Man United Survive Denmark

September 30, 2008

utdFacing a strong test from home-standing Aalborg, Man United took a brace from Dimitar Berbatov in the second half on top of a Wayne Rooney first half strike to win 3-0 in Denmark. Aalborg played hard and well but ran out of gas in the second half against the constant threat of United attack. Almost thirty shots were sent at keeper Zaza, and he did well on the majority, but that many shots are almost guaranteed to net a few. On the uni front, United wore their majestic blue European kits.

Marcos Senna saved Villareal in Spain with this 67th minute goal against Celtic. United and Villareal now sit atop Group E with 4 points each.

Ze Roberto scored in the second half to even the score with Lyon after a first half own-goal, bringing a point to Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena. Don’t even get me started

Meanwhile, Fiorentina and Steaua drew nil-nil at the Artemio Franchi to earn each side a point in Group F. Bayern lead the group on four points while Fiorentina and Lyon lurk with two. Steaua did well to earn the away point but have work to do in order to catch up.

Group G saw Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor destroy Porto at the Emirates Stadium, 4-0. Each scored twice in each half, with Adebayor’s final tally coming on penalty. Still, Porto sit on three points with Arsenal just ahead with four.

Fenerbache failed to score at home and drew nil-nil to Dynamo Kiev at Sukru Saracoglu. Fenerbahce earned its first point and Dynamo tallied its second, but each side appears to lack the quality of front-running Arsenal and Porto.

Finally, in Group H, Real Madrid earned its second victory and six points on Ruud van Nistlerooy’s 31st minute tie-breaker. Danny evened the scored after a Zenit own-goal left the home side trailing early. But van Nistelrooy’s goal gave the Spanish giants an impressive away victory.

And in Bulgaria, BATE Borisov gave up two late first half goals to Vincenzo Iaquinta and ultimately drew 2-2. Sergey Krivets and Igor Stasevich scored in the 17th and 23rd minutes, respectively, but the Bulgarians could not hold off Juventus late in the half. Through two rounds, Madrid sit on six points with Juventus following on four. BATE earned its first point while last year’s UEFA Cup champions Zenit have yet to gain a toehold.

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Champions League Match Day Two

September 30, 2008

ballThe Champions League returns today with eight matches across the continent. Here are the match-ups:

Group E:
Man United @ AaB Aalborg
Celtic @ Villareal
Group F:
Steaua @ Fiorentina
Lyon @ Bayern
Group G:
Porto @ Arsenal
Dynamo Kiev @ Fenerbahce
Group H:
Real Madrid @ Zenit (already in progress because of the time difference in St. Petersburg)
Juventus @ BATE Borisov

Expect to see a strong effort on the part of the Danes against Man United and generally the home sides across the board. Aalborg will have the services of sent-off Michael Beauchamp, who appealed his red card against Celtic and had it rescinded. Both Steaua and Fenerbahce need to earn points to stay afloat in their groups as each lost its first match.


BORING

September 30, 2008

thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder (nee Seattle Sonics) introduced their new uniforms yesterday. Yawn. I won’t break them down in the same manner I did with the logo/colors, but I do have a few thoughts.

1. Boring. Nothing interesting about these at all. I’m glad they’re not over-designed, as so many new uniforms are. But this was the one chance at a first impression and re-branding of the franchise and this is all we’re getting?

2. The road uniforms could have been a lot more interesting. I really don’t like both words of ‘Oklahoma City’ coming above the numbers. Maybe it doesn’t quite stretch like UNC used to do in the ’60s because ‘City’ is such a short word, but it still looks weird. Better than just having OKC though, which is what Phoenix shamefully does.

In the long run, this is a design that can be improved upon and it’s way better than the original offerings from, say, Vancouver or Toronto (most up to date seen here and here).

As an aside, new alternate uni for the Bucks and new unis for the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves.


Conference Calls

September 29, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the release of this week’s updated college football rankings, debates will surely begin to swell across the nation.  On some cookie-cutter liberal arts campus in a mid-sized town, philosophies are clashing: on one side, there’s a corn-fed hulk (a la Ricky Roe) who notices that the Big 12 now boasts 4 of the nation’s top 7 teams; on the other side, there’s a four-named, mop-headed Southern boy (likely from a state school) who swears that the SEC is the pinnacle of college football.

We could sit here all day and analyze various statistics, circumstances, and mitigating factors, all the while trying to settle this debate; or, we could simply look at 3 key points and end the whole thing rather quickly.

1.  The college football season is only 4 weeks old.

While this season will no doubt (and has already) featured more top-10 versus top-10 games than one might ever expect to see, it is still in its adolescent stages. 

Sure, at this point, all 12 teams in the Big 12 are at .500 or better.  However, Big 12 teams haven’t even played a single conference game.

Sure, Vanderbilt (at 4 – 0) makes the SEC look stout; yet Vandy still has games against Auburn, UGA, and Florida, and they also escape having to play Alabama and LSU.

In the Big 12, there’s the Red Raiders, with their 440 yards per game; guess what — they also surrender 370 per contest. 

In the SEC, there’s Auburn, who boasts a 4 – 1 record — but that includes a 3 – 2 win (Miss. St.).

At this point, it’s too early to make definitive statements.  Period.

2.  The Big 12’s powerhouse-versus-powerhouse showdowns are less frequent.

Thus far, Oklahoma has not played Texas, Texas Tech, or Missouri.  (In fact, the Sooners and Tigers will sadly not meet this season.)

Oklahoma does have to play Texas, and Oklahoma State (4 – 0, who knew?), which will tell us more about how good they are.  Likewise, Mizzou will face Texas, and Texas Tech, and Nebraska — a far cry from their early-season non-conference action.

