Wednesday, June 30, 2010
So, back to my tale, an interinant poker player who somehow vacation in a resort without wi-fi. Makes it hard to play poker online. I guess that's a real poker bad beat. Anyway, I was in the middle of everybody's least favorite subject... somebody else's kid. Mine... So bare with me. We were at the Polynesian resort for the day.
I suspect the fact everybody had already departed after they had their kids participate in a parade with the characters around the restaurant we were playing catch-up. I get it but every year I go to Disney World I feel more and more like a piece in a assembling line being bundled about the park experiencing things more in a fast food type manner than in a long relaxing dinner (proof enough in the hurried aftermath of the breakfast).
We contemplated getting a ticket for the rest of the day at the park. Disney doesn’t offer reduced rates and we had to really decide if it was going to be worth 70 to 90 bucks a head for half a day. Given that we still had a 2 hour+ drive back to Venice we wouldn’t even be able to reap late night hours, we didn’t do it.
After shopping at the Disney mall type thing on the Boardwalk in the simmering heat we decided we made the right decision. And besides how much can you really do with a ten month old in Disney World. Granted he’s a brave little man, but there will be time enough for him to visit in the future. It was still a great diversion.
Speaking of brave almost walking children, we took in the entire fireworks display including the drunk idiots letting their children haphazardly shot them off on the plot of beach next to us, for the fourth of July. The kid in my arms didn’t get scared he just watched the big explosions and colors in amazement and then 15 minutes into the 20 minute display fell asleep in my arms.
He packed in a lot of firsts that trips and him being there made it a lot of fun. We took him in the water and let him dig in the sand. Fairly sure, the boy who shares my fair complexion is now a beach fiend. Every morning when we’d put his swimsuit on he’d start dancing and cooing in anticipation. He probably also became a ham on the trip. He had all the attention of everybody there and found out just what made everybody laugh and repeated it.
Our shy boy went from staring at strangers to now smiling, flirting and laughing at them and getting disappointed when anybody he sees isn’t enchanted by him. He was on attention deficit shock when we took off for home and quickly made anybody and everybody his new audience.
His parents, two introverts by nature, are coming to grips with all the people he charms into coming over to say hi. In some respects it’s a cool thing, like anybody we love to hear people compliment our child, but in other respects it can get a little uncomfortable. I used to avoid the busy times at the dog parks because of all the banal chatter you’d have to engage in with their other owners. That and my female dog would try and hump every dog there to try and show her dominance. The fact that most dogs are either drastically larger or smaller than she is makes that a less than fun experience.
So, I’ve noticed the types of people we meet fall into a few categories.
Grandmothers. They are always super nice with a smile for the child and a compliment to us. They all remind us it goes too quick. First time somebody told me that I was a freshman in highschool. A senior girl forlornly told me how fast school would pass me by, I was just thinking about how long it would take until I got my drivers liscense which felt like an eternity.
To be continued in my next post...
Monday, June 28, 2010
Well, I haven’t totally taken a vacation from poker. I said away from the felt… home games don't count because there is no felt there, unless it's Shannon Elisabeth's home game. Recently, I went on vacation with the wife's family in Venice Beach, FL. That's on the gulf coast side south of Tampa and it was a very relaxed almost tropical destination.
They didn't have the picture perfect white sands of Pensacola but they did have some of the best million year old shark tooth hunting in the country. Also, million year old Megladon teeth (giant GIANT sharks from the dinosaur eras). I found plenty of shark teeth but no megladon teeth. Those can range in value from $100 all the way up to 5k.
We did our searching in the water, just short of the beach where the waves crash. Actually, I didn't do much searching, my sister-in-law is an addict, and some of the others in the crowd there are as well, but I still bagged the biggest tooth when I went out on the last day. Might upload it when I get a chance.
By the way, the random photo of my boy is from an on the water restaurant there: Sharky's. Really good food. Conch Fritters were tasty so too the flounder with lobster and crab. I took the picture when the kid was enjoying his family. I was trying to send it to facebook via my phone and it ended up here. I am no mobile phone geek, clearly. I’ve said that before.
We also stole away to take a day trip to Disney World. Not Disney World proper. Our boy loves Mickey Mouse, and the Mickey Mouse club house. In fact, you just start humming the tune and he starts dancing. So, I found out about a character breakfast at the Polynesian were Mickey, Pluto, and Lilo and Stitch would be.
The video of the experience has definitely gone into the vault as an all time classic. The boy was pretty catatonic when meeting the mascots but he did warm up to them and start to figure out these giant fuzzy things were one and the same as his stuffed animals and computer animated TV heroes.
He had never met Stitch before (obviously) or seen the creature that looks like a blue Chincilla. We thought Stitch would be he’s least favorite but much respect to the man in the suit. Clearly the actor is the one responsible with bonding with the children and not the character he was wearing. This guy was the first to break our son into a smile and persevered over the dazed glare he got at first. Still, after the lunch I got the feel we were being hurried away.
My wife says not so much but I feel when three separate people ask you if you got to meet all the characters (with the silent implication there was nothing more to see) and your waitress says three or four times I’m not hurrying you… you are in fact being politely hurried. As I was able to ascertain they seat people in blocks of the restaurant, we got seated in a block where everybody else had already been there for some time. In fact, we were at our table 20 minutes after our reservation.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I think the U.S. can beat Ghana. Think there will be some people taking advantage of Live streaming football
for that one? We might be a favorite in that game though it will be critical to our success to think of ourselves as underdogs. Then we’d be in the semi-finals with a very winnable game vs. South Korea or Uruguay. Uruguay is one of my favorite teams this year and are legitimate dark horses to win it. South Korea has been a bit of a thorn in the side for those youth teams I referenced and like us are part of a new guard of soccer nations (even if the Euros don't want to admit it). However, Uruguay's style despite their superiority means we'll be in the game if we can just keep them off the score sheet (tough task).
We won’t have many opportunities but our fitness might open up some late chances in a tight game. I think our finishing can only improve. Dempsey was awful unlucky today. Either team is beatable... and that would mean the semi-finals of the World Cup (uncharted territory unless you count the first world cup in 1930). From there who knows, but stay by your phone in case you want to do a littlemobile betting.
Before the tournament I compared the United States to Butler (the national finalist college basketball team) and I stick to that comparison. Hopefully, we'll get the same result or better. To review Kentucky last year is Brazil. Memphis two years ago is Spain (neither has won the big one) but both come in loaded with talent and the weight of the world on their shoulders. Ghana is an up and coming program, kind of like a Gonzaga in that their conference or rather continent is viewed with skepticism but nobody wants to play them in a do or die format.
We managed to avoid Germany who is a bit like North Carolina. Until the two titles this decade Carolina would win one every once in a while but even if they didn’t they’d get deep in the tournament. Both teams are systems, disclipined, and featured great athletes who are willing to devote themselves to the team concept. See Franz Beckbenbauer marauding and scoring goals as a defensive player (creating a new position as the first Libero or Sweeper) or Michael Jordan playing a role and bowing to older players James Worthy and Sam Perkins. You don’t want to play either team in a knockout format and thankfully we won’t until the finals if we get there.
England is a crotchedy old program that was in the spotlight once but has been a long time getting back. They continue to be decent but have never recaptured the glory of their win in the 60s. They are the embodiment of heartbreaking bridesmaids. They always advance but never quite get it done.
They are a hard team to pair but Cincinnatie or in state rival Ohio State both won in the 60s and have been good but not title worthy since. Perhaps, neither team embodies the spirit of their sport like football is with England. Maybe since they invented football, they should be paired with Kansas who’s team founder invented basketball James Naismith. Kansas has a few too many titles for that to work though.
Italy is a bit like UCLA in general. They’ve had success long ago and then spotty success since then. So much of their team is about looking in the rear view mirror. Perhaps, they don’t have the legends of the game that UCLA had but they’d argue their dominance defensively mirrors that of Jabar or Walton offensively. I’m afraid this year that they are too much like the more recent versions of UCLA. They just don’t have the players at their peak.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I think it's been a great year for poker players from our region at the WSOP. Lots of people to root for, and I'm enjoying the success others are getting and not just in Texas Hold'em poker. I'm also getting very itchy to play. John Dolan is the latest to make a final table, following Gabe Costner and David Diaz's lead. Rooting hard for the youngster from Bonita Springs Florida to win a bracelet. With my health problems hopefully not a problem I look forward to getting some live poker action soon.
It's about time the region got some recognition for the caliber of players that come from here. It's a new generation of kids that are taking on the World and the World Series. I'd take our old men against any old men (except for those at the Big Game in Vegas), and now I'd take our youngsters against anybody's youngsters (except for those at the Big Game in Vegas). Though the Big Game isn't really a fair comparison because almost all those players came from somewhere else.
What's encouraging is the fact that there are a lot of good players from around here. You've played with them, I've played with them, and we've all learned from them whether or not they wer giving Texas Holdem poker tips or not. Hopefully, the next to see some major success is you reading this or maybe even better me writing this. Well, if not we always have an online no deposit casino or two to tide us over.
BACK TO THE MAJOR SPORTING EVENT GOING ON RIGHT NOW. IF YOU GUESSED WIMBLEDON GO BACK TO THE KIDDIE GAME...
The world cup has a tantalizing must win game (kind of) for the USA on Wednesday. I will be up and pulling hard for the Red, White, and Blue do what several bigger soccer nations couldn't do and beat an opponent they should. I think Jozy Altidore, despite rumors of illness, breaks his duck and scores.
Edit: We won. Jozy didn't score only Landon Donovan did.
