Sunday, June 25, 2006

Argentina's secret weapon

(following our recent lookalike theme)

Anyone else notice that Happy Madison was on the field for the 'Tinians yesterday?

Maxi Rodriguez (guess which one he is) ripped a volley into the top left corner to end Mexico's hopes of moving on to the Elite 8.

He got that penguin and put him back in the zoo, where he belongs.

Watch the goal of the tourney here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's just...so...perfect.


It really encapsulates everything we've thought since seeing him for the first time a month or so ago. All this time we had thought his look was patently British. Turns out it's not. It's patently honking-wheelchair-bound-kid.

Funny how we can get the two confused.

Credit goes to these cheeky blokes.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Oh, Karl, we miss you so much


About a day.

That's how long it took after Karl Rove was not indicted (can we all just keep in mind that "not indicted" is not the same as "not guilty") before the media love-fest resumed in full force.

Some headlines:
"Rove sets trap for Democrats"
"Elections are Rove's next test"
"Rove laughs last"
"Rove's plans for 2006"

It's like a precious child coming home from weeks in jail, and the loving mother welcoming him back with open arms (really, that's not much of a stretch).

Holy shit, they really missed him, didn't they?

Oh, and the guy that Cheney shot in the face gave Rove a $2,000 shotgun. Glorious irony.

World Cup, Week in Review

We've survived the first week. There were beautiful goals (pick an Argentina finish), spectacular saves (T&T's geriatric keeper had a few), and mindboggling mistakes (hey Iran's goalie: next time kick it to your own team). We bring you the week's recap, and can't wait for more...

Most surprising team
Ok, we're biased. But how can you not pick the Soca Warriors in this spot? First they tie their group's 1-seed, and then fight to the finish against England. T&T have shown the most heart in the tourney thus far, and can even make the 2nd round still. If they beat Paraguay and England beat Sweden, the Socas are through to the elimination round. (Runners-up: Ecuador and Angola)

Most disappointing team
Has to be the Americans. They had something to prove after their great '02 Copa Mondial, but came out flat. The European fans were salivating to label the Americans as overrated, and the world's #2 team obliged. The Americans must make many corrections for today's match vs. Italy, or the Azzuri will deliver the knockout blow. (Runners-up: Poland and France)

Best Goal:
This one's a tie. The first is individual: Tomas Rosicky's absolute laser that left Kasey Keller -- and the Americans -- deflated and on their backs. We may go the rest of the Cup without seeing another 35-yarder that pierces the side netting.
The other is team-oriented: In yesterday's steamrolling by Argentina, Hernan Crespo trapped an entry pass and proceeded to execute the perfect heel-flick to a streaking Esteban Cambiasso, who finished strongly. We will now take the opportunity to remind you that we picked the 'Tinians to win it all. (Runners-up: See em all here.)

Best player not named Ronaldinho so far:
Arjen Robben, Netherlands.
He is probably playing even better than the Barca superstar. After completely dominating the Dutch's 1-0 opening win, he set up Ruud's goal that proved to be the game-winner in yesterday's 2-1 triumph over Cote D'Ivoire. No one has been able to corral him thus far, and if he continues like this, the Oranje are to be reckoned with later on.

Most disappointing player not named DeMarcus Beasley:
It's a shame, but the Americans could really have 3 or 4 players here. Instead we will go down south and pick one of the world's most talented: Mr. Ronaldo. The star of the '02 Cup looked fat, tired, out of shape, and disinterested (as Sporlinoted by Brazil's PRESIDENT). And the Brazilian media let him know it. Look for him to pick it up next game, or he will be watching the 22-year-old budding star Robinho from the bench.

Best team not named Brazil:
Argentina. They put on an aboslute clinic yesterday against a Serbian squad that looked like they longed for Eastern Europe. Most teams in this tournament will go all 3 games without scoring 6 goals, and the 'Tinians did it in one game. They looked absolutely dominant.

Monday, June 12, 2006

U.S. Soccer, the aftermath

There are many things to be said about the debacle that was today's game. The Czechs just ate the Americans for lunch, there's no other way to say it. We will start with the bad, then the good, and then the lingering questions that Bruce Lee Arena must answer.

