Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Sports Orginizations

After a bit of traveling, I am back in the States and firmly at my keyboard. I have to say too, that I could not have returned at a better time to make this comparison.

Recently we have been witness to two separate incidents of racism, and each organizing authorities action to them over this last week.

First, we have the NBA Clippers' owner Donald Sterling whose private conversation was surreptitiously recorded (in abrogation of CA law) making racist comments in the presence of his girlfriend. As a result, the NBA commissioner, upon a very brief deliberation period, suspended Sterling for life.

Now this is not to debate if it was too long, too short, or just right a suspension. Nor is it an invitation to debate the legality of the action. You can bet this will be taken to the courts and debated there, Donald is going to sue everybody over this one.

It is however meant to serve as a juxtaposition to the recent comments by FIFA president Sepp Blatter who stated after a contemporary event of racism with Dani Alves, where fans threw him a banana at a corner kick that, "... FIFA will not tolerate racism at this summer's World Cup."

What? Sepp, what about the incident that JUST HAPPENED!?!?!

As usual, it was a gutless response from FIFA to a serious issue.

Just for a second put the two next to each other:

NBA - Life Ban. Near instant trust restored in the league.

FIFA - Nothing. Except another promise to do more soon. Trust chasm widens even more (if possible).

Sounds about what I am expecting from FIFA in regard to governance ... nothing.

That said, Dani and compatriots reaction was simply brilliant in the face of such stupidity. Take a peek at the article. It was a unified and clever response to something vile.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Boobs, FIFA "Mafia," and a Cool Journalist

So I was looking at how the protests are staring to pick up again in Brazil as we close in on starting FIFA 2014 ... and it does not look pretty.

Nor should it honestly as billions (with a "b") pour into the country and almost none will be seen by its citizens.

In kicking around the inter-web-super-highway, I came across  Topless FEMEN protesters storm German football TV show, and it piqued my interest on many levels.

First, was certainly the nature of the protest to storm onto a live TV set half naked. How do you hide that, and why did the very stylishly dressed bodyguards take so long in getting to the stage?

Second, while the visual aspect of the protest was great, their vocal message, "Boycott FIFA Mafia" was somewhat dull and just repeating it over and over did nothing for me. I don't think they expected to get that far.

Third, was the very cool host that instead of just whisking these folks away, he actually stopped and ask one of them what they were protesting ... and they answered candidly and politely. It was actually quite refreshing.

Finally, was the fact that we are already seeing organized protests over the Qatar decision. While I don't expect ANY in country, I believe we will continue to see the same outside of Qatar and Russia in the days to come protesting what FIFA is doing to the workers of these countries.

You can bet these protesters will be looking at Brazil to see just how far FIFA will let them go.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Speak Against Instant Replay and Get Suspended: Torre

MLB to fine Red Sox manager John Farrell for instant replay remarks

As if John’s Farrell’s weekend in New York wasn’t lousy enough, the Red Sox manager will get a not-so-pleasant parting gift from MLB.

Joe Torre, MLB’s executive VP of baseball operations, told the Daily News on Monday that Farrell would be fined for his critical remarks about baseball’s new replay system following Boston’s 3-2 loss Sunday night.

The comments, which included Farrell saying “it’s hard to have any faith in the (replay) system,” came after instant replay decisions went against the Sox in losses on Saturday and Sunday.

Perhaps the only thing keeping Farrell from a suspension is the fact Torre, the former Yankees skipper, knows how pressure-packed a Bombers-Red Sox series can be.

“I’m not going to suspend him. It will be a fine,” Torre said of Farrell. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of NYDailynews.com.

Kicking Back Comments: While on the surface Mr. Torre seems to be the benevolent dictator only fining Farrell, and not suspending him as Torre foreshadowed, if not for the heated atmosphere that is the Red Sox v. Yankees, I think the reason is far more simpler ...

MLB blew their first Instant Replay call and are deeply embarrassed.

Torre for his part picked the very same line out of the Farrell tirade that I did regarding losing faith in a system that is brand new. He (and MLB) clearly did not like that.

Even funnier was that Torre in defending the system said it will take "three years to roll out."

Hold on here ... there are 2430 games in a MLB season ... and it is going to take 3 of these ... a unbelievable 7290 games to get instant replay right!??!

