Top Sports Stories in Japan…

31 12 2007

The glorious Yoko KumadaLast day of the year… and it’s been a good one.

Today’s top sports stories in Japan were:

  • Komazawa University aims for 6th Ekiden title (running/athletics)… [Daily YomiuriA grueling team-two-day 217.9-kilometer event that kicks off in the New Year…
  • Yomiuri Giants continue huge signings – now A-Ramirez (NPB)… [Daily YomiuriG’damn ’em, they are doing what they always do: just buying a contender…
  • Start of the National High School Rugby Tournament… [Mainichi ShimbunThe future of Japan’s rugby hopes, should be an interesting watch…
  • Yankee Matsui causes car crash in Tokyo… [Mainichi ShimbunFirst Leyritz, now Matsui?  What’s going on with those Yanks?
  • Kashima & Hiroshima to meet in the final of the Emperor’s Cup (soccer)… [Japan TimesMy money’s on Hiroshima…

An LA Litmus Test

30 12 2007

LakersCelticsBoston head to LA tomorrow in what will be a litmus test for both teams. 

LA are on a roll, with 4 wins on the trot, and playing the best basketball in the post-Shaq years.  They have one of the best ever offensive players in the game, and a young roster just beginning to believe in themselves. 

But Boston has Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen & Paul Pierce… an all-star trio that has only allowed a league-leading 3 losses thus far this season. 
Make no mistake: Boston are the best team in the league at the moment.  But 28 games in, there’s still the specter of “who have they played?”  The only teams they’ve played that could seriously be considered ‘contenders’ thus far would be Detroit & Orlando.  Despite Toronto’s promise, and the presence of LeBron at Cleveland, neither can be called thus. 
With a pair of games against the Magic, they’ve split… and the only match-up against Detroit was a loss on their home court.   They head to LA to face a Lakers unit that would have to believe that they can beat them.  The Los Angeles Lakers have forged themselves through an off-season that many predicted would have them in complete disarray by this point in the season.  Instead, we find LA competing with the very elite of the Western Conference, something no-one would’ve believed possible as he threw out trade demands during the Summer.

Andrew Bynum versus BostonWithout a doubt, this is not the same LA that Boston beat by 13 points on November 23rd.  Andrew Bynum goes from strength to strength… Jordan Farmar is becoming the point man that he was at UCLA… Derek Fisher is looking like the Fish of old… Trevor Ariza has been a pleasant surprise – acquired for an expiring contract and playing with promise that was hidden in shadows at Orlando… and Kobe?  Well, Kobe’s simply Kobe.  And that’s meant in the best possible way.  He’s been one helluva team-mate thus far this year, and leads by example.

The odds are stacked against LA against Boston tho’. 
Paul Pierce has finally found two true soul-brothers in Garnett & Allen.  The threesome have been phenomenal thus far, and have lead a roster that has played above itself.  Beyond the 3 amigos tho’, this roster is very thin. 
Rondo’s learning as he goes, and is doing well – but he’s no-where near the calibre of those he plays with.  
Kendrick Perkins roughin’ up…Very few would be foolish enough to suggest that Kendrick Perkins could even start with most teams within the NBA, but with the defensive presence that the Big Ticket provides, Kendrick gets the job done.

So – Boston’s star power versus the depth of LA… and quite frankly I’m amazed to be saying that about the Lakers given the Summer they *ahem* ‘enjoyed’.

But… the game should be a tight contest, and maybe it’s just the evil side of me that wants to poke out my tongue at the Celtics… but I see LA winning this by 8 points.

Another take from Kurt at Forum Blue & Gold And one from the opposite side of the scorer’s table – Celtics Blog

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The Real Santa Claus

29 12 2007

Every year my daughter Lisa’s school has a Christmas party, and a few years ago we adopted the idea that one of the dads would play Santa Claus. The last two years our secret Santa got busted by overzealous children recognizing that their daddy was playing Santa and pulling off the beard and doing things that kids do. Although it was funny, as parents we had to make up a myriad of excuses to preserve the Santa experience.

