Not unexpected, given how poorly the season went after the new year, but still disappointing.
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate admits he expects to lead the club's Championship campaign without several of his top players.
"Inevitably, there will be big changes to the playing squad," he said.
"There will be personal agendas and as a club we will have to bring some money in to go forward. There are also situations I want to change."
However, Southgate said he would continue in his own role as manager, vowing to "stand firm and fight back".
It literally came down to the last game, as a win against West Ham would have lifted Middlesbrough out of the drop zone (with help from other games), but they ended up on the wrong side of a 2-1 result.
According to this report, the Yankees are reducing ticket prices:
Slashed Ticket Prices Allow Lesser Nobility To Attend Yankees Games
Dukes, barons, viscounts, and earls are applauding the Yankees' recent decision to cut prices on dugout and foul-line field-level seats in half, from as much as $2,500 per game down to an amount the minor houses consider far more reasonable.
"Naturally I am quite pleased to attend my very first Yankees game, a spectacle that my merely adequate standing had until now denied me," said His Lordship the Duke-Chancellor of Arkengarth-upon-Settle, who often listens to Yankees games on satellite radio while tending to his 683-square-mile estate in Wales. "Until now, I have had to satisfy my sporting curiosity in less costly arenas, often hosting three-day fox hunts or airplane races upon the grounds of our family estate. But by mortgaging only half my landholdings, I am finally able to see the Yankees play the Red Sox." [. . .]
Her Britannic Majesty the Queen of England Elizabeth II, Duchess of Lancaster and of Normandy, Lord High Commander of the United Kingdom and Defender of the Faith, has not held Yankees tickets since the spring of 1982, when they were sold to pay for the Falklands War.
As I always say at this time of year, I'm not making any predictions on the draft, as I don't follow college football, so I know almost nothing about the players eligible to be drafted.
Gregg Easterbrook has been saying for years that the NFL draft system is broken:
As regards rookie deals, there is increasing pressure for the NFL to adopt an NBA-style rookie wage scale. A year ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said it was "ridiculous" that high-first-round choices, who have never played an NFL down, signed for more money than established NFL stars. It is indeed ridiculous. In recent years, the first-selection guaranteed-money average has been $29 million, meaning draft picks have hauled in more guaranteed money than LaDainian Tomlinson received in the deal he signed three years ago at the peak of his career. It is equally ridiculous, but less commented on, that first-round choices receive so much more than midround choices, when football is a team sport, and midround players often outperform first choices. Last year the average guaranteed money for a first-round choice was about $8 million — for a fourth-round choice, about $300,000. There's no way the typical first-round draftee means 27 times as much to his NFL team as the typical fourth-round draftee. But that's how the pay assumptions work.
The story repeats, draft after draft, as highly touted college stars are taken early in the first round, sign megabucks contracts and then go into the witness protection program. A rookie salary cap would be in the interests of almost everyone: teams, veteran players, and rookies-not-taken-in-the-first-round. The only ones who'd see their situation change for the worse would be the first 32 players taken in the draft (who would now have to prove that they can make the transition to the pro league before being rewarded with big contracts).
Damian Penny (who is still pretending he's finished with blogging) sent out a link to this rather off-beat article arguing that the Detroit Lions might try to acquire Michael Vick:
Jamie Dukes recommends the Lions set their sights on Vick as soon as they legally can, and here are his three major reasons:
• Rest assured the Lions would have one of the top three running
games in the NFL next season with Vick under center.
• Vick would help the defense because of ball control and his unusual
propensity to keep the chains moving.
• Most importantly for the Lions, Vick is "recession-proof" — he would
sell out Ford Field.
I don't know about those reasons. There's still a weak offensive line there, so I don't know what makes him that confident about the running game. And when we're calling a guy who's been making 12 cents an hour washing the heavily-soiled whites of Stabface McAllister "recession-proof," I'm not sure we're talking about the most sound financial strategy in the world.
But that's not to say that there are no positives for the Lions being Vick's next home.
One, whoever signs Vick faces a big public backlash. If it turns out that it's the Lions, though . . . well, who could hate the Lions? You can't hate the Lions. That's like watching a newborn baby fight Rampage Jackson and rooting for Rampage.
You can say the risk would be too high . . . but that would only apply to a normal team. Detroit is an extraordinary team — extraordinarily bad, that is. The remaining fans are probably willing to put up with almost anything that might improve the franchise. Michael Vick's talents are undeniable, even if his ethical and moral instincts are shaky.
Toronto's soccer fans may be the most passionate in the league, but this is a very unwelcome kind of passion:
[. . .] some TFC supporters gave themselves and the club, a black eye in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday with behaviour that led to brawls, police stun guns and even condemnation from Toronto fans who were at the 1-1 game against the hometown Crew.
"My information is that as fans were leaving, several fights broke out in the parking lot and the special duty officers had to request assistance," Rich Weiner, public information officer with the Columbus Police Department, said yesterday.
"Some people were Tasered, some were arrested. I know at least a couple were taken to jail, but if (charges) were of a serious nature, I would know by now. Those involved likely would have posted a bond."
You know that the cultural invasion of the United States is going well when American hockey fans start to do things like this:
Sometime between the end of the first period and the start of the second, the Blue Jackets got a series of calls, threatening a goaltender. Using caller ID, police were led to the Dublin home of Peter Stenzel (pictured). Police describe him as "upset" and say he was wearing a Calgary Flames shirt.
Stenzel was arrested and charged with inducing panic, a misdemeanor.
610 WTVN contacted the Columbus Blue Jackets. The club says it's not commenting on the incident.
The game ended in a 5-0 win for Columbus. Obviously Stenzel's plan didn't work . . .
Winner of today's headline of the day award:
Florida Marlins Hope to Stimulate South Florida By Sucking $634 Million Out of Miami's Economy
Whole thing here.
I got out to play badminton last night . . . for the first time since May of last year. I was heartened that I could still play — somewhat — but clearly I'm still not fully recovered from my shoulder injury from August.
I only played two full games, plus warm-ups, and I'm certainly feeling the results of too-long-delayed exercise this morning. My elbows and knees are creaking like haunted house door hinges, and I'm moving at about 2/3rds normal speed.
The first game went exactly as I feared it would: final score 15-1, and the "1" flattered us. I was terrible, and my partner had everything he could do to try to keep us in the game. I found, as the game went on, that I couldn't extend my left arm out quickly without pain, so I started holding it closer and closer to my body. By the time we were down 5 points, I was doing a creditable ham-actor Richard III imitation. This severely limited my ability to serve, as I couldn't put the shuttle out far enough from my body to get a clean serving swing . . . and I kept putting it directly into the net. I also had a spectacular pratfall, as I tried to regain my balance after swinging too hard at a fast return, and sprawled on the ground at mid-court.
The second game went much better, as I'd started to figure out the mechanics for serving so that at least I could put the bird into play (even if we weren't scoring points off my serves). We were down 8-3 when we started to recover — my second partner was doing an excellent job of covering the parts of the court I couldn't reach — and we got the score level, then moved ahead 9-8 before losing the serve. We swapped serves a couple of times before either team was able to score, but at the end, we'd won 15-12.
After that, of course, I was pretty much wrung out and decided that two games was more than enough to start my season off.
I'm glad I get a couple of days to recover before the next playing night. I need 'em.
Against the odds, a good game. Arizona looked to be on the verge of being wiped out with the interception-returned-for-a-touchdown at the end of the first half, but not only climbed back into the game, actually threatened to win the game until the final 40 seconds. Larry Fitzgerald was kept out of the danger zone for three quarters, before finally being able to be the home-run threat he'd been through the playoffs.
The half-time show didn't suck, although Bruce Springsteen nearly took himself and a cameraman out of commission with one of his patented across-the-stage slides. Four songs, three of them from very early in his career, all well selected (at least the party I attended found them to be very good choices).
And, of course, the most important part of the Super Bowl: the ads:
Since the iconic Apple ad in 1984, the Superbowl has been known as a showcase for what you might call blockbuster ads. The quality and humor of the ads probably hit their peak during the original [dot]-com boom in the late '90s. Every year, people say things have gone downhill, and while there may still have been a few bright spots, those people would be right. It's been a long, slow decline, and yet a lot of folks still talk about looking forward to watching the Superbowl ads almost a much as seeing the game itself; moreso if they're not really football fans, but know they'll be stuck somewhere that they can't avoid the game.
But this is the year, I hereby declare, that kills the Superbowl ad. This is the year that starts the trend of people willfully, even determinedly, avoiding the Superbowl ads. Yes, they were that bad. And sadly for many of us GeekDads and other parents, our kids sat through them as well. Damage has been done that we will be hard-pressed to undue.
Now, we're guys. We get it. We like a bit of off-color fun once in a while. But these ads were so full of violence, cruelty, and sexism that something needs to be said. With that purpose in mind, here are the worst of the bad ads, by quarter [. . .]
The Canadian feed generally doesn't show too many of the "big" Super Bowl ads, and usually I'm disappointed about this. By the sound of it, this was actually a benefit this year.
Update: Hmmm. Yep, some real stinkers among those ads.
For the first time in several years, I'm going to be equally happy regardless of who wins today's game: I'd be delighted for the Steelers to set a new record, but equally delighted for the Cardinals to break that long, long drought. I'll probably be cheering for the Cardinals, as underdogs (although the bookmakers don't seem to agree with all the sportswriters . . . only giving Pittsburgh 6.5 points).
But upsets will happen . . . look at Arizona's playoff record.
ST: Why has the Super Bowl become a de facto national holiday? Do you watch it and prepare a table of fast food and snacks, and do you care who wins? And do you think people who say "I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials" are full of shit?
NG: I have never quite gotten over losing a $5 bet to my father when I foolishly bet on the Redskins to beat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII (that's 7, for those folks like me who have trouble with regular math, let alone Roman numerals). Why would anyone, even a stupid 10-year-old kid, ever bet on Billy Kilmer to win anything other than a hot dog eating contest? That stupid fucking one-bar facemask! Like the rest of America, I walked away from that game a huge Garo Yepremian fan.
Now I watch the Super Bowl for wardrobe malfunctions. I mean, who doesn't want to see Ken Whisenhut split his pants? I think America lost its innocence when we witnessed Justin Timberlake touch a woman, any woman. It was like staring directly into a total eclipse of the sun, the heart, you name it. And it started the current cycle of FCC mania about protecting TV viewers from anything other than really shitty halftime shows.
In short, watching the Super Bowl is a great way to kill some time. Just make sure your bungee cord is secured properly and don't stint on the Tostitos.
ST: Are you as appalled as me that Bruce Springsteen, that Philip Berrigan kind of liberal who eschews materialism, is playing the half-time show at the Super Bowl?
NG: Why Springsteen? Is Gary Glitter still stuck in Thailand? Is Buddy Holly not returning the NFL's phone calls?
I grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey, which contains both Springsteen's hometown (Freehold) and his early haunt (Asbury Park), so I can't stand him in the same way that only a New Yorker can really, really hate the Yankees. I'll say this much about the Boss: His output over the past 25 years or so would make even Beethoven nostalgic for the first few albums. Springsteen is in that elite group of rock stars who have objectively sucked two, three, or even four times longer than they were ever any good (are you listening Sting, David Bowie, R.E.M., Patti Smith?). That, and in the video for "Glory Days," he had the worst fake baseball throwing arm since Gary Cooper in Pride of the Yankees. Which is saying something.
Watching Springsteen perform at the Super Bowl — and before him, rock mummies like Tom Petty and Rolling Stones — let's just say I'd rather go straight to the Bodies exhibition, where at least no one is pretending that the corpses on display aren't actually dead.
Nick Gillespie, interviewed by Russ Smith at Splice Today, 2009-01-30
Sunday was the Single Most Interesting Day in NFL History, both for the numerous high points and for the Single Worst Game Ever Played, supplied by the Dallas Cowboys. Before we get to the particulars, let me make sure you know about the player of the day. I speak, of course, of Ramzee Robinson. In the second half at Green Bay, Robinson, a Lions defensive back, was penalized for taunting. The Lions at that point were 0-15 and within sight of attaining the designation they now hold, that of worst NFL team ever. After a Green Bay incompletion, Robinson danced around, pointing at himself and taunting Packers receiver James Jones. A player for the worst-ever NFL team was called for taunting in the game in which that team reached 0-16.
Gregg Easterbrook, "Week 17 gave us the Single Most Interesting Day in NFL History", ESPN Page 2, 2008-12-30
The long, long nightmare is finally over . . . Matt Millen has been fired:
Matt Millen was used to success in his life.
He won Super Bowls as a linebacker. He gained acclaim as a TV analyst. He had reasons to be proud as a husband and father.
As the leader of an NFL team, however, he was a failure by any measure.
The Lions fired Millen seven-plus years after hiring him as team president.
"Matt worked tirelessly during his tenure to win, and he would be the first one to tell you that you have to win in this league," team owner William Clay Ford said in a statement Wednesday. "It just didn't work out."
The Lions were an NFL-worst 31-84 since 2001 with Millen in charge, but his boss refused to get rid of him.
Of course, the other teams in the division (Minnesota, Green Bay, and Chicago) may be less happy: it's been nice for them to always count on two easy wins per season . . .
This was playoff weekend for Victor's soccer team. They'd finished the regular season in first place, but the playoffs were unseeded: just a round-robin of all the teams in the division followed by a final game between the top two. The team won the first game yesterday, but then were held to a 2-2 draw, and dropped the last game of the day to a literal last-minute goal.
Today, they started tied for third place in the standings, needing to win both remaining round-robin games to advance to the final. The early game went very well, with a final score of 6-1. The second game was crucial to both teams: the winner advanced and the loser went home. The club was possibly a bit concerned about bad blood between the two teams, as the last time they'd met in the regular season, the game was abandoned during the second half. The club's head referee took centre for the game, but aside from a couple of verbal incidents, the game was clean and well-played by both sides (no cards were shown, and a smaller than average number of free kicks were awarded).
Whitby Purple came back from a 2-goal deficit to win 3-2, setting up a return match in the final against the only team they'd lost to in the round-robin.
The final game kicked off in a light rain, and the rain continued through pretty much the entire game. At the half, Purple was clinging to a 2-1 lead, but protection started to break down during the second half, with Whitby Navy winning by a final score of 3-2.
Gregg Easterbrook points out that Green Bay may have gotten the better part of the bargain by trading Brett Favre:
Me-me-me-me-me. That's what you get with Favre. As a senior star, he has earned an amount of special treatment. But not an unlimited amount — football is a team game. These days Terrell Owens is showing more team spirit than Favre; who would have believed that? You can say it's not Favre's fault that the media hyperventilate over him, but he strives to keep the spotlight on himself. Favre plays a humble, Southern boy routine. That's an act — he knows the endless retirements and unretirements are a way to hold our attention. On the very day of the trade, Jersey/B general manager Mike Tannenbaum said, "We're taking things season by season. We're really happy to have him for the season." Favre's contract runs through 2010; either Tannenbaum has already agreed to release Favre at the end of the year, or he is already assuming Favre will stage yet another hissy fit of some kind in the upcoming offseason.
Last season the Packers were 13-4, and they came within an overtime of going to the Super Bowl. How many Green Bay players from that team can you name, other than Favre? His constant media antics had the effect of denying recognition to his teammates. In June, Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported, "There is a substantial faction of younger players who are eager to play with Aaron Rodgers. Favre is at least a decade older than all but six guys on the roster. He dressed in his own locker room. He had minimal social interaction with teammates. Rodgers is one of the guys, and plenty of them are pulling for him." He dressed in his own locker room? In the past few seasons, Favre has been all about Favre, as if his teammates didn't exist. A man who wanted to maximize his own celebrity and income, at the expense of his teammates, would behave in that manner. That's what the Jets now have, and that's why his trade value was lower than Taylor's.
Jon (my virtual landlord) sent me a link to a visual explanation of how they came up with the Beijing Olympic logo.
During the Beijing opening ceremonies, Peter Mansbridge farted out an opinion to the effect that Western governments considering a boycott could hardly ignore a "quarter of humanity" but managed to leave the entrance of the Iraqi delegation totally unremarked. Canada is in the peculiar position of being able to say whatever it wants about its largest trading partner, say nothing that is not muttered from kowtowing position to its second largest parter and to do so while sporting a smug grimace in place of a smile. This as we celebrate "the Olympic spirit" and recapitulate every moral and strategic failure of the 1930s.
Not to worry; I expect Canada's future Prime Ministers will have no trouble finding another meaningless apology to offer the survivors.
Nick Packwood, "One World, One Dream", Ghost of a Flea, 2008-08-09
Last night's game, as has been the tradition all season long, started poorly. Unlike most games, it didn't improve during the second half . . . in fact, the game ended up being abandoned with the score 5-2 in Whitby Maroon's favour, and on the verge of going to 6-2 on a penalty that was awarded just before the game was declared over.
At the end of a very poor showing in the first half, Purple was facing a 4-2 deficit, with goals by Dan V. and Chris A., but the team had generated few other chances.
The second half was, if possible, going worse for Purple, as Maroon tallied another goal within ten minutes of the restart. Just about the twenty minute mark, things got weird.
Something must have happened inside the Purple goal area, as what had initially been signalled as a goal kick was suddenly re-indicated as a penalty against Purple. Before the players got organized for the penalty, Marco B. must have dissented, as he was shown a Yellow card. The carding set off a loud dissent from parents and friends on the sideline, which the referee couldn't avoid hearing. He came over to the sideline to tell me to get the spectators under control, but while he was doing so, a parent got verbally abusive enough to be told to leave the park.
I tried to get the man to leave, but he kept expressing his dissatisfaction with the referee while he was walking away. At that point, another supporter said something the referee objected to and she was told to leave the park as well. I was told to clear my side of the field of anyone not wearing a uniform, but before I could do so, the referee announced that the game was being abandoned, and that Maroon had won.
The club will take whatever action they determine is required after receiving the referee's report.
Purple faced quite a challenge last night against Whitby Green: they've improved significantly since the first meeting between the two teams and recently moved into second place behind Purple. Wind was a major factor in this game, with strong gusts coming in over the northeast corner of the field, giving Green a decided advantage during the first half (the wind was much less gusty during the second half, so that Purple didn't derive quite as much advantage in their turn).
