Friday, December 31, 2010

Bowl game between Kansas State and Syracuse ends in controversy


Strange night in NCAA sports last night. UCONN ladies lose their winning streak, Washington shocks Nebraska and the officiating crews in the Kansas State and Syracuse game basically take it upon themselves to decide the outcome.

In case you didn't see it, in a wild finish to a superb game played at Yankee Stadium, no less, Kansas State wide receiver Adrian Hilburn drew a flag for a razor sharp, quick quick salute to the crowd after scoring a touchdown with 1:13 to play that pulled the Wildcats within 36-34 of Syracuse.


At best, this was an entirely disproportionate, non-contextual action by whichever idiot zebra actually threw the flag. At worst, you have to wonder, given the brazen stupidity of the action, did the official have something riding on the game?

The rule quoted is a seemingly randomly applied one that is meant to punish individuals drawing 'attention to themselves' after a touchdown. So, applying the rule further, one can only assume the official will be drawing a flag too? After all is said and done, the offending zebra has committed the worst sin in refereeing/officiating sports. He made the game about him. Adrian Hilburn was denied a career defining, joyous moment. Kansas were denied a chance in a game they deserved an equal chance to win. The fans were denied an overtime that might still be playing right now, tied 142-142. Yes, it was that good a game.

Here's what makes it stink that much more rotten. The following bowl game between Tennessee and UNC was a veritable orgy of saluting. After every scoring play Tennessee playes saluted en masse. Saluting the crowd, themeslves, saluting anything that moved. Where was this stupid ''rule 9-1-1d'' during that game?

All that aside, the part that angers me the most is, after Hilburn saluted the Kansas fans, very quickly and respectfully, the idiot Big Ten official said; 'Wrong choice buddy,' before throwing the flag. He clearly enjoyed his moment in the limelight. Here's hoping he gets an attack of conscience at some juncture in his life and regrets his idiotic call, and his callous comment also.

As 2010 comes to a close, NCAA football continues to confuse and baffle.

In NCAA football, one team can salute after a touchdown but another can't. In NCAA football a group of players are banned for five games for selling autographs and other trinkets, while the Heismann trophy winner's own father shopped him around to schools for hundreds of thousands of dollars and got away with it completely. In NCAA football they ban some players for selling those same trinkets while another player is sheltered, protected and allowed play on despite his actions and his threats directly leading to the tragic death of a young woman.

What more should we expect from a sport who's feature 'tournament', the BCS, seems to exist only because the old cronies who profit wildly from it in cartel like fashion will have to have the system prised from their cold, lifeless, dead hands before they give up the reins.



Linkage



Comments

Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Boston Irish NFL picks – Week 16

The Boston Irish NFL picks – Week 16
NFL Week 15 results 9-7
Season to date 145-77

The Christmas picks! Ho, ho, ho! Merry everything. Happy Christmas to all of you, the nice readers, the crazy readers, the angry readers, the psychotic readers, festive season greetings one and all! As usual, feel free to put your own picks in the comments section.



Cowboys @ Cardinals
Digging deep into Santa’s sack on this one, ho, ho, ho! The Cowboys have won four of their last six since the big coaching change. They look like a decent NFL team all of a sudden. The Cardinals? But wait, the end of the NFL season draws close, what have this Dallas team to play for, on Christmas day, away from their families? Arizona will be playing for customers who paid to see them on Christmas day. That means something. Somehow, they find a way...
The pick: Cardinals 24-20



Patriots @ Bills
Before you dive in on this one, hold on to your sleighs just one second there. The Bills are on a modest but respectable two game win streak, and have been playing hard (if unlucky) football all season long. They are decent at home and will be no doubt motivated to beat their perennial AFC East bully. However, and it’s a Godzilla like ‘however’, there is something about the Patriots that turns Buffalo to wet snow mush in the clutch. Since 2001, the Bills are 1-18 against New England. September 2003, that’s the last time a Bills team beat New England. Hey, sure, streaks are there to be broken, but the Patriots are so close to the finish line, you can’t see their coaching staff allowing any slippage at this late stage.
The pick: Patriots 33-24



Jets @ Bears
What’s Santa bringing Rex Ryan for Christmas, a foot spa? Ho, ho, ho! Yes, yes, the Jets won in Pittsburgh last week, I’m a Lebowski, you’re a Lebowski (little inside, I know!), however the Steelers did drop the game winning touchdown in the end zone with 9 seconds left. Hey, the NFL is a results oriented business, and a win in Pittsburgh is a good result, no matter what. However, this feels like a Bears home win to me. Sanchez is babying his hand, and his ego after a couple of weeks of bashing by his home town fans and press, the same people who were deifying him pre-mini-slump. In the last seven games the Bears have lost once, to the Patriots, who if you haven’t noticed are putting a pretty decent season together. The Bears have beaten every body else in sight. I think they add the up-and-down Jets to their list this coming weekend.
The pick: Bears 17-13

''I’m a Lebowski, you’re a Lebowski''

Ravens @ Browns
Pop, goes the Weasel. Pop also goes the Browns season, with their last two losses to decrepit Bengals and Bills teams. The Ravens meanwhile are 4-1 in their last five, including a quality win over New Orleans. Only one way to look at this one.
The pick: Ravens 27-21



Titans @ Chiefs
Isn’t there always one confusing present every Christmas? One year I got a gift from a wit, a cap that looked a little small, inside the card it said, ‘If it don’t fit, change your head’. The Titans are as confusing as those confounding presents. How on earth did they beat the Texans? Things should be set straight this weekend, Kansas is working on making Arrowhead Stadium a fortress once more. No amount of Chris Johnson should change that.
The pick: Chiefs 35-24



49ers @ Rams
Really hard to decipher this one, both teams are equally inept, particularly of late. The situation is so bad, you have to turn to coin flipping, or random analysis, pros and cons. I was in San Francisco once, and it was nice, the people were pretty friendly. Pro, for them. The Rams gave the Patriots their first Superbowl win, pro for them! Christmas jolliness aside, the Panthers are clearly the key to this one. St Louis hammered them, the 49ers lost to them. See, easy! Rams in a Christmas avalanche of points with both teams playing for nothing but our entertainment.
The pick: Rams 28-24



Lions
@ Dolphins
1-6 road team meets 1-6 home team! Sounds almost as bad as the awful TV lineup every Christmas. Is there anything worse than turgid Christmas specials of bad TV shows? Amazingly, the Dolphins have alternated wins and losses their last ten games. Spooky regularity. However, streaks are made to be broken. I absolutely love the potential of this Lions team and Miami look just confused enough to lose another home game.
The pick: Lions 20-17



Redskins @ Jaguars
The Jags badly need a win here and Santa has a little present for them in the form of the Redskins and their four game losing streak. Happy Holidays, Jags fans! There’s always next year, ‘Skins fans!
The pick: Jaguars 33-24

Chargers @ Bengals
A potential Christmas cracker for fans who like points. The Chargers have been banging out 30+ games more regularly than Harry Potter movies, while The Bungles have at least been scoring points during their Annus Horibilis. That over/under of 44 looks a little like South Korea right now, under serious threat.
The pick: Chargers 44-21

