Monday, November 26, 2007

Nil-Nil! Nil-Nil! Nil-Nil!

I will spare you the details, but I find myself with nothing better to do than watch the Monday Night Helmetball fixture between the Miami Football Dolphins and FC Steelers of Pittsburgh. And at the moment of this writing, it is one of the best helmetball games I have ever watched. Why? Because the score is 0-0, of course: deep into the third quarter, both teams appear incapable of scoring so much as a failure goal. The Steelers' kicker just missed a failure-goal attempt in the most pathetic fashion. Given the sheer suckitude of the Football Dolphins, it is entirely possible that this could end in a scoreless tie, in which case it would rise from mere regular-season-match-up-between-one-mediocre-team-and-one-horrible-team to legendary status.

C'mon Nil-Nil! C'mon Nil-Nil!

UPDATE: Did Ben Roethlisberger seriously just point up at Jesus after "leading" his team to a 3-0 win? Trust me, son—if there's one game the Almighty had no part of, it was this one.

And with that, I hearby issue an apology to the faithful reader(s) of Eleven Devils and promise not to mention helmetball for at least one calendar year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The MLS Cup Final in 20,000 Words or Less

Any day that starts with a televised football match at 9 am is a good day, but in past years I have tuned in to Major League Soccer's championship decider with the knowledge that it would probably be a downer. One could call it the Denver Broncos Effect, in honor of those years-gone Super Bowls when the Broncos would barely show up: when a league stakes a whole season on a single game, the vagaries of sport pretty much guarantee that the game will disappoint at least sometimes. I used to make a practice of inviting a non-soccer-nerd pal over to watch the Final ("hey, it's the championship game—it'll be fun!"), but I learned my lesson after last year's 120-minute torture session at the hands of the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution.

With those two teams matched up again yesterday, my expectations are low. I even went out of my way to dis the stolid but successful Revs in an earlier post. I now must issue a formal apology to all concerned, because Don't-Call-It-Soccerbowl '07 turned out to be pretty damn good.

Not fantastic, not a classic, not great, but pretty damn good. Both teams went for the jugular, and New England—thanks to the pacy Khano Smith and the immortal Steve Ralston (did I just type that?)—showed plenty of attacking gusto. But what I really liked was the game's hardboiled, fundamentally American nature. Everyone got stuck in; tackles were flying; Smith gave Craig Weibel a modified Glasgow handshake right in front of the ref. Pat Onstad's blind save on the flying header in injury time was a straight shot of voltage; to fake a Ray Hudson comment, the whole contest had more end-to-end action than a San Fernando Valley feature film.

It's also interesting, ain't it, that for all the talk over the years about how MLS needed more Latin flair or European know-how, the two teams that came out on top this season are just about pure Norte Americano products—a bunch of guys from Canada, the Caribbean and Los Estados Unidos who work hard, tackle with venom and, yes, can pull off the odd moment of magic.

The Shuttlecoque Has Landed

The gentlemen of the Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour, Portland's finest (only? I wouldn't know) sports-talk radio show, kindly invited me on the air last night. The resulting hilarity—we discuss a lot of helmetball, but also talk a (very) little MLS Cup and there's an exciting moment when they ask me to make up my own football code—can be heard via SuperWeb here:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Major League Skinflint

The MLS Cup Final—always a highlight of the global soccer calendar—is tomorrow, and so league commissar Don Garber is making the media rounds. In this interview with Jack Bell of the New York Times, Garber addresses a bunch of different issues. He is at his most charmingly ruthless on the subject of player salaries; while a handful of MLS players make big money, most are paid more like entry-level corporate drones, and many could almost certainly earn more tending bar somewhere. I consider it a scandal—it's practically immoral to ask grown men to risk their physical health and forestall other career prospects for $24,000 a year. (While, meanwhile, hyping your league as the next big thing in American sports...naturally.)

