Slaying the Badger

“Slaying the Badger” goes beyond just a story about a cycling race.

John Dower - Director

I remember watching Greg LeMond seize the 1989 Tour de France from Laurent Fignon’s grasp with an amazing ride in the final time trial. But I don’t have direct memories of the 1986 Tour. So I was very pleased to watch Slaying the Badger, the latest film from ESPN’s 30 for 30 this past week.

Going in, I was certain that Hinault owed LeMond the 86 Tour de France as LeMond’s just reward for letting Hinault win the 85 Tour. Halfway through I had come around to thinking the team director was the villian and that maybe Hinault wasn’t such a backstabber after all. And at the end, I was convinced Hinault was pond scum.

Like all the best stories, Slaying the Badger is a story about people. Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond were two of the great riders of their time. And they were both on the same team. A very good watch for the sports fan.

World Cup Withdrawal

As a bit of a soccer dilettante, I refrained from commenting on the World Cup while it was ongoing. But it’s fair game now.

I thought the group stage was brilliant. There were a few clunkers, but the teams were playing for the win. But the knock-out phase brought a return to form - teams started playing not to lose rather than win.

Germany is a worthy World Champion. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the Argentina had the extra day of rest rather than Germany - they had early scoring opportunities, but they weren’t sharp and let them slip away.

The 2014 World Cup is over. Time to start the countdown for Euro 2016.

No Bright Shining Line

I listen to football players defending bounties and it reminds me of fraternity brothers defending hazing or hockey insiders defending fighting. As a football fan I expect my team to hurt “our” opponents, not injure them. Unfortunately, there is no bright shining line separating the two, only broad fuzzy ones.

The instant you start thinking that outsiders just don’t understand is the instant that you need to start looking for that broad fuzzy line. Because you have started to think that the mores of your group of insiders trump the mores of the world you live in.

And trust me, they don’t.

How the Mighty have Fallen

My Connecticut dead-tree edition of the New York Times has no mention of yesterday’s Stanford - Notre Dame football game. Not even a line listing the score in the Scoreboard.

I knew Notre Dame football was slipping off the radar, but I didn’t realize how far the process had progressed.

Go Oranje

My head says Spain 1-0, but my heart says Netherlands 2-1.

ZonalMarking

If you’re following the World Cup, then you need to follow ZonalMarking. I look forward to the match analysis after each game. The tactical analysis may appear a bit deep, but it is quite approachable.

America's Cup Returns

All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, …

John Masefield

I am not a sailor. But I have always found the time to follow the America’s Cup Defense. It was a lot more difficult this time. No trials to select a challenger. No coverage on ESPN. I ended up following the Cup via the New York Times.

And now I’m watching a rerun of the deciding race via the 33rd America’s Cup web site.

Colts 34 - Saints 24

The good thing about this game is that I don’t have strong ties to either team, so I can just enjoy the game.

The bad thing is that I’m torn about who to root for. On the one hand, I think that Peyton is the best QB in the game and I’d like for him to get his second ring so that we can just put that argument to rest. And on the other hand, I’d like to see the Saints bring the Vince Lombardi trophy back to New Orleans.

This is a tough game to pick. The Colts are favored to win, but my brain trust feels that it will be close. I’d feel much better about the Saints if they had been here before. But I have a feeling that the Saints will suffer from the first time blues. So I’m going to break with the brain trust and pick the Colts to win by 10.

What American Sports could learn from Soccer

It’s the final day of the season. I need a flow chart to track the Bronco’s playoff hopes. The critical Bengals-Jets game doesn’t kick off until 8:30pm. And I wish that the NFL would pay a little more attention to the rest of the sports world.

Relegation
Promotion and Relegation relegates the worst teams in a division down to a lower division and promotes the best teams in that lower division up. Unfortunately, the US doesn’t have the minor leagues to make it work.
Simultaneous Games
In the 1982 World Cup, staggered starting times for the final day of group play meant that Germany and Austria started their match knowing a German victory by two goals or less would send both teams through. It wasn’t much of a surprise when the Germans went up 1-0 after 10 minutes and nothing much happened in the remaining 80 minutes of play. As a result, the final games in group play are now played simultaneously.

I’m sure that it would cost a pretty penny for the NFL to give up the final Sunday night game of the season. But wouldn’t it be something if all the AFC games were played at the same time? Everyone would need to assume the worst and no one would be allowed to knowingly back into the playoffs.

You Gotta Believe

I didn’t think that the Penguins had it in them. The Red Wings were clearly superior in their first three home games. And I didn’t think the Penguins would be able to change things in game 7. But that’s why they play the game.

Hero of the Stanley Cup Final: Evgeni Malkin. He came up big after a virtual disappearance in last year’s Final.

Goat of the Stanley Cup Final: Marian Hossa. He walked away from a big contract offer from the Penguins for what he thought would be a better chance to hoist the cup. Instead he finds himself watching the team he spurned hoist the Stanley Cup.