You can be a Fantoo – sports viewed by serious women fans

Women are sports fans… too! That’s the notion behind Fantoo, featuring a blog and downloadable podcast (mp3 via iTunes here). A far cry from the Italian women “sports journalists” that are sported on television programs (“il calcio“) in Italy, Fantoo is for serious sports fans. Launched and operated by Robin McConaughty and Carol Doroba, there is plenty of interesting [and at times quirky] commentary that, as Robin mentions in the videoclip below, is enjoyed by guys as well as girls.

Being based in Philadelphia, Robin covers my dear Flyers. And here you can follow the Podcast, interview and on-ice throw-down with Flyers’ enforcer Riley Cote! If you are interested in how the hockey goons start a fight, you can hear it from Riley in this clip. As Robin said to me, “…things always go better when you ‘ask in a nice way’.

With the Philadelphia Flyers heading into the first game of the first round tonight (of the Stanley Cup 2009, that is) with our Keystone rivals, Pittsburgh, I can only imagine that Riley will have his hands full more than a few times.

And kudos to Robin and Carol for their fantoo.

Philadelphia Eagles fly by the Vikings in Wildcard Playoff 2009

Philadelphia Eagles LogoIn the National Football League (that’s American Football), the Philadelphia Eagles [my preferred NFL team] made it into the 2009 playoffs with a wild card berth, thanks to a thrashing of the pre-season champion favourites Dallas Cowboys 44-6 in the dramatic regular season finale as well as invaluable help from two other teams (Oakland upset Tampa Bay and Houston beat Chicago). A veritable little miracle.

In the matchup against the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) on this Sunday (yesterday), the Eagles (9-6-1) put the home team to rest in frigid Minneapolis and advanced to the next round with an impressive 26-14 victory. Next up, the biggest Philadelphia rival, the New York Giants; as I have many friends (Brad, Sam, Burg, my father to mention a few…) who support the NYG, so I look forward to this NFC Semi-Final game.

With the MBL Phillies having already won the World Series,
the NHL Philadelphia - Brotherly LOVEPhiladelphia Flyers currently on top of their division (if a little precariously) and my beloved Reds of Liverpool FC on top of the England premiership, I am beginning to think 2009 will be an auspicious year for my professional sports teams. In any event, it is starting off well (and my happiness will not depend on the outcome of the various matches I assure you).

With this early success and good karma, it is as enjoyable a reason as there can be to wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Hearty New Year 2009.

Philadelphia Phillies World Series 2008 Winners

I have not made a secret that I am a Philadelphia sports fan.  I have also written about how miserable it has been supporting the losingest set of teams in the US.  I wrote an article in Sportingo that received some serious flack, establishing the poor combined championship records of the various major teams of Philadelphia (76ers in NBA basketball, Eagles in NFL American Football, my beloved Flyers in the NHL hockey and the Phillies in MLB Baseball).  The 25 year drought for a city championship is over.  Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies became “world” champions (which title I hope one day will be converted into an appropriate name such as [N]ABC: [North] America’s Baseball Champions…).  The oddities of the 5th and final game included the fact that the game lasted nearly 50 hours (rain delay in the middle).  They won in sordid conditions, but the win is in.  Not since 1983 has a Philadelphia team (76ers) won a championship.  The city’s teams have made it to 7 championship finals in those 25 years and had lost each time.  The last time the Phillies won, I was in secondary school. 

Not that I really like baseball, but I can admire the tactics and matchups.  I certainly respect the pitchers and batters alike (and can thank my old roommate, Brad, for taking me to the batting cage at University to give me a whiff of real baseball).  In difficult economic times, winning a championship can buoy spirits.  I don’t believe it will make a material difference; but it certainly feels good to win.

Meanwhile, I continue my rain dance for the Philadelphia Flyers who have come out of the season-starting flunk with three handy wins.  It looks like another long season though.  That said, maybe another philippic might help promote another Philly prize?

