Friday, July 23, 2010

Henry Spectacular, Red Bulls Not So Much

Last night was the start of the New York Football Challenge at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

As Tony Reali of ESPN's Around the Horn would say, "And by football, I mean futbol!"

The host New York Red Bulls, with newly-signed superstar Thierry Henry, the Arsenal legend, took on Henry's former arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

I don't know what's the bigger insult: Calling Spurs "the Mets of London," or calling the Mets "the Spurs of New York." Both clubs suffer from a severe case of Second Team In Town Syndrome, and their delusional fans, so sure that theirs is "the only team in town," or "the only real team in town," or "the only team that plays the right way," are pathetic.

If you've read this blog regularly, you know how pathetic the Mets are. More so than usual now: They've now lost 7 of the 8 games they've played since the All-Star Break, and it should be all 8 because of a blown umpire's call denying the San Francisco Giants a win over the Mets. The Mets lost again last night, 2-0 to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, getting the pitching but not the hits.

How pathetic are Spurs? (Calling them either "Spurs" or "The Spurs" is correct. Calling them "The Scum" is even more so.) The last time Spurs finished 1st in England's top league... the Mets hadn't even begun play yet. Spurs clinched the Football League championship on April 17, 1961.

If that date sounds familiar, it's because it's the date of the Bay of Pigs disaster in Cuba. It was also one day after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. It's been 49 years, and the Hawks haven't gone all the way since, either... Wait a minute, yes they have! They just did!

In fact, in 1961, Spurs won the League and the FA Cup tournament, becoming the first English team in the 20th Century to "win The Double" or "do The Double." They also won the FA Cup in 1962, 1967, 1981 and 1991 -- but that's it for major trophies. Almost half a century since they won the League, and they haven't finished ahead of their North London rivals Arsenal since 1995.

To give you an idea: Spurs finished 4th in 2010, and their fans were ecstatic; Arsenal finished 3rd, and their fans were furious. The former is the mentality of a small club that thinks it's a big club; the latter is the mentality of a big club that thinks it should be the biggest club.

Spurs fans also like to talk about their hooliganism. But there was no way they were going to be able to pull any of their usual stuff at Red Bull Arena: The home team has a great security system, searching for weapons and tossing out anyone outside the designated supporters-club sections (in other words, anyone inside the "family sections") that gets out of line. Besides, do they really think London is tougher (or "harder" as they would say) than New York and New Jersey? Idiots.

Anyway, both teams went through the 1st half with most of their starters, including the newly-signed Henry, who scored his first goal for his new team. It wasn't a vintage "Henry... What a goal! What a goal!" shot, but it counts just the same. A lot of Tri-State Area converts to the Arsenal cause (a.k.a. Gooners, from the team's nickname the Gunners, from the cannon on their crest) going mental, watching the greatest player in team history (some would still say that's Dennis Bergkamp) score for their real home team.

Henry has already been embraced by the Metro fans, and he has embraced them in return. He told reporters that he even took the PATH train from Manhattan to Harrison. I wonder how many people recognized him? He did do a Gillette razor commercial with Roger Federer and Tomcat Woods, although for most U.S. broadcasts, that ad was Federer, Woods and Derek Jeter.

Anyway, Metro's Number 14 hasn't yet gotten the treatment Pelé got when he came to play for the New York Cosmos from 1975 to '77, but Henry does have the advantage of the increased TV coverage from the NASL's time, being that, aside from the '70 World Cup where he led Brazil to victory, most Americans hadn't really seen Pelé up until '75.

In contrast, with Premier League action from England, La Liga action from Spain, Serie A action from Italy, and Budesliga action from Germany now available via satellite, and Henry's appearances in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups for France (winning the former as a substitute and reaching the Final of the latter as an already huge star), most Americans who care about sports know who he is, having seen him play on TV, first for Arsenal and then for Barcelona.

In the 2nd half, Red Bulls manager Hans Backe took out Henry, and some other starters, including the goalkeeper, the Senegalese wizard Bouna Condoul, replacing him with Greg Sutton.

Two big mistakes. Not only did those substitutions take out our best offensive player, but switching goalies was a bonehead move. Sutton may be Canada's Number 1 -- that is, the starting goalkeeper on their national soccer team -- but he was no match for Spurs, whose manager Harry Redknapp (he's got a twitch) left in his starters, including Robbie Keane and Gareth Bale, who both scored in the 2nd half to give the cunts a 2-1 win.

Needless to say, the Spurs fans were their usual selves, thinking they were "taking the piss on our manor." Dimwits, they were losing against the starting lineup of an MLS team! An MLS team! This, after they managed only a scoreless draw against the San Jose Earthquakes in their last game, and the Quakes are only 5th in the MLS West! At least the Red Bulls are 2nd in the MLS East!

Most Europeans who observe the MLS say that it's about as good as England's second division, "The Championship." (No, I don't know who named it that, or what drugs he was on at the time. Nor do I know who named their third and fourth divisions "League One" and "League Two.") So, last night, Spurs were losing against MLS starters, and only beat MLS scrubs. In an exhibition, or, as soccer fans would say, a "friendly."

And they took the piss? They're lucky there wasn't a fight: We would have mussed 'em up but good, the dirty chumps. Wait, sorry, forgot to "speak English" there: We would have given them a right hiding, the bloody cunts!

The New York Football Challenge continues tonight, as another English club, Manchester City, takes on Sporting Clube de Portugal, a.k.a. "Sporting Lisbon." With Red Bull Arena being right across the Passaic River from the Portuguese-heavy (and Brazilian-laden as well, due to the language) Ironbound section of Newark (it's a 15-minute walk from Market Street and Ferry Street bars across the Jackson Street Bridge to the Arena), Sporting were a natural for this weekend, led by Portugal national-team stars, striker Liédson and goalie Tiago.

Man City, also stuck with Second Team Syndrome behind Manchester United (which barely beat expansion Philadelphia Union 1-0 last Saturday), was recently bought by Arab investors, making it the richest sports team on the planet. So far, it hasn't gotten them into the European Champions League, but it has gotten them to 5th place in England's Premier League.

They feature 2 former Arsenal stars, the much-admired Senegalese/French midfielder Patrick Vieira, and the formerly-cheered, now lustily-booed-with-good-reason, Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor. I'm sure a lot of New York area Gooners will be going to that game and cheering on Vieira, but booing the living hell out of "Greedybayor."

And on Sunday, a doubleheader, Sporting vs. Spurs (Força Sporting) followed by Red Bulls vs. Man City (Forza Red Bull -- sorry, Paddy, but you've got Greedybayor on your team, and we've got Henry).

*

The Yankees lost on Tuesday night, getting pounded by the Anaheim Angels (it's better to just call them that), 10-2. But on Wednesday, they pounded back, winning 10-6.

The Wednesday afternoon game included a bizarre moment, when Brett Gardner was thrown out after a called strike 2 that he didn't agree with. They say, "You can't argue balls and strikes." I say, "Ever hear of the First Amendment? Of course you can argue balls and strikes!"

Someday, somebody is going to take a sport's commissioner to court and assert his freedom of speech and say, yes, you can, and sometimes you must say that the officials were, on occasion, incompetent. How dare a commissioner fine a player, a coach, an executive for telling the truth? Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, are you listening? I know you got both the money and the desire to be the test case!

Anyway, Colin Curtis, a rookie, was sent up to complete Gardner's at-bat and take his place in the field. And he held off until the count was full, going from 0-and-2 to 3-and-2. And then he hit his 1st major league home run. Take that, ump!

With my niece Ashley in the latter stages of her nap, my niece Rachel (the twins are now 3) listened to the last 2 innings of the Wednesday afternoon game on the radio. I asked her if she knew what A-Rod did. She guessed correctly: "Home run!" I told her to wait for John Sterling's call, and when he said, "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!" she jumped up and down and said, "Yayyyy!"

Good girl. Ashley likes the Yankees, too, but she was still asleep upstairs.

I got them Yankee-themed Silly Bandz. They love them. This Silly Bandz trend is unbelievable: It's now the Number 1 item sold on Jersey Shore boardwalks, and when you type "si" into Google, it's the Number 2 most popular search item, Number 1 being the Six Flags theme parks. (Great Adventure is 30 miles from the house, 78 miles from Yankee Stadium, 83 miles from Citi Field and 58 miles from Citizens Bank Park in Philly.)

Last night, the Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals, 10-4, including home runs from Derek Jeter (an inside-the-park job) and Alex Rodriguez (Number 599). Good night for the fangirls of either.

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