Posts from — May 2010
Ditto FloJo; I don’t think she was at her peak long enough to really catch on, her outfits and extravagant nails aside.
The only track stars I think who were even close to Bolt in terms of popularity were Marion Jones (below L) and Michael Johnson (below R). Marion was a huge star in high-school; stopped competing in college to play basketball and then she came back to the sport as a professional. She won and she did it (while cheating, as we know now) with a charm that made the press gravitate to her.
Bolt has single handedly brought track and field back into mainstream consciousness and made the sport relevant to the casual fan again. He is a once in a generation talent that is possibly ahead of his time. The only thing missing for him is a foil. I think if a real rival to him ever steps up (and particularly if that rival is American to ratchet up the media interest,) not only will he go faster than anyone ever has or thought possible, I think track will again become the marquee sport in the US and the world that it once was.
Asafa Powell is making a claim to be that rival; today he ran a world leading 9.83 seconds to win the 100 meters in Ostrava. “The man who could have been” is the only athlete I see being capable of testing Bolt, but his biggest problem has always been between his ears. If he ever gets it together, the competition between the two would be something amazing to witness.
To everyone in Kingston, stay safe, be careful and let’s hope we come out these trying times better as a nation. Changes have to be made and now is as good as time as any.
Oh yeah, 14 days to South Africa 2010.
May 27, 2010 Comments Off
The first goal was a thing of beauty; the ball was touched four times when it went into play. The goalkeeper Julio Cesar played it forward, Diego Milito headed it on to Wesley Sneijder who controlled and passed perfectly to a cutting Milito who touched it once before putting a high hard shot past the Bayern goalie. End to end in 10 seconds. Call it give and go, fast break, whatever you want; it was a sequence of lightning precision that left Bayern stunned.
Within the first minute of the second half Bayern’s Mueller had probably their best chance, but his shot went straight at Cesar. The urgency of Bayern’s attack to begin the second half appeared to catch Milan by surprise, but twice Bayern failed to capitalize on that-first on the shot attempt and then when Maicon whiffed on clearing a cross, but no one was there to put it in the net.
All in all, Inter Milan is a worthy champion. They dispatched Chelsea, CSKA Moscow, Barcelona and finally Bayern Munich to lift the trophy. Chelsea and Barcelona are widely considered two of the top five clubs in all of football, along with Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester United. The talent of Inter, and their record over the last five years (5 domestic titles in a row, all 3 trophies they competed for this season) should certainly make them a worthy member of that group, and don’t be surprised if they are challenging for another Champions League title next year, even without Mourinho’s guidance.
Jose Mourinho, on his way to take over at Real Madrid in Spain, has shown once again why he is on a level with the great coaches in not just football, but all of sport-Phil Jackson, Sir Alex Ferguson, Pete Carroll, Dean Smith et al.The one thing all of the great coaches know how to do exceptionally well in this age of multimillion dollar athletes with accompanying entourages is harnessing the egos to accomplish the team goals. Mourinho’s true test of greatness will be the collection of ill-matched superstars in Madrid. I predict that when Mourinho comes aboard, some of the current players will be gone before the year end. My money is on Kaka being one of them.
I had mentioned Diego Milito (below) in my last post as one to watch in the upcoming World Cup; I think the world knows who he is right now, no? A great performance in the Champions League finals by a great player, but will Maradona utilize him in South Africa? If it’s one thing Argentina has its quality strikers.
May 26, 2010 Comments Off
Several things about the squads named and the players left off.
Brazil was correct in leaving aging stars Ronaldo, Adriano and even to a lesser extent Ronaldinho off the WC roster. But Alexander Pato? This young star had a solid season for AC Milan in the Italian top flight league and was passed over for a couple of locally based Brazilian players who have never played top flight football. That one qualifies as a strange decision. Dunga however, has made some strange coaching decisions in the past and they have worked out in his favor. We shall see.
Another glaring omission is Mario Balotelli (right) On an Italian team without any great strikers, wingers or attacking midfielders, the omission of this young, budding star raised a few eyebrows. The fact that he is the only black player representing Italy and widely considered their best young player makes it even more surprising.
The successful World Cup teams are going to be the ones with quality strikers and a strong midfield. Spain, with the unheralded Xabi Alonso, is my bet for the team to win the tournament. Xabi is the name to remember on this Spanish team. He is one of the best if not the best midfielder in the world, and an excellent passer. His leaving Liverpool to play in Spain for Real Madrid was a major reason behind the dramatic decline of Liverpool this past season and he was the glue in the ‘Galacticos’ having their best season ever in La Liga. He will be feeding passes to Fernando Torres (below, left)and David Villa who will make the most of them.
I watched this Spanish side in Euro 2008 and the Confederations Cup last year; they were clearly a cut above every other team there; a European side that plays with South American flair and possessing one of the best goalkeepers (Iker Casillas) defenders (Carles Puyol) midfields (Xabi Alonso, Fabregas, Xavi) and scorers (“El Nino,” Fernando Torres) in the world.
They will not only win, they will be fun to watch.
Speaking of fun to watch there are some matches that will qualify as must see. Ivory Coast vs Portugal, Brazil vs. Ivory Coast, Argentina vs Nigeria, Brazil vs Portugal, Germany vs Ghana and England vs USA will be some of the more compelling 1st round matches. Portugal, with my favorite player Cristian Ronaldo, will not come out of the first round ‘group of death’ unfortunately.
I see this tournament coming down to the following quarter final matchups:
France v England, Netherlands v Brazil, Argentina v USA and Cameroon v Spain.
The semifinals will be England v Brazil and Argentina v Spain and I predict England v Spain in the finals with Spain winning their first World Cup.
Brazil’s defense, a major source of improvement since Dunga became coach, is rock solid and led by Lucio will be hard to get past, but Wayne Rooney has blossomed into one of the best strikers in the world and he will lead a very good England into the finals.
Messi is the best player in the world today, but I do not think Maradona is a world class coach and his technical deficiencies and overwhelming ego will be a huge factor in his team falling short despite the wizardry of Messi. I think he is gone as coach after the tournament, and deservedly so.
There will be some upsets; I believe the biggest may be the USA beating Germany in the knockout stages and Cameroon knocking out the title holders Italy.
There will be some interesting players to watch; the usual stars of course-Drogba, Rooney, Torres, Kaka, Messi and Cristian Ronaldo, but there will be some other players who if given opportunities will shine.
Diego Forlan of Uruguay (left,) Solomon Kalou of Ivory Coast, Diego Milito of Argentina, Clint Dempsey of the USA and Theo Walcott of England (right) are some to watch, names that the football fan knows but the casual fan might not.
May 17, 2010 Comments Off
What is wrong with the black athlete?
Anyone who follows sports or the news can bear witness to it. Daily, monthly, yearly; prominent athletes, prominent black athletes, cannot seem to stay on the straight and narrow. The list is extensive, expansive and far from distinguished. High school, college, professionals the black athletes who have run afoul of the law covers like a blanket both in the scope of the crimes to the names involved. Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, Rae Carruth, Jayson Williams, OJ Simpson, Richie Parker, Maurice Clarett, Marion Jones and now Lawrence Taylor (again) the list is long and ignominious.
Let me say this first of all-please don’t blame it all on their upbringing. Many athletes come from underprivileged homes, single parent households and terrible surroundings and rise above the circumstances of their youth while toeing the lines required by the society in which we live. This is usually a testament to both their iron will and the iron will of those around them-mothers, family, friends, teachers, coaches and occasionally, only occasionally, fathers. It’s not where you begin the journey, but where you take it and where you end up.
Are black athletes (and obviously by extension, black men) predisposed to the type of violence we’ve heard described routinely? Are these athletes apathetic to the social mores that dictate routinely killing dogs is inhumane? Is that really what its about, and we as a society are too polite to face it?
It’s the media’s fault, right? They want to make the brothers look bad. They want it instill/reinforce the image of the black man as just some type of Neanderthal prone to violence and incapable of following the rule of law. Keeping the black man down.
That being said, the constant reports of young, famous, financially well off black men running afoul of the law leaves one puzzled at the disproportionate disparity of their criminal activity to white or Hispanic athletes.
I think a lot of it has to do with the kill or be killed environment a lot of athletes were raised in, fawning attention from adults looking for their own ticket out of the same surroundings, coupled with an inability to separate trustworthy people from those just hanging around for a handout.
It’s a vicious circle, and while the media does look at these athletes as ‘disposable heroes’ to be built up and torn down, they also aren’t forcing anyone to get behind the wheel after drinking too much. Or to beat your wife. Unfortunately a lot of young black men are learning too late in life that the rules of society do apply to them, years after being relentlessly barraged with the type of attention that make them think these rules don’t. But that’s just my opinion.
The next time you see an athlete in handcuffs being hauled off to jail, you tell me what you think the reasons are. It’ll probably be something I have heard before though.
May 10, 2010 Comments Off
35 days and counting to World Cup 2010.
There are still a lot of Americans who don’t get what it’s all about, who laugh at a sport where six goals is a rarity (meanwhile, the sport it most easily compares to, hockey, averages about the same number of goals per match, but I digress.)
If you don’t get the World Cup hype, that’s okay. You’re allowed to not like it or understand the sport and its popularity. Understand this however; it still is and will continue to be the #1 sport of choice everywhere in the world. A big part of that has to do with the relatively simple gear needed-a ball. Any size ball. Or as we used to do back in high-school in the cafeteria, an empty juice box stuffed with paper. Two kids and a ball and you have a game. Baseball cant do that, American football requires more and the only other sport that is as simple to get started is the second most popularly played sport in the world, basketball.
And to all those who deride soccer in typical smugness, consider these facts: Of all the sports started by Americans-baseball, American football and basketball, the only one that America can win in a truly global contest (unlike the inappropriately named ‘World Series’) is American football, and that’s because no other country plays it. Or cares to.
A fully American team would struggle for a medal in the most apple pie of American sports, baseball and in basketball; we’ve already seen the rest of the world compete with and beat the US regularly. Don’t hate people, participate. My home country, Jamaica did not qualify for the World Cup, but my present home, the US did, and I will be rooting for them to shock the world.
Last summer I laid a Vegas wager on the US to win the Confederations Cup, a WC precursor tournament.
The Confederations Cup had the following lineup: Spain, the #1 team in the world and the prohibitive favorite to hoist the World Cup trophy this year. Brazil, the #5 ranked team, the only 5 time World Cup winner and another favorite to win the title this year. Italy, the title holders who stunned the world at the last tournament by winning it all with a squad of unknowns and the inspired play of the world’s best goalkeeper, Giancarlo Buffon. The other teams were no slouches either; the African champions Egypt, Iraq and New Zealand.
The US squad, after initially losing to Brazil and Italy in the 1st round by an aggregate of 6-1, put on the best run I’ve ever seen of a US team. They beat Egypt 3-0, Spain 2-0 and took a 1st half 2-0 lead in the finals against Brazil before losing 3-2, with Luis Fabiano playing the match of his life for a flat Brazil team.
If this US team can build on that performance, they will be very much in the mix of the World Cup, believe me on that.
I’m working on my brackets and I’ll put out my predictions for the tournament in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the Vanity Fair pictorial from the great Annie Liebovitz on the stars to watch in the upcoming tournament.
Speaking of baseball, if you haven’t seen Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves play, you need to. I’m not one to heap praise on a player too early in his career, but this kid appears to be real deal. Watching him play he looks like a cross between Darryl Strawberry and Albert Pujols. Henry Aarons has proclaimed him to be the next great star in baseball and he appears to be right on the money. He is big (6’7’, 200+) hits for a decent average, is articulate and intelligent.
It will be interesting to watch him grow as a player, and considering that baseball has the lowest number of blacks playing the sport since Jackie Robinson, I wish him success. Oh yeah, first game of the season first at bat, he hits a 3-run home run. Welcome to the big time, young Mr. Heyward.
Ryan Howard signed a contract extension with Philly that will pay him on average $25 million per year. Now i’m not one of those people that complain/gripe/envy athletes for how much money they make; I think those comments from average folk and sportscasters are generally mean spirited and borderline racist most of the time.
My question is this however; if Howard is worth $25 million, how much is Albert Pujols worth? Pujols in my opinion, is not only the best player in baseball, he is the only legitimate threat to reach the standard that hasn’t been achieved in over fifty year: the Triple Crown (most hits, most RBI’S and highest average.) What price does a team put on that? I think if Pujols hits the open market as a free agent next year, there will be two main suitors for his services-the NY Mets and the Boston Red Sox. St. Louis, unless they pony up some money now to keep him home, will not be able to afford to keep him.
One month in, the two best teams in baseball appear to be Tampa Bay and the Yankees, followed by Philly, Minnesota and San Francisco. I think the worst division in baseball is the AL west, where a .500 record might win the division.
Interesting conversation with Irwin Clare of Team Jamaica Bickle at Penn Relays a couple of weeks ago; his insight into the lack of corporate appreciation for Jamaican sports was refreshingly contemporary and on point. I particularly liked his description of the Jamaican “bauxite” mentality; ‘we allow others to take our ore and leave us with holes.’ True indeed.
I wish him and his organization all the best in the future and I hope they continue to build on the foundation laid over the last decade and a half. Yeah he went to Kingston College, but I wont hold that against him.
I’m out like the Greek economy!
May 6, 2010 Comments Off