Monday, June 30, 2008

Tampa Atop the Bigs

The Tampa Bay Rays have the best record in baseball through their first 81 games, or the first half of this season. Granted, we've seen unlikely teams do quite well through the first half before, maybe the best example is the 2005 Washington Nationals, only to completely fall apart later in the season. I remember writing a column for the college newspaper about the Nats, and maybe this is the same thing, but...

Tampa seems actually built for sustained success. Maybe they don't finish this year on top of the American League East. Maybe they don't even get the AL Wild Card. But they've got a lineup and pitching staff that situates them in the top of the American League for at least the next few years. Nearly everyone on the team is young, with rookie Evan Longoria and youngster BJ Upton highlighting the position players. The Rays have strong starting pitching and could even be making a move to acquire CC Sabathia from the Indians before the trade-deadline. Even better, they seem to hate the Red Sox and Yankees, which puts them in the likable category with most fans around the country.

Let's hope they can keep it up and at the very least keep one of the two northeastern teams out of this year's playoffs.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Luis: Alicea or Arangones?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What's in a Name?

Without question, there have been numerous memorable performances by individuals named Fernando:
  • This guy hit two 4-RBIers in one game.
  • This guy won a Cy Young and (apparently) is beloved by his fans.
  • This guy was a marginally effective 2nd-baseman (and hardworking to boot?)... and now he's on TV.
Above all, however, reigns this guy, who surprised many onlookers by scoring 24 P-ship goals to firmly justify his astronomical 26-million-pound transfer fee.

And, if a world-class EPL season weren't enough, he added a brilliant game-winning goal to push Spain to the Euro 2008 title.

Apparently, the chicks also dig him.

(Note: Will there ever be a better Fernando? This guy got knocked out by a pretty boy, and this guy has nice muscles but looks like he invented the term "dookie-poo".)

(Note 2: Slight variants on the name "Fernando," as can be found here and here, were not considered.)

Of Note, and an Apology

Of Note:

None of our contributors correctly identified the score of the game, though Mr. Lee did manage to guess the right outcome.

An Apology:

To anyone who read the phrase "dookie-poo." This should be self-explanatory.

Spanish Victory

After 44 years of falling short of expectations, Spain have defeated Germany to win Euro 2008. The Germans did nothing to deserve a chance to win this match and a terrific Fernando Torres goal in the 33rd minute gave Spain all it needed to win.

Even without a last-minute goal from the Germans to tie, this tournament has to be remembered as one of the best major international tournaments. The number of late goals and upstart teams will keep Euro 2008 in mind for years to come.

Bonus Better

Better Villa: David or Aston?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Walker: Javon or Kenny?


It's a fact of life: Sometimes, weird shit happens.

--Occasionally, avian mortality is forcefully illustrated.

--Frequently, old dudes with moustaches are resurrected from the coaching crypt to re-lead their former teams.

--Rarely, though, does a dookie-poo team win a MAJOR LEAGUE baseball game without notching a single hit.

If such piss-poor beisbol depresses you, watch this for the zillionth time. (Just don't remember the fact that this guy used to be an owner!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Incorrect Predictions on the Euro 2008 Final

With Sunday's Euro 2008 Final upon us this weekend, we have pooled our collective thoughts, collaborated on the many possible scenarios and weighed several potential coaching moves that could impact the match between Spain and Germany. Having done so, we have reached three completely different conclusions about the outcome of the championship.

1. Mr. Lee - A 1-1 draw through full and over times with Spain winning on penalties.
2. Prizz - Germany claim their fourth European Championship with a 3-2 victory in a wide open match.
3. MAO - The Germans pull through in overtime 2-1, after a late goal equalizes the Spanish who will score early in the second half.

The most likely scenario is of course that none of these results will be the correct one, and based on the proceedings of the tournament to this point, it's very likely that no one on earth will successfully handicap this match. All we can hope for is a good, clean, open match that allows each team to exploit their particular advantages. If that happens, we should have quite a match. And if all else fails, they can at least play boring football through 120 minutes and give us an exciting penalty shootout.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better James: LeBron or David?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Unlucky No More

Conveniently for this blog's 200th post, we've had the table set for the Euro 2008 final, now between Germany and Spain. The Spanish demolished Russia for the second time in this tournament, 3-0, despite wearing their supposedly unlucky kits. Russia were never really in the game, despite a nil-nil score through fifty minutes. But the men in red never put together much of an attack and had very few shots on goal. Andrei Arshavin, the tournament's darling to this point, did next to nothing while Spain's relentless attack finally yielded goals late in the game.

