Sunday, July 29, 2012

One viewer's guide to the Olympics

Through two days, I'm locked into the Olympics and enjoying every minute of it.

Aside from time with my wife, time to run errands and time to, well, sleep, it's been fun to watch the 2012 Summer Games being staged in my favorite city in the world (other than home, of course), London.

In a 24-hour span between Friday and Saturday, I watched at least a portion of:

Beach volleyball
Indoor volleyball
Water polo

There has been one lesson learned as far as viewing the Olympics - stay away from the Internet.

With London being five hours ahead, NBC has stated none of its primetime coverage and only a portion of coverage during other parts of the days will be live, so you have to be really careful with spoilers.

So if I really want to be locked in, I have to avoid, and I have to avoid Twitter.

I fully realize not being on Twitter for extended periods of the day is considered essentially illegal in some circles, but for this purpose I intend to do so.

The chance to watch the Summer Olympics only comes along every four years, and a chance to watch the Games in London will never happen again in my lifetime.

I'm sure the Internet Board of Directors will understand.

- Chris Lillstrung

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gotham Rogues gear, at Gotham City prices

We know at least one thing about the Rogues, Gotham City's pro football franchise in "The Dark Knight Rises" -- they have a good return team.

The Rogues brought back a kickoff for a touchdown to thwart the cover team of their opponents from Rapid City.

Without giving too much away, that's about all we know of the Rogues' game plan because that's the only play that occurs in the movie.

For football and Batman fans who want to adopt the Rogues as their favorite team, Under Armour is selling Rogues gear.

It appears inflation has hit Gotham, because a T-shirt is $39.99, and a fleece shirt is $69.99.

If it wasn't for those prices, I'd considered getting a T-shirt. But at that cost, it better come with a cape and a grapple gun so I can leap from building to building.

-- Howard Primer

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The best perspective of Penn State scandal

Kudos to my friend, former News-Herald correspondent and current WKNR-AM 850 radio host Will Burge.

I've read and heard countless takes on the Penn State scandal and the NCAA sanctions that were levied onto the football program on Monday. None have been as effective and better than Burge's this week.

His take: the Penn State football program, which won't play in a bowl game for four seasons and will lose 40 scholarships in the same time period, will eventually recover. It will take time, but the Nittany Lions will one day be back.

The victims and their families in the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal might never recover. The pain and scars will most likely stay forever.

How's that for proper prospective?

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Will Burge is co-host of the show "3 Deep" weekdays from 7 to 9 p.m. on WKNR-AM 850. Follow Burge on Twitter: @WillBurge

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mixing up your workouts can give you a lift

I have a confession to make.
I am tired of running.
It's too hot. I'm worn out and sore.
So I've switched to biking.
This is my usual habit midway through the summer. I start strong running, get bored with it and switch to biking. All along, I continue to swim laps at an outdoor pool.
One of the reasons it took me so long to get on a biking kick is because my tires were flat. That is a lame excuse I know, but I didn't have the proper pump to inflate the speciality tires so I had to make a trip to the bike shop to get this done.
Finally, I took the time to get it done today.
It was well worth it.
Not only did they inflate my tires at the bike shop, but they taught me how to fix a flat in case I was ever stuck. They also sold me an air pump, which they attached to my bike, patches for a flat and a $2.00 attachment so I could pump up my tires at home with my own air pump.
Why I put this off for so long, I don't know.
Isn't that life?
We make things out to be bigger than they really are in our heads.
Then when we finally tackle an issue, it's easier than we thought.
So tomorrow instead of going to my kettelbell class at the Y, I may just skip it to go on a bike ride.
I think I earned it.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Art of compiling an area prep schedule

The area high school sports day-by-day schedule is a newspaper staple.

It obviously serves a purpose for the audience and for the local media to know what's going on when.

Getting it to a point at which it's complete, though, is an underrated art.

It used to be the media relied on the school for a hard copy of their sports schedules. Once they were submitted, they would be added to what was already on file. The problem being, if for whatever reason schedules were not available, it would render the master schedule incomplete.

Technology has allowed for the process to be a little smoother, although that has had its road bumps as well. There was a period about a decade ago during which everything fell into place. One website had all of the local schools' schedules, in a simple text format, and they were easy to acquire.

