Showdown Sunday

August 18, 2007

Week 2 and already there are 2 big games this Sunday in the Premier League. All the fixtures are listed here. And here are TTL’s storylines for this week.

Manchester City v Manchester United (Sunday 8:30ET). Crisis at Man U? No Wayne Rooney (injured) or Cristiano Ronaldo (suspended) for the Red Devils as they take on bitter rivals City. Even if Man U win they’ll still trail City in the table after City won their opening 2 games. Sven-Goran Eriksson has transformed City this season and the fans will singing his name from the terraces if the former England manager leads City to a win over Man U tomorrow. Gonna be a dogfight and keep an eye out for Man City’s Brazilian midfielder Elano, he’s the real deal. Feel like City will take the lead but Man U will nip them 2-1 in the end.

Liverpool v Chelsea. Oh yeah!! Chelsea comes to Anfield where they’ve had success in the League and a horrible time in the Champions League. Mourinho’s men gritted out 2 league victories already and will play well tomorrow despite their injury problems. Massive game for Liverpool as their supporters are clamoring for a Premier League title this season. And LP is laying it all on the line as Steven Gerrard will play with a hairline fracture in his toe (metatarsal alert) and then take some time off. Bout time LP beats Chelsea in the league and bet they do 1-0. YNWA! And for a full preview of this clash check out the rabid Liverpool blog of Being Sven.

TTL’s darlings from Tottenham are desperate for a home win against Derby. The Hammers have dropped their first 2 games and need to right the ship. As Steven Gerrard said earlier this week “you can’t win the title in August but you can lose it.” Must win game for Tottenham.

Wigan hosts Sunderland in an interesting game. As a general rule, if a team achieves 40 points on the season they’ll avoid relegation. Both these teams are in danger of being sent down so any points they can pick up are huge, even in August. Early on though, these bottom tier teams of Derby, Birmingham, Wigan and Sunderland among others are playing some good football. They fielded teams with strikers and are trying to score goals, even against the big clubs. The past few seasons the smaller clubs tended to play very defensively resulting in some quite boring games. Hopefully this attacking trend continues as its great to watch teams play to win rather than sit all 11 men behind the ball in a defensive wall.

In other news England announced their roster for the Aug. 22nd friendly against Germany. More importantly, this group of players will form the squad for home Euro 2008 qualifying games against Israel on Sept. 8 and Russia on the 12th. Becks is in, a whole host of injured are not. Adding to list of missing players is LP’s defender Jamie Carragher who announced his retirement from the national team this week. Carra is a world-class defender but has received scant playing time under manager Steve McClaren. Good news for Liverpool as Carra will be resting while international games are played.

Back tomorrow with a round-up of all Saturday’s action. Still working on the copyright piece but its evolved into an anti-ESPN diatribe of its own accord. Still needs some tweaking. Enjoy the games.

Today

August 17, 2007

Apologies, the copyright post is taking much longer than planned. Be 2 posts tomorrow on the copyright issue in sports and a preview of this weekend’s Premier League games. So be sure to scroll down and read both posts. Enjoy your day.

Becks v Lando

August 16, 2007

Greetings all. The curse of the metatarsal strikes England again as this time Steven Gerrard (the horror!!) has a hairline fracture in his toe. Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez says Stevie G will play against Chelsea on Sunday and then rest for a couple of weeks. Means he’ll miss England’s friendly against Germany and a few games for his club. Add Gerrard to the list of Wayne Rooney (twice), Gary Neville, Michael Owen and David Beckham who’ve broken their metatarsal in the past 3ish years.

It could be the English national team curse or TTL’s curse. Playing Premier League fantasy football for the first time this season and The Third Leaf team is decimated by injury. Kinda feel like Jose Mourinho or Steve McClaren with all these injuries. All the high-priced guys on TTL’s team have succumbed to injury; Michael Essien (knee; Chelsea), Dimitar Berbatov (groin; Tottenham) and now Gerrard. Maybe TTL can influence the title chase by adding a few players from Chelsea and Manchester United to this cursed squad.