For the 2007 party, the task would become even harder as now Santa would be faced with an older and wiser group then the previous years. Of course knowing the risk of embarrassment would be very high, I decided to take on the task of being Santa and trying to fool my daughter Lisa, son Kent, and about 40 other kids that all knew me.

I immediately decided to go out and purchase the greatest most authentic Santa costume money could buy, but after looking at some of the prices, the old Santa costume would be my choice. Being 46 years old, sometime I think you can get things for $100 only to find out its closer to $2000. So how was I going to fool these little huckleberries? I immediately formed a game plan that I would follow to a tee.

I listed my weaknesses as a Santa. Too short, too skinny, New York accent and hasn’t said ho, ho, ho since the Heidi Fleiss trial. So I had a lot of work to do. The first thing I did was work on my voice. I stuck cotton wedges in my cheeks, like Marlon Brando did in the Godfather movie, and worked on a Burl Ives type of lingo that was very Christmassy. It was slow, and kind of Gaelic, and it sounded as if at any minute I would drift into a story about a certain reindeer.

My 4 year old son Kent and I must have watched that Rudolph video 30 times before my Santa audition, but I was definitely prepared with a new voice.

I then had to work on the way I walk. I’m one of those New Yorker’s that’s always in a rush, very hyperactive etc. What I did was, practice walking as if I weighed 365 pounds instead of my current 160. I walked more on my heels, often grasping my large imaginary tummy. I walked around practicing yelling ho, ho, ho in my new found Burl Ives voice, holding my imaginary stomach with enough cotton in my cheek to give me high cheek bones.

The only other issue was the visual of Santa. Remember from Rudolph Mrs. Claus saying. “Eat Santa eat, nobody wants a skinny Santa”. Well I’m a 5’8, 165 pound skinny Santa, so it was sofa cushion enhancement time. I had one small sofa cushion in my back and one in the front covering my stomach, and was round enough to play the role.

As my colleague read the children the “Twelve days of Christmas”. The plan was for me to sneak out the back get dressed and pick up a large bag carrying 40 or so Christmas gifts for the kids. I knew that approximately 5 of the kids would be potential problems and figured out a separate game plan for them.

After I got my cue, I entered the hall and looked upon our 100 some guests, carrying a huge white bag and shouted in my best Burl Ives impression, “Ho, ho, ho Santa has come to visit all of the wonderful children and bring them early Christmas gifts because they have been so good”. I said it loud, and with enough passion, that the kids all rushed towards me and because of the confusion none of them could really get a good look at me because I focused on one small boy and picked him up and started posing for a picture.

At this point the parents were able to get their children in an orderly circle; far enough away where they couldn’t get a good look at St. Nick.

Next, after a small greeting, it was time to give the children their gifts. I made sure I got real close and personal to all of the children who weren’t a threat of discovering me and made sure I asked all of the kids who were potential problems questions, so they had to concentrate on answering the question, and not discovering me. It worked beautifully, as after they answered the question they would turn around for a picture and sit on Santa’s lap. This prevented them from looking at Santa and pulling off the beard.

The toughest was my daughter Lisa. She is seven and stared at me as if she knew. When I started talking; she gave the funny look where I knew she wasn’t sure and wouldn’t risk being wrong. I was right as she left happily with a gift from Santa.

My toughest obstacle was near the end when one of Lisa’s best friends, Sara, had her name called. I asked her if she was a good girl that year and she started replying and forgot to really look at Santa as she was more focused on the 100 people in the audience and her daddy catching her every move with the cam-corder and her mom doing the paparazzi impersonation with her camera.

Soon Santa was leaving the party, unsure if he had really accomplished his mission but positive he had done his best. As Santa said his last good-byes and opened the door to leave, little Sara came running up full speed saying, “Santa, Santa, wait” I thought for sure that the jig was up, the news was out, they finally found me, but little Sara said, “Santa, can I come up on the roof and see the Reindeers?”

