All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘referees’

Not My Day…Kinda

Posted by hiphopmama on August 29, 2009

As good as the early weeks of the season have been to me, today was not my day. All the well-intentioned advice keeps telling me to fastidiously separate my subject matter, but fuck it – I watch multiple leagues, so I’m going to write about all of them at once. If you only keep up with one and are offended by my mixing, a thousand apologies. But this is how the day played out for me.

Act I

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
0-1 Arshavin, 40′
1-1 Rooney (pen), 59′
2-1 Diaby (0g), 64′

Inter 4-0 AC Milan
1-0 Thiago Motta, 29′
2-0 Milito (pen), 36′
3-0 Maicon, 45′
4-0 Stankovic, 67′

First off, fuck your bitch and the click you claim. Wait, that’s Tupac, but it could just as well have been my intro to Manchester United and their showdown with my Gunners, as much as I hate those Red Devil bastards and their gum-smacking manager. Things started out promisingly enough, with an AMAZING strike from Arshavin on 40 minutes putting Arsenal ahead. It really was unbelievable, a good 20+ yards out, and he lasered it into the upper corner of the net while a hapless Ben Foster barely got a hand to it. As sublime as that strike was, the second half went completely in the other direction very quickly. Arsenal had a chance right out the gate to go up two goals when Arshavin slipped past his defender on the left-hand side, sent in a low cross with some pace, and then watched in agony as Ben Foster stuck out a leg to keep out Robin Van Persie’s point blank effort. Not long after that, ManU turned the tables and finally made good on their pressure when Almunia dove in front of Rooney and the Shrek look-alike went down. I know, I know, it was a penalty. The keeper didn’t get so much as a fingernail on the ball, and he made more contact with Rooney than Boruc did with Eduardo. ManU weren’t foolish enough to send Michael Carrick to the spot a second time, and Rooney converted the penalty easily. From there, you sensed it was going to be a matter of holding on for Arsenal, and they just couldn’t do it. Giggs, who had set up the penalty with a nice pass, put a decent free kick into the box, and Diaby inexplicably headed it into his own goal to gift United the lead and the win. I’m still not sure what he was doing – he didn’t get enough on it to be trying to put it over the bar, so I can only assume he either, a) was stupidly trying to head it back to Almunia, or b) had absolutely no idea where he was on the pitch. The second of those seems more likely, but the reason doesn’t matter because the outcome was determined. Arsenal put in some last-ditch efforts to even the scoreline, and they came as close as they possibly could without actually scoring. At the dead end of stoppage time, Van Persie actually put the ball in the back of the net, but the goal was ruled out for offside, disappointingly the correct call. There was at least a little comic relief at the end when Arsene Wenger got sent off and then got into an entertaining back-and-forth over how far was far enough away from the action. Not satisfied with his initial departure, the ref ordered him into the stands. From there, he was instructed to put some more distance between himself and his bench, so he walked out to the front of the stands amidst the screaming United fans and smiled and shrugged his shoulders, asking, “Where do you want me to go?” It would have been hilarious had the game scenario not been so painful at the moment.

I couldn’t bear to watch any of the postgame wrap-up or listen to any of the talking heads give their two cents, so I immediately muted it and went looking for something else on my DVR to watch. It’s early, I told myself, and I have plenty of football available to watch to lift my spirits. The Milan derby was today too, right? Against all logic, I still thought AC Milan could pull off a surprise result, and I was bolstered in this belief by the teams’ week one performances. Inter draws 1-1 with Bari, Milan joga’s bonito over Siena to the tune of 2-1, and Ronaldinho was sure to be resurgent again in the pairing with Pato. Right? RIGHT?? Wrong. This one was a drubbing. I’m not sure there’s any point in going through the goals. Suffice it to say that, after a brief flourish of possession and attack in the opening minutes, AC Milan absolutely folded and Inter administered an embarrassing 4-0 defeat. Gattuso was sent off in the 40th minute, which didn’t help matters, but that was only after Inter had scored twice, including one off a penalty Rino himself conceded. After that, two great strikes by Maicon and Stankovic put the game on ice, if it wasn’t already, and left me hanging my head.

