My New Year's Resolution - Write for the Post more often!
It's a long time since any of you have seen my column1, so I thought I'd treat you to a few more random ramblings. My home club, after whom this column is entitled, have been weathering their usual midwinter slump. No win in four since mid-December, two men sent off in the last two matches and Brian Laws reduced to his usual state of fuming apoplexy. Which is a good job, because he looked damn uncomfortable trying to be nonchalant and happy of Football Focus.
Elsewhere in the football world, the transfer window is open. At the time of writing, the two big transfers were Jean-Alain Boumsong (Rangers to Newcastle), who should shore up some shaky defence at St James; and James Beattie (Southampton to Everton) who, I suspect, will struggle to fit in with David Moyes' teamwork ethos. Still a striker who doesn't get sent off in every game should be a refreshing change.
The England cricket team (sorry, Americans, but see here if you need an explanation) have broken their national record by winning 9 straight tests. Having said this, at the time of writing, they look in grave danger of losing the 10th unless they repeat their escapist antics. Still, the form is good; Harmison, Jones and Hoggard make a fine strike attack; and if we can sort out a stiff opening line then England are in danger of... (don't say it, don't say it...) Yes! Winning The Ashes!.
Seriously, I believe that by August, we will have a team easily capable of taking on and beating the best in the world on our home turf. Gilchrist, Hayden, McGrath and Martyn are all pushing 35 - Katich and Ponting remain the only serious threat. If Thorpe, Strauss and Trecothick can hold form, then I believe that the domestic advantage will prove overwhelming against the predictable Aussies.
We are at that magic time of year when darts is being played. Last weekend, both the PDC and BDO World Championships are swinging along (I still haven't worked out why they schedule them coincidentally). Although the BDO can no longer afford to shepherd the world's best players, I still have a lot of affection for the Lakeside Championships. For starters, they're not predictably won by Phil Taylor every bleeding year.
Secondly, there's a lot of what commentators call 'characters' there:- men who aren't driven by the high-stakes prizes, but more by the desire to entertain. Anyone witnessing Tony Martin or Robert Wagner this week will know that. The BDO belies its name by being increasingly cosmopolitan - there are Dutch, Australians, Norwegians, Finns and Americans represented this year, and there have been Swedes, Bosnians, Germans and Thais in the past.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the PDC seems to be slowly disappearing up its own posterior. This seasons Championships were marred by violence and misconduct both on and off the oche. Players seem to be increasingly arrogant and bland - this almost happened with snooker; let's not allow it to happen with another sport fighting to have people take it seriously.
Several A/K/A Random's 'sporting blues'
Ah, 'tis 2005, for us AmSport fans, which can only mean one thing -professional AmFoot playoffs are upon us and it's time to quitit(!) on the snacking and noshing, sipping and swilling that was the two holiday weekends whilst planted in front of the teevee sets - ignoring the family and friends gatherings - to watch AmSport.
Really, your intrepid AmSport columnist didn't do ALL of that, but I know folks who did, remote in hand. Every day (it seems) there was a college AmFoot game, a pro basketball game, plus the Juniors hockey tournament for us junkies, and it may take me a while to sort out this jumble.
So, I'll start with this coming weekends' pro AmFoot and work my way through this, step-by-step. We have the St Louis Rams at the Seattle Seahawks in the early game Saturday, with the Noo Yawk Jets across the continent to face the San Diego Chargers in the late game. This will be the third matchup this year between the Rams and Seahawks and one never knows what either team is going to do in any given week. Seattle is the division winner, playing in a domed stadium, with the Rams a close second, but these are two up-and-down teams, probably with more offense than defense. The Jets flying across the country ((heh-heh-heh) to meet the surprising Chargers also would be an offense-minded game (what do you expect from Jets and Chargers?) in warm weather.
But Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts are hosting the Denver Broncos (they just played last week in the cold of Denver) and the Green Bay Packers hosting the Minnesota Vikings (both division rivalry games.) Indy plays in a dome and has perhaps the finest quarterback and probable Most Valuable Player in Peyton Manning, so I'm looking for offense, offense and more offense in this early game. The lesser matchup is outdoors in c-c-cold Green Bay, Wisconsin with the previous quarterback MVP in Bret Favre. The Vikes barely snuck into the playoffs, losing their final game, and are being counted out.
The Pittsburgh Squealers (Steelers, all right, all right) and Philadelphia Eagles, with the best records in the American and National conferences, get a week of rest before joining the fray in the second round and, with the New England Patriots (defending Super Bowl champs) and Atlanta Falcons, will be hosting the winners of this weekends' games January 16.
Still too early to detect trends in the National Basketball Association games, but here's one measure of value : Detroit-based businessman Dan Gilbert has offered $375 million$$$$ for the Cleveland Cavalier franchise. Gilbert, age 42, is the owner of internet home mortgage firms that did some $12 billion in sales last year. (That's right, B as in billion.)
I think he can afford it. The topper is, the current Cleveland ownership bought the franchise for $20 million in 1983, so I'd say they're getting somewhat of a return on investment, plus they're keeping 10% interest in the team that plays in an arena named after the family. Not a bad deal, to say the least.
The University of Southern California (USC) AmFoot team captured their second straight 'national championship' with a 55-19 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in Florida's Orange Bowl late last week, with the Auburn Tigers 16-13 winners in the Sugar Bowl of Louisiana. USC, whose nickname is the Trojans (don't ask) thus finishes first in the Associated Press final poll, with Auburn second and the Sooners third. Back-to-back National Championships are certainly a tribute to the recruiting and leadership of USC's Pete Carroll and his staff of assistants. I'd offer a toast, but I'm afraid there are several students in Los Angeles (thousands) who have beat me to the punch bowl.
So that's your AmSport report for the New Year's Post, from the soon-to-be frozen shores of the Great Lake named Erie, this is several a/k/a random, over and out.