NFL and MLB Moments of This Past Week

Musings while managing the effects of Hurricane Irma.

Back in Florida for two weeks getting ready for the start of the NFL season.

The league postponed the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins scheduled for this past Sunday.

With the threat of the potentially-devastating hurricane eventually bearing down on South Florida, the league took no chances.

Rather than moving the game up earlier in the week, or moving it to a neutral site up north, the game was re-scheduled for November 19th, which coincidentally was the bye week for both teams.

While it will be considerably more grueling for the players who will now have to play 16 games in 16 weeks without the benefit of a break that  every other team will receive during the season, it really made the most sense.

Your faithful columnist was slated to broadcast the game in Miami with his new partner Mark Schlereth, on Fox. So now we wait a week for our 2017 debut in Tampa coming up this Sunday when the Bucs host the Chicago Bears.

Ironically, Tampa was earmarked to take a good brunt of the storm as it was developing, so it remained to be seen how the football game would be affected about a week after the storm hit the western part of Florida.

Football, and any sport for that matter, takes such a huge back seat to human lives and their property, it really doesn’t even belong in the discussion.

We do it here for perspective, nothing more.

On that subject, how about the extraordinary and heart-warming efforts of J. J. Watt. His foundation reached over $30 million in aide to the victims in Houston and surrounding areas from the horrible effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Watt, who has probably been the best defensive player in the NFL for several seasons, established himself as perhaps the best human being in the league for what he engineered.

The Houston Texans defensive end sent 12 trucks of goods and one cargo plane of diapers and baby formula to Houston, and with the help of other members of the Texans, helped unload and distribute food and other supplies.

As Watt said, “This is so much bigger than any game, any sack, any touchdown. This is lives.”  How true. So J.J. Watt, a football hero, is a hero as a person, too.

Isn’t this a better story than the ongoing Colin Kaepernick saga?

The Kapernick soap-opera began last year  when the 49ers quarterback refused to stand for the national anthem. Other players throughout  the NFL followed his lead and kneeled during the anthem.

It has continued this season. Kaepernick, opting out of his contract to become a free agent, has been unable to hook on with another team.

There have been cries of discrimination by those claiming there is an unquestioned bias by clubs who are judging him by his controversial actions rather than his abilities as a quarterback.

I suppose, in a free country, a player can express his opinions and take action as long as violence is not involved.  I also suppose, in a free country, owners, general managers and coaches can determine what they decide is the best for their team in regards to signing players. Whatever the reason.


Back to the more shining moments this past week.

49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who also competed in the long jump in the 2012 Olympic Games, provided a moment to be cherished during a practice session.

With an audience of youngsters from the Make-A-Wish Foundation on hand, one boy in particular, 11-year old Austin DeMello, diagnosed with a brain tumor, was clearly not feeling well.

Goodwin rushed over during practice, spending several minutes with young Austin. Here’s what the football player said, his face inches away from the boy:
“I’ve got a sister who never walked a day in her life…She’s still smiling, still enjoying life. You can too, it’s going to be alright”.

I’d rather dwell on the actions of J.J. Watt and Marquise Goodwin than others whose actions may not bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye. Wouldn’t you?

On to other topics.

Not to be outdone by the famed Deflategate controversy involving the New England Patriots resulting in the four-game suspension of QB Tom Brady last season, another Boston team, the Red Sox were accused of illegally using electronic gear in the dugout to steal signs during a game between the Sox and the Yankees at Fenway Park, August 18.

Video clips the Yankees sent to the Commissioner’s Office claim Boston’s assistant athletic trainer had not just an Apple Watch, but a smartphone which is not allowed in the dugout by Major League rule.

During a New York  pitching change, the Yankees say the trainer pulled the phone from his back pocket, viewed something, then said something to second baseman Dustin Pedroia  who communicated with the runner on second base Christian Vazquez. The relief pitcher entering the game , Tommy Kahnle, allowed three singles, a sacrifice fly and a walk. There were runners on second base throughout the inning, and a 6-3 Yankee lead turned into a 7-6 deficit.

There has been no word from Commissioner Rob Manfred on any disciplinary action against the Red Sox.

In fact, the Red Sox counter-claimed the Yankees used their own TV cameras to steal their signs.

So the beat goes on.

Legally stealing signs, by clever observation, has been a common
fact of baseball life since the game was invented.

Maybe in the new world of social media, it has taken on new dimensions.

This brings to mind one of the most ridiculous charges of sign-stealing.

A million years ago, there was a player named Bobby Thomson who hit a pennant-winning three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds in New York to give the Giants a 5-4 victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers to cap perhaps the most dramatic comeback in baseball history.

This was before the Giants moved to San Francisco. The year was 1951, and as a Giants fan, this youngster, not yet nine years of age, experienced a moment which set the tone for his future.

Years later, there were accusations that the Giants used a high-powered telescope and a buzzer system to alert the batters to the next pitch. In fact, a Giants player named Sal Yvars, a reserve catcher, sitting in the bullpen, has admitted to signaling signs to Giants hitters, although he never said he signaled Thomson on the upcoming pitch from Dodger reliever Ralph Branca which Thomson lined into the left-field seats for a home run.

The victory won the National League pennant for the Giants who trailed the Dodgers by 13 and-a half games in mid-August. The New Yorkers caught the Dodgers, and
Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” became one of the great moments in baseball history.

Maybe Yvars did steal catchers’ signs. Maybe he was looking for notoriety.

My issue is this: Why didn’t the Giants steal signs of what the Dodger pitchers were throwing and get the benefits before the ninth inning of the final playoff game?

Why go into the ninth inning trailing 4-1 before getting that advantage?

What happened the day before when the Dodgers won 10-0 at the Polo Grounds to even the series at a game apiece?

Was it unnecessary to get an edge earlier?

I’m so glad I got that off my chest!

A final note on the first game of the NFL season.

Something funny happened on the way to Super Bowl 52.

Amid predictions the Patriots would run the table and go unbeaten, the Kansas City Chiefs walloped the Pats 42-27 in Foxboro.  I sincerely hope no one got hurt getting off the New England bandwagon.

Now, knee-jerk observers are questioning how good the Patriots are, and how old 40-year old Tom Brady looked in the defeat.

Look, one of these days the Patriots will stumble and perhaps not even make the playoffs, much less contend for the Super Bowl.

I can never understand why people have to take the temperature of every team, every time they play a game, make judgments, and pronouncements based on the short term.

Here’s what I think.

Head coach Bill Belichick relishes moments like Thursday night.  He knows his team, an outstanding one, realizes they need to fix things.

They understand it fully after one game.

What a blessing.

Don’t be surprised if the Patriots now win 14 straight. They’ve reacted in similar fashion before. Pity the rest of the league.

An unbeaten season is a joke. It just doesn’t happen. Teams don’t play for that. They play to win a championship.

The Patriots will win the AFC East. That’s not even up for debate.

So they will appear in the playoffs. Probably have to win three games to capture another Super Bowl. They might not win all three. But they’ll at least come close.

So how much did Thursday’s loss to the Chiefs really affect their season?

Maybe, only to make them better.