Give it a long kiss Roberto, your team tried to give that title away
Greetings from the Hoodwood, where handshakes are the norm before and after the games.
Its rare when I lead the column off with a musing about soccer and even rarer when the soccer match has nothing to do with a US team, but I had to give some thoughts on the Manchester City match yesterday in which they clinched their first Premier League title in over 40 years. Now the Premier league has only been in existence since 1992, but there has been some sort of top division of English Football (Soccer) title up for grabs for over a hundred years and Man City has not been at the top of the standings (or table as the English call it) since the 1967-68 season. Your humble scribe wasn’t even an afterthought, his mother still in high school! Nevertherless, Man City was in in the drivers seat against its hated wealthier rival Manchester United the defending Premier League Champs , needing only a win or to match whatever Man U did, Man City would hoist the cup and Playing Queens Park Rangers that had just made it to the premier league and was in danger of being relegated (kicked out, more on that later) it looked like a walk in the park. Win the game at home and win the title.
As ESPN’s Chris Berman has said about so many sporting events. That’s why they play the games. QPR played tenaciously Man City took the lead late in the first half only to see the Rangers tie it up early on in the second half. Man City looked like they would be able to toy with QPR after Joey Barton got a red card for a nasty elbow to the head of a Man City player. Playing with a man advantage for the duration, it looked to be a matter of time before a goal was scored. It was but it was by QPR as Armand Traore made a slick move on his defender and launched a smooth crossing pass which Jamie Mackie buried in to the back on the net on a sweet diving header . Man City fans were apoplectic and some looked to be on the verge of tears. Keep in mind that while all this was going on ManU, the hated crosstown rival was sitting on a 1-0, if the scores stayed as they were. ManU would defend its title and send Man City to the cruelest of defeats. Later and later into the match it got and you could feel the tension in City of Manchester Stadium get thicker and thicker. The camera kept cutting to fans of the Sky Blues getting more and more frantic as the clock counted toward 90 minutes and as it crossed from regulation into stoppage. But the after having at least three shot hit the post or go tantalizingly wide City cashed a chance in and tied the game but there was no leaping or celebration or hugs for Edin Dezko. Just an urge to hurry, the ManU game had went final and the Man City fans knew that their squad needed to get the go-ahead goal, a draw was as bad as a loss. QPR seemed quite content on laying back and playing defense, knowing that they weren’t going to be relegated, that they were still shorthanded and that the draw would deny Man City their coveted title. But 3 minutes into stoppage time, after repeated shots at the goal, Sergio Aguero stepped around two different defenders and beat the QPR goalie shortside to give Man City the lead. I literally fell out when the winning goal was scored. It was an unbelievable turn of events leading the great soccer announcer Ian Darke (fast becoming one of my favorite announcers) to ask rheotorically. “Who is writing this?” To be honest it did seem like something out of movie, perpetual underdog team finally gets its shot to win its title but has to claw back out of impossible circumstances. Man United fans watching at Old Trafford could only look on in stoic stony silence as Man City celebrated at the double whistle of full time. Like Ive said before, Im no big soccer fan but I can appreciate the game and actually enjoyed that match.
NBA: LA Story
Well Hollywood didnt burn again. Both the Lakers and surpringly the Clippers both won do or die 7th games and move on the Western Conference Semis. Seemingly bouyed by the return of the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest (After what he did to James Harden, Im sure as shittin not calling him World Peace) the Lakers routed the Nuggets Saturday Night to advance, had the Lakers lost Im sure for sure that Mike Brown would have been looking for work. Having had blown a 3-1 series lead. You could have excused their Staples Center cohabitant the Clippers had they lost. I mean they are the Clippers and have only won 2 other playoff series in their team history. But lead by the irrepressible Chris Paul the Clips rallied smartly in the 4th quarter to beat the Grizzlies in the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis 82-72 to win. The schedule maker of Staples Center has got to be worried as all three inhabitants of the Staples Center keep on getting deeper in the postseason as the Kings are in the NHL Western Conference final and with a 2-0 lead are guaranteed at least 3 more games at home at least. Thats the good kind of logistical nightmare to have.
LA Story 2: Does Bynum get it?
