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Monday, December 19, 2011

Champions League reaches knockout stage, not without casualties

We’ve finally reached the equivalent of the sweet 16 in the Champions League and as always there are some surprises in the field but even more surprising is will not be participating. Although never the overall favorites the EPL sides are always expected to make a strong appearance and go deep and no one has been more consistent in the League this year than Manchester City. Key off season acquisitions drew lots of attention but only after they remained unbeaten and at the top of the table through the first month did pundits really stand up and take notice. After that they were not only consensus choice to challenge for the EPL title but some additional hardware as well. Right not they may just have to focus on the afore mentioned as they were on the list of those who were expected to be on the pitch in February that will not. Also in this class are last year’s runners-up Manchester United whom are just two points behind City for the EPL lead and promise to either be right on their heels or perhaps in the lead throughout the campaign but despite their incessant consistency they also failed to make it out of the group stage and will have to focus on repeating as EPL champions as this piece of hardware has passed them by. Strangely enough, two clubs that are on the outside looking in at the clubs from Manchester, perhaps too far behind already to pose a serious threat are advancing in the Champions League and have looked very strong in the process. Chelsea (4th) and Arsenal (5th) are both still in the hunt, Chelsea with a very winnable cross with Napoli, Arsenal a more stout task taking on Inter Milan. On that note the Italians did not surprise at all, sending all three of their sides through and looking to have representation in the final four with both Inter and AC from Milan, and Napoli advancing. Conversely, Spain also a powerhouse league sends through the defending champs Barcelona and Real Madrid but Vallencia and Villareal will not make the trip. FC Porto was a popular sleeper pick but failed to materialize and will not be moving on. Although there are some big names left off Santa’s list there are plenty of big names left and even though we will not see the reigning player of the year on the biggest stage, there should be plenty of fireworks left come February.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tiger still needs to earn his stripes

I’m holding out before I officially announce that the Tiger is on the loose again. True, he did finally put together four strong and consistent rounds for the first time since the wrapped his SUV, and then after getting caught and passed, rallied and won NOT because his competition folded or made a mistake but because he matched a birdie vs. a Par on 18. With all of that said I would like to see him be in the hunt from start to finish in his next event, particularly with the long layoff. However simply look at the verbiage in the last sentence where we would be happy simply to see Tiger competitive on Sunday where three years ago Tiger OWNED Sunday. When he came out of the clubhouse in his Stanford Red and was anywhere close to the final paring you knew it was pretty much done. So the mere fact that we’re hoping he’s still hitting greens on the weekend shows that we don’t truly believe he’s back. Moreover, who would of ever thought so many of his compeers would be running so much smack at him and live to tell about it?? Even cadies and players that he would lab by the second raound are callin him a punk b$^% now, kicking him when he’s down, and all but challenging him to rise up and shut them up, all without retort. But he’s earned the benefit of the doubt so if he doesn’t cool off after the long holiday layoff perhaps I’ll be ready to give him his stripes back.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Internationals shake things up and hope that turns the tables

The Presidents Cup has often been viewed as a poor man’s Ryder and that’s mainly because unlike the Ryder cup, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry with the US taking the previous eight Presidents Cup competitions in fact four of those eight have been by more than five points or more. The closest the international side has come was a tie in 2003 that, although a memorable three hole tie-breaker between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els when both were at the top of their game, lead directly to a rules change so there must be a winner. Other than that it’s been more one-sided than an old Mike Tyson fight. But the Internationals hope to strike up the Rocky music and shock the world, and are setting the perfect stage to do just that. This year’s tournament will be played at Royal Melbourne, site of the afore mentioned tie and fabled best International squad ever and with five Aussies on this year’s squad it will be a decided home course advantage keeping in mind that unlike most glove patting golf events, it is customary at the Pres Cup to cheer for yours and boo at theirs. There will be some serious mojo in the air but rest assured it can cut both ways and if it looks like the outcome will be the same as usual mid-way through the competition, the noose will certainly tighten on the necks of the home side as they begin to anticipate the backlash that will soon follow in the papers. It won’t be Captain Colin that will be leading this ship despite being promoted to General after he and the European side escaped a late rally and held on to a 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory at the last Ryder Cup, instead it will be Greg Norman at the helm who wouldn’t mind erasing a few choke memories of his own. In addition to having the home town boy calling the shots there is the first round matchup where Tiger Woods will face Adam Scott (and obviously Steve Williams will be on the bag within whisper distance of Tiger) which could have been slated differently but rather was mutually altered to do the exact opposite. Yes, it will get the attention the competition definitely needs but also may be the shot to the side of the head that wakes Tiger up in time to find his game. It’s no secret Woods has had problems in the Ryder Cup but conversely he has owned the Presidents Cup compiling 18 wins, more than any competitor on either side, with a winning percentage of .620. In a tie-breaker, in a hostile environment, I would take those odds. So you got Cameron Indoor far East, local boy skipper, and a first round matchup worthy of WWA billing, now you just need one side to step up for the first time in over a decade to answer the call. It may not look good but that’s exactly what they said to Buster. Will this be Tiger's wake up call? Will the International Team parlay home course to their first victory in over a decade? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smokin' Joe's Legacy will only get better with time

The sport of boxing died a little on Monday Night. It lost some of its dignity. Some of its class hit the canvas and some of its honor left ringside. The golden era of the heavyweight fighter continues to fade as Smokin’ Joe Frazier succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 67. His last fight was 30 years ago but his heyday is still fresh in the minds of all those who love the sweet science and his legacy lives on forever.

