Wednesday, December 31, 2008
1) The survival of this blog through all kinds of storms: work, school, exams, a terrorist attack, everyone losing all their money forevers, and the boring, boring period dead-space at the end of the summer.
2) Our 100th blog post
3) The addition of two great authors to this blog (and the continued writing of this fantastic, uber-amazing author)
4) The legitimization of this blog through friends at Scarlett Ice and Out of Left Field, not to mention a mention in Puck Daddy (marked on the calender as "The First 100 hit day!").
5) Google recognizing our amazingness (look up anything relating to "sens jersey" on Google, we'll be there. There's a bunch of other stuff too, but that one's the most common.
Things to look forward to in the New Year:
a) What will hopefully be a weekly LiveBlog on Premier League football with Andrew Bucholtz at Sporting Madness.
b) [Hopefully] More awesome posts from us about everything (sorry about the lack of posts of late... we need our break too!)
c) Foxy boxing... because one should always hope to witness foxy boxing.
d) The Sens making a miraculous comeback to win the Stanley Cup (it can happen if you close your eyes tight enough and wish hard enough).
Anyways, now for the promised countdown:
5) The ability for anything surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs to capture headlines across the country
We're (for all intents and purposes**) a Canadian publication, and as such we need to have something distinctly Canadian. I continue to find it unbelievable that anything relating to the Toronto Maple Leafs can absolutely dominate the Sports sections of newspapers across the country, and dominate the headlines of every sports-related channel and news' sports-segment for weeks! Remember the Brian Burke thing? Will he? Won't he? He might! Good Lord, have you even seen so much talk dedicated to absolutely nothing. Then we remember the Sundin saga. The end of the season last year, and the Tank for Tavares idea gripped the nation... were the Leafs intentionally playing crappy hockey to try to finish in last? Why does anyone care!!! Dammit. Unbelievable.
4) Bizarre athlete injuries
This is nothing new, as you might remember Jason Spezza managed to miss a game after throwing his back out while grocery shopping. But this year (especially in the past 2 months or so) seems to have been rife with high-paid freak accidents. Giants' Plaxico Burris shot himself in the leg while attemping to 'club'. Bulls' Derrick Rose emo-kid'd*** himself while peeling an apple, requiring 10 stiches. Oh, and in order to avoid aggravating a back injury, Avalanche/Nordique**** legend Joe Sakic was taking time off at home, decided to plow the drive and mangled his hand in the snowblower. And let's not forget the Aussie surfer who twisted his knee standing in wet sand. Note: the picture with this blurb has nothing to do with any of those injuries, but it looks horribly unpleasant and is in fact the first photos that comes up when you type "ouch" into Google Images, so I felt it was appropriate.
3) The year sports got (even more) expensive
Yes, credit crunch or not, sports got even more ridiculous with monies this year. Look at the retarded amounts of money being thrown around during the NHL free agent sweepstake, mixed with the huge increase in the salary cap and floor, taking it to the point where some teams were spending ridiculous sums just to reach the salary floor. Then there was the takeover of Manchester City by an Arabian group, giving City the ability to dish out more money than Chelsea for footballers in their attempt to buy a title. Mind you, they're currently not doing much better than Spurs... who also splashed ridiculous amounts of money. I guess what it proves is that successful teams can't really be bought, they need a good manager and cohesion in order to be strong - there's a novel idea! Anyways, back to the original idea, sports got even more expensive this year... and the fans are (unfortunately) going to find themselves in the less-than-enviable position of picking up the tab come next September.
2) Politics and computers aside, the Olympics were (mostly) superb
Beijing's hosting of this year's summer Olympics was protested by all kinds of people, prompting my bile-filled response to the mixing of politics and sport. The Chinese were mostly unsuccessful in their attempts to look cleaned up - journalists weren't really allowed the free access they were promised, nor were protesters allowed the opportunity to voice their opinions as promised. Oh, and let's not forget the CG Opening Ceremonies, which reminded all of us that we need to question images we see. That aside though, the Olympics were absolutely superb, they were great to watch. Sherraine Schalm and Ara Abrahamian (who since asked for his medal back) prompted many to question sportsmanship, but the rest of it was sublime. Canada, at the end of the day, did relatively well, and it was great to see the athletes who'd worked so hard, some against impossible odds, representing their countries on the world's biggest athletics stage. And let's not forget the unbelievable performances from Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. Fantastic!
1) On the Chinese Horoscope, 2008 was the Year of the Rat. For anyone who likes either version of football, 2008 was Year of the (under)Dog.
While the Red Wings stuck to the plan in winning the Stanley Cup, both kinds of football saw unlikely winners for the major cups (that I follow). The SuperBowl was won by the Giants, playing against the yet undefeated juggerNOT***** New England Patriots. The FA Cup was won by lowly Portsmouth (mind you, against lowlier Cardiff City). The Carling Cup was won by Tottenham Hotspur (first cup in nearly 10 years) against Chelsea, the team that proved money can only buy short-term happiness. Euro 2008 was won by Spain, their first cup in 44 years! Which means that England will win the next World Cup, it's only logical. Oh, and let's not forget the Grey Cup being won by the Calgary Stampeders against hometown Als. The Phillies finally won a World Series, and the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays went from the undisputed worst team in the MLB to one of the best. While we're on the topic of upsets... I'll very briefly mention Queen's football and rugby teams losing in the OUA semis and finals, respectively, to teams they really should have beaten... shut up. Note - that is, indeed, a picture of Underdog, the superhero!
Thanks for sticking with us this year folks, and here's to the next one! Happy New Year!!
* Worst. Acronym. Ever.
** Don't you hate it when people say "For all intensive purposes"? Sigh
*** He slashed his arm
**** Depending which jersey you pick in NHL09
***** Trademark pending
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Other than that, not much. He does have a no-hitter to his name. June 12, 1970, to be exact. But lots of people have pitched no-no's before, what's the big deal?
Dock Ellis claims to have pitched this no-hitter while on an acid trip. Apparently he did not realize he had to pitch that day, so he decided to ingest some LSD, and then his girlfriend told him he had to pitch, and he pitched a no-hitter.
Beyond that, there was the time he beaned Reggie Jackson in the face as a retaliation for the moonshot Jackson hit off of him in the All-Star Game years previous.
Another time, to make a point to his teammates, he vowed to bean everyone in the opposing lineup. In the first inning.
Plus, he was once threatened with a fine by Major League Baseball for wearing his hair curlers out on to the field for pregame warm-up. Ya, hair curlers. It also explains the picture above of the man in hair curlers.
He was probably one of the more interesting characters to ever play the game of baseball, but he was also certainly indicative of the times. His admission of LSD use is just one in a long line of admissions to drug use of players, from Keith Hernandez to Tim Raines.** We went from watching players using performance debilitating drugs, and getting punished somewhat for it, to watching players use and abuse performance enhancing drugs.
The times, they are a'changin...
Dock Ellis, 1945-2008
*I resisted from calling them the "World Champions," even though the best team in Major League Baseball is the best team in the world.
