Friday, September 17, 2010

Back from the abyss: Five-Tool Friday

There are many possible reasons for such a long delay between blog entries here at Five-Tool Farq. Perhaps my blogging mindset has failed miserably. But nevertheless, I still have some thoughts on the sports landscape today.

I never did stop having those thoughts mind you, I just haven't typed them out here in a very, very long time.


The sport that never stops is in full swing as it always is. Club seasons are back in Europe, Euro qualifiers under way, Champions League group stages under way, and the end of the season is near in MLS.

My thought today focuses on the recent announcement that MLS will be expanding it's regular season from 30 games to 34.

It's a smart move with new franchises entering the league every year, but what really grinds my gears is that the league won't halt play during the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year. Much like the international break for the Euro Qualifiers a couple weeks ago, the MLS doesn't halt its schedule when the best leagues in the world close up shop for a weekend to allow for international play.

I thought they were starting to get the idea when they took a break during the group stage of the World Cup this summer, but apparently not. They're going back to their old ways, and teams will suffer when they lose their top international stars once again.


How fascinating will it be for the football world when Michael Vick steps up behind centre on Sunday for his first start in four seasons? Let me answer that for you. It'll be very fascinating.

The guy has paid the price for his crimes, taken the time to get back into the game he was made famous for, and now has a tremendous opportunity for himself to win back a permanent starter's role.

The story has written itself once Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington, leaving Kevin Kolb as the only obstacle in Vick's way.

After his performance in Week 1 replacing Kolb, he gets the Lions in his first start for the Eagles. As improved (and cheated) as the Lions feel they may be so far in this young season, they're still the Lions. And I'm thinking Vick will run wild in Detroit.


Once September hits and the summer weather starts fading, the thought of playoff baseball approaching always brings a warm feeling.

The Blue Jays futility and horrible luck of being in the AL East has increasingly dulled that over the years, but it's still a time of year I always look forward to.

That being said, the stretch run this season is rather dull. The wildly unpredictable NL West is once again a mess, and the NL East and NL Wild Card will provide some exciting finishes, but I'm an AL guy. With everything wrapped up other than the Rays and Yankees battling it out over the division, it's a bit of a snooze until the postseason begins.

The fantasy baseball stretch run and Jose Bautista's home run chase will have to do until October baseball begins.


With baseball season winding down, that can only mean one thing. Hockey is back! Another season for my Toronto Maple Leafs starts and everyone is thinking once again: "Is this the year?"

Of course I say that sarcastically given the Leafs' current streak of futility, but with my blue and white shades on, I'm cautiously optimistic about the Leafs new acquisitions.

I will once again waste some of my hard earned money on a couple Leafs games and upgrade my cable package so I can actually watch the rest of the games, but in my mind there is no greater passion in my sports universe than cheering on the Leafs. The Jays come a close second, but I have seen them win in my lifetime (I was 6 when Joe Carter hit the home run, but I still remember it as if it were yesterday). The Leafs winning the Cup would be my "Now I can die happy" moment in sports.

But too bad it will probably never happen...


And with hockey season approaching, it's a given that basketball will soon follow suit. I've written before about my reluctance to fully invest myself into this sport, citing the Raptors lack of success as the main reason.

Well, the build up to this season really won't help. This year might just be the worst season in Raptors history in terms of pre-season hype, and while I'll tune in and hope for a miracle, all I'm really interested in at this juncture is seeing how good the Miami Heat will do with LeBron, Wade and Bosh.

I will be cheering for them to do something stupid like go 82-0, mainly because I'm sick of the Lakers and Celtics and other predictable outcomes that we've seen lately.

But I don't like to be negative, and in due time I'll catch up to everything that has gone on this off-season other than the obvious. But the biggest news that I can relate to now is that the Raptors signed Ronald Dupree. And that speaks for itself.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One week later: The end of the World Cup

A week has passed since Spain defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup final and each day I'm missing the thrills of the tournament.

