Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
Upon reading Neil Patrick Harris' bio, two things jumped out at me:
- He took the role of Emcee in the Broadway production of Cabaret, one of his many musical theater performances
- He had several guest appearances on Will & Grace.
Hmm. Pretty much all that was left was for him to list Judy Garland as a primary influence.
So, when Doogie officially came out this week, I was ready for the blow. I mean...you know what I mean!
Anyway, apparently one of the biggest reasons this story came to the fore was due to a blurb about his boyfriend getting a part on HIMYM only because he was dating Harris. I know, it's outrageous to think that someone would get a part in showbusiness because they knew someone. I wonder if this is the first time that has ever happened?
I doubt this will do anything to affect the show's viewership. It's not like it was family friendly programming anyway. Harris does a great job with his character, too, much like the straight guys playing gay on Will and Grace. Maybe it's just easier to play the other side because you know exactly where to go for the easy jokes?
I am a fan of the show...it kind of fills that Friends void I had with my buddies where you decide which character you are (an activity women participate in much more than men because every female ensemble is just like their group of friends). Luckily, I was not Barney (I am Ted. Duh.), because now the jokes are just way too easy on the guy that we decided IS Barney...more or less.
Friday, October 27, 2006
While the rest of my friends sit, transfixed, at the broadcast of The World's Largest...uh...Juice and Cookies...Party on Saturday, I'll be enjoying my own border war. A game that has not disappointed, Appalachian State vs. Furman.
It's hard to describe your passion for I-AA football to your typical College Football drone, but I promise if they made one trip to Kidd Brewer Stadium for this game, they would understand. To condense it, here's the App State Press Release on the recent history.
The biggest reason I wanted to mention this game, is I could post this video. Ever see a sports moment on TV that you wish you could have seen in person? I don't have many, but this is one of them. Just to set the stage, the TD Furman scores on this clip gives them a 15-14 lead with 7 seconds left to play. Hoping to go up by a field goal, Furman Coach Bobby Lamb opts for the two-point conversion. What ensued was one of the most improbable endings to a football game I had ever witnessed:
One of my fellow Mountaineers was kind enough to preserve some other clips of the play (including the Fox Sports call, and Chris Berman's Top 10 Plays) here. Look under 2002.
Alas, I haven't seen these teams play in person since 1998. Primarily because it's always on TV, and also because I try to spread my trips to Boone out so my majestic Hunter Green Blazer does not turn on me by spontaneously combusting on I-85.
Here's hoping to another great game, and a 23rd consecutive home win for the Mountaineers.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
This allowed the Buffaloes to share the National Crown with an undefeated Georgia Tech squad that had demolished Nebraska (the 2nd place team in the Big 8) 45-21 in The Citrus Bowl earlier that day. Not to mention the fact that I haven't heard of a modern team before, or since, winning a National Title with a loss and a tie (obviously not possible anymore) to their name.
Since then, The Big 12 has had a team win a share of the National Title by campaigning to the media (Nebraska '97), and two teams play for the title without even winning their conference crown - '01 Nebraska and '03 Oklahoma. Shocking to no one, neither won the BCS Title Game.
That's why when I happen to come across an article decrying the lack of respect given the conference by the recent BCS Poll, I do something I rarely do - fire off a terse response to the writer:
I'll let you know if I hear back from the guy. It's doubtful, though. As good of an argument as I feel I made, I wouldn't be surprised if his ill-conceived piece received numerous missives like mine.
Date: Oct 16, 2006 11:47 AM
Subject: Let's Review The "Big" 12...
The Big 3, Little 9's Last 4 Trips to the National Title Game: 1 Win and 3 Bad Losses. You're right, Big 3, Little 9 (Henceforth, "B3L9") teams can score...against other B3L9 teams. Arguably the two biggest out-of-conference games of the year netted the two likely participants in the B3L9 Title Game (Their elite?) a grand total of 17 points. (USC-Nebraska, Texas-Ohio State)
That's how the B3L9 measures up to the top BCS teams. 2 TD's Better than Notre Dame? Maybe...but you're talking about a team that had to scrape and claw to beat woeful Michigan State. They will be exposed again.
You can complain all you want about Auburn, but the fact remains that they have beaten LSU and Florida without much offense. That is much more impressive than hanging 63 on Baylor...who scored fewer points against Army. They got caught looking ahead, and a coach like Houston Nutt will make you pay for that.
Meanwhile, B3L9 Teams like Kansas have to figure out how they lost to a bad MAC team in Toledo, how Texas Tech's mighty offense scored 3 points on a middling TCU team, or how Oklahoma State lost to a Houston team currently on a 3 game losing streak. Yes, the SEC has Mississippi State, but the B3L9 has several teams that inspire about as much confidence in their fan-bases as Starkville's Bulldogs.
Why is that? Well, I personally think it's because the B3L9 is down. You can call it whatever you like. Don't worry, the time will come again where a B3L9 team gets blown out in their final regular season game, keeping them out of the B3L9 Title Game, is dismantled by a lesser team in said Title Game, and still gets to play for the National Championship, or gets to play ahead of a 12-0 SEC team, only to fail to show up for the Orange Bowl. It is because of that history that any B3L9 apologist whining about "their" 1-loss team being excluded makes my skin crawl. They deserved it last year, they don't this time...nor did they in '01, '03, or '04...
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I beat the other contestants in my particular episode, which was my initial goal. ESPN paid for nothing in terms of travel and lodging, so actually coming out of this in the black was a relief. Unfortunately, I was no match for The Schwab and his minions in the Schwab Showdown, and was thus denied the opportunity to continue on my quest.
I have to thank my friend Colleen, by the way, for allowing me to sleep on her couch for 3 nights. Not only did I get my first exposure to Harlem, but I saved who knows how much on Hotel fees.
As for my "big day", it was quite long. We had to be at the Lower Manhattan studio at 10 am to get ready for this show. In their desire to get this show "in the can" as expeditiously as possible, they were doing 3 episodes this day. We had been assigned our fellow competitors, but then the shows Lawyer-type made is draw lottery balls out of a hat to determine which time-slot we had. Naturally, I ended up on the final show of the day, scheduled to begin shootin around 5 in the afternoon.
No problem, right? I'll just watch the other episodes being shot. Wrong. Fearing that we might be able to divine what categories would be presented to us by watching these prior tapings, we were sequestered in the "Green Room" with some VHS tapes of late 90's cinema. I use the term "Green Room" loosely...it was more like 2 couches, a 13" TV, and small window. I guess "Minimum-Security Prison Cell" would be more accurate.
Nonetheless, I finally got around to seeing Swingers, all the way through, for the first time. Sad that it's taken this many Jon Favreau-pounds-gained for me to just now see his finest work. After several hours of waiting, not being allowed to study my copious notes, and a showing of L.A. Confidential (great movie), they were ready to send us into the Belly of the Beast.
I hoped to get a chance to exchange pleasantries with Schwab, and even Stuart Scott (maybe even find out he isn't the jock-sniffing poseur that he portrays on TV), but that didn't happen. This really just seemed like a thing both of them wanted to get over with so they could go home. I can't say I was too surprised.
In my college days, I was a TV intern, and worked around many personalities who seemed to take their job for granted - even though there were thousands of viewers, and small-market broadcasters, who would take their place in a nanosecond. Eventually, I guess it all just becomes work, regardless of what you do.
Finally on set, we get the show rolling. I had a notebook with about 150 pages of potential categories, so I felt very prepared. Then, we get the first category in "Leading Off" from Stu:
"Name the 16 players who had 10 or more sacks in the NFL last season."
Well, there's a category I wasn't expecting. I'm first, too, so I go for the most obvious answer...
