Entries in FiFA (2)

Wednesday
Jul132011

"Miracle On Grass"- Soccer Catching On In Vegas Sports Books 

Megan Rapinoe to Abby Wambach and the header is the Miracle on Grass that launched U.S. womens soccer back into the nations consciousness.  Team USA overcame subpar FIFA officiating by an Australian referee, including a red card, having to go with 10 players to rally and tie Brazil, 2-2. Team USA then advanced to the semifinals by virtue of penalty kicks.

For Las Vegas sports books, the second Wednesday in July used to be Christmas Day. Falling after Major League Baseballs All-Star game, it was the only square on the calendar without big events to captivate bettors or TV audiences.

Soccer and women have changed that.

South American soccer championship Copa America and the made-for-TV game between Manchester United and the New England Revolution are generating action in Las Vegas. Four WNBA games and two Copa America games are on the boards of the Mirage/MGMs 12 sports books, and the Man U-New England game will be on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

It used to be (today) was the day that everyone could relax, take a deep breath and take a break, said Andrew Patterson, of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the citys dominant oddsmaker. But you do have some important games.

Those events, however, will take a backseat stateside to the suddenly scorching Womens World Cup, in which the U.S. plays France today in the semifinals at 10:30 a.m. CDT.  This is the first time that Las Vegas Sports Consultants has set odds on the womens tournament.

That game will probably have as much (bet on it) as what we do on a baseball game, said Jeff Stoneback, manager of the Mirage Sports Book.

A few trends are converging to stretch the TV-and-betting sports calendar to a full 365 days a year.

One, soccer is taking hold as a spectator sport in the U.S. as never before. Thats due in part to the emergence of Major League Soccer as a viable fifth major league, but also to the increased popularity of televised European league games.

Two, although the WNBA still struggles commercially last seasons average attendance (8,134) was about 1,500 less than the inaugural 1997 seasons (9,669) championship and international womens sports events have shown to produce significant betting and ratings.

The United States stunning comeback against Brazil on ESPN on Sunday produced the third-highest Womens World Cup rating ever, behind only the 1999 final between the U.S. and China, and the 99 semifinal against Brazil.

Three, ESPNs expanding empire is broadcasting more of everything, including womens sports and soccer. If youre on the Worldwide Leader, America is watching.

Twenty years ago the Mirage posted almost no soccer odds. Demand from international tourists means that now, Stoneback said, you can come into our book almost any day of the year and bet on soccer.

Sunday
Jul032011

2011 Le Tour de France & FIFA Womens World Cup

I walked out of my ICE cubicle on June 30, 2011.  I spent the month of July on sick leave and I retired on August 1, never returning to the scene of the crime.  That was the best decision that I ever made during my 32 year federal career.

I spent the month of July watching Le  Tour de France on Versus.  Im hooked.

The Tour is always full of drama and controversy and this year is no different.  The drug-scarred race somehow manages to keep going in spite of it all. It will have a unique and bizarre focus this year: 2011 is the year when second place could reign supreme.

Thats if 2010 winner Alberto Contador wins again this year. Hes the favourite - but is subject to a court case next month which could strip him of his title last year; and thus any right to compete in this years version.

So whoever finishes second to Contador - if thats how it pans out - could be in second place on the podium in July but Tour winner in August. The Tour, sadly, is no stranger to winners not being winners and place getters attaining a higher place than originally allotted. Acknowledged doper Floyd Landis won in 2006 before being stripped and 1996 champion Bjarne Riis later confessed to using EPO, cortisone and human growth hormone. There have been countless other cases of drugs.

However, if Contador sat out the Tour only for the court to clear him in the months ahead, as his own Spanish federation did in February, then he would have suffered a wrong that could never be righted. So it was easier to let him race - and then strip him and juggle the podium finishers if things should work out that way. Crazy? Maybe.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide whether Contador is responsible for the clenbuterol that washed through his system at the Tour last year. If his only mistake in winning last year was to eat a clenbuterol-tainted filet mignon on a rest day, which is what he says happened, then that shouldnt cause him to miss this opportunity to win again.

It took the cycling governing body, the UCI, a month to inform Contador of his positive test and another month before it went public. Spain took what seemed like an age to hear and clear Contador. The UCI and the World Anti- Doping Agency then dallied until late March to appeal that Spanish ruling to the CAS. Finally, a planned CAS hearing in early June that could have settled this whole affair in time for the Tour was pushed back to August 1-3, post-Tour, because Contadors lawyers - hes changed his counsels a couple of times - wanted more time to prepare. Contadors reputation and livelihood are at stake. The science of drug testing is complicated, even more so in this case where the amounts of clenbuterol detected were tiny and where there is evidence that the drug does sometimes leak into the food chain, because farmers illegally use it to bulk up farm animals.

Even before the CAS appeal, the report of investigation had swelled to more than 600 pages, says a lawyer who has studied it. If Contador convinces the court that he consumed the drug inadvertently, the ruling may help other clenbuterol-positive athletes who also blame bad food. So justice has not been rushed. Contador will again be going head to head with Andy Schleck (Luxembourg). They were both born to climb. But the British, led by an in-form Bradley Wiggins, are also poised to make a significant challenge. Wiggins and his Sky team are unrecognisable from last year when they talked a good game but failed to deliver.

This year they have performed strongly across the board all season and Wiggins is enjoying his best road season: third in the Paris-Nice race, a convincing win over unbeatable Fabian Cancellara in the time-trial in the Bayern Rundfahrt and then a superb win in the prestigious Dauphiné Libéré last month. We are very different this time round, the demeanour of the team is very different, insists Sky Team principal Dave Brailsford.

If I am honest, last year we had a group of individuals who rode together as a team, whereas this year we are a proper team going into the race.

Brailsford was quick to dismiss perceived criticism of Wiggins: Anybody who doubts his ability doesnt know the first thing about cycling. The guy is a class act. Its about getting him in the right form with the right group of people around him, giving him the confidence to perform to the best of his ability. He has got himself into great shape.

Wiggins isnt the only star for Sky this year. An untimely dose of shingles may yet deprive them of Edvald Boasson Hagen who has looked back to his best but Geraint Thomas is capable of stage wins and young British sprinter Ben Swift (selected ahead of Henderson) is more than capable of making his presence felt on debut, especially on days when there are small climbs before the sprint.

The stage that will decide the race is stage 18 - on July 21. Pinerolo (Itlay) to Col du Galibier (125 miles). This is the big one, a day that features 15,320ft of ascent on three hors catégorie brutes and culminates in the highest-ever finish in the Tour de France, with the survivors climbing off at the top of the Col du Galibier which tops out at 2,645m.

I TIVO the Versus coverage and watch it every morning.  The HD production and the scenery is great.  This is one of those world wide events that most viewers in the U.S. dont get, which is fine by me. 

Ive also got the TIVO going for the 2011 Women FIFA World Cup and so far, I have watched (or fast forwarded through) every single match.  Looks like the USA may come out on top of their group. The next match is Wednesday vs Sweden. USA USA USA!

Retirement is the BEST job that Ive ever had (and Ive had some jobs I really liked along the way).