Category Archives: Dinner

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.

 

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Dinner: Court Storming: An Unnecessary Trend

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Last night the University of Virginia beat the number 3 team in the land, Duke. For the 4th time this year, Duke players walked off as students from the opposing school ran onto the court.

What goes on in these court stormings? I can never tell.

Unfortunately, I have missed every chance I have had (count 3) to rush onto a football field or basketball court in my 5 years at two universities.

This is gaining some coverage because Coach Krzyzewski complained about player safety. This is a fair claim, but not the focus. So what’s my gripe? The fact that every single time a top 10 team loses to an unranked team, students want to have a pow-wow (though I rather call it something else) in the middle of the court.

The fact of the matter is, students go to games drunk. They cheer on their team through ups and downs. They are emotionally invested in the game. But it should stop there. Watch any court rushing and you will see tons of kids piling into the middle with their hands in the air. After the initial group has formed an unmovable cluster in the middle, people add on to the peripherals. And I just can’t understand why.

It’s downright stupid. Is it because kids just want to be on the court? Go to the arena when there is no game, you can walk all over it. Maybe kids want to be close to the players? Well, these are student athletes, so chances are they are walking around campus or going to class.

In some sort of ephemeral moment of glory, these kids crowd the players preventing the media from really letting these mostly unknown players have their shining moment. Will any Virginia player (besides Joe Harris) be drafted? Probably not. Let those players get the facetime and 15 minutes of fame they deserve.

Inevitably, this “court storming” trend needs to stop. It seems likely that sometime soon, a drunken student will fall, get trampled, and eventually die, like some Guns n’ Roses concert or Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

If you beat the #1 team in the nation, I have no problems rushing to greet the heroes. Minnesota, go ahead and storm your court after beating Indiana, it was your defining moment. Same for you Illinois, especially after a last minute layup. But Virginia? Really? Duke has lost 4 times now. 4! And each time, the opposing team has stormed the court. The top 10 teams combined have now compiled over 30 losses. Add on any in-conference rivalries and we are looking at 30 to 40 times students will gather on the court, and not every venue is as sober or as safe as Virginia.

The SEC has fined students for rushing the court since 2004. But the fines won’t stop the students. These kids need to realize that if you want to celebrate, go to a bar, hit the quad on campus,  or outside the arena. Don’t rush the court and stand there. Chances are, the players will come to the student section and give the attention they deserve.

Dinner: Barcelona in free fall?

For the first time since the end of the 08/09 season, Barcelona has lost 2 straight games.

After dropping the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage to AC Milan, the Catalan squad were booted from the Copa Del Rey by league rivals, Real Madrid.

Early chances saw a Messi opportunity flash in front of the Madrid goal and further development of slight chances here and there, but its looking more and more like their precision tight passing can only do so much for them. While the game’s possession was clearly in favor of Barcelona, this statistic won’t cut it anymore for the Spanish side. Lacking a certain attacking mindset, the players and coaching staff seem to be content passing the ball around the 18-yard box and hoping to occasionally thread the needle towards net.

We’ve seen this act before. Barca’s similar effort against Milan last week showed similar results. Not to say that either Milan or Madrid “parked the bus” on either occasion; an understanding of the Barcelona blueprint for success has simply been examined and countered.

Missing signs are currently being hung up all over Barcelona for their former golden child, Lionel Messi (it could happen). Silenced in these past 2 matches, Messi has had little opportunity to create those 1 on 1 chances he tends to prefer. Without being able to run at defenders, he is limited to possessing the ball far from net and giving it up to others. Not ideal, but Barca have succeeded on this tactic before. But even those quick give and go’s that we as football fans have all come to enjoy watching have been minimized thanks to several stellar defensive performances. Hard to think Messi will be missing in action for much longer, but at this rate I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Here’s the credit you’re waiting for, not to worry.

Real Madrid’s counter-attack was unstoppable (take notes, Fergie). Any chance they had, Di Maria and Ronaldo could be seen sprinting up the wings with the help of a perfectly placed ball on behalf of either Ozil or Alonso. Quite the opposite from the Barcelona mentality. It was this sort of counter-attack and pace that sealed the W for Madrid.

