Mad Men Season 5 Episode 7 – At the Codfish Ball

Not exactly Happy Days…

Tonight’s episode of Mad Men was building up towards a dinner hosted by the American Cancer Society, at which Don Draper was to receive an award for the letter he wrote at the end of last season – denouncing tobacco, after Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce had lost the Lucky Strike account.  Don is concerned that he is being a hypocrite for accepting the honour, when his intentions were not to discourage people from smoking, rather to find a way of attracting new clients to the agency.  As it turns out, it is in fact the American Cancer Society who are disingenuous; they are happy to give Don an award, but the act of biting the hand that fed him has discouraged any of them from even considering working with him in the future.

Before that comes to a head (and more on Roger’s encounter with Mrs. Calvet later also…) Don is able to attract one piece of new business to the firm, but it is all thanks to Megan that Heinz signs on with SCDP.  Inspired by a family meal, Mrs. Draper comes up with an idea for a commercial for the baked beans company – a mother feeding her child the product through the ages and into the future – and is then savvy enough to realise that the firm is about to be fired at a dinner meeting, without ever having the chance to give their new suggestion.  By relaying this information to Don, then setting him up to deliver a stirring pitch of the proposed advertisement, Megan forces a complete turnaround from Heinz, who agree to sign on with the agency immediately.  Not only does this bring in a new client for the firm, it also makes Megan a legend in the conference room the following day, as the tale is recounted to others in the agency, and she also wins praise from her boss, Peggy.  Nevertheless, the victory is bittersweet for the Canadian, as she knows even this success will not gain her the approval of her father, Emile.  The Professor – who Don describes as a “Communist, Socialist or Maoist” – chastises his daughter at the awards dinner for her willingness to accept the riches and privileges of being Mrs Draper, forgoing both her own dreams and the principle of hard work in the process. Continue reading

This week in: English Football – Chelsea Knock Out Barcelona

Terry's suspension means there will be no chance for such schadenfreude in Munich in May

Champions League

After knocking out Barcelona in the semi-finals, Chelsea will have the opportunity to win their second Champions League title, four years after their captain, John Terry, strode forward confidently, adjusted his armband to ensure the “C” was visible, and converted the penalty that secured a win over Manchester United in Moscow. Wait, hang on – he didn’t score it, he slipped on his backside and sent his shot wide, allowing United to claim their third European Cup and leaving Chelsea still searching for their first. Luckily for the Blues, history cannot repeat itself, since Terry will miss the final following his red-card in the Camp Nou for kneeing Alexis in the back, far away from the ball. The sending off came just after Barcelona had finally broken Chelsea down for the opening goal on the night, drawing the hosts level on aggregate after last week’s 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge. Two minutes before the interval, Iniesta put Barca two goals up – and ahead overall in the tie – making it seem inevitable they would be able to rack up more goals for the rest of the game. However, in stoppage time at the end of the first 45 minutes of play, Ramires broke free of the defence and scored with a fantastic chip – of which Lionel Messi would have been proud – to make it 2-1 on the night, but gave Chelsea the advantage with an away goal. In the second half, Chelsea reverted to having all 10 men behind the ball, showing no attacking ambition and content to play spoiler to Barcelona – a plan that should have come apart when Cesc Fabregas was tripped in the box by Didier Drogba, but – the usually reliable – Lionel Messi hit the crossbar with his penalty. After that, the game consisted of Barcelona passing the ball around in front of the Chelsea penalty area, probing to find a way through the 10 men, but unable to do so. In the final minute, a long clearance sent Fernando Torres through, with just Victor Valdes to beat in the home team’s goal, and he finished with all the composure he used to display in his Atletico Madrid days. Over the two legs, Barcelona showed all the creativity, had more than 70% of the possession, and were the only team who were interesting to watch, yet Chelsea found a way to knock them out and their fans will not care what tactics they used to do it. They will face Bayern München – at the Allianz Arena in Munich – on May 19th.

