Why it is time to abolish the British Monarchy

The wedding between William and Kate in April put the British Royal family firmly back in the global spotlight this year – the

My kind of Monarch - the unpretentious King Ralph I

glitz and glamour of the occasion grabbing the attention of newspapers, magazines, and television networks for weeks on end.  The interest in the US was, in part, because of the foreign concept of a real life Prince and Princess – a quirky aspect of the United Kingdom that can be stared at and enjoyed without thinking about the politics behind it.  Most people in Britain are in favour of the Royal Family, I am very much in the minority with my view – the Monarchy should be abolished.

What do the following countries have in common: Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Grenada; Jamaica; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Solomon Islands; Tuvalu; United Kingdom? All of them have Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State.  The person who represents their country, the figurehead to the world, is an 85-year-old woman whose qualifications for the job(s) were: she was the eldest daughter for her Dad who had no sons – he (King Colin Firth the Stutterer) got the job because his Dad was King and his older brother wanted to marry someone who was divorced – his Dad got the job because his Dad had the job…and so on and so forth, back to some wars fought between York and Lancaster, England and France – you can get a lot of the details in Shakespeare’s historical plays if you so wish.

This is the antithesis of Democracy – France and the United States recognised the tyranny of having a Monarch control the people in the late 18th century, yet somehow in Britain it has survived to the present day.  Arguments for keeping the Royal Family are as follows (my comments in italics):

  1. TraditionJust because the Royal Family has existed for so long, does not mean they should continue to do so;
  2. Would you really want it to be President Cameron/Brown/Blair etc? – Despite the fact I would not, and did not, vote for any of these Prime Ministers in an election, does not mean I do not believe in the process – if a democratic election which you participate it does not have the outcome you desire – at least you have had the opportunity for your vote to count;
  3. It’s a good tourist attractionBritain does not need to have an active Royal Family to attract tourists.  The Tower of London is still popular and that has not been used as a residence for Monarchs for centuries.  Plus all the attractions in the country that have nothing to do with Royalty – would people not want to: visit museums; go to the Lake District; or Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland; have a curry on Brick Lane, fish and chips by the seaside, drink a pint in a real British Pub; go on the London Eye; attend shows at the Edinburgh Fringe – would any of these things be less appealing because there was no Monarchy?;
  4. They do not do anything anyway – it’s just a figurehead with no real power – This one requires some expansion;
The fact that Royal Assent has to be granted on every single bill that is passed by the Government at Westminster, shows that the Queen does have real power.  Because it has not actually been denied since 1708, does not mean that this potential power over all legislation should be granted to someone, merely because of the family they were born into.  A Presidential veto can be overturned by two-thirds of Congress – there is no check nor balance on the power of a Monarch should they deny Royal Assent.  In 1999,  a bill was introduced to be debated in Westminster that would transfer the power to authorise military strikes in Iraq from the Monarch to Parliament – the Queen signaled that she would not assent to the hearing and it was dropped.  It is true that she was acting on the advice of the Government – but it brings up three interesting points.  Firstly, why is it the Monarch who still authorises attacks on other nations?  This Commander-in-Chief is unelected and unaccountable to the citizens of the country.  Secondly, Royal Assent was used as a political maneuvering tool by the Government, therefore there is inherent power in it, even if it has not been withheld in over 300 years.  Thirdly, and unrelated to the main argument, this was 1999, four years before the Iraq War started – that invasion was planned for a long time.
Furthermore, The Guardian revealed that Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, has been offered the chance to veto 12 pieces of legislation in the last 6 years, for fears they would affect his own personal interests.  A man who has inherited property worth around £700m, the Duchy of Cornwall and countless other castles and estates, is offered the chance to prevent bills being passed that the Governments think would be beneficial to the country – because they might make his personal wealth dip slightly.
There has been very little diversity in the demographics of the 44 Presidents of the United States – white, male and protestant defines all but two (Kennedy and Obama being the outliers).  However, there is at least the opportunity for anyone who is born in the United States, to become President.  In Britain, this is not the case – you cannot become the Head of State unless you are from the right family, are born first and, until a recent law change, were male (In anticipation of William & Kate’s first child, the leaders of the Commonwealth countries agreed to eliminate the sexist rule that sons ascended to the throne before any daughters, older or younger).
It is long overdue for Britain to be a democracy – and for all of the nations under the Commonwealth umbrella to have self-rule.  The House of Lords (the upper chamber of Parliament – made up of appointed and hereditary peers) should be eliminated and replaced with a second elected body, similar to the Senate in the United States.  The bicameral legislature would be a separation of powers to a new President, directly elected by the people (no electoral college, which makes the US a Republic, not a Democracy, by the way) and a strong judicial system to ensure that no measures are introduced by the Government which negate the rights or liberties of British citizens.  Of course, this is not a revolutionary idea – or at least, it is not any longer – it was in 1787 when the Founding Fathers provided the framework of the Constitution.
Somehow, Britain has still not embraced this concept of democracy and maintains the Royal Family and worships their majesty. Not me – Kings and Queens should be for the history books, Princesses should be for Disney movies.
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World Series Game 7 – Live Blog

11:30pm

So the team that was 10.5 games out of the Wild Card in late August, who had to beat the team with the best regular season record in the NLCS, who were down to their last strike 2 times in Game 6 – have somehow survived all of that to win the World Series.  Texas, on the other hand, join the 1986 Red Sox in infamy – who have lost two straight World Series and must fear being the new Buffalo Bills – who lost four straight Superbowls in the early 90s.  Baseball is now over for 6 months – thanks to all who read along tonight – congratulations all St. Louis Cardinals fans.

11:22pm

Last night’s game 6 proved that you cannot rest until the final out has been achieved, so the Cardinals will not be thinking they have won it before they record three more outs.  Jason Motte is the man charged with getting those outs – the hard throwing right handed closes for St. Louis.  He gets Nelson Cruz to fly out to center field – two outs away.  Mike Napoli is the next batter, meanwhile Fox show Nolan Ryan looking very glum, which would be more entertaining if this was in Texas and former President Bush 43 was alongside him.  Napoli grounds out to third base and Texas, like St. Louis were twice last night, are down to their final out.  David Murphy is the man with the Rangers’ whole season in his hands – he flies out to left field and it’s game over,  World Series over – the St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions!

11:15pm

Bottom of the 8th – Nick Punto pinch hits in the pitcher’s spot, with Motet getting ready to enter the game in the 9th for the Cardinals, but flies out to center for the first out.  Theriot makes it and 0 for 5 night for himself with a strike out looking, and Craig comes up – if he gets on base Pujols will have another at bat – we have to wait to find out as Gonzalez injured himself on a pitch and so is pulled out of the game for Alexi Ogando to come in.  He gets that rarest of lines – 1 pitch thrown, 1 strike out – end of the inning.

