Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Keep the Ball Moving.

  • Bear vs. Colt. Fan poll, check. MySpace pages, check. Bizarre video of people in horse and bear costume, double check.
  • Deadspin. Outsider/Insider/Outsider's look at Super Bowl week in Miami, or Sean Salisbury is King.
  • Pacifist Viking. The story of the season? Saints, no. Tomlinson, no. Rex Grossman, yes!

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Coverage.

  • English Premeire League Soccer:
    • Arsenal vs. Bolton Wanderers, (FSC, 12:30 p.m.)
    • Chelsea vs. Blackburn Rovers, (FSC, 2:30 p.m.)
    • Bolton Wanderers vs. Charlton Athletic, (FSC, 5 p.m.)
  • College men's basketball:
    • Miami (Fla.) vs. North Carolina, (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
    • Ohio State vs. Purdue, (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
    • Texas vs. Texas Tech, (ESPN2, 9 p.m.)
    • Gonzaga vs. Stanford, (FSN, 11 p.m.)
  • NBA:
    • San Antonio vs. Utah, (ESPN, 9 p.m.)
    • Chicago vs. Los Angeles Clippers, (WGN, 9:30 p.m.)
  • UFC: Fight Night: From Hollywood, Fla. (Spike, 8 p.m.)
Local Coverage.
  • College men's basketball:
    • Wisconsin vs. Indiana, (WYIN, 6 p.m.)
    • Creighton vs. Bradley, (CSNCHI, 7:30 p.m.)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In Praise of the EPL Review Show, Part One

Hello readers. You'll note that this weekend's column comes to you too late for you to size up Saturday's Fox Soccer Channel games. Fear not, dear hearts; this weekend is reserved for some particularly unsexy FA Cup Fourth Round matches. So unless you're a big fan of Spurs of Blackburn, which you aren't, and desired to see them easily dispatch lower-league competition, today's respective thumpings were eminently missable.

Another reason we're a day late is I've started a job this week, an actual job at an actual workplace that requires my actual continued resence. Jarring to the old schedule, that.

But the main reason why the actual day of release for this column is immaterial is that this week we won't be talking about this week; we'll be talking about last week, or rather, about the highlights of last week as they were so deftly delivered on FSC's "EPL Review Show."

I've recommended the show before in this blog, but always in an offhanded manner, and it's such a perfect highlights program that it deserves to be called to your collective attention more explicitly.

The format is simple but exceedinly effective. Each of the weekend's games is shown in miniature. You see every single goal of the weekend, every bit of argy bargy, every note-worthy incident. You generally then hear each manager give his post-match comments; sometimes their commentary is cliche-ridden and lame, occasionally they throw some salt around but at the very least the accents are consistently fascinating.

The game clips themselves are what makes it great, of course. They don't come at you in the rapid-fire manner we have come to expect from American shows. They come in extended form; you don't just see the goal, you see the passes that led up to it. You don't just see the red card, you see the incident from ten minutes earlier that started the slow burn in the first place. You don't hear a studio host offering wise-cracks and catchphrases, you hear the original breathless British commentary coming from the guy who is actually at the game. It exposes all of the bloated excess of SportsCenter, making you wish that all highlights were delivered this way.

(For the record, I wonder if the trend towards this style of highlights is already underway; with the way that games are being replayed abbreviated-style on the NFL Network, or the long-play summaries you can get on iTunes, it is possible that we have reached the saturation point on SportsCenter-style rat-a-tat. I'm alowing myself some hope that we are reverting to letting the games speak for themselves.)

This is not FSC's idea, of course; first of all the show is a production of the Premier League and is sent around the world. Secondly, British television has been doing it this way for decades; a show called "Match of the Day" has been as big a Saturday night television institution there as "Saturday Night Live" has here.

It should be noted that "MotD" distinguishes itself from the "EPL Review Show" with a commentary panel of experts, including the magnificent Scottish curmudgeon Alan Hansen; but while that panel is generally excellent I must say I don't miss it.

Last week's show was a particularly good one. It started off strong, with the highlights of the Liverpool-Chelsea and Arsneal-Man U matches. As I said here last week, if Liverpool and Arsenal were to each win, the title race would get a lot more interesting. Sure enough, they did. And how.

Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-0 with two goals in the first twenty minutes, including a stunner from Jermaine Pennant. Chelsea are officially reeling, by the way, but we'll get to them in a second.

The Arsenal match topped that one for drama. Still down 1-0 in the 83rd minute, the Gunners came back to win with two great goals. First an 83rd minute goal by Robin van Persie, which you can enjoy in English or through the Arabic Andres Cantor.

Then Arsenal did what Man U usually do; they scored in the next-to-last minute of stoppage time to win. The goal by Thierry Henry is notable for two things: the first being that Henry rarely scores from headers, the second that the exquisite cross came from a 22 year-old Englishman named Justin Hoyte. An Englishman on Arsenal can be as hard to find as a Turk on the Kansas City Royals. So good for him for taking his chance.

(But really. You gotta hear the Arabic version.)

That's a pretty great chunk of highlights. On SportsCenter, both games awould have been taken care of in three minutes total. On the EPL Review Show, it took a quarter of an hour. They don't just show you images; they tell you each game, as though it were a story.

Alas, I have to run to that there job I was talking about. We'll finish this later, as there's more to come, including fighting coaches and a fleeting moment of audacity by Clint Dempsey in his Premeriship debut. Until then, let's preview tomorrow's game.

Chelsea-Nottingham Forest, FA Cup Fourth Round, 9am ET

The real game of the day would be Arsenal vs. Bolton, who knocked the Guners out at this stage last year. But FSC gives us this. Eh.

Chelsea are riven by controversy and locker room strife at the moment. Their big signing from last summer was the Ukrainain striker Andriy Schevchenko. He is a living legend, one of the most lethal forwards of his generation. Until he came to London. Where he has thoroughly sucked. The scuttlebutt is that Chelsea's Russian owner is friends with Schevchenko and wants coach Jose Mourinho to coddle him. Mourinho has been making veiled threats in the papers that he will leave if he is not allowed to do things his way and two players have come out this week saying that this schism is one of the reasons Chelsea are struggling of late. (A more salient reason is their injury problems at centre-back, but I still love the gossip, me.)

Still, they'll make a punching bag of Forest. If the game were in Nottingham, there might have been an upset. This sounds like one of those games were the smaller team starts strong, fights hard, holds on for a long time and then tragically caves in at the end. This one'll be for Chelsea fans only.

Watchability: Two stars (out of 4)
Yank Watch: None, though Chelsea are rumored to be in talks to get Onguchi Onyewu.

-Brendan Hunt

Thursday, January 25, 2007

You can almost smell it....

25 - 13 CHI over DAL (1st Q, but hey... best quarter of ball I've seen the Bulls play this year..)

Ben has his hair blown out and many a teardrop is falling for BG... You go on and get a T Ben...

Dear God... No way Pax deals for Gasol... no way... this crew is hungry and wicked... just the way I like my NBA squads...

I don't even care if they lose tonight... that 1st Q is worth it.

Time Out.

To our three readers,

Due to some computer problems, and an increase in my activities that take me away from blogging, I will be posting far less for awhile.

Thanks for reading, we will try to get back on track soon.

Go Bears!!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Games.

  • College men's basketball:
    • Connecticut vs. Louisville (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
    • Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State (ESPN, 9 p.m.)
    • Gonzaga vs. Portland (ESPN, midnight)
  • College women's basketball: Duke at Tennessee (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
  • Tennis: Australian Open, at Melbourne, fourth round (ESPN2, 3 p.m., same-day tape); quarterfinals (ESPN2, 9 p.m., live; and ESPN, 3:30 a.m., live)
Local Games.
  • NBA: Chicago vs. Indiana (CSNCHI, 6 p.m.)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Super Bowl!!

The NFC Title Game.
Bears 39, Saints 14.

Sports On T.V. today.

NFL: NFC Championship Game, New Orleans vs. Chicago, (Fox, 3 p.m)

That is all.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

National Games.

  • English Premeire League Soccer:
    • Newcastle United vs. West Ham United, (FSC, 10 a.m.)
    • Manchester City vs. Blackburn Rovers, (FSC, noon)
    • Portsmouth vs. Charlton Athletic, (FSC, 2:15 p.m.)
  • Boxing: Junior welterweights, IBF champion Juan Urango vs. Ricky Hatton; welterweights, Jose Luis Castillo vs. Herman Ngoudjo, at Las Vegas, (HBO, 9:45 p.m.)
  • College football: Dell East-West All-Star Shrine Game, at Houston, (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
  • College men's basketball:
    • Louisville vs. DePaul, (ESPN, noon)
    • Wisconsin vs. Illinois, (ESPN, 2 p.m.)
    • Duke vs. North Carolina State, (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)
    • Kansas vs. Texas Tech, (ESPN, 4 p.m.)
    • Arizona vs. UCLA, (FSN, 4 p.m.)
    • San Diego State vs. Air Force, (VERSUS, 5 p.m.)
    • Washington vs. Washington State, (FSN, 6 p.m.)
    • Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina, (ESPN, 9 p.m.
  • College men's basketball regional coverage:
    • Indiana vs. Connecticut or LSU at Arkansas, (CBS, 3:45 p.m.)
    • Texas vs. Villanova or Georgia at Alabama,(CBS, 1:30 p.m.)
  • College women's basketball:
    • Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State, (FSN, noon)
    • Kansas State vs. Baylor, (FSN, 2 p.m.)
    • UCLA vs. Arizona, (FSN, 2 a.m.) (delayed tape)
  • Golf:
    • PGA European Tour, Abu Dhabi Championship, third round, (The Golf Channel, 9:30 a.m.) (same-day tape)
    • LPGA, Women's World Cup of Golf, second round, (The Golf Channel, 1 p.m.) (same-day tape)
    • PGA Tour, Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, fourth round, (The Golf Channel, 4 p.m.)
    • Champions Tour, MasterCard Championship at Hualalai, second round, (The Golf Channel, 7:30 p.m.)
  • NBA: Utah vs. Chicago, (WGN, 8:30 p.m.)
  • Rodeo: Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series, Sacramento Classic, (VERSUS, 9 p.m.)
  • Soccer: Men's national team, USA vs. Denmark, at Carson, Calif., (ESPN2, 4:50 p.m.)
  • Tennis: Australian Open, early rounds, (ESPN2, noon( (same-day tape); (ESPN2, 10 p.m.); (ESPN, 3:30 a.m.)

Friday, January 19, 2007


Ricky Hatton weighed in at 139lbs, as did Juan Urango. Tomorrow night both will be closer to 160lbs. Fighters try and put on as much weight before a fight as they can. The heavier you are, the harder you can hit.
The bout is for Urango's 140lb I.B.F. Junior welter weight title. However Hatton is favored to win. Both fighters are pressure fighters. Neither like to take a step back. This should be an exciting fight. I encourage all to watch it. It might just turn you into a boxing fan.
My prediction is Hatton KO's Urango by the 8th round. Urango has a solid chance for the upset, though so it is an exciting fight.

National Games.

  • Boxing:
    • Light welterweights, champion Randall Bailey vs. Michael Warrick, for IBA championship, at Key West, Fla. (ESPN2, 8 p.m.)
    • Junior featherweights, Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Cuauhtemoc Vargas; welterweights, Victor Ortiz vs. Marvin Cordova, at Phoenix, (Showtime, 11 p.m.)
  • Golf:
    • PGA European Tour, Abu Dhabi Championship, second round, at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, (The Golf Channel, 9:30 a.m.) (same-day tape)
    • LPGA, Women's World Cup of Golf, first round, at Sun City, South Africa, (The Golf Channel, 12:30 p.m.) (same-day tape)
    • PGA Tour, Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, third round, at La Quinta and Bermuda Dunes, Calif., (The Golf Channel, 3 p.m.)
    • Champions Tour, MasterCard Championship at Hualalai, first round, at Kailua Kona, Hawaii, (The Golf Channel, 6:30 p.m.)
  • NBA:
    • Detroit at Minnesota, (ESPN, 8 p.m.)
    • Cleveland at Denver, (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.)
  • Tennis: Australian Open, early rounds, at Melbourne, (ESPN2, 3 p.m.) (same-day tape); (ESPN2, 10 p.m.; ESPN, 3:30 a.m.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Requiem For A Jag-Off

So it seems that a year spent sunning one's self in the Caribbean can make offers that used to be "insulting" look that much better. Slammin' Sammy is getting back to his roots... The Big D. It really isn't all that surprising that Hicks is the one to give this fucker a shot. After all, he bucked up for A-Rod, backed the truck up for Chan-Ho, and hired Bucky Showalter. Rudy Jarmillo says he can still hit. Awesome.

What? Rueben Sierra wasn't available? No Rob Deer?

I have had an extreme case of Love/Hate with Sammy. A Sosa jersey hangs in the back, WAY back, of my closet. (It was a gift by the way.. I wanted a Grace jersey.) A Sammy Sosa ornament USED to hang on my xmas tree. (Since replaced by a KICKASS Spiderman one..) Sam gave Cub fans a tremendous amount of joy while he was man-ing... or... if I may... mang-ing the 9 for the beloved Coo.. he was there in '03 when the Cubs yoke-kicked me....

We have all seen the horrific sideshow this man has become. I wish that he'd go away. Yes, MLB owes Sosa and The Worlds' Largest Irishman a debt of gratitude, but he embarrassed everyone who loved and supported him in Chicago. I'm not even talking about the hellish steroid shitstorm... HE CORKED HIS BAT! WHAT THE FUCK?!? ARE YOU KIDDING?!?

In the end, after all of the joy and goodwill, the man became a pariah. His jukebox was smashed in his own clubhouse and many a punchline involve his name.

Good luck Rangers.....

PS -- I'd like to thank Solomon Torres for providing the pic up top when he earholed Jerky... I remember him saying it wasn't on purpose.. yeah... OK....

If I Could Be Like Mike. Oh, wait, I don't wanna be like Mike this way.

This comes by way of Deadspin.

We've all had that crazy, ex-whatever to deal with. You know the one, they overemphasize everything in the relationship. ("Today is our four month, and three weeks, anniversary.") They assume the minutia of the relationship is fascinating to everyone. (Yesterday was our four month, and three week, anniversary.) They dwell on the most mundane shit within the relationship. ("I remember the first time we ate tuna salad for lunch together.")

They are crazy.

They blog about you after you have broken up. What? No Ex has ever blogged about you? Oh you wait, it's coming.

Meet Michael Jordan's Mistress.

Sports On T.V. today.

National Games.
  • College men's basketball:
    • Massachusetts vs. Xavier (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
    • Wake Forest vs. Duke (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
  • Golf:
    • PGA European Tour, Abu Dhabi Championship, first round, at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (The Golf Channel, 9:30 a.m.)
    • PGA Tour, Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, first round, at La Quinta and Bermuda Dunes, Calif. (The Golf Channel, 3 p.m.)
  • High school boys basketball: Oak Hill Academy (Va.) vs. Simeon (Ill.), at Chicago (ESPN, 9 p.m.).
  • NBA:
    • Indiana vs. Miami (TNT, 7:15 p.m.)
    • L.A. Lakers vs. Dallas (TNT, 9:30 p.m.)
  • Tennis: Australian Open, at Melbourne, (ESPN2, 3 p.m., same-day tape; ESPN2, 9 p.m., live; and ESPN, 3:30 a.m. Thurs., live)
Local Games.
  • College women's basketball: Minnesota vs. Illinois (CSNCHI, 7 p.m.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton

Ricky Hatton will try to regain his IBF 140lb title on Saturday night on HBO. This after winning his last fight at 147, and winning the WBA title. He is undefeated and a lot of fun to watch fight. He has a pressure style of fighting with lots of body attacks. I encourage everyone to watch him this weekend.

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Games.

  • College men's basketball:
    • North Carolina at Clemson (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
    • Illinois at Minnesota (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
  • Golf: PGA Tour, Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, first round, at La Quinta and Bermuda Dunes, Calif. (The Golf Channel, 3 p.m.)
  • NBA: L.A. Lakers at San Antonio (ESPN, 9 p.m.)
  • Tennis: Australian Open, at Melbourne, (ESPN2, 3 p.m., same-day tape; ESPN2, 9 p.m., live; and ESPN, 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, live)
  • English Premeire League Soccer:
    • 3rd Round Replay, Newcastle United vs. Birmingham City (FSC, 3 p.m.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bear Down!!

I haven't written to much about the Bears play-off run so far. Mainly this is because I am far to emotionally involved to write well about it. I'm to excited; can't think straight.

I'm also a Chicago sports fan.

