Monday, April 16, 2007

And don't get me started on that "baskets" ball...

A fine blog entry at the Guardian is worth your attention. The gist: Regent's Park ain't big enough for soccer and baseball, and those damned colonists think they own the place!

A few points on this...

1) A friend of the blog is an American ex-pat in London and actually plays in one of the softball leagues in Regent's Park. He said he's never noticed tension between the footballers and the drunken lout softball players. That doesn't mean that those witty Englishmen weren't slamming him with superfluous-U laden humour so dry it is missed.

2) First comment worth noting: "Quality article mind. Though not enough stress was placed on just how harmful Budweiser is ... i.e. it's drunk by white shirt crap tie morons with no soul and it bears a resembalance in taste and consistency as to what one might suppose oxygenated piss tastes like." I'm unsure if I want to applaud and go pound 15 Boddingtons or if I want to dump 1,000 cases of Bass into Boston Harbor (making both taste better!) in protest. OK, the former.

3) Second comment worth noting: "Maybe the hurlers and camogie players should take over this park, I'm sure both softball and football players would think twice before confronting a bunch of stick wielding crazed Irishmen." +1.

4) Another notable effect in the comments: how some of the commenters discuss "frisbee tossers", but where "tosser" does not mean the act of throwing the frisbee, but rather the delightful English slur.

5) Were I to take the column seriously, I'd wonder if this is a reaction to the (however downplayed) success of Americans in the Premiership, whilst Englishmen appear nowhere in American sports, for the most part. Marcus Hahnemann has been among the top keepers in England all year (he'd topped the Actim stats for several months until Van Der Sar passed him last week). Several others have made names for themselves (Convey, Spector, McBride, Bocanegra, DeMerit, Friedel, Howard, Gibbs, with Dempsey, Onyewu and Beasley to come). And who is the only Englishman who has made any sporting news in America? John Amaechi. Seems to me that the English have a right to be a little sensitive about their sporting prowess.


Because I need more recurring features...

This week's most-cringeworthy Peter King statement...

Miss Congeniality:

"I think too many teams are underrating Troy Smith, and he will make them pay."

He will make them pay... with unnecessary sacks and deflected passes off the clavicles of linemen.


"IPod download of the week: Annie Lennox is underrated. Great voice. Just put two of her albums on the 'Pod."

I dare you all to get the image of Peter King belting out "No More I Love Yous" in the shower out of your head. You're welcome.

And your winner!!!!:

I need someone to tell me why a great actress like Hilary Swank makes a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-like movie like The Reaping. Why lower yourself, Hilary?

I mean, totally! I thought she got that out of her system with The Next Karate Kid, The Core and Freedom Writers. Who would've expected this kind of shit from the star of the single greatest bit of entertainment in history, the sorority-hazing-murder-Mark Paul Gosselaar-TV Movie, Dying to Belong? Really, why lower yourself? Just keep doing the same redneck-girl-with-a-dick bit that makes people wet themselves with glee and we'll all be happy.

I totally need a triple skim latte to wash down that column.


And your America's Cup Update follows!

Thought cricket would be the only esoteric semi-sport I'd spend my words on? Wrong, bitch.

Like last year, this place was World Cup central in June. This year, my attention will be trained on Valencia.

First, let me take you back... Personally, I feel a close connection to the America's Cup. When I was a mere 3 months old, my mother and father took me in a 22-foot Catalina with a yellow hull to Newport, Rhode Island, where I was the youngest member of the spectator fleet, in the smallest boat in the spectator fleet. That year, Ted Turner skippered Courageous to a win (and some 22 years later, Ted Turner was the commencement speaker at my college graduation - kizmet). In 1995, I spent Spring Break traveling to a family wedding, but we took a side trip to San Diego to see some of the preliminary races. I think we saw the women's boat, Mighty Mary, get whipped by someone else. That May, on a rather memorable night, I watched team New Zealand become only the second boat not under an American flag to win the cup. For the first time, I shared a beer with my Dad - purchased earlier in expectation of the clinching Kiwi victory, it was a Steinlager. I've actually got a lot of good memories following America's Cup yachting.

But that's all lame backstory. The main thing is that, as a sport, it's incredibly interesting to me. Once you have some rudimentary knowledge of strategy, I think yachting is fascinating to watch. And for someone who has the sea in his bloodline but lives in a landlocked city, the scenery is nice too.

