Sunday, July 27, 2008

USA July 2008

A spare evening in New York and maybe you'd like to visit Madison Square Garden .
OK Womens MBA is not quite Frazier v Ali but it takes place at the same venue.

New York Liberty 69 Los Angeles Sparks 68.

This is razzamatazz with some sport.

Be prepared for various fan participation games , many music interludes and some basketball.

Its not my favourite sport but for a couple of hours , in a historic setting, it was diverting enough.

Both teams had some tall, some short , most fairly heavy and some light.

No. 4, Janel McCarville at 205 lbs was one of the larger girls and she tended to impose herself.

And the culmination , a very prolonged last minute , with loads of timeouts did generate some atmosphere amongst the near 13,000 . New York just held on for a one point victory. Maybe they'll make the playoffs.

Across the country to Alameda near Oakland and over the Bay Bridge, with many others, for a Saturday early evening baseball game.
San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks (3-5) at AT & T Park

Not as cold as the old Candlestick Park but cooler than New York with the breeze coming off the Bay.
A sizeable crowd came to see two top pitchers battle for supremacy.

The Giants young Tim Lincecum pitched a best ever 13 strikeouts but Webb was the winner.
The relieving pitchers couldn't continue Lincecum's work and the Dbacks ran in 3 in the 8th to seal the win. They maintained their lead at the top of the American West.

The next day in Santa Clara (University) at Buck Shaw Stadium , the San Jose Earthquakes drew 1-1 with New York in the MLS. Not too much help for either team who are bottom of their respective leagues.

Darren Huckerby scored his first goal for San Jose - an easy tap-in following a Sealey shot.
Generally San Jose dominated the first whilst New York played better in the second - Juan Pablo Angel was moderate for the visitors. Over 9,000 watched , seated on wooden 'bleachers'. They do plan to build a soccer-specific stadium within the next 3 years.

Next on to Salt Lake City.

Yes its a little like 'Invasion of the body snatchers meets the Stepford Wives' with all those guys in suits and in temperatures in the high nineties.
Starbucks - whats that ?

But there is money around and plenty of construction going on - not least around downtown. Where the Temple area is very impressive with its clean lines and pristine, manicured flower beds.

Real Salt Lake 2 Toronto 1

Currently playing at the Rice Eccles stadium - which means you watch the game played across the prominent American Football markings and as is typical a small crowd (12,000) had plenty of space in a very large ground.

RSL lead their league and they consolidated - just about - taking the lead then being pegged back later in 2nd and seeing Findley sweep in the winner. Familiar names amongst the Toronto team included Carl Robinson, Laurent Robert and Rohan Ricketts.

The next evening your correspondent saw the Bees , the local Pacific League baseball team, beat New Orleans 11-6 . Though the surrounding area is not as salubrious as downtown the ballpark is pleasant with grassy picnic areas for the families.

The Bees score 4 in the 4th, the Zephyrs 6 in the 6th but the home team respond with 5 and later 2 more to win easily enough. Some 6,000 watched.

Via Phoenix to Oklahoma City using South West airlines.

Where its very quiet.

The National Monument (to the bomb victims) is well laid out and effective.

In Bricktown there is some activity amongst the bars and restaurants as the Redhawks , again in the Pacific League lose to the Las Vegas 51's (3-5)

Not many walked back home from the ballpark - in fact probably only me as everywhere was deserted - tumbleweed (almost) blew around the streets. As the locals would have said - 'you walked !?'

To get from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth it is possible to take the train known as the Heartland Flyer.

This is more Heartland than flier.

Its a medium pace trundle through Oklahoma into Texas and should have taken around 4 hours but took an hour longer due to freight train problems on the track. Sights along the way - some rivers and a bank 'robbed' by Bonnie & Clyde (and used in the film)
Its an alternative to driving though you clearly wouldn't want to choose this option very often.

Near to Fort Worth is Arlington and the home of the Texas Rangers (and in the next year or so the Dallas Cowboys)

Deep in the heart of Texas...
Texas Rangers 5 Seattle Mariners 8

An attractive looking ballpark with some character.

Though not too many turned out for this one (17,000) as the Rangers struggled. The Mariners scored regularly building up a decent lead and it was only in the last two innings that the Rangers got going. They had men on bases at the end but couldn't secure the comeback.

It takes over 4 hours to drive down I-45 South to Houston and past that impressive downtown skyline.

Houston Astros 7 New York Mets 3

The high flying Mets were out-hit by the Astros who smashed four home runs including a grand slam by pinch hitter Loretta.

Fortunately the Minute Maid ballpark is (generally) air conditioned to alleviate the Southern Texas heat - it has some interesting quirks - the 'home run pump' and the train that moves up and down as the runs go in.

A substantial crowd (41,000) on this Friday night enjoyed the home win over the big city team.

It was even at 3-3 until the 8th when Loretta secured the victory.

