 1 p.m. games unfolded, I found myself almost subconsciously cheering each Buffalo third-down conversion, delighting in the growing despair of the Jets fans around me.

I guess part of it is the residual resentment built up from the Rex Ryan regime. I never had strong feelings one way or the other about the franchise before Rex took over, but his tenure was marked by the kind of bravado and boastfulness that doesn’t engender a lot of goodwill from opposing fan bases.

But mostly, it had to do with the Giants’ failures. If I had to watch my team blow chance after chance and miss yet another postseason, why should anyone else—let alone people I have to see every day—have the right to be happy?

Am I being juvenile? You bet. But at least I’m not alone.

Throughout the course of the game, I was communicating with some friends in a group chat, the majority of whom were Giants or Eagles fans, and had no real stakes in the Bills-Jets game. Only my friend Mike, a season ticket-holder for years, swears allegiance to New York’s other team. But as Fitzpatrick’s interceptions doomed the Jets, you would have thought the rest of us were members of the so-called “Bills Mafia.”

Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin lost his job after another bad season for Big Blue. For Sports Editor Mike Smith, the only silver lining is that the Jets aren’t in the playoffs either.

Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin lost his job after another bad season for Big Blue. For Sports Editor Mike Smith, the only silver lining is that the Jets aren’t in the playoffs either.

GIFS of plane crashes, butt-fumbles and jubilant Rex Ryan celebrations flooded the chain, as we did our best to pile on to our buddy’s already crummy day.

I may not be proud of myself, but if I can’t be proud of the Giants, watching someone else suffer might just be the next best thing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Tyrod Taylor jersey to order.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: New year, new hope

Many people have plans for self-improvement at the dawn of a new year. Sports Editor Mike Smith, second from right, is hoping that his sports teams are able to turn things around. Photo courtesy Mike Smith

Many people have plans for self-improvement at the dawn of a new year. Sports Editor Mike Smith, second from right, is hoping that his sports teams are able to turn things around. Photo courtesy Mike Smith

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to turn the page on 2015—at least sportswise.

From a fandom perspective, this hasn’t been a great year for me.

The Giants, who were thankfully put out of their misery this past weekend, were positively atrocious, only kept afloat for weeks by the grace of playing in such a terrible division.

My Red Sox? I’m not sure they played a Major League Baseball-worthy game after May rolled around.

The less said about the Knicks, the better; when your team is on pace for a sub .500 season and it shows a marked improvement over the previous year, there’s not a lot to cheer for.

And even the teams I follow that did well—the hockey Rangers and my adopted National League-favorite Mets—managed deep postseason runs, only to be undone by the very flaws that had their supporters concerned all season long.

So why am I expecting things to be any better in 2016?

Maybe I’m an optimist; maybe I just don’t learn.

Right now, things don’t look promising for our in-season teams. The Rangers, who looked like the best team—at least record-wise—in the NHL for a month, are in the midst of a mid-winter swoon that would make the Washington Generals blush. The Knicks, even with Kristaps Porzingis energizing the fan base, are clearly also-rans without a discernable plan for the future.

Sure I was pumped by the, ahem, Price-y free agent splash the Red Sox made during the winter meetings, but since news broke on Dec. 28 that the Yankees strengthened their bullpen by trading for the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman, it looks as though Boston is in for, at best, a third-place finish within the division.

But that’s the thing about sports fandom: it invites you to suspend the pretense of rationality for as long as possible.

For now, I can still hold out hope that my teams will turn it around. Maybe the Knicks will put together a winning streak and make the playoffs. Maybe the Rangers will find a way to get off a snide that’s seen them win only four of their last 16 games and battle back to the top of the division. Maybe PED suspensions and balky elbow ligaments will wreak havoc on the Yankees’ pitching staff.

Maybe 2016 will be a better year. Maybe I’ll actually have some reason to cheer over the next 12 months.

One can only hope. Unfortunately, that’s what makes being a fan so darn frustrating.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: Will someone think of the kids?

