The Least Enlightening Thing Written About the World Cup

The World Cup is a large party and, sadly, has come to an end. I wasn’t able to write as much as I would have liked due to events in my personal life (disclosure: I am not a robot), but some trends popped up. First off, I felt like we read the same story with slightly different takes over and over. Favelas! Protestors! Folks with enviable but still modest reporting budgets flew to Brazil for a few weeks, interviewed a few people, and cobbled together some stuttering attempts at long-form journalism. These were smart people with occasionally bright insights, but you can only hear the same song so many times. Furthermore, Brazil has a burgeoning middle class, excellent universities, and plenty of great academic papers on race relations, poverty, and homelessness. Who wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed? Yes. A Brazilian.

Still, of course, a good journalist can condense an academic paper into digestible form. There’s also the foreign perspective that can allow us to see big picture issues accepted as facts of life by locals. Like, for example, a slow as molasses legal system and the impossibility of filing for bankruptcy and being done within a decade. The lack of access to credit at reasonable rates (anything over 9% is f’ing usury dawg) has squeezed the middle class when coupled with inflation, and the squatter rights laws have created a perverse incentive to never enter the formal, above ground economy for many. However, most pieces were of the “what does this tournament mean to you, the local?” variety. They felt more superficial and contrived than illuminating. There was an arms race among “journos” to find the most dangerous neighborhood and oppressed group to faux interview some cats and chill while waxing on soccer before uprooting and ignoring any meta factors. “Thank for the caiprinha, nice to meet you for 90 minutes, try not to die a grisly death before turning 25!”

Yet, for all the tiredness and unoriginality of the “I was there” prose, the least enlightening thing written this World Cup was about soccer statistics. Continue reading “The Least Enlightening Thing Written About the World Cup” »

Top Ten World Cup Topics That Need To Be Written About

With so many smart and funny people writing about the World Cup, you’d think there’d be no stone left unturned. Sadly, though, my brief glimpse at the internet, using the latest in AskJeeves, Lycos, and AltaVista search engine technology, found some gaping holes. There are so many interesting topics that have yet to be written about that they are too countless to name (at least all of them). These are topics that cry out for David Brooks to write 500 words about. Yet, for now, we only hear silence and read nothing.

Thus, I’ve sorted, prioritized, and compiled a list of the ten topics which we need some savvy columnist to write about. Don’t be afraid,dear potential writer – I know this is totally uncharted waters, but we’ve got your back. Please, please write these articles! Continue reading “Top Ten World Cup Topics That Need To Be Written About” »

Wall Street Journal Seriously Lowers the Bar for Soccer “Coverage”

Just when you think the trite “Soccer sucks” narrative in the US media has turned into “MLS sucks”, the Wall Street Journal lowers the bar even further. Jonathan Clegg, an Englishman, has decided that new soccer fans “are welcome”, but he derives the “soccer obsessives.” Or, rather, American soccer obsessives.

I’ll just be taking a quick look at his thesis and what’s wrong with it. Namely, everything. Continue reading “Wall Street Journal Seriously Lowers the Bar for Soccer “Coverage”” »

Some Real Sober Reflections

The Carlo era is a success. By that, I mean he has equaled Jose Mourinho’s trophy haul in his first and third seasons at Madrid (He won the King’s Cup the first year and SuperCup the third). At first glance, Carlo has Madrid playing slightly more attacking, offensive soccer. The team has reached the Champions League final and made the race for La Liga interesting until the last month.

However, a close look that some other things have stayed the same. Continue reading “Some Real Sober Reflections” »

Financial Fair Play Cometh: the Gnashing of Baby Teeth

Here’s the deal. Financial Fair Play is here. Both Manchester City and PSG have failed to meet sustainable debt levels. In response, both are faced with two identical punishments: First, their Champions League roster has been reduced to 21 players (instead of 24), and 8 of them must be homegrown. Second, both have to pay fines of between 50-60 million years spread out over a few years.

