Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Home Field

I can remember when I was very young and growing up in Eastern Massachusetts. It was a great time in my life because I had the ability to eat, breathe, sleep, and do all things soccer. I lived in a soccer family where each and every one of us were involved in The Game in some way.

At that time I was both a player and referee, and spent nearly every daylight hour on or near a soccer field. I can remember getting up Saturday mornings in the spring and going with my dad to line fields for the day's matches.

I knew every blade of grass, every mark, every anthill on those fields. I knew when the grass was going to be cut, and who was cutting it. I even cut it a few times myself when the grounds keeper could not get out in time during the week. I made patterns in the penalty area and center circle just like I had seen on TV. "THIS is how they do it ..." I would yell to my dad over the mower as he held is hands high in a gesture as to say "What are you doing?"

On Sunday I would play a match, then generally change in the car and run lines for the rest of the day, finishing off with the toughest matches of the weekend. The dreaded Boys U-19. I learned so much.

I did this for weeks in a row, and year after year. Those fields I came to think of as "my home field." It was where I refereed my first match, played my first game, and learned how to put the perfect markings down. It was glorious.

Same is true today with the roads around my town. I have ridden 1000's of miles over them and know the flats, rises, bumps, pot holes and what power I can pull in what stretch. I have ridden them almost every day for a few years now, and know them well.

We don't always get to stay at our home field, and have to move on to other things in life. While sad in a way, it is also necessary to grow.

I remember by first time refereeing an "away game" almost 20 minutes away, or my first night match at the State Championships ... and how things seems to be more exciting "under the lights."

I remember too my first bike races away from my home roads, or training far, far away.

That time has come for Kicking Back too.

For the next few weeks, I will be away moving and setting up shop in a new location.

It has been a very busy time ... and promises to be exciting, and a little scary as where I am going is totally unfamiliar to me.

Have no fear, we will be back with a vengeance after a short break tackling the fun, silly, and surreal.

During my break, please take some time and peruse the archives as right ... in looking at the work we have done over the last few years, there are some real gems in there.

Enjoy!

... and thanks for reading!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Five Match Ban ... Due to (Ball) Tosser

My intentionally placed double entendre should illustrate my opinion regarding the incident with Swansea City ballboy Charlie Morgan, who refused to return a ball back into play by falling on it.

So he slipped right?

Just an accident?

Uh, nope ... as he tweeted about it before the match that evening.

The whole story, the time wasting by the ballboy, the extraction by Chelsea's Eden Hazard, subsequent send off and suspension, and reaction from Chelsea and others can be found at Swansea City ballboy Charlie Morgan boasted about time wasting before Capital One semi-final with Chelsea, from The Telegraph.

It is a surreal read.

So ... was Chris Foy right to promptly send Hazard off?

Based on the video alone (in the article), you bet!

The reason ... say it with me ... violent conduct. Keep in mind that SFP is reserved against an opponent, AND when the ball is in play.

Now, let's change the scenario a bit. Say that our ballboy, Brady, was still man handled by a player, lets call him Raven, but did not feign injuries, nor roll around like a lame cow until he was carted off by the attending staff, just held the ball and did not return it into play. Should that hypothetical ball boy, Brady, be dismissed (not sent off), and the involved player, Raven, be sent off?

Again my opinions are yes, and yes. Where is the authority however?

For the player the answer is clear as the referee has the authority to do so, and should. Poking the ball out from underneath a ballboy, however harmless, should not happen anywhere around the pitch. Granted this was a true test of patience, but the player needs to hold his water and wait for the ballboy to get up and take it from him as necessary.

Regarding Brady, our ballboy, let's start with Law 5 where the referee is empowered to, "stop(s), suspends or abandons the match because of outside interference of any kind;"

Okay, so far so good. What about a ballboy? Is he an actor we can take action on? After all, Law 5 states that we may, "take(s) action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds;"

Is a ballboy a team official and thus putting him in our purview for action?

I don't think so, so we can't directly dismiss a ballboy ... BUT ... they are under the control of team official, and as such we should make a request through that official to dismiss the ballboy.

It may seem a little convoluted, but it is your best bet. Also, and think about this from the outside for a second ... a referee dismissing a kid from a professional match without any other intervention.

That may not look so good for the cameras.

Get the person responsible for the ballkids and work through them ... it is your best bet.

Even better, is to have a chat before the match. During my time in MLS, I loved to do this. It was good fun and I got to meet some great kids that were even more excited than I was to be involved in The Game. A quick chat about expectations, and to do their best. 2 Minutes tops.

Touch wood, I never had an issue with a ballkid yet.

Prevent, prevent, prevent ... even with the things you think that can never go wrong.

Then again, I never met the (ball) tosser Charlie Morgan.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Good News for All

MLS, USL Pro reach deal on restructured Reserve League

It's been rumored for months, and on Wednesday afternoon MLS and USL Pro made it official: The two leagues have reached an agreement to integrate MLS Reserve League teams into the USL Pro schedule, a multi-year deal that will feature "interleague" play between MLSRL teams and the 13 USL Pro sides.

In the year ahead, that deal also includes affiliations for select teams, facilitating loans from MLS to USL Pro clubs (the third tier of the US soccer pyramid) for players who otherwise wouldn't get much playing time in the top flight. The goal is to immediately improve professional player development in the United States and Canada, providing more and better competition for young pros with big-league dreams. ...

See the whole story here, from MLS.

Kicking Back Comments: This is great news for players and referees alike. For players it is a chance to shine before getting into the big time. For referees it is a chance to see if they "have the stuff", or for that matter, even want to go on to the bigs if they get a chance.

Lower division play is not all that glamorous. In fact, it is bitter work for all involved.

It is also bitter work I would never trade away my whole life. One of these days I am going to write a book about all the crazy stuff that goes on in "the minors."

For some perspective, watch Bull Durham. It was a standard "warm up" for me before I did a D3 or A-League match somewhere.

Here is a classic clip (viewer warning on adult language):

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Super Draft!!

Monday MLS Breakdown: News and notes from the SuperDraft floor in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS – New England's decision to make a play for Louisville defender Andrew Farrell occurred a few days before the SuperDraft.

It may have looked like a complex choice from the outside, but it carried fewer complications than one might expect. The technical staffers in New England felt this particular crop of players presented them with two stark choices. Neither of them involved entering draft day with the number four pick. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Yahoo News.

Kicking Back Comments: Welcome aboard Mr. Farrell. I hope it works out for Mr. Heaps. I have to believe after last year, this is his last shot.

If he was a referee, he would be banished from MLS based on performance alone.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sporting KC, Please Take Note

So the other day I wrote about how Sporting KC lost its nerve and pulled the plug on funding cancer charity LIVESTRONG.

While I believe there was leeway to do so based on Lance Armstrong's speculated doping and stripping of his 7 TdF titles some time ago, Sporting KC waited until the eve of the Oprah interview and gave some pathetic excuse, essentially blaming the charity itself, while saying it, " ... defend(ed) the mission of the foundation."

Baloney.

I offered SKC a thought on what I thought the right note to strike was. Distance itself from the disgraced cyclist, while actually maintain support for the foundation. Not surprisingly LAF has done exactly that on their site.

Sporting KC should take note as it displays the leadership so desperately needed with such a situation. If the club truly believed in the mission of LAF, and not the man, below is a fine example of how to accomplish both.

I hope Mr. Heineman gains the courage to do so.


Screen capture courtesy of LAF

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Touch of Class

Report: Lampard set to join LA Galaxy

Chelsea ace Frank Lampard has reportedly reached a deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy and will join the Major League Soccer champions next season according to Goal.com.

LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena has refused to rule out the possibility of a deal being done for Chelsea veteran Lampard. The MLS outfit have been strongly linked with the England international ever since it became apparent that Lampard would not be offered a contract extension at Stamford Bridge. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: I think this is a great move my MLS personally. Sadly, one of the few ways to keep the attention of the American public is to keep having international starts like Lampard on our pitches.

Of course MLS should be able to stand up alone ... and I honestly think it can ... but this does not hurt in the least.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

They Are Legend

Seven legends at their FIFA World Cup finest!

Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Iker Casillas, Alessandro Del Piero, Luis Figo, Homare Sawa and Lucas Radebe. Seven footballing legends who wrote their own chapters in the FIFA history books at various tournaments and whose exploits will live long in the memories of their fans.

