Sunday, June 29, 2008

My New Favorite Redskin

My new favorite Redskins is the second-round WR Malcolm Kelly. The physical 6-4, 219-pound Oklahoma product has great athletic potential (last two college years he averaged 56 catches for 900 yards and 10 TDs) and according to The Sporting News "Kelly possesses quick feet and shows real toughness running after the catch."

He will compete for the #2 (or X or split end) WR position, over there on the far left of this passing tree. Those routes can be be run by any of the receivers, but I foresee Malcolm "In the Middle" Kelly providing a big target for strong, smart QB Campbell on outs, curls, posts and drags.

Why I'll be pulling for him, however, has more to do with what he's doing for his summer vacation before training camp. Kelly has volunteered to go to Liberia on behalf of Mercy Ships, a Christian charity that operates hospital ships in desperate places around the world. Africa Mercy, the largest private hospital ship in the world, is the fleet's flagship and is docked in the obliterated Liberian capital, Monrovia.

Kelly explains the charity's mission:

"It was a big Army ship, but they turned it into a hospital. What they do is, they travel around the world and the people in the countries line up to get free checkups. It's everything from orthopedic surgery to dental checkups--everything they can't afford over there."

Liberia, you may recall, was founded by the American Colonization Society in 1847 with the tacit blessing of the United States government. Lincoln, no fan of miscegnation, prevaricates that "there is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children."

He also said, in his Address on Colonization to a Committee of Colored Men,

"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races . . . . It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated."

Liberia's government, currency and flag is closely based on those of the U.S. Long an abandoned stepchild, three long, brutal civil wars between 1980 and 2003 have left Liberia as devastated, dangerous and poor as any country in the world. In 2005, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first elected female head of state in Africa. She has the task of uniting a country that killed so many of its own men that warlords had to use child soldiers.

Mercy Ships also provide education, training and construct water wells. Malcolm Kelly explains,

"We take for granted too much over here. We take for granted that we can wake up, go to a fountain and get clean water. There are people in other countries drinking dirty water and that's what everyday life is for them. So I just want to go over and be a part of helping out."

Kelly will draw several thousand spectators when he works out with the Liberian Olympic Team.

"As I have come to know the history and spirit of the Liberian people through Mercy Ships, I feel a real connection to the country. I admire the way they are rebuilding for the future and I want to do everything I can to help them restore their country."

Such a rare delight to hear about an athlete worth many millions who is so articulate, sincere and compassionate. Very proud that young Malcolm Kelly is on my favorite team. Just don't get malaria or cholera over there, promise?

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

NFL 2008: The Road to Prime

NFL teams are about to enter training camp, a benchmark along the road to prime number glory: Superbowl XLIII (43). This will be the last prime number Superbowl until 2012, by which time the Bears might bring in a QB to finally replace Gross Rexman.*

The 2007 season crowned the NY Giants . With their wild-eyed and ravenous pass rush, punishing run game and surprisingly fine QB play down the stretch, they proved that a team full of bellyfire is always capable of beating the heavily-favored Team(s) of Destiny. That the Giants did it all on the road from the wildcard slot deserves acclaim: the hard way, shooting down the Bucs (feh), Dallas (whoa), the Pack (in late January) and the Patriots (no fucking way!). The game I love comes down to making tackles and making blocks. The Giants did it better than anyone when it mattered most, and they are your defending champions.

Professor Badcock has been retooling his prognosticator, and has generously agreed to share the results of its first test drive. With the understanding that this is only a “First Glance” at the upcoming season, let us tally the data with the Tally-Taffy-Twistermatix. Mmm, mechanically-pulled taffy.

“First Glance”

At first glance, the 'Napolis Colts look to be the best in the league. They return 20 of 22 starters, Dominic Rhodes returns from L’inferno (oops, I mean Oakland – hope he washes all the poopstink off him), best continuity in the modern era and a small, fast defense that gave up the fewest points in the league. The AFC South is stacked and the Colts are thin with reinforcements on some units, but the GLAND proclaims that at first glance, the Colts will be 2009 champions. Of course this is without the giant licorice data which generates so much heat that the Giant Licorice Amalgamatron Numbers Differientiator had to be built on the side of an Antarctic iceberg.

Best Divisions
The best divisions in football are the NFC East and the AFC South. They were the toughest divisions last year and every team has improved. The NFC East sent 3 of 4 teams to the playoffs and averaged 10 wins per team. The AFC South sent 3 of 4 teams to the playoffs and averaged 10.5 wins per team. At first glance, this is really Bad News for the AFC North, which must play against both of these divisions in 2008.

Winner of the 2007 IDYFT Cup and dominant in a terrible division, the ol’ gunslinger flung his last interception in OT at home in January. Many commentators are engaging in a paradox: they proclaim the inimitable Favre as the best ever and irreplaceable, and then predict the Packers will be just as good with an untested and unproven QB. Buh?

They are a young team, and the old salty Cap’n isn’t manning the helm. They were not an impressive running team, and it is hard to believe they’ll again rank #2 in passing offense to offset this lack. The defense boasts a very good D Line with a solid seven behind them. The Packers will take a step back and the rest of the NFC North has taken a half-step forward. They will contend for the Division title but at first glance the Pack are an 8-8 team.

I agree with Childress’s emphasis on running the ball and stopping the run. They’ve been doing both very well (#1 run defense in the NFL two years in a row, #1 rushing offense 2007), yet wins have eluded them. That is because their passing has been among the very worst in the NFL, since Baldy Mustache took over. Jared Allen is a good pass rusher but he’s an idiot. He did give up drinking, but beer kills brain cells? That’s unpossible.

T. Jackson won 8 of 12 starts but battled injuries and turned the ball over far too often. 6.5 yards per pass is too low; excellent WR Bernard Berrian should raise that number. Their secondary is thin and gray and gave up heaps of yards in big plays for the second year in a row (32nd vs. pass in 2008, tied for 31st in 2007). If the Vikings get behind they won’t be able to come back. That’ll be trouble against the Colts and Saints but the rest of their schedule is low-wattage. They can challenge for the Division title. Week 1 is at Green Bay and that game could be decisive in the final standings. At first glance, the Vikings could win some games but their glaring deficiencies will keep them out of the playoffs. Dr. Z has given them the kiss of death by picking them to win it all.

The only team in the dreadful NFC North that can’t challenge for the Fudgie Division title. They keep firing coordinators, rebuilding, re-assessing … and still suck balls. Remember Kitna’s 10-win prediction? How about this prediction: Kitna will never sniff a Superbowl. The Lions were (yet again) 31st in rushing, worst in yards allowed and points allowed. Their 6-2 start was bogus yet their 7-win season was nonetheless the best since 2000’s whopping 9-7 finish (they missed the playoffs). They have averaged about 4 wins per season since then.

Having no offensive linemen but lots of thoroughbred WRs is like a flashed-up riding mower with some spinners. Perhaps they’ll be able to turn it around in a couple years: they drafted a RT in the first round and he’ll become an immediate starter. At first glance, the owner’s incredible patience with his GM and coach will wear out before the entire line can be rebuilt. Enjoy your Fudgefest, Detroit fans.

Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs took the Redskins to the playoffs in two of the last three years, a feat the Redskins haven’t accomplished since the 1992. He hands the keys to Jim Zorn, who is not qualified on paper to be a head coach in the NFL. Many commentators are attributing the hire to owner Daniel Snyder’s newfound “patience.” Nonsense. It was panic. No legitimate candidate wanted to work for the Schneider, so recently-hired O. coordinator Jim Zorn was kicked upstairs. Zorn, by the way, has never been a coordinator at any level – nor has he been a head coach.

That being acknowledged, 2008 doesn’t look as bad as other analyst/therapists are predicting. The running game and defense will remain unchanged, and should remain in the neighborhood of the top ten in the NFL. Equally important, the blocking schemes remain the same. So the main challenge with the new coach falls, yet again, on the broad shoulders of QB Jason Campbell. Campbell’s development has been slowed by having to learn a completely new offense every year. However, he was running a similar offense to Zorn’s Holmgren-inspired West Coast passing game when he led his Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season. He is a winner. The Redskins lost their entire offensive line last year and still made the playoffs; a healthy year from this solid group is the biggest need the Redskins have. They have very good personnel at the skill positions, adding two big WRs in the draft.

The defense is aggressive and hard-hitting, but the back seven is thin for backups. DE Andre Carter looks poised for a breakout season, augmented by a young corps of DTs. LB and DB has quality starters if everyone recovers from offseason surgeries. S Laron Landry will be an All-Pro if he learns to avoid personal fouls. The return and cover teams are good, but the K and P positions are only average at best. At first glance, the Redskins have too many question marks to get off to a fast start and will need another year in Zorn’s system to be competitive in a cruel division. Let’s hope that Zorn gets another year.

* From Pro Football Weekly’s 2006 Preview: “Members of the front office remain optimistic that a full season with Rex Grossman at quarterback, even though he has had only one game with multiple TD passes in his career…

From Street & Smith’s 2007 Preview: “If Grossman doesn’t start out awfully fast, there will be pressure to at least give Griese a shot.

From PFW’s 2007 Preview: “His maturation – specifically taking better care of the football and finding comfort in a collapsing pocket – will determine if he stays on the field ahead of Brian Griese.

In 2007, Professor Badcock chimed in, “And there is no excuse for another year of Gross Rexman”.

Here we are, ready for the 2008 season, and the poopstink surround Grossman sounds strangely familiar (Sporting News 2008): “There is no reason why the Bears cannot return to playoff form, if Grossman does not self-destruct. Yes, that’s a big ‘if’ but the Bears will not ask Grossman to carry the offense ... the quarterback play is shaky.

Gross, man. Dump the chump already!

Kevin McHale Mimes "Pooping On a Franchise"

Photo Credit (and Moral Credit): Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Eurocup 2008 Semis and Final

Spain wins in shootout - as predicted by Makayla. Fiona also picked the Spaniards over the Azzuri - So they both stand at 75%, while the Big Blue Monkey finally gets one right. Here are thier predictions for the remainder of the cup.

Fiona sees Russia defeating Turkey, while Makayla sees a Turkish victory for the Eurocup! Place your wagers ladies and gentleman! Again I'm with Fiona on this one. The Russians look unstoppable.

Please Cease and Desist!

Dr. Z of Sports Illustrated has just done what I want never to happen. He has picked the Vikings to win the Superbowl. It has happened before and obvioulsy has never worked out. The last time was in 1998 and they didn't even make the big game. Don't get me wrong, I am excited to have the Vikings postitioned to be considerably better than they've been of late, but picking them to win the whole enchilada? I am generally not superstitious but in the this case I don't want any of what Dr. Z is selling. It is a courageous (stupid in the eyes of the other IDYFT fools) pick for the good doctor, yet his courage makes me feel all funny inside. The Vikings don't need any inflated sense of their own quality and worth before training camp even begins.

Dr. Z take it back!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Eurocup 2008 Spain v Italy

Oh the mighty Fiona has fallen. The similarity of the flags coupled with the excitement of her birthday threw off her prognosticating abilities. But Makayla had it right, and it was one goal in regular time anyway. Another heart break for the dutchman, but as I said earlier - the French lost to the dutch because they couldn't finish a small cracker this tournament. The Russians just set the pace of the match ridiculously high and the dutch couldn't keep up for 120 minutes. Kudos Russia. So the standings are: Fiona 2, Makayla 2, and THE BIG BLUE MONKEY A BIG FAT GOOSE EGG! Ha ha I say, ha ha. For today:

It's unanimous again - bad news for the azzuri. Makayla sees a shoot-out victory for spain while Fiona sees spain winning with two goals in the regular 90 minutes. Will Spain finally stop falling flat on it's face in the Quarterfinals? - my tots think so.

Heartbreak In Amderstam

Usually, heartbreak in Amsterdam is related to realizing that the sex worker doesn't really love you, or that hashish doesn't make you funnier than you normally are.

But in even numbered years, Heartbreak in Amsterdam comes when the Netherlands lay an egg in a major soccer Tournament. Which they have done every single time they have been in a major tournament, aside from that one Euro Cup when Marco Van Basten stole victory in the closing moments with a crazy awesome volley.

Russia beat Holland 3-1 yesterday in the thrid quarterfinal game of the Euro Cup. The score suggests asskicking, but please note: the game went to overtime. Yes, it took a miracle goal from Ruud Van Nistelrooy in the closing minute (with some help from a curiously disinterested defense from Russia--they were awful on dead ball situations all day) to send the game into overtime.

But usually, (I'm guessing here) the team that scores late to send a game to overtime goes on to win. They have the momentum, the other team has seen their victory snatched from them. And it felt that exact way. Russia scored early in the second half, and deservedly so, as they had been the better team. With about 15 minutes left to play, they sank into the bullshit defensive, counterattacking shell that I hate so much, and sure enough, the Dutch were able to get back in the game, with Sneijder taking shots from distance, winning a corner, and causing more chaos than they had in the previous 70 minutes.

Holland didn't look like a team with the reserves to win in the first half of the overtime period, and in the second half, they looked damned out of sorts--Van Brockhorst watched a guy run to the far post to score a goal he could have probably stopped if he hadn't stopped running, and in the closing minutes, the Holland defense let Arshavin get behind them on a fucking throw-in. A Throw-In! Reminder for Dutch Defenders: There is no offside on throw-ins, you have to play behind a guy in that situation, especially when he is a very creative #10 like Arshavin.

And hey, maybe if we all watched Russian Professional football last year, we wouldn't be so surprised by Arshavin. His highlight reel of 2007 is as good as anyone's was.

That said, Russia will be my dark horse in the Semis, mainly because their strikers have a nose for goal, and Andrei Arshavin is a complete revelation. He will soon be snorting coke off of stripper's asses in Madrid, or pretending to find Manchester women attractive, or something.

So, this far into the Quarterfinals, I have yet to get a game right, mainly because I've gone with the favorite every single time. Portugal bounced by Germany isn't a huge upset; Turkey beating Croatia doesn't seem shocking to me, but the way they did it was; Russia beating Holland is a huge upset (though I do believe I expressed some concern about Holland's defense). So clearly, with one game left, there is only way to go--with the underdog.

But when talking about Italy vs Spain, who is really the Underdog? Hard to say. Italy had looked fairly pedestrian until their last game. Spain has looked spectacular, but it is Spain, a country known for crashing and burning for the last 30 years at least. I'm taking Spain, and the main reason is that there will be a huge talent hole in the middle of Italy's line-up. No Gattuso, No Pirlo, who both racked up too many yellow cards. Gattuso is no surprise, but Pirlo I think of as being a bit more of a subtle defender/fouler. But make no mistake--losing these two guys deprives Italy of their best Midfield "digger" in Gattuso (that term being used to designate a guy who does the dirty work that sometimes springs a counter-attack) and in Pirlo they simply lose their best free kick taker, their captain on defense, and their best Steve Nash Imitator.

Betting against the Italians has proven costly for me in the past, and betting on the Spainiards has never, ever worked out for anybody, ever. They are classic choke artists. But this team does feel different. Villa, Torres and the guy coming of the bench for some reason, Fabregas all help this team be more confident, and more dangerous than it has been in the past. I will not be surprised if the Spainairds win this game because of a Second Yellow Card on someone in the Italian defense. I think the Spanish midfield controls this game, and the Italians miss their guys who are on suspension. I also won't be surprised if Italy goes with the Classic Italy approach, which would be to play for a 0-0 tie, and let penalty kicks decide it. I hope they don't, but I won't be surprised if they do.

Again, I'm going with what I think is the safe route, which has led me to 0-3 on predictions. So how safe is the safe route, anyway? Let's hope for an early goal from Spain to make this game as interesting as possible. Even Italian fans don't really want an early Italy goal; not if they love football.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Old School Wednesday on the Weekend

I just discovered The Cool Kids, and man is their old-school stylin' hip-hop hittin' me in the sweet spot. And I especially have been drawn to "A Little Bit Cooler", in which the old school braggadocio is tempered with some self-deprecating humor.

