Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Legend of Big Yard 11

29 April 2006: Unknown, unheard of, hunk of shit
30 April 2006: Legend

Today I played the most pressure packed back nine of golf perhaps in my life. It wasn't a $10 nassau, a tournament, or the final pairing of the twice annual Chowdahead-Redneck Open with the Cup on the line. Nope, it started innocuously enough as a leisurely Sunday round by myself...

Preface: As many of my golfing buddies will tell you, I am basically a complete and total Titleist ball snob and always have been. I only play with ProV1's, which I realize is kind of a presposterous position for a 12 handicapper to take, but it is what it is. In fact, if I find anything else on the course during a round I won't even keep it but rather throw it on the nearest fairway or tee box thereby leaving it for someone else. That being said, there are a few junky balls in my bag that have accumulated over time and are usually reserved for 200 yard par 3s over water when I am playing very poorly and the odds of losing a nice ball are substantial and/or the inventory is extremely low. My golf bag is like any other, it usually contains somewhere between 10-20 golf balls. Also, nothing peeves me more in golf than not finishing 18 holes - I cannot stand playing 15 or 16 or whatever - I must post a score, even if it is a bad one. I have the Van Halen Syndrome: I have to finish what I start.

Today was the most beautiful day in SF so far this year: 75 & sunny without a cloud in the sky. So I jumped online and found a great discounted tee time at this course I like up in Petaluma, about a 30 minute drive north of the Golden Gate. I am a single and they put me with a couple of high school kids. I comment to them that 2 weeks ago I played there just at the tail end of our 6 weeks of Noah's Ark rain, when much of the course was flooded and the rough was 2 feet in some places because it was so wet that the lawnmowers couldn't even drive in the rough, which helped me lose 6 balls in the round (first time that has happened since about 1989). One of the kids works at the course, and informs me that the course is almost dried out, and they finally cut the rough down a bit last week, although now the big lawnmower is broken, so it hasn't been cut all week. This means little to me at the time.

You know when you cut your grass after being on vacation for 3 weeks, and you just leave the clippings out? That's what we had today. The rough was now down to US Open like 6 inches and covered with dead grass cuttings. Basically if you hit it in the rough, you would just about have to step on your ball in order to find it, and if you did find it then you were swinging as hard as you could with your 8 iron and advancing the ball about 50 yards. I didn't play badly on the front but managed to shoot a beyond-shitty 51. Why? I lost four balls, none of which was hit more than 10 yards wayward of a fairway or green. Frustrating, but such is life - it's a beautiful day and although it is brutally slow, I am enjoying the weather and having fun. My playing partners stop after 9 holes which leaves me alone behind a slow foursome on the back nine. More waiting on 10 tee. I hit a marginally-better-than-a-D.O., track it, and proceed to not be able to find it in the diabolical rough. I reach into the bag and haphazardly grab a couple of balls, drop one into play, and push my next shot to the right, directly into the afternoon sun, and it hits the cart parth and goes into the rough. 5 more minutes of searching, drop the other ball, make my tidy double, proceed to the 11th tee, and wait.

At this point I go into my bag to reload my ammo (usually have 3 balls in my pocket at a time), and I am a bit panicked to discover that I only have 3 golf balls remaining in my possession (and no one to bum any from). Some quick math reveals that I have lost SIX golf balls in 10 holes (all of which were in play, not OB/in water/across a road), and that I only have three balls left and 8 holes to play. The math does not seem to be in my favor, and I start to panic a bit at the thought of a first in my 20 year golfing lifetime: walking in to the clubhouse from somewhere on the back nine because I ran out of balls and could not finish my round. Suddenly I am in the midst of the most pressure packed golf scenario of my life, and based on what has happened so far it seems the odds are massively against me.

Here's the best part- my three remaining bullets. The Titleists are long gone at this point, and I am left with:

1. A Spalding "Tournament Plus" 2 (written in fancy cursive) with a massive cursive "Tony" logo on one side. I have been playing golf for 20 years and never heard of or seen this ball.

2. A ball that says "Big Yard" 11, with "distance" written undernath and "soft compression" on one side, and a giant black Sharpie smiley face on the other side. This thing makes the "Tony" ball look like a ProV1.

3. An old, old, Titleist Professional 90 (a butter ball that they stopped making in I think 1999), that is so old that it resembles the color of a grey whale even after a trip through the ball washer. This thing is so soft that it might as well be a turn of the (last) century feather ball; I don't think I could hit it 200 yards of the tee with my driver. Downhill. Downwind.

I laugh at the hilarity of my situation, and I am up to the challenge to try to finish 18 holes with at least one golfable ball. There is no one behind me; I am the last man on the course, and I am alone. I decide that Tony will bat leadoff. Driver, then driver off the deck into the front bunker, a sandie and 2 putts for only my 2nd par of the day. The game is on.

Waiting on the 12th tee (a short par 3 over water into the wind) for the foursome in front of me, I decide to call Brain and inform him of my now comical situation. He advises me to do what Van De Velde shoud have done on the 72nd hole of Carnoustie and play nothing but 7-irons into the house. I explain to him that this isn't even really an option, because I have already lost 6 balls that weren't 10 yards off of a fairway or green, it's not that I am spraying it all over the place.

I leave Brain laughing and tee up Tony again - he is even par through 1 hole. Although I have only wedge from 132, I know as soon as I hit Tony that I didn't get all of him. I was right: splash. Tony sleeps with the fishes. So now I re-tee with Big Yard 11, and I am basically shitting my pants that I now have 2 balls left, one of which is so soft it is almost unplayable, and I just hit one in the water on 12, and I still have to deal with the natural wildlife habitat left of 13, water all along 14, and all along 18, not to mention the Insano-Rough 9000. I hit Big Yard 11 into a bunker left of the green, and start imagining which hole I will be walking in from in shame: will it be 13? 15? Will I make it to 17?

I walk toward the 12th green along the water's edge, and lo and behold I see a ball that I believe I can fish out of the hazard. It's a freaking Top Flite XL XXX-out. I have never been so happy to find a golf ball in my life, and for the first time in recorded history I keep a Top Rock that I have found. Top Rock XXX-out replaces Tony, and I am back to three bullets.

