America…Fuck Yeah! There hasn’t been much to root for in the men’s brackets as an American Tennis fan for over a decade. In the 70’s and 80’s, America was represented at the highest level with names like Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Conners, John McEnroe, and Stan Smith winning championship after championship.
As McEnroe’s and Conners’ careers came to an end towards the waning years of the 80’s, some new American blood took center stage. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras took the Tennis world by storm and seemed to be competing in the semifinals or finals of every major tournament. There was a point from 1992-2000, that either Agassi or Sampras won every Wimbledon except one. It was safe to say that America was on top of the Tennis world.
Since Sampras’ 2000 Wimbledon victory, no American male has won what is considered the most prestigious of all the tennis majors. I appreciate the Williams sisters keeping America on the map during these dark years but there is no denying that the lack of a dominant American male tennis player for over a decade has placed an unwanted stigma on our nations reputation. It’s not like America has been too far off either. Andy Roddick was supposed to be our American savior once Sampras and Agassi retired, but with only one Major victory ever, US Open 2003, Andy has been considered a little bit of a disappointment. Andy did make the finals of the 2009 Wimbledon, where he ended up losing to Roger Federer in the longest Wimbledon match (in games) in the history of the tournament.
With new American hopefuls Mardy Fish and John Isner, Roddick came into this 2012 Wimbledon as the third highest ranked American. Isner has been eliminated and Mardy and Andy are both facing difficult, but winnable, third round matches today. Even with Andy and Mardy still alive, America now has their eyes and hearts set on another American name, Brian Baker. This 27-year-old unknown has quite a fairy tale story behind his career. Baker lost six years of his career to an array of injuries that left him needing five different operations on a hernia, both of his hips and his right elbow. I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure your right elbow is important, especially when you are a right-handed tennis player.
Before Wimbledon 2012, Baker had never made it past the 2nd round in any major and the highest world ranking he ever had was 123rd. I personally had never heard of this guy until this Wimbledon and now I won’t miss a game of his. After today’s victory against France’s Benoit Paire in the third round, Baker has quickly become the American Cinderella story we have all longed for now for over a decade. Baker didn’t only just win his third round matchup against the favored Paire, he pretty much dominated it. Even better for Baker is the fact that his improbable 4th round matchup should have been against one of the Wimbledon favorites, Rafael Nadal. This is the one instance where I appreciate the Sports Debaters current curse because of Nadal’s loss, Baker will now face off with the dangerous but beatable 27th ranked, Philipp Kohlschreiber. It’s great to see that true American spirit that shows hard work and determination can lead to you overcoming any obstacle that comes your way. I hope I’m not the only one who will be tuned in for this matchup because Brian Baker is turning into an amazing story.
Most sports fans have heard of the Madden curse. Each year, the makers of the John Madden football video game pick a player to don the cover. Usually the player had a great season the year prior and is among the most marketable in the sport. As it turns out though, the player picked has more times than not had a brutal year the season following their Madden cover appearance. The likes of Shaun Alexander, Brett Favre, Michael Vick, Marshall Faulk and most recently Peyton Hillis have all fallen victim to either off years or injuries. It has gotten to a point where players need to strongly consider whether or not they want to sponsor the game and appear on the cover. Sports Debaters has recently imitated the Madden video game, as our picks have been back firing and teams or players we have chosen to win keep failing. The New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Tiger Woods, Oklahoma City Thunder, Netherlands Soccer team and others have all been recent victims. Today, two more fell prey to the Sports Debater Jinx.
When we previewed the Euro Cup, our expert was very high on one of the 4 groups in particular, which was nicknamed “The Group of Death”. It featured Germany, Portugal and the before mentioned Netherlands, who we thought might win the entire tournament. Well, fast forward three weeks and the Netherlands lost all three of their games and didn’t make it past the group stage. Both Portugal and Germany made it to the semis as expected, but then we also picked the Germans to beat Italy and make a Finals run. Actually, we thought Italy would be eliminated to the English in the last round so we missed that one heading into today’s match. Mario Balotelli scored two goals for the Italians against the Germans in the first half, and even though the Germans had many opportunities to score and finally did late in stoppage time, they were never able to recover from their early deficit. The Germans came into the match carrying a world record 15 game winning streak against international competition. If they won number 16, it would have set up an awesome finals with Spain, who barely avoided the Sports Debater jinx yesterday against the Portuguese. Sunday’s final will now match the Italians against the Spanish, so wait to see who we pick in the upcoming days so you can throw money on the other team and probably clean up.
