Thursday, December 20, 2012

Champions League Draw: The Big Three Ties

The draw for the knockout stages of the 2013 Champions League was released while almost all of America was sleeping, but the matchups created will be dreams and nightmares for the casual watcher and die hard fan alike this year.  As with any UEFA draw, there are some awesome matchups and some bad ones; some easier paths for the more famous clubs and harder paths for the more famous clubs.  So let's get down to it.

Manchester United vs Real Madrid: A tie that many saw coming prior to the draws' release, it is a cruel injustice that two teams who have a legitimate shot to win the whole thing must play each other in the first round.  Still, this clash has the storylines of a final: Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the stadium where he made his name for the first time since leaving United; Madrid manager Jose Mourinho coaching against the team many have pegged him to manage after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.  The star power on both sides is relentless, with Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, and Sergio Ramos just beginning to scratch the surface.  These two matches will be among the most watched and anticipated of the whole season, and a great team will be through no matter who wins.
Barcelona vs AC Milan: The Catalans have recently lost their coach, Tito Villanova, for a while as he recovers from surgery to battle with his second occurrence of a throat cancer.  Still, Barcelona have just one game between La Liga and Champions League play and are still the best team with the best player in the world.  This clash has fewer storylines than most because of Milan's poor performances across the board this year, but is still a tie with rich history and tradition as Barcelona have won two crowns in the last four years and Milan have won seven European cups.
Arsenal vs Bayern Munich: Bayern, who many consider to be the best team in the world not in Spain or England (or just Spain), are crushing the Bundesliga this year and have only lost one match while conceding a measly seven goals.  They made the final of this competition last year only to run into the lucky Chelsea train, throwing away multiple chances to win in their home stadium.  Back with a vengeance, they take on an Arsenal side that have been in disarray for most of the season despite their standing in the Premier League and may be forced to sell Theo Walcott before the first leg is played.  Bayern look like the clear favorites, but Arsenal are improving with health.

The first legs of the round of 16 begin in February.  Until then, there is a ton of interesting domestic action to watch across Europe.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Showdown Sunday Predictions

This week in the NFL, there will be six match ups between teams with winning records, a record for week 15 or later.  All of these games will have playoff implications, and should be great games.  It's a shame one of them couldn't be flexed to Monday night, so we don't have to watch the Jets and the Titans.  But I digress.  Time to pick some games.

Denver at Baltimore - The Ravens' defense has not been at full strength all season, with Ladarius Webb, Ray Lewis, and Terrell Suggs missing significant time, sometimes at once; Lewis is expected back for this game, while Suggs is doubtful. Still, the Birds are in disarray at this point.  They have thrown away two consecutive games against average teams that they have been leading late and just got their offensive coordinator fired.  Jim Caldwell's likely conservatism when calling plays Sunday has the potential to limit the damage caused by lethal pass-rusher Von Miller, but it's not close on the offensive side of the ball: Denver's high-flying passing attack is much better than Baltimore's.  The best hope the Ravens have is to give the ball to Ray Rice 35 times and hope he can keep the ball and the possession battle in their favor. Broncos 31, Ravens 13.

Monday, December 10, 2012

BCS Championship: Matchup Analysis

After the Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in an SEC Championship game for the ages on December 1, what many assumed prior to that game became a reality: Alabama will play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the National Title on January 7.  A matchup between two of College Football's most decorated and storied programs, the game will be endlessly hyped and will be a cash cow - the least expensive seat in the house right now is listed at just over $1700.  On paper, it shapes up as a classic.
Alabama's participation will mark the seventh consecutive year that an SEC team has played for the crystal football, and their presence in the game is because of their adherence to Saban and the SEC's style - bruising, smashmouth, football in the trenches that relies upon controlling the line of scrimmage.  Brian Kelly's team are the same way.  That's why, though some expect Alabama to roll right through Notre Dame, this game should be a compelling matchup.  Take a look at the breakdown beyond the break.
Offense: Led by their tandem of running backs, the shifty TJ Yeldon and the bruising Eddie Lacy, Alabama has scored 35 touchdowns on the ground this year and rushed for 350 yards and three scores in the SEC Championship against an excellent Bulldogs defense.  This is made possible by their almost NFL-caliber offensive line, which includes three All-Americans and Barrett Jones, who won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in the FBS last year.  Make no mistake, Alabama will run the ball relentlessly, setting up their play-action packages and utilizing freshman wideout Amari Cooper - and not using junior QB AJ McCarron a lot unless they absolutely need to.  Notre Dame plays a very similar style of football, only averaging 22 fewer yards per game on the ground than Alabama and maintaining a slight advantage, about four yards, in average passing yards per game.  Like the Tide, the Irish will attempt to set the tone with a physical running game and will not ask QB Everett Golson to do a lot.  In my book, this game will come down to which offensive line can make more room for their running backs.  In that case, the edge goes to Alabama, and their average points per game (38.5) vs Notre Dame's (26.8) illustrates this.

Friday, December 7, 2012

London: Days 80-83 and Final Thoughts

With nothing on my docket except for a few classes and handing my papers in for the rest of my time in London, I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday exploring the city again and spending time with friends.  I went to go see Wicked on Wednesday night and had a great home cooked meal before going to a music bar on Thursday night, my last in the capital.  My flight took off at 4 on Friday, across the Atlantic, closing a wonderful 11 weeks.

Things I learned while abroad:
1. Public transport in Europe owns.  Never once did I wait for a subway train in any city, but particularly London, for more than six minutes.  The buses in London are easy to figure out and multiple routes intersect, so you can often take multiple buses to get to the same place in the heart of the city.  Going back to the WMATA, especially in Ballston, is going to be terrible.  First world problems, I guess.
2. When you have such a terrible exchange rate as US dollars to British Pounds, you learn to ration your money well.  I was able to feed myself for about 25 pounds a week in terms of groceries, which was really critical to keeping my costs down.  I also kept all my change and used it, which sounds stupid, but it really does add up in London - especially because they actually use 50 pence pieces, unlike in the US.
3. Europeans don't hate Americans.  They hate people who can only speak English, and laugh at you behind your back if you can only speak English.  Hey, I laughed too.
4. The Swiss have an unreal quality of life, which leads to everything to be very expensive and nicely done.  The exchange rate between the dollar and the Swiss Franc is almost 1:1, but a train ticket is 12 francs, a hotel breakfast is 19 francs, and a cheap dinner is 15 francs.  Still, Zurich is very beautiful and the water is so clear that fountains spring up all along the roads that border the river and lake with water directly from those waterways - it's potable.  Truly amazing, and the water was delicious.
5. I can't thank everyone around me for what has been an incredible 11 weeks that have changed my life for the better.  Being able to spend to much time in my grandfather's homeland and really experience another country is something that I never thought I would get to do, and it was incredible.

Monday, December 3, 2012

London: Days 77-79

Saturday was another frigid day in London, with temperatures barely climbing out of the 30s.  I slept in a little bit before going for my run and eating breakfast; I then sat down in order to finish editing two of my five papers due on Thursday.  That took me two hours, and at 2:30 I went downtown to do some of my Christmas shopping before coming back to my room, eating dinner, and watching Man United win a crazy 4-3 game in my flat.  At 8, I headed downtown again to Piccadilly Circus to watch the SEC Championship game, which Alabama won at around 1 AM local time.  It was worth it, but I didn't get to bed until 2.
Sunday, I slept in again after my late night and went for my run before doing some more editing of papers and then watching football downtown with some friends.  I was home by 9 at that point and went to bed early in what was a very quiet and relaxed day.
Monday was a lot warmer, so I was able to go for my run around 9 without my hands freezing, which was a bonus compared to the last week.  I then went downtown to do some more paper editing and sourcing, nearing the very end of my work for the semester.  By that time, it was only 3, so I took the tube down to Tower Hill and walked around the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, and the HMS Belfast along the Thames before coming home, cooking dinner, and watching some TV.  With class early the next day, I was in bed by 12.

Friday, November 30, 2012

London: Days 72-76

Following my return from Rome Sunday night, I readied myself for what was to come: two weeks of work in order to finish my assessments on time.  Monday was the first day like that, as I had no classes but was downtown by 11 AM following my run and breakfast in order to get part of one of my three remaining papers left.  I was able to do so successfully, and went to bed that night following a bit of relaxation and a walk in my neighborhood.
Tuesday was more of the same, except I had classes most of the day and then we closed the night with our closing dinner as a group.  We went to a very nice french restaurant off Oxford Street, looking at the beautiful and famous Christmas lights that line the shopping road in the heart of the City.  While there we had a great meal together and even saw a famous actor, whose name I neither remember nor could spell.  We didn't get home until around 11, at which point I went to bed.
Wednesday and Thursday were more of the same, with classes and work all day as my time in London continued to wind down and my need to finish work mounted.  By Friday morning, I had been able to finish all but the edits for four of my papers, meaning I had one more to write.  I spent Friday doing some Christmas shopping and getting about half of that paper done, but couldn't go for much of a walk that evening because of how cold it had gotten in the city - down to about 35 degrees during the day.  That night, I cooked a big dinner for myself and a friend and we watched "The Departed" as I got ready for a Saturday of work and sports, with both Man U and Alabama holding big games Saturday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rome: Days 69-71

Friday morning, the day of my trip to Rome, I woke up at 6:30 in order to go for my run and eat breakfast with more than enough time to get to the airport on time.  I was out of my flat by 8:15, which was a good thing because the tube was amazingly packed during rush hour on a Friday.  After reaching Liverpool Street station, I took the Stansted Express to the airport and then boarded my flight to Rome. I landed at Ciampino airport, which was a polar opposite to Zurich a week prior.  Ciampino is the smaller of Rome's two airports, and is very small and urban looking.  I then took a bus to the city center, and my hotel was a short walk from the drop off point.  By the time I checked in, it was almost 6:30, and I decided to spend the evening by walking around in the lovely 55 degree-weather.  I walked all the way down to the Trevi Fountain, which took about 30 minutes, and poked my head around there for awhile before walking back and having dinner at a pizzeria right across from my hotel at 9:30.  After that, I went to bed exhausted.
I woke up at 9 on Saturday and went across the street again to have breakfast before walking downtown in what was a beautiful day: 65 degrees and sunny.  I walked all the way down to the Colosseum and signed up there for a combo tour of the amphitheater and the nearby Ancient Roman Forum, which cost me 28 euros but lasted until 5.  After my tours were completed, I walked all the way back to my hotel, rested for a bit, and then turned right back around to meet some of my Trinity friends for dinner at 8.  We went to a hole-in-the-wall but very famous pizzeria across the Tiber River for dinner, with more fresh pizza and one of the most interesting (but delicious) desserts I have ever had: a Nutella and ricotta cheese calzone.  We went for a drink afterwords before I went back to the hotel via the metro and went to bed around 12:30.
Sleeping in until 10 on Saturday, I had breakfast at 11 and then hit my final tourist stop of the trip: the Parthenon.  After walking all the way to this ancient temple and then back, it was time to get on my bus to the airport.  Unfortunately, my plane was almost a full hour late, so I was stuck in the airport for awhile before taking off for London.  After landing, getting my passport stamped for the final time, and taking the train, I went home and did some grocery shopping before writing this blog and going to bed.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

London: Days 65-68

After getting in late on Sunday night and not sleeping until 2 AM, I slept in a little bit until 10 on Monday morning before waking up, going for my run, and eating breakfast.  After breakfast I went down to the school building in order to crank out one of my papers, and I got a majority of it done before going home and buying groceries.  I put my groceries away and watched some TV before heading out to dinner with a friend, and we went to a very good Italian restaurant that was a short walk away from our flat.  We didn't get back until 10, at which point I was tired enough to go to bed.
Tuesday was a class day, meaning I was up by 8 and in class after my run and breakfast by 10:30.  When classes were released at 5:30, I went home and cooked dinner before watching TV and continuing to chip away at my paper.  I then made my final reservations to get from the airport to my hotel in Rome over the weekend before talking to some friends back home and then going to bed.
Wednesday, I slept in again before carrying out my morning routine and going to a 2 PM law class.  After law class, I finished up my paper before going for a short walk around Hyde Park and then taking the bus home.  Stopping at the grocery store to get the ingredients for my part of a Thanksgiving potluck, I then went home, ate, relaxed, and went to bed after watching Billy Madison.
Thursday, I went to school on Thanksgiving for the first time in my life, with my IR class scheduled for noon.  I got a paper back after that class, which was nice, but then went home to cook twice baked mashed potatoes for my friends.  We all had dinner at 6 PM local time together in my friends' flat, and then I retreated to my room, packed for Rome, and watched football until going to bed, having to get up early on Friday to go to Rome.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Zurich: Days 62-64

Friday morning, I woke up late and went for my run before having a late breakfast/early lunch and then doing some work before finalizing my packing and heading down to Victoria station for my train to Gatwick Airport, which left at 3:30.  After arriving at the airport, I went through security and ate dinner before heading to my gate for a 6:15 flight which was delayed by half an hour.  But no matter.  I landed in Zurich at 9:30 local time.  The Zurich Airport is beautiful; a giant complex of glass and steel with floor-to-cieling windows and a train from the different terminals to the main building.  After going through passport control, I took a free shuttle bus to my hotel, which was right next to the airport and a tremendous value for how much money I paid.
Saturday, I was up by 7 in order to eat breakfast, a very nice Swiss spread that set me back 19 francs (about 21 USD), but was worth it as it filled me up for most of the day.  I then took a train from my hotel, in Kloten, into the heart of Zurich where my bus to Titlis, a mountain in the Alps, would leave from.  The start of the day didn't get off on that great a foot, either, because it was foggy and so I could not see any of the surrounding mountains.  On our way to Titlis, we stopped at several mountains and lakes as well as Lucerne, a small and peaceful city on a lake with water as clear as crystal.  Finally, at 2 PM, we began our ascent up Titlis in a gondola that took all the way to the top at 11,000 feet.  From the top, the views were absolutely spectacular - as far as the eye can see to the south are snow covered mountains and to the north are mountains that have escaped the cover of the snow (weird, I know).  I also got the chance to explore a cave inside a moving glacier before heading down the mountain and bussing back to Zurich as the sun set.  I grabbed dinner at a local cafe near Lake Zurich before heading back to the hotel and going to bed late.
I slept in on Sunday, eating breakfast at 10 and checking out of the hotel for my day of walking in the city.  That's literally all I did on Sunday - I walked around the city.  Up the east face of the lake, up the west face of the lake, through old town, through Chinese water gardens, along the river that feeds the lake, you name it.  I had a small bit of food before heading to the airport at 7:30 for my 9:30 flight.  Again, my flight was delayed, meaning that I didn't leave Zurich until almost 11 local time.  I landed at 11:30 london time with the hour gained, but it was still almost 1 AM by the time I arrived back in my flat and crashed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

London: Days 58-61

After my relaxing Sunday, I woke up early Monday morning in order to go for my run and then begin working on my papers, five of which I have to complete in the next four weeks before I come home.  After eating breakfast, I was downtown at the school building by 11 and got a great period of work in, which was refreshing and made me feel better about my ability to get it all done on time.  At 4:30, I went for a short walk before getting on the tube and heading home.  After buying groceries, I cooked dinner and did a little more work before heading to bed.
Tuesday I had to get up early again so that I could be at INSTEP in time for my classes, which stretched from 10:30 AM to 6 PM.  After class, I went home and cooked dinner, then heading out for a quick drink with a few friends.  After coming home, I booked a gondola trip to the top of Titlis in the Swiss Alps during my trip on to Zurich on Saturday.  After that was done, I went to bed with another early day on tap.
Wednesday was another class and work day, with my law session scheduled for 10 AM.  After grabbing lunch at a Pret at noon, I went back to the school building and sitting in on an Ethics class with some of my program-mates, which was about the Environment.  After class was over, I did a little bit more work on the paper before going home, cooking dinner, watching a movie, and going to bed.
I slept in late on Thursday, not needing to be downtown until 12:30 for my only class of the day.  Before I went to class, I had to go to the local UPS store to print out my airline tickets to go to Zurich and the ticket for my gondola trip into the Alps.  After class, I finished off one of my papers except for some final touches before going home, having dinner, and watching "Anchorman," which is a classic whenever you see it.  After a little reading, I watched the movie "Valkyrie," which I had never seen before, and was on TV, before heading to bed and getting ready for Switzerland.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Prague: Days 55-57

Thursday night when we landed in Prague at around 9 PM local time, we took a bus, the subway, and a tram in order to get to our hostel, which was on top of a big hill overlooking old town and underneath the famous castle, which was illuminated fully at night and was beautiful.  After setting up in our private four-bed room, we went to bed around midnight.
Friday morning we work up at 9:30 before grabbing an all you can eat breakfast for 75 Czech Koruna, which is the equivalent of about US $3.75.  Following breakfast, we made the walk down the hill and across the Charles Bridge, the oldest and fanciest bridge I have ever seen, into old town square for a free walking tour.  On our tour, given by a Hungarian guide named David, showed us all the famous sectors and areas of the city in two hours, giving us some great history along the way.  When that was over, we grabbed some street food in the big square, which was very good, before taking a paid tour of the Prague Castle itself, which is the oldest and biggest in Europe.  On that tour, we saw some incredible cathedrals and battlements in a building that started to be built in the 800s.  We also got to mess with the royal Czech guards, which don't even hold a candle next to the the guards at the English royal palaces but are still cool to look at.  By the time that tour was over, it was almost 5, and we then went for an early dinner with two kids we met from DePaul University.  We chose a small microbrewery in old town, and I had some delicious duck (for the first time), which came with some potato skins.  After dinner, we all went to a jazz club and listened to some fantastic live music until around midnight, at which point we walked back to our hostel.
Having stayed up late on Friday, we all slept in on Saturday before having some breakfast and heading across the river to old town at noon.  In old town, we went on a boat tour, which took us along the river and into some back canals which were really cool, especially with all the very old architecture that created them being above us.  After the boat tour we had a small lunch before walking to the very top of the tallest hill in the city to a big metronome, which ticks back and forth where a statue of Joseph Stalin once stood but was blown up in the 60s.  By that time it was 4, and in order to make the most of our last night we continued to walk around the city until 7.  At 7, we went to a local restaurant near our hostel, where I had schnitzel for the first time in my life (it was delicious).  Having to get up early on Sunday for our flight home, we were all in bed by 11.
Sunday was a travel day, and by the time we all got back to London all I wanted to to was take a run, eat dinner, and watch football.  I executed that plan to perfection, ready to get up early on Monday to try and knock out some of the work that I have to do in the next 27 days.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

London, Days 51-54

Monday morning dawned ice cold, so I slept in a little bit until it warmed up before heading out on my run.  After eating breakfast and watching some US election coverage, which was very good in the UK, I went downtown in order to begin working on my second set of papers, due in only four weeks.  I worked until around 5 before going for a short walk and then heading back to the apartment to eat dinner.  Following dinner, I did a little bit more work and chatted with friends before going to bed.
Tuesday, I had to get up early in order to fit my run in before class, which I had from 10 until 6.  After returning home following my classes, I ate dinner and did a little bit of grocery shopping before working on my papers some more and beginning to watch election coverage as the results crept in.  I went to bed with Mitt Romney in the lead about 33-3 in electoral votes, as it was 1 AM my time at that point and I was exhausted - but I was also totally unsure about who was going to win.
I got up at 7 London time in order to check the results and again in order to fit my run in before my 10 AM class.  After class let out at noon, I got a small bite of lunch before doing some more work on one of my papers as I tried to knock some of it out with a busy final month abroad.  That lasted until about 4:30, at which point I took another walk in Hyde Park before heading home on the tube, eating, and packing for Prague.  After watching a movie, I went to bed at 11.
Thursday morning I slept in before going for my run and eating some brunch.  After finalizing my packing, I headed down to class, from which I left for my trip to the Czech Republic directly at 2 PM.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Paris: Days 48-50

Late on Thursday night, the friends with which I was heading to Paris and I went to the bus station at Victoria, in London near where my school meets to begin our journey.  The bus took us to a ferry service in Dover where we crossed the English Channel to France.  The ferry was massive, probably 600 feet in length and wide enough to carry buses and cars 20 across.  The crossing took around 90 minutes, but the best part was that as we were leaving Dover to get to France, the moonlight was such that we could see the famous white cliffs of Dover, which were shiny even at night.  In the distance, we could also see storms in the open ocean.
We got to France at 3 AM local time, and got back on the bus to sleep until we arrived in Porte Maillot on the western side of Paris at 8 AM.  From the bus station in Paris, we walked around for a little while before having breakfast and checking in to our respective hotels.  After checking in, we went on a walking tour of the city despite the rain, making stops at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, different parks, Napoleons tomb, and Notre Dame.  By that time it was around 3, and we went back to our hotels to rest for a bit before meeting for dinner at 8 in Bastille.  We found a really nice and inexpensive restaurant in a back road, which had delicious food.  After eating, we went for a walk around the Bastille square and had real crepes before heading off to bed.
I slept in until 9 on Saturday morning, planning on meeting some friends from high school for the day - one of which was in Paris studying abroad and another who was visiting.  Luckily, it was an absolutely beautiful day despite a bad forecast, which was a substantial improvement from the day before.  I met them for lunch in the Saint-Michel part of the city, near Notre Dame, and we had a small lunch in a nice cafe before going on another walk.  We saw Notre Dame again before visiting Saint-Chappelle, the lock-lovers bridge, and Pont-Nuf.  We then walked all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, stopping at the famous Laduree bake shop and having some French macarons which were delicious.  After finishing our walk along the Champs-Elysees, we went to the Eiffel Tower again to see it at night, which I had not done, and go up. The top was closed, but we still were able to go to the middle, which is pretty high, and got some good pictures and views.  By the time we came down, it was time for me to go back to the bus station and go home.
I arrived in London at 7 AM Sunday morning and slept for a bit before going for a run and relaxing after a tiring weekend.  I closed the day, and the week, by watching some football and then heading to an early sleep.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

London: Days 44-47

Monday was a busy day, as I did my best to keep up with what was going on with Hurricane Sandy while also finishing off the papers that I had due on Tuesday.  I spent the majority of the day downtown at the school building, typing my way through a final 1,000 words and then going for a walk.  After finishing my work, I went home and watched the news before relaxing with friends, eating, and going to bed.
Tuesday was a class day, as I had sessions all day from 10 to 6 following my run and eating breakfast.  I also sent in my absentee ballot.  After class was over, I went home and ate dinner before doing a little bit of reading.  But the best part of the day was going to Marble Arch to watch the new James Bond movies, Skyfall, with two friends.  We went to a late showing, around 10:30, and the movie was very good - I won't say anything more because the movie has yet to come out in the States.
Wednesday I woke up to some terribly fascinating pictures from the Hurricane, as it ravaged my grandfather's house on the Jersey Shore.  I woke up extra early to sort through some of the pictures before going for my run and eating, then going downtown to finish the papers that I had due on Thursday.  After finishing that up, I went home and packed for my trip to Paris the following night.
Thursday dawned bright and cold, and I went for my run early before going to print my papers for submission.  In class, we watched movie called "Catfish," which was about fake Facebook identities and was actually quite scary.  After classes were over, I went home and ate before finishing off packing and heading downtown to London Victoria Coach Station for my bus, under the chunnel, to Paris at 9:30.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

London, Days 41-43

Friday, I slept in until 10 before going for a run, eating breakfast, and heading downtown to finish off my last paper, meaning all that I have left to do between now and Thursday is edit them so they are ready to present.  I actually just missed the Patriots, in London to play a game, who did their walkthrough practice near my school building in Hyde Park.  After finishing my paper, I took the bus home and ate dinner before going for a nice long walk - despite the cold.  I went to bed around 12.
Saturday dawned ice cold, literally - it was 31 degrees when I woke up at 6:30 in order to go for my run.  The reason that I got up early to run was because we were planning to go to Windsor Castle as a group, which meant catching a 9:20 train out of Paddington station.  Windsor castle is a huge, sprawling medieval fortress outside the city and is nearly 900 years old, which makes it the oldest functional royal residence in the world.  We took the full tour before having lunch at a pub called the Duchess of Cambridge, which of course had a picture of Kate Middleton.  Upon my return to London, I went down to the Marble Arch to do some exploring, and as luck would have it, ran in to three Patriots - defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (and his wife), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (Roll Tide) and defensive end Chandler Jones (no funny line).  I went home after that and had dinner before relaxing and having a nightcap with my friends and then going to bed.
Saturday was equally cold and windy, though I went for a run anyway after getting up at around 11.  After eating breakfast, I edited my papers for a while before going down to Piccadilly Circus and watching Manchester United beat Chelsea 3-2 in a thrill-a-minute, goal-filled, controversial game.  After that was over, I had dinner and watched a little of the Patriots game before heading home, having a drink with some friends, and heading to bed.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

London, Days 36-40

After my trip to Manchester on Saturday, I took Sunday as a rest day.  I slept until noon, before going for a run and watching a movie.  Around 4, I went grocery shopping and had dinner before taking the bus down to Piccadilly Circus to watch football.  At the sports bar, I met up with some friends, and we watched Houston and Baltimore before the Patriots played the Jets.  Around 12, I went home to sleep.
Monday, I got up at 9 and went for my run before eating breakfast, getting some cash from the ATM, and then heading downtown to do some work.  I started my final paper, due November first, and worked until 5, at which point I went for a walk in Hyde Park before going home.  At home, I ate and then hung out with the kids in my flat before doing some reading, writing a column, and heading to bed.
Tuesday, I had to get up extra early in order to fit my run in before class, which was moved up to 9 because the of a scheduling conflict with another teacher.  Class ended at 10, at which point I had almost five hours to kill until my next class.  In order to do that, I went and had some lunch with the kids in my group before watching the full debate and doing a little bit of writing.  After class ended, I headed home and ate before doing some more work and heading to bed.
Wednesday was another class day, although the evening was far more eventful.  Two of my friends from Trinity were in town on their fall break from Rome.  I met them across the River in the Borough area, where we watched some soccer at a pub before having dinner at a restaurant about five minutes away.  After dinner, at around 9:30, we took the tube to Trafalgar Square and walked to the sports bar, where we hung out until around midnight before heading home.
Thursday was great, as I was able to sleep in for the first time all week.  I went for my run before heading down to the school building for my two sessions between 12:30 and 5.  After class, I went home, watched some TV, and cooked dinner before writing this blog.  When I was done, I continued to chip away at my final paper before going to bed.

Monday, October 22, 2012

New RocktheRed Post: 27 Thoughts

Photo from KHL.ru
Check out my lastest for RocktheRed.net, in which I examine the trending topics in the NHL today with a "30 Thoughts" type article of my own.  You can read the article here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Manchester: Day 35 - "The Theatre of Dreams"

The view from my seat
Today was the day I crossed the biggest item off of my list of things to do while in England: attend a Manchester United game at Old Trafford.
The day began early, at 6:30, as I had to wake up at that time in order to get my run in before my train up north.  After completing my run, I had breakfast and left to take the tube to Euston station with the friend who I attended the game with.  The train ride took two hours, and upon our arrival in Manchester at 12 noon, we took the tram to the stadium before grabbing a bite to eat and finding our seats, in the Stretford End.  The Stretford End is the most famous stand in the stadium and arguably in the entire country because of the vocal support that rings from it, so sitting there was quite the experience.  During gameplay, everyone stands, chanting and clapping constantly.
United won the game 4:2 against nearby opponents Stoke City, despite another bad start that saw Wayne Rooney head into his own goal just past the ten-minute mark.  But like they always have, United came roaring back.  Rooney headed in to the correct net at 27 minutes off of a perfectly placed cross from Robin van Persie.  Van Persie gave his side the lead just before half time, and Rooney curled a perfect cross into the box which was finished off by Danny Welbeck just after the game re-started.  Stoke got one back 12 minutes later, but Rooney sealed off the match with a fine finish from in close with 65 minutes gone.  It was a truly amazing experience to be in a stadium that I have watched on TV countless times, and seeing my favorite player score twice, as he did for England a week prior, was very special.
After the match, I realized that I had purchased a first-class ticket for the train ride home by accident, but in classic fashion I had sat in standard class on the way up.  So, after dropping the season ticket cards that I had used to get into the game at a hotel in the city center, we grabbed dinner before getting on our train back to London at 8.  Arriving in a rainy London by 11, we took the tube home and went to bed.

Friday, October 19, 2012

London: Days 30-34

Following my day off on Sunday, I slept until 11 on Monday before going for my run and having breakfast.  Because in a change of schedule, I had class on Monday for the first time during my session, which took place at 3.  After class, we went home as a group and all cooked dinner together, eating around 8.  I closed the day by doing some reading for class the next day.
Tuesday, I had to get up at 8 to fit my run in before classes, as they start at 10:30 on Tuesday in order to accommodate the full day of lessons that are planned on that day.  I was in class from 10:30 until 5:30, at which point I went to the grocery store to buy myself some dinner.  After cooking and eating, I worked on one of my papers for a while before watching a movie and heading to bed.
Wednesday was a work day, as I had no classes all day.  After heading down to the school building near Buckingham Palace, I was able to finish more than half of one of the two papers I have due on November 1st, which is the day that my international trips start.  After working until 5, I went home and watched England play their second World Cup qualifier of the week, although this time they drew 1-1 in Warsaw against the Poles.  After eating, I did some more reading before calling it a night.
Thursday, I woke up early in order to go down to the tube station and renew my travelcard, which had expired after a month, as the ticket office would have closed before I would have been able to buy a new one if I waited until after my run. After going running, I ate breakfast and took the bus down to Green Park, where I walked to class in a nice change of pace.  After class, I stayed in the school building and did some more work before heading home and eating dinner.  I went for a walk after dinner before doing some reading and heading to bed.
Friday dawned wet and warm with a forecast for worse rain as the day went on, so I had to go for my run early in order to avoid getting absolutely soaked.  After running and having breakfast, I went to go get a haircut up the street before going downtown to do a little bit of work.  After that, I headed home, ate dinner, and relaxed with friends as I prepared for my trip to Manchester to see United play early on Saturday morning.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

London, Days 27-29

I got up early on Friday morning, going for a run and eating breakfast by 10 AM in order to get some work done before heading to Wembley to watch England later that night.  I finished two of my papers that afternoon, and at 6 myself and four friends got on the tube and went northwest to England's national ground. Wembley is massive, with room for 90,000 people and a giant metal arch spawning across the top from one corner of the oval to another.  The game was excellent, as England trounced San Marino, the worst team in the world, by a 5-0 score.  Even cooler was the fact that my favorite player, Wayne Rooney, captained the squad for the first time in a meaningful game and scored two goals.  It was crossing an item off of the bucket list.
Saturday dawned ice cold, with temperatures in the low 30s but not quite freezing. I waited for it to warm up until around 10 before heading out for my run, which was actually quite nice once I got in the sun. After running and eating breakfast I went to the local pub, where I had a small bite to eat and worked on another paper as I try to get work out of the way with my trips coming up in November.  After working I came home and ate dinner before watching Step Brothers with the kids in my flat.  I closed the night by taking a long walk, going from the Tower Bridge all along the river until I came to Westminster and Big Ben.  From there, I walked up The Mall to Buckingham Palace before getting on a bus and heading home.
I slept late on Sunday, not getting up until around 10:30.  After running, I went back to the pub for my first English Breakfast of the trip, which was well worth the wait.  I did some reading by the fire at the pub until going back to the flat and relaxing.  I closed the day by heading downtown to watch some football with a bunch of friends at 6, and went to bed around midnight.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

London, Days 24-26

Tuesday, I had class from 12-5, as my morning class was cancelled because of a charity meeting.  I took advantage of my longer-than-normal morning to sleep in a bit and go for a longer run, which was very nice.  After getting a bite of breakfast at a local bakery, I finally headed downtown to class and had two sessions.  After class, I went down to the phone store to add some minutes to my pay as you go phone before heading home and cooking dinner.  After eating, I did a little bit of work before watching a movie with some friends and heading to bed.
Wednesday was a work day.  I slept until 8:30 and went for my run before eating breakfast and going down to my school office.  I was able to work until 5, at which point I went for a walk near Green Park before getting on the Tube and going home.  One of my flatmates cooked us a very nice spaghetti dinner, and after eating, we relaxed before going to bed.
Thursday was my other class day, with sessions meeting from 12:30 until 7.  After class, a bunch of friends went down to the Chelsea Ram, a pub in - wait for it - Chelsea - for dinner and some drinks.  Chelsea Ram is a pub that I've been to several times with my family when we visit, so I wanted to take some friends there.  The food was absolutely delicious and very filling, and was reasonably priced.  After dinner we stuck around for a few drinks before going home and heading to bed around 11.

