Posts Tagged ‘Sports’

Movie Review: Knuckleball! (2012)

Title: Knuckleball
Release Date: 18 September 2012
Director: Ricki Stern & Anne Sundberg
Production Co: Break Thru Films and Major League Baseball Productions
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary | Sports | Baseball
Rating: ****

The knuckleball is baseball’s most enigmatic pitch.  Despite its name, it is thrown with the finger tips and unlike any other pitch it prevents the ball from rotating.  This makes the ball move in unpredictable ways that it make the knuckleball difficult to hit.  Yet that unpredictably has a way of coming back to haunt the pitcher, so there are few pitchers who risk using it.  This documentary follows the 2011 season of the only two knuckleball pitchers in Major League Baseball at that time: Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox (now retired) and R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets (now with the Toronto Blue Jays).  These are also two of my all-time favorite pitchers.  The documentary does a good job of explaining the mechanics of the knuckleball and how knuckleball pitchers are treated as an oddity in the baseball community.  It also has some excellent archival footage of the lives and careers of Wakefield and Dickey. If there’s one thing that could improve the movie is to not have so many talking heads and clips of baseball commentators repeating the same basic facts about the knuckleball and perhaps delve into the science and history of the pitch a bit more.

Movie Review: Slap Shot (1977)

Title: Slap Shot
Release Date: 25 February 1977
Director: George Roy Hill
Production Co: Kings Road Entertainment
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Sport
Rating: ****

Another classic comedy that I never got around to seeing until now.  With the closing of the local factory, the Charlestown Chiefs are likely to fold at the end of the season.  Aging player-coach Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman) carries out a series of Machiavellian schemes to increase the teams value so that it will be sold to another owner.  This primarily involves having his team use goon tactics, which successfully draws in the crowds and helps them win games.  Concurrently, Reg also plots to reunite with his ex-wife and reconcile the strained relationship of the Chiefs’ top scorer and his alcoholic wife.

This movie exudes the 1970s in the clothing, music, sexual liberation, and a carefree attitude in a world falling apart.  There are a lot of great gags and lines with much of the humor coming from silly characters like the Quebecois goalkeeper and the uber-violent (and extremely dumb) Hanson brothers.  But there’s also a gravitas underlining the film that keeps it from being just a screwball comedy although not enough to turn it into a “dramedy.”  The ending of the film is utterly bizarre, but it it’s appropriate to the movie.

Book Review: Distant Corners by David Wangerin

Author: David Wangerin
Title Distant Corners: American Soccer’s History of Missed Opportunities and Lost Causes
Publication Info:  Temple University Press (2011)
ISBN:  1439906300
Summary/Review:

A sequel of sorts to Soccer in a Football World, Wangerin’s history of soccer in the United States, this book is a series of essays focusing on particular places and times in American history when soccer flourished.  If there’s a unifying theme of book is the inevitable quote from a contemporary to the effect that soccer’s rise to popularity in the United States is just around the corner.  The negative that can be taken from this is that they were all wrong as soccer remains a niche sport in the country, but the positive is that it shows just how much of a history of the game there is in the United States.  Wangerin explores this historical periods in search of a distinct American style of play that can be built upon as the game continues to grow in the US.  

Topics covered by the essays include:

  • tours of the US by Pilgrims, Corinthians, and other English teams to attempt to popularize association football at a time when violence and deaths were sullying gridiron football in the early 1900s.
  • The creation of a national federation (now the USSF) and the National Challenge Cup (now the US Open Cup).
  • Thomas Cahill, the man who, under better circumstances, would be remembered as the father of American soccer.
  • The success of Penn State’s soccer team in the Depression Era under the leadership of Bill Jeffrey.
  • Leagues in St. Louis create a distinctive St. Louis style of play
  • The Oakland Clippers, champions of the renegade NPSL in 1967 and one of the top teams in the first year of the NASL in 1968, flounder in their attempt to play outside the league against top international competition.
  • 1979, the pivotal year of the NASL.

