Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hate, deflated footballs and the NFL

The Patriots may or may not have tampered with some footballs before Sunday night’s demolition of the Colts. That’s under debate right now. What’s not under debate is the Patriots are the USA’s most hated football team. Could this explain why Ballgate, Ballghazi or whatever you want to call it is exploding so loudly?


On a more alarming note than any of the below, what faith do you have in humanity making it out of this century intact after the Internet reaction to Ballgate? Minimal, right? What’s going to save us from this out-of-control, freight train like downward dash towards complete and utter stupidity? You would think basically an alien invasion is about the only dramatic event that might snap us out of our current funk.

We’re just pathetic at this stage.

If mankind is wiped out and in the distant future another race finds a few Internet comment sections, well, the mystery of the Earth’s downfall will be solved right there and then.

On to Ballgate and the Patriots’ status as the most hated team in the NFL.

This thing has just been blown way, way out of any kind of proportion. It's simply ridiculous. Look, if Deadspin is among the voices of calm reason, well you know something has escalated beyond silly all the way to bat-shit stupid.

''The more context that emerges, the more it feels like messing with footballs is akin to pitchers doctoring baseballs: everybody does it, and nobody looks too closely until an opponent publicly complains.''

As Deadspin says, lots of QBs doctor balls.  We're not excusing it, by the way, we're merely saying, here are all these other guys who also mess with their balls, and yet there isn't a gigantic Internet explosion about these incidents.

Aaron Rodgers apparently likes the balls to be inflated past the league directed digits. It's widely detailed that he has discussed this openly. Peyton Manning actually lobbied the league to allow QBs 'inspect' the game balls pre-game. Gosh, I wonder why they would want to do that. Eli? Oh, no big deal, his crack special forces balls team spends hours on end scouring, rubbing up and otherwise doctoring footballs for him to use. But, again, no big deal, right?

Within that article, written in 2013, the following stands out;
''For every N.F.L. game, each team has 12 to 20 balls that it has meticulously groomed and prepared according to the needs of its starting quarterback. The balls, brushed and primed using various obvious and semisecret techniques, bear the team logo and are switched out from sideline to sideline depending on which team is on offense.''
I mean, C'Mon, Man, right? 'Semisecret techniques'? Oh that sounds totally legitimate! Why did the Internet not explode after this article was printed, pretty much documenting how Manning likes to have his balls doctored (stop grinning!).

Of all the non-issues currently clogging up the Internet, this has to be one of the dumbest of all time. The referees supposedly caught this ‘issue’ at half time, and even if the Patriots did indeed do something to the balls, something along the lines of many NFL QBs (Manning by two and Rodgers, as mentioned already) then it certainly didn’t have any effect on the outcome as the Patriots went on to win the second half 28-0, with, ahem, clean balls.

So why is this being treated like Darth Vader himself just came down from space and executed everyone on the Internet’s puppy?

Because it is the Patriots. Oh, everyone loves to hate the Patriots. Popularity and indeed success breed contempt.

In the eighties everyone hated the 49ers. In the 90s everyone hated the Cowboys (now we just laugh at them). In the 2000s, that mantle, American’s most hated NFL team has been passed on to New England. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that grouping of teams.

I talked to good friend and Sports Psychologist David Mullins about this, and he offered up clear, simple logic as to why everyone hates the Patriots.

 ''I said to a guy before playoffs started that I'd love to see a Patriots v Seahawks Superbowl as for me they are the two best teams and best run clubs. He couldn't understand that I would want that. He despised the idea of either doing well. It comes down to a lack of personal success and seeing others success as highlighting their own failures. So then they have to come up with reasons why the successful are lucky or cheating etc to excuse their own failings.''

Everyone hated the 49ers, everyone really hated the Cowboys. Today everyone hates the Patriots.

The only difference, and it is a major one, thanks to the Internet, people are getting really good at ‘hating’, really loud, and really good. ‘Hate’ is going to a new level of vitriol and indeed volume. Hate is eventually going to consume us completely, and all that will be left is some Internet comment sections for future alien races to recognize exactly where we, literally, fell off the map.



American Sniper: Eastwood's Biggest Lie

Director Clint Eastwood has taken great liberties with Chris Kyle's book, and presented a very distorted view of the facts, and a very convoluted depiction of the subject of 'American Sniper'.



