I believe Ortiz

| by Ken | in Sport No Comments »

I’m not generally naive and I do believe that many athletes do cheat their way to greatness through chemicals. However, in this particular case, I think Ortiz’s story checks out. He said that he did use supplements and vitamins and he is shrewd to not detail what they were. But he did nothing illegal nor against the rules of MLB at the time. Any results indicating positive steroid use appear to be the result of the supplements which are not steroids themselves but do produce it once in the body. And while that may not have been in the vein of an athlete who remains pure, he was young, stupid, etc.. It sounds to me like he stopped taking the substances and he started paying more attention to what he was ingesting of his own choice (though I’m sure concern about exposure and forthcoming rule changes did play a part). So I think Ortiz has spoken the truth and has handled things pretty well.

(Though I am curious if Manny has a similar story or if his is less innocent.)

Avery kicked off Stars

| by Ken | in Sport No Comments »

I don’t understand how the NHL and the Dallas Stars can come down so hard on Sean Avery for calling his ex-girlfriend “sloppy seconds”. No, not a nice thing to say. And it doesn’t represent the NHL well. But while Avery got a 6-game suspension from the NHL and was subsequently fired by his team, Philadelphia’s Randy Jones got a 2 game suspension for an intentional physical attack that nearly killed Patrice Bergeron on the ice 13 months ago. And if that same incident had occurred this year, it’s pretty likely it would have received the same treatment. Avery may be a knuckle-dragging buffoon but the NHL needs to be more precise in doling out justice.

Olympic Soccer

| by Ken | in Sport No Comments »

I didn’t get to watch any of the games before the semifinals, but I did get to watch all the semifinals, finals, and bronze matches for both men and women. A couple of things stood out for me.

Nigeria was a big surprise for me. I suppose if I followed international soccer more, I’d have known about their talent (and the fact that many of their players play professionally around the world). But not only were they good, but I really enjoyed their play. They played clean and smart with some of the fanciest footwork in the tournament. I look forward to seeing more of Odemwingie and Okoronkwo in the future.

And that stands in stark contrast to both Brazil and Argentina. The Brazilians continue to disappoint by not dazzling as expected and by their chippy, whiny play. New drinking game: every time Alex Silva or Rafinha whines about a play or call, take a drink. And that’s nothing compared to the prima donna, the biggest whiner in all of international soccer, Juan Riquelme. When anything doesn’t go his way, his has a hissy fit. He’ll hold the ball on the sidelines to keep the opponent from getting their throw-in. And worst of all, when he loses the ball, he stops running for it. You can tell his mindset is such that he knows that he is Juan Riquelme and the ball should come to him. Include Riquelme in the drinking game and you are sure to be passed out before the half.

Not having seen Belgium win their way into the semifinals, I was baffled by their play in the two games that I did see. I didn’t see much that looked like Olympic quality soccer.

Nice to see the USA women win again. Hard to say who deserved that win more – the USA or Brazil. But as much as I like Marta’s play, she plays with a bunch of whiners herself (Christiane, for example). I thought Japan looked surprisingly good, though. Germany had moments of good play but seemed a little flat.

I just realized that I didn’t complain about the reffing while watching the games. And any time the refs don’t really have an impact on the game, you know they’ve done very well. Even the Brazil-Argentina game, which was non-stop fouls and arguments was handled very well.

Final thought – why the Under-23 status for the Olympics? What’s the motivation for setting an age at all? I’m not aware of other Olympic sports that have a maximum age for players. And to punctuate the seemingly arbitrariness of it, they permitted 3 overage players. Presumably a way to allow players like Ronaldinho and Riquelme and Messi to draw in the fans?

Turkey out of Euro Cup 2008

| by Ken | in Sport No Comments »

I’m kind of sad to see Turkey go. They really livened up the tournament with multiple come-from-behind victories and upsets over teams they should have lost to. They scored first in yesterday’s game against Germany and it looked like they might actually win the game. I loved Turkey’s second goal because the German goalkeeper had the ball in his sights and was certain it was his only to have it deaked over his arms and into the net by a Turk he never saw coming. Very entertaining soccer. I suspect the remainder of the tournament will be a lot more dull now that Turkey has gone home.

