Football game brings some relief from storm damage


Football game brings some relief from storm damage

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Courtney Davis has no idea what her house looks like because her town of Sea Bright was washed away by Superstorm Sandy.

Yet she was at the Meadowlands on Sunday when the Steelers beat the Giants 24-20.

``We need this,'' Davis said. ``We could really use this game and having a good time.''

Davis and many other fans tailgating outside MetLife Stadium said they were thankful NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did not postpone the game or order it moved to Pittsburgh. And Goodell stopped by to do some tailgating himself, then meet on the field and congratulate first responders, calling them ``heroes.''

Asked about concerns for playing the game, Goodell said:

``I sure didn't hear that here. I didn't hear it out in the parking lot. In fact, exactly the opposite of that ... `we want to be able to get away from what we have been dealing with all week for a while' and a couple of guys said, `This re-energized us. We're ready to go back.'

``That's a nice sense.''

The game was never in real danger of being called off, unlike Sunday's New York City Marathon that was canceled on Friday after growing public pressure.

Given the gas shortage in the state - New Jersey has implemented a rationing program - and a depleted mass transit available, the Giants urged fans to carpool to the stadium. In their conversation before the weekend, Goodell was assured by Gov. Chris Christie that the game wouldn't divert any major resources from relief efforts.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin emphasized how important the game was - and how upsetting the defeat was.

``That's as disappointing a loss as we've had in a long time,'' he said. ``Not to be overly reactionary or emotional, to play against a very good football team like that ... we wanted emotionally to win the game so badly for obvious reasons, for our neighbors who are struggling, who needed some type of inspiration and we didn't provide it.''

Davis described a beach town that looked more like the desert, with sand dunes piled 8 feet high and bulldozers trying to level them ``just like you see in a blizzard.''

``Debris everywhere,'' she added. ``We have no idea when we can go back.''

Earlier in the week, seeing Steelers-Giants didn't enter her thoughts. But as the weekend began, she decided the Meadowlands was the right place to be.

So while the parking lots filled up and smoke rose from barbecues, people who lost power but not resolve found their way to a football game. And to each other.

``I think there's a sense of release, to take your mind off it,'' said Tara Brewster of Staten Island, the New York City borough devastated by the hurricane and its aftermath. ``If they changed this game to another day, I really wouldn't have been upset, but everyone is coming together. New York is the kind of city that handles everything.''

Jim Turbek had 30 inches of water in his basement, even though he lives nowhere near the shore. He went to the game.

``The water was coming in waves,'' Turbek recalled about a canal overflowing near his home. ``We probably lost all our appliances, and my chimney fell in, too.''

Turbek never considered missing the game. His brother was a big Steelers fan, so Turbek wore a Steelers cap and said he was ``here because Steven would have come. It's good to get back into a routine.''

He waited 75 minutes for gas to make sure he could get to the Meadowlands and then home, a distance of 45 miles each way.

Ryan Plaza was not impacted by the storm in his hometown of Sugarloaf, Pa., but he brought 15 gallons of gas to his cousin in New Jersey, then headed to the stadium. Standing nearby was Roger Daly of Norwood, N.J., who has had season tickets since the Giants played in Yankee Stadium; they moved to New Jersey in 1976. His search for gas led him to the U.S. Military Academy, and then even farther north.

``I'm retired from the National Guard and went to West Point for gas, but they ran out,'' he said. ``So I kept going up the thruway and happened to find gas. I made a 60-mile trip each way to get gas.''

He was glad to be at the stadium, believing it delivers some sort of a message.

``We're Americans and we can handle anything,'' Daly said. ``I feel bad for everyone who got wiped out, but we have to live our lives like we always did. I still don't have telephone, Internet, but I'm here and this is a good release.''

As Kathleen Marzolla described the scene in Hoboken, N.J., which is on the Hudson River and was among the hardest hit places in the state, she got a text message that made her jump for joy. Literally.

``We've got power back. We've got power,'' she said as her brother, Kevin, pumped his fist.

Hoboken was a ghost town for portions of the week, with water everywhere, she said. Her friend's car was submerged in the overflow, and all the businesses in town were closed for much of the week. But on Sunday afternoon, she finally could smile again.

``We needed this today,'' she said.

Steelers fans seem to pop up at every road game the team plays and this one was no exception, despite the challenges. Shawn Morrow and Wayne Alling drove in from Pittsburgh, although they believed the game might get pushed back to Monday night. They were stunned by what they saw, Morrow describing areas they drove past in New Jersey as ``a war zone.''

``Huge trees uprooted, 50 people or more standing in line at a gas station with gas cans; no cars, but the cans,'' Morrow said.

``We didn't know about the rationing,'' Alling added. ``We have an odd number (license plate) and we weren't sure if we could gas.''

They did, and they were enjoying some barbecue in the parking lot, surrounded by thousands of others who found their way to the Meadowlands.

One of those people plunked a pumpkin on a car hood. On it, in black magic marker, was written ``We Will Survive.''


AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan and freelancer Jim Hague contributed to this story.


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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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