Archive for July, 2010

101 Dalmatians (A Midseason Review of The Atlanta Braves)

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

 The Atlanta Braves have 101 games in the bank with 61 games left to play before the end of the season and are holding onto first place in the Eastern Division. Now the speculation begins on whether they can make the playoffs and subsequently contend in the World Series. I wrote a blog at the beginning of the season outlining The Braves prospects,  and this seems an appropriate time to post a review on their endeavours so far.

 At the All Star Break in early July, The Braves were leading the Eastern Division by seven games over the Phillies. The Phillies have recently won 8 games in a row and now only trail the Braves by 21/2 games. The Braves have lost their last two series to the Marlins and Nationals who are both in the same division as The Braves. I’m concerned because I’m beginning to believe the team overachieved in May and June and their current form is probably more of an accurate benchmark of what they are capable of.

 The glue to their offense comes in the improbable shape of Troy Glaus. He was coming off elbow surgery and very little playing time when the Braves acquired him on a very modest salary. He had very little experience playing first base and quite frankly nothing was expected from him. His figures in April merely confirmed everyone’s trepidations. But just look at his stats on a monthly basis:

 April: 9 RBIs, 2 HRs, hitting average 0.194

May: 28 RBIs, 6 HRs, hitting average 0.330

June: 19 RBIs, 6 HRs, hitting average 0.237

July:    5 RBIs, 0 HRs, hitting average 0.200

 His bat suddenly came alive in June and July which propelled them to first place and going into the All Star Game they enjoyed a seven game advantage over The Phillies. As Glaus’s offensive prowess has cooled off, their wins and losses columns have taken a turn for the worse.

 However, it’s not all about one player and there have been pluses and minuses on the offense. Martin Prado is a revelation at 2nd Base. He has 137 hits, 13 homers, 42 RBIs, a batting average of 0.316 and an impeccable record defensively. Jason Heyward is enjoying a commendable rookie season with a batting average of 0.271, 48 ribbies, and 11 long balls. Conversely, Chipper Jones is sending “SOS” messages to his critics that his career is on the wane. Currently his batting average is 0.251 compared to a career average of 0.306 which is in danger of falling below 300 if he continues to spiral downwards.

  However this is nothing compared to the downfall of Nate Mclouth who is hitting for a 0.168 average and mercifully has been sent down to Triple A to rediscover his swing. Good luck and good riddance. Regrettably for The Braves, the hapless Mclouth signed a 3 year extension to his contract for $15.75 million at the end of last season which is wasted money that they can ill-afford.

 One ray of sunshine on the radar; the malcontent that is Yunel Escobar was traded for Alex Gonzalez which complemented the Venezuelan connection in The Braves clubhouse. Escobar promptly hit a grand slam in his debut for the Blue Jays and while Gonzalez executes an exquisite defense with his glove, he has failed to add to his impressive total of 17 home runs in the first half of the season. Omar Infante fulfills the utility role so well that he was controversially called up for the all star game.

 Good pitching beats good hitting so let’s take a look at the season stats for the starting pitchers:

Hudson: 11-5, ERA: 2.40

Lowe: 10-9, ERA: 4.58

Hanson: 8-7, ERA: 3.99

Medlen: 6-2, ERA: 3.57

Kawakami: 1-9, ERA: 4.75

Jurrjens: 3-3, ERA: 4.37

 Tim Hudson has proven to be a revelation against my better judgment while my worst fears were confirmed with Kawakami, currently making his way through a $23 million contract and is a total bust. He is currently languishing in the bull pen but hasn’t made an appearance since late June. Hanson has cooled off following early season promise and Jurrjens is just return from a lengthy stint on the injury list which could prove to be very beneficial down the stretch.

 Derek Lowe has pitched predictably which ostensibly means he has pitched like a No 4 or 5 starter while receiving a pitching ace’s contract. Further on the plus side, Johnny Venters came from nowhere to claim a reliever’s spot in the bullpen and has proved to be outstanding. Billy Wagner has recovered from a couple of blimps in his closing role and is proving to all in his final season why he is a future hall of famer.

 The $64,000 question is: will The Braves make it to the post season? The Phillies have just strengthened their pitching rotation considerably with the acquisition of Roy Oswallt from the Houston Astros. The Braves could do with a major bat in their line up, but it is doubtful whether they have the financial clout to pull off a lucrative deal.