Purple's players were late in arriving at the field, so Anthony C. (who usually plays forward) had to sub in as keeper until his cousin Nick M. arrived and got on to the field. Anthony had a flurry of activity during the 10 minutes of his shift, with Purple yielding three corner kicks in that span. Between the wind and the highly physical style of play used by the Green forwards, Purple was pretty much trapped in their own end for most of the first half. Green's pressure resulted in a 1-goal lead that held up until near the end of the half, when Mitch B. was able to move up the field and score the equalizer.
With the switch in ends, the second half was a mirror-image of the first, with Green pushed back on their heels and Purple constantly attacking. Mitch scored his second goal to give Purple their only lead of the night, with a clever move on a Corey M. corner kick.
The game had started off very physical, and the contact got progressively more and more uncontrolled as the game went on. The referee failed to clamp down on it early in the game, so one thing built on another and it was starting to resemble a rugby game at times. Victor R., Marco B., and Mark M. were each subject to repeated "head-hunting" by Green players, and Jordan S. had to leave the game after a spectacular tackle-from-behind that the referee somehow failed to notice. Adding insult to injury, the referee gave verbal warnings to Victor and Marco even though they were the players being fouled.
Near the end of the game, Mitch was tackled from behind just outside the 6-yard box (which should have resulted in a penalty shot for Purple). It was so obviously an intentional attempt to prevent a shot on goal that Purple's forwards were busy arguing about who should take the shot — ignoring the fact that the referee was indicating a free kick in the other direction. A quick-thinking Green defender ran up and booted the ball forward, and Purple was caught absolutely flat-footed. A few seconds later, Green had equalized.
And that was the end of the game.
In a game that was much closer than the final score indicated, Whitby Purple defeated Whitby Neon by a final tally of 4-1. Pat C., playing centre-forward, scored twice (one on a penalty), while Adriano C. and Anthony C. both contributed goals.
The first half started, as always, with Purple defending their 18-yard box for significant periods of time, yeilding several corner kicks and free-throws, but (just barely) keeping Neon off the scoreboard. First half keeper Nick M. was kept very busy, with several dramatic saves to his credit. The first half ended with Purple clinging to a single goal lead, courtesy of Adriano, which was scored very much against the flow of play.
Victor R. replaced Nick in goal for the second half, and benefitted from Purple's traditional second-half rally, only having a few close calls for the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Pat's penalty goal gave Purple a brief breathing space, but Neon replied quickly, sending their forwards up with good support from midfield. Purple didn't break up the attack quickly enough, which gave Neon the scoring opportunity.
Neon's goal steadied Purple, and the possession percentage was strongly in Purple's favour for the rest of the game. The few times that Neon threatened for the rest of the game were quashed fairly easily, with Victor's booming goal kicks quickly moving the action back into Neon territory. Daniel V. and James S. both showed excellent defending skills during the second half, allowing Purple's midfield to play a bit further forward than they normally would.
Next week's game will pit Purple against Whitby Green, who have been playing extremely well recently.
In the return match against Whitby Legion, Whitby Purple found themselves short-handed against a team determined to get some revenge. Both teams fielded 9 players, but Legion had an ace in the hole: a single substitute player to allow brief rest periods.
Legion started strong, scoring twice in the first fifteen minutes of play before Mark M. was awarded a penalty for a Legion defender's over-enthusiastic tackle in the 18-yard box. Mark fooled the keeper, who dove right, and put the ball into the upper left of the net. Randall S. levelled the score 10 minutes later.
The exhausted players dragged themselves off the field at the half, only to be met by clouds of mosquitoes around the benches (we've had plenty of rain recently, and the field is beside undeveloped land, with lots of temporary ponds).
After the break, Legion pulled ahead on a jail-break, as Purple's defenders were overwhelmed by a rush of almost the entire Legion team, gambling that they could score before Purple could regain possession. Purple keeper Pat C. got a hand on the shot, but was unable to deflect it far enough to prevent the goal. From the ensuing kick-off, Andrew S. levelled the score again, and then gave Purple their first lead of the night on a close-range shot that deflected off a Legion defender, leaving Legion's keeper no chance to save the goal.
Mark had another penalty goal, for a handball inside the box, to give Purple a brief 2 point lead. Just a few minutes later, Purple returned the favour as Mitch B. accidentally handled the ball while heading it away from the goal.
By this time, the substitution advantage was starting to pay off for Legion, as Purple's energy level began to drop. Legion gambled again, pushing everyone forward and again were rewarded with a goal to bring the score to 5-5, with eight minutes remaining.
Purple's defenders worked extremely hard, breaking up threats, and clearing the ball away, but the flow of play was becoming more and more in Legion's favour. On a Purple throw-in with five minutes remaining in the game, Jordan C. went down with a severe leg cramp, but the referee didn't notice the injured player down. Legion's forwards took full advantage of the reduced defensive line, scoring the go-ahead goal. Jordan was unable to return to play, which gave Legion an extra man advantage for the last portion of the game.
The final score was 7-5 for Legion, evening the head-to-head record between the two teams, and moving them back into a tie with Purple for first place in the division.
It turned out to be an uneven competition, as Whitby Purple dressed 16 players, while Royal Canadian Legion (aka Whitby Red) could only muster 10. The outcome wasn't really in doubt, although Purple again started slowly, giving Legion too much space and too much time on the ball through much of the first half.
Marco M. opened the scoring for Purple at the 25th minute, with Nick M. following up a few minutes later to make the score 2-0 at the half. Pat C., playing keeper for the first time this season, barely broke a sweat, as Purple's defenders kept Legion from getting in too close, and Pat calmly took down every long ball that came his way.
Legion came out refreshed after the break, and took advantage of a brief opportunity, chipping the ball just out of reach of Purple keeper Chris A.
Purple stayed true to form after that, charging downfield repeatedly and registering goals from Andrew S., Pat C. (his first of the season), Corey M., and another from Andrew. Legion stayed on their feet, trying desperately to get back into the game, and were finally rewarded with a consolation goal in the final eight minutes of the game.
Despite all the scoring, the real stars of the game for Purple were the defensive line (Victor R., Jordan C., Dylan M., and Cody M., with assistance from Randall S. and Daniel V. on substitution). They did yeoman work breaking up the few chances that Legion got, pushing the ball away from the danger area and clearing quickly up to the midfielders.
Purple's next game will be on Monday — a rematch with Legion. Both coaches are concerned that they may not have their full strength available for this game, as it falls between the weekend and the Canada Day holiday on Tuesday (many players will be off at the cottage for the extra-long weekend).
The winning streak came to an end last night, as Whitby Purple turned in a weak effort to end up on the wrong side of a 3-2 result against Whitby Teal. Both teams were missing key players, as exam week got into high gear.
As has been the case all season, Purple was slow to get started, going down 2 goals after 20 minutes. Corey M. scored his first goal of the season against the run of play, as Teal dominated time of possession and kept most of the action deep in Purple territory.
The second half started with Teal scoring another goal, this time on a penalty against Dylan M., for tackling-from-behind inside the 18-yard box. Keeper Chris A. guessed wrong on the kick, and couldn't recover in time to save the shot.
As the half went on, the momentum shifted strongly in favour of Purple, with Teal defending desperately . . . but Purple's shooting was woeful. I actually lost track of the number of corner kicks awarded to Purple, but there was a lack of accuracy (and luck), so that shots went wide, bounced off the post or the crossbar or were deflected wide by defenders. The final corner kick was handled (deliberately) by a Teal defender, which resulted in a penalty goal scored by Mark M.
The final whistle blew with Purple again deep in Teal territory, but unable to beat Teal's keeper — clearly the player of the game.
The league standings remain almost unchanged, as Whitby Red went down to defeat on the adjacent field. The meeting between the two top teams (Purple and Red) next week is still likely to be tense.
The winning streak is still alive . . . but just barely.
Whitby Purple did just enough to keep the winning streak going against basement-dwelling Whitby Royal Blue last night at Carnwith West field. As has been the case in every game so far this season, Purple did everything but lay a red carpet in front of their own goal and were punished early as Royal Blue went ahead on about the 15th minute of play.
As has also been a habit, most of the offensive action was by Royal Blue deep in Purple's end of the field. Purple was very lucky to get the equalizing goal just before the referee blew the whistle for half-time. James S. managed to get a glancing shot just inside the post at about the 44th minute in a confusing scrum in the Royal Blue 6-yard box.
The second half started off well for Purple, with Adriano C. getting his first goal of the season as Purple turned the tables and spent much of the second half constantly attacking Royal Blue's goal area. Accuracy, both in passing and in finishing, were sadly lacking or Purple would have converted many more opportunities during the second half.
Goalkeeping was an issue for Purple, as Chris A. had injured his hand and Nick M. was late getting to the field, just barely getting his equipment on before the whistle to start the first half. Emergency keeper Jordan C. was only challenged a few times and kept a clean sheet for the second half.
With a 4-0 record, Purple is now in undisputed possession of first place in the Under-18 Boys division. But they were so lucky to come away with a win in this game.
Last night's game between Whitby Purple and Whitby Maroon followed the script of previous games almost to a "T": Maroon ran rings around Purple for the first half, then was obliterated in the second half. At the end of the first 45 minutes of play, the 1-0 score flattered Purple, as Maroon should have converted at least three more attempts. Purple had managed a few shots, but had wasted all of the set-piece opportunities (five corners, only one of which threatened the Maroon keeper).
One very scary moment near the break, as Chris A. was kicked in the face and went down like he'd been poleaxed . . . I lost my cell phone as I ran out onto the field to tend to him. He thought he could continue, but I made sure he really was back to normal before I let him resume play. Fortunately, he'd only been a bit shaken up, with no serious damage done.
The second half started with Maroon still keeping up the pressure, going up 2-0 after about the 50th minute. Then the tide turned. Andrew S. broke the drought a few minutes later, followed by the first of two by Mitchell B. Anthony C. added a goal and then Mark M. got his first goal of the season, for a final score of 5-2 in Purple's favour.
After the game was over, the referee made some notations on the official game sheet, renaming the teams to "Deep Purple" and "Red Bull". I have no idea why. Oddly enough, Dylan M., Purple's small but speedy defender has been dubbed "Red Bull" by his teammates on the sidelines, and he was getting regular encouragement whenever he was on the field.
Last night's game was another split-personality experience: the first half allowed our opponents (Whitby Green) to showcase their skills, while the second half was Purple from start-to-finish. I suspect it just reflects the nature of the team this season, in that they need to have a longer warm-up period before they can play at their best.
At the end of the first half, Whitby Green had a 1-0 lead, but that didn't properly show the flow of play . . . most of the action had been concentrated between the halfway line and our 18-yard box. Nick M. played well in goal to keep the game in reach.
The second half allowed more open play, and Nick scored the tying goal about five minutes in. James S. added the go-ahead goal, and Andrew S. scored the winning goal. Whitby Green rallied at about the 80th minute to move the score to 3-2, but Purple held off the last charge to win the game. Chris A. had some hair-raising moments in net, but he was equal to the challenge.
Mark M. had a beautiful bicycle kick just inside the 18-yard box, but Whitby Green's keeper managed to deflect it away.
It should be no surprise that major league sports franchise owners love having new stadium facilities for their teams . . . but very few of them actually pay more than a small percentage of the actual costs: the local taxpayers usually pay the lion's share. Do they actually benefit from this?
My favourite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, are actively trying to persuade the voters of Minneapolis (and the state government) to pony up several hundred million dollars for a new stadium to replace the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The team may move if they don't get a new facility, but that would probably be a better deal for the taxpayers — if not the football fans — and the team owner would have to try bargaining with some other city government for lavish subsidies.
Johnathan Pearce is starting on that road that leads to the mysteries of Western Martial Arts:
In the meantime, I have started to fence. Fencing, I find, is even more physically demanding than Bujinkan (yes, really). Initially, I am learning to use the foil, a very light sword where you score if you hit the opponent on certain parts of the body. Depending on which type of sword one uses, you score differently by hitting certain body parts. Of course fencers wear lots of protection these days so there is little chance of getting injured although you cannot afford to be reckless. I find it incredibly good for eye-hand co-ordination. I have also learned that one needs to do lots of stretching exercises since fencing requires people to be flexlible. My knee joints felt pretty sore the following morning after a class. It is a good incentive to get really fit.
Olympic-style fencing is fun, can be an excellent incentive to improve your general state of physical fitness, but can also lead to the hard stuff: smallswords, rapier-and-dagger, broadsword, and other highly-addictive toys.
At 9:00 tonight, under the big lights, my new team will start the summer soccer season. Of course, following tradition, the weather is cold, windy and showing promise of rain later.
This is another combined division, with young men born in the years 1990, 1991 and 1992. I seem to have a disproportional number of Italian names on the team this year: I can already hear the demands that we call ourselves something like "Juventis" or "AC Milan".
Purple uniforms this year, with no direct sponsor, so I'll probably just refer to the team as "Whitby Purple" unless the team persuades me that they want to be called something a bit less generic.
Update: Well, a chilly night it was, but the rain held off. The first half was brutal: we were facing a 3-0 deficit after the first half hour. All the action seemed to be down near our goal area, with only a few feeble attempts to strike back. Nothing we did seemed to change the situation.
After the break, the second half was played in a different mode . . . within five minutes, Anthony C. put us on the scoreboard playing from the left forward position. Within the next five, we tied the score, with another goal by Anthony and one from Nick M.
On the sideline, spirits were lifted by the first goal, but after Anthony's second score, you'd have thought that Purple had a five-goal lead: the pure joy and excitement was a wonder to behold.
We played, with the score level, until about the 80th minute, when Andrew S. managed to get a foot on the ball in a pile-up in front of the Neon goalmouth and just gently nudged the ball into the net. After that, it was merely a matter of keeping Neon from pulling level . . . which put the pressure on Chris A., our goalkeeper, but he was up to the challenge.
A few injuries during the game had Randall and Andrew on the sidelines for a while, but both were able to resume playing after having a chance to recover. Victor was restricted to only limited duty, as he's not fully back from his dental surgery last week.
USA Today asked the three remaining major-party candidates how they feel about Title IX and about performance enhancing drugs.
Refreshingly, all three said neither steroids nor gender participation are any of the government's business, and that, being private entities, sports organizations should be free to set their own rules free of meddling from the federal government or grandstanding congressmen.
Just kidding. All three favor using the federal government to bend pro and amateur sports to their liking.
Radley Balko, "Sports and Election '08", The Agitator, 2008-05-11
I've pretty much given up rapier fencing in the last couple of years, more from lack of time than from any diminished interest. According to USA Today, the sport has continued to grow:
The golf cases propped up against the walls are full of swords, daggers and the occasional bit of chain mail. The halls of the community center ring with the clash of steel, the thud of shields and the quick snip-snip of rapiers. The books quoted are as often as not in medieval German or Latin.
Welcome to a Western martial arts conference. Not a cowboy or lariat in sight. Western in this case is Western European, as opposed to the better-known Asian variety.
These are the arts of warfare and self-defense of medieval and renaissance Europe. Also called historical martial arts, they employ bare hands, pikes, a variety of swords, daggers and rapiers in the way that practitioners of Eastern martial arts might use bo staves, Katana swords and Tanto knives.
Unlike in the East, these fighting traditions died out in Europe in the 1600s with the introduction of gunpowder-fueled weapons.
But now they're making a comeback.
If you watch the video, you'll see a variety of sword styles, but that only begins to scratch the surface of all the interesting ways to simulate the fine arte of skewering, hacking, slashing, and bashing your opponent. All good, clean fun!
Update: The inevitable Fark thread:
Thanks for the heads up. Now I have a totally new group of weirdos to avoid.
Translation: These are a bunch of cosplayers who have graduated from foam swords to the real thing and are making up shiat as they go along. Say what you will about karate and wushu practioners but when you can trace the lineage of instruction back 400 some odd years it means more than learning from some guy named Jerry who's WOW handle is Lord Dark Nightshade.
The Stealth Hippopotamus:
So it's the SCA without the drinking, drumming, and dancing. So basically its the SCA without the fun.
"Want to see cool, watch saber competitions. Blindingly fast and savage strikes. Shame the western media coverage of the Olympics does 98% basketball and diving, 2% track and field."
Saber bouts are fun to watch, but I swear they award the point to whomever screams the loudest.
/Been fencing for 13 years
///Will NEVER Saber fence again
Ah, Fark: the good, the bad, the plainly demented. The id, unmedicated.
. . . the jackals close in:
Somewhere in South America, a village is getting a shipment of "19-0" T-shirts. Giants upset Patriots 17-14 to win Super Bowl
impaler: Brady really played like the 6th round draft that he is.
rally_monkey_must_die: Cheaters never win.
rfronk: Bill leaving the field before the game was over was the best thing I've seen all day.
Electriclectic: Underdogs everywhere rejoice at this one. I don't even like pro ball, and this was a great game.
RomeoJr: Dogs and cats I tell you. Best time I ever had cheering for NY.
/Only time I ever cheered for NY.
yvmnoc: And across America, the sound of a million wives getting backhanded rings out...
inconnu: On one hand, I am happy the underdogs won. But seeing the old Dolphins geezers crow about it and drink champagne, while their team went like 1-16 this year, is going to kill me.
I was cheering for the Giants, but I didn't really expect them to win. And since when is it the default for the winning QB to get the MVP award? Eli didn't lose this game, but he certainly wasn't the most valuable player out there: the Giants' defensive line deserved the award more than anyone else, and the Patriots' Wes Welker was also more valuable than either QB (although on the losing side, I admit).
It's perhaps unkind to link back to some comments from earlier in the season at Brett Singer's Mostly Giants blog:
- Fred Robbins with another sack. The pass rush is good, especially against sub-par teams.
- Wow, Jackson just took off for a 19-yard run there. The entire Giant D was nowhere to be found.
- This supposedly spectacular Giant defense is showing that they aren't really all that good. I mean, they're good, but they aren't a legendary shut-down group. As if to prove it, Strahan allows Tavaris Jackson to get away and run for another first down.
[. . .]
- So what do you do? Do you bench Eli? Of course not. Do you fire Coughlin? You should but they won't. They seem to like him. Here's an idea: start penalizing teams financially for losing. Is that why the owner's never seem to care that much? I mean, of course they care. But it never seems like they care as much as they could. Or should.
Amazing how you can call for benching the QB and firing the coach in week 12, and then be cheering them as Superbowl champions just a few months later, isn't it?
