I was idly flipping through channels on the TV tonight looking for something to distract me from the #&@%! Cardinals’ win over the Phillies earlier tonight and eventually settled on Game 2 of the WNBA Finals (truth be told, I do occasionally watch a stray WNBA game here and there on TV – and I’d highly recommend doing so to anyone who’s a grumpy-old-fart-basketball-purist).
The game turned out to be very entertaining, in large part because of the Atlanta Dream’s total collapse in the second half that allowed the host Minnesota Lynx to mount an improbable comeback and ultimately win the game to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next game in Atlanta Friday, as tonight’s game potentially has the makings of one of those especially soul-crushing losses leading to total capitulation in a playoff series.
What made that 101-95 outcome even worse for Atlanta was the fact that the Dream missed more than a third of their free throw attempts in a game with a six-point margin, while Minnesota shot almost 83% from the free throw line.
That is pretty much the stupidest possible way to lose a game; if there’s one thing I’ve never been able to stand in basketball, it’s seeing otherwise good teams be really bad at making foul shots and hemorrhaging what should be easy points that are handed to them. Foul shooting is a problem that’s apparently dogged the Dream all year, and now it’s come home to roost in the finals. As it darn well should.
Hey Mom, I find it interesting that you refer to the Weekly World News as, “The paper.”
— One of Mike Myers’ characters in So I Married an Axe Murderer
. . . and from that illustrious paper comes “news” of the shocking source of our worldwide zombie outbreak (yeah, I didn’t notice there was one, either): ZOMBIE ANTS FROM RIO!
In other news, the annual springtime invasion of our house by tiny ants seems to be underway once again. Hopefully they’re not of the zombie variety. Zombie ants make Batboy cringe.
In a perfectly rational segue, here’s my favorite line from So I Married an Axe Murderer, spoken by another of Mike Myers’ characters: “Heed! Pants! NOW!”
While everybody’s filling out NCAA Tournament brackets (having worked in college athletics, I can’t bring myself to follow NCAA Division I men’s basketball anymore — doing so makes me feel dirty. Women’s college basketball and Division II and III men’s are another story, since they don’t have the same reek of exploitation), here’s my prediction for how the 2011 Major League Soccer standings will look by season’s end.
I’ve decided to list it in a single-table format rather than breaking it down by conference. The top ten will most likely be the playoff teams, unless the Eastern Conference turns out to suck vis-á-vis the West even worse than anybody thinks right now. I won’t guess point totals, other than to say I think things will be very, very tight, especially from fifth to fifteenth place. There will be a lot of teams that will miss the postseason by just a couple of points.
- Los Angeles Galaxy
- FC Dallas
- New York Red Bulls
- Real Salt Lake
- Seattle Sounders FC
- Colorado Rapids
- Columbus Crew
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Sporting Kansas City SC
- Philadelphia Union
- D.C. United
- Chicago Fire
- Portland Timbers
- CD Chivas USA
- Toronto FC
- Houston Dynamo
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC
- New England Revolution
One of the things that makes MLS predictions tough is that, as a whole, the league tends to improve quite a bit with each passing year. One team looks to be much improved, but you don’t know whether that’s enough compared to everyone else to make all that much of a difference. This is why I’ll end up saying Chicago and Chivas, for example, will be better than last year, but I still have them winding up 12th and 14th, respectively.
My ordering of teams from about #6 to #15 is basically a crapshoot. Clearly, I think Portland will be the better of the two expansion teams this year. Vancouver seems to be setting itself up to be a heck of a team in a couple of years, but this year will likely be necessary collateral damage from their long term plans. The only other two I see being truly bad are Houston and New England. Frankly, New England will have a season on par with D.C. United’s disaster last year or the Pink Cows’ epic 2009 adventure through the bowels of the standings.