Holy Shit: these things come in XXX-outs?
The 'good' ones are so crappy - why differentiate?

I semi skull my bunker shot, and it rolls hot off the green and disappears down the embankment towards certain death in a watery grave. I figure I am back to two, but amazingly Big Yard 11 somehow manages to cling to the cliff's edge above the lake. I feel like Freddy at the 12th in the final round of the 92 Masters. Except that I made a quadruple bogey 7 to his Masters-saving par. Three balls left, six holes to play.

Big Yard 11 keeps his spot in the starting lineup based mostly on his miraculous non-water mojo. Bombed driver down the middle, 9 iron to 30 feet, and two putts for par. Big Yard 11 is starting to grow on me.

Fourteen is a short par 5 with water all down the right and also in front of the green. Another bombed drive into the left rough 5 yards left of the fairway, and I fear that my short friendship with Big Yard 11 is over. I finally find him and hack a 7 iron pin high left, leaving a 30 yard pitch left. Good pitch shot, and Big Yard 11 rolls to within 6 inches of the cup. Tap in birdie. Big Yard 11 is my new best friend.

Fifteen: striped drive left again, 5 minute search, finally find it. My 9 iron is pure and lands about 5 feet short of the pin, but despite Big Yard 11's "soft compression" is rolls 30 feet past the flag. Two putt par. Big Yard 11 is officially en fuego.

Sixteen: par 3, 143 downwind. Wedge to 25 feet, routine two putt. Despite having the feel of a metallic rock that makes a Top Rock feel like balata, and the fact that the sound it makes when falling into the cup is not one of a golf ball but of a marble, rock, or tinny piece of pewter, Big Yard 11 is 1 under through 4 holes.

Seventeen: Fairway, knock down 9 iron just over the green. Chip to 4 feet. One putt par. Big Yard 11 is my peyote, and I am in a happy place.

Eighteen: Three balls left, but water all down the left and hugging the green. At this point I already have the idea for this post, and I am reluctant after 5 holes of 1 under par golf to lose Big Yard 11 since I cannot imagine that I could ever locate another one, and especially since I realize that if I can get him to the clubhouse then through the wonders of digital photography I can share him with the world. I make a bold decision and bench Big Yard 11 in favor of Top Rock XL XXX-out. It's 8:05, the sun has set, and visibility is getting pretty bad. Top Rock is the whitest of the three, which finalizes my decision. Top Rock is bombed right down the middle, then despite the fact the I club down to land the ball short to compensate for this ball's complete lack of spin, it still bounds all the way over the green. Chip up, lip out a 10 footer for par, and tap in for bogey. A solid save on a tough water hole that Dennis Eckersley would be proud of.

So I made it after all. I cannot remember the last time I played a 5 hour round, lost 7 balls - only one of which was a really bad shot, shot a ridiculously bad 93, and had so much fun. Big Yard 11 is a legend: 1 under par in his 5 holes, reversed the Insano-Rough Jinx, and prevented the walk of shame.

BY11's smile: infectious.

First 12 holes: Seven lost balls, 21 over par (only 2 pars)

Last 6 holes: Zero lost balls, even par (4 pars, 1 birdie)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Human Interest Angle

Like the Olympics, NBC's (and the media in general) coverage of the Derby tries its best to draw in as many non-hardcore racing fans as possible. To accomplish this, they look for human interest stories to push. Two years ago it was Smarty Jones, who nearly died as a 2 year old after smashing his head on a starting gate. Last year it was Afleet Alex, who was connected to a little girl with cancer who started a lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research and who passed away 9 months before the Derby.

Bro Derek: will he be a "10" on Saturday?

This year the human interest story will be Brother Derek, whose trainer, Dan Hendricks, was paralyzed from the waist down 2 years ago in a motorcycle accident. There is an excellent article on his situation here, which is less sugar coated than most of the other coverage you will see this week. Additionally, Brother Derek's jockey, soon to be hall of famer Alex Solis, was thrown from a horse and broke his back only 2 weeks after Hendricks' accident. He was out for 7 months but now is back riding well and in search of his first Derby victory. So Brother Derek will not only be the human interest story but also one of the favorites if not the outright favorite, as he is 4 for 4 this year coming out of the California circuit.

Hendricks with Brother Derek

The secondary human interest story you will hear this week will be about Barbaro trainer Michael Matz, who in 1989 survived a plane crash in Iowa that killed 112 people. He aslo managed to pull 4 children out of the wreckage and save their lives. After that experience he probably won't be feeling too much pressure on Derby Day.

My handicapping of the Derby has absolutely nothing to do with human interest, but interestingly, Smarty Jones was my horse in 2004, and I won big with him. Afleet Alex was my horse last year, and proved my post race analysis that the Derby was a joke (thanks to Biancone running no-hoper speedball Spanish Chestnut for the glorification of his owner's massive ego, while burning out the speed horses and stalkers with the fastest fractions in Debry history) and that he was the best horse by coming back and winning The Preakness in the most amazing fashion you will ever see and then romping in The Belmont.

At this point I still kind of like Brother Derek, but it looks like he will be the favorite and at anything less than 5-1 or 4-1 he has too many unanswered questions for me (raced from the front in small fields with perfect trips and no traffic, which there will be a boatload of on Saturday, and he definitely won't be on the front) and I will probably pass and look for some better value elsewhere.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Derby Previews Coming Your Way

Although NBC has the rights to the race, ESPN covers horse racing better than anyone else in my opinion, and they will be all over the Derby in the next week. ESPN2 is showing a Triple Crown Preview Show Saturday from 6-7 p.m. EST, which should set the table nicely for Derby Week. Check it out if you get a chance.

Nice to know that they're still good at something

The rest of their Derby Week programming can be found here, and once again they will be covering the post position draw on Wednesday afternoon from 5-6 p.m. EST., as well as coverage all day on Friday for Oaks and all day Derby Day leading up to NBC's telecast of the race.

