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Roma 0-Cagliari 0: An offensive draw

November 26, 2013

Goalless draws are typically cagey, dull affairs. Monday, though, Cagliari and Roma played a game to a 0-0 tie that could have just as easily ended 3-3.

Roma entered Monday’s home game in second place in the table, having just fallen behind Juventus. Since a sparkling start to the campaign, Roma had dropped points in two consecutive draws against lesser competition. While Roma as been suffering a slight wobble recently, Cagliari was trying to avoid falling closer to the table’s relegation spots. With a win Monday, they could have pulled ahead of the under performing AC Milan in the table.

Furthermore, Cagliari came into Monday’s game sporting one of the league’s worst road records but having won three of their last four contests against Roma. For much of the contest it seemed like one of those trends would have to break, likely their success against Roma, until, thanks to keeper Vlada Avramov, it didn’t. Here’s the other things worth knowing:

1. Dodo could be very, very good: The 20-year-old Brazilian deputized at left back for Federico Balzaretti and proved to be one of the match’s premier performers. Heading into Monday night, the knock against Dodo had been he was a premier attacker from the left back position, but that often came at the expense of his defensive duties. Against Cagliari, there was more impressive dribbling and movement up the left flank, but the Brazilian had very little to handle defensively and proved capable of taking what came.

Particularly impressive was a moment in the 56th minute where Maicon, another Brazilian fullback who is more than capable of getting stuck in the attacking end, got lost in the shuffle and Cagliari were attacking down their left wing. Dodo, sensing the danger, scooted over to the right side of the field and was able to take some of the air out of Cagliari’s attack.

In the attacking end, one of Dodo’s best moments came just after the half, in the 47th minute, when he floated a cross from the left wing into the box for Alessandro Florenzi. The Italian tried to volley the ball, but it headed straight at Avramov who parried it away. The Brazilian also sent in a cross to Gervinho in the 37th minute that was headed off the post.

2. And the other fullback isn’t too shabby, either: Maicon came off of the international break and played an excellent attacking game Monday. As pointed out above, that led to him getting caught out once on defense, but Roma’s ability to cover meant that no harm came of that.

The most eye-opening moment came in the 56th minute when the Brazilian picked the ball up in his own half, ran at a poor Cagliari defender, beat him and then rifled a shot from the right wing at the upper left corner of the net. Avramov punched the shot away, but almost had to go horizontal to do it. After that run, Ray Hudson said on the game’s broadcast, ““I don’t know where he’s going to take his talents to after this, Maicon. It’s not South Beach, maybe Mount Olympus.”

3. Cagliari didn’t really have any standout players, with the possible exception of Segundo Ibarbo and Avramov: While they managed to keep Roma from scoring for the whole game, it wasn’t like Cagliari had a dominant center-back or were able to break up Roma’s possessions in the midfield. It was more Roma building up attacks either using their fullbacks, both of whom were constantly willing to get forward, or by bringing the ball forward through the midfield with Adem Llajic or MIralem Pjanic (both of whom are incredible and who played an almost-interchangeable role Monday).

Then, more often than not, Roma would either take an excellent chance and Avramov would have to make a strong save to keep them out. On the occasions when Cagliari were able to nick the ball back, it seemed like Ibarbo was involved in the brief counter-attacks.

Cagliari’s best opportunities came toward the end of the first half, and the Colombian played a major role in both. In the 32nd minute, he headed a ball into the lower left corner of the net only to see Morgan De Sanctis dive over and, with his head poking out of the side netting, tip the ball wide. Then, in the 43rd minute, Ibarbo made an excellent run and was just about to glide behind Roma’s central defenders only to see Mehdi Benatia rise up and just get to the attempted through-ball from Marco Sau.

4. If Cagliari want to improve on the road, they need to figure out a way to maintain possession and to disrupt the opponent’s possession: Ultimately, Monday’s game was almost entirely about Avramov keeping Roma from scoring by making at least four excellent saves, including one in the 91st minute as he dove into the net to just tip the ball out of the bottom left corner. At the same time, if your keeper is the man of the match, it points to a fundamental issue with being outclassed somehow. For Cagliari on Monday, the flaw came in the midfield, where Roma were able to continuously earn the ball back and Cagliari consistently failed to do so.

Looking at the Squawka stats for the match, 12.49% of the activity took place in the central areas on Roma’s defensive side of the field. Meanwhile, 12.43% took place in and around Cagliari’s box and another 13.52% in the area just behind it. So basically, Roma had all day to probe Cagliari’s defense and try to force a goal and, really, would have had three or four if Avramov hadn’t been playing out of his mind.


The 6 most eyebrow-raising parts of Bloomberg’s Paula Deen story

July 7, 2013

Despite the Twitter hoopla and living in the South, I’d managed to pretty well avoid the Paula Deen fiasco until I was flipping through this week’s issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek. After reading Ann Woolner and Felix Gillette’s article, though, it was worth taking a second to figure out the most surprising parts of the bizarre story. (By the way, the melted butter sculpture graphic of Deen is hilarious in the print version.)

