Kevin’s Blog: The English Premier League Review Show

On my Twitter feed Monday I saw a bunch of tweets about a fantastic goal that was scored by Pajtim Kasami during the Fulham at Crystal Palace soccer match. I looked forward to seeing it since I have the English Premier League Review Show set on my DVR. I don’t care if you like soccer or not. If you don’t like the athleticism displayed in the video clip, do me a favor and cease watching sports. After watching the goal last night, I knew I needed to write a post that I’ve wanted to write about this show.

The first order of business is the fact that you never, ever see the announcers. I’d be fine with seeing them as they came in and out of segments but it’s really not necessary. I want to see highlights of the sports that I enjoy. Not Bob Ley. Or Kenny Mayne. Or even a super short skirted Hannah Storm. The EPL Review show delivers by having a voice over guy do the work. He is recognizable and does well transitioning from game to game.

The main point of this article though is the dismal state of highlights show in the US. I used to watch CNN for the highlights at :28 & :58 on the hour. Then I moved on to Sportscenter for a long time. For the last several years, I’ve been looking at recaps online because Sportscenter decided that interviews and behind the scenes pieces were more important. I had some hope that when NBC re-branded Versus into NBCSports that I’d have some luck. I did for about three months when they aired “The ‘Lights” but it hasn’t aired since the Stanley Cup Finals. “The ‘Lights” did employ the unseen host which made me mourn it’s possibly temporary demise. I had some hope earlier this year when Fox Sports 1 was launched. My thought process as always “Let’s give Fox Sports Live” a chance. Unfortunately, they didn’t even give me three months of pleasure.

Hannah Storm

The EPL Review Show fills the void that is left by the sports world in the US. I don’t feel like getting into who’s the blame for this phenomenon, whether it’s the mother ship ESPN (chicken) or the people who clicked out of what I enjoy (egg). So the show doesn’t have a host and shockingly enough, shows highlights for the 46-52 minutes of programming that are left after commercials. I love it. They show highlights of every game in the league that week but they’re smart enough to air less highlights if the game was a snoozfest even if one of the teams is a marquee name like Manchester United. If two teams like Fulham and Crystal Palace, near the bottom (Fulham) or at the bottom (Palace) of the table, end up having a highlight worthy match, they get 10 minutes of match highlights like they did on last night’s show.

I know people might refer me to Red Zone for the NFL as a comparative show but I don’t like just seeing the scoring. These highlights show slick plays that may have resulted in a shanked kick that should have been a goal. Or a good move at midfield that may not have had an impact on the score line at all. I like to think of it in a similar vein as what the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Gregg Easterbrook calls “Hidden Plays” which are “Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives”. Well, some of those plays do make the highlight reels in the EPL Review Show because they dedicate the proper amount of time to the game they are covering, not the people in the game they are covering.

I can praise this show all I want, but I get an odd feeling that TV executives at NBC, ESPN or Fox aren’t going to be listening to my carping. That’s okay because I’m a glass half full guy. What I’ll do is sit down every week and enjoy highlights from the most fantastic soccer league in the world. I’ll also get to see a second highlight goal from Steve Sidwell in Fulham, not long after Kasami’s goal of the year candidate. – Kevin

Kevin’s Blog: The Pittsburgh Pirates Get To .500 (At Least)

Pirates Hats

’97, ’06 and ’11

My beloved Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season since I got my driver’s license in 1992. I have suffered through the majority of the twenty consecutive seasons of a losing record. I will admit to being so ticked off at baseball for striking in 1994 that I stopped watching until 1999. During that time period though, I still sported a Pirates hat that I bought in the summer of 1997. It was an easy time period to keep the team out of my life since it was during my college years. I’d be home for the summer, mow lawns for twelve hours a day then go spend some of my money on some really cheap beer. Few of my friends liked sports and if they did, it was football. I had also convinced myself that it was a boring sport. Of all things that drug me back in, it was fantasy baseball. I hate losing, even if there isn’t money involved. But when my friend Jason invited me into that league in 1999, it changed the way I looked at the sport.

I have been a Pirates since I can remember. My mother was the big baseball supporter in the household while my dad was more of a Steelers guy. Both of them grew up in Pittsburgh. Three of my four grandparents were born in Pittsburgh. The fourth moved there from Penne, Italy when she was fourteen. All of them were invested in the sports products of the ‘Burgh so it was easy to become a fan. We went to Pirates games in the summer when we went to visit the grandparents. We never went to Steelers games as a family. I also went to a lot of games with a friend’s family because they were from Lancaster, PA and were huge Philadelphia Phillies fans. Our present for a good job in little league or for a job well done as an altar boy was of course a trip to a Pirates game.

But as already mentioned, my fandom was derailed by a bunch of idiots in 1994. When I got back into the swing of things in ’99 though, I went all in. I understand better why this sport wasn’t boring. I had acknowledged when I was a kid that pitching was important but I never thought about the cat and mouse game that pitchers and hitters play with each other. I remember arguing with fellow fans in grade school the day after I went to see the Atlanta Braves at the Pirates in the NLCS in 1991, Game 2. Zane Smith was out dueled by Steve Avery. Everyone thought I saw a boring game but I knew I saw two pitchers at their peak shutting down two great offenses. Now though, I understand more of the ideas behind scouting reports, good pitch location and mixing up pitch types. I didn’t realize how much space you needed to cover in the outfield, despite having been to Three Rivers Stadium more times than I can remember. The ability of the current Pirates outfield to cover that much space is incredible and requires more athleticism than I thought as a kid. The outfielders aren’t the only ones devouring tons of space to make plays. I thought it was easy to play infield since there was less space to cover. Even though it may be the case for first and third base, second base and shortstop have gobs of space to cover. Even though a third basemen might not have as much territory, they have the toughest throw to make in very little time to make an out and that’s just on a routine ground ball.

