Kick-Around: MLS Week ?, Plus a New Mission

Right. The idea of recapping the weekend in Major League Soccer (MLS) is far from a new one. At the same time I want to do it better and more briefly than I have in the past. By the way, ESPN's power rankings serve a similar purpose - i.e. they tell you how the teams look after the latest round of play - and they are, unlike me, reliably brief. Here's this week's edition.

And here is my attempt, starting with the one game I caught (for the games I don't catch, I remain a devoted viewer of the highlight clips MLS posts on its site):

New England Revolution 4 - 0 Los Angeles Galaxy
An instant, ass-pounding classic sure to warm the cockles of anyone who either loves the Revs or hates LA; both teams still have issues, but things look better for the Revs, who lost only one key player (Clint Dempsey as opposed to LA's Landon Donovan - who runs the team - and Chris Albright) for the duration of the World Cup.

Kansas City Wizards 1 - 1 Chicago Fire
I saw nothing about this one apart from the score and can only note my surprise; either Kansas City aren't as good as I thought or Chicago not as bad; still, pity Kansas City who will lose a big chunk of their roster to the World Cup.

Houston Dynamo 4 - 3 FC Dallas
While Houston appears to be a solid team, FC Dallas seems to have adopted my strategy for first-person shooter video games: run straight ahead and shoot at absolutely everything; this does not always work and FC Dallas needs to sort out their back three or four if they want to make the grade.

Real Salt Lake 0 - 1 Columbus Crew
This counts as the "must-miss" game of the weekend; both these teams suck and, on evidence of their current play, are locked in a four-way race for 2006's worst team; the only worthwhile thing is seeing a rookie - Jason Garey - score his first professional goal....enough to make a grown man cry.

Colorado Rapids 2 - 1 DC United
The shock of the week - with bells on; if you watch only one highlight reel, check out this one for Nicolas Hernandez' game winner - it's a peach; still, DC looks formidable this year, which means that I, once again, underestimated them.

OK, that's all for now. If you want to read something more harsh, you should see what ESPN's guy(s) had to say about Red Bull New's gonna be a long season....

Another Name Change - Because I Can

Look, one of the luxuries of running a blog no one reads (I checked the sitemeter this morning, so I know this for a fact) is the freedom to change my name whenever the mood takes me.

This latest change was inspired by this article about some problems in Australia surrounding the ferry to Manly.

World Cup - Late, Painful Realization

I finally got around to seeing who the U.S. could face if they make it out of the first round of this summer's World Cup. Reviewing the television schedule, I see that the teams who make it out of Group E (our group) face the teams who come out of Group F. So, who's in Group F?

Brazil, Japan, Croatia, and Australia.


So, consider that the winner of Group E meets the runner-up in Group F and vice-versa. Then consider that Brazil - the absolute pig-lovin' kings of cushy draws - will, failing a highly localized pandemic, top group. Obviously, we'd be better off topping this group, so it's time to focus the mind.

But, assuming we get Brazil in Round 2, it's hard to be optimistic....

The Derby...And My Capacity to Obsess Over Trivia

I hereby throw in the towel. I can't make heads or tails of this shit - and now I'm off to throw money at Gamblor by way of the local OTB shop.

Before I go, I'll chuck out two more resources in case someone out there wants them.

There's this five-pundit grid I found on the official Kentucky Derby site: LINK. There's also this extended buffet of horse-racing data from the same site.

The Louisville Courier-Journal has this horse-porn blowout that would likely profit someone who knows thing one about horses....and that someone is definitely not me. This thing could be in Finnish for all the good it'll do me.

As I see it, my wife did the smart thing: she picked a series of horses to win based on their silks and long odds. That may sound silly, but the only person I knew who picked Giacomo last year used a similar formula, so I'm not about to knock it. In case you're curious, she's putting cash on Deputy Glitters, Cause to Believe, Flashy Bull, and Bluegrass Cat.

As for me, I'm going to bet a longish-shot or two (Sinister Minister on the wire-to-wire tip and Steppenwolfer as my long-shot closer), plus a pair of quinellas somehow involving the following horses: A. P. Warrior, Sweetnorthernsaint, Point Determined, Barbaro, Lawyer Ron, and...and...and...oh, to hell with it.

Good luck to anyone out there who places a bet. You have my full sympathy. My hair would be falling out if it wasn't already gone.

Portland Timbers - Get Yer Dork On!!

Tonight's the Portland Timbers home opener. They open against the Vancouver Whitecaps, who beat the Timbers 1-0 a couple weeks back in Vancouver - a game, as it turns out, that featured some violence (click the image here; it's worth it).