Conversely, L.A., Dallas and New York will be the big three this year, with Seattle and Salt Lake knocking on their door. The way things stand right now, the Galaxy have to be the favorites (as much as I hate to say it) with Dallas (as much as I hate to say it) and the Soft Drink Commercials (as much as I hate to say it) giving them a run for their money. Meanwhile, RSL and Seattle will be looking to crack that top tier (and could very well do it, but so far I’m viewing the first three mentioned as the safer picks). So, yes, I’m picking the three teams I despise the most to finish one-two-three.
I wasn’t sure where exactly to put Colorado, as they tend to be a very hot-and-cold team, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt from being the reigning MLS Cup champions and put them sixth. If they do finish that high, it’ll probably be in part because they totally ignore the CONCACAF Champions League and crash out of the group stage in totally embarrassing fashion to MLS (I clearly don’t think the Rapids’ MLS Cup win in 2010 is the same as RSL’s surprise win in 2009: a harbinger of the rise of one of the league’s — and the continent’s — great teams).
I’m going a little out on a limb by thinking Columbus has reloaded in the off-season more than begun a rebuilding process. I saw San Jose play at Philadelphia last year, and they frankly impressed the heck out of me. The ‘Quakes are a very well-coached, well-disciplined team that plays very well together and doesn’t seem to need a lot of big star power. I was tempted to flip-flop their place with that of Colorado; if there’s a “sleeper pick” for 2011, it’s probably San Jose. KC always seems to be on the edge of being a fairly good team, and it’s a total guess of mine in putting them ninth.
D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Chivas will all be significantly improved over last year, but whether or not that’s good enough to get playoff spots is anybody’s guess. I will say I wouldn’t be surprised if a few or even all of them manage to crack the top ten by season’s end. I went with Philly at the top of that group, not out of personal bias, but rather out of the fact that when you look at the numbers from last year, they probably would have been a strong contender for a playoff spot if only they’d had a decent goalie. As long as Faryd Mondragón stays healthy, that problem’s been solved. If they’d had a decent goalie and held the red card/defensive brain farts to a minimum, they probably would have been in the playoffs as an expansion team last year. A year of experience for this young team and a few more acquisitions look like they’ll help there, too.
Toronto, which has spent every previous off-season retooling its staff and roster to the extent that it’s like getting an expansion team all over again, will see more of the same this year as it once again spent the off-season retooling its staff and roster to the extent that it’s like getting an expansion team all over again. At least this Toronto might-as-well-be-an-expansion team will be a little better than some of the others they’ve had, but it won’t make a difference against an equally improved league.
There’s no such thing. By calling something unspeakable, you just spoke of it.
U.S. Representative Peter King, terrorist:
[From the New York Times] For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.
. . . A judge in Belfast threw him out of an I.R.A. murder trial, calling him an “obvious collaborator,” said Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist and author of “A Secret History of the I.R.A.” In 1984, Mr. King complained that the Secret Service had investigated him as a “security risk,” Mr. Moloney said.
I wonder how much money he’s either directly or indirectly helped send to those murderous thugs. That might be worthy of an investigation — more so than anything this treacherous weasel is currently grandstanding.
Last week, the Philadelphia Union signed 31 year-old Guatemalan international forward Carlos Ruiz, a.k.a. “El Pescadito” (“the little fish” in Spanish), throwing a confusing curveball to Philadelphia sports fans. My guess is we’ll be hearing the nickname more around here, since the Phillies already have a Central American player named Carlos Ruiz on their roster (he’s their catcher, hails from Panama, and is nicknamed “Chooch,” which I’m guessing we’ll be hearing a lot more around here now as well).
While the Guatemalan, soccer-playing Ruiz has competed all over the world and is well known in his homeland as the country’s all-time leading goal scorer in international competition and is well known among Major League Soccer fans in this country from his days with the L.A. Galaxy and FC Dallas, what people might not know is that he’s played in Pennsylvania before — in central Pa., particularly.
Way back in 2000, when he was a promising 20 year-old playing professionally for Municipal in Guatemala and a member of the country’s U-23 national team, the North American qualifying tournament for the Summer Olympics was held, bizarrely, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, of all places.
