Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday My Little Pony


Saturday Jazz

Featuring my new old discovery, Queen of the B3, Shirley Scott. Also featuring Stanley Turrentine. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

RIP Charles Booth

Aussie Charles Booth passed away without a lot of folks noticing--it's been a week now, and I've only seen it mentioned in one little throwaway email newsletter that I get. There's no wikipedia entry for him (yet, Scrappy Doo has an entry), But Charles Booth is one of the most influential men in the history of sports, particularly track and field.

The Daily Telegraph tells the story:

In the 1920s runners shared their track with racing dogs. They would dig their feet into the earth to start the race, leaving holes that would injure the dogs.

"The dog owners started complaining,'' Charlie Booth's son and last surviving relative, Neville, said. "He then got into a bit of trouble with his father because he was digging holes in the front yard to make a mark.''

In 1921 he took a T-bar and two halves of a four inch block of redgum wood and fixed the problem, but Charles Booth created a few more of his own.

That's right--Charles Booth invented starting blocks. Someone invented starting blocks--and he lived in my lifetime--I find that very surprising. Starting blocks are such an intrinsic part of running track that it is hard to imagine that there was a time when they weren't used. Of course, Booth was running at a time when dogs shared the track, and hurdles were made out of stone and metal. Clearly, track & field has advanced in any number of ways in the technological department since its early days. But the basic design of starting blocks haven't undergone much radical change since Booth dreamed them up, to avoid angerin' his dad.

The change of dynamic that blocks bring to any race under 800 meters is hard to quantify, but I can say having run some sprints in my day that knowing how to come out of the blocks is a skill set all to itself. Races can be decided on that factor alone.

Booth didn't rest on his innovatin' laurels, apparently, spending a good chunk of his life (almost all of his life) working and training with other athletes, including some big time names. (the article specifically mentions tennis great Arthur Ashe). The article also paints a portrait of a pretty fun loving guy, who just happened to help modernize the sport he loved. We salute you, Charles Booth. Please join fellow forgotten innovator Parry O'Brien is the Hall of Pretty Awesome Soundin' Track Guys Who Did Cool Shit.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

McHale high on Kevin Love? NOOOOO!

But that's the word from DraftExpress. They actually use the phrase "locked in", as in McHale is locked in on Love as his favorite player. That is no good, man, no good at all.

DraftExpress points out that "many" would consider Love a reach with the #3 pick. I'd amend that to say, "erveryone would consider Love a huge fucking reach. Why on earth would the Timberwolves draft the one position, the absolutely only position at which they have a guaranteed star in the making in power forward Al Jefferson? There isn't a single player starting for the Wolves who could not be potentially replaced by a player in the this draft.

DraftExpress also reported rumors about trading the #3 to Memphis, which would only be moving down two spots. If McHale wants Love, he should be looking to drop about 10 places at least. And even then, I don't see how picking a power forward/ undersized center makes any sense in this draft, not if actually improving the team is the goal.

Of course, this is all anonymous sourcing and rumor-mongering, and with luck, nothing will come of it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Experts are Important

I was perusing websites, looking for insights into potential 2008 NBA draft sleeper players, and happened upon this piece in the ESPN/Dick Vitale (College Basketball "ambassador", apparently) from the 2005 Draft.

I have to admit that I started this post with a belief that Dickie V's sleepers were going to be crap, but the more I research, the more it is a bit of a mixed bag--his predicted 2nd rounders sometimes ended up in the first round, and he definitely has at least one definite loser in the mix, but for the most part, you know, I can't complain too much about these "sleepers", beyond the rather obvious complaining I do below.

Let's look at Dickie V's Sleepers from 2005

1. Luther Head. You may remember him as part of the 3-headed guard attack of the badass Illinois team from a few years back (along with Deron Williams and Dee Brown). Dick predicted he'd go in the second round, but actually squeaked into the first round thanks to some workouts (and maybe some residual kicking of the pants over how good Gilbert Arenas had turned out, who has similar doubts about his ability to play the pro game). Luther Head is now a reasonably successful backup guard for the Houston Rockets, averaging almost 8 points in almost 20 minutes a game. We'll give Dickie a Push there, as he was predicting sleepers that would be successful, not first-rounders.

