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

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

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!’”

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The Patriots Have a Decision to Make And Its Name is Tom Brady

File photo Patriots QB Tom Brady looks to pass to tight end Ben Watson, right. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The end?

Does Tom Brady’s illustrious career end with a pick six that sealed the Tennessee Titans’ stunning 20-13 upset victory on Sunday?

  The greatest quarterback of all time said it’s “pretty unlikely, hopefully unlike,’ that he will retire at the age of 42 after 20 seasons. But maybe the Patriots should consider where they are after the 2019 season and ponder the unthinkable:

Maybe they’re better off moving forward without the GOAT?

Heresy you scream?!

Perhaps. We are talking about an athlete who has been nothing short of remarkable, set a new standard for the position and has been a great, albeit, demanding leading. But no player is indispensable. No organization is more cognizant of this than New England.

File Photo Patriots head coach Bill Belichick Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

Bill Belichick has a roster of former Patriots that he let go in order to maintain the New England dynasty – Richard Seymour, Chandler Jones, Brandon Cooks, Malcolm Butler. No New England player is untouchable. Belichick was always looking two, three years down the road, which made the trading of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo such a lightning rod move.

New England had its heir apparent to Brady. Whether or not Brady forced the trade, or there was some friction among owner Bob Kraft, Belichick and Brady won’t be answered until all are out of football, if then.

So here sit the Patriots with a roster that suddenly seems to have more questions than at any time in the recent past. We’ve known all season that Pats desperately needed another outside weapon for Brady and the offense. Rookie N’Keal Henry is applying aloe vera gel to the burns he got from being on the receiving end of Brady’s fury, if not his passes.

But the lack of another weapon wasn’t the only wart we saw yesterday.  The defense, which had been so good early in the season, got steamrolled by Derrick Henry and the Titans. Henry gashed the Pats for 183 yards on 34 carries.

The Pats inability to score took a toll on that defense throughout the season, including Sunday. They were often worn down. Henry became the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Pats in the playoffs since 2014 when Marshawn Lynch gained 102 in Super Bowl XLIX

The offensive line was solid, only giving up one sack, but Brady was forced off his spot on many occasions. Unlike many of the quarterbacks that played on Wildcard Weekend, Brady doesn’t offer a run threat.

 Led by Lamar Jackson, NFL teams are looking for mobile quarterbacks, even if that just means the ability to slide in the pocket. The Patriots need to take a hard, uncomfortable look at their quarterback heading into the next decade.

 Brady’s contract voids on March 18, the turn of the NFL calendar. The Giants acknowledged wasting $23 million in cap space by giving Eli Manning to extend his time in New York.

“Everybody’s situation on the team is different,’’ Belichick told reporters Sunday morning. “There are no two that are exactly the same, but the future’s the future for all of them just like it is for Tom and anybody else you want to bring up.

“Certainly Tom is an iconic figure in this organization and nobody respects Tom more than I do. I respect all the other players and all the other coaches in this organization, too. I think that everybody that is part of it is an important part of it and I want to give the proper attention and communication and detail and thought into my input into those decisions, but any decision that’s made, it’s not an individual decision.”

New England has a first-round pick, three third-round picks, a fourth-rounder, four sixth rounders and a seventh rounder. There’s a package to be made if New England wants to move up in the draft to take a quarterback.

Or England can decide to stay the course with Brady under center. They can draft a receiver and bolster both lines. This is the easiest decision to make from afar and the most difficult to make inside New England’s practice facility in Foxborough.

“I love the Patriots,” Brady told reporters after the game. “I would say it’s pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely (I’ll retire). I love playing football. I don’t know what it looks like moving forward.”

Maybe the Patriots don’t know as well.

From the Deli to the Penthouse: Stern Lifted the NBA to International Fame

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Before there was Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, before there were vloggers and people earning a living as influencers, heck, before there was an Internet, there was a force of nature known as David Joel Stern.

