Norwich City v Liverpool - Barclays Premier League

1. The Chelsea Sunderland match reminded us how football works

Chelsea lost at home at Stamford Bridge for the first time in 78 matches to Gus Poyet’s Sunderland. Sunderland. SUNDERLAND. The same Sunderland which arrived in West London on Easter Sunday at the foot of the Premier League table with an LLLDLLLLLD record and only a statistical hope of survival (though another win along with a Norwich cock up puts them in safety, so what do I know?).

The key moment came in the 81st minute of play with the score at 1-1, when this happened. Cesar Azpilicueta was adjudged by the linesman to have fouled American Jozy Altidore, and the penalty was given. Fabio Borini put it away, effectively etching ‘Liver’ on the Premier League trophy with a bit of space left after, just in case. Black Cats resurrexit!

The GIF reveals a textbook case of incidental contact (or does it?), but in real time from the side lines, who knows what the linesman saw? Perhaps the point is that Chelsea should have not have even countenanced being drawn 1-1 against Sunderland at that point at all (all praise Connor Wickham), or that Chelsea should have won those other games they lost all year.

Yet even here things break down, because the teams are packed so tightly at the top of the Premier League right now that crap luck affects everyone. What if the newly subbed on Ricky van Wolfswinkel somehow slipped on Glen Johnson’s boot at home against Liverpool in Norwich’s 2-3 acquiescence, and the linesman called it wrong?

Maybe stuff like the Altidore pen just happens, and sometimes it’s devastating, but there’s nothing that can be done because the Laws of the Game, the Laws of Physics, and the Speed and Reliability of Human Cognition will never perfectly align?

2. Jose Mourinho’s post match remarks

Well worth your time.

3. Liverpool’s defensive soft spots

Away days are tough even for Campiones Nearly Elect like Liverpool (and new Champions League entrants for the 2014-15 season), but we got a brief glimpse against Norwich why Brendan Rodger’s team is top of the Premier League table but fifth in Shots Ratios, particularly when not at a tied game state.

When Liverpool go up, they’re content to concede shots, possibly because they like to play on the break (as I wrote the other day).

Liverpool carved out their own chances but conceded two goals to Norwich, both in the air, with their entire defensive line penned back. The shots after Liverpool’s initial brace in the first eleven minutes were 12 to 10 for Norwich, with the home side getting 5 on target to LFC’s 3. Moreover, Norwich took more shots within the ‘Danger Zone’, the area smack in the middle of the 18. Food for thought for Chelsea, who will need everything they can muster next weekend to pull themselves back in the title race.

4. Lukas Podolski can be a very good player

The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding, in this case, is a football. Arsenal, who beat Hull 0-3, are still a point ahead of Everton in the race for fourth place.

5. There is nothing left to say about Moyes

A 2-0 decisive away loss against Everton, United’s 11th of the season. Even the “Moyes returns to Goodison” storyline won’t be enough to keep this around the papers for very long. Moyes incidentally refused to commit seppuku during the post-match presser, insisting his side had “passed well.” Well, good then, David.

6. Benfica are champions of Portugal

They accomplished the feat after beating Olhanense 2-0. Porto had been champions the three seasons prior, including that nightmare finale in May of last year. Someone has compiled ten of their best goals this season. Enjoy!

7. The Dutch Cup final was completely bananas

Ajax lost 5-1 to underdogs PEC Zwolle. Ajax fans helped suspend the game by throwing flares onto the pitch as soon as PEC made their first attack. Edwin van der Sar angrily pleaded with supporters to knock it off. Hoarding signs were burned. I don’t know…

8. Berba Lives

Monaco’s Dmitar Berbatov scored a peach against against Nice. You could say it was a ‘Nice’ goal. Yep. It was his third goal in nine appearances since joining the Nouveau Riche.

backes n crew

Sports tickets seem comically overpriced, but when you consider the amount of money and energy fans put into their favorite teams, it’s probably justified.

Ticket IQ is a cool site that breaks down what folks are paying to see live playoff hockey this year. I thought it was interesting, and thought you might too. You can check out all that info here, if what I grabbed below isn’t quite enough.

Geez, Chicago. You guys really love your puck. Read the rest of this entry »

MLB scouts use radar guns to time the pitches of Chicago White Sox's Sale during their MLB Cactus League spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Glendale

Men like Hugh Alexander, baseball men will tell you, are the bedrock of the sport. Alexander was a baseball lifer, a superscout near the top of the Philadelphia Phillies hierarchy, considered one of the best organizations in baseball during the 1980s, at the twilight of Alexander’s career. A widely syndicated 1983 story by Philadelphia writer Bill Conlin said Alexander, then 66 and a part of the baseball world for half a century, “personified baseball.” He was, as Conlin wrote, “a man with a face from a Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell, a sage who speaks the earthy poetry of his game and his time from a yeasty treasure trove of reminiscence.”

