Friday, April 4, 2008

You sure that's a.m.? Really?


Well, the fine folks at the EPL (suck it, Barclay's) are really putting our devotion to the test. Kick time for me tomorrow is 6-fucking-30 in the am (my time, anyway).

Thank god the FA Cup semi isn't more compelling, I mean, I'm totally psyched that the match-ups feature a final four that absolutely nobody had in their office pool (they do office pools for this shit in England, don't they*) but I'm not getting to the bar 15 minutes earlier and paying $20 for it. The final, maybe, but really, if it didn't say "FA Cup Semi" in front of it, I'm pretty sure there aren't more that 83 people on the planet in the US that would pay to watch West Brom and Portsmouth.

But since leaving Tottenham, I've taken a liking to Jermain Defoe. Perhaps because I got him for like 5 points in fantasy, and he's been a goal scoring machine [Note to Ramos: Ha ha ha ha. You paid what for Bent when you had that on your bench? You idiot.]

Anyway, as for round 2 of the troika this week... I can totally see a draw. In fact I can see two more draws, including a 0-0 affair midweek at Anfield. Meaning Arsenal would have played even on the scoresheet and have but one measly league point to show for it. That would be apropos of this season.

So, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. What of it? It's a preemptive "Fuck." Although there's the possibility of the karmic leveling for the non-call on Hleb.

Anyway, without checking I'm positive we got 5 right this week (it's late, and really nobody is actually paying attention for anything more than amusement purposes) and I'm pretty sure five of these will be right.

0-0
1-1
1-0
0-0
2-2
2-0
0-1
3-1
1-1
0-1


(*Yes, I know they redraw for each round so that you can't do a bracket. Don't get your knickers in a twist.)it.

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Next Stop On the Maradona Diplomacy World Tour: Iran

The news broke the other day (and we're just getting to it today, natch) that Diego Maradona was seeking a new BFF. Apparently, Maradona has been playing nice with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sending well wishes to the (truly not very powerful) president of Iran. Interestingly, this is the third time (and that's a trend) Maradona has attempted to curry favor with the leader of a nation whose international goals are diametrically opposed to those of the USA. Why exactly is that? The answer (with less parentheticals) to follow.

So, Maradona has been supporting the elected leader of the nation George Bush supposedly most wants to invade next. Diego's Argentinian, so why should it matter? Well, it's the third recent occurrence of something like this happening. Back in 2004, when Maradona was dealing with the worst of his cocaine and weight problems, he went to Cuba for treatment. Because everyone knows that the best technology for these things existed pre-1959. Anyway, it worked well enough for Maradona to survive and allow himself to be Castros's puppet/praise the great nation of Cuba, depending on where your beliefs lie. Surely this was not a snub at the US, but just relieved praise for saving his life, right?

Soon after, 2005 to be exact, Maradona went to Venezuela to meet with President Chavez. For those that don't remember events in the past too well, Chavez at the time was goading US leadership about their position as a colonial force on the rest of the world. His actions at the time led to some rumors of an attempted US invasion to oust Chavez. Chavez, for his part, lapped this up saying any attempt at US invasion would be "soundly defeated". On the heels of all of this posturing, Maradona made his wat to Venezuela to meet the president. Two years later, Maradona was at it again, Appearing on Chavez's television show saying, "I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength." Well, since he already hates this blog because of its writers' location, I guess I can let slip the reason why.

Now, if you had a tough time remembering who Hugo Chavez was last paragraph, It may be nigh on impossible for you to recall World Cup '94. You see, back in the heyday of horrible USA uniforms, the USA hosted the World Cup. Maradona was back for the Argentines, having led them to the last two finals, winning in 1986. Maradona was obviously on the slide in his career, and rumors of drug use hounded him. Well, after two games, he was sent home from the competition, having tested positive for five types of ephidrene. As the old joke goes, try to tell me this guy isn't high after he scored.




So, that's it then, isn't it? Maradona has obviously made it his post-football life's work to destroy the government of the country that sent him home from the World Cup, effectively ending his international career. No way could it be that Maradona is a committed leftist, espousing Marxist ideals while listing Che Guevara as his personal hero. He is definitely not trying to stem the tide of US cultural imperialism is any way. Nope, not at all.

Besides, as Andy Samberg points out below, Ahmadinejad is totally dreamy.


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MLS Roundup: I have no idea what I'm talking about


I was all ready to write a witty post about how terrible the Galaxy are going to be this year, in the wake of their 4-nil beating at the hands of Colorado Rapids. But then Goldenballs and Landycakes spoiled my fun by scoring two nifty goals last night against the back-from-the-dead San Jose Earthquakes and ex-manager/scapegoat Frank Yallop. Meanwhile, any praise that the Revolution might have earned by dismantling the defending champion Houston Dynamo was tempered by their dour showing in Chicago last night. Join me after the jump as we draw some ill-informed conclusions based on a tiny sample size.


The La Galaxy were roundly outplayed last weekend at the Dick, with a shambolic defense featuring Abel Xavier. I should point out that the Rapids were missing a good portion of their first team, and Fernando Clavijo is a terrible, terrible manager. He was supposed to be on his way out last year, but seems to have convinced Stan Kroenke to give him a second chance. Then again, Kroenke’s other coaches (Joel Quineville, George Karl) are also quite adept at getting the least amount possible out of the talent they have to work with, so perhaps Clavijo fits right in. I don’t know what to think of the Rapids, but their big offseason strategy of accumulating DC United castoffs seems to be working so far.

The news got even worse when Carlos Ruiz, the most annoying playing in the league, tore up his knee in the dying minutes of the game. Abel Xavier also picked up suspension for a retaliatory tackle (note: may be a good thing). Shaka Hislop, FC Dallas reject who the Guardian has deemed their MLS “expert” for the season, blamed LA’s ridiculous preseason.

The Galaxy were very poor, and a large part of the reason lies with their pre-season schedule, in which they took on as much traveling in a short spell as I've ever known. I was a member of the Newcastle United squad that went to Singapore before the start of the 1996-97 season, and that took a great toll on us. Indeed, that season saw the eventual departure of Kevin Keegan. The Galaxy's big-name players - David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Abel Xavier - will have been affected by the travelling most because they're all getting on a bit. Xavier, in fact, both gave away a penalty - although I have to agree with LA's complaints about that decision - and was sent off for a second bookable offence in the last few minutes when the game took something of a physical turn.


Yep Shaka, that trip to the Far East was definitely the reason that Keegs flamed out at Toon. Not a complete inability to get along with the boardroom, or a terrible run of form. Getting back to the MLS, the other big result from Saturday, the Rev’s beating of Houston, now looks less impressive after last night’s loss. And LA suddenly looks less like a pub team after comprehensively beating San Jose.

But the MLS, with its generous allocation of playoff spots, rewards teams that peak much later in the season. Shitty results in cold April weather are forgotten by the time summer rolls around. Hell, new Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio is supposedly still looking to buy three players for this season, even though the season starts for them this weekend. MLS rosters are almost always a work in progress for the first part of the season.

So what do we really know after the first couple of games? Fuck all, that’s what. Call me in a month and we can talk.

A footnote: The comments in the above mentioned Guardian post brought out all the tired stereotypes that most people have of the league. They play on fields with lines! The Peruvian second division is higher quality than the MLS! My favorite League 1/League 2/Blue Square North side would dominate the league! Fat Americans don’t understand soccerball!

My response to these people is to actually sit down and watch a game. It won’t kill you, I promise. And you might be surprised at the product on the field. I hear there are great seats available for many Red Bulls games.


A second footnote: Some of us UFers intend to actually, um, go to an MLS game in the near future. We reserve to change our minds and relentlessly slag off on the league if we are unimpressed with the live experience.

[photo credit: LAtimes.com]

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Right up your Arse!



When my Blogfather (Lingering Bursitis) asked me to pen a few words on what Arsenal meant to me (a devout Liverpool fan), I accepted with intrigue. (Well, not immediately, as I'm automatically programmed to avoid work. But, not soon thereafter...)

When somebody mentions Arsenal, never is my initial reaction towards the negative (unlike say if you said 'Everton', 'United' or 'Chelsea'). I've never really felt any strong disgust towards the north London club or anything really associated with the Gunners. In fact, where most clubs might garner a tepid or indifferent response from deep within Sven, I hold at least one sympathetic string in my heart for the French club.

Rather odd, isn't it? That a fervent fan of one of the Top Four should actually hold some affection (or at least, not hate) another rival club? Especially when said clubs are facing of in a Red Trilogy that will decide their fates in not only the Premier League, but also in the search for European glory?



Surely, there's something I strongly dislike about the Arse? How could I fail to find something pseudo-inflammatory to say about Wenger & Co.? (They even got rid of Ashely Cole!) It's for this reason I licked my lips at the idea of riffing on Arsenal Football Club ('licking my lips' figuratively... because to do it literally while talking to LB would have been kinda gay. And I only go gay for Fernando Torres. I'm a one-man man.)

