Each week, commenter Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
It would be a stretch to say that everyone is watching Euro 2012, but a heck of a lot of people sure are; two and a half million Americans watched each of the semifinals in midweek on either ESPN or ESPN Deportes, impressive numbers given that the matches took place in the middle of a workday. That's a 50 percent increase from Euro 2008. Even Clarence Swamptown has at least considered watching a game, which is an infinity percent increase from Euro 2008.
Sunday's final - at 1:45pm, perfect afternoon viewing for those of you who can't stand watching Bruce Chen and his marshmallow fastball shut the Twins out again - matches Italy and Spain. I'd like to give you a glowing preview, extolling Spain's passing and Italy's newfound attacking style, but I really can't, because soccer finals are almost universally awful. The teams, afraid of being torn asunder by a counter-attack, generally are content to defend strongly and launch only occasional speculative forays into enemy territory. As a consequence, most finals are low-scoring or one-sided. The last major final, Netherlands vs. Spain at the 2010 World Cup, had two teams known for attacking, fun-to-watch offenses. That match degenerated into people kicking each other in the middle of the pitch; without looking it up, my memory says that there were 85 yellow cards awarded, and at one point two Dutch players had machetes on the field.
So for the Clarence Swamptowns of the world, who aren't soccer fans but maybe heard something about Spain's exceptional offensive style, or about the nutcase-genius hybrid that is Italy strike Mario Balotelli - judge not based on tomorrow's match. It will likely feature very few goals. Because teams from Southern Europe are involved, it will involve players throwing themselves to the ground in a hysterical manner, like terrible actors trying to fake a mortal wound in a high school production of Romeo and Juliet. (There won't be more diving than a normal match; it'll just be accomplished with more histrionics than usual.) It'll finish 1-1, or maybe 0-0, and go to penalties, and afterwards everyone will try to pretend it was a classic and not a thinly disguised shin-kicking competition.
And now that I've written this, I suppose it'll end 4-3 with two goals in second-half stoppage time. On with the links:
*Parker Hageman wonders if Nick Blackburn can be fixed. (Gut feeling: no. But at least now you can see charts that explain why Blackburn is so awful.)
*You may have been excited about the Chase Budinger trade, but poster Madison Dan at Canis Hoopus really has the only legitimate reaction.
*The Vikes Geek is still not too happy about the Vikings stadium deal. This time, he's pointing out who stands to benefit from a deal that does not have a land-purchase agreement tied into it.
*And finally: in America, millionaire businessmen sit in the suites. Millionaire England fans at Euro 2012, well - they've got an entirely different approach.