(Dave Pokress/Sportsday Wire)
On paper it did not appear as if the Giants would pose much of a challenge for the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. After all, the Giants came into the game with a mediocre 6-7 record while the Panthers had an unblemished 13-0 mark this season. When Carolina QB Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn, Jr. with roughly 5 minutes left in the third quarter it made the score Panthers 35, Giants 7 and a good chunk of the Big Blue faithful understandably headed for the exits.
What happened after that was anything but predictable. The Giants took advantage of a variety of miscues from the suddenly soft Panthers defense as well as an offense that went to sleep to score 28 unanswered points to tie the game, 35-35.
The only problem was that the Panthers had the ball with slightly less than two minutes to go in the game. That was enough time for Newton to lead his team deep into Giants territory and that set up a game-winning field goal by Graham Gano as time ran out. To borrow the title from a 1978 Johnny Mathis hit, the end result for the Giants was too much, too little, too late.
What people will remember about this game was not the Giants’ frantic comeback but rather the literal and figurative battle between Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman that resembled a UFC main event. The ugliness started early when Norman body-slammed Beckham, Jr. Odell then returned fire by spearing Josh in the noggin with his helmet and so it went back and forth for the entire game as both players racked up personal fouls. Incredibly, the referees did not eject either player. Expect both however to be heavily fined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Suspensions are also a possibility.
The Jets wound up on the better side of a three-point final score differential as they got by the depleted Dallas Cowboys in “Big D” Saturday night 19-16. Loquacious Jets safety Calvin Pryor best summed things up by telling SNY Jets reporter Jeane Coakley, “That was an ugly game and we love winning the ugly ones!”
Yes, a win is a win, and given the Jets’ playoff hopes, they’ll take it any way that they can. Nonetheless you had the feeling that if injured Cowboys QB Tony Romo had been able to play the end result wouldn’t have been favorable for Gang Green.
Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, famous for his flowing locks, was almost unrecognizable with his buzz cut at the Mets annual holiday party for kids last Tuesday. I jokingly asked him if he had lost a bet with pitcher Jacob deGrom who is also renowned for his coif. “Nah, my wife wanted me to cut it!” he replied.
The Mets holiday party might be the final time that I’ll get to see the Pepsi-Cola sign that rises above the right side of Citi Field. Coca-Cola takes over pouring rights in 2016. I asked a Mets corporate spokesman if a date had been determined for when the iconic sign will be removed. “Oh, we have a date!” he said with a smile but would not reveal what it would be.
The cola wars are serious business. At the Mets holiday party, the kids were served bottles of water that had the Aquafina labels removed and bottles of juice that were stripped of their Tropicana identity since both brands are owned by Pepsi. A worker for the Mets’ food service, Aramark, told me that it took an hour to peel off all of the corporate identifiers from the bottles.
Whitestone native, Bayside High alum , and ESPN “Monday Night Football” play-by-play voice Mike Tirico was the emcee at the annual Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last Tuesday night. Tirico paid special tribute to his hero, Marv Albert, who was the evening’s final honoree. Also lionizing the former Knicks and Rangers broadcaster via videotape was Lefrak City native, former NBA star, and current TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith.
Another recognizable honoree was CNN founder Ted Turner who took a little-watched UHF station in Atlanta, Channel 17, and made it into a giant outlet known as TBS that made it into homes all across the USA in the 1980s. TBS’s signature programming was Atlanta Braves games. The Braves quickly became America’s team because of all that exposure.
Speaking of classic cable, the USA Network first made its mark by showing World Wrestling Entertainment shows as “Raw” and “Smackdown.” After years of being on USA’s Comcast sibling network, Syfy, “Smackdown” will return to USA beginning Tuesday, January 5.
Paradies Lagardere, the retailer that has shops in airports all over the world, has just opened a sports apparel store in JFK’s Terminal 4 called The Scoreboard that sells apparel from all of New York’s major professional sports teams. While the key demographic for The Scoreboard are tourists who want a clothing souvenir of their trip to the Big Apple, a secondary market are New Yorkers who would never wear a Mets or Yankees jacket around here but want to show off their hometown pride on the road.
Here is a lesson about taxpayers subsidizing stadiums and arenas for sports teams. Pennsylvania taxpayers subsidized the cost of building the Philadelphia Eagles current home, Lincoln Financial Field, which opened a dozen years ago. The NFL, using its sizable muscle, basically forced Philadelphia civic officials to let the Eagles have carte blanche landlord privileges in spite of them having received funds from the public troth.
“The Linc” has also been the home for the Temple University Owls football team. Temple is the publicly funded senior college of Philadelphia and the school pays the Eagles $1 million in rent annually for the right to use the stadium.
Temple’s lease with the Eagles expires in two years and last month the Eagles notified Temple officials that they will be raising the rent to $12 million per year for stadium usage rights. Martin Shkreli would be proud of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Temple officials immediately asked Philadelphia’s incoming mayor. Jim Kenney, about the possibility of the city constructing a new football stadium in North Philadelphia. Aside from the staggering cost for a city that doesn’t have a lot of free cash to spare, there are no major highways in that part of town, and thus there would be snarling traffic on local streets on game days.
As anyone who saw the film “Silver Linings Playbook” knows, the Eagles are practically a religious institution in Philadelphia. Kenney publicly and courageously criticized the team for their greed as well as their complete lack of civic concern. Good for him.