Hump Day Harangues: Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland, Sayonara Maverick, Luke’s Itinerary

carliThere is a brutal athletic competition that has been taking place in Florence, Italy since the 15th century. It is said to be the most barbaric extant, or, at least, in the Western World.

It’s called calcio storico, and you can read about it here.

Essentially teams of 27 mean motherfuckers from four quadrants of the city, compete for pride only — literally, no money or medals to the winners — in a sand pit, scoring goals by any means necessary. There are apparently no rules. Lots of medics present, performing lots of serious triage.

It is obviously a grizzly endeavor.

But, no more so than last evening’s roughly contested World Cup semi-final, in which the U.S. of A. upset Germany, 2 nil.

I’m not sure if I’ve seen a men’s soccer game with as much pushing and shoving and kicking and tripping, or as many elbows and forearms and knees not so delicately nudged into opponents body parts. The most noteworthy set-to was that first half noggin’ crash on a set piece, drawing blood from both American Morgan Brian and Germany’s Alexandra Popp, the latter of whom came out for the second half with her head bandaged, looking like an on-field advert for Johnson & Johnson.

It was the bloodiest conflict between these two adversaries since Allies vs. Axis in WWII. Continue reading Hump Day Harangues: Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland, Sayonara Maverick, Luke’s Itinerary

Hump Day Harangue: Rose vs. Rose, Tiger vs. Lance, ‘Dores vs. ‘Hoos & 3 vs. 3

allsportsWith the majority of my readership located in the heart of Hoopsylvania, and therefore obsessed with and frothing at the mouth over tomorrow night’s NBA draft, I daresay few have noticed the great move by the NHL Board of Governors.

So, yes, I’ll get to other stuff soon enough, but first a high five to hockey.

I’ve oft said, and shall now repeat, that there’s nothing as exhilarating as OT pucks.

It’s harum scarum. End to end. Chaos on ice.

Now the prospect of a more open competition, should the clubs be tied after 60, is a comin’. Three on three, may the swifter on skates, the more adept at avoidance, prevail.

Only after five minutes of such careening into the corners and across the blue lines will regular season games resort to the reasonably exciting, but skewed decider of a winner, those singular skater against goalie shootouts.

Every once in awhile hockey’s muckety mucks get it right. This is one of those times.

Now on to stuff you may care about. Continue reading Hump Day Harangue: Rose vs. Rose, Tiger vs. Lance, ‘Dores vs. ‘Hoos & 3 vs. 3

Masters, Open in Hand, Spieth Spies Slam

golfOne of the annual traditions of the Masters every April in Augusta is that the defending champ gets to choose the menu for the dinner that precedes the next year’s tourney.

If the U.S.Open were to have such a ritual, it would be only fitting that Jordan Spieth’s repast before next year’s event would feature broccoli.

Since that’s the clever but derogatory descriptor most mentioned by this year’s Open participants, when describing the nature of the bumpy, multi-hued “greens” of Chambers Bay.

It was a lovely but most quirky venue indeed.

In the end though, carping legit or otherwise notwithstanding, the course was not the story.

Neither was Dustin Johnson’s choke job on the 72d. Though he had a makeable eagle putt for the W, and an even easier “gimme” for birdie and a spot in a playoff, neither of which he drained. Continue reading Masters, Open in Hand, Spieth Spies Slam

Golden Warriors Win; Iggy, MVP

hoopgaz3The deciding game’s defining moment came with 9:58 on the clock.

For three quarters, Golden State had kept Cleveland measured since the tilt had settled in, and were up a dozen, heading into the last, 14 after Leandro Barbosa tallied after a Draymond Green assist for the stanza’s first bucket.

Then the Cavs fashioned a mini-run — a J.R. Smith FT, a LeBron layup, 2 Timofey Mozgov FTs and another James tally —¬† scoring seven straight, cutting their deficit in half.

The pulse of Cavs Nation quickened.

On the ensuing possession, Klay Thompson, who was pretty much off his feed for the entire series, missed a jumper. But, Green displayed his inner Sparty, as, while tumbling toward the end line, leapt above the fray and batted the ball to a friendly jersey, keeping GS’s possession alive for a second life.

Which tenancy with the rock, ended with Stephen Curry doing what Stephen Curry has done his entire stellar season. He rainbowed in a trey, pushing the advantage back to double digits, 78-68.

Cleveland was toast. Continue reading Golden Warriors Win; Iggy, MVP

Hoops Last Hurrah: Warriors, Cavs On The Brink

hoopgaz3By the weekend, beating the official tip off of summer which is just beyond, we’ll know who the NBA champion is.

We already are so sure, actually, we have had it confirmed yet again, that LeBron James is King o’ the Court, the best. Today anyway. Though it certainly would have been more self effacing, had he not felt compelled to verbalize that himself the other night.

It would appear that Golden State, small and quick and more dead-eyed, shall prevail. Two to win one makes them odds on.

But, stranger things have happened. Like Cleveland making it this far with neither Star #2 not Star #3 on the hardwood. Lesser forces than LeBron have willed their followers to victory. At least, I’m sure I could think of one, had I more time.

I’d love to see the Cavs win tonight. A token of appreciation to the beleaguered fans of the City on the Lake. A further testament to the strength of James’ broad shoulders. Continue reading Hoops Last Hurrah: Warriors, Cavs On The Brink

Friday Final Edition: Pharoah, Pitino & Iggy

ampahBack before they supersized Churchill Downs, making it casino-ready, ripping away much of its timeless charm, turning it into the equivalent of an Oldham County McMansion with too many rooms and roofs and vaulted ceilings, there were nooks and crannies of the facility that were ageless.

There was a minor eating venue along the brick walkway underneath the first floor clubhouse, almost to the first turn. You could stroll in there on Derby Day, and it felt like yesteryear, like the ladies should be wearing bustles; the gentlemen, fedoras.

You could almost hear the touts whispering, “It’s gonna be Old Rosebud’s day.”

That spot , gone with reconstruction, comes to mind in the wake of the aftermath of American Pharoah’s Triple Crown triumph. Continue reading Friday Final Edition: Pharoah, Pitino & Iggy

Tuesday Catch Up: Cards Crash, Cavs Conquer, FIFA Flailing & Other Effluvia

lobsterhat.JPGOkay, for what it’s worth, I’m back on the beat. Spent a long weekend in Boston/ Maine, with some old pals, swapping tales and hurling insults. During which interlude, I did my best to deplete the crustacean population during what I’m told is a bumper season for lobsters.

Lobster Roll at Fenway. (Where I witnessed arguably the most fundamentally unsound major league baseball game ever contested. Matched in college by U of L’s lapses against Fullerton.) Lobster Omelet at Inn By The Sea. Lobster Pizza at Saltwater Grill. Lobster Chowder at Union Oyster House. And, thus obsessed, felt compelled to purchase not one, but two, lobster adorned baseball caps to commemorate the indulgence. One of which, the “Mother of All Lobster Caps,”¬† I am wearing in the photo.

* * * * *

University of Louisville baseball fans feel they “wuz robbed,” after losing last night’s extra inning affair. Cal State Fullerton, feisty, unrelenting, advanced to the CWS on a controversial 11th inning homer by David Olmedo-Barrera.

Robbed? Maybe so. Maybe not. Continue reading Tuesday Catch Up: Cards Crash, Cavs Conquer, FIFA Flailing & Other Effluvia

Cards Skunk Regional Field, Host Cal State Fullerton in Supers

cardsOf the major men’s sports it governs, the NCAA takes better care of better teams in baseball than hoops or the others.

Sixteen teams, deemed the best in the land, after the regular season and league tourneys, get to stay at home for regional play. Players sleep in their own beds. GFs and parents and adoring local fans cheer them on. Familiarity reigns. (Though the host schools are not the home team in each game. That’s determined, in the interest of fairness, by some formula, which I’ve frankly never been able to decipher.)

The best eight teams in the land, should they survive the first weekend’s double elimination, host the Super Regionals, best two of three affairs with other regional winners, the latter forced to travel, and win twice on the host schools’ home fields for trips to the CWS.

So, it has come to pass that rising national power Louisville shall host Cal State Fullerton at The Pat, this coming weekend, for a third straight stab at a national crown in Omaha. Continue reading Cards Skunk Regional Field, Host Cal State Fullerton in Supers

Luck & Perseverance: Uof L 4, Michigan 3

cardsIf you’re keeping score the regular way, the old fashioned tried and true way, your box score for Cardinal SS Devin Hairston’s 9th inning at bat will read like this: Sac 9.

Generally meaning, that the Wolverine RF Johnny Slater snared a fly ball, and that a Louisville baserunner advanced a sack.

But it’s not quite as simple as all that.

Truth be told, and if your scorekeeping modus operandi notes the mental part of the game, as well as the physical action, it would read: E9.

Because Slater, bless his heart, who made a spectacular catch of Hairston’s lilting flare, after ranging way to his left into foul territory and laying out to snare the ball, made a mental gaffe of the highest order. An egregious brain fart, which cost his team the game, and, more than likely, any likelihood of advancing to the Super Regional. Continue reading Luck & Perseverance: Uof L 4, Michigan 3

Kyle Finds His Funk: Louisville Measures Morehead State, 7-2

cardsThere are stats, especially in the most number-embued sport, baseball. Then there are stats.

Morehead State came into its NCAA opener with U of L, sporting some dumbfounding offensive numbers.

The Eagles led the land in seven — count ’em, 7 — offensive categories. Best batting average. Most hits. Most doubles. Most doubles/ game. Most runs. Most runs/ game. Slugging percentage.

Before Friday’s first pitch, MSU’s weakest hitter in the starting lineup was second sacker Braxton Morris. His average: .316. Their nine features two hitters, batting above the Teddy Baseball Line. Chris Robinson at .412, coming into the tourney, and Clayton Meyer, battling¬† opponents from the 8 spot, at .404.

Thus there must have been an immediate tightening of Cardinal sphincters when recently struggling starter Kyle Funkhouser gave up a lead off single in the top of the first. Continue reading Kyle Finds His Funk: Louisville Measures Morehead State, 7-2