Friday, January 6, 2012

The FA Cup, and Few Other Things Off My Mind

The Yankees couldn't reach an agreement with Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima.

My father, a nominal Met fan (translation: He prefers them to the Yankees but he doesn't get worked up about them or any other baseball team -- no, I'm not adopted) says the problem is that they didn't speak the same language.

Yes they do: Money.

Why were the Yankees going after this guy in the first place? They HAVE a shortstop.

And if he can't play, there's Eduardo Nunez... Okay, maybe they do need a backup.

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Timothy Dolan, the St. Louis native who is now the Archbishop of New York, has been promoted by the Pope.

Have I telegraphed this punchline or what?

This makes him a St. Louis Cardinal.

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Do you remember this trick question: "Who are the 2 former Cardinals in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium?" Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

Of course, Miller Huggins and Roger Maris both played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, with the additional Mass by Benedict XVI shortly before the old Stadium closed, there are 3 "former Cardinals in Monument Park." So my response to the old joke doesn't work anymore.

At least, until Joe Torre gets his Plaque.

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The other night, West Virginia beat Clemson in the Orange Bowl, 70-33.

WVU was ranked Number 23, Clemson Number 14.

Imagine that: You're ranked 14th in the nation, you're higher-ranked than your opponent, you're a lot closer to the game site than you opponent, and you scored 33 points... and it wasn't even half enough!

Clemson deserved to get 70 hung on them. Not that I have anything against them, or (being a Rutgers fan) particularly support West Virginia. But those Clemson uniforms were hideous. I know, it's called the Orange Bowl, but did their uniforms have to be THAT orange?

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Thierry Henry is back at Arsenal, on a 2-month loan from the New York Red Bulls.

Arsenal's all-time leading scorer with 226 goals, King Henry will be available for Monday's Football Association Cup 3rd Round match against Leeds United.

Henry was born August 17, 1977, the day after Elvis Presley died. King Elvis goes out, King Henry comes in. You can't make this stuff up. (Henry's former Arsenal and France teammate William Gallas was born the same exact day.)

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Ah, the FA Cup. I love the FA Cup. It's England's version of March Madness, except it's all season long, concurrent with the regular season. It starts in August with preliminary rounds, with 763 eligible teams in England and Wales, narrowing it down to 256 in a 1st Round Proper in November.

The 92 teams in the Football League, including the 20-team Premier League as the top division, get byes into the 2nd Round in December. And the Premier League teams get byes into the 3rd Round, always held on the 1st Saturday in January, unless that happens to be New Year's Day, in which case it gets pushed back a week.

After that 3rd Round pares the teams from 64 down to 32, a 4th Round is held in late January, a 5th in February, and the Quarterfinals in March. To this point, teams always wanted a home draw -- not so much for the home-field advantage, but for the additional revenue.

Historically, the Semifinals were always held at neutral sites, usually near both clubs if both were from the same area, or roughly between them if they were far apart. More recently, since the 2007 opening of the new Wembley Stadium in London, the Semis have been played there on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday in April. The Final is held there on a Saturday in May.

From its founding in 1872 until 1922, the FA Cup Final was usually held at a large stadium in London such as the Kennington Oval (which has been rebuilt as a cricket ground) or the Crystal Palace stadium (since demolished and had no connection to the Crystal Palace team located in South London). In 1923, the original Wembley Stadium opened, and hosted the Final until it closed in 2000, nearly always filled to its 100,000-seat capacity. While it, with its iconic Twin Towers (built half a century before the World Trade Center, though far shorter) and large overhanging roof were demolished and the new 90,000-seat Wembley was built (with its big white arch and no running track, bringing the seats far closer to the pitch than the original), the Final was held at the next-biggest stadium in Britain, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

Arsenal have won the FA Cup Final 10 times. Only Manchester United have won it more, 11. Here are Arsenal's wins:

1930 over Huddersfield Town (Arsenal's 1st major trophy)
1936 over Sheffield United
1950 over Liverpool
1971 over Liverpool again (Charlie George's goal and lie-on-the-ground celebration, with Arsenal having won the League, clinches "The Double")
1979 over Manchester United ("the Five Minute Final," Arsenal blew a 2-0 lead in the last 5 minutes, but Alan Sunderland's goal won it "at the death")
1993 over Sheffield Wednesday (also beat Wednesday in the League Cup Final, the first "Cup Double" in English history)
1998 over Newcastle United (doing a 2nd Double)
2002 over Chelsea (also a London club, Arsenal completed a 3rd Double the next week)
2003 over Southampton
2005 over Manchester United (on penalties -- for the moment, Arsenal's last trophy)

And lost it 5 times:

1927 to Cardiff City (the only non-English club ever to make the Final, let alone win it, with Arsenal goalie Dan Lewis presaging Bill Buckner by nearly 60 years)
1932 to Newcastle United
1952 to Newcastle again
1972 to Leeds United, the Centennial Cup Final
2001 to Liverpool

Hopefully, Arsenal will be able to eliminate Leeds, as they did last season, and go on to win the thing.

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