2. Jarrett Jack. One of the sweet-ass guards to come play for the Wramblin' Wreck of GA Tech. I loved that kid's game in college, and had I read Dickie V's article when it was first published, I would have thought, "Oh, way to go out on a limb. He's only one of the best guards in the ACC, on a team that isn't very good." Admittedly, I'm a sucker for cool names, but I don't think the NBA Draft Rooms are, and they all agreed with me, as he was drafted 22nd overall (not exactly a 2nd round sleeper) and has been with the Portland Trailblazers since being traded on draft night. This past regular season, Jack averaged almost 10 points a game, almost 3 boards, and almost four assists and played significant minutes for an up and coming Blazer team. I'm not even willing to call Jack a Push. That was clearly Dickie V cheating, getting a rather sure thing into his Sleepers column.

3. David Lee. Hey, a Second Rounder! (just barely). Finally. Lee played at Florida, helping establish the team that Billy Donovan built there. He had the misfortune of being drafted by the Knicks. But this past year in particular, he's been one of the few things for the Knicks to be optimistic about. Averaging almost a double-double off the bench, Lee may be one of those unlikely saviors of a franchise that looks about 3 years from righting the ship, but with the money to make it one year, if they know what to do. It seems David Lee may fall into the mold of another white boy power forward who I didn't think would do anything, but quietly has, year in, year out, Matt Harpring.

4. Wayne Simien. Here is where the wheels come off a bit. Wayne Simien was a bad ass at Kansas, no doubt. Dick says, "Simien is a winner who can play in the NBA for years to come." That ended up being the polar opposite of the truth. Three years after being drafted, Simien isn't in the league, even after being traded to a team like the Timberwolves, desperate for young talent. Mark Madsen was deemed more likely to contribute than Wayne Simien and that says everything. Injuries and disease (52 games because of a salmonella infection?) limited his chances to impress. Maybe there is a second act in Simien's basketball career. But he will be plying his trade in Europe for a few years before any NBA team gives him a sniff.

5. Salim Stoudamire. Another player drafted just out of the first round (31st overall). An Arizona sharpshooter, cousin to former NBA guard Damon Stoudamire, everything about this kid suggested he could play in the NBA--and apparently, he can. He's been with the Hawks since he was drafted, putting up numbers that are steadily declining--down to under 6 points a game after being near 10 points a game his rookie campaign. More worrisome, both his FG and 3point FG have declined since his rookie year, too. In this past season, he hit 36% of his shots. Not what one looks for in a shooting guard. In the space of 3 years, he's gone from valuable role player to Easily Replaceable Role Player (Josh Childress may have something to do with that).

So to review. Dickie V's sneaky sleeper 2nd round picks of the 2005 Draft--two of them ended up in the first round, and are performing well, two are barely holding on to the NBA or are out the league completely.

David Lee wins this battle of Actual Sleeper who is perfoming well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chad Ford's Chance of Failing Statistics: 134%

While I like to think of myself as a pretty much forgive and forget kind of guy, I do have some issues that bring out the worst in me. Whether it is elderly meteorologists who think they are real scientists, misogynistic beer commercials, or sports columnists with a "funny"/racist take on soccer, I think my anger is pretty well justified.

I share an anger that I haven't had much cause to bother with here on this sportsblog, which is the horrible misuse of basic concepts of words. "Literally" comes springing to mind, and the kind of abuse heaped upon that word may cause fellow blogger Andrew Wice to swoop in, swinging an OED, and singing the angry parts of the Carmina Burana.

With that in mind, I have to say, editors, and Chad Ford in particular, Good Fucking God, you raised my fucking hackles with this ridiculous lede:

"The city was abuzz Wednesday morning, fresh off the news that the Bulls had done the impossible -- winning the draft lottery despite having just a 1.7 percent chance."

A fourteen year old could tell you what is so wrong about that sentence. As a writer, as a man who operates in the lingua franca of the fucking language, certainly, Chad, some bell rang in the distant corners of your language center, or your logic center, or at least there were echoes in the cerebellum, yeah?