I don’t know why, but there has always been something that has always annoyed me about Andrew Bynum. Maybe it was because he was one of these uber cocky high schoolers that was jumped directly to the NBA(the last of his breed). Maybe it was the fact that the game comes so easily to him. Rare is the find of a big man who runs the floor as fluid, has a soft hands and can be a terror to contain on the boards. The Lakers have always seemed to snag world class big men, from Mikan to Chamberlain to Jabbar to Shaq and Bynum has the tools and talent to be in their class. Note that the first three are in the hall of fame and Shaq will be joining that list in a couple years. But Bynum more often than not seems to let his mind wander or plays this “I got mine, I don’t care.” Mentality. His intensity wavers to and fro and in the most maddening ways. Witness is inane 3 pointer he jacked up in the middle of a game this season. I don’t think that anyone would have cared had it been late in a meaningless game, like he had taken and made a game earlier. But suddenly Bynum decided he was a three point shooter. He missed, got benched and had this “Oh well, it is what it is” look on his face. I have no problem with a player being a happy go lucky type. I think Kobe’s ultra serious demeanor is a bit off putting and kinda fake but no one ever questions his commitment and desire to win. Bynum? Meh…you can never be too sure. The point Im making is that Bynum aint a rookie, he isn’t even a 3rd or 4th year player who you could excuse a mental lapse here and there and chalk it up to youth, hes a 7th year vet whom this team will soon become increasingly dependent on as Kobe ages (Hard to believe but Bryant is a 16 year vet.) With Pau Gasol looking more and more like he wants to be a complementary player along the lines of Scottie Pippen, this team will be Bynum’s soon. His antics, like pouting outside a huddle because he wasn’t playing and his petulant outbursts like giving the Nuggets plenty of bulletin board material in saying that close out games are easy make you forget how immensely talented Bynum is and makes you wonder is he worth building a team around.
NHL: Could a Dream Stanley Cup be in the making?
With no Canadian team anywhere close to the Stanley Cup the NHL is quietly hoping that a pair of super huge markets in the Stanley Cup Final will draw the big numbers. The New perpetually star crossed New York Rangers teeter ever so close to another disappointing elimination but manage to survive a thrilling 7 game series with the Washington Capitals (another star crossed team, whose radio announcer John Walton is a friend and Hoodwood hero) but careen to an Eastern Conference title tilt with their regional rival New Jersey Devils. The Rangers like to think of the Devils as a little brother that they can kick around, but the Devils have won 3 Stanley Cups since Gary Bettman summoned Mark Messier of the fabled 1994 Rangers to get the Cup. I remember the epic series in 94 when in the game 7 double overtime, Stephane Matteau stuffed a shot past Martin Brodeur (who incidentially is still the Devils Goalie today) and sent the Rangers to the Cup final and Howie Rose’s now legendary call of “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!” as MSG shook to its pillars. Will this be another epic series? The Rangers need not another 7 game death match.
Meanwhile out west the LA Kings are enjoying a deep playoff run not seen since the halcyon days of Gretzky and Barry Melrose in 1993. As the ragged 8 seed they looked to be a playoff afterthought but after shocking the Canucks and Blues in 5 and 4 games, they have jumped on the Phoenix Coyotes (a team that has never been this deep in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in franchise history) and lead 2-0, as mentioned earlier they are guaranteed at least 3 more home playoff games. You know that NBC is salivating at the thought of a New York-LA Stanley Cup to garner huge ad revenue. Boston-Vancouver last year was bi-coastal and international but it wouldn’t have the same flavor. The thought of the two largest markets in the US playing for the oldest trophy in team sports may in turn be stomach turning to Canadians who think any team that still isn’t digging out from snow at this time of the year shouldn’t be in Cup contention.
Phat Dap/Head Slap
To Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto of the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds respectively. Hamilton matched a major league record with 4 homers in one game and had 8 RBI’s against the Anaheim Angels. Votto had three dingers on Sunday including a game winning walk Grand Slam against the Washington Nationals. Chicks dig the long ball, always have and always will.
To the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest (im not calling him anything with Peace in it, after the way he acts) Who dismissed any notion of a apologetic handshake to Oklahoma City’s James Harden who he leveled with a elbow late in the regular season which netted him a 7 game suspension. When asked if he would make some sort of conciltory gesture to Harden. The former Artest scoffed and said “I don’t shake hands with subs.” This guy has to be from another planet, cause he just has not an ounce of sense.
Thats the view from the Hoodwood...until next post fellow sports fans!