Throughout the NBA offseason, I will be keeping tabs on the arrivals and departures of the Milwaukee Bucks. Obviously, there is much to be anticipated for the organization. The questions is - who will be with this team come the Fall? While most Bucks fans want to blow it up and rebuild, it appears the organization will blow it up, but instead, add better talent with the extra money they'll have. My gut feeling is more than 50% of the players and coaching staff will be ousted. Once moves are made, I will put black 'X's over the departing team members. Quite honestly, anybody could be removed (and in a perfect world, maybe Herb Kohl will oust himself!) From Center Larry Sanders to Equipment Manager Jay Namoc, nobody is safe.
I'm a big fan of the reality TV Show "Survivor". Instead of calling this 'The tribe has spoken', this reality game will be "The Bucks have spoken."
Who makes the cut? That's your choice...
Here are my predictions...I don't care how many years are left on some of the contracts. John Hammond has a history of dumping bad contracts...and also adding bad contracts...
Ekpe Udoh surprise: Ersan Ilyasova via trade
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute sleeper: Gustavo Ayon
Jim Boylan WILL NOT return. For the rest of the coaching staff, I don't know where to begin...
It's going to be one hell of a ride, Bucks fans!
Stay tuned throughout the offseason to see whose imaginary torch will be snuffed!
Wow, it’s about time a prominent writer addresses an issue I’ve been stressing for the last year!
Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s be honest. The NBA system sucks. How can anybody, especially in this city, believe that the Milwaukee Bucks are treated fairly by David Stern and company? A simple luxury tax is a slap in the face to the big shot organizations in the biggest cities. There needs to be a level playing field, and while David Stern can run his mouth all day that the NBA is fair, the fact of the matter is…it isn’t.
Author Howard Bryant wrote a recent column in ESPN The Magazine about the flaws of the NBA system, and why the two-month long NBA playoffs are the biggest joke in sports. He believes that Stern needs to take a page out of the English Premier League. I wrote a blog several months ago about college football revamping its system through the European soccer format.
Bryant writes that the 30-team NBA could be split into a Championship League (the lower league) and a Premier League (the top league). While he doesn’t say how many teams would go into each league, personally, I wouldn’t split it in half. I’d say at least 12-14 teams would qualify in the Premier League, that is, the best of the best – Heat, Spurs, Clippers, Lakers, etc. While the other 16-18 teams play in the Championship League – Bucks, Wizards, Pistons, Cavs, etc. Based on how the English soccer system works, no team in the Premier League is scheduled to play a team from the Championship league during the regular season. However, in England, teams from the two leagues may clash in other national tournaments, or cups, during that season: The Capital One Cup and The English FA Cup.
Before going further, just so I don’t confuse people, let’s change the lower-league “Championship League” name to the NBA Futures League. Much better.
Now, if you’re a franchise like the Milwaukee Bucks, your goal for the season, if placed in the Futures League, is to either win the league by season’s end or finish in the top three of the league. If the Bucks pull off one of those two scenarios, then next season, they will be promoted to the NBA Premier League. Let’s say during that next season the Bucks struggle and finish in the bottom three of the standings in the Premier League, then the Bucks would be relegated back to the Futures League. Theoretically, if the Heat had a horrible season in the Premier League and finished in the bottom three, LeBron and his boys would be playing with the leftovers of the NBA next season. SportsCenter would be all over that!
Bryant goes on to say that only the teams in the Premier League would have the opportunity to compete for an NBA Championship. Bryant writes, “The length of the season could remain the same, but only the upper-division teams would be eligible to compete for an NBA Championship. Suddenly, every game would mean something.” It sure would, Howard. Once again, Bryant does not go into depth on how a playoff system, if any, would fit into achieving an NBA Title. Here’s what I suggest…
By the end of the season, the top eight teams in the NBA Premier League would clinch a playoff berth. The first and second rounds would be three-game series with the higher seed getting home-court advantage. The final round would become a five game series. I’m OK with a longer series for the NBA Trophy, but I’ve always loathed that anything more than five games is too excessive for any fan. (Only exception – The World Series). First team to three wins gets the NBA Trophy.
Bryant and I both agree that these seven game playoff series (particularly the first round) are unnecessary and a big waste of time. No playoff system should last two-months long. In fact, Bryant worked the numbers and said that the NBA Playoffs is 20% of the length of an NBA regular season!
Now, Bryant does say that the 82-game regular season would remain the same for both leagues. You could leave it that way, but in my opinion, I would scale that back. If there’s a maximum of 14 teams in the NBA Premier League, every team should play each other four times. That’s 13 opponents multiple by four meetings, which equals 52 regular season games. That number would be slightly greater in the NBA Futures league, though, since the other 16 teams would play down there. (If my math serves me correctly, that’s 60 regular season games). Now, if you split the leagues in half 15-15, both leagues would total 56 regular season games. I understand the NBA could lose significant revenue if you reduce the number of regular season games, so yes, there is one disadvantage there. However, if it’s a popular season, attendance would surely rise.