Of course, it is one of the slowest weeks of the year in sports right now. The height of NBA and NHL free agency has passed and the MLB All-Star game took away baseball for a few days. There's the British Open, but that just reminded me of the World Cup since a South African won it. He was probably inspired by the same talk of being the hope of a continent the same way Ghana was in the World Cup quarter-finals. I can't ignore the CFL, but with all due respect that doesn't interest me greatly. I was pleased to see a Toronto Argonauts home victory over the Stampeders a couple days ago, but that's as far as my fandom goes at this particular juncture in time.

The remedy is on its way. The big European soccer leagues are fast approaching, as is the NFL, and everything else that can take my mind away from the World Cup.

But for now, even as I hear the roar of the Indy cars down by Toronto's Exhibition Place, I am still stuck in World Cup hangover mode.

The beauty of the game of soccer, though, is that it never stops. All the players that have made names for themselves will be back in action in the next month or so. Following club teams, national teams and particular individuals of interest will be much more intriguing than after any old off-season, since they were just in action on the world's biggest stage.

And in roughly two months time, all of Europe will be back at it again when Euro 2012 qualifying begins. There's never a dull moment.

So on second thought, I shouldn't feel too down about this World Cup hangover. I should cherish it. In a month's time, I'll be able to get my daily fix, and then some!

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Group Stage Wrap-Up: Groups E, F, G and H!

Since I'm living at work for the duration of the G20 summit, I wasn't around to blog last night. Therefore, before the knockout stage starts tomorrow, let's knock off the remaining 16 teams while I eat my Swiss Chalet dinner.

Group E

Netherlands: I'm not surprised with the Dutch sweeping their way through the group. But now the pressure is on for L'Oranje not to screw it all up again in the knockouts. They've got Arjen Robben back which is a bad sign for every other team. He made an impact immediately upon subbing in, smashing a shot off the post leading to the winner against Cameroon.

Japan: The Blue Samurai's progression is something I didn't expect at all. I was fully expecting a last-place finish for the boys from the far east, but they have certainly impressed, culminating in their 3-1 win over Denmark in a match they just had to draw. With samurai-like precision, two great free-kick goals buried the Danes in the final group match and sent Japan through with two wins. Their one loss came to the Netherlands, but it was a tight 1-0 affair that the Japanese were happy with considering the stature of their opponent.

Denmark: Not without talent, the Danish mix of youth and veterans bounced back well from their 2-0 loss to the Dutch with an impressive comeback victory over Cameroon. That set them up for a do-or-die encounter with Japan they were expected to win, but they got crushed by the set piece and couldn't overcome that. The red and white football aces certainly aren't the worst team to be eliminated, but that's the luck of the draw in the cruel World Cup group stages.

Cameroon: The poor Indomitable Lions and my boy Rigobert Song disappointed in South Africa to be sure with three losses. A 1-0 loss to Japan highlighted the team's inexperience, and that led to a bit of a revolt within the ranks. Senior players demanded Paul le Guen play the more experienced campaigners over the youngsters, and they responded by taking a 1-0 lead over Denmark. But that lead was lost, and was their final match after they'd been eliminated. Without surprise, le Guen is gone now.

Group F

Paraguay: As a South American team playing alongside the world class talents from Brazil, Argentina, etc, the Paraguayans are often overlooked. They've never made a serious run at the World Cup, but these guys are still pretty good. That being said, this group was a complete mess, and they were held to a draw by New Zealand. They play Japan next in a knockout tie that could go any which way, but I can't see them making it much further than the quarters.

Slovakia: For a team that played so poorly over their first two matches, the Slovaks must be in seventh-heaven over their insane 3-2 win over Italy to make it out of the group. They're in unprecented territory and play the Dutch next, so good luck Slovakia, you're gonna need it!

New Zealand: Three matches, three draws, two goals for, two goals against. For a team with semi-professional players and no big names, the Kiwis played a great tournament and should leave South Africa with nothing but absolute pride in themselves.

Italy: Ouch. Time to blow it up, Azzurri.

