Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Golden Memories

If it seems like a sort of strange time for an exhaustive retrospective defense of the 1994 World Cup, well, it is. And yet behold.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Advances in Self-Promotional Science

In further gripping news, Eleven Devils now has a sibling blog, wherein deep thoughts on non-football-related matters will bandy themselves about. Any linkage, commentary, etc. greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe Public

We heard a lot about Joe the Plumber in tonight's presidential debate. I was very disappointed that we didn't hear more about the views and concerns of Chastity the Exotic Dancer, Sierra the Graphic Designer and Trev, the Construction Worker Who Sells A Little Weed on the Side. Soccer fans will no doubt agree that America also needs to consider the relative positions of:

Landon, the Neurotic Striker
Jens, the Psychotic and Unpleasant Goalkeeper
Freddie, the Ghanian-Born Man-Child
Frankie, the Guy Who Dances Like a Fuckface Every Time He Scores
Thierry, the Washed-Up Supermodel
Ronny, the Brazilian Who Resembles a Horse, If You Want to be Unkind
Oguchi, the Guy Who Will Fuck You Up
Sepp, the Creepy Overlord
Bruce, the Loud-Mouthed and Strangely Underachieving Manager

Seven Into Two

It seems that Major League Soccer—perhaps taking a cue from the McCain campaign and its strange obsession with beauty queens—will pit seven markets against each other for its next two expansion slots. Will there be a talent portion to the competition? From a strictly parochial perspective, the news comes in twos:

1) Portland, in the form of the Portland Timbers, Merritt Paulson and his father, the powerful Commissar of the People's Industries and the New Central Economic Policy, is on the list, and;

2) Portland would seem not to have a chance in Hades, at least this time around. We've got Steve Nash pressing us from one side, FC Barcelona from the other, with St. Louis' long-delayed bid hammering us right down the middle. Meanwhile, any effort to secure public financing to upgrade PGE Park to MLS standards will face a tough battle, especially if Merritt's dad doesn't succeed in staving off the Second Great Depression. I would say that Barca's heft and MLS' yen for Canada (not to mention the fact that the Canadian economy is not nearly so fucked as ours) will deliver a Vancouver/Miami couplet. Saint Louis and Portland will be told, on the sly, that they're next.

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

Self-promotional tidbits from the dark interior world of Eleven Devils:

The Editorial We recently wrapped up work on a series of short video documentaries, undertaken with the good people at Good. Theme: "weird sports." You can few the first four outta six clips in hi-rez grandeur here, but for your convenience, let's embed!

GOOD: Adult Soap Box Derby -

GOOD: Aussie Rules Football -

GOOD: Urban Golf -

GOOD: Dodgeball -

Yes, that is my nasal voice narrating. Thanks.

Through the excellent efforts of my ex-Albina Going Football Club teammate Nicholhino, there is also now a respectable I love you, 21st Century.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"What's the Difference Between Spurs and a Triangle?"

I have a love/hate relationship with Tottenham Hotspur. Naturally, as a fan of another Premier League team, I'm hono(u)r-bound to loathe them and wish for their eventual relegation to the Arthurian League. (Which is the coolest league, by the way—what do you make of a circuit that includes a club called "Old Haberdashers"?) In the psychotic teleology of the football fan, the desired end state of civilization is one in which the top league consists of one team: yours. However, Spurs exude a certain sympathetic aura of pre-2004-Boston-Red-Sox-esque permanent near-miss haplessness. Plus, I know a grand total of one Spurs fan personally, and he's a great guy. At some point, he will have suffered enough. Right?

Still, there is a sick grandeur to what Spurs are doing this season. Two points from 21. The very sight causes a kind of pleasurable marathoner's masochism—like, it doesn't feel good, exactly, but you're also fascinated in just how bad it could get. As we all ponder the possibility of a "major" club plying its trade in the Championship next season, get over and read this fantastic summation of Spurs' malign accomplishment over at Run of Play. As Andrew Sullivan would say, the money quote:

"Chelsea have made it to the top by spending millions of pounds on talented players and skilled managers. Tottenham have made it to the bottom by doing exactly the same thing, which is, in many ways, the more astounding feat."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jeff Agoos v. Karl Marx

The Goose, noted political scientist, examines the dialectics of Major League Soccer.