This is also assuming that the NBA eliminates eastern and western conferences and regional divisions within those conferences. Bryant encourages this idea of eliminating both in order to make it more exciting. I agree as well.
However, there’s one area that Howard Bryant does not mention - How would the NBA work?
This is what I propose – only the teams playing in the NBA Futures League are eligible for the draft. That’s right! Teams like the Heat, Clippers, Spurs, etc, are not allowed to participate in the NBA Draft because they are settled in the Premier League. This gives teams in the lower-level league an advantage to improve their team and level the playing field, so their chances of getting to the Premier League increase for next season. There would be a lottery style draft like before, with the worse records getting better odds of landing the number one pick. Instead of two rounds, there would be three. Teams in the lower-level can restock with younger talent, since it’s nearly impossible to land a superstar free agent during the offseason.
And since we know the majority of the teams in the Premier League will go over the salary cap anyway, they can improve their team through free agent signings or trades during the offseason. If a team from the Premier League wants to venture into the draft, they can do it via trade. A team from the Premier League can trade a player for a draft pick with a team from the Futures League. In addition, during the regular season, with a mandated trade deadline, teams from both leagues can make trades with anybody. The Heat in the Premier League, for example, could make a trade with the Bucks of the Futures League.
Once the draft has closed, undrafted free agents can now sign with any team, including those franchises apart of the Premier League (sorry, guys, you get the crumbs).
One question you might be asking yourself, though, is what about the relegated and promoted teams? Who gets in the draft and who doesn’t? Simple. Teams promoted from the NBA Futures League to the NBA Premier League going into next season miss out on the upcoming draft. However, teams relegated from the Premier League down to the Futures League get thrown into the lottery. Although you’ve been kicked out, your franchise has the luxury to rebuild your team through the draft.
Do I make myself clear?
If you can find a loophole in this proposed system from either myself or from Howard Bryant, I’d like to hear it. Bryant has a serious point. And so do I. The question is, do you? Is the NBA fair? Do you like the system David Stern has in place? Do you like the two-month long playoffs, especially when you know the Milwaukee Bucks don’t stand a snowball’s chance?
Thursday night, Sparky asked me who was going to win between the Bucks and Lakers. Despite a four-game losing streak, I said the Bucks would win. Why? Well, why do you think?
If you’ve followed the Bucks to some extent this season, you’ll be aware that the Bucks like to play guessing games with the fans of Milwaukee and SE Wisconsin. They can come out and play their best against the best of the best, and then struggle to defeat the worst of the worst. Every time you want to hop onto the Bucks bandwagon, you’re forced off of it. Then, when you’re not paying attention to the team, the Bucks get on a roll. And when a nice stretch of wins grabs the fans’ attention, what happens? The Bucks turn the winning streak into a losing streak…
I’m sick of it…I feel like I’m in The Twilight Zone…
Rod Serling:This is Joe Zenzola. He works in sports radio. For years, Joe has been a die-hard Bucks fan. However, in this last season, he’s been on a roller coaster of emotions with his favorite basketball team. Every time the team is winning consistently, Joe begins to express how the Bucks could be a force in the NBA. But as soon as he does that, his team starts a trend of losing streaks. And once he wants to blow up the team and rebuild, the Bucks start to win again. Joe is just as disoriented as other Bucks’ fans. The Bucks’ successes and failures will drive Joe to madness. What Joe doesn’t know is…he’s really in… ‘The Twilight Zone’.
The latest example of this came on the day of the NBA Trade Deadline. Furious beyond belief, I did not like the J.J. Redick trade. The Bucks gave up too much to get him; I guess I would have felt a little better if the Bucks also landed Josh Smith, but that turned out to be a failed deal because Atlanta wanted Larry Sanders (Thank God, Bucks management didn’t deal the SWAT Man!).
The Redick deal, however, was puzzling. Yes, when the Bucks were playing great basketball earlier in the season, I felt they could use an extra shooter. But after seeing the inconsistency of maintaining a winning record and a chance to move up in the Eastern Conference playoff race, acquiring an extra shooter was meaningless. This season, like so many in the last several years, has been more repetitive than brushing my teeth. Ready to throw in the towel for the season, I believed it was time for a drastic change…
Instead of trying to make the eighth seed quota that Herb Kohl seems to be infatuated with, I felt it was time to blow up the team, rebuild it around Sanders and Henson, and move forward. Many fans would agree, I’ll do ANYTHING to see the Bucks win just ONE NBA Title in my lifetime! Once the Redick deal was made, though, the Bucks got on a role…
While filling in for several of the Robert Haack Diamonds Basketball Post Game Shows, there was one night where the Bucks were just three games behind the Nets for the fourth seed in the East. The fourth! At that point, I actually pondered kissing Herb Kohl and John Hammond’s feet. Could this be a sign of another FEAR THE DEER run? J.J. Redick was doing a great job off the bench, Monta Ellis was stepping up his game to another level, and Brandon Jennings, knowing he needs to do something to raise his value, decided to pass the ball around more. Nonetheless, this formula was working and the Bucks were winning…I cannot believe I almost wanted to apologize to Bucks management.
