Sunday, September 29, 2013

... and speaking of legends ...

Some of the very best referees in the world then, and best minds in The Game still today.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

FIFA Turning Blind Eye to Modern Slavery?

Qatar World Cup 'slaves': Fifa's UK representative 'appalled and disturbed'

Vice-president Jim Boyce calls for immediate investigation into deaths of Nepalese construction workers revealed by Guardian

A representative on Fifa's ruling executive committee has said he is appalled and disturbed by the findings of a Guardian investigation into the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar before the 2022 World Cup and vowed to push for immediate action by football's governing body.

Northern Ireland's Jim Boyce, a Fifa vice-president, called for an immediate investigation into the deaths of dozens of Nepalese workers and the ill-treatment of thousands of others working in Qatar in an £85bn construction frenzy as the country prepares to host the tournament. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Guardian.

Kicking Back Comments: While Mr. Boyce is appalled, something tells me that FIFA as a whole will not be, and let the exploitation continue unfettered so the stadia will be built in time for the Christmas World Cup of 2022.

FIFA croons about Fair Play. Well you know what ... it should include all aspects of football, including those who worked with their own hands to build the place we play.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Another Refereeing Legend

U.S. Soccer Centennial Referee Interview: Vincent Mauro

The international presence of U.S. Soccer’s referees only started to gain some traction in the mid- to late-1980s. Even then, the program’s impact was still very much in its infancy.

One referee who helped gain international attention during that decade and into the next was Italian-American Vincent Mauro. He moved into the officiating realm in 1975, and 15 years later he was best remembered for being a head official during the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

Coincidentally, the Pratola Serra, Italy, native earned the chance-of-a-lifetime moment back in his home country. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of US Soccer.

Kicking Back Comments: I have had the extraordinary pleasure to work with Vinnie on several occasions.  One most memorable was just before his departure to the 1990 World Cup, where I ran his line. It was a match I will never forget - ever.

One area that is at times overlooked is that in this era of refereeing (e.g. circa 1990) there were only FIFA referees, no FIFA ARs. Generally speaking, referees at that level only held a whistle, and were generally less practiced at running a line as they were used for their experience as referees.

Vinnie distinguished himself as one of the very best ARs at the tournament (IMHO) and was the mark of a clear demonstration that the US had some of the very best ARs in the world. A tradition I believe that started with him on the international stage.

A true legend in refereeing that US Soccer is lucky to have as a resource.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Entertaining - but without merit otherwise

So I caught Simon Borg's latest rant on, see below.

I actually find him entertaining, which at the very end of the day may be the point.

What I find odd is that MLS (and he is an MLS employee) is espousing both supporting, and non-supporting messages of referees working the leagues in these clips. You would think that MLS would be supportive of the referees they choose to employ.

On what other major sport own web site (e.g. NHL, MLB, NBA, NFL) do you see an employee of the league tear at their referees?

Now, one may say that Borg is balanced in his analysis ... well ... his opinion ... as while he references the LOTG a few times, he clearly has never done any serious refereeing ... is opinion is tilted big time.

In the video above, 60% of his comments are negative about the referee when an opinion is there (15/25), 40% are positive comments (10/25). There is one incident at 8:45 that he could have made an informed opinion, in fact an actual determination in law, but chose not to skewer the AR for missing an offside (NE v. DC), which I found happy, yet inconsistent with his general approach, to bash referees most of the time.

Now again, I get the entertainment factor, but I would also hope to get some equal treatment with the players and coaches. If Simon wants to be bold, try a target that will fight back, not one that he knows will quietly ignore his rants.

Worth a look, yes, as he does well to capture some very good clips that can be used as fodder for training referees.

Worth a listen, absolutely not, unless of course you need a chuckle, which is about all its worth.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

MLS to Fan(atics): We'll Pay You to Stop Cursing

M.L.S. Tries to Mute Fans’ Vulgar Chants

For decades, soccer officials in the United States simply wanted some fans in their stadiums. Now they have them, and some of those fans have brought an unexpected problem: a vulgar chant, in the vein of more notoriously rabid soccer fans in other countries.

Hardly clever, it is only three words — an insult directed at the opposing goalkeeper — but enough to give M.L.S. officials fits as they hear it spill over into live television broadcasts. The chant’s simplicity is what makes it appealing or appalling, depending on your perspective. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: While I get it, I find the whole thing a bit silly. MLS is worried about its image on TV and with (parents of younger) fans, and is doing something (really clever) about it.

