Friday, October 27, 2006

Checking In

Yo, yo, yo. Sorry for the lack of posts. Long story. Be Back soon.

But while I'm here...

Prediction for Sunday? Bears 27 49ers 6

And the Fire will polish off the Revs in Foxboro to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Book it.

Here we go now.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tillman Pissed Off


Kevin Tillman, the brother of Pat Tillman, has written an article for Truthdig magazine, and he's pulling no punches. This is great stuff.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.


Wow. Well done. It's all been said a thousand times, but it can never be said enough. Not until...

Not until...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Good Luck With That


Lou Piniella has signed on to be the Cubs latest scapegoat, er, manager. While I think Piniella is a fantastic choice and clearly the bench of the bunch the Cubs were looking at, this will end badly. Trust me. It always does.

That's the thing about the Cubs. There's just something negative, creepy, dark and inescapable about the franchise that eventually drags anyone who dares step too near it down into the muck. It's like quicksand. Once you place a foot in, slowly but surely, you're dragged lower and lower until you reach rock bottom.

Dusty Baker was a good manager when he arrived on the North Side, and for a couple of years, it worked out. Things went relatively well. But then the malaise set in, the darkness began to settle, and once it did, it was all downhill. Dusty disintegrated until, just like every unfortunate soul who came before him, it all went to hell.

And that's exactly what will happen with Piniella. Oh, he may be able to be a positive influence in the beginning. In fact, I wouldn't doubt it as the present Cubs have nowhere to go but up. But give it time. Let the ghosts do their thing. I guarantee that within 3-4 years Piniella is in the same boat Dusty ended up in. Things will be in tatters and the media and fans will be screaming for his head. It's going to get ugly.

I hate to be so negative, to be a doomsayer, but the truth is out there, so why ignore it?

Ultimately, Piniella will sheepishly leave town and the next wide-eyed cat foolish enough to make the regrettable decision to take his shot at managing the Cubs will enter.

And the cyle will begin again.

It's all so predictable.

And sad.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Unbelievable


Run, Devin, run: Devin Hester runs his leg of the miracle.


The phrase "Team of Destiny" is tossed around often. Maybe too often. Sometimes a team is just really good and that's why it wins. There are no miracles involved. No special forces. No tugs from the universe that won't allow the story to end any other way. No, sometimes a team is, simply, good.

But sometimes - sometimes - teams really do seem to have a special relationship with destiny. Yes, I believe it can happen. And I'd like to think that the Bears 24-23 win over the forever unlucky Cardinals tonight was a sign that maybe - just maybe - someone or something in this universe of ours is looking out for these 2006 Bears. Why? Because the Bears had absolutely no right to win that game.

But they did.

Yes, despite trailing 23-3 with only seconds to go in the third quarter, the Bears won.

Despite no touchdowns from the offense, they won.

Despite four interceptions and two lost fumbles from Rex Grossman, they won.

Despite barely a hint of a running game, they won.

This was about as unbelieveable, as surreal, a win as you'll ever witness. Two touchdowns from the Bears defense and another by the special teams in the final 15:02 of the game? Nah. No way. Right? You could write that into a movie and nobody would believe it. That just doesn't happen.

But it did.

When the offense was doing everything to revert to its former self - meaning it suddenly become completely and horrifically incompetent - Mark Anderson nailed Matt Leinart from his blindside and Mike Brown ran in the ensuing fumble. That made it 23-10. (Why does Brown always seem to find himself in the middle of these miraculous endings? Think 2001.)

Then Brian Urlacher stripped Edgerrin James and Charles Tillman ran in the fumble. 23-17.

Then Devin Hester ran back a punt. 24-23. Bears in the lead.

And all the offense was doing was watching.

Finally, after Leinart had driven the Cards to within easy field goal range, Neil Rackers missed wide left. I bet Rackers makes that kick 19 times out of 20.

If the Bears were the winners, then only the Cardinals could be the losers. No other NFL team could ever disintegrate like that. The Cubs could probably pull off something similar on a baseball diamond, but nobody else could ever pull off such a glorious choke job.

If destiny was involved, the Cards dutifully played their part.

So, yeah, maybe it's just the adrenaline of such a miraculous and impossible win running through my veins at the moment, but as the final seconds ticked off the clock of what should have been a Bears loss but wasn't, I couldn't help but think that these Bears might just have a touch of magic to them. Maybe all-important luck is on their side and that is never a bad thing. Maybe that's just wishful thinking, but I'd like to believe it is so.

Of course, there is, sadly, so much negative feedback about the Bears that comes from this game as well. Let's be honest, they played horribly, and not just Grossman. Oh, he was the worst of the bunch, but the Bears' horrible performance permeated the coaching staff and players alike. They deserved to lose, so let's not kid ourselves. And, of course, there are the injuries to Brown and Ricky Manning to begin fretting about.

But I'll save that for tomorrow morning. (This morning, actually.) For the time being, I'll go to bed fresh with the rush of seeing a game I'll never forget and the hope that this Bears team has a date with destiny.

Hey, why not?


And the miracle is complete: A football god suddenly sneezes and Neil Rackers and his holder, Scott Player, watch Racker's potential game-winning kick sail only inches wide left. Personally, I think Rackers missed because he couldn't stop laughing at Player's facemask - which is totally old-school and awesome, by the way.