Bad:
Wow, where to begin...The Yanks came out totally flat. Nearly every publication had deemed them "confident" and other such synonyms, but they seemed to think the world's #2 would bow to them. Talk about a wake-up call. There were some things that are particularly disturbing:
1) Lack of technical play -- There were an inordinate number of miffed traps, poor first touches, and mistimed passes. It was something that is typical either of a) an unskilled team or b) a team with the jitters, neither of which are characterstic of this squad.
2) Total absence of passion -- It seemed that at times, no one was running hard. Claudio Reyna could have been the only player who ran hard the entire game, and even he played below his normal level. They looked lazy, and nowhere were they more punished than...
3) Midfield whitewash -- Pablo, Convey, Claudio, DmB, Donovan, all of them bear a brunt of the blame. They played two of the best midfielders in the world in Rosinky and Nedved, but were thoroughly outplayed and embarassed. Simply unacceptable. And B-Mac showed nothing up top.

Positives:
1) First and foremost, those of us who have seen this team play over and over know this was not the real US team. Whether it was overconfidence or jitters or simply being stunned by the steamrolling they took in the opening 10 minutes, the team seemed to find a little confidence around the Reyna posting. This team is very capable of waking up and taking out some anger on Italia.
2) The tournament is not yet over. There is a huge hill to climb, but not impossible. Our destiny is still in our hands. If we win the next 2, we are in.
3) Brazil is the only team better than the one we played today. We came out flat; at least it was against a team we would have had a hard time against anyway. It would have been devastating had we lost to Ghana in the opener because we were flat.
4) Some players showed up, most notably Johnny O and Gooch (pictured). Johnny O will be starting -- or at least better be -- and Gooch played well enough, including most headers and some ground tackles as well.
5) We did not sleep our way to the #5 ranking in the world. We know we sound like Stuart Smiley, but we ARE good enough, gosh darnit.

Lingering questions:
1) Most important: Who plays right midfield? DmB could not have been more out of place. But if you move him over, you take out someone (Convey) who has played much better than DmB in 2006. DmB possesses more ability than Convey, but if he is going to mail it in, you may as well have Bobby on the left. So who plays right mid? Move up Cherundolo and play Boca in the back? Put Landon out there and have others (Johnny O?) in the middle?
2) Who plays striker? We all know that Bruce loves B-mac. But if the ball is not served to him, he has trouble creating. Eddie Johnson showed some flare in the last 20 minutes but is also maddeningly inconsistent. We do not envy Bruce right now, but this is why he is the coach. We would have Eddie and B-mac up top, with Convey (or DmB, not even we can take a stand), Claudio, Johnny O, and Landon in the midfield.
3) How do the Americans bounce back? Do they come out and blow the doors off the place on Saturday? Or does Italy put in a quick one, fall back into their famous defensive cocoon, and crush our dreams? Only time will tell...

All we know for sure is that we waited 4 years for this, sat through all weather to see our team, and now are supremely disappointed. It shows how truly difficult this tournament is. But it is NOT over. We have at least 2 games left, and cannot wait to lie to our workplaces to be able to watch the Ghana game live.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

money-money-money-money...MONEY!

3 things are certain in life: death, taxes, and the GOP will raise more money than the Democrats. It's the way things always have been; Republicans are generally richer and more generous than Democrats.

But the lead story in the Sunday WashPost is -- make sure you're sitting down -- the following:
"Democrats Closing Fundraising Gap with Republicans"

Dr. Howie was roundly criticized (something he is getting quite used to) for not hauling in enough cash in his first few months. Since then, however, the Dems are closing the enormous fundraising gap that has existed for years in politics: (via WashPost)

A surge in small, individual contributions is lifting Democratic campaigns this year and is helping close a Republican fundraising advantage that has existed for years in national politics, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Democratic House and Senate candidates and their two major campaign committees are enjoying stronger grass-roots support than at any time since the GOP took over both chambers of Congress in the 1994 elections, according to strategists from both parties who have reviewed the most recent FEC data released this spring.

It's not particularly surprising that the GOP is suffering from a lack of donations. They have infuriated their base by increasing the size of government, unsuccessful nation-building, and a nightmarish increase in spending. The true surprise is that the Dems are raising more cash.

We've never been the type to credit the blogosphere for more than increasing awareness. But this "increase in small donations" has Howie and Joe Trippi's internet fingerprints all over it. Just another reason for the GOP to be scared heading into November.

Soca!!


Every year we hear harping about how weak CONCACAF -- the group out of which we get the U.S., Mexico, and others -- is. Well Trinidad and Tobago, the last CONCACAF team in the tournament and the smallest country EVER to qualify, shocked the world yesterday.