Unlike the World Cup, the Olympics are contested by countries’ U-23 teams, rather than the full national teams. I was actually lucky enough to have met Ruiz back then, as each of the colleges and universities near Hershey basically adopted one of the national teams and hosted all of their training sessions. I was in charge of athletic communications for the school that got Guatemala, and I got to work with them quite a bit in coordinating local media coverage.
That wasn’t an easy task, as the head coach was a little more than slightly paranoid about anyone from the other teams turning on the local TV news and seeing anything that might potentially give away the tiniest detail about their training sessions and game strategies. For the first day or two, they were more like the Brigadoon national team, as they would mysteriously vanish when cameras approached, and then magically reappear when they retreated. Eventually, we got things sorted out.
On the whole, though, it was a great experience, especially since at the time I was still in my first year out of college and was the same age as nearly all of the players on the team. Carlos Ruiz certainly stood out back then, but I never would have guessed that in another two years he would jump from Municipal to the Los Angeles Galaxy and end up as the MLS Most Valuable Player his first year in the league, nor would I have guessed at the time that he would eventually become Guatemala’s all-time leading scorer in international competition.
His signing now is definitely a good pickup for the Union. After an offseason largely spent finding ways to plug up the obvious defensive holes from their inaugural season, bringing in Ruiz fills another big need, which is taking some opposing defensive pressure off Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga. Even if he isn’t quite at the same level as a goal scorer he was when he played for L.A., he’ll be a helpful presence in relieving pressure. Also, having Le Toux take corner kicks, which seemed kind of strange for much of last year when he was the team’s only reliable scorer, would make more sense now with Ruiz on the field at the same time and Mwanga with a year of pro experience under his belt.
Besides, I’m of the opinion that he still has quite a few productive years left. While he struggled to score in the first half of the 2010-11 Greek Super League season for Aris Thessaloniki, somebody doesn’t score three goals in a handful of Europa League games over that same span by being washed up. Context is certainly going to be key for Ruiz’s scoring opportunities, and potentially having Le Toux and Mwanga on the field at the same time will definitely create opportunities for him.
The world’s greatest and most eagerly anticipated sporting event, easily eclipsing the combined magnitudes of the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the World Cup, and the National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green, Ohio, occurred today.
Yes, the Clash of the Titans between international soccer powerhouses Liechtenstein (61.7 sq. mi., pop. 35,000) and San Marino (24 sq. mi., pop. 31,451) was today, and Gott, Fürst und Vaterland triumphed over Libertas (in other words, Liechtenstein beat San Marino 1-0 on the road with a 57th minute goal).
Quake, ye mighty of the Earth, for the mice have awoken and roared, and somewhere Charlie Connelly is smiling. Today, San Marino, tomorrow, the world! Or at least Malta.
I was upstairs this morning, trying to put away some laundry, when I head blood-curdling screams coming from downstairs where the kids were playing. Fearing some horrible scene awaiting my discovery, I bolted down to the living room.
To my surprise, the kids both had huge grins on their faces as they ran back and forth across the living room, shrieking at the top of their lungs all the while.
“What are you guys doing?” I asked.
“Playing screaming,” our three year-old answered matter-of-factly, as though this should have been completely obvious.
The kids promptly resumed their “game,” apparently commencing the lightning round.
A common economic complaint in the United States these days is that our manufacturing base has eroded, meaning that we don’t actually make stuff here anymore.
It turns out that the tear gas canisters fired by Egyptian police at protesters yesterday were made in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
As a Pennsylvanian, I feel compelled to apologize and point out that we’re not all pusillanimous sacks of crap who are content to earn a living by making and selling instruments of terror to brutal dictators, although that’s meaningless cold comfort to anyone who’s actually had to inhale our home cooking in the last few days.
I’d hope we can all look forward together to a world where nobody has to face tear gas anymore, but as long as somebody’s willing to make it, somebody’s willing to buy it, and somebody’s willing to use it, I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon.