Thursday, April 15, 2010

Four-Time Loser

Yesterday afternoon, the Yankees dropped a 5-3 decision to the Disneyland Angels. Then Arsenal lost to arch-rival Tottenham Hotspur, 2-1. Then the Devils lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, also 2-1. Finally, the Nets closed out the worst season in their history, losing 94-86 to the Miami Heat in double overtime.

I never expected my 4 favorite professional sports teams to all lose on the same day.

There have been many times when the Yankees and Arsenal -- whose season somewhat overlap, in April and May, and again in August and September and sometimes into October -- have played on the same day. The last, before yesterday, was on November 4, 2009, when Arsenal won a Champions League match, and, 3 1/2 hours later, the Yankees began Game 6 of the World Series, which they won. I saw both on TV in New York, and while there were half a million people in Times Square when the Yankees won, and most of them were wearing Yankee caps, I was (almost certainly) the only one wearing an Arsenal scarf.

As far as I know, however, due to the time difference, and the fact that English soccer games generally start in the morning, U.S. time, this was the 1st time, certainly the 1st time since I've been aware of Arsenal, that they and the Yankees played at exactly the same time.

The Yankees losing a game to the Angels, even at home, after having started the season 5-2, is tolerable. But Arsenal losing to Tottenham? It hadn't happened in this century. Seriously: The last time Arsenal lost a League game to Spurs, it was November 1999. (They haven't lost to them at home since May 1993.)

There was a Carling Cup Semifinal in 2008, when Spurs' first team beat an Arsenal team made up largely of reserves, but the true mark of "not a big club" in English terms is that you still care about the tournament formerly (and sometimes still) known as the League Cup.

Yesterday was supposed to be St. Totteringham's Day, the day when Arsenal ensure that Tottenham cannot finish above them in the League standings (or "table" as they say over there). Instead, it will happen on the weekend, when Arsenal (almost certainly) beat Wigan Athletic.

Arsenal have had more injuries, including injuries to key players, than the Mets, and still, going into yesterday, they had a chance to win the League. But Spurs had some injuries (and a notable suspension) as well. Their fans are a lot like Met fans: Just as the Flushing Heathen like to talk about being "the real New York baseball team," the Spuds (I won't use the other word Arsenal fans usually use for them, as it is anti-Semitic) talk about how they are "the real English club in London" in terms of style of play and the makeup of their roster.

(Yes, Spurs have plenty of fine English talent, from Roman Pavyulchenko to Luka Modric. He said, dripping with sarcasm. And, last I checked, Gareth Bale, who scored for them yesterday, was from Wales -- still British, but not English.)

Arsenal played like crap, and when defender Thomas Vermaelen had to leave the game after just 20 minutes due to becoming the latest injured player, with Arsenal already down 1-0, and Mikael Silvestre came on to once again prove that he should have retired about 4 years ago, I knew the game was over.

Arsenal have 4 games left, all in League play. They will finish at least 3rd, and could finish 2nd. But their loss yesterday all but officially hands the title to Chelsea, another London club. And, in their League, there's no appreciable difference between 2nd and 3rd. There is a difference between 3rd and 4th (Champions League automatic qualification vs. needing a play-in game), a huge difference between 4th and 5th (CL play vs. Europa League, formerly the UEFA Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup), an even bigger difference between 6th and 7th (Europa League vs. no Euorpean play at all), and the biggest difference of all between 17th and 18th (in the 20-team English Premier League, the bottom 3 teams, 18th, 19th & 20th, get relegated to the 2nd Division, while the top 3 from that Division get promoted. Good thing for the Mets that baseball doesn't do that.)

Essentially, Arsenal's season is over.

The Devils seemed to suggest they were trying to end theirs, too. They were never really in this Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. And they were at home. And to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers made it worse. The Devils have now played 8 Playoff games at the Prudential Center, and lost 7 of them. This is unacceptable.

The Nets? They didn't finish with the worst record in NBA history, as seemed likely for much of the season, but at 12-70 they became the 5th team in the league's 64-year history to lose at least 70 games.

So unless the Devils can pick themselves up, it looks like I'm paying attention to just baseball until the World Cup starts in June. And, considering the likely exit of the U.S., I won't be paying close attention for long.

Phil Hughes starts for the Yankees today. Starting for the Angels is Scott Kazmir, whom they picked up last year for the stretch drive, helping them win the American League West.

You remember Scott Kazmir, don't you? Another brilliant Met trade, going to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (and helping them win their first Pennant) for Victor Zambrano? Or are you trying to forget? Nah, if you're reading this, you're probably a Yankee Fan, in which case you never let the Mets forget trades like this. And Otis for Foy. And Ryan for Fregosi. And Staub for Lolich. And Seaver for 4 forgettable guys. And Kent for Baerga.

Just remember: If the Yankees hadn't traded Jay Buhner, who never won a Pennant in Seattle, they wouldn't have gotten Paul O'Neill.

UPDATE: An injury-wracked Arsenal team blew a 2-0 2nd half lead, and lost. The game became known as The Wigan Capitulation. And, as of 2016, Tottenham left back Danny Rose is still, as they say in England, "nicking a living" based on the goal he scored in the abovementioned North London Derby, for which Tottenham fans still love him, even though he has proven time and time against that he is rubbish.

I guess that makes him the Bucky Dent of Tottenham, except Dent was, at least, very good on defense.

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