 $38 million is tied up with the hapless duo Mclouth and Kawakami and no team in their right mind would be willing to give up a player in a trade for either of those two. There could be a couple of modest tweaks to the squad as trade deadline approaches, but I’m not expecting The Braves to pull off  a block buster of a deal. Their current line up looks like this:

  • Prado
  • Heywood
  • Chipper
  • McCann
  • Glaus
  • Gonzalez
  • Hinske/Diaz
  • Cabrera/Blanco


It doesn’t strike fear into the soul of leading major league pitchers, but teamwork and chemistry can work wonders and make up for a shortfall in quality and talent. Who am I kidding? The Phillies are on a roll and will win the division, but the Braves could still make the playoffs as the Wildcard so let the chips lay where they fall.

Antique or Classic?

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

 My 93 year old mother-in-law reluctantly gave me her car nearly five years ago. She and my late father-in-law are the only previous owners, but her eyesight was failing and she could no longer drive safely (which is the operative word.) The car is a Buick Electra Park Avenue and recently celebrated its 27th birthday. In the eyes of the tag office, that makes it an antique car which no longer requires an emission test. I’m not complaining because it saves me $25 on the test, but logic would suggest that the older the car the more important to have an emission test. Supposedly, the tag office’s computer can’t cope with the fact that a 27year old car continues to traverse the highways, or that anyone would wish to drive a car that resembles a mechanical dinosaur.

 This is a brute of a car which could easily accommodate seven people and also have room for Snow White. The hood is the size of a six person dining room table, but the piece de resistance is the horn which I swear was salvaged from the Titanic. I’ve witnessed grown men cower in its wake. Fellow motorists, who have had the temerity to cut me up and incur the wrath of the horn, take alternative routes or slam on their brakes in shock and awe.

 There are a few disadvantages in driving a monolith around the streets of Atlanta. For one thing, the Peachtree Street lanes through Buckhead are approximately the same width as my car much to the consternation of fellow motorists. It is not very environmentally friendly or energy conscious since I’m lucky to achieve 12 miles to the gallon, and it barely fits into my garage. It also has no air conditioning, which came to my attention in the drive back from Alabama where my mother-in-law lives. We attempted the journey during the dog days of summer 2005 when temperatures sore into the nineties and humidity is around 100%. Basically it’s very hot and sticky! We had just made it across the border into Georgia when we drove smack into a thunderstorm.

 The windows and my eye glasses immediately steamed up and the car was quickly transformed into a portable sauna. I managed to leave the interstate at the next exit by hanging my head out of the car window while keeping one hand on the wheel and gasping for air. The only solution was to open all the windows, turn the heat onto the wind shield and tentatively return to the interstate. Soaking wet and exhausted, I must have lost about 10 pounds by the time I finally arrived home.

 There were many occasions when I have wanted to sell the car or drop it off at the nearest knackers’ yard ; none more so than when I drove to a job interview. It was during the middle of August, (the dog days of summer again) and the interview was arranged for 3.00pm at a location just south of the airport. I knew it would be uncomfortable in the car without air conditioning, so I allocated 2 hours for a trip which would normally take approximately 25 minutes and, boxing clever, packed a change of shirt. Georgia Navigator indicated that my best shot was to take I85 south through downtown, and the journey went well until approaching The Varsity where unaccountably a yellow Volkswagen and a semi-truck had become acquainted sufficiently to block three lanes. Wet and bedraggled, I managed to arrive at my destination with about 15 minutes to spare and an opportunity to change my shirt.

 Unfortunately my shirt was glued to me like a second skin, and I abandoned my plan of a quick change. Entering the building in a mired state, the receptionist led me into the conference room where the interview was to be conducted. I quickly discovered that the thermostat in the room was set at 66 degrees and I began to shiver uncontrollably. A few minutes later my interviewer arrived and took one look at me and asked in an anguished voice: “Are you sickening for something? It would appear that you have a classic (get it? Classic? Oh well please yourself) case of summer flu. Needless to say I wasn’t offered the job, but I learned two invaluable lessons. What are those Cecil? I should never apply for jobs between May and September if my only mode of transport is a 1983 Buick Electra, Park Avenue. Secondly, I should never have promised my mother-in-law to have and to hold her precious car for better or worse for the rest of its natural life.

Footnote: the Classic Car Club of America define Classic as a “fine” or “distinctive” automobile, either American or foreign built, produced between 1925 and 1948. Generally, a Classic was high-priced when new and was built in limited quantities. Other factors, including engine displacement, custom coachwork and luxury accessories, such as power brakes, power clutch, and “one-shot” or automatic lubrication systems, help determine whether a car is considered to be a Classic.

More common usage fundamentally equates Classic car with the definition of antique car as used by the Antique Automobile Club of America, who define an Antique car as one over 25 years old. Thus, popular usage is that any car over 25 years old can be called a ‘classic car’.

25 years is generally considered a good cut-off age for such terms because it’s extremely rare for a vehicle that old to still be owned or used without special consideration for its classic status – by 25 years old, a car will have exceeded its design life by some considerable margin, 10-15 years being the norm barring accidental loss. It will probably need significant maintenance to keep running, and many parts will be hard to obtain through the usual channels. Thus, a non-enthusiast will sensibly conclude that it is not feasible to continue using a car that old for regular driving.

The Dinner Party

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

My wife and I recently joined a wine club and encouraged a few of our neighbors to do likewise. The wine company ships several bottles of wines to you which are accompanied by a range of recipes which can be paired with the wines purchased with your order.

 We attended our first “wine and dinner” party a couple of months ago with five people in attendance and it proved to be a very successful evening. It was nearing the end of June and my wife was conscious of the fact that nobody had bothered to arrange another Suarez. Time was of the essence with July and August looming and people invariably take vacations in those months with no time for dinner parties.

 It was on a Tuesday when my wife e-mailed her fellow wine club members to ask whether anyone was available to attend a dinner party for the forthcoming Saturday. The response was overwhelming with nine people including ourselves signed up. I was informed on the Thursday that the event was to take place at our home, but I would not be required to contribute time or effort but merely show up and be a gregarious host.

 My wife conferred with fellow recipients and it was agreed that she would provide pork chops for the entrée, and prepare the dessert. Connie was designated to bring appetizers, Kelly would provide a salad, and Kathy decided to make asparagus soup. Our local wine store suggested that Kathy pair her soup with champagne which proved to be an intriguing combination for the second course of our meal. Kelly also decided to contribute an appetizer which could function as a midnight snack if the main meal didn’t hit the right spots.

 Tanya brought a side dish of rice pilaf to accompany the pork chops and my wife would later throw in green beans for good measure. The evening’s meal had taken shape:

  • Appetizers: Shrimp dip, Mexican corn dip, and havarti cheese. Wine pairing: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
  • Starter: Asparagus soup; wine pairing: champagne
  • Salad: Spinach salad with toasted pecans, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar dressing; paired with the remaining Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
  • Entrée: Grilled pork chops marinated in Italian dressing and Worcestershire sauce, stirred fried Vidalia onions & Granny Smith apples, rice pilaf and green beans. Wine pairing: Sangiovese
  • Dessert: Roasted pears with almonds, cranberries and white chocolate drizzle. Wine pairing: Late harvest viognier

  It was 7:15pm; the first guests began to arrive and we elected to serve the appetizers downstairs in the den which proved to be a mixed blessing. Conversation was flowing; the Braves game was on TV and moving into the crucial 9th and final inning. Everyone was happy and relaxed with a glass or two of the opening salvo of wine. Kathy wanted to know when we could open the champagne and I gently reminded her it should see the light of day during the second course. After much cajoling, the dinner guests moved back upstairs to take their seats at the dining table. Earlier in the day we realized that we only had 8 place settings including cutlery for nine people. No worries; I gave myself a mongrel set and nobody really noticed or they were too polite to comment. The champagne corks were popped and we settled down for the soup which was delicious. In fact every course was delicious.

 Including water goblets, we used nearly 40 glasses during the meal and practically every dish in the house. By the time we arrived at the entrée stage, food and wine pairings had taken a back seat and we were reduced to requesting red or white wine with the subsequent course. Kathy is a professional pianist and, following dessert, provided impromptu entertainment on our Yamaha for the rest of the guests. It was a shame our attempts at singing didn’t match Kathy’s exquisite playing.

