Friday, June 20, 2008

Chris Mannix needs to EAFD and DIAF

This will be epic. Chris Mannix.... you're a dead man.


Seriously, stop what you're doing and devote 30 minutes to this. We've worked hard and suffered through many broken computers to bring you this. Why? I'm not quite sure.

For a brief reminder as to why we wrote this, and why it took so long (answer to part 2: because it took me this long to calm myself down), read his original piece-of-shit article here.

Sports Illustrated, your editorial department has some 'splaining to do.

Sure, the headline might be a bit harsh if you know your acronyms, but I really don't give a toss. I'm suffering from some awful sunburn, the by-product of sleeping on the beach and general lotion-application stupidity, and while this article angered me last week, now I'm in a full-on sunstroke rampage. In-between bouts of fainting, I'm fucking pissed.

Simply put, Chris Mannix is the latest face on the "Why the US will always hate soccer blah blah blah" bandwagon. He's the most recent chap to brave the choppy waters and add his 2 cents to the argument. Except, amid his awful prose, his argument goes nowhere, and it irritates the shit out of me that he is paid to write garbage like this for a national sports magazine, and also gets the kind of USMNT access that real soccer fans would murder Eric Wynalda to get.

So let's FJM-style this shitbag, shall we?

His intro is soft and pudgy. Just like his character.

"I bet you think soccer is as American as cricket and as thrilling as the Westminster dog show."
No, we don't, but please continue. I can see where you're going.

"All that kicking and heading, and no hands? Maybe that's why Zinedine Zidane dropped Marco Materazzi with a head butt in the 2006 World Cup final."
Hey, he can use Wikipedia! I give him credit for spelling the names right, but really, are we still hung up on this incident? People get sent off for violent conduct and outbursts of emotion on the pitch all the fucking time (heck, just ask Antonio Cassano or Javier Mascherano)!

Still, in the minds of the closed-minded, this is what it all comes down to. A French-Algerian headbutted a vile-mouthed Italian.

"He didn't realize he could use those things attached to his shoulders to throw a punch."
Well, he did, but let's face it, the symbolism was rather tasty.

"And games that end 0-0? (Sorry, nil-nil.)"
A cute joke that bolsters an awful argument. It boils down to this: people think soccer is boring because they don't score too much! Fuck, we've been dealing with this idea since the birth of the game.

Are these same people the ones who decry a 77-74 NBA Playoff game? Or a 9-3 NFL game? Or a 1-0 game of baseball? Or the entire concept of golf?

Because honestly, highlighting one possible outcome of an intricate sport is a laughable way to try and show that it's boring, or simply not worth the time or investment.

Seriously, it's a throwaway point that makes you look like a drooling cretin.

The idea that goals/points/scoring = excitement is only something that neanderthals cling to when watching their sport. Remarkably, it's often the same crowd who mumbles this thought between bites from their KFC Original Bowl and who love NASCAR so much! I realize there's an art to driving fast and all, and that there is some skill to it, but on some chemical level I see it as three+ hours of turning left!

Thankfully, I can come to terms with it while still respecting it, which is more than could be said for Mannix and soccer.

"The zealots will tell you that soccer is ready to become America's fifth major sport. In my mind, it already is. If you're too slow to play basketball, too scared for baseball, too small for football and too clumsy for hockey, you turn to soccer."
Hilarious. I'll let him have this joke. He clearly worked hard on his anaphora, so he gets a brief respite. It's the next paragraph that condemns his entire perspective on the argument at hand.

"In the interest of full disclosure, I have tried my feet at the game. Let's just say it didn't take. It was 1988, and I was in second grade at Sacred Heart Elementary in Kingston, Mass. My team went 0-9. My father was the coach. I was the goalkeeper. After the season the team parents gave my dad a book on how to coach soccer. "I didn't need it," he tells me now. "I already knew how to win. Don't put you in goal." I hadn't watched a soccer game since."
[Scene from Chris Mannix in high school]

Physics Teacher: Hey Chris, we need to talk before class.
Chris: Sure thing, prof.
PT: I just finished grading the midterm, and you got an F. Simply put, you're terrible at physics. You've taken this class five times over already, and despite all the mentoring and after-school tutoring, you're no better than where you were in elementary school.
Chris: (silence)
PT: I understand you're upset, angry even. We can work on this though. I'm willing to give you the benefit of my expertise, and I will commit to helping you gain a better grip of basic physics concepts and ideas in order to make you a better student.
Chris: I renounce the concept of gravity. Fuck you, and fuck Newton.

[end scene -- man, I should call David Mamet. I clearly have a future in screenwriting]

Seriously, SI editors, why let this idiot fumble his way through another 2000 words at this point? Anything you get beyond this heartfelt glimpse into Mannix family lore is pure rubbish.

