Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Lagunitas Brewing Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Pale Wheat Ale

(7.50% ABV). Poured into a tulip glass, Little Sumpin' Sumpin' ale is an orangish-straw color, with a thinnish head that hangs around just long enough to be noticed. The smell is rich pine, grapefruit and  hops.

It's plenty hoppy and piny on the tongue, too, and the taste lingers for a good long while. It's not my favorite Lagunitas, but they really don't know how to make a bad beer: B+

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Humdrum of the Cup

photo by jaygoobyvia PhotoRee

Not the most thrilling week of action outside of the Liverpool - Manchester United game. I caught a bit of Tottenham beating Watford -- and think his may now be Spurs' cup to lose. When you can play that poorly and still win, it's often a sign that something special is in process.

o I also caught a small portion of the battle for the hearts and minds of North America, as Clint Dempsey and Fulham took on Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Everton. I guess you'd say advantage Donovan and Howard as the LA Galaxy man had a couple assists to lead the Liverpudlians to victory. Although honestly, the advantage is ultra slim, as I don't think that many people in North America really care much about either team.

o Switching to Saturday's action, it was great to see the FA foregoing years of tradition by foresaking the handshake before the Chelsea - QPR game. Great way to set an example for the youth of the world, gentlemen.

o And tongue firmly in cheek, it was refreshing to see Chelsea destroy another weak team this season.  Their lone goal from the spot looked especially free flowing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Opportunity Knocks, but No One Answers

photo by ChodHoundvia PhotoRee

Despite bossing the game for large portions of the action yesterday, Manchester United bowed out of the FA Cup on a late Dirk Kuyt goal at Klanfield. The 2-1 final was a harsh judgment on the Reds, who deserved a better fate on a different day.  To win consecutive away games at The Etihad and Anfield was always going to be difficult, but the Reds will be disappointed to not have at least forced a replay after their determined effort.  Below, some brief thoughts on a game that is painful to re-hash:

o Liverpool fans showed their true colors by booing Patrice Evra brutally throughout the game.  And then Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish complimented them on their behavior in his post-game remarks.  Am I the only one that finds the club's official reaction to the Suarez racism incident a bit strange...?

o I hate to say it, but the lineup United put out screamed a draw at best. The injury crisis robbed the team of several options, and they really missed Rooney's drive....  The team's offensive plan in the game's first half seemed to consist of giving the ball to Antonio Valencia and hoping for the best.

o And speaking of Valencia, he was a one man wrecking crew. His early shot off the post was a warning to Liverpool, and he was rampant in the first half attack. 

o The slagging off of David De Gea on my Twitter timeline throughout the game was absolutely brutal. And probably deserved. He didn't exactly ooze confidence in his return to the starting lineup.

o And the new playbook against De Gea appears clear: put some big bodies in the box and send the ball in high. It worked for Daniel Agger's goal, in which the Spaniard appeared totally lost in space.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Cigar City Jose Marti India American Porter

(8% ABV)  Poured from the bottle into a tulip glass. Jose Marti India Porter pours a luscious cola-colored brown, with a massive tan head that drifts slowly downward, leaving tremendous lacing on all sides of the glass.

The beer smells of hoppy chocolate and licorice. The taste is smoky peat to begin with, followed by a dry hoppy finish, as the anise also makes itself noticeable. Although the beer's initial taste subsides rather quickly, you're left with a bitter roasted coffee flavor that lasts for quite a while. 

Jose Marti Porter is well carbonated, but that's more apparent on the swallow than at any other time. The alcohol in this one is extremely well hidden. A-

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Footballing Feast

photo by Jasen Millervia PhotoRee

o I watched the second leg of the Carling Cup on Wednesday night, and it was almost impossible to determine a team for which I should root: I hated them both.

o It's ironic that Vincent Kompany was sent off against Manchester United, but the team to benefit most from the defender's four-game ban was Liverpool, which faced City twice during his suspension.  City sorely missed Kompany again on Wednesday, as their defense without the Belgian looked a complete shambles.

o And speaking of players who got banned for their actions against Manchester United, Luis Suarez looked slightly like a drunk homeless person with his disheveled tie and shirt as he sat watching the League Cup semi-final from the sideline.

o How many times has Joe Hart bailed out his crappy defenders this year?  It's like having an extra line of defense back there: beat your man and you still need to get the ball by the City 'keeper, which is no easy task.   Despite conceding twice, Hart also made four or five world class saves on Wednesday to keep the scoreline from being worse.  I hate to say it, but he may just be the best in the world at his position right now: Joe must have finally given up the late night tequila parties and gotten serious about his profession....

o The Andy Carroll situation has gone from pathetic to embarrassing. The guy can't even get on the pitch for a team that has no actual striker in the absence of Luis Suarez. Actually, he was introduced into the action on Wednesday, for the four minutes of stoppage time. Again, embarrassing....

o Craig Bellamy, who scored the semi-final winning goal for Liverpool, has no neck. Zero. He's just a head sitting on top of a torso, as if it fell from the sky and just landed there.

o I tried to watch the second leg of the King's Cup quarterfinal in Spain on Wednesday night, but they were showing action from a while ago instead.  The game I saw had had this guy named Kaka playing for Real, but I think he retired about four or five years ago....

o Cristiano Ronaldo's explosive reaction to Barca's opening goal on Wednesday said a lot about the Portuguese winger's frame of mind.  I'm not sure how much fun he's having in Madrid right now....

o Nor are any of his teammates, who looked thoroughly humiliated and beaten as they walked to the locker room at the half. While Real tried to determine new and unusual ways to foul the players wearing the Blaugrana kits, Barcelona just sat back and waited for their opportunities to score.  Which they took.

o But you've got to hand it to Jose Mourinho for the way his team played in the second half. Dragging themselves back into the game through sheer grit and determination, they caused Barcelona to panic over the game's final half hour, before the game dissolved in a fit of slap and tickle at the end.

o Don't look now (not that anyone was, as the game was shown only on the internet and a Spanish speaking channel), but the USMNT has won three games in a row under Jurgen Klinsman (Who knew that the US Men's Team played this past Saturday night, too?  Not me). I have no idea who the guys were that Klinsi stuck on the pitch, as I hadn't even heard of most of them, but I guess they were good enough to beat Panama. With the Nats down to 10 men for most of the second half....  1-nil... I know: not a blowout, and not the stiffest competition, but still, a win's a win. You show 'em, Jurgen!

