Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Yesterday, the USA Women's Soccer Team defeated Kim Jong Il's loyal followers 2-0 in the teams' opening match of Wold Cup play. For soccer fans, the win was expected, unimpressive, and rather dull. For the typical casual sports fan, the game meant less than nothing and took up 2 hours that Sports Center should have been on TV.

It is always good to see women's sports get recognized on the national stage. And the World Cup, men's or wormen's, is one of the most exciting sporting events that exists. Still, while enthusiasm for soccer has picked up substantially in the last decade, the world's favorite game still struggles to find a foothold in America.

What this World Cup needs in order to avoid coming and going by the wayside is a classic American moment. Brandi Chastain brought us one in 1999, and no witness of that celebration will ever forget it. (Skip to 5:20 for the Chastain game-winner, though I'd recommend watching the whole thing - it's quite dramatic).

While sports leagues within the United States have been going strong, competition on a national level has been disappointing as of late. The men's soccer team brought drama and excitement in the last game of group stage only to fall flat on its face in the round of 16. The U.S. hockey team had a chance to defeat Canada in overtime for the 2010 Gold Medal - a moment whose historical significance in the sports world would have been surpassed by only the Miracle on Ice - but Sid the Kid snuck one past Ryan Miller. Even basketball has disappointed. The USA won the gold but lost its "invincibility" during the 2000 Olympics, only to bring "The Nightmare Team" to Athens in '04. And baseball doesn't stand a chance on the international level, having been removed from the Olympics and replaced with the not-so-classic WBC.

America could use a few more iconic moments, and I suppose the 2011 Women's World Cup is as good a place to start as any.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Countdown Friday: Top 10 USA vs. Mexico Goals

In anticipation of tomorrow's Gold Cup final (Saturday, 9 pm on Fox Soccer Channel, Univision, and streaming on the web), here are the top 10 goals between the USA and Mexico in international play.

Not sure I like the music choice, but the goals are good ones.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NBA Mock Draft

Which of this year's over-hyped players will instantly become irrelevant?

Tonight, at the Prudential Center in New Jersey, the 30 NBA franchises will attempt to find the stars of the future. There are a lot of mock drafts out there already, and they all share a similar prediction: Kyrie Irving will go #1 overall, Derrick Williams will go to the Timberwolves at #2, and everyone else is not super talented.

Instead of boring you with another mock draft full of rash predictions that will never come true, how about we have some fun and spend our time mocking the draft and this year's wholly unimpressive class?

Feel free to chime in with jabs of your own.

The 2011 Draft Mocking
- This year's draft class has fewer stars than the cast of Mad TV.
- This year's draft pool is so shallow, you'd break your neck if you dove into it.
- Kyrie Irving sucks. (That one needs work).
- This year's draft class is so thin, it could give Mary-Kate Olsen diet advice.
- 2006 Adam Morrison would go #1 overall in this draft. 2011 Adam Morrison would go in the top 5.
- This year's draft has more obscure Europeans than a double decker bus full of soccer hooligans.
- This year's draft is so thin, Rogaine won't do a damn thing.
- This year's draft class is so weak, it would lose to Macaulay Culkin in arm wrestling.

And finally...
-This year's draft will be so boring, it will make for worse primetime television than The Decision.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's A Metaphor For A New CBA Proposal

Okay, now let's do a funny one.

In recent meetings, Roger Goodell revealed the newly proposed CBA to the owners. You can go anywhere online or turn on ESPN to hear the details in football and legal jargon. But here at Sports Casual, I like to keep things interesting. So here are three of the most important CBA details, delivered to your in poorly thought out metaphors.

Revenue Split
-Imagine all the revenue generated by NFL teams as a giant cake. In the old agreement, the players received 60% of the cake and the owners got 40%. This, however, was after the owners got to lick off all of the $1 billion frosting. Including the frosting, then, the players were only getting about 53% of the cake. And besides, who wants a cake without frosting?
-In the recently proposed CBA, there will be no $1 billion frosting licking. The players will receive roughly 48% percent of the cake and that number will never fall below 46.5%. This makes the owners happy, especially "fat" cats like Jerry Jones.

Rookie Wage Scale
-Imagine the salary levels like a ladder. Guys who make the most money get to climb towards the top, while the lowly specials teams players remain towards the bottom. In the old NFL, rookies who just showed up often got to climb over everyone to the top without proving themselves at all. Doesn't seem fair, does it? And if it just so happened that the young guy who got to climb to the top was an ass-face, he'd bring everyone down with him when he fell to the bottom.
-In the new CBA, there will be a rookie wage scale. The details haven't been hammered out, but the young players will start considerably lower on the ladder and have to earn their way up.

