I'm ready for the laughing gas. Holla at me: UltraCeltic@hotmail.com
Jay the Joke.com. A site dedicated to bashing Douche Mariotti? The world needed this. (Hat tip, White Silk.) By the way, Mariotti has apparently been suspended and absent from the Sun-Times the last three days. Let's make this stick, people. Please.
Well, dear readers, the quarterfinals of the World Cup are set to get underway in less than fifteen hours now, and I say thank goodness. They couldn't come quick enough. These last two days of no games have sent me into an awful, body-rocking state of hellish withdrawal. I feel like Ewen McGregor in 'Trainspotting' when he goes cold turkey and has visions of the dead baby on the ceiling. But worse. And I can't get Jan Koller and his bald head off my ceiling.
First off, I'm American and a Liverpool supporter who's been involved with the sport for over 30 years. If it will add to my credibility, I was also US National referee for 5 years. Let me start off by saying I appreciate you for not having a go at the referees with fang tooth and a Welshman's knife as the most of the uneducated media has done. If you are an officianado of the Laws of the Game, you had to see this coming. Most of FIFA's law changes have been designed to (a) promote more scoring, and (b) reduce time wasting to allow for (a). When you add in the human element the gray area for interpretation can get sketchy. But at the World Cup, whether people like it or not, you are dealing with the creme de la creme of officiating from each country. When implementing the Laws of the Game, one needs to understand 4 simple principles, they were written to (a) promote player safety (without the players there is no game), (b) emphasize Fair Play (FIFA's motto), (c) allow the referee to demonstrate common sense (I'll get back to this), and (d) the Laws are written by players for the benefit of players. The referee is there as a neutral, unbiased, third party simply to enforce these Laws. Unfortunately, when reviewing (c) we have seen quite a few travesties throughout the tournament. Yesterday's Italy v. Australia match is a good example. I thought the red was justified because if you analyze the foul, it was careless, wreckless, and was done with excessive force. These are all the basic, common ingredients for a Red Card. Had Ivanov sent off Boulahrouz as he should have for his foul on Ronaldo in the Holland v. Portugal match, you probably wouldn't have had the quantity of yellows. Your commentary remarks were spot on. The referee didn't commit the fouls and was essentially forced into a corner and had no recourse but to come out carding. Most experienced referees have all had matches similar to Holland v. Portugal and vividly remember the entire match for the rest of their lives. When you have two teams who have consistantly demonstrated their preferred styles of play, the Dutch niggly fouling reinforced with a little brutality and the Portuguese (beautiful people as long as they are no where near a football pitch) who are nothing more than Brasilian wannabe's you have a recipe for disaster that I'm not quite sure even Collina could have sorted. It's going to happen and you have to stand there and do the best that you can while hopefully remaining calm like the captain of the Titanic as the ship is going down. From watching the referees, I don't think Ivanov was all that bad. If you watch him closely, you have to admire how he maintained his composure while subliminally realizing he was being dragged into his ultimate slaughter. What folks will winge about is consistency but good refereeing is nothing more that classic operant conditioning, conditioned stimulus - conditioned response. He can't help it if the players from both sides were there to play each other rather than the ball.
I could write more but I'm at work and gotta go. In closing, if that had been me in the center given the same situations, I would have said WTF and thrown one more yellow just to get in the record book. I doubt you'll see another card fest anytime soon.
If you want to blog more send me a note. The bottom line is this has been an exciting tournament and you have to figure the human element in officiating is going to make it continue to be so.
All the best, Paul
So I went to the first-ever game open to the public in the Fire's new stadium, Toyota Park, on Sunday night. My mama purchased tickets for my old man, two of my brothers, and myself as sort of a soccer family night out for the lads. Moms are great for that sort of thing. This did, however, sort of cramp my style with all the hotties walking around the stadium - and there were some definite hotties walking around. Chicks dig soccer players. Believe it. I've been told they like the muscular and visible legs.
If soccer doesn't toughen up, it will never be a major force in U.S.
Things you won't hear from your average, red-blooded American male:
• Honey, what book do you want to discuss this month?
• Would you mind if we just cuddled tonight?
• I'm pretty clear on what Phil Donahue would have done, but what would Oprah do?
• This World Cup soccer extravaganza—it's right up there with "Wicked," wouldn't you say?
Now, I bring all of this up because, for many of us red-blooded American males (RAMs), the enduring image of the 2006 World Cup will be:
American Claudio Reyna getting the ball stolen in front of the U.S. net by Ghana's Haminu Draman and Reyna immediately being carried off the pitch on a stretcher after Draman's easy goal.
I'm sorry, soccer fans, but it looked awfully wimpy. That's the image, though perhaps not the reality. As it turned out, Reyna had injured his left knee and later gamely tried to play on, but the damage was done—to the game of soccer in this country. All I could see was a huge population of RAMs rolling their eyes at how soft it looked without knowing the extent of the injury.
Actually, all I could see was the ceiling because I was rolling my eyes too.
Fair or not, one of the problems the sport has in the United States is that it seems to be perfect for the faint of heart. Players are forever falling on the grass writhing in pain after minimal contact.
In a country that lives for NFL Sundays, it's difficult to see a man in agony one moment and up on his feet, suddenly recovered, the next. I'm sure Ozzie Guillen would have a word for this.
Is that simplistic? Is that taking a few plays out of an otherwise good sport and passing judgment? Is that throwing the baby out with the bath water? Will I ever stop asking myself questions?
The answer is no. These are important issues for soccer in the United States.
There are fundamental reasons why the sport hasn't taken off in this country the way its proponents have hoped it would for the last 30 years. There is something basically flawed about the game—or at least flawed in combination with something very elemental to our country.
We like things a little rough around here.
The player being carried off on a stretcher, the stretcher held by two men, it's so … so … so overly dramatic, so over the top as to be almost comical.
Until soccer figures out a way to toughen itself up, it never, ever will be a force in the United States. For a nation raised on bare-fisted, county-fair boxing matches, for a nation whose pastime still includes beanball wars and raised spikes, the sight of all these theatrics is just too much to take.
We're not big on nuance.
The onus is not on the rest of us in this country to embrace soccer. The onus is on soccer to deliver a product that meets the needs of our culture. And, frankly, seeing players perform the suicide scenes in "Romeo and Juliet" with dramatic precision after every collision just doesn't fit us.
Tied in with all of this is that, in a tournament that has been full of incredible athleticism, the U.S. team lacked toughness. Would a U.S. team member like to start lifting weights? That probably would be a good idea for 2010. Did you happen to check out the upper bodies of Ghana's players? Think that might help a little while battling for the ball?
Our display didn't look close to the best athletes a nation of 280 million people could muster up.
But it's one thing to lack speed, which the United States surely did. It's another to be outmuscled, which the United States surely was. That's called a lack of training and preparation. And we looked like the rich kids who had the money to buy all the best equipment but didn't know how to play the game.
The World Cup, in all its glory and weakness, is on stage. The play has been impressive, the pageantry almost as impressive. There's a lot to like about something this big.
But for us RAMs, there needs to be something a little more RAMly, for lack of a better term. There needs to be a lot more players like England's Wayne Rooney, who was spitting fire when he was taken out of a recent game against Sweden, and fewer guys getting escorted off the pitch. On a stretcher.
Germany 2 Sweden 0