SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

Name:

Not much to tell.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Riflery and the Process

When I was a kid, I was a pretty good shot.  My day camp had riflery, and I shot .22's, pretty well, too.  I remember the range master and how he ran the range.  You were given a rifle, and the first round was for practice.  Correcting for bad sighting was easy if, for example, your first five shots ended up in the upper right hand quadrant of the target.  He'd tell you to adjust your sight two clicks to the left and two clicks down.  Then, when you shot your next round, presumably you would place your bullets in the area of the bulls eye (which actually happened much more often than not).

Contrast that with the shooter who misses the target or places shots in each quadrant.  That shooter is so inconsistent he probably is not controlling his breathing, is jerking the trigger and has no idea whether he will hit the target or not.  The problem is so bad if so fundamental that it is hard to correct.  You need to tell the shooter to control his breathing, but not to stop it, and not to jerk the trigger, etc., etc., etc.  The point being that it is much harder to correct this problem because the problems are manifested all over the place.

And that leads me to the Philadelphia 76ers.  The good news, if you can call it that, is that the team's problems are consistent, analogously in the same quadrant.  They are the following:  1) Ben Simmons right now is either unable or unwilling to shoot the ball enough and well enough to take over a game, for all of the hype behind him; 2) the team has a penchant for blowing big leads in the second half; 3) the team turns the ball over too much; 4) the team has too many one-dimensional guards and cannot guard another team's star guard; and 5) it still does not know whether for all the money they are paying him they can have a healthy and in-shape Joel Embiid on the floor for 75 games a season.

The bad news, if we go back to the rifle range analogy, is that the range master could be dealing with a shooter with an out-of-date gun or bad eyes, as the problems the team is dealing with, while fixable, are pronounced, especially for a team that is in year 5 or so of "The Process."  Problem #6, if there is one, is that there have been a lot of misses in the draft, for all of Sam Hinkie's stockpiling of draft picks (and, to his credit, Hinkie warned that not every move would work).  Michael Carter-Williams was a miss, as were Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, the latter somewhat glaring because the league has almost totally morphed away from needing the type of player Okafor is, which is a throwback to the days where you couldn't win without a center who could dominate in the low post.  And it is hard to say right now what the team has in Simmons, who admittedly missed a season in his formative years and has shown signs of brilliance, and this year's first overall pick, Markell Fultz, whose grade must be an incomplete.

So, how to fix things?  As for #1, Simmons needs to spend the summer working on his jump shot.   His 103 or so touches a game, which the last time I looked were 20 more than the next guy, seem excessive when you consider his overall production.  Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook he is not.  To me, the more touches a player has, the easier it can be to defend his team.  So, patience has to be the watch word.  As for #2, part of that is personnel, part of that is leadership and part of that is coaching.  Robert Covington and Embiid are defensive stoppers; the team has no such stopper at guard and seems to present an opportunity for an opposing guard -- the other night it was Shabazz Napier because the Trail Blazers were without Damian Lilliard -- to show his stuff.  But given that this is a persistent problem, coach Brett Brown, for all of his positivity, has to be held accountable too, as does the front office.   If for no other reason, get a guard who can come off the bench and given  you 15-20 minutes a night of the type of pain-in-the-neck defense that helps define a winning team.  That could help the team prevent some awful skids in the second half.

As for #3,  that's a hard one, but it seems like there are certain players for whom this problem persists -- Embiid, perhaps because he is not in optimal shape or because he has yet to fully realize that backing in and putting the ball on the floor can be problematic and shooting guard J.J. Redick, who the team signed to a one-year, $23 million deal to shoot better than he has, turn the ball over less and defend better than he has.  Again, this has to be a matter of concentration and having the players become more familiar with one another more than anything else.  Coaching figures into this too -- there just are too many mistakes for a team that should make the playoffs but right now does not look like it is going to.

