Friday, July 25, 2008

I'll Gladly Take the Duct Tape

I envy the baseball fan. Winter slips away, a new season approaches, and hope springs eternal. It is the right of every baseball fan to look forward to the arrival of pitchers and catchers. To dream of a World Series. To say, "This is our year."

I am not a baseball fan. I don't believe in fairy tales. I am a Bears fan. Summer kicks into the dog days, camp opens, and I feel like beating Lovie Smith. This is the birthright of every Bears fan. Especially, this preseason. What do I have to look forward to? An offense built out of cardboard and duct tape, while the Colts (season opening foe)drive a shiny, chrome Ferrari. I take that back, an offense built out of cardboard and scotch tape. Duct tape is strong, durable and dependable. Powerful. Comparing the Bears offense to duct tape is an insult to duct tape. Cardboard, too.

How bad is it? When your team is wringing it's hands due to the failure of their projected #1 receiver to report, when that receiver has never really played receiver since Pop Warner, well, that's bad. When your new 22 year old starting left tackle has to come off the practice field with a weak back (How long you had it? About a "week" back), that's bad. When that championship type defense's window is closing so fast that Clarista Flockhart finds it to be a tight squeeze, that's bad.

The Bears offense is going to be awful. The Horror.

See how I'm not like the baseball fan.

Monday, July 7, 2008

No Bark With His Bite

Many experts in the world of professional tennis hold that Roger Federer is the greatest player ever to swing a racket. He has won many Grand Slam titles on various surfaces (not clay, however)and notably, had won the last five Wimbeldon championships. Yesterday, Federer lost at Wimbeldon in the longest, most grueling final in Centre Court history. The victor was his arch rival, the young talent Rafael Nadal, who has been Federer's nemesis on clay for years. Nadal is the new king and deserves the title. As to be expected, Federer did not relinquish the title without a fight. Down two sets to nil, RF fought back, winning the next two sets 7-6 and ultimately went down 7-9 in the final, fifth set. It was such a final, so compelling and historic that John McEnroe, in a post-match interview, spontaneously hugged Federer, thanked him for all of the tennis world and appeared to shed a tear or two. Poor Roger looked like someone just gave him a wedgie.

Yet, Federer allowed the hug. Of this there is no dispute, he is the most humble, gracious and nicest world champion in sports. Federer is all class. His post-match comments contained no excuses. He acknowledged that Nadal was the better man that day. He admitted that he gave everything he had and had come up short. He admiited that it hurt to lose in this way. Nonetheless, in epic defeat, Federer held his second place trophy up to the crowd with a proud look on his face. When McEnroe asked Roger if, looking back, he could take some solace in the fact that he had played and lost in the greatest Wimbeldon final ever, Federer admitted that he could.

Can you imagine how an American would have responded to that question? Moreover, how would an American coach or player have responded to Federer's answer? My guess is that many would ridicule and diminish Federer for making such a revelation. That is the American way. Woof, wail and blame. We throw sportsmanship and grace out the window for the bullshit facade and posturing first displayed by professional wrestlers, as if Federer's response and actions in defeat were a sign of weakness. As you know, there is nothing worse in America than being nice. I will mention also that Nadal was wonderful in victory, a true champion and sportsman. It was a glorious ending to a championship. And a lesson on sport.

There is word that Brett Favre might return. Lots of words. Ugh. When you go, stay gone. Bad sign when you cry like a bitch during your retirement press conference. Translation-Means your not ready to go. Dumb ass.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It's Called Football

I have a guilty sports pleasure. I love European Soccer. This revelation is the equivalent of admitting that I like Kelly Clarkson's second album...alot. (I'm 42 years old; I have obviously outgrown feeling embarrassment) Anyway, this year, two of the best European soccer tournaments were played within weeks of each other, the UEFA Champions League and Euro '08. They were fantastic.

