It will be an emotional night at Fenway Park on Monday night as Johnny Damon returns to Boston for the first time since he bolted the Red Sox for the Evil Empire last December. It will be interesting to see how Red Sox Nation treats him upon his return in pinstripes.
On Sunday I wrote an article for the Red Sox fan web site I am a part of, http://www.bornintoit.com, and it's called "Damon's Return", and I thought I would share it with all of you.
It will be a night of mixed emotions for sure. There will be fans who'll remember the good times, and who will stand and cheer. There will also be those who felt utterly betrayed and will do nothing but boo. But there will be very few fans who will be neutral at Fenway Park on Monday night, May 1, when the Yankees make their visit to Boston in the 2006 season.
It will be the return of Johnny Damon to Boston for the first time since he signed with the Evil Empire last December.
We won't know for sure how the Fenway Faithful will react when Damon enters the batter's box for the first time against Tim Wakefield shortly after 7 PM. I've talked with many Red Sox fans about that since the day Damon officially departed. Some want to stand and cheer. Some just want to just boo him lustily. And there are others that want him taken out with a long-range rifle.
If I were in the stands at Fenway on Monday, I would actually give him a standing ovation in his first at-bat of the night. But in every succeeding at-bat of that evening, and forever more in Boston, I would do nothing but boo him.I would stand and cheer him the first time for all he did in his four years in a Red Sox uniform. It would be for all those times he played hurt, for his all-out hustle and the way he played the game. It would be for a very special night that lives in the heart of every Red Sox fan: October 20, 2004. A night that erased decades and decades of heartbreak that every Red Sox fan knew by heart. For hitting two monsterous home runs and driving in six runs that night. It would be for hitting the biggest home run in Red Sox history, one that was bigger than Pudge Fisk's in the 1975 World Series, bigger than Dave Henderson's in the 1986 playoffs. It was the second inning grand slam that put the Red Sox on the road to The Promised Land.
It would also be for another big time home run, the one that led off Game 4 of the World Series seven nights later. For being the catalyst that broke a media-created piece of stupidity called "The Curse." Something that seemed to be shoved down the throat of every Red Sox fan by every empty-headed moron who tried to be cute and clever either in print or on television. It would be the game-winning run that ended 86 years of futility, and put a spring in the step of every Red Sox fan on earth.
Damon will forever be "One of the 25", no matter what uniform he wears from now until the day he retires. Once the 2004 World Series championship was won, he became the face of the Red Sox. Talk shows, books, movies, he was turning up everywhere that winter. But as the old saying goes, all good things must end. Johnny Damon deserved all the acolades that were thrust upon him after he brought a championship to the city of Boston. For all of this, I believe he deserves a standing O in his leadoff at-bat on Monday night. But once that highly emotional at-bat comes to a close (no matter how it turns out), in every at-bat after that he deserves the scorn of Red Sox Nation.
Sox fans should then let him know what they think of him leaving town to take George Steinbrenner's money and hightail it 200 miles to the south. Just about every other Red Sox player who won in 2004 who has returned to Boston has been warmly received their first and succeeding time back (think of the classy reception Orlando Cabrera got when he came back with the Angels last September). Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez (if he pitches) will getting rowsing ovations upon their returns this year. Of course, neither of them put on Yankee uniforms.
If Damon had gone to say, the Cubs or Angels, I'm sure his return to Fenway would be one giant lovefest. Some fans might be hurt that he left, but all in all it would be pretty positive. Damon simply signed with the wrong team. He signed with the hated ancient rival, a team that is despised beyond words throughout Red Sox Nation. Damon turned down a fair offer from his team (4 years at $40 million) and signed with a team desperate for a centerfielder. So much so, that they grossly overpaid him ($12 million more than the Red Sox deal). The Yankees tried trading for players such as Juan Pierre and Torii Hunter to play CF, but without success. So they had no choice but to offer him a contract they probably know by the end of it will be a contract they will be stuck with (like Bernie Williams). You could make the argument (and many have) that Damon would have been foolish to have stayed in Boston and turned down such an offer.
We should also remind Damon about a quote he made last May, about how he's never leave Boston for New York, even though back then he said that the Yankees "would come after me hard." One thing Red Sox fans don't like, and that's being lied to. If he said that he would leave his options open that winter, and even regarding the Yankees, most people would have understood where he was coming from. (Remember back in 2003, when free agent pitcher Andy Pettitte said he would never sign with the Red Sox because, "I could never do that to the Yankees fans?" Compare that to Damon's May 2005 proclamation.)But Boston is where Damon's legacy was made. Boston is where he will be most fondly remembered, no matter what he accomplishes in New York. There are some Yankee fans who will never forgive Damon for what he did the night of October 20, 2004. He helped put the choker tag on the team he currently plays for, a tag that is not going away any time soon. But by leaving Boston, Damon has taken his legacy, wrapped it up in 52 million pounds of dynamite, and blown it to smithereens.
Perhaps Damon does not care about his legacy. Maybe playing baseball for the most money is what truly motivates him. He certainly won't be the only player who truly feels that way (think of Roger Clemens for instance). So be it. Baseball has been, and will always be, a business first. Damon is an athlete, but above all, and like all baseball players, he's a businessman, and he ultimately felt that going to New York was in his best interest.
We should all appreciate what Johnny Damon did to bring the Red Sox fans the championship they had long desired to see happen. The first at-bat on May 1 should be for that. But we should also let him know what we think of his taking the Yankees' money in every at-bat after that.
I'll never forget an email a friend of mine sent out shortly after Damon signed with the Yankees. It went:
"The Bronx: A place where former Red Sox champions go to get one big final payday."
We truly wish you all the best, Johnny. We only wish that "all the best" didn't have to include you wearing pinstripes.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
It will be an emotional night at Fenway Park on Monday night as Johnny Damon returns to Boston for the first time since he bolted the Red Sox for the Evil Empire last December. It will be interesting to see how Red Sox Nation treats him upon his return in pinstripes.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 10:27 PM
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Well, the Rangers didn't pull off the miracle, having lost to the Devils, 4-2 at MSG. The Devils sweep the series and move on to round 2. Still, if you're a Ranger fan, you have to be proud to see how far the Rangers have come since 2004. No one picked the Rangers to make the playoffs this season, and they have a good nucleus for next year. But the Devils are on some incredible roll, and they can ride Martin Brodeur all the way to a championship. He is proving to be not just the best goalie in the NHL now, but one of the all-time greats.
I saw a bit of the NFL draft today, as I was interested in seeing where the top picks went. Mario Williams was the number one pick of the Houston Texans. He signed with them last night, so it was no surprise today. But still, when he was announced as the number one, the fans at Radio City Music Hall, where the draft was being held, booed him lustily. They are called "draftniks", made up mostly of brainless Jets fans. When D'Brickashaw Ferguson was selected by the Jets at number 4, many of them seemed to have no clue who he was (but many were shown applauding). He's a big time offensive lineman from Virginia who figures to be a staple there for the next decade. It was a good pick by the Jets. The Vikings took LB Chad Greenway from Iowa. Nice pick, as the Vikes have holes to fill at LB and in the secondary.
Chelsea defeated Manchester United, 3-0, to win the English Premiership for the second straight season, while Liverpool beat Aston Villa, 3-1, to pull into a tie with Man U for second place. Congrats to Chelsea for ruling the roost in England again.
The Red Sox need a victory in Tampa Bay tonight. They've now lost 6 of 8. Last night was one of those frustrating nights. The Sox had a man in scoring position in 7 of 9 innings, but could only cash in once (they left at least 11 on base total). Matt Clement didn't pitch well, as he put the Sox in a 4-0 hole after two innings. A lot of things are going wrong at the same time right now, and Lenny DiNardo takes the hill tonight.
A few prayers might not hurt right now.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 5:59 PM
Friday, April 28, 2006
Yesterday was a rather bittersweet day, as construction officially began at Ground Zero on the Freedom Tower, which will be largest building in the world when it is completed. The city and developer Larry Silverstein reached an agreement earlier this week that officially allow work to commence on the rebuilding at the World Trade Center site.
It's been a long hard fight, as it seemed no one could agree on exactly what to build at Ground Zero. Back in 2001, I knew that this would happen. The city and Port Authority wants to revitalize Lower Manhattan and put back as much of the 10 million square feet that was lost in the attacks. That is fine, as it is important to show the world that we've come all the way back since the terror attacks.
My main concern remains the memorial. I have proudly supported the family groups in the fight to make sure that their loved ones are remembered with the best possible memorial at the site. The city and the LMDC still wants to put the memorial underground, which is dangerous and just doesn't make much sense. All the memorials around the United States, from Pearl Harbor to Gettysburg to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, are all soaring remembrances and all beautiful. The one at Ground Zero should likewise be beautiful and soaring. I don't want to go to one years from now where I have to fight crowds and go down BELOW street level to see it.
They also want to put the names of the victims in random order on the memorial. This is beyond stupid. Everyone who died on September 11, 2001 should be remembered TOGETHER, be it firefighters, police officers or office workers. In other words, the Cantor Fitzgerald victims should be together, and not scattered all over the place. They knew each other, worked together and died together. They should be remembered together for eternity.The LMDC feels that we should see everyone's names before we find our loved ones. That's just insane. It's not like we just want to find our loved ones and ignore everyone else. We want to honor everyone who lost their life that day, and it should be done appropriately.