Joe Frazier was destined to have his named sketched in the stone of heavyweight boxing royalty. His 1964 gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics was a pre-cursor to future fame, fortune and controversy. Boxing will never see another duo in the ring or trilogy of fights like those of Frazier and arch enemy Muhammad Ali. Fight one, rightfully called “Fight of the Century”, had it every angle needed for the iconic event it became. Both Frazier and Ali were undefeated champions. Frazier holding the actual title, while Ali was coming off his suspension, for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army for the Vietnam War. Ali was the Muslim, militant, outspoken black man, most of America was afraid of. Frazier was looked upon as the compliant, shy black man who kept his mouth shut and didn’t cause trouble, the kind the establishment accepted. Because of his demeanor, Ali ridiculed him and embarrassed him publicly. Publicity stunt or not, the adjectives of “Uncle Tom” and “Gorilla”, were insults Frazier never got over long after their fight days were done. But it was Frazier that used Ali’s words as fuel and won what many to see is the biggest fight of all-time. Ali-Frazier I at Madison Square Garden on March 8th, 1971. The brawl was as big then, as any Super Bowl is now. The world stopped, watched and listened as Frazier knocked down Ali in the 15th round and handed the former Casius Clay his first professional defeat. The establishment won that night in New York and Smokin’ Joe had let his fist do the talking.

By the time they met a second time, also in New York City, Frazier was no longer the champion. He had been knocked out by George Forman in Kingston, Jamaica. The famous, “Down goes Frazier!” Down goes Frazier!” Down goes Frazier!” fight, called by the late Howard Cossell. This time on January 28th in 1974 a regional belt was on the line and Ali won a 12 round decision evening the dual at 1-1. But Smokin’ Joe re-grouped winning his next two fights, setting up the famous “Thriller in Manila”. This time, Ali was the champion again, knocking out Foreman in the also famous, “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Zaire. So October 1st, 1975, Ali-Frazier III took place in a balmy Araneta Coliseum is suburban Manila. While their first meeting was the biggest boxing match of all-time, the third showdown is considered the greatest fight of all time. Another head to head, punch for punch battle that no man deserved to lose. But for Frazier, he would end up losing two of three to Ali as his trainer Eddie Futch, refused to let him leave the corner for the 15th and final round. Frazier’s eyes were so swollen from withstanding Ali’s blows that he couldn’t see. Afterwards both men ended up in local hospitals.

Smokin’ Joe lost much more than just a fight that night in the Philippines. He would always end up being the guy that gave “The Greatest” all he could handle but was still not the greatest. In the golden era of heavyweight champion fighters, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes and so on, Frazier gets a mention but his 32-4 and 1 record with 27 knockouts, gets ko’d by Ali’s accomplishment’s, words and showmanship. Not to mention he lost two of the three fights. While some might say Frazier beat Muhammad Ali three times including Frazier, he still handled defeat with class and dignity. Once boxing was over, he became a different type of entertainer as a singer. He eventually opened up his own gym in Philadelphia and trained fighters himself including son Marvis. Joe Frazier was liked by so many, when word spread of his Liver sickness, former fans volunteered to give up their own livers for Smokin’ Joe. But time ran out on the southpaw who stood tall that night in front of the world at Madison Square Garden in 1971. That night he found his place in boxing history, shut up the biggest mouth in sports at the time and did it all without saying a word.

This ain't your Daddy's EPL

Who could have imagined that eleven matches into the EPL season,
Liverpool and Arsenal are not qualifying to compete for any hardware,
City are not only unbeaten, but sitting atop the EPL table by five
full points and coming off the worst beating of Man U since (insert a
non-offensive analogy here), and the Blues are already so far back of
the leaders that moves are being contemplated on how to get back into
the mix. It’s the type of season that perpetuates the fairy tale for
the fans of a second division club being promoted and someday actually
becoming relevant while having the football purist calling for another
pint at the pub to help eliminate any remaining traces of the latest
failure to get a decision. All the while an entire generation is
turning over in their graves over what has become of the old guard
this season, no doubt this is not your Daddy’s EPL.

I suppose it should be stated that I’m not a cynic but I would be
remised if I didn?t state the obvious that there is a serious lack of
parity that has become as prevalent as those who never walk alone,
strolling with the Gunners down in 6/7th place. If you look at the
correlation between the top of the table and those facing regulation
it looks like oscillating stock market days this year with Everton,
Bolton, Blackburn, and Wigan with three wins out of the last 18
combined, while City, U, New Castle, and Chelsea are the exact
reciprocal, and the middle of the pack is not much of a middle at all
with 8th place Aston Villa needing to double their season output and
still be one point out of the top spot. It is truly some big fish at
the top getting fat off a lot of feeder fish at the bottom.

Understandable the season isn’t half over and I’ve already eliminated
75% of the field but unless some sides make dramatic moves or the top
of the table suddenly forget what got them there, this is going to be
a three maybe four horse race for the majority of the campaign with
the only drama being who qualifies to salvage their season with
tournament hardware and who fights to stay above the water level, and
that’s not worth watching. You may not agree with me but your father
would understand.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Mayweather vs. Ortiz – one good farce deserves another

