Turd of the Week #17

Steve Jolley
I want what this guy’s been smoking …

Fishwrap: USA Today, a ‘newspaper’ with all the depth of a raindrop, offered the following bit of parochialism in advance of the Champions League final: “Manchester United, Bayern Munich meet in Europe’s Super Bowl of soccer.” Would the Süddeutsche Zeitung refer to the NBA playoffs as the “Champions League of basketball” — if the German imagination could be stretched to the galactic distances required to consider such crap teams as 1999 participants the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Phoenix Suns as ‘champions’? Would the London Daily Mirror refer to the World Series as the “FA Cup of baseball” — even if the xenophobes in MLB didn’t pompously and erroneously label it a world event? Would they even care? At least I can’t complain that USA Today is any less honest or accurate in its soccer reporting than in its normal news reporting.

There’s one born every minute: An English fan lost £28,000 trying to buy 116 tickets for the Champions League final at Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. England’s best & brightest gave the tout 7.1 million pesetas (shockingly there is a currency even less valuable than the lira!) expecting him to turn up with the tickets the following day. But the señor, he didn’t show. Give the wanker’s ability and proclivity to blow large wads of dosh, Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to convince him to become the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Coincidence or Conspiracy? Since the fiasco three weeks ago between the Chicago Fire and DC United, wherein leather-clad, whip-wielding Scottish dominatrix … I mean referee … Stuard “Dr. Discipline” Dougal punished an MLS-record number of players, there has not been a single red card issued. Think this has anything to do with the attendant scrutiny given the quality of MLS officiating and Doug ‘The Centrifuge’ Logan’s dubious fine of hyper-critical DC United GM Kevin Payne? You be the judge. By the way, the DC-Chicago rematch is this weekend.

Marketing, the 5th Level of Hell: In a letter to Soccer Spot, Dan Courtemanche, MLS Commisar of Disinformation, offered the following spin worthy of his boss, the master, Doug ‘The Centrifuge’ Logan:

I read the following comments on Soccerspot.com. … Just an FYI – MLS has all of Mr. Colin Jose’s soccer books (actually, I purchased his NASL book the year it came out) and we are well aware of the other soccer-specific stadiums (as noted in last week’s MLS news release). It was stated in all MLS materials that the Crew Stadium was the first major league soccer-specific stadium. The definition of “major league” can certainly be argued, but the Crew Stadium is the only soccer-specific stadium constructed that meets Division I professional standards in the United States.Also, our main goal at MLS Communications is to generate positive media coverage for the league. Selling the uniqueness of the first major league soccer-specific stadium to the mainstream sports media developed a great deal of interest. I am not so sure pitching the idea of the Crew Stadium as another in a long line of soccer-specific stadiums would have made such an impact.

We are well aware of the soccer past and will continue to reflect on the history of soccer in the United States as the league evolves.


Dan Courtemanche
MLS Communications

Colin Jose, National Soccer Hall of Fame historian, is a regular US Soccer History Archive contributor. His compatriot, Steve Holroyd, TotW Historian, has had his own run-in with Dan-O and will have more to say on the subject next week.

Count Soccer America columnist Mike Woitalla among the apostate. In a piece titled “Bring on the second ref”, Woitalla reminds us that Norway, Brazil and Trinidad & Tobago will kiss FIFA’s vast derriere by experimenting with the two-referee system next season. Then Woitalla rubs our face in it, like a puppy’s nose in a misplaced poop:

“Currently, the ref and two linesmen must keep track of 22 players. A ridiculous ratio. No other major sport places such a large burden on so few.” That’s because no other sport is as player-oriented as soccer, which, if the referee gives the appropriate amount of extra time, fills its entire allotment of game time with actual play, and takes only 33% more than game time to complete. Compare that to a referee-oriented sport, such as American gridball, which 60 minutes consists of maybe 15 minutes of actual play, and which takes 200-250% more than actual game time to complete. Is that really what we want soccer to become?

“Plus, the linesmen are outside the field of play and must concentrate on offside. Players away from the ball, the ref’s obvious focus, can push, shove and grab each other. That they do. Just watch the goalmouth before a cross.” Which is what the referee should be watching. Is another referee, stationed in the other half and at least 35 yards away, going to be able to see that push or grab any better than the attacking zone referee who is only 5 or 10 yards away? Not without a telescope! Furthermore, one of the beauties of soccer is the discretion it gives to referee to call, or not call, fouls. If a foul occurs away from the play, or otherwise does not affect play, or the offended team has an advantage that calling the foul would deny, the referee can play on. Again, compare this to American gridball which oft times punishes the offended team by its numerous referees competing to see who has the itchiest trigger finger and can blow a play dead before the offended team can fully develop its advantage.

“The referee must run more than players. With a two-ref system, FIFA could abolish its absurd mandatory retirement age of 45. When we find a good ref, let’s keep him as long as possible.” Until he really is blind, hunched over with the rheumatize, and needs to change his Depends at the half like your typical NFL referee? This illustrates, yet again, the Law of Unintended Consequences: Because we allow refs to remain past their optimum age, they can no longer run as fast or as far, therefore, we need more refs to cover the same amount of field. But those extra refs are sure to cause other problems, which will then need to be ‘fixed’ by yet further changes. And those changes will need to be fixed, and so on, until the sport is no longer recognizable as what it once was. You know, American gridball was once soccer. The Law of Unintended Consequences is how it became what it is today.

“Many of you have played in the two-ref system — it’s common at the high school level — and remember incidents of a ref 10 yards from the action keeping his whistle down while the one 50 yards away makes the call. That’s why FIFA should have been more precise in its parameters, which don’t assign specific areas to each referee nor give one referee seniority.” Shootings seem to be fairly common in high schools these days, also. Obviously, because a thing is common does not mean it is good. Mikey tries to wiggle out of the unintended consequences his inanity two paragraphs prior present by slathering on heaping helpings of regulatory red tape. Another of the beauties of soccer is its simplicity, the rules are unelaborate and easily understood by even the dimmest of bulbs, such as Paolo Di Canio. It doesn’t take a lawyer to run the sport like the NFL requires. The unhealthy American obsession with mounds of rules and regulations and paperwork to govern, and hopefully pre-ordain, all possible outcomes of all possible actions will ruin soccer. Shakespeare had it wrong. Don’t kill all the lawyers first, kill the politicians. That way you whack most of the lawyers anyway, plus you get the bonus of ridding yourself of a multitude of control-obsessed rule fetishists also.

“The American two-ref system did not include linesmen, rendering it farcical. FIFA’s system would maintain the referee’s assistants.” More referees only result in more bad calls being made, as we demonstrated in the March 19, 1999, TotW.

“A favorite lament of coaches and players is inconsistency among different refs. Even referees argue that a two-ref system can spell disaster if it combines two different personalities. But guidelines and a hierarchy among the officials should address this problem.” Like guidelines (laws) and hierarchy (governments) prevent conflict between individuals and nations? Gathering naked on a mountain top to pick daisies and strum sitars does as much good.

“If other sports can manage to police a game with a platoon of officials, then soccer should succeed in getting two refs to work well together.” But they don’t. There are fouls on literally every play in a gridball game, and with all the refs they have the fouls still don’t get called. But the multiple refs, as multiple sources of authority will do, only cause confusion as to who is calling what on whom, and what the resolution ought to be. This of course leading to yet more time-wasting, though it does give couch potatos time to click over to all-star wrestling or hurriedly move their lard-filled hind-ends to the fridge for some more ice-cold suds.

And so we arrive at the only good argument for the two ref system: “And ultimately, the coaches and players will love the two-ref system. They’ll have an additional person to blame their failures on.”

Woitalla reminds me of that other, more famous, Mikey: the Life Cereal kid. “Ask Mikey. He’ll try it. He’ll try anything!” Try this Woiltalla:

Mike Woitalla

Turd of the Week

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