Thursday, November 18, 2010

6 Things We Learned from Yesterday's Friendlies

As we wrote yesterday, some international friendlies do matter. I highlighted three matches, and I think I scored better than Portugal did against Spain.

So in that vein, here are six things we learned from yesterday's friendlies:
  1. Let's chill on Portugal's 4-0 curbstomp of Spain. Great win over the world champions, but it was a friendly. five months ago, Portugal had no answer for Spain's possession game, nor for the Spanish defense. If this one meant something and Spain sent a full complement to Lisbon, methinks this might have been a tad tighter. The big winner here was Paulo Bento. The new Portugal manager is the only thing that's new and shiny and different since South Africa. This is a big notch on his belt and lots of brownie points with his players, many of whom are close to his contemporaries.
  2. Boy did Nani screw Cristiano Ronaldo out of a legendary goal. Ronaldo put a litany of moves out of his playbook down the left side of the Spain defense; the last guy to get burned was Gerard Pique (pick up your jock at lost and found Senor Pique). Ronaldo made himself some space and lifted a gorgeous ball over Pique and Casillas into a wide open goal. Nani, who was in an offside position but not active on the play, dashed in and headed the ball. Some claim the ball was in already--maybe it was. But either way, Nani's action was enough to prompt the referee blow the whistle and nullify the goal. Too bad. Ronaldo was pissed. Nani apologized. End of the day, no biggie.  That said, the cuffs are off Ronaldo with the national team and it's crazy how fluid the Portugal offense is. And Nani is a giant in the making; he deserved a goal on his first shot of the game.
  3. As for Spain, again, chill. They're still the best. They'll be in the 2012 Euro final. 
  4. England loses 2-1 to France, horrors. But the worse horror is the fact that Steven Gerrard was still in a meaningless game more than 80 minutes in, and naturally, he gets hurt and Liverpool is without their best player for at least four weeks. This kind of irresponsibility is what gives friendlies a bad name. People are already sour on the international game, and when Fabio Capello allows his ego to supercede the availability and health of his best players--who are paid by clubs--these are more black marks. Liverpool is pissed, and they should be. This is a meaningless game and managers must be responsible enough to give the biggest stars a token run and turn the stage over to emerging players. What better way to evaluate them? Huh Fabio? Fabio? Any time now?
  5. Speaking of emerging players, how about the U.S.'s Juan Agudelo? The look on the kid's face--he's 17--was worth a million bucks after he scored to beat South Africa yesterday, 1-0, in RSA. He made a pretty mature run to score; he followed the play, picked his spot to pounce on a loose ball in the box before he buried high into the goal. Emotional, fantastic and just what these friendlies are supposed to be about. Play young players, see how they deal with the environment and whether they can do something positive. A-pluses all around for Agudelo and coach Bob Bradley. 
  6. In case you've forgotten, Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. Now Argentina's tiny wonder played the whole way against Brazil, totally shattering my thoughts above in the Gerrard section but what the hell. His goal to beat Brazil in injury time just reinforces his brilliance and stature as the game's best player. He's got the best first step in sports--yes better than NBA guys--and the best balance. He slaloms between players, always stays on his feet--unless he's ravaged by an opponent--and usually scores when he creates his own space. His goal yesterday was genius because he doesn't have to hit a bomb of a shot with tons of effect on it to be great. He runs to space that isn't there, finds his own space and within a fraction of a second, unleashes whatever kind of shot necessary to score. Yesterday's grass-hugging roller was agonizingly slow, but equally unstoppable. He's the best. Enough said. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Starting Eleven: Portugal v Spain friendly

J. Pereira, 
R. Carvalho, 
B. Alves, 
R. Meireles, 
J. Moutinho, 
C. Martins; 
C. Ronaldo, 


Starting Eleven Friendlies: Why Some Matter

Brazil Just Rocks
International friendlies are kinda like cholesterol; they just clog up the arteries of the football season.

