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“I don’t want anything more to do with this England matter because in the space of two days ... my life was invaded, my privacy was disrupted. Today there are still 20 reporters outside my home,” Scolari said. “This is not part of my life and it never will. If that’s part of another culture, it’s not a culture I’m used to.’’
What now for England? This is a major blow. Scolari was easily the best possible choice.
Time to update Rawk the Puck! as the conference semifinal round is just about ready to be put to bed -- but there's still time to vote, with a bobblehead and a couple of CDs to be drawn from among the entrants, so join in and make your picks (Results, and conference final tunes, will be posted early next week, and expect some heavyweights to show up). For now, though, it's the judges' turn to render their ballots and smart-alecky remarks.
Gorillaz, Rock the HOUSE (b-w the Clash, CAPITAL Radio) *Ottawa* vs Bob Marley, BUFFALO Soldier (b-w Neneh Cherry, BUFFALO Stance) *Buffalo*
BASKETBALL JONES:J.E. Skeets: I wish Buffalo's selection was that "The Bills Make Me Want To Shout" song. Gorillaz in 7. Upset! Tas Melas: Although the buffalo may be stronger of the two animals, gorillas don't get enough credit for there smarts. Gorillaz to out outwit the Buffaloes. VANCOUVER CANUCKS OP ED: Marley wins. It's hard to understand why this was even a competition. It's the Marley spirit - Fighting for survival! MIKE CHEN: Gorillaz. Why? Cause Gorillaz is the brainchild of Damon Albarn from Blur. Blur is one of the best bands to ever come out of England and the leader of the 1990s Britpop explosion (screw you Oasis). Sorry Bob Marley, you're respected and influential and all that, but that ain't Blur in my book. ACID QUEEN: Bob Marley, no contest. Pass the ganja, mon.
MARK FREEDMAN: A bunch of cartoons vs. a reggae god. Got to go with the legend, even if it's likely Bob Marley never saw a hockey game. JABS: Gorillaz are cool and catchy – but man, that’s Bob Marley out there! This isn’t even close, even with Neneh "Don" Cherry weighing him down. CARLA MacDONALD: Ugh. “Capitol Radio” remains the only listenable choice for me among these four, but it’s now only a lowly B-side. I don’t like reggae but I haaaaaate the Gorillaz, so Marley gets the (grudging) nod by default.
The Smiths, Handsome DEVIL (b-w Johnny Cash, DEVIL to Pay) *New Jersey* vs The Roots, HURRICANE (b-w Neil Young, Like a HURRICANE) *Carolina*
CARLA: No question, here: The Smiths. I couldn’t even bear to listen to that whole Roots song. (A better battle is between the B-sides, though… I mean, c’mon. Johnny vs. Neil. Talk about being stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea if I hadda make THAT choice!) MARK FREEDMAN: British 80's indie rock vs. veteran urban rappers from Philly. Talk about two groups who likely know nothing of the sport of hockey. The Pope of Mope leads them to victory. BASKETBALL JONES: J.E. Skeets: The Roots sweep. It's 'What they do... what they do... what they do..." Tas: A strong matchup. But the combination of both new age and experience has the Roots & Young running this meeting. JABS: Closer than the first pairing but it's a weak Smiths’ effort (they don't backcheck, those boys) going up against a crack ensemble effort. Roots go through. ACID QUEEN: "Handsome Devil" always reminds me of the love of my life, who broke my
heart and vanished on me years ago. Even though I like The Smiths, I can't
listen to that song without becoming depressed and reaching for the mint
chocolate chip--so I'm going with Roots on this one. VANCOUVER CANUCKS OP ED: Smiths. Sure, they're sometimes depressing, but that really works for us. And that song... it's almost "optimistic" for those guys. We're Canucks fans - we live for optimistic moments. MIKE CHEN: The Smiths. Everyone bow down to the awesome power of Morrissey and Johnny Marr. The only person who might be able to contain them is David Bowie. Speaking of the Thin White Duke...
WEST INDIE RAWK CONFERENCE
Moby: Pregame meal, hold the beef.
David Bowie, STARMAN (b-w Teenage Fanclub, STAR Sign) *Dallas* vs Moby, OIL 1 (b-w Talking Heads, SLIPPERY PEOPLE) *Edmonton*
BASKETBALL JONES:J.E. Skeets: Bowie's 'Starman' in 5, Seu Jorge's version in 4. I dig the Brazilians (and red toques). Tas: Slippery People is a great title don't you think? I like it a lot and Moby is great to make fun of so let's keep him around. MIKE CHEN: Now, I like Moby and all, but David Bowie is a god among musical gods. Bowie's influenced so many of my favorite bands, it's not even funny -- and unlike many long-time artists, his new stuff (post-Earthling) is actually pretty darn good. And he's really freakin' funny in his interviews. ACID QUEEN: Going with Bowie (and showing my age). MARK FREEDMAN: Without Bowie there would be no Moby. The savvy vet wins this one. VANCOUVER CANUCKS OP ED: Has to be Starman. First, Oil 1 drives me nuts; if only Honey was the choice, the outcome might have been different. Second, you never want to disappoint David Bowie. CARLA: I’ve never liked that ponce, Bowie. Thin White Duke, my arse. Sounds like Moby gives a nod to Donna Summer on the vocals in his song and “Love to Love You Baby” still makes me larf whenever I hear it. Using the transitive rule, therefore, Moby wins. (Admittedly, my math skills were never really up to snuff.) JABS: Moby bores me. The wise old glam god romps 4-straight.
This FIRE, Franz Ferdinand (b-w Streets of FIRE, New Pornographers) *Calgary* vs MANEATER, Hall & Oates (b-w SHARK Sandwich, Spinal Tap) *San Jose*
MARK FREEDMAN: This Fire is out of control, gonna burn this horrible horrible song. CARLA: I’m going to vote for Hall & Oates not because I like ‘em but because nobody will even REMEMBER Franz Ferdinand in five years and we’ll STILL be stuck hearing “Sara Smile” on ‘70s-centric FM radio when we drive through the midwest wastelands. JABS: Quirkiest series yet. H&O due for a critical renaissance one of these years, we’re just not there yet and this is the wrong tune for it. Glaswegians can really skate, win in 7. VANCOUVER CANUCKS OP ED: How much I really, really hated that Maneater song in grade school. But I still remember every word of it, so that must mean something, right? On the other hand, we're digging Ferdinand - catchy beat, can (almost) dance to it. Okay, so we have to pick Ferdinand. At least that way I can look myself in the mirror tomorrow. BASKETBALL JONES: J.E. Skeets: I once broke an XO Karaoke table while belting 'This Fire'. Best $85 I ever spent. Franz in 5. Tas: Now this is a battle. However, it's difficult to bet against the combo of Franz and the New Pornographers. Hockey relies very much upon teamwork and they seem like a solid tandem that would put on a great show. MIKE CHEN: Franz Ferdinand. Indie rock destroys cheesy 80's pop any day of the week. ACID QUEEN: Showing my age again and going with the song that I listened to all the
time in Grade 6.
A clip from a Real Madrid training session has stayed in our minds. To return a ball to a teammate, Zidane drags a ball back beneath his right boot, flicks it aloft with his left and, again with his right, half-volleys the sphere cross-field. We have been trying to duplicate this move for the last four years. Says Argentina’s Pablo Aimar: “When you are watching a Real Madrid game, it is worth spending an hour and a half in front of the television to watch Zidane make one cut with the ball.” Another Argentine and Real Madrid’s honorary chairman, Alfredo Di Stefano, famously said that Zidane plays “as if he had silk gloves on each foot.”
At draft time, you take your communiques with a plain of salt, so Houston Texans GM Charlie Casserly's predraft talk yesterday should be approached with caution. But this much seems assured: the Texans will retain the No. 1 pick in this weekend's NFL draft, and they're not taking University of Texas quarterback Vince Young.
Vince Young: Won't take him at No. 1, Texans say.
The news wasn't much of a surprise, but one of the more noteworthy elements from yesterday's Casserly press conference was this bit about the Texans' efforts to trade the top slot:
"We're sitting here today and it's Wednesday at noon and we don't have a trade offer. It's not because we haven't called people. Monday morning I called teams behind us and I won't tell you who I called or where I stopped, but you can obviously figure I called teams immediately behind us and I'm not going to tell you where I stopped and there was no interest. And that was not my first phone call to them; that was just my latest." (on why there is no interest) "I think you have a combination of things, you have a number of good players and if you're satisfied with the quality of player that you're going to get at your pick, why give up something else? And I think that is what it really comes down to. There are a lot of good players at the top of this draft and there is no one player that people absolutely have to have that is so much better than the player that is going to fall to them that they are willing to make a trade, and I think that is a factor."
What Casserly doesn't talk about is money -- the added cost of signing the No. 1 pick and whether or not it's a good place to be in the first place -- as well as the exhaustive yet uncertain process of assessing talent. Fans cheer No. 1 picks and put the saviour tag on them each year, but in an article in the May issue of the Atlantic, Allen Barra looks at the draft and draws some intriguing conclusions (subscription required), while Matthew Quirk, in an accompanying sidebar, cites a recent academic study and pulls out a telling stat:
In any given season over his first five years, a first-round draft pick is almost as likely to not start a single game (8 per cent) or fail out of the league (8 per cent) as he is to go to the Pro Bowl (9 per cent). What Massey and Thaler found was that, in terms of performance (games started, Pro Bowl selections, etc.) per dollar, the top draft pick is actually the worst choice in the first round.
