Yesterday I wrote about Cricket, Today it’s European Soccer.

Before you think the Sports Guru has completely gone off the deep end, I do realize that we are in the middle of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Sweet 16 and Opening Day for the 2011 Baseball season is only a week away. But today I’m fired up about the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. You need to remember football in Europe is the same thing as soccer in America. The Finals of the Tournament will be held from June 8th until July 1st in 2012. Poland and Ukraine will be the host countries. Fifty one other nations are battling it out for fourteen other slots to join the host countries in the finals. The qualifying round began last August and it runs through November of 2011. The fifty one countries were divided into nine groups. Six groups contain six teams and three groups have five teams. They are lettered Groups A – I. How the groups were assembled is again one of those things American sports fans just don’t care about. I can tell you pots and ping pong balls (see What Happened to the Ping Pong Balls – May 21, 2008 were involved.

By now you must be asking why write about something that really won’t happen until next summer, and most American sports fans don’t care about? I have a real simple answer – it’s the National flags. In Group A two of the teams are Germany and Belgium. As you can see, not very creative. Yes the Belgium flag has vertical stripes and the Germany flag has horizontal ones. And yes, the red and yellow have been flipped. But basically it’s the same flag. I have no doubt that citizens of those countries that have eaten too much chocolate and had a few too many beers can’t tell them apart.

In Group C we have Italy and in Group E Hungary. I am not a world history buff, but I’m going with a bunch of Hungarians had a little too much goulosh and decided the Italian flag was really nice and instead of wasting time and money, lets just flip it around and call it a day. The same could be said for France and the Netherlands.

Look how fancy the Czech Republic, Russian and Luxembourg (I dare you to point it out on a map of Europe without looking first) flags are.

For some reason I thought Europeans were creative. They gave us Versace, Heidi Klum and gelato. What would a day be like without bratwurst, warm beer or Abba? OK, you got me on that one. To be honest with you, I am very disappointed with the “Old World Countries”. Another country you can’t find on a map (it wasn’t a country when we went to school) Macedonia has a really cool flag. They are currently in 5th place in Group B having only beaten Andorra. Everybody beats Andorra. The country only has 84,000 residents. One great fact you can impress your friends with at the water cooler later today – The people of Andorra have the 2nd highest human life expectancy in the world — 82 years at birth. You can research who is number one and get back to me.. Just in case you were interested, the Romanian flag looks like this. Those Andorran’s are so creative…

Two more flags of note. Kyrgyzstan and Kiribati. Neither one is in Europe, but I liked the flags.

A few quick sports notes. We are one step closer to Nuclear war as Pakistan will play India in the World Cup Cricket semifinal on March 30th. This morning New Zealand upset South Africa and they will play the winner of tomorrows match between Sri Lanka (my pick to win the whole tournament) and England. Here is a little video of Pakistan playing India in Cricket from a few years ago.

In the NFL, that hit will get you fined $250,000 and suspended for a game.

Four teams qualified for the Elite Eight in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship (Florida, Connecticut, Butler and Arizona) yesterday. Four more teams will qualify tonight.

Opening Day in Baseball is only 6 days away. And yes the NFL owners and players still can’t figure out how to split nine billion dollars.

Have a great weekend.

Your Friend in Sports,

Sports Guru Dave


Losing Builds Character

churchsign_loserThere is no way the Sports Guru is going to make you believe that losing builds character. Somebody as least as famous as me is given credit (I could not find who the brain surgeon was) for those three little words. All losing is, is not winning. Now doesn’t that sound better. What ever you want to call it, losing or not winning is what the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) mens college basketball team has been doing since beating Longwood on February 19th, 2007. 51 straight losses. That is until Wednesday night when the Highlanders defeated Bryant University 61-51 in Newark, NJ.

Here’s the good news. The 51 game losing streak would have been a NCAA Division I record for futility but because NJIT is what they call a reclassifying school (not three seasons at this division) the record is still held by Sacramento State who lost only 34 straight games from 1997 to 1999. 51 games is a longtime to not win. Since NJIT moved from Division II to Division I during the 2006-2007 they are now 6-71. They posted a 5-24 record during their first season, they were winless last season and are now 1-18 this year. Only one player, junior Dan Stonkus has endured all 51 of those losses. 51 is nothing compared to the all-time NCAA losing streak at any level – 117 games by Division III Rutgers – Camden that did not win from January 22, 1992 until January 9, 1997. That was nearly five years without a win.1138822644t-shirt-for-sayings6

The Sports Guru did a little digging and found that futility happens a lot in sports. Just by coincidence Wednesday night Clemson University visited the University of North Carolina for a mens basketball game. North Carolina won 94-70. It was the 54th straight home win for North Carolina against Clemson. Clemson has NEVER beaten North Carolina when they were the road team.

Next weekend the Arizona Cardinals will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. The Cardinals as a franchise started in 1898 and are the oldest continuously run professional football team. They can claim one NFL championship in 1947 when they played in Chicago. They left Chicago after the 1959 season moving to St. Louis the next season and then Arizona for the 1988 season. That’s 61 years without a championship. Since 1947 they have been to the playoffs only six times with a total of five victories. Three of those five have come in this post season.images

It’s now 101 seasons since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series. The Chicago Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup in 1961. hall_miller_and_neva_jane_langley1Miss Georgia was last named Miss America in 1953 (Neva Jane Langley), a Collie has not won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show since 1929 (poor Lassie). NJ has not elected a Republican Senator since Clifford P Pace in 1972 ( I don’t want to hear from any of you who doubt the Sports Guru mention Nicholas F Brady).

So what is it about not winning (using winning is always better than saying losing) that builds character. Take the girls basketball team at Dallas Academy. Last week they lost to Covenant, a private Christian school in Dallas 100-0. The score was 59-0 at half-time and the girls from Covenant opened up the second half by using a full-court press. Dallas Academy has eight girls on it’s varsity and about 20 girls in its high school. It is winless over the last four seasons. They specialize in teaching students struggling with “learning differences” such as short attention or dyslexia. At their next practice some of the players said they were frustrated during the game but felt it was a learning opportunity (not sure what you learn from losing by a 100 points). Freshman Shelby Hyatt was quoted as saying “Even if you are losing, you might as well keep playing.” “Keep trying, and it’s going to be OK”. A bright spot on not winning by 100 is that Mark Cuban who owns the Dallas Mavericks has invited the girls from the Dallas Academy to see a Mavericks game from the owners suite later in the season. The losers here are the girls from Covenant and the coaching staff that ran up the score. They are now trying to do the right thing by seeking a forfeit and apologizing for the margin of victory.

Which now brings me to what happens when you finally win. Last Friday night the boys basketball team from Palisades High School in Kintnersville PA snapped their 85 game not winning streak by defeating Palmerton 45-35. The 85 game streak was the third longest streak in Pennsylvania history (state record is 88 by Mifflinburg) and lasted over five seasons. When the game ended the Pirates celebration was somewhat muted and given the circumstances, perfectly appropriate. Their coach Mike Viglianti embraced his players and whispered a few things to several of them. The last time the Pirates won was the last game of the 2004-2005 season. Here’s the weird twist. 6 of the boys on the basketball team were on the roster on Palisades District 11 Class AA championship football team.

So whether you call it losing or my coach speak of “not winning”, it happens a lot in the world of Sports and in life. If you don’t win, get over it. The sun will come out tomorrow (no Annie video will ever appear in a Sports Guru blog), you will have bills to pay when you get home and I’m still better looking than you….

Here’s a little YouTube video that will help get you through an entire weekend without football.

Your Friend in Sports,

Dave the Sports Guru