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Entries in Ben Jackey (22)


Remembering Harmon: A Brush With Greatness

Picture Of Harmon Killebrew

One Great Season

I never saw his swing in person. I never witnessed his majestic home runs. For much of my life, Harmon Killebrew was a legendary name and nothing more.

Perhaps it was fitting that in an old historic ballpark, Harmon Killebrew became a real man to me.

I was working for WFIE-TV in Evansville, Ind., and Killebrew was in town promoting hospice care. At the time, I had no idea what hospice was or why someone would travel from town to town speaking of it. All I knew was that this young memorabilia collector had a baseball or two to get signed.

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5 Things We Hate About The Kentucky Derby

Picture of Barbaro

One Great Season

There are so many things to love about the Kentucky Derby, which renews itself for the 137th time at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday. But here are five things we hate about it:

The Weather — Ask anyone in Louisville about Derby weather and you'll either get a roll of the eyes or a laugh. It could be 70 and sunny all week long, but on the first Saturday in May, picturesque weather is a long shot. We've endured sleet, snow and even tornado warnings ... and that's just within the last 10 years! It's a shame that at an event so widely known for its stylish spectators, the clothing of choice often becomes a parka or poncho.

REVIEW: Looking Back at Kentucky Derby 136

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A Sign Of The Apocalypse In Cleveland?

Picture Of Mike Holmgren

One Great Season

I was afraid when I went to sleep Thursday night that I would wake up to the sounds of white horses, seven trumpets and earthquakes. And this morning, I frantically reached for a remote to search for a weather forecast in Hell. My gut told me it might be nippy down there. A feeling I had never felt before swept over me. It was foreign. It was frightening. It was ... confidence in the Cleveland Browns' front office.

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A Cleveland Browns Fan's Lament

Picture Of Cleveland Browns

One Great Season

Why are you a Cleveland Browns fan?

It's a question asked of me seemingly every Sunday I spend with friends.

There is a reason you can't vote until you're 18. There's a reason you can't drink until you're 21. There's is a reason we don't choose our life partners until we're in our 20s and 30s.

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LeBron James: Is He Annoying You, Too?

LeBron James

King Of Queens Loving
Attention From NBA Suitors

One Great Season

Just make it stop.

It's worse than a month of vuvuzelas. It's worse than the Brett Favre will-he-or-won't-he stories. It's worse than listening to Chris Berman talk about, well, anything.

This nauseating media frenzy can all end if a 25-year-old starts acting like a man.

ALSO: Complete World Cup Coverage

It's time to grow up, LeBron. I know you love the spotlight. I know you love the attention. But this is just absurd. I'm sure your ego is getting a kick out of the parade of executives to your business headquarters, (Thanks for getting dressed up, by the way; nice shorts and sweatpants) the reports about who's having dinner with whom and the hundreds of people lining the streets of Cleveland pleading for you and your economic impact to stay. If your ego was only 99 percent sure of the notion that the NBA revolves around you, these last two weeks have cemented it. So, now that all the hot chicks have shown that they want you and can't live without you. It's time to choose one of them.

It's time to grow up, LeBron. An ESPN special to announce your decision? Could you be any more full of yourself? By now, you know good and well where you'll be getting every fricking foul call in your favor for the next five years. Man up. Call a press conference right now and say, "I'm staying." Or, say, "I want to be a winner, so I'm leaving this dismal town, this Zagreb of the Midwest, and its history of sporting mediocrity," and then push the proverbial lever that blows up what was once a revived downtown Cleveland.

It's time to grow up, LeBron. There's no need to draw this out longer if you're staying. Your fans don't deserve it. There's no need to appear to be struggling with a decision to make the blow to the city of Cleveland any more palatable. No one will begrudge you for leaving. I can't stand you and I wouldn't even be mad at you. Your ego needs a big market where you can win rings, and you can't do that at home. Kevin Garnett said it best: "Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can't get youth back." But you can stop behaving like a teenager.

Click here for Ben's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup Preview: Group G Final Matches

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One Great Season

With all the drama unfolding this week, it's somewhat disappointing that the Group of Death's final round of pool play won't determine who will carry on to the elimination round. However, one game will determine what could be very important seeding.

Ivory Coast v. North Korea

This game would have been critical had Kim Jon Il's boys not been beaten by a touchdown against Portugal. This could be a very non-aesthetically pleasing match. Ivory Coast has problems scoring anyway. They've scored a grand total of one in this tournament. 

North Korea is very defensive minded and (except against Portugal) is good at keeping its shape and packs 10 guys about 30 yards and in, despite the fact that against Portugal, North Korea got stretched out trying to get goals and flat out couldn’t keep possession.

A big question for Sven-Goran Eriksson is how long do you play Didier Drogba? The Elephants would need nine goals to get into the second spot and that would happen only with a 0-0 draw between Portugal and Brazil. So, do you risk Drogba’s arm for a meaningless match?

Ivory Coast wins 2-0, and gets one on a North Korea own goal.

