Sunday, July 31, 2011

US Soccer Did it Right ... Willkommen Herr Klinsmann

From rigid to rambunctious: U.S. Soccer finally lands Jurgen Klinsmann

No longer will the success and failures of U.S. Soccer get pinned on the rigid American style of play. By announcing the hiring of Jürgen Klinsmann yesterday, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati not only nabbed the team’s first foreign coach since 1995, he has given the keys to an offensive-minded showman unafraid to reinvent the system.

As coach of Germany for the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann, who turns 47 on Saturday, bucked a longstanding trend by transforming the Germans from a mechanical defensive unit to smooth attackers.

He’s undertaking a similar task with the Americans, who have never produced a great striker and were outclassed by rival Mexico in the last three matchups. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of NY Daily News.

Kicking Back Comments: Excellent hiring decision. It does give me a bit of pause however. Everyone is excited about this and is signaling it as a turning point for the US National team. OK, fair enough.

But, is there no domestic coach that can handle this? Or does just putting a "foreigner" at the helm (he lives in CA after all), our saving grace? Now that is not the whole picture to be certain, Klinsmann was an accomplished international soccer phenom as a player. Interesting however that our last two coaches really had no international playing experience. Bob Bradley had none. His playing career seemed to end at Princeton. Bruce Arena had very limited, making a single appearance for the US National Team in 1973, and player professionally for the Tacoma Tides in 1976 as a goalkeeper.

Please note, I'm not knocking here, just observing. I only played college ball too, so Arena's accomplishments are significant to me. But were they the crack in the US Soccer domestic armor ... we don't have anyone yet who can coach the US Team with significant international experience.

Prior to these guys was Bora Milutinović, who assembled and led an inspired US Team in 1994. Bora too has significant playing experience.

It makes me wonder. When will a domestic coach "be ready", to bring the US forward as a soccer power? Is it really when this generation of US MNT players gets older, and joins the coaching ranks?

That said about our coaches ... what about our referees?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

You have to love this ...

... check out a referee's sweet revenge here, at Not Running a Hospital. Absolutely perfect!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Overdue, or Right On Time?

Bradley era ends as U.S. stagnates

Three thoughts on the firing of U.S. men's soccer coach Bob Bradley on Thursday:

• Is it finally Klinsmann time? Two times the U.S. has come achingly close to hiring German legend Jürgen Klinsmann, and two times Klinsmann has left the Americans at the altar. Might the third time be the charm? ...

See the whole article here, from

Kicking Back Comments: My jury is still out on this one. IMHO Bradley sadly had to go. If it is timely will depend on how quickly US Soccer announces a replacement. If they do so in the next couple of weeks, they were timely. If they delay any longer than that to communicate a decision, again IMHO, they should have waited to get the act together before tipping over the apple cart. If they really wanted to do it right, the two would have been announced simultaneously. If they really, really want to do it right, they will hire Klinsmann.

ESPN had some interesting choices, and odds, here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unsporting Behavior?

Should the referee get involved in this one? Yes or no?
Kudos to Steve for bringing this one forward.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bin Hammam - Barred for Life

Bin Hammam Is Latest FIFA Official to Go, but Cloud Remains

FIFA, the ruling body of world soccer since 1904, is shedding its senior executives in an attempt to appear to be moving faster than its corrupters.

The head of its Caribbean and North and Central American region, Jack Warner, removed himself by resigning from all soccer activity last month.

And now FIFA has barred for life Mohamed bin Hammam, who until Saturday was the elected leader of Asia’s soccer confederation, which serves more than a third of the world’s population. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of The NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: You're getting warmer guys, but your not quite there yet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


As I completed another long day in the saddle for the Memory Ride, I wanted to take a second to thank all of you - AGAIN, for all continued well wishes and support of all kinds. Without you all, it just would not be the same.

Here are the gory details for all interested (click to enlarge):

Monday, July 25, 2011

Americans Need Not Apply

So the 2011 Tour de France is in the books. This was a particularly notable Tour that struck me on several levels, as it did many, as seen here.

