Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rod The Bod Hangs Up His Skates Today (And A Few Other Blog Tidbits)

  • The NHL is going to be without one bad ass bod in the locker room. One of my childhood favorites, Rod "The Bod" Brind'Amour has finally decided to hang up his skates at the age of 39. Rod The Bod was a key component to the Flyers Stanley Cup Finals run in 1997 and was a huge figure for them in the decade, joining the likes of Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, Mikael Renberg, and the person playing goalie for the week.
  • Aspeaking of Flyers news, the Flyers have agreed to re-sign Michael Leighton for 2-years. I will reserve full judgment until the free agent goalies dwindle out, but if the Flyers think they can go back to the Stanley Cup with Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher as the team's 2 main goalies, Paul Holmgren should be banned from ever coming within 150 feet of the Wachovia Center. Come on Homer. Ellis. Mason. Bernier. SIGN ONE OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Remember all that gobbledygook about how much I don't know about soccer? Well, yeah, I was lying to you. What I just realized about my original predictions about teams I expect to get out of group stage was that 15 out of 16 were correct. 15 OUT OF 16!!! And to think the only one I got wrong was because of a very last second change I made. I originally had Argentina and South Korea (which would have made me Mr. Perfect) getting out of Group B, but changed my mind at the last minute and changed South Korea to Nigeria. Now I am aware that I did not indicate this in the above post, but I listed the team I picked to win the group was listed first. I got 6 out of 8 of those correct, with the only ones I missed being because I had the wrong order with Mexico and Uruguay and England and the USA. Comparing that to someone who admittedly watches much more soccer than I do, Mookie only got 11 out of 16 correct (6 out of 8 on the group winners as well). Why yes, I do like to kid around and show off when I am ultra successful in picking. Why do you ask?
  • Sometime later today when I finish watching yesterday's Round of 16 games, I will post the announcing schedule for the quarterfinals as well as my predictions for the quarterfinal round.
  • Charlie Manuel is completely clueless on how to handle his pitchers and sucky bullpen. If today does not illustrate all that is wrong in a nutshell, then I don't know what does.
  • Go Argentina!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some Things Never Change

On a day with Cliff Lee to the Mets trade rumors and Chase Utley and Placido Polanco got sent to the DL and Greg Dobbs and Brian Bocock were called up, all is well that ends well.

Brian Schneider and Wilson Valdez each hit a 3 run HR for the Phillies in the early going of tonight's game at Cincinnati only to see that lead slowly chipped away at. By the 9th inning, it was 6-3 Phillies with Brad Lidge on the mound trying to get the save. One 3-run HR later, the game was tied and Brad Lidge had blown yet another save. With a little bit of help on a ground ball the very next pitch, the Phillies got out of the inning tied.

And it is at that point, the magic began happening. Enter Arthur Rhodes, a Cincinnati Reds pitcher who had not allowed a run in over 30 innings. Howard gets on base. Werth gets on base. Ibanez doubles Howard home. Francisco singles home Werth. Valdez squeezes home Ibanez. 9-6 Phillies. J.C. Romero pitched the 10th and got the save that Brad Lidge blew. But the night was not a complete loss for Lidge, he is the winning pitcher in this game! (hey, folks, this is why wins and losses for a pitcher are the single most pointless stat in sports).

Anyway, moving on to the Phillies biggest rival, the New York Mets. The team that started out so happy at the thought they might be trading for Cliff Lee had a valiant comeback to tie the game against the Marlins at 6 in the top of the 9th. Unfortunately for the Mets, the bottom of the 9th happened and Hanley Ramirez hit a walkoff.

The day may have started somber, but when it comes to on the field happenings, some things never change.

Why Yes, Greg Dobbs And Brian Bocock Will Have No Problem Replacing Chase Utley And Placido Polanco

It's official. The Eagles can now lay claim to having the most competent Front Office in Philadelphia sports. I don't have a huge gripe with with Ruben Amaro for dumping Cliff Lee to Seattle to bring in Roy Halladay. Fine. But he traded him to Seattle for pennies on the dime and the big prize prospect from that deal, Phillippe Aumomnt, is looking like shit in the minors. And today has come his coup de gras. Let's face facts, this Phillies starting line up is pulling a 2009 Mets on us. Now the AAA Mets of 2009 floundered spectacularly, it is unknown how the Phillies are going to do, but when you are calling up the always offensively and defensively inept Greg Dobbs and SHORTSTOP BRIAN BOCOCK on the day the your 2nd baseman (Utley) and 3rd baseman (Polanco) get placed on the DL, you are displaying a huge level of ineptitude that shows everyone this Phillies team is the farthest thing possible from a playoff team.

The best thing anyone can ever say about Greg Dobbs is that 2008 was a half decent year for him. Ever since then, he has been the world's most inept pinch hitter not named Eric Bruntlett. He rarely gets on base and his defense is beyond the worst of the worst, making numerous on the field errors that leaves 10-year olds scratching their heads wondering how on earth a professional baseball player could be so dumb.

As I mentioned above, Brian Bocock is a shortstop being called up to (likely) be at least a part-time replacement for 2nd baseman Chase Utley. Not only is a shortstop, but his levels of ineptitude are just as confounding. When the Phillies signed Bocock back in January to a minor league contract, 49er16 sent me the following email about him that I hope he does not mind if I share part of.
Two years ago when Omar Vizquel was still with the Giants, he was hurt at the beginning of training camp. Without a backup SS, the Giants decided to promote Bocock to the majors once the season started. Bocock at that time, never played higher than Single A. Needless to say, he was completely lost at the plate. Of course since Bruce Bochy is an idiot, Bocock batted leadoff even though he looked scared shitless standing at the plate. After about a month, the Giants finally sent him to the minors and replaced him with Rich Aurilla. Yes he was that bad.
Think that the fact that his terrible stint with the Giants 2 years ago was just that and he is surely a better baseball player now? Think again!

His numbers in 2008 with the Giants: .143/.258/.156
His numbers in 2010 with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs: .179/.239/.231

So not only is a shortstop being called up to replace a 2nd baseman, but a shortstop whose batting average in AAA is below .200! You can forget all about bringing up Cody Ransom, you know, an actual 2nd or 3rd baseman with a batting average of .233 and an OPS of .722, when you can bring in Greg Dobbs and SHORTSTOP BRIAN BOCOCK!!!!!!!!!!!..............basically guaranteeing that this Phillies team will need a miracle and a half if it wants to contend for a 2010 playoff spot.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flyers Essentially Acquire The Rights To Nabokov For At Least A Week In Verbal Agreement With Sharks

I am a frequent critic of Paul Holmgren, but I will give credit where credit is due. Now I am not a huge Nabokov fan and am not thrilled about the prospect of getting him, but to acquire his rights for almost nothing, as the Flyers have in fact done so, is pretty ingenious. From CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio
According to league sources, the Flyers have a verbal agreement in place with the San Jose Sharks to fork over a seventh-round pick next season if they can sign San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov before July 1, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Don Meehan, the agent who represents Nabokov, told earlier that his client’s no-trade clause is not an issue. San Jose obviously has given the Flyers permission to get a deal done and Meehan is willing to engage the Flyers ahead of July 1.
Make no mistake about it, Evgeni Nabokov, even at 34 going on 35, is an improvement over Michael Leighton. He is a solid regular season goaltender, but he has a nasty habit of coming up real small in big games. While it certainly was not the first time it happened, you can look at Russia's quarterfinal match against Canada in the 2010 Olympics as the most prominent example of Nabokov's smallness in big games. All that being said and no disrespect to San Jose and Team Russia, but Evgeni Nabokov was never behind a defense as good as the Flyers defense is now with the likes of Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, and Matt Carle.