See the complete article and video here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back Comments: Very, very cool stuff!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sporting KC Chickens Out

Sporting KC stadium gets new name

Less than two years into a six-year naming-rights deal for Livestrong Sporting Park, both the Livestrong Foundation and Major League Soccer's Sporting KC say the agreement is set to end for different reasons.

The move would be the latest of several by the anti-cancer charity to separate itself from its founder and former chairman, Lance Armstrong, who has been stripped of his seven Tour De France titles.

It also comes just two days before the first part of the disgraced cyclist's interview with Oprah Winfrey in which he admits to using performance-enhancing drugs was set to air. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: So there are always multiple sides to every story. I think personally Sporting KC comes out the loser in this one.

Their choices were:
(a) We don't have the money, or won't pay it (as Livestrong contends). Well this is not good if true. How solvent is Sporting KC, or how dishonest are they if they failed to pay?

(b) We suddenly don't like the terms of the agreement ... that has existed for 2+ years (as KC contends). This is a weak excuse. Even if (and I think this is reasonable) they were concerned about the "Armstrong Affair", they had a chance to back out a while ago when this first came out, not on the eve of the Oprah debut of Lances' confession.

KC continued to dig their own hole by saying that they "staunchly defend the mission of the foundation."

Frankly, no they don't. If they did they would grow a set and say something like:

While it is now clear based on Mr. Armstrong's own admissions that he took performance enhancing drugs during his time as a professional cyclist, and has been stripped of his titles as a consequence, Sporting KC believes that his surviving cancer and subsequent work in forming Livestrong to aide those who are suffering this horrific disease is alone worthy of associating with Sporting KC who stands beside him in fighting all forms of cancer.

Instead we get drivel from Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman say we believe in the foundation, we just aren't going to give it any more money because ... well insert (a) or (b) above.

Very cowardly in my opinion Mr. Heineman. You can't have it both ways.





Thursday, January 17, 2013

Next!!

Michel Platini Should Succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA President

On June 1, 2011 Sepp Blatter, accompanied by members of his family, walked out onto the stage at Zurich’s Hallenstadion and accepted a bouquet of flowers, and with it, another four-year mandate as FIFA president.

The incumbent head of world football’s governing body, having first been elected in 1998, Blatter had run unopposed at the 61st FIFA Congress, his name the only one on the ballot. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Bleacher Report.

Kicking Back Comments: I don't think this is a completely horrible choice actually. Now FIFA Ex-comm member Villar ... or Valcke ... those are completely horrible.

How about some outside the box thinking on this one?

How about Collina?

Why not ... at least we would know there would be integrity from the top.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sepp Blatter: "I'm a star"

FIFA Boss Blatter Eyes TV Career

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has declared his interest in pursuing a career in football commentary after he stands down from the sport's governing body in 2015.

Blatter told Sky Sports in the UK that he hoped to fulfil a childhood dream by working in the media as a commentator or reporter. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of BigPond Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: Well I would say that Sepp on TV would be entertaining. Not for the reasons he thinks he would be, but the sheer comedy of it.

Later in the article he was quoted (and I have to hope, mis-quoted) regarding the reception of "Boo's" 80,000 strong before the Olympic final in 2012 and stated that not only were the British fans not educated (about The Game), but that "Stars are always booed so I'm a star, you have to take it this way."

Are you (bleep)ing me?

I can hope that it was meant tongue in cheek in an effort to deflect for the poor reception he received. Here, you be the judge on the "small boos":



Well, this is the "star" that worked as a PR rep for a Swiss tourism board, cowardly refused to apologize to Valentin Ivanov after completely inappropriate comments following a 2006 World Cup match, and is known for his back room deals. This is how "stars" act?

True stars are magnanimous, they give off light. They shine, and make others shine. Pele is a star, Brian McBride is a star.

Sepp is not a "star" ... more like a "black hole", the most self absorbing thing in the universe.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Specific assurances" == More Money

U-17 World Cup: FIFA seeks specific assurances from India

New Delhi: FIFA, the governing body of world football, has asked for specific assurances from the Indian government by March on hosting the U-17 World Cup in 2017. All India Football Federation (AIFF) secretary general Kushal Das said that FIFA has rejected the first letter from the government and now want specific assurances.

