Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t written a post in 10 days. I’ve started taking classes again, and they have sucked up most of my free time. My intention is to try to post 2 or 3 post per week while I am taking classes. I will likely post on weekends, Thursdays and possibly Tuesdays.
Since my last post, tons of stuff has happened in the world of sports: the Champions League has played its second game; the Phillies clinched their 4th straight N.L. East title (and best record in the National League); the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention; the Eagles have looked good with Michael Vick at quarterback (and face a game against former QB Donovan McNabb and the Redskins); the NHL preseason has started; and NBA training camps have kicked off. I guess this is what happens when you don’t post for a week and a half.
Soccer - The Champions League has played two rounds of soccer since my last post on the beautiful game, so this seemed like a good time to take a look at what has transpired. The biggest surprise has to be F.C. Copenhagen who currently sit atop Group D with 6 points from 2 games. This is no easy feat, as the group contains perennial contenders, . Copenhagen opened the campaign with a 1-0 victory of Rubin Kazan, and followed that victory with an impressive 2-0 victory over Panathinaikos in Greece. Barcelona opened with a 5-1 drubbing of the Greeks but was held in Russia by Rubin Kazan, giving the Catalans 4 points from 2 games. I expect Barça to win the group, but you have to think the Danes have the inside track on 2nd at this point (making my prediction of Panathinaikos finishing 2nd incorrect).
Equally surprising is the poor showing by Marseille, who have lost their first two matches and haven’t scored a goal (1-0 to Spartak Moscow at the Stade Vélodrome and 2-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge). Marseille, last year’s Ligue 1 champions, currently sit 6th in the league and have enjoyed a good run of form domestically; however, they have not been able to translate that into international competition. This is another group where my prediction could be terribly wrong, as Marseille need to make up 6 points on Spartak in order to finish 2nd (Chelsea is oviously going to win this group).
Of the big names, Arsenal and Chelsea have looked the most impressive to open the competition, with the Gunners enjoying a +8 goal difference (though their group is rather weak) and the Blues posting a +5. Looking at the rest of the competition, the most of the groups have gone rather predictably, with no other major upsets or disappointments yet.
Baseball – My dream of my two teams once again making the playoffs came to halt this week when the Red Sox were eliminated from contention with a loss to the White Sox. I suppose I should have been prepared for this when Theo Epstein said this was a “bridge” year for the Sox, but I held out hope (at least until I saw them get drubbed by the Blue Jays a month ago). But even after that drubbing, I hoped the Sox could make a comeback. They even teased me by winning the first two games of their series against the Yankees. Had they been able to sweep, who knows what could have happened?
As for the Phillies, they have continued to steamroll through the N.L. on their way to their 4th straight division title. This is new territory for me as a Phillies fan. For my whole life, up until the last 6 or 7 seasons (and not counting that magical 1993 team), the Phillies have been terrible. The team has never had a stretch where they have been this competitive for this many years (other than in the mid 70s). I’m not sure how to be a fan of the front-runners.
The Phils are clearly the favorites in the National League, some might argue the entire league. With their “Big Three” pitchers, they will be tough to beat in a short series. The Phils made a shrewd decision to select the longer division series (extra day off) giving them the opportunity to pitch on a three-man rotation. Whomever they play in the first round should start booking their tee times because the series will be over in short order.
Football - The Eagles have certainly supplied a lot of drama over the first few weeks of the season. Kevin Kolb, the anointed successor to former stalwart Donovan McNabb, went down with a concussion in the early part of the first game against Green Bay. Following the injury, Michael Vick came in and led the Birds to a near comeback. Vick looked good, and followed with a great game against Detroit. Following the Detroit game, The Eagles announced that Vick would be the starter even after Kolb was healthy.
Who saw this coming? I expected Vick to play at some point, because I wasn’t sold on Kolb, but I never saw the Eagles abandoning Kolb so early in the season. Andy Reid had just traded the franchise to a division rival because he believed Kolb was the answer, and then he gives the kid a quarter to prove himself? Crazy! Undoubtedly, Vick has looked good in his time as the starter (though he has yet to face a decent team), but to abandon Kolb seems short-sighted. Unless the Eagles truly believe they can win the Super Bowl this season, I just don’t think this move makes sense. I know they have a soft schedule to start the season and they need to rack up as many wins as they can, but they are stunting Kolb’s growth by not allowing him to start. Vick is clearly not the long-term answer, and Kolb (who I wasn’t sure was the answer either) may never evolve into that solution. I have enjoyed watching Vick play the last couple of weeks, and there is nothing America loves more than a redemption story, but the Birds need to think about the long-term.
On another note, I think the first couple of games has shown that perhaps Andy Reid should have been the person shown the door instead of McNabb. Reid’ poor clock management and less than stellar play calling have continued. In the game against Green Bay, Reid used all of his timeouts before the 5 minute mark of the 4th quarter and he called a misguided 4th-and-1 play where Vick ran a draw rather than a simple run up the middle. These calls could have drastically changed the outcome of the game. Maybe the Birds didn’t need a new quarterback, just a new coach.
Other Sports – In other news, the Flyers have started the preseason and look to make another run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Sixers have started training camp. Both should merit watching and will be covered more in this space once the NHL and NBA season get closer.