Letting this guy write editorials is akin to letting Jared from Subway commercials explain the intricacies of Asian cuisine. Sure, he might have a basic idea of what its about, and he's certainly capable of learning, but really, his entire world view dictates that he'll be fucking useless on the subject.

So why bother? Why waste precious pages? You're already a magazine struggling to keep up with the loud and lightning-fast world of sports media, and yet you're continually giving column space to the intellectual equal of Mickey fucking Rooney? Drool on, please.

At this point, Mannix, seemingly incapable of a threaded, coherent argument, jumps into his 5 main complaints about soccer, and attacks them each individually with his experiences from the road, occasionally pausing to offer scant praise for the sport he's always hated.

I warn you, I might pass out from the screaming.

Thankfully, The Likely Lad and Precious Roy were happy to sub in and out to prevent me from being hospitalized.

American fans lack passion

This ought to be good.

"Two weeks ago, if you'd asked me about La Barra Brava, I would have guessed it was a Latin boy band. Turns out, with over 1,000 members representing more than 30 countries, the Barra is considered MLS's largest, most diverse and most rabid fan group. Great, I thought when I learned I'd be hanging out with them in Washington, D.C., for United's game against the Houston Dynamo on June 4. The David Hasselhoff fan club."
Nice, a boy band joke. Immediately, a tone of snobbery from a guy who's barely a leg to stand on.

"My first indication to the contrary came well before kickoff. A driving rain had turned a four-hour trip from Manhattan into six, and I was beginning to wonder if I'd get to see my first soccer game at all. I texted Rob Gillespie, one of Barra's elders, to confirm that the pregame tailgate had been washed out. His answer was succinct: rain or shine."

Mannix' internal dialog: man, I was hoping the rain would stop these public school morons from preparing for the game. That would make sense in my worldview, because of course, while Cleveland Brown fans would adopt a similar mentality when faced with road-clogging snow, I am amazed that any soccer fans in the USA could possibly exhibit the same rabid fanaticism.

"It's amazing what Barra members can do during a tornado watch. They can eat, even when their rolls have turned to mush and the charcoal flames are reduced to a flicker. They can drink, even if their keg cups contain less beer than monsoon. And they can sing. Oh, can they sing. First Vamos United. Then the Barra Brava song. Soon I'm frantically scrolling through my BlackBerry for the lyrics and singing along -- it's addictive.

The Barra takes advantage of a break in the rain to head into RFK Stadium. Rather than seek refuge beneath the overhanging stands members march directly to their section at midfield. They cluster together behind a massive black banner, even though the stadium isn't lacking for seating. As the players emerge, the chants begin again. Everyone on Houston sucks. The refs suck. Cobi Jones sucks. (Never mind that Jones, I learn, played in L.A., retired last year and is not in attendance.)"

Again, more empty set-up. He is surprised and amazed as he continues his de Toqueville-esque observations of soccer fans, who, surprise, are just as fanatic as those who root for the traditional American stable of sports. Heck, he might even be enjoying this!

"After 16 minutes the referees deem the field unplayable and wave the teams out of the muck. The Barra doesn't move. When lightning strikes in the distance, the P.A. announcer tells fans to take cover in the concourse. The Barra chants louder. Only after a personal request from a United official does the Barra relent. An hour later the game is suspended. A few angry Barra members storm the flooded field and are escorted out. The rest leave on their own, hurling profanities."
Yep. We're not leaving early just because of some rain. When was the last time you saw the Marlins retain most of their crowd in the face of a storm?

"As I wade back to the van, water spills from my sneakers at every step. I should be miserable, but I'm not. I'm smiling. American soccer fans are great. If only there were a few more of them."
Excellent! There is hope for this gu---- oh wait. Fuck.

(pause to smash head against wall)

There are fucking hundreds of thousands of them! They clog the NY public soccer rec leagues, amateur clubs all over the country, high school stadiums across the northeast and southwest, MLS stadiums from Los Angeles to Columbus, large sports arenas for Mexico vs. USA, it doesn't fucking matter. Rain or shine, come hell or high water: there are a lot of fucking soccer fans across this nation.

And yet, what did all this prove? Mannix enjoyed a wonderful day out, had a good time, ostensibly enjoyed nothing more than the tailgate and colorful songs (hey, two more things soccer has in common with the major US sports), and he still managed to end on a downer.

Why? Because otherwise his thesis is ruined. Wasn't he supposed to be arguing that he hates soccer? He complains initially that they lack passion, then he spends a day with La Barra Brava, realizes they are passionate, and now his complaint shifts to there not being enough American soccer fans!??!!?!

Christ, is there one editor brave and strong-minded enough to point this out to Sir Mannix?

