Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moving on Up

It's official, The AD Hall has moved. Here's the new address.

The move is necessary to our goals of putting out a decent project and making it so that people can only hate us for who we are and what we say, not because of our somewhat amateur-looking posting system.

It might be a few days before things are totally up and running in their normal fashion on the new location, so bear with us.

Cheers

Speaking of Carson Palmer...


After making 'inflammatory' remarks about Ohio State fans the other day on an LA radio show, Palmer is now backing off saying he actually respects Buckeye fans and only said what he did in the spirit of a good rivalry.

Really? What rivalry? When do USC and Ohio State ever play these days? The last time they played each other in the Rose Bowl was 1985. I can't remember the last time they played in the regular season, but it was long before Carson Palmer was playing at SC.

I hate when athletes (though this applies to coaches, politicians, etc) make a statement and then the next day retract it as if that will make it go away. If Ohioans are actually offended by Palmer's comments, a next-day retraction is not going to make them forget.

What's really sad here is that what he said wasn't actually anything bad at all. All Palmer said was that he can't stand Ohio State fans and that he can't wait to beat them down in Columbus next season. Is there anyone out there that isn't also really annoyed by how ridiculous, pathetic and overwhelmingly loud Ohio State fans are? They're the worst. So his saying this should come as no surprise.

Palmer's only real problem here is that he's got no guts. He was tough enough to say it on an LA radio show but too dumb to realize that he plays professionally for a team in Ohio. He should stand by his comments, and if he needs a crutch, just say that his alma mater matters more to him than his professional allegiances. People can relate to that, especially in Ohio. But don't say nevermind and that you actually respect Ohio State. If you did, you never would've gone after them in the first place. It's ok for people in the public sphere to have opinions. They don't all have to be total blanks like Michael Jordan. But if you actually have one, don't be afraid to stand behind it.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Carson: Palmer or Harry?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MLS Reconstruction

The Stormy Present takes on MLS

On a slightly different note, but still related...MLS teams need to lose their nicknames. No more Columbus Crew, San Jose Earthquakes or Kansas City Wizards. They also need to lose the fake names like Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo (Why didn't they use this one? It would've been a great name and pretty good logo) and Chivas USA. As weird as it might sound, why can't the teams just exist as entities as they do in other places? DC United, FC Dallas (formerly the Burn, GREAT change) and Toronto FC are heading in the right direction.

Why can't we just call them Columbus, Seattle, San Jose or Kansas City? Or use other names to identify them without nicknames. How about Sporting Seattle instead of the Seattle Sounders (though I do really like their logo and shirt prototype)? I actually like the Red Bull New York name, as long as it's not the New York Red Bulls. There are European examples of the sponsorship name like Red Bull Salzburg and Bayer Leverkusen. As long as these don't go overboard (ie, Visa Chicago or Nike LA) it could work to make the names seem less like dorky youth soccer team names.

If the club names can start getting an overhaul as the uniforms and sponsorships have, we could have a much more attractive league visually and nominally. Or we could follow Trey's example and just have the team's in dumb locations move.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Chamberlain: Joba or Wilt?

Please, no votes for Neville "Peace in Our Time" Chamberlain

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Announcement You've All (three) Been Waiting For


Despite no prior notification and so few people actually looking at this blog that you all probably know already, the writers of this blog have chosen their English football sides to follow for the 2008/2009 season. Our goal (keep in mind, there is no way this will come to fruition, but it's a nice aim at least) is to report on our clubs about once per week with some insight about player moves, match results and prognostication. The allegiances will be as follow:

Prizz - Newcastle United, aka Toon, aka "God must be a Geordie"
Mr. Lee - Liverpool, aka Reds, aka Merseysiders
MAO - Tottenham Hotspur, aka Spurs, aka Cockerels

You might note that none of us have chosen Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. You might also note that none of us selected Hull City, Stoke City or Bolton. We should be floundering toward the middle of the table hoping to qualify for next year's Champions League. Of course Liverpool will likely be strong in Europe as they always seem to be these days. We haven't yet determined what the blogger with the best finishing side will get, though it is likely enough to be nothing at all. But if there are any ideas, we'd be happy to hear. Or perhaps what the bottom-most team should have to do...

Comments? Questions? If not, feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Where Euro Defections Happen


While Brandon Jennings has gotten most of the attention surrounding his move to Europe this summer (especially on this blog) there's another really interesting story that is emerging out of Atlanta. Josh Childress, former Stanford star, and current average-to-good Hawks forward is seriously considering signing with Olympiakos in Greece. Well known for their soccer prowess, Olympiakos' basketball side is offering Childress a three year twenty million dollar deal. This of course is far more than he could expect to make in the NBA based on his performance to date.

The deal would make sense on both sides as Olympiakos would only actually owe Childress about 12.6 million Euros as the exchange rate currently sits at $1.59 : €1. The possibility exists now for NBA players who are either upset with their contract negotiations or simply past their prime earning years but still want to play at a high level, to opt for European sides and make quite a bit of money. Outside of the world of the NBA salary, a player could earn a good deal of money first in dollars, and eventually, if he stayed on the Continent long enough, could begin to actually earn his pay in Euros.

Former Piston Carlos Delfino also recently signed with Russian side BC Khimki. The argument isn't exactly the same there as rubbles are not a good currency to earn (hopefully he's earning dollars from them) but the idea is the same. Why flounder about in the D-League or fight for 10-day contracts when you could earn millions of dollars playing in Europe?

Who knows if this will become a fad or if it will die down whenever the economy starts to bounce back, but it does make things quite interesting for the league. David Stern has spent two decades trying to expand the NBA across the world and make it as visible as possible. Now, as globalization has taken root across the world, inferior leagues are starting to realize they can increase their exposure by importing an NBA player. This operates much in the same way as MLS does. I'm not sure David Beckham equals Josh Childress, but the goals are much the same.

