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Eli Manning and NY: One of the Great Sports Love Stories

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Eli Manning, on his retirement day 01/24/20, Neil Miller/The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

At his last official press conference as a Giant, Eli Manning presented one side of the best love affairs New York has ever had with one of its athletes.

“It’s impossible to explain the satisfaction, and actually the joy I’ve experienced being a Giant,’’ he said Friday.

Eli Manning, on his retirement day /Neil Miller /The New York Extra

There’s no question he loved donning that red, white and blue No. 10 jersey. No doubt he felt playing quarterback was the greatest gig on Earth and this was the place to do it.

Manning made that clear prior to the 2004 when he let it be known he had no intention of playing in San Diego. He wanted New York.

This laidback son of the South, who had to navigate his way out of the shadow of his father, Archie, and his older brother, Peyton, now wanted to take on New York, not with a bullhorn or a billboard, but with himself.

“From the very first moment, I did it my way,’’ Manning said Friday at his retirement press conference. “I couldn’t be someone other than who I am.

“Undoubtedly, I would’ve made the fans, the media and even the front office more comfortable if I was a more rah-rah guy. But that’s not me. Ultimately, I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. They knew what they got was pure, unadulterated Eli.”

And wasn’t that marvelous? No ranting at an offensive coordinator on the sideline. No dodging the media. No suggesting a teammate had missed his assignment.

Elisha Nelson Manning IV.put himself out there. We took him in. Pure, unadulterated Eli.

Accountable. Predictable. Dependable.

Despite being listed as 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, Manning always seemed smaller in his high school, wide receiver-sized shoulder pads. He had seasons in which he took more pounding than a crash test dummy. Never missed a game due to injury.

Consider the circumstance in which Manning arrived in New York. He forced that trade with the Chargers, which owned the No.1 pick in the draft. The Giants sent the No.4 overall pick and a slew of other picks to San Diego in exchange for Manning.

That’s the closest Manning came to being a prima donna. And really, if you’re intent on becoming a star quarterback, what better place to do it than New York?

When one considers the enormity of that trade, the odds of it becoming a success (for both franchises) was lower than the odds of it being a colossal failure – especially in the Big Apple where everything is bigger.

Manning, with his aw-shucks persona, made it in New York because he didn’t try to be anything other than authentic, which is what hooks a New Yorker every time.

He put on no airs, demanded no special treatment, didn’t romp around the city with a flock of Victoria’s Angels – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t Eli.

Eli Manning and family,on his retirement day, Neil Miller /The New York Extra

He married his beautiful Ole Miss college sweetheart Abby McGrew. They were married in Mexico, just a couple of months after Eli handed the Pats a stunning defeat in Super Bowl XLII. They have four children.

“When we have the whole family together, maybe bath time when I have both kids in the bathtub and they start splashing each other and making each other laugh. That usually gives me my biggest smile — when I see both my girls interacting with each other,” Manning told Parade magazine in 2014.

This is something all the Manning boys – Cooper, Eli and Peyton – got from parents Archie and Olivia: Being a good family man, a good neighbor, a good teammate is more important that being a quarterback.

But Eli did that, too. The Giants need a new quarterback section in the record book. Manning threw for 57,023 yards and 366 touchdowns in 16 seasons. He’s one of just five players to have won Super Bowl MVP honors multiple times.

Eli Manning ,on his retirement day/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability,’’ Giants owner John Mara said in a statement. “It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us. We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”

Honor. So often our star athletes turn out to be less than what we built them up to be. There’s the arrest on accusations of spousal abuse, or the old Facebook post containing racist comments, or the video of a drunken fool outside of a bar at 4 a.m.

Not Eli Manning. Never Eli Manning.

He gave us his side of the story Friday – “the joy I’ve experienced being a Giant.”

The other side of the story is ours to tell: The joy we experienced watching a helluva quarterback and an authentic man give us everything he had for 16 seasons.

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Paging the Missing Derek Jeter Hall of Fame Voter

file photo ,Derek Jeter hits his 300th hit/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

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By Lenn Robbins

He or she is out there, perhaps hiding in plain sight in Times Square, fending off a photogenic Mickey Mouse, or in witness protection in Arizona, wearing a floral shirt and golf hat.

Family won’t take him or her in. Friends are strongly advising he or she go to the authorities. Co-workers won’t make eye contact.

“My desk is right next to his and I never knew!” one claims.

He or she has been designated Voter No. 397.

Three hundred and 96 Hall of Fame voters wrote the name Derek Sanderson Jeter on their ballot. One did not – No. 397. Not since Ricky Ricardo has someone had this much ‘splaining to do.

“I look at all the votes that I got,” Jeter told reporters Tuesday night in a conference call. “It takes a lot of votes to get into the Hall of Fame. Trying to get that many people to agree on something is pretty difficult to do. So that’s not something that’s on my mind. I’m just extremely excited and honored to be elected.”

Now more than ever we’re aware of just how difficult it is to get people to agree on something, anything. Or lawmakers can’t even agree on how to run an impeachment trial, no less weather to impeach someone.

Yet I’m willing to bet even the senators from Massachusetts, who would rather eat pine tar than Manhattan clam chowder, would vote for the Yankee named Jeter. His credentials are overwhelming, indisputable:

Five World Series titles including one MVP. Fourteen All-Star appearances and the Rookie of the Year Award in 1996. A postseason slash line of .308/.374/.465. That ridiculous flip to Jorge Posada that nailed Jeremy Giambi at the plate in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. Mr. November. Captain.

Each voter can list 10 players (who have been previously screened!) on his or her ballot. Even if a voter didn’t think Jeter was the No.1 candidate, there were nine other slots on the ballot. Heck, even Tom Steyer got on the last Democratic debate.

We can be a forgiving society. Sooner or later we can forgive the contrarian fool that didn’t put Jeter on his or her Hall of Fame ballot. But we need an explanation. We need to get inside the mind of this baseball sociopath and try to understand why he or she opted not to Re2pect the man that played shortstop and conducted himself as regally as Jeter.

This is America of course and the right to vote is sacred. No citizen need to explain his or her vote for mayor or governor or president. But these sacred society voters, such as those that  determine who gets into the Hall of Fame, have a duty to the fans.

It’s not easy. I didn’t have Joe Burrow on my Heisman Trophy ballot and one Internet troll wrote that anyone who didn’t have the LSU QB in his top three should be fired. My rationale, which I understand is up for ridicule, was this:

The Heisman Trophy is supposed to go to the best player in college football. In reality, we know it goes to the best offensive player. All you offensive linemen and cornerbacks might as well head to the weight room for some extra reps.

The difference among Burrow, Ohio State QB Justin Fields and Oklahoma nee’ Alabama QB Jalen Hurts was microscopic. All three were fantastic. So was Chase Young and Ja’Marr Chase and the four running backs that ran for more than 2,000 yards.

A Heisman ballot has three slots. Three, not 10. That’s a tough vote.

Jeter for the Hall of Fame? That needed a nanosecond of thought. So, whoever you are who didn’t vote for Jeter, come forward and explain yourself. Fear not. Security will be provided by the Astros or Red Sox.

Mostert is the Land Shark That Could Devourer the Chiefs

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By Lenn Robbins

Now that the 49ers are about to transition from reveling in their demolition of the Green Bay Packers to preparing for the Super Bowl, the first thing San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan should do is confiscate Raheem Mostert’s surf board.

Super Bowl LIV will be played in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, a four-hour drive from Mostert’s home town of New Smyna Beach, Fl. New Smyna Beach is the unofficial “Shark-Bite Capital of the World.”  

According to National Geographic, anyone who has swam in the waters off New Smyna Beach has been within 10 feet of a shark. Ten.

So, of course, Mostert took up surfing.

Now let me ask you: If the possibility of getting eviscerated by a distant cousin of Jaws wasn’t going to deter Mostert from surfing, do you think getting cut from six NFL teams, including the Jets, would scare him away from making his pro football dream come true?

It was Mostert, one of the three backs that comprise San Francisco’s running game, who ran the Packers back to Green Bay on Sunday in a 37-20 NFC Championship game victory. He set a career franchise with 220 yards rushing on 29 carries. It’s also the second highest total in postseason history.

“I did have a lot of doubters and naysayers,” Mostert told reporters after making chum of the Green Bay defense. “Now I actually tell them, ‘Look where I’m at now.’ I never gave up on my dreams.”

The 49ers will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in two weeks with Mostert emerging as the best surprise of the postseason. He started the season a distant third on the depth chart behind Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, both of whom battled injuries.

Enter Dominque Raheem Mostert, who has fallen through the cracks more than a penny. He led the 49ers with 772 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He was a three-star recruit coming out of New Smyna Beach High School, choosing Purdue over several schools including Miami, Rutgers and the Naval Academy.