I only have a limited knowledge of other cities relationship with their teams, but in Chicago, the negativity and expectation of failure is distracting, if not hurtful to the enjoyment of sports. We are always waiting to have our hopes to be crushed. I'm alittle sick of it.

I can be as guilty of this as anyone. When the Cubs were making their run in 2003, I was living in L.A. My attention, and the Cubs success, became contagious amongst my friends there that had no team. My normal reaction to their excitement was, "I'll believe it when I see it." When they had their collapse, I felt like the guy who never enjoyed life for of fear of life. I never really enjoyed the ride, and that's no way to watch sports. Not for me.

Last Sunday, I watched the Bears win a close game, drunk on Bloody Mary's, with many a friend. They won. We were happy. NFC Championship game was coming to Chicago. The last time the Bears hosted an NFC championship game Ronald Reagan was still in office, for fucks sake. The Bears were pounded back in '89 by a superior 49er's team, and never recovered.

So, I'm gonna go back to that bar this Sunday, get drunks with my friends again, and enjoy the game. I might be fifty the next time they make it.

Feelings...Nothing more than Feelings

Great. So the Patriots are back in the AFC Championship. Again. How exciting. My hopes rest on Peyton Manning to boot these guys for once and for all. I hate the Patriots now. Like any team that wins too much. Sure, if you're from the New England area, this is bliss. For me, it's just like the Cowboys,Lakers, Spurs, Red Wings and Yankees. I'm sure everyone started to get really sick of the Bulls six rings. Except for me and my Chicago brothers and sisters. I am so bored of the Patriots that it makes me ill. If the Pats get in, and the Bears don't, I will not be watching the bowl this year. I work behind a bar on Sundays anyway, so I will be forced to watch the score. I now wish for a Colts/Bears Superbowl. Help make my new year guys.

Coach Marty should be back with the Chargers. Give him an extension. Give him some wide receivers for crying out loud! I needed four hands to count all the dropped passes out there. Personal foul penalties. The players lost that game for Marty.

The Saints march into Chicago this week, in what proves to be a tough one for the Bears. The Bears need to play better than they did on Sunday to beat these guys. Robbie Gould is money for the Bears and should get a lot of credit this year. He is a gamer, and I see him winning one more for us this week. The Bears running game was very solid. Thomas Jones just wills himself to be the best, and Cedric is coming into his own. So.....Can Rex Grossman read a blitz? Is he too proud to go down? Man, was I furious at him for that fumble. I'm sure grateful that Rashied Davis was one of the MVP's of that game. If he doesn't catch two big time passes, the Bears lose, and sports talk radio is even more of a drag. Thank-you Rashied!

Not much to say on that Eagles/Saints game. The Saints worked hard for that one. The Eagles should feel bad they lost of course, but they're run was full of heart and team spirit. I can't imagine how far they would have gone with McNabb. No knock on Garcia, who did an unworldly job. Maybe they don't even get in if McNabb was there. Who knows? I look forward to seeing Donovan back there next year. His healthy years may be behind him.

I split my picks this week, going two for two, and I think I was 1-3 versus the spread. I'm glad I'm poor and do not have an impulse to gamble. The spread is tough to beat in the playoffs. Look for my picks this week, along with my over/under calls!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Games.

  • College men's basketball:
    • Iowa at Indiana (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
    • Connecticut at Pittsburgh (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
    • Kentucky at South Carolina (ESPN, 9 p.m.)
    • Texas at Oklahoma State (ESPN2, 9 p.m.)
  • NHL: Columbus at Chicago (VERSUS, 7:30 p.m.)
  • Tennis: Australian Open, at Melbourne, (ESPN2, 3 p.m., same-day tape; ESPN2, 11 p.m., live; and ESPN, 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, live)
  • English Premeire League Soccer:
    • Sheffield Wednesday vs. Manchester City (FSC, 2:30 p.m.)
Local Games.
  • College men's basketball: St. Joh's vs. DePaul (CSNCHI, 7:30 p.m.)

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Games.

  • College men's basketball:
    • Delaware State at Maryland-Eastern Shore (ESPN2, noon)
    • Marquette at Louisville (ESPN, 7 p.m.)
    • Missouri at Kansas (ESPN, 9 p.m.)
    • Gonzaga at Saint Mary's (ESPN, midnight)
  • College women's basketball: Connecticut at North Carolina (ESPN2, 7 p.m.)
  • NBA:
    • San Antonio at Chicago (WGN, 2 p.m.)
    • Phoenix at Memphis (TNT, 7:30 p.m.)
    • Miami at Los Angeles Lakers (TNT, 10 p.m.)
  • NHL:
    • Montreal at Detroit (VERSUS, 7 p.m.)
    • Colorado at San Jose (VERSUS, 10 p.m.)
  • Tennis:
    • Australian Open, at Melbourne, (ESPN2, 3 p.m., same-day tape; ESPN2, 9 p.m., live; and ESPN, 3:30 a.m., live)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Whatever... (Part 2)

The loss will be SO much sweeter next week... GO KATRINA'S!!!


SO.. Whatever... RMJ clipped... Why don't they call it clipping anymore?

HA HA HA HA HA -- Part 2

NICE!!! Your All-Pro Special teamer clips... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

You are doomed Bears... DOOMED!

At least Hester didn't fumble that one huh?


YEAH! A Parcells cast off.. Oh Shit! nevermind.. INT for the Osos...


Nice that the Osos are having this one giftwrapped for them by the Refs... by the way, ditch the black pants guys...

Tell Turner to unshackle Rexual Choclate.. let 'em play! This defeat will be most delicious...

Babineaux huh? Bring the heat young cajun'.. bring the heat!

Way to go Bernard.. INT on the way...


Didn't you guys cut Bobby Wade for the type of shennanigans Hester is up to today?

