In Case You Didn’t Know…

-The Boston Red Sox begin a three game series with the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa starts the day just one game ahead of the Sox. A crucial series to say the least.

-Donovan Mcnabb and the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) march into Irving, Texas to take on T.O., Tony Romo, Adam”Don’t Call Me Pacman” Jones, and the Dallas Cowboys (1-0). Both teams are coming off of gigantic Week 1 wins. Monday’s matchup should see its fair share of scoring and exciting plays, and Dallas is favored at +3.5.

-Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost has been fired after the Brew Crew were swept 4 games to 0 by the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the interim, third base coach Dale Sveum will take over in efforts to right the ship. Milwaukee has lost 11 of their last 14 games. Yikes.

– Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano threw a no-hitter on Sunday in his first start after suffering rotator cuff tendinitis. It was Z-Pac’s first no-no and his first win since August 21. The Cubs starting rotation of a healthy Zambrano, Rich Harden, and Ryan Dempster is atop the list for best in the National League, and possibly all of baseball.

-The NFL has downgraded referee Ed Hochuli after he admitted to blowing a call during the Chargers-Broncos game. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to officiate playoff games or any games at all. Hochuli is best known for his impressive physical stature, so we’ll see if a possible demotion leads to some negative side effects.

-Yankees catcher Jorge Posada thinks pitcher Joba Chamberlain should return to the bullpen instead of remaining in the starting rotation. Of course, Posada is talking about next year because, well, the Yankees aren’t going to make the playoffs. But I guess it’s the thought that counts… In other news, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada talks bad-mouths former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez in reference to the Sox-Yanks brawl in the 2003 AL Championship series: “I thought he was going to hit me in the head with a bat, after we had the fight and he pushed Don Zimmer. It was ridiculous. I mean, he throws at Karim Garcia because he’s losing the game. I mean, there’s no class.”

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The Show Must Go On

On Monday afternoon, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced that MVP quarterback Tom Brady would undergo season-ending knee surgery as a result of a low hit delivered by Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard.

While this comes as a devastating blow, given New England’s hopes of riding into the Super Bowl on Brady’s shoulders, little positive light has been shed on the grim situation. Almost instantaneously, thoughts of now-starter Matt Cassel leading the Pats to the big game have been written off.

Though it would be naive to expect Cassel–who hasn’t started a game since high school–to step in and do what the best quarterback of the modern era has done three times, it would be more than naive to expect anyone but Tom Brady to be Tom Brady.

I’m not saying that Matt Cassel and the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl, but I’m not saying they aren’t either. If anything, the New England Patriots, without Tom Brady, are an above-average football team in a weak conference. Whether spoiled fans accustomed to winning choose to believe it or not, the Patriots are still alive.

And while the thought of an inexperienced Cassel leading the team to a Super Bowl victory is far from conceivable to most, it serves function as a harsh lesson to spoiled Patriots fans.

Prior to Sunday, the thought of losing Tom Brady was always seen as something that could happen, but in ‘reality’, wouldn’t.

It’s time to wake up.

The focus of the 2008 season has conjured a whole new meaning. The concepts of completing the task at hand, believing in one another, and discovering the true meaning of the word ‘team’, are at the summit of the proverbial mountain and will truly test the mettle of every player for the next 15 weeks.

The season should not be written off, because even if the Patriots only go on to win a meager 8 games as predicted, essentially, they will have strengthened a bond that appeared to break rather than bend in Week 1.

If you ask me, battling through an 8-win season without the league’s MVP is a far greater accomplishment than coasting into the Super Bowl with him and failing to come out on top.

Leo Messi Is at the Olympics, but Barcelona Are Doing Just Fine

Earlier this summer when Leo Messi was attempting to get released by his club in order to compete in the Olympics, the Barça bosses said that they could not afford to lose him because of important Champions League matches during the Olympics.

Well, if yesterday was any indication, Messi can spend a good amount of time away from the club and they will be just fine.  Samuel Eto’o netted a brace and Xavi and Thierry Henry also scored in Barça’s 4-0 win against Wisla Krakow.

Was this the game they needed Messi for?

Sure, it’s always good to have your best players. But this was a chance for new coach Pep Guardiola to get a feel for his other players and give some of the newcomers a chance to prove themselves.

This was just another step forward for the Spanish giants in their quest to put last season’s disappointing run behind them.  They are doing well thus far—smoking every opponent they have faced.

It will be interesting to see with which lineup Barcelona starts the season. They have so much new talent and many players that can be successful at every position on the field.

One worry that plagued Barcelona last season and could come up again is their defense.  They have four strong players at the back, but because of their preferred 4-3-3 format they do not have the midfield help and the back line is often left alone.

