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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

King George rules with an iron fist (jab)

Georges St. Pierre sent more than a message Saturday night with a very impressive unanimous decision over Josh Koscheck, what King George did was put on display his amazing repertoire of fighting skill and ring intelligence. In a manner more suited to a quarterback that studies hours of film then goes out and executes the game plan, GSP recognized a weakness in the Hoscheck defense, brought on Freddie Roach the legendary boxing trainer whose resume includes the current Pound-per-Pound best fighter in the world Manny Pacquiao, and developed a jab that would even intimidate Floyd Mayweather. He used the jab to perfection and not only landed the most damaging punch of the fight in the first round, but perhaps the first strike with a jab to the left side of Hocheck’s face that broke his optical bone and then swelled up to the point where no vision was possible. Beating GSP with two eyes is has not been done as of yet, so attempting to do it with one was simply not possible. Unfortunately, it’s St. Pierre that might be at a crossroads after the fight because he must answer the question of ‘where to go from here’ because there may not be anyone left to fight, and after taking down the 100k bonus for fight of the year what can he do for an encore? Hey, if Floyd won’t man up and fight Pac-Man maybe George will. Who would you like to see GSP fight next and who could give him a good fight? Let us know here, or chat live with other MMA fans in the MMA chat room.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Man U walks through an open door and now the Blues and Gunners must play catchup

It may seem like a long season in calendar months but in regards to number of games as compared to other major sports around the world, particularly in the US where a losing streak still has time to be tuned into a positive, but in a 38-game season a three losses is close to 10% of your entire year. In that regard Chelsea and Arsenal have both left the door open and Manchester United was more than willing to walk right through and take early control of the EPL. Injuries have simply devastated the Blues whom have fallen from their first place perch for the first time with three losses in their last five matches. Losing Essien, Lampard, and captain fantastic (Terry), have forced them to stumble and they will not only need them to return but without any ‘growing pains’ for the club as they will need to make up ground on a side that is yet to lose so far this year. Meanwhile Sir Alex and the Gunners have also tasted defeat as of late, dropping two of their last five matches to Spurs and Newcastle, and now find themselves also two points back and hope that Eboue’s return has come quickly enough to make up the points. The question is are these concerns much ado about nothing with the season not quite half over? Perhaps, and rest assured all eyes will be focused on several December battles to close the calendar year starting with the 13th when Man U host Arsenal, December 19th when Man U pays a visit to Stamford Bridge, the 27th when the Blues go on the road to Emirates. After the steamers come down on January 1, we’ll have more of a vivid picture on how much of an advantage United gained as a result of the early season stumbles, and if these worries were really much ado about nothing. Do you think Man U’s early advantage makes a big difference in the big picture? Let us know here and in the other soccer chat rooms and blogs.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Hendrick does it with their heads while Johnson did it with his foot

Jimmie Johnson is quickly becoming the Yankees, Lakers, and Steelers all in one as he hoisted his unprecedented fifth Sprint Cup championship on Sunday with a second place finish at Homestead. Carl Edwards lead from almost start to finish, starting in 2nd position and leading for 190 laps for his second straight win following last week’s win in Phoenix. Johnson’s finish was more than enough to hold on to the points lead and the championship by a final margin of 39 points. What may get lost in the all the pomp and circumstance is the tough decision made by the crew chief to change the pit crews with the 24 team with two races to go, which by Johnson’s own admission was the difference maker, specifically in Sunday’s final race. One could say that for drivers who had to make up some ground, Kevin Harvick’s and Denny Hamlin’s problems exponentially increased with a poor time trial starting them well back in the pack at 28 and 37 respectively in a race where four of the top six finishers started the race within 4 places of where they began, and based on recent Homestead history, it often works that way so perhaps Harvick and Hamlin should have been more aggressive in the beginning rather than hoping for circumstance to create an opportunity for them. In retrospect it does appear that regardless of their efforts Johnson was a man of destiny and determination from the moment the flag dropped to start the season, and in addition to his performance on the track, the Hendrick team displayed their intellectual prowess as well making tough decisions in the late innings if you that made the difference and self admittedly bridged the gap between time lost on the track with time saved in the pit, and it turned out to be more than just a feather in the cap of Hendrick Motor Sports, it was a Championship Trophy as well.
Get the Homestead Final Results and stats here.
View the Final Sprint Cup standings here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Enough of the undercards, Floyd – Manny let’s get it on

I can appreciate excellence as much as anyone and it is simply a joy to watch Manny Pacquiao operate as he dissects opponents one after the other en route to an unprecedented eight titles. Not since the days of Sugar Ray Leonard has someone at that weight generated as much of a following and become the biggest draw regardless of weight class. However Ray Leonard did have his ‘mega fights’ that still decades later have transcended the sport and now it’s time for Manny to have his. Leonard faced Hearns, then Hagler (with one eye) , Ali fought..well everyone, and while beating up on fighters that might be quality in their own right but not world class might make you great, it doesn’t make for an all-time champion and that would go double for Pretty Boy Floyd. Finishing unbeaten is amazing and there’s no doubt about that but it’s about time you face the best in the business as all other before you have. As a member of the general public and press I think I can speak intelligently for both parties when I say the census is that this isn’t about money and one of the two doesn’t want to lose what he has, and I’m leaning toward Floyd. Requesting drug test when nothing seems to warrant them is similar to starting fights at the weigh-in, hoping to get a disqualification of delay, just like biting an ear during a fight does. I still loved watch you fight but when you came back you wanted nothing to do with Hollyfield or Lennox and it was poignantly obvious. So Floyd if that’s the case then own it and stop blaming everyone from the Pac-man camp, to drug testers, to Michael Buffer and let us know that this is not going to happen so we all can move on. The stock of the “fight of the century” is dropping slowly and the window is closing so you’ve got about six months to make this happen or we might as well file it as the best that never was and you both can move on to your post boxing avocations. We know what the Congressman will be doing, but you still want to be a player in the fight promotion game then what better catalyst than your own mega fight? Just one more attempt at getting you to sign the bottom line and get back in the ring where you belong and where we all want to see you. Do you think the ‘fight of the century’ will ever happen? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Once again, no moral victories

Ok, it wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be as we knew our big guns weren’t at the top of their game, and as bad as it looked at the end of the second day of match play, on paper it may have come down to one or two puts that could have swayed a match that was halved which would have turned a 1 point loss into a 1 point win, but at the end of the day no one remembers who comes in second, even when there are only two sides competing. There were some positives as Tiger not only showed up but would have been in the running for MVP (2-1 in teams and 1-0 in singles) so one can’t fault Pavin for his captian’s choice. However there were some disappointments as the Phil Mickelson/Dustin Johnson duo lost both the Session One Four-ball and Session 2 Foursomes matches where when putting together the starting lineup on the flight over Pavin had to pencil halving the combination of those two matches rather than losing 2 full points. For all of the talk about how the top-five ranked players would do somewhere lost in the rhetoric was the concept that this is a team competition and if you have a weak link it will surely be exposed and that couldn’t have been more the case as Stweart Cink and Matt Kuchar failed to tally a point in either team or individual play which was the difference in the end. So much like the Men’s Basketball program perhaps it’s time to assess some ownership, and although they’re not getting paid directly for their time, re-create the importance of what it means to represent the US, and bring back a little Payne Stewart enthusiasm. Let’s tear down the engine and build it up again from scratch so we can get the program back to some consistency, because it still means more to them than it does to us, and close should not be good enough. Let us know your thoughts on the overall performance of the US Ryder Cup team here and in any of the quick links.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is this US Ryder Cup Team sailing into disaster?