If you have TVG, they air a show called "The Works" which is a good bit more technical and in-depth, but certainly worth checking out of you are really into it. This morning's show re-airs tonight at 6 p.m. PST, and I believe tomorrow's show is at 8 a.m. PST.

And very soon I'll be coming strong with "Derby 101" to help explain to all of you casual fans why The Derby is such a big deal, and why you should catch a case of Derby Fever next week.

Reduced To Pulling For Meat Loaf

Tottenham's 2 remaining matches are this weekend against Bolton and next weekend against West Ham. West Ham will probably not even try next week since they have nothing to gain and will want to rest their players for their FA Cup Final against Liverpool.

So that leaves Bolton. More specifically, it leaves me to pull for a team managed by none other than Meat Loaf himself, Sam Allardyce.

You can't tell me this isn't the same dude


Of course the Schadenfreude part of me actually wants Tottenham to get 4th place, only so we can piss on their parade by winning this year's Champions League, knock them out of next year's competition, and keep this excellent joke current.

In other bizarro rooting interest news, am I actually rooting for ManUtd to beat Chelsea tomorrow and prevent the Blues from winning the league until next week? Yes, I think I am. Weird.

Arsenal play already relegated and worst team in Premiership history Sunderland on Monday morning, so 3 points should be reasonably expected.

Chelsea - Manchester United. Saturday. 4.30 a.m. PST. FSC.
Tottenham- Bolton. Sunday. 8 a.m. PST. FSC PPV.
Sunderland-Arsenal. Monday. 9 a.m. PST. FSC.

Chelsea 3-0 ManUtd.
Tottenham 1-0 Bolton.
Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal (Henry, Fabregas, Sunderland o.g.)

Chelsea buy win 2nd title in as many years after winning 1 in the prior 100 years.

Economics Of Sport: Streaking

Much has been made about the changing economics of being a sports fan over the past 20 years, specifically, how ever rising ticket and concession prices are making attending a game less and less affordable for Joe Six Pack. The cumulative effect is that working class and now even middle class fans can't afford to attend games regularly, leaving most crowds to be upper-middle class, the wealthy, and most of all, corporate.

But the art of streaking has always been available to one and all, regardless of socio-economic station in life. Sure, it's not as pure as it once was, and now some streakers have sold out to corporate entities like, but by and large streaking is still accessible and affordable for the masses. You go to the ballpark with your buddies, get loaded, talk shit about how you will totally do it, your buddies call you on it, you say you will do it if they pay the fine/bail you out, and then it is on. You streak, the crowd is amused, you are tackled by a secutiry guard in a light windbreaker jacket, your friends each throw in $25 to bail you out, and everyone has a laugh at the water cooler on Monday morning.

Might be priced out of WC06

But that could all be changing: a judge in Germany has upheld a fine of $12,550 against a streaker at a soccer match, and this legal precedent may very well price the Average Joes, Georgs, Ivans, Jean-Lucs, Nigels, Massimos, Pedros, and Svens out of the streaking market at The World Cup this summer.

*After finding a picture to post, maybe this is a good thing after all.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

And I thought Drinks in SF Were Overpriced...

At my first Derby in 1997, I tried a mint julep and was quickly hooked. 1 part sugar-water, 2 parts bourbon, poured over crushed ice with a giant fresh mint sprig, it is pure magic. It was $5 and you got to keep the cool glass which has the logo of that year's Derby on the front and lists the winner of every derby on the back. Since then they have gone up to $6, $7, and last year up to $8, which I thought was kind of pricey, but they taste great, they're fun to collect, and it's Derby Day after all, so what the hell?

This year's Derby Julep glass

This year as I sip on my sure-to-be-now $9 Juleps, I will laugh at all of the wankers who lay down $1000 for a mint julep. I can't slam it completely because they are donating the money to a good cause, which hopefully will help prevent former champion horses being sold to Asian slaughterhouses, but a cool grand for a drink that is 75% ice is just silly. The funny thing is that people with way too much money will buy these things, so that everyone within eyeshot will know how rich (and foolish with their money) they are.

This year's Derby Julep glass for Mark Cuban

If they really want to impress their uber-wealthy friends, they should fly first class to London just to order the recently launched "World's Most Expensive Sandwich" for 85 pounds (approx. $157).

$157? Can I make it a combo for $158.95?

9 Days To Derby, and I'm Candlebox

Far Behind, that is.

I did watch the tape of The Lexington Stakes the other night, and today will mostly be dedicated to work catching up on things here, here, here, here, and perusing the PPs here.

A couple of random observations from The Lexington:

1. As much as I bitch about ESPN and how terrible it has become, their horse racing coverage continues to get a big huge exemption. It is very, very good. Randy Moss is as good an analyst as ESPN has covering any sport, and Kenny Mayne's oddball humor is good for racing's blueblood, fuddy duddy stereotypical image. It also helps that Mayne is a knowledgeable horse player who likes racing. This comes through and makes their coverage much better than if they just threw someone who didn't love the sport on there to play setup man for Moss.

Always prepared & works hard every day,
unlike his more famous namesake

2. I didn't realize that Keeneland had drive-thru betting windows. This is hilarious, epic, and sad all at the same time.

3. Hard not to feel bad for Nick Zito. Last year he has a record 5 starters in the Derby, and they all ate it. This year he will have none. Funny game, horse racing.

4. D. Wayne Lukas won't have a starter eithrer. A Derby without D. Ranged Lukas or Nick Zito? I cannot remember the last time that 2 of the "Big Three" (Lukas/Zito/Baffert) didn't have a starter at the Derby.

5. Showing Up looked good, and trainer Barclay Tagg is a great trainer, but can he win the Derby only 2 weeks after the Lexington? Only Swale in 1984 and Charismatic in 1999 have accomplished this. Additionally, Showing Up only has 3 career starts, and the last horse to win the Derby in only their 4th start was Regret in 1915.

6. Never thought of Jeanine Edwards as cute, but she sure looked cute on Saturday.

I haven't done much handicapping yet, but at this super early point I like Brother Derek.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Get Up, Get Get Get Down,
ESPN is a Joke In Your Town..."

Champions League Semifinal 2nd Leg
Barcelona-AC Milan
11.45 a.m. PST. Setanta.

Barcelona lead 1-0 on aggregate.

First off, mad props to ESPN2 for showing a CL semifinal 2nd leg between two giants of European football that they already have the rights to a replay of the 2005 Jump Rope National Championships. Look, I understand that interest in international soccer in this country is not huge, but no one can tell me that a replay of last year's Jump Rope Championship will pull more viewers than this match. It's not even Double Dutch. What a bunch of wankers. Again, please stop referring to yourselves as the "World-Wide Leader" if you are going to make programming decisions like this over and over.

All Barcelona need is a draw to set up the Joga Bonito final that most neutrals are hoping for. AC Milan are an ageing team, and Barcelona will run circles around them again today. They will create chances, but will they score from them unlike Villarreal yesterday? Milan's strategy will likely be to try to contain Barcelona as much as possible and then hope that one of their 2 game changing players, Shevchenko and Kaka, can have a moment of magic or two and conjure up a goal. Additionally for them, striker Inzaghi returns and is always dangerous to poach a goal, like Trezeguet for Juventus or VanDivesalot for ManUtd. Add to this Barca's historic ability to underachieve at times and Milan certainly have a good chance, but I think in the end that Barcelona will run circles against the tiring old men of Milan and will move on to face Arsenal in the Final. I like Eto'o to score today and Barca to win.

***Update 2.03 p.m. PST

Barcelona 0-0 AC Milan.
Barcelona advance 1-0 on aggregate.

Barcelona attacked and tried to kill the match, created numerous great chances, managed to miss them all, and then caught a break when Shevchenko's headed goal was disallowed when he was judged to have pushed Puyol over. They only showed the replay once in the bar I was at, and it looked to me like Sheva didn't foul Puyol at all and that the goal should have stood. I would like to see the replay again that's for sure. So instead of 1-1 and game on, Barca created some more chances that they couldn't convert, but ultimately held out for the win. They certainly had the better of it though and it would be difficult for anyone who watched both legs to say that it was undeserved.

So the Final that everyone wanted has come to pass, with two of the biggest proponents of beautiful, dynamic, attacking football playing at Stade de France. Of course this means that Arsenal & Barcelona will play to a boring, dour 0-0 draw which will be decided by penalites after 30 minutes of boring, dour, extra time, right?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yellow Submarine Sunk.
Mats Wilander: Arsenal Legend

Villarreal 0-0 Arsenal.

Arsenal advance 0-1 on aggregate.

Lehmann saves Riquelme's last minute penalty

After year after year after year of playing all out attacking football and playing themselves right out of the Champions League by conceding goals, Arsene decided to channel George Graham: sit back, defend his lead, absorb Villarreal pressure, and maybe try to sneak one in counterattack - the defensive, Italian, catennacio style that goes against everything he truly believes in. But after all these years he is in the results business in Europe, and although quite ugly tonight it got him to his & the clubs first Champions League Final.

Mats. Arsenal fan favorite legend

I figured after halftime his attitude was "my defense has not conceded a goal in the Champions League for 9.5 matches. I will defend this lead, and worst case scenario is they score to level the game. Then I'll put on Van Persie, switch to a 4-4-2, and try to win it from there." Villarreal created 3 really good chances and managed to miss them all, and the whole match it seemed that Arsene's strategy was going to bite him in the ass. And in the last minute of the match it did as Villarreal was awarded a penalty when Clichy fouled Mari, Mari dived, or both. Anyhow, Mats Wilander guessed correctly, saved Riquelme's penalty shot, immediately entered Arsenal iconic legend status, and 3 minutes later Arsenal were headed to Paris.

"Yellow Submarine: Hit and Sunk."

Call Wenger's strategy what you like: ballsy, risky, stupid, smart, hypocritical, mature, whatever... it worked. The 'makeshift' defense costing a total of 2 million pounds has gone 10 games in a row in the Champions League without conceding a goal - a new record for any European competition.


On y va a Paris!

Now I am a bit torn for tomorrow. Of course I want Barcelona to win because they are my 2nd favorite team, and like most others I want to see the Joga Bonito Final, but Milan would be a much easier opponent for Arsenal. Arsenal would run circles around Milan's old men, like Barca did last week and like Barca will do tomorrow. Either way works for me.


Stade de France. 17 May 2006.

Arsenal Attempt To Sink Yellow Submarine

Champions League Semifinal 2nd Leg
11.45 a.m. PST. ESPN2.

(Arsenal lead 1-0 on aggregate)

It's pretty simple. If Arsenal score tonight in El Madrigal, they will go through, because with 2 goals, 1 being an away goal, Villarreal would need to score three to beat them, and I just cannot see that happening. If they don't, it will be tense and nervy and anything can happen, including the dreaded lottery of penalties (extra time will only happen if Villarreal win 1-0 tonight and it is 1-1 on aggreagate).

Arsene has put all of his eggs in one basket by playing weakened sides in the last two weeks against Portsmouth and Spurs, earning a draw in each for a total of 2 points out of a possible six, thus relinquishing control over their own destiny for 4th place in the league. I'm not sure about his strategy, but given our comparative records as professional football managers, I am not really in a position to second guess the guy.

Senderos injured his knee on Saturday, so broken-beaked colossus Sol Campbell is back in the side tonight. The key matchup is again how well Gilberto can contain Riquelme. In the first leg he completely stifled him in one of the best games I have ever seen G19 play: rinse and repeat, please. I think Spaniards Reyes & Fabregas will play great in their home country just as they did in Madrid, and I belive that TH14 is truly inspired to reach the final in his hometown. He has 49 Champions League goals in 100 appearances; here's hoping he hits the half century tonight.

Air Henry Flight 14, awaiting takeoff to Paris

Arsenal will do the business, score a goal, and go through to their first ever Champions League Final.

Monday, April 24, 2006

From the Dept. of Are You Shitting Me?:
Sellin' Out

Been meaning to write this for a couple of weeks, and for some reason I keep forgetting. Actually Brain hipped me to this last summer in an email, and I either forgot or have been trying to subconsciously blot it out ever since.

