Saturday, June 30, 2007

Evo Morales Convinces Sepp Blatter To Go Peter Tosh on Getting High in La Paz, Bolivia

As in, "Legalize it, don't criticize it."

Peter Tosh celebrates for all of Bolivia

On Wednesday FIFA modified their altitude ban, arbitrarily moving the cutoff from 2,500 meters to 3,000 meters.

On Thursday, Bolivian president Evo Morales met with FIFA president Sepp Blatter for 45 minutes in an effort to get him to rescind the ban entirely.

On Friday, Blatter excluded La Paz, Bolivia {elevation 3,600 meters and where Bolivia play all of their home matches} from the ban.

Hurrah! Major props to Bolivian president and footy fanatic Evo Morales for continuing to fight the good fight until the right thing was done.

Bolivia can continue to playing in La Paz like Evo does all the time
{hell yeah you get to wear the #10 when you are president}.

Finally this silly arbitrary and capricious ban is essentially dead. The interesting thing is that FIFA didn't rescind the ban entirely but instead gave La Paz an exception, which doesn't really make sense. I was wondering who else is still affected by the ban, but none of the print reports so far have mentioned that. On Friday night's Fox Sports World Report, however, they reported that now the only place still affected by the band is Tibet. I encourage them to go Beastie Boys and fight for their rights as well. Hmmm, "Free Tibet" sounds like a catchy slogan...

Uncle Ron Not Back In His Rightful Place,
But Back In The Spotlight

Last year ABC/ESPN lost their minds and fucked up a college football institution: Ron Franklin calling the ESPN Saturnight night primetime feature college football game of the week, which he had done, since, forever. Uncle Ron was banished to ESPN2 mid afternoon matchups which ranged from shitty to not bad.

This week ESPN announced it's latest announcer merry go round, and it looks like Uncle Ron is moving over to ABC to call games. Initially I was hoping this meant that he would be doing the featured 8 p.m. EST national telecasts, but the article clearly states the Herbstreit will join Musburger for these matchups. By deduction this likely means that Uncle Ron will be assigned each week to one of the regionally featured 3.30 p.m. EST ABC games. Certainly a step up from where he was last year, but still not where he needs to be: back on ESPN for the featured night game, his charming without being redneck voice once again perfectly representing big time football in the South.

Not rightfully returned to his throne,
but given rule over a better fiefdom.

A tip of the cap to Orson Swindle, who as always, brings the clever, witty, and hilarious whenever his virtual pen meets virtual paper.

I wonder if this means that the Wikkans are going to remove my outrage at last year's switcheroo from Uncle Ron's wiki page now...

Our Cups Runneth Over.
We Shall Not Want For International Footy

FIFA Under 20 World Cup Canada 2007

Last week the CONCACAF Gold Cup ended and the CONMEBOL Copa America began. Today begins the FIFA Under 20 World Cup, formerly known as the World Youth Championship. It is exactly the same as the World Cup except that all players must be born after January 1, 1987. This tournament showcases the best young talent in the world, and often identifies the next big thing, both individual and team-wise. For example, everyone knows about "the golden generation" of Portugal, but those who paid attnention to this tournament in 1989 and 1991 knew about their greatness even earlier: they won both tournaments and then went on to greatness at the senior level.

Canada is proudly hosting, and this is the most prestigious tournament they have ever held. As such, Scottish born and longtime Canadian resident Bobbeh McMahon is all over this tournament, with detailed group previews and analysis.

Unfortunately the 2 best 19 year old footballers on the planet are not participating: Lionel Messi is paying with the senior Argentina team in the Copa America, and Spain's Cesc Fabregas, now a regular on the senior international team, is not "stepping back down" to the youth level. He is resting to gear up for Spain's Euro2008 qualifying and Arsenal's upcoming season.

That being said, there is still a great deal of talent to be seen; personally I am hoping to check out Mexico's striker Carlos Vela, because he is an Arsenal player. He led Mexico to the Under 17 World Championship in 2005 and was the tournaments leading scorer as well. Here is Soccernet's list of players to watch as well as Bobbeh's list of stars from 2005's Under 17 World Cup that are returning and playing in this competition.

Incredibly, Argentina have won this competition 4 of the last 6 times it was played. Having never seen 90% of these dudes play, I am not in a position to offer a good prediction on a winner, I'm just hoping to check out some of these guys who in 2-3 years time will emerge on the world soccer scene as stars.

TV coverage is kind of all over the place, with Galavision, Fox Sports Espanol, and GolTV all showing some matches. I believe the USA matches are being shown on ESPNU as well. This is always a good place to start looking for what is on when.


They are off to a flying start, with Poland shocking 4 time champion Brasil 1-0 despite playing the last 63 miutes with only 10 men.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Feel Good Friday: Junior Gong Edition

Shit, I'm glad it's Feel Good Friday; makes it easier to move on and turn my morning frown upside down.

Wasn't sure what to go with today, but then iTunes shuffle sorted it out for me: Damian Marley aka Junior Gong, as in son of Bob Marley aka Tuff Gong.

We'll start nice and mellow- here's "Me Name Junior Gong" from his before-I-blew-up-last-year previous CD, Halfway Tree:

Here's a great upbeat feel good tune with a bitching horn solo, "All Night":

Here's a song in thanks and praise of women that you can throw in the face of the next person who says that ALL hip hop music is disrespectful towards women called "Beautiful":

And finally, y'all know this shit, but instead of the regular vid I'll give you the footy compilation version:

If Jamaica don't already play "Welcome To Jamrock"
when taking
the field for all home international matches,
then they need to start, pronto.

Don't know about y'all, but I feel much better now. Happy Friday and have a great weekend.

Copa America Update: US Pwn3d By Argentina After 60 Minutes of NKOTB

I for one was expecting an ass-whipping from the get go, so it was pretty wild when the US went up 1-0 in the first 10 minutes. Argentina quickly equalized through Crespo, who I didn't realize was Crespo until after he scored thanks to his buzzcut- granted I was watching in a bar, but I was wondering who their new striker was- dude looks totally different without his locks. After that the US did a good job of Hangin' Tough for the first hour of the match before getting destroyed in the final 30 minutes and losing 4-1.

Argentina seemed to transform from OK to really good when Aimar came on for Cambiasso, so I'm not sure about the whole Veron-Cambiasso central midfield experiment from here on out, but we shall see. Part of it was that and surely part of it was fatigue, as apparently it was seriously hot and humid down there and the US were spending alot of energy trying to shut down Argentina.

By the by, here is a great article about the state of footy in Argentina.

In the early match Paraguay bitchslapped Colombia 5-0 with 2 late goals after Colombia basically gave up. Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz scored the first three with a beautiful natural hat trick, which in footy means he scored a goal with ihs left foot, one with his right foot, and one with his head.

Today is a rest day; round two of group stage matches starts tomorrow, and the US play again on Monday evening.

