Thursday, August 20, 2009

AMSL is Getting Married!

So I'm not going to be round these parts for a bit. Let's say anywhere between three days and two weeks (death in blogville, I know), depending on the reliability of my local interweb connection. Anyway, please feel free to peruse my lengthy back catalog, or perhaps click on some unfamiliar links to my right. I will also be Sweeping on weekends over at so you can check me out there instead of going outside to enjoy the nice weather.

Until next time,

The Editor

Update: AMSL will return after September 9th, 2009, writes the man in the Guysborough Memorial Library on a trip to town to buy some pie.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Big Soccer Means Big Douchebags

The Archerites are at it again. This time Aaron Stollar makes some wild generalizations about Canadian soccer fans based on the 24thminute's commentary on MLS' lacklustre participation in the CONCACAF Champions League and the plebes go wild (check the comment section).

Read the offending post. Read Stollar's sweaty nationalist vitriol. Can you see a reasoned rebuttal? Me neither. This is the school of soccer journalism. Big Soccer, NORTH American football is not your political bitch.

Taking MLS "Hardcore" to Task Ctd.

And now the San Jose (pop. 1 million) Earthquake's less-than-triumphant return home means the new stadium is on hold. Pitchinvasion sorts it out.

Taking MLS "Hardcore" to Task

Duane Rollins takes the Columbus Crew fans to task for not giving more support to the best club in MLS. While I agree little has been done to market some of the subsidiary competitions, in this case the CONCACAF Champions League, it seems to me there is a demographic issue that can't be avoided. Greater Seattle has a population of just under three million, Toronto 4.7 million, Columbus is 750 000.

Yes, they are Columbus' only winning team. Yes, half of the supposed "hardcore" didn't show up to watch the Crew take on the Islanders. Yes, the Crew have not been exactly great in the soccer promotion department. And I absolutely agree with Duane when he writes, "In a league that shares revenue you are only as strong as your weakest link." The problem is the weakest link is the current MLS Champion, formerly owned by Lamar Hunt, and a founding club.

It's sad to see but then it's sad to see the Anaheim Mighty Ducks raise Lord Stanley's Cup. Part of the grab bag of American sport.

Serie A: Prognosis Negative?

WSC Daily turns attentions to Serie A, and with a few minor exceptions, Juve's slight beefing up and Inter's maybe good/maybe not Ibra deal for Eto'o and a giant wad of Euros, declares the league financially and competitively milquetoast.

Not sure I entirely buy it, but I do like Amy Lawrence's and the Twofootedtackle podcast's predictions Napoli will rise out of the mediocre fray for a chance at the Scudetto/Champions League respectively.

Is ESPN Right Not to Push MLS on EPL Viewers?

Kartik Krishnaiyer believes ESPN missed a big opportunity by not pushing MLS telecasts during their early morning Premier League broadcasts:
Does ESPN simply assume that viewers of the Premier League and La Liga will not watch MLS so they do not waste their time promoting it? Or is this a tacit admission that MLS has maxed out as far as viewers in its current form, and the network is more concerned about building the brand of international football entering a World Cup year?
Kartik has a point. Yet as I've pointed out in the past, it might be best to sell European football on its own rather than bombard viewers, some of whom may never have seen a club football match before, with ads for MLS fixtures in the afternoon, as if they were one and the same entity.

I was and still am a European football fan; but I am also a Toronto FC supporter who bought season tickets because I wanted to be part of the growth of something at home I had already witnessed at a highly-developed level overseas. I suspect there are tens of thousands of other TFC and Seattle Sounders early franchise season ticket holders for example who share my story.

Why does this matter for MLS telecasts? Because in my experience most regular MLS television viewers follow a particular MLS club, and most MLS fans began following their club because at some stage they were European football fans first. They fell in love with the quality of play, with the fan culture, with the various Cup competitions, the history etc, and wanted some simulacra of that experience at home. MLS helps provide that, something I know many North American hardcore MLS and USL advocates don't like to hear.

MLS and European football telecasts are not interchangeable; ESPN likely knows that. They may also know it's better at this stage to let European football speak for itself, drawing more and more American viewers who will eventually want to see the growth of the sport at the club level in their backyards. MLS will be waiting for them. It's an organic process and it shouldn't be rushed. Show European football, and they will come.

Some Amateurish Culinary Thoughts on Yesterday's Matches

Yesterday I made a toast to feeling good all the time and promptly loaded up two illegal streams, one next to each other, of Arsenal v. Celtic and Chelsea v. Sunderland.