Today was supposed to be the first day of the first round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup. For the uninitiated, the Louis Vuitton Cup is the format by which the challenger nations determine which one of the various challenging syndicates will face Alinghi, the Swiss boat that defeated New Zealand in 2003. There are 11 challenger syndicates from 9 nations (3 are Italian). (Aside: as a formal matter, only the sponsoring yacht club is particularly from that certain nation; boats are manufactured with parts from all over the world, and crews and afterguards are typically international - for example, the American syndicate, BMW Oracle Racing, has a skipper from New Zealand (Chris Dickson), while the defender of the Cup, Alinghi, has a New Zealander skipper (Brad Butterworth) who frequently gives the helm to an American (Ed Baird).

From what I've been able to see, Valencia has set things up quite well to host the Cup. The port and canal where the syndicates are set up seems state-of-the-art and incredibly fan-friendly. The backdrop for racing is beautiful as well, with distant hills beyond the city. That said, I'm pulling big time for this to be a one-time setting. I honestly think that the best thing for yachting in general is for the USA to win back the cup and bring it to San Francisco, the home yacht club of BMW Oracle Racing. Potentially, the America's Cup could be staged in San Francisco Bay - basically a stadium setting. San Francisco would be the perfect spot for the event. And I would be there.

But about the current one...

So far there have been preliminary acts, plenty of fleet races that were pretty much jockeying for position and some bonus points that can help out in the current round. Alinghi had been involved in these races, but now they're off on their own, speed testing against themselves.

The 13th Act, which ended last week, was the last time before the America's Cup finals that we'll see Alinghi against the challengers. Alinghi dominated in these fleet races, and some think that none of the challengers has much of a chance of wrenching away the Cup. I'm not so sure. The point system of the Louis Vuitton Cup made it so that there was a limited benefit for beating Alinghi, but a significant drawback for losing to other challenger boats in each fleet race (basically, Alinghi's points are taken out of the equation). The effect of the points system was that every boat had little incentive to cover Alinghi, if they ever had a choice of two opponents to cover. Alinghi had free space and freedom to chase wind shifts without a shadow - which can be a huge advantage. In a match race setting, I don't know if it's assured that Alinghi is definitely faster than any of the challengers. For example, in a couple of the races BMW looked every bit as fast as Alinghi (race 1 and race 3 until the broken spinnaker pole), and Desafio Espanol in race 6 ran away from Alinghi on the last run. Alinghi might be the fastest (and they have a brand new boat too), but I'm still optimistic.

So now, for the next few weeks, the challengers are facing off head-to-head. I'll be watching and keeping tabs. For all America's Cup info, use the link on the right.


By Popular Demand...

I give you an update of the Cricket World Cup, which I have been following, sort of. It is incredibly odd reading commentary and recaps when I have no idea what they're talking about 90% of the time. I do, however, feel a strange/embarrassing sense of pride now that I recognize names and can anticipate things. So, in dilettante, quick hit fashion...

  • Australia is really really good. They seem to be just toying with teams.
  • Ireland is probably the story of the tournament, having beaten Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are both Test Nations (test nations are the best cricketing nations, kind of separated and accredited by the ICC). If they don't finish last in the tournament (it'll come down to Run Rate differential), it's a massive shock.
  • Do not count out Sri Lanka. Today's waxing by the Aussies looked bad, but Sri Lanka didn't play some of their best bowlers, including the Wisden player of the year, Malinga. It was pretty shady gamesmanship by Sri Lanka. They think they'll see Australia in either the semifinals or finals and they want the Aussies not to see the best guys coming at them. I love the Aussies' confidence though.
  • Tomorrow's match between South Africa and England is effectively an elimination game, with the winner probably getting into the semifinals, along with New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia.
I can't really explain why I find this tournament compelling. I think it's the math, and the whole trying to figure out a foreign language. Also, I have no idea why the USA is not at least bad at cricket. I'd guess there's a sizable enough subcontinent immigrant population in the US to at least put together a team as competitive as Bermuda. I mean, there are only 65,000 people total in Bermuda! There has to be at least 20 times that many people of Subcontinental descent in the US. I have to think the US can put together a team that might not compete at the highest level, but at least can make some of the international tournaments. The One-Day International format is a lot more user-friendly for American n00bs like me. Of course, I've thought the same thing about soccer and rugby, and the US isn't exactly competitive on the right level in either of those sports, er... either.


Makin' an Effort

So, I've been away for a while, and totally satiated with piss and vinegar.

Going to try to post a lot more often. And shorter posts too. And if I don't, just use the roll to the left and read people who actually follow through.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hide the Children