Thursday, June 24, 2010

Analisi a posteriori

In a World Cup highlighted by shocking result after shocking result, this perhaps tops them all: Italy are no more.

A 3-2 loss to Slovakia sends the Azzurri home a national disgrace. The headline of la Repubblica, one of Italy's national newspapers, read: "Mai così brutti"; never this ugly.

For the first time ever, the defending champion, the finalist, and the host nation all failed to reach the round of 16. At least the South Africans can hold their heads high and maintain some dignity, which can be said for neither Italy nor France.

At the very least - least being the operative word - Italy produced the most exciting second half - more like the second half of the second half - in the tournament.

Up until the last quarter of the match, I would have said that this team absolutely did not deserve to advance. And up until the last quarter of the match, that would have been 100% accurate. But the way they played the final 20 minutes was inspired and beautiful, albeit far too slow in arriving.

Two late goals, plus an effort just cleared off the line and a disallowed goal for offside; Italy produced more during that brief stretch than they did in the previous 250 or so minutes of play.

It was as if they kicked it into another gear that everyone knew they possessed, but for one reason or another didn't deem necessary to utilize, making their elimination all the more frustrating, infuriating, and embarrassing.

Andrea Pirlo was not fit for the first two matches, of course, but it does make me wonder what could have been, had the final configuration of the team been the initial one.

Fabio Quagliarella was brilliant, and did more in his one half of play than Vincenzo Iaquinta did in the entire tournament. Antonio Di Natale also provided a spark that proved too little too late, a Bic lighter that gets chucked into the woods upon its exhaustion of fuel.

Iaquinta, Gennaro Gattuso and Gianluca Zambrotta were either useless or invisible, and Daniele de Rossi did all he could to erase the good will of his goal against Paraguay; his terrible giveaway forced Italy to come from behind for a third consecutive match.

There will be bitching and moaning about Marcello Lippi making a bee-line for the locker room and not shaking the hand of the Slovakian head coach, and I can understand why, especially after what happened with France's Raymond Domenech after the South Africa match.

But the Slovaks' tactics after making it 3-1 was absolutely disgraceful. Lying on the pitch, wasting time, even attacking Italian players trying to retrieve the ball from the net and get on with the game; certainly not becoming of the team that outclassed the now-former world champions.

Time wasting is an unfortunate part of the late-match strategy of a team headed toward victory, and would no doubt have been employed if Italy were leading, but likely not to that extent.

Regardless, the outcome remains unchanged. An era of Calcio Italiano is over.

Injured keeper Gianluigi Buffon said it best: "Eliminazione meritata": deserved elimination.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Daniele De Rossi is...The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Daniele De Rossi's organ donation card also lists his beard.

His beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s entire body.

You can see his charisma from space.

He is...The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hey, South Africa, Pretty Sure Your Goalkeeper Is Deaf

World Cup host South Africa have to be pretty happy with their opening effort, a hard-fought and exciting 1-1 draw with heavily-favoured Mexico.

The feat is even more remarkable when you consider that their goalkeeper apparently can't hear a goddamn thing.

Itumeleng Khune called out fans after the game for failing to provide enough noise and atmosphere to give Bafana Bafana a homefield advantage.

"We couldn’t hear the vuvuzelas. We expected to hear them and to be lifted by the people and the noise and the atmosphere. It was a letdown."

Really, Itumeleng? Because if you asked anyone who was actually watching the game, that's ALL you could hear.

And if those annoyingly loud horns were nearly unbearable watching the game on TV, how bad would it have been live?

Ever been to a Jays game where that one assclown won't stop blowing his plastic horn? Multiply that by about 85,000 and you've got your answer.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on France not scoring in their opening match, which will hopefully end up being the worst of the tournament.

The last time they had a 0-0 draw with Uruguay? 2002...when they scored zero goals all tournament and failed to qualify. Love it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Pirates Aren't Intimidated By Stephen Strasburg, Are Also Delusional

Tonight, Washington Nationals wunderkind (and member of 525 Scott Richmond) Stephen Strasburg will make his long-anticipated major-league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Most expect him to make mincemeat out of the Quad-A caliber Pirates lineup, much like he carved up the minor leagues on the road to The Show.

As one also might expect, the Pirates aren't totally cool with everyone saying that some 21 year old kid is going to ruin their shit, and are attempting to downplay the significance of the game, saying that he's just like any other pitcher they've faced, that they've faced a lot of good pitchers, yadda yadda yadda.

But Pirates OF and ex-Nat Lastings Milledge predictably took things too far: (emphasis mine)
"We know he’s going to bring it, but he’s got nine tough guys to get out, so we’re going to battle. He’s got to face nine of the best hitters in the world."
NINE of the best hitters in the world? You guys don't even have ONE of the best hitters in the world!

The Pirates are hitting .237, tied for worst in the National League, and have scored 187 runs, which is second-worst in all of baseball, one more than the last-place Baltimore Orioles.

Pitchers generally have the advantage over hitters who've never faced them before, so you'd think Pittsburgh would be preparing a little bit. Nope. They might not even watch tape of his minor league starts.

“We’ll probably just treat him like we treat everybody,” Milledge said. “We’ll kind of see what he’s got as we go.”

Yeah, good luck with that.

UPDATE: "What he's got" is absolutely filthy. Strasburg punched out 14 Pirates through 7 innings, didn't walk a batter and made one quasi-mistake (Delwyn Young golfed a low changeup into the first row of right field).

Assuming he can avoid injury (and after witnessing that performance, you really hope he can), this kid is going to be special.

Next victim: the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Welcome Back, Dewayne Wise!

The Blue Jays turned the clock back to the days when steroid use in baseball was still shrouded in mystery, by bringing back a guy who probably could have used some.

Toronto signed outfielder Dewayne Wise to a minor-league deal on Saturday; he will report to Dunedin for extended spring training, aka "They're paying me to play consequence-free baseball in Florida", aka the best job ever.

Wise was a member of the 2000 Jays (contributing exactly zero homers to that year's club-record of 244) and also played on the '02 team before shuttling off to the National League.

Wise's claim to fame is without question his Mark Buehrle perfecto-saving catch last season for the White Sox. describes Wise as being "primarily known for his outstanding defense", which means he can't hit water if he fell out of a boat.

Still, nice to have you back in the fold, Wisey. Anyone know the whereabouts of Rob Ducey and Chad Mottola?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

"The Imperfect Storm" by Jim Joyce

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I can't watch this anymore.

*watches it one more time*