Current Standings
GROUP A        GP  W   L   D  Pts  GF  GA  G/Dif
Peru 1 1 0 0 3 3 0 +3
Bolivia 1 0 0 1 1 2 2 E
Venezuela 1 0 0 1 1 2 2 E
Uruguay 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 -3

GROUP B        GP  W   L   D  Pts  GF  GA  G/Dif
Mexico 1 1 0 0 3 0 0 +2
Chile 1 1 0 0 3 0 0 +1
Ecuador 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 -1
Brazil 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 -2

Paraguay 1 1 0 0 3 5 0 +5
Argentina 1 1 0 0 3 4 1 +3
United States 1 0 1 0 0 1 4 -3
Colombia 1 0 1 0 0 0 5 -5

A Sad Day Indeed

I have no idea exactly when this happened, but it came to my attention today that Guthrie’s is no longer in Athens, GA: either location, Baxter or East Athens/Cedar Shoals.

I almost cried.

That place was a fucking institution, how could it have perished? Even stranger, how can it survive as a company with franchises in 4 states but close it’s doors in A-Town?

I am personally very sad that whole new generations of University Of Georgia students will not know the wonder of 5000 calorie GutBoxes as a part of their UGA experience. I think my first 2 years in Russell & Creswell I probably spent as much time sitting in the booths at Guthrie's on Baxter as I did in the Library.

Damn that shit was good.

They even had the crushed/shaved ice that us ice crunchers love so much, and made sweet tea taste even better than with regular ice.

This is even worse than not having Chick-Fil-A readily available on a daily basis.

I'm off to find some The Cure to listen to to appropriately channel my melancholy.

"Remembering you, how you used to be,
so proud you were angels, so much more than everything..."

That is all.


My sister was kind enough to remind me that it's even worse than I originally thought: there are still not 1, but three Guthrie's in the center of hell Auburn, Alabama. That's almost as bad as losing to them in football. Almost.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

FIFA Altitude Ban Modified, But Not Far Enough

So on Wednesday FIFA eased back a bit on their ban of international matches played at altitude. Initially the cutoff was 2,500 meters {8,200 feet}, but after massive protests they have come back and changed it to 3,000 meters {9,840 feet}.

My take on this is that FIFA are attempting the old divide and conquer. Follow me...

1) This whole thing basically started because the most powerful CONMEBOL nation, Brasil, no longer wants to have to play at high altitude away to Bolivia, probably the smallest/least powerful CONMEBOL nation.

2) Allegedly Argentina joins Brasil and this becomes a matter of the stronger nations trying to further marginalize the weaker nations by eliminating their home field advantage because it is a nuisance to them, and that the altitude nations perform much, much better at home than on the road.

3) The ban comes out at an arbitrary 2,500 meters, which eliminates significant home field advantages for Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, relatively weak footy nations, but magically is just high enough to allow Mexico, one of the 2 strongest CONCACAF nations, to continue to have their massive, massive home field advantage at Azteca stadium with it's horribly polluted air and altitude of 2,250 meters.

4) The smaller, less powerful nations ban together in protest and basically vow to fight for one another in solidarity.

5) On Wednesday FIFA arbitrarily changes the altitude cutoff from 2,500 meters to 3,000 meters. Guess what this accomplishes? Now matches at Quito, Ecuador {2,850 meters} and Bogota, Colombia {2,640 meters} are suddenly legal, leaving Bolivia all alone {Peru play in Lima and were openly talking about going up to Cuzco at 3,200 meters for WC qualifiers but obviously will just continue to play in Lima now that all the controversy has kicked off}.

6) Seems kind of obvious to me that FIFA are trying to divide and conquer the protesting group of 4 by basically allowing 2 back in and hoping that they basically say "Sorry, Bolivia, love ya, but we're good to go. Good luck, dudes, we're out. Peace." This will effectively accomplish what Brasil set out to do in the first place, which is not have to go up to 11,800 feet to play World Cup qualifiers in La Paz, Bolivia.

The question is, will Colombia and Ecuador do that, or will they still back Bolivia's fight on general principle? It will be interesting to see. Either way, Bolivian president Evo Morales seems confident that he can get Blatter to overturn the ban altogether. And like any good politician, he is using this issue to garner support among his people. I hope that happens because I think that it is a ridiculous, arbitrary and capricious ban and should not be allowed to stand on general principle.

So to sum up, good news but not great news. Hopefully this thing will be tossed out soon enough.


FIFA President and general scoundrel Sepp Blatter says that he is reconsidering the entire ban after meeting with Bolivian President Evo Morales for 40 minutes yesterday. Does Evo have compromising pictures of Sepp?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Copa America Opening Round Thoughts

Wow. Basically all 4 matches have been surprises of various levels, and the footy has been pretty good thusfar. Entertaining, too, with 14 goals scored in the first 4 matches for an average of 3.5 goals per match.

Yesterday things licked off in Grupo A with Peru shocking favored Uruguay 3-0. Uruguay are many people's pick as most likely to challenge the top two of Argentina & Brasil, but mostly crappy for the last several years Peru up and shocked them.

Uruguay 0-3 Peru highlights.

The nightcap was entertaining before a ball was even kicked, as hosts Venezuela played Bolivia. Venezuela are hosting Copa America for the first time in the 91 year history of the competition, and Hugo Chavez spent about 1 billion US Dollars on 2 new stadiums, stadium renovations, and infrastructure upgrades, and sees this as a chance to showcase his country to his continent and the world. Always one to grab the spotlight, he successfully turned the pregame of this match into a freaking circus. After the teams came out and lined up, he came out on the field in a Venezuela warm up suit and shook hands with each and every player in the middle of the field. Why do this in the locker room beforehand when you can turn the match into a spectacle and make it all about you? I was already chuckling at the great showman, but he hadn't even gotten started yet. He then went over to the referees, shook each one of their hands, chatted and joked with them. I'm thinking, OK, can we please start the match now? The answer was no. He brought out none other than Diego Armando Maradona to midfield, and started having a little kickabout with him, and Bolivian President Evo Morales came out to join in the festivities. It was an awesome circus- never seen anything quite like it, not even in a World Cup. Once we were all well aware that this was all about Hugo, the field was finally cleared and the match was finally allowed to begin, and after the prematch sideshow the match was almost anticlimactic.

The match? Oh, right. Venezuela were expected to win over little Bolivia, who are strong at home playing at their massive elevation but pretty terrible when they come down from upon high, and they went up 1-0 as expected. But Bolivia equalized and it was 1-1 at half. As the 2nd half dragged on you got the feeling that Chavez was fidgeting in his seat and would be embarrassed by only a draw. Finally Venezuela scored to go up 2-1, and it looked like that is how it would end up. But Bolivia had other plans, and they equalized in the last 5 minutes and it finished 2-2: a very good result for Bolivia and surely a disappointment for Venezuela and especially Hugo.

Venezuela 2-2 Bolivia highlights.

Tonight Ecuador played Chile in the opening match. Ecuador made it to the knockout phase of last summer's World Cup {and gave Engerland all they wanted as well before losing 1-0} and Chile have been pretty crap in recent times, so when Ecuador took a 2-1 lead into the final 10 minutes all was going to form. But then Chile scored to make it 2-2, and then got a close to the final whistle winner on a stunning free kick to stun Ecuador 3-2. Good stuff.

Chile 3-2 Ecuador highlights

The biggest surprise of all, however, came in the marquee nightcap matchup pitting Brasil against Mexico. Brasil are 2nd favorites, and even without Ronaldinho and Kaka they have Robinho, Diego, Alex, and Dani Alves, all successful European based players. Mexico are fresh off a Gold Cup run all the way to the final and have played 6 matches in the last 3 weeks. Unlike the US, they sent basically the same team to compete in the Copa, so not only is Brasil better than them on paper, but they come in far from fresh.