But in this endless circle of sports just as one star goes on the injured list another comes back. And David Beckham returned with a vengeance last night. Wearing the captain’s armband for the LA Galaxy, Becks scored in his trademark manner:

The man certainly has a sense of style. Cool moment and really like how wild his teammates went. Becks is a good competitor and despite all the off-the-pitch notoriety Becks gets his teammates have always enjoyed playing with him. Becks also assisted on Landon Donovan’s goal and got booked as the Galaxy beat DC United 2-0 in the SuperLiga semifinals. Not a bad 63 minutes worth of work for Becks. His ankle is still tender (but his metatarsals are fine, don’t worry) and TTL hopes Becks can play this weekend. He enjoys the big stage and LA are in New York on Saturday night (7:30 Estrn) to take on the Red Bulls. Look for nauseating full coverage of Beckham in the Big Apple on all 12 ESPN networks.

One thing that did strike TTL as strange about the Galaxy game was Becks with the captain’s armband. This a huge deal in European leagues as the captain is the unequivocal leader of the team. It is a big honor to be named captain of your club team and especially of your national team. This is what Landon Donovan said about it:

“I’m not stupid,” Donovan said. “[Beckham has] been a captain for England, one of the better teams in the world. For me, it’s not as important to wear the armband. I’m going to play the same way and act the same way towards guys whether I have that or not. I think it made him immediately part of the team in a real sense, not just on the field. I think guys looked at him differently, and he could say things to guys differently. I told him that if he was ready for it, I thought it was appropriate that he wear it and that I thought it would help us right now.”

TTL runs hot/cold on Mr. Donovan. Lando Dono could potentially be the best American player of his generation but he has not reached his ceiling. And don’t think he ever will playing in the MLS. He’s too comfortable there and shows no inclination of trying overseas again after his disastrous spell with German club Bayer Leverkusen in 2004. He conceded the “unimportant” captaincy to Becks and seems very eager to fade into the background and let Beckham become the face of the MLS. Lando Dono loves to be Robin so maybe he’ll flourish with Batman Becks absorbing all the spotlight. But the USMNT needs more leadership, more killer instinct, more nastiness and more competitive fire from Lando if the team is ever to make the jump to the next level.

There was a moment in last year’s WC game against Italy that typifies Lando. It was in the 2nd half of the 1-1 game when the USA was down a man and clearly struggling. There was a palpable sense of a forthcoming Italian goal in the stadium. USA cleared the ball out and Lando got it just inside his half. He hesitated, looking to pass but all his teammates were back defending. With no one open, Lando took it down the right side, beat 2 Italian defenders and forced a corner kick. Great run, great skill and he got a standing ovation from the USA fans. Remember thinking this is what Landon CAN do. But he only went at the Italian defense because he had no choice. His first instinct was to play the ball off to one of his teammates. He was basically forced into using his considerable skills, into putting the team on his back for a minute. Lando CAN do it but the real question is does he WANT to do it?

There is no way Landon Donovan steps up and scores a goal like David Beckham did last night. While Becks embraces the Moment, Lando shies away. Sincerely wish that Beckham’s competitive fire rubs off on Lando.

Back tomorrow with a post about sports news/highlights, ESPN and copyright. Interested, check back. Thanks for reading.

(Quote came from this fine article by Andrea Canales).

CL Quick Hitters

August 15, 2007

Quick recap of Champions League qualifiying action with some random thoughts thrown in TTL-style. For all the results hit this.

Liverpool beats Toulouse 1-0 in a crapfest. Desultory game to watch as the daytime kickoff in boiling weather sapped both teams’ will. LP was the stronger side throughout but Toulouse was pesky now and again. LP did the job courtesy of great goal by Andriy Voronin, who boasts the most powerful pony-tail in the Ukraine. Apologies cause couldn’t find the clip on youtube. Maybe something to do with the Premier League suing youtube for copyright infringement. More on that tomorrow.