To start, it is very sad to see that any kind of criticism of the movie ‘American Sniper’ is being met with incredibly aggressive threats from the movie’s supporters. The irony is simple, the more knuckle-headed of those supporters often laud the film’s subject, Chris Kyle, for defending ‘freedom’, however they are threatening people like Seth Rogen and any number of movie critics for daring to exercise their freedom of expression. The obvious irony is that those people so aggressively supporting Clint Eastwood’s movie are acting exactly like the angry, religious fundamentalists depicted as target practice for Eastwood’s hero, Kyle.

The backlash against Rogen, in particular, is scary in its volume and sheer anger, to the point where Rogen has had to apologise for having an opinion. What is this, the 1950s?

With the movie, one of the most important and perhaps more obvious points, watching the movie without reading the book is basically trying to understand maths without knowing what a number is. The book is essential to this, as it was straight from the mind of Kyle, and what a dark place that was. Maybe Kyle started life as some kind of loving, caring, conscientious gentleman, however his book is essentially a list of his favourite confirmed KIAs in a brutal war zone. That’s about it. Unless you have a particularly grim fascination with understanding how people die when shot by a sniper bullet, it is a morbidly boring read.

Eastwood takes that book, and turns it into something completely different. He doesn’t as much embellish the story as take a Soviet era paint-brush and apply suitable, rabble-rousing propaganda liberally. Eastwood takes a stone cold killer, who, if you read the book, clearly enjoys his work, and instead gives us this soft, doughy, caring man who only wants to protect US infantry from the hideous infidel. That’s Eastwood’s biggest lie to the audience. Kyle was not a man put in a tough position, trying to decide whether to put a bullet in the head of a 9 year old or not. Kyle enjoyed killing people.

Normal human beings carry the weight of death heavily. Normal humans who have taken other lives carry that weight for the rest of theirs. Kyle was from that group of human beings that very much enjoyed taking away the lives of others.

Read the book.

Kyle did not agonise over pulling the trigger, even when a child was in his scope-sights. He said, and this is straight from his book; 

“I hate the damn savages”


Now, before you go un-following me on Twitter, in an angry, patriotic haze of hate for my even suggesting Kyle said something like that, first remember Kyle actually wrote that. Second, I am by no means telling you anything was wrong with Kyle. He is what he was. A trained killer, who enjoyed his work.

I am however suggesting Eastwood’s rosy, cosy depiction of him, thoughtfully carrying around the weight of those people he killed, is a complete and utter lie. A far more accurate movie would have been Kyle gunning down men, women and children, and listing his kills like an accountant.

Should you doubt this suggestion, I would once again urge, read the book. It is very close to an accountant’s ledger, but instead of numbers he lists people he has killed. It’s that grim and morbid.

Whatever about Kyle himself, Eastwood’s depiction of war in this movie is nothing short of pathetically simplistic. This is surprising as Eastwood did not shirk from his responsibilities as a director in ‘Flags of our fathers’ or ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’. The true horrors of war are there for all to see in both of those excellent movies, the latter in particular a real triumph of modern cinema.

In ‘American Sniper’, Eastwood takes complete leave of reality and shows us a brave American hero gunning down infidels as they threaten full frontal, slow, laboured US infantry assaults. At one point Kyle even jumps off the rooftops and shows the grunts how to conduct door-to-door street fighting. The reality of urban warfare in Iraq is far nastier than Eastwood allowed us to see. I think it is first important for me to note, US soldiers were put in an almost impossible situation, in that point I agree with Eastwood, no doubt that’s something he’s trying to depict. Urban warfare in populated areas is a messy business. What Eastwood refrained from dealing with is the civilian casualties. We’re not talking about those handful of people who did rush US positions with Improvised explosive devices. In war the most tragic casualties are innocent civilians who get caught in it's web.

If you want to feel bad about the human race or if you want to get to know what urban warfare was really like in the cities of Iraq, do yourself a solid and conduct a simple 10-15 minute research on the topic online. Mainstream Western journalists wrote at length about the horrific numbers of civilian men, women and children who were killed by US forces during house-to-house fighting. Tiny children with sniper rounds to the forehead. Civilian ambulance drivers pulled from clearly marked ambulances with same, clean sniper rounds to the head. Women shot in the back. No doubt many of those were on Kyle’s ledger.