Not to rain on the parade but I hope like the U.S. doesn't think winning the group is the accomplishment. It's part of the process and the progress. We got a great chance to win more games and go to places we've never gone before in our lifetimes as a soccernation, so let's hope the team realizes and recognizes that.
Missing from our team to score goals was Charlie Davis, a player who was a revelation at last years Confederations Cup with blistering speed that bothered Spain, Brazil, Italy, and Egypt and who unfortunately almost lost his life in a car accident that killed one of his friends. He tried his best to make it back for the world cup but came up just short. His teammates remember though see picture of Stuart Holdem and Landon Donovan doing Charlie Davis' trademark Stanky Leg dance in the victory celebration.
The French manager is an absolute idiot. The team a laughable tragedy and a mess. Everybody in the world who follows soccer knows England should have been starting Jermaine Defoe since day one and many us think Joe Cole should have been there too. Course it took England until their last game to figure out these rather obvious conclusions.
How Lippi of Italy declined to take a youngster with speed and a great shot (former American Giuseppe Rossi) shows how devoted some of these coots get to their favorite players. Experience might get you out of the group but at some point you get too old to win the world cup. Italy was a fine defensive wine last go round. This time they are vinegar. Wouldn't be surprised to see Italy outright lose tomorrow.
I had given up at home. I was resigned for the fact that we'd likely come off as whiners when we boarded our plane to come home. All we could do was point to terrible call after terrible call. Yet, previous teams like England have dealt with handball goals that eliminated them, Germany dealt with a goal that never crossed the line in a World Cup final, and in general, it's kind of a badge of honor to get shafted sometimes by collusion and sometimes by cheating, and sometimes by bad refereeing. Kind of means you've arrived.
Our guys proved me wrong in every possible way. How many times can you be denied by things outside your control and still weather the storm and prevail. Granted, Algeria might have been disciplined on defense, but offensively they were horrid. Launching 40 and 30 yard shots with plenty of space and teammates in front of them was bad enough, but repeatedly squandering massive numerical advantage when are whole midfield would advance to their box was even worse.
On top of that, the interviews after the game, Landon didn't even want to bitch about the calls or the unfairness. Yeah, you've arrived kid pure class on the field and off it.
Saint Reggie Bush was there cheering on the U.S. Team in South Africa and hung out with the team after that dramatic last gasp win. That's photo above is actually from today. For more of Reggie's photos go here.
The success of our team is a bit of story of redemption. Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley spearheaded a U.S. team that got fourth in a youth world cup, LD was voted the best young player of the entire 2002 world cup, and our youth teams since have consistently come to youth world cups as one of the favorites. Then our guys turn pro and turn mediocre, well they used to.
Landon has bounced around from Europe to the states and back and forth with more failures then you can shake a stick at it. Until this year when he caught fire at Everton--even there it was as a very good supporting player. This was a player many in the world thought was our first legitimate international star. It's so hard not to root for the guy as he has overcome so many professional hurdles and it's great to see him shine.
The other players have endured disappointments of past world cups but appear to have finally chosen this years version to put it together. The U.S. will go back to being an underdog on Saturday when they tee it up with Ghana, which is a good thing, but just winning their group and definitely being one of the top 16 teams in the world, has been a tremendous achievement.
The task ahead of them is daunting but oh well. You can't win the world cup without beating some great teams, and our guys know this. They have the confidence they can beat anybody after stifling Spain last summer and almost stealing one from Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, so... Let's DO THIS MAN.
Monday, June 21, 2010
... my health, a bad beat or not? I've gotten a few emails and messages in regard to one of our most outspoken GCP bloggers blog so it's time I set the record straight.
So I had a bad, bad kidney stone experience. While I was there getting the equivalent of the radiation of 320 X-rays, the CT scan saw something on my lung. That sucked. I'm the kind of person that worries about things when I need to worry about things. Some of my family, don't stop worrying about something even after there is no longer need to worry about it. One of my very close family once remarked, "I'd never take anti-anxiety drugs, I think I'd get too anxious from not being anxious." Parse that one at your leisure.
So, for fear of upsetting them, I decided to keep this close to my vest a little bit. I've also noticed as I've gotten older and expanded my family by one, that my "What me worry," attitude is a little disingenious. I got to say, I was fine compartmentalizing it until I got home and saw my 10 month old and started thinking of not being there for him. Wow... that's almost hard to write, but it is a frightening future. So yeah, I started to play out scenarios in my head a bit.
With the urging of my wife, I did a little research into this nodule on my lung, and saw a lot of comforting information on the internet. Tons of first hand accounts of people freaking out and then a pretty steady stream of level-headedness. I prefered the second. And, as one person commented if everybody did a CT scan just about everybody would have a nodule. Okay, no worries right?
