Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Make It Stop...Arsenal stutter to the end, Mets stutter all season long

"Sports do not build character, they reveal it." - John Wooden

"Losers quit when they're tired. Winners quit when they've won." ~Author Unknown

"Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you get off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you're in a slump. If you lose at the end, you're choking."  ~Gene Mauch

"We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time." ~ Vince Lombardi

"I would have thought that the knowledge that you are going to be leapt upon by half-a-dozen congratulatory, but sweaty team-mates would be inducement not to score a goal." ~ Arthur Marshall

Goodbye to Hu
Lately I've been asking myself why do I watch sports and why am I so connected to the two teams that I love, Arsenal and the New York Mets.  While I knew the Mets were going to be mediocre, some of the luck they have had has been beyond bad (Ike Davis and now David Wright landing on the disabled list) and some of the play and managerial decisions have been beyond pathetic (pinch hitting with pitcher Jon Niese* with 2 outs in the bottom of the 11th and down by one run and letting Chin-lung Hu anywhere near a Major League roster).

In typical Mets fashion, even good news becomes bad news.  Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are finally performing like the players we all knew they were.  Unfortunately the team is in transition and it's looking pretty likely that they will be used as trade bait to bring in young prospects.  Figures.  Since the Mets were one game away from the 2006 World Series Reyes and Beltran have either been hurt or underperforming.  Now that the Mets have no chance of going to the playoffs they're hot.

Regardless of the heartache that the Mets constantly provide for myself and other fans who are forever in the shadow of the cross town Yankees and their arrogant supporters, I could always rely on Arsenal to play at the highest level and restore my pride.  While not as dire as the Mets, Arsenal have for the first time since I've been a fan, totally imploded.  No recap is necessary.  Suffice it to say that up until February 27th Arsenal fans were dreaming of four trophy's.  Since then, however, the dream has turned out to be a nightmare.  What makes it even more frustrating is that it's mostly mental.  How does a team beat Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea all in one season then go out and get humilitaed by the likes of Stoke, Bolton, Sunderland, etc?

See you later Squillaci
Also sad is the fact that the legendary Arsene Wenger has painted a very despondent picture throughout the season.  The once dignified "professor" has looked like my 10th grade chemistry teacher used to look any time I got near a bunsen burner.  The poor guy has been let down by so many of his players.  In Arsene we trust, is still a mantra I believe in, but his reluctance to bring in defensive reinforcements was a major mistake.  Usually a great judge of talent, he has made several bad signings.  At the top of the list is S├ębastien Squillaci. He is the Chin-lung Hu of Arsenal and should never be allowed anywhere near a football/soccer pitch again.  He did score one game winner off of a set piece but he also contributed to many defensive screw ups.  (He actually got rated a ZERO by the Sun for his most recent "performance".  NO ONE GETS A ZERO).

I am a fan though and as a fan I stick with my teams through the good and the bad.  (Mets more bad, Arsenal more good).  So, as the most optomistic pessimist out there, the Mets will rebuild and hopefully compete at the highest level some time soon.  The new GM is already showing that bad play will get you jettisoned out of town (Ollie, Castillo, Boyer, Emaus, Carrasco and Hu) and I am confident that Arsenal will tweak the squad this summer and come back to compete for trophy's next season.  As disappointing as the Arsenal season turned out, top 4 and the opportunity of European football is not too bad.  The Mets are the West Ham of baseball.  Their only saving grace is that they can't be relegated.

Hopefully Arsenal will close out with a win at Fulham and as Tug McGraw once said as a member of the New York Mets, "Ya gotta believe". 

