Friday, September 21, 2012

Grenade Thrown onto Iranian Soccer Field

Suddenly Philadelphia fans seem like kindhearted angels.

I feel bad for the refs here. This game between Iranian team Sepahan and Saudia Arabian team Al Ahli is part of the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League. The ref is from Hong Kong, and when he was selected to officiate in this tournament he was probably pretty happy. He'd get paid extra, and get to travel, maybe to Australia or South Korea. Instead, he gets Iran, right as the Middle East is going nuts over a YouTube video.

Then someone throws a grenade on the field. Not fun.

More NHL Players Flocking to Europe, Tyler Seguin and Other Bruins Among Them

The flow of NHL players signing with European teams remains steady. Tyler Seguin will go to Switzerland, signing with EHC Biel. Andrew Ference will play in the Czech Republic for HC Ceske Budejovice. There are reports that Czech native David Krejci will also be playing in his home country. Russian backup goalie Anton Khudobin has signed with HC Atlant Moscow Oblast of the KHL.

Alex Ovechkin will also be in the KHL, signing with Dynamo Moscow. The LA King's Anze Kopitar will play for the Swedish team Mora IK. Jason Spezza is going to Switzerland to play for Rapperswil-Jona. Logan Couture will play in Geneva, also in the Swiss league.

I don't know how much leverage this gives the players. Their salaries over there aren't much lower than their NHL contracts, and checks from KHL teams are tax free. A guy like Alex Ovechkin can pocket more playing in Russia than he can in the US or Canada.

But not every NHLer will find work in Europe. Enforcers like Shawn Thornton wouldn't be allowed to fight in European hockey. And while a Swiss or Czech team might pay big Euros for the star appeal of a Tyler Seguin, the lower tiers of players won't get much money in Europe.

Rules also prevent teams from stocking up on imported talent.

Then again, this helps the players at least survive a long-term lockout. While the NHL is cutting its payroll by 20% and owners will lose money with every game not played. This has become a battle of attrition, siege warfare, and the players might have the long-term supplies necessary to outlast the owners.

If I were a program director at ESPN, I'd try to negotiate for the broadcasting rights of the KHL and the Swiss National League A. You might not get many viewers in the US, but Canadians will be desperate for quality hockey. Hockey is their heroin, and they'll be jonesing for a fix. Canadians will endure the 8 hour time difference and stay up all night to see Dynamo Moscow play Atlant Moscow, and HC Davos take on Geneva. It's the only way they'll be able to sleep.

Ignorant College Football Picks*

Two weeks ago my picks were 4-3, and last week I was lazy and didn't make any picks. I'm back with some ignorant, uninformed picks of this weekend's games.

Virginia Tech -17.5 vs. Bowling Green
I smell blocked kicks and INT returns.

Wake Forest -7 vs. Army
The Demon Deacons aren't good, but they're at home, and Army is winless.

UConn -1 at Western Michigan
UConn has been good.

Penn State -7 vs. Temple
Rebound day for the N-Lions.

Washington State -20 vs. Colorado
CU might be the worst team in college football.

USC -16.5 vs. Cal
Don't sell USC just because they lost to Stanford.

Auburn +21 vs. LSU
Don't think Auburn will win, but it's the SEC, it's at night, should be a closer game.

Louisville -13.5 at Florida International
Why not?

Michigan +5.5 at Notre Dame
The Irish are overrated, so are Michigan, so who is the most under-overrated?

Oklahoma -14.5 vs. Kansas State
K-State is 3-0, but it's tough to go to Norman and hang with the Sooners.

Clemson +14.5 at Florida State
Kind of a big spread. I like how Clemson plays.

Arizona +21.5 at Oregon
Immediately regret this pick.

The Ravens Don't Scare Me

I'm not guaranteeing a Patriot victory. I'm sure this game will be close, and maybe the Ravens will make a few plays, Welker will drop a pass, Gostkowski will miss a kick, and Baltimore will win. Shit happens, some players execute, some players fail. They're all human.

But there's nothing about the Ravens that has me especially nervous or anxious about this game. As good as their defense is, and as much as Tom Brady has struggled against them in the past, one unavoidable fact remains...

Their quarterback is Joe Flacco.

I'm not impressed. If the Patriots can contain Ray Rice (the way they did Chris Johnson in Week 1), then the game rests on the shoulders of the man from Deleware. The guy whose QB Rating was 18th in the NFL last year, whose completion percentage was 26th, who was 24th in yards per attempt.

I'm not scared.

And with guys like Chandler Jones chasing Flacco around all day, I'm even more not scared.

Brady still struggles with Ed Reed and the Ravens' defense, so I don't expect him to throw for 400 yards and 4 TDs. But he won't have to. Because the Ravens' QB is Joe Flacco.

Patriots 24, Ravens 20

Sox Lose Again

I don't care about the result of this game. I'm glad to see Clay Buchholz doing well. He threw 7 scoreless innings, only allowed 4 hits, and was in line for his 12th win of the season.

In the 17 starts he's made since the end of May, he's averaging over 7 innings per start, and has a 2.80 ERA. There aren't many brilliant free agent starters available this off-season, so there's a strong likelihood that Buchholz will be the best pitcher on this team in 2013... IF he can stay healthy, IF he can avoid these prolonged slumps at the start of the season, IF he can be consistent.

As for this game, Andrew Bailey totally blew it. The Sox had a 4-1 lead in the 9th and lost in undignified fashion. This was an embarrassing loss (at least it would have been if people were still watching), and the Sox have had more than a dozen of these horrible, painful, inexcusable giveaway games.

Only 11 baseball games left.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo