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Hey Look! Another Drogba Red Card

So Chelsea bowed out of the Champions League yesterday in a surprise loss to Inter Milan. Inter Milan is a great team, but Chelsea was definitely the favorite to win this match-up. It was sweet revenge for Jose Mourinho, the current Inter Milan boss and former Chelsea boss. Not that anyone ever really roots for Mourinho or has any sympathy for the guy. Great coach, not exactly the world's most likeable guy though.

Anyways, the loss is very disappointing for Chelsea. Two years ago they made it to the Champions League final only to lose to their rival Manchester United. Last year they were literally seconds away from returning to the final until Andres Iniesta ripped their hearts out by scoring a late goal and sending Barcelona on to the finals where they eventually won it all. After getting so close the past two seasons, they are eliminated in the first stage of the knock-out rounds. Even though the results haven't been consistent, one thing has been consistent: a late in the game card for Didier Drogba.


Granted, this is pretty weak. I understand Drogba "hit" Vidic, but it's not like it was a punch or anything. Not sure if he deserved a red.


In 2009 he actually only received a yellow card and it came after the game was over (it just makes for a better post to pretend he got three red cards).

Drogba's reaction is actually understandable. Here is a video of Iniesta scoring late in the game and ripping Chelsea's heart out (love the announcer in that video). Below is a video of all of the potential penalties that happened during the game that weren't called and made all the Chelsea players so upset.

Finally, 2010:

Here is the red card Drogba received late in the game yesterday.

At first view I didn't think the red card was deserved, but after a few views, the ref made the right call.

I really wouldn't consider Drogba a dirty player. Although the third was cheap, the first red card was a little ticky tacky, the second was actually just a yellow. But his reactions are somewhat justified. The Champions League is a big deal and naturally emotions will run high. I get upset and start yelling at the ref in my local city league. I can only imagine the intense emotions running through these players in a Champions League game, let alone final. So I don't post this so much to say that Drogba is dirty, but if it's the Champions League and Chelsea is losing and the game is almost over, bet your neighbor on a late card for Drogba.

Six Years, One Result

I know this post is a little late since it has been almost a week since Real Madrid lost to Lyon and was knocked out, yet again, in the first round of the knock-out rounds in the Champions League. That makes six years in a row that they have lost in the first stage of the knock-out rounds of the Champions League. I wanted to post earlier, but I needed a few days to mourn as I was legitimately upset after the game. There is nothing worse as a sports fan than losing and knowing that you will have to wait an entire year before you can team can redeem itself.

The other difficult thing about this game is that I don't really know what to say about Real. I keep wandering in circles. Six years with the same result means that this has happened to six different squads. You can't fault C. Ronaldo or Kaka for not getting the job done, when Zidane also failed with Figo and the original Ronaldo. But it's not the players and I don't think its the coach. I could only come up with one explanation: the business model.

Real's "business model" doesn't work. They spent over $280 million in the offseason to acquire 5 players and they lost to a team that doesn't have 1 recognizable player. I didn't know anyone on Lyon. At first I thought I knew one guy, but then I realized it was thinking about a differnet guy with the same name. I guess Lyon's central defender might make Brazil's World Cup squad as a back-up. Might.

I haven't read Soccernomics entirely, but I understand that Lyon is discussed in the book as a team that is projected to be successful in the future because of their business model of developing youth and not overspending for players. Real disregards its youth system, overspends on players and has no loyalty to its current players because they are constantly running out and looking for the next "hot" player to buy. I think the game was a great illustration of both teams and how their style of play reflects their business models.

In the first half Real came out firing. Granted, they were down 1-0 because they lost the first leg at Lyon, so they couldn't hold anything back. Not that they would though. They are hot, flashy players. Not all of them of course (some are ugly), but most of them are recognizable players and have a huge paycheck and huge expectations to live up to. So they come out firing and needing to score goals to silence the critics and be int he spotlight. Which is what they did in the game. They scored right away and had a couple of other great opportunities. Real just dominated in the first half. It could have easily been 3-0. One would think that the dominance would continue in the second half, but it was a totally different game.

But in the second half, Real flamed out. Lyon had weathered the Real storm and onslaught, proven that they weren't intimidated by the big names on the back of the jersey, and then they just started a slow, progressive attack on Real. The game turned into a finesse battle and was no longer just one side trying to overpower the other side. Lyon suddenly had tons of chances and was attacking just as well as Real. Lyon knew that the game was 90 minutes long and they played like it. Real was in it to win it within the first 10 minutes of the game. Not in it for the long haul. No development, just come out and slaughter the other team. Lyon withstood the onslaught, built up their confidence and offense, and came out and late in the game put the dagger in Real's heart. Which is what they have been doing all season. The announcer mentioned that Lyon scores most of their goals late in the game - more than any other team. Might not be the most exciting way to win games or the most exciting way to build a club, but it works. Just slow and progressive and playing for 90 minutes.