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has gotten his team off to a perfect 12-0 record this season. Unfortunately, some people are focusing on his celebrations instead. Photo courtesy Keith Allison

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has gotten his team off to a perfect 12-0 record this season. Unfortunately, some people are focusing on his celebrations instead. Photo courtesy Keith Allison

If you take the word of fans and pundits alike, there is a growing menace in the world of professional football. It’s not gambling, concussion protocols, or the numerous instances of domestic violence that currently plagues the NFL; it’s something far more sinister.

It’s dancing.

On Dec. 6, in a Sunday night game against the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown and proceeded to punctuate his score with one of the more memorable touchdown celebrations of the year: a full-speed, spread-eagle leap into the goalpost. Brown was flagged for excessive celebration—and for using the goalpost as a “prop”—but the reaction was generally benign, from the referee fighting back a smile as he made the call, to announcers Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth chuckling about it afterward. Everyone seemed to agree that, while an obvious penalty, Brown’s leap was all in good fun.

But the reaction to Brown’s jump seems out of step with some other recent responses to similar celebrations.

A few weeks ago, Cam Newton on the Carolina Panthers celebrated a touchdown run by performing “the dab,” a nascent dance move that, by all accounts, seems as harmless as “the peppermint twist.” But Newton’s “dabbing” unleashed a media firestorm, abounding with hot takes on how Newton’s dance moves don’t conform to his position as a high-profile quarterback in the NFL. Heck, the Charlotte Observer even printed an open letter to Newton, penned by a fan whose 9-year-old daughter was apparently “traumatized” after watching Newton revel in his scoring run.

So what’s the difference between these two scenarios? I think positions have a lot to do with it.

Brown is a wide receiver, a position long thought—fairly or otherwise—to be played primarily by a bunch of “me first” showboats. People point to players like Randy Moss and Chad Johnson as precedents of this kind of behavior, so when Brown does something like this, nobody bats an eye.

But Newton is a quarterback. It’s a position that people still, for some reason, associate with stolid, clean-cut—and, let’s face it, white—players, like Roger Staubach, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.

Newton is winning games, sure. He’s emerged as one of the league’s best quarterbacks, plays for one of the league’s best teams, and, regardless of how you feel about the Panthers, he’s got an infectious enthusiasm that makes him hard to root against. But to a few backwards holdouts, he’s shifting the paradigm of quarterbacking in the league, and there’s always going to be some resistance to change.

I just hope people come around to his side sooner rather than later. If you’re too hung up on his dance moves, you’re missing out on watching a truly exceptional player.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: So long, farewell

On Nov. 29, Kobe Bryant announced that the 2015-2016 NBA season will be his last. Sports Editor Mike Smith thinks Kobe’s complicated legacy will take a while to sift through. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.com

On Nov. 29, Kobe Bryant announced that the 2015-2016 NBA season will be his last. Sports Editor Mike Smith thinks Kobe’s complicated legacy will take a while to sift through. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.com

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with retirement tours.

On Nov. 29, Kobe Bryant announced his intentions to hang ‘em up at the end of the season with a poem/press release on the Players’ Tribune website. The news itself was unsurprising. Through 16 games this season, playing on a team destined to win 20 games, the Black Mamba is shooting 30 percent from the field, and generally displaying all the range and mobility of one of the shambling zombies that found their way into Alexandria on last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead.”

So yeah, it’s time.

But what we didn’t need, as sports fans, is another months-long swan song for a player who on one hand was an all-time great scorer, and on the other, leaves a complicated legacy behind.

As with most of my sports complaints, I blame the New York Yankees. The recent retirements of both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera—both of which were announced well in advance—gave rise to this new epidemic of the year-long retirement party. When Jeets and Mo retired, at each stop on the road, they were honored by the home team, given gifts commemorating their historic careers and generally fussed over by fans, writers and opposing players alike.

But that was easy to swallow with the two Yankee greats. In addition to being important, historical players, both Jeter and Rivera played their entire careers without even the whiff of scandal. As a Red Sox fan, I didn’t “like” these two, per se, but I had an awful tough time finding anything bad to say about them.

With Kobe—and Boston’s own David Ortiz, who also recently announced that he will retire at the end of the 2016 season—the outpour of support won’t exactly be unanimous.

