Sunday, October 05, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Collection of no-heart bums? Check.
Wait till next year refrain from the fans? Check.
Congratulations, Fred Wilpon, you've done it. You have fully absorbed all the great traditions from the Brooklyn Dodgers and merged them with the New York Mets. Who needs the winning legacy of the New York Giants when we have dem bums all over again? If I were Willie Mays, I wouldn't have shown up yesterday knowing what lengths Mr. Wilpon has gone through to completely ignore a franchise that was New York baseball in the early 20th century.
Adding insult to injury was Mr. Met revealing the Domino's Pizza, er, CitiField logo on the Shea countdown board. Enjoy your new Disneyland digs, bums.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
The transition for Favre will not be easy. The media spotlight will be an obvious challenge. More importantly, the quarterback and coaching staff -head coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, both younger than Favre- will have to reconcile differences in offensive systems, though I imagine adapting Favre's West Coast expertise to the Jets odd mix of a conservative run-first approach mixed with some elements of precision passing and trick plays will not be impossible. Laveranues Coles is perfectly suited for the short, over the middle plays dictated by the WCO, and Jerricho Cotchery is also becoming an increasingly reliable receiver. Neither are particularly nimble after the catch as desired by the system, though newly drafted tight end Dustin Keller could provide some good YAC -it feels good to use football acronyms after dealing with the lousy VORPs, WHIP, OPS+, etc with the mediocre Mets. That said, Favre made his name going deep, and a home run hitting speed burner would be nice to have to open up room for the Jets running back committee.
All this being said, these are still the Jets, and it's entirely possible Favre's starting streak could get broken on a flukey blindside hit by a scrub Dolphin linebacker, but it gives the team some juice -despite the best efforts of Bill Belichick killjoy disciple Mangini- entering the season, and makes ten wins and a wild card berth very possible. The Jets will have a fighting chance against the Patriots in the home opener -so much for warming up with a cupcake- but will not challenge their stranglehold on the AFC East. That said, the recent wild card runs of the Steelers and Giants makes anything possible, right?
"That's why they play the games."
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
And what better way to kick off the season with Broadway Brett! Steve Serby can hardly contain himself.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The concept of a closer by committee seems extremely logical. Why not use your best pitcher in the highest leverage situations? Why not match up a team's lineup with a righty or lefty specialist, even if its the ninth inning? Why have a pitcher in the bullpen who can only enter the game with a lead of three runs or fewer, and often pitches ineffectively when asked to pitch in a tie game or blowout? Newly hired Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and his advisors, including Bill James, pondered these questions prior to the 2003 season after seeing how volatile Ugueth Urbina could be, and made the infamous decision to move forward with a closer by committee comprised of Alan Embree, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Timlin and others. After some highly publicized blown leads early in the season-ESPN and other media outlets treated this experiment with high scrutiny- Red Sox managment converted Byung-Hyun Kim, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks midseason, to a reasonably effective closer until his meltdown against the Oakland Athletics in Game One of the Division Series. Understandably, the Red Sox gave up on the experiement and traded for Keith Foulke the following winter, and the rest is history.
So this brings us to last night, when Duaner Sanchez, a fairly reliable set up man called upon to hold a three run lead against the fifth due to closer Billy Wagner being sidelined -eerily similar to his absence in parts of August and September last season-with shoulder spasms, sixth and seven spots of the Philadelphia Phillies admitedly potent lineup. Several flat fastballs and meatball changeups later, the bases were loaded with no one out. The opposing batters were right on top of his pitches, not swinging and missing a single time -it would be difficult for the Mets to blame sign stealing this time, as they were at home. So how do you chalk it up? Just a bad night? Perhaps Sanchez was too confident up three runs and didn't feel inclined to put as much zip on his pitches? Regardless, having any pitcher inherit the bases loaded is a recipe for trouble, and despite shortstop Jose Reyes miscalculation of a Joe Smith induced chopper, the blame for the ninth inning meltdown has to be solely placed on Sanchez, though Pedro Feliciano surrendering a deep drive to banjo-hitting outfielder So Taguchi is also inexcusable -you can't blame left fielder Endy Chavez for having it go over his head, as Taguchi's bat doesn't exactly warrant a no-doubles defense. By the time shortstop Jimmy Rollins was up, you knew the game was over, as when it rains for Feliciano, it pours-the issue of inheriting runners is also an important one, as some releivers are just awful at handling them.