Group G

Brazil: Never a doubt to top the group, Dunga's side wasn't showing 100% Brazil in the group stage. Sure, there's the fact that Dunga has implemented a more defensive style, but conceding goals to North Korea and Ivory Coast isn't a great sign. The 0-0 draw to Portugal was absolutely boring albeit heated, though both the Portuguese-speaking teams knew they were going to go through with a draw, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Look for them to start turning it on now that they're in the Round of 16.

Portugal: We just wouldn't shut up about Portugal's qualifying troubles in Europe, but let's not forget that these guys are ranked third in the world. As dumb as the FIFA rankings are, I think they've got the top 10 pretty accurate. They just love 0-0 against African teams (they drew Cape Verde Islands 0-0 in a friendly before drawing Ivory Coast 0-0), but a 7-0 destruction of North Korea sealed their ticket to the next stage where they'll be in tough.

Ivory Coast: There was a glimmer of hope for the Ivorians, and following Drogba's journey through his broken arm was captivating for African fans (and Chelsea fans alike). But in the end, it was the nasty 3-1 loss to Brazil that did the Elephants in and killed their hopes. The Group of Death has struck, and it's the Africans that are done.

North Korea: A great first half against Brazil had everyone buying into the hype of a shutdown defence, and then they allowed 12 goals over the rest of the tournament. Of course, in North Korea they all believe they've just won the World Cup, Stanley Cup and FedEx Cup combined.

Group H

Spain: Great reslience from the Spaniards to bounce back from that shocking 1-0 loss to Switzerland to win two straight and take the group outright. They've got Portugal next, which hardly seems like a reward for winning your group, but it will be a stern test for the European Champs that might harden them enough to go on a deep run.

Chile: Chi-chi, eh-eh-eh, Viva Chile! They faced the prospect of winning their first two matches and still not making it out of the group, but a gutsy performance in the 2nd half when down a man and 2-0 to Spain helped seal their passage when they scored to improve their goal differential over Switzerland (even if that never ended up coming into play). Next up is Brazil, who beat them both times in qualifying, so the run might end early.

Switzerland: Hopp Schwiiz no more. It's a cruel exit for the Swiss after a memorable opening win over Spain, but it was their lack of depth up front that knocked them out. The one goal against the Spaniards was the only one they managed in three matches. They really should have done better against Honduras in their finale, but they couldn't rise up to the occasion, and are now home to get ready to lose to England in Euro 2012 qualifying.

Honduras: These guys were brutal, though now I'm intrigued to see all the guys who play for Honduran side Motagua absolutely rip apart Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup Group Stage Wrap-Up: Groups C and D

I made it through the day, so you know England didn't lose. But there is quite a bit of intrigue heading into the next set of matches on Saturday and Sunday. Let's start with Group C.

Group C

USA: I was really hoping to start off this group with England, but the States played some thrilling soccer through their three matches. They got some fortunate breaks (Robert Green's howler), and more unfortunate breaks (Mo Edu's non-goal, and Clint Dempsey's non-offside goal), but in the end they got a great story in Landon Donovan's stoppage time winner over Algeria that saved them from certain elimination and vaulted them past England atop the group. They're lined up for a potentially great run.

England: Ah, let's try to keep this short. If I start to ramble, this would be the longest blog of all time. England were supposed to cruise through the group, but they certainly didn't make it easy. Beating Slovenia was huge, and squeaking by with a 1-0 victory doesn't inspire the greatest of confidence heading forward. If only Wayne Rooney scored then the group would be England's. Instead, he hit his shot off the post (credit to keeper Samir Handanovic for getting a hand on it - no pun intended). England have the toughest of possible roads to the World Cup final, but I say bring it on. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Let's avoid penalties, and maybe they can advance a round or two.

Slovenia: If not for Donovan's last second goal over Algeria, the little Eastern European nation would be off to the knockout stage. Lots of credit to them for pulling their weight, especially after beating out Russia to get to South Africa in the first place. It's too bad they couldn't hold on to their two-goal lead over the States in game number two, or else the group would have surely been theirs!