Word to the wise Canadians: we'll invade your country if we must, you shitbags. We'll call you the inflation valve on the Axis of Evil.

There have been ample changes in the off-season: players coming, going and staying - and then there's the whole front-office decapitation to sort out. In other words, I don't have much sense of what to expect tonight. But I do hope that we'll improve on last year's record, when the Timbers proved to be a one-half team over and over and OVER again.

Very frustrating.

The local media has done a pretty good job of whipping up the natives....God bless 'em. There's the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, even the The Columbian pulled something together.

I'm also seeing some interest over on sites (LINK, LINK) - which makes me wonder why I didn't just start this kind of thing over there. Oh just got wired to OrBlogs and Technorati so I'm not taking this one down any time soon.

Anyway, come on out, people, and let yer Dork Flag fly!

And, if you're a fan and object to being called a dork, a word: look in the mirror and, if you go, look around the stadium tonight; you will see a lot of people, many of them smart, funny, sensitive, productive people. But they are dorks. And, chances are, you're a dork too. I'm a dork. It's just something soccer people are....bloggers too. It's only a problem if you make it one.

World Cup - The TV Schedule

AKA - What I'll be doing this summer. - by far and away the most useful site in the universe - listed the full U.S. television schedule for this summer's World Cup.

Since this is a "homer" site, here are the U.S. games:

Monday, June 12th, 9 a.m. PST: U.S. v. Czech Republic (ESPN2)
Saturday, June 17th, 12 p.m. PST: U.S. v. Italy (ABC)
Thursday, June 22nd, 7 a.m. PST: U.S. v. Ghana (ESPN)

I've got two key thoughts:
1) I'm already getting knots in my stomach - which is ridiculous, of course. Still....they're there, aren't they?
2) I can't believe I've got to start drinking that early in the morning twice in June. Again, ridiculous.

KY Derby - Update

It looks like the forecast switched up: cool and dry is the latest call. Based on what I read some damn place - and if memory serves (Ha!) - this takes a horse like Jazil, described as a "mud-horse," out of "rate" status.

This should also boost the stock of another horse - whose name presently escapes me (God...I suck) - who was described as just as strong on wet or dry turf.....though, on that level, you've got to wonder whether all the other horses, who would presumably suffer on a wet track, didn't gain more upside against said horse.

As you can see, given all the variables, assertions, presumptions, etc. this all gets complicated rather quickly.

And that brings me to one highly appropriate comment overheard in the (a?) Derby paddock:

""Juleps! Juleps! Somebody somewhere is drinking alone...join them"

Amen. The source for that line showed up somewhere in here; you're looking for the 10:50 a.m. post.

The Derby - More Ponies

It's coming together a bit now - at least I'm seeing some repetition in the names of a few horses: Point Determined, Barbaro, sweetnorthernsaint, and A. P. Warrior to name a few. I'm also getting scared off some horses: no one likes Brother Derek, the favorite; pundits expect Sinister Minister, along with all the other "need-to-lead speed horses," to kill themselves on a torrid pace...for the record, I'm not so sure on that one; my love of closers is waning with the near-universal panning of Steppenwolfer, etc.

And, to top it all off, I'm hearing talk of rain - word of which appears in what is easily the most opaque prediction piece I've yet read. In any case, such talk is spooking pundits and turning an already murky field upside down.


I've got to have something firmed up by tomorrow around 5 p.m., when I'll actually be placing my bets, so I'll put myself on the line at that time. Till then, here's some of the head-spinning crap I've read today.

Chat with Andy Beyer (of the famous Beyer Figures fame).
Chat with Dan Illman (not to be confused with Danny Elfman, whose expertise lies elsewhere)
A short, but useful "Derby Watch" wrap from the Daily Racing Form
Picks by ESPN's Eddie McNamara (in case you're wondering, I thought I'd read and posted that as well, but it doesn't read familiar)

Finally, it wasn't till I bumped into this article - still another on Brother Derek, who, as the local networks would put it, has "Oregon connections" - that I remembered how totally informatively fat the Louisville Courier-Journal's Derby preview is; I'll be mining that one tomorrow.

And that's when you'll hear from me next.

World Cup Roster - Albright IN

Call it karma - albeit karma of the most cosmically cruel sort: Frankie Hejduk's knee rather quietly imploded last weekend. This takes Chris Albright off the alternates list and on the plane to Germany.

As much as this sucks for Hejduk, who seems nice enough, I thought Albright looked better in the games I saw.

Derby - Wager Primer

I almost forget to do this every year:

Here's a list of the kinds of bets one can place at the track. There's some overlap between U.S. and UK betting jargon in there, so don't be too surprised if you get funny looks when you place a "straight forecast."