Other teams have also experienced trouble patching together the latter ends of games, including the Milwaukee Brewers after they shelved Eric Gagne. It took them some time to find a suitable replacement until Salomon Torres took over the closer's role, and the Mets may have to do the same -Houston Street?- if they want to contend without Billy Wagner.
What is it about closing games? Is it getting pumped up by loud metal music? Feeding off the psychological pressure of the 'save?' Be sure to see my poorly timed post in that entry regarding saving a three-run lead. And if the ghost of Jerome Holtzman wanted to spite me, well I'll just pay you back in Hell, Jerome.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
That's Big Mo. He's as bald as our nation's tearful eagles that soar free for freedom.
Tonight! Live! From that steep-tiered 31-year old "cathedral" in the Bronx, it's the All-Star Game! Corey "Allegory" Hart digging in against Cliff "Curse of Chief Wahoo" Lee! Chase "Boo?Fuck You!" Utley against Joakim "You'll be" Soria!!!!! WHEEEEEE!!!
Yeah, not really feeling the All-Star game. Judging by the flat ratings not many of you are either. There was a time in this country when people genuinely enjoyed watching the game of baseball. People, children and adults, played the game. In the days when the two leagues were almost-independent fiefdoms fans were eager to see stars face off against each other.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
The upcoming Major League Baseball All Star Stadium being held at Yankee Stadium celebrates the final season of the facility, and like clockwork, baseball writers over 40 flood the print media and airwaves with memories of the Mick, Joe D and sometimes reaching back for the Iron Horse and the Babe. That's fine and dandy, but let's recall those legends played on a field that was seven feet higher than the existing one, was enclosed by fences in left and center field far deeper than the dimensions we know today -including Monument Park being part of an even more intimidating Death Valley, covered by a roof trimmed with the iconic brass frieze, not aluminum paneling over the remade upper deck shell and recorded by a far more informative scoreboard. Much of the original structure is intact, but to say the the two incarnations of the ballpark are the same ignores the two years spent to reconfigure the park: this is no seat replacement and paint job a la the tweaks the Mets made to Shea Stadium made in the early 80s. Some sources, such as the ESPN Sports Almanac, refer to the pre-1974 park as 'Yankee Stadium I' while other publications keep the continuity.
It is this tie to the past that allows writers like Mike Vaccaro to glorify the park with gems such as "the chance to come see Yankee Stadium, one last time, in all its resplendent splendor." Resplendent Splendor? In those cramped concourses? Embarassingly understaffed vending pool? Two inning lines for hot dogs or restrooms? OK, so their elevators are in better shape, not that the average fan would know. Maybe they have better pregame dessert carts for members of the press. If Mike Francesa, one of the biggest Yankee fans and historians around today, literally and figuratively, could get worked up about the need for a new venue, no nostalgic rose-colored glasses of the park are needed anymore -it is worth noting that debate between Francesa and Chris 'Mad Dog' Russo was one of their most fiery of the year, though that discussion included the issue of public funds for a stadium, which can be addressed here another time.
EDIT: Another nostalgic sportswriter who has no idea what he's talking about.
Yankee Stadium information provided by Wikipedia.
Yankee Stadium images provided by Baseball Fever.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Is this a vision of Cleveland's worst nightmare? (Well, up there with Byner) How appropriate that The Chosen One stand in Upper New York Harbor, betwixt Money-Makin, Bucktwon and Dirty Jerz?
"Hovie on line one, Donnie Walsh on line two, baby...."
Monday, June 30, 2008
Four years ago, Greece stuffed a thick, sloppy souvlaki down the footy world's throat with its 1-0 European final victory over the high-flying Portuguese. While yesterday's 1-0 victory for Spain over Germany was far-less shocking, the two sides achieved their glory through flawlessly executed tactics. Otto Rehhagel's Greek side held their opponents scoreless through the 2004 knockout stages by playing numbing, impenetrable, defense. Spain held their opponents scoreless through the 2008 knockout stages by completely dominating the shit out of the ball with their endless one-touch passing through the midfield.
