July 30, 2014

World Cup 2014, Mac vs. PC, NBA Free Agency, LeBron – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-03

WFNY Podcast LogoMac vs. PC
World Cup 2014
USMNT and Klinsmann’s goals for the future
Landon Donovan’s comments about Klinsmann’s strategy
NEOMG posts Cavs beat job on Craigslist
NBA Free Agency Miami Heat
LeBron, Wade, Bosh opt out
Cavs Free Agency
Kyrie Signing the max extension immediately
Tyronn Lue leaving Doc Rivers for David Blatt and the Cavs
The pressure on Pat Riley
What would LeBron returning to Cleveland mean?
Listen to The Antlers

Check out this episode!

Landon Donovan critical of Klinsmann’s World Cup strategy

Landon Donovan from his facebook page

While praising his USMNT brethren for their accomplishments in the World Cup, Landon Donovan was also somewhat critical of the gameplan set out by Jurgen Klinsmann. It’s obviously like any sport where you can deconstruct a strategy, especially after it fails to land you in the next round. Specifically, Donovan was critical of how Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley were used.

“Michael was put in the wrong position,” Donovan said. “He was put in a position that he’s not used to playing. He does a better job, as you saw with Julian Green’s goal, being in a deeper position. And having someone in front of him, someone to help Clint also, makes him that much better because he’s got more opportunity to pick out different passes, more attacking options ahead of him. I think that was clearly an error.”

It’s nothing that a lot of others weren’t thinking and saying as the tourney was unfolding, however if Chris Wondolowski buries that ball in the back of the net and the United States wins that game 1-0, obviously there would be praise for Klinsmann’s strategy. Commentary is always really dependent on outcomes. There’s no telling that the USMNT wouldn’t have given up more goals if they’d skewed their strategy the way Donovan suggests.

But overall, I tend to agree with Donovan. I don’t have his level of expertise obviously, but Michael Bradley was either uncomfortable with his role in this World Cup or he was just struggling. Also, I felt all along that Clint Dempsey, while a phenomenal player, was mis-cast as a lone forward once Jozy Altidore went down with the hamstring.

Again though, if Klinsmann tinkers in a way I agree with and maybe they don’t escape the group of death.

World Cup 2014 – USMNT bids farewell – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-02

WFNY Podcast LogoFor one last time for the 2014 World Cup, I talk to Pete Barr about the USMNT and their run to the knock-out round and eventually out.

  • Tim Howard is a sports hero
  • Did Clint Dempsey play out of position?
  • Discussion of Keith Olbermann’s seven suggestions for American soccer
  • Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi and Wondo’s miss

Check out this episode!

United States bows out of World Cup with 2-1 loss to Belgium

USMNT Huddle

I’m just not ready. I’m not ready for this World Cup to be over for the United States. I’m not ready to be rational about what it is they achieved in this World Cup. I watched at a completely packed Winking Lizard on the east side of Cleveland with a friend of mine and he was prepared to talk about the upsides of the USMNT’s run in this World Cup as the referee was blowing the third tweet on the final whistle, but I just couldn’t do it yet. Even now as I sit here at home an hour later, I’m not ready. It was just too close to being in my grasp. As Chris Wondolowski air-mailed what could have been a game winner in regulation and as Tim Howard did everything but actually wear a cape in the United States goal, it felt like they might just do it for us. Alas they couldn’t.

Untitled
US advances out of “Group of Death” in 1-0 loss
Luis Suárez is my new favorite villain
WFNY World Cup Diary: Tres Cleveland
Watch: Howard plays Hero Ball against Portugal
US-Portugal: No one said it would be easy
Watch: US-Portugal goals
WFNY World Cup Diary: Bring on Portugal
WFNY World Cup Diary: Spain can finally breathe

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It went to overtime and Belgium finally followed through on a game plan that almost assuredly had them frustrated. They had outplayed the United States for practically all of regulation, nearly lost in one of a very few U.S. chances and finally broke through Tim Howard in the 93rd minute. It was gut-wrenching and soul-crushing and I’m sure led many USMNT supporters to near instant acceptance that it had been a solid USMNT run, but I wasn’t ready. Belgium scored again to go up 2-0 and depression set in.

