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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Michael Bradley Scores Again

Two years when i started this site one of my first posts was about the U-20 Men's National Team playing at the U-20 World Cup. At the time, i was proclaiming to anyone and everyone who would listen that Jozy Altidore was the future of soccer in this country. He played superbly in that tournament, and i chronicled his adventures.

But as i went back and read that article i wrote, there was a couple of sentences tucked in about another player on that team that i came away impressed with: Michael Bradley. At the time he was just 19 years old and known mostly for being the son of Bob Bradley, the senior team head coach. He was just coming onto the national scene and gaining a reputation as a player. 

Two years later, he has fully arrived. If it wasn't his 30 goals for Dutch side Herenveen last season, it was his two goals against Mexico in World Cup qualifying. And it it wasn't those two goals, it's the pace he's continued since that time with his Bundesliga team Borussia Moenchengladbach. Bradley has scored five goals so far this season, including these two he put in today (Videos are a little slow to load):

I all but switched my allegiances from Altidore to Bradley last summer after watching Bradley dominate the Dutch league. With the way he is playing in the Bundesliga and his performance against Mexico, i think it's official. 

Michael Bradley is the face of the new generation of American Soccer. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Friday!

It's 3pm on a Friday, which means it's almost time for the weekend. As such, it's time for the Happy Friday Post!

Enjoy your weekend everyone...

RIP Doug Towey

You may not know his name, but you certainly know his work. Doug Towey, the man responsible for first using the song 'One Shining Moment' as the ending to March Madness each year, has passed away.

In 1987 Towey was a Creative Director with CBS when he was handed the song now known as the send-off to the college basketball season. He had originally planned on using it to close the Super Bowl that year, but events pushed it back and he instead used it to close the NCAA Tournament. Since that moment it's been an iconic part of the tourney.

In Towey's honor, here is the first time it was ever used, in 1987...

Gives me chills every single time i hear that song...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deconstructing The Complexity Of Stupidity (Updated)

UPDATE: As you can see in the comments below, the original article i am lambasting here was, indeed, meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Thanks go to Joe Carter, editor at First Things (where the article was originally published), for pointing that out. Read the comments following this article for an interesting discussion on why i was so offended in the first place...

On my Twitter page (see right) this morning was a link from HHR (great site by the way) to an article written by one Stephen H. Webb on soccer in America. More specifically, how soccer is ruining America. This article has got me all sorts of fired up, from the absolute ridiculousness of the thesis of his article to the man himself who wrote it. So, i'm ripping off KSK, who ripped off the originators, and breaking this article down FJM (RIP) style...

"Whether the dumbing down of America or soccer came first is hard to say, but soccer is clearly an important means by which American energy, drive, and competitiveness is being undermined to the point of no return."

What exactly about soccer undermines energy? The 5-7 miles they run each game? And what about drive? Last time i checked soccer is the only sport in the world where the only break in action is halftime. No timeouts, no breaks for commercials, no stoppages between plays.

"What other game, to put it bluntly, is so boring to watch? (Bowling and golf come to mind, but the sound of crashing pins and the sight of the well-attired strolling on perfectly kept greens are at least inherently pleasurable activities.) "

So you like the sound of crashing pins, but not the sound of 30,000 people chanting and singing? As for the golf reference... watching people walking on grass is inherently pleasurable? What pleasure do you derive from that? Do you like watching paint dry also? Soccer has people running on grass! That should be double the excitement right?!

"Any sport that limits you to using your feet, with the occasional bang of the head, has something very wrong with it. Indeed, soccer is a liberal’s dream of tragedy: It creates an egalitarian playing field by rigorously enforcing a uniform disability."

Ahh yes, it's nothing like basketball, where you're not allowed to use your feet. Or you don't use your head. Or chest. Or really anything other than your hands. No enforcing of disabilities there. Oh, and what's with the liberal reference?

"The thumb lets us do things like throw baseballs and fold our hands in prayer. Did Jesus wash his disciples’ hands at the Last Supper? No, hands are divine (they are one of the body parts most frequently attributed to God), while feet are in need of redemption. In all the portraits of God’s wrath, never once is he pictured as wanting to step on us or kick us; he does not stoop that low."

Ooohh... I get it, you're a religious whack job. Now it's starting to make sense...

"Sporting should be about breaking kids down before you start building them up."

That's weird because i thought, as this website states, sporting (and soccer in particular) is about 'the promotion of the game of soccer as a life-long, family oriented activity, that provides for child-parent bonding, team work and friendships, as well as, adequate aerobic exercise.'

