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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Face it, New York football is dreadful

It's safe to say that Stevie Wonder could see that both the Jets and Giants are pitiful, dreadful, awful (I could become Leonard Pinth Garnell here in a hurry), just plain bad football teams.

Both local teams are 0-2 and a woeful 0-2 at that.

The Jets proved their woeful status on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, a game that had Marshawn Lynch dancing on the sidelines in a wickedly talented display.

The Giants joined the putrid status with an embarrassing loss on Monday night to the Detroit Lions, the second straight week that Big Blue proved to be Big Pew.

Before the season, we all knew that the Jets would stink. There were some prognosticators who predicted that the Giants would challenge the Lions' 0-16 march of a few years ago, that the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets were headed for a season like they had when Rich Kotite (remember him?) guided Gang Green to a 1-15 mark with Boomer Esiason calling the signals.

So the fact that the Jets are off to such an auspicious start isn't exactly shocking.

However, it sounds as if head coach Todd Bowles is already on nap watch. In his press conferences, Bowles sounds like he's been medicated. He has no emotion. He is monotone. One answer after another, Bowles almost hypnotizes you. If you listen to him speak, make sure to bring the My Pillow and your soft blanket, because you're almost guaranteed to take a siesta.

I don't think I've ever heard a coach speak with less emotion than Bowles.

As for the team, there isn't much to like, except that the players seem to care and seem to be busting their tails. There isn't much talent and clearly Josh McCown is definitely not the answer. It's safe to say that no one in the Jets organization has any use for either Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty, because neither seems to be even on the radar at this point.

But we knew all of this before the season began. There was no hope for anything (except for USC's Sam Darnold in the 2018 NFL Draft) in Florham Park.

However, that wasn't the case with the Giants.

In preseason, there was a buzz that the Giants were the elite team in the NFC East, a team that could have legitimate Super Bowl contention written all over them.

Now, two weeks into the season and two stinkers in a row, does anyone still have those glories of grandeur?

There's no way.

Where do we begin?

There's no rushing attack at all. Paul Perkins was thought to be the answer, the next Eric Dickerson. He had 10 yards on seven carries last night and had all of 15 yards against Dallas. Dickerson used to gain 25 yards on his first two carries of a game. Perkins looks as lost as Kim Kardashian's virginity.

Is it me or does it look as if Eli Manning has aged faster than his older brother? Eli looked almost feeble last night and couldn't avoid the Lions' ferocious rush at all.

The wide receivers were supposed to be the best trio in football. But Brandon Marshall dropped two HUGE passes, one that would have been about a 40-yard gain. Sterling Shepard was practically invisible except for one reverse rushing attempt. And the big hype was that Odell Beckham, Jr. would return from his celebrated ankle injury (has there ever been a more overblown sprained ankle than OBJ's was last week?) and save the day and he had a ho-hum four catches. As Derrick Coleman once uttered, "Whoop-dee-damn-do."


At least the defense is very solid. No worries there at all. Even their leading tackler from Week One, B.J. Goodson, goes down with a leg injury and his replacement, undrafted rookie free agent Calvin Munson, looked very good in Goodson's middle linebacker slot. There were times that Jason Pierre-Paul almost over pursued along the line, but that comes from being quick and aggressive and no one will complain about that.

So let's address the huge issue at hand, something that the administration didn't address at all during the off-season. The Giants' offensive line is the humongous albatross hanging around Jerry Reese's neck right now.

I don't think I can remember seeing a line play so poorly for two straight weeks like this conglomeration of nitwits. I think it's safe to say now that Ereck Flowers is a bust. He's a gigantic man who cannot play left tackle to save his life. His footwork is like Herman Munster's. He doesn't get off the ball at all. He stands and watches defensive ends and outside linebackers slide around him and it looks as if Flowers has no clue.

John Jerry is the same. He is about as bad of a guard that has ever played in the NFL. He also doesn't get off the ball at all and is seen just standing there watching his teammates (especially the aging quarterback) to get drilled play after play. Jerry was supposed to be a great run blocker. See Perkins' stats to determine whether Jerry is any good. He was a failure with the Dolphins and he's a failure here.