Recommended books: Once in a Lifetime by Gavim Newsham and The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer by Christopher Merrill
Rating: ***1/2

 

Movie Review: 30 for 30: Four Days in October

Title30 for 30: Four Days in October
Release Date: 5 October 2010
Director: Gary Waskman
Production Co: Major League Baseball Productions
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Documentary | Sports | Baseball
Rating:  ****

The ESPN documentary documents the last four games (played over four consecutive days) of the 2004 American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, from the Red Sox point of view.  There’s nothing radical about it from a filmmaking perspective, merely clips of tv and radio footage from the games interspersed with interviews with Red Sox players and some celebrity fans.  I watched it mainly so my 5-year-old son could learn some Red Sox history, and it quickly became his favorite movie.  It was also a nice nostalgia trip to see memorable Red Sox comeback and all the little aspects I’d forgotten (doubly so to watch it without the feeling of twisted intestines that I had back in 2004)

MLB Realignment

On this night where Major League Baseball celebrates it’s All-Star Game, I’m pondering the future of my favorite spectator sport.  There are a lot of changes coming to the game.  This season, each league will be awarding two Wild Card spots meaning a total of  ten teams will be eligible for post season play.  Next season, the Houston Astros will move to the American League creating two 15-team leagues and ensuring the need for interleague games every day of the season.

Both of these changes are being made due to problems that arose from earlier changes in MLB in the 1990s (namely three-division leagues, wild cards, and interleague play).  I believe these changes will just make further problems down the road.  Proponents of the two Wild Card system say that it makes the Wild Card teams earn their way into the postseason by making them face one another in a one game playoff (where the rules of randomness mean either team is likely to win).  Far from being weak interlopers, Wild Card teams have often been the second place team in the toughest division and by my accounting 24 of the 34 Wild Card winners from 1995 to 2011 had regular season records equal or better to one or more division champions in their league in the same season.  In this new scenario, the 2001 Oakland A’s winner of 102 regular season games would have to play the 85-win Minnesota Twins to prove they were good enough to be in the playoffs with the division champion New York Yankees (95 wins) and Cleveland Indians (91 wins). Huh?!   If anything, it’s the “champions” of weak divisions that are getting an easy entry into the postseason and now weaker Second Wild Card teams will have the opportunity as well through a one-game roll of the dice.  I can foresee the scenario where 95+ win team fighting to the last day of the season for a division title and having to settle for the First Wild Card will have to face a rested team with 90 or fewer wins in that one game playoff.  That’s not good for baseball.

Interleague play has it merits.  It’s exciting to see intracity rivalries (Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox), intrastate rivalries (Giants-A’s, Astros-Rangers) and even two teams from cities relatively close to one another such as the Red Sox and Phillies play out.  It’s less interesting when the Red Sox play the Padres or the Brewers, and the Phillies play the Twins or the Mariners.  It’s especially confounding that the introduction of divisional and interleague play means that a team like the Phillies plays their interstate rivals the Pirates far less frequently than they used to.  More interleague play means that teams are playing fewer games against the teams their competing with for a title and often  playing schedules that are composed of teams of different strengths and abilities.  It’s all a bit of a muddle and in the end I think it makes the regular season less interesting and makes it so the teams that make the playoffs aren’t necessarily the best teams in baseball.

For some time now, I’ve been mulling over a plan of the changes I would make to Major League Baseball to make it more exciting, competitive, and fair.  On the surface, my plan seems radical, but I think ultimately it preserves (or brings back) many traditional elements of baseball such as the balanced schedule, regional rivalries, pennant races, and the end of interleague play as we know it.

My Proposal to Improve Major League Baseball

My idea for Major League Baseball would realign its current 30 teams into three regional, 10-team leagues.  A team would face the other teams 18 games (9 home, 9 away) a season in a balanced schedule of 162 games.  There would be no interleague play and no divisions so each and every game would be against a league rival.  Each win and each loss would move a team up or down in the standings.