Yesterday's start of construction may also mean that I may have gone down into the pit of the site for the last time. The last four September 11 remembrances, I've gone down there, and it is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life. (The picture above is from the 2005 remembrance on the floor of the site.) But it is something I know I had to do, to remember my lost friend Joyce. I will continue to be there every September 11 for the rest of my life, no matter what is eventually there.
I only hope the memorial that eventually is built there is something we can all be proud of.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 1:08 PM
What can you say about the Red Sox performance in Cleveland last night? A complete disaster. They didn't pitch, didn't hit, didn't play well in the field. Toss it in the garbage and come out fighting (hopefully not literally) in St. Petersburg tonight. Josh Beckett was torched, giving up his first grand slam of his career. Those boys from Cleveland can hit, and are plenty dangerous in the American League, so don't underestimate them.
The Red Sox miss Coco Crisp a lot, as Kevin Youkilis has fallen into a slump. Youk has done a fine job overall as a leadoff hitter, but he's better suited in the lower part of the lineup. Coco doesn't figure to be back before May 15th.
Matt Clement returns to the scene of his 2005 injury, the line drive off the bat of Carl Crawford that hit him in the head last July. Hopefully he can right the Red Sox starting pitching woes that took a severe beating in Cleveland. Otherwise it falls on the shoulders of Lenny DiNardo on Saturday.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:26 PM
Thursday, April 27, 2006
The Rangers lost Game 3 of their first round playoff series to the New Jersey Devils, 3-0, at Madison Square Garden last night. Despite the presence of Jaromir Jagr, who was injured earlier in the series and tried to pull a "Willis Reed" and inspire his team to a victory, the Blueshirts couldn't pull it off. The Devils are absolutely red-hot right now, and Martin Brodeur is the best goalie on the planet now.
I had to love the New York Daily News this morning. In a little sidebar, they told their fans,"IT HAS HAPPENED!", and mentioned that the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 Islanders are the only hockey teams to have come from 0-3 back to win their seven-game playoff series. (The Islanders almost did it twice that year. After coming back to beat Pittsburgh, they fell behind 0-3 to the Flyers before coming back to tie the semifinal series, 3-3. They lost Game 7 to the Flyers in Philly, who went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.)
But there was also a little note to the sidebar:
"The feat has also been accomplished in baseball. Quite recently we're told."
I absolutely love it! The greatest legacy of the 2004 Red Sox comeback is seeing things like this. Every time a baseball, hockey or basketball team falls into an 0-3 hole in a seven game series(or is about to), the Red Sox comeback is sure to be mentioned (even in this roundabout way). The New York Post, however, refused to even mention it today.
In 2005, fresh in everyone's minds, the Red Sox comeback was mentioned many times during the 2005 NBA playoffs. When the Washington Wizards fell down 0-2 in their series with the Chicago Bulls, one player (I can't remember his name) was asked about a possible comeback and said, "If we lose Game 3, we'll have to go back and pull out the Red Sox tapes." The Wizards won the next four straight and the series.
In the 2004 Davis Cup in Spain, the USA was down 0-2 in a five game series that November, and won Game 3. The captain was asked afterwards what he said to inspire the USA to victory (I can't remember who won it for the USA). He said simply, "Remember the Red Sox!" Absolutely beautiful. (But the USA lost Game 4 and the series however.)
So the Rangers aren't quite dead yet. Just remember guys, a team game back from 0-3 to win a seven game series. It was quite recently, even if a certain New York tabloid has trouble remembering exactly who it was.
It might just be time for someone in the Rangers organization to go out and get a copy of the 2004 World Series film.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:07 AM
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Last night I went to a screening of the new controversial film "United 93", which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. I attended the screening at the Loews Theatre at Lincoln Center. (The main premiere was at the Ziegfeld Theater, but I was part of the overflow that went to Lincoln Center.) I went with my friend Chris, and when we arrived at the theater, I met a reporter from Newsday, who I spoke to for a few minutes about the film. (I believe I was part of a story that ran in today's paper.)
Chris and I were in a theater with many 9/11 victims' family members, and just before the film was about to begin, a number of people came out to a microphone stand in the front of the screen. The first speaker was Robert DeNiro, who is one of the driving forces behind the Tribeca Film Festival. He was then followed by a number of Flight 93 victims' family members, who were an integral part of the movie being made. Then director Paul Greengrass said a few words about the film, getting a bit emotional at the end.
The film has been controversial from the start. There are those people who feel that five years out from the tragedy is just too soon to relive the events of that terrible day on film. Others feel it is Hollywood exploiting the victims of 9/11 for a buck.
I know that many people just can't put themselves through those tragic events again, and I certainly understand that. I debated it for a long time whether I would see this film, but I figured that since the victims' families had a big say in the movie and gave their blessing, and that there would be other 9/11 victims' loved ones in attendance (I did recognize a few), I made the decision to see "United 93."
It is simply one of the most riveting, intense and emotional films I have ever seen.
As soon as the film starts, it grabs you and doesn't let go of you. Most of the entire cast is virtually unknown (I did recognize 2 or 3 people in it) and many of them are playing themselves, like the air traffic controllers and military personnel. I like the fact Greengrass went this route, and didn't bring in any big name stars. Most of the movie's beginning centers around the air traffic controllers discovering the first hijacking, and the utter chaos that surrounded what to do next. "We haven't had a hijacking in 40 years," one controller said. You get the incredible feeling of those military people who weren't sure exactly what was happening, of what to do.
The film shows the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, and vividly shows the shock everyone who saw it live was feeling. Without question the film brings the memories of that day for me back with an incredible force. I'm sure every person who saw it with me felt the same way.
Greengrass has made an amazing film, and it follows the events of what appears to be just another normal day in many people's lives. It's difficult to watch a film when you know that such an horrific event is about to take the lives of so many innocent people.
But these innocent people show such courage in the face of what they know is certain death. Passengers are shown calling their loved ones on cell phones telling them about the hijacking and telling them that they love them. (That brought tears to my eyes, as it reminded me of a very special friend.) The scene of the hijacking of Flight 93 is very intense and rather graphic, the toughest of all the movie scenes to watch. Greengrass shows most of the hijackers as rather bumbling incompetents, and whether that is true or not is purely speculation.
And of course, the ending is speculation as well. The final 15 minutes of the film rivals the first 25 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" in terms of movie power and intensity. The passengers of the plane decide to retake it from the hijackers, and those final scenes are simply outstandingly made filmmaking. You feel like you are with the passengers as they begin their mission, and I found myself holding on to my seat with my heart racing as I watched it all unfold.
The film concludes with a dedication of "United 93" to all those people lost on September 11, 2001. As the credits began to roll, I could hear people in the theater sniffling and saw them wiping tears away. There was some polite applause as well, but most people were like Chris and myself: silent, and trying to get their bearings back after watching a really incredible movie. I broke the silence with Chris by asking him, "How did the Red Sox do in Cleveland?" (He told me they won.) I also said to him, "I need a drink."
"United 93" is simply a very moving tribute to 40 people who showed an incredible amount of courage in the face of an unspeakable circumstance they found themselves trapped in the middle of. They are the greatest of American heroes, and Paul Greengrass has done them all proud.
To know more about the film, check out the movie's web site: http://www.united93movie.com.
I met another friend of mine outside the theater after it was all over, a guy named Larry who recently served in the military. Larry was as blown away as I was, and the first thing he said to me about the movie was: "Every American should see this film."
I couldn't agree more.
Afterword: I was indeed part of an article in Newsday about the 9/11 families who attended the premiere last night. I am mentioned at the end of the piece. Here it is: http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/am-film0426,0,412651.story?coll=ny-entertainment-headlines
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 10:36 AM
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
I was watching the Mets-Giants game last night during Trivia Night at Professor Thom's (my team finished second, and kudos to my friend Kim and her pals who won), and I felt like yelling at the screen, especially in the seventh inning. I like Willie Randolph as the Mets manager, but he seems to be part of that group who still thinks Barry Bonds is the most dangerous hitter in baseball.
In 2006, HE IS NOT.
The Giants fans still hold up banners proclaiming: PITCH TO BARRY. I am in absolute agreement with them, but maybe for different reasons. Last night this paranoia about avoiding Bonds came back to hurt the Mets big time and it cost them the game. In the first with a man on, Tom Glavine just missed on a 2-0 pitch to Bonds, so the Mets elected to walk him. Big mistake. Moises Alou, hitting .327, takes Glavine deep to give the Giants a 3-0 lead.
But it was in the seventh where the game was really lost. The Giants were up 4-2 with men on first and third and one out. Bonds, who has one home run and hitting .222, was walked intentionally so the Mets could face Alou, the Giants' hottest hitter, with the bases loaded. Alou had two hits and put Cliff Floyd up against the wall in left in his previous at-bat. So what does Alou do? He singles in two runs and the game is salted away for the Giants, and they win 6-2. (And I bet it made my cousin Joe in Oakland very happy.)
