In the darkest of places, in an abandoned mine well below the depths of Moria, in a hole so deep you can hear the echoes from past Chinese New Year celebrations, lurks the cave…and the “committee.” Kinda. In truth, the cave is not a cave, but rather a series of caves, a maze of blackness so black it sucks in light, chews it up, and doesn’t bother to spit it out. If you’ve ever been lost in an IKEA around closing time, you know the full scale of absolute terror felt in a seemingly never ending labyrinth. You could fit at least two and a half IKEAs in this cave complex, if not 3.
And In this vast expanse of cold air, stalagmites, stalactites, mineral water and leather chairs, a table sits. And at this table sits the committee. Continue reading “Top Secret Meeting of the Liverpool FC Transfer Committee” »
Free Darko. The Run of Play. The list of blogs worth reading shrinks every year. For six glorious years, Brooks Peck wrote irreverent and clever posts for the “Dirty Tackle” blog at Yahoo. In fact, I can recall the time before it was a Yahoo sports blog. I was very jealous of Brook’s neat WordPress theme and ability to digest and publish obscure soccer news before anybody else.
I was honored to write for Dirty Tackle about the bleak, last year of Raul Gonzalez’s career while in Germany at Schalke. As per DT style, the narrative form was a satirical diary, an exaggerated take on the possible inner person and workings of a player who we will never personally know, but upon whom we project certain characteristics and traits based on brief moments in time. Continue reading “The Dirty Tackle Blog is No More….” »
It’s easy to view modern footballers as soulless mercenaries, to assume they feel no emotion whatsoever for a club or the fans. But we don’t really know any and all footballers. What if they just crush a lot? What if they are merely Don Juans, men with feelings who just happen to fall head over heels for the newest club and immediately forget the prior one? That may cheapen their prior feelings, but it doesn’t deny they existed.
Thus, in that respect, I’ve penned a look at some bandits with the nerve to kiss our badge and then never look back. Continue reading “A Look at Some Badge-Kissing Bandits Who Broke Your Heart” »
We all know the new stadium scam playbook in-and-out: teams commit to a long-term lease, promise to create jobs, and show off some hired gun economic impact study. Local communities then throw subsidies, free land, and tax breaks at them to the tune of hundreds of millions. In reality, the stadium creates only a few part-time and low-wage jobs, the surrounding neighborhood gentrifies only a bit (based on, duh, external factors like location), and the team tries to weasel out of the lease in later years (or extract renovation concessions).
Yet, in both Detroit and Liverpool, England, a new and far more sinister stadium plan has emerged: strategic blight. Continue reading “Neighborhood Blight: the New Stadium Scam” »
Thanks to the NFL’s mismanagement of a series of domestic violent incidents, the NCAA has been out of the spotlight for a few weeks. However, when last we checked on said institution, a federal administrative body had deemed it an “employer” based on the control it exercised over the lives of student athletes. Also, despite attempts to ban payments to players (and keeping the “amateur” spirit of collegiate sport), SB Nation had an amazing story on the ins and outs of being a “bagman“, the name for alumni who funnel cash to players and use burner cell phones.
What do these two things have to do with one another? And what do they have to do with soccer? For the next ten years of growth of soccer in the US, everything. Continue reading “Should Soccer Players Jump through NCAA Hoops and try a “Gap Year”?” »
David Conn of the Guardian is a pretty sharp character. He’s written about financial irregularities in football for several years with clear prose and often original research. Still, I’m always intrigued at how different countries and people view “third party ownership.” In affluent Western European nations, clubs don’t lack for access to credit or cash or revenue, so there’s no need to pinch pennies. In less well-to-do places, though, like Portugal and Brazil, clubs often struggle to get cash to cover basic daily expenses. Many can’t even make payroll on a regular basis. That’s why when Nani got loaned back to Sporting, he insisted United cover his wages.
David recently wrote about Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes and here’s the bottom line: Mendes is an agent for players and often is an adviser and/or investor in firms who own a part of the player’s playing rights (which is legal in Portugal). The major criticism in David’s piece is that this is a possible “conflict of interest.” However, upon closer inspection, this claim falls apart. Continue reading “Jorge Mendes and Confusion about Conflicts of Interest” »
Several months ago, Awful Announcing had a great post about the “code words” used to describe most white NBA players. What’s most interesting about these terms is not that they are per se inaccurate, but rather that they gloss over and take for granted societal perceptions and assumptions. One has to ask: why do we focus on certain traits as exhibited by one race of athlete and ignore others? When Mario Balotelli first moved to England with Manchester City, I wrote a diatribe about “black athlete fetishism.” My basic point was that when a black athlete is a little bit quirky off the field or inconsistent on it, we invent these bizarrely complex and probably unfounded “mental issues” narratives much quicker than with, say, Kirk Hinrich.
Sadly, Super Mario is not alone. Yaya Toure has played beautiful soccer for Manchester City for years – Silva and Aguero and Nasri may provide the flash and goals, but City looks limp and lifeless without Yaya. Here’s the problem: Yaya is a fucking brilliant soccer player. Yes, he’s a fine specimen of an athlete. Yes, we watch sports to see and gawk and fawn over displays of athleticism. But what I love most about Yaya’s game is his snap and impeccable decision-making, his two-footedness (not a word….yet), his technique in both passing and shooting, and his awareness of teammates.
Others see something else. Continue reading “Yaya Toure and the Typecast Roles of Soccer” »
Fandom is such a fickle business. The EPL season rages on after a month of action, so we’ve read yet another glut of “Pick your team” stories and podcast anecdotes. Some say follow your heart. Others say pick a winner. Yet, of course, fans find ways to put other fans down. If you’re from the US or another non-England country, then that’s a knock against you. Why? Geography. If you’ve been a fan less than a decade, that’s another knock. Why? History.
Yet a glance at major US sports leagues shows the same story, but inverted (or reverted). Continue reading “What if we “picked” EPL clubs like American ones?” »
As you may have guessed, I live in Houston. The commute to work each day is brutal. I can feel a part of my soul die with each passing hour as I sit in my car, and not in the “Voldemort-hiding-his-soul-in-horicuxes” way – this is much more sinister and nefarious.
Luckily, there is quality audio entertainment. These fine talks talk pretty about futbol. Me talk pretty one day. Continue reading “Soccer Pod Links” »
I’ve always been uneasy with the term “beast mode” as used by TV pundits when describing an energetic or impressive athletic performance. Simply put, it’s not descriptive enough. Okay, so the athlete, a human, is doing something that is beyond the scope of a normal human, therefore they are similar to a beast. I get that. But the first time I heard the phrase, I thought of a blue, buff, hairy dude hanging upside down and reading Wittgenstein. I hear “beast mode” and think - what beast?
“Beast mode” is lazy wordplay. You could just as easily say “Past great player mode” and leave it to the listener or reader to decide with whom you are comparing today’s current star. Thus, I’ve come up with some GIFS and proper, specific similes for some key soccer players. They are not necessarily in “beast mode”, but more of an “animal kingdom” zone. Enjoy. Continue reading “A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”” »