Archive for May, 2008

Live from Four Oaks

May 31, 2008

Well, maybe more like tape delay.

I have finally been reunited with my family after almost two months of living by myself in Four Oaks. I mean, there are cows and all, but a man needs a little more than future steaks for company.

What’s even cooler is the fact that I now have Dish HD in my living room. That’s right, I can watch crystal-clear, high-definition TV from the comfort of my recliner.

Now, if I can only talk the wife into getting a bigger set…

Have a great weekend kids. I’ve got unpacking to do.

Wonder what would happen…

May 28, 2008

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog on a semi-regular basis knows how much I enjoy soccer.

Today’s a big day for the U.S. national team as they visit London to play England at one of the meccas of the beautiful game, Wembley Stadium.

On the way to work this morning, I started thinking. What would happen if we adopted a European-style relegation system here in the states? Relegation, for those of you who might not know, is where your bottom finishers in a given league get sent down to the next league below, while the same number of teams come up from that division to replace them in the top league.

Could this work here? Probably not, based on things like revenue, stadium capacity and the like. But it is fun to talk about. We don’t really have a lower league for the NFL to draw from, but the other leagues would have gone like this:

NBA

Miami (15-67), Seattle (20-62) and Memphis (22-60) finished with the three worst records this season. We’d send them down to the D-League and call up the three division winners, Idaho, Austin and Dakota.

Aside from D-Wade and Kevin Durant, would we miss anybody from those three teams? And wouldn’t be a little bit cool to have NBA games in Bismark, North Dakota?

MLB

Tampa Bay (66-96), Kansas City (69-93) and Pittsburgh (68-94) would be toiling away in AAA this season, which upon further review would be too bad considering the Rays are rapidly becoming a contender in the American League.

But rules are rules, so welcome Nashville, Sacramento and Scranton-Wilkes Barre to the show.

There are dozens of reasons why this will never happen. But the age-old problems of teams tanking to get higher draft picks, owners raking in big money from TV deals and not putting it back in to the club and players mailing in the last few weeks of the season would be eliminated.

Think the Knicks, who missed the imaginary relegation by one game, would get scared straight at the prospect of playing its games in the developmental league? Maybe Pittsburgh would start actually, you know, trying to win instead of counting money from that cool new stadium?

I don’t know, but it sure would be fun to watch.

What’s new?

May 27, 2008

Nothing like a Memorial Day spent moving a golf cart, returning a borrowed truck with a 150-mile round trip and mowing the lawn with a push mower.

At least I was free to do all of that, thanks to the brave men and women who have fought and died for our country.

Here’s what I’m thinking about:

* What exactly was Danica Patrick going to do when she got to Ryan Briscoe’s pit in the waning moments of the Indy 500? She’s five-foot nothing, a hundred and nothing. Maybe she was going to nag him until he apologized. Hard to say.

* Why didn’t ESPN have a baseball game on last night? I understand that the primary network had the NBA game, but couldn’t we have swapped out that re-run of “Madden Nation” for a little hardball on the duece? The folks at the four-letter really drop the ball on holidays. Just wait until the Fourth of July when we’ll get a hot dog eating contest instead of a Brewers’ game. Call me greedy, but give me a triple header!

Oh, and while I’m ranting on the four-letter, why must we sit through the shameless cross-promotion they lavish on “Dancing With the Stars.” It’s not a sport. Just because it’s on ABC (ESPN’s parent company) doesn’t mean we care.

* Why is John Terry going to be the captain for England in its friendly against the U.S. on Wednesday in London? The guy is the captain at Chelesa, the team that finished 15th in the fair play rankings for the way they play the game and react to officiating. Then, he whiffs on a penalty kick that would have given the Blues the Champions League title and saved his coach’s job.

And I’m not even going to mention the fact that he had on the armband for a lot of England’s failed attempt to reach the Euro 2008 finals.

I’m really going to laugh when the U.S. goes in there and takes a 1-0 win.

* Why do we care if Charles Barkley gambles? Isn’t it legal in Las Vegas?

* I watched the most NASCAR I’ve seen all year Sunday night when I took in some of the Coca-Cola 600. It was OK, but I’m finding it tough to get into the sport these days. I really can’t explain it. I used to play fantasy NASCAR and I probably watched 30 races a year as recently as 2003.

I think maybe it’s the fact that the series is contested largely on 1.5-mile, D-shaped ovals. It’s just not that entertaining. I still look forward to the two road course races each season. Those are always fun.

Thursday thoughts

May 22, 2008

Really enjoyed the Champions League final, even if it was 9 p.m. before I could finally get in front of a TV to watch it.

