I finally made it back to Atlanta this week, but my hopes of connecting with Sully were dashed by corporate executives. It was a long shot given the schedule while I was there, but I always hope to connect with him. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to hit up Sully because it’s always worth the time spent. This is the time of year my job changes from sitting around eating bon bons and giving advice to sitting around eating bon bons and crunching excel spreadsheets, then going around telling people what data I uncovered. The real problem is that it comes at the expense of vacationing on a beach somewhere.
Futures at Fenway. We went to the 9th "Futures at Fenway" Sunday. Short season Lowell Spinners played Mahoning Valley (OH) Scrappers at Fenway. The Red Sox affiliate was 1 out away (sound familiar anyone?) from a 1-0 win when somehow the Scrappers, a Cleveland Indians affiliate, scored 6 runs with 2 out in the 9th. Um. Ouch. When Shane Victorino was introduced, the fam couldn't figure out why everyone was cheering, so I calmly explained this guy happens to have the same name as a current Sox player. Oops.
I promise this will be the last soccer post for a while. Really.
This week saw the remarkable exit of host Brazil from the World Cup. Germany displayed dominance early and never relinquished control. 7-1 final – and you thought there wasn’t enough scoring in soccer. Not only scoring, but some of the most dominant displays of offense while scoring that I’ve seen. Just a ridiculous overpowering of the hosts unlike anything I could’ve imagined.
I’m hopeful Brazil is a much more forgiving place for soccer failure than, say, Columbia. In 1994, when the World Cup was hosted by the US, the US and Columbia were in the same grouping. In group play, Andres Escobar was charged an “own goal” against the US in a game won by the US 2-1, and thus contributing to the exit of Columbia from the tournament – ultimately won by Brazil. A couple weeks later, he was gunned down in a parking lot in Medellin.
That’s some hard core stuff.
Before Sunday, Germany and Argentina had met for the final 2 other times with the record split between them. Of the 21 championships, only 8 countries have won it. Consider that. A quadrennial tournament involving 64-countries and only 8 have ever won. Kind of reminiscent of 1950’s/60’s NHL dominance by the Habs, or the half century long dominance of Major League Baseball by the Yankees. Argentina went into the game as the 1986 Champion, there on the back of two of the most unusual goals in soccer history: “The Hand of God” and “The Goal of the Century” Diego Maradonna was a beast. Germany last were champions by defeating the reigning champs Argentina – who, as just discussed, won 4 years previously against England.
Those refs should be eternally thankful English fans aren’t quite like Colombian drug dealers when “correcting” for mistakes.
Here’s a video of the “Goal of the Century.” You should watch this even if you can’t stand soccer, because it shows just such amazing control and skill. You have to appreciate what Maradonna does here.
Germany reigns. 203 countries enter the competition, 64 countries get in. 800 some games. 4 year journey to this point. And then... After 113 minutes of scoreless action, Mario Gotze drilled a shot home to seal the World Cup deal for the Germans. Is there a more odd name than Mario Gotze? How many Germans do you know named Mario? Do yourself a favor, and click that link, because it's a pretty awesome goal. Bear in mind, the US lost to this same team 1-0. If nothing else, you have to believe the US Mens National Team has a ton of potential. They're ready for the world stage.
In other news, there was some movement in the NBA free agent market.
Fresh back from multiple vacations and my daughter’ discharge from active duty USMC and I find that we are in the middle of the early summer sports lull.
two of my sons at 30mph...not easy on a tube
I am not a soccer fan. The Germany 7-1 beating of faux favorite and host Brazil was the thing that could draw fans from the dark side. The NFL equivalent would be 49-7 and that’s what we are talkin’ bout.
MLB The home town team is in the position of seller because they are much closer to the AL East cellar then the top spot.
Training camps are just a few weeks away for the NFL.
Summer leagues are playing for the NBA, actually better B ball than the regular season for the most part, at least more watchable.