Look, if you want to insist on ‘loving’ Chris Kyle, ‘American Sniper’ and the movie Eastwood has created, go for it, that’s your choice. Just know that Kyle was not sitting there carefully picking off painstakingly selected, approved targets. There is no doubt he killed many civilians, innocent people caught in a horrible war zone. Unfortunately, as happens in war, it is a well documented fact that US forces killed many innocent civilians, much as the subject of their hatred, religious fundamentalists, did in New York in 2001.

The point I am labouring to make is, war is nasty, a messy, horrible business where the worst thing in humanity takes place, the loss of human life. In Eastwood’s frankly ridiculous re-enactment, his war is a tidy, cosy affair where only the correct decisions are made, only infidels, or as Kyle put it, ‘savages’ are killed.

Eastwood saves his final insult to both Kyle and the audience to last.

As you may or may not know, Kyle was ironically killed at a gun-range, by a former soldier who is now being tried for murder. The narrative being put forward is basically that Kyle’s ‘friend’ was suffering from PTSD and killed Kyle in a tragic accident. There are whispers that there are deeper secrets behind the incident, and the murder charges would reflect that. In ‘American Sniper’ Eastwood raises a giant middle finger to both his main subject, Kyle, and the audience, by copping out completely and in a cowardly fashion with a final patriotic montage of black limousines and American flags replacing any controversy.

It is insulting to Kyle to brush over his death like this. It is both insulting and patronising to the audience to take that fact and hide it, bury it under a glossy paint job of pseudo patriotism. I would suggest Eastwood was afraid of allowing his audience the chance to form opinions based on that incident, and instead pushed through his own narrative by leaving the final killing completely out. He had no issue showing us the deaths of ‘savage’ women and children, Eastwood drew the line at showing the complicated and indeed controversial death of his All-American hero.

For Eastwood, it was one death too many, and he wasn’t going to allow us to see that.

It is however extremely important to ask, why did Kyle's former friend kill him on that fateful day? I think Eastwood is a coward for leaving out the how and the why. It's easy enough to take a stab at why. Many soldiers are fucked up mentally for life because they are asked to kill people for a living. The weight of that breaks brains. Eastwood leaving that out is just another lie in a two hour piece that Seth Rogen was absolutely correct in comparing to the propaganda short in 'Inglorious Bastards'.

Now, if Quentin Tarantino had been given the reigns of  'American Sniper', now, that would have been interesting, and potentially a hell of a lot more realistic, too.







Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Terrell Suggs and domestic abuse



I had the misfortune of stumbling across a video posting along with sycophantic comments heaping praise upon Terrell Suggs today. It was on a Facebook page for an English NFL TV show. I made an innocuous enough point in the comment section, which the social media manager for that site then deleted. Fair enough, I ‘Unliked’ the page, and will not be watching their TV show again (Isn't it great how social media reduces us to actions akin to angry 12 year olds?!).


That social media manager is just one of the many thousands who bury their head in the sand when it comes to Terrell Suggs. He’s a nasty, malicious and hateful individual, and it is incredible that the NFL chooses to allow him exist in their World. A strong statement? Consider it yourself after the following facts.

  • Candace Williams, the mother of Suggs’s children, has filed for two protective orders against Suggs in the last five years. On both occasions the Judge presiding deemed Suggs enough of a danger to her and the children that the restraining order was given.
  • According to court details of the first order, he knocked her to the ground and sat on top of her, grabbing her neck and holding an open bottle of bleach over her. Williams wrote that Suggs used an obscenity and said he was going to “drown [her] with this bleach.” She put her hands over the cap, but the cleaner spilled onto her and their son
  • While entering details to describe “past injuries,” Williams lists “busted lips, broken nose, black eyes, bruises’’
  • According to court records, “Baltimore City District Court Judge Ronald Alan Karasic wrote that a laceration was visible on Williams’ chest.”
  • Williams also alleged that “[t]hroughout our relationship since early 2007, [Suggs] has punched me in the face and stomach and threatened to take the children from me if I left him. He stole my ID so I could not leave.”
  • Three years later, Williams asked for yet another protective order. This was again given by the judge, who deemed Suggs, again, enough of a threat to be dangerous to Williams and the children.
  • Williams alleged that Suggs “punched her in the neck and drove a car containing their two children at a ‘high rate of speed’ while she was being dragged alongside.” Williams’ request for a protective order was granted, and as a consequence Suggs was ordered to give up his firearms. Under Maryland law, “a judge is authorized to order someone to surrender firearms if they find there are reasonable grounds to believe the person seeking a protective order has been abused.’’