Me: Michael Strahan
That's great. Still blanking on who to go with next. Why didn't I think of this one? The guy next to me misses, then Schwab and the big dude from Chicago name guys I wouldn't have thought of. Sweet...my turn again. I feel so lame going for names even a casual football fan would think of...
Me: Simeon Rice
Shwew...that's already two more than the guy next to me. I end up being the last contestant left, and I'm looking to go obscure (i.e. a Falcon). I can't remember who had more sacks though...Patrick Kerney or Rod Coleman.
Kerney, Coleman, Kerney, Coleman, Kerney, Coleman...
Me (aloud): Patrick Kerney
Great, I can't even remember stuff from my favorite pro team, I'm screwed!
Miraculously, that turns out not to be the case as I scoot through to the next round, take out my reaming competition, and move on to the Showdown. Once there, I get the distinct pleasure of mentioning my Alma Mater on the air.
The Question: "What 3 time ACC Coach of the Year came out of retirement in 2006 to take the head coaching job at College Of Charleston?"
My Answer: "Former Appalachian State Head Coach Bobby Cremins."
In your face, Georgia Tech! Although, I did enjoy Lethal Weapon 3's run to the Final Four back in '90. So, thanks for that.
Really, the first two questions in the Showdown couldn't have gone any better for me. The first question was from the category involving Baseball Mascots, and I honestly had the thought "I wonder if they'll ask one about the former Montreal Expos' mascot, Youppi!?". Sure enough, he/it was the answer to the first question.
After that, though, I don't think it could have gone any worse. I blanked the rest of the way, and got a few strange looks from the Schwab when I missed. I wanted to smack the look off his face, just to take him back to High School for a moment, but thought better of it. Besides, how many 28 year-olds do you know can even remember that Wendell Tyler played for the Rams (or who he was), even if it's the wrong answer?
I went pretty meekly. Along the way, though, I learned a few things:
A) I'm too racey for ESPN Classic. Early on in the show, Stu asked me about a particular streaking incident I was party to in college. I completely blanked that I had written that on my application, in a shameless attempt to get on the show. I guess my description of how I protected my...uh... future children (upon taking a nasty fall during the incident) was a little too vivid. Thus, it was edited out.
B) The editors ostensibly also thought I was a Red State xenophobe. The 2nd category in Round 1 was "Name the Final 16 Teams in this year's World Cup". We killed the category...and when I gave my final answer, it involved the States' arch-rival in soccer. My actual reply was "As much as it pains me to say it - Mexico." What made the air was me saying "Mexico". Me saying what I said is basically like a Michigan fan being forced to answer about who won the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
Apparently, though, the post-production folks were worried that a Mexican-American viewer might be offended...the largest group in this country that is acutely aware of the aforementioned rivalry. Between this and the Streaking story, they succeeded in editing much of my personality out of the show. Kind of ironic, since ESPN has a track-record of including too much personality in their other shows. Boo yah!
C) The Schwab may know alot, but he appears scared of College Football. Considering his Yankee upbringing, it's no shock. I think I'd avoid Hockey like the plague if the tables were turned. I still find it interesting - considering that one of the producers confessed to us that the writers for the show are running out of categories for the "Leading Off" round. It's a subject that certainly would have helped me alot.
So, I come back to Atlanta $1,000 richer (Less the cost of airfare and food. Thanks, ESPN!), and secure in the knowledge that I don't know as much about Sports Trivia as The Schwab. I'm actually glad that I don't. I'd have to think it might affect my social life just a smidge if I did. As one of my female friends put it - "I know how to Stump The Schwab...ask him how to pick up chicks!"
Of course, his wife might have something to say about that.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Inspired by my attendance at the SEC West slugfest between Auburn and LSU (the football equivalent of a 1-nil victory), I will effort to explain the various European leagues to you by offering up their corresponding College Football conference. I hope I can continue my efforts to bridge the gap between these two, seemingly disparate, cultures.
Coincidentally - last weekend, Manchester United and Arsenal slogged through a 1-0 decision in a rivalry that is very similar to the one I was witness to. Neither involves a common border. Rather, they were borne out of the fight for league supremacy, and neither fan base has a fondness for the other.
Now, regarding the subject of acquainting these distant cousins.
In European leagues there are several elite teams battling not only for their particular country's League crown, but for the Champions' League title. Meanwhile, smaller clubs would be ecstatic to somehow win the league once a quarter-century, or maybe get a berth in the UEFA Cup.
This, of course, is much the same way a team like LSU considers a season out of the BCS picture a failure, while Kentucky would tear down their goalposts after making the Liberty Bowl.
Much like I-A football having the Big 6 Conferences, European soccer has the Big 4 leagues. Obviously, the numbers don't match, so we'll get a little creative.
The Pac 10: The German Bundesliga - A league that currently houses only one truly top-notch team, Bayern Munich. Leaguewide, there are several serviceable sides that somehow manage to remain pretenders to the throne. Bayern attracts some of the best players from across the continent, while the other teams always seem to get smoked when facing non-German opposition. It's a league that has gradually lost the ability to turn out quality defenses (much like the death of The Desert Swarm), and, if not for Bayern, might be in danger of falling out of The Big 4.
Also, The Pac-10 houses most of its teams in California, and the Bundesliga covers a unified Germany. Thus, both collectives feature fans who think Communism might actually work if just given another chance.
The Big 12: Italian Serie A - Several very solid organizations at the top of the league, and some shockingly bad teams at the bottom. Serie A embodies the economic gap between affluent Northern Italy and relatively barren Southern Italy much like The Big 12 embodies the difference between the booming population of the Southwest and the static, primarily rural, population of the Great Plains. The league has worked for years to shed images of a largely defensive mentality paired with vanilla offenses.
Much like the formerly seperate Big 8 and SWC of the 1980's, Serie A has recently had to deal with two of it's more powerful clubs, AC Milan and Juventus, being caught in a scandal of the highest order. Juventus played the unfortunate role of SMU in this case, being relegated to the lower divisions of Italian soccer - likely for many years to come. AC Milan is hoping to return to prominence a little...uh..."sooner" than that.
This development has allowed one of the other glamour clubs, Inter Milan, to re-ascend to the top of the league after a relatively dormant period - unlike Texas, it wasn't because they foolishly hired John Mackovic as their Head Coach.
The ACC: French Ligue 1 (Leeg Uh! if you are looking for the correct pronunciation) - Constantly clamoring that they should be included in the discussion of the top leagues, while being pretty much dominated by the same team every year. Before the arrival of Virginia Tech and Miami - Florida State controlled the ACC Title like Olympique Lyon currently controls Le Championnat.
When criticized about their qualifications for inclusion in European's Soccer Elect, will respond in a similar fashion to ACC fans by touting their superior culture and education over neighboring barbarians. Ultimately, these sour grapes are derived from their inability to convert similar resources into the results of their neighbors...
The SEC: La Liga - Spain's top division. Despite grumblings from some pastily complected folks that live north of there, widely considered the toughest league on the continent. Full of teams who have seen success domestically and continentally, as well as a slew of provincial and cross-regional rivalries. Through excessive government control, and shady backroom deals, Alaba...I mean...Real Madrid were able to dominate the league for many years.
With corruption and subversion now less prominent in the region - Real's primary rival - along with 2 or 3 other large clubs appear poised to do battle for supremacy in the coming years. Despite this, Real's fans will still try and convince you that they are the flagship club of La Liga.
Also, as in the SEC, you do not want to commit the egregious era of mistaking one Spanish dialect for another. The consequences could be dire!
Of course, there is another league that often clamors of the title Best of the Best, even though it's teams have a reputation for coming up just short during European competitions...