Bruins are out

| by Ken | in Sport 1 Comment »

Well, the hopes for a 5-way sports domination died when the New England Revolution lost in the MLS Cup final and then a 4-way sports domination died with the Superbowl Patriots loss. But there was still a chance for 3 with the Red Sox World Series win, the Celtics showing signs of being championship contenders, and the Bruins actually making the playoffs. Okay, so the Bruins didn’t exactly have the numbers of the other teams and in fact just making the playoffs was an accomplishment for them. It’s been years since they’ve done this well and it’s been years since the Bruins management has provided the team what they need to do this well. It’s nice to see some payoff.

Going into the playoffs as number 8 in the East means going against number 1 Montreal. While the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry has a great history, it seemed a lock that Montreal would be victorious this time around. They’d had a much better seasons and they were, after all, number 1 in the East. But the Bruins were improving as the season went on (other than a significant slump a few months back) and they did manage to get Montreal into a Game 7. So, the way I see it, not only did they get into the playoffs but they very nearly unseated the number 1 seed in the East and that counts for a lot more than “4 and out” against a lesser team – I’m looking at you Ottawa.

Now all that’s left is the Celtics. Man, I had a hard enough time getting excited about baseball – I don’t think I can muster up the energy to care about basketball. We’ll see.

(And of course there’s the new Revolution season now too, but that’s just getting going.)

Boston Garden seats

| by Ken | in Sport No Comments »

Next time you see a shot of the Boston Garden while the Bruins are playing, take a look at the seats. At first glance, you might think that the seats are pretty full. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see that there are many empty seats. You just don’t notice at first because they’ve colored the seats in alternating colors so you don’t see one long continuous string of color. Clever, but what would be even more clever is if Delaware North could find a way to put bodies in those seats.

Bruins: Fernandez’s knee still dodgy

| by Ken | in Sport 1 Comment »

This summer, the Bruins had 3 decent goalies. Hannu Toivonen had not had a great year but everyone said he was just young and needed some coaching. Tim Thomas had stepped up and borne the brunt of the work for the year. And Joey MacDonald had come in late and provided Thomas with some relief. But Hannu went to St. Louis and Joey went to the Islanders. So the Bruins traded away a promising playmaker, Petr Kalus, for Manny Fernandez, Minnesota’s backup goalie with a dodgy knee.

Now sharing time with Thomas, Fernandez hurt his knee in practice this week. The Bruins, recognizing that they don’t want to push Fernandez and risk him destroying his knee and therefore their investment in him, have called up a goalie from Providence.

I know the Fernandez knee injury is reportedly minor. But I can’t help but think that this is only the beginning of the knee injuries. And that the Bruins sent more young talent out of Boston and brought in somebody nearing the end of their practical career. I hope I’m wrong and I hope Manny’s knee recovers from this and has no more issues. Hell, I even hope that Manny can help lead the Bruins to the Cup this year (and join the other Boston teams at the top of their game). But a knee injury this early in the year? Doesn’t look good for Manny or for the Kalus deal.

Note: From what I can tell, Kalus hasn’t been playing for the Wild this season so his potential hasn’t been realized – at least yet. In other words, it isn’t yet obvious that the trade was dumb – just leaning that way.

Women’s World Cup 2007 ends

| by Ken | in Sport No Comments »

Sunday’s first game was the third place game between the US and Norway. As expected, Scurry was in net again. And as expected, the US made few other changes. I was especially disappointed that Ellertson didn’t start instead of Markgraf but Dalmy, who did start, did have a good game too. And shortly after Tarpley went in for Lilly, there was immediate payoff in the form of a goal. However Lilly did play much better in this game than she had in the other recent cup games. The US managed to ring up 4 goals – some of them lucky (thank you, Wagner’s face!) and some of them gorgeous like Wambach’s redirection with the back of her foot (aping the shot on the US by Brasil on Thursday!).

Norway did look a little tired in this game and seemed to chase the US around. But to prove that they weren’t simply making it easy for the US, they did score late in the second half and it was a beaut – a nice arcing diving ball over Scurry who had come off her line a bit. It was a good game to watch – skills on display and of course the right outcome! – but lacked punch because it was the 3rd place game.