Then said website was bought out, and the process became more difficult. The new-look schedule website was, in retrospect, a little too graphic intensive, and ADs and media alike were frustrated. It led to a period as a result during which schedules were not entered online by some schools.

That ironed itself out to an extent, and for the last few years things have been a little more serene in this endeavor. The schedules were all online and could be had, although it took a few more clicks.

Unfortunately, the process has been challenged again. There was another buyout of a schedule website, and the new owner dramatically changed formatting.

So in order to compile a truly complete master schedule of daily high school sporting events now, a schedule has to potentially come from any one of four sources - two websites (a national entity and a site used by ADs directly), the school or each team's coach.

This is not to overly criticize anyone, really. The websites are free to run themselves and format themselves however they like.

It would just be nice for everyone - ADs, coaches, athletes, fans and media alike - if the information were just a little more accessible.

For once with technology, it makes you yearn for how things were a decade ago, when the art of finding a schedule was not complicated at all.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dream Team book compelling

Author Jack McCallum is one of the few sports writers who followed the original Dream Team every step of the way during the 1992 Summer Olympics.

He writes his superb book, "Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles and the great team of all time conquered the world and changed the game of basketball forever," as if he were chasing down and covering a band of rock stars, which he freely admits.

McCallum doesn't disappoint with humor, tidbits, and loads of behind-the-scene info, all in great detail, on the 12 Dream Teamers. But wait, there's more, as in mouth-watering subplots leading up to and during the Olympics. Such as:

- Michael Jordan's insistence Isaiah Thomas not be added to the team.

- Larry Bird's reluctance to join the team until the last moment.

- An unexpected friendship between Bird and Patrick Ewing.

- Clyde Drexler's jealousy of Jordan, and his frustration of being the last NBA player added to the roster.

- Jordan playing cards throughout the night, then playing 18 holes of golf, and an Olympic game the next day, all on zero hours of sleep.

- Chris Mullin, yes Mullin, being acknowledged as one of the first players spotlighted to get after obvious ones such as Jordan, Magic and Charles Barkley.

- Christian Laettner, the nation's best college player at the time, trying to fit in as a misplaced Dream Teamer.

- The famous Dream Team scrimmage no one, except McCallum, knows much about.

As for the games leading up to and during the Olympics, there's not much detail because all were blowouts. 
McCallum's style provides the quickest 330 pages you will ever read, but that doesn't take anything away from the content.

"When the Game Was Ours," written by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Jackie MacMullan is my favorite basketball book of all-time, but "Dream Team" is a close second.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Former Kirtland runner Meggie Feran has made her mark with her new book

Kirtland High School graduate Meggie Feran has touched my heart.
She recently wrote a book entitled "To the Moon and Back, A Daughter/Mother Journey Toward Eating Disorder Recovery."
A few weeks ago, I read her book and I was lucky enough to do a follow-up interview with Meggie, her mother Karen Feran and various family members.
My story about this woman's amazing journey is going to run on the front page of The News-Herald on Sunday.
What impresses me most about Meggie is her complete honesty.
She has not hesitated to answer every question I've had about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia.
It's just amazing.
When I read her book, I felt like I was in the same room with Meggie. She describes her emotional, mental and physical experience in great detail.
What I've learned through writing about her is we all deal with different problems in our lives. Sometimes, you don't even know what someone is experiencing. That is why you can not judge.
In Meggie's case, she is a beautiful, young woman who did not feel that way on the inside. She felt fat, worthless, depressed and unworthy. It's so hard to believe someone so beautiful (on the inside and outside) could feel that way.
The positive side is Meggie has pulled through six years of darkness and has finally seen the light.
She is still in recovery, but she is well on her way to leading a healthy life. She and her fiance Sam Sexton live in Columbus and they plan on getting married next summer.
To say Meggie has made a difference in my life is an understatement.
She has impacted me in ways I did not imagine.
Her story is real. Her struggle is raw and her message is powerful.
"Look at the moon," she writes in the final paragraph of her self-published book. "Believe in the power of God, and no matter where you are in life, no matter what struggle you are battling, everything will be okay."

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

LaPorta, Canzler have to be an upgrade, don't they?

OK, has everybody seen enough?

Does anyone want to see more of Shelley Duncan's bat flailing away in the night-time air of Progressive Field? Likewise, will anyone miss seeing past-his-prime Johnny Damon needing two cutoff men to get the ball from the warning track to the infield?

Along those same lines, is Casey Kotchman nearing some sort of record for infield dribblers?

It's time for the Indians to promote Matt LaPorta and Russ Canzler from Triple-A Columbus and give the Indians' offense a shot in the arm it needs to make a push for a Central Division championship or AL wild card berth..

LaPorta is hitting. 286 with 17 home runs and 44 RBI. Why not plug him into left field and put him, say, in the No. 7 slot in the batting order? His offensive productivity CAN'T be any worse than the left-field triumvirate of Duncan, Damon and defensive replacement Aaron Cunningham, who have combined for 14 home runs and 47 RBI.

There's no way LaPorta is worse in the field than Duncan or Damon. Let one or both of them walk, bring up LaPorta and keep Cunningham for a defensive replacement if you want. Just get LaPorta's bat in Cleveland, and get it here quick.

Canzler (.277, 14, 53) deserves a shot, too, and is a good fit if he can play first base. He's an offensive threat, something neither Jack Hannahan nor Kotchman are.

Why should the Indians do it? Because heading into Tuesday's game at Tampa Bay, the Indians are three games out of first place in the American League Central.

That's also why the Indians WON'T make the move. A roster upheaval in the midst of a pennant race, by bringing up two youngsters and releasing two veterans like, say, Duncan and Damon, will be deemed as too risky.

"We're only three games out," will be the battle cry.

That's the reason the moves SHOULD be made. For 89 games, the Indians have been mediocre. Hovering around .500 with a 46-43 record attests to that. The team's .258 batting average and 82 home runs are both in the bottom half of the major league baseball rankings.

Why not give the offense some help with the promotion of LaPorta and Canzler? The offense can't get any more punchless than it already is, and it's not like Duncan and Damon are tearing things up offensively or defensively in left field.

The Indians have played more than half of their 162 regular-season games. With their lack of any sort of productivity in left field, and lack of offensive production at the corner infield spots, they can be considered fortunate to be only three games out of the division lead today.

If they finish three games - or worse - out of the playoff picture, they may very well end up regret not making a move to LaPorta and Canzler when they had the opportunity to do so.

- John Kampf

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Memories of compiling Jog results

The Johnnycake Jog is a revered part of the local sports calendar, and for good reason because of its popularity and staying power.

In one sense for me, though, it's difficult not to cringe a little looking back - and to be clear, it's a Jog memory that in the end has absolutely nothing to do with the event itself.

When I first started at The News-Herald, originally as a sports clerk well more than a decade ago, the Sunday night after the Jog was not a walk in the park in that particular job capacity.

The reason could be summed up in one word: Results.

Today, unless the technology somehow doesn't cooperate, Jog results are stored on a text file and our clerks have to copy and paste into our system and do some minor editing and formatting toward the finished product you see in Monday's paper.

Back in the day, not so much. A post-Jog Sunday night shift brought the sight of large rings,  containing hundreds of tags each with a competitor's name, age and hometown, and time tapes. Every tag had to be typed in manually, matching a competitor with their time on the tape. Name, age, hometown, time, repeat. There was no other way.

(And this was after walking 5 miles to the office in my bare feet uphill.)

The totality of such a task cannot be understated. It took up several hours, an enormous amount of space in print and a lot of patience to make it to the end. It was such a task, in fact, that a comp day was given merely for going through the process.

Again, it's not to imply anything negative about any community event, in this case the Jog.

It's just that, in the course of typing in community results, there are certain tasks that stand out a little more than the others based purely on volume and subsequent time needed to complete - large bowling leagues, youth swimming, high school conference seasonal awards and, yes, the Jog as examples.

They're all great local staples, and we welcome their appearance in print because it means our readers want to see it there.

But in addition to being great local staples, they're high volume local staples as well.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ohio State-Michigan: The (fourth-biggest) Game

If you're an Ohio State football fan, and everything goes right for the Buckeyes, here is a look at the most-important games of the season beginning in 2014:

1. National championship
2. National semifinal
3. Big Ten championship
4. Michigan (aka The Game)

We're not in the 1970s anymore, are we?

In two years, Ohio State could still beat Michigan to get to the Rose Bowl. Or it could lose to Michigan and go to the Rose Bowl. Or it could beat Michigan, then beat Michigan again in the Big Ten title game and go to the Rose Bowl. Or it could beat Michigan, be eligible for the Rose Bowl and go to a national semifinal instead. Or other scenarios.