Brazil v. Portugal

I'd be shocked if Dunga fields a full first team. Brazil is in. But if Portugal wins, it wins the group. It could determine who meets Spain in the first round (presuming Spain advances). This has the potential to be an entertaining match. Portugal's midfield was phenomenal against North Korea. The same could be said for Brazil's.

However, Brazil has shown some vulnerability in the back (see my Group G preview), having surrendered a goal against both North Korea and the Ivory Coast.

Look for a wide-open match that Brazil wins, 2-1.

Click here for Ben's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Note To Soccer: Please Step Your Game Up

World Cup 2010 Logo

Poor Officiating Not The
Only Ill At World Cup 2010

One Great Season

"I really want to get into soccer. I've tried. But I just can't."

I have heard it no less than 20 times in the last three weeks. Leading up to the World Cup, with a gleam in my eye and undeniable giddiness in my vocal chords, I would simply say, "Just watch the World Cup. You'll be hooked."

Soccer, you're really starting to tick me off.

Here I sit, a week into the so-called "Greatest Sporting Event in the World" with egg on my face.  Not Eggs Benedict, or even a nice Mediterranean omelette. Nope. We're talking salty, runny, bland American scrambled eggs. Served with a side of I told you so.

So far, this tournament has done nothing to draw in a sporting nation that struggles with the culture of international football. Here are just a few reasons why:

+ The Cup has been shockingly boring. A few weeks ago, I was appalled at Jose Mourinho's comment that the UEFA Champions League was "more important" than the World Cup. What a fool I was to doubt "The Special One." It is becoming more and more apparent that the World Cup is not what it was 20 or 30 years ago.

Back in the day, club football in England was mostly comprised of Brits. Many talented Argentinians and Brazilians didn't play professionally in Europe (at least not in the numbers they do now). For many countries, the World Cup team consisted of players mostly pulled from the two or three best squads in that given country. They were familiar with each other. It didn't take as long to become a cohseive unit. Plus, they weren't dealing with the mental and physical demands of 35+ league matches and the extra four to 25 added in with domestic and international cup ties.

The toll of these arduous seasons is plainly evident at this World Cup, with many of the planet's top footballers playing at less than 100 percent. The quality isn't there. Offenses are struggling to link up. Therefore, most of these teams are sitting back (save Brazil and Argentina) and waiting for a mistake. Maybe the biggest knock against soccer is the lack of scoring. This competition is doing nothing to debunk that.

Unfortunately, Mourinho is right again. This tournament is not the best the sport has to offer.

+ A kick in the balls. I know everyone's sick of hearing about the Jabulani, but the evidence of its inferior construction is starting to build up. Some of the best free-kick specialists in the world are miles off with their service. And, can you remember a World Cup where you've seen more chances sailing over the crossbar? The one person who seems to be having few problems with the ball: Landon Donovan. Go figure.

+ Vuvuzelas. Even saying the word makes my head hurt.

+ USA. Where do I begin? Our country only embraces a winner. While soccer enthusiasts were beside themselves with glee at the 1-1 gift from England, others who watched (and the ratings say a lot of them did) scratched their heads at our excitement over a tie.

Then, there's the phantom foul. As a Boston Celtic fan, I didn't think I could be any more furious than I was on Friday night after the Lakers shot 23 free throws in the fourth quarter. The NBA is becoming more irrelevant in non-NBA cities because of the awful officiating, the star-player favoritism by officials, officials who decide the outcome of games and the lack of accountability when it comes to poor officiating.

But I digress. That has nothing to do with soccer. Oh wait. Cue the USA-Slovenia tape. First, this game did nothing to reverse opinions amongst soccer-haters and fence-sitters alike. The U.S. was poor. The choice for a starting lineup was shambolic. The first half was awful. And then there's this conversation I've already had with at least a dozen friends since Friday morning:

Them: Why was the goal disallowed?
Me: Don't know.
Them: Didn't they explain it?
Me: Don't have to.
Them: Why isn't there instant replay? I mean, they could easily have fixed that. Just like they could have fixed the handball call by the same official against Robbie Findley that clearly hit his head.
Me: Great point, but I still don't have any answers for you.

Give me something to work with here soccer, or football, or futbol. I have defended your honor for years. Every time some drunken idiot has hurled insults at you at the bar, I've had your back. It's about time you had mine.

Click here for Ben's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup 2010: Group G Match Previews

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One Great Season

Results from the first day of play in the Group of Death will depend largely on who shows up ... literally and figuratively. A decision is supposed to be made on Didier Drogba two hours before Ivory Coast’s match with Portugal.

Will he show up? Will Cristiano Ronaldo finally show up at a World Cup? Will a unified or a divided Brazil squad show up?

So far, for me, group play has been a bit of a snoozer, but you can expect that to change with Group G.

Ivory Coast v. Portugal

This may be the most crucial match to decide the second spot in the elimination round. Both of these teams are full of talent, but injuries could hamper each. Here are a few keys for both squads:

Ivory Coast

+ Drogba will make or break this team, which already has troubles scoring with him in the lineup. With him, it's a draw. Without him, it's three points for Portugal.