Barça is at their best when their midfield and forward players are controlling so much of the ball that it does not matter because the opposing team never has the ball enough to be dangerous.

The real tests for this team will come once La Liga and the Champions League seasons begin in earnest and we see how this team responds to adversity—exactly what caused so many problems last season.

If the preseason means anything, though, Barcelona is going to be a team to be reckoned with in every competition this season.

I cannot wait for Dec. 14 at the Camp Nou for the first installment of El Clásico between Barca and Real Madrid.

Another note that I just come across in reference to Barcelona: Why are they going after Berbatov? Where would he play? Maybe on the six-man front line of Messi, Henry, Eto’o, Hleb/Gudjohnsen, Krkic, and Berbatov?

Is Landon Donovan Moving To Europe?

The MLS could be on the verge of losing another one of it’s brightest stars to Europe.

LA Galaxy and US national team midfielder/striker Landon Donovan has been contemplating a move to the English Premier League over the past couple of weeks, according to goal.com.

“I’ve had in my mind for a while now that if I have an opportunity, a real opportunity, a good opportunity, to go somewhere, that I would examine it,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Who can blame the guy. His team is currently in fourth position in the Western Conference and just went through a massive shakeup as their head coach quit and their GM was fired.

At 27 years of age, it makes sense that Donovan would be interested in expanding his horizons and seek better competition.

“The older I get and the more I play, the more I’m yearning for that highest level I can play at,” Donovan told the English press. “I think the Premiership would be the best place [to] play.”

But how would Donovan fair in the EPL? In his two previous stints in Europe—both with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen—he did not do well at all.

The English game, though, is much different from that played in Germany.  The Bundesliga is known for their slow, methodical, pounding style that does not fit Donovan’s aggressive, slicing game.

If he does indeed move to England, Donovan will have to adjust to the extremely physical style of play, but the up-and-down attacking game would fit right in to Donovan’s skill set.

While it would be a sad day to see Donovan leave MLS, I think it would be a great move for one of the league’s greatest players and a huge boost for the US National team that is lead by Donovan.

Thanks To Inexperience And Mistakes USA Crash Out Of Olympics

Maybe it was a dream on my part to think that the US squad had any chance at a medal or to even get out of the group stage at the Olympics.  Really, what was I thinking?

I should have rethought after the team barely scrapped by against a poor Japanese side, and I should have rethought after the team blew a lead in the next round on a stoppage time goal to the Netherlands.

But I guess I was too caught up in national pride.

I even set my mind to waking up at 4 a.m. to watch the team play Nigeria live. What was I thinking? Sure I did that during the World Cup in 2002, but that was a World Cup. This was the group stage of the Olympics. This is basically a U-23 tournament.

Somehow the US gave me hope that these players—the future of the country’s national team—were a special group and were capable of greatness.

I guess I was wrong.

Sure they put up a good fight. And that draw against the Dutch—no matter how heart-breaking—showed that the USA has risen to a level where they can at least compete against some of the best in the world.

I concretely believe that if it was not for the stupidity of Michael Orozco and his completely unnecessary elbow in the THIRD MINUTE that lead to a red card, the US would have at least managed a draw against Nigeria and advanced.

But it was silly errors like Stuart Holden’s foul that lead to the free-kick goal against the Dutch, Freddy Adu’s silly yellow card against the Dutch that ruled him out against Nigeria, and then the straw that broke the camel’s back was Orozco’s utter idiocy this morning.

When you are an underdog, you cannot make mistakes. And that is exactly the mistake the US made.

This team is very good, and many of these players will be on the senior national team before long, but they better learn from their mistakes.

Rivalry Between Chicago Fire and New England Revolution Rekindled

For the third time this season the Chicago Fire defeated the New England Revolution.  The perennial Eastern Conference contenders are currently the top two teams in MLS and both harbor championship hopes.

But on this night—and the previous two meetings between these two teams—Chicago had New England’s number. They have won the three games by a combined score of 9-1.

This game was by far the most challenging of the three as the Fire had to come back from an early goal off the head of recently healthy striker Taylor Twellman. But thanks to a sinking knuckleball from Gonzalo Segares and a rebound from Wilman Conde, Chicago got the win and pulled to within one point of first place.

Chicago has been knocked out of the playoffs the last three seasons by the Revolution and the rivalry between these two teams seems to grow every year.

Budding rivalries like the Fire versus the Revolution are exactly what the MLS needs to continue pushing forward and improving their standing in the world of soccer.

Both Chicago and New England have been paving the road for the growth of MLS, especially in the past two seasons.

Chicago made one of the largest splashes last season when they signed Mexican international Cuauhtemoc Blanco. And they have continued their quest for international talent with the acquisitions of the Colombian, Conde, Lider Molina from Paraguay, and recently acquired Marco Pappa from Guatemala.

