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SportsMonday: Spain Spares Us

So I just couldn't watch another Cubs monstrosity in Los Angeles Sunday night and fortunately I switched over to ESPN2 in time to find a rebroadcast of the World Cup Final already in progress. I arrived there in time to see all of the extra time (I had watched the regulation 90 minutes live but had to leave to coach my son's youth baseball playoff game).

It was a gritty, gutty game in which Holland had a man sent off in overtime after it was very fortunate it didn't have a different one sent off earlier, in the second half. In the end, surely no one was disappointed when Andres Iniesta knocked in a goal with only a little time left to give Spain the win and, most importantly, to save us the ridiculousness of the biggest soccer game on Earth being decided by penalty kicks.

And, as we always say at times like this, we don't use the word "ridiculous" around here without very, very good reason.

The argument against just playing soccer until someone scores a goal is apparently that it is too tough on the players. My answer to that is pretty simple: What. A. Crock.

Have the geniuses who run international soccer ever watched a hockey game? Why is it okay for hockey players to play forever if necessary to decide a playoff game but precious soccer players can't be expected to play an extra however-long it would take for someone to score a goal in a proper fashion? Instead of penalty kicks, which have so little to do with actual soccer, it couldn't be clearer that teams should just keep playing until a period of time ends with one team in front.

Give each team another sub or two per extra 30-minute overtime period and just keep playing. Yes, the players will become tired. And yes, the many prima donnas who populate these teams will probably take their faking of injuries to a new level (although really, is that possible - can't someone step up and tell these jackasses that they discredit everything about their sport when they roll around like they've been shot after tripping over another player's shoelace?). But the fatigue would actually lead to more exciting soccer as it leads to defensive breakdowns that translate into more scoring opportunities.

It would make the most sense to play sudden death soccer as well, i.e., when a team scores in overtime, it wins. But this is another idea that the soccer Pooh-Bahs have ruled out. And that's fine in that we could just play 30 minute overtimes until one of them ended with one team on top.

The main thing is, the game will be decided by playing it, not the terrible stopping of everything and then parading to the penalty kick spot and taking shots that no one should ever miss but eventually some do because the pressure is too much. But that didn't happen Sunday. Woo-hoo.

Sox Notes
* A month ago, the White Sox needed a big streak to return to .500 and to return to something approaching relevance. And what did they do? They put together two. And after the current one stretched to eight wins on Sunday to give the White Sox an unbelievable 25 wins in their last 30 contests, the South Siders moved into first place in the AL Central, a half-game in front of the Tigers, who just about played as well as the White Sox for the past week.

* Tony Pena gave them another strong stretch of long relief to make sure Sunday's game would add to the win column (that and about 18 homers). It seems like most teams don't really have a specific guy as the long reliever any more. The Cubs haven't for long stretches of the last few seasons and after Tom Gorzelanny went back to the rotation, they don't have one now. And in the National League it doesn't make too much sense to devote a spot in the bullpen to a guy dedicated to long relief. After all, the pitcher's spot in the order comes up every couple innings. In the designated hitting AL, however, a long relief guy has more value and Pena has been doing the job.

Heat Index
The big question is, can the Miami Heat squeeze some sort of decent big man other than Chris Bosh under the salary cap.

Of course LeBron was contemptible and then some for going on television to essentially grab Cleveland by the back off the head, push it around for a while and then slam it down into the mud and rub its face in it for more than an hour Thursday. But in the aftermath of James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade teaming up, the question quickly becomes can he and his minions win championships.

It says here that unless they track down someone who can play center reasonably well, the Heat, and especially Bosh (who would prefer to play power forward but will probably have to play lots of the five spot for a while), will struggle mightily to claim the crown in 2011.


Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend every Monday in this space. He welcomes your comments.

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