Thursday, August 31, 2006

Week One NCAA Picks

Here are the ones we are looking at this week -

BC at Cent. Michigan (+12)

Vandy (+26) at Michigan

TCU at Baylor (+7.5)

Washington St. (+15) at Auburn

Akron (+17) at Penn. St.

California (+1.5) at Tennessee

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech (+6.5)

FAU (+33.5) at Clemson

Northern Illinois (+17) at Ohio State

Florida State (+3) at Miami

Wiggins' Picks - BC, Vandy, TCU, Auburn, Akron, Cal, Tech, FAU (Hoot, Hoot!), NIU, FSU

Mike's Predictions:
BC over CMU
Michigan over Vandy
TCU over Baylor
Auburn over WSU -- Auburn's running the table this year
Penn St. over Akron -- PSU will be down this year, but still much stronger than Akron
Tennessee over Cal -- all those shady recruits the Vols got have to be good for something
Georgia Tech over ND
FAU over Clemson
NIU over OSU
Miami over FSU

Mike's Bonus Predictions:
1) Wiggins and I both pick FAU each week, all year
2) I finish the year with a better winning percentage than Wiggins

Game of the Week -- FSU (+3) at Miami
Picks: Wiggins - FSU 24, Miami 17 (optimist - I don't want any kicker involved near the end); Mike - Miami 23, FSU 21

Player of the Game: Wiggins - Booker ; Mike - Richard Gordon

Jenn Sterger prediction: Wiggins - Musberger proposes on air (I actually like that one - I'll leave it) ; Mike - she makes a fool out of herself and her 15 minutes of fame ends by midnight (this one is good, too)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Just a few more days

Yeah, I'm too lazy to count the days until game day. Anyway, I'm not sure, but I believe this is Triumph the Insult Comic. He says that Florida State is a great school...

... for him to poop on.

Monday, August 28, 2006

One Week Until Order Is Restored To The Universe

One week from today the big game will be played... or so we hope. Now that the date is nearly upon us, it dawns on me that the order I'm predicting to be restored to the universe may simply be the return of hurricane (meteorlogical) season and a lack of electricity. I'm hoping that's not the case and we see the return of Hurricanes (football variety) as a dominant force.

Anyway, here's a fun video:

And yes, I know what happened last year after Irvin gave his pre-game speech. But I can't help but laugh when I hear that speech, because it makes me think of the Fake Howard speech they run on the radio all the time. Sometimes I think I could be that blogger that Howard Schnellenberger (fake) refers to.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

More Soccer Books

While I was in England I purchased a few more soccer books - since the selection in the book stores there, oddly enough, was much better than here.

First off, my tour guide Clive suggested "The Italian Job" by Gianluca Vialli, so I picked it up. I'm glad I did, since it looks like it is hard to get here (that amazon page says it is unavailable. Maybe later - it just came out) and so far it is really good. It is comparing English and Italian football cultures, historically and presently. I'm really liking it so far - if it is as good as I think it will be, and it stays this hard to get... maybe I'll ship down my copy to Miami...

Also - while in the store looking at books, I ran into Phil Ball (a very bizarre encounter - he was just checking the store to see if they had his books) who told me I should pick up his book about Real Madrid - White Storm. I got him to sign it for me, which was cool - I think for both of us. He said he hadn't done that before. It was very surreal. I'll read that next, I think. I'll let you know how it is - but it got a very good recommendation from Phil Ball.

Reviews -

I bought the "Brilliant Orange" book about Netherlands soccer that I mentioned earlier while I was in England (it took too long from Amazon, and was cheaper over there) and finished that a couple of days ago. I liked it a lot, but I have always been a big fan of Dutch football - and the Dutch in general. It's well written and an interesting subject. I'd check it out, after I were fairly well acquainted with the subject in general.

Also - before getting on the plane I finished the "Season with Verona" book (as I mentioned in the England round-up). It was a pretty good book, I have to say. I still can't decide, though, if it was brilliant or just okay. It had some great stuff, but also seemed kind of thrown togther at times. It was not as fun a read as the Castel di Sangro book and not as good a book for beginner Soccer fans... but it had some really good insight into fans and football in general - and Verona in specific, obviously. The man knows Italy very well and that is invaluable... I'm tempted to check out some of his other stuff and see if that works better (since I want to know more about Italy in general, anyway).