Well no one told Mexico that, and Brasil did them an addition favor by doing what they occasionally do in international tournaments: think "shit, we're Brasil, all we have to do is show up in order to win."

Oops. Brasil sleptwalked {sleepwalked?} through a first half, and although they were unfortunate to have a would-be opening goal ruled out wrongly for offsides, they were outplayed by El Tri. Mexico's first goal was great, with all the focus on Castillo's great moves and finish, but the pass to him was absolutely perfect and the goal could not have happened at all without it. 1-0 to Mexico after 25 minutes. 5 minutes later it was 2-0, thanks to Brasilian goalkeeper Doni completely losing his mind on a pretty good Morales free kick and deciding that it would be a better idea to freeze then stand and watch the ball go into the net when he most likely could have saved it had he just, ummm, dived and knocked it away. Bizarre, but no different than the poor play from Brasil, who repeatedly gave the ball away with poor passing and overall imprecise play.

The second half Brasil had much better scoring opportunities, but man of the match Mexican goalkeeper Ochoa was in the zone and made several great saves. Although Brasil did better, they still were extremely careless with the ball and gave it away another dozen or so times just with terrible passing when under no pressure, and Robinho and Wagner Love tried too may times to dribble through the entire Mexican defense and do it all themselves instead of passing the ball.

Oh, speaking of Wanger Love: I have seen him play 5 times this year {2 Arsenal-CSKA Moscow CL matches, Brasil-Argentina & Brasil-England friendlies, and tonight} and I must say I am not impressed; he just doesn't look good enough to me to lead a Brasilian striker line to me. But forget that, the coolest thing is they way that the Univision play by play guy says his name. Every single time he mentions Wanger Love, he says his full name: his first name he says normally, but his last name he says in the voice of Leon Phelps aka The Ladies Man. "blah blah bla blah blah Wagner Looooveee." It is epic, and he did it 100 times tonight if he did it once. Check it out if you can. Yet another reason why watching footy on Univision is better than anywhere else.

Mexico 2-0 Brasil highlights.

So Brasil broke the cardinal rule of international tournaments: do not lose your first match. The fact that 2 of the 3 3rd place teams advance here makes it not so bad for them, but they certainly start off in a hole and will need a result in their final two matches. At a minimum they will need to play a whole hell of a lot better than they did tonight.

Tomorrow's Group C opener sees Paraguay against Colombia, and then the interesting match comes in the nightcap, when heavy favorites Argentina play a seriously understrength USA squad. Especially after Brasil's weak opening, Argentina will be looking to come out and make a statement, and I just cannot see this US team hanging anywhere near them. It could get ugly, and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see a 4-0 or 5-0 win for Argentina, but as Mexico proved tonight, you never know.

Your current standings:

 GROUP A        GP  W   L   D  Pts  GF  GA  G/Dif
Peru 1 1 0 0 3 3 0 +3
Bolivia 1 0 0 1 1 2 2 E
Venezuela 1 0 0 1 1 2 2 E
Uruguay 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 -3

 GROUP B        GP  W   L   D  Pts  GF  GA  G/Dif
Mexico 1 1 0 0 3 0 0 +2
Chile 1 1 0 0 3 0 0 +1
Ecuador 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 -1
Brazil 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 -2

Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Colombia 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Paraguay 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
United States 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Arsenal Joga Bonito Wednesday: Who Else?

A final tribute to Monsieur Va Va Voom himself, TH14.

First off, a great 2 part piece by Reebok on Henry the man, in his own words.

As normally crappy Reebok commercials go, these are pretty great.
Titi has a nice jumpshot, too.

Perhaps the best "my life" since Mary J's 2nd album

Most Henry compilations feature goals, goals, and goals, but dude has some incredible ball skills as well. Like Ronaldinho, sometimes the most amazing thing to watch with Titi is not his goals but simply when he has the ball and 2,3,4 and sometimes even more defenders cannot get it from him. Remember that in 2002-2003, he did something unprecedented: he lead the league with 24 goals and also led the league with 23 assists, which is just unfathomable. By the by, that is the all time Premiership assists record and will probably be so for a while, and I seriously doubt if the goals/assists double will ever be accomplished again. This video showcases his skills moreso than just his goalscoring ability.

Last but not least, this video featuring some dude doing a Th14 homage remix to 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P", which is truly International Bad Line: it is so bad that is absolutely rules.

"He'll take you on, he'll take the piss, and leave you on your ass,
he is the best, the #1, you know he's fucking class..."

Encore: merci beaucoup Titi, et bonne journee a toi.

...And Another Begins.

The 2007 Copa America began yesterday, and for the first time in a while it is worth following, as most every team is really trying to win it. In the past few competitions, several teams sent B teams to Copa America because it took place during World Cup qualifying. World Cup 2010 qualifying for South America starts at the end of this year, so the teams see it as a great opportunity to get ready and all are at full strength or close to it.

The two big boys of South American soccer are again favorites, with Argentina favored over Brasil because all of their stars are in their team while Kaka and Ronaldinho have asked to be left out so that they can get a few weeks of rest after playing 2 years nonstop; Ronaldo & Roberto Carlos are no longer preferred by coach Dunga, and Adriano has basically partied himself out of favor with Brasil in addition to Inter Milan.

To make a 12 team tournament, CONMEBOL invite 2 guest teams, and this time around the guests are the USA and Mexico. The US prioritized their own confederation's Gold Cup and are sending basically a B team and hoping for the best. Mexico are sending their first team and hoping to overcome playing all of those Gold Cup matches it he last 3 weeks and show that they can hang with the big boys of CONMEBOL.

Aside- personally, I would prefer that they don't have guest teams in a 12 team tournament and just had their 10 nations in a tournament. Instead of 3 groups of 4 playing to determine 8 quarterfinalists, I would have 2 groups of 5 with the top 2 in each group advancing to a knockout stage starting with the semifinals. As it happens I am not the president of CONMEBOL, so 3 groups of 4 playing to determine 8 quarterfinalists it is.

The most interesting aspect of Copa America is that once the knockout stage begins, if a match ends tied after regulation, there is no extra time. Instead they will go straight to penalties.

Anyhow, here are the three groups.

Group A

Group B

Group C

The top 2 from each group advance to the quarterfinals, as well as the top 2 3rd place teams.

Every match will be shown live on Univision or Telefutura.

Should be some really good footy. Enjoy.

One Cup Ends...

So the US beat Mexico 2-1 on Sunday to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the 2nd time in a row. I only got to see the first 10 and final ten minutes of the match, as I had another engagement, namely playing with FC Red Stripes in our 0-2 quarterfinal loss in the spring season playoffs.

Gold Cup Final Highlights

By all accounts the match was a cracker, and a great spectacle for a cup final. The US did do well to come back from 0-1 down in a home "road" environment, as the sell out crowd at Soldier Field was strongly pro-Mexico.

I will say that the winning goal by Benny what's his name is the best goal I have seen by a US player, well, ever. So congrats to the US, they have shown that they are the best team in CONCACAF. They missed a ton of great goalscoring chances and still won the tournament, albeit with an assist from an extremely bad call that jobbed Canada out of a shot at overtime in the semifinals.