The Old Firm of Rangers and Celtic did the job. Rangers defended the home turf with a 1-0 win over Crvena Zvezda. And Celtic picked up a crucial away goal with a 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow. Scottish sides are poised to win these ties.

Fenerbache beat Anderlecht 1-0 and you can read all about that result at this excellent Fenerbache blog run by Nathan from Louisville. Quality stuff.

Arsenal were on their game winning 2-0 at Sparta Prague and putting themselves in the catbird seat to win the tie. TTL will have more on CL action tomorrow.

Quick hitters on the Premier League action tonight. Manchester United tied 1-1 with Portsmouth as Ronaldo was sent off for a “headbutt.” He scuffled with a Pompey defender on a corner and moved his head in threatening manner. Weak, but justified sending-off by the letter of the law. Since it is a straight red that means he’ll miss the derby vs Manchester City on Sunday. Going into that game Man City has 6 points and Man U a scant 2. Beware the power of the baby blue jerseys.

Speaking of Sunday’s games, there is little fixture of Liverpool v Chelsea. Snap into that!! Chelsea gutted out a 2-1 at Reading who must hate the computer. Reading started at Man U and Chelsea at home. Ouch. But they acquitted themselves well in both games and really pushed Chelsea tonight.

That’s it for today/tonight. Go Cubs!

It’s Back

August 14, 2007

The footie is in full swing already with 3rd Round qualifying action for the Champions League on Tuesday/Wednesday night. For a complete look at the fixtures and the basic rules of the Champions League head here. Pressed for time today, so gonna roll with some quick TTL storylines for these games.

Turkish champs Fenerbahce hope to put a disapointing start behind them by holding serve at home against Belgian champs Anderlecht. Been living in Brussels for almost 6 years and still feel no love for Anderlecht. But be nice if Anderlecht qualifies though because they’ll host 3 games in the group stage. TTL could possibly snag a ticket to see a game. So c’mon Anderlecht.

Rangers host Serbia Champs Crvena Zvezda who’ve already fired their manager 1 game into the season. Hopefully the home crowds behave themselves during these 2 games as Rangers fans are on notice for sectarian chants and Zvezda for racist chants. Ugly side of the beautiful game.

Ranger’s eternal rival Celtic are in Moscow tonight against Spartak Moskva. Celtic is a TTL favorite and their manager Gordon Strachan is one of the game’s great characters. A reporter once asked Starchan “for a quick word” following a game. Strachan replied “velocity” and kept walking.

Last season’s runners-up Liverpool travel to France to take on Toulouse. French club is mighty fired up to be in European competition. Last time Toulouse was in 20 years ago when they famously knocked out Italian club Napoli featuring Diego Maradona. Should be fun as its an afternoon start as well (4:30pm France).

Aresenal has a tricky encounter with Czech champs Sparta Prague. The Gunners should survive but expect Sparta to push them to the limit.

Quick notes: Wayne Rooney is sidelined 2 months with a broken foot. Man U should survive but injury really dents England’s chances for Euro 2008.
Sevilla full-back Daniel Alves is NOT playing in his game against AEK Athens FC as the rumors of potential move to Chelsea continue to swirl.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the games.

Continental Drift

August 13, 2007

England isn’t the only country that kicked off this past weekend as the ever resourceful Scots are in week 3 already and the German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 debuted.

Bundesliga
Bayern Munich retooled over the summer signing a plethora of new players including the delightful French international winger Franck Ribery (costliest transfer in Bundesliga history at a cool 25 million Euros), Italian striker Luca Toni and German striker Miroslav Klose. All 3 played well in Bayern’s 3-0 thumping over newly promoted Hansa Rostock. TTL is not a big fan of soccer stats (unlike ESPN) as teams can dominate in every statistical category and still lose 1-0 (see Arsenal last season). But Bayern did outshoot Rostock 25-0. Braterrific! Know that it is August but Bayern is a good favorite to win a Treble this season. Should roll to the Bundesliga title, win the German Cup (although were shockingly taken to penalties by a Third Division side in the 1st round) and are a good bet in the UEFA Cup. The humiliation of their 4th place finish last season and missing out on the Champions League is a big motivation for the German giants.