Random Image Department





Monday Night Spotlight


Only about three more hours until da Bears play on Monday Night football for the first time since ABC gave them a pity appearance for the first-ever game at the rebuilt Soldier Field. (The Bears were crushed by the Packers, naturally.) This is what happens when you win. You actually get some, you know, respect.

A few things I'd like to see tonight:

1) Several completely exasperated looks on the face of Matt Leinart as the Bears defense hounds him into submission.

2) 100 yards from Thomas Jones and 50 yards from Curtis Benson.

3) A touchdown for Muhsin Muhammad. Bernard Berrian, Rashied Davis, Desmond Clark and even John Gilmore have all found the endzone from Rex Grossman passes. I'd like to see Muhammad get a little reward for all the possession-type catches he makes over the middle.

4) Tony Kornheiser making fun of Joe Theisman.

5) A touchdown or two by the Bears defense.

Things I don't want to see tonight:

1) Kurt Warner's wife.

Random thoughts:

1) I'm looking forward to seeing the Cardinals' new stadium. Supposedly, the place is the shiznit so I've been wanting to check it out, although I'm disappointed that it wasn't named the Pink Taco Stadium, as had been rumored.

2) Whenever the Bears and Cards meet, I wonder what it would have been like if the Cards, the NFL's oldest franchise, never left Chicago. What would it be like to have two teams in the Windy City? Would the rivalry be as divisive and hateful as White Sox-Cubs? Who would I have been a fan of? Well, considering the Bears used to play on the North Side at Wrigley Field while the Cards played on the South Side at the old Comiskey Park - and I'm a South Sider - I may have actually been a Cards fan.

That would suck, eh? Being a Bears fan hasn't always been easy, but it's been paradise compared to what Cards fans must go through.

The pick? Da Bears 103, Cardinals -2.

Here we go now.

Uribe Shooting Up Dominican Republic?


Hey, do you remember last week when I was thoroughly against the White Sox bringing in Alex Rodriguez to play shortstop?

Well, why I'm still opposed to the idea, I think 'thoroughly' has been downgraded to 'mostly.' The Sox might be in need of a shortstop because Juan Uribe may be spending some time in jail - a Central American jail, no less.

Uribe and his brother are being investigated for their alleged involvement in the shooting of two men in the Dominican Republic coastal city of San Cristobal.

The incident took place on Friday night according to the El Nacional newspaper and the two victims were treated at a hospital and then released.

Uribe and his brother, Elipidio, thought that the victims walked too close to their jeep, according to a police report.

Dondolin Alessandro, a captain in the Italian Navy, suffered wounds to his stomach and hands. Antonio Gonzalez Perez, a farmer who tried to intervene, suffered a left-elbow injury but was treated and released.


First of all, I must refrain from making jokes about shooting an Italian being acceptable. So all kidding aside, I suppose Uribe should just consider himself incredibly lucky that nobody was killed. Apparently, his aim with a gun is about as dependable as his batting average, not to mention his arm in the field that produced more errors (14) than walks (13) in 2006.

Walking too close to their jeep? Jeez. Talk about a stereotypical Latin temper.

And what's with all the craziness involving Major League players when they head back to Central America? Murders, kidnappings, gunfights. It's almost as out of control as the Miami football program. It was only three years ago that one of my favorite White Sox players as a wee lad, Ivan Calderon, was murdered in Puerto Rico.


Nobody pulled off the open collar/numerous gold chains look like the legendary Ivan Calderon. Nobody.

Why Cause Headaches Over Headband?


"Yeah, and I want to wear these goggles, too, Jerry. We don't have a problem here, do we, Jerry? Huh, Jerry?"


Apparently, the Bulls (i.e., owner Jerry Reinsdorf) are forbidding Ben Wallace from wearing his headband. And, worse, the word on the street is that Wallace isn't all that happy about it.

Neither is the Unknown Column.

Listen, I understand that Reinsdorf has won six NBA titles with the Bulls and a World Series with the White Sox. And that's awesome. I'm fully appreciative, as is the city of Chicago (though Cubs fans are probably a tad ticked off about that Sox title.) But his overbearing habit of running his ship like the world is still filmed in black and white and filled with Leave it to Beaver-types who say things like "Gee wiz" and who would never stray from a strict dress code is getting old. And it's getting old fast.

Reinsdorf pulled similar garbage earlier this year when he demanded that Joe Crede, A.J. Pierzynski and Neil Cotts of the Sox cut their hair, which they did. Of course, none of the three even had particularly long hair and all three have avoided any off-the-field shenanigans throughout their careers. (Crede and Cotts have been nothing short of class acts, while Pierzynski has been...well...Pierzynski.) But Reinsdorf treated them as if they were trouble-making hoodlums because their hair didn't end at the collar.

Ridiculous.

I'm not saying there are any special powers in a headband or in lengthy hair, and I'm not saying that Reinsdorf's petty antics had anything to do with the White Sox's lack of mojo in the second half of the season. But then again, who knows? Maybe they did.

All I do know is that players will perform best when they are allowed to be themselves in a positive way, and teams will perform best when they are a collection of varied personalities that are allowed to shine and blossom and coexist in a cooperative manner. The coolest teams, the teams that are the most fun to follow, and often the best, are the teams that are not only solid at what they do on the field of play or on the court, but are also melting pots of humorous, strong, and secure indivduals.

So let Wallace wear a headband if he wants. It's a fuckin' headband. What's the problem? Wallace has long proven himself as both a player and a person, so why cramp his style unnecessarily? This isn't the military and it isn't the 1950's.

Besides, Wallace is about the last person you want to piss off. Not when you just paid him all that money and especially not when he's that huge.

At Least He Has That National Title


"Man, that Ken Dorsey was a helluva quarterback, wasn't he? I miss him."


Now that Joe Torre has been given a reprieve and will be allowed at least one more year to lead the Yankees to yet another disappointing playoff collapse (thank you, Steinbrenner), I can't imagine a coach sitting on a seat hotter than that currently occupied by Miami coach Larry Coker. Not even the women of South Beach are so hot. As if the the Hurricanes' slow but sure descent from national champs to mediocrity under Coker wasn't enough, Saturday's on-field brawl with Florida International should be the final nail in the coffin of Coker's tenure.

Things have sunk low when Miami is brawling with freakin' Florida International, of all teams. Florida International? Who the hell is Florida International?

It's sad, really, because Coker seems like a genuinely good guy, a guy who honestly meant every word he said when he vowed to clean up the Miami program. But the truth is that he, simply, isn't a very good coach. He was lucky enough to take over a team built entirely by Butch Davis and win a national title in his first season. And, no, I don't want to take credit away from him for that title. He won it. Fair play to him. But all the pieces were already in place and he was able to stand back just enough to watch all those pieces function perfectly for one season. Your job can't be all that hard when you have the likes of Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey and Bryant McKinnie biding their time in the orange and green jersey until heading off to the NFL.

Since then? Miami has declined steadily and, undoubtedly, that decline will not be allowed to continue beyond this season.

By the way, check out the TV commentary of the brawl by Lamar Thomas, a former 'Cane himself. He's cheering it all on and urging the players to continue it after the game, which is amazingly stupid considering half of the Miami roster is probably armed. Talk about a dimwitted yahoo. Hysterical and ridiculous all at the same time. It's no wonder the Hurricanes can never shed their reputation for being thugs when such an attitude permeates all the way from the locker room to the television booth. I mean, someone hired this guy and gave him a mic? Sheesh.

Is this the same Lamar Thomas who, while a player at Miami, was indicted?

Thomas and Marucci were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on charges of fraudulently obtaining Federal financial aid. The players could very likely have avoided charges by accepting an offer from the office to enter the pretrial program but missed the deadline for responding.


If so, how did he even get his TV gig in the first place?

Fire Back on Track, Head Into Playoffs


I suppose that when you culminate a stretch where you lose only once in 13 games with a convincing win in the U.S. Open Cup final, a bit of a letdown might be understandable. That's exactly what happened to the Fire, who followed it's trophy-earning win over the Galaxy with two regular season losses, including a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of lowly Colombus...at home, no less.

Concentration, it seemed, had been swayed and what had been the hottest team in the league suddenly looked cold as ice. Not good.

Well, the Fire righted itself over the weekend with a 3-2 win at D.C. United in their regular season finale behind goals from Gonzalo Segares, Nate Jaqua, and Andy Herron. Though the game was void of any postseason implications, it was nice to see the team get back to its winning ways as the playofffs are set to begin.

And the Fire will most definitely need to be at its best against New England, whom they will open up against this Sunday at Toyota Park at 1 p.m. (The game will get the national audience treatment on ABC.) The Revs are unbeaten in their last seven games, meaning they're peaking at just the right time. Clint Dempsey seems to have settled down after some on-field skirmishes earlier in the year and is playing well and riding the high of recently being named U.S. player of the year. Meanwhile, Taylor Twelman may still be ticked off about his World Cup snub and itching to prove his doubters wrong with a title. Toss in the fact that the Revs lost in last year's MLS Cup and would surley likely to right that wrong, and the Fire definitely needs to be in top form in this series.

(Sidenote: Whose bright idea is it to schedule playoff games opposite the Sunday afternoon NFL smorgasborg? Maybe such conflict is inescapable during football season as the college game dominates Saturdays and the pro game Sundays, but scheduling MLS games on weekend afternoons in the fall is ratings suicide. It surely can't help at the gate either.)

In the 90th minute of Sunday's game, D.C.'s Ben Olsen nailed the crossbar with a shot from only a few feet way, directly in front of goal. It was a ridiculous miss by Olsen and a very lucky moment for the Fire, who were desperately holding onto their 3-2 lead at the time. The Unknown Column would like to think that the moment was an omen of good fortune to come in the playoffs for the Fire, a sign that the soccer gods will be looking out for them. At least that's what I hope.

Anything and everything helps when it comes to the postseason, even a little bit of luck.

Here we go now.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Pig's Pigskin Picks - Week Six



Bears at Cardinals: It's officially started. It's growing. It's sprouting wings, lifting up and floating. It has a pulse and and it's pumping harder and harder. It's red hot, loud and getting louder.

The hype, that is.

After running their record to 5-0 with yet another pummelling of a helpless opponent (Bears 40 Bills 7), da Bears have officially started the legit talk of greatness. Sheer greatness. Chicago is absolutely alive, giddy, and throbbing with hope. The next few months are being looked to with eyes wider than those of a child who has just seen Santa Clause enter through the chimney.