Very poor job of managing by Randolph last night. I know he still buys into the theory he doesn't want to get burned by Bonds, but he just isn't the same player he was. He's making out 78% of the time this season (when teams DO pitch to him). Why in the world would you walk a struggling slugger to face a player who burned you in the first inning and was hitting the ball hard all night?
Bonds doesn't have 10 home runs this season, he has one. ONE. He's clearly struggling, coming off those knee surgeries, his age (he'll be 42 in July) and you-know-what else. I wish more teams would challenge him. It burned the Mets last night, and I'm sure they won't be the only ones.
I'm reminded of those times when a pitcher struggles against a hitter, and someone yells out, "Come on, he's not Babe Ruth, pitch to him!" I think that applies to Bonds, whether he thinks he's better than the Babe or not.
Coming shortly: "Game of Shadows" review........
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:01 PM
I received another email about the LMDC and their plans for the memorial at Ground Zero from Dennis McKeon at http://www.where-to-turn.org. I thought I would share yet another example of what the family groups and their supporters are up against when it comes to the proper rememberance for those lost on September 11, 2001.
The LMDC has just named a Chief Curator for the Memorial Museum. We have no problem with Dr. Jan Seidler Ramirez as she is an ideal candidate for the job. We have worked with her in the past and she has been actively involved in the 9/11 recovery process.
Our problem is with the LMDC and the press release itself.
First of all an organization that has not raised a fraction of the money needed to build and maintain the museum should not be hiring anyone.
They should use the funds they have to hire the forensic experts needed to properly canvas the buildings surrounding Ground Zero and recover and identify any of the remains that are most certainly on the rooftops and window sills.
They should use the funds to hire forensic experts to examine what has already been removed and discarded fro 130 Liberty. (At this point they will not even tell us where this has been sent. Please note that do to the condition of the building it should have been transported to a special facility because of asbestos etc.)
They should use the funds for postage so that they would be able to distribute important information on safety and security to the families and the public.
They should use the funds to redesign the Memorial and make it a safe and secure above ground structure and eliminate the random placement of names as is the wish of the majority of family members. They would be able to hire many more people as this would be done at a fraction of the cost of the current memorial.
They should not be using a press release to ask for donations. At this point they should not be allowed to proceed at all as they do not have the money in place, or even a plan to raise the money to build and maintain the memorial, which is a requirement of the Urban Development Corporation Act which governs the LMDC.
This press release is about the Memorial Museum yet they quote:
"The Memorial, "Reflecting Absence," will remember and honor the thousands of people who died in the horrific attacks of February 26th, 1993 and September 11th, 2001 and recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who offered their support in the aftermath."
Unfortunately the current memorial makes no mention of those who survived, risked their lives or who offered support in the aftermath. It doesn't even include any remnants or historical artifacts.
This Memorial which has been described as representing the cradle of democracy does not even include an American flag.
Once again they confuse the public by speaking of the Memorial and the Memorial as one when it suits their purpose. They quickly separate the two as when they stated "We will only charge admission for the Museum."
The press release gives you a link to view the Memorial. This view once again only shows aerial and street level views even though the Memorial will be 3.5 stories underground.
Below please find a link to the true Memorial Experience as envisioned by Michael Arad.
They Just Don't Get It. It Is Up To Us To Make Sure They Do.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 1:39 AM
Sunday, April 23, 2006
The Red Sox avoided a sweep in Toronto this past weekend by beating the Blue Jays, 6-3. David Ortiz hit a first-inning two-run homer and the Sox scored three that inning and led the rest of the way. But it was the bullpen that was the star of the show at Rogers Centre on Sunday.
After a dismal performance on Saturday, the Red Sox needed a win going into their three-game series that begins in Cleveland on Tuesday night. Matt Clement pitched well, but gave up a three-run homer to Gregg Zaun in the fourth. By the sixth, Clement was in trouble with two on and one out. Terry Francona brought in Keith Foulke (pictured) and he was sensational. He got out of that jam in the sixth, and pitched a flawless seventh. He struck out three of the five batters he faced. Foulke continues to be solid, and his performance today should help Foulke's case to become the closer once again.
Mike Timlin came on in the eighth, and his outing was encouraging. He threw strikes, giving up one hit and striking out one. Jonathan Papelbon got his eighth straight save. He started by giving up two hits to open the ninth, but he then struck out the dangerous Vernon Wells, and then got Troy Glaus to rap into a 6-4-3 double play to end it. Pap was supporting a new hairdo (a mohawk he got after winning--or was it losing?-- a bet to Kevin Youkilis), and he continues to be the best closer in baseball this season.
Asked about the mohawk, Papelbon let loose a classic line about it.
"I have only one person to answer about it. My wife."
The Red Sox are now 12-7, are still in first place and head to Jacobs Field for three with the Indians on Tuesday, and then to Tampa Bay for the weekend.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 10:25 PM
It finally appears that the Red Sox World Series ball from 2004 is going to the place it rightly belongs: to Baseball's Hall of Fame. The ridiculous nonsense over who rightly owns the ball has finally come to a close. The Arizona Republic reported today that Doug Mientkiewicz (photo right), who caught the final out of the 2004 World Series on the grounder back to Keith Foulke, has agreed, along with the Red Sox front office (John Henry and Larry Lucchino in photo left) and the MLB players union, to send the ball to Cooperstown so it can be displayed there.
I've heard of some really silly stuff in my life revolving around baseball, but this was one of the more bizarre episodes. In my opinion, Doug is the rightful owner of that ball, and I'm glad he has done this. I don't know why Red Sox management was so keen to get that ball back from him, as the average Sox fan really doesn't care who owns it. It's nice that the fans who go to the Hall of Fame can see it displayed. In baseball history, I can't think of one instance where a team felt they owned a "final out" ball like this. Many players who caught final outs still have them. (Like Mike Timlin, who was on the mound for the final out of the Blue Jays first World Series championship in 1992. He has the ball displayed in his home.)
It only took about 18 months to settle this dispute. Now I can sleep better at night.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:38 AM
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Liverpool defeated Chelsea, 2-1, at Old Trafford in Manchester to secure a berth in the FA Cup Final next month at the Milennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Liverpool ended Chelsea's dream of winning the English domestic double, as the defending champion Chelsea are well on their way to repeating as Premiership champions.
John Arne Riis and Luis Garcia had the goals for Liverpool, and they now play the winner of the Middlesbrough-West Ham semifinal match that will be played tomorrow. The final will be played on Saturday, May 13th.
For more on Liverpool's semifinal win: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/report?id=195935&cc=5901
Go Reds!! Bring the Cup home to Merseyside!!
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 4:44 PM
Friday, April 21, 2006
Tonight's Red Sox-Blue Jays game was the type of game every team goes through during the course of a long, 162-game season. But it still hurts.
The Sox were coasting along, 6-2 in the bottom of the eighth, and Josh Beckett was pitching a terrific game. Then it all seemed to come apart. Beckett hit Aaron Hill and then gave up a two-run homer to Russ Adams (his first home run of the year--UGH!) Then Beckett served one up to Vernon Wells, his second home run of the game. Exit Beckett, enter Mike Timlin.
Timlin worries me right now. He seems to be leaving everything up at the moment, and sure enough he left one up to Troy Glaus, and he blasted one out to tie it up. Timlin had nothing, and the next three hitters reached base (fortunately Lyle Overbay was caught stealing). Jonathan Papelbon came in to put out the fire, and eventually the game went to extra innings.
Before it all came undone, it seemed like a typical Red Sox win was at hand. They played great defense, especially Mike Lowell and Mark Loretta. Big Papi hit a home run, and Manny Ramirez finally busted out and hit two long bombs, his first two HRs of the season. Beckett was crusing along, and had just one bad inning where he gave up a two-run homer to Wells.
Papelbon and Keith Foulke both pitched very well in relief. But I saw disaster coming when, with two outs in the 12th and Foulke just having walked Glaus (the pitch he walked him on looked like strike three to me), Terry Francona decided to bring Rudy Seanez to face Lyle Overbay. This move absolutely boggles my mind. Seanez, who was a total disaster in his first stint with the Sox in 2003, has picked up where he left off and has been putrid this season. I want an explanation as to what Francona was thinking for making such an inexplicable move as this at that point in the game. If Foulke had gotten the last out and the game went to the 13th, Tito would have to have brought in either Seanez, Julian Tavarez or Jermaine Van Buren into the game. But that would have been then. Seanez threw one pitch to Lyle Overbay, and he doubled into the gap to score Glaus and Toronto won, 7-6.
Brutal. Absolutely brutal.
Like I said before, everyone goes through games like this during the season. This one was in the "w" column, and it was snatched away. The loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night was the kind of loss you forget about five minutes after its over.
This one sticks in your craw.
I better sure as hell not see Rudy Seanez with a baseball in his hand in a clutch situation for the Sox again this season.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:27 PM
My service to the state of New York in the form of my jury service ended this past Wednesday. I was officially on jury duty for nine days, and it was a fascinating experience. Not just for what went on in the courtroom, but what went on outside of it too.