One complaint, though. ESPN put AC Milan winger Clarence Seedorf in the booth for the first half, and he was awful. He’s a nice guy who knows his stuff but it’s clear that English isn’t exactly his first language.

Picked up my first college football magazine today, Athlon Sports’ ACC Preview.

Here, let me save you $7:

Atlantic
1. Clemson
2. Wake Forest
3. Florida State
4. Maryland
5. Boston College
6. N.C. State
Coastal
1. Virginia Tech
2. North Carolina
3. Miami
4. Georgia Tech
5. Virginia
6. Duke
ACC Championship: Clemson over Virginia Tech

Now, I believe that Phil Steele’s College Football magazine is far and away the top choice for the serious college football fan. But Athlon is a strong second, and that’s from a guy who used to swear by Street and Smith’s.

Athlon has Florida picked at No. 1 nationally, followed by Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and Georgia.

Me, I hate to make football predictions in May, but I see the ACC a little differently. I like:

Atlantic
1. Clemson (if the OL develops, watch out)
2. Florida State (year two with a modern offense)
3. Wake Forest (don’t ask me how, but Grobe gets it done)
4. N.C. State (much better in the second half of 2007)
5. Maryland (has the Fridge iced over in College Park?)
6. Boston College (So long, Matty Ice)
Coastal
1. Virginia Tech (loaded, as usual)
2. Miami (Randy Shannon’s rebuilding project rolls on)
T3. North Carolina (Getting better under Davis)
T3. Virginia (Maybe not as good on defense, but should be vastly improved on offense)
T5. Georgia Tech (Year one with the flexbone might not be pretty)
T5. Duke (Will be bad, but better than you think)

I’d like to believe that Clemson could beat Virginia Tech in an ACC title game, but I’d have a hard time predicting it to happen. Frank Beamer OWNS Clemson. His last loss to the Tigers was back in 1989.

I don’t think Florida will win the national championship. I think folks will be a little better at slowing down Tim Tebow this time around. They’ll be good, though.

Here’s my top 5:
1. Georgia (Could this be the year? Wow, the SEC is super strong)
2. Ohio State (Man, the Big 10 is weak)
3. Florida (Will finally slip up against the Dawgs in Jacksonville)
4. West Virginia (Life after Rodriguez will be just fine)
5. Missouri (A year older and wiser for a dynamic offense)

Disagree? Debate, discuss, dish…

Champions League preview

May 21, 2008

This day has required some planning, then re-planning and finally, a complete punt of any of my original ideas.

What else is new, right?

My thought as I left Four Oaks this morning was to come in early and take a really, really long lunch and watch the Champions League final in a sports bar here in Fayetteville.

Turns out, I have an appointment in Hope Mills at 4, which means I’ll have to DVR the match and watch it tonight when I finally get to Henderson at about 9 p.m.

Not ideal, but at least I’ll get to watch the first-ever all-English final between Manchester United and Chelsea.

Not excited? Last year’s final between AC Milan and Liverpool was the third-most watched sporting event in the world last year, behind the Super Bowl and the Brazilian Grand Prix (that shocked me a little).

Here’s the link.

So, at least I know I’m not the only soccer fan out there. Though you wouldn’t know it from talking to my friends and family.

So, let’s break it down. Red vs. Blue, old blood vs. new blood and working-class Manchester against the posh section of London.

Too complicated? Fine.

Things to watch:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo is amazing. The United winger/striker has scored 41 goals in all competitions this season, which is a little like hitting .390 with 40 homers and 140 RBI. He’ll test the Chelsea back line and its all-world goalie, Peter Cech.

2. Didier Drogba, the Ivory Coast international and Chelsea striker, has developed a reputation for diving in recent years. He’s a huge physical presense in the attacking third, but seems to get a bit theatrical at times. Make no mistake, however. He’s lethal and will be the man the Red Devils will need to keep in check.

3. The grass. Apparently, the folks at UEFA (Europe’s governing body for soccer) decided to import some natural grass to Moscow for today’s final. They have worked really hard to get it in place, but it’s only been on the ground for about two weeks. A bumpy and un-even playing surface would favor Chelsea, the stronger, more physical side while a smooth pitch would shift the advantage to the fleet attacking style used by Man U.

4. Who will be the unsung hero? Nobody I’ve mentioned is likely to decide the game. It’s almost always a sublime moment of skill or a fatal error from somebody you wouldn’t expect that tilts a big game like this.

So, want a prediction?

Patrice Evra bangs in a header off a corner and United grabs a 1-0 win.

Happy viewing!

