Sports is/are this big, goofy, fun contrivance that (from the non-participant’s standpoint) exist(s) solely for our entertainment. It’s not a referendum on us as a people or a culture or a species if the fourth- and fifth-place teams play for the championship of something. We’re not going to get blown to bits by aliens or al-Qaida if a non-first-place team wins the playoffs, or even if there are playoffs at all. Paul Gardner can watch the freaking games and enjoy them for what they are – 22 guys kicking a frigging ball, sometimes entertainingly – or he can ascribe huge cosmic significance to the identities of the participants and the process used to determine them. He’s chosen the latter course. He has that right, just like I have the right to tell him – and the other fanboys who can’t handle it emotionally when their team doesn’t get to call themselves right and true and just champions – to get the hell over it.
Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category
So the NFL season began last night with the Cowboys beating the Giants, 24-17, but the top story on NFL.com this morning is about signing up for Fantasy Football.
Again, my annual public service announcement: fantasy football isn’t football. It’s fucking algebra.
Let’s say you ran a small business. It doesn’t matter what industry, just a small business, a start-up, still young. You’re still trying to make it work, still losing money, still hoping you can find a committed local investor who will put some money into the thing.
So you work on this one project for a week or so, while doing all the other things you do on a regular basis to try to keep the lights on and the staff paid. Partially because of the work you put in on the project (and partly because of some luck), an asset drops in your lap. You don’t have a lot of assets drop in your lap, so this is a happy circumstance for you.
Now, you could probably make some money from this asset. Probably. You’d have a short window in which to do it, a small staff to make it happen (and they couldn’t just drop everything to make it happen, they’d still have to do all the things they normally do while trying to keep the lights on) and there’s no guarantee the reward would be worth the effort.
And then, out of the blue, a company (not a competitor) from another state offers you guaranteed money for the asset. You don’t have to do anything but say “Yes.” The asset has value to them, and they’re willing to make it worthwhile for you to relinquish it. Remember, this is an asset you’ve had for about 10 minutes, and that you acquired partially through a week of work and partially through luck.
And, all the while, the light bill is in the back of your mind. It has to be. When you run a small business, keeping the lights on and meeting payroll are always the priorities.
Now, maybe you’re a gutsy entrepreneur. Maybe you think there’s a great opportunity here and that if you and your staff work tremendously hard for another week and expend more marketing dollars (that are in short supply to begin with), maybe you can make it work. Maybe.
And then maybe the guy from corporate who’s been helping keep you afloat the last two years says, “Make the deal.” Or maybe he doesn’t have to because you’ve worked for this guy for two years now, and you know he wants you to make the deal.
So you make the deal.
Now, if the small business in question is the Minnesota Stars or Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League, all bets are off. Those clubs, given the assets of home games against Major League Soccer clubs next week in the third round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, opted to make the deal. They’ll travel to Salt Lake City and Seattle, respectively, putting their teams at a bit of a competitive disadvantage, but paying the light bill.
Minnesota GM Djorn Buchholz told IMS Soccer News’ Brian Quarstad:
“We were presented with a business opportunity to change the venue of this match to Rio Tinto Stadium that we could not pass up. As we continue working to ensure the long-term viability of the Minnesota Stars FC, sometimes difficult decisions must be made, and this was one of them. But history has shown that Minnesota pro soccer teams have what it takes to go on the road and get a result, and we believe this team has just that.”
(A bit of spin at the end, there, but Buchholz’ point is exactly right. And kudos to Quarstad for tracking down the GM in the wee hours this morning.)
The Silverbacks, meanwhile, issued a statement Wednesday saying the Sounders had given then them the proverbial offer they couldn’t refuse, and then laid out exactly what the organization would do with the additional funds.
Predictably, the more vocal fans of the game didn’t take it well, alternately blasting the lower level clubs, the MLS clubs and, finally, the United States Soccer Federation for allowing such a thing to happen.
To which I say, “Really?”
US Soccer is in charge of overseeing and growing the game in this country. Recently, stabilizing and growing lower-division soccer has been something many of those same vocal fans have made their feelings known about. But in this case, they seem to think USSF should step in and deny those smaller clubs the right to use assets at their disposal to help stabilize and grow their businesses (as if restraint of trade is one of the things our national federation should be getting into). As if USSF should say, “No, smaller clubs, you can’t improve your financial situation. Not yours. We’ve been charged with stabilizing the lower divisions, but only in ways that pass muster with people on Twitter.”
After all, smaller clubs sell assets – players – to bigger clubs all the time and all around the world. Are those assets – which fans like and which could help sell you some tickets – off-limits now, too?
USSF Spokesman Neil Buethe shed some light on the process in an email today:
“Teams are provided the opportunity to come to any agreement to switch the home site of a game from one team to the other in the event that the two teams could meet.
Here is an example: Winner of Team A vs. Team B is to play winner of Team C vs. Team D in the Quarterfinals, with A vs. B winner pre-selected to host. Team C may negotiate a contingency agreement with Team A, Team B or both to have the Quarterfinal venue switched to its stadium, should Team C advance.