The advantages of this realignment are many:

  • Regional play would promote rivalries, which would in turn boost attendance and television ratings.
  • It would be easier for fans to travel to more road games, again improving attendance.
  • National games of the week on network and cable TV will also be able to be scheduled to target markets in each of the three regions with appropriate starting times.
  • Regional play would also reduce the wear and tear of travel on the players.   In fact, MLB could promote the reduction in travel as a green initiative since it would reduce the number of air miles the teams would have to fly each season.
  • With as many games as possible played in the same time zone, East Coast fans will no longer have to stay up past midnight to see the end of their team’s road games on the West Coast and West Coast fans won’t have to sneak out of work to see the beginning of their team’s road games on the East Coast.   The starting time for  games will be more predictably the same time every day increasing television ratings.
  • The balanced schedule means that each team competing for a postseason spot is facing the same opponents for the same number of games.
  • Teams can no longer qualify for the postseason by being the champions of  weak division of five teams.

The Leagues

American League:  Baltimore Orioles,  Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, and Washington Nationals.

The new American League brings together several historic franchises in the Northeast.  Six of these teams are currently in the American League including three charter members still in the same cities as they were in 1901 (Red Sox, Indians, Tigers) and the team with more AL pennants than any other (Yankees).  While Washington has had a National League team since 2005, it also has a long history of teams in the American League from 1901-1971.  This league would benefit greatly from many city, state, and regional rivalries and the ease of travel for visiting fans.

National League: Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, and Tampa Bay Rays.

With six current National League teams, the new NL maintains the history with two franchise dating back to 1876 (Braves, Cubs), the birthplace of professional baseball (Cincinnati), and the National League’s leader in pennants and championships (Cardinals).  The NL retains one of baseball’s most storied rivalries (Cubs and Cardinals) and will gain new rivalries in Chicago, Missouri, and Florida as well as other regional face-offs.

Continental League:  Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers.

The name is a throwback to an earlier attempt at a third league as well as a tribute to how baseball has grown to cover the continent in this the most geographically spread out of the three leagues.  Six of these teams joined Major League Baseball as expansion teams with the other four originating in Northeastern cities before moving West.  Two of the largest states in the union – California and Texas – are well represented in this league as well as more isolated baseball outposts in Seattle, Denver, and Phoenix.

The Pennant

Historically, baseball awarded the pennant to the team that demonstrated excellence over the course of a long season by winning the most games.  Before the modern World Series began in 1903, the pennant was the championship, but even after that it was considered a major accomplishment.  In 1954, the New York Giants were given a ticker tape parade for winning the National League pennant but not for subsequently winning the World Series.  Since the introduction of divisional play in 1969, the importance of the pennant has diminished as it has been awarded to the teams that play in the World Series regardless of where they finished in the regular season meaning that some brilliant accomplishments such as the 2001 Seattle Mariners 116-win season have been overshadowed.  In my three league system, the pennant would be restored as an honor granted to the first place finishers in each league with considerable promotional effort made to make it an award nearly as important at the World Series championship.

Playoffs and World Series

The top three teams from each league would qualify for postseason play for a total of nine teams.

Third place qualifying round:  The playoffs would begin with a qualifying round for the third place teams. The three teams would be seeded based on regular season performance and play a three game playoff:

  • Game 1: #3 seed at #2 seed
  • Game 2: Winner of Game 1 at #1 seed (winner of this game advances to next round of playoffs)
  • Game 3: Loser of Game 1 versus loser of Game 2 (winner of this game advances to next round of playoffs)
Quarterfinals:  The eight teams would be seeded according to regular season record as follows – First place teams seeded 1-3, second place teams seeded 4-6, and third place teams seeded 7-8.  Then the teams would be matched in a best-of-five series with 8 versus 1, 7 versus 2, 6 versus 3, and 5 versus 4.  The higher seed has home field advantage in the series.
Semifinals: The teams are re-seed by regular season records to play in a best-of-seven series with 4 versus 1, and 3 versus 2.  The higher seed has home field advantage in the series.
World Series:  The two remaining teams face off for the championship of baseball in a best-of-seven series.  The higher seed has home field advantage in the series.

