Author Archives: owrickrosen

Lunch: Monday Night Football

Manchester City rejoices after breaking a scoreless tie this afternoon. Photo: Jon Super

Manchester City rejoices after breaking a scoreless tie this afternoon. Photo: Jon Super

You’re not a die-hard soccer fan, and that’s ok. Most of us aren’t die-hard college basketball fans, yet odds are good we’ll collectively tune in to watch Louisville and Michigan compete for the right to wield scissors. But everyone appreciates a good Derby, right?! And United-City is always an entertaining watch, so I present to you: TOW’s “Average American Guy Talking Soccer” Report.

Man City have struggled as reigning champions, but have also struggled to stay healthy. Manager Roberto Mancini  has responded to this adversity by publicly calling out the players who are healthy and griping he didn’t get funds to add more talent in the summer. But given the extraordinary talent/payroll already on his side, I can’t imagine anyone taking Mancini’s complaints too seriously.

It’s not pretty, but United have been grinding their way towards retaking the Premier League crown. Unlike City, United did add talent during the summer, and there’s no questioning Robin Van Persie’s impact in his first year as a Red. United have a goal differential of +38 for the season, an impressive margin for any champion.

As for today’s impact: really there isn’t much. United has a comfortable lead in the table, and City is locked into the top 4. But there is more than just 3 points at stake. City ripped out the hearts of United fans last May, and the rivalry has never been more fierce. While a United win would only pad their healthy lead, City wants this victory if only to prove a larger point: that they aren’t going anywhere, and the title, while it might be settled for this year, does not have a permanent residence at Old Trafford.

When the final whistle was blown, it was Manchester City a goal ahead and three points the better. City had excellent pace from the start, as both teams played an open game early. But as the minutes progressed, it was City who had more solid possessions, while United was held to sporadic efforts on goal.

Scoreless at the half, many wondered if this would be a fourth consecutive 1-0 result for United. But City continued to play explosive, and broke through with a cannon from James Milner six minutes in. But less than ten minutes later, United equalized in ugly fashion- which has been their style during this campaign. Phil Jones knocked a ball off Vincent Kompany for what was ruled an own goal.

This year, City had never lost a match after taking a lead. Conversely, United is the best comeback team in the League, a large factor in their lead in the standings. Something, or someone, had to give. And that someone was Sergio Aguero.

Sergio Aguero started today on the bench as he is slowly returning from injury, but he made his mark with a spectacular finish in the 79th minute. Similar to the finish that won City the crown last year; Aguero raced towards the right post around the defense, and delivered a powerful blast to the near post side.

The final ten minutes was slow and physical, but United were unable to take advantage of any chances. A corner in the 95th was snatched by Joe Hart, and City was able to snatch the win. While United will ultimately win the war, this battle proves that City still has the talent to retake the top spot, regardless of what their manager thinks. If City can stay healthy next season, there is little doubt they will contend for a championship.

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LNS: Andy Enfield Leaves #DunkCity for USC

andy-enfield-fgcu-coach

Dunk City is heading back, back, to Cali, Cali.

Coach Andy Enfield, the mastermind behind the NCAA tournament’s most successful 15 seed, has been hired as the new head man at USC. Early reports indicate it is a six-year deal, and could earn Enfield as much as $1 million annually. Enfield’s salary at FGCU was $157,000.

Enfield is a fresh face that has burst into the national spotlight, and that plays very well in talent-rich southern California. But the task won’t be easy, as USC has been one of the Pac-12’s worst schools in recent years. Tim Floyd’s ugly exit left the program with instability and a handful of sanctions to go along with it.

But can he turn it all around? It’s not impossible. There are a few qualities that make Andy Enfield a quality coach. First, he is a skilled shooting coach. A big part of FGCU’s sudden success was attributed to Enfield and his staff working with players improving their shooting. Yes, they also practice dunking, but there’s no denying that these kids played far better than expected under Enfield’s tutelage, and that speaks towards hard work in practice.