Update, 4 February: The five stages of Patriots grief.
Update, 5 February: Gregg Easterbrook sings the praises for the Giants' defensive front:
Television cameras focus on the quarterback and running backs, but 90 percent of football action occurs away from the ball. Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long contended that line play is a bigger determinant of football victory than "skill player" performance, and never was this on better display than in Super Bowl XLII. Jersey/A's front seven simply ate the lunch of the league's best offensive line. Michael Strahan, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Osi Umenyiora, Reggie Torbor, Antonio Pierce and Kawika Mitchell as starters, Justin Tuck and Jay Alford off the bench — this group turned in one of the top performances in sports history. The Giants' defensive front recorded five sacks of Tom Brady, who had been sacked only 21 times during the regular season. Giants defenders also knocked Brady down hard five times — Brady went through entire games in the regular season without getting his jersey dirty — and forced him into several inaccurate throws when receivers were open, while holding New England to an anemic 45 yards rushing. In successive postseason contests, the Giants' front seven ate the lunch of the league's third-best offensive line (Dallas), then the second-best (Green Bay), and finally, in the Super Bowl, the best. What a performance! The Giants' front seven should, as a group, have been named MVP.
To borrow a phrase from Fark.com . . . having solved all the nation's problems, Congress turns its attention to the pressing issue of investigating professional baseball:
[. . .] we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you give a former Senate Majority Leader $2 million a month for more than a year and half, force clubhouse lackeys to testify under threat of $100,000 fine, and have federal prosecutors grant vastly reduced sentences to drug convicts in exchange for cooperating with Mitchell's private investigation, you can indeed produce circumstantial evidence that Nook Logan (career home runs: 2) and nearly four score others may have taken legal supplements without a prescription to help them recover more quickly after working out, many during a time when such supplements were perfectly acceptable according to Major League Baseball's own rules. And as a direct result, your teenage daughter might eventually face drug testing if she plays sports, once Congress goes through another thrilling round of reforming government.
In so many ways, this is a lovely example of why governments should be limited in the scope of what they can do . . .
In other college football news, 13 of the 121 Division I-A football coaches have been fired, forced out or resigned under pressure since turkeys were carved. This only seems like a purge because departures of Division I-A coaches are so rare. Eleven percent of Division I-A head football coaches have been shown the door in 2007; last year, 19 percent of NFL head coaching jobs turned over. The average of the past two decades has been roughly 20 percent annual head coach turnover in the NFL, versus about 5 percent in Division I-A.
As TMQ often reminds everyone, the football-factory schools in Division I-A hold such incredible advantages in recruiting, in cupcake-opponent scheduling and in playing more games at home than on the road that an orangutan could coach a Division I-A school to bowl eligibility. Almost every football-factory season ends in a bowl bid, and thus the typical football season outcome at a big school is officially characterized as a success. Two-thirds of NFL teams do not qualify for the postseason, and thus the typical season outcome in the pros is failure. That's why there are far more long-term coaching dynasties in college than in the NFL. It is simply easier to win games at a football-factory college than in the pros, meaning more college coaches with career winning records and longtime tenures.
Gregg Easterbrook, "TMQ: BCS Madness!", ESPN Page 2, 2007-12-03
. . . well, sorta.
The team of which I was a part, won our club badminton tournament. Some might say in spite of, others might say in consequence of, my part in the tournament. I'd be less than human in hoping that the latter was more correct than the former. ;-)
Update, 2 December: Of course, the bill must be paid . . . I'm just barely able to move today, and I've got aches where I didn't even know I had muscles. It was a great tournament (and I'm not just saying that because my team won), but a full day of play is a lot more than I'm used to doing.
Because of an oddity in the schedule, my team played every other team (and one team we played twice), except Victor's team. The seeding system worked very well: all the games were competitive, with very few lopsided results. By the end of the day, as we were running short of time, the games were only played to 11 points, as the competing teams had to play four games in the match — womens' doubles, mens' doubles, and two mixed doubles games.
You can put Beckham on the field. You can put Rinaldo on Beckham's shoulders. You can add nudity, stilts, a roving herd of robotic horses that shoot lasers from their eyes — in a sports-saturated age in which Americans have already set aside most weekends to watch hillbillies drive around in circles and the approximately 493 commercials featuring Peyton Manning for some reason, no one man nor team of men nor ambitious attempt at mass hypnosis will succeed in convincing America to watch a sport in which the most common expression is "nil-nil."
And for the love of Mike don't go telling them how popular soccer is in the rest of the world — that only alienates them further. Americans prefer profoundly American pursuits, like football and obesity.
Scott Feschuk, "Who is Your Vagina Wearing?", Macleans Blogs, 2007-10-17
I do wonder about these mixed leagues, though. The kids are at the age where the boys' aggressiveness is starting to assert itself, despite all efforts to the contrary; do we really want to teach them that it's fine to bash into girls? I have the feeling that if I raised an objection, however leisurely and off-handedly and amusedly and don't-think-I’m-like-Larry-Summers-or-anythingedly, it wouldn't be met well by all. The idea that boys will be stronger and more aggressive and should treat less strong, less physically aggressive people with restraint is oddly taboo. On one hand, I want my daughter to be able to give as good as she gets, and she's solid enough to hold her ground. But say she's a skinny-mini, one of those three-ounce kids, and gets knocked flat because Bruiser McLaddybuck barrels into her trying to get the ball. This we should applaud? It would be fine if Bruiser knocked over Master Simpy Milquewater, because he's a boy, and part of being a boy consists of getting dominated on the athletic field often enough as a child that you realize your future rests in academic or artistic pursuits, leading to a lifetime of sneering at the jocks and gnashing your teeth when the smartsy artsy girls go flouncing off with the broad-shoulder crowd. THERE IS NO GOD. But in the end, it all works out. Nature has its way. If I'm wrong, explain why pro football isn't co-ed.
I should note to newcomers that I was the fat kid who viewed gym as an endless session of torture and humiliation, so I side with Simpy.
James Lileks, The Bleat, 2007-09-26
Yesterday's three games encapsulated the Pirates' entire season: a brutally hard-fought draw, a loss, and a bad loss. The first game was played in the chilly, windy conditions at 8:30 in the morning. Only 10 players showed up by the start of the game, so Whitby Silver had an extra player on the field, and three substitutes waiting on the bench. At the end of the first half, the Pirates were leading by 1, a very pretty goal scored by Nick M., direct from the corner.
During the second half, the Silver players were getting increasingly angry that the Pirates were able to hold them off, until they finally got the tying goal about five minutes from the end of the game.
The second game was played on the same field at 10:30. Again, the Pirates could only muster 10 players, and played at a disadvantage on the field. Whitby Teal jumped out to a three-goal lead by halftime, and added two more by the end of the game. The Pirates came close to scoring on several different attempts — Victor R. put on an amazing performance near the end of the game, but was thwarted by some incredible goalkeeping by the Teal goalie: three hard, accurate shots over less than two minutes, barely pushed past the post or the crossbar by athletic leaping.
The third game of the day was played in warmer, but windier conditions at Peel Park. Whitby Blue again had a significant advantage in numbers, fielding a full team plus four substitutes, while the Pirates still only had ten on the field. By this point, the Pirates were pretty much just running on fumes . . . there wasn't much left to give. The run of play was almost entirely in Pirates territory, with only a few opportunities to go upfield. The score was 5-0 at the half, with the Pirates looking shell-shocked on the bench. The Pirates put on a better display in the second half, with Anthony C. scoring from inside the 6-yard box, and Ian S. and Nick M. both coming close to scoring as well. The final score was 8-1, mathematically eliminating the Pirates from the tournament.
Sunday's scheduled 8:30 game didn't happen: the Pirates could only show five players on the field after the 15-minute grace period expired, so Whitby Green got a 1-0 win by default.
I didn't mention last week's opening game of the playoffs, as our opponents were unable to field a team, so we took the game by default. Last night, the situation was nearly reversed: at scheduled kick-off, we only had eight players available while Whitby Red had almost twice that number ready to play. As the teams were lining up for the start, two more Pirates came running up to the field, so we only played with a one-man disadvantage.
During the first half, both teams had scoring chances, but only the Reds were able to put points on the board. At the half, the Pirates were down by three goals.
The second half was when the Reds' advantage in numbers started to show, as the Pirates only had a few opportunities to move the ball over the halfway line. Nick M. scored for the Pirates on a break-away, but that was all the attack the Pirates could muster. Final score, 4-1.
The rest of the playoff games will be held on Saturday and Sunday.
Last night capped off a weekend of sporting disappointments. This was the final regular-season game for the Pirates, a rescheduled game that can't be forgotten fast enough. Whitby Legion came loaded for bear, while the Pirates were barely able to field a team: only eight team members showed up, plus two call-up players who volunteered to join us (Joseph M. and Tyler R.).
The game started off with both teams managing to stage attacks, but Legion's advantage in numbers would soon start to tell. Legion's coach didn't play a full side, matching the Pirates' ten on the field, but substitution was the deciding factor as the game wore on. By half-time, the Pirates were looking ragged, having had several scoring chances but being unable to get the ball anywhere near the net. Whitby Legion didn't have the same problem: sitting atop a 4-0 lead.
Victor volunteered to go in net for the second half, allowing Nick M. to rove at centre-midfield. The Pirates again managed several deep attacks, but only one of them found the back of the net, while Legion kept up the pressure at the other end of the field. The game ended with a 7-1 score, Anthony C. being the lone scorer for the Pirates.
Last night's game was (I hope) forgettable. We were already short-handed, with Ian S., Anthony C., Ben K., and Kory A. all unable to attend the game, and Brad H. serving the first of a two-game suspension for accumulated yellow cards. We were just barely able to field a minimum team at official kick-off time, but a few more players arrived as the referee was conducting the coin toss, so we started with 10 men available as the whistle blew. Cory R. arrived a few minutes after the game started, and I got him on at the first stoppage.
The first ten minutes went fairly well, as neither team was able to get into striking distance, with a lot of scrappy play near the centre of the field. After that, the advantage shifted steadily to Whitby Blue, who opened the scoring on 12 minutes with a short-range shot just inside the right post. Nick M. got a hand on it, but couldn't push it far enough to take it out of danger.
At the end of the first half, the Pirates faced a 4-0 score line. Nick moved out to centre-mid and captain Zaahir M. took his place in goal. The second half continued as the first half ended, with the Pirates unable to clear their lines and Whitby Blue pushing well up the field. At one point, the Whitby Blue defenders were only a few steps outside the Pirates 18-yard box!
Matt K. helped to rally the Pirates, getting on the end of a pass from call-up player Tyler R. and slamming it home. The score was 6-1, but the Pirates really did seem to wake up at that point, pushing up the field and making Whitby Blue defend frantically. The flurry ended with Kevin J. scoring to bring the Pirates briefly back within range, but after that it was all Whitby Blue.
Next week's game is a make-up for a rained-out game back in July, and after that it'll be the playoffs.
Less than half the team showed up for photo night. There are 10 players missing from the photo (Anthony C., Ben K., Brad H., Chris V., Jake H., Kevin J., Kory A., Mike H., Nick M., and Sean L.).
Last night's game was a nail-biter, going literally right to the final whistle. After going down 2-0 to Whitby Legion in the first half, the Pirates rallied to lead the game 4-3 in the final minute.
What kept the team going through the first half was excellent goalkeeping: Nick M. was the reason the Pirates were still able to mount any threat in the second half. He had a series of excellent saves and was critical to keeping the score in range.
Scoring in the second half opened for the Pirates with Anthony C., and then Kory A. put in the equalizer. The Pirates and Legion traded goals, with Nick M. scoring for the Pirates. The go-ahead goal was a lovely long-range strike from Brad H., from outside the 18-yard box. The last ten minutes of the game gave neither team a clean scoring chance, until just before the final whistle, when Legion were just able to punch in the tying goal. Pirates keeper Sean L. hadn't even pulled the ball out of the netting when the referee blew the final whistle. Legion players were celebrating as though they'd won a championship, and the Pirates were upset at missing out on the full three points.
The game was perhaps the toughest challenge the Pirates have faced this season, as the injury bug was out on the field. We started with a full team plus two substitutes, and ended the game with only nine healthy players: two players were hurt enough that they could not continue, and two others had to spend time on the bench recovering (Brad H. actually came off the bench after his own injury to replace another injured player, and was still able to score).
Last night's game started in darkness and ended in frustration. It was a late-night game (9:00 pm scheduled kick-off), so we were playing under the lights at Rossland North field. About five minutes before kickoff, the power went down in our area, so the field was plunged into darkness. Power was not restored for about 20 minutes, so we were more than 15 minutes late kicking off.
The game started well for the Pirates, with Matt L. scoring from the left wing within five minutes. A rough tackle by Brad H. resulted in a yellow card, although what the referee said he'd done didn't match what we saw from the sideline, or what Brad thought had happened when he came off the field at halftime. There is no in-game appeal mechanism, so we just had to carry on.
Matt L. scored his second goal just after Whitby Silver had equalized, again coming in tight to the post from the left side. Both teams had multiple shots on net after this, but the first half ended with the Pirates holding on to a 2-1 lead.
The second half showed the Pirates drop in intensity for the first 10 minutes, allowing Whitby Silver to finally get the equalizing goal. Five minutes later, a dramatic collision just outside the Silver goal area resulted in two yellow cards being shown. Unfortunately, the Pirate player involved in the collision was Brad H., who was then shown the Red card and ejected from the game. The Pirates had to play the rest of the game with only 10 players allowed on the field.
In spite of the numerical disadvantage, Silver still had few good opportunities until five minutes before the end of the game, when they finally found an angle to beat Matt L. (who'd switched from goal-scoring to goal-tending for the second half) for the go-ahead score.
Some people take Rugby more seriously than anything else.
This 9-year-old's soccer skills are flat-out amazing:
I really felt sorry for the opponents he faced in these clips. How do you stop someone like that?
This week, MLS introduced international superstar David Beckham to its Los Angeles Galaxy franchise. Like Pele and a dozen guys whose names I can't remember before him, Beckham is the one-man show that's supposed to revolutionize what Americans think about the world's favorite game. This will never happen. When it comes to soccer, all PR is bad PR, because Americans just don't care about it. Even hockey had a better week than soccer, by simply keeping quiet and pretending it wasn't there.
As long as we have soccer in this country, football players could kill each other on the field; baseball players could jump in the stands, shooting needles in the butts of those in attendance; and basketball could just keep being basketball. None of these things are good things, but all of these things are better than soccer games ending in nothing-nothing ties.
Jonathan David Morris, "A Bad Week for Sports?", Libertarian Enterprise, 2007-07-29
My assistant coach and his family were at the FIFA U-20 semi-final game last night between Chile and Argentina. The game went Argentina's way early, and the Chilean team lost the game, their composure, and their common sense, not necessarily in that order:
Two Chilean players were ejected during the loss. The game was an ill-tempered affair with nine yellow cards — seven to Chile and two to Argentina — in addition to the two red cards. German referee Wolfgang Stark called 53 fouls — 30 against Chile.
When the final whistle blew, several Chilean players tried to get at the officiating crew. Others stepped in to keep them away. Two police officers escorted the officiating crew off the pitch, but they stopped as they neared the tunnel, eyeing the angry crowd.
Eventually they made a run for it, dashing to the safety of the tunnel below the stands.
The Chilean soccer officials should be scrambling to apologize to FIFA, to the Argentines, the officials, and to the Canadian hosts.
In other soccer news, the Pirate finally chalked up a second win of the season, although in a not-very-proud fashion. Opponents Canadian Legion were just barely able to field a team, with only seven players. The Pirates were in the same boat, but had several players arrive after the game started.
The Pirates went up 1-0 in the early going, but within ten minutes were on the wrong side of a 3-1 tally. As the game started to get out of hand, we had to start taking advantage of our numbers . . . by the final whistle, 12 Pirates were playing or available for substitutions, but Canadian Legion still only had their starting seven. Numbers eventually told, with a final score of 10-5, but Canadian Legion never gave up . . . still fighting hard for scoring opportunities up to the final whistle.
Legion will get a chance for revenge on Monday night, as the schedule pits them against the Pirates in consecutive games.
Another late-night game, another loss, another attempt to field too few players . . . this is getting to be a bad habit. Last night's game was hard-fought, but the Pirates again started a game with too few players (only 9 on the field this time) and our opponents had the full 11 on the field and another three substitutes on the sideline.
Matt K. arrived shortly after kick-off, giving us 10 players, and a hastily recruited younger brother, Joseph M., allowed us to get up to full-strength on the field just before the half. Of course, by that time we were down 2-0.
When the final whistle blew, we were on the wrong side of a 3-0 score, but it could easily have been much worse. Blake M. and Anthony C. did some excellent work in goal, and our guest player Joseph M. was doing very well against players three or four years older — and considerably bigger — than him.
Another late-night game last night, with a 9:00 kick-off, and another good effort in the first half not being matched in the second. The Pirates once again fielded the bare minimum number of players, with a late arrival at the end of the first half. The game was quite scrappy, with both teams showing the good and bad of their talents. The score was tied 3-3 at the half.
The second half did not go well, as Whitby Red's substitution advantage (four substitute players for Red, with only one for the Pirates) started to give them openings as the half wore on. Red went ahead about ten minutes into the half, and the Pirates couldn't claw back to even. Final score was 7-4, with Nick M., Brad H., Kevin J., and Matt L. scoring for the Pirates.
Next game, another late kick-off, on Monday night.
I've coached soccer for several years, but I'm relieved that I never had one of the parents as bad as this one:
Here's your Little League Dad of the Moment. First he cusses out his own kid during the game just to grind down his son's self-esteem a bit, then he lets his anger at the coach boil in his chestal area for two days, after which he threatens the coach outside his home. According to charges, he phoned up the coach and said he'd shoot him "like a dog." Brilliant.
This story serves several important purposes:
1. Every year must have a crazed-sports-father case. This is the one for 2007. We keep waiting for a dad from a different sport, like curling, but it's always Little League, soccer, or hockey. Never interpretative dance. Never have a parent stand up and shout I'M NOT GETTING THE IMPRESSION OF A WOUNDED FAUN, YOU #*&*%(#$ LOSER! INTERPRET HARDER! HUSTLE! HUSTLE! No, it's always the popular sports that attract the guys with M-80 tempers
The worst case I encountered was with two mothers who hated one another so much that their kids weren't allowed to be on the field at the same time (the kids weren't the problem, it was definitely the mothers who had the issues). When I pointed out that I couldn't do that — there weren't enough players to allow me to orchestrate my rotation around their personal issues, one of the mothers pulled her kid from the team.
