Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Below Average SportBLOG #6 - The Un-American American Sport Report

Since the podcast is a predominantly English sporting podcast lets mix it up and see how things are going in the sporting world across the pond, three of the major leagues are up and running at the moment, Baseball is currently coming to its conclusion with the World Series, the NFL is half way into the regular season and the front runners for the Super Bowl in February are coming to the fore, the NHL has started with some interesting teams leading the way in both conferences while the NBA is waiting in the wings starting tonight.

Major League Baseball

A season that started all the way back in April is coming to its thrilling conclusion as the San Francisco Giants take on the unfancied Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series, after 6 gruelling months, 162 regular season games it has come down to just 7 games to decide who is the league champions. Kansas City came through the American League claiming a wildcard spot to qualify for the playoffs after finishing just behind division rivals Detroit Tigers while the Giants were in a similar situation in the National League qualifying for a wildcard behind the much fancied Los Angeles Dodgers. The Royals reached the World Series first beating the Oakland Athletics in the one game Wild Card round a game they came back from 5-0 down to win 9-8 in extra innings thanks to a walk off (Game Winning hit) single from catcher Salvador Perez. After just squeaking through the wild card they went to LA to take on the Los Angeles Angels who were the preseason favourites to win the entire playoffs, in the end the Royals swept them 3-0 winning the third and final game in Kansas City 8-3 to keep their postseason alive. The sweeps kept coming for the Royals after they beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-0 in the American League Championship Series winning both games 3 and 4 2-1 in low scoring defensive battles to send them to their first World Series since 1985. Meanwhile in the National League the San Francisco Giants went through an eerily similar process, in the Wild Card round the Giants went into Pittsburgh and destroyed the Pirates winning 8-0 thanks to a grand slam by Brandon Crawford and a shut out by pitcher Madison Bumgarner. In the next round they faced off against the much fancied Washington Nationals and won the series 3-1, the highlight of the series being an 18 inning, 6 hour marathon in game two that the Giants won 2-1. As the National League Championship Series rolled round and with the Giants rolling they went through the St Louis Cardinals winning 4-1 with victory coming in the best possible fashion as Travis Ishikawa blasted a three run home run in the last inning to send the Giants to the World Series.

Game 1 of the World Series kicked off in Kansas's Kaufmann Stadium and the Giants turned up to put an end to the Royals 8 win streak in the playoffs after winning 7-1 primarily thanks to three runs in the first inning for the Giants, Madison Bumgarner had another fantastic pitching display before giving up his first run in the playoffs to a Salvador Perez home run after keeping a shut out going for 32 innings. In Game 2 the Royals came back the next night with a 7-2 victory thanks to a big 6th inning which saw them score 5 runs to level the series before heading off to San Francisco. Game 3 and the series was flipped on its head as the Royals took the series lead following a 3-2 victory, the Royals tried and tested formula of good pitching and fantastic defence that saw them into the postseason handed them a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 saw the Giants fight back this time winning 11-4 thanks to some big hitting from Pablo Sandoval to kickstart the Giants defence. This passed Sunday Game 5 saw Madison Bumgarner pitch the first complete game shutout in the World Series for 11 years as the Giants beat the Royals to take a 3-2 series lead back to Kansas City for Game 6 where the destination of the title could be decided tonight if the Royals win tonight the series will go the distance with Game 7 being this Wednesday night.

National Football League

8 weeks into the NFL season and if you believe Sky Sports or anyone in America the Denver Broncos have already won the Super Bowl thanks to their 6-1 start to the season, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning broke yet another record this time for most touchdowns in NFL history beating the previous best by Brett Favre with his 509th career touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers. Elsewhere in the AFC the New England patriots have bounced back from a poor game against the Kansas City Chiefs to win 4 straight games to sit atop the East division, the North division is the closest with all 4 teams separated by just one win with the Cincinnati Bengals currently leading. In the South the future London franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars are holding up the rest of the division with a 1-7 record but are not the worst team in football this year as that honour belongs to the Oakland Raiders who are yet to win a game and do not look like breaking that duck any time soon. In the NFC the surprise of the season has been that last season's champions the Seattle Seahawks appear to be struggling with a 4-3 record in the West behind surprise division leaders the Arizona Cardinals, in yet more surprises the hotly tipped New Orleans Saints have been poor but to be fair so has the rest of the South division with no one having a winning record. The Eastern division is being led by "America's Team" the Dallas Cowboys thanks to some record breaking running from DeMarco Murray but the Philadelphia Eagles are hot on their heels, the North is quickly becoming a two horse race between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers with the teams still to play each other in a potentially division deciding game in the last week of the regular season.