This is What MLS Needs


More fans like those of the Columbus Crew. Yes, the Crew should have a better name and yes, Columbus is kind of a strange place to have a professional sports franchise, but the fact that they have rowdy fans who were willing to fight with West Ham supporters is just great. I'm not really in favor of violence but it is good to see an MLS team have loyal enough support to pull this kind of thing off. And in a friendly, no less.

Obviously West Ham is a better club than Columbus and showed it in their 3-1 victory. But I'm happy to see a club outside of Toronto or Washington have an engaged fan base. The only gripe I have in this case is that there were only 9000 folks in a 22,000-seat stadium. Against a top flight English side? Come one Columbus. Ohio State's season hasn't even started yet, you have no excuses.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Taylor: Jason or Marcus?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Too Bad for Norman

While I can't say I watched even a single moment of this year's British Open (and no, it had nothing to do with Tiger Woods not being involved) I feel the need to comment on it. I really wish Greg Norman had been able to hold on and win the tournament. Nothing against Padraig Harrington, in fact I actually like him a lot, but it would've been so great if Norman could've pulled it off. At 53 he would've been the oldest player to win a major (right now, Jack Nicklaus holds the record at 46) but even better he would've been able to salvage his tattered reputation.

I guess he probably has saved his reputation even without winning, but bringing home the Claret Jug would've really done the trick. I'll never forget his complete collapse at Augusta in 1996, it was probably the most awkward I've ever felt watching a sporting event. There's nothing you can do to help a guy who is completely losing it right in front of you, and for that to happen to what seemed to be a good guy, and on that kind of stage, was just awful. This just about sums up what happened that day twelve years ago.

Of course he'd won the British Open twice before, in 1986 and again in 1993, so it's not like he's this lovable loser. In fact he's one of the richest former athletes out there with his stakes in wine making, clothing, real estate and golf course development and construction, just to name a few. Plus he just married Chris Evert.

Still though, it would've been nice. People mention him in the same breath as Jean Van de Velde, and I suppose rightfully so. If there was any way for a guy to get off that list, this was it. He'll probably never contend for a major again, in fact I'm a little surprised he even entered the event to begin with since he's only a few years from qualifying for the Champions Tour, which is the old-guys league.

But I don't care about this for the story's sake. Things like that make me angry listening to sports columnists on tv and radio. It makes sense for them to want a good story because then they have something to write about without doing much work. But for the average fan, can't it be good enough to pull for a guy because he's a good guy?

Bonus Better

Better Harrington: Padraig or Al?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Thompson: David or Mychal?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

What if He Stays??


Brandon Jennings, of flat-top fame, has now officially signed with Italian side Pallacanestro Virtus Roma in what is being reported as either a two- or three-year contract. Which begs the question, what if stays? What if, instead of playing out the required one year to qualify for NBA age standards, Jennings sticks around in Rome for a few years?

While the financial aspects of the deal haven't yet been disclosed and Jennings won't even go to Rome until next week for a press conference, we've got to imagine he's going to be compensated pretty well. He's also going to be playing in a very competitive league. Andrea Bargniani and Danilo Gallinari have each been drafted in the NBA's top ten in the past few years coming out of the Italian league and coaches like Mike D'Antoni have spent time there (playing and coaching) learning the European game. Even Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant spent seven years in Italy, allowing Kobe to grow up around the Italian game.

Virtus Roma currently employs Allan Ray, former Villanova star, and Ibrahim Jaaber, former Ivy League player of the year at Penn. Those guys should help Jennings get a feel for both Rome and the European style of play. Ultimately this experience will depend on what Jennings wants to get out of it. If he sees it simply as a jumping-off point, he will likely end up wasting his time in Italy. There are no provisions that guarantee he'll get to play so he'll have to earn his playing time accordingly. If he really gets into it, who knows, maybe he'll stick around and establish a bit of a career and legacy in Italy, though I'm sure he'll eventually come back to the States for the mega-money of the NBA.

Obviously Jennings can only be praised so much since he's still not going to college and is making this decision based purely on monetary reasons, but this could be a really interesting experiment. If other kids see him do well (and make money immediately) there could be some interest in European leagues as a plausible alternative to college. As a fan of college hoops I can't say I'd love that but it's better than guys screwing schools by showing up for one year and not really doing the whole class thing.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Joe: Blanton or Flacco?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flashing


With the news yesterday that the NFL is planning on cracking down on players who show 'gang signs' during games, I think the Big Brother nature of professional sports has hit a new low. How exactly is the league going to determine what a particular hand gesture means? Will they use some sort of a chart to compare known signs and a guy's on-field actions?

The NFL is citing Paul Pierce's alleged gang sign throwing during the Celtics' first round playoff series against the Hawks as the reason for this new crusade against individuality. I don't know if this is really a gang sign or what, but even if it is, who does this hurt? How many people knew it might be gang related until the league told everyone it was?

Currently the NFL prohibits celebrations with teammates after touchdowns, wearing different socks than are league-sanctioned and now is forbidding the use of 'questionable' hand signals. Dennis Northcutt was quoted as saying that the thing Paul Pierce was doing could be a gang sign but it also might be a coach's signal for a different personnel group that needs to be in the game based on formation, play, whatever. That's a great point. How will the league distinguish? Will they ask every team for a detailed explanation of individual hand signals? Isn't it possible too that teams use dummy signals so that cheaters like the Patriots have a harder time breaking the code? And how does the league know a guy isn't giving a tribute to his kids? Or for his fraternity?

Is this a gang sign? Is this? Is this?