Other Issues

Designated Hitter: For nearly forty years, the American League has played by a different set of rules than the National League by allowing a batter who does not play on the field to bat in place of the pitcher.  With three leagues this rule would have to be addressed and I propose dropping the designated hitter and requiring pitchers to bat for themselves.  The rule encourages specialization by allowing pitchers who cannot hit and batters who cannot field to prosper in the game.  It also encourages aging sluggers to continue playing at the expense of younger, possibly more well-rounded players.   The National League has not suffered from the absence of a DH and if players feel that they are losing a professional opportunity then the rosters may be expanded to 26 players as a tradeoff.  At any rate, most DH’s today are able to adequately field and an organization that encourages its pitchers to become capable batters would gain a competitive advantage over those that continue to accept the canard that “pitchers can’t hit.”

All-Star Game: When the All-Star Game originated in 1933, it was a hotly contested match-up of two competing leagues and a rare opportunity for the fans of one league to see the players of the other league.  Today, many players seem indifferent to the All-Star Game, actively avoiding participating and the game itself is not competitively played with many substitutions made for show rather than strategy.   Nationally televised games and interleague play mean that most players are not strangers to baseball fans.   Three leagues would complicate the staging of a All-Star Game and I would suggest that it is a tradition that has run its course.  Despite not playing the game, I would continue the tradition of awarding All-Star honors with fans voting for their favorite players and a panel of former players and sports journalist also selecting the best players at each position who have been overlooked by the fans.  Other All-Star Week traditions such as the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby would continue based around a new mid-season celebration of baseball of my own devising.

International Tournament: Baseball is growing in popularity globally and I think Major League Baseball should seize the initiative by staging an annual event to celebrate international competition.  The World Baseball Classic has succeeded by pitting the national teams of several baseball-playing countries, but I’d like to see a competition that brings together the best league teams of world together akin to the UEFA Champions League in European soccer.  Since baseball is played everyday it would be difficult to schedule a tournament on the Champions League model, but I believe MLB could host an exciting, short tournament at midseason in place of the All-Star Game.

I would propose an 8 team tournament with automatic berths to the previous year’s pennant winners from the American, National, and Continental Leagues.   I would also give berths to the best teams of Central League and Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball.  The final three berths would be won through a qualification process among the best teams from other professional baseball leagues including the Mexican League, Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League, China Baseball League, Korea Baseball Organization, Chinese Professional Baseball League, Italian Baseball League, Honkbal Hoofdklasse (Netherlands), Australian Baseball League and the winners of the Caribbean Series.

The teams would be seeded into two groups of four which would play a three-game  round robin group stage.  Then there would be a one-game semifinal with the 2nd place team of one group facing the 1st place team of the other group.  The winners of the semifinals would meet for the championship in a one game final.  These games would be played over the course of five consecutive days in three major league stadiums (one from each league).  Two stadiums would host group play and a semifinal, while the third stadium would host the final as well as other events such as the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby.  Players who have been voted as All-Stars will be introduced in a pre-game ceremony before the final.  There are some challenges to this international tournament such as the fact that three teams will have to play up to five competitive games while the other 27 teams rest, but I think it would be an exciting alternative to All-Star Game and a good way to promote baseball worldwide.

So that’s my plan for Major League Baseball.  Do you think it would work?  Do you like the changes MLB is currently making?  Do you have ideas of your own?  Let me know in the comments!

Movie Review: The Damned United

Title: The Damned United
Release Date: 27 March 2009
Director: Tom Hooper
Production Co:   Columbia Pictures Corporation
Country:  United Kingdom
Language: English
Genre: Biopic / Sport
Rating: ***1/2

Summary/Review:

This movie is a highly-fictionalized account of the life of English football manager Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) who was able to lead clubs like Derby County and Nottingham Forest to win the First Division championship.  Central to this film is Clough’s short term as manager of Leeds United, one of the most successful clubs of the 1970s and one Clough had been critical of for their dirty style of play.  The film is set up to focus on Clough’s relationships with two different men.  One is Don Revie (the always great Colm Meaney) Clough’s predecessor as manager at Leeds United.  If the film is to be believed Revie’s slight of Clough at a FA Cup match early Clough’s career provided both the motivation for Clough’s success but also his hubris and ultimate failure at Leeds.  The other relationship is with Clough’s assistant coach Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall) who has great skill at scouting players for the team.  The structure of the film with its historical inaccuracies comes off as melodramatic especially since the true story would make as good or better a film.  The Damned United is saved by brilliant acting performances by the Sheen as the mouthy and flashy Clough, Meaney, and especially Spall’s portrayal of the long-suffering Taylor.  I also enjoyed the gritty football action sequences that capture an era of sport long gone.

Movie Review: Mathematically Alive

Title: Mathematically Alive: A Story of Fandom
Release Date: 2007
Director: Joseph Coburn & Katherine Foronjy
Production Co: Vitamin Enriched Inc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: Documentary / Sports
Rating: ***

Summary/Review:

This movie is about something near and dear to my heart – fandom of the New York Mets.  Set during the historic 2006 season when the Mets lead the National League in wins and made it as far as the 7th game of the championship series, the documentarians track several diehard fans through their game rituals and Mets-centered lives.  The premise is very similar to Still We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie, but without support of the Mets and Major League Baseball, Mathematically Alive lacks the glitz and production values of the Red Sox film.  Major League Baseball trademarks and ballgame footage (and even Mike Piazza’s face!) are pixellated out of the movie.  The affect though makes this even more of fan-based film, by fans and for fans, and Mets fans true to their blue-color heritage are not about glitz.  I was especially excited to see the son of a good friend near the end of the film pontificating wisely about his favorite team.  A must-see for Mets fans, recommended for baseball fans, and others may be interested if sports fandom interests them.

Soccer Week

1. FC Kaiserslautern 2:0  FC Bayern Munich (27 Aug 2010) – This game was hosted by the oddly named team (is that  like First National Bank?) in the same stadium where the 2006 World Cup debacle between USA & Italy took place.  Defending German and DFB-Pokal champions and Champions League runners up took on 1. FC Kaiserlautern who were also champions.  Of the second Bundesliga.  One would think that Bayern would romp over the recently promoted 1FCK.  One would be wrong.  Bayern played reminiscent of the US MNT getting many chances but unable to finish.  Meanwhile, 1FCK scored two quick goals near the end of the the first half which was all they need.  I tend to favor underdogs, especially plucky underdogs who defeat the champions in their first Bundesliga game in four years, so I think I’m adopting 1FCK as my new German team to follow.  Match report.

New England Revolution 1:2 Philadelphia Union (28 Aug 2010)

I was only able to watch the second half of this game so I had the misfortune of seeing the Revolution playing a man down attempting to defend a 1:0 lead.  They did well for a while but ultimately ran out of steam and lost the win in the 82nd minute and the tie in stoppage time.  For the second time in a row I’ve watched the Revolution throw away a winnable game in what is increasingly becoming a lost season (in between this game and the previous one I watched, the Revolution also lost 4-1 to Kansas City).  At least the Revolution can still win the Superliga cup on Wednesday.  Match report.

By the way, I’ve discovered The Midnight Ride, a fan-produced podcast with good coverage of the Revolution.