Given a chance to address this fundamental inequity, Garber has this to say:

"M.L.S. could be profitable today if spent less money on players."

That might be true, but then again if it spent any less on players than it already does, it would find itself on roughly the same level as my own Albina-Going Unicorns, pride of Portland Futsal's Third Division. (We are available, by the way, Commissioner.)

Then, Garbster adds:

"Our current CBA expires at the end of the ‘09 season. You will see us saying less and less about finances."

Well, that's nice. Gotta love transparency.

Monday, November 12, 2007


ITEM: The lads at Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour write to say that their programme can actually be heard on Sunday evenings, not Saturday as advised below.

ITEM: How TOTALLY EXCITING will it be to see the New England Revolution in yet another MLS Cup Final? They always bring what the Brazilians call "jogo bonito," do they not?

ITEM: My smarter and more talented younger brother is "blogging" (is that what the kids call it?) here.

ITEM: What shall we call the new Seattle MLS team? Entitlement FC?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Bog of Blog

Two hundred and fifty posts into its glorious existence, Eleven Devils has lately found itself in the Great Mire of Blogdom, sluggishly mucking through thick brambles of real life and non-football-oriented drudgery and seldom updating its eager public. But that can change! Let's go, XIDEVILS FOOTBALL MISCELLANY!!!:

—Your Humble Correspondent finds himself on the deep DL after a misguided clash over a 50/50 ball in Portland Futsal Division Three action. I took on a hulking member of the Rubber Burning Hotrods, and though the play was clean, I came away feeling like I might need to be hauled out 'hind the old barn and shaaaawt. After a week and a half of limping around, I'm still not good to go. So it was with bittersweet emotions that I watched from the sidelines as the Mighty Mighty Unicorns of Albina-Going Football Club handed out one of the best beat-downs ever to Third Div new boys Chico's Bail Bonds. (I don't know what's up with the stupid team names, but can we knock it off, please? Go pretentiously faux-English or pseudo-Latino or go home with your amateur branding!) Insiders tipped CBB as an early title favorite in the new Winter Season after they beat UrbanHonking Athletic by the maximum seven goals in round one. I'm proud to say that my boys gave them a comprehensive seven-goal hiding of their own to reflect upon. I'm sure the fact that I was not playing is mere coincidence.

—Speaking of branding, Albina-Going FC debuted its deliriously attractive new kit this season. The sky-blue number comes adorned with the club badge, which depicts a stylized unicorn superimposed over Portland's iconic Steel Bridge. Are we nerds? Hell yes. But v., v., v. sexy nerds.

—We direct your attention to a fine new(ish) radio programme called the Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour. Its hosts, a pair of erudite young men, attempt to redress the global psychic imbalance created by all the shite sports-talk radio out there by discussing le Sport with a grain of intelligence. The most recent show cited Eduardo Galeano, which earns it our Stamp of Approval. Portlanders with exceptionally strong radio receivers can listen live at 2100 tonight on 1450 AM, the frequency of KPSU, which broadcasts using equipment left over from the French Resistance. Others can download at Have fun with it.

—Yeah, Seattle to MLS. It becomes official today. You know what? Fuck those guys anyway.

—I was heartbroken to see that Maidenhead United lost in FA Cup First Round action today. I love Maidenhead United.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Ray Hudson Quote of the Week

Regarding a Ronaldhino free-kick goal:

"ESOTERIC! That's all I can say. There is more flair in this team than in a '70s high school reunion."

Of course, no one has the first clue WTF that means, but I insist that we all start using "Esoteric!" as an exclamatory adjective. It can be the new "awesome."

Strangeways Here We Come

This is odd: Lanus, the anonymous-seeming and thoroughly crappy suburban team I watched play (and lose to) Buenos Aires giants River Plate just eight months ago, is now in first place in the Primera Division. Just four rounds remain in the current championship, and it looks like a death-defying (as any experience with Argentinian football tends to be) race between the purple-clad lads and ever-fashionable Boca.