Gabriele Marcotti tries to make the point on Soccernet that Liverpool FC’s Luis Suarez should have admitted his handball against Mansfield Town to the referees, if only to improve his reputation:
Suarez has a poor reputation in England, as evidenced by the fact that his propensity to go down easily means that, at times, he gets fouled and officials don’t give him the benefit of the doubt. This was a missed opportunity to polish his image a little bit, without any great cost or inconvenience to him. And, referees being what they are, you can’t help but feel that the next time there’s a controversial handball incident involving him, they’ll come down harder than they would otherwise.
Bollocks. Suarez has come so far in his role as villain that were he to have tried to give the goal back, the futbol intelligentsia would have cast it as a shallow and blatant attempt to curry favor with the English public and the referees in order for him to continue pillaging towns and killing babies with impunity, as he so obviously does. Not as a sincere attempt at sportsmanship in favor of gamesmanship.
I also thought this was a good take from one of the commenters on the story:
People will always moralize an athlete without regard to context. Suarez clearly has questionable on-field ethics, when his blood is pumping hot and the game is on. Yet his off field attitude has yet to show the same on field exploits. He is a fierce competitor, derived from his street urchin days in Uruguay, playing football without shoes against bigger and meaner opponents. His family was incredibly poor, as was his education. These facts have combined to make him incredibly competitive and driven to win and succeed, without regard to sportsmanship. Sportsmanship wasn’t part of his life, as it has been for most people reading these pieces; who grew up playing politically correct suburban football, with trophies for everyone. Stop moralizing without context, enjoy the game and try to separate real life from the gladiator ring.
Despite the pain and humiliation of watching my Pittsburgh Penguins lose their third consecutive post-season series, this time to the despicable Philadelphia Flyers, I am as convinced as ever that Ice Hockey is the best team sport out there.
I don’t necessarily mean most enjoyable, surely a subjective measure. Nor is the NHL the best sports league across all sports. I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that Ice Hockey calls for the greatest total abundance of every sports characteristic and skill. List out all the skills you want and Ice Hockey will score higher in aggregate.
Speed, physical toughness, endurance, coordination/reflexes, mental toughness, etc. etc. etc. The game even calls for moving backwards in a fundamental way that no other sport duplicates.
Here’s a rough chart ranking the major team sports:
|Baseball||Basketball||Am. FB||Rugby||Futbol||Cricket||Ice Hky|
Before you get in a huff about these rankings, it should be noted that I have no animus against any particular sport. If I were to rate my enjoyment of each of these sports, it would be different from the rankings above. Just some food for thought.
Late-breaking developments in the European futbol transfer market as Manchester City FC have announced the signing of God for the sum of €420 million (or fohh-twentee millyon euros). The veteran football said the lure of that sweet, sweet A-rab money proved to be too good to be true and so he is temporarily giving up his all-important duties of providing inspiration and redemption for mortal players or possessing then to engender extraordinary results.
Long-time soccer observers hailed the move as critical to Manchester City’s push to finish in the Top Four of English football and qualify for the Champions’ League, citing GOD’s extensive work for the likes of Pele, Bobby Charlton, Robbie Fowler and Diego Maradona’s Hand.
Tommy Smyth of ESPN, however, downplayed the move, instead intonating that the 19-time World Cup participant will have to earn his playing time on such a talented and expensive squad at the Eastlands. GOD, in a move sure to endearing him to Citizens fans, struck back at Smyth… by striking him down.
… or Emigration vs Immigration
It is, I think, endemic to the constitution of the USA that the issue of Club vs Country/Émigré vs Immigrant can sometimes be a difficult one, as concerned with sports. Ours is fundamentally an immigrant nation even if much of the populace is several generations removed from crossing the pond (or jumping the fence). What do you do when the country of your ancestry or childhood lines up opposite the one whose passport you hold.
That more FIFA World Cup tickets were purchased by denizens of the USA than any other nation is not necessarily a strong show of support for USA Soccer. It is as much an indication of the old-world loyalties that many Americans still carry. To Italy or Spain or Greece or England. To Nigeria or Ghana or Cameroon. To Mexico or South Korea or Brasil or Argentina.
For those who don’t have an ancestral horse in a particular race, they may develop an affinity for a country whose style (or women) they like or whose players ply their trade for the person’s chosen domestic club. Fernando Torres of Spain for Scousers. Didier Drogba of Côte d’Ivoire for Chelski’s. Kaka and Ronaldinho of Brasil for Real Madrid and AC Milan, respectively.
In a similar parallel, it was a bittersweet moment for many Penguins fans when Canadian Sidney Crosby flung the puck past USA goaltender Ryan Miller in overtime of the Olympic hockey gold medal game on Sunday. “At least it was Sid,” texted a friend of mine. But still others supported the Canadians outright to the exclusion of Team USA because of Sid, Jordan Staal and Marc-André Fleury. For my part, I supported Team USA but I’m not crushed that it was our Sid who delivered the hammer stroke. (And that once again Alex Ovagkin proved he is not clutch nor as great as Sid).
Though not particularly conflicted in ice hockey, I will admit to it in national team futbol. I’ll root for the USA but the Super Eagles of Nigeria truly claim my futboling heart even though I was only six years old when the family left west Africa. I don’t really know what I would do if the twain should meet in a match.
Does this make me less of an American or must I always root for the USA in such a trivial pursuit as sports? While political dissent is not automatically a show of dis-loyalty to one’s nation, we are taught that sports loyalties are more black and white. Yet, nationality isn’t so cut and dried an issue anymore.
In a globalized age, with so much movement of peoples to and fro, there is a certain malleability to our sporting and national identities, especially given the very founding of this country as a refuge for the “the wretched refuse of your teeming shore… the homeless, tempest-tossed.” To pledge allegiance to the USA does not mean, in my mind, to discard one’s past heritage because I believe I must find an America that is true for me. It is a fluid motion and a conversation that must needs continue through time.
Still, if you’re not gonna put a boot up my arse, I’ll gladly share some gari or fufu and goat stew with you this summer. Bring your own Yuengling or Malbec if you choose.
… or why I hate being kicked when I’m down
I’m not much for trash talk. I don’t usually like to rise to the bait. Superstition plays a huge part here because I fear what the sports Gods will do when faced with such presumptuousness. Call me paranoid but when your first full season following a sport ends because of a Francisco Cabrera single, you don’t tend towards overconfidence.
I do recognize the role of trash-talk for both fans and the players. But by and large, players make nice after a game. They shake hands in hockey, basketball, football and soccer even at the end of a hard-fought, bitterly contested game. They may not like each other but they at least attempt to act civil. Fans, however, often keep on talking after the games. (And before anyone tries to say that we have the right to speak as we choose, please SHUT UP. Your right to act like a boor is not in question here).
I think it’s all good and well (and perhaps a little fun) to trash-talk before or even during a game. But afterwards, act like you’ve been there. I’m one of those fans who, for better or worse, takes my sports affiliations way too seriously. I take it personally when my team loses. I can’t even watch Sportscenter for a few days after a big loss to say nothing of having to hear some blathering idiot drone on about the superiority of the foe who vanquished my team. I’ll give them their dues but just let me move on.
Some people place value on kicking others while they are down. I, however, prefer NOT to be kicked when I’m down for the count. In the former stance, the individual(s) in question is, hopefully, thick-skinned enough to take it when the team loses because this behavior defines turnabout as fair play. In the latter stance, you have to act like you’ve been there before regardless of the outcome; be gracious in victory or defeat.
While we all get some morbid satisfaction from the misery of others in defeat, I don’t think there’s any reason to rub it directly in their faces. For me, the greater pleasure is celebrate my team’s achievements with my fellow fanbase.
ESPN.com reports that Rick Pitino may be interested in the Sacramento Kings head coaching job. Having largely failed in two previous stints in the Ligg, Pitino’s outsized ego may push him to give the NBA another shot in order to prove that he has what it takes to succeed on both levels, ala Larry Brown.
With the exception of the aforementioned Brown, few successful college coaches, football or baskeball, seem to prosper in the Pro’s. Tim Floyd, Nick Saban and Mike Montgomery easily come to mind. Pitino’s new nemesis at Kentucky, John Calipari wasn’t successful in the Pro’s.
On the other hand, Bill Callahan failed miserably at Nebraska. Charlie Weis has yet to deliver at Notre Dame. Al Groh chose to go back to UVA rather than coach the New York Jets and although his record in Charlottesville is admirable, it’s not particularly elite.
In college, you have to schmooze alumni and boosters. You have to raise money for the athletic department. You need to court 18-year (oft-spoiled) superstar children who have never heard a bad word about their games. You have to graduate players. You are the face of a program, much moreso than in the Pro’s.
In the Pro’s, you have greater access to your players but have to deal with egos made larger by huge, sometimes unwarranted, contacts. You have to assist a general manager with navigating a salary cap/luxury tax. The season is longer.
Perhaps it takes failing like Steve Spurrier did with the Redskins for a coach to realize that he is better suited to one game or the other. I think Pitino is better suited for the college game. He’s a master at it.
I would posit that coaching in the Pro’s isn’t inherently more difficult; it’s just a different game. It’s not as if the salaries are markedly different. Phil Jackson, for instance, is a master at the Pro game. I don’t think he would be comfortable in college. But for some reason, we in this society equate the Pro’s with the pinnacle in all aspects. Becoming a Pro may be the ultimate goal for an athlete but it shouldn’t necessarily be the case for a coach.
By and large, I consider myself to be a fortunate sports fan. My teams generally do well. Two Superbowl titles, 2 Stanley Cups, 7 Sweet Sixteens, 1 Elite Eight, 1 Champions League, 1 FA Cup, Curtis Martin, Larry Fitzgerald, many others. And someday the Pirates will get to .500 and all of Pittsburgh will go nuts.
I think a reasonable standard of expectation for a fan is for one’s teams to be in the hunt, in any given year. Nothing more, nothing less. All the crazies who expect a title every single season can stay in Lexington or Tuscaloosa or the Bronx.
In any given year, I expect that the Steelers will win 10+ games and have a shot at the Superbowl. I expect the Penguins to make the NHL playoffs and have a shot at the Stanley Cup. I expect that Pitt basketball will make the Field of 65 and have a shot to make a run to the Final Four. I expect Liverpool FC to contend for the Premiership, Champions League, and/or FA Cup titles. Eventually, I would like to expect that Pitt football will win 8-9 games in most years and once every few years when the pieces fall into place, they should contend for a national title.
But even with what I believe are reasonable expectations, you inevitably get heart-breaking losses. I don’t have to tell you which loss I’m “mourning” today. I would have to say that Pitt’s loss to Villanova ranks second only to Francisco Cabrera’s single for Atlanta vs the Pirates in the 1992 NLCS. Even the Penguins recovered from David Volek. The Pirates have never recovered from that loss.
Pitt basketball is a strong program and they’ll rebound, rebuild and contend again. I know we had a successful season. I’m proud of how they battled and banged with the big boys. We’ll be back. I expect it.