The Zionist Conspiracy
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Two people (neither of them named Elster) have kindly offered to buy me a beer. In that spirit, here are a few quick thoughts:
1. When I went out for lunch a little while ago, a man was laying on the ground bleeding from the mouth and face and screaming in pain. He was on a bike and had been hit by a small van around five minutes earlier. Even given the traffic in midtown, suffice to say that the amount of time it took for an ambulance to finally come makes one appreciate Hatzalah. In that regard, I was ready to call Hatzalah when an ambulance finally arrived. Had I done so, hopefully G-d would have forgiven me.
2. I'm concerned about Obama and Israel, but would have been only a little less concerned about Hillary. And I'm concerned about John McCain too, who, everyone is forgetting, has said that he'd send Brent Scowcroft or James ("F*** The J*ws") Baker as Middle East envoy.
3. Obama's speech in Cleveland indicates that in his mind, "Likud" is a dirty word. That said, perhaps Hillary's experience in New York has educated her about different views on Israel, but her husband's administration wasn't exactly friendly to Likud PM Binyamin Netanyahu, was it?
One thing about Obama's speech that nobody seems to have picked up on is his statement that "members of my national finance committee, like Lester Crown, are considered about as hawkish and tough when it comes to Israel as anybody in the country."
Let's put it this way: That's like saying, "Herm Edwards is as aggressive and innovative on offense as anybody in the NFL."
Crown is a major supporter of Peace Now.
4. In all sports, good teams get their talented players to star and their less talented players to fill useful roles. The Jets have a talented player in Jonathan Vilma, but since Vilma does not fit into Eric Mangini and Bob Sutton's defense, they are ready to give him away at a time when his trade value is minimal.
5. I find all of the long-winded posts about the concert ban to be well-meaning, but silly. Don't they know that the Internet is banned by many of the same gedoilim too?
6. Al Montoya and Marcel Hossa for a couple of minor leaguers and a third or fourth liner? Either Montoya was a terrible pick at #6 overall or this was a terrible trade. Or both, perhaps.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
There's plenty to write about, including the latest ban by charedi rabbis, Barack Obama's speech to a Jewish audience in Cleveland, NFL free agency, and many other topics. However, I just don't feel like posting. If you must remain informed of my views on these and other topics, please buy me a beer or two.
Posting will be very light for a while, as I will, G-d willing, be going to San Diego for a week this Sunday, and will then have a very busy month at work.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The Seaver Trade, The Erving Sale and the Jason Kidd Era
Despite the current snag in the prospective deal between the Nets and the Mavericks, it is clear that the Jason Kidd era is over for the Nets.
The greatest players in Nets franchise history are Julius Erving, followed by Kidd. Erving led the Nets to two ABA championships. Kidd led the change from NBA doormat to six straight playoff appearances, including two NBA Finals appearances in his first two seasons here.
Yet it remains to be seen how Kidd will be remembered by Nets fans. After Kidd sat out on December 5 due to a purported migraine, Nets fans could sense that the end was near. Kidd's recent lackluster effort and public trade demands have resulted in fans like me being excited about what the Nets would be getting back from Dallas and hardly feeling nostalgic about the Nets' most successful period in the NBA.
The Nets' sale of Erving is remembered as catastrophic for the franchise, which it was. The ABA's best team immediately became one of the NBA's worst. But Erving was sold only after the Nets were forced to pay millions to join the NBA, millions more to the Knicks, and Erving then held out of training camp demanding a pay raise. Yet history has judged the Nets ownership at the time very harshly.
Tom Seaver was traded only after taking shots at Mets ownership and management, demanded that his contract be renegotiated, and, after tentatively agreeing to an extension, then demanded a trade after Post columnist Dick Young (whose son-in-law worked in the Mets front office) ripped Seaver one time too many and Seaver lost his temper.
The Seaver trade was catastrophic for the Mets, and led to a revolt among fans. The team, predictably, became terrible. Ownership was blasted, while Seaver remained a beloved figure.
Does Kidd deserve to be remembered differently then Nets fans remember Dr. J and Mets fans remember Seaver? Nets ownership and management surely deserve blame for taking an elite team and making it a second round playoff team. The Nets gave Kenyon Martin away and never replaced him, sold draft picks, cut decent players just to save money and were content with being less than a top contender. The Nets also refused to give Kidd a one-year contract extension that he probably deserved.
On the other hand, the Nets did spend some money, particularly on Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Kidd himself. While too many of management's moves didn't work out, the Nets didn't resemble M. Donald Grant's Mets.
While Kidd can still play at a high level when he wants to, unlike Erving and Seaver at the time they were sold and traded, Kidd has passed his peak, providing another reason why fans aren't broken up about his departure.
But perhaps the biggest reason why fans were devastated by the Erving and Seaver trades but not the idea of trading Kidd is that sports have changed a lot over the past three decades. Players are no longer expected to play their entire careers - let alone more than a few years - with one team. Trade demands are routine, especially in the NBA. Fans are more cynical, and rarely become as emotionally attached to players anymore - even franchise players.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I'm pleased with what the Nets are getting for Jason Kidd.
Kidd is unhappy and had demanded a trade, will soon be 35, is a free agent after next season and the Nets are only 23-29 with him.
The Nets are getting Devin Harris - who is signed through 2013, two first round picks and salary cap relief in the form of expiring contracts.
The first round picks will likely be very late 1st rounders, but the Nets should still be able to find young, cheap bench players with those picks.
In the short term this is a step back, but I'm not sure that in the NBA going 39-43 is much different than going 33-49. More important is that this allows the Nets to begin their rebuilding process immediately, in sharp contrast, for example, to the Knicks' trade of Patrick Ewing, from which they have still not yet recovered.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Memories Of Shea - The New York Sack Exchange
Things were falling into place in November 1981. Baseball had come back in time for the Mets to finally fire Joe Torre, albeit after a decent second half in the strike split season. The Yankees had lost in the World Series. And the Jets were having by far their best year since 1969, the last time they had made the playoffs - or even had a winning record.
After a 4-12 season in 1980 and an 0-3 start in '81, irate fans were demanding the firing of head coach Walt Michaels. But the Jets finally started playing to their talent. Led by Richard Todd and Wesley Walker on offense and Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko on defense, they were 7-4-1 following a thrilling 16-15 victory against the Dolphins.
After the win against the Dolphins, all week I excitedly looked forward to the next game, on November 29, 1981 against the hapless Colts, for which my father had gotten tickets from a friend.
At around 11:30 a.m., my father came to pick me up, telling my 4th grade rebbi (a man who seemed to hate children despite - or perhaps due to - having something like 14 of his own) that he was taking me to the game. Off we went to Shea Stadium via train.
Our seats were in the mezzanine, behind the end zone. It was very cold and windy. And nothing was like Shea on a cold windy day. As I believe it says in the Talmud, "those who have not experienced strong winter gusts at Shea Stadium have not experienced the wind at all."
After that experience, listening to people describe "windy" Giants Stadium is laughable. Sort of like when people from southern California complain when winter temperatures fall into the 40s.
At some point in the second quarter, I had to go to the bathroom. When I saw the enormous length of the line, I ran right back to my seat, and fortunately was able to hold out until the two-minute warning. I recall being amazed then at how long it took for those ahead of me to complete their task. I was also surprised that fans brought their beers with them and continued drinking them there while on line.
The game itself was a dominant Jets win, a rarity over the prior twelve seasons. Rookie Freeman McNeil scored his first two career touchdowns, while Gastineau and Klecko sacked Colts QB Bert Jones twice apiece.
Despite the cold, I did not want to leave, though my father finally insisted on going with the Jets up 25-0 with around six minutes left in the 4th quarter.
On the way out, and outside Shea, and also on the 7 train, there was a feeling of euphoria, with drunks and sobers joining together for the J-E-T-S chants. The Jets were 8-4-1!
Four weeks later was the Jets' infamous loss to the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs.
The following season, the Jets would reach the AFC Championship, but lost to the Dolphins. Afterward, those who had demanded the firing of Walt Michaels got what they had once wished for.
With Joe Walton at the helm, by the time '83 ended, the same old Jets were back. The euphoria was gone.
So, forever, was football at Shea Stadium.
None of that mattered on a cold day in late 1981, when Shea was the best place to be.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Is The King Falling?
Two seasons ago, Henrik Lundqvist and Jaromir Jagr finally brought some excitement back to hockey at Madison Square Garden. For most of that 2005-06 season, the Rangers were division leaders and among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Ultimately, after his gold medal performance in the Olympics, Lundqvist led the Rangers' late season slide, culminating in their first-round sweep at the hands of the Devils.
Last season, Lundqvist and Jagr both got off to slow starts, but both got hot down the stretch. The Rangers' second round playoff loss to the Sabres was disappointing, but with the July 1 signings of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, there was renewed optimism that the Rangers would be Stanley Cup contenders this season.
Alas, the Rangers have been woefully inconsistent throughout the season, and while they have the talent to make a run during the playoffs, right now it is questionable that the Rangers will make the playoffs at all. While the Rangers are currently in seventh place in the East with 60 points, the Bruins and Sabres are close behind and both have four games in hand.
After a great start in which he covered up for the terrible starts by Gomez, Jagr and Drury, Lundqvist has, for the third straight season, slid into a prolonged slump. His 2.37 goals against average - good for 13th place in the NHL - is identical to the GAA of his backup, Stephen Valiquette.
Overall Lundqvist has had a pretty good year. But while he can hardly be considered a bust, nor has he emerged as the franchise goalie Rangers fan desperately assume he will be for the next decade.
With Lundqvist likely to soon sign a massive contract that will tie up a substantial amount of salary cap room for years to come, the future of the team will largely hinge on whether he is really The King, or merely a little better than Rick DiPietro.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Memories of Shea - Big John Schmidty
I never met Big John Schmidty. I always pictured him as a burly Irishman in his 50's, with white hair and a big beer gut, but I really had no idea what he looked like or anything about him at all.
Though we never met, thanks to Big John, during the late 80's, I was able to secure field box seats to several Mets games.