The Big 10: English Premier League - The oldest of the big European leagues, and despite having teams set in some sparsely populated areas, constantly one of the best attended. A league that, until recently, was dominated by the team with the largest stadium in the country. That is, until a mad genius arrived from a second tier league, and took over a club in one of the largest population centers. Using seemingly endless resources, he finally backed up that teams claim that it is a force to be reckoned with on the continent. Interestingly enough, Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Chelsea's Jose Mourinho even bear a passing resemblance.
Their footprints are both identified as places where ideal versions of the English Language are spoken. Yet, England and Big 10 Country (By virtue of running from Pennsylvania to the Dakotas) have mangled their native tongue into numerous semi-indecipherale vernaculars.
Our next subject is a rogueish monolith that is always trying to butt in on the party. Charting its own course - even though it occupies an overlapping swath of land to the EPL...
Notre Dame: The Old Firm - Scotland's flagship clubs, Celtic and Rangers. They are pretty much an anachronism in the modern soccer scene, despite what their supporters (and a handful of media members) claim. Always purporting to be part of Europe's Ruling Class, until they fall meekly to a team from one of the power leagues. Haven't won anything significant in a really long time.
Inextricably linked with a particular Christian Sect, despite the fact that most of their players likely don't subscribe to those beliefs. If not for years of tradition and rabid fans, their status on the periphery of the main leagues would probably have put them in the same position as...
Army/Navy: The Scottish Premier League - Really just scheduling fodder for The Old Firm. Every once and a while they'll make someone sweat, but never really seem capable of a big breakthrough season. Their best days ended a long time ago, and a UEFA Cup berth is usually a sufficient outcome for their respective fanbases.
Still, they aren't that far behind a league that claims to be part of the elite, but is usually met with raised eyebrows and chuckles...
The Big East: The Dutch Eredivisie - Home to 3 decent teams - Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, and Ajax. As in The Big East, most fans outside its borders couldn't name the rest of the league if you put a gun to their head. Nonetheless, very few around Europe would want to face those Top 3 in a winner-take-all scenario.
It all makes sense, now, doesn't it?
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Petros Onen, 49, had held up 11 small suburban bank branches making away with 50,000 euros ($63,590) in recent months, threatening to throw his razor-sharp, palm-size stars -- made famous by the Japanese ninja warriors -- at cashiers, police said.
You'll remember that, in April of this year, UGA Student Jeremiah Ransom forever linked the words "Athens" and "Ninja" when he was accosted by some serendipitously placed ATF agents.
Fortunately, this time the authorities in Greece arrested someone actually attempting to abuse Real, Ultimate Power.
Nonetheless, it's nice to see a little friendly competitions among the Athens. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm on my way to Ohio University for Nunchuk convention.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
"Orange County, CA band, Supernova, have won their fight against CBS show, Rock Star: Supernova, as San Diego Judge John Houston ruled Tuesday (Sept. 12) that the company will have to rename the band formed from their reality show..."
Yeah, it doesn't take much to make my day.
Wow. You mean the replacement bassist for Metallica, the replacement guitarist for Guns N' Roses, and the uh...replacement hose for Bret Michaels couldn't come up with an original name for a prefabricated band? Shocking.
Just to illustrate the density of the folks making creative decisions for this "supergroup" - the original Supernova has been around since 1989, been on the line-up for 2 Warped Tours, and was under contract to Atlantic Records. In other words, not exactly four buddies playing high school proms.
My college roommate (who I'm sure will be pissed that this is the first time I mention him on here) has been imploring me to watch this show. Discovering this story just reinforces my decision to avoid it.
Nevermind the fact that I'm not a huge fan of any of the bands these dudes previously schlepped for, but I just can't bring myself to watch an hour of what amounts to High-Stakes Karaoke. American Idol for Straight Men and Lesbians, if you will.
To that end - when you strip away the stage show, it's really just karaoke without the alcohol-laden kitschiness. None of these contestants are ever going to sing "Build Me Up, Buttercup" or "Afternoon Delight" are they? Didn't think so. What fun is that?
Even more depressing, some of the show's viewers will have the poor fortune to actually pay money to see Super...uh...whatever their name will be...tour. These are likely the same people who perpetuate the rampancy of cover bands across our fair nation.
I know people who get uber-excited about going to see less talented people play more talented people's music, and gleefully shell out $5 - $10 to do so. Unless I'm seeing a musician that might someday come out with an album of their own music, I am pretty reluctant to pay a cover. I avoid them like the plague anyway.
It's part of living in the city, I guess. Let me get this straight - I'll pay 5 bucks to get into your bar, and I still have to pay 4 dollars a pop for a beer? Really, you're too kind.
Sadly, I'm in the minority. I do have to say, though, that it's a good way to weed out potential dates. If your sole reason for being out is so you can see this "totally awesome 80's cover band", you're probably not someone I'm going to connect with. Thanks for gathering en masse. Your attendance is duly noted.
The cruel irony in all of this has to do with where I'm going tonight - off to eliminate another ten score single women from my dating pool. Damn you, pop culture!
Oh, and my suggestion for a new band name? Easy...they should be called Armada!
Friday, September 01, 2006
It's finally here. When I was a child, my favorite time of the year was obviously Summer. As an adult, though, Summer might as well just be called Spring, part 2. I still have to work, but then I have to take extra care that my non-existant pigment isn't exposed to those harmful UV rays.
To put it mildly, other than the reduced traffic on my way to work - Summer is your hot ex-girlfriend from high school, who looks even better now. Meanwhile, you look like...well...you, and you can't have her anymore.
That's why I welcome the early rustlings of Fall. For a child of the South, Autumn kicked off Thursday night, no pun intended, with the first games of the College Football season.
I'll have to say, last year will be hard to top for me. 2005 was the greatest football season of my life. I really only have 2 others that merit mentioning:
1990: My first season of really paying attention to the college game. Georgia Tech, led by the nasally commands of Bobby Ross, goes 11-0-1 to win a share of the National Championship with Colorado. The only blemish on Tech's record was a 13-13 tie at the hands of Mack Brown's North Carolina Tar Heels. Incidentally, it was the last time one of his team's showed up for a game against a highly ranked opponent before last season.
1998: My NFL entry. I've been a Falcons fan since I knew what football was. The only two players I knew when I was a toddler were Terry Bradshaw and Steve Barsss-kowski (Bartkowski in kidspeak). So, it stands to reason that the Falcons only trip to the Super Bowl is in here. The 1998 NFC Championship Game doesn't get the credit it deserves as being one of the best ever. The 14-2 Falcons upsetting the media darling 15-1 Vikings. I got to watch the game with my entire family, and I will never forget that feeling when I realized Jamal Anderson tore his ACL next year. Of course, Eugene Robinson celebrated in a much different way than I would have, and the Dirty Birds went meekly to John Elway and his Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
Both these seasons occupy a space on my Hot-Button List. That's the list my friends know they can go to if they want to see Angry Eric. The reasons being - there is no way a 10-1-1 Colorado team (including their infamous 5-Down victory over Missouri, and another Ref-Aided win over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl) deserved any part of the National Title. Because of the asinine system that did (and still does) exist in Division I-A, the two best teams in the country couldn't settle it on the field that year. In that same year, 12-year-old Eric becomes a proponent of College Football Playoffs. The Falcons season is there because folks like to claim they were a fluke. Not true...the truth is they didn't provide for the likelihood of Jamal Anderson getting injured. Dan Reeves made the same mistake a few years later with Appalachian State wins the I-AA National Title. That's right, I-AA. I would guess that this might be one of the few blogs that has ever covered both professional soccer and I-AA football in the same year
I'm sure you're loading up your tired small college jokes for the comments section, and that's fine. I'm guessing you probably root for a school that you didn't even graduate from, or an Alma Mater that provides you with some sporting metaphor of acceptance because you can sit in a stadium with 70k + on a Saturday and all pull for the same team.