This is the longest hitting team that the US has ever sent to the Ryder Cup which may be exactly what the Europeans were hoping for because if there was one course in Europe that is not forgiving to those who frequent the shank or hook, it’s Celtic Manor. So will the American team be able to keep it on the fairway and should they sacrifice some distance to do so? If the practice round was any indication it appears they will. Dustin Johnson, as long as anyone at the Ryder Cup, only hit driver off the tee on the par 5s during his practice round Tuesday. As for the rough, he described it as so deep that anything more than a 6-iron away, he would not be able to get it on the green. Although the US are the defending champs they are slight underdogs in the fourball and the overall tournament as well, so it’s not just Tiger who has something to prove to the fans across the pond. Keep in mind how much international tournaments help US fans forget one’s shortcomings (ask Kobe Bryant) whose stock took a meteoric rise after the US “Redeem Team” took the Gold Medal in Shang Hi with Kobe as the team’s MVP, he came home to a much different reception and all of the sudden the endorsements came back. This could be TW’s time to start working his way back up that hill, conversely, a bad showing will only further his plummeting stock. The team has already had its share of disfunctionality with the caddie fiasco when 3 caddies were asked to take a separate flight due to an overcrowded private plane, and the caddies of the captain’s picks were asked to volunteer. Rest assured Cory Paven will earn his paycheck if the US can hold the cup because the pairings will make all the difference and it will be no easy challenge to put together a winning combination. Obviously the talent is there but the challenges of getting the team to play together when needed and getting the ‘go to guys’ take care of their business in match play will make the difference. The rain has rolled in and made the rough and hazards and absolute nightmare, so it will come down to the basics of hitting it far and straight. The odds makers don’t think this is right team to carry the flag but they just might surprise you. How do you think Tiger will play and will the US carry the Cup? Who will be the MVP of this year’s team? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

USA shouldn’t count on to many lucky bounces

US moves to 4-0 and has one final practice with Tunisia before knockout round
The US took care of business against Iran, but probably got more quality work in their own Blue/White scrimmage. From here there is one more similar matchup before the knockout round where one bad quarter can cause a disaster that last a lifetime. If the US hope to avoid a disaster similar to the 04 Olympics then they had better work on eliminating the turnovers and get some quality play from the second team. It was great to see Granger, Love, and Chandler give some support off the bench but if they continue to average 4 turnovers per quarter they will get an early ticket home.

Team USA may be 3-0 but it sure doesn’t feel like it as it as one left the arena on Monday feeling more like Brazil lost the game rather than the US winning it, as three Brazilian shots went awry in the final moments to preserve a two-point win that was nothing to write home about. In fact the Brazilians only start 3 NBA players and one didn’t play (Anderson Varejao who only averages 8 & 7 anyway) so this is not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination but they sure pushed the US to the limit. A nine point fourth quarter as part of only a 22-point second half almost cost the US a top-seed in the knockout stage, as the US doesn’t seem to be learning from it’s mistakes. Remember it was a bad third-quarter against Greece in the 04’ Olympic games that resulted in the first loss in over 40 years in medal play and was the catalyst for USA Basketball to completely change the way they approached international competition. What was apparent is the lack of scoring punch of the second unit and perhaps coach K needs to shake things up a bit going into the final two games of the group stage in which anything less than 20+ point victories would be considered a federal offense. However come next week the time zone difference, funky ball, changes to how the refs call the game, etc. had better be behind them or it may be a congressional oversight committee waiting for them when they touch down, rather than a welcoming one. What do you think will be the outcome of the Worlds’? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Toney not the only fighter who got his lights turned out

Like many I was eagerly anticipating UFC 118 as the headline matches had great storylines but unfortunately unlike most MMA fights these left something to be desired. Much like a $49.95 PPV boxing match that doesn’t deliver, this was in the same class. Perhaps James “Lightsout” Toney did bring an element of boxing to the ring after all, because he didn’t bring any other skills en route to a microwave fight with Randy Couture who clearly demonstrated why Boxers should stay in the ring and out of the octagon. Although RC was pushing fiddy’ in age he was still the favorite as many thought if he was able to get to Toney’s legs that it would be short work. JT talked way too much Smac even for a boxer, as he had to know he would be a fish out of water if the bout made it to the mat, and within seconds of the first round that’s exactly where they were with JT trying to fend off getting choked out. This is what the MMA fighters have been screaming all along, that some styles should just not mix. You’re taking a discipline that trains its athletes strike, choke, and force your opponent into submission as opposed to being trained to feint, jab, counter, and hold if you get out of position. In MMA if you get caught out of position, you will find yourself tapping out real soon as Toney found out. Don’t get me wrong if the roles were reversed the outcome would have been the opposite because Couture would not have been able to defend the power punches of Toney without the ability to shoot his legs and take him to the ground, but that’s the very point, you’re trying to take a street fighter out into the street where almost anything goes. Perhaps this will send a message to other boxers that are thinking of taking this up as a hobby after their real careers are over. In case you got confused by the sideshow that was the preliminary bout, you missed the passing of the torch as Frankie Edgar dismantled BJ Penn for five consecutive rounds to win a unanimous decision for the second consecutive bout between the two. And don’t feel bad because ESPN and most sports shows did as well as they all began the MMA segment with undercard bout, which was completely missing the point of a World Title Fight. To be honest it’s a shame to see possibly the greatest middleweight this sport has seen burn out so quickly but Penn was never in this fight or the first and it’s time to stop talking about what was and start talking about how Edgar may be the future. Should boxers, football players, or other athlets try to get into MMA? Let us know here and in the MMA chat rooms.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Without Tiger and Phil, PGA creates its own drama on Sunday

To say that the PGA tour is lacking a little excitement right now is an understatement, and the ratings continue to prove that. With Tiger still hunting to find his game and Lefty struggling to stay healthy for 72 holes, the game needs a ‘go to’ guy to fill in into Daddy gets home. With nether of the afore mentioned having an afternoon tee time on Sunday the PGA made due by creating a little drama on their own by calling a 2-stroke penalty on Dustin Johnson on the 18th hole for “grounding his club into a hazard” we could spend a paragraph or two on what that means in English but the long and the short of it is that you simply can’t get a free “lay of the land” with you club, ie; see how firm the bunker is, etc. So a 5 became a 7 and instead of a three player, 3-hole playoff, we had a two. From there Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson did give us a great sudden death shootout worthy of more notoriety than it received and that’s just my point. You really can’t ask much more from a tournament that we got from the 2010 PGA Championship and it wasn’t good enough to keep the ratings from falling more than double digits. It proves that audiences would still rather watch Tiger, Phil, Ernie, or Vijay than have a new face hoist the trophy at each major. I for one like to know that it’s anyone’s tournament when they tee-off of on Thursday, as it’s a refreshing change from what we’ve seen over the past few years as it only makes news when one of the big two doesn’t win. So, now it seems that the champion is on the canvas and needs to battle to his feet, but to be honest I don’t know if the big cat has it in him to make an Ali-like return to the top. We’ve seen this before with compeer David Duval, Jim Courier in tennis, and even in many individual sports where the player seems to just lose the magic and drop from to upper echelon to obscurity leaving everyone to wonder how it happened. I’m certainly not ready to concede that’s the case with Lefty and Tiger but TW better get a guru swing coach in camp right away and Lefty better hit the meds or Golf may lose all the mo’ it’s been building over the past few years. What do you think about the penalty assest to Johnson? Are we not talking enough about the winners rather than the losers? Would you rather see new faces atop the leader board or the heavyweights doing battle to make history?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is Toney the right choice for boxing to take on the MMA?

The banter began when Floyd Mayweather said that MMA was for the fighters who couldn’t “hack” boxing and it has been escalating ever since. The latest exchange has come between UFC President Dana White and former three-time world champion James “lights out” Toney, who initiated the banter by calling out several MMA fighters that he could and would knock out if pitted against, ahead of his bout with Randy “the natural” Couture and then White countered by stating that Toney would get his #$% kicked on August 28. RC has also chimed in by stating that he heard Toney was talking smack (no pun intended) so “let’s do it”. The very intrigue of mixed martial arts is trying to figure out which style or discipline would be able to enforce it’s will when matched up in the octagon. Now we will have perhaps the two most prominent, with boxing and wrestling. However there is so much more riding on this bout than bragging rights, ad what we’ve seen are two sports heading in different directions as MMA has experienced unprecedented growth while boxing continues to struggle without many likable or bankable stars like Mayweather. Moreover, their lack of ability to make big fights happen has crippled the sport at the ticket counter. Some of the criticism of boxing comes from fans who now watch MMA because of the lack of action in some boxing matches. So now is the chance for boxing to either get some of it’s “street cred” back or take a huge step back to the new kid on the block. Now the lingering question, in a bout with so much significance and potential history, is James Toney (72-6-3) at 41 years-old the best man to represent the sport? I would normally say no but at 47 Randy Couture is no spring chicken either and if ‘styles make fights’ then this is actually a pretty good opponent for Lightsout to face. I realize for a time RC was carrying the flag for the UFC, but in addition to a modest 18-10 record, only one of those wins has come by a submission, which is the ONLY advantage to a wrestler taking on a boxer, because they’re allowed to strike and choke out even when on the ground. So if they stand upright then Toney’s 44 knockouts comes into play and with only 4 ounce gloves (boxers normally wear 10) if Toney manages to catch Couture it will truly be lights out. So although he couldn’t pay his own way into a bout for one of the heavyweight belts, James Toney may end up added a fourth from a very unexpected place. Who do you think will be able to enforce their will in the Toney/Couture match? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pac-Man/Money delays may be more self preservation than negotiation

First it was about drug test or lack there of, then it was venue/money, and then an agreement was “imminent” and a date set for Nov 13th, but here we are over half way through the year and the fight of the decade still has not been inked. In the latest chapter of the saga Promoter Bob Arum presented the Mayweather camp with a 12am ultimatum to agree to terms or lose his “exclusivity period”, which really isn’t much a threat to begin with as neither fighter has many options. The only bullets Arum has in his gun are Miguel Cotto (has already lost to Pac-Man and no one wants to see a rematch) and Antonio Margarito(who still doesn’t have a license to fight in the US) so not much a threat against someone who knows you coined HIS fight the “Fight of the Century”. However what may be more of an obstacle are the legal influences in each corner, Manny excuse me, Congressman Pacquiao, may be called away to perform his civic duties and once this window closes it may not open again. Across the ring Floyd’s uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather, may have pressing legal obligations of his own but on the other side of the room as he has to deal with an upcoming battery allegation and may not be available to work the corner and Money may insist on him being there. Beyond the smoke screen of all of these moving parts may be the simple fact that both men realize that a loss thoroughly tarnishes their legacy as Floyd is the only unbeaten champion who has taken all comers to this point, and Pac-Man needs Floyd to negate his losses and cement his name as one of the best to ever lace them up. Both of these may be more intimidating for both fighters than any of the other external factors, and as they get up there in age and start realizing that there is more waiting for them after they leave the ring the last thing either wants is to go out a loser which is the one issue that is non-negotiable as someone will leave with the dreaded L. Who is more at fault for the fight not happening in your opinion? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Big Dogs Lost in the Woods, but the field playing competitive golf

If the proper salutation is “Ms. Andrews” then she must be taking up Elin’s cause because payback has been a bitch to Tiger as he can not seem to gain any momentum or make up any ground on the leaders, and it’s not just TW as the entire pack of players that were within striking distance but needed to pick up a couple of strokes themselves while having the leaders pull back just a bit in order to make for a marquis finish didn’t happen. At the close of round three there are no big names at the top, as Garcia (-4), Woods (-3), Lefty (-2), Singh (-1), and Cink (-1) will be the opening act on Sunday ahead of the headliners, Louis Oosthuizen (leader at -15), Paul Casey (-11), and Martin Kaymer (-8) may not be household names but they are taming a fickle mistress right now, and if lady luck is Ms. Andrews BFF then she is joining those three for cocktails after this round, because they have had their share of visits to the tall stuff as well but have managed to hold it together with only 3 bogeys between them. What makes the Open, “the Open” is the combination of an unforgiving course and the elements themselves and usually they ‘take the white gloves off’, but they had some sympathy yesterday as the top paring on the course was Ms. Andrews and Mother Nature so the officials decided to try and keep it close by calling for a delay in play, not for a rain delay, but because of the wind which you RARELY see. Much of the damage had been done however as the early players got a decisive advantage. Rory McIlroy made the largest peak to trough drop in Open history going from 63 to 80, and the difference of scores before and after the break are staggering, as the players below par 23/0, even par or higher 28/75, rounds in the 60’s 9/0, 68’s or better 6/0, and most of all the scoring average 72.29/76.92. So once again getting on the links early made all the difference and perhaps created an insurmountable lead. Just the same enjoy the final round on Sunday for what it is, great players trying to tame a vicious course. It may not have the names, bit of you were watching live without the benefit of TV titles you wouldn’t know the difference. If you must have a familiar name to keep your interest then watch Phil and Tiger have their game within a game as Lefty tries to leapfrog Tiger and take over the number one ranking which may end up stealing the thunder when all is said and done anyway.
Get the Complete British Open Betting lines and prop bets here.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Early birds get the birds in round one

The way that St. Andrews is set up this year the weather is forcing players to play the back nine differently than they play the front nine, so you can just imagine the adjustments the late groups are making to adapt to climate changes in the late afternoon. That’s been the story of the Open thus far, as the early groups gained a decided advantage as scoring opportunities dried up the moisture increased. As the last group completed their round, umbrellas were abundant and the birdies had all left the course. Lefty was one of many that was taken out with the tide as he finished +1 for the day, ten shots back. Heath Slocum and Gareth Maybin are the only late afternoon players to break par (-2) a further confirmation that Mother Nature is the clubhouse leader. Although it would be almost impossible to match last year’s drama with Tom Watson’s miraculous run only to lose in the playoff, but if Daly can manage not to implode and make it to the weekend it would set up an amazing storyline that could possibly rival if not top Tom’s from last year, but let’s not get crazy and remember it’s Thursday not Saturday. In the event that the JD saga doesn’t interest you then perhaps the tribulations of the number 1 player in the world might, as he did manage to shoot a -5 for the first round and any time Tiger is remotely close after round one you have to think that he will be around in the end. After losing 7(insert 8 zeros) to a divorce settlement then losing his swing in the same month, TW is in need of a comeback of his own as for the first time in a decade his perilous hold on number one is now on a tournament by tournament basis and a finish outside of the top ten could spell the end of an era. Normally a five under par may not put you on top of the leaderboard but you certainly don’t expect to be out of the top 10, actually he’s tied for 8th with nine other players (which makes perfect sense), but for all intent and purposes he’s 12th but only 4 strokes off the lead, which would be half of the front nine for the “old” Tiger but I’m not sure who this new guy is yet, I just know he has a new putter. So who would make a better comeback story for you? Tiger or JD? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spain finally live up to expectations but it wasn’t pretty

Spain has been ranked in the top three spots for what seems like the last decade only to come away with one piece of hardware (08’ European Championship) but now they have the grand prize with their first ever World Cup Championship in an ugly 1-0 game. With all due respect to the Spaniards, it seemed like the Dutch came into the match thinking they might be a little out-manned talent wise top-to-bottom and wanted to physically take control of the match, resulting in a ten yellow cards, and an very slow game. Final game aside, Spain only had eight goals in seven matches, the lowest total on any side ever to win a World Cup. So another WC Final ends 1-0 in anti-climatic fashion which doesn’t do the tournament justice. For a side that was unbeaten in the tournament going into the Final the Dutch certainly looked intimidated from the outset while Spain controlled possession throughout which has their MO, and took the game with another late deciding goal past the 73rd minute for the third time in the tournament. It’s not like Holland didn’t have their chances on offense as Robin simply couldn’t convert on two golden opportunities, and the missed 1-on-1 chance with just him and the goalie will surely haunt him for some time to come. Four years seems like an eternity but if I could be so bold as to make a request (aside from improved officiating) it would be to finally have a final that was the best match of the last four as both semi-final games and the third place game were much more entertaining. What do you think of the 2010 Cup? What was the most impressive/disappointing? In the end how would you rate the US performance, and France and Italy’s lack thereof?
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Monday, July 5, 2010

World Cup’s Final Four are deserving while others have spent too much time in US

You know, if you were on vacation on another planet for the last three weeks and just got back in time to catch the semi-finals of the World Cup you would see Spain (FIFA #1), Netherlands (FIFA #4), Germany (FIFA #6), and Uruguay (FIFA #16) and think that it has pretty much played true to form as on any given day (and depending on who was at home) the top 8 sides could beat each other on any given day and Uruguay pulled off a major upset as there is always at least one per cup. However those that have watched every match would tell you that the real skinny is that the perennial behemoths are not the formidable sides they’ve been in previous years and have some major restructuring to do. Italy, England, France, and Brazil are all stacked with talent and a roster that reads like dream team but it seems the rest of the world is now starting to catch USA disease. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s an ailment that sets in when you start to believe that individual talent can still win at the “World Competition Level” and that you can just show up and win because the other sides will be so enamored with your names and reputation. The second stage of the disease comes when you assemble individual stars rather than “teams” only to be astonished when sides of lesser collective talent not only beat you but rather easily. This disease can be fatal to many who bleed certain sports like soccer(football), hockey, and baseball. There are several in the US who have still not come to grips with the fact that the US lost the World Baseball Classic and are NOT considered World Champions in the sport, and that the US ‘Dream Team’ got the bronze medal in the 04’ Olympic Basketball including a 20-point loss in competition. Grant it the US Hoops team was cured of the disease and with dedication and rehabilitation recovered to live productive lives that included the gold medal in 08’. However what it took was a commitment to cause prior to the year of given competition, the selection of a team that was composed of players each for a specific task rather than the best 11 strikers on the best 11 clubs in the country, all of which whom want the ball at the same time. After this week all but two countries in the world will be searching for answers on how four years of preparation could yield such marginal results and France, Italy, England, among others had better make their appointment with the Doctor to begin rehab as 2014 will come around faster than they think and like most potentially fatal illnesses, this one doesn’t leave the system in a day. Who do you think was the biggest disappointment in the 2010 World Cup? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

England and Mexico can question the calls but not the outcome

*****Monday Update*****
Three of the top four teams in the world will be on display Monday as the Dutch, Brazilians, and Spanish will all enter the knockout round. Holland should handle Slovakia but look for them to try and get out quick in order to put the pressure on. Kaka returns from suspension and Brazil are unbeaten in their last 32 matches with him in the lineup. Lastly, Spain will have to look much better than they have thus far in the Cup if they hope to get by a potent Portuguese side.

