Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finding Pavlyuchenko

So, here we are. A few months after EURO, and I'm being forced to eat my words. Which words, you may ask? Let me jog your memory.

From the article, published June 27, titled "Olé!!!"
Maybe after his performance today the Arshavin circus will quiet down. He seems to play really well in situations where his team are impressive around him, but he does not lift the rest of the team to play at a higher-level during the shitty times. In fact, he was quite the let-down yesterday, wasting a lot of potential chances with bad passes.

You see, now I look like an ass - because my club is chasing him (although apparently we haven't approached Zenit St. Petersburg yet...). Not only that, but they're chasing his buddy Pavlyuchenko too (try saying Pavlyuchenko 10x fast).

Here's my problem with trying to sign both of these guys. I don't know anything about them. And the smart money says, no one at Spurs, in the Premier League, in England, or in most of Europe outside Russia knew these names before EURO. Neither of them were blow-your-mind spectacular during the qualifiers (hell, Arshavin managed to get himself suspended for 3 matches during the qualifiers). But they were decent, not good, but decent during EURO, and everyone else's interest has calmed but ours. It's sad.

The thing is, as seen in my quote from above, Arshavin only plays well when his team plays well around him. Where Keane could singlehandedly turn a game, and put in a stunner when his team are miserable (Spurs 4-4 Chelsea), Arshavin goes with the flow. Or, at least, that's what he did in EURO. Because, like I said, I haven't got a clue how he plays for his club.

Personally, I think we'd be better upping our efforts to sign David Villa and Diego Milito, two strikers who have proved themselves time and again in league play, in Spain no less. Not two hope-dragging bozos who may or may not play well in the Russian league and had one decent tournament.

Hell, they'll cost the same anyways.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Seventh-Inning Stretch: Restoring my Faith in Baseball

Baseball has just gone through its most dubious era: the Steroid era. All achievements of the past 15 years will be tainted with the thoughts that the players cheated to get ahead. Watching the various Congressional inquiries of superstars and icons, like Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, as they lied through their teeth made me question if the players I had grown up cheering for were also taking steroids. The Mitchell Report was so startling because: (a) so many players were named, (2) so many players were mediocre or worse, and (d) all of these players came from so few sources. It showed that every player in professional baseball could have conceivably taken steroids. So now who could I cheer for?

But I have a new feel-good story that restores part of my faith in Major League Baseball: Scott Richmond. Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Scott played baseball all through high school. After high school, he thought his ball playing days were pretty well finished. He worked for 3 years in the Vancouver ports before picking up a baseball and playing in a wood bat league in Moose Jaw. There, he caught the eye of the coach of Missouri Valley College. At age 21, he enrolled as a freshman and pitched in Division III collegiate baseball. In 2003, he transferred to Bossier Parrish College in Louisiana. Just one year later, he moved up to Division I, pitching for 2 years for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, his name was not called in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. So at age 25, he tried out and made the Edmonton Cracker Cats, of the independent Northern League. He stayed there through last season, but he finally caught the break he was looking for.

One of his teammates was Rob Ducey, formerly of the Jays and currently preparing to play for Team Canada at the Olympics, called the Toronto Blue Jays on his behalf. He got signed after a tryout and started out the year playing for the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats. By June, he was in AAA, a step away from the Majors, playing for the Syracuse SkyChiefs. Not only was he now a professional baseball player, he had been named to Team Canada’s Olympic roster. Regrettably, he will not be making the trip to Beijing. Instead, he was called up by the Toronto Blue Jays. At age 28, he is poised to make his Major League debut tomorrow afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays.

No matter how well he does, I will still cheer for him. We all tend to focus on the great stats and forget about the great stories. It was the focus on the stats that brought about the Steroid Era, but it is the stories that will take us into the new era.
Peter Milway is a third-year Politics student at Queen's University, and author of
The Seventh-Inning Stretch

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's been a while (also known as my first cricket article)

Hello world,

Just to let you know: nothing incredibly interesting has happened since Tuesday.

Looks like the summer lull has finally kicked in. The baseball's been interesting, if a little irritating at times (I'm starting to understand why Jays fans can be such a jittery bunch). The cricket has been awful... at least for India and England... it's been good for Sri Lanka and South Africa (unfortunately).

Actually, I change my plea, the BBC has just published something incredibly interesting. So begins my first cricket article.

Cricket is a genuine gentleman's game (minus Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds). You act with civility and class on the cricket pitch, the umpire's word is final, right or wrong. You don't argue calls, you act with friendliness and pleasantry towards the other team. And there's tea and biscuits at 4pm.