+ The Toure brothers must be big. I Included this bullet point simply so I can say "Yaya." Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue will provide a formidable test for Ronaldo. It's incumbent upon YaYa Toure and his fellow midfielders to create chances for Salomon Kalou.


+ Ronaldo must show up for his country. He is the anti-Miroslav Klose (who is pants for his club, but a world-beater on the international stage for Germany). The loss of Nani on the wing puts even more pressure on Ronaldo's well-chiseled shoulders.

+ This team is loaded in the midfield and should be able to exploit the Elephants' weaknesses at that part of the pitch.

Prediction: Portugal 1-0

Guarantee: You will not see more diving in any other match

Brazil v. North Korea

This has the potential to be as close as the USA v. Angola basketball game in 1996. Yet, it is so intriguing because there are many unknowns. This game should tell us a lot about where Brazil's mindset is.


+ Reports of infighting are nearly synonymous with Brazil and the World Cup. So are the denials. However, one was allegedly caught on tape involving Dani Alves and Julio Baptista. Can all these egos mesh into one cohesive unit?

+ A lot has been made by writers (including myself) of this a-typical Brazilian unit. This is not Joga Bonito. This is more of a defensive-minded squad that progresses directly upfield with less flair than in years past. However, if there was ever a team Brazil could toy with ... North Korea could be it.

North Korea

+ Korea DPR's strength is its defense. I'm sure they'll start with some 4-4-2 formation, but don’t kid yourselves. Ten of those players will duck inside the 25-yard mark. I'm sure they will frustrate the Brazilians for a while ...

+ ... but how long will that last? That's the key. The longer North Korea can annoy Brazil, the more potential there is for one of those self-destructing moments (own goal, red card, etc.). If Korea can hold its ground, this could make for an entertaining match. If it doesn't, this will make for an entertaining mismatch.

Prediction: Brazil 3-0

Guarantee: Several of my friends will receive multiple texts that will mostly likely begin with "Did you see that Brazilian girl?"

Click here for Ben's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup Preview: Group G

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Lacking Usual Flare,
Brazil Still Team To Beat

One Great Season

Remember when  M. Night Shyamalan wowed us all with "The Sixth Sense?" People couldn't stop talking about him and couldn't wait to see what he'd do next.  Then came "The Village" and  "The Happening." The plots took so many ridiculous detours that Shyamalan became an industry punchline. The Adult Swim cartoon "Robot Chicken" mocked him with diabolical spoofs, ending each with Shyamalan's character exclaiming, "What a twist!"

Well, it kinda feels like M. got ahold of the most compelling story lines of Group G and decided to ruin them by adding a million last-minute twists and turns.

BIO: Meet Ben Jackey

The "Group of Death" was supposed to be a battle between two traditional world soccer powers and a slowly evolving one. Some consider Brazil the favorite to take home its sixth World Cup. Portugal possesses arguably the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. Many believed the Ivory Coast was going to be the first African nation in years to make noise in the elimination round. And, of course, there's the evil empire, North Korea, as the antagonist. Oh, and if that isn't enough … check this out (can't stop staring).  That's one hell of a script. I'd totally shell out $11.50 (plus a few bucks for some pints) to see that flick.

Enter M. Night. Just days before the World Cup, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba fractures his forearm. He's done. The Ivory Coast (a team already in turmoil) is done. But wait ... he has surgery. Now, team officials say he may play. "What a twist!"

MORE: Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers

So, now,  Portugal has to be the favorite to escape the group. But wait ... a team official announces that star winger Nani (let's keep it PG, people) has been ruled out of the Cup.  He bruised his collar bone. No one's saying when or where or how. "What a twist!"

If Pele shows up in a yellow kit and plays for Brazil, I'm walking out of the theatre. Barring anymore ridiculous plot twists, the "Group of Death" will be an exciting one to watch. We will "see dead people." The question is, which of these teams are dead and don't even know it?

Brazil – This seems like the no-brainer pick of the group. The Seleçao boast an embarrassment of riches. They left Ronaldinho, Adriano and Alexandre Pato at home. Backup goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes had one of the best seasons between the posts, if not the best, of all keepers in the English Premier League. Then, there is the starting XI.

Kaka is a former FIFA World Player of the Year. Robinho is a headcase, but is one of the most talented players in the world. Few would argue that Julio César is the best keeper on the planet right now.

COMING THURSDAY: Jake Yadrich Previews Group H

Yet, there are issues, especially at defense. Maicon, Lucio, and Juan make up a fairly solid threesome. However, there are some concerns at left back. And, at times, even the aforementioned stalwarts get caught chasing and ballwatching rather than marking (see the Confed Final).

This is not the Brazil of old. You won't see as much dancing over the ball.  You won't witness the usual flare. But make no mistake, the results will be the same as in years past. Not even a "Dopey" (Dunga in Portugese) manager could ruin this squad.

