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Monday, July 6, 2015

The FIFA Women's World Cup Review Thread For 7/6/15: How The Third Time Is The Biggest Charm For The United States Women's Soccer

Photo from Fifa.com/Getty Images

Score Settled. 

Those are the operative words when one comes to mind the minute Carli Lloyd put two goals into the back of the Japanese net in 6 minutes to show the full intent on the United States closing out their World Cup of revenge. It was a start so expedient and clinical, unlike any other World Cup Final had ever seen before, a determination that was set in stone the minute Saki Kumagai hit the final penalty past Hope Solo four years ago in Germany. And it was a desire to feel the glory that the 1991 and 1999 teams felt, instead of the agonizing heartbreak that tormented them for four years all the way to the final whistle was blown at BC place. 

The Olympic title for a third straight time and instant revenge in London wasn’t satisfying enough. The hashtag “#ScoretoSettle” was established, because this United States women’s national team program hates when it is not in first place. In their minds, it is against the law of the universe for the country that invented, reinvented and revitalized women’s soccer to not be at the forefront of the sport. And when it was the third major program that had denied them that purch atop the sport’s heap, the USWNT was hell bent on bringing hell to Germany and especially Japan. 

The final two matches (especially the final) for the United States were the opposite of how the first five matches went: the attack was at its best saving the defense. Lloyd, the feisty New Jersey legend of clutchness for her big goals in Olympic gold medal contests, ascended to another level unlike any other female player in a major final. Say what you want about a Naomi Sasaki coached backline and organization that completely fell apart. Lloyd just has that innate gift of seizing the moment that not every elite athlete can achieved. 

The crestfallen spirit the 32-year-old midfield ace displayed after she skied her penalty kick attempt into the stands four years ago served as a noticeable but minor blip on a radar of bringing her best in the biggest moments. It’s one thing to score two set piece goals off horrendous defending; it’s another when you are able to pull a goal from half field to complete a hat trick even she couldn’t have fathomed. 
The compliment to Lloyd’s record book performance was her midfield partner Lauren Holliday having a moment that made her easily the most grateful person in the entire stadium. For the entire month, the player even more a proper #10 than Lloyd herself had to be shackled with the burden of knowing when to go forward and when to protect her centerbacks. It was a moment of utter relief and joy for the Kansas City star when more  atrocious Japanese defending gave Holliday the opportunity to unleash a full volley hit of the top order. For an offensive talent who has had to sacrifice and take a back seat to other attacking options for several years on this national team, Holliday’s class finish was a moment as significant as Lloyd’s epic eruption. 

Still, as mentioned before, the defense reverted to having the struggles the offense previously felt. After a five match and a half campaign of sheer brilliance, Julie Johnston began looking more like the good but still young, error prone defender that everyone expected her to be at age 23 and just with 19 caps, not the precocious dynamo she ascended to before getting her hand on Anja Mittag’s shoulder. Fortunate to be in this game in the first place, Johnston gave the reigning world champions hope that they would produce a miracle comeback. Her over aggressive and wrong reading of Japan’s intricate passing was fully exposed, allowing Yuigi Ogimi the chance to wake up Japan from their miserable nightmare. Johnston continued her decline from Best XI member of tournament in the second half, as her own goal header gave Japan hopes that a 4-2 deficit could lead to one of the all time comebacks ever in sports. 

But the pain of four years ago was too much for the U.S. to blow a lead of four. Tobin Heath, one of the youngest players back then, galvanized herself once more this tournament in the most emphatic way. Another set piece disaster from Japan, highlighted by the latest moment where keeper Kaihori did not cover herself in glory, set up Tobin Heath to score the 4th goal for a New Jersey woman on the day. It was a low finish that provided a fifth tally and the most important goal in the game, just when it seemed that Japan, led one last time by its legend Homare Sawa coming off the bench, had all the momentum to produce a comeback like no other. 

But the only comeback here was the United States women coming back to the position they held in the first and third editions of this tournament. It was the full reward for a team and program under justifiable criticism in 2014. Tom Sermanni was suppose to be the coach that lead the USWNT to full glory again, not Jill Ellis. Sermanni was suppose to be the coach to prevent the USWNT from falling behind the rest of the pack in cultivating young talent. And Sermanni was suppose to be the coach that got the USWNT to win matches against the elite without having to rely on their great athleticism, fitness and fight. But after a promising start, it began to turn sour when the established stars complained more and were given the best reason for Sermanni to be replaced by Ellis: that seventh place showing at the Algarve Cup. It was a full players revolt of Sermanni, whose firing remains quite the mystery to those still wondering what happened, especially with a six month silence period he signed into with U.S. Soccer for his dismissal.  