I went to the doctor, and he basically asked me if had the symptoms of lung cancer. No. Okay, clean bill of health then, but we'll do another CT scan just to be sure. Which isn't exactly comforting considering with lung cancer once you are feeling the symptoms you were probably a little too slow in acting and the damage may already be done.
So, after some other tests and scans because of some other things that came up that could be connected, I get the second scan done (what a drain on time and finances a little bit). Nothing too big to report but I "do have the three nodules." Three nodules? I thought it was one nodule... No three. Oh.
Course my doctor never calls me back. That tidbit was from his assistant who I had to call to get him to track down the doctor's review of the scan. That day he wasn't there and his co-hort told me to get regular scans every three months. My doctor calls me later in the week and tells me considering everything and insurance I wouldn't need one for a year. Hmmm.
So anyway... I apologize to my friends and family that thought I was keeping something from them. I wasn't. I told only a few people, because I had been hard to get a hold of that week and told them the reason why.
So in short... there is nothing to worry about. I'll get some follow up scans, and just monitor things. All they need to do is make sure there is no growth because then it becomes a concern. Right now, all I can do is wait and check in again... and remember that this is probably a nonevent in terms of health. Lots of lungs have nodules mine are no different. Course I will be a little more careful treading in and around smokey casinos.
Friday, June 18, 2010
And then you factor in the vuvuzelllas pushing potential fans away, I’m surprised the ratings have been as okay as they have been. Such is the story for soccer in this country—this is nothing new. Though there has been a spike in people looking for online betting tips.
In the old NASL, the first ever goal scored, during the first game on a network contract with ABC was during a commercial. No replay. The game ended 1-0. Newcomers never saw the goal and many never watched that sport again. Seems soccer can't stop shooting itself in the foot in this country. I believe the first MLS telecast was a dull 0-0 tie. If it wasn't enough of them since then have been. See half the world cup games for a comparable “ennui.”
Good news is the players should adjust to the ball, the vuvuzellas (and in places the altitude—which only enhances the 5% faster ball), and also be forced to attack more. So the tournament should improve. Just a shame it’s started so badly.
Ten things I like about North Korea (in the World Cup)...
1. I can't think of Kim Jong Ill without laughing. If he wasn't a bloodthirsty dictator he'd just be some comic relief midget in a bad James Bond movie.
2. I feel I have to root for their soccer team to advance because if they don't I'm worried some of these players will never see the light of day again. They'll just go back to North Korea and become soaps.
3. The actors that are Chinese Nationals that have been hired as fans. I wish somebody would hire me to go watch the world cup.
4. The crying striker. This dude bawling at the North Korean national anthem:
Backstory on this guy. he's the one player on the team that doesn't have to live in North Korea. He plays professional soccer in Japan (guessing he doesn't have to split his earnings with his country men). He drives a hummer.
5. They trained at a public gym in South Africa. Yeah, they basically showed up to the World Cup and got Gold's Gym memberships. Wonder if they got personal trainers as part of the membership. Perhaps, their coach walked into the wrong building and just couldn't say no. High pressure sales.
6. They showed the fighting spirit against Brazil as though they were playing for their lives. You have to admire that spirit. Unless, their lives did depend on it.
7. The coach is in constant contact with his magnificent leader via a secret piece of technology that allows him to wirelessly talk to North Korea. As they don't have cellphones in North Korea it's not a blackberry. Some have hinted that it is some sort of ESP Kim Jong has designed.
8. The fact that Kim Jong Ill gets his steinbrenner on with the national team. That in itself is comical. I wonder if they have a North Korean version of Seinfeld where televison worker number 312 works for Kim Jong Ill and a North Korean version of Larry David imitates the great master with camera shots only of his back. Probably not huh?
9. After the incredible showing against Brazil, for the first time in ages North Korea decided to live telecast the Portugal-North Korea game. Normally, they don't for fear of the country looking bad if they lose. Course when the final score was 7 - 0, the question that needs to be answered is when did they pull the doomswitch on the broadcast.
10. Okay, as much as i worry about he safety of the North Korean national players it's kind of nice to see them get thumped and already be eliminated two games into the world cup. Boo dictators, communism, midgets with bad haircuts, thick glasses, and ESP.
So with new viewers watching, many of them intrigued by newsports betting odds players sky the ball on every free kick they don’t even see these world class athletes make the impossible seem routine. The players are struggling to develop touch. How's that make the new bettors and new fans feel? They'd be better off trying cricket betting. One of the clichés in soccer that is oft-repeated when a team like the U.S. is in qualifying for the World Cup, “You make that mistake against a real team they’ll make you pay for it.” Not true this year.
Nobody is making anybody pay for anything. Well, with one notable exception. The Germans are. Guess what they played with the Jubliani ball all year in their Bundesliga and had an unreal passing accuracy rate of like 90% in their first game against a little bit overrated Australia team. They had the touch necessary to pass, shoot, and dance with the ball that every other team has lacked. They’ve always been the turtle to the hares of international soccer and once again it seems they were the only ones with any common sense when it came to the ball. I imagine come next world cup, whatever ball they use, every league will be playing with it for six months prior to the games.
