Friday, June 18, 2010

A Tale of Two Halves...

First Half:
Four friggin' years to patch things up and Team USA brings this kind of intensity to the World Cup? What a joke. I couldn't tell what was worse, our offense or our defense. And our defense gave up two first half goals to a team ranked 11 spots below us in the FIFA World Rankings. Landon Donovan said, "If we can't beat Slovenia, we don't belong in the World Cup". It doesn't look like we belong.

I watched almost every game so far (because until next week I've been employed this summer as a couch potato), and I like to think I've gotten a grasp on how the game is supposed to be played. My soccer background includes 8 years at the recreational level after one year on the Kinder Kickers circuit. It also includes an attendance to five high school soccer games (2 boys, 3 girls), years of watching the World Cup, Champions League, and the UEFA Tournament, four MLS game viewings (because my roommate makes me), roughly 62 matches or "caps", as they refer to them throughout the World Cup, in the FIFA video game series, and most notably, I've been to almost every home game for Quinnipiac University over the last four years, cheering on the likes of Freddy, Pierre, Graciano, DJ, Fudd, and Kevin Nunes, the greatest Portuguese red-head this side of the equator and in the Western hemisphere (as long as the Western hemisphere doesn't include the country of Portugal, which I think it might).

Quick side note: My friend Joe wanted me to mention that in our last FIFA bout, it came down to penalty kicks, where he disobeyed the cardinal, unspoken rule of: "You can't kick it down the middle, be a man and pick a side", defeating me on the last kick. Yet he still gloats about it and wants everyone to know. Also, Ian Scollins is the greatest FIFA player I've ever played, and one day he will prove that to Joe Scapps. But back to the article...

So ya, I'd like to think I have a good eye for the things going on during the game. One of the things I noticed about Brazil, was their swarming defense. They put so much pressure on their opponents. At this level, that seems hard to do, but they've mastered it with the right combination of aggression and anticipation. The US doesn't have that swarming defense. They don't have that aggression. Instead, they have a lazy back four that leaves a lot of holes for open shots and key passing lanes. On a fortunate note, they have a phenomenal goalie - one of the world's best. He "saved" them against England (get it?) and was a big help today as well. If you pay attention, Howard (the goalie) spends more time yelling at his defenders than praising them. They've given opposing teams far too many open looks, far too much space, and far too many fast breaks with their lack of hustle and questionable effort on defense. Their early let downs have been so costly to our success.

Then there's the offense. For some reason we love ripping 45-yard shots at the net. Newsflash guys: A 45-yard shot off the foot of an American not named Landon isn't going into the net. It's pretty much just a pass to the other team. "Here guys, ya got us on this one. We'll forfeit this possession". Cherundolo, Bradley, I'm talking about you.

We also love starting forwards that can't seem to score. Findley looked lost every time he touched the ball. He completely drew a blank when it came time to set up a run for someone else. His bag of tricks included not challenging the defenders, creating zero passing lanes for himself, not finishing, and passing it behind teammates to Slovenia. I actually thought it was a good thing when his second yellow card, although unwarranted, suspended him from the next match. My friend thought the same thing.

My last note of the first half. Team USA created great energy and momentum in the last five minutes. The announcers felt Slovenia was praying for halftime. And then we gave up a quick counter for a late goal to put them up 2-0 at half. Nice. My thoughts: "I can't believe I have to wait another four years to see this team try and make a statement again".

Second half:
New lineups, a surge of energy mixed with desperation, and in turn, we saw an exciting half of futbol. Donovan basically realized he was playing alongside MLS players again, and said "Okay, I need to carry this team on my shoulders". And he did, with a goal from a nearly impossible angle, over the head of the goalie he made look foolish, just three minutes into the second half. For the next thirty minutes, Team USA turned up the heat. I really respected their effort. They had some great chances, nearly scored on a few occasions, and just looked like the better team. Then, in the 82nd minute, after a great post-up and header by Altidore, Michael Bradley came sliding in for the equalizer. This caused me to double fist-pump in jubilation. A rare occurrence in my lifetime. I think America and freedom overcame me into that particular reaction.

Then the ref that apparently hates America happened. See 1:44 on the video.

USA's game-winning goal was erased when Koman Coulibaly decided to wave it off for a reason he decided not to specify. Apparently the U.S. was either offsides or committed a foul, when the only player active in the play was onsides by 8 yards, scored a game-winning goal in US soccer's greatest comeback ever, while three of his teammates were molested by Slovenians. Just because were making your sport look good and hope to one day dominate that sport like we do every other sport in the world, doesn't mean you can call phantom fouls or maybe offsides on us when were putting on a second half clinic for Slovenia. And when you do anyways, could you at least specify what the call was? I mean make something up. Come on. Don't just blow your whistle and point. Look I referree'd a third grade basketball game once and had kids tackling each other. I know it gets hectic and out-of-hand at times and it's tough to make the right call every time. But I would've made the right call there. And even if I didn't, I could've at least bs'd the coach with a foul I saw or something. Stop hating America! England is the one ruining the ecosystem with their oil spills.

Oh, and I'm gonna choose not to talk about how badly officiated the game was overall. I will point out one more thing though. Dempsey was pile-drived by a Slovenian in the box during a corner at one point. It looked like I was watching this kid at the 1:35 mark. And yet they called a foul on Dempsey. We were robbed.

It looks like we're going to need some help from England. The aforementioned Joe said at work today 30 Englishmen crowded into a conference room to watch the game and adamantly root against the U.S.

We're screwed. Come on Algeria!

Image taken from

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Now or Never...

It's Game 7 and there's no turning back for the Lakers or Celtics. Check out this video to get a little taste of the rivalry as a pregame for tonight.

Some quick notes:

1) Kobe Bryant had 26 points last game. He had 0 when Tony Allen was in the game.
2) Ron Artest will never have a game like that again (If you consider 15 pts and 6 rebs overly impressive anyway).
3) I still can't figure out why they paid all this extra money for Ron Artest. I actually get excited when he shoots the ball, because I know there's a very good chance it's not going in.
Artest (09/10 playoffs) - 10.8 ppg 3.9 rpg 39.8 FG% 29.1 3P% 1.4 SPG
Ariza (08/09 playoffs) - 11.3 ppg 4.2 rpg 49.7 FG% 47.6 3P% 1.6 SPG
Artest (NBA Finals) - 9.0 ppg 4.5 rpg 36.0 3P%
Ariza (08/09 Finals) - 13.4 ppg 6.6 rpg 41 3P%
4) Phil Jackson has never lost a series in which his team led 1-0. (His record: 47-0!)
5) Before Game 6 the Celtics had never lost a game when up 3-2.
6) The Lakers are -27 in the 4th quarter when Kobe is on the court (through the first 5 games - he also shot 28.1% in the 4th through those 5 games).
7) The Celtics have won 9 of 11 NBA Finals matchups vs. the Lakers.
8) The Celtics are 4-0 in Game 7s against the Lakers.

Enjoy the game. Let's hope for one to remember.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meet Walt Backman...

I know by now this story might be old news to some people. But this video is just too good to be true. Over the years, I've always wondered what these managers were screaming in their tirades with umpires. I imagined they were pretty hard on the guys. But Walt Backman took it to a whole other level. A level well beyond my expectations.

Some managers might stop at screaming, tossing their cap or kicking dirt on home plate. But not Walt Backman. He wanted to make it very clear that you don't throw him out of the game when he's not sure what him or his player said that was wrong.

I'd offer some witty insight on the clip, but it speaks for itself. No analysis needed. Just enjoy.

My favorite quotes:

"He'll go to...Stevie'll go to second and move...Stevie'll go to left. Stevie'll go to short, move Johnny to second". (2:55)

"Catcher get out of the way"! (3:40)

"Let's go have a beer Doc". (4:10)

Also, who are you taking:
Walt Backman or Phillip Wellman in an ejection tirade?

To me, Wellman is playing into the crowd and almost looks like he's acting. Backman seems to express more hate and disgust about the ejection. He isn't trying to entertain the crowd.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hey it's me....America!

It's not quite the 4th of July, but today sure felt a lot like it. As I wandered the streets of a local city this morning, I saw red, white and blue all over in anticipation of the World Cup match between U.S.A. and England. Americans coming together for soccer. Who would have ever thunk it? If you had asked me that question 20 years ago, I would've been two years old and probably wouldn't have known what soccer was. But if I were the same age back then, I would have never believed this country could unite over a game who's professional sport 99.8% of us Americans choose to ignore exists. That clearly wasn't the case today though.

Like most Americans, I strapped on my red, white and blue attire, and intently watched the game with close friends and family. I saw us allow a goal within the first four minutes of the game. I saw us get dominated and outplayed for the most part throughout the game. I saw Clint Dempsey score one of the luckiest goals in World Cup history. And most importantly, I saw us tie. That's right England. A rich history of soccer as a national sport and past time has nothing on our primarily football (Americano), baseball and basketball sport history. That's right, the same country that produces the Seattle Sounders and the NY-NJ Red Bulls (Yeah, that's right. Our mascot is a can!) tied you in a game of futbol. That one has got to hurt. If only Altidore's late shot off the post found the back of the net. Those already insulting facts would be even more insulting. Don't get me wrong, England was the better team. But we prevailed (with a tie).

In other patriotic news, my favorite international representative, the U.S. Men's Basketball team, introduced their new uniforms for the FIBA World Championships this summer. The jerseys have a sleek, but simple look. They're not over top. They look like the type of jerseys a team wins a Gold Medal at the FIBA World Championships in. Although the rosters are not finalized, I'm pleased to see Kevin Durant modeling the uniform (no homo). This year Durant established himself as a top player in the NBA, and more importantly, now ranks tied with Dwyane Wade for my third favorite player to watch behind Lebron James and Chris Paul. And if you know me, you know that's saying something. Durant should bring a great spark to Team USA, and would be a valuable asset if James, Wade or Bosh could not play because of free agency or the "Jerry Colangelo rules".

I'm also intrigued by the fact that the new uniforms are specially designed. The shorts are about half as light as regular basketball shorts and overall the uniform has 13 inches less of fabric. Some players claim it makes them more aerodynamic - not that they really need any help in that category - but I don't know how much I buy that. Either way Team USA should look fresh as they hopefully run through the competition this summer.