This seems like another ridiculous reactionary step by the NFL front office to completely curtail any uniqueness a player might try to exhibit. There are so few outlets for doing that now, especially since the league will even fine you for honoring a fallen teammate for longer than the league sees fit. I realize that gangs can be a real problem in a lot of places and I don't want to play that down, but is the NFL really a breeding ground for the recruitment or celebration of gangs?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Curtis: Granderson or Enis?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

UVA Retro Day


Finally, a Retro Day I can really get into. I'm a big fan of teams wearing the authentic looking throwbacks, particularly colleges. When Georgia Tech wore those white ones and Calvin Johnson singlehandedly crushed Virginia on national tv a few years back, I was impressed. And not just with Johnson. Those unis were great and not too far off from what the originals looked like.

Now there is word that Virginia will be having a Retro Day where the decade of 1984-1993 will be celebrated with $16 tickets, the honoring of the 1989 ACC Championship team and the wearing of throwback unis and helmets. As far as I know a photo has not turned up for the look when Virginia hosts Richmond for that game, but I'm hoping, nay praying, that they look something like this, this, this or all of these.

All-Star 2k8


I just can't believe how long that game went last night. I have to admit I'm really glad I didn't stay up to watch it. I might've if I lived on the west coast but any game ending after 1am on a weeknight is just unlikely to be watched by me.

You've got to believe that managers and general managers are livid right now that their players had to play so long and so late last night. I don't know how many pitching rotations this might end up affecting but it will certainly be more than one. I don't want to rain on the parade of the all-star game because I used to absolutely love it. But the purpose of the season is to win as many games as you can, and while it's nice to give fans something different and fun to enjoy in the middle of the year, it shouldn't come at the expense of hurting teams' longer term chances.

That's why I had no issue at all with A-Rod not doing the home run derby on Monday. In the past few years, guys who have done well in the derby have disastrous second-halves to their seasons and A-Rod didn't want that to even have a chance of happening. It ended up being great for all parties since he would've hogged the spotlight and instead a national audience was able to see Josh Hamilton go out of his mind. That said, I hope that explosion of power for Hamilton will not hurt him going forward. He obviously slowed down big time after that first round, let's hope his feel-good story continues and hasn't been derailed, ironically, by the thing that has gotten him the most attention to this point.

Anyway, I love the idea of the all-star game, I like how baseball makes it the most interesting and the most fun, but 15 innings? I don't like 15 innings of any game because almost five hours is entirely too long to enjoy a game.

The one good thing that happened though is that it did not end in a tie. That would have been terrible.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Justin: Morneau or Miller?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

WTF?

This is an article discussing Barcelona's off-season transition.

Read the part about Samuel Eto'o, who is apparently close to signing with a team in... Uzbekistan.


Packer News That's Actually Exciting

With all the back-and-forth that has become Favregate, it's nice to read some welcome news regarding a Packer of note.

That guy gets on my nerves, anyway...

For Live Football...


Check out the Cock n' Bull Pub on Rosewood if you're here in Columbia. They have feeds to Setanta, Fox Soccer Channel, Gol TV and Univision which pretty much covers any games that are going to make it on the tele in the US. Good brews on draught too.

AD Hall in the News

This is from April, but that's ok.

Probably the only time The AD Hall, SI.com fannation, the Mike and Mike radio show and AOL Fanhouse will ever all be mentioned on the same page. Too bad the Save Our Sonics campaigns ultimately weren't successful. I really don't want to see an Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA this year.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Wright: David or Lorenzen?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fandom

Isn't there such an interesting distinction between types of fans of sports. I don't mean between half-hearted fans and obsessive ones or even of fans of say, baseball, as opposed to fans of basketball.

The difference in question here is one described very ably by Simon Kuper in Football Against the Enemy: "British fans are unique. In Britain, football itself is almost incidental to fan culture. More than any other supporters in the world, British fans are aware of themselves as fans. They think a lot about their own numbers, their visibility, their group character." This is such an insightful thought. It can be applied directly to almost any other group of fans out there.

Exceptions do exist, such as Duke basketball. Not the greater sphere of Duke fans, but specifically the student sections at the games. Now of course known as the Cameron Crazies, they camp out for big games, they memorize biographical information about their opponents in order to have the best ammunition for insulting them, they sing and chant preselected songs and jeers, and in case someone doesn't know the words, they print out lyrics before the games and pass them around to each other. This is what Kuper is talking about. A group that exists not only to cheer the team (and boo the opponent), which they certainly do, but has many self-interested qualities. Their sole purpose is not to be on television, but they are keenly aware that they always are.

Very rare are these kinds of fans present in the larger sporting world. Perhaps there are more than one would assume, but their actions and relationships with teams and media are of more local flavor. Either way, this is what makes the English Premier League so much more interesting than other European domestic leagues. Yes the play itself is often better and the star power is unsurpassed. But the fans make the games the spectacles they are known to be. The North London Derby, The Old Firm (granted, this is Scottish, but fits into Kuper's British description), and the Manchester Derby are examples of fandom almost to absurdity. Yet Kuper is right to point out that even if the matches weren't to be played, the rivalries between fans and the fans' desires to 'out fan' each other would still exist.

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is beginning to reach these proportions in the NY-CT-MA area. And some college rivalries are vaguely the same. But often in this country, fans that even profess to hate one another are likely not to practice what they preach. With Duke and UNC for example, those kids claim to hate each other but you can always find Duke kids on Franklin Street and Carolina kids at Durham Bulls games. Were this situation Glasgow, Dukies would get their asses kicked on Franklin and the Bulls would never allow kids from Chapel Hill into the ballgames.

Anyway, it's just interesting to see how fans can be self-aware in terms of their fanhood. It's what makes soccer so great even for those who don't side with one team or the other.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Phelps: Josh or Michael?

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Plea to Electronic Arts


If you care at all about the growth of soccer in North America, please please make a version of your next FIFA game available on Mac computers. While Apple users currently only make up less than ten percent of all home computer users, this number is growing rapidly. There is no better way for kids to learn the players and rules of a game than from video games, honestly. How the hell would I know who Felix the Cat Potvin, Teemu Selanne and Jeremy Roenick were if they hadn't been on NHL '94 that I played on Sega growing up? It's the same with soccer. I routinely say, hey, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he's on Ajax, right? Wrong, dumbass, my more knowledgeable friends say, he's been on Juventus and Inter since 2004. Yeah, well he was on Ajax on FIFA '04, which is how I learned the majority of my player names and associations.