11:04pm

Top of the 8th – Lynn is in to pitch for the Cardinals and wastes no time as he gets Hamilton to ground out, followed by Young popping out to Pujols, then strikes out Beltre for a 1-2-3 inning.

10:56pm

Bottom of the 7th – the Cardinals have Pujols, Berkman and Freese due up this inning, so will be looking to pad their 5-2 lead, needing just six outs for their 11th World Series Championship – the most in the National League and second only to the

Allen Craig robs Nelson Cruz of a home run, Game 7 2011 World Series
Allen Craig robs Nelson Cruz of a home run, Game 7 2011 World Series

Yankees (who have 27) in all of baseball.  If they do win, I think it will be between Berkman and Freese for the series MVP – with my vote going to the home town boy, David Freese.  This time, it really could be Pujols last at bat as a Cardinal, and he is facing Mike Adams who is in to pitch for the Texas Rangers – and he ruins this potentially storybook ending by striking him out.  Pujols has had 11 fantastic seasons with the Cardinals – his stats read: .328 average, 445 Home Runs, 3 MVPs, a World Series victory in 2006, with another one potentially on the way tonight.  Back to the game and Berkman somehow has an infield hit, despite looking older and more portly than someone you would expect to be able to beat out a soft grounder to short.  Freese is up next, and he walks to give two on with one out.  Molina smacks one up the middle and scores Berkman from second with an RBI single.  Texas 2, St. Louis 6.  Furcal bats next for St. Louis – he grounds out to first, moving the runners to second and third.  That’s the end of Adams’s night, as Washington calls Michael Gonzalez in from the bullpen to face Schumaker – and he strikes him out to end the 7th inning.

10:33pm

Three innings to go of the 2011 season – unless Texas can come back and force extra frames.  Quick predictions for some of the bigger stories of the offseason: CC Sabbathia will opt out of his contract, but re-sign with the Yankees for more years and more money.  Pujols will sign with either the Cubs or the Red Sox, who seem to collect first basemen.  In this game, Carpenter gives up a ground rule double to Murphy to lead off the 7th, which is enough to get La Russa to jump out of the dugout and call for the former Rangers pitcher, Arthur Rhodes, out of the bullpen.  Good performance by Carpenter – he’s in line for the win if the Cardinals stay in the lead for 9 more outs.  Torrealba is the first batter Rhodes will face, pinch hitting for CJ Wilson – he flies out to center field for the first out of the seventh inning.  Turns out that’s all Rhodes will be doing as St. Louis go back to the bullpen to call on Octavio Dotel, who will face Kinsler – the Rangers lead off man who has not been retired yet tonight.  That changes now though, as Dotel strikes him out swinging for the second out.  Elvis Andrus is up next, and he hits a 3-1 pitch to the center fielder to end the inning.

10:17pm

Bottom of the 6th – turns out I may have been premature in talking up Carpenter’s performance, he stays in the game to bat and

Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter - strong through 6 thus far

grounds out to second base – but that means he will be coming out to at least start the 7th inning.  Theriot’s futile night at the plate continues as he moves to 0 for 4 with a fly ball to the center fielder for the second out and then Craig strikes out to end the inning.  Texas 2, St. Louis 5

10:08pm

I just found out that the guy who sung the National Anthem actually was on American Idol, which I did not know when I made my Simon Cowell jibe (7:55pm) – I guess he just had that aura.  Top of the 6th – probably Carpenter’s last inning as he would be due up first in the bottom of the inning.  He gets Beltre on a groundball back to the pitcher for the first out, then sees Cruz rip one deep to left field: it is high, it is far, it is…CAUGHT! Craig reaches up above the fence and snares the ball to take a home run away from Cruz – fantastic fielding – two outs.  A fly ball to right field from Napoli ends the inning – and Carpenter has recovered from a rocky first inning to give a quality start – 6IPs, 5H, 2ER, 2BB 5K.

10:01pm

Bottom of the fifth – Feldman is in to pitch for the Rangers and, for the third time tonight, Theriot leads off the inning – this one is no better than the first two as he grounds out to move to 0 for 3.  Craig, who homered last time up, as well as in game 6, is up next and he walks to give Pujols one on with one out in the inning.  St. Louis’s star first baseman is hit with an inside pitch by Feldman; so now the left-handed Berkman is up, and he has two men on base ahead of him.  Lance Berkman grounds out to first, who tosses the ball to Feldman for the second out – the runners advanced to second and third.  The Rangers want nothing to do with David Freese and issue him an intentional walk to load the bases – they will take their chances against Yadier Molina instead.  After 3 straight balls, Feldman gets the count full to 3-2, but the strategy of intentionally walking Freese backfires as the next pitch is outside and it’s a bases loaded walk.  Texas 2, St. Louis 4 – and that is it for Feldman as Ron Washington calls for CJ Wilson to come in from the bullpen to face Furcal with the bases still loaded. With his very first pitch, Wilson hits Furcal to force in another run.  Texas 2, St. Louis 5.  So this inning has been Single, Hit by Pitch, Ground Out, Intentional Walk, Walk, Hit by Pitch – two runs scored on one hit.  That’s the amount of the damage though, as Wilson strikes out Schumaker to end the inning.

9:38pm

Is it just me, or are the ad breaks a couple of minutes longer than usual for this game? Top of the fifth – Kinsler hits a single, he’s now 2 for 2 with a walk tonight.  There is a game of cat and mouse going on as the runner is looking to try and steal, the batter, Andrus, is showing bunt and Carpenter is throwing to first.  The mouse (?) wins as Andrus lays down a good bunt to advance Kinsler to second, bringing Hamilton to the plate with one on and one out – he hits one up and behind third base, which Freese reaches into the Texas dugout to catch for the second out.  Carpenter then strikes out Michael Young and is now eligible to be the pitcher of record, having got through 5. Texas 2, St. Louis 3

9:26pm

Bottom of the fourth – that man David Freese is up first, but the Rangers get the better of him this time around as he grounds out.  Molina then rips a single to center field, followed by Furcal hitting one to right field – setting the Cardinals up with runners on first and second with one out.  Schumaker is up next, last time around he grounded into a double play, this time he accounts for just one out as he hits a ground ball to first, advancing the runners to second and third.  The pitcher, Carpenter is up next though – so Texas will be confident of getting out of this inning with no runs added to the Cardinals’ lead – and they do as Carpenter flies out to right.  Four innings completed: Texas 2, St. Louis 3.

9:12pm

Top of the fourth – Carpenter strikes out Napoli with three straight curve balls, then gets Murphy to ground out to Pujols at first. Matt Harrison is staying in the game, despite CJ Wilson still warming up in the Texas bullpen, and he strikes out to end the inning.

Craig's third inning home run gives the Cardinals a 3-2 lead

9:05pm

Bottom of the third – Theriot leads off and flies out to right field for the first out, which brings up Allen Craig.  He works the count full and then hits one deep to right field…it is high, it is far, it is…GONE! Texas 2, St. Louis 3.  Pujols is the next batter – on a 1-2 pitch he hits a foul ball behind first base which Michael Young gets a glove on but does not catch – but grounds out to third on the next pitch and there are two outs.  Lance Berkman hits a ball sharply to the right of the first baseman, but Young dives and catches it to end the inning.

8:55pm

Top of the third – I was a little surprised the Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, left Carpenter in to bat in the last half inning, given that he seems to have nowhere near his best stuff tonight.  Carpenter gets Josh Hamilton to ground out to Shortstop, strikes out Michael Young in an attempt to prove me wrong, but then hits Beltre with a pitch to put him on first – before a fly ball to left by Cruz, ends the inning.

8:47pm

Bottom of the second and Furcal, who has been really struggling at the plate this postseason, is up first for the Cardinals, and he hits a single, but that is quickly wiped out as Schumaker grounds into a double play.  Carpenter is up next and he strikes out on three pitches – after two, it’s all square at 2-2.

8:41pm

Top of the second – Mike Napoli is up first for the Rangers, who would probably be the MVP of the World Series should Texas win (something Joe Buck then says just after I typed it – making me consider deleting it, but oh well).  He singles to left field – up next: David Murphy who attempts to bunt, but Carpenter fires to second to get Napoli and there is one out, with still a man on first base.  The pitcher’s spot is up next so Harrison is at the plate and he is showing bunt to try to advance the runner – and he does exactly that.  So Murphy is on second base and there are now two outs; Kinsler up for the Rangers who walks on four pitchers – it really looks like Carpenter is struggling with command, pitching on short rest for just the second time in his career (the first time was in the ALDS against the Phillies earlier this post-season, and he did not last long that night).  Molina tries to throw out Kinsler at first base, and would have done if Pujols had managed to catch the ball – but no harm is done as Andrus grounds out to the pitcher for the third out.

8:29pm

Bottom of the first, Matt Harrison pitching for the Rangers.  Theriot grounds out to second base for the first out, followed by Allen Craig flying out to center field.  That brings up Albert Pujols, probably playing his final game for St. Louis, as he is a free agent after today’s game and will then sign for the Yankees who will spend Spring Training teaching him to play right field (well, I can dream).  Harrison does not give him anything near a strike and Pujols is on first with a four pitch walk, but now he has to face Lance Berkman, who has been the best Cardinals hitter this series.  Unable to find his location, Harrison walks Berkman too, giving last night’s hero, hometown boy David Freese, an opportunity with two men on base and two outs. Once again, Freese comes through big and hits a game-tying two run double to center field on a full count.  Texas 2, St. Louis 2.  The Rangers are not wasting any time and have CJ Wilson warming up in the bullpen, unsure if Harrison is going to be effective tonight.  He will not be needed in the first inning however, as Molina drives one deep but Hamilton catches it on the warning track for the third out.

8:15pm

And we’re off.  Top of the first, Chris Carpenter (pitching on three days’ rest) on the mound for the Cardinals.  The leadoff batter, Ian Kinsler, gets on with a hard hit single to left field – he is quickly taken care of though as he is picked off trying to steal second and there is one out.  Carpenter has control issues, it seems, and the next batter, Elvis Andrus, draws a walk – giving Josh Hamilton an opportunity to do some damage with a runner on base.  He does exactly that, an RBI double scores Andrus from first – Texas 1, St. Louis 0.  That brings us our first shot of a super-excited Ron Washington celebrating the run – and he immediately gets to celebrate another one as Michal Young hits another RBI double to score Hamilton from second base.  Texas 2, St. Louis 0.  Carpenter strikes out Beltre on three pitches for the second out of the inning – but there is a chance the Rangers batters have figured him out, given this is the third time they’re facing him in the last 10 days.  He gets out of the inning with no further damage as he gets Cruz to ground out to third base.

8:00pm

The most cringeworthy pre-game ceremony of this post-season goes to the Texas Rangers who, before their first game against

So...you're single now right?

the Rays in the ALDS, brought out the son and widow of the guy Josh Hamilton killed by underthrowing a foul ball  who tragically fell to his death trying to catch a foul ball, for the first pitch – which the boy threw to Hamilton.  It seemed emotionally manipulative at the time and must have been hard for the kid and his mother.

7:55pm

The National Anthem is sung by Chris Daughtry – who I have never heard of but has apparently been nominated for a Grammy – he really belts it out and I think Simon Cowell will put him through to the next round.

7:47pm 

I’m a huge Packers fan and love Aaron Rodgers – but that State Farm commercial is on the precipice of becoming the most overplayed and annoying thing on television.

7:40pm

AJ Pierzynski is one of the analysts on Fox tonight and he somehow manages to combine really interesting comments with dull delivery and shows absolutely zero charisma.  He looks like he is reading an auto-cue but I think he is actually ad libbing. Complete contrast is Rangers manager Ron Washington, who wears his heart on his sleeve and celebrates every run he scores like a little kid – jumping up and down.  If I did not want Texas to win (for reasons stated here), I would enjoy seeing him if the Rangers won it all.

7:10pm

In order to see updates you will need to manually refresh the page by hitting F5 or refresh (sorry it’s not auto!). Lineups are in:

Texas (No DH as game is in National League stadium)

1. Kinsler 2B

2. Andrus SS

3. Hamilton CF

4. Young 1B

5. Beltre 3B

6. Cruz RF

7. Napoli C

8. Murphy LF

9. Harrison P

St. Louis 

1. Theriot 2B

2. Craig LF

3. Pujols 1B

4. Berkman RF

5. Freese 3B

6. Molina C

7. Furcal SS

8. Schumaker CF

9. Carpenter P

3:00pm

I’ll be covering the winner-takes-all Game 7 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers – first pitch is scheduled for 8pm ET tonight.  If you have a comment or question relating to the game, send an e-mail to politicalfootballs@gmail.com

The fact that this game is even happening is because of the never-say-die attitude the Cardinals once again showed in Game 6. Tonight’s pitching matchup is likely to be between Matt Harrison of the Rangers – who started game 3, which Texas lost 16-7 – and Chris Carpenter for St. Louis – he pitched 7 innings in game 5, giving up 2 runs for a no decision in a Cardinals 4-2 loss.  There has been no official announcement from St. Louis that Carpenter will be starting, Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse are also possible, though neither have been impressive in this postseason.  The Cardinals will also be without left fielder Matt Holliday, who injured his hand diving back to third base when he was picked off in the 6th inning last night.  Texas will be trying to fight off the doubts that will come from having twice been one strike away from winning the World Series in game 6, only to end up being forced into a game 7.  The Red Sox in 1986 and the Cubs in 2003 can pay testament to how difficult it is to come back from a rough game 6 loss – plus Texas main offensive threat, Josh Hamilton, has been struggling with a groin injury, although that did not prevent him hitting a two run home run in the 10th last night which should have finished off the Cardinals for good.

