Thursday, April 19, 2007

World-Class Talents -- The last 24 hours have provided us with incredible efforts from two of the finest professional sportsmen in the world. One name will be very familiar to Americans: Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod hit a game-winning three-run home run, this afternoon, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This was his second two-out game-winning home run this month. He is in the midst of what may prove to be the finest April in baseball history.

Rodriguez's phenomenal start is all the more extraordinary, given the meltdown he had last summer, and the constant cascade of boos he had to endure at the big ballpark in the Bronx. Lest we forget, this is still the highest paid athlete in all of team sports. If it's possible to earn his $20 million-a-year salary, A-Rod is doing it right now. His statistics for the month of April will match the season totals for some pretty decent ballplayers.

The other amazing talent is Lionel Messi. If you aren't familiar with the name, you should be. He has been talked about as one of the all-time soccer talents since he was 15 years old. He is still two months shy of his twentieth birthday, and he has now created his singular moment: One of the most memorable goals, most impressive displays in the history of the sport. Messi is a native Argentine, and he has had the burden of being compared to the all-time Argentina great, Diego Maradona. Maradona is infamous for his off-the field behavior, and his "Hand of God" goal in the 1986 World Cup, but he is equally remembered for the most dazzling dribbling display ever on another goal during that '86 Cup tournament.

As hard as it is to believe, Messi now may have matched Maradona, dribble for dribble. It didn't come in the Argentina uniform, so the Argentine fans will continue to wait for such brilliance on Messi's part in a major international competition, wearing Argentina's blue kit. Messi plays for FC Barcelona, who currently sit atop the table in La Liga (and are still the incumbent European Champions League winner). Last night, against Getafe, Messi brought the crowd to its feet in collective disbelief and admiration. Everyone who saw it had to know they had witnessed something truly extraordinary.

Messi took a pass, short of the midfield stripe, near the right sideline (touch line, if you insist on using English terms). After dribbling across midfield, Messi cut the ball back between two defenders. One was completely faked and went down. The other recovered, and tried to keep pace with Messi. The young lion, however was determined. Messi finally outraced that defender, and then he cut back again towards the middle, eluding two more defenders with his deft, sudden shift.

By this point, it looked as if the entire Getafe defense was chasing after the streaking Messi, and losing ground. Messi pressed forward, and raced around the goalkeeper, as he pushed the ball towards the end line. Finally, Messi corralled the ball to the right of the goal and drilled a sharply angled shot, over a sliding defender, and in the net, for the most amazing goal in the last 20 years.

Want to watch Messi's goal for yourself? You should. Here's a YouTube link to click:
Messi's masterpiece - videoclip or Messi, en Francais or Golazo por Messi, en Espanol

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