Manchester United Takes The Title From Chelsea; John Terry Chokes

All eyes were on Moscow last night for the much anticipated Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea.  The game’s drama — from Ronaldo’s header to Drogba’s red card to Terry’s major choke job — did not disappoint fans looking for some excitement.  The quality of the game, though, was an entirely different story.  As a whole, it was subpar at best.  Perhaps it was the pitch, the jitters, or the rain, or maybe it was the atmosphere of playing in a different country.  In the end, though, the penalty shootout made most of us forget how “unbeautifully played” the prior 120 minutes were.

Sure, there were moments of glory on both sides, but none of this was sustained.  How many long balls did you see kicked that went nowhere?  How many times did you see either team string more than six passes together (not including those on their side of the half)?  How many crosses did you see that were even close to connecting?  How many shots did you see that were actually on goal (Ballack was aiming at a goal somewhere in the upper deck of the stadium)?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am a big fan of English football.  I am also a big fan of Liverpool (so, yes, I still believe Liverpool should have been in the final and could have beat Manchester United in regular time).  And that’s why I’m writing this post here:  I don’t think the game last night was representative of the beauty of English football, and particularly what either Chelsea or Manchester United are capable of.  It seemed more like a kickball match with occasional moments of individual glory — from Ronaldo to Lampard.  The only thing that truly saved this game from mediocrity was the penalty shootout.  The shootout hoodwinked us to thinking how amazing the game it was.

To be sure, it was amazing in terms of overall excitement, much like watching a dog brawl.  But was it amazing in terms of high quality soccer?  I don’t think so.

In the end, I do feel bad for Chelsea.  To me, if Chelsea can get past the first half without losing too much, they always have a shot to win.  Chelsea is a second-half team.  And as anyone could see last night, Edwin Van Der Sar seemed mighty weak and tentative last night.  I think Ballack could see that and he kept shooting.  It was the right thing to do except that Ballack was missing awfully.  If Chelsea had a few more shots on goal, then the seemingly flat-footed Van Der Sar would have some serious problems stopping them.  Who knows what would have happened then.  Did you see Essien’s left-footed shot to the right corner?  Van Der Sar was studying rocks when the shot was taken.

Manchester United had their opportunities in the first half for at least two extra goals, but they couldn’t convert.  Chelsea made MU pay for their failure, when Lampard was in the right place at the right time.  Lampard was certainly fortunate but he wasn’t lucky.  Great players like Lampard are in the right place at the right time for a reason.

The second-half was dominated by Chelsea, even though Drogba was pretty much useless.  Chelsea controlled the ball and for the most part sidelined Ronaldo from doing much of anything.  Although Chelsea had their opportunities, Manchester United was not truly pressed by Chelesea’s offense.  Kalou should have been put in much earlier.  His quickness was too much for Manchester United, but he wasn’t in long enough to really sustain a solid string of attacks.  Of course, too, Terry, the master defender, had his head in the right place at the right time to stop Giggs from attaining glory in the last few minutes.

Then came the shootouts.  It’s more mental task than one of skill at that point and especially for these professionals.  No one wants to be the one to miss and that fact will always weigh heavy on a player’s mind — to some, much more.  Ronaldo, not surprisingly, missed his shot in a stupid attempt at a start/stop.  What’s his deal?  I think Ronaldo is to penalty shots as Shaq is to free throws.  It’s a big mental wall for him, which is a little hard to explain for such a great player.  To be fair to Cech, he seemed to be in the right place at the right time, for most of the initial shots.  Unlike Van Der Sar’s performance, Cech seemed like he was capable of stopping any of the shots.  With Van Der Sar, you just hoped that a player missed or shot it directly at him.

And then came John Terry.  It only seemed right that the final goal should come down to him.  This is what soccer dreams are made of:  to shoot the final goal to win the whole enchilada.  It’s like bases loaded, 2 outs, bottom of the 9th.  But Terry didn’t hit a homerun.  He didn’t hit much of anything, in fact.  Sure, he slipped on the pitch. 

Blame it on the rain.  Blame it on the Russians.  Blame it on the rising prise of crude oil.  Frankly, though, he choked.  Terry choked.  There is no getting around it.  He is the heart and soul of that Chelsea team and when he slipped and missed, all knew that was the end for Chelsea.  Sure, he didn’t lose the game for Chelsea, but he surely didn’t win it for them either.

It would only be a matter of time before an unlucky Chelsea player missed — Anelka — in what ended up being a good guess stop by Van Der Sar.  This was no testament at all to Van Der Sar’s prior attempts at stopping the other Chelsea players, such as Lampard, who had pretty much kicked a fastball a few feet to Van Der Sar’s left. 

In the end, whoever won the game last night would be a testament to their luck as opposed to being the better team.  At least for this go round, Manchester United was the luckier.