Philadelphia Phillies Fly into the World Series 2008

Not since 1993 have the Philadelphia Phillies made it the World Series (we’re talking US baseball here, folks). And not since 1980 have they won the overall championship. And, this week, the Phillies trounced the Los Angeles Dodgers to make it to the final playoff. Their opponent is as yet undecided (Tampa Bay lead the Bouncing Back Boston Red Sox 3-2 in their best of seven match, having rallied from a 0-7 deficit going into the bottom of the 7th inning to come back and win 8-7 last night…wow).  I send all my positive energy over to the Philadelphia team… and hope that I can rewrite my article in Sportingo (link here to my article, wherein I kabboshed Philadelphia and its sporting franchise’s propensity to lose), if not history…

May the city of Brotherly Love not Lose this one!  Naturally, I would like the Flyers to start winning games, too.  But I guess you can’t win ’em all.

Politics & Sports : Philadelphia Flyers to have hockey mom Palin throw down first puck

I am a disgruntled Philadelphia Flyers fan this morning when I discovered that Ed Snider, the Flyers’ owner, has chosen to have GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin drop the opening puck at the season opener. Granted she is a hockey mom. However…

Can politics and sports be mixed? Absolutely, but it depends on how.
For example, having your own city mayor throw out the first ball is quite normal — an opportunity to be with your electors. Even having the serving president do so is quite an honour — serving the people who (in normal elections) voted for you in majority.

However, to have a political candidate come out before the election is more than casting an opening puck. It is like trying to sway voters — and all the more important as it is in one of the swing states. Here’s the story from the Flyers’ site.

Does the owner of the club have the right to impose his political views on the paying hockey fan?

What do you think of this?

Added after the match (Saturday October 11 2008):
It seems like the Palin puck drop helped the gloves drop too within two minutes of the start of the match. See here the match report. And along the way, the Flyers allowed the first four goals and dropped their home opener 4-3 against the red hot New York Rangers. It seems like the Rangers’ BLUE Line (read: Democratic) held up to the Flyers comeback attempt…. Oddly enough, in the losing effort, backup Nittymaki and Mike Richards picked up the second and third star awards for the game.

Philadelphia Flyers defy Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of Eastern Conference Finals 2008

Philadelphia Flyers battling it out with the Pittsburgh PenguinsFeeling penned in, Philadelphia Flies the Coop to live another day…winning Conference Final Game 4 by 4-2

The Philadelphia Flyers have had a great 2008 season when all is said and done and, regardless of the outcome of game 5 in Pittsburgh (the chances of a comeback are truly nought in this series), any Flyers fan should be well satisfied with the Eastern Conference Finals appearance. This is for two main reasons:

1/ The Flyers went from a last place finish in the NHL last season to top FOUR (there is no third place playoff with Dallas)…along the way knocking off two higher seeds (including the top seed, Montreal). And getting into the playoffs was a performance by itself — considering the disastrous 10-game losing streak in the latter part of the season.

2/ There is hope yet that next season CAN be better as they got to this point without their best player (Simon Gagne who had played all of 7 games and then was out with a “mild” concussion) and they [will have] bowed out against the mighty Pens without their best defensive player, Kimmo Timonen (which hurts against the best NHL offensive player Evgneni Malkin). Moreover, there are several rookie or young Flyers who, with a solid playoff run and a good season under the belt, may come out to bloom…

Meanwhile, it is quite fun to observe the two Conference finals. The Penguins are dominating the Flyers in much the same way the Detroit Red Wings are dominating the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final. And, the two dominating teams both have led their Conference Finals series 3-0 and both lost the fourth game away against the “we have nothing to lose” mentality of the reeling opposition.

Now the Flyers must go to Pittsburgh and Dallas must go to Detroit to face the executioner. The home teams in both cases are ruthless: the Pens are 11-2 in the Playoffs, 7-0 at home. Detroit is 11-3 overall and also 7-0 at home. And, if a playoff game hinges on any one player, Marty Turco has managed to beat Detroit only once lifetime and is 0-9-2 at Detroit.