Here's another list, but it makes no mention of quinellas, which are (if memory serves - I've never placed one) lower-risk, lower-return "box" wagers.

Right. Here's one more list. This one offers the most thorough list of terms and wagers, as well as offering elaborations and examples....I think.

Still, between the three of them, you should be able to find something that makes sense.

U.S. Army Ads Spoof

If you've never seen the recent series of U.S. Army ads where some youngster walks into their first day on a technically-challenging job and are asked, "Think you can handle it?" - and this question is answered with a knowing smile - the item on the other end of the link won't make much sense to you.

If you have seen them, the first one should make you laugh out loud.

In any case, go here: LINK

Derby - The Posts Are Drawn

Here's the list of pole positions for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Brother Derek, the favorite, drew 18th....which may help. Or it may hurt....I dunno. Must do more's some from ESPN's Bill Finley.

Ach, the asshole starts with this:

"Never has there been a Kentucky Derby that had me this perplexed. "

I actually think he said the same thing last year...which, of course, wouldn't make the statement untrue; maybe he's getting older and more confused with each passing year. Still, if he didn't say it, someone else did. Someone says that every year.

All I know is, this doesn't get me any closer to making money on this stuff.

UPDATE: Well, I have it, so I may as well pass it on. When I first caught Brother Derek's post position, my knee jerked, telling me to kick that horse to the curb. Then came the second-guessing, as in, "He'll be outside the crowd and he's a solid favorite...can he close?"

As they tell you over and over on multiple choice tests, stick with your first instinct. The guys at Bloodhorse backed my initial hunch:

"The front-running colt was installed as the 3-1 favorite Wednesday despite drawing the No. 18 post position. Only one horse has ever won the Derby from that spot -- Gato Del Sol in 1982."

So, that's a 1-131 record, which, in my world, scares me off the favorite. It doesn't hurt that I've never seen the favorite win.

Anyway, both Finley (above) and Bloodhorse's Steve Haskin is talking up Point Determined, saying that horse should at least go in every box.

More tomorrow...

Colbert's Schtick - Dude, It's the Setting

In spite of the fact that I can't read massive significance into it (um, mainly because it isn't there....), which makes it less than essay worthy - I thought I'd note Stephen Colbert's Big Moment at the White House Correspondent's dinner; everyone else is, so I may as well pile on. Besides, it's kind of an interesting little moment at root.

If you read the transcript, which appeared at the end of this complaint against Big Media's perceived silence about the skit, you'll see that Colbert trotted out the same schtick he does every night. If it weren't for where Colbert took his show, this would be just another Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. But I don't care what anyone says: to stand up in front of 2,400 people and to show your contempt for all of them as well as the most powerful man in the world, that just takes balls. This was high-risk performance art; the quality of the humor is almost beside the point. And, against what TNR's Noam Scheiber had to say about lefties loving the politics first and the content second, that's not it either; the point is, he stayed in character in front of an anxious-to-hostile crowd. This is what Andy Kaufman did so well and it's just good comedy.

On the subject of the comedy, Michael Sherer offered a good take on the comedy:

"He reversed and flattened the meaning of the words he spoke. It's a tactic that cultural critic Greil Marcus once called the 'critical negation that would make it self-evident to everyone that the world is not as it seems.' Colbert's jokes attacked not just Bush's policies, but the whole drama and language of American politics, the phony demonstration of strength, unity and vision."

Another fond appreciation of the comedy appears here, this one focusing on the "nervous concern" in the room. The best comedy is the kind that makes you squirm.

I also bumped into something interesting in a 60 Minutes interview with the very, very regular Colbert (see page 4). It makes me like him more:

"I had immediately had sort of a, I won't say a cynical detachment from the world. But I would certainly say I was detached from what was normal behavior of children around me. It didn't make much sense. None of it seemed very important. And I think that, you know, feeds into a sense that acceptance, or blind acceptance of authority, is not easy for me."

Not to flog a dead horse, but what's in bold has nearly everything to do with my loathing for politics. I flog it some more over here.

Now....back to the Derby....

Derby Field (Plus - In More Ways than One)

ESPN's site has a nice list of the field, plus some short commentary on each by a scribbler in their stable, Ed McNamara. A few horses appear here who have already been scratched, so disregard them (Sunriver, Red Raymond (sad to see that one go...what a name), Malameeze, and Sacred Light). Between them, McNamara's commentary and the latest available field should give interested parties somewhere to start.

For the record, by the time I'm placing bets I tend to rely almost exclusively on hot sheets like McNamara's. And I've got the disastrous record as a handicapper to prove it.