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The Top Five Running Mates for John McCain

Unless you’ve been living in a shoebox, the press has been in full force trying to predict who John McCain will choose as his running mate. It seems that the top “predictions” so far are (in no particular order): Tim Pawlenty, Charlie Crist, Mitt Romney, Mark Sanford, Tom Ridge, Mike Huckabee, Rob Portman and Condi Rice.  I’m not going to spend this post here analyzing these top press “predictions.”  Instead, I will make my own predictions on who the Top Five best running mates for John McCain should be.

The choice of running mate is viewed by many pundits as extremely important for McCain.  As the New York Times remarked yesterday, “The choice of a running mate is always important, but it may be particularly so in Mr. McCain’s case, given that, at 71, he is seeking to become the oldest candidate ever elected to a first term as president.”  I have taken this piece of advice from the New York Times to heart when I formulated my Top Five List.  After hours of exhaustive research and an analysis of several key data indices, I arrived with this:

Mr. Cheeseburger 9000’s Top Five Running Mates for John McCain

1) Zakk Wylde: As you all know, Zakk Wylde is a bad ass guitarist, known for his virtuoso skills, such as speed picking and blazing up and down a pentatonic scale like there’s no tomorrow on his custom Les Pauls.  He is a guitarist for the one and only Ozzy Osbourne and also the lead singer and guitarist for Black Label Society. 

Mr. Wylde, depending on who you ask, is either 38 years old or 41 years old.  Whatever the discrepancy, it makes no difference.  zakk.jpgMr. Wylde will bring youthful energy to his campaign and have the ability to draw large crowds.  He will vitalize the soccer moms and the NASCAR dads with his long hair, big beard, muscular arms and a “take no prisoners” attitude.  This is just what McCain needs to solidify his base and to steal votes from the Democrats.  And that whole thing about “alienating” conservatives.  Well, McCain doesn’t have to worry.  Who are the conservatives going to vote for, anyway?  Hillary Clinton? Obama?    

2) Cristiano Ronaldo:  Cristiano Ronaldo is easily one of the top five soccer players in the world right now.  He plays for the always entertaining Manchester United and the Portuguese National Team.

At only 23 years old, Mr. Ronaldo will bring massive youth and energy to McCain’s campaign.  ronaldo.jpgHe is a certified star in one of the world’s most popular sports and that fact should not be overlooked.  Further, it can’t be ignored that Mr. Ronaldo was not hit with the ugly stick, so he will likely galvanize the entire female population of the United States to vote for a McCain/Ronaldo ticket.  Some of you may be asking, “Well, Mr. Ronaldo wasn’t born in the U.S., so he can’t run.”  Well, I say, neither was John McCain, but that’s not stopping him, right?

3) Beyonce Knowles:  Okay, if you don’t know who Beyonce Knowles is, then what do you really know?  And that’s precisely the point and underlying message of why Beyonce should be McCain’s running mate.  She’s young and talented.  She has a good business sense.  She’s connected to many important people in the R & B and Hip-Hop industry. 

The press has spurned all this talk about having Condi Rice as the running mate, as Rice is “female,” “a minority,” and “has a high position in government.”  beyonce.jpgBut let’s take a closer look at Beyonce.  Beyonce, like Condi, is “female” and “a minority,” and most importantly, unlike Condi, Beyonce “has a high position in the music industry.”  She was also born in Texas, so Beyonce has a southern connection.  While it is true that Beyonce was not the Secretary of State, Beyonce does not have the baggage that goes along with having that kind of position or responsibility. In the end, there really is no difference between Beyonce and Condi except that Ms. Knowles can galvanize the entire male population to vote for McCain and she can sing and design clothes well, too.  These facts tip in the balance of Beyonce for Vice-President.

4) Tomoji Tanabe:  At 112 years old, Mr. Tanabe, a former civil engineer, is the world’s oldest living person.  He currently lives in Japan, because, well, he is Japanese.  Mr. Tanabe will certainly be an asset for Mr. McCain for two main reasons.  First, his very age will make McCain look like a teenager.  tanabe.jpgA large percentage of Americans, who are so full of sugar and the Fox News Channel, will not even realize that McCain is so old when he stands next to Mr. Tanabe.  Second, Mr. Tanabe will galvanize McCain’s mysterious and often times elusive “conservative base.”  Mr. Tanabe neither drinks nor smokes and thus these “social values” will relate well to conservatives, particularly the ones that want the government to build a huge electrically-charged wall/fence separating the U-nited states from Mexico.  After all, everyone knows that only Democrats drink and smoke.  And, finally, even though Mr. Tanabe was not born in the United States, neither was John McCain. 

5)  Simba:  For all of you who don’t know, Simba is the King of the Pride Lands.  Two full-length documentaries of his rise from cub to King Lion were captured in the critically acclaimed “The Lion King” and “The Lion King 2:  Simba’s Pride.”  simba.jpgCertainly, Simba’s legendary status can only help McCain’s bid for the President.  Simba has strength.  Simba has virility.  Simba is a leader.  All these are qualities that McCain must associate himself with.  He can do that easily with Simba by his side.  Moreover, everyone, from liberals to conservatives, would be comfortable with Simba running the U.S., since he did an extremely good job with the Pride Lands.  And, he’s a Lion, which everyone knows has a wide support base.