 He also ran track, winning many Big Ten titles. But he went undrafted and his NFL free agent tour began. The 49ers, who place a premium on speed, signed him in 2016.

Coleman suffered what has been a reportedly severe elbow/shoulder injury against Green Bay meaning Mostert is likely to be San Fran’s No.1 rusher.

Once again, he also will be playing second fiddle to someone, in this case Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill. Hill is the fastest player in the NFL. Mostert, who played at Purdue, is the second according to NFL.com.

He was clocked at running 21.87 MPH on his 36-yard touchdown run Sunday.

“He’s so fast,” tackle Joe Staley told reporters. “He’s incredibly fast. He’s fearless going through the hole.”

Of course, he’s fearless. He swam with sharks.

March Madness is Just What Major League Baseball Needs

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By Lenn Robbins

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

  Pitchers, catches and cheaters report in less than four weeks.

The winter stretch from late-January to March has traditionally been a slow spell in sports. That’s one recent Sports Illustrated used to give us the swimsuit edition in February. Now it’s May. Enough of that.

This is not your typical year. MLB is giving us the Rocky Horror Sign Stealing Show.  Need to focus on the something less tainted? Consider this:

 Based on the many college basketball results in this week alone we’ve seen enough head-scratching results to make a safe bet, (sorry MLB)  that this has the potential to be the most maddening, thrilling, impossible to predict NCAA Tournament in recent time – if not all time.

Considered these results:

Unranked Alabama crushed No.4 Auburn, 83-64.

No. 18 Seton Hall slapped No.5 Butler, 78-70 in Indianapolis. South Carolina stunned No. 10 Kentucky, 81-78. Fear not Kentucky, here’s as good a place as any to point out that the Gamecocks got plucked by Northern Iowa, 78-72.

Struggling Georgetown edged No. 25 Creighton, 83-80.

Clemson shocked No. 3 Duke, 79-72.

Wisconsin tripped up No.17 Maryland, 56-54.

Minnesota banged No. 19 Michigan, 75-67.

Oregon State humbled No. 24 Arizona, 82- 65.

And Purdue humiliated No. 8 Michigan State, 71-42.

Defending national champ Virginia is not ranked.

Indiana and Syracuse (see 1987 NCAA National title game finalists) are not ranked.

Man, this his is fun:

Duke was upset at home by Stephen F. Austin, 85-83.

“We played young,” Coach k told reporters. “You gotta get old. You get old by experience, and I can’t teach them to be 22. They’re 18, a lot of them.”

Young gets you beat in the big Dance.

Kentucky fell at home to Evansville, 67-63.

“Stuff like this happens,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters. “You wanna grow from it, you wanna learn from it. We may look back in a couple weeks and say ‘this is the greatest thing that happened to this team.'”

Or not.

Georgia was blown out at Dayton, 80-61.

“I knew we were going to be coming in against a whole different level of intensity, physicality, the way guys play,” Bulldogs coach Tom Crean told reporters. “That’s where we’re at and we got exposed by that.”

Exposed.

LSU got manhandled at home by East Tennessee State, 74-63.

“Obviously, this was a tough night,” LSU coach Will Wade told reporters. “East Tennessee had a great game plan. They shrunk the paint on us and then just pinned their ears back and killed us on the offensive glass. They got 15 more shots than we did and that really, really hurt us. It was too much for us to overcome.”

Killed us.

Boston College has become an attractive game for every mid-major, having lost to St. Louis, 64-54, and Richmond, 64-44. Richmond also owns a 93-92 win over Vanderbilt.

Santa Clara might be pushing for membership in the Pac 12 after knocking off Washington St., 70-62 and Cal, 71-52.

And our most convincing argument for March insanity is this:

North Carolina isn’t even listed in ‘Others Getting Votes.” North Carolina. Take that Rob Nelson, Channel 7!

“I want to apologize to all the North Carolina fans, the people that care about our basketball program, former players, everyone that cares about us,” Roy Williams said after a 79-76 home loss to Clemson, which had lost 60 straight to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Why apologize? It’s not like anyone cheated. In fact, North Carolina could have a starring role in the maddest March of all time.