Rest assured you have not heard the last about this topic but at the end of this World Cup there will be an equal amount of banter about the controversial calls as there will be about actual play on the pitch. In both matches this morning there were horrific calls made that possibly changed the course of the outcome. In the case of the Brits the offside call that was made cost them what would have been a tie at 2 and a chance to ‘mulligan’ their inauspicious start. In Mexico’s case it was a missed offside call that cost them a goal that clearly changed their strategy and forced them to move forward opening them up to two more scores, 0-3 deficit, and bringing Argentina’s 28-0-4 record in World Cup play when scoring first, thus signaling the end to their Cup chances. However, at the end of the day, terrible calls and human error should be nothing new to any of the participants as it has become commonplace and perhaps the players, coaches, and fans should be more cognizant on how they will adapt if/when it happens to their side. Now, I do understand the entire complexity of the game changes when you have to score just to equalize but both teams simply could not regroup following the travesty of justice. Also in both cases the goal differential of the game was more than two so although a factor (major) there was ample time to gather mentally and find a way to get back in the match.

US story reads the same but no Hollywood ending

The four matches the USA has played in this World Cup have pretty much followed true to the same script, give up a very early goal thus adding to already intense pressure, struggle to get even, then pull off the miracle ending and try to make it dramatic enough to get a “first look” deal in the future. For the first three matches it seemed to work each time the US snatching victory from the jaws of defeat but their first taste of the knockout round in eight years was re-written before going to post-production as Ghana scored a very cheaply earned goal in the 30-minute extra time period and hold on for a 2-1 win. Ironically the same score they ousted the US by in the previous World Cup. The most disappointing thing for the US was that they did not take advantage of a favorable draw as this was a very winnable game and seemed to be there for the taking. Those daring enough to look ahead also viewed a matchup with Uruguay as within their grasp as well. In the end the US just ran out of gas and didn’t kept getting beat to the ball and had way too many turnovers when fatigue set in, a poignant example of how as a nation we’re not quite ready for prime time. Soccer in this US will simply never reach the level of importance as it has around the globe, or if it does it won’t come in our lifetime, but perhaps that is one of the things that needs to change for us to compete consistently, as we simply set the bar for ourselves too low and getting out of the group stage is way to big of a moral victory. Similar to the way some schools are happy just to make the NCAA tournament and others will call anything short of a Final Four a disappointment. Once again, I understand true fans of the sport loathe it when correlations with other sports are used to explain soccer/football/fussball, but that’s exactly my point. We need to start bleeding it like others do or when it comes down to critical situations like the match with Ghana and both sides are digging deep to find a way to finish after 2 hours on the pitch, its that motivation that separates the countries moving on and the ones trying to find answers whey they’re not. Are you content with the US showing in this world cup? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Underdog role is nice, but if soccer wants to be a major, it’s time to set up

The US need not be satisfied with just advancing to the ‘knockout phase’ of the World Cup as that’s what was expected of them. An overabundance of drama that was bestowed on them from overcoming early deficits, horrible refereeing, and getting the country to turn off the NBA Finals and Inter-league baseball long enough to give a toss, is now in the rearview mirror and they now have earned a spot in the sweet-16 of world soccer. At the milepost where they have arguably had their greatest win (2-0 over Mexico to advance to the final 8) the US has another winnable game and as much as I hate to play fortune teller, if someone would have come the US and told them that in one game you can actually WIN Group C by simply beating Algeria and for good measure we’ll throw in a trip to the final 8 if you can knock off Ghana, anyone and everyone associated with the representation of this country over the past 4 years would have accepted those stipulations with pleasure and anticipation. Now that the terms have been accepted it’s time to step up and become a major sport in the country like you’ve always wanted to become, but that only comes with winning. One advantage the US Soccer team has to accomplish this goal is that a sure way (other than winning a championship) to get the neutrals off the fence and on the band wagon is to feel like the US is being cheated or to play the underdog role, both those scenarios have come into play. The opportunity is there for this specific US team to take the sport from the junior college football fields to the stadiums and not to rest on the laurels of an unbeaten group stage record. So let’s create another major sport to follow and battle baseball in the summer the way the NBA, NHL, and NFL do in fall and winter, and what better way to kick it off then having another National Team have an impact in a world competition. The Basketball and Hockey players answered the call in the last Olympics and it’s time for soccer to follow suit as they will not have such a golden opportunity for another four years. Does the US have enough talent to go deep into the field or has it reached it's limit? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Did anyone really want to win this thing?

For a tournament that is hailed as our National Championship it sure wasn’t very impressive. It’s not so much that none the American top players were on top of the leader board at the end, or even because we let someone come into our house and take our National Championship trophy back with them on a plane, but because the play was so poor for a tournament of such high prestige. I understand the Pebble Beach as been revised to be the equivalent of the Green Monster with water hazards, but no course can or should make the winning score an even par. None of the top 5 players had cards with red ink on them in the final round with the best coming from Frenchman Greg Havret and even that was still +1 for round. The best player in the world still can not seem to regain his prior form although he gave us a tease with a 3rd round 66, but it’s clear that Tiger is not the dominating force that he once was and it will take more than criticizing his caddy and changing swing coaches to get him back to form. The old Tiger would have taken this tournament bull by the horns in the last round and immediately crushed any dreams of an underdog coming on to his turf and walking out with his hardware. Not anymore. The stigma of TW being within striking distance on day 4 is all but folklore now. And where was Lefty with his chance to wear the national crown for the first time in his career in addition to taking over the world’s top spot? He also got the better of the course for one round of 66 but paid it back with interest over the other three, including a choke filled final round of +2. I’ll tell ya, this year began with some of the best sporting climaxes American sports has to offer (Super Bowl, NCAA Championship, even the Masters) but this was a major. A major disappointment. What was your take on the final round of the 2010 US Open? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

USA presented with a gift after having one stolen away

No matter how many angles you view or what rule you might try to apply there is no way a foul could reasonably be called on the tie-breaking score from Adu via Donovan in the 85th minute of the USA’s second round World Cup match. What should have been the culmination of a miraculous comeback after a very inauspicious start was taken away without justification or reason. Later on in the day the US was given a gift by Algeria (England) as they drew the Brits providing the US with some much needed breathing room and a solid chance to move forward to the knockout round. The US came out in typical fashion giving up an early goal and having to come from behind. This has been their MO for quite some time and would have to change if/when they advance. What they need to do is come out with a purpose and a killer instinct and let Algeria know they have no chance to win the match, and perhaps be the administer of the early goal and pressure rather than the recipient. Meanwhile there is simply shock and awe across the pond as England still can not put together 90 quality minutes of quality football and chalk up 3 points to move on. Amazing how things have turned around in the last 186 minutes of play, four minutes into the world cup they had a 1-0 lead over the US and were already making reservations for the finals but they have not scored since then, let alone won a match and now find themselves in a must win situation. On the final day of group play both the favorites in the Group still control their own destiny as a win gets them both in but who will be the 1 or 2 is one of many questions still up in the air. It will come down to goal differential which the us holds a two goal lead. It makes for nice drama and fodder but rest assured both teams will sort out their issues, come correct with their best game of the tournament and move on to the next round, but the questions will still remain. For the US, do they have the mental game to withstand the pressure of a real quality side like the ones they’ll face in the knockout phase? For England the question might be a little more poignant, are they as good as everyone (including their #7 ranking) thinks they are? Right now they look like a collection of great talent, and even better names, but a side that has no cohesiveness or unity. The positive both countries can take with them is there is still time to right the ship and then there will be no more blame to find a home for. Will both teams move on and how far will they go? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Perhaps it was England who were lucky to escape with a draw?