But Andy Enfield can make the biggest difference on the recruiting trail. The top players on FGCU were the only three Enfield was able to lure there, and it probably wasn’t easy. After their win over Georgetown, Enfield told a story during the press conference where he was on the phone with potential recruit Brett Comer while his wife was giving birth. Definition of dedication, people. The guy is super competitive, has the ability to charm recruits, and has a smoking hot wife. Did you really think he was going to stay in Fort Meyers?

Is FGCU going to get over it? Probably not. But this is what college basketball has become. Heck, an even bigger heist took place a few days ago when Steve Alford dashed to UCLA. Programs that have money will spend it. We all talked about how crazy it was that FGCU’s program had X dollars and Florida had Y dollars and yet they were competing. But the same comparison that inspired the Eagles last week is today’s downfall. It’s not fair, but neither is business. And colleges are business, make no mistake about it.

LNS: A Running Diary of The 2013 SJFL Baseball Draft

 

Tonight’s Late Snack is…well, it’s more than a snack. Last night was the draft for the 2013 Sports Junkies Fantasy Baseball League, and between welcoming back baseball and Sweet 16 action, Friday was a great night for sports. Here for your enjoyment is a diary of the evening, our first here at The Orange Wedge:

 

8:16 PM

I’m filled with anxiety as a basket of crumpled paper is passed around, and each contestant carefully selects his destiny. We’re picking the draft order, to some degree shaping the season with our first brushstroke. Poetic as it is, “Getting a High Pick” isn’t one of my strong suits, and I’m saddled with the sixth overall selection. This is officially a 10-team league, but there are only 6 bodies present. One is drafting via Facebook, one is having his entire team picked for him, and two are running late. I pick for my late buddy, and draw him the fifth pick. Figures.

8:23 PM

We give a phone call to our absent buddy Max who’s essentially hitting the Autodraft button. So of course he “draws” first overall. Max is a solid bar buddy, in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen him in sunlight. To top things off, his phone is off! We give him Mike Trout, and we are unceremoniously underway.

8:34 PM

With a possible suspension looming, Ryan Braun free falls out of the top five. He’s available at six, but I take Joey Votto. Nothing against Braun, in fact I had him last year, but I think Votto is primed for an MVP season. Braun falls all the way to the eighth pick, where our chum Adam is more than happy to scoop him up.

8:39 PM

Our first tardy arrival Dan walks in just in time for the first wraparound. Picking ninth, He takes Verlander and immediately nabs Strasburg two picks later. Instant contender.

8:53 PM

After taking Votto, Stanton, and now Adam Jones, I’ve gone 3 rounds with no pitching. And you know what? I’m fine with it. Elite pitching draws comparisons to elite quarterbacks, and after the first few are gone I promise myself I won’t reach. Also, pitchers don’t play every day! You’ll get 150 games out of an elite hitter. Out of a SP, maybe 40? I’m taking my offense.

9:08 PM

Our last arrival Rob shows up and is instantly fixated on the Board. He’s been phoning in his picks, but now he can really soak it all in before his fourth round choice.
“This is a critical selection,” he says quietly, his eyes scanning the board.
He scrolls his phone intensely as we feed him names to consider. The most popular is Johan Santana, who we learned earlier in the day would miss the entire season (again). Finally he announces he is reaching for Yoenis Cespedes, and only then does he find a couch and unpack his laptop.

9:30 PM

I’m in a good rhythm, personally willing Michigan to come up big and somehow landing all the players I’ve been eyeing.
On the walk back to my seat after grabbing Michael Bourn, I can hear cussing from another part of the room. Bourn was coveted. Victory.
Aside from the sheer excitement of building a team, isn’t taking a player right from under someone’s nose the best feeling in a draft? There’s nothing like the feeling of your heart dropping out of your chest because someone just took Yadier Molina. And when I can inflict that feeling upon someone else, I make sure to savor it.

9:46 PM

The same thing happens with Kris Medlen. I’m on a roll.

10:08 PM

Michigan has completed an unbelievable comeback, stalling a few picks but saving all relevant brackets left in the room. Awards right now:
Most Valuable: Trey Burke, who almost broke the DVR after the 25th replay
Least Valuable: Domino’s deliveryman Miguel, who is seriously pushing his “You Got 30 Minutes” motto.