Like you may have learned from any bullshit workplace workshop, it's generally good to start with the positives. Firstly, the lack of bad blood between me and Arsenal likely stems from the, um, lack of bad blood between Liverpool and Arsenal. When was the last time things got nasty between Liverpool and Arsenal (enter Hirshey with the answer)? It's been awhile. For better or worse, we've had no pizza-throwing incidents, no touch-line bust-ups between managers and Javier Mascherano has yet to destroy an Arsenal player with his bulldog-like tackling (give it time).

Arsenal is one of the clubs who have enjoyed their recent success by building a club the right way. And by the right way, I mean the opposite of the way Chelsea came into theirs. You don't need me to tell you how trained an eye Arsene Wenger has for young talent (and that's not a phrase you can use in everyday language and have it not be creepy) and point out how well he's consistently spent his transfer kitty. That Rafa has seemingly adopted a similar, if not as effective (yet), stance, by buying up countless young-in's is something I find promising and have rubber stamped with my approval.

I will say, however, that Arsene's eyes seem to have gotten even sharper over the last few years, as it's been sometime since I heard him utter the magic phrase, "I'm sorry, I did not see zee inzident". Incredibly useful in a variety of social situations, adopting a bad French accent and repeating this phrase used to almost always guarantee a laugh amongst my friends.

Another reason for my respect of Arsenal is that they're fun to watch. Usually, I'd be happy to dial up an Arsenal match that holds no immediate ramifications for me or Liverpool and watch their enjoyable brand of free-flowing, (often) one-touch attacking football. Sure, once and awhile they insist on passing it one too many times and refuse to score the easy goal. Or, on occasion, a striker might get the mental Blue Screen of Death and act like a defender on the goal-line, keeping his team from grabbing a vital goal when it would be easier to score himself.

It also helps that almost all the Arsenal fans I know (present blog company being the exception) are not the least bit annoying with their fandom and also seem to share a mutual respect for Liverpool. Much of this probably has to do with the fact that it was only recently that they've climbed out of the 'boring, boring Arsenal' funk and started garnering silverware again. But, it's still fun to think back on the days when they actually played Englishmen and disappointed Nick Hornby over and over and over again.

So, as Liverpool likely fields an inferior team for the Premier League match this weekend, with an eye on booking passage into the CL Semi's (a-gain), you can rest assured that Arsenal will have my full respect and condolences as they end the season with no silverware.


P.S. Methinks Diego would be a great buy for y'all. Go ahead and splash the cash. You've earned it.

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Holy fucking shit.


This story is awful, so let me just cut to the chase.

A Croatian soccer player died Thursday from head injuries after colliding with a wall adjacent to the pitch in a first-division match last weekend.

Hrvoje Custic, 25, had been induced into an artificial coma after being injured in the fourth minute of Zadar's 1-0 win over Cibalia on Saturday. He was declared dead by Dr. Edi Krauc.

What more can one say?

For all the shock and horror of this story, it keeps us aware of the human element of the game, and of sports and athletes in general. It's happened in all sports in the last decade: Darryl Kile and Korey Stringer are the first to come to mind. In soccer, we saw Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell collapse on the field right after Christmas. As the article goes on to mention, before him it was Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta in August, another player that collapsed and died on the pitch. Before that, it was former West Ham and Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed and died from heat exhaustion during a 2003 Confederations Cup Match.

Life is fragile, as is life from a soccer perspective. At the end of the day, you hope never to read stories like this, but like death and funerals in general, they will never stop.



The one thing that makes this stand out is that it wasn't death from "natural causes", but a death that could have been prevented due to the poor structural stability of the Zadar's ground.

Custic was fighting for the ball with Cibalia's Tomislav Juric near the sideline when he slid from the field and hit his head on a wall. Juric has not been charged for any offense.
The Croatian press has apparently been reporting for years with concerns about the stadium's safety, but little has been done about it. Sad as it is, hopefully now these concerns will be acted upon, but the scar remains that it took a horrible accident like this before something was done.
The player fell awkwardly after a challenge during the Cibalia match and, as his momentum carried him off the field of play, his head struck a concrete wall beyond the touchline. He was taken to hospital but, despite intensive treatment, his condition began to deteriorate yesterday.

"It's awful," said Zadar captain Jakov Surać. "We are all crushed. I have lost a friend and team-mate."

The Croatian FA has postponed all of this weekend's Prva Liga fixtures as the nation mourns.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Alert: Kelvin Koogan goalsplosion


I am pleased to report that Kevin Keegan has finally managed to impart the wisdom of scoring goals to his awful team. The huddle of mediocre players has rallied around him, heard his enthusiastic words, and managed to find the net a few times of late, thus almost breaking our beloved Koog-o-meter with all the activity.

Of course, it didn't hurt that the porous Spurs defense was on the fixture list to cure their misfiring ways.

The Magpies put 4 in the net at White Hart Lane this weekend, stunning just about everyone, and after their tidy 2-0 win the previous week against Fulham, well, they might not be so bad after all. 6 goals in a week! There was a point in January where it took them a month-and-a-half to score that many!

Hope shines on for the pie-stuffed faithful of St. James's Park, and we toast to them with a healthy Koog-o-meter reading for the first time all season.

Shine on, Koog. If only Spurs could host you every weekend.

After the jump, some goals!



Well, ahem, I thought I'd be able to embed it, but I'm not. Here's the link though... enjoy those goals. Newcastle looked oddly dangerous, something we've not seen all season long. Go Koog, go!

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Ten Facts That Might Be Wrong: Part 3


Well, we're probably only going to squeeze two more posts out of this (and this).

And it's actually not because of laziness (at least not on our part) but moreso because of what looks to be laziness on their part.

All of the old skool journalists out there—the WIlbons and the Mariottis—cry about bloggers and how any idiot with a net connection can now start publishing like it's a bad thing. In reality they are probably just scared of the competition and maybe a little upset because many of barriers to entering the field of sportswriting they suffered to get over have gone 'poof.'

Well, not to get all preachy here, but a) most bloggers understand that they are not journalists and b) the market tends to sort these things out. Bloggers that are smart, funny, informative, and accurate should survive. Bloggers who are too lazy to use a shift key or check their facts probably will not.

So I feel like I'm subverting this very belief by continuing to reward these guys with more traffic. But in the interest of completion, we'll do it reluctantly maybe a couple of more times.



Fortunately, the claims made in that post get easier to combine as they become a little more qualitative. So this post will take on claims 3-6, which basically say that the media is under-serving the soccer market.

Really? The media's job is to deliver an audience to advertisers. If that audience were there—specifically in this instance a soccer audience large enough to earn a profit from—the media would find it and serve it.

The fact that the soccer ratings in this country are not that great (see post number two) is pretty much an indication that the media is giving soccer about the right amount of coverage. That is "not much." Yes, there is a channel dedicated just to soccer (Fox Soccer Channel) but that is subsidized across all cable subscribers.

The same way you probably don't watch Lifetime, your cable bill helps keep it on the air, just as your 30-something single female neighbor whose life revolves around Rachel Ray and food porn keeps Max Bretos on your TV.

Has soccer grown in the US as a spectator sport? Maybe. The attendance numbers for MLS have been trending up over the last few years. But if you look at average attendance for every year of the league it's taken a decade to get back to where it started, meaning that after ten years the league is not quite back to where it was attendance-wise for it inaugural season.

Is that the only measure of "spectator"? No. And I'm pretty sure that when I go to my local bars to watch EPL matches on Saturday and Sunday mornings there are generally more people there now than there were two years ago. Do I have a reliable measure for this? No. Does that mean there has been an explosion? No. Am I encouraged by this? Yes. But it shouldn't lead to wild claims about soccer's popularity in the U.S.

Claim 4 is kind of silly on its face. Again, if there is a huge market there, it will get served. Media companies are in the business of business. And if you believe in efficient markets then the Latino market is not being underserved. Again, look at the Univision numbers (again in post number two) for the US v Mexico friendlies. They know how big the market is and they are giving it what they want. It's not just big matches. There is plenty of Primera División fútbol on Spanish-language TV in the US.

Some of the remaining claims are just plain stupid, the best being maybe this (and not just for the obfuscating grammar):

"I have seen stories about the most popular NFL jerseys in sales. These reports never mention that MLS Galaxy jerseys (and for an individual player, David Beckham), and USA national team jerseys are big sellers, and in the case of the former, they sell MORE THAN ANY NFL team or player name."
You know why? Because David Beckham doesn't play in the fucking NFL! He plays in the MLS. Perhaps you'd like to also complain that his stats don't show up in MLB box scores.

Maybe the author meant to compare Beckham to all sports jerseys. And he makes this claim:

"Beckham’s Galaxy jersey has also been the biggest-selling of ALL adidas jerseys of ALL sports in the ENTIRE WORLD since it was first released."
Really? Okay. Data please, source it. Oh, that's right, there is no sourced data for any claim in this entire fucking piece.

Still, the one about adidas sales figures I might believe. But I looked, and couldn't find anything to support it. But I did find out that Becks can't even beat himself. Yes, he sold a very impressive 250,000 Galaxy jerseys through July of 07, but that is dwarfed by the million he sold at his first six months at Real Madrid.

Really, this isn't even fun or interesting anymore.

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Stats are much more interesting...No?


Hot Pockets sucks at the weather but owns DC (Donut Consumption)


Part One
---
This morning as the train rumbled through Queens, I turned the page in this weeks Sports Illustrated to find out that Americans don't like soccer. T'was like a slap in the face I tell ya. I had no idea! Why is that? What can we do to fix it? Someone please help, I feel a panic attack coming. Deep breaths Bigus, deep breaths and read on, maybe this article by Chris Ballard will offer some solution. Some kind of hope for the world game in the U.S. of A.

[Ed. Note: the article hasn't gone online yet, but once it does, we'll add the link]

Slurp...(drinking coffee)...mumble (reading aloud) "Sorry" (apologize to my commuting neighbor for loud sigh). Yes. That's it Chris you are a genius. Stats. It's Stats. Americans love stats!!! Give them stats!!!

Mr. Ballard's answer to empty MLS stadiums and low viewing figures was the introduction of stats. Not better football, but better stats.



For instance the introduction of the SC category represents 'Shot Creation'. David Beckham's SC last season was 11.2 over 90 minutes. Three times better than his nearest challenger. He also averaged 87.9 touches per game. But how will this help people enjoy the game more?

Learn to love the poor standards of the MLS.

Well let's bust out the PP stats. PP is 'Possession Percentage'. Last year Jesse Marsch of Chivas USA (who?) led this stat with 81% efficiency in 'getting the ball' and passing the ball successfully. But was he passing forward leading to a successful SC? I would lurrrrrrve to know.

Meanwhile, Yura Movsisyan of the Kansas City Wizards had a rating of 37% which Mr. Ballard informs me is bad. "Fine if you're nine years old and wearing an orange wedge smile for the little ladybugs" he says.

Mr. Ballard fails to point out that Yura is a forward.

Is he expected to drop into midfield, strip the opponent and successfully pass to.....who? Who's upfront waiting to receive his SC? Not him of course... he's too busy in the midfield trying to improve his PP. Yura scored 5 goals in 28 appearances for the Wizards in the 06-07 season. He only played 6 times last season. In 06-07, his PP daddy Jesse Marsch found the net just twice in 33 games. Surely that's terrible for a guy with such a PP rating? Wonder if he had a good SC still? Well that year he had 3 assists. 3! Wow. I'm swooning in my seat.

What about the miles ran per game? 7.1 for Beckham. Wonder if Andy Johnson's is above 10. That would make it the 'Headless Chicken' stat.

[Ed. Note: I refuse to believe that Beckham runs 7.1 miles per game. The distance between the locker room and the center circle isn't nearly that long]

What did we learn from today's lesson on Stats Mr. Ballard? Well we learned that you like them, but that you have no idea what they mean. Yes stats may just save the beautiful game if you want to reduce its tactics, formations and individual roles to pointless numbers.

If Mr. Bullard and I were to be in close proximity, maybe sharing a pint while watching a game, I would make a suggestion or two. Scrap the stats. Goals and cards are the only numbers to be noted.

To fully enjoy football old chap, you have to do just one simple thing: put down the pencil and open your eyes.

Start by watching the Premier League. At least then you will know what the MLS is gunning for.


Part Two
---
Stats may be of no use when watching football but Mr. Ballard's article got me thinking. How could I use stats in everyday life to feel like a winner? To help me get through the day? A day (usually) without stats! What have I been missing?

Right. 6 am. MCI (Morning Coffee Intake) : My average is 3. The outcome? I am buzzed, leading my morning in to a productive efficiency-fest! This stat may help you to get that pay rise your wife has been nagging you to ask for. Drink up readers. Drink up!

I am apparently also ranked highly in UIM (Un-important Instant Messaging). A quick survey of colleagues and it's official: I lead the entire office in this crucial part of my day.

Now onto the highly-competitive WTWE (Web Browse To Work Email). I've been giving those mail room guys a run for their money recently and have an impressive 5-1 score indicating a healthy interest in anything but emails detailing screw-ups made by our news brief guru "Hot Pockets".

Incidentally Hot Pocket's CWP (Correct Weather Plays) is at 81.6 a month. Not bad, unless of course you are not keen on seeing yesterday's weather 18.4 times per every 30 days. Just carry an umbrella and let the guy keep his job I say! He does however excel in DC (Donut Consumption). His average of 45 a week is unrivaled. Well done mate.

"What about my travel stats," you cry! Well I reckon I totally nail TOT or Time on Train in our office, which of course helps me to beat everyone at MWW (Movies Watched per Week).

I am going to start logging PT (Pub Time) too. That and GW, Games Watched which will influence my overall AWP or Angry Wife Percentage, which is already pretty high! Not great if you are logging your overall MNR (Monthly Nookie Rating.)

Finally and most importantly, there is the WBA (Weekly Blog Average). This gives Deadspin's gopher-lipped Gooner David Hirshey a lowly 1 in comparison to my 4. But his IC (Interesting Content) rating is much higher, giving me an all important goal to aim for.

The tie-breaker? UPM of course. That's Useless Points Made. I excel in this category and take blog honors. Get in!

Suck on that Hirshey! Loser!


-Bigus.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ode to a Referee

To the referee of the Arsenal v. Liverpool Champions League match played at the Emirates on Wednesday, April 2, 2008:

The following is a foul:



The next time you are presented with such a situation, please respond accordingly and award a penalty kick. Also...




BLOW YOUR FUCKING WHISTLE, YOU USELESS TWAT!

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Italian football clubs love Captain Jack Sparrow


EXCLUSIVE picture of Sam Allardyce in disguise, loitering outside Fiorentina's training ground with a notepad


Serie A clubs Palermo and Reggina are upset with the EPL, and by gosh by golly, they've dusted off their finest similes to prove it.

Apparently, EPL teams are "pirates taking treasures", a phrase referring to the apparent practice of English sides poaching young players from foreign academies who haven't yet signed as professionals.

Finally! The whinging Italians can bite their tongues no longer!



I'm must admit that I'm a touch confused, but I'll bite. Tell me more, UEFA president/twat Michel Platini:

"The first contract a player signs should be with the club who trains him.
I really don't like it when a club like Lugano, Geneve, Brescia or Nancy train a player and then when they are 16 they are bought by much richer clubs. We're going to fight it."
The eloquence continued with Reggina president Lillo Foti:
"It's a barbaric attitude that shows no respect to other clubs who work with dedication to develop young players.

Once upon a time there was pillaging, and this is something similar, in that there are still wild people who use their power to reach their objectives.

In some respects it's a type of corruption - they've corrupted the family, they've corrupted the boy."

Now we're getting somewhere. The Italian clubs are taking umbrage with the fact that the EPL routinely signs 16- and 17-year-olds from around the world to finish their development in England before unleashing them on the league [Cristiano Ronaldo, anyone?]. While they may have a point, it's hard to think that this sudden sharing of opinions is unconnected to the recent manhandling of Serie A clubs at the hands of the Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Realistically, I can see this story going for quite some time. The general xenophobia exhibited by smug English journalists towards American EPL club owners is spilling over to Europe, and it won't be long before we see these provincial attitudes get around the homegrown players who are being kept on the sideline because of international superstars in the starting lineup.

To quote South Park:"THEY'RE TAKING OUR JAAAAAEEERRRRBBBBSSS"

The thing is that prominent figures in the English game are taking it from the other perspective, using the phenomenon to gripe about the stunted development of native players in the English youth system.

Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's point-man on home development [good luck!]:

"When we set up the academies, we understood the challenge (posed by clubs) bringing in the best overseas talent in the older age groups.

What we didn't quite understand is that that would start to fill up the academy areas and stifle the growth there.

Longer term it is extremely worrying."

Sorry Trevor, but it's the nature of this wonderful global business game that the FA is profiting off to infinity and beyond. You can't complain about the prominence of foreigners in the league from one side of your mouth, while celebrating record profits for the league and revenue for the FA out of the other.

It doesn't quite work that way!

I am very intrigued to see where this goes, and more than anything, I just hope we get a lot more pirate metaphors.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I am going to go ahead and apologize for this post right off the bat. There is really no good reason to bring this shirt to you. The club, Bury, are a midtable club in League Two in England. They used to be a pretty good squad--eighty years ago. Bury relegated out of the (old, old) First Division in 1926 and have never made it back. The club itself may become best known as the team that owns the ground where FC United of Manchester play, should the xenophobic upstarts continues to make their way up the English leagues.

Actually, I guess there is a reason to bring this post to you. Goddamn this shirt is ugly.