Sully had a question of the day I saw when I got back to the gab, that’s me sitting in the corner table at the posh “Mo’s Bar”
Who was your first concert and who opened for them.
I went to HS in the 1960’s
Rock and Roll
I went to as many concerts at every venue available as I could possibly fit into my schedule.
Hence my hearing loss.
I saw the Stones at Boston Garden in 1969, I think November.
BB King was one of the opening acts and that’s when I fell for the Blues.
I was 17 at the time.
I saw Pink Floyd at the old Providence Civic Center (now known as the Dunk) in 1973
Great live show.
Boston had a load of small venues in town and it was a regular thing to stop at the Jazz Workshop, Paul’s Mall, Katies or the Paradise in Kenmore Square to see the likes of James Taylor, Muddy Waters, Myles Davis, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Captain Beefheart and George Benson. These small venues were a great place to see a good show at a reasonable price and you just never knew that one of these artists could make it big.
One of my old favorites from those recreational days was
Captain Beefheart , ( Don Van Vliet 1941-2010) played from time to time with Frank Zappa and the Mothers along with a career with his own band. Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band had several albums with some success and his shows were very entertaining as he invited audience participation.
His most successful venture was the album Trout Mask Replica with is # 58 on Rolling Stones 300 best rock albums of all time list. Take the time to check out this unique artist and poet.
Two Trains…two railroad tracks
One going and the other coming back
The black paper between the mirror makes me said that I can’t go
Missing the NFL right now as the OTAs are winding down and training camp is a month away. Following the NFL has become a full-time job recently with just this month the only real downtime in the schedule. That said, after all the combine, draft, free agency, etc I am ready for the games to get here. Training camp has become an “event” in the past 15-20 years and now is a big part of the NFL calendar for fans.
Without football, all eyes are on baseball, tennis, and soccer. I enjoyed trying to watch as much of the College World Series as it is real enjoyable to track the young stars of tomorrow in the tournament. Enjoyed catching the Longhorns game versus Vanderbilt on ESPN last Saturday night despite the “Clemens Cam” that seemed fixed on former major league pitcher Roger Clemens on hand to watch his son at Texas. Nice to see Vandy finally win their first CWS championship.
Wimbledon is in full bloom and although tennis was never big in my house growing up, I enjoyed playing on the lawn with the neighbors every July as we caught Wimbledon fever and built our own ”court” on the front lawn. I do remember that we always watched the mens and womens finals (in the morning, of course) and instead of cream and strawberries we munched on fresh picked strawberries from the garden (with no-fat milk substituted for the cream) as my mother insisted on the traditional Wimbledon snack.
The World Cup is in full swing and the U.S. were lucky enough to have Portugal knock off Ghana and allow them into the knockout round of sixteen. The Americans seemed...off...against Germany. Not sure if they were playing over-conservative to keep it close or whatever, but it almost backfired. Had Ghana scored instead of Ronaldo for Portugal and it would have been good night for U.S. Soccer.
Finally, major league baseball had a no-hitter by San Francisco Giants former ace Tim Lincecum against the weak-hitting San Diego Padres. Lincecum used to be a strikeout guy. The goofy motion and hair with a devastating fastball made him one of the more notable young guns when he won back-to-back Cy Young Awards. The days of dominance are long gone, but back-to-back seasons with no-hitters is still impressive.
The Red Sox were on the West Coast last week and the season continued to jump off the tracks. Seven games out west and starting today back for three more in New York against the Yankees. Going 2-5 on a trip they needed to go 5-2 on at worst to start crawling back into the American League East race. The Red Sox sit 7 games under .500 and 7.5 games behind the Blue Jays and a ton of teams between them and the playoffs.
Dustin Pedroia continues to struggle mightily batting just .265 with only 4 home runs and 27 RBIs and just a .338 OBP and an abysmal .377 Slugging Percentage (per baseball-reference.com). David Ortiz is hitting .265 batting average but he is the only player on the team with double-digit home runs. I am not saying the team is horrible this season at the plate this season but A.J. Pierzynski is second on the team with 31 RBIs. Shane Victorino was out with a hamstring injury and in the rehab has now been shut-down indefinitely with back issues.