Last night's game was eminently forgettable: the Pirates just never got going. We started off the night short-handed, only able to field 10 players (Whitby Green had a full squad on the field plus four substitutes). Sometimes, being short-handed can help to rally a team . . . and it did, for the first 20 minutes of the match. After that, however, fatigue started to be a factor.
Our eleventh player showed up at about the 35 minute mark, with the twelfth just before the half. By that point, however, we were facing a 3-0 score.
We had scoring opportunities, but were both inaccurate and unlucky in equal proportions. Whitby Green didn't seem to suffer from the same problems, so that even if we'd managed to convert some of those chances, the final result wouldn't have been much different.
Monday night was excellent hunting for the "Pirates": delivering a 9-2 drubbing to hapless Whitby Sky Blue.
The game opened with a quick goal by Kory A., and a second by Blake M. Sky Blue started to look competitive about 20 minutes into the game, when a short shot bounced awkwardly in front of Pirates keeper Matt L. and slid in just inside the post. The Pirates were upset by the goal, and took several minutes to rally and start moving back into Sky Blue territory. Cory R. got on the scoreboard from the left halfback position, and then Kory and Blake each added a second goal.
Scoring in the second half were Cory, Nicolas M., Blake (for the first hat-trick of the season for the Pirates), and Nicolas again.
Tonight's game wasn't easy . . . we'd built up a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes, but we were unable to keep Whitby Blue down. They managed three goals before the half, and we only just kept the score even. The second half wasn't any improvement . . . we kept pushing down into their goal area, but not converting any chances, while they took full advantage of the chances we gave them.
After last week's game being rained out, we're still looking for our first win of the season.
Next week will be even more challenging: we have games on both Monday and Thursday nights, and it's exam time, so several players have indicated they can't make one or both games.
Well, it was a good effort, but the Pirates ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 match last night. The score was tied at the half, both goals on penalties, and both penalties awarded for handball in the goal area.
Whitby Silver had a better passing game, so that they were better able to take advantage of the few opportunities that came along. We're still looking for our first win of the season, although a lack of practice is probably the reason for the low goal-scoring so far. I'm hoping to get a practice field assigned later this week.
Yesterday evening's game was very fast-paced, and our lack of pre-game training sessions showed in the early going. For the first ten minutes after the kick-off, we were desperately defending, not even advancing the ball out of our own end. Our opponents kept the pressure up until finally, almost as an anti-climax, the ball was stroked gently into the lower left corner of our net. Victor, playing keeper for the first half, was able to fend off the other efforts.
After the first substitutions (we have 19 players on the team, and have to equalize playing time, so unlike the pros, we substitute frequently), the team settled down and we started to push into enemy territory. Kory A., working feverishly down the right side, scored the equalizer at about the 25-minute mark.
The last ten minutes of the half were a mirror-image of the first ten minutes, as the Pirates generated plenty of pressure and Whitby Red was unable to clear the ball or move upfield. Kory A. added a second goal to move us into the lead. The score was 2-1 at the half.
During the second half, both teams had opportunities to score, and the ball possession was about equal. About the seventy minute mark, Whitby Red was able to draw level, putting the ball past Tom L. in the lower left corner of the net.
The last fifteen minutes were frustrating for the Pirates, as several goal-scoring chances were fended off, including four corner-kicks.
Overall, a great effort for a team that had never played together before. Matt L., Cory R., Ian S., Micheal H. and Nicolas M. all showed great composure and some very good moves throughout the game. The team decided to call themselves the "Pirates" on a suggestion by Matt L. (our uniform is black and red, no pirate flag or anything like that).
Today being a holiday Monday, in token regard for our monarch's notional birthday, posting will be light.
Actually, my U16/U17/U18 soccer team will be kicking off in the first game of the season at 7:00, so there's a bare possibility of either a victory cheer or a losing gripe later in the evening. It would help if we'd had a chance to get some practice in, but the team lists were only distributed last week, and there are so many kids signed up for soccer in Whitby this year (over 6,000, in a town of just more than 100,000) that there are no practice fields available on weekday nights any more.
Well, I'm off to pick up my team list and equipment for this summer's soccer season. I don't expect to be posting much until later today or tonight.
I'm just hoping that the luck of the draw has given me at least one goalkeeper! We can manage just about any other failing, but lack of a dedicated keeper is very tough to overcome. At times like this, I briefly envy the coaches of competitive teams, as they tend to be a bit spoiled for choice. Because I'm coaching house league, it's random chance who ends up on each team.
This is also the first time I've coached players in the upper age groups: we're a combined Under-16, Under-17, and Under-18 division this year, so I'll have players who are old enough to drive and have jobs playing for me. This may make scheduling practices a bit of a nightmare . . .
Update: Well, at least I don't have to spend half the night calling the members of the team . . . because they're adding at least one team to our division (lots of late applicants in our age group), so the team list I have now will be out of date by tomorrow. On the bright side, Victor is very happy with the team uniform. He immediately put on the jersey, once we got outside with our team equipment:
I have to assume that Middlesbrough's newest addition to the squad is well worth the signing fee, as he's being touted as the best thing since sliced bread. I somehow doubt that he'll be interested in playing in North America, after his time in the UK draws to a close . . . as you can see from the way his name is shown on the back of his jersey, it would just be an invitation for abuse:
A complex stew of cultural trends has made coaching more precarious than ever. A sports-mad population hooked on instant gratification, in which Donald Trump has transformed firing people into mass entertainment for the sensitivity-impaired, has turned up the heat on an already sizzling seat. Coaching has become a model of social Darwinism, in which only the strongest endure — and even they probably will hear the words "You're fired" at some point in their careers.
Rachel Blount, "Coaches: Caught in crosshairs", Star Tribune, 2007-02-12
A sad example of unexpected consequences at the intersection of tattoo artistry and soccer fan rivalry:
A young Argentinian footie fan who decided to celebrate his love for Boca Juniors by having the team's logo tattooed on his back paid the price for not adequately researching the body artist's own allegiances.
The tattooist was, unknown to the unnamed teen, a follower of rival club River Plate, and accordingly substituted a penis for the Boca Juniors' crest.
Both of my soccer teams did well . . . Middlesbrough put a severe beating on Bolton, while Victor's indoor team had an uncharacteristic easy win 8-2.
The explosion in conspiracy-theory thinking, in books and movies supposing there are secret agencies and master plans controlling our lives, spills over into sports in the sense that we want to believe Team A didn't win mainly because it's better than Team B, it won because someone was in control of the entire event. That someone has to be the coach. The phrase "everything happens for a reason" has taken on resonance in popular culture, and not only in religious circles. We don't want to believe luck and coincidence are major factors in our lives. We want to believe someone is in control.
Gregg Easterbrook, "Stop Obsessing Over Coaches!", Page 2: Tuesday Morning Quarterback, 2007-01-09
Victor's indoor soccer team had their hands full this evening, playing against one of the undefeated teams in the division. A final score of 5-5 does not come close to indicating just how tense and exciting this game was, especially with the opponents' last-second drive to the goal . . . a good result, but Victor's team lead through most of the second half, yet were still lucky to escape with a point for the draw: if even a quarter of the other team's shots on net were accurate, the score would have been significantly worse.
Middlesbrough had a winning outing against West Ham, netting the only goal of the match from Massimo Maccarone. Report from BBC Sport here. The Premiership have postponed a decision on whether Boro manager Gareth Southgate can continue in the job: the league has amended their rules, but not sufficiently that Southgate's case is guaranteed to succeed.
Thunderous boos rained down at the end of the first half Sunday afternoon as the Vikings jogged into the locker room. And guess what? That had been their good half.
So it went for the Vikings in a sobering 23-17 loss to Green Bay, one in which their offense showed the briefest sign of life early on before collapsing amid a potent Packers pass rush. Losers of three consecutive games and under .500 for the first time this season, the Vikings are becoming a team worthy of boos even for its best efforts.
And, in the indoor soccer world, Victor's team doesn't play until tomorrow night, so no news on that front yet.
Another inglorious weekend, I'm afraid. Victor was still suffering from a racking cough, so he had to skip his indoor soccer game on Saturday. At least, that's the official story. Oh, he was sick, no question about that, but the rest of the sentence implies that we knew he had a game on Saturday. Which we didn't. The schedule, because it encompasses a matrix of fourteen teams, playing on up to three separate nights per week, is an unreadable mess.
That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.
Over in the old country, Middlesbrough put in a pathetic performance against Watford, handing them a 2-0 result and their first win in the top-flight since they were promoted. Just to be sure that Watford won, Boro went ahead and started the scoring on their own net . . . Details, should anyone be that masochistic, are here:
Watford suffered a blow when goalkeeper Ben Foster was forced out due to a knee problem, with Richard Lee stepping in for the in-form stopper.
But Boro's attacking efforts were so lacklustre that the home side could have probably played without a keeper in the first half and still managed to extend their run without conceding.
A third clean sheet on the trot means they have now gone 293 minutes without letting in a goal in the league.
Watford's forward line hardly set the place alight, but fortunately Middlesbrough's defence were there to offer them a helping hand.
In the sixth minute Woodgate failed to properly clear Gavin Mahon's throw and when the Boro defender stuck out his leg to try and block Bouazza's shot he deflected it past Schwarzer's despairing dive.
Meanwhile, having stunk up the Metrodome last Monday against the Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings have now managed make the hapless San Francisco 49ers look like a serious football team. This was a game I'm happy not to have had to watch:
The Vikings had the 49ers overmatched on paper but once again could not assemble a competent performance on offense, committing three turnovers and going scoreless after Ryan Longwell capped their opening drive with a 21-yard field goal.
San Francisco's moribund defense was allowing 33.6 points per game this season and hadn't held a team without a touchdown since the final game of 2001. But Sunday's affair was the Vikings' fourth game this season without an offensive touchdown, a feat so second nature that — like Williamson — the Vikings seemed dazed and not entirely convinced they are good enough to win on Sundays.
"We've just got to come together on this," said receiver Travis Taylor, whose illegal block in the third quarter nullified Chester Taylor's 65-yard touchdown reception. "It's like we need to get some fight and some dog in us, to get a little emotion. We have to want to get better. I think we're lacking a little in emotion right now."
This week's sports report can at least start on a high note: Victor's team won a very hard-fought indoor soccer match 5-4, with Victor scoring one goal. That was all the good news for the teams I support. The other results were less good: both Middlesbrough and Minnesota went down in games yesterday (oddly enough, I saw almost exactly half of each game).
Middlesbrough, playing at Manchester City, had a very sloppy first half (the half I did get to see), with far too many missed passes and what appeared to be an almost Italian national team level of injury (every five minutes, there seemed to be another Boro player down on the turf). Boro were handing out corner kicks like Halloween candies, and eventually City made them pay the price, going up 1-0 directly from a corner. The BBC match report is here.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, the Vikings were stinking up the Metrodome. I got home to find them down 10-0 near the end of the first half. Minnesota has the best rushing defence in the league right now, so you'd expect that teams would try to throw on them instead. Apparently that strategy never occurred to the Vikings coaching staff . . . because Patriot QB Tom Brady's relentless passing seemed to take them completely by surprise.
While the Vikings defence was being schooled in passing, the Vikings offence was doing everything they could to keep the ball in Brady's hands: Brad Johnson threw a season high three picks, and backup QB Brooks Bollinger added another. Bollinger had a tough entry to the game . . . he was sacked on three consecutive snaps, losing 20 yards.
About the only bright spot in the entire game for the Vikings was Mewelde Moore. He returned a punt 71 yards for Minnesota's only touchdown, and did some excellent work in the second half, including four receptions for 91 yards and one nice long run that was nullified by a penalty back at the line of scrimmage. The rest of the grim reading (unless you're a Patriots fan) is here.
First, Middlesbrough finally managed to win back-to-back games in the Premiership, winning against Newcastle in the Tyne-Tees derby. It was only a 1-0 final line, but Boro have been needing something to get them back on the winning track . . . they're sitting in the middle of the pack, standings-wise, with only 11 points from nine games played.
Then, Minnesota had a great result visiting Seattle, beating the Seahawks by a score of 31-13. The upset was helped along substantially by a knee injury to Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle's starting quarterback. Chester Taylor had his best day as a Viking, including a 95-yard run, breaking a team record. The loss broke Seattle's streak of a dozen games undefeated at home.
Finally, Victor's team opened their indoor soccer season with an unfortunate loss, 9-7, but Victor himself did well, scoring one goal and nullifying the best player on the opposing side. Victor and Cody were on the same team the previous two years, so Victor has had plenty of opportunity to study Cody's moves and try to figure out how to stop him.
I don't blog about my employer, for both obvious and obscure reasons. This past few weeks have been fraught: my company has been taken over by a competitor, and there's much fear and loathing in the halls as we adapt to our new reality. We are all, to one extent or another, waiting for the Turk to call:
For a two-week period each year in late summer, NFL players, who generally are a resilient and tough-minded group, are reduced to bundles of insecurity and nervousness while waiting to hear if their names make the final roster.
It's cut down time in the NFL. Time for the Turk.
Who is this Turk? He is the individual assigned by the organization to go to a player's room, knock on his door and utter those dreaded words: "The coach wants to see you — and bring your playbook." In short, the Turk is the NFL version of the Grim Reaper.
Now here's an intriguing team. They can run the ball, throw the ball, stop the run, create turnovers and make plays on special teams. They're a five-tool team. So what can't they do? Other than stay out of trouble?
Anyway, if the Patriots don't have what it takes this winter for a fourth Super Bowl appearance, I'm pulling hard for Cincy to make it to Miami. And why? Because the Bengals would be out in Miami for two weeks!!!! Hide the women, hide the children, hide the Maxim models . . . here come the Bengals! That would be the single greatest week in ESPN history. ESPN should station Ed Werder and Shelley Smith 24/7 outside the Miami Dade County courthouse right now just to be safe. Seriously, what would feature more arrests, Super Bowl week with the Bengals or Season 1 of "Miami Vice?" I'm 18 levels beyond giddy about this.
Bill Simmons, "Strength in numbers", ESPN.com, 2006-09-30
Gregg Easterbrook has a few handicapping hints for football fans:
Now, for my off-price generic forecasts. First, I predict that every NFL team will end the 2006 season with the same record as it did in 2005. Obviously this won't be right, but will it be closer than the countless pseudo-scientific forecasts floating around? I bet if you analyzed the last, say, 20 years, endlessly predicting every team would finish with the same record as the previous season would do you better than actually thinking about your prediction.
Next, let me issue a generic final score prediction: Home Team 20, Visiting Team 17. This score happened four times in 2005, representing the most common generic outcome. I predict Home Team 20, Visiting Team 17 will happen more than any other outcome in 2006. This forecasting formula has the virtue that you don't need incredible insider information — or even need to know who's playing.
Next let me offer my off-price ultra-generic private-label prediction: Home Team Wins. The home team won 59 percent of the time in 2005. Many paid professional football pundits, gentlemen who yak about the NFL for a living, barely bested 59 percent in their 2005 picks: Jay Novacek of MSNBC came in at 63 percent, for instance. Simply pick the home team in every contest and you are likely to be right about six times out of 10. I'll offer Home Team Wins even though, so far this season, the home team is just 17-15. The Law of Large Numbers says this effect will wash out and the home team will assert itself as the season progresses.
Gregg Easterbrook points out the financial genius of ESPN:
Now think about the amount the typical NFL player will earn this year just from ESPN. Ready? An average of $550,000 per player. That's the amount ESPN is putting in the average NFL player's purse for the 2006 season, and for seasons to come. From ESPN directly to you, dear NFL player: $550,000. The sum works out to $32,000 per Monday Night Football game. If you are an NFL player, every time you tune in Monday Night Football this season, bear in mind ESPN is sending you $32,000 worth of thanks. The next-highest rights fee on the landscape works out to about $12,000 from CBS to each NFL player for each game the Columbia Broadcasting System airs. So guys, ESPN is being almost three times as nice to you and your families as CBS! Remember this when interview requests come in.
While on the topic of ESPN, here's Dr. Z on the quality of ESPN's backup football announcers:
What makes a great team, at least in my eyes? Accuracy, color, insightful analysis. And that described the ESPN backup team. They all respected the game. You were told at all times what was going on. And some of the observations were stunning. I'll give you one example.
Aaron Brooks misfired on a pass to Alvis Whitted. We were then presented with a replay of Randy Moss, shockingly open, it would seem, waving his hands at his quarterback in disgust because he had been ignored. Practically every analyst I've heard would have said, "Look how open Moss was," and let it go at that. But Jaworski is not every analyst. He's the best.
What he pointed out was that the ball already had been thrown to the other receiver, and then the cornerback, Quentin Jammer, broke off his coverage on Moss. That wasn't apparent on the screen, but Jaworski caught it. Moss' gesture was the ultimate cheap shot, designed only to embarrass his QB, and Jaws, as well as Vermeil, didn't let him get away with it. They gave him a good rip.
This, folks, is what is known as analysis. They were like that all night, and Nessler was damn good too. The ultimate professional.
Today was the second half of the soccer playoffs . . . and a totally different team showed up today. After the disappointments of yesterday's losses, our team started strong and stayed strong through both games. In the early morning game (8:30 a.m. start time), we jumped out to a 3-0 lead, fighting off a strong challenge late in the game, to hold on to a 4-2 final score.
The second game was an even tougher challenge, where it took nearly 10 minutes for us to open the scoring, which was quickly evened up by our opponents. We went to the break at the half tied at 1-1. The second half was another struggle before we were able to break the tie and move into the lead again. Scoring the insurance goal was Aaron, who spent much of the second half of the game cutting through our opponents' back line, only to be smothered by good goalkeeping. Arman, our very reluctant goalkeeper did a great job of defending the goal and stopped several dangerous shots.
The final score in the second game was 3-2 in our favour. All we needed to advance to the final was for the game being played on the field beside us to finish with an as-yet unbeaten team winning . . . and they were upset by an underdog. It went down to tiebreakers: three teams had equal records, so it went to the goals scored/goals against differential . . . and we were one goal short. The team we'd just beaten had a better goal differential, so they advanced and we were eliminated.
