Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Watch 4 year old Darla Holloway sing "God Bless America" at Fenway Park

Tired of reading about Miley Cyrus's latest moronic stunt? Jaded hearing about which drugs Aaron Hernandez may or may not have been into?  Watch 4 year old hero Darla Holloway singing "God Bless America" at Fenway Park and have your faith in humanity restored somewhat.


4 year old Darla Holloway - a better role model than many of today's 'stars'


Let's face it, we are surrounded right now by athletes, entertainers and other stars who are not worthy of the title Role Model. They are all around us and they are given exposure completely and utterly disproportionate to their true value to the human race.

It's safe to say most of us are completely jaded right now.

Every so often something simple, pure and worthy of our attention does actually come along, and something along those very lines occurred at Fenway Park in Boston last night.

The Boston Red Sox host a variety of stars and regular citizens nightly at Fenway during a traditional seventh inning rendition of the song "God Bless America. Last night Darla Holloway, a 4-year-old girl battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, stepped up to the plate, figuratively speaking, and, did this.




No fuss, no drama, and excuse the language but, no bullshit either. Just an honest, beautifully accurate and heart rousingly stirring rendition of an old song. It doesn't matter what your politics are, it shouldn't even matter what the song was, and it definitely shouldn't matter if you are a Red Sox fan or not. Little Darla is a true Role Model, and, an amazing little girl.

This, contextually, is a terrifically cathartic experience after the initial internet\entertainment start to this week.

You want to say 'More please', however as the great Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh once wrote;

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.


.. and he was right, something special like this will only come along once in a while. So just enjoy it, soak it in, and think about little Darla and her bravery, as opposed to all the other trash the media is trying to sell us right now.

What a little star.


Boston Irish Linkage

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Roman and Suleiman carve it up: Tottenham's indignation at the twist in Willian transfer is naive at best.


Tottenham are furious today with the news Chelsea have 'stolen' former Anzhi player Willian from them. Their own naivety and stupidity aside, nobody should be shocked by the turn of events as it comes born of a system of billionaire ownership which we all enable, validate and indeed celebrate.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich

Roman and Suleiman carve it up

By Mac

We followed the news all week, overloaded and overblown as always on the usual social networks. 'Willian on way to Spurs medical', 'Willian will sign for Spurs in next 10 minutes' and so forth. The initial narrative of this story line was that Liverpool were disappointed to miss out on the former Anzhi player and Spurs were delighted to maneuver into a position to obtain same.

Those following the Anzhi and Willian storyline will have been waiting for a sudden turn of events, and we certainly got one with news that Chelsea and owner Roman Abramovich have swooped in at the last moment and snapped the midfielder up from right in front of Tottenham's nose.

Of course now Spurs are disgusted, and putting on some sort of hurt-child act via the press. Oh, woe is us, how did this happen to us, big, mean, bad Roman and his club nabbing 'our' player from in front of our very eyes.

Give it a rest, Spurs.

First of all, please God do not pretend you haven't or wouldn't pull this very same act if you were in a position to do so. If Spurs are pretending that all their transfer work this and other seasons would stand up to close scrutiny, well then, they really think we are more stupid than we look.

Secondly, anyone following the breakup of Willian's former club Anzhi Makhachkala, which we reported to you back on August 8th, should fully have been expecting some kind of twist to events. A hugely rich football club owner, Suleiman Kerimov,  decides to break his club up basically on a personal whim, and you think the transfers of the associated players is going to go normally?

If Spurs expected that, then they are the naive and stupid ones.

All that aside, How on earth is anyone shocked about this turn of events? We allow this system. In fact, we don't just allow it, we celebrate it. We laud these billionaire businessmen who swoop in and buy up our clubs for personal gain. We don't question it, we simply carry on rooting for our clubs in the same old manner, never stopping to question motives or morals.

In this case, two of those same multi gazillionaire owners have quite clearly colluded on a last minute deal that no doubt contains more than the £32 million sale we are seeing on the surface.

