The Week That Was: Teaching Comes First For Fizdale

     During the pregame press conference before his team would face the Portland Trailblazers at Madison Square Garden last Tuesday, Knicks head coach David Fizdale refuted the New York Daily News backpage story that claimed that the head coach was putting up the white flag for the season.

     “We never try to lose a game but there is going to be suffering,” he said. Fizdale was completely unapologetic about the importance of player development. Guess what? He is absolutely right. The Knicks are a young team and the only way that they will become winners is for their youngsters to take on the best players from opposing teams if it means that they’re going to get burned on many occasions.

     Knicks fans have a right to be impatient after so many years of frustration but they need to trust both Fizdale and general manager Scott Perry in the latest version of what rebuilding teams term “the process.” No sane fan believes that the Knicks are anywhere close to being an elite NBA team a la the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets so they might as well take the route that Fizdale sees as imperative for long-term success.

     The Knicks lost a close one to the Trailblazers that night after they were leading for most of the game. A further disappointment for Garden fans was that former Forest Hills High School and St. John’s University hoops star Mo Harkless, who is now in his sixth year in the NBA, was unable to play for Portland because of a sprained left knee.

     It’s the same knee which Harkless had arthroscopic surgery last spring. Mo told me before the game that he spent his summer rehabilitating it and that caused a disruption in his studies at St. John’s University. He has been spending summers at SJU working towards his degree in finance.

     This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Knicks’ co-tenants at Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League. Although they dropped back to back games to their I-95 rivals on the road, the Philadelphia Flyers and the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Washington Capitals, during Thanksgiving weekend, the Rangers have been playing better than expected.

     A good case in point was how the finally snapped their eight-game losing streak to the New York Islanders with a decisive 5-0 win on Thanksgiving Eve. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy, Alexandar Georgiev, was perfect while 19 year-old center Filip Chytil scored a goal in his fifth straight game.

    In a smart example of corporate synergy, NBC Sports and the NHL arranged for a float on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to feature Mike Richter and Bernie Parent, who were legendary goaltenders for the Rangers and Flyers respectively, as a way of promoting the Black Friday matinee national telecast of a game between those two teams from Philadelphia.  

      Sunday’s New England Patriots-New York Jets game could have been dubbed the AARP Bowl as the Jets were led by 39 year-old QB Josh McCown, who was subbing for the ailing Sam Darnold, while his  counterpart was longtime Jets’ nemesis Tom Brady who’s 41.

      The Patriots’ 27-13 victory wasn’t surprising as theyhave beaten the Jets around 80% of the time since the start of the millennium. What was unpredictable however were the inordinate amount of penalties called against the Pats which goes against the highly disciplined image of their head coach Bill Belichick.

      It is a foregone conclusion that Jets head coach Todd Bowles will be fired on “Black Monday,” which is the first day after the end of the regular season. That has long been the preferred day on the calendar for teams to take care of unpleasant business.

     In spite of the fact that nearly everyone has believed that Coach Bowles is on borrowed time following the team’s dismal 41-10 thrashing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills three weeks ago, New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman took sports radio talk show hosts to task for speculating about his imminent dismissal in his Sunday column. Bob, would you rather have sports talk show hosts insult the intelligence of their listeners by saying that Bowles deserves to return after three straight losing seasons? 

     Newsday football columnist Bob Glauber has written his first book, “Guts And Genius” (Grand Central Publishing). He looks at the lives of three of the NFL’s best head coaches during the 1980s: Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh, and Joe Gibbs. Through alternating chapters.

     Glauber nicely recounts the games which immortalized this trio but he is at his best when he is a raconteur such as writing about how Parcells hated his the first name on his birth certificate, Duane, and adopted the name Bill when someone called him that in high school in a case of mistaken identity.

    Be warned however that his insight into why the late Bill Walsh hated his father is not for the faint of heart.

     Glauber’s fellow sports columnist, Ian O’Connor, has just published his latest encyclopedic sports biography, “Belichick”(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). This is the definitive biography of arguably the greatest football mind in NFL history, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

     O’Connor told me that he wasn’t able to speak with either Belichick or his greatest of all-time quarterback, Tom Brady but he did get to talk to almost anyone else who has come into contact with him.

     He does a nice job detailing the inevitable ups and downs in the Brady-Belichick relationship as well as that with mentor and rival, Bill Parcells. I do wish that O’Connor had spent more time detailing the relationship between Eric Mangini, who Belichick served as a mentor until he became persona non grata when he left the Patriots coaching staff to take the head coaching position for the Jets a decade ago.

     Josh Lewin, who had been part of the Mets radio broadcast team for the last seven years, has left to join the San Diego Padres radio team where he’ll host pre and postage shows and do fill-in work on games. Lewin does a lot of football and basketball work in Southern California so this move will greatly reduce wear and tear on him.

     Mets fans will miss his energetic delivery which invariably had a pop reference or two in every game. Lewin knew how to convey the excitement and drama of a game without ever making it sound as if it was life or death. He was also very personable outside of the broadcast booth. Trust me, that’s not a given for a lot of sports voices.

      If you enjoy eavesdropping on sports-oriented radio stations around the country these are the best of times thanks to the marvels of modern technology. Como Audio’s Solo Tabletop Internet Radio allows you to listen to sports stations not just in the United States but all over the world. You can also listen to nearly every kind of music as well. Another option is iHome’s Voice which uses the Amazon’s Alexa voice technology. All you have to do is say what radio station you want to hear and there is a good chance that you’ll get it. The Como Audio radio retails for around $300 while the iHome Voice goes for approximately $100.

      It should be noted that listening to out of market sporting events via the Internet is a hit or miss affair as many sports leagues prohibit radio stations from streaming the games over the Internet that they are broadcasting over the air. The only guaranteed way to listening to any game at any time is to subscribe to Sirius XM satellite radio.

     Singing the National Anthem at a sporting event is not an easy chore. Aside from the fact that it’s taxing on the vocal chords, most fans understandably can’t wait for it to end and generally give polite applause at best for the vocalist.

     Last Tuesday night was a different story as actress Tichina Arnold, who currently co-stars with Cedric the Entertainer on the CBS Monday night comedy, “The Neighborhood,” delivered a rousing version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the Trailblazers-Knicks game and received a thunderous ovation from the Garden faithful.

     One bit of good news to come out over the Thanksgiving weekend is that the wildfires that had plagued California have been contained. Even during the worst of it business went on as closely to normal as possible and airports remained open. The NFL showed faith in Los Angeles by relocating last Monday night’s Kansas City Chiefs-LA Rams game that was originally scheduled for Mexico City (admittedly the Mexico City stadium had turf issues) and placing it instead at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The game between the NFL’s top two teams was a classic as the Rams prevailed 54-51 in the largest scoring game in the history of “Monday Night Football.”

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