Most of these guys play long enough seasons that they don't need another mid-week call-up for a friendly with Slovakia. No offense to the Slovaks, but I'm all set with that. I don't want my stud defender catching a stud on the kneecap and be injured for six months.

Compounding the nonsense that is the International Friendly, particularly in 2010, is that it's a World Cup year. National teamers play full bore for their club teams, most of the good ones play in earnest through May until league titles, domestic cups and the Champions League are decided. This year, those guys transitioned right to the World Cup, which was in South Africa in case you don't remember. That's not exactly around the corner, and for added measure this year, it was cold down there.

Now most are back in full swing for their domestic campaigns and Euro 2012 qualifying, and lo and behold, here's another round of International Friendlies. Gotcha.

Most of these games suck--there, I said it. China-Lativa? Really? We need that Latvian tour of Asia in mid-November? Slovakia-Bosnia (eesh, not even going near that political undertones there). Poland-Ivory Coast? Someone's got a real f-ing sense of humor there.

Here's rundown of some that matter:

It's not all bleak today, however. Portugal hosts Spain today at 4 p.m. ET, the best game of the day in the last time slot. Hopefully it's a good one. Remember, Spain knocked off Portugal 1-0 in the second round of the World Cup on its way to the championship. Portugal gave Spain a decent effort, but as usual when it counts, came up just short (hmm, methinks I used to say that about Spain back in the day!).

Some interesting storylines here though: Paolo Bento gets his first crack at a "tasty" friendly and it's a chance for him to score more points with his players and the home folk. He's called up an interesting roster and it will be interesting to see what the Portugal Starting Eleven will be against Spain. Will Nani continue his fine form? Will Ronaldo step up his national team play against many of his Real Madrid mates? Which Eduardo will we get? World Cup Eduardo? Or that other guy who F-d up the first two games of Euro qualifying and got Queiroz fired?

As for Spain, they're fine. Trust me. 

England will start Andy Carroll up front and Fabio Capello has another opportunity to prove his genius in games that don't matter. Is there any bigger disillusionment that Capello? This man turned England on its ear prior to South Africa; the team was just killing everyone in its path, scoring at will; he could do no wrong. And then they got to South Africa and the goals dried up, the imagination withered and Wayne Rooney was a shell of himself. No measure of redemption will save either until 2014.

France, meanwhile, is just the scourge of football in my opinion and not enough bad things can happen to that national team on the pitch. They can't lose by enough goals. They can't have enough mutinies to satisfy me. Thierry Henry cheated France into the World Cup and the sweetest justice was the manner in which they exited.

Here's hoping England jumps ugly on them.

This one matters just because. It's the two best teams in the world with the most dynamic players and the most inspirational fans. And no Maradona. A win all around. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sporting KC: MLS Latest Step Backward

The tagline here is tremendous
In the latest edition of why MLS is weak, I present to you Sporting KC.

Gotcha. Bet you thought I was going to rant about the snooze-fest that was the MLS playoffs or the ultimate MLS Cup (can you call it a "Final" without owing some commission to Don Garber?) between Colorado and FC Dallas.

Actually, it's Dallas that kinda reinforced my original premise to write today's post against the latest bastardization of soccer in the United States of America. I swear to God, shot clocks are right around the corner
Seriously though, word is that the Kansas City Wizards, one of the original MLS franchises, is seriously considering going with the Sporting KC moniker. I'm flattered since Sporting is my club, but really? Sporting KC. What's the affinity again between Portugal and Kansas City? And what's the affinity between Sporting and anyone outside of Lisbon or Ports who have emigrated from the old country. I dare any of you who happen to be in KC reading this to find Portugal on the map first shot. Go ahead, I'll give you a sec.

Thanksfully, the Wizards faithful are rebelling. It's their team, their name, their logo and they're not giving it up without a fight. Good for them. One thing MLS got right in the early days was creating an identity for its teams that was American. D.C. United aside, the Revolution, Galaxy, Wizards, MetroStars were at least original brands for brand new teams. The league started fresh, got a bit of attention and built its own identity.

Now almost 15 years into MLS and what do we have here? Move over DC United, make room for FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC. Talk about lame. Lame-o. Go ahead John Henry; Liverpool's already the Reds, right? Go all the way and make it the Liverpool Red Sox. Why not? American teams are stealing European football team names, why not vice versa.

Who cares that we call it soccer here and the rest of the world calls it, you know, by its rightful name of football? Who cares that the F in FC Dallas stands for, you know, football!! Didya know that partner? Yee-haw, that's right Football Club Dallas, that's what that stands for (Jeez, how many lightbulbs are going off in Big D right now?)

And yo, Utah! You guys who apparently won MLS last year (that's what I heard). You guys, the champs, out of the Eastern Conference, yeah you. Guess what Real means? As in Real Salt Lake? Yeah, it's royal in Spanish, kinda like the royalty of Spanish football Real Madrid, where that Portuguese guy Cristiano Ronaldo plays.

Ronaldo, you see is the linchpin here, kinda like Kevin Bacon. It all revolves around him, and everyone is three degrees of separation from Cristiano for today. Because, now, everyone in KC perk up now. Ronaldo started his career with--wait for it, wait for it--Sporting!!!!

Yes, so now when Ronaldo is 38 and too old to be chasing beards, er, ridiculously hot models, he can play out his final footballing days with Sporting KC! Yes, it all comes full circle. I love that!

The point here is that MLS is lame. Every time it takes a step forward, it stumbles like a drunken Housewife of Beverly Hills backwards 20 steps. Americans don't relate to European football, hell, Americans don't even like Europe all that much. Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas; ugh ugh ugh.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Time to grow up MLS. If you want to be like one of the big boys, act like them, don't put on one of their jerseys or take one of their names and pretend to be one.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Starting Eleven: Greatest Football Players of My Lifetime

Heather Mitts - Not on my list
I don't like Greatest of All Time lists. How can today's so-called baseball experts, for example, say Babe Ruth was the greatest player/hitter of all time when none of them are old enough to have seen him play in person? Or even on television? There's no validity in those lists, especially when they're based just on stats. I mean, c'mon, there are subtle differences and preferences in players that separate the men from the boys. Without seeing them play in person, how can you sincerely judge.

Therefore, I generally ignore, or at least, don't put much credence in those lists.

What I do like are people who reasonable enough to concede the point and couch their lists to players they've observed in their lifetimes. So what follows is a list of the greatest footballers of my lifetime; I'm 42, and really didn't start observing football closely until my early teens, which gives you a frame of reference of 30 years more or less, 1980 to today.

It's my list--in no particular order. Have at it.

  1. Diego Maradona
  2. Raul Gonzales
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo
  4. Xavi Hernandez
  5. Zinedane Zidane
  6. Ian Rush
  7. Luis Figo
  8. Marco VanBaasten
  9. Peter Schmeichel
  10. Paolo Maldini
  11. Rui Jordao

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mailbag Meandering on MLS, Media Coverage, and the Champions League

Mailbag Time
I don't get a ton of comments to my blog--step up people! But nonetheless, when I do, they deserve a reply to keep the faithful engaged.So here's another installment of the Starting Eleven Football Blog Mailbag. Remember, you too can get some props in the next Mailbag, just send in your comment.

Thierry Henry came to MLS in July and I wasn't all too thrilled. My point is that MLS is going to become a dumping ground for the world's aging football superstars. Thanks, but no thanks. If you want MLS to be legit, sign me a Messi. Until then, go away, kthxbye.
David wrote: would agree with you if this was the MLS five years ago.With the introduction of Seattle, Philly, Portland, Vancouver and then Montreal, I think you are seeing a genuine shift. In the next five years, you will see a few Henry-types in their prime come in because the appeal of living in the US for Europeans is a big draw (just go to the Southwest during the European winter). Things are changing in MLS... just go catch a Sounder's match in Seattle or Philly. Soccer isn't the world's game for no reason.

Reply: Ah Dear Naive David, you're right, there's nothing better in Europe than Phoenix in the summer--at least it's a dry heat. Seriously, the U.S. needs to grow their own players and seed MLS with them if it's truly going to be a world power. Do we need any more proof than this year's World Cup? Who's going to be the next Donovan or Dempsey? It ain't gonna be Altidore!

After Sporting Lisbon played Celtic at Fenway Park, I posted about the poor coverage of the game by the local press. It was rife with cliches and crutches about low-scoring games and locals longing for the motherland. Yawn. I'm proud of my rant, and happy my adoring public was with me.
Anonymous wrote: agree 100 percent.
Ajay wrote: Not sure about coverage about football in the US. From what I have seen on ATH and PTI on ESPN, it seems that the view is that football and FIFA need USA. My view is that it doesn't as football has been football for as long it has been and USA is realising that it needs to be part of football. Am grateful for the coverage of football on ESPN International here and hope that in the future it will match what is provided elsewhere.

Reply: The best thing ESPN has done for football is broadcast games in HD. End of story. American announcers are unprepared and incompetent on most fronts. They're "relegated" to doing soccer and feel it's a demotion for sure. Until this changes, perceptions of the game by casual viewers won't change. Gimme Andy Gray, any day. BTW, I like this Anonymous guy, weird name, but he gets where I'm comin' from.

I'm not all about cliches when I blog. I try to be insightful; analyze and comment. I go out on that ledge. Like in this post where I write that, yeah I said it, the Europa League has it all over the Champions League when it comes to competitive football. Yeah, that's right. Bring it on.

Fucte wrote: agree mate. the europa league is more competative and tougher with more than 10 teams have a realistic chance of winning it. while in the champs league, where the gap between the big and smaller club is so huge... only 4 or 5 club have a really good chance to win it. KTBFFH 
Andy D wrote: I'm not sure I agree. For mind, the Champions League is a lot better.

Reply: Fucte, I'll excuse the typos and poor capitalization mate because you're so right. 10 teams can win the UEFA Cup (not sure I'm all-in with the Europa League thing yet), while the same snooze-fest list of Man U. Chelsea, Real Madrid etc., are the only ones in contention for the title. Besides, the UEFA Cup is a better trophy. And as for you Andy, thanks for the letter and the deep thought.

Recently, I continued my assault on the Champions League, suggesting they need to go all NCAA Tournament, Big Dance, Sweet 16 with the thing and fix it up pronto. Rank the teams 1-32, make it all knockouts, get rid of the group stage and you'll have a much more fun tournament.

Dave wrote: pretty good effort got to be said - the group stage definately needs improving - although whether platini would be open to his babay being altered remains to be seen- although chelsea losing to valencia - not sure about that one! I have a new blog on the English premeirship - would be great to get some views - - thanks.
Andy7 wrote: Jose Mourinho would like the look of it. If he can help Real win it again, he truly is a genius.

Reply: What is it with you guys and spelling mistakes; Blogger has a spellcheck. Whatever. Thanks again Dave for contributing, and you're right about Platini not giving up the current cash cow. And as for Chelsea losing to Valencia; they gag annually in the Champions League, don't they? Why not to a Spanish club that's not from Madrid or Barcelona? Nice job sneaking in the cheap plug for views too. You're lucky I'm in a generous mood. Andy7, yessir, my man love for Jose Mourinho is no secret. He's the best, I want him coaching my team and my kids and Real Madrid will win and he truly is a genius. Check back with me in May. True dat!

And finally, the best for last. This week I opined about Liverpool's 2-0 win over Chelsea. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, I suggested the Reds were back and ready to make a run at the top 4 of England again. Champions League here we come baby. Of course, some of you are such sticks in the mud you don't get it. I have to find that button that turns regular posts into the sarcasm font! Oh BTW, thanks for pointing out when I screw up--imagine, I had the audacity to say Liverpool had not lost since John Henry's takeover.

Anonymous wrote: Liverpool lost to Everton in their first game after the takeover. Yes, it was only a day and a half later, but still makes your statement false.
Starting11 wrote: Well thanks for pointing that out Mr. Stickler for Accuracy. (I showed him!)
Jonny wrote: The league is very tight. It is amazing to think that Liverpool are now equal with Spurs, who we are led to believe have had an amazing start to the season.

Reply: Jonny, of the three of us, you're the only one with any sense. You realize it's a marathon, not a sprint, and that no one remembers who leads the Premiership before Christmas. And Anonymous, just when I thought good things about you, you pull this. Thanks bud.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Football Derbies, or Football Classicos: You Choose

Go Barca
I'm torn: Do I like Classicos or Derbies more?

I've been tossing this one around for a couple of days since Porto's 5-0 thrashing of Benfica. In Portugal, that game is known as the Classico, while Benfica-Sporting is the Derby. To me there's a subtle difference, to others, maybe not so much.

I think by the strict definition, derbies are between local clubs, i.e., same city or region such as Benfica-Sporting, Celtic-Rangers, Lazio-Roma, Inter-Milan, Liverpool-Everton. Meanwhile, Classicos are huge rival games regardless of geography, such as Benfica-Porto, Manchester United-Liverpool, Real Madrid-Barcelona.

Those are my definitions and my parameters. A lot of people interchange the two, but for the sake of football fandom, I think we should differentiate. I'm all for a good derby (daar-bee?). There's nothing with a little intra-city pride and bragging rights. Generations of fathers, grandfathers and drunken uncles haggle over which club is better and why. It's all about our side of the street versus their side of the street. There's no right answer, of course until the final whistle blows. And God forbid there's a tie, because then both sides of the street certain to take it out on the referees.

Classicos, unlike derbies, are almost certain to give you a cracker of a match. You can't tell when Lazio, or Sporting, or Atletico will be in a down year, while you're always certain that Real Madrid, Barcelona and United will be in close to top form. Is there a better match than Real Madrid-Barcelona? Let me interject a "Hell No". Yet there's nothing binding those two teams aside from a warehouse full of European Cups and billions of Euros worth of footballers. Culturally, these are two diverse cities and peoples, with different agendas and political points of view. On the field, it's brilliance--classic brilliance--and there's almost a direct impact on the ultimate champion in Spain.

I'm not demeaning the derby; but I think someone has to stand up and make the distinction. Derbies are great, but they're insular. If you're not from Madrid, do you care about Real-Atletico? Probably not. But if you're in Taipei or Toledo, chances are you can find some kind of audience for Real Madrid Barcelona.

Do you make the distinction? Maybe you should.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Starting Eleven European, World Soccer Blog Random Thoughts:

Temryss Lane
Regular readers know--and love--the semi-regular Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup. That's a collection of bits and pieces collected from football blogs around the world. Today I'm introducing a new feature called Random Thoughts. It's a collection of bits and pieces of football thoughts collected from my cavernous brain. Basically, it's a crutch I'll lean on when I have nothing else to write about. Enjoy.

