Friday Fantasy Forecast

28 11 2008

Daniel Agger (Liverpool) – Liverpool head into Monday’s matchup with West Ham with three consecutive shutouts.  What makes this so impressive is that Liverpool have been battling inuries at the back end all season.  Martin Skrtel is out for another couple weeks and now Fabio Aurelio is out indefinitely.  That will give Andrea Dossena more action, who looked good against Marseille this week.  But Daniel Agger is the guy you want.  Finally healthy and seeing a consistent amount of time next to Jamie Carragher, Agger has been rock-steady thus far.  He has a penchant for scoring some wonder goals, so I expect him to get one in the next few weeks.  He’s one of the more affordable defenders right now on Liverpool, so I’d snatch him up.

Obafemi Martins (Newcastle) – Martins leads the team with five goals thus far, but has four of those in his previous five matches.  Michael Owen is returning to health, but he is often slow to get going.  And with Shola Ameobi out, Martins is clearly the first target at Newcastle.

Andy Johnson (Fulham) – It’s often difficult for out-and-out strikers to acclimate quickly to a new team.  Andy Johnson was Fulham’s big signing this summer and naturally, he started off a little slow.  But four goals in his last five games suggests he’s ready to return to his goal-scoring prowess.

Steve Sidwell (Aston Villa) – Having beaten Arsenal and drawn Man Utd in their last two matches, Villa are demonstrating their intentions of finishing top six.  There’s a lot of talent on this squad, but I’ve always liked Sidwell’s game.  He’s now played at least 80 minutes in his last three matches and even contributed a goal in one of them, so I expect good production from the former Arsenal and Reading midfielder.





iPhone App – EPL Live

27 11 2008

I have a problem.  I’m addicted to my iPhone.  I can’t be without it.  When I actually think about the amount of things I use it for, I wonder how I ever lived without it.  I phone and text people.  I check work email and respond to people.  I update this blog.  I check sports scores and my fantasy lineup.  I look up directions to places and map my way there with the GPS.  I track my distance covered and average speed when I bike to work.  I check the weather to determine what I need to wear for that bike ride to work.  I take pictures of friends or my ever-growing mustache.  I listen to music when at the gym, at my desk or riding to work.  I play Scrabble when I’m sitting on the couch at home relaxing.  I entertain my neices and nephews with all the crazy applications and games it has.  And those are just the main things I do.  The best part of it all is that more applications are being added every day and so the benefits just keep getting better and better.

Take this app, for example.  EPL Live! allows you to keep track of all EPL matches, with live scores, stats, standings, lineups, tactics and commentary.  Best of all, it’s only a one-time fee of $4.95 and you’ve got it forever. Here’s the link for more info.

Of course, nothing beats seeing the match live and witnessing another sublime Steven Gerrard goal.  But, hey, it’s probably the next best thing!

(And if you think I conjured up a blog entry about an iPhone app just so I could link to a glorious Stevie G goal, well you know me too well)





Championship Memories

26 11 2008

It has been a good six weeks since we won the championship, and it already is starting to fall away, into the memory bank.  Working for a sports team, you always have only a limited amount of time to savor the moment you are presently in.  Before long, it’s back to moving onward and upward.  Planning for the ’09 season beckons and with my focus on that, it seems our playoff run is creeping further and further away.

So maybe now is a good time to reflect on that playoff run, and in particular what I remember most.  Now that some time has passed, there are only two memories that seem to stick out in my mind.  I’ll share the other one next week, but here’s the first one:

It seems every championship team needs to cling onto something to reach the level required to win a title.  This seems intuitive: teams are required to play at a high level for six months or more.  When the playoffs arrive, injuries are piling up, travel is taking its toll and a weight of expectations sit upon every players’ shoulders.  Ultimately, teams that succeed are teams that can find that extra motivation to carry them to another level.  Whether it’s the ‘nobody believes in us’ underdog mentality or the ‘let’s win this for person x’ honor pledge or the ‘we were wronged’ revenge plot, it all leads inevitably to the same ending.