So the final is set and it should be an interesting match. Two contrasting styles, the Germans strong, tough and big in the back against the much more free-flowing Spanish side.

Predictions will come tomorrow from each of us...

Unlucky Yellows?

If the Spanish truly consider yellow to be an unlucky color, why did they design one of their kits in that color? Why wouldn't they have white and red kits instead, as they did in the 2006 World Cup? Does anyone else think that this is just a built-in excuse in case they lose to the Russians?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Beasley: Michael or DeMarcus?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

International Football's Heidi Game

The comparisons of today's Germany-Turkey Euro 2008 semifinal match with 1968's Jets-Raiders Heidi game are apt. After railing against false assumptions and comparisons with American sports, I have to cede some ground on this subject. Of course, unlike the real Heidi game, this game mattered far more and the degree to which television coverage was eliminated was far greater. In fact, amazingly, the only people on earth who watched an uninterrupted match were those watching on local Swiss tv in Basel and all those watching the Al Jazeera network. Talk about irony. The entire free world is in the dark while the preeminent Arab network broadcasts an undisturbed match involving Turkey and Germany.

All that aside, it was almost criminal how the television disaster occurred. The storms cancelling out coverage were in Austria, not in Switzerland where the game was actually being played. The lightening strikes that took out the Euro 2008 signal center weren't backed up in any way? How, in 2008, and in a country as advanced as Austria, could something like this happen? It's one thing for a screen to go blank momentarily, but during a game of this magnitude and with weather forecasts suggesting big storms? Unacceptable. I'd love to blame ESPN for this, but I'm not sure I can. Though if they'd actually had their commentators at the game we could have heard the game via television like a radio broadcast (though perhaps if they'd been there, that would have been lost as well).

In the end, most of the world misses an electric header by Miro Klose to give the Germans a brief lead and then was brought back to live picture seconds after Turkey scored to re-even the score. Thankfully we were able to watch Philipp Lahm crush the Turkish hopes late in the game, but even then the picture was lost again and the final minutes of the match, easily the most dangerous with this Turkish team, were lost to the masses. It's a good thing Turkey didn't score again, there would be utter outrage had that been the case.

Tables Turned

After giving up an equalizing goal late in the semifinal match, Germany's Philipp Lahm scored an amazing goal on a give-and-go to give the Germans a spot in the finals against either Spain or Russia. A closely contested match throughout (and with ESPN cameras going dark for periods at a time) this match will be remembered well for years to come. Germany's late heroics give a role reversal to the Turks who had won three earlier matches by scoring impossibly late goals.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Adrian: Beltre or Gonzalez?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Disagree

I've heard over the past few days, voices out in the blogosphere claiming an interesting connection between three of the four teams ousted in last weekend's Euro 2008 quarterfinals, and the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. They say that Holland, Croatia and Portugal all won their group stages by winning their first two games and then sitting most of their normal starters in the third and final group stage game. As a result, the theory goes, they were rusty and that is why they lost in the next round, a la the Colts several times in the NFL playoffs.

Clearly these people weren't really watching the games at all. I'll take them game by game to explain.

First, Portugal. This is the only possible game to fit into the aforementioned model. Germany had to play hard all three games to qualify for the quarterfinals while Portugal rested in its third game to cruise in. But there is also another completely plausible explanation for the result and that is that the German side was simply better. As noted many times during the telecast, the German players were much taller and thus had a huge advantage on set pieces. It turns out Germany scored two of its three goals on set pieces. They also played harder than the finesse Portugal side.