Of course, I love Papi. Just about anyone with a pulse who lives in the greater New England area would probably trust the man to babysit their kids. But outside of Boston, questions about his PED use and his occasionally unprofessional attitude toward umpires and professional scorers mean that he’s not exactly universally revered.

Like Ortiz, Kobe is also lionized by his fans, who consider him to be among the top five best NBA players of all time. But after sifting through his on-court accomplishments, we come to the unavoidable stuff: the treatment of his teammates, his reputation as a “me first” player, and most importantly, the sexual assault allegations leveled against him in 2004.

It’s a lot to unpack, which is perhaps why Papi and Kobe chose to get out ahead of the story and dictate the narrative. They know lots of ink will be spilled over their place in the sport, their shortcomings and their scandals in the coming months. Maybe they think so much will be written
now, by the time they finally do retire, the only thing left to discuss will be how great they were at their respective sports.

Of all the things people have said about these guys, nobody ever called them stupid.

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MikeSmith

Column: Giving thanks

Sports Editor Mike Smith loves covering fall sports. He’s just happy the winter season is beginning before the weather starts to turn.  Photo/Mike Smith

Sports Editor Mike Smith loves covering fall sports. He’s just happy the winter season is beginning before the weather starts to turn.
Photo/Mike Smith

As families all over the nation get together on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s only fitting that I pause and give thanks as well; mainly for the fact that the fall season is finally over.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love working during autumn. Between the elite field hockey squads in our area and all the football action you can shake a stick at, I’m never at a loss for exciting athletic activity to cover in November.

But sometimes, it just gets too darn cold.

I was lucky this fall. Regardless of whether New Rochelle and Tuckahoe won or lost last weekend, I was done with outdoor coverage (the state football championships are played in the Syracuse Carrier Dome) for the year, and I escaped relatively unscathed. We’ve had some pretty decent weather over the last few weeks and for a guy who spends most of his weekends standing on some field with a camera, it’s been a blessing.

But that hasn’t always been the case.

There have been times during my tenure here when I think I deserved some hazard pay at the very least. Sure, tweeting doesn’t sound dangerous to the average person, but when frostbite is imminent, it’s a different story entirely.

With December approaching, Sports Editor Mike Smith is celebrating the end to another exciting fall season. Photo/Bobby Begun

With December approaching, Sports Editor Mike Smith is celebrating the end to another exciting fall season. Photo/Bobby Begun

I can remember a few years back, I covered a Syracuse-bound New Rochelle team in the state semis on a Saturday night up in Kingston. It couldn’t have been more than 20 degrees outside, with howling wind biting through each of the roughly 17 layers that I had on.

I’m not kidding; I was wearing so many shirts, it looked like I had donned one of those inflatable sumo wrestling outfits. And still, it did no good. It took the entirety of my hour-and-a-half drive back home, with the heat in my car pumping, to raise my body temperature back up to something
approaching normal.

This year, in comparison, I could have covered these games wearing Bermuda shorts and sandals.

But just because the weather has been mild so far, it doesn’t mean I expect it to continue. So with winter on the horizon, the freezing temperatures, the ice, and the snow, I’m going to be glad to be inside cozy gyms, doing my job.

Now if I can just get them to turn the thermostat up at the Hommocks Ice Rink, I’ll be set till April.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: Divided allegiances

Scarsdale quarterback Michael Rolfe tries to elude New Rochelle’s Tyler Cohen on Oct. 31. For Sports Editor Mike Smith, a former Scarsdale football player, covering a game between the Huguenots and Raiders was a task that was both a welcome and a challenge. Photo/Mike Smith

Scarsdale quarterback Michael Rolfe tries to elude New Rochelle’s Tyler Cohen on Oct. 31. For Sports Editor Mike Smith, a former Scarsdale football player, covering a game between the Huguenots and Raiders was a task that was both a welcome and a challenge. Photo/Mike Smith

This past weekend, I was forced to stand by and watch as a team I swore my allegiance to in my youth fell to a superior squad in a postseason elimination game, thus ending a spirited playoff run.

Amazingly, I don’t mean the Mets.

On Saturday, Oct. 31, despite several intriguing sectional matchups, I headed to McKenna Field to cover the Huguenots’ Class AA semifinal game. The reason I chose to cover this game over the others on the schedule is simple: I used to play for Scarsdale.