Rex looks like the next Tony Banks...

TD! TD for the 'Hawks! Todd O'Conner just had his 14th heartattack....

What the...

I sit here watching the Osos v. 'Hawks.. I can't help but notice Holmgren seems to be turning redder and redder. It also appears he might be swelling. Is this some Roald Dahl inspired ploy by the Porpoise Eater? Is he going Violet Beuregard on us? My only hope is that by the end of the game he is oozing marinara. Oh.. the 'Hawkeroos just tied it up! The ghost of Steve Smith shall channel through Nate Burleson.... Victory for the Grunge Lovers is nigh...

Wait.. FUCK! Berrian... well.. it's to be expected against a secondary that was selling insurance three weeks ago... Let's go Lofa! Get 'em up!

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Games.
  • English Premier League Soccer: Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United (FSC, 11 a.m.)
  • Men's College Hoops:
    • Illinois vs. Michigan State (CBS, 1:30 p.m.)
    • Duke vs. Miami (FSN, 5:30 p.m.)
    • Oregon vs. Arizona (FSN, 8 p.m.)
  • Women's College Hoops:
    • Tennessee vs. Georgia (FSN, 1 p.m.)
    • Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma (FSN, 3 p.m.)
    • Tulane vs. SMU (ESPN2, 5 p.m.)
  • Golf:
    • PGA European Tour, Joburg Open, final round, in Johannesburg, South Africa (The Golf Channel, 10 a.m., same-day tape)
    • PGA Tour, Sony Open, final round, in Honolulu (The Golf Channel, 7 p.m.)
    • Champions Tour, Wendy's Champions Skins Game, in Wailea, Hawaii (ESPN, 4 p.m., same-day tape)
  • NFL:
    • NFC divisional game, Seattle vs. Chicago (Fox, 1 p.m.)
    • AFC divisional game, New England vs. San Diego (CBS, 4:30 p.m.)
  • Rodeo: Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series, Worcester (Mass.) Classic (VERSUS, 8 p.m., same-day tape)
  • Tennis: Australian Open, early rounds, in Melbourne (ESPN2, 7 p.m. and ESPN, 3:30 a.m.)
Local Games.
  • Men's College Hoops:
    • Illinois vs. Michigan State (WBBM, 12:30 p.m.)
  • Women's College Hoops: Tennessee vs. Georgia (CSNCHI, 12 p.m.)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

NFL In London.

I'm alittle surprised I haven't read more about this. The NFL is going to play another regular season game outside the U.S. This time it will be in London, most likely at Wembley Stadium.

Doesn't this suck?

Aren't stadiums built with taxpayer dollars? Was the game played in Mexico City that big a success? Isn't this a big, fuck-you, to the fans of these teams?

The report says that every team will be required to play a date outside the U.S. over the next 16 seasons.

Why? I mean, aside from the extra money that the NFL can earn, probing every orifice the world has to offer.

It won't be the best product. Both the Giants and Dolphins have a very good chance of sucking next season. Are they really planning on selling the game on the skill of Cleo Lemon's arm, or Tom Coughlin's coaching? I suppose it might be fun seeing which player can get arrested in London? Any early guesses? Gun possession? Drug possession? Drunk driving, on the wrong side of the street, while nude?

But why a regular season game? The fans only get eight a year.

Why not, oh, I don't know, the Pro Bowl? Fan's never attend the game. It doesn't matter in the standings. It's a paid vacation for the players anyway, plus you would have many an NFL star available for pimping. Every year it can be in a different international city abroad. It might even spark more interest here for a game largely irrelevant.

The real game of Football/Picks

What an exciting weekend of football we will have this weekend. Tough picks all the way around.
Let us start with The Ravens at home playing the Colts. The Colts defense came to play last week against Larry Johnson. I just don't believe it will be that good again this week, in a game that seems to heavily favor Baltimore. The Ravens in a close game, or else Peyton "I am everywhere" Manning blows them out.
Shelto Picks Ravens and the points which is four. Tough pick. Should be great.

The Saints of New Orleans play host to the Eagles. The Eagles are a veteran defense, but missing Lito Sheppard this week. Brian Westbrook is out of control with speed, talent and versatility. The receiving core can catch passes against the Saints secondary. That being said though, I'm taking all the home teams this week. The Saints Should probably outscore the Eagles, who's best game plan is to control the ball on the ground, hoping the defense helps them earn great field position in this one.
Shelto picks the Saints, but pick the Eagles at plus six.

New England at San Diego. Too much Marty bashing this week. I understand Tom Brady is a stud with the most moxy of any in the playoffs, but this is the end of the line. Enough said.
Shelto picks the Chargers to win and cover the four and a half. So sick of the Patriots. Go Bears!

Ah Yes.... The Bears at home battle the Seahawks. The bears have to be angry about things. Look for Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher to have nice games, anchoring that defense. Rex plays smart and keeps it in his pants for four quarters. The running game for Da' Bears should get 120 with one score each from Thomas and Benson, while Mark Bradley shows up for a long TD catch off play action. A couple field goals from Gould.
Bears win big and cover the nine. Bear Down!

Happy watching!

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Games. (All national listing are eastern time, adjust yourself accordingly.)