In closing, the greatest part of the party was being Santa and how the children look and respond to Santa. It was also the first time, most of these children really listened to me, and that includes my own kids. I tried to tell them to be good and Santa is watching and it was a great feeling. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Hi I’m Ed Ziti from MVN’s Laker Library and thanks for the opportunity to share this tale…

Top Sports Stories in Australia…

28 12 2007

More Nicky Whelan…Heading out of Oz tomorrow… here are some sports headlines!

  • India reeling in the Cricket… [The Age] After the first innings, Australia has India on the ropes…
  • Retrospective #1 in tennis – Evonne Goolagong… [The Age] ‘Bout bloody time…
  • Wild Oats wins the Sydney to Hobart (Yacht Racing) … [The Age] Fantastic victory to perhaps the most dominant racer around.

Just How Good Are The Lakers?

27 12 2007

Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold here, just trying to help out Mr. Malice here while he is off, with a little bit of Lakers talk.

Andrew Bynum to the’s stats guru John Hollinger says they are the best in the deep Western Conference. They just handled a healthy Suns team relatively easily and seem to be improving game to game. The fan base is pumped and suddenly what looked like a rocky season just a few months ago suddenly looks like a deep playoff run.

But just how good are the Lakers?

It’s too early to say for sure, but here’s an educated guess — good, better than many expected, but not the West’s best.

While Lakers fans may talk about Andrew Bynum growing up or Kobe Bryant being Kobe Bryant, what really is fueling the Lakers surge lately is defense. Looking at offensive efficiency (points a team scores per 100 possessions) the Lakers numbers this year to last are close to identical (up .9) this year.

But on defense, the Lakers are giving up 5 fewer points per 100 possessions. You may say that doesn’t sound like much, but how many NBA games are decided by 5 or fewer points? Or look at it this way — the Lakers were 24th in defense in the NBA last year, they are 9th this year.

That’s why, unlike last year, the Lakers will continue to be good all season —defense doesn’t take a night off. It keeps you in games the nights the shots aren’t falling. It makes otherwise close games into laughers.

All that said, other parts of what has fueled the Lakers thus far will not be as big an asset come playoff time. For example, the depth of the Lakers and the squad’s great bench play (the Lakers are fourth in the league in bench scoring) are a huge plus during a long season and on a long road trip, but come the playoffs it matters less. With long breaks between games (especially in the first round) teams are better rested, starters get more minutes and rotations are tightened. Then there is how teams in a seven-game series can focus on taking away a team’s strengths — Andrew Bynum will get far fewer lobs to dunk come the playoffs. The Lakers will need other options to step up.

The advantage for the Lakers, at least right now, is that much of the vaunted West is not so intimidating. Sure, the Spurs are the Spurs. But the Lakers just beat a healthy Phoenix team and are just one game back of them in the Pacific Division. The Lakers have the recipe to keep beating the Suns with the improved play of Bynum pounding the Suns inside. Does Dallas scare anyone right now? Houston and Utah would be out of the playoffs if they started today. The threats just seem smaller.

And in that Western Conference, the Lakers suddenly look like a threat — a team on the rise while others are falling. A team that on the right day may be second in the west to the Spurs.

But big wins on Christmas on national television matter about as much as that Christmas fruitcake you won’t eat come next April and May. And that’s about when we’ll really see just how good this Lakers team is.

Bizarre Japanese Sports #12… More MMA Action

26 12 2007

Weird, weird, weird

As with the previous BJS, invention. 
A very inventive take on MMA… a tag-team event, if you will. 
Boxing, with a very small twist.

Merry Christmas one & all…

25 12 2007

From all of those that write here, to all of those that read… Merry Christmas, and where-ever you are, I hope that it’s a joyous occasion. 
In my humble opinion, Bing sung it best.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas 
Just like the ones I used to know 
Where the treetops glisten, 
and children listen Merry Christmas
To hear sleigh bells in the snow 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas 
With every Christmas card I write 
May your days be merry and bright 
And may all your Christmases be white 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas 
With every Christmas card I write 
May your days be merry and bright 
And may all your Christmases be white…