There’s always next season

Last night’s Wild Card loss to the Giants was the end of the season for the Mets. There were too many losses in the regular season to suggest the Mets would do anything but struggle if they made it to the post season, so a single game knockout may have been the least painful exit after all that. (But that ninth inning collapse after Noah Syndergaard‘s domination over seven innings must have hurt.) If they are to do better next season, they will need to strengthen the offense, hope for less injuries, and see if they can find that magic ingredient: consistency – especially in winning!

There’s always next season.

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The Olympic Memory

munich-11

The Rio Olympics are due to start this weekend. In many countries, the focus will be on that team’s prospects of winning medals, and the potential to become their most successful representatives ever. That’s certainly some of the media coverage in Israel. But there is another significant point of interest here, and it’s an important (and emotional) one. We will never forget.

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Where were you England?

After last night’s loss to Iceland, I am once again puzzled by the failure of the English national football team.

Because the match kicked off at 10.00 PM Israel time, I decided I would only watch the first half. How lucky was I? When I retired to bed, I expected to wake up in the morning to a story of a second half in which Vardy had been introduced, England had started playing as a team, and they thumped the Icelandic minnows. Judging by the press reports, it could have been worse for England, and nobody is grudging Iceland their victory.

But why cannot England perform?

  • The players are among the highest paid in the world, competing in arguably the best league in the world, and lauded week to week as top class footballers. So, are they top class footballers who cannot play as a team?
  • Or are they maybe not top class footballers – just fit guys, with a modicum of skill?
  • Is it the manager? But, if it were the manager, you would think one of the many holders of that post would have known what he was doing.
  • Is it the setup? Is there something destabilizing, demoralizing, or dysfunctional about the England football establishment.

Personally, I find it ironical that this year’s Premier League champions, Leicester City, had an Italian manager who set out his team each week to play in an old fashioned English style: thumping big lads as center backs, nippy players in the middle of the park, an old fashioned center forward, and bags and bags of fighting spirit. But the national team cannot do that, it appears.

I do feel sorry for England fans; they deserve better. At least Scotland supporters expect their team to be poor.  However, after Iceland’s progress, I wonder if Scotland and other smaller footballing nations might sit up and take notice of the master plan that was used. It doesn’t always have to be the big teams, the big countries, that are successful.

Well done, Iceland. England, where were you?

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Always take the music with you

speakers
The item pictured above is an UE ROLL Ultraportable Bluetooth Speaker. It’s waterproof, shockproof, and delivers excellent quality sound when connected to a smartphone. Susan bought one from the duty free at Heathrow on our trip last month to the UK.

Last week, Susan and I did a bike ride to the Tel Aviv namal and back. Susan decided that she wanted to have her music with her, so she charged up the device, and stuck it in her backpack. Controlling the sound from her handlebar mounted iPhone, she was able to achieve what she wanted. While some of the music wasn’t to my taste, there was some that caught the mood exactly. For example, we found ourselves singing Queen‘s Bohemian Rhapsody as we cycled over the bridge at Herzliya Railway Station. There were a couple of other pop classics that we murdered, too! It was great fun. And, as continuing proof of the power of music, it gave an extra boost to our cycling performance.

Susan has used the device quite a bit, and is very satisfied with it. Since her hearing is much better than mine, and she says the sound is good, that’s a decent piece of praise. Worth checking out that piece of kit if you are in the market for a Bluetooth speaker. Incidentally, the guy at Dixons at Heathrow tried to convince Susan to buy the cheaper model. But, this one was the Which? recommendation, and Susan stuck to her guns. My bet is that Dixons have too much stock of the cheaper one.

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LEICESTER CITY ARE CHAMPIONS!

Leicester City are champions! Unbelievable. A team who were among the top four candidates for relegation, whose aim was survival in the Premiership, beat the lot. A beautiful, wonderful, amazing league success for the incredibly underrated Leicester City.

But it’s more than that; it’s probably the sporting underdog story of all time, probably, and certainly one of the most amazing stories in modern football.

Well done Claudio Ranieri and the Leicester team. Congratulations to you all. I’m glad I was wrong.

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Leicester on the brink?

I watched Sunday’s Sunderland v Leicester match, and the second half of Tottenham v Manchester United, and I am not as convinced as many that Leicester will be champions. Don’t get me wrong, so far as I have any emotional interest in the outcome, I would rather Leicester won. Although I have no bias against, nor dislike for Tottenham, the Leicester story is much more appealing. That, plus, a long time ago I met a Leicester fan, and although he has long since gone to meet his Maker, I can easily conjure up memories of his big, smiling face, and know how much it would have meant to him. He deserved it. On a related point, Claudio Ranieri seems like a thoroughly decent guy, and Leicester’s success would be an amazing coup for him as well. Unfortunately, the way that Leicester struggled to put Sunderland away contrasts sharply with the stunning demolition by Tottenham of Manchester United. (United are a shadow of their former selves, for sure, but still field a team of enormous talent, at least potentially.)

Leicester’s remaining fixtures are against West Ham, Swansea, Manchester United, Everton, and Chelsea.

Spurs’ remaining fixtures are against Stoke, West Brom, Chelsea, Southampton, and Newcastle.

I expect Leicester to at least be held by West Ham, while Spurs will crush Stoke. That would reduce Leicester’s lead to four or five points.

If Leicester start to feel the pressure then, the Swansea match will be no walkover They should win, but it is not a foregone conclusion. Let’s assume Leicester manage the win. Spurts will crush West Brom. So with three matches left, Leicester might still have a four or five point lead.

At this point, enter Manchester United. They will be hurt, and scrambling for points to keep West Ham off their backs. Leicester may find that a challenge too much, and a loss here will leave them the most slender of leads – if Spurs can beat Chelsea. On Sunday’s form, Chelsea will be brushed aside. That would leave Leicester with a one or two point lead, two matches to play, and one of them against Chelsea, who will be keen to make their mark. If my pessimistic senses are right, that is where the pressure against Leicester may become unbearable, and when the league leadership will change. That is when Spurs could grab the glory. Could.

Nothing is certain in football, and predictions are all guesswork. So, what is set out above could be rubbish. For Leicester’s sake, I hope it is.

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Let’s go Mets!

Later today, the 2016 Major League Baseball season begins. There are four matches scheduled for today, one of which is a rematch between last year’s World Series finalists: the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals. The Royals came out on top in that encounter, and although the Mets did better than expected by getting there, the loss must have hurt. Early season form is notoriously unreliable, but the Mets will sure want some revenge to get them a good start to the season. Plus, they only managed to snap a fourteen game losing streak with their very last pre-season 8-1 win over the Cubs. So, you could not exactly say they were in a championship dominating state of mind.

So far as the long term prospects for the season are concerned, I’ll be very surprised if the Mets repeat last year’s success, although many pundits say they are better now. The pitching quality and depth is excellent. But it has to perform. Fielding and batting could be better. Maybe we will get some pleasant surprises from those areas? Regardless, it’s going to be an interesting season, and true Mets fans will support the team no matter what.

It’s worth noting that many are expecting the Royals to be back in the World Series again this year. How will they handle the burden of expectation? (Somehow, the Mets and ‘burden of expectation’ do not belong in the same sentence.)

Let’s go Mets!

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Back to the football

Following my post about soccer on Shabbat, and a potential cancellation of organized leagues, Ynet today reports:

Israeli soccer authorities called off a threatened strike on Wednesday after the attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, announced that nobody would be prosecuted for playing on the Jewish Sabbath.

An interesting solution to the problem. The public official charged with enforcing the laws of the country, decides he will not enforce one of the laws of the country.

But that’s not his decision to make, in my opinion. That’s what the legislature (law making function of the Knesset) is supposed to do. In other words, if the law is not to be enforced, it should be removed. It should not be for one man to make the decision.

I am not, personally, bothered by the outcome. And the arrangement is a classic Middle East one: never mind what it says, this is what we will do. But the approach is not good governance, and is a bad precedent. What happens if the same decision by the attorney general is made for another law, affecting something other than soccer? Whatever happened to democracy and accountability?

Finally, it’s worth noting that the attorney general’s decision gets Deri out of a bit of a hole, and to a lesser extent, Bibi. It seems that if this arrangement had not been made, as Deri was ducking his duty, Bibi would have had to handle it.

You can read the whole piece, here.

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Back in Hitler’s stadium

The European Maccabi Games are underway in Berlin, part of which will be at a site built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics. The opening ceremony is later today, and you can access a stream at the website. Incidentally, if the games are anything like the website, they will be professional and slick.

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Good luck to a certain Nathan Simpson, competing for Scotland in the badminton event!

And here’s hoping the games are a great success for all concerned.

[That sound you can hear in the background, is a certain Austrian born German politician, suffering in Hell. Good.]

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Who’s on first?

Maybe it was only a matter of time. Hacking can be a risky venture, but with the potential of big rewards. And when there’s already big money at stake – like in the world of professional baseball – it makes sense that somebody would try to use technology to gain an edge. As the Washington Post reports:

St. Louis Cardinals under investigation by FBI in hack of Houston Astros

Some detail:

The FBI and Justice Department are investigating members of the front office of the St. Louis Cardinals to determine whether the organization hacked the computer network of the Houston Astros in order to steal player personnel information.

An investigation is “ongoing,” a federal law enforcement official told The Post’s Ellen Nakashima. There’s “a lot of work going into” the investigation, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is underway.

Generally speaking, officials and experts say, the tools to hack someone else’s network are readily available online. “By itself, it doesn’t represent anything illegal,” the official said. But once a person intrudes into another person’s computer system without permission, “you’ve crossed the magical line,” the official said. Accessing someone’s computer without authorization is a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This is the first suspected case of corporate espionage in which a professional sports team has allegedly hacked the network of another team, according to the New York Times, which first reported the investigation.

And some context:

How serious is a cybersecurity breach in a sport with a rich history of stolen signs, illegal pitches and corked bats? An executive with another team, who asked to remain anonymous because of the ongoing investigation, told The Post that such a breach would be taken extremely seriously.

“There’s so much proprietary analysis, and the teams that do this sort of thing each have their own magic, secret formula for how they evaluate players, people, systems – all kinds of things,” the executive said. “For another team to have that, for whatever their purposes, is an unbelievable advantage for the other team.”

Fascinating. It does seem that many big businesses do not take cyber security seriously. Perhaps more stories like this will change that attitude.

[First seen at the BBC.]

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