The best sports can surprise you with their narrative, as the beauty of the game combines with the parity of play, and predictions get thrown out in an instant with a well-timed run and clinical finish. What's particularly satisfying in these moments is that we're reminded that us observers, whether fan or professional sports-watcher, decide nothing and know nothing and maybe it's just better if we stop pretending and just enjoy it.
Trash talk and self-awarely sarcastic taunting, of course, is still encouraged.
To that end, sports fans got a gift today, wrapped in a nice bow of American beat down of our socialist neighbors to the north. Sure, I am as enamored with their universal health care and (relatively) sensible drug policy and 90s pop rock bands as the next guy, but boy do I love beating them in sports.
Sweet jersey, bro.
Three out of every four years, this is the point in the summer where sports cease to matter for me on their usual day-to-day basis. The Mets are inevitably out of the playoff picture (check), the Sabres have underwhelmed in an offseason in which they needed to pick up the pieces from a disastrous finish to last season (check), the Bills look promising but for the fact that they're the Buffalo Fucking Bills (check), and the various European footy leagues are still a couple weeks away (check). Summer provides its own distractions of day drinking and beach visits and eye candy throughout the five boroughs (well... four, since Staten Island is, well, Staten Island). And of course there's MLS action which continues to impress, particularly with the Red Bulls (who, incidentally, I caught live Tuesday night when they played Tottenham... I'd recap that match but, let's be real, I was drinking, coming off a separate four day bender and there's not much to say than that the Spurs looked pretty good when they tried and that they showed why the MLS still has a few years/decades to catch up with the quality of top-notch European clubs).
But, one of every four years, we get the Olympics to keep us busy in late July/early August so that we don't have to feel quite so down about the Mets or the Sabres or the Bills (or whatever other shit burger squads you happen to follow) each looking like minor league organizations trying to keep pace with the big boys. I've always been a huge fan of the Summer Olympics since it plays the role of gap-filler and since it typically happens while I have a little bit more free time than usual to watch endless hours of sports I know nothing about and drink enough tallboys to convince myself that I'm actually an expert. Back in '08, I absorbed the Beijing games on the heels of taking the NY bar exam, which worked out perfectly even if my family did start to question my motive in watching back-to-back matches of women's beach volleyball. (Spoiler: it was the ass shots
, of course). This year, I have a little bit less free time, being employed and all, though I did get to check out quite a lot of it during a three day bachelor party weekend, and have kept up with the bigger goings-on since getting back to NYC Monday night.
Sad. And adorable.
The Barrister, feat. The Scizz
It was a rainy, misty, shitty day in New York City on Thursday. The perfect setting for our second installment of Infinite Sadness, one of the peripheral cogs in the Deeg Podcast Industries. Scizz, still sitting in the solitude of his sobriety, and I, still sitting in my own sweat and overworked misery, got together via Skype to discuss some of the more recent sports news that makes us infinitely sad.
While the arc of our conversation is often tangential, we touch on the NHL playoffs and how it's been to watch hockey suddenly get big in the big market of NYC, and then have a reflective discussion on how unsurprised we are to see that the Buffalo Sabres have not invited us and our stockpile of dick jokes to attend next month's Blogger Summit. Hint: It's Scizz's fault. Second Hint: It's also Alex Sulzer's fault.
This was a ton of fun to make, as always, and includes musical interludes from Incubus, Ben Folds Five and Biggie Smalls. Enjoy by streaming or downloading below.
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Hoping for a big return tonight.
As frustrated as I've been about the prospects of a successful Liverpool Football Club, and as skeptical I've been of the seemingly "hanging by a wire" success of the New York Metropolitans, it's probably a little absurd that I've been as quiet as I have about the legit - and I mean LEGIT - success of the New York Red Bulls this year. Having purchased a pair of seats for tonight's match against Chivas USA, getting me out to Red Bull Arena for one last look at the team before MLS breaks for the Euros, my attention has certainly piqued.
When Thierry Henry went down with a hamstring injury last month, things looked plenty bleak for the club. They were coming off a stinging 4-1 loss down in D.C., and it didn't help to lose their (and the MLS's) leading goal scorer. The five match winning streak that followed, which they take into the match tonight, was certainly unexpected and has left them sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings with games in hand over the teams nipping at their heels. Henry has not been the only missing starter during this streak, either. Rafa Marquez
, one of the key componets of the Red Bulls' back four, has missed significant time due to a three game ban
(for breaking the collar bone of another player!!) and more recent Achilles tendon soreness that kept him off the pitch for this past weekend's game in Monreal. Wilman Conde, another starter in the back four, had missed time due to his own injury problems, found his return to the lineup further delayed by an arrest for aggravated assault on a police
But none of this has appeared to matter all that much to the players who've taken the field over the last five fixtures. Starting with three straight shutouts following that DC game, the defense has shown itself to be more than capable of carrying the load while the supposed stars of the back four deal with their off-the-field bullshit. Key message for the kiddies: Even if you're hot shit on the pitch, if you break another player's collar bone, or perhaps assault a cop, you risk being challenged for your starting spot. Even in the MLS.
Violence is not a laughing matter.
Flippancy aside, there's no denying the surprising play of the defense. Goalkeeper Ryan Meara, recent call-up to Ireland's U-21 roster, has been at the center of this - his rookie campaign has included 3 clean sheets (all during this last streak), a 1.41 GAA and 48 saves (which, over 12 games, is a pretty decent clip in soccer, if you can believe it). Awful haircut notwithstanding
, he's been perhaps the biggest reason why the team is still afloat, not to mention leading the East. Added to this, the Red Bulls similarly youthful defense, including Connor Lade, Tyler Ruthven and Brandon Barklage, have locked it down while awaiting the return of NYRB's top flight fullback talent.
This context makes tonight's match an interesting one - Conde and Marquez will both be available, and it is suspected that Marquez will start. Assuming he does, and that Heath Pearce - recently acquired in the trade that saw Juan Agudelo head to Chivas USA - starts at fullback against his former club, this will leave both Lade and Ruthven on the bench. It's anyone's guess whether the defensive quality that we've seen over the past month will continue or whether there will be a settling in period for the new mixture of players at fullback.
Up top, assuming Henry starts or at least play some
, I expect that the Red Bulls will only get better. Kenny Cooper, who now leads the team with 10 goals on the year, has been a force this year and is much of the reason why the team was so willing to part with Agudelo last week. His striking partnership with Henry was stupid good before Henry went down last month, and I imagine that any issues on the back end may be covered up a bit if the offense can pick it up a little bit with Henry's return.
Of course, if I was an actual expert on the team, I'd mention something about the midfield at this point. But, let's be honest - I've already worked well past this "lunch break" of mine and you've already toughed it out through enough of my world class analysis.
As for the Deeg-related angle of tonight's festivities, I'll be hitting Red Bull Arena with aspiring soccer enthusiast, The Apologist. Sure, Aps is really more of a typical hockey, football, baseball, basketball guy, but he really wants
to like soccer. He really does. I think this is Aps' second trip to RBA, having made the trip last year for the USMNT friendly vs Ecuador. And I think he really enjoyed it last time, especially when the Ecuadorian fan base started singing those songs about Darwin and extraordinarily niched finches. ♪♫ O, pinzones hermosos! Su adaptabilidad es asombrosa!
Since this is the first time Apologist have gotten together to watch a proper sporting event since the end of the hockey season, we'll be dusting off our iPhones to record another episode of the Legal Limit
. Since we'll be at least three or four beers deep for that adventure, you'll want to check back here later this week when the episode is posted so you can revel in our asshattery. You know you love it.Updated 5/24/2012: Apologist and I were not nearly as successful with our Red Bull Arena podcasting as we had hoped. A combination of exhaustion and, for Aps, relative apathy kept things pretty difficult. The game ended pretty well, a 1-1 draw, including Kenny Cooper's 11th of the year. Our attempt an post-game analysis, however, was forced, at best, and we shant be posting it later this week. You're welcome.