**Favorite drug related story: Tim Raines, who should be in the Hall of Fame, learned how to slide head-first instead of feet-first so as not to bust the crackpipe that he carried in his back pocket while he was playing. Just amazing.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
While in years past, pleasure reading has ranged from Roméo Dallaire's Shake Hands With The Devil to the Spike Milligan war memoirs to Tom Clancy to Grisham, this year I went for sports books, in the form of Jeff Pearlman's Boys Will Be Boys and Don Cherry's Hockey Stories and Stuff (ghostwritten by Al Strachan).
First, Boys Will Be Boys is an unbelievably detailed (and somewhat raunchy) foray into the world of the dynasty Cowboys of the 1990s. The book hooks you right away with the story of Michael Irvin taking a pair of scissors to Everett McIver's neck during Dallas' 1998 training camp. It gives a brief history of the Cowboys, a look at how they were during the Landry years, then the details begin. Pearlman holds a great balance between talking about the personal, and the football. It's a bit like a good episode of Friday Night Lights, amazing football with equally amazing personal.
The description of what the cleaning ladies' had to do when they came in to fix up the White House (a house the Cowboy players bought in an affluent Dallas neighbourhood), the stories about players drinking, snorting coke and enjoying the company of members of the fairer sex gives the reader an introduction to the lives of the self-declared Gods of East Texas.
Pearlman is also careful to present all characters is both positive and negative lights, giving the reader the opportunity to recognize that, while there were no saints, there were no devils either. All the stories of player actions, coaching bugger-ups and owner bugger-ups are counterbalanced by stories of all their positives. Jimmy Johnson is presented as an absolute son of a bitch with clear preference for players, but he's also shown as an amazing coach who does care for everyone who wears the blue star on the right side of their head. Stories about Michael Irvin's drinking, snorting, sexing and hazing are counterbalanced by glowing testimonials to his work ethic and his love for all his teammates (in most cases).
I had a lot of trouble putting Boys Will Be Boys down until I finished reading it (which may have cost me some marks on my UN exam), but it was well worth it. Definitely a good read for any Cowboys fan (such as myself), and also an excellent read for anyone who's looking for a good laugh and an interesting piece of nonfiction.
Thanks to Bucholtz for lending me the book!!
Next on the docket, a book I mentioned a few weeks ago as something I'd like as a Christmas present, Don Cherry's Hockey Stories and Stuff did not dissapoint me. The fact that I had to pay for it kind of sucked, and the fact that I couldn't wait until I was on the plane to read it also sucks, but is a bit of a testimonial to how good it was.
Well, it's good under the right circumstances. Essentially, it's 221 pages of disjointed, often rambling stories (written in Don's English), about his time as a player (coming up through the ranks as a kid and shuttling around in the junior leagues), as a coach (in the minor's and NHL) and as a broadcaster. The book follows no chronology, a story about his last game at the Bruins will be followed by a story about him languishing in the minors, will be followed by a story about him commentating will be followed by a story about his dad.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
The book is vintage Cherry, and it's a bit like reading Coach's Corner for a few hours. Or, better still, is just like Cherry wanted it to be: a book where it would seem "just like we were sittin' down, tellin' stories in [his] own language." It's hilarious at times, when he's doing quotes of some of the French-Canadians who played under him (like Jean Ratelle), they're done in a quasi-French accent. He refers to Peter Mansbridge as Peter Mansfred. His stories are no holds barred, he'll openly call out players, he unapologetically recounts smashing players' faces in, you really feel like you're getting a glimpse into the world of Don Cherry.
Though it can be hard to follow at times (you have to re-read some of the anecdotes every now and then because he does indeed tangent in them), it's easily one of my favourite books from this year and strengthens my resolve to one day, finally meet Don Cherry.
Thanks once again to Sherry at Scarlett Ice for originally posting about the book coming out.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Paul Ince, one of England's finest international players and the archetypal English #8, was sacked as manager of Blackburn Rovers this morning after less than six months in the job. Blackburn Rovers' board, in a press statement, made it clear that the former Macclesfield and MK Dons boss could not, in their opinion, revive the team to face a real relegation battle.
In a Premier League whose lower half tends to resemble a black hole as early as December, safety first was the approach. Various voices have clamoured for more time for this 'Young English Manager', simply to keep alive the fragile idea that this archetype somehow means 'good manager'. Ince did himself no favours, but he was also far out of his depth.
In buying Keith Andrews from the lower leagues, a Robbie Fowler whose best years were not even in the 21st century, and Paul Robinson (no explanation required), Ince failed to replicate his predecessor Mark Hughes' highly successful transfer policy. Letting keeper Brad Friedel go to Aston Villa has not only solidified that club's fortunes but dealt a cruel blow to Rovers. To be fair, the injuries to Steven Reid and David Dunn were cruel to an already weak squad, but the headline writers have rightfully overlooked this fact. They know, like we do, that it wouldn't have made much difference.
Mark Hughes' Blackburn was tough, inspired by a strong yet amazingly fair manager who gave the team a sense of solidity and purpose. They were hard to play against and their best players performed consistently. The captures of Roque Santa Cruz and Benni McCarthy stand out as some of the best, yet less than £7mil was spent securing their services. Ince, operating under the same financial constraints, failed to make an impact. The departure of David Bentley itself was probably the death blow, and the fact that almost half the fee went straight into Arsene Wenger's pocket thanks to some cheeky sell-on clauses only adds insult to injury.
The idea that a good player makes a good manager is patently false, let that be very clear. I know that all Premier League chairmen have this blog on Google Reader, so my words are not in vain. Ferguson, Wenger and Benitez are all smart outside of football. They live and breathe the sport but command respect from players and fans for their smarts. Not for their shouts, as one would suspect was the case for Roy Keane and Paul Ince, not coincidentally the first managers to get the sack this season. Pep Guardiola, overseeing perhaps the best Barcelona team of the last ten years, was a fantastic midfielder but his superb mangerial acumen comes from years of grassroots football in the Barcelona B and C teams.
Not many of the managers floating around the world right now can fix Blackburn's problem, if it can be fixed at all without an injection of cash. I hate to say it, but Avram Grant is one of the best yet overlooked candidates for the job. His reputation for defensive football may be welcome at a club so demoralised that solid central defenders like Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba are humiliated by pisspoor strikers latching onto speculative crosses.
But don't expect any sense from a Premier League chairman in his managerial appointments. Their job is to make the league interesting by picking managers from all categories, from 'Young English Manager' to 'Old-School English Journeyman Manager', rather than get the man for the job.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Bucholtz said the site classified us, here at There Is No Original Name For This Sports Blog, as "Doers", which puts us in the same league as Out of Left Field. He himself was a "Thinker". I decided to not only see what this meant, but to find out the psyches of some of the blogs he didn't mention in his post (all links available on the sidebar).
In case you couldn't tell - I've just finished my exams and have nothing but time. Here we go!!
There Is No Original Name For This Sports Blog
"The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.
The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."
Yes, according to the picture, we're basketball playing Asian chicks. I like it! As for the breakdown, spot on. If I say so myself, I think we make light out of most articles, while getting our points across. Most of our articles are pretty well thought-out, we tend to not write something unless we can back it up to the hilt.
Having asked a friend of mine, her comment on reading the analysis was this: "sounds like you".
Apparently does not contain enough text, in either English or Swedish? Oh well.
Also Doers! The picture makes sense, at least for half of their team.