Well, we knew it wouldn’t be a sleeper going into the fight and that some would get knocked out, we just didn’t know who. As it turns out we also didn’t know HOW. In the most improbable way Ortiz was knocked out in Saturday’s Welter Weight title bout when no one was expecting it, especially him, but he should have been. Word to the wise when you are in a confined area with someone who is trained, and attempting to do you bodily harm, defend yourself AT ALL TIMES! Ok, the reality is that the outcome would have been the same either way, as Money was ahead on all cards and OV’s eye was swelling up, closing shut, and he wouldn’t have been able to see a lightning fast combination coming regardless if it was on the break or not. Additionally, (particularly for you attorneys out there) but for not the illegal head but the fighters wouldn’t have been in that position to begin with, which would have been the cheap shot everyone would have been talking about on Monday and actually would have finally gotten some people off the fence in regard to Floyd, on the positive side but in that regard Money is just snake bitten. Instead the take-a-way is that Flyod’s punch is the only topic of discussion regarding the fight and the he just re-fortified the insurgents of haters with new ammunition. It only got worse after the fight after he verbally sparred with the crypt key holder Larry Merchant. However consider this, if there was ever a chance that Mayweather/Pacquiao would actually happen it’s now. Manny stock has never been higher and neither has the hate scale of those who want to see Floyd taste the canvas. The cheap shot re-raise fight just added $5 to PPV cost because of “Ali Factor” which simply is all those who love him will watch and all of those who hate him will as well to see what he will do next or happen to him next. As a true boxing and sports fan it’s a shame that once again a masterful performance by Floyd will be overlooked, and his antics, attitude, and brashness have taken away from what should be discussed which is a 42-0 record and complete dominance over a substantial period of time in multiple divisions. It’s kind of similar to final line in “The Social Network”. Floyd is not an A@#$%# his is trying so hard to be.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Djokovic earns his ranking and so does Serena

Despite being delayed the US Open fought through the weather to deliver memorable Men’s and Women’s Finals as the men’s bracket provided the climax everyone wanted to see with matching performances in a 4 hour 10 minute thriller. Although it wasn’t a classic in the “five-setter” sense it was among the most fiercely competitive with both men playing fantastic, court-covering defense in a grueling contest that lasted 4 hours, 10 minutes, there were more than two dozen points that lasted at least 15 strokes. There was a classic eb and flow to the match as Djokovic took command early and it looked like he may take out Nadal in straight sets but the only time Djokovic truly faltered at all in the final was in the crucible of the third set, when he showed signs of being bothered by his lower back. His level dipped, and Nadal made one last stand. Djokovic went up 3-2 only to get broken, then served for the match at 6-5 and was broken again when he made two unforced errors, the second at the end of a 21-stroke exchange. Raffe showed his mettle and looked like he had the mo after taking the 3rd set tie-breaker and leaving the world number one on his back getting medical attention, and the only thing that could have made it more dramatic was if the Rocky theme was playing in the background as ND got up then proceeded to put Nadal way 6-1 to close out the match and the championship.
Novak Djokovic completed a remarkable Slam season with a four-set win over Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open final. It was the top-seeded Serb's third major title of 2011 and his sixth straight over Rafael Nadal running his record 64-2 in 2011 with 10 titles including the three slams.

I wish I could say the same for the Women’s final in regards to drama but it was simply more disappointment in the play and the antics of Serena Williams who dropped a lack luster straight set loss to Samantha Stousur. It was arguably the best match we’ve ever seen from Stousur who displayed talent and toughness worthy of seed much higher than a nine, while Williams showed a temperament and inability to win the crucial points worthy of her 28th seed. The Aussie was busy breaking Serena serve as Williams was occupied with breaking her rackets. Disposing of her 6-2, 6-3, although it was a war of attrition that took a record 3 hours and 16 minutes, and in the end she simply war down the will and the mental toughness of Serena who seemed to wilt under the lights which has been more the norm for her as of late. It’s too bad if the reign of the William’s sisters ends with Venus marred by injuries and Serena marred with herself.


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Monday, August 29, 2011

Early surprises from the first month of the EPL

If week one is any harbinger of things to come then we are in for one wild EPL campaign. True, the rich got richer and Manchester United looked like they never took any time off starting the new season with nine points in three matches including a dropping an 8-spot on Arsenal over the weekend, forcing them into “rebate mode” to keep the fans from boycotting. However it is a bit of a surprise to see Wolves up near the top of the table unbeaten after three matches but we’ll have to wait and see if they come down to Earth or if challenging for a chance to win some hardware will become the norm. They have an opportunity to really get off to a great start as their next two matches are at Molineux, and another six points should get them back into the top three but the true litmus test will come on the 24th when they travel to Anfield to take Liverpool and their singing supporters. The Blues came out flat to start the season and paid for it by only picking up one point at Stoke, but have since won two straight but may be without the services of Didier Drogba took one on the chin (and head) against Norwich but should have him back in time for the Sept 18th showdown with the Reds from Man U. Although the afore mentioned sides have stolen the recent headlines the biggest story/disappointment may be how Spurs are still stuck in the gate after two matches. Great things were expected from the High Road natives from London after finishing in the top five for the last two years. It’s not so much the 0-2 start that’s disturbing but having the 2nd worst goal differential at -7 in the EPL shows there’s quite a bit of work to do on the defensive side if they’re going to climb the table and get back to where they’ve been the last three years. A dearth of offense has scored only 1 goal in two matches so pick your poison on where you’re to begin your work but they’d better do it fast as the schedule doesn’t get any easier as they’re on the road to take on the upstart Wolves, then come home to host Liverpool, and sandwiched between them is a Europa League qualifying match. What do you think is the biggest story of the young season? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Another major and another winner

These days trying to figure out who is going to step forward and capture golf’s major championships is like trying to read Braille, without actually being able to read Braille.

It makes no sense at all and you’re basically guessing. PGA Tour Rookie Keegan Bradley became the latest nobody, to become somebody by capturing the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. That makes twelve different winners in the last twelve major championships. Unlike the three previous titles won this season, where Charl Schwartzel, Rory McElroy and Darrin Clarke all played great golf to win their championships, Bradley had a lot of help from Jason Dufner who gave the Wanamaker Trophy away over the final four holes.

