Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Same old Arsenal?

Arsenal sent their U19 squad to participate in the 32nd Dallas Cup held each April in Frisco, TX. The tournament featured dozens of teams from all over the globe, age groups from U13 to U19. We saw the Gunners win 5-1 over a Dallas team on Sunday. They won their group with 6-0 and 3-1 wins over teams from Panama and Bolivia. This set up a Friday semi final against Eintract Frankfurt, to which I dragged the family.

There were lots of Arsenal fans present, evidenced by the famed red and white shirts. A "Come on Arsenal" chant broke out at one stage - otherwise the crowd was quiet. The U19 team is coached by Steve Bould, a warrior at center-back in his day. Unfortunately, Arsenal's two leading scorers Luke Freeman and Josh Rees were injured and did not play. It also seemed like a fourth game in six days was taking it's toll. The Germans were better, stronger, faster and cantered to a 2-0 win - it would have bee a lot more except for the heroics of Arsenal goalie Damian Martinez. For the Gunners, Roarie Deacon and George Breslin-Hall also impressed.

What worried me was that the U19's are clearly coached to play the same as the senior squad. So lots of crisp passing from the halfway line until the opponents penalty box and then nothing. Frankfurt defended against this with two banks of four and both their goals were on quick breaks. Sound familiar?

In the second semi, Tigres from Mexico destroyed a Dallas team 5-0. The final on Easter Sunday was cut short by some of crazy spring weather and was stopped after 65 mins due to the lightning. Both teams were declared co-champions.

Dr. Pepper Park in Frisco is a really nice modern stadium. The entire complex has about 15 fields and the facilities seem top class. One day we will try and figure out Major League Soccer and take in an FC Dallas game.

Steve Bould - Fashionista

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blue Angels

The US Navy's Blue Angels flew into Fort Worth last weekend in their F/A-18 Hornet's for the Naval Air Station Air Power Expo. I had not seen the Blue Angels since 1985 when "Unka" John and I were at an air show in Schenectady, NY. I assume they have upgraded hardware since then. Note that the Hornet is powered by twin turbofan jet engines, built by some of my fine co-workers at General Electric.

The F/A-18 first flew in 1978 and is used primarily for attacking ground targets and reconnaissance. It can fly at Mach 1.7 (1,200 MPH) although while in Fort Worth it did not break the sound barrier. I remember hearing the RAF Phantoms break the sound barrier once when staying with Fidelma in Norfolk. It is one of the coolest sounds you can hear - like a whip cracking.

The Hornets cost $18 million each, I would not like to be the pilot that cracks one up*. The Blue Angels show was great, with low-level passes, daring formations - the jets sometimes just inches apart. If I was 18 years old I would be looking for the recruiting officer...

* The phrase "bought the farm" comes from the air force. If a pilot crashes and destroys crops, cows (and plane and self) and farmer gets a payoff, pilot is deemed to have bought the farm... probably with his life.

My photo's were poor - here is an official Blue Angels one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mark Twain Was Right

Something along the lines of the coldest winter he every spent was a summer in San Francisco. I can attest; some co-workers and myself almost froze our you-know-what off at AT&T Park last Tuesday. I had not been back to SF since 1997 and was lucky enough to have the evening free after our customer meeting and the unanimous choice was to see the Giants vs. the Dodgers. Classic West Coast rivalry, made all the more bitter by the senseless beating of a Giants fan by some Dodger thugs just a few days previous. Better yet, Tim Lincecum was on the mound for SF. I was hoping to find a "Let Timmy Smoke" keepsake but even in liberal northern CA, that was not for sale in the ballpark.

We got there about an hour before game time and after a few unsuccessful negotiations with scalpers, opted for the authentic tickets from the box office. The area around AT&T park was a mob scene - the 2010 World Series champs were at home after all... and did I mention they hate the Dodgers? Throughout the game the chant "Beat L.A" was non-stop. Timmy did not have his best stuff but the Giants did enough to edge out a 4-3 win. The highlight was Brian Wilson coming on in the 9th to close it out and get his first save of 2011. He looks more and more like a young Fidel Castro every day (ironically, in his youth, Castro was a pitcher). Wilson struck out the side and looked to have his 2010 form back.

We wandered around the stadium during the seventh inning. There were only a handful of kayaks in McCovey Cove; a far cry the flotilla from when Bonds was launching his steroid infused bombs into the water. It is a neat ballpark - maybe not my favorite but in the top five. Our seats were right behind home plate but when the wind blew in from behind, it felt like an Arctic blast. It was 48F but it felt like 35F. My thoughts are if Twain reckoned San Francisco was cold, what did he make of Hartford, CT? The only thing missing was the fog.

I told my friends about the time we went to the Giants 4th of July game at Candlestick (vs the Rockies) in 1997 and the fog rolled in at some stage. There was a big postgame fireworks display... or so we were told. You could hear them but you sure as heck not see any fireworks, thanks to the blanket of cold fog.

So on Tuesday night, as we drove south on 101 to our hotel in San Jose, we passed through San Bruno and Burlingame, our old stomping grounds and memories of a great 12 months in the Bay Area came flooding back. Good times, good times...

AT&T Ballpark as seen through lousy cellphone camera.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Hath Sprung

The back yard is beginning to respond to the warm temperatures and show some colors. The apple tree which I pruned way back but looks as though it will still have tons of fruit. The azaleas have great bright red flowers. Fenced off from the dogs is the world's smallest vegetable garden (and easiest to weed): strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber, squash. Finally, the photinia hedge is resplendent with white flowers and will soon need a trim.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Day to Remember

This morning, far from the "big show", the Tigers of the Southlake Little League Bronco division took on and triumphed over the Padres and Mr. Kevin had a banner day:

  • 3 for 3 at the plate

  • 3 runs scored

  • four stolen bases

  • 2011 pitching debut, with three innings pitched and only two earned runs.

Not a bad day at the office. The wind up, leg kick and scowl all echo Glavine, Pettite, Big Unit, etc. Never mind the fact that his one pitch is way off speed and leaves hitters swinging before the ball is halfway home. Hey, don't knock it - it works!

Hope Springs Eternal

I was at the last Major League Baseball game in 2010 when on Nov 1, the Giants of San Francisco closed out the World Series with a win over the Texas Rangers. Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to attend the Rangers 2011 home opener against the Boston Red Sox. Despite some trepidation about the starting pitching rotation, the Rangers faithful were in party mode and the game was sold out. These fans know how to tailgate - great displays of barbecues, tables, tents and even port-a-potties. The 2010 American League Champions banner was raised and although the Sox scored early, the Rangers bats were en fuego and we won 9-5. As I write, we won Saturdays game 12 to 5. A great start to 2011 against a team many are picking to go to the World Series.