For the Red Sox the problem is that they need to keep fans flocking to Fenway (and buying commemorative bricks, food, drinks, merchandise, fan club memberships, watching their cable network, etc) and unlike other markets the Fenway “Faithful” fall off in droves when the losing starts. Heck, 2012 is evidence of that after the 90 loss team played in a half-empty stadium almost the entire second-half of the season.
Blowing this team up completely is not an option for the current ownership group. Maybe it is time to look to the Dodgers again for a Kemp/Ethier blockbuster deal maybe?
Finally, the NBA Draft will be done by the time this is posted. My fingers are crossed that the Celtics still somehow deal their picks for Kevin Love right now.
OK, that’s all for this week. Have a great weekend!
This week kicks off the quadrennial FIFA World Cup. Now, I love soccer – it’s really the only game I was ever really any good at – and I do like watching the game, but I don’t know that I can handle the orgy of soccer play that the World Cup represents. I mean, I get it – you wait 4 years for a championship and you get your binge on soccer for a month and a half. There’s 64 individual matches played from the first game to the championship.
Compare that to say the 11 NFL playoff games. Over 4 years, that would be 44 games. Can you imagine what a circus a once-every-4-years NFL playoff would be?
“March Madness” is 63 games and goes 3 weeks. Every year. THAT’S a binge. There’s also a bit more scoring in those games. But that’s not really the point. The World Cup is intense. You wait 4 years for your shot, 90 minutes separates you from either going home or advancing…and one goal could be that deciding factor.
There are 12 different stadia being used to play the matches – there are some pretty cool Google Street Views of the places. According to one site, a day in Rio for the Cup will cost you about $700 without including the tickets. Tickets for the final – about $5600. Now, figure you spend a week in Rio and get a ticket to the final, you’re into it about $10,000. Super Bowl tickets were about $2,500, plus hanging around, so I figure going to the World Cup final is probably a less expensive take comparatively…I mean, figuring it only happens once every 4 years and all.
Now, on an entirely different note – from world class soccer fetching some $5600 a ticket to very minor league baseball – we went out to our city’s new team’s inaugural homestand this weekend. Now we had a team called the “Tornadoes” a few years back, part of the Can-Am league, but they folded…perhaps imploded is probably a better way to describe what happened. At one point, Can-Am had 8 teams – they’re now down to 4…hardly a league. How hard up are they? Well, the Tornadoes still have a page on their site, even though the team hasn’t existed in 2 years.
At any rate, the new team in Worcester is the Bravehearts, part of the Futures League. Now, Cam-Am is/was just an inexpensive ticket and still not quite worth the price. Bad baseball, bu
t a kid friendly night out. Now, the Futures League is 10 teams in New England made up of college kids playing for exposure. It’s a pretty cool concept – I mean as an adjunct to the Cape Cod League (which is funded by MLB), you have to assume there’ll be SOME scouts about, and the teams are not unreasonably distant from the Cape.
I’m going to go on the assumption that it was because we went to the third game of the season, because 3 errors a side was pretty sloppy, but I’m happy to chalk up the sloppy play to college kids getting used to playing with each other. They’re not professionals, they don’t get paid, they’re playing for the game. That’s totally cool with me. With a name like “Bravehearts,” you’d like to think the logo would be pretty damn cool, all Mel Gibson like. Not so much – it’s like a heart surrounded by olive leaves or something. It’s kind of stupid. Now minor league ball is a haven for great logo art. This is a relatively new league without the kind of funding of, say MiLB, but the logos (with the exception of the Bravehearts) are pretty cool. My favorite is the “Martha’s Vineyard Sharks,” who just happen to be the league champions. Interestingly enough, the Brockton Rox – one of the other teams – was a member of the Can-Am league before they left for this new format.
Oh Damn, another remote broken over the last few days...