Bobbeh made an interesting point on Monday night. In the last 10-15 years, the US have built a team that can beat Mexico and the rest of CONCACAF. The question is, can they now compete and succeed against the rest of the world, specifically Europe and South America?

We probably won't find out at the upcoming Copa America, as many of the top US stars are sitting out and basically a B team is going down to Venezuela.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Arsenal Joga Bonito Wednesday Saturday:
Thierry Henry, Arsenal: 1999-2007

The man, the myth, the legend.

A thousand thank yous for all the wonderful memories, Thierry.
Bonne Journee.

Fait Accompli: Thierry Est Alle A Barcelone

It is official. Arsenal Football Club have sold Thierry Henry to FC Barcelona for 16 million pounds, and he has signed a four year contract with the Catalan giants.

2006 Champions League semifinal away to Villarreal, a Barca fan
ran on the pitch and did this. Today that fan must be on cloud 10.

A million thoughts that I will try to organize and write down soon.

In the meantime, amidst a whole bunch of crazy reaction is a wonderfully reasoned analysis by Arseblogger.

Also, Henry gave a final official interview to the club which is typically frank, and he explains to the fans his reasons for leaving. The selling of Vieira was the first initial blow, but the whole David Dein saga was the nail in the coffin {it would take me a long ass time to explain this, I'll try to summarize or find a good overview link soon}.

Personally, I'm not nearly as gutted as when PV4 left, but I am sad. This is a massive, massive loss for AFC, losing the greatest goalscorer in the 100+ year history of the club, an incredible showman and unique player that could do things few if any before him have ever done.

PV4 and TH14: Arsenal legends through good times...

...and bad times.

This is also truly the end of Arsenal 2.0, the 2nd iteration of Arsenal that Wenger built: Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp, Ljungberg, Pires, Wiltord, Ash Cole, Sol Campbell, and Lauren. I suppose technically Toure, Gilberto and Lehmann remain, but for all intents and purposes Arsenal 2.0 is dead. Never in my life have I watched more consistently beautiful football than that played by Arsenal Football Club between 2000-2005; it was truly a joy to watch them every time they took the field, and they will be forever loved, appreciated, and missed.

Arsenal 2.0 est mort. Viva Arsenal 2.0!

Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira: with Pires & Ljungberg, the heart
and soul of Arsenal 2.0

I have every faith that Wenger will ultimately succeed with Arsenal 3.o, and I am certain that he will see out the remaining year on his contract as a matter of personal honor, because he always does and has talked about that many times.

As horrible as it was to lose my hero PV4, and now Henry, the day that Arsene Wenger leaves Arsenal Football Club will be the darkest day of all- he simply cannot be replaced. Here's hoping that he will sign a new contract next summer and stay at the club for a while, perhaps even taking Arsenal up on the coach for life status that they have offered him.

When Henry's career is over, as an Arsenal fan, I sure cannot complain and will greatly appreciate that he was an Arsenal player from age 22 to age 30, spent the best part of his career in an Arsenal shirt, and went from a 'failure' to the greatest striker on the planet.

I will also look back and be so happy that in addition to seeing just about every single one of his matches and 226 goals for Arsenal, I got to see him live and in person at Highbury on two different occasions, against Fulham on my birthday in 2003 and last March against Charlton in the 8th to last match ever played at Highbury.

Titi getting ready to start the party against Charlton,
March 2006, taken from the East Lower by Kanu

Bon journee Titi, and best of luck in your future endeavors. You are the greatest player in Premiership history, and I am not bitter and hoping that you fail in Spain- I hope that you kick ass at Barcelona and score shitloads of goals for them. You are an Arsenal legend, and it was an absolute joy to watch you do your thing for 8 years at Highbury and watch you develop into the greatest player in the world. You will be missed and forever appreciated.

No, Thierry: Thank You.

More later...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Feel Good Friday: Summertime Edition

Yesterday was the first day of summer, but more importantly, it was the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year, sunlight wise. I am a huge, huge fan of Daylight Savings Time, and yesterday was it's highest celebration, with it not getting dark here in SF until 9 p.m., meaning that you have tons of time after work to get outside and have fun, unlike wintertime when you leave the office at 5 p.m. and it is already dark.

As such, there is really no other option for Feel Good Friday than "Doin' Time" by Sublime.

"Summertime, and the livin's easy..."

If that's not up your alley, there's always the timeless cheesy but fun "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince.

It's OK to admit that you owned MTV Party To Go, Vol. 2. I did too.

Happy Summer and enjoy.

The Dream Dies For Gualeloupe; Canada Gets Hozed, Eh?

Guadeloupe put up a really good fight against {relatively} mighty Mexico in the Gold Cup semifinals last night; they were organized and didn't panic on the ball, especially in their own end. AS the game went on and Guadeloupe's goalkeeper made some point blank saves that should have been goals, you started to believe that this might be one of those games where the massive underdog gets a goal from a corner or set piece and pulls off the super shocker. It remained tied until the 70th minute when Mexico scored a great goal, and try as they may Guadeloupe could not get the equalizer. So the dream ends, but there is no shame in losing 0-1 to Mexico, and considering the rest of their amazing showing at this tournament, considering their history, size, and status as a non-nation, they certainly did themselves proud and will be welcomed home as heroes. And it did take an absolute Golaso! to knock them out:

Que golaso por El Tri

Canada scrapped with the US but it still looked like they were going down 2-0 to the US, but then they pulled one back in the 75th minute to get to 2-1 and give them a chance to tie it up. It looked like a lost cause when suddenly in the 94th and final minute, they scored a perfectly legitimate goal. Cue the ineptitude & stupidity by the referees: the goal was disallowed, and it was as much of a kick in the nuts disallowed goal as you will ever see. 1) there were to be 4 minutes of added time, and the goal happened at literally the 94.00 mark, so literally they equalized with what should have been the last kick of the game 2) The linesman ruled that Canada were offsides, when it wasn't even close- dude was totally onsides 3) but worst of all, it doesn't matter if he was on or offsides because he received the ball after a US defender completely fucked up and headed the ball right into his path, and by rule a striker cannot be offsides when a defender hits it to him instead of an attacking player. A colossal and embarrassing fuckup by the linesman and referee hands the match to the US when they should certainly have played extra time and perhaps penalties, where anything could have happened.

See for yourself at the 6.15 {-3.00} mark of this video:

Canada gets jobbed, hard, at the 6.15 {-3.00} mark

So the final will what everyone expected going in: the two heavyweights, US and Mexico. Should be a good match for continental bragging rights. If you care to check it out the match is Sunday at 12 p.m. PST, on Fox Soccer Channel and Univision.

Showdown At The Cotton Bowl, 1981

So yeah, of course I have been watching Dallas videos on YouTube for the last hour and a half...

The Cotton Bowl, with its capacity of 72,000 seats, holds more than just the bowl game. Every year it is also the site for the Red River Shootout, which is the great neutral field rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma {Red River Shootout for UT/OU is what the Cocktail Party is for UGA/UF}.

But it was also the site of a great showdown in 1981, season 4 of Dallas, between J.R. Ewing and Dusty Farlow. After Sue Ellen takes John Ross and leaves South Fork ranch to move in with Dusty at The Southern Cross, J.R. tries everything in his power to get his only son back on South Fork where he belongs {as for Sue Ellen, well he really doesn't give a shit about her at this point}. After a visit to the Southern Cross and a failed attempt to snatch and grab his son and take him back to South Fork, the whole thing culminates with a showdown at the Cotton Bowl, where J.R. drives his Benz into the stadium through the tunnel and Dusty arrives via helicopter. The adversaries meet at the 50 yard line and the showdown begins.

A great battle ensues, with J.R. obviously the heavy favorite. It looks like Dusty might have a chance when he suprisingly takes the lead with a slap to the face, but we all know how this game will end. With the recently disclosed public knowledge that Dusty has been rendered impotent from an accident, J.R. takes a smack to the face but comes back to destroy Dusty in the end, easily covering the 9.5 point spread.

A great sporting moment in Cotton Bowl history.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

For Anyone Who Doubts That Steve Spurrier And J.R. Ewing Are The Same Dude

I have been saying for years that of all of the look-a-likes in not only college football but all of sports, the comparison between Steve Spurrier and J.R. Ewing supersedes all others. In fact, I basically only refer to Spurrier as J.R. and have done so for quite some time.

First and foremost, they are dead ringers physically when you compare J.R. during the first 8 seasons of Dallas and Spurrier during his tenure at Florida. But it goes way beyond that. They are both evil geniuses that are damn near universally despised, but at the same time those who despise them secretly wouldn't mind if the evil genius were to work on their behalf. Secondly, they both have a quick wit and left us a long litany of hilarious quotes which are often clever digs at adversaries. Third, they have the exact same smriky smile that they flash often when they are full of themselves and their clever sayings. Fourth, J.R. often referred to himself in the third person as "'Ol J.R.", just as Spurrier refers to himself in the third person as the "'Ol Ball Coach". And fifth, they talk almost exactly the same, with a similar charming Southern drawl in addition to the aforementioned clever quips and digs at opponents. In fact, the only thing that is castly different about them is that while Spurrier has run clean programs and won without cheating, J.R. is the biggest cheater in the history of the Western World. Still, that isn't nearly enough to overcome the mountain of evidence associating them.

It's really unbelievable. Anyhow, thanks to the combination of Dallas dorks like me buying up the DVDs/TiVo-ing Dallas episodes on SOAPNet and the wonderful world of YouTube, I can at long last give video evidence in support of my claim. There are a bunch of specific scenes that I wish I could show you, but this is the best one for what is out there today. Enjoy:

'Ol J.R. having one of a million run ins with his brother Bobby

I'm A Ramblin' Wreck From Georgia Tech,
And A Hell Of An Engineer Contingency Planner

I was feeling pretty Nelson-ish {Nelson-esque?} when I read earlier this week that The Nerds had wrecked the Ramblin' Wreck, but little did I realize that I hadn't even gotten to the really funny part yet: They decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and not insure that bad boy, because as we all know 1930 Fords, and their replacement parts, are pretty much laying around every where you look these days.

If you're scoring at home, that's Georgia Tech: Book Lab Smarts, 1. Street Smarts, 0 {actually and literally it would be Street Smarts -2, right?}.

Epic stuff, and thanks to PWD for bringing it to light first this week.

WARNING!!! Very obscure Dallas reference ahead: proceed with caution.

I'm sure they can call up Mark Graison and he can sort them out with replacement parts from his goofy ass rig.

***Update***. PWD has pics of the crashed Ramblin' Wreck.

Munson To Semi Retire

At age 84 Georgia Bulldogs play by play legend Larry Munson is semi retiring starting this fall: he will only broadcast the home games because it is too difficult to travel. Read this excellent article from this morning's Atlanta Journal Constitution, where Munson candidly discusses his declining health which is affecting his ability to work and live.

Looks like this is the only place you'll hear Munson calling from this year

As I said somewhere else, Munson, if you want to hang it up, hang it up my man. You have given us more joy than any announcer, well, ever, and shit man, you’re 84; chill out, relax, and reminisce about all the good times, great drink, and hott girls and great times in your 40 years doing your thing in Athens. A thousand thank yous, happy trails, God Speed, and all that good stuff.

If you want to pimp out your iPod with Munson's greatest calls, here's a handy guide. It always puts a smile on my face when the iPod shuffle gods throw me some Munson as I go about my day.

Paul Westerdawg has been covering this story from the get go, and I'm sure just like with all news Dawg related, he will keep us up to date as the details get finalized. I agree with him completely about maintaining the proper perspective of appreciation about this rather than going all Robert Smith melancholy about it. We are luckier than most fanbases to have the joy of listening to such a great play caller for over forty years, and we should be grateful and thankful, not bitter and sad. Best of luck Mr. Munson, and here is to your continued health.

Ridiculously Late Weekend Review, Part 2: Golf

El Pato Es Campeon Del Torneo Estados Unidos

In perhaps the first recorded instance of a duck beating a tiger at anything, Angel Cabrera held off Tiger Woods to win the US Open on Sunday. Cabrera hails from Argentina and is nicknamed El Pato {the duck} because of the way that he walks.

Saludad el campeon

I have really liked Cabrera since he came to my attention several years ago at the Masters when he birdied 6 holes in a row thereby setting a record at The Masters, and he has often played well there over the years {so I suppose it if no surprise that he did so well on Oakmont's greens, which are the fastest in the world and even more sloped then those at Augusta National}. When Brain and I were at the 2002 PGA Championship in Hazeltine, we watched Cabrera at the practice range and marvelled at his game and talked about how we wouldn't be surprised to see him break through in big time tournaments. It doesn't get much more big time than the US Open, so congratulations to him. Once he took the lead on Friday I really wanted him to win, but after Saturday it looked like he was out of it, then he came back on Sunday by being the only player in the field to shoot under par {69}. He is only the 2nd Argentine to ever win a major {Roberto diVicenzo won the British Open and also "won" tied for first after regulation at the Masters in 1968 before being disqualified losing outright because he signed an incorrect scorecard} and he is also the first South American to ever win the US Open.

Fathers Day in Monterey/Carmel

For the first time since 1995 and only the 2nd since 1987, I did not watch the final round of the US Open. But this year I had good reason, as my Dad was in town and we got the opportunity to play Spyglass Hill at Pebble Beach on Sunday. Like Pebble Beach Golf Links, it is ridiculously expensive, but we were fortunate enough to basically get 1/2 price greens fees thanks to a hookup from our 3rd, a longtime friend of my dad.

Spyglass was amazing. Many people say that it is harder than Pebble, and with a rating of 75.5 and a slope of 147 from the tips it is one of the most difficult golf courses in the world {we played one up from the tips, which was 6534 yds with "only" a 73.2 rating and slope of 144}. Although it was very challenging, I would definitely say that it was fair. The first five holes are right on the ocean, then the course turns inland for the last 13 holes. It was beautiful and pristine and challenging, especially with the stout breezes coming off the ocean, but as I said it was very fair and if you play well you can definitely shoot a good score there. I hit it to 8 feet on the first hole, proceeded to miss my birdie putt, and then miss 3 more putts inside of 8 feet in the first 5 holes, and then generally went on to play like shit.

Kanu hit it to 8 feet on #1; it was mostly downhill after that.

I had one of those rounds where you cannot figure out what is fucked up with your swing all day and you really hack it around, and then on the 17th tee you figure it out and stripe it on the final two holes, and on top of that, I never could quite figure out the fast poa anna greens- I think I 3 putted 6 times and had 4 or 5 lipouts. Always frustrating, especially so when you are playing at the nicest course you have ever played in your life. At least the one time the camera was turned on me, I hit my best drive of the day and striped it out about 270 on 18.