So for the love of God EA, put FIFA games on Macs. You'll let a bunch of new kids get a chance to learn about the game and you'll give those of us who are old enough to have our own Apple machines get back the specifics on the starting eleven at Grasshoppers, BSC Young Boys and Queen's Park Rangers.

The Cycle


No, I'm not talking about singling, doubling, tripling and homering in a single game.

I'm talking about the worst thing in the world. The ESPN cycle. This is where ESPN decides what they want to hang their hat on for a particular day (or days) and then use every available outlet to cover the story. The most recent example is of course the Elton Brand free agency.

Here's at least part of what Elton got to deal with on July 9 and 10:

Interview on Mike and Mike (tv/radio)
Interview on PTI (tv)
Interview on Sports Center (tv)
Interview with Mike Dunleavy on 710 ESPN (radio)
Interview with David Falk on 710 ESPN (radio)
Talked about on First Take (tv)
Talked about on Tirico and Van Pelt (radio)
Talked about on The Herd (radio)
Talked about on BS Report (internet)
Talked about on Sports Center (tv)
ESPN.com lead story (internet)
Two J.A. Adande feature stores (internet)

I understand there is news out there to be covered, but good grief, it's not like Elton had all that much to say. From all I saw/heard/read, he said the same damn thing in every single interview and quote. Does the interviewer make much of a difference then? It ends up being overkill and overwhelming which only hurts ESPN. If you're showing another interview with the same person with just a different host, I'm going to turn the channel. And I'm sure there are many others out there who feel the same way.

It's a lot like when ESPN tried to convince us that ESPN mobile was a great idea. The commercials were on all the time, it was plugged in every Sports Center and in as many ballgames as possible. But just because they tell us it's a big deal doesn't mean it is. Elton Brand signing with the Sixers is definitely news, but not because ESPN says so.

The Transfer Window


This is the time of year when all of your favorite footie sides end up looking completely different. It's harder than hell to follow and completely understand from Stateside, but here's a quick rundown of what's happened so far and what might come in the next few weeks:

Peter Crouch (Liverpool) - £11 million transfer to Portsmouth
Steve Sidwell (Chelsea) - £5 million transfer to Aston Villa
Giovani dos Santos (Barcelona) - £4.7 million transfer to Spurs
Deco (Barcelona) - Undisclosed transfer to Chelsea
Jens Lehmann (Arsenal) - Undisclosed transfer to Stuttgart
John Arne Riise (Liverpool) - £4 million transfer to Roma
Harry Kewell (Liverpool) - Free transfer to Galatasary
John Heitinga (Ajax) - €10 million buyout by Atletico Madrid
Gregory Coupet (Lyon) - Undisclosed transfer to Atletico Madrid
Dani Güiza (Real Mallorca) - Undisclosed transfer to Fenerbahce
Samir Nasri (Marseille) - £12 million transfer to Arsenal

Possible Moves:

Frank Lampard (Chelsea) - Inter Milan
Ronaldinho (Barcelona) - AC Milan
Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) - AC Milan
Gareth Barry (Aston Villa) - Liverpool
Lukas Podolski (Bayern Munich) - FC Köln
Christiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) - Real Madrid

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Jesse: Owens or Orosco?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Marvel v. Capcom


I don't know what made me think of this but today I remembered one of my favorite memories of watching sports when I was younger. It was in the second semester of my senior year in high school and I was 17. There were loads of my buddies at a friend's house, probably ten of us. We were screwing around as one is wont to do when you're 17 and in the twelfth grade. Duke was playing Maryland on January 27, 2001 at what was more or less the height of the two programs. Duke that day featured Jason Williams, Chris Duhon (as a freshman), Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy. They would eventually go on to win the national championship beating Maryland in the Final Four and then Arizona in the finals. Maryland, the home team, had Lonny Baxter, Juan Dixon, Terrence Morris and the backbone of the team that would win the national championship over Indiana (who beat Duke in the Final Four) in 2002.

Anyway, anyone familiar with this game remembers the 'Miracle Minute,' as Jason Williams scored eight points in about 15 seconds, with Duke trailing by 10 with 1:01 to play. Two Nate James free throws sent the game to OT and Duke eventually won 98-96 when Battier blocked a Juan Dixon layup with about four seconds left in overtime. Probably one of the great regular season games in ACC history. Two fantastic teams playing down to the wire with some of the best players in the country on display.

But if you weren't watching it with me that day, you didn't enjoy it as much as I did or find as much shame in the surrounding circumstances as I did. As mentioned, there were a good number of us hanging out and watching the ballgame. Earlier we'd been playing the Sega Dreamcast down the hall, again, as 17/18 year olds were wont to do in 2001. But as the game got going and as it crept toward the waning minutes, we'd all gravitated to the tv. Isn't weird how sometimes you just know that you're watching something amazing, even before the amazing parts have happened? The other thing I guess I should mention is that I lived in Durham, North Carolina at this time. So most of the folks there were pulling for Duke, naturally. So anyway, Maryland takes what looks like an insurmountable lead with 1:01 to play. But then J.Will starts doing his thing, stealing the ball, making 3's, and we're all going crazy. Jumping up and down, yelling, we can't believe it. Game finally goes to overtime, and we're all on the edge of our seats. Amazing game and so much better to watch it with a bunch of friends. End of overtime, Battier blocks the shot and we all go nuts. Could there ever be a better game than this? Haven't we all just witnessed something that will never be forgotten in Durham? But wait, where is George?, I ask.