"FIFA has rejected the government's letter. They want specific assurances from the government in terms of security, tax and foreign exchange inflow," said Das. "The government told us that it was not in a position to give written assurances. But once we told them that FIFA has rejected the letter, the sport ministry is considering it again. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of IBN Live.

Kicking Back Comments: While some of these measures clearly makes sense, I continue to be astonished at how often FIFA wants to roll over sovereignty of various countries. We saw "Special courts" in South Africa, "beer-gate" and "black eyed peas-gate" in Brazil. We have tax exceptions for India ... I can go on and on ...

With FIFA making all the money ... or I should say, most as I am certain some local government officials do well too ... why host the WC for economic reasons?

I can certainly understand the National Pride aspect of it ... but as I have stated before, these tournaments produce BIG losses (source) ...

... and FIFA is getting richer all the time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Grace of its Star Power" is the NWSL Business Plan?

New women's pro league allot players

The National Women’s Soccer League was only a month and a half old and the players had been assigned to their clubs just minutes earlier. But on social media, the Portland Thorns were already being crowned the 2013 champions.

They were perceived as having made out the best in the budding league’s initial allocation of 55 United States, Canadian and Mexican national team players to eight clubs across the country. When starting a professional league from scratch, especially one with a finite number of established stars, such early imbalance is to be expected. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: Near the bottom of the article the author details what he believes will be the difference between the WUSA, WPS, and the NWSL. Specifically why it will succeed. From the article:

"If this league is to survive – unlike the two predecessors, the WUSA and WPS, which were both felled by their problematic economics and attendance in just the last decade – it will probably do so by the grace of its star power."

I truly hope there is more to the business plan than this. Fame is fleeting. WUSA should have made that clear enough. Now a better answer is that US Soccer, as well as the Canadian and Mexican federations are paying the freight for the National Team players (where are my membership fees going again ... to referee development?).

Please don't rest the hopes of this last (IMHO) women league of my generation on fame. While the names of the US WNT are known in some circles now, give it a couple of years and let's see what happens.

Another aspect of a successful league it the ownership. Mr. Magic Jack ground the WPS league to a halt with his nonsense. What has the NWSL done to prevent a reoccurrence this time around?

The players have been allocated by a "board of experts" and apparently takes into consideration where players want to play, and what markets they will play to. While the first element is easy to match, the second, not so much.

From jump the league is slanted to the West, Pacific Northwest specifically, and the league itself agrees. Seems all too contrived to be competitive ... but in business ... you want to set yourself up for success. This is business folks ... not soccer in its purest form.

We'll see where it goes, but as I have opined here before, I think if NWSL fails, it's the third strike. In this fragile economy where taxes are up and folks have even less disposable income, getting attendance will be tougher than ever.

I hope it is a wild success personally, but if the "plan" is the "grace of its star power", they will be done in a year, two tops.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wall Street is like FIFA?

FIFA prosecutor Garcia is 'busier than expected'

ZURICH — FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia has been kept busier than he expected trying to clean up world soccer — and his workload will probably increase after a whistleblower hotline opens this month.

Garcia told The Associated Press in an interview that FIFA investigations take "more of my time than I originally anticipated" since his appointment last July.

"I'm a busy man. It's five months in and I think where we are is a very good place," said Garcia, who completed his first case last month. FIFA President Sepp Blatter's former election rival, Mohamed bin Hammam, was banned for life over financial mismanagement at the Asian Football Confederation.

"Outside of FIFA, I'm happy with the fact that people more and more seem to be getting the sense that this is a place where at least you can raise something, you'll get a hearing, you'll be taken seriously," he said from a Zurich hotel after attending the FIFA player of the year ceremony. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the WSJ.

Kicking Back Comments: This is a really interesting article. Honestly the more I read about Garcia, the more I like him. He seems to have his head in the right place when it comes to dealing with such actions from an area he is unfamiliar ... that being international football.

I still have (2) lingering thoughts.

First, is why an American (in large part) was asked to clean up FIFA? His credentials are impeccable, but why him?

Second, is what is going to happen when some of these trails lead to Sepp, as indeed they should? Will Garcia cross swords with him, or will Sepp be finishing his (self announced) end of his term when that happens?