Almost anything and everything you see today in marketing and branding, probably makes its way back to the man who took the National Basketball Association from the brink of irrelevancy to one of the most successful sports leagues in the world.

Many NBA fans are young enough to not know of a league in which playoff games took place with little or no television coverage. Or an NBA Draft Lottery that didn’t exist.

“David took over the NBA in 1984 with the league at a crossroads,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said of his friend and mentor. “But over the course of 30 years as Commissioner, he ushered in the modern global NBA. He launched groundbreaking media and marketing partnerships, digital assets and social responsibility programs that have brought the game to billions of people around the world.

“Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation. Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration.”

Stern died yesterday at the age of 77. He suffered a brain aneurysm hemorrhage about three weeks ago and never recovered. Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Under Stern’s New York City brash and confident persona (he worked at his father’s Manhattan deli), the NBA saw the birth of seven new franchises, the relocation of six other franchises and the creation of the WNBA and the D-League (now the G-League).

The value of franchises exploded. Jerry Reinsdorf bought the Chicago Bulls for $16 million in 1985. Less than 30 years later (2014), Steve Ballmer bought the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion.

The secret to Stern’s success was as simple and complex as this: He marketed the league’s stars as never before. He became commissioner just as Michael Jordan was emerging as a star of stars. Stern road Jordan, Magic, Bird, Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing to international superstardom.

It was Stern’s vision to sell the stars that ingratiated the commissioner to the players even as he played hardball in negotiating. The NBA endured its first four lockouts under Stern.

By the time Stern handed the reins to Silver the NBA had a unique dynamic with its players: We’re in this together. The end result was that the players went from well-paid to millionaires and the owners left the millionaire club to become billionaires.

During his tenure, the league went from about $10 million a year in television revenue to more than $1 billion. NBA games became a place to seen by actors and musicians. Prince William and Duchess Kate attended a Brooklyn Nets game with Jay Z and Beyonce’!

“Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today,’’ Jordan said in a statement. “He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before.

“His vision and leadership provided me with the global stage that allowed me to succeed. David had a deep love for the game of basketball and demanded excellence from those around him — and I admired him for that. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

Changes in the NFC East Mean the Giants Must Get it Right

File photo Pat Shurmur

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

If nothing else, the Giants acted swiftly and decisively, firing coach Pat Shurmur even before the Cowboys and Jason Garrett parted ways and less than 24 hours after the Browns made the easiest coaching change since Ray Handley.

Once one of the most well-run, classiest operations in all of sports can now be found at your local toy store in the form of a Big Blue piñata.

No NFL team has lost more games since 2017 than the Giants, who have had four coaches in the last six years. Only White Island has been more unstable.

Despite this Mess at the Meadowlands, the Giants predicament is not nearly as bad as it could be. The NFC East has been the perfect home for any franchise hoping to win the division at 9-7, as the Eagles just did.

But that’s about to change.

The Redskins, under racist, one-tenth-of-one-percent owner Dan Snyder, have taken a giant step forward with the firing of president of suits Bruce Allen and the imminent hiring of former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera is as respected as it gets.

It’s still unknown if the Redskins have a quarterback. Dwayne Haskins played worse than most rookie QBs do and Alex Smith’s leg remains a question mark. But the Skins have some talent and they’ll get more with the No.2 pick (Chase Young) in the upcoming draft.

The Cowboys have the most talented roster in the division but Garrett, a truly standup guy, was never able to get them to a Super Bowl. For the first time ever the Cowboys have gone two decades without an NFC Championship game appearance.

 Jerry Jones, for whatever you think, certainly gave Garrett the time and resources. If the Cowboys get it right and score a touchdown with their hire (Urban Meyer? Matt Rhule?) the Giants will face a more dangerous Dallas team in 2020.

Philadelphia won the division almost by default. The Eagles were the Yankees of the NFL this season, parading injured players to the treatment room and back. But Philly has a proven coach in Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz played almost every snap of every game.