I was elated that the U.S. made it out of the Group of Death. I knew they’d been outclassed at times and survived an injury to their primary striker, Jozy Altidore. I knew that they’d defied the odds managing to score a spot in the knockout rounds even as they lost to Germany in the final game. I was ready to celebrate progress as long as they were still alive in the tourney, but not yet. It’s still too painful.

It was incredibly encouraging to see Julian Green grace us with his presence, but it wasn’t just the goal he scored giving the U.S. a chance 2-1, to give me hope out of nowhere. He showed a level of class on the field that we haven’t seen all tourney long. Clint Dempsey was capable of that level, but he’s in the waning portion of his career. Green showed us in just a couple of phenomenal moves what the future can look like. I’m not even talking about the goal, because that wasn’t much more than a soft deflection. I’m talking about on a couple occasions where his ball skills seemed predetermined to either beat his man or draw a free kick. Yes, he was fresher than the opposition by the time he was subbed in, but he was attempting to play a different level of soccer than his teammates and it was obvious. The moves on that kid are incredible and he’s just 19 years old.

Even that doesn’t leave me ready to talk about what an achievement this World Cup was for the United States. I was just invested too much for all that just yet. I mean I get it and I understand it and I might even agree with it, but not until tomorrow. Maybe. We’ll see if I’m ready yet.

Kyrie’s staying, Klinsmann’s “American-ness”, and The Leftovers, While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY! And Happy July!

Sometimes July can be a bit of a dull sports month for me. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest baseball fan, so sometimes the month can be a bit of a drag for me. But not this July. The World Cup has been the most exciting World Cup in my memory, and it lasts through July 13th. Then we have the NBA’s Summer League. The Cavaliers will once again participate in the Vegas edition of Summer League. It runs from July 11th through the 21st. In fact, the Cavaliers play the Bucks on the first day of Summer League, which means we’ll get to see the first Andrew Wiggins vs Jabari Parker matchup. Finally, the Browns start Training Camp on July 25th, just four days after Summer League wraps up. Not to mention NBA free agency will be ongoing all month.

So there will be no shortage of things to occupy my sports interest this July.

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Kyrie is one loyal Cavalier!

Well, he’s a rich one, anyway. I had pre-written a segment last night about Kyrie for this morning’s WWW. When I woke up and saw the news that he had already agreed to sign, I was naturally ecstatic, but it also meant I had to completely scratch my Kyrie section and write a new one from the start. And you know what? I am perfectly fine with that.

I happened to still be up at midnight for the official start of free agency, and I decided to be smart ass and tweet:

I figured there was a very good chance that this would drag out a bit as both sides worked out some details. Boy was I wrong. Just a couple hours later came the tweets from Dan Gilbert, Adrian Wojnarowski, and my favorite one of them all, this tweet from Kyrie Irving:

Look, far be it from me to try to put a damper on anyone’s jubilation. Nobody is a bigger Kyrie fan than I am, and today is one of the happiest mornings I’ve had as a Cavs fan for a very long time. A 22 year old two-time All Star PG just decided to sign the longest contract possible to stay in Cleveland. The cynics will say “of course he did, it’s just about the money and now that he has the contract done he can try to force a trade out of Cleveland”. I’m cynical about a lot of things, but Kyrie Irving is not one of them. Despite all the external speculation about his relationships with coaches and teammates and his burning desire to get out of Cleveland, the fact is he has always said the right things and, outside his one big mistake on Fan Night a couple years ago, he has done the right things and represented the Cavaliers in a way that we should all be proud of.

There’s a good portion of the fan base that has never warmed up to Kyrie and has chosen to blame him for most of the Cavs problems. Maybe they’re right. Maybe it is mostly his fault. I can’t say anyone is right or wrong, it is only my opinion that the Cavs problems have been much more with the players, front office, and ownership issues than with the one really good basketball player this team has actually had.