You simply can not call something "impossible" in the exact same sentence that you put forth the fucking odds. That is unacceptable. Clearly, the Impossible had an almost 2% chance of being possible. What the fuck is that, Chad? What new math are you slinging, sir?

Your usage of the word "impossible" to describe an almost 2% (roughly, 1 in 50, let's say) chance now relegates the following things into the realm of impossibility: flipping a coin "Heads" six times in a row; any random finalist of the Miss America pagaent winning; some horse named "Stinky Pete" winning a race, etc, etc.

It's one thing to call something that has clearly happened "impossible"--I understand poetic license and all that. But to include the odds in the same exact same sentence? That's just fucking stupid.

Most galling? All it took was a modifier, like "seemingly" or "almost", or "for intents and purposes" to make the word "impossible" an OK word to use. Or, someone, anyone could have said, "how about 'improbable', seeing as something has a 1.7% chance, it isn't impossible." Winning the lottery isn't impossible, after all--it is highly, highly, highly unlikely (another word that could have been used) but it isn't impossible. And the chances of winning the PowerBall is a (by a factor of hundreds if not thousands) less probable than winning a 1:50 Game. Stoopid, Chad Ford, STOOPID. God Hates Stoopid like this.

that said, the piece does do a nice job of profiling some of my favorite guard/forwards going into the draft, and I found it a good read, once I washed the foul ridiculousness of the first graf out of my brain.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Oliver (throat clearing) KAHHHHHNNNNNN!

On Saturday, German Goalie/Evil Mensch/ Bad Ass Oliver Kahn will play his last professional game.

For non-soccer fans, this will of course elicit the typical response of "Who? What? Germans?" But for those of us in the know, this is a major retirement. Oliver Kahn is simply one of the best goalies in the World in the last generation or so.

Yahoo's Kevin Fylan sums up Kahn's achievements:

The 38-year-old, who moved to Bayern from his home town club Karlsruhe in 1994, retires after winning his eighth Bundesliga championship and sixth German Cup.

He was man of the match in the Champions League final victory over Valencia in 2001, was named best player of the World Cup in 2002 and world goalkeeper of the year three times.

Americans, like yours truly may say, "Yes, World Cup player of 2002--when he stoned the fucking Americans including a Tony Sanneh header that should have won the fucking game! That bastard! KAHN! KAAHHHHNNNNN!"

The Bundesliga isn't what it once was, but Kahn's achievements there are still impressive. After he retires, he will still get a dozen offers from teams playing in the top flights of their nations. I'm certain there are teams in England or Italy or Spain that could use an Oliver Kahn.

What made him special? Goalkeeper in soccer is unlike just about any position in sports. Hockey goalies experience some of the same thing, but so much of their play is reaction, and whilst soccer goalkeeping has that, it is a good deal more complicated as well. Soccer goalies are rarely praised for kick saves.

Kahn had almost preternatural quickness. His penalty kick saves, for example, show him jumping off his line diagonally with force you would not imagine someone could generate from a dead stop. Kahn organized a German defense that was at times brilliant, and at times fairly substandard. He took young, inexperienced defenders, and made them a quality backstop. You have to have played soccer to know what it means to a backline to have a confident goalie barking orders, and pushing the defense to shut down the attack in the right way. Germans are, by nature, organized, so the stereotype goes. Kahn made that bit of cultural legend ridiculously true. When Kahn was in goal, you didn't get many opportunities to beat his defense.

And when you did, you were dealing with a keeper who was quick, aggressive, and knew where you were shooting before you did. Kahn was (and really, is) one of the best readers of body language in soccer. I honestly can't think of a better stopper of the ball in Europe over the past 20 years than Oliver Kahn. You can argue for a couple of Americans, and a lanky Dutchman, but Kahn was the standard.

See below, bitte. Das ist einen Futtballspieler!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Some People Haven't Seen This?:

I know miwacar hasn't. We'll oblige. Enjoy Bill O'Reilly freaking over the very concept of the phrase, "To play us out..." Langauge is NSFW, unless your boss doesn't mind liberal f-bombs. And by "liberal" I mean "easy use of" not "Left-wing politically."

