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Soccer, mostly, but some other stuff, too

What Happens When The NASL Gets Past The Quarterfinals Of The Lamar Hunt US Open Cup?

Sad Soccer PlayerThis made me laugh.

Now, Northern Pitch is normally a very good, very thoughtful and ambitious online news and commentary source that’s a valuable addition to the soccer information universe.

But this…..this click-and-comment-bait thing is little more than a fantasy. (Not the idea that a lower-division team could win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, that surely could – and has – happened, but the idea that a North American Soccer League team winning it would somehow signal a sea change in American soccer.)

The NASL is not on equal footing with Major League Soccer, is not rapidly approaching it and would not magically get there overnight were one of its teams to win our 101-year-old tournament.

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The More Things Change….

As we get ready to start another Major League Baseball season, one of the big talking points is “pace of play” and the initiatives attempting to curtail super-long games that have become perceived as the norm.

The Sporting News has weighed in on the length of games:

“Maybe the modern athlete is just too tired to move fast or do things quickly. It could be. Yet managers are constantly yanking pitchers, and no one ever moves slower than the guy coming in from the bull pen.

“It’s about time someone with authority took official cognizance of the slowness with which baseball is being unfolded these days. A great game is being slowly strangled by such tactics.”

That sounds familiar, right?

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A Home For The Tarpons

New Al Lopez Field

With Opening Day in TSL just around the corner, construction is complete on a home for my team, the Tampa Tarpons. (And no public money was necessary for construction of this ballpark!)

The first ballpark I made, early last month, was fairly rudimentary, but I learned a lot during its design and construction. I applied many of those lessons to a second park inspired by the Polo Grounds that was visually interesting but didn’t really satisfy my desire for a quality dice-rolling and imagination experience. I wanted to have something that looked good, that was a challenge to build, that offered a good environment for rolling dice and playing APBA Baseball and would inspire some good memories.

Those who know me well know of my nostalgic affection for Al Lopez Field, the former spring training/Florida State League ballpark in my hometown of Tampa. My friends and I would go to see the Cincinnati Reds play in the spring and the FSL’s Tampa Tarpons play in the summer. (There are more good photos of the place here.)

My objective wasn’t to create a replica of the original Al Lopez Field (named after the Tampa native and Hall of Famer), but to pay homage to it with a new space that would work and the construction of which would allow me to be creative.

After the jump, you can see photos of the construction process and take a video tour of the place.

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The Brawl, Ten Years Later

Ten years ago today, March 19, 2005, the Cleveland Force and Chicago Storm engaged in an epic on-field brawl during a Major Indoor Soccer League match at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. You can see the highlights and lowlights in the video above, but I’ll add some thoughts.1

The bad blood between the Force and Storm had been brewing for months. It may have all gone back to a game on November 6, 2004 in Cleveland, when the expansion Storm blew a 5-1 halftime lead by allowing seven straight Force goals in the second half. Tempers ran hot during the game as it slipped away from Chicago, and that carried over afterwards, as Storm defender Gaston Pernia had to be restrained from getting off the team bus in the parking lot to fight Force pest John Ball.2

If you watch the highlights, you see that this was a chippy affair from the get-go and it was only a matter of time before it boiled over. Chicago had a 3-2 lead at the half, but Cleveland tied it with just over five minutes left in the third. Ball picked up a deflected ball at midfield, dribbled to goal and beat Danny Waltman3 for his second goal of the game and a 3-3 tie.

A time out followed, and as both teams came out from their benches to huddle for the time out, Ball passed by Storm head coach Frank Klopas4, said something5 and bumped the nattily attired Klopas in the chest. The players didn’t have to come far to clear the benches, and what followed was several minutes of mayhem that resulted in five ejections6, at least one injury (Chris Dore, who got punched) and eventual suspensions that changed the course of Chicago’s season.

Here’s a couple things to remember:

  • The “Malice at the Palace,” the brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, had happened exactly four months earlier. The heat that announcer John Saunders took for his handling of the situation as it unfolded was fresh in my mind and helped me keep from going overboard during the description of the brawl on television.
  • That was the winter of the NHL lockout that scrubbed the entire season, so we had Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s top equipment and producer (in Mike Leary), so our pictures and replays were stellar. The only snafu is that, despite having Klopas wired for sound for the telecast, we didn’t catch what Ball said to Klopas that started the whole thing. That was about the only failing of the whole show, and I still don’t know why we didn’t get it7

When the dust settled, Gaston and Leo Pernia8 and Fred Degand (who we had just picked up from Cleveland a couple weeks prior) were ejected for Chicago and Joel Bailey and Aaron Susi were sent off for Cleveland. Force goalkeeper Jim Larkin9 was also originally ejected (as he should have been), but after Force coach Omid Namazi complained to the officials that he didn’t have another goalie and wouldn’t finish the game if they ejected Larkin10 and the red was rescinded.

After everything was sorted out, Chicago went up when Novi scored on a restart with four minutes left in the period. Cleveland tied it again at 4-4 before the quarter ended, and Tamas Weisz broke the tie with 9:14 left (on an assist from Ball, naturally). Cleveland won 5-4, dropping Chicago to 15-16 on the season.

Gaston Pernia received the most punishment, a five-game suspension, while Leo Pernia was banned for two games (both in addition to the automatic one-game suspension for the red card) and they and Cleveland’s Joel Bailey were fined, as were both clubs for players leaving the bench area.