Our friend George is sitting in the other room, oblivious to the banter down the hall, intently focused on the Marvel v. Capcom game he brought over to play on the Dreamcast. It was one of the lowlights in my career as a sports watcher. This guy, a friend of mine no less, had missed one of the great sporting events of all time to be Chun Li against Spider Man.

Adjust Your Clocks to Central Time


That's where the excitement is. Thanks to a couple of major trades this week the already competitive NL Central got a little more interesting. As recently as a few weeks ago I had pretty much written of the Brewers chances of contending for a playoff spot. With the addition of reigning Cy Young winner CC Sabathia, however, the Brewers are in a position to make some serious noise. With Ben Sheets and Sabathia the Brewers now have one of the best starting tandems in all of baseball. Combined with a potent offense and substantial young talent this is a team that is going to win a lot of games.

With the media frenzy focused solely on this deal, a somewhat overlooked fact is that the Cubs are still the team to beat in the NL Central. Evidence for this claim is as follows: the Cubs managed to maintain a 3 game lead in the Central despite losing their best pitcher and best hitter to injuries. The Cubs probably have one of the deepest rosters in baseball, and despite lacking their best offensive and defensive weapons were able to play .500 baseball. Even if the Cubs continue to play .500 ball from here on out they will win at least 90 games, usually enough to win a division. But the Cubs will most likely play +.500 baseball. The return of Zambrano and Soriano will be huge boosts. Additionally, the pickup of Rich Harden who, when healthy, is one of the more dominant starters in the game, should help the Cubs to maintain their hold on the division lead. While the Brewers have the Sheets-Sabathia tandem, the Cubs now have the Zambrano-Harden-Dempster trio that is pretty damn intimidating. If Jason Marquis gets his shit together then you're looking at arguably the best rotation in baseball. Add to this formidable assault the bullpen combo of Howry-Marmol-Wood and the Cubs look rock solid. All three have control issues occasionally, but I'd still take any one of them over Eric Gagne. Oh and let's not forget the Cubs still have the highest run differential in all the majors.

Years of disappointment have made me extra cautious about making early predictions, but it's hard to see how any team can compete with the Cubs down the stretch, especially if they figure out how to win on the road. The Sabathia trade will definitely make for more exciting division play, but ultimately I don't think it will have a huge impact, with the exception that the Brewers are now more likely to win the Wild Card than the Cardinals.

By: Brizz

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Luc: Longley or Richard Mbah a Moute?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

South Africa Shouldn't Lose the World Cup


News from FIFA today announces that chief Sepp Blatter has spoken to three unnamed countries about possibly replacing South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Officially the announcement states that it would only occur if a 'natural catastrophe' would prevent the African nation from hosting the world's most important sporting event. But it seems the real reason for the 'Plan B' scenarios are due to the increasingly likely security issues and shortcomings in stadium and infrastructure construction. While the countries remain anonymous at this point, one must assume that England is one, based on it's plethora of enormous and modern grounds. Spain is another likely location as Barcelona and Madrid each have monstrous stadia up to the task of hosting such an event.

The best example of this kind of a situation is the 2004 Olympic games in Athens. For years leading up to the games, concerns were voiced over the speed with which venues were being constructed. Many feared shoddy construction and incomplete infrastructure. On top of all this, there were great security fears as Greece is not always the safest of places and Athens is notoriously dirty and sometimes dangerous. These premature criticisms lasted nearly to the opening ceremonies. But once the games began, the host city and nation gracefully put on the games without incident.

Things should go similarly in South Africa. Great cities such as Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg will host many games, as well as other lesser cities. The new Durban Stadium will hold 70,000 fans and sit near the Golden Mile. Green Point in Cape Town will be built to hold 70,000 and the Newlands pitch, usually used for rugby union, can be used in the off-chance that Green Point is not complete. Ellis Park in Johannesburg will be revamped and the gleaming new Soccer City stadium will be the host of the final with almost 95,000 seats. Three new stadia will be constructed and others renovated, each holding at least 40,000. While some of these are in fact behind schedule and over cost, this is simply the world in which we now live. Were there stadia being renovated and constructed in the US or UK (Wembley Stadium anyone?) isn't it safe to say that they too would face similar issues?

While there have been severe riots and security struggles in Jo'burg this year, there is no guarantee that there will be in two years. And like in Greece four years ago, the populace will eventually understand the unbelievable value of hosting the Cup and the even greater stigma that would come if the country had it stripped less than two years away. Things may be behind schedule now, but they will be satisfactorily complete when the opening kick takes place at Soccer City in Jo'burg on June 11, 2010.

FIFA has done enough to humiliate and alienate African countries over the years. The last thing they need to do is bar Africa from its crowning athletic achievement in the waning days before it hosts. While it is not a referendum on Africa as a whole, this tournament is vitally important to the growing importance of the sport on the continent. It cannot be taken away.

England and Spain are surely attractive sites and would bring in the requisite fans and intensity. But this is Africa's turn on the world's stage, for the very first time. Mr. Blatter, do not undermine their efforts with more announcements of this nature.

Another Reason American Soccer Will Never Be Like European Football


If this ever happened in the States, the referee would be arrested, there would be outraged parents, Mothers Against Drunk Driving would get involved and ESPN would devote a three-part series to the dangers of alcoholism in sports.

Thank goodness this happened in Minsk. I don't know if I could take all the morality lessons.

Bound for Europe


Los Angeles high schooler, most recently of Oak Hill in Virginia, Brandon Jennings has decided he's not going to go to Arizona to play basketball after all. After his second attempt at the SAT has been questioned by the NCAA and without waiting for the results of his third try, Jennings will be practicing his trade in Europe next year. With the NBA's one-year-out-of-high school rule preventing him from jumping straight to the league, Jennings will spend his one-year purgatory of sorts in Europe.