BBC Sport| Robbo Robson
"The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters. "
I kinda wish we could be manly men like Robbo apparently is, but the description is, again, spot on. He has a reputation for calling it like it is (his old 606 site self-description said "My job is to write about [sport] as I see it and I won't be pussy-footing around. You won't find me calling a spade a soil-redistribution implement"), and he tends to be pretty quick to respond to ridiculousness in the world of football. The analyzer site wins again.
James Duthie (Ottawa Citizen and TSN blog)
Also a Doer. Anyone who's read Duthie's blog would agree.
Sens Army Blog
A Mechanic. Makes sense, the Sens Army blog, while at times incorporating humour, tends to be very factual and analytical.
Five For Smiting
"The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.
They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living. "
I don't know about that first sentence. If you look at the picture which is (at the moment) at the top of the page, it's a flaming middle finger with the word "Excrement" in the headline. In addition, the author (Senators Lost Cojones) is the sole author, not part of a team. Further, he breaks down every game in a very analytical, in depth manner. I don't think I agree with this one.
Barry Melrose Rocks
Also a Doer.
I'm pretty pleased with the company we find ourselves in here at TINONFTSB**. At any rate, draw what conclusions as you will from the site or its findings, I would definitely suggest checking out your favourite blogs (or your own) just for kicks.
Thanks again to Bucholtz for findind it (indirectly).
* According to the website: "Note: writing style on a blog may have little or nothing to do with a person´s self-percieved personality."
** Dumbest acronym ever.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Greg Maddux. No doubt in my mind that he is better than the rest of them. His absolute prime (1992-98) is unmatched, including 4 consecutive Cy Young Awards, as the top pitcher in the National League. He is also the recipient of 18 Gold Gloves, ostensibly given to the top fielders at each position.
He is up there in the all-time conversation with Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax. It's not a question of if he will get into the Hall of Fame, it is a question of will he be the first unanimous selection. Honestly, I don't see how any could not vote for him. The only way someone does not vote for him is the jackass who says "(Player X) was not unanimous, so Maddux should not be unanimous either."
Part of me hopes that John Smoltz and Tom Glavine retire this year as well, so that the Braves Big 3 get inducted in the same year. Then again, I will never forgive John Smoltz for being traded for Doyle Alexander in 1987 (ya, ya, I've harped on this before).
Another reason to love Greg Maddux is this ad. Nike really knew how to churn out some great ads back in the 90s.
And this article, if even 50% true, is simply jaw-dropping.
Goodbye Mad Dog, we are going to miss you.
Friday, December 5, 2008
6 games. Six games. SIX GAMES!?! Are you kidding me?
That's more than Kostoupolis got for his beauty on Van Ryn (3 games).
More than what Roto-Ruutu got for his introducing his elbow to Laperriere's eye ( 2 games).
In the same league of suspension time as Pronger got for stomping on Ryan Kesler's leg (8 games).
Really? Calling out Dion Phaneuf is more offensive to the esteemed Mr. Bettman than Kostoupolis potentially putting an end to the career of Van Ryn? As offensive as Chris Pronger testing the fortitude of Kesler's tibia?
The NHL so unbelievably hypocritical, it's almost shocking. Last year was trying to figure out why Chris Simon got 30 games for the same crime Pronger committed mere months later (see above).
What this debate seems to centre around is how offensive Avery is to women. The term "sloppy seconds" and his treatment of a female Nashville fan are the stories that come up.
Greg Wyshynski over at Puck Daddy explains why the term sloppy seconds isn't actually offensive, and how he wasn't insulting women as a group. For the over-veiw: the term sloppy seconds is insulting to the male involved, not the female - "dude you're only getting my sloppy seconds, don't be proud." Insulting? Yes. Would Dion Phaneuf have torn Avery limb from limb on the ice? I'm sure Elisha would have gotten in on that. Is it offensive to all women everywhere? No, Gary, it isn't.
Secondly, the treatment of the Nashville fan. Vulgar? Yes. But she attempted to start a confrontation with him, while he was in the penalty box, immediately after the fight. She admitted to harrassing him on the ice since he was an LA King. She seems to have made it her life's work to taunt and humiliate Avery, and she admits that he's noticed her before (how couldn't he - her season ticket is the seat beside the away penalty box). What this one comes down to is that this woman, for years, has been trying to get a reaction out of him, and she finally got one. When she got one, she was taken aback and was horribly offended. That's unbelievably poor, on her part, not his.
Yes, Avery is supposed to be a professional, but he's also human. As someone who is routinely found with his foot in his mouth, I can, to some degree, sympathize. I myself have said things about an ex in the heat of the moment that I regret. I have indeed reacted when people call me out during a game. Am I proud of it? No. But you move on.
Avery is the victim of his situation at Dallas. Last year, Dallas couldn't fail, all four lines were rolling and scoring, and the defense was solid. This year, Dallas' defense couldn't be shoddier (the sophomore drop, perhaps?). Marty Turco is letting everyone and their grandmother score a goal on him. The offense isn't rolling.
If Dallas was successful, no one, in that locker room or anywhere, would be overly concerned. He's irritating, but that's just Avery, pay no attention to the strange man in the short pants, children. But Dallas isn't successful, and Avery's wearing the goat's mask. Mind you, he's doing nothing to help his situation.
At any rate - he doesn't deserve 6 games from the NHL. The Dallas Stars should have been able to handle this within the organization as conduct not befitting someone in the Black and Green. They weren't given that option, and the NHL successfully turned Avery into the Dallas sideshow, and has put the Stars even further under the microscope. For the rest of the year, people will be watching and analyzing everything Dallas does as an effect of Avery. Win or lose, it will be because of Avery.
* It's a social history of popular music exam... I'm not exactly shitting bricks
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tottenham Hotspur: 1992-2004
Birmingham City: 2004-2005
Darren Anderton will, to me, always be remembered as a legend of the Lane. For 12 years, he donned the Lilywhite, and wore the captain's armband for many of his latter years there.
When healthy he was one of the best right wingers to play the game, called up numerous times to the England squad and holding his own on the legendary Spurs side that contained Klinssman, Gasgoine and Sheringham. At Spurs, he played in 364 matches and notched 51 goals. His career was, unfortunately, marred by injury, and a series of (poorly timed) injuries left him with the nickname Sicknote Anderton. Injuries forced him out of various seasons and at least 2 England campaigns that I can remember off the top of my head.
That said, he was fiercely loyal to Spurs, turning down a move to Manchester United in 1995 and even promised a new contract at the end of 2004, a promise that was reneged at the authority of incoming 2-month disaster manager Jacques Santini.
Unfortunately, Anderton will finally end his career in Bournemouth this coming Saturday at the age of 36. A career that, according to Harry Redknapp could be extended were he "surrounded by the right players."
Lord knows I'd love to see Anderton come back to the Lane, maybe not as a player (given the speed Spurs now plays at), but as a coach or public liason or somesuch. If nothing else, I know the Yid Army would love to see him back.
His name may not carry the same weight as some of the footballers who donned the Lilywhite before him, but as far as a loyal footballer goes - it would be tough to find a comparison. And, again, who knows where he'd be if he managed to stay healthy? C'est la vie. I just know that I still have the Darren Anderton action figure in my room from my childhood days, and he'll always be one of the first names that comes to mind whenever someone asks me my memories of Spurs in my youth.