Texans @ Broncos
Tim Tebow made two really nice plays last week. He also only completed 50% of his passes and threw to some very bad spots. Guess which aspect the media focussed on? The Texans put up a stinker against a very shaky Tennessee team. Very hard to be confident about either of these two Christmas turkeys but home field and the Texans fold-up-chair job last week nudge Santa in the Bronco's direction.
The pick: Broncos 30-27



Colts @ Raiders
The Colts are struggling on the road, where they don't get to control crowd noise as they do at home, where they pipe in noise to suit there needs depending on the game situation. Everyone knows this, yet no one calls them out about it. It's kind of like Santa. Everyone knows he exists and all, but you hear some idiots saying he doesn't. The Raiders meanwhile, are very solid at home, and appear to be on to something, with their stifling defence and progressive run game. Doesn't it feel like there is one more twist to the Colts season?
The pick: Raiders 32-27

Giants @ Packers
The Packers played with great heart and Christmas spirit last week in their brave loss in New England. The Giants? Not so much. Regular readers will note I have been calling the Giants out for beating bad teams and losing to the good ones. Boy did they have their chance to shut me up last week. 28 Eagles fourth quarter points, not only is it confirmed, the Giants can't beat good NFL teams, we also know they have no testicular fortitude in the clutch. Tom Coughline blaming the loss on his punter just shows how out of touch he is, and what a grinch too. Note to Coughlin, there were 21 other points just previous to that where the punter didn't do anything wrong. Look at yourself in the mirror, you Christmas grinch you.
The pick: Packers 24-20

Seahawks @ Buccaneers
Buccaneers in a landslide. That's as short as Santa's presents listing for the following people. Terrell Owens, Sarah Palin, any of the loudmouth members of the Jets. One word. Coal.
The pick: Buccaneers 28-16



Vikings @ Eagles
This sure looked like a good game for the late one at seasons start, didn't it? Not so much now though, eh? I guess we can all watch Michael Vick run around making plays and petting puppies. I am stunned no one else is completely disgusted by Vick's latest puppy petting media friendly crusade. In case you didn't see, he asked his judge or parole officer or whatever if he could own a puppy. My answer to that would be he should be forced to adopt one of those visibly damaged dogs that were rescued from his dog fighting pound. Their faces are mangled, they have random chunks missing from their bodies. Vick should be forced to tend for one of those for the rest of its tragically shortened life. Happy Christmas Michael Vick, you might be fooling some people, but there's plenty of us out here who won't forget what you did.
The pick: Vikings 35-20

Saints @ Falcons
This is Santa's Christmas gift to the entire world. What a cracking showdown. The Saints are obviously a quality side, and they have righted their ship after a slow start. They score almost 30 pts every week. However, dig a little deeper. Their last eight games, they have beaten exactly one decent team, Pittsburgh several weeks ago. They have lost to Baltimore and Cleveland. The Falcons have got used to winning, they are on a eight game winning streak and are taking care of business at home. Really tough one to call but home field should propel the Falcons to a big, big win, confirming them as the class of the NFC. Side note - check out both these teams results the last ten games or so. The NFC is very weak this season, no? Some really, really bad teams. Barring a Saints, Falcons are Eagles miracle, the AFC is winning the Super Bowl.
The pick: Falcons 28-26



Other weeks to date:
Week 15 (9-7)
Week 14 (11-4)
Week 13 (11-4)
Week 12 (9-7)
Week 11 (14-2)
Week 10 (8-6)
Week 9 (10-3)
Week 8 (10-4)
Week 7 (10-4)
Week 6 (8-6)
Week 5 (8-6)
Week 4 (9-5)
Week 3 (8-8)




Linkage



Comments

Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Brady versus Vick; no contest for NFL MVP title

Unbelievably there are a number of writers who actually sat in front of a keyboard after the weekends NFL action and announced that the Eagle’s Michael Vick was their favoured NFL MVP candidate.


Comeback played of the year, sure, but MVP, not a snowballs chance in hell.

This is a ridiculously short sighted reaction to one good game. The MVP award is thankfully decided over the course of the season, not one game, and Vick has not been MVP like for the whole season.


Let us imagine for argument sake the MVP award was handed out today and let's have a look at Vick against who most sane people are touting as MVP (Peyton Manning basically threw himself out of the ring with that unfortunate interception binge a few weeks ago, Philip Rivers Chargers are not too far detached from a .500 record), Tom Brady.


Brady is also at the helm of the highest scoring offence in football (30 points a game average), which doubles as the joint best team in football at 12-2. How is this even being discussed?

Look, note to those who think the MVP should be Vick. The amazing Eagles comeback was a wonderful NFL spectacle, one of the best games in years. However, it should not have sent you careening to the nearest computer to demand outrageously that Vick be awarded the MVP. It was one game.

Besides at the end of the day, anyone who ever watched and got enjoyment from dogs killing each other should automatically never be allowed win anything, ever. I know the NFL is with me on this, partly because they wouldn’t be able to stomach the PETA protests tarnishing their shiny Superbowl. Mark my words, no way the NFL allows Vick, and subsequently the Eagles, into the big show.

Remember that when the zebras keep their flags in their pockets every time a Falcons lineman pummels Vick to the ground illegally in the NFC conference final. Think of it as a 09’/10’ Saints in reverse. New Orleans were allowed abuse Brett Favre in the same game last season, with no intervention from a clearly instructed umpiring crew.

If Vick makes it that far, he can expect the same treatment. Dogs around the world, relaxing lazily around warm fires, will chuckle gently to themselves with each hit.

MVP? Morbidly vengeful puppies.





Linkage



Comments

Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Boston Irish NFL picks – Week 15

The Boston Irish NFL picks – Week 15
NFL Week 14 results 11-4
Season to date 136-70

Random thoughts. After a horrific 0-3 start to the early games last week, rebounded to go 11-4 the rest of the way (didn’t get the Thursday night pick ‘in’ on time so left it out despite getting it right, in the interests of transparency!) After the 0-3 start I went out back to bury my laptop, ala Rex Ryan, but it was too cold so I just went back in and played Madden on the PS3 instead. I chose the Jets, and in-game Santana Moss dropped eleven passes in a row and then called out his coaches and team mates. Or wait, was that Terrell Owens? Hey, was Rex Ryan a dog in a former life? Maybe that’s why he likes burying things. Had a commenter on last weeks picks that called me an ‘idiot’ and ‘garbage’, this despite the lofty 11-4. Hoping he ups his game this week and breaks out the real swear words, so I can finally go 16-0.

Meanwhile, if you have time, check out the Irish Central NFL Power rankings, written by Cian Fahey and myself.

Right, enough chit chat, on to the good stuff.