Beltran Gone as Suspicion Has a Seat in Every Dugout

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By Lenn Robbins

JOB OPENING: Looking for a man or woman with integrity who is willing to sit in an MLB dugout and monitor all actions of the manager, coaches, players and equipment personnel. Candidates should have a working knowledge of baseball signs. Candidates must be willing to contact MLB at the first sign of any abnormality. What constitutes an abnormality? Therein lies the problem with this job. 

From now on, the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox slink with the 1919 Chicago White Sox. They are the cheaters, the scum of sports, the cruchers of dreams, the destroyer of heroes.

As bad as their behavior is, it is the filthy lens through which every at-bat, every game, every season, every team will be viewed that is worse. Suspicion now has a seat in every dugout.

Any player that starts drawing walks at an unusually higher rate than his norm will be scrutinized. Any player that suddenly goes on a home run tear, any player that gets sizzling hot, any baserunner that suddenly starts racking up steals, will be looked at with a hairy eyeball.

That will be the horrific fallout of the sign-stealing scandal that has placed a scarlet letter next to the letters of every major league team’s logo. is he a cheater? Are they cheaters? 

Unfair, you decry?

Consider this harrowing reporting from Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic. They quote an MLB manager that says:

“It’s an issue that permeates through the whole league. The league has done a very poor job of policing or discouraging it.”

Even the league office, which sought to stake claim to the high ground by penalizing and fining the Astros and Red Sox can’t be trusted. Unless you’re an owner of course. 

We’re supposed to believe that Houston owner Jim Crane knew nothing about what his employees were doing every day for the better part of seven months. No wonder why there has never been an Undercover Owner of an MLB team.

They are all in on it. Apparently every GM, manager and coach is in on it. Every player is in on it. Every equipment manager? Every scout? Every ballboy?

Good Lord, not the ball boys?!

Are we supposed to believe now that Rob Manfred has disingenuously shed a spotlight on a contamination he only needed a penlight to spot that baseball has been baptized into cleanliness?

 What did that manager say? Permeates through the whole league.

Carlos Beltran became the first player to have the next step in his career halted by this toxic scandal. Before he got to manager one spring game for the Mets, the organization announced the parties had a agreed to part weeds.

When Manfred handed down the penalties to the Astros and Red Sox he said players had not been disciplined because it would be “difficult and impractical” to weed out who did what. Of course, Manfred’s fear is that if the league begins looking at players, there might not be an MLB when he’s done.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil is the better of bad options for baseball but it only enhances the suspicion mindset. If Beltran, who was a true professional throughout his time as a player, was a sign-stealing master, who else should we suspect? Everyone?

Those of us old enough to have lived through the Mark McGuire/Sammy Sosa steroid scandal, the NBA/Tim Donaghy betting scandal, the point-shaving scandal at Boston College learned long ago that professional athletes, and coaches and managers are no better or worse than you or me.

But those Little League kids that we celebrate every summer at Williamsport, or cheer for every weekend from Greenwich Village Little League to Inwood, from Peter Stuyvesant to Harlem, from Brooklyn to Queens, Nassau to Suffolk Counties, MLB just revealed there’s no such thing as the baseball equivalent of Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

Has Mike Trout been stole signs? Pete Alonso? Aaron Judge? All of the Red Sox? All of the Astros?

What’s worst then answering that question with a definitive ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ is having to pause and wonder, ‘Maybe.’ Maybe my guy’s a cheater.

Now, who wants to sit in a dugout and find out for sure?

Credit twitter

Thanks Pats; This Final Four is Wonderfully Flawed

Tom Brady file photo Photo by David L. Pokress/ The New York Extra

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By Lenn Robbins

It’s time to thank the New England Patriots for becoming the first 12-4 team to possess one of the epically awful offenses of all-time.

Amen.

That offense led to the Pats getting sent home by the Tennessee Titans, 20-13, leaving us with one of the most wonderfully flawed Final Fours in NFL Playoff history. Forget the fact that we don’t have a clear-cut favorite. We have four teams that make you wonder how they’re still standing.

As of Monday morning, the Chiefs had been installed as 11-10 favorites. This is the same Chiefs team that allowed 128 rushing yards per game this season and trailed 24-0 at home in its divisional game against the Texans.

Fortunately for the Chiefs they have a 24-year-old quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, the likes of which we’ve never seen, coached by an unappreciated 61-year-old wunderkind who draws up plays on diner napkins – true. The Chiefs’ offense was on full display in the final three quarters scoring 51 points in a 51-31 win.

