Monday, June 28, 2010

Cleaning up some loose ends

Thoughts from the past few weeks.

People who complain about the diving in soccer somehow never complain about catchers framing pitches to try to call from an umpire.

Despite high ratings, people don't care about soccer. They're looking for a reason to show national pride.

Volunteering for a youth camp for a week is a great way to lose eight pounds. (Note: only applies if there is record-breaking heat and no air conditioning)

It doesn't seem like a year ago that we moved to Wilmington, but it's been good.

That said, the lack of college football here kills me from September to November.
Corollary: Tailgating in an apartment parking lot and then going inside to watch the game isn't quite the same.

The Nike soccer commercial (and even the shortened versions) is fantastic.

My wife can't wait for the World Cup finale, mostly because when it's over, it's the longest possible time before the next World Cup.

Spending a week without air conditioning and then hearing people complain about the heat while they sit inside a climate controlled room is a recipe for murder. 

Is the DVD Box Set available yet for the Inser/Mahut tennis match?

 Chuck E. Cheese is not a fun as I remembered it being. Then again, I was 12 the last time I was there.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

That's the craziest f&@*@*# thing I've ever seen

I'm heading out of town for a week where I'll be forced to be away from a computer. It'll be nice to get away from everything for a little while.

In my absence, I give you this.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Give me something for the pain

In the words of the great Rev. Cleophus, "I woke up this morning and I heard a disturbing sound. I said, I woke up this morning and I heard a disturbing sound." Unlike the good reverend, I didn't here the jingle jangle of lost souls. Instead, I heard the sound of one of the devil calling to collect on one of his deals he made years ago.

To fully explain, I need to back up, quite a bit in fact. The year was 1994. Pauly Shore was, inexplicably, considered cool. Bands still put thought into making music videos in the hopes of having them played on MTV. O.J. Simpson was allegedly murdering his ex-wife and her friend. I'd been playing soccer for the better part of 10 years and was a member of one of my town's first traveling soccer team. It was also the year the World Cup came to the United States. As a geeky 15-year old who played soccer, I was thrilled. While I didn't get to go to any of the games, I watched every one I could. Our coach even arranged to have us get together at the lecture hall at the local technical college so we could watch the game on the theater screen. That year was the first time games were show commercial free in the United States, and being the nerdy kids we were (and still are), we mad a game of trying to guess the sponsor's logo that would be in the corner of the screen each 15 minutes. (We did this until I cracked the system and started getting them all right. Like I said, we were geeks.)

My parents, wanting to take an interest in soccer as my two brothers and I had, got caught up in the hype surrounding the tournament and the five of us came up with the Cupa de Martin, which would go to the person who picked the winner of the tournament (I'm sure we just waited until there were eight teams left and then each picked one, working on the 'dibs' system of whoever called that team first, got that team.). Now, the Cupa de Martin was nothing more than a plastic candy dish that the winner would hold over their head like they'd won Wimbledon before putting it back on the end table from which it came.

Over the next three World Cups (1998, 2002 and 2006), the format was essentially the same. We'd have some family friends who would make some picks (one even winning in 1998 if I recall correctly, we're not meticulous record-keepers when it comes to minor events that happen once every four years, which is why none of our calenders ever have Leap Day on it.) This year, however, one brother got married, another got engaged, and with Yes Dear in the mix, we had eight people just in the family to participate in the Cupa de Martin. Instead of our traditional 'dibs' system, Official Brother and I worked out a system (eventually ratified by family vote, we may not keep good records, but we do take our meaningless endeavors seriously,) in which we would hold a draft of all 32 teams. In addition to getting to hoist the plastic candy dish, we upped the stakes a bit this year as the winner gets to select the location for a family vacation at some point in the next four years (within certain parameters. For example, I can't plan our vacation to be in Atlanta the three days the Cubs play the Braves.)

As luck would have it, I drew the first selection. While that was good, it also meant my next pick wasn't until the end of the second round, the 16th selection overall. If you're still reading this far, I'm assuming you have at least a passing knowledge of the World Cup (or are really bored or are being held at gunpoint and forced to read this), but for those listed in the parenthetical examples, the odds of the 16th team selected winning the tournament are fairly slim. Following that basic logic, the team selected 17th (also my pick in the snake-style draft), would have an even smaller chance of winning.

And that brings us to the news I heard today. With the 17th overall pick, I took Ivory Coast. The World Cup is in South Africa (the nation, though if you were thinking region of the continent for some reason, that works too though I suggest you increase your knowledge of world geography) this year, and the Ivory Coast is the best African nation in the tournament. Ivory Coast (nicknamed 'Les Elephants) boasted a powerful offense behind their star, Didier Drogba who played exceptionally well the English Premiere League (which, as its name suggests, is one of the top leagues in the world). But this morning, in an exhibition (or 'friendly' as the soccer teams call exhibition games), Drogba broke his arm, likely dashing the hopes of Les Elephants before the tournament even started.