This is a great revelation. Rather than going to some military academy or post-high school school to pass the time, Jennings will get to earn a paycheck, live within another culture and hopefully be free of the ever-present entourages that so often destroy the credibility and decision making processes of young NBA players. He obviously won't stay for more than the required year, but it seems like a good decision for a kid that doesn't appear to be cut out for college anyway. Let's face it, if the NCAA is questioning your credentials as a minimum qualifier, and you're a huge basketball star, you probably aren't up to the task of completing a year at university.

No word yet on what team he might ultimately play with, but this seems to be a mature and thought out decision on the part of Jennings. It's also a possible plan for future high-profile players who don't really want to go to college and definitely don't want to go into the NBDL. Spending a year (or more) playing in cities like Madrid, Milan and other Euro powerhouses would give these kids experience playing with adults, opportunities to compete in hostile environments and possibly gain valuable minutes in clutch situations on a level much higher than in high school. I'm sure the NBA hates the idea of this as a possible way around the NBA age rule, but for the kids, it makes a lot of sense.

"Big" Show Returns


The news that Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick will join the NBC Sunday night football broadcast to do highlights together is welcome news to this blog. There is no way this will ever equal the greatness of the original "Big Show" Sports Centers in the mid-90s, but it's a step in the right direction for NFL studio shows.

In January, Bill Simmons expertly broke down the problems with having ridiculous numbers of analysts on NFL studio shows. The desks look absurd with abnormally large men crowded together talking about football and laughing too often. Another issue is the inability of some of these guys (Shannon Sharpe, in particular) to complete a highlight tape without screwing up the words on the teleprompter, laughing, making inside jokes or shouting out some sort of onomatopoeia (ex. boom, whoop, etc). Passing highlights around the room for everyone to read is a terrible way to explain what happened. Most of the former players/coaches who are analysts are much better talking about the nuances of the game than they are at reading information quickly or effectively.

That's why bringing Olbermann and Patrick together will be a real success for NBC. These guys are trained at doing highlights, reading quickly and adding witty remarks within the context of the replays. Yes, they'll have plenty of inside jokes and their humor will be of higher brow than say, Emmitt Smith. But this is what these guys do for a living.

As long as NBC refrains from ever having all of their team members at one desk at the same time, the show should work well. With Bob Costas, Chris Collinsworth, Jerome Bettis, Tiki Barber, Peter King, Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, things could come out horribly wrong. But if they allow for different desks and different scenes for each group, the show should be a real improvement over the other NFL shows.

Lay Off Elton Brand


Over the past day I've heard a lot of talk of how Elton Brand is this greedy guy who just took the money from Philadelphia and abandoned all of the fans he should have been loyal to in Los Angeles. With Baron Davis signing, everyone assumed that Brand would resign with the Clippers, making LAC a reasonable team out west. But now that he signed with the Sixers, after opting out of his contract, Clippers fans want his head on a platter.

Give me a break. Who among us wouldn't take a new job in another city if it offered significantly better pay and better opportunities? And what loyalty had Brand previously shown the Clips? In 2003, only two years after being traded to LA, Brand signed with the Heat for $82 million. Because he was a restricted free agent, the Clippers were allowed to match the contract, and did, forcing Brand back to LA. I'm not sure what people mean when they say he loved LA. He opted out of his contract, he'd previously signed with another team before being required to go back, he was hurt for all of last year. Sounds exactly like someone who'd want a change of scenery.

I can't blame Brand for going to Philly. The same way I can't blame Baron Davis for going to LA. The Clippers fans didn't seem to have an issue with Davis jumping ship from Golden State.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Moon: Jamario or Warren?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Toon to be Sold to bin Ladens?


This can't be making the Geordies very happy. If God is in fact a Geordie, is he ultimately Allah?

Strange happenings in the Premier League these days as Americans (Randy Lerner - Aston Villa, not to mention Malcolm Glazer - Man United), Russians (Roman Abramovich - Chelsea), Uzbeks (Alisher Usmanov - Arsenal), Icelanders (Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson - West Ham), Thais (Thaksin Shinawatra - Man City) and Saudis (Newcastle) own clubs. At what point will the EPL quit being just an English league and become a purely international league?

What are Zenit Thinking?



So this isn't the most breaking news. Get over it.

Why are Zenit St. Petersburg refusing to sell Andrei Arshavin to Barcelona? At what point will his value be higher than it is now? Don't they understand the way the system in Europe works?

Let me explain the situation. Arshavin is one of the most sought after players after his amazing run through the UEFA Cup with Zenit and then the Russian side at Euro 2008. He led Zenit to the UEFA Cup over Rangers, in Manchester no less, and got great exposure to the British press. Then he thrilled fans and naysayers alike in Austria/Switzerland, with the eyes of all of Europe upon him. He is as popular as he will ever be. No one really watches the Russian league, and even if they do, what are the chances that his magical run in 2007/08 will be repeated. Based on his track record, I would say slim.

What are the benefits for Zenit you ask? Simply that he can get them millions of Euros with which to use to bolster their side for the future. Arshavin is not young. Well, he's not ultra-young. He's 27. Why not take the money and run? Invest in highly prized Russian youngsters to create a stronger youth system and in turn create a longer-term window for sustained success both domestically and in Europe.

Plus the guy has been a rabble-rouser for most of his career before last season. He's more likely to fall back into that style of play/life than he is to continue his stirring successes. Dump him off on someone else to deal with and reap the financial rewards. Twelve million Euros goes a long, long way in Russia these days.

I'm sure fans of Zenit don't want him gone, but the way European football is set up these days, good players in small markets don't last. They sign with big clubs and the financial windfalls for the smaller sides from smaller countries allow them to grow domestically. The ultimate value for the Zenit program is in Russia. It simply is not going to gain an international following to the tune of the English or mega-Spanish clubs.

So, Zenit, let Arshavin go. It's in everyone's best interest. He's the highest paid player in all of Russia. Use the transfer money and the money you won't have to pay him in the future to create a dominant Russian side. It makes sense. At least from this side of the Atlantic.