Based on my quick and shoddy research, this is Bury's away shirt from either the 1993-'94 season or from '94-'95. Either way, it doesn't really matter, most of these shirts have certainly found their way to whatever the Mancunian version of a Goodwill is by now. Not this one, though. This one is for sale on the Brit ebays. Take a look at what you get. You get a stylish (just ask Wimbledon) colo(u)r combination in purple and green. Plus you get a shirt that has instant party written all over your midsection. I don't know what "Birthdays" is (I hope it's code for stag parties), but I love how the pastel ice cream colo(u)rs interact with the fierce and brooding ones on the shirt.

Seriously, why can't sponsors get on board with the teams and keep colo(u)r confusion like this from happening? Why do clubs even let this happen? I know that everyone is chasing the almighty pound (or euro) these days, but clubs need to start refusing sponsors when they make your shirt look like something a profoundly retarded kid would say "no thanks" to. Even if you have to end up with a Pro Evo-looking shirt like this.

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Americans Have So Much To Learn About Competition

[Ed Note: Suckers! That's what we are. We fell for this. As someone smarter than us realized, Piraollof is an anagram. Oops. At least we were smart enough to be entirely skeptical of this. But since we're nothing if not overly biased when it comes to our teams good sports, we're running it unedited.]


Compared to Europe, American sports scandals are pretty amateurish.

We have a coach, who might or might not have filmed another teams walk through, get caught staring at another woman's ass.

British coaches tape their own S&M romps with hookers.

We have a high-profile quarterback get drunk with a bunch of girls who might or might not have been underaged.

In Turkey, they kill people.

Now there is this completely unsubstantiated rumor about the Russians drugging opponents prior to qualifiers for Euro 2008.

"Andorra defender Anthoni Lima from Sd Eivissa claims [Alexandra] Piraollof, a member of the Russian backroom staff, drugged key players in the Andorra team prior to the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier, which sealed England’s and Steve McClarens exit from the tournament."

This might (or might not) mean that, if Russia is disqualified, England (as the 3rd place team in the group) would takes the vacated spot in this summer's European Championships. (But really, the Russians are now stealing tactics from hotel chefs feeding the Yids?)

Again, aside from the fact that this is currently unsubstantiated, there should be a couple of red flags. First is the phrase "key players in the Andorra team." There is no such thing as a key player for Andorra.

I've had more people in my bed before than there are in Andorra. So if ever there were an opponent you wouldn't need to drug it would be Andorra (okay, it might still be Aruba, but I think I've made the point).

Of course this is the Internet, and journalistic standards are as low as you would like to make them. So, we shall point out that in the comments some guy named "Matt Quinn" swears his mate knows more about this, that there are more teams than Andorra involved, and that it is going to break over the next couple of weeks.

And his mate knows what he's talking about because he knew that the Special One was going to be ousted from Stamford Bridge two days before it happened. And nobody else say that coming. Nope, not a soul.

So, England, your dream of sucking on an even bigger stage might still be on life support. If nothing else, you've given American fans a higher standard of 'delusion' to aspire to.

Unless of course this all turns out to be true, in which case you're just re-re-re-confirming how pitiful we are at actual sports scandal.

Read more on "Americans Have So Much To Learn About Competition"...

Fabio Capello: hides his finances as well as his plan for fixing England


A while ago, we blogged on a rather innocuous story to do with Fabio Capello and his involvement with an Italian corruption probe.

It was, at the time, nothing much to write about, a throwaway post, a space-filler. His son, Pierfilippo, even gave the BBC a wonderful sound bite back in the day about the boring, humdrum nature of such investigations. Yawn. Lame. Move on.

Well, the passage of time has spiced things up a bit, because it turns out little Fabio wasn't entirely honest with the authorities when they initially called him as a witness in the Juventus case.

I'm thinking they must have asked him what his ideas were for fixing the lifeless shitdump that is the English national team, and he said he had no idea.

It's so bad that an Italian prosecutor is thinking of bringing a criminal case against Capello.

Good thing we're not in Euro '08 then, eh?



From the BBC:

"The court case, which is ongoing, relates to the GEA World sports agency. The former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi, who was at the centre of Italy's match-fixing scandal in 2006, and Davide Lippi, son of the former Italy coach Marcello, are among the defendants.

The England coach worked under Mr Moggi at Juventus until 2006, but it was his time in charge of Roma between 1999 and 2004 which most interested the court.

In court, he denied having been put under pressure over the management of players during his time at Juventus and Roma."

It gets better:
"Mr Capello, 61, was also asked about an interview he gave to the Corriere dello Sport newspaper about GEA and their alleged monopoly of players.

In that interview the coach said he knew many players were "gravitating towards that company". But when asked further in court about the interview, and details he had given in the initial inquiry, the England coach was less forthcoming.

Mr Capello is not thought to have lied, but the prosecutor believes he was evasive and at times obstructive in the evidence he gave."

[yeah, I quoted pretty much the whole article, what of it?]

I'm sure that like most things in life, this story will dribble to a disappointing, rather mundane conclusion. However, it's not exactly a good sign when you get caught hiding something, because that obviously implies that there was something worth hiding in the first place.

It's also not good because the England team is neck-deep in enough fucking shambles as it is, and yet now their talisman, the man charged with bringing the national team back into relevance and power, is probably a fucking cheat and a liar.

In retrospect, was Steve "The Ginger Idiot" McClaren really that bad?

[On second thoughts, don't answer that]

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Scotland Roundup

Now for a regular post that's not been seen in a while, not that it has been missed much.


The season is winding down in Scotland, as with most other Euro leagues. Unlike most of those leagues, Scotland does a mostly unfathomable split after 33 games. The top 6 teams go to play wach other one more time each, whole the bottom 6 face their low-ranked counterparts as well. Given that over half the SPL squads have played 32 games now, it's time to look at how the split will shape up.

As you may have seen on FSC Sunday night (not bloody likely, I know), Rangers cemented their place at the top of the table by defeating Celtic 1-0. The match was notable as Allan McGregor became the first Rangers keeper ever to shut out Celtic on four straight occasions. On the other end of the pitch, Boruc jumped over the ball trying to save a one on one leading to the only Rangers goal. Rangers have a six point lead on Celtic with a game in hand, but they also have severe fixture congestion ahead, so the race is not over yet.

Meanwhile, 20 points behind Celtic, Dundee United have slipped ahead of Motherwell for third place and the last league-awarded European slot. However, due to fixture's canceled in the wake of Phil O'Donnell's death, Motherwell have two games in hand, though I think they are both to Old Firm squads. Hibernian sit another two points back, lurking safely in fifth place.

Right on the split line, there is a log jam. As I have noted before, Aberdeen did a wonderful job in Europe with a shortened squad, but their league position suffered. At the halfway point of the season, they were comfortably above the cut line. Now Aberdeen sit in eighth place, and only because of a late, late goal this weekend against Inverness CT. By the way, that's 17 games in a row against ICT without losing now, so I'll gloat. Aberdeen face what is billed as a winner take all match against Falkirk this Monday night. No one seems happy that the match has been moved to accommodate Setanta Sports, especially Falkirk management and their fans who face the choice of seeing the end of the game or getting home the same day, as the last train out of Aberdeen to Falkirk runs at 9:00, or so I'm (somewhat) reliably told. The game is a 7:45 kickoff.

The truth is that it is not a winner take all game anyway. Hearts sit on 41 points, level with Aberdeen and one point behind Falkirk. Hearts play a poor Kilmarnock side away on Saturday. With their superior goal difference to Aberdeen, a win would knock the Dons out of any hope for a top 6 spot.

Truthfully, Scotland's split is only fun for the Top 6 and its fans. The bottom 6 teams would normally be playing in a relegation playoff, but as we have felt the need to note many times, that spot is Gretna's without question. Int the only thing close to good news that the club has had in a while, Gretna will return to playing their "home" games at Fir Park, which will be nice given their shoddy reception in Livingston.

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A Blog Divided: The Arsenal v. Liverpool Treble


We here at UF are known for two things: (1) our features of sex scandals; and (2) our love of Liverpool or Arsenal (depending on which contributor you ask). So how do we feel about the upcoming Arsenal v. Liverpool treble (CL match on Wednesday, EPL match on Saturday, CL match next Tuesday)? The next week may very well tear us apart.



In preparation for the upcoming matches, I asked each of our Arsenal and Liverpool supporters 5 simple questions (those contributors who support neither club were not invited):

(1) Name one thing that you are willing to give up until the end of the EPL (suck it, Barclay's) season to have your club win all 3 matches

(2) Who is the most important player for your club over the 3 matches?

(3) Would you be willing to trade losses in the 2 Champions League matches for 1 league win?

(4) Why does your clib deserve to win?

(5) What are your predictions for the 3 matches?

First up, the Scousers of the bunch (The Fan's Attic; sven). Individual answers are not attributed in order to protect the guilty.

(1) "I would be willing to give up masturbation...and believe me that is a big sacrifice since I am in the doghouse big time right now."

"A reasonable resolution to the on-going joke that has become our ownership situation. I'd say love/personal life, but that's already back in the shitter."

