Sunday, February 24, 2013

In a recent post, (see Kicking Back, 2/20/13, It's a Sad Sad Day) my estimable colleague worries that the introduction of Goal Line Technology (GLT) is the 'camel's nose under the tent' and that we will be forever on a downward spiral as the game is taken over by inhuman forces [my words, not his]. 

While I lament some of the trappings of the modern game, and personally pine for the simpler days of laying in the grass and drinking from the garden hose, figuratively speaking (see Kicking Back 4/17/11, After the Batteries Die), I have to stop and ask:  Really?

Like it or not, technology has been with us in every facet of The Game for as long as we can remember.  Better shoes, better balls, better contact lenses.  Uniforms that keep you cool.  Goalkeepers wear gloves that can make a ball stick like glue.

Oh, you only want to talk about the stuff that has electrons moving through it?  Okay, let's talk about beeper flags, which are already becoming obsolete in favor of headset radio communication among the referee crew.  Referees now train with heart-rate monitors and the assignment of a referee can and will be based on the digital readout. 

Technology is not restricted to the men behind the whistle.  Games are digitally analyzed.  Speed is measured with lasers.  Players' every movements are analyzed from the moment they arise to the moment they go to sleep.  The best teams in the world select players for development based on genetic structure and body type, and those decisions are being made when they are toddlers!

The camel's nose is not under the tent, the camel resides inside the tent in a position of prominence. 

The real question is whether this particular piece of technology will undermine the very fabric of The Game, and take away its aesthetic charm and allure.  I do not think so.  I do not believe that the use of GLT will lead to the behemoth that is Instant Replay in American Football, where a coach throws a beanbag onto the field and a five-minute stoppage results.  The referee will still have to make the call whether the technology works or it doesn't.  This is just one more tool to assist, not to take over.  I hope.

Now where did I put my copy of '1984'?  Oh I remember now, it is on my Kindle.

Soccer is Life

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Programming Note


Over the next week or so I will be traveling on business and unable to write. That said, please enjoy the articles in the archive at your leisure.

Before I go though, I wanted to share this video with you. On my return, we will be only a few weeks away from spring, and ready to get back at it outdoors here in the NorthEast of the US.

For those who have been "hibernating" all winter ... are you ready to go? What is your training plan?

Remember, it is never too late to train and be ready for what is fast approaching. Remember, Get your a$$ out there... ?

For me, I continue to take solace in my trainers wisdom that big gains are made in the winter, when others are letting their bikes collect dust.

Words to live by.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Interesting GLT Video

So again I was pursuing the internet superhighway, and still upset about FIFA's decision to use GLT, I happen to come across this video from FIFA TV. Sorry, FIFA does not allow embedding.

A few things struck me as I took in this promotional video.

First was the fact that it takes six days(!) and as many people to deploy the Hawkeye solution. That is crazy! I know the system will likely not be moved that often if used in fixed stadia for long periods of time, but holy smokes. 

GoalRef was a bit less complicated in the number of people it takes to set up, but, it looks far more fragile. I mean, a special goal, and PCB's lining the frame. I have lived this one personally with my time at Trakus, where PCB's were put in a incredibly harsh sporting environment (NHL), and things failed. Trust me folks, it's going to break at the worst time. 

In the infamous words of Scotty "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."

Between weather and abuse, I have great concerns that anything other than a nice sunny day will provide the results FIFA is after. 

So what's the backup plan in case of ... lets say fog, in the case of Hawkeye, a camera based system?

The referee.

As I seeded in a previous post too, what about the protocol for the referee in the case of failure? How about if the referee believes the system has failed, yet gives no (technological) indications of such? Open the pod bay doors indeed.

Maybe I am actually starting to see why FIFA is after other tenders. The current systems are both flawed in several ways from a high level.

Another thing that struck me was Cüneyt Çakır's comments regarding GLT. Assuming for just a second that he was not a FIFA shill (did you expect anything negative on a FIFA video?), and acknowledging he is a tremendous referee, I'm not sure his endorsement of understanding "the whole system" works for me to provide confidence as an insurance salesman from Turkey.

My point being, who really, and I mean really, understands this stuff?
I don't think anyone except the manufactures who may do what it takes to sell the system.

Finally, and this is most compelling to me, was Sepp's comments at the end regarding "the need." His argument was that a human eye can't see if the ball crosses the line in some cases. He's absolutely correct in that fact. From here my argument goes in (2) directions.

First, why are we doing something in one particular area that is "in human" to The Game? One of the particular allures for me, and I have to believe for others, is the "traditional" nature of the sport. After all, how much (technologically) has it changed since its creation? Not that much I would opine. So why the heck are we interfering with it now?

Second, how accurate and precise are these systems? There are margins of error in their operation, however small, and just how "over the line" is registered as over the line? An angstrom, millimeter, centimeter? Is it really over the line then?

This now puts The Game on the "technology curve" as good enough is never good enough. When it comes to light how precise these systems are, there will be a call for more precise systems, and so on.

It's not going to stop with GLT. 

Now a counter argument to that can be made that (insert precision) is good enough, and it was better than we had before.

Was it though? Hundreds and hundreds of years of history, and thousands and thousands of goals. We seemed to muddle through. Now in 2012 enter GLT, and you know what, we still won't know to absolute certainty, only to the margin of error.

Dosen't sound like it's worth metaling with the fabric of The Game to me.

So, what's the motivation?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mike Montgomery, please sit down

First, for some context, take a peek here:

Yes, that was University of California's basketball coach, Mike Montgomery, pushing his own player, Allen Crabbe during a timeout.

Who the (bleep) does he think he is?

Let's reverse some roles, shall we?

How about Crabbe pushing Montgomery? You can bet that is a suspension from a few folks.
How about a referee pushing Crabbe? I'd bet a battery charge was filed, and the referee suspended.
Montgomery on a referee? Have a seat coach, see you in 5 games.

So why is this different? Shouldn't everyone get the same amount of respect from each other, or face the consequences? If anything, these kids should be protected from this nonsense, not exposed to more of it from a guy "who wants to win."

Now, Montgomery's lame statement was that he was trying to "motivate" the player.

Bull (bleep). He lost his cool.

Player on player, fine. Take a look at the #35 after the shove (Richard Solomon), or the #1 (Justin Cobb) (source). Wholly appropriate under the circumstances. Referee on referee, coach on coach, player on player, fine.

Anything else of such physicality is an issue. A big one. There are exceptions for strained situations, such as a fight, but honestly, take a lesson from NHL linesmen who are unbelievably effective in managing this scenario.

His delay in finally "apologizing" was also lame, as was the canned written apology itself.

"While my intent was to motivate our student athletes, my behavior was inappropriate and I apologize for my actions." (source)

I hope his personal offering to Crabbe was better than that.

The university or the league should set an example, and sit him for at least a match. Maybe even two, as apparently this was the 2nd time Montgomery shoved one of his players this month.

Motivate ... what a joke.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It is a sad, sad day

Fifa confirm that goal-line technology will be in place for the 2014 World Cup

Fifa announced plans on Tuesday to introduce the technology to the game’s flagship tournament and invited tenders from interested providers, and the Premier League later revealed that it was “close to entering a formal tendering process” as well.

Fifa hope to confirm which of four systems they have chosen by “early April” so the technology could be used at this summer’s Confederations Cup in Brazil. ...

See the whole story here, from The Telegraph.

Kicking Back Comments: As I have said before, I am not a fan of this at all. I think it disrupts the "free will" that is part of The Game itself. To begin to take these decisions out of the hand of referees is "the camel's nose under the tent" in my opinion.

Video review of Offside is next folks.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have heard many people say, "... this is it ...", only GLT during active play.

Honestly I don't believe them at all. I do believe that over time this will be the beginning of the erosion of the referees authority inside the field during active play.

Others have opined this has taken place over a long period of time with the adjustments to the LOTG that have been made. I do agree with this line of thinking as well, yet nothing has been so aggressive a step as what we are seeing with GLT. 

... and for what some may ask.

This will be for the highest level matches around the world, and that's about it. Don't expect to start seeing GLT at your local U-12 match.

Lets just hope that the technology works. FIFA request for "other tenders" was interesting to me in this regard. If it works, why change it?

Prepare for all heck to break loose when it is shown that GLT fails even once ...

After that, what happens?

Yep, it's up to the guy in the middle and his team anyway. They'll get blamed either way I'm sure.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chuck's Done ...

FIFA Whistleblower Will Not Seek Re-Election

Chuck Blazer, the American member of FIFA’s executive committee who went public with bribery accusations against his boss two years ago, said he would not seek re-election for a fifth term and would leave his position in May after 16 years. Blazer, 67, is the most senior American official in world soccer, but his departure was expected after his role in the scandal over Mohamed bin Hammam, a candidate for FIFA president. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: It's too bad actually. Chuck is a flamboyant face on an otherwise drab circuit. I am sure he has better things to do than get pummeled by people who are looking to turn every rock over at FIFA.

I personally, wish him well in "retirement." 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Why the heck is this taking until May?

FIFA sets May target to approve tougher sanctions for racist abuse at matches

ZURICH — FIFA aims to approve tougher sanctions for racist abuse at soccer matches when its 209 member nations meet at the FIFA Congress in May.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter led a meeting Friday of its Strategic Committee, which included UEFA President Michel Platini, and discussed combatting racism and match-fixing.

Blatter has previously said point deductions and relegation punishments are needed as disciplinary options to help deal with discrimination at matches. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Washington Post.