Just because the Flyers basically have Nabokov's rights, though, does not mean he will be a Flyer this coming season. The Flyers have his rights until July 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent if he goes unsigned. If the Flyers sign him between now and July 1, they will only owe San Jose a 7th round draft pick in the 2011 Draft.

Again, I am not thrilled about Nabokov and would like the Flyers to be thinking more long term than this, but if the Flyers are dead set about getting Nabokov, this is most certainly the best way to go about it.

(See the below post for the World Cup Round of 16 Open Thread)

FIFA World Cup Round Of 16 Open Thread

Volunteering at an 18th century Pennsylvania German home that George Washington spent a few days in in October of 1777 and working all day today has led me to get way behind in World Cup games. Again. I am just getting to Group F now. For realz.

So here is how this is going to go, I will try my best to avoid as many spoilers as I possibly can (my DVR has not grasped this concept so I do know some things I have not seen yet), and consider this your entire Round of 16 open thread. I may be on Twitter some evenings tweeting about Phillies and the Flyers, but until then, you are not likely to see much in terms of blog posts, unless of course the Flyers pull the trigger on the much speculated trade for the rights of Evgeni Nabokov. The good news is I will be caught up by the time the quarterfinals roll around.

Obviously I have not looked at ESPN commentator press releases yet, so I can't tell you who is announcing what other than Ian Darke is working the U.S. game on Saturday.


For those like seeing happy humans, here are tons of people worldwide watching and reacting as they watch Landon Donovan's game-winner against Algeria live.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Flyers And Penguins Make A Trade At The Draft

The Flyers have a grand total of 0 draft picks, but holy hell was today full of Flyers rumors. The most prominent one being that the Flyers want the rights of Evgeni Nabokov. They are apparently in competition with one other team, who is yet to be named. The deal could get done either later tonight or tomorrow, sources are contradicting themselves, as they have all evening long.

As far as the Flyers trading the rights to Dan Hamhuis to Pittsburgh is concerned, let's make one thing perfect, the Flyers did exactly that. They traded away his rights. His rights. Pittsburgh still has to sign him, and if the rumors are true that Hamhuis only wants to play for a Western Conference team (or Pittsburgh just can't sign him), the Flyers would have officially conned the Pittsburgh Penguins out of a 3rd round draft pick in the 2011 draft. That ain't too shabby, folks. But if he does sign with Pittsburgh, then it is definitely trouble for the Flyers as Pittsburgh signing Hamhuis would likely make Pittsburgh better, provided he does not give them the big cap hit that he is projected to give wherever he does end up signing and Pittsburgh keep Sergei Gonchar, which is looking more and more unlikely. Sergei Gonchar is better than Hamhuis, and if Hamhuis is Gonchar's direct replacement, then once again, the Flyers would have just conned the Penguins.

Now the million dollar question: Is Evgeni Nabokov the next goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers? Unless the Sharks give the Flyers the world's greatest discount, the answer better be no.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

A few quick thoughts before I post the scenarios and the schedule.
  • Cheering for a clutch player named Donovan is an odd sensation that I am enjoying for the first time in my life.
  • Aspeaking of Eagles references, dear oh dear what ever happened to my Super Eagles of Nigeria? The fact that they only played 1 complete half of soccer in 3 games and yet still found themselves a couple of atrocious misses away from advancing out of a group with South Korea and Greece competing for the same position really speaks volumes to how wacky group play can be.
  • I love Argentina. I loved them in 2006 and I love them again in 2010. Lionel Messi is absolutely amazing even if he is not scoring, and that whole team is an absolute blast to watch. Diego Maradona is awesomely entertaining and hilarious as a coach, and it appears as if he may be on to something with this team as well. Now how much of the decisions are Maradona's and how much he is just there as a figurehead coach, I cannot say for certain, but him and his team continue to entertain me beyond belief and if there is one team outside of the United States that I want to win the World Cup, it is Argentina.
  • Now to Argentina's polar opposites: the French. Argentina are a team that play for each other and are successful, whereas French soccer is now beyond a complete disgrace. The F.F.F. can thank me for that compliment later.
Clinching scenarios for Group E

Netherlands: Clinched
Japan: Win OR Draw
Denmark: Win
Cameroon: Eliminated

Clinching scenarios for Group F
Paraguay: Win/Draw OR Lose and Slovakia-Italy draw OR Lose and Slovakia win provided Paraguay maintains goal differential edge
Italy: Win OR Draw and Paraguay win OR Draw and Paraguay-New Zealand draw where Italy is ahead on goals scored OR Draw and Paraguay-New Zealand draw by the same score and Italy has the lucky lot drawn.
New Zealand: Win OR Draw and Italy-Paraguay draw and New Zealand scores more goals than Italy OR Draw and Italy-Paraguay draw by the same score and New Zealand has the lucky lot drawn.
Slovakia: Win and Paraguay win/draw OR Win and New Zealand win that sees Slovakia ahead in goal differential.

Group F: Slovakia vs. Italy 10:00 AM (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group F: Paraguay vs. New Zealand 10:00 AM (Polokwane) (ESPN2 - Jim Proudfoot and Roberto Martinez)
Group E: Denmark vs. Japan 2:30 (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and Ally McCoist)
Group E: Cameroon vs. Netherlands 2:30 (Cape Town) (ESPN2 - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 23 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

Group C clinching scenarios
Slovenia: Win/Draw OR Loss and USA Draw OR Loss and Algeria win as long as Slovenia maintains edge in goal differential
USA: Win OR Draw and England lose OR Draw and Slovenia-England Draw if England does not outscore USA by 2+ goals
England: Win OR Draw and USA-Algeria Draw and England outscores the USA by 3 goals
Algeria: Win and England lose/Draw OR Win and Slovenia lose and make up goal differential.

Group D clinching scenarios
Ghana: Win/Draw OR Lose and Australia Win/Draw that leaves Ghana ahead in goal differential
Germany: Win OR Draw and Australia-Serbia draw OR Draw and Australia wins provided Germany still has goal differential edge.
Serbia: Win OR Draw and a Germany win that gives Serbia a goal differential edge OR Draw and Ghana win
Australia: Win and Ghana win OR Win and Germany win provided Australia is ahead of Ghana on goal differential OR (this forthcoming scenario is not a joke) beat Serbia by at least 8 goals and Germany-Ghana draw.

Group C: England vs. Slovenia 10:00 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN2 - Martin Tyler and Efan Ekoku)
Group C: United States vs. Algeria 10:00 AM (Pretoria) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group D: Ghana vs. Germany 2:30 (Johannesburg SC) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group D: Australia vs. Serbia 2:30 (Nelspruit) (ESPN2 - Adrian Healey and Ally McCoist)

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 22 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

Simplest clinching scenarios for Group A teams*.
Uruguay: Win/Tie
Mexico: Win/Tie
France: Win AND make up goal differential
South Africa: Win AND make up goal differential

Simplest clinching scenarios for Group B teams*.
Argentina: Win/Tie OR South Korea tie/lose
South Korea: Win AND Greece does not win by a greater margin
Greece: Earn more points than South Korea OR beat Argentina by 3+ goals
Nigeria: Win AND Argentina win

No team has mathematically clinched in either group and no team is mathematically eliminated either. Hopefully the soccer will be a bright spot in a day that sees me going to an Indians-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park tonight. I can't wait to the Phillies Bullpen Of Suck live and in person!

