Thursday, February 17, 2011

Five things we're guaranteed to see this MLB season



Here it comes again. As clockwork as a Kobe Bryant paternity test, the Major League Baseball season is upon us again. I like to think of the MLB season as the initial road trip Jon Faverau and Vince Vaughn take in Swingers. It starts with elation, as they shout ‘Vegas Baby! Vegas!’ driving along the highway with the roof down. They hit a long, middle slump where they comically mumble ‘Vegas baby, Vegas…’ barely audibly. Then, the payoff, with the excitement of Vegas itself.

Well, that’s the MLB season. The celebratory opening days with more fly overs than your average weekend in the skies over Baghdad. The long, meaty, slow and sleepy middle section, where the bad teams fall out of contention and only the true baseball fans are paying attention. All followed finally by the drama and excitement of the end of the season and the superb MLB playoffs.

Well, here it is again, on our doorstep

Today we want to talk about five sure things. Five things that are guaranteed to happen during this forthcoming MLB season. Mark it down now, you heard all these here first. If you live in a country where you are allowed place an adult wager (Sorry citizens of the United States, who’s troops battle to defend your freedoms so bravely, the freedom to buy an automatic weapon and kill some children but not the freedom to place a considered, adult wager) then march yourself on down to a bookmaker and throw some monies down on these babies.

Then sit back, login to your favourite NBA merchandising site and, guaranteed winnings in hand, order that ‘Baby Kobe’ Lakers jersey you always wanted.

Enough with the chit that. Let’s chop it up.

Numero Uno. Esteemed Boston Globe scribe Daniel Shaughnessy will start the season by pointing out to everyone that every single team is 0-0 and even the Baltimore Orioles have every chance of winning the World Series. This is not a slight on Dan. The first baseball book I ever read was his timeless ‘Curse of the Bambino’, and love him or hate him, he is a voluminous, entertaining baseball journalist. The man knows what he’s talking about. Doesn’t matter if he is more acerbic than a particularly acerbic Manhattan spinster that just graduated with a degree in acerbity from the college of the acerbic. That’s just his style. Mark it down though, he will be pointing that little fact out. Any day now.

The second item on our list, somebody will write a story on just how quirky San Francisco Giants hurler Tim Lincecum is. He has funny hair! His pitching mechanics are very odd! He has a free spirit and it relatively eloquent for a ball player! My money is on Rick Reilly, this is right in his wheel house and he probably has a template for this one, churning one out per season. Look at that goofy hair!!

Number three. A Red Sox/Yankees tilt will go over four hours. And Joe Buck will be the cause of at least one boredom related fatality during the same game. Most baseball fans would admit MLB needs to do something to speed the games up. Baseball just can't compete with the relative brevity of the NFL and NBA. The Red Sox are bad enough, taking a lot of bad pitches is a club ethos, but the Yankees are a law unto themselves. Jorgé Posada's long, painfully slow trips to the mound to chat to Andy Pettite about his five o' clock shadow or CC Sabathia about the awesome ten cheeseburgers he had last night are the stuff of legend. However, there is no way FOX in particular are going to let anything happen to this. It takes Joe Buck at least three point five hours to make a point, so the four hour run times suit them down to the ground.

Numero four. Mark this down as a given. After about three weeks of the season, with Tampa mired in a turgid 5-10 start, the ‘What is wrong with Tampa?!’ stories will start to emerge. Seeing as pretty much everything is copy-cat on the Internet these days, there will be about three to four days of these stories, to the point you will want to gouge your eyes out with a rusty spoon if you have to read another glib Joe Maddon quote. Maddon, the affable and entertaining Rays manager, already has white hair, what colour will it go as the Rays struggle? What’s that you say, ‘why are you so sure the Rays will struggle?’ Have no fear, you are going to read all about it after about three weeks and approximately a 5-10 start! However, you think they are going to be a contender, after slashing $30 million from their payroll? I wish I could say Rays fans deserve better, however they are the single most annoying fan base in Major League Baseball, so, they are getting roughly what they deserve. Even their own owner doesn’t like them.

Finally, we all know its coming. It is as inevitable as Sarah Palin’s forthcoming political self implosion. A-Rod will do something stupid this MLB season. Did you see him at the Superbowl? He can’t even eat popcorn without looking arrogant. A wag commented, at the time, ‘Only A-Rod can eat popcorn like that’. And they were right. Be it slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s mitt, being photographed by the NY rags with a paint-by-numbers blonde that was not his wife, or allowing himself to be pictured kissing his reflection in the mirror, A-Rod never fails to deliver when it comes to being a complete muppet. We can all look forward to more in 2011. Play ball.



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, February 10, 2011

Enough is enough, Trapattoni must go


Let’s have a look at a couple of headlines in the Irish sporting media this morning, shall we?




‘Trapattoni McCarthy feud set to continue’
‘Trapattoni will not change his ways even for McCarthy’
‘Coleman happy to keep on the right side of Trap’


The first two are dramatic enough but perhaps the last headline is most telling. Young, talented Irish players are clearly so afraid of the dinosaur like Irish national team manager that they are telling reporters they are simply happy to stay on his good side. Even the grumpiest of dinosaurs weren’t this belligerent, scary or stubborn.

