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Jealous aren’t we?

Apparently, many American association fotball fans are still bitter the United States lost to Germany in the final round of group play June 26.

ESPN.com is currently conducting a poll on its front page asking fans who deserved to win the Golden Ball, the World Cup’s equivalent for the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. The choices are the man who won the award, Argentina’s Lionel Messi; Germany’s Thomas Muller, who scored five goals for the championship side; Colombia’s James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot award for most goals with six, even though Colombia lost in the quarterfinals to Brazil; or “someone else”.

With almost 66,000 votes cast as of 8 p.m. Central, Messi leads with 35 percent. Muller has 31 percent, Rodriguez 24, and “other” 10. I’m sure many of the “other” vote was for U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, whose herculean effort vs. Belgium was the only reason the Americans even reached extra time. Had Howard not been stopping nearly everything in sight, Belgium wins 4-0 or 5-0.

That Messi won the award galled Brazil. Their hatred for Argentina is legendary. It may be the most heated rivalry in all of association football. The biggest fear going into this tournament wasn’t Brazil wouldn’t win, but Argentina would on Brazilian soil.

Imagine if the Soviet Union won the Olympic ice hockey gold when the Winter Olympics were held at Lake Placid. I doubt there would have been violence, but many Americans would have been incensed. Thanks to the Miracle on Ice, that spectre was mooted.

I’m thinking there is a lot of strong anti-German sentiment out there. Some of it is deep-seated, because Germany spawned Hitler and the Nazis, although an ignorant few have forgotten Hitler has been dead since 1945 and many of the Nazi leaders were executed after being convicted by the Nuremburg war tribunal. Some of the sentiment may come from South American expatriates who were upset the Germans beat Brazil and Argentina in the last two rounds. A lot of it, though, I bet comes from Germany’s 1-0 win over the Americans.

Given Germany beat the crap out of Brazil 7-1 last week, and drubbed Portugal 4-0 in the first group match, the United States should feel good about its effort against the eventual champion. Why the jealousy?

Personally, I believe Muller is the only person who deserves the award. He was the best player on the best team by far.

Weltmeister!

In case you’re curious, the title of this post should give away who won the World Cup championship match earlier today.

The title is German for “World Champions”.

Germany took its fourth title, defeating Argentina 1-0 in extra time in Rio de Janeiro. The only goal was scored in the 113th minute, the eighth minute of the second extra 15-minute period, when German substitute Mario Kotze took a perfect pass from Andre Schurrle in the penalty area, and rocketed home a left-footed shot past Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

Kotze became the first substitute in World Cup history to score a goal in extra time in a championship match. While this may seem like a significant accomplishment, and it is, it’s important to remember (a) only six World Cup championship matches out of 19 have reached extra time, and (b) substitutes were not allowed in the World Cup until 1970. The 1962 and 1966 matches went to extra time, meaning the 11 players on each side had to play the full 120 minutes. If someone got injured, tough luck, you’re playing short-handed, as if someone got sent off with a red card. Two substitutes per match were allowed starting in 1970, and extended to three in 1998.

I was glad Germany won. I have never liked Argentina, largely because it has been mostly ruled by a repressive military junta, it has not been the friendliest nation to the United States it tried to take the Falkland Islands by unprovoked force in 1982 until Great Britain came in and saved the day, and Diego Maradona, the star of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup championship team, was a doper and used his fist to score a goal in a 1986 match vs. England.  Maradona’s goal in that match was called the “Hand of God” goal, one which became one of the most egregious missed calls in the history of sport–and that came less than a year after Don Denkinger’s missed call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series in Kansas City.

I was even more glad the championship match did not go to a shootout. A shootout is a terrible way to determine a champion, especially the champion of a tournament as grueling as the World Cup, where nations pour four years of blood, sweat and tears into qualifying before having to survive seven matches in the final tournament to claim the grand prize.