Add the highlights of Ronaldo’s clinical finishing, Di Maria’s crossing-up of Puyol and Varane’s towering header and it would seem there’s a new sheriff in Spain.

(click image to see Di Maria shatter Puyol’s ankles)

Too bad they’re 16 points behind 1st in La Liga. Regardless, Real Madrid seemed to have found their form at just the right time. They will meet EPL leaders, Manchester United, in the 2nd leg of the Champions League knockout stage next Tuesday, March 5th.

As for Barcelona, things have certainly looked better. The once kings of Europe have never looked smaller and need to regroup quick if they are to reestablish their reign as the world’s most feared club.

Somewhere in Germany, Pep Guardiola is having a light chuckle to himself as he sips from a gold-plated, sangria-filled chalice.

Dinner: Gareth Bale is ON FIRE

Image

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Take note, soccer universe. Gareth Bale is currently the best footballer on the planet.

Taking the pitch today at Boelyn Ground to face the West Ham Hammers, Bale didn’t care much about the homage towards club legend, Bobby Moore. Instead, he decided to put on one of the better performances of this year’s English Premier League campaign.

After a lousy turnover just outside of the West Ham 18-yard box, Gareth Bale capitalized with a clinical left-footed finish to put the Spurs up 1-0 in the 13th minute of play. The remainder of the game proved to be one of topsy turvey fashion as both sides went into the latter parts of the match all-squared at 2-2.

One single firework ensued.

Bale’s laser from 25 yards out put his Spurs ahead in the 89th minute and was the ultimate deciding factor as Tottenham snagged a crucial away victory, 3-2. The win also secured an a 3rd place spot in the EPL for the Spurs as they leapfrogged Chelsea, who lost to Manchester City yesterday.

A massive result, indeed. But what’s more impressive is the Welshman’s current form in both the EPL and Europa League, respectively. With 2 goals against Newcastle on February 9th, 2 goals against French-side, Lyon, on Valentine’s Day (both stunning free kicks) and 2 more crackers in today’s match, Bale is having one of the better month’s in recent memory.

This season, a tally of now 21 goals in all competition has shown supporters and naysayers alike the widened skill-set he has. We’ve always known about his speed and ability to distribute from a wide position. However, not since the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo as a member of Manchester United has the world seen such pure shot power from both active plays and free kicks.

What’s even scarier? He’s showing no signs of slowing down.

At just 23 years of age, Bale has proven he’s got more tricks up his sleeve than once recognized. At this rate, he could end-up making a serious push for the EPL’s coveted “Golden Boot” award for the most goals scored by season’s end.

The summer transfer window of 2013 will certainly be an interesting one as all eyes will be on Tottenham Hotspur. Will they be able to reach deep enough into their pockets to keep this high-flying scoring machine? If he stays in this kind of form and good health, it will be an interesting development to follow.

I’d assume he may be complaining of some irritable back issues as of late, after carrying his team now for well over a month.

Dinner: Please Excuse My Bias

Why New Jersey is Undoubtedly the Best Place for Professional Sports Fans!

With no major cities, poor fan attendance, and the reputation of the Jersey Shore, I can’t blame the Nets for hightailing it to Brooklyn. Of the remaining 4 teams that play their home games in New Jersey, only the Devils give credit to this great state. Regardless of those teams trying to pass themselves off as New York, evidence suggest there is no better place to be a sports fan than the Garden State.

I guess I should start with my biases. Yes, I was born and raised into a sports family in North Jersey. To make matters worse, I have lived in New Jersey 22.5 of my 23 years alive. I currently live in Seattle where I have access to one of the greatest NFL fan bases, the 12th man, but this isn’t about fan dedication. This about the rivalries, the proximity, the allegiances, the anguish, the pride, and most of all, the championships.

New Jersey has an identity crisis. For sports fans, you are quickly launched into 2 options, each with their own set of sub-options, like a “Choose Your Adventure” book for a sports fan. First, a fan decides if he will be loyal to his local teams or idiotically support an out of town club based on nonsensical logic and a lack of mental clarity. Most fans choose the former. But the great part about New Jersey is plethora of choices. If you live in the south, choices are more limited, but they still need to be made. Southern Jersey calls Philadelphia their city, so it comes to no surprise that they like the Eagles and Phillies. Where it gets tricky is hockey. Do you support the Flyers? Or show pride in the one remaining New Jersey team there is, the Devils? As for the Northern folk, each sport has its decision. Giants or Jets? Knicks or Nets? Rangers or Devils? Heck, even the Islanders are in the mix! With these options come countless combinations of fans, creating quite a mix of loyalties amongst friends. Couple that with the closeness of the Philadelphia fans and you have yourself a sports war-zone.

The war-zone is what its all about. At any time in any part of the state, there are two people who are butting heads over the outcome of a game. Friendships can be divided during football season but come back together for baseball. Sure, Seattle has great football fans, but who can I talk trash to here? Who can I demean when there are no Jets or Eagles fans? I miss being close enough to hear my neighbors scream with despair as their precious Rangers drop in the Conference Finals to the Devils. I miss taunting Jets and Mets fans with the recent Championships of the Giants and Yankees. Sure, I have been on the losing side before, but those heckling calls and degrading banter is what makes sports more than sports. My teams here are my identity. Unlike 4 sport cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Boston, we don’t rally together around our teams. We don’t all share a pint over our loathing Red Sox and discuss our hatred for the Yankees. We are a state divided, shit talking our way to our friends and neighbors all the way to the title. And we like it that way.

Not only are there many teams in the area, but they all have extreme pressure to win. This means spending major bucks, even if it does still go to Bobby Bonilla. For the first time in my life I am living in a small sports market, and it surely is eye opening. The Seahawks make it to the playoffs and fans here act like they won the Super Bowl. The Mariners have no money to make any move than re-sign their one worthy asset, Felix Hernandez. This is something I can’t get used to. Where is the winning culture? Where is the money? As a Yankees fan, I am used to throwing money at anyone and anything who can help bring a 28th ring. As a Giants fan, anything short of a Super Bowl is a failure. This sentiment is shared across New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, making each year either glorious or heart breaking.

It has always bothered me when people think I can’t be a real Yankees or Giants fan because I live in New Jersey. As if some redneck living in upstate New York has more of a claim those teams. As if some Manhattan douche who arrives late and leaves early in his Ralph Lauren sweater vest can say he is more of a fan because he pays the Manhattan premium on everything. Well, when these people are hitting the tunnel traffic while getting to the Giants game, or getting herded like cattle into the public transit, just think of New Jersey and my relaxed, non-state-border-crossing ride home.

Is there anywhere else that comes close to New Jersey in Sports? Sure. But it’s just that. Close. Florida has many professional sports teams that could create a similar sporting paradise. But Florida teams have some of the worst attendance, their state demographic is split evenly between AARP members and swamp people, and their teams aren’t ever relevant except for the occasional fluky Marlins World Series. Shula and Marino still run that state, which says enough. Plus, more fans rather watch the Daytona 500 than any other professional sporting event.  Tim Tebow, save your state!

What about California? With their major cities and abundance of sports teams they have major rivalries and some relevant teams. Well, good argument. However, wearing an opposing cities jersey in any Californian stadium is essentially throwing up a gang sign on someone else’s turf. California fans go past the drunken banter and occasional fight you’ll find in New Jersey. The media has extensively covered the post-game brawls that have left some severely injured or brain dead. Additionally, the only truly relevant teams lately are in the Bay Area. San Diego and Los Angeles have the beaches, but that does little in contributing to the professional success. Want to see an in state rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles? Have fun driving 9 hours. In New Jersey, the turnpike runs from Philadelphia to New York in a quick two hour drive (just keep your windows rolled up).

New Jersey has it all: a multitude of winning (or for some, at least the appearance of trying to win) teams, rivalries, convenience, and the hatred from everyone else in the country. You just can’t beat that.

Disagree? Please, try and argue a better place to be a pro sports fan.

Dinner: GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE – Y U N0 ADVERTISE?!

Since about mid-December 2012, the “Scorecenter” app on my Smartphone has gone out of its way to let me know that on Saturday, February 23rd the New York Yankees will be playing a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves. This is some fine and dandy stuff. By simply highlighting the fact that I’m a fan of several teams through the app itself, it then proceeds to keep track of their current and upcoming schedules. Technology, you beautiful, majestic, 4G songbird.

Time passes. Seasons begin and end. Before I know it, it’s February 22nd and I’m seeing promos for the upcoming NASCAR series at Daytona, which we could all do without. Confusion and those heavy sweats begin to settle in nice and deep-like. Seemingly every year, the start of Major League Baseball’s “Grapefruit League” sneaks up and bites me right in the feels. Why is this the case? I get my daily servings of ESPN and its varied choices of programming. I watch a balanced diet of sporting events across all major networks. How does something as fun as this league go unnoticed under the watchful eye of an avid sports fan like myself? Come October, the MLB has no problem running those horrendous playoff promotions with “Written in the Stars” blasting on repeat. You’re better than this, Major League Baseball. At least hook the fans up with some Prince to get ‘em out of their seats. There’s no such thing as too much “Raspberry Beret”.

The Grapefruit League is a fun, family-friendly season that needs more exposure. Not only does it offer that beaming Florida weather that folks up here in the Northeast couldn’t be more jealous of, but it acts as a technical first-look at moves made during the offseason. Josh Hamilton is now an Angel, Jose Reyes a Blue Jay, and Nick Swisher an Indian (not to be taken literally). People want to see this sort of action and the MLB needs to do a better job at promoting this goldmine that they’ve been sitting on. Weeks prior to the start of even preseason training, give the Grapefruit League half of the airtime ESPN dedicates to the “This is Sportscenter: Swedish Chef” commercial and attendance will spike.

Broadcast advertising aside, there are other ways to reach this audience aside from a 10-15 second spot on the YES Network. Get creative MLB! People simply need to know of this great opportunity to vacate the desolate, freezing other parts of the US while being able to enjoy such a classic American pastime.

I’M YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC. I WANT TO FEEL MY PALE SKIN BURNING IN THOSE BLEACHERS UNDER THE FLORIDA SUN. I WANT TO SEE MARIANO RIVERA TAKE THE MOUND AGAIN. ICE-COLD LEMONADE WOULDN’T HURT.

How could the MLB market the Grapefruit League more effectively? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below or tell us what you think via Twitter at @TheOrangeWedge.

Dinner: Premier League Predictions: Race to the Top…or Bottom.

Looking for absolute futbol bliss? You’re living it. Thus far, the month of February has jam-packed an array of highly contested fixtures between the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League, and the English Premier League. Not to mention, the foreplay of those midweek FA Cup matches. It’s always fun to see a couple of Davids (here’s lookin’ at you, Oldham Athletic) put up a fight or even snag an upset against the Goliaths of the EPL. But alas, we have reached our comfort-zone of weekend matchups. Here are a couple contests to keep on your radar:

Manchester United vs. Queens Park Rangers
Loftus Road Stadium
Saturday, 2/23/13 @ 10am EST

Manchester United

After a comfortable FA Cup victory against Reading this Monday, the Red Devils look to continue their recent form, as they travel to White City to face the league’s bottom-feeding Queen’s Park Rangers. Although this may have the look of a seasonal spanking, don’t be surprised to get a good game out of this one. Wayne Rooney has been said to miss the game all thanks to a sinus issue. Yes, you read correctly. Do the training facilities at Old Trafford lack your normal standard for nasal cleansing? Someone please find Mr. Rooney a tissue or twelve. Looking at season’s past, this is your typical United game where they could easily lay a fat egg. Everything’s going swimmingly. Massive away result against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Cruising through the EPL. What could go wrong?

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney

Queens Park Rangers

In QPR’s case, when you are begging for 20 points…it’s never a good sign. But that’s what Harry Redknapp’s team needs more than anything at this stage. This squad seemed to be getting on a more consistent track earlier in the month. With slightly convincing performances (both 0-0 draws) against Manchester City and Norwich, the defense seemed to be intact. That was until the next week’s 1-4 thrashing against the next “Hansel” of the EPL, Swansea. So hot right now. A home win against United has the potential to boost morale and lift them out of this laughable group of relegation-dwellers. Key word there is “potential”. But something has to change for the Hoops or they are looking at another nail-biting fight to stay in England’s top flight, at best.