To recap, it was a great day to be an American. I'm excited for the ongoing journey of Team USA in the World Cup (may they have continual ridiculous luck like they did today), and I can't wait to see the "Redeem Team" try to recapture the World Championship title that has alluded them for quite some time now, later this summer.

God Bless America.

Images taken from Yahoo! Sports &

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Salute To My Favorite Marketing Campaign...

When a guy watches sports, he thinks of three things: the game itself, the cheerleaders and beer. That's why I want to take this time to salute my favorite marketing team: the brains behind the advertising for Coors Light.

Some companies might think taste is important when designing a beverage. But not Coors Light. The method to their madness is the gear that comes along with that beverage. I mean who cares about taste when you have a sweet can to drink from? Certainly not me.

Miller Lite thinks it's useful to advertise its award-winning great taste. Miller High Life dubs itself the "Champagne of Beers". Bud Light calls itself the "King of Beers" and emphasizes its drinkability (not that anyone knows what that means either, but at least its very drinkable). Red Stripe celebrates its beer, hooray beer! Corona chooses to be miles away from ordinary, dare they say an extraordinary beer that's perfect for rest and relaxation during hot summer days on the beaches with beautiful women. Dos Equis has the most interesting man in the world telling you he doesn't always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis!

Then there's Coors Light: The Silver Bullet, The Most Refreshing Beer in the World, The Coldest Beer in the World!

I'm pretty sure I could take any beer, put it in subzero Arctic temperatures, and that would be the coldest beer in the world. It's a slogan founded on lies.

Let's break down Coors Light's go-to innovations:

The Vented Wide Mouth Can
Versatility: Can
Claim to Fame: It's wider opening lets air in to allow for a smooth, refreshing pour.

When I'm trying to get drunk, there's nothing that matters more to me than a smooth, refreshing pour. Nothing says great taste like a refreshing pour. How can a pour even be refreshing? Do I feel more awake and lively because I'm satisfied by the way the liquid disbursed from the can? What exactly does this do for me? How does the pour serve any purpose to my satisfaction with the beer? Anyone? No? Okay, let's move on.

Cold Activated Can
Versatility: Can or Bottle (12 fl. oz. & 24 fl. oz.)
Claim to Fame: When the mountains turn blue your can/bottle is certifiably cold.

I'm sorry, is Coors Light a product for people with sensory processing disorders? Do they think their consumers are all idiots? How pathetic do they think the citizens of America are if they don't even believe a person can pick up a can of Coors Light and be able to tell whether its cold or not? Coca-Cola doesn't seem to think we need a cold activated Coke can. Their consistent strategy of relying on the human intellect to use its sense of touch to decide whether the can is at an enjoyable temperature has been quite effective over the years.

Cooler Box
Versatility: Plastic Bottles (not sure why it only works for plastic, but whatever)
Claim to Fame: Allows you to pile on the ice and chill your refreshing Coors Light.

Here they go again with that refreshment mumbo jumbo. Last time I checked, Gatorade and water were refreshing. Jumping into a pool or running throw a sprinkler on a hot summer day was refreshing. Oh, and drinking beer dehydrates your body. I'm not saying it can't be refreshing. But that's really not the intent of beer. Anyways, I'll give Coors the benefit of the doubt on this one. There's nothing wrong with an 18-pack that doubles as a cooler. It's a quality tailgating scene product. Well, if you were drinking a beer with taste. But still, I like what they tried to do there.

Cold Activation Window
Versatility: Can
Claim to Fame: So you know your beers cold before you buy it.

The actors literally have to come off as idiots to pull off making the product seem somewhat useful. I think I'd rather trust the stores refrigeration system or spend the extra $1.79 on ice than succumb to the fact that I need to see a blue mountain on my can to know that my beer is cold. Refrigerator shelves in these stores are set up on a first-in, first-out basis. That means cases have plenty of time to chill before they reach the front of the line for consumer-taking. Especially beers with bad taste.

When it all comes down to it, Coors Light's marketing campaign is plain and simple: Our beer doesn't taste good. Even we don't think so. But let us distract you with our cool cans, and windows, and weather-changing trains that cruise through towns and beaches on hot summer days so you'll buy our bad-tasting beer anyways.

Bad businesses should take a page out of Coors Light's book. They've managed to market a low-quality taste to perfection. Their ploys to distract people from the underlying fact that their beer isn't that good might actually be working. Some might argue the relatively affordable price does the trick. But that's what we have Natty Light, Keystone and PBR for. Coors continues to hang around in the highly competitive market for beer. Seeing a low-quality product survive in such a competitive market gives my sports writing a glimmer of hope.

Now that's refreshing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Taking it to the Next Level...

Okay, so I realize this video has absolutely nothing to do with sports, but I came across it earlier today and it blew my mind. I've watched it like 15 times and I still don't see how that's possible.

Anyways, more importantly, this video serves as a representation of the first of many technological advances Talbot Talks Sports is currently undertaking to help make this blog a household name by 2012.

Expect more to come.