What's Up!

July 17, 2006


Let me get some random thoughts out of my head, before I get into the meat of Wrap Up.

Germany 2006
  • Justified or not, provoked or not, when Zidane buried his head in that guy's chest, France's chances for victory went into the locker room with him. France was psychologically dead from that point on.

  • I'd said it before, and I'll say it again: African soccer is making nice strides in the right direction. Last year it was Senegal, this year it was Ghana. Angola made it interesting, too. The 2010 World Cup is scheduled for South Africa; could that be the year that an African team makes a run?

  • South Korea reminded me of the United States. Took the world by surprise in 2002. Fooled no one is 2006. Asia is slowing making it interesting on the world stage, but Korea must learn the same lessons the U.S. has to (more on this later).

  • How 'bout the Swiss? Didn't let in a single goal in regulation, but lost in PKs. Interesting, but disappointing feat.

  • Mexico has to be in a state of panic. Sure, they'll focus on the fact that they made it to the knock-out stage and played a hard match against Argentina. But the real story was that in order to make it to the knock-out round, they needed ANGOLA, of all countries, not to win in their last group stage match (and lucky for Mexico, Angola pitched a draw against Iran).

  • As far as my picks, I can't believe how much guff I got for picking France as a pre-tourney favorite. People thought I had lost it. Who's laughing now, bitches? Sadly, my #1 pick, England, fizzled out (more on that later), and my darkhorse pick, Croatia, didn't get out of the gates.

  • If a month ago, you had told me that Italy was going to win, I would have laughed at you. Much like I was laughed at about my France pick.

  • I'll miss watching soccer during my lunch break. Unfortunately, people in the commissary like The People's Court, so that what's I gotta get stuck with.

  • Two teams I found myself rooting for: Australia and Trinidad & Tobago. They're just feel-good teams.

    Ok, now on with the show.

    Dancing Cougars
    It appears Nike and adidas got my message last time about trying to avoid having all the jerseys look the same and turning this into an AYSO tournament. Nike kept their kits simple and in the process, made each jersey look unique. Adidas brought three different templates to the party, but did a good job of trying to customize each one so they didn't all look alike. Kudos to both.

    Unfortunately, Puma didn't get my memo. One third of the tournaments were outfitted by Puma, and they all looked alike. The italized number, the colored arch across the back, and the three logos near the neckline (1 puma on each shoulder, and 1 puma on the sternum. I believe Uni-Watch's Paul Lukas would call this "logo creep"). The three pumas prompted one observer to comment, "They look like a bunch of dancing cougars." Indeed.

    Ivory Coast kit
    Ok, we get it. Cote d'Ivoire is outfitted by Cougar... I mean, Puma.

    Costa Rica kitFor me, the prize for best jersey goes to Costa Rica, made by Joma. Many people lambasted the paintbrush effect, but I thought it was fresh enough while being surprisingly simple. And most importantly, it was easy to identify them without being tacky. Honorable mention goes to the United States jersey (white) by Nike and the Germany jersey (white) by adidas. The Mrs. likes the England jersey (white) by Umbro.

    Welcome to Foot, Ball.
    English pundits have nit-picked England's World Cup outing beyond comprehension. So, I'm just going to reiterate something I mention a few issues ago...

    "Owen and Rooney both play, England wins. Only one plays, it's a coin flip. Neither play or make an impact, then you better make room for Les Bleus."

    Let's break it down:
    "Owen and Rooney both play, England wins..." The two of them played a scant couple of minutes together. Teams made adjustments during that time that opened up the pitch, but Owen goes down with a bum knee in the third game. England's chances take a dive.

    "...Only one plays, it's a coin flip..." As evident in the Sweden game. Owen went out, and England can't put the game away. In the Portugal match, Rooney stomps on some guy's balls, gets tossed and the missing Owen is missed even more.

    "...Neither play or make an impact, then you better make room for Les Bleus." Rooney gets red-carded, and now you're missing both starting strikers. They lose to Portugal, and Les Bleus (that's France for the newbies) ends up in the Finals.

    Man, did I call it or what?