3rd hole, Spyglass Hill

View behind 4th tee, Spyglass Hill

18th hole, Spyglass Hill

I double bogeyed 5 or the final 6 holes and limped home with an uber-shitty for me 96 {46-50} but still had a wonderful time; it was such a nice experience and day that I was too tranquilo to get upset about playing so poorly. And getting to share this with my Dad on Fathers Day was definitely special.

Worth missing the US Open for

After golf we went over to Spanish Bay and had cocktails on the patio behind the clubhouse, which overlooks 17 mile drive and the ocean, then hit up Carmel for dinner.

As clubhouse patio views go, this is up there

After dinner we went down tot he beach at Carmel By-The-Sea, which is a beautiful beach overlooking a half moon bay with the oceanside holes of Pebble Beach Golf Links to the right and Carmel Bay and Point Lobos to the left.

Looking north: Pebble Beach

Looking south: Carmel bay, Point Lobos

We were about 30 minutes before sunset, and it was a perfect scene with which to end the day: muy tranquilo for sure.

A great day all around. Belated Happy Father Day to all the dads out there, and I hope that you had a wonderful day as well, whatever you got into.

Ridiculously Late Weekend Review Part 1: Futbol

Shit- I'm having one of those weeks where you turn around and it's Thursday. Anyhow, catching up from the weekend...

Madrid es Campeon

So as Barca were romping over Nastic, Real Madrid managed to fall behind 0-1 at home to Mallorca, making things really interesting. But they came back to win 3-1 so in the end everything went down as expected. The key was none other than Arsenal's Jose Antonio Reyes {JAR for short} who came on for the injured Beckham and scored Madrid's 1st and 3rd goals. I don't know much more about the match, as I only got to see highlights. I did, however, get this text message from Solon while walking up the 9th fairway at Spyglass Hill:

"Gimnastic 1-5 Barca. Real 3-1 Mallorca. JAR came off the bench to score 2. TOM CRUISE WAS AT THE BERNABEU CHEERING FOR REAL- I shit you not. They ARE brothers."

To which I replied:

"Shiiit, fool- I broke that story last year. Thx."

So yeah, the media will tell you that Tom & Katie were there with Posh watching Becks play his final match for Madrid. But surely the truth is that he was there to watch JAR, who is obviously his little brother.

Tell me JAR isn't Tom Cruise's little bro.
Go ahead- tell me. Yeah, that's what I thought.

Speaking of which, apparently after one of Madrid's goals they showed Tom kiss Katie and apparently the look on Katie's face pretty much lines up with all the talk about their relationship being a hop, skip, and a jump away from genuine. I wish I could have seen that, sounds funny as shit.

So Real and Barca finish level on 76 points, and RM are champions based on their head to head results with Barca, even though Barca had a massively superior goal difference {+45 to RM's +26}, which would have made them champions in several other leagues, including the English Premier League.

So congrats to Real Madrid- they had miracle last seconds goals to save themselves about half a dozen times in the last 6 weeks of the season. Also congrats to Moin, king of the footy commenters around here and a diehard Madridista.

A word about Barca as well. People seem to be universally condemning this season as a failure, the squad as a failure, etc., etc., and there is talk that the team must be changed/dismantled/etc so that they can regroup and again challenge for the title. All of this talk is pretty shortsighted in my opinion. The finished tied for the league and only lost their 3rd consecutive title on a tiebreaker. Furthermore, two of their 3 best players, and hell perhaps even their two best players, Messi & Eto'o, each spent a huge chunk of the season out with severe injuries. Plain and simple: if these two were healthy all year, Barca are 3 time defending champions. Hell, probably even if only one of those two was healthy.

So I don't see all the talk of failure and the need to make drastic changes to the team. Yes, it is disappointing that after winning the Spanish League and Champions League last year that they came away empty handed this season, but universally panning this team as a failure seems pretty silly. I would take this same team's midfield & strikers into next season and like my chances- if any tweaking needs to be done I would think it would be to try to shore up the back a bit, or get Rafa Marquez back into 2005-2006 form.

So that's the last of the domestic seasons in the record books. Which means that now the silly season will go completely off the crazy meter withe speculation and linking of every single good player pretty much everywhere with every major club. I for one am looking forward to the close of the transfer window, just because I have been through this shit so many times that is really is annoying and 99% of the rumors, stories, and speculation turn out to be completely false.

Gold Cup Quarterfinals

Well, the huge news is that tiny Guadeloupe, not even a nation, continued their amazing cinderella run by shocking favored Honduras 2-1. Honduras were looking really strong after beating heavyweights Mexico and destroying Cuba 5-0 in the group stages. Guadeloupe took advantage of having two really tall strikers and got 2 goals from crosses from the right side in the first 25 minutes, then hung on for the shock win. Consider this: Guadeloupe have never even qualified for the Gold Cup before in their history, and now they are in the final four. Amazing stuff.

In the other matches the 2 favorites, Mexico and the US, won, and Canada took care of Guatemala, setting up the semifinals to be played tonight:

USA-Canada 4 p.m. PST
Mexico- Guadeloupe 7 p.m. PST

Can Guadeloupe do it again? I sure hope so, but Mexico is yet another step up in class and additional difficulty comes in the fact that is will be damn near a true road game, as I'll be suprised if any less than 95% of the fans at Soldier Field in Chicago are cheering for Mexico.

Allez Guadeloupe!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Arsenal Joga Bonito Wednesday: RVP

With all of the attention on TH14 "will he/won't he?" this spring and summer, the almost forgotten man at Arsenal is the other main striker, Robin Van Persie. He fractured his foot while scoring against Manchester United and has been recovering since then, but he will be back for the attack in August. He is ridiculously talented and still only 23 years old, and last year he started to have a breakout season with 14 goals before getting injured in January.

I am predicting right now that RVP scores 25 goals for Arsenal this season. Yeah, I said it: twenty five. Whether it's paired with Henry or Eto'o, {and I still think it will be TH14} I think he is primed and ready for a big time break out season. Anyhow, here is a great sampling of his goalscoring prowess.

How do you say the shizzle in Dutch? RVP.

Addendum: how the hell did this brilliant goal not make the top 5?

Not even Robbie Savage's cheating could stop this badass golaso

Friday, June 15, 2007

Feel Good Friday: Lemonade Edition

Summer is here, what better time for some nice lemonade? Especially if it is being served up by G. Love & Special Sauce off their most recent album titled Lemonade.

This is some great, laid back, feel good shit, and as I happen to be listening to it this morning and feelin' fine, I decided to share.

So here's 2 great tunes from said album, Beautiful featuring Tristan Prettyman, who has an amazing voice, and Hot Cookin' a great metaphorical tune that isn't really about preparing a meal.

"Tuggin' on my skirt, taking off my shirt,
Whatever your doing, well it seems to work..."

"There's some hot cookin' going on tonight..."

And as an added bonus I'll throw in Love from the album The Hustle, because it is a kick ass feel good tune and I love it.

"I've been in love, I felt so good and great,
Always knew what to say, man I felt high..."

