Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where are all the men?

So as I catch up on some sports items while on vacation, I re-reflected on something I noticed while watching the Tour over the last few weeks ...

All the commercials for the Olympics were for either disabled athletes (who on their very worst day can grind me into the mud as they are really amazing), or women's soccer.


There are so many amazing athletes going over there to compete. As an example, and to stay on the cycling bent for just a second, look at Taylor Phinney who came in 4th at the men's road race. No one expected that. While it may be the worst finish in an Olympics generally, it is an outstanding result.

My point being I have watched basically 3 weeks of commercials for the US women's team, and not a single commercial to talk about the men ... any men in any sport (not just soccer) ... going to London. As an afterthought  ... what about Michael Phelps? Anyone??

Now I'm not going to go all sexist as some might, Or others would certainly if the shoe was on the other foot. I will just say that I'm not surprised that the media would play to the "darlings of the federation" in an effort to boost ratings.

That said MLS was featured front and center in many spots as well ... That is to say Becks and LD were.

I think I just have to get over the fact that media is there for themselves only, and it plays to that Ole United States mantra ...

America likes a winer.

To bad they don't appreciate sport too.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"You ride for ME son"

I can almost hear those words coming out of Wiggo's mouth, holder of the yellow jersey, on the Team Sky bus after Stage 11 of the TdF where his climbing Lieutenant, Chris Froome, dropped him like a bad habbit, and had to be called back by the director to again protect Wiggins. As the stories go, Froome defied team orders in dropping Wiggo.

This of course has created much controversy (not as much as the happenings in Radio Shack land sadly) to many watching le Tour. So much in fact that the riders WAG's have got involved and had at each other on Twitter.

Lets face it, Froome is the better rider, yet Wiggo is the named rider. Now what? Hold back someone who can win out of tradition, or ego, or let the best person go forward?

Does this sound like a familiar scenario?

How many times have you as an AR worked for someone in the middle who you KNEW (objectively) you were better than?

How did you react? Did you "ride off" as Froome did and leave the referee to their own devices?

Or did you recognize that you are a team, bury your own personal ambitions, and support them as best you could?

Here is Froome right after the stage in his own words:

Good answer, mostly. His words were fine, how he said them, was less believable.

There are those of us who believe Froome is the better rider, and should be wearing yellow, and is giving up too much by letting Wiggo walk away with it.

My though on this is don't be so driven by ego. If you accept an assignment as an AR, you are there to serve as an AR until such time as you are called on as referee. Don't subvert The Game from the touchline by placing a match into disrepute with your ego.

Imagine, just imagine tomorrow on Stage 19 if Froome, knowing he is about 2:05 seconds back of Wiggo, rode out of his shoes to actually take the yellow jersey off him the day before riding into Paris.

Can you picture that, how horrible it would look, and the shunning of a career Froome would get? He would never be able to race professionally again.

Now just imagine if you did this as an AR ... what do you think the reaction would be?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Power Line's Euro 2012 Stars


Euro 2012 provided a high quality of play. Only two teams embarrassed themselves — Ireland and Holland. And the Dutch embarrassed themselves by falling far short of their normal standard, not by being objectively bad.

Unfortunately, the European soccer bureaucrats, following Mae West’s view of “too much of good thing” rather than the traditional, correct view, have decided to expand the tournament from 16 to 24 teams. So, the overall quality of play at the Euros will never again be as good as it was this year. Instead, it will probably resemble the mediocre fare served up at the bloated World Cup. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Power Line.

Kicking Back Comments: Power Line continues to do a tremendous job reporting on politics, as well as soccer. Paul Mirengoff in particular would seem to be in clear command of both. I personally would enjoy his commentary on refereeing as well ... and will be looking out of the same.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'm with Wiggo

So while this post is in reference to the doping controversy currently swirling around the cycling world, the message is universal.

To have credibility to comment on a matter, once needs to walk a mile in their shoes.