There was an even more shocking result on a different patch of European grass this afternoon, as the magnificent Rafael Nadal fell to a Czech named Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon. Who?!?!?! Just three nights ago, our tennis expert picked Nadal to cruise to the finals but eventually lose to Novak Djokovic. Instead, Nadal will exit the tournament in his quickest Grand Slam loss since 2005. He lost the match in 5 sets, as the score was 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Rosol was the 100th ranked player in the world and was playing in his first ever Wimbledon at the age of 26. Usually in tennis, if a player is going to make a name for himself, he’ll show signs of success prior to Rosol’s current age. If you couple Rosol’s inexperience and total obscurity with the fact that Nadal has played in both the past five Wimbledon finals and past five Grand Slam finals, this result was stunning to everybody who witnessed it. Rosol agreed as he said “I’m not just surprised; it’s like a miracle for me…I never expected something like this.” Well, obviously the experts at Sports Debaters didn’t either and now Novak Djokovic is anxiously hoping that unlike Nadal, he can avoid the jinx we have laid on so many in recent weeks.
With all that said, we are still confident that things will begin falling our way. In the past, we’ve successfully picked horse racing, hockey and basketball games, the NCAA basketball winner, boxing matches, etc. .. All successful teams slump from time to time, just ask the 1997 Yankees, who were the only team not to win the Series from 1996-2000. We still have more sport knowledge than the average Joe and we will absolutely not shy away from calling winners in the future. The beauty of sports is the unpredictability, the potential of an upset very time we tune into a game or contest. As for our picks, June was a tough month. So Jonathan Quick, LeBron James, Mario Balotelli, Lukas Rosol and the others who have benefitted as a result of us picking against them…you’re welcome! And for Tiger Woods, Martin Brodeur, Kevin Durant, Rafael Nadal and all the teams in the “Group of Death”…our bad!
The NBA draft is upon us and the now the owners and general managers must duke it out with negotiations and trade talks to see who can obtain the hot commodities in this years draft class. Even though there are 60 picks between the two rounds of the draft, all of the focus goes to that first pick. Sure there have been some great players that didn’t get drafted #1, maybe even the greatest ever in Michael Jordan, but there is no denying that the #1 pick can redefine your franchise if chosen correctly. Who could forget the all time #1 draft pick busts like Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown who left their respective franchises, the Clippers and Wizards, in the crapper as they provided no help whatsoever to turning their teams around.
My favorite basketball player of all time, Patrick Ewing, was the #1 pick of the 1985 draft and he led the Knicks to 15 consecutive playoff runs. Now Ewing never won the NBA MVP award but there have been 11 #1 picks that have. Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6 times), Bill Walton, Magic Johnson (3 times), Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaq, Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan (2 times), Lebron James (3 times) and Derrick Rose have all proven that their upper management knew what they were doing when they called their names as the #1 pick. The second that the #1 pick is said aloud at the draft, his face instantly becomes the forefront of a franchise that has clearly been struggling based on their ability to get that #1 slot.
This years draft contains what people are calling one of the best players of all time and he hasn’t even stepped out onto the professional hardwood yet. Anthony Davis has critics drooling as people are just trying to figure out how he can translate his college dominance to the NBA level. There have been comparisons made between Davis and Duncan, which is pretty high praise because Duncan is one of the greatest players ever. As I stated before, when Davis’ name gets called tonight as the first pick of the draft, he will be the new face of the New Orleans Hornets organization. With that being said, there is only one person I can compare Davis to right now and that is one of my childhood mentors, Bert.
If you didn’t notice from the above picture, Davis sports one of the thickest unibrows ever. He looks absolutely ridiculous and for some reason to this day he still hasn’t had it fixed. Maybe he was a huge Sesame Street fan and his unibrow is an ode to Bert, whose unibrow is without question the best ever. Maybe he wasn’t a fan of Bert and maybe he just had a huge interest in the “Surrealist Art Movement,” where the person with the most recognizable unibrow, Frida Kahlo, was a major contributor.
