Sunday, October 12, 2003

Transatlantic Brawls

“Welcome To Hell” –-banners fluttering from every corner of Sukru Saracoglu Stadium during yesterday's England-Turkey battle.

"When this series began, everyone knew it was going to be quite a battle. It was going to be very emotional, a lot of intensity. But I think we've upgraded it from a battle to a war." Red Sox manager Grady Little.


You’d be hard-pressed to choose just which of the unrest-riddled matches yesterday, both of which nearly erupted into full-scale riots and the kind of anarchic chaos which occasionally makes a sporting event eerie, was the most fascinating. One was fought between the two predominate American cities and biggest rivals on the East Coast in a skirmish for the third game of a potential seven game series to decide the American League Baseball Championship, and the other was an international football battle with a Euro 2004 berth at stake.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Prior To Wood Warm-Up?

Yes, as predicted yesterday, the Marlins beat the Cubs in the opening game of the series because, frankly, with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood up next to face the Marlins, if they hadn't won this morning, they might never have won a game in the series...

Still, culminating with one homer after another, the opening match of the series will probably be the headiest offensive assault we'll see:

NLCS Records Set:

7 homeruns in one game.

4 triples in one game.

3 homeruns in one inning by one team (Marlins, in the third)

17 extra base hits in one game.

Wonder how many fans were whining about a corked bat when Sammy Sosa nailed that game-tying homerun in the bottom of the 9th...

Yankees-Red Sox

We can point out a few obvious items to begin with: The Boston Red Sox, regardless of the claims of their fans, did not "win" their series against the Oakland A's so much as the Oakland A's lost it. The Red Sox Nation should think about that when pondering their signs of grandeur and destiny.

Is it really that big a deal that the Yankees rotation didn't give up 20 runs in four games again like they did last season getting knocked out by the Anaheim Angels? It's a little early to start congratulating yourself for not failing when you allege to have the best starting rotation in all of baseball, isn't it?

That said, Sports Amnesia remembers that the ALCS will play out thusly:

The Red Sox will take Game One in Yankee Stadium, adding fuel to the fire of the imagination of the Red Sox Nation.

They will then nip Andy Pettitte behind super-hero Derek Lowe to take a 2-0 lead in the series with the next 3 games in Fenway sending the Red Sox Nation into a feeding-frenzy of anticipation but then...

Game Three will be Roger Clemens' swan song, his final pitching performance in Fenway Park and he will be facing none other than Pedro Martinez who may or may not come down with the flu. Let's face it, Pedro hasn't been Mr. Clutch all season and the Yankees will win after he peters out in the 7th leaving the Sox bullpen to blow the game.

David Wells will then lead the Yankees to tie the series at two apiece swinging the hysterical ladder of momentum in the opposite direction.

Yankees win another to make it three to two and to keep the visiting team's perfect record of away victories intact.

Lowe will do it again for the Sox in Game Six in Yankee Stadium and then:

Game Seven will rematch Clemens against Pedro and I'll tell you, if it gets that far, I'll give my prediction on the day before because by then, I'll have to keep a close eye on Pedro's flu-like symptoms.

Vital England Match in Peril?

Threatening to throw a monkey wrench in an already highly anticipated match,the England football squad last night voted unanimously to strike unless Rio Ferdinand was reinstated to the squad.

The players said that they would not travel to Turkey for Saturday’s vital European Championship qualification match unless Ferdinand, who was dropped from the team for failing to take a random drugs test, was given his place back.

If they DO strike, guess I'll just have to forget my plans of spending the afternoon getting faced in the Queen's Head and watch Ireland trounce Romania in the World Cup of Rugby instead.

Quite A Drop-Off In Talent

ESPN, who will never let it go, reports that Phil Jackson, the Lakers coach and Michael Jordan's former coach in Chicago, intimated in a published report that he has reluctantly considered a scenario in which Jordan would play for him if Kobe Bryant is unable to.

Somehow, the 40 year old thrice-retired Jordan hardly seems an equal replacement for Kobe. After all, this isn't 1998 anymore.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Choking, Swallowing and Surviving

"...when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)

When Terrence Long took an inside fastball for another called third strike, the Boston bench and bullpen emptied onto the field in celebration and even from the radio, you could imagine the hearts spilling open in relief. All around the Red Sox Nation, the immediate notion that still looming ahead were the Yankees, was forgotten as Boston got its fourth playoff series victory since its last World Series title in 1918.

Oakland, on the other hand, have now lost nine straight games in which they could have clinched postseason advancement, extending a major league record for choking.

At least they didn't, like their AL West counterparts the Mariners, start their choke a month before the season was over for the second year in a row.

In some ways, you have to admire the fans of teams who come all the way to the opponents home field, watch their teams win the series and then stay so late celebrating, the losing team's PA has to broadcast warnings and threats to get them to leave. Like the apathetic fans of the Braves, who couldn't have gotten a ticket in Wrigley if they'd tried, A's fans were always at a distinct disadvantage in this series. It was a nice touch when an A's fan posted a large green sign simply reading "1918"; next to it was a picture of Babe Ruth on the facing of the Coliseum's upper deck.

Several hundred Red Sox fans gathered behind the Boston dugout 90 minutes before the game, cheering and clapping while their team warmed up. A few players rewarded the fans by throwing candy, wristbands and other treats into the stands.

You might not have surmised it based upon my anti-Pedro rants and Manny Ramirez attitude-bashing a month or two ago, I have to admit that I never had any serious doubts that the Red Sox were going to make it to the postseason when their only competition were the choking Seattle Mariners and Armandogeddon. However, certainly when they were down 0-2 with neither Pedro nor Lowe available, I didn't expect the Red Sox to pull this series out. I guess only a Red Sox fan would have had such faith. With limited news coverage, seeing that the Red Sox had lost the first two games of the series, I'd just assumed Manny and Pedro had come down with another variation of The Dominican Flu.

By the way, a belated condolence card to the Royal Blog. A month from now, after all the hoopla of the World Series dies down, few outside of Kansas City are going to remember how interesting the Royals made the season.

Somehow, Larry Bowa survived a team collapse and still hasn't been fired yet.

Bring on the Yankees?

The Red Sox will face the Yankees in the playoffs for just the second time, the first being a 4-1 loss in the 1999 ALCS. New York won 10 of 19 games against Boston during the regular season, but the Red Sox frequently teed off on Yankees pitchers. The Yankees had three one-run victories against the Sox.

And, down to the Marlins and the Cubs in the NLCS, it's looking more and more that the End of The World is neigh upon us.

Should the Cubs and Red Sox face each other in the World Series, which of course, they will because I am outside of America again and the last time I was living outside of America in 2000, the first Subway Series in 44 years materialized out of nowhere, people everywhere around the world will prepare for the End of the World as prophesied by <Nostradamus


Tim Kurkjian had it right and because I am too far away from the action to do a precise analysis, here is what he had to say:

The Cubs won their first postseason series since 1908. The Marlins are the fifth team in National League history to make it to the playoffs in a season in which they were 10 games under .500. The Cubs won 19 games in September, the most in that month since 1945, the last time they went to the World Series. The Marlins have the best record in baseball since mid-May. The Cubs have this incredibly loyal fan base that has been begging for a pennant for over 50 years. The Marlins fan base recently went from 5,000 to 65,000.

My hands-down Rookie of the Year, the single best rookie story of the year, former Cub farmhand, the D-Train, Dontrelle Willis, whom I thought some month and a half ago had obviously lost his magic, pitched a third of inning in a Game Two victory over the Giants and then lasted 5 1/3 unimpressive innings against the Giants in a decisive Game Four which the Marlins won anyway. He is scheduled to start Game 4 against Matt Clement, the guy the Cubs traded D-Train for.

Prediction: My take in the crystal ball I have in the cottage here on the NLSC is that the Marlins will win the opener at Wrigley and will then lose the next two games of the Series. The Marlins will then even the Series at home in Game 4 before the combined forces of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior fell them for good with the Cubs advancing to the World Series, 4 games to 2.

Meanwhile, Back in England

Two pretty enormous events will happen this weekend besides the little internet transistor broadcasting the NLCS and the ALCS games.

First of all, the 2003 World Cup of Rugby kicks off this Friday with Australia playing Argentina. While normally not one to follow rugby, having played a few times now here for the Shipston-On-Stour third team, and the sore bones to prove it, I've rapidly developing an affection for it.

Adding to the excitement is the fact that England is the top-ranked side in the world and have a very good chance of winning it all.

Of course, that's if they can avoid what England coach Clive Woodard called media sledging.

Yesterday, having an afternoon pint in the White Bear, I overhead the ultimate sad tale for a rugby fan, applicable to all sports fans of course. As a few of the locals were going over England's schedule in the first round, the guy next to me tells them to have a look at the match on the Saturday, October 18th match beginning at 1 in the afternoon, he says. As it turns out, the match is England against South Africa, quite possibly the biggest match of the first round.

"And guess whose getting married on that date at that time?" he muttered, pointing his stubby finger to his chest. "The best man nearly had a heart attack when he found out." And then of course, the usual suggestions followed, having a chat with the vicar about changing the time of the wedding (nevermind the bride), seeing if a small tv could be brought in over the altar, etc., with the sound turned down "low" (not "off", mind you)...

All akin of course, to having not had the foresight to know your team was going to make the World Series and scheduling an October wedding on the wrong date, at the wrong time.

On Saturday, England plays Turkey in a qualifying match for the Euro2004 football tournament, their biggest match of this round. They need only tie Turkey in Istanbul to advance but a loss would mean they could only qualify via a second-place playoff.

Adding tension to the match is the fact that the English fans have been warned to stay away from Turkey, in particular by the English national coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, who warned fans that they could "risk to be injured and even risk your life" if they insist upon travelling to Turkey for the make-or-break qualifier.

Can you imagine Grady Little telling the Red Sox Nation not to go to New York because they risked their lives by doing so?

FA head of media Adrian Bevington added: "We would like to strongly reaffirm the position of ourselves, the Government and the police that no fans should travel to Turkey."

Of course they will and of course, there will be trouble.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Baseball For Breakfast
"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Lewis Carroll

Well, it's a first for me. Having fallen asleep too early for the 3.00 am audio broadcast here of the Red Sox-A's opening playoff game, I woke a little after 7 this morning fully expecting the game to have already concluded. Imagine my high-spirited surprise

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Not Missing the Mets
"If all the year were playing holidays; To sport would be as tedious as to work."
William Shakespeare from 'The First Part of King Henry the IV'

One of the questions people invariably get around to asking me around here, perhaps one of the first in fact, is always something cleverly obstrusive along the lines of "what made you come here from New York?, " and they always ask this question with a disbelieving lilt in their voice given that a more polar opposite location couldn't be found between Blackwell, Warwickshire and Manhattan. And it probably couldn't. This is a village of about 10 families. The nearest pub is almost two miles away and of course, perhaps thankfully, there are no Mets, no Jets and no Knicks anywhere to be found.