Thursday, December 08, 2011

Scott Parker?

I remember back in the day, twenty years ago or so (!), when I had all the time in the world, and like many (most?) young men, I spent the majority of it in three pursuits - drinking, chasing tail and following sports.

I watched hockey and baseball and basketball and Sundays were spent in front of the TV watching the NFL. I knew the ninth place hitter for the Detroit Tigers and the backup goalie in Buffalo and the coach of the Cleveland Browns. I watched the majors in golf and tennis and the Grey Cup and I could even tell you a bit (though not much) about car racing, horse racing and boxing.

Nowadays I watch hockey and I follow European soccer somewhat and I'll watch an NFL playoff game here and there. I tuned into the Grey Cup for a few minutes this year and I also may have watched a couple of baseball playoff games or portions of them.

What has happened? Well I haven't the time of course but even before the kids arrived my love affair with sports had waned. Too many teams was a starting point. The money turned me off. The lockouts and strikes. The billionaire owners holding a gun to taxpayers. The millionaire players whining about having to provide for their families. The behavign badly. The splintering of boxing and car racing into multiple series and associations ended whatever interest I had there. The ridiculous lengthening of games for commercials (NFL), preening/timeouts (baseball), scrums and timewasting (hockey until they cut that shit out). And on and on and on. Slowly, one by one, they dropped away until I was left with hockey and when hockey went away for a year, I turned to soccer and became interested enough in it to continue to follow it when hockey came back.

I'm a Spurs' fan. Now, compared to a lot of folks out there fan might be too strong a word. I follow them on Twitter when they are playing. I visit their website and a couple of sites about them a few times a week. I don't think I've seen them play once this year and when some guy named Scott Parker won their award for player of the month my first reaction was 'who's he?'. ;)

I've educated myself on that since. ;)

So I'm a casual fan lets say. Now they have had a nice run the last few years. They were in Champions' League last year and had a great run to the quarters but they fell short of qualifying for it again. They were done in by a stretch of ~ six games, if I recall it was January or so, when they had a patsy schedule like you would not believe, a half dozen games in a row against the dregs of the league. Should have been, even with the vagaries of luck thrown into it, at least 15 points from it.

I can't remember exactly but maybe they got six. Maybe. Out of a possible 18.

And that was their season. They had a couple of injuries at the time but every club always has a couple of injuries. They have a wonderful player Van De Vaert, who makes Hemsky look like Steve Larmer. Buddy plays a half a game, gets pulled after he tweaks something, doesn't play again for another three weeks. And their nominal captain, Ledley King, just a fantastic defender, plays a few times a year. Literally. Nothing left of his knees.

But it wasn't injuries, it was some bad luck (I watched them play Blackpool at Tyler Dellow's house, Blackpool must have cleared four or five balls from the goalline at least) and it was some poor play (also evident in the defending in that game) and in the end they got what they deserved.

This year they're in the second European competition and look to be on their way out early but in the Premier League they are running rampant. And what is important is that they are winning those games they should win. Every week. Sometimes they get a bit lucky but for the most part they are full value for it and so for now a return to the Champions League may be in the offing. Long way to go though. Still it has been a pleasant season.


For the Oilers this six game homestand looked like a chance to right the ship after a tough and lengthy road trip. When it started they were right there with the pack and things were looking good for them to make some hay, its not like they had a murderer's row of clubs coming in. And on top of everything they were getting (mostly) healthy at the right time.

And here we are five games in and they have a paltry three points to show for it. There have been blown leads galore. Dumb penalties. Shoddy goaltending. The first two games they could not score. The last two they could not defend. The team has been defended as 'tired' from their time on the road in November and the guys who have been carrying the team offensively (Ted, Smyth, Eberle) have indeed looked worn out and ineffective lately. And on top of that it looks like, based on decisions like the one where the fourth line faced Iggy in the third last Saturday, that Renney just got a memo that the club wants another lottery puck just to be sure.

The biggest worry is how Ryan Whitney looks like barely a shadow of himself. He looks slower than Sutton out there. Way slower. He's a disaster. Its too bad. It was assumed that his return would give the club two decent pairs to work with. Its not happening.

There are a few people saying 'wait a second something has to happen, this team is awesome' but of course they are not. There are also a few people saying 'this team is terrible and now we are seeing it' and I think these people are wrong too. They're not as good as they showed in October and not as bad as they look now but they are playing poorly and this stretch, while not one that we will look back as a defining one for this year's club, will probably be the one that costs them the playoffs if they right things and get back on track.


spOILer said...

Thank you for absolutely spanking my Wanderers last weekend.

My lads haven't been this close to relegation in 10 years, and it is beginning to look unavoidable. People will lose their jobs over this, but it's difficult to figure out why this year is so different from the past... We're not in a youth movement, no rebuild, and actually spent some money to bring in talent in the off-season.

But there's been some absolutely daft decisions by the manager, perhaps the worst of which has been attempting to run with the likes ManU during their matches. Their success had been predicated on defense and straight-ahead football. Not pretty (think the mid-90s Oilers), but competitive.

This change in identity has been suicide. And for some reason they keep trying to win that way. How does the saying go...

Thank you, sir, may I please have another?

hunter1909 said...

I used to be an Arsenal fan, until one day I realised they didn't have a single English player, and I got sick of having to learn all those weird names their new players have. Ditto the soccer World Cup, once I realised that most of the players in the EPL actually end up playing in the World Cup - unlike the olden days when the players were totally exotic.