Lyon's business model and game plan isn't flawless of course, but it is pretty brilliant. Sometimes it might not work. Real did have some moments where they should scored. But you aren't going to beat Real at it's own game - not that you would want to. No one can spend money like Real, frankly, no one should. And no one can really attack like Real. Well, teams can attack better than Real, but you know they are going to do an all out attack. Lyon didn't try and match their attack, they just frustrated it. Waited until Real was done trying to show off, and then just beat them at soccer with their good team chemistry and players that might not be individually as skilled, but collectively are solid.

So really it's pretty simple. Real failed because their business model failed. They were beaten by a team with a better business strategy. The need to change their strategy. I understand that the original group of galacticos won the Champions League in their first year together, but they only won once. No long term success. If you only have one championship to show for all your efforts over a long period of time, then your business model needs to be changed. And it's a shame Real couldn't figure things out a couple years ago so that the dream of winning the Champions League in Madrid in their own stadium could have been a reality. I'm sure Barcelona will be more than happy to turn that failed dream into a nightmare by winning the championship in Madrid.

What the John Terry scandal tells us about England, America, and Tiger Woods

Six months ago, discussions involving Tiger Woods focused on whether or not he would win more major championships than Jack Nicklaus. No one really knew much about him, other than that he was an incredible golfer and a fierce competitor with a beautiful wife and a strong dislike of photographers. Suddenly, everything changes. The facade is pulled down. Now when we talk about Tiger, we talk about his infidelity and indiscretions.

We understand that he wanted privacy so that he could keep up the appearance of the perfect husband and father but live the rock-star lifestyle. Tiger surrounded himself with enablers who pandered to him. His agent helped him become the wealthiest sports figure in the world. That same agent put a protective cocoon around him. Tiger's caddy kept the competitive juices during tournaments and protected him from the awful discomforts of clicking cameras and thoughtless fans. His life was well planned and completely fake.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the John Terry scandal swept through football. Terry was involved in an affair. News leaked that the captain of England's National Team had been unfaithful to his wife. However, this wasn't really news because it wasn't the first time he had cheated on his wife. Rumors of alleged affairs had circled around him for years. One website alleges relationships with 13 different women since 1999 despite the fact that Terry has dated Toni Poole, his current wife, since high school. The couple were married in 2007 and had twins together in 2006.

So why was this different? Terry was revered by fans of Chelsea and England despite his personal life. He was made team captain for both club and country. In reality, his indiscretions are no different than those of many of his teammates for club and country (Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard). The culture amongst the players not only allows for this poor behavior, it acts as a catalyst. Footballers party hard. They go to the club to celebrate after a win and to drink away their sorrows after a loss.

At the same time, the status that comes from being a "WAG" means that these guys can have a second life as doting husband and father since it seems that these women only leave the husbands if he happens to die (Cheryl Cole might buck this trend). Terry was even named "Father of the Year" in a poll of English adults (sponsored by a Ketchup maker). However I can't tell if anyone takes it seriously seeing as Indiana Jones and Homer Simpson were #1 and #2 fictional characters people would like as their father and Peter Andre was the winner last year. The English are either dopes or hilarious.

Back to my question. Was was this different? Why did John Terry pay his mistress hush money? Why did Terry get a gag order on the press when the story started to leak out? Because of Wayne Bridge:

That's Terry on the right and his former best buddy, Wayne Bridge. Bridge was Terry's teammate at Chelsea and was a member of the England Men's National Team. Terry cheated on his wife with Bridge's ex-girlfriend, Vanessa Perroncel. Perroncel and Bridge have a child together. For the English, this went too far. There was a line that Terry crossed by having an affair with his teammate's ex girlfriend. The line seems to be pretty fair down the path of shame, but there is definitely a line. For a celebrity athlete like Terry, you can cheat on your wife, mock Americans after 9/11, and assault security guards in night clubs.

But cheating on your teammate goes too far. Terry was stripped of his role of Captain of England's National Team and there was a feeling that the National Team Manager, Fabio Capello, was doing it not only for team unity, but because of the demands from the people.

Let's compare Tiger and John. Both crossed a line. I don't care to argue about which country has stronger morals or higher standards, but we can all accept that both athletes crossed a line. Tiger even apologized to the public for his indiscretions, and, while many think he doesn't owe them an apology, he had to do it in order to repair his image (I'm sure Nike is working around the clock on a rebranding strategy). Terry betrayed a teammate, which has a direct affect on the unity of the National Team and their prospects in the upcoming World Cup, which means he betrayed the public as well.

Tiger is still not back. Terry is and I think it gives a good indication of what might happen when Tiger returns. Here are the Premier League matches he's played since the shoe dropped:

Hull City
--- Stripped of England Captain's Armband ---
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Manchester City

In Terry's first game back, he came out firing on all cylinders. He was emotionally charged up for the game. He was defensively strong and even managed to score a goal. The match was at Burnley and he was abused by the fans. The Burnley supporters were very vocal and loud. Terry's teammates came out in support of him and everything seemed fine. No dip in form, no negative repercussions on the playing field.

Against Arsenal, a home game, the Chelsea fans brought banners and were very supportive. After the game, Terry thanked them profusely for their support. Chelsea diehards were behind him all the way. Again, Terry was very emotional, but played well.

Then he was stripped of the captaincy and Chelsea headed to Everton where Terry was abused by Landon Donovan and Louis Saha. Chelsea lost 2-1 and Terry was atrocious. He misjudged the long ball and was abused by Donvon's speed.

The big one came on February 27th when Chelsea hosted Manchester City, Wayne Bridge's team. He had no idea what was about to hit him. This game had more pressure than could be imagined. The press was writing pages for the build up. Manchester City rallied around their teammate and catapulted themselves to a 4-2 victory. It was an incredible game. The peak moment was when City's Carlos Tevez beat John Terry to tie the match. Tevez ran over teammate Wayne Bridge and pointed to him. "This is for Wayne!" It was an incredible moment of unity and the entire team rallied around their betrayed teammate. It was all City from there on out. Chelsea and Terry simply didn't have that kind of unity and strength.

The John Terry scandal tells us three important things about Tiger's comeback:

1. It will be easy to ride the adrenalin of emotion when he first returns. Those first three tournaments will be intense as friendly and angry fans come together to either shout praises or scorn but Tiger's own emotions will carry the day, and like Terry, he'll perform well. He'll sink the puts and pump his fists as the crowd roars. "He's back" will be our first reaction.

2. Some venues will undoubtedly be like home matches, full of support, but at some point, his form will slip. Tiger will have his own "Everton" where he plays poorly and the fans shout abuse. He'll miss a cut and the gallery will pile on the abuse. "He's lost it" will be our second reaction.

3. The tournament after he suffers the most abuse will tell us if he can handle the heat. It's at that point when we'll know whether he will can regain his spectacular form. Terry's form dipped at Everton and then he walked into an ambush against Manchester City, with the world watching, he failed again. That's when we can make our final decision on Tiger.

Can Tiger handle that game after "the game?" If he plays a tournament with a "Phil Mickelson" crowd a few weeks before a major, will he be able to bounce back from a bad day?

We tend to forgive our heroes in football and life, and with time, we'll forgive Tiger and Terry.

What we don't know is whether they'll ever return to the form they had before they fell.

Weekend Preview: Owen is out, City on the Rise, Real seeks Revenge

Before getting to the weekend preview, it was reported earlier today that Michael Owen is out the rest of the season due to injury. Talk about a career completely plagued with injury. Such a bummer.

He had the ability to do this:

But this is how he will be remembered:


The first big game of the weekend is Manchester City v. Tottenham. Both teams are tied for 4th and have a one point lead over Liverpool in the standings. Manchester City is coming off a great win last weekend against Chelsea. A game that featured 6 goals and this awesome move. (For those unfamiliar with the story, it recently came out that John Terry, the player in blue, had an affair with Wayne Bridge's girlfriend, the player in white. Hence the no handshake.)

Tottenham is coming off a win vs. Everton last weekend thanks to this sweet move by Landon Donovan. Doh! My heart actually aches a little every time I watch that clip. So sad. That goal would have tied the game. Just rough.

Anyways, the two teams are currently tied. Both are trying to hold on to that 4th spot, but surely both can hear Liverpool coming up behind them in the standing. If Liverpool wins, then the loser of the Man City/Tottenham game will fall to 6th behind Liverpool. A tie doesn't even help these teams as it would only give them 1 point each and Liverpool would leap frog both of them with a win. A lot riding on this game.

Prediction: Man City wins 2-1.

Real Madrid v. Sevilla

Huge game in La Liga. Real needs the win, but could very well lose for a variety of reasons:

1. Sevilla beat Real earlier in the season when the two teams met. However, that game was played at Sevilla and this game is in Madrid so Real should exact their revenge.

2. Real is only two points behind Barcelona and if they want to win the league this year they know they can't lose or tie to anyone otherwise they won't win the league even if they beat Barcelona in a few weeks. They just have added pressure for each game.

3. C. Ronaldo is already running his mouth and saying that he is sure Madrid will win the league. Again, why add the pressure? You haven't won anything yet. Barcelona is the king of La Liga. Why bother even saying anything at this point?

4. Lyon comes to Madrid on Tuesday. I don't think Real is overlooking Saturday's game, but they know the second leg of their Champions League match up will take place this Wednesday. It's a huge game for Real. To spend so much money and lose this early in the Champions League would be a huge embarrassment and epic fail. Players know it. Fans know it. Ownership knows it.

Prediction: Despite the pressure, Real comes out and thumps them 3-1.

Many other games of course. Those are the two big ones. Hopefully Donovan comes out and redeems himself and isn't scarred for the rest of the season.
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