(Look, Scousers have crappy romantic lives!)

(2) "Ryan Babel - when he plays well, we seem to do well and if he is dangerous from the wing it will help free up Torres."

"Torres would be the likely choice, but after the stinker Reina had at Old Trafford..."

(3) "Yes, so long as neither of those losses were embarassing."

"Nope."

(4) "LFC deserves to win the league match because we need this win more than Arsenal to ensure a CL appearance next season." (Ed. note: BOO-HOO!)

"We deserve to win in the CL because our European pedigree is second to none. In the PL? Um...'deserve' is such a strong word. To secure fourth and to finally get a result against a top domestic club away from Anfield."

(5) "League match 2-1 LFC, CL 3-2 aggregate for LFC."

"In any preview you might read about this match between now and kick-off they WILL include the words 'rotation' and 'owners'. In fact, it's the law." (Ed. note: Fuck, he's right - see response to #1).

Random LFC trash talk: "Fuck Everton, those useless cunts. Oh, about Arsenal? Um, not really." (Ed. note: See? We really love each other around here. We reserve our hate for Everton, Tottenham, ManUre and Chelski).

And now a word from the Gunners (umlaut75; Ian; spectator; precious roy).

(1) "Nothing, really. I think it's a hopeless goal. Now for 2 out of the 3 (League and 1 CL win), I'll attempt to curb my newly-reoccurring cigarette habit."

"Wine and cheese parties." (Ed. note: That's not going to help our street cred)

"I would give up my sneaking sense of pessimism about the way Arsenal's season has turned out. I figure that if Arsenal did manage to win all three games, I might become slightly more optimistic about the rest of the season - which would of course set me up for even more crushing emotions once the Gunners flame out for good."

"I'd give up answering the phone when my ex drunk dials me at 2am on a weekend." (Note to self: Only call precious roy on weekdays)

(2) "Almunia. He's looked pretty pedestrian in the goals he has given up the last couple of matches."

"Gallas. No one likes him, he has been playing like shit, and now he has to deal with Torres."

"Fabregas would be an obvious choice, but I'll go with Hleb. Ever since the ice cream incident in Meelan, he's practically disappeared."

"Cesc."

(3) "Before Saturday's second half, no, because it wouldn't have done any good. Now, well, not really."

"Well, given the apparent beating we are taking at the hands of Bolton, I would say advancing in the CL is looking better by the minute." (Ed. note: Where was your faith?)

"Arsenal aren't really in THAT great a danger of falling into fifth, are they?"

"Nope, but I would trade a league loss for 2 CL wins." (Ed. note: We Gunners are good at math)

(4) "There is no reason Arsenal deserves to win."

"We've played like shit for the past six weeks, so we probably don't."

"Because the worst run of play in years can't last forever, and we would be doing Liverpool a favor by finally killing off any chance that Rafa will be their manager next year."

"Because, Arsenal is a better TEAM. Liverpool right now is Torres and 10 guys who hopefully patch together enough quality to make whatever El Nino scores hold up." (Ed. note: Oh snap! He totally dissed Stevie G)

(5) "3 draws. Arsenal through on away goals."

"0-0, 0-0, 5-4 in penalties."

"Mutually assured destruction: Arsenal barely advances in the CL but are so depleted that they have no chance of getting past the next round. A boring draw in the league featuring a ton of players no one has ever heard of, meaning that Liverpool and Arsenal are guaranteed to finish third and fourth."

"The Gunners take 2 out of 3, but I'm not sure which 2."

Random Arsenal trash talk: "At least world leaders like the Emirates."

My own answers:

(1) I gave up giving stuff up during Lent.

(2) Gael Clichy, because I have a man-crush on him.

(3) No, I would rather advance in the CL and lose the league match, since Liverpool aren't catching us for fourth place anyway.

(4) We deserve to win because we play beautiful football, and Eric Cantona tells me that this makes all the difference.

(5) Arsenal through in the CL on aggregate, draw 1-1 in the EPL.

Read more on "A Blog Divided: The Arsenal v. Liverpool Treble"...

Ten Facts That Might Be Wrong: Part 2


Ugh, am I going to have to come up with a snazzy intro every time I do this?

I hope not. Instead maybe just look here.

Basically, that author of that post, Ric, made 10 claims, claims which on the surface seemed a little counter to what the average person—whoever that is—might think. I'm all for bucking conventional wisdom, but without any data to back it up, the facts were kind of hard to believe on face value. And apparently with good reason.

So I stupidly decided to do the work. Part 1 is here.

This is Part 2.

Welcome.

And it deals with the following claim (again, his emphasis and italics):

Soccer is watched on TV by more Americans than any other sport outside of the Big 3 major league sports, yet it is treated by most mainstream media as though it is of less interest than sports like golf, auto racing, tennis, ice hockey, etc. Again, pro soccer is watched on TV by FAR more people here in the U.S. than any of those.

Getting an apples-to-apples comparison between sports might be a little difficult here. Specifically, what is "soccer"? Is that the MLS? Is it the US Men's National Team? Is it Mexican soccer on Univision? Is it the EPL (suck it, Barclay's) on FSC?

We'll tackle each of these to some extent, except maybe FSC because I'm lazy and I know those weekly numbers are relatively tiny.

To start let's look at good soccer numbers. By all accounts (and here "all" means "Disney") the ratings for the 2006 World Cup were exceptional. The USA v. Ghana match pulled a 2.6 rating for ESPN, making it, at the time, the second most watched soccer match in the network's history, behind only the 2002 US v. Germany quarterfinal in the 2002 World Cup.

So soccer, when it does a dynamite number in the US, it pulls a 2.6. Let's compare that 2.6 to golf, auto racing, tennis, and ice hockey—the sports Ric singled out.

So picking just a random week—Feb. 4-Feb. 10 of this year—here are the numbers (and all of these are for Sunday ratings). Yes, I understand that there's over 18 months between the two, but I'm trying to give soccer a chance here, so I'm looking for a relatively recent but strong showing for soccer.

Auto Racing: Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying. It drew a 2.9. That's obviously higher than the US v. Ghana 2.6 from '06. And that's not the actual race, just the qualifying for it. The actual Daytona 500 on the following Sunday pulled a massive 10.2 rating.

Golf: AT&T Pebble Beach. Final Round. It earned a 2.5 rating. This is just slightly below the 2.6 being used here. But, it's worth noting that this was not a major and, more importantly, had no Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods is golf right now. And when he doesn't play, people don't watch. So when nobody is watching golf, it still draws just below the second highest rated soccer broadcast ever on ESPN (at the time).

Tennis: No tennis that week. And I'm feeling too lazy to go look up ratings for tennis (hey, I'm already doing someone else's work, and I'm not getting paid, so sue me).

NHL: Ducks v Red Wings. On NBC this got a .8. Ugh. That's bad. But again we're comparing it to a highly watched soccer broadcast. How does it compare to a random MLS match?

For the 14 MLS games on ESPN prior to Beckham's arrival, the average rating was a .2 (and that was flat compared to the previous year, which also drew a .2)

So a random regular season game for MLS draws a .2 and a random regular season game for NHL a .8 number.

How is .2 > .8?

It's not. It's four times smaller.

But what about Spanish-speaking people in the US? What are their numbers like? Good question. The US v. Mexico friendly played February 9, 2007 in Glendale, AZ., was at the time the number 2 most watched Spanish-language sports broadcast ever, beating every Super Bowl ever among Hispanics.

And in L.A., nearly 1.2 million people watched the local Spanish-language broadcast, beating out American Idol and Lost.

That's good, yeah? Actually it is. It's very good. But that's the US and Mexican national teams. It's the most heated rivalry in CONCACAF. And frankly, the longer the American dominance of Mexico on our home soil continues, the more interest the rivalry draws. As for plain old Mexican Primera División, the New York Univision affiliate attracts about 29,000 viewers for weekly Sunday matches. And unlike a US v. Mexico friendly, that is not an impressive number. Hell, tennis might beat that (again, too lazy to look).

Basically, I can't even really construct an argument using the best case for soccer and the worst case for other sports that would support a statement like "pro soccer is watched on TV by FAR more people here in the U.S. than [other sports]."

I'm not trying to bash soccer. Hell, I love it. This is a soccer blog, but really even the biggest fanboys don't do the sport any favors in the US when they make claims that simply aren't supported by the numbers.

Read more on "Ten Facts That Might Be Wrong: Part 2"...

You Might As Well Go Down In Flames

I have always wanted to be a professional soccer player. I love the sport and I would love to get paid to play a boy's game, but alas I am more Willy Henry than Thierry. Given the opportunity though, I am not sure I would play the sport for money in South America. A chaos seems to envelope the sport down there, regardless of the level. I don't know what causes the chaos, but the fact that it exists would frighten me as a player and perhaps place me on edge.

Much like Gustavo Semino.

In a recent match between Semino's Chile Primera Division squad Huachipato and La Serna, Gustavo let the chaos reign and was arrested for it.