I feel like some fans have kept Kyrie at a distance in part because of latent feelings of mistrust and heartbreak over LeBron leaving. It takes time to let someone back in after getting burned like that on national TV. But I hope now that Kyrie has shown he means it when he has always said he wanted to be here long term, some of those fans will start to loosen up and just enjoy Kyrie Irving for what he is rather than judge him for who he is not.

We don’t always get good days being Cleveland sports fans. But today is one of those good days!

And now back to my debbie downer stuff that was written before Kyrie agreed to sign…

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Will the Cavaliers be free agency players this summer?

I want to say yes. I really do. The Cavaliers have plenty of cap space as is, and they can more or less create as much cap space as they need. They have an exciting young core in Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson (I guess). They have an intriguing new coach. They have incredible facilities and an owner who is more than happy to spend. And they have a pretty great fan base, too (if only that was a bigger factor….or even a factor at all). So why shouldn’t they be a free agency player?

The problem is, right now, it’s hard to find any information on any players being linked to the Cavaliers. I searched the web all over for rumors of any player having any interest in Cleveland whatsoever1. I found nothing.

That’s the hardest part of being a Cavaliers fan sometimes. It’s fun to fantasize about big free agency moves the team can make, but the reality is, free agents just aren’t interested in Cleveland unless the team is willing to overpay them to a degree that other teams won’t match. It’s just a brutal and harsh truth to swallow.

On Yahoo! Sports’s list of the Top Ten NBA Free Agents, not a single one is linked to Cleveland. NJ.com made a list of the Top 25 Free Agents and listed the top three most likely destinations for each of them. The only ones that had Cleveland in the list of three potential destinations are Lance Stephenson and Andray Blatche. ESPN.com did a roundtable discussion of the top free agents, and Cleveland wasn’t mentioned once anywhere. Lance Stephenson was mentioned as one of the most likely to be overpaid, so maybe Cleveland is inherently implied there. Finally, USA Today released their list of Five Teams to Watch When Free Agency Starts. No mention of Cleveland.

We’ll see what happens. I’m sure the Cavaliers will sign someone, but it just might be more of an Earl Clark type signing than a Chandler Parsons type deal. I hope I’m wrong. I hope David Griffin can succeed where Chris Grant failed and really bring in some exciting free agent targets. But history is not on Cleveland’s side.

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But at least the Cavs have Andrew Wiggins!

Last week I had WWW duties on Tuesday before the draft, so I still didn’t know who the Cavaliers were going to take. And while I was heartbroken over Joel Embiid’s injury, I had decided that I just wanted the Cavaliers to do the safe, smart, and relatively boring thing and take Andrew Wiggins. So I was ecstatic when they did just that.

When I say it was the boring move, I mean comparatively. In recent years the Cavs’ drafts have been an adventure. It was so enjoyable to have a nice, calm, relaxing evening knowing the Cavaliers had the player who was the consensus #1 pick for most of the previous year.

I don’t know how good Wiggins will be. Projecting potential is tricky. But I saw a photoshopped image of Wiggins next to 18 year old LeBron. I was struck by how similar their body types were. Not to say Wiggins will be even close to LeBron, but the photo got me thinking, what would have happened to LeBron’s draft stock had he been forced to go to college and then played in a system that maybe wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for him? Would playing in the slow constraints of 35 second shot clocks and deliberate offenses have hurt his stock at all like it did Wiggins? Perhaps.

I mean, there’s no reason to think LeBron wouldn’t have destroyed college players. He’s the best player in the world. But even thinking back to LeBron’s rookie year, as exciting as he was and as bright as you could see his future was, he wasn’t anything close to the dominant player he is today. These things can take time. So I hope fans can be somewhat patient with Wiggins as well. If Wiggins can grow into his body even to a degree half of what LeBron did it will only help his game. Wiggins may never be the physical presence LeBron is, and it’s silly that I keep mentioning their names together. It’s completely unfair to Wiggins. I just wanted to point out that Wiggins is an incredibly exciting prospect and the Cavaliers organization is unbelievably lucky to have won the lottery and have him. Now it’s up to the team to both be patient with him and also develop his skills and put him in the best position to succeed.

Anyway, check out Scott’s incredible Wiggins profile from yesterday. No matter what happens in free agency, this is a time to be excited about the Cavs and to allow ourselves to have a little hope.