As for why the flops flop, Barra looks beyond the players themselves and to the sidelines, putting some of the blame on coaches:
"I'm often surprised," says three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Walsh, "at how seldom a coach's ability to motivate isn't considered when analyzing a player's success or failure. A lot of guys who you see go bust their first time around in the NHL do end up fulfilling their early expectations, but with different teams and different coaches. The trick for a really smart coach is to make his players see how smart he is without destroying their confidence in their own intelligence." The NFL may be focusing their efforts in the wrong place. Maybe tests should be designed to grade coaches - they're the ones who have to mold a disparate group of young men into a team.
A new feature starts today: the daily World Cup post.
A story, a blog post, a video, a picture, whatever, there's plenty of this stuff building as we move to the June 9 opener -- only 43 days away.
Here's a scary little accessory to start us off. It's the FooToo kit (it's footy meets voodoo, get it? For 14.95 euros plus postage, you could). Just the thing to put a spell on Brazil, or England, or the banks backing Italy, or Togo. Well, maybe not Togo. Everybody likes Togo. (Thanks to Ole Ole for the link.)
Next, take a spin over to Sports Guy North, where Kent MacDonald has taken up the challenge and done an NBA Rawk the Bawl! Mase vs Kanye, DMX against Lil Bow Wow (!) ... the mind reels, the rim rawks. Well done, Kent. As for the original, Rawk the Puck! is into the conference semifinals next couple of days, so get your vote in and you might win something to put on your mantelpiece or into your CD player.
These days, the morning isn't complete without a look in at Vancouver Canucks Op Ed, and their playoff Joke of the Day.
This just in from Swiss wealth management company, UBS, which ran a few beads across their abacus and came up with: Italy wins the upcoming World Cup, beating Brazil in the July 9 final:
The simulation was carried out using scientific methods comparable to those used by experts to make economic and financial-market forecasts. (snip) According to the UBS simulation, further results will be as follows: Germany will lose to Argentina in the 3rd round and Italy will beat France at the same stage. They will be closely followed by the Netherlands, who will send England home. In the fourth pairing, the Brazilians will dominate the Spaniards. The semi-finals will then be down to the favorites: the Netherlands will draw the short straw against the Brazilians, the Italians will beat Argentina. In the final, the Brazilians will be forced to accept the fact that the Italians are the better team in this tournament.
Kind of confusing, all that. And personally, I can't see the Brazilians accepting anything of the sort. Even if they do lose.
Whatever, it looks like the big banks are lining up in Italy's corner. This from Dutch bank ABN:
"In the past, countries winning the World Cup added around 0.7% to their economic growth. And at the last three tournaments the winning country's stock market considerably outperformed the losing finalist's market. On average there was 10% positive effect in the winner and a 25% negative effect in the loser. According to Charles Kalshoven of the ABN AMRO Economics Department: 'The Italian economy is hampered by an inflexible labour market and deteriorating competitiveness. An Italian victory in the World Cup final would boost consumer and producer confidence, and thus lead to more spending and investment. 'Made in Italy' would also reap more benefits abroad. This may well push economic growth upwards, which would then give the government scope to introduce economic reforms.'"
So, the Arizona Republic is reporting that Steve Nash is going to win the NBA's MVP trophy for the second straight year.
I'm sure there will be plenty of people who will say yes, he deserves it, and just as many no. As for me, I thought this was the year LeBron James might get it -- I don't have a ballot, but he would be my pick.
A repeat for Steve Nash?
If you want to debate that here, fine. What strikes me, though, is the magnitude of this news from a Canadian perspective. Basketball is the world's No. 2 game, eclipsing hockey, our national sport and obsession. Given that, if the news here is true (and these awards results are being leaked all over the place regularly, so I don't doubt it's accurate), Nash's record these past two years and the decorations that will forever be appended to it count as perhaps the greatest by a Canadian team sport player, guy's division.
1961/62/63 Bill Russell 66/67/68 Wilt Chamberlain 71/72 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 76/77 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 82/83 Moses Malone 84/85/86 Larry Bird 89/90 Magic Johnson 91/92 Michael Jordan 2002/03 Tim Duncan
This is pretty select company to be moving into.
One more way to look at it: What do you think is a bigger achievement - Nash winning back to back MVPs in the NBA, or Gretzky's eight successive Hart Trophies from 1980 to '87 in the NHL?
According to an NBA.com survey of the league's general managers, Nash is the GMs' choice for MVP. Here's how their voting went, from an NBA news release just released (for the rest of the survey, go to NBA.com -- and note that this MVP result has been released early):
"In the exclusive survey, Nash received six first-place votes, 11 second-place votes and three third-place votes for a total of 65 points. Five points were awarded for first-place votes, three for second-place and one for third-place. Nowitzki, who tied Nash with six first-place votes, also received three second-place votes and six third-place votes for a total of 45 points. The Detroit Pistons’ Chauncey Billups finished third with 32 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James finished fourth with 31 points according to GM voting. In the Fourth Annual NBA.com GM Survey, unveiled at the start of the 2005-06 NBA season, nearly 60 percent of GMs predicted the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan would win the 2006 MVP with none of the league’s GMs selecting Nash to repeat."