Chris Ryan: December is not April, as Everton manager Roberto Martinez and Newcastle boss Alan Pardew made sure to mention over the weekend. Big results against Arsenal and Manchester United saw the Everton and Newcastle managers answering questions about their respective clubs' Champions League qualification chances.
December is not April. But it's not October, either.
It was supposed to be a fairly dull round of midweek games. Sure, nine different matches were kicking off within 20 minutes of each other, but really, most of them were inconsequential. Only one truly pitched top-tier contenders against each other — Manchester United versus Everton — while the rest promised to be ho-hum affairs; they either didn't matter much or were foregone conclusions. Oops. Thirty-two goals, some incredible performances, and an unexpected result or two later, this sleepy Wednesday had turned into maybe the most gripping round of matches of the season to date. Unless you live somewhere with whatever the Queen's English equivalent of a man cave is, complete with multiple screens and feeds of questionable legitimacy, there's no way you watched it all. So, let's answer some questions about what you missed.
In case you were busy being thankful for Moises Alou's Hall of Fame candidacy, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Jordan Lynch broke his own FBS single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 321, as Northern Illinois finished its regular season undefeated with a 33-14 win over Western Michigan. "No! My record is gone," Lynch said after the game. When told he still had the record, Lynch shook his head and said, "Sure, but it's not the same. I loved that old record like a son. This one I'll never tell it how much I love it. I'm just gonna put a ton of pressure on it to make up for my lost relationship with the old record. Even if it means this new one is gonna grow up to be all weird and maladjusted." Lynch then looked at a picture of himself setting the original rushing record and let a single tear trickle down his cheek before yelling, "You're nothing to me!" at a TV playing a highlight reel of Tuesday's game.
Despite being down Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, Golden State held on late to edge the Pelicans, 102-101, in New Orleans. "I didn't want to play either," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said after the game. "I mean, have you seen that Pelican mascot? Pure intimidation. But with those two out I knew I'd have to fight through it, no matter how many nightmares I'm sure to have tonight."
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Chris Ryan: There's Robin Van Persie, celebrating his goal with the best player on the field on Sunday. I don't know if a scrappy 1-0 win over Arsenal — one that will be more remembered for its nasty head injuries than anything else — can serve as a bluperint for future success for David Moyes. After the match, I don't even know if he needs a blueprint at all. He might just want to take out an index card, write "Rooney" on it, and pin it to a corkboard. Team talk done. See you later.
In case you were busy playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a Sunday-night battle of division leaders, the New Orleans Saints ran roughshod over the Dallas Cowboys in a 49-17 win. "It was always a tough matchup for us," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said with a deep sigh. "We lost Sean Lee, Austin is still out, Ware's at half speed, our GM and owner are the same crazy old man, and that's a good team we played." Garrett then paused, stared straight ahead unblinking, and added, "metaphorically speaking um, all of that was a metaphor."
A look back at the week's Champions League action.
United’s Lack of Ambition
Mike L. Goodman: It's not that Manchester United didn’t create much on the road against a mediocre Real Sociedad team that fans should find alarming. It’s the fact that manager David Moyes seems pretty OK with it. After the game, his comments focused not on the lack of creativity, but rather on their lack of clinical finishing. He wasn’t upset they didn’t find more shots to take, he was upset they didn’t score the ones they did have.
In case you were busy trying to solve the Heat's chemistry issues using stoichiometry, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
It was a weekend of big comebacks in the NFL as contenders Seattle and Indianapolis mounted stunning symmetrical rallies behind their Pro Bowl second-year quarterbacks to beat Tampa Bay and Houston, respectively, 27-24. When asked if they were disappointed to have fallen behind relatively poor opposition, both Seattle's Russell Wilson and the Colts' Andrew Luck replied, "It's easy to look at records and dismiss an opponent, but every team in the league is good." Then both men said, "There are no excuses in this league. Sure, we lost a top receiver to an ACL injury last week, but every team deals with injuries, and it's on me to avoid mistakes," before both said, "But what's special with this team is its belief and resolve." When asked if they were considering a presidential run after their careers were over, both men laughed and replied, "Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself but who knows?" Then both men pointed directly at the camera and said, "But I do know this: There's only one man standing in my way. And he knows who he is. And I will stop at nothing until I am the most powerful man in the world." Then both men let out uncharacteristically evil maniacal laughs, before clearing their throats and adding, "Go Hawks," and, "Go Colts."