    Joga Bonito +10
    Last time in 2002, Nike put forth the Scorpion Tournament 3v3 ad campaign that introduced JXL's version of Elvis's "A Little Less Conversation." Adidas's ad campaign I think was about Footballitis. Maybe. Obviously, it was forgettable. The Nike campaign was a hit across the board. Interesting concept plus cool music equals advertising gold.

    This year, Nike's "Joga Bonito" campaign started out strong with a lot of potential, but fizzled out. The whole concept of "play beautiful" was a good platform, but just didn't resonate well with the viewers. Adidas's "+10" campaign went over much better than Nike's and way better than their 2002 effort.

    The commercial's concept was that two kids are playing soccer and each picked their dream team to play with. In essence, it was each kid +10 other players to make a team. It was fun to watch, and what proved to be the winning key was music. Much like Elvis vs. JXL four years ago, the two songs used in the adidas campaign were a hit.

    And what songs were they? Well, part 1 used snippets of "De l'alouette" by RJD2, and part 2 used "Eanie Meany" by Jim Noir. And, conveniently enough, both are available on iTunes.

    So the winner of the World Cup battle? adidas. At least, that what's the masses say.

    It's Not as Bad as It Seems
    After reading the Ramp Up, one brave soul asked how I think the U.S. would do, match-by-match, in group play. Flat out, I said, "We'll lose to a surprisingly good Czech side; we'll tie against Italy, and it won't be pretty; but we'll eke out a win against a spirited Ghana side, that'll squeak the U.S. into the second round."

    I'm a little impressed with myself on that one. We did lose to a surprisingly good Czech, and we did get the ugly, and I mean ugly, draw against the Italians. The Ghana players were spirited but unlike my prediction, did not quietly into the night. They played good ball and beat us. And the scenario was in place that a U.S. win over Ghana would have put the Americans into the knockout stages. But alas no. What went wrong?

    Two things:
    1) The players. Whether it was arrogance or apathy, the players didn't play, let alone with a sense of urgency. Don't tell me that we didn't have any talent on the pitch, because we did, in spades. But the players didn't show up to play until it was too late. Way too late.

    2) Bruce Arena's roster moves. I have no problem with Bruce and would have no problem with him staying (which unfortunately, he will not). But I saw Bruce turn into Sven Goran Eriksson right before my eyes, as he clung to his favorites despite poor play. After juggling the lineup a gazillion times in friendlies, come Cup time, Bruce only does minor tinkering to no effect. I said that two roster additions that would have been huge were Chris Albright and Brian Ching. Yet, they saw no playing time. Albright and Ching could have given what the U.S. desperately needed: defense and scoring, respectively. After the final U.S. game, Arena even admitted that he should have brought in Ching for the Ghana match. 20/20 hindsight, my friend.

    And although I would love to unload on my whipping boy, Kasey Keller (who by the way did concede, on average, 2 goals a game), he's not completely at fault given the wet paper bag defense playing in front of him. Though the U.S. definitely needs to go in a new direction at the GK spot in 2010.

    Believe it or not, this World Cup is good for the U.S. In 1998, the United States was the laughingstock of the global game. Four years later, we're the Cinderella team that's the feel-good story of the tournament. Now, the U.S. waltzed into Germany, with a unrealistic #5 World FIFA ranking, and gets smacked down. Yes, it's a good thing.

    The United States is not Argentina, nor Brazil. It's not England, France, or Germany. Hell, the U.S. isn't even Spain. The U.S. can not go into World Cups thinking it's going to win them easily. And we have now learned that. On any given day, any team can beat a better team. On any given day, a good team can just collapse. The United States learned a important lesson this World Cup. Any future tournaments is going to be a fight, and it's not the obvious teams (like those mentioned above) that'll kill ya, it's the overachievers that'll beat you. Progress was made this World Cup. Oh yes, progress has been made (it's the optimist in me).

    For the record, if I was Bruce Arena, here's how I would have lined the U.S. up. For starters, I'm a big fan of the 4-3-3. You can't score with only one forward (ask England).

    GK: T. Howard
    DEF: E. Pope, C. Bocanegra, P. Mastroeni, J. Conrad
    MF: C. Reyna, C. Dempsey, D. Beasley
    FW: L. Donovan, B. McBride, B. Ching

    But then again, what do I know? I pull my hammy playing indoor soccer.