While the game might not be as dramatic as last night’s, someone will win the World Series tonight – join me to find out if that will be Texas or St. Louis.

This week in: English Football – Premiership Predictions

Manchester City have their trophy cabinet ready for May

I covered last weekend’s action here – City thrashing United and Terry’s racism stories were too compelling to wait on – so now my weekend’s premiership predictions.

Last week 4-6, Season 33-26

Everton vs Manchester United Away Win – Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United tend to respond well to defeats – when that loss is to their local rivals and by a 6-1 scoreline, their next opponents will be fearing a backlash. The Blues did win their last game away to Fulham, but they have lost Phil Neville and Tim Cahill to injuries.

Chelsea vs Arsenal – Home win – Chelsea have won all four of their home games and Arsenal are yet to win away from the Emirates this season.  The Gunners have defender Thomas Vermaelen back for this game, while Chelsea will be without Drogba and Boswinga, after the pair were sent off against QPR last week.  The home team do have Torres back from suspension and Arsenal are lightweight in the middle of the park since selling Fabregas and Nasri and losing Jack Wilshere to an injury.  All of this means I think Chelsea will have enough to win this game, sending Arsene Wenger’s side to their fifth defeat of the season.

Manchester City vs Wolves – Home win –  These two sides actually met on Wednesday in the Carling Cup at Molineux, City winning the game 5-2, but neither team had their first choice XI on display.  It’s impossible to imagine anything other than a home win here – Manchester City have only dropped two points all year, scoring thirty-three goals in nine games and conceding just seven; whereas Wolves, who won their first two league games of the season, have not won any of their last seven since then.

Norwich vs Blackburn – Draw –  Blackburn are rock bottom of the Premiership and face a tough trip away to Norwich, a team who two seasons ago were in the third tier of English football, but Rovers showed plenty of fight in their loss to Tottenham last week and could pick up a point at Carrow Road.

Sunderland vs Aston Villa – Away win – Villa started the season strongly and were unbeaten until they faced Manchester City two weeks ago and then lost the Midlands derby with West Bromwich Albion last week.  Sunderland picked up just their second win of the season away to Bolton in their last outing, but will be fearing their former striker, Darren Bent, coming back to haunt them this Halloween weekend.

Swansea vs Bolton – Home win – I have not seen either team play yet so far this season, so going purely on perception with this pick. Bolton have been better away from home, winning 2 and losing 2, than at the Reebok Stadium, where they have lost all five of their games this season.  Swansea have been the complete opposite: unbeaten at home and yet to win away so far this season.

Wigan vs Fulham – Home win – Fulham have been an enigma this campaign – they put 6 past QPR two weeks ago, but that is their only win so far, and they lost at home to Everton last time out.  Wigan are second bottom and desperately need the points, having lost their last five league games.  Much as I love Fulham manager Martin Jol from his time at Tottenham, it looks like he needs more time to work on their squad and think they will slump to another defeat again this weekend.

West Brom vs Liverpool – Home win – Former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson will try to lead his West Brom team to another win over his former employers, having done just that last season.  Last week, Albion had an impressive away win against Aston Villa, while Liverpool were wasteful in front of goal – particularly Luis Suarez, who himself missed 11 attempts – as they were held to a draw at home by Norwich.

Tottenham vs QPR – Home win – Spurs, unbeaten against every team that does not hail from Manchester, go into this London derby full of confidence.  QPR are currently in 10th place and last week they beat local rivals Chelsea – though they looked very tentative in that game in the second half, playing against just nine men and with the lead.  This week (I hope) will be a case of the morning after for Rangers and Spurs should continue their push for a top four place.

Stoke vs Newcastle – Draw – Newcastle have not lost yet this season and are in fourth place, Stoke are unbeaten at home.  The Geordies have a large french contingent and they will be put to the test in this most anecdotal of games – the English Press is often keen on saying about foreign imports to the Premier League: “Could they do it on a cold Monday evening in Stoke?”.  City lost their last game away to Arsenal and have had problems scoring goals this season (only 7 in 9 games) – but they have only conceded one in four matches at the Britannia so this one has 0-0 written all over it.

World Series Game 6 – Baseball Gone Mad

The final day of the regular season (covered here), was one wild night with the fates of four different teams in the balance – game 6 of the 2011 World Series matched it for drama, as the Texas Rangers tried to win it all for the first time in their 50 year history, and the St. Louis Cardinals battled to stay alive and take it to Game 7.

All night, the two teams had been going back and forth on the scoreboard – the Rangers took the lead in the top of the 1st 1-0, only to see Lance Berkman hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning – 2-1 Cardinals.  Texas then leveled the score in the 2nd and took the lead 3-2 in the 4th, before St. Louis tied it up in the bottom half of that inning.  Michael Young doubled in a run in the 5th to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead – only to see the tying run walked in for the Cardinals with the bases loaded in the 6th.  In the 7th, it looked as though Texas had taken control of the game – Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs, followed by Kinsler adding an RBI single for a 7-4 Rangers lead.  Craig gave the Cardinals some hope in the 8th as he went deep to bring the deficit to 7-5 – but St. Louis went to the bottom of the 9th needing two runs to keep the World Series alive.

That is where the drama really started.  Ryan Theriot led off, but struck out swinging, which brought up Albert Pujols- St. Louis’s star first baseman who is a free agent after this season and thus it could have been his final at bat as a Cardinals

Hometown boy David Freese came through for the St. Louis Cardinals

player.  Pujols hit a double and then Berkman drew a walk, meaning that the Cardinals had the tying runs on base.  Craig then struck out, leaving St. Louis with just one more out to save the series – the batter it all came down to was David Freese, who grew up in the city and supported the Cardinals.  In this made-for-a-movie type script, Freese had two strikes on him, down to his last one, then hit a two run, game-tying triple just over Nelson Cruz’s head in right field.  Somehow, the game was going to extra innings.

Busch Stadium was buzzing, the crowd was hyped up – but then, in the top of the 10th inning, Josh Hamilton followed up Elvis Andrus’ single with a two-run shot to deep right, giving Texas a 9-7 lead and leaving the Cardinals on the precipice once again.  However, this is a team that came from 10.5 games back in the Wild Card race to snatch the playoff place from the Braves on the final day of the regular season, they just do not know when they are beaten.  Descalso and Jay hit back to back singles to lead off the inning and then Lohse bunted them over, leaving St. Louis with runners on second and third with one out.  Ryan Theriot grounded out, but got in the run from third to leave the Cardinals down one run, two outs with a man on second base.  The Rangers then chose to walk Albert Pujols, a right-handed batter, with a right-handed pitcher on the mound, in order to face left-handed Lance Berkman instead.  Considering Pujols only had one hit outside of game 3 in this series (when he smashed three home runs and had 5 hits in total), whereas Berkman had been the Cardinals danger man all season – as well as the unfavourable righty/lefty matchup – the decision seemed flawed at the time.  It proved to be so, as Berkman drove in the tying run and took the game to the 11th inning.

Jake Westbrook pitched in the top of the inning for St. Louis who gave up just one single to Mike Napoli and no runs.  To lead off the bottom of the 11th, hometown boy David Freese was back up for the Cardinals.  Unsatisfied with his already storybook night, he hit a walk off home run to center to force a game 7, and send Busch Stadium into a frenzy.  Having been down to their final strike in both the 9th and 10th innings, St. Louis somehow found a way to win and keep this very entertaining World Series alive for one more night.

Texas will have to try to recover from having been so close to winning it all and then missing out – Boston failed in a similar situation in 1986 when they lost game 6 after Bob Stanley’s wild pitch tied the game in the bottom of the 10th, followed by Mookie Wilson’s grounder to first which infamously went through Bill Buckner’s legs to end the game.  The Cubs lost game 6 of the NLCS to the Marlins in 2003 after being 5 outs away from the World Series, before their own fan Steve Bartman robbed Moses Alou of an out by going for a foul ball – which was partly to blame for the resulting Florida 8 run rally in that same inning (Chicago Shortstop Alex Gonzalez also booted a double play ball which could have prevented it, but Bartman took all of the criticism).  Of course in game 7, the Cubs lost and the Marlins went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series, Chicago still has not won one since 1908.

As for the Cardinals, the never-say-die attitude this club has shown has brought them to a winner-takes-all showdown on Friday night.  In the 2001 World Series, the Yankees came from 2 runs down, 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th on 2 consecutive nights – St. Louis tonight survived down to their last out, their last strike, in two consecutive innings.  Can they go on to win game 7, which the Yankees failed to do that year?  I will be live-blogging the game from around 8pm ET – join me to find out.

This week in: American Football – Week 8

Tebow- an adequate QB for at least 10% of one game

Last week in the NFL, Denver Quarterback, Tim Tebow, lead his team to an improbable comeback – having been 15-0 down with less than three minutes of the game remaining, the Broncos recovered to win 18-15 in Overtime.  Tebow’s performance in the final few drives of the game went someway to disguising just how bad he had been for the first 54 minutes – in that time he completed just 4 of his 14 pass attempts for a total of 40 yards.

Elsewhere, Chiefs QB, Matt Cassell, had a very unimpressive day in Denver – his completion rate was just 50% (15/30), he threw for only 161 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.  Nevertheless, his side easily won 28-0 thanks to Raiders QBs Boller and Palmer combining to throw six picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns by the Kansas City defense. Peyton Manning remained on the sidelined for the Colts after neck surgery – an area of his body that would not have got much exercise during Sunday night’s game with the Saints – it was one way traffic as New Orleans spent most of the game driving towards the Colts endzone and ended up winning 62-7.

With Indianapolis struggling, the Titans and the Texans met in Tennessee with first place in the AFC South up for grabs.  The contest ended up being another one-sided matchup, as Houston thrashed the Titans 41-7.  In the fifth NFL game to be played in London, the Bears beat the Buccaneers in front of more than 76,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.  The Packers stayed perfect with a win in Minnesota, moving them to 7-0; the Panthers beat the injury-riddled Redskins; the Jets won at home against the Chargers; and the Jaguars defeated the Ravens on Monday night, despite running back Maurice “What Would” Jones-Drew fumbling the ball four times.  In the race for projected number one draft pick Andrew Luck, the Rams lost to the Cowboys and thus kept pace with the Colts and the Dolphins having lost all of their games thus far this season.  The Browns and the Seahawks played out a dull 6-3 game in Cleveland – the home team winning by two field goals to one – and people say that there isn’t enough scoring in “soccer”.

Predictions

Last week 7-6; Season 55-48

Home teams in bold

Colts +9.5 over Titans – Hard to take Indianapolis after they were crushed by the Saints last week – but the Titans were almost as bad and QB Matt Hasselbeck threw three interceptions in their loss to the Texans – taking the points.

Saints -10.5 over Rams – St. Louis, many people’s pre-season tips for the NFC West, have proven to be a terrible team and the Saints will be looking to continue their high-octane offense from last week.  I’m not sure how high they would have had to make this line for me to take the Rams – maybe -20.5.

Giants -9.5 over Dolphins – Last time I took the Giants in a home game they were heavily fancied in (Week 5 over the Seahawks), they ended up not only failing to cover, but actually lost the game.  However, I still cannot take Miami – who gave up that late lead to the Broncos last time around.

Panthers -3.5 over Vikings – Cam Newton led his Carolina team to victory against the Redskins last week, and I can see him making it two in a row this time against Minnesota.  Despite a spirited comeback that fell just short against the Packers last week, Vikings QB Christian Ponder – who has replaced the benched Donovan McNabb – threw two interceptions and needs to prove he can compete before his team is 16 points down.

Ravens -12.5 over Cardinals – Although Baltimore lost the Monday Night game in Jacksonville, they have been very strong at home this year (3-0, aggregate score of 98-38) and can expect to beat an Arizona team who have lost their last five games.

Texans -9.5 over Jaguars – After that impressive win over Baltimore, I should really be taking the Jaguars to at least cover this spread.  But they have been the worst team in passing yards gained thus far this season – QB Blaine Gabbert has thrown for just 810 yards this season and four touchdowns, compared with Houston’s Matt Schaub who has gained 1893 passing yards and 12 TDs.  Jacksonville also has a short week to prepare for the game after playing on Monday and are 0-3 in road games this year.