Weird Non-News of the Day

C.C. Sabathia, nay, CC Sabathia, has dropped the periods from his initials. Carsten Charles Sabathia announced the dropping at the press conference announcing his arrival in Milwaukee after the Indians traded him to the Brewers.

Why would you do this? What difference does it make? Is he going to look down on the likes of J.J. Hardy, J.D. Drew, A.J. Pierzynski and all the other cutely abbreviated baseball players?

I guess CC is still better than going by Chipper.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Mayo: OJ or Jerod?

Monday, July 7, 2008

New Villa Kits

Aston Villa have new kits for the 2008/2009 season, home and away, as shown on EPLtalk.com. This is not ordinarily big news as European sides change sponsors and shirt designs quite often. But this change is one that bucks the omnipresent trend of uniform advertisements. While the rest of Europe (save Barcelona) trot out with ads for banks, casinos or clothiers, Villa will feature the name of acorns' a local children's hospice. Dumping last year's sponsor of 32red, an online gambling site, Villa will lose £2 million. But Villa, following in Barca's footsteps are doing the right thing. It'll be a nice change to see something on a shirt that isn't screaming for profits but is instead out to help children.

I don't fall into the Jay Mariotti trap of thinking sports are all about the kids and everything that's done sets either a good or bad example for the wee ones. But it is nice to have an organization actually doing something toward a good cause. Unlike NBA Cares, which everyone knows is a crock, this could actually raise quite a bit of money, rather than being used to parade around star players and pretend they know how to read. Ever noticed that the books NBA players are reading to kids in ads are always picture books?

Kudos to Villa for pulling this off. Though it is sad that they had to ask for permission to have kits not featuring an advert.

Wimbledon Final



Many words in many columns today have been spent lauding yesterday's Wimbledon final between Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. I'm not sure adding this post will add anything to the greater ether, but that being said...

What a great match. I'm no tennis buff nor am I old enough to have seen the great Borg-McEnroe matches of the late 70s and early 80s. But this had to be tennis at its finest. The gracefulness and intensity of Roger Federer and the pure athleticism and artistry of Nadal were the perfect foils, as they have been in previous finals in this very tournament. But what pushed this over the top was the fact that the fifth set was first of all needed and second, went all the way to 9-7. While I was unabashedly supporting Federer in the match, I'm glad that it ended when it did. The worst thing that could have happened to that match would've been to keep going to 9-9 or further in the fifth and have it postponed until today due to darkness. There would've been much lost having the guys sleep on it and finish it today.

So, here's to tennis, for giving us a real reason to watch the men's side. It's not often that tennis would be the first sport to mind, even this time of year.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Kim: Anthony or Birdie?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Not-So-Beautiful Game

For as long as I can recall, I've held soccer on a fairly high pedestal. The "beautiful game," as it is often called, has always struck me as pure--as somehow different from drug-riddled baseball, absence-of-teamwork basketball, and tireless-QBs football. Yes, soccer is a rich, textured, and beautiful game--a place to see eye-popping skills, blood-curdling rivalries, and unstoppable national pride.

Sadly, my long-standing esteem for soccer is being put to its limit this summer. Even after watching the most entertaining major tournament in recent memory, I'm beginning to think that soccer is no different from our American sports: ridiculously over-analyzed, lacking in loyalty, and rife with impatience.

The Favre Phenomenon
Thanks to first-class bloggers like the world-renowned MAO (not to be confused with this math professor, who teaches at Grossmont, which is actually a fitting name for an institution at which Mizz could be the dean), we are all aware that God's 13th disciple is already "itching" to return to the NFL, not even one full summer removed from his so-called "retirement."

Now, I'm not going to lie to you... I'm fairly accustomed to this hot-stove horse manure. These days, the Yanks-Sox rivalry is debated in December, NBA free agency is a boiling issue as soon as the Final are over, and Negotiating the NFL Salary Cap 101 is among the most GPA-deflating of summer courses.

Indeed, we American sports fan are accustomed to the usual summer madness--but since when did soccer join the ranks of this will-he/won't-he circus?

Consider the ongoing mating dance currently being carried out by Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez and (rather French politician-looking) Aston Villa helmsman Martin O'Neill. As is generally the case in the sporting world, the fundamentals of this story are rather simple: O'Neill and Villa have valuated prized midfielder Gareth Barry at roughly 18 million pounds. Benitez and Liverpool, anxious to sign the star player, have made 4--count them, 4--separate bids for Barry... except that none of these bids has reached the clearly defined, clearly communicated asking price.

Factor in the British soccer press and its affinity for overblown headlines and meaningless news, it's no surprise that the Barry "saga" (to borrow Soccernet's term) is front-page fare.

If you find yourself lamenting the apocalyptic nature of American sports coverage, simply click here.

It's All About the Benjamins
... Or, at least that appears to be the case. Again, I'm quite accustomed to sports figures being restless and loving money. I've grown up watching team-hoppers, and I know that sometimes greener (or bluer) pastures are simply too hard to pass up.

I get that. I am not naive enough to think that athletes value loyalty. I mean: Really? Seriously? Are you kidding? These days, a shirt is merely a shirt--a uniform--and nothing more; heck, the 3 guys just pictured left top-tier teams for their fiercest rivals!

While this transient behavior runs rampant throughout the sports world, nowhere is it more vividly illustrated than in European soccer.

This guy nearly led his team to a 10-man upset of Barcelona in the Champions League a couple of years ago. An unrivaled talisman for his club, Henry had a chance to join guys like Roy Keane and Paolo Maldini: players who will forever be linked indelibly with particular clubs. Instead, what did Henry do? He decided to jump ship. His stats differ from those of his Arsenal days, and--wouldn't you know it?--the Champions League trophy found its way back to England.