Oftentimes, as they would pass and pass and pass in the midfield, like concertgoers at an Allman Brothers concert, it seemed as if they had no intent to penetrate, like President Slick Willie carefully avoiding "it" during his intern liaisons. But then just as suddenly, after alternately lulling their opponents to sleep or driving them bonkers with frustration, one of their midfielders, invariably named Xavi, would thread a perfect through-ball for one of their speedy strikers, either El Nino (spanish for Dolphin-Boy) or David "Getting More Illa Than The Thrilla in" Villa.
Torres' match-winner, scored in this fashion, was one for the ages. Philipp Lahm was exposed as a tits-up defender in the Turkey game, and it was his poor play in cutting off Torres' access to the ball that cost David Hasselhoff and his countryman a chance to exult in an 8th major championship (three World Cups, three Euros, One hell of a good-looking man). Torres' raw reacharound on Lahm will be the subject of study in saunas from Christopher Street to the Castro for years to come.
The end, inevitable when a game is not back-and-forth, was anticlimactic; unless, of course, you're eating paella as we speak. For me, the tournament peaked with the Holland-Russia quarterfinal, a game worthy of any final of any tournament in any year. That game encapsulated every trait that made this tournament so entertaining, two surprising teams with more speed than lower east side cocaine playing aggressive footy and exchanging the lead twice.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Speaking of new acquisitions, Brian Cashman must already be scouring the majors for another starter, because he already used up one of Sidney Ponson's few bullets -no, not the silver ones.
It also seems appropriate to comment on Pedro Martinez continued ineffectiveness, but perhaps it is best to wait one more start before writing his career obituary -wow, two straight years a first ballot hall of famer's career crumbles with the Mets, eh?
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The New York Times published a browbeating article yesterday about the new capitol city of Myanmar, Naypyidaw. Myanmar's former capitol was Yangon, a city of 6 million which lies near the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The new capitol, built in secret and unveiled in 2005, lies some 500 miles north deep in rural, impovershed, farmland; far removed from prying eyes to further entrench the power of the military, which has ruled the country since a coup in 1962. Impenetrable to all, save perhaps Rambo.
The Times sums up its view of the situation thusly, "…the transfer of the entire bureaucracy to this relatively remote location, where malaria is still endemic and cellphones do not work, has drained the country’s finances and widened the gulf between the rulers and the ruled."
We in the West could leave it at that, shaking our heads and "tsk-tsking" at this latest move away from any semblance of an open or democratic government. Except, really, is the military junta's decision to move deeper into seclusion and secrecy all that different from America's decision to move our capitol to D.C. or where our states have chosen to place their capitol Or, to paraphrase a great 1980's anti-drug ad, "I learned it from watching you dad!"
In one of the early victories for Jeffersonian rural/agrarian philosophy over Hamilton's urban/finance philosophy, the two agreed to move our young nation's capitol to what would become Washington, D.C., then sparsely populated swamp land, in exchange for the Federal Government's assumption of the states' war debt.
Almost all of our major states have their capitol cities deep in the sticks, Sacramento, California; Austin, Texas; Tallahassee, Florida; Albany, New York; Springfield, Illinois; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And Juneau, Alaska takes the cake; you can only get there via plane or boat.
Under our federalist system it is the states that exert far more influence over vital issues such as education, transportation, and crime, yet our state lawmakers, mostly anonymous themselves due to a lethargic voting public, get to conduct their, I mean our, business in complete anonymity. Maybe they are so anonymous because they are so far removed from the daily lives of the majority of the people they serve.
Take our great state, New York. More than half the state lives in the NYC metro area (NYC, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester), yet our leaders conduct their business far from prying eyes in Albany. The only true check on government is the Fourth Estate, the press, and while New York City's papers all have correspondents up there, the majority of their resources and focus are maintained down here.