And then…another losing streak started…
Since winning six of eight after the Redick deal (including a 2-1 west coast road trip), the Bucks are 3-7. Bucks fans, I’m tired of the roller coaster ride. I hope you are, too.
Whenever I’m negative and pessimistic, they win. Whenever I’m excited and optimistic, they lose. I can’t take it anymore. Here are three things worth noting; one of those is a special message directed towards the Senator.
First, observe all the big wins and bad defeats for the Bucks this season…
(Oh, and by the way, the Bucks still need to face the Bobcats twice, and the T-Wolves, Magic, and Raptors all once. Don’t expect 5-0, folks)
Secondly, over on Facebook, I posted a poll question. “Yes or no, would you blow up and rebuild the Bucks’ organization?” Of 200 responses, only 25 people on the 1250 Facebook page said ‘No.’ Well, Mr. Senator?
Now a message for Senator Kohl…
Mr. Senator, you are a man of the people, correct?
You were one of two senators to represent the people of the State of Wisconsin for a long time, right?
Now, you run a business, correct?
Yes, we’re talking about the business of the Milwaukee Bucks. In order to be successful in a business, you need to put out a product that consumers want to buy into. Consumers will make it clear what they want. So, Mr. Senator, give the consumers what they want. You represented people while in political office, so why can’t you represent the fans of this city? Why can’t you give them what they want?
Look at these names…Corey Maggette…and Stephen Jackson…and John Salmons…and Drew Gooden…and Richard Jefferson…among others…ARE NOT THE ANSWERS. You can't expect to put a winning team on the court with names like these. Well aware of the finiancial situation, I understand getting a superstar to Milwaukee is impossible. However, you can find other avenues…And if you can’t, then do what the people say.
If seven of every eight fans want to blow this thing up, what is so difficult about that? I’ll blame myself if that leads to 20 straight seasons of failure; I’m cool with that! It's time to start taking some risks. Most buisness take risks...You have nothing to lose, Mr. Senator.
You’re attendance is crap anyway. A .500 basketball team with an eighth seeded playoff appearance is unacceptable for any fan base. That doesn’t win you a championship. Why should that mentality fly?! REBUILD this franchise. Otherwise, sell the team, make your millions, and retire. This franchise can only be successful if the owner knows what he or she is doing. With all due respect, Senator Kohl, as an owner of an NBA franchise, you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m convinced this team is doomed with you at the helm…I’m sorry.
Disappointed, flustered, and irritated, I don’t know what else to say. I’m sick of the constant guessing games and roller coaster rides. This isn’t some emotional theme park. I want the Bucks to be the best team in the league; I want them to win an NBA title. And so do you Bucks fans…We deserve better.
This offseason might be the biggest offseason in the franchise’s history. There are several directions to go, and it will be interesting to see where Herb Kohl and John Hammond decide to take this organization. Just make this team better in the long haul…
After playing some of the most consistent golf this past week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Tiger Woods looks more like the normal Tiger we’ve known from his glory days. With that being said, Tiger is not far off from competing to win his 15th career Major. Winning a WGC-event is like winning a semi-major; Tiger has won seven times at Doral, 17 WGC-events altogether. Although the field is half the normal size in these WGC-events, you’re still playing against some of the best golfers in the world. Tournaments like these are a true measure of a pro golfer’s potential and future in the game. Tiger’s future continues to look brighter…
Since the fame scandal, Tiger has slowly, but surely, repaired his image both on and off the golf course. On the course, though, Tiger did a ton to revamp his game into something that would make him feel comfortable once again. He parted ways with swing coach Hank Haney, and hired Sean Foley. He also split with long-time caddy Steve Williams, and replaced him with Joe LaCava. He’s done a slightly better job controlling his anger and poor sportsmanship, and continues to be open to the media. Furthermore, Tiger looks more focused than ever. Jokingly, I like to call him Mr. Serious when he plays. He tunes everything out around him and hones in on how he’ll play his next shot.