In 2006, the ‘Caps rallied around Eddie Sebrango to win the championship game.  You may be thinking ‘wait, wasn’t Eddie suspended for that match?’  He was, but his influence on the team was far greater than he could have exerted on the pitch.  Eddie’s Obi-wan Kenobi moment, if you will.  His goal against Montreal was the stuff of legend.  A guy who felt wronged by the organization and fled to its rival scores the winner in extra time on that same pitch he once called home.  Overcome with emotion, he whipped his shirt off with joy, and of course had to sit out the final match in suspension.

Most people would feel ashamed and distraught over such an error in judgment.  But Eddie took it upon himself to step up in the week leading up to the match.  He turned into Eddie Sebrango: Player-Coach.  By the end of the week, the team knew they had to win this match for Eddie.  And boy did they ever – a 3-0 defeat to Rochester in their own stadium and our first USL-1 title.

This past season, Jay Nolly became a revelation.  At the start of the season, we didn’t quite know what we had in him.  As he and Djekanovic battled for the starting goalkeeper spot, it seemed inevitable a time-split was in the cards.  When Serge started the first couple games, it appeared Jay would be relegated to backup duty.  But Jay got better as the season progressed and his command of the box and vocal leadership on the pitch was very evident.  By season’s end, he was not only our number one keeper but quickly becoming one of the league’s best as well.

That’s why that fateful moment during the first leg in Montreal was so gut-wrenching.  When Jay received a straight red card (and subsequent one game suspension) for an altercation with Antonio Ribeiro, the entire Whitecaps fanbase felt their hearst plunge into their stomach.  We now had to weather the storm from a momentum-gaining Impact squad, with young Tyler Baldock as our savior between the posts.

But a funny thing happened during that game.  A defense that had struggled of late suddenly came together, and a rookie keeper stood his ground.  We escaped Montreal down 1-0 and in the strongest test of character of the season, knocked Montreal out with a 2-0 win at home.  I remember sitting next to Jay before the game.  I didn’t say a word to him – his emotions were written all over his face.  He was nervous and felt horrible.  As kids in the stands kept asking him questions, I wouldn’t have blamed him if he just hid in the tunnel.

So when the final whistle blew, the first thing I did was look around for Jay.  There he was, the happiest guy in the stadium.  He ran onto the pitch congratulating his teammates, knowing that vindication was his for the taking.

In a fierce semifinal against a hated rival, the defence stood up and won the series for Jay.  And he would return the favor a week later, saving six shots to help the ‘Caps knock off the number one team in the league, 2-1.  Just yet another chapter in Whitecaps lore.





Monday Memo

24 11 2008

What’s making me laugh:

Oh, this poor kid.  Be careful – you can’t help but laugh out loud watching this.

What I’m listening to:

Not for the faint of heart, 88-Keys has produced for Kanye, Mos Def, Macy Gray and more.  His first album, The Death of Adam is a pretty witty and satirical look at um, relationships and stuff.

What I’m reading:

Trying to get through The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman.  I was initially fascinated by the premise – if humans were wiped off the earth in one fell swoop, how would the planet respond?  Would nature replenish itself and return to form from a few centuries ago?  How long would it take for all remnants of human industry – from skyscrapers to waterways to neighbourhoods – to completely decompose?

It really is a great concept.  And it is both uplifting and a little scary to think that virtually everything we have produced can be completely wiped out in 100 – 200 years.

The problem I have with the book, is that it can sometimes reach nauseating levels of detail.  It’s a tough read in that you get overwhelmed by the endless examples of plant growth and countless details that only a biologist would appreciate.





Fantasy Football Forecast

21 11 2008

Antonio Valencia (Wigan) – coming off of two draws and a victory at Portsmouth this month, Wigan are starting to show the form that will keep them in the top flight for another season.  Amr Zaki has been a revelation thus far, but both he and Emile Heskey are doubtful with injuries.  That should open the door for Henri Camara, who saw his first full 90 minutes of the season last week.  But I’m going with Valencia, who already has two goals this year and should have free reign to push forward this weekend.

Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) – Dirk has been an unsung hero for the Reds’ title hopes and has five goals already.  One might think that with Torres’ return, his opportunities will dry up.  But Kuyt displays just the work rate that will keep him in the heart of the action.  He’s able to slip into the seams created by all the attention given to Steven Gerrard and Torres and now displays the confidence to put his chances away.

Christiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) – This may seem obvious, but after an early season injury, he’s just now rounding into form.  If you need an absolute fantasy star on your roster, you need to grab him now before he’s too expensive.





Solitaire

20 11 2008

I spoke at a UBC Marketing Association event last night, and I always find these experiences particularly rewarding.  Perhaps because it takes me back to when I was in university and all of the anxieties and pressures that go with it.  It’s such an exciting time and such an uncertain time.  Every new batch of students has to confront the same questions that plagued the grads before them.  What do I want to do with my career?  Will I get a job?  How do I get a job?

In fact, what I find so interesting (at least in retrospect) about this time in a person’s life, is how solitary it really is.  Sure, you meet tons of new people and you are likely involved in a number of group activities, from class projects to student groups to dorm-mates to house parties.  But when you zero in on those years spent in post-secondary school, you also see the countless hours spent in your room, reading.  Or in the library, studying.  Or at the lecture hall, notetaking.   You may have approached these tasks with a group of friends, but ultimately it all comes down to you.  Why can’t I get this?  Am I going to know this in time for the exam?  What should I write my paper on?  Am I going to pass or fail?

And it goes beyond that.  Despite being amongst vast social networks, nobody is really quite like anybody else.  Everyone is trying to figure out how to carve out their career path and understand what their future entails.  Some students are mired in debt and wondering if they can stand another box of Mr. Noodle for dinner while another is financially secure but wonders if mom and dad are happy with their career choice.  It’s just one giant community of people having fun on the outside but lost and insecure on the inside.  The symbolic moment for me was leaving the lecture hall and walking past a Starbucks.  The place was packed, but nobody was conversing, everybody either lost in their textbook or staring blankly into the abyss.  The Starbucks near my house (sorry, make that the 4 Starbucks near my house) is bustling – young parents in the only ‘date’ they get nowadays, old friends gossiping back and forth, and activist groups conducting a brainstorming session – all while 2 or 3 dogs wait outside tied up to the parking meters and a homeless man tries to stay warm.  Both locales are full, but there’s an emptiness at one.

I don’t mean to paint a negative picture here.  That was one of the greatest times in my life and should be for everyone who has experienced campus life.  In fact, I think it’s absolutely necessary for people to go through.  You need to be insecure and unsure.  You need to have hundreds of questions and zero answers.  It helps form who you are when the big stuff like family and career come.  It builds character and forces you to make decisions about your values and the type of person you want to be.  Inevitably you come out of it a much more secure, confident and whole person.

When I give these lectures, I am always confronted afterward by a mass of students wanting to talk to me about jobs and career choices and decisions I made along the way.  And I always take the time to answer them all, to offer advice and just lend some assurance.  People always thank me for coming and for the advice and I always say the same thing: ‘no problem.  I’m happy to help.’

And I think it’s because I see myself in these students.  I see that kid that came out of school with no clue about how the working world works.  I see that kid that thought a yellow brick road was awaiting him upon graduation, that employers were climbing over each other to offer a job to.  I see that kid that struggled with attending class and writing papers and public speaking and didn’t really know what he stood for.  Ultimately, amongst all of these students with varying ambitions and goals and frailties and questions, I see one solitary figure that I haven’t seen in about 7 years.

Me.





Detroit vs. Montreal at NHL All Star Game

19 11 2008

Check out the results of the NHL All Star Game balloting.  Clearly there was some kind of campaign in Montreal, as the host city leads all starting lineup votes in a landslide.  This presents an interesting evolution of sorts.  It was just a matter of time before the power of social networking via the internet made online polls and voting mechanisms ripe for abuse.  It used to be that hackers were the biggest threat, but now it’s whichever interest group is committed enough.

Maybe I’m looking a little too deeply into this, but I don’t think so. Considering that reports suggest Obama raised $100 million bucks through Facebook and Twitter, it’s clear the power of network trumps all.  And I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  I’m actually all for it.  But it really should cause companies to rethink how they use online polls, surveys and voting mechanisms.  It represents yet another example of how the ‘power of the many’ is becoming a major factor.