The incident happened after the Argentine defender was sent off for a pushing a ball boy who delayed returning the ball.

As Semino walked to the dressing room, the fan ran onto the pitch to insult him and Semino responded by punching him. One report said the fan had a tooth knocked out.

To add insult to arrest, Huachipato lost 2-1.

Video after the jump.




It looks like Semino may have punched out Huachipato's only fan.

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April 1st and the football world is busy...Joking.


Well it's the 1st of April and that means that the football world has a go at trying to wind up the fans. This year we had the following:

"Bury manager Alan Knill, 43, has registered himself as a player for their
relegation run-in."
Former Southampton defender and current Bury manager Alan Knill (43) has not laced up his boots since 2001 when he retired a Rotherham player.

So, you would have to have been a real plum to have believed this one. Also Bury currently look very safe, sitting 14th in League Two just FIFTEEN points about the drop.

April fool rating: Must do better!


It appears that Bury are not the only team bored on April fools day.



Luton Town's website ran this:

"Harry the Hatter, the Luton Town mascot has been kidnapped on his way to avroutine visit! Unbeknown to those around him, Harry was cunningly kidnapped without a sound made. Harry was on his way to Debenhams"
Surely Luton Town has more pressing priorities. They are 11 points from safety and have just had to put ALL of their players on the market.

Luton are offering 100 quid for Harry's safe return. They better offer more than that, knowing Luton he is probably being raped in the back of a mark 2 ford Cortina.

April fool rating: Just stupid. Everyone knows Harry shops at Tesco's.


Hartlepool FC claimed that they were changing their kit from blue and white to black and white hoops for their centenary. Of course black and white hoops is what rivals Doncaster Rovers run out wearing on a Saturday.

April fool Rating: Not bad. Did you know what they wore 100 years ago?


Burnley announced a ground share with rivals Blackburn so they can redevelop Turf Moor.

April fool rating: Like Burnley, pathetic! This one is actually believable, if you have ever been to Turf Moor you will know it needs more than a facelift! It's a right shit hole!


Port Vale announced a new 35 million-quid stadium across the road from Vale park.

April fool rating: I can just see all of the Vale fans excited at the thought of Robbie Williams (Vales biggest celeb fan) digging deep to help Vale give Stoke a run for their money. Not bad! Look at Milton Keynes and Doncaster!


And finally my favorite.......


"Lincoln City are proposing to switch the kick-offs of matches from Saturday at 1500 to Monday at 1000, to reduce their carbon footprint. "
April fool rating: Funnily enough maybe they should tap into the Monday morning church tea crowd. Only 3,000 showed up for their last home match. The best of the bunch as it is actually quite funny.

I'm off to quit my job and join the circus.


-Bigus

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Refs hate it when you pay your last respects



See this guy? He's an idiot, and yet, he's an idiot with a whistle. This is generally the worst kind of idiot, because he can draw your attention to his imbecility by blowing it loudly. He's also the worst kind because he's normally responsible for ruining sporting events the world over.

In fact, football is 40% skill, 55% physical fitness, and 5% the luck and fortune to have a semi-competent referee. Together with his linesmen, we are frequently witness to a plethora of drooling morons that flash yellow and red cards with wild abandon and wear those little microphones taped to the side of their faces.

Well, following the bad editorial rule that "two instances equals a trend", I bring you this duo of dastardly refereeing decisions, involving heartfelt tributes and referees without a hint of context.


Cold-hearted bastards.




Last Wednesday, Franck Ribery scored the only goal of a boring game with England, from the penalty spot no less, and upon scoring, he removed his shirt to reveal a message on his undershirt:

"For my friend Hicham and M. Gilardi"

It was his way of paying his respects to his close friend who'd died, and also the popular French TV reporter Thierry Gilardi, who was due to work the England/France game but suffered a fatal attack the day before the match.

Of course, the message was nice, but the ref booked him anyway. Bugger.

And then, the EPL continued its Grinch-like rule interpretations during Saturday's Portsmouth/Wigan match. Jermain Defoe scored the first of his two goals in the 32nd minute [eerily enough, the same minute that Ribery scored his penalty], and celebrated by, you've guessed it, removing his shirt and revealing a message of respect to his grandmother who'd passed away four days before the match.


And yes, he got booked too.

I realize it's the set-in-stone mandate from the FA/UEFA/FIFA/whatever that you must issue bookings for excessive celebrations, but for christ's sake, exhibit some fucking context. The referees know what context is, right? If not, I'll happily come over there and show them.

Defoe and Ribery tried to do nice things to honor the memory of deceased friends and family, while Chad Johnson spends his summer afternoons thinking of new ways to get attention after scoring a touchdown.

I can't wait until this happens again, that is supposing that the player with someone to honor can actually score a goal.

It doesn't have the emotional impact if you lift your shirt after taking a throw-in.

Read more on "Refs hate it when you pay your last respects"...

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Truth About Barclays

Those of you who read UF consistently (Hi Dad!) may have noticed our refusal to refer to our favorite league as the Barclays Premier League, instead choosing to continue calling it the English Premier League. You may ask yourselves why this is the case. Surely we are not opposed to the concept of commercialism, as our favorite teams in the EPL (suck it, Barclays!) wear advertisements prominently on their kits. So what is the basis for our distaste of the English banking giant? All of the dirty details are after the jump.



If you are reading this, then you clearly have internet access. And if you have internet access, then you almost assuredly have an e-mail account (if you don't, you are most likely a politician). I am quite sure that in your daily stroll through your e-mail account, you are inundated with spam, phishing and the like. Imagine my surprise when I received this the other day:

From: "BARCLAYS BANK PAYMENT" bbramondbakerplc31@hotmail.com
Reply-To: ramondbaker19@yahoo.co.uk
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2008 18:56:27 +0100
Subject: BARCLAYS BANK PAYMENT

BARCLAYS BANK PAYMENT
BARCLAYS BANK PLC.
CLAPHAM JUNCTION BRANCH,
7 ST JOHNS HILL,
SW 11 1 TN, LONDON www.barclaysbank.co.uk
Attention: REF:- INSTRUCTION TO CREDIT YOUR BANK ACCOUNT

This is to notify you about the statues of your fund right now in my desk. After due vetting and evaluation of your Inheritance file which The Ministry of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Forwarded and contacted us to see to your immediate payment.

From our findings you have been going through hard ways by paying alot of charges to see to the release of your fund ($28, 500, 000, 00) which has been delayed.

We advice that you stop further communication with any correspondence from Nigeria. You don't have to pay any charges to receive your Inheritance fund anymore as you have met up with the whole requirements, your representatives in Nigeria will tell you to still go ahead with them but on your own risk.The only thing required from you is to obtain Non-Resident Clearance Form/Reciept which we are not asking you to pay the fee to us here in United Kingdom as the Government of Nigeria have paid us for handling/processing of your payment with other customers.

We will help you to see that you obatin the form so that our bank will effect immediate transfer of your Inheritance sum ($28, 500, 000, 00) in to your designated bank account. Will you follow up our directives your fund will reflect in your account within five working Bank days from the day you obtain this form. Do not go through anybody again but through this Bank if you really want your fund.

Please respond to my private email (ramondbaker19@yahoo.co.uk)
Your RAYMOND BAKER
Head, Private Banking Section.
Barclays Bank Plc.

It's bad enough that they got their grubby little hands on the EPL, but now they're involved in a Nigerian bank scam? I'm not sending any money overseas unless it's to Arsene to help him finance a transfer for Benzema, Ribery and Ben Arfa.

Read more on "The Truth About Barclays"...

Who Are: Everton F.C.?


In honor of yesterday's Merseyside Derby (congrats, Red Scousers!), we present the next in our series of "Who Are" football clubs.



Team name: Everton Football Club (what are you, blind?)
Nickname: The Toffees; manager David Moyes has also taken to calling the team "The People's Club"
Grounds: Goodison Park (in Liverpool); moving to New Goodison Park in Kirkby (no word on whether this is the new pitch)
Sponsor: Chang Beer
Mascot: Drunken Merseysiders
Manager: David Moyes
Current Standings: 17-6-9 (57 points); in 5th place (5 points out of 4th behind Liverpool)
Most intersesting statistic: Everton have contested more seasons in the top level of English football than any other club
Bonus interesting statistic: Over all competitions, Everton's record in the Merseyside Derby is 79-62-65


Players of note:
(1) Tim Howard (GK) - The American keeper has gone from being the USA first choice and playing for Manchester United, to being the USA third choice, to being the USA second choice and playing for Everton

(2) Phil Jagielka (DEF) - Responsible for numerous juvenile chants throughout the EPL due to his last name (oh, you can figure it out)

(3) Joleon Lescott (DEF) - Decorum prevents me from commenting on the knot on his forehead

(4) Mikel Arteta (MID) - A poor man's Fernando Torres in terms of talent and lady-killing

(5) Steven Pienaar (MID) - The South African national has laid a 1 million quid bet on his country not being prepared to host World Cup 2010*

(6) Tim Cahill (MID) - The Aussie is known primarily for his antics at World Cup 2006, including scoring the first Australian goal ever in WC competition and being involved in shady penalties

(7) Yakubu Ayegbeni (ST) - Occasionally confused for Benny Agbayani

*May not be true

Read more on "Who Are: Everton F.C.?"...

