Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Devasting loss...but not the worst. Bruins go out heads high

This blog is 99% about the beautiful game, and more specifically about anything associated with French football. However once in a while I need to write about other sporting topics, and since the title of the blog is The Beantown Frog in honor of being a Bostonian I feel I need to write about what feels like a terrible loss for the Bruins...but in reality is not that bad!

For those of you that are not aware the Boston Bruins were within 90 seconds last night of sending the Stanley Cup finals to a decisive game 7. Mind you, had the Bruins not given up 2 goals in 17 seconds they would not have won the championship last night, just extended it to a game 7. But still painful. However, I would argue not one of the most painful losses in Boston/Massachusetts sporting defeats. Here are my top 5 from least devastating to most devastating (in my life time) -

  • 5 - 1978 Red Sox v Yankees one game playoff. Granted I did not witness this but it was in my lifetime! The ramifications definitely haunted me. Red Sox have what appears to be an insurmountable lead in the AL East - 14 games - only to see the Yankees make a crazy come back and force a one game play off...to be played in Fenway Park. Red Sox end up losing 5 - 4 and the memorable dagger to the heart was watching a light hitting Bucky "Bleeping" Dent hit a 3 run home run into the green monster. This loss was terrible on so many fronts - withering away a 14 game lead, losing to the hated Yankees and continuing the baseball futility.
  • 4 - 2010 Celtics v Lakers NBA finals game 7. I think this game is underrated on the devastating lose index. Celtics were playing their hated rival the Lakers. Celtics were on 17 titles and the Lakers were on 15. Celtics had defeated the Lakers a few seasons prior to win that 17th title. 2010 felt like the last run for the Celtics' "Big Three" or Allen, Pierce and Garnett. Kobe Bryant was looking to cement his place in history. Phil "I can only coach world class players" Jackson was going for his 11th championship. The series see sawed back and forth with the Celtics heading back to LA for game 6 with a 3-2 series lead. They got destroyed in game 6 AND lost their starting center Perkins to a knee injury. Setting up game 7. Where the Celtics looked in control for most of the game. Doc had regularly given his bench lots of time to save his veteran's legs, but for some reason in game 7 he went away from this strategy. Plus being a player down (no Perkins) his starters were asked to do even more than usual. Running out of gas and missing some key shots saw the Celtics give up the lead late in the game and an attempted come back fell short giving the Lakers their 16th title. The Big Three were not able to cement their places in Celtics and NBA history as multiple champions, the Lakers closed back to within one title and the reality is that might be the closest the Celtics come to a title for a few maybe many seasons.
  • 3 - 1986 Red Sox v Mets World Series game 6. Amazing that this "only" number 3 on the list. I do think that #s 3 thru 1 could all be interchanged...maybe the are 1a 1b 1c! But back to 1986. Red Sox fans think of 86 years of futility when they won the title in 2004, but we were counting decades already in 1986...granted that was only 68 years! Red Sox win the ALCS in dramatic fashion after being down 3 games to 1 against the Angels and down to their last out - Dave Henderson hits the game tying HR and Red Sox end up winning three straight. With the  likes of Evans, Clemens, Rice, Boggs etc the Red Sox were heading up against the powerhouse Mets who had the likes of Carter, Gooden, Strawberry, Hernandez etc. Series was back and forth. Red Sox surprisingly winning the first two games on the road, only to see the Mets win games 3 and 4 in Boston. Bruce Hurst pitched a gem in game 5 sending Boston back to Shea with a 3 - 2 lead. And then game 6 and then Buckner....agony. I wouldn't go over the gory details but my personal experience sums it up. I was watching the game with my dad, after the Steamer threw his vaunted palm ball that Gedman couldn't stop allowing the tying run to score from third I went to my room and yes....cried myself to sleep. So I never saw the Buckner five hole gaff live....and ever time I am subjected to it I somehow think he will actually get the ball or somehow Dave Stapleton will be there instead. I realize they had a game 7 to play (in which the Red Sox led for a while) but we all know that game 6 was the series for the Sox.