Ironically, his biggest problem was the putter. As the old saying goes, ‘drive for show, putt for dough.’ Back in the day, that was Tiger’s forte; it’s what made Tiger the best in the world. Coming in the clutch no matter the situation, Tiger would find a way to sink a putt from 20 feet for par when the challenge came. When he was making putts, nobody could catch him. While rebuilding his game, Tiger has had a fair share of scattered rounds where it appears his putter is working in one round, but not in the other four. Just when you think the old Tiger has returned, he stinks it up in the next round. Inconsistency, for awhile, was becoming Tiger Woods middle name.
So after a 45-minute putting lesson from competitor and friend, Steve Stricker, earlier in the week, Tiger found himself absolutely unstoppable once tournament play at Doral got underway. I’ve never seen Tiger sink so many putts from so many distances in a long, LONG time. After reading Hank Haney’s book The Big Miss (which I recommend to anyone interested in Tiger Woods), Haney was convinced that Tiger filed away something like 5-10% of what was taught to him and ignored the other 90-95%; it would be that knowledge he would use to further his game in tournaments. I’m certain what Tiger got out of Stricker’s lesson was part of that 5-10%.
I have no idea where swing coach Sean Foley was. Isn’t that his job to help Tiger with the putting instead of a fellow competitor? It’s rare to see any competitor assist another competitor with an element of their game. I’ve drawn the conclusion that Tiger has a stronger friendship with Steve Stricker, than any other golfer on tour. Outside of his relationships with pros Mark O’Meara and Notah Begay III, Tiger doesn’t welcome too many of his current competitors into his inner circle – Stricker might be an exception to the fact.
Holding that mammoth of a trophy, Tiger’s stats at Doral speak for themselves. He had the fewest putts of his career in any pro tournament he’s played in: 100 putts. Tiger also finished with 27 birdies for the tournament, that’s just one shy of his career record of 28 set back at two different tournaments in 2006 and 2007.
From start to finish, Tiger was dialed in. Every time I sensed a hiccup in one of his rounds at the Blue Monster, Tiger would somehow correct his fault. It was rare this weekend to see Tiger hit two bad shots in a row. If he drove the ball way right, Tiger would blast it out of the trees and put himself in position for a nice up and down, or get a good look at birdie. If Tiger’s chipping or sand play was lackluster around the green, Tiger would connect on the next shot with a 10-15 footer for par. Is this the best we’ll see out of him? And for how long?
The thing is Tiger has now won twice this season on tour, and five total victories over the last year. Tiger is now second in the Fedex Cup Standings behind Brandt Snedeker, and continues to inch his way closer to number one ranked Rory McIlroy in the World Golf Rankings.
Next up on the calendar for Mr. Woods – The Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he’s won seven times. I predict he’ll win that tournament as well. If he can continue to master his skills around the greens, Tiger will have no problem adding his 77th PGA hardware to his trophy case.
Now, I expect Tiger to win a major this year. If not, it’s time to start questioning whether winning more majors than Jack Nicklaus is even feasible. Tiger’s last major victory came at the 2008 U.S. Open. Tiger has now had several seasons to get back everything he lost during the time of his scandal. If there’s any major he can win, it’s The Masters. He’s won four times there, but was last victorious in 2005. Even when Augusta was ‘Tiger-proofed’, it still doesn’t play as a long course. Sure, the fairways may be tight and the greens will play exceptionally fast, but golfers can definitely put up low scores.
Tiger’s putter has failed him at Augusta for the last several years. If he can do what he did at Doral, he’s got this in the bag – guaranteed. Throughout his career, though, Tiger is still so-so with the driver. If I’m Tiger Woods, use a 3-wood or shorter club off the tee in that tournament. It got him a British Open title back in 2006 using that strategy. It surprises me why he doesn’t use that strategy more often in tournaments, especially if the course isn’t necessarily a long one.
Tiger, we’re all waiting for that next major title. You’re beginning to find your groove once again. Do us all a favor and get it done!
I don’t know if Packer fans realize this, but Ted Thompson stepped out of his bounds on April 26, 2006. We know Ted well, right? The guy doesn’t make a myriad of free agent signings, let alone top tier free agents. After one year in the books, though, as general manager, Thompson made one of the biggest free agent signings of his tenure. Inking him to a seven year, 52.7 million dollar deal, the Packers took a small gamble on a player that some believe may have already been washed up with the Oakland Raiders. His name was Charles Woodson.
The Green and Gold were the only franchise in the NFL to offer him a contract. Woodson made it clear that he did not want to play for Green Bay, but in the end, he chose not to turn the contract down. The decision was a life changer…
His accolades speak for themselves…
- 8 Pro Bowls
- 7 All-Pros
- AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2009)
- NFC Defense Player of the Year (2009)
- AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1998)
- Heisman Trophy Recipient (1997)
Just to name a few…
Woodson worked his magic game in and game out. From what I’ve seen out of #21, he was by far one of the best secondary players out there. The guy was a hawk on the football field, ready to strike for an incoming pass or to nail a quarterback to the ground.
