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Friday, May 01, 2009

A Wee k's Worth of Sports-Related Observations

I was traveling in Europe this week, and I have the following observations:

1. Before I left, I watched my son's Little League game. It's neat to see the kids emulate the Major Leaguers as they get older, the way they stand in the field in their "ready" stance and the way my son walked to the mound for a "conference" when the coach came out to settle down the pitcher (the catchers don't know instinctively how to do this yet).

2. It poured all day Sunday where I was in France, so instead of walking around a beautiful area I rested, watched the London Marathon on TV (with the commentary in German) and then watched the Manchester United-Tottenham game. The Spurs, as Tottenham are called (and note I use the British grammar of deploying a plural verb instead of a singular one), were up 2-0, and then the referee made a game changing call, calling a penalty shot for Man U when the Spurs' goalie collided with a Man U player. Man U converted, and ended up scoring five consecutive goals in a 5-2 rout of Tottenham. Needless to say, a ref's call can change the tenor of a game -- and quickly.

3. The French Ligue 1 is undergoing a change at the top. Lyon had won 8 straight years, but now Marseilles (the fourth-largest city in France; Lyon is the second) is in the lead, with Bordeaux (yes, they of the famous wine) in second. Lyon is in third. One of Lyon's best players is Fred, a Brazilian. I offered to my football-mad colleagues in Ireland that if Fred were a star (and a one-named one) in the U.S., the appeal of his name would probably yield him four-fold in endorsements what his salary is. At any rate. . .

4. I ended up watching most of the semifinal of the Champions League between Man U and Arsenal (a team from North London, archrival of Tottenham), nicknamed the Gunners (three of the four semifinalists in the Champions League are from the English Premiership). Either Man U was a step too fast or Arsenal a step too slow, because Man U had tons of chances in the first 25 minutes and ended up prevailing 1-0. Man U's Anderson has one of the best "first touches" (read: he has the breakaway speed of a Ty Lawson) of anyone in soccer. As a friendly commentator mentioned on TigerHawk (quoting me), Man U's jersey reads "AIG", because one of the most lucrative ways for a soccer team to raise monies from sponsors is to sell naming rights to their jerseys (Arsenal dons "Fly Emirates" on their jerseys). Now, given AIG's predicament, I suppose it would be too much to ask that the New York Yankees of world soccer wear "USA" on their jerseys.

But it got me to thinking about how much money U.S. teams (especially in the NFL and MLB) could make if they sold jersey naming rights. The San Francisco Giants could say "Oracle" on the front of their shirts, the Philadelphia Phillies "Comcast", the Dallas Cowboys "Dell" and so forth. The possibilities and dollars could be endless.

5. Irish colleagues regaled me in the country's love for Gaelic football, a combination of soccer and rugby that they say resembles Australian Rules Football. Apparently each county has a team, the players on the teams insult each other mightily, the fans go at each other too, but, get this -- they leave it all on the pitch. They enter the stadiums peacefully, they leave peacefully, and the players enter and walk off together. The players train hard for their sport, but it's hard to discern whether they're full-time players or not. The Dubliners seemed to suggest that fans from Tiperarry are particularly rowdy (and you're now among the cognoscenti if you refer to Tiperarry as "Tip").

6. Sky Sports ran banners beneath their continuous coverage of soccer and cricket for Major League Baseball, and I was happy to see that Jimmy Adams was still doing his thing for the West Indies cricket team (about 10 years ago, while in London, I watched a game in what was tantamount to the World Series of Cricket between Australia and the West Indies in which, by all accounts, the West Indies mounted the best comeback in world cricket history -- led by Brian Lara, one of the best cricketeers of all time, Courtly Ambrose and, yes, the same Jimmy Adams). That's all I remember from watching Sky Sports on cricket.

7. Football teams can get relegated from one division to a lower division (correspondingly, fare well in a lesser division and you can get elevated to the next highest division). So, there was lots of talk about who from the vaunted Premiership could get relegated. Apparently, those in Newcastle and Middlesbrough are worried. Get relegated, lose big dollars, jettison your roster so that you can live within a much lower budget. The Orioles, Pirates and Royals are fortunate that in MLB there is no such thing as relegation.

8. I was waited excitedly to check my Blackberry this morning to see the 76ers-Orlando score, figuring that the 76ers had a great chance to even their series given that in addition to being without Jameer Nelson (who got hurt before the All-Star break), the Magic were without Courtney Lee and Dwight Howard. So what happened? The Magic made the 76ers disappear, winning by 25 (and it wasn't that close). I felt like a kid on Christmas morning who found lumps of coal in his stocking.

That's the week, in a nutshell. More later.


Anonymous Soccer Jerseys said...

Great observer... Really you have deep observation about you surroundings as very little people act like this. But here I like you writing on semifinal (mentioned in 4th).

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