  • English Premier League
    • Chelsea vs Wigan Athletic (FSC, 10 a.m.)
    • Blackburn Rovers vs Arsenal (FSC, noon)
    • Bolton Wanderers vs Manchester City (FSC, 2:15 p.m.)
  • College Football: Inta Juice North-South All-Star Classic, in Houston (ESPN2, noon)
  • Men's College Hoops:
    • West Virginia vs. Marquette (ESPN, noon)
    • Kansas vs. Iowa State (ESPN, 2 p.m.)
    • UCLA vs. Southern California (FSN, 2:30 pm.)
    • Georgetown at Pittsburgh (ESPN, 9 p.m.)
  • Men's College Hoops Regional Coverage:
    • Tennessee vs. Ohio State or Villanova vs. Syracuse (CBS, 1 p.m.)
    • Oklahoma vs. Texas or North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)
  • Women's College Hoops:
    • Maryland at Duke (FSN, 12:30 p.m.)
    • California at Washington (FSN, 4:30 p.m.)
    • Baylor at Texas A&M (FSN, 2 a.m., tape-delayed)
  • Golf:
    • PGA European Tour, Joburg Open, third round, in Johannesburg, South Africa (The Golf Channel, 10 a.m., same-day tape)
    • PGA Tour, Sony Open, third round, in Honolulu (The Golf Channel, 7 p.m.)
    • Champions Tour, Wendy's Champions Skins Game, in Wailea, Hawaii (ESPN, 4 p.m., same-day tape)
  • National Lacrosse League: Buffalo at Colorado (VERSUS, 10 p.m., same-day tape)
  • NBA: Memphis at Chicago (WGN, 8:30 p.m.)
  • NFL:
    • AFC divisional game, Indianapolis at Baltimore (CBS, 4:30 p.m.)
    • NFC divisional game, Philadelphia at New Orleans (Fox, 8 p.m.)
  • NHL Regional Coverage:
    • Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia; Los Angeles vs. St. Louis; or Boson vs. New York Rangers (NBC, 2 p.m.)
  • Rodeo: Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series, Worcester (Mass.) Classic (VERSUS, 8 p.m.)
Local Games.
  • Men's College Hoops:
    • Indiana vs. Penn State (WCIU, 11 a.m.)
    • Wisconsin vs. Northwestern (WCIU, 1:30 p.m.)
    • UCLA vs. Southern California (CSNCHI, 1:30 p.m.)
    • Loyola (Chicgao) vs. Illinois (Chicago) (CSNCHI, 3:30 p.m.)
    • Michigan vs. Purdue (WYIN, 7 p.m.)
  • Women's College Hoops: Maryland vs. Duke (CSNCHI, 11:30 a.m.)
  • NHL: Chicago vs. Detroit (CSNCHI, 6 p.m.)
  • AHL Hamilton vs. Chicago (3 ILL-03, 7 p.m.)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Beckham Addendum & This Week's Games

So it's a day later and we know some more things about the Beckham deal, particularly that the $250 mil is a mild exaggeration, that that figure actually only represents the potential earning of the contract. Further, we know that MLS and AEG (who own the Galaxy and a few other MLS teams) will be responsible for a relatively small portion of that. This is all comforting, and helps affirm that the contract is not a wagering of the farm.

So that great, awesome, let's move on. But there's one other thing I realized, a potential down-the-road storyline that I'd just love to see happen.

It involves the FIFA Club World Cup, which I've written about a little on this blog. It's still a fledgling event, and I suspect the rules will continue to fluctuate ever-so-slightly over the course of the next few years, but the central idea is this: the club champions of each continent get together and duke it out for world dominance.

This replace s a smaller event called the Intercontinental Cup, wherein just the champs of Europe and South America played one game for the title. These latter two continents resisted the expanded tournament, their respective seasons already being over-full with games. As such, their champions get a first-round bye- oh wait, I forgot, these are soccer geek details and not interesting, what were we talking about before that everyone finds interesting...

Oh right, Beckham. The point is this: as soon as this year, it is possible that the LA Galaxy could be playing meaningful games against either of Becks' old clubs, Real Madrid or Manchester United (with the latter being the one that would present the saltier contest).

The CWC has existed for only two seasons in its current format; on both occasions the final was contested between the winners of Europe's Champions League and South America's Copa Libertadores. But there was a representative from the CONCACAF region as well (CONCACAF complicatedly standing for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. Yeesh).

If the Galaxy can win the MLS title, there's no reason they can't win what's called the CONCACAF Champions Cup; they've already won it once, back in 2000.

Mind you; if they made it, they'd be hard pressed to fare well. Mexico's Club America, perhaps the biggest club in the region, were summarily thumped 4-0 by Barcelona this last go-round on their way to finishing fourth, ignominiously losing to Al-Ahly of Egypt in the third-place game.

But think about it. First of all it means Beckham in Japan, which is automatically huge regardless. It would bring international coverage to the event, of a kind that has eluded it up to this point. This coverage and exposure would be great for FIFA (who desperately want the event to eclipse or at least rival the Champions League in overall awesomeness) and massive for MLS.

Should we be so lucky, on top of all that, to see him playing Manchester United... that. would. be. huge.

I expect the Galaxy to, should they win the league, attack the Champions Cup harder than any US team ever has. They have the most to gain from participating in the CWC, perhaps of any team in the entire world.


And now our continuing public service, the heads-up on this week's Fox Soccer Channel Games.


Chelsea v. Wigan, 10am ET

Relatively speaking, neither team is doing well in the league. Chelsea are coming off two draws, unprecedented for them in the Jose Mourinho era. Wigan's slide is a bit more daunting: winless in six, including five straight defeats, with a further one of those being a last-minute defeat at the hands of these very Blues. After a strong start to the season, the Latics are now in very real relegation danger. They are definitely the kind of scrappy team that could spring a surprise here; but I just can't see Chelsea going three without a win.

Watchability: 3 stars (out of 4)

Blackburn-Arsenal, Noon, ET.