Some photos in the extended entry below. (Photos are not in sequential order, and cover both games.)
Victor demonstrates the rare combination of soccer and highland dancing, while Ryan tries to avoid becoming an accidental casualty.
John scrambles to defend our goal against an attacker. (Also in view, facing away from the camera are Nathan and Cole.)
Tom, running stride-for-stride with a taller opponent.
Jake jumps up for a header towards Ryan (number 5).
Aaron, about to score his first goal of the game. The keeper stopped the first shot, but was unable to keep control of the ball, allowing Aaron to get a second shot on net.
Aaron charges towards the goal on a breakaway. He continued to run left, drawing the keeper too far toward the post, then shooting across the face of the goal and just catching the inside of the far post. This would be the game-winner.
Victor, about to hammer the ball, watched by a fearful defender, René, and Arman.
René is about to take the shot which scored in the lower left corner of the net.
Aaron, Ben, Nathan, and Cole, during the break between the first and second games.
Ian is in the perfect position to save this shot which went between Ryan and Victor.
Ben, fighting for possession of the ball, late in the second half.
Arman, saving the final shot on net to preserve the win.
All photos courtesy of Liam McKenna, using my Pentax *ist DL with a 70-200 Zoom lens and a 2x converter.
After losing the preliminary game to a team that finished just one spot above us in the final regular season standings on Tuesday night, today was the first half of the round-robin playoffs. Our first game was against the statistically weakest team in the division (they ended up in 10th place during the regular season, while we were sixth).
Something was working very well for them, as they recovered from an early deficit to win the game 7-6. Victor, René, Tom, Ian, Jake, and Ben all scored — spreading the wealth around pretty evenly, but we still came up a bit short at the end of the game.
The second game looked much better matched, as we moved into a 2-1 lead by half-time. The roof caved in during the second half, as we allowed four un-answered goals by full time. The injury bug bit us badly, as four players missed some or all of the game with sprains, bruises, and strains.
Our chances of making the consolation final are almost nil, but we still have two more games to play tomorrow morning, so we'll have to do our best, but even two wins won't be enough to reserve us a place in the final game.
Victor's team put on a great performance last night, defeating the opposing team by the convincing score of 8-1. René had his first hat trick of the season, Victor and Jake each got two goals, and Jarrett scored the other. Jarrett and Chris each played keeper for half the game, with Jarrett in particular doing a fine job.
This was the final regular-season game, with the playoffs scheduled to start in early September. I'd say that the team has chosen a good time to peak: our combined score in the last two games has been an astronomical 20-2 — against teams that each won by a single goal in our first meetings.
Belated team photo below the fold:
Absent from photo: Aaron, Arman, Jake, and Coach Rob.
Victor's soccer team played their second-last regular season game last night, in what can best be described as an "Irish drizzle". I was late getting out of work, so Victor had to meet me on the front porch, with the equipment bag ready, and even so we only made it to the field a minute or two before the kick-off.
Our opponents were the team with whom we've been sharing a practice field all season long. They had a very low turn-out of players and only fielded seven to start the game (the minimum number for the game to be played). We put eight players out at first, then pulled Ryan off the field after counting our opponents. As players for the other team started to show up during the first half, we put more on from our substitution roster.
We went up by a goal inside a minute of play, and the vast majority of the action during the first half was inside the opposing team's 18-yard box. Not only did we have an advantage in numbers, but also in size: it seemed that all of our bigger players were out to face all our opponent's smallest players. Several passers-by asked if we were playing a team in our own age-group (the clear implication being that we were "picking on" a younger team).
After twenty minutes, we were sitting on a four-goal lead, and Tom (our goalkeeper) was loudly complaining that he was bored . . . there had only been two attacks and only one got far enough to kick at goal.
At one point, Victor took the ball just past the half, dribbled down the right side, beating three defenders in sequence, then made a sharp left turn, pushed the ball directly across the goal-mouth and chipped-in a lovely left-footed goal. It threaded the needle between two opponents and passed just out of reach of the keeper. It was one of the finest goals I've seen all season long (it was also his first non-penalty goal).
Victor added two more goals during the game to claim his first hat trick, and both of them required him to create his own scoring opportunity by working down the side-line and protecting the ball. He had a very good game indeed!
Victor's three goals were surpassed by Jake's four, and the final score was 12-1 (the one goal being scored by the older brother of one of the players wearing a borrowed team jersey, and technically shouldn't have counted).
Paul "Dr. Z." Zimmerman being interviewed about the latest Football Hall of Famers:
SI.com: Were you surprised that Warren Moon was elected?
Dr. Z: Last year at the Super Bowl, Moon was out there doing radio or TV work, I can't remember which, for some station in Seattle. We started talking about the Hall of Fame. He was too polite to ask me what his chances were, but I brought it up and told him he had a hell of a good chance. He didn't think so. He thought the field was too strong. I told him, "You have a good shot because everybody liked you. You never stiffed anybody and you were always friendly and cooperative. I don't want to take anything away from your qualifications as a player, but those selectors in there are also writers and they have long memories. Their memories of you are all good ones." I hope I made him feel better.
SI.com: Was race ever brought up in the Warren Moon debate?
Dr. Z: It's been a long time since he ran track. And I don't know what race Moon really ran, the 100, 220, 400?
SI.com: How about ethnicity?
Dr. Z: I never discuss terms I can't spell.
Victor's soccer team had a rescheduled game to play last night. We don't normally play late evening games, so this was a new experience for both players and coaches. Playing under the bright lights adds a new dimension to the game.
Our opponents were tied for the division lead, with only one loss and one tie, but were missing some of their players (they fielded 12, while we had 14, giving us the advantage on substitutions). Victor had a prior commitment, so he didn't arrive at the field until part-way through the first half.
We went down 2-0 early, due to a fluke bounce on a corner kick and a missed offside call by the referee. The first ten minutes or so were all spent deep in our own end, with too much pressure to allow any offensive action to develop. After the harrowing start, our team settled in and started taking the initiative. The first half ended at a 4-3 mark, with two of our goals scored by Chris, who has rarely been able to play striker (he'll be playing striker more often, now that we know he's got the chops for it).
The second half was a mirror image of the first, with our team providing most of the pressure and our opponents back on their heels. We moved into the lead about ten minutes into the second half, and kept the pressure on. With only five minutes left in the game, we held a 7-6 lead.
Luck turned against us during the last few minutes, with both the tying goal and the winning goal scored from offside, but the referee didn't recognize the foul, so both goals stood. (To be fair, at least one of our goals had been scored from offside as well, so I don't have as strong a case for complaint.)
In spite of the disappointing final score, it was a great game with some excellent individual performances by several players.
If you want a sport where the best team always wins, I don't know where to direct you. Part of the beauty of soccer, and one of the life lessons it contains and that we should emphasize for our kids, is that even when you're outmatched you can still win if you keep your wits about you, keep working hard, keep your eye out for the smallest oportunities, and don't lose faith that it can happen. Few other sports teach us that as well as soccer does, and it translates very effectively into life.
Patrick Van de Wille, posted to the Soccer Coach mailing list, 2006-07-11
Neptunus Lex tries to recapture the swash and buckle of youth:
Three weeks ago I went back to my collegiate roots, found a local fencing club, hit the piste.
Starting to, you know: Regret it.
Turns out that a couple three generations of younger fencers have come up since last I was at the nationals. Some of them quite good. Some of them right here in Sandy Eggo. And the first week I was reminded of leg muscles that you don't use for anything else, except for fencing. Vividly reminded. And then last week I got back spasms trying to keep from falling after 25-year old synapses wrote a check 45-year old legs are apparently unable to cash. That was with me all week.
I didn't go back to Olympic-style fencing, but I did take up Renaissance-style rapier-and-dagger fencing. Also for the record: those leg muscles you forget about for modern fencing act exactly the same way even if you're all pouffed up with a doublet and codpiece.
Hat tip to The Armorer.
Hat tip to Hit and Run.
After England's ignominious exit from the World Cup at the hands of Portugal, this was probably inevitable:
As any true Englishman knows, our national football team's traditional crash-and-burn in the World Cup is never as a result of our own shortcomings.
Previous top quality excuses have involved excess heat, unexpectedly low atmospheric pressure, the wrong kind of grass on the pitch, players' concerns over the political situation in East Timor, etc, etc.
Mercifully, though, the 2006 debacle can be attributed to just one cause: "cheating goofy england hating portugezer" Cristiano Ronaldo whose shameful protestations at Wayne Rooney's treatment of Ricardo Carvalho led to the normally even-tempered Liverpudlian's expulsion from the match.
Just in case it's not clear enough . . . you can look up the meaning of irony if you need to.
The federal government has confirmed the previous Liberal government's commitment of $27 million towards a new soccer stadium in Toronto:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty caught soccer fever Tuesday, formalizing the government's share of building a stadium to house Canada's first Major League Soccer franchise.
He said the federal government will kick in up to $27 million, as promised last fall, for the construction of the open-air venue, located on the city's waterfront. The $62.9 million facility is due to be completed on May 1, 2007. The timing of the financial agreement coincides with the FIFA World Cup underway in Germany.
Flaherty said he hopes Canada will be able to compete in the next tournament, taking place in South Africa in 2010.
Canada is currently ranked 83rd in the world.
As a soccer fan, I'm happy that Toronto is going to be getting a major league soccer team. As a taxpayer, however, I'm much less happy: the three levels of government should no more be putting up money for a soccer stadium than they should be paying for any other kind of private enterprise. If there's enough fan support for a team, then there'd be enough private funding to build the stadium. If it can only be done by forcing non-soccer-supporting taxpayers to contribute part of their taxes to the deal, then it shouldn't.
This is no more than corporate welfare for sports teams. Since all three levels of government are involved, all Canadians are paying — even if the total amount is relative peanuts — for something to benefit Toronto's soccer fan community and especially the owners of the new team. How is this fair, equitable, or just?
Increasing the [soccer] goal size even fractionally would increase scoring and open up the game. 6 inches to a foot in each direction would vastly increase the scoring and I think that would be fun for everyone except the keepers, and as a former keeper I realize that you have to be close to criminally insane to play in the goal anyway so who will care what they think?
Tim Hiddemen, posting to the Soccer-Coach-L mailing list, 2006-06-28
German onlookers revelled in England's travails, chanting "Deutschland" and "Lukas Podolski", the striker whose two goals had propelled the hosts into a quarter-final with Argentina, a game bound to confuse English viewers over who to support. Perhaps the ref.
Let's see how my predictions are coming off, through the final round-robin games:
Germany, Costa Rica
Ecuador does much better than I'd expected here. They'll face England in the next round.
In spite of some inconsistent play, England won this group. Sweden could have won it in the head-to-head game, but didn't quite manage. Sweden will face Germany next, while England tackles Ecuador.
No real surprises in this group: the two top teams were so well-matched that their 0-0 draw in the last game was emblematic.
Portugal played a bit better, while Mexico played a bit worse, but other than that, this group followed the script. Angola certainly put in a creditable performance.
United States, Czech Republic
Yikes! What was I drinking when I predicted that? The only hope for Team USA was for the US to beat Ghana and Italy to beat the Czechs, which would give the USA the second spot. Instead, by losing 2-1 to Ghana, the USA makes an early exit. The Czechs were expected to advance, but they couldn't muster the firepower when it was needed.
Croatia gave Brazil quite a fright in their head-to-head matchup, but that was the limit of their surge. Australia shocked everyone by advancing to the round of 16 (a lot of Australians claim that they don't play soccer . . . Aussie Rules Football is the favorite national game).
France, even more than England, appeared to be coasting through the round-robin. They needed to win their final game against Togo with a two-goal differential to advance. They'll now face Spain in the elimination round. Switzerland knocked off Korea 2-0 to take top spot in the group, so they'll play Ukraine in the round-of-16.
This one came down to a head-to-head between Tunisia and Ukraine to determine the second-place team to advance. Tunisia was in a must-win situation, but Ukraine could advance on a draw. The final score was 1-0 for Ukraine.
Data from the FIFA World Cup page.
Michael Owen's injury in the first few minutes of yesterday's game with Sweden is a tear to the right anterior cruciate ligament; he'll be out for several months. He's had a bad time with injuries lately:
Owen said he was "clearly sorry" to leave Germany, but was convinced England would be a success.
"I'll be following all the matches very closely and giving them my full support, hopefully all the way to Berlin," he said. "My main objective is now to get fit as quickly as possible for Newcastle United."
The 26-year-old Owen, who broke a bone in his right foot on Dec. 31, only returned last month. He had been replaced in both of England's World Cup games before Tuesday.
"Michael has had terrible luck with injuries since Christmas," England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said. "I feel very sorry for him to miss out on the rest of the World Cup — it's a blow to him and a big loss for the team.
England is looking a bit light on strikers now, having only brought four to begin with. Crouch has been somewhat disappointing in his appearances so far, and Rooney is still recovering from injury. The remaining player is Theo Walcott, who is both very young and has not had much playing experience at the top level. This might be a great opportunity for him to grow into the role, or it might overwhelm him. Obviously, I'm hoping he'll be able to do the job and become a quality striker at the international level!
Both teams advance to the knockout round.
England finally got a result against Sweden it can live with.
No, not a win — that has been too much to ask for. A 2-2 tie Tuesday, however, was enough for the English to win Group B at the World Cup.
Henrik Larsson tied it off a throw-in, getting the slightest touch to deflect the ball into the net in the 90th minute. England hasn't beaten the Swedes since way back in 1968 — seven years before David Beckham was born — a streak of frustration that is now at 12 games.
But the tie means Sweden has to face three-time champion and World Cup host Germany in Munich in the second round Saturday.
"We won the group and that's what counts," England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said. [. . .]
England plays Ecuador on Sunday in Stuttgart. But it might have to do it without striker Michael Owen, who left in the fourth minute with a nasty-looking injury to his right knee.
England's squad of sick, arthritic nuns put on a weak performance against Trinidad and Tobago today. At times, I wondered if these guys were actually the team on the field:
The first half (which I watched at lunchtime in a local restaurant . . . beside a loud and enthusiastic table full of T&T fans) featured some terrible finishing by England's forwards. T&T had a couple of really good chances and England was very lucky that they didn't go into the break trailing by two.
The second half featured goals by Crouch and Gerrard, giving England a 2-0 finish and automatic advance into the round of 16. There's a match report on the FIFA website here.
Coming from Tasmania, where very little rugby union is played, I know very little about the code. I am sure they have rules, I just can't work out what they are.
Their positions are foreign to me. Who would let their young son play a game which has a player position called a Hooker? Rugby also has players called Props, which aren't airplanes. It has Scrumhalves which, presumably were Scrumwholes until they were chewed up by the Props. It has Outside Centres and Inside Centres. Clearly, no one of authority has ever pointed out that centre means right smack in the middle and it's not possible to have two of them. Then there are Weak Side Wingers and Strong Side Wingers. How discriminatory is that? What lesson does it send to kids? Superman probably plays on one side and Clark Kent plays on the other.
John Martin, "No son of mine is going to play with Hookers", Dunno, 2001-06-18
Victor's latest nightmare ended well: he played the first half of last night's game as goalkeeper, and the world didn't end. To be more precise, although he did get scored on, only one was remotely his fault, unlike the last time a coach was foolhardy enough to hand him the keeper jersey, where we had to reach for scientific notation to record the score. Victor credited Ian, the team's sweeper, for making him look much better in net than he really was (although Ian had the same thing happen to him that Paraguay's team suffered in the game against England . . . a misdirected header for an own-goal).
In the second half, Victor scored on a penalty shot, which certainly made up for some of the agony of the first half. Final score, 3-2 for the opposition, but it was a very well-matched game and could easily have gone either way (Victor's team got in lots of shots, but couldn't get the aim quite right).
I only got to watch just over half of the England-Paraguay game on Saturday, and other things kept me busy yesterday, but at least I'm showing my support:
Update: Of course, not everyone feels the same way:
And the lead up to a major tournament like the World Cup is so ridiculous. Rather than declaring themselves to be chavs by wearing a backwards Burberry baseball cap plus three gold chains and an iPod shuffle outside their shirts as they would in normal circumstances, people declare themselves to be chavs by attaching four England flags to the outside of their cars. It is really awful. The newspapers are full of nothing but the tournament. Conversation is about nothing else. The pubs become full of rowdy people who get aggressive when England (inevitably) lose. I just want to sit outside and drink my pint in the sun, but I cannot.
The most I can hope is that it will be over fast. For that reason I hope that England loses every game 10-0, in order that they are eliminated as quickly as possible and my summer can get back to normal. For the sake of God Almighty do not let England win the stupid tournament. The prospect of them being obnoxious about it for the next 40 years is so horrible that I would have to leave the country. If Sven-Goran Ericsson could also conclude his career as England manager by getting into a bizarre sex scandal with Wayne Rooney, that would be an added bonus. While on that, I would also like to see the Italians eliminated quickly, and hopefully in some really embarassing fashion. When they were elimiated by South Korea in the 2002 tournament they went on to demonstrate that they were the worst losers in all of human history, and I would like to see this again.
Rogers has a page showing the TV schedule for World Cup games for their viewing area. For non-soccer fans with fans in the household, this is going to be a very long month.
They've also posted a link on their portal to a fan's World Cup blog.
Update: Jon sent me a link to this fascinating religious viewpoint that watching the World Cup will count against you with Allah:
I am saying to the fathers, to the mothers, and to the people who watch these games: On Judgment Day, a page in the book will be opened for you, and it will say that you sat and watched the games. Will this make you happy or miserable? Will this make you happy on Judgment Day, when you face Allah, or will you wish you had never watched these games?
I guess the churches are desperate enough to try anything to get more people to attend services:
World Cup visitors can pray for divine intervention if their team is losing in special half-time religious services.
Two Berlin churches, the Berlin Cathedral and the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, will be holding 15-minute half-time services throughout the tournament.
The services will feature football related sermons and hymns that resemble team anthems allowing worshippers of the World Cup to pray for victory.
Of course, there are some teams who will need a full-blown miracle or two, not just the odd afterthought of prayer to advance in this tournament.
I have almost no skill at predicting the outcome of sporting events, but especially something like the World Cup, where I know so little about most of the teams. Still, here goes nothing . . .