I am late to soccer. I held the sport in the same regard as most Americans. It was a sissy sport played by European pretty boys who flopped around on the ground like suffocating fish. That and the lack of scoring were death to the "futbol." Then in 1998, while awaiting the arrival of the great Molly McQuaid, I watched the World Cup. That year the US team, always an inferior side, made an incredible run to the elimination round, upsetting Colombia along the way. More than patriotism took hold, I watched other teams and found the world's best players all competing in one tournament. I was hooked. The game was like chess on cleats, and when attacking the goal, it was pure art in action.

That being said, I cannot watch MLS or any other inferior brand of soccer. Those teams have neither speed nor touch. That is boring. I want attacking soccer, always moving forward toward the keeper. Even in World Cup, many teams play a defensive game, afraid to push the ball up, to make a mistake, to leave themselves vulnerable to a counter-attack. I loathe this strategy. I can say that because I have learned enough about the game to criticize a weak, safe and dull strategy. Get in the ring and fight. Call it the Teddy Roosevelt in me. Moreover, I am a big fan of the greatest offensive, attacking league in the world, the English Premier League aka "The Premiership."

I offer the EPL to the soccer novice because it is the most skilled and entertaining soccer in the world. The best and highest paid players come to England to display their skills. Unfortunately, four teams dominate the league. There is no salary cap, so the owners who spend the most money get the best players. The four are Manchester United (Yankees), Chelsea (Red Sox), Arsenal and Liverpool. I root for Liverpool. Three reasons. The red shirts, their fans and, of course, the Beatles. They also have my favorite player, the Larry Bird of soccer, Steven Gerrard.

EPL football is played at the highest speed and is played in the offensive end. The fans will boo their own team when they kick the ball back defensively to their own goalie. They don't play for overtime or penalty kicks. Penalty kicks are the worst way to end a game. Some teams play for penalties. Recently, in the Euro, Italy played eventual champion, Spain, in the quarterfinal. The Italians played like fruits, dropping all their players back in the defensive zone and never attacked the Spanish goal. They were playing 90 minutes of regulation and the mandatory 30 minutes of overtime, pleased with a 0-0 score and a chance to steal a win on penalty kicks. It was a disgrace. The Spanish won on the penalty kicks, thankfully. The Spanish played the most beautiful soccer consistently in this tournament. Later, the Italian coach was fired. He told the press that "it was a shame to lose my job to a loss on penalty kicks." I say, "You played for penalty kicks, you f-ing greaseball." He was the coach,; he planned the strategy. Good riddance.

The common American criticisms of soccer have now fallen on my deaf ears. I don't enjoy players who "flop." However, even a tough player has to go down once and a while. You cannot get the legs and spikes into players. There is no reason for a player to "tough" it out when this happens. He is entitled to have a foul called for his team. You have to let the ref know. Most soccer refs would make the NBA refs look like heroes. As for the boring play, well I just covered that. I am steering you in the proper direction. Low scoring...that is a prejudice of an impatient American. We are the most impatient people in the world. These people think that their lives are so important. Assholes. Slow down, tough guy. It is amazing that we still have bookstores in America. We really don't have "bookstores." We have the "book, music, movie and coffee stores." Typical America. Have to get it all in one stop. I mean, who has the time, right. Assholes.

The greatest moment in Euro 08 was the television coverage. The final was on ABC, channel 7. During the game, no commercials. That's right, no commercials. Any EPL game on Fox Sports, no commercials. One more time, no commercials. Also, you know how during NFL games, the networks force the announcers to hype their other programming, "Jack Bauer rescues Katie Holmes from the clutches of the Evil Gnome on "24", FOX TONITE!!" Well during the Euro final that did happen, once. The commentator began to read a spot on an upcoming ABC show and suddenly stopped. "We'll get back to that in a second...Schweinsteiger has the ball forward in the Spanish zone." One spot, and he blew it off because the game was more important. Priceless. I can imagine the pre-broadcast meeting. ABC Advertising Geek-"Adrian, we want you to read 15 spots during game play." Adrian-"Fuck off, Yank. I will read one...Maybe." He did finally read the spot. I could hear his teeth gritting the whole time.