Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Some NFL Teams Are Being Probed for Using Drones to Film Practice

National Football League teams have taken to the skies in their search for a competitive edge, launching drones to film their practices.

“You can coach better. You see hand placement, you see where they have their feet and where they have their eyes,” said Jason Garrett, coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

The problem is, it’s illegal to fly the unmanned aircraft for any commercial purpose without first getting a Federal Aviation Administration waiver. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Bloomberg.

Kicking Back Comments:
Alright guys ... start the deflate-esque comments now =)

I think I am going to fly one of these for "educational" purposes for the next assessment I do.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

An Open Letter to the GU16-1 South Shore League MTOC Team Coaches


During your match today at 4PM on Field #12 at Progin Park in Lancaster MA, I witnessed conduct so pathetic and barbaric from you both, I was compelled to write about it.

Let me start with a clear and unequivocal statement that I harbor no ill will against your team. There is no reason to involve them as they have earned the right to play and from today's result, will continue in the tournament.

My issue is with you both in bullying a seventeen year old girl about a decision she made. Bullying from a pair of late forty, early fifty men that was so persistent and so severe, it brought her to tears during and well after the match.

Bullying so grotesque it involved screaming by you, the lead coach, from the technical area and calling her decision "bull shit" and "what are you trying to do to us?" which persisted for several minuets with your arms raised as if a universal injustice was unfolding right before us.

It did not stop there however, until well after the match when you, the assistant coach, pulled her aside and told her "... I was a referee for 35 years and that was a serious decision you missed." Apparently the comment somehow was intended to have some weight to lessen the systemic bullying you heaped on this girl running the line in front of you, by saying something like "I've been there."

I find the premise pathetic, and if you really wanted to help you should have just walked away, or if you really felt compelled to say something like "I'm sorry I lost my head" or "I was a referee and know how hard it is. Thanks for all you are doing today" would have been fine thanks.

Please don't lower our craft by somehow thinking because you wore a referee badge at some time, you are obliged to offer free advise to any referee who strays from your vision of what should happen. Referees don't need that kind of help, from you, or anyone like you.

Referees, all referees, need coaching and support from those involved to allow them to learn the craft.  Now you may feel that is somehow unfair to your team which may have a legitimate opportunity to be crowned the "best team in the state." Let me tell you something, if you are so overwhelmed with that goal such that you are willing to bring a seventeen year old to tears, I would opine your priorities are tremendously out of whack ... and if you think a trophy makes you "champions" you have missed the point completely.

Consider the twist if I were to dissent to your team if they missed a play on the ball or made a wrong decision. Imagine if I shouted from the touchline "you suck #whatever, that was a shitty touch." Can you imagine the fallout if I continued my hypothetical pathetic tirade until she cried. But not to be deterred I had another person with me to say, "It's okay, you were really that bad and I used to play, so I know."

Of course it is not okay.

So why do you both think it is okay to do this to a seventeen year old girl who is serving the game as a referee??

A critical point you both have likely failed to consider is you have likely ended this referees career with your bullying. I can say this because I spoke to her for a while after and she has no real interest in coming back to get screamed at again. I don't blame her and I hope I am wrong, but at the very least, she will not be back tomorrow.

Over 50% of referees didn't come back after two years due largely to "above the game arrogance" like you both demonstrated today. If that was your goal, well done, you have likely succeeded.

In conclusion, I find your collective behavior boorish. For a forty or fifty something to berate a seventeen year old girl to tears and only stop when an adult was present for concern about "getting yelled at" as you stated when the field marshall approached, is a special kind of bully. I can only imagine what the parents of your players would think to see you bring that girl to tears.

I'm fairly certain it's not "what a role model our coaches are."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Buying a Nobel Peace Prize?

Let's go back together in the not so recent past where we experienced several very visceral incidents of blatant racism in The Game. One of the most memorable was regarding Dani Alves who had a brilliant response to having bananas thrown at him. You can see the article describing the whole matter here from CNN and here in Instagram.

FIFA frankly has a horrible record of doing something about this issue inside the field. Recall in 2011 where Sepp had stated that racism could be solved "with a handshake." While I agree with his critics that he is woefully out of touch on the issue and how serious and widespread it is, I also have to give him some credit for the idea.

It is a lesson Jr. and I were talking about just the other day when he came off the field angry at an opponent. I told him to let it go when you leave the pitch ... outside of that rectangle (please note Law 1 requires the field to be a rectangle, not square) it does not matter.

This is actually an ethos I live by in my soccer life. While it can be argued that I am narrow minded to think that by crossing the outside boundary of the field the world changes back to normal, it is a construct I have used for decades now to hold to the fact that The Game is a subset of life, not the other way around.

FIFA has done some excellent, good, bad, dumb, and really dumb things in an effort to try to stop these disgusting practices. While I will not go into them, examples are legion of the full spectrum of efforts. There are a couple that stand out though.

One such notable effort was the appointment of a FIFA EXCO member specifically tasked to combat racism. An excellent Executive level position to give the issue prominence. Jeffery Webb was appointed and gave a good speech in front of the 2013 FIFA congress. However he was recently indicted and dismissed from his positions.

Another effort is "racism monitors" throughout international matches and notably for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Even those however may not be up to the task as we have also seen recently. Now we have the "independent" group Kick It Out that seems to be gaining prominence in UEFA and is tenuously connected to FIFA, but my jury is still out on those guys while the goal is spot on some of the methods are a bit scary (e.g. calling for a referee to never work again who chose not to report an incident that he did not believe was racism or downloading an app from iTunes (here) to report such incidents).

As a final example, and a further note on Sepp's hubris, is the "handshake for peace" program that honestly really first caught my eye at the WWC. Again from above, a great concept albeit a bit too contrived from my taste, but with the backing of the Nobel Peace Center no less to give it gravitas. 

Only one catch, FIFA has been paying for the privilege (almost $1.3M per year since 2013) and it has been reported this is a crushing blow to Sepp personally as he saw himself as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. While it was well understood that Sepp's ego knew no bounds, I was unaware that one could "grease" the Nobel Committee with a paltry $1.2M/year. I would have thought that the Nobel Peace Center would choose a cause an organization like this, as fundamentally it would seem to be a worthy cause for such a group.

Ah when will I learn.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Like it, or else?

The Women Are A Cleansing Sorbet...

There's too much football. It's fine to admit it. It's utterly relentless, a bombardment of games and tournaments and friendlies, just when we thought the season was over. The FA Cup final was followed by the Champions League final after which came a couple of England games then the Copa America and oh sweet fancy Moses the European Under-21 Championships is about to start. You start to feel like Roberto Duran being smacked around, but with perpetual football rather than Sugar Ray Leonard's fists. No más, no más, no más. ...

See the whole article here from Football365.com.

Kicking Back Comments:
What a load of crap frankly. Just because people are not jumping up and down about the WWC does not mean they are bad people or don't like The Game, it just means they are not interested or may not be entertained. There was a great reply to this article here on Football365 itself and an even better comment to that article:

"...While I agree with Nick Miller on the England Women's team being refreshing to watch (it's so weird watching football without the diving and swearing at the ref) I'm going to make an appeal to the good writers at F365. Can the next article on women's football not be a hand wringing 'why are people so negative' one like Jonny Nic's was the other week. Can we please have a 16 conclusions, or a preview of the Norway game, or even a profile of a couple of the players. If you want people to take the women's game seriously - then lead the way by giving it some proper coverage. Like you do with the Spanish League for example. A regular weekly column by one of your fine writers would be a much bigger boost to the game then trying to tackle misogyny single handed. Plus I really want to know who's at no. 50 on a WWC ladder! Mike, League 2, BRFC"

Honestly too, if this was true, most of the world would be considered a misogynist as attendance has been heavily inflated (source it look like only 313,411-ish in actual attendance for all matches to date) and while the US and Canada matches are very well attended, it looks like few others are. A real question is why this is the case? Remember from earlier that Canada was the ONLY country to bid on the WWC. Let's face it WWC is just not a money maker in most places. 

It is interesting though. People are about to go to jail and alter their lives forever in trying to get a World Cup into a particular country ... yet only a single country bids on the WWC.

Lets face it folks, it's not about misogyny, it's about money, and there is sadly not much in the women's game today.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

FIFA's New Card Game!!

FIFA scandal collector cards: Get the whole set!

(CNN) So many arrests and so many men wanted and then there's the resignation of the top boss -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

If you're struggling to keep up with who has done what in the FIFA scandal, you're not alone, but CNN is here to help.

In a nod to those games you loved playing with your friends at school, we've designed a set of FIFA scandal collector cards, containing the key data of just who has been charged, banned suspended, resigned or pled guilty.

Feel free to print them out and swap them with your friends. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of CNN.

Kicking Back Comments: 
OMG this is great!! Soon we may see a deck of playing cards with their likenesses on them. Yes, Sepp would be the ace of spades.

I'm betting he is sleeping with one eye open right now just waiting for the FBI or Swiss police to come crashing through the door.

Tick tock Sepp ... tick tock.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thanks Dad

My Dad taught me many things.  Fortunately, the things he believed in and taught me stuck.  

He taught me to be accountable for my actions.  To admit when I messed up.  Even more importantly to apologize and try to make amends to those I harmed.

He taught me to be self sufficient.  If I wanted something done, I had better get off my duff and do it myself.