It's enough to make Woody Hayes want to rip up his hat.

The Game will always be important because unlike the other the first three on the list, its spot on the calendar is marked, and fans can schedule appropriate festivities in advance.

But beginning in 2014, it will be one down, three to go after Michigan if the season goes the way the Buckeyes want it to. 

- Howard Primer

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bo, the baseball superhero

He was Superman, The Flash and Spider-man rolled into one super baseball player.

One moment, he was doing things on a baseball field most major-leaguers could only dream of. The next, he was a broken down player just hanging on, as if kryptonite robbed him of his powers. In a way, though, it only added to his legend.

The story of Bo Jackson, the baseball player, was amazing. In 1987 - 25 years ago this baseball season - Jackson became a full-time major-leaguer, and took the game by storm. When Michael Jordan gave up basketball to take up baseball, it was more of a sideshow. When Jackson gave up football for baseball, it changed the sports landscape.

Although the end of Jackson's athletic career wasn't what a Hollywood script would have called for, his short, spectacular baseball career only begged one question: How great could Jackson have been?

Answer: All-time great.

First things first for those who never saw Jackson play. He played college football at Auburn and won the 1985 Heisman Trophy as a senior running back, and was the eventual No.  1 overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft by Tampa Bay, but opted on baseball and signed with Kansas City. He spent time in the minors with the Memphis Chicks, before being called up in September.

Then in '87, he spent most of the season playing for the Royals. His numbers weren't fantastic (22 home runs, 53 RBI, 10 stolen bases), but that wasn't the point for the imposing dual-athlete. For the next few years, he did things normal baseball players don't. Let's review:

- At the 1989 All-Star game, Jackson led off and hit a mamoth 448-football home run to center, as TV announcer Vin Scully said, "Bo Jackson says hello!" Indeed he did.

-On June 5, 1989, Jackson ran down a long drive to left field, turned from the warning track and threw a strike flat-footed to catcher Bob Boone to get the speedy Harold Reynolds, who admitted he thought he would score easily from first base on the play.

-On July 29 of that same year against the Orioles, Jackson turned to the home-plate umpire for a timeout, but didn't receive it. No problem. He hammered that pitch from Jeff Ballard for a home run.

-A year later against the Orioles again, he performed his famous "wall run" when he caught a ball just short of the centerfield wall, and instead of slamming into it, he ran up the wall, one leg reaching higher as he ascended. At one point, he was parallel to the ground.

-Later that year, he hit three consecutive home runs in a game, but went on the disabled list after that game. When he returned, Jackson took Randy Johnson deep for a fourth straight homer.

-His first major-league home run was a whopper, 475 feet. Most of Jackson's long balls looked like that of the super-human variety.

-On the basepaths and in the field, Jackson looked like a bodybuilder but ran like a cheetah. It was awesome to watch.

-Jackson was also known to snap his bat over his powerful thigh after striking out. It appeared effortless.

-Longtime Indians fans won't ever forget what Jackson did to Indians catcher Rick Dempsey, which was turn Dempsey into mush during an '87 home-plate collision. Dempsey, nearing the end of his solid career, but looking more the part of a plumber, never had a chance. Imagine Justin Bieber taking on The Rock.

That's the story of Bo Jackson, whose baseball career ended much, much too soon when a serious hip injury while playing football - his hobby, Jackson called the sport - with the Raiders in 1990 broke him down to the point where he was never the same athlete. He could have been one of the greats. Even more depressing, there's a generation of baseball fans who don't know the legend of Bo.

"You know what?" said Jackson's teammate in K.C., Frank White in a published story five years ago. "I really did play baseball with Superman."

He was super. For many, he's gone from the game of baseball, but never forgotten.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Heat players aren't chasing money

So... you hate players who chase big paychecks?

It bugs you when people like Jim Thome bolts to the Philadephia Phillies for a huge contract, and steam comes out of your ears when you think of Manny Ramirez walking away from the Cleveland Indians for millions in Beantown?

Well there is a breath of fresh air out there for you.

It's the Miami Heat.

Don't choke on your Cheerios. That's right - the team America loves to hate is all of a sudden the team America loves and doesn't know it. It's the team full of players who left big paydays on the table to take less money in order to win championships.

First the Heat got Ray Allen to walk away from bigger money with the Celtics to sign a lesser, 3-year, $9-million deal in South Beach.