Bills -5.5 over Redskins – Before this season, bye weeks for teams usually resulted in a strong performance the following week as they had two games to prepare.  This year, teams coming back from a week off are just 3-9 – this could be in part to rules under the new labour agreement which prevent franchises from contacting their players for four straight days during this period, resulting in less preparation time than was previously available.  Alternatively, it could reflect the standard of the teams who have thus far had bye weeks – the 9 losses were for the Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Dolphins, Redskins, Titans, Cardinals, Chargers and Seahawks – combined record: 19-35.  Either way, the Bills should not have too many problems as they come back from a two week break to play the Redskins, who have benched their starting Quarterback, Rex Grossman, and have lost Tim Hightower and Santana Moss to injuries. Even though this game is being played in Toronto, not Buffalo, I think the Bills should win comfortably.

Lions -3.5 over Broncos – The Lions have lost two straight games, after winning their first five; the Broncos are on a high from their fourth quarter comeback last weekend – but Tebow was very bad for the first 54 minutes in that game and Detroit’s defensive line will cause him many more problems than the Dolphins did.

Bengals – 2.5 over Seahawks – Tough call, as neither team has been particularly impressive so far, but decided that I trust Cincinatti’s defense (111 points conceded in 6 games), more than Seattle’s offense (97 points scored in 6 games).

49ers -9.5 over Browns – Somehow, Cleveland is 3-3 going in to week 8.  They do have the number one pass defense in the NFL this year, but the main reason they do not have a losing record is a weak schedule.  Their wins have been against the Seahawks, Colts and Dolphins – who have a combined record of 2-18.  The 49ers have been the surprise team of the season – if they had not lost a late lead to the Cowboys, they would be 6-0 – and should take care of business at home against the Browns.

Patriots -2.5 over Steelers – With Tom Brady as their Quarterback, New England is 6-1 against Pittsburgh and have the top rated offense in the NFL again this season.  The Steelers have recovered from their week 1 mauling by the Ravens, and are now 5-2, but their five wins have been against Seattle (2-5), Tennessee (3-3), Indianapolis (0-7), Jacksonville (2-5) and Arizona (1-5) – their other loss coming against Houston (4-3).  I think Pittsburgh might be a secretly mediocre “good” team, and believe the Patriots will prove that this weekend.

Cowboys +3.5 over Eagles – Philadelphia is in desperate need of an impressive win, as they try to live up to all the pre-season hype surrounding them – but the Cowboys have been playing well this year and, if they had held on to big leads against they had against the Jets and the Lions, would be 5-1 and top of the NFC East.  As it is, they are 3-3, but I think they will keep the Eagles winless at home so far this season.

Chiefs +3.5 over Chargers – After two weeks, it looked as though Kansas City were among the worst teams in the NFL, having lost 41-7 to Buffalo and 48-3 to the Lions in their first couple of games.  Following that, the Chiefs played the Chargers close in San Diego – losing 20-17 – and then won their next three against the Vikings, Colts and Raiders.  A win this weekend would give them a share of the AFC West lead with the Chargers – who themselves have not played particularly well this season and lost last week against the Jets.  This promises to be a close game, with the home field advantage potentially the key to a Kansas City win.

English Football: Changing Times, Terry Still Racist

In the Manchester derby on Sunday, City thrashed United 6-1 – with David Silva pulling the strings in the midfield and grabbing the headlines with two goals and a tongue-in-cheek t-shirt.  Sir Alex Ferguson would have done well to put on some Bob Dylan after the match to heed a warning:

Come gather ’round Fergie
Wherever you roam
And admit that Man City
Around you has grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be fearing Blue Moon
If United to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start winnin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Was this result evidence of a significant shift in power towards the blue half of Manchester, or just a freak result that will be

Because you set off fireworks in your bathroom, Mario...

looked back on at the end of the season as little more than a blip in another title run for United?  It has happened before: during the 2008/2009 season Manchester United lost 4-1 to Liverpool; in 1999/2000 Chelsea beat them 5-0; and the 1996/7 campaign saw them lose 5-0 to Newcastle and 6-3 by Southampton – all of these thrashings came in seasons in which United won the title.  More evidence that the scoreline does not reflect a major change, is that City were playing against 10 men for almost half of the game, as Jonny Evans was sent off in the 47th minute, and scored three of their goals in the final few minutes, when United were forced to chase the game and left themselves exposed in defence.  Also, their six goals were scored with just seven shots on target in the whole game, suggesting they were clinical rather than dominant.  But the table shows that nearly a quarter of the way through the campaign, City are top, 5 points clear of the reigning champions and have won all but one of their nine games thus far, scoring 33 goals in the process.  If United are going to win the league again this year, they will need other teams in the division to start getting positive results against their cross-city rivals.

The North London rivalry is another case where the more successful team from recent years, Arsenal, is trailing their neighbours in the league – as Tottenham are three points above them, with a game in hand.  Spurs have recovered well from their tough start to the season, losing their first two games to the Manchester clubs, and have won five and drawn one of their six games since then, including a win in the North London derby.  As their scheduled opening match against Everton was cancelled due to the riots in August, they have played a game less than the teams above them, yet trail Chelsea in third by just three points.  Emmanuel Adebayor has made a promising start to his time at White Hart Lane and has shown himself to be a good foil for both Jermain Defoe and Rafael Van der Vaart up front.  Tottenham’s upcoming fixtures (QPR, @ Fulham, Villa, Bolton, @West Brom) are all winnable and give them an excellent opportunity to build on this strong start and push for a Champions League place for next season.

David Luiz also has a tattoo that says "Die Bart Die" - it's German

In West London, it had been a while since Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea had met in the league, as QPR had been in the lower divisions since 1996, but the two sides met at Loftus Road last weekend and again the underdog prevailed.  Chelsea had two men sent off in the first half and were a goal down from a penalty conceded by defender, and part-time Sideshow Bob impersonator, David Luiz.  Their attempted comeback in the second half fell short due to some fantastic saves from Rangers’ keeper, Paddy Kenny, coupled with some poor finishing.  All of this action has been overshadowed since the game, as the focus has been on John Terry, who is alleged to have racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

This video appears to show him calling someone (not in the shot) a “f***ing black c***” – although for the record I am not a lip-reading expert, so you can decide for yourself.  However, Terry does have previous cases of such behaviour – in 2006, he was sent off against Tottenham after he allegedly told Ledley King to “shut up you lippy black monkey” – though it was covered up by the media and the reason for the then England Captain being sent off was never disclosed (I was 11 rows away from the incident in the Paxton Road end, the reaction of the players around him spoke volumes – since then I have never supported the England team because of John Terry).  There are other incidents that show his unsavoury personality : the weekend after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, Terry and his Chelsea teammates, Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, were fined two weeks wages after they had been mocking American tourists in a hotel bar near Heathrow Airport.  And, of course, there was the story two years ago of him cheating on his wife, and mother of his children, with (his club and country teammate) Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend.

