Straight Out of the Onion?

And it turns out that people flocked to my blog right before that Favreapalooza on Monday night. Go figure. But I’ll take the page hits!

Anyway, my current work schedule, has somewhat kept me from posting. Well, that and not having timely material for when I would otherwise have put up a new entry. But, let’s see if the upcoming weeks and months are a bit friendlier towards regular updates.

This morning’s events finally forced me to post. I’m absolutely stunned, just like the President was when he found out, and frankly most of the press too. The Nobel Committee’s reasoning is fair enough, including a comparison to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1980 (before glasnost really took hold), and Fareed Zakaria seems to think along the same lines (‘America rejoining the world’).

I guess most people assume that the prize is a lifetime achievement award. That has always been what I was led to believe, too. Plenty of joke fodder already, some on the right, and of course quite a bit of it is absurd hyperbole, but even Obama surely knows that he has to go earn this with his and our country’s actions in the next few years. If not, you can be sure this “rockstar” theme is going to come up again in 2012, just like it did after his tour of Europe in 2008.

Even non-conservatives might be concerned about this development. It could have both positive and negative implications for Obama’s policy-making efforts, particularly on foreign policy. Chris Cilliza expands on this and some of my other points.

Hey, it makes for a nice wake-up call though, if you can get it. Enjoy the award, Mr. President, I’m not going to say you need to turn it down by any means. But as you said in your press conference today, don’t dare let this award get to your head. There is a lot of work to be done, and everyone will be watching you more closely than before (if that’s actually possible).

The fun begins withi figuring out what to do in Afghanistan. And then reconciling Congress and the nation on healthcare (no disrespect to Sen. Tom Harkin, but try to minimize the government’s direct involvement) without actually using reconciliation. Oh, and don’t forget the “Es”- economy, environment, and education…

While I’ve Been Away

Had a delicious dinner on Sunday night with my grandmother at the Jackson Diner. It isn’t really a diner, however. Instead, what you get is delicious Indian food. The Murg Tikka Palakwala (chicken mixed with tomato, spinach, ginger, and cumin seeds) was spectacular, and the lamb rogan josh wasn’t bad either. Well worth the minor hassle we faced in trying to find a parking spot near by. Note to self: take mass transit next time you visit Jackson Heights.

Aside from that, and the usual gym/sports/etc. routine, I am doing some work for a company in lower Manhattan on weekday afternoons. So far so good, and we’ll see what happens from there.

I’ll clean out the notebook a little more tomorrow. I promise.

Not This Again…

Tarvaris Jackson wont be the Vikings starter at QB again for a while

Tarvaris Jackson won't be the Vikings starter at QB again for a while

Yeah, he’s back again, probably much to the chagrin of the man pictured above.

This may not be fake for long...

This may not be fake for long...

Wouldn’t it be funny if the Packers win one or both meetings with the Vikings this season, and Aaron Rodgers outplays Favre? We know one person who would probably give a lot to see it happen.

Ted Thompson and Aaron Rodgers, enjoying a brief Favre-free moment.

Ted Thompson and Aaron Rodgers, enjoying a brief Favre-free moment.

Should I Really Have Been Surprised About Strasburg?

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Ryan Zimmerman finally has some star-studded company in Washington

Late last night, the Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg to a four year contract worth over $15 million. This despite lots of talk that he wouldn’t sign and then maybe play in the independent leagues or Japan until next year’s draft and then get taken by another team. Presumably, one that would pay what he and agent Scott Boras wanted, and also be closer to winning than the Nationals currently are. On the other hand, this year’s worst teams (who will ultimately pick at the top of the 2010 draft) don’t really include anyone whom you can classify as “free spending,” unless you really believe he would fall all the way to the Mets in the middle of the top-10. Forget the conspiracy ideas of him becoming a foreign national so that he could be signed as a free agent like Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. This would have cost him too many years of his potential big league career to get to that point. Otherwise, you know Boras would’ve tried it.

The Nationals knew all of this. They also knew that they needed another cornerstone player besides Ryan Zimmerman and some #2/3 caliber young starting pitchers- Strasburg should be an ace. And as we saw, they offered $15 million, no strings attached. More than the Cubs gave Mark Prior (although the deals aren’t structured the same), who was actually a #2 overall pick behind Joe Mauer… oops. If he pitches up to the hype, the deal expires without buying out any arbitration-eligible years, so his salary could quickly skyrocket.

Tom Boswell sees this much as I do. The Nationals may finally have some credibility as an organization, and the cost of being wrong on Strasburg over the next few years probably pales in comparison to what it would be if they yielded his rights and saw him thrive somewhere else in two years.

Still, I figured that the Nationals wouldn’t pull the trigger on this big a financial commitment to someone who hasn’t yet played in the Majors, or that Boras and Strasburg might gamble on what could happen next year. Instead, the two parties determined that they really did need each other- if only until 2015. As Keith Law puts it, a potential win-win for all sides- assuming Strasburg delivers on the field!

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

Stephen Strasburg will soon be wearing red, white, and gold for his home games.

It All Sounds Right…

But how will it play out? Michael Vick basically said exactly what you’d expect to hear in his press conference this morning. He made some big, really horrible mistakes, and hopes that his actions going forward backup the second chance he is receiving. For Eagles coach Andy Reid and chairman Jeff Lurie (a dog-owner in the past), it took lots of questions to Vick and former NFL coach Tony Dungy (who has done a lot of work trying to help rehabilitate people in Tampa and Indianapolis), plus the apparent support of Donovan McNabb, to convince them to bring in Vick.

So far, reaction in Philly seems to be pretty mixed. John Gonzalez likes the last bit of teaser footage he saw in advance of Vick’s 60 Minutes interview this weekend- “Football doesn’t even matter” (compared to his crimes). But Phil Sheridan doesn’t see a general fit with the Eagles’ organizational culture (whereas others praise its sturdiness as being great for Vick). He also can’t get past the probability that we will think of Vick’s crimes every time he takes the field. That’s certainly true, for as Lurie said in the presser, Vick’s legacy will be almost entirely written off the field. Only by what he does there- i.e. working with the Humane Society to help eradicate cruelty to animals in the many places where it happens more than any of us could ever imagine- can he possibly remove any of the stain off his legacy.

Pete Domowitch takes it in football terms and says that a very good offense just became dynamite. Plus, Andy Reid is an offensive guru (he once worked with Mike Holmgren and helped tutor Brett Favre) who can figure out a way to use all of the Eagles’ pieces (including Vick, McNabb, Bryant Westbrook, Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson). “Domo” couldn’t be more right. If all falls into place, the Eagles may have taken that last step to get buy the Giants and Cardinals to become the NFC’s team-to-beat. I wouldn’t want to be any defensive coordinator who has to game plan against Philly this season.

Fans? Predictably, also split. BountyBowl loves the signing. Everyone is taking a risk (PR/financial/job/whatever) and then some to bring in Vick, and it just might pay off in a Super Bowl. This blogger also sees the dynamic plays which the Eagles could concoct. InsidetheEagles, like Phil Sheridan, can’t figure out why the Eagles should be the team for Vick, even if he may have earned another chance. Some fans are even trying to get rid of tickets. In a month, I’m sure they’ll be in the minority. Listen, I’m not gonna argue with people if their principles say some crimes can never be forgiven- at least not with another opportunity to play football for a living. Or, that they can’t seriously believe Vick is sincere in his remorse.

Another fan is really torn on many levels, and I can’t blame her. She and other bloggers delve into some of the religious teachings one might consider in this debate as justification for Vick’s opportunity. Tony Dungy also has made those allusions, and I think it’s not even so much religion (of any kind) as reflective of our country’s society. At the end of a punishment for breaking the law, you’re eventually freed. What you do after that is your story to write alone. But having a good support system can never hurt.

Stay tuned…

On Michael Vick

I’m turning over somewhat of a new leaf. Trying to go to sleep earlier most nights so that I improve my productivity during the day. Yes, that includes the quality of this blog. At least, I hope so.

Apparently, the Philadelphia Eagles and especially the man pictured below are convinced that Michael Vick will too. Obviously, his would be on a far different level from my own, but sports and hyperbole are almost like peanut butter and jelly. Vick’s now back in the NFL, and potentially for more money than most seemed to expect he (and/or his creditors) would get.

Image Courtesy of Delaware County Times

Image Courtesy of Delaware County Times

Image Courtesy of the Express-Times (Lehigh Valley)

Image Courtesy of the Express-Times (Lehigh Valley)

It seems like the players are thrilled to have him, despite all of the protests and media circus fun that you know are coming. Even Donovan McNabb apparently is okay with this. I disagree with the venerable Bob Glauber’s piece in Newsday though. McNabb won’t be worried about Vick threatening his job, because if he stays healthy, this isn’t a contest. Donovan McNabb is just flat-out a better quarterback and will be the starter. Vick will probably be involved in a lot of trick plays or some variation of the wildcat. But Glauber and SI‘s Peter King are correct about Philadelphia’s organizational stability being a plus for Vick. If he doesn’t stay in line, he’ll be out the door, plain and simple. And Yahoo! Sports makes an interesting point about how the problems Andy Reid went through with his kids’ a few years ago could have influenced his decision. Of course, he will frame this as no more than bringing in a veteran backup.

What do I think? I say, the guy did his time for a heinous act (as judged by the legal system), so if the NFL and Tony Dungy think Vick is on the way to cleaning up his life, I see nothing wrong with the Eagles finding out if this is true, and if Vick can be an asset to their football team. They won’t let him become a clubhouse cancer, so the risk is virtually nil in my view. Fans won’t give up their tickets- even if Eagles fans weren’t known for their loyalty.

Gonna check out a live blog of Vick’s press conference now. Back later with my thoughts on it.

U.S.A.-Mexico Live Blog

Hello and welcome to this blog for El Superclasico Norteamericano. Not quite en vivo del Estadio Azteca, but we’ll bring you all the action.

3:47- Teams in, per Ives Galarcep:

USA

—————Ching———-Davies—————–

Donovan———————————-Dempsey

—————–Bradley—–Clark————————

Bocanegra—–Onyewu—–DeMerit—–Cherundolo

————————-Howard————————–

MEXICO

—————–Franco———Blanco——————–

Guardado—————————————Dos Santos

——————Torrado——Castro———————

Juarez———Magallon——-Salcido———-Osorio

————————–Ochoa——————————

3:49- ESPN re-ran a piece on SportsCenter about the deep hatred these countries have for each other when it comes to soccer. Landon Donovan is often at the center of it, for one reason or another.

3:52- Coming back to the teams, Steve Cherundolo’s experience wins out over Jonathan Spector’s strong displays earlier this summer in the U.S.A. defense. Ching is preferred to Jozy Altidore up front, and Conor Casey will not dress. For Mexico, Jonny Magallon starts in defense over Aaron Galindo. No Rafael Marquez, as we already knew.

3:53- 77 degrees at kickoff with a chance of thunderstorms later, but virtually no humidity at the moment. Teams should be coming out soon.

3:55- To loud horns and roars, the players have indeed arrived along with referee Roberto Moreno of Panama. The game is sold out, over 100,000 strong in the Azteca, and apparently tickets were scalped for over $400 today. National anthems coming.

3:57- Plenty of reminders lately about the U.S.’s 0-22-1 record in Mexico, plus El Tri’s 62-1-4 record at home in qualifiers. Will that change today? I’m not convinced of it, but that’s why they will play the game! Some mild booing audible as the “Star Spangled Banner” is played. It is a pretty bitter rivalry, after all, and we’ve seen this sort of thing in other countries and sports too.

3:59- Loud singing of Mexico’s national anthem. The players join in too.

4:02- Predictably, Marcelo Balboa on television emphasizes set pieces and possession for the U.S. Those have clearly been issues in recent matches. For Mexico, he wonders about pace, wing play, and how the defenders stand up without Marquez.

4:03- Red Card Sports notes what’s at stake. And we’re off.

2nd Minute- Tim Howard saves comfortably on a long shot from Andres Guardado.

3rd Minute- Guillermo Ochoa gets the ball but Charlie Davies beat Mexico’s defenders. Could be a problem later.

4th Minute- Bocanegra sweeps away a cross from Blanco and Guardado can do little more with the ball. Both teams trying to probe the defenses right away.

5th Minute- Brian Ching goes over the top of a defender to try and win a header. He’s deservedly called for a foul and the ball was far over his head anyway.

6th Minute- Mexico takes advantage of a Steve Cherundolo turnover deep, but Guardado shoots over the top.

8th Minute- First corner to the U.S.A. Nothing really comes of it, although Dempsey eventually gets the ball and takes a few dribbles before Magallon tackles the ball away.

9th Minute- GOAL U.S.A.- Donovan finds Charlie Davies, who breaks away from Juarez and fires a rocket into the corner. Ochoa couldn’t get there quickly enough. That could change everything in terms of pace and approach from both teams. 1-0 U.S.A.

12th Minute- Guardado fires a low, weak, and wide shot.

13th Minute- Guillermo Franco heads wide, referee says it deflected off an American. Corner to Mexico, which Guardado can’t keep in play despite a valiant effort. By the way, Charlie Davies is the fourth American ever to score in a game at Mexico.

15th Minute- Oguchi Onyewu heads away a corner.

17th Minute- Blanco serves in a free kick (won through a foul by Jay DeMerit) and gets the ball back on a one-touch from Dos Santos. His shot not quite good enough.

19th Minute- GOAL Mexico- Mexico held position for a while and didn’t do much with it. But Blanco gets both Clark and Bradley to guard him, passes to Israel Castro near the bar, who takes one touch, lines it up, and fires a screamer off the bar and into the net. His first international goal, and he might never score a better or more timely one. Bocanegra and Onyewu did give him quite a lot of room. Tied 1-1.

24th Minute- Dos Santos with some nice moves, dodges two defenders and shoots agonizingly wide. It won’t matter though, he was flagged offside.

26th Minute- Ching finds Donovan, who then passes to Dempsey. A pass out wide finds nobody, so Mexico gets a throw-in. As I said earlier, possession is still an issue for the Yanks.

27th Minute- Onyewu is booked for needlessly handling the ball. He’s now banned from the next qualifier in September.

29th Minute- DeMerit makes a rough last-ditch tackle on Dos Santos. He did have a foot off the ground. Yellow card and a free kick near the U.S.A. box. Blanco shoots a stinger which Howard parries away despite a minor screen. Osorio then shoots over the bar from long range.

30th Minute- Blanco and Dos Santos are starting to really give the midfielders and defenders (who are both now booked) fits.

31st Minute- Dos Santos goes over the top on a tackle but escapes a yellow. Free kick aimed at Donovan’s head, which doesn’t work too well on this occasion.

33rd Minute- Blanco tries to chip in Franco, but the American defenders sniff it out.

34th Minute- Cherundolo is fouled in a dangerous position by Guardado. Donovan lines up. He fires to the back post, and Onyewu goes up unsuccessfully for the ball. He’s also called for a foul, having barged into Magallon and Salcido.

37th Minute- Some more Mexico thrusts. They’re not getting too close to Tim Howard, but the defenders really haven’t done a great job of breaking up plays before the potential final pass.

40th Minute- Corner kick for Mexico and it’s fired long where Davies snatches it away. The ball comes to Ching, who is fouled near the center line by Castro.

41st Minute- Donovan takes the free kick and his long ball is deflected by Osorio out for a U.S. corner. Davies and Castro jockey for position and the ref warns them to stop.

42nd Minute- The corner pretty much misses everyone, and Ching is called for bumping into one of the Mexican players.

43rd Minute- Franco tries a long shot, but Onyewu is too close and immediately deflects it away.

45th Minute- Onyewu takes position and finds Ching in midfield. He wins a throw-in, from which little develops other than the ball rolling back to Howard and almost behind for a corner. Instead, Davies wins a long ball briefly before a double-team stops him. Now Bocanegra is booked for a late tackle on Guardado. Into stoppage time.

4:50- Halftime. Mexico had most of the possession, especially after the U.S. stunned them with an early goal. But it’s 1-1 heading back to the locker room. Bob Bradley has to worry about having three defenders with yellow cards and decide if/when to enter Altidore into the proceedings. Javier Aguirre will be reminding his charges that they simply must keep Charlie Davies in their sites.

5:07- Teams are back out for the second half.

47th Minute- U.S. free kick early on. A Mexican heads the ball away at the edge of the box and though it comes back to another U.S. player, El Tri eventually takes over.

48th Minute- Onyewu and Bocanegra combine to foil a pass to Blanco and win a throw to boot. Ball played down field to Donovan and then back to Bradley, but Bocanegra is caught off his stride and it goes out for a Mexican throw.

51st Minute- Michael Bradley makes a hash of his attempted clearance, and it eventually becomes a Mexico corner. Service comes to an open Franco but his half-volley is wide. Onyewu was almost caught out of position.

52nd Minute- Davies nearly outmaneuvered Osorio in the Mexican box. He would have been in alone on Ochoa.

53rd Minute- Torrado shoots off-target.

55th Minute- Even Mexico is taking a short siesta. You might think they’d be used to the altitude of Mexico City, but many of the players represent club teams abroad.

56th Minute- Blanco’s day is done. Carlos Vela replaces him. He starred in the Gold Cup Final, albeit against an American team primarily composed of reserves.