It’s a safe expectation that the Eagles won’t go through a second season of injury plague and if they shore up their secondary, Philly also will start 2020 ahead of the Giants.

Never has it been more crucial for the Giants to get it right than now.

The other three teams in the division are about to improve significantly. The Giants can’t be searching for another coach in two or three years. Saquon Barkley, the exquisite running back, might be battered into mediocrity by then. The rest of the division might be too far ahead.

No, the Giants have to get it right now.

Rhule is an intriguing proposition and he might choose the Giants over the Cowboys because he has New York roots and was an assistant line coach with Big Blue for a cup of coffee.  But objectively, which roster would you rather inherit – New York or Dallas? ‘Nuf said.

There’s also been call for the Giants to cut ties with GM Dave Gettleman. More coaches want a greater say in the draft process and roster building. Gettleman inherited a depleted roster and an inflated salary cap – the one-two knockout punch of NFL GMs.

Whether by luck or skill or both, he’s given the Giants Barkley, Daniel Jones, Will Hernandez, Dexter Lawrence, etc. There are 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL and if Gettleman’s presence pushes away a candidate, so be it.

Gettleman faces the decision of his professional career. He can’t get this wrong.  The Giants are battered and wobbly but they’re not out of their weight class.

 If the Giants don’t get this hire right, they could be the Bengals, or, well, the Bengals.  The Giants could find themselves buried so deeply that they’ll have to turn to a 76ers-like rebuild.

When has New York ever turned to Philly for anything other than a cheesesteak for the road?

Need a Resolution? Stop Going to Knicks Games

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

File photo /The New York Extra

Unless you’re in that top one-tenth of one percent, it’s difficult to think your voice matters. It does.

Consider what recently transpired at Rutgers University. Fans, alums, students, professors had one wish for Christmas – Greg Schiano.

The former football coach is the only man to have turned the Scarlet Knights from a punch line to legitimate program. When negotiations broke down between Schiano and the athletic director, everyone with a scarlet sweater went bonkers.

They rose up with a passion and intensity usually reserved for regime changes. They threatened to withhold their donations, big and small. It worked.

Schiano now is back on the banks and hope floats at the state university of New Jersey.

Back across the river, smack dab in midtown, another fan base has been pushed to its limit. The Knicks have become to the NBA what the sideshow used to be to the circus – something freakish at which to gawk.

Like the world’s strongest man, the sword swallower, the elephant man, the Knicks have gone from sideshow to sideshow under James Dolan’s 20-year ownership.

He’s overpaid for past-their-prime free agents and has funded Phil Jackson’s retirement account. He’s brought in general managers that believed The Garden demanded superstars, to GMs that preached patience and player development.

There has been one constant with Dolan – losing. Miserable, astonishingly consistent, losing.

In the last 20 years the Knicks have had four winning seasons. Four! They’ve won one playoff series. One! Dolan has gone through 12 coaches, one for each day of a scrooge Christmas.

Dolan is almost always at Knicks games, sitting in his courtside seat wearing funereal colors, black on black. Dolan has said he attends games to show fans that he’s engaged, that he cares.

But what if there were fewer fans in The Garden to see the Ringmaster of Losing? What if Knicks fans, some of whom come to be seen and care little about basketball, simply stopped being witnesses to one of the worst franchises in sports history?

The Knicks are 9th in attendance in the NBA, one of only two franchises in the Top 10 with a losing record. The other is Portland, a playoff team last season, that has one of the league’s best backcourts but whose frontcourt has been ravaged by injuries.

There still is hope in Portland. Not in New York.

Coach David Fizdale was fired on Dec. 6th, just 22 games into his second season. President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry could be (should be) next. 

credit Twitter

But will that change anything? Dolan has tried to sell the narrative that he leaves the basketball decisions to the basketball people, that he is not involved in the day to day.

