Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas (Arsenal Version)

The 12 Days of Christmas - Wishes for Arsenal and their Fans in 2011

On the first day of Christmas Arsenal gave to me:
  • Twelve additional clean sheets.                              
  • Eleven strong players (for each game).
  • Ten consecutive wins.
  • Nine Chamakh goals from headers.
  • Eight Nasri highlights.
  • Seven goals against Tottenham.
  • Six points versus Man. U. and Chelsea.
  • Five saved penalties.
  • Four Fabregas hat tricks.
  • Three Other Trophies (Premiership, FA Cup, Carling Cup).
  • Two strong centre backs.
  • One Champions League Trophy. 
Come on Arsenal!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas (Mets Version)

The 12 Days of Christmas - Wishes for the New York Mets and their Fans in 2011

On the first day of Christmas the Mets gave to me:
    Beltran, Davis and Bay meet Santa (David Wright)
  • Twelve fewer blown saves.   
  • Eleven walk off wins.
  • Ten meaningful games in September.
  • Nine winning road trips.
  • Eight grand slams.
  • Seven bobblehead giveaways.
  • Six wins over the Yankees.
  • Five solid starting pitchers.
  • Four fewer visits to the disabled list.
  • Three healthy outfielders.
  • Two new players to replace Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.
  • One World Series trophy.

Let's Go Mets.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Don't Like Mondays...and the Phantom of the Opera

It's taken me until Friday to finally deal with the happenings of this past Monday. Monday was the day of the big game and I was full of nervous tension and optimism as Arsenal were heading up to Old Trafford to face Manchester United for a top of the table clash. I met up with some fellow Arsenal fans at the team's official NYC pub, The Blind Pig, (yes that's the real name) as it's always fun to watch games of this magnitude with other fans.

Arsenal vs. Manchester United has always been one of the top fixtures in the EPL and in years past the teams were generally on a level playing field. However, over the past 5-6 years Arsenal always seem to come up short, losing on a regular basis to the team hardcore Arsenal fans refer to as ManU(re).

Of course the pre game hype was ridiculous and Arsenal supporters were full of hope that things would finally go their team's way. Arsenal began play at the top of the league and Man. U. has not looked as strong as they have in the past.

Long story short, Arsenal held their own, the game was a defensive battle and in the end, it mattered for nothing. Man. U. scored the only goal of the game on a deflection...luck really. The only enjoyable part of the game was watching Wayne "Shrek" Rooney sky his bogus penalty shot over the net and in to the stands.

Leaving the bar I was bummed but my next stop was a focus group where I was going to be paid $100 cash for participating in a discussion on Broadway shows. The person who had registered me pretty much told me what to say in order to qualify. So, what do I do? I forget that she told me to claim to have not seen Phantom of the Opera (I have seen it twice and both times fell asleep), and I check off that I've seen it. I realize my error, but having already turned in the paper, it's too late. I am disqualified from the group and not paid.

Later that night, I find out that the Philadelphia Phillies have signed free agent pitcher Cliff Lee which pretty much guarantees that the Mets will be irrelevant and the Phillies' doormat for the next few years.

Mets fans look forward to 2015 season

The good thing about sports, however, is there's always a next game and a chance to turn things around. Arsenal are still in good position and there's plenty of time left in their season. As for the Mets, you never know what's going to happen, so there will be hope once the 2011 season gets underway.

As for Phantom of the Opera, I am never seeing it again!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Arsenal Jump Chelsea and Man. U, Mets Go Bargain Hunting at the Winter Meetings

Super Samir Nasri
We're heading towards Christmas and Arsenal are top of the League!  While all the haters are burying them, the Gunners are two points clear of the suddenly vulnerable Chelsea and one point up on Manchester United (United do have a game in hand as their fixture with Blackpool had to be postponed last week).  A 2-1 home win over Fulham was highlighted by 2 AMAZING goals by Samir Nasri. (Check them out: Goal one, Goal two).  A cool note on this game was that all Arsenal players were donating their day's pay to the team's selected charity, Centrepoint, London’s largest youth homeless charity.

On Wednesday the Gunners defeated Partizan Belgrade 3-1 securing their place in the final 16 of the Champions League.  On the positive side, they are through and have qualifed for the final 16 for the 11th straight year in a row.  The bummer is that they looked very sluggish against a lousy Partizan team and by finishing second in their group, they will face a tougher match up in the next round.  The team's possible opponent will be either Schalke or Bayern Munich from Germany or, god forbid, Real Madrid or Barcelona.  I'd rather be heading to Germany next.