Goodbye Derby County, We Hardly Knew Ye

Derby County, tipped to relegate back to the Championship from the moment they were confirmed for promotion, have finally succumbed to their general ineptitude on the pitch. With six games left to play, there is an insurmountable 19 point gap between Derby and the currently-safe-in-17th Birmingham City. Inside, a look at Derby's horrible campaign.

Derby has played 32 games to date in the EPL (Suck it, Barclay's!), and have one win to show for their efforts. That win came in the 6th week of the season. In 16 away games they have scored a woeful six goals while giving away 40, an average of 2.5 a game. Current leading scorer for the Rams (you'll wait for the Paul Jewell comments until later, thank you) is jointly held by Kenny Miller and Emanuel Villa at three goals, the latter only caught up to Miller with a brace on Saturday, including one goal which deflected off of him into the net.

Let's look at some Derby highlights through the eyes and fingers of UF writers

The Paul Jewell story is possibly our most linked-to and most read story to date. Last I looked, if you Google "Paul Jewell video", our article is fourth in the queue. And the links come from some interesting places. I think it's safe to say that this link is our first from a gay, British message board. Thanks, fellas! We think Paul Jewell's dreamy, too, in a Bearforce1 sort of way.

Well, that's about all of the fun I can wring out of a story about the worst club in the EPL this year. Okay, one last NSFW link, for the pervs. Join us in a couple of weeks when we take a look at just what the fuck went wrong with Fulham this year, once they are relegated of course.

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Ten Facts That Might Be Wrong: Part 1

We here at UF really scour every corner of the Internet—it has corners, doesn't it—to bring you the best of gay iconic managers embroiled in sex tape scandals, ugly uniforms, and bitching about shit performances by either Arsenal or Liverpool.

Occasionally we stumble across something of actual interest.

Then we promptly ignore it.

Until someone dug up this. It's a list of "10 Important Facts About Soccer's U.S. Popularity." And it's full of interesting little tidbits.


Unfortunately, there is almost no data to support the facts. They are just thrown out there by someone calling himself Ric. And I'm not badmouthing Ric for a lack of a surname. Hell, I go by Precious Roy.

Anyway, in response to Ric's lack of disclosure, one particularly sharp UF'er piped up on an email and said, "I'd love to see some data backing those up."

Done and done. Sort of. It's in the process of being done.

I was originally going to write one post addressing all ten items, but, after poking around the Net for data to discuss just the first, I realized this could easily be an enormously time-consuming pain in the ass and I'd like to sleep before, say, Tuesday.

Plus it would be far too long for anyone to want to read.

So, I'm going to do it in pieces. The pieces might get shorter as I get lazier and the claims get easier to deal with—specifically, I might start combining more than one of "Ric's" items into one of "Precious Roy's" posts—but installment number one deals only with claim number one. And claim number one reads as follows (emphasis and italics his):

1. Major League Soccer has a league-wide attendance average similar to the NBA and the NHL. The LA Galaxy - for many years the most popular MLS team by attendance - has had an attendance average higher than the NBA’s LA Lakers 3 out of the last 4 years, and higher than the LA Kings every year in this decade.


The average attendance for MLS in 2006 (I went with pre-Beckham numbers so as not to allow one Brit to skew everything) was 15,354. For the same year, average NBA attendance was 17,558; and NHL attendance was 16,550. Those numbers represent an increase over MLS of 14.3% and 7.8% respectively.

So are those numbers "similar"? The NHL, maybe. The NBA, a little less so, as 15% is fairly substantial.

But there is a problem with this analysis. Well actually there are two problems, but we'll take the obvious one first.

Think about the second claim, that the Galaxy had a higher average than the Lakers for three of the last four years. First, I didn't bother to confirm this. It is true for 2006, but I didn't feel like looking it up for the other 3 years. Why? Because it doesn't really mean much as a statistic.

Capacity for Staples Center in L.A. (where the Lakers play its home games) is only 19,079. The Lakers pretty much sell out every home game as they average over 99% of capacity—or 18,882 per game.

Capacity for the Home Depot Center, on the other hand, is about 50% greater than Staples Center at 27,000.

So yeah, the Galaxy outdraw the Lakers on average, but that's more a function of where they play than a function of popularity. The Lakers aren't less popular than the Galaxy they just play in a smaller venue. Their constraint is the size of their arena.

But the Lakers along with every other NBA team (and every other NHL team for that matter) also play 41 home games, compared to 16 home games for an MLS team.

Look at the 2006 Lakers' home total for the season of 774,189, and it dwarfs the Galaxy's total of 333,024 for the same year (from the average of 20,814 multiplied by 16 home games). So the Lakers, the 7th-highest drawing NBA team, pull in 2.34 times more fans in a season than MLS' top-drawing L.A. Galaxy.

The other problem with this analysis is that all attendance numbers are lies. Consider this. It's an About blogger relaying a non-scientific account of a beat writer questioning the attendance numbers of a Detroit Red Wings hockey game. The announced attendance was over 20,000 and the reporter claimed there couldn't have been more than 13,000.

So it's an anecdotal account. Big deal, right? It's not reliable.

Well, there's also this from the San Diego Union Tribune.

Yeah, it's kind of long. The gist is that everyone is inflating their numbers.

Maybe read this instead. It's much shorter and gives you the basic idea of how leagues report their attendance figures.

It might be most troubling for MLS though. What good are the MLS attendance numbers when a turnstile crowd of a Red Bull New York match is 3,719 but the announced crowd is 12,657?

Even worse, there is evidence that MLS is inflating beyond using "announced" instead of "turnstile" numbers.

This isn't to slam MLS. Hell, drawing around 10,000 for a soccer game in a non-soccer specific stadium in the US? That seems pretty good. Especially for a mid-week game.

Anyway, everyone is lying about their attendance numbers, MLS might be lying more than anyone else (or they might be getting out-lied by the NHL), but by any reasonable measure (and that probably doesn't include per-game average) the NHL and the NBA easily out-draw the MLS.

Although, if you believe ESPN literally nobody attends soccer matches in the US.

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Ballack plays it long...........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Chelsea are on the telly again.

After watching Dullsea's unconvincing and boring win this Sunday I decided to compile a top ten list of activities that are more entertaining than watching the blues the season. It is no secret that I have no love in the Bigus locker for Chelsea but I feel justified in posting this list as I wasted 93 valuable minutes watching them bore millions of people across the world (yet again). Long balls to Drogba's noggin and hoofed clearances.

People actually fell asleep at Stamford Bridge and I heard the commentator yawn at one point.


So without further delay here its is.



10 things to do that are more entertaining than watching Chelsea play.
10: Attending a Celine Dion concert after sitting in 6 hours of traffic.
9: Eating your own feces.
8: Joining Oprah Winfrey for a marathon book tour of old people's homes.
7: Scooping your eyes out with a blunt spoon.
6: Sitting behind a pillar as the Yankees and Phillies enter the 23rd inning of a pre-season game with no score.
5: Writing a 15000 word thesis on the economic strategies of Alan Greenspan.
4: Standing in line at Stamford bridge for 26 hours only to find out that all of the FA Cup tickets have been sold to bankers and prawn munchers.
3: Spending 27 days lost in the Oregon mountains with only a copy of my life so far by Wayne Rooney for company.
2: Attending a 3 day seminar on colonic wash procedures.

and NUMBER ONE activity more interesting than watching Chelsea play this season..........(Drum roll)

Watching Wagner's Ring Cycle performed in its entirety back to back by the Bognor Regis Society for the Deaf.


- Bigus

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A stream of consciousness on the Big 4 and the upsurge in rub-and-tug day spas


I might as well put this whole thing behind the jump simply because it's a long post, and it takes forever to get to the football part.

So come on, indulge my tangential nature, groan at the awful and pointless transition, and enjoy.



This weekend I took a bit of time to travel and wander around in Pennsylvania, a welcome respite after the first week at work in a new job. I'm familiar with the bus rides, the three-hour trip down 95 from Port Authority Bus Terminal and into PA. It's long enough for your muscles to ache and cramp slightly thanks to the lack of seat pitch room and general claustrophobia, but not long enough for you to start complaining about it. You feel the sweat pool down your lower back thanks to the cloying discomfort of the acrylic seat covers over a thin, angular layer of padding, but you aren't too bothered by it because it's only a three-hour ride.

You can easily sleep the first 90 minutes or so, and find enough to entertain you for the rest, especially along the long, winding stretch of Route 422 that twists and turns through Amish country and through acres of fields, farmhouses and ominous day spas.