This is farlieonfootie for January 27.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Balotelli = Bad

photo by wsilvervia PhotoRee

Columnist Ed is still grieving -- he's clearly in the denial phase right now:

o Mario Balotelli is a terrific player and a gifted athlete. But his attack on Scott Parker – a cleat to the head – was appalling.  This was not Bolotelli’s first dirty shot this year, and as a result he has been handed a four game suspension upon postgame review.  Such a suspension isn’t nearly enough.  Had Parker been someone who fouled him consistently throughout the game, perhaps there would have been some justification.  Or as Gary Neville put it, had it been someone like Gary Neville, it would be easier to understand.  But Balotelli had no reason to be angry at Parker, which suggest some minor sociopathy.  Balotelli’s agent is now stating that England isn’t being fair to him.  Clearly for the right price you can get always get someone to agree with you. 
o Despite the Balotelli incident, City v. Spurs game was among the most exciting of the season.  Both teams began nervously before exploding to life in the second half.  Good for Spurs to come back from two goals down, and good for Jermaine Defoe for finishing that first long ball with ease – I have seen many EPL players blow easier passes than that.  But losing like they did couldn’t be more devastating, especially in light of the fact that Balotelli should not have been in the game.  Let’s take Howard Webb’s explanation at his word – he missed it.  That said, ever since a poor World Cup game Webb’s performances have been poor and sometimes poorer.  He’s getting to the point where I think he’s still a ref because he looked like he’d be a good ref.  It’s time for Webb to shape up his game, and it’s time for more video tape reviews.
o The loss by Spurs was obviously devastating.  The only fiber of silver lining that can be pulled from the contest would be that Spurs ought to finally understand that they can be a top team.  Accepting this mentally is the first step to becoming a top team, though that got a lot tougher after that loss to City.
o I thought you weren’t allowed to slow down on penalty kicks.  Isn’t that a rule?  Isn’t that what Balotelli did.
o Don’t be fooled by the United win at Arsenal.  The Gunners are in full injury mode, yet that game could’ve gone either way and in the second half the Gunners had more chances.  United are still – still – relying on Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in the middle.  I suspect their confidence is somewhat hollow, and wouldn’t be shocked to see them get beat up by a random second tier team sometime soon.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What We Learned This Past Weekend in the BPL

Columnist Randy Lecturing on the BPL to a Class of Highly Interested Students
photo by Shaylorvia PhotoRee

Columnist Randy appears to like the beer he's receiving:

With my first payment from Farlie on Footie in hand (Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA), I decided to chronicle a few interesting things we learned in the BPL this week.

1.  Landon Who?

While the American press heaps loads of praise on Landon Donovan, the best American in the BPL, by far, is Clint Dempsey. Dempsey, Fulham’s all-time leading scorer, this weekend became the first American to register a Premier League hat trick with his stellar performance against Newcastle (he also had a hat trick in his last outing against Charlton in the FA Cup). Dempsey is in the League's top five goal scorers this season, and is now the top goal-scoring midfielder (he was previously tied with Farlie on Footie favorite Frank Lampard).  Dempsey’s all around play has greatly improved this year and hopefully will translate into transfer interest from one of the League's top teams so he can get a chance to play in the Champions League next year. Now, let's just hope USA Soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann uses Dempsey to his full potential leading up the 2014 World Cup.

2. Wolves are absolute rubbish

Coming off an embarrassing mid-week loss to Championship side Birmingham City, Wolves followed up with a home defeat to Aston Villa. To add insult to injury, former Wolves' star Robbie Keane scored the leveling and winning goals, the last on a beautiful strike from 20 yards that went in off the underside of the crossbar. Wolves haven’t kept a clean sheet at home in 10 games this season, and are winless in their last eight fixtures. The only thing keeping them off the bottom of the table is a more inept Wigan squad, but at this point they seem destined for relegation. The only question that seems remaining is when manager Mick McCarthy will get the sack.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Deuce and the Hat: Round 22 in the BPL

photo by badjonnivia PhotoRee

Some questions and observations from all the latest action in the Barclay's Premier League:

o Chelsea captain John Terry said late last week that the Blues can still win the title. Win the title?  Is he joking...?  What title was he talking about?  The League's biggest underperformers....?!

o Chelsea's offense looks strangely impotent this season. They may have brought in Gary Cahill last week, but as bad as the Blues' defense has been, it's not their biggest problem.  Not only is Chelsea not scoring much, they're not even threatening goal.  The problems are myriad: there's never anyone in front of goal to receive a cross,  Sturridge and Torres shouldn't play together, Torres' confidence is shot -- excuse after excuse, and no goals to speak of....

o Our favorite chant of the Weekend came from the Norwich City fans to Fernando Torres: "What a waste of money." How true....

o What a turnaround for Fulham against Newcastle on Saturday....  Down a goal and seemingly completely out of the game at the interval, the Cottagers' comeback began with a debatable penalty, but only came into full fruition through the feet of a certain American forward.  When Clint Dempsey banged in his third goal of the day in the 89th minute to top off Fulham's five goal second half bonanza, Martin Jol was so happy he straightened his frown.  Needless to say, with his second three-goal-outburst in his last three contests, the Texan was the only player we seriously considered for our prestigious Player of the Week honors.

o It was unfortunate that Fox Soccer missed Dempsey's third goal, as the programming switched mid-game to the Premier Week Preview Show for several minutes before coming back to live action. Although goals by Americans in the BPL are becoming more common, hat tricks are so rare they have to be celebrated. 

o And speaking of Deuce, his scores on Saturday were the 50th, 51st and 52nd time the American has found the back of the net for Fulham. In combination with Landon Donovan at Everton, the two Americans are really enjoying their football this season, which leads me to a question: When was the last time two Americans were among the very best players on their respective BPL teams...?  I'd venture to say never. And although Fulham and Everton aren't exactly Man United and Arsenal, it's a start, boys and girls. It's a start.

Monday, January 23, 2012

And Then There Were Two: Manchester United 2 - Arsenal 1

photo by Gilles Gonthiervia PhotoRee

With Manchester City's dramatic late win over Tottenham in Sunday's early contest, it was left to the other team from Manchester to make up the weekend's point deficit all by themselves. United trotted out in their lucky blue and black away kits needing three points from behind enemy lines to keep ground with the League leaders. For their part, Arsenal entered the game with a less than full-strength squad, in a season beset by injuries, as Head Gunner Arsene Wenger handed 18 year-old Alexis Oxlaide-Chamberlain his full League debut.

The game began a cagey enough affair, with both sides sniffing the other out like a pair of dogs. Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Oxlaide-Chamberlain saw the best opportunities in the early going, although Jonny Evans and Anders Lindegaard proved up to the task when called upon.  Meanwhile, Arsenal were content to sit back and allow United to build from within their own half, but the visitors' patient interplay failed to showcase much in the way of attacking intent.

Somewhat worryingly for the away side, Phil Jones was stretchered off at the game's 15 minute mark, the victim of an ankle roll replaced by Rafael Da Silva after being added to United's lengthy injury worries. After the substituion United began to look a bit more threatening -- more like the ominous clouds hanging over the darkening skies above the Emirates -- but were unable to navigate their way past the makeshift Gunner defense.

It was the 25th minute before Danny Welbeck caught the eye, but the young Englishman's first streak forward was interrupted at the last minute by Laurent Koscielny's pacey defending. Ryan Giggs was one of United's few bright spots in the game's first half hour, with his jinking runs through the middle of the pitch providing some few looks at the never-aging Welshman's peerless wizardry.

United's pressure built as Luis Nani was stopped by Arsenal 'keeper Wojciech Sczcesny, the young Pole denying the winger at the near post. Arsenal was reduced to applying pressure through the counter attack, a 180 degree role reversal in the two teams' typical behavior in the encounter. Mike Dean refused a penalty on Wayne Rooney -- although it was more scant hope from Wazza than reaction to a sharp elbow which accompanied his fall in the box. Nani blazed in on goal as the interval drew near, but the wide man's decision making proved as frustratingly off target as his eventual shot.

In final half stoppage time it was Giggs yet again, combining with Antonio Valencia for some late drama. The Ecuadorian netted off Gigg's arcing cross for one of his most meaningful goals of the season, providing a powerful hammer blow to the Gunners' hopes.  The timing of the half was unfortunate: the visitors now had the lead and were in the ascendancy, but with a new 45 minutes still to play there was only the slimmest of winning margins separating the two sides at the break.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

El Clasico, The Kings Cup Episode -- Rated R (Restricted)

Lucky Leathers

Wednesday night saw the eighth 'Clasico' in the last ten months, by my count -- with the ninth coming up in just a few more days.  We've now started to refer to these meetings as The Monthly Catfight in our office. Who's in charge of scheduling here...?!

Herewith, in no particular order, some observations from a game that can only be described as "Classic" if you are referring to the playacting and petulant behavior of the players on the pitch:

o Entering the contest, the Special One had a 1-8 record against Barcelona (Ed  Note: make that 1-9 post-game). There's not many clubs in the world (read: none) that hold that type of advantage over the the Portuguese bossman.

o Ronaldo looked abolutely stunned -- stunned! -- when he scored the game's opener. It was almost as if he couldn't believe he had scored against the hated Blaugrana rivals after all the criticism he received last game (approximately 6 weeks ago)....  He was likely even  more stunned to realize that the goaltender he beat was not Victor Valdes, but Barcelona's second-string goalkeeper Pinto, who kindly let Cristiano's shot fizz right through his five hole.

o Curiously, the number of eye injuries in the match exceeded the number of fouls to the head by a factor or four or five to one. Call me suspicious, but it appeared that there may have been some slight playacting -- embellishment, we'll call it, and leave it at that --  going on. Either that, or there is some remarkable transitive property in the Spanish Capital that causes minor bumps to the arm or leg to be felt most directly in the affected player's facial region, causing the injured to grab and cover their eyes while rolling around wildy on the pitch.

o One of the things that is most impressive about watching Barcelona play is the weight of their passes. They're perfect.  Virtually every time the ball moves across the pitch, it's neither underhit or overcooked.  And when the ball is received, it's almost never trapped -- just redirected to the next open player. Youth coaches of America, take note.

o Most of time Carles Puyol may look like like a member of an '80s era hair band -- suspiciously like Correspondent Ed in his full Loverboy regalia, actually -- but he looked a bit more like Superman on Wednesday night, as he laid fully out to head in the game's equalizer. It took some serious commitment to dive for a ball that was never clear would even reach the floppy eared, big haired center back, and Barcelona's Captain was richly rewarded for his effort. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And Now For Some Reader Mail

photo by Mzelle Biscottevia PhotoRee

Correspondent Ed dips into the latest mailbag:

Dear Corresp. Ed:

Love your columns!  Do you think Jose Mourinho has what it takes to take Real Madrid past Barcelona?

--Georgie T. (your number 1 fan), I’m in London, but you’re always in my dreams

Thanks for your support, Miss Georgie, and wow, I’m kind of blushing now....  To answer your question, I’m not sure that nutty face-pincher has what it takes to get past Barca.  The reality that is hitting the football world – or should be – is that the Barca tactical system is the most efficient  system in modern football.  Barca controlled the ball against a very good Madrid side a startling 73% of the time, and doubled the number of shots on goal taken by their opponent.  Barca is by far the better team, even though their talent is only somewhat better, and until Mourinho learns the Barca system he’ll never be more than second best no matter how many girlish slaps he puts on the oppositions assistant coaches.  But if you still don’t believe me, check out what the talentless Swansea team – the Barca of Wales – is doing in the EPL.  Spurs may be the most fun team in the EPL to watch, but Swansea isn’t close behind.

Corresp. Ed:

Keep up the great work!  Is it true that whenever there is a Copa Del Ray match, the offices of FOF allow tripping, pinching, and flopping?

--Donny K., California, USA

First of all, shut the frack up Donny!  (Sorry, man, I've been waiting for the opportunity to drop my favorite Big Lebowski line for a long time).  Second, it is true that on days of Barca v. Real matches the boss man declares “Copa Rules” and pretty much any kind of slapping, hand-stomping, face pinching, and hair pulling is permitted, but any kind of self-respecting retaliation or manly gestures are strictly forbidden.  And here’s something you probably don’t know:  no one can grab his face and drop better than the Corresp. Scott.  After pretending to take a thumb to the eye this week during a power point presentation, he flopped to the conference room floor and clawed at his face for a good 45 seconds with only occasional peaks at the boss man.  It was glorious to watch.  Glorious.

Corresp. Ed:

Do you think Jermaine Defoe has a legitimate complaint about not playing, considering he’s scored 11 goals in only 14 appearances?

Come on you Spurs!

--Jermaine, London, England

Well, uh, Jermaine, I would have to agree with you.  Opposing defenders have contended that Adebayor is an extremely difficult match up with.  That said, I think the reluctance to switch him out by Uncle Harry has almost as much to do with staying with what got you there as it has to do with ability.  I’ve never seen a player off-sides more than Adebayor, and he’s not that great a finisher.  Defoe, however, can finish inside a phone booth.  I expect to see him more as the season progresses, and a healthy Defoe could mean lots of goals for Spurs. 