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USMNT will win in whatever way is necessary

Today is a big day for another reason. The US team will face Belgium in the first knockout round of the World Cup today at 4:00 pm ET. I’m more nervous and excited for this game than I was for the Ghana game four years ago at this same point in the tournament. I feel like last World Cup the US felt a little lucky to have advanced thanks to Landon Donovan’s incredible late goal. This year, I feel like the team is more on a mission, making a statement by advancing out of the Group of Death.

I really want the team to capitalize on this opportunity to show the world that US soccer is on the rise and that Jürgen Klinsmann is changing the very perception and definition of what “US Soccer” stands for. I’ve made no secret of my personal admiration for Klinsmann and what he is trying to accomplish for the sport inside this country. But he is leaving behind a trail of scorned doubters along the way.

I’ve seen some criticism lately of Klinsmann’s philosophy of going out and recruiting multinationals to play for the US. It’s this idea that Klinsmann’s German heritage is an affront to what being a “real” American is all about. But this was a country founded on principles of inclusion. This country has been and continues to be far from perfect in that goal, but the American Dream stands for something real.

I suppose in a perfect world it would be nice if the USMNT only featured “true blue” Americans. I guess. But where would this team be without those multinationals? It was John Brooks who put in the winner against Ghana. It was Jermaine Jones whose incredible strike turned the tide against Portugal. Fabian Johnson has been one of the most consistent players for the US in the World Cup, flying down the sides and keeping possession for the US in attacks. When Jozy Altidore went down against Ghana, it was Aron Johannsson who stepped in and did the best he could. All of these players have one thing in common….they are all American citizens. They may not live in the US, English may not be their first language, they may not “look like us”. But they all have at least one American parent and they all are citizens of this country.

Klinsmann is dreaming big. People may not have liked his comments about it not being realistic to think the US can win the World Cup, but I think they missed the point he was trying to make. He’s trying to grow something special in the US Soccer establishment, and he’s not just trying to win this World Cup. He’s looking even bigger picture than that. And his first step was to raise the talent level of the entire team by looking at all Americans, not just those who are “real” Americans.

By bringing in some multinational Americans to elevate the play of the USMNT, Klinsmann is banking on elevating the national awareness of the sport as well. The US team has now made it to the knockout round in consecutive World Cups for the first time ever. That’s a huge achievement. But they can’t stop there. It’s time to start making some consistent noise in the knockout rounds as well. So today is a huge day for the team and the sport in general in this country. But even if they lose, I don’t think it’s the end. I think it’s only the beginning for future opportunities for this team. Those who only tangentially follow the sport may not care for all of Klinsmann’s antics, but I get what he’s doing and I’m really happy he’s in charge of US Soccer. I just hope he can follow through on his vision, and a big part of that starts today against Belgium.

This piece is a little old, but I loved what Aaron Gordon wrote for Sports on Earth on the topic of Klinsmann and his perceived “American-ness”:

American soccer differentiated itself from the European game only because it had to. Italy could have played an attacking style at any point, but it chose not to until recently. In the 1950s, Brazil adopted an individualistic, talent-driven style, because they had five of the best forwards in the world on the same team. England typically has deployed a rough defensive style, relying on long balls, because it fit their talent pool. Likewise, American soccer has relied on physical prowess and lots of running, because that’s what you do when you don’t have the instincts and skills to be in the right place at the right time. The team developed its identity not to align with American ideals, but because it was not very good at soccer.

But we are getting better, and as a result we are evolving. Largely due to an influx of continental players, the U.S. team has options now and is reaching beyond its previous identity, the way a toddler goes from a crawl to a walk. It’s a natural progression of a growing, improving entity, and here again, it has very little to do with a national identity.

We are not that different from Europe, but we are very different from what we imagine ourselves to be. The German journalist Josef Joffe once said that America is “less a country [than a] canvas, a continent-size Rorschach blot, on which to project their own preoccupations.” His observation holds true for American soccer. We can look at the same manager and come to two diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether he is a representation of American ideals, because America is whatever you want it to be.

