Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

My Sporting Heroes

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

The title of this post is a contradiction really. Regular readers of my blog (if there are any) will know that the sporting teams I support include Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur on the football front, the Atlanta Falcons from the NFL, the Atlanta Braves from major league baseball and the Wales rugby team.

Why the contradiction? Well I have had more than my share of disappointments supporting these teams over the last few years. Swansea City were relegated from the Premiership about 18 months ago, but did survive seven seasons in the top flight whilst winning the League Cup (or whatever it was called) in 2013. Paying millions for over rated players, changing managers through a revolving  door eventually put paid to their elite status. Currently, they sit at the top of the Championship table after 10 games, but it’s a long season, so don’t hold your breath.

Where do I begin with Tottenham Hotspur? They overachieved last season by reaching the final of the Champions League, but played so flat that the late Donald Campbell could have broken the land speed record across their backs. The summer almost brought a wind of change through the management and squad. Manager Pochettino cast envious eyes towards Real Madrid, Christian Ericksen, Toby Alderwald, Danny Rose, and Jan vethongen wanted to leave. However, Real Madrid rehired Zidane as head coach, and Manchester United, another possible destination for Pocchetino, made Solksjaer their permanent manager. Meanwhile no suitable offers came in for the want away players, and they all remain members of the squad.

Rumors on the internet claimed that Vethongen had an affair with Eriksen’s girl friend, and several of the squad are not speaking to each other. I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the rumor, but Spurs suffered the worst home defeat in their history by losing 2-7 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Group Stage last Tuesday. They looked like a team falling apart at the seams, and perhaps Pochettino has them as far as possible. Rumors are also rife that Real Madrid intend hiring him next season, and he will take Harry Kane and Eriksen with him. Speaking of Kane, he looks to have lost a yard or two in pace, and he wasn’t the fastest greyhound in the first place.

This is painful to recall, but the Falcons were leading the New England Patriots 28-3 entering the final quarter in the 2017 Super Bowl only to concede 31 unanswered points and lose the game in overtime. Following an unsinspiring 2018 season when they went 7-9 Dan Quinn decided to part with his defensive and offensive co-ordinators, and too over defensive duties. A quarter of the 2019 regular season has been played and we are currently 1-3. the not so mighty Quinn claims the team lacks consistency and they can find the solutions to a season  which is rapidly sinking like the Titanic. I put their malaise down to the three Ts: tackling, timing and turnovers. They are simply an ordinary team that has an over inflated opinion of themselves.

The Atlanta Braves last won the World Series in 1995. They should have repeated in 1996, but shot themselves in the foot. In my opinion the franchise has never fully recovered from that damaging loss to the Yankees. Yes, they managed to return to the playoffs on a few occasions since, but couldn’t add another World Series. They won 97 games this season and comfortably made the playoffs. However they never learn from previous mistakes. They rested players during the last week and half of the season, and proceeded to be swept 0-3 by the New York Mets in the last series of the season.

Once again they are playing an opponent, St Louis Cardinals, who surged into the Playoffs while the Braves appeared to take their foot of the gas and have last their momentum. There are injury worries concerning Freeman and Acuna and they have two or three inexperienced pitchers in their rotation. Game 1 and 2 are being played tonight and tomorrow in Atlanta, so watch this space.

Wales are currently involved in the Rugby World Cup, and produced a superb display last Saturday to narrowly defeat Australia. If they can win their remaining matches in the group  against Fiji and Uruguay they will top their table and avoid New Zealand and England in the quarter finals. Wales have not done particularly well in the World Cup, apart from achieving 3rd place in the inaugural event in 1987. They have found the proverbial banana skin in previous World Cups having lost to Fiji once before, so I am not counting chickens just yet.

