In case you were busy remembering when Kirk Gibson made the impossible happen in the year of the improbable, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Matt Holliday and Shane Robinson hit the first two home runs of the NLCS and the St. Louis Cardinals are one game away from the World Series after their 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. "Man, what a thrill to be a part of that slugfest," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after the game. "For fans who love offense, tonight was your night. It was just fireworks and explosions." Matheny then chuckled and added, "I mean six runs? In regulation? What game were we even playing? Hockey?"
Mike Napoli's solo home run off Justin Verlander was all the offense Boston would need, as John Lackey and the Red Sox bullpen led their team to a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers and a 2-1 series lead in the ALCS. The game was notably interrupted by a 17-minute power outage in the second inning, a time that Lackey referred to as "one of those things where my stuff was bad before the thing, then the power outage happens, and boom, my stuff gets good again. It's like some sort of small version of my last few years." When asked if he was saying the power outage was perhaps microcosmic of his career in Boston, Lackey replied, "Nah, I'm just talking about like how things can be going badly, and then they can change and be good again, and like, this moment was like a tiny version of that feeling, which I know all too well." When told that's what a microcosm is, an angry Lackey responded, "I'm not an idiot, OK? I'm not talking about some sort of tiny universe where Neil deGrasse Tyson is a wizard. I'm talking about a small version of a big thing! Like this conversation, and how it's like all my relationships with the Boston media, but in a small amount of time." Lackey then shook his head and said, "There's gotta be a word for that."
In case you were busy getting up close and personal with nature, really getting in there, getting deep, all the way into nature, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Oakland slugger Yoenis Cespedes blasted his way to the Home Run Derby championship, easily outpacing Bryce Harper to take home the title. Cespedes will now be forced to perform his duties as Mr. American Home Run Man for the next 12 months, touring the nation to speak at trade shows, conventions, and store openings about the virtues of hitting home runs. He will get to wear his crown and sash for the duration of his reign, an honor that former winners have called "way worse than just being a professional baseball player" and "a nightmare, you can't even appear in the ESPN Body Issue lest you tarnish the sash."
Alex Rodriguez hit his first professional home run since September as he continues his rehabilitation with the Double-A Trenton Thunder. "Call me James Harden, cause I'm on the Thunder," Rodriguez said after the game. When told that Harden was no longer on the Thunder, Rodriguez quickly added, "that's what I meant." When asked what that meant, Rodriguez said, "You know. You know. That. Just. I know all about basketball. I have friends who play basketball. I'm Alex Rodriguez. And also James Harden. Shut up."
The story of the Premier League this weekend, told in five goals. Get some.
The January transfer window was sad and weird. Between Harry Redknapp and Tony Fernandes gambling the financial sustainability of Queens Park Rangers on Christopher Samba and Loic Remy saving them from relegation, to West Ham owner David Sullivan claiming to have been threatened over transfer fees, to the whole Peter Odemwingie–trying-to-force-through-his-transfer-to-QPR-by-driving-to–Loftus Road debacle — an act his West Brom manager called "total lunacy." — it feels like things are truly falling apart. The transfer system in England is in desperate need of reform and oversight. There are too many agents, too many add-on fees. There's too much backstabbing and backroom wheeling-and-dealing. With the exception of football's most wealthy (Chelsea, Man United, Manchester City) or most reckless ('Arry!), most clubs are lucky to escape the January window without losing talent or tarnishing their reputations. Rarely do they actually improve their standing.
Sunday night, John Terry — widely regarded as one of the best center-backs of his generation — retired from playing international football for England at the relatively young age of 31. Terry is facing a disciplinary hearing by the Football Association (the governing body of the sport in England) for using racially abusive language, and the overwhelmingly likely outcome is that he’ll be hit with a lengthy suspension from club football. Unsurprisingly, the hearing and the decision to retire are linked. Terry’s statement on the matter explained that he felt compelled to retire “in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable.”
Now, before I get any further into this subject, I need to register an interest: I am a lifelong supporter of Chelsea FC, Terry’s club side, and can legitimately be accused of being a little bit biased. However, Terry’s been the most divisive figure in English football for most of the last decade, and pretty much everyone in England — football fan or not — is biased where Terry is concerned; you either support Chelsea, or you hate John Terry. This may seem strange considering Terry has the best record of any captain in the history of the English national team, with 12 wins, two draws, and one defeat in competitive matches (13-2-2 if you count competitive dead rubbers). To fully understand how John Terry came by his tattered reputation in his native country, it is necessary to understand not only the relationship between the England team, the England fans, the tabloid press, and the Football Association, but how the latter three groups conspire to destroy any hope that the English national team has of winning a major football tournament.
How They Got Here: Portugal pulled off the unlikely feat — or what seemed an unlikely feat before the tournament — of making it out of Group B, the Group of Death. After a fairly close loss to Germany, 1-0, Paulo Bento's side got a game-winning goal against Denmark from little-known Silvestre Varela and a world-beating performance from Cristiano Ronaldo in a 2-1 win against the Dutch.
The Czechs got their pants pulled down by Russia in one of the most one-sided losses of the tournament so far (4-1, on the opening day of Euro 2012). Since then, they've taken their chances very well (basically the key to winning tournament games). Their opening goal against Greece was like watching CCTV footage of a mugging.
At around 2:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Manchester City and Liverpool kicked off the second leg of their Carling Cup semifinal at Anfield. At about 6 p.m., a whistle blew, ending the second leg of Barcelona and Real Madrid's Copa del Rey quarterfinal throwdown. Four hours of controversial refereeing decisions, silent-film-level playacting and a couple of wonder strikes. In the end, Barcelona went through to the Copa semifinals and Liverpool punched its ticket to Wembley Stadium where it will play Cardiff in the Carling Cup Final. It was exhuasting, frustrating and often glorious. And we learned oh so much ...
It was the first leg of the Carling Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Manchester City, held at Etihad Stadium. It was a game of two halves. And frankly, both of them were a bit dull. So why am I breathing into a brown paper bag in anticipation of the return leg at Anfield?
Sod the tactics. In this week's podcast, the Men In Blazers bear witness to a new era of EPL footie, where goals rain heavy and defense is a mere afterthought. The gentlemen examine why so many teams are leaking so many goals this season, praise Robin van Persie's class, consider Steven Gerrard’s medical mystery, and dig deep into John Terry’s downfall via the 7th century theological musings of a karma expert.
Plus, Michael offer listeners some advice he once received from his father — never hunch in the rain.
You know the song by Phil Collins, "In the Air of the Night"
about that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning
but didn't, then Phil saw it all, then at a show he found him? - Eminem, “Stan”
One of the great joys of attending a baseball game in person is hearing a player's walk up music. I thought that might make for a good list. You learn more about Cliff Floyd from the fact that he used the theme from Sanford & Son as his walk up music than you would from a thousand cliched interviews. Happily, that information is available online for our World Series contestants (Cardinals, Rangers, and the Rangers' is even on YouTube).
The one that caught Triangle editor Sarah Larimer's eye was Nick Punto's use of Phil Collins' 1981 hit "In the Air Tonight." On the face of things, it doesn't make much sense that a song about a painful divorce (not, regrettably, watching a guy watch a guy drown) should inspire professional athletes. Armed with nothing other than a vague recollection that Ray Lewis loved the song, I decided to launch an investigation. And as it turns out, "In the Air Tonight" might be the most important, unlikeliest sports anthem ever. See for yourself.
1. Ray Lewis’ pregame routine in his own words: "Ten or 15 minutes before I go onto the field, I put on Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight,’ and I become a different person. You have to remember the words: 'I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.' As a child, I dreamed of this, I’ve been waiting for it, this moment was mine all the time, and when that breakdown comes — ba-doom ba-doom ba-doom ba-doom-doom-doom — that’s my transition! I am a warrior!"
9. Obviously the Welcome Party remains the chief example of videographic Miami Heat-based hubris, but these player intros featuring a be-scarftacled LeBron have to be second, right? The only way it could’ve been worse is if they changed the lyrics to “I can feel it coming in the air tonight / Magloire.”