To some extent Spurs have a right to shake their fist a little and be indignant, but please, spare us the fake shock. This was exactly how a deal like this should go down in this day and age, in this ridiculous system. Of course a couple of wildly rich, almost completely unregulated owners, both with serious questions against them and their dubious business pasts, were always going to play the game to their own rules.

Why shouldn't they, we allow it!

This whole thing smacks a little of the disgusting Home Run chase in the late nineties in Major League Baseball. The media and adoring fans fawned as dozens of cheating players, drugged up to the hilt on Performance Enhancing Steroids, smacked historic numbers of home runs. Meanwhile Major League Baseball did absolutely nothing to stem the tide of cheating, or worse, just didn't care. They too loved the adulation, money and attention being heaped on the sport.

Football today is at the whim of not unregulated, cheating home run hitters, but unregulated, motivated, super rich and entirely self obsessed billionaire owners.

We have allowed, cheered and supported this ridiculous, illogical and selfish system where rich, egocentric business men can come in and overload certain clubs with their billions in oil, gas or other ill gotten gain money, causing a massive destabilisation of football that will become clearer in the next couple of seasons.

The funniest aspect to all of this is that some people,  in this case Spurs, come across all shocked when the fruit of this tree of ownership insanity ripens and falls to earth with a thud.

Open your eyes Spurs, modern football is rotten to the core, and we are all witnesses.




Boston Irish Linkage

Friday, August 16, 2013

How to succeed at your NFL fantasy draft


Reading this in Ireland and new to NFL fantasy drafts? Seasoned pro and running late on getting your draft prep work done? Sitting on your lunch break looking for some sleepers for your draft night? Whoever you are, hopefully the From The Bleachers 2013 NFL Fantasy Draft report can help you prepare. 

A winning NFL fantasy team does not have Mark Sanchez on it


The last couple of seasons more and more Irish, UK and European sports fans are playing Fantasy NFL. It’s growing at an exponential rate, in part due to the increased exposure on TV over here, partially no doubt as a result of that whole ‘Internet’ thing. Pretty much anyone with Internet access can get their eager little paws on all the information, news and statistics they need to run a successful fantasy NFL team. Then, when you have picked your squad, you can follow the action online or on TV. The NFL is perfect as a fantasy sport, with its stop-start style of play, enabling players time to devour new truck loads of statistical information that is uncovered on every single play.

The NFL is probably the single most suited sport in the World to fantasy games. Yes, even more so than baseball (The 162 MLB season can grind down even the most invested of fantasy team owners).

With that in mind, some of you might be approaching it for the first time, perhaps a friend has invited you into a league or something along those lines. Maybe selecting your first team is a daunting exercise. Fear not! With a little tiny bit of guidance you too can pick a competitive squad for this season’s NFL fantasy go-round.
Where can you get that guidance? Right here. This guy. Your author isn’t absolutely guaranteeing you a championship, however he spent the last few weeks doing his research, and, furthermore, he won the league he played in last season.

Let’s put it this way, you won’t be any more NFL-draft-stupid after reading the below.
We’re going to have a quick look at the basics in terms of pre-draft strategy, we’re going to take a look at in-draft strategy too, and we’re going to have a look through the positions, focussing on some strong players and hopefully giving you some ideas for sleepers also.

The content of the below is based on a 10 team, head-to-head format league, with essentially standard scoring across the positions.

Buckle up, here we go.

General guidelines
Know your league
The key to winning your league is knowing your league. Understand fully the format you are playing in (is it points passed or head-to-head, for example). Most importantly, ensure you understand they type of players you need to win the league. To do this, simply have a look at the player rankings from previous seasons. Your league might value certain players higher than others. Make sure you know who, before the draft. More on this shortly.

Do your reading.
With all due respect to my buddy Jason, half reading one Fantasy NFL article on the LUAS on the way to your live draft is not doing your reading. If you are planning on winning your league, it’s time to get started now. You really have no excuse as there are absolutely stacks of entertaining and informative articles readily available on the subject. Most of the big US sports sites carry some sort of Fantasy Football preview, but with a little bit of digging you can bring up some interesting nuggets on your own. Here are a couple of links to articles I enjoyed pre-draft.
That’s enough for now, and frankly if you get through half of the above, you should be all set! One last note on pre-draft reading. Do not pay cash money to read anyone’s draft guide!! There is enough free quality information on the Internet without paying cash money for same!