Friday, January 20, 2012


photo by JD Hancockvia PhotoRee

Columnist Scott is up in arms, and this time rightfully so:

Shameful. That's the only way to describe Real Madrid’s performance against Barcelona in the first leg of a quarter-final pairing of these two Spanish giants in the Copa del Rey.  Such was my disgust with everything Madrid did after the first 15 minutes of play that after the game I literally changed out of the Real Madrid jersey that I had so proudly donned only two hours previously.

And it all started so well....  Although Barcelona had most of the initial possession, I was snug in my home office watching on ESPN3 with my Leffe Blond beer at my side (6.6% alcohol, “smooth and fruity, with a spicy aftertaste and a hint of bitter orange”), relishing the rat-a-tat-tat Spanish commentary and ready to watch what was clearly going to be another Copa del Rey victory over the vile Catalonian separatists. But it was not to be…

Losing at the Camp Nou is one thing, given that site’s boisterous energy, still tinged with the history of being the only place anti-Franco Catalans could voice their opposition to that oppressive regime. But it has been over 35 years since Juan Carlos stepped aside in the wake of El Generalisimo’s death and oversaw a transition to a parliamentary monarchy, so you would think that Los Blancos could at least defend La Casa Blanca known as Estadio Santiago Bernabeu!  No.  Instead they hung up their cleats after going up 1-0 and only donned them again to stamp on poor Lionel Messi’s hand.  Shameful.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Transfer Market Hall of Shame, Class of 2011

farlieonfootie's newest hire has demanded that his wages be paid entirely in craft beer.  Herewith, Columnist Randy:

With a new year comes a new transfer window and the excitement is building. Rumors are flying fast and furiously as fans anxiously wait to see if their favorite team has upgraded their talent or lost what talent they had (stay tuned, Blackburn fans). With all the transfer excitement building, we thought it a good idea to look back on last year's transfers to see which have been the worst so far. While there have been some great ones --  Demba Ba to Newcastle, Juan Mata to Chelsea and, of course, Sergio Aguero to Manchester City spring to mind -- we’re going to look at the five worst transfers of 2011. My criterion, while very subjective, basically takes into account two things: 1) How expensive was the player in question; and 2) have they produced and lived up to expectations. With that said, on to our top, er, bottom 5.

5 – David De Gea  - Manchester United

Transfer - £18 million from Atletico Madrid

De Gea arrived at Old Trafford as the heir apparent to the legendary Edwin Van der Sar . Coming off a successful U-21 European Championship he initially seemed up to the task. Alas, De Gea has been tentative in the box of late, and susceptible to costly mistakes all season long. His play so far has earned him time on the bench, and it appears as if he has been replaced by Anders Lindegaard for now. Since De Gea is only 21 there's still plenty of time for him to turn it around and become United’s goalkeeper for the future.

4 – Stewart Downing – Liverpool

Transfer - £20 million from Aston Villa

After 20 games in the League this season, Stewart Downing has produced absolutely nothing, save an arrest for allegedly punching his ex-girlfriend. He has zero assists and zero goals in Premier League play, but finally managed a point with a goal against Oldham in the FA Cup. Anyone who has watched Liverpool this season has seen Downing has had more than his fair share of opportunities to tuck away goals. At least now he has the same amount of goals as he has arrests.

3 – Samir Nasri – Manchester City

Transfer - £22 million from Arsenal

Nasri has appeared in only 12 league games, while making the starting XI only nine times. In those games, while he has netted two goals and seven assists, he has often seemed lost and out of place. With David Silva and Yaya Toure anchoring the City midfield it has been hard for Nasri to get on the pitch, especially as he has also been outplayed by James Milner. With Yaya Toure off the African Cup of Nations, thoughm Nasri should have a chance to play and show his worth.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Funky Buddha Brewery Hop Gun India Pale Ale

(7.7% ABV, $5) Poured on tap into a pint glass at the Funky Buddha. Hop Gun is darker than you might expect.  The color is a thick-ish tan -- the beer just looks heavy.... There's only the slightest bit of a white head.

Hop Gun smells fairly mild. There's pineapple there, but it's not overwhelming. The taste follows the nose: I'm getting malty caramel, with some subtle pine notes on the finish. The hops in this IPA are not overwhelming, but blend in nicely. Its a solid B.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Brouwerij Corsendonk Christmas Ale (Strong Dark Belgian Ale)

(8.50% ABV).   So this was one worth waiting for....  I had previously reviewed the fine brown ale made by this legendary Belgian brewer, but hadn't had the opportunity to quaff a glass of the seasonal Christmas Ale until just this past week.   It was served on draft at Tap 42, and poured into a goblet. 

Corsendonk Christmas Ale was a dark, thick-ish brown, with a heavy viscocity -- virtually the color of prune juice.  On draft the beer offered only a thin white head that was almost fully gone by the time my server brought the beer to my table; it would be interesting to contrast this with the same beer poured out of a bottle.... 

The beer smelled both malty and citrusy, and there was some coriander evident on the nose.  I also caught just the faintest bit of a pepperish spice -- similar to what happened with their brown ale, though, I couldn't identify it exactly.   Overall, though, the beer's smell was fairly muted -- and very mild.

The taste was not as big and bold as some other seasonal offerings -- Delirium Noel or the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, for example -- but it was perfectly balanced.  The beer was richly sweet and malty, but also fairly carbonated -- I'd call it crisp, in fact.