Although he broke his collar bone in Super Bowl XLV, Woodson prevented Steelers WR Mike Wallace from catching a deep pass that could have changed the course of the game. His halftime speech to his teammates thereafter resonated well. The Packers would go on to win a thrilling Super Bowl, after a magic carpet ride nobody saw coming. He’s the definition of an elite player…and a standup guy both on and off the field. (Not to mention, the guy always dressed nice before putting on the pads).
A couple of C-Wood’s famous quotes…
“If the President don’t want to come to see us at the Super Bowl, we’re going to see him!”
“Same old Jay”
“I’ve been blessed with talent and wanting to be great. If you have those things, the sky is the limit.”
He was a leader among men. He’s definitely in the Packer Hall of Fame, and I expect him to retire as a Green Bay Packer. I also hope he makes the NFL Hall of Fame…
He [Messi] was close, real close. I couldn't see him yet, but I could feel him, as if the subway train was being sucked towards Camp Nou and the tracks were being pulled back into the city. Whatever was going to happen, it wasn't gonna be the way they call it back in Wisconsin.
No, I’m not talking about Colonel Kurtz; I’m talking about Lionel Messi – the greatest ‘football’ player on the face of the earth.
Waiting for the last two years, I never thought I would have another opportunity to see him play live again. Tomorrow (Sunday), I will return to Camp Nou, one of the biggest stadiums in the world, as FC Barcelona takes on Osasuna, the worst team in La Liga. Expecting a massacre on the field, I hope Messi comes through with a goal. It will complete this 18 day journey…
However, Messi apparently had an injury Thursday night in the second leg of the Copa del Rey against Malaga; he was substituted in the 82nd minute. The club claims that the injury is not serious, but Messi did not practice yesterday.
Great, that’s all I need. Come all this way to see the greatest football player of my lifetime, and he’s sitting on the bench?! Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that…
Messi’s speed, passing, accuracy, and scoring are extraordinary skills that most football players cannot mirror. The man has a true gift, and unlike so many other superstars, he lives a pretty humble and quiet life (or so we think). He’s a special player with a special talent. When he gets the ball, let him go to work. When he doesn’t have the ball, he’s in position to strike when the opportunity presents itself. His team is an outstanding supporting cast of talented individuals. They, too, are superstars in their own respect. In general, Barcelona’s starting eleven is a well oiled machine, with very few flaws. It is why they are champions on a consistent basis, not only in Spain, but around the world. They are more than just the Yankees and Lakers of the world…They are ‘mes que un club’.
It’s been a week since I’ve written a blog. Obviously so much has happened between now and then, so I’ll try to recap my time in Munich and Barcelona. The game is Sunday, and I’ll fly home the following day. Still cannot believe how fast this trip has gone by, yet I feel like I’ve been here for months. Honestly, though, I’m ready to come home.
In Munich, I can say ate very well. Anticipating outstanding German cuisine, I didn’t have one bad meal when I was there. Almost every dinner consisted of schnitzel (either pork or veal), and almost every lunch consisted of a schnitzel sandwich. Although I’m not the biggest potato salad fan, I surely ate a ton of it. I also had my fair share of sausage, including bratwurst, bockwurst, and weisswurst. I even had something that look like pink bread – it was German meatloaf; you would have never have guessed it, but it was outstanding. Ironically, I didn’t drink as much beer as I thought I would. When I did, it was a lot of Hofbrau and Hachor Pschorr.
As for the sites in Munich, I experienced the Dachau Concentration Camp, an absolute fascinating, but depressing tour. It still amazes me how human beings have the power and will to exterminate millions of innocent human beings. We cannot forget these horrors…
Taking a two hour train ride south into the mountains of Bavaria, I also took a tour of the Neuschwanstein castle. It was built in the late 1800s for the king of Bavaria. The castle is absolutely amazing on the inside; everything – furniture, art, and the rooms – was in perfect condition. And yes, it kind of looks like Hogwarts.
In addition, I got a tour of the Allianz Arena, the home of Bayern Munich. Considering how big it is, it has the same capacity as Lambeau field (70,000 people). Did you know the media is allowed to drink alcohol? Yep. The pressroom there is enormous; it’s like the size of an auditorium. Behind it is a little cafeteria with a bar. Too bad we don’t have that luxury back home.
I also saw a Bayern Munich game. That was, by far, the coldest game I’ve ever been too. Plus, fans are allowed to smoke in the stadium. This resulted in a lot of second-hand smoke for yours truly. You can check out the game summary in my previous blog.
Did I mention the air was clean? Although it snowed almost every day, I have never inhaled cleaner air in my life!
As for Barcelona, I was looking forward to the change in climate. All this week, it’s been in the mid 50s to low 60s; the sun has been out every single day. While it was still way too cold to swim, I did hang out by the beach today (nothing like looking out at the Mediterranean Sea). Our hotel has a nice rooftop overlooking the city. I’ve spent my afternoons getting a lot of reading in from up there.
