Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Good Sports Weekend

Last night the US National Team played a World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. We had some amazing seats thanks to a buddy of mine who knows a season ticket holder, second row in the southeast corner of the stadium. A couple of things about this game:
  • Especially against a team like El Salvador, but there is almost no reason why the US shouldn't be able to physically dominate any opposing team. Those little latin guys couldn't have been more than 5'5" or so, and we have so many big guys. However, Kent mentioned this awhile ago when he went to watch soccer in Spain, but soccer players all pretty much have the same build - lean, about 5'9" or 5'10", and incredibly nimble. In other sports there is a ton of variation in body size because with specialization everyone has specific tasks that they are assigned to do. In football there are linemen, quarterbacks, receivers, and all the others and everyone of those has a very specific build. Baseball has speed guys that are agile that play middle infield and big burly guys usually play first base. Hockey has guys who act as enforcers and defensemen, but others who play on the wings and have to be fast. In soccer, everyone has to be able to run for 90 minutes. There is no variation in that, so everyone has to have a lean, runner's type body. Except for...
  • Jozy Altidore. I read a Bill Simmons' article raving about the physique of this guy and I really didn't get it until I saw him in person. The guy is built like a wide receiver. He's 6'1" and 210 lbs, with these big broad shoulders. He just doesn't look like he belongs on a soccer field. He's the kind of player you build on a video game. He's just incredibly strong and powerful, but for all his strength he loses the ball way too much when he's posting up. Or at least he did last night. With his back to a defender, he lost a number of balls that he shouldn't be losing. He might rely too much on his strength and not enough on his positioning, although he did get the winning goal on a header from Landon Donovan. Then again the guy is only 19 so there is still a ton of upside to him.
  • Clint Dempsey scored on a diving header on a set piece from Donovan also. Dempsey missed a breakaway, but he also facilitated what should have been the third goal of the game. I like the guy, but he seems to do things that are really great or really lackluster.
  • Landon Donovan facilitates EVERYTHING. His crosses and set kicks are almost always great, and the guy runs the entire field the entire game. I have no idea why he doesn't take his game to a better international league. He could be on par with the world's best, but seems to typify the American mentality which is...
  • Like hitting an on and off switch. The US defense was porous, and maybe it was because Onyewu had to sit out because of too many yellow cards, but there is not a lot of urgency with the US team. Once El Salvador scored, they seemed to finally wake up and put together a bunch of really good scoring opportunities. After tying up the game, the US kept pressing and with how aggressive they were playing, you just knew that they were going to score again before the end of the half. It was inevitable. But in the second half, they came out kind of flat again, although they did have some good goal scoring opportunities. It seemed this way in the Confederations Cup. They were terrible in the first couple games, but then were so super solid against Spain and Brazil. If they can just manage that kind of effort all the time these guys would be world class.
  • I wish our all our guys from midfield up had an attacking mentality. They make way too many little passes inside the 18. I wish they'd just crank it more.
What made this evening doubly fantastic was BYU winning in Texas against Oklahoma. To be honest, I never really have high expectations of BYU football. There is only one thing that I ever want out of BYU football and that's to beat the U, and anything on top of that is just icing for me. Here comes a digression...

I know rooting in college sports is a little bit different and so you want conference teams to do well, and I get the logic behind that, but I still think that's garbage. I always want the U to lose. How in the world does anybody ever root for the archnemesis to win? That's so dumb to me. I don't care if the whole conference gets money out of it. You know what else happens? They get prestige and more power when it comes to recruiting so you still ultimately lose, right? It's a consolation prize to watch the "others guys" win a bowl game, and does anyone ever want a consolation prize? No, that's the point of a consolation prize. There is a real prize out there and you didn't get it. What's consoling about the fact that I get something other than what I originally was hoping for? Not to mention bragging rights, which we all know are HUGE, maybe more important than all of what I just mentioned. I went to a party last year sponsored by U supporters to watch their bowl game last year and all that I wanted was for the U to get destroyed, but unfortunately they played a good game and the people I watched it with had no reservations about showing their enthusiasm which felt like daggers to me. I guess I'm just the worst kind of prideful when it comes to these types of sports questions. Your victory is my loss, and your success is my failure. I think that conference collective thinking is a losers' mentality. I'm a competitive person and I want to win. That's it.

These kind of wins don't usually come our way, or least they haven't recently. What was really great was driving on University Avenue last night and seeing hundreds of people on the streets, people parading in cars and honking horns, and just feeling the palpable excitement. I have friends that even went to the Provo airport at 2am to greet the team as they arrived from their wonderful evening in Texas. Are we getting ahead of ourselves? You betcha. So far we are 1-0 in a 12-13 game season. Did it feel like we won the national championship last night? It sure did here in Provo. Is it worth having absurdly high expectations on the season? At least for now it is.

I want to go to two games this season - at home against Florida State and against the U. I've never been to a BYU/Utah game, and I think this season is the one to do it. I am willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money for it. We'll see how it goes.

Now the Angels...they're kind of up and down lately. What has been nice is that our starting pitching has finally come together. Joe Saunders went on the DL and we saw him pitch his first game back, and he was great. And he's won each of his last two starts, including today's series sweeping victory against the Royals. John Lackey has been awesome, and also Jered Weaver. I think I've mentioned this before, but I love watching Weaver's pitching motion. He's not a big guy, but he has a long frame and has this really cool fluid delivery. It's similar to Scot Shields in its whip-like motion.

I was really excited about the Scott Kazmir acquisition until I was reading that it might also be our solution for the possible departure of John Lackey in the offseason. Scott is good, but he's not a clear front of the rotation kind of pitcher like John is. Can you put a price tag on a guy who wins a World Series game 7 as a rookie? It's not just the sentimentality of it. If this guy has a full season healthy he's a likely Cy Young candidate.

At least for the time being we are well-positioned for the playoffs. If the season ends today we play Boston, but I like our chances this year. We have our starting pitching which finally looks good enough to play October baseball, and our normally very potent offense. We have an MVP candidate in Kendry Morales. Aybar is a stud, Figgins is incredibly productive, and an outfield of guys who are all 20+ home run guys, except for Abreu who is only going to have a seventh consecutive 100+ RBI season. The trade-off to possibly losing Lackey, however, is that it frees up money to re-sign both Figgins and Abreu in the offseason, and those both feel like must-have players. Kent, I undervalued Chone. You were right, and I was wrong. I think our biggest question mark is the bullpen. I'm not worried about facing the Yankees. We have their number as much as Boston has ours.

I'm also registering for playoff tickets at home for the Angels. There are a lot of great sports opportunities in the next few months and I want in on all of them. Wanna come?

Last, but not least, how sweet is this video of Kelly Slater?

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