The Kentucky Derby is the oldest sporting event in the United States, and the one with the most tradition. This year is the 132nd running of the Derby, and it has always gone out of it's way to market/promote/cultivate it's image as a historic southern tradition full of dignity and elegance. When The Masters, another event with a rich tradition, started in 1933, The Derby had already been run annually for 58 years. When you go to Churchill Downs on Derby Day, you can feel the history and tradition dripping all over the place, and you are overcome with the really cool feeling that you are experiencing someting very similar to what your grandfather and great grandfather before him experinced. I have felt this at Fenway park, and at Augusta National, but at the Derby you feel it moreso just because the same race has been run at the same track since 1875.

CD before renovation: Spires towering & dominant

It was one thing when Churchill Downs decided to modernize and do a huge renovation and expansion 2 years ago, resulting in high rise luxury boxes and whatnot that drastically reduced the striking appearance of the famous twin spires, which are original from 1875 and the signature feature of both Churchill Downs and The Kentucky Derby. Traditionalists winced that the imposing spires were now engulfed by high rise boxes on either side, (think lots of big corporate tents at Amen Corner during the Masters, behind the 11th, 12th, and 13th greens), but everyone acknowledged that the renovations were long overdue and made for a much better experience for the high rollers who are Churchill Downs most valued customers.

CD after renovation: not so much

But this is just too damn much. The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands? It's not so much that they decided to sell out and allow a presenting sponsor. I mean the Rose Bowl is presented by AT&T, which is acceptable because it has been done kind of tastefully and AT&T is an old blueblood company which does not go against the whole ethos of the Rose Bowl. But Yum!Brands? Are you shitting me? Was Chuck E. Cheese not available?

The name Yum! Brands on this event makes The Outback Bowl look like Wimbledon. Hell, it wouldn't even be so bad if it was simply Yum Brands, but Yum! Brands? Fucking horrible. In the past Derby corporate tie-ins have been with old school companies that exude a similar tradition to the track/event - Woodford Reserve, Crown Royal, etc. When VISA came on board as part of their sponsorship of the Triple Crown that even seemed to be pushing the envelope a bit for the traditionalists. Now we have the equivalent of the bowl, except if this is what the Rose Bowl was renamed as.

Hey Yum! Brands - I understand that you bought KFC, Pizza Hut & Taco Bell from PepsiCo and that you also own Long John Silvers and A&W. I also understand that you are doing very well as a company, especially in the emerging Chinese economy, but your name is just too damn silly to be taken seriously by anyone, anywhere, let alone Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May. You should be sponsoring NASCAR not the Derby, even if your corporate headquarters is in Louisville. And you, Churchill Downs, what the hell are you thinking? OK, you see a business opportunity to get some corporation to write you a check with eight zeroes before the decimal point. But why the hell didn't you do this with a corporation a little farther towards the other end of the brand image spectrum as Chuck E. Cheese?

Twin Spires with famous sign between

Worst of all, their plan to try to do to the Derby what Tostitos has done to the Fiesta bowl called for an enormous Yum! Brands sign to be placed between/below the twin spires and directly above the famous sign that shows that the Derby has been run here every year since 1875. Thankfully this plan has been called off because so many people have complained, or according to the official spin just becuase they changed their mind at the last minute for no apparent reason.

"Hmmm. A giant Yum! Brands sign here
would really complete the room..."

As horrible as this is, I suppose I should take solace in the fact that in 12 days I will be attending

The 132nd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands

and not the

The 132nd Yum! Brands Kentucky Derby

And yes, unlike Pamela Anderson, I am still going . And yes, I'll drink several juleps, see thousands of beautiful women in their sundresses and hats, play the ponies, and have a blast with my buddies. But still, this is flat-out hideous.

If you are silly enough to give your corporation such a stupid-ass name, you simply should not be allowed anywhere near an event like The Derby.

End rant.

Upon further review...

...that Spurs goal might be more controversial than I originally thought, and their manager Martin Jol is definitely a disingenuous dick.

After seeing several replays of the goal, three things are worth noting. Click here to see also the Lehmann/Davids confrontation, Wenger/Jol confrontation, and Henry's brilliant equaliser.

1) First, after the collision between the two Arsenal players trying to tackle Carrick, Carrick goes over to the touchline, holds the ball, and waits to see if the referee is going to stop play. The referree cannot stop play because no foul has occurred, so it is up to Carrick to either honor the unwritten gentlemen's agreement and put the ball out of play or play on. He plays on and they score the goal.

2) Sky Sports did a great job in their coverage of this to show that Manager Martin Jol, standing by the sideline and very close to where Carrick was waiting, is heard very clearly shouting to Carrick "Play! Play! Play!". Right after Jol says this Carrick passes to Davids who crosses for Keane, who scores. It is pretty clear that Carrick played on because his manager was screaming in his ear to do so. What makes Jol a dick is that after the match when asked about it, he claimed that he didn't see the incident at all, and that he was yelling "play!" to Davids not Carrick, which makes him a lying asshole based on the video/audio evidence available.

Jol explaining and pointing at what he didn't see

3) Immediately after the goal Mats, who of course lost his mind, ran over to Davids, got all up in his grill yelling at him and even pushing him about his apparent unsporting behavior (I love Jens but he should have been yellow carded for this in my opinion). The telling thing is Davids' reaction to the confrontation. He is known far and wide as a 'bulldog' type who never backs down from a confrontation, but that is exactly what he did here. He meekly walked away as Lehmann harrassed him, like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar who knows that he did something wrong. Not the reaction that you would expect from Davids if he didn't feel like he had gotten away with one.

The goal definitely falls into a morally ambiguous area, and I am not saying that it is beyond argument that they goal was unfair. I am saying that it defintiely falls squarely into the gray area between fair play and taking advantage of the rules in an unsporting way. Ultimately Arsenal should have 1)played to the whistle 2)started their strongest team Saturday and again tomorrow, since the next match after that isn't until next Monday, so they should have ridden their best horses in the 2 biggest matches of the season and then let them rest for 6 days.