Algeria: The Desert Foxes gave up an ugly loss to Slovenia, were lucky England played the worst of worst games against them, and held the US quite honourably until the 91st minute. They certainly had lots to play for in the last match, as a win over the US would give them a fighting chance, but it wasn't to be. Yet another African nation on the outs.

Group D

Germany: The Germans certainly have had an up and down group stage. First, they systematically destroyed the Aussies, before losing to Serbia (Miroslav Klose's red card and Lukas Podolski's penalty miss are big factors in that). They finished off with a 1-0 win over Ghana which could have gone either way, so what to expect next? A date with England. Certainly one of the most juicy of Round of 16 matchups.

Ghana: As good as they've been, the Black Stars are simply lucky to be moving through, and will be the only African team to do so. They play USA next, but I don't see them beating the Americans. Ghana only scored two goals in three matches, and both via the penalty kick. They are flashy enough to create chances but can't finish at all up front. They're Africa's only hope, but I can't see them making it too much further.

Australia: It was quite the turbulent ride for the Aussies, and in the end they're out on goal differential thanks to the spanking they received from Germany in their opener. It's too bad they lost their talisman Tim Cahill to a questionable red card in that opener. The Everton man - who scored a typical Cahillian goal against Serbia - was sorely missed in the Aussie's 1-1 draw with Ghana. If he had played, the Socceroos could have been moving on. Instead, the dream is over.

Serbia: The Serbian team has always been built around a stymieing defence, and that was their downfall in South Africa, because they couldn't get anything going up front. They can boast a victory over Germany, but that required some luck. That win was sandwiched between two losses. Losing to Australia was especially tough, since they had a good shot to make it out of the group. Instead, they couldn't find another goal and end up last. Disappointing, to say the least.

Back tomorrow with Group E and F! Just who the heck is going to make it out of Group E? What's Italy going to do? We'll find out soon enough...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup Group Stage Wrap-Up: Groups A and B

Recently, I get a praising comment from friend, hockey rumour expert, and fellow blogger Mark Boffo. He said I was pulling my weight with this blog. An enjoyable comment, no doubt. I followed that up by not blogging for 12 days. Oops. It's the World Cup's fault, I promise.

However, I shall redeem myself. The next four days present a good opportunity to pass along some thoughts. With the group stage wrapping up in South Africa, here are some brief thoughts on each team as they finish their three-game round robin.

Group A

Uruguay: The first of what should be five out of five South American teams to make it out of their group, Uruguay have impressed after years of failure on the world stage. Though their opening draw with France may well be the most boring of the 36 matches played so far, they bounced back with an emphatic 3-0 win over South Africa and capped it off with a 1-0 win over Mexico in an exciting affair. They are set to face South Korea in the Round of 16, and I expect them to handle the Asian squad with relative ease.

Mexico: Mexico is one of those in-between teams in comparison to the rest of the world, but they always find a way to make it out of their group. This is the fifth straight World Cup that Mexico has safely made it to the knockout stage. They've got some talent, but I think their defence is too unpredictable, especially keeper Oscar Perez. They get Argentina next, so I fully expect them to get eliminated at the Round of 16 for the fifth straight time.

South Africa: I don't think anyone should be ashamed at how South Africa finished. They only lost out on the group stage on goal differential, and it was really a lot closer than the scorelines suggest. If not for a hit post in the South Africa-France game, and a big save in the Mexico-Uruguay game, the goal diff. could have very well been even. So the South Africans are the first host team not to make it out of their group, but they are also the weakest host team ever. Good for them to get a win over an historically good team in France in their last game, even if France are a shell of their former glory. Read on for more.

France: Les Bleus overshadowed everything good in this group - and the whole tournament so far - with their embarrassing performances on and off the field. Firstly, the team never deserved to be there in the first place. Secondly, my boy from Chelsea Nic Anelka called outgoing coach Raymond Domenech a bunch of really bad names, and got himself sent home. Thirdly, led by team captain Patrice Evra, the squad refused to train in protest of Anelka's dismissal. Finally, they exit the tournament with no wins, a draw and two crappy losses. Ouch.