Group A consists of Poland (April Ranking: 29), Germany (19), Costa Rica (26), and Ecuador (39). Germany has to be the favorite to advance out of this group. Costa Rica is the next-best-ranked team, so (see above about knowing little about most of the teams) I assume they'll be the second to move into the next round.
Group B is England (10), Paraguay (33), Trinidad and Tobago (47), and Sweden (16). If England fail to advance through the first round, expect the government to fall the next day. Sweden has a very good team . . . and they've had England's number for the last few meetings between the teams, so I'd imagine they'll be the second team to advance from Group B.
Group C has Argentina (9), Côte d'Ivoire (32), Serbia and Montenegro (44), and the Netherlands (3). In this group, you have to go with the rankings: Netherlands first, Argentina second.
Group D has Mexico (4), Iran (23), Angola (57), and Portugal (7). Another group draw with obvious advancers (barring major upsets) of Mexico and Portugal.
Group E has Italy (13), Ghana (48), the United States (5T), and the Czech Republic (2). Let's all feel sorry for Ghana's luck of the draw in this group, shall we? On paper, they look to be already out of the tournament. The other three teams each have strong chances . . . anyone got a three-sided coin? I'll go with the safe picks of the Yanks and the Czechs.
Group F has Brazil (1), Croatia (23), Australia (42), and Japan (18). The top-ranked team in the world had better win through this round, but what little I've read leads me to expect Croatia to be the other team to advance from here.
Group G has France (8), Switzerland (35), Korea (29), and Togo (61). France obvious has to be favoured to move up, with Switzerland and Korea scrapping for the second spot. Togo is probably just happy to be here.
Group H has Spain (5T), Ukraine (45), Tunisia (21), and Saudi Arabia (34). Spain would have to do terribly badly not to advance out of this group — but there's a reason the games are played. The real race here is to be the second team to advance. Tunisia has a better ranking, but there's much less difference between them and the Saudi team, so it's not automatic for them.
Southgate, who won 57 caps for England, joined Boro from Aston Villa in a £6.5m deal in summer 2001, and has made more than 200 appearances for the club.
The 35-year-old defender has been given the job despite not possessing the relevant Uefa coaching qualifications.
Club chairman Steve Gibson said: "We have fast-tracked Gareth because we let our previous manager, Steve McClaren, become the new England coach."
However, Boro have until 12 weeks after the league season kicks off on 19 August to explain why Southgate should be permitted to manage without the required Uefa Pro Licence, the BBC understands.
If they are unable to make a case that is satisfactory to the Premier League, the Football Association and the League Managers' Association action could be taken against them.
Unlike in previous years, where I had a small private blog for reporting on local soccer events (specifically the games Victor played in and/or I was coaching), I haven't been taking up blogspace for such things this season. I'm only an assistant coach this year, and I no longer handle the team paperwork or substitutions, so I don't get the same sense of the ebb and flow of the game . . . I'm really just a glorified spectator.
Our team of 14- and 15-year-olds has a record of 1-1-1 so far, with last night's game (a 6-6 draw) being the most exciting of the lot so far. Victor had a very good game personally: he spent most of the game defending against our opponents' top striker, Nick, so he didn't get any chances to score goals himself. The stars for our team were René, Ian, and Ryan, although the top scorer for our side was Tom, who recorded his first hat-trick of the season.
The game started terribly for our boys, as we were down 3-0 inside the first ten minutes of play. Unlike our win last week, we didn't seem to be able to pass the ball successfully and didn't even get the ball into the other team's half until after going down by 2. I sure hope that we don't need to be climbing a three-goal hill to get the team's collective adrenalin flowing in future!
Nobody on the team is fond of playing goalkeeper, so the duties are rotated with each player in net for a half during the regular season. This is a problem: the keeper is a critical part of the team and we don't establish any kind of consistency with a different keeper for each 45-minute half. Victor has volunteered to be keeper for a half in next week's game . . . which could be traumatic. The last time Victor was in goal, he let in an incredibly high number of shots (to be fair, not all were his fault, but he's really not a natural keeper). There's a short keeper clinic being held by the club this weekend, so I hope Victor manages to take some good experience from that.
FIFA's website will provide free 2-minute highlights for all games in the upcoming World Cup:
A two-minute video of every match at the June 9-July 9 tournament will be available within an hour of the final whistle at www.fifaworldcup.com.
Fans will also be able to follow the action on their mobile phones, either by downloading software from the website or by signing up for SMS alerts.
"No matter where you are in the world you will be able to follow the action before, during and after matches," said Jerome Valcke, FIFA's marketing and television chief, on Tuesday.
That's very cool.
After a whirlwind lead-up, let down on the field: Sevilla 4 Middlesbrough 0. No joy in Boro town tonight.
Mark Clemmit looks back to the death-and-birth of Middlesbrough FC:
When I think back to 20 years ago and the final game of the season — a 2-1 defeat by Shrewsbury — that sent us down to what is now League One and into liquidation, I never thought we would be where we are now.
The club collapsed in the hands of the liquidator and the Ayresome Park gates were locked.
We only got the go-ahead to start the Football League season at 5.20 on the Friday night and the first game of the campaign was on the Saturday afternoon. From that perspective it is an enormous journey.
They were training at the local park, Albert Park, where Boro legend Brian Clough would walk every morning from his family home to Ayresome Park.
There was training, with jumpers literally used for goalposts, and there was a tiny squad of mainly youngsters.
That's where it all began really. The journey since then has been extraordinary.
A report on BBC Sport tips Middlesbrough FC manager Steve McClaren as the successor to current English coach Sven-Goran Eriksson:
McClaren arrived at the FA's Soho Square headquarters at 1540 BST and was rushed inside, with a statement and news conference expected imminently.
The board meeting to discuss the successor to current coach Sven-Goran Eriksson finished before 1430 BST.
McClaren, currently manager of Middlesbrough, is also a coach in Eriksson's current England set-up.
The 45-year-old made his way to London from his Yorkshire home earlier on Thursday.
Bolton boss Sam Allardyce — who was also in the running for the job — has said he expects to miss out.
McClaren failed to come out for the post-match interviews after his Middlesbrough side's 1-1 draw at Allardyce's Bolton on Wednesday.
Update, 13:50: Report confirmed.
NFL scouts can (and do) measure just about everything about a prospect prior to the draft, but they can't quantifiably measure heart and leadership, two of the most important yet undervalued skills a quarterback can possess.
Every year they draft these big, strong, good-looking guys that can chuck it a country mile. And three years later they turn out to be Joey Harrington or Tim Couch or Jeff George or some other bust who couldn't lead a hungry lineman to free barbeque, let alone an entire team to a championship.
Dan Wetzel, "Follow the Leader", Yahoo! Sports, 2006-04-27
The other semi-final match in the UEFA Cup went to Seville, who beat Schalke by a score of 1-0 in extra time. Another game report:
Twenty years after the club almost went out of existence, Gibson reaped the rewards of all his hard work and investment when Massimo Maccarone's 89th-minute header dumped Steaua Bucharest out of the competition after they squandered a 3-0 aggregate lead.
A delighted Gibson said: "It's incredible and I'm absolutely speechless.
"If someone had written this as a script, you would not have believed it. What a night.
"I can only do it off the pitch - the players were absolutely magnificent on it.
"They went two goals down, but they never gave up and the crowd was unbelievable.
Update: BBC Sports looks back over Middlesbrough's wildly varied season:
And yet for all their success in the cup, McClaren's side have endured some humiliating defeats in a rollercoaster season, as well as having to contend with constant speculation linking McClaren with the England manager job.
On the back of a winning start in Europe and a stunning 2-1 victory over Arsenal, Boro were humbled in front of their home fans against local rivals Sunderland but in October they again raised their game when they comfortably despatched Manchester United 4-1.
. . .
With non-league Nuneaton next on the fixture list, Boro had the perfect opportunity to bury the disappointment of the previous week. But Boro hearts sank even further as they watched their side manage only a draw against the semi-pro's from the Conference League North.
That was followed by a 7-0 hammering by Arsenal a week later — which McClaren described as his "toughest day as Middlesbrough manager".
Summing up the fluctuating fortunes of this amazing campaign, though, McClaren went from his worst day in football to arguably one of his best a month later.
That came when he masterminded a 3-0 demolition of champions Chelsea and that victory, as well as progression in Europe and a replay victory over Nuneaton, finally got their season back on track.
In yet another amazing comeback, Middlesbrough fought back from a 2-0 hole in the first 25 minutes (after losing the first leg of the semi-final in Bucharest 1-0) to beat Steaua Bucharest by a 4-2 final score:
Italian substitute Massimo Maccarone, who got the last-minute winner to beat Basel in the last round, repeated the feat with an 89th-minute header that turned a 3-0 deficit into an incredible second successive 4-3 win.
Boro looked out when goals by Nicolae Dica and Doran Goian had the Romanian visitors 2-0 up after 24 minutes but Maccarone began the comeback in the 33rd minute while a 65th minute Mark Viduka header and 73rd-minute Chris Riggott goal raised hopes among the biggest crowd of the season at the Riverside.
Maccarone's header from a Stewart Downing cross then took Boro into the May 10 final in Eindhoven where they will meet either Seville or Schalke 04, who were playing later.
Middlesbrough win through to the final four of the FA Cup, with a win over Charlton Athletic:
Middlesbrough booked their place in the last four of the FA Cup following a thrilling replay win over Charlton.
Boro took the lead through Fabio Rochemback's 30-yard free-kick which deceived keeper Thomas Myhre before Bryan Hughes equalised with a volley.
James Morrison restored Boro's lead from close range and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink added a third.
Charlton made it 3-2 thanks to Gareth Southgate's own goal before Mark Viduka sealed the win for the home side.
Although still in the bottom half of the Premiership, Boro is still in contention for both the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. Wouldn't it be great to see them win both competitions?
From a report on the dramatization of the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series:
Scenes take place in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Moscow, but it was all shot in New Brunswick a year ago.
The look and feel of the early 1970s are there in bad hair and worse clothes. Pierre Trudeau is prime minister. You hear the odd unabashed ethnic slur or sexist remark, and lots of people, including some players, smoke just about anywhere, including the dressing room.
The series shows how unprepared Canada was for a pre-season September series against a team that was leagues better than the shoddy scouting reports indicated.
The players went into camp out of shape, believing themselves invincible, but found a well-conditioned opponent that was at least their match in talent.
And they endured booing from their own fans when the Soviets dominated the first four games in Canada.
For many, it was a pivotal moment in Canadian history, when it was discovered how much hockey meant to the national psyche.
Generally, I'm with James Lileks that the 1970's were the most forgettable decade in history, but the 1972 hockey series really was a defining moment for many Canadians. I remember being in class, and the entire school being moved into the library to watch the final game on TV. (We were one of the first "open concept" schools, so there was plenty of room if you ignored the fire regulations and gave up any concept of comfortable seating.)
If I remember correctly, this was only the third or fourth hockey game I'd ever watched, so the fine points of play were pretty much over my 12-year-old head. It was exciting, however, in the same way that being in the middle of a huge crowd of excited people can be: sort of an adrenalin contact-high.
Here is the CBC web page for the presentation.
Despite losing at Basle 2-0 last week, Middlesbrough managed to win a big game at home to advance to the UEFA Cup semi-finals:
Middlesbrough 4-1 Basle (agg 4-3)
Middlesbrough launched an astonishing comeback to reach the Uefa Cup semi-finals at the expense of Basle.
Eduardo's tap-in for the Swiss side left Boro needing four goals to win.
But Mark Viduka pulled one back before half-time with a powerful run and shot and angled in a second before Daniel Majstorovic was sent off for Basle.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's stunning 25-yard curler made it 3-3, leaving fellow substitute Massimo Maccarone to slide home the winner at the death.
The unlikely comeback, which booked Middlesbrough a semi-final meeting with Steaua Bucharest, was reward for some brave changes by Steve McClaren.
I think the Red Ensign Brigade could do with its own version of the Haka (Flash required).
We've all learned this week that people react badly when you make blasphemous insinuations against the central figure of a dominant religion. Nevertheless, that's not going to stop me from writing about Gretzky.
Colby Cosh, "Par for the course", ColbyCosh.com, 2006-02-10
I was playing with a new piece of anagram software today, plugging in the names of various National Hockey League teams. It began to dawn on me that, despite the best efforts of franchises like the Minnesota Wild, there isn't nearly enough poetic, surrealistic imagery in hockey. Rearranging the letters in the team names opens up a whole new imaginative universe to the hockey fan. You tell me — why would you cheer for the pedestrian New York Rangers when you could root for the Narrow Green Sky? You're already thinking of how beautiful the uniforms would be, am I right? And isn't it true that a much more evocative and accurate name for the Toronto Maple Leafs would be the Lame Forest Platoon? It summarizes their entire history perfectly, and you wouldn't even have to change the logo.
Colby Cosh, "Engages No Skills", ColbyCosh.com, 2006-02-04
ABC will apparently tape-delay this year's Super Bowl halftime show, fearing any futher "wardrobe malfunctions." Given that this year's halftime entertainment is the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin, I would think that football fans the world over would applaud in appreciation.
Radley Balko, "Halftime Hijinx", The Agitator, 2006-02-03
Andrew Castiglione sent this link to the soccer coaching list: Best 5 Funny Football Goals of all Time.
The last one is hilarious . . . even if you don't know anything at all about soccer.
I'm not particularly nostalgic for ABC's Monday Night Football's so-called "Golden Age", but perhaps I'm not old enough to really have paid much attention to it back then. Dr. Z is happy to bury it:
John Madden represented ABC's serious attempt to corral a maitre'd with class and experience. The Madden-Al Michaels team is right on when the game is a keynoter, a thriller. But, perhaps through orders, or possibly by their own inclination, their attention span disappears when there are dull spots, or a team gets ahead by 10 points or so. Then we'll get a never-ending debate on topics of the day, Brett Favre's possible retirement, the relocation of the Saints, on and on, as the action takes place on the field, often never even announced by M&M.
It is painful to watch, to listen to, horrible actually. Waiter, would you take my order please ... PLEASE! We've been sitting here for 20 minutes.
The problem is that sometimes dull games get interesting, sometimes the score gets close and then Madden and Michaels are dragged back into them, not prepared, not fully focused. "Hey, catch us up, will you?"
Good-bye ABC. Good luck. You can play Auld Lang Syne all you want but you won't get a tear from me. But what do you need me for, anyway? You've done a major selling job on so many of my colleagues that they might be pushing for a national day of mourning when you pack it in. And by the way, what's on the Monday night menu for 2006?
Someone hit the "Publish" button a bit too soon as these two headlines indicate:
I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars — the rest I just squandered.
George Best, British soccer legend, who died yesterday, aged 59
Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren has signed a contract extension to 2009:
McClaren's future has been the subject of speculation as contract talks took place and he had been linked to taking over at England and Manchester United.
He is an assistant to England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson and was understudy to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.
But he said: "The club going is places so it was never even a question of whether or not I wanted to stay."
The new deal will ease concerns over any exit while ensuring Boro are compensated should he leave.
Jim Souhan has a good column on the modern-day sports phenomenon known as the "Diva Receiva":
[. . .] what we now recognize as the Age of the Diva in pro sports, an age in which the phrase "controversial receiver" has become redundant.
NFL wideouts might have surpassed rock stars and European soccer fans as grazers of the nebulous pastures betwixt goofiness and destructiveness.
[. . .]
All of which gives you the feeling that if Keith Richards had played football instead of a Fender Telecaster, he would be a wide receiver. Blood transfusions on Saturday, end zone dances on Sunday.
While Owens is noise pollution and Moss seems to be simply stubborn, Bengals receiver Chad Johnson has found the right mixture of humor and self-absorption. He sends Pepto-Bismol to imminent opponents, and utters such bon mots as this one aimed at Packers cornerback Al Harris:
"The bad thing is he has to cover me. The good thing is ... he can save 15 percent by switching his insurance to Geico."
Johnson is funny and has yet to sabotage his team. Which is more than you can say for so many other star receivers.
This may shock you, but the TopCats affair was still quite the topic in the press box on Sunday at the Jets-Panthers game in Charlotte. One industrious reporter I know told me he had actually seen the police report from the late-night incident involving two Panthers cheerleaders in Tampa, and according to witnesses there was a little fire to go with all that smoke. Another observant journalist opined that the entire squad seemed to be dressed a little more conservatively than usual for the first home game after all the unwanted headlines.
Me? I was just watching football, folks. Nothing but football.
. . . I really expected this story to be about the Minnesota Vikings cheerleading squad getting in trouble, not the Carolina Panthers' cheerleaders:
Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested at a bar where witnesses told police the women were having sex in a restroom stall, angering patrons waiting in line.
Renee Thomas, 20, of Pittsboro, N.C., and Angela Keathley, 26, of Belmont, N.C., were taken to Hillsborough County Jail early Sunday. Witnesses said the women were having sex with each other in a stall at the club in the Channelside district.
They were kicked off the team Monday for violating a signed code that bans conduct embarrassing to the team or organization, Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton said.
I don't know about you, but I'd expect them to be showing up on all the talk shows for the next few months . . .
Sometimes, you wake up and you say, 'Man, I didn't have anything to drink last night. I didn't have anything fattening. So why do I want to puke?' Then you realize, 'Oh, that's right.' You start remembering what's going on in your life.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice, quoted by Charles Robinson, "The hot seat list", Yahoo! Sports, 2005-11-03
We all grow up playing on grass. We all grow up playing outdoors. We all grow up playing in the weather that you grow up in. East Coast guys learn to play tackle football in the snow as kids. Guys in the south learn to play in humidity. Then we get outside, and it's like we've never played outside in our whole life.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice, quoted by Kevin Seifert "Injury to Insult: Carolina 38, Vikings 13", Star Tribune, 2005-10-31
Damian Penny takes some time to relish the Vikings' plight:
Forget the Cubs. I'm convinced that the Minnesota Vikings are the unluckiest franchise in American professional sports.
They lost four Super Bowls in the 1970s. A few years ago, they went 15-1 but lost the NFC championship game. They lost another NFC championship game 41-0. But this year has been in a class of its own: the most explosive wide reciever in football jumped to Oakland ("the Vikings will have an excellent year without a cancer like Moss in the dressing room," I heard people saying before the season started); the team was mired in an embarassing scandal when word about their charter-boat trip got out; the coach is expected to be fired any second now; and to top it all off, Daunte Culpepper hurt his knee in today's humiliating loss to Carolina, and could be out for the rest of the season.