The irony is every four years Addidas changes the ball, with the unstated intention of upping the goals, by making it harder for Goalies to track the ball and catch it. This year, the ball may be so radically different it’s effecting the on field players more than the goalies and is actually the culprit in the terrible shooting expositions.
The only thing worse than the vuvuzelas is everybody complaining about the vuvuzelas. Still, the players lament they can’t hear anything, TV viewers turn the channel because they think the channel’s audio is screwed up, and people that live near airports prefer to open their windows for background ambiance and I can’t say I blame them. Let’s be clear, this is a South African thing, not a soccer thing.
In South Korea, they had organized cheering with those noisemakers they back together in Asian baseball games, and it was equally onerous though far less disjointed and random. In Europe, the background noise is singing and chanting which enhances viewing the sport, in Brazil and other places in Africa there are drums and dancing. It’s carnival in the stands. You almost want to turn up the party.
Still, the vuvuzellas have turned any game into a Indiana Pacers Reggie Miller era playoff atmosphere. Remember when they pumped in sounds of racecars. So it’s not a one it’s all game and I think the players aren’t producing well offensively because they aren’t communicating well. It’s a little bit easier to hold shapes on defense but just like the NFL or NBA moving the ball and keeping the ball requires teamwork and communication. I’ve seen examples where goalies and defenders have gotten crossed up and pointed to their ears, for the most part this hasn’t created any goals, so I know it’s loud.
The effect on play and reaction of the viewers to the vuvuzellas is a shame because as a whole this is the one soccer event the United States has tolerated with more than passing fancy. Yet, the entire field has looked weak, defensive, and ineffectual. Having watched most of (all?) of the games during babysitting and online poker I'm pretty disgusted.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
NFL quarterbacks of course have the entire offseason to prepare, but what if you gave them the new ball right before the playoffs. For many teams, that’s exactly what FIFA has done. Wouldn't that change say Basketball odds
if they suddenly gave everybody a new ball. There are players that have pointed to the numeruous goalkeeping errors as proof of the ball’s influence on the game, but what I found interesting before the tournament was one goalkeeper who said this new ball may be even tougher for on the field players to use.
He was right the inaccurate passes are usually long, the free kicks and missed shots are far more likely to go over the goal than beside it. Every skilled player on the soccer field who has a ball at his feet is a quarterback on a bootleg for a moment. Any pass or shot requires skill, touch, and deftness while on the run. Watching David Beckham pinpoint a 50 yard cross is just as impressive to me as Peyton Manning threading the needle 30 yards downfield but the ball, so far, has prevented this type of skill from being on display.
Not that casual sports fans would necessarily register it. I can’t appreciate many elements of baseball because I haven’t played the game. I just see MLB players make the play look routine and think of it as that way, even if it’s not. The same is true for the neutral observer in soccer. They don’t know how hard it is to hit an outside of the foot pass thirty yards to a player in stride. Like a new weekend hacker suddenly can tolerate watching golf on TV because they understand just how it is to play, people that played competitive soccer in high school or past it (none of that kiddie ball we all played as tots) can see moments of brilliance in what to the uninformed looks routine.
I watched the Uruguay game and appreciated the tactics of it, but I wouldn’t expect an NFL fan to get the same enjoyment out of it. Afterall, I watched a no-hitter live as a high-schooler in Philadelphia (Terry Mullholland or maybe Tyler Green—can’t recall—you can tell what an impression it left on me). What I learned from that game is for seven innings a no-hitter is an excruciatingly boring game (for somebody that was never into the sport like myself), that suddenly got non-boring in the 8th and 9th innings because it was one of those rare games that was extradordinarly excruciatingly boring and you were rooting for nothing to continue to happen.
Baseball fans would tell me I watched a gem. However, if the opposition had gotten a couple of hits and scored a run or two in the 8th, it would have been just a snooze. Because they were especially off that day it was a special event? Because they didn’t get one hit, I should count myself lucky to have been there. I don’t think so. Saying that, I realize purists think of me as idiotic. Point is I don’t expect people to appreciate the nuances and sublties in soccer.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
My thinking was they'd win the tip, miss a shot, we'd hold for one shot in the first half (hopefully score), and open the second half with the ball and stall until they fouled us. Maybe pull out a 6-4 win. Boring, yes, but a win is the thing. Course when we won the tip and our best player took two dribbles and bricked a three that "strategy" was out the window in all of three seconds. I guess they were humoring me before the game or he had a bwin mobile betting account. We got killed.