The counter-argument is that state legislators need to conduct their work in peace and quiet, away from the hum-and-drum and shady influences of city life. Nor can they over-react to what seem like the daily crisises and quickly-built public clamor that go along with urban living. Of course, similar logic lies behind the creation of innumerable state authorities, which are quasi-governmental agencies that act independently of oversight through their boards because their business is too important to be entangled with everyday politics. The most prominent example of such a state authority is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Immune from any real oversight or direction over its decisions at the state and city level, the MTA is run largely by multimillionaire board members who, despite not using public transportation themselves, get to decide how our system is run.
Transparency is essential to a well-functioning government, or as Steve Martin put it, “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
How dare the Mets fire a manager after two consecutive wins following a year of mediocre baseball. How dare the Mets fire an employee under contract that stipulated cross country travel. How dare the Mets fire a manager after a game that happened to be played in the Pacific Time Zone. How dare the Mets prepare an official report the moment they make a decision before allowing it to be leaked to the press.
The only criticism that should be leveled to the Mets' general manager Omar Minaya should be his resistance to putting embattled manager Willie Randolph out of his misery on the way back from a disastrous and embarrassing weekend in San Diego. Of course, one cannot blame Minaya for holding out as long as he did: Randolph is his last line of defense for deflecting blame and attention for this $138M disappointment. Having Randolph last the season would've given Minaya another season of job security. Barring a complete collapse -90+ losses is a good estimation- Minaya will remain general manager, but now the scrutiny placed on him will be greatly magnified. But a disappointing 3-3 homestand against the Diamondbacks and Rangers following that debacle against the Padres must have surely amped up the pressure from Mets' COO Jeff Wilpon to relieve Randolph of his duties: the heir to the SterlingMets Empire was never particularly fond of Randolph, and only put him on probation for last September's historic meltdown after intense lobbying from Minaya.
Given The Best Pitcher in Baseball, an offense that seemed during most of September and a retooled bullpen -addition by subtraction after jettisoning one of Randolph's favorite gas cans Guillermo Mota- the Mets were expected to win over 90 games as well as the division title. Instead, hittable pitching -no need to justify Peterson's firing, sloppy defense, and a late game offense that seemed to have hot dates after the game made for unwatchable and lifeless baseball that prevented the Mets from building any extensive winning streaks. Is it Randolph's fault Carlos Delgado is a textbook case of an aging first baseman? That Carlos Beltran has one of the streakiest power bats in the game? That the Mets' medical staff has no idea what a concussion is? Of course not. However, it is Randolph's abuse of Aaron Heilman's arm over the last few seasons that has resulted in the righty's seemingly reduced stuff, much like Randolph's mentor Joe Torre heavily relied on Paul Quantrill and Scott Proctor to get him out of jams. It is his disdain for maneuvers like the suicide squeeze and even the hit-and-run -odd considering his penchant for stolen bases- prevented the offense from scoring runs or jumpstarting innings during its malaise. Worst of all, it is the perception that the team has quit on him -lukewarm comments from Beltran and David Wright didn't help his cause- that may have ultimately doomed Randolph. After numerous 'turning points' this year, the team was still unable to string together more than a week of good baseball, and many media outlets agreed a change for the sake of change had to be made to wake the team up.
The bottom line is allowing a manager to twist in the wind (Joe Torre?) following a disappointing season or portion of one is a practice that is not uncommon in this part of the country, where impatient fans make for unforgiving managment: I'm sure Mariner's general manager Bill Bavasi was given cryptic votes of confidence from team management and actually should have been fired long before his team was humiliated by fellow punchline Jim Bowden's Nationals team just like Randolph was. However, Bavasi was in the front office, and could be fired at the team's, er press's convenience, while Randolph had an on the field job: logistics prevent instantaneous upheavals of coaching staffs, made even more complicated by Sunday's doubleheader and evening flight to Los Angeles. Managers are normally fired on off days or after games, and last night's game happened to end at around 1 AM EST. Instead of letting a Wilpon source leak Randolph's departure -one issue with ownership, the team immediately prepared a statement to prepare the press for the transition. So Willie Randolph had to fly cross country to get fired and collect the $4M remaining on his contract. He'll sleep comfortably at night. It's not as if this is 1913 and Randolph was left stranded after a long train ride in St. Louis penniless. Are the Wilpons perfect? No. Should Randolph have been fired sooner? Yes. Is this really a national disgrace?