Second, Croatia. Croatia was not too rusty to defeat Turkey. In fact, the teams played so evenly throughout the entire game that it was 0-0 through 118 minutes of regular and overtimes. Then Croatia scored first, a seemingly miraculous goal to lead with only a minute left in overtime. It can be somewhat legitimately argued that they were then hosed by the referee for giving Turkey enough time to complete an unbelievable and historic goal themselves in the 122nd minute to force penalties. While Croatia did then lose the penalties, doing so hardly qualifies as being rusty. One can hardly expect to be forced to such a stage and even the two missed shots (not the Rustu save at the end) were so amazingly close to going in that giving 6 inches in the other direction to each shot would have produced a Croatian victory and the previous paragraph would have no reason to exist.

Third, Holland. Holland ran into a buzzsaw in Russia. They could have played every starter for the full ninety minutes in every previous game or they could have rested players such as they did, my contention is that it would not have mattered. Guus Hiddink has his side playing at a level rarely seen from Russia and certainly the best in twenty years. Yet still the Dutch managed to tie the game just moments before full time and forced overtime. Granted, they crashed hard at the hands of the Russians in those extra periods, but the score at the end of ninety minutes was 1-1. Even though they were outplayed, one cannot say that the Dutch were completely out of the game, considering they had an equal shot once the overtimes commenced. Had that game reach a shoot out as the Croatia or Spain games did, perhaps Holland would have in fact advanced.

Finally, Spain. Spain was the other group stage winner, but they advanced via a shoot out victory over Italy. Would these enlightened commenters being throwing Spain in the same group if the result of the penalty shoot out had been reversed? Spain also coasted through its final group stage game and struggled mightily with Italy's strong defense. Ultimately though, Spain advanced, despite resting in its final group stage game.

These comments must be fueled by people trying to explain European soccer in Americanized terms. That just doesn't work most of the time because it just isn't the same thing.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Jerome: Brown or Kersey?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Holland and Italy Crash Out of Europe

The weekend featured two overtime games following the amazing Turkey-Croatia match on Friday. On Saturday Holland leveled the score late in regular time with a Ruud Van Nistelrooy header. Russia then battered Holland in overtime, scoring twice and cementing Andrei Arshavin's place as THE hot commodity going into the offseason.

On Sunday, Spain and Italy played through 120 minutes of stalemate without either side making too significant a dent in the other's defense. Gianluigi Buffon was terrific but so was Iker Casillas. Spain used strong shots on their penalties, not wasting time on dainty stutter-steps, to power through Buffon. Casillas twice denied the Italians and Cesc Fabregas scored the final penalty to give the Spanish redemption after so many years of unfulfilled tournaments.

The semifinals will be played accordingly:

Germany v. Turkey
Spain v. Russia

My (MAO) picks for the semifinal round are as follows:

Germany over Turkey. The Turks cannot possibly have miracle up their sleeves, can they? The Germans looked as good as ever in ruining Portugal on Thursday and I expect a heavily-German crowd to help the cause.

Russia over Spain. The Russians are playing better than anyone else at this point and have legitimate scoring threats across the front. Spain have played well and certainly have survived quite the test of wills in reaching past Italy, but the Russian energy and coaching acumen of Guss Hiddink will push the Russians over the top and into a major tournament final for the first time since the Soviets were defeated by Marco van Basten and the Dutch in Euro '88.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Hamm: Mia or Paul?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

One More Miracle

Turkey score an equalizer with less than thirty seconds left in the second overtime, forcing penalty kicks they would ultimately win against Croatia. Turkey's third come-from-behind victory of the tournament (no other team even has one) pushes them forward into the semifinals against Germany in Basel next week.


Cito Gaston??

Doesn't it seem like it's been about a million years since the baseball strike of 1994? Well not if you look at some of the managers in  baseball right now, particularly after Cito Gaston and Jim Riggleman have been named manager in the past two days:

Cito Gaston - Blue Jays
Jim Riggleman - Mariners
Joe Torre - Dodgers
Lou Pinella - Cubs
Jim Leyland - Tigers
Tony LaRussa - Cardinals
Dusty Baker - Reds
and of course, Bobby Cox - Braves

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Renaldo: Balkman or Gray?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Germans First Semifinalists

Portugal's finesse simply could not move past the powerful German side as Michael Ballack's played the hero role for the second consecutive game when his 61st minute header provided the final margin in a 3-2 game. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose each scored in the first half, giving Germany an early two-goal advantage. But a Nuno Gomes rebound off a Ronaldo miss brought the score to 2-1 just before halftime. Ballack's header off a free kick pushed the Germans ahead before Postiga header made it 3-2 in the 87th minute. But the tough German defense held tough through four grueling minutes of extra time to preserve their spot in the semifinals. The return of Schweinsteiger was crucial for the Germans and the continued brilliance of Ballack has carried them through once again.