Dufner who’d played holes 15 thru 18 at -3 under par over the first three rounds, went three over on Sunday, blowing a four shot lead, which led to the three hole playoff he lost. "Everybody has struggled on them," Dufner said of the final four holes. "Unfortunately, I had the lead and I struggled on them. ... That was the deciding factor, and Keegan made a couple birdies there, and I made a couple bogeys." In the playoff he didn’t fair much better as Bradley birdied 16 while Dufner pared the hole. At 17, Bradley played the hole even, while Dufner bogeyed it again. That left the rookie with a simple two-putt on 18 to win his first major in his first attempt! "It feels unbelievable," he said. "It seems like a dream and I'm afraid I'm going to wake up here in the next five minutes and it's not going to be real." What’s even more real is the sad state golf seems to be in at the current moment.

Today’s win makes Bradley the seventh straight player to win a major championship that’s never won one before. Now some will say they love how wide open each major is on the present golf landscape. The problem with that mindset is the exact example of how Bradley captured the title on Sunday. Sure he made clutch shots on 16 and 17 to give himself a chance, but with a real seasoned pro in front on the back nine, there most likely wouldn’t have been the collapse that gave him the opening. We all know Tiger Woods issues are far from over, watching him miss the cut for just the third time in a major since turning pro, but that’s just one shot in the bunker in what’s turning into a beach full of big names not producing on the big stage. U.S. Open champion Rory McElroy, supposedly the next “it” player injured his wrist in the first round and was never in the hunt afterwards finishing 64th and 19 shots back. Phil Mickelson, the guy who should be taking advantage of this almost two-year Tiger slumber, again failed to even challenge finishing even for the tourney and eight back of the leaders after 72 holes. Lefty has not won a major since his 2010 Masters victory. Bridgestone winner Adam Scott was just good again, but far from great, never taking the tourney lead over the weekend and settling in at a tie for eighth. Padraig Harrington, the last man to capture back to back majors and seemed to be on the brink of breaking out into pure elite status, eleven over and never in the running.

Golf is at its best when its superstars play super. Natural rivalries intensify Sunday’s, when the entire nation is glued to the final 18 of a major. When Tiger, Phil or one of the more seasoned players leads down the back nine with the others challenging, the storyline is simply that much better and captivating. Who’s going to make an unbelievable shot? Who’s going to miss that five foot par putt? Does Tiger have enough holes left on the back side to make up a four shot deficit? With Phil and Tiger tied entering the final nine holes, who’s the crowd pulling for? Golf is missing all this stuff badly right now. All golfers have to start somewhere in terms of making a name for themselves. Today it was both Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner but for different reasons. The problem is, how long until we hear from either one of these guys on one of golf’s four special Sunday’s again? The way things have played out over the last three years, we might not ever again. And if the superstars don’t get their games together before next season expect four more new names to grab headlines and continue to dull the sharpness the game has captured over the last dozen years.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Move over Billy you’ve got company

A recent poll asked what sports fans felt was the biggest choke in sports history with the top ten put to a multiple choice. Options included the Oilers collapse against the Bills in the AFC Championship, Scott Norwood’s wide left, Greg Norman’s Master’s collapse, etc. At the top of the list (which I personally disagreed with) was Billy Buckner’s 86’ World Series through the legs error. Well, misery loves company and now Billy has some after the US Women’s Soccer Team literally gave away the World Cup on Sunday.

In addition to dominating from the opening kickoff, which they stole and had a golden opportunity to score in the first quarter minute, they outshot the Japanese 12-5 in the first half but most of the good opportunities did not even end up on goal. Like so many other monumental upsets, if you let the sleeping dog lie around long enough they will wake up and bite you and that’s exactly what happened here as Japan was winless against he US in 24 previous attempts. Despite the plethora of scoring chances the US never had more than a goals worth of separation and when presented with the opportunity to simply go into ‘lock down’ phase and hold possession they failed not once but twice. Allowing goals inside 11 minutes in regulation time to allow the tie and then amazingly repeated the feat at the end of extra-time inside 4 minutes on a corner to send the match to PK’s where they simply didn’t show up scoring only once.

After calling their shot stating they didn’t want to be compared to the 99’ team that hoisted the cup, they failed to “back the smac” and instead were the winners of front row seats to the Japanese Cup celebration. Furthermore, Hope Solo’s rant after the last US cup exit at the hands of the Brazilians and persisting that she’s the man, ends here career in a dubious position never reaching the heights of Bandice Scurry whom shut down her opponent in the shoot out leading to that 99’ Cup championship that now still stands as the greatest moment in US soccer history. It’s true this team did erase the memory of the 99’ club but not in the way it anticipated.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Will the Women’s World Cup Team finally score at home?

We’ve been here before. 1999, Brandi Chastain lining up the penalty kick at the Rose Bowl. A crowd of over 90-thousand, standing with anticipation. The part time defender and midfielder approaches the ball, blast the leather with her left foot and finds the back of the net! As the Chinese Keeper looks on in disappointment the stadium erupts and Chastain goes shirtless! The rest is history! The second Women’s World Cup Championship in the history of the United States. That team with superstars such as Chastain, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy found fame and fortune with the results of that tournament. The team still lives on in historic proportions as far as women’s soccer goes, but that’s it.

While the popularity of the women’s game picked up after that dramatic victory 12 years ago, it never reached the same heights as the men’s game. While youth soccer leagues all over the country flourished it never translated into the sports psyche of the adult American sports fan. In 2003 the WUSA a major women’s professional league, folded before the world cup of that year, and just four years after the historic United States win in ‘99’. While the men’s game remains dominant all over the world, it still takes a backseat here in the good old USA. The NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL control the sports entertainment dollar no matter what seems to take place in the World Cup for the men or women. Now, the men probably have plenty to do with the lack of carry-over popularity here at home. The best the fellas have ever finished in the World Cup Tourney, third place way back in 1930.