That said, it seems a bit Big Brother-ish to try to mute fans en masse. What about singular fans? What about coaches or players who "let slip" some inappropriate language?

It would not be the 1st time an on field microphone picked up an irate player or coach ... what about that when it gets out on TV?

It's funny, I took Jr. to the Brazil match the other night at Gillette and he was really amazed at the difference in atmosphere from that match to MLS. His comment was ... "... MLS is kind of boring ... ." I choose to use "sterile", but the point remains that MLS could be running the risk, in making The American Game more attractive to its base, but taking some of the fun out of it for the rest of us who are fans.

BTW, I don't think it is just soccer that has this "issue" ... has anyone gone to a college hockey game and been greeted to an opposing player getting a penalty. On their way to the box the crowd generally yells ...

Seeeeeeeeeeya A$$h0%& ........

Funny stuff that doesn't seem to cause a rip in the space-time continuum. I think we can get out of our bubble every once in a bit and take some good natured spirited language.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just let 'em play ref ...

Update: 24-SEP PM: I've changed the video source as the first was removed, and updated the times accordingly in relation to the new video.

Well then ... where to begin.

For those who did not see the PRESEASON hockey game between Buffalo and Toronto, here it is.

Check out the whole clip as it is instructional on many levels.

Now, to understand why this one happened, you need to go back to that Sabre's 4th goal by Tropp (a goal scorer) and Toronto sending Devane (a goon) to send a message. It winds up with Tropp getting the crap beat out of him, and slamming his head on the ice and lying there stunned in a pool of his own blood.

So it is right about this time that MEGA GOON John Scott gets a nod from the Sabre's bench and lines up albeit for a second with Phil Kessel (a goal scorer) and all heck breaks loose at 1:05 (now 1:40) in the video.

Now everyone saw this coming as within 5 seconds, (2) Leafs and (3) officials (a referee and (2) linesmen) were right in there trying to IMMEDIATELY break up what happened to avoid any further issues.

As soon as it was clear to both referees however that a brawl was imminent, both referees backed up and hemmed in the fights, as their assistants were hard at work saving Mr. Scott, or maybe saving everyone else from Mr. Scott.

Look at 1:17 (now 1:50) of the video, both referees had the whole mess pinned in and were able to observe the whole thing ... including the Leafs David Clarkson jumping in from the bench.

Now the fracas continued for some time and carried over to the Leafs bench, with Tim Nowak (#77) expertly keeping Scott from anyone else. I have to say too that Scott, while a goon, has my respect as he is there to play a role and does it well. He also is not there to give the referee any crap as we can see at 3:43 (now 4:19) when he gives Tim a couple of pats on the back to say, I'm done, no problem here.

This is more respect than I am giving Kessel not only for the cowardly chops initially with Scott's back turned but also at 3:10 (now 3:45) when he makes his way back over and gives Scott a poke. I would have actually liked Nowak to let him go for a second to grab Kessel. Would have served him right. (Just for the record that is not a Bruins thing, just hate cheap play like that.)

So, if everyone knew this was coming, why let it even happen?

My answer is because they had to let them play.

There was no legitimate reason to send a player before the fight. There is no reason why both can't line up for the face-off, even if they knew it was coming. The officials very simply had to let them play, until the moment the trouble began.

This is a very difficult position when you can anticipate as a referee that something is coming, but you can't do anything about it, until it does.

To somehow contort the LOTG or fabricate an excuse to dismiss a player as much as it may save a significant issue, is not the right or correct thing to do for anyone, or the game. It's dishonest, and prejudicial.

By the way ... I know what I'm doing on November 15th and 16th when these guys meet again.

Here's a question for us ... how do THOSE referees come into THAT game?

Is that prejudicial or good management?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Upgrade Kudos

Well this is a special day indeed for Anthony Brossi, who has earned an upgrade to Grade 5, State referee 1st class.

There are many milestones in a referee that are noteworthy. A first match, upgrade to Grade 7, or becoming a State referee ... there are so many.

An upgrade to Grade 5 however is a big one in my opinion as it marks a significant commitment to the craft, and a significant investment US Soccer has placed in the referee.

Such an individual will now likely be looked at for a future position as a National referee, and in some cases inclusion into the professional ranks.

So please join me today in congratulating Tony for reaching thins milestone, and his bright future ahead.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

'Communism United,' their colors will be pink and rainbow ...

Future News: MLS to put antagonistic expansion team in ‘city that hates soccer the most’

Following speculation that MLS is interested in expanding into the southeast United States, the league has announced plans to put a new club in "the city that hates soccer the most." Though the exact location of this new team has yet to be determined, the declaration is sure to court controversy. But the league sees it as an aggressive way to push its development and expansions in new territories.

"The league has grown leaps and bounds in a relatively short period," said MLS commissioner Don Garber. "We have a team in just about every major soccer friendly city in the country, so now it's time to go after some areas where the game isn't as popular. And to make something of a statement, we've decided to locate the U.S. city that hates soccer the most — probably somewhere in Alabama — and put a team there to let everyone know that our league is here and this sport isn't going anywhere." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: Should have saved this one for April Fools Commish ... it was some funny stuff.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

FIFA Actually Fears someone?

FIFA face IOC backlash over 2022 World Cup

The International Olympic Committee plan to hold discussions with FIFA in order to make sure the 2022 World Cup Finals in Qatar does not clash with the Winter Olympic Games that year.

On Thursday, UEFA's 54 member associations gave their backing to hold the 2022 Finals during the winter as to avoid the extreme heat of the State's summer. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of ESPN.

Kicking Back Comments: Even with UEFA backing a winter World Cup, I still think FIFA is in some deep crap here. Sine there is significant commingling of IOC executives on the FIFA EXCOM, it seems clear FIFA wants to steer clear of interfering with the 2022 winter olympics.

So if it does get moved ... it looks like Christmas time.

Boy I hope Fox pulls out. NFL v. World Cup .... it's not even going to be close.

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's not just for referees

The Power of Mentorship

When I joined the U.S. Soccer Foundation staff, and more specifically the Programs team supporting Soccer for Success, I knew I walked into both a huge opportunity and a tremendous challenge. One of the main components of my job is training our Soccer for Success coaches. This season we will work with 1,500 coaches in 24 cities across the country. Through these coaches we hope to teach the game of soccer to approximately 18,000 youth. No small feat! ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of US Soccer Foundation.

Kicking Back Comments: Don't forget, just like referees and players, coaches too are learning their craft on any given Sunday.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sick as a parrot (explicit photo warning)

Sick as a parrot: One Direction fans tweet premier ace death threats after crunching tackle that made Louis Tomlinson throw up

Footballer Gabriel Agbonlahor has felt the wrath of One Direction's fanatical fans.

The premier ace received death threats from irate One Direction fans after flying into a challenge with pop star Louis Tomlinson at Stiliyan Petrov's charity match.

The Aston Villa forward left the boyband member in a heap on the floor, with Tomlinson - who signed for Championship side Doncaster for charity last month - vomiting after the tackle. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Mail Online.

Kicking Back Comments: My angle here is not bashing Tomlinson, or his incredibly successful band, One Direction for what some have called crumpling on the pitch after a modest challenge. Tomlinson was there to take part in a charity match for Stiliyan Petrov and spent his time to bring a great draw to the match. Just listen to the fans on the video whenever he touches the ball.

That said, my angle is this ... what is a referee to do in such a case?

Tomlinson, while a footballer (he is signed to a 3rd division club, the Doncaster Rovers as a walk on to the development team) was clearly not prepared for the match, or if he was, for no serious action in the match. As the video shows Gabriel Agbonlahor essentially knocked Tomlinson over awkwardly, not in a foul or carless way, yet we see a player in a heap on the field.

I felt for the referee at that point. Here we have a friendly match, in fact a charity match, with teams that have mostly present and just past football stars, and a couple of celebrities that I would not call "regular" athletes. What is the referees role here? Protect the celebrities at all costs? Protect the football stars? Make it a good show for everyone? Enforce the LOTG and assure the match comports with tradition?

Yes. It is all of those things.

It is an impossible challenge that requires the balancing skills of a Wallenda.

While I can go into war stories about my most vidid experiences about friendlies between international and MLS team, or the most dangerous with Steve Nichol's Boston Bulldogs agains the "Brazil Legends" (many of the 1994 Brazil World Cup team), I will leave it at the following for each to ponder.

If you are asked to do a friendly ... or even "worse" a charity match, think very carefully about how you will comport yourself, the match, and work with the players and promoters to come to a mutually acceptable outcome.