Germany will face either Croatia or Turkey in the next round, either one a matchup they have to prefer more than the Portugal side they just faced.

Among the Things We've Learned

Andy Gray thinks today's footballers are a bunch of wusses. Anytime anyone goes to ground he tells them to get up or says, "oh, come on" in his distinctive Glaswegian tone.

Changing of the Guard

As Euro 2008 moves into the quarterfinal round in just a few minutes, it's interesting to note the iconic players who are no longer involved in international football. The quarterfinalists this year feature much younger and different teams than we have grown accustomed to in the late nineties and into this decade. Most players from the 1998 World Cup have moved on and a newer breed of players take their place.

Just to mention a few who played in the World Cup in Germany two years ago but are not involved in Euro 2008:

Zinedine Zidane - France
Fabien Barthez - France
Lilian Thuram - France
Pavel Nedved - Czech Republic
Phillip Cocu - Holland
Oliver Kahn - Germany

Not only are the players displaying a changing of the guard, but so are the teams involved. Croatia and Turkey are proving that previous European and international successes were not just flukes and the Russians are putting themselves back on the map. Meanwhile, England failed to even qualify and France have been eliminated before the knockout rounds.

Breakout stars from 2006 like Lukas Podolski and Franck Ribery brought new life to Germany. It should be interesting to see if players like David Villa of Spain and Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal can continue to light up this tournament and etch their names into the history books.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Dave: Winfield or Kingman?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Russia Are Through

The knockout round matches are now set as Russia cruised past Sweden today, 2-0. The score could have easily been five-nil as the Russians battered the Swedish defense with shot after shot in the second half. Guus Hiddink ( see South Korea, 2002 and Australia, 2006) has proven yet again that he is the most skilled manager in the world at motivating and inspiring an otherwise also-ran side to European or world glory. This is the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that a Russian side has advanced through the group stage of a major tournament and they did so with great style. Their pressing attack and brutal counter attacks crushed the Swedes and set up what should be a wonderful match with Holland on Saturday. If each side plays as it has to this point, a fast paced and exciting game should result.

The Quarterfinal match-ups are as follow:

Thursday: Portugal v. Germany
Friday: Croatia v. Turkey
Saturday: Holland v. Russia
Sunday: Spain v. Italy

As the weekend approaches, here are my (MAO) predictions for the first knockout round:

Germany, Croatia, Holland and Spain.

Return of the Rizz

Despite my best efforts to render the situation otherwise, I, the humble Rizz, am wholeheartedly alive. Since we last corresponded, I've done some questionable things:

  • Got my first tattoo(s)
  • Tried to bluff this guy out of a $350 pot
  • Slept for 20 of the 24 hours between midnight Tuesday and midnight Wednesday
Clearly, the utterly summer-inspired giddiness that can only be understood by teachers has taken hold; and I, my friends, am simply holding on for the ride.

All this being said, I continue to be a rabid sports fan. I do not currently have a TV in my house--but I live in New Orleans, a glorious place in which I can walk two blocks to a bar--at 11AM!!!--to simultaneously watch 2 Euro 2008 games and the US Open.

Because I have so many thoughts swarming, here's a synopsis of my recent opinions:

  1. While points 5-2 proved shaky, I'm pretty happy with my assertion that everyone would be ready to hand the Lakers the NBA title were they to be matched up with the Celtics. Boston proved its gravitas, winning the first two games at home and putting LA in a fairly big hole.
Despite being happy that the Celtics won, I was left with mixed feelings after the Finals:

    • Kevin Garnett, after putting up an MVP-caliber regular season, disappeared in Game 5. How can a superstar miss two clutch free throws and expect not to be crucified? Were it not for superhero Paul Pierce (and, in certain instances, Jesus Shuttlesworth), the Celts were toast.
    • As much as I hated the Kobe-Shaq Lakers... I can now see how they might have been endearing to some people. This Laker team, on the other hand, simply came off as soulless and selfish. Phil Jackson is hard to like, with his brooding intellectual elitism; Lamar Odom underachieves so much that you can't really root for him; and Kobe, despite his eye-popping abilities, spends more time bitching and moaning than he does smiling and embracing fans.
    • One would think that an LA-Boston match-up would represent the perfect end to such an NBA season. Why, then, did the Finals leave me feeling so... unfulfilled?