So here we are again. On Sunday the United States, with a new crop of stars, goes after history one more time. Not only can the red, white and blue capture the Cup Championship with a victory over Japan in Frankfurt, Germany, the U.S. can become the first women’s team in history to win a third World Cup Title. Not only has the team reached the championship match, but the stars, Wambach, Rapone, Rapinoe, Solo and others have done it in dramatic fashion! In the quarter-finals Abby Wambach scored the latest goal in cup history, sending the match against Brazil to penalty kicks. In the semi-final it was Wambach again with the late header in the 78th minute to secure victory for the Americans. This has been stuff only Hollywood writers usually come up with!

But history has taught us, no matter what the outcome on Sunday, this is as far as the popularity train will roll. While the match against Brazil was the most watched television audience for the women, since the win over China in 1999, they still don’t excite the country about the “beautiful game”, the way the men could. The reason for this has to be because the United States men’s squad is still far behind the elite teams in the rest of the world. That means it’s a challenge for Americans when we watch the men try to battle Brazil, England or the Germans. Our country loves a good challenge and the rest of the world enjoys being able to beat us at something. If the men could ever find the success of the women in international play that would change the dynamic of soccer’s place here at home. The players would share the stage with the Peyton Manning’s and Kobe Bryant’s in American Sports Heroism. Look at how popular the Wayne Rooney’s of the world are in their respective countries. That in turn, would grab the attention of the best young athletes in our country and steer them in the direction of a soccer field. The best young athletes in the United States hit the hardwood, football field or diamond. That’s where our stars shine. Until there are male soccer stars on the big stage of the American sports conscious, Sunday’s outcome for the ladies will be just another kick for soccer in this country, but not a score.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Tiger Woods doing golf a favor next week

These days Tiger Woods isn’t sneaking up on anybody. The last time we heard his footsteps, was the final round of the 2011 Masters where the 14-time major champion made things interesting before coming up four shots short of Charl Schwartzel. There will be no such footsteps at Royal St. George’s from the three-time Open Championship winner, but no one is surprised. As a matter of fact, Woods press conference this week at the AT&T National was good news. It was good because Tiger announced he won’t be playing in the British Open next week in order to let his injured left knee and Achilles tendon continue to heal. That’s right Tiger Woods using brains over competitive brawn for a change. Maybe Tiger is finally tired of not winning. He hasn’t picked up a victory in any tournament since the BMW Championship of 2009. Maybe he finally understands in order to win, he must be healthy, and his U.S. Open victory of 2008 on one leg was a once in a lifetime achievement.

No matter what the reasoning, in the long run this is good for the sport. Rory McEllroy had a Tiger-like performance at the U.S. Open last month for the first major victory of his young career. Sure it was a great feel good story, coming off the 20-year-olds Masters collapse which was as painful to watch hernia surgery without anesthesia. But the feel good story was an eye-sore for television ratings. Next week at the Open Championship unless Phil Mickelson and McEllroy decide to both perform at a high level rolling into Sunday’s final round, you can expect the same type of no-show from the casual golf fan.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Perhaps the US Women can win back some respect

In any other country a 2-0 lead in soccer (football, fusbol etc) means game over, stick 10 men in the box and play d, perhaps get a freak corner kick or header but go home with the hardware 2-1 and let the paramedics sort out the bodies outside the stadium. Not here, not in the US, and NOT in So. Cal. Only here could we have over 100k at the Rose Bowl, the majority going the way of the tri-colors, take a 2-0 lead only to give up 4 consecutive goals without any form of reciprocity. Mexico tooled the US again in the Gold Cup Championship game 4-2 to take the trophy again, this time in our own house. This was worse than the 5-0 loss because it proved that even when we catch a break we’re not good enough to hold on. It shows that even getting spotted two touchdowns we can keep them out of the endzone. It shows exactly how much we have fallen behind the top countries of the world, and Mexico is not rated in the top five. It also is a harbinger that we’ve got three years to do something miraculous before we get embarrassed again at the world’s largest sporting event in Brazil next time around. Fortunately, the US Women’s Team will be attempting to capture the World Cup this month in Germany. One of the favorites with a very winnable group, the US Women, unlike the US Men, are a side no one wants to play and handle their business on the pitch against teams they should beat and rest assured if you fall down2-0 to the US Women, your will leave with stadium with an L. So perhaps it will again be the women that get the respect (and the mojo) back for US Soccer.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

US tries to change more than just Gold Cup history

The US grinded out a win over Panama 1-0, a side that previously beat them in the tournament, to advance to the finals of the Gold Cup on Saturday against Mexico. The Tri-Colors also struggled but scored twice in extra time to leave no doubt as they beat Honduras 2-0 for their path to the finals. The countries may share a border but to say that the US and Mexico are rivals in this tournament would be similar to comparing Ohio St. and Michigan football programs in recent years (although that may be subject to change) and the US hopes change their future as well. The U.S. and Mexico have played in the last two Gold Cup finals and split the two but the overall history has been one of domination as Mexico has outscored the US 14-1 en route to a 4-1 record. Additionally Mexico is undefeated in its last 11 Gold Cup games capped off by a 5-0 ownage of the States in last year’s final. To make matters worse the US will be without the services of Jose Altidore, the equivalent of their clean-up hitter, due to injury. So much like in the World Cup the US comes in as big dogs, but that seems to be when they do their best work and this is their first chance to make up for what many felt were failed expectations in South Africa after such a favorable draw. This would be an opportunity to take down a World Class opponent in a tournament they typically own and the type of statement that would build much needed momentum for the country’s program that has certainly lost its mojo after not reaching a lowered bar in 2010.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Rory’s dominance starts the Tiger talk

