Should Soccer Players Jump through NCAA Hoops and try a “Gap Year”?

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”?” »

Jorge Mendes and Confusion about Conflicts of Interest

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” »

Yaya Toure and the Typecast Roles of Soccer

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” »

What if we “picked” EPL clubs like American ones?

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?” »

Soccer Pod Links

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” »

A Treatise on the Expression “Beast Mode”

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”” »

Soccer Pass Adjectives I Detest & Adore

Lots of big media outlets have written about the transatlantic pollination of the English language. Thanks to the pace, passion, and commercial power of the Premier League, the US and UK have gotten over that whole “tea party” stuff and the free flow of individuals and ideas has accelerated. In no particular order, I thank you, British Isles, for Monty Python, Fredorrarci, the Office, James Joyce, and tea (I am including former England colonies as well).

However, in terms of adjectives for passes in soccer, I’m afraid both the US and UK have fallen into a rut. Things have grown stale. The banter is too banterfully lukewarm. Luckily, easy solutions abound. Continue reading “Soccer Pass Adjectives I Detest & Adore” »

Tactics Talk: Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 Explained

LVG’s start as Manchester United manager was a step backwards. While United attacked with verve and swagger for a few spells, the defense looked timid. The Red Devils’ 3-5-2 won some summer friendlies, but questions remain whether it can and will work for United and in the EPL. I’ve put on my tactics-cap to explain the pros and cons of the system, and why it might not work at United. Continue reading “Tactics Talk: Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 Explained” »

The Season Also Starts

PART I

Bobby Kohn was a champion darts player. You wouldn’t know it, even if you asked him. The crowning achievement of his life was an Ivy League degree that collected dust in a box in his parent’s basement on Long Island. Since graduating from Brown, he’d couch-surfed and freelanced in Brooklyn and Manhattan. After several months, he landed some stable advertising gig, rented a brownstone he couldn’t afford with friends in Bed-Stuy, and his credit card debt tripled in the span of six months.

And he was a Spurs fan. Continue reading “The Season Also Starts” »