The 49ers appear to be the most balanced team left and they are 7-5 to win it all. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw 13 interceptions this season, only two less than Mahomes (5), Aaron Rodgers (4) and Ryan Tannehill (6) combined. The 49ers try to compensate for the lack of a bell cow back with a committee of three backs, none of whom ran for 800 yards.

Fortunately for the 49ers they have an imposing front seven which is getting healthier. San Francisco, which gets the Pack at home  again, throttled the Minnesota Vikings, holding them to 147 yards and seven first downs.

The line drops significantly with the Titans at 15-2 to win it all. Tennessee has gone back in time offensively. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has attempted just 29 passes (completing 15) for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Mahomes threw for 95 yards and four touchdowns in just the second quarter of Sunday’s win against Texas.

Fortunately for the Titans, they have a defensive end playing running back. Derrick Henry, the 6-3, 247-pound battering ram of a man, has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He did this against two elite defenses – New England and Baltimore. Tannehill doesn’t throw often because he doesn’t have to.

Bringing up the rear is Green Bay, which boasts the old-school blueprint of an elite QB (Rodgers), running back (Aaron Jones) and wide receiver (Davante Adams). Green Bay needs all three to be at the top of their game because there are no other weapons that really strike fear in a defensive coordinator’s heart. The Packers suffered their worst beat down of the season in a 38-7 shellacking at San Fran on Nov. 24. Aaron posted an 8.5 QBR, Jones averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and Adams was held in check – seven catches for 43 yards.

Fortunately for the Packers, their Big Three is playing well at the right time. Rodgers threw for 243 yards and two TDs, Jones ran for 62 yards and two TDs and Adams, caught eight balls for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 win over the Seahawks. If they play at the level, Green Bay can beat anyone.

Before the season started the pick here was Kansas City over Seattle. One down, one still in. We’ll stick with Chiefs over the 49ers. Thanks New England, this should be fascinating final three games of the season without those Pats around.

Three Goalies? Mike Richter Has Been There, Done That

Mike Richter,Rangers great, skates during an intermission of the Yale/Harvard hockey game at Madison Square Gardens,NYC,NY 01/11/20 .Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

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By Lenn Robbins

Rangers great, Mike Richter talks to Lenn Robbins of The New York Extra at the Yale /Harvard hockey game 1/11/20 at Madison Square Gardens NYC,NY. Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

There might not be a person on the planet who has a better sense of what’s going on with the Rangers’ three-headed goaltending situation then Mike Richter.

Richter, the star goaltender on the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion Rangers’ team, was back in The Garden Saturday night where he served as the ambassador for the Harvard-Yale Rivalry on Ice.

It is that same ice that three Rangers’ goalies – future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist, his once-presumed replacement, Alexandar Georgiev and rookie sensation, Igor Shesterkin – have to share.

In the world of goaltending, where three’s a crowd, Richter knows something’s gotta give.

Rangers great, Mike Richter talks to Lenn Robbins/The New York Extra at the Yale /Harvard hockey game at Madison Square Gardens,NYC,NY/ Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

“I think this is the sign of a great organization, right,’’ Richter told TheNYExtra.com. “They’re drafting well and they’re developing very well. And so, they are blessed with three world class goalies.

  “Does that mean that somebody’s going to have to be moved? Eventually, yeah. And when I say move, when I came here there was Bob Froese, John Vanbiesbrouck and myself and you’d rather have strength at the position.

 “The nature of it is injuries, people getting older you always have to have the ability to create new, great players from within the organization. You can’t always pick them. So yeah, I think that’s a real indication that they’re doing something well. These are hard guys to get.”

Since 2005, Lundqvist has given the Rangers amazing stability at the most important position on hockey. He made his first start when Kevin Weekes was injured.

Cam Talbot seemed on track toward replacing The King, after he got injured. The Rangers traded Talbot to Edmonton for three picks in the 2015 draft.

Georgiev came on the scene in 2017 and by the end of last season had tongues wagging that the Lundqvist Era was nearing its end. Enter Igor.

It’s been more than five years since the Rangers took Shesterkin in the fourth round of the 2014 entry draft. If he’s returned to the Hartford Wolf Pack he has the option of returning to play in Russia, or elsewhere.

After a shaky start against the Colorado Avalanche, a 5-3 Rangers win, Shesterkin settled down. He’s 2-0 with a 3.01 GAA and .926 save percentage.

So as Richter said, eventually someone is going to have to be moved.