No World Cup championship match before 1986, the first time the shootout was prescribed for the final tie if the score was level after 120 minutes, was level after 120 minutes; therefore, the spectre of a replay was never realized. That’s right–if a World Cup championship match was tied after 120 minutes from 1930 through 1982, the match was to be played over from scratch. The shootout was first approved for use in the World Cup in 1982 in all rounds prior to the final.

Italy has been involved in both World Cup championship matches to go to a shootout. The Azzuri lost in 1994 to Brazil at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, but in 2006, it got redemption by ousting France in Berlin.

The 1934 and 1938 tournaments were straight knockout single elimination. In the 1938 tournament, three matches prior to the final were level after extra time and had to be replayed in their entirety. Beginning in 1954 and continuing through 1970, if a knockout stage match prior to the final was level, the winner would be determined by a coin toss, the only way worse to determine a winner than a shootout.

The 1974 and 1978 tournaments did not feature a knockout stage. The top two teams in each of four groups then advanced to another group stage. After the second group stage, the top team in each group would play for the championship, and the second place team in each group would play for third place.

I understand FIFA is scared to death that a match may go on forever if the shootout were not used past 120 minutes, but what are the odds of that happening, even in a sport as low-scoring as soccer? The NHL plays full 20-minute overtime periods in all playoff games until a winner is determined. The NFL plays full 15-minute periods, although only one in regular season games. I would like to see 15-minute periods played until a winner is determined, but if FIFA is worried to death about an indeterminate game, make it sudden death after 30 minutes of extra time. I would venture to guess most games would be determined with one or two more periods of extra time past 30 minutes.

Estimates were seven million Americans watched the World Cup final. Of those 7 million, 6,999,000 will not care about MLS going forward, and will not watch association football again until it’s time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Good looking dude

The FIFA World Cup final is scoreless with only three minutes remaining in regulation. Barring a late rush, Germany and Argentina are heading for 30 minutes of extra time, which would mark the fourth time since 1994 the championship match of the world’s most watched sporting event–sorry, Olympics; no dice, Super Bowl–will be heading to at least extra time. Two of the previous three matches to reach extra time, Brazil-Italy in 1994 and Italy-France in 2006, went to the shootout. In 2010, Spain scored in extra time to oust the Netherlands.

A few minutes ago, ESPN’s cameras showed German manager Joachim Low. He looks mighty dapper in his navy blue or black button-down shirt and grey slacks, a departure from the wardrobe of many managers, who wear a suit or a sportcoat and tie on the sideline, the tradition in the NBA and NHL. American manager Jurgen Kilnsmann has adopted the American football coaching standard of a polo shirt and khaki pants. Of course, nobody would dare wear a uniform. It would look silly in almost any sport, but in baseball, it would seem out of place if a coach DIDN”T wear a uniform.

Low is a doppelganger for the legendary actor and singer Peter Gallagher, who gained fame with the younger generation beginning in August 2003 when The O.C. premiered. Gallagher played the legendary Sandy Cohen, the morally grounded public defender who took in Ryan Atwood, the troubled young man from Chino who happened to be a client when Ryan and older brother Trey were arrested for grand theft auto in the series premiere.  Gallagher is a native New Yorker, and Cohen was portrayed as growing up in the Bronx, but whereas Cohen was Jewish, Gallagher is Catholic. Strangely enough, I happen to be going through my annual summer review of The O.C. right now, although I’ve paused for the World Cup final, and I have once again enjoyed watching Gallagher do his thing as Sandy. And let’s not forget the other actors on The O.C., especially Ben McKenzie as Ryan and my personal favorite, Kelly Rowan as Kirsten Cohen. As much as I liked One Tree Hill, I wonder what might have been had One Tree Hill ended after high school and The O.C. gone on.

Of the actors on The O.C., three have gone on to other well-known series: Gallagher in Covert Affairs, McKenzie in Southland, and Rachel Bilson in Hart of Dixie. By contrast, only one OTH alum has been a series regular, Sophia Bush in Chicago P.D., although Hilarie Burton had a memorable turn on White Collar. Bethany Joy Lenz, where are you?