My relationship with Schmidty started around 1988. The Mets had installed a fence around the field box level, making it difficult to move down from the upper levels.
One game we tried to move down to field box seats, and were predictably stopped by security. For whatever reason, I asked the guard whether there was someone I could speak to about upgrading my seats. After a reflective pause, he gave me directions to go to see Big John Schmidty and let me through.
Once inside, I decided not to meet with Big John, and to instead sit down on one of the many empty field box seats.
The next few times I went to Shea with cheap seats, I had no trouble entering the field level by telling the guard stationed at the fence that "I'm here to speak with Big John Schmidty."
Invariably, for a couple of innings I'd be worried that Big John would get wind of his name being invoked in vain and would find me. But nothing like that ever happened.
By 1990, I was content with moving down to the loge level, and Big John Schmidty and I went our separate ways.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Memories of Shea - Jacket Day
The short Sunday school day was almost over when my father knocked on Rabbi Wald's door. After a conference lasting just a few seconds, I was let out of my second grade class.
Down the block was a car taking me, my father and my brother to my first baseball game.
It was June 15, 1980. Jacket Day at Shea Stadium.
The Mets had been terrible for three years, but they had been playing very good baseball over the past couple of weeks, and, if I recall correctly, would be .500 with a win.
And the night before was the greatest Mets game I had ever seen.
After shabbos, we'd turned on Channel 9. The Mets were losing 6-2 in the 9th inning.
With two outs in the 9th, the Mets loaded the bases for Claudell Washington, who lined a two-run single to make it 6-4. That brought up Steve Henderson. With the count 0 and 2, Henderson hit a monstrous homer over the right field wall. It was pandemonium at Shea. The crowd wouldn't leave until Henderson came back from the clubhouse to give a curtain call.
But that was on TV, and alas, Jacket Day at Shea couldn't match that. We had great field box seats right by 3rd base, and I did get my Mets jacket, which I wore every night that summer in the bungalow colony. But the Mets were shut out 3-0 by Bob Knepper, and I was buying a soda when Darrell Evans hit a two-run homer in the 4th.
There were no 9th inning heroics, and this game started a typical Mets tailspin that landed them right back in last place - though ultimately their 67-95 record was good enough for 4th place, ahead of the even more dreadful Cubs.
The Mets would be terrible for exactly three more years, until the franchise altering heist of June 15, 1983.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Super Bowl XLII
1. I feel sort of like a Jew on Christmas today.
2. Congratulations to the Giants.
3. I can't stand Bill Belichick, but the criticism about him leaving with one second left and being in a bad mood during the post-game press conference is way overblown.
4. Unrestricted free agent Asante Samuel seemed like a perfect fit for the Jets based upon his dropping what would have been the Super Bowl clinching interception.
On the other hand, Samuel would probably have cost a few million more if he had caught that ball.
5. I would certainly not mind Samuel on the Jets, but if last night's game proved anything, it was that games are won and lost at the lines. Alas, that doesn't provide much in the way of optimism for Jets fans.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Inside The Sheitel Store Controversy (Revised)
My initial post was meant to be anecdotal, irreverent and flippant. It was not meant to be a nasty attack on Chaim Berlin. I'll try again.
I was all set to abstain from (directly) posting about the controversy surrounding the store across the street from Chaim Berlin featuring pictures of models wearing purportedly seductive sheitels.
Alas, numerous posts on the Jblogosphere have tried to point out that the yeshiva students should control themselves from looking at seductive sheitels, that the models are hardly seductive, or that the store isn't directly across the street from the yeshiva so that the students should not have been offended.
While it's been 17 1/2 years since I graduated from Chaim Berlin, allow me to present another perspective for your consideration.
While I was in Chaim Berlin, the yeshiva had a culture of informing on others, and this was something that the yeshiva's hanhala (Jewish studies faculty) approved and even encouraged.
At least twice I took the Coney Island Avenue bus to Kings Highway on a Sunday along with other students, and the next day was called into the principal's office and charged with going to a movie. In fact, while the others indeed were going to the movie theater, I was going across the street to Crazy Eddie to watch the Jets. But the main thing was that someone was keeping a watchful eye and providing key (albeit often inaccurate) intelligence to the hanhala.
More than twice a yeshiva student saw me committing the indiscretion of eating or drinking outdoors, and the next thing I knew, my rebbe and I were learning the gemara that compares a person who eats in the street to a dog.
I could not resist when the pay phone outside the mechanic next to Chaim Berlin enabled free 1-900 calls. One time a fervent yeshiva guy noticed, called me a pervert, and escorted me right to the principal.
Was calling 1-900-976-1313 to check the sports scores really perverted?
Are sheitels modeled by attractive women really seductive?
The yeshiva's culture was - and I believe still is - one in which going to the rebbe or the rosh yeshiva about such concerns is encouraged as a form of kol yisrael areivim zeh b'zeh (all Jews are responsible for each other). I think this was the motivation of the yeshiva bochurim, and that those pointing out the store location or that the women posing were not seductive are therefore missing an important element.