Unanswered Questions

Friday, April 14th, 2017
  • Why do some people smother their steaks with ketchup?
  • Why do some Atlanta drivers refuse to use headlights when the visibility is almost zero?
  • Why do some Atlanta drivers feel that using blinkers is an affront to their masculinity?
  • Can you define the  word “schism” and use it in a sentence?
  • Why does hair sprout from unusual places but ceases to grow on your head when you are older?
  • Why didn’t my parents warn me to take better care of my body to offset the wreckage of old age?
  • What is the difference between refugees, asylum seekers and migrants?
  • Do Germans and Greeks really dislike each other?
  • Why do I regard myself as Welsh first, British second, and European a distant third?
  • Who is John Ossoff and why has he been foisted on people living in the Sixth District of Georgia when he doesn’t even live here?
  • Why are spectators referred to as Patrons at the Masters?
  • Why does CBS’s Jim Nantz assume everyone is his friend?
  • Would I rather be ugly and rich, or poor and good-looking?
  • Would you rather always lose or never play?
  • Would you rather be forgotten or hatefully remembered?
  • Would you rather get even or get over it?
  • Would you rather kiss a horse or lick a cow?
  •  Why did it take a homeless person to do what transit planners, engineers, and consultant could not do…..get the attention of politicians to start looking at transportations options in Metro Atlanta.
  • Why aren’t Americans familiar with the phrase “curate’s egg?”
  • Why do Swansea City’s American owners remind me of Steptoe and Son?
  • Why did the Atlanta Braves win only one world series  when they had three Hall of Fame pitchers in Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux?
  • Does 14 successive Division (which only comprises 5 teams) Titles  achieved by the Atlanta Braves define success, mediocrity, or missed opportunities?
  • Why is Easter, the most important event in the Christian Calendar, no longer a public holiday in America?
  • What is more important to the average sports fan, a winning team or a “state of the art” ultra modern stadium?
  • Why don’t we have a colony on the moon bearing in mind Neil Armstrong landed there in 1969?
  • Why are my compatible with certain individuals, but not others?
  • What is the criteria for defining a good friend?
  • Which of these three songs has been covered the most by other artists: George Harrison’s “Something,” Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday,’ or John Lennon’s “Imagine?”
  • Which is most likely to happen in my twilight years: Swansea City returning to the Premiership, or the Atlanta Falcons winning the Super Bowl?
  • Why is my neighborhood in Atlanta beginning to resemble Puerto Rico?
  • In an attempt to avoid the dreaded drop, will the Swans go gently into the good night, or fight the good fight?
  • With apologies to “The Clash,” should I stay (in America) or should I go (to Wales?)

Black Hat, Purple Cool

Friday, February 17th, 2017

The last ten days or so have been quite traumatic for my favorite sports teams on either side of the Atlantic. On the morning of the Super Bowl, Swansea City travelled to Manchester “Millionaires” City in more hope than expectation. Yes, they had won their previous two matches and had clawed their way out of the relegation zone, but playing Man City away is a tall order. The first half proved to be a startling exercise in survival. City scored early in the game, and I was fully expecting the flood gates to open. But to their credit the Swans defended doggedly with shades of desperation at times, and despite City having 82% of the possession, the score remained unchanged at half time.

The Swans played more positively in the second half, and received their reward when Siggurdson scored the equalizer with a perfectly placed shot into the corner of the net.  A valuable point appeared to be secured, but a late lapse in concentration by the Swans defense allowed City to snatch the winner well into injury time.

I was a little disappointed with the result, but nothing compared to the devastation I was to experience later in the day. The Atlanta Falcons were playing in only their second Super Bowl in their less than illustrious 50 year history. Their opponents, New England Patriots, on the other hand, are the Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid of the NFL. They expect to make it to the Super Bowl every year.

The game began very well for the Falcons who completely dominated the first half, and at half time comfortably led the Patriots 21-3. The Falcons began the second half in similar fashion, and quickly scored another touchdown to take a seemingly unassailable lead of 28-3 over their opponents. The Patriots replied with a couple of field goals, and the fourth quarter resumed with Atlanta leading 28-9. Our champagne was on ice and we were dying to pop the corks. Not so fast young man!!!

What happened in the fourth quarter defies belief. The Patriots scored 19 unanswered points to tie the game and take the game into overtime. The Patriots duly won the toss and scored another touchdown to win the Super Bowl in devastating fashion. There are a number of possible reasons why the Falcons capitulated. I didn’t read or watch media coverage for over a week because it was too painful to listen or watch the talking head analyse why the Falcons provided the worst collapse in Super Bowl history.

New England Patriots’ James White scores the winning touchdown between Atlanta Falcons’ Jalen Collins, left, and Robert Alford during overtime of the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.

Its over a week now since our calamitous defeat, and I’ve had time to try and make some sense of what went wrong. I believe it was a combination of factors. Surprisingly our offense was only on the field for a total of twenty minutes which meant the Patriots offense controlled the ball for the other sixty minutes. Consequently, as well as they played in the first half, our defense was completely exhausted in the final quarter. Matt Ryan also came under ferocious pressure in the final quarter and looked like a deer in headlights. It didn’t help matters, that Center Alex Mack played on one leg! The offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, also made some horrendous decisions on his play calling. In essence the Falcons were playing not lose in the final quarter and in doing so the momentum of the game dramatically swung in the Patriots favor.

