REQUIRED READING – Some Summer Treats & Tricks

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It’s summer, you’re bored, your favorite blogger isn’t posting as frequently, and he has not yet published his magnum opus that will forever change your life. What do you do?

Rest easy – we have some recommendations to make this June, July, and August bearable. Or, rather, adorable kitten LMAO-able.

First and foremost, the Blizzard Issue One is excellent. For those not in the know, a collection of talented footy writers have formed a sort of spiritual “super ninja dojo” that is dedicated to the irreverent. This positive energy has materially manifested in a quarterly publication on such odd topics as the Israeli national teams’ first few games, the tragedy of Greece’s greatest player you never heard of, and the alternately coherent and rambling ramblings of Pep Guardiola’s mentor. And you choose the price. Read it. Now.

The WSJ took potshots at bare-knuckles sports journalism, in which guys or gals with mics crowd a locker room after games to get recycled soundbites. The Blizzard offers a resounding answer to these criticisms. It has interviews, but the writers ask tough questions and the persons interviewed give honest and refreshing answers. In that sense, they combine the access of ESPN with the targeted wit of Deadspin. I repeat – read it. Now.

Second, Jennifer Doyle of From a Left Wing is doing a series on her experience in trying to organize an Adult Soccer League in inner city LA. The series is titled “Soccer in the City of Angels” and offers a refreshingly candid view of race, gender, and socioeconomic relations through the prism of sport.

Already, the series has dealt with how once open expressions of prejudice now manifest themselves in subtle biases (similar to my Balotelli racialism bias post). For example, a well educated lawyer telling a professor that she “doesn’t belong” in an inner city neighborhood? Deliciously ironic and devilishly dastardly. Another example: one of the linesman walked out of a game because he felt “pressure” during a game for a bad call. Isn’t that the definition of the job? But when you are in the “inner city”, you interpret the same verbal frustration of players differently. But should you?

The series is candid, illuminating, and offers delightful prose. Read the first entry here.

Third, Chris from Studs-Up, Michael from Zonal Marking, Jason from MatchFitUSA, and some other people I don’t know very well have formed a new soccer site called KCKRS. I have little clue where the editorial direction of this site will lead, but the post on the history of Athletic Bilbao’s jersey was delightful. Even if the headline used the phrase “Curious case” for the 1,000,000th time in the history of sports writing (FYI I am also guilty). As long as the site doesn’t turn into a shiny portal for kit and boot press releases, the sky’s the limit with the talent on board.

Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, has launched his own website named Grantland. If you can get past Simmons’  crass “guys only trip to Vegas” jokes, then you can find some really honest and insightful takes on sport and fandom. My own site owes so much to the Sports Guy and his role in the media shift from a player-focus to the fan-experience, that I can’t judge too harshly.

If anything, Bill has been blogging at ESPN for the last decade, it was just disguised in website/column form. I am glad to see him in his natural habitat. One of the early posts, about watching a Cubs baseball game from a nearby rooftop, captured the essence of Wrigley Field from afar. Once again, I’m not sure about the editorial direction, but let’s hope they stay the course. Brian wrote a tennis piece for Grantland about Roger Federer and tigers and king cobras, which is a pretty good sign. Also, the Chris Ryan article on the good-natured, libation consuming ambiance outside of Wembley was pretty entertaining. Keep rowing!

If you are in the mood to turn back the clock, Attempting Thought has a nice summary of the infamous Preston squabble of 1884 – when money first started to filter into the amateur game and corrupt it. It’s nice to know that as my beloved United signs Ashley Young and tosses suitcases of cash at Nasri, we can all blame the true culprits for capitalism in sport: Preston North End, not Manchester United. Bastards.

At the other end of the capitalism spectrum, the excellent Swiss Ramble has the lowdown on the finances at Real Madrid. And it’s not as bad as you think. Madrid has decent and diversified profits. Whew. But the more democratic 2015 TV deal just may toss a wrench in the green-making-machine. Until then, try not to hurt your head when diving into a pool of golden coins ala Scrooge McDuck.

In the middle east, the Arab spring also has sadly sown a summer of despair in Bahrain. Mohammed Hubail, a member of the Bahrain national team, has been sentenced to two years in jail for his participation in protests. The terms “closed door proceedings,” “special security court,” and “martial law” should send a shiver down your spine. James Dorsey at TWMES has more interesting details on the striker and the situation. And in an odd twist, it’s kinda FIFA to the rescue. The Swiss freedom-fighters are investigating to possibly suspend the Bahrain FA due to the government’s “political interference in sport.” We can only hope that relations remain acrimonious and these two democratically-deficient organizations don’t start exchanging ideas.

In South America, once proud and great Argentine club River Plate stared relegation in the eye for the first time ever in its 100 plus year history. They lost the first leg of the promocion playoffs and held onto the primera by a thread. HEGS had all the podtastic insight beforehand. As for the second leg game, River led 1-0 at the half, but coughed up a fluky goal to dig their own grave. They did get a penalty kick, which forward Pavone shot directly at the goalie’s feet. And, for the first time in its history, River is now a second division club. Some Boca fans were sad in a super-villain died sorta way, but many are simply ecstatic.

Lastly, if you can get over your Duke prejudices from college basketball, then Soccer Politics should be in your Google Reader. A Gold Cup post by Laurent on the Chicharito chasm between Mexican and American casual sports fans brilliantly details a rift that will take decades to merge. If ever. Of course, most Mexicans don’t know who Tom Brady or Peyton Manning are. But I blame the NFL lockout.

As you may have noticed, I am not wading in the transfer-rumor mill, which was analyzed quite well by Brian in a Slate piece last year and recently by Brooks of DT fame for Life’s a Pitch. Basically, I spend 9 months out of the year making weird crap up that loosely revolves around soccer, and summer is when people steal my thunder. Thus, I opt to avoid the crowded beaches until late August, perhaps early September.

In the meantime, stay tuned for our July 4th announcement of the book contest winners and perhaps a PDF teaser. And a word to the wise: be careful when eating chicken.

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