2. Watch this. Watch this. Look at her. Now... look at me--with a straight face--and tell me that Tiger Woods is not the single greatest athlete in the history of sports. Period.

3. Kudos to ESPN and its family of networks for airing each contest of the European Championships. Nothing in the world of sport--nothing--brings about the kind of passion that accompanies world-class soccer on an international stage. For those who consider soccer a dull sport... watch the final 15 minutes of the Turkey-Czech Republic game. Who comes from 2 goals down to win a game in the final moments? I mean... the Italians have built their name on going up 1-0 and sitting behind the ball, playing mindnumbingly boring defense. Of all the major sports, soccer's leads are easiest to hold... which makes the Turkish comeback all the more amazing. Who cares if they're pseudo-European and pseudo-Asian? Viva la Turks!

4. Take away the miracle catch that led to the most BS Super Bowl title ever, and Boston would hold title trophies for all 3 major sports.

5. Chipper Jones, one of my favorite baseball players ever, will not hit .400 this year.

6. College football is going to be sick this year. UGA looks loaded, but they have to play at Arizona State (out of conference), at LSU, and against Florida in the WLOCP. The Gators, with Mr. Stud coming back at QB, have to play Hawaii, Miami, and at Florida State, not to mention UGA and LSU. The Tigers have a QB dilemma, as Ryan Perilloux screwed up a dream situation. Per usual, the SEC should have 3 or 4 teams in the national top 10. And again, it looks like a 1-loss season in that conference should be enough for a BCS berth.

Last of all...

Haner Jesus: Poker, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, or Church?

It's All Over

Exactly two months after our first NBA playoff post, the NBA Finals are finished. The Celtics destroyed the Lakers in Boston last night, 131-92. There has never been a championship-deciding game that ended in such a lopsided way in the history of the league. And Boston scored 42 points in the fourth quarter. Forty-two points!

In a conference call last night, the writers of this blog discussed what was happening in the series and the fact that we were drawn away from both teams toward apathy, rather than the usual routine of finding something likable about at least one team and creating a rooting interest, if one did not already exist. This was a very difficult series to watch, we agreed, not least because of the ridiculous late start times for the games in Boston. Huge blowouts and major disasters are not exactly great theater, unless you were a Celtics fan. Mercifully there was no attempt by the referees (read, league) to rig the game so that it could reach some sort of climactic Game 7 in Boston. It's possible they let the game go last night so that there could be no conspiracy theorists claiming a sham (but since that's been brought up, isn't that a bit of a conspiracy theory itself?).

Either way, the first NBA season in more than ten years to be really watched and enjoyed by this blog, is done. It remains to be seen if this year was an aberration or if we will be legitimately interested when next season starts. Of course, that will be in four months, so I guess we'd better get ready.

In the mean time, we're thrilled that Euro 2008 is televised and since the late-night basketball is now over, we can direct our full attention to the much more entertaining tournament in Switzerland and Austria...

Daily Dose of Better...

Better PP: Paul Pierce or Peter Parker?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Since it is Summer After All

Over the weekend my grandmother gave me a terrific piece of baseball memorabilia: the 1953 Gillette World Series Record Book. Inside are all kinds of interesting factoids like Box Scores for every All-Star game to that point, synopses of every World Series to that point and other finers points of the game like how to score and a glossary of baseball terms.

Most interesting to me, however, were the pictures of every Major League stadium from that season and the dimensions of the field and heights of walls. Below are the three stadia still in use today. Of course at the time this book was published, each of the fields were older than twenty-five years.

