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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Whatever We’ll See, We’ll See

The Fairly Detached Observers

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The Observers split their forces for the first time in 2009, with Frank on a family visit to New York and Artie manning the central office in Milwaukee. They talked by phone after the first day of the NFL draft.

Frank: The Big Apple media didn’t say much about the Packers’ top picks. How’d it go for the Green and Gold?

Artie: Packer Land is in a complete state of shock! It’s as if Osama bin Laden converted to Scientology or Rush Limbaugh admitted to a 10-year intimate relationship with Barney Frank.

Frank: Yikes, did the Packers decide to just stand pat?

Artie: Even more shocking. General manager Ted Thompson traded UP in the first round!

Frank: Remind me. Is “up” a good thing?

Artie: Yes, up is really down, as in a lower number, earlier in the draft order. Usually Thompson trades down, giving up an earlier pick to get more bodies later in the draft.

Frank: I did see the Packers used the No. 9 overall pick for that defensive tackle from Boston College, B.J. Raji.

Artie: That’s a key spot for them, and I heard some analysts describe him as a bigger Warren Sapp, with the speed to rush passers as well as the size to fill things up at nose tackle.

Frank: My clever line last week about “The Gift of the Raji” was off, though. The second syllable is pronounced “jee.”

Artie: The Packers weren’t due to pick again until the second round, so I occupied myself with some light housekeeping. But when I glanced at the TV, the helmet logo for the 26th pick changed from New England’s to the famous “G.”

Frank: Ted was wheelin’ and dealin’.

Artie: I thought, “God, he’s gonna stick it to the fans by taking a punter or long snapper.” But no, he filled another key spot in the new 3-4 defense with outside linebacker Clay Matthews from USC! A guy who can rush the passer but also drop back in coverage. He scored well on the Wonderlic intelligence test, has no injury history...

Frank: Oops, you just put the kibosh on him. But in trading up for No. 26, Thompson must have lost some other picks.

Artie: Only one. To get the No. 26, he gave the Patriots the No. 41 as well as both of the Pack’s third-round picks. But he received an extra pick in the fifth round, so the Packers had eight total picks instead of nine.

Frank: So Thompson gets a “well done,” huh?

Artie: You betcha! He must have been surprised that Matthews was there at No. 26, and he made the move. Now all Matthews has to do is live up to that high regard, which may take some years.

Frank: There are no sure things in the NFL—except maybe that 0-16 Detroit cured itself completely by drafting Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford No. 1 and revamping its logo to give the Lion teeth and claws.

Artie: Given the last 50 years of Detroit football, the Lion should be on his back with an arrow in his chest.

Frank: The next QB taken, Mark Sanchez of USC, went to the Jets at No. 5. Remember my nephew the Jets fan, who was underwhelmed by the arrival of Brett Favre last year? His reaction to Sanchez was, “Yeah, whatever.”

Artie: In other words, “It might be wise to wait until he’s actually played some games.”

Frank: The theme song of the draft should be the Doris Day classic, “Que Sera Sera.”

Artie: “Whatever will be, will be...” Doris could really bring it! In song, that is.

Frank: It’s from the movie The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Artie: Which would be the perfect title for the No. 1 draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr., if we didn’t know that he’s not human, but an artificial life form.

Frank: The draft, or any other cause for sports predicting, reminds me of the best answer I’ve ever heard in an interview. It’s good for any sport, anytime, anywhere.

Artie: Let’s hear it!

Frank: It was in 2001 when Danny Almonte, the kid who turned out to be too old for the rules, was mowing down hitters in the Little League World Series. One opposing coach was asked questions like, “Will your kids be intimidated?... Do you think they can hit Danny?... Do you have a chance?” And he answered every one by saying, “We’ll see.”

Artie: This is dangerous stuff! If fans took that attitude and tried to do something useful instead of obsessing about what might happen—cripes, sports blatherers would become extinct!

Frank: Fortunately, ESPN will never let Americans face the challenge of simply liv ing

their lives between games.

Poor Little Rich Teams

Artie: Enough with football. This is baseball’s time! What’s up on the Right Coast?

Frank: Our readers will be sad to learn that despite their new bazillion-dollar stadiums, the Yankees and Mets have problems. Among other things, neither team can fill all the seats in its new playground.

Artie: What? That’s the most basic principle of baseball. A team says, “Build us a new stadium or we’ll move somewhere else.” The city gives in, people flock to the new building and voila, profit and pennants pile up.

Frank: Somehow, thousands of fans at the new Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field—or, as one local columnist dubbed it, “Troubled Assets Relief Program Field”— are resembling empty seats. Two Sundays ago, with both teams at home, the attendance numbers had the Yankees about 9,000 below the capacity of 52,000-plus and the Mets about 6,000 below their 42,000-ish capacity against the Brewers.

Artie: What’s the story?

Frank: The Yankees’ first-level seats range from $525 to $2,650 per fanny. The Mets’ top price is a mere $695. Apparently those prices are ju-u-ust a bit outside the comfort zone in this economy.

Artie: Surely there’s enough federal bailout money for the Wall Street sharks to enjoy baseball.

Frank: They might have a conscience, or maybe just a fear of exposure. Anyway, in the Yankee games I saw on TV every shot from center field showed lots of blue where there should have been skin tones.

Artie: Gosh, our readers will be worried for the Yankees’ financial health.

Frank: They’ve sold every single one of their lower-priced tickets for the season— bleacher seats cost $14 and the top deck goes from $23 to $30. But there are far fewer of the “cheap” seats than at the previous Yankee Stadium. I checked online to see what I could get on a game day last week, and the cheapest ticket through the team’s Web site was $150.

Artie: You passed, I take it?

Frank: Indeed. I’ll get up there during my next trip in May. I could have gotten much cheaper tickets this time through StubHub. These new stadiums are a stimulus package, creating entrepreneurs. Folks who find enough money for season tickets try to make a profit by reselling through the Web.

Artie: The Yankees don’t care once they get their revenue upfront. As long as there’s $161 million for CC Sabathia, all is well.

Frank: So far he’s been a CC-minus in pinstripes. Although he pitched well at Detroit this week, he’s 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA through five starts.

Artie: Meanwhile, his “replacement” with the Brewers, the bargain-priced Braden Looper, is 2-0 and 2.45 through four starts.

Frank: Another Yankee worry is that so far the new stadium is a launching pad—26 homers in the first six games.

Artie: So it’s “playing small,” ain’a?

Frank: Much smaller than expected, especially to right field. The outfield is supposedly the same size as before, but there’s talk about the new place being “airier” because the outside wall is shorter and the decks are stacked less steeply. Some weather experts say this creates steadier winds.

Artie: The Yankees didn’t spend a quarter of a billion bucks for Sabathia and A.J. Burnett just to have them watch their pitches land in the bleachers. Meanwhile, from what I saw of the Brewers’ games at Citi Field, that stadium is “playing big.”

Frank: The power alleys are deeper than they were at Shea Stadium, which was considered a pitchers’ park.

Artie: Maybe the Yankees can rent from the Mets. Can’t have the Bronx Bombers getting out-bombed!

Photo: The Packer’s future’s not hers to see