Yeah, Kenny. I don't understand it either.
I've been reluctant to dive into the fray on Liverpool since the FA Cup Final. That result, as I predicted, basically ruined the campaign for Reds, leaving the club with only a paltry Carling Cup victory upon which to hang its hat. Sure, that was the same Carling Cup that I reveled in a couple months ago. The same Cup that I wanted to believe meant something substantial enough to make up for a poor as fuck league record, especially when combined with the prospect of an FA Cup victory on the horizon. While I would have punched someone squarely in the face for calling me on it at the time, it's pretty obvious that my optimism surrounding the Carling Cup was little else than face-saving by a fan desperate for something to cheer for. Pathetic as it may be, this is how I roll. It's called a coping mechanism, asshole.
In any event, it's all behind us now, and I'm certainly done with taking on a positive outlook through which I might salvage a little bit of pride and optimism. None of this is made any easier, of course, by the absolutely inexplicable events at Anfield that have transpired since that FA Cup loss to Chelsea and since the Reds closed out their season with a wimper against Swansea.
Even considerably attentive soccer fans may have paid little notice to the firing of LFC's manager Kenny Dalglish last week. After the incredible end to the Premier League season (Man City taking the crown by way of two late, desperation goals in stoppage time) and the even more incredible end to the Champions League (Chelea victorious at the "neutral" site in Munich, defeating the de facto home side in penalty kicks after a 120 minute 1-1 draw), King Kenny being let go by Fenway Sports Group is of little moment to most fans of the game. On paper, it was nothing more than a middling club firing its manager who, while achieving some recent success, could not get it done on the pitch from week to week.
Fans of Liverpool, however, know that the firing was much more significant than that. They know that there is a reason we all feel like a not insignifcant part of our collective soul
has been ripped out. Kenny wasn't just a manager, he is an institution. As a player, he appeared in 355 league matches for LFC, scoring 118 goals along the way. This is the same guy who played striker for the club at the time of it's most consistent dominance that the numbers involved sound like they must be wrong - league champions 7 out of his 14 seasons as a player, for starters, as well as multiple Cups along the way. Not to mention his two Manager of the Year honors after he took on the role of Player-Manager in 1986 - a five year reign that saw the Club get three League Championships (finishing second in the other two years) and two FA Cups.
This is a guy who, as a player and manager and, in essence, the best example of the greatness that can be Liverpool football, deserves the utmost respect from LFC fans and, more importantly, LFC ownership. A week removed, with the Club reeling and having apprently lost its bearings, his firing is nothing short of a slap in the face.
To put it in perspective - as Scizz often requests when I'm going on and on about the Beautiful Game - imagine if Gilbert Perreault (you know, a player who was actually good...
*cough* *Lindy sucks* *cough*) was the coach of the Buffalo Sabres, or if Jim Kelly were coaching the Bills. Also, imagine that either of them had, as a player, actually brought a championship or two (or SEVEN!!) to Buffalo, as opposed to just years of hard work and marginal success. And, finally, imagine that they were fired after only one season as coach, with absolutely no plan for a successor in place.
I know, right? FUCKED UP BULLSHIT. We would go goddammned berzerk. Which, as it happens, is exaclty what has happened with Liverpool fans this past week. And if the reports are to be believed - that the Club is reaching out to any and all viable candidates for interviews and that many top talents have already bowed out with a "thanks but no thanks" refusal - this mess is not getting better any time soon.