Where only days ago the talk of was of whether or not the Bears are for real, now it's of who they will face in the Super Bowl and if they can go undefeated. Joe Theisman thinks so and he knows everything. (Just ask him.)

19-0. Hey, why not? I believe. I really, honestly do. I always believe.

But let's be careful here.

While I hesitate to compare this year's team to the 1985 team, it's hard not to. Why? Well, it's one thing to win a lot. There's plenty of teams that do that. But rarely do teams win games week after week after week that are complete and utter blowouts. That's hard to do. There are too many solid teams out there and too many X factors. Inevitably, even the best teams play plenty of squeakers. In fact, winning the close games is usually one of the key ingredients of a great team. But much like that 1985 team, these Bears are winning while hardly breaking a sweat.

Look at some of the scores from the Bears' 1985 schedule: 45-10, 26-10, 23-7, 27-9, 24-3, 44-0, 36-0, 37-17, 21-0, 24-0, 26-10.

Now peep some scores from this year's team: 26-0, 34-7, 37-6, 40-7.

Damn. That's just filthy. Filthy. The current Bears are manhandling people, making them look foolish, embarrassing them, ripping their hearts out and dancing on them. Of course, this cannot be said without LOUDLY mentioning that it's still October and that there is plenty of season left and heads must be kept out of the clouds and we must pray to the football gods to prevent any injuries and to ask for a little luck to be on our side or a lot, please. And any other cliche you want to mention because they're not merely cliches - they're truth.

One game at a time. One series at a time. One down at a time.

On paper, the Cardinals look like an easy victim. But it's a Monday night game and the Cards' new stadium is beautiful so, surely, they will be a bit more amped up than usual to show their worth against the team that is quickly becoming the biggest story in the NFL. Things could get dangerous. Nobody can be overlooked. It's a long, long way from the clouds to the ground.

Matt Leinart looks more and more like he'll be one of the good ones, but in the meantime, the Bears defense must give him a welcome he won't forget. You know, knock him out of the game. Make him miss that easy life at USC when he had sun and success and sweet cheerleaders all about. Let him know that those days are done.

The pick? Bears 23 Cardinals 7
Straight up: Da Bears
Spread: Da Bears -11


The Bears are flying - literally.


Bengals at Buccaneers: The Bengals had a bye week to think all about the embarrassment they suffered against the Patriots. Talk about a team being exposed. The Bengals were left naked with the world watching and laughing. They remind me an awful lot of the Colts. You know, a great offense, but a questionable defense; a team that looks spectacular in the regular season but lacks that extra level of toughess when it comes to January and the games become brutal and defense-orientated. They could be facing just such a game this week when they face a Bucs team that has yet to win but has been playing teams tough, which surely makes them quite testy. Could be dangerous.
Straight up: Bengals
Spread: Bucs +5

Titans at Redskins: Vince Young certainly isn't being eased into his starting role. Last week it was a trip to Indy and the Hoosier Dome. This week it's a trip to D.C. to face the Redskins and 90,000+ of their closest fans. The kid did alright against the Colts and nearly pulled off the upset of the year. We'll see what he does here. The 'Skins are possibly the hardest team in the league to figure out. One moment I think they're another solid Joe Gibbs club ready to play with the big boys, the next moment I'm having visions of the Heath Shuler era in the capitol.
Straight up: Redskins
Spread: Titans +11

Texans at Cowboys: T.O. was whining again in recent days about his role on the team. Naturally, he wants the ball more and, naturally, he failed to mention the obvious alligator arms he had against the Eagles last week in the third quarter. The pot is boiling. The meltdown can't be far away, can it? Whatever. Other than the fact that he's on my fantasy team and thus I thoroughly agree that he needs the ball more, I honestly don't care. I just want T.O. to retire so he can go away and be forgotten. His story, really, is sad and pathetic, little more than an annoyance, no matter how long the brainless media continues to be enthralled by it.

Have you noticed that David Carr - lo and behold! - is actually having a solid year? Who knew?
Straight up: Cowboys
Spread: Texans +13.5

Bills at Lions: The Dick Jauron "Welcome Back!" tour continues. One week after returning to Chicago where he was head coach, he's going back to Motown where he was defensive coordinator before landing his current gig (not to mention a Lions player many moons ago). Apparently, nearly the entire Lions offensive line is injured, meaning things can only get worse in Detroit.
Straight up: Bills
Spread: Bills -1

Seahawks at Rams: Very quietly, the Rams are 4-1, though nobody seems to take them seriously just yet. A win here could change all that. Very unpredicatble game.
Straight up: Rams
Spread: Rams +3

Giants at Falcons: After thoroughly dominating the Redskins, the Giants once again look like NFC contenders. For one week at least, Tom Coughlin was spared the wrath of his own players. Must be nice for him. Meanwhile, the Falcons appear to be the same old Falcons, meaning that as long as Michael Vick is healthy, they're a contender.
Straight up: Falcons
Spread: Falcons -3

Eagles at Saints: A win by the Saints here against the high-flying Eagles would vault them from the status of a nice, little feel-good story to the status of straight-up media frenzy and make Sean Payton the king of New Orleans. You just know that the Superdome will be rocking, and you just know that most anyone outside of the Philly metropolitan area will be pulling for the Saints. Game of the week right here.
Straight up: Saints
Spread: Saints +3.5