  •  2 - 2009 Patriots v Giants Super Bowl XLII - Ok first a disclaimer - I cannot stand the Patriots, I am a Steeler fan. So the fact this game went down the way it did actually made me very very very happy...but from a Boston/Massachusetts stand point I get the pain it caused (just not for me!). 2009 was suppose to be a historic year for the Patriots and the NFL, the first undefeated team since the 1972 Dolphins, a record setting offense, a devastating defense heading into the Super Bowl as a double digit favorite! The Super Bowl in Arizona was suppose to be a coronation for Belichick and Brady - potentially thrusting them ahead of the 1980s 49er teams, the 1990s Cowboys and the 1970s Steelers as the greatest team of all time in the NFL. Ooops. Instead what happened was a New York Giant team that utterly slow down the high flying Patriots, putting pretty boy Brady on his rump. On the other side the Giants much maligned QB Manning played out of his mind. There were also some ridiculous plays that turned the tide, missed interceptions, potential no calls on holding etc etc. But in the end for non Patriots fans it was a wonderful game to watch. For New England fans...devastating.
  • 1 - 2003 Red Sox v Yankees ALCS game 7. Devastating...with what happened in 2004 we forget how painful that game was. If the Red Sox had not made a historic come back against the same team and then gone on to sweep the Cardinals to win the World Series, the game 7 loss to the Yankees would be haunting us. There was so much in this series - Clemens vs Pedro, Zimmer vs Pedro, Manny, Posada, new Red Sox ownership, evil empires....the Red Sox headed in to New York down 3-2 but found a way to win game 6 with John Burkett!!! JOHN BURKETT!!! Game 7 was Pedro vs Clemens...awesome. Red Sox got to their former farm hand and then Mussina, who had shunned the Red Sox overtures a few seasons back game in from the bullpen and shut down the Sox. Pedro pitching a gem into the 7th...he cannot come out for the 8th??? Not with the "Timlin in the eight, Williamson in the ninth" combination being lights out all post season!! Pedro is sitting in the dug out accepting congratulations from his team before the 8th....and then Grady Little sends him BACK OUT!!!! Why??? Pedro got the first out...and then all hell broke loose. I will always remember watching the television pan to Timlin when Grady Little went out to talk to Pedro, and the look on Timlin's face when he didn't get the call. He was thinking what were all were "what the BLEEP are you doing Grady!!!!" Arghhhh. And similar to 1986, I never saw the last play...Brett "Bleeping" Boone's HR off Wakefield. I took the dog out for a walk and once I heard the collective groans in the street I went home. I remember going to work the next day and it felt like a funeral, no one was able to do any work, I sat in my boss' office for a good 30 minutes without saying a word....we were both in shock. Again, what went down the following year took away most of the pain and the fact the Red Sox won again in 2007 made this game part of a longer story, one that ended well. But I would say in the moment it was the most devastating loss for this region.
There are other games receiving votes:
  • 2010 Bruins v Flyers game 7: Bruins surrender a 3 games to 0 lead AND a 3-0 lead in game 7.
  • 2012 Patriots v Giants super bowl XLVI: another chance for Brady and Belichick to get their 4th title, once again fall to the Giants...oops.
  • 2011 game 162 Red Sox v Orioles: Red Sox once again let a play off spot slip away in last month of season and then proceed to lose to the Orioles in the bottom on the 9th. End of Francona era in Boston and a major downturn for the home town 9.
The loss last night is definitely up there. But here is why it should not be as devastating as these others:
  • This was for the right to get to a game 7, unlike 1986 and that game 6, the trophy wasn't lost in the last minute, the right to try to play one more time for the trophy was lost.
  • The Bruins were on a 1 season title drought...making two finals (and winning one) in three years is nothing to be ashamed of.
  • This is not the end of this teams run - the 2010 Celtics felt like that was the end (which it was) of that team's run before having to rebuild. On the contrary this team should be coming into their primes.
  • This loss did not take away a historic opportunity - 2009 Patriots...that was history.
  • I cannot hate the Blackhawks. This series was void of any real hatred by the teams, fans, cities etc. It was a great series and the better team won.
Be mad or sad or angry today Bruin's fans, but time will heal this wound. We will realize what an amazing run this team went on, they fought hard, they lost to a worthy opponent and I believe they will be back for the next few years.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

PSG rebuffed again by managerial target...getting a tad embarassing.