Two months at Augusta Rory McIlroy was the talk of the tournament, not because of how impressive he was in victory but how monumental was his collapse, would he ever be able to recover from the triple-bogey that gave up all of his lead, and would he ever be the same. Two months later McIlroy is the talk of the tournament again but this time because of his wire-to-wire dominating win at Congressional, and yes I think it would be safe to say he did recover but I would not say he will ever be the same. Now he’s the youngest since Tiger to win the Open, set a course record in the process, and at 22 is being compared to the greatest to ever play the game. After 1.5 great performances over the last two majors is this too much ‘street cred’ for the youngster? There is great potential there there’s no doubt about that but the comparisons to the heir apparent might be a little unjustified. Like Woods, McIlroy was a child golf prodigy and like Woods, he's off to an early majors start, but that’s where they should end until Rory can prove he’s not just a one-hit wonder or one year wonder. I saw this with Jim Courier in tennis, even in golf when Sergio Garcia took Tiger out at Little Big Horn in the showdown, people were talking about turning the reigns over and Sergio has yet to win a major. So before we send the crown across the pond let’s see how things play out a bit. However it does set up a great showdown / rivalry when the cat (Tiger) comes home. If we can’t get Mayweather vs. Pacquiao this will have to do.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Rory laps the field and leaves everyone else playing for 2nd

No Tiger? No Problem. Who said the PGA doesn’t have any other appealing players if TW can’t reduce the noise between his ears. Rory McIlroy is providing his own “Tigeresque” type of performance in the second round of the 2011 US Open. Even with a double-bogey 6 on No. 18 Friday, Rory McIlroy managed to shoot a 5-under 66 and set a new 36-hole U.S. Open record at 11-under 132 and has a huge lead at Congressional. Unfortunately, although we may recognize his brilliance and enjoy his play the ratings don’t show the nation has yet. Not only is Tiger sill hibernating but we can’t get a US player to step up and challenge the Irishman as the closest competitors are Robert Garrigus, Zach Johnson, and Brandt Snedeker all at -2 a full nine strokes behind the leader. I think the absence of Tiger reminds us how spoiled we were to always have that polarizing figure at the top of the leaderboard at every tournament. Weather you liked him and wanted to see him win, or hated him and wanted to see the challenger take him down it made for must see TV and suddenly golf was hip again. A Father’s Day without tiger, Lefty, or DL3 at the top will not bode well for NBC on Sunday, who didn’t do well with the NHL either, because although there isn’t much on, it will be hard take away from family day to watch when the only storyline will be if the kid finds a way to commit the worst collapse in the history of golf to come from ahead to lose. Well, maybe he will take two steps back and Yang two forward and then at least we’ve got something to go with the hot dogs. Is the US Open of any interest without the big names at the top or at least a competitive match? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spanish continue to own the English when the metal is at stake

On paper it was it may have been 1-1 at halftime but it seemed like Barcelona had a the lead as the constant pressure of trying to keep up with the pace set by the Spanish side looked to be wearing on Manchester United. When Wayne Rooney scored to even the match with just over 10 minutes to in the half it looked like Man U. had seized the momentum but they were unable to add another before the break and Barcelona made some adjustments at the break, then came out and dominated the second session. The win not only marked Barca’s reign as the best in the world but continued the Spanish string of victories over English sides then hardware is at stake to 5, going back ten years to when Liverpool beat Alaves 5-4 in the UEFA Cup Final in 2001. It was more precision than power football, which is exactly the way the Devils rolled through the EPL this season, but David Villa, Xavi, and Messi beat them at their own game. So now the two sides both have questions to answer, what can Barca do to continue its stigma as the best in Europe, as winners of three of the last six Champions League titles? Going forward what can Man U., or other English sides for that matter, do to step their game up one level to match clubs like Madrid, Barca, and Inter when the chips are on the table? Fergie gave them all the credit but you can tell he was fuming and will have some more weapons at his disposal next time around. Cross town, Chelsea is singing the blues about their second place finish in the EPL and making moves as Carlo Ancelotti has been sacked for “failing to reach expectations” so they may be going into a restructuring period. In the meantime is there anyone out there to derail the Spanish train? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Champions League Final worthy of its name

Prior the much hyped semi-final matchup between Barcelona and Real Madrid, many were calling that confrontation the “Real” final, but after watching the Red Devils dismantle FC Schalke with relative ease, lead the English Premier League by 3 points going into the final 3 matches, and dealing with a torrid schedule and some injuries to key players, no one can contradict that Man U have more than justified their place in the Champions League Final. On the other side of the pitch you have the perennial powerhouse that has finally gotten over the “Madrid Malaise” as in the previous two attempts it has been the Red/Blue/Gold that has gotten the top end of the aggregate and moved on when the two have met. Only now Barcelona was forget the celebrations and parties in the street and “real”ize that their journey is not yet completed and there is one more task ahead of them, and it’s quite a formidable one. Man U. may also have a match it will need to put behind them come the 28th as this Sunday’s match with Chelsea has been called the EPL Super Bowl as only 3 points separates the two sides from 1 and 2, with a result for the Devils all but assuring them the title. So with a victory over the Blues both sides of the final will be coming off huge wins over rivals with a stacks of checks in the center of the table and the side that can parlay that momentum will be hoisting another piece of hardware at the end of the month.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Now the EPL has a Super Bowl of its own