I thought the following Saturday may bring some light relief in my sporting calendar when another of my favorite teams, Tottenham Hotspur, were playing Liverpool at Anfield which incidentally has never been a happy hunting ground  for the Spurs. Saturday was no exception, and Spurs meekly surrendered and lost 0-2, and it could have been much worse.

Into the evening, and the curse of the bambino continued. Wales were entertaining England at the Millinium Stadium who were full of confidence following a fifteen match unbeaten run. Wales played well for sixty minutes and deservedly led the auld enemy from across the Severn Bridge. However, the theme of my sporting week decided to intervene yet again, and England scored a try in the dying minutes to snatch victory from  the jaws of defeat.

Sunday morning, and the Swans were on the big screen yet again playing at home to the Champions Leicester City. Leicester have been performing more like chumps this season, and were on the same number of points as the Swans both of whom were hovering just above the relegation zone. I can be a bit of a masochist on times, and decided to complete my sporting set of failures and watch the game in a fatalistic mood.

Lo and behold, there is light at the end tunnel. The Swans scored two stunning goals in the first half, and ran out comfortable winners. On New Year’s Eve, they were languishing at the bottom of the league and about to sack their American manager, Bob Bradley and appoint their third manager of the season, Paul Clement. They are not out the woods yet, but Clement has given this beleaguered fan hope and the possibility they can remain in the Premiership. Hopefully, something can be salvaged from a season which was beginning to resemble a train wreck.



Twenty Years Living in America

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

I emigrated to USA in 1996, and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. A couple of months later the Olympic Games descended upon the City, and I might have attended a few events, but the whole experience was  just a blur as I came to terms with my incongruous decision to move across the Atlantic. A little Frenchman told me it would take approximately two years to settle down, and he was spot on. Twenty years later, the adventure continues. Based on my time in Atlanta I’ve listed below things I like or liked about living in America and conversely things I dislike or disliked living there:

20 Things I like/liked about living in America

  • Blue skies with not a cloud to be seen.
  • Hot Wings and baby back ribs. My favorite places for those culinary delights are Taco Mac (the original location in Virginia Highlands,) Three Dollar Café and Wild West Wings, and Blue Ribbon which also does a mean martini.
  • A big house, bang for the buck which we couldn’t possibly afford if we were still living in the UK.
  • Health care, and I’m not referring to Obama Care.
  • NBC coverage of the Premiership. I can watch more Premiership games live than my son can living in London.
  • Air Conditioning
  • Variety of places to travel in one big country: mountains, desert, tropics, beaches where the water is actually warm. Alaska and Hawaii would have been difficult to reach if I still lived in the UK.
  • Visiting Monument Valley at sunrise was breathtaking.
  • Touring the national parks in Utah was a truly awesome experience.
  • Learning another language; American-English. I’ve battled for twenty years to master the dialect, but I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. Allow me to apologize to y’all. For example,  Atlanta is embracing the merits of the roundabout, but have labeled it the traffic circle.
  • Visiting Great American cities; Washington DC, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles to name but a few.
  • Our dog Tiger, was an unusual mix of chow and collie  who passed away in 2007, aged 17. He was probably my  best friend in America. He was  brave, strong, loyal, loveable with a sense of mischief.
  • Open air concerts at Chastain Park ranging from Harry Connick Jr., Tony “Bleeding” Bennett, Ringo Starr All Star Band, Huey Lewis and The News, BB King (God rest his Soul,) Chuck Berry and Ray Charles.
  • Grilling out on the Big Green Egg for nearly 10 months of the year.
  • The High Museum of Art. I had the  privilege of viewing an Impressionist exhibition, a Norman Rockwell collection of originals, and Elton John’s photography collection by several famous photographers.
  • The opportunity to attend four different professional sports in one city: basketball (Hawks) ice hockey (Thrashers now extinct,) baseball (Braves) and American football (Falcons.) a Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United, will be playing here next season.
  • Visiting Hawaii and Alaska both of which provide breathtaking scenery. Active volcanoes, bears catching salmon, a flight around Mt. McKinley were just a few of the highlights.
  • Chick_Fil_A, easily the best fast food restaurant chain in America.
  • Lightning bugs and humming birds in our backyard.
  • Close proximity to an international airport.