In a battle of ACC unbeatens, Florida State throttled Miami 41-14 as they narrowly moved back to no. 2 in the BCS standings. "Don't worry, folks," said Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher after the game, "we're not gonna run up the score for no BCS computer. No siree, Bob." Fisher then pulled his sunglasses down to the tip of his nose, peered out over them, and said, "We're gonna run up the score because scoring lots of points is real fun."
A look back at the weekend's Premier League action.
Goal of the Year
Chris Ryan: This was a hymn to football. I tried to do that little hop step that Jack Wilshere does in the very beginning of this goal in my living room and I broke a vase. It's OK, I have hundreds of vases. Anyway, on Saturday, when this happened, our own Mike Goodman said this:
In case yinz were busy getting to Pittsburgh to wait, yinz? Who the hell are yinz? Anyway, here's what you may have missed in sports on Tuesday:
Oh my goodness, hockey's back? Hockey's back! And with it came a barrage of goals from defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which beat Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, 6-4, in its season opener. "Ten goals?" yelled 58-year-old Blackhawks fan Gary Habermeyer. "What the hell is this garbage? Polo? What happened to hockey?" When his son-in-law Dan Nielson tried to explain that there were a number of offseason rule changes put in place by the NHL to increase scoring, Habermeyer slammed down the legs of his Barcalounger and shoved a finger in Nielson's face. "I'll tell you what the problem is," Habermeyer shot back. "It's your generation. A bunch of showboaters. No one willing to do the hard work. No one willing to play defense. Patrick Kane? That's just a child wearing skates carrying around a big stick. When things get hard he'll just shut down the government. Not like Bobby Hull. Now there was a real man. Don't look at your phone when we're having a heart-to heart conversation!" But Nielson didn't look up from his phone, as he was texting his wife, Bridget, to say that she owed him more than one for spending the evening bonding with her father, and also to ask what Patrick Kane had to do with the government shutdown.
Pittsburgh's battery of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin made sure the Pirates' first postseason trip in 21 years would not be a one-game affair, as they topped the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in the NL wild-card playoff. "I just keep thinking, What could I have done differently?" said Reds manager Dusty Baker after the game. Baker then took a moment to think back over the events of the game, during which he managed to use seven pitchers without deploying superstar closer Aroldis Chapman, before adding, "And the answer is nothing."
Ryan O'Hanlon: Brad Guzan has more assists than any American in the English Premier League. Brad Guzan has more assists than Gareth Bale. Brad Guzan is the American Messi.
That Manchester City was undone this past weekend by a long punt from a prematurely bald goalkeeper seems weirdly fitting. It was a fluke! Or, at least, it wasn’t a real play: The ball bypassed City’s entire team, everything they spent all that money on. The other two goals were similarly not real, too. Villa’s first equalizer came from a blown offside call, and the second came from a once-in-a-lifetime brick of a free kick off the foot of a guy who’d never scored a goal outside the Netherlands. How do you lose a game in which you could’ve scored five goals in the first half? Just like that.
Chris Ryan: If I were playing with Mesut Ozil, I'd be worried. The new Arsenal midfielder, who joined the Gunners from Real Madrid for a club-record £44 million transfer fee, made his debut on Saturday against Sunderland, despite being a little under the weather. Ozil played like Ozil, which is to say you wouldn't notice him out there for about six or seven minutes and then ...
It’s been a pretty good month for Olivier Giroud. The Arsenal striker’s main identity when the season kicked off in mid-August was as the guy who Arsenal supporters really wish had been replaced by Gonzalo Higuain. Now, three games later, Giroud is tied for the Premier League lead with three goals, starting for the French national team, and, just in case life wasn’t good enough already, about to start receiving passes from playmaking wizard Mesut Ozil when the Premier League returns from the interminable international break this weekend. The question is, can the good times last?
You know the cheap thrills that come with looking at box office returns on a Monday to see if a movie was a blockbuster or a flop? You don't feel particularly proud of it, of course — after all, what does art have to do with money … wait, why are you laughing? — but you do it just the same. Now imagine those box office reports reflected movies that had been shot, edited, and marketed the day before they were to hit theaters. That would be funny. And that's European football's transfer deadline days. Incredibly rich football clubs making enormous decisions at the very last minute, buying and selling football players.