More on the moral ambiguity of the situation here and here, but Arseblogger says it best:

"What I should probably mention is that although we 'dropped' a point yesterday it's not Robbie Keane's goal that will dictate where we finish. It was miserable away days at West Brom, Everton, Boro, Portsmouth and Blackburn and horrible nights like West Ham at home that made yesterday's three points so vital. So we can rage all we like but at the end of the day we put ourselves in this position. Which is a pain in the arse but that's just the way it is."

Dawgs kicking ass all over the place

Over the weekend:

#1 with a bullet

The University of Georgia GymDogs won their 7th national championship in Women's Gymnastics, and 2nd in a row. This year was particularly impressive, as they went the entire season and postseason undefeated during which they played and defeated every other school ranked in the preseason top 10. A really impressive feat, that. If you really want to dork out you can see Mayor King's meticulous coverage here, here, and here. In addition, freshman Courtney Kupets won two individual national championships in both the balance beam and uneven bars. Actually, make that three - she was declared the All-Around Champion as well. That makes 28 individual national championships to go along with the 7 team titles. And they do something the men's basketball team wishes they could do: put 10,000 asses in Stegman Coliseum seats for their home meets. Oh, and the picture below reminds me that while I was in Grad School for Sports Management, my classmate A.J. had the best job ever: trainer for the GymDogs.

National Champions. And cute, too.

University of Georgia's #1 ranked and defending national champion Men's Golf team won the SEC Championship for the 3rd time in the last six years. The best part is that they beat #3 Florida by a single stroke. Georgia shot a 13-under 827 and were 11-under 269 in the final round. NCAA Regionals wil be May 18-20, and Georgia should advance to the NCAA Championship at Crosswater Golf Club in Sunriver, Oregon May 31-June 2 to defend their title.

Might look like dorks, but they'll empty your wallet on the links

University of Georgia's #1 ranked Men's Tennis team added the SEC Tournament Championship to their regular season SEC title by coming from behind to defeat Ole Miss in the finals. The Men's tennis team is a perfect 25-0 this season and will enter the NCAA Tournament as the top seed.

Smashing balls & taking names

The Gymnastics title is Georgia's 11th national championship since 2000. Although many Georgia fans would trade all 11 for a "national championship" in football, it is still cool that our school continues to excel in so many sports, even if they are of the "olympic sport" variety.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Larry Munson: Pimp My iPod

I was going to share this with Doug, but I figured that there might be a few other UGA gadget dorks technologically-savvy fans out there, so I present to you:

Pimp My iPod, Larry Munson Style

1. Go to the Larry Munson website
2. Click on "Audio Vault" on the left side of the page
3. For whatever Munson call(s) you want, just right click on the MP3 file and select "save target as...". Save it to a desired location on your PC
4. Once you have all you need...
5. Open iTunes and import the MP3s like you would any others (File, Add file to Library, then select the MP3s)
6. Create a new Group called "Munson" or "Georgia" and then label the 'songs' accordingly

"You've been pimped. Loren - whathaveyagot?"

When I did this last fall, I also went to the Redcoat Marching Band page on and downloaded all of those songs by right clicking and selecting "save target as...". Now it looks like they have modified the page so that you can no longer do this - they are no longer MP3s but WMAs that open & play in a Flash window and cannot seem to be downloaded. Perhaps there is someone out there savvy enough to figure out how to get these down to your PC, or you could bribe your Tech buddy with $20.00 a pretty girl's phone number, and he could tell you.

"Well, Larry, it looks like Doug's iPod is now hella tricked-out"

Anyhow, I created a Genre called "Georgia" with 2 artists: "Munson" and "Redcoat Band". Living in SF and no longer able to listen to the tailgate show on internet radio because it is no longer free (you have to join on Georgiadogs, and WSB blacks it out - but they do play some lovely dead air in its place), putting this "Georgia" Genre on shuffle play on Saturday morning gets me appropriately amped up for the game. And anytime Munson comes on when shuffling, it will put a spring in your step as well. Lost your job? Flat tire? Drink thrown in your face? Just fire up "Lindsay Scott!" or "Look at the Sugar falling from the sky!" and I guarantee that your frown will be turned upside-down or double your money back ($0.00 x 2 = $0.00; my Accounts Payable dept. loves that).

There are probably similar sites for other schools to pimp out their iPods in similar fashion, but to be perfectly frank I don't feel like doing the research to find out where such sites are. If you know of any feel free to share said sites in the comments.

Arsenal Forced To Kiss Little Sister; Tottenham Extend Streaks

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham (Henry, 84)

Controversy, excitement, the two managers yelling at each other nose to nose like Earl Weaver and a home plate umpire, and a red card - everything you would expect from such a rivalry game. Oh, and Tottenham continued their impressive streaks:

Have not won in their last 12 13 matches at Highbury.

Have not beaten Arsenal in the last 15 16 North London Derbies.

So the penultimate match at Highbury saw the two teams share the points as they say. Wenger rested his key midfielder Fabregas as well as his best player Henry to try to keep them fresh for their massive Champions League match on Tuesday. His thinking was let's try to win it without these two, but if it is still tied after an hour then I'll bring them on and try to win it in the last half hour (and then they will only have played 30 minutes which will still bode well for Tuesday). And that is basically how it went.

I hope your calculations are correct, Professor.

Tottenham had the better of it for the first hour, and just as Henry was waiting to come on they scored a 'controversial' opening goal. 'Controversial' because in the buildup to their goal 2 Arsenal players were down injured, and traditional sportsmanship says that when an opposing player is down hurt, you kick the ball out of play, then after the player is attended to, the other team gives possession of the ball back to you. This did not happen, and the result was a Tottenham goal. To be fair to Spurs, I don't think thier transgression was too egregious. For one, the two Arsenal players ran into each other; they were not injured because of a challenge by a Tottenham player. Also, the time between the players going down injured and the goal was about 10 seconds - it wasn't like they played on for a minute, and thirdly, the injured players were behind the play, so it wasn't visually obvious to the attacking Spurs players that they were offside. At least leprechaun Robbie Keane didn't celebrate his goal with his stupid-ass
"Rolling Wanker Thunder" goal celebration - first time I remember that happening.

