In case you were busy on eBay trying to unload your Tim Tebow Jets jersey, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The San Antonio Spurs dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-82, to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. Lakers center Dwight Howard, who was ejected from the game after getting two technical fouls, said after the game, "Gotcha! Oh, man, that was hilarious! Classic Howard. I was all like, 'T me up! I totally want to never play basketball in a Lakers uniform again,' and they totally did! Joke's on them! I'm pranking people left and right! L.A. is Prank City!" When asked if this meant he was going to re-sign with L.A., Howard's demeanor quickly shifted. "Absolutely not," he said. "This has been the worst year of my life."
Stephen Curry drained six 3-pointers as the Golden State Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets 115-101 in a pivotal Game 4. "Do I feel threatened by Curry? Absolutely not; my legacy is intact," said TNT analyst Reggie Miller after the game. Miller then wiped the steam off his bathroom mirror and examined his temples. Were they grayer than the day prior? "Perhaps," Miller said to himself, "but that just means you're getting wiser. More mature. And some punk kid in Oakland can't take that away from you."
Old-school fan violence reared its ugly head this weekend, from the hallowed terraces of Wembley to the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne. Even hardened criminals from the depths of Her Majesty's Prison Service were in disbelief over the audacity of one horse-punching Magpie supporter.
Somewhere amid this nonsense, football was played, and in this week's suboptimal podcast the Men in Blazers consider it all — from the Chelsea–Man City FA Cup semifinal to Everton's continued late-season form, courtesy of a win against relegation-threatened QPR that sent Harry Redknapp into his ritual comical rage. Now, with just a month left in this Premier League season, Michael and Roger handicap the race for Arsene Wenger's coveted "fourth-place trophy."
Brett Koremenos: The Arsenal-Everton showdown today has massive implications for the Champions League. Bottom line, if my Toffees can't even manage a draw, you can kindly wave good-bye as they fade into your rearview mirror. Should they win, however, both our clubs are going to be part of a crazy, four-team chase for the final two spots in the top four. How are you feeling about your club's chances heading into this match? Or have you not been able to think about it because you're still mourning the fact that the Andrei Arshavin era is ending this summer?
netw3rk: Rooting for Arsenal has amply prepared me for crazy late-season jockeying for Champions League spots. Or, as I like to call it, “The Arsenal Cup.” So I’m feeling pretty good; Arsenal sits third, one point above Chelsea and Spurs, and four points clear of Everton, entering Tuesday. Still, it is Arsenal, and I’m just as ready for a collapse as I am for a Champions League place.
In case you just saw the trailer for Upside Down and found yourself suddenly back to square-one on your big screenplay idea, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Wide receiver Wes Welker has left the New England Patriots, signing a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos. "I always hated Welker," said Northeastern sophomore and Patriots superfan Aaron Sullivan. "Just like I always hated Clemens, Vinatieri, Damon, Beckett, Ray Ray, Manny B, and Tom Brady." When asked why he hated Tom Brady, who never has left a Boston-based team to play for a rival, Sullivan responded, "Oh, guy thinks he's so great because he never left the Pats. Real Pats leave. Period."
The Miami Heat won their 20th consecutive game, beating the Philadelphia 76ers, 98-94, on the road. "Twenty in a row, that's a perfect game in Magic: The Gathering, am I right?" asked Heat forward Shane Battier after the game. "If only someone on this team would play with me. I have a sweet black/blue deck I want to try out. I tried to teach Chris Andersen how to play, but he kept folding up the cards and throwing them at me while yelling, 'Cacaw!' It was disappointing."
Kobe Bryant suffered an ankle injury while landing awkwardly on a late field goal attempt defended by Dahntay Jones, as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Hawks in Atlanta, 96-92. Bryant has been ruled out indefinitely with the injury, saying after the game, "Revenge isn't the sort of thing that has a timetable. Except for a 30-minute head start." When told of Bryant's statement half an hour later, Jones asked, "Wait, when did he say that?" before slipping on a loose piece of linoleum and bruising his knee.