Panthers at Ravens: It was nice to see Brian Billick humbled under the bright Monday night lights last week. That 4-0 start by the Ravens undoubtedly had his immense ego reaching dangerous levels. Would I be asking too much to see him humbed again, but this time at home? Hey, it could happen. The Panthers seem to be slowly finding their groove after their rough start to the season.
Straight up: Ravens
Spread: Panthers +3

Dolphins at Jets: Apparently, Joey Harrington is somehow becoming the No. 1 quarterback in Miami. Enough said. The Dolphins ship is sinking faster than a Yankees playoff choke job.
Straight up: Jets
Spread: Jets -1

Chargers at 49ers: Philip Rivers is looking Super. <-----And notice the capital S. You know what that means, right? Then again, I'm already imagining ways Marty Shottenheimer might screw up another playoff run. How has he not reached a Super Bowl yet? I mean, other than John Elway heroics, of course. Damn, can you imagine losing to the same team three times in four years in the conference championship game? I'm guessing Shottenheimer has an Elway voodoo doll hidden away somewhere.
Straight up: Chargers
Spread: Chargers -10

Chiefs at Steelers: I know Ben Roethlisberger has gone through a lot recently and that it all has possibly affected his play in a bad way. And, sure, he may snap out of it. But I'm beginnging to think he may be the most overhyped "serviceable" quarterback ever. You know, a caretaker, a dude whose job is merely not to lose games rather than to do anything spectacular. As far as Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks go, I'm beginning to think he's much closer to Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson than Tom Brady.
Straight up: Steelers
Spread: Steelers -6.5

Raiders at Broncos: While the Bears defense has grabbed the spotlight - and deservedly so - the Broncos defense has quietly been beyond superb. One touchdown allowed in four games? Wow. Not too shabby. So I wouldn't expect more than a mere field goal or two from the dreadful Raiders.

So who else is loving the sight of Randy Moss directly in the middle of the immense Raiders mess? Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
Straight up: Broncos
Spread: Broncos -14.5

Straight up
Last week: 14-0
Season: 34-10

Against the spread
Last week: 7-7
Season: 23-21

Wenger Just Doesn't Get it, Cries About it


Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is crying because he has to share some of his players with their respective national teams. He feels that players wear themselves when on national team duty and return to his team less than 100%. Of course, this has been going on since forever and club coaches have dealt with it accordingly. Simply, it's the way soccer works, the way it has worked marvelously for decade upon decade. But Wenger takes exception.

Says Wenger in between sobs while wiping tears from the corner of his eyes:

"Gerard (Houllier's) thoughts on the matter echo mine," Wenger said. "He thinks that what the national coaches are doing is like taking the car from his garage without even asking permission.

"They will then use the car for 10 days and abandon it in a field without any petrol left in the tank.

"We then have to recover it, but it is broken down. Then a month later they will come to take your car again, and for good measure you're expected to be nice about it."


Cry me a river.

Normally, I find Wenger to be an OK guy, but you know what? Fuck him.

He's barking up the wrong tree if he thinks club soccer can call out international soccer. The international game will always, always, always come first, no matter how much money is involved with the club game. Think about it. Players are almost always remembered for what they do when they don the jersey of their country - first and foremost. Club exploits are remembered far less vividly.

Who remembers Pele for what he did with Santos? He's remembered for what he did with Brazil.

Maradona won titles with Napoli, which was all the more impressive considering that the Big Three in Italy usually win everything. But he'll always be remembered for getting red carded against Brazil in 1982 and lifting the trophy in 1986 while wearing the Argentine stripes.

Zinedine Zidane won numerous trophies with Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid. But what will he be remembered for? Winning the World Cup in 1998 and the headbutt in 2006.

Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten won trophies in Holland and then won everything in sight while together with AC Milan in Italy. But they'll always be remembered first for that great Holland team at the 1988 EURO championships and the disappointment of 1990.

Luis Figo has had a great club career, but years from now the exploits (disappointment?) of Portugal's "Golden Generation" are what will come to mind first when his name is mentioned.

The list goes on and on.

Soccer players hop from club to club to club, even far moreso than athletes in American sports. Naturally, that takes something away from the meaning of it all - if only a little.

Sure, club football is massive in popularity and rolling in $$$$, but in the end, the international game always has and always will be more important. Period. Wenger can cry and whine all he wants, but players aren't stupid. No matter how big their bank accounts get, they know that to truly cement their legacies they need to play for their country and do something great on the biggest stage.

Wenger needs to change his diaper and pipe down. Dude has a freakin' all-star team at his disposal at all times, so make your lineup according to the present situation and realize your place on the totem pole.

His players at Arsenal are, essentially, mercenaries, merely passing through and colelcting enormous paychecks. They've played for other clubs before and will move onto new clubs in the future.

But they all have only one country for which they can play and it's on the international stage where legends are truly born.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Idiots With Guns





















You Hypnotize Me

I suggest you drag straight up. But any direction works, really.

Looking Good


The Bulls beat the Wizards 87-86 last night in their preseason opener. There isn't really much to say about the game, but seeing Ben Wallace wearing the Bulls duds in game action for the first time sure was nice, eh?

Rookie first-rounders Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha looked quite spiffy them damn selves.

