Diego Maradona: God’s Hand Returns to FIFA World Cup in South Africa

The Hand of God has returned to this year’s World Cup.

Not on the pitch – as in the famed 1986 England vs. Argentina World Cup quarter-final match in Mexico City – but rather on the sideline.

Once again, God has freely handed soccer fans across the globe the eternally entertaining gift of Team Argentina’s Coach – Diego Maradona.

Today’s chubby coaching caricature may look more like a trite Telemundo Talk Show Host than the world class player he once was. But, Maradona no longer needs a soccer ball to save and dazzle during this World Cup. He still can enrapture viewers every time ESPN’s wide angle camera lenses turn his way.

Long gone are Diego’s deft touches, sudden bursts of athleticism and scintillating soccer skills. Although Diego’s soccer lore has been resurrected, his long lost athletic glory has been replaced by melodramatic John Gotti type mannerisms, sharp blasts of profanity and elongated bouts of exxagerated emotion in which the quixotic coach warmly embraces the very same players he routinely castigates.

A sight to behold on the sidelines, the dapper Diego unabashedly sports identical wrist watches on either arm and matching diamond softball-sized studs in either ear. Squeezing into a freshly Armor-alled goonish grey suit, the mercurial Maradona looks more loan shark than soccer coach.

Passion personified, Diego smiles, snarls, steams, struts and stomps along the sidelines while relentlessly combing his jet black dyed mane with his 1986 beefy Hand of God miracle mitt. Barely able to corral his bullish frame within the obligatory coaching box, Maradona challenges every officiating call, while grasping his rosary beads with a vice grip and gesticulating un-sactimoniously for his worldwide audience to witness.

So, the next time we pay Penance by yawning through another listless France vs. Uruguay nil – nil draw, let’s offer our thanks to the Almighty for the gift that God so freely handed to us again in this year’s World Cup.

Diego may be the only salvation we’ll need to enjoy this year’s tournament.

MIKE – thee American made voice on sports!


Italian Creative Expression at FIFA World Cup 2010

For centuries, Italian creative expression has resonated throughout the world.

In Art, the brilliance of Italian masters Michaelangelo and Bernini has enraptured art lovers around the globe.

In Music, the virtuoso talents Andreas Botticelli and Enrico Caruso have serenaded millions of opera officianados.

In Fashion, the avant-garde designs of Gianni Versace and Salvadore Ferragamo have been exported to deep pocketed fashionistas from Berlin to Beijing to Buenos Aires.

In Architecture, the iconic landmarks of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the Duomo in Florence have drawn countless pilgrims from every culture.

And now in Sports, Italy’s fabulous flopping footballers have mastered their imaginative machinations once again as the unrivaled diving divas of the soccer pitch.

Taking their melodramatic histrionics to unprecedented levels, Italian soccer stars have perfected their plunging panache and easily passed other wanna-be tumbling sports talents like Derek Fisher of the Lakers – and for that matter, every WWE wrestler – as they’ve mastered the art of unnecessary flailing and flopping.

Take the scene at yesterday’s rain soaked 1-1 World Cup match between the defending World Cup Champion Azzurri versus upstart and emotionally driven Paraguay.

In the game’s early minutes Italian Midfielder Daniele De Rossi sprinted toward the goal, eagerly anticipating a pass from a teammate. Next, ESPN cameras captured De Rossi on the rain soaked field grabbing his calf as if suddenly shot by a stinger missile. De Rossi’s apparent writhing in agony prompted panicked paramedics to race on to the pitch to administer emergency aid to the Azzurri’s injured Italian Midfielder.

At the same time, De Rossi’s succouring soccer teammates hovered around him, screamed wildly at the ref, then directed Neopolitan curses at their Paraguayan opponents, all while reciting rosaries in a last rites gesture for their teammate who was precariously fighting death’s door.

Suddenly . . . and you know what happened next . . . as if the Italian Midfielder’s soap opera nonsense wasn’t enough, the nearly slain De Rossi miraculously rose from the grave, er, the turf that is, sprinted around the pitch like he was running the Boston Marathon, then eagerly rejoined his teammates as the ref instructed both sides to resume play. What a show!