The Azzurri Advance

Barring a comeback of Turkey-Czech proportions, Italy will defeat France to advance to the round of eight. With the Dutch leading Romania, the Azzurri are all but assured of their spot in the next round against Spain. But not all is looking up for Italy as both Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso will each miss the match after acquiring too many yellow cards. After their disastrous opening match against Holland, the Italians have much to be proud of in advancing, but with Spain playing so well, it could be a short visit to the knockout round.

Die Deutschen

With Michael Ballack's booming free kick giving Germany a 1-0 victory over Austria in Vienna yesterday, the Germans are now set to face Portugal in the round of eight on Thursday in Basel. Germany have looked shaky and sometimes confused in their three games while Portugal looked fantastic in its first two games, before sitting most of its starting eleven for the meaningless finale against Switzerland.

The winner of the Germany-Portugal match will play the winner of the Croatia-Turkey match that takes place on Friday in Vienna. Clearly the Germans would love another chance against Croatia and either team has to be seen as inferior to Portugal.

Look for Germany to possibly make a move involving Mario Gomez who has been largely disappointing through the group stage. His complete blunder at the net early in yesterday's game could have really cost the German side their quarterfinal position if the Austrians had any more of an attack.

Germany should have Bastian Schweinsteiger back in the lineup after missing the Austria match due to a red card awarded him in the Croatia match. This should be a big help as there are doubts as to the fitness of Lukas Podolski as he is suffering from a calf injury.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Michael: Adams or Ballack?

Monday, June 16, 2008

If They Weren't Already...

Go ahead and rank UNC number one for the 2008-2009 basketball season. With returning National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough already coming back, the Tar Heels got this good news today: Ty Lawson, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington will all be back to try and avenge last season's disastrous loss to Kansas in the Final Four.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Rocco: Mediate or Baldelli?

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Unfortunately I missed what happened in today's Turkey-Czech Republic game today as I was driving back from my brother's wedding. But unbelievable result with the Turks scoring three goals in the final fifteen minutes to upend and eliminate the Czechs, 3-2 in a Group A finale.

We can only hope the rest of the tournament can feture such heroics.

Bonus Better

Better Shearer: Alan or Edward Scissorhands?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Rose: Malik or Justin?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008



Austria and Poland have in fact drawn, 1-1, leaving the door more than open for the Germans to win in the final game and reach the knockout round.

Very Very Interesting

Throughout today's telecast of the Croatia-Germany match, Derek Rae continually referred back to July 4, 1998 when Croatia dismantled the Germans en route to the semi-finals of the French-hosted World Cup. Turns out, while this was not quite the same stage, the Croatians would again rise to the historic challenge and bounce the Germans, 2-1 to take sole possession of first place in Group B. Germany can of course still advance to the knockout stages, but could really use a Poland-Austria draw today to solidify that position.

This now makes an interesting point, as mentioned yesterday, as Portugal was hoping to escape the German match-up by winning Group A. Now it looks like Germany won't win Group B but could advance as the second place finisher. That would put the potential second round fixtures as Portugal-Germany and Croatia-Czech Republic. Each would be a terrific game, but certainly not who the Portuguese were hoping to face at such an early stage...

____gate, the Controversy of the Year!!!

Is it just me, or does every little issue these days get blown up into thisgate or thatgate? Just today, Mike Wilbon refers to the issue described here as Refgate. This is not an attack on Wilbon, but rather just to point out how easily the mainstream media, especially sports media, latch on to stupid cliches. Last year's Patriots' controversy - Spygate. The ridiculous saga at the new Yankee Stadium where a David Ortiz uni was dug up - Jerseygate. (For a good list of 'gates' including those not associated with sports, go here).

This reminds me of last year when the Roger Clemens, Brian McNamee issues first came out and the only thing you'd hear on ESPN was how it was a 'he said, he said' situation. That is so lame and it was so overused it made me mute the tv anytime something about Clemens came up.

Cliches can sometimes be hard to avoid, and I can't blame people for using catchy or timely phrasing to capture an audience. But please, enough with the gates. It's not like that even makes sense. Watergate was (and is) a hotel in Washington, DC. Gate is not some sort of description or qualifier.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Baros: Milan or Dana?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Ronaldo Show

Christiano Ronaldo scored the game's deciding goal in the sixty-third minute and assisted on the game's final score to lead Portugal past the Czech Republic and into sole position of first place in Group A. Ronaldo was great, but it was a team effort that put the Portugese over the top. Keeper Ricardo had several brilliant stops and Deco scored only his fourth international goal to get things going for Portugal.