Ivory Coast – Were it not for Portugal, the Elephants would be this group's lone headscratcher. So much talent, yet so many questions. Right after qualification for the World Cup, the Ivory Coast sacked manager Vahid Halilhodzic. His replacement? Wait for it. Sven–Goran Eriksson. The man who inexplicably took a job at English League Two team Notts County in England. The man who drove the Mexican National Team into the ground. And, has redefined the "F" in FA with his numerous affairs.

On the field, all reports say this is a squad that has major chemistry issues. However, injuries may be an even larger concern. During a World Cup prep match, Chelsea striker Drogba fractured his arm  against Japan. Drogba's partnership with club mate Salomon Kalou provided, on paper, a potent attack front. Drogba produced 29 goals in 32 Premiership games this season. However,  when it comes to national team duty, he has struggled to produce goals, both in the Africa Cup of Nations and in a few qualifiers.  Scoring without him will be an even greater struggle for the Elephants.

The midfield has problems holding the ball and even greater problems linking up with its talented forwards. A strong defense which includes Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue may have to push forward to create chances for Drogba and Kalou.

Let me just say, I hate Chelsea. I hate Fat Frank. I hate John "Brent Spiner" Terry and his doodling with his dingleberries. I loathe Didier Drogba. I realize I am evil for audibly laughing when I saw Drogba actually go down with a legitimate injury for once. End of paragraph.

The question now is, does Drogba's injury further fracture this brittle unit? Or, like their formerly warring countrymen, will they become a more unified group?

The ladies can tell you that Eriksson is persuasive. Maybe he can unite this talented squad. Just don’t expect cuddling afterwards.

Portugal – Of course, when it comes to the ladies, even Sven-Goran Eriksson takes a backseat (no pun intended) to "The Greasy One." Cristiano Ronaldo's game is as pretty on the field as he is off it. However, one can’t say the same for the journey that brought the Seleççao to South Africa.

They won just once in their first five matches (mostly without El Greasbo). When Ronaldo returned from a legitimate injury – not the ones he fakes with regularity in hopes of drawing a foul – he was about as helpful to his team as this Vanity Fair cover is to his macho persona. He shot blanks, zero goals. Not sure if the undies are to blame.

But those undies have to be in a bit of a bunch after learning Manchester United winger and prolific jerry curler, Nani, is out with a collarbone bruise. Portugal must now rely on Simao Sabrosa on the other flank, an obvious downgrade. However, Ronaldo does have a sufficient supporting cast of world-class footballers surrounding him. Deco and Duda should be able to link up with the front quite well. Bruno Alves and Ricardo Carvalho provide a formidable defense.

Nani's injury puts a lot more pressure on Ronaldo. Portugal was a semifinalist in Germany in 2006. Expect them to make a return trip to the knockout stages, maybe on goal differential.

North Korea – Thank God for Google. Otherwise, my North Korea preview would have ended here. All kidding aside, I’ve actually watched this team play a match in its entirety. It was a goalless draw against Iran during qualification. Admittedly, I was more focused on the surreal, robotic, choreographed atmosphere in a Pyongyang stadium than I was the football.

However, that match did tell the casual observer a lot about the North Korean style. Much like the country's enigmatic leader, the Chollima don't leave themselves open or vulnerable often. This is a team that loves to pack it in. Remember when the U.S. basically slid 11 guys within 10 yards of the 18 for 40 minutes of the Confederations Cup Final? Picture that for 90 minutes. Expect boring matches that just might drive some of North Korea's attacking-style group competitors crazy.

I'd love to rattle off a bunch of names here, but the only two I've ever heard of are An Yong-Hak and Jong Tae-Se, aka "The Asian Wayne Rooney." North Korea will not make it out of this group, but my guess is they will steal a point from either Portugal or the Ivory Coast. This team will have a say in who escapes with their life.

Who Advances? Brazil and Portugal (on goal differential)

Why?  Two words: Didier Drogba. The Ivory Coast will not be the same with or without an injured Drogba. The turmoil amongst Ivorian players and a new coach for the Cup will be enough to keep the team from playing its best. Portugal's form improved at the end of qualifying, and Ronaldo will show up for an international competition for once.

Most Critical Match?  The first group game. Ivory Coast vs. Portugal. If that ends in a draw, Portugal's next match, against North Korea, will be huge.

What makes this group so great?  This. (Didier to Ronalds: "Beware the curse of the Vanity Fair cover. Oh, and is it cold in here?")


Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers

One Great Season is proud to announce it will be covering World Cup 2010 from start to finish. Group previews begin Thursday and once the games begin, we plan to update at least twice daily with match coverage, analysis and other news and notes. Please take a moment to get to know the nine contributors who will make One Great Season the only online destination you'll need for outstanding World Cup coverage.

Jeremy Brown

Jeremy Brown is a New York-based freelance writer. He's worked as a staff writer covering English and international football at UK and has contributed to several publications over the years, including the New York Post, Scientific American, Seed, Entertainment Weekly, Draft and Star. On Sundays he can be found groggily galumphing around not-always-trash-strewn pitches in the city's Cosmopolitan league, thankful that he never tried to go pro because man that looks like a lot of running. Jeremy will be covering Group B.

Mike Dick

Mike Dick got turned on to soccer by Pele's arrival in the NASL. Living in a virtual soccer vaccuum in Terre Haute, Ind., Mike's love of the game grew via broadcasts of Soccer Made in Germany and the odd NASL match, BBC World Service football coverage on shortwave radio and traveling to see live matches on occasion. He got to see Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Best and others in person in the NASL days, and as a semi-regular at matches of the Indianapolis Daredevils of the Amercan Soccer League, had the privilege to see an aged Eusebio as he pulled a Willie Mays at the end of his career. A former college goalkeeper, Mike enjoyed the 2006 World Cup in Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt. He supports Nottingham Forest and considers himself to be "the special one" when it comes to prowess on the barstool. Mike, a television producer in Louisville, Ky., will cover Group E.

Ben Jackey

Ben Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television news journalist from Louisville, Ky. He is a soccer addict who didn't pick up the game until World Cup 2002. Since then, he has travelled to watch and cover the USMNT and was producing a soccer documentary before he left the TV business this year. He is an avid supporter of Aston Villa FC of the English Premiership and may be the only person on the planet with cornhole boards adorned with the Villa crest. Up the Villa! It's important to note that Ben is a Leo, is fun at parties and is a great dancer. Ben, now a communications specialist in Louisville, will cover Group G.

Mike Marshall

Having played football continually for 28 years in some form, fashion or level in six countries — with teammates and competitors hailing from more than 50 nations — no other game could have given Mike Marshall a better perspective both on the human condition and how it might be changed for the better. With interests in history, international relations, anthropology, and design, Mike finds time for kick-ups whenever possible. Professionally he is the principal behind Marshall Arts, a graphic design and other creative works company. Mike will be covering Group F.

Mike Mudd, an assistant sports editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal, is a lifelong competitive soccer player, coach and fan whose claim to fame was making the second team Indiana all-state team in high school in Jeffersonville, Ind. Mudd covered college soccer while a student at Ball State University in the early 1990s. He also gets asked a lot about the time he scored four goals in a varsity match back in 1990. Mudd has watched every World Cup since 1986 and is more of a fan of South American soccer than European, though he has a soft spot in his heart for England. Mike will cover Group C, and can be followed on Twitter @mudd4goals.

Wade Murray

Wade Murray learned to play soccer at an early age while growing up in Iowa. He was a Division III All-American player at Luther College, then played semi-professionally in Minnesota and New York. His favorite national team is the US side, of course, but on the club level he roots for Everton. Wade is currently a digital marketing professional in New York City, and his favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. Wade thinks Ronaldo is simply the smoothest son of a #$%^ he's ever seen, although he dives waaaay too much. Wade will be all over Group A.

Bruce Sholl

Bruce Sholl started playing pickup soccer as a kid on the dirty streets of Toledo, Ohio. He then went on to captain the Upper Arlington Golden Bears in Columbus, Ohio, and started for the men's club team of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He currently plays for The Barnstonworth Rovers third team, a New York City club group. Along with being a fan of his hometown Columbus Crew, he has traveled abroad to play and watch, most notably the Man U-Man City Derby in 2008 and Espanyol vs. Villarreal this year. His aggressive style of play has translated well to the pub when watching matches and head-butting. Bruce, a retail marketing specialist, is on the general assignment beat.

Steve Susi

Steve Susi is founder and chief creative officer of Brand Spanking New York, a NYC branding and creative consultancy. Steve has attended numerous Premiership matches over the past two decades — most of which involving his beloved yet hapless West Ham Hammers — attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany (watch the video) and is a devout Ohio State and all-teams-Cleveland fanatic. Mr. Susi will spend the second week of World Cup 2010 watching the national teams of Germany, Holland, Denmark and England at pubs located in those countries' respective capital cities, and reporting/photographing the proceedings for One Great Season. Check out for more about Steve and follow him on Twitter at @brandspankingny. He'll be covering Group D.

Jake Yadrich

Jake Yadrich has worked in the video production industry since 2004, spending mroe than five years as a videotape editor for FOX 4 News in Kansas City. While at FOX 4, he and the station's film critic earned acclaim at the 2009 and 2010 LA Press Club National Entertainment Journalism Awards for their weekly interview segments with Hollywood's biggest stars. In January 2010, Jake obtained what he considers a dream job in becoming the head of video operations for the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer. Jake is an avid soccer fan, his favorite team being Barcelona, and brings an industry insider perspective to One Great Season's coverage of the 2010 World Cup. Jake will be covering Group H.


USMNT Seeks Another Wednesday Night At The Bar

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World Cup Could Prove To Be
Hot Chick's Sober Girlfriend

One Great Season

Most guys have had that one night. That one blip in the continuum when the stars align. Maybe Wednesday night at a half-empty bar and an outgoing and extremely drunk co-ed strikes up a conversation. These aren't the 4s or 5s you usually corral at last call. We're talking way out of your league (think Jamie Kennedy and Jennifer Love Hewitt).

Your liquid confidence and her inability to reason lead to some awkward, non-rhythmic, yet sensual dancing and eventually some tongue entanglement outside the club. But just before you're ready to take her to her place, her sober girlfriend rescues her and leaves you empty-handed.

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For the United States Men's National Team, the 2009 Confederations Cup was that hot chick. That team was fortunate to even be in the elimination round. An improbable 3-0 drubbing of Egypt got the Americans to safety on goal differential after being previously thumped by Brazil and Italy. Then came conversation and sensual dancing in the form of a shocking 2-0 defeat of Spain. Yes, the U.S. outplayed the No. 1 team in the world, but the two goals were extremely fortunate. Jozy Altidore's bounced off a hand and the post. Clint Dempsey's came after a poor pass by Landon Donovan took two lucky deflections.

Then, the lip-locking. USA found itself up 2-0 on Brazil after another fortunate goal by Dempsey and then maybe the best counter-attack the USMNT had ever produced, with precision passing and finishing from Charlie Davies and Donovan.

But the sober girlfriend eventually reared her ugly head, rushed into the bar and took the hot chick away. Brazil 3, USA 2.

Truth be told, the USA supporters' confidence and optimism are due in large part to that "Wednesday night." Remember, there was no England, no Portugal, no Ivory Cost and no France -- none of the beefcake dudes who could have easily scored with that girl in the USA's stead. Who can forget the two stiff drinks the Stars and Stripes had  at their ready, eager to charm the hot girl who normally wouldn’t give them a second look?     

+ Charlie Davies -- No one can stretch the field like he can and he was developing into a good passer.

+ A healthy Oguchi Onyewu -- He may have played the three best games of his life in that tournament, but is now nowhere near 75 percent, let alone 100.

I will argue that in its current physical form, this team is slightly better than it was in 2006. The group it will face will more readily concede points than the one the Yanks faced in Germany. Don't be surprised if the USMNT makes it out of the group stage. Don't be surprised if it doesn't.

A heading in the overpriced ESPN World Cup Preview reads, "Teams that won't win, but could." I audibly laughed as I found the USA grouped in with the select handful of teams that included the Netherlands and France. Sorry, but June 11 marks the beginning of Saturday night. Chances are we'll be leaving either empty-handed or worse (think Rosie O'Donnell).

Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television reporter and soccer fanatic who lives in Louisville, Ky.


Bradley's Selection Of Bornstein Is Baffling

Jonathan Bornstein

US Men's National Team
Announces World Cup Roster

One Great Season

When I was a kid, I had few friends and no life. I spent nearly every day playing basketball in my driveway by myself. So, at my grade school, I was one of the better hoopsters. Yet, every year, I made the "B" team. I could never crack into the "A" team fraternity. Most of the "A" team players were pretty good except one kid. We'll call him Johnny.

For four years, Johnny made the "A" team. He sat the bench because, well, he was not good. Yet, he always made the team, and I could never figure out why.

That's the flashback I had as I watched the announcement of the US Men's National Team roster. There were a few head scratchers, like the largely ineffective and slightly injured Robbie Findley and the largely ineffective and slightly injured Eddie Johnson. But they seemed like no-brainer locks compared to Bob Bradley's selection at left back: Jonathan -- we'll call him "Johnny" -- Bornstein.

I will admit that I only get to see about three or four Chivas USA games a year on TV. Bornstein is very serviceable, which is good in MLS terms. However, he is flat out embarrassing on the international level.

Exhibit A: This year's Holland match. In what was nothing short of a shambolic performance, Bornstein took down Wesley Sneijder in the box needlessly, leading to a penalty kick. He was thoroughly beaten more than once that match. For good measure -- and bad luck -- he also handled a shot in the box which was uncalled and deflected a shot past his own goalkeeper into the back of the net.

Exhibit B: Just Tuesday night, Bornstein was juked out of his boots on the flank and had to literally pull down a Czech forward (not a usual starter, by the way) to keep him from providing further humiliation. The right flank looked like a highway as one attack after another started on Bornstein's side.

Bornstein defenders –- if any exist -- will tell you that, during a friendly a couple of years ago, Bornstein played well against Lionel Messi. They are right.  However, there are many hilarious and vulgar clichés that apply here, all in the vain of "even the blind squirrel finds a nut." Heck, I'll even defend him to a degree for the Czech Republic match. He was routinely out of position and overplayed his men on multiple occasions. But that was partly understandable considering he was aligned in the back with a clearly far from healthy Oguchi Onyewu and a makeshift defense assembled solely for the purpose of observation by the manager.

Still, his deficiencies are glaring but Bradley continues to wear blinders. Bradley converted Bornstein from forward to left back when the two were at Chivas.  There's obviously a bond there. I've even joked there's something more –- perhaps blackmail -– because the selection of this inept child continues to defy all rational thought.

Admittedly, Bradley is without a lot of good options in the back. Our German savior, Jermaine Jones, isn't healthy and didn't make the squad. Oneywu is not match fit. And Jonathan Spector and Jay DeMerit have not had particularly stellar seasons in England.

I'm hoping the gaffer is intelligent enough to stick my favorite USMNT player, Maurice Edu, in the back and help plug the hole, thereby condemning Bornstein to the bench. Because that's where Johnny belongs.


World Cup Provisional Rosters Announced


Brazil's Ronaldinho
Among Notable Omissions

One Great Season

Death is inevitable. That said, even when that loved one is a shadow of his former self mentally, when he doesn't have command of his faculties, and we all know his goodbye to this world is actually a blessing, it's still tough to believe he's not here.

On Tuesday, football's grim reaper began to chisel a few of the most recognizable names into the headstones of their international careers, as World Cup provisional rosters were announced. Cue the music and the black-and-white photos a la Oscars night.

EXTRA: World Cup Rosters, Team Capsules

Luca Toni was the Azzurri's primary forward in 2006 and at the 2008 European Championship, but lost his place when he ran into problems at Bayern Munich to start this season, and he returned to Serie A. He was largely ineffective in Italy's disappointing showing in the 2008 European Championships. The writing was on the wall. Toni is 32 years old. Still it feels like a gaping blue hole.

World Cup

When I think Dutch football, I think Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Then I think about horses, but physical aesthetics have no place in this article. Van Nistelrooy looked old even when he was in his early 20s. Yet, just three years ago, he bagged 33 goals for Real Madrid. Two years ago, he scored 20. Battling a knee injury for some time, however, he hasn't appeared for the Oranje since the 2008 Euros. He was a long shot for the squad, and we all know what happens to horses with leg injuries.

Then, there's Ronaldinho (speaking of horses). He's the guy who even the biggest soccer-ignorant Americans have heard of. If your adolescent soccer-interested child doesn't have a David Beckham jersey, chances are he owns a red-and-black-striped Ronaldinho kit (AC Milan) or an old blue- and red-striped one (Barcelona). This is the two-time FA Player of the Year. He's had a pretty successful year for Milan, but has struggled to wear the Brazilian colors. In fact, he hasn’t suited up in 13 months. Qualifying was not pleasant for Brazil. The Confederations Cup was almost a disaster. Most thought Ronaldinho was on the outside looking in, but as an American, for me it's still hard to grasp that a player like him (who would immediately be the USMNT’s best player upon defection), can't even get a sniff of the bench in South Africa.

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Speaking of immense talent left off the roster, Freddy Adu will not rock the red, white and blue this summer.  Once believed to be the Messiah of American soccer, Adu's professional career has been more Sebastian Telfair than LeBron James. He's become a journeyman since leaving the MLS, and his latest stint with Greek club Aris has produced little results. And, in a great piece by Grant Wahl, we learn that the knock on Adu in Europe is that he's greatly lacking the tactical knowledge of the game. One must still remember, he is only 20. However, his international dreams may be on life support.

Morbid sarcasm aside, it's also a shame that Charlie Davies couldn't get fit enough to make the provisional 30-man USMNT roster. I've been trying to tell my fellow Yanks that there was no way Davies would be back. I think when you really want something, you tend to throw reality out the door, and Charlie did the same, as did American fans. The man nearly died. He had fractures in his tibia and fibula. Seven months is not enough time to rehab and be ready to take on the best players in the world. Moreso than any of the aforementioned omissions, Davies' absence will be a huge blow to his team. His pure speed stretches the field, which provides Landon Donovan more room to create. It allows Clint Dempsey to push up from midfield, and leaves Jozy Altidore under-marked.

Rigor mortis has yet to set in on Davies' World Cup hopes. But to Ruud, Ronaldinho, Luca, your three international careers may be six feet under. Six glorious feet.

Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television reporter and international football enthusiast who lives in Louisville, Ky.


World Cup: Is South Africa Ready For Prime Time?

World Cup

Anti-Obama Comments
Perpetuate Confidence Crisis

One Great Season

"Our famous prayer is that the Americans don't make the second round, (that) they get eliminated and they go home."

These are not the remarks of Fabio Capello, Wayne Rooney or any Algerian or Slovenian players. It's not some hate-filled comment from an Eli Tri rival like Giovanni dos Santos. No, this bit of genius comes from the South African police commissioner Bheki Cele.

Yeah, that South Africa, the host nation of the world's greatest sporting event. It's the country that many in the football world argued is not capable of hosting a World Cup. Then, it made the argument for us.

Commissioner Cele's comments were directed at the possibility of President Barack Obama visiting the World Cup if the United States Men's National Team advances to the knock-out stages of the tournament. The South African government says that El Presidenté has flip flopped on his travel plans since accepting the invitation to go in the spring of last year. I could go on about a politician going back on his word, but no one wants to hear that except maybe Glenn Beck.


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What that statement represents is South Africa's inability to handle such a grand event on many levels. Simply, it speaks to the comprehension of security. President Obama is the leader of the free world. He would be target No. 1 for any terrorist group in the world. "One challenge is the American president who is coming, not coming, coming, not coming," said Cele when discussing a conversation with a government agent.

Really? You mean a man who's in charge of the president's security doesn't want to share final plans with a man many doubt will be able to keep the average fan safe, much less a dignitary? I've had many inside conversations with Secret Service agents over the years, and even they will tell you they get details at the last minute. Pardon the pun, but this is Bush League, South Africa.

We are a month away from the World Cup and the hotel Germany is slated to stay in isn’t fit to house humans. Those hotels that are, are charging as much as $700 a night for a room. Oh, and there are the people who've been murdered in the shadows of some of the stadiums. Plus, trust me, you will still be reading articles five years from now about the debt incurred by this country due to all the stadium building and infrastructure improvements.

Typically, the aforementioned quote would not raise an eyebrow. In fact, it would normally be a source of laughter since USA's advancement in the World Cup is often comparable to Angola's success in the FIBA championships. However, there is a real possibility this American squad could advance. Group C rival Algeria has had a decent match here and there, but it has been humiliated against solid African teams. Playing Slovenia should yield three points. And England's rash of World Cup doubtfuls and no-shows (Rooney, Gareth Barry, David Beckham and Wayne Bridge) means the door is slightly ajar.

So, Cele better get his fleet of 1985 Crown Victorias ready, because Obama’s visit looks likely. You might want to get prepared, South Africa. That big soccer tournament is a month away.

Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television reporter and international football enthusiast who lives in Louisville, Ky.


Michael's Gone, But The Dance Lives On

Kentucky Derby

One Great Season

I've lived in horse country nearly all my life, but I can barely tell you the difference between a mare, a colt, and a gelding (I'm the latter since marriage).  However, when I place my $2 wager on the ponies, I do study the racing form with great fervor. I always look at past performance, usually the last two or three races. And, of course, I like to see who that horsed raced against. Then, I pick my champion.

Now to the story. Much like Barbaro was formidable on the track, I'm equally imposing on the dance floor. Going into what some were calling a "Derby Kick-Off Party" on Saturday, I knew my competition would be stiff. And the knowledge that OGS founding editor John P. Wise would be in attendance, made my legs -- which rival the width of a thoroughbred's ankle -- tremble. Yet, I was confident based on my previous prep dances.

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What John Wise did not know is that I had spent the previous two weekends destroying the wedding reception circuit. My April 10 performance in Dallas was a little rusty. My only competition was a drive-time DJ from Charlotte who spent many nights in the clubs and had all the moves. The dude could dance.  Thankfully, there were plenty of fillies in the stable and his attention was diverted. It wasn't a great showing, but I proved I could go the distance.  I danced with bridesmaids, brides, moms, dads, groomsmen and even myself. The footwork was a little sloppy after tearing ligaments in my left ankle (thank goodness I'm not Barbaro, by the way). To seal the deal, I actually went to the old stand-bye. It's my version of Kareem's jump hook and Hardaway's crossover; it's The Running Man. When the disco ball went dim, I declared myself the undisputed champion of the dance floor.

The weekend leading up to the big event would prove more of a challenge. This group liked to party -- from the father of the bride to the inappropriate aunt. There was drinking before the wedding, on the way to the reception and well into the wee hours of the night. Much like Lasix for a colt, Jim Beam can provide an average horse with the ability to push physical insufficiencies aside. I like to go straight edge with a long night of dancing on the horizon.  They may have been juiced, but I had the juice. My thighs were burning and my equilibrium was failing, but I perservered. The pictures and captions on Facebook do not lie: I was the life of the party and now had my eyes on the Triple Crown of Dancing.

I spent much of the week practicing in between showering and eating. Instead of my long gazes into the mirror, I used the beautiful reflection of myself to hone my skills.  

Then came the second to last Saturday in April. The greatest three hours in dance. 

I must say, I had to overcome some incredible obstacles. 1) No glow sticks. 2) The distraction of the "only in Kentucky" sight of a highly intoxicated woman inappropriately positioned with a man, locked in a nauseating embrace, all while unintentionally becoming the mascot of the establishment we were in, called "August Moon." And 3) As John Wise warned me before my arrival, the music was absolutely dreadful.

I knew the odds were stacked against me when Soul For Real's "Candy Rain" began blasting through the speakers. What's that, Mr. DJ? You were all out of H-town? Blinkers were a necessity for this race. 

The measure of my success was calculated by the number of times my Ryan Seacrest skinny tie was grabbed by both males and females, the amount of random strangers who felt compelled to trade moves with me and the blonde who tried to pull me back to the dance floor in between the tonsillectomies she performed on the creator of this fine Web site.

Again, victory. 

I continue to roll around in my garland of roses.  Truth be told, I went off at even odds. Like Wesley Snipes said, "Always bet on the skinny white guy."

Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning partier who lives in Louisville.