*Niese made the manager look good by getting a triple, but in typical Mets fashion, this amazing feat led to nothing as the Mets couldn't drive him in from 3rd and lost in 11 innings.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Arsenal, Mets...and a Politcal Rant

1-0 to the Arsenal (too bad Shrek)
So after what seemed like a never ending run of heartbreaking results, Arsenal fans were finally given reason to smile last weekend with a comprehensive 1-0 win over Man. U. at the Emirates.  Arsenal bossed the game and finally made Man. U. look like the not very impressive side that they really are (they are only top of the table due to the fact that everyone else has also underperformed).  Also, with Cesc Fabregas out due to injury, Aaron Ramsey got the start along with Jack Wilshere in midfield.  Together with Alex Song, the two played like seasoned veterans with Ramsey setting up and scoring the decisive goal from a fine Robin Van Persie pass.
While Arsenal fans were happy for the win, the victory also made it clear what could have been and perhaps should've been.  So many dropped points to inferior teams is the story of Arsenal's season and ultimately what cost them a very attainable title.  However, using the old RFK quote as a rallying point, "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?", the future for Arsenal appears bright.  Ramsey looks solid and back to health following the Shawcross debacle, Wilshere will be a fixture for years to come, Vermalen is finally healthy and will be ready for the start of the new season and Stan Kroenke will be giving Arsene Wenger money to bring in reinforcements over the summer.

Hopefully the idiots that want Arsene Wenger out will stop throwing their temper tantrums.  Wenger is the most successful Arsenal manager ever and the man voted Manager of the Decade by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics beating out Fergie and the NOT very special one, Mourinho.  As fans we all want it now, but sometimes you can't always get what you want.  For me it's better to come close and fail than to never have a chance.  Arsene Wenger puts his squad in the position to achieve every year and has added stability to a well run and respected club.  It's evident that Wenger is frustrated and his heart is firmly with Arsenal.

As for the EPL title...mathematically Arsenal are still alive, but it would take some amazing events for the title to end up at The Emirates.  Arsenal's victory over Man. U. was a massive favor to Chelsea setting up this weekend's match pitting Chelsea at United.  A Chelsea victory would put them top of the table.  While I have no love for Chelsea, my dislike for Man. U. is so intense that seeing Chelsea snatch the title under the nose of Fergie would be awesome.  After all the talk of Arsenal going trophy less this season and "bottling it", there's a very good chance the mighty Man. U. just might do the same thing.

Jason Bay is actually playing like Jason Bay
As for the Mets, they looked like the Bad News Bears for the first 3 weeks of the season and then Jason Bay came back from injury.  Suddenly the Mets pulled off six straight wins and started playing some good baseball.  That didn't last long, however.  Since then they have been losing more than winning, but on the positive side they have been playing better and have at least been a lot more competitive. (Although when you have a game where Jose Reyes gets on base 6 times and Carlos Beltran hits a 3 run homerun and you still lose, you know the odds just aren't in your favor.) On the positive side Bay, Beltran, Ike and Jose Reyes are looking strong, but on the negative side the Mets bench is filled with mediocre players and the pitching staff overall is very questionable and to quote a friend, our "ace" Mike Pelfrey is a "pansy ass".

On to the political rant...if by chance you are still reading and don't want to hear any political thoughts you'd better stop reading now.

While the Mets were salvaging a game against the Phillies on Sunday night, I was simultaneously watching one of my guilty pleasures, the Celebrity Apprentice.  Just before Donald was getting ready to fire someone, NBC interrupted the show announcing a special report and an upcoming announcement by Obama.  These kind of "special reports"are nerve wracking at normal times, but on a Sunday night at 10:45 p.m. it seemed a bit ominous. So while the talking heads kept telling us for 45 minutes that the president was just about to speak, the Mets continued to play as their game with the Phillies went in to extra innings.

In the category of multi tasking I was also on Twitter and saw a Tweet about the upcoming announcement being about Osama Bin Laden. Soon the tweets were coming fast and furious and then the President spoke.  It was short and to the point, but of course the media machine took over and the Osama story was dissected at every level and the footage of my city in ruins was back in a continuous loop on every local channel.  Those sadly familiar stories of the lives lost, the firemen and policemen killed were all over the airwaves.

Soon the news channels were showing a small minority of folks cheering outside the White House, at Ground Zero and in Times Square and tried to spin it as some big sign of rah rah USA patriotism.  (Meanwhile it looked more like tourists and drunk college kids that would show up for any event where they could party). In reality, there was some satisfaction that the mastermind and face of Al Qaeda was captured and gone, but as a resident of a city greatly affected, the truth is that yes this was a good thing, but this is just a drop in the bucket and these idiots yelling in to the TV don't represent the average person or those folks who were really affected by the events of 9-11.  These drunken clowns who only wanted to be on TV and party in the streets will only make things worse and inflame hatred by celebrating like the USA won the World Cup...and of course the moronic media were there to cover it all and encourage it.

Meanwhile the Mets kept playing.

What really got me upset, however, were some of the horrible, scary, nasty, hateful, ignorant and downright sick comments made by folks on Twitter towards the USA.  I am no super patriotic American and there are times when I myself am embarrassed by the American stereotype (fat, loud, obnoxious, oblivious to the rest of the world, not from the liberal east coast or west coast, Palin, Bachman, Limbaugh, Glen Beck, etc.)  However, to see people hypocritically comment on how Americans are picking on Muslims and that the Jews are behind all the problems in the world really broke my heart and got me angry. 

Maybe living in NYC I look at this country differently as NY is unlike most places across the USA.  Where I live every walk of life lives within the 5 boroughs. Just this week I took 2 Dutch tourists on a tour of Astoria in Queens and in one 45 minute walk we passed an Egyptian Hookah bar, Halal restaurants, a mosque, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Colombian, Italian, Irish, Brazilian, Mexican, Greek, etc. restaurants and real people of these actual descents.  In other words, by passing judgement on me and lumping me and everyone else in the US in to one stereotype you are doing exactly the same thing that you are accusing us of doing.  I can only speak for me and I have my own opinions, thoughts, ideas and feelings.  My government does not represent my personal views, in fact what makes this country special is that we are all entitled to our personal opinions and feelings while living side by side people from many different backgrounds.

One Tweet that blew my mind asked why Americans believe in the views expressed on Fox News, the us against them point of view on any political situation.  What?  How can someone really believe this?  Perhaps their perception is that we are all Stepford Wives and Sarah Palin clones, maybe they themselves are watching too much Fox News...but where are they coming up with this insulting and completely erroneous idea.  Yes, there are some who think like the folks at Fox and stir up hate and fear, but everyone in the USA?  Crazy and insulting to even say this.  (a couple of other choice Tweets expressed hatred towards both the USA and of course everyone's favorite punching bag, the Jews).

Whatever you think and whoever you think was behind 9-11 the fact is that these are the faces of REAL people who were innocently killed that day in horrific fashion in my city just five miles from where I live. I smelt that disgusting, horrible odor of what can only be described as death as the toxic fumes from a fire that lasted MORE THAN 3 MONTHS permeated the air that I and millions of others breathe.

Take your conspiracy theories and what not out of the equation, here are some real FACTS:

1. The World Trade Centre took 6 years and 8 months to build

2. It took 1 hour and 42 minutes to destroy both buildings

3. The impact of the North Tower collapse registered 2.9 on the Richter Scale

4. The planes were travelling at 475 mph and 595 mph when they hit the towers

5. The death toll was as follows:

     2605 innocent citizens in the towers
     343 fire-fighters
     60 policemen
     37 Port Authority Police
     23 members of the NYPD
     10 bystanders

6. The total number of vehicles crushed by the towers collapse was 1350.

7. It took 3.1 million hours of time to clear the site

8. Number of nations whose citizens were killed in the attacks: 115.

As for your assumption that this is all fueled by anti Muslim sentiment, investigate the truth. Yes there are a small number of ignorant people that view this as a war against Muslims, but they are a blip on the radar and don't represent intelligent and informed people.  There were Muslim victims of the 9-11 attack not to mention the living victims who are feeling threatened or compromised by a radical few who have overtaken their religion in the name of evil.  We get it people, it's not a war with Islam.  It's a war with INSANE PEOPLE.  Nobody wanted this, no rational person wants war, no intelligent people supported Bush's invasion of Iraq to look for WMD's that didn't exist, but this is what we've been dealt and what we are dealing with.  I can only speak for me and these are my thoughts.  So, chill out, relax, join hands and let's all form a circle and sing "We Are The World.
Ok, I've ranted.  Now back to the sports.  The Mets won in the 14th inning by the way.