That success for Chelsea added further intrigue to the race for qualification for the Champions League next season. Should they win the competition, the Blues will gain entry regardless of their finishing position in the league, meaning that the 4th placed team will have to wait after the league ends to find out if they will be in Europe’s top club competition, or the Europa League. Arsenal currently occupy third place, three points above Newcastle, but having played a game more, with Tottenham a further three points back and Chelsea one behind them. The remaining fixtures are as follows:

Arsenal: Stoke (Away); Norwich (Home); West Brom (Away)

Newcastle: Wigan (Away); Chelsea (Away); Manchester City (Home); Everton (Away)

Tottenham: Blackburn (Home); Bolton (Away); Aston Villa (Away); Fulham (Home)

Chelsea: QPR (Home); Newcastle (Home); Liverpool (Away); Blackburn (Home)

Third place would appear to be in the bag for Arsenal – they would expect to win all three of the remaining games, making them uncatchable by the teams below them. Newcastle have the hardest run-in on paper and will be hoping that Chelsea will be distracted by the two cup finals they have coming up and rest players for the league matches, but still face a Manchester City side competing for the title. Tottenham are Tottenham and will be lucky to get anything from their remaining games; and Chelsea, as well as that Newcastle game, have a derby game with QPR – who beat them at Loftus Road and are in a relegation fight – and a FA Cup Final rematch, four days after the main event, against Liverpool.

Prediction for the race for the Champions League: 3. Arsenal 74pts; 4. Newcastle 67pts; 5. Chelsea 66pts; 6. Spurs 64pts Continue reading

Playoff Time in the NHL and NBA

Like a lot of sport fans, I tend to gloss over the regular seasons in both the NBA and NHL, checking in only occasionally for some marquee fixtures.  They may only have half as many games as baseball, but hockey and basketball have the disadvantage of having to compete with both English and American football calendars.   However, when playoff time comes around in April, I am fully in on both leagues – even though, unlike in the NFL and MLB,  I have no long-standing affiliation with any of the franchises in the NBA or NHL.   Having said that, after I convinced a friend to become a Tottenham Hotspur fan when he was looking to follow English football more closely, I in turn adopted his hockey team – the Washington Capitals – and so for the last two years I have taken to rooting for them.  It is a good match up of fanbases – Spurs have not won a title since the 1960s, while the Capitals were founded in 1974 and are yet to win a Stanley Cup, making the Finals just once in their history.  Both teams also make a habit of underperforming and confounding their supporters expectations, despite having talented rosters.

Washington Capitals rookie Goaltender, Braden Holtby, shutting down the Bruins in Game 2

Last year, Washington was the number 1 seed in the East, but their playoff run ended abruptly as they were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Semi-finals.  This time around, the Capitals are a number 7 seed, having only secured a postseason berth in the final week of the regular season, and are matched up against the reigning champions, the Boston Bruins.  Because of injuries to Tomas Vokun and Michal Neuvirth, Washington was forced to enter the playoffs with their third choice goaltender, the rookie Braden Holtby.  Despite being thrust into the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the race for the Stanley Cup, the youngster has performed brilliantly for the Capitals.  Holtby made 29 saves in the game 1 overtime 1-0 loss in Boston, and then 44 in the second game double overtime victory for Washington.  All six games thus far have all been decided by a single goal, with the two teams splitting the series to take it to an all or nothing Game 7 on Wednesday night.

Being a long time Yankees fan, I have grown accustomed to rooting against Boston sides in whichever sport they are playing,  although the allegiance has not carried over to me adopting any of New York’s other teams.  This weekend could have proven to be monumentally bad for the city of Boston had the Capitals knocked out the Bruins on Sunday, just a day after the Red Sox had blown a 9-0 lead over the Yankees, not to mention losing on Friday, to put a dampener on the celebrations of Fenway Park’s 100th birthday.  While that would have been fun to see, there is nothing more exciting in any sport than a Game 7 in the NHL playoffs – two teams fighting it out to progress or win the Stanley Cup.  When those encounters go into overtime, it is impossible not to be enthralled – any single shot could end one team’s season and, at the same time, send the victors into ecstasy. Continue reading

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 6 – Far Away Places

Would you like a Butt Scratcher?