I then tried to move on to Real Madrid’s opener, but FUCKING GOLTV screwed up their guide listings AGAIN, causing me to miss the opening 40 minutes of their game against Deportivo La Coruña. Strike three.

At this point, all my hopes rested with Chelsea, who became my number two team in England when I realized a few years ago Manchester United losing was more important than anything else and Chelsea were the only ones with a hope of catching them. They’ve had a great start to the season, and I didn’t foresee them letting me down against Burnley. But then laundry, and cooking, and sweeping, and mopping got in the way and prevented me from getting in a decent result during the sunlit hours of the day.

Act II

Chelsea 3-0 Burnley
1-0 Anelka, 45′
2-0 Ballack, 47′
3-0 Cole, 52′

Real Madrid 3-2 Deportivo La Coruña
1-0 Raul, 26′
1-1 Riki, 30′
2-1 Ronaldo (pen), 35′
2-2 Valeron, 46′
3-2 Lass Diarra, 60′

Finally, with the family returned home, the daughter and husband in bed, and a kitchenful of dishes to do, I flipped on the TV and cued up Chelsea. It took them the better part of the first half to really find their groove (that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), but once they did, they didn’t disappoint. Right at the end of the first half, Drogba broke out down the right and fired low across the face of the goal, setting the table perfectly for Anelka to tap it home from inches out. The second half continued in the same vein, with Ballack scoring on a diving header off a Lampard cross two minutes out of the break. The third goal was the real peach, though, and came off still more lovely passing in the set-up. Ashley Cole, who played wonderfully all game, played a little one-two with Lampard around the left corner of the box. Lampard’s lofted ball found Cole impeccably, and the left back volleyed home a stinger into the top of the net to cap the scoring.

With at least one victory under my belt, I scavenged through all the mislabeled GolTV programming I had recorded to find the Real Madrid replay and sat down to watch my most anticipated match of the new season. Despite all my best intentions, the Blancos have my undying devotion, and even my detesting (to put it mildly) of Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t put the damper on my support. An unrequited love for Raul, Casillas, and Kaka helps in that regard, though, so I was more than ready to get the La Liga season underway.

The first goal showed all the promise of what this Real Madrid might achieve, combining the old guard with the new. Kaka delivered a gorgeous ball, nutmegging TWO defenders to find a streaking Benzema (who may or may not have been offside). The keeper appeared to get a fingertip to his strike to deflect it onto the post, and the rebound fell to Raul to poke it home. It wouldn’t have been so easy had the Depor defense not stopped playing looking for the offside flag, but no matter, Real had a 1-0 lead, and it was beautifully engineered by one of the summer’s big signings. Within five minutes, though, Deportivo equalized over some iffy defending off a set piece and header by Riki. Everything just looked a little loosey-goosey back there, which is to be expected, I suppose, with all the new players in there figuring out the system. After just five more minutes, Madrid reclaimed the lead when Aranzubia brought Raul down in the box and Ronaldo coolly converted the penalty. My hatred dissipated just a tad, momentarily at least, upon witnessing his celebration, which seemed entirely earnest in the emotion he showed at scoring his first official goal for the Merengues. Despite all his pomp and hair gel, he does seem to have a legitimate love for the club and appears to want nothing more than to succeed there, which is enough to make him palatable to me. Barely.

Deportivo wasted no time coming out of halftime, equalizing a second time on a nice strike by Juan Carlos Valeron from just outside the box. Once again, some lax defending left him in too much space and he snapped it past an onlooking Casillas after receiving a nice pass from Guardado. Last season’s stand-out Lassana Diarra finally settled matters in the 60th with a surprisingly crisp hit from the top of the box. He dribbled a bit, created some space for himself, and then fired it past Aranzubia for the third time. It came a bit out of nowhere, with all the millions of Euros standing around watching him, but it secured the three points nonetheless.

Epilogue

So in the end, I finished 2-2 on the day, although that last win was a little uncertain. Still, I’ll take it, especially after how horribly it all started for me, going from awful to horrendous in the Arsenal and AC Milan losses. A big thank you to Chelsea and Real Madrid for helping me finish the 24 on a good note. We’ll see how I fare on Sunday.