My level of concentration on either was dictated by the consistency of the broadcast. As one bowed out on Justin TV, I would switch to the other until the other stream had either righted itself or switched altogether (I won't reveal the source of these magic streams except to point you to the particularly helpful comments section from my last post).

It reminded me a fair bit of cooking. Arsenal Celtic was a match on a good simmer, but needed a bit of something to move it along. Arsene Wenger's strategy seemed simply to be, "ok Mowbray, you might have a secret cunning plan, but you won't be able to exercise it if we pass at the speed of a twelve year-old playing Pro Evo 2009." Things seemed to be working as Celtic overhit passes out of play for the most part.

Normally a goal would have been the perfect solution, but Gallas' cruelly demented outtake of a strike basically collapsed the souffle (pardon my mixed cooking metaphors). So I was more than happy to switch over to the Stadium of Light where Chelsea had gone down 1-0 to a Darren Bent effort.

That game was like an old tried and true recipe; at first you're desperate to pull off something different to impress your guests, but then you freak out because the potatoes are boiling over so you stick to the cookbook. Once Sunderland got their bit in, it was point proven: "We have Steve Bruce, so we'll make you worried Big Four, but not enough to start pulling off upset wins this early in the season thank you very much."

Ballack's equalizer meant the game was as good as done half an hour before serving time. The penalty was stone cold in the middle and Deco's pretty but ultimately banal third goal was like a creme brulee; a pleasant treat, but something you could get at almost every fine restaurant. So far the Premier League has been solid but lacking in spice or variation, and the Champions League thus far is following the recipe to a tee. Maybe we should go out for Indian next time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cable-less Football: Part One of Another Effing AMSL Series

Here's my damage. I had to get rid of my cable TV. I essentially bought it both for La Liga on GolTV and the Premier League Setanta Sports Canada (which still exists here, still costs $14.99/month, and is still the last place on the dial to catch three PL fixtures in a row on Saturday), but because of weekend professional music commitments I was only able to catch the Saturday fixtures, and with a wedding coming up the cable was a prime candidate to get the axe (donation button is on the right).

So what does someone who presumes to write about football do when they can't watch it in the comfort of their own living room?

Justin TV

I've learned quite a bit about Justin TV over the years, mostly from trying to watch grainy international qualifiers that cut out around the 65 minute mark. So I already know the basics.

First, you must methodically try each and every sport listed channel on their menu list, regardless of whether it even advertises the game in question. Be prepared for looped Arsenal Man United matches, interviews with Sir Alex Ferguson, or the 2003 Champions League final all posing as the match you want to watch.

Once you've found the appropriate feed, set the timer. If it has English commentary, is properly labelled and of excellent streaming quality, you have about twenty minutes to half an hour before this sucker goes offline due to copyright. What you want is the choppy bastard that cuts in and out, has third-hand Cantonese play-by-play, and is presented as LPGA 2008. This one will be up at least until the middle of the second half.

The Boho

This is what I did on Saturday for the most part, and when that failed, I tried out local restaurant Boho's on Roncesvalles Avenue. They have a little bar in the back called the "Liverbird" featuring neat little shields for each and every Premier League club, two flat screen televisions, and no customers whatsoever. I ended up there halfway through Villa's tragicomedy against Wigan to a blissfully empty space and had some fun trading bad gambling tips with one of the kitchen staff. Had the Hobo scramble which was tasty and reasonably priced, although the waitress didn't give me good change for a nice 20% tip which always bothers me.

In any case I got my fill, so that was Premier League Week One sorted. Each week I'm going to try something different so you can laugh and laugh and laugh with your PVR and your Sharp flatscreen and the tears soaking your replica shirt from loneliness.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Premier League Week 0: Full Breakdown of the Premier League Table

Well, Week 0 has brought on some very surprising results. Arsenal, despite many criticizing Arsene Wenger's lack of decisive spending during the off-season, are in first place. It seems Wenger is right: youth and talent will always beat the big transfer money spenders in the end. But the question is: can Arsenal hold on to this early lead through till January?

Meanwhile, Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa have truly "made a statement" with their decisive second place start. With many predicting Manchester City's rise would bump Villa to the bottom of the Europa league spots, O'Neill's team have come raging out of the start gate, while still technically in the start gate. Will Villa be on form for a suprise Champions League spot come May?

And what of Mark Hughes' new-look Man City? Two spots behind where they finished last year, that's "what of." Things are not looking good for the pride of the United Arab Emirates as questions continue to swirl in the giant swirling question vortex over Hughes' future with the club.