The biggest concern the team had LAST year was the offensive line and Reese and his crew did nothing to address that issue, just thinking that they could sprinkle some Anthony Munoz magic dust on them and they would become even decent blockers. Right now, the Giants' offensive line couldn't block Justin Bieber.

How could Reese go into the off-season and not even try to improve the Giants' offensive line? They failed to score 20 points in their last six games last year and that streak is now eight after the first two stink bombs. Does Reese not see what the rest of the world does? These guys, the way they are constructed now, cannot block. It's as simple as that.

Two weeks into the season, there are no magic potions to make them any better. And you're not going to find any Orlando Paces on the NFL waiver wire. They have to dance with the mess Reese created _ or failed to create.

The first move has to be to get Flowers out of the crucial left tackle slot. Either bench him or put him at right tackle and move Justin Pugh (a natural guard) to left tackle. There's no choice. Flowers cannot play left tackle any longer. He's a disgrace. Flowers doesn't play football. He clods his way through a game.

And after they make that switch, maybe they can see if either of their other two rookie tackles, Chad Wheeler or Adam Bisnowaty, can slide in and play right tackle. Let's face facts. They cannot be any worse than what Flowers and Jerry showed last night.

Let's now address the general manager. Reese did a great job taking over for football guru Ernie Acorsi when he became the GM and promptly led Big Blue to a Super Bowl victory. But since then, his moves have to be considered questionable.

Other than drafting Beckham (a complete no brainer) and trading up to get Landon Collins in the second round two years ago, what has Reese done? Well, there's one glaring thing Reese didn't do. He didn't improve that offensive line one iota. Reese has to be held accountable.

And then there's the coach, Ben McAdoo, who gets somewhat of a flier because the team won 11 games in his first season.

But now, it appears as if McAdoo's team has been so totally unprepared to start the season. Some of the play calling last night just scratches your head in amazement. Draw plays on third and 11 inside his own 20 yard line are just not going to work. Down 14 points in the fourth quarter, you have to abandon the running game entirely. You're in panic mode. Orleans Darkwa off tackle is not the call to make there.

McAdoo came to the Giants as an offensive wizard who worked with Aaron Rodgers. He was so well liked by the Mara and Tisch contingency that they actually had the nerve to fire a legend like Tom Coughlin and tried to make it look like a retirement. McAdoo was brought in and they bounced a two-time Super Bowl winning coach who still had some fire left in his belly to do so.

Well, how does that move look like now? McAdoo looks lost with this offense and Coughlin was on the field last night holding the Super Bowl trophy and gleaming from ear-to-ear.

McAdoo also appears on the defensive every press conference, like he's afraid of getting criticized. Well, he has to be criticized sharply right now, because his team absolutely stinks. Sure, he stepped up to the podium last night after the game and said that the loss was his fault.


“Put this game on me,” McAdoo said. “We talk about playing complete, complementary football. By no stretch of the imagination did we get that done tonight. We’ve got to do better. No one feels sorry for us. We’ve got to find a way to get better and get better in a hurry. Just too many issues. We’ve got to play and feed off each other and we’re not doing that right now and I’ve got to find a way to make that work.”

But a lot of this mess falls in McAdoo's lap. They have to take advantage of their speedy receivers, go to more quick short passes and hope they can make a play with their feet. They have to switch up their blocking schemes and personnel up front. They have to hope that the 36-year-old quarterback didn't get old overnight.

Sure, there are 14 games left in the regular season, time to right the ship. After all, the Super Bowl champs that they honored at halftime last night in the 10th anniversary celebration started that season 0-2.

But does anyone in their right mind believe that's going to happen with this group. The Giants look completely lost right now and incredibly are headed in the same downward direction as the other inhabitants of MetLife Stadium. A sad state of affairs indeed for New York's football teams.
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You can read more of my work at www.theobserver.com or www.hudsonreporter.com

 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The reigning kings of New York baseball? The Yankees, of course



There’s no easy way for these words to come out of my head, so I’ll just throw it out there and see if it sticks, you know, like the plate of linguini against the kitchen wall.