I know that there’s no rooting in the press box, or on the sidelines where I can often be found taking photos. And when it comes down to it, when I do have a rooting interest, I’m usually throwing my support to our local teams. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch my Raiders compete in a semifinal game, something that seemed like a fairy tale, at least back when I donned the maroon and white.

See, the Raider teams of my year were not exactly what you would call “good.” We weren’t pushovers by any stretch of the imagination, but we weren’t world-beaters either. We were a middle-of-the-road team with a stingy defense and a lot of pride in what we did on the field.

We were convinced back then that we were building something, a bridge of sorts between the program’s glory days of the late 1980s and a bright future where battling for a section title wouldn’t seem like such an impossibility.

Sure, it took a little longer than we had hoped—11 to 12 years to be exact—but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride as the No. 3-seeded Raiders took to the field last Saturday, ready to take on the top dog in Section I.

And then, the game started.

If there were any questions about New Rochelle being as good as advertised, they were quickly put to bed as the Huguenots outran, outhit and outplayed the Raiders from start to finish, beating them 33-7. And as much as I had hoped that Scarsdale would make it a game, I couldn’t help feel ecstatic for New Rochelle’s players, who have approached this season with truly refreshing enthusiasm.

New Rochelle deserved to win; they deserved to make the Class AA title game, and, bias aside, I think they deserve to beat John Jay on Saturday, Nov. 7.

But as happy as I am for the Huguenots and their fans, I was equally as happy for the Raiders. It was a great year for the kids, a great year for the program, and hopefully, a sign of things to come.

Maybe in another 12 years or so, some of those Scarsdale seniors from Saturday’s game will come back to watch the Raiders celebrating a section title.

Hopefully, though, it won’t take quite that long.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: Hidden gems

Sports Editor Mike Smith, as evidenced by this photo from 1987, used to be a big fan of the Mets. But with no memories of the team’s title run in ‘86, he’s hoping the Amazin’s produce some great moments during this Fall Classic. Contributed photo

Sports Editor Mike Smith, as evidenced by this photo from 1987, used to be a big fan of the Mets. But with no memories of the team’s title run in ‘86, he’s hoping the Amazin’s produce some great moments during this Fall Classic. Contributed photo

A few months ago, I was looking through old family photo albums and found incontrovertible proof that I was once an honest-to-goodness Mets fan. I’m not talking about the kind of Mets fan I am today, one who recognizes a great sports narrative after years of suffering, and temporarily shifts his allegiances over to the surging New York baseball team. I’m talking about a dyed-in-the-wool, wear-the-whole-uniform-just-because type of fan.

Also, I was 3 years old.

Looking back on it now, it’s not surprising that I showed such an affinity for the team in my younger years. If I was 3 in the photo I found, that meant it was right around 1987: the Mets were just coming off their miraculous 1986 World
Series, and they had two of the game’s undeniable young stars in Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Like they are now, the Mets in the mid-to-late 80s were “cool.”

But here’s the thing: I can’t remember anything about the Mets during that time. Of course, being the baseball fan I am, I’ve gone back and devoured books and articles about the ‘86 Amazin’s, read clippings from the wild series against the Houston Astros and done my best to fully understand the “Met-mania” that gripped the Big Apple that autumn.

Thanks to YouTube, I have not one, but two songs released that year celebrating the accomplishments of that team currently on heavy rotation on my iTunes. And for the record, “Get Metsmerized,” a rap song recorded by George Foster, Rafael Santana, Lenny Dykstra, Darryl, Dwight and others, remains the far
superior track.

But as for actual memories of that team? Alas, I was too young.

My only World Series memories of the Mets come from the Subway Series in 2000, when they fell to the Yankees in five games. But while the series may have lacked in drama—Piazza’s near-blast in Game 5 notwithstanding—it did provide me with one of my favorite World Series moments of all time.

I was a high school junior at the time, and Game 1 of the series coincided with a friend’s Sweet 16 party. Because the soiree was held on a boat cruising around New York Harbor, I had pretty much resigned myself to not catching any of the action live. But sometime around 9 p.m., I found myself, along with maybe 10 other guests and various members of the ship’s crew, huddled in the captain’s cabin, gathered around a small portable TV watching Al Leiter and Andy Pettitte trade zeros into the sixth inning. It was one of those surreal moments, seeing the skyline of New York City lit up as its two baseball teams were battling for the sport’s ultimate prize.

