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Dec 31, 2004

RACING TODAY

By: JOHN PIESEN


The most over-used term in sports is "home field". The term is used and

abused until it drives me nuts. A thousand times a day you"ll hear some

 guy on radio or TV, or read some guy in the papers say: "I like so and

 so because they"re home."

Only if life were so simple.

The truth is home teams barely win more than 50 percent of the time

 in baseball and football, and less than 50 percent of the time against the number.

An example is the fact that the Steelers beat out the Patriots for "home field

 advantage through the playoffs". But the truth is that all this really means is

 that if the Steelers and the Pats make it to the AFC title game, the game will

 be played in Pittsburgh rather than at New England.

And a lot of difference that made a few years back when the Pats rolled into

 Pittsburgh and kicked butt.

The main reason why the home field is supposed to be such an edge is the

support of the crowd. But what happens to that support when the visiting

team scores first? They booed the Jets off the field at half time on Sunday

 when the home boys were trailing the Pats, 13-0. And down in dear old

 Texas, the fair-weather fans booed Vinny for three solid hours...until he

 threw a rocket in the last minute to pull it out.

I know a fellow who had Washington (-2) and Seattle (-7) on Sunday.

 The poor guy. He also had the New Jersey Nets (+6 1/2) against the

 Pistons last night. He wants to know why can"t the overtime be sudden death?

Speaking of fiascos, I submit -- later last night -- Rams-Eagles.

One guy wrote that he loved the Eagles because they won seven more

 games this year than the Rams, and were underdogs. Right, buddy.

The line never budged off Rams -3 as coach Reid hemmed and hawed all

 week about how the Eagles would play the game. Obviously, the game

 meant nothing to Philly, but was the whole season for St. Loo.

Finally, at 9:02 Eastern, long after most betting shops closed,
announcer Michaels revealed the truth. McNab would play one series,

Westbrook would play not at all...and the Eagles would treat the last

Monday Night Football game as a pre-season game.

And did they ever? After McNab engineered a 63-yard scoring drive to tie

 the game at 7, the Eagles mailed it in. They rang up a total of 50 yards in

their next seven possessions. The only reason the game was as close as

20-7 was because the Rams were so inept. You got the feeling that watching

 the game that if the Eagles had tried just a little bit, they would have blown

 out the Rams.

A tank job which to, at least this observer, was worse than anything

Pete Rose, Jason Giambi or the Chicago Black Sox ever did. And, if Vegas is

 right (which I"m sure they are) we are looking at several more such tank

jobs next weekend. The Steelers, Colts, Packers and Chargers are leading candidates.

All this has the lord high commissioner of the NFL angry. After all, in the

 immortal words of Herman Edwards..."you play to win the
game!."

At the same time, I"m listening and reading brilliant football minds say that

 the NFL coaches are doing the right thing. After all, you don"t want to see

one of your millionaires get hurt.

So much for "you play to win the game."

I find it ironic that the week that Michael Vick re-ups for $160 million, he got

 to carry the clipboard.

Finally, I have to touch on Sunday Night Football: Miami-Cleveland.

Now, I have idea what the Three Wise Men were saying because I
watched with the mute button in the on position. I don"t have to tell you it was

 as bad a football game as I"ve ever seen.

But it was a wonderful event for the house. The game went from Miami -7 to

Miami -8 1/2 in the final hours, and at no point in the game was there a chance

 that Miami would cover.

And, to make matters worse, viewers had no options. Desperate Housewives

 was in re-runs.

Listen Up also ran a re-run last night. Can somebody please tell me how this

 program is still on the air.

Meanwhile, the news from Barn 11 at Philadelphia Park is good.

No, I did not talk to trainer Servis. Trainer Servis and wife Sherry are currently

 enjoying a skiing vacation in Lake Tahoe. Yes, a year does make a difference.

 Last year, pre-Smarty Jones, it was in the Poconos.

Servis will be back next week to put Rockport Harbor on a plane to

 Hot Springs, Ark. I"ll follow about 10 days later, and I"ll be reporting in detail

 in this space everything you need to know about the 2005 Kentucky Derby

winner"s Arkansas activities. A reason to live or what?

In the meantime, Rocky"s foot wound is healing nicely, thanks to daily lazer

treatment, and he"ll be getting back to the track any day now. The injury probably

 will cost Rocky any chance of making the Southwest (Feb. 19) at Oaklawn Park,

 so his first start as a 3-year-old likely will come -- against Afleet Alex and

Greater Good -- in the
Grade 3 Rebel on March 19.

I am told there are still rooms available at the Arlington Hotel for that weekend.

 Check out the Friday night seafood buffet.

 



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