This is definitely one of my favorite ales of the season: highly recommended.  A+

Monday, January 16, 2012

BPL Round 21: Giving Up the Ghost

photo by Môsieur J. [version 3.0b]via PhotoRee

Rumors and Scuttlebut from all the latest BPL action:

o I know his deal is close to done  -- it may even be in the books by the time you read this post -- but this writer still found it quite unsettling to see Gary Cahill applauding like a lunatic at Frank Lampard's first half goal on Saturday -- the very same Gary Cahill who is getting his paycheck from Bolton Wanderers, a team which just happened to be playing at the very same time. Call me old fashioned: I can understand sitting Cahill out so he doesn't pick up a knock that would scuttle the deal, but letting him go to another team's game?  And him applauding and laughing like he's Lampard's biggest fan?  It was all just a bit too much for me....

o It was good to see Michael Essien back on Saturday, even if you're not a Chelsea fan. The Blues have been missing the all around solidity in the middle -- talk about a box to box midfielder! -- provided by The Bison in the past, and it'll be interesting to see at what level Essien returns to the game after such a prolonged absence.

o At the tail end of his last column, Columnist James correctly predicted that Spurs' home game against Wolves could prove a trap. So for all those predicting this could be Spurs' season, let Saturday's game be a warning: it was the kind of game that needs to be gutted out if you want to win the big prize. But when the pressure was on -- for virtually the first time all season -- Spurs wilted.  I'm not saying they don't still have a shot at winning the title, especially in this topsy turvy season, but I am saying that Spurs have to prove they can win when people are paying attention.

o By the way, Harry Redknapp was pretty quick in his post-match interview to give up the ghost on Spurs's title chase. Either Harry's playing possum or he'd really be happy to finish fourth.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

He Scores Goals: Manchester United 3 - Bolton 0

photo by Lordcolusvia PhotoRee

Paul Scholes' 45th minute wonder strike brought us back to the future, providing the initial separation between United and Bolton, and second half strikes from Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick gave the final margin to the Reds' 3-nil victory at Old Trafford on Saturday. Although it was a win, it was yet another frustrating home performance from United, as the margin could easily have been double the final scoreline.  In the end, however, the work was still good enough for all the marbles as the Reds moved level on points with the League leaders.  The outcome wasn't comfortable until late in the match, and Bolton had their moments on the break -- especially in the first half -- but United never looked likely to concede, and it was more a matter of whether or not the home side would find the back of the net -- something they'd managed to do in their last 42 encounters at Old Trafford. Herewith, some further thoughts on the crucial victory:

o Scholes may have looked a bit rusty, but he showed yesterday that he's still got a trick or two up his sleeve, as well.  It was a real surprise to see him back in the starting lineup -- I fully expected the Ginger Ninja to be introduced with about 30 minutes left in the game to work on his fitness -- which is still obviously lacking a bit.  Once again, Scholes had a couple loose balls early in the match, leading to a nervous moment or two. And his timing still isn't quite up to snuff -- witness the brutal kick to Mark Davis' midriff when he mistimed his approach to a 50/50 ball. It's completely understandable that there's rust showing -- the guy hasn't featured competitively since May, and he's not exactly playing in some backwater league....  But give Scholes the ball in front of goal and he's still as dangerous as ever, as Bolton learned yesterday in first half stoppage time.  Welcome back, Scholesy -- we've missed you.

o Before Scholes' late first half strike, the game had a similar feeling to the first encounter with Newcastle. Tim Krul -- er, Adam Bogdan --made save after save, frustrating the Reds at every turn, and it was beginning to feel like one of those games where the ball just won't go into the back of the net. If Roo had hit his penalty the game could have turned into a rout. Instead we were left with yet another nervy home performance in a season seemingly full of them. Last season, major problems away from home; this season, major problems at home. Some consistency would be nice....

o And speaking of consistency -- or rather the lack of it -- Referee Peter Walton made a terrible decision that allowed Bolton to remain in the game for much longer than they deserved to. Danny Welbeck was hauled down in the box by Zat Knight, Bolton's last defender; a penalty was awarded; and a yellow card was handed out -- but there was no dismissal.  Say what?!  It was undeniably a clear goal scoring opportunity, and Walton's attempt at a Solomonic decision handed Bolton a massive lifeline back into the game.  Instead of being down both a man and a goal -- effectively game over -- Bolton was right back in the game when Wazza missed his kick for the second straight week.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Funky Buddha Brewery Floridian Hefeweizen

(5.6% ABV, $5) Sampled on draft at the Funky Buddha Lounge in Boca Raton, Florida.  Floridian  pours a clear, golden-yellowish, with a bright white head.  It was poured on tap into a tall, trumpet-style glass.

Floridian smells strongly of banana, although there's also earthy scent which I can't quite identify. On sipping the beer, I'm getting a really clean flavor: it's very refreshing, green apples with a dominant banana taste that lingers awhile on the finish.  Untraditional for the style, perhaps, but also satisfyingly delicious.

This beer is extremely well balanced, and would be a perfect quaff to cool down on a hot summer day -- or even a hot winter day, as we often get down here in South Florida. Recommended: B+

Oh, and by the way, welcome to post #500....

Friday, January 13, 2012

Conventional Wisdom

photo by SteveR-via PhotoRee

Correspondent James is pretty pumped up by the happenings at White Hart Lane:

"Spurs never win a game in hand."  This piece of conventional Spurs' wisdom was repeated more frequently over the last few weeks as supporters confronted the surreal quality of the Lilywhite's superior form in the Premiership since August against the innate pessimism ingrained over 51 years of frustration and heartbreak.  It was the latter of these two sentiments that predominated heading into yesterday's key "game in hand" clash with a Toffees side that, while lacking firepower, is usually disciplined and well-prepared under David Moyes.  And so, we prepared for the harsh removal of the "game in hand" that we had wrapped ourselves in like a warm blanket since the first chilly days of autumn.

There were also more tangible reasons to be pessimistic: namely, injuries in the center of the field.  With both Sandro and Parker gone, the key role of holding midfield would fall to the promising youngster Jake Livermore.  Moreover, as now both William Gallas and Ledley King were down, the center half pairing with Younes Kaboul would be Michael Dawson, just returning from a long-term achilles injury and playing in preference to the erratic Sebastien Bassong.  

Alas, as has been the case with Spurs all season, the need for pessimism was non-existent.  Spurs turned in a very solid 2-0 win yesterday in which Dawson displayed very little of the rust one would expect after such a long lay off, and third choice holding mid-fielder Livermore turned in a poised man-of-the-match performance.  That designation would be challenged by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who turned in a wonder strike from thirty five yards out to put Spurs up two in the 63rd minute, and Rafael Van Der Vaart, who, for the fourth straight game, ran his Dutch socks off and pin-pointed sublime passes all over the field.  Perhaps more impressively, no one on the squad possessed the jitters that appeared to predominate amongst the crowd at the Lane.  Rather, they played their typical composed and flowing game, dominating possession and getting by far the better of the chances.  