Then on Wednesday, Rashard Lewis signed a veteran minimum deal of one-year, $1.35-million contract to join the defending NBA champions. Granted, Lewis is still going to be paid millions from the Hornets, who recently bought him out, but that's New Orleans' problem.

So there are two more big-name, low-money guys who are going to Miami in search of a championship and not huge contracts.

This comes two years after both LeBron James and Chris Bosh left millions on the table in Cleveland and Toronto so as to join Dwyane Wade in Miami and make a run at numerous titles.

Allen and Lewis won't be the last to take less money for a chance to win a championship with the Miami Heat. There are plenty of players out there who would gladly take less money for the opportunity to hoist a championship trophy and get a ring.

It's tough to swallow, but LeBron and Bosh got the ball rolling. They each took less money to put themselves in a special situation. Now, others are following suit.

For years, America has hated players who chased bit paydays. But it's hard to hate players with as much passion when they're taking less money to chase a dream.

Isn't that the premise that made America great in the first place?

Let the hypocrites chew on THAT for a while.

- John Kampf

Sunday, July 8, 2012

2014 World Cup qualifying update

With Euro 2012 having come to a close, most of the international soccer calendar going forward will be taken up by qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Here is a look at where each region stands:

Africa: In Round 2, the 40 teams remaining are paired in 10 groups of four each and have played two matches each in group play. This round will continue until September 2013. Group leaders advance to the next round, which currently are: Ethiopia (Group A), Tunisia (B), Ivory Coast (C), Sudan (D), Congo and Gabon (co-leaders in E), Nigeria (F), Egypt (G), Benin (H), Libya (I) and Senegal (J).

Asia: In Round 4, the 10 teams remaining are paired in two groups of five each, with some teams having played three matches each in group play. This round will continue until June 2013. The group winners advance to the World Cup, which currently are South Korea (A) and Japan (B), as well as the group runners-up, which are currently Iran and Qatar (tied in A) and Iraq and Australia (tied in B).

Europe: With Euro 2012 in the books, all European teams will begin group play on Sept. 7. The eight group winners qualify for the World Cup, and the eight runners-up will be drawn into four home-and-home series for the four remaining spots. Group play will continue until Oct. 15, 2013.

North/Central America and the Caribbean: In Round 3, the 12 remaining teams are paired in three groups of four each and have played two matches each in group play. This round will conclude Oct. 16. The top two teams in each group advance to Round 4, which are currently the United States and Jamaica (A), Mexico and Costa Rica (B) and Panama and Canada (C).

Of particular note, the U.S. will be hosting Jamaica at Crew Stadium in Columbus on Sept. 11.

Oceania: The four semifinalists are New Caledonia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Tahiti, and they will have round-robin play between Sept. 7 and March 26. Oceania gets "half" of a World Cup qualifying spot, with the winner playing the fourth-place CONCACAF team for a berth in Brazil.

South America: Group play is already well under way for the nine countries contesting South America. Since Brazil is the World Cup host, it does not have to participate in qualifying. The current top four teams in South American qualifying are Chile (12 points), Uruguay (11), Argentina (10) and Ecuador (9).

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wishful hindsight improves 2011 draft stock for Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III

After Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Baylor's Perry Jones III tumbled to the bottom of the first round in the June 28 NBA draft, many analysts said they would have been picked much higher if they had turned pro after their freshman years in 2011.

Here are a few examples:

- New York Times on Jones: “…at worst he probably would have been selected in the top 5.”

- on Sullinger: “He probably would have been considered the likely top pick in the draft. If he not the first pick, he would have been one of the top five picks in 2011.”

- Celtics coach Doc Rivers: “Last year he would have a been a top-5 pick.”

There were plenty more across many platforms.

To say both would have been top-five picks is tough to prove. For those assessments to be true, everything would have had to gone right for Jones and Sullinger, which didn't happen in 2012.

In Sullinger's case, it means all of his back issues have occurred in the past 10 months, and doctors wouldn't have found potential for future injury when he would have been examined leading up to the 2011 draft. It also means NBA front offices wouldn't have had the same concerns about Sullinger's below-the-basket style of play that helped send him down the board this year.

For Jones, all of the criticism he received about inconsistent play, lack of toughness and inability to create a shot wouldn't have existed in 2011 if he had been a top-five pick.