Perhaps. But losing season to losing season, Dolan is the constant. And he has no motivation to sell. Not when an average 18,928 fans show up for every home game and many purchase $12.50 beers.

Knicks fans need to pull together and allow their anguish and frustration to be seen as well as heard. They need to stop going to Knicks games. Just stop.

You might wonder why we write this now, why today? The Knicks are coming off a respectable win, 94-82 over the Nets in Brooklyn. The victory gave interim Knicks coach Mike Miller a 4-6 record since Fizdale was fired.

There’s a sense of resignation, of learned helplessness. Knicks fans have been so abused that 4-6 seems like a good deal. Heck, if the Knicks can win 40-percent of their remaining games, they’ll finish 28-54, which looks good compared to the 15-win pace they were on under Fizdale.

It’s not a good record. It’s terrible. It’s more losing. It’s another season of losing, of no playoffs, of another coach and probably another front office.

The Knicks, no longer worthy of Christmas Day TV games, play at the Washington Wizards on Saturday. Don’t watch. They return home on Jan. 1st to face Portland. Don’t go.

If you’re a Knicks fan without a resolution, consider this: Don’t attend another Knicks game until Dolan sells. Honestly, what will you miss?

A Giants Vision of the Future: Barkley and Jones

ROBBINS NEST

File Photo Neil /The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

There were so many warts on the Giants’ 41-35 overtime victory against the Redskins Sunday in Landover, Md. it could keep a dermatologist working through Christmas.

Big Blue led 28-14 at halftime and 35-21 with less than 15 minutes left in regulation. The defense allowed Washington, behind fourth string (give or take a string) quarterback Case Keenan, to rally the lowly Redskins to a 35-35 tie with 29 seconds remaining.

The Giants allowed the Redskins to go 99 yards on that possession – 99!

 The Giants allowed the team with the worst offense in football, averaging a meager 268.8 yards per game, to gain 361. And the Giants gave up 35 points to a team that was averaging 15.4.

Yet it might be the most beautiful win Giants fans remember if their team wins a fifth Super Bowl in the near future. The Giants (4-11) saw their top draft choices in 2018 (RB Saquon Barkley) and 2019 (QB Daniel Jones) turn in record-breaking performances.

“I think that is what they kind of envisioned when they drafted DJ and drafted me,” Barkley told reporters after the game. “I think we both have the potential and talent to play well together and open stuff up for each other. We showed that today with the help of everyone else and we were able to find a way to get the win.”

Barkley ran for a career-high 199 yards and one touchdown. He caught four passes 90 yards and another score. He left tacklers scratching their heads.

“My job is to make that one guy miss,” Barkley said. “Sometimes they’re going to make a play, but I believe that with the ability I have, more times than not I’m going to make that person guy miss.”

File photo #8 Daniel Jones Neil Miller ?The New York Extra

Jones threw five touchdown passes, no interceptions, and orchestrated his first game-winning drive in OT. Jones joined Detroit’s Matt Stafford as the only rookie QB’s since 1950 to throw for 300 or more yards and at least five touchdowns. Jones threw for 352 on 28-of-42 passing.

After the Giants won the coin toss in overtime, Jones knew he had the kind of chance every quarterback craves.

“You see it as a huge opportunity, and you’re excited for that,” he said. “That’s kind of what you look forward to, what you play for is an opportunity to do that — to go down and win the game.”

Perhaps it was a vision of the future. Barkley and Jones are proving to be special talents. The defense needs an overhaul and by beating the Redskins the Giants might have cost themselves a chance to draft Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.

For one afternoon, it was easy to overlook the warts and not wince at what be lost on draft day. The sights worth beholding wore No. 26 (Barkley) and No. 8 (Jones). Might be worth playing those numbers. Make sure to save the winning ticket.