Regardless of his reasons, Anthony Davis must fix this atrocity immediately. Sure there is some symbolism behind that brow of his. I mean the prefix “uni” does mean “one,” and Davis is about the be the #1 pick of the draft, but is that enough reason to walk around like you have a giant Caterpillar permanently sitting on your forehead. I think not, and if I was Monte Williams and the rest of the Hornets organization I would force him to have that taken care of on a daily basis. I really hope that the Hornets don’t turn around and try to embrace that hideous unibrow and make it a trademark like the Thunder fans did for James Harden’s beard. I mean I can just see it now, the Hornets handing out stick on unibrows that all the fans can wear during home games that would make their stadium look like it was filled with products of incest.
I think Davis will be great and I look forward to seeing who else will get picked in tonight’s draft, but if Davis doesn’t want to be ridiculed on a nightly basis, he better fix his hairy situation.
P.S. I apologize to anyone with a unibrow that may have been offended by this article. I do not feel that all people with unibrows look like products of incest…just most of them.
Once again, the geniuses who oversee major sports have soiled the purity of the competition. The Women’s Tennis Association announced that they are outlawing grunting in the women’s game. The joyful groans and moans that make tennis the beautiful experience that fans like myself enjoy are said to becoming a “distraction” to the game. Umpires will hold devices that will measure the noise levels of player’s on-court cries, and will be able to penalize players for going over the maximum grunt level. There will also be an educational initiative to teach young players to eliminate any minor groans the may develop as they learn the game.
Is there anyone else appalled by this decision? First of all, how come they are only eliminating grunting in the women’s game? If anything, I want to hear less men bellowing as they make contact with the ball, no offense Rafa! What warm-blooded male doesn’t enjoy watching Maria Sharapova let out a passionate moan as she crushes a cross court winner? If these jerks running the WTA are serious about this proposal, well, we will all end up losing in the long run. Thankfully, they understand that the players who are currently on tour will have a hard time changing their habits, so the rules will only be enforced on future players. Still, we are stunting the most magnificent part of women’s tennis and after the current group of players retire and this new silent era of tennis begins, ratings will plummet. Enjoy the following videos because in a few years, if you want to see women who look like this, groan like this, you’ll have to find sources which are much less socially acceptable.
If you have been following the Eurocup the same way I have then you have been sitting on the edge of your seat on a daily basis. In what has already been described as one of the best Eurocup’s in recent memory, the four remaining teams are poised to keep up the trends. In my group stage picks I got 6 out of 8 correct. In my quarterfinal predictions I got 3 out of 4 correct…damn you England. Now for my semifinal predictions, I feel that I will be batting 1.000 with these. Geographically, these final two matchups are close, but talent-wise these teams are nearly identical. With Spain versus Portugal and Germany versus Italy, soccer fans around the world are going to have their eyes glued to their televisions for the next two days.
What a matchup this is. With arguably the two best wingers in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, Portugal will look to face off with the best overall team in the world, Spain. Spain comes with an endless list of talent that seems to hit you from every angle. Led by midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi, Spain passes the ball with such precision that they are pretty much guaranteed to have the advantage in possession every game. Spain has been know to toy with their opponent and strike just when they give their competitor enough hope that they might survive this pointless battle. In Spain’s quarterfinal win against the French, Spain seemed to control the ball the entire game and it looked like they could have won 8-0 rather than the 2-0 they finished with. To beat Portugal, Spain is going to have to play around less and attack more. Portugal has two weaknesses, one is they have no talent at the striker position and two is that they lack fluid ball movement up and down the field. Cristiano Ronaldo has quieted the skeptics that feel his international play isn’t up to his league play, by leading the Euro’s with 3 goals already and poised for more. To score a goal is one thing, but to score a goal on a defense consisting of Sergio Ramos, Girard Pique and Alvaro Arbeloa is a whole other. Sure Ronaldo is the best scorer in the world, some might argue Lionel Messi, but Spain is the best team in the world and since Ronaldo is really only receiving quality passes from Nani and Moutinho, I expect his chances to score to be slim. This will be a close game throughout but I just feel that Spain is destined to make it to the Finals one more time.