Don't see anything in there about 'breaking kids down'...

"We also spent a lot of time in the outfield chanting, “Hey batter batter!” as if we were Buddhist monks on steroids. Our chanting was compensatory behavior, a way of making the time go by, which is surely why at soccer games today it is the parents who do all of the yelling."

Uh huh. So because the players are engaged in the game, busy doing things like actually playing the game, they don't chant and are therefore somehow ruining the sport? And the parents, or fans of the game, chanting and singing and cheering is bad for the game? He did say he liked golf, where spectators spend half their time being told to shut the hell up...

"Everyone knows that soccer is a foreign invasion, but few people know exactly what is wrong with that. More than having to do with its origin, soccer is a European sport because it is all about death and despair."

That might be the dumbest single phrase i've ever heard in my entire life. All of Europe is about death and despair? Tell that to Sweden, or Switzerland, or Italy, or Spain. I've heard nice things about those places. Anyone want to place bets on whether or not this author has been to any of those places?

"Even the way most games end, in sudden death, suggests something of an old-fashioned duel."

Nice journalism with the vague term 'most', which implies more than 50% of all games end that way. Most games do not, in fact, end in sudden death. Very few games actually end that way. In fact, not a single game in any regular season in any league in the world ends that way.

"And then there is the question of gender. I know my daughter will kick me when she reads this, but soccer is a game for girls. Girls are too smart to waste an entire day playing baseball..."

So you raise high the game of baseball earlier in your article to fit your needs, then you imply it is a stupid game later in your article. Which is it?

"The real tragedy is that soccer is a foreign invasion, but it is not a plot to overthrow America. For those inclined toward paranoia, it would be easy to blame soccer’s success on the political left, which, after all, worked for years to bring European decadence and despair to America. The left tried to make existentialism, Marxism, post-structuralism, and deconstructionism fashionable in order to weaken the clarity, pragmatism, and drive of American culture. What the left could not accomplish through these intellectual fads, one might suspect, they are trying to accomplish through sport."

Welcome back Mr. Whack job, missed you for a few paragraphs there. Are you implying that if soccer were indeed a plot to overthrow America it wouldn't be such a tragedy? I'm pretty sure that's what you just said.

"Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves... It forces kids to run and run, and everyone can play their role, no matter how minor or irrelevant to the game. Soccer and relevision are the peanut butter and jelly of parenting. I should know. I am an overworked teacher, with books to read and books to write, and before I put in a video for the kids to watch while I work in the evenings, they need to have spent some of their energy. Otherwise, they want to play with me!"

Just to be clear, you're telling us that the backbone of America is turning to this sport that you claim is ruining America, then you tell us that you openly appreciate the game so your own kids will have exhausted themselves to the point that when you get home you won't have to play with them. Nice parenting there buddy...

"That is my one way of protesting the rise of this pitiful sport. Nonetheless, I must say that my kids and I come home from a soccer game a very happy family."

And you end your thesis on how soccer is ruining American by admitting that you and your kids get joy from the sport. By the basis of your article, shouldn't you be boycotting going to the games, or even your kids participating in the sport??


Just for fun, let's take a quick look at the author's bio, courtesy of Wikipedia. Some highlights include (my thoughts in italics):

- Webb graduated from Wabash College in 1983, earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and has been teaching at Wabash College as Professor of Religion and Philosophy since 1988.

- He co-founded the Christian Vegetarian Association, but was removed from his position as co-chairman in 2006 after writing several articles in which he admitted to eating meat occasionally, while promoting vegetarianism. Umm, seems a bit hypocritical to me.

- He grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church in the Restoration Movement. He joined the Disciples of Christ during graduate school but soon became disenchanted with their theological direction. He was briefly a Lutheran, and spent several months considering the Roman Catholic Church. Fence hop much?

- His vision of a non-dogmatic and non-legalistic vegetarianism linked to traditional biblical principles rather than the pantheism of the New Age movement or the abdication of human uniqueness entailed in animal rights legislation has been controversial in both theological and philosophical circles. Him? Controversial? I would have never guessed...

I'm not here to force anyone into loving soccer. You like it or you don't, i get that. I happen to love it, but i grew up playing it. I love the constant action, the back and forth nature of the game, the buildup and anticipation in preparation for few payoffs.