There is talk in Philadelphia that Braydon Coburn and Kimmo may return for Game 5 in their relative bruised conditions. Even the the consideration is inspiring. The “nothing to lose” mentality will go to Pittsburgh and we’ll see what happens; but come what may, it has been a great season for the Flyers and a great demonstration for any corporation that has been “down and out”: performance follows the quality of the team as a whole when the team knows how to stick together in the tough periods.

Flyers bully Montreal out of Conference Playoffs 2008

Philadelphia Flyers 2008 CalendarWell, it’s time I fessed up. Our Philadelphia Flyers bullied the Montreal Canadiens 6-4 (read here Game Trax — in Montreal) in Game 5, enough to win a convincing Conference Semi-Final playoff by 4 games to 1. My prediction had been for a Habs victory in 6 or less games. Got that wrong (at least for the Flyers, I got it wrong…I was right that Liverpool would be knocked out in the Champions’ League semi-final, if with the very wrong score).

Bravo to the Daniel Briere (who was ironically held scoreless in game 5), Marty BironPhiladelphia Flyers Logo (another 31 saves) and, most notably, RJ Umberger, a truly talented all-rounder. Worth noting again the the Flyers field a very Canadian team…with 15 players from up north (and arguably the three best — Briere, Biron and Gagne — from Quebec, although Gagné is still out with concussion).

I suspect the next stop will be Pittsburgh (they play game 5 this afternoon). Considering the season’s awful record against the Penguins, the outlook again doesn’t look good (same problem with the Canadiens for the Flyers this past season).

No prediction this time, but I have to assume it is going to take another herculean team effort and some masterful coaching. The sum of the parts was clearly bigger than individual parts against Montreal.

Liverpool v Chelsea & Flyers vs Capitals, now the Habs

As is frequently the case, in the big games, it is all about creating your ‘luck’. But in sports fan-dom (sitting in your canape or reading, etc), you win some and you lose fun (oops, I meant ‘some’).

The Reds of Liverpool (my team in the English Premiership) locked horns withLiverpool FC Champions League Semi-Finals Chelsea in the European Cup semi-finals for the third time in four years. It is impressive to think that the opponents of the semi-finals of such an international tournament can virtually become a franchise rivalry. Nonetheless, unlike the first two encounters where Liverpool, playing away the first leg, finished up on top, Tuesday’s home goal concession — an own goal in injury time — and a 1-1 score will likely prove fatal. John Arne’s Riise’s header into his own goal FIVE minutes into injury time will surely haunt him and the team leading up to next Wednesday’s showdown at Stamford Bridge. Both goals in the game were from errors rather than good plays. Sometimes, it is just about capitalising on your luck…

Philadelphia Flyers 2008 PlayoffsVirtually at the same time, the only other professional team I follow, the NHL Flyers of Philadelphia, playing against the Washington Capitals, managed to overcome the tide of momentum–having given up a 3-1 series lead and several leads in games–to eek out a 3-2 win in OT in Game 7. Heroics, great goaltending and grit. Good ole hockey saw the Flyers capitalise over Caps. The Flyers had to overcome some odds as well: Previously, Biron was 0-5 playing in the second night of consecutive games. Lupul, who scored the game winner, hadn’t scored a point in the entire series. And the Flyers, who had a franchise worst ever, NHL basement record last year are into the second round.

Now, the next round brings up the redoubtable Montréal Canadiens — my ex-home team. Bonne chance, mes amis!

I welcome some banter (taunts and progmostics) from my old friends and colleagues in Montréal–or any Habs fans for that matter! For myself, I believe if the Habs dont win in 6 or better, it will be a surprise.

And, as for Liverpool, they are facing a titanic uphill battle considering their record at Stamford Bridge. My prediction: 0-0 on Wednesday, therefore Blues over Reds. Anyone care to forecast differently?

Slyevisha stantia, Mosckva!

Philadephia Flyers’ Losing Streak Continues

Philadelphia Flyers 2008Well, Philly fans, here we are in the midst of another stinging Philadelphia Flyers’ losing streak. The Philadelphia Flyers are now winless in a franchise-tying 10 games in a row, have lost the services of LW Simon Gagne (“A”) for the season and now have lost their star center and leading scorer Mike Richards (2nd “A”) for 3 weeks. These injuries come on top of Lupul and Downie (RWs) and 3 defensemen, including tall lumbering Rathje and ex-Captain Hatcher. In all, 8 players are injured at the time of writing.

After getting 2 points in each of 14 out of 19 games (with 2 Overtime loses and 3 regulation losses) in the span Dec 22 until Feb 5 and rocketing into first position, the Flyers switched gears and have since plummeted into the dark depths of a streak where nothing goes right, including this last loss against the Panthers where they conceded the tying goal in the last 4 seconds of regulation time. They now lie in 9th position, below the last available playoff spot and tied with the New York Islanders.

If it is any consolation, the league leading DETROIT RED WINGS are presently accompanying the Flyers in their horror trip, as the Red Wings have lost 8 of their last 9 games. Yet, they still lie in first place overall in the NHL, with 89 points, six points ahead of the 2nd place Dallas Stars, and 11 points ahead of the Eastern Conference leading Senators. Doesn’t actually make me feel any better; but, the feeling in the locker room must start to feel like the feeling in the Flyers’ locker room with one big difference: no matter what happens, the Red Wings will still make it into the playoffs, even if they are also suffering from a large contingent of injured players, including the supremely talented Lidstrom.

When a team hits this type of losing streak, even as professionals, they must figure out how to get out of the funk, without the team starting to snap at each other…and the blame game getting in the way of lucidity. A team in the midst of such a streak needs to stay cohesive, look for and build on the small wins, even in the losses. The team needs leadership. The challenge they will have, at least over the next couple of days, is knowing that the composition of the locker room is probably about to shift radically.

With the trading deadline about to fall (Feb 26 at 3pm EST), you can only imagine that the Flyers will be active in the market in an effort to stay in the playoff hunt. What of the future of Daniel Briere who has managed to take his career -5 +/- rating coming into the season to a frightening -28 (-23 this season thus far)? Even if Coach Stevens says Briere cares, it is tough to look beyond the statistics and the $52MM package. Darren Pang talks here on Fox NHL of how he expects the Flyers to be shopping, including trading the now-injured Richards. It would be a shame to throw away talent needlessly for this season which started out so promisingly. Not that the Flyers are ready to build a Stanley Cup team, but with Gagne’s career hanging in the balance, I believe that the salary cap restrictions and regulations make the options limited for any quick fix.

Living in Paris, I miss the ability to watch the games live and to share the stories with my old colleagues with passionate hockey players and fans in Montreal. A trip through Montreal at the end of month will be very welcome, once I get over the ribbing of the drubbings the Habs have dished out to the Flyers this season.

Strikes in Paris, Blogger & Yankees

strikes in parisWith a transport strike in Paris now underway, a breakdown with Blogger today (although it wasn’t exactly a strike, it almost felt like it) and the general strikeout by the Yankees (and maybe soon the Red Sox in the ALCS), it seems that strikes are in the air. And it doesn’t stop there. A quick google of union strikes and you will find the UK’s Royal Mail undergoing its largest dispute in the last 11 years (narrowly averted strike tomorrow). On the other hand, the German train drivers have called a strike for tomorrow as well. Even the BBC is under threat. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t speak about how my Philadelphia Flyers are striking it hot (4W 1L in first five games).

The threat of the Parisian strike over-running into Friday and Saturday means that the Rugby World Cup Final and runner up match could be impacted. Fans flying in from RSA are in for a rough landing… In a show of good sportsmanship, I encourage all Parisians to drop off Velib bicycles at Roissy CDG Airport to help transport the South African and English fans into and around Paris. Finally, the plan to have Vélib…was it not a hidden way (by Mayor Delanoë) to try to get around the chaos of the strikes.

Tomorrow promises to be a messy day in Paris (notwithstanding the timing of the divorce announcement by Cecilia Sarkozy; what kind of strike prompted this decision one might ask?). Hopefully, a resolution and the sun (forecast) will come out in time for good fun rugby to take place. And, of course, victory for the Rose of England.