Monthly Archives: June 2010

World Cup Fever Simmers in US

June 29, 2010

Admittedly, I did not see much of the U.S. vs. Ghana World Cup game this last weekend, but the ratings were good. The U.S. was clamoring for something to believe in, something to once again hang our hat on in world athletic competition. Unfortunately, we got beat by a country the size of Minnesota, with the population of Texas, and a less than fearsome soccer resume.

Alas, if only we really cared. I’ve thought long and hard about why Americans haven’t caught onto football yet, and I think there’s many reasons-

Europe likes it. A lot. Therefore, it would be weird of us to like it.

  1. The whole faking an injury to draw a red card thing. American men are raised to pretend like they aren’t hurt, even if their leg has been snapped like Joe Theisman, so pretending that you are hurt when you’re not, is not only foreign to us, it’s downright despicable.
  2. South America likes it. A little too much. Therefore, it would be unoriginal of us to like it.
  3. The lack of scoring. Let’s face it, a game where they rarely score more than 3 times a game just isn’t appealing to Americans. Just ask Gary Bettman.
  4. Africa and Asia and Oceania like it. Therefore, well, you get the point.

These are just a few off the top of my head. I think another part of it is the lack of high level competition in the US. Who wants to watch an MLS game when you know that the players on the field aren’t the cream of the crop? We wouldn’t accept that kind of competition in the NFL or MLB. The outrage over mediocre players leaving the NBA and NHL for Europe proves that. All in all, I don’t see the U.S. jumping feet first into soccer, ever. Never say never, but as long as we have our beloved [Insert Home Team Here], we just won’t really give a hoot about soccer. Is it unfortunate? Perhaps. The U.S. could bring its stable of athletes who chose other sports over soccer to the table and be a world power in the sport, but as long as there’s still millions to be made in the big 4 professional sports, I don’t see that happening. It is just another rift between us and the rest of the world? Perhaps. But we’ll just keep being the quirky kid that doesn’t understand the global obsession.

Which is just fine by us.

To follow up something I wrote a few weeks back about players complaining about the Jabulani ball from Adidas, Scientists have recently proven that the problem with the ball is its perfection- the heat bonded seams that give the ball its perfect sphere shape make it too perfectly round, and therefore, less aerodynamic. I think it’s something along the lines of a golf ball without dimples, but I’m not a soccer scientist.

NBA Finals Heading for History

June 16, 2010

Before I start I’m going to promise my friend Ray, who works for an unnamed professional basketball team, that I’m not going to get too snarky when discussing basketball, and I’ll keep the NBA bashing to a minimum.

Last night I tuned in to Game 6 of the NBA finals to see if the Celtics would be close to closing out the Lakers late in the game. Instead, I found the Lake Show giving a dark alley beatdown to the Celtics at the Staples Center. I couldn’t help but think. ‘Wow, David Stern must be loving this.’ A Game 7 between the two legendary franchises to decide the title must be a comissioner’s dream, and will add some much needed hype to the Finals in a year when they’re competing for airtime with the World Cup (I’m being serious here, folks).

The problem that I can’t get away from is how south the ratings will go after halftime when the Lakers have another 25 point third quarter lead like last night. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Celtics are really good, they showed us that in Boston, but that’s precisely the problem, it was in Boston. It’s been a tale of two cities, with the excpetion of Games 2 and 3, each home team and pretty much ruled supreme. If game 7 were in Boston, I think I might put money on the Celtics. But, it isn’t. Which comes around to my point- Why I like Home court (field, ice) advantage. Why are the Lakers at home for Game 7? Because they earned it. The were a firestorm during the regular season, unlike the Celtics, who endured a roller coaster season en route to a solid but unspectactular winning record.

Why I’m talking about this is because I’ve heard it before, talks about moving everything to a neutral site in the Finals, especially in Baseball, and sometimes in Basketball and Hockey. Which I find a little ridiculous. Would it be fun to host a Superbowl-like two weeks of Games to determine your MLB, NBA and NHL champions? Sure. Would it be a huge corporate event like the Superbowl? Maybe. But unlike the Superbowl, played in the dead of winter for us up north types, it’s just not necesary. I’d rather home field advantage be decided by the fruits of that team’s labor throughout the season, like the NBA and NHL wisely do. Do NOT get me started on baseball’s idea, as we’ll be here for hours during an expletive-laced tirade about Bud Selig.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a crazy dramatic game 7, with a last second Kobe jumper sealing the deal, or a buzzer beating Ray Allen trey turning the dagger, but I just don’t see it. At home, the Lakers are just too deadly, and now the apex predator in the NBA, Kobe Bryant, smells blood in the water in his home pool. I anticipate a Jordanesque performance, and plenty of lower jaw photo ops.

But on the other hand, KG yelling whatever Adidas’ slogan this year at the top of his lungs would be pretty entertaining, too.

Call it a push.

A Goalie… Every Hockey Team Needs One

June 10, 2010

After last night’s Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, I was left with the same feeling everyone else felt:

“What just happened?”