#4 seems like one of the biggest problems.  The guard corps simply does not defend well.  That's why the team drafted Fultz, a comprehensive guard whom they hope can bring the mojo the way the elite guards in the league do.  Teams salivated over him, and it seemed clear from mid-season last season that he was the consensus #1 pick.  But he has missed a lot of time, and other guards in the draft (think Donovan Mitchell) have distinguished themselves, as has Celtics' forward Jayson Tatum, who can flat-out shoot the lights out.  So, the pressure mounts, and given some of the things that manifested themselves when the team shelved Fultz only a few games into the season, you have to wonder what is ailing him.  This ownership group is notoriously non-transparent about player issues, so is it just Fultz's shoulder or did his machinations in trying to play in pain create a hitch in his shot that the team has struggled to correct?  Many questions are out there, but presumably if the team were to get the Fultz that they thought they drafted, they would have an outstanding piece who could help cure some of their core woes -- well-rounded back court play.

As for #6, the team cannot afford the magnitude of mistakes it has made with its top draft picks.  As they go forward, they need to find the right pieces to fit in with some potential superstars.  The future still has a bright tint to it, but now that the misses seem to be consistent and falling into a pattern, they should be easier to correct.  Each and every one of them presents a unique problem.  Fixable?  Sure, but the fixes for some require some depth and consideration in approach and do not suggest that they can be quick.  Are they possibly quick enough to turn around this downturn and enable the team to make the playoffs?  Perhaps yes, perhaps not.

The Process has hit a bump in the road.  The team is not as good as people thought it could be at the season's outset or when the team when on a good run in the early fall.  That said, it is not as bad as its recent play has suggested and the schedule seems to get easier in the second half.  Optimists suggest that the process still has a way to go and that fans should be patient.  Right now, that is all that they can be; they have no choice.

Should the team go on a run, Simmons assert himself more, Fultz become healthy, Embiid stay healthy and the team go on a roll, all will be rosy, the team will make the playoffs and things will be looking up.  And the team might have another key draft pick and will have the most money to spend on free agents, who, presumably, will be willing to come to Philadelphia and help forge a squad that can make a deep run in the playoffs.

Should Embiid's back continue to balk and he miss games, Fultz look more like Carter-Williams and less like a potential Harden or Westbrook or Irving, the team continue to blow leads and the team spiral into a sub-.500 season, perhaps significantly so, then the picture will be different.  Will the fans -- who clearly bought into the hype -- return to the level they upped for season-ticket packages this year?  Will Simmons and Fultz project out to be more than starters, even if pretty good ones?  (The team needs stars, absolute stars -- to contend for at title).  And will Embiid end up on the list of big men who could have been something and could have contributed heavily to a contender but for persistent maladies?  That is the nightmare scenario.

The stakes are higher.  The pressure is greater.  The shine is off.  Potential means, as Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty once said, "that you ain't done it yet."  The clock keeps on ticking; other teams do not stand still.  With each game, the scrutiny intensifies, the patience diminishes.  The Process once was cool, funky, mysterious, intriguing, in vogue.  Right now, it is a bit like yesterday's fashion hit, the car of the year a couple of years back.  Still cool, but neither the latest nor the greatest.

The fans are waiting for it to break out, to yield the harvest that was predicted for it, even if those doing the predicting were those doing the hyping in order to create some magic beyond the fellows who do amazing things with drums during timeout at the Wells Fargo Center.  The place is festive, and there are moments of brilliance.  But that's all they are -- moments.  Not win streaks, not seasons, not eras.  Moments.  The fans like the moments, to be sure.  But they are waiting for what was promised -- the momentous and, ultimately, monuments to those who win championships.

Moments help sell tickets for a season.

The momentous lasts forever.

The Big Ten and Bowl Games

No knocking the results.  That said. . .

The SEC has two teams in the playoff.  The Big Ten has none.

Which means one of many things:

1.  The Big Ten from top to bottom is the better conference.
2.  The SEC is top heavy (see #1).
3.  The SEC is overrated.
4.  The Big Ten is underrated.
5.  The entire system needs a reboot.
6.  The playoff should have eight teams in it.
7.  Those who run the playoff should not whine that the playoff takes the kids away from classes and that adding another round would add to that distraction when there usually is a gap of a month between the end of the (regular) season and the bowl games anyway.
8.  There is so much money involved that the players are getting exploited and that a scholarship is not enough compensation for the (unilateral) commitment they make in that a) scholarships are not for four years but renewable on an annual basis; b) kids have to sit out a year if they transfer to a BCS school, c) kids in the current program can get penalized for the sins of a past program in that they might not be able to go to a bowl game or have an inferior team because their team is not able to award the same scholarships as an unpenalized team and d) coaches can leave at any time for anywhere and not have to sit out a year, but players cannot leave without penalty if a coach does.
9.  Americans are unique people who fixate on this sort of thing when the rest of the world is focused on its professional soccer leagues and the World Cup, which is set for June and July in Moscow.
10.  Saquon Barkley is an amazing football player.
11.  Urban Meyer's lustre might be fading.
12.  Paul Chryst knows a few choice words.
13.  It's hard to win consistently at Vanderbilt.
14.  Wisconsin does not get a lot of respect.
15.  If Alabama's football program were a country, its revenue would put it in the top 50 in the world.
16.  If Alabama's football program were a country, the United Nations would try to sanction it for unspeakable crimes against humanity.
17.  Nick Saban is the [name the dictator] of college football.
18.  People still do not know who Kirby Smart is.
19.  People in the Northeast still think "Securities and Exchange Commission" when they first hear the term SEC mentioned.
20.  How many people care about bowl games except those who sponsor them and those whose schools participate in them, if only because there are so many.  Back in the day, when there were only 7 TV channels in a major city and entertainment options were scarce, as a sports fan you cared and you watched.  But when options abound -- for example such DI stalwarts as Cornell and Harvard were on TV last night on the road (on ESPN, no less) playing basketball at SEC schools, well, if you could tune into that why watch Wisconsin take on Miami, for example, for forego watching a Harry Potter marathon on your cable channel?

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Marlins' Fire Sale

Why should you go to a game if you are a Miami Marlins' fan?  Your team just traded its stars, and I would have said bankable stars but new CEO Derek Jeter recently spoke of netting a gain of $265 million by shedding the long-term contract of uber-slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  His premise is that the Marlins will not win with Stanton because they are lacking too many other pieces, so why shell out that money for him?  In other words, fans need to trust the process with business decisions like that so that the Marlins can re-tool the team the new-fashioned way -- through draft picks, the signing of foreign players and analytics.


The Marlins are an obvious choice to pick on, but so are perennial also-rans in many other leagues with the exception of the National Football League, where parity is such that many of last year's good teams have fallen off, only to be replaced this year by teams who were not all that good last year.  That's great for the NFL, which has some serious issues to deal with, first and foremost of which is the long-term health of its players.  But in Major League Baseball, it has to be hard to root for the Marlins now or the San Diego Padres almost ever.  In the English Premier League, it has to be hard to root for a team not named City, United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal, although admittedly it can be tough to be a fan of those teams too.  That said, with the exception of Leicester's catching lightning in a bottle a few years ago, why would anyone spend a lot of emotional energy to root for anyone else.  True, money does not buy you a title, but it is necessary to spend a lot to get your team into the top six.  And with the NBA, well, it has to be hard to be, among other things, a fan of the Brooklyn Nets or the Phoenix Suns. 


Circling back to the Marlins, they just jettisoned the key players.  Yet, they're asking season ticket holders to renew and new people to subscribe to season tickets.  I'll put it to you another way.  Give me the Astros and the worst sales force in the world or the Marlins and the best one, and I'll bet on the Astros' sales force to sell more tickets than the Marlins' sales force any day of the week.  I only can imagine the sales pitch being made to Marlins' fans.  Among the possibilities are "come see the other team" and "invest in the future of professional baseball in Florida."  As to the former, years ago the Nats and Pirates advertised in the Philadelphia market to draw Phillies' fans to their teams road series in Washington and Pittsburgh.  Could the Marlins do the same?  As to "trusting a process," well, you need some future stars to watch now in order to make that pitch compelling.  The 76ers had amazingly talented Joel Embiid available last year.  By comparison, who do the Marlins have?


After the 2008 season, the Phillies had waiting lists for their full- and partial-season ticket plans.  Because they were not forward-thinking after 2008, the team consistently regressed to the point where they are today, where the team is trying to sell hope to the fans, whose experience is that the team more often than not has not been that good.  Today, you can buy single-game tickets in any section of the ball park, including the section right behind home plate.  I suppose that the business owners and plaintiffs lawyers stop subscribing if the team does not provide a compelling product on the field.  And Philadelphia has been a baseball town.  Sure, it's an Eagles' town, but it also has plenty of baseball fans.  Even then, the team's average attendance has been way down.  The once electric atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park now reflects the current of a third-world island whose power remains constant for about one-third of a day and sputters the rest of the time.


