Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rob Styles' Penalty Decision


"George Bush today defended the US central bank's decision to bail out giant insurer AIG and sought to reassure markets that his administration was intent on confronting the growing crisis.

The AIG rescue was the fourth taxpayer-funded bailout of the year by the Bush administration, although it is at odds with Bush's free-market ideology and economic policies. Critics of the recent bailouts have said taxpayers should not foot the bill for investors' bad business decisions, and have wondered aloud why AIG and government sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won massive government rescues while investment bank Lehman Brothers was allowed to crumble."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of Debates, Bailout Deals, and World Cup 1998

Not to get too political (my Obama post almost got called out at a family get together this week), but does anyone remember when Ronaldo 'got sick' in the lead up to the final at France 98, and then 'miraculously' appeared at the last minute only to get utterly trounced by Aime Jacquet's superbly organized French youngsters, 3-0 in the final?

Some called it a stunt, an attempt to break the concentration of a well-prepared, young and formidable French team in the lead up to the decisive match. Others say that Ronaldo reported ill to Zagallo 'in good faith,' that it was a simple case of food poisoning.

It's one of football's wonderful mystery moments. Somehow, Jacquet's words on the development seem appropriate for the moment: "Quelle motivation!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Richard Links Letters (Good God, No)

I've never done this and I've always wanted to: play the kingmaker and point you to some cool posts. While I have as much influence as an organ grinding monkey on the surface of Mercury, I would just like to take the time to give back to sites and posts that make me feel less ashamed about writing a football blog with no experience, expertise, or know-how (edit: not that any of these wonderful writers lack for any of these qualities -- I just mean they're bloggers and they make football blogging look really good -- AMSL PR).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why I Don't Even Bother Watching Toronto FC Anymore


Last night, Toronto FC coughed up yet another road game, another predictable mess, another exhibition of poor positioning and amateur on-field decision making, another embarrassing debacle for Canada's lone MLS club.

How long O Lord?

I can't even watch five minutes of TFC on tv anymore, and my home game visits are turning into predictable dirges. The problem may not have as much to do with Toronto FC as with the league structure itself. One of the reasons Toronto's midfield plays like a bunch of sticks and our defense seems bemused when through-balls whiz by as they lollygag out of position, is because the teams has nothing to lose by playing like shit; we're still gonna be in this two-bit league next year, so what's the point of raising your game when you're going to get the same pay-cheque at the end of the day? Let's face it; for many of these guys, TFC is the end of line, and the chopping block doesn't seem so bad when you're in your mid-thirties running around on a plastic pitch in a plastic city.

So, for that reason, would it be so hard to just drop the franchise system and the salary cap, have individual owners come forward, scrap the conferences and have a single league table and introduce a relegation system complete with financial repercussions, say, between MLS and USL? Then suddenly MLS looks like a real live football league instead of some sort of summer-long Official McDonald's Soccer Game Exhibition. One home game, and one away with every other club, three points win, one draw, last three spots: relegated. Bam. I've solved all of our problems. Perhaps then we still wouldn't be talking about John 'Deadweight' Carver and the magical mystery DP spot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Arsenal takes cold comfort from memories -- Guardian Headline


Oh boy. We've all been here before, haven't we?

You know, when we look back over our lives looking for that memory labelled 'Made a Difference' only to find pubs, cigarettes, and reruns of Degrassi High in its place, and then pondering the terrifying problem of how we could possibly morally justify our brief exertions on this giant rotating football we call the planet earth when we have done nothing but self indulge?

Of course, the dear Guardian Revamped and Now Annoyingly Re-Blogged Website is speaking merely of Woolwich Arsenal's dismal record in the Ukraine. Well, the Gunners can at least take solace that not many other foreign invaders have fared well there, except for Poland, Russia, and some Mongol hooligans in the thirteenth century.