Soccer fans ask: is this strong enough? Continue reading “Financial Fair Play Cometh: the Gnashing of Baby Teeth” »

The Champions League Semis and Tactical Entropy

Tactics talk. I’ve engaged in my fair share. Inevitably, a manager affects his (or her) players. Sometimes, his (or her) approach, attitude, and man-management makes a team worse. Sometimes, the team plays better. However, I’m interested in how tactics, like all systems of knowledge, can become a closed system, close to “perfection”, and thus cease to be useful in the real world.

What do I mean? The Champions League semifinals. When we learned that neither negative nor attacking football works. Or did we? Continue reading “The Champions League Semis and Tactical Entropy” »

The Obligatory Soccer Jersey Review Blog Post

Let the record show, today’s date is sometime in May, 2014. Let the record also show that this fine site first came into existence in September of 2008. Six years. For six years, I have used all manner of self-control to prevent the overt commercialization of this site. Did you notice the banner ads? Probably not. They are tucked away in the footer, well below the comments. No side bar. No header. But how can “readers” click on them way down there? Why are they down there?

Aesthetics, my friend. Aesthetics. Yet aesthetics and commercialism don’t always conflict. I do get emails sometimes offering me worthwhile things in exchange for me to simply review them. Most get sent to spam. But when SoccerLoco offered me an authentic World Cup jersey, I couldn’t say no. And it’s my daughter’s fault. Continue reading “The Obligatory Soccer Jersey Review Blog Post” »

The Brave New World of MLS 3.0

Sigh. I can’t be bothered to start a “MLS Does Not Suck” column to respond to Deadspin’s coverage. The first article reeked of somebody who didn’t actually watch the league, but the second column made a lot more solid points about the Atlanta expansion situation. Take a deep breath and realize that, big picture, media coverage is a good thing. Deadspin prides itself on dumping in all major sports leagues from the NFL to the NBA – MLS is now on the radar. That’s a good thing. Deadspin will not coddle MLS. It’s your baby, not Deadpin’s.

The bottom line is that the truth hurts. While MLS is not quite two decades old, the league’s history can be categorized into three phases. And the 3.0 version looks suspiciously familiar. Continue reading “The Brave New World of MLS 3.0” »

MLS Salaries: Starting at the Rock-Bottom

One of the key things for any employee entering the workforce is starting salary: it normally sets the baseline for future earnings and possible raises. That’s why it’s so sad that management has played professional sports player unions for fools, pitting veterans against rookies in negotiations (at least in North America). Owners hand veterans with a bigger role in the union larger salaries today, in exchange for keeping the salaries for rookies nice and low. Here’s the problem: if rookies started off at a higher salary, then they’d be able to get even more in free agency. It’s common sense: starting higher up the ladder earlier is better.

MLS is no different from any other sports league in that regards. Yes, NFL players have a higher salary for rookies (entry-level employees), but it’s still well below the median and what a veteran earns. Yes, MLS salaries have gone up. DPs also make made bank. However, I took a survey of the Top 10 picks from the MLS Super Draft and then looked at their starting salaries. Then I found some other professions with equivalent salaries. The results were forehead-slapping.  Continue reading “MLS Salaries: Starting at the Rock-Bottom” »

The Number One Reason Why MLS Should Expand to Topeka, KS

So, MLS is expanding all over the place. Sometimes, they occupy and share an NFL stadium. Other times, expansion cities scurry to build lovely soccer-specific stadiums. In their haste, though, they sometimes, ahem, have to clear out still-in-use churches. In Orlando City, the municipality balked at a local church’s initial asking price (tens of millions) and jumped straight to eminent-domain and litigation. Now, in Atlanta, rumors swirl that a stadium proposal will lead to the demolition of the City’s first black Baptist Church (and super-gentrification of the neighborhood Martin Luther King Jr. called home).

As someone who went to college in A-town (The term “ATL” is sooooooo 2004), I can understand why Arthur Blank wants to leave the aging (built in 1992) Georgia Dome, all tucked away down there (a mere 3-5 miles from downtown Atlanta). But, in all seriousness, if MLS teams are going to be destroying churches to build homes, I have a sweet idea for a location. Continue reading “The Number One Reason Why MLS Should Expand to Topeka, KS” »