Which begs the question: where are City's traditionally more successful neighbours in red? Licking their wounds one place behind City in 13th spot, that's where, asshole. Yes, things are not looking good for Manchester United, what with the bloody Ronaldo-sized hole in the middle of their collective torso. At this point, all United supporters can do is go down to their local Catholic church, say the rosary, and pray their balls off that this is a repeat of their slow start from last year.

As for the shit teams that have annoyingly had to come up from whatever league it is that we're better than, Burnley and Birmingham look poised to take Europe by storm next year, sitting in sixth and third respectively. While I can't see anyway whatsoever this could change over the quickly-diminishing eight month period between now and the final day of league play, there is still a statistical possibility either team could still go down. Watch this space. Oh yes, and Wolves are poised to fuck off back to hell, so abandon hope all ye etc.

Summing up, will teams win or lose, thereby affecting their point totals and shifting them hither and thither on the league table of doom? Or will Wigan Athletic become Aaaaa Aaaaathletic between now and 3 pm tomorrow to take first place for a few hours? Can't tell at all can you? And that's the glory of football.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This Has to Be the Inspiration for Newcastle's Away Shirt

"Hmm, mom, you used separate jars of mustard and mayonnaise."

You can see what I mean here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Middlesborough defender Andrew Taylor sets up site to prevent players from getting ripped off: Guardian Headline

The Middlesbrough defender Andrew Taylor is launching a new website that will put an end to his fellow pros being charged too much by tradesmen who see young multi-millionaires as soft targets.

Grocery Store Clerk: Okay, so your total comes to £37.20.

Andrew Taylor: Excuse me, but are you fucking joking?

GSC: Sorry?

AT: Look, your magical screen there shows £1.29 for a box of Cheerios.

GSC: Yes sir, that's the listed price. Oh wait, sorry, that's actually the sale price. Did you bring a coupon book? Because I think you can save an additional twenty pence.

AT: £1.29 for a box of circley bits of ground-up wheat?

GSC: Um...

AT: Do you know who I am?

GSC: No.

AT: I play for Middlesbrough.

GSC: I'm sorry, I'm sort of a darts person. Is that a cricket club or something?

AT: Look, I know what you're doin' here. I know what Marks and Sparks has always been doing to me. Look at that, £1.99 for microwaveable mashed potatoes. I'm sure that's the Premium price right? Or maybe...the Premier League price? One day people like you are going to end up in a Human Rights Tribunal in the Hague.

GSC: Oh hold on, are you a footballer?

AT: Yeah that's ri—

GSC: Wait but Middlesbrough are in the Championship, aren't they? I know that because my cousin is a chronic gambler and we had drinks last week and he said they had terrible problems at the back—

AT: Yeah, well, stop ripping me off. And stop listening to my phonecalls at night. And spying on my brain waves and such with your television screens. Do you know there's a man sent by the Queen to my house who drops off sheets of paper demanding money from me? Do they think I'm stupid?

GSC: You mean the postman?

AT: Look, I'm not paying for these groceries. I'm just going to walk out of here to my Ferrari Testarossa and drive off at the special agreed Premier League speed limit of fifty over the signpost maximium speed. And it really burns me that don't you play more Phil Collins on the PA here.

GSC: It's actually a Muzak radio station. I'd just ask that you please not hurt me.

AT: Oh look, more "special demands" for Premier League players only. We shall overcome.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Real Madrid's Going Down the Road: Conclusion

This is part two from Christiano Ronaldo's Toronto travel blog.

Wake up in Metzelder's strong arms. They are like oak branches. I feel so safe. At least at first, before I remember what happened the night before. We were so giddy from our training session, we all piled in to what we were told was Toronto's best nightclub: the Comfort Zone on College and Spadina. I had ten Sambuca shooters. We all piled in a cab and destroy the King Edward lobby. I have never seen so many smashed tea pots in my life. Manuel Pelligrini calmly checked to see if there was room at the Hyatt. Great success, two to a room, Meltzelder grabbed my hand. It was so strong.

Wake up. We take a subway and a bus to get to the best breakfast place in the entire world: Vesta Lunch. Though we don't actually take the bus, as we are told by an irate Korean woman it will not come, ever. Not today, not tomorrow. I have the peameal special. I am charged more than the listed price on the board.

We return to the hotel to find the entire team is forced on a school bus to go see the Art Gallery of Ontario. We are specifically going to see the Surreal Things exhibit. Surreal Things offers a new perspective on the surrealists’ contentious and ambiguous relationship to the commercial fields of design, fashion, advertising, architecture, film and theatre. The curator asks the whole team to get in a group photo.