The latest out of the French capital is that the latest managerial target - Rijkaard - said "thanks but no thanks. This comes hours on the heals of another Italian saying no thank you to PSG - Capello. This is getting a tad embarrassing. So let's see...Mourinho, Villa Boas, Hiddink, Benetiz, Wenger, and probably a few others we don't know of have all said no to the wheel barrels of money that PSG wants to throw out players. Should we start panicking? Maybe a little.

PSG has historically had a revolving door when it comes to their managerial positions. This has only become more magnified with the media circus that has become the every day entourage of PSG. But this is becoming a serious concern. PSG's success, money not withstanding, seems to be hanging loosely together. With the likes of Ibra teetering on the edge of wanting to leave. Having a well respected...and stable...manager in place is vital to keeping all these loosely assembled parts together. The longer the process and the more high names managers say no to PSG, the more precarious the possibility for future success seems. Add to this mix the new riches from newly promoted Monaco and PSG might find itself in a real sticky situation in League 1.

So PSG are rumored to be turning back to Laurent Blanc. Which I thought was a decent choice a few weeks back. But after having done another loop with AVB, Hiddink etc since then, will Blanc be eager to go back to that well? Messy messy messy.

Come on PSG, find your man, and get him into the Parc des Princes...and soon.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Les Bleus look to give the run to some old new faces against Uruguay

Deschamps has already announced that none of the players from La Liga will be starting against Uruguay. Meaning Benzema, Rami and Mathieu will be at best on the bench. Makes sense since their season was the latest to end and they could use the time off. So what does that leave Deschamps with for his starting team? Apparently DD will also opt for the usual 4-2-3-1 to face the former World Cup champions.

All signs point to Mandanda getting the nod in goal. The defense would appear to be a whole new line up with the new call up from Portugal - Mangala getting the nod at central defense. I am a little surprised by this since I would think Deschamps would want to get a Kos - Sakho pairing together for more time on the field. Of course that could be what is in the cards when France face Brazil. No surprise that Bordeaux left back Tremoulinas gets the nod with Sagna on the right. Interesting choice for right back, is Deschamps opening the discussion between Debuchy and Sagna as to which will be his preferred right back, and does that mean Jallet is back to third in the hierarchy?

The holding pair of Capoue and Matuidi is expected. Question is how much time  Matuidi gets, he has been leaned on heavily by both club and country this season and could use some down time.

Up front is composed of not the usual suspects. With the re-introduction of Gourcuff,
Rebirth with Les Bleus?
possibly on the left. This will be interesting to watch. Gourcuff is more of a central of the park midfielder, even a deep lying player. Not certain he has the ideal profile for a wing - not particularly pacey. In addition, that spot is Ribery's in the near term. So is Gourcuff playing for a spot on the bench where he would act as the offensive joker who could slot in at left or center? It will be interesting to watch how he and Valbuena interact. The Petit Velo appears to be Deschamps first choice to pull the offensive stings from the center of the field. But his natural tendencies are to drift a bit to either wing, will he and Gourcuff develop an understanding? When Valbuena free lances will Gourcuff slide to the middle of the pitch to provide the necessary cover? We should see Payet playing a traditional wide role from the right. Up front it appears that Deschamps is leaning on the Arsenal striker - Giroud. I would assume we might see Gomis as well.

An interesting line up, many things to watch for. To me the most interesting will be the role Gourcuff takes up and if he can find his way back to a regular spot on the French national team.

The potential line up based on practice sessions - Mandanda - Sagna, Koscielny, Mangala, Trémoulinas - Capoue, Matuidi - Payet, Valbuena, Gourcuff - Giroud

 Allez les bleus!