Group A: Mexico vs. Uruguay 10:00 AM (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and John Harkes)
Group A: France vs. South Africa 10:00 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN2 - Ian Darke and Roberto Martinez)
Group B: Nigeria vs. South Korea 2:30 (Durban) (ESPN2 - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group B: Greece vs. Argentina 2:30 (Polokwane) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and Ally McCoist)

* - These are merely the simplest clinching scenarios. I am not going to even try the longshot complex scenarios where you basically need a Sine graph to determine who advances.

ESPN World Cup Announcers Through The End Of Group Play

The Master Schedule has also been updated to reflect the changes.

June 22
Group A: Mexico vs. Uruguay 10:00 AM (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and John Harkes)
Group A: France vs. South Africa 10:00 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN2 - Ian Darke and Roberto Martinez)
Group B: Nigeria vs. South Korea 2:30 (Durban) (ESPN2 - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group B: Greece vs. Argentina 2:30 (Polokwane) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and Ally McCoist)

June 23
Group C: England vs. Slovenia 10:00 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN2 - Martin Tyler and Efan Ekoku)
Group C: United States vs. Algeria 10:00 AM (Pretoria) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group D: Ghana vs. Germany 2:30 (Johannesburg SC) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group D: Australia vs. Serbia 2:30 (Nelspruit) (ESPN2 - Adrian Healey and Ally McCoist)

June 24
Group F: Slovakia vs. Italy 10:00 AM (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group F: Paraguay vs. New Zealand 10:00 AM (Polokwane) (ESPN2 - Jim Proudfoot and Roberto Martinez)
Group E: Denmark vs. Japan 2:30 (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and Ally McCoist)
Group E: Cameroon vs. Netherlands 2:30 (Cape Town) (ESPN2 - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)

June 25
Group G: North Korea vs. Ivory Coast 10:00 AM (Nelspruit) (ESPN2 - Adrian Healey and Ally McCoist)
Group G: Portugal vs. Brazil 10:00 AM (Durban) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and John Harkes)
Group H: Switzerland vs. Honduras 2:30 (Bloemfontein) (ESPN2 - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group H: Chile vs. Spain 2:30 (Pretoria) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)

Once again, Martin Tyler is given the English game over the U.S. game, and once again, I am stoked that Ian Darke gets to call another United States match. Darke has been simply awesome in this tournament and the more I hear him, the more he pushes Gus Johnson off the list top of my list of my favorite announcers. Martin Tyler is a legend and will surely be the man calling the finals, but I will be slightly miffed if Ian Darke does not get to call a semifinals game and/or 3rd place game (and looking at the games he is being given, I think that is what ESPN has in mind).

No, that one time only of Jim Proudfoot and Roberto Martinez is not a typo, but rather a 5th announce team used by ESPN, presumably to give Martin Tyler a day off in this crazy span. Roberto Martinez has been a very solid studio analyst for ESPN during the World Cup and while Jim Proudfoot has not, listening to him on this video has me excited to hear him.

June 21 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

I am hopeful ESPN will have a press release out today regarding the announcer assignments for the final stage of group play. If not, you will have to be like me and wait and see. I am working all day today so if there is something released, I won't be around to see it right away, but when I get in, I will check and post them in the master schedule if they are indeed released.

Group G: Portugal vs. North Korea 7:30 AM (Cape Town) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group H: Chile vs. Switzerland 10:00 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group H: Spain vs. Honduras 2:30 (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

Group F: Slovakia vs. Paraguay 7:30 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group F: Italy vs. New Zealand 10:00 AM (Nelspruit) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Ally McCoist)
Group G: Brazil vs. Ivory Coast 2:30 (Johannesburg SC) (ABC - Martin Tyler and Efan Ekoku)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The "Foul" That Cost The U.S. The Win Against Slovenia

You can see Carlos Bocanegra on the left part of the picture ever so slightly putting his arm around Nejc Pe─Źnik. Never mind that Michael Bradley was practically humped to the ground or the other far worse infringements committed by Slovenia on the controversial free kick by Landon Donovan. That is (surely) what referee Koman Coulibaly saw. The whistle was blown before Maurice Edu got his foot on the ball, and while you can't see Donovan in this shot, the contact here was either right before or immediately after Donovan struck the ball, thus giving the referee enough time before blowing the whistle. And if I am wrong and this is not what Coulibaly saw, then the call is far worse than it already is if this is what he saw.

I spotted this by pure luck, and now that I have spotted it, I really wish that I didn't. Terrible, terrible call by Coulibaly. And while the U.S. should be completely giddy that they got a draw after such a piss poor first half, hopefully this blown call that cost the U.S. a steal of a win does not comeback to haunt them later down the road.

Update: The Searching Cross hypothesizes an explanation for why Koman Coulibaly decided to blow the whistle so soon and call a foul. If this is true, then this referee really should never referee another soccer game anywhere again.
Most media sources have largely chalked this one up to gross incompetence, but some have started to realize that we've been robbed much worse than we knew. I noticed this via a revelatory tweet, as Twitter user paddytim wrote to WhitlockJason:

"bs call was a make up call for a bad call on awarding free kick to US. Ref blew whistle before play even started. US guy dove"

Upon further review, this is exactly what Coulibaly was thinking. Here's how the play happened by his reasoning. (Click link for full video.) Jozy falls under contact to the neck from a Slovenian defender. Coulibaly blows his whistle for the free kick. He quickly doubts his decision, and this doubt is reinforced when he notices the linesman doesn't raise his flag. When the free-kick is struck, Coulibaly already has his whistle in his mouth and blows the play dead, without hesitation or any particular reaction to what's in front of him. In other words, he was resigned to whistling a makeup call from the moment he doubted his original call.

I barely even know where to begin with this logic. I guess let's start from the beginning: the play leading to the free kick was absolutely a foul. Jozy certainly embellished the contact, but it doesn't change the fact that the Slovenian defender put a hand to his neck. That's a foul and a free kick in any circumstance. It's comparable to Nigeria's red card against Greece: Torosidis rolled around like he was shot, but Kaita had still tried to spike a dude in the thigh. That's a red card no matter what, and a hand to Jozy's neck is a foul, no matter what.

Into the real issue: the make-up call. Let's even put aside that make-up calls are explicitly outlawed by FIFA. Simply put, it is still an unacceptable justification. Think about it, where does that thinking lead to? If he thinks he mistakenly awarded a penalty, does he give another one later? (What if that guy misses, how do those mistakes cancel out?) If he didn't realize he was giving a second yellow to a player, does he send off someone from the other team? A referee should never play karma by retrospectively evening out his own mistakes, because these decisions have ripple effects.
Wow. Just wow. I hope that this theory is false, but everything he theorizes fits into what happened. And he is absolutely right about the Altidore foul. Just because a player exaggerates contact, does not mean the player was not fouled at all. Talk about a moment of officiating incompetence that makes Jim Joyce look like a saint.

(Hat tip to kt1000 for sending me the link to this karma theory)

June 19 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

Group E: Netherlands vs. Japan 7:30 AM (Durban) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group D: Ghana vs. Australia 10:00 AM (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group E: Cameroon vs. Denmark 2:30 (Pretoria) (ABC - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

Still behind. Bleh. I forgot about Father's Day....until earlier on Wednesday. Shopping for books I know nothing about is much harder than it sounds.

Group D: Germany vs. Serbia 7:30 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group C: Slovenia vs. United States 10:00 AM (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group C: England vs. Algeria 2:30 (Cape Town) (ESPN2 - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 17 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

As I prepare this, I have just finished watching the goalless draw of the Ivory Coast-Portugal game (yes, I am watching the games in order). That's the bad news. The good news is I have no more commitments this week and will likely be caught up by some time Thursday night.