On April 6th I was selected to be on a jury in New York State Civil Court in downtown Brooklyn. In civil cases there are only eight jurors (six and two alternates). As my luck would have it, I was the ONLY male selected among the eight people picked. My sister later told me that some lawyers look upon women as being more sympathetic in civil cases, and I guess she was right.
The case I was on was a car accident case, very similar to the first trial I sat on back in May 2001. I was an alternate juror on a case in State Supreme Court back then. In this case, a 32-year-old man and his female companion were driving along a street in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn at 1:30 AM on a Saturday morning in 2002 when they were passing a double-parked car that suddenly bolted and tried to make a u-turn and slammed right into them. The man went to the hospital and was discharged, not thinking he was hurt badly. But the next day, he started having back and neck pain, and he was later diagnosed as having a herniated disc in both places.
He sued the driver of the car, who was a driver for a livery cab company. But to everyone's surprise, the driver could not be located, and NO ONE from the cab company was there in court to defend themselves. The trial was a two-tiered case, first to decide liability, and then damages if we sided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff's lawyer was a really sharp guy (and a big Mets fan, as I discovered during jury selection) and the first part of the trial was no contest. I was selected as jury foreperson (foreman sounds so much better) and we found the defendants liable after a very short deliberation. During this part of the trial, I bumped into the plaintiff attorney on the luch break one day, and he said something to me about the previous night's Mets game. I said something back to him about it, but right in front of the court officer. She whispered to me I wasn't supposed to talk to him during the trial, and fortunately she let it go.
The trial was interesting to be a part of, but the really tough part in the whole thing was the down times in the jury room. On one morning we had to wait nearly two hours before the judge was ready to call us in. And I was stuck in a room with seven women! Not nearly as sexy as it may sound. Boy, these women could talk, and boy did they ever! They talked about things that I don't usually talk about with women (I leave it to your imagination to figure out that one), and on more than one occasion I heard one of them rail on about how much they hate men. Then they would look at me and say, "no offense." I would just smile and let it go. Another talked about being arrested not long before her jury duty and talked seemingly non-stop. One of them went on about some crazy 9/11 conspiracy plot, some really inane nonsense. It took all of my strength not to speak up about it, as I didn't want any fights in the jury room. But one saving grace at least was one of the women was originally from Massachusetts and was a Red Sox fan. By the last day, a female court officer said to me, "I bet your tired of all these hens." I smiled at her and said, "You said it, I didn't!"
Just after the trial started, I found a sports bar on Court Street called "Cody's Ale House Grill", and I spent most of my lunch hours there. They had NESN and was a Red Sox-friendly bar. I was there on Monday for Patriots Day and caught a few innings there. But I had to leave by the end of the top of the ninth, and missed Mark Loretta's game-winning homer.
The second part of trial was the liability part, and the plaintiffs brought out the MRIs of the injuries and the doctors who treated him. The plaintiff was a very soft-spoken man and was very credible in his testimony. The evidence was very strong, and by last Tuesday we got the case. In just over one hour of deliberation, we awarded the plaintiffs $700,000 in damages, just what they were seeking. I got up before the court as foreman and read off the findings of the jury, and I was pleased at the outcome.
After the trial I met both lawyers and the plaintiff, and they thanked us for our service. The defense lawyer asked me what swayed the jury, and I told him about the strong evidence and the failure of anyone for the defense to appear.
I will now be excluded from jury service now for a few years (I think it's three), but if I am picked again then, I pray I'm not thrown to the wolves once again.
A few men on the jury would be nice next time.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:06 AM
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Today I received an email from Dennis McKeon of http://where-to-turn.org, a crisis relief network that helps the victims of tragedies. In it he lays out a scenario about the future of Ground Zero over six years from now that I hope never happens. But knowing the LMDC and our fearless elected officials, it is not beyond the realm of possibility. It is very interesting reading.
My thanks to Dennis for sending the email to me.
As you all know yesterday was the 11th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, although you would never have known it with the limited press coverage. The good thing though was that the people in Oklahoma City had a place to go to remember those who were lost. A simple above ground memorial with a chair representing each of the victims. A memorial that they were able to visit at any hour of the day yesterday. A memorial where the names of those killed can be easily accessed in the light of day.
Let’s fast forward to the eleventh anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. Let’s assume that the LMDC gets it way and builds to the current plans. This is a bit of a fantasy so we will also imagine that they raise the 1.2 Billion they will need to build and maintain it.
A 9/11 family member decides to go to Ground Zero to honor their lost loved one. As they approach the site the only thing they see are two huge voids filled with water. A little confused they ask for directions from someone walking by. For this story we will call him Stefan. Stefan explains that first they will need to buy a ticket and points to a line of people, mostly tourists, that stretches almost as long as the original towers. Stefan continues, after you get your ticket you will have to wait on that other line, which happens to be longer than the first. Stefan explains that the line is so long because everyone needs to pass through a metal detector before they will be allowed to travel down one ramp 3.5 stories underground into a confined space. If they are able to get to the chart on the wall which indicates where the name appears they might be able to get a glimpse of the name before they are ushered out with the hundreds of other people in order to allow the thousands waiting on line to get in.
After thanking Stefan for all of his help the family member calculates that even if they waited on both lines they probably would not even get close to the memorial before it closes. Even if it were opened 24 hours, which it is not, by the time they got to the actual memorial it would already be 9/12. Feeling disgusted and betrayed that this memorial was allowed to be built the family member hops back on the Staten Island Ferry and visits Angel's Circle to say a little prayer at a memorial that was built out of love and compassion. Something they could not find at Ground Zero.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:59 PM
One of my all-time favorite sitcoms has always been "Married With Children". I was a dedicated fan when the show had its first run on the Fox Network from 1987-1997. I became an instant fan of Al Bundy, my favorite "everyman." He was a Cubs fan, had a wife and kids who always made fun of him and he had a job he really hated. But he always perservered, and I loved his trials and tribulations. I watched the show when it went to syndication, but then it disappeared. But recently I got the F/X cable channel, where the show has been for a while. So I was able to get back into it again. It still makes me laugh out loud.
I also began watching the episodes again on DVD through Netflix. The first four seasons are currently available. But when I reached the third season, I made a strange discovery. The first show of that season, as well as all the shows on that DVD collection, don't have the show's signature theme song, "Love and Marriage", the classic song sung by Frank Sinatra. (All those years I always wondered what the Chairman of the Board thought about the show using his song. I guess his reaction died with him.) Whenever I heard the song, even away from the show, I always thought of a "shoe salesman from Chicago." (And I always will.)
They replaced the song with some "ersatz" theme that tried to sound like "Love and Marriage."(And in the closing credits of each show, "Love and Marriage" is still listed.) I never remembered it during the run of the show, so I decided to do some research about this controversy.
I went to Google and discovered that Sony Pictures, who own the rights to the show, and the music company who owns the rights to the song couldn't come up with an agreement to use the song on the DVD releases. So from now on, "Love and Marriage" will not appear on any future DVD release of Married With Children.
That's like having the Red Sox win a game at Fenway and not hearing "Dirty Water." It just doesn't go.
Al Bundy's getting screwed over. Yet again. Sorry Al.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:33 AM
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I hope you will all say a prayer for the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred 11 years ago today. At the remembrance services going on today in Oklahoma City will be representatives of the 9/11 community, including some of my friends from the WTC United Family Group, of which I am a proud member. Although I have never seen it live in person, the memorial for the victims (19 of which were children) is incredibly beautiful: 168 chairs, which light up at night.
I've had the honor and pleasure of meeting many of the Oklahoma City bombing victims' family members at the four September 11 remembrances in Lower Manhattan, and they are some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. They have been through some of the most horrific experiences imaginable, and their strength, courage and caring have been very inspiring to me. I'll never be able to thank them enough for all they did for all of us who lost someone we loved at the World Trade Center, and I will see many of them again at the next remembrance at Ground Zero in September.
May God bless all of them. The 168 of Oklahoma City will never, ever be forgotten.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 1:09 PM
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
I discovered that the New York Daily News also did a similar story that the New York Post did on Tuesday about the silliness of polling Mets and Yankees fans in New York. Apparently Quinnipiac did the poll, and both tabloid papers here jumped on the story. The News' version also leans heavily on the players' "hunk factor" as well. Oh brother.
At least with the Daily News story you don't have to register on-line to become a member. (My apologies about the Post and their registration you have to do in order to read their stories.) Here it is for your "enjoyment":
In more important news, congratulations to Pedro Martinez on winning his 200th game against the Braves on Monday night, 4-3, at Shea. He took another step to his first-ballot Hall of Fame election. Pedro is one of the greatest pitchers of his era, and it makes me wonder if he had a decent closer all those years in Montreal, and especially in Boston, how many wins he would have by now. It might be around 230, maybe even 240.
It's nice to see the best pitcher in New York wears a Mets uniform.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:59 PM
Every baseball season in New York, one of the city's tabloid newspapers does what I consider to be an absolutely worthless poll of the city's baseball fans about who's really popular. Trust me when I say the poll isn't worth the price of the newspaper.