For the last 180 days since the groups for the 2010 World Cup groups were announced the headline match on two continents was the first game between the US and England and the hype machine was in full swing. The miracle of 1950, the disparity in win/loss, goals, and cup championships made a great storyline for that whole David vs. Goliath thing. However in reality, England wasn’t all that and a bag of chips, at least they didn’t play that way. Yea, for any soccer fan their line-up was full of household names but (and sorry to soccer fans for drawing a correlation to another sport) but I have to preface this by stating that this is the same scrutiny the US Olympic Basketball team gets for every game, and when you break out the best champagne you had better give fans a reason to celebrate and upon review, that was hardly the performance of a dominating side let alone the 7th ranked country on the planet. Ok, gift goal aside the US still had chances and Jozy sneaks that shot in near post 7 out of 10 times so it easily could have been 2-1 and then England really would have be facing a nation-wide suicide watch. True England did control possession (54%-46%) and outshot the US 18-13, but US exposed kinks in England’s armor, which is how slow they are in the defensive backfield and their lack of experience playing together, but all I’ve been reading is how Green GAVE the US the tie which is not the case, and keep in mind that the US didn’t play it’s best game either. So note to both sides, the US needs to get of their “underdog” horse and realize they are supposed to win these next two games, and England needs to recognize that the matches aren’t played on paper and they don’t look like best team in the group let alone the world so far. What are your thoughts on the first round of games so far? Let us know here and in any of the chat rooms and quick links.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Can the US pull off a miracle on grass?

They’ve come 30 years apart as the first came in 1950 as the US beat England to shock the world at the time. It would be 30 years later for the next one as the USA upset Russia in Olympic Hockey. So now after another 30 years the nation is wondering if we have another miracle coming on schedule. Well, let’s not look at this from a divine intervention standpoint but what realistic chance does the US have against the seventh ranked team in the world, who has won the head-to-head battle 7-2, and outscored the US 35-8 throughout their history? The US certainly has a “punchers chance” but that puncher had better have strikers that can finish the job and that is one of the big questions for the US is the health on Jozy Altidore and how quickly Edson Buddle adjust to the pace and the magnitude of the moment. Even before that comes the task of getting them the ball in a position to do some damage, which is daunting at the least with the 'dreamteamesque' midfield of Lampard, Gerrard, Cole, and Lennon, all household names among soccer fans around the world. All of which are known to come up and create quite a strikeforce of their own behind the frontline warheads of Rooney and Crouch. But everyone can be beaten, so where are the kinks? Firstly, the English could run into a similar problem that the 04’ USA Dreamteam did in Olympic hoops, where they are a collection of stars but not a cohesive unit. If this is the case then drawing them in the first game before they have a chance to gel may play to the US advantage. Also, if you can get over the great English midfield they not quite as strong defensively and once again with little game experience between them there will be opportunities, the US just has to try and score early and then hold them off. Lastly, as often comes with a big name, is a lot of experience, and one unvarying component of experience is age. That Midfield is not getting in younger and the young guns of the US should have a decisive speed advantage which they should look to exploit early and try to get that all important early lead. Lastly, one would have to admit the US is better athletically and in a draw situation my wear the English down come the 80th minute in that climate. So, on paper it may be a mismatch, and some things have to fall into place but stranger things have happened. They just seem to come 30 years apart.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Now EPL has it’s own “Super Sunday”

The argument by many on the left side of the pond that what the EPL needs is a playoff or a one-game final will get what they’ve been looking for this Sunday as the 38-game EPL season will culminate the weekend and crown a champion. However, unlike in most years where the issue has already been decided, this season’s table has the top two sides separated by one single point with one match to play. The Blues of Chelsea will host Wigan while Man U. host Stoke City, well it’s not much of a Super Bowl more of a first round NCAA Tournament matchup as it’s a 1 vs. 15 and 2 vs. 10, so we’d be looking for the equivalent of the 69’ Jets to get an upset of this caliber but the fact that it could happen makes you want to watch all the more. Both sides should handle their business rather easily, but if they concede an early goal and then the visitors ‘pack it in’ defensively we could be in for some serious drama. Ok, maybe not but the fact that the season has needed until the second week in May to decide a champion ads fuel to the argument that a ‘playoff system’ simply takes the importance away from the regular season and why should a team get a second chance to become champion when they didn’t take advantage of the opportunity the first time around? On second thought, forget all of this, as the game and the system have been around longer than the argument so sit back and enjoy the day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Money lives up to his name(s)

Floyd “Money” Mayweather more than lived up to both of his nicknames last weekend as he easily disposed of “Sugar” Shane Mosely, who was thought by many as the ‘the best welter-weight fighter in the world’, and netting a nice 20 million purse in the process. His second nickname of the “PPV King” also remains in tact as the $54.99 fight did much better than many expected. However, if the mind of Money is anything like I think it is he would gladly turn in both names to regain the one he wants most, which is the “pound-for-pound” title back, and the only way he can get that is to take out Pac Man. Much like a political campaign, popular vote has suddenly swung Floyd’s way and his comments after the fight with Shane for once worked dramatically in his favor. Simply calling for the fight to be on a “level playing field” referring to his request for Manny to submit to a drug test doesn’t seem unreasonable, and now Pacquiao’s reason for refusing being his “fear of needles” carries much less weight, particularly when you see the number of tattoos on his body. For the first time in his career many are beginning to doubt the depths of his dominance and finding some chinks in the armor. But the best thing about boxing is the fact that usually things get decided in an absolute fashion. Two go into the ring and one beats the other, no refs, bad calls, or instant replays. One winner, all questions and trash talking answered, the fight of the millennium. So before we have to start counting hanging chads to decide the PFP belt let’s man up, prick the fingers, and settle this in the ring.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tiger may have set the table but Lefty carries the day

Now that the lights have all gone out, the non-Georgians have filtered to Ben Epps airport, and the grounds crew is repairing all of the divots, the PGA has a chance to asses the results of the 2010 Masters and it appears they got everything they wanted. Firstly, was Tiger’s return, which had every media outlet with more that two employees requesting media credentials, TV ratings up an phenomenal 50% over last year and 80% over 2008, with 4.94 million viewers, and having the most “current” media friendly participant win the tournament in Phil Mickelson, makes for a perfect weekend. It’s not just the PGA who was pleased, ESPN and CBS who carried the coverage saw ad revenues almost double, and unique internet users increase 89%. Although the final round did not have the drama of year’s past with Lefty winning by 3 strokes by then, everyone seemed to have gotten what they came for. Hopefully what won’t be lost in theatrics of the weekend is another amazing showing by Phil on Golf’s biggest stage. En route to getting fitted for his third green jacket he a stretch that included back-to-back Eagles and was less than 2 feet away from a third, shot a final round 5-under-par 67 with a series of great par saves and clutch shots, and fully shaken the rep of not being ready for prime time. It was the Brits who faded this time as Poulter and Westwood couldn’t close the deal or hold off the charging Mickelson who turned out to be better at darts as the was throwing them with deadly accuracy all day on Sunday. Now, the question is will Phil take over the title as the “people’s champion” and be able to parlay Sunday’s win into creating a consistent challenge to Tiger going forward as no one has been able to consistently ruffle his fur for quite some time although the Rory Sabatinis of the world occasionally have a shining moment or two. If he can this will be the greatest rivalry in the sport since Arnie and Jack used to drop gloves, but it could polarize the sport as now anyone who was on the fence will surely choose a side and in the tournaments without the crowd control of Augusta could get heated. Rest assured there will be more drama to come and either way the sport will benefit from it, and I’ll be one of those 5 million plus watching. What did you think of the Masters final? How do you think Tiger’s return will change golf if any? Let us know here and in World Sports and Golf Blogs.
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Golf gets a needed shot in the arm as Master’s delivers

It’s no secret how much Tiger needed to get back to golf. It’s also no secret how much the game of golf needed Tiger, as documented by the colossal drop in ratings of close to 18% since his hiatus began. In that regard the 2010 Masters Tournament could not have come at a better time delivering multiple storylines and providing enough intrigue to keep golf fans of all ages glued to the their flat screens. Right off the bat when Arnie hit the 18-foot put in the par-3 contest you knew we were in for something special. Then you had the “Golden Guy” Tom Watson, at 60 the oldest player in this Masters, picked up from his amazing ride at last year's British Open with a bogey-free round of 67 that left him tied with Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, PGA champion Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi. On top of that you had “everybody loves Fred” Couples a fan favorite drop a 66 and lead the field by a stroke, a guy that no one would object to being fitted for a green jacket. Lastly, as the headline act, Tiger making his return to the links after a five month hiatus and shooting a 68, his best opening round score since the turn of the century to prove to everyone that “he don’t need no stinkin’ practice”. Two of these stories alone could have carried the day but a combination of them had actually overshadowed the amazing races in both NHL and NBA that tighten each day. Unfortunately the rest of the Nation probably won’t join until the network coverage intervenes on Saturday and if Fred, Tom, Phil, and Tiger are still in the froth at the start of the weekend, rest assured there will be mo’ (and ratings) to put Golf back on the map again. Can Watson pull off another British Open miracle? Does Couples have enough in the bag to consistency to stay on top? Will Tiger regain his old form and put everyone away over the weekend? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.
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Monday, April 5, 2010

EPL Summit Meeting leaves all feeling ‘Blue’ - Chelsea vs. Man U.