On the way to the hospital, they called a Giants team trainer to ask which hospital to go to. When they got there, Plax checked himself in under the name Harris Smith, claiming to have been shot at an Applebee's, which he had been at earlier that night.
He has now been suspended for the rest of the season and could face some hefty charges and jail time for carrying a concealed, unlicensed weapon.
Mayor Bloomberg is also seething mad due to cover-ups by Plax, Pierce, the club, the hospital and maybe even the Giants.
Here's the thing: I understand why he was carrying th gun, not so much condone it, but I totally understand it. Since New Year's Day, 2007, Broncos CB Darrent Williams has been shot and killed while sitting in his limo, Redskins S Sean "Meast" Taylor was killed in a home invasion, Jags OG Richard Collier was paralyzed and has had his left leg amputated above his knee as a result of 14(!) gunshot wounds, Raiders WR Javon Walker was beat unconscious and robbed in Las Vegas and Giants WR Steve Smith* was robbed at gunpoint in front of his house. 5 incidents in 22 months where football players were the victims of heinous crimes. I can absolutely understand why Plax thought he was in so much danger to necessitate keeping a gun in his sweatpants.
*The Other Steve Smith, not the star Panthers WR Steve Smith, much like there is Adrian Peterson and the Other Adrian Peterson on the Chicago Bears, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Other Karim Abdul-Jabbar
Monday, December 1, 2008
1) The Sens finally seemingly passing their slump by beating the Rangers and the Leafs... before falling to the Isles
2) Spurs falling into their slump by losing to Everton. My God that was annoying, Spurs had the more chances and everything *grumble grumble*
3) New Zealanders getting pissed off at Wales because they the Taffies stood up to the Haka by... staring at the All Blacks. No matter though, all Tri nation teams dominated the Six Nations and the weight of international rugby talent in the southern hemisphere was more than confirmed. Only the Aussies lost... and that was only one game. Unbelievable.
All that having been said the reason for this post is this. Up until Phil's post on the Gooners last Tuesday, this blog never had a physical picture in a post. Well, the times they are a-changin', and I'm bloody tired of seeing Cesc Fabrigas' mug everytime I open this page. As such, it's time for a shot back.
* Re: title of this post
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Five defeats in the league, an unhinged William Gallas, angry fans and a hopeless team of soft youngsters. Beautiful football and nothing else. That's how things stood as of this morning.
By this evening, the young players in question proved that they can provide backbone to an extent. Led out by the new club captain, 21-year-old Cesc Fabregas, the young guns gained a hard-fought but tactically dominant win over a decent Dynamo Kyiv. This was just the midweek tonic Arsenal needed and the statistics from this game will make good reading for the manager as well.
The selection of Cesc Fabregas as captain is monumental. This is someone who skippered every Barcelona side he ever played in from the age of 11, as did a certain Carlos Puyol. To call Fabregas a boy is to misjudge his maturity. He is a man, hardened by the experience, training, tackles, injuries and psychological battles of football.
The patience of Arsenal fans has been tested this week to arguably its greatest extent since the Wenger era began over a decade ago. The youth-first policy, still unfulfilled in terms of silverware, has riled many including myself. As things stand today, Arsenal are not title winning material. A first Champions League trophy is within reach, but the gruelling Premier League is not. There remains the need to invest in toughness in defence and midfield as well as a classy addition up front. Arsenal should also regain the tactical Plan B (winning without playing well) that was evident early last season when the promise of silverware was at its greatest for three years.
The Arsenal machine is moving in the right direction but the team needs fighters (as the now-deposed William Gallas insisted) and the squad has to be improved to fight for honours. Under new refreshing leadership the fight continues at Chelsea on Saturday, where the prospects certainly look better now than they did this morning.
"Outsourcing," as I think of it, involves a job going overseas to someone whose productivity costs less (the marginal cost of a good produced is lower). Is that what is happening with these two pitchers? Not really, no. A true outsourcing would be to field a minor league team in a foreign country, with players from that country, who are playing at the same level, but for less money.
These guys are being brought to America, with the hopes that they can perform at the highest level. That's what the MLB is all about, not just finding the best American players, but finding the best players in the world. The Jays owe more than a small share of their success in the late 80s and early 90s to their ability to recruit Latin-American players.
India has the chance to be the next great hotbed of baseball talent, based on the success of these two individuals. Because of cricket, there is a good chance that they have acquired the most simple of skills necessary for baseball: they can field and they can throw. Yes, the bowlers have far different mechanics than a pitcher, but bowlers might also have a better understanding of a full body throwing rotation, where the arm is just along for the ride (think Tim Lincecum, the NL Cy Young winner). There are 1 billion people there, putting a baseball camp somewhere has to turn out something useful.** The marketing opportunities for MLB alone should drive one team to take that chance.
To sum up, this ain't outsourcing, this is competition. Being in the Pirates organization, there is not much competition, but these guys still have a lot to learn.
Speaking of uncommon baseball markets,*** the Jays are hopefully going to be debuting the first New Zealander ever, Scott Campbell, either this year or next year. Basically, this year is gonna be fun to watch because of the kids (Romero, Romero (D and R), Cecil, Mills, Purcey, Snider, Lind, Campbell, Thigpen, Arencibia, Jeroloman, Dopirak, Jackson, Fuenmayor, Cooper, Collins, Emaus, Ahrens et. al) and because of the inevitable Roy Halladay vengeance tour for the Al Cy Young vote. It's not that he didn't win (Lee was a perfectly suitable choice, although I would have chosen Doc), it's that so many voters put him 3rd, and even getting dropped altogether from one ballot!
*Singh and Patel are not highly touted, they are just test cases and reality TV show winners. Like Pros vs. Joes, except the Pros are still actually in their prime
**The Devil's Advocate would point out that China has produced just 1 Major League Player: Harry Kingman, playing in 4 games in 1914, amassing a batting record of 0-3, with a walk. Yep, that's a .000/.250/.000 line.
***Off-topic, but the coolest place of birth ever: Ed Porray. Birthplace: A Ship on Atlantic Ocean.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Let me say right off, I'm not a freakishly nationalistic person, by any stretch of the imagination. But this article is unbelievable.
Here's my basic problem; essentially Slate is saying that the introduction of two Indian pitchers* (who, according to Milway, were signed by the Pirates), will spark the Apocalypse for the sport of baseball. That's a shocking allegation, and a wonderful piece of xenophobia.
There have been Japanese players in Major League Baseball since 1964, and they have their own , very successful, league now. Last time I checked, though, the MLB still exists, and still hauls it in.
So explain how an Indian player is going to cause the "Outsourcing" of baseball. Moron. It's an unbelievable spiel of drivel, and I'm shocked idiocy like this gets published. Even if it is only in the Warren Reporter.
If anything, Indian players in Major League Baseball sparking (an unlikely) popularity of baseball in India will serve nothing but good for the sport. It will create another country who can compete in the Olympics and Little League World Series competitions, thus strengthening the legitimacy of the sport on the international level.
Glove tap to Sager at Out of Left Field for the tip.
* The pitchers' blog can be found here.