58th Minute- Double change for the U.S. Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber come in. Ching and Clark exit. This is about ball possession, and it probably means Donovan will play in an advanced role behind Davies.

59th Minute- Tim Howard makes a great save on Dos Santos, whom Guardado found completely open about 15 yards from goal. Where was the defending on either player?

62nd Minute- Penalty shout from Mexico but Vela really went down pretty easily in the box and was hardly touched. The referee wasn’t fooled. El Tri has most of the possession right now, although DeMerit and Bocanegra clean up a little mess before Torrado shoots over the top.

64th Minute- Salcido fouls Holden. Davies unable to win the subsequent long ball and Ochoa collects.

66th Minute- Half chance for Mexico but a low cross goes to nobody in particular. Quarter of the match to go.

68th Minute- A U.S. throw in goes to Dempsey who plays it long to Donovan. His centering pass gets past Castro but not the second defender. Now some chaos as Onyewu is called for a foul. Then a minor skirmish with a Mexican player. DeMerit also called for a foul. Remember, he and Onyewu already have yellows.

69th Minute- The U.S. clears away Mexico’s free kick from the box. Gustavo Nery is warming up for Mexico.

70th Minute- Davies is dispossessed. The Mexican midfielders pass it around but Onyewu steals it.

71st Minute- Great cross by Holden. Davies just missed a chance at a free header. Nery enters.

72nd Minute- Davies is just offside by a hair. Mexico dodges a huge bullet because Bradley made a perfect pass.

73rd Minute- U.S. foul near the box. Dos Santos fires and it’s deflected out. Tim Howard screams that Torrado touched (or handled it last) but corner is the decision. Replay is inconclusive.

74th Minute- Now handbags between the teams. Feilhaber and Davies take shots after trying to get the ball and break up the skirmish, respectfully. Torrado at the center of it for Mexico, as he has been for most of their action today. He gets booked and will miss Mexico’s next qualifier.

76th Minute- Franco deflects a loose ball and thinks it’s going to roll in. Not quite, as Howard grabs it in time. Altidore on for Davies, that’s the final U.S. throw of the dice.

78th Minute- Bocanegra commits another foul. It actually could have been a second yellow, but the referee spares him.

79th Minute- Mexico’s final substitution sees Miguel Sabah replaces Franco. Striker for striker.

80th Minute- Header on target from Mexico, but not a tough catch for Howard.

81st Minute- Mexico thought they had earned a corner, but are instead called for a foul. It could have been worse, as one player tried to forcibly take the ball from Onyewu, whom he thought had been wasting time.

82nd Minute- GOAL Mexico- What an inspired substitution. Miguel Sabah is first to a ball rolling in the box after DeMerit tackled it away from Juarez and smashes it into the roof of the net. The other defenders perhaps could have been more alert in the danger area, but the finish was excellent. The Azteca goes berserk. 2-1 Mexico.

85th Minute- Dos Santos booked.

88th Minute- Howard starts play for the U.S. Next pass not quite on target, but they get it back and a subsequent cross gets headed to safety. The police protects Donovan from bottles some fans are throwing, whose effort is punched away by Ochoa.

89th Minute- Altidore wins a throw in. It’s basically wasted.

90th Minute- Mexico just trying to hold onto the ball as the game enters injury time. There probably won’t be too much of it.

91st Minute- Howard plays a long-ball. Dempsey and a couple of others touch it in the Mexican box, but can’t turn towards goal to shoot. Cherundolo was not able to get the ball either.

93rd Minute- A foul by Torrado gives Cherundolo a chance for a long ball. Every other American field player came up. Comes to nothing, really. Mexico breaks out but it won’t matter, because there’s the final whistle from Roberto Moreno. Full Time, 2-1 Mexico.

5:57- Veritable ecstasy in Mexico as El Tri’s wins the game they absolutely had to, both from the standpoint of pride, and in terms of World Cup qualification. Javier Aguirre and the players hugging each other as they exit. They’re now just one point behind the U.S. for second place in CONCACAF. Costa Rica now has a real chance to finish first when all is said and done. They actually play Mexico in September. For the U.S., it was a decent performance, and I really think they paced themselves well with regard to handling the altitude. They’re home for El Salvador in their next qualifier. Winning that one, as well as the final home game against Costa Rica, should ensure a World Cup place. Today, however, they will rue the lack of possession and good passing. Mexico just about deserved to win.

That’s all for now.

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