On Jay Feely, Politics, Paradise Lost and Ceramics

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 |

I'm not much into politics. Though it manages to catch my interest from time to time, it's something that I choose to observe from the periphery. It's not a subject I feel particularly qualified to speak on.

Me, I'll stick to what I know. Football. Baseball. Books. Bebop. Hip hop. Sports movies.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of former Giants (and current Jets) placekicker Jay Feely, who participated in "The Great American Panel" on Fox News' Sean Hannity Show on Monday.

Turns out Feely isn't a big fan of President Obama, and on Monday he went as far as to openly question the President's character.

When prompted by Hannity to speak on America's support of Iranian students, Feely first quoted some old dead guy named Phillips Brooks, then dug into Obama. "He's creating a foundation from which he must lead from," Feely said, "and that foundation does not have the same character traits that have made this nation great."

Hannity and Feely's panel mates ate it up. "You are ruining the stereotype of the typical football player," said one. "That is really well said," added Hannity.

Though Feely is a man who kicks footballs for a living (and not all that proficiently, one might reasonably argue), his appearances on shows like Hannity indicate that he clearly sees himself as someone whose greater future lies beyond the gridiron. Like football stars Jack Kemp, Steve Largent, J.C. Watts, and fellow Wolverine Gerald Ford did before him, it's possible that Feely intends to use his platform as a star athlete to one day springboard himself to elected office. And wouldn't that be something?

In a 2006 interview with John Branch of The New York Times, ESPN producer Pete McConville (of the ill-fated "Cold Pizza") said of Feely: "If you told me that in 10 years he'd be governor of Florida, I'd say, 'O.K., I could see that.'"


Yesterday, after Deadspin and Newsday's Bob Glauber had a little fun with him, Feely posted 18 separate posts to his Twitter account in an attempt to clarify and amplify the statements he made on Hannity. One of those posts (or Tweets, as the kids call them) caught my eye (and ire) more than the others:

"Any American who chooses to educate themselves (and unfortunately many who don't) can add to the dialogue and make our country better," Feely tweeted.

Oh, so Jay Feely wants to talk about education now? Interesting.

For years, I've been itching to share my "education of Jay Feely story." Those feelings only intensified after his three-miss horrorshow in Seattle back in 2005. And when I started this little blog in January, 2008, I knew I'd get to it eventually. All I needed was an appropriate opportunity. Well, here we are.

Flash back with me, if you will, to the Winter of 1995, when Feely and I were both students at
the University of Michigan. I'm a 20-year-old junior with an uncontrollable Jewfro (contained, on most days, inside a dirty white ballcap), two hoop earrings in my left ear, and a penchant for writing endless collections of manic, unpublishable poetry. Feely, on the other hand, is a 19-year-old sophomore/redshirt freshman finance major who had seen his first action for Lloyd Carr's Wolverines that previous fall as a kickoff specialist.

It's first day of Winter Term, and I'm sitting in the back row of a classroom in Mason Hall as a professor begins to explain the syllabus for, if memory serves, English 469: The Works of John Milton. It's a high level course which, I quickly realize, I have no business taking (I dropped the class shortly after), and as the professor continues to run down what can best be described as an intimidating reading list (
Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, etc.) I notice a shadowy figure shuffling nervously in the doorway.

After a few moments, the professor is alerted to the shuffler's presence and asks if she can help him. And, as if on cue, in walks Hannity's pal, Jay Feely. He looks lost, but he also looks like he's not sure if he's lost. Somehow, he's caught in between.

"Um," Feely stammers. "Is this ceramics?"

"I beg your pardon?" responds the professor.

Undeterred by the smattering of audible snickers that has broken out throughout the classroom, Feely repeats himself.

"Is this ceramics?"

"Do you see any potter's wheels, young man?"

Feely looks around. "No."

"How about clay? Do you see any clay?"


"Then I guess this isn't ceramics, then."


You should have seen the look on Feely's face. I don't think I'll ever forget it. It was the kind of face a teenage boy makes when he gets caught masturbating by his mother. Or the face Bald Bull made when you stuck him in the gut. Ironically enough, it was the same face Feely would make 10 years later on the carpet of Qwest Field while, thousands of miles away, yours truly savagely destroyed a barstool.

The idiocy of the exchange cannot be understated for a variety of reasons, most notably a basic understanding of Michigan's campus. It's a big campus to be sure, but it's even bigger when you take into account that there is a Central Campus--where Mason Hall is located--and a North Campus--where the art school (and engineering school, and music school) is located. In order to get from Central Campus to North Campus, one must board a bus and ride for approximately 15 minutes. They're absolutely nowhere near each other. And unless Feely had been trapped under a blocking sled for a year and a half, he had to know that. Really.