We’ve done a lot of walking as well, making tours to the Montjuic Castle which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea as well as Barcelona. We did a tour of the buildings and parks designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Scattered across the city, they’re very unique in shape, size, and color. One of his famous creations, a mammoth cathedral called La Sagrada Familia, began construction in the late 1800s. IT’S STILL BEING BUILT TODAY! If you see this church in person, you will be convinced why they’re still working on it.
And of course, we got a tour FC Barcelona’s stadium Camp Nou…
All in all, it’s been an outstanding trip. It might be my last ever trip to Europe, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The culture, the food, the sites, and the football have been out of this world.
Besides, January is the perfect time to come, since there’s football on TV almost every day. When I haven’t been touring the sites or eating, I’m watching football in one of the local bars. Between the Premier League, English FA Cup, La Liga, Copa del Rey, and the German Bundesliga, I have been more into the sport than ever. I wonder what I’ll watch tonight…
Again, can’t wait to see Messi and company pounce on a crappy Osasuna squad.
To close my European Chronicles, I’ll use the opposite of what Kurtz said in Apocalypse Now…
Munich, Germany - Forward Mario Mandzukic came one goal short of a hat trick, as first place Bayern Munich roles over last place Greuther Furth 2-0 in a Bundesliga showdown at the Allianz Arena early Saturday night.
Bayern Munich (14-3-1, 45 points in the Bundesliga) started off a little slow against Greuther Furth, a team which is missing several players as well as a suspended manager. It took 26 minutes before Mario Mandzukic put Bayern on the board with a short shot from the center of the box into the right corner of the goal; Thomas Muller was on with the assist.
Extending the lead in the second half, Mandzukic scored again in the 61st minute with a header also from the center of the box, but this time into the left corner of the goal to make it 2-0 Bayern.
Greuther Furth (1-6-11, 9 points in the Bundesliga) played better than most expected. Despite possessing the ball for only 23% of the time, Furth’s defense did a solid job from turning this game into a bloodbath. Although Bayern had 22 total shots in the game, just five were on target; the Furth defense did the best they could, keeping Bayern from shooting inside the box, especially when Bayern had 17 corner kicks in the game (Furth had zero). Furth goalkeeper Wolfgang Hesl also had three saves in the game.
Staying nine points ahead of second place Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich continues Bundesliga action next Sunday on the road against ninth place Stuttgart (7-4-7, 25 points). Meanwhile, trying to fight their way out of relegation, Greuther Furth returns home to host seventh place Mainz (8-3-7, 27 points) next Saturday.
I’ll continue my football chronicles in the next couple of days. I’ll recap my time in Munich and preview the one thing I’ve been dying to see this whole trip…a Barcelona game. Stay tuned!
For the record, I’m an Arsenal fan (in the Premier League).
I’m a Bayern Munich fan (in the Bundesliga).
And most importantly, I’m a Barcelona fan (in La Liga).
Last Saturday, I watched the Premier League matchup between Fulham and Wigan. You can check out the game report in the previous blog I wrote. As the week progressed and the rescheduling of matches came into focus, there were two more matches I saw before hitting the plane to Munich.
On Tuesday night, there was an FA Cup redraw between Brentford (League 1) and Southend United (League 2). On tap for Wednesday night, a rescheduled Premier League matchup between Chelsea and Southampton was put into place. I got tickets for both games…
Truthfully, of the three football matches I’ve seen, the Brentford game has been the most exciting. I saw Brentford two years ago in my last trip to London in a normal League 1 regular season match. Unable to call that first game ‘exciting’, I hoped this second game had a little more energy than before. Although it was only the third round of the English FA Cup, the winner of this contest would play…Chelsea!
That’s one of the many reasons why I enjoy European Football. Every country has their top tier league, followed by weaker leagues below that. While each club is looking to win their league and be promoted to the higher league, most countries tend to have a league cup of some kind; some countries have multiple league cups. In England, there are two main cups - the Captial One Cup (use to be the Carling Cup) and the FA Cup. Bad football clubs from all leagues across England, for example, have the chance to compete in these cups against some of the best clubs in the country. Are you following along?
So, this Brentford vs Southend contest was serious business. Despite a slew of teams still fighting to see another day, the winner of this contest would host Chelsea, the victors of the UEFA Champions League, at an old stadium that most likely seats 10,000 people. Yes, there was a lot on the line…
Brentford forced the draw against Southend a couple of weeks ago to hold onto their FA Cup dreams. Bringing it back to their home stadium of Griffin Park, Brentford was on a mission to wreak hell on Southend…and that’s just what they did. However, Brentford had numerous scoring opportunities to make this game a shear blowout. Instead, the Southend defense did what they could to keep the Bees in their hive (Yes, Brentford’s mascot is the Bees). In the end, Brentford took care of Southend in a thriller 2-1.
