Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Eduardo Dive

Eduardo dove. He did not call out for a penalty. Perhaps he was trying to prevent injuring himself or the goalie. But he did not try to correct the referee’s interpretation that it was a foul.

There was no legitimate contact. It was a moment that could have changed the outcome of the game — after all it gave Arsenal the first goal. A two match ban is legitimate.

However I have two problems with this rule and its implementation.

First, UEFA allows video evidence to penalize a player for something a referee did not see. But it will not allow video evidence to overturn a referee’s decision: i.e. Abidal’s and Fletcher’s suspensions from the final in Rome (both were excluded on penalties which really were not penalties). This rule on simulation and its implementation just smacks of hypocrisy.

Second, what is to stop every team from claiming ’simulation’ when a player goes down, even if ‘diving’ is the only way to arrest a referee’s attention to the fact that a foul was committed? FIFA and UEFA have come a long way from the days when two footed tackles and challenges from behind were committed. By giving fouls referees protect players from injury. The game today is played at such a fast pace, which makes it elegant and exciting, but also makes it easier for players to get injured. The game needs to protect its athletes from injury (i.e.: Eduardo, who lost a year and a half to a horrific tackle).

It seems to me that the best solution is one that FIFA has been experimenting with — putting extra officials behind the back lines in order to act as extra sets of eyes. An extra official behind the goal would have had the angle to see that the goalie in this instance made no substantial contact with Eduardo and could have advised the referee and allowed for the referee to make the correct decision: a yellow for Eduardo and play on.

To follow up on my first objection, above, the English FA will review video evidence and can increase or decrease the penalties for on pitch behavior appropriately.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The madness...

The St. Petersburg Times finds some insiders who are willing to speak:
The church says that Rinder, Scientology's top spokesman for decades, is an inveterate liar.

I am in the middle of reading the first part (of three), and I have two observations. (I pulled that line for the link because of its sheer perversity.)

First, this is reminiscent of the floundering of the Hare Krishnas in the early 1980s (I think I have my time frame right).

Second, this stuck out:
At 49, Miscavige is fit and tanned, his chiseled good looks accented by intense blue eyes. His frame is on the short side at 5 feet 5, but solid, with a matching, vise-like handshake.

The voice, resonant and strong, can transfix a crowd of thousands. Many call him "COB," because he is chairman of the board of the entity responsible for safeguarding Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1954.

"He is one of the most capable, intelligent individuals I've ever met," Rathbun said. "But L. Ron Hubbard says the intelligence scale doesn't necessarily line up with the sanity scale. Adolf Hitler was brilliant. Stalin was brilliant. They were geniuses. But they were also on a certain level stark, staring mad."

The idea that Hitler and Stalin were geniuses is a Nietzschian delusion: that all 'great men' are intellectually superior. It is natural to want to believe that those who achieve such power must be better, greater than everyone around them -- and while cunning and political savvy certainly are hallmarks of intelligence, there is nothing in Hitler's or Stalin's lives to suggest an extraordinary amount of it (If anything, history suggests that Stalin more paranoid and more complacent, and perhaps stupider as a result, as his position became unassailable).

Or, to put it a different way: don't confuse sociopathy with intelligence!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Off season (in Europe) football news

I am amazed at how much that is reported in the European press with regards to football (soccer) is unsubstantiated b.s. There are a few papers that have standards.

I should really stop paying attention. And just tune in again in the fall when the next season starts again.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In the battle of football pods there is only one clear winner...

This year I followed the Times of London's The Game Podcast (Never mind the fact that the podcast is impossible to find on their website) and Football Weekly from The Guardian. The Game is put out every Monday. Football Weekly has two editions, on Monday and Thursday.

Hands down, Football Weekly is the better of the two. Host James Richardson keeps things lively with humor, wordplay, the occasional note of movie criticism, and good questions. The podcast regulars are a motley, revolving sort, with usual suspects Sid Lowe (commenting on all things in Spanish football) and Barry Glendenning (who, humorously, does not care and cannot stop himself from caring about the game). Although at times the pod sometimes recycles common wisdom (i.e.: the myth that Liverpool have a small squad, and thus are disadvantaged vis a vis Manchester United), this happens rarely. The pod is actually quite good at popping balloons of hype and at getting to the nitty gritty of the day. Most of all, this pod is usually good fun to listen to because of the rapport between the pod-casters--at times I feel like I'm in a salon, and the topic just happens to be football.

The Game is nowhere near as good as Football Weekly. The game is hosted by Phill Jupitus, who does little to insert his personality into the proceedings, and who must feel, judging from the job that he does, that his role is to keep people talking. To be honest, he really needs to find the cajones to tell Gabriele Marcotti to shut up (better yet, to stfu) from time to time. Gabriele Marcotti is The Times' European Football Correspondent, and he is often offers an incredibly insightful perspective on the state of the game. I enjoy reading his columns. I appreciate that he has strong opinions. However, the man has a tendency to turn into a complete prick, especially when he disagrees with Alyson Rudd's take on the game. Mr. Marcotti is someone who needs a leash. He also needs to realize that as perceptive as he is, he is sometimes wrong -- I am incredibly annoyed that he cannot let referee Howard Webb's questionable call against Newcastle go: Marcotti sees it as a great injustice, I think it was a referee seeing a player impeding another player's access to the ball (there was another similar, talked about call, involving Liverpool earlier in the season). I also think that no matter how 'unjust' it may seem when referees' decisions can impact the outcomes of matches, that is why they are there -- not to act as advocates for the spectators or the teams, but as advocates for fair and fluid play. Ultimately the referee is a part of the pitch -- it is up to the players to play the game and perform on the field. If Drogba had scored in the second half of the second game against Barcelona (and he had ample opportunity to do so), then none of the so-called questionable calls the referee made would have mattered. If Newcastle had played better in their 37 other games, then one call by a referee would not have mattered.

One of the issues with The Game is that it would be very easy to mistake it for a Gabriele Marcotti podcast instead of a London Times podcast. Oliver Kay, who is incredibly knowledgeable and interesting to listen to, shows up rarely. Tony Evans has been spot-on all season about Manchester United's weaknesses is also an irregular. Some of the other infrequent contributors are complete and utter rubbish. One pod attendee actually suggested that all physical contact should be outlawed from the game -- I could not believe that someone who had lived with football all their lives would say something so stupid.


The quality of the posts at Soccer By Ives remains pretty good. The quality of the comments piss poor. I'm not saying that all of the comments are bad, but given the rottenness in the barrel, why bother sifting through them all?

Just to give you a taste. On a story about Oguchi Onyewu, an American player in the Belgian league who has decided to sue Jelles Van Damme, a defender for Anderlecht, over alleged racial taunting in a game, one commentator wrote:
I'm not surprised it happened in Belgium. This is the same country that just laid down for Nazi Germany. I guess some of that same Nazi hate still exists in Belgium today (assuming Van Damme is Belgian).

Like wtf?

Let me point out what is wrong with the logic that particular commentator used, by analogy:
I'm not surprised that Americans have a habit of ignoring racism; this after all is the same country that completely ignored the slaughter in Europe and Asia until the Japanese decided to bomb Pearl Harbor. I guess that same head in the sand "ignore everything that is unpleasant" instinct still exists in the United States today (assuming the commenter is American).