Enjoy, Happy Friday, and don't forget to check out the "Summer Haze" tour featuring G. Love & Special Sauce, Slightly Stoopid, and Ozomatli when it comes to a city near you.

Weekend Preview: Futbol, Soccer, Golf, Fathers Day

La Liga Crowns It's Champion
Sunday is the final round of La Liga matches, and although Los Campeones will be crowned it is likely that we will not see the crazy excitement of last weekend's penultimate round.

As it stands:

Real Madrid 73 pts
Barcelona 73 pts
Sevilla 71 pts

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!:

Real Madrid-Mallorca
Gimnastic de Tarragona- Barcelona

All matches are at noon PST. Real Madrid-Mallorca is onGolTV live. Immediately after at 2 p.m. PST on GolTV is "TBA", which means that they will show on tape delay whichever of the other two matches turns out to be most compelling and/or affects the title race the most {if RM don't get a result, they will show whatever match determined the league champion}. I hope they show Barca, this mught be the final time we get to see the great quartet of Eto'o, Messi, Ronaldinho, and Deco play together in the same team.

Quite simply, here are the scenarios whereby Real Madrid don't win the league:

Barca win if:
1)Barca win and Real Madrid draw.
2)Barca draw and Real Madrid lose.

Sevilla wins if and only if:
1)Sevilla win, Barca lose, and Real Madrid don't win.

Any other scenario and Real Madrid are Campeones.

Phil Ball's always excellent weekly column describing last week's madness also serves as a good preview for Sunday's final showdowns.

Gold Cup Quarterfinals Are Set

Canada-Guatemala 10 a.m. PST
USA-Panama 1 p.m. PST

Honduras-Guadalupe 3 p.m. PST
Mexico-Costa Rica 12 p.m. PST

Full knockout schedule/bracket here. All matches will be on Univision/Galavision/Telefutura, and I'm guessing the US match at least willl be on ESPN/2 or Fox Soccer Channel.

Guadalupe made it after all. I'm pulling for the underdog of underdogs, although I think that if Honduras get past Guadalupe they have a great shot at getting to the final, as Mexico and Costa Rica have not been at their best.

All that being said, it looks like this things is the U.S.'s to lose. Semifinal will be next Thursday evening with the final next weekend.

U.S. Open
Yesterday only 2 dudes finished under par, and after some rain on Wednesday the course was playing as easy as it will all week, so look out. I'm guessing that the wining score will be over par, somewhere between +2 and +4. It sure should be entertaining. NBC Sports Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. PST.

On Sunday I'll be watching on tape later at night, as the parentals fly in today and I'll be golfing with my pops on Sunday down in Monterrey. Not at Pebble Beach, but Spanish Bay I believe. Pretty damn good way to spend Father's Day I must say.

Happy Weekend whatever you get into, and to all the dad out there, Happy Father's Day from me to you.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Euro 2008 Roundup: By And Large, Order Is Restored

The last time we took a tour of Euro2008 qualifying was back just before the March matches, and at that point several of the big boys were in various levels of trouble thanks to poor starts to the campaign, including Italy, France, Spain, England, and Portugal.

Well after those two matches in March and the two last week, we're now about halfway to Austria-Switzerland, and most of the big boys have sorted themselves out and are out of trouble. England still have some serious work to do, but even they have put themselves back into the mix. Anyhow, we're now at the point of the proceedings where each group has been split into two groups: those that can still qualify {contenders} and those that either cannot or are extremely unlikely to {pretenders}. Remember, there are 7 groups playing round robin, with the top 2 in each group qualifying for Euro2008 and everyone else going home. The 2 host nations will join the 14 qualifiers in the field of sixteen teams next summer.

In the 2 rounds of matches last week there were only 2 upsets, neither of which shifted the order of things too dramatically: Bosnia beat Turkey, making that group a little more open than the Greece/Turkey 2 horse runaway that is was looking to become, and little Armenia rose up and shocked group leaders Poland, who despite the upset loss are still group leaders.

The goal of the week belonged to David Villa of Spain, who after scoring from a great through ball from Cesc Fabregas added a ridiculous bicycle kick goal to make it 2-0 to Spain:

El segundo gol: que ridiculo

Most everything else went to form, so here's a quick rundown of where things stand. Note: "gp" = games played and "pts" = points {3 are awarded for a win and 1 for a draw}.

Group A
Poland 9gp, 19 pts
Serbia 7 gp, 14 pts
Portugal 7gp, 14 pts
Finland 8gp, 14 pts

It looks like these four will be duking it out for the two spots, with Portugal & Poland favorites to get it done. Things will start to shake out further in September, when the top 4 play each other twice: Sept. 8 Portugal-Poland, Serbia-Finland, and Sept. 12 Finland-Poland, Portugal-Serbia. they also play each other in the final match on November 21: Portugal-Finland, Serbia-Poland.

Belgium 8gp, 7pts
Armenia 7gp, 7pts
Kazakhstan 8gp, 6pts
Azerbaijan 8gp, 5pts

Thank you for playing, we have some nice parting gifts for you.

Group B
France 7gp, 18pts
Italy 7gp, 16pts
Scotland 7gp, 15pts
Ukraine 6gp, 12pts

A bitch of a group, with the World Cup winner, World Cup runner up, and another World Cup quarterfinalist. Scotland are the feel good story but they still have miles to go before they sleep against the aforementioned strong ass teams. Most everyone, including the always pessimistic Scots, will tell you that this will probably come down to two of three from France, Italy, and Ukraine. Nevertheless, DCTrojan and the rest of the Tartan Army will hold on to the hopes and dreams that the ghost of Archie Gemmill will rise up and somehow carry Scotland to a qualifying place.

After losing the World Cup final to Italy, Les Blues thumped Italy 3-1 last September in Paris. The return match in Italy is September 8. In the final match Ukraine hosts France: it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Italy are already qualified as group winners and these two fight it out for the 2nd spot on the final day.

Lithuania 7gp, 7pts
Georgia 8gp, 6pts
Faroe Islands 8gp, 0pts

Thank you for playing, we have some nice parting gifts for you. A word for the Faroes, who scored a goal home to Italy last week to only lose 1-2, and then hit the woodwork twice in their 0-2 home loss to Scotland. Those are actually points of pride when it comes to Faroe Islands footy, so it would be rude not to shout them out.

Group C
Greece 7gp, 18pts
Bosnia-Herzegovenia 7gp, 13pts
Turkey 6gp, 13pts
Norway 7gp, 13pts

As I mentioned, Bosnia's upset of Turkey evened this group out a good bit, and these four still have plenty of matches against each other, so it should be a tight race to the finish.

Hungary 7gp, 6pts
Malta 7gp, 4pts
Moldova 7gp, 2pts

You would think that when Hungary played Turkey it would be no contest; Hungary should gobble Turkey right up, but in reality that is not the case. By the way, I think the best theoretical group for the food analogy would definitely be Hungary, Turkey, Swiss, and Chile. Anyhow, thank you for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts for you.

Group D
Germany 7gp, 19pts
Czech Republic 7gp, 14pts
Ireland 7gp, 13pts
Slovakia 7gp, 9pts

Slovakia are most likely not a contender, although I guess they must be included since they are only 5 pts out of a qualifying spot with 5 matches to play. But in reality, Germany are running away with this group and Czech Republic and Ireland will most likely battle it out for the 2nd spot. The last 2 sets of matches sees the contenders all playing weak teams, so the clashes that may very well decide it are Czech-Ireland on Sept. 12, Ireland-Germany on Oct.13, and Czech-Germany on Oct. 17.