Up to the point I am at, my thoughts on the World Cup are this. I expected a the teams to come out cagey, tense, and defensive in their opening matches, but this is bordering on ridiculous. The closeness of the games have provided for some dramatic finishes, but it would certainly be nice to see teams to play at least one back and forth entertaining with more than 2 goals.

As far as ESPN's coverage goes, overall I have been very pleased, both with the in-game commentary and the studio shows. Even Alexi Lalas has been tolerable (well, tolerable for him anyway). The only thing nagging me at this point (and I am typing this having not seen every match) is for some reason ESPN feeling the need to have a graphic of what team is in what jersey at every waking moment of the match. I am hoping that it is only some odd glitch that will eventually be fixed, but it is certainly unnecessary and even bordering on a tad annoying. On the positive side, let it be known that Ian Darke is quickly becoming one of my favorite announcers there is. Excitable, honest, passionate, knowledgeable, witty, etc. The guy is just the complete package in the booth.

Here's the schedule for Thursday and I will talk to you all later!

Group B: Argentina vs. South Korea 7:30 AM (Johannesburg SC) (ESPN - Ian Darke and John Harkes)
Group B: Greece vs. Nigeria 10:00 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group A: France vs. Mexico 2:30 (Polokwane) (ESPN2 - Adrian Healey and Efan Ekoku)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 14, 15, And 16 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

I am working all day Monday, likely working all day Tuesday, and doing volunteer work in a house George Washington once slept in for a few days during the Revolutionary War on Wednesday. Even though I am going to avoid the internet as much as I can, if I can escape this and catch up without coming across a single spoiler anywhere, I'll consider myself the luckiest man in the world. Regardless, I am stubborn and will try to do so anyway.

June 14
Group E: Netherlands vs. Denmark 7:30 AM (Johannesburg SC) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group E: Japan vs. Cameroon 10:00 AM (Bloemfontein) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group F: Italy vs. Paraguay 2:30 (Cape Town) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)

June 15
Group F: New Zealand vs. Slovakia 7:30 AM (Rustenburg) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group G: Ivory Coast vs. Portugal 10:00 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)
Group G: Brazil vs. North Korea 2:30 (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

June 16

Group H: Honduras vs. Chile 7:30 AM (Nelspruit) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)
Group H: Spain vs. Switzerland 10:00 AM (Durban) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group A: South Africa vs. Uruguay 2:30 (Pretoria) (ESPN - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

Seeing as I won't be around for a few days, here are some random notes.

My favorite country not named the United States: Denmark. I was in Copenhagen few years ago and it is a simply stunning place.
Least favorite country: North Korea. They are commies. Enough said. I am usually a big underdog fan, but this is one underdog I would not mind seeing trounced 8-0 by Brazil.
Bold Upset Prediction: Paraguay over Italy.

Feel free to clog this comment section up all you want and I will see you all later in the week!

Will The Vuvuzelas Be Silenced?

For those living under a rock (or just not been watching the World Cup at all), the vuvuzelas are the plastic horns that have been played by the crowd in the World Cup, and when played in unison create a loud buzzing sound. And they have indeed succeed in creating quite the buzz early on in this World Cup. So much so that many are calling for them to be banned from the World Cup, and World Cup organizers have been entertaining the idea. From
South Africa's World Cup organizing chief Danny Jordaan said Sunday there is a chance vuvuzelas may be banned from inside stadiums after numerous complaints, BBC News has reported.

Asked whether he'd consider getting rid of the trumpets, he said: "If there are grounds to do so, yes. We did say that if any land on the pitch in anger we will take action."

France captain Patrice Evra has already blamed the noise generated by the vuvuzelas for his team's poor showing in its opening 0-0 draw with Uruguay.

"We can't sleep at night because of the vuvuzelas," Evra said. "People start playing them from 6 a.m. We can't hear one another out on the pitch because of them."

Jordaan said organizers are doing everything possible.

"We've tried to get some order," Jordaan said. "We have asked for no vuvuzelas during national anthems or stadium announcements. It's difficult, but we're trying to manage the best we can."

"I would prefer singing," he said.

The first-round contests introduced most of the world to the vuvuzela, a plastic trumpet carried into the matches and blown on incessantly by thousands of fans. On television, it sounds as if the game is being played before a nest of angry bees.

It's louder at the games than it is on the telecast. ESPN is altering the sound mix on its broadcasts to minimize the crowd noise, network spokesman Bill Hofheimer said. The network has accepted it as part of the atmosphere and has made no complaints about the vuvuzelas, he said.

The sound is driving others crazy, though.

"The constant drone of cheap and tuneless plastic horns is killing the atmosphere of the World Cup," wrote John Leicester, an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. He wrote that it is drowning out the oohs, aahs and cheers that lend excitement to the matches.

Plainly, many of the fans take pride in the tradition.

A website informing visitors about South Africa,, describes the vuvuzelas as "a beautiful noise for the beautiful game."
It is quite obvious that the vuvuzelas have become an integral part of South African soccer and should be recognized as such. It is true that FIFA has a problem on their hands right now, and one that should have been prevented. We all got a taste of the vuvuzelas during the 2009 Confederations Cup, and after several complaints from players and broadcasters, FIFA were supposed to take serious consideration to banning them for the World Cup. FIFA did not learn their lesson and now they have millions upon millions of vuvuzelas out and about in South Africa annoying some people who prefer to not have to hear bee sounds 24 hours a day for a whole month. That being said, a ban on them now would be the most futile ban on something since Prohibition.

That's not to say I don't have a problem with the vuvuzelas, because I do. Their main purpose is to support South Africa's Bafana Bafana by creating a loud buzzing sound designed to resemble Bafana Bafana's buzzing around the soccer ball. This works because the Bafana Bafana wear yellow jerseys, thus, they really are like bees. That being said, what on earth is their purpose in soccer games not involving Bafana Bafana? In no way, shape, or form do vuvuzelas in anyway add to the atmosphere of a soccer match between U.S.A. and England. I want to hear the chants of the American and English crowd, and the overwhelming sound of the vuvuzelas prevent this. And that does not even begin to touch what it does to some of the South American crowds who come up with some of the most liveliest chants in soccer, rendered now completely inaudible on TV thanks to the vuvuzela. They drown out all noises in the crowd. If FIFA were smart and sensitive to everyone, they would have allowed the vuvuzelas only in games featuring Bafana Bafana. But that solution was too easy that no one thought of it. And now they have become the "soundtrack of the 2010 World Cup" and are waking the entire country up at 6 AM.

And if FIFA want to keep their heads physically attached to their shoulders, they need to keep it that way.

June 13 FIFA World Cup Open Thread

Group C: Algeria vs. Slovenia 7:30 AM (Polokwane) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and John Harkes)

Group D: Serbia vs. Ghana 10:00 AM (Pretoria) (ESPN - Ian Darke and Efan Ekoku)

Group D: Germany vs. Australia 2:30 (Durban) (ABC - Martin Tyler and Ally McCoist)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

U.S. Draws England With Help From Vesa Toskala Robert Green

It was a goal Clint Dempsey was on the other end of that gift from Green and because of it, the U.S. escapes Rustenburg with a 1-1 draw. It is a respectable result for the United States and one that they needed as well. They did not need to beat the British, but getting a result was certainly something the United States was shooting for and something they thought was feasible for them. It may not have been exactly how they drew it up, but they tied England 1-1 and turned Robert Green into a worldwide laughing stock in the process. Up next for the U.S., they play Slovenia on Friday in Johannesburg.