Now, sadly there comes word that another Arsenal stud wants to leave--for Barcelona, no less! It's the same ole' story: have one or two statistically ridiculous years, then bolt for a bigger bankroll.

Damon left the Red Sox, who then won another World Series; Vinatieri left the Patriots, who then went undefeated; Ashley Cole left Chelsea, only to see Arsenal become the most exciting young team in the EPL.

Athletes, and particularly soccer players, never learn. Sometimes, you should just stick with a team; the results can be astounding.

Fresh Nou Faces
In America, we think we know the definition of impatience: after all, we have the likes of this notorious title-buyer, and this coach-killer.

You want impatience? Check out these guys.

A little history:
  • During the 1996-1997 season, Sir Bobby Robson guided the Catalans to 3 trophies, but was ushered out of the managerial role because club big-wigs worried that he'd never win over the fans.
  • Only 2 years ago, Frank Rijkaard and Ronadinho led Barcelona to the apex of European glory--the UEFA Champions League crown. As of now, Rijkaard has been replaced as coach, and the Brazilian playmaker is rumored to be headed for Milan. Why? No trophies for 2 years...
The top European clubs--the Barcelonas, AC Milans, Chelseas, and Real Madrids--are ridiculous. Every time some young 20-something has a good season, one of these megaclubs rushes to sign him; it doesn't matter who they have to discard in the process, and it doesn't matter if (as in Sidwell's case) the player ends up riding the pine all year.

So, when you think that the Boss and Dan Snyder are nuts, look for solace in the European game, where complete club overhauls often happen due to a single loss, and where exceptional managers and players are recycled with soulless efficiency.

...

Soccer is indeed a beautiful game. Just remember though: at it's core, it's as ugly as any of our stateside pastimes.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Special one: Jose Mourinho or Kenny Anderson?

D.C. Doldrums

This two-sentence entry from SI's latest MLB power rankings is everything that this blogger strives to be: brief, accurate, and just the slightest bit snarky...

Washington Nationals
Ryan Zimmerman leads this team in home runs with eight. Ryan Zimmerman has been on the disabled list for the past 35 games.

Oh--and happy Independence Day!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Seeking Readers 4-10

Interested in making almost no commitment while single-handedly doubling the readership of a blog? Feel like ESPN.com has way too many stories and you only can handle about two, maybe three stories per day? Bored as hell?

Become an AD Hall reader. It's free, it's easy, and we promise not to tell anyone.

Journeyman Gerald Green?

"Mavs Sign Journeyman Green to One-Year Contract"

How can Gerald Green be a journeyman already? Yes, this is his fourth team entering his fourth season in the NBA. But the guy is 22 and as just mentioned, entering his fourth season in the league. A Journeyman is Kurt Thomas (Miami, Dallas, New York, Phoenix, Seattle San Antonio) or Mikki Moore (Detroit, Boston, Atlanta, Utah, LA Clippers, Seattle, New Jersey and Sacramento).

Favre - Enough Already


It's not like we didn't see this coming. It's just amazing that Brett Favre can recapture the sports (and otherwise) news cycle with the briefest of comments on his intentions. I don't really want to know what itch Brett has, but I kind of like the idea given by Erik Kuselias (even though I usually find him to be a moron) on Mike and Mike yesterday wondering how annoying Favre must be at home be for his family to be pushing him back to football.

But really, come on Brett, we don't need this faux-drama again this offseason. I just don't want to be hearing news about the NFL at this point in the year. And I definitely don't want you to become another Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice or any other player who came back for just a little too long. Last year was the swan song. I understand in previous years you didn't want to leave with the Packers being so awful. But last year you were great, the team was great and an even better story. Yeah, you lost the NFC Championship game. So what? Everyone will remember how great the 2008 season was. But if you come back, people will remember you when the team isn't as good. How can it be as good as last year? It was a complete surprise, which won't happen again. Guys played out of their minds last year, which won't happen again this year. The other teams in the division weren't all that great, which won't happen again this year.

You retired at the right time. Your number is going to be hanging with Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, and Reggie White. Leave it at that. Stop holding the mainstream media hostage with your on-again-off-again statements.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Benitez: Armando or Rafa?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

File This in 'Posts I Should Never Have Made'

Remember that post yesterday about Andy Murray? Yeah. He got CRUSHED today by Rafael Nadal. Nadal heads into the semifinals for the third year in a row in his quest to knock off Roger Federer. Federer also won today in convincing fashion, after a rain delay only postponed the inevitable.

A Flawed System

FIFA released it's new world rankings with newly crowned European champion Spain sitting atop the table. No issue with that, nor with Italy, Germany, Brazil and Holland rounding out the top 5. What gets me is the American side falling all the way to 30th. I understand that the rankings are based on a point system that awards teams for winning games against highly ranked opponents. I guess it's sort of like RPI. So I get that the US beatdown of Barbados (ranked 137) a few weeks ago didn't exactly turn heads.

But really, the US isn't a better side than Scotland? I love Scotland, but their team would probably not beat the US in a match, and the Scots are ranked 16. What about Mexico? The US usually fares well against the Mexicans, especially on home soil. Yet Mexico is ranked 19. Others listed higher than America such as Paraguay, Israel and Nigeria are all sides you could honestly expect the US to beat.

The FIFA rankings need to be used, at least in this country, not as a barometer of where the US stands in relation to other countries, but simply as one poll based on one equation. Mainstream media will surely announce that American soccer is in a low period and that interest is waning in the world's game as a result. To the contrary, American interest in soccer is growing and is not dependent on the US national team. If they do well, that's good, but seeing their ranking drop to 30th will not keep those whose interest has grown as a result of the fabulously entertaining Euro 2008 tournament from tuning in in the future.

Young for Garza

Who do you think has gotten the better of this trade through the first half of the season?

Matt Garza - 7-4, 3.47 ERA, 58K
Delmon Young - .278, 2HR, 28RBI, 51K