Greg Oden is the Next…

October 31, 2008

odenMany people have filled in this sentence with the name Bill Russell over the past few years. Tenacious defender, great rebounder, solid offensive game, etc. But maybe it’s time we start filling in that blank with Sam Bowie or Bill Walton.

Each of those two men were top draft picks after stellar (and in Walton’s case, possibly the greatest ever) college careers. The Trail Blazers took them both and pinned their franchise’s hopes to them. In Walton’s case, Portland was almost immediately rewarded as the goofy hippie from UCLA led the Blazers to the 1977 NBA title. But as had been the case with his first two seasons, the rest of Walton’s career was filled with disappointment, injury and ultimately wasted talent.

Bowie was the second pick in the 1984 NBA draft out of Kentucky, famously ahead of Michael Jordan (though Portland did already have Clyde Drexler). He had been a member of the 1980 Olympic basketball team that never made it to Moscow, despite the fact that he was a senior in high school! But he too was beset with injury in college and left after three years despite missing significant time. Bowie never averaged much more than ten points per game and was injured for the majority of his first five years in the league.

So is Greg Oden one of those players? He doesn’t really measure up in one sense, at least with Walton, because Walton is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever live if only his injuries hadn’t gotten in the way. But Oden has had this mystical quality about him that makes people love him. He’s a good guy (it seems) he’s gregarious and well spoken. But he has not played a full season since high school. At Ohio State he had an injured wrist and missed about half of the season. Still, he helped lead Ohio State to the national finals before losing to Florida. Then he went pro, was drafted no. 1 overall by the Blazers and immediately injured his knee, requiring micro-fracture surgery. He missed all of last season. This year he had a sprained ankle in training camp so he was limited to only a handful of games and just three minutes into the first regular season game of 2008/2009, he sprained his foot requiring him to miss the next two to four weeks (at least).

Maybe he’s cursed or maybe he’s just having a weird string of bad luck. Either way, Greg Oden is starting to become a sad story without having even completed a single NBA game. I really hope he comes back and can stay injury-free but that scenario is becoming less and less likely with each injury he sustains. The man can play, but will he get a chance?


NFL Picks – Week 9

October 31, 2008

Not a good week for me last week as a few picks I made (ie, Tampa, Indy, San Francisco) completely blew it in their own respective ways. Best game of this week is the Monday night game between the Steelers and the Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover. Steelers had a tough loss to the Giants last week so they should be ready to make amends against a Washington team that has barely beaten the Browns and Lions in recent weeks. Also, those Giants will play host to the struggling Cowboys in an important NFC East game. My picks:nfl

Sunday:
Jets @ Bills – Buffalo
Jaguars @ Bengals – Jacksonville
Ravens @ Browns – Baltimore
Texans @ Vikings – Minnesota
Lions @ Bears – Chicago
Buccaneers @ Chiefs – Tampa
Cardinals @ Rams – St. Louis
Packers @ Titans – Tennessee
Dolphins @ Broncos – Denver
Cowboys @ Giants – New York
Eagles @ Seahawks – Philadelphia
Falcons @ Raiders – Atlanta
Patriots @ Colts – Indianapolis

Monday:
Steelers @ Redskins – Pittsburgh

Results thus far:
Week 1 – 12
Week 2 – 7
Week 3 – 10
Week 4 – 6
Week 5 – 8
Week 6 – 9
Week 7 – 10
Week 8 – 6


Premiership Predictions – Week 11

October 31, 2008

epl

Energized by a draw in the North London Derby and with new boss Harry Redknapp, Spurs look to begin their march toward respectability. Liverpool are next up for Tottenham in a match tomorrow at White Hart Lane. Elsewhere, Hull City gets its second consecutive big boy match, this time at Old Trafford against Man United. Look for them to struggle again after the 3-0 whitewashing dealt them by Chelsea mid-week. Monday’s match could be interesting as well as Newcastle are starting to play better and will have Aston Villa visit the northeast. Villa are on quite a roll and currently sit in Champions League qualification.

Saturday:
Fulham @ Everton – Everton
Sundlerland @ Chelsea – Chelsea
Hull City @ Man United – Man United
West Ham @ Middlesbrough – ‘Boro
Blackburn @ West Brom – Blackburn
Wigan @ Portsmouth – Pompey
Arsenal @ Stoke City – Arsenal
Liverpool @ Tottenham – Liverpool

Sunday:
Man City @ Bolton – Man City

Monday:
Aston Villa @ Newcastle – Aston Villa

Results thus far:
Week 1 – 19 points
Week 2 – 16 points
Week 3 – 12 points
Week 4 – 13 points
Week 5 – 13 points
Week 6 – 27 points
Week 7 – 14 points
Week 8 – 22 points
Week 9 – 18 points
Week 10 – 19 points


Loan Ignorance

October 30, 2008

becksCan someone please inform the mainstream sports media that loans in soccer happen all the time? Please? From PTI to blogs and websites all over the internet, American sports pundits have decried the LA Galaxy’s loan of David Beckham to AC Milan. They’ve questioned whether he’ll ever come back or labeled it a “loan” inferring that it’s just a sale.

Here’s the deal, clubs loan players out all the time. Often times bigger clubs with too much talent will loan players out to smaller clubs. Sometimes it’s between two big clubs. A good example is Fernando Morientes who was loaned from Real Madrid to Monaco in 2003. After starring for Monaco in the Champions League (and French Ligue Un), Morientes returned to Real and sat on the bench. Eventually he was sent to Liverpool. Anyway, it would not be unusual if Beckham performed exceptionally well for Milan for the Galaxy to demand his return at the end of the loan period (as yet unnamed).

In the meantime, MLS makes a large amount of money from the loan and loses a player during its off-season. Pretty tough to argue with those scenarios. Plus, Beckham will stay in shape and play against much tougher competition than he would here in the States.

So please, stop acting like this is some big deal. This is common, we just don’t hear about it here very often because there aren’t often high profile players who are desired enough for a big time European club to take one out on loan.


The Table – Week 10

October 30, 2008

Having lost to Chelsea in convincing fashion, Hull City slip down into the UEFA Cup position as their differential is lower than both Arsenal and Aston Villa. Man United are still looking up at European qualification and Spurs, despite having drawn both Chelsea and Arsenal away, still occupy the bottom spot. New friends in the relegation zone though as Stoke City and Newcastle jet out and Wigan and Bolton Wanderers crash in. Round 11 begins on Saturday, so look tomorrow for predictions for the week.

1. Liverpool 26
2. Chelsea 23

3. Arsenal 20
4. Aston Villa 20

5. Hull City 20
6. Manchester United 18
7. Portsmouth 14
8. Manchester City 13
9. Middlesbrough 13
10. Sunderland 12
11. West Ham 12
12. Everton 12
13. Blackburn 12
14. Fulham 11
15. Stoke City 10
16. West Brom 10
17. Newcastle 9
18. Wigan 8
19. Bolton 8
20. Tottenham 6

Champions League
Champions League Qualifying
UEFA Cup
Relegation


Phillies World Series Champs (How Weird is That?)

October 30, 2008

lidge

For only the second time in the 126-year history of the club, the Philadelphia Phillies are World Series champions. 4-3 winners in the truncated second half of Game 5 in Philadelphia, the Phillies scored twice to nudge the youthful Tampa Rays.

As previously mentioned on this blog (and damn near everywhere else on earth), the city of Philadelphia hadn’t had a major professional title since the 1983 76ers and their Fo’-fo’-fo’ team led by Moses Malone. The Phillies reached the World Series in 1993 but lost on Joe Carter’s famous Game 6 walk-off homer in Toronto. So this really is a huge deal not just for the Phillies but for the whole city.

Somehow the Phils managed to stay under the radar for most of the season, despite having the two most recent NL MVP winners, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Philly used another melt down by the Mets to claim the NL East, beat up the Brewers in four quick games, used five games to beat down the Dodgers and now just five to pass the Rays for the title. Pretty amazing stuff when you think about how dominant they were in this post-season. Obviously their ridiculous pitching, mostly in the hands of Cole Hamels and previously ruined Brad Lidge, did most of the damage, really limiting what had been an explosive and exciting offense in Tampa.

I really don’t like the Phillies and I like the city of Philadelphia even less but I’m happy for them for today. I’m glad they finally won it all and I’m glad they were able to do it at home.


