January 30 – 2007
The last time we checked in with John Sitton, he was threatening his players with pink slips. Today? He delivers one. At halftime. In front of the whole team.
He then challenges two of his players, one big and one small (apparently), to a fight. He even recommends that the pair “bring dinner.” I can’t for the life of me figure out if this is metaphor, or if he actually means they should bring dinner.
Regardless: There’s only one John Sitton, and it’s quite clear he has lost his mind.
January 29 – 2007
David Beckham is the new, ultra-sexy face of Disney’s “Where Dreams Come True” campaign. Wielding a sword and riding atop a magnificent white steed, Golden Balls appears to be battling either a dragon or the collected affections of North America’s gay community.
The campaign places celebrities in classic Disney fairytale “dream sequences.” Beckham’s get-up is that of Prince Phillip from sleeping beauty, while Scarlet Johansson appears as Cinderella sporting a Nicoletta Santoro gown, a Harry David tiara, and tremendous rack. Biance Knowles, on the other hand, finds herself seated in a spinning teacup alongside Oliver Platt and Lyle Lovett; if that’s her “dream” then she’s one kinky little puppy.
Beckhamerica is gaining steam, and who knows what product will be next to enlist the $250million man. Personally, I hope it’s the Olive Garden.
January 29 – 2007
I’ve been fairly consistent in my approach to South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup: I make jokes at the country’s expense, but sincerely hope and expect they will host a successful competition. That changed, this weekend, on the basis of the following BBC report.
The rising cost to South Africa of hosting the World Cup is beginning to take its toll on government spending.
A new 200-bed hospital in De Aar is to be delayed – so is another in Upington.
A spokeswoman for the Northern Cape health department, Shelley Fielding, said money had been diverted to prepare for 2010.
“The hospital building programme will resume in 2008/9 financial year. Other provinces are also affected,” Ms Fielding said.
Initially, showering South Africa with support and optimism seemed like the right thing to do. The World Cup bid was presented as confirmation of Africa’s arrival as a civilized, footballing continent, and only the most cynical of fans wouldn’t grant at least tacit approval. But when hospitals start getting shelved to put extra seating in the north end of Royal Bafokeng, well…
The time may be here for everyone to rethink their support for the South African World Cup effort. The truth is this: a country that diverts funding from fundamental healthcare in order to stage a sporting event shouldn’t have gotten the bid in the first place. And while Sepp Blatter sticks to his “show must go on” routine, failure to recognize the warning signs could lead to real problems for South Africa down the road, let alone the Cup itself.
As our old friend shows us below: sometimes you really should just “stay down.” South Africa seems like it’s starting to stumble badly, and I sincerely hope FIFA knows when to say when. Because trying to get back on your feet when everyone knows you’re in trouble will only lead to flailing of nunchaku and risk of further injury.
January 25 – 2007
Last year, the go-to public relations maneuver for MLS teams was “we’re in talks with (insert major European club here) to work out a partnership.” Of course, this allowed teams to get their name in the papers alongside the Barcelonas and Real Madrids of the world, who themselves probably didn’t mind a little American ink.
The PR move of du jour, however, is the “trying to agree terms for (insert name of player the league has no hope of attracting here).” The signing of Beckham initially made this move plausible, but it’s being taken to the illogical extreme. Feast your eyes, for instance, on the Soccernet piece titled Chicago miss out in Zidane Swoop:
Chicago Fire general manager John Guppy has confirmed the franchise made an unsuccessful attempt to lure Zinedine Zidane out of retirement…Guppy told the Chicago Tribune: ‘We reached out to Zidane. But so has every other MLS club. The feedback we’ve all gotten is that he’s retired.’
The Fire also enquired about Swede Henrik Larsson, currently on loan at Manchester United from his hometown club Helsingborg…’We were very interested in signing him,’ Guppy said. ‘But he made it clear that he wanted to return to his hometown.
Furthermore, Guppy made an approach to sign the Horn of Salvation himself, Jesus Christ*. The very existence of the savior remains contentious and, at any rate, terms could not be agreed. Says Guppy, “We were quite serious about the approach, but negotiations stalled when he asked the club to ‘lay down our worldly ambitions,’ or some such shit. We’re a competitive organization, and we only want players here who are committed to success. We’ll now turn our attention to signing either Cristiano Ronaldo or the Chinese concept of Chi.”