Prediction: Spain wins 1-0
There wasn’t a person in the world that didn’t predict Germany to get to this point in the competition. Italy on the other hand has been trying to clear their shitty image and become a respectable face on the international level once again. Germany seems as good as ever as they swept through the group stage with 3 wins for the first time in their countries history and then they slammed the Greeks into a block of Feta cheese. Sweeping through the group stage is good, but sweeping through the “group of death,” is near miraculous. The Greeks were good but they stood absolutely no chance against the uber-talented Germany squad. Bastain Schweinsteiger is arguably the best midfielder in the world and he is one of 8 Bayern Munich superstars that plays for Germany. With other brilliant players like Klose, Muller, Ozil, Gomez, Podolski, and Kroos, Germany has no shortages on ways to hurt you. Italy will have their hands full as they try and slow down this juggernaut of a team. Led by hot-tempered striker, Mario Balotelli, Italy will try and use the same tactics that they used on England for Germany. Keep the game close and don’t lose. Balotelli had multiple chances to put one into the net but failed every time he tried. For Italy to stand a chance Mario is going to have to find the back of the net at least once. Even though Italy dominated the time of possession and pretty much the whole game against England, the game still came down to penalties. Andrea Pirlo, one of the oldest players Italy has at 33, made one of the classiest penalty kicks I have ever seen which seemed to shift the shootouts momentum into the Italians favor. Gianluigi Buffon will have his hands full trying to save the dozens of shots I am predicting Germany to have on net and in the end it will all be a just a little too much for him.
Prediction: Germany wins 2-1
These are my predictions and I hope if you don’t agree with me you are willing to tell me why…
Frank Francisco has nothing on this! Last week’s chicken taunt is rated PG when you compare it to what Amare Stoudemire tweeted yesterday to a fan who was taunting him. In response to a fan tweeting that Stoudemire has to come back next year, referencing the fact that he had a down year, Stoudemire sent him a direct message saying ““F*ck you. I don’t have to do any thing f*g,”. Honestly, can this guy get any stupider? Hey Amare, just because you send somebody a direct message on twitter does not mean that nobody is going to see it. What the hell is going through his mind as he is writing that?
The Knicks are paying Amare about $100 million dollars over 5 years for brilliance like this. Amare Stoudemire might be a bigger waste of money than current NBA Champion Eddy Curry. In two years with the Knicks, Stoudemire has won 1 playoff game. So he’s about 40 million into the salary and that’s what he has brought to New York. In fact, Amare has both punched as many fire extinguishers and hurt his back while practicing dunks as he has won playoff games. With his stats steadily on the decline, his injury count going up and his stupidity skyrocketing at a record pace, the Knicks need to act now to find trade him to anyone who will take a chance on this guy.
What do LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard have in common? They all make LESS money then Amare Stoudemire! Is there any wonder as to how the Knicks decision makers have run this perennial contender into the ground for over a decade now? As LeBron celebrates his first championship and Deron Williams and Dwight Howard look to join forces to do the same, Knick fans will wrongfully look at the future as being bright. If New York fans are satisfied with making the playoffs and losing in the first two rounds, then they might be ok with the current roster. The Knick fans I know are hungry for a title and there is no way that will happen with Amare sucking so much of the payroll up.
The NBA has been on the forefront of fighting anti-gay language and actions for year. After his tweet, Amare send out a message saying “I apologize for what I said earlier.I just got off the plane and had time to think about it. Sorry bro!! No Excuses. Won’t happen again.” Oh yeah, of course, a plane ride usually makes people sound like bigoted assholes, don’t worry about it Amare! Now I’m not stating anything about Amare’s beliefs, as he may have possibly just used the dumbest word possible without thinking about the message it sends, but come on man, you have to be smarter than that. Amare, you play in New York where there are millions of people with different races, religions, sexual orientations and any other background imaginable. Many of them are big fans of the Knicks and yourself. Well, at least they were.