Not much to say about the Scottish Premier League except that either Glasgow Rangers or Glasgow Celtic will win it. Huge (sarcasm alert) surprise there as they’ve won a mere 93 SPL titles between them. Passionate stuff when there is an Old Firm derby (Catholic Celtic v Protestant Rangers) but bland when they beat up on the likes of Motherwell and Falkirk. Celtic made nice run in the Champions League last season, losing in extra-time at AC Milan in the knockout stages thanks to a Kaka moment. Search for AC Milan v Celtic on youtube. TTL refuses to directly link to anything that casts AC Milan in a favorable light.

Normally not a Rangers fan but USMNT’s DaMarcus Beasley is playing for them. Always cheer on the boys that are playing in Europe. Also Benny Feilhaber has moved from Hamburg in the Bundesliga to Derby County in the English Premier League. Like this kid’s game and hope the move to Derby works out as he should see a lot of playing time. For news on all the Americans playing outside of the MLS click on the informative “yanks abroad” link on the side.

French La Ligue
Toulouse beat 6-time defending champs Lyon 1-0 on Saturday. Don’t think Lyon will run away with the title this season but are still the team to beat. What a fabulous week for Toulouse. Beating Lyon and on Wednesday night Liverpool comes to town for the 1st leg of their Champions League qualifying encounter. Toulouse hasn’t played a European game (UEFA, CL) in 20 years so the fans are a bit excited.

The Spanish La Liga kicks off on August 26th. Real Madrid just signed diminutively good Dutch winger Wesley Sneijder from Ajax for 27 million euros. With this signing looks as if Real’s flirtation with Chelsea’s Arjen Robben is over. Chelsea is rumored to have put in a bid of around 30 million for Daniel Alves of Sevilla. The Brazilian full-back is an awesome player, probably the best attacking full-back in the world.

While the transfer season is open until August 31 there is a rush to compete deals right now with European competitions starting. Players are not allowed to play for 2 different teams in the same Cup competition. So if Alves plays for Sevilla this week in their CL qualifying game and is eventually sold to Chelsea he can’t play for Chelsea in the CL at all this season. Could be a flurry of activity in the next 2 days.

That’s it for today. Back tomorrow with a preview of the Champions League qualifiers on Tuesday/Wednesday.

Premier Thoughts

August 12, 2007

The 1st weekend of the Premier League was eventful. Defending champs Man U were held to a surprising 0-0 draw by 10 man Reading. But worse than the draw was that Wayne Rooney suffered a hairline fracture in his left food during the 1st half. Shrek will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. Bad news for Man U but worse news for England’s 2008 Euro qualifying campaign. The Three Lions play two must-win games against Israel on September 8th and Russia on September 12th that Rooney will miss. Somebody please talk manager Steve McClaren off the ledge.

Arsenal left it late but finally topped Fulham 2-1. Beers are on goalkeeper Jens Lehmann as Arsenal were behind 1-0 after 50 seconds thanks to his major gaffe.

Chelsea beat pesky Birmingham 3-2 at Stamford Bridge setting an English record with their 64th unbeaten league match at home. More impressively, their manager the Special One Jose Mourinho, has gone 99 home league matches without a loss with Porto and Chelsea.

Liverpool looked very impressive in stretches with Steven Gerrard finally playing in his natural central midfield role but couldn’t get the crucial 2nd goal at Aston Villa. The 2nd goal is always vital as it effectively ends the contest but LP was unable to take advantage of some golden chances. When Villa equalized in the 86th minute it looked like another poor start to the season for LP until a moment of brilliance from the incomparable Gerrard gave LP the 2-1 win. Huge Gerrard fan but did think the foul that resulted in the free kick was a bit weak. Can see it at the end of the clip.

For all the results and a glimpse at the table click here.