Obviously no one here or anywhere else for that matter is suggesting that ‘Gio’ is deliberately trying to scupper future Irish soccer plans. Furthermore, it seems funny to be bringing this up just hours after a convincing Irish win, 3-0 over an admittedly abysmal Wales. The problem is Trap has consistently shown he is the polar opposite of the 'right' manager to lead this promising Irish team forward.

In case you missed it, this week Trap appears to be dishing out some sort of public punishment to the young star-in-the-making, despite the fact that James McCarthy is guilty of nothing but following the desires of his parent club, Wigan Athletic, who pay his weekly wage and are currently embroiled in a bitter relegation battle in the English Premiership.

McCarthy has good reason to rest too, instead of playing in a completely meaningless friendly against a Wales side that would struggle to beat a decent Sunday league squad. He is resting an ankle that caused him to miss three months of football. At this early stage of a potentially brilliant player’s career, isn't that important?

Not to the great Trapasaurus Rex.

Ignoring the fact that McCarthy is clearly not pulling a Stephen 'My Granny died' Ireland, Trap has publicly castigated and embarrassed a young man who has done absolutely nothing wrong. If this was a single, stand alone incident, you might completely over look it. However as anyone who follows team Ireland knows, that is blatantly not the case.

Trap has been alienating Irish talent since the day he got here.

The stubborn 71 year old has refused to bring to an end a ridiculous, childish feud between himself and the talented Andy Reid, and he is also busy completely overlooking the most successful Irish goal scorer as we speak. Celtic's Anthony Stokes has been banging in the goals all season long and recently passed the 50 mark in Scottish football for his brief, young career.

How on earth is Stokes not in the side, let alone squad? Only Trap knows.

Imagine a side with McCarthy pulling the strings in midfield, grafting alongside the guile and creativity of Andy Reid, with Coleman bombing down the wings and Stokes banging in goals from all angles. Instead we are left with Glenn Whelan, face puffy and red like an embarrassed schoolboy, toiling admirably but with a great deal of futility in the center of the park.

There is no better analogy for the Trapattoni reign than the average Glen Whelan pass.


Backwards.




Glen v Spurs

15 successful passes, 10 of those are side-to-side or backwards. I am no physicist, but you are not going to generate much forward play, going backwards.

And yet every time Ireland play we are forced to suffer through another 90 minutes of turgid midfield play from Whelan, a man who is afraid to go forwards.














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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, February 03, 2011

National Signing Day; or, ‘How to destroy a young mans life with unrealistic expectations’


As with that whole LeBron debacle, ‘We are all witnesses’, and we are all partly to blame.

Is anyone else slightly bothered by the amazing, circus like furor over what has glibly been dubbed, ‘National Signing Day’. For those of you who didn’t go anywhere near the sports pages on the Internet yesterday, while much of the world watched in awe at the amazing scenes coming from Tahrir Square the major sporting media outlets were busy wearing out their keyboards describing the day high school students commit to colleges.

The language used escalated the event to Superbowl levels of importance and priority

  • ‘You want drama?’
  • ‘…delivered on dramatics’
  • ‘High drama on National Signing day’

As the final results came in, individual signings were singled out as being particularly good or bad. Think about that for a second, Imagine you are a young high school student, looking forward to going to college and playing a bit of football, meanwhile a major national media entity describes your decision and impending college career as ‘poor’ and ranks your new college’s recruiting class partly based on their definition of you.

Why on earth is it okay with everyone that we are placing this unbelievable pressure on the shoulders of such young people? We need to take a serious look at this situation.

One of the top ‘rated’ picks, Cyrus Kouandjio is being singled out for being ‘indecisive’ with his final decision. What a disgraceful situation. Kouandjio is being pushed into making a major life decision by the expectations of the sporting media, and expectant college football fans too. Most people get to sit down and calmly make an informed decision on their immediate college future. Not these guys.

Here’s the problem.

By backing up the media truck and very-ceremoniously dumping so much hype and attention on the backs of these extremely young men, we are creating wildly unrealistic and dramatic expectations for and around them. This is the start of their major athletic lives, and for young gentlemen courted by college football programs with such drama, fervor and attention, how on earth are they expected to attain anything approaching college normality?

Don’t you think it is odd that not anywhere amongst the billions of words being written on National Signing day is any attention given to the academic aspirations or desires of these college bound kids? They are being dragged into this wildly over hyped footballing world, we are telling them just how important they are and we are grading their moves like you grade cattle. However, when these commodities, sorry, players, when they fall off line by accepting money, gifts or by missing class, we isolate them and systematically destroy them for not ‘playing the game’

Is it any wonder some of these young athletes become embroiled in financial scandal down the road? Their opening experience of college football in many cases was of a drama filled recruitment process played out under the hot, glaring spotlight of massive media coverage. They expect to be treated differently, they expect perks, they expect to hear only the word ‘yes’ and they are very much used to getting what they want. From the start of their collegiate lives, they were promised the world.

Then, when they decide they want something material to show for their hard work and athletic endeavor, when things turn ugly and the stories start to slip into the media rotation like an oil spill, we completely turn our backs on them.

We use them, we use them on National Signing day, and then when some seedy future drama unfolds and the world turns against them, we chew them up one more time, using them to sell papers or achieve IP address hits, we chew them up and spit them out, without thinking, why did they think they needed that $200,000 pick up truck?

It’s disgusting, and we are all witnesses, we are all partly to blame.





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.

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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