First, was the brutality. Early stages of the Tour this year were marred with skin melting, bone breaking, muscle tearing crashes. We started with 198 riders (22 teams with 9 riders each) and we saw 31 riders crash out, withdraw, or get dropped, leaving 167 remaining. Certainly more than in years past, and ones that I hope are not repeated in the future.

Second, was the incredible leaders and lead changes. Notably, Thor Hushovd, who held the yellow jersey for 7 days, Thomas Voeckler, a Frenchman, who held the yellow jersey for an incredible 10 days, the one-two punch of Andy and Frank Schleck in the Alps that gave Andy yellow for a stage, and the winner of the 2011 Tour de France, Cadel Evans of Team BMC.

Lastly, was what I would call the "American Invasion" of the Tour. In this Tour there were 4 USA teams, BMC, HTC, Garmin-Cervelo, and Radio Shack. Now, it is certainly an accomplishment in itself to be on a TdF team, to start, and even to finish the Tour. But, to win the Tour, or one of its coveted jerseys is the ultimate. Of the 6 jerseys to win, a USA team won HALF of them (Individual: Cadel Evans - BMC, Sprint Points: Mark Cavendish - HTC, Team: Garmin-Cervelo). Radio Shack survived with only 5 riders finishing in what I would call the gutsiest performance of the Tour. Maybe the TdF planning committee will consider adding an intestine colored jersey in 2012. Maybe not.

I bring this up, as many have thought, and some still do, that cycling is a "European sport", meaning, only Europeans are contenders in the sport. Sound familiar? Any other sports that you can think have similar bias?

Well one would think that after a performance the USA had this year in the TdF it would dispel such thoughts. Just as one would have though after the USA WC team in 1994 it would have dispelled such thoughts for USA soccer. Further still, after the appointment of David Socha to two World Cups one would think USA refereeing would have some acceptance in the world's ranks. This was followed by several appointments years after as well.

No to all. It would seem that if you have an accent (other than a US one) you instantly know about cycling, soccer, and art.

One notable exception is women's soccer as both the competing teams, and referees, rightly deserve the respect they have earned as serious competitors and officials in the sport. Women's cycling however is in its infancy in the US.


I don't have a clue. Maybe it's because we have created so many other sports and the rest of the world lags in those. Baseball, grid iron football, and basketball come to mind immediately. Maybe because it's because the US is generally not liked around the world and it is a viable opportunity to "rub our nose in it." Maybe it is because we are truly not good enough to compete on the world's stage yet ... an excuse that I personally don't buy and one objectively that is dwindling as a reason.

Maybe it is because we don't have a strong professional league in MLS as compared to others around the world, or THE game has not been accepted here. Maybe it is poor support at FIFA by the Americans. After all, we could have reasonably had a referee or two (Jair?) at the 2010 WC, yet we seemed to get no help from Esse Baharmast in making that happen. We will see how Brian Hall can help us in his role with CONCACAF.

Maybe it is a "Hopelessly American" attitude that suggests things like an intestine colored jersey in the most prestigious cycling tour on the planet.

I am just speculating as like I said, I don't know why there is such a clear bias.

One thing I do know is ... there is regardless of how well we do.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more ...


So as summer cycling is in full swing and the TdF is reaching its apex, I find myself ready to tackle yet another ride. This time it is the Memory Ride in central Massachusetts.

With it however I will be away for a couple of days as I travel, compete, and recover from the event (especially with the heat), but promise to be back at it early next week with new material. First on the docket is the follow up to Multiple Guess ... . So if you were interested, as many seemed to be, stand by for my interpretation.

Good weekend to all, and enjoy the grand finale of the Tour moving through Paris on Sunday.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Passing of a friend to THE game

The Referee Community is saddened to learn of the death of Sarah Dargon, 20, of Norwell MA. Sarah first became a referee at the age of 12! Anyone familiar with refereeing in Norwell will know the Dargon family name. There are no fewer than five other active members of the family in the household, making it the largest referee family in the state.