There is usually a week deadline to finalize such an agreement, but in certain cases that deadline could be extended.
Also, it should be understood that we only approve the change when the two teams have come to an agreement (provided the new host meets all the requirements). The details of the agreement are between the two parties involved and are not part of our consideration to approve the change.”
I get that some fans are upset (but, please, name for me one person who spent last night in a fetal position over this so I can mock them), but fans think like fans, not like business owners. Fans haven’t lost millions trying to stabilize a club and make it profitable. Fans always want to run clubs, but they only want to do the sexy things like pick the colors and design the badge and fire the coach and decide who plays left back. They’ve never had to make tough financial decisions in a public arena with emotional customers (and, no, I’m sorry, whatever emotional investment you’ve made pales in comparison to the actual money people lose in creating a team for your entertainment).
Seattle’s been buying home games for three years, but now, suddenly, it’s a problem? Two – TWO – of the seven lower-division teams that were set to host MLS teams
kept sold those games. There have only been four lower-division teams that have hosted MLS teams in the Open Cup in the last two years, and there are going to be five six next week! This tournament takes place every year in relative obscurity, and now all of a sudden fans are acting like Knights Templar, guarding the “sanctity” of the Open Cup like it’s the Holy Grail.
Suddenly, Open Cup third-round home games are an asset – that’s progress in and of itself, isn’t it? – and smart business people make good use of their assets. The US Open Cup is a tournament that loses money, featuring teams that lose money, in a country that has, historically, lost money on soccer. This was a chance for someone to make some money for once. I can’t find fault with them for that, or with USSF for letting it happen.
I’m taking a hiatus from social media and blogging until the end of the year, but I just had to respond to this column from Christine Brennan in USA Today. It’s part of the whole cottage industry of “Let’s Come Up With As Much Punishment as we Can For Penn State” that’s been so prevalent the last two weeks.
I understand Brennan’s a columnist and has to take a position and elicit an emotional response…but, honestly…what is to be gained by Penn State not playing in the Rose Bowl (or any bowl)? First it was “Don’t play Nebraska!” then it was “They should cancel the season!” and now it’s “Don’t play in the Rose Bowl.”
Don’t you think one of the big problems with regards to this type of abuse is that nobody wants to talk about it? That it’s swept under the rug? So if Penn State DOESN’T play in a bowl game), we don’t have to talk about what happened that week! There, problem solved! Meanwhile, the conspiracy of silence continues.
I know that righteous columnists and fans who fancy themselves as our nation’s moral compass want to punish anything and everything that has to do with Penn State because we’re all horrified by what went on. So in order to either make ourselves feel better or to distance ourselves from any possible connotation that we don’t emphatically decry abuse of children, we want to advocate for the strongest possible penalties we can come up with in our minds, whether it’s just the guilty parties who get punished or if there’s collateral damage. Too bad for everybody else, we have a moral statement to make.
Those who (based on our knowledge at this moment) enabled the alleged crimes have already paid a price. There’s no need to take it further yet simply to satisfy a columnist who’s out for nothing but more page views.
The University of South Florida is actually in Central Florida. A Canadian team once won back-to-back American League championships. Duke basketball has played in the NCAA’s West Region five times and its Midwest Region four times. Neither the New York Giants nor New York Jets play in New York, and the Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington. The Winnipeg Jets are in the NHL’s Southeast Division. Yet no one seems to mind these things as much as they mind MLS’ “embarrassing” playoff format that now has a western-based team (Colorado) in its Eastern Conference playoff bracket and an eastern-based team (New York) in its Western Conference playoff bracket. Get over it.
There are eight teams left and they’re going to play for the next few weeks. I’d say “May the best team win,” but we all know the best team doesn’t always win. The St. Louis Cardinals, the fourth-best team in the National League and (tied for) the ninth-best team in the majors over the course of the season just gave you what some of you are calling the best baseball game you’ve ever seen, five years after they won the World Series with the 13th-best record in the game.
Playoffs aren’t perfect. Nothing is. Quit kvetching about every little semantic nuance.
This morning I filed the paperwork to officially leave the Republican party. To add “which has been my home for the last 28 years” would be inaccurate; while I’ve been a registered Republican since turning 18, I’ve gradually slid toward the center over time and have voted my conscience rather than just my party much more often than not1. And while I still consider myself conservative on many issues2, the GOP simply doesn’t represent me anymore.
Especially in this state, the Republican Party is the party of hate, of intolerance, of not only making sure you win, but that the other guy gets crushed, and if the less fortunate suffer because of it, well, that’s too bad. It’s the party of euphemisms like “job creators3,” of FOX News and of deliberately slowing down the political process that’s designed to help America so they can make sure everyone else knows how pissed off they are.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is the party of comic ineptitude, an inability to get anything done or (most of the time) come up with credible candidates for high national offices, of bleeding hearts4, of entitlements and of Keith Olbermann5. I can’t go there, either.