Shit's about to change up in here, son.

So 0-1 down as Henry & Fabregas came on, and the match changed immediately. The last 30 minutes were all Arsenal; one way traffic for sure. And of course Henry provided a moment of magic scoring a beautiful equalizer with only six minutes remaining. Arsenal had a few more chances, and Edgar Davids was sent off for his 7th 2nd bad challenge (yellow card + yellow card = red card), but even with a man advantage Arsenal just couldn't find the winning goal.

Titi beats Robinson, pulls Arsenal level,
and rescues chances of finishing 4th

Is there anything he can't do?

So where does that leave things you ask?

Tottenham: 36 played, 62 points
Arsenal: 35 played, 58 points

Remaining fixtures:

Tottenham: vs. Bolton, at West Ham
Arsenal: at Sunderland, at Manchester City, vs. Wigan

The long & the short of it is this: if Spurs win their 2 remaining matches then they cannot be beaten for 4th. If they "drop points" then Arsenal still have a great chance to beat them. Arsenal's game in hand is away to Sunderland, the worst team in the history of the Premiership, so assuming the full 3 points that would leave a 1 point gap. Were Spurs to drop points then Arsenal could take 4th by winning their remaining 2 games against good but not great teams.

Of course there is always the ultimate Nelson scenario where Spurs finish 4th but are replaced in next year's Champions League by Arsenal should The Gunners win this year's Champions League.

So there it is.

Oh, and speaking of Nelson: "Ha Ha!"

Happy Saturday.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tottenham: The Georgia Tech of The Premiership

Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur.
Saturday 21 April.
4.30 a.m. PST. Fox Soccer Channel.

As a Georgia football fan, for many years I have explained our hatred healthy disklike for our 4 major rivals thusly: Losing to Florida, Auburn, or Tennessee is like losing to your similar aged or older brother - you hate it but you accept that they are good enough that there is not any shame in losing to them. Losing to Georgia Tech is like losing to your little sister - there's just no way it should happen, and when it does it is just plain embarrassing. Arsenal is very similar: Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool = big brother. Tottenham = little sister. Like GT to UGA, Tottenham likes to think that their rivalry with Arsenal is one of equals, and they have a bit of the same inferiority/resentment complex that exits on North Avenue.

She (and game officials) kicked me in the nuts in
1998 and 1999; in 2000 she didn't need any help

Arsenal-Tottenham is known as the North London Derby because both teams are situated only 4 miles apart in northeast London. In this respect the rivalry is huge, simply because of geography, in the same way that UNC-Duke is huge, because Chapel Hill & Durham are 8 miles apart. In most other aspects the SAT football analogy would be:

Arsenal : Tottenham :: Georgia : Georgia Tech

Since the arrival of Arsene Wenger at in 1997, Arsenal have never finished lower than 2nd in the Premiership (out of 20 teams), while winning the title in 1998, 2002, and 2004, when the "invincibles" went through the entire 38 match season without losing, something that no English football team in any division had ever done. Add to that FA Cup wins in 1998, 2002, 2003, and 2005, and you are talking about one of the 2 best teams of the last decade. Tottenham, nicknamed Spurs (short for Hotspur), or for the hardcore, Sp*rs - not so much. They have been underachieving for years even though financially they are in the same league as Arsenal. In fact, during the Wenger era at Arsenal, Tottenham have spent more money on players but have little to show for it. They have NEVER finished in the top 6 of the Premiership, which began in 1993, and have done little else, except for winning the League Cup once, which is a different Cup competition from the FA Cup that is so meaningless that the big clubs (Arsenal, ManUtd, Liverpool, Chelsea) don't even play their best players in but rather kids to give them some experience. As one might think, Arsenal have dominated Tottenham in the last 10 years in the same way that UGA has owned Ga. Tech (when you throw out the 3 years that Tech beat cheated, which the Catholic Church NCAA now says never happened).

Always illegitimate, ultimately annulled.

Well, this year is a little different. Arsenal have been rebuilding with a new team full of very young players, so their league performances have been inconsistent and they currently find themselves in 5th place in the league. Tottenham on the other hand are enjoying their best season in many, many moons and sit 4th. Of course Arsenal fans are laughing that Spurs fans are so excited about the prospect of maybe finishing 4th for the first time in 15 years while Arsenal have been contesting for and winning titles left and right. Kind of like how Arsenal fans laughed in 2001 when Tottenham's best player Sol Campbell left Tottenham to join Arsenal because he knew he would have a better chance to win trophies at Highbury. The next season Arsenal won "the double" (both Premiership & FA Cup) while Spurs continued to suck. The best part was he left on a free transfer, so Spurs not only lost their best player to their biggest rival, but they were not compensated at all financially for it either.

Yes, Sol, you did.

Or how in 2001 in Arsenal +Sol Campbell's 1st match at White Heart Lane some Spurs supporters attacked the Arsenal bus throwing rocks, breaking windows and the like, only to find out afterwards that when Arsenal play away to Tottenham, Spurs lend Arsenal their team bus, so they actually damaged their own team's bus. Or how in 2004 Arsenal capped their unbeaten season by clinching the premiership title in White Hart Lane, Tottenham's very own stadium - the ultimate humulation.

Taunting: A+ Spelling: C-

Tomorrow is not only the final North London Derby ever at 93 year old Highbury, but it is the most important one in a long, long time and here is why: 4th place in the Premiership qualifies for next year's Champions League, which means 1) prestige 2) millions of pounds sterling from TV rights (25 million by some estimates). Unlike the squirrel from the other night, Spurs have never played in a Champions League match because they don't hand those out for finishing 12th in the league. So 4th is a really big deal for them. Likewise for Arsenal, as they have never failed to qualify for the Champions League since 1998, and failing to qualify this year may very well lead to the departure of their best player, and currently best striker in the world, Thierry Henry.