Are you &*#&ing kidding me?? Three years to "get it right?" What a joke.

A wrong camera angle was to blame for the error that did not get to the umpires "until after they decided." Again, what a joke.

MLB should have just turned on the cable coverage and seen it clear as day.

So Farrell get a fine for the screw up of the league, awesome.

Torre "spares" Farrell a suspension, I think, to save himself the embarrassment of a system gone horribly wrong ... and this was one of the first times it was used.

Can you see this in Game 7 of a World Series? Oops ... sorry guys ... our fault.
No worries Joe, we know you'll get it right ... in 2017.
Yeah, it will go just like that.

Just leave it to the guys in blue ... please ... just leave it to them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How's replay working for us now?

Sox skipper Farrell ejected for arguing replay ruling

NEW YORK -- Red Sox manager John Farrell boiled over with frustration on Sunday night after a replay call was challenged and overturned, leading to the Yankees scoring what ended up being the deciding run in the series finale. Farrell was ejected, as managers have been instructed not to argue plays under review.

The play happened in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Francisco Cervelli hit a grounder to third, with the Red Sox attempting a 5-4-3 double play.

Cervelli, who was injured on the play, was originally ruled out at first. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged it, and the call was overturned. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of MLB.com.

Kicking Back Comments: "But we need replay to correct these mistakes," the masses shouted. Guess what ... the masses were wrong.

I'm not at all surprised of course, just hate to see it to one of the nice guys of the game John Farrell.

I could go into a frenzy about how poorly replay was used in this case, or how managers are instructed not to argue after the replay decision is made (which is why Farrell was ejected), and how MLB after the game said they screwed up and got the replay call wrong which was directly causal to the Red Sox losing that game.

Nope, I won't. I'll just leave you with Farrell's telling comment about replay that now hangs on the MLB:

"On the heels of yesterday, it's hard to have any faith in the system, to be honest with you."

We're 8 games into the season and have already lost faith on the 2014 crowning jewel of officiating, the instant replay ...


... I'm surprised it took this long.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let's Face It ... The Revolution is Training Wheels for Jonathan

So as if almost on cue with our last post on an aspect of "the soccer business", JAFO comes forward and hands us a cracker from Boston Magazine, The Krafts Are the Worst Owners in the League, by Kevin Alexander.

It is a great read worth the time.

Mr. Alexander I believe correctly comes to a few conclusions in the article about the importance of the Krafts' in getting MLS off the ground, but also the fact that for a variety of reasons he enumerates, they are one of, if not the worst owners in MLS.

There are a few I would add as well that were touched on, but not highlighted.

First, the Krafts' are not soccer folk, they are good business folk. This was highlighted to me on the league home opener for the Revs when they played DC. I had the distinction of being on the refereeing crew along with Esse Baharmast, Ed Resendes, and Del Rainho. I was serving as 4th that day.

As you would expect we lined up for a whole bunch of pomp and circumstance for the 1st ever MLS match in Massachusetts. Jonathan Kraft was due to take the ceremonial kick to start the festivities and everyone was aflutter (myself included) to make sure everything was "just right."

Prior to the actual taking of the ceremonial kick there was palpable concern if Jonathan could actually complete his task of kicking a soccer ball. One team official stated that there was concern he would "... roll over the ball and might break his leg." He wasn't kidding either.

Fortunately for all Jonathan did fine.

Second, the Krafts' have an awesome complex at Foxboro and have sunk a ton of money into it. It is no wonder folks are dragging their heels to go somewhere else. With a limited number of hame games every year in the NFL ... and not great weather ... it sure makes good business sense to have as many events there in the warmer time of year. MLS seems reasonable ... and draws on the order of 14K per match. Almost last in the league, but still a good captive audience for dinner at Tastings (among others).

Third, Boston is a tough market given the success of the other (4) major teams here. Please note, I am speaking generally about the Celtics at this point. Let's face it between the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, and Celtics, Boston is treated to some of the winningest sports teams in history. Let's also face it that the Revs are not a great team historically as MLS goes. In fact, other than Dallas, New England is the only original team to NOT win a MLS Cup nor a Supporter Shield in 18 years!