Anyway- I would say... check out Castel di Sangro first. But maybe the Italian Job before that - I'll keep you posted...

Here endeth the football book moment.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Team colors

I just realized that the AS Roma colors -

Bear at least a good little resemblance to the Skins colors and also (Duh) to the Noles. Do you think that it is a coincidence that I am drawn to this? I really have never (consciously, anyway) cared for that color scheme - and yet I find myself liking teams that use it. Is that why I am feeling less inclined towards Wigan these days?

DC United uses plenty of Red as well - with some gold in there... and I definitely feel a good affinity there.

I wonder how much any of that matters... someone should do a study on that. Is it simply because I grew up a raving Redskins fan, and associate those colors with good things in sports (even if not in other aspects of life - I'd never wear clothes like that or paint my house that color - ugh!)


Oh well. All I can say is - Go Skins!

...and yes - this was just an excuse to put up a new post that had cool pictures of my favorite teams.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Canterbury Tales - part the first

Yeah - that's right. I went with the obvious post title. You got a problem with that?

As you know, the trip got off to an inauspicious start with the news of the foiled terrorist plot to blow up the flight from the UK to the US. Thus making any and all flights between the two inifinitely more complicated and annoying - making scheduling and planning a nightmare in many aiports around both countries. Thankfully we weren't leaving for a couple of days and we had time to let things calm down.

Tad (my choir director) and I went up to Philly that night for rehearsal and had a nice evening with the director of the group who was going to Canterbury (Martha Johnson) and her husband (Dodge). They put us up for the evening and then Tad took me into Philly proper to drop me off to spend some time with my good friend Mary and her husband Tom. They are great people who just bought a new house in the Art Museum neighbourhood of Philly - we had a great evening of food, wine and chat. Walked all over the place and had a great time. I should have known then that the trip would be good with such an auspicious start. Who can be bothered by terrorists when there are such great people in the world?

After having a leisurely morning coffee/walk in the park we headed off to the airport and my anticipated battle with airport security.

I got there about three or four hours early so as to be safe...

And sailed right though. No problem. Had to sit and kill about five or six hours as our plane was delayed by a good bit. I finished "A Season with Verona" while we waited.

I was getting scared because I still didn't know a single person on this trip (except Tad - and Martha and Dodge, but they were still very new friends) and I was about to spend a very intense and close week with these people. This could either be very good or very, very bad. And I am not known for my extroversion and people skills...

I'll discuss the doings in Canterbury proper in the next post.

Canterbury Tales - part the second

So we got in to Gatwick early Sunday and met our tour guides (who turned out to be great people - thanks, Clive and Ann!) who tooks us on down to the obligatory sight-seeing stop immediately after plane debarking. This is something I never really understood - I don't care how cool the place is... if one has just gotten off of a red-eye, typically all you want to do is go somewhere and get a shower and a nap... not look at an old building or garden.

Am I right?

Anyway - we went to Chartwell, Churchill's home. It was pretty cool, and I can't really complain... but man, I was tired. I was happy to get to the damned hotel later that afternoon. I got to have dinner with Clive and Ann that night and realized what cool people they were (this is truly beginning to sound like a real love-fest from me, isn't it? Don't worry - that's the end of the gushing, I think. We'll see...). Clive is english and a huge Aston Villa fan - he was terribly upset to hear I was a Wigan supporter, but was happy to know there was someone in this group of Americans he could talk football with. I gave him my copy of the Verona book as he hadn't read it and I didn't want to have to pack it to take back home.

They are MUCH better at this tour guide gig than the pople I have worked with in the past. I can't state that enough. They were very helpful, and terribly nice people.

Anyway - I didn't sleep that night, as my phone rang a couple of times (I didn't think it would WORK over there! Thank god no one signed me up for an ARod call or anything...), and my room-mate (Tad) snored like a freight train with a busted wheel. Not a good night - so I crashed the next night and missed the trip to Dover. Oh well.

Anyway - I'll finish this mercifully quickly - eventually I got to know a lot of the people pretty well. They were all very nice and friendly. As with any group there were some that I was glad I didn't have to spend too much time with, and some that I was mad that I didn't get to spend more time with, but what can you do? You get one week. Hell - I may well never see some or all of them again!

One more installment should do it, I think...

Canterbury Tales - part the third

Now for the highlights.

Singing services at Canterbury Cathedral was a very interesting experience. It was fairly nervewracking at times, especially as I didn't know most of the music, and hadn't had much rehearsal with the group. The Cathedral is HUGE, but we sang mostly in the Quire (or Choir as we would have it over here) which is a much smaller part of the place and basically walled off from most of the rest of the church, so it wasn't too intimidating. It was basically fun. Especially as the other tenor I was next to, Dan, was very good and a fun guy to sing with.

We had Wednesday off so I walked all over Canterbury proper and saw all of the good touristy bits. It was lovely. However - I am sure that you don't really care, do you? Neither do you care about Penshurst Place, which we went to on Thursday. That was a cool old manor house... nice gardens, etc... if someone puts up any good pictures later, perhaps I'll post some here. But probably not.

Then there was Stella. The lovely barmaid at the hotel. I left a big chunk of my heart back in Canterbury, I tell ya...

We'll leave it at that.

... but the fun part was Saturday...

Liam and Fionn - two young lads on the trip, who will be heading off to other parts of Europe for six weeks - and I decided that it was time for a pub crawl. I really have no idea how many places we stopped in but we had at least one ale in each - including the Bishop's Finger (my favorite). We met (and almost fought) some lovely people, discussed politics with young hooligans talked American football with old geezers, and generally made good young American asses of ourselves. THEN I made the mistake of having a gin and tonic upon returning to the hotel... because I couldn't neglect Stella, of course...

So I was sick ALL morning.

And I was supposed to sing solemn service at the Cathedral.

And I was constantly throwing up everything god gave me.

... not fun.

I finally got it under control - got a little food in my stomach (a tiny bit - and it stayed down, thank God) and got over to the church on time. I was a bit wobbly for the rehearsal but was basically fine for the service. Not top form, mind you... but servicable.

Unfortunately we had to stand for most of it, and we were singing fairly complicated stuff. This was hell.

And THEN we had one hour off and had to come right back and sing another evensong service (in front of the Japanese ambassador (!) and a representative of the German Ambassador). I was feeling a bit better... but, man...

Needless to say I took a nap after that.

Had a nice dinner with Martha, Dodge, Clive and Ann (my four favorite people from the trip) and then had a very fun evening chatting and hanging out with the more social types of the choir in the lounge (and bugging Stella... *sigh*).

Then we packed up and came home. And stood in about twenty different lines (in both airports) and had to take off all of our clothes (damn near) , but weren't delayed that much, actually. It was anoying as hell... but could have been a lot worse. I am grateful we missed the worst part of all of that crap...

So I'll finish there. It was a good trip. Lovely people, good music, good drinking, lovely women. All paid for by other people. Can't complain.

I took no pictures, but others took many and they will supposedly post them on a communal website. If any good ones appear I'll probably put them in here somewhere.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Two Weeks Until Order Is Restored To The Universe

This is what an ordered universe looks like:

Argh, I give up. For whatever reason I can't embed the video today.

Next week's video is going to be great. GREAT.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Random Things

A few random thoughts

  • I still have no idea what to make of the White Sox. They're about to wrap up a series with the Royals, and the Sox have dropped two of the first three. This is on the heels of sweeping the Tigers. So they've gone from winning three of three from the best team in the game to losing two of three to the worst team in the AL. There are six weeks left in the season and we still don't know who the real White Sox are.
  • Two Hall of Fame candidates that we missed before: Jeff Kent and George Steinbrenner. While those two guys aren't connected to each other in any way, they are similar in the sense that neither is the happiest person that you'll ever meet (to say the least). Both are... cantankerous. But both have a shot at the Hall, I think. Kent is one of the best offensive second baseman of all time. Steinbrenner has done remarkable things as an owner and is responsible for reviving the great Yankees franchise. I also think that history will remember him well. We tend to remember the firings and the wild quotes The Boss issues, but down the road I think we will become more and more aware of his extensive charity work and all the good things he does for people. That, plus the New York media, will one day take him to Cooperstown.
  • Just a few years ago, Willie Williams was the biggest recruit in the nation. He wrote a diary for a major newspaper that was so widely publicized and described the recruiting process so outlandishly that it caused the NCAA to make numerous changes to recuiting rules. Ultimately Williams settled on the University of Miami. Then his long, juvenile criminal history came to light. Miami admitted him anyway. There were all sorts of stipulations attached. Two years into things, Williams hadn't earned a starting role and now he wants out. He couldn't find a four year college to take him. And now community colleges are turning him down. How can a guy with two years at a 4-yr school even get into a 2-yr school? If he's really the student we all thought he was, shouldn't he have too many credits? Oh well. He's gone. I hope the kid can get his life figured out.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Three Weeks Until Order Is Restored To The Universe

Recent years have been relatively lean for the Florida State Seminoles. In 1999, the Noles went undefeated and won the national title. In 2000, they went 11-2. Since then, it's been a little rough. Overall records have looked like this in the year's since: 8-4, 9-5, 10-3, 9-3, and 8-5.

While last year's 8-5 mark was disappointing, there were two notable bright spots for the Noles. First, they won a game for the first time in six tries against Miami. That allowed last year's senior class to graduate with at least one career against the Canes -- unlike the class of 2004. Second, an off field star emerged for the Noles during that same game.

Unfortunately for Seminole fans, Ms. Sterger seems to be as full of herself and as dimwitted as she is surgically enhanced. Sadly, she speaks better of Florida State than just about anything else they have going at the moment.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Wiggins Goes on You Tube

I knew it was only a matter of time until our friend Wiggins expanded his multi-media talents into the world of video. When I stumbled onto this the other day, I was simply amazed:

Monday, August 7, 2006

Four Weeks Until Order Is Restored To The Universe

I hate myself for even linking to this, but don't ever say that I never did anything for you: last year's in-stadium intro video.

Ok, I feel dirty now. But here's a clip to make me feel better:

That's Javarris James -- Baby Edge.

Fearless Yet Crap Baseball Picks

Okay - it hasn't even been three weeks since I last did my last baseball postseason picks... and they already look like crap - at least in the AL. The NL was okay except for the Wild Card. I guess the Brew Crew will probably not be making the run I anticipated/hoped for. Especially if Sheets is hurt badly...

So - here is my new NL. Same as before (Mets, Cards, Pads as division winners) but for the wild card...

Man - I really want to say the Phillies. For some reason I feel like they have a run in them, and when the season began I thought they would win the division... but I just don't see them getting past everyone. I may have to be boring and go with the Dodgers. Especially if they get healthy with Nomar and Kent back. Man, I hate the Dodgers...

As for the AL - what a mess.

I guess I was wrong about Detroit, eh? I am going to go completely with my heart here -

East - Boston
Central - Detroit
West - Oakland
WC - Minnesota

No Yankees at all. I just really want to believe it, so I will put it in print.

Watch out for Minnesota in the postseason, baby.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

If a game is played, and it's not on TV - Does anyone SEE it?

So the DC United/Columbus Crew US Open Cup match the other night was a very enjoyable - yet surreal experience.

First off - DC United won... so that was good. Also, I was able to sit about twenty feet from the goal - so that was cool.

Now - for the bizarre stuff. This game took place at the "Maryland Soccerplex" which can't seat more than 2,000. Okay, I just looked it up - official seating capacity = 3,200. That has to include the standing room at both ends - with people crammed in. They only had one end open for this game and it wasn't completely packed, but it WAS pretty full. The stands were packed, so I would say maybe 2,500 were there. I went early since I saw that they were sold out and only had standing room tickets left. I staked out a good spot and sat and read (Castel di Sangro - GREAT book. Pick it up now)

What is particularly weird about this setting is that - as one of the younger guys who sat near me noted - "Ben Olsen (one of the DC players) was just playing in the World Cup in front of enormous crowds and millions of TV viewers - and now he is playing on the same field that I played on!"

Plus - the game was not only not televised - as far as I can tell there were no cameras around at all. There was no documentary evidence that the game happened other than the written eyewitness reoprts. Now - I fully understand that this is how things were for the bulk of the history of most sports... but still... the idea that I could not go home and catch the highlights of the goals of the game somehow seemed disturbing. And the fact that THAT was disturbing was TRULY disturbing. What have we come to that nothing seems real unless it is televised and we can see it later on replay?

Or is it just me?

Also - what is wrong with this that a game between two real MLS teams that actually counts for something (even if not the MLS standings) has to be played in such a rinky-dink setting?

As to the game - it was good. DC absolutely dominated, and should have been up 4-1 at half-time, but inexplicably missed THREE empty nets in the space of about twenty minutes. Including one where Freddy Adu had beaten everyone including the keeper and all he had to do was poke the ball over into the net - it wasn't even a tough angle! He just toed it about two inches wide, somehow, right in front of me, and the look on his face was one of complete bewilderment. It was like he just could not understand how that ball did not go in - and no one else could, either. It was bizarre.