Have a pre-draft plan.
What we mean here is, know exactly what type of players you want to go after first. Not only that, have an idea what positions you want to fill on your team sheet first, which you rank highly and which you are not so concerned about. For example, perhaps your league values RBs a little higher than QBs. Obviously you should therefore be looking at getting RBs early. There are certain positions that are less valuable than others, and yes, we are talking about kickers. At the end of the season your kicker is not going to be what decides if you win your league or not, so don’t draft one too early!

Have an in-draft plan
Imagine you have your cheat sheet prepared and you know exactly who you want, and, when you want them. Imagine then someone picking your guy just before it’s your turn in the draft. Take a deep breath, all is not lost. Don’t deviate from your plan. There are generally pretty good alternatives to your desired player. Don’t let someone snagging your guy just before you throw you off course. Have a list of suitable alternatives ready.

Take notes
Have a pen and paper available, so you can make short lists and change your tactics in-draft. The draft is a living, moving, breathing creature that changes often. You should always have alternative players jotted down for situations where someone else gets him first. Besides, just like studying for exams, writing and being interactive keeps your more focussed. Having said that, this all goes out the window after your ninth beer.

My strategy
Here’s my squad post draft. Obviously I have a bit of work to do, however I’m happy enough for starters. Have a look and see if you can spot the strategy I went for pre and in-draft. 



Basically because of the league I play in, I went RB heavy, even taking two for the bench positions. Stocking up, I believe they call it! I went for one premium QB and was hoping to get Alex Smith in the late rounds for my second guy, but ended up with Jake ‘Hurt’ Locker. I took a gamble and sold out early on TE and D/ST also. I found last season that having dominant defences definitely helped, and thus chose two premium ones. More on those later. You may disagree with the players, but remember it is a competition, obviously I didn’t get everyone I wanted. What I did do, is fill out the positions I wanted with quality as early as possible. As you can see from the above, I’m taking a huge gamble with the WR position. That’s how you win though, take a gamble, if it pays off, you generally end up on top.

If you use the links I gave you above you should have no problem preparing a cheat sheet of the players you want, but you will still want to find some late round value. We can hopefully help you with that. Let’s have a look at the players, by position.

Quarterback (QB)
The premium guys are generally worth going after, if not before the premium RBs, definitely in around them. Remember, make sure you figure out how valuable each position is in your league before your draft. If QBs are as valuable as in my league, then you are going to want to grab one or two of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. Those are the established point-scorers that you might want to sell out on, if it’s your turn to pick and they are available.

We’re talking about value here though, so let’s look at some guys that you might get a little later who should still help your team win. Mathew Stafford is set for a big season. Detroit have been balancing on the edge of a big breakout season for seemingly years now, and, once again all the pieces are in place. Stafford has guys to throw it to (Like Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson’) and, finally, a guy to hand it off to, too. Reggie Bush’s arrival in Detroit might be the final piece of the puzzle for an already high scoring Detroit team to really explode. Colin Kaepernick is oddly trending quite low in terms of selection placing, however you can’t ignore the physical attributes he brings to the table. A dynamic runner with the ball, he also has an absolute cannon of an arm. Perhaps people don’t think they saw enough of him last season to warrant a high draft pick, but if you end up with Kaepernick sitting there available in your draft, grab him.  

Alex Smith is a guy I really wanted. He is a steady hand at the rudder and has the players around him in Kansas to lead to big fantasy points. Dwayne Bowe is an exciting receiver and stud RB Jamaal Charles will keep the opposition defence guessing. Smith is trending very, very late, and represents a nice late round pick.

Running Backs (RB)
The premium position in many leagues, RB is crucial in my league also. The top guys you are going to want to be in a position to take a shot at are Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles and the premium back I ended up with was Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Again, we’re looking for late round value here, so, let’s have a look at a couple of those guys.