Translation of all of that? On two occasions, judges deemed that there was grounds to believe Suggs was abusive to his (now) wife and children, and posed a dangerous threat to them.

Think about that for a second.

Twice, Suggs has been in front of a judge and both times the judge has decided that he was abusive and dangerous.

It’s important to note that at no point has Suggs apologized for his acts. I am not going to put the words alleged-acts in there, because his main offence, in my view, is intimidating a woman and a child to the point that the law has had to be involved on several occasions. People, that should be enough. Suggs has never apologized for his acts, and interestingly he has never denied them either. Search through his carefully constructed comments around these sad incidents, Suggs never once actually denies he did any of the things he has been accused of doing to his (now) wife and child.

If you are innocent, you deny the allegations, right?

Suggs can hide behind carefully chosen words, no doubt constructed in the presence of an expensively assembled legal team, but he can’t hide from the trail of damage he’s leaving behind him. Obviously you would hope that he is done abusing and intimidating women and children, you would hope that in the strongest fashion. Maybe he is a changed man. However, next time you see a story lauding this individual, just remember the double restraining orders, and the chilling stories involving bleach and being dragged from cars, which, incredibly, Suggs has never denied.

Then see if you can get excited about whatever bullshit this creep is trying to sell you.




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

10 points to make you feel better about the Jon Lester situation

A quick look at some of the reasons that make Jon Lester signing with someone other than Boston easier to handle.



Jon Lester is gone.

That much is true. Maybe it is time to start looking for the silver lining in this situation. here's a look at some of the reasons it may not be as bad as us Red Sox fans initially thought.

  1. Lester didn't sign with the Yankees
  2. Chicago is a nice town to visit. A trip to Chicago to pay homage during one of Lester's starts is not the least appealing idea ever. 
  3. He's now a seriously coveted Fantasy Baseball piece, pitching in the NL will bump his stats exponentially. If you are a Lester owner in a keeper league, you just hit the jackpot.
  4. If Lester regresses to the point where he starts getting shallacked on a weekly basis, at least we don't have to watch that happen on the mound at Fenway. 
  5. In a somewhat related point, we probably won't have to suffer through a 38 year old Lester trying to get outs on the mound at Fenway (and I say that out of love and respect, no fan needs to see that happen).
  6. If you are a Red Sox fan that just moved to Chicago, well depending on your perspective, you either just lucked-out, or it's kind of like moving to a new town and finding out an old girlfriend who dumped you is living next door. Let's go with the former (you lucked-out).
  7. He didn't sign with the Yankees (It bears repeating, as it wasn't a million miles from happening, the Yankees were starting to sniff about as the talks dragged on).
  8. Lester didn't sign with St Louis either (almost as bad as the Yankees at this stage)
  9. The Cubs, who have lost close to 500 games in the last 5 years, probably will not be appearing in the World Series any time soon. Therefore, the Red Sox probably won't be facing Lester in the big show any time soon. 
  10.  Remember, he didn't sign with the Yankees!


Rock on, Jony boy, rock on


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just don’t lie to us, Jon.

Jon Lester has chosen the Cubs over the Red Sox, for a few million dollars more. We can only hope when he finally comments on this that he doesn’t insult the intelligence of Boston fans by using the word ‘contend’ or any variation of same.


From what I can see, after trawling the Internet in the early hours of this Wednesday morning, Jon Lester, former Red Sox and former Oakland pitcher, has not so far publicly commented on his decision to choose the Chicago Cubs as his next place of business. This is written in the hope that when he does comment, publicly, that he does not insult the intelligence of the Boston fans that wanted him to come back to Fenway so badly.

If Lester says he wanted the extra $20 million in cash, I would be cool with that. If Lester says he wanted out of Boston thanks to the crushing local media, I would understand and be cool with that also. If Lester says he wants to simply try something new, again, I would be cool as a cucumber with that.

My problem will be if Lester uses the word, or any variation of the word, ‘contend’ when he speaks to the masses for the first time on this.

The Cubs are a lovely, warm, cosy old team and their stadium is a national treasure, sure. However recently they have been absolutely pathetic in terms of results. Their last winning season was 5 years ago, in 2009. Since then they have won 346 games and lost 464. As recently as 2012 they lost 101 games. 101 losses! They are, frankly, a bad baseball team. Now, sure, they are building, and looking to contend and all that jazz. However a reasonable, relatively intelligent estimate on their first real push through the playoffs would have to be 2-3 years from now. Lester will be 34 years old. That’s just getting there. Winning the Series? That has to be 5 years away, surely. Lester would be 36 years old.