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Gunners Go Through

Posted by hiphopmama on August 26, 2009

eduardo pen
Arsenal 3-1 Celtic
(5-1 aggregate)
1-0 Eduardo (pen), 28′
2-0 Eboue, 53′
3-0 Arshavin, 74′
3-1 Donati, 90′

There was never really any doubt as to what the result of this one would be, but with Fabregas nursing a gimpy hammy and considerations for the Manchester United clash this weekend, Celtic got to take their best shot. Or at least they did until my favorite name in officialdom – Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez – saw fit to award a penalty to when Eduardo went down in the face of zero contact from Celtic keeper Artur Boruc. In live action, I thought it was an iffy decision, and the replay showed the keeper pulled away from the challenge at the last minute and probably failed to even touch the Arsenal player. But, as always, these things are hard to call, and from his angle Gonzalez thought he brought him down. So Eduardo stepped up, stroked the penalty home, and the outcome was all but guaranteed.

The final two goals were icing, and both were scored in fine team fashion. Eboue was the beneficiary of the first, when a Bendtner backheel found Diaby on the left wing to set up a lovely cross and finish. Twenty minutes later, substitute Andrei Arshavin got his first Champions League goal for Arsenal when he cleverly shepherded a ball in from Jack Wilshere, turned around the defender, and slotted it past the goalkeeper. Massimo Donati eventually netted Celtic’s consolation goal on a well-taken volley, but the failure to keep a clean sheet won’t trouble the Gunners much as they progress to the group stage of the UCL.

I can honestly say I feel slightly bad for Celtic fans, whose team was robbed of any real chance in this one by the early, and clearly inaccurate, penalty call. But the tie wasn’t lost on this one call alone, and if Arsenal hadn’t scored on the penalty in the 28th minute, they would certainly have done so at some later point because they were pouring on the pressure and Celtic rarely looked likely to score. Even Tony Mowbray admitted as much, stating, “You cannot deny that over two legs, Arsenal had more quality and deserved to go through.” As for Donati’s recommendation that UEFA hand down a two-match ban to Eduardo for diving, I think his hopes for that one are about as low as Celtic’s always were for getting past Arsenal in this one. Did he go down easily? Yep. Way too easily? Probably. But for all the egregious flopping that goes on all the time, I just don’t see it happening. Wenger made a good point here as well, noting that lingering psychological damage after his horrific injury last year may have contributed to his diving (in the innocent way) to avoid contact with Boruc. “I never asked in my life any guy to dive to win a penalty, but sometimes the players go down because there is no other way to escape the tackling of the keeper, sometimes they dive. I do not want a penalty which is not a penalty, but I do not go as far as to say Eduardo dived.” Even with all that, I’ll admit it was probably a dive, but whichever way it was called, the result was always going to be the same. And besides, it’s Eduardo, about whom I’ve never heard any grumblings of cheating before.

So that’s that, Arsenal are through, and the draw for the group stage is tomorrow. What are the chances the English teams are kept on such separate paths again this year?

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That’s How It’s Done

Posted by hiphopmama on May 27, 2009

What can Brown do for you?

What can Brown do for you?

Denver 94, LA Lakers 103
     Lakers lead series 3-2

 Now that is how you play team basketball. With the talent level the Lakers have, there is no excuse for the kind of lackluster performances they’ve been turning in. Even in their wins the last two rounds, they haven’t played particularly well, just sort of scraping by and getting enough clutch plays from Kobe to make it through. There have only been two games in which we’ve played like the Lakers we’re capable of being: game 5 against the Rockets, and tonight. Those were the only two where the whole team showed up ready to scrap for every possession, dive for every loose ball, and it showed in the result. Maybe we’re only entitled to one a series. Whatever the case, I’m glad we got it tonight.

It’s ridiculous that it still needs to be reinforced at this point, but somehow the message got through that they needed to really get after the ball and play like it meant something. What a novel concept, I know, but it worked at reigniting the fire that has been missing from this team for some time. They actually looked like the team we saw run off long winning streaks in the middle of the season, with various role players stepping up at key moments to bolster the squad. Tonight, we got big assists from lots of places. The biggest one was Lamar Odom, who put down his bag of Gummy Bears and applied some Icy Hot before finally making a mark on a game in this series. I understand that his back is hurting and he’s battling through it, but it was nice to see him bring it all together in one game. Before the tip, I told my husband, “I’d like to see one of those games where Lamar grabs like 20 rebounds again.” He didn’t quite make it to 20, but he certainly fulfilled, being the offensive force we needed off the bench and running down rebound after rebound. Those four blocks didn’t hurt, either.

