We aren’t the champions…just yet!

I have no idea what has happened today, but after weeks of having a steady total of 20-25 views on a day, today, with 3 hours still to go here in the UK, its currently on 84! I have no idea why, nor do I know if it might actually make the century, but I will have to wait and see.

So fine, lets do a posting of no interest to my predominantly US based readers lol! 😛

I’ve just noticed that my last posting concerning what we Brits (and indeed Europe as a whole) call football, or soccer to my North American friends, I mentioned that Huddersfield were in the play offs for a position in the top league here in England. Well, remarkably, they made it, and are playing in the Premier League this year. The amusing thing is, that all the experts forecast, what I assumed quite rightly, that they would be instantly relegated, and all the tables forecasting the season said they’d be bottom, and win 3 games, or less this season. Well, here we are, just over a quarter of the way through the season, and they’ve won 4! Yes, even beat the might of Manchester United, ooh! Exactly halfway in the table at this moment, 10th out of 20!

No, I’m not saying they’ll stay there, I’m not even saying they will stay up, and I’m not really going to care one way, or the other, whatever happens! But yes, a little bit of local pride, and a lot of debunking of so called experts just amuses me. And yes, I can say with absolute confidence that you wont get me anywhere near a game!

In truth, my main effort, whenever they’re at home on a Saturday afternoon at 3.00, will be to get home before all the crowds get out of the game, and into town. Last night, I made it, just. They were literally just coming up the street towards town as I passed them on the bus heading home, phew!

As per the title, no they arent going to be champions, but I suspect, in truth, if they’d been offered not being relegated at the start of the season, they would have snatched your hand off! So…?

Oh fine, a little bit of Queen tonight. I suspect the station cat is likely to be the only champion in Huddersfield lol! Still…

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The games people play

Well, we’ve reached that time of year where one of the big US sports is just getting over the hype of the draft, and the so called experts are trying to work out what it all means. In truth, until those people make it, or otherwise this summer, we wont even start to see what the outcome of that is. But yes, NFL is desperately trying to keep itself in the news, so…

Two of the other ‘Big 4’ are now in the middle of their playoffs, and the loosest (and it is loose) interest I have in either, is Anaheim in the NHL. Its close to LA, and any team called the Ducks has to be worthy of support lol! Still as all US sports seem to do, the playoffs take on a life of their own, for a month or more!

So soon, for a couple of months at least, America’s favorite summer sport will take over events, baseball! Oh, and probably my favorite too, though I will watch football, both pro, and college, when I get the chance. Later this month, for the first time in over 18 months, I will get to see live baseball again, in the flesh. Yes, Dodgers, so sue me! 😛 In truth, you can get a seat for not that unreasonable a price, especially compared to soccer over here, and the NFL over there. Yes, you can pay a ridiculous sum for a seat, but I wont be doing that! No, not commenting on food prices, but yes, I will get some, all the same… One game, definitely, two if I can fix it, but if you twisted my arm, I’d probably say one will be as good as it gets!

Over here, the soccer season is also coming to an end, and talking of drawn out hype, we now have play offs to decide the last promotion position. Not quite as drawn out as play offs in the US, but even so…Oh fine, my local team, Huddersfield, and the team from the town where I work, Bradford City, are both in their respective play offs, so I’m told. Yes, that will be the only mention of it I plan to make! Well, I suppose if Huddersfield make the Premier League, I might, but otherwise…

Right, video time. A real oldie, which I doubt many of my readers have heard before, but I remembered it, and it seemed apt, so…

Another one bites the dust

Yes, despite the headline, this is a horse racing story, but it is US racing.

To be honest, the only strict connection between racing, as I know it in this country, and in the US, is that involves horses. Over here, the longest continuous spell of racing at any one track, is 5 days. In Ireland, I think Galway is actually 6 days, or was at one point, but thats it. In the US, tracks race pretty much non stop for months on end!

Fine, thats on dirt (as the US calls it), or all weather surfaces (as we Brits call it), so I guess the tracks can stand it? Also, over here, horses are trained all over the country, whereas in the US, as much as I can gather, most of the horses are stabled at the race tracks? Due to the amount of times they seemingly run, many horses in the US run on various ‘supplements’ to enable them to survive their regular running rate.

Most of the US racing we see over here is pretty low grade stuff, to be honest. I’m not saying that some of ours (especially our all weather stuff) isnt pretty awful stuff too, but anyway…

But seemingly, in the US somewhere, they must have better grade racing, we just dont use it for betting fodder!