Ouch. Ouch. At least I can revel in the Boro humiliation of Manchester United, even if I have to suffer through another lost season with the Vikes.
Now THAT is a headline I'd love to see more frequently!
Edwin van der Sar gifted Middlesbrough the lead when he let Gaizka Mendieta's shot slip through his fingers.
A mistake by Rio Ferdinand let in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for the second, and Yakubu Ayegbeni made it 3-0 from the spot after Stuart Parnaby was fouled.
Yakubu set up Mendieta to make it 4-0, and even Cristiano Ronaldo's header did not take the shine off Boro's victory.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side play Chelsea at Old Trafford on 6 November but will go into that game already 13 points adrift of the leaders — albeit with a game in hand — and with their title hopes hanging by a thread.
The writing was on the wall for them here after just two minutes when Van der Sar's mistake allowed Boro their opener.
Even though the game was televised in our area (on tape delay), I didn't get to watch the match, having had to leave the house earlier in the morning. I heard the score in a bookstore in Port Perry, as the bookseller and a customer were grumbling over Manchester United's terrible game.
If you've ever wondered how the offside rule in soccer is decided, you should visit this site (Flash required).
Jim Souhan does a bit of analysis that might surprise the "Vikings are nothing without Moss" fans:
The Vikings are missing the contributions of a certain big-play receiver — they've been losing since he left. And there's no chance of his return.
This is an admission. The Vikings do, indeed, miss their big-play wide receiver.
They miss the guy who produced all those touchdowns, who filled all those highlight reels, who shined during the greatest successes of the post-Purple People Eater era.
They miss the guy who overcame trouble early in his career to rise to greatness, who committed acts of silliness in the end zone, who made Daunte Culpepper a better quarterback, who was left heartbroken by the Vikings' 41-0 loss to the Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship Game.
To evoke his greatness, you need only intone his three-syllable name. The Vikings haven't been the same since he left, in 2002.
That's right, the receiver the Vikings have missed the most in the new millennium is not the most talented receiver in NFL history — Randy Moss.
It's the best receiver in Vikings history — Cris Carter.
Amazingly enough, the stats back him up on this:
So you can divide recent Vikings history into two categories:
They went 56-40 (a .583 winning percentage) when Carter was their top receiver, from 1992 to 1997.
They went 41-23 (.641) from 1998 to 2001, when Carter and Moss played together.
They went 23-25 (.479) from 2002 to '04, after Carter left and Moss became the unquestioned star.
Now Moss is making spectacular catches and taking smoke breaks for a new team, and that team is 0-2, making his personal record 23-27 without Carter.
I only own one Vikings jersey . . . and it isn't the 84 that Moss wore in his time in Minnesota. It's #80, Cris Carter. Funny how that works out, isn't it?
"This is not just making an adjustment," safety Darren Sharper said. "We're flat-out getting our tails kicked."
It's everybody, too. Daunte Culpepper was worse than last week, which didn't seem possible. [Running Back] Michael Bennett had two killer fumbles. In fairness, he might have been dehydrated. Bennett couldn't get a sip of water on the sideline because he kept dropping the cup.
Minnesota dropped their second game in a row by the unbelievable score of 37-8 in Cinncinnati this afternoon. Thanks to the vagaries of TV schedules, I didn't have to watch. Here is the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the debacle:
The Bengals had it all over the Vikings, rolling up 337 yards and a 27-0 lead in the first half. Johnson topped 100 yards receiving before halftime, setting the tone for Cincinnati's most lopsided win in three years.
By contrast, Daunte Culpepper had a miserable time, throwing a career-high five interceptions — three of them to Deltha O'Neal. The Vikings turned the ball over seven times in all and didn't get closer than the Bengals' 49-yard line in the first half.
So that makes 8 INTs and 4 fumbles in two games. The "fans" will be demanding that Culpepper be benched after this. That's worse than just embarrassing. If this keeps up, Coach Mike Tice had better be polishing up his resume.
After all the "Culpepper sucks" noise dies down, there is at least a chance for some nuanced analysis to appear:
1. Poor Offensive Line Play — The loss of Matt Birk at center has to be one of the largest contributors to poor offensive play on Sunday. Cory Withrow had a terrible game replacing Birk at center. Rookie Marcus Johnson played right guard as bad as any rookie could in the NFL. Culpepper seemed hurried often which resulted in 4 out of 5 turnovers (including 2 forced fumbles and 2 out of 3 interceptions).
2. No Running Game — Okay, as much as the O-Line is to blame, the Vikings tried to establish the passing game early to set up their running game. They started out running Moe Williams. He gains 9 yards on the 1st Vikings possession and they follow with 8 pass plays in the 1st quarter. The 8th pass play was the 1st interception to Bucs CB Brian Kelly. The Vikings never really stuck with their running game at all.
I didn't see the game, and the highlights I did manage to see concentrated on the scoring, as you'd expect. It certainly sounds as if the O-line is a work in progress . . . with quite a ways to go yet.
Q What do you call an England player with 100 runs against his name?
A Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff. Take your pick. Bastards.
Jim Souhan, of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in today's column:
It is his team and his time now, and on the first day of his undisputed reign as the Minnesota Vikings' alpha and omega, in an ear-piercingly loud Metrodome and against a team begging to be beaten, Daunte Culpepper couldn't seize his shining moment any more than he could hold on to the ball.
Culpepper didn't just produce fewer touchdowns in Week 1 than He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named — he produced fewer than Darren Sharper.
Culpepper didn't only commit five turnovers — he looked antsy and besieged while doing it.
Culpepper didn't just make you wonder if he missed a certain past-tense, blue-moon partaker of medicinal marijuana — he made you ponder whether he pines for Scott Linehan, Matt Birk, Mewelde Moore, Charlie Baggett, Cris Carter, Chris Hovan and Najee Mustafaa.
Those of us who think Culpepper is a wonderful quarterback and dynamic leader expected an explosion of emotional and statistical fireworks Sunday. Instead, we got a one-man Broadway show dedicated to the memory of Spergon Wynn.
For my part, I still think Daunte Culpepper is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, but yesterday's game proves that he can still be rattled by a really determined pass rush. Every team that has the Vikings on their schedule for this season will now be adding more pass rush work to their practice sessions before they face the Vikes.
Spergon Wynn, for the non-Vikings fans, was briefly with Minnesota and is now 3rd or 4th string QB for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. He had a very inglorious career with the Vikings:
To your average sports fan, the most memorable chokes involve great or near-great athletes failing when everything is on the line. But what of the failures of obscure jocks? Don't they deserve recognition for absolute mental and physical collapses? In that spirit, we ask you to consider Spergon Wynn, the Minnesota Vikings' third-string quarterback. Acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in September, the second-year pro — presumably seasoned by a stint in NFL Europe — got his big chance in December after starter Daunte Culpepper and backup Todd Bouman went down with injuries. By then, the Vikings' playoff hopes had already slipped away, and all young Wynn had to do was look vaguely competent at the helm of the team's much-vaunted "quarterback-friendly" offense. He didn't. His quarterback rating (38.6) was the lowest, by far, of the 50 statistically eligible QBs to play in the NFL in the 2001 season. In three appearances (including two starts), Wynn threw one touchdown and six interceptions and, in a flourish of ineptitude, had a fumble returned for a touchdown on his final play.
From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Loop's week 1 game previews:
BUCCANEERS AT VIKINGS (-6)
Chris Hovan makes his first visit to the Metrodome since leaving Minnesota. In a touching pregame ceremony, the Vikings will formally retire the spot on the bench where Hovan spent most of 2004. Pick: Vikings by 10.
Instapunk has a few notions about "the beautiful game" to share:
In the bad old days, a meeting between Norway and Scotland would have resulted in beheadings, disembowellings, rapes, and enough arson to make California wildfires seem like marshmallow roasts. Now we have a somnolent interval marked only by fights in the stands and deranged announcers who live for the remote chance of being able to yell "G-O-O-O-O-O-O-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-L!" once or twice a year. What could be better? If you want to calm down to a state resembling coma, then all you have to do is click here.
Of course, I'm biased: I spent too much time last night watching Randy Moss in his debut as a Raider, followed by about half an hour of soccer as Canada played a "friendly" against Spain.
Michael Bennett has a neck injury. Mewelde Moore has a bad ankle. Onterrio "Cheech" Smith is in his basement trying to build a better Whizzinator so he can play next year. Moe Williams is more of a short-yardage back.
So Friday, the Vikings will throw young [rookie running back Ciatrick] Fason overboard to see if he can swim.
That's not a bad practice. Years ago, that's how a lot of youngsters really did learn to swim. Before the era of 24/7 nurturing, a father or older brother would take a boy out to the middle of a lake or river and push him into the water.
It's quick, and it saves hundreds of dollars on swimming lessons. That's how I learned. The only problem, as I recall, was getting out of the plastic bag. But after that, it was a cinch.
Tom Powers, "Opportunity knocks for quick-healing Fason", St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2005-08-31
I've had some bad defeats in my now-finished soccer coaching career, but never one as bad as this:
A third-division provincial girls football team entered the annals of Belgian soccer on Saturday after suffering a crushing 50-1 defeat because of the absence of a single but crucial player: their music-loving goalkeeper.
SK Berlaar's goal was left unguarded in a match with FC Malines after its goalie opted instead to go to a rock festival, Het Laatste Nieuws reported Monday.
"Kick-off, move upfield and in it goes. That was repeated without a halt. At half-time, it was already 27-to-0," the Flemish newspaper said, describing how 16-year-old Charlotte Jacobs tried in vain to defend the goal in the absence of the usual goal-keeper.
Hat tip to Fark.com.
This link was posted to a soccer coaching list I still read (even though my coaching days are over . . . the kids got better than I'd ever been).
Absolutely amazing what some athletes can do with their bodies, that's all I can say.
In a non-Earth-shattering result, Middlesbrough drew with Liverpool 0-0. Match report here.
AP is reporting (link via Yahoo) that Russian President Vladimir Putin now has a Superbowl ring:
Russian President Vladimir Putin walked off with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring, but was it a generous gift or a very expensive international misunderstanding?
Following a meeting of American business executives and Putin at Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg on Saturday, Kraft showed the ring to Putin — who tried it on, put it in his pocket and left, according to Russian news reports.
It wasn't clear if Kraft, whose business interests include paper and packaging companies and venture capital investments, intended that Putin keep the ring.
I know that Superbowl rings are relatively enormous, and not the sort of thing that you'd wear casually. Does one of them qualify as a typical gift given to foreign heads of state? Would it cause an international incident to give an ugly piece of jewelry to the head of a former superpower?
Blitz: The League, a game title for Xbox and PlayStation 2 is due out later this year. It's not an NFL-sanctioned release, and does not use NFL team names or uniforms in their simulation. It does, however, include lots of things that the NFL would never allow in a licensed game:
On the field, there are grunts, taunts and big hits. Not to mention revenge and dirty play.
Players can deliberately injure opponents. Coaches can decide whether to let injured players heal or inject them with painkillers to get them through a game. Of course, freezing an injury can lead to even more pain for the player if he is hurt again.
When Blitz was a licensed game, the NFL used to scrutinize everything.
"There are so many things that the NFL always has not allowed us to do," Boyes said. "Right down to the intensity of tackles. We would have to submit them video footage of everything from the entire game and they would go through them and mark off 'Can't use this, can't use this.'
"Luckily we kept track of every move they ever cut. Just good accounting. We went through all our historical notes and found every one they had turned down and we turned all right back on."
I don't play any of the various game consoles, so I have no idea how good (or bad) this game might be, but it does sound as if they'll capture that vital XFL-market sector.
It's probably also worth noting that the new Vikings owner is very big on family. By my count, Zygi used the word "family" 1,068 times during the 45-minute interview session. He mentioned his family, the Vikings family, his partners' families, local families and the family business.
Asked about meeting the other NFL owners for the first time, Wilf said — you guessed it — they are like a family. Which I can see, particularly when I envision the Corleone family.
Tom Powers, "No news is good snooze with Wilf", St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2005-06-17
Victor's house league soccer team had a game last night at Jeffrey Park just west of downtown Whitby. I had to drive through some pretty impressive rain just to get home to pick him up:
Stopped in traffic on Dennison at about 5:05 in the afternoon.
Stopped in traffic on Warden at about 5:20 pm.
The rain lessened as I got further east, until it was just a light shower by the time I got home to Brooklin. Victor and I got to the field, and the only evidence of rain was the large puddles at the lower end of the parking lot. Both teams looked as if they'd be shorthanded, or perhaps not even be able to field a minimum number of players.
Victor (in the jacket), with two of his team-mates before the game. Ten minutes after the game started, they looked like their uniforms were all-black, not forest green.
The west end of the field, just before the game started — about ten minutes before the rain came down again.
Victor's team had a rough start to the game: they were down 3-0 by the half. The second half was much more competitive, but luck was definitely not with them: the play was all in the opposing team's half, but the players were hitting the post, the crossbar, or having the goalkeeper just barely get a hand on the ball to deflect it away from the net. I counted nine "sure goals" which weren't. If nothing else, they got lots of practice on corner kicks!
The luck stayed with the other team, however, as a long-range shot put them up by four about ten minutes in (the ball was perfectly stopped by the keeper, but squirted out of his hands and into the net).
Victor's team finally got on the board about a minute later, and the teams swapped scores for the remainder of the half, but they couldn't get closer than three. About ten minutes from full time, Victor rolled over on his left ankle, and play had to stop while he recovered (there were no substitutes for either team). He was hobbled, but stayed on the field. Two minutes later, he dropped back to the ground, as both legs were cramping up on him and he couldn't continue to play. His team played the remaining time down to only 10 (the other team's coach chose not to pull a player to keep the contest even).
The final score was 6-3.
This is the first time since Victor was 4 that I haven't been his coach (for outdoor soccer), and I'm finding it an odd experience. I have to keep my mouth shut when his coaches are giving instructions, and it took everything I had not to run out onto the field when Victor went down. I appreciate not having to run practices and putting up with parents who (er, like me) think they know better than the coach. It's a learning experience.
As an expatriate Brit, I should be ashamed to admit that I know next to nothing about cricket. It wasn't a game we played in my home town. As a result, I actually learned something from Cricket for Baseball Players.
The local Minneapolis radio station KFAN has a useful site for Vikings information, including some photos taken at the developmental camps run last week and this week:
It might surprise you to find one of the Samizdata bloggers singing the praises of one of the bids for the right to hold the 2012 Olympic Games:
There is clearly everything to play for in a contest which is far from over and, despite all the predictions to the contrary, London is still in with an excellent chance of winning the right to stage the Games. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to impose upon my fellow contributors and our readers and ask them to join with me in grand effort to get behind the Olympic bid. The Paris Olympic bid, that is.
The amount of money that is wasted by cities and nations in pursuit of the right to host Olympic games is truly staggering. This is a good way to boost the careers of politicians and depress the incomes of taxpayers, for all bidders in general, but especially for the "winners".
The new owner of the Vikings has floated a trial balloon about building an open-air stadium to replace the current Metrodome. John Holler would recommend that this idea be abandoned:
Zygi Wilf's recent (and rare) comment about owning the Vikings included his statement that he's not locked into having a domed stadium. In fact, Uncle Zygi would prefer an open-air stadium. He believes it would add to the mystique of the Minnesota football experience. My advice? Be careful what you ask for, because, simply stated, Vikings fans aren't that tough anymore.
I know from where I speak on this matter because, like many Vikings fans too young to be termed a Baby Boomer and too old to be tagged as Generation X (I guess that makes me Generation XL), I attended Vikings game at the old Met Stadium. Not the games where the weather was gorgeous in September or in the crisp autumn winds of October or even the chilling temperatures of November. No, I was lucky enough to get tickets for games in December. Why? Because season ticket holders wouldn’t go and plenty of good seats — if there ever were good seats for watching football games at the Met — were still available.
[. . .]
This belief that the Vikings would somehow recreate the glory of yesteryear by returning to an outdoor stadium has been promoted by and large by people who never actually had to sit in those seats year in and year out. Sure, they can spout some pathetic Garrison Keillor-type rhetoric about the Spartan existence of Minnesotans, but that’s a crock. The same people that used to freeze their butts off ice fishing now have heated fish houses with TVs and reels that announce when a fish has been stupid enough to swallow their bait. The same goes for an outdoor stadium. Build it and the suits won’t come in December.
I've attended NFL games in three stadiums: Detroit's Silverdome in November, Buffalo's Ralph Wilson stadium in late December, and Toronto's own Skydome (a snoozer of an exhibition game between the Browns and Patriots, back in 1993). The Silverdome was great, comfortable, with excellent views of the field (but the hometeam won, unfortunately). Ralph Wilson Stadium was one of the coldest, windiest places I've ever experienced. I barely remember the game, it was so cold. The Vikings won, which helped me to feel there was some purpose in me being there, but I've never seriously considered visiting again. Brrrrrrr.
Except for those folks who worship the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, the rest of the NFL has been steadily moving toward indoor stadiums — and for damned good reasons, too!
Peter King, of Sports Illustrated, writes:
Mike Florio of profootballtalk.com has nicknamed new Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf "Triple Word Score.'' I mean, that's the best nickname for anyone in football, ever.
Some folks like to argue that professional sports teams bring business to their hometowns and that, in return, those cities should subsidize the teams. This Jacob Sullum post quotes New York Times columnist Bob Herbert to show just how expensive this little pecadillo can get:
The rail yards on which the stadium would be built are owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the development rights have been valued by the M.T.A.'s own appraisers at $923 million. But the M.T.A. has agreed to sell the rights to this publicly owned property to Mr. Johnson and the Jets for a mere $250 million. That's a subsidy of nearly $700 million for the mayor's fabulously wealthy buddy.
When you add that subsidy to the $600 million in public funds that the mayor and the governor had pledged from the beginning to hand to [billionaire Jets owner Robert Wood Johnson IV], we're talking about a giveaway of $1.3 billion. The rascals used to do this sort of thing in back rooms, while worrying about headlines, indictments and handcuffs. Now they've figured out how to do it legally...
I guess we should all be happy that the Canadian government didn't have any more professional sports franchise owners to subsidize.