Once again, I must recant a previous statement as just over two weeks ago I stated that there would be more to watch at the bottom of the EPL table than at the top as Man U has sewed up the EPL Tilte. But a bad loss on April 30 coupled by a 5 game win streak by the blues and all of the sudden we’ve got ourselves a horse race. As if Manchester United doesn’t have enough on its plate this week as they will have the closest thing to the EPL has to a Super Bowl on May 8th when they host Chelsea who now sits in 2nd place just three points behind them in the standings, and if that wasn’t enough, a Champions League semi-final against Schalke on the 4th. Word out of Man U camp is that Wayne Rooney will not play in the Champions League semi –final on Wednesday to provide the best opportunity for him to play on the 8th. The question is will the rest of the club have anything else left in the tank to win two major matches in a five day span? Even in the event of a Chelsea win the game is far from over for the Blues as their remaining tow matches are far more difficult as they host Newcastle and then travel to Everton which is quite far from a certain result let alone a win. Meanwhile Man U will be bottom feeding with matches at Blackburn and hosting Blackpool, but beware of the dog backed into a corner as both clubs have their heads just above water sitting at 16 and 17 respectively. On that note I would be remised if I didn’t at least attempt to dig up my previous lead, the action at the bottom of the table as I already mentioned the clubs at 38 and 35 points but Wigan (35), Wolverhampton (34), and West Ham (32) will try to make the most of their final 3 life preservers. Wigan has had the most green dots over the last 6 going 2-2-2 and climbing into a tie with Blackpool and may catch a break as surely Stoke will have their attentions elsewhere when they meet on the final match of the season regardless of their FA Cup Final result, and should be able to handle a West Ham side that is winless in their last six, so a win over Villa on Saturday should be the one they need to stay over the relegation line. Blackpool may not have it so easy as their final three matches with Tottenham, Bolton, and afore mentioned Man U may not yield the results they need to stay up with the big boys.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

A Sunday Dog race and the appearance of a Tiger gives the PGA what it needed

It seemed like this year’s Masters was over at the conclusion of the third round as Rory McIlroy seemed to be safely coming in for a landing and showing no signs of wilting under the pressure. Even on Sunday he held steady and even increased his lead then simply crashed and burned unlike anything we have seen since the Shark got caught in the tuna net years ago. A three-hole stretch of 10, 11, and 12 will never be forgotten and perhaps never overcome as Rory had a triple bogey on the 10th hole to drop form first to seventh with one swift stroke (or lack thereof). His name would not be among the leaders the rest of the way. Then a barrage of incredible final day rounds that would normally send an individual immediately to the tailors for a jacket fitting, was commonplace as six golfers at the top had rounds of 69 or better to create the best Sunday drama in years as at one point there were five players tied at -10 with over five holes to play. Thankfully for the PGA one of them was the world’s former number one and although he didn’t win but he stayed in the hunt all four rounds, the Master’s Tournament was able to compete in the ratings war with both the NBA and MLB and largely due to the fact that Wood’s was more than just a ‘before the cut’ story. An amazing final day comeback to tie for the lead on two occasions made for great drama that both the television and live audience loved to see. Surprisingly the loudest roars were for Tiger as he climbed up the leader board on Sunday. Like so many other sport stars whom have fallen out of favor, time seems to be healing the wounds but only winning can make them completely go away. When it was all said and done, and we’ll have to get the final ratings this week, but after slumping for well over half a year the PGA is back in a big way no one was leaving their sets until this one was done.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Not a whole lot of Red White and Blue atop the leader board after 1st round

As the sun set on first round at Augusta National there were of familiar things missing from the first page of the leader board, names like Mickelson, Woods, and Couples, but also colors of the American flag as the top four spots belonged to everyone else with the closest Yankee being the unfamiliar Matt Kuchar in 5th. Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros shot an impressive -7 to take a two-stroke lead into the second round. The South Korean contingent of Yang and Choi occupy places three and four at five-under. Of course the names everyone really paid to see have not managed to work their way into contention just yet with Lefty (-2), Woods (-1) , Couples (-1) , and Cink(-1) all have some serious work to do. Woods doesn’t appear to have the consistency off the Tee to keep out of trouble and if he can’ttake advantage of the Par-five’s then it’s going to be a long weekend for him. Mickelson has shown some flashes and day two will be all important for him to get into that top 5 where he is so tough to catch from behind.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

EPL also coming down to the wire

Just when I was ready to hand the EPL Title over to Man U. they drop 3 of their last six and now the Gunners are just five points behind with eight matches to play. In all probability they just need two more wins to wrap the title up but they do still have some work ahead of them in the form of 3 matches with Chelsea, one with City, and one with Arsenal. It’s certainly not a given and with their remaining schedule equally divided between home and away, but right now the home matches with Everton and Blackpool could loom larger than those with the Blues and the Gunners.

The race for the title is not the only focus of the EPL as we close out March but it may not even be the best one as the dotted line separated the tournament sides from the rest is also blurred. City is just one point behind Chelsea, who as we mentioned has a very tough remaining schedule and Spurs are just behind them waiting to falter at 4-points behind in the fifth spot.

However the most hotly contested battles is the one to avoid regulation as eight clubs are within three points of each other starting with Rovers in the 13th spot (33points )going all the way down to Wigan in the 20th place(30). In-between are Villa, Blackpool, West Brom, West Ham, Wanderers, and Birmingham City. Rovers were not on the hot seat until they went winless in their last six with four losses to drop into the mire with the rest. West Ham and Wanderers have come up with the most points out of the last six matches with 10 and it may take a repeat performance over the next six to assure a place at the table next season. So much is subject to change over the next week so let us know your thoughts here and in any of the quick links.