Knowing I was going to be writing this tonight, I spend the day trying to come up with an analogy to describe to my non-soccer following readers what this injury is similar to. Some have said it's like losing your star quarterback in the preseason, but teams in those situations have all year to break in a new quarterback before the playoffs start. There's really nothing to compare it to. Just days before the biggest event in the sport, the star player for a team is out because he hurt himself in what amounts to a glorified scrimmage. Imagine if, before the final night of competition on American Idol, one of the ousted singers accidentally rendered a finalist incapable of singing by causing some freak vocal cord injury. It's something like that, only not really.

Yes, they were my third pick, and yes, the odds were slim that Ivory Coast (and I've been fighting the urge to write 'the Ivory Coast' every time) was going to make a serious run at the most coveted trophy in the world, just as the odds are slim that anyone's still reading at this point. But still, the World Cup only comes around every four years. To have your chance to play in it taken away by an injury in a tune up game is cruel. As of this writing, Drogba still hasn't been ruled out by his country's soccer federation, but Drogba has told at least one teammate he's out for the World Cup. On the plus side for me, Drogba and I now have something in common. We'll both be spectators for the entire tournament.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pitcher perfect (yes, a bad play on words, did you expect anything less?)

Today's blog is loaded with sports. If it's not your bag, baby, I understand if you head over to something that's more interesting to you. I'm hurt and will drink heavily to forget the pain, but I understand.

On Wednesday night, Detroit's Armando Galarraga should have had the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. As you likely know by now, first base umpire Jim Joyce missed a call on what should have been the last out of the game, resulting in a hit for Cleveland. Now, to be sure, perfect games are as much a product of luck as they are of skill. There are plenty of immensely talented and successful pitchers in the annals of MLB history who don't have a perfect game to their credit, and some of the pitchers that do have a perfect game to their names are not among the greats of the game. Oakland's Dallas Braden, for example, falls into the latter of the two categories, while Roy Halladay falls into the former (though calling him a 'great of the game' may be a stretch, but needless to say, he's very, very good.) ESPN showed the final two innings and when Joyce blew the call, I was yelling at the screen in disbelief.

As you might have expected, I spent a lot of time reading and listening various opinions on the fallout of the call today. I assume my kid found food, drink and changed his diaper as I couldn't be bothered with such trivialities on a day like today. Rather than write a large pamphlet on the matter, (everyone says write a small novel, no one goes the other way) I figured I'd give you some of the thoughts and observations that caught my eye.

1. It was not an easy call. Sure it was a very close play, but if it happened in the third inning of an otherwise pedestrian game, no one would have given it much thought. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it happened in the 9th inning of a perfect game. By all accounts, Joyce (who could easily pass for a contestant in the World's Worst Mustache contest) is a fantastic umpire who makes that call correctly 999 out of 1,000 according to one ESPN analyst. It just so happened he wet the bed the one night company was staying over.

2. Instant replay is not the easy solution. After events like Wednesday night, calls for instituting instant replay are always made. But that's not as easy as it sounds. While plays like Wednesday's are straight forward, there are numerous plays that aren't quite easy. Allowing replay would result in simply substituting an umpires decision in one instance for another.

3. MLB Changing the Call is a Bad Idea. Yes, the umpire blew the call. Yes, it cost Galarraga a shot at history, but it didn't change the outcome of the game, which is the most important thing. ESPN's Keith Law said it well earlier when he said "More important calls are blown every October, yet there's more hue and cry over this than there was over Eric Gregg's NLCS-altering strike zone." Yes it was a bad call, but it didn't impact the winner of the contest.

4. Sports Talk Radio lives for this. I'm fairly certain every sports radio host woke up this morning and said to themselves 'All I have to do is say 'Jim Joyce' and take calls for three hours. Easiest work day of the year.' The downside to this is that no one really had any good insight that wasn't already discussed last night. The plus side, I didn't mind turning it off.

5. I feel bad for the guy. But not THAT bad. He pitched a great game, got a Corvette from GM, had the governor of Michigan issue a proclamation that he did, in fact, pitch a perfect game, and got more media coverage than both Halladay and Braden did for their pitching gems. He got the win, and showed more grace and class than any athlete I've seen in a long time. He didn't appear to harbor any ill will towards Joyce and said after the game that no one's perfect and everyone makes mistakes. I'm not sure I could do that moments after missing out on my chance to join baseball immortality.