June 12 FIFA World Cup Open Thread: Battle Of Rustenburg

I do not know how much I will be around to comment during the festivities today, but thanks to my lovely DVR, I will be watching, and chances are, once I finish USA-England (it should be sometime today), I will write a recap of that match. Comment on the games here if you want. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Group B: South Korea vs. Greece 7:30 AM (Port Elizabeth) (ESPN - Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe)
Group B: Argentina vs. Nigeria 10:00 AM (Johannesburg EPS) (ESPN - Adrian Healey and Efan Ekoku)
Group C: United States vs. England 2:30 (Rustenburg) (ABC - Martin Tyler and John Harkes)

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Soon To Be Ill-Fated World Cup Picks

The last of my city previews is up (Cape Town), so check below this post for that (and check a few posts below that for my important site announcement regarding the World Cup and the upcoming month. It has gotten much too late so I won't bother giving explanation, but listed below are my attempts at picking the teams that will advance out of Group stage, after reading and watching as many previews as I possibly could. Wish me luck......chances are I'll be needing it.

Group A: Mexico and Uruguay

Group B: Argentina and Nigeria

Group C: England and USA

Group D: Germany and Ghana

Group E: Netherlands and Japan

Group F: Paraguay and Slovakia

Group G: Brazil and Portugal

Group H: Spain and Chile

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 World Cup City Preview: Cape Town

(Because it is likely that I cannot tell you a single thing about some of the teams in the World Cup, I will resort to a different World Cup Preview. Instead of taking a look at the teams playing in the World Cup, over the next month before the Cup begins, I will preview each of the 9 cities playing host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Last but certainly not least, Cape Town!)

Population: 3,497,097

Province: Western Cape

Average Temperature in June: High: 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 Celcius). Low: 48 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celcius).

Average Precipitation in June: 3.70 inches (94 mm).

Brief History: In search for a passage to Asia in the late 15th century, Europoeans thought the only way possible there was to go around the tip of Africa. That tip of Africa would later be known as the Cape of Good Hope, and the city built out of that Cape became Cape Town.

During the era of Apartheid, Cape Town was especially hit. As it was throughout the rest of South Africa during this era, the white minority dominated the region and forced the entire coloured population to live in separate sections of the town, resulting in tremendous poverty and terrible conditions. After being imprisoned for 27 years, Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990, and gave this impassioned speech. This video will say more about Cape Town and South Africa then I ever could.

Today, Cape Town is the 2nd most populous city in South Africa (behind Johannesburg) and also holds the title of legislative capital of South Africa, joining Pretoria as the executive capital and Bloemfontein as the judicial capital. Though sadly as with lots of South Africa cities, Cape Town is also struggling with violent crime, drugs, Tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

United States Sister City: Miami, Florida.

Venue: Cape Town Stadium

Cape Town Stadium is yet another brand new stadium built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The capacity of the stadium is 69,070 and is the replacement of the old Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, which was demolished just for this new stadium for the World Cup. It was opened in 2009 and has gone through test runs in terms of U-20 matches and some South African club matches, but this World Cup will be the first major event held in Cape Town Stadium.

Games being played in Cape Town Stadium
June 11: Group A: Uruguay vs. France
June 14: Group F: Italy vs. Paraguay
June 18: Group C: England vs. Algeria
June 21: Group G: Portugal vs. North Korea
June 24: Group E: Cameroon vs. Netherlands
June 29: Round of 16: Group H Winner vs. Group G Runner-up
July 3: Quarterfinal Match
July 6: Semi-final Match

Lastly, here are some images of Cape Town.

(Thanks to Wikipedia in addition to several web sites dedicated to Johannesburg and South Africa. Stay tuned as I look at the other cities hosting the 2010 World Cup.)

Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup Clinching Goal Left Announcers Everywhere Quite Confused

I mentioned in my recap last night how every call of the goal was of initial confusion and the city of Chicago has no great call to relive. I said that after only viewing Doc Emrick and Jim Hughson call it. Well now I have heard Dave Strader on the NHL's international feed, John Wiederman on WGN Radio in Chicago, and Pierre Hourde on the French-speaking RDS, and guess what, they were all confused as well. Literally everyone initially missed it, and if they thought they saw it go in right away (which to their credit, Hourde and Wiederman actually did), they quickly backtracked because there was no whistle, no red light, and goal signal from the refs. Notably in the case of Emrick and WGN's radio PbP announcer (John Wiederman), they saw things they did not acutally see. So without further ado, here are the 5 most confused Stanley Cup clinching goal calls in the history of hockey!

First, Doc Emrick on NBC.

Secondly, Jim Hughson on CBC.

Thirdly, Pierre Hourde gives his call on the French-Canadian channel, RDS.

Next up, Dave Strader on the NHL's International feed.

Now, John Wiederman on WGN Radio imagines an odd sequence of events leading to the puck getting into the net.

So now the question of whose is the best? I can't understand everything Hourde is saying (though enough to know that he did think it was in before back-tracking for a brief seconds), Jim Hughson started imagining things, back-tracked, then went into a lame and unenthusiastic pre-scripted call, and while Wiederman had the most excitement (and why not, he is a local radio announcer), he was the most confused of the 5 at first and had the most bizarre imagination. So it's down to Doc and Strader. Mike Emrick imagined things, Strader was merely confused. Strader realized it was a goal before Kane reached the blue line, Emrick realized it after Kane passed the blue line, and both were fairly excited. On that note, I think the winner of best call goes to Dave Strader with Doc in 2nd. Make no mistake about it, though, what we have here are the 5 worst Cup clinching goal calls in NHL history.

A Brief Announcement Concerning The World Cup

I guess I should just get straight to the point. I have a personal life and these World Cup start times are awful. I also have a DVR. I do not like spoilers.

The fact of the matter is simple in that I have no idea how much I am going to be around the internets for the next 5 weeks. It can literally venture from being around a lot to there being nary a trace of me for the next 5 weeks. If you want to host a live blog, that is fine, but if you are looking for me in particular, it is always going to be up in the air because there will be days when I am out all day working and will come home and watch some World Cup games before going to bed. There is a darn good chance that I may find myself 2-3 days behind at one point and thus, avoiding any spoilers I possibly can, especially on the internet. Once we are into the knockout round and days off start accumulating, chances are I might be around more and will most certainly be around for anything we plan for the finals. If you smell uncertainty in this post, you are absolutely right. I honestly do not know how much I will be around to chat World Cup, write blog posts (chances are World Cup spoilers will be everywhere on sports pages), and tweet about things.

I tell you all this for one reason: I do not want anyone to worry about me. I am fine. My potential absence has nothing to do with the Flyers and me being in a depressive state. It's a tough loss, but I am over it. Do not worry about me. The absence has everything to do with my uncertain work/volunteer schedules, their frequent interfering with World Cup start times, and me still wanting to experience the same thrill of the game that you all experience without having the results spoiled for me. Thank you for your understanding and I hope that this post is all precautionary and I won't ever fall behind as much as I fear I might. If I'm around chatting with you and writing blog posts, I've been caught up. If not, I will be around as soon as I possibly can.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Look for my final city preview (Cape Town) and my brief World Cup group stage predictions later tonight.

