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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh yeah, the madness!

The Champions League's final eight are now complete with Real Madrid and Chelsea punching their tickets, joining Manchester United, Tottenham, Barcelona, Shaktar Donetsk, Inter Milan and FC Schalke.  The quarter final draw goes tomorrow morning.  Wouldn't a Barcelona/Real Madrid draw be something?  Man U against Chelsea

NCAA's March Madness starts today so keeping the entry for today brief, because I figure most of you will be too busy filling in brackets. But some stats: #12 seeds have bounced #5 seeds 38.6% of the time since 2000, and are 51.4% in the second round.  A the other end, #15's are 1-43 since 2000, so don't waste your time.  Boring, but I've got a lot of chalk heading to the Final Four - as in, all chalk.  I've got Pitt beating Kansas, and Ohio State punching Duke in the vagina before the Buckeyes do what their football brethren struggles so hard to do - aside from not violating NCAA rules - finishing on top.

The Journal of Sports Economics conducted a complex study of fighting in the NHL to see if fights actually can turn the game, the way some think they can.  Come to find out - not surprisingly - that fighting success has no measurable impact on winning in the NHL.  But it sells loads of DVDs, right Grapes?

Cincinnati Bengal Chad Ochocinco was the target of this diatribe: "I think it's played out. I think most people in Cincinnati feel that way. You have players who seemingly care more about their Twitter accounts and generating publicity about themselves than they do about winning. And again, you have to defend Chad on a certain level because it must be tough to come in here year in and year out, and get ready to play for a team that's not gonna go anywhere. But I also think Chad dropped a lot of balls. There were a lot frustrating moments over the past few years where you're thinking, 'If you spent half as much energy working on running around the cornerback as you did self promoting, it would be a different situation."  Didn't think Nick Lachey, who pimps Cinci at every turn, had that in him. 

Doping allegations for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia in Spain's La Liga?  Oh-oh! rates sports for what is the most physically demanding across four categories - muscular/strength use, speed/quickness, cardiovascular endurance and durability.  The winner might surprise you, but it shouldn't when you really think about it.

Interesting piece in the National Post on how the Tampa Bay Rays learned to compete in the AL East via the boot The Extra 2%, with a side of Toronto Blue Jays applicability.

Via GBVH comes word that the fine folks at Epic Meal Time will be featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight.  The downside?  They're not on Letterman, Conan, etc.

Finally today, if you drink green beer, you're a loser.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thriller in Munich

If the theory that the best defense is a good offence holds true, Bayern Munich must not have received the memo.  They were up 2-1 at the half on Inter Milan yesterday, and it easily could've been four or five, before they got all conservative with it, letting Inter draw even and then take a last minute goal from Goran Pandev of all people for the 3-2 win, leaving Inter to save the Italian Serie A some embarrassment from having no entries in the final eight.  Awesome, awesome game.  In yesterday's other tilt, Wayne Rooney was fantastic, Chicharito scored a pair, but it wasn't easy work in the end for Manchester United in their 2-1 win over Marseille thanks to Wes Brown going Wes Brown and scoring on his own net with eight to play, giving yours truly a push instead of a win.

Up today, the final eight get rounded out with Chelsea hosting Copenhagan (I've got Chelsea winning easy here) and host Real Madrid finally topping Lyon after a going out to them repeatedly recently.  Both kick off at 3:45.

Interesting that the Toronto FC ads promoting single game ticket sales for this season feature Maicon Santos and not Toronto natives Dwayne DeRosario or Julian DeGuzman, or even Adrian Cann. DeRo's delusions of grandeur are ongoing, with word he's now not talking to the media.  Nice work, captain.  That'll really grow the game.

You may not be down for March Madness, hoops edition, but how about the Playboy version, where 64 lovely ladies are pitted head to head?  I've got Sara Jean Underwood topping Kimberly Holland in the final. Vote here.

True story: "Jeter" is the French word for "discard".  No joke.  Yankees?  You've been warned.

Seattle Sounders of the MLS outdrew 19 of 30 MLB teams last year for average attendance, including the across-the-street Mariners.  The Sounders may have outplayed the LA Galaxy last night, but the Galaxy were 1-0 winners.

Several hundred Montreal Canadiens fans congregated outside the Bell Centre last night before the Habs game against the Washington Capitals to protest the lack of action on head shots by the NHL.  In typical Habs Fan fashion, they followed that up by rioting and smashing up a bunch of police vehicles.  Admittedly, not all that happened.  Caps coach Bruce Boudreau says if fans don't like the game, they should stay home.  Guess he hasn't been paying attention to all the empty seats in most of the league's arenas?

Drew Brees, as good a guy as you can say an athlete appears to be, says each proposal by the NFLPA to improve health care was swiftly declined by the owners.  That isn't overly surprising when you hear Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones practically taunting the players in negotiations, saying the owners clearly don't have their attention yet.

What is crazier, that this goalie went kung fu on an oncoming player, or that he cannot seem to figure out why he was red carded?  The NHL would simply rule this a "hockey play" if it happened there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

These are the champiooooooooooooooons

Champions League play resumes again today with another pair of games, two more going tomorrow, to round out the quarter-finalists.  Manchester United host Olympique Marseille after they played a stale 0-0 draw at home, while Bayern Munich host defending champion Inter Milan with Inter on the ropes after a 1-0 home loss meaning they've got to win to advance.  Both games are 3:45 kickoffs with the North American time change, Setanta's got Man U/Marseille and TSN is carrying the Bayern/Inter tilt.  I'm hammering Man U at -1 +109.

Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports says that the Seattle Mariners would be wise to deal Felix Hernandez to the New York Yankees, especially if they can pull a package of Jesus Montero, one of Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances, Ivan Nova and another prospect.  It'd be a tonne to give up, but makes a lot of sense for both teams.

The MLS season is about to kick off tonight, with the Seattle Sounders hosting LA Galaxy at what will be a rocking Q-West Field. GolTV Canada has coverage here. Nigel Reed looks at the Easter Conference here, while Jason DeVos previews the West busts out 10 potential break-out players for 2011.

Not sure what it means for his status the rest of this season, but good to hear that Sidney Crosby was at least back on skates for the first time since his concussion(s) in early January.

Check out the funniest sports headline fails, in pictures.

Fascinating interview with former WWE star Chris Nowinski with The Sports Guy on concussionsNowinski - Harvard educated - has become a champion for concussion research after getting his bell rung in the ring one time too many.  Interesting to hear that soccer players have as high a concussion rate as pro-football players (gridiron varietal).  Never would have thought, and while I've played for decades, only a couple times do I remember (okay, that sounds funny) ever feeling foggy, and one was after landing on my head when a guy cut under me while in the air.  Bill Simmons mentioned that Malcolm Gladwell - author and big thinker - said pro football will be dead in 30 years because sideline technology will be able to instantly diagnose head injuries among kids, and parents will pull their kids out of the game.  Interesting.

The next round of Colin Cowherd's Rock Band tourney is on and has some juicy matchups.  The Doors vs. The Eagles is not one of them.  Hate both, the Doors slightly less so.  Torn on Van Halen vs. Guns N Roses, it must be said.  Thinking VH for sheer longevity and depth of work, and they're leading 51%-49% at the moment.  If the vote were for bigger circus, which band wins?

What is more shocking: a WNBAer gets off Tweets about the earthquake in Japan being essentially karma at work for Pearl Harbor, or that anyone noticed what a WNBAer tweeted at all?

Barcelona star Lionel Messi took a shot to the knee on the weekend and his status is up in the air.  Talk about a  potential game changer in the Spanish and European soccer landscape down the stretch run.

Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux is suggesting in a letter that team fines might be a deterrent to players crimes on the ice.  To his credit, Lemieux notes that his own team would have been heavily fined for a couple suspensions of its players, and says "we all have to take responsibility if we are going to improve the game.'"

Might Peyton Manning end up a free agent, and a New York Jet? Think we might all get a little tired of the "Mannings Take Manhatten" stories?  I really should trademark that name right now.

Foo Fighters have a movie debuting today at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.  Here's a preview.

Not sure if I've ever seen a faster goal in soccer history than this one.  Or, Goalie Fail.

Epic Meal Time, Deleted Scenes - Part 2.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gary Bettman gets extended? Incredible.

If there is a person alive that can rationalize how NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman just received a five year contract extension worth $36 million, I'd love to meet them for a talk.  Sure, the league has grown from $2 billion in revenues to $3 billion since the lockout, but I'd love to see what that figure looked like if not for the Canadian dollar jumping to par more or less for the last three and a half years with the U.S. greenback.  Last I looked, the game is more in the news for violence than anything else, it continues to be a non-factor south of the border, and there are at least a dozen teams said to be for sale and even more losing money.  How that's not on him at least in part is beyond me.

Roy MacGregor says it is time for the NHL to move from judging intent to focusing on the result of an action.  To quote Charlie Sheen, "duh".   Here's a look at the NHL's season of mayhem in pictures, as only SI can take them.  And love that the NHL Wheel of Justice has finally gone public.  No need to wait for a lame press-release detailing how a maiming act will be handled anymore, you can figure it out all by your lonesome with a quick spin of the wheel. 

Phil Jackson just won his 600th regular season game with the Lakers. The Raptors have won 520 games, total.

The Ontario Teacher's Pension Fund has put its stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment up for sale for $1.3 or $1.6 billion, depending which story you believe.  Surely there's somebody out there that would float me a loan for that? If you're a fan of the Maple Leafs, Raptors or Toronto FC, you're probably thrilled that the profit-at-all-costs pension fund is out of there.  Rogers is expected to be heavily involved in the bidding, and could greatly change the sporting landscape in TorontoSteve Simmons quotes a source saying that Brian Burke and Bryan Colangelo won't have the freedom they do now under a new regime.

The New York Knicks are finally relevant again, after years of being terrible, and how are they going to repay their ridiculously loyal fans?  Why, by raising ticket prices 49% of course.

The AS Roma vs. Lazio Rome derby went yesterday, though for all the empty seats - I'm talking thousands upon thousands - you wonder how much Rome really cared.  The last 20 minutes of the game were about as dirty as I've seen in any sport.  Embarrassing seeing guys get their faces stomped on, shoving each other.  Hell, it looked like they were channeling the NHLRoma were 2-0 winners with a pair from the ageless Francesco Totti.

I've heard of some ridiculous reasons to be out of a game, but Manchester City's nutjob Mario Balotelli had to be removed from a game because of - wait for it! - an allergy.  To grass.

9 first quarter points, 22 at the half and 56 for the game.  A high-school hoops team?  WNBA? Toronto Raptors? Nope, the Milwaukee Bucks yesterday in their 87-56 loss to the Boston Celtics.

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera made his first appearance of the spring yesterday, aiming to throw 12 pitches off the bump.  He did just that, with nine going for strikes to retire the side.  The guy is a machine.

Here's Francesco Totti's first goal yesterday.  More impressive was the call by the Italian broadcaster.