This Bulls season is going to be awesome. I can feel it.

The Soccer Gods are Croatian?

In what is surely one of the funniest goals you'll ever see, England keeper Paul Robinson completely whiffed on a back pass from Gary Neville yesterday and watched helplessly as the ball rolled into the back of his net. The goal put the Brits down 2-0 in the EURO qualifying game and effectively ended any hopes they had of leaving Zagreb with any points. The clip is here...



Two things in particular to note...

1) You have to watch the replay that occurs at the 1:10 mark. It fully shows how the ball was rolling smoothly along the ground until it mysteriously bounced up and over Robinson's foot. Hysterical. It's as if a soccer god, who must have been Croatian, was watching and pulled the ball up with an invisible string. In all honesty, as foolish as Robinson looked, watch the replay and it's hard to find much fault in him. The very definition of unlucky.

2) I love how England coach Steve McClaren is seen frantically writing something on a handy sheet of paper immediately after the goal. I mean, what could he have possibly been writing at that moment? My only guess would be a confession to leave behind after he commits a murder/suicide involving him and Robinson in the locker room after the game.

Oh, Please, No

According to this, Kenny Williams may be interested in bringing Alex Rodriguez to the South Side.

White Sox GM Ken Williams still believes Alex Rodriguez, only 31 years old, would be a hero in Chicago, and never has been afraid of criticism for making a big splash for a big name. The White Sox would have much more than most teams to offer the Yankees—certainly more than the talent-starved Cubs—in return, including fellow third baseman Crede. Coincidence or not, Crede also is represented by Boras, not a friendly face among Sox executives. But Boras could do both of his clients a favor getting Rodriguez to a less-pressurized situation in Chicago.


In the name of all that is holy, this simply cannot happen. Being forced to root for A-Rod day in and day out...well...I don't even want to think about it. My dislike for the guy is well known, and in this regard I am far from alone. There were overflowing amounts of scheudenfreud in my mind this past weekend as the Yankees were booted by the Tiggers and A-Rod once again choked in the postseason. It was the icing on the cake following the Sports Illustrated article from only a few weeks ago that fully exposed all the dislike for A-Rod there is in this world, even from his teammates. Watching A-Rod and the Yanks fail yet again was one of those rare instances where everything goes so, so perfectly.

Yes, I know A-Rod puts up phenomenal numbers and is still in his prime, but his excess baggage just isn't worth it. Even worse, why would you want him to replace Joe Crede? The Sox waited patiently through several years as Crede struggled as a youngster. But each year he got a little better and this past summer he finally blossomed (.283 AVG, 30 HR, 94 RBI). And those numbers, most likely, will continue to improve. Toss in the facts that Crede is arguably the best defensive third baseman in the game and has always been a class act, and this move would make no sense. Sure, Crede is a free agent and due for a big pay raise, but both he and A-Rod are represented by superevil agent Scott Boras and the Sox are going to pay a boatload either way.

I realize this is only a rumor, and I realize that the Sox have super prospect Josh Fields itching to come up from the minors to play third base (which would allow A-Rod to switch back to shortstop), but I'm genuinely creeped out here.

Cory Lidle, 1972-2006


What a crazy, shocking and sad story.

I must admit, I didn't know much about Cory Lidle before this year. He was simply one of those journeymen names you see floating around baseball in fantasy drafts and box scores. I didn't even know what he looked like until this past spring when I drafted him for my fantasy team in the late, late rounds. He was one of those guys who, after quickly looking at his stats, you select just hoping that maybe he can help you out, but you're not expecting much. I ended up dumping him about midway through the season and didn't think of him again until he was traded to the Yankees. I remember laughing because I figured the Yanks were further stocking their mediocre pitching staff with another very mediocre pitcher, which made me happy. I hate the Yankees.

Anyway, sorry to interject my fantasy perspective but that's all I really know about Lidle. By all accounts, however, he was a good guy and solid teammate. Godspeed to his family and friends. I've always figured if you're going to go out then you might as well go out doing something you love, and Lidle ws allegedly in love with flying airplanes. So there's always that. I suppose.

655,000...

...dead Iraqis and counting.

American and Iraqi public health experts have calculated that about 655 000 Iraqis have died as a result of the March 2003 US-led invasion and subsequent violence - far above previous estimates.

...

That means 2.5% of the Iraqi population had died because of the invasion and ensuing strife.


And what has been accomplished?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Doh!

Don't he feel dumb.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I Wonder if She Knows Troy Smith

If I was a stud high school football player agonizing over the decision of where to take my highly sought after talents, this would probably put Ohio State on my short list of potential choices...and I hate the Buckeyes. But it would. (Probably not safe for work.)

* Hat tip to the Big Lead.

Random Image Department

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cubans Onto Something


Apparently, Cuba has an unusually large number of people who have reached 100 years of age. Their secret? Coffee, cigars, and sex.

Well, duh. And you thought they were exceedingly healthy from their numerous attempts to swim to Florida.

Cuba's high number of centenarians say their longevity is down to laying off alcohol, but indulging in coffee, cigars and sex.
The findings are the result of a study that looked into the lives of 54 out of the more than 100 centenarians who live in Villa Clara province.

More than 60% of them had parents who also lived to be over 100.