Right now, the New York Yankees are clearly the best baseball team in New York.

There, I said it. It was painful to admit, like a two-second trip to the dentist without Novocain. The Yankees are better than the Mets.

The two teams will meet soon for four straight games, Monday Aug. 14 and Tuesday Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium, then Wednesday Aug. 16 and Thursday Aug. 17 at CitiField.

Those four games might become like an extended stay in the dentist’s chair, like a root canal or even a full-fledged extraction. This year’s Subway Series might become an all-out coronation of which team is better, complete with red carpet, blaring horns and unveiling of the crown.

When the 2017 season began with spring training in late February into March, there isn’t a soul on this planet who would have believed that the Yankees were indeed better than the Mets. It was inconceivable.

The Mets were the team with the young, brash, bodacious pitching rotation. Some went as far as to say it could possibly be the best five-man rotation in the history of the game. An esteemed sportswriter who works for ESPN, Buster Olney, was one who proclaimed such words. Sports Illustrated posted a picture of the five, namely Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, boasting and bragging that this was the best rotation in the game.

Of course, this clown drank every ounce of that Kool-Aid and believed every single word of it. Dominant, I said. With that pitching staff alone, the Mets could win the pennant, much like they did in 2015. This is the year to win it all, if they stay healthy. There was no comparison between the Mets’ rotation and the Yankees’ five-man unit. It was believed that the Mets’ contingency was the best in the entire game, so it was obviously better than the Bronx.

When the season began, what did the Yankees have as a rotation? They had one sure-fire starter in Masahiro Tanaka, who was coming off a solid 14-4 season with a 3.04 ERA. They had a mixed-up second-year youngster in Luis Severino, a rehabbing Michael Pineda, an unsure 36-year-old C.C. Sabathia _ and nothing else. In spring training, the Yankees didn’t even have five reliable starting pitchers and the Mets had the best rotation in the game, perhaps ever.

The Yankees threw out a startling 36 different pitchers to the mound in 2016 with some names living on in immortality. Try these names on for size. Johnny Barbato? Sounds like my barber. Richard Bleier? No, not the Steelers’ RB. Ben Heller? I prefer Ben Stiller. Tyler Goody? Oh, Goody, I’d rather Sam Goody to get some CDs. Tyler Olson? He’s the long lost brother of the frog-like looking twins from Full House. Conor Mullee? I only know him because he once pitched for St. Peter’s University, yes, that one, Harvard on the Boulevard. Those are some immortal names right there.

Shall we go on? The Mets thought they had the best position player in New York in Yoenis Cespedes, who practically walked on water for his first two seasons, leading the team to the postseason twice. His 2015 season with the orange and blue was something to behold, belting 17 homers in 52 games coming after the big trade deadline deal, leading the Mets to the World Series. Last year, in 132 games, he hit .280 with 31 homers and 86 RBI, as the Mets went to the playoffs for the second straight year for only the second time in club history.

The Mets had a host of proven veteran players who did well in 2016, like Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda. It didn’t even matter than the former face of the franchise, David Wright, wasn’t even able to pick up a baseball and throw it five feet in spring training. It wasn’t like Met fans were holding on to every last bit of hope that Wright would return. It didn’t matter. The team was still dominant without him, especially if the five starters could make their turn in the rotation.

The Yankees did have a huge glimmer of hope, a bright ray of sunshine in catcher Gary Sanchez, who was incredible last year after his midseason call-up to the Bronx, belting 20 homers in 52 games and hitting .299. Sanchez was so amazing that he finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting _ and he didn’t make his debut until late July. There’s no question that the Yankees had their catcher for the next decade. Sanchez was the “Sanchise” indeed, not like the former Jets quarterback who ran into the rear end of his own player and fumbled. Gary Sanchez was not going to fumble a thing.

And in spring training, it looked as if the Yankees had a first baseman to be excited about for the next 10 years in Greg Bird, who hit an astounding seven homers and batted better than .400 in the Grapefruit League. Bird was smooth around the bag and looked like he was going to just step right in to replace long-time fixture Mark Teixeira, who retired at the end of the season. Another aging great named Alex Rodriguez (remember him?) also hung them up. Both were shells of their real selves in 2016, with Tex batting .204 and A-Rod hitting the unthinkable .200.

The Yankees did have some promising young players. One of which was outfielder Aaron Judge, but he batted .179 in 27 games as a rookie and struck out 42 times in 95 at-bats, almost exactly half of his plate appearances.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knew that 2016 was going to be a washout, so he traded his two-thirds of his famed All-Star bullpen, namely Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, in order to get younger prospects. For Chapman, Cashman got heralded shortstop Gleyber Torres from the Cubs. For Miller, he received outfielder Clint Frazier from the Indians. Both were big pieces for the future.

That was the key word when it came to the Yankees. The future. The Mets? The future was now, especially with those young arms.

That’s the way the season began. The Mets filled with promise of a great 2017, one that could even become magical. The Yankees seemed to be playing for the future.

But then, the tides started to turn _ and in a hurry. The Mets had a revolving door into the trainer’s office. It was believed that the Mets had a glut of starting pitchers coming into spring training. They all spent more time with medical staff than on the mound.

Matz and last year’s revelation Seth Lugo couldn’t pitch in spring training at all. Then as the season began, they all started to go down. Syndergaard, who was being hyped as the second coming of the Lord, never mind the Thor references and 102 mile-per-hour fastballs, tore a lat muscle and was done. Harvey, who already had Tommy John surgery and thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, where a rib was removed to allow the nerves in his right arm to function, somehow suffered a stress fracture of the shoulder. The Dark Knight references were quickly forgotten. Wheeler, who missed the last two years after Tommy John surgery, came back, showed some signs of brilliance, but then got bombed and went down with a tired arm.

The only pitcher to stay healthy and strong throughout was deGrom, who has been brilliant. The rest? It’s a collective pile of doo-doo. What was supposed to be the strength of the entire league has now evolved into a mess weaker than the skinny kid in third grade who got pummeled in the schoolyard every day. It has to be the biggest disappointment in all of baseball this spring.

The Mets on the field were abysmal to watch. Cabrera and Jose Reyes got old before our eyes. Following a trend, Cespedes and Walker got hurt. So did Juan Lagares. So did Lucas Duda, but he gets hurt every summer. People say that injuries are a part of baseball. Well, the Mets have that part mastered. No team gets hurt like the Mets. None. They’ve cornered the market on trips to the Hospital for Special Surgery. They should just keep an ambulance right outside the operating room door.

The only true positive on the team was Jay Bruce’s surprising return to glory. Bruce, who was dreadful after coming to the Mets last summer, was sensational from the start. With 29 homers right now, he’s on pace to break the team’s all-time single season home run record. So was the rejuvenated Michael Conforto, who shrugged off a horrendous sophomore slump to come back this season and play like an All-Star.

But the rest of the bunch? Downright disgusting. So you take an underachieving, broken down disgrace of a starting rotation, add a bad offensive mix throughout and sprinkle in some really bad defense and you have the reasons why the Mets are dead in the water. They’re six games under .500, going nowhere fast.

As for the Yankees, there has never been more life in the Bronx, a rebirth and rejuvenation perhaps never before seen in pinstripe history. The aforementioned Judge has blossomed into a five-tool superstar, a 6-foot-7 behemoth who leads all of baseball in home runs after winning the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in eye-popping fashion. This lovable humble kid keeps tattooing the baseball with mammoth blasts that come close to 500 feet.

The 25-year-old, a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year who has to be considered as one of the favorites for the American League Most Valuable Player, has 34 homers, 75 RBI, a .299 batting average and a .425 on-base percentage, considering he leads the league in walks. Last year, Judge would swing at breaking pitches that were thrown low and away, but this year, he has laid off those pitches and taking walks. Judge personally symbolizes the rebirth of the Yankees, going from a .179 hitting question mark to a superstar overnight.