I do, however, feel somewhat guilty that the game robbed some of the female partygoers of their dance partners for the evening.

So here we are, once again, on the eve of another World Series appearance by the Mets, 15 years after the last one. By the time most of you will be reading this, we will be two games in and the series will be headed back to Citi Field for a three-game Mets homestand.

Baseball is a funny sport and there’s no way to predict what’s going to happen this week. I just hope it doesn’t lack at least a few cool moments.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a shot at fitting into that old uniform anymore.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: Get Metsmerized

As of press time, the New York Mets are just six wins away from a World Series title. Sports Editor Mike Smith urges local Yankee fans to put aside their biases and root on the Amazin’s. Photo courtesy Mets.com

As of press time, the New York Mets are just six wins away from a World Series title. Sports Editor Mike Smith urges local Yankee fans to put aside their biases and root on the Amazin’s. Photo courtesy Mets.com

Here’s a piece of unsolicited advice for you Yankee fans out there: It’s OK to root for the Mets.

Right now, the Mets are in the midst of a historic run. As of press time, they are up 2-0 on the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, with ace Jacob deGrom taking the hill in Game 3. Regardless of how this postseason turns out, however, the Mets—with a phenomenal group of young starting pitchers—seem poised to be in control of the NL East for the next five or six years.

All told, it’s a pretty good time to root for the Amazin’s.

But over the last few weeks, there’s been no shortage of blowback from Yankee fans who seem to be openly rooting for the Mets to crash and burn in spectacular fashion.

I, for one, don’t get it.

We’re not living in the 1950s anymore. The vicious intra-borough rivalries between the Giants, Dodgers and Yankees are a thing of the distant past. I mean, sure, there have been a few notable meetings between the Yanks and Mets. The 2000 World Series, Clemens vs. Piazza; these things add a bit of spice to the Battle for the Big Apple. But really, the “rivalry” has been so one-sided since the Mets’ inception in 1962, I can’t believe it’s something that even weighs on the mind of the Yankee faithful.

It’s amazing to me that Yankee fans, whose team has been at the pinnacle of the New York sports scene since 1996, are so insecure that they begrudge the Mets for the success they’re having this year.

“They won a weak division!” they’ll cry, oblivious to the fact that the AL East is no longer the juggernaut it was in the
early 2000s.

“It’s still a Yankee town!” they’ll say, as the Empire State Building radiates blue and orange.

And yes, maybe it is; at least for now.

But I think many Yankee fans see their team’s precarious position atop the city’s pecking order and are hoping against hope that continued Mets success doesn’t relegate them to second-class citizens.

It’s a valid fear, trust me. As a lifelong Red Sox supporter, I saw my team go from the plucky underdogs whose postseason run captured the attention of a nation in 2004, to a sort of Yankees-lite, an organization and fanbase that was spoiled, entitled, and worst of all, inescapable.

But really, that’s a fear for another day. Right now, the Mets are the upstarts, a young, talented team with some homegrown stars, clicking at the right time and putting on a show just about every night.

Put your Yankee bias aside and root for them for the next few weeks, will ya?

If they win the series, it’s only a matter of time before the Mets—and their fans—become insufferable.

Then, maybe this rivalry will really start to heat up.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: Defending the format

Bronxville’s Jeff Sargeant dives for an extra yard against Yonkers Montessori Academy on Oct. 3. The Broncos will have a tough test in the qualifying round of the Class B playoffs as they host undefeated Valhalla. Photo/Bobby Begun

Bronxville’s Jeff Sargeant dives for an extra yard against Yonkers Montessori Academy on Oct. 3. The Broncos will have a tough test in the qualifying round of the Class B playoffs as they host undefeated Valhalla. Photo/Bobby Begun

While there has been no small amount of handwringing over the new format of the Section I football playoffs this year, just one look at the schedule for the first-ever qualifying round of the postseason has me very excited for the days ahead.