But, there's been a bit of a groundbreaking change in the last day. Essentially, Indian captain Anil Kumble was the first player to appeal an umpire's decision yesterday and, today, Sri Lanka batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan became the first player in the history of the game to have a decision overturned.

This may not seem groundbreaking to the casual fan, but anyone who knows cricket realizes the implications of this. Though cricket has video replay available for umpires, it is typically only the umpire who will call for the replay, the players will just carry on. It turns out teams are permitted three unsuccessful call-appeals per inning - an allowance so underused that I was unaware it even existed! But, as it would turn it, it does exist, and not only that, it gained fruition today.

The ground-breaking change is this: now that, in this one test, players have for the first time unsuccessfully and successfully appealed for an overturn of a call, it will undoubtedly become a far more regular occurrence during cricket matches. Gone are the days of gentlemanly acceptance of an umpire's call. What comes out of today's events will almost certainly lead to something we see all-too-often in football, baseball and hockey - crowding the umpire after every call, whether its right or wrong, because the player in question doesn't like it.

Many cricketers are already being increasingly recognized as overpaid prima donnas (as are athletes in many sports), but what set cricketers aside from the pack is their respect for eachother and for umpires. Today's overturned call has put an end to that.

In the words of many before me: it's a whole new ball game.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The straw that broke the camel's back

In this metaphor (in case you couldn't work it out) - I am the camel and my back is playing the part of my patience. Oh, and if anyone calls me a camel, prepare to be spat on à la El Hadji Diouf. The straw, of course, is the important part of the metaphor because odds are (unless you're cheating and reading ahead - in which case stop that!) you haven't got a clue what I'm talking about. Now I forget what I'm talking about. Oh wait, yeah, the straw. The straw is Mike Milbury being hired by the Ceeb - the pile is the CBC. And, as many of you already know, as far as the CBC goes, I think of it as a pile most of the time.

Mike Milbury is absolute rubbish. He seems to have absolutely no concept of a good interview or good hockey analysis. He was crap on NHL on NBC, so apparently it makes perfect sense for him to move to the most-watched hockey broadcast in the world!!! I don't understand it at all. He has a tendency to analyze out of personal preference rather than by actually watching what's going on in front of him. The teams and players he likes can do no wrong, and he'll defend them to the death against his other co-hosts, no matter their offense. He has no concept of how to argue his points in a reasonable manner* - as displayed in the video link I stole from Barry Melrose Rocks. Beyond that - he's been shit in every job he's ever had in-and-around hockey** (I'm not sure how good a bagger he was at Big Bubba's Fish Emporium in Brighton, MA but I'm sure he was shit at that too)***.

Even Big Don will lay a verbal h-whoopin' on his favourite players and beloved Bruins when he thinks they shit the bed. Milbury is the height of annoyance, and now he's on Satellite Hotstove!?!? The one where they give sober analysis of what's happening in-game and around the league? WHAT!?!

The CBC has done an absolutely fantastic job of irreparably fucking up their hockey coverage in three short months, after years of mismanagement and arrogance. While CTV/TSN/Sportsnet have slowly and quietly started pulling sports coverage out from under the CBC, their basic assumption seems to be "we're the CBC, people will watch us anyway". Not the case, O foolish CBC, not the case at all.

Mind you, I will certainly flip the channels over to see Ron'n'Don, but other than that, our relationship is over. The CBC and I are casual now, after a long-term committed relationship. We'll be F-buddies, if you will. I'll continue to watch the good stuff on HNiC, but, unless there's a really good game on, I'll be watching the brunt of my hockey elsewhere.

* Note some of his brilliant quotes showing off his analytical prowess on his Wikipedia page
** After visiting his Wikipedia page, I rescind my comment and admit that he was a decent coach for that one year...
*** I'm pretty sure there's no place called Big Bubba's Fish Emporium, and if there is I doubt it's in Massachusetts, but still...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Seventh-Inning Stretch - In Defense of Baseball

Peter Milway's column will be called "The Seventh-Inning Stretch", he will have a regular column on baseball. Enjoy!

Amrit has kindly asked (read: commanded) me to submit a series of posts on his new favorite sport: baseball (favourite sport is a bit of a stretch - Amrit). For my first piece, I shall try to demonstrate why exactly baseball does not suck.

But first, allow myself to introduce…myself. My name is Peter Milway. I am going into my 3rd year at Queen’s University, majoring in Political Studies, with a minor in History. I am an avid sports fan and a defender of all things Toronto (except David Miller). This includes, but is not limited to, the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, the Argos and, of course, your Toronto Blue Jays.

For these posts, I am going to assume a basic understanding of the rules of baseball.

The biggest problem non-fans have with baseball is that they believe it to be boring to watch. This is understandable, as there are long periods of inactivity. However, what is most interesting about baseball is these periods of inactivity. Between each and every pitch, the pitcher is thinking about what he can throw: “My fastball has been good today, I know I can throw it past this batter.” The hitter is thinking about what he has already seen today: “He has had a good fastball today, thrown it to me twice in this at bat already. But last time I was up, he threw 2 fastballs, and then I swung over his curveball. I think he is going to try that again.” The catcher is thinking about the location of the pitch: “This umpire has had a wide strike zone today, I think my pitcher can throw a fastball off the outside of the plate, and it will still be called a strike and the batter won’t be able to reach it.” The result? The batter, looking for a 75 miles per hour curveball that will start up high and then dive (curve) down into the dirt, has no chance but to watch a 95 miles per hour fastball thrown outside, off the plate. “Good,” he thinks, “that was a ball.” The catcher, trying to trick the umpire into thinking the ball was a strike expertly catches the ball and quickly moving his glove back inside the strike zone, framing the pitch for the umpire. Called strike. The catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher, smiling that he fooled the ump. The pitcher smiles, knowing he made his pitch. The batter frowns, knowing he guessed wrong and thinking that he got screwed by a bad call.

The process starts all over again.

This all happens in the span of 15 seconds.

Their respective thought processes can only get more in depth when the pitcher can throw more than one pitch, or if the catcher does not think the pitcher can locate his pitches, or the hitter guesses right the first time.

Fielders are also thinking about where they should be standing and what they will do if the ball is put into play. They have to take into account which side the batter hits from, whether he pulls the ball, whether he hits for a lot of power or gets a lot of weak singles.

The manager is thinking about when he should replace his pitcher, and with whom they should be replaced.

On the surface, baseball is an extremely simple game for simple minds, but it is much more complex.

Beyond the cerebral part of the game, baseball is unique amongst the major North American sports in that the goal of the offensive team is to bat the ball as far away from the scoring zone (home plate) as possible. This creates 2 points of interest when the ball is put in play: where the ball is, and where the runners are. The convergence of these 2 points creates exciting situations: the plays at the plate where the runner is trying to knock the ball out of the catchers’ glove.

Baseball is also a precision game. The strike zone roughly extends from the hitters armpits down to their knees, and is about as wide as the plate with an inch or two on each side. This of course varies on the umpire, which adds to the beauty of the game. The strike zone is about 500 square inches. 450 of these square inches are taken up by the hitters’ wheelhouse. This, of course, varies from hitter to hitter, but the pitcher is trying to place the ball in these 50 square inches where the hitter cannot get to the ball. For instance, Jason Giambi has trouble hitting balls waist-high on the inside corner of the plate. This “hole” is about two baseballs high and one baseball wide. But if you miss this location by two inches back over the plate, you hit one of Giambi’s strongest locations, a location where he will likely make you pay. So from 60 feet, 6 inches away, a pitcher has to hit a location roughly the size of a beer can, or they get hit. Hard.

The main reason that I am such a fan of baseball is that it is the only sport where the objective value of each player can be discovered, defined and debated. I can show you why Lance Berkman has been the MVP thus far. I can show you why Ichiro Suzuki is overrated. I can show you why Bob Gibson’s 1968 season was one of the best, but I can also show you why Pedro Martinez’ 2000 was better. However, I can tell you that Martinez’ 99-00 stretch is the best 2 year stretch of all time, but you can tell me that Greg Maddux’ 94-95 stretch was just as good, if not better. It is my personal belief that Greg Maddux is the best pitcher of our generation, with Pedro and Roger Clemens in the discussion.

I probably have not changed anyone’s opinions about baseball with just this post, but I hope that you all give it a shot and you might find that you enjoy it, just like Amrit. Just sit back, have a few beers with a few friends and try to guess what everyone is thinking.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Time to Levy a beating on the big four

We're back to the terrible puns, don't hate me, at least I try.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has done exactly what I was hoping he would. After putting up with all kinds of bollocks from Liverpool's public and invited pursuit of Keano* and Man United's public and uninvited pursit of Berbatov**, Levy filed a complaint with the Premier League.

I don't know what else I can say on this subject, other than it looks like I chose a good time to pick lack of respect for athletic contracts as my pet peeve. Especially from teams that are whining themselves about other teams pursuing their players.

Notable quotables from Levy:

"It is unbelievably hypocritical given [Sir Alex Ferguson's] comments in respect of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid"

"The behaviour of both clubs has been disgraceful. We told both clubs very early on that we had no interest in selling Robbie or Dimitar, respectively, and that they should refrain from pursuing the player."

"Today's public comments by Manchester United's manager, announcing that he has made an offer for Dimitar and is confident that the deal will go through with time working in their favour, is a blatant example of sheer arrogance and interference with one of our players."

The full article is linked above, I implore you to take a look. Believe it or not, I don't think there's anything else I can say on the topic, other than it's irritating beyond the point of belief. It's putting the entire team off its confidence in a season where Spurs will finally have a fully healthy and strengthened squad. This year has real potential to be an improvement on Jol's achievments at the helm.

Absolutely classless behavior from some of the top sides in the Premiership. Classless and shameful.
* My earlier comment on Liverpool's pursuit of Robbie Keane is here (see the very bottom)
** My earlier post on Manchester United's pursuit of Dimitar Berbatov is here

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fuck off Fergie

I hate the singer too, but that's not what this post is about.

You'd think with the shit-storm surrounding the Christiano Ronaldo saga, Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United's manager) would have an idea of how damaging and annoying it is for a club to openly pursue another team's under-contract (here we go again) player.

And yet, I come to work on Friday morning, flip open the Beeb, and this is the rubbish I'm confronted with.

United've been running this bollocks since the end of last season, and that's what's annoying me so much about the whole issue. But what amazes me the most, like I said, is that they're flipping shit at Real Madrid for openly pursuing Christiano Ronaldo (to the point of reporting the Spanish giant for illegally pursuing the Portuguese princess), but it's perfectly alright for Manchester United to let the world know that they're after Berbatov, or that they were after Carrick (once upon a time).

The most ridiculous part about the whole thing is that Tottenham have continuously told Manchester United to piss off. Berbatov's been classy in the press, telling them that he's committed to Spurs while his agent goes on about bigger and better things. Tottenham set a huge transfer price that few-to-no clubs are going to meet as a way of telling them to piss off, and yet Manchester United is still flinging their shit.

As an aside - shame on Berba's agent as well. Before coming to Spurs, Berbatov was a no-name striker at Bayer Leverkusen, pretty decent around the area but not making much of himself. Spurs built him into a top-class striker, and he's just come off a 46 (all-competion) goal tally! 46!!!! After two straight 23 all-competition goal tallies for Spurs. There's absolutely no loyalty or respect coming from Berbatov's agent, seeing as Spurs are the club which will make the agent rich(er).

Now, I'm not saying Manchester United is entirely without class... their on-field performances are supberb, and great to watch. That said, the way they handle off-the-pitch affairs is becoming ridiculous and aggravating. Part of me wants Christiano Ronaldo to buy out his contract and go to Real, just to piss off Fergie.

As an aside, can someone tell singer Fergie to piss off? She's rubbish.

As an aside x 2 - check out Robbo's blog today, entitled From Eastlands to La-la Land - stuff like this is the reason I love Robbo (link in the sidebar).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hockey and football, please don't be sad, but I'm watching a new sport

Actually, I watch many other sports. I'm an avid curling fan during the Olympics (I shit you not, I've been known to yell "SWEEP" at pubs in moments of euphoria and forgetfulness... yes, that's what we'll call it), I love playing and watching cricket, I started watching and somewhat understanding rugby (league and union) last year, I've watched field hockey in moments of weakness, Wimbledon tends to be a summer fixture for me, and, well, various other Olympic sports.

But, I've finally started watching a sport which I've mocked others for watching in the past. No, fuck you, not billiards, pool, darts, poker or (seriously) blackjack. Those are all bullshit. I'm starting to pay attention to America's pass-time, baseball.

I know, I know, the shame of it all. You can blame these guys for getting me into it though. Actually, you can blame Mike for sending me a link to their Guide to the Wave way back in May, which got me into DJF in the first place.

I watched all 15 innings of the All-Star Game last night (well, I was awake for the first 9, then happened to wake up in time to see Justin Morneau [goood Canadian boy - Don Cherry voice] score the winning run in the 15th, lucky Amrit). I have yet to eat a hot dog this summer as I'm waiting to eat one at the SkyDome (apparently 'true Jays fans' still call it that, and I fully support not calling stadiums by corporate names) in August.

But, yes, moral of the story, I've started watching baseball. I can no longer mock baseball fans for watching the most boring game in the world, because I no longer find it incredibly boring.

In fact, keep your eyes peeled as a guest writer (Peter Milway) will be pitching up a baseball article for this blog sometime in the next few weeks, and as we head into playoffs he might wind up with something approaching a regular column.

Anyways, I've admitted it, my conscious is clear, time to get back to work.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Ronaldo-must-stay camp Banks on a higher Pele-gree

Oh God how I love terrible puns.

Famous Brazilian superstar Pele has weighed in on the Christiano Ronaldo saga, and he's on my team. That's right, my team. As has legendary England keeper Gordon Banks.

Notable quotables:

Pele: "If you have a contract then in any job you have to finish the contract... I think when he finishes his contract he should be free to go wherever he wants to go." (seems logical enough!)

Banks: "I can't understand why he said he felt he was being treated like a slave. If he has just signed a new contract then he should respect his manager and honour it. It's stupid. I don't understand what the problem is. He plays for a team that has just won the European Cup and the Premier League. He plays for his country. What more does he want?" (the "wuddya mean 'more success'" argument)

Banks: "It's like anything in life. If a businessman signs a contract then he has to honour it. It' s no different than a professional footballer." (the "you're still in the real world you prissy bastard" argument)

I made this post for two reasons. Firstly - to again point out that Christiano Ronaldo is an asshole, but also, to officially alter my position slightly. Phil pointed out (many times in the comments section of past articles) that sometimes selling a player before his contract is up is in both the club's, and the player's best interests.

Let me give you an example: A side in a second division brings an amazing young player through the ranks, and at 20 he's absolutely top of his form, with 3 years remaining on his contract. A big club wants to buy this player, and is willing to spend huge gobs of money for him. It's in the player's best interest to go to the bigger club, as he will gain valuable experience. It's in the buying club's best interest to have the player. BUT - there are multiple pluses to the selling side. Firstly, they get a huge initial payout for the player. Secondly, they get credit for raising such a top-rate footballer. Thirdly, they can add a clause to the footballer's contract where they are written in to receive 10% of any future transfer fee for that player, meaning a cashflow later!

Additionally, if a player desperately wants to leave a club, there are two advantages to selling him. One, you won't be getting the performance you need out of him, making him effectively useless. But also, while under contract, getting rid of him is worth something to the selling club. Otherwise, his contract runs out, he doesn't resign with you, and another team gets him for free. So sell him while the advantage is there!

So, there is certainly are upsides to selling players before their contracts are up. But all parties involved must agree to the mutual advantages of said transfer, otherwise it's off until the contract is up.

At any rate, that's my bit, and I suppose I'm beating a dead horse here, but I'm sure I'll write more about contracts and contractual obligations as these and other scandals continue.

The non-sport article that justifies my kicker

Someone pointed out to me a few days ago that my kicker says "Musings regarding sport and life by a bored student who cannot come up with good names for his blogs". They emphasised the fact that "life" was missing.

Short of saying "SPORT IS LIIIIFE", then heading off to the gym, then playing another 3 hours of full-contact roller hockey (if you ever find a group of guys who have the ability to put up boards on a traffic-closed road in 5 minutes, get your ass down there with rollerblades, a stick, a helmet, and other padding, because contact roller hockey is out-of-this-world fun), coming home, drinking Gatorade and feeling good about myself, I elected to actually write a post about how life's been going lately.

You happy now? I'm soft.

Anyway - Bluesfest was in Ottawa over the past week or so, and let me tell you, spectacular lineup this year. I've been to some awesome concerts in my day, but (among others) last Thursday I was at The Tragically Hip* (goood Kingston baaand - Don Cherry voice), and tonight I saw Great Big Sea.

The Tragically Hip (everytime I say hip, I start to type HUP - bloody Dutch - no wonder I like them though... full of promise but they crash out in the quarters, just like my belovéd England) was, hands down, the best concert I've ever been to. And I'm not saying that because I caught one of Gord Downie's 50 hankies, or one of Johnny Fay's two drumsticks (damn skippy). They're an amazing band to begin with, but on stage - unrivaled. Energetic, lively, and they're spontaneous enough to improv a little in their songs, but not enough to make the song lose its magic. Hopefully some people have been to one of those concerts where the band improvs so much it ruins their hits - purely so that you know what I'm talking about. Gord Downie's stage performance is second-to-none. The man is all over the place, he truly does put on a show, and the rest of the band backs him up beautifully, The Tragically Hip are a cogent performing machine - love it.

