Sunday, April 26, 2009

Carver and the MLSE

I never liked John Carver, and I let him know on the occasions I could get close to him, bellowing over a lukewarm beer that he'd long ago lost the plot, especially toward the end of last season. But Carver, like a few other stand-ins over at Toronto FC, was just another cog in the MLSE machine.

Let's tease out the name: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Sport AND entertainment. When we've got one right, we'll move on to the other. Sorry Toronto FC fans for life, but Carver was never the Geordie messiah you made him out to be, and I know you worked long and hard on your In Carver we Trust banners last year. He was an adequate buy at the right time, for a man who'd never quite burst the dams open at his brief flirtation with power at Newcastle.

But anyone watching the final match of the Energy Drink Canadian Content Trophy/CONCACAF qualification round robin against Montreal last year will know the man was all bluster and no guile. Montreal, with arguably less individually skilled players, made Toronto look like a pub side with a chance at glory. Carver yelled at officials, yelled at opposition players, made pleasing noises to Toronto's press gatherings, but in the end seemed nothing more than "hoof and chaser" from the Allardyce school of basic long ball.

Duane Rollins over at venerable blog The 24th Minute reveals some intriguing information, that Carver didn't like MLSE management telling him what to do (something made apparent when Carver went apeshit on the official over the final penalty without bothering to go apeshit on himself for TFC's sloppy early two goal deficit).

But what's more interesting is Rollins' assertion from inside sources that assistant coach Chris Cummins and fitness coach Paul Winsper have told MLSE that unless Cummins gets the job, they'll both walk. And - depressingly, if not surprisingly - MLSE seem okay with it. Rollins quoted someone close to the team as saying, “Maybe he’s got it, who knows, but I’d be willing to give him the year.”

"Who knows"...the rallying call of disinterested. Sports AND entertainment. MLSE probably think they've supplied enough of the latter ("the atmosophere! "the atmosphere!") that they can safely ignore the former. Like Carver, Cummins will be another nice stand in. MLSE will have filled the position, season ticket sales and supportive banners proceed unabated.

"Who knows" indeed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Flares at BMO was Outside Incident

You may read about this in the next few days. I was at the game, the two guys in question lit the flares near the exit ready for a quick getaway after they threw them into the SUPPORTERS SECTION (these guys definitely weren't among the ultras), and I noticed a few fans trying to stop them on their way out.

So FUCK you predictable tabloid reaction to this very minor happening.

The End.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Darren Bent tells Tottenham to play him or he'll leave — Guardian Headline

Darren Bent: B4, I've totally sunk your battleship now Gomes! Oh, wait, it's half time, could you excuse me a moment. Mr. Redknapp. Mr. Redknapp!

Harry Redknapp: 'Allo, yes, what's your name then son?

DB: It's Darren.

HR: Darren. Darren...Darren. Do you know my wife or something?

DB: Darrent Bent, leading scorer this year for Tottenham?

HR: Oh, yes. Pompei, January 18th, 2009, the missed header. You're the man who made me put my wife on the team sheet, only for Daniel Levy to intervene at the last moment saying it would be an embarrassment for her, me, and the club if I did, so there'd better be a bloody good reason why I'm standing here listening to you when I should be in the change room using you as an example of what will happen if my strikers don't take their chances at the key moment of the match.

DB: Um, it's just that, I might...

HR: Take up another sport because of your utter incompetence in the one you happen to be paid far, far too much money to play week in week out?

DB: ...leave the club to pursue...

HR: ...the goal mouth for a change? Good day, Mr. Bent.

HR: opportunity with another...Harry? Harry? I'm leading scorer, Harry! What do you mean "like Michael Owen then"? Wait, you've locked the change room door I think by mistake. Harry! Could you open the door Harry? Harry?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Galeano, Obama, and the Politics of Football

Perhaps every bookish football supporter has heard of/read the writings of Uruguayan journalist and poet, Eduardo Galeano. Judging how often his name is dropped among left-wing academic armchair football "fans" (see SWPL on the subject), he's also becoming the face of football for the growing body of mostly North American academes who deem football the one acceptable spectacle sport, in contrast with those "brute expressions of masculine oppression," American gridiron and hockey. For them, and for their shadow faculty on the angry right, soccer is merely code for "leftist sport."

This week, controversial left-wing president (demagoguish, but hardly Pinochet-ean) Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama a book by Galeano titled, The Open Veins of Latin America. Of course, the populist voices on the American right instantly labeled the book a "socialist" tract, rather than what it is: a condensed history of European and, later, American oppression on the Southern continent, hardly matters of great historical debate among voices worth listening to. When I read news that Open Veins had hit the heights of the Amazon best-seller list, I felt myself wondering what Chavez might have started had he given Obama Sun and Shadow instead.

