Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bilbao Won, Too!

Team picture of Athletic Club Bilbao. A team which roster consists
of players only from the Basque country. Picture from

Despite the two losses that Athletic Club Bilbao suffered this season at the Europa League and Copa Del Rey final matches, the team still has very positive results to show for and be proud of. Based on the philosophy of the club, the Basques have managed to create one of the best ‘canteras’ of the Spanish League. And the direct result of it, is the young group of players the club now has playing in its first division league team.

A direct result of it, is the excellent group of players who currently defend the colors of the team they live for. These players adore and respect the club, and would not like to play for any other club in the world. From the moment they were born, they have been fans of the club. And, the club has seen these players grow into professional soccer players step by step. Throughout their lives, these players have shared laughter and sadness with the club.

This season we witnessed the talent that these young soccer players possess and what they are capable of. They are aware that a long and tough road lays ahead of them, but they play with no fear and with a lot of energy. These guys like the challenge and understand the ‘good and bad’ that comes with it. They do not only know they have to get up right after they fall, but they also know how important it is to learn from their mistakes, as they want to go above the expectations of the club. And more than anything else, they know they have the unconditional support of fans whose passion for the team is indescribable.

Lastly, what truly completes this team is coach Marcelo Bielsa. He is very committed to the team and is one of the greatest soccer coaches that ever lived. Therefore, I believe that under his direction and the team's efforts, ‘The Lions’ will keep getting better and better, and obtaining more experience, which will help the team capture better results year after year. Clearly, this young, talented and energetic team is on the right track and great success awaits them in the near future. Well done, Athletic Club Bilbao! It really was a fantastic season!

- Y gracias por no fumar!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

[SR] What World Peace?

It is ironic that the NBA player who promotes world peace the most is also the one who displays the most violence on the basketball court. When Ron Artest decided to change his name to Metta World Peace prior to the beginning of the 2011-2012 basketball season, he was making a statement. Some people thought it was crazy, and some others thought it was courageous. But it was definitely for a good cause, as his self-acclaimed mission was to inspire and bring youth together all around the world.
However, that mission seems to have been forgotten by Artest this season. Who knows what came over him, but he quickly transformed into a very dirty and disrespectful player, overshadowing his image of a hard-working competitor and an extremely good defender. It is sad that it took Artest many years of research and soul-searching to find a first name that was both personally meaningful and inspirational to him, when it is so clear for one to notice how very little time it took him to jeopardize his own good cause, and to spoil his new name and the message it is supposed to transmit out to the public… especially, the young generation of future athletes.
I wonder every day the approach he is taking with his mission, based on his actions. It does not make sense for him at all to change his name and endorse world peace and unity around the world, if he is just going to be one of the most problematic players in the NBA. It is difficult to comprehend what he is bringing to the table when, occasionally, he displays images of a great humanitarian (someone with a big heart who cares about the world), but simply does not lead by example. In fact, he does the complete opposite. He gets into too many  immature fights on the court, collects inexcusable technical fouls, and receives needless suspensions which put the L.A. Lakers in bad situations.  And that is just shameful.
Hopefully, Artest will learn from this season’s mistakes and re-direct his head back into his game and mission. Without a doubt, we desperately need a leader who can help us live in a better world that is right now being destroyed by unnecessary wars, conflicts and personal/governmental selfish interests. Artest definitely has the charisma to retake his mission and make it work. I am sure that if he carries it out the right way, people will forgive him and he will regain the support of a great number of them.

- Y gracias por no fumar!

Artest (left) elbowing Harden, intentionally. This action cost
him a 7 day suspension from the league. Picture from

Friday, May 18, 2012

Man Up! The Blue Clay Is Not Going Anywhere

It caught me by surprise when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic made negative public statements against the 2012 Madrid Open two weeks ago following their respective losses. Though their defeats in the third round were uncharacteristic, it was even more uncharacteristic when they pitifully blamed the new surface of the tennis tournament for their losses.
The new blue clay of the Madrid Open might have affected their game style, as it clearly did not allow them to play freely and comfortably like they always do. But there was no need to make comments like “if the tournament keeps the blue clay for next year, I will not come back”. To me, more than complaints about the new surface, their statements sounded like threats to the Madrid Open organizers.
These two tennis players know they are always the biggest attractions in this sport’s events, which make them feel empowered to release such statements. And, in a way, they are. But what they tend to forget is that their number one and three rankings in the world also make fans and organizers expect that they have the abilities and skills to adapt to any type of surface. It may take them time to do so, and the adjustment acquired may not be enough to win the tournament, sometimes. But, at least, it could help them put up a better performance.
Recently, the president of the Madrid Open, Manolo Santana, answered to Nadal and Djokovic’s complaints saying that the blue clay is staying. I completely agree with him, as it is important for the sport organization to have different types of venues and to challenge its players. I just wish Nadal and Djokovic had been more mature about it and taken a bullet for the sport this time by keeping their dislikes to themselves, instead of spoiling the tournament experience for everyone else and hurting the sport they claim to love so much.
It is interesting that Roger Federer won the Madrid Open this year, because I remember that when I went to watch the Ericsson Open in Miami, after Federer won his second round match, he thanked everyone at the stadium “for attending the tennis tournament and supporting the sport”, and I thought that was an excellent message. Federer truly had a great performance at the 2012 Madrid Open from beginning to end, demonstrating that it is all about the mental and physical preparation before tournaments.

- Y gracias por no fumar!
Blue clay at the 2012 Madrid Open. Picture from

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Like A Second Mother

This year, Coach Kim Mulkey and her women’s basketball team of Baylor University accomplished something never done before in any sport. They recorded a perfect forty wins and zero losses in one of the most competitive college tournaments in the country (USA). But this historic undefeated season has a lot more to it… It is not that Coach Mulkey has won this NCAA basketball tournament as a player and a coach, respectively. It is not that her winning percentage as a coach is above 800%, achieving over 300 wins since the year 2000, which is when her head coaching career began.
It is the bond that she has created with each and every one of her players. This is more than a coach/player kind of bond… this is like a mother/daughter bond that has led the team into success. All-American players, like Brittney Griner, have elevated their game into a totally different level. Griner was named the AP Player of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. With Coach Mulkey’s help, Griner has gained more confidence on the court, trusting and exploiting her abilities even more night in and night out.
Coach Mulkey’s commitment to the team and love for her players are so real that they are unbreakable. Even last year when she was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, a disorder that paralyzes half of people’s bodies (or some body parts) usually for a short period of time, she continued coaching the team, being a mother at home and a role model to the community with passion and determination.
As for the team, she never stopped giving one hundred percent to them, never allowed her problems to be an impediment for keeping on loving and caring for her players, and always believed in them. She understood that her players lived away from home, looked up to her and counted on her, because they did not only see her as a coach or a friend, but more like a second mother!
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. You are miracle workers... simply the best people on earth!!!

- Y gracias por no fumar!

Coach Mulkey with her son and
daughter. Picture from

Coach Mulkey hugging two of her Baylor basketball players.
Or should I say, other daughters? Picture from

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

[SR] Two Signings Worth An Europa League Cup

A match where Athletic Club Bilbao was thought to have more chances to win it before entering the pitch, became a completely different story when the referees’ whistle blew the beginning of the match. Atletico Madrid put up a great performance in this year’s UEFA Europa League final match and won it 3-0.
Though both teams had their opportunities to score, Atletico demonstrated to be right on target to score its three goals by taking advantage of its counter attacking opportunities and Athletic Club’s key defensive mistakes. Colombian striker, “El Tigre” Falcao, proved he was worth every cent of the €40 million the team paid for him by dominating the offensive attacks of Atletico. He was superb on his two goals. His intelligence, talent and cleverness made him excelled over the rest of the players on the field, so for FIFA was an easy decision to name him the man of the match.
Brazilian midfielder, Diego, put the dagger in Athletic Club’s players and fans when he scored the third goal of the match at the end of it. It was a beautiful goal where he showed great control of the ball and aim to the net. Of course that it was a team effort, as they all contributed to get the victory, but Falcao and Diego made Atletico Madrid President, Enrique Cerezo, look like a genius for asserting in signing them last year.
And President Cerezo really did. Falcao and Diego add so much more than a potent offense to this team. They bring hope and joy to Atletico Madrid fans, and allow the team to set higher goals for themselves making them fight harder to achieve the expected results. This is, of course, a work in progress… and so far it is working for them, and I hope it continues this way.
This is an extraordinary personal achievement for Falcao, who also won this tournament last year with Porto F.C. scoring the only goal of the match. And a great team achievement for Atletico Madrid for lifting the Europa League Cup twice in the last three years. Congratulations Atletico Madrid!

-          Y gracias por no fumar!

Falcao (in white) lifting the Europa League Cup and celebrating the title
with his teammates. Picture from

Sunday, May 6, 2012

'An Eye For An Eye, And A Tooth For A Tooth'

"You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'".  Matthew 5:38

In all sports, rules are meant to be respected and followed, and whoever chooses to do otherwise shall be punished. That is why there is a system and an organization behind them. Unfortunately, the New Orleans Saints decided to create their own rules for the past three seasons, and recently, were caught running a shocking bounty program in their locker room.
Naturally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took the necessary measure to take care of it and make sure it does not happen again by punishing all the different players and personnel involved in this shameful program. Saints Head coach, Sean Payton is suspended until March 31, 2013 (one year suspension), former defensive coordinator is suspended indefinitely, defensive captain player, Jonathan Vilma is out for a year, among other players. In addition, the team was taken away the 2012 and 2013 first round picks.
Personally, I could not agree more with the punishments given by Commissioner Goodell, but what really grimed my gears was the fact that Sean Payton appealed the decision made by the commissioner, as if he was not guilty of his 'crime'. Obviously, his appeal did not reduce his suspension time from the league, but I just wonder: how did he think it was not a fair decision by the NFL? I mean, Coach Payton was allowing bounty calls in his locker room, which means that he was aware that his players were trying to hurt and injure opponent players, so they would be taken out of the game in order for the Saints to have a better chance to win games. He clearly understood that by allowing his players to do that, they were attempting toward players' careers... Players who have a life outside of football, such as families, responsibilities and bills to pay just like everyone else does.
It is interesting to evaluate his views on the matter, because when the bounty program that he was running in New Orleans was affecting players with promising careers and their big contracts, he could not careless. But when his own life was being affected by the commissioner ruling against his dirty program, he felt it was unjust. Please Coach Payton, give us all a break! Assume the consequences like a man, admit that you screwed up bad and be thankful Commissioner Goodell did not kick you out of the league indefinitely, which is what I would have done.
Honestly, I used to like the Saints and rooted for them in Super Bowl forty four in 2010, which they ended up winning, by the way. But these acts of misconduct took all credibility and professionalism away from their 2010 Super Bowl victory, as they were secretly working their way through to the super bowl by putting money on the head of the most important players of the opponent teams with the intention to take them out of the games, fraudulently.
The bounty program in the NFL is not only against the rules, but it is dishonorable, cheating and totally inappropriate... Simply disgusting! Whoever participates or has participated in such nasty event should be ashamed of themselves forever, as it turns them into nothing else but cowards and weak men.

- Y gracias por no fumar!

From left to right: Coach Payton, Commissioner Goodell and QB
Brees at Super Bowl XLIV. Picture from