    Book'em, Danno!
    Now, I'm not going to sit here at go off on the officiating during this World Cup. Lord knows that everyone and there mother has already. However, I will make a suggestion, that I have seen echoed across soccer-dom: Add a second ref.

    Don't give me any crap about how there are already two linesmen out there to help. Soccer needs a second "referee." Let me break it down by comparing soccer officiating with other sports.

    Basketball: the smallest playing surface has 3 referees. All equally capable of blowing the whistle and issuing fouls. Three pairs of eyes on a court that small, watching 10 guys play, do a better good job of officiating (not perfect, but nothing is).

    Hockey: Bigger playing surface than basketball, and it's early days had one referee and two linesmen like soccer. But a few years ago, the NHL experimented with a second ref, and guess what happened, the concept stuck. And a better product ensued. Coincidence?

    Baseball: Baseball has four umpires, but in big games, will put an additional ump down each foul line in the outfield bringing the total to six. It really doesn't need them, but having a couple of extra officials in the outfield doesn't hurt the game either.

    American Football: On a field, comparable in size to soccer, there are 22 players being watched by 800 officials (+ instant replay). You have the head referee, an umpire, a back judge, a line judge, a hanging judge, etc. With all these officials, American Football probably does the best job of officiating (again, nothing's perfect).

    Hmm, more officials, better officiating. Could it be?

    Unfortunately, soccer as a whole is downright defensive when the thought of adding a second referee is mentioned. But why? Lame reasons and excuses abound. I have yet to hear one that made any sense.

    Now, I will give kudos to the referees who, really do, manage to put themselves in the best optimal position to officiate. But you can't expect one man to keep tabs on 22 players on a playing field of that size. It can't be done with consistent, quality results.

    The two most common concerns about the second referee are (and will be quickly dismissed by me):
    1) Second referee will lead to more cards. Is that a bad thing? If fouls are being committed that the referee is not seeing, are they not to be called? Also, it may not lead to more cards for fouls, but for diving. A second perspective may help the overall quality of the game, as it give the referees a unbiased second opinion to base any discipline on, as opposed to issuing a card based on the acting of the guy who went down clutching his ankle like he was just stuck in a bear trap.

    2) Referees won't be used to each other styles and will clash with each other. Well, you don't stick 2 strangers together and hope for the best. You establish officiating crews like the sports mentioned above do. One ref minds the clock, the other the cards, and let'em play a few matches, and next thing you know, it'll be harmony. Trust me.

    Obviously, you don't to spring something like this on the next World Cup without some shake-down tourneys. Luckily, FIFA runs a 74,000 tournaments a year that could experiment with the four-official system (the refs still need the linesmen). If they tried this is the next U-17 tournament, or the Club Championship, it might just catch on.

    See, if you're going to complain, offer a solution.

    Well friends, that's the What's Up World Cup Wrap Up. I appreciate the responses I've received and I'm glad you all enjoyed the Ramp Up before the tournament. Now if you don't mind, I've got to go see the Galaxy pulled their head out of their asses.

    July 2, 2006


    I've noticed a certain trend with regards to fortune cookies. Yes, I'm talking about the American-created confection typically consumed after dining on Chinese food. Fortune cookies as of late, are no longer sooth-saying sweet treats. No, now when we crack open a fortune cookie, it has been either a status report (i.e. "You are surrounded by good friends") or a directive (like this gem we touted a while back).

    But now, it has become quite apparent that the writers for fortune cookies have officially scraped the bottom of the barrel. After a recent visit to our local Panda Express, we were treated with gem of a fortune...

    That's right. "Good Fortune Lies Ahead." Yes, while technically this is an honest-to-goodness fortune, did they get it off a Bazooka wrapper? Was this written by a 7 year old? Come on, people. I don't ask for much. Just a fortune told in my fortune cookie.

    I will admit that this is the quintessential fortune. But at least show some originality, some flair, some creativity. I just expected more from the Middle Kingdom wise men.