A Great Effort Falls Just Short

Assorted thoughts because I am too scatter brained and stunned to write an essay.
  • First of all, congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks. Make no mistake about it, they earned this series and their championship.
  • While I am appreciative of everything Michael Leighton did for the Flyers this year, if I never see him in a Flyers jersey again, my life will be better for it. He is a free agent this off-season,and I hope the Flyers opt not to resign him. As much as it pains me to say it, I would take Carey Price over Leighton. He is just not the goaltender the Flyers are looking for or need.
  • In a way, having such a WTF ending to that game, Chicago fans sort of lost out on that instant feeling of winning. It’s certainly not the classiest thing to say or feel, but for all the arrogance the Chicago media has shown, it is an odd schadenfreude. They have no call to relive the greatness of (both Emrick and Hughson were clueless and when they did come around, gave uninspiring calls), and while that may not matter now, when they get older, they will have no call to look back on and relive with tears of joy. Also they did not have the ability to build up that celebration yell of greatness, not even a moment as short as a 2-on-1 or a breakaway. It just happened, everyone was clueless, and instead of a celebratory fan moment, it was a WTF moment. And you know what, I'm okay with all of that.
  • Jonathan Toews won the Conn Smythe trophy. I will put up a disagreement here because I thought Toews pulled a disappearing act during the Finals. Now yes, I am aware that the Conn Smythe is MVP of the whole Playoffs, but I would be inclined to believe that even if someone was as good as Toews was for the first 3 rounds that a Conn Smythe winner would have to put it all together and at least be visible in the Cup Finals. For the entirety of the playoffs, I felt that Duncan Keith would have been the most deserving, but maybe the people who voted looked down upon the number of goals a shaky Antti Niemi gave up and penalized Keith for that. He was the most consistent player of the playoffs and I am surprised he did not get it.
  • I will spend the rest of my life never buying, touching, or drinking a bottle of Amstel Light.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks no longer have the longest Cup drought. With Patrick Kane's Cup-clinching goal, they have bestowed that honor upon the Toronto Maple Leafs.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers never gave up. They never quit. They went down fighting until the end. And sometimes that is all you can ask for. You can't always expect victory. You can't always expect the greatest outcomes. But you can expect heart. You can expect desire. You can expect to see a team that will never quit no matter how bleak the situation may look. And the Flyers delivered in spades on that front.
  • Remember this: the Philadelphia Flyers will still have a permanent banner raised in the Wachovia Center this October. They are the 2010 Eastern Conference Champions. There is nothing that can take away from that amazing feat. The team that was up and down in the regular season and needed a shootout victory against the greatest shootout goalie playing in the NHL just to make the playoffs can proudly call themselves champions. Sure it is not the championship title that they wanted or truly aspired to, but they are champions. They are not losers, they are winners. Let us not forget that. Even down a goal in the dying minutes of regulation of this game, they managed to tie it up. This team is incredible.
  • For all the talk about the guy who vomited on the 11-year old girl, the beer drinking toddler, Taser Boy, the J.D. Drew batteries, and booing Santa Clause, something that will be utterly forgotten about is the class Flyers fans showed after the game tonight. Nothing was thrown on the ice at any point after the game, and after the realization of what had happened, the crowd immediately burst out in a chant of "LET'S GO FLYERS!," acknowledging their awesome run. The fans did boo Gary Bettman (though in the interest of full disclosure, Bud Selig got booed after the Phillies won the World Series; and even if it had been the Flyers winning Game 5 and the Cup tonight, I am willing to take an educated guess Bettman would have received the exact same treatment), but for the most part cheered the Blackhawks and cheered the Stanley Cup, even giving Toews a rather notable standing ovation upon his first hoisting of the cup.
  • The Flyers accomplished what only 2 other hockey teams have ever accomplished, 3 if you involve all North American professional sports. They will be the inspiration of hockey teams, baseball teams, and basketball teams for generations to come. This team will not be forgotten. I am even willing to venture a bet that the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers will be seen more frequently on sports graphics than the 2010 Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks.
  • I can proudly boast that I claim ownership to 3 of the 4 North American broadcasts of that Game 7. I am very hopeful that one day, maybe even one day soon, I can make that 4 of 4.
  • I am not wild and crazy about putting other fan perspectives in my recaps, but I think this quote from a Broad Street Hockey commenter sums things up and echoes my feelings better than I ever could:
    Fifty years from now, what the Flyers did this post-season will be still be marveled at. That can never be, and never will be, taken away from us. The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks will be on a lengthy list of Stanley Cup Champions. But for as long as professional sports are a big part of American culture and society, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers will never be forgotten, and will eternally be remembered for what they have done over the last several weeks. For as long as I live, I will never forget what I have seen over the past two months.
In case you missed it or want to relive the action, here are the highlights of Game 6.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 World Cup City Preview: Port Elizabeth

(Because it is likely that I cannot tell you a single thing about some of the teams in the World Cup, I will resort to a different World Cup Preview. Instead of taking a look at the teams playing in the World Cup, over the next month before the Cup begins, I will preview each of the 9 cities playing host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Next up, Port Elizabeth!)

Population: 737,600

Province: Eastern Cape

Average Temperature in June: High: 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 Celcius). Low: 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 Celcius).

Average Precipitation in June: 2.40 inches (61.0 mm)

Brief History: From being called a "Landing Place With Fresh Water" to "Cape Colony" to "Port Elizabeth," this area of South Africa has seen more than its fair share of name changes over the years. While the colony that was ultimately established there was a British colony, this area of South Africa was actually first discovered by Portuguese explorers Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco de Gama. It is they who are responsible for marking the map as a "Landing Place With Fresh Water."

The city of Port Elizabeth was hit hard by the era of apartheid in South Africa. The university in the old part of the town was re-located to the outskirts, dealing that beautiful area of the city a crushing blow that it still has not fully recovered from. The British also added loads of infrastructure to the city, which while economically beneficial, separated the old town from the station and the harbor, and that in turn helped in ruining the history there.

Today, Port Elizabeth has been in area hit really hard by epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and various sorts of crime. The good news is the important industries there are booming, bringing in some money to the city, which can in turn be used to help get rid of crime and to find treatment for those struggling with HIV. Port Elizabeth is also known for its water sports. You can see how it is a coastal city on the above map and the amount of water in the area has allowed for water sports to really prosper.

United States Sister Cities: None.

Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

This stadium is another stadium falling under the category of brand new football stadium. The capacity for is set at 48,459 and it's big unique feature is that it overlooks a lake. The original plan was to use the new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium for the 2009 Confederations Cup, but a year before said kickoff, it was feared that the stadium would not be ready yet, so it was dropped from that plan. It has no permanent tenants as of yet, but that does not mean it will not be used heavily during the 2010 World Cup, because you will be seeing this stadium a lot during the World Cup.

Games being played at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
June 12: Group B: South Korea vs. Greece
June 15: Group G: Cote d'Ivoire vs. Portugal
June 18: Group D: Germany vs. Serbia
June 21: Group H: Chile vs. Switzerland
June 23: Group C: Slovenia vs. England
June 26: Round of 16: Group A Winner vs. Group B Runner-up
July 2: Quarterfinal Match
July 10: 3rd Place Consolation Match

Lastly, here are some photos of Port Elizabeth.

(Thanks to Wikipedia in addition to several web sites dedicated to Johannesburg and South Africa. Stay tuned as I look at the other cities hosting the 2010 World Cup.)

June 9 Stanley Cup Playoffs Live Blog: Chasing Dreams

Game 6: Chicago @ Philadelphia 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2010 World Cup City Preview: Durban

Because it is likely that I cannot tell you a single thing about some of the teams in the World Cup, I will resort to a different World Cup Preview. Instead of taking a look at the teams playing in the World Cup, over the next month before the Cup begins, I will preview each of the 9 cities playing host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Next up, Durban!
Population: 3,468,086

Province: KwaZulu-Natal

Average Temperature in June: High: 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 Celcius). Low: 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celcius).

Average Precipitation in June: 1.30 inches (33 mm).

Brief History: Today one of South Africa's 2 biggest getaway cities, Durban was initially founded by a British Lieutenant named F.G. Farewell in 1824. It is said by some that people inhabited the area known today as Durban over 100,000 years ago, but who the hell can say that for sure?