Monday, October 8, 2012

London, Days 21-23

Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day, with temperatures in the mid 50s and not a cloud in the sky (shocking, I know).  After sleeping in and heading for a run, I took the bus to the outskirts of time to pick up a package from the Royal Mail, which turned out to be my tickets to Manchester United on October 20th, when they will play Stoke City at Old Trafford.  With nothing to do, I took my work down to the local pub and sat outside to enjoy the weather while putting the finishing touches on one of my papers.  After dinner, I headed downtown to the International Students House with a bunch of friends for drinks before going to Piccadilly Circus before bed.
On Sunday, a rainy and cold day, I went for a run early before heading downtown to the Sports Cafe, a giant, two-story collection of TV screens showing every sport imaginable, in order to take in a great sports day.  First, Man United hammered Newcastle 3-0, which was fun to watch and encouraging to see United play so well in their first League fixture since a bad loss to Spurs the week prior.  Next up was El Clasico, the thrilling clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona.  The teams drew 2:2 with doubles from - who else - Messi and Ronaldo, who continue to be the two best in the world.  Few things are as spectacular as watching these two play. Finally, at 9 PM local time, I watched my first American football of the trip, catching the Patriots lay in to the Broncos.  I didn't make it home with my friends until 1 AM, but it was well worth it.
Monday was another cold and rainy day.  After sleeping in again, I went for a run in the driving rain, a decision which I regretted immediately.  Still, following my run it was time to go work, which I did until 4.  I went for a short walk around St. James' park because the rain had stopped, but eventually went back to the flat and relaxed before having dinner and going to bed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

London, Days 18-20

Wednesday was a work day, as it will be for most of the semester.  After waking up at 9 and going for a run, I headed down to the school office, where I could work in the quiet and without distractions.  That gave me the chance to do a significant potion of another paper as I tried to chip away at the five papers that I have to do between now and the end of the month.  After working, I went out to the farmers market with some friends to buy some vegetables before having dinner, watching some TV, and calling it a night.
Thursday, I had class from 12 to 5 after my run, closing my week of classes with my two toughest sessions.  After doing a little bit of work when I got home, I had dinner and headed down to Regent's Park to meet up with some friends of one of the kids in my program, which was a great time.  After hanging out at a pub for a while, we all headed home before bed.
Friday was another work day, as without classes for anyone I went down to the school office and prepared my two presentations that I have to do in class next week.  After heading home around six, one of my friends in my flat cooked us all a big dinner and we closed the night watching some movies. I also bought some tickets to say the English National team play San Marino at Wembley Stadium on October 12, which is crossing an item off of my bucket list.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

London, Days 15-17

On Sunday, I slept in late before going for my run and then doing some homework, knocking out about a third of one of the five papers I have due in the next three weeks.  Following work, I headed down along the River Thames to have some drinks with a friend of mine visiting from DC at a pub near St. Paul's Cathedral, which was a great time.  After that, I went back to my flat and ate dinner before watching some football with a bunch of flat mates upstairs.
Monday was a work day.  After sleeping in a little bit and heading for a run, I went downtown to the school office and took advantage of the free internet to knock out half of another paper.  It felt good to get some of these out of the way, even if it was only part of the requirement, if only to say that I had done some tangible work.  Around 5, the parents of one of the kids in my program took a bunch of us out to dinner at an Indian restaurant in Aldgate, which was delicious.  I've never been partial to Indian food, but this was really good and it was nice to spend time with kids in my group.  Following dinner, we went back to the flat and hung out before going to bed.
I had to get up very early on Tuesday in order to fit my run in before class, which runs from 10 AM until 6 PM on the second day of the week for me.  Following class, I rushed home and got a little more work done before heading to the pub for a nightcap prior to bed.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

London, Days 12-14

After a day off Wednesday, it was back to the classroom Thursday afternoon for my hardest class, which is an IR session that deals with national security.  Apart from having to read about seven books a week for this class, the teacher is a PhD student at the London School of Economics who insists on treating us with the same level of distance as his professors do.  It will prove challenging.  After classes, we returned to the flat and I bought some groceries before having a large group dinner.  One of my flat mates, who is an excellent chef, made us all a huge dinner and we all ate together before heading to bed.
Friday was spent as a tourist day.  After waking up early and going for a run, I went downtown with three of my friends to watch the changing of the Queen's guard at Buckingham Palace, which I had never seen before.  After, we walked to the horse guards parade for a bit before heading north to Trafalgar Square and spending some time at the National Gallery of art, inside which I saw Van Goh's "Sunflower" and Monet's "Water Lilly Pond."  At 4 PM, as it started to rain, we headed back to Buckingham Palace to take our tour of the summer state rooms, which was incredibly cool.  We toured the throne room, ballroom, dining room, and other famous rooms inside the working palace before closing in the giant palace garden.  After dinner, I did some work before heading to bed.
Saturday after my run, I went to the famous Portabello Market with two friends. The market is an almost mile-long stretch of shops and food vendors along a side street in the south part of the city.  It's an experience in itself, and the food was amazing.  After heading home, I tried (and failed) to watch the Manchester United game at a pub before we all went out to see a movie, "Looper," which was very good indeed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

London, Day 11

Wednesday was a free day, as my class schedule slots so that I only have classes on Tuesday and Thursday.  After sleeping in, I went for a run and had breakfast before taking the bus down to Piccadilly and walking to Buckingham Palace.  I had planned to take a tour of the royal residence with my friend Jack, but we learned upon our arrival that we needed to book tickets in advance, meaning that we had to do something else in the afternoon.
In order to cure our boredom, we took the short walk down the Mall to the Horse Guards Parade and looked at the household cavalry museum before getting on the tube and heading down to Knightsbridge to visit the famous Harrods department store.  Harrods is an institution, a one-of-a-kind, one-square-block, upscale store that has anything and everything from all corners of the world.  It is ridiculously overpriced and contains all kinds of luxury goods - for example, I saw a £29,000 (US$47,000) case of wine and a £5,000 (US$8,100) cell phone on the racks.  When you're walking around, you also get the feeling that you're doing something wrong because of all the security and attendants.
After Harrods, we took the tube home and I did some homework before we had dinner.  I finished up some reading before heading to bed, and watching a little South Park (America).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

London, Days 9-10

On Monday, after my run, I went down to the school office to get some books to complete my reading for the classes that I had on Tuesday.  After doing that, I went with a fellow member of my program even further downtown to check in to the library that we are members of because we are enrolled in the program.  That was quite an experience, as the library is a long stop from the nearest tube station and it was a cold, windy, rainy day.  When we finally got to the library and registered, we walked around and realized just how different libraries in the UK are from those in the US.  For one, they are stone silent.  For another, they close at 9 PM on weekdays and are not open at all on Sundays, which will take some getting used to.
After leaving the library, we took the bus home before I headed back downtown to hang out with some friends and do more reading.  One of my flatmates, Kevin, cooked a big dinner for all of us, and we closed the day with a quick trip down to a local pub.
Tuesday was class day, with lessons meeting from 10 AM until 6 PM straight through.  But after classes, we had a social gathering as an entire program, with the director and teachers all gathering with the students at a wine bar in central London.  There, we had some delicious pizza, which we enjoyed as a group before heading out for a night near Piccadilly Circus.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