There is no strategy

Please, restrain me. My blood pressure is dangerously high by this point. Mannix is off to spend some time with members of the USMNT, and thanks to the surely out-of-context quoted idiocy from Claudio Reyna, Mannix has his golden goose.

Who is Claudio Reyna? The New York Red Bulls had persuaded Reyna to sit with me during the first half of their Thursday night game against Chivas USA at Giants Stadium, so it was probably a good idea to know whom I'd be talking to.
Yep, it would be. Moron.

Reyna, I learned, is the former U.S. captain who had a successful career in Europe before returning to the States to join MLS. (He's currently injured.)
A wise move on his part, considering that the Red Bulls are fucking horrendous.

O.K., here was a man who could talk soccer.
Debatable, but for another time.

Here was a man who could explain how there is more to the game than 20 players running up and down the field. That there's more to scoring goals than one really good player kicking the ball in the general direction of the net -- and hoping it gets past a bunch of guys.
At this point, I'm almost scared to turn the page. It's an obvious set-up, and a horribly, horribly misguided one. It would be easy to look at soccer and think that. It would be easy to look at a Packers/Vikings game without knowing what was going on and thinking the same thing. "Oh, you mean they have to run into that zone at the end and have possession of the ball when they do it? OK, makes sense."

I mean fuck, you could watch an episode of Sex and the City without knowing what was going on, and you're be worried as to why the blond one can never keep her legs closed for more than 11 minutes.

But there isn't, as even Reyna admitted. "Some teams play technically," he said. "Mostly in Europe. But soccer is probably the least coached sport of them all."
Claudio, I swear to the Lord God on high, why would you give him this quote? Are you fucking kidding me? At this point, I cannot see straight.

I think reading this line has caused blindness. Least-coached sport of them all? Are you fucking joking? Perhaps it's because you've lumbered through a mediocre club career that's seen you play for a number of going-nowhere clubs, and that all of your managers have been slobbering idiots.

Soccer requires a lot of tactical coaching considering its wide-open nature. 11 men running around in pursuit of a white ball cannot be left to chaos and chance. It requires discipline in formations, adjustments to suit for player-on-player matchups and markings (just like in the NFL, where teams overload weak DBs or put their tallest WR on the opponent's smallest CB) in order to neutralize the opponent's strength.

You need a marshal on the sidelines to make sure the formation holds in both attack and defense, and that the team's style of play (smooth passing play, or Route 1 play via the long ball, or putting an emphasis on wingers or your #10 who sits right behind the strikers as a libero) is adhered to.

If there are injuries or red cards, the manager has to make adjustments accordingly (or in Domenech's case, shit the bed entirely). Who was sent off? What position did he play? Who do I have on my bench who can ably deputize? Which player/position do I weaken in order to bring on this substitute?

And thanks to the eternal stupidity of Claudio Reyna's soundbite, Chris "Donkey Logic" Mannix has his misconceptions confirmed BY A GUY WHO HAS PLAYED THE GAME FOR OVER A DECADE PROFESSIONALLY.

Seriously... the MLS works so hard to gain legitimacy, and this crocked retard undoes some of that earnest work with a flourish of his mouth.

So let's see how Mannix extrapolates this:

Reyna did turn me on to certain nuances. Spacing is critical, and coaches often shift players into more defensive positions when they have a lead late in games. Up by a goal with the clock winding down against Chivas, Red Bulls midfielder Dave Van den Bergh raced toward the sideline and shouted to New York coach Juan Carlos Osorio to assign someone to "sit on" Chivas midfielder Paulo Nagamura. Osorio sent in defensive-minded midfielder Luke Sassano, who helped New York hang on for the win.
This is simply brilliant writing, AS IT NEGATES WHAT MANNIX HIMSELF JUST QUOTED. Phew. Thank you Claudio. You give him some evidence of coaching in professional soccer, and then it is immediately reinforced by a concrete example of this coaching methodology in action.

Perhaps all is not lost?

Still, Reyna confirmed my belief that soccer is more about individual talent than teamwork. He mentioned former national team striker Brian McBride, whose ability to head a ball in traffic is unmatched.
What do you mean, "still"? He gave you a terrible quote which was then negated, but "still", Reyna negated it again and somehow drove you back to your retarded initial hypothesis? Fuck... I'd love to meet your debate coach.

Individual talent can only get you so far. It's not difficult to find examples of this.

Example 1: my beloved Liverpool FC. They are a team largely driven by 2 players of their first-choice starting XI: Steven Gerrard in midfield, and Fernando Torres up front. These two are tremendously gifted, and have conjured up several fleeting moments of brilliance to bail us out of awful situations.

However, when one or both of them are having a bad game, the entire team struggles, and we end up suffering through 1-1 draws at home to Wigan. It's simple: you can have one or two world-class superstars, but all their talent and potential can't get you the three points every week. It simply doesn't work. Once or twice or thrice a season, but over the long-haul, you require a team effort.