    May 24, 2006


    What's Up World Cup Ramp Up
    Germany 2006With just over two weeks until the start of the world's largest sporting event, it's time to bring you Part 2 of my Soccer Musings. This time, it's all World Cup. So let's see what's rattling around my head about Germany 2006.

    Let Me Gaze Into My Crystal Ball
    Now, as I stated in the Next VII, I am predicting England to win the Cup. Of course, this was with the assumption that both Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney would be playing up front for England. Now, neither of them might play. Shoot! (more on this below)

    Now, going into a World Cup, I usually pick three teams, as my potential Cup winners. So who's on my list this year?
    FA1) England: as already mentioned.

    2) France: in case you forgot... Zidane, Makelele, Vierra, Silvestre, old man Barthez, and of course, Henry. A lot of players on this squad hoisted the cup in 1998. Could very well do it again.

    3) Croatia: my darkhouse pick. Called this as far back at the Next VII. No real reason. Just a hunch.

    The one team that you'll notice is not on my picks is Brazil. As the 5-time Champions, Brazil is automatically a favorite for any tournament Finals. You're not really going out on a limb by picking them to win again.

    Teams that have caught my eye: Mexico and South Korea. Both these teams should have good tournaments.

    Teams just happy to be there: Australia, Trinidad & Tobago, Angola, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire. Feel free to root for these guys. Most of these guys are World Cup virgins.

    Hey, Bobby Charlton!
    Seriously, folks. Look at this line-up: Gary Neville, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, David Beckham, Frank Lampard & Sol Campbell. Notice I haven't even mentioned Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen yet.

    BecksWith both Rooney and Owen up front, this was the team to beat. But, Michael Owen goes down with injury. Ok, he may or may not be back for the Cup. With only one of them, there is still a chance to win big. Then a few weeks ago, Rooney breaks his foot (his metatarsal to be precise). All of a sudden, two of the world's most dangerous strikers are in sick bay, and England's chances of winning take a dive. Don't get me wrong, with the line-up mentioned above, England is still good, but you suddenly force your all-star midfielders to convert scoring chances, instead of creating them (and while I love the guy, Beckham can't carry the time by himself).

    Michael Owen is coming back from an injury, but obviously hasn't touched a ball in months. He'll see some action in a couple of pre-Cup friendlies, but he'll be rusty. Rooney, in theory, should be all healed up in time for the Cup, but you can't expect him to run a full 90 on a rehabbing foot.

    If England can get out of the group stage, and they got a cushy group, then both Owen and Rooney (barring any further injury), should be ready to really contribute. Even if there are not quite 100%, they will have hit their stride and have the players behind them to give them the confidence to make runs at goal.

    Bottom line: Owen and Rooney both play, England wins. Only one plays, it's a coin flip. Neither play or make an impact, then you better make room for Les Bleus.

    It's not France 98. It's not France 98. It's not France 98.
    I have a really bad feeling about the United States in these Cup Finals. And I shouldn't, because the U.S. is putting out a really good side.

    Let me start with why I have a bad feeling about this:
    a) Two noticeable omissions from the Cup Roster: Taylor Twellman and Cobi Jones.
    b) Weak showings in friendlies. Yes, I understand that they are friendlies, and Bruce Arena was using them to tweak line-ups and audition players, but at times, the U.S. has looked downright bad in them.
    c) Goaltending: Brad Friedel made the U.S. look fan-freakin'-tastic in Korea/Japan 2002. Stopping two PKs will also definitely help your team. I've never been high on Kasey Keller and Tim Howard has had some rough patches while working at Man United. Expecting "Friedel-ian" performances from either is expecting a lot.
    d) Landon Donovan at midfield: He needs to be up front. Did you witness the L.A. Galaxy's improbably MLS Cup run? Donovan carried that team, and he did it as a striker. Putting him in as a midfielder is like practically tying his shoelaces together.
    e) Lastly, Group E. The U.S. gets to play Italy, the Czech Republic, and Ghana. U.S. can either go 3-0, or 1-2. It's not a cushy group by any stretch.