They tied the 1-seed in their group, perennial power Sweden. The Soca Warriors (as T&T is known over here in the West) showed serious heart as they played with their backup, 37-year-old keeper AND were down a man for almost the entire second half.

The jubiliation at the end of the match, and from the few T&T fans in the crowd, reminded us what this tournament is all about. CONCACAF pride!

(Belated) World Cup Preview

Yeah, yeah. We know it's late. But the weather has just been too nice lately...

Everyone knows about Brazil, and nearly all have picked them to repeat as champions. However, after much pow-wowing, we have made an underdog pick to win it all. Which we will get to later. First, our 5 players to watch and our preview of the USA bracket (aka Group of Death):

Five Players to Watch:

Peter Crouch, England: With the broken metatarsal of 20-year-old wunderkind Wayne Rooney healing gingerly, Crouch has stepped it up. He had a hat trick in the Empire's final tune-up and his imposing 6-7 frame creates a Twins-like team with diminutive Michael Owen (who looks nothing like Danny Devito, while Crouch does slightly resemble the governator).

Kasey Keller, U.S.A.: All questions have surrounded Claudio Reyna's hammy and who Bruce Arena will start at striker, and all seem to be content with calling Keller one of the best GKs in the world. Lest we forget, though, that had Brad Friedel not been a brick wall in 2002, the US would not have advanced. Keller needs to play up to the hype, or the Yanks could be heading home after 3.

Thierry Henry, France: Widely considered the world's best striker (yes, even better than Ronaldo) but scored bubkus in 2002 as the French -- defending champs -- were shut out and sent home early. His magical left foot must find the back of the net and, if it does, the field could be in trouble.

Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine: The boys from Kyev are not especially dangerous on their own, but this Chelsea sniper strikes fear in the hearts of all opponents. He is a young star in England and hit the penalty that won the Champions League in 2003. Andriy may surprise some and carry Ukraine on to the knockout round, but let's just hope the Ukraine does not have the same "rules" that the Brazilians have about being with your wives in the Cup. His wife is smokin' hot American model Kristen Pazik (picture).

Ronaldinho, Brazil: Simply the best. This will be the Cup where he vaults himself into the ever so selective pantheon of Pele and Maradona. There are highlight videos all over the internet; catch some if you can. He is the man that the world most enjoys watching and there is not one player who has more fun playing the game -- witness the enormous bucktoothed smile perpetually on his face. Take off work and watch the Brazilians play; he will embarass at least 2 players per game.


Group of Death:
OK, we'll say it now and get it out of the way. The U.S. will be hard-pressed to advance, and we are not sure that they can do it. You have to assume that the Czechs, the world's 2nd-ranked team, will advance (even with AC striker Milan Baros injured).

The real fight will be for the second spot. The Italians are weaker than in years past but once they get a lead, it's all over. They bring nearly everyone back into the box and shut it down. And Ghana -- the youngest team in the whole tournament -- could be the dark horse. African nations have made some serious noise in years past, and Ghana is widely considered the best African nation this year.

Our prediction? Ghana will upset at least one of the three teams and throw the whole group into a tailspin. However, we think that the Czechs will emerge as the class of the division and Italy will survive (beat the Yanks and tie the Czechs). We certainly hope we are wrong. And hey, anything can happen: the whole world "knew" Portugal would walk all over the U.S. in 2002...

The Champs:
We are going to go away from conventional wisdom. If the Brazilians coast through the tournament there will be little surprise. However, they are ripe for the picking. Their weakness remains their defense (or lack thereof) and it only takes one to beat them in the knockout round. That team will be...

Argentina. If one team is going to knock off Brazil, it is going to be someone that is familiar with them. This fellow South American nation (albeit with a disappointing 2-1 start against Cote D'Ivoire yesterday) could be the team. They play excellent defense and are led by the dangerous Hernan Crespo up top. If they make it to Brazil, watch out.

Eh, who are we kidding. The Brazilians will probably win. Just enjoy them embarassing all the other teams.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Weah Weeklies, 6.4 edition


Ah yes, it's everyone's favorite time again. The Weahs (how appropriate, we honor a soccer superstar on a week the Copa Mondial gets underway)...