Some early theories:

1) Don't bet the favorite: Brother Derek doesn't have much experience in a crowded field. This goes double if he doesn't get a slot near the rail.

2) Early personal favorites (which, given my history makes these horses to avoid): Cause to Believe (I'm a sucker for closers); Steppenwolfer (great name and, apparently, a good horse); and, the pony with the most experience and best resume, Lawyer Ron.

It's Saturday?! Stupid!! I'm SO freakin' STUPID!!

For the first time in three years, I totally lost track of time - and now the Kentucky Derby is upon us. Dammit. I can't believe I'm missing this for Friday's Portland Timbers game...

Oh well, at least I'm on board in time for the draw, which I just learned happens today.

Even if my social/child-rearing schedule means I won't be watching the Derby at either a party or at my local OTB outlet, I'm still hoping to place a bet or two (a hope not yet revealed to my wife, who doesn't yet know I've lapsed back into this; hi honey!). I just found a list of the 20 horse field (or is it 22? Ah, there's probably a scratch or two by now) and will now kick the research machinery into gear; there's no need, as I see it, to pay the rest of the world any mind.

So far, I'm seeing some great names: Sinister Minister, Steppenwolfer (based on silly name principle, we have our winner), Flashy Bull, Storm Treasure and, if the Derby goes to the horse with the gay-friendly name, there's Deputy Glitter.

Reams and reams of material to follow - presumably. I'll have to see how the field pans out so's I don't screw up and look into horses outside the field.

Ta DA! The Roster (and One Thumb Up Yer Backside)

Well, here it is: the 23-man roster that the United States will take to Germany:

Goalkeepers: Kasey Keller, Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann.
Comments: All no-brainers.

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jimmy Conrad, Cory Gibbs, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Pope, Oguchi Onweyu, Eddie Lewis.
Comments: I followed this as well as I could through Big, but the site kept crapping out. Still, based on what I saw, people are seriously grumpy about Conrad making the cut. I say, fuck 'em. No, he's not our most talented player, but I'd take him on sentiment; and anyone who watched the Germany game, but who doesn't understand Conrad over Berhalter clearly watched some other game than the one I saw. Albright missing out is a bit of a mystery to me - especially when you consider Hejduk's recent, full-time spaz performances. Everyone else makes good sense and ought to do fine.

Midfielders:: DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Pablo Mastroeni, John O'Brien, Ben Olsen, Claudio Reyna.
Comments: No surprises. Glad to see Dempsey out there...and Ben Olsen. The only dubious call is with John O'Brien, who struggles with injuries; all I'm saying is it's a good thing they've got that alternate list. But, when O'Brien, he simply has to be on the roster. Here's to hoping his groin holds together.

Forwards: Brian Ching, Eddie Johnson, Brian McBride, Josh Wolff.
Comments; Ching?! Brian "Headless Chicken" Ching?!! Wow, that's a brave call. For the record, I'd be delighted to eat those words 'round about mid-June.

All in all, the surprises aren't that big a deal - the dorks at Big Soccer need jobs (cough, cough) and lives. These guys are the back-ups; anything Ching adds by way of goals is gravy and Conrad will only come on either late, as a result of injury, or not at all. I think he's good enough. Whatever he is, he's no worse than Jeff Agoos and he started.

Next up, some mid-to-late May warm-ups (versus, Morocco, Latvia, and Venezuela) and then the Cup. Put it this way: if Conrad stinks up the field in any, or all three of those games, I'll join the peanut gallery.

One last thing: if you look at the pictures on the two links not from Big Soccer, it's worth noting that a photo of Brian Ching accompanies each. I think he's the bigger surprise for the pros, most of whom thought New England's Taylor Twellman had it in the bag. For what it's worth, I rate Twelllman higher, but don't think he's got nearly enough upside to make tapping Ching in anyway dubious. If nothing else, Ching's size recommends him over Twellman. To be blunt about it, neither player seems ready for prime-time, so let's call this the crap-shoot that it is and try to enjoy ourselves, shall we?

Hold Up...

Some chump at ESPN (whoops - it's actually some chump at the Associated Press) is calling only 12 spots "locks."

Here they are:

"Goalkeepers: starter Kasey Keller and backups Marcus Hahnemann and Tim Howard;

Defenders: Steve Cherundolo, Eddie Lewis, Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope;

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley, Pablo Mastroeni, Claudio Reyna;

Forwards: Landon Donovan, Brian McBride."

Well...hasn't he seen the board? The Big Board? I mean, they've got 20 people named in nearly shoo-in.

World Cup Roster - A Fuller, Geekier Tease

US Soccer's site has a really bitchin' grid that translates pundit chatter into "X's" in boxes.

Again, it gives one some idea of how fixed much of the roster is: of the 32 players named, 18 are unanimously believed as locks on the roster; another 2 come only two votes shy of unanimity, which takes us to 20 of 23 roster spots roundly spoken for.

The grid also points to how long some of those long-shots really are: (see: Conrad, Jimmy (and say, "bullshit" - they ought to take him); Zavagnin, Kerry; Quaranta, Santino).

According to the wise heads, then, that's only three spots in play...and even here the play ain't much.

Maybe I won't duck out to watch the live announcement on SportsCenter.


World Cup Roster - A Tease

The official results won't be in till 3 p.m. PST, but here's who the pundits and former pros in ESPN's stable see going.

A couple things to note:

1) Going through each of the three selections in ESPN's preview, it becomes immediately clear that we're only looking at a couple or three surprises - and they're not going to be big ones.

2) I've got to give it up for Marcus Hahnemann, who makes the cut in everyone's book. This guy started out playing for the Seattle fucking Sounders in the mid-1990s. I can attest to this courtesy of several drunken button-holing incidents to which I subjected Hahnemann. He's a nice guy. A big one too. But he's also a fine goalkeeper. Good on ya, Marcus.


WIN!! The Ted Bundy Quiz

Dude, this is pretty messed up. Check out the grand prize for FAR greater familiarity with serial killer Ted Bundy's crimes than anyone ought to possess:

"$1000 and an all-expense trip for two to Florida - to visit Bundy's killing grounds. locations and to meet many of the police involved in bringing Bundy to justice."

I mean, I like true crime and all, but....ewwww.


Press Your Luck Conspiracy

I've been dabbling in conspiracy theories lately - well, things broadly defined as conspiracies anyway. I hadn't heard the one about the guy - Michael Larsen - who figured out Press Your Luck.

An excerpt:

"CBS executives, scared that they were now victims of a Quiz Show-type scandal, hurriedly called a meeting with Brockman and the producers. The network would be reluctant to air the show without an investigation. Brockman pressed the CBS lawyers to prove that what Larsen was doing was illegal -- but they couldn't. What everyone was forced to acknowledge was that Larsen had figured out the game, and had won. It was like being a card counter at a blackjack table."


On Understanding the Medium

Dammit. I know, I know. I gave this shit up for - what? - a week? Two weeks?

That's not important right now. What is important is that at 3 p.m. today, Bruce Arena will announce the 23-man roster that the United States will take to this summer's World Cup in Germany and I'll be damned if I just sit here and agonize about this shit on my own.

I'll post that information some time later today...probably around 3-ish.

To acknowledge something mattr told me recently, I'm probably addicted to this, um, mode of expression. OK, screw it: I'm addicted to blogging. Apparently,I love to see myself think. That's not to say, however, that there won't be changes. To wit:

1) I'm not joining any "pimping" outlets, or at least not any "progressive" ones - those things drive me frickin' crazy. This is an entirely personal project meant to serve as a meeting place for friends and family and to give me a place where I can keep in touch less intrusively. Long story short, I miss you guys and can think of no more hassle-free way to stay in touch. To those who pointed this out, good observation.

2) Contact with the average inhabitant of the blogosphere only convinced me that the world is populated by two kinds of idiots: the self-deluding and the conscious overbearing asshole type (I may very well be the not tell me). So long as I can more or less hide from the bulk of the blogosphere and can post on my own schedule, I won't feel the urge to constantly pull the plug on this thing (OK, these things: I quietly started another blog - one that I have not yet shared with anyone, nor will I, before getting it to take proper shape).

3) I'm going to make myself adhere to the "book club" format, assuming I can do so. I will only pass on items of interest and without extensive commentary. If you want to get into it, light up the comments field and I will almost guarantee that I'll jump on the hook. The "other" space is for commentary - this one's about shooting the breeze.

4) I will still never post for Blue Oregon again. That, I'm totally confident, is out of my system.

5) Because this is an open forum for friends and family, I intend to revive an "open thread" feature. Throw whatever the hell you want in there. I know, for instance, that I've got friends who live 70s custom vans; let's see those links guys.

5a) That's just another way of saying that I hope to wander away from politics more than I have. That's a foul business and it's best viewed with disdain and only after many, many cocktails for your psychic protection.

Right. The key is having some place for people to go to talk about the World Cup. After that, I don't care what becomes of this. But let's enjoy June and July...and pray to all the sundry gods of the sky that the U.S. men make it past the first round....

Anyway, welcome.