London, Day 8

Today was a very quiet and slow day.  After a trip earlier in the weekend and spending Saturday night downtown, I wasn't up to do much.  As usual, I woke up around 10 and went for a quick run, just barely avoiding my first London deluge of the fall.  After grabbing a quick lunch, I headed downtown on the tube to watch some soccer, as Manchester United played Liverpool in the most storied and decorated rivalry in the English Premier League.  Watching the game in a giant sports cafe was something else, especially with all of the fans of Liverpool that were there.  United won the game, albeit controversially, but three points are three points.  Even better, Manchester City were held to a draw at home by Arsenal.
Following the game, I returned to my flat and had a very nice dinner of chicken, potatoes, and mushrooms that one of my roommates cooked from scratch.  After dinner, I relaxed for a while, watching movies and football as the rain continued outside, before heading to bed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

London/Krakow: Days 5-7

On Thursday, I began the day with a run before heading downtown to tour the International Students House, a resource center for people like me studying abroad with a bar, cafeteria, and gym.  With some time between then and my flight for Poland, our group went down to the waterfront and had some lunch underneath the London Eye.  After that, I hopped on the tube to Liverpool station, from there taking a train to London Stanstead airport, where my flight to Krakow would leave from.
The airline I took, Ryanair, is a European carrier that caters to people like me: short, cheap, international flights.  Everything was similar to air travel in the US, except for two differences: you board after walking on the tarmac, and refreshments on board are not free (even water, which was somehow three pounds sterling).  Upon landing in Krakow, I took a bus to the main train station downtown and a short taxi ride to my hostel.  At the hostel, I checked in, booked my tour for Auschwitz the next day, and climbed the stairs to my bed, one of ten in a large room.
Friday dawned bright and cold, and I woke up at 9:30 local time before heading down to the reception and having some breakfast for 5 polish zloty, which is about US $1.50.  After a short wait, I took a bus out to Auschwitz with other residents of the hostel, which took about an hour.
I won't say much about my visit to Auschwitz I and the bigger, more lethal Auschwitz II other than to say that the whole complex is very simple.  Not much is trussed up, the camp is sort of just there.  You walk under the infamous Arbeit Macht Freit sign (although it is no longer the original wrought iron), you walk in to the only intact gas chamber.  You walk through the infamous brick tunnel and on to the same rail tracks that carried convoy after convoy of prisoners to the SS's "selections."  I will say, however, that I am glad I did it.
We took a bus back to Krakow, arriving at the hostel around 7.  After a short break, I walked to the city center with some young English students who I had met to have some dinner.  The city center was beautiful, with a large clock tower and several churches surrounding it.  It got cold very quickly, however, and we regretted our decision to sit outside a little bit.  Still, watching this historic and modern city center on a Friday night was something to behold.  After dinner, we returned to the hostel and went to bed.
I awoke very early on Saturday morning to catch my flight at 10 AM local time.  I over planned, like I always do, which meant that I arrived at the airport nearly two and a half hours before I needed to.  That's the other thing about these European flights: preparations for a 10 AM flight begin at about 9:35.  It's actually quite cool how it all comes together.  Anyway, my flight to London was quite uneventful, and I landed and headed back to my flat on the train.
I went for a run after returning home before doing some homework and having dinner at the pub.  We closed the evening by heading out to downtown for a bit before calling it a night.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

London, Day 4

Today was another relatively quiet day.  I was able to sleep in for the first time during the trip, dozing until around 10 AM local time before getting up and going for my run, which was colder than usual as the temperature reached 39 the night before.  Following my run, I had breakfast and checked my email, pretty standard for that time of day.
After breakfast, I headed downtown on the tube in order to buy a pay as you go phone, which is exceedingly less expensive than just using text and phone on my iPhone.  I had a lot of time between when I bought the phone and my only class of the day, so I wandered down to Buckingham Palace and Clarence House to look at the guards and talk up some other tourists before heading over to class.
Following class, I went back to my apartment, had dinner, and hung out with some friends before heading to bed, preparing for my trip to Poland on Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

London, Day 3

I got up very early Tuesday in order to go for a run before classes.  Because of orientation, I had three classes today, which stretched from 10:30 AM to 6 PM with some short breaks in between.  After class, I took the tube home before cooking dinner and relaxing in our friends' flat next door.
I also managed to schedule my first trip: to Krakow, Poland from Thursday to Saturday.  Then, I have to work, because the British school system is much harder and more independent than the American one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

London, Day 2

We had orientation this morning, taking the subway or "Tube" down to the Victoria station and then walking a small distance to our lecture hall. There, I was given my class schedule and realized that I only have classes three days a week and four day weekends, which is excellent.  I do have three classes every Tuesday, however, which is a tad unfortunate.

After orientation closed, I went for a walk around downtown London with some of the kids in my program.  We walked to Big Ben, the Horse Guards Parade, St. James's Palace, and Buckingham Palace before returning to our apartment. Following an afternoon run, I returned to the apartment and went for a long walk around London, finally finding the bath towel that I had failed to back back home after nearly 90 minutes of searching.

I ate a small dinner after getting home before heading to hang out with friends at the pub, called "the Eagle" until around 11.  The bartender, Ross, was a masters student at LSE and really a nice guy who made an effort to get to know us. Overall, a very nice day.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

London, Day 1

Good morning/afternoon/evening.  Today marks my first day of my semester abroad in Europe, where I am studying at INSTEP in London.  My plane arrived almost an hour early, at 6:30 AM local time, for probably the first time in recorded history.  That meant that I got off the plane in a completely empty Heathrow Airport, with all of the signs from the Olympic Games still shining brightly.
I had to sit in Paddington station for about two hours while waiting for the appropriate time for me to arrive came, as I was well early from my plane's arrival.  I finally made it to my flat at around 11 AM London time and did nothing but hang out as I waited for the rest of my group to arrive.
After everyone got to the flat, we went out grocery shopping before meeting some of the other students in the same complex as us.  We closed the day with a trip to a local pub, the Prince Alfred.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Clay Matthews Went Madden on the Bears Tonight

The Green Bay Packers, who lost week one at Lambeau Field, were not about to lose twice at their hallowed home, especially during a primetime game.  Pity the poor Chicago Bears.
Star linebacker Clay Matthews III recorded three and a half sacks for the Pack, in a 23-10 win, beating the Chicago offensive line like a drum and getting penetration inside easily.  It was a spectacular performance from the USC man, who fell short of expectations last season but is off to a roaring start on this campaign.  
Green Bay now has a full 11 days before their next game, away to Seattle on Monday Night Football.  Chicago returns home to face the Rams in their next contest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9.11.01 - We Will Never Forget

Eleven years have now passed since since the second coming of the "Day that will live in infamy."  It was a Tuesday just like every other fall Tuesday.  But from my school in Potomac, Maryland, I was told in the middle of our all-school assembly that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  From my classroom, I watched United 175 crash into the South Tower.  Then came the news of the Pentagon and rumors about the Capitol.  My mom worked then, and still works, at the Capitol.
Eventually, I got word that my mom was all right.  But as I made my way home from school that day, I could hear the fighter jets flying over the District.  I could see the smoke from the Pentagon in the distance.
Classmates of mine lost their father on American 77, the plane that crashed in to the Pentagon.  I've learned more recently that another friend of mine lost a father in the North Tower.  Experiences like this make you realize just how precious life is and how lucky we are to have our freedom.  Let us always remember those who died on that day and admire the strength and resolve of those they left behind.
9.11.01 - Never forgive, never forget.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Andy Murray Wins Breathtaking US Open

Andy Murray became the first Briton in almost 80 years to win a Grand Slam singles event Monday night, upending defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in Flushing Meadows, New York.  The win was the first Grand Slam victory of Murray's career, and put a huge exclamation point on the end of the Scot's year.  After losing in the final at Wimbledon, Murray would then win gold at the London Olympics and close at the season's final major with a win.
This is a tremendous accomplishment for Murray, who seems to be one of the only men left who can beat Roger Federer or Djokovic.  With Rafa Nadal's knees and back in shambles, Murray is at the top of his game at the moment and a class champion.  It must be well worth the wait for the 25 year old, and is sure to be one of many.