Sarah had always been interested in helping others and in 2006 she became the youngest person to complete the assignor's course. She was an excellent student and athlete in addition to her refereeing. She was involved in the community and had been a member of the National Honor Society. Her family has asked that contributions in her name be made to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

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Don't forget about Bin Hammam

Kicking Back Comments: In the afterglow of the WWC, don't forget we still have some serious stuff going on at FIFA. Notably Bin Hammam's ethic trial in this Friday. He is out stumping clearly as his claims now include that FIFA is out to get him.

World Cup - Bin Hammam: 'FIFA out to get me'

Suspended Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam says a campaign has been waged against him within "certain quarters" at FIFA to "eliminate" him from the game amid investigations over a cash-for-votes bribery scandal.

The Qatari is scheduled to attend a FIFA Ethics Committee hearing on Friday which is investigating allegations that he tried to bribe members of the Caribbean Football Union in return for votes during his FIFA presidential election bid last month. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Yahoo! Sport.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Media Pinhead Gold Medal: Peter Kokolski of Kicking Back

As I did the other day with Media Pinhead Bronze Medal: Michael Smith of ESPN, and
Media Pinhead Silver Medal: L. E. Eisenmenger (Examiner) and Paul Gardner (Soccer America), this last post calls out the ultimate media pinhead ... me. In this case, while my professional opinion, I will also speak personally on the topic.
My pinheadedness comes from my lack of substantive coverage in the 2011 Women's World Cup. While I am certain there are other valid reasons, this is the one I am going to pick on.

Kicking Back of late has not included much in the way of substance on this topic. I mused a little in "It could never happen to me", where a Hungarian referee missed quite an obvious handball that should serve as a warning to all referees. We also had "We've got your bias right here ...", about an older 2004 comment from Sepp regarding women footballers.

Slightly more serious was "Still don't think there is a difference ...", where there is a clear view that men's and women's football is not the same, and even (in this case) the French National coach commented as such.

Of most significance was "USA Gets Gold in Women's World Cup", briefly detailing the tremendous efforts of the officiating trio who went to Germany, and in my estimation, conquered the tournament from a refereeing perspective.

That's it ...

I could make up some excuse like I've been really busy doing stuff, inspecting matches at the Regionals, or around Massachusetts. Maybe I get honest and say I was (am) more interested in the developing Tour de France (my poor Radio Shack team is getting creamed). I don't know.

Maybe it was the poor performance by the USA in the final. But I don't think so as my disinterest was throughout the month, not just after that match. Maybe I just did not find the tournament as a whole that exciting. Certainly aspects of it, such as USA v. Brasil or the final, but as a whole not so much. I don't believe it was because it was women's football, but I can't discount it either. Maybe there is a certain brutality that can occur in a men's match that piques my interest, and the subsequent management challenge that follows.

It has been opined by some that the players in the grand scheme are not that good as compared to what is touted on a regular basis. Take a look at "Face the facts: Soccer has found its niche in U.S.". Again, as with the other articles, please don't shoot the messenger. It is an interesting theory, and a very well written article.

Honestly I don't know, and it has left me scratching my head. I mean, I love THE game. I have for my lifetime. I am struggling to understand in this case my indifference toward the WWC, and the clear result being my lack of real substantive coverage here.

One thing I do know however, it that it has earned me the Media Pinhead Gold Medal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We've got your bias right here ...

Blatter focuses on soccer milestones, not scandals

BERLIN -- A beaming Sepp Blatter took the dais at Olympic Stadium to talk about FIFA's love of women's soccer -- and nothing else -- at the Women's World Cup 2011 opening press conference Saturday .

The FIFA President spoke with enthusiasm on "Frauenfussball" and reveled in the furious din of clicking cameras as he handed a game ball to Steffi Jones, president of the organizing committee and a former Germany player herself. The photographers, one carrying a zoom lens usually reserved for taking pictures of distant skiers, eagerly snapped away.

Most of the questions elicited a few more comments on "Frauenfussball" and some dollar figures. But one reporter changed the tone slightly when he asked if the recent Playboy pictorial featuring female soccer players was a sign of "progress," given Blatter's infamous suggestion years ago that women's uniforms should go shorter and tighter to show off more of players' bodies.