Group B

Argentina: Of all the World Cup favourites, Argentina are in the best shape so far. You'll find no shock losses, draws, or bust-ups here. Only wins and goals under the crazy Diego Maradona, who is actually turning into a likable figure which is absolutely terrifying. Three matches, three wins, and an absolutely stacked lineup. All of that, and Leo Messi hasn't even scored yet. The best is yet to come.

South Korea: Can't say I picked this team to make it through, but they lucked their way through to an improbable spot in the Round of 16. If Nigeria had converted one more goal in their 2-2 draw, then it would be the Africans going through. Instead, Yakubu missed the sitter of all sitters, and the rest is history. I like the tactical approach from Asian sides like South Korea, but I don't see them beating Uruguay in the next round.

Greece: Things looked grim for Greece after their opening 2-0 loss to South Korea. Sure, they could always stake claim to being the 2004 European Champs, but they've never had any success in the World Cup. But they bounced back nicely with a 2-1 win over Nigeria, giving them a fighting chance against Argentina to sneak into the knockout stage. They had their opportunities, and held the Argentines off the board for most of the match, but in the end Maradona's side was too good. A valiant effort for the Greeks, though their tourney is over.

Nigeria: Another African nation on the outs, Nigeria were so close to getting through as I just mentioned, but it wasn't to be. The loss to Argentina was expected, and at only 1-0 that was fine. But the turning point was Sani Kaita's stupid retaliatory red card in the 2-1 loss to Greece; the guy is now getting thousands of death threats back home. I guess they really did need my injured Chelsea boy John Obi Mikel, eh! (I'll try to avoid mentioning every Chelsea player involved in the World Cup... but it won't be easy).

I'll be back tomorrow with final thoughts on Group C and D, provided I survive the day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blackhawks win the Cup; my love for the Leafs grows

Last night, the Chicago Blackhawks did something they hadn't done in 49 years: Win the Stanley Cup.

It was a strange ending to what was otherwise a rather colourful championship series, Patrick Kane scoring an overtime winner that managed to find that sweet spot of the net that hides the puck from everyone's view. But it was a goal nonetheless, and Chicago ended the longest active Stanley Cup drought.

That distinction has now been passed on to my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. And as much fun as that is for the rest of the Leaf-hating league, it only serves to make me a bigger fan.

Losing is part of being a fan, and losing a lot is part of being a Leafs fan. Now that we are finally alone as the most depressing franchise in the NHL, there's extra motivation to win. And if that hypothetical win were ever to happen, it would be all the sweeter.

The Leafs are planning a couple off-season moves that doesn't involve trading Kaberle or sitting through the draft: Thanks to my former roommate and hockey rumour expert Mark Boffo, I've learned that the Leafs are primed to name Dion Phaneuf the 18th captain in franchise history. And when they announce that, which should happen next week, they'll also be unveiling redesigned jerseys for next year.

There's no actual pictures of the jerseys yet, but according to the description, they'll basically be modern versions of the 92/93 jerseys. The folks over at Leafs HQ have done a mock-up of what they'll look like, and I'm very impressed!

Now if only the Jays would follow suit...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Alex Gonzalez vs. Alex Gonzalez

I recently caught up with a young woman with a fantastic last name. Emma Farquharson, founding director and editor of Mushy Pony, had a very interesting debate with me about the merits of the two Alex Gonzalezes in Blue Jays history.

Check it out here: Mushy Pony: Which Alex Gonzalez Hits Home?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Basketball Quandary

I'm a big sports fan. It began out of pure passion for my favourite teams, and continued to grow as I learned just about every sport you can name as I began to work in the industry. Flipping between the Stanley Cup finals and the NBA finals tonight, I'm clearly favouring one sport over the other. I'm all over this hockey broadcast.

Everyone loves lists, and every once and a while we go through our list of favourite sports. The order of my list has fluctuated over the years, but basketball has consistently been on the bottom.

I don't hate basketball. I know the game, follow the game and respect the game. But I just don't like it as much as other sports. What could it be, though? I know I can love basketball, and I've cheered for games with the same passion as I have any other sport. Let's look at the deep-rooted psychological issues at hand:

The biggest factor, I believe, is that my team hasn't ever been a true contender for the NBA championship, thus giving me real reason to believe that I "belong" in the community of basketball fans. The Toronto Raptors have won just a single playoff series in their history and that was back in 2001. Since then, it's been rebuilding and Eastern conference mediocrity. No doubt, if the Raptors were to contend, I would be a much bigger fan of the game in general.

That's the long term problem. In the short term, there's a whole other world of sports to distract me from falling in love with basketball.

For one, the World Cup is coming up, and that transcends all sports in my books. Another reason is the NHL, which has to unfortunately compete with the NBA at the same time for audiences during their respective championships. The Blackhawks and Flyers in the Stanley Cup finals is way more exciting to me because it's a new matchup. Lakers and Celtics is old news. I do say that with ignorance towards their storied histories, I realize, but for that reason it doesn't appeal to me as much as, say, a Cavs/Suns final would.

Could it be the game itself is just inferior to others? That's impossible to say for sure, and I know a lot of people would kill me for even thinking that. Perhaps I don't like it because it's too easy for one player to take over a game and pour in 50 points as opposed to, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a 25-pass play involving eight players leading to the one goal scored in a 90-minute soccer match. That's another reason, but really you can dig and find pros and cons like that for every sport out there.

In the end, I think my basketball quandary comes down to the Raptors. Just win, dammit!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Looking into World Cup style

I haven't had the chance to write up anything of my own in the past few days, so I'm going to redirect my legions of readers to Sonja Cori Missio's great blog, 90 Minutes of HOPP.

Check out her latest entry looking into the jerseys of every team at the World Cup in South Africa... except for North Korea.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A severe case of perfection

Wow. What a day for baseball.

On the home front, I can be happy that the Jays have smashed their way to a new club record for home runs in a month. Four more dingers today gives the Jays 50 in May, eclipsing the old mark of 48 still with two games left before June.

Then June will hit and comes series against the Rays, Yankees, Cardinals, and Phillies (that home series being played 800km away in Philadelphia). If we're one game out of the wild card a month from now like we so teasingly stand today, I'll eat my hat.

With that out of my system, let's get to the good stuff.

Roy Halladay has written himself into baseball's history books by throwing the 20th perfect game in major league history tonight. Not only does this make my 2nd round, 21st overall selection of Halladay in this year's Score Baseball draft look like an absolute steal, it's an honour that he sincerely deserves. His dedication and professional attitude towards the game - especially in his frustrating tenure in Toronto - is well documented.

Halladay deserves a World Series title, and that's why he was shipped to Philly from the concrete confines of Rogers Centre. As good as his complete game shutout filled career has been, he also deserves a moment in the game's history that stands out above all else. Today's performance in South Florida is now his ultimate moment in the game, and will be the centre-point of a Hall of Fame career.

Until he pitches in the playoffs, anyway. It could be quite the 2010 for Doc Halladay.

Crazier yet, Dallas Braden (a member of my other fantasy team, I might add), just came off a perfect game he threw this month! There have been countless thousands of starts in major league history, and we've seen 10% of all perfect games this very month of May 2010. Two perfect games haven't been thrown in the same year since way back in 1880, when two perfect games were tossed in 5 days.

Unfortunately, the Phillies have an off day 5 days from now on June 3rd, therefore I'm starting a petition for Doc to go on short rest against Atlanta on the 2nd.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thanks for listening, NFL

Just one day after I criticized the NFL for not spreading love in terms of Super Bowl site selection, commish Roger Goodell announced that the 2014 Super Bowl has been awarded to New York/New Jersey at the new home of the Giants and Jets.

Thanks for listening. Or more realistically, thanks for making me seem like I know what I'm talking about!

This will be a first Super Bowl in a cold-weather site that's not domed, and is a welcome breath of fresh air. Cold, biting fresh air. We could witness a first Super Bowl played in snow!

My bias is definitely playing into my enthusiasm for this announcement as a Patriots fan who knows what it's like to endure a winter game. It's more than just watching a football game when you're in the stands in freezing temperatures, it's a battle to stay warm as well. Teams who play in cold-weather games will have a distinct home-field advantage for the first time, and that could be a big factor!

In 2008, I remember the Patriots absolutely destroying the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16 at home in snowy conditions. Those same Cardinals made a run to the Super Bowl after that huge loss, nearly beating the Steelers in a classic. That Super Bowl was held in Tampa, but imagine they were playing at a cold-weather site. It likely wouldn't have been close, as the Steelers are cold-weather veterans.

That bodes well for us northern fans of the NFL. More food for thought: What if two warm climate teams make the Super Bowl? That would be fun, at the very least, to see something we don't see very often. Unlike all those Super Bowls held in Florida.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Five-Tool Farq: Monday, May 24th

Introducing the first installment of the Five-Tool Farq: My take on what's making headlines across the Big 4 sports in North America and that other big sport they play everywhere else.


Canada lost 5-0 to Argentina on Monday in the first ever friendly between the two nations. It was pretty hilarious seeing Diego Maradona shouting and going nuts from the bench with guys like Mike Klukowski facing his world-class team. I was not surprised at all that Argentina dominated, or the fact that Canada had exactly zero quality chances. I was surprised that Argentina only scored 5 goals though! If Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain didn’t dick around so much, they could have easily doubled their score. But to put a positive spin on it, I hope Canada’s boys learned from the experience. It was their worst loss in 7 years, but the squad barely plays. They need to play these top-level talents much more often if they are to ever qualify for another World Cup. Perhaps they’ll come out with a better effort against Venezuela as their South American tour ends on Saturday.


Ahh, baseball, where I can get down and dirty with some nerdy numbers. The Toronto Blue Jays home run numbers are ridiculous right now. Coming into tonight’s game in Anaheim, the Jays have smoked 76 home runs in 46 games. The second place team is the Red Sox with 60. That is crazy. The Jays are on pace to hit 268 home runs this year, which would eclipse the 1997 Seattle Mariners who lead all of history with 264 dingers in a single season. Of course, there is the slimmest of slim chances this power surge will hold up. Once pitchers figure out Jose Bautista, maybe he won’t have the most home runs in the majors (okay, he’s tied for the lead, but you catch my drift).


The Stanley Cup Finals are set. The Chicago Blackhawks will be taking on the Philadelphia Flyers. Wow. Full credit to the Montreal Canadiens, who actually had me not hating them with every fibre of my hockey-loving soul for a change. Regardless, this Cup final is going to be fantastic. The championship round pits two Cup-starved cities with great fanbases, and more importantly good TV markets. The Flyers flew into the playoffs on the seat of their pants via a Game 82 shootout win, while the Blackhawks have been among the cream of the crop since scalping the Central Division from the greedy grasp of the Red Wings. There’s lots of great young players on these two teams. Lots of Olympic gold medalists, too.


Roger Staubach, that famous old hall of fame quarterback, is currently the chairman of the North Texas Super Bowl committee. The same committee that landed the upcoming Super Bowl into that glorious new Cowboys Stadium. What he’s trying to do now is get that same building another Super Bowl in 2016. I don’t care if you have the coolest building in the world, that’s way too soon to come back. But this is nothing new at all. In fact, two of the last four Super Bowls have been in Miami. Four of the last six have been in the state of Florida. Though I admit I have next to no knowledge on the politics of Super Bowl site selection, it’s clear to see that the vast country of America is not being fairly represented.