Nearby the Houston Space Center provides a diverting couple of hours - see Mission control, the Saturn V rocket and other space equipment amongst a tour of the complex. The kids get to play the numerous games in the exhibition centre.

In the evening at Robertson stadium the MLS team Houston Dynamo took on Columbus Crew.

Nearby this University ground the neighbourhood is not the best but safe enough - in a car.

Houston Dynamo 2 Columbus Crew 0

Houston didn't really have much of a problem as Columbus crashed and burned.

A predominently orange clad crowd was quite lively, including some pseudo Argentinian flags/chanting. They saw an Argentinian (Schelotto) star for the losers being generally being a class above the rest. But the Crew defence weakened and Houston took their chances.

Get up early and you can make the South West flight , via Las Vegas to Oakland.

Where LA Galaxy , including David Beckham and Landon Donovan , are the opposition for San Jose.

San Jose Earthquakes 3 LA Galaxy 2 at the Oakland Coliseum.

This was the best game of the four football games seen during this trip.

Bottom team San Jose partly inspired by Darren Huckerby led two nil , including a neat finish by the winger. LA pegged one back before the break with a trademark Becks cross for Donovan to head in.

LA showed more in the 2nd , equalised and looked favoured as San Jose tired but in a dramatic ending Cochrane knocked in the winner , with Huckerby involved again.

Ruud Gullitt was pleased with his team's effort despite the loss and Frank Yallop (of San Jose) happy though realistic.

This was to be Gullitt's last game in charge of LA.

26,000 came to see the Becks and co.

Some stayed on to see the players depart , others played football in the car park.

I strolled back to the Quality Inn and later had some Chinese food.

or more pics see

Friday, July 18, 2008

Norway July 2008

To Bergen and Bryggen, a world heritage site, very pleasant in the sunshine - the old wooden buildings drawing in the tourists and some russian sailors. For food the nearby fish market provides excellent cod & chips.
However at £10 for a beer one things for sure Norway is not a major venue for stag parties - if you go its easy to break your 'fiscal rules'.

Lov-Ham 0 Sogndal 1

Some 10km south in Fyllingsdalen, on a new artifical pitch, the home side celebrated by allowing the crowd in free with cakes an option. Some 900 odd were hungry enough to attend despite the ever-present rain onto an open 'stadium'.
They saw an average game in which Lov-Ham started ok but conceded a goal from a badly defended throw-in, scored by Kanu (no relation?)
Sogndal should have got a second as Kader raced away but one was enough.

A small number of Sogndal fans travelled and brought a couple of very large flags whereas the locals mainly brought their babies.

Bergen to Stavanger is 190 km but it takes around 5 hours by car via 2 ferries and many tunnels and bridges .

The drive is relaxing enough especially given the scenery and the 60-80km speed limits.

Norway is a big country with small speed limits and many tolls.

Even the 30km or so between Stavanger and Bryne has 3 tolls.

Bryne 5 Moss 5

After yesterdays moderate fare this was a veritable goalfest of entertainment.

Played in the old style Bryne stadium with a main stand very reminiscent of the old West stand at Leyton Orient, with a track around and open ends with an open terrace opposite.

And a decent crowd of nearly 2000 attended including some Bryne ultras with plenty of flare and flags.
For this neutral this was a terrific game although the locals probably felt a bit down after Moss scored two in the last few minutes.
The scoring included 4 goals from the Moss no.10 (Kvalheim) who was often left in too much space and there were loads of chances in a game played on a fine pitch (probably helped by the abundant rain)

for more pictures see

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ireland July 2008

Galway Utd 1 Sligo Rovers 1 in the Eircom Premier.

Cold and breezy Terryland Park , near the river Shannon, hosted this Connacht derby.

Both sets of fans had their large flags including one (almost obligatory ?) image of Che.
Galway needed at least a point being bottom of the league and with financial problems.
They scored first but soon after allowed a cross to find defender Almeida who got the equaliser. Sligo probably shaded the game , helped by Galway having a man sent off later in the game.

In the town centre tourists (and locals) enjoy the Irish atmosphere and hospitality amongst the jugglers , bars and restaurants.

Cobh Ramblers 0 St Patricks Athletic 1

Cobh, also in need of points, played one up front and let St Pats pass the ball around endlessly.

Eventually Pats made the possession count , from Guy's mis-header debutant O'Brien scored easily enough. They maintained their position as league leaders.

It's not difficult to associate Cobh ('Cove') with the sea - bars are named after the Lusitania, Mauretania and Titanic. Many of those who died when the Lusitania was torpedoed are buried there. And Cobh, or Queenstown as it was then, was the last stop on the maiden (and only) voyage of the Titanic.
The harbour , reckoned to be the 2nd largest in the world , is pleasant enough in the sunshine as you watch the ships come in whilst reading the Sunday papers.