Chicago lost five of its last eight games, including the season finale in St. Louis when a win would have put them in the playoffs. The Pernias would absolutely have made a game’s worth of difference in that stretch, and though the Storm was an expansion team, nobody wanted to play them in the playoffs.

Cleveland went on to play in the MISL finals that May, but lost both games in overtime to the Milwaukee Wave. The principals in what is one of the biggest brawls in indoor soccer history have all gone on to other teams and other pursuits, but we’re all linked forever.

If you watched the game, played in the game or just remember attending or watching the game, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

8 x 10

Brian McBride Soccer Hall of Fame acceptance speech

Brian McBride delivered his acceptance speech upon his induction to the National Soccer Hall of Fame along with Kristine Lilly and Bob Bradley on February 14, 2015 at USSF’s Annual General Meeting in San Francisco. Image courtesy US Soccer Federation.

Wow. I just realized I’ve been privileged to be a voter for the National Soccer Hall of Fame1 for 10 years now.

We get to select up to 10 deserving players to be enshrined in….er, well, about that…the Hall. One day there might be a place you can go and see, like, pictures and jerseys and stuff from these players. Or not. But there’s still a Hall of Fame and as long as I have life and a ballot, I’m going to vote and I’m going to tell you how.

There are 23 players on this year’s ballot and, after the jump, I’ll tell you how I feel about each of them.

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APBA32: End Of An Era

John McGraw from the Conlon CollectionA Hall of Fame managing career came to an end on June 3, 1932 when John McGraw, beset by health problems and a sixth-place team, called it quits after 33 years as a big league skipper. While his New York Giants were 17-23 in real life at the time McGraw stepped down, in my APBA mini-replay of the 1932 baseball season, they’re just a game out of first place. Still, for realism’s sake, I’m having transactions happen as close to their real dates as I can get them, so McGraw is out and Bill Terry is in as the Giants’ boss1.

McGraw had missed many Giants games because of the health problems that eventually killed him in February 1934, and, at the time of his resignation, had also been dealing with the death of his mother at age 82 in late May. He left the game (except for a cameo appearance in the 1933 All-Star Game) having led the Giants to 10 pennants and three World Series titles while winning the second-most games in history.

After the jump, the player trades and transactions that happened after May 30 and before the next round of games in my replay. (*Indicates a player who is not included in this replay.)

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Tarpons Are Off And Running…Just Not Hitting

Tampa Tarpons

My APBA baseball team, the Tampa Tarpons, has begun its Grapefruit League campaign in preparation for the April 1 start of the TSL season. I’m just playing two games against each of the other 11 teams in my league, getting guys at bats and innings and seeing how things shake out.

After the jump, the rundown on the first two spring games.

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A Brief History Of Indoor Soccer Mini-Games

Two playoff series in the Major Arena Soccer League were decided in tiebreaking “mini-games” over the weekend.1 (A quick primer: while, back in the day, indoor series were often best-of-three/five/seven, more recently they’ve been home-and-home with a 15-minute game played at the conclusion of the second game if the two teams split.) Rochester beat Syracuse on a deflected goal in their mini-game on Sunday, while Milwaukee beat Chicago in overtime of their mini-game.2

Now, indoor soccer is, intrinsically, a gimmick, but the mini-game artifice doesn’t go over well with everybody (especially my friend and former broadcast partner Art Kramer). Yes, it would be nice to have longer playoff series that (in theory, at least) would tend to give the “better” team an advantage.3 But that’s not the world in which we live. Indoor soccer is run on a shoestring these days, and even a three-game series that requires an extra game’s worth of travel and acquisition of arena dates at short notice is not realistic at this point in time.

But I was curious as to how prevalent these mini-games (and their bastard cousin, the golden goal overtime tiebreaking session) really have been over the course of the game’s history.4

After the jump, the complete history of the mini-game in indoor soccer.

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And We’re (Pretty Much) Back

If you’re reading this, it means the blog is back where you are, thanks to the magic of DNS.

Last Tuesday night, I couldn’t reach this site. It happens from time to time; sometimes it’s my internet connection, sometimes it’s a hiccup at the hosting provider, and always it has worked itself out after a bit.

But not this time. I let my hosting provider know the site was down on Wednesday morning. (I was not, apparently, the only person who had this issue.) I checked in repeatedly with tech support and was told time and again, “Our engineers are working on the problem and we will let you know when it is resolved.” They didn’t tell me (or anyone else) what the problem actually was, which would have been nice.

By Friday morning and the fifth check-in with tech support, I was done. I found a new hosting provider, SiteGround, which – for now, anyway – I can recommend because they’ve been great to deal with and their sales and tech support people have been very nice and responsive and helped get everything set up so that the site could come back up. It took a couple of days for it to be recognized throughout the interwebs, but if you’re seeing this now, success!

I should mention that the – obviously offshore – support chat people at my old hosting provider were also very polite, but their hands were largely tied, because they’re not the ones who actually make the gerbils run on the wheels, nor are they the ones who decide to go/no go when it comes to clear and transparent communication with…what are those people called, again? Oh, yes, customers. One was particularly helpful and you would not be reading this blog right now if it weren’t for her, so to Nagaveni Suvarna at Powweb: you have my eternal gratitude. (Their management and engineers have my thanks for nothing. Here’s how you lose a 12-year customer, and it happens justthatquickly.)