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The Leftovers

Time to wrap up WWW with this week’s pop culture segment.

I don’t know if Lost is my absolute favorite drama of all time. But it’s Top Three for sure, right up there with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. I was on board with Lost from day one through the finale. I loved every second of it (with the exception of some of the middle parts of Season Three before the writers had set an end date for the show). As a result of my love of the show, I’ve been anticipating the new HBO drama The Leftovers for quite some time.

The Leftovers is based on the book by Tom Perrotta, and the show is being run by former Lost show runner Damon Lindleof. The show debuted last Sunday and….well…I don’t know how to feel about what I saw. Keeping this spoiler free, the premise of the show is that suddenly 2% of the world’s population just disappears in an instant. And nobody knows why. Was it the rapture? Was it something scientific? Was it something supernatural or alien? Nobody knows. And the show doesn’t really care, either.

You see, the show starts three years after the disappearances. Rather than focusing on the mystery of what happened, where those people are, and whether or not they’ll ever return, the show instead deals with those still living and how their lives have changed in dealing with the unexpected losses. The world of The Leftovers is dramatically different from the real world, but those still there try to masquerade their world as normal. To varying degrees and using dramatically different methods, everyone is just trying to cope.

And that’s where my issue with the show’s debut was. This was hands down the most wholly depressing pilot I have ever seen. I thought The Walking Dead was bleak, but that show has nothing on the soul-sucking emptiness of hope, happiness, and fulfillment we see in The Leftovers. There are no signs of redemption, no indicators that life is going to get better. In fact, there are clues that things are only going to get worse.

The show was directed by Peter Berg (of Friday Night Lights fame) and Lindleof and Perrotta are working together on the show’s script and direction. So there’s no reason this show shouldn’t be a success with those three guys leading the project. But I don’t know. I just don’t know if I can take a whole season of this show’s emptiness. I want to like this show, I really do. So I’m going to give it the whole season to win me over. But at some point I hope there is something to cling to. Some kind of chance for redemption for these characters. Otherwise, watching these zombie-like shells of human beings just wallowing their way through abject misery just might be a little too much even for me.

But I’d love to hear from you guys. If you watched the premiere, what did you think? Are you excited for more, or are feeling the same apprehension that I am? Let me know in the comments.

That’s it for me this week. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July, and I’ll see you guys here next Tuesday!

I believe that we will win! Go USA!

 

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Footnotes:

  1. with the exception of a certain someone who I do not believe will really consider coming back []

WFNY on the World Cup: Move over Heath Ledger, Luis Suárez is my new favorite villain.

Luis Suárez bit a man yesterday during a soccer match. That’s pretty weird…right?

I’ve wanted to do a lot of things to other people while playing against them, but never had I ever, even for a moment, considered cannibalism. [Read more...]

USMNT vs. Portugal was most-watched U.S. soccer game ever

Posts like these make me feel like I’m trying to sell something to people who aren’t watching the USMNT in the World Cup. I really don’t care that much if someone’s not watching and I have little to no stake in anyone else watching more. Obviously I want posts about soccer on WFNY to do well, but even that doesn’t matter with the nice, dedicated commenters we’ve got going on the topic. That makes it worthwhile all by itself.

But seriously, these numbers are pretty impressive and notable.

Again, I’m not trying to justify anything to anyone or force them to care. But wow, the United States has taken notice of this team this year in Brazil and it’s a lot of fun.

Now, if they can just advance to the next round…

Scott Raab on Johnny Manziel, LeBron James and Cleveland’s savior complex – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-23

WFNY Podcast LogoWhenever the bat signal goes up and Scott Raab wants to go long-form on Cleveland sports I jump at the chance. This morning I talked to him for over an hour on the following topics.