Long ago I watched the amazing series, History of Football: The Beautiful Game, and in the second episode Galeano remarks on how the history of football is not merely a Sunday diversion or a specialized concern for unserious academics, but right at the heart of politics and culture. Yet Galeano is careful to point out there is no inherent good or bad in the game (hence, Sun and Shadow); for every heartwarming story of family fans banding peacefully together to take ownership of their club, there are stories of money, blood, and injustice...just read his chapter on the 1978 World Cup.

The sport of football is no exception in this regard, except in light of American Exceptionalism. Obama has taken a lot of flak this week for breaking the Golden Rule of US foreign policy; never be on equal footing, never admit past mistakes. To do otherwise is to put America on level playing field, thereby threating its "unique" status as a "beacon on the hill." Sport is very important in this regard. Soccer represents for many American exceptionalists a stand-in for the socialistic intrusions from the outside—Europe, South America, Asia. This symbolism has been unwittingly helped along by several soccer tourists on the American left (see Franklin Foer), who, rather than delve into the complex and tangled workings of the global game, instead draw a simplistic line between "good" soccer cultures and "bad" soccer cultures, those with racist chants and violent histories and those with family-friendly, grassroots support (ie Barca), one good, one bad, one right, one left. Just pick the "good" soccer culture and you're in left-wing sports fan paradise.

Galeano is at least more nuanced than that, and I think had millions of Americans bought Soccer in Sun and Shadow, with stories of Bettega, Archie Gemmill, Maradona, Bobby Charlton, Paolo Rossi, the corruption of FIFA, the coverups in Argentina, the generals of Brazil, they'd of learned a lot more about the world than the history of oppression in South American; they'd have learned something about the world with whom some in the halls of power in Washington are considering equal partnership. And maybe if enough curious, everyday readers had placed their order on Amazon for Sun and Shadow, Galeano might have moved away from his caricature drawn by those North Americans who've never followed a club, or seen a cup final, but love "all those flags" every four years when FIFA's money men put on their party.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Setanta's Pat Dolan is a Deranged Moron

I hate to return after a week off with a ranty bit of pundit-bashing, but I'm sitting in my living room watching this annoying jerk pompously sound off on who's right and who's wrong as if he were St. Patrick, Lord of All Matters Football for All Time, and I feel I want to smash his head against his little presenter's desk top.

Pat Dolan. While America has its fair share of political talking head idiots, it seems English-speaking overseas audiences long for some opinionated gash to "tell it like it is" on every sporting subject, regardless of whether he knows a jot whereof he speaks. Pat sermonizes on how David Moyes' comments about Mike Riley's United bias are "disgusting," even though he spent a good fifteen minutes the day before bashing the admittedly terrible Rob Styles (on that note, pundits tearing strips off bad refs is the bloody easiest point-scoring set up in the world, like playing Connect Four with an eighteen month-old).

Pat clearly has met the loud-mouthed, self-important block of wood you avoid in the pub test, so good on you Setanta for doltishly sparking vigorous discussion among fans by employing a bag of gas to wheeze out wrong opinions. But now's the time for him to go away. I vote for Norn Iron's best for Pat's replacement; while I like Martin O'Neill as Villa's manager (except in March), I think his true calling is restoring introducing some measure of grace and intelligence to sports punditry on television. I'll be here, ready to un-mute my television just as soon as he gets on.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Michael Grange: Learn Your History

The Globe and Mail TO section did a number on Toronto sports fans today, singling out TFC for encouraging rowdy, Euro-style faux-hooliganism, as if we've been stocking up on Football Factories DVDs in hope we might one day get our own football club to throw beer at every Saturday.

Here Grange: in case you slop by my own little contribution to the Canadian soccer panoply, click on this link. We've had football unrest for a while now, and your paper was there to cover it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Terry Utters Bland Encouragement to Chelsea, Lead Story Page One

Work requirements mean I'm forced to miss these Champions League fixtures, which is like missing out on Christmas really, or key episodes of The Wire. I would have sold my left arm to see Porto (Porto!) knock two against Man United at Old Trafford, and now the instant has been Youbtubisized for ever (actually, Samoed would be the more appropriate made up verb in this litigious time).

So all I have to go on for now is the Guardian reporting on John Terry's bland words of encouragement as if he'd said, "First, let's kill all the Scousers" rather than "We won't let the Kop get to us." What would be news is if Terry had said, "I think the Kop will get to us. We won't win the Champions League, and I'd be a mite surprised if we haven't all killed ourselves from shame at half time. I hate my career, my wife, CFC, Barack Obama and the Global Jewish Conspiracy. I plan to leave football to either start a life of crime or become a telephone psychic. Goodnight."

Now that would have provided a talking point at the pub. Do you honestly think Dominic Fitfield that you've landed the pre-match story of the day by letting us know Terry thinks "[Liverpool's] fans will play a big part, but we've learnt to deal with that"?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Luton's Thrikerish Win Embiggens Even the Most Cromulent Club

Dedicated to Sean Ingle.