10:34 PM

I take Neil Walker at 2nd base. This leads to the story about how Walker’s father Tom nearly boarded the rescue plane Roberto Clemente was killed on. Unfortunately, our buddy Adam mishears and asks if it was actually Neil who almost traveled with Clemente. In 1972. After a good laugh, we ultimately declare that the chances of Baby Neil Walker sneaking onto Clemente’s plane were next to impossible (he was born in 1985). But hilarious.

10:48 PM

Florida Gulf Coast opens their first Sweet 16 game with a nice run, but in the War Room an even more interesting run is being made. Rob has taken four straight closers, a devastating move to the few teams still looking for a top reliever. By 11 the well has all but dried up.

11:00 PM

The elephant in the room has become the ever-ticking clock. Time limits aren’t being strictly enforced on these picks, and it’s becoming clear we aren’t finishing anytime soon.

11:08 PM

Everyone hates Alan. Stuck with family obligations, Alan is doing his drafting via Facebook chat. Sometimes he responds, other times, the messages linger unread. But as rounds progress, his picks slump in quality, and the rest of us are getting edgy.

11:27 PM

Trend developing: If you ask if a player has been taken yet, we’re telling you he’s hurt. If you ask if a player is suspended, we’re telling you he’s hurt. If you ask if a player is hurt, we’re telling you you’re probably better off with Johan.

11:31 PM

The Commissioner informs us that there is only one DL spot. Anarchy ensues.

11:46 PM

Alcides Escobar earns me my third “Fuck You” of the night, putting me up there with the greats. I’m in fine form tonight. I’ve gotten everyone I wanted, I just don’t know if they’re any good.

11:58 PM

After our Round 16 picks, Ryan Rob and I, picking 4th 5th and 6th respectively, makes a bolt for 7-11. It’s candy time, bitches. I head inside and grab a Take-Five and Snickers PB box of Matzoh and we make it back without missing a beat.

12:14 AM

It has officially become a struggle. I’m on a couch in the next room; doing that thing where I’m listening and paying attention to the draft but also my eyes are closed and falling asleep would kick ass. But I’m not asleep, and right as I hear my name called, I reply back with a quick “Ben Revere”. We push onward.

12:31 AM

Andrew is in the corner drafting 3 teams and it is beginning to wear the big man down. He is our lone lifeline to Facebook Alan, and has been making “Best Available” selections for Absent Max all night. He’s about halfway through a 2 liter of cola, and at this point, it may not be enough.

12:40 AM

I have begun to share my resources. Tonight I’m only using two printouts: An ESPN Top 300 ranking, and an ESPN positional rankings sheet that I’ve highlighted with sleepers and overhyped players from rotochamp.com. Sure enough, Ryan’s laptop shuts off and destroys his spreadsheet in the process. I give him my spare Top 300 and let him peer at the positional list. He is intrigued by its highlighting. I explain it’s for sleepers and overhyped players, but don’t reveal which one is which. Being evil can be fun.

12:43 AM

“GODDAMIT BABY NEIL WALKER GET OFF THIS PLANE!!!”

12:52 AM

I have identified the Wild Card in the room. Every league has a guy that nobody takes seriously, and his team never gets enough respect. Then they usually fare pretty well. Well this league has Brennan. Brennan’s best friends with the Commish, and has been using his advice effectively. It’s three rounds before I notice he’s taken A.J. Pierzynski, and by that time there aren’t many catchers left.

1:09 AM

If midnight was a struggle, the 1 am hour has turned this into a chore. “How It’s Made” drones on in the background, as we’ve all grown sick of SportsCenter reruns. We are plowing through the last two rounds standing up; Brennan and the Commish make their final picks with their coats on and leave shortly after.

1:30 AM

It’s over. We breathe a sigh of relief and marvel at the Board, our color-coded bounty standing before us. Suddenly, life becomes easier to manage, and we sit for an extra 20 minutes just marveling at our creation. Analyzing a newly completed draft board like it’s a work of art; we compare each other’s newly formed squads and, of course, talk early trade. Rob’s run on closers becomes the main storyline of the draft, but it comes with a price- he didn’t take a catcher. Rob settled for J.P Arencibia in the final round, but he may have to deal a closer or two if he wants to improve.