Salary Cap and Floor
-Finally, imagine the NFL owners - owners of lower revenue teams like the Bengals and Bills - as stereotypical Jewish bargain hunters. We take them to the mall for a couple new shirts and a nice pair of slacks. With $100 in their wallets, the "owners" know their spending cap.
-In the new CBA, we change the rules: now they must spend at least $90. For owners looking to cut costs, it's a little unsettling to have the proposed salary floor set at 90% percent of the salary cap.

While the proposed deal certainly isn't perfect, it's an improvement over where we were just a few days ago. And with the lockout approaching day 100, any progress is refreshing. Take my eyes, not the NFL!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Dog Days Of Summer

A few weeks ago, the world of sports seemed bleak. The Dallas Mavericks lost their first home game and trailed the Miami Jackasses 1-2, and my Bruins lost not one but two heartbreakers to fall into an 0-2 hole in Vancouver. While I never lost faith in LeBron James' propensity to pull off Houdini-like disappearances or the Bruins' ability to get up off the mat, I did confide in whomever would listen that the idea of having to watch the Miami Heat win and the Boston Bruins lose in the same week would pretty much be my seventh circle of sports Hell.

So quickly, however, it all turned around. Not only did I get to see Chris Bosh cry AND hear LeBron James tell us all how terrible our lives are, but I also got to see the Bruins storm back against the obnoxious Canucks, Chara hoisting the cup and scream like a wildebeest, Timmy Thomas delivering the best goaltending performance in NHL history, and the entire Bruins roster - players and super backups - getting absolutely wasted in the locker room after game seven.

The joy from the moments will never go away. I will always remember where I was when the Bruins broke their 39 year Stanley Cup drought (in my brothers apartment, with three of my favorite people). I will tell my two kids, Nomar Welker and Barney Stinson stories about the celebrations in Boston and the hilarious-but-sad-but-hilarious riots in Vancouver. And we will never stop making jokes about why LeBron can't do his laundry. (Because he only has 3 quarters...though admittedly, this joke doesn't work for me because my washing machine at school costs 75 cents. But the intent is clear.)

The happiness may last, but the excitement sadly fades away with time. Which leaves me here with one sad question:

Where did all the sports go?

Sure, I pretended to watch that big golf tournament last weekend. (Tiger won, right?) And I'll definitely tune into Wimbledon every now and then. But there's no denying it: we've reached the dog days of summer, at least as far as sports go. The time when ESPN tries to hype up the WNBA like it's a real sport. The time when sports reporters everywhere are writing free agent reports and articles like "How Player X likes to spend his Sundays" because they'll get fired if they right the truth: nothing worth reading is going on.

Will I really have to watch more than 3 innings of a baseball game to get my sports fix? I'm not sure I can do that. Maybe I'll tailgate a few MLS games to get by. Or tune into the Women's World Cup at the end of June. Yikes.

Admittedly, the possibility of not having an NFL season makes things that much worse. I know I talk a big game, and I know it's still only a remote possibility, but truth be told I'm still terrified that there will be no football. And then what? Arena football? The UFL? How low will we sink to watch the game we love?

But I digress. We'll make it. We'll make it to the fall, when the NFL season will kickoff, the puck will drop in the NHL, and the NBA will tip off. And we'll find that wonderful time when all four major sports are in action. Until then, enjoy the summer. And when you need your sports, don't worry; Sports Casual will always be there for you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Game 7 Means For Hockey

Let's face it: since the lockout, things just haven't been the same for the NHL. To paraphrase from league commissioner and Cornell graduate (cough) Gary Bettman, the NHL needed a lockout because the league could not survive without making fundamental changes. When hockey returned it 2005, it reemerged better than it was before. But not without a cost. Loyal fans stuck around, and perhaps some new fans started paying attention. But the casual fan, a substantial demographic, was lost.

No loss was more detrimental to the NHL than that of #1 casual fan ESPN. After the lockout, America's biggest sports network decided not to renew its agreement with the NHL, forcing hockey to make its triumphant return on the not-so-triumphant Channel Formerly Known as Outdoor Life Network. Since then, the NHL has faced an uphill climb.

It's not just that ESPN stopped carrying games. Anyone (with the right cable provider) can still find a weeknight game on Versus, and NBC offers a nationally televised game each week. But when ESPN turned its back on hockey, they took away the hype. Instead of showing game highlights over the past six years, the network has opted for fluff pieces. Hell, yesterday Sports Center's game seven - game seven - preview lasted about as long as Herm Edwards' pep talk for LeBron James (who, last I checked, does not play football).