We take the ferry to Centre Island. I walk out to Hanlan's Point by myself after the Centreville train ride makes me severely nauseous. I look out onto Lake Ontario, a fresh water ocean of blueish grey as far as the eye can see. Herman Melville once said of the Great Lakes, "they possess an ocean-like expansiveness, with many of the ocean's noblest traits, many of its rimmed varieties of races and of climes." All I can see is a naked Italian man and an empty six-pack of Labatt 50. I think of Madeira and yearn for the smell of salt.

Then, the game. We train live on television. BMO Field reminds me of Sunderland's Stadium of Light. The game is fun because we win. Yet a little man in red named Gabe Gala scores a very ugly goal, he could be a boy even, he has never scored for this Toronto club, never played even, and I am mystified when the stadium erupts. We are Real Madrid aren't we? I could buy this stadium, and have it destroyed. I make a mental note. Later I find Gabe crying on the phone in the change room hallway, talking to his mother I think. Poor boy just can't take a loss. I offer him condolences and he stares at me stunned. On the bus to Washington City.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Real Madrid's Goin Down the Road

Excerpts from Christiano Ronaldo's Toronto travel blog.

We arrive at Pearson International. Xabi A. says my transfer fee cost the same as the Terminal 3 extension. My press agent says she'll get back to me on that. Call Paris. Line busy.

Karim, the little scamp, decides we should forgo the limos and instead take Toronto Transit Commission's Aiport Rocket express bus to Kipling station (see above). An older man in Haiwaian shirt at the back of the bus says he thinks he recognizes me from Crisco commercial. A fifteen year old girl with a Sporting Lisbon shirt flips me the bird. Kaka hands out some religious tracts. We stop at Apache Burger for breakfast.

Subway delay at Ossington. Raul steals a TTC map from under the plastic guard, rolls it up and puts it in his backpack.

Arrive at the King Edward late because the southbound train stopped at Bloor for twenty minutes. Iker Casillas says I should try a 'double double' at the piss and shit coloured coffee place across the street. I pour half of it out on the sidewalk. Return to order six Old Fashioned Glazed Donuts. We ask a man in a suit where we can find a twenty-four hour bodega to buy some rum. He laughs and laughs.

Benzema wants to see the dinosaurs at the Royal Ontario Museum. He is crying. Pepe holds his hand and says he should go Toronto Zoo instead. Karim says no, throws a tantrum in the hotel lobby. We pile in a cab and go to the ROM. Kaka drones on and on about the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit. Drenthe and I leave, deciding we'll come back tomorrow night before the game as Friday nights are half off.

Drenthe and I wait in line for forty-five minutes for a seat on the patio at the Victory cafe. He orders the cask ale, the Durham Hop Head IPA. I order a Creemore. We talk about our favourite Sunset Rubdown track. Waitress gives us half off because she likes my American Apparel glasses. Arrive late for training after we waited half an hour for the Dufferin bus only for three come by one at the same time.

To be continued?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Your Canadian Soccer League Update

Self-consciously similar to the CFL Logo

Yes, among Canada's oldest professional league competitions, it's the Canadian Soccer League. Toronto FC fans will know it for providing TFC a simulacrum of youth development (TFC Academy), and the rest of us know it from stumbling onto it late on a Sunday evening on cable access television.

Amazingly, the CSL, formerly the the CPSL, formerly the CNSL, and before that the NSL, has lobbied the CSA to have their champion included in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, joining the one MLS and two USL entries for CONCACAF Champions League qualification, so it's important we like, keep one lazy, half open eye on them. I mean just imagine: Toronto Croatia playing Toronto FC at BMO Field in a do-or-die for a gruelling international tournament played mosly in Central America? Toronto's Serbian White Eagles winning the CONCACAF Champions League and going head to head with Real Madrid in Japan for a taste of glory? Yes, feel the glory of the theoretically possible.

Moving along, the CSL is as competively futile as ever. There are ten teams split 6-4 between a National (with the mysteriously spelled Trios-Rivieres Attak first on 21 points) and International Division (Toronto Croatia first on 26) with a playoff round featuring eight teams. London City are on 2 points, and the Astros on 7, so there is a slight chance either might miss out on the playoffs. Fingers crossed.

The best we can hope for is a hotly contested Serbia White Eagles/Toronto Croatia playoff match up. If these teams meet expect record crowds of two to three hundred, largely to shout offensive wartime slogans from their cracking, concrete stands, with little attention paid to action on field. I myself somehow survived one of these derbies, but sadly my request for airtime on Football Factories has yet to receive a response.