Monday, June 16, 2008
Relax, mein little fraulein, did you really think mighty Deutschland would lose? Look at your coach. Look at him! Would he lose to Austria? 1-0 to the Jaegerbombers.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The announcer in the above clip, Jack Van Gelder is the same Dutch G who went apocalyptic when Dennis Bergkamp scored a last-minute strike against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup. Ifd you don't feel like peeping the link it goes something like this; Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Berkkamp! Dennis Berkkamp! AGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!
This time around his histronics are well warranted. Holland's 3-nil absolute beatdown of Italy was truly historic; the itals have not lost by such a margin in a major tournament since 1970! Ruud Bwoy, Wesley "Snipes" Sneijder, Dirk "Cutmaster" Kuyt and Gio van Bronckhorst ran riot through Italy's porous D.
The second and third goals came off glorious, perfectly-executed counterattacks that will stand as testaments to the merit of playing an attacking style as opposed to Italy's negative football.
The first goal has ignited a maelstrom of debate. Italy's keeper Gianluigi Buffon, had knocked over his teammate, defender Christian Panucci whilst blocking Holland's freekick. The ball bounced out to Sneijder at about 20 yards out. He calmly threaded a throo-ball through both teams to Ruud Bwoy. The itals, seeing his pass, immediately ran the offside trap, surging en-masse away from the goal line, leaving Rudd Bwoy to collect the pass offsides by at least three yards. He throttled the ball in and ran off immediately, looking completely befuddled that the goal had stood. Ref Peter Fröjdfeldt allowed the goal to stand through his interpretation of a rule enacted only five years ago, which states that if a player leaves the field of play via the goalline without the ref's permission then he is deemed to still be an active part of the play, thus Panucci, lying prone and presumably injured beyond the goalline to Buffon's right kept Ruud Bwoy onside.
In a sport where the laws overwhelmingly favor defense and negative tactics, any borderline call or interpretation should favor the attacking team, and thankfully this happened here. This play is a microcosm of why scoring is so difficult in soccer. Sneijder's pass to Ruud was glorious, but if Panucci had not been out of bounds then all the Italians had to do to kill the play was run a few steps away from the goal-line. They didn't have to play the ball or the attacking players. To stay onside Ruud would have had to run back with the Italian defenders until the ball crossed throo and then somehow run forward and collect the ball before either Buffon got to it or it went out of bounds.
I won't pretend to fully understand the rule, but it certainly makes the NASL's experiment with a 35-yard offside line, whereby offsides wouldn't apply within 35 yards of the goal seem sensible, especially with teams like Romania playing at least 7 players in and immediately around the box.
Friday, June 06, 2008
The answer is both. Could there be a more embarrassing video to get caught peeping at work?
Couldn't you see A-rod starring in a video just like this? Considering the kind of shizz players like Ronaldo get away with, A-rod is clearly playing the wrong sport. Not only did Ronaldo suffer no fallout from his hooker orgy party, he got to revel in the fans increased adulation of him as a result.
Wait, where were? Watching Ronaldo take a contemplative shower--oops, out-loud voice again, no it's Euro 2008, where Ronaldo's Portugal side is one of the favorites to take it all.
This tournament, taking place in Austria and Switzerland from this Saturday, June 7th throo Saturday, June 29th, could be more entertaining than the World Cup. Why? Tighter competition between, as a whole, more great teams. Also, unlike in every major club or country competition in the world, it produces surprising winners. Italy, Brazil and Germany have historically dominated the World Cup, as highlighted by the fact that one of those three sides has featured in every World Cup Final since 1978.
The Euros, on the other hand, have had plenty of shock winners. Greece won the last time around and smaller powers such as Denmark and Czechoslovakia have won in the past.
Entertaining as the tourney will be, the format is a tad bothersome. There are four groups of four teams each and the top two teams in each group will advance. As usual, there is a Group of Death. A Group of Death that makes past Groups of Death seem as hard as So-So Def. Holland, Italy, France and Romania. Weed, Whiners, Wine and Vampires.
The complete lack of balance means that Portugal and Germany should have a cake-walk in the first round. Considering that teams went through qualifying to get here and that FIFA continually updates its list of world rankings it seems puzzling that there is no seeding to at least set it up the possibility of the best teams being alive at the end. Of course, there's something very socialist aka european about assuming that all teams are on equal footing and lumping them all into groups randomly.
At this point there should be some sort of worthless prediction right? Well, Portugal, Spain, France and Holland all have offensively talented squads that will thrill in their attack-first mindsets.
France, particularly has an impressive mix of savvy veterans and emerging youth. Make sure to keep one eye (assuming your other eye will be on a constant loop of Ronaldo showering) on France's new kids; Bafe Gomis, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery.
Holland lost Ryan Babel for the tourney, which is a huge blow. Spain has a strong keeper in Iker Casillas, a strong midfield with Cesc Fabergas and a strong striker in El Nino, but they always choke on their own paella. Sweden has Henrik Larsson on board for one last goal splurge. Germany will rely on the emergence of that most uber-deutschly-named Mario Gomez.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
David Batty missing during the penalty shootout won by Argentina in the 1998 World Cup round of 16 in Saint-Etienne, France.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The rain now fell in great torrents over the Luzhniki Stadium's pathetically poor pitch. John Terry's normally spiked hair hung flat against his head as he approached the spot for his penalty kick. He fiddled with his captain's armband as he readied himself to deliver the first European Cup in Chelski's less-than-proud history. Earlier, a cocky Cristiano Ronaldo has paused twice in the run up to his P.K., handing Petr Cech the easy save and allowing Terry to capture eternal glory with the fifth and final shot of the first round of penalties.
As he struck the ball Man.U.'s Edwin Van der Sar dove to his right, leaving an almost entirely empty goal for Terry, who then sadly slipped on the shoddy surface and slotted it to his own right where it banged off the left goalpost, harmlessly. Now it was on to sudden death kicks. Anderson and Kalou banged their home safe. Ryan Giggs came on and successfully converted his kick in a game in which he broke Sir Bobby Charlton's club appearance record, in this, the 50th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster of which Charlton himself was a survivor. The crowd behind the goal, fortuitously enough the Man.U. end, roared with new life. On came Nicholas Anelka, the mercurial mercenary brought on to Chelsea this past January from Bolton Wanderers. His shot, to his left, was a decent one, but it rose no higher than waist level, allowing van der Sar to stretch every inch of his 6'6'' frame to and punch the ball away to safety.
Ronaldo, saved from despair, buried his teary face into the grass. Terry, sobbing now in raw heaves, remained on the pitch, inconsolable. ESPN announcer Tommy Smyth incorrectly hung the blame on Terry and labeled it a 'terrible miss.' The fact was that the pitch was an utter embarrassment and wholly unfit to host a match of such magnitude as evidenced by the countless players treated for cramps throughout the match and the numerous slips and divots.
Terry had played magnificently throughout the match. In extra-time Patrice Evra had burst through Chelsea's penalty area and dropped the ball back for Giggs has he fell out past the goal line. Giggs, with Cech far to his right had sure victory in front of him. But Terry had raced back and stood on the goal line, and somehow, someway, twisted his neck to head away Giggs' sure winner. After the match Chelsea Chelsea assistant manager Henk ten Cate revealed that had Didier Drogba not been sent off in extra-time for a foolish slap to the face on Man.U. defender Nemanja Vidic, it would have been Drogba, and not Terry taking the final kick.
As scintillating as the shootout was, ultimately it remains unsatisfying. Man U. were undoubtedly the better team in the first half, with at least two quality chances on goal after Ronaldo's spectacular header in the 25th minute. Chelsea were undoubtedly the better team in the second half, relentlessly attacking, twice hitting the woodwork, but Man.U.'s rear guard of Ferdinand and Vidic repelled time and time again. Fantastic as it was to see Man.U. cap off a thoroughly entertaining season by defeating their current most bitter rivals, there has to be a better way to crown a champion.