Okay, maybe this goes on the Hot Button list, too. I look at it this way, I'm not going to ever detract from a 2A High School for winning its State Title because they aren't 5A. They were presented with a similar set of perameters, and provided competition with schools under those same qualifications, and proved to be the best. That's something to be proud of. Add to that, it's the school that provided me with my degree, and there you have it.
Back to my original point, it was a fun ride. Thers is no substitute for playoff football. Former I-A Head Coach Bill Curry said as much while covering the Appalachian State-Furman Semi-Final last year. The fact that the teams know that they are done if they lose exponentially increases the intensity of said match-up. You can argue that a 1 loss team in I-A might behave in similar fashion because, as the BS line goes "The whole season counts." The lack of immediacy, and the I-A Pacifier (i.e. a Bowl Game, of which there are 34) often seems to mitigate that effect.
I hate it, too...it's the biggest problem I have with College Football. Maybe it's the fact that I was weened on the NFL, or maybe it's just the fact that I am not functionally retarded, but Bowls generally suck. In this way, I guess I look at the College Game as that girl I love, but who I know will never change their foolish ways. Still, I keep coming back, hoping they will finally see the error of their ways.
Ah well, here's to another fun season.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
As a blogger, you get inspiration from all manner of resources; whether it be discussions with your buddies, TV shows, or other blogs. Well, my whole McCann as Wingman analogy evolved, in large part, from this picture (that once appeared) on their blog:
Yep, that's our hero...WingMcCann. As I described it to one of the ladies at On The DL - he's the well meaning, kind of chubby dude, who...while not a lady killer like his buddy Jeff...still deserves to be loved. I'm sure some of us can relate.
I pointed out, though, that this picture made me more of a McCann fan because it humanized him. Who, at 22, didn't have a picture like this of themselves or a good buddy?
The site is full of similar themed photos and plenty of juicy gossip, flowing in from all across MLB Nation. You get to see that baseball players are really just like us...with millions of dollars, weird sex fetishes, the ability to meet women just because they are athletes, and free shoes.
Well, they like to drink like us, at least.
It's now a denizen of my "Other Window" links, and my fantasies - that all the ladies writing said blog are devastatingly gorgeous, and way out of my league. But maybe...just maybe...someday...
They'll ask to be introduced to my more attractive friend.
(Sigh) A guy can dream, can't he?
Update: They linked me! They really linked me!!
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Some folks may see that as an insult, but not me. In the Young Man's World, there isn't a guy more revered than the Wingman. He rarely gets noticed by casual observers, but is devastatingly effective in ensuring the success of the mission. Even if it means taking a lesser wom...er...role. He brings the Most Valuable to The Player, if you will. In this Wingman's case, he probably IS the Braves MVP.
After yet another 2-3 night on Tuesday, Spanky is living up to his Masher-imposed nickname by hitting a cool .352 for the season. If not for an extended injury layoff back in May and June, he would be over 10 points ahead of his nearest competitor for the NL Batting Title. On top of that, he would present us with an unprecedented possibility - pure Catchers sweeping the 2006 National and American League Batting Crowns (joining Joe Mauer of the Twins). Only two true catchers have ever won a batting title, incidentally, the last being Ernie Lombardi of the 1942 Boston Braves. Of course, we can't forget Reds great Bubbles Hargrave winning in 1926 can we?! You bet we can.
Thanks, however, to McCann's aforementioned ankle injury (which I discussed when it occurred); McCann may not get that chance.
For the uninitiated, to qualify for a Batting Title, you have to average at least 3.1 plate appearances a, or 502 over a 162 game schedule. McCann currently sits at 2.9 (318 total), and thus needs to average a very un-catcher-playing-for-Bobby Cox-like 3.6 PA's a game over the last 51 games of this season. Sadly, the only way he may be able to get there is by the Braves falling so far out of the Wild Card race, that Cox throws caution to the wind and lets the kid play every day.
Despite that, you can't discount what he brings to the Braves. While Francoeur gets TV commercials, SI covers, and numerous cheering sections; McCann makes All-Star teams, and chases batting crowns. While Francoeur will someday surely perch atop hitting stats charts, and make All-Star rosters; McCann has already brought those accolades, along with a mature and consistent approach to the Braves locker room - one that is rarely seen in players his age. All of this, while his roommate essentially gives him the baseball version of a cock block.
Nonetheless, like a good Wingman should, he'll quietly and effectively do his job. Whether it's catching the latest journeyman they bring up to fill in for yet another injured starter, or resisting the urge to secretly re-inflict Chris Reitsma with ulnar neuritis, he'll take one for the team - so his buddy can live the dream. Wingmaaaaaayyaaaaannnn...
Editor's Note: Supposedly, there's a rule out there that would allow Spanky to win the batting title, even if he doesn't meet the minimum number of PA's. It essentially states that they count the remaining appearances to 502 as outs, and if he still has a higher batting average than the league leader, he would win the batting title. If anyone can confirm that this is actually the rule, let me know. Either way, there would have to be a massive gap between he and the leader for this to come into play.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Well, time for speculation on my Game Show worthiness is quickly drawing to a close. This week, I am flying to New York City to be a contestant on the ESPN Show, Stump The Schwab. If you haven't seen it, the show pits 3 contestants against ESPN's long-time Head Researcher, Howie Schwab. I enjoy watching the show, and have often felt I would do well on it. I've at least been proved partially correct by passing the audition.
No pressure, of course. After all, I haven't named my blog after a trivia game or anything. Depending on what transpires up there, I may have to start calling this place Chutes and Ladders. Let's hope I can keep the name I currently have.
The amount of information I have tried to take in over the last few weeks has been staggering. I think if I had studied this hard in college, I might actually have a job where I don't have time to write in my blog during the middle of work. Nonetheless, this is finally an opportunity to put to use all those years of seasoning on my high school's Quiz Bowl Team, and all those nights out at bars coming up with clever team names like "Cynthia McKinney, Ultimate Fighting Champion", while furiously scribbling answers on little notepads - all for the glory of free burritos/beer/pizza/Hooters wings.
Since this is only a taping, I'll keep you in suspense until the show actually airs. My plan is to do what I guess you could call a "tape-delayed blog" later on.
It won't be easy, though. To put it lightly, The Schwab knows his stuff. How well does he know it? Well, I decided to e-mail Jeopardy! Legend Ken Jennings to see if he had any advice, this is what he wrote:
I wish I could be more help, but man, the Schwab is pretty good. I'm no
sports trivia expert, so I couldn't begin to tell you what the right
books are to study, but when I watch that show, I'm pretty impressed
with that guy. Good luck.
Well, at least I can endeavor to lay waste to my fellow contestants, before being humbled by a bigger bastion of useless information than I. As long as my Game Show experience doesn't turn out like this, I think I'll be okay.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Surely, it is an achievement to be marvelled. The ability to incite the infallible, reasoned men who act as baseball's on-field arbiters is nothing short of art. To do it over 120 times is something few can hope to accomplish in their lifetimes.
Sadly, though, some feel Cox's pursuit of McGraw's ghost is tainted by the modern game. Witness, if you will, the thoughts of one of my fellow Braves fans...relayed via e-mail this afternoon:
It's just not the same as in the old days. I mean, nowadays there's all that watered down umping going on. Plus, with all the vitamins and extra fiber that old people are getting...I saw a picture of Bobby from his rookie year, and he looks nothing like it. I mean he didn't fill out that Yankees uniform at all, but he looks huge in the Braves one. Can we say juicing?