The Revolution have been one of the top teams in MLS over the last two seasons, finishing runner-up in the last two MLS Cups, and becoming the first MLS team to win the Superliga title.

These two teams are on the forefront, driving MLS in to the future that looks very bright. It is great to see this rivalry grow and blossom.

Not a Soccer Blog…Top Eight From The News

Thanks to the absence of the venerable Nick and Austin, I have heard rumors of this blog turning into a “soccer blog.” While I have no problem with that, I thought I would appease all my eager fans with a mixed bag of non-soccer news.

Here are the top eight stories today and my not-so-humble opinion on them.

1. Brett Favre and the J-E-T-S? Who saw this one coming? I don’t think Favre will pull a Namath and win a Super Bowl, but I do think he takes a team that won just four games last season to the playoffs.

I also would like to see the Jets release Chad Pennington already so that the Bears can add him to their stable of unreliable, mediocre quarterbacks. One positive about Pennington: he is much better than Grossman and Orton.

The Patriots are safe on the top of this division for at least another year.

2. In honor of Landy I will delve into the Packers. This was a huge mistake. Plain and simple. ESPN’s Rachel Nicols asked the question that I would like to see answered: “Are the Packers better off with Aaron Rodgers than Brett Favre?”

How can they answer that with a yes? They have never seen Rodger play for a whole season, and while I am sure he will be decent, Favre is a Hall of Famer. There is no comparison. This is a win now league and the Packers just shot themselves in the foot.

3. Because we are The Looper I have to mention something having to do with golf don’t I? How ironic would it be if Sergio Garcia won the PGA Championship this weekend? The man that was expected to challenge Tiger Woods wins his first major with Tiger sidelined with an injury.

But, to tell you the truth, I hope he wins it. I think without the pressure of having to beat Tiger, Garcia will be loose and this could mark a significant turning point in his career if he is able to pull it out. He is just one shot off the lead after most of the field finished the first day and he is one of the top five most talented golfers there so why not?

4. Have you lost count of how many players Georgia has suspended this season already, because I have. They are named the preseason number 1 and immediately their players begin to act like they just won the National Championship.

Let me be the first to say that I don’t think Georgia will finish in the top 20. They obviously don’t have the maturity or leadership, their coach, Mark Richt, doesn’t have the experience to withstand the pressure and while their star running back, Knowshon Moreno, will be a front runner for the Heisman, he is not prepared to lead this team through the heart of an impossible SEC.

5. Can’t you see it now. Kids all over L.A. with dreadlock wigs and wearing number 99 Dodgers jerseys on Halloween as the Dodgers battle deep into the playoffs behind midseason acquisition, Manny Ramirez. So far Manny has hit four home runs in just six games and has energized this team that was struggling mightily to score runs.

I still can’t believe the Red Sox made the trade. I know Jason Bay is good—I have seen him 16 times a year when the Cubs play the Bucs—but he is not Manny. This is a team that is fighting for their playoff life and they traded away their best bat.

If they are able to overcome the Rays and withstand a run from the Yankees and make the playoffs it won’t matter but I don’t know if they will be able to without Manny in their lineup.

6. Sticking with baseball, how can I not mention the Cubs. Just a week and half ago people said they were going to fail as they fell into a tie with Milwaukee. But just five days later the Cubs were the proud owners of a four game sweep of the Brewers and a five game lead in the division.

Since that series the Cubs have continued to roll winning nine of their last 11 games. Meanwhile the Brewers have been winning but have also been fighting—Parra and Fielder’s little shoving match in the dugout the other night—and seem frustrated after not taking advantage of a great opportunity with Chicago in town for four games.

In no way am I writing off the Brewers but I do think they need to pull themselves together the rest of August in order to avoid a catastrophic collapse like we witnessed last season.

7. Why is there football on tonight? It is not that I am not ready for football—it reminds me that fall is coming and that is always a good thing—but it seems so early for people to be hitting each other.

Am I going to watch any of the games tonight? No. Maybe I will turn on the Bears game for five minutes to see Orton beat up by the Chief’s fourth string defense, but otherwise these games are absurd.

These EXHIBITION games are more for the coaches than anyone else and all the hoopla that comes from these games is completely ridiculous. The football writers need to wait until at least Labor Day, please.

8. I guess I will finish up with the Olympics, which begin tomorrow. I am excited to see the summer games. Great athletes competing in the largest competition in the world is always good time.

Highlights for me have to be whether the USA basketball team can actually win gold, Michael Phelps (why did he grow that disgusting ‘stache, by the way?) run for eight golds and how many people asphyxiate do to the poor air quality.

Should be a good time had by all.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed and hope that it inspired Nicks and Austins everywhere to come out and write once in a while.