Wales 6gp, 7pts
Cyprus 6gp, 4pts
San Marino 6gp, 0pts

Cyprus is loving the fact that for a change they are not the most hapless team in a qualifying group, and they have been able to grab 4 points thusfar without even playing San Marino yet: they shocked Ireland 5-2 and drew with Germany 1-1, but have lost all of their other matches- bizarre. San Marino must feel like rockstars: they only lost 6-0 away to Germany last week, which is a massive improvement over their 0-13 loss on home soil to Germany back in September. Thank you for playing, please come back in 4 years and try again.

Group E
Croatia 7gp, 17pts
Israel 8gp, 17pts
Russia 7gp, 15pts
England 7gp, 14pts

England have gotten themselves back into striking distance with wins over no-hopers Andorra and Estonia, who between them have lost all 14 of their matches while scoring a grand total of 1 goal. They were also helped out when group leaders Croatia and Russia drew last weekend. As such, I disagree with the general sentiment in the media that England "are back" and the confidence that they will get it done. I'm not saying they won't, I'm just saying that those two teams are worse than horrid and they still have some hard ass matches coming home, and given their tendency to underwhelm and the fact that their manager hasn't shown that he isn't any less of a doofus than his predecessor Sven, qualification for The Three Lions at this point is far from certain. They still have to play SuperCoach Guus Hiddink's Russia twice, and Israel at home is no cakewalk, as Israel are undefeated in their last 18 matches and have not lost a road match in 4 years {and they were in a qualifying group for World Cup 2006 with France, Switzerland, and Ireland}.

My belief in Guus Hiddink alone says that Russia will get one of the spots, and I just have a funny feeling that either Croatia or Israel will beat out England for the other one. Either way this will be a wild and wooly fight to the finish between these four teams, and like a high seed in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, watch for the pressure to build on England as we get closer to the end and their advancing is still in doubt.

Macedonia 7gp, 7pts
Estonia 7gp, 0pts
Andorra 7gp, 0pts

Thank you for playing, see you next time.

Group F
Sweden 7gp, 18pts
Spain 7gp, 15pts
Northern Ireland 6gp, 13pts
Denmark 6gp, 10pts

As predicted, Sweden was awarded a win by UEFA after Hans Drunkenfucker decided it would be a good idea to bumrush the field and take a swing at the referee. Spain have recovered from their horrible start with 4 wins in a row, and these two will most likely qualify at a canter with Norn Iron and Denmark fading from the scene, but you never know.

Liechtenstein 7gp, 4pts
Iceland 7gp, 4pts
Latvia 6gp, 3pts

Thank you for playing- better luck next time.

Group G
Romania 7gp, 17pts
Bulgaria 7gp, 15pts
Netherlands 6gp, 14pts

Most people think that Holland will win the group leaving the other two to duke it out for the 2nd spot. Hard to argue with that. Watch out for Bulgarian striker Berbetov, who this year established himself as one of the best strikers in Europe and when on form, as he has been, can put this team on his back and carry them quite far. I think he could be the difference for them, and I like Bulgaria to join Holland from this group.

Albania 7gp, 9pts
Belarus 7gp, 7pts
Slovenia 7gp, 4pts
Luxembourg 7gp, 0pts

Might be a bit harsh to put Albania here, but considering Holland have a game in hand on them, they are most probably 6 points out of third with six matches to play, and considering that they are Albania and the other three are who they are, they stay down here, because it just isn't going to happen. Although if it somehow did, it would be fun to spend next summer singing the "Albania" song that Coach came up with on Cheers way back when to help Sam pass a test of some sort: the details are fuzzy but the song is not- for some reason it has stuck in my head all these years.

So there it is. Halfway home, and for half the teams, everything still to play for. The next round of qualifying matches will be September 8th and September 12.

U.S. Open Underway

The 2007 United States Open is underway as of this morning. The US Open is a special and unique test of golf that also always happens to finish on Fathers Day, making it special to golfing fathers and sons from sea to shining sea. This is the one tournament each year where "Old Man Par" is a great score, and the best players on planet earth will struggle just to achieve that.

The biggest story this week amazingly isn't Tiger Woods but rather the course, Oakmont Country Club in Western Pennsylvania. Specifically how difficult a test it will be. In addition to the always diabolical US Open rough, Oakmont has the fastest greens in the world, faster even than the famous slick surfaces of Augusta National, and more sloped as well. So look for lots of crazy-ass shit on the greens this week. Note also that in the seven prior U.S. Opens held at Oakmont, a grand total of only 23 players have finished under par. Look for more of the same this week, with the winning score being close to par or even over par, depending on the weather.

Most notable this week will be the par 3 8th hole, which is clocking in at a longest in the history of major championships 288 yards. Most players are hitting 3 woods in, and some will even be hitting driver into this par 3. Also keep an eye on the par 5 12th hole, which is 667 yards and features a crazy green that slopes straight downhill {away from the players and their incoming shots}. A rarity in modern professional golf, this hole 1) will be a 3 shot hole for every player in the field 2) is a par 5 that players will be happy, rather than pissed at their wastefulness, for making a par.

TV coverage today and tomorrow on ESPN and NBC, and on Saturday and Sunday on NBC {10 a.m.- 4 p.m. PST both days}. You can also follow online at

The last 2 U.S.Opens have been won by non-household names {except golfnut households}, Geoff Oglivy last year and Michael Campbell in 2005. Something makes me think that this week will be three in a row for the non rock stars of golf.

Copa Libertadores Final: Blacked Out

The 1st leg of the Copa Libertadores Final was played yesterday, and Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors beat Ronaldinho's old team Gremio 3-0. Gremio will need a major miracle next Wednesday in the 2nd leg in Porto Allegre, especially if Boca get a road goal, for then it will take 4 just to get to extra time and 5 to win.

Copa Libertadores is to South America what The Champions League is to Europe: a club tournament between the best clubs of all of the South American nations that is the highest honor a club team from that continent can win. Unlike the Champions League, which is known and seen the world over and some say even overhyped/overexposed, the Copa flies under the radar of the world football audience even though it would rank just behind the Champions League as far as prestige, quality of play, etc. To wit, even though I have Univision, Galavision, Telefutura, Fox Soccer Channel, and GolTV, the final of this prestigious tournament was no where to be found on TV last night. It was on Fox Sports World Espanol, but like most people in the U.S., I don't get that channel. I understand that Univision/Galavision/Telefutura have the rights to the 2007 Gold Cup, which is going on currently, but they only show 1 match at a time between these three networks. FSC last night showed a replay of the US-El Salvador Gold Cup match from the night prior {which was shown live on ESPN}, and GolTV was showing a match from the Colombian league.

I don't know if it is the marketing/PR people at CONMEBOL, or these soccer TV networks, or some bizarre contractual thing, but they really should sort themselves out and get this competition some more exposure in the US and world markets, because as I said the Copa Libertadores product is probably 2nd only in the world to the Champions League, which through incessant investment and marketing has become a global brand and cash cow.

So sort it out please, because there is some really great footy that you should be showing the rest of the world but aren't, and in addition to being frustrating for fans, you are hurting your own bottom line in the long run.