20 Things I don’t like about living in America.

  • Traffic where the increasing number of tractor-trailers intermingled with idiots make driving conditions extremely difficult not to mention driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Dog days (excluding Tiger…) of summer when the humidity is at its highest and most unbearable.
  • Political correctness.
  • Lack of community spirit.
  • Sense of entitlement of certain racial ethnicities.
  • Deteoriation in customer service in stores, restaurants and bars.
  • Insularity. I’m afraid the “special relationship” that supposedly exists between the UK and USA is grossly exaggerated. Millennials don’t relate to  World War 2 or the British Pop invasion in the ’60s. As one local talking head put it so succinctly: “Britain is that little island off the west coast of Europe.”
  • Total bias of major TV and radion networks whether it be conservative or liberal. The media has become propaganda machines favoring one party over the other unwilling to give the public objective commentary on current affairs.
  • Eighteen months of personal mud slinging campaigning to earn the right to be the presidential candidate for your Party. And boy have we ended up with two humdingers in Clinton and Trump.
  • Sixty feet high trees falling on my house and in my yard.
  • The fallacy that I could reinvent myself in USA.
  • Noisy restaurants. I can’t understand why people need to shout and scream at each other across the table.
  • Roofs (shingles) which only have a shelf life of 15-20 years. Where is the good old Welsh slate when you need it?
  • The South’s obsession with college football. Alabama doesn’t have a professional sports team, but the Crimson Tide (University of Alabama) attracts 90,000 to home games. They enjoyed a similar attendance for a practice game last season. (14)
  • Sports radio stations in Atlanta, and the irrelevant pre-season NFL football games.

A Great Weekend for the Men in Crimson

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

There are similarities in my two sports teams other than they both wear red shirts. The Atlanta Falcons were coming off a 4-12 season and I didn’t believe they made sufficient moves to strengthen the team. Wales lost two of their star players, Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb, to injury and I didn’t believe they would qualify from the group stage let alone win the World Cup.

Both teams came from behind  on the weekend to win against the odds. Wales had the unenviable task of trying to defeat England in their own back yard. They did so miraculously 28-25, but unfortunately lost yet another key player, Scott Williams, to injury. There was much to savor if like me, you’re a Welshman. The English media devoted columns to analyzing England’s chances while The Western Mail was the only national (albeit in the Principality) newspaper to give a detailed perspective on Wales’s chances.

The National media in England is so myopic that they still believe England can qualify for the quarter finals. They would have to beat Australia in order to progress which is asking for a near miracle. Ask Welsh fans, miracles do sometimes occur at Twickenham.

The Atlanta Falcons were playing the Dallas Cowboys away which is always a daunting task. However, the Cowboys had several players missing through injury and suspension, none more so than their quarter back Tony Romo which gave the Falcons a slight edge. Nine minutes into the game the Falcons were 0-14 down and the Cowboys running back, Randell, was running amok. He scored 3 touch downs in the first quarter. Atlanta managed two touchdowns of their own, but went into the locker room at halftime trailing 17-28.

The Falcons came out for the second half resembling a different team and won comfortably 39-28. There were two stellar performances from Devanta Freeman and Julio Jones. Freeman produced the best rushing performance since 2012 with 30 carries, 141 yards and 2 TDs. Julio Jones continued his demolition of NFL teams’ defenses with 164 yards, 12 receptions and 2 TDs.

Obviously, Tom Jones not only inspired the Welsh team on the weekend, but he got the message across to Julio Jones who must be a relative, or a kindred spirit. The Falcons are 3-0 on the season, one of only 7 teams left undefeated in the NFL. They are looking forward to two home games against Houston and Washington and on current form neither should present much of a challenge.

Similarly Wales have a trap game against Fiji tomorrow (Thursday) which shouldn’t present too much of a problem following their heroics on Saturday. But if my memory serves me correctly, Wales have lost to Fiji in a previous World Cup. Despite their run of injuries, the pack remains in tact. The Falcons need to wrap Julio Jones in cotton wool during the week and only let him loose on Sunday because he is the difference maker.

Speaking of dog soldiers, the unsung heroes of the pack, Falcons Head Coach was not satisfied with the Offensive Line during pre-season games and a week before the regular season signed 3 or 4 journeymen to protect the quarter back, Matt Ryan. Ignoring a few hiccups they have done a good job impressing Atlanta cynics; including myself.

I would still not place a bet on Wales winning the World Cup or the Atlanta Falcons winning the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t diminish the excitement and exhilaration they created for me and thousands of other fans last weekend. Go Falcons; Cymru am Byth!