Unfortunately for the fans in Philly, no one besides Patrick Kane had any idea what happened in the early stages of overtime last night either, when Kane slipped a (soft) goal between the wickets of Mike Leighton and cleverly hid the puck inside of the net, where no one would look for it, to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup. When overtime began I was borderline giddy, as an overtime in an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Final is one of the most exciting events in pro sports for my money, and I was excited for the possibilities of wide shots, amazing saves, sprawling defensemen, and too many close calls to count. Instead, I got an ending somehow more anticlimactic than the Gold medal game in Vancouver this year.

Surely, the NHL was happy with two old school teams in large markets meeting for an exciting 6 game series with lots of scoring for you Non-Hockey types. But as good as the series was until the end of regulation in game 6, the final seconds were so horribly, terribly awkward and unfulfilling that it may have turned off some people to the sport, especially in the eastern Pennsylvania area. Not that Chicago wasn’t the better team, or that they didn’t earn their rings, because they were and they did, but I would’ve liked to see something a little more exciting than 18,000 supremely confused people living and dying on a courtesy goal review, as if the ref didn’t find the puck in the net after Kane put on his invisibility cloak and stashed it there.

If anyone should be embarrassed, it should probably be Leighton, who was the hero of the Montreal series, and undoubtedly the goat of the Finals. But how much can you expect? He was a fourth string goalie that the Flyers claimed off of waivers in December, you can’t fault him right? Ah, the city of Brotherly Love, where fourth stringers are crucified for not winning it all. You know what I blame? His equipment, which was probably not found using So in a brilliant segway that relates to the content of this site, here’s some buying tips for goalie equipment, from a good source, as I have strapped on the pads and pretended to be Patrick Roy for about 14 years now.

  • Mask: As with most goalie equipment, sizing is pretty simple, just make sure you find a helmet that is comfortable and you can see well in. We all have different sized noggins, and helmets greatly vary in design. Every goalie outside of Chris Osgood and some old timers are using the new style mask vs. a birdcage helmet, which is prefered because of better protection and and visibility, not to mention the potential for customization. As for a throat guard, you can go clear plastic hung from the helmet (like Roy) or a bib style one under the jersey (like Vanbiesbrook).
  • Chest: This sizing is also surprisingly simple, as mostly Youth and Adult variations are offered, but luckily, most chest protectors have a wide range of adjustment, so my stumpy frame can wear the same chest protection that the tall and lean professionals wear. Here you’re looking for comfort and coverage, as a soft spot in your protection here can lead to pretty vicious bruise.
  • Pants: First off, ’round these parts we call them breezers, and that’s what they’re called, don’t ask me why. Goalie pants are slightly different as they give you a lot more coverage between the legs, unlike regular pants, for those tough five hole shots. They’ll also usually have a little more thigh protection to cover down to your knees in case your pads don’t. I’m not going to say much about goalie jocks except they are a life saver, and I highly recommend one. Continue reading “A Goalie… Every Hockey Team Needs One” »

New Stores Batter Up and Hockey Minnesota Open at Mall of America

June 9, 2010

Locally based Gold Country has opened two new stores in the Mall of America. Batter Up, will feature Major League Baseball apparel and memorabilia and is located on the 3rd level. Hockey Minnesota offers expanded Minnesota Wild and North Star apparel and memorabilia as well as a professional assortment.

While there are several stores that offer professional apparel and memorabilia, it may help to add more of a specialized inventory like Batter Up and Hockey Minnesota offer. I will have to visit each of these stores to do a full review. I am excited to see more of a selection of Minnesota North Star apparel.

Gold Country operates 14 retail locations in Minnesota. The company also runs 10 retail locations in Wisconsin under the names Bucky’s Locker Room and Wisconsin Active Sportswear. (Minneapolis Business Journal)

Jabulani vs The World

June 4, 2010

Its seems as though the world’s elite soccer…er….Football players are upset. The world cup starts next week and everyone is talking about the ball provided by Adidas, named ‘Jabulani’ which means ‘Rejoice’ in Zulu, which may be a little ironic, considering how little rejoicing is going on when this ball is mentioned. But then again, in 2006 the same players were complaining about the Adidas Teamgeist ball, but that didn’t seem to affect the World Cup at all, at least not as much as blindside headbutts.

The problem with the new ball, according to reports, is that is flies unpredictably through the air, in Tim Wakefield knuckleball fashion. The problem may lie with the thermally bonded panels that replace the traditional stitched seams that you find in a typical soccer ball, and was designed to give the ball a more accurate and truer flight. Go figure. Adidas claims the ball has been tested at the high altitude that South Africa provides and that team have had the ball for months and there has been no negative feedback until now. If you want to decide for yourself, finding an authentic Jabulani ball may be rather difficult, as they are very high end soccer balls that will not see the shelves of most retailers, but finding a lower priced replica ball will be much easier, as most soccer retailers have had them for months.

If you are looking for a Jabulani ball or any soccer ball for that Football Fanatic in your life, there are three sizes used in gameplay-
Sz 3- This one is for the little tykes, noticeably smaller for kids under the age of 8
Sz 4- The tweener ball is a step up from the 3, and typically is used for ages 8-12
Sz 5- This is the big daddy that everyone age 12 and up uses, all the way to the World Cup Finals in Johannesburg this summer.

As far as price goes, you are likely getting what you pay for, as the price will vary based on the materials used to construct the ball itself, as there are many different materials used in the bladder, stitching, and cover of each ball. The material varies along the spectrum of synthetic leathers, as real leather balls are nonexistent anymore, and the more expensive the ball, the more feel and durability you’re likely to get. Typically, most soccer balls will start around $8-$10 for the practice variety and move up to at least $40-$50 for something game worthy. If you want to find who carries soccer balls in your area, I recommend for obvious reasons, then you can give the ‘ol football a boot and see how it flies.

Gallaraga Almost Pitches a Perfect Game

June 3, 2010

It would have been the 21st perfect game in more than 100 years of Major League Baseball. Even more amazing is the fact that there have already been 2 perfect games pitched this year; Roy Halladay of the Phillies and Dallas Braden of the A’s. The Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga didn’t get the perfect game because of a botched call by umpire Jim Joyce. Joyce admitted after the game that it was a bad call stating “I just cost the kid a perfect game” as stated in the boston globe. Almost everyone has heard this story so I don’t want to get into details.

Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, has the power to overturn the call and make it a perfect game. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan thinks Selig should overturn the call, but she is a Senator from Michigan, not surprising she wants her home town teams pitcher to get the perfect game. That would be great to have Selig overturn the call and give the perfect game to Gallaraga because he does deserve it. The problem is what would that do for everyone else that has gotten screwed in the past? or will have a bad call go against them in the future? Most experts agree that Selig shouldnt change the call, but there should be a stronger system to rate umpires performances and additions to the replay system.

I value expert Keith Law’s baseball knowledge. Here is what Law of ESPN said:
“Do we really want any authority outside of the game to be able to go back, after the fact, and alter or tweak the results to suit popular sentiment? Why not just make it like American Idol and have each game result up for a vote?” Also stated “There’s no rule whatsoever allowing the Commissioner or anyone else to overturn an incorrect judgment call on the 27th out of the game. If you want to make such a rule – I don’t, but if you do – then you can’t apply it ex post facto to last night’s blunder. That’s an even bigger error than just reversing a call in a completed game.”

Here is Law’s stance on instant replay:
“I hate seeing that used as a cover/solution for the lack of accountability in umpiring. There’s no reward for doing it well, no disincentive for guys who do it poorly. This outrage glosses over the fact that calls are blown every night. Unless you intend to use replay 20+ times a game, fix the umpiring first, please.”

I agree with Law in saying that we should look at the umpiring accountability problem, not replay. We cannot change what has happened in or will happen in future major league baseball games. The Detroit Tigers still won the game and gallaraga helped them with the one hit, shutout. If people want to argue about blown umpiring calls, they should be the ones that are meaningful which would change the outcome of a game or a playoffs series.

Stephen Strasburg Hits Mainstream

June 1, 2010

I was given a warning shot from our friends at the Worldwide Leader, with the announcement that Stephen Strasburg will make his first major league start June 8 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I call it a warning shot because the news broke today, and undoubtedly was featured on every major sports discussion for the day, but even the coverage today is no match for the absolute melee that will ensue next Tuesday leading up the most highly anticipated Nationals game in their history thus far. I am a sports junkie, especially baseball, but I’m fully prepared to be wore out on the Strasamania discussions all day Tuesday, and the live-and-die-on-every-pitch-then-dissect-it-later approach the various news outlets will take. Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention that baseball will get, rather than more talk about the NBA finals, but reaching DEFCON-5 over the next Mark Prior might be a little excessive.

All in all it was a brilliant ploy(if I can use the term ploy for a prospect being called up) by the Nat’s front office, announce his first start a week ahead of time, at home, against a team your fans have confidence in you to beat, and watch the tickets sell faster than you can print them. Being a marketing guy, I’m envious of the situation the Nationals are in, with the limitless opportunities to promote each next Strasburg home start. Strasburg Saturday! Double-Ticket-Price-Because-Its-Strasburg Tuesday! Strasdogs at the concessions! The opportunities are endless.

To make things even more over the top hype-filled, the Nationals will be drafting Bryce Harper #1 overall on Monday at the MLB Draft. If you haven’t heard about him, you’ve been under a rock, but he’s the 17 year old phenom that appeared on the SI cover at age 16, and then dropped out of high school to play community college baseball so he could be drafted one year earlier. And we thought high school kids going straight into the NBA was out of control. When it’s all said and done, you gotta love being Nationals GM Mike Rizzo on Monday and Tuesday next week, because you won’t be able to roundhouse kick the smile off his face. Hopefully for the Nationals’ franchise, these players become the wunderkid’s everyone’s hoping for, and they resurrect the once proud Expos franchise to levels of unmatched hype never even thought of before.