Read the rest of this entry »

terrell davis2

The ’90s were a wonderful time in our lives. I fondly remember a weird blue hedgehog thing, a dance that looked like a circular convulsion, and devices that played actual CDs in your pocket.

I also have glowing memories of NFL happiness, and the various ways glee was expressed. The younger folk amongst us may not remember a time long ago when the NFL allowed real fun and individuality to exist on the field. But it happened, and it was glorious.

So come with me, and let’s pass the time on this default Friday afternoon by remembering the best touchdown dances of the ’90s.

Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which losing six games in a row could be positive, but with the Toronto Maple Leafs currently stuck in a four-way tie for the two Wild Card playoff entries, the half dozen straight defeats that led the team to this point seem especially horrific.

On Tuesday night, Toronto suffered its most recent failure, losing 5-3 to the St. Louis Blues. Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf struggled mightily throughout the game, not unfairly tagged as a primary accomplice to his team being outshot 49-25.

It was a bad day at the office, and as a result, the defenseman opted out of his obligation to speak to the media following the loss. This, to the many pundits who weighed in following Phaneuf’s no-show, represented an atrocious lack of leadership, and partly explained Toronto’s recent struggles.

Things came to a head on Wednesday when Phaneuf phoned in to a local sports talk radio show to explain himself, after one of the hosts ranted about the player’s notable absence following his poor performance.

To be completely honest with you, I was emotional about the game. I didn’t want to let my emotions get the best of me. I feel bad about not being available. At that point in time, I was disappointed in the way that I played and I was emotional after the game. That’s why I did not talk.

As sports fans, we grow to accept the flawed “conventional wisdom” force fed to us by years of following our favorite players and teams through newspapers, television and radio.

Read the rest of this entry »

As some of you may be aware, I recently started a new gig here at theScore that sees me write/talk about the NBA as a whole on a full-time basis, so while I won’t be able to provide RaptorBlog posts and general Raptors commentary with nearly the same regularity, I hope you’ll continue to read/listen along with me this season (You can read my season preview here and my predictions here).

As for the Raptors, what I’m going to try to do is take some time every weekend to post my wide ranging thoughts on the week that was in Raps Land, in a similar fashion to how I usually wrote my “Thoughts On the Game” posts. Again, I’m hoping you’ll stop by on weekends to get the little bit of Raptors ranting I’m still able to do on a regular basis.

Other than, most of my Raptors thoughts and observations can be found through twitter, where I’m prone to my fair share of passionate Raps-related tirades.

As for the coming season, I’m predicting a 40-42 season for Toronto that results in a No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, though if Cathal Kelly’s Toronto Star report proves correct, Masai Ujiri and MLSE may blow things up before such a mediocre finish is allowed to fully take rot.

For what it’s worth, Kelly’s source indicates a 45-day deadline for the Raptors, which would take us to December 13. The Raps play Philadelphia in the 21st game of the season that night, and I’ve got them as a 10-11 (7-14 worst case scenario, 12-9 best case scenario) team at that point, so the question is really what will Ujiri find acceptable to continue with, and what’s his line in the sand of ‘we can’t go on like this’?

I also feel like with the Honeymoon period that exists between Raptors fans and Ujiri, he wouldn’t have lost any support had he decided to blow things up as soon as he got here to put this team in a better position to properly take a strategic step backwards this season, so I don’t quite understand the point of now reportedly setting a hard deadline on whether to tank or not if that’s they’ve wanted all along.

In any event, a Raptors season opener wouldn’t feel quite right without at least a little drama (last year it was DeRozan’s extension), so let’s get this intriguing season of questions under way, shall we?

I know Stripes and Drake are ready…are you?

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For the first time ever in a UFC video game, EA Sports’ upcoming UFC title will feature playable female characters, headlined by UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and top bantamweight contender Miesha Tate.

“This is a great moment for videogames and for Mixed Martial Arts,” said Dean Richards, General Manager, EA SPORTS UFC. “In our commitment to delivering the most realistic fighting experience ever achieved, we wanted to represent the full spectrum of talent and diversity of all the fighters in the sport, including women who have become an undeniable force to be reckoned with.”

Programming note: Fin.

brad-miller-last-game

I’m not one for long goodbyes, but as previously mentioned in our last show, TBJ and theScore are going in separate directions, meaning this post marks the end of our tenure here.

Thank you to theScore for the opportunity to make something that shows just how much fun the NBA can be. And thank you most of all to anyone who’s listened, watched, read, commented, emailed or in any other way been even a small part of TBJ over the past three years. It has been awesome.

Please follow all of our Twitter accounts to see what the future holds. We’re very excited for our next step, you will be too and the season starts soon, so don’t worry too much.

Bye for now.