Oh, and ESPN made much about the Hope Solo comments and the puff piece they did on her. I’ll admit that it does make me have more sympathy for her knowing that it was a game against Brasil that she couldn’t play because of her father’s death. But her comments clearly dissed Scurry despite her attempt to say they don’t. And what’s more important to me than a player’s after-game comments is the deplorable ref call that ejected Boxx from the game. Why was that not the thing that was tearing at the hearts of the US players? I’m still fuming about it half a world and a full gender away.

The final between Brasil and Germany started off bad for Germany. Brasil had a couple of early opportunities and were unlucky on a shot off the post. And Brasil was playing the same junk soccer that worked against the US last Thursday: a Brasil player with the ball and an uncertain path around would simply try to go through German defense hoping to draw a call. And early on Daniela and Cristiane used this to good effect – Garefrekes didn’t know what hit her. Cristiane was especially pleased with herself one time holding up her hand as though she were holding a card reminiscent of how she did that in the game against the US. It’s easy to not like her for this kind of play.

But something happened as the first half went along. Germany managed to rebuff this play and even turn it to their advantage somehow. The ref stopped calling fouls on the junk soccer and Germany took the ball that Brasil lost and made some nice plays. Germany seemed to settle in to a groove on how to play against Brasil and it was frankly nice to see the junk soccer tactic fall apart. The first half ended without a goal but Germany seemed to be controlling the play.

Early in the second half, a nice German setup yielded the first goal off of Prinz’s foot, even if the finish wasn’t as pretty as the setup. Not too long after that Cristiane went down in the box; the replay showed that she was indeed fouled even though she clearly put on a little show to drive the point home. Still, I think the call was not overtly wrong and that resulted in a penalty kick. Things looked bad for Germany when Marta got behind the ball. I think everyone, including the German keeper, was shocked to find the ball in the keeper’s hands after the shot. Not at all Marta’s best shot but the keeper made a good save and it prevented the tide from turning in Brasil’s favor. For anyone thinking that the German keeper Angerer didn’t have to work too hard on the PK, she came up with a big save soon after that further deflated the Brasil team. And from thereon, it was Germany’s game. Germany sealed the win with a goal near the end of the game while the exasperation was becoming obvious on the face of the Brasilians.

Again, I feel that the exasperation was karmic payback. Brasil started the game off on the wrong style of play and only started playing to win in the second half, once it became clear that their junk soccer wasn’t paying off. But by then it was too late because Germany had the one goal and had figured out how to shut down Marta (triple-teaming if necessary). In a way, it’s a shame that Marta didn’t have a chance to shine, but it’s the company she keeps. Brasil needs to adjust their play to match Marta’s.

The Beautiful Game, not so beautiful

| by Ken | in Sport 1 Comment »

I’ve been meaning to write about the Women’s World Cup for a couple weeks now. I’ve been impressed with the US team and a couple of players, like Chalupny, in particular. Wambach and Boxx had also been having a good tournament.

That changed in a big way yesterday morning. The US played a Brasil team with a lot of talent and they knew that it was going to be a tough game. The game started off as expected with very physical play. But things took a negative turn for the US with an own goal. You could see that Osborne was trying desperately to prevent the ball from ending up in front of her net and perhaps a little too desperately she headed it into her own net. And things went downhill from there.

The absolute low point of the game was when Boxx, who had received an early yellow card (see comments below) got fouled from behind by Christiane. The ref saw the two players go down and decided to give a yellow card to Boxx who was the victim. And the classless Christiane was down on the ground, clearly uninjured and clearly knowing that she was the one at fault, holding up two fingers to indicate she knew exactly what she was getting away with. Boxx was sent out of the game on her second yellow and will not be able to play the next game.

There were other lows still to come. The US lost 0 to 4. The US team played the second half down a player due to the Boxx fiasco and looked mentally and physically checked out. That allowed Brasil to show some fancy moves and run up the score.

Continue reading »

Boston Bruins woes

| by Ken | in Sport No Comments »

What is wrong with the Bruins this season? They have new management, new coaches, and a largely new roster. Besides Sturm and Kessel, the rest of the team seems to play very unevenly. Even Chara makes some major gaffes – failing to make a check in front of the net yesterday and losing an edge to give away the puck last week both became goals for the opposition.

My only guess is that the Bruins chose poorly in hiring Dave Lewis. How else to explain the inconsistency on ice and why players play better after they leave the Bruins?

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