End Of a Dynasty? The Pats Didn't Get the Memo

File Photo Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. / Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

When the Buffalo Bills pulled a Bill Belichick on the Patriots, a bracing Northeast wind seem to blow from Foxboro to San Francisco, from Boston to Baltimore.

Some thought it was the wind of change.

The Bills had just scored a touchdown with one second left before halftime to tie this AFC East title game, 10-10. And the Bills were set to receive the second half kickoff.

How many times in the course of 11 straight AFC East titles have we witnessed the Pats parlay late first-half points with second half score that turned a game?

That was one of Belichick’s trademarks. And the Bills were poised to turn the table on the defending Super Bowl champs. 

The Bills didn’t score on their first possession of the third quarter but they did take a 17-13 lead to the fourth. The Pats had been outgaining the Bills by an almost 2-to-1 ratio but Buffalo was able to do what the 2019 New England couldn’t do – make big plays.

So the emergency call went out – again:  New England’s dynasty was in critical condition.

File Photo Patriots QB Tom Brady looks ,Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

The Pats have been pronounced dead on the scene more times than a fentanyl addict. Each time a surgeon named Tom Brady, or the chief of staff known, as coach Belichick worked some miracle.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon in New England’s 24-17 come-from-behind victory over the surging Bills in Gillette Stadium. Brady was precise, leading the big-play-challenged Pats to 11 fourth quarter points. Belichick’s defense was stifling, shutting out the Bills who had scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass.

This win doesn’t guarantee the Pats a 7th Super Bowl crown since the turn of the century. If the Ravens win out, they’ll have home-field until the Super Bowl.

And even the most fanatic Patriots fan must acknowledge this is a flawed offensive team. New England’s receivers averaged10.4 yards per catch. Buffalo’s averaged 16.

But the Pats still have the greatest quarterback of all time. At 42, Brady has nursed an assortment of hurts, especially an elbow injury, the most worrisome of his pains. Still, he made all the clutch throws, especially in that fourth quarter when he capped a touchdown drive with a two-point conversion dart to Julian Edelman

“He’s the heartbeat of this football team,” special teams captain Matthew Slater told reporters. “We’ve been one of the most fortunate organizations the last 20 years to have that guy at the helm. He proved it again tonight.”

The defense, as has been the case for most of the season, held at the very end. They stopped the Bills at the New England 15.

File photo Patriots defensive teammates. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

“Obviously they’re AFC East division rivals and that’s their consecutive whatever-it-is year winning the division,” Bills QB Josh Allen to reporters. “We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.”

The other three teams in the AFC East have uttered similar words.

And every team in the league had hope the dynasty would end when Brady tore his ACL in 2008, or in 2017, when the Falcons led Super Bowl LI by a score of 28-3 at halftime, or in 2018, when there were reports that Belichick, Brady and owner Bob Kraft at odds.

The dynasty didn’t end then. Will end this season?

The 49ers are balanced and physical. The Ravens smacked the Patriots 37-20 earlier this season. And the Chiefs, a popular pick to win the AFC, are getting healthy for a stretch run.

So before declaring any NFL better than the Pats, remember, “The Dynasty” just won its 11th straight AFC East title. And that’s not their goal. According to published reports, in post-game locker room, the Pats wore T-shirts with these words:

“The East is Not Enough.”

Sign of the Times: Cole Wins His First Day as a Yankee

credit Twitter

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

There is a commonly used expression when a newly hired coach or player is introduced that goes a long way to determining success:

He won the press conference.

Say something witty for the scribes. Make their job a tad easier. They’ll cut the new guy a little more slack when the early results are disappointing. Say something uplifting for the fans and they’ll forgive some missteps as part of the acclimation process.

Yep, if you win the press conference, you set yourself up to win, not just the day, but the town.

Congratulations Gerrit Cole, you just offered up a flawless primer in how to win the press conference, not an easy accomplishment when there are a lot of media and fans mumbling, “Is any player worth $324 million?”