Wiggo made this point transparently clear in his rant the other day when asked about doping. Parental warning regarding foul language, or if you are a Wiggo follower, normal language for him.

Consider the move by US Soccer to qualify only ex-professional referees to their higher level assessing and instructing ranks. This to me is a particular clever maneuver and one that keeps the ship going  in the right direction as these folks should have the most to share for those who need it the most.

Now, you may be asking, I just received an assessment in my youth match from someone who has not refereed much, recently, or maybe even at all. Should I take that advice?

My answer is a conditional yes. In "Confirmation Bias" or "China Syndrome"? we explored this a little bit and I came to the conclusion that all feedback is good feedback. However, you need to file it accordingly.

That said, those who have "been there" I believe hold a particularly keen ability to get the right message, in the right way to those who are listening.

This is true I think with Wiggo as well. Part of his point was related directly to the media who write, not do. While a necessary part of making a sport more attractive on the worlds stage, I hold their opinions (not reporting on the facts) in fairly low regard as so few have ever been where they are reporting on.

Those that have, I listen to more than nearly all others.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Real Gentelman's Game

For any who were following the drama in Stage 14 of the TdF we were treated to a spectrum of events that ranged from grotesque to divine.

For those unaware, several carpet tacks were spread on the road at the summit of the last climb, the Mur de Péguère. This caused absolute mayhem that included a reported (48) punctures for riders, several team cars, and many referees with over $10,000 of damage reported due to these punctures. Also, Robert Kiserlovski (Astana), tumbled to the tarmac, likely as a result of a puncture from a tack, was forced to abandon with a suspected fractured collarbone.

Reason for this assault is unknown, but when it was unfolding live, Madame X suggested it a Basque separatist statement. Hat tip to her as the Washington Post agrees with her theory here. While I laughed it off at the time, I am eating crow today.

In the carnage was last years Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans who punctured (3) times on his way down the final decent. I was sick to my stomach watching time slip away from him as no team car was present, no neutral support vehicle, and no teammate with the same size wheel, or bike to offer him to allow him to defend his title.

Wiggins the current race leader was made aware of the situation, and in the ultimate gesture of sportsmanship, neutralized the stage, and waited for Evans and the remainder of the teams who were effected by the sabotage. One notable exception was a single escapee, Pierre Rolland, who was eventually reeled in and will be punished by the peleton for the remainder of Le Tour.

Funny thing was when Wiggo was asked about it the next day, he was clear that he did not want to capitalize on another's misfortune, and he noted that such hooligans belonged at a football (soccer) match.

I found that interesting.

For something that I had often considered the ultimate "Gentleman's Game", I was shown that maybe, just maybe, we can learn a thing or two from another sport.

Hat tip to Mr. Wiggins.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sepp ... Just Leave

FIFA Leader Under Fire

The head of Germany’s football league has called on Sepp Blatter to resign over the FIFA bribery scandal.

Reinhard Rauball told Germany’s Welt Online that Blatter should step down as soon as possible so that FIFA can make a fresh start.

Blatter has acknowledged he knew about payments by marketing agency ISL to former FIFA chief Joao Havelange but insisted they were legal in Switzerland in the 1990s. ...

See the whole story here, from the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: Take a look at this story from ESPN, and here from the BBC. So it is clear that bribery was rife at FIFA, and Seppy knew about it, and condoned it by doing nothing.

Today he comes forward and states that "... it was legal then ..." which on it's face is nonsense just from a common sense perspective, and that there is now a judgment to the exact contrary that forced a Former FIFA president and Ex-Com member to make repayments and resign their posts (from the IOC and FIFA respectively).

His farcical interview is here, courtesy of the FIFA propaganda machine that continues to lose credibility day by day.

Sepp, just leave and do The Game a favor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Programming Note


Over the next week or so I am going to be traveling on business, and completing my training for the Memory Ride to benefit Alzheimer's.

Please feel free to peruse the past articles and know we'll be back at it next week.

