September 05, 2008
MLB and NFL make fall the most exciting time to be a fanEvery year when the leaves begin to fall and the grass begins to fade the eyes of the sports world are fixed upon the National Football League as it prepares to kick-off the season, and Major League Baseball as it enters its stretch run to the postseason.
Not surprisingly, this year is no different, as the fall of 2008 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in a while.
With big stars changing teams over the off season, the football season gets set to kick off with few clear cut front runners, and hungry players looking to make statements and dethrone the New York Giants as super bowl champions.
Brett Favre will likely continue to be the topic of frequent discussion as he looks to lead the Jets back to the playoffs and challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC East title.
Favre will certainly be playing with a chip on his shoulder after his very public divorce with the Green Bay Packers this past summer.
After retiring, and then un-retiring, he was shown the door and told that his services were no longer needed.
The world has witnessed the brilliance of Brett Favre over the course of his career, and this future Hall of Famer has already shown a capability to respond to adversity in the most magnificent ways, having put together one of his best statistical seasons of his career last season when public opinion told him to retire.
The Dallas Cowboys made a splash in acquiring the controversial yet electric defensive back Adam Jones, while division rival Washington Redskins added a potent defensive weapon with the acquisition of pass rusher extraordinaire Jason Taylor from the Miami Dolphins.
Everybody will be gunning for the Giants, who appear suddenly vulnerable after losing each of their top two pass rushers from last year; Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to a season ending injury suffered in the preseason.
Each injury in football spells opportunity to the other teams in the league, and this season promises to be an exciting one.
As one season prepares to begin, another is ready to wrap up, as Major League Baseball's regular season enters its final stretch with several unfamiliar names among the list of contenders.
The Tampa Bay Rays entered the 2008 season having played zero playoff games in the franchise's short history, and never having finished above last place in their division.
Playing in a division with perennial powerhouses the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees promised another difficult road, yet as the dust begins to settle, the Rays are still standing in first place, three games ahead of the Red Sox and 10 ahead of the Yankees.
If there is anything more surprising than the success of the Rays, it has to be the struggles of the Yankees.
The media has been hesitant to write the Yankee obituary until recently, and a Yankee-less postseason would be the first since 1993.
At this point in the season a playoff berth will only be possible if several other teams suffer drastic collapses, and the World Champion Boston Red Sox are one of the teams they need to collapse.
If it has not been seen in print yet, the last game played at Yankee Stadium will be a regular season game.
New York's best opportunity for playoff baseball likely lies on the fragile shoulders of Pedro Martinez and the New York Mets, who are nursing a three game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in a National League playoff race that promises to go to the wire.
With starting pitcher John Maine recently shut down for the season, Mets fans can't help but cringe and let memories of last season's historic collapse keep them up at night.
A year ago the Mets enjoyed a seven game lead over the Phils with only 17 games left to play, before injuries to their pitching staff left them crippled and unable to hang on.
An injured Maine puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the notoriously fragile Pedro Martinez to continue to pitch well and pitch deep into games, which may be a lot to ask of an aging veteran who has fought hard to stay on the field every fifth day.
The Phillies have their own problems as well, needing to win despite a suspect starting rotation that features only one consistent starter in Cole Hamels, and inconsistent production from last year's MVP Jimmy Rollins.
This race is going to be exciting to watch, as the NL East will likely only send one team to the playoffs with the Milwaukee Brewers enjoying a large cushion in the wild card race.
It's been a long time since the Brewers have been to the playoffs, but even longer since the Chicago Cubs were so poised to win a championship.
Dominant starting pitching, rock solid relief and a relentless lineup have the Cubs labeled as the best team in baseball, and anything short of a title will be a tremendous disappointment for a fan base starving for a title.
In the eyes and the minds of Chicagoans, nobody will beat the Cubs, and if they do fall in the playoffs it will be written that they blew it again. This is a team that simply cannot fail, and it has already been established that if there will be a Cubs team to break the 100 year-old Billy Goat curse, this is the one.
The only thing we can do is watch and wait. With so much to look forward to, fall certainly is the most wonderful time of the year to be a sports fan.
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