Great Big Sea made me want to go to Newfoundland. I'm so not kidding. That was a party-and-a-half. It brought out Ottawa's Newfies, young and old, and were they ever a hoot in the crowd. My goodness, what a fun group of folks. Classy, friendly and polite - true Canadians in my eyes (even though they joined in 1949, they were more Canadian than many Torontonians or Montrealers I've bumped into). The band itself was fantastic, a lot more fun than I thought they'd be, their songs were really catchy (admittedly, I didn't know many of them), and those who know me, know I love a good shanty and a good jig when the situations present themselves. Did I ever get my fill tonight. Hooooo-ee bai (phonetic talking is phuntyms).

At any rate, if nothing else, those two concerts made me feel extremely Canadian. A great representation of East, Central and Western Canadian rock and folk music, outpourings of Canadian pride (on the tail of Canada Day, no less) from the crowds, just fantastic atmosphere at both shows. Oh, and also, I ate a Beavertail sandwich at the Great Big Sea concert. You heard it here first - the inventor of the Curly Fry Poutine has come up with the Beavertailwich

Not to mention I fucking love The Hip.

Hope you enjoyed the first (and potentially only) (mostly) non-sports related blog, so as to legitimize my kicker. You see, at the end of the day, it's beyond laziness (because I wrote a whole post in order to keep my kicker), it's beyond technical non-savvy (if you can't figure out Blogspot and were born after 1979, I'm worried for you). I'm just stubborn. Very, very stubborn.

* For photos from the Tragically Hip concert, go here

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Continental League and NHL come to terms

Finally, a positive in all the negative light I've been shining on professional sport contracts lately. The Russian Continental League (who have Jaromir Jagr and Ray Emery under their belt) and the NHL have reached an agreement wherein both sides will respect the contracts of players in the other leagues.

What this means is this: Players don't respect their own contracts and can move from team-to-team and demand more money whilst under contract. Teams don't respect the contracts they sign with players and can get rid of them on a whim. But no player will be poached by another league as both sides recognize the legitimacy of the other league's contractual obligations.

Step in the right direction, indeed.

Contracts are concrete, ex-Sepp in Blatter's world

Excuse the horrible pun in the headline, I was trying to think of a way to phase FIFA president Sepp Blatter's name into it... I did my best, dammit.

As a follow-up to my post on contractual obligations of a player and team, I absolutely cannot believe this - Sepp Blatter, head of the 'impartial' governing body of football, FIFA, has said that Manchester United should allow Christiano Ronaldo to go to Real Madrid.

From an email sent by Journal compadre Mike, "Why does Sepp have to open his goddamn mouth?" (who says Mike doesn't have a potty-mouth too? He's putting on an act I tell ya!!)

The move is absolutely asinine!!! Who, exactly, does Sepp Blatter think he is? The man has made some gaffes in his time, but this one - unjustly, unfairly and uninvitedly (I don't think that's a word) interfering in club business - is truly absurd.

Blatter declared that respecting one's amiably and mutually signed contract is a form of "slavery" (I shit you not). And that a player should be able to leave and sign somewhere else at his time of choosing.

Here I was, thinking at least one body should understand and force respect of signed contracts, but the highest body in world football has essentially told the world "contracts don't matter - do whatever the fuck you like". In order to save any respectability and parity in club football, Blatter will have to gs further than simply rescinding his comments, FIFA (UEFA especially) needs to pass some form of legislation removing the player buy-out clause, and forcing teams and players to respect the contracts they have agreed to.

Otherwise, we're going to see even further dominance of the big clubs in every country as the few players they can't have due to contractual obligations won't really be held down by anything anymore. It's just a piece of paper, after all, and I'm sure Amnesty International can be appealed to in order to help remove the poor want-away footballers from their states of "slavery".

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Is someone going to paint Nikolai Korolev on his helmet?

Okay, truth be told, I'm not some Russian boxing legends know-it-all, I searched "famous russian boxer" on Google, and came up with this.

All to say - Ray Emery is the second NHLer, after Jaromir Jagr*, going to Russia. Emery will be playing for Atlant Mytishchi in the Russian Continental League during the 08/09 season (holy shit, SpellCheck hates me for these Russian team names!!!).

I feel for Rayzor, but maybe this move will get his career back on track. He's young, he's undeniably talented, and he can flat-out play. Unfortunately he got more than distracted this year, and the Ottawa media and citizens (though I guess Ottawa media and Citizen are one in the same?) were absolutely merciless when he started fucking about in his personal life without backing it up with solid play on the ice.