UPDATE: You know, for some reason I've been thinking about Jeff's analysis. (I know, I'm a sad man with nothing going on.) I have heard MLS's "single-entity" structure described as "socialist" before. The thing is, socialism—while it obviously comes in many different flavors and enjoys a, uh, mixed track record in practice—really involves some form of worker ownership and control of an economy or given asset. Or, in its blander social-democratic variants, at least management of the economy for the benefit of a broad spectrum of workers. In other words, MLS isn't socialist at all: it's a cartel of owners who have agreed to share certain risks and rewards and, very specifically, manage their shared product in a way that minimizes the workers' share in the proceeds. I recall when I interviewed MLS deputy commish Ivan Gazidis a few years back, he noted that many European leagues actually looked to MLS for inspiration—at least as far as "getting salary costs under control" was concerned. In that vein, I wonder how many of the MLS developmental players who make less than $20,000 a year think they work in a "socialist" system?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

When I NAFF, I NAFF for the Timbers

A promising new series at A More Splendid Life.

Debtors Prison

Here's an interesting idea from UEFA: ban debt-saddled clubs from the Champions League. Do they really have the guts to do it? Not bloody likely, as a pathetic Anglophile (who? me?) might say. While the CL might be more interesting without Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, it would also suffer a catastrophic loss of popularity in the more casual parts* of the global football market. Fact is, fans in North America and Asia just aren't going to rally to a European final that pits Bayern Munich against Lyon, at least not the way they rally when ManchVegas and Chelski star. Second fact is, from what I understand about football business practices in general, I believe competitions might get rather sparse if you suddenly kicked out every club with less-than-transparent finances.

Still, Platini and Co. are certainly on the right track. The issue highlights one of many fascinating sidelights in Goldblatt's mammoth history, The Ball is Round: the enduring conflict between UEFA, which is grounded in a very 21st Century, Eurodelic culture of rationality, transparency and reform, and the rest of world football governance, which is grounded in feral capitalism, corruption and self-dealing. Which side do you think will win?

*Channelling David "The Sage of Applebee's" Brooks

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How About a Spending Freeze?

Looks like the English FA is channelling the juggernaut political idea factory inside John McCain's mind, and has angered the Barclaycard Premierhood with talk of a salary cap. A salary cap would, of course, set the Premiership on the road towards competitiveness, and thus ruin for the over-extended Big Four: they all need to make the Champions League group stages every year and tap those unfairly allocated television revenues, less the whole Ponzi scheme collapse. (And listen, Arsenal can't beat Hull City as it is—what would happen if they had to mind the balance sheet?)

Global financial worries aside, I think it would make more (or at least as much) sense to: A) cap squad sizes; and B) cap the amount a club can spend in a given transfer window. Liverpool has something like 50 guys listed on its current first-squad roster, which is absurd. Why not limit clubs to, say, 25 players plus however many senior players they can bring up through their own developmental teams? Under that formula, if a club really wanted 60 players, they would have to home-grow most of them rather than stockpiling transfer-market players who they'll never use: no more buying Swiss internationals for the occasional League Cup match. Meanwhile, if clubs faced a limit of, say, 25 million pounds total in a single window, it would force the big boys to pick and choose and curb inflation of transfer prices overall.

Now, anything else?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Great Moments in Sport

I see that Russia defeated Solomon Islands 31 : 2 in the Futsal World Cup. I'm not one to advocate going easy on anyone in a world-championship competition, but, y'know, c'mon.

Friendly Fascism

How can we claim to run a free society when, due to the oppressive practices of free Internet video sites, the only highlight reel of Liverpool's dramatic 2:3 win at ManchVegas City that I can find is a fuzzy clip...set to Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca"?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sleaze Update

Preston Burpo, former member of the hated Seattle Sounders and bete noire of the Timbers Army, has not improved in the wake of his move to MLS.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

American Football Explains Nothing About Modern War Except How to Lose It

S. Wells unloads on a terrifying-sounding book.


I have a futsal match tonight, and that often makes me think of this play. It pretty much sums up what I'm capable of at my best: