Friday, December 21, 2007

NFL Week 15 – the Velvet Bear

How. On. Earth. Did. That. Happen? I know it is the season of miracles and all that, but how the heck did the Dolphins suddenly win a game? Trailing 13-3 to the Ravens at half time, they clawed their way into a three point lead with less than two minutes remaining, only to see Baltimore kicker Matt Stover land a field goal with 8 seconds left and force the game into overtime.

In overtime, Stover missed a much longer kick and then restored Dolphins QB Cleo Lemon sent Greg Camarillo 64 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Cue much celebration, especially as the all-conquering 1972 side were watching from the stands.

Much credit for the win must go to head coach Cam Cameron. He’s had a tough first season in the NFL, not helped by his starting quarterback being ruled out for the year early on and then injury after injury hitting his side. He’s stuck it through to the end, unlike Bobby Petrino in Atlanta, and got his reward on Sunday. Reward also for having the balls to admit he was wrong and to recall Lemon.

Three weeks ago, Coach Cameron gave the starting job to rookie quarterback John Beck. On Tuesday, check your turkey after it has been in the oven for 10 minutes. That will be about as ready to be eaten as Beck was to be an NFL quarterback. Lemon got the job back on Sunday and look at the return.

No-one is pretending that the ‘Fins will have a hope against the Pats on Sunday, but, despite all of talk about how nicely symmetrical it would be to have a 14-0 team play an 0-14 one, no-one really wanted to see Miami become only the second team to go through a season winless.

Speaking of the Pats (and 29 other teams):

- New England had a hard time of it, as sleet and 27mph winds lashed Gillette Field, but a 20-10 win over the Jets secured them top spot in the AFC playoffs;

- Brett Favre broke his weekly record, this time for most career passing yards, as Green Bay took the #2 NFC spot by beating St Louis 33-14;

- Not such good news for the Cowboys. Their NFL-best streak of games with a touchdown ended as they were beaten at home by the Eagles 10-6 and saw QB Tony Romo suffer a potentially serious thumb injury;

- The Cowboys lost safety Roy Williams for a game, too – he was banned for a ‘horse collar’ tackle on Eagles QB Donovan McNabb;

- And five Atlanta Falcons were fined for wearing or displaying messages on their kit in support of jailed dog-botherer Michael Vick;

- Wins for the Colts and the Buccaneers saw them confirmed as their respective divisional champions;

- Not only did the Giants’ playoff hopes take a knock in their defeat by the Redskins, but they lost tight end Jeremy Shockey with a broken leg, which will keep him out for the rest of the season;

- The Bills not only lost 8-0 to Cleveland in horrific winter weather (at least 4 inches of snow fell during the game), they then got stuck there overnight because of the weather and, on Monday, stuck – literally – for a few hours longer when their plane got stuck in mud;

- Steelers fan Richard Desrosiers finally made it to a Steelers game – nine months after he died. But the presence of his urn couldn’t help them avoid a 29-22 loss to the Jaguars;

- The play off position is now that, in the AFC, the Patriots and Colts will have first round byes and home advantage in the second round. The Chargers are also through. The Jaguars, Browns and Steelers will also join them unless one of them loses both their remaining games and either the Bills or the Titans win both of theirs;

- Over in the NFC it is slightly more clearcut. The Cowboys and the Packers get the byes and the home field advantage. The Buccaneers and the Seahawks are also through. The last two places are between the Giants, Redskins and Vikings. Again, if any of them lose their last two games (and the Giants play the Patriots in the last match of the regular season), other teams can step in by winning both of their final two (but again, there are too many to list here);

- Finally, the Pro-Bowl sides were selected this week. This is the closest thing to an international that the NFL gets, with the best players in each conference taking on one another in Hawaii in February. In truth, it is usually a rotten game, but selection is seen as a mark of a player having a very good season, so everyone wants to be picked, even if they cannot go. One of those not going, sadly, will be the late Sean Taylor, but he was an overwhelming selection in his position. Another Taylor, Fred of the Jags, also misses out, this time for the tenth time; he is now the only player to have run for over 10,000 yards in his career without making the game. At the other extreme, Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden goes for the 11th time in his 12 year career, despite his side being on a franchise record eight game losing streak.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mimi’s Review of the Year – Part The First

Fellow Pseuds: it’s December and so time to have a little think about the events of the year – as regards our favourite topic: SPORT. Unfortunately due to various shenanigans across the board, politics and drugs may creep in!

As this is a Review not the Oscars, I’m not going to be handing out awards, accolades or even allocades (which may disappoint those Pseuds who are also OBOers and may remember that much fun was had in the depths of the winter with Seani’s allocades!).

However, one award must be given. It isn’t to do with any actual sporting achievement but given that none of us would be here in this part of cyberspace without The Editor Our Good Lord Ebren, I feel it only right and proper to present The Begetter with a large and incredibly vulgar gold-plated trophy for giving us this space to publish our sometimes brilliant, sometimes mundane (me: endless Tour reports), sometimes humorous but always worth reading articles.
Thank you – but no time for speeches.

Moving on, rapidly – goodness me, this is about a year of sport not a year of blogging – I’m going to look back on the last 12 months and solely from my memory. From here on in, be assured I will not be googling or wikipediaing or even checking my own stories. I’m offering for comment my flawed and questionable memories of a year that for me, brought more pain, anguish and desperate chasing of false hope than great celebrations. Please do pick me up on errors or areas in which my flawed and fractured memory conflicts with your instant recall. Oh and there are some sports I simply won’t deal with as I am not worthy in your company to discuss eg football, American football, darts, chess – the list could go on forever really.

I have to start with December 2006 and cricket: our boys went to Australia to defend the Ashes. Within five weeks the all-conquering Aussies, led by gerbil-faced, foul-mouthed Tasmanian Ricky (second-best batsman in the world) Ponting had crushed us underfoot and we lost the Ashes 5-0. From Steve Harmison’s first ball in Brisbane I knew we were doomed. In Adelaide, England did what they do so well – tossed us a small smidgin of hope and then chucked it away. Desperate times. We did fight back and against the odds our defeated, dismayed, dismal One-day side somehow snaffled the Commonwealth Bank Series and we returned from the back of nowhere with at least one trophy.

Hardly having time to draw breath, or so it seemed, the lads were off again with Duncan "I’ve written a really good book now" Fletcher and we were under siege – or perhaps water – in the West Indies for the ICC World Cup. An interminably long tournament of which I can remember little except we lost lots of matches, Fred lost his head and the vice-captaincy, Scotland did better than expected and Ireland caused Pakistan’s downfall. What happened next, the death of Bob Woolmer, overshadows all memories of the tournament. The press went to town with conspiracy theories and to this day we have no real answers. It is a stretch now to remember who the finalists were. Sri Lanka and Australia I think, and obviously the Aussies won – that’s what they do. I have no idea what the scores were. Fletcher resigned/was sacked afterwards and we entered the Peter Moores era. From what I recall we were dodgy against India – we lost, then did well against the West Indies, but for all the detail I can recall, it could have happened on a different planet. Scotland meantime, hosted Israel for an international fixture, just a few miles away from me, but sad to say, I missed that match.

County cricket became a lottery of the weather gods and then came the World Twenty/20 where, surprise surprise, England were rubbish again, but not so rubbish that we didn’t hold out some hope. Vain as it always is and I’m afraid I can’t remember who won. Sticking to my principles and not looking anything up, I’m going out on a limb here and reckon it wasn’t Australia. Dog’s sake, there must be something apart from the CB series they didn’t win this year – and I think they’ve just wrapped up the Hadlee Trophy against the Kiwis.
I did spend time with some other sports – mostly those involving fit young men in leather or lycra.

Looking at those in leather first: "chuck it away, why not" Casey Stoner proved that there was a beautiful marriage for Aussies and Italians as he took Ducati to win after win on the 900cc MotoGP bikes. Casey’s dominance in MotoGP was a let-down for the series really as in recent years it has been the most exciting wheeled sport, but Yamaha and Rossi were plagued by tyre issues and mechanical problems and could not mount a proper challenge. As for Honda – well I just don’t know what went wrong there for the biggest team in motorbike racing. They were damn nearly beaten by Johnny-come-latelies Rizla Suzuki, so lots of homework for Honda in the off-season.