"You still playin' Sega?--
I'm cooler than that guy."

That may be my favorite non-Rhymesayers rhyme so far in 2008. Please to enjoy the fan video created for that song.

Eurocup 2008 Predictions Netherlands v Russia

It appears my prognosticating tot Fiona stands at 100%, two for two. She even predicted the correct number of goals by Turkey, and while Makayla said three goals I'd like to point out that Turkey scored three in the shootout. Scary accuracy kids. So we have Fiona 2, Makayla 1, and Big Blue Monkey 0. My children are whooping up the BBM. For today:

Another split decision - Fiona predicts the dutchman will keep flying with a five goal performance, however Makayla predicts a Russian victory via a single goal affair. I'm with Fiona - I like the color orange.

Guys Who Make Comics Love Sports: Jason Aaron

I have a theory. As a comic book lover and a sports lover, I do not represent any actual massive break in the demographics. My theory is that readers (like myself) and writers and artists of comics love sports. So why not interview the guys who create comic books and see where their prejudices lie, sports-wise?

This time around, we interview Jason Aaron, who is quite simply, a badass. He writes nasty, tough stuff. I first became acquainted with him via his mini-series following two soldiers fighting the Vietnam War. One was a sensitive kid from the Heartland of the Good USA. The other soldier was a sensitive kid from the Heartland of Vietnam. It was a bit like Tim O'Brien and Bao Ninh got together with an illustrator and told some stories. It was awesome.

Then I saw Jason Aaron's name on a new book called Scalped. I bought Issue #1, and since then, I have purchased every copy, and I have recommended it pretty goddamn strongly on this here blog. If I may quote myself:

This is a phenomenal book. Noir with garish colors. People who aren't black or white, but not gray either. It took some serious balls by writer Jason Aaron to set a crime book on an Indian Reservation, and he has crafted a nasty crime thriller that is rife with political overtones that generally get ignored. The art of R.M Guera is visceral and yet almost Expressionist. I can't recommend it enough. For those of you who think that comics are all about what Warren Ellis calls "Underwear Perverts"--no. There are no superheroes. There may not be any regular heroes. It is nasty crime and political commentary all wrapped around beautiful art.

Jason has spent some writing for Marvel, whilst keeping his indie comics going. He's written for Wolverine, and I thnk you can find him on the Ghost Rider tip these days. To be sure, you can check in on his website. I was just there, and apparently he's working on Hellblazer now, too. He's a busy man.

So we sent Jason a bunch of questions about sports, and unlike some comic guys we could name (Aja!) Jason is a big sports fan. An opinionated one. What he says about Tom Brady makes me smile.

Jason grew up in Alabama, and attended UAB. He's already admitted to me, in non-interview form that he loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, hates the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. Added links and photos comes courtesy of your interviewer/editor, me.

Interview commences in...3,..2...1..:

BBM: Obviously, going to a college like UAB meant that you'd have to be a super bad-ass in your chosen sport to play at college. But prior to going there, were you an athlete? Were you a high school footballer, for example?

JA: I was a skinny little uncoordinated whimp in school, so no, no sports for me. I did study Yoshukai Karate for quite a while though, so maybe someday I'll get my MMA career going. Me and Butterbean are from the same hometown after all.

BBM: From my understanding, Alabama is all about The Crimson Tide vs. Auburn. Heated, heated rivalry, with a good deal of hate. Families come to blows over this kind of thing--how did you become an Alabama fan? Was it as simple as your dad was one, and you followed suit? Or was it rebellion? How does one choose?

JA: Yeah, it's as simple as my dad being a Crimson Tide fan. I grew up a Tide fan and then went to school there for two years. During that time, I'm happy to say, Alabama only lost one game in football and won the 1992 National Championship with a pasting of Miami in the Sugar Bowl. Man, was that a sweet game. I still get chills at just the mention of the name "George Teague."

BBM: Pittsburgh Steelers? How did that happen? I'm looking at my research (Wikipedia!) and I don't see anything that takes you out of Alabama until after college. What was it about Pittsburgh that ignited your fandom during what I assume were formative years? Terry Bradshaw? When did you first glom onto the Steelers, and why?

JA: When I was a kid, there were only four NFL teams anybody I knew cheered for: Raiders, Cowboys, Dolphins or Steelers. I locked onto the Steelers, in part because they had the same kind of tough, blue-collar philosophy as Bear Bryant's Alabama teams. Even after the glory days of the 70s, I stuck with the Steelers through the lean years (Bubby Brister, anyone?). I loved Coach Cowher, and that playoff run in 2005 was a thing of beauty, especially after so many years of playoff frustration. But at the same time I was glad to see Cowher leave, because it seemed like he lost most all of his fire after winning that Super Bowl.

BBM: What do you think of Mike Tomlin?

JA: I love the way Coach Tomlin handles himself. I think he's gonna be a great one.

BBM: Are you happy with the current line-up of the Steelers--what will they need to beat the Jaguars, Colts, Patriots?

JA: I like the Steelers chances this year. LaMarr Woodely is going to be the next great pass rusher at outside linebacker. Add him to the mix with a healthy Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu, and I think the defense will be fine. The big question mark is with the offensive line. Big Ben had a terrific season last year, even though he was running for his life most of the time. Losing Alan Faneca hurts, but I think Chris Kemoeatu will be all right taking his spot. The main problem last year was at center, so hopefully Justin Hartwig, who the Steelers picked up from Carolina, can prove to be an upgrade at that position. If the line is at all decent, the Steelers have loads of offensive weapons, especially after adding Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed in the draft.

BBM: A fan of the Steelers has to hate the New England Patriots. That makes sense to me--they are polar opposites after all. Where does the hate for the Cowboys come from? Is it the rivalry from the early 1990's, when the Cowboys made poor Neal O'Donnell look like the worst
quarterback ever?

JA: Yeah, the Steelers and the Cowboys were big rivals in the 70s, but my hatred of Dallas stems more from the Jerry Jones era. I can't stand Jones. I never liked
Deon [sic] or Charles Haley or Irvin or any of those guys. Emmitt Smith seemed all right, but he still played atFlorida, so there's that taint about him. Super Bowl XXX broke my heart. In part because it was played on my birthday. Those two O'Donnell interceptions were both so ugly it's still unbelievable. Basically, Larry Brown made me lose my faith in God that day.

Talk about a guy who lucked into the MVP award, and then used that to sign a big contract with the Raiders, where he was never heard from again. Greg Lloyd also got pancaked in that Super Bowl, which tore me to pieces (though when they ran the same play in the second half, he made the tackle). Lloyd is still my all-time favorite Steeler, and the scariest dude I've ever seen on the football field. See the time he knocked Jets receiver Al Toon unconscious and then went to the turf and counted him out, "One, two,three," like at a wrestling match. Or the time he hit
Brett Favre so hard he threw up.

But as much as I hate the Cowboys, that hatred has come to pale in comparison to how I despise the Patriots. Bill Belichick was in the upper echelon of all-time sports assholes even before it came out about his blatant cheating. And that entire team seems to adopt his attitude. I sat in an airport watching the second half of Super Bowl XLII, and man, I loved the way the Giants shut down the Patriots offense. Seeing Brady get pounded into the turf again and again was like getting a second Christmas.

BBM: How did you feel when George Teague became a career-long Cowboy?[ed note: Teague played for other teams. He wasn't a career Cowboy. My bad.]

JA: The memory of his interception return for a TD and amazing strip of Lamar Thomas in the Sugar Bowl helped erase the sting of him becoming a Cowboy. And he was also the only Cowboy to hit Terrell Owens when he ran out and stood on the star at Texas Stadium, so there's that too.

BBM: I love my home team, but I do find "Redskins" offensive; I find Cleveland's baseball mascot offensive especially when fans show up in make-up "celebrating" Chief Wahoo. I've written the about issue a fair amount. Some samples:

And yet, your work, which many a know-nothing reactionary could call racist, is met with applause from the Native American community. As a white person, who has researched heavily into Native American society, what is your take on nicknames like the Indians and the
Redskins and the Braves, and so forth? Are some OK, some not? Where is the dividing line?