Other than that - Adu played like crap, I have to say. He lost quite a few balls, inexplicably, to the Crew and just never seemed to really get in the game. He had one or two moments where he seemed to flash a move or two (like when he got free that one time), but he also had a real selfish moment or two. To use Davies system - I would have to say he was basically those girlish capri pants that men sometimes wear... I suppose I'll forgive him, as he is still only 17 or whatever, but with everyone talking about him going over the Premier League sometime soon... All I have to say is he'd better get his act together quick.

DC missed a couple more like that one (none quite that bad) and the game eventually went to overtime, tied 1-1. They scored again in the first overtime frame and held on to win it 2-1. It was a fun game and it is definitely worth going to see the game live. I can't wait to go see a game in a real stadium...

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Soccer Books

Just a quick post - since I promised it, and since I never do anything over here...

I recently decided to massively increase my soccer knowledge (and massively upgrade my commute) by finding quality soccer books and reading them on the Metro to work. So far this has worked fairly well - except the quality of the books. But we'll get to that...

After a good bit of research on Amazon, I ordered a bunch of books that looked like the kind of thing I was after. Here is what I found -

1. The World's Game. This one is a general history of the game. I just finished it, and while it works as an informative history... it is really pretty dry AND chock full of info that I had really no interest whatsoever in. I am glad I read it, as I know more than I did before, but I found myself wishing I was finished reading it (it felt like homework), more often than not. Can't recommend it.

2. My Favourite Year. This is a collection of stories from real writers - compiled by Nick Hornby (of Fever Pitch fame). As the title suggests, they are all supposed to relate the writer's favorite year/season of his favorite team/club, etc. Most of the stories are engaging and well written. I have to say I enjoyed a lot of the book and I would certainly recommend the book... to anyone who knows a lot more about football than I do. There were so many references to players, events and games that I didn't know that I felt I was missing a lot (which I was). I still enjoyed it a lot, but I will have to revisit it after I have gained much more knowledge...

3. The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. I just started this one. But I am already loving it. It is the story of one season of a small club team from a very small town in Italy. It seems to be well written - by an American who got into soccer after the 1994 World Cup (been there...). I'll let you know how it goes.

I also ordered these as they looked good -

4. A Season with Verona. Another Italian team - this one slightly bigger in stature...

5. Brilliant Orange : the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. I've always been a fan of the Dutch...

6. The Far Corner. A look into football in Northeast England. Looks like it should be a great read - by one of the guys who was represented in "My Favourite Year"

I'll update as I get through these... the last two haven't come in yet, but should ship next week. Hopefully before my England trip.

Dog Days Of August Predictions

Ok, I'm revising my playoff predictions. That's mostly because the ones I put up barely two weeks ago were just horrible.

In July I had:

East - Red Sox
Central - Tigers
West - Angels
Wild Card - White Sox

East - Mets
Central - Cardinals
West - Dodgers
Wild Card - Astros

Now I'm changing my picks. In the AL East, I know that David Ortiz comes through at every opportunity, but the Yankees are hot, they added some serious talent, and they're going to get All-Stars back from the DL the rest of the way. The Tigers have the Central locked up, essentially. The West is a mess, but I still like the Angels. I have no idea what to think about the Wild Card. But the Twins are hot right now. And if the Twins make the playoffs, they almost have to be the favorite to win the pennant. With Santana and Liriano heading the rotation, it's tough pick against the Twins.

New AL:
East - Yankees
Central - Tigers
West - Angels
Wild Card - Twins

The NL is a little easier in some respects. The Mets have pretty much locked up the East. I can't see anyone mounting a challenge, particularly with the Phillies having given up on this season. The Central is tougher. It's hard to think the Cardinals will win the division. They hardly deserve it... except that everyone else in the division is horrible. And I guess I'm coming around to thinking that the much maligned West is going to produce the Wild Card.

New NL:
East - Mets
Central - Cardinals
West - D'backs
Wild Card - Padres

I'm giving the D'backs the edge in the West because they currently have a winning record in the division. I think everyone in the West is still in the race though.

I'll revise my picks in September (pre-Labor Day). I have a feeling they'll need some heavy re-working.