A New Competitor for the Subway Race

The MTA (for non-New Yorkers, that’s. . .the subway) ran the “Nostalgia Special,” a train first used in 1917, from Grand Central Station to Yankee Stadium on the uptown express Lexington track, this morning at 11:30 am for Opening Day at the ballpark. The Low-V (Low Voltage) train, which doesn’t draw its power from the electrified third rail but uses the rail to charge its batteries, ran as a “super express,” stopping at no other stations on its route. This is not the first time the MTA has run nostalgia trains as they often roll out both old trains and buses during the holiday season in NYC.

As of now there are unofficial reports that the train covered the route from Grand Central to Yankee Stadium faster than Masahiro Tanaka’s pitches covered the route from the pitcher’s mound to the batter’s box at today’s game.

The MTA may want to keep the “Nostalgia Special” running to the Bronx. It could distract fans from a probable losing season.

benspn also suggests that Yankee Stadium management add the Nostalgia Special as the fourth entry in the ballpark’s iconic train race during the fourth inning of home games. That’s one Yankee Stadium tradition we could all welcome.

Cinderella: A Shaq Story

The Cinderella story in this year’s Final Four (feel free to look at the adorable picture of Shaq right about now) is Michigan State, but are they? Technically, yes. The Spartans came in as a 7 seed, but finished the season playing their best ball, and their preseason ranking (18th) indicates their talent. (Highly ranked preseason teams often re-emerge during March Madness.) Case in point: Last year’s Kentucky Wildcats, the preseason #1 but an 8 seed in the Big Dance that beat 1 seed Wichita State in the round of 32 and made it all the way to the Championship Game, just like Michigan State can do this year.

[Before I continue, let us take a moment to appreciate the second-best commercial of March Madness, in which AT&T dialing up more comedy. This year’s ads, starring “March Madness Legends” Shaq, Dr. J, Clyde Drexler, Christian Laettner (but I still hate him), does not meet the high standards of the 2014 March Madness commercial genius (“Fast or Slow” with adorable kids, and then Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and Kareem).]

So: Michigan State is NOT a Cinderella story. They have coach Tom Izzo, who knows what he’s doing come March. The 2000 NCAA champ has made it to the Big Dance 18 straight seasons, reached the Sweet Sixteen an astounding 13 times with Michigan State, including seven of the last eight years, and is now in the Final Four for the seventh time. Playing the 4 seed Louisville in the Elite Eight, Michigan State was still favored by 2.5 points.

While Michigan State is the 7 seed they are in no way, shape, or form an underdog.

The Final Four is in di Annapolis (That’s A Turrible Headline, Chuck)

Kentucky.  Wisconsin.  Michigan State.  Duke.

These are the teams that have made it to this year’s Final Four in Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium, which seems to host all major sport events nowadays.  Of the remaining four, three were Number One seeds and all represent one of the “big 6” conferences, but that isn’t to say this year’s March Madness was anything but Madness. After Kentucky’s complete undressing of trash-talking West Virginia in the Sweet 16, all four Elite Eight the Elite Eight games were tight, giving Vegas gamblers continuous stress, and causing lots of money to exchange hands in the final seconds even of already-decided games. But even we non-Vegas -level gamblers had it tough this season, as millions of brackets were busted early when Iowa State and Baylor were dropped in the first round. After the Round of 64, there was only perfect entry left on ESPN.com’s massive tournament, and its creator only had 15 minutes to fill out his bracket, and hadn’t watched a single college basketball game all year. Take that, Jay Bilas!

Here’s the benspn prediction for the national championship: Kentucky over Michigan State, 54 – 46, but the real winners have been the Capital One commercials starring Charles Barkley, Spike Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson.

The Sad Season of the Knicks Comes to an End – by Duncan Freeman

As the NBA season comes to a close, we look back yet again on a disappointing season for Knicks basketball. Last year was the same—Oh, Carmelo is so good (he is), he’ll lead the team, and all these young players will help the Knicks make a playoff run! Which means we could win the final! Well, that didn’t happen, and it hasn’t happened since 1973. We got back there twice—in 1994 and 1999—when the Knicks came close to winning but never quite could.
From then on, we’ve been your classic middle-of-the-pack team—occasionally 7th or 8th seed, but never making it past the conference finals, even with Melo and Stoudemire (A.K.A Stat). This was the story last year as the Knicks missed the playoffs and we looked forward to the new season with Melo as a free agent and thinking about the future of our team. Well, Melo singed a five-year deal and with all the chaos of LeBron, Love, and Wiggins, the Knicks made their own five-star acquisition—the famous Phil Jackson, coach of the two greatest shooting guards to play the game. After winning 11 championships as a coach—and two as a player on the Knicks—Phil would try out his famous triangle offense in another big city.   The fans were excited. I was excited! Finally, a change. We all thought better things were to come.
But from opening day, you could see it would be a long season. The Knicks were quickly down by 30, and many fans expressed their anger with language too vulgar for BenSPN. One balding, frustrated man ripped off his Christmas-themed Melo jersey and threw it into the crowd, so clearly angered by yet another terrible start to a season for the Knicks.
After winning the next game, analysts changed their opinions and expectations.  Perhaps this could work. Maybe the Kicks and Phil Jackson could do this. And then the team went on the longest losing streak the city of New York had ever seen. At some point, the Kicks just started to tank. Whether it was the countless close losses, the injuries to Melo and Stat, or maybe the trades. Ah, yes, the trades: Shumpert, who on the Knicks couldn’t shoot or play defense, is now the staple defensive player and three-point shooter off the Cavs’ bench. Then J.R, an inconsistent scorer and wimpy defender on the Knicks yet he now starts for Cleveland and is bringing new energy to that contender.
After this, the fans and analysts learned to expect no more wins. Then the dropping of Stat left us with…only Melo. And then even he was shut down for the season with knee issues. This has left the Knicks with draft picks, boatloads of money, a couple of scrubs, and Andrea Bargnani.
The fans don’t even boo anymore; they have come to expect terrible losses. Even Spike Lee has been sitting in his seat the entire game instead of getting up and yelling. This season is long over and has been for a long time. Fans have showed up with bags over their heads because they were so ashamed to watch the Knicks yet now we again look forward, but this time with optimism. A historic and great franchise in a city equally great. Once destroyed by the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Mike D’Antoni, the fans now look forward to the magic of what Phil Jackson can do in the offseason.
Phil has to prove to New York that he can build a team and put New York back on the map. There are skeptics. Phil has not had to rebuild before. Phil hasn’t even had a front office job before the Knicks because he is so used to coaching. He has always been given great teams to coach and he still has to improve ours if we can make a run at the title. But we have faith—we have to have faith—that this great basketball mind can fix our disheveled franchise.
But after all it could all come down to chance, a lottery pick, or even the selfishness of a certain free agent.

The Dying Philadelphia Legacy – by Perrin Tomlin

After convincing myself to finally pry my palm off my face from the Eagles’ disgusting trade of LeSean McCoy, I think I can now take a second to talk about what’s really going on in Philadelphia. Just today, there has been a little talk about the Eagles maybe picking up Super Mario in the draft, which is reasonable seeing that now we can’t rely on our running game anymore — no offense to Darren Sproles #greatguy.

There seems to be a GM problem with every team in Philadelphia, except for the Flyers. The Phillies have gone to crap ever since they got rid of Hunter Pence who was a great RBI producer. The Phillies gave up many prospects to get Pence then got essentially nothing in return. The Sixers management seems like they’re having difficulty understanding the purpose of the tanking method of rebuilding. They’re PAST tanking now. They were tanking when they got rid of Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday. Now they’ve gotten rid of MCW and Thaddeus Young also and replaced them with the dope that is JaVale McGee, who is now gone too. I’m sorry, but now it just seems like Philadelphia is trying to get itself taken out of the league.

At this point the only thing Philly has going for them is Mo’ne Davis and her little league team.

-by Perrin Tomlin

The Annual Anti-Boston Issue #2 – The Red Sox’s Future (by Alex Hinton)

Foreword by Ben Drevitch

Alex Hinton will explain in his piece that he is a Mets fan so we should probably cut him some slack but he claims that the Red Sox have no future, which disagrees with almost every sports analyst today. (I felt I needed to say that).

Boston Red Sox fans have had some tough times, since the team traded away Babe Ruth, through the day first baseman Bill Buckner allowed a ball go threw his legs to let the Mets win the 1986 World Series, and all of their many painful defeats to the Yankees.

I have much respect for Red Sox fans, and recently things have looked better for them, with the team winning championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013. It’s been less than two years since Big Papi was last spraying Champagne.

At that moment, all over the team’s locker room and across Red Sox Nation, it seemed like Boston was unstoppable, baseball’s next dynasty. Fast forward a whole season and the Red Sox seem to be heading into another 80-plus-year slump. They finished 71-91 last year, dead last in the AL East, and 11th overall in the American League. They have now paid more than $60 million to sign Yoan Moncada, a 19-year-old who hasn’t had an at bat in a major league game. As our high school baseball coach and health teacher says, “He’s a bust.”

The Red Sox need to focus on where they need to improve instead of just signing players to big contracts. They have four players ( Dustin Pedroia , Pablo Sandoval , Hanley Ramirez , and Rusney Castillo ) signed to contracts worth more than $70 million each, and are paying two 39-year-olds ( Ortiz and Koji Uehara ) a combined $25 million this season.

The Red Sox can blame last season being a letdown due to a lack of clutch hitting, a poor bench, no one to hit leadoff (though Pedroia could possibly do it this year), and an awful pitching staff (once you take former ace Jon Lester out of the equation). It’s a lot to improve, I know. The Red Sox still have the bases to form a playoff team but do not seem to be heading that way. The team needs to play “moneyball” and add depth to their team. For God’s sake, they should be offering Billy Beane a $30 million signing bonus, not Moncada.

As a Mets fan I have felt a lot of pain from my team and I now am itching to pass the baton back to the Red Sox. Manager John Edward Farrell faces the challenge of bouncing back a team which has come back from a lot of adversity before.

This time, the Sox might have bit off more then they can chew.

-by Alex Hinton