In a week full of wonderful milestones, it was impossible not to dedicate the TOP FIVE to tributing these achievements. By Terri Leigh.
By Terri Leigh (@TerriLeigh_beIN)
As sports journalists, our trade is dependant upon and saturated with numbers. Statistics are what make us tick. So when you have a week that goes by like this past one, where so many round & wholesome milestones were hit, you get a little giddy on the inside. Just ask anybody who took in the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston this past weekend.
Milestone. What a grand word. I feel like in order to properly reach a 'milestone' you have to be of a certain age and people must refer to you by Sir or Ma'am. Milestones are for people who celebrate 50 years of marriage, 35 years with the same company, or a Hole in One. Naturally, with each of these achievements there is a plaque or an award or something with your name and accomplishment on it so it can forever be remembered, reminding you of the road you've travelled and the legacy you've left behind.
But again, when it comes to this type of recognition, one must surely have entered a new realm in their life in order to properly deserve and receive it, no? Perhaps the realm where an entirely new menu is available to you at Denny's. One must endure a certain amount of life experience before deserving a senior's discount card and such is the case for the achievement of prestigious and glorified 'milestones'.
It was this reasoning that caused me to struggle with the ability to relate the subject of milestones or landmarks to my own limited set of life experiences. I won a curling bonspiel once. That was pretty special. The best round of golf in my life was a 43 on a 9 hole course. The club didn't present me with a lifetime membership though. In fact, after I finished jumping up and down on Hole 9, I packed up my clubs and went home. Pretty anticlimactic.
But it dawned on me, and rather jarringly I might add, I do have an accomplishment marked by one of those wholesome numbers that nerdy statistics people get a kick out of, one that almost slipped me by. Although my number isn't grandiose or anything for the record books, it is something I can think of fondly with a smile. It was 15 years ago this winter when I got my start 'on the air'. Radio Southern Manitoba, doing evening weather forecast updates in rural farm-town Canada. "... and the relative humidity is 84%." If you would have told me 15 years ago that I'd be soccer-focused and living in Miami today, I would have called you a crazy person. But alas, here we are, aren't we? And now that I think of my own personal 'milestone', I suddenly feel the years that have passed and wonder where the time has gone. It won't be long now until I'll start reminiscing about the 'good ol' days' when cell phones still had an antenna you pulled out and the Dodge Neon was the car every cool kid wanted and how you only had to worry about drunk drivers on the road and not drunk & texting drivers! It's almost time to buy a rocking chair for my front porch and start yelling at the neighbour kids...
This week's FIVE is a blend of youth and veteran players, none of whom are eligible to order off the 10% off menu, but all of whom accomplished, or were associated, with great statistical achievements this week.
#5 - Sergio Ramos - 6000th Champions League Goal
While Real Madrid can celebrate a victory over Manchester United to progress to the Champions League quarterfinals, their captain can toast a goal scoring achievement accomplished in that very game. Although, you may as well toast this one with a glass of apple juice and leave the fine champagne in the box. Sergio Ramos was responsible for scoring the 6000th goal scored in the history of the Champions League... albeit it was scored on his own net. The goal that put the Red Devils in the lead on Tuesday certainly wasn't a fairytale goal and will be but a bittersweet memory for the center back, but it's #6000 nonetheless. However, looking ahead to prouder moments on the horizon, Ramos is just 7 games away from his 400th career club appearance, which he will achieve on April 14th away to Athletic Bilbao, should he play in all games leading up to that point.
#4 Lionel Messi - Clasico Records
Breaking records and being showered with praise is old hat for someone as talented as Lionel Messi. It seems like every week, we're breaking out new numbers achieved by the young Argentine striker... and much like we've become numb to 'violence in movies & sex on TV', do you think we'll ever get complacent with the Barça star's near invincibility? He's only 25 years old but we're going to be singing his praises for a long, loooong time. Like this past week when he broke, equalled and prolonged/extended a total of 4 records. His goal against Real Madrid in Saturday's Clasico match stretched to 16 the number of Primera Division games he had consecutively scored in. He also matched Alfredo Di Stefano's record of 18 goals, the two now joint all-time leading goal scorers in El Clasico derbies. Also, with 25 appearances, Messi became the most capped foreign player in the history of the Clasico. Oh yeah, and he also hit 50 goals for Barcelona in all competitions, becoming the first player in Spanish football history to do so in 3 consecutive seasons. I continue to wonder if we'll ever see this again. Will there ever be someone better than Messi who can match his newly minted milestones and titles or will they forever be set in stone as his?
#3 - Jozy Altidore - Leading American Goalscorer In Europe
At 23 years of age, Jozy Altidore's goal-scoring heroics in the Eredivisie haven't helped AZ Alkmaar move further away from relegation territory, but he has set a new record as an American international playing in Europe. His 24 goals in league and cup play surpasses the 23 goals scored by Clint Dempsey in his last season with Fulham. Altidore doesn't have to worry about his US teammate challenging his previously set record, at least not this season. Dempsey has only managed 8 goals so far in his first campaign with Tottenham, paving the way for Altidore to enjoy the spotlight.
#2 - Francesco Totti - 225 Goals in 525 Games
One of the more touching moments of the week was Francesco Totti's 225th Serie A goal, celebrated with his kids running out onto the field into their dad's arms after the final whistle. The Roma striker was visibly emotional embracing his children in an occasion that tugged at the heart strings of the hardest viewer. Totti's 225 goals equal Gunnar Nordahl's tally and the two share the record of the 2nd all time top scorers in the Italian first division. At 36 years old and with his contract coming to an end next season, chances are Totti will not score the 50 goals needed to surpass the all-time record held by Silvio Piola. Footnote: This very match, Roma's 3-1 defeat of Genoa, was a memorable one for a teammate of Totti's as well. Eighteen-year-old Roma youth product Alessio Romagnoli received his first ever start for the senior team and his first of the Serie A. If that wasn't exhilarating enough for him, he also got to play alongside the legendary Totti and scored his first ever professional goal while he was at it. And it was scored from a corner kick taken by... Totti. Just as the veteran achieved a great level of accomplishment in his career, this kid, half his age, made his first scratch on the smooth surface of his playing future. To put the age difference into perspective, Romagnoli was born just 4 days after Totti made his 2nd scratch, goal #2 of his 225 goal total.
#1 - Ryan Giggs - Millennium Man
(See Man. Utd Stats)
Yoga, diet, training. That's the secret to longevity. It's really as simple as that, according to Ryan Giggs. The Manchester United midfielder played his 1000th game against Real Madrid this week at the age of 39. And if you were one of the 9 million people who watched the match, you would have seen that his routine is working just fine. Underneath that grey mop top is a well oiled machine that can still 'tear you apart, again'. And again. Unfortunately, in the match that turned his game-playing dial to 4 digits, his performance wasn't enough to help United stay in the Champions League. However, with a shiny new contract extension for next season, it looks like he'll be back for next year's competition in time for his age-dial to turn to the big 4-0.