Extra time is underway in Rio de Janeiro. I’ll stop for now.

Sloth-paced Saturday

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer most of the day–albeit sometimes I’ve dozed off–and yet I have not posted today. I am on the verge of getting back into my old lazy habits, where I would just neglect a blog after starting off fast. Then again, since I’m back in Russell, there really wasn’t anything doing. I did get out of the house for a couple of hours, because there was an open house at the Russell County News office to welcome the new publisher, Frank Mercer, and to say thank you to his predecessor, Jack Krier, since he and Kathy retired May 31 and have now moved to Missouri. It was the first time my Impala has left the garage since I got home Tuesday evening from my serpetine drive from Kansas City to Omaha to Lincoln and back to Russell through Belleville, Concordia and Salina.

The Brewers lost yet again today, ,and now they are tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central. Tomorrow, the Cardinals will complete the sweep and knock the Brewers off the perch. Man, Milwaukee has looked beyond putrid the last two weeks. They are looking WORSE than the team I thought would win 74 games prior to the season, and that’s saying a lot. The Brewers were 51-32 on June 28, and now they’re 52-43. They have lost a 6.5-game lead over St. Louis in 14 days. REPEATING: THE BREWERS HAVE LOST A 6.5-GAME LEAD IN 14 DAYS. It was fun while it lasted, but now Wisconsin sports fans will be turning to the Packers en masse.

At least today wasn’t so painful for the Brewers. They were hammered 10-2. Last night, they led St. Louis 6-0 early, only to lose 7-6 when Matt Holliday hit a game-winning home run in the top of the ninth. The day before, Matt Garza no-hit Philadelphia through six innings, only to have the Phillies score seven in the eighth and go on to win 9-1.

I had a sinking feeling the Brewers were going to hit a bad patch. I just didn’t know it would be this prolonged and this painful. Then again, they probably had no business being in the NL Central race. The Cardinals still have one of the best rosters in all of baseball, even if All-Star catcher Yadier Molina will miss at least two months. The Pirates and Reds were in the playoffs a year ago, and bot of those teams have started to play much better. I’m expecting Milwaukee to continue its freefall past the All-Star Break. It’s one thing if they would have started the season slowly and continued to be bad. This makes it all the more painful to witness.

The MLB team closest to Russell is faring no better in an important series at home. The Royals’ hopes to win the AL Central are now ZILCH, barring a collapse by Detroit. Kansas City lost again to the Tigers at home, tonight by a 5-1 count, and now are 0-5 this year vs. Detroit at Kauffman Stadium. Detroit has owned the Royals in Kansas City since 2006, but most Royals teams from1996 through 2012 have been downright pitiful or worse. To continue to have those problems when you’re supposed to be a contending team is a sign of real trouble. The Royals are now nine games behind Detroit in the loss column. No way they’re making that up, unless there’s a 1978 Red Sox-Yankees plot twist in the wind.

By the way, the third place match of the FIFA World Cup was today. If you were watching it, you are addicted to association football and need to go into detox after the conclusion of tomorrow’s championship match.

Third place contests are the worst. Who cares? I cannot stand the fact the Kansas State High School Activities Association insists on them in every team sport except football. They are useless. Do two teams who lost their chance to play for a championship really want to come back for something totally meaningless? What’s worse about the World Cup is the Dutch players had to spend two more days away from home after they’ve been in Brazil for a month in that miserable climate. At least in Brazil’s case, they didn’t have to leave home. But why bother? Cut out the third place match, play the championship on Saturday and end the damn thing.

Speaking of the World Cup championship match, kickoff is now just over 14 hours away. Here’s hoping Germany takes it.

Getting lazy

I can’t get into bad habits again. Went the whole day yesterday and the first half of today without posting. That’s not good. I’ve had other blogs die on the vine because I got lazy. Maybe I need a reminder. I hope not.

There really wasn’t much to report on yesterday anyway. Had to get my column done for the Russell County News, and mostly spent the day between dozing off and watching my DVD collection of The O.C. I’ve got seven episodes left in season one.