Professional Sports and Media Whores.

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Memo (that dates me) from editor: if you can’t find a story then make one up. That would appear to be the case when there is a two week gap between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. This is dead time in the American sporting calendar. Save for mundane basketball  and hockey games there is not much going on.

The two teams to contest the Super Bowl ( Seattle and New England ) have been determined, and the week leading up to the big event is hyped up to turbo charge with endless, meaningless players and coaches interviews, analysis by retired players turned talking heads, and previews of the commercials specifically designed for the event. Don’t knock the Super Bowl commercials because more times than not they make better viewing than the actual game.

To prove my point regarding the dead zone, a story involving New England deflating match balls for their Championship game against Indianapolis has been running for nearly two weeks. They even managed to give it a name: “Deflategate.” The Patriots have a habit for courting controversy. A few years back they were involved in “Spygate” when they were caught illegally spying on their opponents training regimes. Apparently (I know, it’s a word I’ve come to rely on) the match balls were deflated prior to the game to give quarter back Tom Brady the edge. It didn’t appear he needed much assistance in routing the Colts 45-7.

Both quarter back and Head Coach pleaded their innocence, and the fall guy will be some lowly schmuck in the locker room. The punishment for this transgression will be the loss of a draft pick. The Patriots will take that in a heart beat because they usually trade away their picks and sign players cut by other teams turning them into super heroes in the process. Now that’s a story guys!

But here’s the kicker. If New England violated the rules as this long winded story implies then why not reverse the result and place Indianapolis in the Super Bowl? Answer: it’s a storm in the proverbial tea cup ( substitute super bowl) generated by the media whores who can’t think of anything better to write about.

Turning closer to home, the Atlanta Falcons decided to fire their Head Coach, Mike  Smith, following two desultory losing seasons. His time management left a lot to be desired and I’m pretty sure he will be late for his own funeral. Nice man, but he’d taken the franchise as far it could go.

So the Falcons jumped onto the merry go round  of potential candidates for the Head Coaching vacancy. The local media whores, not much different from their national brothers, were canvassing for the appointment of Rex Ryan recently fired from the New York Jets. He had just finished  a 4-12 losing season which was worse than previous incumbent Mike Smith. Ryan has not enjoyed  a winning season since 2009, so why all the fuss to hire him by the local media? He makes good copy. He is controversial with his off the wall interviews, he’s a blow hard, and he sucks his wife’s toes. I kid you not! He’s always good for a headline or two, but can he take his team to the promised land? I don’t believe so.

This unfortunate episode sums up the character of the man. The Falcons had interviewed him once and were planning to invite him back for a second interview when Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s mother died. The interview was put on hold while Mr. Blank attended to the funeral arrangements. True to form Mr. Ryan came back with an unforgettable statement: ” I had the impression the Falcons were dragging their feet, so I accepted the job with the Buffalo Bills. They gave me the impression that they really wanted me to be their Head Coach.” Good luck to the Bills handling the prima donna’s baggage.

I’m sure the January transfer window in the world of soccer was a brain child of the media. There is a down time after Christmas and the next round of the Champions league doesn’t kick off until March. Absurd rumors were circling the air waves pronouncing that Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale were disenchanted with their clubs and they would be transferred to the Premiership during the transfer window. That is just as likely to happen as England winning the World Cup in 2018.

Unfortunately constant speculation in the press regarding Swansea City’s star striker, Wilfried Bony, became reality when Manchester City “made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.” I believe it is an unfair (not illegal) practice which allows the bigger, wealthier clubs to wave their cheque books at the mid table teams and prize away their  star players in the middle of the season.

The January transfer should be dropped, and teams assembled at the beginning of the season should determine their clubs’ destiny. Here “endeth” Daveswelshrarebits’ first lesson of 2015.


QBs and HCs

Friday, January 16th, 2015


The success of the National Football League can be attributed to its relatively short season compared to the other major sports in America. The regular season comprises 16 games played between September-December, and the playoffs are held during January leading to the Super Bowl on February 1st.

Last weekend was probably my favorite weekend of the season when we are reduced to four divisional  games with eight teams competing for the right to play in the two Conference Championship games; the winners of which compete in the Super Bowl.