Tonight’s Mad Men was split into three parts, each focusing on a different character, but with the events taking place concurrently.  While this is style of narrative has been used numerous times before, it is the first time that Mad Men has strayed from its usual linear storytelling format and the episode was weaker because of it.  The stories of Peggy, Roger and Don were shallow and felt rushed and the usual slow pace of the show abandoned in an attempt to fit in more story.

Initially, we follow Peggy’s day as she handles her second presentation to the Heinz people, who had been unconvinced with the “Bean Opera” that was initially pitched.  Peggy begins the day by fighting with her boyfriend, Abe, who is frustrated that all of her attention goes on work, rather than him, and wants the two of them to go to see The Naked Prey that evening.  As someone who has always wanted to emulate Don Draper, Miss Olson comes as close as ever to achieving that goal in this episode.  When Heinz are not completely with Peggy’s campaign, she chides the client, claiming he just likes to argue and secretly likes her idea – but, unlike Don in the past, her confrontational technique only leads to removal from future work for that customer.  Peggy then drinks some hard liquor and takes off from work to watch the movie Abe had wanted to see Born Free, during which she smokes pot and umm…lends a hand.. to the guy who shared his joint with her.  Before she spirals into being the full Draper, Peggy snaps out of it following a conversation with Michael Ginsberg.  The recent hire tells her that he is a Martian and, although she does not believe him, he Ginsberg knows it is true because the yarn they had spun him – that he was born on a concentration camp and his mother had been killed there – was completely fictitious.  While it is unclear whether or not Ginsberg actually believes himself to be from another planet – a form of denial to cope with such a tragic entry into the world – Peggy is clearly affected by his story and she reaches out to Abe in the evening and tells him she needs him.   Continue reading

One Final Post on Tottenham’s Season

Adel Taarabt's goal for QPR hammered another nail in the coffin of his former club's season

This will be my final vent of the season about the club I love but who never fail to disappoint – it would not be healthy for me to write about Tottenham any more after this.  A campaign that was looking very promising in January, has come crashing back down to earth.  The continuing speculation about Harry Redknapp becoming the next England manager could be part of the reason for Spurs’ decline – but to be honest I think there is plenty of fault to go around.  Here is where my blame is being apportioned:

The Players

One of the most frustrating aspects of the fact that Spurs will now finish outside of the top four, is that the transfer speculation in the summer will involve our highest profile players being linked with other clubs because they “want to play in the Champions League”.  I would like to support a team that is in the competition also, but, unlike the players, I do not have the luxury of taking my fan services to another club because mine it not cutting it.  Luka Modric wanted to go to Chelsea before the season started, he was even left out of the opening game against Manchester United because his mind was distracted by the prospect of such a move, but his performances in the last few months leave me doubtful that the Blues would still want him.  As a creative midfielder, Modric is tasked with unlocking stubborn defences, but his passes routinely find the legs of opposition defenders and his shots are dragged harmlessly wide of the goal.  Gareth Bale has been linked with Barcelona, something that nobody could begrudge him having an interest in, as having the chance to play for one of the greatest club sides of all time would be a dream move for any professional footballer.  However, if Bale really wants to improve his game, then a move to Catalonia is not the only option.  Since Wales are not at the European Championships, he should be spending his summer working on kicking the ball with his right foot, something he seems unwilling, or unable, to do at present.  Bale has said in interviews that, rather than remaining on the left-wing all game, he wants to cut inside and switch wings to keep the defenders unsure of what he will do next, but right now he is ineffectual on the right flank as he is forced to come back onto his left foot every single time.  One skill he has already perfected and will not need to learn at Barcelona, is diving to the ground and feigning injury – Bale will be giving Sergio Busquets a run for the best acting award in La Liga should he make the switch.