Such matches are really fun as you rub elbows with people you likely never do, but they are the ultimate high wire act for a referee. Success can lead to better matches. Failure can lead to a quick fall.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Socceroos fire the first shot

FFA have requested FIFA provide compensation for the $43m spent on Australia's World Cup bid

Billionaire Frank Lowy has taken aim at the world’s most powerful sporting body, FIFA over Australia’s $43m World Cup bid embarrassment.

Lowy, the Football Federation Australia chairman, is still smarting from the embarrassment of Australia’s $43m bid earning just one vote when oil-rich Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Yesterday he called on the sport’s governing body to pay compensation to Australia and other bidders after FIFA president’s stunning admission that it was "a mistake" to send the 2022 tournament to the
Arab state given the 50-degree summer days. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.
Kicking Back Comments: The fact that the FFA is seeking compensation is not surprising ... a little early as EXCOM has not taken the vote yet to change the dates, so the issue is legally not ripe yet, but that is not the point Mr. Lowy is making. It is a warning shot.

Now what was surprising to me was FIFA's response to the proposed challenge. In their own words:

However, a FIFA spokeswoman has responded to the news by telling the FFA to forget about the compensation claim. 

"As part of the bidding documents all bidders, including the FA Australia, accepted that the format and dates of the staging of the Fifa World Cup and Fifa Confederations Cup, though initially expected to be in June/July, remains subject to the final decision of the Fifa Organising Committee," she said.

I'm really surprised FIFA is going to hang their hat on the "in principle" argument. Even if the contract did not state specific dates (which from previous reporting would not seem to be the case), such a shift fundamentally changes the nature of the tournament, and in essence is not the same product counties bid on.

I hope FIFA starts walking that one back as I expect it is a dead bang loser ... even in front of the notorious inept CAS, who I would imagine would hear the bulk of the issue on moving the World Cup.

By the way, the other day I commented on our representative on EXCOM, Sunil Gulati and how he was certainly well poised to serve our interests. Well, in fine fashion, he has been "stirring the pot" at FIFA over the date change, but like any other masterful politician, is crafting his arguments out of matter other than sour grapes (for the US losing bid).

If there is a revote, I have to imagine the US, and England, are the ones in best position to take the hosting duties. Hat tip to Mr. Gulati,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm a doctor, not a World Cup organizer

Just to get warmed up, take a look at this:

Sound familiar?

Now take a look here, where the CMO of FIFA should have stopped after saying these words. Here's the quote from FIFA health chief: Winter Qatar World Cup a must:

D’Hooghe said: “My position is very clear. From the medical point of view I think it will be better not to play during the hot summer months."

He's right of course. It's not good for the players to be exerting themselves in 50C (122F) heat. Only problem is that he started to dismiss that with the technical advances to the stadiums where players and fans could operate in "acceptable" temperatures.

It turned a bit ridiculous when he stated this:
“They will need to travel from venue to venue and I think it’s not a good idea for them to do that in temperatures of 47 degrees or more.”

I appreciate the concern, but somehow I don't see how exposure from air conditioned hotel via air conditioned car to air conditioned stadia is a risk. Even omit the air conditioned trip between hotel and stadia and you get some discomfort, yes, but hardly debilitating.

Michel D’Hooghe, Chair of the FIFA medical committee, who REALLY is a doctor, and seemingly a stand up guy, I believe mixed his professional and personal opinions on this one. If he kept it to a medical discussion, I am with him ... it's hot, we get it. But to stretch that logic into why the World Cup should be moved, if it genuinely does not pose a threat is another matter.

Then again, I'm an engineer, not a meteorologist.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"In principle" my arse

Qatar are in danger of having 2022 FIFA World Cup snatched from them with major pressure on FIFA

Pressure from Europe’s football elite — including the Premier League — as well as the concerns of powerful American TV interests, Qatar’s beaten rival bidders for 2022 and anti-corruption investigators could scupper the project to stage the world’s biggest football tournament in the small but oil-rich desert state.

It is virtually certain that football’s world governing body, FIFA, will announce early next month that the 2022 tournament cannot be staged in Qatar in the summer — as originally envisaged when the World Cup was awarded to the emirate three years ago — because of the dangerously high temperatures, which can reach 40 degrees centigrade. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox News.

Kicking Back Comments: So in the article we see the mounting legal challenges to moving the World Cup to winter of 2022. Fox, Telemundo, EPL, and various bidding association are among them. It would seem clear that if the EX-CO takes the decision to move the Cup, all (legal) hell is going to break loose and FIFA could wind up losing substantial revenue as FOX paid $1BILLION ... for a tournament in the summer (when nothing else is going on in the US sports-wise). It suffices to say they have concerns about bumping into the NFL schedule in winter.

Now from the article we see yet another weak justification from Sepp:

Blatter appeared to attempt to claim last week that FIFA had the latitude to move the event at will, saying 2022 bids were made for a summer event ‘in principle’.

Of course the contracts to host the Cup do not say that, but reportedly actually state June and July in there, as any good contract would.

Sepp's pathetic explanation continues to lend credence to just how arrogant this empty suit is. A single handed belief that he can move a honored tournament that has been played in June and July since the 1930's, to another month.

Now, here is the other side of my mouth, and I loath to make Sepp's case, but ... what about countries like Qatar who can't reasonably host the tournament in that timeframe due to factors out of their control, like the weather. Should they be denied the opportunity to host?

I don't think so ... but this is an issue that should have been disclosed before the bidding even began.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Know Thy Hot Spot - NFL Version

So for anyone who was watching the NE v NY (NFL) game on Thursday 12-SEP, you were treated to the following incident near the end of the game. Have a look.

We see Talib #31 from NE intercept a NY pass and jaunt to the sideline, in essence winning the game for NE. In the process we see Mangold #74, the center for NY roll over Tallib's legs out of bounds, a clear penalty.

The Side judge (#125) was right there and immediately threw the flag for the penalty. Perfect position, perfect call. Also, we see around :33 of the video, he even walks the "trouble maker" out of the "hot spot" to try to calm things down. Again, perfect.

It's no accident as #125 (a.k.a. Dr. Larid Hayes) knows The Game as he serves as the men's soccer coach at Orange Coast College.

Of course his nearly two decades and multiple Super Bowl appearances I'm sure had something to do with it too. I jest of course, but the result remains for me he handles this one just right. He knew the benches were a "hot spot", he got right in there and escorted the creator of the incident away. Perfect.

So what happened next, it looked somewhat out of control.

Well, there is a lesson in there too. As a referee we can prevent, prevent, prevent, but honestly sometimes if a players is bent on causing trouble, no amount of prevention can help. I think this was the case here. There were just too many angry bodies, and no way to get between them all. At that point, as most of the refereeing crew did, step back, and take good notes for later.

One thing I did find funny was the "yellow flag dace" that was going on. Aside from the initial flag, which as I stated was absolutely necessary and well done, I think the stuff after that was a bit much in how they were delivered. At :36 we see the referee launch one and side step away quickly. At :50 we see another one launch into the air from a skittering back judge (I think).

I'm not knocking the call, just the delivery of the flag. While I'd bet the rules of the game require the tossing of a flag for a penalty to take effect, throwing it into the 300 section of Gillette would seem to have no effect. That one is just me.

Finally, once again the media showed how silly they were by insinuating that Talib was "asking to be fouled" (my words) by how he got out of bounds. It was not over celebratory or showy, he hopped out of bounds, simple. To suggest that it is ok to be rolled in the back of the legs with the potential to cause a knee injury, even if this was a genuine taunt, which it was not, is just stupid.

I can only hope Brad Nessler (play-by-play) and  Mike Mayock (game analyst) get better as the season goes on, because they were mediocre at best on Thursday, with sprinkles of ridiculous.

Here is the complete crew from that game (source):
51 Carl Cheffers, Whittier, Calif., 14
96 Undrey Wash, Duncanville, Texas, 14
79 Kent Payne, Aurora, Colo., 10
100 Tom Symonette, Windermere, Fla., 10
21 Jeff Lamberth, The Woodlands, Texas, 12
125 Laird Hayes, Newport Beach, Calif., 19
30 Todd Prukop, Rancho Santa, Margarita, Calif., 5

Saturday, September 14, 2013

To Boldly Go ...

I offer this thought to give us a sense of perspective.

Voyager I was launched in 1977, and has traveled approximately 11 BILLION miles since then, and is now leaving our solar system (hyper technically our heliosphere), into inter-stellar space (again hyper technically after passing through the Oort cloud). This marks the first human made object to do so in our history ... our complete history.