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Backs Comments: I am already in trouble from my last post, even repeating the comments from another that there are differences between the men's and women's game. Good old Sepp, stands on his own for these comments. Beyond that, I have no comments.

Monday, July 18, 2011

USA Gets Gold in Women's World Cup

As most have seen at this point Japan bested the USA in the Women's World Cup Final, 3 kicks to 1 in kicks from the mark, to win the match 3::2.

One aspect that is not being widely reported is the success the USA referees had in the tournament. Based on the performance of Kari Seitz, Marlene Duffy, and Veronica Perez, it was clear they "ran the table" in Germany, and if it was not for the USA being in the final, may have indeed worked that match in lieu of the 3rd place match between Sweden and France (match report .pdf).

Photo courtesy usarefswwc2011

For an interesting and inside look at the tournament through their eyes, check out their blog here. It has some very interesting stuff, including the following video. Certainly worth a look to get a glimpse at the highest level in the world.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Still don't think there's a difference ...

So today, France fell to Sweden 2:1 in the 3rd place match (report .pdf). This was a fun match to watch and the US crew did a fine job. More on that aspect later.

There was a comment on the match that really struck me from Bruno Bini, the coach of France.
"At one point, the spectators starting behaving as if this were a men's match,'' Bini said through a translator. "We had boos and whistles for Sonia. It's unbelievable. She really didn't deserve that. The spectators behaved like this was a men's game, and I don't like this type of football. This destabilized the whole team."
I personally have been lambasted in the past for even suggesting there are differences between the men's and women's games. Well, Bruno did the talking and not me. Let me just say that I agree with the larger point that the fans are different, the athletes are different, the game is played differently, and yes, the refereeing is different. That one I have seen first hand from a few years of refereeing experience in WUSA while working in MLS.

What is fundamentally the same regardless of gender, is the love they all have for the game, and the respect they deserve for participating.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Media "Pinhead" Silver Medal

As I did the other day with Media Pinhead Bronze Medal: Michael Smith of ESPN, the next (2) posts I am going to call out some folks in the media that I believe are pinheads. This distinction may be for a variety of reasons, or a single event. In all cases these are my personal opinions about their professional conduct or work product. I don't know these people personally, so I can not comment, nor will I comment on them personally.

This one for me was based not in a pinpoint stupid comment as with Michael Smith, but with a continued and consistent lack of regard for referees and their art, or alternatively, a continued lack of understanding and gap filling with opinion.

This particular article is in regard to L. E. Eisenmenger (Examiner) and Paul Gardner (Soccer America).

I will say that both of these folks are very accomplished and very good journalists ... a whole lot better than me frankly. LE's profile can be found here, and some info on Paul here.

My reason for the "award" is the regularity that these folks pin the woes of the (soccer) world onto the referee's back.

I have taken particular note of this from very early this season. Back in the beginning of April, Paul Gardner wrote a couple of pieces lambasting MLS referees only a week into the season. That piece,
A walk in the Garden(er), made sweeping generalizations about referees such as:
It evidently takes a good deal of time for officials to alter their mindset. We saw the same thing after the 1997 alteration to the offside rule ... . It took nearly a decade for that new thinking to sink in.
It almost looks as if referees, as a body, decide to ignore any changes, but that of course, is ridiculous -- not least because referees have never been known to act in concert. The reason for their intransigence is evidently that, quite simply, they do find it difficult to adjust their way of doing things.
Another "expert" heard from.

Yet, I think Paul makes me look silly in his recent piece, Fingering MLS referees as the villains misses point, where he criticizes Alexi Lalas to make the general point:
... does it really make any sense to finger the referees as the villains? It does not -- and, in this particular game, I do not believe that it was justified. ...
I do find it ironic though as it showed a fundamental shift from his earlier position that referees are not stern enough, or they are intractable in their thinking ... so much so that it took a decade in some cases to change.

Which is it Paul? If a referee was allowed the inconsistency shown here, they would be hung out to dry by the whole press core.

Now, while Paul provides a somewhat balanced, yet hopelessly tainted view of refereeing, LE does little to hide her bias, or in an alternate construction, her naivete about higher level refereeing. I leave it to the individual reader to decide.

Now there was the eye grabbing headline, Slack MLS referees lead to Javier Morales' broken leg: Commentary and photos, where LE spewed how bad MLS refereeing was ("MLS officiating hurting the League") but other than a seriously injured player, failed to connect any dots as to why a referee was to blame.

The equally flawed follow up, Mondaini suspended 4 games for Morales tackle, but MLS referees are to blame, again failed to factually make a connection between how the referee was to blame for this tragic incident. Here "best" point seems to be:
There have been four season-ending injuries caused by bad tackles to four of Major League Soccer's top players just eight weeks into the season.
The conclusory nature of  those comments does little to convince that the referees are the blame for the thuggish, or reckless behavior. This part was funny:
Despite that MLS clubs brought in more talented players this year, the quality has declined due to the inability of most MLS referees to manage games.
Again drawing a conclusion without any facts in evidence to support the conclusion. Further, professionally she is not trained as one who could make that connection, even if the facts were there.

I applaud the passion, and at times I believe she is really on to something, either because she is developing the understanding, genuinely knows, or via the "tipsy coachman" theory.

Sealing the silver for me was her article, Zakuani's broken leg vs. MLS referee directive to 'manage with personality', where LE feebly tries to paint a 1::1 correlation between a brutal tackle that occurs in the 3rd minute of a match, and one of several directives that a referee is given, specifically to manage with personallity. In this particular case I genuinely believe LE was intellectually dishonest, as this was just a hit piece.

That brutal incident is here:

Lets look at some facts in this case.

1. The tackle was was brutal and there is no place for it.
2. The Incident occurred very early, at 2:53 of the match.
3. Mullen was send off straight away for the misconduct.
4. Mullen received a 10 game suspension for the incident.

With that as a backdrop, what does managing with personality have to do with anything? The whole article is a red herring to again beat up on referees. This particular referee was exactly correct in their decision. A brutal foul, and a send off, period. What else is there? What else does she want? A referee to predetermine, or PREJUDICE their view on an incident or player before something happens?

Now, in reading that article you again may get the sense she knows of what she speaks because she quotes refereeing legend Angelo Bratsis, as well as yours truly on the topic. Guess what folks, as with many things, she places them out of context. No one in the refereeing ranks condones such reckless behavior, it is what we are trained to stop. Also, I have never known a referee to try to talk their way out of something like this. It was reckless, brutal, and unnecessary. Managing with personality is one arrow in the quiver of tools a referee needs to manage a match at the high level, not a one size fits all remedy to match control. As always the "prime directive" as it were, is to protect THE game and its participants.

By way of an analogy, remember game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs? It had this brutal hit:

Not completely dissimilar. Horton is a skilled player for the Bruins, Rome is a thug for the Canucks. Lets look at some facts:

1. The hit was was brutal and there is no place for it.
2. The Incident occurred early, at 14:53 of the match.
3. Rome was send off straight away for the misconduct.
4. Rome received a 4 game suspension for the incident.

Amazingly similar fact pattern. Except for one thing, the media reaction.

Look at, Gray area or not, Rome's punishment for Horton hit appropriate. Do you know how many times the word referee was used in that article ... zero. Take a look at some others for the time, and you will see similar results.


Well in these cases I believe the American media has (2) "baked in" biases. 

First is the one against referees of all sports, not just soccer. We are a natural target, the folks wearing the "black hat" who rarely get it right, or even if they do, no one is happy. Silence is praise for a referee. It is easy to be against referees as at least 50% of the participants in any given time generally are. There is no risk in writing such a piece.

Second,  lets face it folks, refereeing at the MLS or international level is hard. It is an amazing balancing of social, economic, athletic, religious, governmental, and personal elements to try and manage a group that inherently don't want to be managed. We asked for the job though, so its ours to rise or fall, succeed or fail. BUT, armchair media (or really anyone) just don't have the patience to understand what goes into the art, and at these levels how subtle the craft is that we spend a lifetime developing. Watching a match for 90 minutes and making a decision about how a referee did based on a result without understanding more is not doing anyone a service. Most don't spend the time to understand and have the gift to articulate it. What's that life lesson, "Seek first to understand, then be understood?"