  • The World Cup and the USMNT’s tie to Portugal
  • Cleveland’s “savior” complex
  • Johnny Manziel and his personality
  • LeBron James and his potential return
  • Mike Pettine and Scott’s forthcoming profile of the Browns coach for Esquire magazine
  • The Cavaliers hiring of David Blatt
  • Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers and Joel Embiid
  • Cleveland Indians attendance talk in the media
  • Sports journalism and the use of anonymous sources

There was even more than all that, but like so many of my conversations with Scott, it all just flowed pretty naturally. Until next time…

Direct download: WFNY_Podcast_-_2014-06-23.mp3

Watch Tim Howard play hero ball against Portugal

There’s little doubt which players on the USMNT are absolutely the best in the world at their positions. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard undoubtedly is one of those guys. Lost in the USMNT’s gut-wrenching tie yesterday was the amazing work that Howard put in at the end of the first half to keep the game in check for his teammates.

The video below is all the evidence you need.

Watch: USMNT vs. Portugal goal GIFs

The USMNT goes down early in the fifth minute of the game thanks to a very sloppy “clear.”

Jermaine Jones shocks the world with his long bender into the net. I never expected this player to score this goal in a million years.

The play broke down in the box and Graham Zusi ended up with it. Thankfully he didn’t try to force the ball on goal and instead found Clint Dempsey alone in front.

The USMNT gives away the game with just seconds to go in injury time.

World Cup, Ed O’Bannon, LeBron’s choice and more… While We’re Waiting

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It’s Friday, the World Cup is happening and it’s summer time. What are we really waiting for? The time is now.

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I thought I’d start this week with something personal. I know nothing about parenting really. Like most of the rest of you who have done this or are doing it, there are a bunch of things you just make up as you go along. Somehow last night, the conversation in my house got to normal vs. weird. My four-year-old seemed to be turned off by the idea of being weird so I asked him.

You know who’s weird? Your daddy. You know who else is weird? Pretty much every cool person I’ve ever met. Musicians, actors, writers, even bosses and business people.

I don’t know if it made any sense to him, but when it started coming out of my mouth I became even more emphatic as I thought about it. You have these moments where you think you’re making all the sense in the world as a cultural tour guide for your children and you have no idea if it gets through or not.

And of course I worry that maybe his impressionable mind will take my message to mean that the booger-eater in his daycare class is somehow other-side-of-the-pillow cool because he just doesn’t conform to societal norms regarding Kleenex. All I can do is try, right?

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Before the World Cup started I contributed to a post at RedRight88 and thank goodness I didn’t pick Spain to win it all… Spoiler alert, I picked Argentina, but I didn’t totally avoid implication from looking stupid with regard to Spain.

Yes, they very well could. I’m not picking Spain to win the whole thing, but I’d be far from shocked if they won it all.

Ugh.

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I’ve been talking a lot about the financial bubble in sports and how it might break at some point, and the NCAA / Ed O’Bannon trial might prove it more than anything else. The problem at the root of the issue here is money. College athletics came from a place where amateurism made sense because the education was the valuable reward for playing. At some point though the money being made via TV deals and ticket sales became so big that it destroyed the whole system. If schools were just about breaking even on their football programs and weren’t paying head coaches millions of dollars and signing lucrative uniform deals with Nike, they could keep things as they’ve been for so long.

The only way to fix it? Take all the money out and truly make it amateur again. Or, it would have to be some approximation of a professional system where players get paid. The key here is that you can’t mix amateurism and the gobs of cash that result from modern day sports on TV. It’s a fascinating time to take it all in. I hope none of you are too sentimental though because change is coming and it’s going to destroy the historical system that we grew up with in college athletics.

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Bill Simmons was at his best with his wrap-up to the NBA finals There are lots and lots of nuggets in there, but one thing that really stuck out to me was digging deeper on the costs of conserving Dwyane Wade. While the Heat were desperately counting the minutes on Dwyane Wade, true cost of that conservation was on their most important player, LeBron James.

Nobody knows what LeBron James is going to do, but considering how he made his choice last time, would it shock anyone if he avoided this kind of situation with Wade and Bosh going forward? I hold out very little hope that LeBron James comes back to Cleveland, but I do think there would be some justice to Micky Arrison losing LeBron James and being forced to deal with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sticking around to collect $40+ million per season for the next two years.

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Earlier this week, I saw this Vine somewhere and everyone in my Facebook circles loved it. It’s just awesome what some people can do with Vine. (That last sentence made me feel like someone’s grandparents.)