*Clearly, that is untrue. Everyone knows JC wants to play in Salt Lake anyway.
January 24 – 2007
Despite everyone from Star Jones to Rush Limbaugh telling you different, the “Beckham” signing was only the second most important MLS news item in January. What could be more important than the signing of an International gay icon and his hot/hideous wife?
Two words: One word: Two words pushed together: SuperLiga.
Buried amidst the Beckham clippings you’ll find an MLS press release touting the formation of an eight team tournament pitting the best Mexican clubs versus the best MLS clubs. First prize is $1million, representing the largest sum ever awarded in American soccer history. Teams participating in the inaugural SuperLiga have been selected by nomination, but future clubs will qualify through league and cup performance.
There’s a good deal of promise here, with many fans (me included) hoping SuperLiga might just save the MLS from itself. Of course, we are talking about a Don Garber initiative here, so there’s some potential bad with the potential good. A sampling:
- Good: SuperLiga will have qualification parameters which might infuse meaning into the otherwise meaningless exercise that is the MLS regular season. Depending on how qualification is constructed, the days of truly purposeless regular season play may be over.
- Bad: Not a word has been said about the specifics of qualification. Unfortunately this could mean the bane of my existence, MLS Cup, may play a role. Increasing the importance of the utterly ridiculous “win-or-go-home” playoff format will only weaken the league further.
- Good: It will be especially nice to see Mexican teams come north with something actually on the line, rather than as part of some ranchero-band/two-free-tacos-with-your-tickets exhibition.
- Bad: No corresponding away fixtures. And this strikes me as a real problem. To expand the image of the league, if not validate the tournament’s legitimacy, games must be played in hostile stadiums. Furthermore, the type of media coverage (think Sportscenter) gained by traveling south is fundamental. Remember when 70,000 Mexican National Team supporters chanted “Osama!” at the US team? I’ll say it right now: MLS needs some hate in its life. Hate makes for primetime highlights and box-office receipts. Away fixtures in Mexico would deliver the type of hate MLS teams could smuggle back across the border and exchange for interest in the league.
- Good: The timing of SuperLiga (late July and August) coincides with the meat of the MLS season, when competition for qualification spots/league placings could truly said to be heating up. In the past, MLS begins to hype “play-off picture” during this same time, and it always rings a little phony.
- Bad: The timing of SuperLiga coincides with the Mexican First Division’s preseason, which may make the tournament easy to dismiss south of the border.
- Good: In spite of MLS’s history of socialist ideology, someone finally put together a serious monetary prize and touted it as a reason to win. Nice work, comrades.
- Bad: $1million? Give me a break. You just spent many times that on a single player. The prize should have been at least $1.6 million – enough to cover a team’s entire roster under the salary cap.
- Good: Thank God we now have an international tournament to participate in besides the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
- Bad: Someone explain to me, again, why we can’t participate in the Copa Libertadores. If you want recognition for MLS, stick the Houston Dynamo in the Bombonera and let Brian Ching take a bottle of Quilmes in the head. That’s the kind of thing that will make Americans care about MLS.
So, like most things coming from the office of Premier Garber, SuperLiga promises to be a mixed bag. That being said, I do get the feeling that while the wheels of the MLS may grind slowly, they at least grind slowly in the right direction.
January 23 – 2007
I tried playing EA Sports FIFA Manager ‘06, but it lessened my quality of life. The game was so exhaustive in its detail and realism that I found myself projecting real-life issues with clubs and players onto the game. In turn, this contributed to a feedback effect on Saturdays. Soon I couldn’t remember if I was screaming at the television because of what was going on in the game or because of what I had experienced earlier in front of the computer. Viscous cycle, man.
Thankfully, I never reached the critical point below. But if I could think of one group that could do it, it’d be Bradford City and Dean Windass.