The fans got way more than they paid for in the most recent Subway Series between the New York Rival Mets and Yankees. Just a few weeks removed from the smack down that the Yankees placed on the Mets in the Bronx, the Mets were poised and ready to return the favor. In typical Mets fashion, a sub-par performer, closer Frank Francisco, opened his mouth and labeled arguably the best team in baseball a bunch of chickens. Not a smart move when you are going to face off with said team the next day.
Luckily for Frank, he was able to back up his trash talking with a save opportunity in game one of the three game series. The Mets came out with a win, but Frank made his fans sweat as he put the tying runs on base and had to finish the game against the always scary Mark Teixeira. It’s nice to know that no matter how dumb an individual player might look with what they say, the rest of the Mets team has their back regardless. This team camaraderie was shown as Mets reliever, Tim Byrdak, pranked Francisco by bringing a live chicken into the clubhouse.
After dubbing the chicken “Little Jerry Seinfeld,” in honor of the great sitcoms episode with a chicken with the same name, the Mets media had a field day. When the joke ended, Byrdak set up a home for “Little Jerry” at an animal sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. The Mets donated $500 to that sanctuary upon the chickens departure but not before Tim Byrdak set up a photo op.
“Holy Cow, Little Jerry, don’t freak out!” Byrdak said as more than 20 cameras flashed simultaneously.
Unfortunately for the Mets, team shenanigans do not guarantee wins as the Yankees came out in game two in an early hole and found solace in a name that has been around for a while. Raul Ibanez is so old that I remember playing with him on Nintendo 64’s Ken Griffey Junior’s Baseball back in 1994-95 when I always played as the front running Mariners. I mean it’s not like I was going to use the early 90’s Mets. Who would have thought that this 20 year veteran would still have enough pop in his bat to shatter the Mets dreams of making Kung Pao Chicken out of the Yankees. It’s not surprising that the Yankees beat the Mets with their long ball because the Yanks have scored more than 52% of their runs for the season on homers, which is an absolutely absurd number. Whether it is absurd or not the Yankees are winning.
A sweep would have been nice but the Mets fans would have been fine with just winning 2 of 3 against their hometown rivals. This rubber match had more hype over it than any regular season baseball game in June that I could remember and the fans got more than they bargained for. R.A. Dickey, the hottest and most talked about pitcher in baseball, versus C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees Ace and one of the best pitchers in the last decade, facing off on Sunday Night baseball on ESPN. Everyone, including myself, thought this would be a pitchers duel till the last pitch, but with spotty defense on both sides, the Yankees power at the plate and the Mets clutch hitting with 2 outs, neither pitcher made it past the sixth. Once the game was tied at 5-5 and came down to which bullpen would hold up the longest I knew that the Mets were going to lose. The Yankees have one of the best relief staffs in the big leagues and the Mets have the worst bullpen ERA in the National League…you do the math.
The Yankees won 2 out of 3 in Citifield and finished the season series by winning 5 out of 6 overall. The Yankees, A.K.A Chickens, gave the Mets a big Cluck You to hang their heads on. Now the only way these teams will face off again is if they both make it to the big dance in October. Who knows?
Tomorrow afternoon, the most prestigious, oldest tennis tournament kicks off at the All England Club in Wimbledon, England. The grass on the courts has been prepared for the best men and women to showcase their incredible talent over the course of the next few weeks. For you tennis novices, Wimbledon is the third leg of the four major tournaments that take place each year, as the Australian and French Open’s have already been played, and the U.S. Open will follow in August and September. It is by far the most traditional of all the events, as you’ll find a dress code for players (white garments), the eating of strawberries and cream by the fans, and a pleasant lack of advertisements that we normally see all over the professional sports landscape. I have attempted to break down and predict all the major story lines heading into the tournament.
The Marked Man
Novak Djokovic is the defending champion from 2011, as he used Wimbledon to launch a historic run that unfortunately came to an end a few weeks ago in Roland Garos at the French Open. He had won three Grand Slam tournaments in a row going into France, and even with that recent loss to Rafael Nadal, Djokovic has managed to win 4 out of the last 6 majors tournaments. Djokovic is the easy favorite to win again this year, as the grass plays into his favor as he can over power his opponents. Djokovic will take on Juan Carlos Ferrero, who used to be a star in his own right, in a fairly exciting first round that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Novak. He shouldn’t have much of a challenge at all until the Semi Finals where he might have a chance of seeing the great Roger Federer, who has won the tournament 6 times and is as comfortable on the WImbledon court as LeBron James is on a breakaway dunk. However, I believe the younger and current #1 player in the world will take care of the aging star, setting up the finals that everyone hopes and expects, a rematch of last year’s Final. Last July, Djokovic took down Rafael Nadal in the finals in a easy four sets and I believe the tournament is shaping up for the exact same result this year.
