Tag Archives: soccer

Just want to give a shout out to ESPN…

I’m done with you. You guys have become the second-worst “news” network on television (a close second to Fox News). I can’t believe you claim to be a sports news medium. You don’t cover sports. You cover entertainment. You cover the easiest thing that will draw ratings, which is usually a product of your own design.

Let’s start by mentioning your hypocrisy, because it probably is one of your biggest weakness (or strengths, not sure how it works in the corporate world). And what better example than the Lions/49ers “handshake” incident:

One week. You talked about the handshake that, even by your own admitting, “didn’t matter”, for an entire week. And I don’t mean just lightly mentioned it; you guys took it to the extreme, and it became THE issue of the week. The event that every single “analyst” on your network, including Skip Bayless, who I’m pretty sure is exclusively told to take the minority side of every issue (in addition to making an ass out of himself), simply passed aside as an incident in which two coaches let the emotions get the better of them after a hard-fought game. It happens. Worth mentioning, but nothing worth getting invested in.

But that’s not your biggest sin. You condemned media for mentioning the pointless issue because talking about it would “overshadow the great game that was played.” After making that claim, what did you do? Talked about it. For a week. Every day. You analyzed the event to no end, trying to draw something that wasn’t really there. You brought in “experts” to talk about it. You brought up past altercations between coaches, trying to compare the most recent scrum to those in history. You didn’t talk about the “great game” that was played. You talked about the meaningless altercation at the end of the game that really had no relevance or effect on anything, then talked about how the altercation had no relevance or effect on anything. Instead of talking about that game, football in general, or really anything else that actually had any importance, you chose to talk about the handshake that “didn’t matter” and was a “non-issue”. Non-issue, huh? Do you guys listen to yourselves talk?

Let’s continue with your hypocritical nature. You condemned LeBron James for “The Decision.” And rightfully so. We should definitely go after the network that chose to air that self-righteous prick making a big deal about which team he was going to sign with, because clearly, it’s not that big a deal, and we shouldn’t be portraying it as such. Oh, but, which network decided to have a one-hour long segment about the superstar and his decision? To which network should we bring the torches and pitchforks (I got mine for Christmas)? Surely, it couldn’t have been ESPN, the network that criticized him for making such a big deal about his signing…oh, it was? That’s strange. Did you guys know about that?

Also, I never thought a network that supposedly prides itself on bringing up-to-date sports news would rely so heavily Twitter. To be fair, Twitter can be a very useful tool, as it can deliver news as it’s happening to a mass audience, often quicker than any TV or radio network can. But that’s not how you use it. I don’t want to know what LeBron has to say, via Twitter, about the NFL lockout. I don’t want to see what LeBron, via Twitter, has to say about baseball. If I want his, or anyone’s, meaningless, non-expert opinion on an issue unrelated to them, I’ll go to Twitter myself. How does anything an NBA basketball player has to say about any issue outside his own sport, or outside his team for that matter, make news, especially when it’s usually some kind of joke or personal nonsense? How many times am I going to change the channel to ESPN looking for news and find you guys talking about Twitter or airing a minute-long segment of what your anchors are doing “behind the scenes”? I’m glad you guys are having fun out there, but…I don’t care.

I won’t even get into Tim Tebow, because the entire world is sick of hearing about him. But you know what you’ve done, and what you continue to do.

Because you, the “Worldwide leader in sports coverage” (or some other BS like that, I really don’t care what your slogan is), have such a stranglehold on the national sports market, people are going to tune in to you guys and take in whatever garbage is spewing from your mouths.

 

Being unemployed (*hint hint*), there’s not much more for me to do than sit here and rant and watch TV; and let’s be honest, television today is awful, especially in the morning and early afternoon. So during this time, I usually tune to SportsCenter, because I’ve accepted the fact that there’s nothing else on, and I’m curious to see what’s going on in the world of my favorite hobby, sports. But I can’t do that anymore. You guys are phonies. You don’t cover sports news; you cover senseless issues that nobody except you and your wallets, and by proxy, your entire audience, care about. You’re making America stupid. You’ve become Access Hollywood: Sports Edition (please note that I have no idea what Access Hollywood actually talks about, but the name is fitting). Through your “work”, casual sports fans are going to know more about LeBron James’ leg hair than they are about relevant issues going on in the world, such as, oh, let’s say an entire hockey team dying in a fatal plane crash.

What’s that? No idea what I’m talking about? “Hockey?” you say? Yeah, it happened. You don’t remember when, at the end of the year, you listed professional athletes that died in 2011, and neglected to mention a single hockey player? When you forgot about the 26 players (plus 11 staff members) that died in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash, and the three players who died over the summer? “That happened?” you say? And when that “slip-up” was brought to your attention, as if only to appease those who knew and cared about the deaths, you said you would run an updated segment listing the excluded players. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…the updated segment was only for some — not all — SportsCenters, of course. I guess those athletes were only worthy of mentioning to a few select audiences.

What sports are you supposed to cover? All of them, you say? Interesting. I still cannot believe you claim to be the “Super awesome sports network that covers all the important sporting issues of our century! Come see us talk about LeBron James’ underwear and compare Tim Tebow to Abraham Lincoln!” Is that your slogan, ESPN? I truly forget, and I apologize for that. You see, after so long of watching your crap, my mind, too, has turned to crap. I no longer have the ability to perform decent research and understand an entire story before bashing my head on my keyboard and releasing the unfiltered garbage to the world. You aren’t even trying anymore.

The last straw, in accumulation with many other outrages, that triggered my fury was an event that occurred on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. I turned you guys on, hoping to get some balanced coverage about all the important stuff that happened in the past day of sports (heh, I know, stupid, right?). What was I thinking? Anywho (I only use that word when I’m trying to be as condescending as possible), I was hoping to get your take on the biggest hockey event of the season so far: The Winter Classic (oh, I should probably explain what that is…hockey is a sport in which two teams…). I was hoping to see what you guys would say about it, and therefore what opinion would be generated by your zombified masses.

I can’t say that I’m surprised, or disappointed, at your coverage (or lack thereof), but it was pretty embarrassing. I mean, why bother to mention that the event even took place if you’re not even going to explain what happened? Here’s my summary of your guys’ summary of the event:

-Hey, look everyone, hockey is still a sport! And they’re playing….OUTSIDE?????

-OOOOHH, eye black, that’s adorable, they think they’re a real sport, like baseball or football!

-Second period! (that’s where the game starts, right?)

-Ummm this guy has great hands and he scores (by the way, someone scored before that, but we won’t tell/show you, you’ll just have to figure out why the scoreboard already read 1-0)

-Third period! The score is now 3-2! I think one team may have scored three to come back from a 2-goal deficit, but who cares. Oh! And there are just 19 seconds left! Isn’t hockey exciting??? Anywho, it’s total chaos, this guy covers the puck in the crease, and it’s a penalty shot! It’s like a shootout! And since shootouts are so thrilling, and pretty much the only relevant part of hockey, we’re going to show this replay twice (don’t worry about the goals, guys, we’ll show you what’s really important)

-Oh, he made the save and the game is over

-The coach’s post-game comments! Look at how he rips the refs! Why is he ripping the refs, you ask? We have no idea! And neither do you, because we didn’t bother to show any of the controversial calls/non-calls…but I’ll be damned if a coach calling out the refs isn’t entertainment, even if there’s no context!

-The NHL Eastern Conference Standings, blah blah, …we apologize for that brief delay in which we didn’t relay actual sports news to you; we now return you to your regularly schedule programming, the wonderful Miami Heat!

-(I just want to clarify that I am not mocking John Buccigross, who covered the Classic and this segment here, or make him look bad; it’s not about him, and he did a great job with what he was given, and he does a good job covering hockey in the minimal time it’s allotted.)

You spent more time talking about a team (the Heat) that receives more coverage than the sports of hockey and soccer (two of the biggest sports in the world, and, despite your beliefs, both very popular sports in this nation) combined than you did the biggest hockey event of the season so far (it was sort of like the NHL’s Superbowl..they even had an unnecessary fly-over by jets and a crappy intermission musical performance). No, wait, let me clarify…you spent more time talking about an individual player who receives more coverage than the sports of hockey and soccer combined: Dwane Wade. As if LeBron wasn’t enough.

Well, to be fair, I can only assume he got that much coverage; my outrage caused me to immediately change the channel to anything else than your garbage, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. But, with nothing else on TV, what did I change it to, you ask? Looney Tunes. Yes, I would rather watch 50-year-old cartoons that I’ve seen hundreds of times as a child (OK, fine, also as an adult) than what’s supposed to be a live, daily update, complete with invigorating discussions, of what is happening in the great world of sports. Because, quite honestly, EPN (not a typo), finding out and analyzing how Bugs Bunny is going to outsmart Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and other great characters, is much more intellectually stimulating than finding out how LeBron James puts his pants on, which apparently, isn’t one leg at a time like the rest of us.

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Because I, the all-omnipotent referee, said it to be so, and so it came to be

Well, there’s really not much interesting to talk about in the NHL during the offseason, other than the Florida Panthers’ crazy escapade to become the Atlanta Thrashers by trashing half their roster and going wild in the FA market and with trades, or Rangers’ GM Glen Sather surprising act to not accidentally add an extra zero onto Brad Richards’ contract.

Baseball has too long of a season to pick out anything interesting (sorry, Derek Jeter). I refuse to talk about the LeBron Jame- I mean NBA offseason, and there’s not much going on in football (hopefully that’s settled soon). How about soccer?

With nothing else on (despite what ESPN wants to tell me, hot dog eating is not a sport), I decided to tune into the USA vs. Brazil quarterfinal game in the Women’s World Cup for a bit. An iffy call in the box leads to a US defender getting tossed (causing the US to be shorthanded the rest of the game and a PK for Brazil: basically an automatic goal. If you don’t want soccer, I can tell you that these end up in the back of the net about 85% of the time, hitting the post 10% of the time, the player missing the net entirely 4% of the time (very embarrassing), and the goalie actually making a save maybe 1 out of 100 opportunities. OK, I exaggerate, but they are nearly impossible to stop. It’s a guessing game

Anywho, I had a strange confidence in Team USA’s super-cutie netminder Hope Solo. Being up 1-0 in the second half, and now down a [wo]man, they almost had to get a stop if they had any hope to get a win. And they got it; a HUGE save from Solo, who read the shooter perfectly.

Too perfectly, according to one shady official. She pointed back at the PK dot, walked up to Solo and showed her a yellow card. Now,  I know that you almost HAVE to cheat to save a PK, but what? An outrageous claim that Solo moved before the ball was kicked — forward, not laterally (you’re allowed to do that apparently) — led to a redo, as are the rules. Seriously, FIFA? A do-over? That sounds like something that might happen when I’m playing against one of my brothers: “Nuh-uh! You cheated! That doesn’t count, I wasn’t ready! I get a do-over!” So Brazil scores on the Mulligan. Tie game.

You can say what you want about the lack of talent on American soccer teams — both men’s and women’s — but there’s one thing you can’t deny: their tenacity, grittines, and refusal to lose. It’s cliché and a stereotype, I know, but that seems to be American sports culture: less time spent on the actual craft and developing skills and more time spent building the desire/mindset to win, at least when compared to other nations.

The game goes to extra time, and Brazil scores in the first extra period, albeit being offsides when they scored. Missed call, but I’ll admit it was bang-bang (the US defender losing her mark, whom scored the goal, because she was lobbying to the official for an offside call certainly didn’t help). 2-1. Being a man down, it looks bleak for the US. They get some chances but can’t come through. They can’t seem to catch a break (even though their first goal came off a poor clearing attempt by a Brazil defender that went into her own net). The game approaches its bitter end.

122nd minute. Probably the last run for the US before soccer’s imaginary time runs out. Megan Rapinoe sends a long, forward cross to the far post from 30-35 yards out. Abby Wambach crashes the net and gets a head on it. Gourgeous. 2-2.

The game goes to PKs, and Solo comes through again and makes one save out of four chances, which is enough for the sure-footed American snipers. Team USA wins 5-3 in PKs against all odds and moves on to the semis.

I’ll admit, it was some of the most entertaining soccer you will ever watch, and probably one of the most dramatic matches in FIFA history. Still, I couldn’t help but feel cheated when I watched that game, as I often do when I watch any professional soccer game.

Why do games, more often than not, have to be decided by the officials? In a game where goals are so difficult to come by, one official’s mistake can actually be the turning point from which a team cannot recover from. In what other [popular] team sport can you say that?

Let’s go back to last year’s Men’s World Cup. Team USA rallies from a 2-0 deficit against Slovenia in the round-robins to tie it. Off a Landon Donavan free kick, Team USA’s Maurice Edu has a goal waved off for no apparent reason in the 85th minute. The FIFA official never gave an explanation as to why the goal was negated. And, per FIFA regulations, he never had to. The game ends in a draw rather than a US win. Even though the game didn’t really effect Team USA’s advancement, I have to wonder why I subject myself to watching a game where an official can make any call he wants and never have to justify the call. No goal, why? Because I, the all-omnipotent referee, said it to be so, and so it came to be.

That’s an extreme example, but these kinds of calls and plays happen on a regular basis (see also: PK save negated for a BS reason). What does that lead to? Players trying to fool the refs. Soccer is mocked for its absurd encouragement of flopping, and rightfully so (although, there seems to be MUCH less of it in women’s soccer than men’s). It becomes a game of “trick the ref” to get an advantage rather than soccer.

Have the ball in the box? Can’t get a foot on the ball?? Defender near you, possibly making physical contact??? No problem! Fall to the ground and grab your face or Achilles tendon, and hope the ref grants your team a glorious PK (don’t worry, you can miraculously come back from such an egregious injury in a few minutes). He/she may even give the defender a red card! Don’t think the call will be made? Worried that maybe you should have tried harder to make a play on the ball to score the elusive soccer goal for your team? Don’t worry about it, with enough acting practice and the right circumstances, most refs can’t  tell. Just leave the game in their hands, gain their favor, and everything will be OK.

Who’s to blame for all the diving? The players for lacking integrity? The refs for being fooled so easily and not factoring in that if a player falls, there’s a good chance he dove? The coaches for teaching/telling players to flop in games? Cultures for preaching/praising the act as long as it helps your team (anything to win, right)? Or is it the game itself for being so difficult to score in that you almost have to pull some stunts to work your way to a goal or two (even my soccer teams growing up, as well as my opponents’ didn’t have much trouble scoring without flailing to the ground)?

It doesn’t matter. In addition to playing the clock (stalling because the clock never stops) and games being decided on a skills competition (the shootout) instead of what the game actually is, I want diving out of the game before I, as will most of the sports world, will accept professional soccer as a legitimate sport and take it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I love soccer and played for many years; it’s a great game to take part in, but professional soccer just doesn’t feel right. The game needs to be left up to the players to decide the outcome. Officials can’t have the power they do. While the ridiculous call against the US led to a dramatic victory that was more exciting than it would have been otherwise, it could have very, very easily ended the other way. It would have been unacceptable. The ref is off the hook (at least in the eyes of American sports fans) because Team USA pulled it off, somehow. But what if they didn’t? These “what-if”s are too glaring to not be dealt with.

I’ll admit I yell at the officials in every sport when my team seems to get hosed (which, coincidentally, seems to be pretty much every game), but very, very rarely do I consider them as a deciding factor as to why my team lost (unless they’re playing the Penguins). Professional soccer is the one sport where I can — and not be preposterous in doing so — say: “Wow, the ref really screwed Team X over in that game. He/she made the deciding call(s) of the game, a call that was either incorrect or controversial in some way. Had it not been for that call, Team Y probably would not have won the game; it was simply a decision that Team X could not recover from.” The scary part is that it doesn’t even have to be the wrong call to be a deciding factor; it may simply be a borderline call that really could go either way. I don’t want a games that I’m going to invest 90+ minutes into watching to be decided on a coin-flip decision or how the official is feeling that day, which, surprising, usually seems to be pretty anti-American.

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