From dead to Reds

DAVE 'CRASH' CAMERON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

To tell you the truth, if Jax hadn't just served my lunch (Guinness, beef dip - fibre, protein) I was probably packing up and leaving the club.

It was 3-nil AC Milan.

It was ugly. It was over.

Until ...

Wednesday's Champions League final turned into a game for the ages. Any sport. Liverpool wins.

How did that happen? Milan usually just needs 1-nil to smother a game to death. How could the New Jersey Devils of European football lose a game leading 3-0 at the half?

Outside of a Beatles reunion, nothing could have brought more joy to the land of the "scousers." A stunning reversal of fortune. A tale to be told for generations.

Actually, I thought the Reds had about the same chance as there being a Beatles reunion.

I hadn't planned on writing about soccer again this week, but the buzz after that final registered Richter scale. I sat in with Soccer Steve Wednesday night on Ultimate Soccer (Team 1260, 7 p.m.) and the phones lit up.

Not just Liverpool fans, but "football" fans who simply enjoyed the spectacle. (Strangely, no Milan fans spoke up!?)

I had to talk again to Brian Budd, the Score's soccer analyst (Sportsworld, Cable 80, Wednesdays and Fridays, 3:30 and 5 p.m.) because, as he says, "Anytime, pal. I love to talk shop."

And it's not like there wasn't a lot to talk about.

The former Canadian national teamer admits to being a Liverpool fan. He watched the game with over 300 fellow LFC Reds-heads scattered over three floors of a place called Scalleywags in Toronto. When he isn't talking soccer, Brian's a Labatt rep in southern Ontario. Nice fit, eh?

"It would have been rude not to (go there), don't you think?"

I'll just let Budge go rapid-fire on the game, which is what he can't help doing anyway.

MAN OF THE MATCH: "Everybody said all the cliches: 'It was a game of two halves.' But it was actually a game of one half and eight minutes - and Jerzy Dudek.

"That man's cooler than a penguin's freezer. Out of this world. That may have been the best one-two saves I've seen in my life," Budge said about the late-game stops on Milan's Andriy Shevchenko.

TURNING POINT: "When (Steven) Gerrard got the header (to make it 3-1), he looked at the crowd and put his fist in the air and said, 'Come on, guys, get behind it.' He looked at his team and did the same thing.

"And for the next 15 or 20 minutes AC Milan couldn't get a kick at the ball."

CREDIT: "(Milan's Dutch defender) Jap Staam basically put everyone he was marking in his pocket. Absolutely brilliant on the day. Kaka - out of his skin."

DISCREDIT: "That Serghino comes on and makes a little run and, I'm not joking, my little boy and my little girl wrestle harder and fall down better than what he did."

PENALTY PAIN: "Penalties should be taken like Alan Shearer, and like the Arsenal guys did against Manchester United (in last Saturday's FA Cup final): up under the crossbar, somewhere a foot and a half inside either post, about two feet down, and they're just about unstoppable.

"If you look at the ones (Wednesday), including Shevchenko's, those are about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle."

Now the interesting thing for next season is, will Liverpool be allowed to defend the championship?

- - -

TSN's numbers for Wednesday showed 130,000 viewers, up from last year's 48,000 when FC Porto beat Monaco, with another 93,000 tuning in for the encore at 10 p.m. our time.

TSN's highest previous number for a Champions League final was 176,000 viewers in 1996-97, when Borussia Dortmund defeated Juventus.

Last Saturday, Sportsnet reported a record audience of 194,000 for the Arsenal-ManU FA Cup final at 8 a.m our time. The previous FA Cup high on Sportsnet was 166,000 for the 1999 final between Newcastle and Everton.

- - -

Let's talk hockey.

Not lockout. Hockey.

We're finally getting some. The World Cup of Hockey in September was almost instantly forgotten, redundant so soon after the Olympics.

The IIHF World tourney was another chance to see if hockey still had a pulse among the population. The buzz seemed lukewarm at best.

I tuned in and saw enough big-ice Euro-trap hockey to put the dampers on any enthusiasm I had to rekindle. (The broadcasts weren't easy to watch, either, with the cameras located somewhere in the rafters.)

Enthusiasm: Tune into this Memorial Cup and that, above all else, is what strikes you.

I've watched way too much NHL in recent years. It became easy to forget that people actually love to play the game. They don't have to, they want to!

A guy who has told me he really did miss the NHL is local sports-show host Ron Rimer.

Does he feel alone ?

"I think it's probably about half and half," Ron said. "I think the people that don't are just so ticked off at the (NHL) players and the whole situation that they didn't miss it.

"Or, a lot of people, I think, too, won't admit that they miss it! Won't give the players the satisfaction. I think there's quite a bit of that."

Ron's a longtime supporter of junior hockey going back to when his brother was a sportscaster covering the Calgary Centennials ("Guys like Danny Gare, John Davidson and Mike Rogers, they were my heroes") to his own start in the business, doing the games for the newly transferred (from Winnipeg) Moose Jaw Warriors in 1984. Later, he was a colour man on Regina Pats broadcasts.

Does he think people are pumped about this year's Memorial Cup?

"No question. You look at the TV numbers and they've tripled, quadrupled. I think that's twofold. There's a lot of people missing NHL hockey, or missing real hockey, or missing playoff hockey at this time of the year.

"By the same token this Memorial Cup is huge in terms of the Sidney Crosby factor. You've got Rimouski and that wonderful team from London, so there's a lot of people tuning in to get their hockey fix."

Would Edmontonians come out to see a revival of the junior Oil Kings?

"No doubt in my mind that it would work here."

Catch the Ron Rimer Show Saturday and Sunday nights from 9 to midnight on Team 1260.


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