Today the New York Post has a "shocking new poll" (isn't everything in the Post "shocking"?) about the city's baseball fans. I won't go too much into it, but if you'd like to read the full article (if you have nothing better to do), here it is:
I've been a baseball fan and lived my entire life in New York City and I can tell you this. There is a hardcore group of Mets fans, a hardcore group of Yankees fans, and a large "gray area" of casual baseball fans among the rest (leaving out those who root for other teams outside the city). This group, which far outnumber all the hardcore fans combined, goes with the flow, or whichever New York team has had the more recent success. If this poll were taken in the early 1970s or mid-to-late 1980s, you'd see totally different results.
I think the spirit of the article was captured by the bartender from Queens who said, "It's easy to root for the Yankees. They've got 27 championships."
Would have been nice if he got his facts correct. You have to bet he's part of that huge "gray area."
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 9:18 AM
Monday, April 17, 2006
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, today was Patriots Day, a state holiday that celebrates the immortal midnight ride of Paul Revere in 1775. That always means two things. The Boston Marathon is run, from Hopkinton into Boston. And of course, the Red Sox play a home game that begins at 11:05 in the morning.
I went to the Patriots Day game once in my life, back in 1987. The day I went was also the 75th anniversary of Fenway Park, and many illustrious former Sox were on hand. (Luis Tiant and Yaz got the biggest ovations.) But on that day, the Sox were crushed by Kansas City, 10-2. The highlight of the game was in the third inning when some fan threw a football on the field, and Sox hurler Bruce Hurst picked it up and punted it towards the Red Sox dugout. The crowd burst into a loud cheer, and it was about the last cheer the Sox got that day. I also checked out the Marathon after the game, and it was really exciting being with the crush of people on Commonwealth Avenue watching the runners go by.
Today, I was still serving jury duty, so I missed most of the game. I found a sports bar downtown to watch some of the game. I got there in the bottom of the seventh, and the Red Sox were down, 5-4. The bartender told me David Ortiz had hit two home runs, and on his next at-bat in the eighth, he crushed one that I thought was gone. Unfortunately it landed in Ichiro Suzuki's glove in front of the right field fence. But the Sox tied the game on Trot Nixon's double and Jason Varitek's single.
Seattle scored a run in the top of the ninth to take the lead for the fifth time in the game. I had to leave the bar at the end of the top of the ninth and return to court. But I got home and found out that with two outs, Kevin Youkilis just beat out and infield single, and Mark Loretta (pictured above) blasted an Eddie Guardado pitch into the Monster seats to give the Red Sox a 7-6 win. Loretta's homer was the first time they led the entire game. The best part: I have Loretta on two of my three fantasy teams.
The Red Sox are now 9-4 after taking three of four off the Mariners. They are finding ways to win the close games, even with their offense struggling to score runs. The pitching continues to do a superb job, and even Lenny DiNardo did a decent job as an emergency starter.
Tampa Bay now comes to town to close out the homestand. And Pedro Martinez goes for his career 200th win tonight at Shea against Atlanta. Good luck Pedro.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 4:57 PM
Saturday, April 15, 2006
April 15th is usually known as the day Americans have to get their taxes completed by. It's a day that is dreaded by most. But many Americans don't know that this day is also the anniversary of three momentous events in history. They are incredibly diverse, and in their own way they changed the world tremendously.
1865: President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, the Great Emancipator, died at 7:22 AM that morning in a boardinghouse across from Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. He had been shot late the previous evening by a crazed actor and Southern sympathizer named John Wilkes Booth while watching the play Our American Cousin. Lincoln never regained conciousness, and at the moment of his death, his legend began. Historians generally rank him as the greatest of all American presidents, having kept the union together during the greatest calamity in American history, The Civil War.
1912: The RMS Titanic, the largest ship ever created, sank in the frozen North Atlantic at 2:20 AM after striking an iceberg at 11:40 PM the previous evening. 705 people survived, but over 1500 went to their deaths, as The Titanic only had 20 lifeboats, and many of them left the sinking ship not completely full to capacity. The ship was considered by many people to be unsinkable, but the iceberg collision proved them all wrong. The disaster led to better safety features on all Atlantic ships. The ship was discovered 2 1/2 miles below the ocean's surface by an expedition led by Robert Ballard in August 1985.
1947: Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the major leagues in the 20th century when he made his debut at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers in their opening day game at Ebbets Field against the Boston Braves. (There were black players in the National League in the 19th century, but they were unofficially barred in 1884.) Robinson would go on to win the first ever Rookie of the Year Award in the National League in 1947, the NL MVP in 1949, and help the Dodgers win their first ever World Series in 1955. He retired from baseball in 1956, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962. He died at the age of 53 in 1972, and his number 42 was officially retired from baseball in 1997, on the fiftieth anniversary of his debut.
So, April 15th is quite an historic day.
And you all got your taxes done by now, right?
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:05 PM
I spent just about all of last night watching many different baseball games off of the MLB Extra Innings package. I saw the entire Red Sox-Mariners game, with the feed coming from NESN. It was the first time I had watched NESN in my house, and it was a weird feeling. I usually watch the NESN Red Sox games in a bar with friends, and there's usually some background noise to accompany it. It was a tremendously pitched game by the Sox. Curt Schilling won his third straight game, going eight innings and allowing just one earned run. He shut down Ichiro Suzuki all night, but none bigger than in the sixth inning, when Seattle had a man on third with one out. He struck him out, and hten got the next batter to end the threat. Schill looks like the dominating pitcher of old.
Speaking of dominating, Jonathan Papelbon came on in the ninth, and with one out, threw a 2-2 pitch right by Ichiro that he couldn't catch up with for the second out. He got Raul Ibanez to ground out to end the game for his sixth save. Papelbon is without the best closer in baseball right now, and his battle with Ichiro should open up some eyes.
I just heard that David Wells maybe going back to the DL, as he's having knee problems again. Lenny DiNardo may be getting the start Wells would have had, on Patriots Day. So, does Papelbon go into the rotation if Wells is out for a long period, or remain the closer? Tough call, but it would be tought to move him out of position he's absolutely dominating right now.
I also saw a good part of the Mets-Brewers game last night. The game was delayed over 90 minutes by rain, but they got it going. The Mets won, 4-3, after a terrific performance by Tom Glavine. The Mets now have the best record in baseball at 8-1, and it is their best start since 1985.
Don't think George Steinbrenner and his minions aren't keeping close tabs on the Mets. He was asked about them the other day, and he just shrugged and said, "we'll be ready for the them." Right now the Mets are getting the back pages of the New York tabloids, and the Yankees are at .500 at 5-5. Privately, The Boss must be fuming. Steinbrenner may dislike the Red Sox, but he HATES the Mets far more. The Sox don't share the same city and press coverage as the Yankees. If the Mets take back the city from the Yankees it would kill him far more than what happened to his team in the 2004 playoffs.
I've been seeing far more Mets hats lately around the city. Obviously the great Mets start has much to do with that. But sportswriter Phil Pepe once said that "New York is a National League baseball city." He's absolutely right. The next Mets world championship would drive New York City into a total frenzy.
At 12:40 AM, the Giants-Dodgers game began after a 2 hour rain delay. I watched about the first four innings of that contest. The LA fans greeted Barry Bonds warmly, with a steady chorus of boos each time he was up. I saw his first two at-bats, and he looked late on many of Brad Penny's pitches. Penny challenged him a number of times, and Bonds flied out to left his first two times up. The Giants won, 2-1, and Bonds went 0 for 2 and 2 walks. Bonds is hitting .167, still hasn't hit a homer and has 1 RBI so far.
I just finished "Game of Shadows", and I'll have more on that and Bonds next week.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 10:59 AM
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Last weekend I ordered the MLB Extra Innings package for the 2006 season. There was a free preview last week and I decided to go for it. So far I'm satisified with it, as you get to see broadcasts of games from around the country. Most times you get the broadcast of the home team but you do get the occasional road team's announcers. It's worth getting, and if you're interested in getting it, you can call 1-888-SPORTS-IN. Last night there were 11 games on Extra Innings from 7 PM until the last game finished at just after 1 AM. My kind of evening!!
Tonight's Red Sox-Blue Jays game is not being offered, nor any other baseball on the package this evening, as they are showing nothing but hockey games. Ten channels and they ALL had hockey games on! Very bizarre. I'm still trying to figure my way through the schedule, but I hope those days I'm not at Professor Thom's I'll be seeing Red Sox games on the package.
It's interesting seeing the game from the point of view of other clubs' announcers. Today I was watching the White Sox-Tigers from Detroit and the White Sox crew was doing the game that was won by the White Sox, 13-9. Of all the broadcast crews I've heard in baseball today, the White Sox guys are absolutely the worst in the business.
The lead guy is Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson. He is really the head cheerleader for the White Sox. Now every team's broadcast crew favors the home club, as they are paid by that team. But every time I've listen to the White Sox play, I want to put my foot through the TV. I've never heard such unabashed homerism in my entire life. Whichever other person he's teamed with in the White Sox booth (mostly Darrin Jackson when I've watched), it turns into a White Sox pep rally. Harrelson is best known for his White Sox home run call: "You can put it on the board, YYYEEEESSSSS!!!!"