That won’t be answered for a few years. If Cole leads the Yankees to multiple World Series titles (plural, as owner Hal Steinbrenner said) than $324 million is the down payment on a dynasty.

 If not, well, the Yankees are one of the few American sports franchises that prints its own money. They’ll sign a dozen more sponsors. Surely some auto parts company wants to be the official hubcap of the Yankees.

But neither Cole nor the Yankees have to fret over this signing today because of, well, a sign. The handmade sign that an 11-year Cole held up in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona reads:

Yankee Fan Today, Tomorrow, Forever.

It was yellowed after spending the last 18 years in a closet in his parent’s house but what a time for that sign to come out of the closet – when he was officially introduced as the latest next great Yankee in the Legends Club.

“I just wanted to say I’m here, I’ve always been here,” Cole, 29, told reporters.

Yes, Cole is here, the No.1 starting pitcher believed by Yankees ownership and front office to be the missing piece needed to win the first World Series title in 11 years.

 Pressure? Not to Cole.

“Pressure is a privilege,’’ he said. “Pressure comes in situations that you’ve earned. You pitch in big games in September and October because you played well all year. With that in mind, you have to have a process that you know you need to stick to to perform in those games. We can say it’s just another game, but we know when you get to October, it’s really not.”

No, it’s not. The Canyon of Heroes has been litter-free in October since 2009. The Yankees have gotten close several times but close translates into failure for this franchise.

 Cole’s signing is a sign of the times. The Yankees have gone too long since winning title No. 27. It was time to break the bank.

“We have an incredible team right here, right now,’’ said Steinbrenner. “What happens three years from now, you can never predict. Clearly, I felt it was time to strike, to really get that final big piece that can make a difference with the way things have been going.

“We need to win some world championships and I believe we’re going to do that, sooner than later. I believe that. Plural.”

That’s the sign Yankees fans are looking for: World Championships, Today, Tomorrow….

It's Our Call: Safety Over High School Football Titles

Robbins Nest

The following article, written by Lenn Robbins, Editor-in-chief of the New York Extra is not endorsed by the ownership of the publication. However, Mr Robbins has complete editorial freedom to express his views and is supported in this regard. Neil Miller,publisher and owner,The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

   Maybe only those that have known the most unbearable sadness can truly experience the most unfetted euphoria.

  When Riley Ward ripped off his helmet to show the face of pure, unbridled joy, when he raised his left arm and pointed his index finger skyward, when he was mobbed by teammates, many of who were ecstatically screaming, “Oh My God!  Oh My God!” did the guy next to me, also transfixed by the images of the TV say:

 “That’s God at work right there.”

 This God entity can be challenging to understand. Some would say we’re not meant to understand. Certainly faith can help us make some sense, take some comfort, in the incomprehendable.

Maybe a higher power was at work Saturday night when the high school football team from the Connecticut town where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, won its first state title exactly seven years to the day that a madman massacred 26 people, 20 of whom were six and seven-year-old children.

 Since this is a sports column, let’s give this higher power entity the benefit of the doubt,  and discuss religion another day.

  Which begs one question:

 If God was at work Saturday night, what the hell have our elected officials been doing  the last seven years? This isn’t a question for Republicans or Democrats. It’s a question for mothers and fathers, congressmen and senators, governors and the president.

 Why has there been no significant change in this country when it comes to making it  harder to buy weapons that have nothing to do with self defense but everything to do with mass slaughter?

 The second amendment is fine with me. If citizens in upstate New York did not have the right to bare arms, the escapees from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora would have had many more places to find refuge.

 As someone who legally owned a gun when living in New Jersey, it was reasurring to have to attend a gun safety course to get that license. The instructor said (I’m paraphrasing here) if someone is intent on doing you harm and he or she doesn’t back away after hearing the chambering of a round, no gun in the world can keep you safe.

We need to keep ourselves safe which means exercising some commom sense.