    Landon DonovanOk, enough nay-saying. Let's talk about why I think the U.S. will do well:
    a) When talking about why I thought the U.S. would do well in future World Cups, I said, and I quote, "Take Donovan, add in a little DeMarcus Beasley, a pinch of Brian McBride, and a dash of Pablo Mastroeni, and you have the most dangerous group of young guns on the planet. And then for laughs, repeat after me: Clint Mathis, Claudio Reyna, John O'Brien, Josh Wolff" Except for Mathis, all are present and accounted for.
    b) Bruce Arena making the roster selection live on SportsCenter. That move proves that U.S. Soccer matters. It could have easily been done via a press release, but giving Arena that national medium, live no less, brought much needed attention and love to the team. That's a big boon to the spirit and psyche of the team.
    c) Major League Soccer: Giving American players a place to ply their trade has paid dividends for U.S. Soccer. It's still a fledgling league, but it's a growing league. If not for MLS, Landon Donovan would be warming a bench in the Bundesliga, potential untapped, brilliance unwitnessed.
    d) Two players who did make the Cup Roster: Chris Albright and Brian Ching. You heard it here first... Brian Ching is going to have a HUGE World Cup. Look for him to make an impact.
    e) Landon Donovan is on the field: Despite my reservations about him out of position at midfield, it's been a long time since the U.S. has a superstar of this quality that can take over a game. This will undoubtedly bring loads of attention from opposing players. Since he will most likely see a lot of double-teaming, that's going to leave a man unmarked, hopefully creating chances. Donovan isn't going to surprise anyone anymore, but his sheer presence will free up his teammates to make plays.

    So after saying all that, I remain cautious, yet optimistic.

    Pou esai Ellada?
    You might have noticed that the defending European champions are not making the trip to Germany. Yup, Greece is staying home and watching the games on the ol' tele. Greece followed their Euro 2004 win with a poor showing in the Confederation Cup in 2005. World Cup qualifiers saw them in Group 2 with Ukraine, Turkey, Denmark, and 3 cannon fodder teams (Albania, Georgia & Kazakhstan). It was Greece's group to lose, and they did, finishing 4th. Ukraine and Turkey were better than advertised and Denmark was Denmark, showing their experience in such matters. Greece finished the group 6-3-3, but could have easily won the group as the allowed only 9 goals, but unfortunately, only scored a paltry 15.

    Greece, despite recent setbacks, still sports a Top 20 FIFA world ranking (#20 to be exact). However, Greece is definitely going to need a good showing in Euro 2008 in Austria/Switzerland to maintain some footballing clout and prove 2004 wasn't a fluke.

    So there you have it. I hope you have enjoyed my musings leading into FIFA World Cup Germany 2006. Gather 'round your television set, sit back, and relish the Beautiful Game. And watch for the What's Up World Cup Wrap Up after the tournament.

    May 6, 2006


    With the 2006 World Cup just over a month away, I thought I would sit my chair, face my computer, and wax poetic on the beautiful game. With the success of the What's Up World Cup Wrap Up in 2002, I know I have big expectations to match, so consider this an appetizer. We're going to break this down into two parts. Today, Part 1 deals with domestic leagues, both here and abroad.

    Greek A-Division
  • Stop Me If You're Heard This Before: Olympiakos wins.... again. Sweet! For those keeping score at home, that 9 League Championships in the last 10 years. They are selling shirts that read, "Champions... as usual!" I need to get me one of those. And they are in the Greek Cup final on May 10th. That would be back-to-back Doubles if they can beat AEK at the Pangritio Stadium in Iraklion, Crete.

    Interesting tidbit about Greek football. In Greek League games, Greek players have their names written in Greek on the back of their jerseys. Non-Greek international players have their name in English. In European matches, all players have their names in English (when I say "English," I mean they use Roman letters, but I'm sure that would have confused the masses that didn't know that).

    How did I become an Olympiakos fan? Blame my cousin, Dimitri, in Greece. Or my other cousin, Christina, also in Greece. It's a family thing.