  • Wait! What? Didier Drogba has malaria? Seriously? Is this stuff contagious? I guess not since you catch if from mosquitoes. May I suggest one of those propane-powered mosquito killers? Or a net? Or some Off? Sheesh.
  • Liverpool beats Chelsea, wins four in a row, I write a post somewhat sarcastically suggesting that Liverpool might just be on its way back, considering a cupcake schedule coming up. And what do I get? Grief. 
  • And yeah, I screwed up: Liverpool is NOT undefeated since the Red Sox took ownership of the club and Anfield. They lost the Mercyside Derby a couple of days after the acquisition was announced. Mea Culpa. Grief, part 2. Jackasses.
  • Speaking of Liverpool, I put forward that Sporting Lisbon is the Liverpool of Portugal--minus of course all those European Cups. Only Sporting can puke all over its own shoes when it has a chance to take possession of second place after starting the season near the relegation zone. Only Sporting can piss away a 2-0 lead in such game and lose 3-2. Only Sporting is this maddening. Oh yeah, don't forget to stomp all over Lille again in your next Europa League game.
  • Keeping it in Portugal, I'm taking great simultaneous joy and restraint in Porto's unbelievable 5-0 win over Benfica in the Portuguese classico last weekend. So typical of Portuguese football; Benfica, so brilliant a year ago, couldn't wait to sell off its best players and now they're a shell of their 2009 championship team. Sad really, sad.
  • Derbies or Classicos: Aside from Sporting-Benfica, I'll take the classicos every time. No need to go further than Real Madrid-Barcelona.
  • Anyone notice that Real Madrid has yet to lose in LaLiga, has a goal differential of 22 and is running away with a difficult Champions League group. Tell me again how Jose Mourinho isn't the best manager in the world? 
  • Speaking of Derbies, I'll take City this weekend. Just sayin...
  • Who's in the MLS playoffs again? LA, Dallas, Colorado and San Jose? Who again is in the Eastern Conference? 
  • Gotta love ESPN's overly dramatic Outside the Lines piece yesterday on the U.S. Women's team's do-or-die game last night against Costa Rica.A U.S. loss would have eliminated them from World Cup qualification. The U.S. wins 3-0 and heads to a two-game playoff against Italy where chances are it will stomp all over Italy and waltz into the World Cup. Someone wake Brandi Chastain.
  • David Beckham might be hosting Saturday Night Live soon? Yay. Maybe Posh will float on her big inflated boobs over the audience like the Goodyear blimp providing aerial views.
  • Anyone subscribe to the World Football Daily podcast? I miss the free one. Haven't heard it since they went to the pay model. Would love some feedback whether you think it's worth it.
  • Anyone notice that Fox Soccer Channel nuked their Monday night talk show? Probably not since no one watched it to begin with. Trust me, I sat through one episode and it was embarrassing. The host doesn't know football from throwball and the conversation was inane. Aside from the lovely Temryss Lane, the thing was unwatchable. Bring back Steven Cohen and anyone else--besides Wynalda.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Liverpool Climbs From Relegation Depths, Beats Chelsea

Liverpool Lady
Relegation? Hogwash! Look who's back baby, it's Liverpool.

Undefeated in five matches, including wins in their last four, the Reds have pulled themselves from the relegation zone to the middle of the table with two patsies for fixtures in the next two weeks. Can we start talking about Liverpool launching itself back into the top four and next year's Champions League?

Sure beating Bolton, Blackburn and Napoli are nice, but when you peg a brace of goals on league leaders and Europe's best bunch Chelsea 2-0, then it's time to stand and take notice. Call the Kops; Liverpool is back.

Must be the Fenway Faithful urging Liverpool to the heights of the Premiership. Liverpool hasn't lost since John Henry's Red Sox ownership group took hold of the staff to guide the Anfield Army. Fear not when you see a 37-foot wall being erected at Anfield--it's part of the mystique. Plus the seats atop the wall will provide a killer view of a match. And the advertising revenue from all that space will buy players without creating more debt. Just call it American ingenuity.

In the meantime, how about a pat on the back for Liverpool's Spanish studs, Pepe Reina in goal and Fernando Torres scoring goals. Reina was absolutely larcenous against Chelsea, which did not have Didier Drogba in its Starting Eleven. Apparently, Drogba had a fever. A couple of baby aspirin at halftime enabled Drogba to play some in the second half, but by then, two brilliant Torres goals and a handful of world-class keeping by Reina put this one away.

Next up is Wigan and Stoke, currently 18th and 17th in the Premier League table. The giants, meanwhile, will continue to knock each other off. This weekend, we've got the Manchester derby and Chelsea taking on Clint Dempsey's Fulham team. Surely Liverpool will gain more ground, especially as Chelsea next faces upstart Sunderland and United heads to Villa. I smell six more points and a few more baby steps toward the top of the table.

The Red Sox and Liverpool--the stuff memories, and championships, are made of.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tweeting Trash Talk Has No Place in Sports; Keep It on the Field

Brandi Garnett
Trash talking is really an art form. Some guys are really good at it, and will harass an opponent to the point where the player is so distracted that he's ineffective on the field. Mission accomplished for the trash talker.

Right now, Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics is in hot water because he's being accused by Charlie Villanueva of the Detroit Pistons of calling him a cancer patient. Villanueva suffers from a non life threatening disease that causes all of his hair to fall out. Villaneuva made his claim over Twitter. Garnett, who does not Tweet, denies the allegation. He said he told Villanueva that the former UConn player was cancerous to his team.

Big difference. Both are insensitive, and only Garnett knows the truth. He's a notorious talker, as are most athletes, I'd guess. It's fun. It's also a strategic tactic for some to get under the skin of a vulnerable player and force him into mistakes or just plain distraction.

This got me thinking about whether it happens in soccer, and I'm sure it does. The most infamous incident is the Zidane headbutt to the chest of Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final.Materazzi, Zidane said, used a term that essentially labeled Zidane's sister a whore. Zidane lost his cool and France lost the final in penalty kicks. Trash talk.

Say this for the Zidane incident, at least it was resolved on the field. At least the French superstar didn't run to his computer to tattle tale to the world what Materazzi had said. Thankfully, most trash talk stays between the white lines. It's doubtful most athletes really think your sister is a whore, or that you're gay, or do unnatural things with and to your mother. It's part of the game, words said in heated instances, most times to a premeditated and tactical advantage. Shame on those who aren't smart enough to get that and react accordingly.

But in this age of social networking where we're all compelled to Tweet or update our Facebook status that we're at Starbucks having that much-need latte, every piece of minutiae about your life is fair game for the world to see apparently. Social networking is the new status symbol. If it's on Facebook, it must be true. You've got 1,000 Twitter followers, well then hell, you must be somebody important.

It's pretty sad, however, when you take a step back and watch adults take to cyberspace to pout about contracts or something that another athlete said to them on the field of play. At least Zidane had the balls to headbutt Materazzi in the moment and dare him to say it again. I'd have more respect for Villanueva if he popped Garnett in the mouth, took his 10-game suspension like a man and moved on with his life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How to Fix the Champions League,
NCAA Tournament style

Go Team Go
After today, we'll be four games into the Champions League for all 32 teams. And honestly, the group stage has been such a snooze so far, I actually had to look hard at the tables this morning to figure out who was on top, who was in trouble and, well, who was actually in the tournament.

You see, the group stage sucks. I'm not talking out of school here. No huge revelation either. No one likes the group stage. All of us yearn for the days of yore when the whole tournament was a knockout affair, instead of this whore-fest of Buraspor, Zilina and Cluj clogging the arteries of my Champions League experience.

It's clear to me--and I've said this before too--that UEFA has to go all NCAA Tournament on this thing to breathe some life back into it. So that said, current tables be damned, I'm going to rank them teams 1-32, match them up NCAA Tournament style, and pick a winner. Chime in with your thoughts via comments. Thanks.

  1. Chelsea
  2. Real Madrid
  3. Barcelona
  4. Inter Milan
  5. Manchester United
  6. Arsenal
  7. Lyon
  8. AC Milan
  9. Valencia
  10. Bayern
  11. Ajax
  12. Shaktar
  13. Rangers
  14. Schalke
  15. Tottenham
  16. Auxerre
  17. Benfica
  18. Roma
  19. Werder Bremen
  20. Marseille
  21. Spartak Moscow
  22. Braga
  23. Twente
  24. Partizan Belgrade
  25. Panathinaikos
  26. Cluj
  27. Basel
  28. Copenhagen
  29. Rubin Kazan
  30. Hapoel
  31. Buraspor
  32. Zilina
First round

Real Madrid-Buraspor
Inter-Rubin Kazan

Second round

Real Madrid-Roma
Manchester United-Spartak Moscow


Real Madrid-Bayern
Rangers-Manchester United


Valencia-Manchester United
Real Madrid-Barcelona


Valencia-Real Madrid

Champion --Real Madrid