If the enquiry into this latest incident proves Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand, Chelsea and England should drop him from their sides and show that this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated.  I am sure that football issues, rather than ethical ones, will prevail and, if he is considered good enough, he will continued to be selected.  So join me, an Englishman, and support Spain, Germany, France and every other team that is not England, in the 2012 European Championships.

This week in: American and English Football – NFL heads to Wembley

The NFL Returns to Wembley

There is a perfect crossover in footballs of both types this week, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears will play the fifth regular season NFL game at Wembley Stadium, the home of English “soccer”.  This now annual event is well received by the legion of fans the NFL has attracted across the Atlantic, but there is still disdain on both sides for the other country’s “football” – which results in those who only embrace one of the sports, missing out on the other.  To most Brits, American Football is nothing more than ‘rugby with pads”; alongside those in the US who consider soccer boring, due to a lack of scoring.

I first started following the NFL in the early 90s, picking the Packers as my team with their young quarterback, Brett Favre – in the days before he had a phone that could send picture messages – as an alternative to the dominant Steve Young led 49ers, or the widely loved Dallas Cowboys.  While I enjoyed the sport for the game itself, it was not until I moved to New York that I discovered the culture surrounding it – watching the games in a bar with friends, drinking some beers and eating some hot wings – really adds to the experience.  On the other side, those who think that English football* is dull are missing out on the tribal nature of clubs supporters, on the boisterous atmosphere at the games, the anxiety of potential relegation, the joy of winning a trophy or beating your arch-rivals.  I have attended fixtures in the NFL, NHL, NBA, and dozens of baseball games, but nothing comes close to the experience of going to a football game.  Those who dismiss the other code of football are usually doing it out of ignorance, I love both types and recommend either to any sports fan.  Besides, they are both much better than rugby…

*I’m calling it English football, but of course I could say European, South American, everywhere else on earth – as only the US calls it soccer

To help bring these two sports together, at least for this weekend, here’s a look at how the season has gone in each league – with a comparison of teams who find themselves in similar positions:

Championship Contenders

These are the teams everyone expected to be competing for the top prizes and, thus far, have been proving people right:

Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers (NFL)

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea (Premiership)

Strong Starters

The clubs who have jumped out to a good opening to their seasons, but there is a doubt as to whether this success has any longevity:

San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL)

Newcastle United, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur (Premiership)

Strong Teams, Indifferent Starts

Teams that have been dominant in recent years, but have not looked themselves in the first few weeks of this season, yet they cannot be written off just yet:

Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles (yep, even at 2-4) (NFL)

Arsenal, Liverpool (Premiership)

Middle of the Road Teams

The ones who will be mid-table in the Premiership, or will be on the cusp of a wild card for the playoffs but unlikely to contend for the Superbowl – essentially, they are mediocre:

Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs (NFL)

Aston Villa, West Brom, Fulham (Premiership)

Big Teams Down Low

In the NFL, this does not have as much impact as there is no relegation, in the Premiership, falling all the way down can be fatal:

Indianapolis Colts (NFL)

Everton (Premiership)

Luck Needed

For the Premiership clubs, they require some luck to avoid relegation, for the worst in the NFL, getting the number 1 pick in next year’s draft means acquiring ace college QB, Andrew Luck (N.B. Colts & Everton are in these races too)

Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL)

Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Norwich City, QPR, Swansea City, Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers (Premiership)

CLICK HERE FOR THIS WEEK’S GAMES AND PREDICTIONS

This week in: American and English Football – Preview and Predictions

If you missed Part I of the American and English Football crossover weekend preview, CLICK HERE

Manchester Derby - One For the Lovers

In the Premiership this weekend, one game stands out above all others – Manchester United versus Manchester City – a battle of the top two in the league, who meet on Sunday at Old Trafford.  Having won the FA Cup last season, City at least will not have to see the banner boasting of the length of the trophy drought they had been in, which has been hung at their rival’s stadium for many years.  After last week’s results (when City beat Villa, while United were held to a draw by Liverpool), Roberto Mancini’s team travel across Manchester knowing that a point would be enough to remain in pole position.  There is also a south-west London derby on Sunday, as QPR host third place Chelsea; while in the Midlands, Aston Villa take on West Brom.  Arsenal hope to continue their revival at home to Stoke; Norwich go to Anfield to play Liverpool; Newcastle host Wigan and Fulham and Everton meet at Craven Cottage.  Tottenham, who are unbeaten in their last five, travel to Blackburn – but have a game against Rubin Kazan (who I think Bob Dylan sang about in “Hurricane“) in the Europa League on Thursday to contend with first.

Week 7 of the NFL, as well as having the London game between the Buccaneers and the Bears, includes an NFC North match-up as the Packers play the Vikings in Minnesota; the Titans host the Texans in the AFC South; the Jets meet the Chargers at the Meadowlands; and the Cowboys are home against the St. Louis Rams.  There is a rematch of both Superbowl XLIII (Steelers vs Cardinals) and Superbowl XLIV (Colts vs Saints) – though both sides look very one-sided now – with the teams that triumphed in those two games (Pittsburgh & New Orleans) likely to win again this weekend.  New quarterbacks will be on show for both the Redskins – who will start John Beck having benched Rex Grossman for this week’s game with the Panthers – and the Raiders, who lost Jason Campbell to injury last weekend and have traded two first-round picks for Carson Palmer – his first appearance will be against the Kansas City Chiefs.  Tim Tebow will also be taking over as a starter for the Denver Broncos, and does so back in Florida, where he made his name in college, as his team travels to Miami to take on the Dolphins.

Predictions

NFL

Last Week 8-5, Season 48-42

Home teams in bold

Lions -3.5 over Falcons

Buccaneers +0.5 over Bears (at Wembley Stadium, London)

Seahawks +3.5 over Browns

Broncos +3.5 over Dolphins

Titans -3.5 over Texans

Chargers -1.5 over Jets

Panthers -2.5 over Redskins

Chiefs +3.5 over Raiders

Steelers -3.5 over Cardinals

Cowboys -12.5 over Rams

Packers -8.5 over Vikings

Saints -13.5 over Colts

Ravens -7.5 over Jaguars

Premiership

Last week 6-4, Season 29-20

Wolves vs Swansea – Draw

Aston Villa vs West Brom – Home win

Bolton vs Sunderland – Draw

Newcastle vs Wigan – Home win

Liverpool vs Norwich – Home win

Arsenal vs Stoke – Home win

Fulham vs Everton – Home win

Manchester United vs Manchester City – Draw

Blackburn vs Tottenham – Away win

QPR vs Chelsea – Away win

World Series Preview

The World Series has arrived – Game 1 is Wednesday night with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05pm – with a seven game

Busch Stadium, St. Louis

contest between the St. Louis Cardinals, playing at home in the opener, and the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers are back in the Fall Classic for the second straight year, becoming the first repeat American League pennant winners since the New York Yankees won four in a row between 1998-2001 – but have zero World Series titles in their 40 year history.  In contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals have won it all 10 times, most recently in 2006.  Having been 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League Wild Card in late August, beaten the pitching rich Phillies in the Divisional Series, before knocking out the team with the best home record in baseball this year – the Brewers – by winning twice in their stadium, the Cardinals have every right to believe they are the team of destiny this season.