But is this really about the Ukraine? Isn't this about Manchester United's dominance of the Premier League over the past decade or so, an Emirates sponsorship without any of DIC or ADUG's black and goopy cash, about the closing of Highbury, about Herbert Chapman's early death, about how Thomas could just have easily not scored in 1989 had the ball not flukishly come off Steve Nichol's shoulder, about Thierry Henry's ignoble departure, about Eduardo's broken leg and Adebayor's haircut, about how George Graham was London's answer to Don Revie, about Graham's kickbacks, about the entire 1950s and 60s, about the new rubbish mod crest when the older one was way better, about Chelsea's gajillions, about the club's lack of depth, about how most of its supporters are a bunch of trip-hop listening Nathan Barley's who watch football about four times a year?

No, just the Ukraine then. Good luck Gunners! And may flights of angels sing thee to thy yada yada yada...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sir Alex's First Training Session Without Carlos Queiroz, Based on their Performance at Anfield

"And he also let us stay up really late too."

Sir Alex: So, what...och aye, what did ye do when Carlos was around?

Rio: We did some boxes. Like played a game with three guys keeping the ball away from another one.

Sir Alex: Okay then. Do that then. That sounds good. What else?

Rooney: Well...he let us off training early. For the, um, psychological advantage? And he allowed shepherd's pie in the caf.

Sir Alex: I don't remember shepherd's pie getting served in the cafeteria.

Rooney: When was the last time you ate in the players' cafeteria Mr. Ferguson?

Sir Alex: About three years ago.

Rooney: Yeah, it was right after that.

Tevez: And sir, Q let us take women with us on the bus.

Hargreaves: Yup, and he...uh...he let us drink before matches. For nerves and everything.

Sir Alex: Carlos said you could do that? You're nae pulling my leg now are ye?

Nani: No Sir Alex honest. To be honest, we only trained maybe...once a week? He told us to do whatever we wanted the rest of the time. Mostly reckless clubbing. Revolutionary techniques really. We won the title!

Sir Alex: Well okay then. It seems mighty strange but to be honest, I never knew what Carlos was going on about half the time anyway. Alright, see you Saturday. Have fun. If you need me, I'll be with the sommelier in my office.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Internationals Make Monsters of Us All

What, you're NOT going to honk your horn
outside of my apartment for the next six hours?

International week -- there is something about the raw energy of nation versus nation in football that induces stress headaches like no other sport.

You learn things about yourself. Things that you might not want to face, or admit to in polite company.

I learned this weekend that Canada must band together to remove and replace the Canadian Soccer Association, which, alongside the Conservative Party of Canada and the board members over at CBC Radio, seem hell-bent on reducing Canada to a large, tacky wilderness with little to show for itself but some Celine Dion records and some grainy tar out in the west somewhere.

I learned that I feel tremendous, invigorating waves of schadenfreude whenever Portugal loses in the football. Especially when they're at home. And especially when it's to a team like Denmark, old trusty underrated Denmark with two late and injurious goals in injury time, the same blessed Denmark that humiliated England not too long ago.

And England. I learned that all my hardcore England cynicism will vanish at the sight of a long-promised and perfectly polite wunderkind sticking it to those arrogant Croat bastards, only to return when my left-brain politely reminds me that most of what England managed to do in Zagreb was with a Croatian player in the perma-sin bin, perhaps upset with himself that he hadn't left Joe Cole completely brain-damaged but only gashed and bleeding.

What did you learn? If anything? Probably that you prefer club football.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Simple Plan to Halt the England Angst Industry


EAI's Victims Need Our Help

We know a lot about football you and me. We know that Brazil isn't what it used to be, that the MLS is woefully overrated at the moment (which is saying a lot), that Middlesborough are this season's Aston Villa, that Manchester City will still never win anything, and we know that England will never play attractive football again.

So because we know England will always play badly, even when normally sane football-minded people predict exciting lopsided wins against Andorra against any obvious evidence, even when away fans boo their own national team in a foreign stadium at half time only to regale them with another round of 'God Save the Queen' minutes later, even with all the mind-numbing and utterly useless tactical advice offered in vain by countless paid newspapermen to a proven seven-figure professional, and even when we really, really don't want them to (admit it, because you're certainly not fooling me); why therefore can't we let England rest happily with the Denmarks and Greeces of the world, satisfied with their bit of silverware and content to move on into that famous and now quite-full dustbin of history?

Because of the England Angst Industry: fans, journalists, and players who thrive on the angst of repeated England flops, losses, and general technical deficiency.

The England Angst Industry (EAI) earns its keep these days primarily from the following. England won in '66. In major tournaments since, they've gotten close enough to build hope but not close enough to bow out with dignity. England's players play for high wages in the so-called 'Best League in the World,' reinforcing the oft-repeated fallacy that they should make-up the best national team in the world. Having a proper national program with dedicated training facilities and a view to participation in every FIFA competition possible in addition to the Olympic Games is for sissys and South Americans. Learning from the example of the Dutch and Germany national programs is un-British. And so it goes, and goes, and goes. But God, it was great when Gazza cried, wasn't it?

My simple prescription will cripple the EAI for good and transform England into the cute and cuddly national team that everyone roots for but never wins. The next Australia maybe...or Turkey if they're lucky.

Fire Capello immediately. Hire a young and untested manager from the Blue Square Premier League. Ban Premiership players from the national team.

The international break will allow Premier League Nerds to learn about the best players they've never heard of, as well as giving lukewarm lower-level tactical ideas a chance to succeed. If new-look England play badly, 'no skin off' etc. If they don't, than you've been treated to a heart-warming sports story that won't make it past page two.

Maybe one day they'll qualify for a tournament. But probably not. At least they won't receive any more coverage. How do I know this plan will work? Google 'CSA Senior Mens Team.' The action plan is laid out there in excruciating detail.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin, Soccer Moms, and Guy Lafleur's Disco Album


Some Hockey Mom's Son

A lot is being said about Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's use of the term 'hockey mom,' her catchall for middle-class American housewives scared to death of Mad Cow Disease, Islamic fundamentalism, and Hispanic people.

It seems the old 'Soccer Mom' cliche, like the minivan, Dave Matthews Band, and East Asian market melt-downs, is so 1999. And in light of that noble struggle known to us as the 'culture wars', it makes a lot of sense. Since 'soccer' is considered a sport followed and played by effete, liberal New Yorker-reading Truman Capotes (himself a poaching centre-forward), it's better to associate with the arm-breakingly rural, gun-loving and Nine Eleven-exploiting sport known as hockey. Or so the argument goes.

A wee rebuttal.

First of all, soccer is not a popular sport in Alaska. Ice and snow and all that. Plus heated indoor soccer is for old men. Perhaps Palin really is just a hockey mom. And nothing more than that.

Second, hockey is the most popular sport by far in Canada, the giant centrally-planned Soviet outpost with Mike Meyers in it somewhere. Why would the Republicans want to mess with our meagre cultural emblems or indeed risk any association with this, the land of godless gun-control?

Wait for the 527 spot: "Sarah Palin says she's a Hockey Mom. Did you know that hockey is the most popular sport in Quebec, where French is the first language? Do the math. Brought to you by Citizens Opposed to Less-Popular American sports."

Come to think of it, hockey is one of the most popular sports in Russia too. And Sweden, a country with 45% income tax rates, socialist medicine, and lots of big, fat, greasy government programs (and one the best standards of living in the world, but, you know...yeah). Palin is way off message here. Unless her thousands of children are forced to play some good old American Football, the perfect sporting embodiment of the art of war, and yes, that means you too Bristol, she will doomed forever by association with Ken Dryden, the 1972 Canada-Soviet Summit Series, dump-and-chase, the CBC, and Guy Lafleur's ground-breaking disco album.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Ronaldo is Worth (According to Manchester City's Newest Owners)


$250 000 000 seized from Mexican Meth Dealers, Sept 2. 2007
Courtesy I-Am-Bored.com

To put this into some sort of perspective, Abu Dhabi United Group is pricing Cristiano Ronaldo at the same dollar amount as the Arab League invested in the Darfur region last Fall.