So, I understand why Honduras, New Zealand, or North Korea might want to try Forza Italia on for size, or try and Greece their way to a deep run. In one of the other first rounder games, for a time Paraguay tried to out Italy-Italy and almost pulled it off. Which I didn't really understand. Paraguay, has a couple of players up top, and enough talent to attack an aged and wounded Italy, but thought conservative was the way to go. No wonder all the big teams advance, the small teams concede any chance of winning through the flow of play and just try to steal games. It's a bit like a newcomer getting poker strategy tips from Phil Ivey. Just wouldn't resonate.
I have to say, the one team that thoroughly entertained me with this strategy was Uruguay--not that I agreed with it. First off, France is just as vulnerable as Italy this year. Second off, Uruguay like Paraguay did their own talents a disservice by underestimating how capable they were in taking the game to the French. With a little more aggression, Uruguay could have won that game, maybe going away. Instead, they played to steal a result like Switzerland did to Spain and came out with a tie. Four years ago that's a good result, this year, I'm not so sure.
Uruguay had basically five at the back with two defensive midfielders right before them. And, traditionally they've been South America's Italy. Their tactics are nothing new for them. They completely stymied and frustrated France. It was almost fun to watch (but they are the exception) because to their credit and Diego Forlan's brilliance up front they were able to win balls and link to their strikers and get forward.
I've not seen forwards so ably win the ball and reverse the fields so effectively as Forlan, and to a lesser degree Suazo. Uruguay can still penetrate and win in this fashion, so I forgive them, just as I forgive Italy for their style because it's their style. Though, I do think they were a little too cautious to France just because they were France.
However, to the rest of the tournament, give me a break, why perpetuate a stereotype.
The second reason for the low scoring is the ball. I'm sorry Jubalani advocates. I was discussing this with some American football fans and I posited the question this way. If Peyton Manning were given a football that flew 5% faster how long would it take him to adjust. Answers ranged from a week of practice to a month. To anybody that doesn’t think it would make a difference just look at how QBs struggle to complete passes when the weather changes the dynamics.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
This world cup has been a snoozefest. Maybe not to the people that played the betting odds to predict such results but for the rest of us. Snore. I'm the first to defend soccer but I'm loathe to defend defensive soccer. Compliments to the U.S. who showed a willingness to attack England, despite being an underdog, and made offensive substitutions to go for the full three points. The rest of the tournament... not so much.
Every team has played a game by this point. And the only way we'd know less about them is if there were hockey, even than the Ice hockey odds might be easier to predict. At least there would be some scoring.
Any team that has scored a goal has either won or drawed (the exception being North Korea against Brazil). Therefore this year, scoring a goal insures you don't lose. You'd think teams would more aggressively pursue these "goals" but they haven't. Instead, they are like a bunch of old time nits at the same poker table. No action, with nobody willing to lose their stack.
Today, Spain lost to a dogged Switzerland, who as an underdog, followed the template of this world cup and actually came out on top. They bunkered and hunkered down, protected the goal with an overly defensive front and tried to counter attack and steal a goal and a result. Then bunker down some more.
When you are as big an underdog as Switzerland. So be it. If the U.S. were to play Spain or Brazil, I won't mind this type of strategy. However, I do mind this strategy against teams you can beat. Yet for some reason this world cup everybody is playing tentatively and cautiously. Some observers have said this is first game strategy, and the games will open up as teams MUST get results in games two or three and when goal differential suddenly crops up.
That makes sense but a couple of round 1 games were must wins and they didn't play that way. The most staggering was the limp performance that was Portugal vs. Cote D'Ivorie. Conventional thinking is Brazil is going to win the group. Therefore a win by Portugal or Ivory Coast would go a long way to qualifying with the top two teams advancing. (Course North Korea showed they aren't an easy out). Thus, both teams bank on losing to Brazil and beating North Korea and then it comes down to goal differential. Since Brazil may already be through by the third game, conceivably this is a bit of strategy for the team that plays Brazil last (Portugal I think), who might be able to steal a point if Brazil sits their studs (not like their bench players aren’t studs too).
Yet, despite the need for a win, both teams played not to lose. Sven Goran Erickson's passivity and caution was evident for England in the last few major tournaments and a dyamic team like the Ivory Coast is hamstrung with him at the helm. Afterwards, both managers expressed a desire not to lose. What? This is the World Cup--will some team besides rank underdogs just go for it. Used to be classic 3-2 scorelines throughout the world cup, this year only a few games (Germany 4-0, Brazil 2-1 off the top of my head) have had more than two goals scored.
Why all this caution?
I have a few suspicions...
In the NFL, every team apes what worked the year before and I think to a degree teams analysed what a very average offensive team, Italy, was able to accomplish by being a very stout defensive team in winning the last world cup. Prior to that, perfectly boring and nonthreatening Greece, got beat up for most games, stole a goal or two and won a European Championshp this decade. So, playing snoozeball works for good squads and bad squads.
To be continued...
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Here's some videos to get me amped up for Saturday's World Cup game, good thing is win or lose we still have a great chance to get to the knock out stages where anything can happen:
Last time we played England they were heavily favored and pre-tournament picks to win the world cup. We brought a rag-tag bunch of semi-pros and beat them 1-0. The international reports didn't believe the score was accurate and reported it as England 10-0 or England 10-1.
This video is a little more recent. Facing improbablr odds the U.S. qualified for the second round by beating Egypt 3-0, and arguably outplayed Italy in a loss (where former American youth player Guiseppe Rossi scored to give Itlay the win). Then came Spain who hadn't lost a game in a record amount of international matches. Whoops. In the final, the U.S. was two up on Brazil until we woke up and said wait a second we are two up on Brazil in the finals. Still the game that got away. Enjoy the video. I see the Americans doing well this world cup with the whole team (minus Charlie Davis) returning after getting all so close last summer.
Monday, June 07, 2010
The only times these guys seem to care about winning is at the end of their careers.
Oddly, it's at that time they should be trying to bank as much money as possible for their impending retirements (80% of NBA players (or more) are broke within a couple of years out of the league) rather than trying to capture missed opportunities they blew when they were young. They have it backwards. Lots of stars try this and some succeed (Boston two years ago with Pierce, Garnett, and Allen), but more often than not they fail (Karl Malone and Gary Payton to the Lakers to name one).
Should be interesting if the young free agents get things right. They should all get together to get their title with one year deals where they take a pay-cut (like their agents would every accept that) and then with legacy complete negotiate huge contracts around the league.
Let's go flyers! - You gotta love the spunk of the Flyers. Came into the playoffs as an 7 side, overcame a three game deficit in a best of seven series, a three goal deficit in a game seven, and made it to the Stanley Cup. This once team of destiney is once again on the ropes in an elimination game down 3-2 to the mighty Blackhawks. When you have a rooting interest Ice Hockey is a lot of fun to root for, if you need a betting interest here's some Ice Hockey betting odds.
Annoying commercials - Have you seen the State Farm guy? With that Charlie Sheen, is that a hairline or a wig fop, hanging over his face. Maybe because he's on every second commercial I'm ready to kick that guy to the curb. Used to be spokespeople were lovable, kinda of characters, now they are the annoying neighbors that shoot you a fradulent smile, and have a penchant for winking.
Recently, I found myself channel surfing and swept in by the ample cleavages of the Spanish TV network. Probably was Sabado Gigante. At least I'd be spared from that guy... umm no. Turns out he speaks fluent spanish and was featured in an ad for State Farm that was unique for the network. The weird thing is there is nothing I can put my finger on but something just grates me with that guy. Tell me I'm not alone?
Locals at the WSOP - Jacob Naquin, TK, Shannon Shorr, and a number of guys have cashed. I'm glad to see that. Sucks that a lot of guys have moved out to Vegas and Harrahs reports their hometowns as either Henderson or Las Vegas, NV. I probably miss a lot when I scan their reports.
Michigan Football - Am I the only person that thinks that a school can put itself on probation after it got cheating is the dumbest thing ever. Seriously... Remember double secret probation in Animal House. In college I used to represent a fraternity that thought of itself as Animal House (which fraternity didn't, even the guys that were obviouly the stuck up geeks from that movie reckoned they were the Delta house) but we were pretty close to it. I used to remember I'd go to IFC, the Inter-Fraternity Council, and we'd be in trouble for something new every week. Then they'd put us on probation.
I always wondered when we'd violate probation instead of just getting another week added to it. Why I left I think we had three years of probation to serve, yet we had an offense every week. More double secret probation? Okay. That's a bit like Michigan. You cheated, you got caught, and now you are going to put yourself on probation. That's as weak as saying you are never going to do it again. Uh-uh.
Annual Toby Day - This weekend we celebrate the life of our friend Toby Beaugh who was killed Mardi Gras day four years ago by a hit 'n run driver who got away in the thick of the night. Several crime cameras including one next to the police station he drove by weren't operating and despite raising a 20k reward nothing came of it. Sucks.
Toby became my best friend after I moved here with both of us in almost identical situations in life, in relationships and soon to wed. He beat me to the church. He always had something witty to offer, was always ready to jump to aid a friend in need, and never, ever said a bad thing about another person. I learned a lot from knowing him and am fortunate we were as close as we were. I've tried to take on some of his positive qualities and it's hard to do. I look forward to sharing some Toby stories on saturday (of course after watching the U.S. shock the world and beat England, he too was a soccer player and fan--so it'd be fitting), and seeing all his childhood friends from Lafayette that have since become my friends.
Saturday, June 05, 2010
So basically, the neurologists and economists got together and started comparing notes on what happens in a huge system (on a macro level) and inside one person's head (probably as micro as you can get). Here's a cursory overview. Definitely a topic I'm going to read a little more into when I get time.