An NFL team win or loses on the performance of the quarter back. He is the guy who pulls the strings and executes the plays devised by the coaches. Itemized below is my potted assessment of the roles played by the eight QBs on display last weekend:

  • Baltimore and Joe Flacco, threw for 4 touchdowns but also incurred 2 interceptions. Should have controlled the clock better to deprive the Patriots of a comeback. Not once but twice!
  • New England and Tom Brady, imperious and showed the world why he is one of the greatest QBs of all time.
  • Carolina and Cam Newton, “superman” deterred by a kryptonite defense.
  • Seattle and Russell Wilson, solid performance by Wilson, and with the help of a great running game, did enough to ensure a comfortable win.
  • Dallas and Tony Romo, probably the most overrated QB in the league. Nearly a match for Rodgers on this occasion  because Rodgers was playing virtually on one leg.
  • Green Bay and Aeron Rodgers, courageous performance by the regular season’s MVP. Hop- a- Long Cassidy pulled the strings in the second half for a memorable win.
  • Indianapolis and Andrew Luck, the evolution continues with Tom Brady next in his gun sights.
  • Denver and Peyton Manning, the old warhorse has finally been beaten by father thyme.

The regular season may only last four months, but the off the field circus continues unabated for the rest of the year. The carousel of hiring and firing of coaches takes center stage at the end of the season quickly followed by players’ free agency and the four day draft of college players.  Assessing the draft by the sports’ talking heads has developed into an art form.

My team, Atlanta Falcons, fired their coach Mike Smith following a disappointing 6-10 season. For some reason, the favorite to replace him was the boorish Rex Ryan recently fired from the New York Jets after posting a 4-12 losing record. The local sports media supported his appointment for some reason, but we dodged a bullet when he accepted  the head coaching job at Buffalo Bills.

The NFL coaching fraternity resembles a good old boys  network because no sooner does one of their own lose his job he is inevitably hired by another team. Half a dozen candidates have recently completed the circuit of teams with coaching vacancies while Mike Smith maintained a low profile. However, it is rumored he will be offered the Defensive Coordinator job at the Oakland Raiders by his friend and former boss Jack Del Rio who they recently appointed Head Coach.

Meanwhile we are down to the wire with four teams remaining:

Green Bay @ Seattle

Indianapolis @ New England.


The Biggest Turkeys for Thanksgiving

Friday, November 28th, 2014

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and thanks to my Big Green Egg we enjoyed a succulent, juicy turkey for dinner. On the subject on turkeys listed below are some of the biggest ones for 2014:

  1. Barak Obama. I’m not going to validate this bozo by giving him his official title. How many other presidents would have sat back and allowed Americans to be beheaded by a terrorist organization? Answer; only one: HIM. This is the man who allowed Putin to bully him and Ukraine without any meaningful recourse.This is a man who should be impeached for overriding Congress and abusing his Executive Powers. This is the man who claimed that France are America’s greatest allies.
  2. Alex Salmond. The Scottish Independence vote had no chance with this used car salesman at the helm. He did not have an answer when UK Government informed him Scotland could not retain the Pound Sterling as a currency should they gain independence. The Bank of Scotland pulled the rug up from him when they announced they would move to London should Scotland win independence.
  3. Frank Wren. the general manager of the Atlanta Braves threw millions of dollars at mediocre players not fit enough to lace the cleats of former greats Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux. Malcontent BJ Upton was given $75 million to behave like a clown in center field. Dan (Mr Magoo) Uggla was mercifully released but is still owed $19 million. Frank Wren was eventually shown the door, but not before he ensured  $65 million is tied up with the remaining years of Upton and Uggla’s contracts.
  4. Mayor of Atlanta and his Chief of Transportation. In January, heavy snow and frozen ice conditions were forecast well in advance of the anointed time. These two gentlemen chose to ignore the impending storm and the City of Atlanta was brought to its knees leaving thousands of motorists stranded.
  5. Head Coach Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons. Clearly Mr. Smith missed the seminar on time management. Two games were blown this season due to his  incompetence at controlling the clock when his team were minutes from victory. The game staged in London against the Detroit Lions was more embarrassing since it was played out on a global stage.
  6. Luis Suarez. The little man chose to audition for the new Dracula movie by biting a chunk out of an Italian defender in the middle of  a World Cup football match.
  7. Brendan Rodgers. Tasked with replacing Dracula wannabe, Luis Suarez, Liverpool spent $190 million on a bunch of “garden shed” players. After a winless November, Liverpool are languishing in 12th place in the Premiership and struggling to remain in the Champions League. Meanwhile Rodgers is adamant that he is the greatest manager in Europe.
  8. Tom Watson. Eight time major champion and former winning Ryder Cup captain was plucked from the knacker’s yard to right the floundering American ship. Unfortunately he was completely adrift from his players who could not relate to a “legend;” some young and immature enough to call him granddad.
  9. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return. Hollywood’s animated movie has not fared very well; Box Office: $19 million, Budget: $70 million, Return: 27%. The only thing that will be “Frozen” on this movie will be its assets.
  10. The Welsh rugby team. Wales have not beaten the All Blacks since 1953 when Bleddyn Williams was captain and the late Cliff Morgan was fly half. It’s not a mental thing dummy. They are quite simply better than us.
  11. Everyone who left Southampton FC in the summer.