The Yankees have a dynamite second base-shortstop combination in Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius. Brett Gardner, the 10-year veteran, is the leader of the team and the resident old-timer at 33 years old. Gardner already has a career-high in homers with 19.

Rookie Frazier has been solid in 24 games since his recall from the minors, batting .255 with four homers and 17 RBI. The red-headed wonder looks like a permanent piece to the Yankees’ outfield, especially after he hit that bomb against the Orioles last week that flew over the bullpens and deep into those left field bleachers. 

And the Yankees made a trade with the White Sox to get another Frazier, namely former Home Run Derby champ and New Jersey hero Todd Frazier, to take over third base. The Yankees clearly lead all of MLB in guys named Frazier. Take that, Niles.

And trades? Cashman has been nothing short of brilliant. First, going back to last year, he traded Chapman to the Cubs for their pennant run, got a stud in Gleyber Torres in return, then re-signed Chapman as a free agent. Brilliant! Then, there was the trade with the White Sox to get Todd Frazier, former Yankee reliever and fan favorite David Robertson and flame throwing reliever Tommy Kahnle. Brilliant!

But the best of all gets unveiled tonight. Sonny Gray was somehow dislodged from the Oakland A’s for three prospects. The All-Star right-handed hurler will make every Yankee fan’s heard skip and go pitter-patter, because this kid is the real deal _ and then some. He might not look like an overpowering pitcher with his slight and small frame, but Gray throws gas and throws five different pitches for strikes. He can be the dominant pitcher that they hoped Tanaka would be this season.

Mark my words, Sonny Gray will become the best right-handed pitching acquisition the franchise has made since Catfish Hunter. That’s saying a lot, but I truly believe it. Gray has it all and the best part about it for Yankee fans is that he’s only 27 years old and under contract for the next two seasons. In 2015, Gray’s last full healthy season, he went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA and allowed just 166 hits in 208 innings. People on the East Coast might not have gotten the chance to appreciate what Gray can do, but Gray will quickly become a fan favorite in Yankee Stadium, much in the fashion that Ron Guidry’s “Louisiana Lightning” lit up the Bronx during the “Bronx Zoo” era.

Now, that Yankee rotation looks extremely solid, with Severino (8-4, 2.98 ERA) pitching like he’s the ace, Gray, the reborn and remade Sabathia (9-4, 3.81 ERA), the surprising rookie Jordan Montgomery (7-6, 4.15 ERA), Tanaka (8-9, 5.09 ERA, but two solid starts back-to-back) and the recently acquired Jaime Garcia (67-52 over his career, 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 2015) to round things off. Suddently, even after losing Michael Pineda to Tommy John surgery, this rotation looks pretty darn good.

And the Yankees find themselves at 57-49, a game behind Boston in the AL East standings, but tied in the loss column. We’ve hit August and the team that everyone thought was rebuilding is right there in the hunt.

The sure-fire contenders in preseason from Queens are 49-56, some 13 and a half games out of first place and unable to see out of the wild card hole they are sitting in. It’s a lost season for sure for the Mets. It’s a glorious return for the Bronx Bombers.

And who’s better? Not even a debate. Holy cow, it’s the Yankees who somehow sneaked past the Mets. And things get better for the Yankees tonight with Sonny Gray ready to shine against the Indians in Cleveland.

This was painful to write, but it’s all factual. Come back to me next March, when people are saying that the Mets have the best rotation in the history of the game. Yeah, sure, that’s the ticket.

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You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com or www.theobserver.com

 

Monday, June 26, 2017

West Milford's removal of Finke is bizarre to say the least



In all my 34 years of sports writing, this saga today takes the cake. It takes a lot to wrap your hands around it. My brain hurts from the idiocy.

But here goes. John Finke has been the head boys’ basketball coach at West Milford High School for the last 28 years. He’s turned a totally moribund and listless program into a perennial pain in the rectum for opponents, especially in Passaic County. His teams are annually competitive and win big game after big game. He’s won 355 such games over the last 28 basketball seasons and made a very cold gym a lively and exciting place to be every winter, especially with three runs to the NJSIAA North 1, Group III sectional final game.