Friday, Fuckers

Celebrate with Ba Bodenkirk delivering a monologue as God, if the Almighty talked and acted like super-producer Robert Evans, made famous by the documentary "The Kid Stays in the Picture". Just the idea is sick and twisted and brilliant. The execution is Odenkirkiey.

Good news lads - looks like they set the bar low.

Premature ejaculation has been defined. Thank you lead author Doctor Ira D. Sharlip. Hey, rearrange the letters of "Doctor Ira D. Sharlip" and you get "A Hard Clitoris Prod". Excellent.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Twins Win in the Ninth--Two Views

Mike Lamb came off the bench to drive in the RBI against Sox closer Papelbon. Those are the barest of facts. With those facts, one could read the game a lot of different ways.

There's Twins Beat Writer, La Velle Neal's take on it:

A lot of things have gone the wrong way for Twins third baseman Mike Lamb lately, such as his batting average and, consequently, his playing time.

Yet he stood in the clubhouse after Friday's 7-6 comeback victory over Boston, his ears ringing from teammates slapping him on the head, hoping his walk-off two-run single in the ninth against one of the best closers in baseball has relit his pilot.

And then there is fatty Patty Reusse:

That ugly fifth gave Boston a 6-5 lead and the Red Sox failed to add on, even with chances against relievers Juan Rincon in the sixth, Dennys Reyes in the eighth and Jesse Crain in the ninth.

Would it matter?

The Twins' last shot appeared to come in the sixth, when third base coach Scott Ullger got Young thrown out at the plate by a hefty margin on Adam Everett's second double.

Yes, the Twins were prepared to achieve the improbable -- losing when Everett, the lightest of hitters, had his annual game with more than one extra-base hit.

They had given away a handful of runs in the field, and they had killed a rally with Ullger's faulty arm-waving, and now Jonathan Papelbon was entering to preserve the victory for the defending champions of North American hardball.

Boy, hard to count all the cheap shots in those few paragraphs. Scotty Ullger made a huge mistake for waving home a speedster on a double in the late innings? Adam Everett had a good game, and he's slagged for it; the bullpen isn't given any credit for it's bend but not break innings, which they probably actually deserve credit for, seeing as they are one of the toughest bullpens in the Majors.

Hey, maybe Reusse is just a dick. Fat and lazy and a dick. Wow. That's some sort of trifecta that is to be proud of, I guess.

Friday, May 09, 2008

IDYFT Legitimized By The WWW

When IDYFT started, it was one man in a single-bedroom apartment scrawling his wits on the back of eviction notices. With the invention of the interweb, IDYFT has cleaved to the cutting edge of the technological revolution, repositioning itself for the global market. And at last, IDYFT has been legitimized by the World Wide Web itself, manifested in an otherwise salubrious interview with author Andrew Wice.

The interview, conducted by friend of IDYFT and Phillies fan Alexis Cairns, can be enjoyed in its entirety. It is a treasure chest of shiny delight, and here are highlights:

You also write for the irreverent sports blog, I Dislike Your Favorite Team. What is it about writing for the blog that you enjoy?

I Dislike Your Favorite Team was created by my college roommate. I love sports, especially football. I would trade all this pen and ink to be a professional defensive tackle.

The other contributors are by turns clever, funny and obnoxious. We are dispersed all over the country, and the blog allows us to entertain and ridicule each other as if we were together.

The number of people we've drawn into our reindeer games is shocking. If each one of them were to buy one copy of my novel ...

Recently, you switched from using a pseudonym ("Badcock") to blogging under your real name. Given that I Dislike Your Favorite Team's content -- yours especially -- is not G-rated (one commenter lovingly referred to it as "filthy"), have you had any second thoughts about revealing your identity?

I was convinced by a friend to use my real name because of the startling number of people who visit the site. Self-promotion isn't my strength, so it seemed like an easy way to steer some traffic towards the To The Last Drop website.

As for the nature of my sometimes profane posts, it's nothing that I wouldn't say in person or in one of my novels. My sense of humor has always tilted toward the dark side. That's where all the funny stuff seems to be.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What an Odd Twins Game

Last night, the Twins almost got no-hit; tonight they exploded for 13 runs on 16 hits. Getting that many hits isn't actually a shock. As the totally awesome announcing crew of Bremer and Blyleven pointed out, the Twins tend to get at least 10 hits after getting one-hit.

Things that don't normally happen after getting one-hit include winning the next game (they looked to my bare eyeball to be roughly .500, even with at least 10 hits), or getting 5 RBI's from Nick Punto (which simply never happens) or a rookie hitting for the cycle, as Carlos Gomez did.

How rare is it for a Twin to hit for the Cycle? You have to go back to Kirby Puckett, before he had even one World Series ring--1986, for fuck's sake. Gomez went 4-6, with 2 strikeouts, though to be fair, his last strikeout came after he had hit for the cycle, and had come up to bat for the second time in the 9th, with the Twins leading 13-0. Can one blame him for flailing a bit? I can't.

Carlos Gomez, of course, part of the Santana trade. The idiots who comment on The Star Tribune are already saying, "oops, I guess this was a good trade. This guy hit for the cycle."

It was a good trade, but not because Gomez hit for the cycle on one night. It was a good trade because Santana was asking for money that only 3 franchises were willing to pay, and the Twins got good value in return, Carlos Gomez being one of those guys, who'd still rather bunt than swing, regardless of tonight. It was a good trade, but not on the basis of an admittedly historic night.

Of course, it would be easy, on the night that Carlos Gomez hit for the cycle (something that Torii Hunter, never, ever did) to pull some random quote from Patrick Reusse decrying the trade that sent Santana to the Mets, that gave the Twins Gomez, and room to sign veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez. Because it is easy, I will do so:

He's 22, he's played in the big leagues, he's the key to the trade, the Twins don't have another center fielder worth mentioning, and Gomez isn't a cinch to be the regular?

If he's not in center on March 31, and on merit, then the Twins waited seven weeks to make the worst deal possible.

Of course, Reusse positively draped is predictions in "ifs", but his argument is clear, yeah? If it isn't, I'll direct you here, where we discussed his freak-out in some detail. To be fair, though, the headline says it all--it was, "Waiting Game Works Perfectly...For the Mets."

Tell it to the Mets, fatty.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Shameless Plug

Here is a TV interview I did on "The W.V." a local ABQ show. Please enjoy me at your leisure. If there had been time, I would have liked to have talked about the NFL draft and Jason Campbell's transition to yet another offense. But that's show business.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Blogger Round Up: Scared Awake Edition

So I was playing a lightweight, somewhat entertaining Indiana Jones/Lara Croft rip-off in "Unchartered", when all of a sudden, for a few minutes, it became a goddamn horror survival game. Goddamnit! I don't rent those for a reason. The rain outside now sounds, to my ears, like the blood of my unlucky neighbors, who have been torn up by Zombie Cretin-Durham graduates (very tricky to tell the difference between living and undead Cretin-Durham graduates. Awwwww, SNAP!)

I should mention that earlier, Miwacar and I put the Champion's League Final through our most expensive computer simulation, and Manchester United will beat Chelsea 6-0. That's right. Of course, that computer simulation was FIFA 2008 on the PS3, and I was playing Manchester United. You may be asking, "Hey, BBM, was this just an opportunity to tell the world that you totally thrashed Miwacar in Video Game soccer?" Good question.

On to our fellow bloggers:

The Fan's Attic praises sportwomanship. I respectfully disagree. This is sportswomanship taken too far. If you can't make it around the bases, your homerun doesn't count. End of story. The other team should not carry you around the bases. Fan's Attic gets misty about the idea; I suspect the other team bet against themselves in Vegas, and are now enjoying a hefty payday.

The Beautiful Game is spreading the word: David Beckham will be on Sesame Street at some point this year. No truth to the rumor he'll use his normal speaking voice to play Elmo's distant English cousin. (He's got a funny voice, is what I'm saying here. High pitched, and squeaky, you see. Am I overexplaining it?)

10,000 Takes wants to know what will become of New Viking's Jared Allen's old KC charity, Marching Mullets. 10,000 Takes seems to think that suburban Twin Citian moms won't be able to handle so many mullets. But I say, keep in mind that many of those accomplished Twin Citians moms are just a generation removed from smalltown hockey towns, and are quite comfortable with big men (or small boys) with huge mullets. I know who should be leading this parade!

I've weighed in on the Sportpocalypse that was Bissinger vs. The Internet (Internet being represented by Will Leitch). Sports Couch Potato has as well (a man who actually has journalistic credits in his near past (though in fairness to ourselves, it should be noted that the IDYFT team has on its staff: a published novelist, a football player who has covered future NFL WR's, a lawyer who has studied labor law, and a guy who edited his High School Yearbook's index)). I particularly like the SCP's last graf:

The blanket indictment of bloggers as hacks reeks of sanctimony. There's a lot of earnest effort being put forth by well-meaning folks who are just as rabid about their sports as Bissinger or Wilbon. While we may not have the journalistic chops or inside access, we most definitely have the fervor. And isn't that what makes us all fans in the first place?

So, finally, we come to something that the Wilbons and Bissengers of the world could never ever give you. Via the comments section of the AV Club (the finest pop culture website ever), the most disturbing jazz/rock/70's Flute Album Cover:

Herbie Mann - Push Push

KG... you're so intense... boo hoo

Doc Rivers sucks (and should be fired immediately!), Ray Allen is now only (potentially) a good role player, and Paul Pierce hasn't stepped it up like he should. But the take home story about this post season is that Kevin Garnett is NOT a superstar, let alone a transcendent all time great. For years now, the popular narrative has been that Kevin McHale was simply too incompetent to put quality talent around the 'Big Ticket' and that he is the reason is that KG wasn't able to succeed in the playoffs. However anyone who has watched this playoffs thus far can't deny that no matter how many times KG headbutts the goalpost, or how many times he bellows loudly at his teammates, he isn't up to stopping the unstoppable. Namely the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the same Hawks that are the worst playoff team in the NBA, and a team that won less than 40 games this season. Go ahead 'ticket'... tell me about how important it is to play a team game... go ahead, tell me about how you just need to stay 'within' yourself.


Win a game.

You're a hall of famer... right?

All you need is a team around you... right?

Maybe being expected to be in the prohibitively tough Western Conference was a little too much to ask... right?

Cousin Brenda, cousin Brenda... whats it like to win in the playoffs?

Are you a goddamn $150 million role player? Or can you win a game, or (gasp!) a series, if its not a convenient fit to your style of play?

On the other hand, we'll always appreciate your intensity in pre-season games or as portrayed in one of those human interest pieces in Slam! magazine. Do you really want to win a game of bingo that much?!? That shit is dope.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Reason to Root for Manchester United

We hate a good many players on Manchester United. Christian Ronaldo is certainly at the top of the list. But we have always had a soft spot for some of the hard workers on the Man U squad, and no one belongs more at the top of that list, over the course of the last 15 years, than Ryan Giggs. We Love Giggsy!

But there have always been bigger names in the center, haven't there? Cantona, Cole, Yorke, Nistelrooy, Rooney, and assorted other pussies (to be clear: we are not calling Cantona a pussy--please don't fly to America and kick us in the sternum). And even when one throws away the various starting strikers that have benefitted from Giggsy's unselfish style, you still end up super subs like Gonjkaer.

But what about the man who manned that left wing for at least 15 years now? The man, who alongside Maldini and maybe Figo who has defied age the most in European soccer?

Let us celebrate one of Giggsy's finest runs and finishes, and keep in mind, this is almost 10 years old, and that he played with Cantona, and will play May 21, 2008. WE LOVE GIGGSY.

Champions League: Chelsea vs. Liverpool

It should be noted that nothing about the many, many games played against these two teams suggested an exciting game. Liverpool (and in fact, most EPL teams) haven't scored much or at all against Chelsea at home. Their last three or four games have been desultory affairs, with little scoring, and featured two teams determined to play defensive, boring football.