I really want to disagree, I want to scream that I am not looking at the world through Braves colored glasses. The damning evidence, though, is plain when presented in photographs:
Bobby Cox with the Yankees, circa 1967
Here, we see the young, spry Cox as he starts off his Major League journey. Free of Ejections, and yet unknowingly poised to make his mark on the record books.
Now, we take a look at the man who is primed to be tossed more times than Tom Cruise in Key West:
Bobby Cox Today
As for me, I'm taking Bobby's side. We've become so cynical as baseball fans, that we refuse to believe that a manager can get the gate solely on dogged determination, and a single-minded focus on his craft. After all, this is a man Ozzie Guillen lists as a major influence in his managerial career.
He has never tested positive for these alleged "performance enhancers", and has there is nothing tangible to prove he would test otherwise. For now I say, don't let the naysayers get you down, Bobby - go get your record! This fan just hopes he's able to break it at home.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I need to take a quick break from dousing myself in World Cup hysteria to engage in a pet cause of mine - maligned Atlanta Hawks' GM Billy Knight.
Eschewing all clever puns - I need to get down to business here. I know years of mediocrity, followed by years of losing, has caused many a slumbering Atlanta Hawks fans to froth at the mouth, and apparently fancy themselves the Basketball Schuerholz.
You see, they all claim they would have drafted Chris Paul, even though most NBA experts tabbed Marvin Williams was the 2nd best player in the draft. They also would have held on to Boris Diaw (ignoring the fact that he's presently the product of playing on a supremely talented team) scuttleing the trade for the only legit NBA star on the Hawks 2006 roster. Remember - winning Slam Dunk competitions doesn't make you a star, right Kenny Walker?
After reading the morning-after analysis of the Hawks' draft in the comments section Sekou Smith's blog on AJC.com this morning, I'm convinced Hawks fans would give your average Ole Miss fan a run for their money in the I.Q. department.
Sekou does a great job covering the Hawks, there is no doubt about that, but the folks who choose to comment on his on-line blog have clearly spent too much time buying crack around Philips Arena, and less time actually watching the basketball team that calls it home.
In case you didn't know, the Hawks are apparently only a rookie-Point-Guard-in-a-decidedly-weak-draft away from making the NBA playoffs, and Shelden Williams is the same player as the Joshes and Marvin.
Mind you, The Landlord probably outweighs Marvin and Childress combined, is built like an NFL Tight End, and relishes his role playing post defense. That is somehwere the Hawks were constantly outmanned all of last year, and one of the biggest reasons they were 20th in the leaugue in rebounding, and 26th in team defense. Of course, most of these Fire Billy zealots don't even have enough synapses pulsing to realize that those 3 current Hawks are more suited for the 2-3 positions, while Shelden fits snugly in the Power Forward role. In this era of few true NBA centers, his large frame also should allow him to be the 5 during certain periods of play. Considering the lack of depth behind Zaza, this is something that cannot be discounted.
Don't let that stop the hate, though. These "fans" are all convinced that Randy Foye and Brandon Roy were all we needed in Atlanta, because ESPN's Insiders (never known for overstating things) called Foye the player in the draft "most like Dwayne Wade". Yeah, well I'm the guy on my Trivia team most like Ken Jennings, but don't expect me to rule Jeopardy(!) anytime soon.
To pile on - the AJC's Mark Bradley, who has developed an increasing propesnity to annoy me, criticized the Hawks in his column today. His complaint? The Hawks didn't listen to the fans who wanted to draft Dee Brown with their 2nd Round pick. I didn't think someone could one-up the feeble thoughts of the commenters, but here's someone who thinks those same vacuous souls should have a hand in populating the roster. It's bad enough to have the national media constantly taking their tired, cliched, pot-shots at the Hawks leadership, but to have the local media be so equally clueless is infuriating.
Now, more than ever, I want the Hawks to do well. I've gone on record as being excited about where this team is going. With all these insufferable morons wasting the local bandwidth with their fool-proof solutions on how to fix the team, I really want Knight to be able to shove it back in their face come April of 2007. The best thing about him, though, is that I know he won't.
Friday, June 23, 2006
The final nail in the Good Ship Tread Upon's coffin was, of course, shoddy officiating. Believe it or not, I can't quibble too much with Jorge Larrionda, the official from the Italy match. His red card on Pablo Mastroeni was not as rash as some may think. I've watched enough international matches to know that lunging into an opposing player with the bottom of both your cleats exposed can, and will, lead to a red card. It was not a wise play by Mastroeni.
It's also probably not one he makes if he is exposed to pressure cooker situations more often, as opposed to playing in front of lukewarm support at cavernous Invesco Field every other week. The Eddie Pope sending off was also not as dubious either since Pope was aware of the fact that he already had one yellow card, and thus should not attempt to tackle anyone from behind. He did not appear up to snuff at this World Cup anyway, so the wisest decision would have likely been for Bruce Arena to take him off at the half for Jimmy Conrad...who played much better than Pope in his 1 1/2 matches. He also keeps an amusing journal on Soccernet, which I linked to him.
Ironically, my biggest issues are with the decisions of the 2-time FIFA World Referee of the Year, Marcus Merk, who essentially gift wrapped both Ghanaian goals in the US' swan song. While Haminu Draman's disposessing of Claudio Reyna in the brief lead-up to his opening goal may not have been a foul in other games, it was by the standards Merk had applied earlier in the match - and would later. Those same hyper-sensitive standards (which were absent in Draman's reverse dead-legging of Reyna) conveniently reappeared when Razak Pimpong took a dive in the American penalty box - leading to the subsequent, damning, Ghana penalty kick. The only way Merk could have enraged me more, is if he adopted this style of officiating:
Okay, that actually might have made it easier to take, because that's pretty damn funny. Obviously, being down 2 questionable goals to your 1 legitimate tally, is a hard pill to swallow. That alone, however, cannot be blamed for this forgettable 3 game stretch.
In my preview, I predicted the US would find a way out of this group before capitulating to Brazil. I can't say I really believed that. Ever the optimist, though, I had to say it in hopes that it would come true. In all honesty, I never really felt that good about this team. There were just too many holes, and the promising players from '02 who should have been much better by now, really weren't. I'm speaking primarily of Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. While Beasley initially appeared to have benefitted greatly from his move to PSV Eindhoven, he seemed to regress this year under the weight of heightened expectations.
As for Donovan - this may be picking at low hanging fruit - It's so frustrating to watch someone who could potentially be a star in a World Class league be perfectly content to be the big fish in the small pond that is Major League Soccer. He claims to want what is best for soccer in America. I he really meant that, he would sack-up and head to Europe for 4-6 years. The fact that casual fans only quadrenially pay attention to soccer in this country seems lost on him. No amount of winning MLS Cups, or scoring goals domestically, will cause Joe Six Pack to take notice. Helping your team to the World Cup Semi-finals, or beyond, will. There are dozens of teams in Europe's top leagues who could use his services. Time for him to find one.
As for Bruce Arena - I think this should be the last time we see him on the sideline for US Soccer, barring resurfacing after a successful stint in Europe. While he's definitely been valuable in this period of US Soccer, he was a little out of his depth in this World Cup. Despite all the rosy memories of '02, we still were a goal post away from suffering this same fate after failing to show up against Poland. What this team now needs is a proven winner on the international level. Someone who can mesh our propensity to be unselfish, entirely to a fault, with some attacking juice. Who that man is remains a question mark. I'm guessing he'll come from Northern Europe (but not Sweden), and is currently preparing for his next match in Germany.
As was our format from last week (By the way, ESPN still sucks at broadcasting soccer), some individual plaudits from the last 7 Days:
Best Managerial Moves: Spain's Luis Aragones, while unhappy with his team's performance against Saudi Arabia, effectively turned a tenuous game against Tunisia on it's ear by inserting Raul, Cesc Fabregas, and Joaquin very early in the 2nd Half (something Arena could learn to do). 3 goals later, Spain was on their way to the 2nd round.
Interestingly, as it stands right now, they could possibly face South Korea. I'm sure the Spanish would relish the opportunity to avenge their 2002 ouster, which came thanks to the requisite shady World Cup officiating.
Best Forward: It's a tough pick, but we'll go with the current tournament leader, Germany's Miroslav Klose. He seems to score in 2's notching a pair against Costa Rica, and again in Der Nationalen Mannschaft victory over Ecuador. Nonetheless, he seems to show up for Group play, scoring all 5 of his '02 goals in this stage. For Germany to advance into the latter stages of this Cup, he'll need to finally get some braces in the Knock-out Stage.
Best Midfielder:: He's here, he's there, he's every f$#*in' where, Joey Cole!! Joey Cole!!. He seemed destined to waste away on Chelsea's bench behind all the high-priced talent pouring in. Now, he seems indespensable to Club and Country. His opening cracker against Sweden, and his deft chip - leading to Steven Gerrard's goal - propelled England to the top of their group...even if they still can't beat the Swedes.
Best Defender: Okay, my last chance to be a homer in this World Cup. I'm going to be lazy and give it to Oguchi Onyewu. Despite a rough start against the Czechs, Gooch played out of his mind against Italy. He neutralized the scoring machine that is Luca Toni (he was eventually subbed out), and played very well against Ghana, even though he'll most be remembered for being the victim of Marcus Merk's sense of self-importance. If he had another center back of comparable quality back there with him from the beginning, this could have been a very different trip for the Americans.
Forgot to do this one last week, Best Keeper: Gianluigi Buffon - while dealing with his name being soiled in the Italian media, came through with a strong effort against the Czechs. He held off a rasping strike from club teammate Pavel Nedved, and several other Czech attacks, before his fellow Azzuris finally got on the board and clinched their advancement. I give it to him not only for his solid play, but for doing so on a day he could have potentially been indicted in the Italian soccer scandal. It turned out to be a doubly great day for him, as he was spared that ignominy.
By the way, I had meant to give this award last week to Trinidad and Tobago's Shaka Hislop for his stunning display against Sweden. I am sure he was fuming after my snub.
That's all for now, stay tuned for next week's Yank-free addition of ThisssWeeek Innn Soccer!
Friday, June 16, 2006
I couldn't find a picture of ClayMel, so I figured I'd use one of my second favorite component of the World Cup.
As I write this, Argentina is laying waste to Serbia & Montenegro...at the same time!
Sorry, I had to. This is their last World Cup, and they are about to be mathematically eliminated.
The S&M Boys were considered to have one of the best defenses in Europe. Argentina being able to hang 3 on them in the first half (edit: ouch, and 3 more in the 2nd) seems to indicate that we'll see a bloated Maradona rooting on the Albicelestes deep into this tournament.
So, we've reached the end of the first week of the World Cup. Ecuador (of all teams) became the first to advance to the 2nd Round, with half of their team playing professionally for the global juggernaut that is LDU Quito. How 'bout that?!
Because when you think massive soccer clubs, you think Manchester United, Real Madrid, and...okay, not LDU Quito.
Speaking of LD, you quit-o...
Landon Donovan and the US didn't really show up for their first game, in case you haven't heard. I self-imposed a moratorium on blogging about their 3-0 shallacking at the hands of the Czechs, because I didn't really feel the need to pile on a team that had just been kicked off the Hype Train. It also gave other bloggers to beat me to the "trod upon" punchline. Curses!
Certainly, I was disappointed. But, as I said in my Preview, I really do feel that this is the team before "The Team". I hope they can prove me wrong tomorrow by pulling off an upset of Italy.
As for the World Cup in general - three things have become apparent to me in this first week:
A) ESPN does not know how to broadcast soccer - From weak broadcast crews, to overly busy graphics, they make it a painful experience. Soccer is a game where the whole field is important, yet they insist on a long black strip of a scoreboard up top, and the Bottom Line down low. This eliminates a good bit of the viewing area on the wings, where a fair amount of action occurs.
On top of that, they love throwing out these huge "fact boxes" that block off another 25% of the screen, usually while someone is dribbling towards goal. They also seem to enjoy treating all us viewers like we're morons-constantly explaining Yellow Cards and Red Cards...and using their beloved scoreboard to remind you that you're watching the FIFA World Cup, and it's, in fact, live.
I really wish Fox would pick up the rights to this thing.
B) Brazil = Beatable - After watching their less than inspired performance against a solid Croatian team, I just don't see it. I don't see the invincibility. Granted, they have 3 or 4 phenoms on the field, but they also have chinks in their armor. For one, they have 2 outside backs in the latter stages of their career in Cafu and Roberto Carlos. They also have Dida in goal, and their manager, Carlos Alberto Parreira seems willing to wait out Ronaldo's corpulency, which was in full display the other night. You couldn't miss him...he was the guy standing still, about 30 yards from the Croat Goal.
C)Eric's DVR Is Dragging Down World Cup Scores: I've recorded 2 games that I avoided knowing anything about while at work. Croatia-Brazil and Poland-Germany. Both have ended 1-0. Following bad logic, I need to call in sick to work for the next 3 weeks, or this will be one boring World Cup.
And now, my first set of superlatives for Week 1 of La Copa Mundial:
Best Managerial Moves: Guus Hiddink - 2 subs, Tim Cahill and John Aloisi, scored all 3 goals for the Aussies in their comeback over Japan. Of course, you could also say it was a bad move if you were wondering why both guys weren't starting in the first place. But, I digress.
Best Forward: Paulo Wanchope, Costa Rica - despite playing for a crap team, Wanchope notched two lovely goals against host Germany. While he is 30 (old for a striker), I have to think some team would be interested in luring him back to England. He can still put it in the net.
Best Midfielder: Thomas, Don't Call Me Ro-sick-ee, Rosicky, Czech Republic - It's pronounced, Ro-sitz-kee, ESPN announcers. Nothing I hate more than people not doing their research. It's not like the guys and unknown. I hate to give a nod to the man who helped dismantle my team, but what a game. The only thing I fault him for is giving Julie Foudy the chance to make the statement "Ro-sick-ee is sick-ee". Clever...clever...
Best Defender: Lots of options, with all the clean sheets being posted on the scoreboard. I'm going to go with a defender who came through in the clutch, Tunisia's Radhi Jaidi(Big #15 in the photo below).
The hulking defender scored on a last gasp header to pull the Carthage Eagles (love those African team nicknames) level with Saudi Arabia in the dying moments of the most unexpectedly exciting match of the tourney. Granted, his backline did surrender 2 goals, but why quibble with details?
And a special award, I'll dub the Bill Snyder Trophy. No college football coach got more mileage out of transfers than Snyder at Kansas State. Apparently, Germany was inspired by this. After starting a pair of Polish born strikers in Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, the Germans were pushed to victory over said Poles by Swiss born super-sub, Oliver Neuville slotting one home in the 90th minute. Let's not forget they also had Ghanaian born Gerald Asamoah on the bench. Geez...and Eurosnobs give the U.S. crap for Freddy Adu.
That's it for this week. Hopefully I won't be eulogizing the U.S. in my next edition. Thanks for reading Thisssweek...Innn Soccer.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Hoping to see the Jewish Bruce Lee making his way down Ponce, I turn around, and see this picture:
Holy Shonen Knife! Is this for real?! Yes, yes, it is. I give you Steven Seagal and Thunderbox.
Apparently, He of The Clever 3 Word Action Movie Titles fancies himself quite the axe wielder. Reading Variety Playhouse's bio of the show yields some entertaining lines like "Watch those hands - they are capable of many surprises." And How!
If you are looking for some entertaining reading material, check out his entire Wikipedia entry. He may be one of the oddest people in Hollywood, and that's hard to do.
The thing that blows my mind is that they are actually charghing $20 for this concert, all while keeping a straight face. I am not saying I wouldn't pay money to see Steven Seagal front a band with a name that sounds like it could be the title of a Native American porno, but not $20. Maybe $10, but not if there's a service charge.
I know what you're thinking - "Eric, where can I, the reader, see this man with magic hands?"
Well, here's his tour (yes, I said a whole tour) schedule:
Sat 06/10/06 Mission, TX Pepe's On The River
Sun 06/11/06 New Orleans, LA House Of Blues
Wed 06/14/06 Memphis, TN New Daisy Theatre
Thu 06/15/06 Nashville, TN Exit / In
Fri 06/16/06 Mount Pleasant, MI Soaring Eagle Casino
Sat 06/17/06 Belleville, ON Empire Theatre
Sun 06/18/06 Chicago, IL House Of Blues
Tue 06/20/06 Pittsburgh, PA Rex Theatre
Wed 06/21/06 Cleveland, OH House Of Blues
Thu 06/22/06 Hagerstown, MD Maryland Theatre
Fri 06/23/06 Atlantic City, NJ House Of Blues
Sat 06/24/06 New York, NY TBA
Sun 06/25/06 New York, NY B.B. King's Blues Club
Tue 06/27/06 Alexandria, VA The Birchmere
Get your tickets while they last!
Thanks to Pollstar for the dates. I felt so wrong typing Steven Seagal into your search box, which usually provides such bountiful and enriching information. Please, forgive me.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Excuse my juvenility. I hate to celebrate death, but his will save more lives than it will cost.
I don't necessarily know why stuff like this should affect the price of oil, but it did.
Dead terrorists, cheap(er) gas, World Cup starting tomorrow...and I didn't even have to use my AK.
I'll get to a darker subject tomorrow...Steven Seagal as a rock star. Stay tuned.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
If your car is having battery trouble, it seems the last thing you would want is an extra light coming on, just to indicate this problem. I know, you should be notified, but there has to be a less power draining way.
Yes...my car had said troubles.
On to my preview. I swear, this is my last soccer blog for a few weeks. I know you are dying to be regaled with tails of catsex and iced-coffee as it relates to life, so I must put my World Cup Fever on hold until the U.S. begins play on June 12th.
Before I do that, though, I must subject you to my hastily researched, partially unfounded, World Cup predictions. That way, if any of them come true, I can edit these last two sentences off my blog, and say "I told you so".
We'll begin with my biggest concern, my beloved Americans. They managed to stave off Fret Level Red with a couple of victories before heading to Germany. I'm still concerned that neither of them were as convincing as their thrashings of Uruguay and Jamaica in the run-up to '02, or really even their loss to The Netherlands in that same series.
Nonetheless, a few of the young guys showed their wares, and seem to have offered Bruce Arena a few options to throw at our opponents in Group E. Eddie Johnson looked dangerous once again (even though he's still waiting for his next goal in the US uni), Bobby Convey showed why he was regarded as one of Reading's best players this year, and John O'Brien appears to be rounding back into form. These are all things that will make Bruce's selections difficult, and exciting at the same time.
Here's my thought on this edition of the U.S. team. It's the calm before the storm. That is, this is the team before "The Team". The '06 edition may find it hard to make it out of their difficult group, and even then will surely be sent home by Brazil in the 2nd Round. The 2010 Nats, however, appear poised to not only earn a seed in this quadrennial event, but make a fair amount of noise. The number of Americans being placed in crucial roles on their European clubs is rising every year, and that could make the '10 edition very young, and very exciting.
As for the aforementioned "Group of Death". I expect Italy to win this group. Conventional wisdom has The Czech Republic advancing. I'm not so sure about that. The Czechs have the unfortunate task of being the new "it" team for this World Cup, and that often comes with added pressure, and a pinch of haughtiness. The last two times the U.S. faced this team, it played under the names Colombia and Portugal. Neither responded very well to their new found adoration, and failed to qualify for the 2nd Round. Based on Arena's experience, and the weight of expectations, I believe the US will progress as the #2 team out of this group, before making an almost guaranteed exit against Brazil.
Even if they are knocked out in Group E play, I don't expect them to lose to both Italy and the Czechs. There is enough talent there to steal at least a tie from one of these sides.
Ghana, of course, is the real wild card in this group. My biggest hope is that even if we don't advance, that American fans are smart enough to realize how harshly the odds are stacked against us...and how kind FIFA was to our neighbors, Mexico.
My overriding thought on this Cup is that Brazil won't win. They are certainly good enough to be the first non-European team in a half-century to win a Euro-based World Cup (when they became the only team to do so), but the sheer effort it would take to win their 3rd trophy in 4 tries is daunting.
As for the rest of the Cup - In a nutshell, I see it going something like this:
Group A - Winner: Germany (Mmmm...Land of Chocolate)
Runner-Up: Poland (Isn't that always the way?)
Dark Horse: Ecuador
Group B - Winner: England (Inability to dance a proper Robot aside.)
Runner-Up: Paraguay (Will still be confused for Uruguay)
Dark Horse: Actually, Paraguay
Group C - Winner: Netherlands
Dark Horse: Cote d'Ivoire (That's Ivory Coast to you soap enthusiasts)
Group D - Winner: Portugal
Dark Horse: Iran (The only team in the Cup I'll root for Mexico against)
Group E - See Above
Group F - Winner: Brazil (Duh)
Runner-Up: Japan (All thanks to Arnold's energy drink.)
Dark Horse: Anyone other than Brazil, really. Japan, Australia, or
Croatia could all finish 2nd here.
Group G - Winner: France (Henry comes up big, Zizou goes out in style)
Runner-Up: Switzerland (But they'll regret being so agressive)
Dark Horse: Switzerland, most have S. Korea making it out over The Swiss
Group H - Winner: Tunisia (My one crazy pick, and the requisite "Surprise Group Winner")
Runner-Up: Spain (Will consider firing coach in mid-tournament)
Dark Horse: Ukraine
Semi-Finalists: Netherlands, *Surprise Team, Portugal, Brazil
Finals: Netherlands vs. Portugal
3rd Place: Surprise Team over a disinterested Brazilian squad.
*In the last 3 World Cups, there's been at least one surprise Semi-Finalist. They always seem to come from Eastern Europe as well. While I feel good about my Final Four, I wouldn't be surprised if a team like Ukraine, Croatia, or Serbia & Montenegro crashed the party.
There you have it. My semi-baseless take on the World Cup. I'll be sure to act like a smug prognosticator, whether I'm right or wrong. That's what we pundits do.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
I'm not going to do it. I am not going to freak out about the U.S.' 1-0 loss to Morocco last night (on home soil, mind you). I am going to breathe, and remind myself that this game is the equivalent of a preseason game. Great preseason's rarely equal subsequent success. Right, Falcons Fans?
I am concerned, of course, that our team captain may face an extended injury lay off leading into the World Cup, and our only established right fullback committed a gaffe (leading up to the lone goal) that had even a soccer novice, like myself, pulling what few hairs he has left out.