My Dad liked sports and encouraged me to play them.  He was teaching me through sports too.  I learned the simple truths of sport, where success or failure is so easily defined and measured.  Either I hit the ball or I don’t.  Excuses have no place here.

I learned when to stand up for myself.  I learned when it was time to fight, and when it was tactically better to back off.  I learned that sometimes it was important to get back up and stick my chin out even after I got knocked down.  

I learned about how to compete and what it takes to win.  And I learned how merely the act of stepping onto the field is a victory in and of itself.

I learned about balance.  I learned how to enjoy good food and spirits and still take care of my body.

I learned how to relate to different people and different cultures.  I learned empathy for their struggles.

The funny thing is that I cannot really remember my Dad sitting me down after my game to give me those lessons.  They just happened.  Somewhere along the line, I absorbed the wisdom of my Dad like the rays of the sun. 

Thank goodness that I had a Dad who liked and encouraged me to play sports.  I am guessing you did too or you would not be reading this.  Go thank your Dad.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Add murder to the FIFA rapsheet?

The wife of an official murdered by masked gunman as he was about to expose fraud at the 2010 South Africa World Cup has told how the corruption-mired tournament killed her husband.

South African politician Jimmy Mohlala was gunned down as he got ready for church – the day before he was due in court to give evidence of a multimillion pound World Cup stadium construction fraud.

The dad of four – one of three politicians linked to exposing World Cup fraud who died in mysterious circumstances – uncovered forged building contracts at the £80million Mbombela stadium. ...

See the whole story here courtesy of Daily Mail.

Kicking Back Comments:
I was in fact pondering with a co-worker the other day when this shoe would drop (that someone was killed over a bribe). FIFA and its sponsors are turning a blind eye to the deaths in Qatar, so to think that there are other equally nefarious yet direct actors in my opinion, is unsurprising. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The (FIFA) joke heard 'round the world

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the director of communications, and the secretary general Jérôme Valcke are all sitting in a car. Who is driving?

The police.

This was the joke uttered by the (former) Director if Communications for FIFA, who lost his job over the comment. I have to say though ... pretty funny.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shades of 1994?

Women's World Cup: Nigeria's Njoku suspended three games for elbowing

A second-half substitute, Njoku was standing with her back to Kerr in the 76th minute of Australia's 2-0 win when she drove her right elbow into Kerr's face, knocking her to the turf. Kerr, who was originally thought to have a broken jaw, was attended to by trainers but finished the game. She is expected to play Tuesday against Sweden. ...

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

Kicking Back Comments: 

A few thoughts on this one. (The match report is here.)

First, is for anyone who thinks the girls don't play as rough as the boys, think again. This was a vicious off the ball hit that could have seriously injured that player if it landed correctly. It reminded me of this classic from the 1994 World Cup which caused Tab to be out for some time.

Second, is this was behind the referee so she had no chance to see it. I do wonder what the 4th was doing at the time however as it was fairly close to the bench area. Yes, if the 4th had seen that, I would have expected the crew to take action in sending the player off. To me this includes a quick peek at the video monitors to get the info. Something this vicious needs to be dealt with.

Third, this is a great use of video review after the fact. Now for anyone who is paying attention you may look at my last point and say *hey* that is a form of video review. Well, color me a hypocrite, but yes it is of sorts. My distinction is in the first case the refereeing crew is using every tool available to them *at the time of the incident* to get to the correct conclusion. After all, how many times if we see a 50-50 ball that we look at players reaction to help make a decision? In the latter case we get some delay and a booth official involved and after a 5 minute delay we get a decision and off we go. It's all too NFL for me. So for my money as the entire crew missed it, the right result occurred after the fact.

I will be curious to see if any of this crew are appointed later in the tournament for missing such a serious foul.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A piece of what?

Pia Sundhage calls Hope Solo a 'piece of work'

WINNIPEG — Ahead of the World Cup clash between the United States and Sweden Friday, the New York Times published an interview with Pia Sundhage, who had sharp words for her former U.S. players.

The Swedish coach said when Carli Lloyd felt coaches had faith in her, she “could be one of the best players, but if she began to question that faith, she could be one of the worst.” Sundhage also said if she were still the U.S. coach, Abby Wambach would come off the bench, and added that Hope Solo was one of the most challenging players she’s ever coached, “especially when it comes to trouble.” ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of USA Today.

Kicking Back Comments:
Very tactical stuff from Pia frankly and while they may see each other again later in the tournament, this was an interesting little zinger prior to what is likely to be the top two teams from Group D.

Here too is something I am learning about life ... everyone loves a winner no matter how much of a bad actor they are. If they are successful, during that time, they are forgiven. Not saying it's fair ... but that's the way it is.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Please stop helping ...

... should be Hope Solo's words to her husband, Jerramy Stevens, after his recent comments.

In the article from USA Today, Stevens (who was popped for DUI driving a US Soccer team van, and in 2012 arrested, but not charged, for assault) defended his wife, who he was arrested for assaulting, by calling the whole thing a "witch hunt."

Photo Credit: The Simpsons
I may have found a better way to say that if I was referring to my wife, but I take his point.

He continued by going so far as to call those who would report or believe the matter regarding Solo, sexist, unpatriotic, and low class.

I'm serious, look at the article.

There is a point in time that one should put the shovel down and stop digging the hole they are in. I think Stevens is past that point.

It gets better however ... with an open letter from the Senate to US Soccer regarding their investigation, its lack or adequacy, and the "tone deaf" nature of it.


Well US Soccer was of course forced to respond, and Mr. Gulati was of course far more artful than Mr. Solo. You can see much of his response here.

Lets face it, while I am sure a cadre of lawyers were consulted on this, I suspect the intent was finding an escape clause to let Solo play as she is probably the best keeper on the planet earth right now.

This is concerning for a couple of reasons. First is that if it is true, US Soccer is putting winning above doing the right thing. Not unique for many such organizations, but in the face of what is going on right now with FIFA, the position is somewhat hypocritical on a smaller, but no less moralistic scale.

Second is that Senator Blumenthal has it part right that US Soccer is "tone deaf" on the issue. Yes, Solo has a right to due process, and yes, the criminal case is currently under appeal, and yes there is a vocal minority that is growing which want no part of Solo's antics any more.

I have to believe the "win-win" here is Solo helps the US win the WWC and retires right on the spot to resume her defense at home. Her criminal appeal is pending and prosecutor arguments due in mid-July with oral argument scheduled for September. Plenty of time to retire.

While I don't like that personally as it continues to reward bad behavior, it may be the best angle for the majority of the parties.

Stevens is right about one thing I think ... this whole thing is sexist. As from my own opinion and a plurality of commentators, if this was a member of the MNT who was suggested in a domestic violence case, I think they would be suspended in a heartbeat.

Yes, I think that because there is no stand out star on the MNT like Solo ... but also because of the sex of the actors in this case. I am all for equality, so long as everyone is treated equally.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

It's a five year mission ... or is it?

Well here we are again friends. It has been a while, but not without some significant events unfolding before us.

So as not to get into too much, too fast, as tempted as I am, I wanted to address the beginnings of the Women's World Cup in Canada.

Back in 2011 I wrote about my genuine lack of interest in the WWC, awarding myself the "Media Pinhead Gold Medal" in jest all while receiving a few barbed emails from one of the other medal recipients who clearly had a funnybone-ectemy in their youth.

I find myself back in that same spot now, somewhat apathetic to the actual WWC play. Of course the run up was fun with the turf controversy (and Abby now an official spokesperson of Scotts), Hope Solo's epic meltdown, arrest, suspension, trial, subsequent dismissal on procedural grounds, and arrest reports which paint a not so flattering picture of the National Team keeper.

Let's face it, FIFA is not interested, as they have a few other things going on right now. In fact I would be surprised if Blatter or Valcke even went to Canada for fear of an arrest and extradition to the US. Oh by the way, FIFA fixed the tournament as well to maximize the gate too ... so they have a pretty good idea how it is going to all turn out anyway.

Local fans are not all that interested, as while the opening and USA matches were well attended (mostly by US fans), most of the other matches are not, and in fact are quite dismal. I am sure this makes FIFA very sad as they went to great lengths to make sure the matches were as competitive as they could be (see above for the source).

What is more scary though is the demographic that should be excited does not seem to be. Not that my daughter is a representative sample but she has no interest whatsoever about the tournament, and was not even aware. Same too with her team and even most of the parents. As the US progresses in the tournament I do expect this to change, but so far, a little scary.

Even the media is not interested as the coverage from most outlets has been "meh" at best and offensive at worst ... Stephen A. Smith, the gift that keeps on giving. ESPN would you please fire this clown?

Commentators have been pretty awful actually too. There are exceptions with J.P. Dellacamera, Tony DiCicco, Eric Wynalda, and Alexi Lalas, but beyond that it has been really awful with poor commentary and frankly some incorrect comments from folks who should know better. Their default banter is how the referee missed this or that, not filling with interesting facts about what is actually going on. Give me Foudy all day every day and twice on Sunday.

On a related note, FOX should take a page out of their NFL playbook and hire a referee analyst for decisions they want to discuss. Heck I'd bet you can get a bunch of quality folks to do this for a round trip to the World Cup in Canada. It would bring some sanity to a portion of the commentary.

So for my money a poorish start to the WWC with one exception that is Margaret Domka, our lone referee representative form the US, who had a good, albeit unchallenging first round match. It is unfortunate both US teams will not advance as far as the other.