Boston Breakers 2:1 Philadelphia Independence (29 Aug 2010)

The Revolution’s female counterparts are faring much better in the WPS.  I only caught the last 20 minutes of the Breakers’ win which brought them closer to second place and shored up an almost certain spot in the postseason.  Watching the game I was a bit depressed to see the Independence playing in a small American football stadium with few fans, something of culture shock after watching so many European games.  At least I’ve learned that the Independence and Union will be moving into a soccer-specific stadium soon, although it is not in Philadelphia proper.  Actually, I figured out that the Boston Breakers are the only team in the WPS that actually play within the city limits of the city they’re named for.  Way to represent Breakers!  Match report.

Internazionale 0:0 Bologna (30 Aug 2010)

I’ve shied away from Serie A because of a perhaps unfair bias that Italian soccer is where all the stereotypes of soccer come to life:  defensive play, diving, not to mention match-fixing.  This match up of the 5-in-a-row defending champions Inter versus the cellar dweller Bologna should’ve been Chelsea-Wigan style smackdown.  It was not.  There was a lot of defense, diving, and who knows maybe even match-fixing.  Dull, dull, dull.  Match report.

New England Revolution 1:2 Monarcas Morelia (1 Sep 2010)

The Revs last chance for hardware in 2010 ended disappointingly in this hotly contested Superliga final.   Morelia pretty much dominated play although Revolution errors contributed to the loss, particularly the first goal which came on a penalty kick after a dumb foul.  Miguel Sabah won the game for Morelia with a gorgeous volley in the 75th minute.  The Revs showed some life with a nice goal of their own by Kevin Allston (his first with the Revs) in the 79th minute.  The Revs had some chances right up to the last second, but alas they will only be Superliga runners-up.  Still this was a fun, fast-paced game.  I enjoyed the passion that was evident on the field and in the stands even if I didn’t like the poor sportsmanship (such as Morelia’s time wasters or Revolution fans throwing things on the field).  Match report.

Armenia 0:1 Ireland (3 Sep 2010)

The Euro 2012 qualifying campaign kicks of this weekend and I’ve adopted my ancestral home squad of Ireland to follow.  At least until they are eliminated.   The opening match in Yerevan, Armenia was not exceptionally well-played but both sides had some action in front of the nets.  Armenia had one particularly breathtaking spell with several opportunities in a row before the Irish defense cleared the ball and Ireland’s skipper Robbie Keane so a can’t-miss-opportunity deflected by the post.  Finally, Ireland broke-through with a 76th minute goal by Keith Fahey, his first for the national team.  A good start to what I hope will be a strong Euro campaign by Ireland.

Other notes:

  • Following my train of thought regarding WPS teams named after cities I looked to see if there were any teams in London that have London in their name.  There are thirteen clubs in the Premier League and Football Leagues and many more in the lower divisions based in London and none of them have London in their name.  I suppose that the club would have to be based in the City of London to earn that name but I doubt there’s room for a stadium there.
  • This week the world of football lost a living link to the first World Cup when Franciso Varallo died.  Varallo played for Argentina the team that were runners up in the 1930 World Cup

Related Posts:

This Week in Soccer

Here’s the report on my first week as a novice soccer fan.  See my previous post Forming an Association with Football for more details.

USA v. Brazil (10 Aug 2010) – A friendly match in the New Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey to thank the US fans for their World Cup support.  Supposedly the experienced US side fresh from the World Cup would have something to show to a young Brazilian team featuring many players appearing in their first international match.  Instead, it turned into an embarrassing rout with stylish Brazilian play exposing the weakness of the USA’s back line with attack after attack after attack.  Only great goalkeeping by Tim Howard and Brad Guzan prevented Brazil from running up the score.  More on this debacle from the Boston Globe.

At the very least seeing Brazilian players in the Meadowlands reminded me of the glory days of Pele and the New York Cosmos.

