Regard the Rooney. Here he is, above, in a photograph taken last January, in the act of kissing, or grabbing, his Manchester United badge on his Manchester United jersey, in front of some Manchester United fans, at Manchester City's stadium, the Etihad, in an act that probably made Manchester United fans delirious, and Manchester City fans want to go full Filomena on him. He's Wayne Rooney. He's here to score goals and make people crazy. And he's all out of goals.
In Joe Posnanski's recent profile of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, there's a quote from Bob Spear, Pop's old coach from his playing days at Air Force: "A team could do anything as long as the players just kept moving." The theory is the same in football: create and exploit space through motion, disrupt another team through pressing. Can Borussia Dortmund move enough so as to level themselves with comparably trained sides who also have effectively unlimited bank rolls? Is there room for a working-class Champions League winner in modern football? Or will Real Madrid's well-funded talent prove to be too much in the Champions League semifinal?
In case you were busy letting yourself go after realizing that a late push for a role in Pain & Gain was a fool's errand, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
In a battle of red-hot Eastern Conference foes, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks outdueled John Wall and the Washington Wizards, 120-99, securing their first division title since 1994. The Knicks drilled 20 3-pointers in the win, their 13th in a row. This game came one day after Knicks legend Bernard King was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade announced that he's likely out of action until the playoffs begin. Additionally, the weather in New York was perfect, with sunshine and highs in the low 80s. Am I blaming this run of Knicks good fortune on global warming? No. But am I blaming global warming on the Knicks' unprecedented run? Maybe.
The Los Angeles Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets, 104-96, to move back into the no. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Kobe Bryant was sensational in the win, scoring 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. "You know what they say about Kobe; he's a closer," said Lakers center Dwight Howard after the game. "Well, that's what Kobe says about Kobe when he refuses to let me have any coffee in the clubhouse."
It's good to be the Emperor. Since reassuming control of the club where he played the bulk of his career, Fatih Terim, who is known in Turkey as the İmparator, has led Galatasaray to a level of success they haven't seen in more than a decade. With players who match Terim's attacking instincts, Gala, only two years removed from a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Turkish Süper Lig, is back in the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. Its roster features big names like Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder and ex-Chelsea Champions League hero Didier Drogba. Terim's reputation, damaged by Turkey's failure to qualify for the World Cup in 2010, has been restored, so much so that he has been linked with the opening at Inter Milan. But the quarterfinal round of the Champions League is rarefied territory, and even an Emperor can find himself an underdog when he runs into the "Special One."
In case you were busy winding down all of your Italian business interests, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Trevor Mbakwe and the Minnesota Golden Gophers upset top-ranked Indiana, 77-73 in Minneapolis. Mbakwe, who started his college career playing for Indiana head coach Tom Crean at Marquette, said, "Something about Crean brings out the best in me. Maybe it's his smile that says at once, 'I care,' and 'I know this isn't forever.' Maybe it's that 'come-hither' stare, in which worlds are created and destroyed in his irises every time he blinks behind his wire-framed glasses. Maybe it's his lyrical name, 'Tom Crean.' All I know is, when I see his face, I'm compelled to be at once my best and worst self."
In case you were out fighting off the pre-Valentine's Day crowds at your local florist, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls, 71-69, at home in a low-scoring matchup of traditional Eastern Conference powers. "Even though we lost, tonight's game was as if the perfect game of my dreams sprung to life before me on the court," said Bulls head coach and former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. "The game waved at me. I waved back. 'Hello,' I said. 'You may not be beautiful to others, but to me you are perfection.' The game giggled at me coquettishly, but it would not allow anyone to score. No matter, that only made the game more appealing to me." Thibodeau then, suddenly lost in reverie, began waltzing with an invisible dance partner as he murmured sweet nothings about defensive rotations and clogged passing lanes into her invisible ear.
In case you were busy breaking the last of your New Year's resolutions, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
Novak Djokovic became the first man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles in the Open era, topping Andy Murray 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2. The match turned during the second-set tiebreaker when a feather fell slowly to the court, distracting Murray. Murray snatched the feather from the air, called time, went to his bag, pulled out his lucky copy of Curious George, and tucked the feather between its pages. He then took out a box of chocolates, and approached a random woman in the crowd. "Hello," Murray said. "My name's Andy, Andy Murray; you want a chocolate?" The woman shook her head at him. Murray shrugged and said, "I could eat about a million and a half of these. My mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.' Those must be comfortable shoes. I wish I had shoes like that." Murray then ate a chocolate himself, before returning to the court, double-faulting, and dropping the set on the way to losing the match, while complaining of terrible foot blisters.
There were two travesties in Zurich on Monday night. Three if you count Lionel Messi's suit. Although as adjectives become increasingly useless in describing his play, few things could say "Yes, I'm that good" like wearing a polka dot suit to your sport's Oscar night.
On the one hand, it's comforting to know that the rest of the world is as bad as we are at voting Derek Jeter into the All-Star Game, or a reasonable analogy thereof. On the other hand, the FIFA World XI makes a strong argument that Sepp Blatter's ineptness permeates every facet of the organization he runs, right down to a mail room that refuses to recognizes any international boundaries outside of Iberia.
January is nearly upon us! Or at least it feels that way if you spend any time reading the words of the soothsayers who try to predict what will happen when European football’s transfer window reopens on January 1, 2013. Speculation is particularly rife in England, and it mainly centers on two clubs: Chelsea and Liverpool. Both teams find themselves low on firepower, and as a result, they’ve been linked with every available forward in European club football. Two players in particular have been singled out as possible signings in the new year: Athletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao, and Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Huntelaar, who is supposedly packing his bags in preparation for a move to Liverpool, has scored 32 goals in 42 league games for Schalke FC since the start of last season. Falcao, who is rumored to soon join Juan Mata and Eden Hazard at Chelsea, scored 34 goals in 43 league games for Athletico Madrid over the same period. And yet these two players, with almost identical league goal-scoring records, are valued rather differently. Chelsea will be required to trigger Falcao’s minimum-fee release clause — which stands at a cool $70 million — to get their man, whereas Liverpool can expect to pay no more than $10 million to sign Huntelaar, who is available at a knock-down price thanks to the imminent expiry of his contract with Schalke.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
A near-perfect Alex Smith threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns as the 49ers dismantled the Cardinals 24-3 on Monday Night Football. As Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt approached midfield, he was pleasantly surprised when Jim Harbaugh's handshake was far less condescending than usual. It was almost humble, he thought to himself, and that's when he looked down and noticed that his hand was covered in Vaseline.
The international break can be a difficult time for star players from smaller nations. Footballers who are accustomed to domestic glory suddenly find themselves thrust into squads with far smaller ambitions. The contrast can be jarring, as can the transition from being one star among many to the solitary hero tasked by an expectant nation with leading your talentless team to improbable victories. This is something to which Tottenham’s Gareth Bale is having to grow accustomed whenever he plays for Wales, as seen in the buildup to last week’s World Cup qualifier with Croatia, in which the pre-match spotlight fell squarely on his shoulders. This was largely because Wales has no realistic chance of qualifying for the World Cup, and their main ambition for the qualifying campaign is to finish higher than Scotland, whom Bale had single-handedly defeated the week before, so by the time the Welsh squad landed in Zagreb, the pundits quickly dispensed with the small talk and moved on to the pressing business of trying to predict Gareth Bale’s future.
Owing to the short-sightedness of the American publishing industry, I am now free to share the four-word pitch for my children’s book: Snoop Lion does things.
Snoop Lion is brushing his teeth.
Snoop Lion is watching a man pump gas.
Snoop Lion is looking at the app icons vibrate on his iPhone screen because he’s had his finger in the same position for the last three hours.
Snoop Lion is sketching Frank Yallop.
Snoop Lion is eating an apple.
Anything Snoop Lion does is interesting. This is a universal truth.
Let me backtrack a moment. I’m at the launch event for FIFA 13 in New York, at SPiN, the Susan Sarandon–affiliated table tennis venue/nightclub that may or may not be fashionable (like I’d know). Snoop Lion, as one of the stars of the promotional video for FIFA 13, is guest of honor at the launch. He has shown up late and is now “doing things.” One of the things Snoop Lion was already doing was being a big FIFA fan, or at least as demonstrably big a fan of FIFA as he is of, say, Post-it Notes, neoliberal critiques, or Magnolia (Snoop Lion does many things — demonstrable shows of enthusiasm he does not do). But we have reliable evidence that Snoop plays the EA Sports FIFA series a lot, follows the teams in real life, and, as we learned this week, he likes Ronaldo’s hair.
The first half of Real Madrid and Manchester City's Group D (is for "death") was not something you would tell your kids about. The second half? That was a reason to have kids, just to tell them about it, especially the last 10 minutes. If this is what bloated contracts, absurd transfer fees, and the tractor beaming of talent looks like, then I, for one, welcome our not-so-new, well-moneyed European football overlords.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Note: Due to an ongoing labor dispute at Grantland, today's joke will be written by a group of replacement writers called up from the Grantland's Division III staff in Des Moines, Iowa.
Cristiano Ronaldo's 90th-minute goal completed a stunning comeback as Real Madrid topped Manchester City 3-2 in Champions League group play. Hey, are we sure this guy isn't named Ronaldo McDonaldo? Because after that match, those Real Madrid players must have had one heck of a happy meal!