The most anticipated EPL match of the season took place at Old Trafford this weekend as Chelsea all but sealed up the EPL title with a ‘ginormous’ 2-1 win over Manchester United. We mentioned earlier in the week how Man U had the daunting task of taking 2 of 3 huge games back to back, as the afore mentioned EPL showdown was sandwiched between Champions League Matches with Bayern, and now they find themselves in a dubious 0-2 position with only the last leg of a head-to-head left. On top of the pressure United had to deal with the loss of Wayne Rooney which obviously changes the dynamic of their club but so did the Blues as Drogba was reduced to limited duty but came though despite coming off the bench, by scoring a controversial goal mid-way through the second half to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead that would prove to be the winning margin of victory. In what has become the norm in matches of great importance, critical (non)calls that have been missed by the naked eye but clearer than 20/20 on replay, have dire consequences for the side on the short end. Even in another match is not played until June, this subject will emerge every time they name the World Cup participants and Ireland watches from home. It makes no sense that millions of fans watching from the comfort of their home or chaos of a sports bar see 30-seconds later that Drogba was off-side, yet we have to live with a tainted result. I understand the opponent’s argument about taking the ‘human element’ out of the game but with so much on the line isn’t it more important to get it right? If that’s not a good enough argument then what about the fact that the game itself is being overshadowed by a bad, missed, or distorted call? Do you think people will be talking about France’s qualifying match three years from now or the worst (non)handball since the “hand of God”? In any case Chelsea had given themselves a 2-point lead with 5 to play and may be hoisting a trophy soon. Now I’m not saying that Man U. is dead… after all it is Easter weekend, but we may be talking about something else three years from now as well. Has Chelsea just wrapped up the EPL? Should they adopt instant replay in the EPL? Let us know your thoughts here and in any of the quick links.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

The simple truth about Tiger, now can we get back to Golf?

If anyone ever ask the question if Tiger is bigger than the sport of golf itself, try this little test. I challenge you to find a recent story about the Master’s, on the web, in publication or otherwise that has nothing to do about Tiger’s sex life. I mean, I’ll take one on how the course is holding up, what other golfers look in their practice rounds, how Tiger’s fundamentals look after being off for 5+ months. You won’t because no one cares or wants to read about it, and that gives you the state of the sport. If I were another player on tour I’d be pretty upset (softly put) if I worked my entire life to achieve a status that few on the planet ascend to, and all people are asking me about was if I had an opportunity to talk to the ‘playa’ in red, and how/if I’m affected by what’s going on in his world. I wouldn’t be surprised if some else other than Elin takes a 9 nine iron to him simply out of frustration. So I thought I would take this opportunity to expose the simple facts of this our prior to the start of the tournament so those of us who actually are interested in the golf tournament won’t have to deal with the TMZ type idiots who should be on a different channel watching entertainment tonight ( I don’t even know if that’s still on the air but you get the point). Firstly, Tiger isn’t a sex addict. I mean, that is the lamest term to describe a male under 40, it’s like calling a dog a “meat addict”. Seriously, be smart for a minute, what makes more sense, that he has a physical ailment (that is considered ‘abnormal’ in heterosexual males), or he’s a freakin’ billionaire who is making up for lost time when he was on the college campus, a skinny kid, on a northern California campus where the football and basketball players were hooking up weekly with different hot beach co-eds and the geeky golfer was drinking his warm beer in the corner thinking “I’m a athlete too, why aren’t I getting any?” Then he becomes the most recognizable athlete on the planet AND NOW the cheerleaders that wanted nothing to do with him are sneaking out of his hotel windows at 2am in every city that host a major. No doubt his wife is quality and you’re just not going to be able to put that on ice for two years while the gets this stuff out of his system, she’d be with some else by then. So, he figured he’d lock down the life-long companion and finish his graduate work on the side. Same as many of our beloved NFL, NBA, and MLB players. That’s it, there’s no master criminal conspiracy, no undocumented mental illness, no brain dysfunction. He’s a male, in the prime of his life, with plenty of 20k per night suites at his disposal, complete with secret tunnels or discrete exit/entry. Oh, and the other golfers, and writers, they simply are using the opportunity to pounce on Tiger for either kicking their a$$ on the course or snubbing them on an interview. These are the same guys with one on each knee at Super Bowl parties so don’t for one second think they don’t have their own agenda. Ok, there you have it, now can we put the tabloids down and focus on the best golfers in the world coming to Georgia on April 8th. Do you think Tiger's off the course activities have overshadowed the game? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

No moral victories for the US as Canada takes the Gold

At the end of the day ‘Sid the Kid’ redeemed himself for not converting on a breakaway opportunity earlier in the 3rd period that would have put the gold medal on ice, by scoring in overtime to give Canada the 3-2 win and the undisputed World Championship. The Canadians competed ‘the gauntlet’ winning four games in six days including victories over Russia and the US. Many north of the border felt the red leafs out played the US in the first game outshooting them better than 2 to 1, however the gold medal game was quite a different story as the shots were exactly even at the end of regulation, as were the face-offs won, but obviously the us would trade in improving in the statistical battle for the same result of their preliminary round. In fact, the Canadian 1-0 lead was the first time the US had trailed in the entire tournament. The key to Canada’s success was finally realizing that the crafty vet Brodour had lost a step, and tuned to Roberto Luongo who would have to be considered for MVP if there was such an honor. Based on the previous post it was clear I like many, at the start of the Olympics didn’t expect the US to medal let alone find themselves in the position where one goal would have meant Gold, and for that I profoundly apologize, and let me be the first to state that the “gap” between the US and the rest of the world in the sport of Hockey is officially closed, and going forward any ‘underdog’ labels are for motivational purposes only. However all of this is no consolation to team USA as they realized they had as good a shot, possibly better than anyone else and there would be no movies made after this team. It wasn’t the best tournament ever, as the Russians were clearly overrated, the Sweeds never lived up to their potential and, although I can appreciate an underdog victory as much as anyone else, want to see the top 4 seeds in the final four, but it was by far the best finals match ever, not just because it was the first OT since the Torino games, but add in the home country playing in the final game, where one goal either takes them to suicide watch or to the pinnacle. Great for drama but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s going to be the longest one-hour flight home ever for team USA. What are your thoughts on the Olympic Hockey Tournament? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

US won the battle but Canada is convinced it will win the war

The United States Men’s Hockey team remained unbeaten and top seed as the Olympic Hockey moves into it’s version of the “Frozen Four”. Along with their next opponent #4Finland, #7Slovakia, and #4Canada. Truth be told this is one of those situations where looking back, beating the Canadians for the first time in 50 years in Olympic competition may have been something other than “the greatest game since the Miracle on Ice”, as the Canadians appear stronger after their ordeal, and after disposing of an overrated Russian squad facing a #7 seed in Slovakia as the US takes on #4 Finland. After the country suffered a day of mourning, they came to the realization that they needed to win 4 games in six nights, with the toughest game supposedly coming in the quarters against Russia, basically passing off the loss to the US as an aberration, as they would probably have to face them again in the Gold Medal Game. Well, they not only won the first two of four, but looked very convincing in doing so, splitting the poles 15 times in the two games. Now they are left with only 7-seed standing in their way back to redemption, making their purgatory a very short lived one. Meanwhile the US has gone quietly about their business at 4-0, top seed, and facing a Finnish team that has played well defensively but shouldn’t have the team speed to stay with the younger US team (the US has 23 players under 25 years old), who is also more rested. Ya know it’s simply amazing how quickly the Cannucks turned those frowns upside down and after defeating the Russians, believe once again that they are the favorites to take gold on Sunday. “if it took the States 50 years to beat us once, they certainly can’t do it twice in one week” a popular paper wrote. Well, if it was disrespect that proved to be the catalyst for a US victory the first time around, there certainly won’t be a shortage of bulletin board material, but the US will be at a disadvantage possibly larger than facing a packed house with an entire nation watching, the fact that they won’t be able to catch the Canadians off guard this time. Can the US pull the ‘upset of the decade’ twice in one week? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