 No assault rifles. No large capacity magazines. No bump stocks.

 Hopefully, prayfully, No dead children.

  What transpired Saturday night was beyond explanation, just as Mike Piazza’s home run 10 days after 9-11 was inexpicable and eternal.

  “I’m so proud of my kids for not giving up,’’ Newtown coach Bobby Pattison told reporters after the game. “We had moments in that game where it didn’t look too good for Newtown … I’m so proud of the kids. I couldn’t be happier.”

    Newtown beat Darien, 13-7, on the game’s last play when quarterback Jack Street found Riley through the fog for a 36-yard touchdown and the state LL championship.  Kudos to the Darien Blue Wave, a high school I once covered while working at the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time, which Tweeted:

  While a State Championship loss is never easy to swallow, the joy it is bringing @newtownfootball and the entire #Newtown community is certainly numbing our pain. #NightHawkPride #FootballBrothers

  Newtown linebacker Ben Pinto’s seven-year-old brother, Jack, was killed in that 2012 massacre. No one can imagine that family’s grief or the grief of any family that has lost a child, especially to gun violence because our “leaders” have shamefully gotten up every morning to their lattes instead of passing gun control legislation.

 Riley’s celebration was one for the ages. Like the late N.C. State coach Jimmy Valvano, who couldn’t find a player to hug after the Wolfpack won the 1983 NCAA Tournament, Riley, Lucky No. 13 in your books, raced through the end zone, a self-driving car that had malfunctioned.

 He was bathed in the love and joy of his teammates and townspeople. But wouldn’t it be so much better to live in a world in which a high school football team didn’t have to help a community heal because there was no manmade tragedy to recover from?

   Surely, we’d all trade a state title celebration for a state of safety for our children. Our “leaders” have no excuses. Get to work!

Cole's Signing Can Only Mean One Thing – Another Yankees Dynasty

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

The elephant that once resided in the Yankees clubhouse has been replaced by a mammoth elephant of a contract.

The Yankees reportedly got their guy, agreeing to terms with pitcher Gerritt Cole, the unquestioned No.1 free agent on the market. The cost was staggering, shattering every baseball contract and then some.

For the chance to field another dynasty, the Yankees will pay Cole a reported $324 million over nine years. And dynasty is what this is about, not one World Series championship, but several.

Of course, the fact that the Yankees haven’t paraded down the Canyon of Heroes in a decade was the driving force in acquiring Cole. Ten years without that 28th championship is hard time for a franchise that measures success in rings or bust.

It’s amazing how quickly the Yankees’ years of fiscal restraint went over the short porch in right. That’s what happens when the Yankees have to watch the Red Sox celebrate twice in the last 10 years.

Hal Steinbrenner might not be impetuous like his late father but he too is a competitor, one who fully understands the Yankees don’t compete for the A.L. East title. They compete for historic success, which required a historic contract.

Cole’s deal shatters the seven-year, $245 million contract the Nationals ponied up to retain Stephen Strasburg. Cole’s $36 million per season also eclipses Mike Trout’s $35.54 million per season.

It’s almost as much as Mayor Pete’s city of South Bend, Indiana’s 2020 budget of $358 million. Cole’s signing automatically makes the 2020 Yankees the favorite to win the World Series.

 At the age of 29, Cole is at the peak of his game. He went 20-5 last season with a career-best 2.50 ERA. His 326 strikeouts (also a career best) broke the Astros single season record of 313 set by J.R. Richard 40 years ago.

The Yankees now have a starting rotation that is as formidable as their lineup.

Cole becomes the ace followed by James Paxton, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka in some order. Remember, the Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season. Now they have Cole, Severino, a workhorse in Tanaka, and a Paxton who adjusted to New York and got stronger as the season went along.

All this can only translate into success if the Yankees do what they did just before the turn of the century – three straight titles and four in five years. That’s what $324 million buys – the next elephant in the room.