Sandspur feature (5-21)

May 21, 2008

Here’s a story from today’s Sandspur:

As the sun slipped below the horizon at Honeycutt Elementary last Wednesday evening, Courtney Rogers stepped to the plate.
She was the leadoff hitter for the Red Sox in their game against the Reds in Stoney Point Dixie Youth Minor League (ages 9-10) action.
On the third pitch of the game, Rogers took a fastball to the elbow, knocking the bat from her hands and bringing her coach, Chris Augustine, in from the third base coach’s box.
After a brief conversation, including a “that’s why they call it the funny bone” quip from the coach to lighten the mood, Rogers went down to first base.
Baseball isn’t usually known as a contact sport, but you might have a hard time convincing the only girl in the league.
On Friday, April 25, in a game against the Braves, Rogers was playing rightfield when a pop fly came her way.
She got into position under the ball and put up her glove, expecting to make a routine catch.
What happened next was anything but ordinary.
The ball knicked off her glove, striking her in the face and knocking her over.
She got up with damaged glasses, a broken nose and a bunch of red for her Red Sox jersey.
“Well, I put my glove right here, kind of like this,” she said, holding her glove out in front of her face. “It tipped off my glove and hit me in the nose.”
About 200 feet away, Courtney’s mom, Athena, was watching.
“The moment I saw it, I gave it a couple of seconds,” she said. “I thought, ‘OK, let’s see. I might have seen it wrong.’ And then she leaned up and I saw blood everywhere. I was mortified and I just ran to her.”
Augustine was also watching the play from his seat in the dugout.
“All I saw was her go down and the ball went down,” he said. “I just thought she dropped it. She got up and there was just blood everywhere.”
The game was halted and an assistant coach, now deployed as a physician’s assistant with the 7th Special Forces, provided some treatment on the field and got Courtney up for her ride over to Womack Army Medical Center with her mother.
“Both coaches were awesome,” Athena said. “You couldn’t have asked for a better situation, if you could. They handled it so well, I really didn’t do anything but take her to the emergency room.
“I was mortified at first. My husband’s gone right now (Chris Rogers is deployed with the 3rd Special Forces Group), but in his absence, everyone really stood up for us. They were there for both of us.
“I just want to say how supportive everybody on the team has been. We had so many phone calls. It really meant a lot to us.”
Courtney returned to the field last week – wearing a batting helmet and facemask.
Her coach and teammates were glad to have her back as the Red Sox battle for first place in the standings.
“She’s garnered a ton of respect in the dugout,” Augustine, a captain with the Army Special Operations Command. “In fact, the team voted her the game ball in her first game back after only two weeks from breaking her nose.”
Courtney’s doing fine now.
“It’s fine,” she said of her nose, adding that it doesn’t hurt, “not unless you touch it.”
You might suspect that a nine-year-old fourth-grader from Stoney Point Elementary might be a little nervous about being back out on the field so soon after her injury.
“No,” she flatly replied to a reporter’s question. “Why?”
That determination is why she’s back at it so quickly.
“She’s an amazing person. I don’t know what to say,” Athena said. “She’s very confident. The doctor’s very confident. He said as long as she’s wearing that mask, she’ll be fine.
“I left it up to her. It shows how much she wants to play the game.”

Contact Randy Capps at cappsr@fayobserver.com or 323-4848.

What can Brown do…

May 19, 2008

OK, enough with the cheesy UPS jokes in regard to Big Brown.

He’s too good for that.

I’ll admit, when he came into the Kentucky Derby with a swarm of hype and hyperbole, I was skeptical.

When he blew the doors off the field in the run for the roses from the 20 gate, I was impressed.

When he went off at the Preakness at 1-5, I was doubtful. I mean, anytime the odds are that short (Barbaro, Fusaichi Pegasus) the favorite sometimes comes up short.

But watching the race was like watching a cat stalk a mouse in a closet. Big Brown left from the middle of the starting gate and calmly eased over to the outside, just off the rail and close enough to Riley Tucker and Gayego to keep the pace nice and high.

Then, at the turn, Big Brown delivered. (OK, last one – I swear)

He swept past the pretenders with ease and won going away.

Was the field weak? You bet.

But that doesn’t make this horse any less strong.

Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown – and none since Affirmed in 1978.

Seven horses since then (Spectacular Bid, Pleasant Colony, Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Charismatic) have won the first two gems before stumbling at Belmont.

The Belmont Stakes is the longest – and oldest – of the Triple Crown races. It’s a mile-and-a-half, which is a quarter mile longer than Big Brown has ever raced.

I don’t care. Casino Drive, a Japanese horse that skipped the Derby and the Preakness, may be the only horse that can challenge Big Brown at Saratoga. I don’t see it.

Put me down for a Triple Crown for Big Brown.

And no, he won’t be racing the truck.