One thing both do have in common, is something called the triple crown. In the US, its the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. No horse has achieved the Triple Crown since 1978, and its not hard to see why. Again, this year, California Chrome won the first two, then came up short in the Belmont. It is the race that seems to catch them out, its longer than the other two, and presumably the stamina issues show up? Not helped by the fact that all 3 races are within a 2 month span!

The triple crown over here, hasnt been won since 1970, but that is as much that horses, even if they win the first 2 legs, have more important targets than the third leg in September. Also, our first race is over a mile, the second over a mile and a half, and the last, an extended mile and three quarters! So, finding a horse who is fast enough to win over a mile, and have the stamina to win over a mile and three quarters… Also, as I say, in the old days, these sort of horses had little other challenges to go for. Nowadays, with major races worldwide, at their feet, why risk it?

So in all honesty, I wouldnt be surprised, if Nijinsky, in 1970 doesnt become the last to do it.

Oh, and fine, I’m trying to ignore it, but it wont go away, the football/soccer World Cup starts on Thursday. Much though I’d like to avoid it, with my job, its hard to do. With luck, it wont get mentioned again. Thankfully I miss the build up to the first of England’s matches on Saturday, I’m off to the Postmodern Jukebox concert in Manchester. The other two matches, hmm…

The video, for California Chrome, and all those who tried before him, a touch of Queen

A world championship?

Ah, a thorny subject, sporting events, and world championships!

There are some sports, like football, which genuinely have a world cup. Everyone gets the chance to qualify, even if some nations have about as much chance of qualifying for their World Cup, as I have of visiting Pluto! But, the point is, they have the chance. In fact, in the next European Championships, Gibraltar are attempting to qualify for the first time. See the above comment for their chances of doing so. In a friendly, they lost at home, to the might of Estonia (not a football powerhouse!) so the omens arent good, for when they meet stronger teams.

Ironically, they were drawn to be in the same group as Spain, but things were rapidly changed. If you need to know why, just type in Spain/Gibraltar dispute (or similar) into your search engine, and… ah, thats why!

Then we go to the other end of the scale, and one of my favourite sports, baseball. Yes, they have a ‘World Series’ to decide the title, but beyond 1 team from Canada, every team is from the US! Not all the players are, but the teams… and yes, the sport is played in many other nations, who probably couldnt win a genuine world series anyway, but never get the chance to find out! In fact, every couple of years or so (I think?) baseball has a sort of World Cup, and the US doesnt win it every time! Most of the players are in Major League Baseball, but…

Somewhere in the middle, are the 2 sports I’m featuring tonight. Rugby Union, and Cricket, if you must know.

Lets start with rugby, especially given that Ireland won the 6 nations title today (pretty much European championship) when narrowly beating France today. Yes, the 6 nations involved probably are the best in European rugby, but no matter what others do, there is no promotion or relegation involved. Equally, in the southern hemisphere, its basically 4 teams, that are spread around the globe that play off. And no, no matter how good, Samoa, Fiji or Tonga get, there is no route in. They do get to go in the World Cup, but because of their lack of really tough matches, they dont get a true chance to compete.
Not bad, but not perfect.

Then we get to cricket! There are in fact over 100 cricket playing nations in the world, of various abilities, though you would never know it! Officially 10, realistically 8 countries dominate the scene totally. Below which, comes the like of Ireland and Afghanistan. But at least some of the lesser nations do get the chance to play off to be at the World Cup, the 20 over version of which starts tomorrow.

But no, entry isnt equal, far from it. The 6 associate nations not only had to qualify through one tournament, to get to Bangladesh, they then have to qualify again, against the 2 weakest test nations, Zimbabwe and the hosts, to get to play the big boys! And yet the commentators will claim its a world cup! Seriously?

Yes, fine, its better than baseball’s world series, but all the same…bit of a joke! But this is what you get, when you virtually allow 1 country (India) to set down the rules for playing cricket, I guess? I hope Ireland can rub a few big team noses in the dirt, but they dont make it easy any more, maybe because we’ve made them look silly before!

The video, a cynical comment on matters mentioned above, as just the opposite rules in cricket

Goodbye ESPN America, I will miss you

To be honest, I dont watch an awful lot of TV with sound. Before that confuses anyone, given where I work, we have masses of screens on, for the racing, for the football (soccer) and other sports, but for obvious reasons, given its a call centre, we dont have any sound on, 99% of the time. Yes, there are a few occasions when the sound goes on, but not very often.