The Two With a Chance
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are two most recognizable names in men’s tennis and are both serious contenders to Djokovic in this tournament. Though I have already stated I see Djokovic beating each man on his way to the repeat, I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these three guys prevail at the end of the two weeks. Nadal is a two-time Champion at Wimbledon and is coming off a victory over Novak in the French open. He has made the Finals in each of the past five Wimbeldons, and has won 87.5 percent of his career matches at Wimbledon. The only legitimate test Nadal will have in reaching the Finals will be Andy Murray, who Nadal has beaten in 13 out of 18 career match ups. In contrast Djokovic and Federer stand in each others way to the make the championship match. Even though I believe Djokovic will win that heavy weight matchup, I do feel that Roger Federer will show the Wimbledon faithful glimpses of his brilliance over the next few weeks. Federer has won a career 16 grand slams and I believe he’ll be the crowd favorite as many people will want to see his return to glory. His 6 Wimbledon titles are second only to Pete Sampras’s 7 and he has three more than Djokovic and Nadal combined. He will be by far the most comfortable player on the lawns, but we need to keep in mind that Djokovic has beaten Roger in 3 out of the last 4 major matchups, including a straight set victory at the French Open a few weeks ago. If Roger can somehow squeak by Djokovic, it would set up an awesome title fight with Nada. Even though I’ll be rooting for Roger to make it to the last day, I don’t see it happening.
Both the men and women American players underperformed at the French Open. Andy Roddick was beaten in the first round on the clay and the player who was once considered among the world’s elite has for a while been forgotten in the conversation of contenders. Traditionally, Rodick plays well on grass and he is coming off a win at the tune-up for Wimbledon, AEGON International Men’s Singles Tournament. I expect Roddick to play well, show pride but ultimately fall short of the ultimate prize as he is no longer in the same league as the top players in the world. Serena Williams is another American who was quickly eliminated from the French Open field. However, in her career she has always played her best at the All England Club. Serena is still one of the best player’s in the world, even though Maria Sharapova has gotten most of the recognition as the world’s best after her recent French result. Serena and her sister rewrote the manner in which women’s tennis is played and she still has the ability to be the most dominating force in the game. I think she finds her form and captures her 5th Wimbledon tournament, as she will take advantage of the same comfort level that Roger Federer will enjoy on the men’s draw.
Parity in the Women’s Side
Though I am picking Williams to win Wimbledon, the field is very close and the favorite coming into the tournament has to be Maria Sharapova. Sharapova recently won the French Open and came extremely close last year, losing in the finals to Petra Kvitova. Kvitota has to feel as confident as anyone also, as she beat Sharapova in straight sets and has been playing great tennis all season which has earned her the #4 spot in the women’s game. This year’s Australian Open champ is the current #2 player in the world, as Victoria Azarenka also made her first semi-finals in last year’s Wimbledon Tournament. Azarenka was disappointing in the French Open but she has the ability to put that result in the rear view mirror and build on last year’s success. Rounding out the field of contenders is the always dangerous Venus Williams who is at a veteran age of 32 but always capable of getting hot, 21-year-old Caroline Wozniacki who was recently the #1 player in the world and last year’s U.S. Open winner Sam Stosur, who has often struggled on the grass of Wimbledon. Though any of the women I have written about have a shot at this year’s title, I still believe Serena will be the eventual champion.
If you are a tennis fanatic, enjoy the greatness of the next few weeks. If you are unfamiliar with the sport, I promise you that the competitiveness and athleticism of these athletes will captivate you if you just sit down and give it a shot. I’m personally very excited to sit back, brew some tea, butter my crumpets and get ready to watch some of the greatest athletes in the world perform at the top of their games on the biggest stage in the sport.