Another successful draft indeed, and 5 hours of drafting now parlays into 5 months of fantasy action. Good luck in your own league, and thanks for pretending to care about mine.

Lunch: Madness Resumes, Plus Memes!

Still reeling from last night’s debacle, we’re switching back over to the college game. And how! This year’s Sweet 16 may have 5 or 6 absolute classics in sotre for us. Here are my picks for today, complete with very little explanation (trust me, when I have been wrong?):

Miami Over Marquette
Too much experience, especially in close games, for a Marquette team that did too much surviving just to get to this round.

Arizona Over Ohio State
I think it’s time to move Sean Miller into that “Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, and Other Young College Coaches on the Rise” class.

Syracuse over Indiana
Syracuse could win this game, but they could also get blown out by 30. But isn’t that every game? Great coaching matchup here.

LaSalle Over Wichita State
Not a great week for the LaSalle Explorers, who had to deal with FGCU Mania despite making a Cinderella run of their own. It continues.

To welcome in the new weekend, here are some memes from the first weekend of March Madness. Enjoy, and enjoy the games tonight.

brain banker picard scumbag steve boromir brian toodanmnhigh stacey fry

Breakfast: Whoops.

Chicago's Jimmy Butler celebrates during a timeout. His 17 points helped Chicago to a 101-97 victory (Rob Grabowski/USATodaySports)

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler celebrates during a timeout. His 17 points helped Chicago to a 101-97 victory (Rob Grabowski/USATodaySports)

Wow, my bad.

I don’t usually put a curse on these type of things, that is, unless I’m making a monetary wager. BUT I DIDN’T. Actually, TheOrangeWedge has a guy for sports betting, but we’ll get to that another time.

The record still stands. Did Jerry West pop a bottle of champagne? I’d love to say yes, but we’ll never know for sure.

The Bull’s physical brand of basketball was enough to hold off the Heat as the Bulls ended the streak last night with a 101-97 victory.

The Heat didn’t win 27 games in dominating fashion. In fact, eleven of those wins needed fourth quarter comebacks to keep the streak going. Tight games in Sacramento, then Orlando, then Boston will have LeBron and Co. battle-tested come June.

But do they even need it? The way they’ve been playing, it would be lucrative to think that anyone could beat the Heat once, let alone four times in seven games.

In the late game, my Brooklyn Nets looked in fine form without “Iso” Joe Johnson for a second game. Johnson is suffering from a quad bruise, and his absence allows for two developments. First, Deron Williams, on what look like his healthiest metatarsals in years, was allowed to be more aggressive to the basket. The second is that without Johnson, the Nets are bigger, tougher, and more active in the post. Last night was all about the latter, as the Nets looked great on the road, winning 111-97 in Portland.

The difference maker for Brookyln was Reggie Evans, who finished with a career high 26 rebounds to match a career-high 22 points. Evans was a monster, working all his post moves and getting putbacks all night long.

The Nets are now just 2.5 games back of both Indiana and the Knicks for the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference. Last night’s win has to provide some motivation as they move to 4-1 on their current 8 game road trip.

As for the Blazers, last night may have effectively ended their season. Rip City has been fighting for the 8th seed in the West, but now trails 10th place Dallas by two full games. Late in the fourth quarter, Blazers coach Terry Stotts emptied his bench, a sign that fans may want to watch the Sweet 16 for potential lottery picks.

Dinner: Oh, What Could Have Been

The Big Three were almost Windy City bound.

The Big Three were almost Windy City bound.

Tonight, maybe as you’re reading this, the Heat will be cruising past the Bulls in Chicago for a 28th consecutive win. They’ve looked like basketball Gods as certain points during their pursuit of 33; heating up at the right moments and almost toying with lesser teams. But lets, for a moment, take a time machine trip back to 2010. The summer of 2010 to be specific, one of the most dramatic times for the NBA in which there was no basketball involved.

Take a look, if you will, at this video,  where Chicago is LeBron’s destination of choice according to oddsmakers. Miami comes in at a risky 15-2.

This was, of course, before the rumored-then-confirmed meeting between the Big Three in which they decided where they would play.