The relaying of this story is not intended to disparage Feely so much as to pump the brakes on whatever "up with Feely, the great intellectual" groundswell might be emerging from the desperate right. To be fair, he was just a kid at the time. And by all accounts Feely appears to be a decent human being, commendably active with various charities such as the United Way, Easter Seals, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I know he's been through some difficult times in his life, too, and I don't mean to diminish what he has overcome by pointing out that the guy's a doofus.

Clearly he is, but his politics make that point for me.

Feely may well have a future in politics, but for now I suggest he stick to kicking footballs. And just in case he forgets his place again, I'll remind him that much like that classroom in Mason Hall, there aren't any potter's wheels in the New York Jets locker room.

Should've Known Better

Sunday, June 14, 2009 |

Please forgive the crudely executed image above. I created it in MS Paint, which accounts for the poor shading. Still, I think it effectively illustrates what the Mets and, more specifically, Johan Santana, laid today at Yankee Stadium. Really, I should've known better than to be encouraged by yesterday's performance. After enduring nearly 30 years' worth of major disappointments (1986 notwithstanding), I really should have been more suspicious, more conservative in my optimism regarding a legitimate Metropolitan turnaround. These guys are hardly as resilient as I'd imagined.

Turns out one bounceback win in and of itself isn't enough to stop the bleeding. Instead, Saturday's victory served the same purpose as applying a band aid when in need of a tourniquet, or trying to plug a leaking canoe with a stick of Juicy Fruit. Sure, it might buy you a few more minutes out on the lake, but eventually the canoe is gonna take on water again. and sooner or later (and probably sooner, knowing these Mets) that canoe is gonna submerge, never to resurface.

The Mets, it would appear, are taking on lots of water, and they're awfully far from shore.

As today's humiliating final score would indicate, Greg Prince's comparison of the 2009 Mets and 1978 Football Giants was apt. 15-0 certainly sounds like a football score to me. And if Friday night marked Luis Castillo's "Joe Pisarcik moment," then this afternoon marked Johan Santana's Dave Brown moment. Santana's pitches were intercepted with seeming ease by the Yankees' bats, and, after being roughed up for 9 runs, he was sacked in the fourth inning. Santana looked less like an ace out there than someone in need of an Ace bandage. And a copy of this book.

I don't quite know why it is that I continue to allow this team to fool me into believing in them, especially after the events of the past two-plus seasons. Ever since Adam Wainwright's wicked curveball froze Carlos Beltran to end the 2006 NLCS, the Mets have been an imposter, a bunch of baseball zombies masquerading as a major league baseball team. Sure, David Wright is leading the major leagues in hitting. Carlos Beltran is swinging a hot bat, too. Francisco Rodriguez has been outstanding, and Omir Santos has been a revelation. All of those things, plus two dollars, will get you a ride on the subway, but none of those things are enough, individually, to make the whole of this team equal the sum of its parts.

In a way, these Mets truly do remind me of the Giants teams of the Dave Clown
I mean Brownera. Those teams had some outstanding talent in Rodney Hampton, Michael Strahan, Jessie Armstead, Jumbo Elliott, Keith Hamilton, and others. They also had a coach (Dan Reeves) who had reached three Super Bowls and who today stands as the 8th winningest coach in NFL history. But the Giants managed only 23 wins out of the 53 Brown started, partially because they lacked talent to support their star players, but mostly because they lacked an identity.

The Mets, unfortunately, have an identity. Just ask 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels
They're "choke artists." And though they'll do their best to downplay the embarrassment of today's loss as they did Friday night's debacle, that's the identity they'll carry with them until they prove themselves otherwise. There's still more than 100 games left in the 2009 season. There's a whole lot of baseball left to play. But I'm through believing in these guys.

I wasted a beautiful day in New York City by staying indoors and listening to the Mets get humiliated while working on an edit that's proving to be more arduous than I anticipated. The latter I can accept, because it's my work and I get paid to do it. But the former I really should have avoided. I should have heeded the sage advice of my friend Jon Springer, who yesterday cautioned the readers of his terrific blog to "get outdoors, have dinner with ... family, take a few days off." I should've known better.

Tomorrow, mercifully, is an off day for the Mets. The way they're playing, they'll have plenty more of them come October.

Luis Pisarcik?

Saturday, June 13, 2009 |

In an impassioned, epic post to the always excellent Faith and Fear in Flushing, Greg Prince suggests that Luis Castillo's shocking failure to secure a routine, game-ending pop-up off the bat of Alex Rodriguez last night marked "a Pisarcik moment" for the embattled second baseman.