Despite having held up the game for several minutes, De Rossi’s antics didn’t even get a yellow card. I say for this exaggerated Italian expression, the refs should have awarded him an Oscar instead. Play on.

MIKE – aka Mike Raffone – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

World Cup 2010: It’s Time for FIFA to Red Card the Vuvuzela

The World Cup 2010 kicked off with a bang – or should I say – a curious, cacophonous chorus of South African vuvuzela.

Vu-vu-ze-what you might you might be asking.

No, vu-vu-ze-la, as in the Setswana name for a plastic three foot long noisemaking horn (emphasis on obnoxious noisemaking – like that of an ADHD kid juiced up on Mountain Dew) favored by South African soccer fans.

The vuvuzela vaulted into international popularity as soon as the oft maligned new Adidas soccer ball got kicked around the pitch in Johannesburg during this weekend’s opening game between host South Africa and Mexico.

However, the initially revered, but now increasingly embattled vuvuzela may may Red Carded sooner than expected based on the overwhelming reaction of a disgruntled international ESPN television audience.

Day 1 of ESPN’s television coverage witnessed intrigued viewers from around the globe immediately enraptured by the discordant din of these cheap plastic trumpets.

Day 2 television coverage showed a surprising shift in opinion as World Cup watchers warily became aware of the dissonant and disturbing drone of the reverberating vuvuzela.

On Day 3, however, viewers of ESPN’s television coverage voiced cries of victimization by the vile vmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm of these never ending vuvuzela.

So, once Day 4 coverage continues tomorrow, will FIFA, which governs the World Cup, muzzle these maddening monotone South African music makers which sound more like swarming locusts or angry bees in a very large hive?

OK, FIFA, if you really give a Desmond Tutu, ban the vuvuzela from stadiums during remaining World Cup 2010 matches. Let us enjoy world class World Cup soccer coverage without the low class, dreadful din of these hideous horns.

Yes, FIFA, it’s time to Red Card the vuvuzela!

MIKE – aka Mike Raffone – thee American made voice on sports!

World Cup 2010: FIFA’s Trans Atlantic Tussle

Never before has the Atlantic Ocean been considered chic conversation.

Typical chatter concerning the 4,000 mile expanse of chilly water separating the United States’ eastern shores from the rainy, cloudy British Isles generally generates genial jesting between long time friends and political allies.

However, on June 12th this brisk, blustery body of water will surface as the sports world’s salient subject – known to Yanks and Brits alike – as World Cup 2010’s Trans Atlantic Tussle. This ESPN televised event pits aspiring contender Team USA against soccer’s more established, football-rich Team England.

Expect the June 12th World Cup game to be much bigger than soccer bragging rights. This 2010 first round match in South Africa showcases the United States second fiddle Yanks against the more ballyhooed Brits and should settle scores more serious than any simple soccer game.

Also at stake are decades of debates, disputes and disagreements surrounding each country’s icons. Like the Buck vs. the Pound, American football vs. football the rest of the planet plays, White House vs. Windsor Castle, Bon Jovi vs. the Beatles, Disney vs. Diana, Broadway vs. Piccadilly and not to forget the all important delicacies of Hamburgers vs. Fish n’ Chips.

So, who cares whether you say How you doin’ or Cheerio or whether you drive on the right side of the road or the left or whether you display your red, white and blue colors on the American Flag or the Union Jack.

June 12th’s World Cup 2010 Trans Atlantic Tussle between the United States and England should be exciting for fans watching from Los Angeles to London and should settle several critical cultural clashes between these two nations….at least until they face each other again in a future World Cup.

And don’t you fugghedaboutit, old boy!

MIKE – aka Mike Raffone – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

NBA Needs to Say Enough of Kobe’s Beefs!

OK, I’ve had enough of Kobe’s “beefs!”

No, I’m NOT referring to Japan’s Kobe Beef… as in the finest steak in the world.

However, I am lamenting Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant’s non-stop bickering beefs; i.e. the murmuring, complaining, whining, sulking and moaning we witness every time this loquacious Laker steps on the hardwood.

Right now, Boston Celtic fans are probably scrambling to canonize me as the new patron saint of Beantown for my audacious, long overdue proclamation, while loyal Left Coast Laker fans are boiling mad with plans to excoriate me somewhere on ritzy Rodeo Drive for all of SoCal to see.

Hey, I’m the first to admit that Kobe Bryant is arguably the best player on the planet. Sorry, Lebron-lovers. But, hear me loud and clear Laker faithful, Kobe’s pissy attitude, once again, during the recent Laker – Suns Western Conference Finals was totally inexcusable.

Coach Phil Jackson should bury a baby’s binkie in Bryant’s mouth instead of tippy-toeing around the Lakers’ $30 Million per year Prima Donna. What a disgrace that Jackson goes along with his star guard’s glaring, glowering and grimacing every time he misses a shot – or sanctions the sulking sewage that flows offensively out of his mouth toward the refs just as effortlessly as BP’s blundering oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why don’t we hear Marv Albert or Kenny The Jet Smith or Charles Barkley or Jeff Van Gundy step up with some stones and speak out against the belly-aching Bryant? Sadly, we see plenty of other sniffling television sportscasters like Stuart Scott and Doug Collins molly-coddle Kobe’s contentious conduct and carelessly condone his condescending comments aimed directly at his very own Laker teammates.

Basketball fans, here’s hoping the diminutive NBA Czar David Stern, always eager to pontificate before a camera, bottles up the bickering, babbling Bryant before the Boston – Los Angeles series begins tonight.

Enough of Kobe’s “beefs,” so we can all enjoy a great NBA Finals!

MIKE – thee American made voice on sports!


What CBS Misses in its March Madness Coverage

Going into this weekend, the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament has been officially trimmed to four fantastic teams, and this year’s CBS March Madness television coverage has once again frustrated the lucid, logical thinking of reasonably intelligent college basketball fans everywhere.
Big Dance diehards have fallen fast for the foolish fodder and boyish banter beaming from the CBS broadcast booth without ever questioning the corny, cliche cloaked commentary and overt omissions of CBS’ celebrated basketball announcers.
At times, CBS ignores the blatantly obvious right at the tip of your nose stuff, while hypnotically hounding fans with hokey, hyperbolic play-by-play analysis, subtly sucking viewers brains right out of their cranial cavities.
So, college basketball fans, put the Panasonic plasma on pause and ponder these missing March Madness oversights, compliments of CBS’ college basketball announcers.
Here are my first 4 forgettable picks:
#1. The Missed Free Throw Party – OK, so why can’t we find anyone in the CBS broadcast booth with some bravado to decry the dubiously dreadful display of celebrating shooting ineptitude nearly every time a free throw shooter misses a gimme from the charity stripe?
Doesn’t anybody else on the planet find it utterly ridiculous when teammates enthusiastically approach the brick-laying free throw shooter and congratulate him with high fives and pats to the butt after he just clanged an important freebie from 15 feet? Imagine if MLB infielders raced to the pitcher’s mound to bask in the embarrassment of a pitcher who’s last fast ball wound up 450′ away as some fan’s souvenir in the center field’s stands!
CBS’ silence on the Missed Free Throw Party makes no sense whatsoever to me.
#2. Tattoos – Once again, why doesn’t someone in the CBS broadcast booth blurt out the obvious and bemoan the proliferation of butt-ugly tattoos blanketing far too much of the basketball players’ exposed skin? After witnessing Northern Iowa’s upset of Kansas, I’m all for lobbying for an NCAA ban barring big, beefy boys without a tan from ever sporting multi-colored tattoos on any part of their bodies.
My second petition will be for the NCAA to mandate long-sleeved, turtle necked shirts to cover any future fashion paux of all heavily inked players because it seems like inebriated frat house friends frolicked with Etch-a-Sketch art on the chiseled players’ forearms, biceps, backs, necks and shoulders!
Perhaps CBS should initiate a think before you ink campaign to spare viewers at home from witnessing these unsightly tattoos.
#3. College Basketball’s Teflon Coated Coach – OK, why aren’t college basketball conspiratorial crazies feasting on the journalistic blackout concerning Kentucky coach John Calipari? Never heard a peep from any of the boys in the CBS broadcast booth scrutinizing this slippery and unscrupulous coaching cad from Lexington. College basketball’s highest paid coach is historically a walking NCAA infraction-in-the-making with a well-chronicled resume of recruiting players with no regard for collegiate consistency, scholarship and integrity within their university’s basketball program.
Perhaps the CBS boys believe Kentucky actually recruited Coach Calipari to improve its anemic 9% graduation rate or that the muck that Just in Time Johnny (getting out of the place before your sordid history catches up with you) left at Memphis and Massachusetts was merely coincidental. Duh!
#4There’s a Lid on the Basket – Doesn’t anyone else agree that this is one of the most over used cliches in sports? CBS sportscasters need to remove from their repertoire this ritualistic excuse for poor shooting. Come on, CBS, give the opposing team’s defense better credit and mute any mention of this trite expression citing a metaphorical metal disk hermetically soldered to a rim. There isn’t anything physical attached to the rim prohibiting the ball from going into the basket.
The only things preventing better shooting are better shooters or even better defense from the opposition….. and it doesn’t require a handsomely paid former player wearing a thousand dollar suit sitting in a broadcast booth to figure it out.
Maybe CBS should put lids on the lips of some of their basketball broadcasting boys in the booth before they blurt out any more corny cliches or totally overlook the obvious.
OK, college basketball fans, email me your selections of slack CBS sports casting and blatanly obvious omissions from this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Straight talk. No static.
MIKE – thee American made voice on sports!

Let the NCAA College Basketball Nail Biting Begin!

Maddened by another early March malaise, munchers, crunchers and nibblers alike will be unwittingly fidgeting and feasting on fingernails while watching their favorite schools participate in College Basketball’s Big Dance of 2010.

I say, let the Nail Biting Begin!

MIKE – thee American made voice on sports!


……MIKE’s “Let the Nail Biting Begin” post was selected as a finalist in the nationally recognized Last Fan Standing 2010 Sports Blogging Contest. To read MIKE’s “Let the Nail Biting Begin” blog in its entirety, click this link at www.lastfanstanding2010.com/articles/pages/5/

Caught up with the Kardashians

I just caught up with the Kardashians.

How ironic! A month ago I had absolutely no idea what a Kardashian was. But now I do…even though I wish I never did…catch up with a Kardashian that is.

OK, sports fans, with the Saints’ recent Super Bowl success and the Lakers looming large to repeat as NBA Champs, the name Kardashian has become synonymous with sports.

Because a Kardashian is someone who has mastered a new sport; namely, Gold Digging for Athletes!

Lusting for luxurious lifestyles and seeking second-rate celebrity status, Khloe and Kim Kardashian have struck gold.

Yes, the Kardashian girls have hit the motherlode with Khloe landing Laker Lamar Odom in an E! sponsored wedding and Kim reuniting with Saints Running Back Reggie Bush.

These two reality show drama divas demonstrate for shiny toothed, buxom babes everywhere that there’s a fortune to be had in sports . . . even if you don’t play one.

To keep up with these Kardashians and become a Kardashian yourself, just follow these simple gold digging guidelines:

SHUT OUT…any discussions of ever having to work a real job.

GO DEEP. .. into the wallets of multi-million dollar athletes.

FAST BREAK…to an MTV crib you’ve never contributed a dime to build.

KNOCK OUT…your new man’s Platinum Card balance while shopping on Rodeo Drive.

TOUCH DOWN . . . in your hubby’s private jet and step out on his red-carpeted runway.

The tawdry tale of gold digging as sport won’t be fully told for another decade or so…’til these dabbling divas’ vocabulary fails to evolve past manicures, pedicures, texting and clubbing, and their men desire to discuss details other than shopping, shopping & more shopping.

When the clock winds down (and it will), we’ll be able to test the long term carat value -10, 14 or 24 carat, that is – of this sport known as Gold Digging for Athletes. Unless there’s some true burnishing going on and the players refine some nuggets within themselves, we might learn that Lamar and Reggie don’t want to extend the game. . . in which case, “keeping up with the Kardashians” will be a short-lived sport after all.

Straight Talk. No static.

MIKE – thee American made voice on sports!


The Winter “Olympic” Sport of Curling

While watching the Hammer Throw finals at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, I never imagined my sports spectating standards could sink any lower . . . until I caught this week’s comedic competition called Curling at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Maybe – just maybe – somebody could cajole me into believing that flinging a chain linked projectile resembling some medieval instrument of torture by a big burly boy named Boris from Belarus actually constitutes an Olympic sport.

But, I’m sorry, nobody is ever going to convince me that the skinny Norwegian glee club members clad in those ridiculous red, blue and white harlequin pants, and swooshing plastic kitchen brooms across an ice skating rink, are genuine Olympians!

Who on planet Earth, other than their mothers, would ever consider these swashbuckling, Broadway wannabes . . . Olympians?

Just how inebriated were IOC members when they sanctioned Curling as an Olympic sport? If Curling is an official Winter Olympic sport, could ice fishing, snowman building and snow angel making be very far behind? Word has it on the slushy, just-about-snowless British Columbian hills that, after watching this week’s Curling competition on NBC, beer pongers and frisbee golfers are now petitioning the IOC for their sport’s inclusion in the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Is it just me or do you also view Curling as scandalously skirting the sanctity of sports by not requiring even the slightest semblance of athleticism?

Let’s be honest. Have you ever heard anybody say, “I’m playing in a real competitive inner-city Curling league this season.” Or, “Who will you pick as your Sweeper in next season’s Fantasy Curling League?” Or, worse yet, “Let’s run on over to Dick’s Sporting Goods. I hear they just stocked their shelves with the latest Curling gear – and their Curling Broom assortment is awesome!”

Listen, as far as I’m concerned, any sport that rhymes with twirling can’t be any good at all. So, enough of this nonsense! All this talk of Curling makes me think about hurling . . . my lunch.

Straight Talk. No Static.

MIKE – thee American Made Voice on Sports!


Let’s NOT Be Fooled Again!

OK, football fans, let’s NOT be fooled again……..when the NFL announces that another by-gone generation of geriatric, gyrating rockers will be entertaining us during future Super Bowl halftime celebrations.

Expecting to see myself and feel myself mesmerized by rock luminaries Roger Daltrey and Peter Townshend during yesterday’s highly anticipated football game intermission, I instead found myself traumatically touched – as if visiting ancient uncles in their South Florida retirement home – given the languished lyrics in their opening rendition of “Pinball Wizard.”

As Daltrey sequed from his strained, off-key, slow motion intro into his second sluggish song, the clownishly striped coated old codger sounded more like a tired turtle trudging through the neighboring South Florida Everglades swamps than the iconic British vocalist of the late 60’s and early 70’s.

To compound an already discordant performance, Daltrey’s next Greatest Hit was anything BUT. Who’d a thunk the aging Brit’s 2010 vocal version of Baba O’Reilly would vex some viewers about as vilely as a Bill O’Reilly vociferation.

Moving onto the group’s third song which seemed to stick around for hours, I embarrassingly broke out into my own chorus of “Who Are They?” rather than “Who Are You?” and simultaneously prayed for the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts to prematurely race back on the field.

Sadly, if not for the halftime show’s pyrotechnic and laser lighting displays, 74,000 stunned Sun Life Stadium spectators and 100 million tepid television viewers may have abandoned these comical caricatures completely for an obligatory bathroom break.

So, football fans, when the NFL announces performers for its Super Bowl XLV halftime celebration, we all need to remember the lackluster lyrics that Sunday evening’s fossilized British rockers recited while closing their Super Bowl XLIV halftime set……………………let’s NOT be fooled again.

Straight talk. No static.

MIKE – thee American made voice on sports!