Sermanni’s shocking firing seemed so foolish at the time, an inevitable sign that the most privileged women’s team and program in the world would be humbled by being so obstinate to necessary change. It felt the collapse of a superpower was beginning to manifest itself right in front of our very eyes. The way Ellis was slammed after the Colombia match, from Michelle Akers all the way down to your favorite women’s soccer blogger, was a clear sign that the things Sermanni wanted to be implemented with this team needed to be taken by Ellis immediately. Gone was Wambach and the 4-4-2, and in came Morgan Brian and the 4-3-3. The rest is history. 

The energy, the vigor and the overall quality that a team wanting to be the best in the world has to show returned to the United States’ women’s team once their quarterfinal with China started. A tired, shorthanded Germany and a physically overmatched Japan felt the full force of this resurgent team desperate for a third crown.  

Only the United States women’s team can have a players’ revolt on a quality coach, see one of its star players in Abby Wambach intentionally skip club play to just focus on training for Canada 2015, deal with the endless array of Hope Solo’s alleged domestic violence actions, and have overaged veterans Christine Rampone and Shannon Boxx be on an elite team at the end of their careers and still win a World Cup.  

July 5 at BC Place served as the reward for enduring all of that and standing on top of it in the end. It is the chilling excitement and tears of joy for this group of women sans Rampone, who had to hear the whispers of whether they could match the feats of the ’91 and ’99 women. While those teams had their own pressure to make women’s soccer become a thing in this world, the 2011 & 2015 World Cup teams had to keep it a thing. 

And the only way for them to do that, to get record ratings for Fox and endless array of tweets in the United States to capture the country’s imagination again, was to settle the score. 

Mission complete. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Wimbledon 2015 Thread For 6/2/15: Van Diagram - How Dustin Brown's Win Over Nadal Validates His Tennis Odyssey

Photo from ATP/Getty Images

When Dustin Brown was riding in a Volkswagen van throughout Europe a few years ago, it seemed being an unknown tennis nomad would define his career. All the characteristics as an itinerant player with modest accomplishments was firmly in the script for him, coming from a country in Jamaica who supported him less than the number of people who don’t know who Bob Marley is there. 

Brown would always be known as the man in the van, the van that his white German mother and black Jamaican father invested for him when he needed to somehow survive in tennis. It was the van that served as his house and kitchen. It was the van that created a racquet stringing center for him to take care of fellow lower ranked players’ sticks as they too were on the precipice of homelessness. It was the van that had him wondering, when he was stuck in a world of doubt and second guessing, if continuing the tennis odyssey he set himself on since the age of 8 was worth continuing at all? 

After an afternoon in which he stepped onto the hollowed Centre Court grounds for the first time in his career, at the most hollowed tennis tournament on Earth, Dustin Brown of both Germany and Jamaica defeated Rafael Nadal for the second time in as many encounters to secure the biggest win of his career. Suffice to say, the time in the van and the sacrifice that came from it all was worth it. 

“I’ve never been on the court before,” Brown said after his 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. “They asked me before the match if I wanted to go on the court, and obviously I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I’ll just go on when I play. It was awkward where I actually thought I would freak out a little bit.” 

Even before the result that got his name as the #1 trending topic on Twitter, Brown knew that he long validated going through the intense adversity of being a peripatetic, unheralded tennis player. He hasn’t lived in that Volkswagen van for a while now, and he has been able to get into Grand Slam fields now for several years, whether through direct entry into the main draw or the pressurized grind of qualifying he is well accustomed to. He beat Lleyton Hewitt two years ago at Wimbledon. He beat Nadal last year in Halle, along with John Isner in Houston. He was already a Top 50 ATP doubles player. Even if he lost triple bagel to the 12-time Grand Slam champion, Brown had fulfilled his parents’ sacrifice years’ ago, as well as his own. It’s why from 2-2 on in the third set, he did not wilt when it seemed like Nadal would ride the wave of capturing the second set and taking over the match. Instead, Brown stuck to the style that got him to where he was at before the famous victory and now after it. 

Using his unpredictable, athletic, fast and powerful all-court game to not get in protracted rallies with Nadal and keep him off balance, Brown became the fourth straight early round stopper at Wimbledon for Nadal. It wasn’t like the magic man from Mallorca wasn’t fully prepared to make the ultra quick transition from clay to grass as in recent years. With his Roland Garros quarterfinal loss to Novak Djokovic, Nadal was given unofficial extra time along with the additional week now in between the French Open and Wimbledon for everyone. And after winning the first grass warmup in Stuttgart, the legendary lefty was determined to make a resurgent run. But it was yet another moment in sports where the profession doesn’t adhere to a cliche, similar script. And if ever there was a player that follows that characteristic through and through, Brown is indeed just the one.  

“Whatever I do was to take him out of his comfort zone,” Brown said about his successful strategy against Nadal. “(If) I stayed in the back and rallied with him, left right, that would not be a very good match for me. I know that. So obviously I tried to play my game, even if I missed a few returns. On this surface, obviously I feel confident to play my game.”  

Brown showcased in his post match media engagement afterwards his pensive persona, a requirement for how he had to manage food and money throughout his tennis journey (and still does). It is a stark contrast from his loose, flashy and sometimes uncontrolled style of play, representing a fitting combination to a person whose story is as multi dimensional as the game he plays.  

The 30-year-old could have given up his playing dream and found himself a second career, in coaching or doing something outside of tennis. He could have been deterred after seeing many criticize his inability to be consistent with his tactics, shot selection or accuracy. He could have   succumbed to the belief from some, in his fathers’ country and throughout, that “Jamaican men don’t play tennis.” All of these things the man affectionately known as Dreddy Tennis could have predictably done. But he did not. 

July 2 was another reminder that there isn’t anything predictable about Dustin Brown. His tale is arguably the most unique you will ever find in tennis, and one that would challenge any other in sports. “The man with the van” has long outlived that title. And for at least one match, Dustin Brown can have the title of just simply, the man

A video posted by Drew Jones (@twdbk) on

Monday, June 22, 2015

The 1st Thread For 6/22/15: Denial of White Terrorism And How Charleston Isn't an Attack on Christians

Denial of reality can be an alarming, misguided practice that a person can willingly partake on oneself. It is a conspicuous moment revealing how individuals are fully insecure with accepting the truths that they don’t want to embrace, tormenting themselves into a place of a dangerously false universe. Denial is a toxic behavior, and it has long been prevalent in America’s constant struggle with its racist characteristics, long before it became a union and in the current aftermath of its formation two centuries after. The tragic assassination of nine black people at the hands of a 21-year-old white terrorist has sparked another episode of racist denial, not only from conservative Caucasian Americans but even some notable white figures outside the right-wing spectrum.

Shifting the focus off racism as the main reason for Dylann Roof’s devilish acts, some quickly attributed the shooting deaths to being simply an attack on Christianity.  Leading in that chorus of denial unsurprisingly was the folks apart of the Rupert Murdoch empire. Fox & Friends added to their endless list of inane segments by hosting a conservative black pastor who insinuated the mass murdering as a “rising hostility against Christians across this country because of our Biblical views.” (In addition, that same Pastor, E.W. Jackson, shepherded the unhinged idea of churches arming themselves in the wake of the attack.) That prompted the usually deranged co-host Steve Doocy to be in disbelief at the crime being labeled as racially driven. “It was released earlier, extraordinarily, as a hate crime,” Doocy said.  

Continuing in that same peculiar trail of thinking was Presidential hopeful and proverbial war monger Lindsey Graham. Appearing on ABC’s The View, the South Carolina Republican Senator was obviously disturbed at the latest tragic events that took place in his state. But he quickly described Roof with the same characteristics usually bestowed to only white mass murderers and not Muslims, Hispanics or black troubled individuals: He was disturbed, he was a loner wolf and he wasn’t a terrorist. He continued on by saying Roof’s actions was not indicative of South Carolina as a whole, a stunning irony considering its white supremacist history and still glaring obsession with keeping its confederate flag as its symbol. When asked by new co-host Raven Simeone if the tragedy was hate crime motivated or mentally disturbed, Graham could only muster “both” and that Roof was “just whacked out.” It was a startling contrast from how Graham never hesitates when seeing any Muslim involved in any crime, calling “terrorism” at the blink of his jihad eye whenever he sees or hear an Islamic name. 

Probably the grossest denial of white racism to describe Roof’s brutality, however, came from rising conservative pundit and Miami Herald columnist AJ Delgado. To the amazement of most following her on Twitter, Delgado immediately questioned whether Roof was Caucasian after seeing the images from the surveillance video showing his entrance into the church. “Sorry, am I the only one who isn’t seeing a “white male? I know media wants to run a racial angle here but this guy doesn’t look white?” she brazenly wrote. Delgado followed it up with another tweet so ridiculous that it made one question how she has been worthy to be on an intelligent show such as “All in with Chris Hayes?” “None of this story adds up,” she wrote. “Even if a ‘white supremacist,’ their targets/hatred isn’t usually church-going African-Americans.”  The Ku Klux Khan probably could not find a better candidate for a press secretary position than Delgado presented herself as with her elementary school view on white racism. 

These three views from Doocy, Graham and Delgado came despite the news already surfacing for hours of the AME Church surviving person indicating the chilling words that Roof told his victims before their sad deaths. “I have to do it,” Roof allegedly said, as reported by a cousin of a fortunate survivor relying a message from another present during the tragedy. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” That report preceded a bevy of information after Roof was identified that shows him embracing apartheid nations South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), along with “The Confederate States of America.” Later, one of Roof’s friends since the ninth grade stated that Roof had a history of telling racist jokes and recently talked about how segregation needed to return because of his belief that “blacks are dominating now.”  If all of those details still could not convince you to label it a “hate crime” (and Roof as a terrorist), then you probably would struggle to believe that grass is green, that the sky is blue, and that two plus two equals four. 

Even some non-conservative outlets couldn’t muster up the courage to say the obvious. The prominent liberal blog Emptywheel featured a post railing against the idea of labeling the Charleston massacre a hate crime, calling it “bogus” and “hyperbole.” Salon staff writer Mary Williams, despite the appropriate title, wasted an opportunity to slap down the absurd “Christianity was attacked” argument from the Fox & Friends segment, letting it go unchallenged by writing a non sequitur about immigration instead. CNN morning show anchor Chris Cuomo followed a similar script of disbelief that Delgado fell under, literally writing that Roof “possibly” was not white. Like Delgado, Cuomo proceeded to delete one of the worst tweets of 2015. Unlike Delgado’s cowardly decision to delete her full account, Cuomo however has kept his up for the time being. 

Although nowhere near as egregious as Doocy, Graham and especially Delgado’s statements, that lack of clinical confirmation that this was pure racism from notable figures, even on the white left, shows how much progress we still have still left to do as a country to be fully accountable for the crimes against black people. And as a black person born and raised in this country, I frankly believe we will never reach that point of having racial common sense. If we haven’t gotten it after slavery, segregation and other suffering, then what makes you think we truly will?      

Denial is a scary thing, a failure for a person to reconcile with the fact that a painful truth must be accepted. But it becomes a massive threat to a society as a whole when the denial is deeply systematic, analogous to American racism. It does no one good, and only creates more American nightmares, where black victims are again held hostage, or given worse, by the deadly shackles of white supremacy. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Flashback Fridays #2 For 6/12/15: Pretty Ricky - Grind With Me (2005)

Another song with "Slow Down" that was a major hit at the start of summer 2005 was another perfectly timed debut single in R&B. It was from Pretty Ricky, and like Bobby V, never could match the success from their first song (and let's not even go there on how bad Pleasure P's solo career has gone).

The second Flashback Friday choice of the day, it's Pretty Ricky with "Grind With Me."
(And those at Warner Music Group screwed up again. This came out in late May 2005, not anytime in 2006. Big Music labels really are so horrible).

More to come at The Whole Delivery, stay tuned. 

The Flashback Fridays #1 For 6/12/15: Bobby Valentino - Slow Down (2005)

10 years ago at this time, Bobby Valentino was new and very relevant. Now, not so much. But you can't deny the smoothness that was and still is his debut song/single, "Slow Down." Definitely near graduation/prom music here, it's today's first of several Flashback Fridays from 2005.

More to come from The Whole Delivery. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The 1st Thread/Music Wakeup Call For 6/11/15: Jidenna ft Roman GianArthur - Classic Man (2015)

Of the edges of D'Angelo and Kendrick Lamar's pro-black efforts, Janelle Monae artist Jidenna has done the perfect song and video for his debut single "Classic Man." It was firmly a representation of black old school excellence in a new era. It's broken through so good that LeBron's "Beat by Dre" commercial plays it.

Today's "Music Wakeup Call," Jidenna with "Classic Man."

More to come at TWD today.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Super Sports Saturday of June 6 Thread For 6/6/15: Barcelona Are Treblerric Once Again (Postgame Versions)

Final Words: 

From Luis Enrique being on the hot seat to being a manager of one of the greatest sides in the history of the game, Barcelona have proven how amazing their club is once again and will go to the Club World Cup to make official their status as the best football side on Earth.

It has been another memorable year covering the Champions League. Here is the team of the season below, where the likes of Carlos Tevez, Thomas Muller, Jordi Alba, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves just miss out. Until next season, when it starts back up in late July and August, peace to this great competition.

Full Time: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona (Barcelona become 8th European treble winners)
A video posted by Drew Jones (@twdbk) on

More to come, including the team of this season's Champions League

GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) - The 37-year-old marvel may still not have a European trophy to his name, but he still is one of the best in the world and showed it all competition. Even today, despite not being able to parry Messi's hard shot for Suarez's winning tap in, Juve's legendary shot stopper was still so marvelous indeed. Unlike Iker Casillas, no question who is the main for the Turin giants

RB: Danilo (Porto) - Despite the longer campaigns for Dani Alves and Stephan Lichtsteiner, the future Real Madrid man showed why he is a growing star, leading the Portuguese giants to a fine quarterfinal showing and making Bayern Munich sweat.

CB: Gerard Pique (Barcelona) - After a few seasons into the wilderness and wondering if his career had peaked too early, the stoic but skillful centerback return to his place as arguably the world's best centerback. Pique was more physical and stronger this season, while adding his unique talents to show all his critics that the 28-year-old's question ability is here to stay for more years to come.

CB: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona) -
Arguably helping Pique return to his form has been the amazing evolution of the Argentine hard tackler and ball winner from a quality holding midfielder into a top centerback. His positioning and timing has helped give Luis Enrique confidence and Barcelona fans' assurance that they haven't seen from their centerbacks since the latter days of Carles Puyol.

LB: Patrice Evra (Juventus) - When the energetic Frenchmen left Manchester United for Serie A, most thought that his best days of playing consistently at the elite level were gone. How those analysts were proven wrong, as the 34-year-old rolled back the years with a terrific season of fine positional defending and venturing forward at the right time as he has always been able to do.

M: Ivan Rakitic - What a debut campaign at a massive club for the Croatian, who cemented himself as one of the world's best midfielders as the perfect replacement for the legendary Xavi. Few humans on the planet could do what Rakitic did this season, with the mental and physical pressure to perform in new, highly charged surroundings on him. He handled it so beautifully.

M: Arturo Vidal - The Chilean proved how he is such a force in the midfield, especially when fellow box to box dynamo Paul Pogba was out. Quality going forward and always willing to do the defensive work when he comes back,  the former Bayern Leverkusen man proved for another campaign why he has to be in everyone's world class list.

M: Lionel Messi - He was only placed in the midfield to get all the deserving attacking talent on the field. Even without scoring in the final, he was still the best player on the field of many fine performers. Nothing more needs to be said.

M: Cristiano Ronaldo - You couldn't have just one all time leading goal scorer on this team and leave out the other, even if the other goes trophyless this season. Despite not playing well against Juventus and again not being a superstar in big games, the Portuguese talisman is still a legend and undoubtedly second only to Messi.

F: Neymar - All the Brazilian wonderkid did was become the first player to score in a quarterfinal, semifinal and final of the Champions League. He has lived up to the hype, and will only get better from here on out.

F: Luis Suarez - From "The Bite Seen Around The World" to the "Winning Goal Heard Round the World."  Suarez may not have made anyone forget his carnivore actions, but he's reminded everyone how outstanding a player he truly is once more.

Halftime Version-The Goal 
 Key Matchups of the Game

-Battle of the fullbacks:  Evra and Litchsteiner have slowly come on towards the end of the half.

-Pirlo protecting his centerbacks: Can the greatest play maker do the defensive duties today. SO far in the first half, he did not on the first goal, as he allowed Rakitic to come in the box with no problem.

-Can Busquets harass Pogba: Still the case, but Pogba has definitely had his moments. 

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