Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bashing The Olympics and Weekend Match Preview

I know it's Thursday, but my schedule just changed up a bit and I have some time to write now. Girl and I are heading to the river tomorrow afternoon to beat the heat, and float around in the coldness that is the Sandy River. Oxbow Park is actually a great place to visit, and we've been there 3 times so far this year. And since it's supposed to be 102 or 104 degrees tomorrow, being on a beach next to ice cold water sounds like a great plan.

The Timbers face old rivals Montreal on Saturday night at PGE Park at 7 PM, and the temperature is only supposed to be 98 degrees at game time. So the Shed should be a very hot, sticky mess of people trying to stay cool, and keep their tempers in check. The Timbers haven't won a home game since April, and probably should have beaten Charleston last week. Our offensive frustrations are still around, as the team took 20 shots last week against the Battery and got just one goal. Bryan Jordan looks fully healthy and recharged, and his paring with Byron Alvarez and Taka Suzuki gave us some good options on top, and I would expect that having Chris Brown back in the midfield will help our passing and distribution by having mids that can pass and keep the ball. I love Tommy Poltl and having him, Brownie and Guante in the mid means you have some speed in Guante, passion with Poltl and pinpoint passing with Brown. It might be the tonic we need. No word yet on Scot Thompson to know if he will be back for Saturday after getting a red card vs. Shittle, but Cameron Dunn filled in quite nicely for him. Brad Knighton looked good at points last Saturday, but I would expect that at some point, we'll see Chase Harrison to see what he can do. I've heard raves about his performance in practice, so we'll see there.

Montreal and Portland are currently tied for 8th in the USL First Division Table, so the game has playoff implications. Montreal is usually towards the top of the table, but this year, they've struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. The one thing they haven't struggled in is attendance, where they commonly sell out Saputo Stadium. I've heard some of the tickets are given out by the team (much like Shittle gives out freebies), but the team also gets financial support from the Canadian government so they aren't hurting for money or fans to fill seats right now. Charles Gbeke has been with the team for a while, and always seems to bring his top game to Portland. Their keeper, Matt Jordan, has been with the team for a few years, and has good vision on the pitch but can be prone to some spotty goal kicks. Some old names familar to Timbers fans, Joey Gjertsen and Tony Donatelli, return to Portland as well, as they spent a few years in Vancouver before joining the Impact this year. Based on the team stats, Montreal has 12 players that have notched goals, but their leading scorer only has 3 goals (Severino Jefferson). It would appear they have the same issue scoring goals as we do.

There's also a special giveaway for the game as it's Taka Suzuki bobblehead night for the first 1000 fans. Taka got off to a great start to his Timbers career, but since then he's struggled to find the net. I'm hoping Saturday gives him some tonic to get him back on track. The MLS to PDX folks are also going to be about, plus there is a retirement ceremony at the Timbers Army Tailgate near PGE Park. Our den mother, Kathy, who owns the Bullpen is officially retiring as the Bullpen is being sold to the folks that own the Cheerful chain of establishments. The Cheerful Bullpen will open soon, with a footy centered focus, new food, and hard liquor. While I'm happy about the new pub fares, I'm going to miss Kathy terribly. She's been a fan of us and our team for years, and she's done a lot to help us promote the team. She's opened her heart and pub to us, and taken care of us like it's our second home, and she'll be missed a lot. Although, just like Timber Jim, I expect she'll be about at matches and hanging with us. Thank you, Kathy for all that you do for us.

On to the Olympics, and I know it's become rather common now to bash the coverage. I really enjoy staying up past 11 PM just to see the results of most competitions, sometimes not seeing it end until almost 1 AM. But, hey, the coverage is all live and happening, so they must be looking out for us. Apparently, the east coast is good enough to see games live, but we have to put up with the scraps since we are west coast. I'm just used to the fact that as a west coast sports fan, TV people just don't care about me when things get scheduled. They will delay games to ensure that folks in the east can see them, but think nothing of making folks out here stay up late or try and get home right after work to see them. I've written to folks about it, but all I get is the nice "thank you for responding" emails and letters. If it weren't for the fact that the Olympics are important enough for me to watch, I'd take a stand and stop watching. But apparently the reason TV networks do this is because they know they can get away with it. May not always be the case always, though...

Speaking of more coverage issues, I want to give an extra bit of thanks to the US Women's gymnastics team for showing me exactly what the Olympics are about and handling their situation with class and honor. If you watched it, you know the team got a silver medal despite being heavy favorites to win because of some errors in certain events. Instead of blaming the judges, crying about the ages of the competitors, or whining about the spotlight and pressure of trying to perform on a grand stage, the girls accepted the situation and didn't point fingers about mistakes, but gave credit to the Chinese for not making mistakes and performing when it counts. It would have been easy to throw Alicia Sacramone under the bus for making two major mistakes in falling off the balance beam and the floor exercise, but instead the team rallied and will go home medalists with an incredible experience. They could have blamed the IOC for letting younger girls compete, or complain about every little thing up until the competition, but instead they circled the wagons and stood as a team as Olympic medalists.

I know the Olympics take on special significance because it's only there every 4 years, but the experience should be about seeing different parts of the world, interacting with people, and taking in the moments there. Yes, people keep score and medals are given, but unlike other sporting events, the experience of the Olympics is as important as the results. Thankfully, these wonderful young women get it. I just wished that everyone else understood this as well.

Have a good weekend, and stay out of the heat.

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