Tick, tock ... tick, tock.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Soccer Night in Newtown ... A Great Success

Soccer Night in Newtown helps community heal

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- They came together from every part of the country, a Who's Who of U.S. soccer, to support a town in pain. Soccer Night in Newtown took place here on Monday night, three weeks after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and everywhere you looked there were fĂștbol players engaging the 1,200 kids from this soccer-loving community who filled two 90-minute sessions.

In one corner of a community center, MLS stars Landon Donovan and Kenny Cooper signed autographs and posed for pictures. In another, Mia Hamm dispensed hugs and hellos. A few feet away, Alexi Lalas played a small-sided game and screamed maniacally ("AHHHHHHH!") when one of the children scored a goal. And over at midfield Kristine Lilly and Christie Rampone signed soccer balls for a snaking line of admirers. ...

See the whole story here from SI.com.

Kicking Back Comments: Say it with me. Soccer is Life.

Friday, January 11, 2013

If you respect umpires Caple, then act that way

Like many I have been looking at the mess around the lack of a single player inducted into the Baseball HOF in 2012.

What a joke on so many levels. First is the group who casts votes ... Baseball "writers." Come on ... other than siting on their a$$es watching and writing, what do they know about the game?

As evidenced by some recent articles, not all that much. In fact so much so the oft repeated expression about "... those who can't do ... teach." should be revised to "... those who can't do ... write about baseball."

It's no surprise that there were no players inducted into the HOF this year, and the overwhelming reason being bandied about it the "silent referendum" on the use of PEDs.

So who made the know little press experts on PEDs, their use, and the morality involved in those who are associated with them?

Well it's about cheating some say. Cheating? What about Gaylord Perry? Here is a player who was a known cheat for altering baseballs during the game ... and yet is in the Hall?

Yeah, but that's not dealing with PEDs.

Well neither is Clemens, or Bonds as both were cleared of any charges regarding PEDs (Bonds was convicted on an obstruction charge). Where's the beef guys? Are you telling me that a group of reporters knows better than our Criminal Justice system in determining guilt? Really? How incredibly arrogant of these writers.

What really frosted my cookie, and caused this rant was The HOF's future imperfect tense written by Jim Caple of ESPN. It's an excellent article worth a good read. One I largely agree with.

Where we depart in our opinions, is in his nearly mocking tone of the induction of Hank O'Day. Here is a guy who was a pitcher and umpire in MLB for 37 years. He worked the 2nd most number of games EVER in MLB history, and worked 10 World Series.

Caple's comment:
"Former umpire Hank O'Day, who, well, was an umpire."

Nice Caple. Here is someone who served the game for 1/3 of a century, and your comments amount to, yeah I guess those guys count too ... sort of.

How pathetic.

He continues with:
All of those "Hall of Famers" -- elected by something called the Pre-Integration Committee


Again, pathetic. These folks have just as much invested as players, and should be treated with just as much respect. Caple is called on to take responsibility for a daily baseball column, O'Day for a thousands of MLB games and 10 World Series. You do that math.

Now, trust me, I did not miss the satirical point of the article as fundamentally I agree with what he is saying, and enjoyed the article. What he did not need to do was skewer others (than players inducted) to make his point. Particularly those like O'Day, who served with distinction.

Of note from the article:
I mean, are these the sort of people we're going to honor with plaques on Cooperstown's walls rather than the players we cheered so lustily and who made us feel so good? Old owners who financially abused players and perpetuated racism (Ruppert, Charles Comiskey, Tom Yawkey)? Owners who moved teams 3,000 miles away from their fans (Walter O'Malley)? Owners who charged outrageous beer prices? Commissioners who were ineffective and stubbornly stuck in the past (Kuhn)? And umpires? I mean, I respect umpires, but c'mon.

The link points to a call that was missed back in 2009 from Game 2 of the ALDS between the Yankees and Twins. C'mon indeed. What does THAT call, have to do with anything?

The answer to Caple's rhetorical question about "... are these the sorts of people we're going to honor ..." is a resounding YES YOU MORON! Why not? I'm not a particular fan of some things some of these folks did either, but why do the media think they are imbued with the authority to make moral judgments?

Let's take O'Day just as one sliver of this ... his "crime" ... he was an umpire (cue dramatic music). Why shouldn't he be considered and fully accepted as a Hall of Famer? People should be in awe of such a record, not suggest he was just an umpire. Please.