I’ve heard way too much speculation about where Chris Bosh and LeBron James are going to end up. The playoffs are still on! But that’s saying something, these playoffs have been an absolute snooze. Thankfully, Steve Nash is sacrificing his body like a true Canadian in order to spice things up a bit. Not that I see the Suns lasting more than 6 games against the Lakers. Here’s hoping the inevitable Lakers / Celtics final will live up to past encounters.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Looking ahead to Triple Crown Saturday

Tomorrow's Champions League final is ripe with storylines:

* Can Jose Mourinho finally deliver European glory to Inter for the first time since 1965?

* In a battle of master vs. apprentice, will Louis Van Gaal outwit his former assistant at Barcelona in Mourinho?

* Can Bayern Munich continue their stunning run without the suspended Franck Ribery?

Aside from those very juicy subplots, some pretty serious history is going to be made on Saturday evening in Madrid.

The big one is that one of these clubs is going to become just the sixth team in the history of the beautiful game to claim the treble: winning their domestic league title, domestic cup and the Champions League. No team from Italy or Germany has recorded such a treble, so that will be another first.

We don't have to look far to see who claimed this magnificent feat last, as Barcelona smashed their way through the competition last year en route to the treble. The Catalan Giants went on to fill their trophy cabinet with three more pieces of silverware in achieving a first ever sextuple, but those others are an afterthought.

Don't let Barca's dominance fool you, this doesn't come around very often. Their treble came ten years after Manchester United did it in 1999 thanks to one of the greatest Champs League finishes of all time - with two late goals against Bayern Munich no less.

Now here comes your lame, useless stat of the day: These trebles come around just once every decade. The first came in 1967 from Celtic, followed by Ajax in 1972 and PSV in 1988. The 90's were represented by United in '99 and Barca took care of that last nameless decade we lived through in 2009. Our current decade will be represented by the winner of tomorrow's game. By using some completely flawed logic, I'll boldly claim that we're not going to see another treble until atleast 2020.

One more tidbit that makes this final so good, and this time it's not lame: Mourinho and Van Gaal have both tasted European glory before. Mourinho won with Porto in 2004 and Van Gaal with Ajax in 1995. Only two other managers have won Europe with two different clubs.

There's a lot on the line in tomorrow's Champions League final. History is guaranteed to be made on the pitch at the Bernabeu.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nike's Write The Future ad - Spot on!

The 2010 World Cup is just 20 days away, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m already super pumped. The Score will be airing a daily show at 10 PM ET for all 32 days of the World Cup – even on the off days – and I’ll be working on it. All of us involved are pretty excited to get it going.

To add to the overall excitement, Nike’s "Write The Future" World Cup spot was released this week. I think even the biggest haters of soccer – and believe me, there’s lots here in North America – can’t help but agree with the rest of us that this ad is fantastic. I’m going as far as to say it’s one of the best ads ever produced.

Ads are, of course, designed to make you feel a certain way all the while linking you to whatever is being endorsed. With all the emotions attached to a global event like the World Cup, Nike has brilliantly captured them in their 3 minute ad.

The ad – directed by Oscar-nominated director Alejandro G. Inarritu – is so powerful because of the vast budget that clearly went into it. They’ve got their big World Cup stars (and their non-World Cup stars in Ronaldinho), and other cultural icons like Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer and Homer Simpson. All of it is money well spent because the end result is nothing short of amazing. In the saturated world we live in, seldom am I so moved by an advertisement anymore.

Emotions conveyed are wide-ranging: From the thrills of victory to the bitter, ever-lasting sting of defeat. It shows the glory of the players to the jubilation of the fans, all in appropriate settings. And, refreshingly, the whole thing doesn’t need sex to sell it. It’s all in all a pretty pure look into what evokes emotion at the World Cup.

Lastly, let’s not forget this is, of course, a Nike ad. The swoosh is everywhere, as subliminal as ever. But the ad is clever in showing England’s kits – which are manufactured by Umbro. So in the back of your head, you’re thinking it’s not all about Nike. It’s about the love of the game. But not everyone will be smart enough to know that Nike in fact owns Umbro and has since 2007. I know I wasn’t until I looked into it!

That’s enough from me, now go watch the ad and enjoy!