Basketball games, particularly, big ones, often come down to nailing free throws on possession after possession for the team that's up late. In football, the efforts of the real team often come down to the foot of some random dude who doesn't practice with the team and who can just as easily be kicking for the other team the next week. It's funny that for all the ink that's spilled (hmm, that sure is one hell of an outdated phrase) in the NFL offseason on the skill positions of QB, WR, RB and DB, next to nothing is said about the weirdos whose feet will decide more than a fair amount of games. Does Thurman Thomas send Scott Norwood Christmas cards?
So at least soccer is decided by the stars on the field. And there is no doubt that a penalty shootout is one of the most nerverackingly entertaining experiences one can have watching sports. But it's a contrived excitement, sorta/kinda how the one-and-done nature of March Madness makes games that would ordinarily be uninteresting utterly captivating. Seeing as how everyone involved admits the shootout is a lottery the alternatives are worth looking at.
-Returning to the old method of replaying the game a few days later. This would certainly be epic, what if it took weeks to crown a winner? Logistically a nightmare, and these days difficult to pull off considering fixture congestion. For example, many of the players on the pitch last night will be pulling on their boots again in just two weeks for Euro '08. This remains, however, the fairest option, more fair than playing extra-time.
-Exchanging set pieces such as corners or free kicks 25 yards out. Under this format, teams would take turns taking corners and free kicks. The defending team would have its turn at a corner or free kick once it is able to clear the ball past the half-line following the offensive team's corner of free kick. This would be no more contrived than taking penalties and would have the advantage of least involving the entire team playing, you know, actual soccer as opposed to holding a test of nerves. Watching a player curl in a winner from 25 yards out would be a far more beautiful sight than watching a player ram one home from 12 yards out with only the goalkeeper in front of him.
-Removing a player from each team every five minutes during extra-time. Five minutes in it would be 10-on-10, ten minutes in it would be 9-on-9, etc. With the extra space someone is bound to score before it ever got to be 1-on-1, but even if it did get to 1-on-1 it would be worth the zaniness of two players running up and down the pitch exchanging howlers. At first blush, playing 8-on-8 seems silly, but, again, the odds are great that a goal would be scored and at least that goal would come from the free play of the actual game of soccer.
Of course all this hints at the real problem with soccer, the growing difficulty of scoring a goal, particularly during big matches, which is a topic for another post. Without going into the numbers too much, the average amount of goals scored at the World Cup has been falling steadily with every Cup, with the most recent Cup, in 2006 , averaging only 2.3 goals a game. The numbers fall dramatically for finals, with only 1.6 goals per game for every World Cup Final since 1990.
Some might brand this as an ignorant American rant trying to meddle with a game that they don't understand but again, penalties wouldn't be as big a problem if they rarely occurred, but 4 of the last 8 Champions League finals have ended in the shootout while 2 of the last 4 World Cup Finals have ended with PKs.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
A similar phenomenon persists for every young Brazilian with a flair for plopping it into the back of the ol' onion bag. Here's the latest to be compared to Pele, a young G named Pato of AC Milan in action for Brasil this past Wednesday against Sweden. Confusingly, Brasil is in blue whilst Sweden is in yellow.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
(A guest post about Cleveland-related events with a killer coda from Dick Gregory courtesy of Don Biggduda to add a little nutmeg to your Smoldering Theodore)
Bill Cosby came to some Cleveland suburb I've never heard of recently and told the black community to do their laundry or something...
Not too much out of the ordinary here. Cosby basically showed up and told everyone to grow up and get their shit together. I don't know why people go to listen to speeches like this. I guess if you have a deeply seeded suspicion that you're doing something really wrong with your life but just can't figure out what, the natural person to turn to is ... Bill Cosby? Aww what do I know. Maybe you'll come out of the thing with a clear understanding of how to sneak a delicious slice of cake while Felicia Rashad isn't looking. Whatevs.