TED Talks - while I'm trying to appear brainy, I'm in love with TED talks. For the last year I've downloaded their talks onto my iPod and watch them before going to sleep most nights. If you have varied interests you should check out a few on their site on topics that appeal to you. After that I advise subscribing to their podcasts and watching/listening to every one you get. It is rare for them to not be interesting on some level. Granted you at times need the ability to look past political agendas but often you don't.
Floyd Landis - the Jose Canseco of cycling. He learned a few things from Lance Armstrong but misapplied them. Step one take P.E.D.s. Step two deny, deny, deny until you are blue in the face. He forgot step three don't get caught. After getting caught, denying forever, he's coming clean and saying he did it. Not only is he singing he's trying to drag Lance down with him. Obviously, he's just jealous that Lance got away with it and he didn't.
I personally don't have any hang up with snitches, if you cheat, or break the rules or the law, that's your responsibility. So what if somebody tattles on you... you shouldn't have cheated. Here, though clearly it's just a bitter man. That rubs me the wrong way a bit. But Lance Armstrong has long been an embarrassment to America. Ever listen to how he can't help but evade questions and tip his hands that he's guilty. He said something recently like "We like our story..." Really? Your story? A story isn't quite the truth. If you parse most of his interviews there is always a thin trail of honesty in there that reveals the guy cheating his ass off. There are these verbal microexpressions (to use a Joe Navaro poker term) that qualify statements that shouldn't need qualifying.
Yeah, I know that's an unpopular opinion but Armstrong is no different than Bonds, Clemens, or Ben Johnson. Somewhere along the way we became East Germany and China. That's a shame, we used to stand for something in the world's eyes. Everybody else was cheating but we were clean. The East German women looked like linebackers and sometimes we could still overcome them. Then the athletes started making too much money.
One of my favorite sports icons is Michael Jordan, who made a lot of people who liked Basketball betting a lot of money. Anybody watch the progression of his physique? He went from lithe slasher to borderline body builder when he realized that was what he needed to stay on top. Granted he's a Bo Jackson like athlete so maybe that was all naturally earned but I've always suspected that rapid body transformation had some help. Sorry to bash another American icon.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
-I'll give you an idea of what direction I might go with my online betting afterward, but first who I'll be rooting for. First the U.S., second England and third West Germany. West Germany? I lived there as a kid and they always made me feel at home. I went to an English school, remember very recently us, the Brits and the Russians occupied three pieces of Germany. I lived in the British piece and consequently went to the English school, developed an English accent (long sense gone), and a passion for footy. My betting tips may not be useful as it's been a long time since I was last there, but extact whatever information you want from these scattered thoughts.
Pulling for Germany is a bit like rooting for the U.S. and Cuba in our hemisphere but you make weird choices as a kid and stick by them. You can never count the Germans out but I don't know what to think about their team this year. England is highly touted but I'm a doubter. The core has in my opinion underachieved to the point that I think maybe they are overrated.
I'm a Liverpool fan but I think Steven Gerrard has seen better days and after Wayne Rooney much of the creativity is going to be up to him, so that can’t be a good thing. Last World Cup a younger Frank Lampard looked more like Frank Lamppost. Though, I’ve long doubted that guy at Chelsea and he consistently proved me wrong.
Hopefully, the Brits underachieve in game one as they often do (though they seem to be taking the U.S. very seriously and devoted a lot of preparation to us), and then make a nice deep run. I think all three teams, yes, even the U.S. could make it as far as the semi-finals. England and Germany have slim chances to go one step beyond.The favorites have to be Spain and if not for their ability to choke in the big moment (last Euro excluded let's be honest even Greece has won a Euro) I'd be all over them. I like the Netherlands as a dark horse and they might well be Spain's equal. Brazil can and has won anywhere. Argentina can't seem to keep it together with Maradona steering the ship but can you count them out. Same with Portugal.
I'm going to pass on the Ivory Coast. Sven? Are you serious? People are picking him to lead that team to the promise land. I'm also passing on France and Italy (though I looked foolish for doing the same four years ago). Too old. Besides France went on a basically a camping trip with go-cart racing, rifle shooting, and all sorts of nonsense to prepare for the world cup. Maybe if you have chemistry issues you do a little bit of that but to me those things are distractions not preparations.
In last years Confederations Cup the U.S. had Brazil beat. Then they remembered they weren’t supposed to beat Brazil and Brazil remembered they don’t lose to the U.S. To me that psychological barrier was readily apparent and I don’t think the U.S. has gotten over that mental hurdle this go round. Despite ending Spain’s record unbeaten streak in the same tournament the U.S. wilted and gave away a 2 nil lead.
When I hear the players discuss their World Cup chances I hear the same acceptance of their place in the Soccer World. Hey, I'm also doing a World Cup pool email me to get in. Buy-in is only $25, it'll make your summer more interesting.