It's hard to decide which was the more smorgulescent moment; the drefted booing of League Chairman Lord Mawhinney, or the snarduptacious extra time strike of thriker Claude Gnapke. All can agree the stappy-shappy Johnstone Paints Trophy decider was reminiscent of the stambrary finals of old, when all it took was one gracky hero to borf a game into the tubels of history.

And with 40 000 steriant Luton fans in attendance at Wembley, this was the grobbing moment for the club, a time when the Hatters needed something to shoolb them through their ombifary league struggles.

The traniking affair took off when Scunthorpe scored in the 12th minute, only for Luton's man of the match Martin to equalize on the half hour, with fans shouting "squazzy!" and "gogsgags!" around Wembley's drebibebery pitch. And in the 70th minute, it looked as if Luton's Craddock had shombledobbled the game when he scored a gleepy goal after wrilling it on his chest.

Charbly Scunthorpe weren't done querking just yet, when McCann gormerably equalized in the 88th minute. But Luton, to the blarting amazement of their deduderous fans, held on to score the extra-time winner, and give Luton a very poltish win at a very huniferic time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's Time Peter Crouch Acknowledge He Actually IS a Robot

Crouch makes his mark as an under-7
at MIT.

When Peter Crouch notched England's opening goal yesterday in their 2-1 win against Ukraine at Wembley yesterday, you could feel the collective wince at what might come next. "Oh no," said Joe Blough from Albion Town in Essex-Shrewsbury-Doncaster, "he's going to do that bloody robo dance."

Instead, Crouch, forcing himself through tears too small and oily for the cameras to pick up, did something the Telegraph dubbed the "pull-the-rope mime dance" (incidentally, the same dance I auditioned with for the National Ballet of Canada, to disastrous results). While Crouch may have seemed chuffed by the new routine, underneath, a circuit in his titanium alloy skull casing registered regular pulses of emoto-electroid sadness.

You see, Peter Crouch actually is a robot.

It's amazing the press or the public never questioned how a ten-foot player with the frame of an emaciated giraffe would be able to maneuver in front of goal without breaking his hip like the arm of a child. Crouch is thankful that, so far, no one has bothered to shotgun him at close range to reveal the hydraulic tendons and steel sinews underneath his outer organic skin covering. He's less thankful for the robotophobic attidutes that persist in football.

"What most people don't know is my 'robot' goal celebrations are the only way I can truly be myself on the football pitch," Crouch told me as he plugged in his head and torso in a giant underground recharching station at Cambridge. "Unfortunately, most of my football-purposed humanoid English national team co-patriots think it's hilarious. It hurts me that I can't tell them I'm using a corporeal motion code sequence (CMCS) fashioned by my inventor, Dr. Rudi Shaussenlauffer at MIT, to express feelings of pride and love of country. To be laughed at my the highest point of pride is a kick in the inter-limbal waste processor."

Crouch says he's not the only robot to have played at the highest level in England. "Oh, of course there were a few. Jimmy Hill was the earliest model I'm aware of. Alan Shearer. Gary Lineker was initially supposed to have been a protocol android, doing a non-stop show at Vegas, before they fashioned him as a goal-capable soccer bot."

Even though he's not the only robot to have graced the football pitch, Crouch doesn't take his status lightly. "Look, I'm not going to run rampant and try and kill everyone and take over the world (although, it shoulded be noted I easily could). Except for my extraordinarily high IQ, strength 9'000 times that of the strongest humanoid, and gorgeous WAG, I'm really just like you."

When I asked him why he isn't doing better considering his considerable attributes, Crouch shrugged. "It's hard in the modern game, a lot of decent players now, from all over the world. I'm just happy to compete for my spot WARNING OIL REPOSITOR LOW IN FOREARM TWO REPLACE OR WILL CEASE FUNCTION IN TWO SIX EIGHT HOURS."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Argentina Rips Own Face Off, Eats Foot

So, you know when I said Ireland Italy would be where it's at today? I was wrong:

Internationals are not boring folks, things change all the time. Now we wait for Maradona to gracefully make amends amid the fallout of one the worst Argentina performances in fifty years.

Forget England: Italy v. Ireland is Where it's At

I wrote a rant yesterday cursing the very name of those who would dare call internationals "boring." Have a gander. Also, John Doyle of the Glop and Pail, Canada's nominal newspaper, has written an excellent pregame dealie for Italy v. Ireland in the New Yorker Post-Times. The game itself promises to be a turgid, grinding, result-obsessed tactical affair, so keep your eyes on the touchline which promises to see Trap's head swell slightly before exploding.

Which is way better than watching Voronin getting his shins hacked to bits by Glen Johnson as England grab a 1-1 result.

Also, Shearer at Newcastle is looking less and less like an April Fool's joke by the minute. Mike Ashley will appoint his replica shirt to be manager next.