Kicking Back Comments: Dear Sepp ... if you want to end racism and feel (rightly) that draconian measures are needed to do so (like relegation) ... THEN DO IT!

Why wait another minute to implement these changes?

Grow a spine, and by executive FIAT put everyone on notice that in (30) days bans begin to go into effect. If you commit racism ... you are banned for at least a year ... team responsible ... relegation.

Stop screwing about. If you want to end it ... and we all should ... end it!!  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Nice Kit!!

For those who have not seen it, MLS Talk has leaked the 2013 US National Team kit here .... very nice.

When 'o when will referees get such a luxury?

I know that we are supposed to be "invisible", but a nice kit I think would do wonders for the referee ranks, yes? Then again, I have always been a fan of the basic black, long sleeve kit.

I suppose it is better than referees wearing advertising on their jerseys as had been suggested in the past.

I can see it now ... "And the referee's for tonights match are sponsored by "Lens Crafters." Providing quality eye care since 1973."

Maybe basic black, long sleeve is the best way to go.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day

Credit: Tumblr
Check out, 7 Reasons Why We Love Soccer, courtesy of Bleacher Report. An appropriate read on this day honoring Saint Valentine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm Pro Union!!

Three unions back MLS soccer stadium project for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
A trio of unions is throwing their weight behind a contentious proposal to construct a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Daily News has learned.

The endorsement, expected to be announced Thursday, marks the first organized labor support for the plan.

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

Kicking Back Comments: I am a fan of RedBull Arena honestly, but another soccer specific stadium can not hurt "the cause." There is however significant opposition to this stadium as can be seen here, and here.

Very interested to see what happens next as the deal would seem to be tied significantly to Mayor Bloomberg's remaining term.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Platini v. Blatter - Round 1 for the Presidency?

Blatter angry with UEFA over declaration on FIFA reforms

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter took a swipe at European governing body UEFA on Sunday for what he said were attempts to block his reform process to make soccer's governing body more transparent and less prone to corruption.

Blatter said he was surprised that UEFA, headed by Michel Platini who is a possible rival for the FIFA presidency in two years' time, had declared itself against key proposals from FIFA's reform working party the Independent Governance Committee (IGC). ...

See the whole story here, courtesy World News Australia.

Kicking Back Comments: Sepp seems to be walking back his retirement in a couple of years. I wonder if he is really going to go through with it given what would be a clear challenge from Platini?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Opinion: It's not all about Lance Armstrong ...

Opinion: It's not all about Lance Armstrong, and here's how we can fight doping

The blame game, MPCC and just who should clean up cycling

I am wearing a garbage bag. Why, you might ask, thinking that Merino wool is more my thing. Quite simple, I know that in these days of cycling, banana peels and rotten tomatoes are thrown at anyone who dares stick their head up. Rocks also work quite well and, sadly, my garbage bag won’t do much against those. They hurt. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Cycling News.

Kicking Back Comments: Well it's nice to be back, such as it is. While I am living among mounds of boxes still, and mounds of snow for that matter I wanted to start here for a couple of reasons.

First, this article really struck me as I have been following the continued vilification of Lance Armstrong and have frankly been growing quite tired of it as continues to play out, he will be the only one to "pay" for his misdeeds. JV's take on the whole thing is tremendously well written. He continues to impress as "villain turned hero."

This is true also as Ray Lewis continued to fight accusations of using PEDs prior to his Superbowl matchup with the 49ers. I did like DeadSpin's counter points on this one, and think in part the PED Hysteria can be attributed to Lance.

What put me over the edge was Spain to examine soccer doping allegations, from The Age, detailing allegations by a former club president that Spanish team Real Sociedad had its players use performance enhancing substances.

Where will it end?

Now I have gone on record to say that if consenting adults are open about their use, who cares. I have a BIG problem with kids using PEDs, and also covert use when not allowed by the terms of a sport. Otherwise, why not let them?

This includes referees.

Think about this ... while leagues (like MLS) outlaw the use of PEDs for their participants, referees are not seen as "competitors" in the true sense. Further, referees are often maligned about the fitness they keep and how it is often never good enough. Why not let them use PEDs? Particularly in soccer?

FIFA went so far as to cut the age of "mandator retirement" from 50 to 45 years of age in an effort to have referees that are "more fit."

While there is significant scientific evidence that fitness does not "drop off" after ago 50, there is ample evidence that referees with more "life experience" make better managers of The Game.

Why not fuse the two? For those who want to, allow the use of PEDs for referees to allow them to maintain a level of fitness desired by FIFA, with the proviso that (a) it is allowed by FIFA and the IOC, (b) it is done with notice, and (c) administered by a physician. All (3) have to be met in my eyes.

Why not ... FIFA wants the most fit referee it can get. This would seem like a logical step.