Think about it - in the old days the soccer World Cup actually gave you about 20 teams all with rosters you never saw before - especially cool when watching Brazil.

I knew(or thought) when Hall went down that the team was going to blow and although I know or care little for advanced stats i do seem to understand something a lot less complicated about the entire sports debate...viz...that talented players make good coaches and good teams.

Without Hall, Oilers are right back in lottery territory but of course Hall will return and i might as well predict within 10 games of his return they will once again be a semi-dangerous opponent.

Renney is already starting to give me the heebie-jeebies just like when he was with the Rangers - he's a pretty fair coach, but probably should be in the AHL where he would be a great coach.

Like all bitch slapped optimists, I predicted a 6th place finish for these bums, but sans Hall they're double that and become a 12th place team. And people were ripping on Hall just because Seguin was having a nice run for a few games.

Now that I understand Oiler fans are the 21st equivalent of California Golden Seals fans I've become a lot more tolerant of them. Like Spurs of the past 20 years, their team is basically shite too, punctuated with a few stars who give the fans something to go home smiling about - even as the team loses.

PS: Spurs had a player in the 90's called Darren Anderton - the guy was like Hemsky(all world skills) but was always on IR - his nickname? "Sicknote".

EasyOil said...

Interesting what sports people gravitate to. What is it about soccer that drew you in Pat?

Despite being from the UK, I am in no way shape or form a football ("soccer"!) fan. I'm a sports fan, like yourself Pat, so I'll watch important games, like the odd Champions League Final or England's World Cup games, but as a game I find it quite dull - not helped by the last decade of wimpy players who dive and fall down at the slightest tap from another player, screaming and holding their leg/arm/ankle/wrist (all at once because they're too stupid to decide which part of their body they're pretending is hurt).

It is despicable and unsportsmanlike, and is in no way helped by the off-pitch behaviour of the same players. A quote I have mentioned before on here, by comedian Bill Bailey, describes them as "borderline rapists", and that is unfortunately how some of them act. Entitled, outside the law (see the super-injunction scandal with John Terry, among others), and generally not caring about much more than their pay. I know that's generalising, and not all are like that, but none of them seem interested in changing that perception. It doesn't help me, or others, to like the sport.

I am a huge rugby fan. Whilst the England rugby team's "antics" at the recent World Cup was called "scandalous", it wasn't. It was a bunch of lads having a good time and doesn't compare to what footballers get up to. Their on-field performance wasn't good, but they at least acknowledged that. They take an absolute battering every time they play, and refuse to come off until the ref makes them because they've had their ear torn off or some such.

As I said before my rant (!), interesting what sports people are drawn to. Especially as I'm a huge ice hockey fan (bigger than rugby) despite living in a country where ice hockey is afforded only a couple of inches in a couple of the daily newspapers, and having never been to Canada where it is king. Speed, aggressiveness, skill, full-contact... for me ice hockey just has it all.

EasyOil said...

Oh and Hunter, don't get me (or any other Englishman!) started on how the talent pool for the England Team has become so poor due to the Premier League being full up with foreign players! Don't get me wrong, nothing against the foreign players, but some of the Premier League teams just can't help themselves when it comes to signing as many Spaniards/Italians/Brazilians as possible.

hunter1909 said...

EasyOil: Yes, but Spaniards just won the World Cup in a waltz. 1966? I like watching italian Series A football, it's got a great organised look about it.

Brazil are my real all time soccer favourite team - they're like Canada at hockey only instead of blowing past a few other frozen neighbours, Brazil comes to every tournament at least co-favourite.

I've also seen DVD's of that 1982 Brazil team they were sensational, and arguably the very best sports team of the 20th century not to win a championship.

PS: Socrates, Brazilian genius midfielder of that same World Cup as well as in 1986 died this week. Now he's playing with George Best(arguably the second most incredible soccer player of all time after Pele).

hunter1909 said...

John Terry looks like some of the 50ish alkies who often prop up my local bar.

Rooney is insane, basically(although just why the World Cup opposition was allowed to basically rugby tackle him before he retaliated prior to HIS sending off escapes me).

England are bums, pure and simple. They'll never win anything ever again, lol.

EasyOil said...

Terry is too old and slow now. Still a capable defender, just, but he shouldn't be the centrepiece of our defence anymore.

I agree about the England team; if we ever want to win anything again we have to start playing with some pride about playing for England, something thats been missing for a LONG time.

The England 2006 team was probably, man for man, the most talented team in that World Cup. They should have made the finals, minimum. But they couldn't play as a team, didn't have what it took mentally to get anything done. Not helped, however, by Sven Goran-Eriksson being an absolutely doofus with his tactics and bench management.

Black Dog said...

E.O. - basically the year of the hockey lockout I was casting about for something to waste time with and with my wife working a lot of Saturdays and me with a toddler on my hands I took to watching it on Saturday mornings. I don't watch a ton of it but I try to when I can. Same as Champion's League and I will definitely tune into the Euros and World Cup. I could do without the theatrics and of course there are a number of very unlikeble folks playing the game but its the same in pretty well every sport. Just seems that the English tabloids do a better job of revealing that sordid side than most - Terry, Rooney, Giggs, Ronoldo, it goes on and on.

Hunter - yeah the loss of Hall has hurt badly, it does not help that Smyth has come back to earth and that Paajarvi is still struggling. And agreed on the whole Seguin thing. It will be a decade before we know which is better. I liked Seguin at the time but I like Hall too. Both were/are terrific picks.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - yeah I'm not a huge follower of the table but the Bolton collapse has surprised me, they are always solid.

Still time left though.