‘Horror Night’ in Canada

What normally is the best night of the week for native Canadians, the US Men’s Hockey team simply shocked the world by going into the lion’s den in the great white north and came out with a 5-3 victory. What made it so amazing wasn’t just the fact that it was the first US victory over Canada in 50 years but pure magnitude of the moment as 60 million fans watched the game north of the border (making it the most watched hockey game in the hockey nation’s history), the onslaught of shots, 45 in all, by a Canadian club that is composed of some the most talented players ever assembled, and the pressure of beating a team that literally had a country in its corner. Everyone’s looking at what’s wrong with the Canadian side and it’s no secret that Marty has not played his best games between the poles, and they may be a club that’s designed to much for offense, but those didn’t change the fact that the US came out and punched them in the mouth from the first minute on and never trailed in the game and although they never stopped cheering, the crowd at Canada Hockey Place was not at the deafening level until late in the 3rd period when it became more out of desperation than anything else. The US answered every Canadian score with one (or more) of their own and very quickly, so the Canadians could never build any momentum. What might even be more important than everything previously stated, the loser has a nothing short of a gauntlet to get to the gold medal game including games against the Russians and Swedes, where regardless of your seeding, they’re both in the top 4, while the winner must deal with a very beatable team from Finland (sound like shades of 1980?). In a tournament like this it’s all about getting a hot at the right time, a hot goalie, (much like Jim Craig in 80’), Ryan Miller stopped 42 of 45 shots, and getting non-stars to step up (Brian Rafalsky has 4 goals are year for the Red Wings and 4 goals in his 3 Olympic games, and lastly, not being afraid to do great things. The US has done that so far and their reward should be a gold medal match against one of the top 3 teams in the world. One would think the youngest team in the tournament will begin to feel the pressure, but then again, most of us are still rinsing out the taste of our shoes by now. How far can the US go? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympics have their version of “Rivalry Weekend”, as the Favorites face must win games

To say that it doesn’t get any bigger, would do it justice enough if you’re Canadian as it’s already being called the biggest game in Canadian Hockey history. Obviously, that’s a bit of hyperbole as they’ve played for medals before but not against the US and not in their own backyard. A loss to the US on Canadian soil would be the biggest LOSS in history even though a win wouldn’t constitute the same. The Canadians may have been looking ahead as they got sleeping against the Swiss and needed a Sidney Crosby goal in overtime to escape with the deuce but still trail the US by a point as the US is 2-0 and sits atop the group with six points. Normally you wouldn’t sweat the Leafs going against the US in their national sport, but because of all the hype and added pressure if the US can survive the first period onslaught of emotion it will work their advantage because you gotta’ believe the noose will tighten as the game goes on. What the US has to do is defend the Canadians off the boards, and limit the mental mistakes they made against the Swiss. Even though they won, on several occasions they were bailed out by superb goalie play as they over committed on the offensive end left themselves vulnerable to the counter attack against the Canadians that will prove to be fatal. The bottom line is that this is about more than just redemption from the 06’ games, this is about national pride, and as much as I’d love to see a sequel to the “miracle on ice” I can’t see it happening tomorrow.

Also on tap tomorrow is Russia vs. the Czech Republic as amazingly it’s the Russians who are in a must win situation and face the humility of not making the medal round after a loss as shocking as you’ll ever see, 1-2 to Slovakia. A favorite to hang gold in every Olympiad the Russians also may have been caught looking ahead and now face an even worse scenario in the event of a loss than the host do. Both would be embarrassed in the eyes of the fellow countrymen but at least the host could redeem themselves by coming back to win the gold where the Russians would be sent home medaless, and then probably to Siberia. This game will be the opening act for a very exciting day on the ice but you get the feeling the big red machine will answer the call in this one, realize what a close call it was, then get it together and find themselves in the Gold Medal Game.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Plushenko and Lysacek start a 'cold war' of their own

He didn’t have a lead pipe but his words had bad intentions and now we’ve got the best rivalry since 1994 when a couple of ladies, a thug, and a lead pipe were the story of the games. Now we have the defending Olympic Champion, Evgeni “King of the Quad” Plushenko and Evan Lysacek who seemed to come from nowhere. Like a great title fight, it had it’s ebbs and flows. Round 1: Plushenko wins the short program by .55 over Lysacek and heads into the Free Skate looking untouchable because only one other person can pull off a ‘quad’ and he’s in 5th place. Round 2: Lysacek skates the “routine of his life” and takes the lead, without any quads but with flawless execution. Plushenko does pull off the quad but stumbles just a bit and ends up losing the lead and the gold by a pretty wide margin (1.31) so not only did Lysacek come from behind but covered the teaser bet as well. Now let the fireworks begin. Well, it really hasn’t been an exchange, as all of the whining has come from the Russian camp, including the Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin. Firstly, EP accidentally on purpose steps on the Gold Medal stand when stepping up to accept the Silver. Then fires shots in both the US and Russian press conferences: “You can't be considered a true men's champion without a quad," and "For someone to stand on top of the podium with the gold medal around his neck by just doing triple jumps, to me it's not progress, it's a regress because we've done triples 10 or even 20 years ago," and lastly, "Just doing nice transitions and being artistic is not enough because figure skating is a sport, not a show,". Then VP chimed in from Sara Palin’s back yard, "You were able to overcome all the obstacles in your brave comeback and performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice." Meanwhile, Lysacek has just been doing victory laps on TV and radio, and not having one cross word to say about EP or his comments, showing the class of a champion. Ok, everyone understands the heat of the battle, and that anytime you have an arbitrary system of scoring there’s going to be a margin of discrepancy the size of the Grand Canyon, but this guy simply thought all he had to do was get out there and do one trick then call it a night. Don’t get me wrong, the only skating I normally watch also involves an occasional fist fight, and that’s why it makes perfect sense to even a novice like myself. If the program is over 4 minutes long and the that jump takes about 10 seconds of it there must me more to winning than just jumping and landing. In fact even if you pull off the quad, you only pick up .5 more points in the maximum scenario so obviously your own rules EP leave a pretty big window that you’d better bring some other stuff to the table if you want to walk out with some industrial metal. Just because you knock the guy down in one round doesn’t mean you don’t have to fight the other 11, and Plushenko lost the split decision and the ripples are being felt from here to the Kremlin. The good news is we’re just getting started as both have committed to skating again in 2014 but next time Plushenko will have home Ice advantage and based on Putin’s words(if he’s still around) it will be a big one. Do you remember Rocky IV?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

US Hockey gets the win they needed, Jacobellis is denied redemption, Wier not in the hunt

**UPDATE** Vonn takes gold in downhill. Lindsey Vonn has overcome the “SI Jinx” and more than lived up to the hype by posting a winning time of 1:44.19 early that held up in the face of all comers to take the Gold Medal in the Women’s Downhill. Now the two questions that remain are the stability of her ankle as the weather, which has been her best friend, comes back to haunt her as now she has to ski on consecutive days. Secondly, now that the ‘monkey’ is off her back and she at least justified the swimsuit edition, can she justify the cover?

