AN UGLY DAY AT VIRGINIA TECH
One day it’ll all make sense. Earlier today, 33 students were killed in a murderous rampage at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. It is the single-highest shooting spree in U.S. history.
The story goes something like this: an Asian man broke into a dormitory and shot two people, a man and a woman, then proceeded to shoot others in the dorm. Then he moved to classrooms and essentially shot anyone he could find. Then he turned the gun on himself, committing suicide. The motives of the man remain unclear, but the most widely held theory is that he was looking for his girlfriend.
Usually in times like this it’s always asked how this incident could happen, but while it’s shocking, it’s always worth noting that these incidents are rare. Pardon The Interruption’s Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon were both in agreement that the easy access to guns in the U.S. is the culprit, and while that may be the case (I certainly don’t doubt it), I’m sure there are other factors. Perhaps it would be time to install metal detectors inside entrances to buildings as well, and step up security measures as well (cameras are one idea, at least inside hallways, although there are privacy issues inside dorms), but no matter how I much I wrap around something like this, I can’t help but think it’ll happen again. This was a crazy man with a twisted ambition, and there probably will be nothing that can stop other crazy people from doing the same. The only thing we can hope for is to make it harder the next time around, and changing the gun laws would be one good step. Right now, though, my thoughts are with Virgina Tech and the hopes that their school rebounds better than anyone could have hoped.ONE MORE DAY
Well, the question entering yesterday’s match at the Stadio Olimpico between Roma and Sampdoria was how Roma would respond after being crushed 7-1 by Manchester United five days before. The question was answered after an emphatic second half saw I Lupi cruise to a 4-0 laugher over a Sampdoria side still clinging to UEFA Cup hopes. Roma were led by two goals from captain Franceso Totti, who called the loss to United was “the most embarrassing of my career” and made up for a relative disappearing act in that game. Coupled with Lazio’s surprise 2-2 draw at bottom-feeders Ascoli, Roma are now nine points clear for second place in Serie A with seven games remaining.
At the top is still Inter Milan, and despite a 2-2 draw with Palermo at home, Inter- at 16 points clear- can still wrap up the title with a victory over Roma on Wednesday, leaving Inter 19 points ahead with six games remaining. The draw looked in doubt after Palermo went up 2-0 before halftime with goals on either side of the half from Andrea Caracciolo and Cristiano Zaccardo at three and 45 minutes respectively, but Inter battled back with two goals in the space of eight minutes off crosses from veteran winger Luis Figo. Julio Cruz got the first at 66 minutes, then Adriano connected at 74 to quell the worried Inter faithful, who have yet to see Inter defeated in Italian play. However, while Inter manager Roberto Mancini will be pleased with his team’s determined comeback, Mancini won’t be pleased with the fact that this is Inter’s second consecutive draw, with a worrying lack of urgency creeping into Inter’s game. This shouldn’t take anything away from the performances of Palermo or Reggina- Palermo showed that they have the work ethic and talent level to be competitive at the top, and Reggina may be an attacker away from being a contender themselves- but in both games, Inter didn’t get going until the second half. Mancini had said that Inter’s greatest enemy is complacency, and that just may have happened in the past two weeks. However, both times Inter came away with positive results, showing that while the foot may be off the accelerator a little, Inter still have a sense of what needs to be done to secure their first Scudetto on the field since 1989. Also, their next game couldn’t have come at a better time- Inter are at their best when faced against an “inspired” opponent, like Milan in March, and with the players knowing that the title is on the line Wednesday against a plucky Roma outfit they would be determined to put away (not to mention with the game at home), Inter are primed for their best result of the season. Of course, they still need to win first.PLAYOFF DRAMA OR PLAYOFF BOREDOM?
In 2006, out of the opening four days of the National Hockey League playoffs, six games went to overtime out of the first 20 games. Out of the four opening days of this year’s playoffs, three overtime games have occurred out of 19 games, with two in the same series (Vancouver-Dallas). Also, out of the first 20 games last year, the games featured 135 goals, a 6.75 goals-per-game clip. Out of the first 19 games of this year, the games featured 104 goals for a 5.47 GPG clip. In the 2006 playoffs, GPG went up from the season after 20 games, as the season featured a 6.17 mark. In the 2007 playoffs, GPG has gone down, with the season seeing 5.91 GPG.
The statistics are consistent with how the NHL season has fared this year- after a high following the lockout, the league is back in the doldrums, with attendances down, TV ratings still abysmal, excitement still lacking in the game, clueless NHL executives who propose rule changes like they’re going out of style and impatient criticism from “hockey people” about the rule enforcement, continuing their own complaints from their playing careers. It should, therefore, be no surprise that the playoffs are proceeding the same way.
Perhaps the biggest problem in this year’s playoffs is the overall lack of drama. Wednesday’s overtime marathon between the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars produced one of the most memorable games in NHL history, but since then the playoffs have meandered. The Anaheim Ducks-Minnesota Wild series is now 3-0 to Anaheim in three dreadful contests that the Ducks are coasting through with the Wild simply lacking any kind of urgency. The Detroit Red Wings-Calgary Flames series is going precisely the same way. The San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators are showing a disinterest in actually playing hockey and the Atlanta Thrashers are clearly outmatched against the inspired New York Rangers. It is true that the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning are unexpectedly tied in their series with the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils, but both teams have a history of winning Game 2 and no other game, so it’s anyone’s guess how those ties will play out.
Then there’s the Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins and Canucks/Stars tilts, the only two series worth watching. The Senators and Penguins are living up to their billing as a high-flying series, and while Vancouver-Dallas is low-scoring, the series at least has a level of urgency, the Canucks looking to prove last year’s playoff miss was a fluke and the Stars looking to show last year’s early ouster was a fluke. However, even there, the drama level isn’t close to what happened last year- only one game in the Ottawa-Pittsburgh series was a one-goal contest, and while the Vancouver/Dallas series has featured two overtime contests, no one’s going to confuse it with a classic playoff battle. Granted, it is still just the beginning- but things are not looking good so far.SNAPSHOTS
The uproar over the four overtime thriller in Vancouver is just ridiculous. Yes, the game went until 3:30AM in the East, but the game finished at 12:30AM local time; and besides, how often are these games anyway? If there’s one thing the NHL shouldn’t meddle with, it’s playoff overtime…Staying with hockey: if fighting “attracts fans”, why is gymnastics outdrawing the NHL? Also, if players can “police themselves”, why was Steve Moore and Donald Brashear assaulted? Both were victims of players “getting back at them” for things they did earlier…If it were up to me, the top soccer leagues in Europe would consist of just 10 teams. Why? It’s plainly obvious that year in, year out, there are only four teams that consistently vie for the title, leaving 16 schmucks to serve as victims. Where’s the fun in that? Besides, maybe the reduced amount of teams would give the top teams more of a run for their money than they’re currently getting with all that talent pooled together…I think I’ll paraphrase David Letterman: how many more Canadian troops have to die before we all realize that the Afghanistan mission is pointless? Also, before you start telling me I’m “not supporting the troops”, understand there’s a difference between supporting the military and supporting the mission. I support the Army, just not what it’s doing now…Tim Duncan gets ejected from a game for laughing. Okay, so maybe the referee doesn’t like Duncan laughing at what he perceives to be the referee’s ineptitude, but I think that’s going too far. It’s not like Duncan is a recalcitrant whiner who has issues with the referees like Rasheed Wallace…Thumbs up to the National Football League for its policy of harshly suspending players caught breaking the law. In any other profession, those people would be fired. Good job…A story out of the Associated Press says that more parents today are using “rewards” to entice their kids to behave well instead of punishing them when they misbehave. The question is whether or not this is a positive development- will the kids do what they’re told or will they refuse to do something because “the reward is not good enough”? I think, as with everything, moderation is key- kids do need rewards sometimes because then they’ll have a sense of achievement, but they also need to be made aware sometimes that what they did in that situation is wrong and there are consequences. Hey, no one said parenting would be easy…To continue that thought, I do wonder if we as a society work too hard to have kids. Parenting is a difficult job and is very time-consuming, but with both parents working full-time arriving home “just to relax”, it could take away from their parenting role. You want to know where mouthy kids come from? Having their parents think “T.V. is a babysitter”. It’s not…Greg Maddux said that players should take 5% pay cut and have the season reduced to 150 games so that the season can start in mid-April and end in mid-October to avoid the snow and the cold that gets associated with those months. It’s a sensible argument, but try convincing the owners to reduce their home games. It won’t fly…Well, except maybe in Cleveland. The local Indians were required to play a “home” series in Milwaukee after Cleveland’s series with the Seattle Mariners got snowed in. The four-game set with the Anaheim Angels (I don’t care that they’re the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”, they’re the Anaheim Angels to me) cost all of $10 for Milwaukeeans to attend drawing reasonable crowds. Then the Indians shifted their series with the Chicago White Sox back to Cleveland not because of good weather but because they were worried that White Sox fans would make the trek to Milwaukee and turn it into a “home” series for their team. If this scenario won’t knock sense into baseball owners, I don’t know what will…Hot on the dating block: David DeAngelo, the man who claims he can “double your dating”; and hey, what he says does make sense- because it’s plainly obvious. Essentially what he’s preaching is to be comfortable around someone, because then they’d be more likely to date you. Isn’t that just common sense? No one’s going to date someone they’re not comfortable being around. It just makes sense- and you don’t need to buy his book to see that…I will make one complaint about his strategies- his newsletters (yes I signed up- I was curious) repeatedly tell curious readers having problems come up with their own “Cocky & Funny” routine to “practice lines” so they can become funny themselves. I think he’s blurring the line between being able to joke around with someone and being a comic. Being a comic isn’t something that everyone can do, and while yes practice may make perfect, comedy just comes easier for some and not so easier for others, and straining yourself “just to be funny” won’t work. Being able to joke around with someone, though, won’t take half as much work- once you hit a comfort zone with someone (and we all have with our friends), being able to poke fun at things they’ve done or are just comes naturally; and you don’t need to be a comic to do it…I also read in one of his newsletters that men shouldn’t be affectionate and readily give out hugs. That’s not something I can agree with. It is true that most people- male or female- would want someone to be strong, but I don’t think they want someone who can’t be empathetic or comforting. No one’s interested in dating a brick wall…Raise your hand if you’re paying attention to Toronto FC so far this season. No one? Yeah, thought so…Speaking of which, David Beckham’s going to do nothing for Major League Soccer and may even hinder it. A player with his abilities will probably dominate the league using maybe even half of his energy and will show the world just how much of a talent gulf there is in the MLS between them and the major European leagues. *This* is the main reason why soccer in the U.S. isn’t successful- as long as casual fans know that the best players don’t play in the U.S. (further to the point- not even the best Americans play in the U.S.) and as long as they know that those games are on when they’re sleeping or working (because of the time zone difference between Europe and the U.S.), no one’s going to pay attention. Until the U.S. produces a team that can beat a European team in a meaningful game, soccer will continue to be a distant fifth in the U.S.…While we’re at it, why doesn’t FIFA produce a *real* World Championship? You know, one the European teams might actually care about? If it can produce, say, a 12-team tournament that features say two or even four from both UEFA and Latin America, they might do the trick; and hold it in June-July too, like they do for the World Cup. They have a successful national team competition- now it’s time to produce a successful club team competition.