 Coffee was served around 11.15pm which destroyed the myth that Americans prefer to eat fast and furious. A four hour meal was in the books and even a Frenchman would have been impressed by the conviviality. Fine wine, great company, delectable food, and the sweet sound of ivories tinkling on a piano; what could be better?

Spain Claims the Pot in Card Game

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Congratulations to Paul the Psychic Octupus for correctly predicting that Spain would win the World Cup Final while I got my selection wrong again. I was hoping we would finish the tournament with a classic final with the two finalists leaving their cynicism in the dressing room to concentrate on playing football. Unfortunately, Holland attempted to kick Spain off the park, and the so-called Dutch Masters played like backstreet cloggers.

Howard Webb, the English referee issued a record 14 yellow cards and eventually one red card in extra-time. In hindsight, it may have proved prudent to have given “the Karate Kid” Nigel de Jong a red card when he implanted a stud imprint on Alonso’s chest. The players would have realized that Webb was not going tolerate any nonsense. Alternatively an early goal by Spain would have created a more flowing contest instead of the “cat and mouse” theatricals we were subjected to.

Holland’s line-up was designed to prevent Spain from playing their flowing football. De Jong and Van Bommel played in front of the back four and rarely crossed the half way line. Their mission was to shackle Xavi and Iniesta and it nearly worked. Van Bommel would comfortably win the trophy for dirtiest player of the tournament if they awarded one. Their only attacking outlets emanated from Van Persie, Robben and Sneijda. Robben had two great chances to score and could have won the game for Holland if he had shown a little more composure. Sneijda executed one sublime through ball to set up Robben for a “one on one” with the goalkeeper who managed to stick out a despairing boot to deflect it for a corner.

In contrast, Spain weaved pretty patterns around the field, but for all their attractive build up, had difficulty putting the ball in the net. The decision to play David Villa as a lone striker in the semi-final and final nearly back fired. Earlier in the tournament, he had posed a far more potent threat coming in from the left scoring five goals from that position. Torres’s lack of form and fitness necessitated a change in tactics, but Fabregas’s inclusion from the start may have proved a better alternative. Spain scored a meager 8 goals in seven matches to win the world cup while Germany top scored with 16. The Latinos deserved to win the cup if only because they were the best of a mediocre bunch.

What price on Holland’s legacy formerly lauded and respected for their “total football?” In the seventies they appeared in two world cup finals by playing with elegance and creativity. Now their cynicism which reared its ugly head against Brazil has left a sour taste in the mouth. The Dutch urgently need to return to the canvas and create another impression.

In previous world cups one player has made the tournament his own: Pele in 1970, Cruyff in 1974, Kempes in 1978, Rossi in 1982, Maradona in 1986, Zidane in 1998, and Ronaldo in 2002 to name a few. There were the pretenders to the crown in 2010 in the various shapes of Messi, Christian Ronaldo and even Rooney. None of them were up to the task. Diego Forlan had a good world cup for Uruguay, Shweinsteiger, Meuller and Ozil were shining lights for Germany, Xavi, Iniesta and Ramos were class above their opposite numbers, but nobody really imposed his personality on the tournament.

 One little oddity to leave you with: New Zealand were the only team in the tournament to remain undefeated. They managed three draws in the group stage but didn’t produce enough points to progress to the knock out round. Did anyone give Spain a prayer when they lost their opening match to Switzerland? Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Iniesta scored the winning goal in the final to give Spain the World Cup for the first time. See you in Brazil in four years.

News Headlines from a British Tabloid

Monday, July 12th, 2010

 I was flying back from Britain the other day and purchased a damp edition of the Daily Mail before boarding. When we were safely airborne, I began reading my newspaper over a cup of tepid, murky dish water that the flight attendant amusingly referred to as coffee. Flicking through the pages, I found myself laughing hysterically at some of the   news headlines.