One would figure that Finke would be able to hold his position for life. After all, he graduated from the place in 1982 and came back home to coach his alma mater, taking over a position that no one really wanted.

When it comes time to rehiring coaches, there’s almost an unwritten rule, especially with long-time coaches, that it’s a rubber stamp on the paperwork and everything gets pushed along pretty neatly.

However, for some reason this year, when it came to reappointing Finke, the brilliance that sits on the West Milford Board of Education decided to vote on Finke being rehired.

So on May 23, the Board of Education, a nine-member group, decided to vote on whether Coach Finke should be retained. Finke would need five votes from the Board to be rehired. At the meeting that night, two members already left prior to the voting, which left seven remaining.

So of the seven people left, four voted yes, two (Board president James Foody and member Glenn Huber) voted no and one (Debbie O’Brien) for some unknown reason abstained.

Not getting the necessary five votes to be retained, Finke is out. He’s out after 28 years, out after 355 wins, out without fanfare or anything. Just gone.

In fact, the backstabbing athletic director Joe Trenticosta, has already recommended that the Board hire Patrick McCarney, a long-time friend of Trenticosta, as Finke’s replacement.

Finke didn’t think he was in jeopardy of losing his job and losing the chance to coach son Andrew, a First Team All-Passaic County selection last March, for his senior season. So he didn’t attend the May 23 meeting. For all intents and purposes, he was in.

“But at 11:05 p.m. I got the phone call that I was voted out,” Finke said. “I couldn’t sleep a wink. I went to work the next day.”

Needless to say, Finke is shocked.

 “It’s hard to believe that after 28 years, and all the things that have happened throughout that time, all the accomplishments and all the different players coming through the program, that two ‘no votes’ could end my career,” Finke said.

Needless to say, Finke’s supporters are up in arms. Parents, former players, current players, former coaches, opposing coaches have flooded Finke with calls, e-mails, texts and what have you.

“I’m not defeated,” said Finke. “After 28 years, I plan on fighting this.”

The time for the WTFs are over. Believe me, I’ve said the same thing about 1,000 times since May 23. WTF is the Board of Education thinking? If there weren’t nine people in the room, then why not revote when nine are indeed present? Or in that respect, have them mail in a secret ballot so this way we won’t have any idea who voted out a coaching legend. WTF West Milford? WTF?

Finke doesn’t know how to react now.

 “For 28 years to go by, and my son will be a senior next year, I would have liked to go out with some dignity and respect and on my own terms,” Finke said. “I would like to go out at my final awards dinner and say ‘Goodbye and thank you’ to all the people who helped me throughout my career, my family. I don’t get to do that now. I don’t get that chance to go out the right way, the way that a 28-year veteran coach should be able to go out.”

Damn skippy. Finke deserved the right to go out on his own terms. He’s done nothing wrong, except guiding the Highlanders to a losing season last year. But as everyone knows, unless you were St. Anthony or you are currently the Patrick School, high school basketball in New Jersey is cyclical. You win for a couple years, then you pay the fiddler, then you get another chance to bounce back.

“We had everyone back,” Finke said. “We were going to be very good.”

“It’s like they all stabbed me,” said Finke, who also coaches the golf team. “It’s not a physical pain. But they have ripped the passion I had for coaching being taken away from me. There’s no reason.”

Well, there’s now reason to unite as one to support Finke, one last chance for the coaching giant to save his job. The Board of Education will convene Tuesday night at the Westbrook School at 7:30 p.m. Anyone who is anyone should take the time to be there. Coach Finke deserves better. If the Board of Education wanted him out, then there would have been better ways.

“John, you suck, you’re history,” could be one, but that would be lying.

“John, you’re awful, we’ve tried with you and you’re done,” could have been another.

But for a guy to find out the way he found out_ via a text from a friend _ well, that’s just wrong.
It was a special B of E session with not all members present. That really doesn’t form a forum. And if four voted for him and two voted against him, that means the end? Because of James Foody and Glenn Huber? They are the two who cast the votes against Finke. Chances are neither saw the Highlanders play.