The English Premier League is down to one team in the Champions League. It has been more than 15 years since no English team made the Champions League quarterfinals, but that is the most likely scenario after Tuesday's matches. Reigning champion Manchester City crashed out of the so-called "group of death," Chelsea was unable to defend its title, and Manchester United received a very un–Manchester United dose of luck when Nani was given a questionable second-half red card in the second leg of their tie against Real Madrid, allowing the Madristas to storm back from a one-goal deficit and eliminate the Reds. So all that's left for England is Arsenal. And Arsenal, your Champions League underdog of the week, is in a world of trouble.
In case you were out getting back what's rightfully yours, here's what you missed in sports this weekend.
Duke avenged an earlier loss at Miami to beat the Hurricanes at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 79-76, behind 36 points from Ryan Kelly. Kelly, who had missed the previous two months with a foot injury, said after the game of Miami's NCAA title chances, "We have done far worse than killed them; we have hurt them. And I wish to go on hurting them. I shall leave them as they had left us: marooned, on the periphery of contention. Buried alive. Buried alive."
The UEFA Champions League is home to the highest caliber of football in the world. This is not about that. Welcome to the worst blunders of the week in the UEFA Champions League.
Ball to Hand?
Let's start at the San Siro, where AC Milan upset Barcelona, 2-0. This was a fascinating match, where Barca was unable to accomplish anything resembling their typical incisive play, and Milan played wonderfully. Their second goal was an absolute stunner, a beautiful piece of teamwork where they strung together four incredibly difficult touches across the perimeter of the box, leading to a wonderful volley from Sulley Muntari. Milan's defensive effort was remarkable, limiting Barcelona to a handful of half chances. But the first goal …
What's going on here? Let's break it down. Riccardo Montolivo takes a shot on goal that appears to be heading just outside of the left post, at which point Cristian Zapata, summoning the spirit of his revolutionary namesake, lifts his hands in the air to signal "V for Viva," and bounce-passes the ball to Kevin-Prince Boateng, who calmly slots it past Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes. Goal? Goal. Really, we're going with goal? We're going with goal.
In case you were busy making a fool of yourself mixing up the accomplishments of Franklin Pierce and James K. Polk, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
The NBA All-Star Game pitted the best players in the game against each other in Houston this weekend, with the West coming out on top, 143-138. L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul, who was named the game's MVP after getting 20 points and 15 assists, said, "I'm just so excited to help secure home court in the Finals for the West, because this time it counts!" When told that the game in no way counted, Paul went on to say, "Really? Is that why no one else was passing or playing defense until the end? Damn, I could have scored so many more points if I had known that."
Toronto Raptors rookie Terrence Ross won this year's NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest with his throwback tribute to former Raptor Vince Carter. First, he amazed the crowd with a display of world-class dunks. Then he limped off the court, petulantly burning bridges with his teammates and the people of Toronto. He plans on returning to next year's competition to complete his performance by not competing at all. "I can't believe it," said runner-up Jeremy Evans, who dunked over a painting of himself dunking over a painting of himself. "How the hell did I got out-meta-ed?"
In case you were busy celebrating National Croissant Day by gorging yourself on refrigerated crescent rolls to spite the French, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans raised some eyebrows before his team's game against the Miami Heat by saying he was "unimpressed" with Miami forward LeBron James. "He's no different than Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche," said Evans, who suffers from a rare illness where he mixes up names and faces within professional organizations. Evans went on to say, "I saw that white kid play at Florida, and he's a good shooter, but people talk about him like he's the best in the world, when obviously their real superstar is small forward Joel Anthony. That guy's a triple-double threat every night, like the reincarnation of Byron Scott and Toni Kukoc in a single body. Where's the Joel Anthony MVP talk? That's what I, Mikhail Prokhorov, want to know." The Heat went on to blow out the Nets, 105-85, in Brooklyn, as Evans missed every last one of his defensive assignments.
Today’s English soccer landscape is governed by inevitability. Save a few rare surprises, the best players, the most trophies, and the most coveted spots in the Premier League table end up belonging to the wealthy clubs from Manchester, London, and the red half of Merseyside. It’s the harsh reality of a sport where money is tied directly to success. The formula is simple — the more a club spends of the former, the more that club can expect of the latter.
The domestic cups are about the only the place left for a small club to capture football glory. Catch a few favorable draws, upend a disinterested giant, and — voila — your supporters might be lucky enough to enjoy a … quarterfinal match. Sadly, even the cups seem to experience very little chaos that upsets the established order. Over the past 12 years, Liverpool, the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, and Arsenal have combined to win 19 of the past 24 League and F.A. Cups finals.
But just a year after Championship side Cardiff City took Liverpool to penalties before falling short in the final, the League Cup is the stage for yet another improbable run. This time it’s Bradford City.
In case you were busy deleting everything interesting from your Facebook account before Graph Search goes live, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
LeBron James reached a major milestone Wednesday night, becoming the youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 points in a 92-75 Heat win over the Golden State Warriors. James broke Kobe Bryant's previous record scoring pace by over a year. "I'm just trying to secure my legacy," James said, "and I'm very fortunate that Kobe doesn't have a chance to put this record further out of reach."
The story of the Premier League this weekend, told in five goals. Get some.
This match had me thinking about money. The £62 Arsenal charged visiting City fans to visit their (more or less) £400 million stadium. The approximately £70 million spent by City to Arsenal for players like Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Kolo Touré, and Gaël Clichy. I thought about what the Premier League table would look like if Robin van Persie had gone to Manchester City instead of Manchester United. I thought about the letter, written on Arsenal letterhead, sent to the Premier League from Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Manchester United, demanding more stringent financial regulation in the free-spending top flight of English football — a salvo against the seemingly unlimited investment pouring into Chelsea and City. I thought about the rumor that bottom-dwelling QPR were going to pay Marseille striker Loïc Remy £96 thousand a week to help them out of their relegation battle, while Arsenal haggled with Theo Walcott over whether the England international should be making £90 thousand, and wondered how in the world Arsene Wenger was going to keep even this sub-par group of Gunners together. It was quite an interior monologue, honestly.
The story of the Premier League over the holiday season, told in five goals. Get some.
All happy Arsenal players are the same. All unhappy Arsenal players are unhappy in their own way. Over the years, players have left the North London club due to matters pertaining to the head (Robin van Persie knew he needed to leave the Emirates to win trophies), the heart (Cesc Fábregas ultimately wanted to return to his boyhood club, Barcelona), and the wallet (Samir Nasri makes more as a bit player for Manchester City than as the focal point of Arsenal). The club's latest contract fiasco is interesting, though. It's about identity, both of the player, Theo Walcott (and how he perceives himself), and of the club itself.
On Tuesday, Arsenal lost on penalties to Bradford in the League Cup. This is astonishing because Bradford is in the fourth division of English football and Premier League–side Arsenal is still good (or they might be ... they are in the last 16 of the Champions League, after all). And it's not every day that you get to follow a team to (what you think is) its nadir.
If you're Jonesing for some schadenfreude, you could OD on it by reading the post-match comments over at Arseblog, maybe the top Gooner-centric destination on the Web. The big takeaway is that the "Wenger out" groundswell now seems to be about the size of the Sudetenland. Some of the club's current struggles — just 10 wins in its last 25 matches, peppered with some other dreadful losses (Norwich, Swansea) in between — are indeed manager Arsene Wenger's fault. He did bring in Gervinho, who seems to be in some secret competition with the on-loan Nicklas Bendtner to see who can miss the most unmissable sitter (Gervy locked up the contest against Bradford). And the extent to which financial issues may have forced his hand in selling any or all of Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gaël Clichy, Alex Song, and Robin Van Persie, while relevant, is an entirely different discussion. The fact is he has sold really good players and replaced them with less good players.
No, fault aside, Wenger isn't the problem. Or more accurately, sacking Wenger — and really, Arsenal fans, whom do you think you can bring in if you shitcan Wenger? — won't solve the problem. That's because the problem is bigger than the manager; and if anything Wenger is still the last best hope for staving off the looming disaster of the real problem: Stan Kroenke.