There were however, a few amusing names in attendance. The pastor of the church that hosted the event is named Marvin McMickle (two Micks in one last name - an early St. Paddy's day gift for all). The article also quotes an area man named Homer Gates who dragged his twin sons Marvelous and Wonderful along when a snow storm had caused their school to shut its doors for the day.
Now if only the kids had belonged to the pastor. Cleveland, you unlucky hellhole - you could've been the home address of one junior pastor Rev. Marvelous Marvin McMickle. But that's why you frown the way you do, Cleveland. Bad breaks like these.
Oh yeah, the sports tie in (besides Cosby's lousy 1970 comedic recording "Sports" and the fact that Bill was himself a pretty decent athlete)...
No idea how long this link will last, but there's a excerpt below.
Cosby apparently hated all over Irish OT Dean Brown right before the poor kid's graduation...
"As the commencement speaker at Notre Dame in 1990, Cosby was invited to address the black graduates prior to the ceremony. With a 300-pound frame that helped Brown start at right offensive tackle throughout Notre Dame's school record 23-game winning streak in 1988-89, plus a persona that earned him the moniker "Big Happy," Brown was a conspicuous target for Cosby.
"What's your grade-point average?" Cosby asked Brown, who majored in business and American Studies and was a member of the choir. When Brown responded it was 2.5 (a B-minus to C-plus categorization), Cosby, an outspoken critic of the lack of educational excellence in the black community, shot back: "That's nothing."
He brought Brown on stage to engage in what observers called an embarrassing debate that shook Brown more than any defensive end from Michigan, Miami or USC ever did. As Brown tried to explain the balancing act involved in academics, being part of the nation's No. 1 football program, tending to family needs and extracurricular work, Cosby dug in even more.
"When we left there, (Cosby) said, 'I cannot be party to celebrating any result that has not been part of the very best effort to reach excellence,' " recalled William P. Sexton, vice president of University relations 15 years ago.
For some time, the impromptu meeting with Cosby had a profound, numbing effect on Brown, whose childhood was somewhat comparable to more famous teammate Chris Zorich's impoverished, single-parent background."
In other words, for a comedian, Bill Cosby is quite the disagreeable jerk.
I guess he's also a shitty tipper (http://cityrag.blogs.com/main/2005/10/cheap_celebriti.html).
And speaking of dicks, since the frown has displayed a political bent of late, this one would've spiced up your little Cuyahogan primary right nice.
Mr. Gregory still brings the hammer.
That's all for now Cleveland. Smell ya later.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
In absolutely stunning news, the MTA has announced that they are cancelling plans to build "Downtown's Grand Central." The New York Post's Steve Cuozzo has been all over this sad story from day one. No one who has followed the trials and tribulations of post-9/11 construction downtown should be surprised by this news.
But nor is anyone outraged. In today's apathetic political climate, the vast silent majority care nothing for issues big (Iraq) or local (Alan Hevesi winning an election despite corruption charges comes to mind). This allows our elected leaders to get away with doing absolutely nothing. George Pataki slithered out of office last year with Ground Zero still a massive hole in the ground. Nigh on 8 years later shouldn't Pataki be confronted with his colossal failure to build anything, a memorial, something, every single time he shows his face at a public event?
Of course, in New York State, our elected leaders can always pin the blame on our quasi-independent public authorities. It's a fair point, and worth discussing in the future. The main point for now is that $900 million will go down the drain without adding an inch of track to our subways. Dozens of viable small businesses who kept going through 9/11 were evicted, in the name of us, the public, in order to build the grand station you see above.
Now we will likely be left with a subway staircase attached to the side of a massive condo tower sold to a developer at a bargain rate. We all know that the only condos get built in this town. The 7-train extension to the far west side? The 2nd-avenue subway? the LIRR connection to Grand Central? Moynihan Station? The Freedom Tower? A 9/11 memorial?
Could the money earmarked for the unnecessary Fulton St. Hub have gone to speed up the MTA's myriad capital projects that make weekend subway travel confusing and long? We'll never know. And as long as our papers don't make these stories front-page news and as long as they don't ask the simple questions that can shed some light on Albany we'll continue to never know.