  1. Deen wanted the wedding for Bubba Hiers, her brother, to feature “a bunch of little n—— to wear long-sleeve shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.” Later, in her deposition, Deen said she wanted a “South style plantation wedding.” Oh, but Deen “did not mean anything derogatory” by her comments.
  2. Hiers, Deen’s 59-year-old brother, drinks on the job and admitted in a deposition that he drinks a gallon and a half of Jack Daniels at home every month. (That’s a little more than three shots a day.) According to Hiers, he’s totally not an alcoholic.
  3. It’s unclear from the article whether Hiers ran Deen’s Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, but he was certainly very involved in the day-to-day operations. Why Deen thought it a good idea to put her brother in charge of the restaurant is unclear, particularly considering that he had battled alcohol and cocaine addictions and was accused by employees of leaving pornographic websites open on a kitchen computer screen. Furthermore, two managers and a human resources told Deen that she should scale back Hiers’ involvement, recommendations she ignored.
  4. Deen waited three years to reveal that she had type 2 diabetes — until she signed up to promote diabetes medicine. The maker of that drug, Novo Nordisk, has dropped Deen as a representative in light of the scandal.
  5. Deen has no idea how much her company, Paula Deen Enterprises, is worth.
  6. Deen could have avoided this entire mess if only she’d agreed to pay Lisa Jackson, the former general manager of Uncle Bubba’s, $1.25 million. Think she wishes that she’d paid that now, after The Food Network, Smithfield Foods, QVC, Target, Sears and other brands have distanced themselves from her?

Fire story

February 22, 2013

Covering a house fire or a car crash or any other “minor tragedy” is a key part of being a journalist — we’ve all been there and we’ll all be there again sooner than we’d like.

As a writer, it always seems wrong when these events, which fundamentally alter a person’s life, earn a six-inch column on the inside of the B section, knowing full well that very few people might care about that one specific incident but if it happened to us it’s pretty much all we would care about. Anyways, this little story’s about one of those, a trailer fire that took place in New Hanover County shortly after New Year’s. Read more…

The 5 Best Details From Wright Thompson’s Jordan Article

February 17, 2013

Wright Thompson’s “Michael Jordan Has Not Left The Building” is one of the best profiles of this decade, easily, looking at the Greatest Of All Time, how he got there and how he lives with the reality of that now. Here’s five of the most standout details, but you should take the time to read the entire article: It’s one of our generation’s best writers writing about one of our generation’s icons.

1. Jordan’s private jet is painted to resemble an Air Jordan.

2. Jordan would moo when Jerry Krause, the Bulls’ general manager who had a complicated-at-best relationship with his superstar, climbed onto the team bus.

3. Jordan used to spit on his tray of cinnamon rolls while shooting commercials so his security team wouldn’t eat them.

4. Jordan’s security team’s code name for him is Yahweh, which means God in Hebrew.

5. Jordan has reached the level of Demigod in the iPad game Bejeweled.

October’s curse

October 13, 2012

If Jayson Werth had led off game five with a double in most Octobers, it would be a good baseball player justifying part of an absurd $126 million, 7-year contract. When he scored on a Bryce Harper triple, the golden boy would have lived up to all of the hype and earned his place onto another Sports Illustrated cover.

The Cardinals celebrate their 9-7 comeback win over the Nationals Friday night. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Then, when Harper cracked a monster home run in the third inning, the story was supposed to be how this precocious star and these carefree Nationals revitalized baseball in Washington, D.C., making a hardened press corps care more about baseball than about swing state polling numbers.

Early Friday night, early Public Policy Polling numbers out of Ohio showed Mitt Romney pulling at least into a tie with Barack Obama. Nobody cared — the Nationals were ahead in the first deciding game of a playoff series that D.C. had seen since 1925. (The Washington Senators, by the way, lost that game to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a contest that for the next 87 years held the record for the biggest comeback in a do-or-die game in postseason history.)

This October, though, is unlike any other in recent memory.

Read more…

Thinking about how much innovation is too much and what kind is the right kind

January 12, 2012

Last Friday, Patrick Pexton, the Washington Post‘s ombudsman wrote that maybe — just maybe — the newspaper was innovating too much. Pexton’s point was essentially that the sheer number of new projects the Post is unveiling during any given week could be wearing down readers who know what they expect from the D.C. paper. He goes on to add that the paper’s staff sees itself as being slightly overstretched and that a segment of the paper’s readers see the new products as leading to cracks in the paper’s foundation.

After reading some criticism of Pexton, Jay Rosen decided to chat with the ombudsman and see exactly what he meant, a conversation which led to more than a few interesting answers. In the conversation, Pexton made it clear that he is not anti-innovation, but that he and other readers simply believe that innovation could be done more effectively.

One of the overriding points of Pexton’s discussion with Rosen is that newspapers have tried to change the way they do things, essentially, overnight — a reality forced on them by the fact that they were so slow to adapt to the Internet. Rather than taking a deliberate approach, though, newspapers seem desperate to do something, anything, really, to push traffic numbers up. Read more…

What we talk about when we can’t talk about the real story, or refocusing on Jerry Sandusky

November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno, seen standing on the Penn State sideline he prowled for 46 years, was fired Wednesday evening.

In the hour of Joe Paterno’s greatest disgrace, standing on his porch after being unceremoniously fired as coach of Penn State earlier in the day, he found it necessary to say two things: Pray for Jerry Sandusky’s victims and “We ARE Penn State.”

In an odd way, the now-disgraced coach was attempting to refocus the narrative on the two places it should be right now: the horrible crimes of his once-trusted lieutenant and the institutional failure that allowed countless young boys to be molested since 1998. The one place this story shouldn’t be is on the firing of college football’s greatest coaching career, which only reiterates the magnitude of Sandusky’s crimes.

Rather than talking about Sandusky, though, it is easier to focus on the decision by Penn State’s Board of Trustees to fire the iconic coach, refusing him the opportunity to leave on his own terms. This has been written elsewhere, but Paterno lost that opportunity nine years ago when a graduate assistant came to him and told him that he’d seen Jerry Sandusky sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State locker room. Paterno claimed that the grad assistant had only told him about “inappropriate touching” or “fondling.” Alas, as soon as you hear the words “grown man,” “young boy,” and “shower” together — minus any details — red flags spring up.

Paterno, though, is only one accessory to one of the most tragic, unbelievable stories we’re ever going to hear. Read more…

The misnaming of things, or why labeling is important in newsrooms

August 23, 2011

I grew up 200 miles away from any members of my extended family, meaning we saw everyone on holidays but were generally on our own. Consequently, my brother and I needed someone to fill the grandparent-sized hole in our household for much of the year.* The winners of that competition were a couple two doors up whose two boys had grown up and who were more than happy to entertain two kids pretty much any time.

*I don’t mean a grandparent in the sense of someone to hug you and grab your cheek and hand you a cheesy card with a large check inside and cook a giant meal and to trade tales about the past year with at the holidays, but in the sense of someone much older than you who you’re pretty sure knows things like why the sky is blue or why the dinosaurs died. To be clear, my own grandparents were excellent at both the first and the second categories when they were around, that just wasn’t often.

When we’re home, my brother and I make a point of going to see them and catch up on where we’ve been and where we think we’re heading at the moment. I spent some time with them this past Sunday, and somehow the flow of conversation landed on jobs coming right out of school. Mr. D, an architect, said his first job had been working for a company that designed the interior of space shuttles, conversing with engineers about the size and shape of dials in order to make the panels simultaneously aesthetically pleasing and functional. Read more…

Thinking about how to avoid unnecessary adjectives

August 10, 2011

There is a small part of every journalist that wants to be a writer because he believes he is smarter than everyone else or because he believes his personal lens can somehow provide a more real view of the world than someone else’s. That mindset is called ego, and it is actually something of a necessity to confident writing, so long as the journalist is aware of it and can keep it in check. Where journalists run into trouble, though, is when they let their own cleverness taint the story.

One of the easiest traps to fall into when writing a narrative — and this is often more true in magazine writing than newspaper writing — is to use lots and lots of adjectives. The writer’s gut instinct is to do whatever he has to in order to put the reader in his own shoes, to let him see the same sights and hear the same sounds and feel the same emotions. There is, however, such a thing as an overly written adjective, and when a writer really gets on a roll, descriptive words can acquire a strange hint of cruelty. Furthermore, a preponderance of adjectives will often fall into a story in lieu of plot, turning the story into a mishmash of jumbled descriptions rather than cleanly linked scenes. Read more…

How the Tea Party captured our minds and is fighting to steal our hearts

August 7, 2011

The Tea Party movement has many of its roots in Ron Paul's beliefs.

The story of the Obama presidency is, thus far, not about the 44th president, one who may or may not have accomplished more than meets the eye. Instead, it is the story of a faltering economy trying to squeeze the last nickel out of the squealing piggy bank before either the stern hand of sanity smacks everyone into a well-dressed line or a collapse whose reverberations will be felt around the world occurs. It is, just as importantly, the story of the Tea Party, a group of citizens and politicians that has attached itself to Republicans and forced the Grand Old Party to adhere to a new set of rules that, ironically enough, just so happened to be the United States’ original rules: The Constitution.

The Tea Party can be traced back to one character, a small man from Texas who simultaneously resembles one of Tolkien’s wizards and one of the Great Depression’s hobos. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is the original member of the Tea Party, someone willing to lose votes 434-1 in order to uphold principles and hop his vote across the theoretical aisle in order to stand up for his beliefs. His presidential campaign in 2008 was the typical third-party hail mary — more of an effort to make his ideas heard than a legitimate run. It coincided, though, with Sarah Palin, a little-known governor from a distant state getting the nod as Sen. John McCain’s running mate. Read more…