January 22 – 2007
It can be tough to drum up much fervor for a meaningless friendly, especially when Jimmy Conrad captains one of the sides. (I am surprised, though, that ESPN didn’t play up the “Who will radical Islamists be rooting for in today’s match: the Hegemonic United States of Evil or the Muhammad-cartooning infidels of Denmark?” angle. Someone’s asleep at the wheel in Bristol.) At any rate, a game was played and conclusions will be drawn. Here’s a sampling from across the interweb-tube:
- “…the performances of Mapp and Cooper at least offer a glimmer of hope that such displays will continue once the stage gets bigger. And it was obvious that the more relaxed circumstances didn’t seem to help players such as Landon Donovan.” – Soccernet’s Jeff Carlisle
- “And now I?m going to say something I never thought I?d say. I kind of enjoyed Bruce Arena. Say what you will about the man ? I?m usually first in that line ? I found his commentary interesting in that his first hand expertise with the team, not to mention his loose mouth, allowed for some solid critiques and criticism, even if I didn?t always agree with him. Or maybe it was because he was sitting next to two worthless idiots.” – This is American Soccer
- “As for Landon Donovan, it was an uneventful performance. Yes, he converted the penalty kick but he didn’t do much else. I’m not going to rip him too much, not as much as some fans who think he should be benched…If he has another uneventful showing against Mexico then it may be time to seriously question where his game is right now.” Soccernet’s Ives Galarcep
- “Bornstein and Cooper, along with Justin Mapp, were the bright spots on the field for the US, with most of the other players either underperforming or providing their usual level of competence…Donovan seemed to not bring enough of his talent to the table playing on the right side of midfield and didn’t impose himself on the proceedings as one would hope from arguably the team’s most talented player.” – Matchnight
And here’s the report card…make sure your parents sign it, then return it to me…and no, Landon, Bianca’s signature won’t count:
- Reis - Didn’t have much to do, but looked uncomfortable doing it. So low on the depth chart that it makes Preston Burpo look like a contender. C
- Albright - Gives Bradley a first chance to distance himself from the Arena-era: cut him and cut him hard. D
- Boswell – Didn’t stand out either way, which is probably a positive for a center-back. B
- Jonathan Bornstein – I’ve come down off my man-crush, but still carry a flame. Impressive debut, but you have to wonder if Bornstein will really be able to cut the mustard against worldclass competition. B+
- Jimmy Conrad – A nice story, but did himself no favors. Lacked pace, decision making was poor, head was too large for body. Get the feeling he’s just happy to be there. C
- Donovan – At some point the question of whether or not he is the future of American soccer will cease to be asked. I’m at that point, and I think Landon is too. D+
- Ricardo Clark – Industrious effort. B-
- Pablo Mastroeni – Provided much needed experience and was comfortable throughout. But what’s with the Paul Scholes-esque rush of blood followed by ankle-wrenching tackle? Tranquilo, man. B
- Eddie Johnson - More like Crappie Johnson. F
- Chris Rolfe - I like Rolfe as an MLS player, but can’t see him achieving long-term success at this level. Plus, the pre-pubescent Norman Rockwell thing creeps me out. Needs some sort of facial scarring/neck tattoo to have a chance at a roster spot. C+
- Nate Jaqua – A 7-footer who can’t play with his back to goal? Next. D
- Justin Mapp - Yackpot! That run wasn’t just good; it was the best thing we’ve seen out of a US player in the last 4 years. Go get ‘em against Mexico. A
- Heath Pearce – Exquisite ball to Cooper. B
- Kenny Cooper - A well taken goal sees his stock continue to rise, and likely seals up a start against Mexico. ‘Bout time the US had a man-child of its own.
January 20 – 2007
Boy, do I hate me some Danes. The egalitarian society…the clean-lined, mid-century furniture…Soren Kierkegaard…all that Danish crap. I tell you this: they (and by “they” I mean their ‘B’ national team) are cruising for a David Vanole memorial beatdown.
And I intend to liveblog the event, which comes with some inherent problems: I can barely type, I’m supposed to be watching my infant son at the precise time the game starts, and I’m not even really sure what “liveblog” means. At any rate, I’ll be throwing some stream of consciousness crap out into the internets (including the Danish one) for the sake of posterity. Here goes nothing:
January 19 -2007
After eating some chalk on last weekend’s picks, Lukey the Czech slips to an overall bankroll of $129.76 (based on $5 and $10 wagers). Which, coincidentally, leaves him exactly 24 cents short of the $130 he’ll need to tryout for the Galaxy. Let’s see if his picks can get him to the Home Depot Center, after the jump. (more…)
January 18 – 2007
We’ve documented our early suspicions regarding South Africa’s ability to host a World Cup, and though it may be unfair, you can add the following troublesome national characteristic to the list: freak wind events which hurl signage at players.
Thanks to Deadspin and Stephen Hawkings Football Boots for the find.