As mentioned before, Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith is under investigation for evading NFL drug testing (and he's a repeat offender for marijuana use). Nick Gillespie looks to see who actually benefits:
So that leaves only one suspect: The folks behind The Original Whizzinator, who have gained arguably the greatest product placement since Reese's Pieces were gobbled up by E.T. faster than he drank whatever brand of beer he guzzled to comedic effect in the worst highest-grossing flick of all time.
We salute you, Whizzinator makers, not for the product you have created (about which we know nothing personally) but for the placement you have made.
[F]ootball isn't really a sport in America. It's a religion. Almost every single game is played on a Saturday (college) or Sunday (NFL), which, for a Judeo-Christian country, means it's played on the Sabbath. Accordingly, families come to a standstill when football is on. Tumbleweeds roll through usually busy towns. If anything squares with America's reputation as a bunch of religious kooks, our faith in football is it.
Jonathan David Morris, "Our National Pastime?", Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-04-23
I've been coaching youth soccer teams since Victor was 4 (his first soccer coach quit when her son stopped wanting to play), so I'm on a few soccer-related mailing lists. One of those lists must have shared my email address with other lists, because I sometimes get soccer spam from certain groups and companies. One of those is the San Andreas Youth Soccer Organization.
San Andreas is a little bit out of the way for me, so there's no benefit to me getting emails from them about tryouts, referee clinics, and tournaments (3,000 miles and an international boundary is more than enough barrier, I'd think). At the bottom of their mailings, they offer a "one-click" removal from their mailing list.
But it isn't really one-click. You click the link, it pops up an email message which you then have to send. But wait, it's not over yet: the recipient has signed up with a spam-filtering service, so my message (asking him to not send me spam) has generated another email message from them. My original message has been put into a waiting bin until I click yet another link to open another web page to confirm that I really want to send it to him, that I'm not sending him spam, and agree to their terms and conditions. Then it will allow my email to be delivered to him.
All this, to get unsubscribed from a mailing list I never subscribed to in the first place. Aarrgghh!
Posting will resume after my brief foray into badminton tournament-land: the Lindsay club's annual open tournament. There are five teams (two men and two women per team) attending from the Bowmanville Badminton Club. Of that five, we are acknowledged to be the weakest team. I expect a lot of low-scoring games today . . .
Matt Welch claws the eyes out of those billionaire welfare bums, the football team owners:
But These Welfare Queens Are Manly!
The state of New Jersey has finally spread 'em wide enough for football's "New York" Giants to accept building a new $750 million stadium in the swampy Meadowlands. Battered-wife quote of the day goes to acting Joisy Governor Richard Codey: "This will be the best deal for the taxpayers of any stadium deal in the NFL."
On a soccer coaching list I subscribe to, a link to this San Diego Union Tribune article was posted. It's another call for action in sports:
Let's stop tolerating all abusive coaches
By Mike Giuliano
He yelled profanities at our kids. He called them names. He became a serious challenge to the development of their self-esteem. He was spiteful toward them. He was downright mean to them.
And we paid him many thousands of dollars to do all of this to our sons and daughters.
I know, scores of columnists and talk-show hosts have lamented the sorry state of youth coaching in our society. They scare us with stories of abuse, both physical and mental, all in the name of winning. And yet, every week, I hear and see scores and scores of atrocities that don't make it on the talk-show circuit.
And off we go, wringing the consciences of parents and grandparents reading the article. And it does address an issue that should bother the readers. Abuse of this type has no place in amateur sport:
Last summer I attended a high-powered club tournament in the East. I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness a coach in the middle of a halftime meltdown. With sweat streaming down his face, he proceeded to direct a profanity-laced assault at almost every player on the team. To win this tournament meant scholarships for all of them to major colleges, he screamed, adding that their uninspired play was sure to sicken the recruiters, just as it sickened him. On and on he went, and yet the parents of the players sat nearby through it all, straining to hear with one ear while exchanging chatter about the latest community gossip with the other.
This is a bit different, however, from the image the writer conjured up in the opening of the article. Had the coach been abusing a team of pre-teens, this would be totally unacceptable to anyone (I would hope). A team of college-scholarship-bound athletes is quite a different group of people with strong goal-orientation and (I would also hope) the ability to take criticism. This example shows an over-the-top coach, but I've certainly endured similar rants from bosses in some of my early jobs and I was not a highly trained soccer star.
The author also waves that wonderful "self esteem" flag, but that's a rant for another time.
I think we may be going too far to attempt to protect our kids from the real world by making even their most competitive environments less challenging (the "Nerf"-ing of kids' lives). How much of a shock is the real world going to be to someone who's never been exposed to the good and the bad of real personal conflicts outside the home?
I'm far from recommending that every kid be put through an old-style boot camp complete with Drill Instructors and obstacle courses: although, for some, that'd be a very valuable learning experience. What I am trying to point out is that extending the comfortable, as-stress-free-as-humanly-possible environment of the daycare into the late teenage years is probably the worst thing you can do to your kids in the way of preparing them to cope with real life.
Wow. You guys are like Dan Rather — you don't just announce news, you make news, and have news hit you like a falling piano.
Seriously, you should have your own cable channel — a combination of ESPN, Court TV and the Cartoon Network.
[. . .]
Thursday, Tice admitted to CNNSI.com that he scalped Super Bowl tickets, days after an anonymous tipster (I don't know who it is, but he's hitting Tice a lot harder than he ever hit Brett Favre) sold him out to the NFL.
Jim Souhan, "E-mailing d-back has struck again", Star Tribune, 2005-03-11
Just as the Vikings seemed to be moving into a better phase, having signed former Redskin cornerback Fred Smoot and re-signing tight end Jermaine Wiggins, a new scandal breaks. This time it's the head coach, Mike Tice, being accused of scalping Superbowl tickets.
While I strongly hope that this is not true, part of me would not be surprised to find that there's something to it. It's been reported that players and assistant coaches are notorious for reselling their Superbowl tickets, and that just about every team has some involvement. A head coach being involved in this is just plain ludicrous, but Tice is the worst-paid head coach in the league (many assistant coaches are better paid), which makes the accusation a bit more believable for the reporters.
As with so many other financial scandals, it's not really a surprise to find that people try to get away with shenanigans of this sort, it's that they do it for such relatively tiny amounts of money. The worst-paid player in the NFL is earning $300,000 per year: even to a league-minimum-wage player, the $2-3,000 payoff for scalping tickets is peanuts, especially as the IRS is the organization most interested in tracking down this sort of activity.
Nick Coleman (yes, that Nick Coleman) has a good column on the new owner of the Vikings:
But while the football czars wait to see if Fowler's $625 million check clears the bank, we might as well get started on educating Mr. Fowler about his new state, which he admits knowing very little about.
Acknowledging ignorance puts him miles ahead of the outgoing owner of the Vikings, Red McCombs, the San Antonio tire kicker who leaves us after seven years as miserably ignorant of our customs as when he arrived. He also leaves about half a billion richer than when he came here, which is a pretty good endorsement for the idea of studied stupidity: If staying dumb as a post is worth that much money, old Red deserves some respect.
Coleman also offers a list of survival tips, including:
1) Stay away from the State Capitol. That's the big building with the mules on top in St. Paul, which is a hockey town and which is where millionaire football and baseball owners end up mumbling to themselves and looking like they have escaped from a padded room. If, on some occasion, common courtesy requires you to be introduced to a legislator, stay alert: If he puts an arm around you, don't leave without checking for your wallet.
3) Find a nanny for Randy Moss. A big, mean nanny who can put him to bed without his supper when he acts up. A better option: Get rid of him.
14) Stay out of the locker room unless they ask for more towels or cold champagne is being sprayed.
15) Tell Daunte Culpepper not to lend his car to anyone.
21) Don't ever mention Red McCombs. Or Denny Green.
[A]ll the great football songs are by Americans — Rodgers and Hammerstein ("You'll Never Walk Alone") and Livingston and Evans, whose "Que Sera, Sera" has a British lyric of endearing directness:
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
(Repeat until knife fight)
Mark Steyn, "Hyperpower", Daily Telegraph, 2002-06-22
The SuperBowl is over (and it wasn't a blow-out, thank goodness), so this is a bit past its best-before date:
Now, any discussion on Philadelphia sports must, of course, start with the passion of the fans. So let me tell you upfront: Eagles fans aren't just passionate; they are out of their goddam minds. This is not a casual observation (though, rest assured, I've seen it myself several times), but rather an accepted fact of life in the greater Philadelphia area. Moreover, it's a badge of honor. Eagles fans know they're out of their goddam minds. And they know that you know it. They wouldn't have it any other way.
Eagles fever goes beyond mere fandom. It's a medical condition. It belongs in the DSM-IV. To say that folks take the Birds seriously is a serious understatement. You're not allowed to root for other teams around here. You're not even allowed to not like football. But as overwhelming as this may seem, it isn't off-putting. It's hard not to get swept up in the spirit of things.
It's often said that football games are taken as metaphors for the success or failure of groups; that if a football team wins, those who root for the team think this is an omen their lives will go well, while a loss is seen as a bad portent. But why are football games seen as omens? Because so many people are involved. It is impossible to field a football team without a lot of people working together cooperatively. In that, football is like real life and engages emotions in a way other sports do not. A basketball team can win if one star throws in 50 points; a baseball team can win if one slugger hits two home runs; a football team simply cannot win unless everyone cooperates. This makes football a metaphor of the larger world, where for the typical person, everyday life is a cooperative effort.
Gregg Easterbrook, "Why football is the most emotional sport, and there she is, Miss Cue!", NFL.com, 2005-01-11
This is an interesting twist. Apparently the NFL made a rule change in 1995 to make some of the mandatory protective gear that players had to wear optional. This has had some predictable results:
That's funny right there (as John Madden might say). Changing a rule because people are breaking it? Aren't these the ones you're supposed to enforce? Funnier still: this from the NFL, a league normally incapable of administrative flexibility.
Players are now wearing the "bare minimum:" no knee, thigh, kidney, elbow, or forearm pads.
Their motive? Speed, baby, speed. In a brilliant explication, Antuan Edwards, Rams safety, says "The game is so fast, you want to be as light as possible. You feel a difference. At least you want to think you feel a difference."
The game is speeding up. Players are obliged to follow suit, both actually and psychologically.
The amazing thing is that this rule change does not seem to have resulted in more, or more severe, injuries. Or (and perhaps this is the key point) it has done so, but it has not been reported as a result of the rule change. After all, football is already a career with a very short working life (most players are out of the league within a few years of being signed), and injuries are part and parcel of the deal.
I love football (Go Vikings!), but you have to wonder at the way the league balances the risks to their players of rule changes like this: make the game more exciting, but increase the risk of losing your marquee players to injury. In these days of the effective salary cap, most teams are one serious injury away from a losing season.
The Vikings dropped another winnable game, this time to the Chicago Bears. Twin-City area idiots have already been screaming for Daunte Culpepper's head on a platter (after all, he's not doing as well as Peyton Manning, so he's terrible, right? Only 30 TDs against 10 INTs). Damian Penny indulges in a bit of happiness for his team. At least the damned Packers didn't win either, so the NFC North is still up for grabs.
In happier, local news, my son kept his indoor soccer scoring streak alive for another week, blasting in a penalty shot to help his team to a 5-1 win on Saturday. This is now seven straight games with a goal (he has eight in total: no goal in the opening game, but a pair in the second). He's also the only player on his team to score on penalties.
My hometown football (soccer to North Americans) team, Middlesbrough, doesn't play until later today, so no updates there yet.
Update: Boro beat Manchester City 3-2 at the Riverside. Goals by Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for Boro, Robbie Fowler and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Boro retains its hold on fifth spot in the Premiership.
Damian Penny reviews Mike Freeman's Bloody Sundays, a book about the NFL:
In the end, after airing much of the NFL's dirty laundry, Freeman's love for the sport remains obvious. He even ends Bloody Sundays with "99 reasons why football is better than baseball," most of which are true, and some of which are quite funny. ("Baseball has purists. Purists are whiners pining about the good old days before wild-card playoff games and the time when those damn colored folk had their own league.")
For anyone with even the slightest interest in America's real national pastime, Bloody Sundays is an essential read.
Well, I'll certainly be looking to pick this one up. Thanks for the review, Damian!
[. . .] a Jets Super Bowl win (may Dad and I live that long) will not be followed by urban anarchy. In fact I suspect that the morning after a Jets championship, Gang Green fans will sit around and lament that A) how Paul Hackett's [or insert unpopular coach's name here] play calling nearly cost them the win; B) now the team is in terrible position for next year's draft; C) how hard it is to repeat as champions; and D) how every other team will try to sign away our players in free agency. The Russian-level-fatalism is hardwired into our DNA.
My home town team hosted Liverpool yesterday, coming up with a big home win. Final score Boro 2 Liverpool Nil, with goals by Chris Riggott and Bolo Zenden. Boro retains their hold on fourth-place in the Premiership.
To start the rout, England's rugby team utterly destroyed the Canadian team by a score of 70-0. Later on Saturday, my son's indoor soccer team lost 4-3 on a last-second goal after a very hard-fought, physical game (Victor got the opening goal for his team). Then, to cap off the weekend the Minnesota Vikings lost 34-31 at Lambeau Field with yet another last-second score by the Packers.
The only sporting bright spot this weekend was my home-town team won 2-1 at West Brom to move into fourth spot in the Premiership.
Yesterday's game between the New York [Frost] Giants and Odin's sad-sack bunch of Valhallan rejects, the Minnesota Vikings was, unfortunately, broadcast in the Toronto area. Which meant I got to see almost every embarrassing moment of the game. Ugh.
It was such a bad game, that when I was handing out Halloween candy that night, one of the kids who came to the door saw my Vikings jersey and sympathized with me for the outcome of the game.
In spite of the 34-13 score, the Giants didn't dominate the game or look particularly unstoppable; the Vikings were their own worst enemies in almost every aspect of the game. From idiotic penalties, bone-headed plays, and sleepwalking players to the complete disappearance of the running game (Mewelde Moore, who'd been amazing for the last three games, became a liability before halftime).
Randy Moss was again a non-factor, although he nearly managed to catch a TD pass from Daunte Culpepper before leaving the game permanently in the second quarter. The other Vikings receivers all seemed to have bad cases of dropsies, as passes just failed to stay put in their hands. About the only bright spot for the Vikings was the return to action of running back Michael Bennett, who scored the first Vikings points late in the second half on a 10-yard TD run.
Vikings coach Mike Tice opened his postgame remarks this way: "I've just been given the good news from today: the Giants are not on our schedule next year, thank God."
My son's indoor soccer season started today, and his team won their opener 9-3, and Victor got three assists (the most he's ever had in a game, indoors or outdoors). His team looked quite good for a first outing, and he played a very good game. Parental pride; Wunnerful stuff. ;-)
Middlesbrough took full advantage of Blackburn's Tugay being sent off, leaving his team at only 10 players for the bulk of the game. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored a hattrick in the victory. Details here.
For those of you unfamiliar with soccer, a 4-0 game is roughly equivalent to a 28-0 score in the NFL (being an away game for the Boro, it might be more like a 35-0 equivalent score). The win moves Boro up to fifth place in the league tables.
This article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune gives an example of how the mysterious Passer Rating is calculated for NFL quarterbacks:
- Percentage of completions: 324 of 461 is 70.28 percent. Subtract 30 from the completion percentage (40.28) and multiply the result by 0.05. The result is a point rating of 2.014. (Note: If the result is less than zero (Comp. pct. less than 30.0), award zero points. If the results are greater than 2.375 (Comp. pct. greater than 77.5), award 2.375.)
- Average yards gained per attempt: 3,969 yards divided by 461 attempts is 8.61. Subtract three yards from yards-per-attempt (5.61) and multiply the result by 0.25. The result is 1.403. (Note: If the result is less than zero (yards per attempt less than 3.0), award zero points. If the result is greater than 2.375 (yards per attempt greater than 12.5), award 2.375 points.)
- Percentage of touchdown passes: 35 touchdowns in 461 attempts is 7.59 percent. Multiply the touchdown percentage by 0.2. The result is 1.518. (Note: If the result is greater than 2.375 (touchdown percentage greater than 11.875), award 2.375.)
- Percentage of interceptions: 10 interceptions in 461 attempts is 2.17 percent. Multiply the interception percentage by 0.25 (0.542) and subtract it from the the percentage of TD passes (2.375). The result is 1.833. (Note: If the result is less than zero (interception percentage greater than 9.5), award zero points.)
The sum of the four steps (2.014 + 1.403 + 1.518 + 1.833) is 6.768. The sum is then divided by six (1.128) and multiplied by 100. In this case, the result is 112.8.
A fair criticism of the passer rating is that it doesn't include things like rushing (which would benefit scrambling QBs like Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, and Donovan McNabb), fumbles (which would work to the detriment of Culpepper), and offensive systems (a pass-happy offensive scheme will yield much more dazzling numbers than a ground-control scheme).
To be said in favour: given what it measures, it's a pretty good guideline as long as it's not assumed to carry more information than pure passing. It's been in use for long enough that every active quarterback in the NFL can be compared to every other QB on a fair basis (what Brett Favre brings to the table can't be easily captured in a graph or table, for example)
Culpepper shredded last season's top-ranked defense for a career-high five touchdown passes, spread out to four different receivers. The Vikings amassed 415 yards in only 54 plays, an average of 7.7 yards per play. "[We] went from No. 1 to No. 32 in one day." said a dazed Bill Parcells, the Cowboys coach.
And the downside of it all? The game wasn't televised in our area, so all I got to see was a quick replay of Onterrio Smith's touchdown reception from Culpepper.
I've been coaching a boys Under-13 soccer team this summer. It's been fun: I had a great bunch of lads to work with. Our record wasn't stunning, due to unfortunate absences at critical games (5 wins, 1 tie, 8 losses) as families went off on vacation or boys went to camp for a week or two. We're just into our playoff round-robin series now.
We lost our opening game against a technically weaker team because some of our best players were off at hockey try-outs. Yes, this is the real reason why Canada will never challenge the rest of the world at soccer: it's not an important game for us. Soccer is what our kids play when it's too hot to keep the ice cold down at the arena.
And I'm not a true Canadian because I don't follow hockey. No bitterness here, I assure you.
Mutter, mumble, grumble, mutter.
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