JA: From what I gather, most Native Americans don't really care about sports nicknames. And I feel like just because "Redskins" was a derogatory term years ago, that doesn't mean it has to be today. The meaning of words aren't written in stone after all. Language changes over time. Just look at how the word "nigger"
has evolved. These days it really depends on the context as to whether or not there are any racist connotations to it at all. I think that's cool that a word can be changed and have it's power to insult stripped away. At the end of the day, they're just words after all and the only meaning they have are what we give them. Just avoiding or doing away with them doesn't address any of the real problems

BBM: Your reply talked only football--do you have any other sports that you care about? I know that Alabama isn't exactly a haven for professional sports franchises, but did you grow up diggin on the Atlanta Braves/Hawks, or the Houston Rockets/Astros?

JA: My dad took me to Braves games when I was a kid, but I've never been a big baseball fan. I watch basketball sporadically. Right now I'm cheering for the Celtics, mainly because I can't stand Kobe Bryant.

Euro Cup 2008 Netherlands vs Russia

I'm sure when the Disney Family of Sports Networks were putting together their TV schedule, they were excited by the idea of an ABC Saturday afternoon soccer game that had a couple of big teams in it, that people would recognize as being good. Italy, or France, maybe.

Instead, they get The Netherlands vs. Russia. And I think it is a glorious thing, based on how these teams got to where they are.

The Netherlands, as angry Scottish commentator Andy Gray points out, "Don't know how to play defensive football, and I love it!". They won their first 2 games, against France and Italy by a combined 7-1. But as I said after those games--they were dancing on a knife's edge throughout. They invite attacks, and counter ruthlessly and quickly and awesomefully. Yeah, I said awesomefully. In a game that didn't affect their seeding in any way, they sent out 9 bench players to start, and defeated a Romanian team that actually had something to play for 2-0. In three games, those Hashish smoking, sex show watching Dutchmen outscored their competition 9-1. That's impressive, but the concerns remain, I think.

Russia wasn't as dominant, but that is at least in part because they aren't as good. Also, they weren't at full strength, but with Arshavin back in the fold, they have an extremely talented midfield, and an attacking mindset that may be second only to Holland.

Full disclosure, here: Holland is one my Top 3 squads. As an American, I clearly care about the US team, even when they disappoint, time and time again. As an Irish-American, the Republic of Ireland is right behind the USA, even when they disappoint, time and time again. The Netherlands--I have absolutely no connection to them at all. I wore orange during my college game years at Macalester, but I was in love with the Dutch way before then. Was it the great players I grew up with? It might be--Van Basten and Guillt in my formative youth; Bergkamp and Kluivert and Cocu and Overmars and Jaap during my high school/college years. They've never succeeded at anything in my lifetime; they have always come up a little short.

I will always pick Holland to win a game that they have the smallest chance in, and let's face it--they should be heavily favored here. So I'm picking them. My heart and brain agree on this one. But I do expect to see an incredibly entertaining game, with lots of ups and downs. Let's not forget, last Euro Cup, the single best game of the tournament involved the Dutch against a Czech team that is a lot like this Russian team.

Netherlands 3, Russia 2

ESPN Toggles The NBA Draft Coverage

Stephen A Smith will no longer be yelling the front desk.

I'm oddly disappointed by this news, though I'm thrilled that Jeff Van Gundy will be there at the main desk. His work throughout the NBA playoffs was spectacular. Funny, insightful, opinionated, and oft venturing into weird tangents that made even the down moments of a game entertaining.

My personal favorite (I paraphrase): "I got my haircut today, and they charged full price, but look at my head--it is half the work! I mean, c'mon, why do I gotta pay the same amount as someone who has a full head of hair?"

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Mean "Jive Turkey" in a Good Way

Well, holy sweet merciful mother of crap. As one of our Anonymous commenters put it, nice and succinct like, "Turkey did it again."

Yes they did. I'm still not sure how they did it again, at least in part because my DVD burner completely spazzed and I only got limited glances of the 2nd half and none of the overtime. I have seen the goals that were scored, and I guess that's all you need to know how crazy of a finish this was.

But first the play--Croatia looked great in the first half, particularly in the first half of the first half, as they seemed to be exploiting an overly Offside Trap Turkish defense. I imagine they will be thinking about just how hard they hit woodwork in that first half for quite a while. Turkey settled a bit, or Croatia got more spazzy--it was actually a bit hard to tell which it was.

But towards the end of the second half, Croatia really poured it on, and the Turks looked all kinds of out of sorts. Croatia looked like a team looking to finish in regular time; the Turks like a team desperately holdilng onto to OT and maybe penalty kicks.

Their hand was forced in the 2nd overtime when Croatia scored on what can only be called a silly mistake by the Turkish defense, and an (almost) unforgiveable mistake by Turkish goalkeeper Rustu. It becomes totally forgiveable when your team scores in the waning moments of injury time in the 2nd OT to get the game to PK's, and you then make a huge stop in those Penalty Kicks. You are forgiven, Rustu.

Fun fact I learned in the broadcast: Naturalized citizens of Turkey (like that Brazilian chap they have) have to take on a Muslim name as part of their citizenship. Which is surprising, because one thinks of Turkey as a secular Muslim nation. So you get a Brazilian whose first name is Mehmet, and incongruous shit like that.

Oh, and it is official, I am a much poorer predictor of Euro Cup 2008 games than a 3 year old girl with a cookie addiction. Fiona is 2-0, and I am the opposite of 2-0. I have to say, I'm looking forward to a Germany vs Turkey match-up. It's like Charles Darwin is fighting Harry Potter--pure intellectual mastery vs. Scary Magic Powers.

The Saturday game on ABC couldn't be a better gateway drug for Soccer Cynics--Netherlands vs. Russia. We will talk about that in a moment.

Friday Surrealism

Via the sick twists of Kotaku comes Pikachu dancing the dance of another Japanese fixation--an animated schoolgirl.

Is your mind blown?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Teaser for the Weekend

As you may or may not know, I, Big Blue Monkey, am a huge pop culture nerd, and it extends to the most disposable and easily mocked pop cultural touchstone available to snobs--the Comic Book. Never mind that your average comic book is 10 times more interesting than your average reality show or Hollywood movie (which may be why Hollywood is sucking the Comic Book cock of late), or that a couple of excellent comic books/Graphic Novels have been shortlisted for serious prizes. Nevermind that anyone I hand "Fables" or "Runaways" or "Scalped" to love it, and are blown away by the writing and the art. We are still nerds.

We attempted to prove that Comic Books guys can be normal sports guys. We prove it with ourself every day we write for this blog, but we aren't really a comic book guy. We don't write them; we don't do the art. We just read.

So we thought we would contact comic book guys--writers, artists, etc, and get their take on sports. You may remember, our first time around, we kinda failed. Turns out, kick-ass Kung Fu Spanish artist David Aja didn't care for Spanish soccer, or Kung Fu. We only kinda failed, because we still got a really kickass discussion going with Aja about good movies. No regrets there.

But this weekend, we will be posting an interview with a genuine Comic Book Writer, who happens to be a HUGE Sports Fan. He knows more about the Crimson Tide and the Pittsburgh Steelers than you do, I'll wager. Stay tuned.

Euro Cup: Croatia Turkey

I hate to bet against Turkey, but I feel that I have to, especially if I want to gain some ground on Fiona and Makayla.

Plus, I think the Turks are without their starting goalkeeper, lost on a stupid, stupid, stupid Red Card. I think the Croats are the better overall side, and have played tougher competition better than the Turks have.

The Turks have been a great story--the only team in the Tournament to come back from a deficit in this tournament, and they've done it twice. But I don't think they can do it three times. I think they will need to score first, and then keep on attacking until they are up 2-0, and then they need to remember how they beat the Czechs in the last 20 minutes to get to this stage.

I don't think they can do all those things, and Croatia is simply too skilled, too quick, and will be reminded of Turkey's comebacks, and push for 88 minutes. I like Croatia to score first, second and maybe third. They will take no chances with this slightly inferior squad that clearly has a lot of stick-to-it-iveness.

I'll take Croatia, 2-0.

Smellen Sie Later, Portugal

Germany, much as Fiona and her father predicted, bid Portugal Auf Wiedersehen today. Germany did it in the first 30 minutes, with some stellar passing and deadly running off the ball. Bastien Pig-Climber scored the kind of goal that junkyard goalscorers score (though he's been known to lace a pretty shot from the outside, too). Portugal made things very interesting in the final minutes, but when push came to shove that came to dives, Portugal found themselves to weak on the ball, too unwilling to sacrifice, and bit to easy to push off the ball to win this game.

Special boos have to go to Ricardo, the Portugese goalkeeper who came so far out on a ball that he couldn't make a play on that it seemed like he was actually behind Ballack as that whiny Kraut eased the ball into the net.


1. I enjoy Andy Gray angry Scottish former striker commentary, but he seems to miss some things that are awfully clear, even after they've been replayed four or five times. He's also got a little too much of a player in him. Also, I know the difference between a defender who stands his ground and has a winger run into him vs. a defender who hurls himself bodily into a winger who has slipped a ball by him. Why doesn't Andy? That said, I do love Andy's commentary--especially enjoyable--the way he exhales noisily into his mike when he is annoyed.

2. Where did Ronaldo go the last 20 minutes of the game? That Portugal side was clearly desperate for a leader to settle things down and organize an attack against Germany that was perfectly willing to allow conventional attacks, comfortable in their belief that they could withstand them. I should have seen Ronaldo in Simao's face after his 3rd 25 yard distant shot, screaming at him to get him the ball. The Portugese lack of a real leader (ala Figo) doomed them here; much like France's lack of a Zidane. Scolari could only sit and watch (and count his new millions) as Portugal fringe players blasted shot after shot from well beyond the box.

3. Physicality and diving. I love that both teams, when they sense an advantage, are supermen--pushing men off of them to deliver crosses or headers, or what have you, but when barely scuffed, they take fall down in a heap of shit. Favorite? Jens Lehman, clearly watching to see a ball roll out of bounds in the waning minutes before demanding treatment. Nicely placed, Jens.

Eurocup 2008 Croatia v Turkey

This time it is unanimous - Turkey shocks Croatia. Makayla predicts a high scoring affair with 3 goals (or 35 I think she said too) but Fiona believes it to be a one goal affair.

Results: Fiona 1 Makayla 0

Looks like Fiona and I were correct as the giant Germans powered headers (and shoulderers?) over the teeny tiny Portugesse. And it wasn't just a few Germans that were bigger - I think the whole team was 6 inches to a foot taller. Predictions for tomorrows matches to follow. Congrats Fiona!

Beelzebub and Satan Come to Soul-Sharing Agreement

Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune:

"The Big Ten Network will be carried on Comcast cable, which includes most of the Twin Cities.The sides officially announced their agreement today."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Russia In, Sweden Out

And deservedly so. Russia was by far the dominant team, and the more fun team to watch. Quick, bracing play, with 4 straight one-touch passes setting up their first goal, and a beautiful counter-attack to nab the second. It could have been much worse for Sweden, who saw woodwork hit, and a few shots skitter by out of reach, but off frame.

Tomorrow the quarterfinals begin with a bang, with Portugal against Germany. Both teams looked a little ragged a few moments in their groups, but I think overall quality coming in has to go to Portugal. Also, they have the most dangerous player in the world in Ronaldo. I see no reason to buck conventional wisdom, barring something bad happening to Ronaldo.

I'll take Portugal 2-1. I'm guessing at least one goal comes from one mazy run through the center Germany's defense.

Eurocup 2008 Predictions Germany vs Portugal

In the past, my european soccer predictions have been sub par - so this time I'm leaving the predictions to my children. If you listen carefully, I say something quite stupid. Par for the course.

AP Severely Overestimates Their Importance

Smarter commentators than this one--no really, they exist--have already tackled this issue, so I will be quick in my comments: Fuck the Associated Press for thinking their content is so fucking special that people who quote more than 4 words of an article should be paying them money.

It is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of, and it doesn't stand a chance of being a real long lasting policy (they may have already backed off by now, I don't know. I don't care). Even dreaming up a scheme like this shows a level of evil that I'm not going to support at any level, even my own teeny tiny blog level.

Can you imagine spending money to quote Nedra Pickler? To read Nedra Pickler? If anyone owes anyone money for that privelege, the AP should be paying me, goddamnit.

To quote Patrick (who doesn't mind, because he's a fairminded person. He won't even charge me, I bet!) from Making Light: (and who I found via Cory at BoingBoing)

"Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t own any of your technology or your music or your books, because ensuring that someone makes their profit margins will justify depriving you of the even the most basic, commonsensical rights in your personal, hand-level household goods.

The people pushing for this stuff are not well-meaning, and they are not interested in making life better for artists, writers, or any other kind of individual creators. They are would-be aristocrats who fully intend to return us to a society of orders and classes, and they’re using so-called “intellectual property” law as a tool with which to do it. Whether or not you have ever personally taped a TV show or written a blog post, if you think you’re going to wind up on top in the sort of world these people are working to build, you are out of your mind."

France vs. Italy -- Only Because I Said I Would

A few notes from the game I said would have to be blogged about.

1. If I hadn't said so ahead of time, would I think that game had to be blogged about? Probably not. It was hardly a classic, though the French showed great character in continuing to plug away after some serious bad news in the first 25 minutes, which included losing Eric Abidal to a Red Card after a pretty clumsy ass challenge on Luca Toni in the box. Andrea Pirlo put home the resulting penalty kick to make it 1-0.

2. The troubles began before that though, when the French were forced to replace badass Franck Ribery after he went awkwardly to ground during a challenge (his challenge, not a foul from an Italian) in the 7th minute. Ribery wasn't mentioned again by the TV crew, but reports today are that he still isn't putting weight on that foot this morning.

Good news for Ribery, though. Felipe Scolari is eyeing him (and every other footballer of quality) to be part of the Chelsea Revolution! (does Chelsea need a revolution? Do they even need a major revision?) But seriously--you say publicly that you are targeting Ribery, Torres, Robinho, Deco, and Kaka? Why not publicly express a desire to live forever, or visit Saturn, or spend a month time-traveling?

3. Italy was a man up for 65 minutes, but rare were the times you could actually see that numeric advantage on the pitch. This Italian squad has kind of snuck into the next round of play, and I'd be very tempted to say that they probably won't last too long. The only thing keeping me from saying exactly that is that I believe I may have said exactly that 2 years ago, during the World Cup when they barely squeaked out of their qualifying group, and ended up winning the whole damn thing.

Italy did win the game, 2-0, but not without some of those yellow cards beginning to catch up. Right as the knockout stages begin, Italy will be without Pirlo and Gattuso, who in some ways are the heart and soul of the interior of the Italian team. It will be interesting to see that team play without either of those guys.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rite of Passage

A rite of passage, a ritual that all newcomers to a group have to go through to become a member. Sucking the warrior. The Hamar "Cattle Jump" where you jump on and run over a line of cattle four times. If you fall, you can never become a man. And let's not forget hazings with spankings, drinking contests, etc.
Today's news includes a story that someone has completed their rite of passage. Javon Walker was found beaten and unconscious on the streets of Las Vegas after a night on the town. Congratulations Walker! You may now wear the Silver and Black!

UPDATE: There are photo's of Walker and others spraying people with champagne. Oddly enough, this was also rumored to be going on the night Darnett Williams was shot to death (Walker was in the car). You'd think he'd learn. However, he has released a different story - mocked cleverly on KSK.

Monday, June 16, 2008


You think everything is fine. Your dreams are about to come true indeed. All you have to do is play it out, focus. But someone is waiting - waiting for one mistake - waiting for you to drop the ball. Then you're history. No, I'm not talking about Spiderman:

Or Beatrix Kiddo:

I'm talking about Nihat:Beware Eurocup 2008 contenders - Nihat is waiting to strike.....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NBA Finals: Music To My Ears

Kaching! The NBA is climbing atop the pile of its own dirty laundry, showcasing a return of the greatest rivalry in pro basketball. But if they can "somehow" find a way to stretch this series to seven games, that one extra game will be a bigger payoff than all of the previous Lakers-Celtics series combined. The thing is, there's some damn fine basketball going on, individually. I think I am finally ready to drop my hatred of Paul Pierce since he's dropped his bitchness and is playing with the belly fire. And you know Kevin Mchale is gleeful that his "trade" of Garnett is paying off so well for his real employers.

In other music news, there's someone coming to Minneapolis that you must see. His name is Konrad but he performs a one-man armada called "Possessed by Paul James." Paul James was his grandfather, a six-fingered Mennonite. The gig is on July 19 at 10:00 pm at the Triple Rock Social Club. You may be loathe to believe me, so you should go to his site and check his music out for yourself. But you got to see this man live, scout's honor. If you get a minute with him, tell him Andrew from the Mineshaft in Madrid sent you.

Next: thank lord almighty, all the other sports will fade away. The NFL season starts in August. Professor Badcock is wrenching on his most turbo-nuclear prognosticator yet, and all you squares will be invited to the party.

Nike is of Two Minds on This Soccer Thing

And they may not be wrong. According to Nike, if you are a skilled Dutch player, you get to progress, with some bumps and bruises, to star level, and yes, you will be kissed by hot chicks, and Ronaldo (spot the difference there). You will have fun, you will succeed, and you will be badass!

However, if you are American--prepare to play in snow, to struggle, to fail. And yet, because of the glory of the mission, it will all be worthwhile. According to Nike, European Football is all Tarantino and shit, and American soccer/football, well, it is akin to being in a dour French film, like Bresson's "Diary of Country Priest."

So, according to Nike--European soccer--non stop thrill ride. American soccer, a existentialist grind that makes heroes out of anyone who struggles, even if they don't succeed.

That sounds about right, actually.

(thanks Beautiful Game for the heads up)

Blogger Round Up: Euro Cup Edition

This place is apparently live blogging the games. Proceed at your peril. It is possible that you may read more ball jokes in 90 minutes than you would experience at a Mike Meyers film festival. On the plus side, they don't seem to know a whole lot about soccer.

Unprofessional Foul does it right--drunken half-assed updates, with T&A female representatives from the teams playing. It is what we would do, if we were drunk and half-assed all week, or were willing to brave the Google Image search for "Greek Women in underpants." We aren't that brave. Also, they are willing to work in Microsoft Paint (in some sick simulcrum of ESPN's AXIS) to demonstrate offside calls. The Lads aren't flashy, or talented, but they put in the work. They are the Tab Ramos of Soccer Websites (without a dirty Leonardo elbow to the head).

And than there is That's On Point, who are like the Marco Van Basten of blogs--talented, quick to finish, and they put in the work. That's where you go for analysis, except that Cardillo is now working for Deadspin, too. So catch as catch can. Cardillo is a damn good soccer blogger, even if he is crazy to advocate more Danny Califf starts for the US.

For the Ladies, the Ladies have offered up some Sexy European Soccer players. Enjoy, you fucking trampy bints! I found the selection of John Heitinga to be surprising. He's got tiny weird elvin ears. But then again, you weird ladies like that shit, maybe.

Sniffing the Touchline has decided that everyone else can cover the Euro, they'll cover everything else soccer. And they've done a good job with that. You've got Emmanuel Petit's new Shocking Tell-All Memoir, Scolari's new job after the Euro, and basically ask for Joey Barton to hit them in the head and pee on them (by criticizing him).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Stephen Colbert Vs. Native Americans

Mr. Colbert takes on Native Americans and interviews Minnesota Injun Winona LaDuke at about the 5:45 mark. Enjoy!

Timberwolves Draft Mental Bifurcation

Now that the NBA Finals are all but over, thanks to Kevin Garnett (we miss you, KG. No WE DON'T.) we can now turn our attention to the NBA Draft. And as I have stated in some comments to my own posts, I'm of at least two minds here.

Without getting into specifics (beyond, for the love of God, no Kevin Love!), the Wolves are at a crossroads with this draft, with a #3 pick in a draft with two players, with the Heat saying maybe they don't want one of those top 2 guys. That would make it simple.

If the Heat pass on Michael Beasley, the Wolves take him. End of discussion. Happiness reigns as they trade up using their two 2nd round picks to get a Robin Lopez or some other young 7 footer whose only job it is to make room for Beasley and Jefferson. Yay!

But that won't happen, probably. Hence the issue.

There are two schools of thought here, and unfortunately, in this draft, at the #3 pick, it becomes a bit of a Venn diagram, with a lot of overlap. Out of the Starting Five for the Timberwolves, only one guy has earned his position, and that's Al Jefferson. He's a Power Forward. The Wolves played him at center at times, to his detriment, but he did OK at that role (but it can't be his role going forward, yeah?). Every other starter is replaceable, but young. The backcourt of Foye/McCants? Either one replaceable for a better player. Small forward? Brewer/Gomes/That Guy They Got From the Rockets for Gerald Green. Center? The Timberwolves don't have a center. Every position is open, EXCEPT power forward.

Which makes the Kevin Love rumor so grating and so improbable. What can a 6' 8", overweight white boy do that Al Jefferson, all of 3 years older than the presumed rookie not do? What can Kevin Love do that Al Jefferson not do. No, Timberwolves, Kevin Love will not do at all. That's a not starter, I hope.

What it comes to, and what I'm bifurcated mentally about is the eternal question--draft for need, or draft best player. If the Wolves go best player, as they probably should, given their starting line-up, then it seems like it has to be OJ Mayo (a 2 guard who can shoot) or Bayless (a point who can run the offense). If they pretend that they are drafting for need, than they go center, and take Brook Lopez.

Which I would be totally against, but in this one instance, drafting a true 7 footer to take pressure off Jefferson, and keep him at his natural position but be at once drafting for need, and retroactively drafting for the best player in the draft. Getting even a clunky, awkward big man could help Jefferson push his game to All-Star quality. And if he gets that good, and starts drawing double teams--maybe the backcourt tandem of Foye/McCants/Jaric/Telfair gets better.

With a quality young starter at every position, maybe the Timberwolves are no longer that place where KG once played.

Or maybe they draft OJ Mayo, and trade McCants for a 4th round pick, and take Robin Lopez in the 2nd round. They still get their big uncoordinated 7 footer, they pick up a draft pick, and they snag OJ Mayo, who will actually hit the shot when Al Jefferson is double teamed in the post.

The Timberwolves won't be threatening for the West Conference title any time soon, but they could maybe win 10 or 15 more games next year, if they make the right pick. I only wish I knew what the right pick was.

Wrong Pick? Kevin Love.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Euro Cup Review and Previews

First off, let us say for the record that MuuMuuman can discuss all the gurning he wants, and it will not stop this blog in its tracks. Real jobs, and too much soccer can, though. We apologize, we would have loved to have blogged about our insights on the games that have occurred thus far as they happened, but they happen in the middle of the day. We would have loved to have blogged about them after we watched them on tape, but we were often tired afterwards. We will get better when we are in the single elimination matches, but for now, a bit of a week of review, and some predictions, in a very general way.

How good are the Netherlands? They blank Italy 3-0, and they pour it on against France, and beat them 4-1. This was the supposed Group of Death, and it is, for teams not named Netherlands. Romania, on the strength of two ties, having not played the Netherlands yet (who will probably rest a lot of players) has a decent shot at the last spot in this group. I hope the Netherlands reserves do beat Romania, because I would like to see the France vs. Italy game count for something. Two great, somewhat aging teams battling it out for a trip to the next round. But that doesn't answer the question I posed originally--how good are the Netherlands?

I'm not sure we know yet. We haven't seem them come from behind yet, and I'm not sure they could. So much of their offense is predicated on quick counter attacks. They strike quickly, make no doubt about that, but without a great goalie in Van der Saar and great counters to Italy pressing after being down 1-0, they win that game 1-0, or tie it or lose it, instead of winning 3-0. Today was much the same. The Dutch went up early, got a little lucky (or a lot lucky) and then countered, and countered and countered. Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who doesn't get a lot of credit for being clever with his feet, was absolutely amazing in setting up the 3rd goal with a endline flick that was either incredible or incredibly lucky. I'm still not sure. Don't let the Dutch score first, seems to be the rule.

Which Germany will show up for their 3rd game? They looked unstoppably Germanic against Poland, with their short technical passes, and blasting shots. Against Croatia, they looked positively Englandish. I would say that Bastien Schweinsteiger ("Swine Climber" in American--I am pretty sure that somewhere in his family tree, he has an ancestor who got fucking a pig) had played himself into a start, but his harebrained red card in the last 2 minutes of the Croatia game negates that possibility. Is it time to sit Klose in favor of someone who can use their feet? We will see.


Sweden vs. Spain. Between the two of them, they beat their first game's competition 5-0. To be fair, those teams were Russia and Greece. They will be the two teams who advance, but this game (today!) will determine who gets the first position, and thus avoids (more than likely) a red hot Netherlands squad, and instead gets the bloodied and bruised 2nd place finisher of the Group of Death.


Turkey vs. Czech Republic. For a trip to the next round. Sometimes, in a round robin of 4, you get these situations. This is one of them. The Czechs looked awful against Switzerland, but won. Looked good against the Portugese, but lost. Turkey hasn't ever really looked "good" per se, but they bring heavy hitting, and a couple of skill players. My money is on the Czechs, my heart is with the Turks.


Barring real fuck-ups, the Germans and the Croats should be focused and beat the teams they are facing (Austria and Poland, respectively). But if either team loses focus, their could be a very embarassing loss here.

We'll pick up on Tuesday, as that's when the big France/Italy tilt occurs, and nothing could stop us from writing about that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wow. I guess "gurning" was a total blog-stopper.

I can totally remove the gurning post people. Italy get's whooped up, Germany looses and nothing? If gurnin's gotta go let me know.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Gurning Champion

From Wikipedia:

"Gurning contests are a rural English tradition and were once common at travelling sideshows, fairs and freak shows. They are still held regularly in some villages, and the contestants traditionally frame their faces through a horse collar - known as 'gurnin' through a braffin'. The World Gurning Championship is held annually in Egremont, Cumbria as one part of the Egremont Crab Apple Fair. Those with the greatest gurn capabilities are often those with no teeth, as this provides greater room to move the jaw further up. In some cases the elderly or otherwise toothless can be capable of spectacular gurns covering the entire nose."

And yes, here is the Queen of friggen England with the 2008 World Gurning Champion:

God save the Queen.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Euro Cup Day 2 Preview

First Game of the Day: Austria vs. Croatia. Austria are co-hosts, and they are playing their first game in Vienna, which you would think would give them a huge advantage. And it does. Unfortunately, they aren't very good. Let me quote Cardillo on this one: "Put it this way, Austria's current FIFA ranking is 101, which nestles them between Algeria and Tanzania. On the plus side, the Austrians have a full seven spots on Burkina Faso." You can see how that isn't good, right? The Austrians are in because they are hosting. No other reason. Croatia may be missing their Brazilian-Croat Eduard da Silva (who got crumpled in the Premiership a few months back), and their offense is in a bit of a funk lately, but they certainly have the talent to beat Austria. Look out for Niko Kranjcar, who has proven himself a dangerous player at times in the Premiership. Yahoo says to look out for new Tottenham signing, striker Luka Modric. The Spurs paid over 16 millions pounds to get him, so he might be pretty good.

Prediction: Austria definitely loses. But how badly? That depends. Rallied by the home partisans, if they can limit the damage in the first 20 minutes, they may end up a respectable 1-0. If they give up a goal early, though, expect the floodgates to open. I think the floodgates are more likely to open than not. I'm going to go 3-0.

Second Game of the Day: Germany vs. Poland. For some reason, some people are pointing to this game as the first true rivalry. Apparently, these two countries have bad blood between them or something?

Germany has to be one of the favorites to win this thing. They are technically sound, their veterans have come off some great league play (Michael Ballack, for instance) and their great young players from 2006 have gained two years of experience. I don't think that there is a more intimidating central defense than Metzelder and Mertesacker. Phil Lahm might be the most dangerous offensive right back in the world. In the midfield, you've got Frings, Schweinstieger ("Pig Climber") and Ballack--all capable of dangerous runs and thunderous shots. Up front, Klose continues to just score headed in goals in big games.

The Poles have always reminded me of the US--goalkeeping, scrappy, tough, limited in offensive technicians, and a bit slow in key positions. If they can't get up for this game, they can't get up for anything (and if you've ever been to a Polish neighborhood, you know they can get it for anything. Ha! I'm calling Polish women ugly there. Which was silly, and immature, and not necessarily true.)

On offense, the Poles will be counting on Euzebiusz Smolarek, who has some moves, but this is the wrong team to be playing if you are hoping for one guy to beat a defense. But again, what the Poles lack on talent, they make up for in "grit", or if you prefer "borderline dirty play." Expect some yellows in this game, and a hard fought struggle.

Prediction: Germany comes out on top--let's say 2-1. They also lose an important player for the rest of the tournament due to a "tough challenge."

Euro Cup Day 1 Recap

My predictions from Day 1 were one hand, amazingly accurate, and other hand, completely wrong.

Czech Republic 1, Switzerland 0. I admit to not watching much of the Czechs vs Switzerland, but by all accounts, it went the way I intimated it would. The Czechs didn't have a lot of firepower, but were able to put the game away on a mistake by the Swiss defense (I can't believe they run offside traps at that level, but that's a rant for some other day). Helping their chances, they also knocked Alexander Frei out of the game, which will hurt the Swiss going forward. Seeing what I saw in the second game, though, the Czechs could be a bit of trouble if there plan is to win 1-nil with self-declared "lucky" goals.

Portugal 2, Turkey 0. I'm pretty conflicted about this game. I feel like my prediction wasn't that wrong-headed. On the other hand, with slightly better luck/finishing, Portugal could have won this game 4-nil or even 5-nil. But switch that bit of luck and quality finishing, and the game probably ends in a 1-1 draw or the 2-1 win I predicted. I'd say both teams lost out on pretty legitimate penalty kick fouls that went uncalled. And the score for this game throughout most of it was either 0-0 or 1-0. That second goal came in injury time. It was anyone's game until almost the final whistle. That said, the first goal was a combination of opportunistic defense (catching a bad clearance by Turkey) and a lovely give and go from Pepe.

Portugal showed some weakness in the back, mainly in terms of organization, particularly on their left side. Deco made bad decision after bad decision in the midfield (Apparently Martin Rogers and I were watching different Decos). My choice of Man of the Match would go to two men in the defense--Pepe and Jose Bosingwa. They both played tough defense (especially Bosingwa, who was a friggin wall out there, and Pepe scored the match-winner).

Both and I and miwacar expected to see Nani much sooner than we did. the Portugese, as a team, hit woodwork 3 times by my count--that's pretty unlucky.

Meanwhile, the Turks couldn't finish a sandwich. They got themselves in dangerous territory several times, only to swing and miss, or fall down for no good reason, or simply mishit the strike. We'll see if they can right that ship. I believe they can. I don't think Nihat goes home without a goal to his credit.

The Czechs have 3 points, but I'll be very surprised if they take more one more point from these two sides combined.

On To Day Two Predictions!

Euro Cup Day 1

Before we get to the the actual games, can we all agree that Paulo Maldini is right to sign up for another year? He was only one of the most dangerous players that AC Milan had in the backfield. Maldini for 20 minutes a game is better than no Maldini at all. Viva Maldini!

First game of the day--The Czech Republic vs. Switzerland. If you read Cardillo's summary, you might think that the Czech Republic is depleted and is primed to lose. You wouldn't be wrong, if you believed that soccer was all about the offense. Yes, the Czechs will be without the retired Nedved, or the injured Rosicky, both of whom would have helped make the offense go. They are stuck with some stand-bys on offense. But that defense! Peter Cech in goal, Ujfalusi, Rozenhal, Jankulovski, Grygera? That may be the finest back four outside of Italy. Switzerland has some threats, especially Giant Man Frei, but I still see The Czechs winning this game.