The chances are most of the guys in your league will know that Steven Jackson is now playing for the Atlanta Falcons. This information seems to be slow getting across however and Jackson is being drafted as low as 20th in some leagues. His average selection appears to be around 13th in RBs and that to me is still too high. Jackson will be the feature back in a very successful Falcons offence and will, by end of season, be in the top 10 fantasy points scorers across the board positionally.  

Montee Ball might be a rookie, but he’s going to be the feature back in Denver, and will be in great hands with Peyton Manning calling the shots. Ball was one of the top college RBs the last two seasons and can hit the ground running in the NFL.

While Stevan Ridley will carry the ball the most in New England, Shane Vereen still warrants a mention in that the Patriots seem to like him as an impact, passing situation back. Furthermore Brady seemed to enjoy hooking up with him out of the backfield towards the end of last season, which is as good a reason as any to grab him in a late round as a potential sleeper. Why has Maurice Jones-Drew  slipped so far? This time last year he was going in the top 5. He appears fully healed and ready to go. If he is available late in your draft, grab him with both hands. Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller are both guys you can take a chance on, and both are linked somewhat. Bush is going to get a chance to play in a high octane offense in situations that suit his skill set even more than in Miami last season. Bush leaving means the RB slot is open for Miller to exploit, and he will be Miami’s feature back, which means plenty of touches and touchdowns. Both warrant a strong look, particularly as late round value picks.

Reggie Bush


Wide Receivers (WR)
This is a strange position in my league, basically WRs don’t collect many points, and you definitely need to grab the TD scorers, as opposed to guys who get more ‘touches’. With that in mind I took a gamble on WRs and took them very late. Obviously I had to look for value, so hopefully some of these guys might help you have a successful draft. Look beyond Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall and take a gamble on one or two of these guys.

Torrey Smith is primed for a huge season in Baltimore. With Boldin gone and Pitta out for the season, someone has to catch Joe Flacco’s passes, and Smith has shown to be a go-to-guy the last couple of seasons. Smith has a chance to have a huge season and yet is being drafted very late. If he’s available, go get him, with confidence. Now for two gents directly associated to the Manning brothers.  Victor Cruz isn’t a sleeper but he’s still going surprisingly late in early drafts. This is something of a surprise as he’s going to be Eli Manning’s main man yet again. Cruz won’t let you down. Demaryius Thomas is an absolute physical freak and it will be scary to see what he can accomplish in year two of the Peyton Manning experiment.

Antonio Brown will be Ben Roethlisberger's first option this season, now that the Steelers have let Mike Wallace walk. It is not often you can get the top receiver on a high scoring team with a good QB this low down in the draft. If he’s available, grab him. Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams is a solid addition to any receiving corp, and has a particularly strong nose for the end zone.

Tight End (TE)
Jimmy Graham is the man this season, particularly with Rob Gronkowski potentially playing at less than 100%. Tight End won’t win you your league, but the position could certainly lose it for you! With that in mind, a couple of low risk, high upside guys for you to look at.

Greg Olsen and Owen Daniels, of Carolina and Houston respectively are good enough that you should grab them if they are available in a value position in your draft. Both will put up very competitive points from the TE spot, and indeed should finish higher up the TE rankings than 7th and 8th respectively before seasons end. Jordan Cameron is an intriguing prospect in Cleveland. He has the size and skill to take advantage of the fact he will probably get to play straight away, and will probably get plenty of touches. If you are stretching for a TE late in the draft, Cameron might offer a huge payout points wise for very little risk.



Kickers (K)
Throw a dart at a board of the top 10 kickers. Whoever you get, awesome! You’ll do just fine!

Defence/Special Teams (D/ST)
Defences are a tricky little prospect. Do you value them or not? Depends really on if you are willing to take a chance or simply go with the flow and accept a very low return on your defences. A low tier defence will chip in a few points here and there but won’t win you any weeks. A good defence can be a game changer. Two good defences can see you take titles.