If you don't like it, fine. Ignore it, don't pay attention to. But don't write a ridiculous article on how the sport is ruining America, comparing it to Communism and death and despair. It just makes you look stupid.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Gold Cup Coming To U. Of Phoenix Stadium

That's right, i'm talking more soccer. And i am pumped about it. The CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Championship of the America's if you will, is coming to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

On July 12th, UoP Stadium will host a doubleheader in the first round of the Gold Cup. Exact schedules have yet to be announced, and other stadiums hosting games include the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA; Crew Stadium in Columbus, Oh (where the US-Mexico World Cup qualifying match just took place); Quest Field in Seattle (home to the soon to MLS expansion club Seattle Sounders); RFK in Washington D.C.; and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA. All in all there are 13 sites, with Giants Stadium in New York getting the final.

With July 12th being the final day of the first round, hopefully one of the big name teams will be here to finish out qualifying. I doubt it will be the US, as they are likely to play in more traditional 'home' venues, such as the Home Depot Center or Crew Stadium. But UoP has a strong chance to get Mexico or one of the teams from South America due to the high Hispanic/Latino population.

I was at US-Mexico two years ago in UoP Stadium, and it was one of the best atmospheres for any sporting event i've ever been to. Groups, schedules, and ticket information will be out in the coming weeks. I urge all of you to go to the stadium and check out world class soccer. I can promise i will be there...

SUNS Stands For... See U Next Season?

With 19 games left in the NBA regular season, the Phoenix Suns currently sit one spot out of the Western Conference playoffs, trailing the #8 seed Dallas Mavericks by four games. With a win tonight against those same Mavs, the Suns would still be three games out with 18 to go. Even if the Suns were to go 14-4 in those 18 games, the Mavs would only need to finish 11-7 to make the playoffs ahead of the Suns. It's a precarious situation for the Suns to be in, and one which begs the question: Are the Phoenix Suns, as we know them, finished?

The Suns have shown no ability to put together any type of run this season, something that has been a staple of the last three years. And with just 18 games to go, it would have to be a hell of a run. Despite how well they have played at times under Alvin Gentry (beating the Lakers), they have also played terrible (going 0-4 on their recently completed road trip). Grant Hill described tonight's game as the 'Super Bowl'. Steve Nash said the playoffs start now for the Suns.

Is it already too late?

As Doug from Doug and Wolf in the morning opined yesterday, do the SUNS stand for See U Next Season? Is all hope lost for this team?

Even if the Suns were to somehow pass the Mavs and make the playoffs as the #8 seed, they would have a first round matchup with the Lakers. And the latest result notwithstanding, do the Suns actually have a chance to beat the Lakers in the playoffs? With Amare, i'd say maybe. Without? I don't give them much of a chance.

So for the sake of an argument, let's say the Suns don't make the playoffs. Let's say they go into the draft with the 14th pick, too many aging players, and too much money on the books. See U Next Season? We might see the Suns team next season, but we won't be seeing the same Suns players. It's time to face the facts and come to the realization that your Run and Gun Phoenix Suns are over.

I would not be surprised to see the Suns trade Shaq and Nash in the offseason (Sorry Ben, just my opinion...). It's no secret Robert Sarver will be cutting payroll next season in an effort to get under the salary cap. Say what you will about Sarver, but you can't say he didn't go for it all the last four years. And maybe the Suns didn't win it all, but if not for a bad break here or there they may have. That's not Sarver's fault. Do i think he's a great owner? No, but i also don't think he's horrible. He's shown a willingness to go after free agents and trades (Nash, Shaq, JRich); whether they worked out or not is debatable.

But i think Sarver is seeing the writing on the wall that most Suns fans are reluctant to acknowledge: This team's window is over. They had a good run, but they're just not the same anymore. And it's time to start the rebuilding process.

It's not going to be easy, or quick. That's what happens when you go for it and don't make it. The Suns won't have major cap room for a couple of years. They don't have many quality young players. They haven't developed anyone. They don't have good draft picks available to them. In short, they're in trouble. Even if they deal Nash and Shaq in the offseason, or Nash and Amare possibly, they're not going to get equal value back. They just won't. What the Suns will get is maybe some young talent, maybe a decent NBA starter, and a couple of draft picks. And that's where they will start.

But it's going to be a long, uphill battle. The Suns aren't going to be good next year. Or the year after that. Or maybe the year after that. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it's true. Rebuilding in the NBA is not easy. Especially with the situation the Suns are in.

Suns fans, enjoy it while you can. This may be the last chance you get to watch a decent Suns team in a couple of years, and this might be the last chance you get to see Nash, Amare, or Shaq in a Suns uniform. We'll be seeing the Suns next season, but it won't be the same...