I don't know if the pressure of expectations, or just ego, got to him, but this was not the same goaltender that backstopped the defensively-questionable Sens to the Stanley Cup final in 2007. He got a beast of a contract after that season, some would say deservedly, I said (and still say) he was too young for that kind of contract (3 years, $9.5M), then faltered horribly and, after one disaster game and event after another, he got bought out by the Sens.

Russia could do one of two things for Emery. It might save his career, he goes to Russia, starts at Atlant Mytishchi (is the city Atlant, or Mytishchi?) for the next year, regains his reputation and confidence as a goalie, drops the ego, and makes some sort of Hollywood-esque return to the NHL as a last-chance goaltender for a failing team (*ahem* Tampa) where he'll single-handedly take them to the top, with his new appreciation and respect for the game and team spirit**.

It might, of course, ruin him. After arguably the biggest nightmare of a season possible, he's been signed in the Continental League for 1 year at $2M+ (plus bonuses). To put this in perspective - recent free agent goaltender signings:
Jaroslav Halak- 2 year/$1.55M with Montreal
Patrick Lalime - 2 year/$2M with Buffalo
Alex Auld - 2 year/$2M with Ottawa
Olaf Kolzig - 1 year/$1.5M (plus bonuses) with Tampa
Christobal Huet - 4 year/$22.4M ($5.6M/year, only $3M more than Ray) with Chicago
Curtis Joseph - 1 year/$700K with Toronto
Ty Conklin - 1 year/$750K with Detroit
Dan Ellis - 2 year/$3.5M with Nashville

All these guys had better seasons than Ray (even Lalime!), and yet only Huet is being paid more than him. In the list of all these skilled goaltenders, Ray Emery is second on the pay-chart for 2008-2009. His ego is big enough as it is, if he takes his salary the wrong way, continues with his stellar lack of work ethic, and continues to believe he is the shit, he won't be finding his way back to the NHL any time soon. GM's are looking for character guys***, even in the minor leagues, Ray Emery is anything but a character guy.

So, now is the fork in the road, let's see if Rayzor can pull it off. I really, really want to see two things next year though. Firstly - Jagr's highlight reel goal against Emery. Secondly - Emery's brand new mask. Also, how they deal with a flashy, rich black guy in Russia (someone's got to say it).

* Both names linked, as both names link to a different report on Jagr leaving - Mike's near-obituary to Jagr's defection, and Andrew's comparison of Jagr to the great Bobby Hull.
** How's that for a run-on sentence?
*** Note the quote near the end of the story from Buck's GM Terry Ruscowski (yes, that was about as shameless a plug for my own work as I could muster).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A collection of short thoughts on the NHL free agent signings

Everyone's gone stupid.

The Penguins just signed Marc-André Fleury, Ruslan Fedetenko and Miroslav Satan. Here's my take on it, from an email to Journal compadre Mike Woods.

"The Pens are clearly in trouble, these are desperation pickups
Here's my guess though:
Fleury played extremely well last year, took them to the Cup final, they lost Ty, so they splashed excessively. Can anyone say "Ray"?
They lost experience in Roberts so they brought.... Miro Satan. Who shares his name with the Devil. Who hasn't done anything since terrorizing us in 1999 (I think it was '99).
They lost grit in Malone, so they brought in..... Ruslan Fedetenko?"

Really, really dumb moves from the Pens.

Ottawa signed Jarrko Ruutu. I would go on an expletive-filled rant about it, but Mike decided to be civil about it, so you can just read his take, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

Who else got signed for stupid numbers?

Orpik. Hah the Pens. Oh my. Orpik played well last season, sure. But for close to $4M/season? Give me a break!

Dallas signed Sean Avery to 4 year $15.5M. He's not that good. He's offensively gifted, but he's not that good!!

Hagman, CuJo and Finger go to the Leafs. I like Hagman, I really wanted to see him in red and black next season, he's not going to be, which is fine, but this is the worst possible outcome. Other than that, Finger and CuJo? Leafs Nation must be wondering when the retarded signings are going to end. Here's the answer: never, because you're cursed. Hockey Gods hate the Leafs.

Refer, again, to Mike's post about other retardation in the world of free agent signing.

As for Jagr and Sundin, they must be having a grand ol' time jerking around every GM in the NHL with money to spend and a team to improve. If they pull the Neidermeyer & Selanne stunt from last year I'll barf in someone's shoes. I swear. That was so ridiculous. At least they both (mostly) committed to moving on to other teams, so instead of the S&N show, we'll have a repeat of Forsbergmania.

Now, for the one thought that makes this a "collection" rather than a "rant". Marian Hossa going to the Wings is an amazing choice, and shows that the boy has scruples. Rather than doing his regular rental bullshit and whoring himself to the highest bidder (which probably would have landed him in Edmonton... who the hell wants to go to Edmonton anyway?), he chose a team he could succeed with. It makes me thank Jebus for being in the Eastern Conference. My goodness, imagine playing that steamroller of a club 8 times a year. Fuck. Have fun, Nashville!

Update: Jagr has signed with Russian club Avangard Omsk (doesn't that sound like Avant Garde? Might as well be a regional fashion newspaper). Following the money and getting the hell out of Dodge (aka New York) is probably a good idea. They have a plummet a-comin. As CCR said, "I see a bad moon risin'."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What's in a contract?


1. a binding agreement between two or more persons that is enforceable by law

Definition courtesy of

I'm not entirely fond of how meaningless contracts are becoming in sports these days, both from the side of players and management.

We're in an age where ridiculous contracts are thrust upon players after one or two good performances, and expectations rocket in an unfounded manner. Athletes are only human, and they jump on the ridiculous sums of money thrown at them, which sets up a variety of problems.

1. The Christiano Ronaldo Effect
Christiano Ronaldo was a diamond in the rough when Manchester United signed him. There was the potential to be incredibly skilled, but it was lost under the pretty-boy, diving antics of an annoying little bugger. They shaped him into one of the most skilled midfielders in the world, and built a team system where he would have had to make a conscious effort not to succeed. How does he repay this? Real Madrid makes a very public campaign to sign him from Man U while still under contract, and instead of publicly denying them, or at least showing a little class and loyalty to the team that made him a star, he went out of his way to jerk United around. What a douche. In reality, he's good, but he's not incredible. Like I said, Manchester United have built a system in which it's impossible for him not to succeed, but he requires that team system to show his class. Note, the difference in his play in the last Premiership campaign compared to his Euro performance.

While he was a smart signing by United, Real Madrid are looking to reap rewards, and it would be the decent thing for Ronaldo to play out his contract length at Old Trafford, then see where the future takes him. But he agreed to stay with United for the period of time, and should honour that agreement, regardless of current form.

2. The Andrei Arshavin Effect
I'm happy Arshavin sucked so hard in the semi-final against Spain, because it seemed to calm everyone down. Thing is, he's good, but he's not amazing. And yet you had every owner and manager out there shitting themselves and upping his price, while not really having any clue who he was or what he was all about.

What may have unfortunately happened, is what Chelsea did with Andrei Shevchenko. Take a player who's fantastic under certain conditions, thrust him into a brand new situation with a retarded amount of money, only to find out he can't operate in the new manner. When a player is handed such a huge contract based on a very limited scope of their play, it's incredibly dangerous, because it sets them up for a huge fall. They wind up being the huge waste of money and talent, rotting away at some big-name club who can't move them because their name has lost so much of its oomph.

3. The Ray Emery Effect
This is a follow-up to the Arshavin Effect, what happens when that big player loses their class. In the NHL, you can choose not to honour the contract you mistakenly signed with a player by doing something called a "buy-out". My understanding of it is that, once you decide you don't want a player, you can effectively make them a free agent by paying off 1/3 or 2/3 (depending on age) of their remaining salary, over the time remaining in their contract, and you effectively wash your hands of that player. Which is absolutely ridiculous.

You signed them. You're the retard. Get on with it.

Essentially, this post comes at the tail end of a major football international tournament and the beginning of the free-agent signing season, which is when the Gods of sport have decided that all ridiculous contracts must be handed out.

Players are picking up obscene (typically undeserved) amounts of money to go from place-to-place, and fans are left watching and wondering what the hell is happening.

Liverpool has decided to go after Spurs' striker Robbie Keane, who still has 4 years remaining on his contract. And yet the BBC headline is: Liverpool face battle for Keane. How the fuck are you facing battle for a player who is contractually obliged to stay put? It's not a battle, it's asking nicely if you can maybe pay an inordinate sum to have the rights to the player. And if you're told no, you wait until the contract is up. They're doing the same shit with Gareth Barry at Villa, who still has two years left on his contract there.

There is no honour left in sports. Well, most would argue there was none to begin with. But a player like Gareth Barry, who came through the Villa youth ranks, and now captains the side, to be pissing about with them, is plain shameful. Absolutely disgraceful behaviour. But hell, he only signed a contract, so there's nothing really holding him back, is there?