It was time to read the minor league scouting reports, check out the draft and international signings. I knew that the Buffalo Bisons were the Pirates AAA farm team when I was a kid but I couldn’t have told you anyone who was there. These days, I go to Indianapolis Indians to see the next set of prospects. I had a friend move to Indianapolis. Since I was strapped for cash at the time, I crashed at his place to go see the Indians play the Pawtucket Red Sox. I got to see Andrew McCutchen, now an MVP candidate, in his next to last minor league start. I was bummed earlier this year when I thought Gerrit Cole, their No. 1 pick in 2011, was going to pitch the day before they came to Columbus. An extra day of rest helped me out and I got to see Cole in his next to last start in the minors. I was bummed that the Pirates next big time prospect, pitcher Jameson Taillon, didn’t come here to Columbus after he got a bump up from the AA Altoona Curve. Which is another fun part of the process, my hometown now has the Pirates AA team. Much more exciting for me than some other small city in the state or another state. It was a blast last year going to a game with my family when we were all back in Altoona. As for the international signings, I had no idea where the Pirates looked for talent. Now I know that they have the third best facility in the Dominican Republic behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The Pirates signed Luis Heredia in 2010 as a sixteen year old. I would never had worried about that in high school.

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Kevin’s Blog: Almost Live, Definitely Half Assed Review of Raw

I used this picture a while back. It's back because the Bruins are mauling the Canucks right now.

As is the case when the Stanley Cup Finals roll around, I have split attention during Raw. I’ll probably post the opening segment in between the first and second period then another segment during the next intermission. The only way I get out of this cycle is if Sean leaves. He’s from Boston. Wouldn’t you still keep watching this blowout (4-0) if you were on the ass kicking end?

The Miz is back to looking dapper. Miz cracking wise about Weiner. Miz having a good point about the Attitude Era stars but you aren’t drawing. Neither is Cena. Or at least not well enough. Stone Cold coming out. Man, they are dragging out the All Stars. Piper’s Pit with Miz & Riley. Why does the Miz have on sneakers though? Man, stay classy Miz. They are really trying to prop up the heels by having them go one on one with Stone Cold. They got no one to put people over than those retired. Pretty pathetic. Del Rio gets to beat Kane. Good for him.

The action got kicked off after a commercial.  Cole & Lawler bickering about Del Rio and Big Show’s auto damage is more interesting than this match. Not good news. Thank goodness Kane broke the hold, ahh, sneaky heel wants to break the elbow. Big Show makes the save but Kane backs him off. What is happening to Kane? He’s getting soft in his old age. No big surprise that Big Show and Del Rio are added to Capitol Punishment.

Sin Cara still gets the big entrance even though he’s the worst wrestler in the ring. Bryan comes in to sell because Zeke cant take the beating. Rhodes & DiBiase makes the save but get tossed. Sin Cara gets a cheap victory. I’m arguing with Sean about flashy moves between John Morrison and Sin Cara. He’s been over here too many weeks now. He kn0ws something about wrestling.

Hornswoggle is waiting for R Truth. Hilarious.  Truth better get shot in the nuts. He gets hit but Truth goes for the midget attack. Midget kick in the face. Well played Truth. John Morrison is the way Austin makes things right. Isn’t it a little early to blow this wad? Another midget kicking.

Santino gets to job to Sheamus. Awesome, a “We want Ryder” chant. Sheamus breaks out a Sharpshooter of sorts. Cool. Lawler corrects me and calls it a Cloverleaf.

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Kevin’s Blog: Almost Live, Definitely Half Assed Review of Raw

Vince McMahon did not look this good in the same colored suit.

So, I’m surprised this drawn out Tough Enough Finale got me sucked in as much as it did. It was completely bogus because they didn’t even show the entire match with Bill DeMott. They were too worried about doing live shots from Raw. Of course my DVR skips 10 seconds while flipping programs from Tough Enough to Raw. I missed what Vince did. How great is it to eat a Stunner on your TV debut? I’d say very. Cole amping up the excitement of the choice was too much. I liked Andy more but he still has work to do to get his personality out. What the hell is R-Truth doing? He gets to explain the outfit. Biggest moment of R Truth’s career being in front of McMahon & Stone Cold. R Truth using history against the crowd. A bit more creative than trashing their sports team. Truth is seceding from the WWE until his Title match. Vince makes it a comedy bit. Miz interrupts. I take a break to see that Boston has taken a 3-0 lead. Maybe they decided getting a winning instead of revenge was a better way to go about things. Don’t worry about the cheap shots. Win games. As I type that, Boston makes it 4-0 so I’m going to stick to reviewing for a while. I think Miz needed to go with lighter pants. the dark purple is too close to black. Alex Riley gets to share the spot light. Not really, Cena hits the ring. Vince made it a comedy, Cena’s going to make it not so funny. He was doing fine until making fun of R Truth. Vince gets to tell Cole to shut up. Another stamp of approval. You’re paying Austin, may as well use him.

Santino takes on McGillicutty. Cole tells me he’s half of the tag champs. Honestly, I had completely forgotten. Vlad looks really strange in blue, with an American flag. Longest Santino match, probably ever. At least on TV.  The crowd is eating up Santino’s offense. Santino gets a big pop for the cobra victory. What is a women’s match starting without a commercial break? I got it now.

The crowd is surprisingly into this match. Beth doing a good job of feeding them.  Rebuilding Phoenix needs to be done before Kharma comes back. Nice showing for Beth.

Booker talks to Trish. He has a secret, a Trisharooni. Swagger needs to be introduced by Trish. Booker giving Swagger a clinic in the promo. Punk goes Indian Style on the stage. He gives Swagger a clinic in promos too and he had less time.

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