Example 2: the Turkish National Team. Now they are a wonderful example of the other side of a coin: a team driven by several efficient role players with no discernible superstar in sight. They are hard-working and rely on each other to grind out favourable results. No household names, no-one getting paid billions to lounge around in Nike or Adidas commercials, but by-and-large, a successful team.

Example 3: Barcelona. Now they're a fun case study because they're a team full of superstars who rely on individual skill, and yet they have no fucking idea how to work together. The end result in 2007/08? 3rd in the League, semis of the Champions League, beaten both times by Real Madrid during La Liga campaign (1-0 and 4-0 respectively), and failure in both domestic knockout tournaments. Aka, a DISMAL FUCKING SEASON WITH NO WINS OR VICTORIES TO BE PROUD OF.

Mannix, are you getting this yet? Individuals only carry a team so far. The very nature of a TEAM requires that you have more than one player. Did the Cavaliers win the NBA Title? No, of course not. Lebron James can't do the work of 5 players on the court at one time. When was the last World Series win for the Yankees, a team led furiously by an individual who will go down in history as one of the all-time greats, Mr. Alex Rodriguez?

Fuck. Pick the New York Giants. Two or three household names, and a bunch of determined nobodies. And they have a Super Bowl trophy.

The concept is fucking retarded, Mannix. Please, give it up. Give me something better, PLEASE.

And, of course, there's David Beckham, who could ping a paparazzo in the head from 50 yards away if he felt like it. "What Beckham can do with free kicks and corner kicks," says Reyna, "is an art form."

So there is strategy: Get more players like Beckham.

*slumped on the floor dead*

[Ed. Note: it is at this point that LB fell over, probably due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The Likely Lad will deputize in his absence]

Well, in light of LB's demise, allow me to crack on. Chris Mannix will not be allowed any respite!
It's mind-numbingly dull


I want a sport to seize my attention and keep it. My impression: In soccer you can marvel at a pretty goal or a diving save, then go to the bathroom, call your girlfriend, buy a plate of nachos and make it back to your seat before a team crosses midfield again.

Oh, your impression? I see, we had nearly forgotten.

Apart from Mr. Mannix’s ill-conceived notions about football and his general rhetorical cuntiness, there is the issue of his narrative construction.

As now, the reader understands that the words spilling across the page are the writer’s own. They are his opinion. There is no need to continuously restate the point.

Over and again goes the refrain: “to me”… “I thought”… “I’m beginning to get it.” Why then, can this esteemed professional not state his piece without such stunting qualification?

The answer is simple, if not immediately obvious. An argument of this nature must be grounded in the wit or incisive nature of the reporting. When stripped of that, along with any illusion of factual research, there is nothing left but the cliché. In this case, a particularly drab one.

It is important to understand that when a reporter knows something to be true, or has done sufficient research to hold some confidence in his assertions, or, god forbid, uses a telling quote, there is no need to conjure up such a bundle of awkward refrain.

Remove the “My Impression:” from the above cut-out and what you have, simply, is a staid, hopelessly formulaic denunciation of a particular sport. It’s pale and snarky, and worst of all—the one real, unforgivable sin—not funny.

The frequent lulls turned off the crowd. Fans talked about how many beers they planned to drink in the parking lot. Two men sitting in front of me spent 23 minutes of the first half arguing whether the game was being played on natural grass or field turf.
This conversation our correspondent was privy to, that he set his watch to (we’re led to believe), could have only taken place at a soccer match. Correct?

No other sport could driven the spectators into the arms of such inane conversation. The constant, feverish pace of a baseball game would never allow for such idle musing. Or an American football game for that matter.

Fans spend the NFL’s hours of artificial stoppage time discussing what? The intricacies of the Tampa 2 defense? Quantum physics, or the political heritage of Nixon’s Southern Strategy?

No, they get drunk, as many soccer fans do, and bullshit. Sometimes about the game. Sometimes about their wives and girlfriends. And sometimes, maybe even when some creepy geek with string warts is hovering over their shoulders… the cut of the fucking grass.

The world's No. 2-ranked team looked listless, falling behind 63rd-ranked Venezuela and getting booed off the field at halftime. What's worse, they didn't even bring Ronaldinho, the one soccer player whose name I know.
Observe our esteemed reporter, here, delighting in his greedy ignorance! He’s an idiot and will not be bullied into denying it. He is not one to bow before those European quasi-intellectual soccernistas. Here he is with beer, wraparound shades and the virility of youth and narcissism. He’ll make a name for himself yet—the power to awe and incite all bottled up in his little pen.

He is our 21st century nowhere man.

After the final horn sounded in Venezuela's 2-0 victory, the Brazilian fans continued their chanting and singing and drumming on their way out. As amped up as I was by the noise before the game, now it rang hollow. To me, what these fans really enjoyed was being Brazil fans, not watching their team play. It had to have been. No one could have enjoyed that.
Certainly Mr. Mannix has dug his own grave here. He’s crossed the Jester—a rank criticism of what he can’t understand.

If Sports Illustrated is a dying brand, this is the stuff that will fill out its epitaph. Profits have shrunk, and with them the salaries of staff members—those, that is, that have been lucky enough to keep their place.

But rather than stay true to the form that brought the magazine its longstanding acclaim (from some, less so from others… hem/haw), its editors have decided that young writers like Mr. Mannix are where the future lies.

Every notion that strikes his kind is a revelation. For what he cannot fathom—being a Brazil fan—he fashions a sneer. It is not an affliction reserved for him. It is common, indeed. Why Sports Illustrated sees fit to pay him to articulate it is anyone's guess.

Whatever the reasoning, it is misguided at best.

The days of prose poets reporting the news and telling the stories of sport and man may be past, but there will always be a hunger for writing that speaks to the reader as an equal. This piss, condescension in the guise of contrarian's disarmament, may stir up some silly bloggers today. But ultimately it will have all the staying power of a Big Mac in the bulimic's craw.

[Ed. Note: we're skipping #4 because we're aware this is rather long. Also, welcome Precious Roy to the argument. Sterling work ahead!]

Soccer Players are Wimpy Athletes


They don't run; they jog. They don't fall; they dive.
I know what you're doing here. You're going to set up all of these stereotypes about the sport, then have some sort of mini-revelation. Hey, congrats you've been born into the light. Welcome.

Not really.

In fact, consider that your stereotypes are just plain wrong. Like creation science kind of wrong.

Sometimes players do jog. Other times they are on a dead run (and often trying to control a ball while doing it... oh, and a 6'4" 210 pound defender is trying to get them off the ball while this is happening). But if they were on a dead run for 90 minutes, they wouldn't be soccer players, they would be Kenyans.

As for the diving, let's run a little experiment. You take off on a sprint, then I'll come up from behind you and clip you with my spikes. I'll give you, say, $50 (and my undying respect) if you don't hit the ground. I'll double it if you can prevent yourself from responding to the reflex of reaching back to the hole in your Achilles.

They treat contact like an infectious disease.
Actually, that's the opposite of what they do. If they thought it were an infectious disease they would probably shy away from it, or warn other players off them: "Hey, don't tackle me man, I've got a raging case of schistosomiasis, and it would be a total bummer if you caught from me for trying to do something as silly as preventing me from taking a shot on goal. K thx."
These were the biggest preconceptions I took into my final game, a highly anticipated exhibition at Giants Stadium between the U.S. and the world's No. 1, Argentina.

It took a little more than 37 minutes of playing time for me to realize that, well, I was a fool.

That long? I figured out you were a fool about 2 sentences into this article. What was that? Maybe 20 seconds?
A loose ball had squirted free, rolling toward where I had positioned myself, behind the U.S. goal. Argentina's Javier Mascherano and the U.S.'s DaMarcus Beasley gave chase, Mascherano coming away with the ball after cracking Beasley with a hip check that sent the midfielder careening into the boards. I looked up, certain I would see one of those colorful cards come out of the ref's pocket. No foul. Play on.

The action was pulsating. Heads collided. Bodies soared before crashing violently to the grass. True, there was the occasional head-scratching decision. U.S. midfielder Pablo Mastroeni was ejected in the 71st minute, and I'm still wondering why. But show me one bad call in soccer, and I'll show you a reel of NBA ref Dick Bavetta's greatest hits. For 97 minutes the two teams grinded, pressing the action on both ends, engineering fast breaks from 100 yards away. It was the best game of the weekend. And it ended 0-0. Imagine that.

Whoa. Holy fucking cow. A low scoring game, and it was exciting? Unbelievable. I've never heard of such a thing. In fact, even though I watched the same match, I'm still not sure I could have possibly imagined it was both exciting and low scoring. I hadn't realized what a fucking anomaly it was until you just pointed that out to me. Low scoring games have never been exciting before. Never. Instead, I'm going to go ahead and posit that it is metaphysically impossible.

Or it was, before your little revelation.

"The physicality makes it exciting," U.S. defender Heath Pearce told me afterward. "When you're going for the ball and it's between you and another guy, you are going to lay that other guy out to get there first. That's the kind of stuff you really can't appreciate on TV."
Not to get nitpicky, but that's the best quote you got?
Agreed. After five days and six matches I can now say that I enjoy soccer at its best -- though I continue to despise it at its worst. And the biggest problem is that you're as likely to see a mess as a masterpiece. But how do you know going in?
Initially I was tempted to say something like: "Hey, we agree. Awesome, we're so alike when you get right down to it. It's like Sly Stone was saying man. 'I am everyday people' and it's so cool because you are too. Let's sing 'Kum-bay-yah' What do you say?" I mean, soccer at it's best is phenomenal. Boring soccer, yeah, it can be tough to watch.