Seattle and San Francisco are the two elite, premium NFL fantasy defences. Get one of these, and you are going to have a good time. Both are elite because they are built to dominate. They are both stacked with sensational defensive talent, and are both threats to score multiple touch downs. As you get into the later rounds, be brave, grab one of them a little ahead of time. One of these defences can be more valuable to you than some late round scrub player.

I am intrigued by the Denver defence. First of all, it’s damn good, full of pace, talent and touchdown capability. Second, when they play at home, they have something of an unfair natural advantage from being used to the high altitude. This is a huge game changer late in the fourth quarter as opposition offensive linemen crumble against the relentless, fresh, Denver pass rush. Finally, do yourself a favour and check out Denver’s schedule. They have quite simply the easiest schedule in the NFL this season, and should cruise into the playoffs with shocking ease. Denver’s opponents combined to have a disgusting -784 points difference last season, meaning they conceded -784 points combined more than they scored. Nasty!

Finally, the New England defence might be the Patriot’s ace card this season. Last year it was young, talented and somewhat inexperienced. They have added a few parts and players like Hightower, Jones and Mayo are a year wiser. The Patriots might have to win a few low scoring games, and here’s betting defensive guru Belichick will find a way to do that. 

Good luck, enjoy your draft, and if you have any questions, drop me a line on Twitter @BostonIrishBlog

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Billionaire owner pulls the plug and 'mega' football club Anzhi Makhachkala disintegrate

Super rich owner Suleiman Kerimov decides to pull the plug on his pet Anzhi Makhachkala experiment, leaving players, staff and fans out in the cold. 



Suleiman Kerimov - Anzhi Makhachkala's owner, for now



They say breaking up is hard to do, and the good folk at Anzhi Makhachkala are about to find out if that's true.

For the last few years in particular football supporters, players, coaching staff and media have watched in a kind of glazed awe as mysterious billionaires have swerved into town in their million euro sports cars and opened suitcases full of money to buy up clubs, big and small, in all corners of the football playing World.

Occasionally these new-wave owners with their billions of dollars earned in often shady circumstances (There’s a reason Roman Abramovich has armed guards discreetly around him) have their motives, tactics and intentions questioned by the media. However this does not happen very often. Perhaps media members are afraid of being banned from the interview room.

Either way, the increase in individual billionaire owners, buying clubs both big and small seemingly on a whim has expanded exponentially and basically without check in the last five years.  Every so often a warning sign pops up that maybe, just maybe, having a volatile billionaire come in and buy up your football club isn’t the most wonderful thing after all.

Fans, players and staff are finding that out right now at Anzhi Makhachkala.


Anzhi Makhachkala. Pre-breakup

Reports are coming out that Anzhi owner Suleiman Kerimov has decided to make a few changes at the club, Those changes will include a drastic slashing of the club’s wage bill, major changes in staff, a shift to a youth policy in terms of players, and a seismic change in the club’s ambitions.

Effectively, after trying to break into the big time by buying up boatloads of high priced players and subsequently failing to do so, Anzhi are now going to do things the traditional way, you know, like any normal football club. They are going to try and build and earn their place in World football. Imagine that!

Sarcasm aside, this is a stunning development, and a huge, blaring, glaring, flashing neon warning sign to the football World as we watch these billionaire business men buy up clubs with little intention other than to serve their own greedy whim, a ridiculous, stubborn and foolhardy chase for glory obtained not by blood, sweat and tears but by dumping millions of dollars, euros and pounds on big players lawns and saying ‘come play at my club, I’ll make you rich’.

Changes at Anzhi are already underway.  Club president Konstantin Remchukov has confirmed that Anzhi will be undergoing a “serious shake-up” with a wildly reduced budget, slashed from the 180 million euro region down to 50-80 million, probably depending on how many players they can offload in the short term. On that note, Russian media are reporting that Russian international captain Igor Denisov has already agreed contracts to join Dinamo Moscow.

The staff is changing too. Former Manchester United staffer René Meulensteen is being replaced as coach just 16 days after he replaced Guus Hiddink. The latter must have sniffed change in the air, and got out well before this drama unfolded. Meulensteen never stood a snowball’s chance in hell in succeeding at Anzhi.