Week 1 NFL Roundup

I know there are two more games left to be played on Monday night, but enough happened on Sunday and Wednesday to warrant me writing this now.  Plus, it's not like the Monday night games are exactly toss-ups.  Some observations from week 1 of the NFL season:

I said before the game that I was very excited to see what Peyton Manning could do in his first game action in almost 20 months.  After a slow first half in which he only passed for 98 yards, Manning was his old, hurry-up, surgical self in the second half.  The $80 million man completed 19 of 26 for 253 yards and two scores, controlling the game when the Broncos got the football and making use of a lot of receivers.  With Manning at the helm, John Fox won't have to do much brain work on offense, allowing him to focus on improving Denver's already impressive defense.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Seriously Though Meals?


According Jerry Meals, Mark Teixeira was out on this play.

I mean I don't like the Yankees or anything but you have got to be kidding me. Human element, I guess.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Saints Bounty Players' Suspensions Overturned; Goodell Cuckolded

In a literally shocking turn of events, the bounty penalties on some defensive players from the New Orleans Saints have been overturned and nullified, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.  This means that Saints players, including linebacker Jonathan Vilma, are eligible to play this season and are not banned, as they had been previously.
Whoever the guy is that did this just strong-armed Roger Goodell so hard I can't even stand it.  Just absolutely went Ray Lewis on the guy.  Goodell comes out with these huge suspensions to try and send a message when there was clearly a bounty program, and an independent arbitrator overturns the penalties?  Unreal.
Oh, and RGIII: Run.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nick Saban Doesn't Give a Damn

This showed up on Around the Horn today so I went and looked it up.  Nick Saban went off during his Wednesday afternoon press conference in Tuscaloosa.  It's worth the view.
Basically, the entire national media has been talking about how good Saban's Crimson Tide is since they embarrassed Michigan on Saturday night during the Cowboys Classic.  People are already predicting a second consecutive national championship, and Saban, like always, wants nothing to do with it.  Predictably, Saban laid in to the media that are writing off Alabama's next opponent, Western Kentucky, already.  And people have a problem with it. Here's the thing about Nick Saban: he literally could not care less what anyone thinks about him.  Saban wants to coach his team and the only people whose opinion he cares about are Kirby Smart, Doug Nussmeier, his coaches, his athletic director, and his players.  He know's he a jerk.  But being a jerk is what's made him the best college football coach of his era and arguably the greatest of all time.  BREAKING: the Alabama football team is really, really good, and it's because of Nick Saban.  He can do what he wants in that city.  We now return you to your regular weekday programming.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Andy Roddick Says Goodbye

American tennis player Andy Roddick played the final match of his career on Wednesday afternoon, falling to Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals of the US Open, the tournament Roddick won for his lone Grand Slam championship in 2003.  Roddick won the first set in a tiebreak, but was unable to carry over his momentum in the final three sets and fell 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4.  He enters retirement with 32 career titles.
Roddick has always been my favorite tennis player.  I grew up watching him and it was because of Roddick that I caught the tennis "bug" - I played more and more after his US Open win in 2003.  Even through his struggles, Roddick was incredibly entertaining, not only because of his thundering serve but because of his attitude and his humor.  There was never a dull moment with him on the court, and he deserved better than to lose to Roger Federer four times in grand slam finals. Leaving the sport as his body breaks down, Roddick will be remembered as a player who was not blessed with the incredible quickness and gifts of a Federer, but instead ground out wins based on heart and the pure desire to win.
Now 30, Roddick figures to begin a family with his wife Brooklyn Decker.  And really, how can he lose in that situation?
Thanks for a great career, Andy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Colorado Avalanche Name Gabriel Landeskog Captain

Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche hockey club announced that they have named 19 year-old Gabriel Landeskog as permanent team captain, making him the youngest player to attain such an honor in history.  The Swedish forward broke Sidney Crosby's previous record by 11 days.
Landeskog fits the bill perfectly.  He's young, very talented, hard working, and has been a captain before - he was the first ever European captain of his junior club, the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers. He is an excellent figurehead for the media as well because of his wit and humor.
Some may say that he's too young.  But the last two teams to name a player that was then the youngest in NHL history - Vincent Lecavalier in Tampa Bay and then Crosby in Pittsburgh, have won the Stanley Cup in the last decade.  A third, the Chicago Blackhawks, named 20 year-old Jonathan Toews their captain in 2008 before winning the Stanley Cup the next season.  Landeskog was the second overall pick in the draft, so it's not like he couldn't be as good as those players.  It's worked for them.

Alabama Takes Over Top Spot in AP Poll

The Alabama Crimson Tide have leapfrogged the Southern California Trojans in this week's college football AP Poll to the #1 position in the country.  The Tide, who embarrassed Michigan Saturday night on national television, were the #2 team in the nation to open the season but their domination of the Wolverines, who were ranked #8 entering the season, apparently changed the mind of the voters.  Alabama got excellent performances from quarterback AJ McCarron, running back TJ Yeldon, and their complex, pro-style defense on Saturday night in their 41-14 win.
The 2011 National Champions begin their home schedule with a game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Saturday afternoon at Bryan-Denny Stadium.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Top 15 NFL Quarterbacks Heading In to 2012

As the NFL season draws nearer and nearer, now just a few days away, I've decided to help kick off this new blog of mine by doing top player lists for different positions in the NFL. We conclude at quarterback with a top 15.

15. Jay Cutler, Chicago - Cutler is supremely talented but has never turned in to the star that the Broncos thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2007.  The Vanterbilt product has a cannon arm and has used it to throw for 4,500 yards once in his career and at last 3,200 in every full season he has played. Unfortunately, he also throws a ton of interceptions, with a career 117-86 TD-INT ratio that is less than stellar.  He takes unnecessary risks and can get his team into trouble with bad decisions, but Cutler can still sling 'em with the best.
14. Philip Rivers, San Diego - Rivers, at one point arguably a top-10 statistical quarterback, took a nosedive last year with a below average season, especially in the interception department.  The 30 year old signal caller threw away 20 balls last season, by far a career high, and set four-year lows in touchdowns and completion percentage.  He still threw for 4,000 yards, as he has each of the last four campaigns, but the Chargers came up with another mediocre season.  Simply put, Rivers has to do it when it counts now.
13. Joe Flacco, Baltimore - I'm not wacko for Flacco, but I give him credit for putting up better than average numbers in a run-first offense.  Flacco has thrown for between 3,610 and 3,612 yards each of the last three seasons and has also had 20 or more touchdowns in each of the last three campaigns.  Flacco also wins games, never failing to make the playoffs and twice reaching the AFC Championship game.  Still, he has yet to win a ring and has not put up the game breaking or even significantly better than average numbers in any individual categories.  Can he with the Ravens?  I doubt it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Manchester United 3:2 Southampton; RVP Hat Trick

Manchester United reached deep down into their barrel of magic Sunday morning/afternoon to steal a massive last-minute Premier League win away to Southampton.  New signing Robin van Persie, plucked from Arsenal a week before the season started, was sensational, scoring three goals for his first United hat trick and marking Sir Alex Ferguson's 1,000th League game in charge with a win and an exclamation point.
Saints were excellent for the first 60 minutes, taking the lead twice, with a van Persie strike in the middle equalizing for United before the home side drew ahead in the 55th minute.  United were energized by the introduction of Paul Scholes after Southampton's second goal, and built tempo and possession continuously until they were awarded a clear penalty when van Persie was hacked from behind. Inexplicably, however, the Dutchman's spot-kick was saved when he tried to chip the ball past the goalkeeper.
But because they are United, the 19-time English champions continued to build off of their pressure despite the miss and drew even when Javier Hernandez, seeing his first action of the season because of a Wayne Rooney injury, crossed inside to Rio Ferdinand.  Van Persie was there to clean up the garbage and level in the 87th minute.  United would get their winner five minutes later as their leading scorer rose to flick home a header with 92 minutes elapsed, capping a remarkable comeback and giving them crucial, crucial points.
On to the next one.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Football Season Starts Today

Image from Wikipedia Commons
I don't care what anyone says.  College football season doesn't start until Alabama plays their first game.
As you probably know, Alabama, the 2011 National Champions, lost about half of their #1 ranked defense in the first two rounds of the NFL draft in April.  They also lost running back Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy finalist, to the NFL as the Cleveland Browns took him with the 3rd overall pick.
And yet, the Tide enter their opening game against #8 Michigan as the #2 team in the country.  Why? Because Nick Saban is the baddest cat in all the land - probably the best recruiter in college football and arguably the best coach of all time.
Roll. Damn. Tide.
CUE THE MUSIC!