Not everyone was crazy about the new, expanded playoff format. But while some fans came into the year concerned that too much emphasis was placed on preseason rankings, the inclusion of more teams into the postseason picture seems, in practice, to have worked out quite nicely.

Of course, it helps that several programs in the Review’s coverage area find themselves in the mix this year. While three of our local programs—Rye and Eastchester in Class A, and New Rochelle in Class AA—would have been guaranteed prime seeds after rolling through the regular season with undefeated records, the new format has opened the doors for teams like Mamaroneck, which is much better than its 0-6 record would indicate.

In past years, a winless season would have caused the Tigers to be on the outside looking in, but a strong August ranking means the team will have one more chance to turn things around. And just one look at what the team has been able to do, such as losing heartbreakers against top teams like the Huguenots, leads me to believe that the Tigers have the ability to travel to Carmel on Oct. 16 and hand the Rams an upset loss.

Of course, the most anticipated playoff matchup will see the No. 1 seeded Garnets (6-0) taking on No. 16 Harrison (3-3) at home on Oct. 17. The underdog Huskies played Rye tough last week and will be looking for redemption against their rivals as the teams get set for their first-ever back-to-back games in the 86-year history of the longstanding feud.

One of the more intriguing matchups of the qualifying round, however, will take place in Class B, as Bronxville hosts Valhalla in a showdown between the No. 6 and 11 seeds, respectively.

If anyone has a valid complaint about the importance of preseason rankings in this year’s playoff format, it would have to be the unbeaten Vikings who will not have home-field advantage when they square off against the 3-3 Broncos on Saturday.

So is this new format perfect?

Probably not, especially if you ask the teams whose play outshined early predictions. But a more inclusive structure gives more teams the chance to test their mettle in the postseason. For fans and sportswriters, like yours truly? It’s an opportunity to watch a few more weeks of high-stakes football.

So I say bring it on; it’s definitely going to be a heck of a weekend.

 

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MikeSmith

Column: Looking for a villain

Next week, Major League Baseball begins its second season. Sports Editor Mike Smith can’t wait for some playoff action. Photo courtesy MLB.com

Next week, Major League Baseball begins its second season. Sports Editor Mike Smith can’t wait for some playoff action. Photo courtesy MLB.com

Postseason baseball—especially when one’s team is out of contention—can acquaint a man with strange bedfellows. Maybe that can account for why I spent my Tuesday night watching the Yankees’ Wild Card game in a Red Sox bar with a bunch of Phillies fans.

But I have to admit, watching the Bombers end their season on a three-hit performance with a room full of rabid anti-fans didn’t give me the sort of rush I was looking for. In fact, I kind of found myself feeling bad for the Yankees.

Well, almost.

As you may have gleaned from previous columns, I hate the Yankees. But watching Tuesday’s game, seeing the few Yankees fans in attendance cringe and groan each time A-Rod chased a ball out of the zone, I couldn’t help but feel at least a twinge of sympathy.

Part of it stems from the fact that this 2015 team wasn’t your typical Yankees squad. Big money and free agents? Jacoby Ellsbury and his $150 million were on the bench for much of the night.

Instead, the lineup was filled with promising newcomers like Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird. But as well as these new players—especially Bird—acquitted themselves during the season, seeing them flailing at sharp offerings from Dallas Keuchel all night was a definite letdown, especially for fans like me who hoped to see a little more firepower from a club that has lived and died by the longball this season.

Now don’t get me wrong.

These Astros, especially when Keuchel is on the mound, are an intriguing bunch. With guys like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and “El Oso Blanco” Evan Gattis out there, they’ve got enough personality—and lumber—to hold anyone’s interest for a long postseason run. But in the days leading up to the game, my father, a Mets fan who loathes the Yankees, brought up a good point. He was hoping for a Yankee win on Tuesday for one reason: the longer the Yankees stuck around in the playoffs, the longer he’d have a team to root against.

A quick look at the teams left standing doesn’t offer much in the way of pure villains. Sure, the Cardinals are essentially the Yankees of the National League, but the Pirates? The Cubs? The Rangers? It’s tough to find a reason to root against these squads.

That is, unless they’re playing the Mets.

Then I’m sure I’ll find a reason.

 

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