I would the opine the media don't understand, and many don't even try to. Some are just open about their anti-referee bias.

Also, and frankly, blaming the referee in either case does not even pass the "sniff test." NHL writers saw the act by Rome as independent from any referees conduct, LE apparently does not make that break and implies the referee was the cause of Zakuini's injury through his conduct of match management, for nearly 3 minutes.

Like I said to start, both these authors are very good and very accomplished. I read them both regularly. They provide insight into THE game and have at times really provoked my thinking about some matters.

Never with the art of refereeing however.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Michael Smith Update ... Did he see the light?

Well, I will say that Michael seemed to have second thoughts, or ESPN dropped the hammer.

Either way, I'll take it, for real, feigned, or forced, and move on from here.

Based on the replies from his twitter page however (!/MrMichael_Smith), I don't think everyone is buying it.

Media Pinhead Bronze Medal: Michael Smith of ESPN

Over the next (3) days I am going to call out some folks in the media that I believe are pinheads. This distinction may be for a variety of reasons, or a single event. In all cases these are my personal opinions about their professional conduct or work product. I don't know these people personally, so I can not comment, nor will I comment on them personally.

Bronze Medal Pinhead Winner: Michael Smith of ESPN

So as readers have seen I have been talking a bit about the Tour de France and commenting about how these guys, like with soccer are real athletes ... tough athletes ... and deserve respect for that.

Well, almost on cue with the dramatic stage 9 crash of riders Fletcha and Hoogerland detailed in Not for wimps, we get treated to Michael Smith of ESPN laughing at the incident via twitter. A full accounting of his unprofessional and insulting conduct can be found here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Now it was not his initial comment laughing at the incident, as I can almost stretch reality to say that an anxious laugh is not outside the possible, but to continue FOUR MORE TIMES (the tweets can be seen here) to insult decency with his vapid comments goes beyond the pale.

Icing on the cake was his feigned apology:

This really showed his professional level of respect for athletes, or those who follow athletes. I would surmise from his smarmy comments, he has none.

A simple apology, even if a lie, or even silence would have been better from the ESPN pundit.

So what are his credentials to make such a statement and dismiss such incredible tenacity that saw these riders return today to the TDF and continue to compete? You would figure he knows something that the rest of us don't as to what makes a pro athlete (any pro athlete) tick or some inside track about the difficulty of coming back from something like getting hit by a car, getting strung up in a barbed wire fence, receiving 30 stitches, and still getting back on a bike to ride 158km today.

Something? Anything?

Nothing. Except a BS from Loyola in 2001 for mass communication.

From his ESPN bio, he is a beat reporter and analyst. He has no athletic credentials to speak of that I could find. I would figure that such credentials would be touted by ESPN if he had any, even a scintilla of athleticism.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

So why do we listen? Because he provides such cunning insight about things he watches? What makes him such an expert? He has never been there or done that with anything related to sports from what I can see. 

It is easy to shower comments down to the masses in a lounge chair, when one has never been in the hot seat, any hot seat.

So as a professional, he is really nothing more than a guy with a microphone and no clue about what he is talking about as he has no life experience with professional sports (or even collegiate sports maybe) as an athlete.

Should that stop him? Heck no! Perspective is important and 3rd party observers contribute to the fabric of our culture greatly. Look at me (not for adding to the fabric, but), I talk about professional sports other than THE game, and while I worked in the professional leagues for many years, it was not in the NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA or international cycling, to name a few. It's just a perspective.

Now to me, Smith shows he does not respect sport, not just a sport, but sport in general through his comments. I can appreciate pundits who are not experts (i.e. never been there or done anything) who given opinions. I respect the thoughtful ones, and dismiss the bobble heads. Even the bobble heads often times at least feign interest in what they are commenting on and serve as an ambassador to their respective organization.