After the meeting, it seemed pretty clear that Bosh and LeBron were set on joining Wade in Miami, leaving the other potential suitors to scramble for deals on players like Amare, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson.

So what happened? Was it something Chicago said?

Of the Big Three as we know it, it was Wade who was most inclined to become a Bull. And at first it seemed he was actually going there. But as we learned it articles like this one, D-Wade didn’t feel like Chicago honored it’s former players enough. Loyalty is imporant to Wade, one of the qualities that sets him apart from many modern athletes. And the Heat are considered one of the more tight-knit organizations in sports (see: Erik Spoeltra), making Chicago an even tougher sell in comparison to South Beach.

But it almost happened. Almost!

Throw it in NBA history as one of the greatest “What-if” scenarios, but Wade and Co.’s unwillingness to join D-Rose and dominate the basketball universe has to raise some eyebrows, right?

Will this be a defining mark on the career of Derrick Rose? His inability to recruit? It has been suggested, but recruiting doesn’t seem like something Rose is into. Especially now, with the battle he’s currently fighting inside his own head. Let’s get this guy on the court in an NBA game before he hits the phones looking for teammates.

Will the Heat keep it going to 34? It’s hard to say. But wether you’re a basketball fan or not, you have to apprecaite the difficulty and the grind that this has been. And when you see them play, with their elite spacing and movement, and releentless tenacity on defense, think about how rare this is, and how close it could have been to something completely different. See you for Breakfast.

 

Breakfast: Knicks Struggling Out West

Tyson Chandler has started all 62 games for the Knicks this season (Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images)

Tyson Chandler has started all 62 games for the Knicks this season (Aaron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images)

In a month nothing but the Heat will matter in the Easter Conference, so for now let’s talk a little Knicks. Boy, November feels like ages ago; when Rasheed Wallace was backing down fools in the Garden and teams were still lazy on defense. But as they begin their annual slide down the East standings, the Knicks are hurting right now in more ways than one.

It’s more than watching Tyson Chandler crumpled on the floor before the half of last night’s 23 point loss in Denver. It’s more than Carmelo, in his first game back in Denver, was awful from the field, clearly hindered by swelling in his right knee. It’s way more than Amare Stoudemire, who, despite playing somewhat effective basketball for the past three weeks, is back in a suit and will never be a consistently healthy athlete ever again.

The Knicks, in the midst of a brutal five game road trip, are being exposed as mentally weak as well as physically unstable. This is the second consecutive game that was over in the 3rd quarter, and they still have to travel to Portland and Utah, who are combined 43-19 at home.

Between those games is a matinee with Lob City, maybe the worst matchup for the Knicks right now. The athleticism and youth of the Clippers might make Kenyon Martin pass out.

Kenyon Martin. We need to talk about the Knicks rotation right now. This roster is filled with jump shooters, but now that the Knicks are running out of big men, there’s no way this team can compete. James White is getting more minutes, but from what I’ve seen thus far is best skill is without a doubt fouling. Iman Shumpert looks to be getting back to full strength, but his offensive game is so limited right now he can’t be the primary weapon on the floor. And that leaves me with J.R Smith, the man I’d never want to play a game of pick-up hoops with.

Smith is one of the NBA’s most frustrating scorers. The definition of streaky, Smith will occasionally make an improbable highlight-reel worthy shot, giving him liberty to jack up 20 more. But now with all the injuries, Smith has gone from a spark off the bench to depending on his shooting to generate offense. And it just isn’t working.

Have the Knicks been quitting? That’s not fair to say. But this team desperately needs rest, and they aren’t going to get it right now. The Knicks have one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, and right now it is a glaring flaw. Because not only to the best teams in the league right now have youth, most of them like to run. A lot. And from what I’ve learned, old guys don’t run like young guys.

I’m not saying the Knicks won’t make the playoffs. Hey, if they end up paired with the Hawks or Bulls, they might even grab a win or two. But this is a fighter on wobbly legs. And whether they realize it or not, they just can’t seem to punch back as strong as before. We’ll update this situation as we learn more about the knees of Melo and Chandler. Stay tuned.