There are plenty of other players who have underperformed – Scott Parker works tirelessly to win the ball back in the midfield, yet in recent weeks his passing has been so poor, he has given away possession to the opposition on numerous occasions.  The defensive unit, which was cohesive and strong in the middle of the season, has been giving opportunities and goals ever since Younes Kaboul was ruled out with an injury.  That fragility at the back should not be a surprise, since the goalkeeper and central defenders (Friedel, King, Gallas) have a combined age of 105 and only three good knees between them.  Jermain Defoe appears to be more interested in complaining about being left out of the side, or that every pass does not come his way, than helping the team by scoring or setting up chances, and Rafael Van der Vaart has fallen into similar bad habits.  Emmanuel Adebayor has been a real plus since his loan signing last August, but he too is wasteful in front of goal and does not convert enough chances.  Sandro looked like a competent player before his injury, yet since he has returned he has proven to be a real liability – a fact that was particularly prevalent in the defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates.

Only a couple of Tottenham’s squad have continued their good form through this bad patch – the best of whom has been the right-back, Kyle Walker.  He is a solid defender and is rarely beaten for pace, a fact that helps Walker push forward to overlap on the wing and provide crosses into the box.  Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been a solid performer again this year and – even though I may have criticised him two paragraphs ago – when Bale has been played on the left-wing, he has continued his fantastic form from the last two seasons.  The biggest problem has not been the individual performances though – Spurs have enjoyed a large share of the possession, even in games they have lost or drawn.  What has been frustrating Tottenham – and me – has been the inability to break down teams who have defended deeply and blocked the middle of the pitch.  The biggest culprit for this failure is… Continue reading

This week in: English Football – Tottenham’s Misery Continues

FA Cup

On Wednesday, Chelsea defeated Barcelona – a side that many consider to be the best in the world – 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, by defending their goal with all 11 of their players.  Last Sunday, in their victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final, Chelsea had the help of a 12th man – referee Martin Atkinson.  For the second time in two seasons, Spurs conceded a goal against their London rivals that did not cross the line.

Clearly a goal...from Martin Atkinson's viewpoint

In the league match at Stamford Bridge last year, Frank Lampard took a long-range shot that was fumbled by Gomes, but the Brazilian keeper scrambled back and stopped the ball on the line – yet the goal was given.  On Sunday, John Terry barreled through three Tottenham players as a corner was swung in (no foul given) and, in the ensuing melee, Juan Mata took a shot, only for Benoit Assou-Ekotto to clear off the line.  Some of the Chelsea players appealed for a goal, yet John Terry, who was lying on the ground right next to the action, did not and was visibly disappointed to see that the chance had gone begging, before realising that the referee had awarded a goal.  Adding on to these injustices to the Pedro Mendes goal that was not given at Old Trafford in January 2005, and there seems to be a theme of Spurs being screwed over by a lack of goal-line technology (although they did get the benefit of one decision – against Stoke last season – but even then video evidence was inconclusive one way or the other).

In a 5-1 loss, it may seem trite to blame one flawed refereeing decision, but the goal came at a crucial time, when Spurs were just 1-0 down.  The lopsided scoreline was a reflection of Tottenham’s need to attack to try to recover a two-goal deficit, at the expense of defending – had the Mata shot not been (incorrectly) adjudged to have crossed the line, it would have been a completely different game.  There was also an element of misfortune to the equaliser for Spurs – Cech upended Adebayor in the box and, if Bale had not been following up and converted into an empty net, the Chelsea keeper would have been dismissed and a penalty awarded.  Tottenham are far from sure things from 12 yards, but playing against ten men for the remaining half-an-hour – and taking the chance from the spot – would have been more advantageous to them than just the guaranteed goal that was given.  However, that is how the rules of the game state the referee should have handled it, so Bale’s efforts of keeping up with the play ended up being a hinderance to Spurs.

It is important for Harry Redknapp and his team to note that, just as the thrashing they took does not excuse the poor officiating, nor do the bad decisions hide the fact that Tottenham’s own performance was deeply flawed.  The first half was dominated by Spurs and they should have been at least a goal up by the interval, but,once again this season, their finishing was wasteful.  At the start of the second forty-five minutes, Tottenham sat back and allowed the Blues to attack them – it was only after the (correctly) perceived injustice that they appeared to have the desire to fight their way back into the game.  The biggest weakness in the side was the centre-back pairing of William Gallas and Ledley King.  Gallas was a fantastic player for both Chelsea and Arsenal before his move to White Hart Lane – but age appears to have got the better of him and he can not be relied upon to hold the line, nor prevent a player with the strength of Didier Drogba from turning him.  King is the saddest case – when he was healthy, Ledley matched up favourably with the best central defenders in the country and his pace and timing of tackles was second-to-none.  However, chronic knee injuries over the last half-dozen years have been reduced his abilities and it has reached the point where King is now a liability when he is in the team, not an asset.  I am a big fan of Ledley King and it pains me to say it, but it is time for him, and Tottenham, to move on.

