Category Archives: Sports

In classic “fish or cut bait” scenario, “cut bait” wins

Let’s take a break (or at least a dislocation) from discussing the horrors of American football and make note of a positive development in world futbol: Fox made the right call and gave up the Gus Johnson experiment. As noted in these pages, Gus never really got the hang of soccer, and wasn’t improving at an encouraging pace. Better for Fox to make the change now than to stubbornly stick to its guns and screw up the 2018 World Cup more than FIFA already will.

The moral imperative to stop watching pro football

Forget, for the moment, about concussions, slurs against Native Americans, corporate greed, non-guaranteed contracts, and all the other ways the NFL has tried to make itself persona non grata among right-thinking people. Here’s one more reason – reason enough on its own to justify quitting watching football cold turkey:

It’s been well-established that NFL leadership doesn’t give a shit about women, but with newly-released footage of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in the face prior to being gently wrist-slapped with a two-game suspension, one has to wonder: do NFL fans give a shit about women?

To be clear, this is footage that the NFL either saw, or lied about seeing, prior to announcing Ray Rice’s joke of a punishment. This is repugnant, outrageous behavior, and it’s no longer enough for fans to merely express their disgust. We need to make our disgust felt through actions, starting with finding another way to spend our Sundays.

Supporting NFL football is insane/immoral

This is a great interview and I highly encourage you to read it:

At 8:30 pm E.S.T., the NFL jumpstarts its ninety-fifth season with a donnybrook between the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and America’s sweetheart hunk of cheddar, the Green Bay Packers. More than 20 million viewers will tune in tonight, and more than 100 million will catch a game over the opening weekend. Football rules the sports landscape. The NFL is king. Break out the nachos and settle in for the 2014 season, right?

Go ahead, but Steve Almond, author of the profound, searching, occasionally squirm-inducing book Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, won’t be joining. After four decades of being a devoted Oakland Raiders fan, the father of three is calling it quits.

Anyone who pays any attention to the NFL knows we’re not exactly running short on reasons it doesn’t deserve our time (or our money).* Yet the league maintains a stranglehold on its position at the center of American sports culture. I find it basically impossible to defend – “but fantasy football is so fun!” is an atrocious argument for supporting something so fundamentally rotten – but, like so many others, I just can’t bring myself to turn away. Steve Almond does us all a service by calling us on our hypocrisy.

* And as a homegrown fan of the Washington Football Team, I have an entire extra set of reasons to find the sport abhorrent.

Darke vs. Johnson: The Fight for America’s Ears

Over at The A.V. Club, Rowan Keiser has a solid post about how things have changed (and not changed) for men’s soccer in the United States – with an emphasis on who we’ve been listening to when we watch it on television:

If you flipped on ABC or ESPN for a World Cup match this year or in 2010, you were almost certainly greeted by an announcer with an English accent. For the four World Cups prior, between 1994 and 2006, ESPN had used American voices like O’Brien—but the decision to change announcers wasn’t merely an aesthetic one. The networks took sides in an ongoing war over the nature of American soccer, where announcing is one of biggest battlegrounds about whether the sport should be Europeanized “football” or reflect a home-grown American soccer. It’s a conflict that encompasses media culture, fan culture, and even the overall philosophy of U.S. Soccer’s attempts to improve the national team.

Read the rest, then come back here. For my money, Ian Darke puts the rest of the ESPN World Cup announcers to shame when it comes to play-by-play (and the less said about Gus Johnson’s efforts to this point, the better). I don’t watch enough (read: any) MLS to know if there are any home-grown announcers up to the task yet, but I do hope that 4 years from now, when the World Cup is on Fox, we hear from some talented American voices.* Or at least some other voices that have more to contribute than just a smart-sounding accent.

* Can a voice be talented? Also, anybody think Gus is capable of getting good at this by 2018? He was atrocious in that Atletico/Real Madrid game a couple months ago.

Has the World Cup really been that good? [link]

International football is actually all about glory. There’s money in it for Sepp Blatter and his mates at FIFA but it’s not a serious business like European club football; livelihoods and futures don’t depend on the result. Why try to grind out a nil-nil draw and win on penalties when the whole world is watching? Why not try to score more goals than the other team?

I’d have been predisposed to enjoy Nick Hornby’s World Cup sum-up anyway, and then he went ahead and declared Belgium/USA “probably the best World Cup match of the 21st century”.

US loses to Portugal, 2-2

Roger Bennett, writing for ESPN FC:

As the smoke clears from a tingling night in the jungle of Manaus, unpredictable enough to make the opening scene of “Apocalypse Now” appear sane, America’s team are very much alive. But they must travel to the unforgiving heat of Recife to face a talent-rich German side, knowing they missed a glaring opportunity to provide the nation with a memory which could have existed in the Great American Sports Pantheon alongside the Miracle on Ice, Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary and Montana to Clark.

America is learning, the hard way, what it’s like to be a real soccer nation. It’s excruciating at times, but it’s pretty fun, too. We’ve shown some serious growing pains, especially on the defensive end, but that’s to be expected from a team full of youngsters (with a smattering of players on the down slope of their careers). Now let’s go out there on Thursday and beat Germany.