The world is awaiting LeBron James’ decision. It’s either stay with the Heat or go back to Cleveland. I don’t see how he’s going back to the Cavaliers, and I think he’s just jerking around Cleveland once again, but I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong, because I still can’t stand him, and I cannot stand the Heat for getting away with blatant collusion by consulting Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh all those years to form the Big Three in Miami.

The other big NBA free agent prize is Carmelo Anthony. I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. Me, me, me, me. Complains all the time. The Knicks or Lakers can have him.

The 2014-15 season marks the 30th anniversary of the NBA’s current salary cap. The cap was the last act of Lawrence O’Brien as NBA commissioner, as he and the NBA’s owners tried to get the spiraling salaries under control. At that time, NBA players on average were paid far more than their NFL counterparts, and the top players in the NBA were far ahead of their top counterparts in Major League Baseball.

The cap for the 1984-85 season was $3.6 million. It will be over $63 million for the 2014-15 season. Inflation anyone?

Argentina won the second FIFA World Cup semifinal yesterday, ousting the Netherlands in a shootout after neither team could score over 120  minutes. So it’s Germany and Argentina for all the marbles Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. Anyone not specifically tied to Argentina will certainly be rooting for Germany, because as bad as Brazil losing  7-1 to Germany was, it would be exponentially worse if Argentina won the Cup in Brazil. If you thought the US and the Soviet Union rivalry during the Cold War was nasty, Brazil-Argentina in futbol features far more hatred.

I’m not a big fan of Argentina, either. That country has generally been anti-American throughout its history, and it tried to steal the Falkland Islands by force in 1982, but thankfully, the Brits destroyed them.  Then there was the 1986 World Cup match when Argentina’s superstar, Diego Maradona, got away with a handball when he punched the ball into the net vs. England, yet the Tunisian referee, Ali Bin Nasser, let the goal stand. Argentina went on to win the Cup that year, defeating West Germany in the final.

The Milwaukee Brewers could lose their NL Central lead today. They are playing awful right now. It’s one thing losing twice on the road at Toronto and Cincinnati. It’s another to lose three in a row at home to Philadelphia. It’s going south fast. Really fast.

Sauced

My own bed and my own home was a far more attractive option than any Nebraska hotel. Therefore, I drove 10 hours round trip from Kansas City to Omaha to Lincoln and back to Russell. I figured with the sun out until almost 9 p.m. and a good stretch of four-lane highway on US 81 between York, Nebraska and Salina, I could make it. The fatigue began to catch up with me by time I made the turn onto i-70 west, but I pulled in safely at 7:30. Went straight for the bed and woke up at 10:40.

I got what I came for in Nebraska. Stopped at Raising Cane’s in both Omaha and Lincoln to get my 32-ounce cups of sauce. Previously, you could not buy the sauce in such large quantities, but Todd Graves, Raising Cane’s founder, got smart and figured he could make more money by selling it. I wasn’t going to pass up such an opportunity, given I had not been to Cane’s in almost two years. I was not big on Cane’s sauce when I first went in Baton Rouge, but now it’s addictive.

I was smart enough to bring the bread I bought in Kansas City into the house this time. I left three loaves in the car for five days when I made my last trip, and by time I returned to Russell, it was moldy. Twelve bucks down the drain. I also found the Boulevard Wheat Beer Brats I could not find last week, plus my favorite cheese, Pecorino Romano, to grate for salads. If you’ve never had that cheese, you need to try it. Now. My mother has been grating it for our pasta for over 30 years, and I would never, ever used the cheap stuff on my pasta.

I did not see Germany’s destruction of Brazil in the World Cup semifinals today. However, I did get to listen to the entertaining radio commentary of JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth, who kept my attention even though the match was out of hand early. In fact, I did not change the channel at all during the match, which is rare for me, because I often have to change it because I don’t like the song, or I’m tired of listening to the same thing over and over on talk radio.

Nate Silver is STILL wiping the egg from his face. The founder of the website five-thiry-eight.com predicted Brazil, even without Neymar, the leading scorer who suffered cracked vertebrae near the end of the quarterfinal match vs. Colombia, and defender Thiago Silva, who was suspended after accumulating two yellow cards in earlier matches vs. Chile and Colombia, that Brazil STILL had a 65 PERCENT chance of defeating Germany. Yes, Germany had a rough outing against Algeria, going scoreless through regulation, and was far from the top of their game in a draw vs. Ghana, but its best performances were against the two European sides, a 4-0 rout of Portugal and a 1-0 victory over France where the Germans scored very early and never let France get a consistent attack going.

Even with Neymar and Silva, Brazil was inconsistent. It gave up an own goal vs. Croatia in its first match, could only muster a scoreless draw vs. Mexico, and needed a shootout to move past Chile.  It was obvious the weight of the universe was on Brazil’s shoulders, because not only did the country expect a World Cup championship, but one where the Brazilians dominated every time they took the field. They certainly did not, and while a 7-1 result in any World Cup semifinal is out of this galaxy, Germany’s victory was certainly not unexpected.

The Netherlands and Argentina go at it in the other semifinal at 3 p.m. Central. Brazilians are probably rooting for the Dutch, because the LAST thing they want is Argentina to win the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

Since it’s already Wednesday, time to shut it down for a few hours. Night all.

Back in the basement

I pulled into the right-side space in the garage at 1224 North Brooks Street at 12:20 a.m. I was home for the first time since 8:30 a.m. last Thursday, when I departed Russell in the rain.

The drive was fine, but four hours at that late hour is going to be tiring, especially after the emotional day I had. I stopped at McDonald’s in Junction City for late night food, because I felt it would help me make the final 112 miles, and it did.

Brazil is into the semifinals of the World Cup, but the host nation is now a huge underdog to Germany Tuesday. Germany would have been the favorite regardless, but now Brazil faces even longer odds now that its leading scorer, Neymar, suffered a cracked vertebrae late in yesterday’s win over Colombia.

Juan Carlos Zuniga kneed Neymar in the back. Many think it was a clean challenge and it was simply unfortunate circumstances, a few in the Brazilian camp believe Zuniga intended to injure Neymar. Needless to say, Zuinga is public enemy No. 1 in Brazil right now.

As long as Zuinga doesn’t leave Colombia, he should be fine, unlike Andres Escobar, who was executed in 1994 upon orders from a drug kingpin after he scored an own goal in a loss to the United States.

Saturdays during the summer, especially when I’m home, are totally lazy. I have to struggle to stay awake sometimes. The only real action on Saturdays for me come in the fall with volleyball tournaments and an occasional football playoff game, and wrestling tournaments in the winter.

Learn the language

France and Germany are just underway in the first of four FIFA World Cup quarterfinals. Brazil and Colombia play at 3 p.m., and then tomorrow it’s Argentina-Belgium and Netherlands-Costa Rica.

The vast majority of Americans–78 percent, if the ESPN.com front page poll is to be believed–thought the USA would be playing Argentina in the first match tomorrow morning. Goalkeeper Tim Howard played the match of his life and one of the best matches a keeper has played in the World Cup in the past 50 years, or the Americans would have been beaten 3-0 or 4-0, and it wouldn’t have required extra time.

There are two reasons why the Americans can’t be considered an association football powerhouse, and that’s simply because most don’t know the right words.

First, it’s football everywhere else. Only the US and Canada still call it soccer. Canada has proven its ineptitude on the international stage time and again, qualifying for the World Cup final tournament only once (1986) and scoring the grand total of zero goals in three matches. Then again, Canada has an excuse, because you can’t do anything outside from mid-October through mid-April. On the other hand, Sporting Kansas City won last year’s MLS Cup in a match played when it was 4 degrees below zero Celsius (25 Fahrenheit).

Second, the leader of the football club is a manager, not a head coach as what ESPN and other outlets have been referring to Jurgen Klinsmann. Heck, the US invented a sport (baseball) where the team is led by a manager, so why is this one difficult? I’ve never understood why high school and college baseball refers to the leader of the team as the head coach. Strange.