But that would be stupid of me. Because what you said is true of any fucking sport. You never know going in to any game if it's going to be a blow out or a tense, hard fought, super-deluxe excitement-a-thon of awesomenessly excitable excitingness.

Yeah, bad soccer is bad. Guess what, so it is with other sports. Bad basketball is bad just as bad football is bad. And bad hockey is bad. And bad ice dancing is bad. And bad rugby is bad. Even bad badminton is bad.

[Ed. Note: Bad sex is still alright though. Y'know, because it's sex.]

And anyone who knows going in if a sporting event is going to be good or bad probably shouldn't be trying to make a living as a sportswriter, but instead using those powers of precognitive dissonance for greater good, or even personal enrichment of material wealth (Vegas, baby). Doesn't matter to me if you want to be selfish like that.

Look, nobody is asking anyone to like soccer. You don't like it? Fine. I don't like the NBA. Can't watch it. Any sport where a 30 point 3rd quarter lead is meaningless? Kind of hard to get behind watching that (Not to mention the fact that there are different rules for stars, and that it often takes 10 minutes to play the last 30 seconds, and there is this bizarre provision that let's a team take the ball in at half court after a time out so when the game is on the line late they get to do what might be the baseball equivalent of going straight to second after a base on balls for a team that is trailing in the ninth inning, and my grammar is probably getting atrocious. Anyway... where was I?)

Yeah, people who don't like soccer, or don't think they "get it"? Nobody cares. Or at least the people who love the sport don't. They aren't holding telethons in Europe to raise money to help the silly Americans appreciate the world's most popular sport. I'm not going to call you at 8 am on a Saturday to lobby you to join me at the pub to watch Arsenal play United. You're probably sleeping, I'm not that rude, and, frankly, I'd rather be able to get a good seat at the bar, so the fewer people the better.

So, yippee, Mr. Mannix, you gave it a chance. I baked some rather delicious banana bread last night.

If you want a piece, it's yours for your efforts. Only you have to come get it because I'm not making any effort for you, or for your silly little crash course, or for anyone else who thinks they have to explain why they don't like it or feel obligated to become a social scientist seeking to undercover what it is about the rest of the world that separates us over this one activity.

The rest of the world also eats more Nutella.

Or maybe they don't. But I am sure there are other things that we don't all agree on or do differently.

So anyone else who wants to give soccer a chance, great. It's there for the sampling. If you like it, I'll see you in August when the EPL season starts. If not, shut up. Save for my abbreviated rant above, I don't go around spouting off about what sports I don't watch and why, then come to conclusions which are inanely universal.

Wait, what's that? The U.S. is playing a World Cup qualifier two weeks from now -- in Barbados? Hold the presses: I think I have one game left!
Journalism Fail! Sorry, no trip for you. Do not pass 'Go,' etc.


Ian said...

I think he was listening in to Spectator and myself try to figure out whether the pitch at Giants stadium was artificial or grass. By the way, it was grass. You owe me $10!

Andrew said...

Excellent . . . excellent

/Mr. Burn's smile.

Andrew said...

holy shit LB, you used the word anaphora! I had to turn to my Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words to define it.

Spectator said...

You owe me $10!

I was hoping you wouldn't notice!! Why do you think I bought you a $10 program?

Btw, Mannix is officially pwned.

Andrew said...

Yeah, it took me 35 minutes to read this. And after two "Rusty Nails" I believe that's impressive.

Well done. clap, clap.

Christ I can't wait 'til August.

/yeah, a Rusty Nail. With Bushmills. I'm an Episcopalian.

Bigus Dickus said...

Great effort chaps. I read his article (if that is what you can call it) last week and have had time to calm down. I did spend 45 mins looking for his email address at the time tho. What irks me is that he make sweeping generalizations with no substance or knowledge. I mean..Lets say I hate baseball. Should I watch AA teams to 'give it a go'. This fella needs to sit with me during Euro 2008 or for a Premier League game.

Keith said...

That's about as good as we drew it up on the Deadspin comments.

Now when are we getting your next bid for Gareth?

Lingering Bursitis said...

Keith: as soon as we sell Xabi

Andrew: I wrote most of my section after several shots of Old Grandad. Did the vitriol come through at all in the writing? Be honest.

Andrew said...

@ LB - The vitriol was there in spades. It dripped from the article. I could feel it.

@ Bigus - the baseball analogy plays perfectly.