But for whatever reason (perhaps a berth in the Champions League Final in Moscow) changed the dynamic, and both teams came out firing in this game. But it was Chelsea, striking through passes to Drogba and Kalou who had the most dangerous attacks throughout the game. It often looked like Liverpool flat out bungled offsides traps--how does Didier fucking Drogba end up one on one with the keeper otherwise? If I were coaching against Chelsea, I would say, "No matter how deep you are, you always stay 5 yards behind Drogba; I don't care if you end up off the field--you give him that cushion so he can't beat you on a 50/50 ball. Benitez thought different. And he lost.

Apparently, much will be made of Lampard's striking of the Penalty kick that put Chelsea up 2-1 in overtime, but really--if his mother hadn't died this week, we wouldn't consider that a very dramatic moment at all. And if he had missed, we would have been all over Avram for not letting Ballack take the kick. It worked out, but it was Drogba who put this game on ice, scoring a 3rd goal in OT, thus making Babel's rather lucky finish in the 125th minute or whatever not so scary.

It was a 3-2 finish, and it was neither that close, or that far. Chelsea did have a 3-1 lead in overtime, but it did take overtime to make it happen.

Here's why Chelsea is fucking badass--they can actually turn to Michael Essien, who is probably the best center midfielder on his home fucking Continent. Continent! And they can say, "Hey, today, you are playing right marking back, but do try to get forward when the opportunity arises. Sure enough, Essien was launching dangerous shots from 30 yards out off of rebounds. Here's the other thing--either Essien is a fine defender, or Liverpool never attacked him hard enough. They didn't build much on the wings, even knowing that Essien was playing defense. Their one real goal came from a brilliant dribble, with a nasty through ball right down the middle to El Nino, who knows how to finish.

But regardless, you know your team is stacked in a very crazy way when Michael Essien is on the pitch, and he isn't playing Center Midfield. Even Essien on the Right in midfield suggests crazy stackiness. But for him to be playing right marking back? Sick, fucking sick.

I will love Manchester United for as long as Ryan Giggs is their left winger, but he's got a rough assignment if he finds himself opposite Essien. And clearly, Drogba will be the only true Striker in that Final. But we will get into that analysis when the Final draws closer.

In Praise of La Velle Neal III

Given the amount of bad feeling swirling this week between Old School Print Journalists and us New Jack City bloggers (we went through a little of this ourselves, back in aught-7 when Mike DeCourcy got all bent out of shape with us) it is nice to highlight a print journalist who writes good copy, engages his commenters, and even adds content via a blog.

So, Kudos to La Valle Neal III of the Star Trib. His beat is the MLB and the Twins specifically. Consider this rather interesting article about the evolution of the what Neal calls the evolution of the Indian's Model, wherein teams have been locking up younger and younger players to longer and longer deals, hoping to avoid the Free Agency Bugaboo for as long as possible.

Here's a snip:

The whopper came just after Tampa Bay left the Metrodome a little more than a week ago. Third baseman Evan Longoria -- who made his major league debut on April 12 -- signed a six-year, $17.5 million deal. He had played in six major league games at the time.

No one is sure how Longoria will handle Carmona's sinker, Mark Buehrle's cutter or even Livan Hernandez's 59-mile-per-hour entertainment pitch...

The Twins looked at Longoria's deal and think it's a good move. I'm all for being proactive, but I keep thinking what if the Twins had went all-in like this after Scott Erickson's 20-8 season in 1991.

Neal also provides a great counter-example--that of the Philllies and Ryan Howard:

They tried to sign the 2006 National League MVP before the 2007 season, but failed. They gave him a raise to $900,000 -- tying Albert Pujols for the largest salary given to a player with less than two years of service time.

The sides failed to reach a deal this offseason and had to go to arbitration. That $900,000, meant to be a generous gesture, turned out to be a jumping off point as Howard won a $10 million salary for 2008. Now Philly has a bigger problem after this season, if Howard continues to produce.

As I mentioned, Neal also updates his blog, Twins Insider, more regularly than many sports journalists, and his posts don't feel like rough drafts for later reporting--they feel like blog posts should--off the cuff, timely, and occasionally off topic (La Velle follows Champions League Soccer! -- imagine a baseball writer calling the Champions League Final must-TV. Wonder what he thinks of Tom Powers?) We are hoping to actually get some sort of e-mail dialogue going with Neal about the big Champions League showdown.
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