Let’s do it!

This column has been far too long in the making, and it has some big shoes to fill – inflated by expectations. With that, it is the article with which I have the most anticipation to write. The one that will probably type itself faster than I can think. The one that honestly and truly brings me joy. The first picks article of the season is here, and it couldn’t have arrived fast enough.

Years ago, the Mets and Yankees were playing their annual ‘Subway Series.’ The Mets entered the ninth inning with the lead. Closer Francisco Rodriguez – nicknamed “K-Rod” – was facing the Yankees’ power hitting third baseman, Alex Rodriguez – nicknamed “A-Rod” – with two outs and two men on base. The Mets needed one more out. And they got it. Almost.

K-Rod forced A-Rod to hit a pop up to the second baseman that is caught, unofficially, infinity-out-of-infinity-plus-one times. Naturally, as the story needs its dramatic twist, it was dropped. Luis Castillo, a World Series winner with the Marlins – whose Google search first produces the pitcher on the Reds, followed by “Luis Castillo drop” – failed to make the catch. Two runs scored. A sure-win turned into a loss. And vice versa.

Buried within this story are a number of subplots – from the reality that K-Rod did, indeed, do his job, only to lose to the unfortunate role luck plays in sports – but the real trip down memory lane has only just begun. Castillo’s drop and the Mets’ loss is not where the story ends.

The Mets just suffered a heartbreaking defeat. They had the game won, only to head home as losers. The next day, they would be right back at it again, playing against the same opponent in the same ballpark with the same goal and same obstacles. Only there would be one more weight added to the team’s collective shoulders: the memory of embarrassment.

Making matters worse, the Mets were sending a pitcher to the mound – Fernando Nieve – who had not started a game in the previous two seasons, pitched only once for the Mets, and was making his first start of the year. It was June 13th.

Everything was stacked against Nieve and the Mets. Physically, the pitcher was over-matched. Mentally, the Mets were spent. But, of course, sports rarely follow a script.

The Mets would jump out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning and never look back. Nieve went 6-and-two-third-innings, allowing two earned runs en route to a 6-2 Mets victory behind 15 hits. How did this happen?

Actually, the answer is quite simple.

The New York Mets are a professional baseball team – all jokes aside, since there can be many made at the Mets’ expense. This is what they do. They lose. They win. It hurts – and some do hurt more than the rest – but it’s unavoidable. There are good days and bad days. Stay the course.

Luis Castillo batted first in the lineup the day after his infamous error. He hit two singles. His team won.

The comparisons between Castillo’s drop and my last year of picks can be boiled down to a single word written earlier: embarrassment. It was embarrassing to lose after so much success. But, it happens. We all drop the ball.

The difference is that Castillo and the Mets had the ability to get right back into action the following day – this is one of the beautiful elements of the mental sport of baseball – where I have had to sit-and-wait for this to arrive. Were it up to me, I would have had the season start the week after the Super Bowl. So, too, would the Atlanta Falcons.

Moving back to football, my own long layoff between action pales in comparison to that of the Falcons. What they experienced – blowing a 28-3 lead in the third quarter of the Super Bowl – is easily the most difficult pill to swallow out of all the examples already given. Yet, as professionals, they must put it behind them, show up, and deliver. Last year was exactly that – last year. It’s over. And a new season brings a new set of expectations. Of hope. And, for us, the fun of picking every single game against-the-spread throughout the year. Here’s to a great season!

Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.

*Confidence Picks – 2017 Season: — (Last Week: —)

(2016 Season: 53-67-3) (2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2) (3-Year Total: 183-158-7)

All Picks Against Spread – 2017 Season: — (Last Week: —)

(2016 Season: 123-136-8) (2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4) (3-Year Total: 415-367-19)

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

Why not jump right back into the fire?

The New England Patriots – as they are prone to do – broke nearly every trend in 2016. They are arguably the team responsible for the down year of most patterns on which the industry relies. On which my picks rely. Naturally, in a battle of mental perseverance, it would make sense that we begin the season with the Patriots.

When we last saw them, the New England Patriots were hoisting another Lombardi Trophy – this time, to capitalize one of the greatest comebacks imaginable. The Kansas City Chiefs were long removed from our minds and attention, although they weren’t too far removed from the actual game.

It is a little too easy to knock the Chiefs – and head coach Andy Reid – for the lack of playoff success, but we can’t scoff at his absurd regular season – 43-21 with Kansas City. Bill Belichick is the gold standard at the head coaching position, but it is ignorant to place Reid too far behind. Still, we only care about one question for now, “Are the Chiefs eight-and-a-half points behind the Patriots?”

Please register or login to read the rest of the article.