While their play was not as electric as either the Dutch or the Spanish, the Portugese look in great shape obviously to move forward to the knockout round, and perhaps to venture deeper into the tournament. With only hosts Switzerland left in the group stage, Portugal can earn maximum points and avoid having to face Germany (if they can win Group B) in the round of eight.

Quad/Hamstring/Calf - Why so Weak?

This is just a short aside amidst the barrage of NBA Finals and Euro 2008 posts...

What is it with baseball players getting hurt when running out groundballs? I understand freak things happen sometimes, but this happens all the time in baseball. The latest victim was Albert Pujols who pulled up lame on a trot down to first while trying to beat out a ground ball. A-Poo made it exactly three steps before grabbing his lower leg and falling down. Three whole steps!

Reminds me of a few years back when the Indians mistakenly (it had to have been a mistake, right?) signed Juan Gonzalez. First at bat of the season for Juan Gone, he hits a soft grounder, runs toward first base and crashes in a heap. I don't remember exactly what the injury was, but it was catastrophic and the Tribe's investment was lost. And all he did was run to first base.

Granted, these guys don't pretend to be the greatest of athletes. But come on, do you think even a fat NBA player like Kevin Duckworth or Tractor Traylor would have pulled his hamstring just running down court?

Former Athlete/Coach/Broadcaster Wins Important Election

No, Lynn Swann did not win the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election.
No, Charles Barkley has not yet even run for Alabama governor.
No, Jack Kemp did not win the Vice Presidency in 1996.
And no, Bill Bradley did not try to reclaim his New Jersey Senate seat.

Sam Wyche, former Furman quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and NFL broadcaster won the first election of his political life yesterday in the Republican primary for Pickens County Council District 3, in the upstate of South Carolina.

Wyche, seen here with campaign supporters at a May rally, hopes to win a seat on the County Council in the November election. After casting his vote, presumably for himself, Wyche spent the afternoon in 100 degree temperatures as an assistant coach with the Pickens High School Blue Flame football team.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Freddy: Garcia or Ljungberg?

This Should Come as No Surprise

Former NBA Ref Tim Donaghy unleashed what have to be considered the most damning accusations the league has ever faced in regard to the conduct of its referees. Referring to 'company men,' Donaghy laid out two scenarios where specific playoff games were officiated differently in order to ensure that one team would beat another. If anyone remembers the 2002 Lakers-Kings Game 6 at all, this should not be shocking. Everyone knew the fix was in on that one. It was in the league's best interest to have the series go to seven games and the league clearly wanted the Lakers back in the Finals.

It is amazing how transparent David Stern is in his denials of these allegations. Obviously he's not going to just accept the statements as fact and move on, but the way in which he is denying makes him look all the more guilty. He has been referring to Donaghy as a felon in nearly every mention and is somehow trying to champion a cause that absolutely no one should buy into. That is that the NBA is totally without blame in incidents that have occurred between its teams and officials. There are a myriad of examples from that Kings-Lakers game, to the suspension of Amare Stoudamire in last year's playoffs, to the obviously incorrect Chauncey Billups three-pointer against the Magic, to the ridiculous swings in free throw attempts by home teams, particularly the Lakers and Celtics, in this year's playoffs. I'm not saying these are all related, but to say that the league has no impact on the outcomes of its playoff series is simply incorrect.

Stern should come out and just admit that there have been transgressions in the past, but that the league has worked hard to weed out those who are intent on changing the outcomes of games, whether for gambling reasons or for league revenue reasons. Even if that's not true, it sounds a lot better than saying a whistle-blower is 'a felon and a singing and cooperative witness.'

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Ibrahimovic scores an unbelievable goal midway through the second half to send Sweden to the top of Group D, along side Spain. After destroying Russia on a David Villa hat trick, Spain looked as good as any team in the tournament thus far.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Fernando: Valenzuela or Torres?

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Go Orange! Down with Fascists"

A great line from wee-MO this afternoon when hearing the resounding score of the Holland-Italy match in Euro 2008. With a 3-0 triumph, the Dutch are in firm control of Group C as Romania and France drew 0-0 earlier in the day. While they entered with very little fanfare and not-especially-high expectations, the Dutch, to me at least, are always a huge threat.

In the World Cup in Germany, I thought for sure that the Dutch had what it would take to advance deep in the tournament, if not bring home the cup. But squabbles between Ruud van Nistelrooy and coach Marco van Basten and poor play sent the Orange crashing out in the round of sixteen.

This year, however, armed with low expectations, an explosive team with a veteran keeper and just the spirit of Dutch football, it wouldn't surprise me to see them go deep in this tournament. The all-out attacking play stunned Italy with two goals in five minutes in the first half and then a barrage of attack late in the second half added a third goal (and almost a fourth and fifth!). The Dutch invented 'total football' in the 1970s and executed it to power the strongest European side in that time. Perhaps not exactly the same now, but the mentality remains the same. Add that to the world's greatest fan base, it's hard not to root for Holland.

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Leon: Powe or Spinks?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Knee - Why it Doesn't Matter

Everyone outside of Bill Simmons has been questioning the validity of Paul Pierce's injured knee from Game 1 on Thursday night. Phil Jackson has been the most outspoken of public figures in wondering if the whole injury and being carried off the court was simply an act.

But does it really matter? Here are the facts: Pierece went down in the third quarter after having just scored eight points to bring the Celtics back from a halftime deficit. But the Celtics certainly weren't out of the woods yet. Everyone in the arena was scared out of their mind that the team's leading scorer had torn his ACL or any other terrible knee injury. Pierce was carried off the floor by teammates while grimicing and perhaps even crying. Less than ten minutes later, Pierce jogged back out of the tunnel and was immediately inserted back into the game. Shortly thereafter he made back-to-back three pointers in the span of twenty-two seconds, giving the Celtics an extended lead and driving the crowd into a delirious state. The Celtics hold on to win Game 1 and Pierce looks like he's never had any injury to his knee at all. Pierce and the Celtics then refuse to have an MRI done to see if there is any structural damage, opting instead to go with the advice of team doctors who say their exterior examinations suggest there is no major injury.

Interesting. I understand the skepticism on the part of Phil Jackson and fans of the Lakers (or really anyone interested in the games). But I don't think it matters whether or not he was actually hurt. He didn't cheat the Lakers in any way if it was all a ruse. I personally think it wasn't a serious as Pierce made it out to be. But he has played for the Celtics for a long time. He knows the significance of this series to the city and to the fans of the Celtics. I think he realized in the moment that he could turn something that probably hurt a little bit into an heroic-looking act to increase the energy of his teammates and the fans.

And that's just what happened. It doesn't matter if it was real, staged or somewhere in between. The fans bought it, his teammates bought it and the effect was an explosion of excitement and energy that pushed Boston over the top in a prettly closely contested Game 1.

With all the cynicism out there (and it has to have breached the streets of Boston even, by now) it can't really make that much of a difference in Game 2 tonight. But if the Celtics were able to get a victory at home in a game where they otherwise might not have, it can change the tide of the entire series. Instead of facing the possibility of leaving Boston tied 1-1 at best, they can now reasonably expect to be ahead 2-0 before traveling to Los Angeles on Monday. There are only seven possible games in this series, so taking one, regardless of the circumstances, is a huge step in the direction of returning the title back to Boston.

And by the way, what is the deal with having two days off between Games 1 and 2, both in Boston, and only one day off between Games 2 and 3, which includes a transcontinental flight? So far in the playoffs, the series have mostly gone long enough that there haven't been long droughts of no basketball. Until the long wait before the Finals, I've been pretty happy with that. But with a five day layoff between the conference finals and the championship series and now this ridiculous gap between games, the NBA playoff annoyance scale is moving steadily up. Couple that with the really late start times on the east coast, the league is lucky the games are going to be so good and so heavily watched.

Bonus Better

Better Petty: Richard or Tom?

Daily Dose of Better...

Better Alexander: Ovechkin or Doyle?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008