Mexico vs. Spain (11 Aug 2010) – I stopped in a pub in Boston for supper on Wednesday night and they had Spain’s first World Cup championship friendly at Mexico on the TV.  This game was Spain’s first defense of a lesser-known title, the Unofficial Football World Championship.  Basically the UFWC folks have created a basic title system akin to boxing championships tracing back to the earliest international football match in 1872.  When Spain defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup championship they ended the Dutch run of 21 title defenses and unified the UFWC with the official world championship.  Mexico had a good chance of snatching the title away from Spain with an early first half goal but David Silva of Spain equalized in stoppage time just before the end of the game (the UFWC champion retains the title in a tie).  The drama of the moment was lost on me because the Univision broadcast for some reason reset the clock at zero at the start of the second half so I had thought I was watching the first half until the players started shaking hands.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid (13 Aug 2010) -  Yet another friendly, this team matched two European club powers to contest the Beckenbauer Cup in tribute to the Bayern great Franz Beckenbauer.  It was fun to watch some of the best players in the world duke it out but the game ended as 0-0 tie with Real Madrid winning the cup in a penalty shootout.  Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas proved to be the hero of the match with several dramatic saves.

This leads me to a question which will probably betray my ignorance and American heritage:  How is it that with the goals in soccer being so enormous that there are so many scoreless games?  I mean if you ever stand by one of those nets it would seem impossible for a ball not to get in there no matter how good the keeper and the defense.


This weekend was too busy to watch soccer so I didn’t see any games of the teams I purportedly am following.  I did learn that as a supporter of Everton and the US national team I can be double embarrassed by Tim Howard’s fumble in the penalty area which allowed Blackburn to score the only goal of the game:

I’ve also I discovered a German team with the best name ever:  Wormatia Worms. Granted it’s funnier in English if you imagine annelids playing soccer, and ignore that Worms is the name of city in Germany.  Still, if the Wormatia Worms played higher than the fourth division in Germany I’d definitely start watching their games.

Forming an Association with Football (aka Soccer)

For many, many years I’ve been meaning to pay more attention to soccer.  It’s a sport I enjoy both on the field as well as it’s history and folklore. Soccer has been part of my life since I was a child and played in the Stamford Youth Soccer League and watched New York Cosmos games. Yet I find many obstructions to following the game today outside of the quadrennial FIFA World Cup.  These include:

  1. I live in the United States where soccer coverage is hard to come by, even for our local professional teams.  I seem to be able to take in news of American Football (which I dislike) by osmosis, but have to dig deep to fin anything about soccer.
  2. I don’t own a television.  Even if I did, I probably couldn’t afford the cable packages that include coverage of European football.  Local saloons generally don’t show soccer games either, especially if there’s a Red Sox game on.
  3. I have a family, and a job, and lots of preoccupations that suck up my time.

Nevertheless, with the seasons beginning in the European leagues, I’m committing myself to trying to follow some teams in addition to my local Boston teams:

The choice of teams is somewhat arbitrary although with exception of Barcelona, all of these teams are from cities I’ve visited and enjoyed.

I started today by watching Ajax’s opening match at FC Groningen online. After a quiet first half, things were looking good for my new favorite Dutch side.  Ajax’s new Moroccan forward Mounir El Hamdaoui scored two goals to put the team comfortably ahead.  But as the minutes ticked away in the second half, Ajax gave those two goals back and had to settle for a tie.  According to a tweet I read this is “the first time they give away 2 goal-lead since losing 4-2 at Vitesse on 24 December 2006.”   More on the game from the Ajax website.  I actually missed bot of El Hamdaoui’s goals as I was distracted by my son, but that’s okay, that’s what replays are for.

So as the season continues I’ll try to update on my spectator experiences.  If anyone has any tips or resources for the novice fan, please put them in the comments.  And yes, I do plan to continue to use the word soccer.  I like it’s distinctive and unambiguous sound compared to the more pedestrian football.

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