Traveling at about 38000 miles per hour, it will next come into contact with a star system in about 40,000 years.

Voyage II is right behind it at about 9 BILLION miles and take another 5 years or so to get out there.

Makes me feel a bit smaller ... and also awed at what we can accomplish as a species.

Embedded video from
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology

Friday, September 13, 2013

Maybe 13 is a lucky number after all

USMNT Moves Up To 13th In Latest FIFA World Rankings

FIFA's September world rankings were released this morning, and we found out that U.S. Soccer, after being ranked 19th just last month, jumped six more spots to 13th in the world. The Americans also were able to hold onto the top spot in CONCACAF. Mexico, second in the federation, fell one spot, and are now ranked 21st in the world. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Deadspin.

Kicking Back Comments: FIFA Rankings can be found here.

Honestly, don't put too much stock into them. Brazil is currently 8th, and if you really think that the 7 teams ahead of them are not as good ... after seeing Brazil play a couple of nights ago ... think again.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Just read the article =)

Fox Sports' Simon Hill questions Sepp Blatter's Qatar confession and lambasts FIFA's flawed process

SO, what we all knew has finally been made official. Good old Uncle Sepp (Blatter) has admitted that handing the World Cup to Qatar was a "mistake." What took him so long?

What irks though, is Blatter's sheer audacity in trying to turn the tables on those who bid - in good faith - by claiming that the 2022 World Cup should now just switch from summer to winter to alleviate that mistake.

He's even attempted to shift the focus away from his moribund administration towards Europe (and for Europe, read England in particular, the nation whose press led the charge against FIFA largesse), by trying to suggest that a seasonal switch shouldn't be hijacked by "European self-interest." ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Fox Sports.

Kicking Back Comments: Can I get an "amen" for Mr. Hill?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

7th Time A Charm?

United States clinches place in 2014 FIFA World Cup

Thanks to their 2-0 win over Mexico and Panama drawing against Honduras, the United States has become the first team from CONCACAF to clinch their place in the 2014 World Cup. ...

See the whole story here, from SB Nation.

Kicking Back Comments: I was actually at the Brazil v. Portugal match when I was watching USA v. Mexico ... it was kind of surreal. What a great result to be going back to the World Cup a 7th time!

There are a series of excellent articles out there about the stories history between these two soccer teams. One in particular is USA vs. Mexico: A history of 'Dos a Cero' also from SB Nation. A worthy read.

A tremendous result, and one well earned to go back to the World Cup, now for a 7th time.

Will lucky 7 be a charm for the US?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Whistle, a Punch, and a Soccer Referee Is Dead

Ricardo Portillo Update: Utah Teen Accused Of Killing Soccer Ref In Court

SALT LAKE CITY — A teenager charged with killing a Utah soccer referee because he didn't like the man's call during a game pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of homicide by assault in a case that brought new attention to the issue of violence and sportsmanship in athletics.

The plea deal was hashed out between the teen's attorneys and prosecutors as the judge planned to hear testimony to decide if the 17-year-old suspect would be tried in juvenile or adult court. Under the deal, prosecutors agreed to keep the case in juvenile court. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of the HuffPo.

Kicking Back Comments: The title comes from the NYT article of same fame that can be found here. It was the best way I could think of to focus the mind on what happened here.

Here is another, this admitted murderers sentence is a maximum of just over 3 years.

Focused yet?

Biggest loser in this case is the Portillio family, who lost a husband and father. (see here for video)

Biggest chicken $h*t in this case is Patricia Cassell, ADA for Salt Lake County, on two levels.

First, is having the gall to say the plea deal struck is fair. Fair to who Patty? To the 17 year and 9 month old who killed an innocent man? Fair to the DA's office who took the easy way out and got a plea? Fair to the Portillio family somehow to (in my own words) "end their suffering?"

Second, is the DA's office going back on their statement they were going to have this admitted murderer tried as an adult. They took the easy way out and got the "quick win." Gotta make those numbers look good .. getting ready for the bench and all following in her husbands footsteps. Right?

Who really knows. Plea deals happen every day, all the time. Lets not forget however, it is a quid pro quo. In exchange for his guilty plea, the murderer has received only 3 years maximum. Granted the sentencing guidelines would call for only another 2 if tried as an adult, but for my money Patty, do the leg work, and get the additional 2 years. But it's so expensive to have a trial you say, tax payer dollars and all ... well then have the guts to say that to the press and Mr. Portillio's family when asked why juvenile court was the venue. Don't just shrug and say "... it would have only been another two years ..."