Before I leave you for the week however, here is a great commercial from Specialized that gets to the heart of what I was talking about in I AM SPARTACUS.

Be good, enjoy le Tour, and thanks for reading!

Monday, July 9, 2012

In my last post, I had given several observations from a recent high level amateur tournament, and an overview of why the assessors felt the referees were not measuring up.  (See Kicking Back July 2, 2012)  Now for the last piece of the puzzle:  how does this get fixed?

According to Brian Hall, who just happens to be the Director of Referee Administration for CONCACAF, the solution lies in three parts:
  1. Be physically fit.  There is no excuse for not being in shape.  You have to get to where the action is in order to accurately see what is going on.  The modern game demands a much higher rate of fitness.  The old regimen of taking a 30 minute jog three times a week is not going to cut it.  We are talking about concentrated interval and strength training combined with proper nutrition.  Fitness is now measured with heart monitors and data is recorded for all top level referees.  Get an expert to design a training program for you.  
  2. Be prepared.  The old boy scout motto is a good one.  Come into the match prepared, and know what is likely to happen before it does.  What is the style of play of the two teams you have today?  Where will the run of play be, and what parts of the field are vulnerable to attack?  Who commits the fouls, and even more importantly who suffers the fouls?  What is the importance of this game to each team?  If possible, go and watch them play in the week before your game, or review the film of their recent game.  Talk to the referee they had last week.
  3. Watch more soccer!  As simple as that sounds, watch the game at every opportunity.  Patterns will start to emerge.  Patterns of play, patterns of behavior.  Certain things will trigger certain events.  The more you watch, the more you will become aware of them, to the point where you will see things happening before they happen.  Become an expert at recognizing patterns and situations.  Ultimately the ability to anticipate the next play will be instinctive.  
Brian has one other piece of advice, culled from the lessons he learned as a referee and which he freely admits will apply to any endeavor:  set goals and do not get sidetracked by temporary setbacks.  Success at any level is only possible if you are willing to make the sacrifice.  

Ah, there it is.....Soccer is Life.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

MLS Not as geriatric as it used to be

An Eye on Europe, but Choosing M.L.S.

The walls of Major League Soccer’s Fifth Avenue headquarters in Manhattan reflect its reputation in world soccer.

Posters and signed jerseys and balls of stars like Carlos Valderrama and David Beckham who have played out a last well-paid hurrah decorate the premises. The 17-year-old league has long been known as a place for soccer’s geriatrics to ease into retirement. Lately, however, M.L.S. has become a popular way station for young talent from throughout the Western Hemisphere seeking passage to Europe’s top ranks. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: A good article that details the growth of the league, and a place for some young hopefuls to launch to the next step in their career. Also, as I noted earlier, a place for those older players to retire gracefully.

In all cases, it is not the cash cow other leagues, or sports are. Just take a looks at the MLS 2012 salaries. Good money for a very few notables to be sure, but frankly not a lot for most in what would be a very short tenure in the league.

When I talk to Jr. about it, and his desire to "go pro", I remind him to do his math homework first, they kick the ball in the yard.

What's that saying?

(MLS) Always the bridesmaid, never the bride?

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Photo courtesy of @RSNT

As most of you know I am a great follower of cycling, and specifically of Team Radio Shack.

This last week fans like me who have been suffering through injury, illness, and controversy of the teams early season have been treated with delight to the last week of the Tour de France and RSNT's stellar performance, save Frank Schleck getting caught in a crash on Stage 6 and losing a significant amount of time.

That said, Fabian Cancellara (Spartacus) has worn yellow for the week, and Andreas Kloden (Klodi) is sitting pretty in the GC at only +00:19 seconds back.

Not bad indeed.

So what does this have to do with the price of baguettes in France?

Well, as I continue to prepare for the Memory Ride in a week or so, I sometimes ... okay often ... go out an pretend like I am riding for RSNT on The Tour ... full RSNT kit and all.

