Futbol/Football’s Long Journey Into Night


It’s a big day for futbol on pitches around the globe and, of course, on the gridiron Stateside. The TV kickoff in my residence came around 5:30 a.m. (ET) with the FIFA Club championship from Japan and concluded with NBC ‘s Sunday Night Football from the Meadowlands. Like my wife, you’re thinking I should get a life. You’re probably right. But here’s my scorecard for the Sunday action:

A.C. Milan-Boca Juniors   Fox Soccer Channel   5:30 a.m.

The clubs are square at 1-1 at the half. Then, Milan and particularly Brazilian star Kaka hit another gear during the second 45. Milan, avenging losses by Barcelona and Liverpool in 2006 and 2005, respectively, in this revamped competition, takes the FIFA Club World Cup 4-2 and all is right with Europeans’ view of the world soccer order. 

It would be interesting to know how many others were viewing. Next year, we should: Fox Soccer Channel is expected to become Nielsen-rated in 2008.

Torino-AS Roma    Fox Soccer Channel   9 a.m.

Must confess to digging out the car from last night’s over-hyped Northeaster (Cablevision’s News 12 meteorologist Joe Rao promised much more of the white stuff) and going to the supermarket during the first half of what turned out to be a scoreless draw. 

That wouldn’t have been the case if the first half of what FSCers described as the Premiership’s “Grand Slam Sunday” was on basic cable. Manchester United topped Liverpool 1-0 in a PPV match. 

Sort of like that Nov. 29 Dallas-Green Bay game on NFL Network.

Chelsea-Arsenal      Fox Soccer Channel   11 a.m.

As they say, the Gunners returned to the top of the table ahead of ManU, when William Gallas scored on a header at the stroke of halftime against Chelsea, which played without injured striker Didier Drogba. 

With yellow cards flying, the action was furious in the second half. Two Arsenal game-securing goals, including one by the dynamic Emmanuel Adebayor, were nullified by offsides calls. Meanwhile, Blues keeper Petr Cech thwarted several point-blank attempts by “Cesc” Fabregas. On the last, the Spaniard became so enraged he tripped defender Ashley Cole from behind. Cole in turn punched the midfielder in the neck as injury time expired. 

If only there could be as much action at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

New York Jets-New England    CBS   1 p.m.
Cold, rainy conditions ruled. And save for a couple of blocked punts, there’s not much action or scoring. Even Patriots great Tom Brady struggled with just 14 completions for 140 yards, an interception and his first game of the season sans TD pass. 

Jets starting QB Kellen Clemens sustains a rib injury while throwing an interception for a Pats’s TD early on. That brings third-stringer Brad Smith into the mix. After an option play results in a 50-yard run for Leon Washington (the Pats seemingly never give up the long-gainer for a score), the Jets face third and 18. Clemons’ predecessor Chad Pennington enters and hits Jerricho Cotchery for 16. 

Fourth and two from the 17, a field goal with the wind is in order, right? But Jets coach Eric Mangini — last year’s “Mangenius” moniker must have fallen in the manicotti or whatever dish he was eating at Nuovo Vesuvio during “The Blue Comet,” the penultimate installment of HBO’s The Sopranos saga—eschews the three and reinserts Smith. His short rollout pass to Chris Baker is about five yards behind the TE target. It’s the first of four red-zone appearances for the Jets that netted just three points. 

The biggest Gang Green gaffes, though, belong to wide-out Justin McCareins, who dropped a pass right before the half that set up a punt.New England blocked the kick at the Jets’s three and then converted for six. McCareins also bungled a punt at the two into the end zone that would have pinned the Pats deep. Of course, his most egregious error came when he bobbled a perfect TD pass from Chad, who doesn’t exactly gun it like Brett Favre.

After McCareins appled two TD passes in the waning moments against the Ravens in a 20-13 loss in week two, I would have him in Baltimore to hitch a ride north on I-95. Yesterday, he should have been sticking his thumb out on 95 in a southern direction.

Jacksonville-Pittsburgh   Miami-Baltimore   CBS   4- 4:30 p.m.
After Jets-Pats, CBS brings bonus coverage, flipping to the snowy conclusion of the Jags’ 29-22 triumph in which “Big Ben” Roethlisberger can’t bring the Steelers back again in the waning moments. 

In the meantime, the crawl on screen’s bottom showed that winless Miami was about to escape the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs’s fate when a Ravens’ FG ties matter at 16 with eight ticks remaining. Then, reliable Raven Matt Stover misses a 44-yarder in OT. CBS goes to a commercial. When Black Rock returns, Dolphins are mobbing Greg Camarillo in the end zone after the receiver turned a short slant into 64 yards worth of ecstatic relief.

But coach Cam Cameron’s first (and last?) pro victory comes with a price: The winless Dolphins visiting the unbeaten Patriots story line is kaput.  

Dallas-Philadelphia 4:30-7:15 p.m Fox    Wake Forest-Ohio State  ESPN2    3-5 p.m.

America’s Team is in a battle with its northeast nemesis. As poorly as it’s playing, Dallas takes a 3-0 lead in the second quarter. There’s plenty of time to figure this one out later, so I head back to cableland for the conclusion of the College Challenge Cup, aka the NCAA men’s soccer title game.

Just so you know, I’ve never rooted for the Buckeyes in football. And I wasn’t about to undermine that non-allegiance in futbol. Channel surfing with the NFL, I noticed that the Buckeyes had scored in the first half, but Wake tied it in the 66th minute. Then, Zach Schilawski put the Demon Deacons ahead 11 minutes later and MVP goalkeeper Brian Edwards and his club held on.

Meanwhile the face of the day — unless you prefer the vista at a luxury box in Texas Stadium — belonged to Wake’s Julian Valentin, who was kicked in the head late in the second half. He exulted in the win as blood poured across his face. Valentin braved 30 stitches after the game to close cuts to the bridge of his nose, cheek and brow.

Back in Big D, the Cowboys continue to struggle mightily against the Eagles. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of face time for Jessica Simpson, who’s now dating Dallas QB Tony Romo and is attired in a pink No. 9 jersey.

Perhaps it’s coincidental, but at a minimum, the Simpson scene is somewhat evocative of the 1990 Wimbledon final in which Boris Becker “lost his legs” in a fifth-set defeat to Stefan Edberg. Back then, NBC’s cameras continually panned the players’ box, lingering over Becker’s friend, Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt.

Yesterday, Romo didn’t have his legs and, for that matter, his arm. He missed passes all over the lot before Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Fox’s cameras began zeroing in on his thumb injury, a suspicion that seemed warranted when Romo, waiting for a receiver to break free, appeared to swat the ball out of his own hand while patting the pigskin.

Tony chalked up a 22 QB rating on the day. Hope he ranked higher with the starlet.

Washington-New York Giants    NBC    8:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
It’s windy even by Meadowlands standards and the crowd looks absolutely frozen. So, too, are Brandon Phillips’ fingers. As NBC announcer Al Michaels and John Madden point out, Jacobs, at 265 pounds, is linebacker-sized. He also catches like one: Jacobs is personally responsible for five of his club’s dozen drops that might have made QB Eli Manning’s horrible18-for-52 stats look decent.

But the real bad news for the Giants comes early in the third quarter when tight end Jeremy Shockey fractures his fibula and is out for the season. The G-men wind up on the wrong end of a 22-10 count that keeps the ‘Skins’s playoff hopes alive and New York from clinching a trip to the post-season party. 

Yet,  I’ll take some solace. Maybe, if the Giants botch next week’s game at Buffalo, they’ll still have to win in the regular-season finale to make the playoffs. The Hatriots/Greatriots are coming to town Dec. 29, likely with regular-season perfection on their mind. Maybe, Mssrs. Strahan, Tuck and Umenyiora  can mount some pressure on Brady’s Bunch…Maybe, Eli will have the game of his life…Maybe, Bill Belichick will take pity and rest his starters…Maybe, Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell and John Kerry can secure more carriage for NFL Network’s coverage of the game…Maybe, someone will beat New England in the playoffs…

Maybe, I should stop dreaming.