Blackburn are making progress under their second-year manger, Wales and Man. U legend Mark "Scrappy" Hughes. Last year they were just the dirtiest team in the league; this year they are just plain tough to beat, having won six of their last seven including four from five in the league. That one loss, alas, was a 6-2 thumping at Arsenal. Being at home, I won't be surprised if the Rovers push the envelope of acceptable violence. Still the Gunners seem too strong right now and should pull it out.

Watchability: 3 stars
Yank Watch: Brad "Land of the" Freidel, GK, Rovers

Bolton v. Manchester City, 2:15 ET (tape delay)

Full disclosure: I don't like Bolton. They're literally like a poor man's Chelsea; they sign fading legends (under shady conditions) and bring them into play workmanlike, defensive, ugly, effective football. Still, they're fifth in the league, so there's no accounting for taste. Man City on the other hand, are fun to root for. Their manager, Stuart Pearce, is a national team legend nicknamed "Psycho." He is as earnest as they get. Though in huge relegation trouble earlier this year, the Citizens have won three straight, and in the last two games DaMarcus Beasley has given them an assist and a game-winning goal. They are hitting their stride. I expect a draw.

Watchability: 3 stars (and I apologize in advance if it ends 0-0)
Yanks: Beasley


Tottenham-Newcastle, 11am ET

Two teams with good scorers and terrible defenses, which ought to mean a good game. Also, it's the Bill Simmons Bowl; he admitted this week that his love for his pre-season choice, Spurs, is wavering. He added that Newcastle's uniforms are so cool that he finds himself rooting for them against his will. I'd expect they'll be wearing their away strip here, which may confuse him yet further. This game will com down to one thing: who wants Bill Simmons more?

Watchability: 3 stars

Hey! This is the first time all the games of the week got 3 or more stars! Nice job, FSC! Especially with next Sunday's Arsenal-Man. U match looming on the horizon...

-Brendan Hunt

PS - GO BEARS! (Please.)

Sports On T.V. Today.

National Games.

  • Boxing: Cornelius Bundrage vs. Chris Smith, in Tacoma, Wash. (ESPN2, 9 p.m.)
  • NBA:
    • Washington vs. New Orleans in Oklahoma City (ESPN, 8 p.m.)
    • Houston at Denver (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.)
  • Soccer: MLS SuperDraft (not just any draft, a Superdraft!), in Indianapolis (ESPN2, noon)
Local Games.
  • AHL: Wilkes-Barre Penguins vs. Chicago Wolves (3 ILL-03, 7:30 p.m.)
  • Men's College Hoops: Creighton vs. Northern Iowa (CSNCHI, 7:30 p.m.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

David Beckham - A Beginner's Guide

David Beckham is Britain's finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practices with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn't contemplate. – Sir Alex Ferguson

He can’t kick with his left foot, he can’t head a ball, he can’t tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right. – George Best

A couple of summers ago I eagerly accepted an invitation to a rare sort of soccer match: a friendly wherein the Los Angeles Galaxy welcomed Real Madrid, indisputably the most successful soccer club in the world. This was Madrid at Full Metal Galactico, with Beckham, Owen, Figo, Raul and Zidane all in the side (Ronaldo was injured and did not dress). Despite the requisite cavalcade of stars, the lion’s share of the post-game discussion was about only one of them: Beckham.

Typical, really. It was Zidane who had had the best game of the bunch, by far; he had spun and delivered with the hypnotic consistency of a lazy susan; but Beckham was all we talked about. He’s all anyone talks about.

My friend Larry got the four of us the tickets was acquaintances with the president of the Galaxy, who dropped in to say hello. After he had left, Larry let us in on the scuttlebutt: it was only a matter of time until Beckham, Goldenballs himself, would be exchanging the life of the Galactico for the life of the Galaxian. We all know guys who, feeling flush with the thrill of discussing whatever sport they like to talk about, say some crazy shit. This heady hypothesis certainly would have seemed to fit that category, but what can you say when your crazy friend just shook hands with the team president?

So we went on to discuss what impact the move would have; not so much on the Galaxy, a franchise in which we had only a passing interest (I’m a Chivas man, me), but on the sport as a whole in the country. We were in agreement that such a move would be good for the game, that the arrival of so mega a star, regardless of the fact that his talents didn’t quite match his fame level (unmatchable anyway, that), would only garner more headlines and more attention. If he didn’t wait too long, he’d arrive while his famous crossing and free kick skills would still vex and befuddle the limited MLS defenses. He’d probably score more goals than he had previously in his career and the Galaxy would an instant contender.

And now it has come to pass, and my opinions formed that night have not wavered. It’s a great move for MLS, a great move for the Galaxy and, at $50 million a year for five years, a pretty decent move for Becks as well.

Major League Soccer, with their intrepidly executed plan of slow and steady expansion and growth, is doing this right; as opposed to the willy-nilly days of the North American Soccer League, beautifully described in the wonderful documentary “Once In A Lifetime” (put it at the top of your Netflix queue post-haste; it’s a great movie).

The NASL is coming up quite a bit in the Beckham articles; fair enough, as the move does echo Pele’s signing by the New York Cosmos in some ways. But they are not identical bookends. They key differences are these:

- The Pele signing came out of nowhere. The Becks move has been a subject of considerable media speculation for some time now, at least since he stepped down as England captain after the World Cup.

- Beckham and the Galaxy will not be expected to carry MLS in the way that Pele and the Cosmos ended up doing. He is part of a continuing plan to expand the sport, not the end-all be-all cash-cow they shortsightedly made of the Brazilian No. 10.

- A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an unknown dark matter; but a cosmos, in its most general sense, is an orderly or harmonious system. So you see, they’re totally different.