Prediction 1-0, Czechs beat the Swiss.

Second Game of the Day: Portugal vs. Turkey. Turkey is better than anyone gives them credit for, and Portugal isn't as awesome as everyone thinks they are. I'm calling an upset here. Turkey wins 2-1. It will be a shocking upset, except for the fact that I've called it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Guys Who Make Comics Love Sports: David Aja

I have a theory. As a comic book lover and a sports lover, I do not represent any actual massive break in the demographics. My theory is that readers (like myself) and writers and artists of comics love sports. So why not interview the guys who create comic books and see where their prejudices lie, sports-wise?

First up, David Aja, brilliant artist, best known in the states for his work on Iron Fist. David has lived most of his life in Spain, so I figured I would ask him about Spanish Soccer.


Aja doesn't love Basketball, or Baseball, or American Football. He doesn't even give a shit about European Football. To quote the man himself, "Heh, I'm sorry but I must be one of those nerds you talk about, I do not like sports. Yep, neither I do like spanish football, in fact I hate all that stuff, la liga, euro cup... even do not like martial arts, heh."

The artist behind the Brilliant Iron Fist doesn't like Martial Arts! SHOCKING.

But Aja did say he could talk films, and you people know how I love the moving image. And we have been known to enjoy pop cultural pursuits here on this here blog, so here are David Aja's Top 5 movies. David seems to enjoy movies about individuals being crushed by the state.

1) Strike (Eisenstein)--A movie I had never heard of. I'm familiar with Eisenstein, mainly because Battleship Potemkin is considered a technical masterpiece of early cinema. You can't crack a basic book on filmmaking principles without Potemkin rearing its head. According to my research, Strike is about a group of workers going on strike, and getting the shit kicked out of them.

David says*, "Strike is, it is his first film, and it has a lot of experimental stuff, much more fresh than Potemkin I think." The whole movie is on YouTube, in 25 parts. Part one Is Here.

2) The Third Man (Carol Reed)--I was happy to see this on Aja's list. It is my favorite "great" movie of all time. Corruption, murder, American naivete are all themes in a great noir film, with legendary actors, like Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles at their height. Written by Graham Greene, brilliant cinematography, crazily perfect zither soundtrack. It doesn't get better. Opening credits here.

3) A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)--Aja follows two films about post war nastiness with his first dystopian movie. Based on the incredible novel by Anthony Burgess, Clockwork Orange follows Alex, in an awful future, in which criminality is brainwashed out of young people. When it opened, it was considered shockingly violent. The violence in it is still shocking, because it is filmed in such a stark manner. Trailer here.

David says: "My favorite Kubrick film--2001 and The Killing being around here, too."

4) Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)--Another dystopian movie here. And one of most visually impressive, and most accurate visions of the future. And again, based on a genius novelist's work, this time Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Harrison Ford plays Deckard, an employee of the government who is charged with hunting down human-like robots (replicants) who have left their jobs and are attempting to enter human society. He hunts down a group of replicants. It was a huge flop at the time, but great minds have since reconsidered, and recognize it as one of more true visions of our possible future (not so much the humanoid robots, but the cityscapes and the paranoia).

I asked David for his Top 5 movies, and he said this about Blade Runner:

David says: I was thinking of writing in Blade Runner five times.

5) Brazil (Gilliam) --A great film, though not my favorite Gilliam movie (tie: Fisher King/Time Bandits). But we're talking about Aja here, and Brazil fits perfectly with the other four he has picked. Brazil is a dysptopian nightmare with plenty of that Gilliam gallows humor. Great work from DeNiro, Jonathon Pryce, and a never more troubling Michael Palin. Trailer here.

Says David: "Kafka's Josef K as main character in Orwell's 1984, Gilliam directing, what more do you need?"

*quotes modified to translate Spanish English into American USA USA English.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Euro 2008 Preview

What Cardillo Said.

(we will try to break down individual matches when the time comes. Like tomorrow.)

Good Triumphs Over Evil in Game 1

I assume we all right-thinking folks equate the Celtics with good and the Lakers with EVIL, right?

I assume this Yahoo recap is going to be like most, and focus on Paul Pierce getting injured, and coming back and contributing and being a badass. KG's 9-22 isn't the most impressive stat, but he dominated in the first half, and I think he had the more plays (the kind of plays that don't show up in the box score) that determined this game.

Without his energy on the boards, I think you can take away at least 5 boards from his teammates.

But one play in particular reminded me of the KG I got old with here in Minnesota. I believe it was the 4th quarter--Celtics up by a handful, and Ray Allen, as he did a number of times this game, drove baseline like he were the Ray Allen 10 years ago and, got stuck and just chucked a ball towards midcourt. It was clearly going to be a backcourt violation. Unless you happen to have a spry, passionate, athletic 7 footer who patrols the perimeter. KG took a couple of steps and launched himself to save the ball from being a backcourt violation. I don't think there is a single player in the NBA besides KG who could have made that play. The ball ended up in a Celtic hand, and they scored two points. It went from deflating turnover to adding to a lead. It was a small thing, but a huge play.

So, KG's FG % wasn't spectacular, but he did lead his team in scoring, got double digit rebounds, and made a handful of small plays that help a team win. I didn't think the Lakers would have an answer for him, and I see nothing to suggest that they will. They can only count on fatigue slowing down the Big Ticket.

One thing I don't think the Celtics can count on is the rather abysmal performance of Kobe Bryant. 9-26 shooting (which "improves" to 6-23 if you remove his 3 missed three pointers) and a court rating of -13--that's not typical Kobe, certainly.

Key, most underlooked stat in Game 1 will be Bench Play. The bench scoring was roughly equal. But that's where the equality ends. Look at the guys the Celtics Did Not Play--Tony Allen, Eddie House and compare them to the Laker's DNP'ers--Chris Mihm? He's still in the league? Ariza? Mbenga? What? Who? Where? What?

Like I said, in terms of scoring, the bench points were pretty equal--the Laker's bench scored 15 points; the Celtics 17 points. But look at the +/- stats for those benches, and the difference becomes hugely glaring. For those of you who don't follow hockey, this stat is quite simple--points scored by your offense are part of your total. Points scored by the other team while you were playing defense counts as a negative.

The Celtics Bench was +16. That's pretty impressive all by itself. The Celtics brought in bench players and they scored and defended well. The Laker's bench was NEGATIVE 20. While the scoring was equal, the defensive prowess of the Laker's bench is highly questionable.

I thought going into this game that both team's had equally shallow benches. This game suggests something else altogether. It suggests that the Laker's Sixth Man Vujacic is such a liability on defense that his presumed great shooting is totally offset by his horrible defense. That Luke Walton can play almost 14 minutes and not score a point is troubling. That his team lost 5 points when he was on the court is more troubling.

Keep on eye on bench play, not just bench scoring--it may determine this series.

New rule for NFL steroid dealers - don't ask don't tell

David Jacobs and I assume his lady friend, Amanda Jo Earhart-Savell, were found shot dead in their home last Thursday. David Jacobs is a recently convicted steroid dealer (May 1st) who had given names to the NFL concerning his clients on May 21st. Congrats Bud Selig, looks like the heat is off MLB - at least confessed MLB steroid dealers don't wind up dead.

UPDATE: Police have stated they suspect Jacobs killed his on-again off-again girl friend then shot himself. Twice. In the abdomen and in the head. Shot himself twice? Hmmm.... Where did this happen - Oh, Texas. Who did he sell steroids to? Ohhh Cowboys. Obviously I haven't seen the evidence but I think shooting yourself twice with a .40 caliber glock (.40 caliber is a big bullet) would be quite difficult, and if you're gonna kill yourself why shoot yourself in the gut first? Also, you'd think somebody would have heard something in a residential area (girlfirend shot "several times"), but I'm no detective.
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