Friday, October 26, 2012

Sports Friday: 10/26/12

College football - Let's start with the positives this week. (As in, not the NFL, and certainly not the NHL.)

I mean, this is perhaps the most anticipated Florida State/Duke game ever! (Actually, I'm sure it's not. We all just have short memories when it comes to all-time superlatives.) Duke is 6-2 and bowl eligible for the first time since...well, I don't feel like looking it up. But I do know that they're leading their division in the ACC, which is just crazy. I mean, this is Duke we're talking about. Might this even be an ACC Championship game preview???

Florida State is still a pretty big favorite here. Although given some of the injuries FSU has endured, most recently to running back Chris Thompson...you never know, right? Duke at Florida State - Sat 3:30p, ESPNU

I haven't talked about Penn State much lately, because once their season got off to an 0-2 start, I kind of settled into a "well, this season doesn't really matter anyway" mindset. But hey, they haven't lost since! And this week they play fellow probationists Ohio State in a game that could very well be against the best two teams in the Big Ten, except that neither is eligible for the Big Ten title, of course. Maybe they could stage their own non-NCAA-sanctioned bowl game this December. Just because. I'd watch that. Ohio State at Penn State - Sat 5:30p, ESPN

NFL - This just in: the Jaguars aren't very good. Things look as bleak as they've looked in a long time. But then again, if they were 2-0 in overtime instead of 0-2, the Jaguars would be 3-3. How unbelieveable is that? Even more unbelieveable is that given Chad Henne's performance last Sunday, Blaine Gabbert - as disappointing as he's been this year - might actually be their MVP! But I'm pretty sure the Jaguars' new GM (hopefully) will be looking long and hard at taking a quarterback with whatever Top 5 draft pick the Jaguars end up with next April. Jacksonville at Green Bay - Sun 1:00p, NFL Sunday Ticket

If the Jaguars get blown away early - and let's face it, that's pretty likely - I have a backup plan: Robert Griffin III. Yeah, he's been getting a lot of hype, and that's normally a turnoff...but here's the thing. Among all the big cities, I've kind of developed a soft spot for the Washington teams. (Except for the Capitals. They still suck.) And, let's face it, Redskins games have been pretty entertaining this year. Washington at Pittsburgh - Sun 1:00p, NFL Sunday Ticket

MLB - Remember that whole "I've been watching more playoff baseball than I have in quite some time" thing? Well...once the Nationals were painfully eliminated by blowing a 9th inning lead, with two outs, in the deciding game, I pretty much stopped watching. I probably watched about five minutes of the League Championship series, combined. But now that we're up to the World Series, I've started watching again, at least until the 5th inning or so (a.k.a. bed time). My rooting interest: former FSU player Buster Posey. San Francisco at Detroit - Sat 8:00p and Sun 8:00p, FOX

NHL - Of all the professional sports that could place a team in Raleigh, how come we get stuck with the one that's most poorly run? Doesn't seem fair. And how can they expect the sport to grow in "non-traditional markets" if we have to go through this every few years? At this point, I can't blame anyone in, say, Phoenix, for taking their money and attention elsewhere.

That said, the lockout could very well end, you know, tomorrow. All one side has to do is cave. And once one side caves and makes that phone call, this lockout will be over faster than you can dial 1-800-SCREW-YOU-BETTMAN.

But until then...I need something to fill the void. (Well, I don't need something, but there is room in my sports viewing schedule for it, especially on days like Tuesday and Wednesday.) And that brings me to...

Soccer - A few weeks back, I started watching French soccer on an obscure new soccer channel called "beIN Sport". Two months later, and I'm still watching it! (You can thank Gary Bettman for that.) In fact, I've even developed a rooting interest: Olympique de Marseille, the 9-time Ligue 1 champions, and only French team to have ever won the UEFA Champions League.

OM (as they're commonly abbreviated) is actually the most popular team in France. Now...It's very unlike me to adopt an already popular team as my favorite, but, here's the thing: 1) Nobody in the US gives une merde about French soccer, so I haven't already developed a distate for OM like I have for some of the more popular English sides (e.g. Manchester United). And while Marseille has a very strong domestic following, I'm not sure they have much of a fan base outside of France. 2) I wanted to adopt a team that at least had a chance of occasionally making the larger European championships, like the Champions League. Sure, I could have picked a middle-of-the-road French team like Toulouse, but what's the point? Toulouse is never going to be a threat at the European level. Marseille, on the other hand, has that history, even as recently as last year when they made the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. (Note: the only other French teams I would consider capable of being "competitive" at the European level are Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain, and maybe Girondins de Bordeaux. So it's not like I had too many options here.)

Here's another thing that's nice about Ligue 1. I can record games over the weekend (because that's when they play), and can comfortably wait until the following Tuesday or Wednesday to watch it without having to worry about someone on Facebook spoiling the result. It's perfect for the DVR. You can't do that with an NFL game.

Also, some Tuesdays and Wednesdays - which used to be good hockey nights - feature the UEFA Champions League. Three French teams are in the Champions League this year, but Marseille isn't among them; instead, they're in something called the "Europa League", which from what I understand is basically the NIT of European club football. I haven't invested any time in OM's Europa League games yet, though. (I guess I'm not that big a fan yet. ... Actually, I'd be surprised if those games are even on TV.)

But, I have been watching Champions League games that involve French teams. While Paris Saint-Germain has a chance to go deep in the tournament, unfortunately, the other two French sides (Montpellier and Lille) are going nowhere. It's actually kind of interesting: you qualify for the 2012-13 Champions League based on how well you did in your domestic league during the 2011-12 season. So what happens if you had a good team in 2011-12, only to immediately lose a bunch of your best players to other teams? That's what happened to Montpellier and Lille. Even though they finished 1st and 3rd in Ligue 1 last year, neither team is all that good this year. And because they happened to qualify for the Champions League based on last year's aberration, they're making Ligue 1 look bad in the process. (That actually does matter, because each league's performance in the Champions League - and Europa League, too - determines how many spots each league gets in future competitions. By the way, I love how complex all of this is.)

I'm sure I'll come running back to the NHL the minute they start playing again. But until then... Marseille v. Lyon - Sun 6:30p (tape delay), beIN

1 comment:

Brian said...

I would say that, yeah, this is the most anticipated FSU/Duke game ever, given that FSU didn't enter the ACC until 1992 and Duke was last respectable in the late '80s. And I can't imagine FSU/Duke was ever a rivalry of any renown in the years before that...so, yeah.