Sports? Yes. Sports. It's that time of the year when Vague Space turns its attention back to the sports world in the form of the upcoming Tour de France. Back in the day, this blog used to be a forum for baseball and football and other sports news but you can pretty much get that anywhere anytime and I don't actually watch enough of other sports to bring an informed opinion on the subject (Syracuse basketball being the sole exception). But I have been following a lot of sports lately so here's a quick update on what's happening in the world of games from someone still in constant, burning, neverending, unimaginable toe pain that he can't even think about playing any kind of sport or even go to the gym. Hence, me watching a lot of sports on TV.
Euro 2012 - Russia was upset by Greece on Saturday to bounce them out of the tournament, as Greece and the Czech Republic became the first two survivors into the quarterfinals. Which is surprising for several reasons, not just that Russia beat the Czechs 4-1 just a week earlier. But also, while watching the end of the Greece game they kept referring to 2004, so I did a quick Wiki search and lo and behold, the Greeks won the tournament that year. Shows how much I'm paying attention to the sport in years where the World Cup isn't played. Anyway, Germany is the supposed heavy favorite but Spain is ranked #1 in the world. I don't quite understand that, nor do I quite understand why it's so freaking hard for anyone to score, I mean back when I played soccer in high school, our opponents scored on us all the time. And they were high school students! In America! Doesn't make much sense. But I have enjoyed the portions of matches I've watched and even the single goal I've seen scored in 731 minutes of action. Go football! Bonus viewing pleasure: watching up close the European nations that are about to throw the world back into a catastrophic recession as a result of austerity measures to deal with the first recession, the same failed policies pushed by Republicans in the U.S. to deal with our troubles, and when Europe collapses and our limping recovery implodes along with it, we will elect the very same Republicans in the fall. Go democracy!
NBA Finals - I've bet on Miami twice in these playoffs and won both times. I bet against them once and lost. I've watched a grand total of about a quarter of one game this whole playoffs. So my analysis is: god I hate the NBA. But I think I'm going to bet on Miami again.
US Open - I'm writing this before Sunday's final round so I don't have any analysis although it seems like Tiger is back, which is exciting, and the course is difficult, which is exciting, at least as exciting as watching golf can be, or slightly less exciting than a 0-0 draw for the first 60 minutes of a Czech Republic - Poland soccer match. Did I mention that I can't do anything but watch TV because of my fucking foot? Fuck.
MLB - The Phillies are not doing well this year. I've noticed that not just in the standings or in the number of stars piled up on the disabled list (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, to name only the best 3 players on the team). No, I've also noticed because everyone keeps saying it to me. Perhaps in years past, people would note that "hey, the Phillies are in first again, yay!" but I do not recall that ever happening. But when they are struggling, and when the Washington Nationals are in first place in the division, acquaintances and friends have no problem mentioning how much the Phillies are sucking. Not that I mind. I really don't care enough to care. But I do wish I didn't have first hand experience with what being a Yankee fan is like.
Tour de Suisse - The final major prep race for the Tour de France has seen an exciting final weekend of racing going into the final day mountain stage with Rui Costa holding a slim lead on potential Tour de France overall contenders Frank Schleck, Levi Leipheimer, and Robert Gesink. Saturday saw Swiss rider Michael Albasini win in a breakaway, delighting Swiss fans who were robbed of Fabian Cancellara's expected wins in the prologue and time trial stages, for which he fell just short (2nd in both). Looking forward to the Tour de France, there was some devastating news this week that Andy Schleck -- the rider I've rooted for now for several straight Tours -- will not be competing due to a pelvis injury. Andy has been downright horrible all season and looked completely noncompetitive in the Criterium du Dauphine before he crashed out of the race, so it wasn't like we were predicting great things for him this summer. But the fact that he will not be racing is still very disappointing. On the bright side, the race does look to be relatively wide open, with an additional time trial adding a new wrinkle to a race that has been fought largely in the mountains over the past few seasons. Dauphine winner Bradley Wiggins -- he of the amazing time trial and amazing current form -- is considered the favorite, even though he's only had a single great result in a Tour de France, 4th overall in 2010. Last year's winner Cadel Evans, who has a strong time trial (although not quite as strong as Wiggins) is the other favorite and the course looks like it would suit him. But the mountain specialists like the elder Schleck (3rd last year), Gesink, Vincenzo Nibali, Sammy Sanchez and others will have to attack early and often to try to shake Wiggins (and Evans) off their grinding pace up the mountains in order to have any chance at all in the time trials. This could make the race rather interesting. Or it could be a wheel-suck affair with Evans and Wiggins dominating. Too early to tell. What might be the most exciting competition will be the sprints between perennially dominant sprinter Mark Cavendish and 2012 dominant sprinter Peter Sagan. Cav does not like to lose, but I think this year he will end up losing a lot, which will make for some fun fuming by the petulant Brit post-race. Particularly since his Sky teammates will be more focused on keeping team leader Wiggins safe than in helping him. Cav has always had a dominant sprint team in the Tour (the now defunct Columbia squad) but the switch to home country Team Sky -- the dominant team overall this year -- will not help him much this Tour. I can definitely invision him dumping out before the first mountain stage and going home to prep for the Olympics. Go cycling!
Rounders softball -- And lastly, the only team I follow that is actually doing well this year is -- shockingly -- my stupid softball team. I can't play, obviously, but due to a combination of being unable to do anything else anyway and the splash of Sprite in my Jack at the games, I've gone to all the games and watched the old Rounders squad that struggled for many years to not be "mercy ruled" every night actually go on a 7-game winning streak to run their record to 9-2. How is this happening? Did Jan make a deal with the devil? Did the other teams all leave the league and we are now playing blind seniors? I'm not entirely sure. Certainly some of the improvement is due to me, Lenny, and Cheese not playing this year because of various injuries. Not that we were necessarily bad players but there's a reason some of us were at the bottom of the order I guess, and replacing us with actual hitters who can do more than grind a single up the middle has been a positive step. But other than that, it's still largely the same team as in years past -- even our replacements have all played for us before. So I can't really pinpoint a reason why we've gone from "suck" to first place (yes, we are in first place right now) in the span of a single offseason. I mean, the team was down 6 runs to one of the top teams in the league a couple weeks ago, Lenny arrived with some backup Jack for me and a Red Bull for Rich, a rally ensues, Rich hits a bases-clearing double after doing nothing all night, and all of the sudden we tie the score and send the game into extra innings, which we win, just before the rains come down and wash out the 2nd game of the doubleheader. I mean, that's the shit that used to happen to us. All the time. Inconceivable. And yes, I do know what that word means. The only potential bright side in this blot of positivity? My blogging about us has almost certainly jinxed the team and I'm sure we'll get swept tonight. Go sports!