Mixed emotions for the US Winter Olympians on Day 4 as the US Hockey team looks like they may emerge from the ‘group of death’ after all after a huge win over Switzerland 3-1, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate, to start the tournament. Now, I realize it’s only one win but next up for the US is a Norwegian side that is very beatable, illustrated in their 8-0 loss to the Canadians. If they can take care of biznis’ in that game they go into the game with Canada 2-0 and the worst they can do is advance to the medal round as a 2, but that sets up a 1980’s rematch against Russia who might have a little something to play for and a little redemption on their minds. If you ever need an example of why you need to take advantage of opportunities in life when they’re presented look no further than Lindsey Jacobellis (and Dan Marino). Of course everyone remembers how Jacobellis was on her way to gold 4 years ago when all she needed to do was literally not fall down and it was her’s. Well she decided to get a little fancy and did exactly that, fell down and the rest is folklore. For four agonizing years she was the poster child for what NOT to do when victory was in sight, getting Leon Lett off the hook, and now was her time for redemption. Once again it slipped away as she was DLQ in the semis as she lost her balance after the second jump, and in the quest to regain her balance drifted out of bounds for the automatic DLQ. In several interviews prior to games she explained how she learned to live with the disappointment and how she was ready to get the lost gold back. Well, if she wasn’t the favorite this year I can’t see how she’ll be back 4 years from now, and even if she could the pressure to after 2 disappointments would be probably be more than even a thrasher could handle. Unfortunately Lindsey will be filed under the “one that got away”. Speaking of US overhype Johnny Wier has had more than his share of props for a guy with no hardware, and as in most cases when the sizzle is that hot, when the lights turn on there isn’t much steak in the pan (ie; Kristy Yamaguchi), and Wier looks to be the next in line after a sub-par short program that landed him sixth place,, he needs to perform like….well an athlete worthy of praise prior to performance, to get into medal contention. So, it looks like we can file him under “hot air dryer”. And what is up with Shani Davis no-showing in the 500 because he wanted to rest up for the 1500???? Talk about “stoneless”! Dude, you’re a world class athlete (also a WR holder) who will have an entire day to rest and the rest of your life remember. Man up, and if you lose the 5, fine. Come back and get your Gold in 1.5, but don’t just mail it in and blame it on fatigue. Who has been the biggest disappoint in the Olympics so far? The biggest surprise? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ohno wins Silver, becomes most decorated US Skater

Apolo Anton Ohno, won a silver medal in the Final of the Men’s 1500m short track creating a tie as the most decorated skater in US history tying Bonnie Blair. Ohno got off to an amazing start in his first heat as he looked like the season veteran his is, starting in dead last, letting the race take shape as well as the skaters getting winded, then struck in Ohno fashion moving on the outside and took the lead which he wouldn’t relinquish. In the semi-final, a scare as once he made his move late and pushed the lead and jostled a little with the eventual heat-winner Lee Jung-Su. In the final it was his old nemesis from the semis Jung-Su who held him off and denied him the Gold Medal, as AAO took the silver. An even bigger surprise was the heir apparent, John Celski the 19-year old from Washington whose Olympic run began in rehab after a devastating injury. So although he didn’t bring home the gold Ohno has proven the critics wrong as most pundits had written him off because he had “gone Hollywood” with the Dancing with the Stars, club appearances, and TV shows. However when all is said and done his four-a-days of 2 hours each were enough deposits to get him to the medal stand. As one of his fans of course I would have wanted to see gold, but the fact that he medaled sticks it to the cynics who need to take a step back and get off athletes like him, Phelps and others that don’t play in one of the big three sports. This is speed skating people! It’s popular once every 4 years and when you’ve got an opportunity to parlay one performance into a lifetime of endorsements, commercials, and/or reality TV programs, do it and tell those cynics where to go, as you’re on the way to the bank. He’s got another hot to become the best of all time and I for one would bank on that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Olympics take center stage, now what are the US athletes going to do with it?

The Winter Olympics should be the only game in town this weekend now that the Super Bowl (and parade) have come and gone. The last major TV event until the Masters and NBA Finals there isn’t anything standing between the games and sky high ratings. Same time zone, duel country interest, and actually some interesting personalities/stories to follow should make for good fodder. Now if NBC can get out of its own way with the coverage we should be all good. So if they’re listening, I would rather see a gold medal match in curling than an American competing for 6th place in cross country skiing. Let’s see the events where it’s all on the line and the best that the games have to offer rather than the most obscure event that just happens to contain a US competitor.

With that said, let’s hope the US Hockey team gives us an opportunity to see them competing for a medal but it’ll be tough. If they have a “group of death” as they do in the World Cup then the US are in it. Along with Canada, Norway, and Switzerland it can’t get any worse with the possible exception if Russia replaced Norway. The odd were against the US to begin with as they are really young on the front lines (which they’ll need to have the speed to keep up) and very experienced in the goal. The knock is the age on the defensive side and lack of “world level” game experience. The Canadians will be on a mission to erase the embarrassment of 2006, the Swiss are stacked with players, and Norway could be one of the surprise teams. If 80’ was a miracle on ice then just getting through the group of death in 2010 would only leave GM Brian “Saint” Burke with two more to go. Do you think the US has a chance to medal? Let us know your thoughts here and in any of the Olympic quick links:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Athletes as well as viewers may get the best of both worlds as the X-Games and Winter Olympics go back-to-back

There has been some debate weather the Winter Olympics was losing it’s luster as the Winter-X games gain in popularity, and the answer is your standard ambiguous legal response, “it depends”. The older, traditionalist don’t see the appeal of the X-Games, and will perfectly content with their figure skating (which got a little extreme a while back with Harding/Kerrigan) and ice hockey, while anyone with an 8 or a 9 in front of their birthday will probably opt for the excitement and unpredictability of the XG. Fortunately for both the participants and spectators the two were intentionally scheduled with enough time between them to allow the 53 athletes competing in both spectacles to recover and re-focus, as well as allot the fans a brief break in between to avoid ice burnout. It’s a dangerous situation for the Winter Olympics as they have so many more chips in the center of the table as the cost to host and cover ANY Olympics is simply staggering and they continue to battle the painful truth that will cost are going up, viewers are going down. The fact that it’s international appeal is still high is great for posturing but difficult to manage for advertising purposes. While the WXGs know their market, demographic, and so do their advertisers. One would have to think the networks realize that some finance MBA did the math and realized that AXE budget would be much more well spent saturating the WXG rather than getting 1 60-second spot per day on the Oly’s. I for one am curious the amount of younger viewers that tune in a month later and if the pomp & circumstance, structure, and tradition of the Olympic Games puts them to sleep or keeps them tuned in. The Olys have a real uphill battle to hold the young demographic because the events in the WXG are all about adrenaline and the action is almost non-stop regardless of the event, while the Winters will without a have a few challenging moments (hours) but the question for the Olympics will be if they have the stories to keep you intrigued like the Summer Games always do? It seems for every Apollo Ono there are 10 cross country skiing events where, although you can appreciate the athletic ability, just isn’t going to keep me entranced for more than 5 minutes. We won’t have our answer for another month but the as the opening act the WXG will really set the bar high, but perhaps that’s a good thing as it will force the Networks to find the most interesting events even if they don’t contain an American, and if worse comes to worse they can break out the crowbar again. Which event will you watch? Let us know here and in the World Sports room on site.

Winter X-Games Opening Day Schedule
Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time Event Location
10 am- 12 pm Skiing SuperPipe Men's & Women's Practice Aspen, CO
10 am- 12 am Skiing Slopestyle Men's Elimination Aspen, CO
11:30 am- 1 pm Snowmobile Freestyle Elimination Aspen, CO
12 am- 3:00 pm Skiing Skier X Men's & Women's Practice Aspen, CO
1 pm- 2:30 pm Skiing Slopestyle Women's Final Aspen, CO
2 pm- 3 pm Snowmobile Best Trick Practice Aspen, CO
2:45 pm- 4 pm Snowboard Slopestyle Men's & Women's Practice Aspen, CO
3 pm- 4 pm Mono Skier X Practice Aspen, CO
4:30 pm- 6 pm Snowboard SuperPipe Women's Elimination Aspen, CO
6 pm- 7 pm Snowboard SuperPipe Men's Practice Aspen, CO
6 pm- 7 pm Snowboard Big Air Practice Aspen, CO
7 pm- 9 pm Skiing Big Air Practice Aspen, CO
7 pm- 8:30 pm Snowboard SuperPipe Men's Elimination Aspen, CO
7 pm- 9 pm Snowmobile Freestyle Final Aspen, CO

US Hockey Team has a mountain to climb in the snow
With the Winter Olympics just over a month away we’ve had a chance to review the US Hockey team and it looks like we’ll be needing another miracle just to make it to the medal round. Ironically, on paper this is one of the strongest teams we’ve sent to the Olympics in quite some time, but the talent from the other countries by definition is well, world class. Russia, Sweden, and Canada are stacked top-to-bottom and those are just behemoths we can see coming, there are plenty of good teams that have been flying under the radar that may surprise us as well as the world audience. If you can get over the ethnocentrism, it does set up to be the most exciting world hockey tournament since the afore mentioned “Miracle” in 1980, and true hockey fans will relish it as well as pardon the games for interrupting the NHL season just after the mid-way point. Who do you think will take down gold in 2010? Let us know here and in the World Sports page on the site.

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