It's been more than 30 years since Joe Pisarcik's colossal blunder cost the Giants a sure win over the Philadelphia Eagles, yet with all due respect to Mickey Owen and Trey Junkin, the fumble stood until last night as the most memorable individual failure in New York sports history.

Pisarcik's humiliating gaffe, as Prince notes, led to the immediate firing of offensive coordinator Bob Gibson and, at season's end, head coach John McVay and general manager Andy Robustelli. Gibson never worked in football again. Pisarcik, the goat, never won another game as the Giants starting quarterback and was released after the 1979 season.

It is unlikely, however, that Castillo's error will carry the same (or similar) consequences for the Mets. Roughly 17 hours after his monumental miscue, Castillo was back in the lineup today, leading off and playing second. Jerry Manuel's and Omar Minaya's jobs both seem safe for now. Accountability, it would appear, isn't all that high on Fred Wilpon's list of virtues. 

One of the great things about baseball, though, is that it's a game that offers its participants the opportunity for almost immediate redemption, and Mets fans are, generally speaking, a forgiving lot. So hopefully it won't take Castilloa three-time Gold Glove-winner30 years (or more) to live down his infamous error.

There's still 103 games left in the season, and despite all the injuries and
schizophrenic play, the Mets
entered today's contest in the Bronx only 4 games out of first place. Last night's loss certainly hurts. It's the most painful loss in a season thus far filled with painful losses. But as Carlos Beltran said after the game, the Mets aren't kids, they're professionals. They "have to move on and play better." They "can't go home and cry."

Last night's dropped pop-up may well have been
Luis Castillo's Pisarcik moment, but today's game represented a chance to put it behind him and play ball. He took advantage of that opportunity, singling twice and fielding his position without incident. But baseball is a team game, and Castillo's Mets teammates rallied behind him today, banging out a season high seventeen hits while pitching surprisingly well. They got a great start out of Buffalo call-up Fernando Nieve (who?), which was followed by an outstanding inning and a third from the suddenly lights-out Sean Green. This time around, K-Rod allowed no baserunners in the ninth, got the final batter (Melky Cabrera) to ground to third, and David Wright made the routine play to end the game.

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Having seen the abyss and avoiding its depths, I'm hopeful that these resilient Mets will continue to rally in the wake of last night's horrorshow. Sure, they're still down Delgado and Reyes, and they're going to have to continue relying on guys like Tim Redding and Nieve for the time being, but after bouncing back after one of the worst losses in franchise history to win in convincing fashion they showed the kind of resolve and character winning teams must possess if they are to be considered serious pennant contenders. Exactly the kind of character some said was missing earlier this season.

Of course, the Mets can undo all of this by going out and laying an egg tomorrow afternoon. But with Johan the valiant taking to the hill, I don't see that happening. A true ace, the only eggs Johan associates with are the golden goose eggs he is known to post on major league scoreboards.

Now let's put this whole thing behind us and never speak of it again.

Tour the Giants New Training Facility with Steve Smith, #12

Friday, June 5, 2009 |

As you may have read elsewhere, the Giants recently moved into a brand-spanking new, state of the art training facility, located just west of Giants Stadium.

But reading about the 199,000 square-foot complex really doesn't do the place justice. You've got to see it to believe it. And thanks to amateur filmmaker/wide receiver Steve Smith, you now can.

Smith recently posted three self-shot videos to his Facebook page (totaling about 15 minutes) in which he gives his fans a nice tour of the entire facility (minus the executive floor). In the videos are cameos by teammates
Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Kareem McKenzie, Ahmad Bradshaw, Zak DeOssie, Sinorice Moss, Adam Koets, Osi Umenyiora (a welcome sight), and trainer Ronnie Barnes.


Part 1 (4:00)
Part 2 (9:10)
Part 3 (1:43)

Michael Strahan, Master Thespian

Thursday, June 4, 2009 |

While his former teammate Tiki Barber is busy making omelettes and humiliating himself (repeatedly) on network television, Michael Strahan is busy exploiting the same medium to become a sitcom star. Here's a promising 2.5 minute trailer for his new show "Brothers," a family sitcom which will debut on Fox this Fall.

Other athletes have made successful transitions to sitcomdom, most notably Bob Uecker and Alex Karras (though Dick Butkus
not so much), and Strahan certainly does appear to have the charisma to pull off playing a retired NFL superstar named Mike. The trailer is also, much to my surprise, not entirely awful, and it's always nice to see Carl Weathers get work (though it will take some getting used to his shaven domepiece). I wonder how many episodes it will take before Weathers snaps at Mike, "Don't be a damn fool!" 2? 3?

As the ever astute Dash put it in
a recent post to Deadspin, "this thing will either last 15 years or be canceled in the first week."

Amen, brother. I'll set the over/under on the number of gap-tooth jokes in the first season at 92.