Even more impressively, each week has seen Spurs appear to notch ever closer to embracing the classic Dutch style of flowing football. The key to this appears to be Gareth Bale's new found proclivity for drifting into the middle and creating chances from there for himself and others.  This in turn brings Assou-Ekotto charging up the flank to create numerous crosses or even, like yesterday, opportunities for himself.  Meanwhile, Kaboul now seems to charge up the middle with great frequency, Van der Vaart and Luka Modric roam all over the field, Emanuel Adebayor hustles up and down the field holding up play and forwards as a whole sprint back to cover on defense.  Meanwhile, Spurs can insert youngsters like Livermore or veterans like Dawson, just returning to the lineup, to reliably anchor the back while everyone else attacks.  Not even Spurs' leading goal scorer Jermaine Defoe can consistently make it onto the pitch. As Uncle Harry said yesterday, if you can't enjoy watching this then there's something wrong with you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

To Dare is to Do

photo by inkiboovia PhotoRee

Yesterday against Everton, Benoit Assou-Ekotto's thumper into the right corner of the net put an exclamation point on Spurs' remakable run.  Unbelievably, after 20 games, Spurs are tied with United for second place in the League.  But what's more, they look the more impressive side.

United's most recent endeavor against City showed that the Red Devils still have some teeth, but the near disaster that resulted in the second half from a City team down to ten men had to put a scare in United's fan base.  Plus the introduction of Paul Scholes to team up with Giggs -- a player almost as old as FOF -- shows some good bit of desperation from Fergie.  This is especially true in light of the fact that good ole Paul completed more passes in his short stint in this post-testimonial match than any other player on the pitch.  Surely the boss-man will spin this as proof that he's as good as new;  unfortunately, the reality is that it reflects very poorly on the side that was out there for the rest of the game.

There's been some talk that Fergie put in the old man just to underscore the desperation of United to its owners.  As a plea, if you will, for more money for a new midfielder.  I think this is overthinking it a bit.  Fergie certainly craves about 40MM pounds to drop on another player (who doesn't?), but bringing Scholes in wasn't for show, it was because Fergie knows Scholes is the best he's got.  As I believe some astute observer of this site wrote in:  "For the first time, United is understanding what it's like to be a team like Spurs."  Hurts a bit, doesn't it?

But back to Spurs, it's remarkable how well they've done assembling a team of talented players.  And against Everton today, they also seemed to have invented some depth in the squad.  Just when the disposable duo of Ledley King and William Gallas go down to injury, in pops Michael Dawson, and he picks up pretty much where he ended up before he was hurt so long ago.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Of Meatloaf and Salmon

Paradise by the dashboard lights
Photo by Magnetbox on Flickr
Correspondent Scott has been listening to a bit too much Meatloaf lately:

It  would seem apologies are in order for covering the Liverpool vs. Newcastle game in my last post instead of the Liverpool vs. Manchester City game.  The timing is explained by the fact that I had to record the Manchester City game and watch it a day later.  Fortunately, we live in the United States-of-You’ll-Never-Accidentally-Bump-Into-A-Soccer-Score-For-A-Game-You-Recorded-To-Watch-Later.  Even more fortunately, they consolidated that last hyphenated part into just “America.”

And don’t let FOF fool you about missing any footie with his waxing on about an “achingly beautiful shade of blue” while he dug his toes into the sand on Saturday.  Truth is, the boss man had a big screen TV (complete with mega extension cord) laboriously carted out to the ocean-side dunes by various office lackeys (fortunately I was out that day) who alternated between changing channels and fanning his Farlieness with organic palm fronds painted an achingly beautiful shade of blue and lightly scented with eau de Lagunitas Indian Pale Ale.

As for the Manchester City game, well, after it should have been 1-0 Liverpool inthe early going, but instead was 0-1 for the Baby Blues following an inconceivable miss by Stewart Downing (made possible by Jordan Henderson’s sublimely-weighted first-touch through ball).  Following an equally inconceivable error by Pepe Reina, things went further downhill before halftime (and dinner with the family).  So foul was my mood during dinner at the interval that, after starting some ridiculous argument with my lovely and ridiculously understanding wife, I checked the final score and skipped viewing the second half, thereby sparing my poor family more displaced anger, my noblest deed of this new year so far.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Return of a Legend, Part II: Arsenal 1 - Leeds 0

photo by wonkervia PhotoRee

The television cameras spotted young Jack Wilshere yawning in the stands while watching Arsenal play Leeds in the FA Cup on Monday, and that shot was just about the most exciting thing to happen in the game's first 45 minutes. Slightly more puzzling was the fact that Samir Nasri was also in attendance, fresh off his loss in the Manchester Derby. In case you haven't noticed, Sami, you aren't quite as popular as some other former Arsenal players....

Does anyone else think that Leeds looked like firemen last night in their black and day-glow yellow kits?  I kept wondering where their hats and hoses were.....

I was hoping to get a look at Robin Van Persie in the game to check out his current form. I know that sounds like a ridiculous statement, given that the Dutchman is leading the League in scoring this season, but Arsenal hasn't exactly been prolific of late -- I think they've scored 6 goals in their last 5 home games, including last night -- and my sense is that RVP's form might have slipped just that little bit -- his last goal was from the spot rather than open play....  Alas, Le Professor gave his Captain time off for a family holiday, so I'll have to save my musings for later....

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Return of a Legend: Manchester United 3 - Manchester City 2

photo by gordonflood.comvia PhotoRee

The pre-game headlines may have screamed Paul Scholes' name, but it was Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck who made all the difference yesterday, as United edged past Manchester City, 3-2, to advance to the fourth round of the FA Cup.  The Reds ended City's unbeaten streak at The Etihad in a game that was the tale of two halves: United at their attacking best before the interval, aided by an early sending off, and at their shaky defensive worst in the final 45, allowing City nearly all the way back into a game that will go down as one of the more remarkable in the long history of this derby.  Our match report ensues

United are under pressure from the get go, as City seek an early advantage to accommodate the screaming throngs at Eastlands.  The Red half of Manchester is packed into the defensive end for the game' first 9 minutes, as Sergio Aguero and James Milner run the show.

It's United, though, who are first on the board today, as Wayne Rooney caps the Reds' inaugural attack with a brilliant header off Antonio Valencia's cross, beating City's backup 'keeper Costel Pantilimon to bang it off the underside of the crossbar for a shock 1-nil lead.

Several minutes later and red is prominent again, as it's the color of the card that's waved in the direction of City stalwart Vincent Kompany by referee Chris Foy, for the Belgian's two-footed tackle on Luis Nani. The announcers may complain, but if Nani were hurt the very same voices would be calling for Kompany's head: it's a rash, two-footed, studs up challenge, and the fact that the Portuguese winger pops straight back up is fortunate for all involved. And if the Blues were in trouble before, they're in desperate shape now, down both a goal and a man.

Almost as if to counter that notion, though, Sergio Aguero nearly ties the contest up after United turn the ball over cheaply in midfield; the preferred Lindegaard is up to the task, though, as he uses every inch of his 6 foot 4 inch frame to deny the Spaniard.  The frantic pace of the early action settles down a bit -- it has to -- as both sides adjust to the game's new reality. Its the Citizens who appear to have the man advantage, still pressing forward in attack, evidently determining that the best defense on the day is a good offense.

Once again, though, it's the Reds capitalizing, as Nani sets up Evra with some fancy footwork, and when the Frenchman's cross is initially tipped into the air by Danny Welbeck, its the local boy who recovers in time to knock his own rebound -- tipped higher into the air by City's Samir Nasri -- into the back of the net for a stunning two goal advantage.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Magic of the Cup

photo by Matthew Wilkinsonvia PhotoRee

I admit it: I enjoy the early rounds of the FA Cup.  I think it's the intimacy.  I love seeing the second, third and fourth tiers of English football, the smaller clubs with their grittier stadiums, replete with gas and coal advertisements on the sidelines, the warmth of incandescent building lights outside the stadium contrasting with the darkening late afternoon English sky above it, and the stands filled with real fans -- fans who live and die with the fortune of their local boys.  

Sure, I'm also excited about today's big game, pitting the two Manchester giants against each other, one versus two, but it won't be the same: however exciting the game may turn out to be, it'll be lacking that special magic. The magic that means anything's possible, that for just that split second any club in the tournament can win the thing. You only get that feeling in a game that includes a team that's not in the Premier League or the Championship -- you need a true underdog to really capture the magic of the Cup.

The closest sporting event that I can compare it to here in the States is the "Big Dance," the NCAA basketball tournament, on the opening Thursday or Friday, when the dream is still alive for everyone, that moment when Princeton and Penn still believe they can compete with the likes of North Carolina and Kansas.  That dream often vanishes with the first run, the first defensive stand, the first dunk, the first avalanche of baskets, but it's there at the tip-off.  It's there, and no one can take the dream away from the players or the fans who've come to watch it, who've come to live it. Their dream is alive.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Crispin Cider Honey Crisp Artisanal Reserve

Poured from a 650 ml bottle into a modified pilsner glass, Honey Crisp entered the glass as a pear-colored white with tons of fizziness. It sounded and fizzed almost like a ginger ale....

Before I can even lift the glass to my nose, the smell of apples permeates the air. Upon smelling it a bit closer, though, you can detect the honey, as well.

I did as instructed, and poured the cider over ice in a glass. More and more, I find myself enjoying cider this way -- maybe it's the South Florida heat...?  Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see it's not just me....

The apples are more muted at the beginning of the taste, but they're there in all their glory at the end. It's a little sweeter than some other Fall ciders, but it's also a lot smoother. It tastes like Fall in a glass. 

Recommended for those late Fall Indian Summer days -- also known as winter in Miami: B+

Friday, January 6, 2012

Twenty Questions

photo by Todd Kravosvia PhotoRee

Just because Correspondent Ed is so damn curious....
1.  How does United go from great (start of season) to awful (lose to Swiss Miss) to great again (two 5-nil wins) to awful again (losses to Blackburn and Newcastle)?

2.  When did Everton and Bolton become Championship division teams?

3.  Why does no one appreciate how good Clint Dempsey is except Fulham?

4.  Could Joe Hart be the best keeper in the world right now?  Is it even close for second?

5.  Will Spurs actually squeeze ahead of Manchester United this year?

6.  Swansea's players are tiny tiny good, and aren't they the Blackpool of 2011 except that they will stay up?

7.  When did Liverpool become Aston Villa, and when did Aston Villa become Wolves?

8.  The best thing to happen to Everton lately was picking up Landon Donovan, but will that be the worst thing to happen to Landon Donovan?

9.  Shouldn't goals scored by the keeper -- like the one scored by Tim Howard this week -- count for 4 times as many points as goals by forwards?

10.  Is it mean to note that Fernando Torres now only has two more goals this year than Tim Howard?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Wrong Way Forward: Newcastle 3 - Manchester United 0

photo by opensourcewayvia PhotoRee

Manchester United traveled to the North East of England and the stadium formerly known as St. James Park on Wednesday, to meet Newcastle in a game that many called a "must-win" in order for the Reds to keep pace with City at the top of the League table.  With Tottenham nipping at their heels from the other side, several United players spoke openly pre-game about how important it would be to get a result in the mid-week contest.  Instead, the Reds left Newcastle with their tail between their legs, well beaten and cursing their fate.  What follows are thoughts and observations on the critical 3-0 Tyneside loss :

o Newcastle is a club that will be badly hurt by the African Cup of Nations.  Not only is leading scorer Demba Ba heading off at the weekend, so too is Cheik Tiote, a key driver of the Magpies' defensive midfield. Some clubs -- the Reds included -- could withstand the loss of two starters without missing much, but for a club like Newcastle to lose arguably their two most valuable players at the same time could be a real problem. Ba looked absolutely lethal last night, and his first half tally was a striker's goal of the highest order; on the flip side of the ball, Tiote hassled and harried United into too many turnovers to recount.  It's unfortunate that United had to play Newcastle this week and not next, but that's how the schedule works.

o Fergie has no sentimentality -- none. Witness the current United striker situation: at the beginning of the season, Danny Welbeck was paired with Wayne Rooney to lead the line, in part because of Welbeck's form, and in part because of the injury Chicharito picked up during the US pre-season tour. Later, when Welbeck went down with an injury, it was the young Mexican who was preferred as Rooney's strike partner, while Dimitar Berbatov continued to languish on the bench.  But due to the Bulgarian's form over the past month -- with 6 goals in his last 4 games -- it was Berba who was handed the start again last night, while Chicharito now seems slotted in as fourth choice.  Never one to rely on history as his guide, Sir Alex is all about "What have you done for me lately...?"

o And despite all that, my guess is Sir Alex left the game last night wondering exactly who his best two strikers are at the current moment. Berbatov was largely ineffective -- to be fair, he didn't get much in the way of quality service -- necessitating the introduction of Welbeck. And when that wasn't deemed sufficient, Sir Alex also threw Chicharito into the mix. But with none of the four strikers finding the net, just who has the hot hand going into the City game?