Overall, a good start to the season. The newly promoted sides (Derby, Birmingham and Sunderland) all played well. Every point is important for these clubs, especially in the beginning of the season, as typically the smaller clubs wear down as the season progresses. They don’t have the budgets to afford huge squads like the Big Four. So injuries really hurt the smaller clubs. Rooney’s injury is huge blow for Man U but it is not going to cripple their title chances considering that the rampaging bull know as Carlos Tevez will replace Rooney. The Man Us of the world simply reload when players go down while smaller clubs have huge talent drop-offs when their top players are out. Such is the disparity of life in the Premier League.

Tomorow will look at some of the highlights from the other leagues as soccer season is truly up and running. Even have some tasty Champions League qualfiying games this week(Tuesday/Wednesday) with LP and Arsenal in action. So check back in with The Third Leaf when you need a break from the working world.

Kick-off Saturday

August 11, 2007

Love opening day in any sport and today is no different. The English Premier League opens with newly promoted Sunderland hosting expectant Tottenham at the Stadium of Light. The other games of note today (home team always listed 1st):
Bolton v Newcastle Big Sam Allardyce in his 1st game in charge of Newcastle returns to Bolton, a club he successfully managed for the past 8 seasons. Should be emotional.

Aston Villa v Liverpool LP is the only 1 of the Big Four playing today and need to get off to a good start after stumbling out of the blocks in the past 3 seasons.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Man U all play tomorrow. Here’s the schedule.

TTL is enjoying a nice summer and has not posted very much lately. So there are a few issues that need to be discussed.

This Beckham Character
Obviously there’s been a ton of media interest, hype, hyperbole, attention, overexposure surrounding Beckham’s move from Real Madrid to the LA Galaxy. TTL thinks of the Beckham move rather like Oprah’s Book Club. Certainly don’t agree with all of Miss Oprah’s choices but the fact is she gets people to read which is fantastic. Similarly, can’t stomach the endless hype of Beckham to America, but it gets people talking about soccer and the MLS which is fantastic. Genius move by the MLS to bring Becks to LA and it is already paying off with 46,000 at RFK in DC on a rainy Thursday night to see his MLS debut and another 40,000 expected on August 12 in New England. Hopefully, the media doesn’t kill the golden goose although ESPN is trying with its inane coverage of Becks.

The most interesting part of the Becks saga will play out in the next few weeks. Becks is coming off an ankle injury and has hardly played in the past 6 weeks. But England is decimated by injuries and Becks should get a call-up to the National Team for the August 22nd friendly(exhibition) against Germany. However, LA plays at home vs Chivas USA on August 23rd on ESPN2. What’s an international superstar to do? TTL thinks the ever media-friendly Becks will play in both games and the press will make a huge deal of it. Becks knows how to milk the media.

Outside the media angle, England needs Beckham to play well for them. England hosts Israel on September 8th and Russia on September 12th in two massive Euro 2008 qualifying games. Aaron Lennon, who replaced Becks on the National Team at right midfielder, is injured so it seems as if Manager Steve McLaren will give Becks a start in least 1 of those games. England need two victories as they lie 4th in Group E. The Becks/England/American soccer savior saga should continue for awhile.

Freddy Adu to Benfica
Great move. Adu played very well in the Under-20 World Cup where the US reached the quarterfinals beating Brazil along the way. Benfica, a Portuguese power, paid 2 million for Adu and it appears as if he’ll play quite a bit. The Portuguese Superliga is a good league and Benfica is in the Champions League which is pretty heady competition for the 18-year old Adu. Wish Freddy all the best.

That’s it for today. Time to head out to watch some opening day action. C’mon Liverpool.

Premiership Pal O’ Predictions

August 10, 2007

Welcome to the 1st annual Premiership Pal o’ Predictions (PPoP). Actually, its going by the moniker the Premier League this year, but by whatever one refers to the league, it kicks off tomorrow. Not doing a full preview of each team, but for some excellent team-by-team looks check out the cheeky Thatsonpoint or the more business-like soccernet.