PS - Thanks to Sherry at Scarlett Ice for the heads up
Sunday, November 23, 2008
He may turn it all down.
Why? Because he is now a Rhodes Scholar. He was excused from FSU's game yesterday, which had playoff implications, to interview for the position, with only 32 scholarships being handed out nationally. The NCAA allowed him to take a chartered flight from his interview in Alabama to his game in Maryland, arriving on the field in the 2nd quarter. He found out he had been selected about 3 hours before game-time.
This just a shock that such a good athlete can have the time to focus on his studies. He finished his degree from FSU in 2.5 years, majoring in Exercise Science with a focus on Pre-Med and is currently working on his Master's Degree.
But beyond that, if you had to choose any school that this story would come out of, Free Shoes University* would be far, far down that list. Last year, around 24 players were suspended before the Music City Bowl for being given the answers to a music history exam.**
In their game against Maryland yesterday, 5 wide receivers were suspended because of a fight they got into with a fraternity over a girl. Details about that fight are sketchy at best, but let's just say it was not for the feint of heart.
This is probably the most positive story to come out of FSU since Chris Weinke. He was drafted by the Jays out of high school, spent 6 years trying to make it in baseball, couldn't cut it, enrolled at FSU and won the Heisman as a senior at age 28. He went on to the NFL, where he has compiled a career record as a starter of 2-18. So, yeah, FSU really needs Myron Rolle to succeed. Hopefully he can convince other players that they should focus on their studies, and not take classes like Ballroom Dancing. Every football player is always one play away from having to make a career change.
*Dubbed thusly because of a 1993 scandal where some players had a shopping spree at a local Foot Locker. University of Florida head coach Steve Spurrier accused FSU of using free shoes as a way to win over recruits. FSU went on to win the 1993 National Championship
**Is it ironic that it was music history that kept them from visiting the Music City? No? Okay, just me then.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Regardless of price, one thing Fergie does not do is misjudge talent or the needs of his team. Hargreaves' and Veron's impacts at United were limited, but Carrick's is massive. The shocking fact is that his impact remains unseen - such is the nature of his role. His former club, Tottenham Hotspur, owe their recent instability entirely to the continued vacancy of his position in their midfield. As they failed to see the importance of his position, Spurs have spent £13million out of the £18million they received for Carrick's sale on paying compensation and severance packages for three different managers and their former clubs.
Carrick's importance can be situated in a broader movement - history has favoured him to an extent. The tactical evolution of modern football has meant more and more lone strikers and goals from midfield. The 4-3-3 of old is dead, replaced by a 4-5-1 with fluidity in attack, goalscoring wingers and a strong base in midfield. Often teams play with no strikers at all. Manchester United owe their recent success to the mastery of this evolution. The fluidity in attack, the goals from a certain Portuguese winger, and the solid midfield base Michael Carrick provides tick all the boxes of modern football.
Carrick assures solidity without overreliance on tackling or physicality. His deep position does not imply a defensive mindset but an astute tactical awareness. His passes are the expressions of his close reading of the game, his feet dictating the tempo and his passes moving the game forward or back as required.
In light of England's 2-1 win in Berlin last night, Carrick's importance has never been greater. England played a neat and tidy game, yet fans calling in to football chat shows could not quite describe this new feeling, using the word "solidity" in most cases as the best approximation. The fact that England fans could only feel, rather than see, the source of this newfound solidity perhaps explains why Carrick will remain the invisible man.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
And shed a tear for the moving of this school's greatest tradition, and no I don't mean Aberdeen.
The thing about the Aberdeen party is this:
Queen's students go to the street, mull about for a while, then leave.
Non-Queen's students spend hours on the street 'waiting for something to happen'.
Here's the letter I sent to the Carleton Charletan* last month explaining my feelings on this in response to an article on their journalists had written on our Homecoming (why the fuck did they have a reporter at Queen's Homecoming. Carleton is unassociated....).
Thanks McGill, Carleton, Ottawa, Western, U of T, Ryerson, York, Laurier, Waterloo, et al, you fucked it up for us.
* I don't know why they called me "Amrit A.", I gave them my entire name. High-quality newspaper eh?
Mike Tirico has now made The List after blatantly jinxing Rian Lindell by mentioning "Wide Right."
I mean, how dare you. That's almost as bad as mentioning the Music City Miracle right before a kick off with little time remaining. And I guarantee had Tirico not jinxed Lindell, the announcers would have mentioned the Music City Miracle.
The Bills didn't really have any business winning that game, considering the lackluster game Trent Edwards had tonight. By the end of the 1st quarter, I would not have been surprised to see JP Losman under center (as painful as that sounds). Leodis McKelvin had a chance to end it with an interception that was in his hands, and then Reggie Corner had a chance to grab it after it popped up off of McKelvin's body. Corner also missed a big chance to blindside Brady Quinn on a corner blitz (yes, Reggie Corner plays corner back, as is dutifully pointed out and made fun of every time his name is mentioned by the announcers), but he slipped coming around the corner, I think, and allowed Quinn to get the ball off. The rookies (McKelvin, Corner and Steve Johnson) all had some great contributions tonight. I hope Xavier Omon (Div. II record holder for TDs) and Demetrius Bell (Karl Malone's illegitimate son) get into the action this season as well.
McKelvin did have a great kickoff return or a TD and completely changed the atmosphere of the game. Marshawn Lynch rediscovered his Beast Mode with a great TD reception where he bounced off 7 or 8 guys, and then a great run in the 4th quarter where he bounced off 4 or 5 and then dragged 2 more down to the goal line to set up Edwards' rushing TD.
But it all comes back to the Guillotine. Once Tirico mentioned "Wide Right," every Bills fan immediately had the memory of Scott Norwood come back, and those ghosts haunted the normally automatic Rian Lindell.
This game is up there with the Nick Folk Game, the Sage Rosenfels Game, the Kevin Everett Game, and the 2004 season finale.
These of course rank below Wide Right and the Music City Miracle, but these loses hurt. Bad.
The only thing that could have made this better is if Gus Johnson could have been commentating instead of Mike Tirico. Gus gets it. Just look at some of his clips on Youtube. You will not be disappointed.
As for the rest of the Bills season, I really do not see how they can come back from this hole. They have to win out and finish 11-5 and hope every other team in the division falters.
Wow. I need a drink after that game.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Yes, I know the Leafs are in 10th in the East and 20th in the NHL, but that is 8-10 spots better than expected. It is also 9 spots higher than Ottawa.
On top of that, this team has been genuinely fun to watch on a night to night basis. You never know who is going to be playing together, and you never know who is going to see the most ice. If you had told me that 18 games into the season, Matt Stajan would be the leading point-getter, I would have thought this team was screwed. Thus far, they have done it with hard work and Ron Wilson has really gotten a lot more from guys like Stajan or Steen than was expected. Although at this point, his attempts to coerce Jason Blake to play Wilson's way is like trying to draw blood from a stone, except this stone is due $20MM.
Mikhail Grabovski has been a complete revealation, and has thus far been 100% worth the 2nd and 5th round picks traded for him. It's a testament to how good Montreal is, that they could afford to trade this guy to a division rival. Him and the other 4 rookies (Nikolai Kulemin, Luke Schenn, John Mitchell and Jonas Frogren) have shown some flashes, but have also been prone to rookie mistakes.