Browns @ Bengals
It would appear accountability levels are down to an all time low in the NFL this season. Terrell Owens has dropped more passes than anyone in the league yet called out everyone on The Bungles bar himself after last weeks loss. Terrell, maybe if you caught a few passes, The Bungles wouldn’t be in this position. Owen’s act is like himself, old. The Browns get Colt McCoy back this week, and his return and their excellent running game should prove too much for The Bungles, who have serious deficiencies at all levels of the game. Including you, T.O.
The pick: Browns 24-21

Redskins @ Cowboys
The Redskins were live on Irish TV last week, against Tampa, and goodness me that Ryan Torian ran like a possessed bull. He was sensational. For me though, Washington didn’t exploit play action enough to take advantage of that, and they lost a close one to rejuvenated Tampa. The problem for Washington is they don’t have the tools to keep up with Dallas, who have played very well, scoring plenty of points lately, despite losing two out of their last three. Those losses were to the Saints and Eagles, and both very, very close. Washington haven’t broken 20 points for five weeks, whilst Dallas, against great teams, remember, have put up 27, 38, 27, 35 and 33 in that time frame. It’s easy to see why there’s a six point handicap on this one.
The pick: Cowboys 28-16

Texans @ Titans
The stench of underachievement and relative failure hangs in the air over this game, both teams started the season with high hopes yet come into this game as dead ducks, both 5-8 and going home in a couple of weeks. Houston would appear to have a brighter future, of sorts. Tennessee will probably see widespread changes before next season. Kind of hard to see how Tennessee are favourites for this one. Houston shut them out 20-0 just a couple of weeks ago, and since then have played the Ravens and Eagles close. Tennessee? They have lost six in a row. All Houston has to do is shut Chris Johnson down, and it will be a seven game skid for the Titans.
The pick: Texans 23-20

Jaguars @ Colts
All the piped in noise in the world isn’t going to make up for the fact that the Colts are wafer thing right now due to injury. Stupidly, their players are also winding up the Jaguars, calling them their ‘little brother’ in the lead up to this game. The Colts have injury issues from here to Timbuktu, however there main issue is quite clear for all to see. People often debate as to who is better, Manning or Brady. The debate should really be, who is given more time to throw? Watch the Patriots right now. Brady has time to drop back, make a cup of tea, read the newspaper and get online to order some UGGs. Watch the Colts, Manning is being chased, harried and harassed, and actually hit, for what seems like the first time in his career. The glaring, massive elephant in the room that no one talks about?! The offensive line! The most under rated unit in team sports. Brady is throwing behind a very tight unit right now, Manning is not. I can’t believe more established analysts aren’t making more of this. They will, eventually. Jacksonville’s defensive line has been licking its lips waiting all week to pin its collective ears back and go after Manning. The Colts simply don’t have a run game, so the Jags can disregard play-action and just go right after the suddenly very exposed Manning. Meanwhile, the pocket-rocket, Maurice Jones Drew is playing great football right now, and you can not see the Colts defence stopping him. The Jags just need to get a lead, establish Drew on a downhill plane, and then go after Manning. There is no way this line should be close to a touchdown.
The pick: Jaguars 27-26


Chiefs @ Rams
Maybe we shouldn’t be so shocked by this Matt Cassel thing. Did you know he’s the fifth highest ranked QB in the NFL? Since his first taste of NFL action in 2008 though, he has been proving people wrong. If you recall, the Patriots were backed up in their own end zone against the Chiefs, everyone still reeling from the Brady injury. Cassel looked calm and focussed and threw a 50 yard dart to Randy Moss for a first down. The guy hit the ground running. His touchdown to interception ratio is nothing short of Joe Montanesue and he is the perfect fit for the Chiefs offence. Well guess what, he’s back this week, and that’s enough to tip this one in the Chiefs favour.
The pick: Chiefs 24-21

Bills @ Dolphins
Nobody gave the Dolphins a chance last week in New York. They played fantastic defensive football to come away with the win. Oddly enough the Bills are 1-5 on the road and the Fish are 1-5 at home. The battle of the 1-5s! The Dolphins home record is an anomaly. The Bills road record is not.
The pick: Dolphins 24-20

Eagles @ Giants
I have never seen as soft a schedule as the Giants have enjoyed in 2010. Remember they got off to that great start, beating up bad teams, then hit a wall against the good ones? Well they are at it again. Houston, Detroit, Washington, Seattle, all ‘Vanquished’. Dallas are the key to the Giants. Under Wade Phillips, the Giants beat Dallas. Under new management, Dallas beat the Giants. The Eagles, meanwhile, have beaten several really good teams, including ‘New’ Dallas, the Falcons, the Colts and, yep, the Giants. Telling you right now, that 9-4 Giants record is a fraud built on the flimsy foundation of beating bad teams.
The pick: Eagles 34-27

Lions @ Buccaneers
The Lions are a great story, and will be a really decent team in 2011. For now though, when thinking about this game, don’t lose fact of one statistic. Detroit are 0-6 on the road. As Rasheed Wallace used say; ‘’Ball don’t lie’’, well, 0-6 don’t lie either.
The pick: Buccaneers 28-21

Cardinals @ Panthers
We always joke about bad matchups at this time of the year, giving them catchy, derogatory names such as, ‘’The Suckerbowl’’ or ‘’The Loser Bowl’’. This is one of the worst regular season matchups in the history of the NFL. Seriously. The Cardinals travelling is never a good thing, and Carolina are showing faint, distant, light signs of having something almost resembling a pulse, so, go with the home team in this battle of the duds.
The pick: Panthers 17-10

Saints @ Ravens
Speaking of duds, can everyone just take a step back and stop throwing bouquets at Ray Lewis, please. They used to joke about David Beckham that he was always the first player to arrive and celebrate with a goalscorer. Ray Lewis takes it to another level, he is always the first guy to hit a ball carrier right after the initial defender got there. Meanwhile, you know what you are going to get from the Saints. They have won six on the bounce and score 30+ points every week. Look it up. The Ravens? Can you honestly say you know which Baltimore are going to show up? Go with the sure thing.
The pick: Saints 30-24

Falcons @ Seahawks
Man oh man, I have been reading established analysts the last couple of days actually picking Seattle (in fairness mostly with the six point spread). There is no bigger admirer of Seattle’s home field advantage, and I love Lofa Tatupu, but how can you back against Matt Ryan and the Falcons right now? There really isn’t any debate.
The pick: Falcons 34-24

Broncos @ Raiders
Darren McFadden ran for ten thousand yards on like, three carries, last time these two odd teams met. Denver turns to goo on the road, and Oakland raise their game considerably. You can see where this is going.
The pick: Raiders 28-17

Jets @ Steelers
If Bill Belichick had been told he could select the Jets next opponent during this despairing mini run they are on, and the only stipulation was it couldn’t be New England, who would he have picked? That’s right, Pittsburgh. The Jets are a pathetic mess right now. Where does Santana Moss get off predicting he is going to return a punt for a score this weekend? You know what, good for him, focussing on his desires, with his team in a slump. Pittsburgh’s special teams must be licking their lips waiting for this. Did you know Moss refused to return kicks last week, complaining the punter for Miami kicked them too high? What’s he going to do when a Steeler knocks his helmet off on Sunday? Also, quick question for New York’s goldfish like fans. A couple of weeks ago Sanchez was Joe Namath’s second coming. A couple of losses later you are calling for him to be benched. Which is it? As for the game itself, the Jets have scored a whopping 9 points across their last two games. The Steelers have conceded 17 across same. This isn’t going to end well for the Jets. Then, again, not much has gone right for New York this week, isn’t that right, Paul?
The pick: Steelers 26-10

The Truth hurts

Packers @ Patriots
No Rodgers, no chance. There’s your four word summary.
The pick: Patriots 40-17

Bears @ Vikings
Bears bounce back. Alliteration at its finest.
The pick: Bears 23-20



Other weeks to date:
Week 14 (11-4)
Week 13 (11-4)
Week 12 (9-7)
Week 11 (14-2)
Week 10 (8-6)
Week 9 (10-3)
Week 8 (10-4)
Week 7 (10-4)
Week 6 (8-6)
Week 5 (8-6)
Week 4 (9-5)
Week 3 (8-8)




Linkage




Comments

Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 2011 Boston Red Sox batting lineup

A discourse on the potentialities available to the Boston Red Stockings in terms of lineup permutations. One mans view.