Stoner wrapped up the MotoGP Championship with at least two races to go and that was that. Fortunately for those of us who get a kick out of the leather and two wheels, the Superbike title went a bit further. Won eventually by our own James "Fingers" Toseland, it was thrilling and just a shame that most of it was not on terrestrial TV. Young James, now a DOUBLE World Champion, was honoured by being nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of The Year (or SPOT as I will refer to it later) and despite being a WINNER, was only there to play boogie-woogie piano. Which he did very well but that’s hardly the point. James moves to MotoGP next season with the second string Yam boys and we have our fingers, toes and whatever crossed for him.

Formula 1 went down to the wire – but only because FIA politics had taken over the events. McLaren v Ferrari in Spygate was unedifying and in fact sullying of the sport. Max Mosley’s remarks disparaging Sir Jackie Stewart brought the sport to an all time low. I was embarrassed to be known as a subscriber to an F1 magazine. However, cool, fast, speedster Kimi Raikkonnen ended winning the drivers’ title and deserved it for fantastic driving, and for never getting involved with any of the shit. In my view Ferrari shouldn’t have won the constructors’ title and I deplore the most recent development where Renault have been found just as guilty as McLaren of having other teams’ knowledge but not penalised.

"Babyface" Hamilton proved that a seat in a top F1 car and a lifetime’s relationship with Ron Dennis means you can win in F1 almost from the get-go. Alonso proved that being a World Champion doesn’t make you gracious in any way or form.

I came out of the F1 season thinking the right man won – that’s Kimi – but everything else was political shite.

In rallying, the wrong man won – Seb Loeb – but only because emotionally I’d have liked Marcus Gronholm to win in his last year and celebrate the double with his team who won the constructors. That’s Malcolm Wilson’s MSport Ford. A reason why it would have been so sweet if Ford could have had the double this year is that it would have been a tribute to one of motorsport’s greatest heroes: Colin McRrae.

Colin died in a freak helicopter accident on 16 September 2007 and had that not happened, I rather expect that part of this review would have been to report on him and David Coulthard winning the Race of Champions at Wembley (staged a week ago and this year won by the Germans: Michael (I never really tried to shove Damon or Jaques off the track) Schumacher and rising star Sebastian Vettel.

Sticking with four wheels for one more championship – and this is a goody. The World Touring Car Championship. A series that attracts manufacturers from Europe, the US and the Far East and has drivers who have won multiple titles. For the last two years it has been won by a boy from the Channel Isles who this year was driving for almost a family set-up. Andy Priaulx did not have the best car, did not have the best resources, but WON. He is a MULTIPLE WORLD CHAMPION – but obviously wasn’t even nominated for the BBC SPOT show.

Back to two wheels now, but not with petrol engines. Cycling – that most maligned of sports, but actually we didn’t have too bad a year.

The trouble is, with cycling, that the sports pages only ever cover three weeks in July – yup Le Tour. Admittedly, this year, that is what I spent my writing hours on for Pseuds – I’m sure you all remember and enjoyed my interminable reports of each and every stage. Or perhaps not.

Anyway – every year for almost as long as I can recall, Le Tour has been the focal point for drug scandals and just about everything that is wrong on the ProTour. This year was no different. Big names (and I’m going to be really careful here because I don’t have the bucks to hire lawyers) were kicked off before the start and at least one team was "disinvited". However, with the eyes of the world upon cycling, Le Tour kicked off Le Grand Depart in London in the best possible style. It was a triumph.

Not much else about Le Tour was – dopage après dopage followed. Then the Rasmussen debacle and no-one is really sure who won. Still better than last year – Floyd Landis, stripped of his win, vows to fight on.

But… despite all that cycling has had a great year. Mark Cavendish, 22, is a huge emerging talent and Roger Hammond, 42????, proved at Ghent that he still has it. Cadel Evans, the most boring cyclist ever but utterly clean, won the ProTour by dint of being boring (and having nicked Mattie Haydon’s eyebrows along the way), and the younger Schleck – Andy – is a very bright hope. Bradley Wiggins won on the road and on the track. He’s class. Chris Hoy failed in his high-altitude attempt at the Hour, but won loads of medals elsewhere and Beijing beckons for the entire GB Team who knocked the cycling socks off everyone, everywhere on the track this year.

Well, that just about wraps up my review, part the first, of 2007. I’ve done willow-wielders and chaps on wheels so far and there is much more to cover. Please feel free to vilify me for getting things wrong – I welcome all criticism.

In a PS – horribly I realise that in all my praise of the cyclists, I have not mentioned Victoria "Multiple Champion" Pendleton. My mistake. She is brilliant.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chanelle and the Importance of Spelling

Our young friend Chanelle has been in touch with Zephirine again.

"So, names yeah. Me and Alisha have problems about names. Like she’s really called Alicia right but she always puts Alisha cos that’s how it’s spoken yeah, teachers and people always said Alissya which pisses her off. And I was Chantelle till there was this totally stupid girl on Big Brother yeah who was a celeb for five minutes called Chantelle, so I changed myself to Chanelle and then fuckin’ell there was another dumb girl on BB and she was Chanelle so I can’t decide now. Actually my real name isn’t either of those but I’m not telling you.

"So I like sympathise with the amazing Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan yeah, when he says like the spelling of his name that we all use in English isn’t quite correct right but it’s a bit late now cos he’s like the world’s leading wicket-taking spin bowler yeah and he’s in all the record books with a th and now it seems he would have rather had a d.

"So I looked up the spelling (what did you older people do before there was Wikipedia, just not know stuff?) and I found in Tamil they have this letter. It looks like this yeah and sounds like ‘either th or dh’:


"Pretty, isn’t it? Is it just me or does that look a bit like a cricket ball above part of the stumps yeah and a wiggly line showing the ball went all over the place and fooled everyone? Dead appropriate lol.

"But also actually if you know Asian people yeah quite a lot of them say d’s and th’s in quite a same sort of way so it is obviously like an intercultural language type thing, and people sometimes put dh in English to spell that sound yeah.

"So perhaps to be really really right he should be Muralidharan yeah but he’s probably doomed to have a th forever now. Don’t expect he minds too much though yeah, after all we’re just foreigners putting it in our own funny writing as far as he’s concerned lol. As long as he keeps taking the wickets of our batsmen yeah he’ll be happy which he does with like supreme ease : (

"The Sri Lankans are sooo cool yeah, I kind of sort of love Lasith Malinga with his crazy hair and his great smile yeah but don’t tell Karl right, I had to stop talking about Thierry Henry cos he got like edgy. Kumar Sangakkara is playing just amazing stuff yeah like every schoolboy cricket fan dreams of playing right and Mahela Jayawardene is like the Cool Captain In Charge and both those two are pretty neat like hotness-wise.

"In our team I am also of course always fond of Alistair Cook who is tall dark handsome and from Essex what could be better. But it is difficult to keep being fond of Alistair at the moment yeah because he is not playing at like his sparkling best and has been out for some not exactly star quality scores right. OK he did well last innings but like even nice brown eyes don’t make up for an average of 36.75.

"As you can see I’ve come a long way with my cricket knowledge yeah me and are old friends now and I still get emails sometimes from the cute Aussie boy I met in the W Indies and he always like tests me on my cricket cos Aussies like even compete with their email friends it’s in their blood lol. But I do like cricket now yeah even though Alisha thinks I have severe psychological problems and could use some immediate help.

"Sadly the Sri Lankans are pretty much playing better than us all round right and they just got beaten by the Aussies before. So even though we are supposed to be second in the world blimey could have fooled me yeah that must make the Aussies top of the world (no change there yawn) and the Sri Lankans second and us well like yeah somewhere else.

"It is one of those mysterious Brit sport things right. Cos hey, the idea of cricket is to make more runs than the other side yeah and our batsmen just don’t make a lot of runs, so like someone is missing the point. As I said to Karl right when he was really upset about us going out of Euro 2008, I was like, well did nobody explain to them that the best way to do it was to like score more goals than the opposition? Duh.