I would have liked to have seen what Kyle Wellfed would have done with Ron Wilson as his coach. Wellwood lacked motivation, but getting released from Toronto and then waived again by Vancouver might give him the proper motivation.
Vesa Toskala has also not been on top form this season, having yet to really steal a game. The Leafs of playoff runs of the Pat Quinn-era were built on Curtis Joseph or Ed Belfour bailing out a subpar defense. The defense has been pretty solid, but Toskala has taken a step back from last season.
The single worst thing that could happen would be for the Leafs to hire Brian Burke in the next few weeks. I'd be afraid that he could talk himself into believing that this team is one piece away from a deep playoff run this year, and all they would have to trade is draft picks or top prospect(s).* Please, no more of that. No more Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, Brad Boyes, Alyn McCauley and a pick for Owen Nolan. This team is not one piece away, it needs time to develop. I would be less upset if Burke was brought in at season's end, but I still believe Burke is an overrated GM. He did a very good job in Vancouver, but could never find a goalie better than Dan Cloutier. It was a glaring hole for years, and he just could not fill it. In Anaheim, he essentially took Brian Murray's team and then lucked into Chris Pronger. Since then, he has destroyed his cap room to the point where he was on the verge of trading Bobby Ryan to the Leafs with Mathieu Schneider just to get rid of Schneider's terrible contract. Also, trading Andy McDonald for Doug Weight was a payroll move.
All-in-all, this season has been fun and interesting to watch. From the re-emergence of Matt Stajan to the spazzing of Jason Blake, I hope this can continue for another 60 games.
* I say "prospect(s)" because the only real prospect with any type of value would be Justin Pogge
That's about all I have to say about that, on the blog anyway. I should have a web article about the game going up soon enough, and Andrew live-blogged the hell out of that badboy over on Sporting Madness.
Also, I've decided that the press box at the Memorial Centre is easily the scariest thing I've ever set foot in, and odds are I won't do it again. Even Eric (the civil engineer) said that he couldn't work out how the balls it stays in the air. Needless to say, odds are I won't be watching a game in or under the bloody thing. Unfortunately I can't seem to find a picture of it, but that's all the more incentive to go out to a Gaels home game and see it for yourself!!!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
A shitty season, a shittier third jersey, it seems.
Nothing as bad as we all thought, mind you, at least it's not as bad as the SNES jersey we thought we'd be getting
I'm pretty tipsy at the moment, so I'm not going to keep going, but here's the link from the jersey.
Milway sent me the link*, ever thankful!
* To Icethetics....helpful nevertheless!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This week has been abysmal for the Sens, absolutely abysmal*. A 4-0 drumming in Montreal, followed by a game against a team they were "more evenly matched with", at home no less, and they were on the receiving end of a 3-1 whoopin'.
Also - Daniel Alfredsson, our unflappable captain, finally flapped. After the Montreal game, apparently emotions were running high at practice as the team couldn't get it right... and he put his stick through the glass at The Bank. Again - he put his stick. Through the glass. This is bearing in mind that rink-glass can usually bear the weight of Derek Boogaard skating full-speed into another big dude without breaking**. It's good to finally see the boys showing a little emotion, but it's unfortunate that it didn't carry over into the next outing.
At any rate, I'm thinking the tension in that dressing room would require a chainsaw (or an electric poultry-cutter) to cut through. Jarkko Ruutu, God love him, is a fucking idiot for the hit on Laperriere, and he bloody deserves it. There's a line between trying to draw penalties and showing off physical dominance, and putting someone's life in danger. You learn that stuff when you get taught hitting. Jarkko: keep them elbows down and my love for you shall grow - but don't make us look bad.
So tonight provides the opportunity for redemption: the second half of the home-and-home with the Islanders, the Sens will be visiting Long Island. I have but one word of advice for you, oh mighty men in red: don't fuck it up.
Lastly - for Queen's hockey fans, I'll have something up on tonight's Kill McGill game up tomorrow. For students - puck drops at 7:30 pm, be there, it's free with your student card. There's really no excuse. Unless, of course, you're going to Dylan. But still.
* Abysmal is a great damn word
** Boogaard putting himself through the glass in a rookie game between the Blues and Wild a few years back. After they replaced the glass, they put a masking tape man on the glass, I guess so he'd see the glass? Who the hell knows. Point is - Derek Boogaard only breaks glass when he makes contact with nobody. I'd love to see a fight between him, Chuck Norris and Vin Diesel. That would be awesome.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Roy Keane was invited onto ITV a little while ago to act as the colour guy for Celtic v Man U, but he responded by saying he'd rather be at the dentist*.
The angriest of the angry Irishmen has a poor history with television. It was an appearance on MUTV's (Manchested United's special channel, much like Leafs TV or one of those) which ended his 12 year stay at United. He has often vocally criticized the way matches are called, and has more than once admitted to turning the TV to mute when watching football.
All this reminds me of one of my biggest gripes when watching matches - commentators who can't decide who they're broadcasting to. I understand it's difficult to toe the line between good analysis and teaching analysis, but they need to figure it out.
It's especially bad in Canada, where we're subjected to some of the worst football analysis in the world. Honestly, I've heard more insightful comments watching football in India than the crap on Fox Sports World Canada, The Score, TSN or Sportsnet.
Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy that I can finally watch football on TV rather than counting on internet streaming, but I'm finding myself switching the channel at halftime and watching the games on mute with music playing so that I'm not subjected to the stream of shite pouring from the speakers.
The halftime analysis from supposed experts is probably my biggest problem. I respect Craig Forrest as much as the next guy, but he's out there without a raft at halftime. Except for that English fella (apologies, his name escapes me at the moment) who did EURO, Gerry Dobson and his crew are the most useless providers of analysis and football news ever. It's painful to listen to them try to break down a half and set us up for the second half. The story is the same on the Score, when I'm watching the Footy Show or when they have live broadcasts.
Again, I'm more than happy that we're finally getting matches here, and it's absolutely a step in the right direction. But football is easily, along with hockey, the most popular sport among youth in this country. Kids understand what's going on and, for the most part, their parents do too. We can start to step into the next level of match analysis, people typically aren't learning the game anymore. People know it, people know good football, and the halftime analysis has no business explaining the offside rule or what constitutes a penalty. Discussing and arguing whether something is a penalty is fine, explaining the rule is dumb and unnecessary.
If anything, the poor quality of football analysis in this country is turning people off watching it, it's irritating to know the game and have to listen to that drivel. Craig Forrest and the other guy who's name I can't remember seem to actively try to up the level**, but they're constantly kicked down by their co-hosts, and the Footy Show is dominated by people who shouldn't be analyzing football. Honestly, that fella who looks like a fridge has never, in any of the episodes I've watched, said a helpful or analytical comment. He has a habit of summing up what happened, and pretending that he's analyzing.
Any road, let this article act as a public service announcement for channels who broadcast football: we understand what's happening, you seem to understand as well, please bring your programs up to our standards. Thank you.
* I know dentists, I am friends with dentists, but in the chair you guys are bastards.
** Although, Craig, really, we understand you played in the Premier league. Your anecdotes are nice, but you don't have to remind us every week that you played.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Arsenal v Manchester United
This will be a key game in Arsenal history, and will be a reflection of the realignment of footballing forces in England. The Wenger era is quickly becoming contested.