Now the Daily Mail admittedly is a tabloid, but it can sometimes be mistaken for a semi-serious newspaper which made the headlines even more bizarre. A number of them are itemized below with one or two comments of my own thrown to the wolves for good measure:


  • How the way to a woman’s heart is through the ironing board…..they still use them in the UK?
  • Hosepipe ban arrives with a washout…as seven million Britons prepare for their first hosepipe ban in 14 years; the Met Office is predicting two days of rain. Hey guys, get your buckets ready to collect the watery substance.
  • What planet is he on? “Just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically colored cocktails and talking about boys.” Lord Rodger…….this is in response to The Government refusing asylum claims by gay men on the grounds they could hide their sexuality-and therefore avoid persecution at home-by behaving discreetly.
  • Parents back smacking….in anti-smack charity poll……but leave the head alone. I can recall a number of sadistic teachers in my school days, most of whom taught arts and crafts, who took great delight in assaulting pupils.
  • Sports day ban for dad with no CRB check…..a school turned a father away from his son’s first sports day because they did not believe he had undergone checks by the Criminal Records Bureau.
  • A Tarmac path on Snowdon. How long before all Britain’s covered in concrete? Come on now, they are trying to make it easier for gormless school kids wearing unsuitable shoes, women in espadrilles and obese young men in vests clutching cans of beer (Snowdon at 3,560ft is the highest peak in England and Wales) to walk the walk.
  • Is Everyone in Britain drunk? “At night the historic Roman city of Bath was infested with enough drink-fuelled yobbishness to make it unsafe for frail folk to walk home from the cinema.”
  • It’s our party so we’ll moan if we want to…..the annual Summer Ball of the Self-Pitying Society, or SPS is almost upon us. A note on the back of the invitation reads: “To help save the planet this card is made of fully-recyclable material. Not that the planet deserves saving.”
  • Brussels fines us 150 million pounds for failing to fly the EU flag…….on a string of projects part-funded by Europe. Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget contributing 6.4 billion pounds more to Brussels than it receives back .So why don’t we tell them to stick their blue flag where a squirrel keeps his nuts?
  • Cows kill man, 47, in stampede horror…..for no apparent reason
  • Shotgun licence given to child of ten by police……apparently it’s legal but a mother was quoted as saying: “Police are recklessly handing gun licences out like Smarties and it is morally wrong.”
  • The solution to crowded graveyards………RESOMATION where bodies are treated in a steel chamber with potassium hydroxide at high pressure and a temperature of 180 degrees Celsius. Basically the body is dissolved.
  • Squeaker Bercow is the most perfect fool….even he is one, the journalist should respect the position that Bercow holds: Speaker of the House of Commons
  • The seagull who thinks he’s a cat………seems reasonable when you consider Warren Beatty’s daughter thinks she’s his son.
  • Stretch limos for 11-year-olds-are parents round the bend? Yes, quite frankly.
  • So why does Beatty’s girl want to be a boy…..and will Warren ever come to terms with it? It could be worse; his cat may think he’s a seagull.
  • Yes, divorce IS infectious-I caught it from my friends…… did my ex-wife.

Destiny Calls

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Nearly a month of competitive football is completed and we are down to the final two; neither of whom has won the World Cup before:

 Holland v Spain

 Holland didn’t look very convincing in their semi-final against Uruguay. Following two long range goals from each side to keep the game level, Holland were awarded a second goal when they had a player clearly standing in an offside position interfering with the vision of the goalkeeper. Conversely Uruguay didn’t really threaten to equalize and Holland popped up with a third to put the game out of reach. Uruguay’s second goal was scored in time added and was merely academic making the result look more respectable at 3-2.

 The match between Germany and the pre-tournament favorites Spain could be considered a game for the connoisseur. It was a battle of the midfields with Spain having a slight edge. Germany’s Schweinsteiger was not as effective as he was against England and Argentina because he was occupied with quelling the probing of the Barcelona quintessential pair Xavi and Iniesta. It was ironic with so many artisans displaying their skills on the field that the winning goal should come from an old fashioned defender in the shape of Puyol at a routine corner.

  Ozil of Germany threatened to become one of the stars of the tournament in group play but didn’t really contribute in the semi-final. He’s only 21 so his time will come and he is one to watch for the future. Similarly, the veteran striker, Klose rediscovered his goalscoring touch and was outstanding in previous matches in this world cup with a creditable 4 goals. Regrettably for Germany he was totally ineffective in this match along with Podolski. They ran riot against England and Argentina, but failed to deliver when it mattered most. I was not disappointed to see Germany eliminated because I feel England were cheated out of a goal against them by incompetent officials which could have altered the outcome of the match. Justice was therefore done.

 In my World Cup preview, I predicted a final between Brazil and Germany which is looking a bit sick right now. Nevertheless, not many so-called football experts around the globe were forecasting a final between Holland and Spain. Spain does not have a good record in world cups. Their best performance was in 1950, finishing 4th when only 13 teams competed. In the modern era Spain’s best finish was the quarter-finals in 2002. It could be justifiably argued that they have underachieved and they are overdue for a world cup win. The trophy would sit comfortably alongside the European Championship they won in 2008.

 Holland made the final in 1974 and 1978 and were favorites on each occasion; falling firstly to their great rivals Germany when the goal poacher Gerd Muller extraordinaire scored the winner against the run of play. In an emotional second final they were overwhelmed by Argentina playing before their own fans bedecked in a sea of light blue and white in Buenos Aires. The current Holland team does not possess the great performers of some of their former sides which could be the reason they are playing as a team. Nevertheless they are strong on the flanks with the unpredictable match winner Robben and the work horse Dirk Kuyt. Van Persie of Arsenal is playing as the lone striker which is a role he dislikes and he has scored only one goal in the tournament. However, Wesley Sneijder could prove to be Holland’s match winner. He has scored 5 goals from an attacking midfield position in the tournament and also scored the winning goal in the Champions League Final for Inter Milan in May.

 My friend, Fernando complained that the Dutch kicked Brazil off the park in achieving their win and have also taken advantage of lady luck which came their way. Fernando is originally from Columbia and has shown bias toward the South Americans since the tournament began. He conveniently forgets that the Brazilian team didn’t comprise a bunch of choir boys and were capable of looking after themselves. In his defense and a short week ago,a Brazil v Argentina final was looking very likely.

 Never let it be said that the writer of this blog sits on the fence when it comes to offering an opinion or choosing a winner. Holland and Spain are both capable of playing exquisite football weaving intricate passing patterns all over the field. Holland have played 25 matches over nine months without defeat. Only Holland, and surprisingly New Zealand, remain undefeated in this world cup. Therefore I am taking Holland to make it third time lucky and win the world cup even if it takes extra time and penalties to achieve it. We have yet to witness a great game in this tournament, and hopefully they are saving the best until last.

 Footnote: This will be the first time a European team wins the World Cup outside its continent. Paul the Psychic Octopus predicts Spain will beat Holland. Despite their abject performances in this world cup, England will have a presence in the final provided by the bald pate of referee, Howard Webb. Holland and Spain can be grateful that FIFA showed a modocome of sense by appointing a European official to take charge of what is essentially an EU Final.

Paying The Penalty

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Should we have any sympathy for pampered overpaid, underperforming football players who fail to execute penalty kicks which ultimately cost their team fame and fortune, and the match? In a nutshell, hell no! Two are the quarter-final matches were determined on penalty kicks but in entirely different circumstances.

Uruguay and Ghana was a nail-biter for the ages. The game had ended 1-1 after normal time, and they were playing 30 minutes of extra-time where neither team had much energy left and were anxious not to commit a silly mistake to cost their team the match. In the final minute Ghana launched a promising attack which produced a goal bound shot which was handled on the line by their striker, Suarez. He was immediately shown a red card and Ghana was awarded a penalty.

 Ghana’s No 3 confidently strode up and placed the ball on the penalty spot. He had done this a million times and all he had to do was trust his instincts and stroke the ball in the back of the net to put Ghana into the semi-final of the world cup. He approached the ball and blasted the ball against the cross bar. The Uruguayan goalkeeper reached up and kissed the cross bar while Ghana’s No 3 sank to his knees in despair.

The two teams were forced into the penalty shoot-out. Uruguay’s star striker Forlan went first and completed a perfect penalty. Ghana’s No 3 showed tremendous courage in stepping for Ghana’s first kick which he executed perfectly. Que Sara, Sara…… five minutes earlier his second penalty attempt would have earned them a place in the semi-final. Unfortunately, two of his colleague’s kicks were atrocious and Uruguay were through. Football can be a cruel game; tragic for Ghana but ecstasy for Uruguay.

If one thought that the penalty drama in the previous match could not be usurped, think again. Spain and Paraguay were playing cat and mouse with each other and the game was drifting toward extra-time. Paraguay were awarded a corner and in the melee, Piquez wrestled his opponent to the ground and the referee quite rightly awarded a penalty. The Spanish goal keeper dived the right way and comfortably made a save. Spain ran down the field and within a minute were awarded a penalty kick which was subsequently saved by the crossbar kissing Paraguayan goal keeper. Villa scored a late goal for Spain and booked their date with destiny.

The match of the round pitched undefeated Argentina against a young and vibrant Germany. Argentina were hanging on the emotional coat tails of their emotional coach Maradona. Germany scored in the 3rd minute of the game and never removed their hands from Argentina’s jugular. Lionel had reportedly been suffering from flu all week and could have ostensibly remained home in bed for what effect he manifested on the field. Argentina were thoroughly outplayed and were relieved to hear the final whistle having conceded four goals to a bitter rival.

The previous day provided another shock with Brazil losing to Holland. Brazil led 1-0 at half-time and Holland barely had a kick. Early into the second half, Brazil conceded a goal via a defensive error which changed the game’s momentum. Holland’s winner came from a corner kick with 5ft 7” Wesley Sneider providing the game winning header. My Colombian-American friend complained that Holland kicked Brazil off the park aided and abetted by the Japanese referee who had no business handling a game of this magnitude. Again we see this “politically correct” shadow creeping into the world of sport. Regardless of race or political affiliation, the best referees should be selected for the big games.

The Elite Eight (an oxymoron)

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

 The World Cup is about to enter the home stretch and is now down to the final eight with South America dominating proceedings aided and abetted by their Latin cousins Spain. A few words on the elimination of England and USA: England were woeful against Germany and deserved to lose 4-1. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the result would have been different if Frank Lampard’s goal had been awarded. Germany had taken a two goal lead, but England would have leveled the score with two goals in just over a minute leaving Germany on its knees at halftime ready for the taking. ESPN referred to the incident as “no-goal awarded in 38th minute.” Come on people; we should not permit the colonials to crucify our English language.  England’s back four were a complete joke. John Terry’s lack of pace was cruelly exposed by the younger German strikers, Glen Johnson doesn’t have a clue of how to defend, Upson is not international class and Ashley Cole was abandoned by his captain Gerrard on the left side.

 USA’s defeat by Ghana was the result of the Americans’ naivety. You cannot constantly concede early goals at this level and expect to win. They allowed it to happen twice at crucial times in the match; early into the first half and subsequently in the first few minutes of extra time. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde; to concede one early goal is unfortunate; to concede two early goals is sheer carelessness! USA missed a great opportunity to make a statement on the world stage, but inevitably it not meant to be.

 I was so looking forward to the match between Spain and Portugal, two neighboring countries from the Iberian Peninsula. Unfortunately, Portugal’s superstar Ronaldo did not live up to his pre-match hype and surrendered like a damp Roman candle. Messrs Rooney and Ronaldo please exit from the side door and turn the lights off on your way out.

 So anyway, the quarter-final matches look like this:

  • Brazil v Holland
  • Uruguay v Ghana
  • Argentina v Germany
  • Spain v Paraguay

 Brazil hasn’t really been tested in this world cup and they have a few gears left to unleash against The Orange. I am therefore taking Brazil. I like Uruguay against Ghana. Their back four take no prisoners and they have two very good strikers in Forlan and Suarez. Spain has too many weapons to fall at the feet of Paraguay. The Spanish experienced their initial scare in the first match loss to Switzerland and are talented enough to win the damn thing. Argentina against Germany intrigues me. The Argies have a 100% record in this tournament, but Germany surprisingly lost to Serbia in the group stage. Every tournament has its shock result and this could be the moment. I’m taking Germany.

 Spare a thought for Ghana. Their Government paid for 1000 supporters to attend the World Cup, but they ran out of money after 15 days and were required to return home. Meanwhile, 15 Mexican fans housed at a Christian College were arrested and deported for unruly behavior. They were consoled by the fact that Mexico was knocked out of the tournament while Ghana pursues its dream without the support of a 1000 fans clicking their heels at home. There is a moral to this story somewhere but I do not have the literary nuance to suggest something appropriate. Maybe next time I’ll have the answer.