Because if you saw them play like I did, you would be proud of the way they held their own against the big boys. They played Teaneck a few years ago in the state playoffs and completely outmanned. And Finke had the team playing hard to the bigger end. West Milford lost by about four points, but it was part of the moral victory that made Finke the great coach that he is.

West Milford should do the right thing and recast a vote at Tuesday night's meeting. It would be the only fair thing for Finke. Actually, the fair thing would be to let him go out on his own terms in a year or two. Not this way. Not without getting the chance to build on last year's 9-18 record. Not to have someone else coach his son for his senior year.

Let's hope they get things right in West Milford. John Finke deserves better.

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If anyone has driven in my beloved home town of Jersey City recently, you'll notice one glaring problem.

THE TRAFFIC!!!!

Ugh, driving through Jersey City's streets right now is like a mouse trying to get through a maze to get a piece of cheese. This street is blocked. No, it's that one. No, it's one more. It's downright frustrating.

Now, I know some of it is because of the massive amount of construction going on. But in the Jersey City Heights? Have you tried to simply sit on Baldwin Avenue near Pershing Field. You don't even need the time of day. You're sitting in traffic.

The same thing is going on at Garfield Avenue in the Greenville section. Since when so many cars want to drive through Greenville along Garfield. Oh, Lord, times have changed.

So has the traffic. It's annoying.

Some politician should run on the No Traffic ticket for Mayor Steve Fulop's job in November. Promise that all the road construction would be done and the hideous traffic that is on Route 440 every single day is fixed. I know of one way to fix the Route 440 dilemma. How about stagger the traffic lights to make them all green at the same time and all red at the same time. That doesn't take a genius.

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 You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com or www.theobserver.com



Monday, May 29, 2017

Ramsey hockey situation just wrong -- way wrong.

There's a situation brewing at a northern Bergen County high school that needs to be addressed, because it is sending out the wrong message in every way imaginable.

OK, here goes: The Ramsey High School head hockey coach, a man by the name of Dean Portas, was not rehired to his position at the end of the season. In fact, Portas was warned and then told he was being let go even before the season ended.

This is a man, Portas, who only took the Ramsey program from the depths of despair and led the Rams to a state championship just two years ago.

When Portas, who was the head coach at Fair Lawn for two years and an assistant coach at Montclair for seven more before arriving in Ramsey, took over as the head coach of the Rams, the team had just lost in the state finals in consecutive seasons.

In his first season at Ramsey, Portas led the Rams to a 25-2-2 record and finally, the long-awaited NJSIAA Public B state championship. He was named the New Jersey Coach of the Year by NJ.com. One of his players called Portas "the most prepared coach I ever had."

So why is Portas out of a job?

Well, apparently, the Ramsey Board of Education president Tony Gasparovich pushed for Portas' removal because Gasparovich's son, James, didn't get enough ice time in the eyes of the Board of Ed president.

James Gasparovich didn't like the idea he wasn't playing and sent a text to his teammates to predict that Portas would be gone at season's end.

Here's his text, courtesy of NJ.com and the fine work by reporter JJ Conrad:

TextMessage.jpeg

"Undergo numerous changes in the coaching staff?" That's interesting. How would a disgruntled kid know that?

That's because his daddy pulls the strings.

You see, James Gasparovich didn't play much for the Rams. He wasn't good enough to get many minutes on the ice. A defenseman by trade, the younger Gasparovich was simply not as talented as his teammates and either received a spot on the bench or was asked not to dress among the 20 players who went to road games.

As as sophomore, James should have seen that and waited his turn like thousands of other high school athletes who don't get to play varsity right away. Heck, Michael Jordan -- yes that one -- was cut by his high school basketball coach as a freshman.

But James didn't show the necessary patience that comes with an underclassman in high school. He didn't know the meaning of "wait your turn."

That's because his daddy was the Board of Ed president.

The problems between the older Gasparovich and Portas began a year earlier, in March of 2016, when the younger Gasparovich was not included on the 25-man contingency that went to the Tournament of Champions luncheon at the Prudential Center that is sponsored every year by the New Jersey Devils.

Then-freshman James Gasparovich wasn't included, but the team manager, a young man with Down's syndrome, was asked to attend. That infuriated the mighty Tony Gasparovich and thus the feud began.

So when the 2016-17 season began and now-sophomore James wasn't playing much, the Board of Ed president started to boil. Tony Gasparovich started sending out e-mails to other Ramsey BOE members, to the Ramsey athletic director and the Superintendent of Schools Matthew Murphy to say that "the hockey coaching situation has to be addressed."

Gasparovich wrote the e-mail as "a parent of an RHS hockey player," and not the BOE president. This came after Gasparovich had a phone conversation with Portas about James' playing time. The season was all of two games old.

So the season goes on, the younger Gasparovich quits the team, the older Gasparovich becomes incensed and at season's end, Portas is told that he's not being re-hired as head coach.

Apparently, it's not the first time that Gasparovich used his power as the BOE president to get rid of a coach because of his son's lack of playing time. He did the same with a freshman baseball coach after poor James didn't play enough for either his liking or the old man's liking.

Portas told Conrad that he didn't understand why he was fired.


A coach who goes 25-2-2 and wins a state title and a year later, he's gone? Does that even sound fair?

If Portas was abusing his players or doing something illegal, then his removal would be warranted. But all Portas did at Ramsey was win. And now, he's gone because the sour puss BOE President is pissed that his son is not playing? Oh, Lord, does that ever take the cake.

And the amazing thing is that everyone in Ramsey is being tight-lipped. Only parents have expressed their displeasure at recent BOE meetings. The members of the BOE? They've said nothing. The superintendent? Nothing. The AD, Jim Grasso? Again, like Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes, he knows nothing.

How could everyone in power in Ramsey just simply turn a blind eye to Gasparovich and allow him to do what he's done? It's only given the entire Ramsey athletic program a black eye. Why would anyone want to go there to coach? What does the BOE think is the simple solution, allow James to play?

I have always been a firm proponent of one coaching philosophy. Simply put, the best players play. It shouldn't matter who the kid's daddy is. If he was the mayor or the superintendent or even Portas' kid, if he wasn't good enough to play, then he shouldn't play. If his father was the King of England and he couldn't play, then he shouldn't play.

And Gasparovich has done this unthinkable deed while his son is just a sophomore. Well, what happens when the new coach comes in next year and believes that James shouldn't play? Does the new coach get canned as well? Or does Gasparovich get to hire the new coach with the guarantee of playing time?

I don't know how the kid comes back and tries to play on that team. He has to be scorned by his teammates, the object of attention for peer abuse.


The situation has not been settled. A new coach has not been hired, which is really great for off-season conditioning. And if they want Portas back, which doesn't appear likely, would he want to go back? I don't know if I would.

So how does Ramsey move on from here? Does the Board of Education continue to allow Gasparovich to make personnel moves based on the kid's playing time? Does Gasparovich get removed? Or do they hope it all just goes away by the time the hockey season begins again in November? Who knows?

There's only one certainty about this situation _ other than JJ Conrad doing his due diligence and getting all sides of the story. Read his account on NJ.com

http://www.nj.com/hssn-mms/2017/05/what_we_know_about_the_ramsey.html

The certainty is that a Board of Education president has no right to inflict personnel changes simply because he doesn't like the fact that his son doesn't play. That's what happened and that's just wrong. And the members of the Ramsey BOE who have turned a blind's eye? They're wrong. The superintendent who didn't step forward and handle this situation the right way? He's wrong. And the AD who just played the political game and allowed the BOE president to step all over one of his coaches? He's wrong, too.

They're all wrong. The whole situation is wrong. And until they do the right thing in Ramsey, which would be to remove Gasparovich as the BOE president FOREVER, then everyone in Ramsey is wrong.

The only one who did nothing wrong is Dean Portas, except win 25 games and a state title. I guess that's wrong as well. The people in Ramsey are sure acting as if it was.

You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com or www.theobserver.com.