Friday, August 31, 2012

The NFL Replacement Refs Are Hilariously Bad

Presented without comment:



OK, one comment:  Roger Goodell can't actually be serious about starting the season with these clowns, can he?  I mean seriously.  Get outta town.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top 15 NFL Running Backs Heading In to 2012

As the NFL season draws nearer and nearer, now a week away, I've decided to help kick off this new blog of mine by doing top player lists for different positions in the NFL. We continue at running back with a top 15.

15. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle - Lynch scored 12 touchdowns in 2011 because he plays like a house and will always be famous for his ridiculous run against the Saints in the 2011 playoffs.  But the fact remains that he is a decidedly average runner in terms of yardage.  He has never had a yards per carry average higher than 4.4 and was only a 4.2 last year.  Lynch gets his numbers because of volume, but he's also shown a penchant for getting hurt and getting suspended.  He just barely makes the list over DeMarco Murray.
14. Fred Jackson, Buffalo - Jackson tore up the League last season to the tune of almost 1,000 yards in 11 weeks before he broke his leg.  His 5.5 yards per carry was excellent and he caught 39 balls for almost 450 yards in those 11 games. Jackson is a complete player who is a threat in both the run and the pass and will be a key to the Bills potentially making the playoffs.  He is only this far down because he is 31 and broken legs are very difficult to fully recover from.
13. Michael Turner, Atlanta - Turner is 30 but may be a young 30 because he spent four seasons as LaDanian Tomlinson's caddie with the Chargers.  But save for his final game of 2011, Turner was pitiful down the stretch last season and in the playoffs, averaging just over three yards per carry save that Tampa game in his last six contests.  He still rushed for 1,340 yards but didn't do a lot per carry (4.2).  Turner can punch scores in from in close very well, as well, but his limits as a pass catcher and his age keep him this high.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ryan Braun Proves Everyone Wrong With Magnificent Season

"Steroids made me good." - Someone not smart
This past winter, Milwaukee Brewers superstar Ryan Braun failed a random MLB drug test and was given the automatic 50-game ban that accompanies such offenses.  The failed test came after a spectacular season which saw Braun win the National League MVP award, which immediately made people believe that Braun was a) a cheat (probably true) and b) needed steroids to get good (which makes no sense).
But Braun, who maintained his innocence, won his appeal on a technicality because of a sample handling violation.  As a result, Braun was allowed to play the full season.  In spring training, people talked about how he would fall off the face of the earth without his steroids and the Brewers, who had just invested in Braun with a massive contract, were screwed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Vin Scully Agrees to 64th Season in Broadcast Booth; Further Cements His Status as Baseball Royalty

"On the mound for the Dowdgas, Cllayton Kershowww..."
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced that legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, who has been with the team since their days in Brooklyn - 1950, to be exact - would return for a 64th season calling Dodger games next year.  Popular belief and opinion was that Scully, now 84, would call it a career after this season after coming back on one-year deals for several consecutive campaigns.  In addition, the broadcaster's declining health and age has meant that for the last several campaigns he has not travelled with the team outside of the Western time zone, only calling away games in San Diego, San Francisco, and Arizona.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Manchester City 2:2 Liverpool; Suarez Steals the Show

Manchester City and Liverpool drew 2:2 this morning/afternoon at Anfield.  The Reds took the lead twice but were unable to hold off the powerful attack of the Champions from Manchester, who were without Sergio Aguero for the beginning of what figures to be an extended period.  This result helps Manchester United, who picked up two points on their archrivals with their win on Saturday and this outcome.  City figure to be United's prime competition for the title once more.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, however, was the story with an incredible free kick goal to put his side up 2-1.  You can check out a GIF of that goal here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Have We Seen the Last of Rafa Nadal?

Over the last seven years, Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal has carved out a legacy as one of the greatest of his generation, second only to Swiss machine Roger Federer.  Nadal has won 11 grand slam singles titles, tied for fourth all time, and an Olympic gold medal.  His seven French Open titles are an all-time record.  He is only 26.
Now, his career may be over as we know it.  According to an article by the Australian, Nadal's recent string of injuries - which led to a second round loss at Wimbledon earlier this year as well as his withdrawal from the Olympic games and the upcoming U.S. Open in New York - are most definitely career threatening. Nadal has a deformity in his foot which takes away a lot of shock absorbing ability and almost ended his career at 19 in 2005.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lance Armstrong Stops Fighting

According to USA Today, seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong will not challenge the United States Anti-Doping Agency's latest allegations that he used PEDs while winning his record number of races.  This has resulted, as of 11 PM on Thursday night, in Armstrong receiving a lifetime ban and being stripped of all seven of his titles.  More on the story can be read here.
Armstrong has released a statement on the matter, saying that this is not an admittance of guilt but rather a plea for people to let his hundreds of passed drug tests speak for themselves.  The man has never failed any type of drug test in competition or out of it and says he has grown tired of defending himself against people he feels will not listen.
Maybe I am just stupid and naive, but I have always believed that Armstrong is innocent - because of his story, his message, and his demeanor.  As I mentioned before, he has never failed a drug test and that seems to be damn near impossible to do unless you are innocent - considering the number of cyclists that have been stripped of their titles recently.
I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Human Element Strikes in the EPL

The calls for goal technology in soccer have been coming harder and faster than ever before in the last two and a half years.  Notable incidents in Spain, England, and the World Cup have increased the pressure on FIFA to introduce some sort of way to tell if players are a) offside on a goal or b) the ball even crosses the line. Here is our latest example, courtesy of Timothy Burke's website 30FPS.

Damn, son.
Chelsea would win the game 4-2 following this goal to make it 3-2.  They scored three goals in the final 25 minutes of the match to erase a one-goal deficit at half time and avoid an embarrassing loss to recently promoted Reading.  The Blues are now top of the table.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top 15 NFL Wide Receivers Heading In to 2012

As the NFL season draws nearer and nearer, I've decided to help kick off this new blog of mine by doing top player lists for different positions in the NFL. We continue at wide receiver with a top 15.

15. Dez Bryant, Dallas - Ever since the Cowboys traded up to get him in 2010, Bryant has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that followed him came from his electric career at Oklahoma State.  Last season was a marked improvement on '10; Bryant caught 63 passes for just over 900 yards and nine touchdowns, which shows his ability, physical tools, and massive potential.  But talented as Bryant is, he continues to have off the field issues and was plagued by hamstring woes last season.  He could have 1,200 yards this year, but he could also have 700.
14. Marques Colston, New Orleans - A model of consistency over his seven-year career, Colston has amassed at least 1,000 yards receiving in all but one pro season, only failing to do so when he played 11 games in 2008.  He's not particularly fast, but is smart enough to get open and uses his long reach well. Colston struggled a bit with injuries last season to his knees, and those are always a concern, but he's earned a top-15 spot with his constant excellence.
13. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City - Bowe eclipsed 1,100 receiving yards for the second consecutive campaign last season, but only caught five touchdowns compared to his 15 in 2010-11.  That's why he may not have made headlines last season, but Bowe draws double coverage almost every play as KC's lone true ball-catching threat and still puts up big numbers.  He could be higher on this list if Matt Cassel wasn't throwing him balls.