The energy in that small, crappy stadium was an atmosphere I haven’t felt as a fan in a long-time. Fans from all sides shouting their favorite chants; fellow Brits saying some of the filthiest things to the officials when cheap shots weren’t called on the field; there were roars heard like no other when Brentford scored…even when they were just a hair off target. Whether you’re new to the sport or not, you, the fan, were part of a large cheering section family, supporting a team that you may never see again. There wasn’t a jumbo-tron telling fans to get loud or music to fire up the fans.
Walking out of the stadium after the game, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Are the Bees really going to play Chelsea, the 2012 Champions of Europe, in two weeks? At Griffin Park? This is crazy!’
Speaking of Chelsea, I bought a few tickets for the game at Stamford Bridge during the stadium tour on Monday. Stamford Bridge is one hell of a venue (can’t say it beats the Emirates, though…). Touring the locker-room, pressroom, and the field, I was impressed with everything they had to offer. It was definitely the supreme of supreme stadiums in England…but I digress.
Purchasing the tickets, I didn’t realize what section we were really sitting in. Eleven rows back to the left of the goal, I was quite impressed with where we ended up. The tickets were a little pricey – 52 pounds (about $85 give or take) per person, but you only live once, right? Anyway, there’s a rule that fans are not allowed to stand for a long duration throughout the match. Well, that went out the window, when some of the loudest Chelsea fans were all around us! Although I’ve become a serious Arsenal fan, how could I not cheer for Chelsea? Do I really want my ass kicked? I will say this – I have nothing against Chelsea as a club…yet. In the meantime, I’ll cheer for them when appropriate.
From an offensive standpoint, Chelsea dominated their side of the ball in the first half. Newly acquired striker Demba Ba put up the first score for the Blues, while midfielder Eden Hazard knocked in the second goal late in the first half. However, in the second half, Southampton battled their way back, firing in two goals to even the match. Having several opportunities to score, Chelsea came up with nothing. The match was drawn 2-2. For Chelsea, though, they need victories if they want to catch Manchester United and Manchester City for the Premier League title.
As for the city of London, it was nice to be back. Like most big cities, London has its positives and negatives. It’s one of the most universal cities in the world when it comes to ethnicity and culture; all walks of life can be found in London. There are some impoverished areas and there are some beautiful areas. The food, too, can be really good, but also a little questionable. Taking a wild guess, I would say there are tens of thousands of places to eat in London, yet I was trying to stick to the classic pubs. I’ve gotten a little picky to stay away from restaurants in shady neighborhoods as well as food served from outside vendors. Refusing to eat any of it, I stuck close to what I know best – sandwiches, pizza, beer, and fish n’ chips. However, cannot wait to eat the German food in Munich…to be continued…
Enjoying the vast amount of history London has to offer, I knew it was important to check out as much as I could. One day, we went to the Tower of London. Built close to a 1,000 years ago, the Tower of London served as the prison and protector of the riches. Inside the large castle, I saw the amazing armory, the different types of execution weapons, and the royal family’s extensive and world-famous Crown Jewels. It’s a must-see site in London.
We also took a walk around Camden Market, a large, outside shopping center with stands and booths all over the place. Things are pretty cheap there, and there are a lot of knockoffs. However, you can negotiate prices with the different store owners, and sometimes get a steal of a deal. In the end, I only bought one thing from there – a “Mind the Gap” shot glass for three pounds. And yes, I did go to Harrods with a couple of girls. Before you strip my man card, I was there to buy Mom a birthday present and to take a gander at their golf section.
Obviously, we did a walk-around of the city, seeing some of the important landmarks like Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Parliament, Leicester Square, St. James Park, and Buckingham Palace (I caught the tale-end of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham. That’s a site to see also!).
I’m also with a pretty good group of people. Spending the next 18 days with them, I’m not afraid to nip things in the bud if anybody starts getting on my case/out of hand. So far, things have been going well…Let’s keep it that way…
So there you have it. I’m now in Munich until Tuesday; on Saturday, we will see Bayern Munich play the worst team in the Bundesliga – Gruether Furth – at the enormous Allianz Arena.
I’ll have a game summary report in the next couple of days…Stay tuned!
London, UK - Fulham and Wigan were at each others’ throats throughout the course of the game, but after the dust settled at Craven Cottage, the Premier League duel ended in a 1-1 draw early Saturday evening.
Fulham (6-7-9, 25 points in EPL) struck first with a shot to the bottom left corner of the goal by midfielder Giorgos Karagounis (say that name five times straight). Receiving a loud roar from fans, the Greek knocked in his first Premier League goal of the season. It was his second goal with the team, after he scored a late-minute goal to force a draw against Blackpool in an FA Cup match on January 5th.