Here is TTL’s PPoP for the 2007-2008 season.

Champions
Manchester United by a mile. The defending champs are stacked like a C-rate porn star. Their attacking players are downright scary, as Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez could each score 20 goals (benchmark for scoring, like a 1,000yd rusher). Plus, they have cagey vets Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, and proven strikers Luis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the bench. High-priced transfer Owen Hargreaves should excel in the defensive midfield role, allowing the formidable attacking force ahead of him to flourish.

Defensively, Man U are a bit thin as central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic need to stay healthy. Goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar looks shaky in his possible retirement season and backup Ben Foster is out until winter with a knee injury. But the Red Devils should score enough goals to overcome any defensive lapses and could really beatdown on some of the lesser teams (Derby County, Wigan, Birmingham).

TTL is not a Man U fan, but they do play a lethal, attacking brand of football that is a nice change from Chelsea’s grinding title seasons. The real question for Man U will be in the Champions League this season as Sir Alex attempts to win another another Treble ala 1999.

Runner-up
TTL’s favorite Liverpool slides into 2nd this season but their 17-year league title drought continues. American owners George Gillet Jr and Tom Hicks allowed manager Rafa Beneitez to spend 43million this summer to stregthen the squad. Ukrainian strkier Andriy Vronin, winger Ryan Babel and coveted Spanish striker Fernando Torres were the marquee signings. Torres comes with huge expecations and was given the historical #9 jersey. If he can provide the goals that LP sorely needs, then LP will shine as Steven Gerrard, Xavi Alonso and Javier Mascherano anchor an outstanding midfield ahead of a stingy defense. But LP need to get off to a quick start, as their title aspirations effectively ended in September the past 3 season under Rafa due to poor play, especially on the road. In such a competitive league teams cannot afford any slumps.

3rd Place
Tottenham finally breaks up the Big 4. Only Everton has snuck into the top 4 recently (2005), but Martin Jol has the Spurs poised to pounce. Signing inspirational striker Dimitar Berbatov and acquiring young Welsh defender Gareth Bale to shore up a suspect defense were huge summer moves. Tottenham will score goals no matter who (Robbie Keane, Jermaine DeFoe or Darren Bent) partners Berbatov up-front but they’ll need to stop conceding. A healthy Ledley King at central defense will certainly help along with newboy Younes Kaboul. Defense (and, to be fair, huge budgets) are what separates the Big 4 from the rest, so if Tottenham is to crash the party they simply have to play better defensively. TTL bets they will.

4th Place
Chelsea nudges out Arsenal for 4th place and the crucial Champions League spot that goes with it. Chelsea already has a lengthy injury list (Ballack, Drogba, Robben, Terry, Makelele etc.) and will miss Michael Essien, Drogba, John Mikel and Salomon Kalou for up to 6 weeks in January because of the African Nations Cup. This is too much for even “The Special One” Jose Mourniho to overcome. Alas, this should be Mourinho’s last season at Chelsea as gazillionaire owner Roman Abramovich bears no love for his flamboyant manager and should sack him at the end of the season. Chelsea will fight hard, but ultimately all those nailbiting 1-0 and 2-1 wins they’ve pounded out the past few seasons will become ties this season. And ties end title hopes in this league.

As for the rest, here goes:
5th: Arsenal too much upheaval in the boardroom and Henry leaving for Barca hurts
6th: Everton sparky club will be a thorn in everyone’s side
7th: Aston Villa Martin O’Neill is a top manager and guides Villa into a UEFA Cup spot
8th: Newcastle Rabid, loyal fans are finally repaid as Big Sam Allardyce manages Magpies to a respectable finish
9th: Blackburn Gritty club just misses out on last UEFA place but American Brad Friedel continues to shine in goal
10th: West Ham After last season’s dramatic escape from relegation, the Hammers find comfort in 10th
11th: Portsmouth Why not? Not much to say about this club
12th: Bolton Don’t think manager Little Sam Lee can keep Bolton up in Top 8
13th: Man City City will compete but fans can’t be stopped from giving manager Sven hell
14th: Reading Last season’s darlings continue to play exciting football and avoid 2nd year relegation woes
15th: Sunderland Stay-up and play a very fiesty, competitve stlye ala their manager
16th: Fulham Half N. Irish/American team just avoids the drop
17th: Middlesbrough Eke, no real feelings about this club. Possible could finish much higher
18th: Birmingham Didn’t spend enough to stay up
19th: Wigan After 2 seasons in the Premiership Wigan heads down
20th: Derby County Playoff winners simply lack the talent at this level

Other Storylines
The return of Newcastle (and England) striker Michael Owen from injury. Former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson takes over the reins at Manchester City. Man U legend Roy Keane returns to Old Trafford as the manager of newly-promoted Sunderland. Keano didn’t exactly leave Man U on the best of terms. Craven Cottage USA (Fulham) becomes team N. Ireland as manager Lawrie Sanchez brings 7 of his countrymen to his team. Still, Americans Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey should start. Think that Dempsey could be in for a big year. And it should be another big year in Premiership. Let the games begin.

Talkin’ Baseball*

August 9, 2007

Well, Barry Bonds finally surpassed Hammerin’ Hank Aaron by hitting his 756th homerun on Tuesday night off of Washington Nationals lefty (and trivia answer) Mike Bascik. This historic homerun chase seemed to last forever no matter whether one loves/hates Bonds. He is undeniably a lightning rod capable of stirring strong emotions in even the most casual fan. Cheat/liar/drug abuser or greatest player of his generation (and perhaps ever)? Whatever your opinion Bonds is the New Home Run king.

TTL’s gut reaction after viewing the homer (for a unique look at the homer check this clip courtesy of www.deadspin.com) and all the accompanying media stories was simply relief. Feel that baseball was hijacked by Bond’s quest, and that now it is fulfilled, we can together return back to the game itself. And instead of looking forward to the next Bonds homer, baseball fans can concentrate fully on looking ahead to the most beautiful part of each season, October baseball.

As for Bonds, he belted 757* last night, but hopefully he can fade away into a graceful retirement. TTL does not like Barry Bonds. He is a modern day superstar, arrogant, selfish and awesomely talented. By most accounts, Bonds allegedly started juicing because he was extremely jealous of the media attention showered upon Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire during their historic (and now tainted by steroid allegations) chase of the single-season homerun record in 1998. Bonds, despite his 7 MVP awards(!), has always felt underappreciated by his peers and the media. His egomanical desire to be the sole focus of baseball, to be the undisputed Man led him (allegedly) to steroids.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Many pundits argue steroids don’t help someone hit a baseball. That many other players were using, including the very pitchers Bonds homered time and again off. But TTL disagrees with this logic. The “everyone else is doing it” defense is hollow to the core. And steroids do help you hit a baseball. The baseball season is a grind, a 162-game drain of endless travel, nagging injuries and myriad other physical and mental challenges. Steroids help your body recover faster from fatigue, help you maintain the same physique during the dog days of August, help you feel better physically overall. It’s a huge advantage to be fresh when other players are wearing down and TTL believes Bonds benefited from this. Steroids enhanced Bonds otherworldly hitting ability to record-breaking proportions. Bonds was always going to be one of the Greats, but with steroids he’s become Mythical, which is what he always wanted.

TTL hoped Bonds wouldn’t get the record. Barry Bonds is no Henry Aaron, a decent, dignified player respected by all during and after his career. TTL really wanted Bonds to retire at 754, to make a spectacular gesture to Aaron, baseball and the fans. In retiring before breaking the record Bonds would have gone from pariah to hero. Easily would have been one of, if not the greatest, act of sportsmanship in history. Instead, TTL turns its lonely gaze to Alex Rodriguez to break Bond’s record. Only Barry Bonds could make A-Rod likeable. For now though, Barry Bonds stands alone at the top of baseball.