Weah to go...
1) Us: Not "us" as in your loyal local Sporlifriends. "Us" as in "the world," because we are blessed with the World Cup starting this Friday (our preview to come).
2) Anyone who thinks gay people should suffer the same fate as straight people: Pres. Bush will lend his support to an anti-gay marriage Senate bill that is already doomed to fail this week. His endorsement is like throwing an anchor through a sinking ship.
3) Mavs/Heat: Franchises each make their first-ever appearances in the NBA Finals. Pro: we get to hear more of Avery "squeaky" Johnson. Con: We have to endure more Mark Cuban.

On the Weah down...
1) Croatia: Congrats, Croats. Your reward for making the Cup is having the entire world watch your opener v. Brazil. Just don't let Ronaldinho fake you out of your shorts.
2) Steve Nash: Reigning 2-time MVP has to watch his old mates stomp him on the way to the Finals. That has to hurt.
3) Dick Cheney: Lost a fight to a woman. (more specifically: apparently lost out in the argument with Condi Rice, as Dubya chose the more diplomatic route with Iran...but it sounds better the way we said it)

The "Take that, Darwin" award of the week:
The inimitable Bruce Arena, coach of the US Soccer Team. The man is brilliant and (often) disarmingly funny, but did he have to make his first quote in Germany:
"We'll just go ahead and be dumb Americans."
In fairness, it was in response to criticism for letting his players sleep with their wives during the Cup. But still...

NHL Finals Preview

Maybe it's because of that whole lockout boondoggle. Maybe it's because the games are shown on the same network as "Babe Winkleman: Costa Rica Madness." But it's probably because we just have better things to do.

Either way, no one watches the NHL anymore. We caught a few games here and there, but not nearly enough to make an educated procrastination on this week's series. Besides, there's something antithetical about hockey in June. So with that, we present our completely unscientific, unresearched, and otherwise uncredible "prediction" for the Finals:

Carolina in 6.

Games 1 and 2: Carolina coasts in Game 1, aided by the Oilers distraction of a) the Hurricanes' cheerleaders and b)Rod Brind'Amour's schnozz. But the Oilers recover in Game 2 behind the power of Chris Pronger and the Barishnikov-ing of Sergei Samsonov.

Game 3: The Oilers take the momentum from Game 2 and blow out the Canes behind hat tricks from Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier -- they still play for the Oilers, right?

Games 4-6: The Canes have had enough. They invoke the power of the great Hartford Whalers and win going away. Besides, the Oilers' goalie's name is Dwayne. There's no way they can win.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I'm not proud of it, but it helped me out of many a jam!


Rest easy, America. The "Harry Caray Bandit" has been nabbed.

The man who has been terrorizing/tickling nostalgic/depressed Cubbies fans for months was caught in Indiana yesterday. He had been robbing bank tellers while wearing...well...we'll let the Tribune tell the rest:
Guillermo Rivera has been charged with making off with $2,000 on March 29 from the Palos Bank and Trust in Palos Heights.

At the time, police said the robber, decked out in oversized glasses, a baseball cap and perhaps a wig, resembled the late Cubs broadcaster.

The FBI later changed the moniker to the "10-Second Bandit" because he repeatedly demanded that tellers hand over cash "in 10 seconds."

There was no report on whether the bandit was found hallucinating that he was a hot dog.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

All-natural, baby

Chalk up another one up to us Yanks.

In yet another blow to the Frenchies (they aren't much for fights), Lance Armstrong has again been exonerated of any wrongdoing in his training for the annual Lance backhand more commonly known as the Tour de France. He had been accused of doping (again), and was deemed not guilty (again).

A Dutch anti-doping team (and the Dutch know something about dope) said Lance's jus d'orange was au naturale.

Take that, France. We are the fattest country in the world. None of us bike anymore. None. We send over one guy who nearly died from cancer and he biked every one of your favorites into the ground. Seven times. Just admit it; we are superior.

Peaking at 13

We'll admit it.

We watched the last 10 minutes of the National Spelling Bee, because, well, seeing pre-teens squirm on a stage is damn good television.

We even started rooting for one -- but only after realizing the other finalist was Canadian. There's something wrong about a Canadian winning our National Bee. Luckily she choked on a big German weltschmerz.

The winner, Katherine Close, showed some serious ursprache in spelling her final word correctly (ed's note: we have no idea what the definition of the word is, but it just sounds right in this context, so we're going with it).

The highlight of the final minutes was the post-spell interview by Chris Connelly. How far has he fallen? He used to interview Britney Spears and Mick Jagger. Now he has been relegated to sideline reporter for the National Spelling Bee. Ouch, babe. Ouch.