So until and unless there’s a viable third party, or until one of the other two starts worrying more about actually doing its job than keeping its job, I’ll be one of a growing number of people considering themselves independent.
I won’t be voting in Arizona’s primary (whenever that is), but it’s a small price to pay.
See ya, GOP. This is one breakup where I can honestly say, “It’s not me. It’s you.”
1 – While I was a Regan Republican from the time I could first vote, I also voted for Clinton and Obama. And, yes, Bush II. Sue me.
2 – I believe in capital punishment, your right to own a handgun and “I want there to be just enough government so that when I turn on the faucet, water comes out,” to steal a line. But I also don’t think you need an AK-47, I think you should be able to marry whoever you like and while I don’t personally smoke marijuana, I’d rather you did that than abuse alcohol. So smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
3 – Just like liberals like the term “rain forest” instead of “jungle” because white people aren’t going to donate money to save a “jungle,” the GOP has taken to using “job creator” to mean “rich people.”
4 – My dad – like many immigrants – is a bleeding heart liberal (and he’d be the first to tell you that). I accept and respect that a lot more than I used to, even though I can’t go as far to my left as he can.
5 – Whose talent I respect immensely (we once shared an agent), but whose politics and righteous indignation are just too much for me.
Today’s announcement that there will be an NASL team in Edmonton in 2011 was notable for a couple of reasons:
- The team isn’t going to go retro and be (at least officially) called the “Drillers.”
- It will apparently just be called “FC Edmonton.”
If you’re keeping track, that gives us an FC-load of North American soccer teams with “FC” in their names: Miami FC, FC Tampa Bay, FC Edmonton and Vancouver Whitecaps FC at the Division II level, FC Dallas, Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC in MLS.
Quite frankly, that’s FC-ed up.
Look, I understand that much of the recent history of the beautiful game on these shores has seen team names and uniforms, game presentations and rules “Americanized” to a great extent. And, for the most part, soccer has been a crapshoot. But now we’re overcompensating way too far to the other extreme and pandering to the ever-elusive Eurosnob, the fan of the game1 who, to this point, hasn’t deigned to give American soccer a chance because (he sniffs) it’s just not good enough.
I have news for you: soccer’s (relative) lack of success here is not because we haven’t been European enough. And calling a bunch of teams “FC Something”2 isn’t going to miraculously change our fortunes.
Now excuse me while I order up a meat pie so I can watch footy from the terrace.
Oh, shit, we’re getting terraces, too?
1 – Or, to be honest, just Manchester United or AC Milan or Real Madrid or some other trendy, mass-appeal bullshit club.
2 – Or “AC,” in the case of St. Louis
- Building a statue to Bud Selig.
- Un-retiring a retired number.
- Claiming sex addiction.
- Bill Cowher’s continued bellowing yesterday that the NFL overtime rule has to be changed. As if the current rule is that the team that wins the coin flip gets to go out there with its offense and the other team doesn’t get to send out its defense.
- Most of the Super Bowl commercials. Seriously, whatever you’re paying your ad agencies, Corporate America, it’s too much.
- Warren Sapp. He’s just a bad guy. Always has been a bad guy.
- And the parenting skills of the Spears family. Honestly, any men out there reading this: it’s paramount that you have a positive relationship with your daughter(s) and make them feel loved and respected. Else they’ll end up (a) on the pole, or ( b) a mom at 16 and dating a 28-year-old at 18.
November 10, 2009
Mr. Joe Zarella
Chief Service Officer
SIRIUS XM Radio
PO Box 1783
South Hackensack, NJ 07606
Dear Mr. Zarella:
I’m in receipt of your letter of last week (a copy of which is attached), and I only have one question:
Are you insane?
Honestly, this letter will be the fourth time I’ve told Sirius that I’m no longer interested. Let me make myself clear: I’m no longer interested.
There is nothing you can offer me. That ship has sailed. The time to keep me as a customer was several months ago, when my receiver died and your customer service person in Nova Scotia or wherever it was promised me they’d send me another receiver if I didn’t cancel.
The receiver never arrived. When I called to cancel, the new customer service person (probably in Istanbul or some place) said it was noted in my file that someone had promised to send me a new receiver, but that nothing became of it.
Do you know why your stock price is in the tank, Mr. Zarella? Because you people don’t know what you’re doing. Your customer service people in Iceland or wherever they are make promises they can’t keep, and you’ve now spent more time trying to get me back as a customer then you spent on me when I was actually a customer.
Since I called to cancel – the second time – I have received (well, taken…I received several) two phone calls, and I explained to both people who called (from Saskatchewan or wherever they are) that I wasn’t interested in returning to Sirius under any circumstances.
Your programming’s just not that good, the value’s just not that good, but – as the old joke goes – you make up for it with bad customer service.
So, could you please just stop calling and writing to me? If you were an ex-girlfriend, I’d get a restraining order.