I think if this EPL on ESPN3 deal goes down for the 09-10 season, guys like Mannix will finally understand why football is as engrossing as the supporters say it is.

Bigus Dickus said...

ESPN and the Prem? Oh God no. Tommy Smythe and Judy fucking Foudy every Saturday and Sunday? NO NO NO.

Mike Georger said...

"guys like Mannix will finally understand why football is as engrossing as the supporters say it is."

i dont know about that. exposing the mainstream audience to a year of wigan, birmingham, bolton, etc might not win over a lot of people.

i personally dont give a shit about whether soccer becomes big here. as long as the national team develops decent players (the epl is the most popular league in the world and their national team sucks ass ... sooo). if the epl exploded here youd just have a shitton more chelsea and united fans, and we dont need that. i think it is better with a small loyal fan base.

Keith said...

By the 09-10 season, you say? Well, then, just in time to load up the Villa bandwagon!!

Andrew said...

wait, was this EPL on ESPN3 thing a surprise announcement? I could've sworn I read about it on UF.

@ Georger - for purely selfish reasons, I want to be able to watch soccer on a network with some production quality - yeah, fuck you FSC. And you think ESPN would show Wigan-Bolton? Perhaps, but I believe tWWL is much smarter marketer than that. But you're right about having more Utd and Chelsea fans, because that's exactly who ESPN would show all the time.

I just want to see Skip Bayless argue with Jalen Rose about an offside call in a Villa-Blackburn match.

Mike Georger said...

i think espn's production quality sucks.

1) terrible at timing replays
2) horrible announcers (fsc isnt better)
3) they could not get their feed fixed for the liverpool/marseilles game. i should not miss a champions league goal under ANY cicrumstances

plus i really dont think we would get as many games as we get now, there is such little space in espns schedule during college football season

and this definitely isnt new, first i heard of it was in november of last year on awful announcing

ü75 said...

FSC has not had first choice on which game to show for a couple of seasons. If I remember correctly, FSC and Setanta split the EPL rights for five games each week last season.

Setanta had first choice on the Saturday games, while FSC had choices 2 and 3 (and 4 for a replay). FSC had the only rights to Sunday games, while Setanta retained Monday matches.

When the schedule gets moved around and there are only 3 or 4 games on Saturday, FSC has to put on crap.

Andrew said...

@ Georger - you think ESPN production quality sucks? Then please don't visit this site. This will make your shitty day all that much better. Or not.

Mike Georger said...

"what I was most impressed by is that they continued the coverage all the way through until after Man United lifted the trophy. They could have easily cut away and gone to regular programming, but they kept the coverage going. "

..... wooooooo!

i think their regular announcers are awful (gray has been a nice bonus) and their camera work during the games sucks. a trophy celebration is nice but that really doesnt warrant credit in my opinion

again i think fsc kind of sucks too (the funniest is when they do serie a games and the announcer fakes the accent) but at least theyre a dedicated network. i do not like the idea of the epl being an also ran on espn. the fact that it would be on 'espn 3' pisses me off, this is the most popular league in the world and it would get about as much facetime as poker

Keith said...

The guy who does the Serie A games, with his "Tommy Smyth after getting kicked in the the AOS" accent, is absolutely awful. The regular EPL (bite me, Barclays) announcers are usually decent.

And if you think ESPN's soccer announcers are bad, well, you've never heard Quint Kessenich kill the game of lacrosse before.

Mike Georger said...

also, while i agree with almost everything in the post

- special rules for stars in the nba ..... yeah lets not fool ourselves that stars in every sport dont get preferential treatment

- the end of a basketball taking forever.. while anticlimactic as hell, there is a similar problem in soccer. and that is people feigning injury to preserve a favorable result. like clockwork if someone gets fouled and their leading in stoppage time they will act like joe theisman. i think this is one of the reasons people are reluctant to back the game.

my proposal is that if you are hurt in a game and are so badly hurt that play has to be halted, you have to leave the pitch no matter what and cannot return until a minute of play has passed. watch that shit stop happening as much.

ü75 said...

I don't think you can fault either FSC or ESPN for their feeds. Both use international feeds which are not controlled by them. I don't think that any ESPN3 programming (should it come to pass as such) would be any different.

You can fault ESPN for having their announcers in a broom closet stuck watching the feed instead of being on site. Though, if ESPN do go all out as we are speculating, I believe they will hire locally based announcers to commentate.

Of course, it's not like the ownership of FSC aren't well-off financially on an international scale either, and they do not do this, so, we'll see.

Mike Georger said...