“Well, you never know where everybody’s going to end up,” said Richter. “I was in that position. I was in the lucky position of the new guy coming in. It’s harder on the older guys, when the young guy comes up, if you’re already established.

“I think time will tell because nowadays its almost impossible to answer in less you have all the information on the table. There’s salary caps, there’s no-trade clauses, there’s the ability of Shesterkin to go back. All of these things factor in.

“One thing you don’t want is to be left with nothing. If I’ve got wealth in this position, how do I parlay that into strength for my organization? But you’re never in that position unless you’re doing two things – drafting well and developing players within your organization.”

#13 Nathan Krusko from Havard , is checked into the boards by #10 Chandler Lindstrand from Yale, at the Yale/Harvard hockey game at Madison Square Gardens NYC,NY 01/11/20 Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra
#33 Corbin Kaczperski ,Yale, looks behind him after being beaten for a goal by #18 Jack Drury, Harvard in the 1st period of the Yale/Harvard hockey game at Madiosn Square Gardens NYC,NY 01/11/20. Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

NOTES: Richter, a Yale alum, is a strong supporter of finding ways to reverse global warming. He skated with Last Game in between the first and second periods of Harvard’s 7-0 win over Yale.

Founded by former New Jersey Devils great, Slava Festisov, Last Game is a series of hockey games that strives to bring awareness to the devastating effect of climate change. Last Game is trying to schedule a final game in the North Pole.

“We have a lot of really smart people in this country that working together, can find solutions,’’ Richter said. “This is something we should have been addressing 20 years ago. It’s not a political issue. This affects all of us.”

Judge Comes Out Swinging, Now He Has to Prove he Can Connect.

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By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

  Joe Judge was a sight and sound to behold in his first press conference as the coach of the Giants.

Everyone with any blue in their veins had to feel as if the conference coincided with happy hour. Judge was polite, impassioned, and emphatic. He chased shots with shots.

When asked his vision of Giants football, grandfathers around the metropolitan area were ready to run through a brick wall.

“We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play every play like it has a history and a life of its own,’’ said Judge.

Damn, for a franchise that has compiled a 12-36 record the last three seasons with teams that often hit opponents in the thigh with a pillow, this alone would be a huge step in the right direction.

Judge clearly won the day, arriving early to meet the media and embrace Giants past and presence. Nothing was not to like, right?

Judge, 38, has never been a head coach, or an offensive or defensive coordinator, on any level. He sounded a little like a college football coach, say at Mississippi State, his alma mater which was itching to bring him back to Starkville, or a young egomaniacal GM.

It was Brady Van Wagenen who told NL East opponents to come get the Mets. They did.

It was former UConn football coach Bob Diaco who claimed in August of 2015 that the Huskies would win the national championship. They didn’t and Diaco was fired in 2016.

What happens on press conference day means zero when Judge gets before the entire Giants team and lays out his vision. Will pro football players buy into a young, inexperienced coach who gets an A+ in talking the talk but has to prove he can walk, talk, call a good game, manage the clock, challenge calls when there’s a chance of not losing a time out, and about 200 other responsibilities?

“I want the people of New York, North Jersey and South Jersey, knowing when they pay to watch our product, our team is a representative of their blue collar mentality and that they can be proud of,’’ announced General Judge.

Give Judge credit for this: He was prepared enough, impassioned enough and authentic enough to have earned some grace with the media and he assuaged the fan base, many of whom were still asking, “Joe Who?”

And you can bet you’re favorite Giants hoodie that Judge knows the hard work starts now.

He has to build a staff. He has to win over the veterans. He has to do a crash course on preparing for the NFL Draft, the most important day in every franchise’s year, which is only about 14 weeks away.

So, kudos to Judge for looking the part, delivering a clear message and coming across as a man of conviction. All he has to do is turn losers into winners, which is as easy getting every player to play every play like it has a history and a life of its own.

The Hiring of Joe Judge Speaks Volumes About the Giants

credit twitter

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By Lenn Robbins

The hiring of Joe Judge says more about the state of the Giants than it does about the relatively unknown quantity that is about to become the 19th head coach of what once was one of the premier sports franchises in American sports.

Only the most diehard football fans knew who Judge was before Tuesday’s stunning announcement that he would sit in the office as Allie Sherman, Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin.

Judge has worked for highly successful organizations, as Alabama’s and, most recently, New England’s special teams coordinators. Judge also was the Patriots receivers coach. He knows what success looks like and feels like but he can create that for the Giants? Who knows.