The biggest issue for most fans is figuring out who to root for in this series, as they are not among the bigger markets in baseball.  Neither of the two teams would have been first choice for the television networks, who would have been hoping for clubs with biggest fan-bases to make the World Series (something like Phillies vs Yankees/Red Sox).  So who will I be supporting for the next 4 to 7 games? Given that I have no natural like nor dislike for either team, other than the animosity I gained for the Rangers in last year’s ALCS, much of which was for the since departed Cliff Lee, I am going to have to rely on other deciding factors.

State Nicknames & Slogans – The “Lone Star State” taking on the “Show Me” state…Hardly inspiring nicknames for either side – this is no exactly “Live Free or Die” – but then New Hampshire does not have a professional baseball team.  This would almost be a draw, but for the “Don’t mess with Texas” moniker that has become synonymous with that state, which gives this one to Missouri. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 1

Presidents – Just looking at the Presidents who were born in the respective states, there is Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson for Texas, Harry S Truman for Missouri (note, that’s Harry S Truman, not Harry S. Truman, his middle name was just “S”, it does not stand for anything…some free Presidential Pedantry in a piece about baseball).  Based solely on those three, the Rangers would be getting a point – two solid Presidents against the guy who ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But the first person you think of when you consider Texas is of course President George W. Bush – indeed he owned the Rangers for a time and was first elected to office as Governor of the State – so can his actions (and inactions) outweigh the devastation and death caused by two nuclear weapons being used for the only time in war?  Of course they can.  Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 2

Slavery – Neither state can be proud of its history here – the Missouri Compromise enabled that territory to continue slavery, while Texas  seceded from the union to protect this inhumane, immoral act and now the Texas Board of Education has tried to rebrand the whole practice as the “Atlantic Triangular Trade”. Neither side wins this one – both lose a point.Texas Rangers -1, St. Louis Cardinals 1

Managers – Back to baseball matters: Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, is clearly a very talented tactician and understands the game better than almost everyone else – but he still is not very likeable.  By contrast, Ron Washington is so lively and enthusiastic during every game that you cannot help but enjoy seeing him celebrate.  He also does not have an incredibly distracting dye job on his hair, which La Russa does. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 1

Miscellanea – The Texas Rangers were at the centre of one of the saddest moments in the baseball season – when a man died at one of their games trying to catch a ball thrown by Josh Hamilton, to give to his son.  Unfortunately, they chose to remember this in their first playoff game against the Rays in the ALDS by having the boy and his mother come out to throw the first pitch to Hamilton – while I am sure the Rangers meant well, it came across as emotionally exploitative and I fear the effect it would have had on such a young kid, not to mention the widow.  Also, during game 1 of last season’s World Series, I was out bowling in Manhattan and in the lane next to us was a guy wearing a brand new Texas Rangers hat – missing his supposedly favourite team in their first ever appearance in the Fall Classic in order to knock over some pins.  For the Cardinals, their best player’s name is pronounced “Poo Holes” and they have a nice arch to look at during the game. Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 2

Predictions – For the whole postseason, I have got a record of one prediction right to five wrong.  The only correct guess I have made was the St. Louis Cardinals knocking out the Milwaukee Brewers, reason enough for me to back them one more time.  Texas Rangers 0, St. Louis Cardinals 3 – The Prediction – Cardinals in 6

This week in: American Football – Week 6

It is never a good sign for fans when their team is being widely lauded in the media before they have won anything – or

Last week the Bills took down the highly fancied Eagles

had not even played a game.  Just ask those who root for the Phillies, Red Sox, Heat or Eagles – all of whom were being predicted to go all the way prior to their respective seasons started, but failed to meet those expectations.  So when I read in Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” column on SI.com this Monday that the Packers and Lions, should they both keep winning, would each be 10-0 going into their Thanksgiving day showdown in Detroit, I knew that Green Bay were cursed for this week’s game.

Then I checked the fixtures for week 6 and saw the reigning Champs are home to the woeful St. Louis Rams and my fears dissipated. Having overcome an early deficit against the Falcons in Atlanta in last Sunday night’s game, the  schedule has really opened up for Green Bay.  Before the Turkey Day showdown with the Lions, the only other unbeaten team left in the NFL, the Packers face the struggling Vikings twice, host the Rams and the Buccaneers, and must travel to San Diego to play the Chargers – the only one of those games they will not be heavily favoured in.

Since I’ve spent around 200 words jinxing my own team, time to move on to a recap of last week’s games.  The Eagles dropped to 1-4 after their loss to the Buffalo Bills; the Vikings picked up their first win of the year by beating the Arizona Cardinals in Minnesota; and the Oakland Raiders, who lost their long time owner, Al Davis, who died on Saturday.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were routed by the 49ers, who are looking strong favourites to win the NFC West this year; their divisional rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, provided the upset of the week when they beat the New York Giants in the New Meadowlands; and the Chargers survived a Tim Tebow fueled comeback from the Broncos in Denver, holding on to win 28-24.  The Patriots got a measure of revenge on the Jets for last year’s playoff loss; the Steelers routed the Titans; and the Chiefs won in Indianapolis, dropping the Colts to 0-5.

The pick of the games this week sees the Redskins, coming off a bye week, try to maintain their lead in the NFC East when they host the Eagles; Alex Smith and the 49ers travel to Detroit to face the 5-0 Lions; and the struggling Cowboys head to New England to play the Patriots.  In the race for the worst record and therefore the number 1 draft pick, which this year mans landing superstar college Quarterback Andrew Luck, the 0-5 Colts are playing the Bengals; while the winless Dolphins, who had a bye last week, take on the New York Jets in New Jersey in Monday Night’s game.

Predicitions

Last week, 8-5; season 40-37

Home teams in bold

Panthers +4.5 over Falcons

Bills +3.5 over Giants

Bengals -6.5 over Colts

49ers +4.5 over Lions

Packers -14.5 over Rams

Redskins -0.5 over Eagles

Steelers -12.5 over Jaguars

Raiders -5.5 over Browns

Ravens -7.5 over Texans

Cowboys +7.5 over Patriots

Saints -4.5 over Buccaneers

Bears -3.5 over Vikings

Dolphins +7.5 over Jets