Cuba, with a population of 11.2 million, has about 3,000 people who have lived for more than a century.


I have the coffee part down. And I'm totally trying to have way more sex and following it up each time with a slow, soothing cigar. Once I get that down, I'll be the picture of health. If any of the Unknown Column's female readers is interested in a similar health-maintenance routine, contact me at the e-mail above.

International Week Upon Us



The domestic leagues around the world take a break from Satrurday through Wednesday so national teams around the globe can gather and play some games, most notably in Europe where qualification for EURO 2008 continues.

The Unknown Column loves international weeks. Sure, it's awesome to watch the richest clubs round up insane amounts of talents and battle each other, but there's just something about seeing dudes don the jerseys of their country that has always, always been my favorite thing in sports. Well, that and NFL cheerleaders.

Here's a roundup of some the more notable games:

Saturday, October 7

Belgium at Serbia: Interesting game as neither is that bad and one, along with Poland, is likely bet to push Portugal in Group A.

Ukraine at Italy: Rematch of the World Cup quarterfinal here in Group B. I don't have a good feeling about Roberto Donadoni as the Italian coach. They have one point from two games thus far and I'll love - LOVE! - to see that struggle continue here. Fuckin' Italians.

France at Scotland: Damn, Group B is stacked. When, if ever, will the Scots return to form on the international stage? A win at home here would go a long way in doing just that. France coming off impressive win over Italy.

Greece at Norway: Group C is a joke, but both Norway and Greece have max points right now and both have to be considered a legit threat to win it, which is wrong on so many levels. Hey, I had a bad, bad dream once that Greece won EURO 2004. Then I woke up and laughed at the absurdity of it all.

Ireland at Cyprus: The lads get rolling here after hanging tough in Germany in their opener, a 1-0 loss. Gonna be a rout, baby.

Macedonia at England: Things should go more smoothly for the Brits in Old Trafford than they did in Macedonia recently. Allegedly, Steve McClaren will try a new, more attack-minded lineup, meaning he may have learned from the biggest mistake of his predecessor, Sven Goran Erickson. But we'll see how that goes. McClaren isn't the first coach to vow to be more offensive only to revert to a defensive shell...yet again.

Israel at Russia: Israel has max points from two games, meaning their surprising WC 2006 qualifying campaign may have been no fluke. But you know Russia is improving everyday under Guus Hiddink. The Ruskies will be tough. Soon. Real soon.

Northern Ireland at Denmark: Northern Ireland is coming off massive upset of Spain and could be a group spoiler. Danes have qualified for every EURO since 1992, which they won, and are looking to bounce back from missing the World Cup.

Spain and Sweden: One of the biggest games of the week. Spaniards could spiral if they lose again on the road, which is possible. Raul will not be on Spanish roster for first time since 1964.

Netherlands at Bulgaria: Coaching matchup of two of my all-time favorite players - Marco Van Basten vs Hristo Stoichkov. Bulgaria scored twice in final minutes to tie at Romania and if they get some points here they may start feeling good about themselves. Could be a spoiler. Stoitchkov is a fuckin' madman and I love it.

Wednesday, October 11

England at Croatia: First big test of McClaren era. Should be a tricky trip.

Czech Republic at Ireland: Aye, the lads needs this one. I've already got my face paint on. Huge, huge, huge. Landsdowne Road will be rockin'.

Scotland at Ukraine: Which team stays with France and Italy in this group? Which falls by the wayside?

Portugal at Poland: Two World Cup teams. Could be tough trip for Portuguese.

Germany at Slovakia: Germans unlikely to reach double-digits again.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Little Justice


Clint Dempsey has been named US soccer's national team Player of the Year. Which is nice to see considering he's just about the only American player worth anything. (There are a few others - a few.) Thank goodness we don't have to witness Landon Donovan getting this award as we all dance behind the facade that is the belief that Donovan is any good.

That said, it's really saying something that the award is going to Dempsey, essentially, because he scored the lone U.S. goal at the World Cup. His Revs team hasn't lit it up this season in MLS and Dempsey has had some controversies on the field regarding his temperment. Is this really the state of American soccer?

But I'm still a big supporter of the dude.

If it was up to me, I'd place Dempsey at center midfield and build the national team around him. He's got the talent, and more importantly, he's got the cajones that Donovan lacks. He has a certain swagger. Just as importantly, Dempsey needs to take his game to Europe. Immediately. He's been adamant on a number of occasions about wanting to go overseas, and yet MLS continues to play games with him, locking him up here and stifling his improvement.

MLS really is moronic at times. Listen, I'm all for MLS and it's continued growth. And I'm confident that one day it will be huge. I really am. But the people running it, on all too many occasions, really are a bunch of twats.

If Dempsey can find a suitor in Europe, let him go. Stop fuckin' with him. MLS has no right.

Have You Noticed...?


Arguably the best - and inarguably the most underrated - player in college football is from right here at Northern Illinois: Garrett Wolfe. In only five games thus far, he's already rushed for 1,181 ayrds and 11 touchdowns, including a 353-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Ball State last Saturday.

Wolfe averaging 9.3 yards per carry. Think about that. That's almost a first down everytime he takes a handoff. Filthy.