In the SEC, we’ve had (and will have) the benefit of several high-profile weed-out games, e.g. Georgia-Alabama, LSU-Auburn, and Alabama-LSU (upcoming).  Because of these games, we’re more equipped to opine as to who’s good, who’s very good, and who’s only so-so.

The same considerations cannot be made (yet) for the Big 12.  (Which is not to say that it’s inferior to the SEC — we just don’t know enough yet.)

3.  It’s hard to apply metrics to an entire conference.

What does it really mean to say that a conference is “better” than another? 

Sure, most people would argue that, top to bottom, the SEC is as good as it gets.  Ole Miss beat Florida.  Vandy is 4 – 0.  So on.  So forth.

At the same time, it’s plausible that the Big 12’s top 3 teams — Oklahome, Missouri, and Texas — could more than hold their own in the SEC.  (Not certain… but plausible.)

So, it could be the case that the Big 12 is more top-heavy than the SEC, and that their top 3 are better than Alabama, LSU, and you-pick-#3.  It could also be the case that, as a whole, the SEC is more consistent than the Big 12 (i.e., that Ole Miss would spank Baylor, or that Mississippi St. could handle Iowa State).  Such arguments are simply tangential and difficult.

At this point in the season, what we can say is that the SEC and the Big 12 are the two premium conferences in college football.  It’s very likely that the champions from these two entities will face off for that famous crystal football.


Three Cheers for Houston Nutt

September 29, 2008

NuttWell at least one?

After having to resign (before fired) from Arkansas before even going to the Cotton Bowl, Nutt was hired as the new coach at Ole Miss. Having gone 5-6 and 4-7 in ’04 and ’05, Nutt’s Arkansas teams rebounded to go 10-4 and 8-4 in ’06 and ’07 lead mostly by Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Arkansas beat eventual-champion LSU in triple overtime last year and went to eight bowl games in his ten years, winning two, including the ’99 Cotton Bowl. His Arkansas teams went 75-48.

This season, Ole Miss already had three wins including last weekend’s upset of Florida in Gainesville and just barely lost at Wake Forest. Last season the Rebels were 3-9 and only beat Memphis, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State. In 2006 they were 4-8, 3-8 in 2005, 4-7 in 2004. In other words, Ole Miss has been terrible since Eli Manning graduated after the 2004 Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.

In 2008, Arkansas is 2-2 so far with extremely close victories over Western Illinois and Louisiana Monroe. The two losses have been 49-14 to Alabama and 52-10 at Texas. Granted, Texas and ‘Bama appear to be class teams, but those are two terrible blowouts.

The difference between the two teams this year? Houston Nutt. Arkansas hired traitor/bastard/idiot Bobby Petrino from the Atlanta Falcons over the winter and essentially everything has gone wrong since. Meanwhile, Ole Miss brings in Nutt, a 10-year veteran of the SEC West and immediately their fortunes turn around. I think Houston Nutt deserves some credit, not just for being a better person and coach than Bobby Petrino, but for being generally underrated all this time in Fayetteville and now in Oxford.


Another American Buys Into the EPL

September 29, 2008

SunderlandSunderland joined the ranks of Premier League clubs controlled by majority-American ownership last week when a man called Ellis Short acquired 30% of the Black Cats’ ownership. Short is a Dallas-based businessman who runs a private equity firm and also owns Skibo Castle, an exclusive resort in Scotland where Madonna and Guy Ritchie got married in 2000.

Manchester United, Aston Villa and Liverpool already have American-majority ownership with Malcolm Glazer, Randy Lerner, and Tom Hicks and George Gillett at the helms. Short is certainly less well known than the others but is obviously ridiculously rich and doesn’t plan on interfering with on-field or personnel decisions like the idiotic Mike Ashley (who is not an American, but sometimes acts like one). He also has a chance to send Sunderland above Newcastle and Middlesbrough on the table, the club’s two biggest rivals.

Short is an Irish-American and apparently already was a supporter of Sunderland, certainly a rarity in the US as they only joined the Premier League last season. Hopefully he will not serve as a source of popular revolt like in Manchester and Liverpool. A good relationship between an American ownership group and an English club is a much-needed part of the growing American interest in the game.


Super Lame

September 29, 2008

BossI would consider myself a fan of Bruce Springsteen. There aren’t many albums out there better than Born to Run. But as Super Bowl half-time show?

The Boss is simply the next in line of a group of aging, mostly irrelevant rockers to serve as entertainment during the most-watched sporting event in America. From the Rolling Stones, U2, Tom Petty and Prince, the Super Bowl and NFL have reached into the past for their show. The reason for this is of course obvious. But who actually finds rock stars decades after their prime interesting on tv? I think The Boss would be pretty cool to see if I were actually at the Super Bowl (though not as one of those dopey groupies they stick down on the field to hold lighters and jump up and down). But on tv? Mick Jagger exposed us to his bare midriff and super tight pants a few years ago which was far more disturbing than seeing one second of Janet Jackson‘s partially covered up breast.

And now that I think of it, why is there a concert at half-time anyway? Isn’t it way more interesting to see a good marching band perform at half or better yet, do nothing at all? Most people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, not the programming. And most of the rest just want to see the game. I wouldn’t care if there was never again a half-time show, like it used to be before 1988. I wasn’t old enough to see Chubby Checker in San Diego, but I do remember Michael Jackson at the Rose Bowl in 1993. That was cool, but it was far less interesting than the game.

I understand the networks want to get as large an audience as possible, but really, they’re making so much money from selling ad spots at this point does it even matter anymore how many viewers they’re getting?