Manchester United to win 3-1
Wigan v Stoke
Wigan have quality, just not in defence. A goal from Amr Zaki and a header from a Rory Delap throw-in would be typical.
A 1-1 draw.
Hull v Bolton
Bolton aren't so bad, but Hull are simply refusing to give up. They're riding a wave of confidence. Watch out for Geovanni!
Hull to win 2-1.
Sunderland v Portsmouth
Portsmouth will try and frustrate Sunderland, the best they can expect is a draw. Then again, Jermain Defoe has that little bit of luck and quality thesedays.
Portsmouth to win 2-1.
West Ham v Everton
West Ham have to win at some point, but Everton's midfield are starting to click again.
Everton to win 2-1.
Liverpool v West Brom
Liverpool seem to many to be title contenders, but I don't think so. They have quality, and Fernando Torres is bound to play a role. A striker who thrives on space playing against the team that allows the most space is a recipe for humiliation.
Liverpool to win 4-0.
Blackburn v Chelsea
Chelsea will resume normal service in a frustrating Northern encounter.
Chelsea to win 1-0.
Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Villa usually fire on all cylinders against this type of opposition, but Boro also have a bit of firepower of late.
A 2-1 draw.
Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
This will probably be a game packed with goals. Expect the strikers to grab all the headlines - Heurelho Gomes will not be a subject of praise after this one.
Looks like a 3-2 win for City to me.
Fulham v Newcastle
A truly awful match to be avoided at all costs.
Newcastle to win 2-1.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Tim Dierkes of mlbtraderumors.com has released his list of the Top 50 FA and where he thinks they will end up. Notable for Toronto Blue Jays purposes, he sees CC Sabathia and Derek (B)Lowe coming to the New York Yankees, with Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi leaving for other destinations. He also sees AJ Burnett going to the Baltimore Orioles. Not that surprising, considering AJ is from around there. His 2 picks for Jay pick-ups are Milton Bradley and Brad Penny. I definitely do not agree with Bradley, but could see Penny coming here, if he accepts an incentive laden, short-term deal, but he might get offered guaranteed money, despite his injury problems.
Others have pointed out Bradley was the best hitter in the AL last year. This would make him a great fit for the Jays! Well, players don't normally have career years at age 30, and they don't follow those up with even better age 31 seasons. Bradley had the benefit of playing in the Ballpark at Arlington, which is friendly to hitters, and got to play against the Mariners and A's (not the stiffest of competition). He was also unbelievably lucky. How lucky? He had a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .388. His career BABIP is .323, with the league average around .290. Let's just say, I don't think he will be repeating his stats next year.
The rumor mill has started to churn and some have the Blue Jays in the mix to trade for San Diego Padres' SS Khalil Greene (Reggie Cleveland All-Star (if you get that reference, you are my friend)). Colour me unimpressed. He was a better hitter at home than on the road last year, which is saying something, considering PETCO Park is where power hitters go to die. He hit a career-low 10 HRs last season, and can probably be counted on for around 15. He also does not get on base that well, and strikes out way too much. He also does not have the defensive capabilities to overcome his offensive shortcomings. Hanley Ramirez he is not. I'd rather have Marco Scutaro and John McDonald, warts and all.
2009 is going to be a year where the Jays figure out who can contribute in 2010. Behind the plate, Rod Barajas will be brought back, but his back-up could be Curtis Thigpen, Brian Jeroloman or JP Arencibia, by years end. Arencibia has the inside track to be the starter in 2010, but walk-machine Jeroloman is also in the mix. Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Marco Scutaro and Scott Rolen should be around the infield, with John McDonald and Joe Inglett backing them up. The outfield will be Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, and a possible LF/DH combo of Adam Lind and Travis Snider. I'd rather see the Jays sign Jason Giambi and trade Lind for pitching, plus put Rios in CF and Wells in RF, but thats just me. The Starting Rotation will be Halladay-Litsch at the top. Dustin McGowan should be back in July and Shaun Marcum will be back for Spring Training...of 2010. So the other 3 spots will be manned by Scott Downs, John Parrish, Scott Richmond, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, Brad Mills, Kyle Ginley, Mark Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-Chin-Ski), any free agent or any trade candidate, with the best 2 sticking around when McG gets healthy again. Plus the best of these players will be the most likely candidate to slot into the no. 5 spot in 2010. The bullpen might see some changes, mostly due to a surplus of arms. BJ Ryan is a trade candidate, but the rest of the 'pen should be back.
Monday, November 3, 2008
August 19, 2009: UPDATE - Team Canada's Vancouver 2010 jerseys are here
The IOC has finally cracked down on Canada's national hockey jerseys.
This summer I noticed something odd - the American footie side at the Olympics played their first few matches with masking tape over the logo on their kit. I found out later it was because no jersey, in the Olympics, is allowed to have that national sport's federation logo on the jersey.
To make it easier to understand what I tried to just say: you're allowed to have your flag, or the words USA, or whatever you want - but they can't have the United States Soccer Federation's logo on the kit during the Olympics.
You may have noticed that, for (at least) the past 10 years, Team Canada hockey has had Hockey Canada's logo on the front of their jerseys.
Well, the IOC has finally decided this practice must end, apparently us Canadians have been defying the Olympic Committee for a long damn time.
So, for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics - the Canadian men's and women's hockey teams will be sporting new jerseys - certainly for the first time in my memory. I'm excited to see what they come up with, but sad to have witnessed the end of an era.
My prediction of four Manchester United goals was right - but I didn't foresee the three goal clawback from the Potters. The eventual implosion of Hull City that most of us expect is refusing to happen. Why? They are well-managed, refreshing in their positive approach, yet pragmatic and modest. They could well steal a spot from Blackburn or Manchester City in 7th or 8th when May comes along.
Wigan's Egyptian striker remains the league's top scorer and looks a quality find, though anyone who watched the Africa Cup of Nations last January will have been impressed by his blend of physicality and lethal finishing. More importantly, he has the mentality of Alan Shearer - fearless and determined. Modern football (2002 on) may have killed off the 30-goal-a-season striker, but Zaki is one of a new generation who have been a symptom (and cause?) of the 4-5-1 system.
Pep Guardiola can afford to be happy. The Barca manager's team sit top of La Liga after beating Malaga 4-1. Samuel Eto'o (who Barca tried so hard to get rid of over the summer) is back on form, Lionel Messi is the most mesmerising player on earth yet again and Thierry Henry is quietly contributing a great deal. The maturing of the promoted youth team players is astonishing, and Sergi Busquets looks like he may be a key player much sooner than expected.
This week's losers
My red card prediction was spot on, yet it was simply a question of knowing the Arsenal mentality. The fury of injustice is just fine, but morality is not one of the columns in the Premier League table. Arsenal need to get tough - perhaps this will never happen under Arsene Wenger. In terms of the more spiritual side of football, Arsenal still gets A+, but the team can only succeed once these sides are reconciled. Tony Adams entering management again is very good news for us...it may be a look into the future.
They may have Robinho, but as I said last week "Man City are simply too easy to press with their 4-1-4-1 formation". And that's exactly what happened at Bolton. They should have read this blog. That is all.
It looks like his time at United may be up since Dimitar Berbatov's arrival - I believe that from January he will not be attached to any club and will simply be owned by Kia Joorabchian's MSI company, who want about 30million for him after his two-year loan in Manchester. It's a shame because he's one of the hardest working players in that team, but perhaps Fergie will look to Manucho to fill the void. Don't bet against Sir Alex spending the money, though, as he wouldn't want "the boy" Tevez to fall into the wrong hands.
That's all for now. I will be back tonight or tomorrow morning with a preview of this week's Champions League action. And perhaps a US election prediction, as sport and politics are almost exactly the same thing.
Our football team had a pretty shitty performance at Richardson in the semifinal, falling to the University of Ottawa GeeGees 23-13, ending Yates and Vanier dreams.
This brings up my major problem with this first-round bye business. Yes, it's nice to not have to play a game when everyone is, but it makes for some serious focus issues. Games allow teams to center and focus in a way that practice can't. Queen's hadn't played a game for two weeks before the game against Ottawa, and they came out absolutely flat. A play-by-play rundown of the game can be found here. I was hoping that the punt-block safety at the end of the game would be the momentum turner our boys in gold needed, but unfortunately they just never got it going and fell into shambles. Dream season turns into nightmare I suppose.
Our rugby team, on the other hand, continued it's kickassery with a convincing smashing of the Western Mustangs, in a repeat of the game I traveled down to London to cover (see game report here and here). Western played the exact same game it did during the regular season, but Queen's didn't react. This gave Western no opportunity to exploit Queen's being a man-down, and the Gaels pushed forward for a 19-8 win, setting up a second final featuring the Gaels. They'll be playing in Markham against the McMaster Mauraders next weekened - I encourage all Queen's sport fans to travel down on the fan bus to watch what must be Queen's best varsity squad.
In pro-sport news:
Spurs are rolling! 'Arry is fucking fantastic, we took a 2-1 win over Keano's new side Liverpool at the lane over the weekend. Mind, it was on a late goal by Pavlyuchenko, and the other Spurs goal was a Carragher (sp?) own goal, but whatever, I'll take it! 7 points on 3 matches is a definite improvement from the start of the season, where the Lilywhites couldn't be counted on to get 3 points from 7 matches. On a related topic - how on-target were Phil's predictions?? Jesus!
The Leafs (I hate to, but I have to put it in*) had an amazing comeback against the Rangers on Saturday, one that actually got me out of my seat. I like the Rangers (see below), don't get me wrong, but that was one hell of an exciting performance. The Leafers have been putting on a pretty decent show this year, and I couldn't be more pissed.
The Sens took one point out of the weekend after a shootout loss to Tampa, leading to an incredibly interesting article on the Sens Army blog regarding the game and our shootout lineup which, frankly, is retarded. Also, I've come to like Ruutu. The world might be imploding.
Finally - my dominance in NHL 09 has been qualified by a tournament win. The Rangers (Yours truly), Sabres (Apps), Capitals (Eric) and Flames (Conal) went head-to-head in a round robin/knockout tournament over the weekend. The Rangers were weak on defense, but the offense was their saving grace, allowing 10 goals but scoring 13 in the round robin, this compared to most games ending 1-0 or 2-1 over 3 games. The final was fought out between the Rangers and Sabres and, in a dramatic overtime plagued by ill discipline by the Sabres, the Rangers put the game home to take the first ever NHL 09 gold. Another tournament should follow, here's hoping the result is the same!**
* That's what she said
** This entire paragraph was unneccesary
Saturday, November 1, 2008
As another week draws to a close, the excitement of football begins again. Friday, to a football fan, is only exciting because it’s the day before Saturday. This weekend is also exciting for me beyond sporting matters – I am basking in my newfound credibility as a formal contributor to this blog, having emerged from the shadows of the comments sections.
You can expect some half-decent analysis on English and Spanish football and occasionally other less civilised leagues, mixed with a smattering of features on broader football issues that are either controversial or under-researched. It won’t be boring, I promise!
But for today, let me keep it straightforward. Football is a business as much as it is a sport – and as with any business there is a need to predict as well as a bizarre pride taken in correctly predicting things. So, I’ll get straight to giving you my predictions for this weekend’s round of Premier League matches:
Chelsea v Sunderland
Chelsea simply have too much depth in defence, so expect a clean sheet. Sunderland have been playing quite naively of late while for Chelsea Deco is back and Lampard in his best ever form.
Chelsea to win 3-0.
Everton v Fulham
Everton have shifted up a gear, not to a particularly high one, but last month they didn’t even remember how the gearshift worked. They can’t keep a clean sheet, but Fulham are atrocious away from home. Don’t watch this game.
Everton to win 2-1.
Manchester United v Hull City
All the underperforming teams are shifting gears upwards, and United are really heading towards top speed. Sometimes at Old Trafford it’s almost too easy – this could get embarrassing for Hull City if they aren’t careful. United will slack off and probably concede one brilliant goal – a Geovanni free kick maybe? This will be the game of the weekend.
Manchester United to win 4-1.
Middlesbrough v West Ham
What a truly awful game this will be.
A boring 1-1 draw.
Portsmouth v Wigan
Portsmouth are solid at home, but Tony Adams is likely to persist with a defensive mentality even if both Defoe and Crouch play. Amr Zaki may be the league’s top scorer, but Wigan are not yet playing that well. Still, they are well organised and may win this. Also, football is a funny old game.
Wigan to win 2-1.
Stoke v Arsenal
My dear Arsenal will probably play football to make Johan Cruyff proud: flowing, passing, contemplating, playing, passing, conceding, scoring, conceding and scoring again. The great Dutchman preferred 6-5 to 1-0, and with our below-par centre backs we really have no choice in the matter. Arsenal will probably get really mad at an early goal Stoke score from a set piece – and there will probably be a red card somewhere in this game.
Arsenal to win 4-2.
Tottenham v Liverpool
Ah yes, ‘Arry’s To’enham ‘Otspur. Liverpool are a shocking team to me – they will not win the title, let that be very clear. Watch out for Luka Modric, he will keep Mascherano busy. As much as I hate to say it, Darren Bent may just score. This is a game to watch.
Tottenham to win 2-1.
West Brom v Blackburn
I admire WBA’s principles, but Blackburn are tough, so Paul Robinson may not get a chance to concede. Where are the goals going to come from you ask? To use Adidas language, it’s going to be Santa Cruz + 10.
Blackburn to win 2-0.
Bolton v Manchester City
Bolton are phillistines and deserve to lose, yet Man City are simply too easy to press with their 4-1-4-1 formation. Wright-Phillips doesn't get much credit, Steven Ireland is hitting new heights and Robinho is living up to his name. Maybe they can win, but don't look for a clean sheet.
Manchester City to win 2-1.
Newcastle v Aston Villa
Villa are my second team, so I have an affection for them. I am also a third generation Villa "supporter" so they have a special place somewhere near my heart. Anyone who looks at the firepower on offer there and compares it to Newcastle's defence would probably give you an exaggerated scoreline. Villa beat the teams they should beat but often struggle against anomalies like Newcastle. Plus Joe Kinnear isn't such a bad manager.
A 2-2 draw.