    English Premier League
  • I'm a Gooner, too!: What looked like a sub-par season for the Gunners, as they fight for a fourth place finish in the EPL, could end up looking like the highest of highs as Arsenal are in the Champions League finals against Barcelona. In what is the last season at Arsenal Stadium at Highbury before they move to their new state-of-the-art facility, Emirates Stadium, in Ashburton Grove, the Gunners had high expectations as they were looking to send off their old home with a trophy. Struggles in the Premiership, coupled with a 4th round loss to Bolton in the FA Cup, and it was dark days for Arsenal. But then the Gunners started holding opponents scoreless in the Champions League. First FC Thun, then Ajax, then Real Madrid, then Juventus, then Villareal. Next thing you know, Arsenal clean-sheeted their way to a date in Paris for the Champions League Final at the Stade de France.

    Many pundits say that Arsenal v. Barcelona is a "dream match." Agreed. Luckily, the Gunners have 10 days rest between their final match of the Premiership season and the Champions League Final. The final is on May 17th. I've asked for the day off.

    Bonus: the Arsenal Ladies won the Double as the took home the League Championship and the FA Women's Cup.

    Major League Soccer
  • Gold and Green Blues: The Los Angeles Galaxy look like crap to start the 2006 season, and I'm not surprised. Just because you're the defending MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup Champions doesn't mean you're some juggernaut that can't be beaten. How can I say that, especially as a Galaxy fan? Easy. Look at last year. For the record, the Galaxy finished with the 9th best record in the regular season (out of 12 teams, counting two first year expansion teams), sneaked into the playoffs and played their asses off to win the MLS Cup.

    If MLS used a single table format, like the rest of the planet does, your San Jose Earthquakes would have been crowned champions before they got shipped off to Houston (more on this below). But thanks to the Americans' love of the postseason playoff structure (honestly, how often does a NHL team that won the President's Trophy lift the Stanley Cup in the same year? Anyone? Psst, in the last 20 years, only 6 times have done that with the 2002 Detroit Red Wings being the last team to do it. But I digress...), the Galaxy shuffled their way to the Cup.

    The Galaxy's Achilles Heel is road wins, or the lack thereof. Luckily, L.A. gets a couple of "away" games at Chivas USA (again, more on this later).

    Will the Galaxy repeat? Not likely. Especially in a World Cup year. Two teams I would bet on to see in the MLS Cup Finals: the Houston Earthquakes... I mean Dynamo vs. D.C. United.

  • Tremors in Texas: If I was a San Jose Earthquakes fan, I'd be upset. Down right mad at how the team got shafted by AEG, the owners of team (and the Galaxy, and the Fire, and D.C. United). First, they ship off the best player in U.S., Landon Donovan to hated rivals, the Galaxy (of course, as a Galaxy fan, I was delighted by this). And then, after posting the best regular season record in MLS, the entire team gets shipped to Houston. What?

    I personally, as a general MLS fan, didn't like this move. AEG complained that they weren't making a profit while playing on the campus of San Jose State, so they moved the team to Houston, where they now play on the campus of the University of Houston. Colored me baffled. Promises of a new soccer-specific stadium were the guarantee, but look at what Real Salt Lake (I never did understand the alleged tie-in to Real) is going through. Promises of a new stadium have fallen through numerous times, and RSL can't make a profit while playing, coincidentally enough, on the campus of the University of Utah, and small whispers of the team leaving have popped up.

    Houston was practically a shoo-in for a new expansion team, along side Toronto, and now they got one in the form of a Cup-winning caliber team. So Houston wins big, and the Bay Area loses.

    On the other hand, I can understand AEG's motives. It's a given fact that MLS teams need soccer-specific stadiums to be successful. AEG built one in L.A. (the Home Depot Center, technically in Carson, CA, and affectionately called the Cathedral of American Soccer), just completed one in Chicago (Bridgeview Stadium, in Bridgeview, IL), and in the middle of building one in New York (for the formally owned MetroStars, before they were sold to Red Bull. AEG will still operate Red Bull Park, in Harrison, NJ). They can't be expected to build new stadiums for everyone, and AEG can't be expected to successfully own and operate half the league. AEG tried to sell the Earthquakes to various parties in the Bay Area, but nothing came to fruition, so they're going to huck their wares in Houston.

    One last thing on the Houston matter. I personally liked Houston 1836 as the team name over the Houston Dynamo. But as I don't run Spanish-language newspapers in the 4th largest media market, my opinion doesn't mean jack.

  • Speaking of Texas: Can anyone tell me why FC Dallas (formally known as the Dallas Burn) are called the Hoops? Anyone? I have a theory, but I'm not sold on it. In any event, how is Hoops better than Burn?

  • New Jersey Gives You Wiiings!: Red Bull bought the MetroStars (originally known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars) and renamed them Red Bull New York, as they are named similarly to their sister club in Austria, Red Bull Salzburg. That's all fine and dandy, except they also call themselves the New York Red Bulls. Come on, what is it? Red Bull New York or New York Red Bulls? Pick one. By the way, the New York team still plays in New Jersey. Am I being too nit-picky?

  • Going to Get Your Goat: I'm just going to come out and say it. I don't like the fact that CD Chivas USA is playing in Los Angeles. Not just the HDC, I mean the whole of Los Angeles. Again, speaking as a general MLS fan, when you have a guy (in this case, the guy who owns CD Guadalajara in the Mexican league) who wants to spend the cash to put a team in the U.S., you've got to be firm and put him in a market that doesn't have a team.

    Chivas should have gone to Houston in the first place. There were team-less, at the time, and have a high Mexican population, which is important to Chivas, as their goal is to have a completely Hispanic team (psst, don't tell Ante Razov or John O'Brien). But somehow, MLS let Chivas set up shop at the Home Depot Center. That is slightly unfair, as Chivas walks right in to a soccer-specific stadium, while teams that have been in the league since its inception like Kansas City and San Jose/Houston play on fields that have American football yard lines by early autumn.

    I think the real reason I'm bothered by this is that MLS bills itself as trying to bring soccer to the American people. Putting expansion teams in regions that should both want and support a team is important (example: Portland, OR is called Soccer City, U.S.A. No MLS team), and help spread the MLS gospel and that of soccer in general. There were other areas that wanted a team (i.e. Houston, pre-Dynamo), but MLS said, "Sure, Los Angeles could use two teams." Bunch of codswallup that is. Putting it in L.A. does nothing to improve or expand the game. If you're going to expand, then expand.

    Last thing with Chivas. The fact that the Galaxy get to play Chivas a couple of times a season helps the Galaxy, as it's a couple of extra home games (even though they're the "visiting" side). And I like the term "L.A. Derby" over "Superclassico." Wait a couple of years for Chivas to actually get good and make it a true rivalry before you dub it a classico. Honestly.

    Well, there you have it. Part 1 is in the books. Next time, we'll get into the meat of the World Cup and my crazy predictions. Until then, joga bonito!

    March 5, 2006


    New Baseball Season
    The new season of the Grand Baseball League is upon us. This will be the fourth year for our little fantasy baseball league, and the first time in which we have "keepers." We are keeping 8 players from last year's team, which definitely changed the dynamic of the league, in regards to trades and draft strategy. Last year was an atrocious season for the Crimson Axe, which is frustrating given that my team had good players on it. Nonetheless, I feel pretty confident coming out of our Season 4 draft, as I pumped up on pitching. For the record, our league is played based on 11 statistical categories for position players and 11 statistical categories for pitching, so you can't just stock up on home runs and wins. Of course, it would help if my team stayed injury-free.

    This year will also be a little special as we are playing for the Uncle Bob Memorial Trophy. Bob play with us in our fantasy leagues, and while he may not have been good in them, he always had a good time playing with us, so we thought it would be fitting and appropriate that we name the Championship Trophy in the crown jewel of our leagues after our good friend. Good luck to everyone this year.

    New Job
    I need one. I've got to apply my genius to a much more fulfilling vocation.

    New MySpace
    So I finally got one of those fabled MySpace accounts. After having everyone harass me to get one (though no one could give me a valid reason why), I finally did log on, and I realized that it allowed me to keep tabs on my friends without having to actually contact them. I'm sure that's not the point. Although, I'm discovering that trying to find someone in particular is really difficult. The only way I have found people is through friends of friends of friends. Yes, that is how you properly network, and that is the point of the site, but come on.