Speaking of New Zealand, bring on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (with apologies to Joan Baez)

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

A couple weeks ago (I should have written this post earlier, but I don’t have an editor breathing down my neck) the cities of Los Angeles and New York brought Atlanta professional sports teams to their knees. Divided by only a couple of hours the LA Dodgers defeated the Braves 4 games to 1 in the post season playoffs, and the New York Jets flew into town to defeat the Falcons 30-28.

Ironically the Atlanta teams led in their contests only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the last few minutes of the game. The Braves came from behind to lead the Dodgers 3-2, but gave up a two run homer in the 8th innings. Craig Kimbrel, the best closer in baseball, twiddled his thumbs while he watched journey man David Carpenter be put to the sword. Meanwhile The Falcons scored a touchdown to lead 28-27 with two minutes to go. Incredulously, they couldn’t prevent rookie quarter back Geno Smith from engineering a 60 yard march down the field to place his kicker in range for a field goal and win the game.

The Falcons began the season with high expectations. They finished the previous season with an impressive record 13-3 and were within one play of the Super Bowl only to come up short against a buoyant San Francisco team. Tony Gonzalez was persuaded to delay his retirement for one more season, and he did so gladly believing this was the team that would finally give him a well-deserved Super Bowl ring. To be honest,  the Falcons over achieved last season. They won several games by a field goal margin or less, and by the same token this season’s defeats (4 out of 6) have been by similar margins.

The team has been decimated by injuries. Ten starters are lost for the season or sidelined for several weeks. Bierman, Jackson, Jones, Ewing, Johnson, Weatherspoon, Roddy White need I go on? Well I’m going to anyway. There were weaknesses for all to see last season, but they were not adequately addressed. They have one of the worst pass rush records in the league, the offensive line doesn’t protect a $100 million quarter back, the corner backs can’t tackle, and they don’t have a dominant line- backer.

Meanwhile the Braves won 96 games in the regular season but have not won a post season series since 2001. Unfortunately it’s not surprising. Yes, six of the line-up hit 20 plus homers in the season, but most of the time it was against moderate pitching. Brian McCann went 0-13 in the series they lost to the Dodgers. Elliot Johnson who replaced the hapless Dan Uggla went 1-14, Justin Upton
2-14 and Heyward 3-18. B J Upton sitting on a $75 million contract hit for a .184 average in the regular season and was 25th on the roster for the post season.

There are several questions that need to be addressed by the two Atlanta teams:

  1. Should Frank Wren, the Braves general manager be fired? He gave Dan Uggla a 4 year contract at $13 million a year on the basis of being a Braves killer. B J Upton was awarded a $75 million contract which was an exorbitant amount of money for an average player. Who can forget $60 million wasted on pitcher Derek Lowe? Based on the fact that the Braves Organization is a middle income earner, money cannot be wasted on big contracts and therefore Wren should be shown the door.
  2. Should Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons general manager be fired? Quite simply, yes! His draft picks have proved to be mediocre at best and free agents have not set the house on fire. Matt Ryan was awarded a $100 million contract prior to this season, but little attempt was made to protect him by improving a porous offensive line.
  3. Should Dan Uggla be traded? Uggla has two years remaining on his contract and is owed $26 million. The man had the worst hitting average in baseball last season, .179. He was fitted with contact lenses in the summer and had Lasik surgery in August to improve his vision, but to no avail. The Braves would have to eat $20 million of his contract if they were to trade him, but it makes sense and he has to go.
  4. Should Tony Gonzalez be traded? He is arguably the Falcons’ best player right now, but deserves to fulfill his dream of winning a Super Bowl. If the Falcons lose another game before the trade deadline (October 26, 2013) which is likely, then Gonzalez should be offered the opportunity to move to a contending team.
  5. Should free agents Hudson and McCann be offered new contracts? Hudson is recovering from a broken ankle and is 38 years old. He is too old to be the ace on the staff and needs to be put out to pasture. McCann will command a $100 million contract and is simply not worth it. He is only 30 years old but plays like a middle aged man, and his performance in the post season was truly pathetic. So it’s farewell to Tim and Brian.

