Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA Advances in Dramatic Fashion!

It is never easy for the red white and blue is it? The United States needing a win over Algeria to advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup, pulls it out in the last possible minute and gives my nerves a big Tennessee game test.

Sam's Army had so many chances in the game it almost seemed it was just not going to happen. Knowing that England was ahead of Slovenia, it started to look bleak as timed ticked away. It would have been a major disappointment for the USA not to advance to the knockout stage which is actually a good thing now that expectations are so high for soccer in this country.

Goalie Tim Howard made a good save at the start of added time and threw the ball out to Landon Donovan who got the counter attack moving. The United States was able to use their speed and make a great break on goal. Clint Dempsey was denied again (should have had a goal early in the game but was incorrectly called offsides) but Donovan was there for the rebound to give the game to the United States!

The burst of emotion from myself was repeated all across the country as fans were treated to one of the greatest moments in U.S. Soccer history! Sam's Army have been the comeback kids throughout the World Cup and qualifying, scoring nine goals after the 86th minute. However, it would be nice to not be in that situation for once.

While there is jubilation across America, it comes with heartbreak as Slovenia realizes they are out of the World Cup at the last possible minute. It is what makes this such a great event. Riding high one moment and despair the next.

Up next for the U.S.A. is the knockout stage against the runner-up in group D. There are no more draws. The games will move to extra time, and then sadly if necessary to penalty kicks. Now that we are to this point, let's see how far we can go!

Monday, June 14, 2010

College Football Expansion: This is just the Beginning

As some of you dear readers have pointed out, I have been quiet up till now on the developments in the college football world. I really wanted things to settle down a little before I made my piece. However, I noticed things could go crazy all summer so I need to have my thoughts out there and here we go.

Expansion has been on the minds of many college football fans at the beginning of the year when the Big Ten made it known they were looking to expand to twelve teams and have that championship game. What got people going crazy was when we all realized that they might expand to 16 teams which would send everything out of control.

It all started when the Big Ten sent out feelers to Notre Dame, Nebraska, Missouri, and Rutgers. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 trumped everyone when they sent invitations to six Big XII teams including one of the jewels of expansion, Texas.

All this of course was speculation and rumor until the dominoes have started to fall. Colorado will join the Pac-10 and Nebraska will join the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the Mountain West gets stronger as Boise State will join the other BCS buster schools Utah and TCU to help that conference make an argument to become a BCS qualifying conference.

Today it seemed all but inevitable that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State would join Colorado in the Pac-10 and Texas A&M was looking to head to the SEC if the Big XII fell apart. Now, reports have surfaced that the ten teams left in the Big XII are looking to stay together and get a new television deal. As you can see, it has only just begun.

This all of course hinges on money. Money was the reason that Colorado and Nebraska left the Big XII. They believed the conference had become dominated by Texas and the south division, became very disenfranchised and felt they were not getting the money they deserved.

To me Colorado is really a Pac-10 school in many respects. Their school and the Denver area (12th biggest TV market) fits the mold of the rest of the Pac-10. Nebraska as well fits quite well with the rest of the Big Ten schools.

The key to continued expansion craziness hinges on Texas. If the Longhorns stay in a ten team Big XII I do not believe expansion will go much further other than the Pac-10 adding a twelfth team (probably Utah). Unless things go boom, Notre Dame will not do anything but sit there and be independent.

However, if Texas jumps and the Big Ten wants to get bigger, you know the SEC will not just sit idly by.

A twelve team Big Ten and a ten team Big XII? My head is already starting to hurt.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Biggest Referee Gaffs in History

Many of you are now very familiar with what happened Wednesday night at the conclusion of the "Imperfect Game." Umpire Jim Joyce called Cleveland Indians' batter Jason Donald safe when he clearly wasn't with two outs in the ninth to ruin pitcher Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers perfect game.

While all parties involved have handled the situation with class and dignity and the debate to use more instant replay in baseball heats up (of course being baseball it will take forever for that to happen). It got me thinking about some of the biggest gaffs by officials in sports.


Don Denkinger Calls Jorge Orta Safe

In 1985, the St. Louis Cardinals were on the verge of their 10th World Series title. Up 1-0 in the 9th inning of Game 6, umpire Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta of the Kansas City Royals safe although pitcher Todd Worrell, covering first, clearly beat him to the bag. The Royals rallied for two runs to tie the series, then blasted the Cardinals in Game 7 to win the World Series (yes the Royals used to be good).

12-year-old Helps Yankees
In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the right field fence and grabbed Derek Jeter's fly ball before Baltimore's Tony Tarasco could snatch it. Umpire Rich Garcia opted not to call fan interference despite Maier's glove being obviously over the fence. The home run in the 8th inning tied the game and the Yankees won 5-4 in 11 innings. New York won the series 4-1. Being an Orioles fan, and watching this happen live was unbelievable. What made me even more upset was how Maier was treated like a conquering hero afterwards. If I ever see him in person I will punch him in the face.


USSR Wins Olympic Gold on Third Try

The U.S. men lost for the first time in Olympic History, 51-50 to the Soviet Union, after referees twice put time back on the clock, enabling the Soviets to score at the buzzer. In the confusion legendary Oklahoma State and U.S. team Head Coach Hank Iba had his wallet stolen. The Americans protested and never accepted their silver medals. To this day they remain unclaimed. American player Kenny Davis has a clause in his will forbidding any of his descendants to ever accept the medal. Of course in 1980 in Lake Placid the U.S.A. got their revenge (do you believe in miracles?).


Brett Hull in the Crease

Brett Hull's goal in the third overtime of Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals was allowed even though his skate entered the crease before the puck. The goal lifted Dallas to its only championship and further devastated Buffalo's long-suffering fans.


Hand of God

Diego Maradona punched the ball into the goal in a 2-1 quarterfinal win against England, helping Argentina claim the 1986 World Cup. Later, Maradona described it as, "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God." In reality it was pretty much all hand.


Colorado's Fifth Down

Referees failed to change the down marker when Colorado spiked the ball on its final drive. The Buffaloes scored a touchdown on "fifth down," the final play in a 33-31 win at Missouri. Colorado went onto share the 1990 National Title with Georgia Tech.

In stark contrast to what happened in a similar situation in 1940. Cornell scored a last second touchdown to defeat Dartmouth 7-3. However, when it was later ruled that officials lost track of downs and Cornell had scored on a "fifth down," the president, athletic director, and coach of Cornell ruled that they would forfeit the game. Today the game stands in the record books Dartmouth 3 Cornell 0. The Big Red was ranked second in the nation at the time and gave up the possibility of a National Championship. Imagine what would happen today if say Alabama or Tennessee did something similar with millions of dollars and a BCS Title on the line?

So there you have it. Yes, human error is part of the game, but sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder what were they thinking?