    Anyway, if you want to visit the Official Demosthenes MySpace page, visit www.myspace.com/worldofdemosthenes

    New Subscriber
    So some random Joe at the Albertson's sells me a subscription to the Orange County Register. I'm not usually a newspaper guy, but it was a ridiculous offer that would pay itself off with the coupons from the first Sunday edition alone. So I take him up on the offer. Turns out that I enjoy reading the paper. I can spend an hour, read the paper from cover to cover (so to speak) and feel relatively enlightened. Unfortunately, in the last 11 days, the paper has only appeared on my doorstep twice. That's not really endearing me to be longtime subscriber, is it?

    I find it interesting that I usually consume my news and information from online sources. And I usually tap a wide spectrum from CNN to BBC News. But I'm finding enjoyment from doing it old school. Now if I can only get the paper on a regular basis as promised, we might be on to something here.

    New Music
    Here's an easy tip for all the iPod owners out there if you're looking to expand your music catalog. In the iTunes Music Store, they have the Free Download of the Week. Each week it's some random artist that you can listen to and download for nada. The only reason I mention this is because not many people I spoken to about it were aware of this. So I thought I would be the good guy here and offer the public service announcement. A week or two ago, the Free Download of the Week was "Ooh La La" by Goldfrapp, which you can hear during one of the Diet Coke television ads. Honestly, who doesn't like freebies?

    Old Job
    For the record, 5 days from now, I will have been with the same company for 5 years, making it the longest gig I've ever held. And to think, when I took the job, I thought it would only be for a few months until I found a new internet job. Ya, that didn't pan out now did it?

    Old Website
    This year, 4Aces.net will be 10 years old. Can you believe that? 4Aces.net was the very first domain name I had purchased in 1996 and somehow evolved into a gambling education website right after its inception (believe it or not, it's original plan was much different), and has managed to stay in the same vein for this entire time.

    And next year, SilverSable.com will be celebrating 10 years online as well. Wowsers.

    Old Passion Burns Again
    Arcane ArcherSince I was a youngin', I fancied one sport over all others: Archery. When I was significantly younger than I am now, I envisioned myself as a top bowman. You know, Robin Hood quality. Of course, at the time, I had no archery tackle to speak of, but that didn't stop a young boy from dreaming of becoming an Olympic archer.

    A few years ago, I finally bought a bow. Nothing fancy; just a take-down recurve bow. Occasionally, Val and I would go shoot in my parents' back yard (putting many a hole in their tool shed) and we had a good time. Eventually, we would go shoot at El Dorado Park in Long Beach, site of the archery events for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, thus saving my parents from purchasing a new shed.

    We have improved to a point now where we are at least hitting the bale more often than not. And in our most recent venture out there, we were surprisingly effective archers. Maybe not beating back orcs at the gate good, but getting there. But this has re-ignited the passion for this sport that I've had for such a long time. It's a sport that is mental as it is physical, and requires concentration as much as it requires relaxation.

    I've decided that I'm going to focus more on archery as my hobby of choice, with the goal of becoming a top notch archer in 6 years time. Why 6 years? I understand that my chances are slim, but I want to make a run at earning a spot on the Olympic Archery team for the 2012 Summer Games in London. I figure I haven't had a lofty goal in a long time, especially one involving something I actually enjoy. Who says dreams from your youth have to die when you turn 30?

    Old Traditions
    So this year, Lent for those of Eastern Orthodox faith, starts this week. Our Easter is on April 23, while the Western Easter will be on April 16. So let me just remind you all now, don't ask me what I'm giving up for Lent. We don't roll like that. For Lent, we fast. None of this "I've giving up chocolate ice cream" nonsense. I'm talking about the way it used to be, before ice cream. For Lent, Orthodox do not eat beef, chicken, or any animal meat. If you're following a strict Lenten fast, there is no animal product consumption of any kind: no eggs, no milk, no cheese, etc. And the whole fish on Friday thing; well, fish is classified as an animal, so that would be considered unfit for consumption.

    Yes, both Val and I will be observing the Lenten fast. And it will be a strict fast to boot. Figured, if you're going to do it, might as well do it right.

    Old Bit Resurrected
    Who remembers the Hut of Mystery? It was a comical set of predictions that somehow evolved into the more serious Next VII. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict... the Hut of Mystery might make a comeback, thatched roof and all.

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