I am often accused of viewing my glass as half empty rather than half full, but I prefer to call myself a realist. I get irritated when Fredi Gonalez, manager of the Braves, claims his players were over excited when they lost the opening game to the Dodgers. I would have more respect for the man if he admitted they sucked!!! Say good night Joan…….good night Joan.



Doctor, Doctor, Give me Something to ease my Pain

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Two weeks ago the Atlanta Falcons were within 10 yards of reaching the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history. That they fell tantalizingly close lies squarely at the feet of quarter back Matt Ryan. Yes, he threw for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns, but failed to deliver when it really mattered.

The Falcons led 17-0 after one quarter and 24-14 at halftime. They couldn’t score another point in the second half and, shades of the previous week, the defense appeared to run out of steam yielding two more touchdowns for a Niners 28-24 victory. Perhaps it’s a little unfair to lay the blame solely on Ryan’s shoulders, but he gave up two interceptions and a fumble in a pointless second half.

 There was more than a ray of hope when Harry Douglas’ catch was confirmed after review; allowing Ryan to attempt another comeback win with very little time on the clock. Alas some players are destined for greatness while others are confined to mediocrity.

Defeat was a tough pill to swallow, made sickenly worse by the buildup to Super Bowl Sunday. The two teams contesting for the Lombardi Trophy are the Baltimore Ravens and of course the San Francisco Forty Niners. Ironically brothers Jim and John Harbough are the respective head coaches which have afforded the talking heads a field day.

Niners’ quarter back Colin Kaepernick maybe a nice guy but I do not want another shot of him kissing his tattooed bicep. Neither do I want to witness “killer” Ray Lewis getting his hands on the trophy. The last time the Super Bowl was held in Atlanta was in 2000. In the early hours a man was found dead in Ray Lewis’ limousine and Lewis was covered in the man’s blood. One of Lewis’s gang friends is currently serving time for the team.

A few days later, 4000 miles away, the Swans helped to ease my pain by holding Chelsea to 0-0 draw and defeated the Pensioners 2-0 on aggregate to reach the League Cup Final for the first team in their 100 year history. Ironically, the Swans were forced to savor a bitter sweet moment because of the silly antics of a ball boy, Charlie Morgan.

Chelsea were pressing for a goal with a few minutes remaining and the ball had gone out of play. The proper Charlie refused to return the ball to Chelsea player Hazard, and the seventeen year old heir to a $60 million fortune promptly lay on the ball to prevent Hazard from retrieving it. Real time presented a picture of Hazard giving the ball boy a good kicking which he richly deserved. However replays confirmed that the player kicked the ball from under the spoilt little brat. Nevertheless Hazard was sent off and Charlie received his fifteen minutes of fame worldwide.

What can one make of this crazy world when a ball boy achieves more headlines than his club reaching a cup final in their Centenary year? Thankfully the sporting romantic side of me received a shot in the arm from the march of the giant killers in the 4th round of the FA Cup. Premiership teams Liverpool, Aston Villa, Norwich, Queens Park Rangers, and my beloved Spurs all fell to clubs from lower divisions. Americans don’t quite understand the concept of sharks swimming in the same pool as minnows and sometimes coming off second best.

Football’s January transfer deadline proved to be a whimper save for some panic buys by Harry “barrow boy” Redknapp in his quest to save QPR from relegation while Alan Pardew bought himself a French Connection at Newcastle. Surprisingly Swansea City agreed to sell Danny Graham without arranging a replacement. Graham was the club’s top scorer last season with 14 goals. Admittedly he hasn’t played regularly this season due to the emergence of Spanish midfielder Michu, but he managed to score 7 goals this term with limited playing opportunities.  I hope they don’t rue the day Graham returned home to his native North East because Spaniards don’t relish the cold weather.

Yesterday, Wales began their defense of the Six Nations Title only to be kicked into touch by a rampaging Irish team. No team, not even the All Blacks, can trail 3-30 at half time and expect to win at international level. It was commendable that Wales fought back to 22-30 in the second half, but can we stop deluding ourselves? Wales has now lost their last five home games with Rob Howley temporarily in charge in lieu of Warren Gatland’s leave of absence to coach the British Lions. Unfortunately foot soldiers rarely make good generals.

How many weeks are there to the beginning of the baseball season?