This passed Sunday saw the second of the London games this year as the Detroit Lions just edged out the Atlanta Falcons in dramatic fashion. The Falcons started the game in the best possible way as they drived 80 yards down the field for the touchdown as Matt Ryan hit Devonta Freeman for the 7 yard touchdown pass, Atlanta then doubled their lead when Matt Ryan found tight end Bear Pascoe in the back of the end zone to give them a 14-0 lead, as the Lions carried on having a bad start the Falcons kept scoring as Steven Jackson pounded the ball in for yet another touchdown and the Falcons a 21-0 lead at half time. Then the Lions finally got their act together as an early field goal from Matt Prater started the fight back, following a Falcons punt the Lions continued their march and saw the play of the day as quarterback Matt Stafford dropped a 59 yard bomb into receiver Golden Tate's hands. The wheels really fell off the Falcons wagon when a Matt Ryan interception was capitalised on by the Lions for another field goal to cut the lead to just 8 points, while the Falcons offense continued to stall the Lions kept going and with a 7 minute 13 play drive marched the ball down the field yet again and Matt Stafford hit Theo Riddick for another touchdown and breaking the Detroit passing record for most touchdowns by a Lions quarterback but a failed two point conversion by the Lions made the score 21-19 to the Falcons. Atlanta tried and failed to run the clock down and gave the ball back to the Lions which lead to a controversial finish, starting at their own 7 yard line the Lions moved their way into the Atlanta half and left themselves with 4 seconds to kick the winning field goal Matt Prater stepped up but as the play clock expired the whistles went just as he kicked it for him to shank it wide right and give the Falcons the win.... or so they thought, the referees met and as the whistles had gone before the ball was kicked a redo was ordered from 5 yards further out, so Prater readjusted himself went again and struck the retry straight down the middle to give the Lions the 22-21 victory to the dismay of the Falcons and a lot of the NFL pundits.

National Hockey League

The NHL season is just getting into its stride and the surprise package in the Eastern conference has to be the New York Islanders and their top goal scorer Brock Nelson which has jumped them to top spot in the Metropolitan division ahead of yet another surprise team in the New Jersey Devils. In the Atlantic division the Montreal Canadiens have jumped out to an early lead thanks to the fantastic goaltending of Carey Price and their typical brand of hard defence. The Western conference has its own surprise package in the Calgary Flames as Jonas Hiller appears to have settled right in and made the Flames a contender in the stacked Pacific division. The reigning champion Los Angeles Kings bounced back from an opening night defeat to the San Jose Sharks and have racked up 6 straight wins to lie second in the division. Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars currently leads the league in points just two seasons after he was let go by the Boston Bruins for not scoring enough points, while the league lead for goals is currently shared between Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks and the often heavily criticised on the show Rick Nash of the New York Rangers.

National Basketball Association

The new NBA season kicks off tonight when reigning champion San Antonio Spurs face off against the Dallas Mavericks in the battle of Texas, all eyes will however will be on Cleveland on Thursday night as they kick their season off against the New York Knicks with their heavily stacked roster and the return of the king as Lebron James returns home to win an NBA title for his home town Cavaliers. Much was made in the off season when James decided to leave the Miami Heat and the Cavaliers have rewarded him by giving him the best possible starting 5 to play with, even better than the one he left the Cavaliers for in Miami some 5 years ago, Kyrie Irving is a future hall of fame point guard and with Kevin Love they also have the best rebounding power forward in the league. Although in theory this season could quite possibly turn out to be similar to Lebron's first in Miami where the side qualified for the playoffs but didn't progress any further even though the Eastern conference is rather weak. Meanwhile in the West it is a three horse race between the perennial under achievers in the Los Angeles Clippers, the seemingly always the bridesmaid Oklahoma City Thunder and the ageing San Antonio Spurs with names like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics look set to miss out on the playoffs for a second straight season.

So there ends another batch of waffle hopefully you will hear another show soon before another whip round  by the three of us on the interwebs

Joe Scutts
Southern Correspondant

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