Judge was quickly moving up the list of intriguing young coaches. Mississippi State was poised to make Judge, a former Bulldogs player, its head coach. And when Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel accepted the Indianapolis Colts job, if only in Central Belichick Time, he tabbed Judge as one of his lieutenants.

We know that people in the know hold Judge in esteem.

But apparently the Giants no longer are held in high esteem, which should be just as disconcerting as who the Giants have hired.

Mike McCarthy reportedly was high on the Giants list of candidates to replace Pat Shurmur. He chose the Cowboys.

Matt Rhule was supposed to interview for the Giants job on Tuesday. He literally took the money and ran, getting a seven-year, $60 million deal from the Panthers. Rhule reportedly called the Giants hoping to leverage a similar deal from his hometown team and dream job.

Apparently, it’s not as dreamy as it once was, although Rhule got 60 million reasons to find in a new dream in Carolina.

That left the Giants feeling a little more squeezed. McCarthy was gone. Rhule was gone. Judge was on the verge of being gone to Mississippi State.

Think about that – the Giants found themselves competing with a second-tier SEC team located in Starkville, MS.

Judge just turned 38 on Dec. 31st. He is the third youngest head coach in NFL. He has never run an offense or a defense. He is not a quarterback whisperer. He reportedly is a no-nonsense coach not afraid to challenge players.

He could be a remarkable head coach, a diamond in the rough. He could be in way over his head. New England assistant coaches don’t engage with media. New York coaches can’t escape it.

Yes, there are a lot of question marks regarding one Joe Judge. But there is no question about how far the Giants have fallen.

How' Bout Them Cowboys! Can Dallas Return as the Team to Hate?

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By Lenn Robbins

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America’s Team has a new coach.

He is not a wunderkind such as Kliff Kingsbury, who got fired from his college job (Texas Tech) and barely had time to update his resume before being hired by the Arizona Cardinals. Nor is one of the NFL’s perceived young studs – 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh or Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In a stunning departure from how and who NFL franchises are hiring, the Cowboys marched to their own tune. Whether it turns out to be a celebration parade or a funeral march is impossible to predict.

What is almost certain is this: If Mike McCarthy doesn’t succeed, America’s Team might become as abstract as a central American country, say Uruguay or Paraguay. And owner Jerry Jones might not get another crack at hiring a head coach.

Of paramount importance to Giants fans, and the rest of the NFL, is the former. The Cowboys, by most talent evaluator’s assessment, have the most impressive roster in the NFC East. Many of their stars are in the prime of their careers and could form an immovable object for the rest of the division.

Considering that Jones hasn’t been a trigger-happy owner when it comes to firing coaches suggests that McCarthy, who reportedly will get a five-year deal, will be given time to succeed or fail. If he fails, the Cowboys might go another decade without getting to an NFC Championship game.

At first glance the hiring of McCarthy seems curious at best. After compiling a 125-77-2 record with a 10-8 mark in the postseason including one Super Bowl victory, two NFC title game appearances, McCarthy was fired late in the 2018 season when the Packers were 2-7-1.

Of course, the bigger issue was the reported estrangement between McCarthy and all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The quickest way for a coach to get hired, or fired, in today’s NFL, is his relationship with the quarterback.

It seems as if Adam Gates got that part right. We’ll see.

By not getting hired in 2019, McCarthy, accurately or not, got a rep as being too old school, which is a nice way of saying out-of-touch or over-the-hill, euphemisms for ageism. Now comes word that McCarthy, suddenly a youthful 56, is a renaissance coach, one into analytics and has been hosting a meeting of the McCarthy Group, a convent of ex-coaches that are re-evaluating their craft.

Now word comes that Bill Belichick, at a 2015 owners meeting, reportedly said McCarthy is one of the best coaches he ever went up against. Now comes word that Brett Favre says McCarthy is very bright, very understandable and can relate to players the way Daboll does.

Of course, there are many that believe all those criticisms of McCarthy are legitimate and he’s little more than a more successful Jason Garrett. There are legions of Cowboys haters, led by the irrepressible Stephen A. Smith, who are thrilled that Dallas made a hire that has absolutely no sex appeal but might have success appeal.

Look, this could be exactly what the NFL needs. The Patriots dynasty, if not over, is gasping. The NFL needs a team to hate, Who better than, “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys!’”