Sadly, the native Chicagoan is receiving hardly any publicity right here in Chitown despite playing for a local team - not to mention a team that has legitimate bowl hopes. So I doubt any serious Heisman consideration will come from around the country. But it'd be nice if maybe, just maybe, Wolfe gets to fly to New York for the ceremony. There isn't a player across the land who is doing nearly the things Wolfe is doing at the moment.

I Don't Know

I just don't know. If you understand this, please explain.

Fuckin' Hypocrite Politicians



It's always the same. It never ends. Those who say they are holy, are sinners. Those who say they are righteous, are hideous. Those who tell us how to live, are creeps. And these are our leaders. These are the people we elect. Why is power syomonous with assholes?

Congrats to the Vancouver Whitecaps


This is a bit belated, but I wanted to say congrats to the Whitecaps for winning the United Soccer Leagues title over the weekend. And in dominant fashion no less, pounding the Rochester Rhinos 3-0 on the road in the final. Impressive. (For those not in the know, the USL is a step below MLS.)

I've always been a fan of the USL franchises that, somehow, someway, have managed to stick around since they were in the NASL in the 1970s (Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, etc.) These franchises are true soccer survivalists and it's nice to see one of them win the USL title. They've been around since they were battling teams like the Chicago Sting and New York Cosmos, and even when there was barely a league to play in, they've survived in some shape or form. You have to appreciate that.

Perhaps the Whitecaps will be in MLS someday...especially if the Toronto expansion team is a success. There is currently a stadium being built in Vancouver, so maybe it's not too farfetched.

Also, this might sound crazy, but I have an idea...

I think the USL champ should somehow be allowed into the MLS playoffs. Why not? Do we really need, say, the fourth place, sub-.500 team from the Eastern Conference in the postseason. Not really, I say. Relegation/promotion will never happen in America, which is unfortunate, but allowing the USL champ into the MLS playoffs would be a step in that direction.

Am I being crazy here? Wouldn't this be a good idea? Wouldn't it be cool to see what the Whitecaps might do against the big boys if given the opportunity? It's about time MLS thought outside the box a bit.



Speaking of MLS, the Red Bulls' Josmer Altidore is only 16 years old. In five games thus far, he's scored three goals. My money says this kid is eventually a better player than Freddy Adu. If nothing else, it will be interesting to compare the two youngsters as their careers progress. One was given unmatched hype (Adu) while one has come out of nowhere (Altidore). Stay tuned.

It's Been Awhile


The Unknown Column has been away, testing the bounds of reality (as they say), floating through space, and dealing with some shit. Let me catch up on a few things:

1) Da Bears. That was a helluva a beatdown da Bears laid on Seattle on Sunday night. Hell, at this point the Bears look so damn good in all facets of the game that I'm actually wondering if they're peaking too early. Maybe they should save some of this utter domination for, you know, January.

Everything is clicking right now. Everything. The defense is as awesome as ever, allowing just one touchdown so far this season. Rex Grossman looks great. How great? He's looking like a fantasy starter (ie, he's piling up stats, which is unheard of from a Bears quarterback). More importantly, he's winning. Period. Even Thomas Jones and the running game looks to be back on track.

Not to look ahead, but the upcoming schedule looks more than manageable. Barring a major upset, the Bears shouldn't lose for a long while. This ride is only beginning, the journey is just underway. Strap yourself in, sit back, and enjoy.

I guess the best thing da Bears can do at the moment is to keep doing exactly what they're doing. Keep improving. Keep working. Don't get cocky. And stay healthy.

Here we go now.

2) Dusty Baker was shitcanced by the Cubs. Yet another depressing chapter in the sad tale of the Cubs has come to an end with a whimper and not a bang. Now, of course, for the next several weeks, we'll be lambasted with news about the Cubs managerial search.

Which doesn't even matter.

Look, regardless of who the Cubs hire, we all know how it's going to end. It's going to end badly. That's just the way it is with this joke of a franchise. So, please, spare us all all the constant reminders of the Cubs pathetic offseason and stop pretending like the Cubs even matter. There is absolutely no reason for the Cubs manager search to be front page news. None. Put it on page seven next to the high school scores where it deserves to be. Just tell us when a new manager is hired so we can shake our heads at his misfortune, wish him luck, and move on. Let's not act like this is a big deal. It's not.

3) Apparently, Congress is about to pass a bill that would outlaw internet gambling. I'm speechless. I'm in shock. I feel faint. I'm scared.

The present administration has done a lot of awful things and made countless poor decisions. Hell, I'm convinced W will go down as the worst president ever. But this crosses the line. I've had enough. I'm storming the gates.

Gambling? Really? With all the shit going down (Iraq, a horrible economy, kiddie fiddlers, etc.) gambling is what these useless politicians decide to go after with venom? Gambling? The entire country is spiralling out of control, it's all their fault, and they've decided to crack down on some overweight slob in his frontroom with pizza stains on his shirt who wants to place a few bucks on the under for the Purdue-Wisconsin game? Really?

Pathetic.

4) The Bulls have opened training camp. I've not been this excited about a Bulls team since the dynasty years. Listen, I don't want to look too far ahead or count any chickens before they hatch, but between the Bears and the Bulls, there is so, so much to look forward to in the immediate future here in Chitown.

Oh, and the Fire enters the MLS playoffs very soon.

5) The Blackhawks (Yawn) are currently (Yawn) in preseason. (Yawn)

6) Rock on.