Why is all this happening? There are basically two views going around. Most of the Western media are portraying this as a salary-dump due to the fact Anzhi are off to a bad start and languishing 13th in the Russian league table, with little hope of glory this, or next, season.

However, if you dig a bit deeper, the Russian media is reporting several interesting aspects to this break up.

Suleiman Kerimov in happier times

Russian media is reporting openly that Kerimov experienced ‘stress-related health problems’ after watching Anzhi’s ugly 1-0 home defeat to Rostov on Friday and after that pulled the trigger on changes he had undoubtedly considered previously. Other Russian news entities are reporting that Kerimov suffered huge financial losses from last week’s plunge in the share price of the Uralkali Russian potash producer in which he is a main shareholder.

Isn’t it just great when a football club’s future is tied to the share price of Uralkali Russian potash?

The club itself in a blatant attempt to save face are saying that these budget changes have been made necessary by Uefa's financial fair play regulations. If in doubt, blame a French man, eh (Platini in this case)?

Where does all this carnage leave Anzhi, their players and their fans?

Right back where they started, would appear to be the answer to that question. One thing is certain. This muddle has left the transfer market with one hell of a late-flurry type shopping list of suddenly available players.

Feast your eyes, you can bet managers in the Premier League, La Liga, The Bundesliga and all over the World are doing just that.

  • Willian - 30 million euros
  • Samuel Eto 'O - 22 million euros
  • Igor Denisov - 16 million euros
  • Lacina Traore - 16 million euros
  • Alexander Kokorin - 15 million euros
  • Lassana Diarra - 14 million euros
  • Mubarak Bussufa - 14 million euros
  • Christopher Samba - 11 million euros
  • Zhusiley - 11 million euros
  • Yuri Zhirkov - 11 million euros
  • Vladimir Gabulov - 6.5 million euros

Sources:
Russian media:
Official club site:
The Guardian:
NDTV sports:
BBC sports:

Boston Irish Linkage

Friday, August 02, 2013

Alleged ‘Pen-Pal’ reveals Aaron Hernandez letter from jail


A scandal sheet has released a letter that is reportedly from former NFL star, Aaron Hernandez, sent to a person being referred to as his ‘pen-pal’. 


Aaron Hernandez


A fan/pen-pal has managed to send words of encouragement to the former Patriots player and in return Aaron Hernandez sent the below message back, from his temporary new home in Bristol County House of Correction in North Dartmouth, Mass.

The transcript:
Your letter meant alot and was very true! I know everything happens for a reason and I know "GOD" has a plan for me and something good will come out of this. The world just makes things out of false accusations and it will all die down especially when they say NOT GUILTY and all the people who turned on me will feel like crap. I've always been a great person an known for having an amazing heart! I am a strong person and nothing will break me! A C.O. will never nor can they say now for one day have I been down or not with a smile on my face. I know there is a reason I'm going thru this and I will figure it out through my relationship with the Lord. I fell off especially after making all that money but when it's all said and done "GOD" put me in the situation for a reason! I'm humbled by this ALREADY and this will change me forever. At least I'll know my true supporters. Thanks for being one of them!
Thanks,
Aaron Hernandez 81
I can't wait to sign this again when I'm playing again an prove all the haters an da talkers WRONG.
P.S. the pictures are definitely hanging on my walls and def meant alot! Thanks again brotha!
*Keep this off social media PLEASE!


It’s interesting to note that the ‘friend’ or pen-pal has managed to remain completely anonymous. Perhaps they have already gone into some kind of FBI witness protection program, as you will note that Hernandez implored the individual to ‘keep this off the social media’, which the pen-pal duly ignored.

Or, did he/she?

Perhaps there was no pen-pal. Perhaps the scandal-sheet in question pulled off a magnificent ‘catfish’ job on Hernandez, befriending him in the guise of a pen-pal and then gleefully printing his reply the moment they got their sweaty little hands on it.

Isn’t that perhaps more believable than someone risking the wrath of an alleged triple homicide perpetrator?


The Aaron Hernandez letter

Boston Irish 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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