Monday, June 30, 2014

A weekend of thrills at the World Cup

From where I sit it looks like the first four knockout games have given plenty of talking points...


To begin with does Brazil have what it take to actually win the tournament? An upstart Chilean side gave the host team all they could handle and more. Quite frankly the Brazilians looked sloppy in defence and were not fully deserving of the win. Columbia is next and that will hardly be a walkover. The Colombians showed nicely against a shorthanded, but game Uruguay team. Costa Rica managed to make history by qualifying for the quarter-finals in a match that was a stone drag. Costa Rica tried to hold on to a 1-0 lead against a Greek squad that seemed to forget they were up a player. Even in the closing stages as the team traded chances the Greeks still didn't manage to produce a winning goal. However, the match of the weekend was the delightful Netherlands-Mexico affair. The teams traded chances and domination as the game ebbed and flowed. Most great games also have a tinge of controversy and this was no exception. Was Arjen Robben guilty of diving? Yes. Was he fouled? Yup. Therefore, it's a penalty. The Mexicans can complain all they want, but the correct call was made. Here's a simple way to avoid getting called for a penalty - don't foul inside the box. Add to that they still produced a chance to tie after the PK and it was a scintillating game. And there's still four more to go.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The NBA makes another great play and Odjick faces another fight

From where I sit it looks like the NBA got it right again... 

Isaiah Austin could have been a good to great NBA player. Could have. A diagnosis of a rare medical condition ended his playing days before the ink was dry. Making Austin an honorary pick was essentially pointless. It also transcended sport. Creating a spot to pay tribute to a deserving young man was almost perfect. Classy is an overused word, but I can't think of a better way to describe the gesture from Adam Silver and the NBA. Following their strong performance in the Donald Sterling affair, the NBA is now 2-for-2 on the season.

From tears of joy to tears of pain...the health battle facing Gino Odjick...

I grew up cheering for big Gino. Living in suburban Vancouver, the harsh realities of First Nations life were far away.  Odjick brought those concerns to the coast.  He talked openly about growing up and the struggles he faced.  It came as no surprise that Odjick never played a pretty game. It was always raw and emotional. He was a force on the ice. A straight ahead style that had Canuck fans (myself included) chanting "Gi-no, Gi-no" with every hit or fight. The occasional goal brought a raucous celebration from fans and player alike. More than that Odjick battled on the ice. No matter the situation, Gino could be counted on to give it everything he had. Now the battle is in his body. I've got no doubt that he will fight as long as he can. It was how he played and I would expect nothing less. 

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Suarez leaves his mark again and the NHL misses the mark

From where I sit it looks like Uruguay may be in deep trouble...


Not just the challenge of a surprising squad from Columbia in the round of 16. Nor the prospects of Brazil in the next round. It's all falling at the feet, or should that be stuffed in the mouth, of Luis Suarez. Believe it or not Suarez has attempted to defend his actions saying, “These things happen on the pitch.” I'll freely admit I've never played competitive football. I'm hardly an expert on the beautiful game, but with the notable exception of Suarez, I wouldn't describe biting as 'part of the game'. Hard tackles, flying elbows, heads knocking together. I have seen all of those. For all North Americans like to ridicule footballers for flopping all over the place, some of those collisions must hurt. But Suarez seems to enjoy going above and beyond. Biting someone is one thing, but trying to pass it off as part of the game is really reaching. Add to that he's a repeat offender in multiple leagues and I don't see Suarez getting back on the pitch in this World Cup. In the meantime, he should just keep his mouth shut.

The NHL handed out their annual awards in Las Vegas...


I really like that the NHL makes a big production out of awards night. When any league honours it's best there should be a proper level of showmanship involved. There certainly can't be much in the way of complaints about the winners. Crosby, Rask, Kieth, Bergeron, Roy and McKinnon. Deserving winners all. That being said there is one thing missing. Live TV coverage. Yes, it was live in the east. But for those of us in the western time zones, we were left waiting and wondering about the victors. Or, we just followed proceedings on twitter. I'm sure the NHL put on a great show. But I had some shopping to do, then put my daughter to bed. So I just followed along on twitter. For all the NHL does it right, this isn't the 1980s, nothing can be aired on tape-delay and expect people to tune in. Either show the whole thing live or don't bother. It's not something I'm going out of my way to watch, particularly when I already know the results.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A tough draw, but massive upside for US Mens team

From where I sit it looks like the US team has a reason to be thrilled with a draw against Portugal...


This was heartbreaking. It was a split second of brilliance from Ronaldo that cost the Americans full points. The entire second half was as engaging as anything we've seen in the tournament. Watching the reactions of fans around the US was as enthralling as it was sad. So close to a birth in the knockout stages and a come back win over a football powerhouse. What's to be thrilled about? People care. There are viewing parties. It's the lead story not just on the sport pages, but in the news. It's easy to get people excited about a winning team in any sport. There are plenty of bandwagon jumpers no matter who's playing, it's even easier when it's being played at home. But it's when you can see real disappointment; you can tell they are truly fans. The people along for the ride shrug their shoulders and go on with their day. This wasn't a collective shrug from the American people. This was a palpable reaction. They got kicked in the gut. It was like watching reactions in London or Madrid. But this was Los Angeles and Kansas City. In the end the Americans still control their own fate and can advance with a win or draw against Germany. No matter the outcome on Thursday, US Soccer should look back on the tie with Portugal not just as proof they can play with and beat the best; but as evidence that football is finally becoming a major sport in the United States.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A scintillating start to the World Cup

From where I sit it looks like this is shaping up to be a fantastic World Cup...

I'm not even sure where to start. We are a week into the tournament and several delightful things have been established. Don't count on the favorites. Spain is out, Brazil was held to a 0-0 draw by Mexico, Cameroon is imploding and it looks like the Dutch can score at will. That being said, Holland is also riding another trend from Brazil. Come backs. We have seen seven games were the trailing team has fought back to win. Add to that the number of late goals and it's a recipe for excitement. Fully 25 goals have been scored in the last 30 minutes, nine of which came in the last 10, four in stoppage time at the end of the 90. All this has given fans every reason to stay tuned in. We are only just starting the 2nd round of matches and this excitement is already playing out. It's exactly what FIFA needs to distract from the rest of the political and sociological issues surrounding the tournament.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A fun Stanley Cup Final and FIFA deals with headaches in Brazil

From where I sit it looks like a classic end to the Stanley Cup final...

For starters I'll claim partial points on predictions. I got the winner and overtime in the last game. I'm honestly pleasantly surprised going 10-for-15 in the post season.  It really isn't much of a surprise that the Kings managed to take the series in 5 games. In fact, what was a bit of a shock was the Rangers were so competitive. New York dominated long stretches of the series. Even at that the end result was never really in question. The Kings are full value for their win and managed to show how good the Western Conference is. Los Angeles won the Cup and a good argument can be made that they aren't the best team in the west. Chicago, Colorado, Anaheim, even the much maligned Sharks are powerful teams. Boston is the only team from the East that would present a real challenge to the top western teams. That being said, it was still a thrilling final. Given the three overtime wins, they played an equivalent of 6 games. It was eerily reminiscent of the 1993 final between LA and Montreal. But this time the Kings were ready and the Rangers just couldn't keep up.

Meanwhile, the World Cup is off to an interesting start to say the least...

The referees managed to overshadow everything for the first two and a half games. That is until the Dutch decided to show Spain some beautiful football. Dubious penalties and cards marred the first couple of games, and even in the early stages of the Netherlands-Spain match the decisions were questionable at best. Then we saw a return to Total Football. The Orjane showed speed, skill, tenacity and a healthy dose of magic in a second half that was as stunning as it was fantastic. Thankfully, it seems the onslaught of goals from Holland managed to settle everything down. Subsequent matches have shown pace and style, but little in the way of controversy. I know I'm a couple of days late, but here's my picks. It will be a challenge to take Brazil off their perch as favourite, but their road to the final will probably run through either Spain of Holland. Germany and Argentina seem set for a smooth run through to the semi finals. Naturally both England and Italy have their supporters, but will be hard pressed to find themselves in the late round matches. But who will win? Argentina feels like a safe pick. But I'm a proud Dutchman. So, I'm following my heart and picking Holland to finally remove their names from the list of also rans.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Coburn bites off more than he can chew

From where I sit it looks like there is some major controversy over the Belmont Stakes...


I can fully appreciate how Steve Coburn feels. It's frustrating to say the least. I have never seen a Triple Crown winner. I wasn't born when Affirmed won in 1978. Every year we all go in hoping to see history, but once again we are greeted with disappointment. For the majority of sports fans the only time they pay attention to horse racing is the Triple Crown. There have been plenty of close calls in the years since Affirmed. But this one seems particularly galling. It was the glorious underdog, with the blue collar owners taking on the establishment. In other words it had the making of a perfect Hollywood script. And since we all grew up on the ideal of a perfect ending, this felt like it should be preordained. Sorry gang, but reality and the rules got in the way. To begin with there's the basic principle of sport: For every winner there is a loser. I'm sure the Miracle on Ice played out much differently in the USSR. Bill Buckner, Steve Bartman and Ralph Branca all have their names etched in history for their part in losing. That's the reality of life. California Chrome will be remembered as a great horse, who came up one race short. The other issue is the use of fresh horses. And that just comes back to the whole idea of playing by the rules. Any eligible horse can be entered in any or all of the races. It's that simple. Coburn can stand screaming in self-righteous indignation until he's blue in the face. But he's still the newcomer taking on a couple centuries of horse racing. Nevermind the lack of a Triple Crown winner since 1978, there hasn't been an English Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970 and he's the only post World War 2 winner. The point is that it's hard to do. And that's what keeps people tuning in. The chance, however remote it might be, that some day we will see a horse beat all comers and write his name in hsitory.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rangers have legitimate complaints about game 2

From where I sit it looks like the NHL will be pressured for more video reviews...


There is no such thing as a perfect system for reviewing plays. Baseball has it's new challenge system and is still seeing arguments over calls. In the NBA the refs make the review themselves and can still get it wrong. Instant replay has been in use in the NHL since the mid-90s. It's undergone many changes, but is more needed? Possible following the controversy in game 2 of the Stanley Cup final. Not only should Dwight King's goal have not counted, but the Kings should have been given a delay of game penalty just seconds before the winning goal was scored. However, goaltender interference is a judgement call and delay of game isn't reviewable. Let's face it, the last thing we need is a return to the idiotic 'skate in the crease' rule of the late 90s. The name Brett Hull should be enough to put that to rest. So, what can be done? Give the goalie free reign to defend his crease? Back to the days of Billy Smith copping players to the ground?  It's hard enough already to score goals, we really don't want them being taken off the board. Nor do we want to see defender pushing players into the crease in a desperate attempt to get a goal called back. As for flipping the puck over the glass. Sure it could be reviewed, but how long could be wasted for something that could often prove inconclusive? In the end for all the Rangers can comaplin about a couple calls being missed, they were the one's up 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 and couldn't hold the lead.  They were also 0-for-2 on the power play in overtime.  Yes, there will be a demand for change, but don't expect to see any major updates.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Apathy a real threat to the CFL

From where I sit it looks like the CFL could be facing a major issue...

If a league implodes and nobody cares, does it make a noise? For all the gesturing through the media, there isn't a whole hell of a lot being accomplished. That includes engaging the public. The biggest hurdle at this point in time is that so far everything is normal. Even in football crazy Saskatchewan the talk is more about punt returning than strike votes. Outside of that, the bigger the centre the less interest there is. As various strike/lockout situations continue to float around, the Canadian public doesn't seem to worried. And for both the CFL and CFLPA that should be a grave concern. Canadians have been conditioned lately by 2 NHL lockouts to find other forms of entertainment when the primary is unavailable. However, the CFL is not a billion dollar industry like the NHL. The league can't afford to lose too much in the way of money and still have something worth saving. I do enjoy the CFL, it's a great game. It's part of the heritage of Canada. But Sportcentre won't be running endless clips of Mark Cohon riding an escalator. There are plenty of stories for TSN to cover. The Blue Jays are red hot. Genie Bouchard and Milos Raonic are moving up the ATP ranks. The Stanley Cup and NBA final are both underway. And the World Cup starts next week. The CFL is already facing an uphill battle for attention, getting themselves buried in a work stoppage is only going to make things worse. The feels like a tragic return to the CFL of my youth: overflowing with mismanagement.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Plenty to talk about in Cup Final

From where I sit it looks like the NHL should be excited for the Stanley Cup Final...


And no, it's not just for the obvious reasoning of two of the world's biggest markets going head-to-head. It's that there's actually some interesting story lines going into the final. Not the least of which being the Kings seeming incapability to win a series in less than 7 games. However, it's not like the Rangers have been making quick work of anyone either. Of a maximum of 21 games Los Angeles has played 21, New York 20. The Kings have already faced elimination 7 times, the Rangers just 3. Although I don't have a cheering interest in either team I'm quite looking forward to seeing what this series can produce. Both goalies are world-class, finishing 2nd (Lundqvist) and 4th (Quick) in Sochi. Both are quite capable of putting in a stellar performance to hold their team in the game. And both looked amazingly average in the last series. Quick was shaky in games 5, 6 and 7 against Chicago; while Lundqvist was pulled in game 6 against the Habs. Both defences can be solid and porous in the same game. Both offences can be explosive and non-existant. Honestly, this looks to be a series that's just as likely to be a sweep as it is to go the distance. That being said, and given my poor performance in the Conference finals, I'm taking the Kings in 7. Maybe even in overtime. It's been 60 years since the last one, I think we're due.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Questions surround FIFA

From where I sit it looks like FIFA is facing more trouble...


North Americans love a conspiracy. From JFK to 9/11 there always people looking for answers to anything they can't understand or have trouble accepting. Let's face it there are plenty of conspiracy theories about sports. Does anyone think the NHL isn't thrilled the Rangers are in the final? Against either LA or Chicago, both of those are major US markets, it's perfect. Sadly, in the world of FIFA those conspiracies are all too real. The outcome of games in any sport can result in massive payouts for those placing wagers on the game. So, it's hardly surprising when players or even officials fall to temptation. The greater concern is obvious. For starters questions are swirling around the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar in 2022. Millions of dollars in payments for a country without the best human rights record. Add to that the lack of proper climate it's easy to question the legitimacy of the process. Now these latest allegations of match fixing create a series of questions about the World Cup in a couple of weeks. Managing an event of this size is difficult enough without the added pressure of sniffing out corruption to the game itself. In Sochi, the compromised building process was well documented. However, once the games themselves got underway all of that fell to the wayside. The picture in Brazil is, as amazing as this sounds, bleaker. Not only was the building process questionable, but it looks like the matches could be too.

At least that's how I see it, and I sit in the cheap seats.