People serve in different ways, and in this case to suggest anyone other than a player is not a real inductee is crap. I even extend this to the media folks who see fit to malign those who actually participate in weaving the fabric of the game's history, not just sit up on high, and wax pathetic on it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More World Cup Preparations in Brazil

Ahead of 2014's soccer World Cup, Brazilian prostitutes sign up for free English classes

The president of the Association of Prostitutes of the city of Belo Horizonte expects at least 300 of the group's 4,000 members to follow suit. The group is seeking volunteer teachers.
SAO PAULO — Prostitutes in one of Brazil's biggest cities are beginning to sign up for free English classes ahead of this year's Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. ...

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

Kicking Back Comments: Remember my post Black Eyed Peas Not Allowed At World Cup!! where some local vendors were being shut out over concerns from FIFA about the amount of food to be served in the stadiums?

I wonder, seriously, if this is going to fall in the same category? Prostitution is legal in Brazil, and I wonder if FIFA is looking to get in on the action? It may sound silly ... but it is commerce that FIFA may want to engage in, or in some cases, restrict a distance form the World Cup stadiums.

It was 2k for Black Eyed Peas ... what is it for this?

It's a family show, so I won't post guesses here. Please just keep them to yourself =)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Want an Oompa Loompa Now ...

... cries Carolyn Radford about her side, Mansfield Town, losing to Liverpool.

It reminds me of the clip below from the original Willy Wonka.



To see her silly demand, and even sillier statements in context, take a look here from SportsMole.

While I can appreciate nearly stealing one from Liverpool, and love for the club that she is CEO for, her knowledge of the LOTG came through when she said:

"I have enjoyed the day but it feels like it was stolen from us, whether it (a ball that hit Suarez in the hand that he subsequently finished making it 2 - 0) was deliberate or not."

She continued with statements like "We were robbed ..." and "There should be a replay ...".

This is what happens when people who don't know The Game, are in a position of power to manage, and subsequently comment on, technical aspects of The Game.

I applaud her vigor, and clear love for The Game. I just wished she kept that one to herself as it served to show just how little she knows, yet feels fit to criticize the referee.

I was actually always always amazed how little folks actually knew about the LOTG that really should know. Players, owners, league staff ... and not just the "was it a push or not" type of stuff. It was black letter laws that folks had no clue about.

It serves as a reminder that it takes all disciplines to run a business enterprise like a team. Our role, when we are inside the field, is to manage the match.

Do your job as best you can ... and let the others do theirs.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What RG3 Can Teach Us Referees

To put this in context, take a look at this story from USA today detailing the unknown peril Redskins coach Mike Shanahan caused by sticking with hobbled rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III until his sprained right knee buckled for a second and final time in the fourth quarter the wildcard game the Redskins played against Seattle the other night.

I happen to think this was a reckless act by the coach to not pull RG3, even if, and there is no evidence to suggest this, Robert wanted to stay in. The result, regardless of what it is, is just not worth it to jeopardize the health of your franchise QB, for a single win that would not amount to much more.

Now, lets face it, referees are professional athletes too, and while they are not getting knocked around like an NFL player, the training, if done right, is grueling. Heap on top of this a steady match schedule of (3)+ matches for a couple days a week, and you get a seriously fatigued body that still has to go to school/work.

One thing that a athlete, like a referee, must learn is the difference between "hurt", and "injured." This line is different for everyone and there is no proscribed formula for when one transitions from one to the other.

For example, I have spoke here about how I am training for cycling events later this year, and working with a pro cyclist and my doctor to do it (yes a bit extreme, so says Madam X). I'll be honest, I hurt all the time. I am always fatigued, and at times, really run down from being on the bike as much as I am (which is no where near where a pro would be ... I am a rank amateur by all stretches).

Why don't I stop?

Because I know it is just fatigue, and my body is adapting to the higher workload of the training. I am able, after years of training, to know the difference between just being hurt, and actually being injured ... as I have experienced both.

Being injured stinks. It is hard to heal, mentally and physically, and the record is filled with folks (like me) who challenge an injury too soon and cause a worse injury, or in extreme cases, don't return.

So what's the lesson you ask from RG3?