Furthermore, logic would tell you that if both were guaranteed top-five picks in 2011, they would have declared for the draft then.

Do you really think Sullinger and Jones went back to school and played themselves 15 to 20 picks lower in the draft? They didn't become that much worse in one year. It's because NBA scouts would have done their jobs and came to similar conclusions as this year.

Even if all those issues didn't exist in 2011 and everything was wonderful, would either or both have been selected ahead of Derrick Williams at No. 2? How about Tristan Thompson (No. 4), Jonas Valanciunas (5), Jan Vesely (6) or Bismack Biyombo (7)?

When it comes to deciding where Sullinger and Jones would have been picked among that group, nothing is for sure. Except for one thing: If they would have tumbled out of the lottery, everyone would have said they should have stayed in school another year to improve their games.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meyer truly gives back to hometown

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, along with his childhood friend, Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood, hosted a youth football camp at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva on Thursday.

They said they wanted to give back to their native Ashtabula. Charge for the camp? Zero dollars.

Kudos to both. More than 200 from Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties in grades 1 through 8 participated in the camp Meyer and Hood want to make a tradition at SPIRE.

Thursday was a start, and an excellent one at that.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Track and field missed out on a prime-time opportunity to highlight its sport

United States Track and Field missed out on a prime-time opportunity to highlight its sport.
A runoff was scheduled for earlier this week between Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix to decide which athlete would represent the United States in the women's 100 dash at the upcoming Olympics.
The race would have lasted a little over 11 seconds, but it would have been totally worth it to watch.
What could be better than two athletes competing for a spot on the Olympic team?
Instead, Jeneba chose to decline her third place position in the 100 dash to Felix.
"I understand that with this decision I am no longer running the 100 meter dash in the Olympic Games and will be an alternate for the event," Tarmon wrote in an e-mail to USATF President and Chairman Stephanie Hightower. "As an alternate I understand that I will be asked to run if another 100 meter runner decides not to for personal reasons and/or on the 4x100 meter relay."
Why not go ahead with the race?
What did Tarmoh have to lose?
Isn't that what you compete for your whole life?
A chance to be the best.
Instead, Tarmoh passed up that opportunity to be an alternate.
I'm not sure of her reasoning, but as an outsider looking in, I can't understand it.
I do know that it was exciting to watch the replays of the race and pictures which showed Tarmon and Felix crossing the finish-line in a dead heat on June 23 in what turned proved to be an official time of 11.068 seconds.
On the bright side, both women will be making the trip to London.
I just can't help but wonder what it would have been like if a tie-breaker race would have been held.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spain setting standard in world soccer

The prevailing thought after watching Spain absolutely dismantle Italy, 4-0, in the Euro 2012 final Sunday seems to be this: This quality is not going to end any time soon.

Spain has now won three straight major tournaments - the 2008 and 2012 Euros and the 2010 World Cup in between. They are 16-1-2 during this tournament run, the lone defeat coming to Switzerland, 1-0, more than two years ago at the World Cup in a match in which they had 63 percent possession. Savor that one, Switzerland. They have outscored their opponents, 38-6, in that span.

The oldest player on their roster for Euro 2012 was their captain and star goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who is 31. Spain didn't have Barcelona star striker David Villa, who has scored 51 goals in 82 caps for his country, and veteran defender Carles Puyol, another Barcelona stalwart with 99 caps for his national side, because of injury. The heart of that engine room has Andres Iniesta at 28, Cesc Fabregas at 25, David Silva at 26, among many others. That is scary.

Spain played the Euro 2012 final with a 4-6-0 formation. Think about that. No strikers. None. If any area high school soccer coach unveiled a 4-6-0, especially with how ornery some parents and fans in the sport can be about formations anyway, they'd probably be run out of town. A 4-2-3-1 raises eyebrows at this level, so you can only imagine what a 4-6-0 would do.

Getting back on message, Spain can play four defenders, three midfielders and three attacking midfielders, not have arguably their best striker (no offense, Fernando Torres), play no one up top and STILL look that good in the attack? That's unstoppable.

The Brazil teams of the 60s and 70s were long before my time obviously. But right now in international soccer, there is no doubt who the best team is. And that Spanish side - as suggested by many observers already - could be the very best the sport has ever known.

If only we could get 2012 Spain and 1970 Brazil on the same pitch in their prime.

- Chris Lillstrung