Coming up on Monday, Arsenal travel to Old Trafford where they have to show their true title credentials.  Here's hoping for the best.

Random crazy events in the EPL this week:
  • After guiding Newcastle United back to the Premier League where the team is so far having a good season, club owner Mike Ashley fired manager Chris Hughton out of the blue inciting an insane stream of vitriol from the fans.
  • Trouble keeps popping up at the Billionaire Boys Club...a.k.a. Manchester City.  This past week saw Carlos Tevez almost come to blows with manager Roberto Mancini upon being substituted.  It seems that money has not yet bought happiness to the blue half of Manchester.
    D.J. who?
On the baseball front, the Winter Meetings have come and gone and while the Red Sox were making a splash by signing Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and the Yankees were throwing around the money, my beloved New York Mets were showing their continued post Bernie Madoff hangover.  New GM Sandy Alderson came back having signed reliever D.J. Carrasco and backup catcher Ronny Paulino.  Analogy...the Yankees and Red Sox are shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue while the Mets are checking out the discount racks at Walmart.  But, in the imortal words of Tug McGraw, "You Gotta Believe".    

Friday, December 3, 2010

Qatar-troversy - Thoughts on the 2022 World Cup

Arsenal and the Mets are taking a back seat for this one as the backlash that FIFA is getting with regards to the awarding of the next two World Cups is all over the "Twitterverse".

I have spent the past 24 hours following the feedback from Twitterers all over the world regarding the Qatar bid and here is a sampling of some of the Tweets that I found:

-Is that oil I see dripping from the money stuffed in FIFA delegate's pockets?

-Can’t wait to see what happens when Israel qualify, as well as Budweiser the official world 
 cup beer's stance.

-With only 2 cities in the whole country, are fans expected to camp in the desert?

-The Qatar stadiums look awesome, but they have one fatal flaw: they're in Qatar.

-Ironically, we have been awarded the 2022 Oppressive Regime Against Women And 

 Homosexuals World Cup. 

-And who will be building all these stadiums and roads in Qatar? No doubt workers imported     from 
abroad, living 20 to a room and getting paid £25 a week. I guess slave labour is "carbon     neutral" though.

-Has wikileaks got any dossiers on the abject failure of humanity who run FIFA?

-I hope the media attention for Qatar in 2022 will force them to deal with their rampant  discrimination, human trafficking and slavery.

-Qatar: No stadiums, no history, unfavorable climate, no city of even 1m people, etc. 

  Everything about it is wrong except the oil money. WTF?

One player currently playing professionally in England tweeted:

"Gutted about England not getting 2018, as for Qatar imagine playing in that heat!"

Other opposition I found from fans voicing their opinions on the Internet include the following:

I understand FIFA trying to expand football in new regions, but my concern is for your general Joe Fan.  Nothing to do with safety or heat, but what culture is in this place?  What is there to see or do?  I hate to bring up alcohol consumption but come on - where can a fella have a few points and a bit o' banter?  Will good old fashioned singsongs be tolerated?  Maybe the English, Dutch, Germans, Americans, Russians, Czechs, Irish (hopefully) can get by on fruit juice for a month.
Qater is, hot, boring, full of annoyingly rich people who have never worked a day in their lives. Westerners living in compounds. More heat. More foreign workers (slaves as you need permission from your employer to change jobs or even leave the country!)
"The thumb-shaped Qatar peninsula," warns the Lonely Planet guide "is not exactly one of the world's major tourist destinations."  The chapter on the Qatari capital is even less enticing. "Around the Gulf, Doha has earned the unenviable reputation of being the dullest place on earth."

The following article from The Guardian explains Qatar's current stance on homosexuality and how Fifa's new "anti-discrimination taskforce" is trying to get the country to be more tolerant in hosting the World Cup.

Perhaps most disturbing of all was this on Twitter: No Asians allowed:Racism in Qatar Shopping in Doha via You Tube.

I was able to find some Tweets from folks happy about Qatar winning the World Cup bid:

-My country Qatar won the bid to have the world cup in 2022!!! I'm so proud to be from  Qatar!!!

-Somewhere now in America: “Dude, where's Dubai?” “Dude, next to Qatar! Duh!” LOL

I then saw that someone had posted the actual Qatar presentation from Zurich which outlines the country's plan for the World Cup.

It's always good to look at both sides of a debate and I have to admit that the presentation looked pretty good and it's nice to see that people in that part of the world are happy and proud for their country.  However, there is definitely some anti American sentiment being expressed as well.  I then read this article which I feared would be the reaction due to the tense times we are living in.  It paints Americans as entitled, ignorant as well as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.  While there are many people in the U.S. who think this way, the backlash that the Qatar bid is getting from soccer fans around the world has nothing to do with this and everything to do with soccer/football.  Here are the Tweets I found that pretty much sum up my feelings:

          -Where will Fifa go next for the WC, Greenland, the Galapagos Islands, the Maldives, 

            surely they all deserve a chance. Sepp Blatter you are ruining football.

          -How can Fifa allow a country to host an event such as a world cup when they have never 

           even qualified for one? Does anyone think money has been used to get this one?

          -Are they really going to play as host nation? They will be thrashed.

Here's the reason football fans are outraged, Qatar is a tiny country and will be the smallest ever to host the World Cup.  There are more people living in my Manhattan neighborhood than live in the entire country of Qatar.  They keep calling this a World Cup for the Middle East.  If that's the case, why isn't it being held throughout the Middle East?  The 2002 World Cup was co-hosted by two different nations with huge populations; Japan and Korea.

Also, every country that has ever hosted a World Cup has had their national team qualify for other World Cups.  In other words, they have invested in their country's football development and earned the right to compete in the World's largest sporting event prior to hosting the tournament.  No offense to Qatar, but they have never qualified for the World Cup.  As the host country they get an automatic entry in to the tournament which means that a more deserving nation will miss the World Cup so that Qatar can get crushed in every game they play in.  Brazil vs. Qatar would not make a highlight reel.

Nations that deserve to host the World Cup more than Qatar include:  Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago and even North Korea.  Why?..because all of these countries have played in past World Cups having gone through the actual qualification process and winning the right to play.

In fact, more deserving countries in the Middle East include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates...all of which have had teams qualify for past World Cups.

As an American I would have loved to have the World Cup held here again, but I didn't think that was fair as it was just held here in 1994.  For the same reason I felt that South Korea and Japan didn't deserve it as well.  The country that really got hosed was Australia.  They've qualified for World Cups in the past, there are many Australian born footballers playing in professional leagues arouund the world as well as at home in the A-League.  The country has an amazing climate, a multi cultural population, beautiful cities, stadiums that are already built and most of all, they have never held the World Cup before.  They've earned the right to host the World Cup. Qatar was pretty much just handed it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Arsenal Survive November and the Mets Prepare For 2011

As in past seasons November proved to be a challenging month for Arsenal.  A home defeat to Newcastle was hard enough but wasting an opportunity to lock up a spot in the knockout stages of the Champions League to a mediocre Braga side was gut wrenching.  Bad as these two losses were, the real "knife in the back moment" for all Gunners came when Arsenal blew a 2-0 half time lead to the Spuds of Tottenham, losing 3-2 in front of the Emirates crowd.

Since then, Arsenal beat Villa 4-2 in the league and locked up a spot in the semi finals of the Carling Cup with an easy 2-0 win over Wigan.  Despite all the disappointments of November, Arsenal are still alive in all competitions and along with Chelsea sit just two points behind current leaders Manchester United. Chelsea have had a real dip in form (very enjoyable to see) and are ahead of Arsenal in the standings solely on goal differential.  Man. U. don't look too good themselves.  Despite not having lost in the league yet this season, they've blown several leads and have a large number of draws.  With Shrek back in the fold, they hope form will improve.

An additional bright spot was seeing Alex Ferguson and his egotistical side get whipped by last place West Ham in the other Carling Cup quarter finals.  Of course once they lost, Man. U. supporters put a spin on the result by claiming that it was just their reserves and it was just the Carling Cup.  Whatever, we'll take it.

Arsenal have been drawn against dirtbag Roy Keane and his Ipswich team in the Carling Cup semi-finals. The trophy drought could soon be over for the boys from North London.

On a nostalgic note, it was weird but pretty cool seeing former Arsenal legend Robert Pires back in uniform amongst Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, albeit in a Villa jersey.


As for the Mets, the winter meetings get underway this weekend in Orlando and Mets fans everywhere are holding their breath.  Now that a new GM and manager are in place, putting together the roster for 2011 is priority number one.  Typical for Mets fans, however, is the breaking news that Johan Santana won't be ready to pitch for the team until JUNE.  It's looking like 2012 can't come soon enough for this team.