If you are injured, don't referee. You are doing a disservice to yourself, and The Game, all at the same time. You can do nothing more than further injure yourself, prolonging your return, and not do the job you need to.

This is not easy, believe me, and even more so during a match. There are times however, if you are injured, you must call in the 4th, or AR. It was part of my pre-game discussion for years, and while it only happened (during a game) once ... the team was ready, and we dealt with it as smooth as possible.

After all, we're only human.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Fans Giveth, and The Fans Taketh Away

NHL fans react to tentative labor agreement

Fans have felt the brunt of NHL labor feuding with a canceled season in 2004-05 and 113 days of a lockout this season.

Fans came back in droves in 2005-06, but there is worry about a backlash after a tentative agreement has been reached.

"After the last lockout, the NHL had painted on both blue lines, 'Thank you fans,"" Philadelphia Flyers fan Lisa D'Angelo said by email. "What are they going to paint this time: 'Thank you fans again.'" ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments: At the end of the day for any profession, it is the customers (i.e. the fans in this case) who make or break a league.

To dive into that just a bit, what responsibility, if any (generally), do we think referees have in this?

If you answer was "none", reconsider, if you want to work at the professional and international levels.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

It's Up to the Referee?

Boateng: FIFA must do more

Kevin-Prince Boateng has insisted he will walk off the pitch again if he is racially abused and criticised FIFA for not doing more to tackle the issue.

The AC Milan midfielder walked off during a club friendly on Thursday, followed by the rest of his team, and has warned he will do it again with the backing of club president Silvio Berlusconi.

Speaking to CNN, Boateng said: "I don't care what game it is - a friendly, Serie A or Champions League match, I'd walk off the pitch again and I think everyone would support me. ...

See the whole article here, from Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: I agree with Boateng. There is no place for racism at all, in The Game, or otherwise.

From the article there was some significant "buck passing" though ... and all of it was passed to the referee.

From Boateng:
"I said to him if it happens again I'm not going to play anymore. The referee said 'don't worry' but I said I do worry, it's not very nice."

and, from FIFA:
"A FIFA spokesman said: "It would be for the referee to report and the disciplinary committee would have to look into it.""

This last bit is nonsense as if it was clear such activity took place, FIFA could deal with it outside of a referee report. To say they can do nothing without a report is cowardly. Certainly an investigation is in order for such nonsense.

Makes me wonder though ... right now the LOTG speak of sending off for "foul and abusive" language. Clearly racial epithets fall into that category. What about less clear cases? What is a referee to do then?

Will we soon see "foul, abusive, and racist" in the LOTG? Possibly an IBD on point?

It is a little bit concerning as, similar to referees being used as drama critics to sniff out if a player is simulating an action or not, will we now be forced into the moral police, to try to decipher when one individual is racially attacking another, or just having fun in a way that is personal to the players themselves?

While the referee certainly bears responsibility to maintain decorum betwixt the players, at what point does a referee get into trouble for going too far and sending off someone who they thought were acting in that way?

I'm not sure, but what I do know is this is a problem that needs leadership from the top down, not everyone heaping on the referee and waiting for their match report before taking action. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013 Northeast Regional Futsal Championships

It's that time again, Futsal Championship time!

Last year I attended and wrote about the 2012 Northeast Regional Futsal Championships, which I likened to finding buried treasure in my backyard.

Well folks, we have that opportunity again.

The 2013 Futsal Regional Tournament will be from January 19th to the 21st at 675 Canton Street, Norwood MA 02062.

It promises to have something for everyone. Great Futsal, great officiating, and just a ton of fun. There will be  (50) or so Futsal referees from Massachusetts, (2) FIFA FUTSAL referees and the (as in the only one) FIFA FUTSAL Referee Instructor. A rare take for all.

All 204 games will be played in a single facility from 7:00am to 10:00pm on 19th and 20th . Semi finals and the Finals are Monday the 22nd from 7:00am to 4:00pm.

Come take a look, it promises to be an excellent tournament. Look here, for more information.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Soccer Night in Newtown

MLS, US stars to participate in "Soccer Night in Newtown"

The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, affected the entire nation.

It had a particularly strong affect on Houston Dynamo president Chris Canetti. Within days of the shooting, Canetti, a native of Guilford, Conn., knew he wanted to do something for the Newtown community.