Spurs to Replace White Hart Lane

October 30, 2008

Despite the recent financial troubles for many clubs and even countries around the world, Tottenham Hotspur have announced they plan to replace their 109-year old White Hart Lane with a gleaming new structure capable of holding in upwards of 60,000 spectators. The Lane holds 36,000 fans but is often overshadowed by Arsenal’s new ground, the Emirates Stadium that also contains 60,000 seats.

Spurs are clearly following the lead of neighboring Arsenal in this idea. The Gunners just replaced the grand old Highbury in 2006, grounds that held around 38,000. Clearly Spurs cannot afford to have a 22,000 person waiting list for tickets, especially in times like these. So the club will begin the planning stages of their new home early next year. The stadium is likely years away but the announcement should give a wave of excitement to a fan base that has suffered through the worst start to a season in the history of the club.


A North London Derby to Remember

October 30, 2008

bentley

With Jermaine Jenas and Aaron Lennon scoring in the final two minutes before time, Spurs came back from a 4-2 deficit to draw Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. David Bentley started the scoring in the derby with his 13th minute strike from an amazing forty yards! Mikael Silvestre evened things up before half-time with his 37th minute goal. William Gallas scored just after half-time as the Gunners began to pull away. Emmanuel Adebayor scored in the 64th minute for a 3-1 advantage. But Darren Bent scored in the 67th minute to pull one back for Spurs. Amazingly, just one minute later, Robin Van Persie answered Bent’s call and reasserted Arsenal’s two-goal advantage. Only in the final moments were Spurs able to claim a valuable point and an even more valuable away draw in their most important rivalry in all England.

Elsewhere, Luke Young, Gareth Barry and Gabriel Agbonlahor kept Aston Villa one goal ahead of visiting Blackburn for yet another victory. Villa came back against Stephen Warnock’s first half goal and fended off Brett Emerton’s last gasped effort for a 3-2 win and another three points. Villa now sit tied with Arsenal and Hull City on twenty points just below Liverpool and Chelsea.

At Craven Cottage, an Andrew Johnson double saw Fulham through to victory over visiting Wigan. Fulham escape the relegation zone in earning these three points and now sit fourteenth while Wigan stumble into the dreaded eighteenth position.

Hull City were sent crashing back to the ranks of the realistic as they were crushed by Chelsea at the KC Stadium, 3-0. Frank Lampard set the tone early with a third minute goal and Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda each added second half goals for the decisive advantage. The Blues take sole possession of second place with 23 points while Hull slip back into the aforementioned tie with Arsenal and Aston Villa.

Ricardo Fuller sent Stoke City to a rare victory when his 73rd minute goal sent Sunderland home without a point. Stoke have slipped away from the relegation crew and now find themselves in fifteenth place on ten points. Sunderland missed an opportunity to claim seventh place and instead remain in tenth.

Liverpool continued its tight-rope walk atop the table with a narrow 1-0 home victory against Portsmouth. Only a Steven Gerrard penalty in the 75th minute kept the Reds in the win column and Pompey stuck on fourteen points. Liverpool’s 26 points lead the Premiership at the ten-match mark.

At Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo again proved his immense worth in recording a brace to defeat West Ham United, 2-0. Ronaldo scored in the thirteenth minute and again in the 29th to pace United’s attack. Yet Man United remain on the outside looking in as far as European qualifications are concerned in sixth place. After a nice start, West Ham are solidly in the middle of the pack in eleventh place.

A 53rd minute Afonso Alves penalty gave Middlesbrough all it needed to stay ahead of Man City at the Riverside and Gary O’Neil’s last second addition made sure it stayed that way. ‘Boro’s 2-0 victory pushes them into a tie with City on thirteen points, though City’s differential is a bit higher, giving them sole possession of eighth place.

Finally, a scoreless draw looked destined for shared points until Marouane Fellaini tallied a goal in the game’s final minute to give Everton three points at the Reebok. Bolton now find themselves in nineteenth place, only ahead of Tottenham while Everton finally cross the ten point barrier into twelfth place.


Toon Escape Relegation Zone

October 29, 2008

With a 2-1 victory over West Bromich Albion yesterday evening, Newcastle finally moved back out of the relegation zone. Toon have snuck into fifteenth place on nine pointsduff after Joey Barton‘s penalty and Obafemi Martins’ header edged visiting West Brom. Could we finally be seeing the turnabout that has long been expected at Newcastle? Obviously there is a long way to go, but with one simple victory the Magpies moved up three spots on the table.

Nine matches today, including the North London Derby. Check in tonight for results.


Why the World Series Has Sucked So Far

October 28, 2008

tarp

This World Series has sucked for a couple of reasons. But let me say the things I’ve liked about it first:

The schedule has been good. Unlike the NBA Finals, the World Series is moving along at a nice clip. One travel day between the sections of the 2-3-2 and games on all the other days.

The teams seem reasonably evenly matched. While the Phils might still win it in 5 games, it hasn’t been like the blowout sweeps by the Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals and Red Sox of the past four title series.

Ok, now that all that’s out of the way, here’s why it sucks:

The umps/MLB offices have blown several calls. I’m not sure any of them qualify on the level of the Royals-Cardinals series in ’85 but there have been a number of tags missed and terrible strike zones employed through the 4.5 games. Replay, which exists only for home run disputes, could’ve been implemented for wider ranging options but shamefully was not. So we end up having to hear about multiple official apologies from the umpires. Terrible.

Also, calling off the game last night and the super late start to Game 4. Cold rain sucks but it’s a fact of life in a place like Philadelphia in late October. You can’t have a game start as late as Game 4 did and expect the teams to be at all coherent in the game the next day. Apparently Game 4 was a good, close game but it’s not like I saw it because it was still the fifth inning when I went to sleep after midnight!

grounds crewAnd last night’s game was just disgraceful. Very few baseball games have ever gone through that kind of rain storm. I have no idea how BJ Upton was able to slide in the mud that was the basepaths in scoring the tying run in the top of the 6th. But beside just that, I completely understand why Phillies fans have it out for Bud Selig today. Were they really waiting for the Rays to possibly score a tying run before postponing it? Why didn’t they do it at the end of the fifth inning (if not far earlier)? They knew they had an open day today to work with, why not just push the whole damn thing back once it started getting nasty. Better to play six or seven or eight innings a day later than three. The Phillies will also lose the services of Cole Hamels who undoubtedly would’ve stayed in the game to continue pitching. With the change of days, Hamels is done and relief pitching will have to carry Philadelphia through. I don’t want the Phils to win, but if they end up losing due to poor bullpen work, it’ll really be a disgrace.

Additionally, the Rays have been a huge let down, and for the most part, so have the Phillies. The Rays were really fun to watch all year and even more so in the playoffs. They ran a lot, hit homers and pitched well. Well they haven’t done any of those things particularly well in the World Series. Obviously lots of credit goes to Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton for shutting them down but it still makes for a less interesting series when one team just doesn’t play as well as they should.

Finally, I’ve been annoyed by the announcers once again. I hate Tim McCarver (though he is preferable, slightly anyway, to Joe Morgan) and don’t really have anything good to say about Joe Buck. They make the game boring and insufferable and mostly I’ve had to listen on mute. Also, I hate having to tune into Fox, especially during an election year.

These are probably not all especially rational thoughts but I just hate when there is something good to look forward to and for many reasons it lets me down. It hasn’t quite been as bad as that USC-Oklahoma title game in football a few years ago but still, I was hoping for quite a bit more from all parties involved and instead it just hasn’t been that interesting.


Premiership Predictions – Week 10

October 28, 2008

epl

Newcastle will today host West Bromich Albion for the sole match of Round 10 in the Premiership. All other matches will take place tomorrow. Last week I stupidly picked against Hull City but did redeem myself in correctly selecting Tottenham to earn its first Premier League victory.

This week the battle for the second spot on the table will feature, amazingly, Chelsea away to Hull City. Meanwhile, the first North London Derby between Spurs and Arsenal should be a lively affair, especially with new boss Harry Redknapp firing up the club from The Lane.

