Archive for June, 2010

We all know that the World Cup is a big deal all around the world. We also know that America does not really care for soccer.

I am no expert on the game of soccer. You can read this article and see for yourself.

But there is a disturbing trend I see happening in the blog-o-sphere. So many bloggers are coming down on people who are taking an interest in the USA soccer team. They love to say, “Oh those people become soccer fans every four years. They’re fake fans!” It’s not that we become soccer fans; it’s just that we support our team.

I support American teams no matter what the sport. From fencing, to hockey, to that one Winter Olympic sport where they get to ski and shoot rifles at the same time. Even if we have no chance of winning, I’m still rooting for my country.

And to those of you who are criticizing the “every four year fans” I have only one question: Why Do You Hate America?

You’re not being funny or clever; you’re just hating on your own country. You’re on the side of Al Qaeda. Is that where you want to be?

Americans haven’t become “soccer fans,” we’ve become America fans. The success of Team USA makes us feel better.

Think about all the problems America has at the moment; massive unemployment, people are still losing their houses, millions of gallons of oil spilling into the gulf states and Kobe has yet ANOTHER ring. These are serious disasters.

So when our soccer teams succeeds against the rest of the world in a sport where we have never done very well it makes us feel good. It lets us forget about our problems for a few hours.

I know the US will not win the World Cup. I think we all know that. But the better that team does, the better this country will feel.

And I know after the US gets eliminated from the tournament all the haters will be out saying, “See, the US got eliminated two hours ago and soccer is not the most popular sport in America! All this was a waste of time. There are no soccer fields springing up in my neighborhood.”

Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria was a watershed moment. It will not immediately raise soccer to the number one sport in America but it reminds me of one thing. It reminds me of a quote from Tupac Shakur. He said, “I may not change the world, but I will spark the mind that will change the world.”

Landon Donovan’s goal will not change soccer in America but it will spark the desire in some kid who will change soccer in America.

So all you haters think about that the next time you are running down your country. America will succeed and America will evolve. With or without you.

Choose a side.

A Day At the Races

Posted: June 25, 2010 in Racing
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I love going to the track. I must admit it. Horse racing is called The Sport of Kings and I believe it. Nothing makes you feel more royal than watching your horse come in and then going to the betting window and collecting stacks of money. My biggest win on one race was back in 1999 on the Kentucky Derby. Charismatic was a 30 to 1 longshot and I bet $20 big dollars on him and walked away with $600. At that point I thought I could make a living betting on the ponies.

I couldn’t.

But it never stopped me from going to the track. Santa Anita Race Track opens every year on December 26th. That’s right; the day after Christmas has always been gambling time for me. The last six years I have lived in Northern California and in Arizona so I have not had the chance to get to Santa Anita at all.

But now that I am back in Southern California, Santa Anita has been in the back of my mind, calling me, like an old girlfriend.

So it was no real surprise when I impulsively head to the track today. I was driving around with nothing to do so I thought I would head out to the track. I knew Santa Anita isn’t running but I headed out anyway. Right now it’s just OTB. But I really wanted to get out to the track.

The track was calling me.

I pay $4 for parking, $5 for admission, $11 for a program and Racing From and $1 for a pen. I buy a $5.75 beer and I’m ready to go.

The track is full of what my grandmother would call “characters.” Mostly older people populate the track. Not a whole lot of young people milling about. They’re mostly trying to win at No Limit Hold ‘Em. But I really love Horse Racing. It’s sad that it’s a dying sport, though. Just walking through the crowd makes me feel happy. There is a strange feeling in the air; a mixture of hope and despair. These are my people. Who else would be here on a Friday afternoon?

First race I bet on is the First race at Alameda Fairgrounds. There are only five horses in the race so I figure I have a good shot at making some money. I decide on the #2 horse, Keep it Rollin B, and then pair it with the #3 horse, PS Donnas Princess for a $2 Exacta box. I’m actually pretty excited about this bet. It’s been so long since I’ve been here. The race goes off and my horses are not even in the race. They finish 1, 4, 3 and I crumble up my ticket.

I lose the next race and buy another $5.75 beer. The 8th race at Monmouth Park is next.  I decide to go with my gut on this one. The #1 horse is called Hooked on Hope. That’s a good sign. The #3 horse, Ms. Short Pockets catches my eye but then I see the number #8 horse, Inner Groove and I know I have found my two horses. I go for another $2 Exacta box with the #1 and #8 horses. I feel really good about my chances here. Sure, I’ve put no thought into these picks other than I like the names, but I feel like I’m due for a win here. I really think I’m DUE! They finish 3, 4, 7. My horses are nowhere near the front. I decide right then to never, never, bet with my gut again. Apparently my gut has no brains.

The 8th race at Belmont is coming up next. After some serious thought and another $5.75 beer I decide on the #2 horse, Congor Bay and the #7 horse, Affirmatif. I don’t think I need to tell you how this race turned out. Another loss and I’m starting to hate the track.

But deep down I know I can never hate the track. To me the track is like that old girlfriend that you can never get over. No matter how bad she treated you, you know if she calls you will be right there. I just have to do little homework before I go next time. I need to make more of an effort. I know if I get my act together the track will reward me.

Next time will be better.

America loves a winner. From “Rocky” to the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team. We love winners. Short of (allegedly) murdering your ex-wife and a waiter, we are willing to forgive a lot as long as you win. We love winners more than we love ourselves. Once you are a champion we will gladly welcome you into our hearts.

After the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals only one question remains: Is America ready for Ron Artest?

We all remember where we were when the name “Ron Artest” first came into our collective consciousness. It was November 19, 2004. The Indiana Pacers were visiting the Detroit Pistons. With less than a minute left in the game, whose outcome had already been decided, Artest and Detroit center Ben Wallace got into an altercation. That fight led to a Detroit fan throwing a drink at Atrest. Ron snapped and went into the stands and started swinging. More Pacer players followed him and a full scale riot broke out.

The fighting even spilled onto the floor. It was probably the worst day in the history of the NBA.

The fallout was quick and swift. In all, nine players were suspended without pay, with Artest getting the worst of it. He was suspended for the remainder of the season. Legal charges were filed against Artest and others. Ron pleaded “no contest” and was sentenced to one year of probation, 60 hours of community service, a $250 fine and was required to attend anger management classes.

Most people pointed the finger at Ron. This was all his fault. He was crazy, uncontrollable. Commentators went so far as saying he should be banned for life. Fans wanted him in jail.

Ron Artest had become the Most Hated Man in Sports.

Fast forward to June 17, 2010. Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Ron Artest is the only bright spot for the Los Angeles Lakers. While Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were struggling to get any kind of offense going, it was Artest who was carrying the team. He was the leading scorer in the first half. He was playing great defense against Pau Pierce. With 1:02 to go in the game he hits what will probably go down as the biggest shot of his career; a three pointer that put the Lakers up 79-73. The best part about that shot was Ron Ron running back on defense and blowing kisses to the crowd. Classic.

Throughout this season Ron took an incredible amount of criticism from fans and media alike. Many people were saying that the Lakers would rue the day they did not re-sign Trevor Ariza. And with every missed three pointer, every blown defensive assignment and every mistake Artest made those voices grew louder and louder.

Make no mistake about it, if the Lakers would have lost Game 7 the blame would have come down squarely on the shoulders of Ron Artest.  And let’s face it; he had four really horrible games. The Boston Celtics were playing off him every game, daring him to shoot. Even at home, every time he would launch a three pointer you could hear the crowd scream “Nooooooooooo!”

But in the biggest game, on the biggest stage, Ron Artest stepped up and played like a champion. He single handedly saved the Lakers season, Kobe’s legacy and the city’s pride. Ron Ron was the MVP of Game 7.

It’s amazing what winning a championship can do for a person. All of a sudden, all those traits that you used to think were strange or even repulsive now become quirky, even endearing. Winning forgives a lot of sins. It’s always been that way. In six short years Ron Artest has gone from social outcast to the King of LA.

America, say hello to the new Ron Artest; eccentric, savior, champion.

It is time for the biggest event in football. No, not the Super Bowl. What we call soccer herein America the rest of the world calls football. It’s time again for the World Cup. I know most American’s don’t care about soccer. We tend not to like thing that we are not good at and other countries are. Like polo or math.

I am not a big soccer fan. I like the Big Three Sports; football (the American version), basketball and baseball. I don’t think I have ever watched a full MLS match. I don’t even know if David Beckham is still playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy, and I live in L.A. But when my good friends at Global Grind asked me to write about the World Cup, I couldn’t say no. So we’re all going to be on this journey together. I hope you’re ready.

The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world, outside the United States. Countries literally shut down when their team is playing in a World Cup match. It’s like having the Super Bowl, he NBA Finals, the World series and the Olympics all in the same month in the same country.

How serious do other countries take the World Cup? Take the sad tale of Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar Saldarriaga into consideration. In 1994 the World Cup was played here in America. In the first round Colombia was playing the United States. Saldarriaga accidentally scored a goal into his own net. (The only event that I can come up with that would even be close was when Scott Norwood of the Buffalo Bills missed the game winning field goal in Super Bowl XXV). Colombia went on to lose to the USA 2-1 and Columbia was bounced from the tournament in the first round. After returning home to Colombia, Saldarriaga was promptly shot and killed. That’s right, he was murdered for making a mistake during the World Cup. I bet Scott Norwood is thankful he lives in America.

Here are a few things you should know about the World Cup so you can sound knowledgeable when you are talking to your friends.

As you know, the World Cup is played every four years, just like the Olympics. Qualifying for this year’s World Cup started way back in 2007. That’s right, it took nearly three years to whittle down 204 teams to the 32 that will compete in South Africa.

How the tournament is played.

Each of the 32 teams are randomly placed into eight groups of four teams each. Each team will play the other three teams in their group. Teams are assigned points based on the outcome of the matches. A win is worth three points, a tie is worth 1 point and a loss is worth zero points. The two teams with the highest point total after the three matches move on to the Round of 16.

Once the tournament has been reduced to 16 teams the format changes to a single elimination. At that point it’s “win or go home.”

Here is an interesting fact; only seven countries have ever won the World Cup. Brazil has won the most with five titles. Italy has four, Germany has three, Argentina and Uruguay have two each and England and France each have 1.

The United States best finish has been third. And that was back in 1930 during the very first World Cup.

GLOSSARY

You are going to hear a lot of terms that may not be familiar to you and the announcers are not going to stop and let you know what they mean. So here is a quick list that will have you talking like a Euro in no time.

Pitch – The place where the game is played. We call it a field.

Box – A rectangle 18 yards from the goal line where the goalie stands.

Yellow Card – A warning from the referee for player misconduct. Kind of like a technical foul in basketball.

Red Card – An act of violent conduct – or a second yellow card – that results in the offending player being sent off the field. He cannot be replaced, and thus his team must play with 10 men, better known as being “a man down.”

The Flop – When a player falls to the ground and pretends like he has been injured. Soccer players. . .er. . .footballers flop a lot. They fake more injuries than Paul Pierce.

Offside Rule – Here is where things get a little tricky. In order to receive a pass in the opponent’s half of the field, there must be two players between the guy receiving the pass and the goal. One of those is almost always going to be the goal keeper. This rule does not apply on passes to players running behind the ball. It’s hard to grasp, I know. Just know when it gets called it probably really if offsides.

USA v. England

USA is in Group C along with England, Algeria and Slovenia. Their first game is against England on June 12th. While there is no real rivalry between the two countries (unless you want to go all the way back to the Revolutionary War) this should be a good match. Team England will be without their captain Rio Ferdinand who is out with a groin injury. Algeria and Slovenia look like wins to me. So that gives the USA a great chance of getting out of their group and into the Round of 16. After that, all bets are off. But at that point they would have, in theory, a 1 in 16 chance of winning the whole thing. Which is still better odds than the New York Knicks have of making the playoffs every year.

So take some time over the next month and support your country and enjoy the biggest sporting event in the world.

I was going to hold off on this post but I can’t any longer. I’m just too angry.

As we all know, The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night. And it was a pretty convincing victory. The Lakers were up by as many as 20 points and wound up winning by 13. It was a pretty domination performance.

By Friday morning the Laker Hating was in full effect. Mike Green of “Mike and Mike in the Morning” was the biggest Hater of them all. “Let me tell you why the Lakers are in trouble for Game 2,” he said. Now call me crazy but I thought the Lakers had just won game 1. How could they be in trouble? According to Green, the Lakers troubles all stem from “ego.” The Lakers’ ego (and Kobe’s in particular) is what caused them to play so well. His theory was that Kobe was tired of hearing about LeBron James during the playoffs and the Lakers were tired of hearing how the Celtics were tougher than they were. Now they were going to hear how great they are and believe all they have to do is show up to win Game 2. He also went on the say how the Celtics were going to hear this, too. “That’s a team with a lot of pride and they’re going to show up for Game 2,” he said.

This is the most ridiculous theory I have ever heard. And if the Celtics have so much pride, why didn’t they show up for Game 1?

Could it possibly be that the Lakers are just a better team than the Celtics?

Before Game 1 Jon Barry stated that the Lakers have been playing “flag football” during the Western Conference Playoffs and now, in the Finals against Boston, they were going to be playing “tackle football.”

“The Lakers have not seen a team like the Boston Celtics,” he said.

I submit to you that the Celtics have not seen a team like the Lakers in the playoffs. The Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers are very one dimensional teams. Dwayne Wade and LeBron cannot carry those teams to the Finals. And it’s pretty easy to beat a team when they all give up the way the Cavs did against Boston. The Orlando Magic was a better team but even they kind of gave up.

So, as we head into Game 2 I think we will see more of the same. Kobe will get his 30-5-5. Ron Artest will continue to frustrate Paul Pierce. Pau Gasol will get his double-doubles and Andrew Bynum will continue to play solid in his 20-25 minutes per game. Look for Lamar Odom to step up and have a better game and the Laker bench will continue to play even with the Celtic bench.

The Lakers will win Game 2 in pretty much the same fashion as they won Game 1.

I can’t wait to hear how the Lakers are doomed to lose three in a row once they get to Boston come Monday morning.

Lakers Anthem 2010

Posted: June 4, 2010 in NBA