Greetings from the Hoodwood where that sound you heard was the all the brackets being busted
NCAA: The Coaching Carousel spins up
The coaching carousel is usually something that starts up after the last strains of “One Shining Moment” have finished this year it seems that its already revving up before the first weekend of the tourney. UCLA axed Ben Howland after ten seasons. I remember when Howland was one of the hottest young coaches in the game. He came up as a head coach of Northern Arizona. I remember him because in 1998 he lead the Lumberjacks to their first NCAA berth as Big Sky champs and they pushed my beloved Bearcats hard in their first round game losing by 3. Howland was a hot coaching commodity and was at the head of a lot of wish lists, but he eventually moved on to Pittsburhgh were as coach of the Panthers his star continued to rise fast, he took the Panthers to 3 straight Big East title games and winning it in 2003. Howland was on the rise and UCLA made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Steve Lavin was on the way out and Howland was charged with repairing a program that had fallen on hard hard times. He got the Bruins back to prominence within a couple years and making the first of three consecutive Final Fours in 2006. Howland was the toast of the city as the first coach since the legendary John Wooden to take UCLA to consecutive Final Fours, though the Bruins never captured a title losing to Florida in the title game in and the national semifinal in 2006 and 2007 respectively and Memphis in the 2008 semifinal. Howland moved into 2nd in all time wins at UCLA in 2011. But there was rumblings of a program in trouble as soon after the semifinal loss to Memphis, Howland reportedly backtracked on a recruit who was a diehard UCLA fan and had wanted to be a Bruin since his sophomore year in high school. Howland cooled on him and was trying to recruit outside of SoCal, ignoring the fertile base that had produced a number of solid players like Russell Westbrook, Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp. His misses on recruits outside of SoCal and the ignoring of a deep recruiting base eroded their title hopes. Though the Bruins continued to make the tourney, they got housed repeatedly when they got there. The nadir being a 20 point thrashing by Minnesota (more on them in a bit) Combine that with repeated stories that Howland’s abrasive coaching style was wearing thin on players and fans. There were an alarming number of players that were not only transferring out but starring at other programs. UCLA Dan Guerrero had decided that 10 was enough and relieved Howland of his duties.
In a move that caught some by surprise, the University of Minnesota fired their coach. Tubby Smith made the move to the Twin Cities in 2007 after 9 tumultuous years in Kentucky. Gophers alum Tony Dungy assisted in bringing Smith to Minnesota’s attention. He resigned at Kentucky to take the Minnesota job and was welcomed in the area as much as he was criticized in Kentucky. The Gophers went to the NIT in his first year and made the NCAA the following two. After an injury marred 2011, the Gophers got all the way to the NIT finals in 2012 and made the NCAA tourney this year. But Tubby was under increasing fire for his teams repeatedly playing inconsistent especially late in the season. Tubby’s laconic style must have not set well with the locals, because they were increasingly vocal about the results. Now with both Howland and Smith out, the speculation ramps up on who will be their respective sucessors. Shaka Smart is high on both schools wish lists. Smart was hired by current Minnesota AD Norwood Teague at VCU, and has a tight relationship. Also coveted by UCLA Smart is once again a hot commodity as is Butler coach Brad Stevens. Minnesota reportedly is also interested in Gopher alum Flip Saunders who was a long time coach in Minnesota with the pro Timberwolves.
NCAA: You’re gonna have to work
Im hearing the media wonks whine about, the “lack of sexy matchups” in the sweet 16. Im already annoyed. The wonks hate that a team like Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State, and LaSalle are all still dancing. Doing the chicken dance, cabbage patch and running man while the established bluebloods like North Carolina, Georgetown, Oklahoma State all look on in horror and disgust from the outside. Guess what Wonky Wonk, you’re gonna have to work. You are going to have a few days to learn about the spunky kids from Philly who bring a combination of grit and toughness to their game. You’re going to have to learn about a team that wasn’t playing D-1 ball two years ago from a school that was founded during the 2ndClinton administration.
I mean, I admit the teams I hyped got nowhere. The MWC sent five teams and none got out the first weekend and only Colorado State and San Diego State even got wins. An A-10 team from Philly is still dancing but its LaSalle not Temple, a rugged team from the Missouri Valley keeps on dancing but its Wichita State not Creighton . Im sorry wonky wonk…you’re gonna have to work!
Real Musings from the Bandit…20 years has it been that long?
As I sit at my office desk here at Black Bandit Productions and Enterprises looking out the window its snowing and I think of the last few times that it has snowed in March, five years agomy youngest Princess Jazzie was born the day after Hoodwood got socked with 9 inches of snow and I clowned on the fact that people were waiting in the snowy maelstrom for a fuckin’ IKEA to open. I really cant knock it too much now since Im sitting in an IKEA office chair (shaddap!) but I digress. I see snow in March and think of my Grandma. 20 years ago I was dealing with losing her and how all of a sudden my childhood was really over. I worried for my Grampy who had been married to her for almost 47 years and wondered how I would fend for myself. I saw Jim Valvano’s now iconic speech at the inaugural ESPY awards and drew comfort and inspriration from the dying coach’s immortal words. It was almost as if I could hear my grandma saying a lot of the same things that Coach V was saying about never giving up and to live life to the fullest. I look back at it now and think where I was and what was going on. In the blink of an eye 20 years has passed I have two daughters. The NCAA tourney is still a staple of March, The Canadiens are dark horse contenders for a Stanley Cup (They haven’t won it since 1993) and when it snows like this I get wistful thinking of my grandma and the coach…a weird juxtaposition I know but hey.
NBA: Heat keeps on streakin’
The count is now 27, the Heat 108-94 win over the Magic keeps the Heat win streak intact. When I saw the Heat lose to the Pacers on February 1st, I didn’t think that I would be watching the last time that they walked off the court a loser. That was nearly 2 months ago. The Heat have trailed multiple times by double digits. Still just over the horizon is the Valhalla like 33 game mark that the 71-72 Lakers set. If we’re talking about the Heat next week they will have hit 30 games and they will have beaten the team that I say will take them down. The despised Spurs. I have the feeling that the NBA will twist it just enough to keep the Heat in check and further lionize their golden child team. But if they get past that and the Knicks on April 2nd watch out.
PGA: Look whos back on top
Heeeeeees Back! Tiger, who dominated at Bay Hill to win his umpteenth Arnold Palmer (no rumor that Arnie is thinking of retiring the name and calling it the Tiger invitational) but his 2 stroke win gave him his 8th win at Bay Hill but more importantly it moved Tiger back to the #1 world ranking for the first since 2010 before his marital woes brought him down. Now does this mean more everyone playing for 2nd like back in the day when Tiger was winning tourneys by double digit strokes? No, hes back on top of the golf world and I think all is back right. He now has more rivals and players like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson who would be able to push Tiger to stay on top. But it will be fun to see Tiger once again being the player everyone is gunning for.
To flying under the radar, the Pittsburgh Penguins have won 12 in a row, and under the radar of the Blackhawks long unbeaten streak. The Pens have won 9 of the 12 in regulation. Say what you want about the Blackhawks, I think the Pens are more impressive. They will go for 13 wins in a row tonight against Montreal.
Also a Dap to B-Dub who you see in this slot on Mondays. B-Dub is moving on to other endeavors. It was a pleasure to have followed you, a Hoodwood salute to you!
To Costa Rican soccer who incessantly whined about losing to the US in a World Cup qualifier in the snow in Denver. The game was played with a yellow ball since near whiteout conditions were in effect. But the Americans won 1-0 and the Costa Rican team filed a protest, saying that the condition was unplayable. Gee its funny that the game was close throughout and they had a number of chances to score. FIFA is looking into the protest and if it was filed properly. Costa Rica wants the game replayed. Head Slap to a sore loser