The day spa is a phenomenon; a glorified, illicit massage parlor open all hours for a brief muscle rub and, ostensibly, a handjob, the real reason you're there. They are characterized by the odd spelling of their names: X-cites Day Spa, Soo-preme Wellness Spa, Relaxe Day Spa. It doesn't stop there. There is the notable absense of windows around the building's exterior, except for one small portal near the front door where a glowing, flashing neon "Open" sign hangs, flashing every three or four seconds.

The spas are normally housed in the basement level or ground level of warehouses or larger commercial offices, and are open when all other commerce in the immediate area is closed. They also advertise in the sports sections of newspapers, normally small 3-inch by 3-inch boxes somewhere near the scores roundup or the transactions section.

The oddest thing on my bus trip was how many there were in a 10-mile stretch along the busy road that links Allentown to Kutztown and Reading. I counted at least 7 along that section of road, which alerts me to one of two things: either rub-and-tug day spas are more lucrative than I'd previously imagined, or their expenses and overheads are low enough that they can survive.

Simply put, you imagine there's just an awful lot of people who want to be jerked off.

Thankfully, this tangient comes to an end, via the most awkward segue ever, as it seems like the Big 4 have been jerking off their fans all season, albeit in very different ways. The quality of football from 3 of the big 4 is pretty fucking woeful, and it's a sad indictment on the league that a Derby/Fulham game can incite more talking points than a tidy Liverpool/Everton derby. And don't even get me started on Chelsea's nausea-inducing offering against a chip-on-their-shoulder outfit like Middlesbrough.

Man United fans get the best jerk-off every week, because their team is simply an embarrassment of riches. Performance-wise, they've become the equivalent of those mid-90s Chicago Bulls teams; a side that simply doesn't have to work very hard to outclass and exhaust their opponents. The absurd depth of talent and weaponry also makes for rather tranquil afternoons for Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline, who simply lets his players do what they want on the pitch, safe in the knowledge that it'll be enough to win. Sure, there is the occasional hiccup [like their toil in the 1-0 win against Derby County], but for the most part, their play is irritating, breathtaking, and ruthless.

In second place, Chelsea fans get the bored housewife handjob from the disaffected woman you fell in love with 15 years ago through the rose-tinted glasses of the days when you both attended a small liberal arts college. Now that she's packed on the pounds and never wears make-up anymore, she reluctantly agrees to jerk you off, but she never puts much effort into it and the end result is always muted and not quite what you hoped it would be. Simply put, Lampard and co., what the fuck was that yesterday? I've seen Sunday League Under-10s matches with more intensity and purpose than that.

Arsenal fans didn't get it easy, either. It was a tale of two halves, as the cliche goes; in the first half, they were the catcher, and in awful conditions at the Reebok Stadium, they managed to be the pitcher in the last 25 minutes, getting supreme relief from that last-gasp, double-deflection scramble in the box that gave them a 3-2 away win with the last real kick of the game. Sure, the jerk-off felt great, but afterwards, when the girl left with your money in her purse, you felt quite empty, wondering what could have been a couple of weeks ago.

And then we get my team, Liverpool, the team that gets you excited to the point of bliss and happiness, and then proceeds to stop, letting it all fade away and leaving you wholly unsatisfied. Don't get me wrong, I'm ecstatic that we grabbed all 3 points yesterday against our cross-town misanthropes, but it was the kind of performance that I'm all too familiar with: control the first-half, control possession, create many great chances, score just one goal with all those advantages, and then spend the rest of the game flirting with the idea of conceding an equalizer and wasting all that hard work.

It's like a hand job from a girl who doesn't really know what they're doing; 50 percent of the time, they'll do something that is pleasurable, and the rest of the time is spent trying different techniques and leaving you in enough pain to ask her politely to stop.


-----
I don't know where this article came from. Perhaps it was the need to Big Daddy Drew my prose with little-to-no effect, perhaps it was the desire to diversify and try the long blog form approach, or perhaps it was simply a means to an end, a tired but easy way to recap the bulk of the weekend while almost ignoring the fact that the teams from 6th-to-10th have absolutely gone to shit in the last 6 weeks.

To think that two months ago, we were licking our chops at the prospect of a dogfight for 4th. Spurs had locked up a dubious UEFA Cup spot [suck it, Chimbonda... PSV are still dining out on that miss], leaving 6 teams to fight for that last remaining Champions League spot and the last automatic UEFA spot.

Teams were filling out their Intertoto paperwork as an insurance policy, and we had 6 teams within 4 or 5 points of one another with 13 games to play: Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa, Man City, Portsmouth and Blackburn, all of whom were playing well enough to have a legitimate shout on that CL spot.

As it turns out, four of those teams started shitting the bed regularly, and it coincided with Liverpool's best run of the year [22 points from 27, even with the 3-0 loss to Man Utd].

Now look at the table. It's another unsatisfying jerk-off, and we're left with a rather anti-climactic run-in to the end of the season. The battle for 11th between Spurs and Newcastle is just about the most exciting race left.


A trip to the nearest Day Spa is the only thing that could provide relief from this past EPL weekend.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

TWAG: Too Old Not to Know Better

I was 11 when US Reed hit that shot.

I know because I was there.



"Was" being the operative word. I was indeed in the arena that afternoon. That was an NCAA regional in Austin, TX. My dad was a professor at UT, so he dropped my older brother and me off at the arena (the tourney wasn't near the big deal that it is now, and you could just walk up and get tickets at the box office) then he went to his office and did some work.

With less than a couple of minutes left, Arkansas was up maybe eight points, maybe double digits. And Louisville hadn't played well all game. So with time on the clock, my brother and decided it was over and and started to walk back towards my dad's office (the arena is just on the edge of the University of Texas campus).

Like I said, I was in the arena that afternoon, but I left before the final seconds ticked off. So I have no memory of that shot. None.

When we got back to my dad's office, my old man greeted us with something like, "Oh my Gosh, that must have been exciting."

Uh, what was, dad?

He had been listening on the radio. He knew what had happened. We had no idea.

I pretty much vowed then and there never to leave another sporting event early again. If there was any silver lining to that day it was that lesson, oh, and that I was pulling for Louisville and, despite the comeback, they lost anyway.

Saturday wasn't so kind to me.

Okay, technically, I didn't break my vow. I didn't leave a sporting event, I left a bar.

But still... a man down, and after another dude named "M. Taylor" was about to fuck the Gunners' season (this time with a first half brace), what the hell was I supposed to do?

Answer: have some semblance of faith or patience or at least continue to make friends commiserating with the other Arsenal fans at the bar. Nope, technically, I didn't even make it to half. After the 43rd minute deflection off Gallas and passed Almunia I just up an left. I screamed "fuck" as I stepped outside, then drove home listening to 'Wait, Wait. Don't Tell Me" on the radio not because I'm a pretentious dick, but because I was too pissed to care what I was listening to (Note to NPR: Paul Provenza and Paula Poundstone are not funny).

It wasn't just that game that had pushed me to leaving, it was everything leading up to it. Save the CL tilt against Milan, the Gunners have been shit since getting their asses kicked in the FA Cup by United. In fact, even in the Emirates round of the Milan home-and-home, Arsenal blew all kinds of chances to draw at nil. Basically, for every minute of soccer played on English soil since about mid-February, Arsenal was either deliberately torturing its fans or simply sucking for reasons unknown.

Dropped points against Wigan, Birmingham, Villa, and I can't even remember who else anymore. So, sure, drop more points against Bolton.

Never mind that Bolton are fucking useless. Never mind that Bolton hadn't scored in its last seven-plus hours of play but somehow not only managed to net one on their first chance of the match but also get another on a deflection before half.

What sane person wouldn't leave? It's just football. I've got other shit to do with my day.

The worst part of leaving though, is that I get nothing from Saturday. By that I don't mean that the win doesn't even really "save" Arsenal's season. The Prem is gone. United looks unbeatable. Sure 2nd place would be nice for automatic CL qualification, but, if it doesn't happen, eh... big deal.

I mean I get nothing. Like with US Reed, I have no memory to go with the comeback.

Well, I do, but it totally sucks. My memory is seeing the gamecast tick by on Soccernet. And, about the 4th from the last comment, the person describing the action wrote something like, "Oh, that's a bit unlucky" as Bolton scored an own goal in the 90th to hand the minor miracle to Arsenal.

That's a pretty shitty memory for such an unreal comeback. I'm sure I deserve it.

Yes, it is just football, but that's why we watch. Or at least part of the reason—because the improbable might happen; because it is possible to be a man down on the road and outscore an opponent by three in the second half, including the last one on a bad-luck-evening-out own-goal deflection; and because those moments can be celebrated with near strangers like they are brothers.

Instead I was staring at some pixels on a screen. I wasn't there. I didn't even see it (except on highlights). And, although the comeback is nice, I robbed myself of all the emotional euphoria that makes being a fan worth dropping points against Avram Fucking Grant, makes it worth the suffering (or "suffering" rather... I do still have perspective).

But, in the name of US Reed, I vow I'm not leaving Ginger's early again.

Ever.

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