The big question now is whether Redknapp can motivate his players to avoid a continuation of the collapse that has been happening over the last three months.  With five games left to play, Spurs remain in fourth place and on target to qualify for the Champions League next season – but they are only ahead of Newcastle on goal difference, Chelsea by two points, and they trail Arsenal by five.  The surprise defeat to Wigan on Monday for the Gunners means that, should Roberto DiMatteo lead his team to a victory at the Emirates this Saturday lunchtime, Tottenham will have their fate in their own hands for finishing above both of their London rivals.  For their final five games, Spurs face: QPR (away); Blackburn (home);  Bolton (away); Aston Villa (away); and Fulham (home) to finish off.  Last Sunday must be the nadir – the low point of a season that once held so much promise – 15 points has to be the target and, despite all of my usual pessimism, I’m going to believe we will get exactly that.

One final note on the all-London semi-final – for the majority of the game, the Chelsea fans could hardly be heard, all of the singing was coming from the Spurs end of the stadium.  Despite having nearly 40,000 supporters at Wembley, they were making so little noise, I imagine that Stamford Bridge was probably louder in the late 1980s, when Chelsea were drawing home crowds of little more than 8,000 each week.  Sadly, the only time they did seem to make any sound was when a minority of them chose to boo the minute’s silence for the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster.  I also have a criticism of the Tottenham fans – for vacating the stadium when their team went 4-1 down.  Just like the Manchester City supporters I railed against for doing the same, you should stay and support your team until the end – seeing so many empty seats in the Spurs end during the final five minutes was very disappointing. Continue reading

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 5 – Signal 30

Lane celebrates England’s 1966 World Cup win

As I predicted last week, and before the season started, in tonight’s Mad Men, Lane Pryce got to celebrate England’s World Cup triumph on July 30th 1966.  Lane, who has no yearning for his home country, was reluctant to watch the game as the pub will be full of English people and it is only the insistence of his wife, who enjoys spending time with ex-pats, that convinces him to go.  The adventure to the bar turns out to be fruitful for Lane, not just because he gets to celebrate his home country’s victory over the Germans at Wembley, but he also because he gets to meet Edwin Baker, the Senior Vice President of Public Relations at Jaguar cars.  As luck would have it, Jaguar are about to merge with BMC (British Motor Cars) and are looking for a new advertising agency.  When Lane brings this potential client up at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce partners’ meeting, Pete Campbell tries to downplay the significance such an account would bring, and chastises the Englishman about his prior hesitation about hiring more people to accommodate new business.  Lane insists that he should handle the first dinner with Edwin, so Roger Sterling tries to give him some useful pointers on how to conduct himself in order to find out exactly what Jaguar would want in their Request For Proposal – specifically, find problems Edwin has and claim to have similar issues.  Unfortunately, Lane is unable to connect in such a way with his fellow Brit, instead just unburdening his own issues of his wife’s difficulties in assimilating to the United States.

Meanwhile, Don does his best to avoid an evening at the Campbell’s residence but, between Megan’s enthusiasm for such soirées, and Trudy’s unwillingness to accept any of his excuses, Draper has no chance of avoiding a Saturday night out in the suburb of Cos Cob.  Despite his reluctance, Don does appear to enjoy the engagement and even speaks openly of his childhood in the country – something he would never have done during his marriage to Betty.  When the subject of guns is brought up, Ken’s wife, Cynthia (whose name which nobody else at the dinner party can remember, if only they had IMDB like me) references the shooter at the University of Texas – but gets his name wrong and calls him Charles Whitmore which Don – AKA Dick Whitman – corrects.  The evening ends well for him when he plays the hero and fixes the leaking sink, while Pete fumbles around in his toolbox – his resourcefulness turning Megan on and she agrees to pull over for some fun in the car on their way home.  Mrs Draper says something that may turn out to be relevant – Don had his paternal instincts stirred by seeing Pete and Trudy’s daughter and tells his wife “Let’s make a baby”, which Megan replies would be “impossible”.  It could have been a reference to her being on birth control, or perhaps that she may not be able to get pregnant for medical reasons – but one way or the other, I imagine this subject will crop up again in the coming weeks.

It was not the best of episodes for Pete Campbell.  He has spent all season trying to assert his dominance over Roger Sterling, and this time moves on to doing the same over another senior partner, Lane.  Pete wants to be the person who brings in new accounts and feels threatened when Jaguar may be brought in by somebody else.  After his attempts to diminish the relevance of the lead at the partners’ meeting failed, Pete then steps in to take Edwin out for the second meeting, inviting Don and Roger along – insisting that the latter is welcome just to the dinner, not the wedding night.  He has also been forced to attend driving school to get his licence with people a lot younger than him, as he never learned growing up in Manhattan.  Pete uses the opportunity to hit on a girl – who can be no more than 17 – attempting to impress her by promises of taking her to the botanical garden in the Bronx as a VIP, since his family had donated to it generations before.  His attempts are thwarted by a classmate of the girl – Handsome Hanson – but when the night out with the SVP from Jaguar ends up at a brothel, Pete uses the opportunity to quench his need to feel powerful.  Not content with having sex with a prostitute, he insists she works for it and rejects all of her role play suggestions until “You’re my King” wins him around. Continue reading

This week in: English Football – City & United Falter, and the FA Cup Semi-Finals

Why always Balotelli?

After Arsenal defeated Manchester City 1-0 last Sunday at the Emirates, pundits were ready to hand the title to United as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men had built up an 8 point gap over their rivals, courtesy of a controversial 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers earlier in the day.  In the 15th minute of that game, Sean Derry was adjudged to have pulled down Ashley Young in the area, resulting in a penalty for Manchester United and a red card for the QPR captain.  Despite replays showing that there had been virtually no contact and Young had dived (as well as being offside when the ball was played through), the FA upheld the dismissal, meaning Derry will be suspended for one match in his club’s fight against relegation.  One player who did fully deserve his sending off was Mario Balotelli.  The City striker saw red in the closing minutes of his team’s loss to Arsenal, but he was lucky to have stayed on the field for that long, as he raked his studs down Alex Song’s leg in the first-half.  Mancini’s men were second best throughout the match and eventually succumbed to a Mikel Arteta goal in the 87th minute, but the two title challengers had a reversal of fortunes on Wednesday night.  City secured a comfortable 4-0 home win over West Brom, while United were beaten – and outplayed – by a feisty Wigan side at the DW Stadium.  Those results mean the gap at the top of the table is 5 points, in favour of the red half of Manchester, meaning that, with City having the better goal difference, any further slip ups by United would make the derby match at the end of April a potential title decider.

That win for Arsenal, coupled with their 3-0 victory away at Wolves in midweek, meant that they were able to fully exploit Tottenham’s failings to move clear in third place.  Because of the Cup semi-finals this weekend, and the timings of fixtures next weekend, the Gunners could be 11 points above their rivals by the time Spurs next take the field for a Premier League game.  I fear St. Totteringham’s Day is just around the corner – continuing Arsenal’s streak of finishing above Tottenham for at least another season.  The single point Harry Redknapp’s team picked up in their two Easter victories, also allowed Newcastle to draw level with them in the race for fourth place, as Pardew’s men gained 2-0 wins over Swansea and Bolton.  Papiss Cisse scored three of those four Newcastle goals (the other was a wonderful individual run from the half-way line by Ben Arfa against Bolton) and the Senegalese striker has now scored 10 times in 9 games since he joined the club in the January transfer window. Continue reading

Frustrations of a Tottenham Fan

We won the league in black and white

There is a commercial that has been on recently for a new baseball video game. It shows the city of Chicago celebrating the Cubs winning the World Series – the jubilation reflecting the long wait that fans of the team have had – since 1908 – for such a success. Everyone is going crazy, but then the camera pans out and the reveal shows that the victory was achieved only on a games console. The Cubs fan who was playing it has a tear running down his cheek. I feel for that guy – even if it is only an advert. Us Spurs supporters may not have had to wait quite as long for a title – 1961 was the last time they were champions – but anyone under the age of 50 was not alive when it happened. The last time we won the FA Cup (in 1991) I was 9 years old, the same age my Dad was for the last league title – I just hope I do not have to wait over 8 years until my daughter (already a Tottenham fan) is 9 for us to win something of significance again. Actually, after waiting 21 years for it (League Cups, which we won in 1999 and 2008 are nice, but not that relevant), another 8 does not sound so bad.

The way things are going, however, it could well be a lot longer. Every time it looks like Tottenham have finally turned a corner and will push on to achieve some level of success, the team suddenly forgets how to defend, cannot find the net and look incapable of winning a game. On January 11th of this year, Spurs beat Everton 2-0 in that long awaiting game-in-hand (the original fixture on the opening weekend of the season was postponed due to rioting in the Tottenham area). This is how the top of the league table looked that night:

1. Man City. Played 20; Points 48

2. Man United. Played 20; Points 45

3. Tottenham. Played 20; Points 45

4. Chelsea. Played 20; Points 37

5. Arsenal. Played 20; Points 36

That weekend, because of the schedule, Spurs had the chance to move level on points with City at the top of the table, if they could beat Wolves at White Hart Lane. Despite 57% possession and 22 shots on goal, Tottenham could only draw 1-1 and missed out on that opportunity. Nevertheless, the following weekend took Harry Redknapp’s side to the Etihad Stadium to face the Premiership leaders and the opportunity to close the gap back down to 2 points. The turning point of the season for Spurs was not at the Emirates – when they threw away a two goal lead they had not really deserved in the first place – it was at 2-2 in the game against City a few weeks before. In injury time after the 90 minutes were up, Gareth Bale played a ball across the face of goal that eluded Jermain Defoe by a whisker and went harmlessly wide. Moments later, Mario Balotelli – still on the field despite a stamp on Scott Parker – was brought down in the area by, the perennially unfit, Ledley King and converted the penalty himself to secure all three points for the home team. If Defoe was a few inches taller, Tottenham might have emerged victorious – as it was, they left with nothing.

Continue reading

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 4 – Mystery Date

The soon to be ex-Mrs. Harris

Although this week’s episode is called “Mystery Date”, the timing of the events can be placed as mid-July 1966, with the news headlines covering the massacre of eight nurses in Chicago. The story of the mass murder by Richard Speck leaves many of the characters wanting more titillating details, be it the creative team in the agency looking at the photos that Peggy’s friend Joyce has, or Grandma Pauline scouring the newspaper report right in front of Sally Draper. Only last week’s new hire, Michael Ginsberg, finds the whole thing repulsive and labels his colleagues as sickos.

Don Draper is actually sick – coughing up parts of his lung for most of the first half of the episode and, shockingly, his continuous smoking of cigarettes does nothing to alleviate his symptoms. His illness is made worse by Megan’s annoyance with him after they run into a woman, Andrea, he had an affair with while he was married to Betty. Megan’s unhappiness stems from the regularity with which such encounters happen, believing that, as his new wife, it inherently casts a doubt on his commitment to her. After Don has ripped into Ginsberg for an impromptu pitch to a client – after they had already said they were sold on the original campaign that had been presented – he goes home to rest up until his wife can return. Unfortunately, his sleep is disturbed by a doorbell and, much to his chagrin, it is Andrea who wants to reignite their old passion. Don shows that he is a new man by offering her the use of the stairs, or a flight from his balcony, to get out of his apartment before Megan gets home – yet the woman will not be deterred. She reappears while Don is asleep and woos him by reminiscing about the time he took her back to the loading dock of the Lincoln Center – which I think she meant literally and not as a euphemism – and he succumbs to her advances. Next time he awakens, Andrea is still there and tells him that they will do this again because he is “sick” – so Don takes the rather drastic step of strangling her and “hiding” her body under the bed – at which point it could not have been any more obvious that we were watching a hallucination if a dead fish had started talking like Pussy Bonpensiero. Having said that, when Megan comes in with orange juice and breakfast reassuring her husband everything is okay, I did consider that there is about a 5% chance that she had spent the previous two hours disposing of the body and preparing for them to go on the run, with Don returning to his original alias, Dick Whitman.