Now this last point may realistically be due in part to the lack of money the Krafts' are willing to put into the team ... which is a self fulfilling prophecy as to why they do not do well.

Finally, I personally believe that the Revs are training wheels for Jonathan to manage the Patriots. Heck, experience is important and if you can get experience like this, you should. It is a reasonable "warm up" for Jonathan, who I believe will certainly take on the Patriots one day.

So what do we do? Honestly I'm torn as the only way I would have become a MLS referee is because I had a team (literally) in my back yard. It would not have happened in the "early days" any other way. Do we continue and suffer mediocre to poor ownership for our only MLS team, or do we thank our benevolent benefactors for a great start, and part ways?

It was noted in the article also that the Krafts' refused to provide comment for the story, outside of (and I'm paraphrasing) ... We are busy getting ready for a Patriot's playoff game.

[sigh]


Who knows, maybe our fortune will change when Tom Brady retires, and Bill goes off with Bon Jovi and buys the Buffalo Bills.

Look out MLS Cup, here we come!!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Got What It Takes?

Building the Soccer Pyramid: Cash is king for aspiring USL PRO squads

Right now, there are operational professional soccer teams in 39 different markets across the first three tiers of US Soccer – MLS, NASL and USL PRO – and if everything goes according to plan, 2015 will see another two markets enter the fold.

But if you accept USL PRO president Tim Holt’s evaluation of the North American soccer landscape, that means we’re only at 50 percent capacity.

“I think there are anywhere between 50 to 75 different markets in the United States that can support, under the right circumstances, a professional soccer team,” Holt tells MLSsoccer.com. “It’s not the craziest thing. You’re talking about another 20 to 30 markets, potentially, that don’t have professional soccer that could support professional soccer.” ...

See the whole story here from MLSSoccer.com.

Kicking Back Comments: Current and aspiring professional referees take note - soccer is a business. Rightly or wrongly referees are thrust into business decisions of these smaller clubs.

Can we wait 5 more minutes to get everyone in the gate?

Can we hold off on that rain delay, the lightning is not that close?

Did you hear what #6 said? You have to send him off, he is offending my fans!

These are all questions I have faced as a referee at these smaller professional clubs.

So what do you do? Follow the letter of the LOTG, or flex a bit to give a small business its best chance? But just how far can you go?

Extend the kickoff, extend the match, give the home team "a break?"

For those looking to get into the MLS and beyond, be prepared to negotiate this small business landscape. Decisions you make, will follow you for the rest of your career.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

FIFA Prepares to re-vote on 2018 and 2022 World Cups!!

It would seem that the independent ethics probe lead by Michael Garcia has done far more than survived the plot to overthrow him, it has now fully convinced the FIFA EX-CO that a revote on 2018 and 2022 World Cups is needed to save a shred of ethical fabric and show the world FIFA can again be a pillar of good will for football.

Mr. Garcia now has strong EX-CO support lead by Mr. Blatter and Mr. Boyce, who recently stated that he "would have considered quitting" had Mr. Garcia's probe been cut short.

Granted there are very strong words from both Russia and Qatar, with both nations angry at FIFA for allowing  revote and not giving back any of the monies both nations "advanced" to FIFA for being considered a host nation.

While Mr. Putin was busy with other matters apparently, sports ministers Alexander Sidyakin and Michael Markelov, have demanded that the US is thrown out of the 2018 World Cup. While largely unreported it is apparently for Mr. Garcia's ethics probe and nothing to do with the gun running Russia was caught doing under Mr. Garcia's watch. Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Qatar was equally nonplussed with FIFA's sudden reversal on a vote and immediately ceased work on all those air conditioned stadia which needed to be ready for 2022 in a clear sign of defiance. This however did give the Qatar organizing committee and FIFA an opportunity to discuss workers rights which as we know is a vital concern to both FIFA and Qatar.

One clear winner would seem to be Japan who is willing to undertake the 2022 role should FIFA strip the Qatar nation of its duties.

Even England is not without controversy in this go around as recently Howard Webb expressed regret at some of his decisions in the 2010 final.

In hearing this, FIFA immediately expelled Webb from further consideration at the 2014 World Cup and replaced him with Springfield USA native Homer Simpson, as announced on 30-MAR-14 on Fox.

Happy April 1st.