Tuesday:
West Brom @ Newcastle – Newcastle

Wednesday:
Blackburn @ Aston Villa – Aston Villa
Wigan @ Fulham – Draw
Chelsea @ Hull City – Chelsea
Sunderland @ Stoke City – Sunderland
Tottenham @ Arsenal – Arsenal
Portsmouth @ Liverpool – Liverpool
West Ham @ Man United – Man United
Man City @ Middlesbrough – Man City
Everton @ Bolton – Everton

Results thus far:
Week 1 – 19 points
Week 2 – 16 points
Week 3 – 12 points
Week 4 – 13 points
Week 5 – 13 points
Week 6 – 27 points
Week 7 – 14 points
Week 8 – 22 points
Week 9 – 18 points


Newsletter Forthcoming

October 27, 2008

extra

As an aside, you can look forward to the first of many coming newsletters as a joint venture between the fine proprietor of The Stormy Present and myself. The first issue of which will appear jointly on each of our sites as well as being available via email. If you’d like an email copy, please let one of us know.

There will be short essays on sports, politics, the world in general and travel. We have yet to come up with a name but when we do, you’ll be the first to know. Well, as long as you check out the newsletter that is.

Cheers


Why the BCS Makes No Sense to Me

October 27, 2008

psuPenn State won a landmark game at Ohio State, their first such victory in thirty years. That makes the Nittany Lions the odds-on favorite to win the Big 10 and could possibly finish undefeated. The Lions were the third-ranked team going into the weekend yet remained in the same position afterwards.

Alabama, the no. 2 team in the BCS (and all other standings) destroyed a sorry Tennessee team in Knoxville, 29-9. Sure, the Crimson Tide are a really good team but how does beating UT overshadow Penn State beating Ohio State in Columbus? And please don’t tell me that Penn State got closer to being in the second spot. If they both stay undefeated, Penn State would be out on its ass again like its 1994.

This makes no sense to me. I thought this system was supposed to reward teams for the tough games they actually play. I thought there was supposed to be an objective level of fairness involved in the computer programs that determine the rankings. There is no objective way to say that beating Tennessee was as impressive or important as beating Ohio State even if you take the 30-yard drought out of the equation (which they do).

I don’t see ‘Bama or Texas (no. 1) both going undefeated the rest of the way, their schedules are just too hard and both have conference title games they’d have to deal with as well. Penn State has no conference championship (they just won it) and their remaining schedule is not nearly as challenging as the two teams ahead of them. But can’t the BCS just make sense once? Doesn’t it just make sense to have Penn State jump ‘Bama?


NBA Predictions – Where Incorrect Happens

October 27, 2008

nba

I’m usually way off with predictions so I’m not going to spend a ton of time explaining why I think what I think. As always, there are several teams that are being hailed as sexy picks. That usually means that they’re destined to fail (like whenever anyone suggests the Arizona Cardinals are a sure thing). So, here’s my attempt at predicting division winners, conference finals and NBA finals:

Eastern Conference:
Atlantic: 1. Boston 2. Toronto
Central: 1. Cleveland 2. Detroit
Southeast: 1. Orlando 2. Washington
Conference Finals: Boston v. Detroit

Western Conference:
Northwest: 1. Utah 2. Portland
Pacific: 1. LA Lakers 2. Phoenix
Southwest: 1. San Antonio 2. New Orleans
Conference Finals: LA Lakers v. Portland

NBA Finals: Detroit v. LA Lakers


The Table – Week 9

October 27, 2008

After this weekend’s matches and Liverpool’s upset at Stamford Bridge, there is a new team atop the table, clear of anyone else. Meanwhile, Hull City continue to win and now find themselves only trailing Chelsea on goal differential. Spurs gained its first victory on the season yet still are in 20th place. Man United are on the outside looking in as far as European qualifications go with Portsmouth and Man City lurking just behind.

Matches Tuesday and Wednesday constitute Round 10 in the Premiership and I’ll make those predictions tomorrow morning.

1. Liverpool 23
2. Chelsea 20

3. Hull City 20
4. Arsenal 19

5. Aston Villa 17
6. Manchester United 15
7. Portsmouth 14
8. Manchester City 13
9. Sunderland 12
10. West Ham 12
11. Blackburn 12
12. Middlesbrough 10
13. West Brom 10
14. Everton 9
15. Wigan 8
16. Fulham 8
17. Bolton 8
18. Stoke City 7
19. Newcastle 6
20. Tottenham 5

Champions League
Champions League Qualifying
UEFA Cup
Relegation