I'll be the first to admit that, when news of the firing broke last week, I was sitting on the "I don't love it, but can accept this" side of the fence. I love Kenny, and would have loved more than anything to see him at the helm for a continued revival of the club - his infectious smile beaming from the sidelines, celebrating with players and fans whom he clearly adores, bringing the club into an era of dominance to rival those magical years in the 80's. But, I can also accept that the team did not perfom well at crucial moments this year, when three points were needed and expected - a fact I noted in CrapTastiCast 29 last week - and that there was a clear need for some
change to be made if there was going to be a realistic hope of Champions League play in the next few years. After all, as Yachter noted during the cast, Kenny brought a ton of expensive and apparent dead weight to the roster with his summer signings last year, so - even if we all love the guy - you can't say that he's been the model of success in this second stint as manager. That said, as a fan of this Club - a club that we're told is an example of the rich tradition of English football and that has far-reaching influence globally - the situation post-Dalglish is simply untenable. No successor in place? Not even a clear vision of what kind of manager is being sought? So, instead of Dalglish - a manager who, at the very least, can still instill a sense of pride in the "Liverpool Way" and who motivated his squad to two Cup finals - Liverpool's American ownership has left the club in the lurch, lacking in any clear sense of direction, leadership and, sadly, prospects for the future.
As of now, the only leadership at the Club comes in the form of Ian Ayre, who was hand picked by former American owners Gillett and Hicks. Forgive me if references from some of the worst sports owners in recent history don't make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Going up the ladder, the situation doesn't get much better. Sure, FSG brought championships to Boston fans who had been pining for them since 1918, but they're also the same guys who let Theo Epstein go and who have allowed the storied Red Sox franchise to devolve into the tire fire it most certainly is.
(Which begs the question, as an aside -- WHY DOES THE FA ALLOW AMERICANS TO BUY EPL TEAMS?? Maybe they just like watching us fuck it all up as some sort of cathartic exercise in Britain's post-imperialist age. I think I may be on to something there.)
It wouldn't be hard to draw not-so-subtle comparisons between Fenway and Anfield to bolster my fears of the future of LFC, but that's a depressing task for another depressing day when I actually care to research the inner workings of a baseball team I utterly despise. It's probably enough to say that the greater universe of Liverpool fans are, with very good reason, feeling a dreadful sense that the Club is spiraling out of control and that we may yet be in for another half decade of depressing underachievement.
In a week's time, or so we're told, there should be a short list of managerial candidates, and maybe then I'll hop back on here to talk about how good or bad or wretched each of them makes me feel. Until then, I'll just sit with the realization that Liverpool, the supposed bright spot in my sports world, may be sinking to the shitshow status of my Bills and Sabres, and that it may be a while until I start to be optimistic about them again.
It goes without saying that there has been precious little happy thoughts to muse upon here at the Deeg of late. Sure, Scizz and Yachter have firmly pronounced their excitement about NASCAR
, and Apologist is - if he cared to share here - fascinated with the NBA season's progression beyond just the could-be-flash-in-the-pan Jesus loving Asian-American from Palo Alto, but these are not matters of sport life-and-death (to the extent there is such a thing... which there is...). Even Yachter, the Deeg's Crown Prince of Hyperbole and Contrarianism, would admit - as he has already - that watching the Knicks these days is fun, not fanaticism; the joy increased, in aggregate, by the absence of any true possibility of pain.
Of course, it goes without saying that the true, shared foci of our fandom are little more than utter disappointment of late, leaving an understandably jaded tone to much of what we might say here about our Bills or Sabres.
Which is why, at the tail end of a tiring week of work with moments of excessive drinking mixed in, I'm overjoyed to talk a little bit about the Liverpool Football Club and their upcoming shot at taking home the League Cup.
AND WE'RE BACK!!! The CrapTastiCast returns for episode 23, full of debauchery and inane ramblings as always. The Apologist was absent this week, but the Yachtsman, Scizz, and Barrister pick up the slack with a must-listen episode. And yes, we realize it's "Family Circus", not "Family Circle", but we were already shit-canned by the time this thing got started.
This week's discussions include, but are not limited to: Metta World Peace, the Sabres shellacking from the Flyers, the rising probability they miss the playoffs and not giving a shit about it, Ted's vs. Louie's, a drinking game called "Buffalo", tourists, brewing a DGWU beer (seriously happening), a game of "what's better than watching the Mets or waking up to Bucky Gleason?", a hilarious and AMAZING breakdown of Yachter's airport attire, and finally, a super awkward story from the Scizz that involves the L train and a Joe Cribbs jersey.
Musical interludes are indie rock themed this week and brought to you by Grizzly Bear, Dawes, and MGMT. You know what to do. Go here for Libsyn
, or enjoy the options below. Tell your friends!
Yup. That's an own goal. Well done, Charles.
For an unusually contemplative guy, the holidays tend to give me even more time to sit and ponder certain points of interest in my life. With so much time spent caring too much about sport, while finding a scarcity of ways to explain such to my loved ones who could basically give a shit, it's been a weird week or so of sport consumption for the Barrister. Snippets here and there. Highlights on the phone or iPad. Subtle or not-so-subtle twitter check-ins on my lap during a delicious meal. Uneasy looks from the Missus as she no doubt wonders why she was so thoroughly duped into marrying me.
(Ed. note #1 from the Scizz: Leave your theories in the comments!)
If my family didn't think I was utterly pathetic before, they sure do now. (which is why they think I'm working on real jobby job stuff right now, rather than typing up a frivolous blog post...)
I wonder if anyone who checks in with our site - other than a scattering of twitter friends who I know to be footy fans - actually noticed that Closing Arguments took a week off last week. After a string of disappointing results from my Liverpool Reds, their Week 6 win against the Wolves at home was not much to write home about. Not to mention the elation and single-mindedness of many Buffalo sports fans following the Pats game, which made it difficult to think that an EPL recap was really the best use of my time.
Well, after the Bills game in Cincinnati, and my accompanying desire to steer clear of Bills analysis, the footy fans amongst you can rejoice!! All three of you! After all, considering it was a weekend full of several cross-town derbies, it would be silly not to take note of some of the crazy stories that went down in England (and Wales...Go Swansea!) this weekend.
So click through for all your soccer needs.
Pure, unadulterated man-love
What a beautiful morning. After a long week of 12+ hour days preparing for my first trial next week (I am nothing if not a professional "horn tooter"... deal with it), most of which I struggled through with the taste of Pabst Blue Ribbon and shame lingering on my breath from our trip to the Glen last weekend, the footy gods gave me a true gift this monring.
Liverpool takes 3 points from the Emirates for the first time in 11 years.
God, that feels AMAZING to type.
After the "meh" feeling Reds' fans had after last week's 1-1 home opening draw against Sunderland, this feels exceptionally good. I won't waste my brief free moments talking about why it doesn't matter that Arsenal was down a few key players (our fucking captain wasn't playing, bitches, so shut your mouths), or about why it's still slightly troubling that a seemingly superior LFC squad couldn't put anything together in the first half, or about why I'm not all that concerned about why Andy Carroll hasn't made the impact we expected from him by now. Those are troubling topics, best saved for another day when we have more than a two game sample size from which we can glean actual, informed opinions about this team and where it might be going.
For now, I'm going to settle on these facts: Liverpool has four points out of a possible six, and Arsenal only has ONE. Liverpool has scored three goals (albeit one that was an own goal by the Gunners), and Arsenal has ZERO.
This is a whole new season of Premier League Football.
We've been waiting through a long summer to feel the joy and exhiliration of the EPL again, and this morning - the first game I'd been able to watch from start to finish - the world smiled down on me, and all LFC fans, and gave us something to be VERY happy about.
Aresene Wenger: A Weepy & Wet Man on this Happy, Happy Day