Smith through his actions in this matter, in my estimation, has neither respect for sport, nor is a good ambassador for ESPN. If he were he would have just said nothing, or offered a genuine apology it would never have been an issue as, I don't think it is in his DNA to offer a genuine comment about the sheer athleticism of what happened to Fletcha and Hoogerland, or for that matter about cycling.

So the irony left is that ESPN has a sports commentator that does not respect sport. Sounds pretty useless to me.

A petition to have Michael Smith suspended from ESPN is here. I already signed it as Smiths conduct is inappropriate to have an ambassador of a sports media outlet show such disrespect for sport in general.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Billions and Billions Served

Say what you will about FIFA, they are a marketing machine. Just take a look at the recent statistics regarding viewership for the 2010 World Cup Final.

1 Billion people. That's about 1/7th of the Earth's population.

THAT is a good day in the office.

FIFA: 1 Billion People Saw Part Of World Cup Final

FIFA announced Monday that the 2010 World Cup final was seen by at least 1 billion people.

FIFA research shows that 909.6 million television viewers watched at least one minute of the match between Spain and the Netherlands. ...

See the complete story here, courtesy of mediabistro.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not for wimps, part deux

... results of the fall from Johnny Hoogerland. Any questions?

Photo courtesy of Cycling News

Not for wimps

You know, I personally get very tired of hearing about how much of a wimp soccer players, and cyclists are. Dancing around in their shorts, and Lycra, tra la la, la la. Rubbish. Well, there was a recent incident in MLS, and yesterday in Stage 9 of the Tour de France that should summarily dismiss the notion any of these athletes in their respective sports are wimps.

First up is the match between Columbus v. Seattle where Steve Zakuani received a brutal tackle. Keep this one in the front of mind folks, I will be calling a media pinhead out on it this week. BTW, that *pop* is his leg.

Second was a bizarre incident in the TDF where a French media car wrecked the 5 man breakaway and may have cost Teams' Sky and Vacansoleil as well as riders Fletcha and Hoogerland their lives and their Tour. In case your were wondering, both finished the stage, were awarded the most combative riders of the stage (1st time ever in TDF history), and Hoogerland was awarded the polka dot jersey for his effort in the mountains.

Also ... that was a barber wire fence Hoogerland was caught up in ... no wimps here folks. Check out here, for full coverage on the stage results, and carnage.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Upgrade Kudos

As we have done here in the past, I would like to congratulate Amanda Diver, who has recently been upgraded to Grade 7 (Referee 1st Class).

Well done!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Hopeless American View

Well I am back and mostly recovered from my experiences at the Region I tournament in Lancaster Pennsylvania over the last week or so. There are several stories to share, some funny, some very serious. The first one however was an indication of just how myopic the American view of the sport is.

Here is the scenario:
I was asked to assess a variety of matches over the week. This particular one was a "boys" U-19 match between Eastern PA and Virginia. As some may know these teams are tremendously skilled, and I took note of at least one US National pool player. Also noteworthy was the fact that the referee was a National candidate.

After about 19', play was excellent and moving at a breakneck pace with the referee doing a tremendous job in understanding that the players were there to play, and managed them to perfection in my estimation. In that time the referee had (2) match critical decisions, managed through what could have been a caution, and each team had no fewer than (3) goal scoring opportunities each.

As I was standing there enjoying the match, a parent of one of the teams came by and asked me, "Is there any score?" I replied "Yes, it is currently nil, nil."

He stopped and look perplexed for a second and reflected by stating, "Good, I haven't missed anything" as he strode away.

Wow, I thought to myself. With all that had happened in the match so far, to say they haven't missed anything was stunning. It demonstrated how so many see the game today, any game today, as the only excitement is scoring.

I firmly believe that is why ice hockey has poor acceptance as well, and frankly if it was not for the fights, would be on par with soccer in the US.

Imagine if we counted a goal for 7 points, instead of 1? Can you see the headline? New England Revolution 14, Chicago Fire 7. On some level that does seem more appealing I guess. Maybe not.

I suppose that's why no one likes chess either, or an even better sports analogy is bicycle racing. I mean, most of the world this month is watching the Tour de France (go Team Radio Shack!), and when I bring it up to most, I get a blank look expressing, "What are you talking about?"