o The penalty call on Rio in the home fixture may have been evened out by referee Howard Webb's non-call in the first half last night.  At the very least, Ferdinand's challenge which sent Demba Ba sprawling in the box was significantly clumsier than the challenge for which he was penalized at Old Trafford.  Alan Pardew was so incensed by the decision (and another non-call by Webb which followed) that he resembled someone Howard Webb would lock up in his day job more than he did the coach of Newcastle.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Liverpool Redux

photo by abulhussainvia PhotoRee

Yes, yes, I know you what you want to read is about Liverpool vs. Manchester City, but what Correspondent Scott wanted to write about was Liverpool vs. Newcastle.  To each his own....

o farlieonfootie thought the Liverpool - Newcastle game was a snoozer, but it was an emotional rollercoaster for me.  After a second own goal in as many games, it seemed Liverpool fans were in for another game in which the Reds dominate the action but still manage to lose or tie at best – especially given that they were playing at Anfield, which has not been a lucky locale for them this season.  In fact, the only time I’ve seen Liverpool win at home lately has been while playing FIFA 2012 on the Wii which, despite the sounds, player names and graphics, fails the realism test as it is Andy Carroll who scores all the goals.

o While Carroll has failed to impress since his arrival at Anfield, Craig Bellamy, on the other hand, has been a welcome surprise.  His speed and tenacity have seen him make a positive impact in every appearance and he single-handedly salvaged this game for the Reds with his brace that spanned the half-time interval.  Bellamy’s play of late certainly warrants more time on the pitch.

o Another player who has been consistently dangerous and creative, despite not scoring and, thus, disappointing many, is Stewart Downing.  His speed down the flanks, whipped-in crosses and excellent overlapping play with a fully-healthy Glen Johnson have opened up other lanes for the rest of the team to exploit.

o O Captain! My Captain!  The return of Steven Gerrard, via two second-half substitutions of the can’t-seem-to-fully-get-in-a-groove Charlie Adam, has shown beyond any doubt that he simply makes the team better.  His ability to keep possession and find that dangerous pass (something Adam seems to have left at Blackpool) inject a little something extra into the rest of the squad.  Gerrard's presence on the pitch is immediately noticeable, which he proved by nearly gathering an assist with his first touch of the ball in the prior game.  And his goal against Newcastle to seal the points was clinical from a tight angle after concluding that Carroll was blanketed by prison uniforms.   But, unfortunately, one of his most sublime passes through on goal was to the hapless Carroll who bungled the control.   Between tripping over his own feet and getting bear hugged by Mike Williamson any time the ball was in the air, Carroll suffered another frustrating day, his best effort being a header that clanged off the cross bar.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Walk of Shame: BPL Round 20

post-oscars walk of shame
Photo by Skampy on Flickr

Chelsea vs Wolves was a nasty, brutish affair, long on sharp elbows and short tempers, the type of game one would expect to be populated with some of the more memorable characters from Bill Buford's defining work on British football hooliganism, Among the Thugs.  Even without Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis, though, Wolves gave Chelsea all they could handle on set pieces, as Chelsea' defense continued to look shakier than Correspondent Ed after the week-long Christmastime "Hill-a-day" bender.

o He may not be much of a motivator, but Andre Villas-Boas has already displayed a world class knack this season for taking his best players off the pitch right when they're needed the most. Yesterday it was Juan Mata who was handed the pink slip just minutes before Wolves managed to slip an 84th minute equalizer behind Petr Cech.   Luckily for Chelsea, AVB inexplicably forgot to pull Frank Lampard -- who saved Chelsea from going five games in a row without a win with his 89th minute side-footed winner.  The two make a pair of strange bedfellows, both clearly needing but disdaining the other at the same time.  And while many (including, apparently, AVB) have been quick to write him off, check out Lamps' stats: he's got 6 more goals this season than the £50 million bust Fernando Torres, and is in fact Chelsea's second leading scorer on the season.  Nice job, big guy.

o If Chelsea's dodgy performance vs. Wolves wasn't enough to make it obvious to even a casual observer, the full extent of the Blues' current weakness was shown when the same Aston Villa team that took them apart on Friday was manhandled at their own stadium by Swansea City on Monday. Yes, the very same Swansea City that had managed to go half the season without figuring out how to win a game away from home. This is not to say the Swans are poor -- far from it, the Swans are giving a heroic account of themselves in the League this season -- but rather that Villa is poor, and so too are the current incarnation of Roman's Blues.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Return of the Hills: Round 19 in the BPL

photo by s_zeimkevia PhotoRee

Round 19 in the BPL came and went in a booze-induced fog, impairing this reviewer's judgment and clouding his memory.  The festive merrymaking that accompanied the weeks' off-pitch activities coincided with a visit from a former pair of farlieonfootie correspondents, the Hills.  Now utilized as undercover reporters sniffing out sinister developments in the Natural Gas scene for our sister website http://www.farlieonfracking.com/, the Hills left a path littered with human destruction after their return to corporate headquarters: Correspondent Ed was forced to visit a doctor twice inside of seven days for issues related to his more delicate parts, Correspondent James went missing well before midnight at the office New Year's Eve shindig, and Correspondent Scott's wife was verbally assaulted by an inmate who had recently escaped the local lunatic asylum.

Appearing majestically perched on the bow of their megayacht -- christened the "Frack Me" -- the Hills arrived in South Florida posing as a pair of North Carolina enterpreneurs looking to invest in the oil and gas business.  Staying true to their undercover roles during the course of their week-long stay, the Hills entertained a slew of people on board their spectacular 524 foot megaship, all the while serving special alcoholic concoctions they called "Drilling Mud" in an attempt to pry corporate secrets out of loose lipped industry insiders.   Culminating in a spectacular party featuring a bar-top dirty dancing contest won by Mrs. Hill, and a 14 mile chase of a Belgian beer distributor's truck through the streets of Fort Lauderdale by Mr. Hill, farlieonfootie's office crew was blindsided by the return of their former correpsondents, and unable to properly focus on the task for which they are so handsomely compensated: covering the ins and outs of the BPL. 

What follows, then, is a somewhat abridged version of the week's most notable observations.  This column should revert back to normal for Round 20's results, pending the length of Correspondent Ed's detoxification procedure.  With no further ado, off we go:

o Although the round begain in a fairly tame manner (see my thoughts on Liverpool vs Newcastle, below), it quickly developed into the most dramatic weekend yet in the BPL.  Talk about the power of the lower classes -- top dogs Man City, Man United and Chelsea all lost to lowly and troubled teams, and none more dramatically than Ji Dong-Wong's last-kick-of-the-round winner to send Manchester City fans home with a serious case of the blues.