With the dust settling from the last ten days or so flurry of trades and signings, the Red Sox in particular look pretty much set in terms of batters. Just a couple of tweaks in the bullpen region and they will be ready to roll. As the Yankees run around like a headless chicken, looking to sign anyone or anything to make up for missing out on Lee, Werth, Gonzalez and Crawford, what better time than now to have a look at one potential Red Sox batting order.


1. Ellsbury CF
2. Pedroia 2B
3. Crawford LF
4. Gonzalez 1B
5. Ortiz DH
6. Youkilis 3B
7. Drew RF
8. Saltalamacchia C
9. Scutaro SS


Ellsbury
It is refreshing to see Francona and Epstein have both clearly decided Ellsbury deserves the chance to prove his worth, after a season stunted by injury. The old adage in sports is, you should never lose your job through injury (Drew Bledsoe might have a thing or two to say about that) and in this case Ellsbury clearly warrants another extended look. There were plenty of fans and indeed writers who were ready to push Ellsbury out of town, most notably the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy. Mr. Shaughnessy openly questioned Ellsbury’s bravery, which was both reactionary and, as it turns out, extremely erroneous. Thankfully those that matter, the Red Sox coaching staff, are clearly sticking by their man. Manager Tito Francona made it pretty clear where he wants Ellsbury to bat; "I think I've been pretty consistent all along, our best team is when Jacoby is hitting first"

Ellsbury: let's not forget his steal of home against the Yanks, just yet

Pedroia
Possibly the most solidified, certain spot in the order, there is no way (barring injury or alien invasion) anyone but Pedroia is starting the season in this slot. He is simply perfect for it. Rarely ever strikes out, always moves the runner over. Does the little things so well, and chips in with more than his fair share of power-alley gap shots. The perfect number two man for the Red Sox.

Crawford
Crawford himself has said he hates batting lead off, and his history in Tampa suggests that’s not without good reason. He hasn’t done well statistically there. Rays manager Joe Maddon tried Crawford in the three hole, and was so enamored with the results he left him there for good. Not a big home run hitter, however there is plenty of thunder just behind him in the order to balance that. By putting Crawford in the three hole the Sox would lengthen their lineup in a way that basically it would be like having two ‘number two’ type guys back to back, Pedroia and Crawford, ahead of the heavy thunder.

Wilkommen!

Gonzalez
Gonzo fits the four spot like a well made glove, the perfect guy to have here. Considering his commendable body of work to date, imagine the possibilities in terms of RBI numbers for Gonzalez. With all due respect to the Padres, a scrappy, feisty team, Gonzalez has never had OBP guys like Pedroia and Crawford, or table setters with the speed of Ellsbury batting in front of him before. Assuming it all works out, no injuries and what not, what’s the over under for his 2011 RBIs, 115/120? I would take the high there.

Ortiz
Finally, some controversy. Most articles have Ortiz one or even two spots further down the order. Have those writers been following the Sox the last couple of years? Gregarious Ortiz needs to be loved. Nothing wrong with that, he just thrives in the right situation, with the backing of his employers. Considering what he has done numbers wise for Boston, he has possibly earned the right to bat directly behind Gonzalez. There’s a part two to this also, which is…

Big Papi

Youkilis
…can’t you see Youkilis agreeing to bat behind Ortiz, at least for the start of the year? Youkilis is such a team first guy, he would probably have no issue batting a little lower down the order, in a move which would keep Ortiz’s morale up and lengthen the Sox lineup just that little bit further. Imagine opposition pitchers, navigating their way through the top five in the Sox order, only to find this little surprise waiting for them in the six spot? Mercy!

Drew
Batting JD Drew in the seven hole is a win, win, win situation for all involved. First things first, Sox fans can expect a little boost from Drew this season, this is the final year of his current Sox contract believe it or not. If he can stay healthy (a reasonably large if) then Drew figures to come out firing in 2011, playing for a new deal. Having him this low down in the order takes both pressure and expectations off his shoulders, and once again lengthens the lineup considerably. There are not many teams in MLB with a player of this caliber in the seven hole. Enjoy what might be his last season in Boston, love him or hate him, Drew has contributed a very steady offensive output and a couple of very, very clutch hits down the last couple of seasons (Grand slam in Cleveland stands as my favourite Drew moment).

Saltalamacchia
Having ‘owned’ Jarrod Saltalamacchia the last couple of seasons in a keeper fantasy baseball league, it is hard to get excited about his potential Sox tenure. The potential is there, for all to see, and he is young, however it has been a few years now since he got his chance at this level, and, still no fireworks. Absolutely no doubting the potential, though. This is one spot higher than most other mock Sox lineups, and that’s because…


Scutaro
…I think people are forgetting managers love to have a ‘second leadoff’ guy in the nine hole. Anybody who gets on base at a regular enough clip, has decent base running skills and plays small-ball well. Assuming Scutaro isn’t traded, he could become a firm fan favourite in this role, there’s no doubt he is better than 95% of MLB ninth spot batters and should out produce his lineup spot enormously.

So there it is. Nothing can be set in stone at this stage, the club might look different after spring training, for example, but one thing is absolutely certain, the Sox lineup is going to be one of if not the best in MLB in 2011. Feel free to put your own potential Sox lineups in the comments section, get involved! Now, when does spring training start?




Linkage



Comments

Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Late change to the script; The Yankees don’t get their man. Cliff Lee to join Phillies.

Both the Texas Rangers and, perhaps more so, the New York Yankees were left reeling this morning, picking up the pieces after Cliff Lee, the most coveted free agent pitcher on the market by a long shot, decided to ‘take his talents’ to Philadelphia.


How on earth did this happen?


The Phillies played it cool waiting until the tail end of negotiations to swoop. They were apparently always ready to make a deal, but decided to wait until Texas and New York had played their strongest cards. Once that happened, the Phillies calmly contacted Lee’s people and made their proposal. Lee accepted almost immediately.

The next question is, ‘why?’

Three immediate factors stand out. First, Lee is now part of the best pitching rotation in baseball. For Lee, The attraction of pitching for one of the National League’s best, alongside living legend Roy Halladay, proved too much. The Phillies can now boast one of the finest starting rotations of all time, a deep-four that includes Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. The only rotation in MLB anywhere close is Boston's stable of Lester, Bucholz, Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka, and even that has many more question marks than the Phillies 'fab four'.

