Friday, December 28, 2007

Allez, Eux Autres, Allez!

There are many good reasons to love the Portland band Eux Autres. Their name, and many of their lyrics, are in French (and in the case of the name, colloquial Quebecois French, at that)—certain to annoy rightwingers, Francophobia bandwagonistes, Marco Materazzi and other odious elements. Last Yuletide, they released one of the best Christmas anthems ever, “Another Christmas at Home,” which captures the punch- (and otherwise-) drunken atmosphere of whirlwind holiday visit to the Old Hometown, and features a tavern that sells champagne on draught. Guitarist Nick “Nicolhino” Larimer is both a Liverpool fan and a member of the Albina Going FC Unicorns—does football street cred get any more street, or any more credible?

But for fans of this game we call Beautiful, perhaps the best reason to bandy about Eux Autres’ difficult-to-pronounce name is that the duo almost certainly enjoys the distinction of being America’s smartest soccer band. (The fact that the competition in this category is arguably limited—given that oy-lite ska-pop nerds the Bouncing Souls constitute the rest of the field—should not be held against them.) Football contributes a rich and earthy hue to Eux Autres’ lyrical palette, a source for melancholic allusion and emotional allegory born of the game’s split personality—for fans, both a medium for fantasy and a cause of crushing heartbreak; for players, a means to fabulous wealth and a soul-draining job. (Suffice it to say that the vision of football propounded in Eux Autres songs is more Britannic than Brazilian; their first album included a song called “Partick Nil”. Yes, that’s a reference to Glasgow’s mighty Partick Thistle Football Club, currently doing business in the Scottish First Division…though they have the odd moment of glory to reflect upon.)

Their new album, Cold City, opens with a song called “The Deadball Era”: a weird Surrealist collage of 1970s English football hard yakka and spikes-up 1920s baseball. In its punchy lilt, the song turns phrases like “transfer market,” “cup ties,” and “no domestic fixtures and a doping scandal” into unlikely but catchy pop filigree. The subject seems to be a team (of some sort) drifting from early promise into seasonal disaster. (To the point where, perhaps inspired by Liverpool, Europe is all they’ve got.) The gaffer orders a winter break in Rio to clear the boys’ heads, to no avail—the Spaniards have their number, and the non-stop grind of life at the top reduces them to desperation. (“I’m always coming home, unless I’m leaving home.”) In the end, they must fall back on cold-blooded cynicism—the ultimate fate of every team as it faces the question of survival. “Mercy is for the unfit.” You can almost hear Roy Keane bellow it in the Sunderland dressing room.

In “Collision Theory,” pyramid football provides a handy metaphor for life’s calamities: “We’re never surviving this fall / It’s lower division for all.” Pop music’s job is to articulate and dramatize the most commonplace (e.g., basically mundane) emotions and experiences. In this case, Eux Autres say that we’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there again—even the lordly among us:

What next? A rock opera about the New York Cosmos? A spoken-word interpretation of the Serie A match-fixing scandal? A storming, two-minute-fifty-nine-second rave-up about the White Horse final in the 1923 FA Cup? Perhaps the game’s burgeoning Stateside popularity (and enduring alterna-culture, anti-jock cachet) will put Eux Autres on the leading edge of an indie-calcio subgenre that sweeps Hipster America. Picture the beauty: mustaches grown in irony; Manchester City shirts worn in deadly earnest.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Merengue

Like all good American soccer pinkos, I harbor a knee-jerk dislike for Real Madrid, due to presumed crimes-against-humanity-by-association that took place before I was born. And like all good American soccer pinkos, I love FC Barcelona because they stand for Freedom and World Socialism or something like that, plus those shirts can get you laid. But I gotta say, the Madridistas play some abso-fab football, do they not? This latest iteration of one of world sport's greatest rivalries looks like a minor classic:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Stuffing

Congratulations to UrbanHonking Athletic, who served stuffed Unicorn for a holiday feast last night and claimed the Rivals Cup for the third time in a row.

Meanwhile, what's the over/under on how many goals Inter will score on Liverpool in their Champions League tie?

Thursday, December 20, 2007


We could talk about the stirring win by Arsenal's pre-teen XI in the Carling Cup. Or we could talk about how Liverpool is finally "finding its own level"—somewhere north of Sunderland and south of Manchester City. Or maybe the riveting news out of MLS regarding changes to senior-international designation rules...and they wonder why the league hasn't captured Joe Average's imagination.

But instead, let's talk about a huge match with trophy implications in not one but two competitions! Tonight, at the tranquil hour of 10 pm, the Albina-Going FC "Unicorns" take on UrbanHonking Athletic Club in the seventh round of Portland Futsal's Winter I season. This battle will decide the coveted Rivals Cup, with the winner taking home the Golden Angel of Victory after both sides beat Dudes FC earlier this season. Meanwhile, while my beloved Unicorns have stormed to an unbeaten record so far this season, we haven't quite wrapped up the Third Division Conference Argentina crown. A win, a draw or a narrow loss puts us into the divisional final after New Year's.

How often do you get to do the Double all in one night? No wonder our fans are excited:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Paging Guy Ritchie

Of course, the strange wave of burglaries perpetrated against Liverpool players' trophy homes while they're off playing games is NO LAUGHING MATTER. But isn't there something just a little comic, in that Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels way, about the whole affair? You just know that the Scouser thugs (Everton fans?) who came up with the scheme think of themselves as criminal geniuses of Howard Marks calibre, while the police investigators are doing their best combination of Sherlock Holmes and Keystone Kops. Most recently, Stevie Gerrard's manor got hit while he was taking down O. Marseille. After-action reports yielded this gem for the annals of criminal justice:

"Yesterday an officer stood guard outside while his colleagues carried out forensic examinations which were focused on muddy footprints left by the gang."

'Struth, Jonesie—look! Cor'blimey, it's a clew!

Monday, December 10, 2007

As Blatantly Self-Promotional As a Giorgio Chinaglia Press Conference

Somehow, the Royal We managed to take a break from the incessant blog posting (that's a lie) and non-stop wassailing (that's true) to

1) Appear on last night's edition of the Shuttlecoque Sporting Hour. Listen here: Not sure it's a performance that can be "recommended" in good conscience to neutral parties, but I do describe the strange dream I had yesterday morning in which I was mysteriously transposed with Stephen Gerrard and led Liverpool in a match against Tottenham Hotspur...a match played not at White Hart Lane, but in a vast concrete plaza at the foot of towering London apartment blocks.

2) Write a book review for The San Francisco Chronicle, the official newspaper of Sam Spade.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Old Nostalgics FC

Like many futbolistas Yanquis, the Eleven Devils Editorial Commissar makes regular visits to the invaluable blog Du Nord, a wide-ranging compendium of soccer news updated just about every day by some Irish Viking maniac in Minnesota. Du Nord is a great example of why my fellow "professional" journalists just need to shut the fuck up about blogs: Bruce does something no mainstream media outlet in this country does, and does it really well.

Today's DN post sent me tripping down le Rue de la Memoire in a big way, with three separate items that harked back to the days in the early and mid-'90s when I started following this sport we all call calcio in earnest:

—Carlos Llamosa, longtime defender for the US national team and various MLS clubs, is finally retiring. You may recall what a great, and oh-so-American-soccer, story Carlos was when he broke into the Show: a dude from Colombia, who was working security at the World Trade Center the first time it got bombed, comes out of nowhere (specifically the A-League), becomes a staple of the great early DC United teams, turns Americano and plays in the World Cup. Not to say that these kinds of made-for-Hollywood sagas are impossible now—see a certain Watford defender, who scrubbed his way up from college in Chicago to Non-League to the Premiership and national team—but it does remind me how provisional and seat-of-the-pants the whole MLS enterprise was back in the day.

—Meanwhile, it looks like the Rochester Ragin' Rhinos—the darlings of the American lower divisions a decade ago, the team that was certain to make the jump to MLS as soon as the top flight got its act together—are on the rocks in a major way. The Rhinos talked the good people of Rochester into helping them out with a stadium, and now may gift those same fine citizens with a ballpark of their very own if the club can't get out of debt. One could call it a cautionary tale, if one were of that ilk.

—Finally, DN compiles its usual updates on the American players plying their trade all over Europe these days. Just 10 years ago, any single American player getting a European deal was tantamount to a rain of toads. Now no one even notices—still waiting for The New Yorker to run an update on its Freddy Adu profile of a few years ago, the one that basically said the kid was worthless.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Two Notes From the Road

After spending a solid week in Montana, the Eleven Devils Notebook is just a little empty. Aside from watching Chelsea go nuts in the Champions League—THE WORLD'S PREMIER CLUB COMPETITION, or so we're told—football-related activities were at a minimum. Two little moments, though, livened things up:

—On a walk through my parents' woodsy neighborhood outside Missoula (I believe the experts would call it the "urban/wildlands interface"), I encountered an older gent wearing a Liverpool FC jacket. "Is that a Liverpool coat?" I asked. "Yeah," he said, "it's a great club." You'll never walk alone, indeed.

—On the drive back to Portland, somewhere between scenic St. Regis, Mont. and the Idaho border, I coaxed the Subaru past a semi-truck with a bright-orange cab. Stenciled on the side of the cab was the crest of Deportivo Cali, the great Colombian club. Who was the driver? Does he console himself on endless Interstates with thoughts of Depor's eight national titles? (Okay, I Wikipedia'ed that.) Does he seek out fleabag motels with Fox Soccer Channel? Does he trash-talk America fans over his CB?