On the Monday after the shooting, Canetti got in touch with one of the only people he still knew connected to the Connecticut soccer scene: Eric Da Costa, head coach of the Quinnipiac University soccer men's soccer team. (Canetti is an alumnus of Quinnipiac.) Da Costa got the ball rolling, reaching out to youth soccer people in the area, including the Connecticut Football Club youth program, and suddenly things were in motion.

See the whole story here, courtesy of MLS.com

Kicking Back Comments: An amazing story, and a generous offering by so many involved in The Game at the highest level.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

At Least I'm not a Little League Umpire

For those following the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, there was a recent lawsuit filed by a CT attorney named Irving Pinsky.

While I am going to stay far, far away from the merits of the suit, he recently decided to withdraw his $100M lawsuit against various defendants, on behalf of one of the surviving students.

Now in defending his decision to withdraw, he spoke about the public pressure he was under. He detailed the complaints and death threats he has received since filing the complaint. In doing so however, he used a very odd analogy. From the article:

He declined to elaborate, though said "we reserve all rights to bring up this request again," in spite of complaints and threats he says he's received.

"I always figure no matter how many death threats I get, it's less than what the little league umpires get," said Pinsky.

He's kidding right?

Now I agree that youth referees of all sports deserve special praise for their time spent, and things can get heated for certain. However, what would seem to be an "off the cuff" remark, serves to trivialize the seriousness of the Newtown tragedy and the legal action action he brought in response to it.

Weather the action has merit is yet to be seen. His analogy however, has none to me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sepp Blatter: MLS is not making me enough money

Well lets start the year off right together.

As most know I have no professional love for Sepp Blatter, and his recent comments about MLS further supplement my feelings on the matter.

While I agree with a singular point in his rant about MLS, that point being the league should align itself with the world's international schedule, everything else is rubbish.

Read the full article, and certainly watch Steve Nichol's comments for the full story, but when doing so, ask yourself what is his real motive here?

My opinion ... money.

FIFA made millions and millions in the 1994 World Cup. So much so bonuses in the $5M range were given to some of the hosting committee members.

How much did the US make for hosting? A $10B loss (source). In fact nearly all countries lose money in hosting, where FIFA walks away with all the cash.

Another source of revenue for FIFA is transfer fees. Right now FIFA takes about 10% of all transfer fees (source), and certainly would want to see its fair share of these revenues from the US to begin to transfer abroad. Not just the "poultry numbers" we are putting up now. Here are some of the finest we have abroad right now, per Forbes.

In a nutshell the US is underperforming as a "FIFA holding." Clearly we should be making far more money for FIFA than we are, and Seppy ain't happy about it. After all (the non-profit) FIFA has topped $1B in revenue in 2010 (source), and the US is just not pulling its weight to add to that coffer.

Of course FIFA profits are "redistributed" to its 208 member associations and development projects ... and little brown envelopes for various influence peddlers ...

MLS is growing at a reasonable rate for competing in such a fierce sports market that the US is. The fact that soccer is the #1 youth sport in the US (as acknowledged by Sepp) is HUGE. How to translate that base, which has existed year on year, into sustained fandom is the question, and there are some smart people (who too are looking to make money, but not on the backs of the poverty stricken) to figure that out.

My money is on the slow steady growth of the men's game in the US. More to do, yes. But what a ride so far!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Now?

Most New Year's come with moments of reflection and inflection. This year is no exception.

My question is somewhat general in nature, and is meant for us all. What now?

What now for Kicking Back? We are going into year (4) of an unknown number of years. What should happen now? Will we bookend Kicking Back in 2014 with the World Cup in Brazil? Maybe Qatar? Maybe not at all!

This year (2013) is a special year for me personally too as it would have been the year I would have had to retire from the FIFA list, would I have been appointed. I have spouted long about what I think about the age requirement, but for me, about a year from now, no doubt, will be filled with some reflection on a career refereeing, and how that can be leveraged into my "next" soccer career. What then?

How about you all? Each of us has goals that seem to fit well within the boundaries of a calendar year. What about your goals? Personal, professional ... both?

Take some time and give it some thought today. What now for 2013? Where would you like to be a year from now?

Thanks for taking the ride with me with 254 posts in 2012. Let's see what happens in 2013.

Happy New Year!