Secondly, you have to wonder if Lee took one look at Boston’s sensationally revamped lineup and said ‘thanks but no thanks’ to 19 in-division games against that murderer’s row (Kevin Youkilis or David Ortiz potentially batting as low as seventh?!). On top of that, Tampa and Toronto can flat out mash. The NL East is a far pitcher friendlier place than the AL East, even with the commendable changes happening with the Mets.

Finally, Lee and his family were reportedly very comfortable in his previous stint in Philadelphia, happy with the lifestyle and the clubhouse culture also. Lee’s wife was famously verbally abused at Yankee stadium in the playoffs, whilst in contrast the Lee’s apparently really enjoyed life in and out of the ballpark in Philadelphia.

Now for the inevitable weeping and gnashing of teeth in New York.


The Gotham City media is not happy about this, not one bit. Of the three free agents who signed deals in excess of $100 million this winter, two signed with the Red Sox, and the other joined the Phillies, jolting the Yankees like they haven't been jolted since their historic 2004 ALCS collapse. The reaction in the press? About as Neanderthal as you could have predicted. The headlines of the NY Post scream ‘’CLIFF STIFFS YANKS’ – and then go on to show a bit of the arrogance that perhaps helped put Lee off New York, in opening the piece with ‘’The Phillies? Really?’’. The NY Times it should be noted are being much calmer and more contrite about the whole affair.

Interestingly Lee called the Rangers himself to announce his decision, while getting his agent to let the Yankees know he wouldn’t be pitching for them. Read into that what you will.

The Yanks have now missed out on Lee, Crawford and Werth, the three biggest (and some would say only interesting) MLB free agents on the market. At least they re-signed Jeter and Rivera. They will now probably try to ‘over-pay’ in a trade for Zack Greinke, Yankees fans would riot in the street if GM Cashman tried to placate them with any of these guys; Carl Pavano, Brandon Webb, Jeff Francis. One word, yuck.

All that can be said now is, congratulations to the Phillies on putting this together. Congratulations also to Cliff Lee. The Yankees were willing to guarantee him $154 million for seven years, instead, he picked a five-year deal worth just around $120 million because, basically, his family will be happier in Philadelphia. It’s nice to see someone make a move that isn’t entirely about the money.

Maybe, when all is said and done, the Yankees fans should have been just a bit nicer to Cliff Lee’s wife.



Linkage

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fantasy Football is more evil than gambling: a discussion.

So you think gambling is bad? Congress should look into banning Fantasy Football, too. Frankly, it is considerably more evil. If gambling is a metaphorical Darth Vadar, Fantasy Football is the uber-evil Emperor Palpatine, you know, shooting those scary blue lightning bolts out of his fingers and all.


Don’t worry, this isn’t going to delve too deeply into one single fantasy team, is there anything worse than those lengthy examinations of someone else’s imaginary team? If it isn’t yours or one of your direct friends teams, in your league, it just doesn’t hold any frame of reference and thus isn’t interesting or funny. I think we can all agree on that.

Back to Fantasy Football being evil. Think about it, last night an estimated 18 million people world wide played NFL Fantasy Football. That is a heck of a lot of nerds. Of those 18 million people, spread across approximately 1.8 million Fantasy Football leagues, by the end of this Fantasy season a minute 180,000 will have ‘enjoyed’ (or, won) their 2010 Fantasy experience. For the rest of us, it will have been a frustrating few months of high draft picks failing to live up to expectations, bad free agent choices and opponents players fluking their way into bizarre high scores to tip you by a half a point any given week.

Last night illustrated the essential absurdity that is Fantasy Football. As a Patriots fan, I was happily entrenched watching the guys lay a serious beat-down on the Bears, in a Chicago snow storm, no less. What was not to like? The Patriots played an efficient, skillful 60 minutes of football and for the older gentleman Patriot fan, such as myself, it was another tiny slice of revenge for that sleepless night back in ’85.

No problem there, right? Wrong. See, it was the quarter finals in most Fantasy leagues last night. My team, ‘The Tusken Raiders’ stood a decent chance of making it to the semi finals. I just needed a solid outing from the Bears QB Jay Cutler. Nothing fancy, just a decent, 220 yard, 2 touchdown showing, with as few turnovers as possible. Apparently that was too much to ask. Cutler played tease all night, driving the Bears downfield into the gusting winds, only to throw the ball into the welcoming grasp of several Patriots defenders. What did he have, six, seven interceptions? It sure felt like it.

Oh, Jay..

With every fumble or interception, my poor little mind was tricked into a flurry of emotive responses. As a lifelong Patriots fan my first reaction was, ‘Yes, our ball!’ which was quickly followed by ‘Oh for (expletive removed!) sake, Cutler!’ Up and down like the proverbial rollercoaster, all night long.

See, gambling generally can’t do that to you. Only the most complicated, deepest thinkers place bets directly against their most beloved teams. If you are a big, for example, Jets fan, you would…wait, not a good example, we need a fan base that can actually work a computer. Say if you were a Packers fan, there’s no way last night you would have bet on the Lions, you know?

Oh Fantasy Football! Sure, it helps bring those groups of people that play in the same leagues together. Sure, it can be fun when you have a winning week. But, at the end of the day, Fantasy Football can play the exact trick that even gambling can’t, force you to root against your own team.

And that’s just evil.





Linkage

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Boston Irish NFL picks – Week 14

The Boston Irish NFL picks – Week 14
NFL Week 12 results 11-4
Season to date 125-66

An existential question of sorts for week fourteen; If Rex Ryan, sitting at home, easting cheeseburgers and playing playstation, loses a couple of games of Madden Football, does he carry the game system out back and bury it in the yard? On to the picks.


Browns @ Bills
Two teams going in very different directions. After a commendable start to the season, the Bills have started to wear-down and give the ball, and the game, up easily. The 2-10 Bills gave the rock up five times last week and had three really knuckleheaded personal fouls called too against the Vikings. The Bills also lost 2/5ths of their offensive line to injury. The Browns were working hard at losing close games until recently, when they have started to win them instead. They have a progressive, hard running back in Peyton Hillis who will be chomping at the bit to face a Buffalo defense that's giving up a league-worst 170.9 yards per game on the ground and has allowed at least 200 in each of the past two defeats. After an honourable first half of the season, the Bills year will fall apart here just a little bit more.
The pick: Browns 24-17


Peyton Hillis

Packers @ Lions
The Detroit Lions are experiencing a similar season to the Bills. After some commendable hard fought losses, and a couple of dramatic wins, injuries have taken their toll and their season has started to slip south in a hurry. Their QB this weekend will be third string trigger man Drew Stanton. That is not what you need going into a game with one of the NFL’s hottest teams. The Packers have outscored opponents by an average of 19.4 points in their last five wins. Their only loss in that period came by three points at NFC South-leading Atlanta. The Packers are getting the job done, meanwhile Detroit need the off-season to regroup and retool for next season.
The pick: Packers 34-24