While I generally don't pretend to be Spartacus (I'm a Popo fan), it is a nice distraction from grinding out hundreds of miles in an effort to try and get better on the bike.

I used to do the same thing as a younger, and honestly amateur level referee where I would follow the career of some other, more seasoned referees, in an effort to at times emulate what they do, as it was to me,  growing to be a pro.

Now in the RSNT case it is clearly being a fan(atic) as I have no where near the skill of these guys, and never will in my lifetime. The refereeing on the other hand was another matter.

I used to revel in watching Bratsis, Kleinaitis, Evans, and Mauro, and whenever possible pick up tips, tricks, and knowledge from these men from afar, and through good fortune, personally, over time.

Today is an age too that one can follow a referee from afar using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs and I am here to assure you there is no harm in emulating the good behavior of the modern day giants like de Bleeckere, Webb, Stark, and Kassai. In fact it can be quite fun.

Also too as our world gets smaller and smaller, to reach out to these folks and say hello, or even strike up an appropriate dialogue is quite excellent as well.

You may be amazingly suprised just how open folks are to share what they love, when asked.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shocking ... just shocking

FIFA bows to pressure over goal-line technology

(Reuters) - Soccer's rulemakers and its governing body FIFA bowed to pressure on Thursday when they finally approved the use of goal-line technology and agreed to allow Muslim women players to wear a headscarf.

The first decision followed widespread calls from players, coaches and the media, after a series of embarrassing high profile incidents in which perfectly good goals were disallowed because officials did not see the ball had crossed the line. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Reuters.

Kicking Back Comments: Well folks, not a surprise, but the camels nose is under the tent with the GLT. A poor decision in my eyes that was brought by pressure from folks who have never had to judge such situations on the most part.

At this point some members of IFAB are just spouting rubbish, such as this:

"None of us are considering any type of technology which would interfere with the free-flowing nature of our game," said Alex Horne, the English member of the IFAB.

"We do not believe it is appropriate for technology to creep out into other areas, we are deliberately drawing a line and saying that goal line technology is where it stops."

To which I say ... Bull S&*t. I say this on (2) levels:

1. How can it not stop the free flow of the match? In the best case these devices would register a goal where the referee has awarded none. Play is stopped to award the goal ... after how long? How do you deal with those incidents that occur in the space between the (non called) goal occurring, and the stoppage? Is the ball still "in play"? Keep in mind this would have an effect on misconduct as well.

In the worst case the referee stops to "check" to see if the ball was in or not. What if the AR has one thing, and "the machine" has another? Who wins?

Are we replacing the AR's between the posts with HAL? In a tie, who wins?

2. FIFA and IFAB won't allow anymore technology ... until the next "crisis" that gets people in a snit. My next prediction for technology is video review on goal scoring opportunities to result in a send off. Or as a close second for me is PK/no PK based on spot of the foul. Almost like goal/no goal, yes?

With this step FIFA and IFAB have opened the door to future "enhancements" of the use of technology.

Finally a question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? ... or Who watches the watchers?

I could write for hours on this, but end with the question of what do we do if this system ever fails and how will we ever know?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A coin flip?

Olympic Spot Conceded Without Runoff

EUGENE, Ore. — United States track officials had devised an unprecedented method to resolve an extraordinary situation. After Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix finished in a dead heat in the final of the 100 meters at the Olympic trials here, the officials gave the runners the option of breaking the tie by a coin toss or a runoff, neither of which has been used to determine a spot on the United States Olympic team. ...

See the whole story here, from the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: So all the hand wringing aside from the rest of the article, my question to this audience is when in the LOTG do we use a coin toss to decide the match?



Before the match if it is raining?

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Becks a no go for London

David Beckham fails to make Britain’s soccer team for London Olympics

WARSAW, Poland — Former England captain David Beckham has failed to make the British soccer team for the London Olympics.

The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder made Britain coach Stuart Pearce’s shortlist of 35 but wasn’t selected for the final 18-man squad as one of three players over the age of 23 allowed to compete in the games. ...