Coming off of an injury back on December 1st, Fulham’s goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer, had his work cut for him. In his return, the Aussie provided six saves for the London club. However, midway through the second half, Wigan striker Franco Di Santo evened things up with a netted line drive from outside the box into the top right corner of the goal.
Both teams had a plethora of opportunities to score on either side. Fulham had 12 shots on goal, while Wigan had 17. Fulham, for example, penetrated Wigan’s side several times late in the second half. In the end, however, poor passing inside the box gave way to nothing. Time of possession was almost even – Fulham 49%, Wigan 51%.
Ironically, despite one yellow card the entire game, there were 26 fouls committed. Players tripping, colliding, and even shoving each other at times led to some high frustrations throughout the course of the game. Fulham star midfielder Damien Duff, returning off the injury list with a calf injury, saw a lot of the brute force by his Wigan counterparts. Being attacked and forced to the ground in several situations, Duff flashed his anger to the officials - even that didn’t help. The midfielder was pulled in the 82nd minute.
For Fulham, they remain where they are in the Premier League table. Tied for 13th with Sunderland, they’re one point behind Norwich and West Ham. The London club travels to Bloomfield Road to replay their FA Cup match against Blackpool on Tuesday, followed by a visit to Manchester City in EPL action next Saturday.
For Wigan (5-4-13, 19 points in EPL), the draw helps them move out of the relegation zone. They are now ahead of Aston Villa (19 points, 4-7-11), Reading (16 points), and QPR (14 points). Like Fulham, they play in a redraw against Bournemouth on the road on Tuesday. They’ll host Sunderland in an EPL match next Saturday as well.
Radio Joe’s next live match report…Brentford vs Southend United (FA Cup match, baby! Winner plays Chelsea in the next round...)
I’ll have a London culture blog later in the week as well…
Have you seen Apocalypse Now? If so, you might understand the italicized monologue below…
[Kenosha….shoot; I’m still only in Kenosha. Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in Europe.
When I was home after my first trip, it was worse…I’d wake up and there’d be nothing.
When I was there, I wanted to stay; when I was here, all I could think about was getting back to Euorpe.
I’m here two years now…waiting for the trip…getting softer.
Every minute I stay in K-town, I get weaker, and every minute Sparky gets in front of a microphone, he gets stronger. Each time I looked around the 1250 studio walls moved in a little tighter…]
OK, that’s enough. You get the picture. And just so we’re all on the same page, I am not terminating a renegade colonel’s command. There will be no use of violence on this trip, folks…
Like Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now, though, I have been itching to get back to Europe for the last two years. It was an adventure like no other. Seeing some fascinating sites between London and Barcelona, I walked away from that trip with a few new friends and an addiction to European football (soccer)…and now, I cannot believe I’m going back for a second time!
This Thursday night, I depart on a gigantic 777 from Chicago. For the next 18 days, I will be traveling between three different cities across Europe – London, Munich, and Barcelona – with the main of objective of watching as many football games as humanly possible. Yes, in Munich, I will see a Bayern Munich game at the Allianz Arena. Likewise, in Barcelona, I’ll see my third ever Barca game at Camp Nou. However, in London, anything goes at this point. Due to the rescheduling of games because of the English FA Cup clashing with the Premier League fixtures, there’s nothing set in stone of what I’ll see just yet…stay tuned, though.
When I’m not watching football games, I’ll be seeing the sites, such as the Tower of London, the Dachau Concentration Camp, and the La Sagrada Familia (just to name a few).
And obviously the food will be outstanding as always…fish n’ chips in London, tapas in Barca, and…wait for it…SCHNITZEL in Munich!
Sorry to rub it in, guys, but I’ve been so excited to go back since signing up for the trip last summer. If you ever have an opportunity to travel overseas, please do it…put it on your bucket-list if you have to…
The trip is being operated through Carthage College’s (my alma mater) J-Term program. Although I’m no longer a student, I’m going back on this trip as an advisor/chaperone type deal. Outside of knowing my professor and his girlfriend, I know none of the 13 students in this group. I’m looking forward to meeting everybody (especially the ladies).
I will do my best to blog about the football games I see, as well as the places I tour. If you’re interested in what I have to write about, continue to keep your eyes peeled on the 1250 Facebook page, www.sportsradio1250.com, and my Twitter account @RadioJoeZenzola for my next blog. While I know most of Wisconsin could care less about European football, I know there are still some die-hard fans out there…you know who you are.
Oh, and by the way, while I was traveling on the last trip, the Packers won all of their games to advance to the Super Bowl. On the day I flew home, that was the day following the Packers domination of the Bears in the NFC Championship game…If you’re superstitious, use my upcoming trip as a sign of good luck…