At home, where I can have sound on, the viewing is limited. Pretty much BBC News, Sky Sports (mainly for cricket), and ESPN America for Baseball, College Football, and other things. Sadly for me, tomorrow is the last full day of ESPN America on TV. Why, its something that annoys me even more, is because of Football on TV politicking!

Basically BT Sports have bulldozed in on the football market, and have bought up the ESPN channels over here, and are only keeping the main channel in action.Even if they do (seemingly unlikely) continue to show baseball, there is no agreement with Virgin Media, so its gone for me anyway.

Let me explain. Most of the Premier League football up to the last season was on Sky Sports. ESPN had 1 or 2 games as well in a week, as well as showing plenty of other football. I didnt care, never watched the channel, as people know, I cant stand football! But I did watch its sister channel, ESPN America. Mainly for the baseball, yes, but other things too. As well as college football, they do some fantastic documentaries in the 30 for 30 series. Only Sunday, on an early shift, I sat engrossed as I watched a feature on a 1962 college football team who remained unbeaten during the season, but that was barely the feature of the film. Yes, it was Mississippi, in the days of segregation, about the first black pupil at the college. Oh wow! Unbelievable now to think that 50 years ago, in the Deep South, that was still going on. Did you know Michael Jordan played baseball, as well as basketball? I wouldnt have done, but for another film in this series.

But seriously, apart from the baseball, which I will seriously miss, there is one gem that I will miss just as much. You’ve probably missed it, its broadcast at 6 am, then again at 7 am, Tuesday to Saturday over here, and its called Around The Horn, hilarious stuff. Mainly because of one man, a genius called Woody Paige. The rest are good, but when Woody is on, its crazy!

So all I can say is, thanks ESPN America, for all the good memories, I’m going to miss you.

For those of you who have never seen Woody in action, here’s your chance

That David and Goliath moment

Or it could also be called, the beauty of British sport.

Over in the US, all the big 4 sports are franchised, no one else gets a look in. So yes, in theory in baseball they talk of little teams like the Baltimore Orioles making the playoffs, but in all honesty, any MLB team is pretty much a money making juggernaut by most standards, but agreed, compared to the Yankees, or the Dodgers, well maybe they are a minnow, but in a true sense, no.

You could say some sports over here are pretty much franchised, Cricket has its 18 first class counties, Rugby League has its Super League, and they are the giants. But in the old days of cricket, and even now in Rugby, the minnows get a chance to bloody the nose of the big boys. It may not happen often, but it does. Of course for me, talking International Cricket, that wonderful moment when Ireland beat both Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2007, and even more so, England in 2011 were truly precious.

And then we come to football, or should I say soccer, for my American friends. I know that the Premier League gets shown on TV over there, I’ve seen it myself, so I know. Thing is, thats probably all that most of them know, and in all honesty, interest is probably limited to a few of those teams. But, we have 3 leagues below them, and in 2 cups every year, the minnows get the chance to bloody a few noses, before letting one of the big boys win the cup. Except…

This year that plan hasnt played out. On Sunday, we have the final of the League Cup, and not one of the giants will be sighted. Yes, there will be a Premier League side there, but its Swansea, not any of the big names. Lets face it, unless you’re a UK footy fan reading this, how many of their players could you name? But thats not the high point of this story, far from it, and what makes this so precious to me, is the other team. 3 Leagues, and a different financial world below them, sit Bradford City in what is called League 2. Actually its the 4th level of football, but technicalities like that dont really matter in the big money world of sport, lets face it. After all, Baseball claims it holds the World Series, but only 2 Countries (barely, with Canada) get the chance to win it.

Yes, incredibly the ‘might’ of Bradford City have knocked out 3 Premier League sides on the way to the final, and on Sunday, they head to Wembley for the final. No, I dont expect them to win it, but then again, no one expected them to beat Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa either! I cant say that I follow them faithfully, but when I was growing up, they were my ‘local team’ so I suppose I’ve always had a soft spot for them, even if I have no interest in the game. But yes, I have an old Bradford City shirt (circa last century, end of), and will be wearing it on Sunday at work, for all the good it will probably do them. But, you never know… More importantly for the club, the money this has all brought in will help the club finances dramatically, and that has to be a good thing.

Good luck Bradford, have a great day, win or lose.

The video, well it will probably play Sunday for one team or the other, and it should be Swansea. But you just never know… 😉