See the full story here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Kicking Back Comments: I feel for Becks a bit. This would seem to be an unceremonious end to a good career.

Have no fear, MLS is very good at keeping "geriatric" players going, and I am certain Beck's will be a fixture for some time to come.

Monday, July 2, 2012

More on Key Findings from USASA tournament

In a recent post, I gave several bullet points that were the key findings and observations from a recent high level amateur tournament.  (See Kicking Back, June 25, 2012)  Here is a broader explanation of some of these points and more importantly, what the assembled assessors were looking for:

  • Overall read of the game was lacking - Referees were struggling with anticipating the play and what was going to happen next.  This effected everything from their positioning to what fouls were called to the ability to deal with more serious incidents as they occurred.  If referees could not anticipate the play, they were often left playing catch-up in their managing the game.  They were reacting to things instead of preventing them.
  • No urgency in movement and action when the game required, and an inability to read the warning signs and lend a presence to the situation - Somewhat related to the above, but specific to the more serious incidents that needed attention, referees were not showing the ability to 'smell out' and get to the spot of trouble.  Ideally the referee anticipates when the problems may occur and gets there ahead of time, but in these games some referees were not even recognizing the problems after they happened!
  • Effort level and an inability to sprint as needed for 90 minutes - To be clear, referees do not need to sprint for 90 minutes.  But they do need to be able to sprint in the 90th minute!  Climate did not play a part, as the temperature was low 70s.  It is also worth noting that no referee worked more than two games on each day, and had plenty of rest time in between assignments. 
  • Dealing with serious challenges the first time they occur - Referees were often seeing serious challenges and allowing them to go unchecked.  Players became emboldened and the level of violence often escalated and/or retaliation was seen.  This left referees having to pull a game back under their control, and few were capable of doing so once the horse had left the barn.
  • The referee's personality (response) often did not match the situation, and/or referee's body language sent the wrong message - Referees need to think more about the messages they send with facial expressions, arm position, posture, even tone of voice.  Referees were often seen to be issuing serious warnings with smiles on their faces, or scowling at players when only a gentle prodding was needed.  (The suggestion was made to have a friend video-tape a referee in action.)
  • Foul recognition and foul selection was below par - This was most surprising given the experience of the referees at this event, but there was a lot of unevenness to what was called and what was let go, even within the same game.  Where this most became an issue was in games involving teams of totally different styles and sizes, such as a predominantly African team playing a team comprised of Northern Europeans.  Referees struggled to recognize the tactics and reach an acceptable level of foul recognition.  
Granted the standards were high for this event, but these are the expectations for referees wishing to work in the professional leagues.  In a future post I will discuss some of the suggestions for fixing these problems.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Green Eggs and Hamm

Mia Hamm voted top female athlete of past 40 years

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2012 - American soccer great Mia Hamm was voted No. 1 in espnW’s Top 40 Female Athletes of the Past 40 Years, beating out No. 2 Martina Navratilova and No. 3 Jackie Joyner-Kersee. espnW, in conjunction with SportsCenter, over an eight-week timeframe, revealed one athlete per day culminating with Hamm on Friday, June 22. The countdown has been part of ESPN’s recognition of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, signed June 23, 1972. It was announced this morning on espnW that Hamm was voted No.1. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the Washington Times.

Kicking Back Comments: A good choice to be certain. For me personally, I was more in the Michelle Akers camp, but, a good choice. Chris Evert too would have made the tops of my list, but I am picking nits.

One thing I did find curious however, is that all (24) voters were women. That by itself was not curious, but that the vote was taken to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX, designed to end discrimination,  was a bit ironic to me.

Chief Justice Roberts said it best in that "If we want to end ... discrimination, we must stop discriminating ... ." Well ... what a better way to celebrate the ending of discrimination against women (not in sports by the way as the initial legislation targeted education), but by getting votes from a broad base of experts ... of both women and men.