That being said, I trust Bruce. I have to think he is seeing the same things we are...that the team is better attacking with Convey on the field, that we need someone up top with McBride, and that Wolff is about as threatening as The Teletubbies - Bruce has to give Eddie Johnson a full game with McBride here in the next week.
Also, I have to remember that Morocco was one game away from qualifying for this World Cup, in what turned out to be a very strong African cycle. This was not a cupcake...or whatever the analogous pastry is at the Imperial Fez.
A disclaimer here...the US National Team is one of the only teams I refer to as "we". I work to avoid it when referring to professional outfits like the Hawks, Braves, Falcons, etc. The only other exception is any team related to Appalachian State. I feel like I can be an unabashed homer when it comes to my country, or my alma mater. For some reason, using "we" when talking about pro teams almost seems to be approaching restraining order territory.
The other sports item of interest to this blogger was last night's NBA Draft Lottery, where the Hawks were awarded the 5th pick in June's draft. The Raptors, the other team soiled by someone named Babcock, will pick 1st. It appears the Hawks are the only team in the league capable of being abjectly terrible for an extended period of time, and still not be awarded the #1 pick. No worries this time, though, as the draft has no true #1, and is deep enough to get a player at #5 that has as much potential as the #1 selection.
Of course, they always seem to get shuffled to just the right spot to prevent them from drafting a true impact player. Whether being 2nd last year, and almost browbeaten into taking Marvin Williams, or being 21st in 2003 - having to take Boris Diaw - when a 5th pick would have netted Dwayne Wade.
Speaking of Diaw, I really wish the national media would get off the "The Suns got a steal in Diaw" bandwagon. I'm sure it's real hard to find open shots, box out for rebounds, dish out assists, and generally be ignored by opposing defenses when you are playing with Shawn Marion and Steve Nash.
He was useless to the Hawks because he serves his purpose only when surrounded by supreme talent, of which Atlanta had none in his time here. Put Diaw on the Knicks, and he's right back to Anonymous European Guy. I would trade him and draft picks for Joe Johnson again on any day of the week. The Hawks need a superstar, and they acquired a budding one when they picked up Johnson. People seem to forget that the Hawks, in fact, picked up one of only 5 players to average 20 points and 6 assists a game this season. Read the list, it's pretty impressive company. Overall, his numbers were better than Diaw's, but let's not let facts get in the way of an easy media target.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Week after week, these doctors are forced to deal with mysterious, undiagnosed, diseases...all from people living in the general vicinity of the hospital. Just another reason to stay away from Central New Jersey.
I have no problem suspending disbelief when watching. The only thing that really bothers me about the show is Omar Epps' character. Epps, whom they dragged away from playing athletes in various sports movies, plays Dr. Eric Foreman. The show is on Fox. Seems like they could have done a little research and found out that another relatively successful Fox show has/had a major character of the same name. Is that too much to ask? I guess the Fox Network's Random Name Generator must have reached capacity.
Anyway, while feeling less than 100% healthy over the last 18 hours, I've found myself cataloging random occurrances in my life that could potentially lead to being infected with maladies such as an agressive brain fungus or the bubonic plague (both actual diagnoses on the show). Now, a brief listing from the last few days. Please, pray for my health:
- Walked on rubberized track in sandals...sandal thong becomes detached from insole the next day.
- Used Splenda...thought it tasted like sugar
- Drank energy drink after drinking coffee...felt twitchy
- Ate at Taco Bell...later forced to hold in gas
- Pet a stray cat...cat meowed
- Found bug sitting on thumb...shrieked like a little girl
Of course, this illin' could just be the result of drinking too much and not getting enough sleep this weekend, but I must remain vigilant! That case of scarlet fever could be just one airborne mite away!
While we are on the subject of being less than 100%, I have to apologize to Brian "Spanky" McCann. Frenchy's wing-man has become the latest victim of my Fantasy Baseball curse. After adding him to my team last week, the Braves cherubic catcher promptly went out and got hurt this weekend during a homeplate collision with the Diamondbacks' Eric Byrnes.
I personally take the blame not only for picking him up, but also for saying he was like "Greg Olson, with a better bat"...which preceded him almost replicating Olson's horrific ankle injury, circa 1992. Thankfully, he should be back soon. The guy who hit Olson in '92 was Ken Caminiti. For Eric Byrnes' sake, I'll avoid making any comparisons there. We'll just say he "Erstaded" McCann, and leave it at that.
I just saw this as I was about to post - another reminder how men and animals aren't all that different. Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, is facing a fight for his life. Does this stop him from spittin' some game at the mares? Hell no!
Thursday, May 18, 2006
I have to start by giving much love to the guys over at Deadspin. Not only is it one of my favorite websites, but my mentioning on their site (in a classic bit of shameless passive-agressive whoring) that I had a blog about Barcelona-Arsenal drove over a hundred new viewers to my blog. Thanks for checking the page out, fellow Deadspinners. I am now their bitch, whether they like it or not.
Now, on to the game. I have to say, it was entertaining. It had many of the things you look for in a classic - redemption (the maligned Sol Campbell nodding home Arsenal's lone goal with a noggin that would make Barry Bonds jealous), controversy (Jens Lehman's sending off), and an unexpected hero (Barca's Juliano Belletti 5-holing Almunia for the decisive strike).
By the way, any non-soccer fans who think all players are either dwarfish waifs, or tall, lean dudes need to take a look at 3/4's of The Gunners backline yesterday. Eboue, Campbell, and Toure look like they could be swapped for Brooking, Hartwell, and Williams and fool many casual NFL fans (Ashley Cole, the 4th member, would naturally be a safety...in charge of covering the Tight End). They were physically, and tactically, massive for Arsenal's valiant effort.
That being said, I think most fans agree that it would have been more entertaining had referee Terje Hauge played advantage on Lehman's sending off. It would have put Barca up 1-0, and allowed us to see these two well-oiled machines going at each other at full strength. Hauge even somewhat regrets the decision. Somewhat.
I can't fault him completely, he had already blown his whistle when Lehman took out Eto'o (I always wanna write E'too), and had no choice to issue the red after that. I certainly can't blame him for Lehman's misguided challenge. After seeing that, I really wonder if Jurgan Klinsmann is rethinking his choice for starting keeper at the World Cup. Only Keeper To Ever Win The Golden Ball, or Only Guy Ever Sent Off In A Champions' League Final? Hmmmm...
The Ultimate Challenge was less than advertised as well. Neither Ronaldinho or Henry found the back of the net. Henry missed (or was stopped by a solid Victor Valdes) three golden chances, and Ronaldinho seemed miscast, and out fo sorts, by not being allowed to direct the attack centrally.
Still, both players had their flashes of brilliance - Henry's exquisite freekick finding Campbell's XXXL cranium for the opening salvo, and Ronaldinho with the pass that played Eto'o through before the Cameroonian was toppled by Lehman's ill-fated lunge. They were certainly factors, but were upstaged by other stories.
What's up with the sour grapes from TH14? I know the officiating was less than stellar, but I can't say it didn't go both ways. When you consider that Hauge took a goal away from Barca with his red card decision, and then bought Eboue's dive to set up Arsenal's lone tally, he essentially presided over a 2 goal swing for the North London side.
After this match, I do get the feeling that Henry will be plying his trade in The Nou Camp next year. Watching them celebrate in front of him, feeling like some of his younger, shakier teammates let him down, and being ignored by Arsene Wenger when pleading for attacking help does not add up to leading the team into Ashburton Grove next fall. Henry, though, still appears to be saying the right things to the Arsenal faithful.
(UPDATE: But What Do I Know?)
If you're looking for another take on the game, the newest member of my blog roll, Braves & Birds, has his review here. He's a Barca fan, by the way.
I know, it's hard to tell.