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Even though it was posted yesterday, I’m going to post it again. Tom Hamilton’s call of Nick Swisher’s grand slam is worthy of being posted twice.

That’s it from me for this week. Hope it’s a great weekend for you. Hug a stranger. Well, a stranger that looks like they won’t hurt you for hugging them, anyway.

Johnny Manziel, World Cup, USMNT, and more with Tom Reed – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-19

WFNY Podcast LogoTom Reed was kind enough to join me today to talk about the World Cup, the Browns and much more.

  • Jozy Altidore’s injury
  • Landon Donovan left off the roster
  • The matchup with Portugal
  • The ugly win over Ghana
  • Who will replace Altidore and what will Deuce be like with his broken nose?
  • Johnny Manziel and Mike Pettine’s reactions to him

Lastly, Tom had a book recommendation from one of his former colleagues. It’s The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt by David Giffels.

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Check out this episode!

Jozy Altidore out for Sunday’s World Cup game against Portugal

US Men's National Team vs Germany

Sure, the USMNT was able to defeat Ghana in their opener without much playing time from Jozy Altidore who pulled his hammy pretty early in the contest, but that’s not ideal. If the team wants to keep their positive momentum on Sunday against Portugal, they’ll have to do it again without their first string striker.

When Altidore went down in the last game, Jurgen Klinsmann went to Aron Johannsson to replace him. Johannsson seemed relatively quiet just based off my general recollections. We’ll have to see if that’s the same direction that Klinsmann decides to go on Sunday with more time to prepare any number of other options on his bench. He’s got Johannsson, Chris Wondolowski, and Clint Dempsey as listed forwards on his bench, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t do any number of things.

It might even be most exciting if this somehow lands 18-year-old Julian Green in the lineup.

(Photo by Simon Bruty /Sports Illustrated)

World Cup TV ratings up in U.S. over 2010

Dempsey Celebrates

In many ways I dislike talking about TV ratings in sports. TV ratings are usually used as a reason why Cleveland teams would torture television executives if they advanced to either the World Series or the NBA Finals. The NFL doesn’t care much which geographies are represented in the Super Bowl, I don’t think. That aside, I am interested in the TV ratings for a national team representing one of the after-thought sports in the United States sports culture. So far, soccer is proving to be more popular on TV than it was four years ago.

ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to average 3,740,000 viewers (based on a 2.3 US HH rating) for the first 11 matches, marking a two percent viewer increase over the 2010 World Cup – which included the United States vs. England match on the second day of the tournament.  (Note: The 2014 vs. 2010 audience increase is 37 percent higher when ABC’s 13,130,000 viewers (7.4 US HH rating) for the 2010 United States opening round game is removed.)

Additionally, WatchESPN has averaged 209,000 viewers in the average minute across 11 World Cup matches, which represents a six percent lift over the ESPN Networks’ TV audience for a total of 3,949,000 viewers across TV and WatchESPN.

What’s amazing to me is that viewership was up 2% over 2010 for the first 11 matches, without the United States being involved in those first games. So, even without a country-driven spike that the USMNT provides to U.S. TV ratings, viewership is up.

And about that spike? It was a good one.

It’s hard to draw a conclusion, but interesting to note. Maybe Klinsmann’s program is working and people are taking notice. Maybe the team’s marketing has improved? Maybe it has to do with population dynamics? Maybe people were happy to watch their soccer without all that din of vuvuzelas. Maybe all of the above.

We’ll see how the next game goes from a ratings standpoint. I’m guessing there were a lot of casual fans watching last night’s game against Ghana, but from my standpoint it wasn’t a particularly great game from a pure entertainment standpoint. The U.S. played sloppy and conservative while being out-possessed for much of the match. Will that drive away some of those casuals from watching game two on Sunday against Portugal? We’ll see.

Maybe it has to do with social media. Check out this amazing map showing the reaction to the game-winning goal last night.

WFNY on the World Cup: Germany/Portugal and what it means for the USMNT

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WFNY’s World Cup Diary: The Arrival
WFNY on the World Cup: Group G Breakdown
WFNY World Cup Diary: The Departure
WFNY in Spain, champs thumped by Netherlands
WFNY on the World Cup: Group F Breakdown
USMNT win leaves questions looming
WFNY Podcast: Breaking down the roster
Klinsmann opts for potential on final roster
Landon Donovan left off World Cup roster
WFNY on the World Cup: Group A Breakdown

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Four hours before Clint Dempsey was slotting the USMNT into the lead against Ghana via a shot deftly placed against the far post, Portugal was walking off the field against Germany with more questions than answers. The Germans were always favorites to take the top spot in Group G, but Portugal appeared to have the pedigree to challenge them for supremacy headed into the day. That perception couldn’t have been more wrong as the Portuguese camp could potentially be in shambles.

Portugal didn’t do themselves any favors and it is hard to believe they are actually as poor as the 4-0 score line handed to them by Germany suggested, but it definitely doesn’t portend a long World Cup run either. Already down 2-0, one of Portugal’s central defenders, Pepe, succumbed to frustration of what he perceived to be a flop from Germany’s Thomas Müller, and lightly head-butted him while he sat on the pitch resulting in a justified red card. Any remaining hope for a comeback from Portugal died at that moment. Preceding the red card, Portugal pushed the ball forward well, but their attacks often fizzled as the Germans made sure to keep Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo closely watched by two men at almost all times, daring another forward to beat them. They could not get it done. [Read more...]

Watch John Brooks’ go ahead goal in USMNT’s 2-1 win over Ghana

Just four minutes after the United States gave up the 1-1 equalizer, they fought back. John Brooks got his head on the ball and put it in the back of the net with less than ten minutes to go in regulation. When the team had a chance to fold, they did the exact opposite in an electrifying win over Ghana 2-1.

Watch Clint Dempsey’s goal vs. Ghana

The first goal for the United States of the 2014 World Cup occurred within the first minute of the opening game against Ghana. A great individual effort and finish by Clint Dempsey sure set the tone!

[Related: What a start! – United States defeats Ghana 2-1]

WFNY on the World Cup: Group E Breakdown

(This breakdown is brought to you by Stepien Rules blogger Alex Raffalli, who is also a native of France.)

Group E might be the least competitive group of this World Cup. France, who came into the World Cup draw with absolutely no reason to be hopeful given their recent past, ended up the favorite of a group that seems very much theirs to take control of. But they will have to compete with Switzerland and Ecuador for the first place which will be the only way ensure they don’t face one of the pre-tournament favorites Argentina who boast the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, in the round of 16. [Read more...]

WFNY on the World Cup: Group D Breakdown

Italy fans vs spain

Group D is my choice for “The Group of Death”, but I must admit a slight bias as I type this while wearing my Italian National Team jersey. Even the neutral would argue for the strength of this group as the odds on favorite to finish last, Costa Rica, is close in level to the USMNT and the other three could are all semifinal contenders. There really shouldn’t be a dull match to be seen in this group and it will be extremely tough to choose come prediction time. England are fielding one of the best squads I’ve seen them with in an international tournament, Italy are strong and coming off a run to the finals of Euro 2012, and Uruguay possess perhaps the most in form player in the world in Liverpool forward Luis Suárez. Let’s break it down.

[Read more...]

United States 2, Turkey 1: A Better Showing, But Many Defensive Questions Remain

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The United States Men’s National Team continued their World Cup Send-Off Series Sunday afternoon as they took on Turkey at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Five days removed from a sloppy 2-0 victory over lowly Azerbaijan in San Francisco, Jürgen Klinsmann’s squad looked brighter going forward, but continued to display some uncomfortable defending against the Crescent Moons, who are currently ranked number 39 in the world by FIFA.

Although they failed to qualify for Brazil, the Turkish side presented a much greater challenge for the Yanks than did Azerbaijan (no. 85 according to FIFA rankings). In fact, Turkey sits just one spot behind Ghana, the United States’ first World Cup opponent on June 16, in those same (admittedly flawed) FIFA rankings. For further context, the USMNT currently sits at number 14 entering the World Cup, while their other two Group G competitors, Germany and Portugal, are ranked second and third, respectively.

[Read more...]