"I don't think that any ESPN3 programming (should it come to pass as such) would be any different."
exactly, and thats a problem

ive never had a problem with a fox feed but on several occassions have had issues with espn.

and some of the other things i like about fox ... the call in show, love that shit. espn wouldnt devote a whole talking heads show to soccer. .. classic epl and fa cup games ... i seriously doubt espn would be showing me old newcastle or games ... horrible ads with shaky handicam work, the comedic value is through the roof ... having the skysports news on at night? amazing.

i dont think fox does a great job but i think they do it better than espn could, and devote more attention to it.

Keith said...

Twellman and Giuseppe Franco are the absolute KINGS of FSC. . . and I wouldn't have it any other way. FFF is fantastic, as are the evening classics.

Super Sunday is also pretty fun, though you get the feeling that Costigan and the rest of the Brits want to strangle the host, and the visiting teams in the "pub" always look bored and awkward. Which only adds to the fun.

Which all adds up to say- I don't want ESPN doing the prem.

ü75 said...

Wait. I just said FSC and ESPN do the exact same thing. How is the feed, including replays not controlled by the US stations, any better on Fox?

I spend an inordinate amount of time watching FSC, and I agree with your points. I would also watch GolTV if my local cable would take it off the Hispanic tier. My feeling is that FSC is a cut-rate organization, a placeholder by NewsCorp just in case this soccer-watching thing takes off in the US.

We all benefit that it's on, just as we would if ESPN jumps into the fray.

Mike Georger said...

are they done by the same people? ive just noticed worse replays in the champions league than in epl games. now this possibly could be because they add the extra second of doing a wipe with the champions league logo in and out of the replays, but i just feel like i miss more action in champions league games.

either way, whoever is at the controls, i think it gets fucked up more on espn than fox.

i only think we would benefit from espn if they devoted an entire channel to it and didnt staff it with former mls and womens team players. the former i dont realistically see them doing and the latter theyve already done.

Andrew said...

ESPN3 wouldn't be ESPNSoccer. It wouldn't be completely devoted to the game, just like the other channels in tWWL's family. They just show Prem games when they're on - and maybe late-night replays.

All I'm asking for is more access to the game in general. I don't mean talking heads debating, just simple access to the games. If ESPN can provide that I'm all for it.

Keith said...

Exactly, Mike- EPSN3 doing the Prem= Dave O'Brien, Eric Wynalda and Julie Foudy doing games.


Mike Georger said...

more access in what sense? do you not get fsc? if so i could understand the desire then

but most weekends you get a solid six to seven straight hours of games on fsc (one may be tape delayed) but i do not see espn devoting saturday early afternoon time during the fall to anything other than college football, it is on all of their channels. shit they had to make espn plus just to show more games.

Andrew said...

I wonder how much ESPN would be willing to shell out for the broadcast rights? Sky was paying something like 9mil(USD) for each game. It may come down to simple arithmetic, cost-benefit/advertising analysis.

Whatever. I just want my footie.

Mike Georger said...

id be willing to pay 100 bucks a year to get to see every liverpool game on tv, all the cup games too. and why not the reserves and youth games while im at it. and not on a shitty eseason ticket stream.

generally i dont give a shit about watching anyone out of the big four play, im usually too hungover or too asleep for those games.

but if i could pick and choose what games i get, thatd be the shit

Andrew said...

I get FSC, but I believe ESPN would pay more to get the bigger games.

FSC does fine for what it is, no argument there. ESPN could, COULD, do better. Not that they necessarily would do better.

Like I tried to get across above, it's gonna come down to money. If ESPN sees a product they can benefit from, they'll go all out to promote it.

Precious Roy said...

Don't know if this has been mentioned, but I don't think the quality of the production for the games themselves has anything to do with Fox or Setanta.

I'm basing this on the fact that they have the exact same graphics for matches. So, I"m thinking someone else is doing the production and Setanta and FSC just get rights to deliver the feed.

Tony Lehman said...

First time commenter, long time lurker...

If ESPN were to start showing EPL games, the biggest bonus I could see would be the possibility of games in HD. Seriously -- the fact that FSC doesn't appear in HD to my knowledge is crazy.

Plus, you know with tFWWL that (a) they will force their on-screen talent on SportsCenter and other outlets to talk about the football (just as with Arena Football, for instance) and, (b) the only teams they will cover are ManYoo, Chelski, the Arse, and Liverpoo.

Winston B. Mcpotsworthy said...

soccer blows. mannix wrote what we already knew. good for him

SactoMan01 said...

I read this rant (and a surprisingly good one at that) and by far the best part is the comment about "teamwork." The success of the Spanish national team at Euro 2008 this year shows that putting aside egos does make a huge difference if you want to win it all.

Indeed, "teamwork" is the reason why the Americans are not the "lock" to win the Gold Medal in men's basketball at the Olympics in Beijing about a month from now--they're going to have trouble against a highly-experienced team like Argentina who are used to playing with FIBA rules.