Still, hockey built some momentum two winters ago, when the United States and Canada went to sudden death overtime for the gold medal. Tonight, once again in Vancouver, we'll see one of the most compelling hockey games of our generation when the Bruins and Canucks go head-to-head in a "best of one" for the Stanley Cup. This series has had it all - constant scraps, big goals, overtime, biting, injuries, suspensions, unbelievable saves, guarantees, and a whole lot of outstanding hockey. Still, I'll be surprised - nay, shocked - if game seven isn't the best contest yet.

To say everyone will be watching would be a rash use of hyperbole. But to put it more truthfully: anyone who would consider tuning into a hockey game will catch at least part of the game tonight. There won't be a better game to watch for years. And this means big things for the NHL. If the Bruins and Canucks deliver, the NBC-Comcast merger leads to a better branded NBC Sports Network, and ESPN continues to ignore highlights and in favor of sports soap operas...who knows, we could have two competing national sports networks in just a few years' time.

Move over NFL labor dispute and Miami Heat fallout. Tonight, all eyes are on the NHL.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Today Is A Wonderful Day

Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four. Not five. Not six. Not seven.

But zero. For now, at least, order is restored, arrogance is not rewarded, the villain has been slain, and Cleveland can find some solace.

It sure feels good. The real question is who will win first - LeBron or Tiger Woods?

My money is on 24 to 1 longshot Dan Gilbert. (I mean, he wrote it in comic sans so he must have been serious, right?)

UPDATE: Wow. Just, wow. What a class act.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Breaking News: The Search For LeBron James Begins

A Miami Heat spokesperson has confirmed this morning that LeBron James is indeed missing. Heat players and coaches expected the 6' 8" forward to show up for NBA Finals games 1, 2, 3, and 4, but so far the self-anointed "King" is nowhere to be found.

We caught up with coach Erik Spoelstra, who gave us one of his favorite lines. "A lot of guys have been crying in the locker room, Spoelstra said. "And by a lot of guys, I'm mostly referring to me," he clarified.

The Heat are willing to offer $10,000 worth of LeBron James Cleveland memorabilia to anyone who provides information that leads search parties to James' location. Citizens are advised to look for James hiding behind an inflated sense of ego. If you find once-loyal fans whose souls have been crushed, he is likely near.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poking The Bear

Truth be told, I was reluctant to publish a Stanley Cup Finals post because it would be impossible to write one without bias. But after tonight's game, it's just too hard to stay away from all the storylines that this series has to offer. So let's get to it, starting [of course] with the headline that the media has already beaten to death. I've got to get my whacks in, before it stops being cool.

Burrows Bites Bergeron
Not OK. Everybody knows it happened; if it didn't happen we wouldn't be talking about it anymore. That said, this story needs to go away. The Lucic taunt was over the line. Sure, it was easy for him to cockily offer a finger with the score 4-0 in the 3rd, but I think he'll come to regret it in what we'd expect to be a much closer game 4.

Thomas vs. Luongo
The two goalies, both finalists for the Vezina Trophy, are without a doubt the two best netminders in the league. Both goaltenders are capable of putting their respective teams on their backs and almost singlehandedly winning games. That said, they have their weaknesses too. Thomas, of course, is prone to excessive aggression that can lead to some soft goals. Luongo, on the other hand, is quite susceptible to having games get away from him and is often criticized for struggling in big moments. Right now, Thomas has all the momentum, coming off of a 40-save performance.

Horton Gets Rocked
Five minutes and seven seconds into Game 3, Nathan Horton got completely ruined by Aaron Rome. It was a dirty hit and exactly the kind that the NHL hoped to avoid with the creation of Rule 48. Bruins fans will find the hit highly reminiscent of Matt Cooke's cheapshot against Marc Savard; hockey fans in general were likely reminded of R.J. Umberger's face as Horton stared blankly towards the ceiling. If there wasn't bad blood between these two teams, there is now. But there was, so now there's more.

America vs. Canada
The Bruins-Canucks series is stirring up some deep emotions. Let's not forget what's at the root of it all: the Canada vs. USA debate. Canada brought such wonderful things into the world as Tim Hortons, Robin Scherbatsky, and even hockey itself. But this is Amurica. We created much cooler sports, like football and Slamball. We [eventually] killed Bin Laden. We invented the piano key necktie. As if it's even a competition. USA! USA!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Countdown Friday: Top 10 Last Minute NHL Goals

I only have a few weeks left where I can do NHL posts without looking like an idiot. On Wednesday, Vancouver's Raffi Torres nabbed the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals with only seconds left. And so I bring you the Top 10 Last Minute NHL Goals.

...Minnesota Northstars sighting?