"As for poor Freddie Flintoff yeah even though when we met him in the W Indies back in the day right he was hammered and drivelling on about his kids all the time he was a nice bloke really yeah and I am so sorry about his ankle. I had a problem like that after I fell over in some stunning Manolo-type shoes right and my ankle went, I can’t wear any heels higher than three inches now yeah which is a total pain and totally cramps my style : (

"So, am I still with Karl you ask, well yeah, he ain’t Thierry lol but he is very sweet and like reliable. The other useful thing about Karl is he is the anorak of all time and loves to blog yeah, so if you want to have a serious conversation about topical matters of importance like the new Prada handbag right you can just tell him there’s a big row about the Premier League on a Guardian blog yeah and he’ll grab the Apple Powerbook and be quiet for hours : ))

"Sports blogs are a great service to the women of the world yeah, cos if men disappear off down the pub yeah they never come back till later and are well pissed and boring while if they’re sitting at the laptop they are still to hand and you can call them away from the screen any time if you shout loud enough lol."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Inconsequential Saturday - PremCorrespondent

Super Sunday is the Premier League’s illegitimate love child with Sky TV. It is hyped by pundits, pubs and papers alike as a showcase for the best oft English football. Unfortunately though, Super Sunday is an untrustworthy bastard.

It is a lie to suggest the football played will be ‘super’. And it is a con to pretend that the English league has four contenders, not least because the ‘super’ side below Manchester City in today’s table hasn’t won a title as recently as Leeds United.

So as most fans expected, two dull matches signalled another two-horse race when some one scored a 1-0 winner for Manchester United at Anfield, and some one else scored a 1-0 winner for Arsenal at the Emirates.

Fortunately though, Super Sunday has a legitimate brother born and raised in the loving wedlock of the old English league. Inconsequential Saturday.

Inconsequential Saturday is everything Super Sunday isn’t. Honest, exciting, and a showcase for English football.

Lets start with soon to be relegated Wigan. What could be more inconsequential than a thrilling 5-3 home win, a glorious comeback, two hat tricks, and three valueless points that lifted Athletic no league places up to deep trouble in 19th?

And thrilling it was. With no title to pretend to challenge for, Blackburn charitably gave Athletic a three goal lead before Roque Santa Cruz cruelly snatched it back to 3-3 with a hat-trick. Then, as if to signal their pointlessness, Wigan’s Marcus Bent scored two to complete his hat-trick and earn his side a happy memory of their time in top flight.

Next up, what could be less important than a 1-1 draw between Aston Villa and Sunderland, I hear you ask. Good question! The answer can only be a penguin catching fish with his flippers while riding a remote controlled motorcycle.

Even the ref feared that Sunderland’s injury time winner accidentally gave the game importance, and so he disallowed it for no good reason. As such Shaun Maloney and Danny Higginbotham scored the goals in this rip-roaring, end to end, physical battle from which all players and fans alike walked away exhausted.

Then there was Bolton Wanderers v Manchester City. This was more a nostalgia trip than football match as Saturday football struck again. Poor defending at both ends saw City ahead against the run of play before Bolton fought back to 2-1 by half time. In the second half City scored three, one early and two late, ensuring a thrilling ninth home win out of nine for Eriksson.

For a game of almost laughable inconsequence Fratton Park was the place to be. Tottenham are too good to go down and too far behind the chasing pack to catch up. Meanwhile Pompey’s own gafa keeps repeating they will only finish mid-table.

And yet, as much to the surprise of their own fans as the rest of us, Spurs put on a top four performance for all to see, if Sky had bothered to show it. The Lilywhites won away for the first time this season with a comprehensive and classy swagger that made them look worthy of a simplistic prefix. And the late winner ensured suspense.

Elsewhere West Ham fielded a second string side amid a desperate injury crisis and lost 2-0 to Everton. Liverpool’s second side are now level with Liverpool’s finest in the league, but don’t expect a promotion to ‘super’ any time soon.

Already relegated Derby deserved more than their 0-1 defeat to relegation candidates Boro. A different ref who cared enough to pay attention might have awarded a penalty to the home side. Though frankly, a well deserved point to Derby wouldn’t have meant much anyway.

No one noticed Birmingham draw with Reading on Saturday, but it was a stunner of a game. A penalty neutralised a goal mouth scramble to give both sides one goal. And in the second half strikers and defenders alike hit the woodwork, often at their own end.

Finally, Fulham v Newcastle was as close to ‘Super’ as Saturday was allowed to be. Delayed for live TV coverage, this intensely dull match was undeservedly won in the dying seconds. That it was Newcastle that took the points barely mattered to the sleeping audience.

Tweet it, digg it