That’s assuming their rebuild goes well. What if it doesn’t? American professional sports teams seem to think that rebuilding is a given, that they will come out on the other end smelling of roses. What if the young guys don’t work out and the free agents are a bust? Even if Lester pitches his backside off, it could all be for naught.

I thought Jayson Stark made a great point on ESPN when he said;

A day like this doesn't help Javier Baez make more contact, of course. A day like this doesn't turn Addison Russell or Kris Bryant or Jorge Soler into instant stars. All that was always going to take time. And it still will.


Contending? Unless Lester plans on starting 2-3 days a week, and adding in some much needed power slugging also, then the Cubs are still a long way from contending.

With all due respect to the charming city of Chicago, the Cubs, right now, stink, and it will take a hell of a lot of rebuilding to get it right. If Lester actually wants to be part of a rebuilding project, well, good for him so. Just don’t tell us you want to contend, when the team you just joined has lost 464 games in the last 5 seasons combined.

Please, Jon, do not use the word ‘contend’ when you eventually speak to us all. It would be less of an insult to our intelligence if you just said;  

‘’Yeah, Chicago offered me a couple of extra million, now I’m gonna go look up who does the best fried chicken in Chicago, and then go shoot a few deer.’



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

1999 - The Magnificent Martinez's greatest trick

There has been quite a bit of chatter about The Magnificent Martinez lately. We're not talking about some two-bit magician here, we're talking about the wizard of the mound, Pedro Martinez. 

Recently the whole 'pitcher winning and MVP' thing came up, and after that came the announcement that Pedro is on the next Hall Of Fame ballot.

In regards the MVP portion, a belated congratulations to Clayton Kershaw, who won not only the 2014 NL Cy Young award, but also the NL MVP award. This is a tremendous feat for a pitcher to accomplish. Kershaw achieving this cast my mind back to the summer of ’99, and Pedro Martinez. For many who saw him throw, live at a game in particular, Pedro is the greatest pitcher ever to set foot on planet Earth, and ’99 was his greatest year. Some point to other seasons of his as having been pretty damn good (take your pick really from the phenomenal stretch he showcased between ’97 in Montreal and the infamous ’03) however for many, including me, ’99 was pure magic, on a number of levels.



Martinez deals

First of all, Pedro was still relatively new to Boston, having come from Montreal just 2 years earlier. Second, the numbers. Good lord, what numbers. Third, Pedro’s incredible, almost hard-to-believe All Star game outing, and everything around it (For God sake, it was in Boston, how perfect!). Then there was that magical night in New York where Pedro gunned down 17 Yankees.

The fifth piece of evidence towards proving ’99 was the greatest season ever submitted by a Major League pitcher is the 5 innings of shut-out relief Pedro tossed in the playoffs in Cleveland, a night embedded deep in the mind of every Red Sox fan who saw it.

Then there was his brilliant outing against the Yankees in the ALCS.

Finally, there is the context of the period Pedro did all of this in. Let’s just say it was not a level playing field. Other pitchers were being slapped around by enormous, hulking, roiding batters who were able to meddle in the dark arts of steroids while bashing obscene numbers of home runs. Pedro? He conquered all before him.

Sure, Pedro had other seasons that were perhaps better statistically on some levels, and sure, other pitchers have submitted similarly brilliant seasons in terms of numbers, however I put it to you that contextually, when you consider everything, no pitcher has ever delivered anything like the gift Pedro gave us in the summer of ’99.

To start, some of you will remember the breathless Boston Globe reports in the winter of ’97 that Pedro was coming to town. I remember distinctly where I was sitting when I first read the news, I can picture the article in front of me now. If I recall correctly the picture of Pedro was in street clothes, with a flat cap on, looking confident and stylish (Update: The Internet is an astonishing place – I just found the article).


Pedro comes to town.

He had just put forth an astonishing season in Montreal and the hope was that he would be the Ace at the front end of the Red Sox rotation. Goodness me did he deliver on that. Pedro announced himself to Boston with a stunning debut season that really raised the bar for expectations and indeed the hopes of Red Sox fans. That’s one of the many elements that makes ’99 so special. We knew Pedro was good, we saw just how good in Montreal, and we had a taste of the real potential of the great man in ’98. When Pedro was able to kick on upwards into yet another gear in ’99, well, it was simply jaw dropping.

On to the numbers.

As you can see from the below, the numbers that Pedro Martinez put up from ’97 through ’03 were nothing short of sensational. You could pluck out a couple of seasons as examples of ones that might surpass even 45’s transcendent ’99, however when you add all the other contextual aspects we’re discussing here, there really is only one season in my mind that constitutes Pedro’s greatest.

Pedro's greatest streak of stats - click to view in large


His ’99 was simply a thing of beauty.

Pedro won 24 games while losing only 4. In 213 innings he walked only 37 batters while striking out an incredible 313. Pedro struck batters out that season at an otherworldly rate of 37.5 %, whilst walking 4.4 %. That’s just unheard of. To put this in context, the other, human pitchers that season had rates of 15.6 % and 8.8 %. Pedro was in a class all of his own. His ’99 ERA of 2.07 was below half of the MLB average.

During ’99 he went on several streaks that, statistically, have few or no peer.

In September Pedro went 8 straight games with double-digits in strike outs. He was just abusing batters and sending them back to the dugout confused and demoralized. In 8 starts from August to September 27th Pedro tossed 62 innings allowing 8 runs which meant an absolutely ridiculous ERA of 1.16. In that period he K’d 107 batters at a rate of 46.5 %.

Looking at the numbers for that period of time, you could say that Pedro’s work between August through September in 1999 might be the greatest single stretch of pitching ever in Major League Baseball.

An integral aspect of Pedro’s ’99 season, and a portion of the reason why I contend it was his greatest, and indeed the greatest, was the ’99 All Star game at Fenway Park. The game itself, the surrounding pageantry, the home-run derby, the location, the stars, they all added up to an incredible All Star weekend in Boston. What Pedro did to the National League All Stars he faced, however, should probably have been adults-only entertainment. His stuff was absolutely filthy on the night. Anyone who watched that game saw that Pedro was psyched beyond belief to be starting for the American League. He left literally everything out there.



The sparkling energy and passion with which Pedro threw that night is clearly visible and audible from that clip. The POP of the fastball exploding into the catcher’s glove, the radar gun numbers, the stoic, controlled but fiercely competitive look on Pedro’s face. Remember this was the All Star game. These were baseball’s best-of-the-best and Pedro struck them out like they were Little League scrubs.

That pitch to get Larkin, what the hell? Sure, I know it would be labelled a changeup, but in reality it was so much more. The pitch dove away as if the ball was literally taunting the over-matched veteran Larkin. Not a chance, buddy. The pop of Martinez’s fast-ball to Larry Walker as it hit the glove makes me want to pump my fist every time I heart it.

It was an explosive 2 innings on the back of a glittering All Star event.

Then there was that night in New York.

I happened to be at that game, I was working in Boston for the summer, and wanted to see Pedro pitch live one more time before travelling back to Ireland. I wrote this a couple of years later, and like every pitch that night, every word of this still rings true.

With the Yankees winning the Sox were in trouble. And that's where Pedro broke out perhaps the best game of his career. In the middle of the team's longest road trip against their strongest competitors, he faced down the Yankees and threw a complete game one-hitter, facing only one batter over the minimum. Pedro struck out the side in the 5th, 7th, and 9th innings, for a total of 17 in the game. He fanned every Yankee who came to bat at least once.

Pedro was such a ferocious competitor, he was like a boxer, who was angered by his opponent (Chili Davies) landing a punch, and who went on to absolutely annihilate him. With Pedro dealing his 97 mph fastball, his wicked curve and that delicious changeup, the powerful all-world Yankees lineup was reduced to one fair ball after the fourth inning. Have a think about that. They hit one ball into play from the fourth inning on.

Every time he fired in one of his pitches I felt my emotions get pushed higher and higher. The Dominican fans in the bleachers were going absolutely insane. My new buddy beside me was pretty quiet, completely focused on the game, but after every strike out he just mumbled, 'K, another K'.

The Sox offence struck for two in the sixth and one in the ninth, and that was all Pedro needed. He finished his magnificent performance by striking out the side in the 9th inning, and the Dominican fans in the bleachers went absolutely insane. I didn't even notice that my body guard was gone, so, faced with overwhelming odds I settled for a little personal fist pump almost hidden by the seat in front of me.

I practically floated out of Yankee stadium, everything from there is just a blur. The bright stadium lights, several Red Sox fans celebrating in front of the stadium.

Like Ron Bergundy, ''I wanna say something. I'm gonna put it out there. If you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back.'' I want to come right out and say that was the single greatest pitching performance I have ever seen. Pedro, that night, was the greatest.

As I left the stadium I heard Frank singing '...start spreading the news..' over the PA system. I couldn't get that song out of my head for days, and when I hear it now I remember nothing but that chilly night in New York watching Pedro carry the Red Sox on his back deep in the heart of Yankee land.
Here are the highlights.




After the regular season, on to Cleveland, where the Red Sox faced the super-powerful Indians team that had a lineup for the ages. Pedro didn’t start, but he hovered over the city of Cleveland like a dark storm cloud waiting to pounce. The Indians bashed 8 runs off some, it must be said, pretty poor Red Sox pitching, before Pedro put his cleats on and jogged from the ‘pen to the mound. What followed was simply epic. Pedro pitched 6 shutout innings of baseball, as Boston rode his back out of town and into the next round. Pedro stripped the Indians batters and indeed fans of all hope, disarming them quietly and efficiently. He had the focus of an ice-cold assassin all night long, and mowed the Cleveland batters down one-by-one without seemingly breaking sweat.

Focus


God bless the Internet, you can watch the entire game here (and boy is it a wonderful trip down memory lane for fans of the Red Sox but also for fans of great pitching. Not so much for Indians fans, however).



The razor sharp focus that Martinez displayed when cutting down the Indians final hope, Omar Vizquel, that’s something you just can’t teach. In that time, in that place, only a legend could perform like that.

On to New York.

Putting an emphatic exclamation mark on his brilliant season, Pedro carried his excellence on into the ALCS against the New York Yankees. In his one start against them (his heroics against Cleveland came at a cost, the Red Sox in hindsight needed Pedro more than just once against the Yankees) he blew past them almost as if they weren’t there.

Grab a beer, get yourself some pretzels and put your feet up. Here’s the entire game



Side note: One of the greatest Red Sox fans chants of all time;

''Where is Roger? Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap. In the shower! Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap''

You really have to take a deep breath after considering all of that information. Remind yourself, all of that, all of the above, Pedro did all of that in one single season. That’s a lifetime of achievements for most pitchers, even the best. Pedro managed to cram it into one single magical season.

You will notice I haven’t commented on the two individuals who left Pedro completely off their MVP ballots in a spiteful move that thankfully we haven’t seen repeated too often since. One of those idiots had the bare-faced cheek to put two pitchers on his ’00 ballot despite claiming he left Pedro off in ’99 because he didn’t think pitchers should be allowed into the MVP voting (who knows how that clown sleeps at night). I won’t spoil this piece with his name, because quite frankly his ugly little temper tantrum doesn’t take away from a half of fraction of a percent of what The Great Martinez achieved in ’99.

You can bet Pedro doesn’t care either. He’s obviously a very grounded, confident man, and clearly very happy with his lot in life now. He has done things that no other player will manage, and he can sit back and enjoy the memories now that his playing career is over.

He gave us a season for the ages in 1999 and no one can ever take that from him.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Horrifying football wallpapers

Oh boy, some of these are absolutely horrific. A collection of the worst football wallpapers you could care to imagine. Check them out here on my latest for Balls.co.uk.

Scary!

Some of them are horrible, Some of them are just mind boggling. The range of obsolete, semi-unknown players on display is impressive. After you flick down through enough of them, you end up remembering that a lot of people spent a lot of time on these.

And that's terrifying in itself.

Just...what?

Monday, November 10, 2014

What up, Ukraine?!

Every now and then the Internet throws something funny at you. Check out this blog's viewer stats broken down by country.



Hey Ukraine! What's up?! I had no clue Irish baseball or US sports in particular were so popular in the Ukraine. I triple checked and I don't think I said anything to piss you guys in the Ukraine off, ever, but, please do correct me if I am wrong!

In the meantime, thanks for coming, and, I have always been a big fan of Andriy Shevchenko


Ireland Croatia

Ireland Croatia
The Irish Team in Croatia 2000

Heroes and villains on Fox Sports

Heroes and villains on Fox Sports

'I didn't know..' gets a mention on Fox Sports

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