Maybe it's me ... I guess I have patience for matches that have no scoring or immediate results. Maybe I just really enjoy the tactics and strategy that go into a match, or something like the TDF. It is truly amazing what goes into such a competition (just look below or here at a Team Radio Shack meeting), and to dismiss it without appreciation is incredibly short sighted, and I hate to say, when it comes to sports, incredibly American.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What now?

Picture courtesy of
Special thanks to C.W. Rice for bringing this one forward!

Monday, July 4, 2011

It could never happen to me

Well here at the Region I tourney we have a saying ... "Be prepared for everything."

Check out the clip below (and here) from the  AUS v. EQG match (report [.pdf]):

The referee for this match was Referee: Gyoengyi Gaal of Hungary. There was no penalty given for the incident (source ... and a really funny article).

Be ready for anything folks, the weirdest things can happen at the worst times.

LIVE from Lancaster PA, it's Kicking Back!

Friends ... I am beat.

It is early morning day 4 of the tournament and it has been a whirlwind.

Days 1 thru 3 are generally the same where referees and assessors will work 3 matches in a day, sometimes 4 in the case of assessors. You are up early (5 or 6 AM) to get ready for the day, and usually down late (midnight) after the meetings, post meetings, post meeting debrief with your delegation, and late night meetings over specific incidents.

Last night a few of us were up to 2 AM discussing the finer points of laws 3, 4, and 5 and how you must restart for equipment changes versus injuries versus bleeding. It was a surprisingly riveting conversation that demonstrated just how convoluted interpretations of the laws can get.

BTW to save everyone from getting a flat spot on their head in finding the CURRENT interpretation of the LOTG (i.e. Advice to referees), a link can be found here at the AYSO site ... not ANYWHERE on the US Soccer site. Check out section 5.8 and 5.9 specifically to get a flavor of the discussion (noting they had recently changed).

Today is semi-final day here, and as I write this at about 7 AM, I can see some unhappy campers. Today is the first day that selections are made and some players, referees, and assessors have not "made the cut."

JAFO puts it well in their post "Testing ones mettle", as these certainly are the times that try men's souls. Soccer is life, and right now THE game has dealt some a tough road to hoe for the foreseeable future to sort out what they believe may be a refereeing issue.

Dear hearts, let me opine that refereeing is an extension of ones self, and to really sort out why one may not have received assignments as a player, referee, or assessor today should invoke some deep introspection to think about what is going on.

As a referee and assessor in regionals past there have been times I have not received such assignments, and it was very refreshing to sit, reflect, and watch a match ... for a change. Going through a tournament like this is a pressure cooker that some distance, and perspective can aid greatly in helping ones understanding of the game, and themselves. Some of my greatest personal victories have come from my most epic failures. This tournament provides great opportunities for both.

When you get down to it though, they might be one and other in disguise.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Testing One's Mettle

The tournament atmosphere is one of the blacksmith's fire. Teams and referees are thrown into a crucible of activity over a very short span of time. Players endure as many as five or six games over a weekend, and referees may end up working twice that many.

Fatigue, injury, equipment failures, decision making under pressure, high stakes. Only the strong survive. It is a battle of attrition.

A Regional level tournament takes all of that to yet another level, as careers (both referees' and players') can be defined. Last week I saw a very solid promising referee get assigned a game just slightly over her head. It was a level of play she had officiated in her home state many times before, but today the skills were sharper, and the stakes were higher. Suddenly she felt stretched, and more than a little overwhelmed.

As I watched the game, I could tell she was out of her comfort zone. She was refereeing by rote - mechanically doing the things she had done many times before, but not really 'feeling' the game. Her good habits were carrying her through this game. She survived, but barely.

Observing her in the dressing room after the game, she was obviously stunned, her confidence shaken. This referee was at a crossroads. Suddenly her dreams of becoming a FIFA referee did not seem so attainable. But with a little support from her crew and quiet discussion with the match assessor, she has decided to keep going. She vows to complete this journey. I for one could not be happier for her.

Everyone gets knocked down from time to time. What matters is what you do next.

Soccer is Life