Predicition: Manchester United 3, Queens Park Rangers 1

Aston Villa vs. Arsenal
Emirates Stadium
Saturday, 2/23/13 @ 10am EST

Aston Villa

The club that was once a staple among the middle-tier contenders of the Premiership is suffering through its poorest form in recent years. Struggling to stay out of the relegation zone, Villa could use a writhing Bob Knight speech to rally these troops. Without the consistency of a once brilliant Darren Bent, Aston Villa currently lacks the composure in front of the net to capitalize on the chances they have had. Every soccer meme distributor online will tell you that bringing Heskey back to their lineup will save Villa’s sorry soul, but I’m pretty sure on-field rape between male players would be seen as a straight red. After a straight-up DEPRESSING FA Cup loss to Green Street Hooligan adversary, Millwall, Aston Villa needs that shock victory we’ve seen around the league as of late. Now visiting a deflated Arsenal squad, we’ll see how this lackluster group of wankers can keep up with the attacking quick midfield play of Carzola and Wilshere.

Arsenal

The Gunners have seen better days. Roughly around the late 90’s. After being recently outclassed at home by the German power, Bayern Munich, the men of Arsenal once again find themselves questioning whether they’ll ever have the grit to make a run for ANY sort of title. Heck, they’ll take a Carling Cup at this point. Outside of the Champions League, this squad hasn’t shown any sort of true consistency league-wise either. It always seems to be one step forward, then two steps back with this crew. Now sitting one spot out of Champions League contention, Arsenal has a simple job ahead of them: beat Aston Villa at home. It’s a job that they are certainly capable of, given the talent that their roster boasts. But if for some reason the word “draw” is even being muttered after game day, you can bet on skipper Arsene Wenger receiving even more scrutiny than he already is. Like, a lot of it. Sky Sports is relentless.

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere

Prediction: Aston Villa 0, Arsenal 2

Chelsea vs. Manchester City
Etihad Stadium
Sunday, 2/24/13 @ 8:30am EST

Chelsea

Following a close call at the Bridge against Czech frontrunners, Sparta Prague, Chelsea can breathe a sigh of relief. If not for Eden Hazard’s injury time rocket, the Blues would be one somber bunch heading into a tough weekend matchup against Manchester City. Manager Rafa Benitez has been able to scrounge up a couple decent results as of late for his club after being under close surveillance following a poor start to his campaign as manager at Chelsea. Juan Mata has been nothing short of spectacular for his side. Leading his team in assists (9) and second only to Frank Lampard in goals (10), the Spanish international maintains a heavy influence everywhere on the pitch. He has been able to dictate the mobility and pace of Chelsea’s attacking forefront and wingers on a consistent basis. If the Blues are looking to maintain this stranglehold on the 3rd spot for Champions League contention, they need to keep Mata as that centerpiece. As for their means of attack, this debacle remains to be seen. We’ll see if Torres can be more aerodynamic without his Miley Cyrus hair and hopefully Demba Ba can see through his Rip Hamilton mask.

Demba Ba

Chelsea’s Demba Ba

Manchester City

After smashing 4 goals past Leeds in the FA Cup, City are doing their best to forget that woeful performance against Southampton. Although the loss may have all but cost them a chance at a second consecutive EPL title, this squad has seen this script before. As much as I do enjoy a hearty belly chuckle at Mancini’s confidence, being 12 points out of a tie with top dogs United, he’s predicted a collapse before. To bank on something like that happening again, while unlikely, will rely more heavily on their performance through the remainder of the season. Even a poor United performance has shown results of a 1-0 or 2-1 in their favor thanks to a little addition to the squad named RVP. Moreover, City has the necessary firepower to engage their rivals in a race to the top. This race continues tomorrow on their home turf.

Prediction: Chelsea 2, Manchester City 3