The other player to step up big time was Shannon Brown. His monster jam over Chris Andersen (I refuse to use his pseudonym) sparked both the crowd and the team and started the quarter-spanning run that saw us grow the lead to eleven points in the fourth. To be honest, he was playing so damn well, I didn’t want to see him go out, even (or maybe especially?) to bring Fisher in. By that time, more than halfway through the fourth quarter, it was all but locked up anyway, although Melo did manage to stretch it out for a couple more possessions. Luckily it was too little too late for the Nuggets, who will try to force a game seven back in Denver on Friday.

One note on Kobe’s understated statline tonight. He was simply masterful in this one. He scored just 22 on 13 shots, but he orchestrated the game to perfection, drawing the double-team, baiting the defenders, and then dropping it off like a quarterback dropping back for the screen pass. It was beautiful, and a sign of his maturity that he was advised before the game to be more of a facilitator tonight and he came up with the goods. No worries about scoring or shot attempts, only about Ws. He’s still got his issues, but selfishness is no longer one of them. 

And for the record, I don’t think either of the last two games was poorly officiated. Both coaches can shut the fuck up and eat a fat one if they want to blame a loss on the refs. Phil got his deserved fine, but Karl got his digs in tonight too, whining about “home whistles” and the like. Look, everyone knows there is some element of home cooking that goes on, but it swings both ways as the teams travel back and forth. If you have one less game on your home floor in a series, that’s your bad for underperforming in the regular season, not the league’s or the officials’ for calling it pretty darn consistently. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the NBA refs are the best in any of the big three sports. You can throw in international football (soccer) as well, though I can’t attest to officiating in hockey. I have some problems with calling cheap flagrants and technicals, but that’s a league office problem because they’re the ones who instruct the refs on how to make those calls in the first place. If you have a problem with that, take it up with David Stern, preferably by punching him in his smug little face. I can’t stand that guy. He can shove his dress code up the business end of his Armani suit.

Recap (first half only):

Oh, and my husband won $20 on the Champions League result. Color me blaugrana for the day.

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A Champion Caliber Win

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

Lakers Rockets
LA Lakers 108, Houston 94
     Lakers lead series 2-1

Now that is how you play and win a playoff game.  Not just any playoff game, either, but a potentially series-swinging one in a contentious match-up against a serious contender. There was very little in the way of “afters,” as they would refer to it in soccer, referring to the extracurricular activities that marred game 2. There were a couple of contentious moments, but other than that, both teams just played hard, playoff basketball and gave it absolutely everything they had.

The normally stellar refs had another good game under difficult circumstances. They managed to keep a lid on what could have been a powder keg of a game, and they got the Vujacic call right even if they got the Artest call wrong. Sasha did come down a little hard on Wafer on that three-point shot, but in reality the Nilla-man jumped at a 45-degree angle into him, which could have been called a foul on the Rockets player instead. They gave him his three free throws and got on with the game, as they should have. The Artest call, on the other hand, was not so artfully handled. Yes he came across Pau’s head a bit and he crashed awkwardly to the ground, but he at least appeared to have some intent to go for the ball and clearly wasn’t looking to cause any kind of injury. It was either a hard regular foul (my vote) or a flagrant 1 at most. I could have understood the refs going with the flagrant 1 because of the circumstances of this series, but a flagrant 2 was pretty excessive. I fully expect that one to be overturned or at least reduced, and certainly no suspension handed down.

And the game. What a game. As a Laker fan, it was about all I could have hoped for. At this point you know they’re not going to blow anybody out and keep them down double digits the whole way, especially not against as tough a team as the Houston Rockets, so grinding out a convincing victory even through the nail-biting moments is as good as it gets. It shows that kind of champions poise that we’ve been looking for in them, and which they lacked woefully in game 1, and it is the first serious indication that they may be back on the right track. 

The first quarter was close, and the biggest edge we could claim was that we won the battle of the pace of the game by putting up 30 points in the first 12 minutes. We played the second quarter even but claimed the moral advantage by taking a 2-point lead into halftime with some good play to close the half, but we really got our mojo working in the third quarter, when we scored 24 and held Houston to a mere 14 points. As always, when our defense is knuckling down, there is little anyone can do to hang with us since we have such a killer offense. 24 points isn’t exactly a huge haul for us in a single quarter, but when we hold our opponents to 14 it is as good as 30 or more. 

We rode that 12-point advantage through the fourth quarter to a victory despite a few tense minutes when the Rockets got to within 6 on a Yao Ming slam dunk. Instead of panicking, though, we simply ran our offense, upped our defense, and gritted our teeth to get the victory. The next trip down court, Farmar calmly drained a baseline jumper, and Kobe hit a ridiculous three as the shot clock was winding down to bump it back up an 11-point gap.

And that, effectively, was the game. This was a quintessential playoff game in many ways, with defense being the foremost. Neither team made it to 44% shooting, but we won that stat battle, holding the Rockets to 41.7% while shooting 43.9% ourselves. Our distributed scoring was another hallmark of our good team play, as Kobe’s 33 was amply supported by 16 from Odom, 13 from Pau and Ariza, 12 from Farmar, and 8, 6, and 4 from Brown, Walton, and Bynum, respectively. The most impressive stat of the night, for my money anyway, was the turnover breakdown. While we scored 20 points off 17 Rockets turnovers, they were only able to capitalize with 5 points off just 6 turnovers. That means that all game long, we took care of the ball every single possession except for 6. That is simply incredible, especially for this Lakers team, which often seems to think it can get away with any number of turnovers by hitting shots. 

To me, this game came down to good coaching. No disrespect to Adelman, who has clearly done an incredible job getting the most out of this team without its best player and leading scorer, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the savvy – or star power – as Phil Jackson, and PJ worked his magic again tonight. No Derek Fisher? Fine, we start Jordan Farmar and instill the confidence and readiness in him to go out and have the biggest game of his career. (His stat line was 12 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 turnover, by the way.) We lost home court and need this win to put ourselves back in the driver’s seat? Okay, our guys will come out ready and grind through a tough defensive game despite the “soft” label that is still being bandied about. The accusation that we don’t want it enough? Pfft. Just read our efficiency statistics and tell me who was better prepared for this game.

Let’s not get it twisted, now. This series is still a long way from over. That 75% number they kept quoting for teams who win game 3 after being tied 1-1 is all well and good, but it still means that 1 in 4 teams who lose game 3 come back to take the series. Those aren’t the most reassuring numbers as far as I’m concerned, and when this Rockets team is involved, I’m even tentative to call this more than a momentary advantage. But tonight’s was a huge game, make no mistake, and I do believe it will be a postseason-defining moment for us. If we can really drive the stake into their hearts all the way in the next game, we could essentially break their spirits and set ourselves up to close it out at home just like in the first round, as remarkable as that sounds. Will it happen? I’m not sure, but I’d say we have a good chance of doing it with our squad back at full strength Sunday with Fish’s return. My fingers are definitely crossed, though.

Highlights:

And here is Kobe’s 30+ footer to close the third quarter and give us the 12-point cushion that saw us through:

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Damn

Posted by hiphopmama on January 14, 2009

The Shot

The Shot

LA Lakers 111, San Antonio 112

(31-7)

That’s all I can say about this one. Damn. We shouldn’t have even been in a position to win it after going down by eleven midway through the fourth. With the Spurs’ touted defense, that should have been game, set, and match. But somehow, with Kobe pulling all the strings and Josh Powell draining jumpers, we chipped away and eventually took the lead. 

It finished just like all our other big match-ups with this team, with one incredible shot after another. With the Spurs down one, Tim Duncan drives to the basket, encounters a few defenders, and appears to lose the ball, which flies up out of his hands and rattles through. Spurs up one. No time out, of course, because Phil doesn’t play that game, so Kobe dribbles up, waits for the plan to crystallize in his perfect mind, sees Mason sagging off him, and fires a three, knowing it’s going in. And it does. Lakers up two. There are 10 seconds left and the Lakers have a foul to give. San Antonio is out of timeouts. If we can just execute here, the worst we leave with is overtime. Can you guess what happens? An almost steal, Fisher ends up behind Mason, who steps just inside the three point line, gets nailed from behind by Fish, and drains the shot. Tie game, Mason going to the line. He makes the free throw, but there are still more than nine seconds left. Once again, no time out, and this time I disagree. The first time, there was no dead ball in between, no chance for Pop to sub players in or out for defensive purposes. This time, with the free throw, the Spurs got to reset and prepare defensively. So instead of drawing up a play to make sure Kobe is the deciding factor, on either the pass or the shot, he dribbles up court and of course the Spurs trap him at half court to get the ball out of his hands. He finds Ariza at the top of the key, which doesn’t seem so bad at first. But then he traveled. 0.8 seconds left. Game over.

It would have been sickening if it wasn’t so damn much fun to watch. I’m glad I’m a little older, although not much wiser, because this is the kind of game that would have had me sulking for a week in the past. Now, though, I just sit in awe after watching an incredible game of basketball. Would I have liked to see us win it? Absolutely, especially because we earned it down the stretch. When it matters, we are excellent late in fourth quarters, except for one critical moment: that last defensive possession. No matter what we do, that one always kills us. Teams don’t always make us pay – like Houston didn’t last night, like the Heat didn’t – but the better teams will, as San Antonio proved. I don’t know what can be done to remedy the problem, considering what quality and experience we have on the court in those situations, but it has to be fixed, because we have a troubling tendency to make games closer than they need to be and closing out is crucial. 

It’s a tough one, to be sure, but I’m slowly coming around to Phil’s long-term view on the season. We aren’t even at the All-Star break and we’re in a dead heat with three other teams – all from the Eastern Conference – for the best record in the NBA. This was the second game of a road back-to-back and we had not one single guard available to come off the bench (unless you count Sun Yue, which I don’t). We’ve been without a back-up point guard for a while now, and we just got our true sixth man back. I’m not whining – and I’m certainly not going to act a Kings fan and discredit the Spurs’ win because of it (still bitter – can you tell?) – but it helps lessen the blow somewhat. I still don’t think that, at the end of a grueling season, in a seven game series, the Spurs or any other Western Conference team can take us. How we hold up against the East in the Finals is another story, but I’m not counting anybody out at this point.

The talk after the game from a number of corners was about whether or not Ariza actually traveled or was tripped, and how the Lakers reacted to the ref’s call. Even before that last play, I had been thinking about how well officiating is handled in the NBA. I’ve always complained about how the NFL can be both so precise and so lax in its officiating – with all those rules about who can be on the line of scrimmage and where and eligible this and that, you would think that they would be able to properly call a delay of game penalty when it occurs or stop the clock as soon as a team calls a timeout. Yet these things routinely go awry. Soccer has its own set of problems with, I believe, not enough officials to cover such a huge pitch and squabbles over potentially allowing replay for key situations. And I’m not even going to talk about baseball, because that’s a joke – both the sport itself and the way it’s run. (Tell me we still need the umpire system we currently have when ESPN can tell me definitively if it’s a strike or a ball.) The NBA, though, has an effective, streamlined system that works so often that we are able to pick out the bad moments so easily and belabor them. I’m not gonna lie – there’s a good argument to be made that Ariza was tripped, but it’s not something I get bitter over because I know everything else has been done to ensure that the game is called correctly and, more often than not, it is. When tennis first started its replay system, everyone was amazed to see just how often calls were missed. As it turned out, the lines were called correctly the vast majority of the time, with player challenges being held up around 30% of the time and often less. And that’s only when players choose to challenge, not even including the other calls that everyone accepts as correct. All I’m trying to say is that, while it’s easy to bash the refs (and they should be held accountable when they eff it up), I gotta give credit where it’s due, and the NBA has been easily the most judicious in keeping its officiating house in order. I love NBA refs, even Joey Crawford’s punk ass, and I have a personal affinity for a lot of them, including Danny Crawford and Violet Palmer. So whether or not they got it right tonight, it still sits well with me because, Tim Donaghy aside, I’m not worried about some sort of Calciopoli-type scandal going on. Keep up the good work, dudes.

Game recap:

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