Giants @ Vikings
Strange game this. The media, in its pre game previews, are focusing on a 41 year old QB who may or may not play, and who has, to date, thrown a NFL leading 18 interceptions. One of the biggest sports sites actually doesn’t mention Favre’s backup, Jackson, once. He is most likely playing! Not one word dedicated to the lad. How on earth does Favre get so much attention? Could it be anything to do with the fact he is the same age and race as the vast majority of those who click on these types of stories? That’s one for the sociologists to decipher. This game is a littler easier to read. On paper it looks easy enough for the G-Men, but, wait. The Giants have built their season on the back of dominant wins over bad teams. They have so many injuries in their receiving corps they have been forced to run, run, run. What is easily the greatest asset of the Vikings as a team? Their overwhelming ability to stop the run. The Vikings, believe it or not, can still make the big dance. Home field, their powerful defensive line and the desperation to make it a meaningful season produce an ‘upset’ Vikings win. Just remember, you heard it here first.
The pick: Vikings 28-26

Bengals @ Steelers
There is something rotten in The Bungles camp. Major overhaul required. After yet another loss last week, Terrell owens was afforded the opportunity to talk to the media. A chance to sound a resounding call to arms, pick his team mates up with a rallying call. Instead, the usual, ‘Diva’, me-first rubbish that prevails amongst this sorry lot. Imagine coming out with the following turgid crap after your team has suffered a devastating loss. "Go back and watch the film. I can play this game. There ain't nobody I feel can stop me when I'm out there. That's just confidence, it's not arrogance." There also ‘ain’t nobody’ that can stop you talking that unique brand of selfish bullshit, is there, Terrell? In a uniquely team based sport, Owens is a uniquely selfish simpleton. Meanwhile, whatever you might think about Pittsburgh, they are a very solid ‘team’ in every sense of the word. They should pick apart this sorry mess easily.
The pick: Steelers 30-17

Buccaneers @ Redskins
Tampa are coming off a little two game losing streak, but there was no shame in those losses. Coming off a 17-10 defeat at Baltimore the previous week, Tampa Bay (7-5) lost 28-24 at home to South-leading Atlanta last Sunday. Before thinking the awful Redskins, a team in turmoil, have a chance, remember the Buccaneers are a perfect 7-0 against teams with sub-.500 records. Washington is one of those teams.
The pick: Buccaneers 27-17

Josh Freeman

Falcons @ Panthers
Two teams on very different streaks, The Falcons have won six on the trot while the Panthers have lost six in a horrible skid. The Panthers were crushed last week by a very poor Seattle team, while Atlanta won in impressive comeback fashion against a very good Buccaneers team. You can see where this is going.
The pick: Falcons 30-13

Raiders @ Jaguars
Football is all about balance. The Chargers have no balance, and the Raiders exploited that in last weeks somewhat surprise win. The Chargers basically have no special teams and a pitiful run game. The Raiders out gained the Chargers 251-21 on the ground in a 28-13 win. The Jaguars, however, are a very balanced team. They have a decent passing attack and a superior running game. Maurice Jones Drew is playing some of the best football of his life. Oakland are really hard to get a read on, the answer to this game might be in the respective quality of opponents defeated. The Raiders have beaten a very suspect Chargers team twice, and wins over Seattle and Denver are nothing to write home about. The Jags have defeated Tennessee, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas and Indianapolis. Advantage Jacksonville. It could be close though.
The pick: Jaguars 24-20


Rams @ Saints
The Rams are going to be a force next season, however their 2-4 road record is an immediate handicap. Taking a road trip to New Orleans is not going to be an enjoyable experience for them. The Saints have very quietly repositioned themselves as a firm Superbowl favourite. They have won five in a row including big wins over Dallas and Pittsburgh. The Rams will put up a fight but succumb to the pressure late on.
The pick: Saints 28-20

Seahawks @ 49ers
The 49ers are actually 3-2 in their last five games, and those two losses were to Tampa and Green Bay. Seattle generally put up a fight at home but raise the white flag on the road. Alex Smith returns for the 49ers, and he has the arm to hurt the Hawks deep. I am no fan of the 49ers season to date, so many dissapointments at all levels, but Seattle's road incompetence can not be ignored.
The pick: 49ers 24-17

Patriots @ Bears
Will Bill Belichick post news snippets and images from the famous Superbowl blow-out of old to rally his troops before this one? Do Bears fans have a warm, cosy feeling about the Patriots? Personally, as, at the time, a young Patriots fan, I will never forget that horrible, traumatic beating. Neither will Tony Eason, no doubt.

In there here and now, the Bears have righted their ship after a sticky little mid season slump. And are right now one of the form teams in the NFL. Playing with confidence at home, their defence is hitting hard and often. These two sides are fantastically evenly matched. Both will not be worried about the frigid weather forecast, and both will be riding long winning streaks coming in.

The Bears carry a slight edge playing at home in front of their fans, however two major aspects might give a slim overall edge to the Patriots.

First of all, as well as the Bears defence is playing, the Patriots are using every single offensive player at their disposal while averaging a superb 31 points a game. The Bears are averaging 20. If New England scores a couple early, it may be hard for the Bears to keep up.

Secondly, while the Bears winning streak is commendable, it has come against the likes of Buffalo, the Vikings, Miami and Detroit. The Patriots meanwhile have put away the Jets, Colts and Steelers on their streak. Clearly, advantage Patriots.

We haven’t had a Tom Brady led fourth quarter game winning drive in a while, this looks and feels like it could be just that. A hard fought, tight game with the superior offence given the ball one more time at the end with a chance to win it.

The pick: Patriots 34-28


Worst. Night. Ever.

Dolphins @ Jets
Maybe the Jets should spend a little less time talking crap, pulling stunts like burying footballs and whining to the media about being bullied, and a little more time working on their game. They were truly pathetic against the Patriots, and this week they face a hard running Dolphins team facing its last chance saloon. The Dolphins know that a loss basically eliminates them from the playoffs, whilst a win combined with a super-soft season finish scheduled wise, would actually see them right back in contention.

The Dolphins are a bizarre 5-1 on the road and will throw everything they have at the reeling Jets, who spent a short week (remember they played Monday night) posing for the media instead of identifying and working on their issues. What is it about the Jets? Why do they have to pull these media friendly, inane stunts? They will not be winning football team until they just shut up and play. What will Rex Ryan do after this loss? Gather the team together and bury Braylon Edwards, who is about as fake, fair weather player as you will find in the NFL. The Jets brought this on themselves, by winding themselves up so tight they are inevitably going to eventually break. The Dolphins have the motivation and road record to come in and cause a big week 14 shock.
The pick: Dolphins 23-20

Broncos @ Cardinals
The Cardinals are quite possibly the worst team in the NFL. The Broncos meanwhile have that whole 'new coach syndrome' thing going for them. Kyle Orton is a good QB too, and shouldn't be over looked when considering this matchup. Look for a newly invigorated Broncos to come in and lay waste to a truly awful Cardinals team. Denver might be the lock of the week, all things considered.
The pick: Broncos 27-16



Chiefs @ Chargers
Huge, huge question marks over this wildly important game. Kansas may be without their QB Matt Cassel who had an appendectomy on Wednesday. While Cassel is probably never going to win any MVP awards, he is perfect for the Chiefs, a hard working, dillegent QB who barely ever turns the ball over. Kansas loves him, with good reason, and if he's out they can kiss this one goodbye. Impossible to call until game day. but assuming Cassel doesn't recover, you can only see a Chargers win.
The pick: Chargers 27-17

Eagles @ Cowboys
Dallas are 1-5 in their sparkly new home. This has to be a source of great humiliation for them. Meanwhile the Eagles are sturdy road warriors at 4-2 on their travels. Meanwhile, the gloss has come off Eagles QB Michael Vick's season a little. The bandwagon calls for MVP, President and Nobel Prize have died down a little.

He is, however, still a handful, and will prove a very different challenge than the static, pocket passing Peyton Manning did last week. Dallas won’t be able to sit back deep in the secondary and pick off passes, if they do Vick will run all over them. This looks like a potentially exciting game, but the Eagles overall superior quality should deliver a dramatic late win. The excellent David Akers to kick the game winner late on.
The pick: Eagles 34-33

Ravens @ Texans
In the last six games Houston has five losses and one solitary win against a Tennessee team that is reeling hard. The Ravens only recent losses are too the Steelers and the Falcons, with four wins dotted around those. No need to look too hard into this one. Baltimore are the better team, and need the win to keep their season on track.
The pick: Ravens 28-20

Other weeks to date:
Week 13 (11-4)
Week 12 (9-7)
Week 11 (14-2)
Week 10 (8-6)
Week 9 (10-3)
Week 8 (10-4)
Week 7 (10-4)
Week 6 (8-6)
Week 5 (8-6)
Week 4 (9-5)
Week 3 (8-8)




Linkage

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

$25 million doesn't get you much these days: FIFA, The UK, Russia and the World Cup bids.

It has been a few days now since FIFA’s considerably shocking decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia over, amongst others, England and a joint Spanish/Portuguese bid.

With the smoke clearing and the dust settling, what stands out most is the incredible arrogance FIFA is displaying in light of the overwhelming evidence against it in terms of serious corruption.

First off, the below is only going to tackle the 2018 World Cup in detail, don’t even get us started on 2022, which was awarded to Qatar. How FIFA came to the decision to award this hallowed tournament to a country that has serious questions to answer in terms of human rights abuses is a mystery (slavery, for example, is pretty much encouraged amongst the Qatari elite). Their decision is also mind boggling in that the main sponsor of the World Cup is an over rated alcoholic beverage, and yet in Qatar it is against the law to drink in public. I know, I am scratching my head too. Completely illogical. However, for now, we aren’t touching the whole Qatar question.

There is a huge amount of written material emanating from this horrible mess, however at its core it is a depressingly simple tale to tell. FIFA is incredibly corrupt, and Russia was able to key in on that in order to win the rights to host the World Cup in 2018.

There are a also myriad of interesting side notes. The English media reaction, the exposé of the complicated and completely flawed FIFA voting system, just how corrupt and racist Russia is and finally the disgusting waste of hundreds of millions of euros on the process.

To start, calling FIFA corrupt is like saying ‘Ireland currently has some financial issues’. FIFA may be the most relatively corrupt organisation known to man, in terms of size, number of members and levels of corruption.

It all starts from the top

Many in the UK in particular seem shocked at the sheer scale of corruption being revealed. However, alarm bells should have rung at an early stage of the whole assignment process. For example when FIFA demanded an exemption from a key element of UK money-laundering legislation as part of the government guarantees required in relation to the England 2018 bid. Um, did anybody notice this when the bid process started? Kind of a red flag, no?

According to an expert in sports administration, Mr. Mihir Bose, Sepp Blatter the vainglorious FIFA president, sees his organisation as; ‘’the Vatican of sport and himself as a head of state". He goes on to note that the professional staff in Zurich are competent and trustworthy;
"but it's the (executive)committee members that are the problem. They are treated like gods. They fly everywhere first class, stay in five-star hotels, receive $150,000 retainers just for attending meetings and $500 a day expenses. They live in another universe."
Remember, that’s the executive committee members. The leaders of the pack. FIFA’s brightest and best. Where best to start than (almost) at the very top, FIFA vice-president Jack Warner. Warner is the subject of accusations that he ordered 2010 World Cup tickets costing $84,240 from the FIFA ticket office, but the deal subsequently fell through. He had previously been admonished by FIFA's ethics committee over ticket deals for the 2006 tournament and has faced a host of other allegations of impropriety. Ladies and gentlemen, your FIFA vice-president.

How about executive Committee member Amos Adamu – caught in the famous Panorama bribery sting four months after telling colleagues facing separate fraud charges how they should behave. "The public sees every football administrator as corrupt, and I cannot explain why it is so. We must always be transparent to prove them wrong!" Apparently Amos is good at giving advice, just not great at actually following it himself.

How about the hungriest man in world football, FIFA executive Vitaly Mutko. A couple of weeks ago Mutko launched into an angry tirade against the worlds media, saying; "No matter what we say we are portrayed by them as a hotbed of corruption. It is not true." Later that same week: Russian authorities launch a criminal investigation into alleged fraud at Mutko's ministry, including Mutko's own expenses claim for 97 breakfasts eaten during a 20-day trip to Vancouver. Total cost for 20 days breakfasts? $4,500. That’s a lot of sausages. Each night in his hotel was charged at $1,499. In total, Mutko is said to have spent twelve times his official limit


Mutko - a man who is keen for the occasional sausage

We are talking here about senior members of FIFA’s executive committee. Not some scrubs, toiling in the backwaters for pennies, people you may not completely resent scrounging out a few pennies. These fat, self serving, corrupt and incredibly arrogant bastards are globe trotting on massive expense accounts flying first class and spending $4,500 on breakfasts for a month.

What happens when anyone decides to try and blow the whistle on this disgraceful sham of a lifestyle being enjoyed by FIFA’s jet setting elite? Former FIFA secretary-general Michel Zen-Ruffinen tried to shed some light on the situation back in 2002, accusing Blatter of mismanagement. His position on the executive was terminated immediately. Big Sepp doesn’t take criticism lying down. In fact, he doesn’t take it at all.


Sepp swings and misses

One of the more comical by products of this ungainly mess is the incredible reaction coming from the self righteous, ‘patriotic’ British media ‘right’. Most of the bitter, angry reaction has been railing against the BBC show Panorama and its exposure of FIFA corruption. Surely such investigation was worthy of a pat on the back and a gold star, right? Wrong. The Sun, that paper of such repute, wrote an open letter to Big Sepp on the eve of the voting, a sniveling, swarthy little ditty, attacking Panorama's "sabotage" of England's bid. "Today The Sun makes this plea to Mr Blatter and FIFA: don't be put off by the BBC's rehashing of ancient history. Despite BBC muckraking, The Sun trusts FIFA to put football first."

The beautiful, hilarious irony? The Sun’s headline the day after the big vote; “FIXED! FIFA BUNGS RUSSIA THE WORLD CUP … Calls for corruption probe …" – it would be astronomically hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic.

Not to be outdone, the Daily Mail had its own theory as to why the English bid failed. Now this gets really nasty. The Mail says the film shown during England's bid presentation in Zurich was "un-English", too "multi-cultural" and relied too heavily on "a range of ethnically diverse figures". The comments section for the same article was a cess-pit of good old fashioned right wing reactionary racism.

  • "It makes me sick when we have this 'multicultural' rubbish rubbed in our faces"
  • "This country is dying"
  • "You couldn't make it up, we Brits have to put up with this nonsense every day"
  • "Fools! Multi cultural idiots!!!"
  • "Well done Daily Mail for having the courage to speak up"
  • "If only Diana were here to see what this nation has become."

Comments like those serve to remind us all that yes, we did originate from apes. Apparently in some cases we haven’t come very far since.

The carpet-bombing like media coverage served to expose even the most minute details of the voting system. The over-riding question that remained was, how can a system that promotes corruption, huge financial waste, international fighting and a very dubious result be called a success? FIFA themselves don’t seem to believe in the system. The whole event hinged on the concept of a two-event, anonymous vote. One vote for the 2018 tournament with solely European bidders, the other for 2022 for the rest of the world. Amazingly, Sepp Blatter commented pre-vote that, in regards the setup they came up with, "You cannot avoid collusion."

Perhaps FIFA decided that since they couldn’t avoid it, they may as well encourage it.

Presumably the voting system had an upstanding, independent arbiter, right? This task fell to KPMG who acted as an independent "observer" to guarantee the validity and indeed honesty of the vote. The only problem there is FIFA paid KPMG $23 million last year for unspecified "other operating expenses". Arthur Anderson, anyone?

Just who benefited from all of this? The Russians, naturally. Before the actual bid process began, Alexei Sorokin, the Russian bid leader came out with some very aggressive comments about one of their main rivals, the UK. He said, and we quote; "We do not enter into squabbles, although we have much to say. It's no secret, for example, that in London they have the highest crime rate compared with other European cities, and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people." (Hilarious side note, Russia’s apology after the fact; "Mr Sorokin regrets if his statements have led to such an erroneous interpretation and understanding." – feel better now, England?!)


We are sorry - kind of

Just a slight hint of irony here, as Russia calling out England on socio-economic issues is something akin to Mussolini chastising Hitler for being ‘a little right wing.’

Have you been paying attention to any of the astonishing Wikileak cables? How about the one regarding Russia, where it described it as "a rampantly corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy" run by a leader who has "amassed a massive secret fortune" by running a "mafia state" based on "personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money, a parallel tax system and bribery estimated at $300bn a year".

Sounds not only like a wonderful holiday destination, but also the perfect place to hold the biggest and greatest tournament in the history of the World, no?


anti (or pro, we're not sure) corruption poster in Moscow

Not convinced? Well if Russia can’t lure you with its toxic levels of corruption, how about its views on minorities?

The main centers for the games in 2018 will be Moscow and St Petersburg, where Dick Advocaat, the former Zenit manager, confessed he was too scared to sign a black footballer in case the player was rejected and abused by the crowd. UEFA official, Rafal Pankowski, who monitors racist activity at Russian football matches warns that Russia has ignored a surge in race-related incidents around the sport.
"Nazi slogans are common in many Russian stadiums. Matches are often interrupted with racist chants aimed at black players. I have been in Moscow this week and seen it for myself. There is racist graffiti in the streets. Major bookshops openly sell racist literature. The hate-crime rate is high. Black people are often beaten up by skinhead gangs"
Rafal’s comments are founded in fact; Russia has some of the highest hate crime figures in the world. Statistics from the UN monitoring centre show that 80 people were murdered last year and another 411 wounded. Most of these attacks were racist incidents. They even admit it themselves. More than 150 far-right groups with an ideology of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance are currently active in Russia, according to the Russian interior ministry.

One Russian nationalist was sentenced to life in prison in October for committing 15 racist murders. Vassily Krivets, 22, and an accomplice had organised a group in 2007 to commit racist murders in Moscow and its suburbs.

For a very current, and very real description of just how vile and how embedded Russian racism is, we need look no further than current West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie, now banging in goals in the premiership. Peter made the mistake of leaving Russia for England recently, and was treated to a massive banana banner in his last match pre departure. Russian sports agent Vladimir Abramov helpfully explained why this happened;
"Peter is a professional, but that's in contrast to other Nigerians. They are very insolent, headstrong, and black nationalism is evident in them. When there are more than three Nigerians, watch out: they aren't afraid of anyone."

Super, just what you want to hear from those active in the Russian football scene.

Some other highlights from the same interview with Abromov, one of the biggest football agents in Russia;
• An influx of Nigerians in a city means "drugs, and ultimately Aids".
• "The French national team, in which black players play, has no relationship whatsoever to Europe".
• "Teams shouldn't have more than one dark-skinned footballer. When there's more than one they are aggressive."
• Plus: "Look, I am very respectful towards blacks: among them are very good people with whom I have made friends. But Russia isn't ready for them ... That's the way it is."


Thankfully of course, there is no such thing as racism in FIFA. How about FIFA executive committee member Julio Grondona, who said: "I do not believe a Jew can ever be a referee at that level [Argentinian first division] because it's hard work and, you know, Jews don't like hard work." Grondona didn't lose his position. In fact, he was promoted to senior vice-president of FIFA.

I guess we should be happy Vassily Krivets actually went to jail. FIFA probably would have promoted him.

Finally, money. Five countries, or five combinations of countries made bids to host the 2018 World Cup. Each country spent about $25 million putting their bids to FIFA. Probably about $35 million in Russia’s case, if you add in the bribes. England spent their $25 million on salaries for the bid staff, the bid book itself actually cost $3 million to put together, inspection preparations and substantial travel and accommodation costs took care of the rest. We can only assume the bid book was cast in a cover of pure gold, and made coffee for you while you read it. Not that instant crap either, fancy Columbian coffee.

You could estimate approximately $125 million was spent simply bidding for the chance to host the 2018 World Cup. Simply unbelievable. What a gargantuan waste of cash on bidding for the right to host the biggest tournament in ‘the working mans game’.

The answer? Rip it all up and start again. FIFA itself? No, no point tackling that, but you could start small and meaningful, by tearing down the insane voting process for assigning future World Cups, and putting something superior in place. Given a blank canvas, you could paint any kind of imaginative, fair and useful picture. Why not structure it all around youth football in impoverished nations? Whoever comes up with the best plan to create a self sustaining and successful soccer program in an impoverished location gets the tournament. Pour all that wasted money, time and effort into youth football.

Barcelona are not just a wonderful team for the beautiful football they play, while most other clubs carry swarthy commercial logos on their jerseys, Barcelona proudly carry the UNICEF slogan, and give all proceeds from team jersey sales to the children’s organisation.


FIFA could learn so much from the greatest single club within its own organisation.

Will any initiative like the above ever take over from the current, corrupt and unsustainable model? Not a chance. If I was a FIFA executive and I had made a suggestion like the above, I would have already been kicked out the door, with nothing to show for my efforts bar Big Sepp’s size tens imprinted in my backside.




Linkage

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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