Okay, this time, I REALLY am going to turn off the computer. I’ve got only 44 minutes to get out. Next post will be from the basement at 1224 North Brooks Street, Russell, KS.

Wasted Wednesday morning

I have already had a rough go. I am overdue to get my oil changed, tires rotated and trunk light fixed on my Chevrolet Impala at Morse-McCarthy Chevrolet. I had an appointment for 8:30, but I slept and slept, and now it is 11:30. Lucky for me, the dealership is only five minutes north of the hotel on Metcalf Avenue.

I got one piece of good news this morning. I was the top player in the nation Monday night at Buzztime’s The Pulse, the 30-question sports quizwhich runs from 7 to 8 p.m. Central every Monday. The other nine players in the top two were from two bars. I’ll explain later. This the second time I’ve been tops in the nation, the other was March 31.

No World Cup today. The US is out after losing 2-1 in extra time to Belgium yesterday. The match was scoreless through 90 minutes, but Belgium scored twice in the first 15-minute period of extra time. The Americans scored early in the second extra period, but could not find the equalizer, and thus are coming home. The final eight are Brazil-Colombia, France-Germany, Netherlands-Costa Rica and Argentina-Belgium. The quarterfinals are Friday and Saturday, semifinals Tuesday and next Wednesday, and the championship is Sunday, July 13.

Adios, Mexico

I was right, I could not avoid the wings today at Buffalo Wild Wings. But I limited myself to just a small order (10-12) with no other food. I ended up giving my lovely waitress, Alexandra, a hefty tip ($8,85), since she had not waited on me since December.

People who are poor tippers anger me to no end. I see reports of  LeBron James leaving a $15 on a $500 check and I dislike him even more than I do for his collusion with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh when he signed with the Heat. If I were making .001% of what LeBron makes, I would be sure to leave at least a Benjamin or two at a nice restaurant. If it’s a place like Buffalo Wild Wings, I’d tip at least a $20, maybe a $50. I try to do what I can on my limited funds, because I know I could never be a restaurant worker. I’m too clumsy and I’m too shy. What’s an extra five bucks?

It was packed to the gills and beyond at B-Dubs when I arrived at 1. I figured it would be, since the Netherlands and Mexico kicked off their World Cup match at 11, and the Royals wrapped up their series with the Angels beginning at 1:10.

Mexico scored early in the second half, and it appeared that one goal would hold up for El Tri (the Mexicans’ nickname, based upon their flag’s vertical green, white and red stripes) until the Dutch scored in the 88th minute.

Certainly, the match would be going into extra time, but in stoppage time–the time added on by the referee after the 90th minute (45th in the first half) elapses, Mexico’s Rafael Marquez was given a yellow card for taking down Arjen Robben in the “box” (the area directly in front of the goal), and the Portuguese referee awarded the Dutch a penalty kick.

Robben’s kick was easy, since Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa dived the wrong way. Ochoa was masterful in a scoreless draw vs. Brazil in group play, but this is one he’ll be burdened with for a long time.

The Dutch will next play Costa Rica, which won a shootout over Greece.

The Royals won 5-4 on Omar Infante’s single in the bottom of the ninth. My favorite MLB team, the Brewers, lost 10-4 to Colorado, but hey, they won the first six over Colorado in the season series and are 18 games over .500.

Less than 48 hours now until the most anticipated futbol match in the history of the United States of America.

As for me, it was another very good day. Got to see Liz and a lot of my friends who work at Buffalo Wild Wings and did exceedingly well at Buzztime Trivia. “Exceedingly well” because I had plenty of strong competition throughout the day and I turned back all comers. Tomorrow night at 7 is the weekly quiz of the current events in sports, a game I dominate at this particular B-Dubs. As in all 10 high scores from the last 12 months are mine.

I’ve got a column to write for the newspapers I work for. I’ve got lots Nto write about, and it’s a shame not all of it can get in.