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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Nothing to fear but fear itself

You'll have to excuse my prolonged absence from the blog, as a Sox fan I was very close to jumping off a bridge since the Yankees had cut the Sox lead (once 14.5 games) down to four games a few times in the last few weeks. But as fast as you can say-Devil Rays-the Sox are six up on the Yankees thanks to two straight wins in Tampa while the Yankees lost a 10 inning game to the Angels on Monday and got smoked-18-9 last night.

If you're not a moron (something that seems more and more rare these days, especially in Red Sox Nation), you had to see that starting on Monday, the Sox had three at Tampa and four at the White Sox (who had just lost eight in a row). A complete cake walk, going into those seven games, I expected the Sox to go 5-2. As for the Yanks, they had three at the always tough Angels and then four at the Tigers. To top it off, the Yanks and Sox finally meet again next Tuesday-Thursday for a three game set. Therefore, the next eight games are huge to each team. If the Sox continue to pile up wins, they'll be nearly impossible to catch. The Yankees have to turn it around quickly or they'll dig a huge hole. Thinking they'll get the Wild Card is not given either since the Mariners continue to play good baseball.

It's only natural that in Boston, we're paranoid about the Yankees. We haven't won the A.L. East since 1995. This isn't such a big deal since the advent of the Wild Card but still, enough is enough. It's time to take the division after leading almost all season. The Sox haven't changed much as the season has gone along. They have great starting pitching, very good relief (don't even ask me about Eric Gagne) and a good lineup. The lineup can certainly lay down from time to time and is questionable against left-handers but no team is perfect. With a solid week, the Sox will put themselves in prime position to have a memorable September, thus springboarding them to October-when the real baseball starts. 36 games left.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Go on you Blues!

It will go mostly unnoticed Stateside but Saturday is the beginning of the season for the most popular league worldwide. What am I talking about? The WNBA? The Arena Football League? No dice, I'm talking about the English Premier League.
Now I know that I posted about Beckham a few weeks back but even with him, MLS is pretty much irrelevent globally. Growing up a soccer player in Massachusetts and having the opportunity to "study" in London for a semester (my junior year), I was introduced to football in the UK. I even attended games at Fulham and West Ham (two of the lesser teams in the EPL). You can never make a full assessment of soccer without having lived abroad somewhere else. Soccer is the most popular sport in a majority of the world, just not the U.S.
The team I started to follow in London was Chelsea-pretty much the equivalent of the Yankees. They have a Russian oil billionaire as an owner and a Portuguese coach, who is easily the most fascinating coach in professional sports. Oh and they've brought in plenty of top notch talent. Chelsea won two premiership titles in a row before bowing to Man. U last year.
Getting Fox Soccer Channel last fall was one of the highlights of my post-college existence. Now, instead of following the games online, I can watch them live as they happen (with cockney British announcers to boot). The big four of the EPL in recent years has been Manchester United (also similar to the Yankees), Liverpool and Arsenal (the inspiration for Fever Pitch, which was an awesome book but terrible movie adapted to be about the Red Sox).
There are two things about the EPL that are unparalleled: the importance of every game and the sheer length of the daunting season. The bottom three teams are relegated which makes almost every game thrilling since they're fighting for their premiership lives. If they're relegated, they go to league one (the equivalent of Triple A baseball) where they have a chance to move back up. The other crazy thing is that the season starts on Saturday and won't wind down until late May. There's small breaks built in but think about that, the season is over 10 months long. England doesn't get the brutal winters of the Northeast but it gets the occassional snowfall and chilly weather. Soccer in snow while not fun to play is pretty cool to watch.
So in summation, I'm not trying to convert you to soccer but I'm saying that once you get a taste, the EPL is the sleek drug of choice for a soccer fan. Nothing beats an English soccer crowd and the memories of watching big games in UK pubs.