TH14 celebrates his wonder goal on 2001
in front of the Tottenham supporters

Tottenham: 35 games played, 61 points
Arsenal: 34 games played, 57 points

As it stands today, Arsenal are in 5th, 4 points behind Spurs who are in 4th. Additionally, Arsenal gave a "game in hand", meaning they have four remaining games to Spurs three. So tomorrow's match is huge. If Arsenal win and take 3 points, they will be only 1 point behind but with the game in hand they will control their destiny: Two wins and a draw in their final three matches and Spurs cannot catch them even if they win out after tomorrow.

So there it is. Tomorrow's match is very, very large.

Oh, here's the best bit. Arsenal are only 90 minutes away from reaching the Champions League Final of this year's competition. The rules state that the Champion automatically qualifies for the following year's competition. If the champion does not finish high enough in their league to qualify, then they take the place of the last qualifier in the league. This means that a supreme Nelson from The Simpsons scenario exists: that Tottenham finish 4th and get all excited about qualifying for the Champions League for the first time at their biggest rival's expense, only for Arsenal to win the Champions League this year and knock them out of the competition altogether.

"Ha ha!"

I'd rather not deal with the stress of such a situaton, because if they do make it to the Champions League Final then that will be the biggest match in the history of the club so there will be plenty of pressure & anxiousness already, thank you. I would much rather that the lads do the business tomorrow, get the three points, and remind little sister Spurs who their big brother is.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Adi Dassler Responds In Kind

Last week I hipped you to Nike's outstanding ad campaign leading up to this summer's World Cup, Joga Bonito (by the way, there are 2 new ads up on the nikefootball site that are both great - one featuring Brasil in the locker room and one called "the gift of skill").

Well, Adidas are no slouches either. They had the coolest ad for Euro 2004 by a mile, featuring their stars Trezeguet, Zidane, Vieira, Cole, Kahn, Beckham, Raul, and more all travelling to Portugal (site of 2004) on their vespas.

"The Road To Lisbon" (click to play)

Adidas were rewarded when one of "their" teams, Greece, shocked the world and won the 2004 European Championships as a 150-1 shot, beating "Nike teams" Czech Republic in the semifinals and hosts Portugal (for the 2nd time) in the final.

Made Tasso, George, and the owners
of Athens Pizza in Decatur proud as hell

Now Adidas are back with a campaign called "+10", meaning you +10 others make a football team of 11. So far it looks like the ad campaign is two-pronged. One one hand, they have a series of ads where one of their stars is given 2-3 hours to recruit amateur players from their home country to play a match against another star from a rival country who has done the same. For example, Kaka recruits a bunch of Brasilians (Kaka +10) and Riquelme recruits a bunch of Argentines (Riquelme +10) to play each other. There are currently 7 sets of these ads: for each "rivalry" there are 2 ads - one showing the stars recruiting people on the streets and another showing their match. Pretty cool. These ads can be found here (flash required).

The 2nd prong is called The Impossible team, or Jose+10. It features 2 kids who choose teams for a pickup game in the street featuring all of the Adidas stars, and is cool as hell. Click on the pics below to view part 1 & 2.

Part 1: See Zidane & Platini
on the same team (click to play)

Part 2: the match (click to play)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised...

...but it will be online.

I couple of years ago I fiddled around with the Firefox web browser but didn't find it to be all that grand compared to Internet Explorer. Since then a whole bunch of people have been telling me that it is the greatest, that it is infinitely superior to IE, that I really need to install it and run it, etc, etc. For whatever reason (laziness or apathy, pick one) I never did it. Until today. "Why today?" you say. Why else? Because a pretty girl asked me to, of course.

Official Web Browser of Che, Fidel, Chavez,
Bolsheviks, and many more.

I have to say, the latest version of Firefox is all that it proponents say that it is. Way, way, way better than Internet Explorer. The tabbed browsing feature alone makes it worth taking 3 minutes to download and install it. Add to this the fact that you are way less likely to get hit with a virus/spyware from browsing with it, and you are on your way.

So I'm on board - now I am the guy telling you how much better your life will be by shaking your fist at Bill Gates and joining the web browsing revolution.

Che: "Dude, Fidel, you HAVE to try Firefox.
It is so much better for the people than IE6"

Download & Install Firefox here. Do it now.

Viva La Revolucion!

90 Minutes from Paris

Arsenal 1-0 Villarreal (Toure 41')

Arsenal came out and applied lots of pressure from the start; the first fifteen minutes they were definitely "in the mood". Then the match was interrupted twice by a squirrel, obviously planted there by a Tottenham supporter trying to throw Arsenal off before the big North London Derby on Saturday that will go a long way in deciding the crucial 4th place spot in the Premiership. Sorry, Spurs, but the joke's on you.

Arsene Wenger on squirrel's Arsenal debut:
"Fast and a good dribbler"

The match settled down a bit after that, but Arsenal defintely had the better of it. Henry scored but is was waved off for a questionable offsides decision. Finally on 41 minutes the rock of the defense Kolo Toure scored after a great Henry move & cross and Arsenal were 1-nil to the good.

Kolo: "Je suis de Cote D'Ivoire; je parle Francais.
Allons-Y au Paris!"

The second half was kind of like the 2nd half of yesterday's Milan-Barca match. That is, one-way traffic. Arsenal dominated, created several excellent chances but couldn't get a 2nd goal. This easily could have been 3 or 4 to nil - if they go out next week they will look back and kick themselves that they didn't capitalize on their many chances. Villarreal tried to slow the game down by time wasting at every possible opportunity, so much so that the referee added 5 minutes of stoppage time. For me the MOTM (man of the match) was Gilberto, who completely shut down Villarreal's best player, Riquelme, and prevented him from creating much of anything. Gilberto bossed the midfield just like Vieira used to; he really has turned it around and played well this spring after being total shite through the first half of the season.

Gilberto to Rilqueme: "You are my bitch!"

So The Arsenal are 90 minutes from the Champions League Final in Paris on May 17th. They take their 1-0 lead to The Madrigal next week, where a draw or even a one goal loss 0f 1-2 or greater will see them through. They are in a great position, but like Barca, they have miles to go before they sleep.

Return legs:

Villarreal-Arsenal. Tuesday April 25, 11.45 a.m. PST. ESPN2
Barcelona-AC Milan. Wednesday April 26, 11.45 a.m. PST. ESPN2