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Friday, March 11, 2011

Now that the Tiger has a thorn in is paw who will step up?

Nothing would please the PGA more than if Tiger were able to get his swagger back because it would mean they could get theirs back as well. It made a great novelty act at first as a steam of different golfers were able hoist a trophy and pick up a check but it didn’t last long and now the advertisers realize exactly how much people turned in to see Tiger win, almost as many that tuned in to see him get beat. But not because they disliked him, but because he was the best and at the top of his game and there are a substantial amount of fans that want to see their favorite knock off the top dawg. Just not when he’s wounded on the side of the road. So with a new World Number One (can you name who it is?) fans would like to see a little bit of a run and perhaps become the next big thing, or thing to knock off the top. So at Doral I’m not buying that Tiger and Phil were pared in the opening round by chance as they need every boost in ratings they can get. This first round of the World Championships at Doral is in the books and there is no sign of ‘the striped one’ on the front page of the leader board but there are 7 players tied at -5 and another 8 at -4. Because of that Tiger’s T32 doesn’t look so much like a mountain and two year s ago it wouldn’t have been but recent history has it shaping up like Everest. So who would we like to see taking the slow walk on Sunday? The defending champ Ernie Els is just 4 back at -3 after finishing at -18 last year, Lefty sits at -2, you kinda’ gotta like Vijay just two back at -5. Oh yea, I guess I buried the lead, Martin Kaymer is the new world’s number one and sits at -5 with six others. Well, someone has to wear the crown and it may be changing heads for quite some time.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Bayne of Daytona’s existence?

The youngest driver to win the Great American Race gave the historic Wood Brothers team (the oldest team in NASCAR) its fifth Daytona 500 victory, but its first since 1976 with David Pearson, and Bayne did it in a No. 21 Ford that was retrofitted to resemble Pearson's famed ride. In just his second Sprint Cup start, the 20-year-old Bayne stunned NASCAR's biggest names with a thrilling overtime win Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, holding off Carl Edwards after fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed in NASCAR's first attempt at a green-white-checkered flag finish. Earnhardt had an amazing time trial and was sitting in the pole position to start race making him one of the favorites both in Vegas as well as in some sentimental hearts. It wasn’t just DEJ who got off to the rough start three of the team's four cars, including five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, were involved in a 14-car wreck early in the 500-mile race Sunday. Four-time series champ Jeff Gordon, who started on the front row, and veteran Mark Martin also sustained damage in the melee. However, Earnhardt Jr. did avoid the mess and was running with the leaders in the begging but his teammates weren't as fortunate. Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet was crumpled front and back, forcing the team to the garage area for major repairs. He returned to the race 30 laps down, essentially running for points while extending his winless streak to 66 races. Ok, enough of who didn’t get it done and more about who did. Trevor Bayne became the youngest winner in NASCAR history just one day after his 20th Birthday, even had to cancel his previous birthday plans because of all his television and print bookings. In fact it was his first appearance behind the wheel at the track so some will write this off as beginners luck but the truth is that the kid kept his cool the entire race, made the most of the opportunities when they came, and gave even some of the vets a lesson in drafting and teamwork when all was said and done. For fans of other teams or drivers that are trying to write this one off, please keep in mind how many of the holders of the racing headlines have not seen the winner’s circle at Daytona that may have to step up their game after Sunday, because if they do believe that had things gone a little different, they would have been the one popin’ champagne, then if they never get that close again Trevor will truly be the ba(y)ne of their existence.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Superman may be coming to Stamford Bridge but can he stop in from sinking in the earthquake?

A record 75million(give or take) transfer fee right at the deadline has sent one of the most prolific strikers in the EPL to Chelsea in hopes to provide the Blues with a much needed offensive boost to help them make a run at the title down the home stretch. The defending Premier League champions are not certain of finishing in the top four this season after hugely disappointing form, hence the drastic action in the transfer market. The signing of David Luiz alongside Torres also seemingly signals a lack faith in what was supposed to be a new British youth policy at Stamford Bridge amid the approaching Fifa Financial Fair Play rules. Tactically, there are issues to address. Will Carlo Ancelotti alter a three-pronged attack that is designed to compliment main man Didier Drogba? Torres is unlikely to accept the secondary role of former Liverpool striker Nicolas Anelka, who, it had been speculated, might have returned to Anfield in a player-plus cash deal. The question now remains if it was necessary to for the Blues to make such a big move just under the deadline as they might be too far back to make a run at the title but with Torres anything less than hanging on to the final Champions League spot would be a major disappointment. What I am surprised about is the overflow of bitterness as if the move of a major player is a new occurrence, and if that’s the case then perhaps they should get a little more used to life in 2011, and they obviously were not watching ESPN Europe when LeBron made his move to South Beach. This is what the franchise players (hence the name) roll now, looking out for themselves and making sure they get their rings as there is no admiration for dying without any stripes or hardware as the case may be. But let’s be real, as in the case of LeBron, the club or the club owner does not own the man and he should and does have the right to take his talents wherever he wants once he fulfills his contractual obligation. Hey at least Liverpool got 75 mil in return, the Cavs got nothing but a public sacking and a record 22-game losing streak. But rest assured this is not a disease that stared in the US and made its way across the pond. Ronaldo was no stranger to moving on to greener pasters either, and it’s not like captain fantastic or Wayne Rooney weren’t one step away. Hey you gotta love the way the Spaniards change zip codes though, and Torres is just following the footsteps of the most famous Spanish athlete of the last decade who also was involved in somewhat of a blockbuster trade that changed the landscape of the NBA, Pau Gasol. Do you think Torres showed a lack of loyalty by moving or is he entitled to go wherever he wants? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.
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