In the 1860s, the British established a sugar cane industry in the city of Durban, but because the local Zulu people did not want to work on said plantations, they brought in some Asians, mostly from India, to be indentured servants. The result today is an abnormally high Asian population in a South African city. They only make up a tad less than 20% of the total Durban population, but as mentioned, that is not seen very often in African cities.

As alluded to above, today Durban is a large tourist city. As you can see by the map in the first picture in the post, it is a city along the coast (those are almost always guaranteed to be big tourist cities) and Durban also happens to be the city you can reach Zululand and Drakensberg, both of which are popular tourist destinations. For all the talk I did a month ago about Johannesburg and how it was a business city, well, this is one of the places all those business people go when they want some time off. It is worth pointing out that Durban is not the only such city in South Africa. Cape Town is another big tourist city, and because it is also a World Cup hosting city, I will have more on that later in the week before the World Cup kicks off.

United States Sister Cities: Chicago, Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana

Venue: Moses Mabhida Stadium

As you have seen before, some of these World Cup stadiums are well over 50 years old and underwent big time renovations for the World Cup while others have been brand spanking new. The 70,000 capacity Moses Mabhida Stadium falls in the latter category: it's brand spanking new. And maybe I'm a sucker for these types of things, but as far as outside architecture goes, this is by far the neatest looking stadium I have seen for the World Cup. This is another stadium that has a Qwest Field-esque roof over the seats while maintaining in outdoor field of play.

Games being played in Moses Mabhida Stadium
June 13: Group D: Germany vs. Australia
June 16: Group H: Spain vs. Switzerland
June 19: Group E: Netherlands vs. Japan
June 22: Group B: Nigeria vs. South Korea
June 25: Group G: Brazil vs. Portugal
June 28: Round of 16: Group E Winner vs. Group F Runner-up
July 7: Semi-Finals Game

Lastly, here are some pictures of Durban.

(Thanks to Wikipedia in addition to several web sites dedicated to Johannesburg and South Africa. Stay tuned as I look at the other cities hosting the 2010 World Cup.)

First The New York Post And Shane Victorino, Now The Chicago Tribune And Chris Pronger

I am honestly beginning to think that these photoshops have nothing to do with wanting to mock our players, but more so that newspapers across the country have a homoerotic fetish with Philadelphia sports players. First the positive about this photoshop attempt, unlike The New York Post putting Victorino in a Hawaiian skirt and calling the Phillies "the Frillies", this one by The Chicago Tribune actually has a witty line in it ("100% chance we'll change our minds if the Hawks sign him.")

Now onto the negatives, first of all, so this is what has become of print journalism, eh? Oy ve. And secondly, the 2 points to the left of the 100% bullet indicate some pretty damning stats about "Chrissy Pronger," but let's examine them a little more closely. They say Pronger was a -5 for Game 5 and his +/- for the 3 total games in Chicago this series is -4. Just one problem with those seemingly terrible stats. If you do the math, you'll notice The Chicago Tribune has inadvertently pointed out that Chris Pronger was a +1 in the first 2 games in Chicago. D'OH!

Monday, June 7, 2010

2010 World Cup City Preview: Bloemfontein

Because it is likely that I cannot tell you a single thing about some of the teams in the World Cup, I will resort to a different World Cup Preview. Instead of taking a look at the teams playing in the World Cup, over the next month before the Cup begins, I will preview each of the 9 cities playing host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Next up, Bloemfontein!
Population: 369,568

Province: Free State

Average Temperature in June: High: 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celcius). Low: 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 Celcius).

Average Precipitation in June: .5 inches (12.7 mm)

Brief History: While the Dutch Afrikaners were the first to settle in the area, Bloemfontein was not officially established until 1846 by a British army major. Originally the capital of the Orange Free State Republic, Bloemfontein soon became the Judicial capital of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

During the Second Boer War, Bloemfontein was unfortunately the site of another one of the concentration camps that I talked a bit about with the Polokwane post. Today, a Memorial sit on the outskirts of the city paying tribute to the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives during this unfortunate time period.

Today, Bloemfontein is the Judicial capital of South Africa. I have already talked about Pretoria, which is the executive capital of South Afirca, and the legislative of South Africa is coming up later this week. Bloemfontein is not just a hardly unknown judicial capital by any sense of the imagination. This was the city where J.R.R. Tolkein was born! All of a sudden every nerd and tween in the world loves Bloemfontein like no other city in South Africa. For realz.

United States Sister Cities: None

Venue Free State Stadium

Free State Stadium was opened just in time for the 1996 African Cup of Nations. With a capacity of 45,000, Free State Stadium is home to 2 rugby teams and the Bloemfontein Celtic of the South African Premier Soccer League. Free State Stadium was one of the 4 venues used during the 2009 Confederations Cup. The most notable game held here was the United States' upset over Spain in the semi-finals which ended Spain's long international winning and unbeaten streaks.

Games being played in Free State Stadium
June 14: Group E: Japan vs. Cameroon
June 17: Group B: Greece vs. Nigeria
June 22: Group F: Slovakia vs. Paraguay
June 25: Group H: Switzerland vs. Honduras
June 27: Round of 16: Group D Winner vs. Group C Runner-up

Lastly, here are some pictures of Bloemfontein.

Despite The Stiff Competition, Stanley Cup Finals Ratings Show Promise With Overnight Numbers

The NHL has no chance of even thinking about competing and beating the NBA Finals in ratings, but, the NHL can certainly compete against themselves and still post very good numbers. If that was the NHL's goal, then mission accomplished because even though it does not hold a candle to Celtics-Lakers, the NHL did pretty damn good last night. From Puck The Media
Last night’s Game 5 broadcast on NBC of the Blackhawks 7-4 victory over the Flyers drew 5.95 million viewers and a 2.2 among adults 18-49. The game peaked from 9:30-10:00 PM ET with 6.91 million viewers and a 2.6 in the demo. The numbers are up 39% in viewers and 38% in the demo from 2009′s Game 5, which aired on a Saturday night against no competition from the NBA. The game drew a 26.0 rating in Chicago, and a 19.7 in Philadelphia.

If the final viewer numbers hold up, it would bring NBC’s average up to 5.4 million viewers for their three games of coverage of the series. That’d be up from last year’s three game average (which, mind you, contained two Saturday telecasts) of 4.6 million for Games 1, 2 and 5 by 15%. Overall, the move to Sunday night – despite being pounded by the NBA – can be looked upon as a relative success.
Some people may tend to think otherwise, but I do not see the NBA as a big deterrent of hockey ratings. Sure you lose some casual sports fans on days like this, but overall I think the NHL and the NBA have largely different fanbases. A lot of hockey fans I know do not like basketball very much, and while I can say that I thoroughly enjoy college hoops, my detest of the professional game has been well-documented. In essence, hockey fans are going to watch hockey, and basketball fans are going to watch basketball. At the same time, a lot of the ratings success the NHL, Versus, and NBC has seen this year, especially in the finals, has to do with the markets and the teams that are playing. For all the talk and hype about Crosby, Ovechkin, etc. and how awesome they are for ratings, it is the Philadelphias, Chicagos, and other big market cities that are needed for an NHL ratings homerun. It's not the names or the superstars that drive the ratings, it's the big markets. The NHL has that this year and the numbers illustrate it.

We Start 'Em Early In Philly

You can check out my Game 5 recap in the post below this one, but I just could not let the night pass without posting this hilarious video from this afternoon's Phillies broadcast. If you ever wondered how some Philly fans decide to throw batteries at J.D. Drew, vomit on 11-year olds, and run onto the field and get tased, well, this may provide us with some sort of an answer. After all, if you were a toddler who drank beer, you would turn out the same way too, right?