Take that, Red Sox

May 15, 2008

I never, ever want to agree with anything said by anyone affiliated with the New York Yankees.

That said, I think Hank Steinbrenner may be on to something:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3271124

Basically, the premise is that ESPN over-hypes the Boston Red Sox. While adding that the four-letter bows down to the Yankees just as much, I’m going to have to give the crazy rich dude his due.

ESPN might as well be the official network of the Red Sox.

On last night’s late SportsCenter broadcast, the main story from Boston’s game in Baltimore was the fact that Manny Ramirez made a catch out in leftfield – his job, by the way – and then high-fived a guy in a Sox jersey in the front row.

On and on the anchors gushed about another “Manny being Manny” moment before bringing the biggest Red Sox homer of them all, Peter Gammons, to wax poetic on the subject.

I know that the Red Sox and Yankees are big draws, and I’m sure the suits at ESPN have viewer data that suggests that they spend a huge block of time each night on the two richest clubs in baseball.

But, every once in a while, why not toss in a little objectivity. You know, just for fun.

Let me help.

Boston dropped its fourth straight game Wednesday, falling 6-3 in Baltimore, thanks to an eighth-inning grand slam from Jay Payton.

The loss keeps the Red Sox (24-19) a half-game behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who lost 2-1 at home to the Yankees Wednesday night.

The Orioles (21-19) completed a two-game sweep of Boston and now own the best home record (12-6) in the American League.

See, that wasn’t so hard.

I grew up with ESPN, and as my good friend Gabe Whisnant once pointed out, it’s the first channel I look for on an unfamiliar cable or satellite system. But the constant barrage of Red Sox and Yankee slobbering makes their baseball coverage difficult to watch.

At last count, there are 28 other teams in Major League Baseball. And when one of them, in a rebuilding year on the back of a decade worth of losing seasons, sweeps the world champions – it ought to be more important than a self-centered outfielder goofing off on the job.

A fight to the finish

May 13, 2008

My soccer obession is getting a tad out of hand.

I realized this Sunday morning when I sat in front of my computer for two hours watching an Internet broadcast of Fulham’s game at Portsmouth on the last day of the 2007-2008 Barclays Premier League season.

It was that, or shell out $16 a month for Setanta on my dish. The wife would never go for that…

Anyway, I yelled loud enough for the whole block to hear when Danny Murphy headed home a goal on a lovely bit of service from Jimmy Bullard to push the Whites to a 1-0 win, keeping them in the Premiership for next year.

That’s the beauty of soccer around the world. The winners get trophies. The worst teams get kicked out of the league. I’ve seen many a game where I questioned the heart and effort of pro athletes. I’ve watched organizations tank to try to bump their draft stock for the next season.

In England, it was all blood and guts on Sunday. Fulham, Reading and Birmingham City were playing for their lives and it showed. They all won, but only Fulham survived relegation. Fans from Reading and Birmingham City cried in the stands when the news came from Fratton Park.

It’s off to the Championship, the next league down, for them. Think of the Yankees or Braves getting sent down to the International League or the Bobcats getting bounced to the D-League. It adds a unique level of drama to the end of a season.

My wife, interestingly enough, is now feeding the beast. She bought me warm-up shirts for the U.S., England, Spain and Mexico.

That’s going to make for a tough choice on May 28, when the Americans play the English, and in future World Cups, but it was a great gift.

Now, if I can just figure out how to convert pounds into dollars for that cool new Fulham shirt…

Soccer gone wild

May 13, 2008

I wasn’t there, but I sure wish I were.

Apparently, a fight/fracus/scuffle broke out at a second-round 3A State Playoff match between Wilson Hunt and Gray’s Creek recently.

Earl Vaughan, the prep editor here at the Observer has been following the story, and here’s the latest:

http://www.fayobserver.com/article?id=293786

Michael Lindsay, at the Wilson Times, has also been working the story:

http://www.wilsondaily.com/News/Local/Story/Official-says-referees-should-have-stopped-fight–

Here are my thoughts:

1. Game officials, though not required by FIFA rules to physically intervene in an altercation, should have in this case.

2. If the fight/fracus/scuffle had indeed been going on for 15 or 20 seconds with no intervention from officials or coaches, then I can’t fault Randy Raper, Wilson Hunt football coach and parent of one of the combatants, for trying to break it up. If my son ever gets in a fight/fracus/scuffle and no one comes in to stop it, I’m heading there to stop it myself. I suspect the man has broken up dozens of fights in his time on the sidelines. I really don’t think he tried to hurt anybody.

3. Where were the cops? It is “recommended” by the NCHSAA that uniformed personnel be there, but not required. Perhaps it should be.