The other main storyline of the episode was the return of Joan’s husband, Greg, from Vietnam. For a doctor, he is not too good with the developmental rates of infants, as he does not spot that the amount of time he has been absent does not add up to the length of a pregnancy plus the current age of his “son”, Kevin. Once Greg has briefly held Roger’s baby, he sends Joan’s mother out on an errand so he and his wife can have…a reunion. However, the happy couple act lasts only as long as Joan’s nap, as she then learns that Greg is returning to Vietnam and at his own volition. Having been told that she should follow her orders, and having spent the last few months being ordered around by her mother, Joan finally takes control of her life and tells Greg that he is leaving, not just for the year, but forever. She reminds him that, despite the army making him feel otherwise, he is not a good man and that he knows what she is talking about. As do we.

Pete Campbell continued in his season long efforts to get one over on Roger Sterling, this time he tells his senior partner on a Friday afternoon that Mohawk Airlines want to go over their campaign first thing on Monday. Roger is forced to bribe Peggy to do the work for him, since he cannot find Ginsberg, who was hired specifically as the copywriter for this client. The once powerful Roger Sterling is held hostage for $400 for the Peggy’s work and promise to lie to Pete about when she was asked, but this plot line is more about setting up Peggy to be working late in the office. By doing so, she discovers that Dawn – Don’s African-American secretary – is sleeping in the couch in his office. Peggy considers herself to be an enlightened and empathetic person, but she does not comprehend the issues that Dawn faces. With race riots happening around the country, Dawn is afraid of going back to Harlem late at night, and Peggy’s suggestion of a taxi fails to grasp that it was highly unlikely a cab would stop for a black person in 1966. When Dawn talks about the events in Chicago, Peggy assumes she is talking about the nurse killings rather than the riots, perhaps because the coverage had waned – Joyce had said that Time would not be running with that story as there had already been several similar reports that summer*. Having insisted that Dawn stay with her, Peggy again shows her ignorance by assuming that Dawn would want to follow in her footsteps and be a copywriter, and then has second thoughts about leaving her handbag stuffed with Roger’s cash in the room with the secretary overnight. Clearly someone who can read people well – she has already recognised that Don and Peggy talk more openly together than with others – Dawn has disappeared by the morning with just a note of thanks an apology for inconveniencing Peggy. Peggy may desire to be a pioneering example that other women want to follow, but often she is blighted with the same prejudices and ignorances of her male colleagues.

*This ennui of horrific events because of their irregularity has not gone away – it happened with police officers being killed during the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, or the suicide bombings that occurred on an almost daily basis for several years in Baghdad – if either had taken place at the same time in a different location, it would have dominated the news.

Sally Draper had to spend the episode in the care of someone whose parenting skills may actually be worse than her Betty’s – Grandma Pauline, Henry Francis’ mother. The parenting “skills” that Pauline displayed included: hitting Sally on the hand; threatening to send her to bed while it was still light if she did not take out the trash; reading about the nurse killings in front of Sally, then heightening her curiosity by not allowing her to know what happened; scaring Sally by then telling her far too much after she had read the newspaper she retrieved from the trash; and giving her a sleeping tablet to help her overcome her fears. Luckily, Betty – although hardly Mother-of-the-year – returned to the haunted mansion before Grandma Pauline could use the kitchen knife on anybody.

Next week: if the time gap between the episodes is the same as the last couple, we may get Lane Pryce celebrating England’s World Cup victory, which occurred on July 30th, 1966.