I have no recollection of this, but my parents tell me that they would feed me alcohol as a kid before plane rides so that I could fall asleep easier. But I don't think they were prepping that kid for a plane ride. I mean that kid was downing that shit like the beer bottle was his Mommy's breast and there was some tasty ass milk inside. When he goes to a Phillies game in 17 years and intentionally vomits on a newborn, I think we can all look back on this moment as the turning point in his life.

(Hat tip to The Fightins)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Beaten, Bruised, But Still Alive

The Flyers needed to play their hearts out in this game. They didn't. The result was a 7-4 drubbing at the hands of a desperate Blackhawk team.

Instead of trying to come up with a full on essay about it, I am going to simplify things this time by writing my thoughts in bullet style.
  • The Flyers came out horribly to start the 1st period. It was not one person playing bad, it was the whole team playing bad. And the 3-0 result showed for it.
  • Michael Leighton was unfairly pulled. 2 of the 3 goals were bad goals, yes, but when the rest of the team was dead through the 1st 10 minutes, he was the only one making saves and keeping the Flyers in the game. I love Boucher, but I still do not think he is 100%.
  • Peter Laviolette said during the post-game press conference he did not know who was playing goal for Game 5. I have no problem with the posturing and keeping the Blackhawks thinking, but not playing Leighton will be a mistake. He can't take the fall when the whole team had a bad game.
  • Aspeaking of having a bad game, what the heck happened to Chris Pronger today? He was a -5, got beaten like a government mule by Byfuglien, played horrible, and played horrible. That being said, the last time he had a bad game, he bounced back real nice.
  • The officiating has been completely atrocious all series long. Missed calls and ticky-tacky calls were abound, but none were more notable than the missed high stick on Briere that left him gashed. It should have been at least a 4-minute double minor, but to blame the officiating for this loss when the Flyers played the way they did, especially during the 1st 20 minutes, is completely insane.
  • The silver lining of this game: Post 1st period, the goals were even at 4.
  • Teams like the Flyers and the Red Wings thrive on solid defensive forwards and good defense that force shots from the point that the goalies can easily see and stop. That is how Detroit made the Stanley Cup with Osgood, got as far as they did with Howard, and how the Flyers have done well with Leighton/Boucher. Nobody is going to confuse these goalies with the all-time greats in Roy, Brodeur, or even a Ryan Miller to bring in the best goalie of today. But when the defense lets these goalies down, they become susceptible. As mentioned before, Leighton let in 2 soft goals, so did Boucher, but that all can go back to the lack of stellar defensive play throughout the evening, and to point out a specific instance, failed backchecking on the part of Briere.
  • The Flyers failed to capitalize on what appeared to be an off-night for Antti Niemi. He made 2 saves of note, but outside of that, he looked real shaky between the pipes. The Flyers have gotten in his head and he does not like the same goalie that denied the Sharks not named Patrick Marleau time after time again. Despite the blowout nature of this game, let's not forget, the Flyers did score 4 goals in this game.
  • Chicago may have a killer instinct problem. This game was bad, no doubt about it, but Chicago did not have it put away for good until they got an empty net goal with about 2 minutes left. A lot of that has to do with the Flyers offense showing up for the last 40 minutes, but it could also have to do with the Blackhawks being content. They responded to the Flyers goals, yes, but they were unable to finish the job for most of the night.
  • Last year, the captain of a certain Pennsylvania hockey team touched the Prince of Wales Trophy. That team later lost the 1st 2 games of the Stanley Cup Finals on the road, won the next 2 at home, got completely blasted on the road in Game 5, and still went on to win the Stanley Cup. Make of this information what you want.
  • As bad as this blowout was, I am still oddly confident the Flyers can get the job done and win this thing. The key will be coming out in Game 6 with heart, passion, desire, and carrying all of that to victory. There is no doubt in my mind this Flyers team will not go down without a fight, and with the Stanley Cup making an appearance in the Wachovia Center should Chicago win, the Flyers are sure to be hungry to stop the celebrating on their own ice and force the series back to Chicago one last time. Get it to 7, and all bets are off. Flyers may not have won yet in Chicago, but nothing has shown me thus far that that feat is an impossibility. We must avoid getting ahead of ourselves though. Game 6 is the game to focus on and the only way to even have a chance in Game 7 is to win Game 6. I have not given up on this team yet, nor will I in the long and drawn out wait for Wednesday night. They are not out of it until the Blackhawks are raising the Stanley Cup, and until that happens, I will continue to believe that the Flyers can win the whole damn thing.
In case you missed it or want to relive the action, here are the highlights from Game 5.

June 6 Stanley Cup Playoffs Live Blog: The 3-2 Series Edge Goes To.....

(Ed. Note: There is a Tornado Watch in effect for my area until 8:00 tonight. I am setting up the live blog in anticipation that there won't be problems, but with Mother Nature, you never know. I have dinner with my relatives tonight, but I should be back in time for the game. If you do not hear from me tonight, chances are the storm did some damage and my laptop battery died.)

After 2 games of Versus, it is back to NBC and you know what that means. It is the subtraction of Bob Harwood and Charissa Thompson, the return of Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury, and the beginning of Dan Patrick's hosting duties for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 5: Philadelphia @ Chicago 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

2010 World Cup City Preview: Nelspruit

Because it is likely that I cannot tell you a single thing about some of the teams in the World Cup, I will resort to a different World Cup Preview. Instead of taking a look at the teams playing in the World Cup, over the next month before the Cup begins, I will preview each of the 9 cities playing host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Next up, Nelspruit!
Population: 221,474

Province: Mpumalanga

Average Temperature in June: High: 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 Celcius). Low: 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celcius).

Average Precipitation in June: .35 inches (9 mm).

Brief History: When South Africa submitted it's bid, this city was called Nelspruit at the time. But that has since changed, the city is now officially called Mbombela, but in order to avoid confusion, FIFA (and subsequently me) will refer to the city as Nelspruit both here and throughtout the rest of the World Cup. The city was not founded until 1905 and it was founded by the brothers Nel (gee, I wonder where the city name comes from?). During the Boer War, Nelspruit served as the capital of the South African Republic for a short period of time. Nelspruit is less known for its history and more so known for what it is today. For tourists traveling to Mozambique and Kruger National Park, Nelspruit is the big spotover point. When not connecting cities, Nelspruit is a pretty big city for agriculture and manufacturing and is the capital of the province Mpumalanga.

United States Sister City: None.

Venue: Mbombela Stadium.

People can never make things easy, now can they? The city they are playing in is officially Mbombela now, although for this month it will be referred to as Nelspruit, but just to make things difficult, the stadium is named Mbombela. As you might have figured by the name, Mbombela Stadium is a brand new stadium that was built specifically for the World Cup, but will be used for other events in the future. This stadium is actually similar to Qwest Field in that it is an outdoor stadium but there is a roof over the seats that will keep the majority of spectators dry in the case of a storm. The stadium is also designed to have the seats right on top of the action, so as to create a louder environment. And with the return of the dreaded vuvuzelas during the World Cup, they could certainly be a bigger distraction and annoyance than they already are in a stadium like Mbombela Stadium.

Games being played Mbombela Stadium:
June 16: Group H: Honduras vs. Chile
June 20: Group F: Italy vs. New Zealand
June 23: Group D: Australia vs. Serbia
June 25: Group G: North Korea vs. Ivory Coast

Lastly, here are some photos of Nelspruit.