Thursday, December 08, 2011
I remember back in the day, twenty years ago or so (!), when I had all the time in the world, and like many (most?) young men, I spent the majority of it in three pursuits - drinking, chasing tail and following sports.
I watched hockey and baseball and basketball and Sundays were spent in front of the TV watching the NFL. I knew the ninth place hitter for the Detroit Tigers and the backup goalie in Buffalo and the coach of the Cleveland Browns. I watched the majors in golf and tennis and the Grey Cup and I could even tell you a bit (though not much) about car racing, horse racing and boxing.
Nowadays I watch hockey and I follow European soccer somewhat and I'll watch an NFL playoff game here and there. I tuned into the Grey Cup for a few minutes this year and I also may have watched a couple of baseball playoff games or portions of them.
What has happened? Well I haven't the time of course but even before the kids arrived my love affair with sports had waned. Too many teams was a starting point. The money turned me off. The lockouts and strikes. The billionaire owners holding a gun to taxpayers. The millionaire players whining about having to provide for their families. The behavign badly. The splintering of boxing and car racing into multiple series and associations ended whatever interest I had there. The ridiculous lengthening of games for commercials (NFL), preening/timeouts (baseball), scrums and timewasting (hockey until they cut that shit out). And on and on and on. Slowly, one by one, they dropped away until I was left with hockey and when hockey went away for a year, I turned to soccer and became interested enough in it to continue to follow it when hockey came back.
I'm a Spurs' fan. Now, compared to a lot of folks out there fan might be too strong a word. I follow them on Twitter when they are playing. I visit their website and a couple of sites about them a few times a week. I don't think I've seen them play once this year and when some guy named Scott Parker won their award for player of the month my first reaction was 'who's he?'. ;)
I've educated myself on that since. ;)
So I'm a casual fan lets say. Now they have had a nice run the last few years. They were in Champions' League last year and had a great run to the quarters but they fell short of qualifying for it again. They were done in by a stretch of ~ six games, if I recall it was January or so, when they had a patsy schedule like you would not believe, a half dozen games in a row against the dregs of the league. Should have been, even with the vagaries of luck thrown into it, at least 15 points from it.
I can't remember exactly but maybe they got six. Maybe. Out of a possible 18.
And that was their season. They had a couple of injuries at the time but every club always has a couple of injuries. They have a wonderful player Van De Vaert, who makes Hemsky look like Steve Larmer. Buddy plays a half a game, gets pulled after he tweaks something, doesn't play again for another three weeks. And their nominal captain, Ledley King, just a fantastic defender, plays a few times a year. Literally. Nothing left of his knees.
But it wasn't injuries, it was some bad luck (I watched them play Blackpool at Tyler Dellow's house, Blackpool must have cleared four or five balls from the goalline at least) and it was some poor play (also evident in the defending in that game) and in the end they got what they deserved.
This year they're in the second European competition and look to be on their way out early but in the Premier League they are running rampant. And what is important is that they are winning those games they should win. Every week. Sometimes they get a bit lucky but for the most part they are full value for it and so for now a return to the Champions League may be in the offing. Long way to go though. Still it has been a pleasant season.
For the Oilers this six game homestand looked like a chance to right the ship after a tough and lengthy road trip. When it started they were right there with the pack and things were looking good for them to make some hay, its not like they had a murderer's row of clubs coming in. And on top of everything they were getting (mostly) healthy at the right time.
And here we are five games in and they have a paltry three points to show for it. There have been blown leads galore. Dumb penalties. Shoddy goaltending. The first two games they could not score. The last two they could not defend. The team has been defended as 'tired' from their time on the road in November and the guys who have been carrying the team offensively (Ted, Smyth, Eberle) have indeed looked worn out and ineffective lately. And on top of that it looks like, based on decisions like the one where the fourth line faced Iggy in the third last Saturday, that Renney just got a memo that the club wants another lottery puck just to be sure.
The biggest worry is how Ryan Whitney looks like barely a shadow of himself. He looks slower than Sutton out there. Way slower. He's a disaster. Its too bad. It was assumed that his return would give the club two decent pairs to work with. Its not happening.
There are a few people saying 'wait a second something has to happen, this team is awesome' but of course they are not. There are also a few people saying 'this team is terrible and now we are seeing it' and I think these people are wrong too. They're not as good as they showed in October and not as bad as they look now but they are playing poorly and this stretch, while not one that we will look back as a defining one for this year's club, will probably be the one that costs them the playoffs if they right things and get back on track.
Posted by Black Dog at 2:20 PM