I'm from the school that baseball announcers should show some objectivity in calling home team games. I absolutely hate it when announcers start using the terms "we" and "us" when referring to the home side. Harrelson goes far beyond that. The opposing team are "the bad guys", the White Sox are "the good guys". When the White Sox play the Red Sox he still calls Chicago "the Sox", despite the fact the other team is also known as the Sox too. When the other team hits a homer the booth goes silent. Harrelson and his other boothmates basically openly root that the White Sox do something good on the next pitch. After hearing these homers call a game, it makes watching the Red Sox and Mets announcers do a game an absolute pleasure. Even the YES broadcasters are far more objective than The Hawk and his Chicago Cheerleaders.
A friend last year sent me a web site that basically bashes Harrelson, called "Heave The Hawk". It's worth checking out: www.heavethehawk.com. I wonder what most White Sox fans think of this broadcast crew, but I bet they are used to this kind of broadcast. Last year I was watching ESPN Classic and they showed the Opening Day game from 1981 between the White Sox-Red Sox, which was Carlton Fisk's return to Fenway Park after leaving Boston as a free agent in 1980. The White Sox broadcasters on that game were Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall. They were as bad, if not worse than Harrelson. During the game Chicago had a man on second and a guy got a hit. I thought Piersall was going to lose his mind (once again) and jump out of the booth, as he was practically yelling at the runner to stop at third (which he did). Fisk later hit a game-winning homer, and you'd have thought the White Sox had just won the World Series.
I'm a baseball fanatic, and I'll watch games from everywhere. But I will limit my viewing of the White Sox this season when The Hawk and his gang are on. I don't want to risk damage to my TV set from objects thrown at it.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 4:32 PM
This morning I got two of those calls we all just love to get: those people who call you up and either ask you for money or are from a company you are affiliated with in some way and are trying to sell you something. I call them "pest calls", and they really irk me, especially when they call you at busy times, and especially at dinner time. I have caller ID, and the ones that come up as "UNAVAILABLE", I always ignore. (Besides they NEVER leaving answering machine messages so the call can't be important anyway.) There are also those times when I tell them to call back in a month or so, and yet they will call again the next day.
I figured out a while ago that these calls are placed by a computer, and there is a one-to-two second gap before the person gets on to give you their story. When I hear that gap, I immediately hang up the phone. They never call back, at least on that day. I got an email a while back that the way to get back at these people is to tell them to hang on, and leave them on the line for 15 minutes or more. Not a bad idea, but I don't want to tie up my phone that long.
I thought a lot of these calls would cease when I went on the National No Call List. Silly me. I'm sure some of these people found a loophole around it.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 2:08 PM
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
One year ago today was one of the most memorable days in the history of Fenway Park. The Red Sox unfurled their 2004 World Championship banner and gave out their rings, and then the Sox went out and bashed the Yankees.
There were no championship rings given out today, but it was still a memorable day. Unfortunately I missed most of the game as I did not get out from my jury duty until 3:40 PM. I hustled over to Professor Thom's and caught the last three innings. Josh Beckett made his Fenway Park Red Sox debut and pitched seven strong innings and the Sox beat the Blue Jays, 5-3. Beckett escaped a first inning nightmare, walking three and giving up a run. The Red Sox came back behind the bats of Mike Lowell (4-for-4) and Adam Stern, and David Ortiz added a late home run in the seventh.
Keith Foulke gave up two runs in the eighth, but it wasn't his fault, as Wily Mo Pena muffed a fly ball by Frank Cattalanotto that hit his glove and bounced over the wall for a two-run homer. Pena was in as Trot Nixon suffered a mild groin strain that will sideline him about a week. It should be mighty interesting if Pena gets most of the RF playing time in Trot's absence. The Sox also put Coco Crisp on the 15-day DL and recalled Dustan Mohr from Pawtucket.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched another 1-2-3 ninth for his fourth save of the season. He is becoming like money in the bank. The Red Sox are now 6-1 and David Wells makes his 2006 debut on Wednesday night.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:34 PM
After the Red Sox victory this afternoon, I attended my first hockey game at Madison Square Garden tonight in about ten years, and witnessed a great game with my buddy Gareth. The Islanders held off the Rangers, 3-2, in an exciting contest with a tremendous third period.
I have been an Islander fan for over 30 years, and it's been tough sledding this season for them. They dumped a lot of high priced veterans at the trading deadline. They are rebuilding once again, and will soon be rid of Mike Milbury, the GM who annually seems to turn the Islanders into a mess. They have some good young players, but are nowhere near a playoff berth this season.
The Rangers are going to the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They sure didn't play like it for the first two periods tonight. They gave a lackluster effort, while the Islanders worked hard and had a 3-0 lead going into the third. Miroslav Satan scored twice for the Islanders. (I've always thought it would be ironic if he ended up playing for the Devils one day.) The Rangers fans let the home team know their displeasure, as they were booed lustily when they left the ice after the second period.
Rangers fans are a strange bunch. They still chant "Potvin Sucks" despite the fact that Denis Potvin of the Islanders retired over 17 years ago. And I always believed that the injury suffered by Ulf Nilsson that the Ranger fans blame him for was not his fault. I guess old habits die hard. They also chanted "Your Season's Over" at the Islanders in the second period, and seconds later the Isles scored.
But the Rangers came back in the third, scoring in the first three minutes, and then during a two-man advantage midway through the period. But Rick DiPietro of the Islanders (pictured above) was a stalwart in goal, stopping 22 shots alone in the third, as the Rangers threw the kitchen sink at him and couldn't tie it up. He was the player of the game without question.
It's a lost year for the Islanders, but it was good to see them get a little dignity back, and go into the lion's den of Madison Square Garden and get a well-deserved win.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:06 PM
Monday, April 10, 2006
The LMDC continues to play games with the 9/11 families and the general public. This is a very good article by Tim Sumner and originally appeared at the "Take Back The Memorial" web site.
MEMORIAL THREE-CARD MONTE
April 8th, 2006 by Tim Sumner
LMDC steals the soul of ‘Reflecting Absence.’ Asks public to pay to grieve.
Earlier this week, representatives of the Coalition of 9/11 Families learned during a World Trade Center Historic Preservation Meeting that the LMDC unilaterally, and without public process, removed the centerpiece of Michael Arad’s jury selected design Reflecting Absence. The “contemplation room,” which contains the unidentified remains of the 9/11 victims and their tomb (now referred to as a symbolic mortuary vessel) at bedrock and open to the sky is no longer a feature of the 9/11 Memorial. Rather, the LMDC revealed that it has now taken the “contemplation room” and placed it in the Memorial Museum. Unlike the Memorial, which will be free, visitors will have to pay a ticket fee to access bedrock and the victims’ tomb.
Members of the Coalition of 9/11 Families strenuously object to having the unidentified remains of the 9/11 victims and their tomb treated as a museum exhibit. We further object to the LMDC denying the public — who will pay for this Memorial through both their tax dollars and contributions — the right to descend to bedrock to stand on the historic site and pay their respects as the Memorial intended. While we appreciate the need to raise money for the Memorial and Memorial Museum, the unidentified remains of our loved ones are not for sale.
The LMDC cannot continue to act in private and spring the results on the public as a fait accompli while claiming to engage in an “open and transparent process.” The LMDC continues to force the public to fight to keep what they believed was the status quo and while we fight, LMDC officials make the next unilateral change. This latest move is morally reprehensible and entirely unacceptable.
Please write or call Governor Pataki and let your voice be heard.
George E. Pataki
Albany, NY 12224
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 6:14 PM
Very good news, and possibly some very bad news today. David Ortiz' contract extension was announced by the Red Sox today. He'll be around in Boston until 2010, and the club has an option for 2011. Terms were not announced but a guess would be the deal is around the $50 million one that was rumored last week.
At least this time the Sox didn't wait until the last minute to lock up one of their key players and stars.
The club also announced that Coco Crisp has a non-displaced fracture at the base of his left index finger. They said the finger would be in a splint for 10 days and then Coco could resume baseball activities after that. They also said the injury would not require surgery. Coco injured his finger sliding into third last Friday night on a steal attempt in Baltimore. If Coco goes on the DL, Adam Stern will probably hang around the Red Sox a little longer than his expected April 19 return to Pawtucket and get more time in CF, probably splitting it with Wily Mo Pena.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 5:06 PM
This past week, the New York tabloid newspapers had one of the silliest and stupidest controversies I've ever heard in my life. The new Mets closer, Billy Wagner, comes into his games with the song "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. Wagner has used the song since his days back in Houston. The Yankees closer Mariano Rivera uses the same song to enter games with. (He has said that he doesn't care for heavy metal or that song, as he listens to Christian music. But it was a hit with the fans, so he kept it.)
So naturally some Yankee fans took exception to Wagner's choice of themes, as they feel Rivera somehow "owns" it. (Since when does any player own any song?) They didn't notice that Wagner used the song for years in Houston and Philadelphia. The papers here had a big write up about it, as they always seem to play up any little controversy.
But one thing they don't seem to know is that neither player has any copyright on the song, or even was the first to use it. That distinction goes to the legendary ECW wrestler The Sandman, aka Jim Fullington (pictured here). Starting in the mid-1990s, he would come out to "Enter Sandman" (usually the whole song and even more, as his entrances would go on for five minutes and sometimes longer). He would also come out swinging his "Singapore Cane" (a kendo stick), along with plenty of Budweisers that he would slug down as the ECW fans went berserk.
I remember the first time I was at a Yankee game that Mariano Rivera came out to "Enter Sandman" and I turned to a friend of mine and said, "Where's Rivera's Singapore cane?" We had a good laugh about it.
So, to all those Yankee and Met fans: neither of your closers own "Enter Sandman", so drop the silly nonsense. Jim Fullington beat both of them to it.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 1:15 AM
Sunday, April 09, 2006
This past Wednesday, I began jury duty here in Brooklyn. I was picked for a jury on Thursday, and I'm currently sitting on a case. I can't really mention any specifics, as we were told by the judge not to talk about it with anyone, including our family and friends (and blogger audiences too, I guess). Hopefully the trial will conclude this week. I have an interesting story to tell you all about it, and I will once it all comes to a conclusion.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 8:08 PM
The Red Sox had a fabulous weekend in Baltimore, sweeping the O's by scores of 14-8, 2-1 and 4-1. My friends Gareth, Kim and Darryl all took in some of the action down there live, and I'm sure they all had a great time. The Red Sox are now 5-1 and sit atop the American League Eastern Division. A lot of positives came out of this weekend, but no more so than in the Red Sox pitching situation.
The Sox got three quality starts from Curt Schilling, Matt Clement and Tim Wakefield. It looks like the old Schilling may have returned, as he has surrendered just three earned runs in his first 14 innings of work. Clement was terrific on Friday night, allowing just two hits to Baltimore in six innings before he tired in the seventh and gave up four runs. Wakefield bounced back nicely from the pounding he took last Tuesday night in Texas, giving up just one run on Sunday in six innings of work. His catcher Josh Bard also had a good game after the nightmare he endured on Tuesday as well, not allowing any passed balls and looked much more comfortable catching the Wakefield knuckleball.
But the best news now many the emergence of Jonathan Papelbon (pictured above) as the Red Sox closer. He has gotten three saves in three chances, and was devastating in his first two opportunities. He allowed two baserunners on Sunday, but pitched out of the jam to get save number three. Papelbon continues to impress mightily. He has incredible poise and guts for a pitcher his age, and Terry Francona is clearly not in the least bit afraid to use to him to close the pressure games.
Keith Foulke has looked better his last two appearances, including an eighth inning stint on Sunday, when he struck out two in retiring the side in order. Foulke appears to be the "good soldier" in that he has not complained about not being the closer, but you figure he will get opportunities to do his old job somewhere down the line. More outings like today and Francona will not hesitate about using him in the ninth again. The challenge has been placed in front of Foulke, and we will see how he responds to it.
It is an excellent sign for the Red Sox that they are winning many low scoring, close games (three so far: 4-1, 2-1 and 2-1). We know the Sox will hit and score plenty of runs. The pitching has gotten off to a whale of a start, and if Schilling and Foulke are both dependable again, there may be no stopping the Red Sox this season. The press can go on forever about the Yankees and their "Murderers Row II" offense (yeah, right), but if they don't pitch well or play good defense, they'll never make the playoffs. How many times have we seen the Sox have the AL's best offense but the pitching just wasn't that good and they came up short? (Way too many in my estimation.)
Seeing Mr. Papelbon dominate the last few games, I can't help but think of that immortal line that was once used to describe Bruce Springsteen by Jon Landau (changed ever so slightly):
"I have seen the future of the Boston Red Sox, and it is Jonathan Papelbon."
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 7:36 PM
Friday, April 07, 2006
In this week's edition of Crain's Business New York, there is a featured article about Red Sox fans called "Rooting For Boston". It's about Red Sox fans who root for The Olde Towne Team in the Big Apple. I had the pleasure of being interviewed for it, and I appear about midway through the article. The best part of the article is when my buddy and favorite bartender Jim McGuire was interviewed. It's interesting reading, and I hope you all enjoy it.
My media empire continues to grow!
ROOTING FOR BOSTON
Damon incites Bosox fans on Yankee turf
By Aaron Elstein Published on April 03, 2006
In Meryl Pearlstein's household, one particular subject just isn't discussed: how the Boston Red Sox pulled off the greatest comeback in the history of sports and defeated the New York Yankees to win the 2004 American League pennant.
Ms. Pearlstein, a Boston-area native who has lived in New York since 1979 and remains a fanatical Sox follower, still hasn't found a way to talk about the series with her sons, ages 11 and 15, who are serious Yankee buffs.
"For years, my kids gloated when the Red Sox invariably collapsed, but after the Yankees fell apart, they were really angry," says Ms. Pearlstein, who plans to renew her marriage vows with her husband, a Yankee fan, at Boston's Fenway Park next year. "To this day, we haven't really talked about what happened."
Plenty of New Yorkers would be happy to chat with her. Though no scientific data exist, anecdotal evidence suggests that New York is home to more Red Sox fans than anywhere else outside New England.
Thousands of supporters are always in attendance when their team makes its three annual visits to Yankee Stadium. More than half a dozen bars here cater specifically to Red Sox fans. The Benevolent and Loyal Order of Honorable and Ancient Red Sox Diehard Sufferers of New York (the Blohards) sports a mailing list of 800.
"It is a vast diaspora," says Julie Powers Killian, a Rye, N.Y., resident whose father founded the Blohards on the train home after a Red Sox-Yankees game in 1967--a year in which the Red Sox won the pennant while the Yankees finished ninth in a 10-team league. "Since Boston beat the Yankees in '04, you certainly see more people around here wearing Red Sox shirts and caps."
In the clutch of the Green Monster
Most fans here are New England natives who wouldn't change their allegiance any sooner than a rabbi would trade religions. They're aghast that center fielder Johnny Damon defected to the enemy when the Bronx Bombers offered him $3 million a year more than the Red Sox did. They expect emotions in the stands to run even higher this year.
But a stunningly large number of these newly minted Damon-despisers--perhaps a few hundred--are lifelong New Yorkers who have long put their faith in the team where Mr. Damon had his best years.
Local Boston fans include Brooklyn-born-and-bred John Brian Quinn, who was raised in a Yankee-hating family and rooted for the Mets as a youth. But he grew disillusioned when Tom Seaver was traded, and he switched to the Red Sox in 1977 at age 15--just in time for the epic collapse of 1978. That's when, as any baseball fan knows, Boston blew a massive midseason lead and lost a one-game playoff as scrawny Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent hit an infamous home run.
"The long history of the Red Sox captivated me," says Mr. Quinn, who writes a blog called "Brooklyn Sox Fan" and is working on a memoir tentatively titled "A Convert to the Cause." "They're more than my team; they're my passion."
As any true believer would, Mr. Quinn seeks the company of like-minded people, and there's no shortage of places to find them, even in New York. Scattered throughout Manhattan are bars that have booted out Yankee aficionados in order to serve Boston backers.
The phenomenon was jump-started by Jim McGuire, a Newark native who grew up rooting for the Cincinnati Reds. He was tending bar in the late 1990s at the Riviera Cafe & Sports Bar in the West Village when a handful of fans asked him to switch the TV channel to the Red Sox game. He agreed, and word quickly got around. Soon hundreds of exiled fans were packing the place, which attracted national media attention when the Red Sox won the World Series.
But when Mr. McGuire hung a banner proclaiming the Red Sox the world champions, his boss, a Yankee supporter, flung it in the garbage. A person familiar with the situation says that Mr. McGuire was dismissed because of that incident and because he hosted a post-World Series party for loyal customers without permission. Riviera manager Steve Sertell says his bar still welcomes Boston fans.
Last December, Mr. McGuire opened an East Village bar called Professor Thom's, which he hopes will become the preferred refuge of Red Sox boosters this season.
"My brother is a Yankee fan and is always telling my mother, `I can't believe he runs a Red Sox bar,' " he says. "But it's good business."
While Boston boosters can find solidarity at watering holes, they often must fend for themselves at the office. Abby Pinard, a vice president at a Westchester County software company, says that when Boston and New York are playing each other, she can seldom start a meeting without someone in the room making disparaging remarks about her beloved team. Employees get away with it because the chief executive is an unabashed Yankee fan.
"I take a lot of abuse," says Ms. Pinard, a Brooklyn native who grew up rooting for the Dodgers but embraced the Red Sox when she got married to a Boston fan. "I've learned how to give it back, though."
For example, when the Yankees lost the 2003 World Series, after having beaten the Red Sox in a memorable playoff, she wrote a poem for her CEO in the style of the classic "Casey at the Bat."
It concluded: "And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout/That joy must be in Boston--for the Bombers have bombed out."
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:05 PM
This week in Tampa, Florida, former Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden was sentenced to a jail term of a year and a day for violating his parole after he tested positive for cocaine. I was really saddened to hear this news, but this may be the best thing for him. Gooden's had many chances to straighten out his life, but the evils of drugs continue to dog him. I've always dreaded the day I pick up a newspaper or hear on the news that he was found dead someplace. Prison has a way of waking some people up and they are able to change their entire lives. I hope for his sake that Gooden gets the help he needs.
I'll never forget when Gooden came up in 1984 and set the baseball world on fire. The first time I saw him pitch, in Houston in April 1984, I was a fan of his. Shea Stadium was electric every time he pitched, and he looked like he was on his way to the Hall of Fame. In his second season, he was 24-4 and won the NL Cy Young Award. By the tim the Mets won the World Series in 1986, drugs had entered his life in a big way, and they have been his demon ever since. The Mets finally ended up releasing him after 1994. He was forced to sit out 1995 because of a drug suspension, but the Yankees picked him up in 1996 and he pitched a no-hitter in May of that year.
But he was never quite that dominating pitcher again. Gooden is only 42 years old, and his life is a complete shambles. I hope that with his family's help, he can get his life back on track again.
Whenever anyone mentions the name "Dwight Gooden" or his good friend from the Mets in 1980's, "Darryl Strawberry", I always feel sad and I think of just one line about both of them.
What might have been.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 7:00 PM
In today's New York Daily News' "Voice of the People" column, they printed my response to Ivan Lafayette's incredibly inane idea of banning Red Sox logos on New York state license plates. They didn't print my entire letter, but I appreciate the News printing at least part of it. Following the link, scroll down a little ways until you find my letter, entitled "Bogus Bill":
Don't mess with The Q, Lafayette!!
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 6:48 PM
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Tuesday night's Red Sox game at Texas was what I like to refer to as a "garbage can game." The Red Sox did next to nothing right, as Tim Wakefield got hit hard early, giving up four runs including a Phil Nevin three-run shot in the first. He never had command, and new personal catcher Josh Bard had three passed balls (although none was costly). Coco Crisp had three hits and a stolen base in a losing cause, but other than that, it was a night to forget as Texas won easily, 10-4.
This was the type of game the Sox have to throw in the garbage and forget about. They were never in it from the start, and it's the type of game that happens to every team. The only good part about the night for me was that a lot of my Red Sox friends ("The Embedded Sox Fans") turned out en masse to check out the game at Professor Thom's on what was "Unofficial Opening Night." Josh Beckett makes his Red Sox debut on Wednesday night, and that should be very interesting indeed.
I have to report for jury duty on Wednesday morning at New York State Civil Court in downtown Brooklyn. It's my second "tour of duty", as I did it once before in 2001. I should still be posting articles here on my blog throughout it. I just hope it goes by fast.
I've got "Game of Shadows" to keep me company tomorrow.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:19 AM
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Yesterday a jury in Virginia decided that Zacharias Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty in his role in the September 11 terrorist attacks that led to the murders of 3000 innocent people. His lies protected the plot, and now he will surely pay with his life.
This asshole can't die quick enough to suit me.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 12:36 PM
I came across a real gem of an article in today's New York Daily News. Apparently, a jealous politician (no doubt a Yankee fan) named Ivan Lafayette, an assemblyman from Queens, wants to ban all New York state vanity license plates that have the Boston Red Sox logo on it. I read this article and had to laugh. Here we go with yet another unknown politician trying to get his name in the paper by latching on to something incredibly silly and stupid. Last time I looked, we had freedom of choice in this state. (Maybe that's about to change?) He says he wants to "stir up some controversy". Unbelievable.
Yet another jackass politician who has absolutely nothing better to do. I guess we don't have any more pressing issues in New York state. We have to make sure those evil Red Sox fans are unable to show their pride in their team by making sure their license plates can't show the team logo. Lafayette also says something incredible inane: "It will help New Yorkers realize where their loyalties should be."
SCREW YOU Lafayette!! We have freedom to support whichever sports franchise we want, whether it be the Red Sox, Mets, Yankees, Atlanta Braves or Tampa Bay Devil Rays! Do you propose to ban vanity plates from any team that isn't from New York? Liberal politicians like this guy go on all day about diversity, but of course this moron believes we can't have that when it comes to license plates! And don't you dare tell me "where my loyalties should be." I'm a Boston Red Sox fan, as well as a born and raised New Yorker, and DAMN PROUD TO BE BOTH!!
Absolutely incredible. If you'd like to read the article (it's a short one) here it is:
For those of you Sox fans who want to let this moron know what you really think of this crap, his phone numbers are: (718) 457-0384 (district office), and (518) 455-4545 (Albany office). His email address is : firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:45 AM
Monday, April 03, 2006
The Red Sox got their 2006 season off to a great start with a 7-3 victory over the Texas Rangers. Curt Schilling pitched seven strong innings, threw 115 pitches and mixed them well, and struck out 5 to get the win. Jonathan Papelbon pitched lights out in the eighth, and Keith Foulke got hit hard in the ninth. He surrendered a run, and was saved by a spectacular over the shoulder catch by Coco Crisp in center field.
The Red Sox offense was sparked by a David Ortiz home run that could best be described as "majestic." It hit the right field foul pole about 3/4 of the way up. Papi also doubled in a run and had three hits. Mark Loretta doubled in a run and Jason Varitek doubled in two runs. Crisp scored two runs and Mike Lowell hit an eighth inning homer to conclude the scoring. Kevin Millwood started out strong for the first three innings, but the Sox got him for two in the fourth and three in the fifth.
The Sox begin the campaign in style, and so did Professor Thom's. There was a good crowd of Sox fans watching the game, and they'll be a bigger crowd in for Tuesday night's contest. Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live made an appearance in the bar today, as he is friendly with one of PT's owners. (I didn't get a chance to meet him though, as he left after a few innings.)
The one drawback was that PT's couldn't get today's Mets game, as DirectTV, which the bar has, doesn't have a deal yet with SportsNet New York. Mets fans who have a satellite dish couldn't see today's Mets 3-2 win over the Nationals, and until the deal is done, will have to find other ways of seeing the Mets's games on SNY.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:41 PM
Opening Day. Those are two magical words. It means that spring is officially here (it may have actually come two weeks ago according to the calendar, but this is when it really FEELS like it's here). It's a day of rebirth, the feeling like anything special can happen. It's the unofficial "skip out of work" day. It's the day we finally begin playing baseball for real in 2006.
I'm off to Professor Thom's in Greenwich Village to watch the Red Sox-Rangers opener at 2 PM, and the other games going on this afternoon, like the Mets-Nationals opener at Shea. The Fenway home opener will be next Tuesday, April 11, against Toronto.
The season for the Red Sox will end at Fenway against Baltimore on October 1. Today that day seems like a few years away. It will be a sad day if the Red Sox don't go any further after that (and it will be a sad day also for me for reasons other than baseball).
The winter is now officially over. Time to play baseball.
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 11:42 AM
Saturday, April 01, 2006
The first baseball game I witnessed live in 2006 occurred earlier today in Philadelphia, as I travelled there with my friends Gareth and Mike to see the Red Sox take on the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. When we got off the subway and walked to the park, we were all excited about the start of baseball after a long winter. But as we were about to enter the stadium, we started feeling raindrops coming down, and by the time reached our seats, it was a downpour. It looked pretty bleak, but fortunately the rain passed quickly, and the game was only delayed a few minutes before the game finally started.
Citizens Bank Park is a gorgeous ballpark, and I'd recommend a visit there if you ever get the chance. And definitely try to the Philly cheesesteaks they have there, as they are delicious. (A little bit pricy, but definitely worth the money.) There were about 25,000 people there for the next-to-last exhibition game before the regular season begins for both teams on Monday. Once again, Red Sox Nation invaded Philadelphia. About half the crowd had Red Sox paraphernalia on. Both clubs put in their "A" teams in the starting lineups, but the Red Sox put in minor leaguer David Pauley to start (I thought Matt Clement would pitch). Pauley got roughed up for five runs in the first two innings, but the Sox fought back to tie the game at 5 with solo shots by Mike Lowell, Trot Nixon and Kevin Youkilis. But the Phillies got two runs off Keith Foulke in the sixth and never looked back. They won, 9-5.
Once the Phillies had the late lead, the minds of the fans turned to other things. There was a guy in the section over from us wearing a Yankee jersey, and he seemed to want everyone to know it. Just about everyone around him booed him when he stood up. I turned to a Phillies fan sitting next to me and said, "We can both agree that we hate that guy!" He laughed when I said it. Then there was an obnoxious Phillies fan closer to us who insisted on yelling "Boston sucks!" to a group of Red Sox fans sitting a few rows above him. You know those are fighting words! The Sox fans started chanting "Reu-bens", "Reu-bens" and "Pee-Wee" at him , as he bore a resemblance to the actor Paul Reubens, who played Pee Wee Herman on TV. I don't think he much cared for that, and when the Sox fans were leaving, they serenaded him with that again. This time I don't think he really minded it so much, as the combination of the alcohol and Phillies lead made him numb to it.
At the game's end, Gareth, Mike and I hightailed it out of Citizens Bank, and we made it back to the Greyhound station in downtown Philly and our bus with just moments to spare.
It was an enjoyable day. The Red Sox may have lost, but nobody got hurt. That is the important thing as the exhibition season winds down.
Bring on the 2006 season!
Posted by The Omnipotent Q at 9:17 PM