Let me repeat something that readers of this column are probably aware of, but most of America may be confused about: Beckham is not one of the world’s best players. I have heard him compared to Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan today, and that is a laugh. He is a tireless worker for the team, has the drive of a winner and remains a phenomenal striker of the ball, both from free-kicks and, most importantly, crosses from the right. (Having said that, it remains to be seen if Galaxy will play him on the right or in the center of the midfield; I expect the latter, though is best position has always been the former.) That is what he always has been; more than solid, less than transcendent.

So why the fuck is he so fuckin’ famous?

Without getting into it too much, Beckham is the world’s most famous athlete due to a confluence of things: he has very much been in the right place at the right time.

First off, he’s right pretty. Secondly, there’s the wife; she’s easily mocked but she is a huge reason for his fame. When they started dating in 1997, the Spice Girls were at their zenith, with a truly global fan base. As such, anything any Spice Girl did was news, most definitely including dating a member of Manchester United.

There’s the third reason: Man. U. Beckham had the good fortune of being an important part of a phenomenally successful period for the team, who were also fortunate to undergo this period just as they were becoming a global brand. With the Rupert Murdoch-led worldwide explosion of satellite tv, English soccer was everywhere, most notably (and profitably) Asia; and for all intents and purposes, Man. U was English soccer for the people around the world discovering it for the first time. Beckham, on account of being prettier than his more-famous-than-him girlfriend-cum-wife, was its smiling face.

But what about on the field? We can cover that on its own merit, thanks to good ol’ You Tube. Here are some key footballing moments for our tattooed friend.

1. SELHURST PARK, 1996. His first bit of worldwide notoriety came from a rather notable goal he scored in the second game of the 1996-97 season at Wimbledon. Man. U were up 2-0 and injury time was ticking away when Beckham decided to do this.

Goals from the half-way line don’t happen too often; coming as this one did in the new age of Sky Sports’ global feeds, the highlight was literally shown around the world.

2. FRANCE, 1998. He was selected for Word Cup ’98 and had a pretty good group stage, scoring a memorable goal against Colombia. He was getting a lot of attention, some of it snarky, for being a pretty boy, but his play was starting to back it up. In the second round, against Argentina, it was his pass that set-up Michael Owen for one of the greatest goals of all time.

In the 46th minute, Argentina tied it 2-2. In the 47th, the 23 year-old Beckham got suckered by some good ol’ South American gamesmanship. Can’t find any video of this online unfortunately… well, except in what might be Thai. Down to ten men, England held on all the way through extra time before losing on penalties. Beckham was the scapegoat and was mercilessly attacked by the never-restrained English tabloids; they had been waiting for this fancy dan to fail, and did he ever. They merrily and convincingly painted him as the villain. For Beckham, it was a very dark period.

It must be noted though that the incident, coming as it did on the world’s biggest stage in a match between two of the sport’s biggest rivals, only escalated his worldwide fame.

3. THE TREBLE, 1999. The best way for Becks to rehabilitate his precious image was to get awesome. So in the season following that World Cup, he got about as awesome as he could as Manchester United won the league, the FA Cup and the Champions League, known collectively and mythically as The Treble, an unprecedented feat. That Champions League Final was one of the most exciting finales in history, Man. U scoring in the 91st and 93rd minutes to shock Bayern Munich 2-1; I’ll link you to the long version of the highlights, it’s worth watching. The Red Devils had already secured the league and the cup; to have failed here would have been massive anti-climax. And though Beckham didn’t score a goal in the game, the goals did come from his corners. Again he was in the middle of things and again papers and magazines around the world had a totally justified reason to boost their sales by putting him on the cover.

4. QUALIFYING, 2001. In 2000, an interim England manager named Peter Taylor, whose reign would last one game, made David Beckham captain of England for a friendly in Italy. He seemed a surprise choice, having been photographed flipping the bird to some particularly shitty England fans after a loss to Portugal at Euro 2000, but he did well enough that new manager Sven Goran Eriksson let him keep the job. History may end up saying this was a bad decision, but it got off to a pretty good start.

To qualify for the 2002 World Cup, England needed to beat lowly Greece in Manchester on the last day of qualifying. It was supposed to be a cake-walk. Greece didn’t get the memo, or if they did, it was (not) Greek to them. Wakka-wakka.

Greece went ahead 2-0. England scored (off a Beckham assist) in the 67th minute, but overall looked terrible. Beckham had something like eight free kicks during the game, missing on all of them. In the second half, he was a man possessed. He was all over the pitch, running tirelessly at any Greek with a ball. It was the kind of scattershot, undisciplined running that coaches hate but fans love. Then finally, in the 93rd minute, Beckham lined it up from 30 yards and drilled it into the corner. England would be going to the World Cup and Beckham, with his 100% effort, his 100% English display, was unanimously hailed the hero. His image rehabilitation was nearly complete.

5. REDEMPTION, 2002. England played Argentina again in the group stage of that next tournament. Beckham, returning from a broken foot, scored the only goal of the game on a penalty (meaning it’s easily the most boring highlight in the article, enjoy). This exorcised the demons of his ’98 sending off. He was no longer the cockney wide boy; he was a full-on English hero,

It was downhill from there, of course. The allegations of adultery. The incredible choke of the shootout at Euro 2004. And his failure to win any silverware in three years in Madrid. But those five moments listed went a long way toward making him a particularly modern star.

The thing is, he cannot afford to be a bust. MLS can’t afford him to be one, either. Their last media blitz was over Freddy Adu, and so far he’s disappointed. Now MLS has the nation’s attention a second time, and they cannot afford to go 0 for 2.

Get used to Mr. Beckham, folks. You’re going to be seeing a lot of him, whether he earns it or not. I suspect he will.

-Brendan Hunt

(Administrator's note. If you enjoy the soccer writing here, you can read more past work from ThrilloftheHunt here.)