Loneliness is a killer.  Remember "That Natural?"  The New York team that Robert Redford played for and Wilfred Brimley managed played to an empty stadium, where you could hear foul balls clatter off empty bleachers in the midst of a hot summer's day.  The Marlins' broadcasters will be able to hear individual conversations from the stands and distinguish the call of the lonely hot dog or beer vender in the seats near their perch.  Fans will go, some out of habit and some because their dads took them and they feel obligated to take their kids.  But people will not come close to turning out in big numbers, perhaps for a long time.  It doesn't help that the new owner has all of the personality of someone who just underwent a colonoscopy without anesthesia.  Even Derek Jeter does not seem to believe in the product he will be putting on the field come March.  The stadium will be empty; the experience at the ball park worse than loneliness, because encroaching upon a fan's solitude will be awful play juxtaposed against not-so-distant memories of the champions of 1997 and 2003.


The omnipresence of the media offers numerous entertainment alternatives.  It seems like Marlins' fans will save money and at the same time find more joy in something other than baseball, for this season and years to come.  Derek Jeter, if he has not already, will realize quickly that the magic he brought to the playing field does not have any sway in a town where, if anything, its fans footed for him to fail.  Now they need him to succeed -- and in a hurry.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Kareem is Right

Basketball is the sport of the future. 


In the 1970's, the five most popular spectator sports were in no particular order baseball, football, basketball, horse racing and boxing (and I could be wrong, as auto racing might have been better attended than basketball despite a mostly regional appeal because the salary wars between the NBA and ABA were diluting the quality of play and bankrupting teams).  Horse racing at the time was the only place you could place a legal bet; fast forward to today and you have lotteries, casinos and places to make legal bets all over the place.  Boxing had its day, and there were some awesome fighters back then, so much so that when you watched the summer Olympics, you cared most about the US men's basketball team, the US track teams, the swimmers and the boxers, and, again, not in that order.  I would submit that in '76 we cared as much about the fate of Sugar Ray Leonard as anyone on the US Olympic team.  But too many shady deals, bad decisions and the brutality of it all have caused boxing to drop way down on the list (although MMA is up). 


Fast forward to today.  I don't know what the top five are, but it stands to reason that football, baseball and basketball are among the top five, and I would suggest that on a global basis so is soccer (and soccer might be #1 because of how widespread it is played).  Hockey fans will scream, kick and shout, and while I appreciate their passion I still doubt how widespread the appeal is.  Football has major issues, and it stands to reason that the game that is played 10 years from now will be dramatically different from the one that is played today, much more like flag football, lacrosse or Greco-Roman wrestling.  The hitting will be all but gone, and the sport will be different.  And, if it were to become like flag football, will it be watchable.  I would submit, and have to incur many howlers, that lacrosse in its present state is not all that watchable.  The reasons are specialization, that you cannot see the players faces, and that there is an exaggerated importance on the faceoff.  A lot of the plays that end up in goals just look the same.  The average age of a baseball fan is 55, and the MLB game is not moving any faster.  I went to minor league games over the past couple of seasons that took a couple of hours to play; sadly, MLB games take over three hours to play, with too much time between at-bats, pitches, innings, you name it.


That leaves professional basketball.  The purists will argue with some merit that it is more entertainment than high art, and they will try to wax eloquent about the joys of the college game.  The problem right now with the college game is that teams with the most talent (which include players who will leave after a single season) aren't seasoned enough normally to win a national title.  Plus, there are timeouts every four minutes, as it the key strategy sessions held during the timeouts will fundamentally change the way the game is played.  As Charles Barkley said yesterday, everyone on a pro team is a very good player.  The talent is amazing, you can see the players faces, and the scoring opportunities -- while not as varied and dramatic as in soccer -- are still compelling.  The game appeals to fans of all ages and races; by far the most diverse crowds attend professional basketball games.  Put simply, basketball is fun to watch, it moves, there is a lot of scoring, and there numerous stars.  Quod erat demonstratum. 


Unless, of course, you were to look globally.  Soccer is king and should continue to be so for a while.  Basketball is popular, no doubt, and could gain in popularity should it attempt to go more global (the NBA that is; there are many leagues in many countries other than the United States).  People play pick-up soccer anywhere, and it seems that each town in every European country has a team in some sort of league.  I just don't think that basketball will overtake soccer in terms of popularity, although basketball's popularity might grow at a rate faster than soccer's.  Creating a champions-league concept like they have in soccer might help the NBA's international appeal.  That would be quite compelling. 


All that said, Kareem is onto something.  And if people are angry with what he said, it's because they are in denial and do not want to admit that it has a good chance of happening.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Thoughts on 76ers-Lakers Last Night

In no particular order:


1.  The 76ers are in a bit of a rut.  Losing to Phoenix on Monday and the Lakers last night, the above-.500 76ers lost to two teams who are collectively playing around .333 basketball. 


2.  The sign of a young, inexperienced team is that it can be absolutely brilliant and absolutely frustrating -- in the same game.  Name the game, name the frustration.  The team blew a 24-point lead against the Warriors and a big lead at home against the John Wall-less Wizards, only to have that gave devolve into a hack-a-Ben-athon that caused the last five minutes to take 40 to play.  Last night, the Lakers got out to a ten point lead -- but the game was not that close, only to see the purple and gold push the lead out to 16 in the second half, and then have the 76ers storm back to tie it up, only then to turn the ball over twice in the last ninety seconds (Embiid once, Reddick the other) and then to have a chance to tie again but to fail to make the shot.  If you're a fan, all you can say is "aargh!"


3.  The team is exposed defensively at guard.  At one point, the 76ers had Reddick, T.J. McConnell and Jarrod Bayless on the floor at once.  That defensive combo scares absolutely no one, and the Lakers took advantage of it.  That's not to say that Lonzo Ball was a shooting threat -- he isn't -- but Jordon Clarkson had a tidy 16 off the bench in not that many minutes and others (Kentavius Caldwell-Pope comes to mind) shot well enough to help give the Lakers the win.  The 76ers need the advertised Markell Fultz to return in a hurry. 


4.  The team missed Dario Saric last night.  I joked that the team was in a fog because of the news that they traded Jahlil Okafor and Nick Stauskas to the Nets earlier in the day.  And while those guys had good friends on the team, the team did miss the grit of Saric, who was out with what was reported as an eye laceration.  Saric does the dirty work, battles for the offensive boards, and does everything pretty well.  That's not to say that the team would have won with him in there -- the game admittedly would have been different, but the rebounding differential that existed for a lot of the game would not have been there.  As it was, back-up center turned power forward at least for the night Richaun Holmes had what might have been a career game for him, coming up with many clutch buckets as the team stormed back to tie it up.


5.  Joel Embiid is a beast.  No one can guard him, and it's hard to figure out how to run any inside offense when he's in there.  He's foul-prone now, but that's bound to change as he gets more experience.


6.  Ben Simmons had another interesting/potentially awesome stat line with some great plays, yet. . ..  12 points, 13 boards and 15 assists is pretty terrific, but he had some defensive lapses and needs to assert himself more.  He is good, but does he know how much better he can be or how good he is?  Until he gets more assertive, teams won't have to commit the resources on defense that they have to commit to, among others, James Harden and LeBron James.  While he might never shoot as well as those guys, he still can do things most players cannot. 


7.  Lonzo Ball showed everyone something last night.  He played within himself, he rebounded well, defended well enough, made some great passes and scored in the double figures.  He is very composed out there.  His shooting -- if possible -- is worse than that of Simmons, but he made a strong contribution last night.


8.  Brandon Ingram really improved in the off-season.  Last year, he looked like the overmatched skinny guy without the strength of Durant or skills more than that of a stationery shooter.  This year, he looks stronger, like he put on some good weight, and he really worked on his ability to create shots.  He had a very nice night last night.


9.  Obligatory word about the officials.  Admittedly, officiating basketball might be the hardest game to officiate, although diehard fans of other sports will argue to the contrary.  The one thing I noticed is that while hand-checking per se is called, what the officials increasingly do not call are the following -- 1) when a defender puts a forearm on the back of a player who has his back to the basket and 2) when a dribbler wards off a defender with a forearm, pushing him away.  Both teams did the former last night, and Ingram's signature move is to push off with his left forearm.  That's not to say he's the only one or that the lack of calls on him (or anyone else for that matter) cost the 76ers the game or gave it to the Lakers.  The Lakers played better, and the 76ers did not do enough to win.  It's just that it's hard to figure out where the consistency is among officials in making calls.



Monday, December 04, 2017

Thoughts on Arsenal-Manchester United on Saturday

Arsenal was on a roll.  It took it to visiting Tottenham a few weeks ago at Emirates Stadium, going up 2-0 by halftime and then was in control the rest of the way.  The Gunners went up 1-0 mid-week on Huddersfield, and then pushed the throttles hard in the second half, winning 5-0.  Those two results should have given Arsenal a ton of confidence going into its home match versus visiting United and its coach, Jose Mourinho. 


But a funny thing happened on the way to the rout.  Mourinho coached a "rope-a-dope" game, which would have been noted for its brilliance but for the fact that Arsenal dominated all but the first 11 minutes.  Mourinho sensed individual cracks in the Gunners' back line, and its forwards caused otherwise steady defenders Koscielny, Mustafi and Monreal (who was woefully out of position on United's first score) to make mistakes early.  The result -- United was up two nil after eleven minutes. 


After that, it was all Arsenal.  The Gunners ended up scoring right after half and took 33 shots in the game, with 15 of them on goal.  It was as if there were a garage door covering the net, at least in the form of United keeper David DeGea, who played an outstanding match, so much so that his coach told him after the game that he is the best keeper in the world (he is certainly atop the conversation; experts will argue and win that Bayern Munich keeper Manuel Neuer is the best keeper in the world, with DeGea and Juve's Gianluigi Buffon right behind).  DeGea was here, there and everywhere, making save after save and in the process tying a modern Premiership record for saves in a contest.  You would expect that a besieged keeper on a team staving off relegation would hold that record, not someone from the elite 6 teams in the league. 


Was this Mourinho's strategy?  To pressure Arsenal early, get his scores and the park the bus?  If so, it was brilliant, but it's hard to say whether that was the strategy or not.  True, Mourinho gets accused of parking the bus after getting a lead, but if United parked the bus this time, it was not near the croquet club and its senior citizen's tea but in a lot on the wrong side of town where people have the ability to break in and steal the bus.  Because that's precisely what happened.  Arsenal clawed and kicked and stomped near the goal, with DeGea's signature save being sticking out a foot to thwart a follow-on shot by Alexis Sanchez that would have tied the match at two and surely put the momentum squarely in Arsenal's favor.  That foot told Arsenal simply, "not today."  Yet the Gunners kept on coming, but it was shortly after that amazing save that United went on a counterattack and went up 3-1. 


You would have figured the game was over then, around the 77th minute or so, but then United start center midfielder Paul Pogba got sent off on a straight red and the Gunners' continued to threated.  The real disappointment for Arsenal, other than failing to score, was a missed call of a penalty inside the United box at the 85th minute.  Referee Andre Mariner didn't see the play as a penalty; all the commentators did.  Had Mariner called the infraction and Sanchez converted the free kick, the game would have been tied at 2-2 with a compelling five minutes to go and an added five minutes of stoppage time.  As it was, Arsenal kept pouring it on, but to no avail.


The commentators offered that it was the game of the season in the EPL, and there is no debating that here.  It's a shame for Arsenal, who was on enough of a roll that a win versus United might have suggested there is more to this team than winning a few only to lose a big one that reminds its fans of the talent gap between it and the elite teams.  And now it looks as though they might lose Alexis Sanchez, the engine of the team, either mid-season or on a free transfer after it, and that would be a devastating loss.  They also might lose center attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, who is unparalleled when his game is on but who disappears too often to be considered among the top ten at his position in the world and command a commensurate salary.  Ozil might need a chance of scenery, but the Gunners need Sanchez to stay for a while.  If both were to leave, Arsenal is in a rebuilding mode.


But not to detract from the match -- it was compelling, it was fervent, it was action-packed, and if you told Arsenal fans before it that their team would have 15 shots on goal and control possession 75% of the time, they would have signed up for those stats.  They weren't, however, enough for their team to win the match. 


Odd, delightful, compelling match it was, with DeGea's performance one that will help define his career and delight Spanish fans as to their possibilities in the World Cup.