On The Ball with Mark Wheat: Lots of Drama

by Mark Wheat

Hull's Stephen Quinn celebrates after his header made it Hull 4-2 Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final.
Hull's Stephen Quinn celebrates after his header made it Hull 4-2 Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final. (Getty Images via BBC Sport Facebook page)

On the Ball with Mark Wheat is a Monday feature on The Current that celebrates the connections between music and soccer, with an eye to the past weekend's results. Listen Mondays at 7 p.m. as Mark plays the music selection of the week.

Semi-finals have always been my favorite Cup games to watch. There's a sense of desperation to the play that is seldom seen elsewhere, and this year's FA Cup Semis were full of all the drama that is only possible in these contests.

A bit disappointing, then, to see many empty seats in the stands of Wembley this weekend. When I was a kid, the semis weren't played at Wembley but I wish they had been, as it matches the majesty of the occasions and makes a virtual trio of events to the culmination of the FA Cup rather than just the one big Final. Of course the backstories to the games always make the outcomes more intriguing. Who could resist seeing the tortured Arsene Wenger stalk the touchline through the vast majority of his Arsenal game with Wigan, brow furrowed by his team's seemingly lackadaisical attempt to exit without much of a fight? That the game went to penalties was finally a blessing for them and us as 'neutral' observers!

Arsenal v Wigan Athletic, FA Cup Semifinal highlights, courtesy the FA

I still don't think they're the favorites to win the Cup in five weeks' time, as destiny seems set for Hull City as their backstory is what makes this competition magical. It's their very first Cup Final in the year that they may finally breathe easy as residents of the Premier League for the first time in their history, too. All this despite the plight of the fans, with a new owner who has rankled many by trying to legally change the name of the team to Hull Tigers. The most recent court decision went against him but he seems to determined. He wants to do it for "branding reasons" but surely the best way to promote the brand would be to win the Cup?! The last "giant-killers" from the lower division, Sheffield United led Hull 2-1 at half-time and they seemed set to make their own record-breaking Final appearance. But a thrilling second half saw Hull score 4 and survive a last-minute onslaught as Sheffield scored in injury time. The 5-3 score-line was the largest in semi final history — breath taking!

Hull City v Sheffield United, FA Cup Semifinal highlights, courtesy the FA

The Premier League had a tough time living up to that kind of drama. But there was some very interesting results, especially at the bottom of the table; Sunderland seem doomed now after losing to Everton, who leap-frogged Arsenal into 4th spot and have Champions League qualification in their own hands! And Cardiff, Fulham and Crystal Palace all had 1-0 wins; that makes the race much tighter. If you go by the remaining games for each team, Norwich and WBA seem the most likely to succumb to relegation as they play the most games against the teams fighting for the top spots.

Sunderland v Everton highlights, via NBC Sports:

Speaking of which, the one game that certainly did live up to the pre-game hype and had the atmosphere of a Cup semi-final, with the result having almost the same import, was at Anfield. Personally, I still have a hard time watching Suarez fall over so often and in fact he could have been sent off for simulation. For us in the USA where video replays have been embraced by American Football, it is hard to understand why the technology doesn't get used by soccer. If they are against it affecting the actual game in real time, perhaps the governing body could start issuing retroactive suspensions for players who are seen to dive on replays. That is definitely "bringing the game into disrepute" and would hopefully stop the epidemic. Otherwise the game was a treat to watch as the 'pool dominated the first half and City seemed lost when Yaya Touré limped off early. The introduction of the much-maligned (IMHO) James Milner spurred City to come back from 2-0 down to draw level. But The Reds reversed the momentum when Coutinho, who has improved as the season has gone on, hit a beautiful winner when it looked more likely that City would spoil the Anfield party. Now Liverpool have their fate in their own hands.

Liverpool v Manchester City highlights, via NBC Sports

At Xmas when they were at the top, I suggested that Liverpool didn't have the quality to support Suarez and far from being title favorites would be also-rans who might get pipped for the Champions League by Spurs. HA! Egg on my face! Sterling and Henderson have impressed along with Coutinho and now Gerrard seems to be playing beyond himself as he smells the chance of a title at his beloved club, who amazingly haven't won a title during his long and distinguished career. Now City have to rely on the others to slip and Chelsea have a chance but only if they beat Liverpool in two weeks' time at Anfield, a big ask. But maybe they have found a new hero in Demba Ba, who scored the winner against PSG during the week in the Champions League and in an unimpressive 1-0 win against struggling Swansea who were down to 10 men after 20 minutes. My beloved United didn't even play this weekend, their season ending in defeat in Munich on Wednesday. It really is weirdly wonderful to be able to subjectively enjoy the Championship race without the entangled emotional involvement of my favorite team — I'm serious!

Much as I am willing to celebrate Hull's win by playing Mud's "Tiger Feet" again, my fave musical tie-in so far this season, let's stretch the connection to a local fave: A Tiger Dancing is the third album by St. Paul's Heiruspecs, who were on the Local Show recently talking about their return this month.

At 7 p.m. today (Monday, April 14), I will play the big hit from the album, "5ves", which was notoriously featured in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.

Some of lyrics of the title track are not radio OK, but some of them still stun me:

Wipe your peepers, it's Ebenezer Bleezer's freezer pleasers
Sukiyaki succotash smash your speakers
Hummingbird tongue spun gutter stun gun words, yum

It doesn't hurt that "peepers" and "succotash" are two of my personal favorite words and I have a soft spot for hummingbirds! But the real reason I love this whole album is the shout-out track at the end, which they asked me to voice. I did it in one take, and the band were all in stitches in the adjoining studio when I'd finished. I wasn't sure why they wanted me for it and I'm sure the joke's on me, but it was back in 2004, before we started The Current, and was a career highlight then and is still the only album I have ever been on, so THANKS GUYS!!

Which games did you watch this weekend? What are your thoughts? Which teams do you think will be relegated from the Premier League? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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