What amazing empathy from the ADA to the Portillio family.

Now I'll go out of my way to say that there is nothing improprietous on its face that seems to be going on here, it is however a stunning reversal for the DA for a serious crime.

Maybe I'm tainted because I expect the DA to prosecute the crime to the full extent of the law without short changing the investigative process in actually getting the necessary evidence to punish this person for what he did.

Maybe I am just so taken with the story of Matthew Cordle who killed a man, yet had the courage to admit what he did, even before he was charged, and accept his punishment for it. Punishment he deserves for killing a man.

No such honor in this case, from the criminal, or those who were responsible for prosecuting the crime.

There is one loose end however ... does US Soccer know, and is this killer now on a "no fly list" with them? I would hope a proactive lifetime ban is now in effect for this individual.

If not, shame on US Soccer.

Monday, September 9, 2013

But wait ... there's more ...

Fifa accused of ‘playing God’ by stopping 17-year-old Briton’s college education

FIFA has been accused of playing God after football’s world governing body used rules designed to prevent child trafficking to deny a 17-year-old British schoolboy the chance to take up a place on a college course – in Wiltshire.

To make matters worse, the boy’s family has concerns that the British government, while sympathetic to the their case and supportive, are reluctant to get actively involved because Fifa has a track record of suspending national associations when there has been ‘political interference’ in the football business of that nation. ...

See the whole article here, courtesy of Sporting Intelligence.

Kicking Back Comments: I have to admit, when I first read this I figured there was some clear crossed wire, or something else was going on, or was fabricated.

Yeah, not so much.

Take a look here at the decision from FIFA to keep a college kid from playing.

What is scary too is the discussion in the article about the retribution FIFA has taken on the FA in the past, and there is concern for the same in this case.

Honestly, I can actually sort of rationalize the large efforts like the racism board I ranted about yesterday. It can take time to move such a big ship. I get it.

This current situation is rather pathetic however. I mean come on, let the kid play. His folks are moving (back) in country and (in essence) not let a child play football is absurd ... even for FIFA.

For the good of the game they say ...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

They could do so much if they actually wanted to

FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination to meet

The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination will meet on Thursday 12 September, at the Home of FIFA in Zurich. The creation of the Task Force was announced by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in early March, following a meeting of the FIFA Strategic Committee, as part of a series of measures to tackle the pressing issue of racism and discrimination in football. ...

See the rest of this propaganda drivel article here, courtesy of FIFA.

Kicking Back comments: At least there were some pictures attached to the article that looked like they were actually doing something. There's some progress on racism, eh FIFA.

All the pictures are pretty dar n pathetic, this one is my favorite however:
Photo Copyright Foto-net and FIFA (source)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

So much for Mr. Nice Guy

Special Report: Qatar 2022 – A crisis of FIFA’s own making

France Football's Philippe Auclair is bringing us a three-part special report into Qatar's controversial hosting of the 2022 World Cup. In part one, he looks at how FIFA found itself in such a mess, and how Sepp Blatter has potentially opened up a huge rupture in the global game. Parts two and three will be published on Thursday and Friday.

Two years and nine months after FIFA’s Executive Committee awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in perplexing circumstances, the uncertainty lingers: no one knows for sure what lies on that horizon, which could yet prove to be a mirage.

Sepp Blatter, who masters double negatives with something of PG Wodehouse’s virtuosity for similes and metaphors, did nothing to dispel the clouds that are gathering over the fate of that tournament when he spoke on the subject little over a week ago. ...

See part 1 of the story here, part 2 here, and part 3 here, courtesy of Yahoo! Sport.

Kicking Back Comments: I am suddenly becoming a fan of 2022 in Qatar.

It is wonderful to see FIFA implode right before my eyes, and characters like Blatter and Platini show their true hatred of the English Game.

Here are our leaders folks. How truly sad for The Game.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Failure is not an option here

The cyclist diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease who is inspiring others to ride

Viv Mackay is one of life’s joiners.

She is a member of numerous political and activist groups and used to be an active trade union official.

So it is not particularly surprising that her love of cycling led her to set up a cycling group, an event and, more recently, become an ambassador for women’s cycling.

And given her seemingly boundless energy, perhaps it isn’t surprising that she has done her best not to let Parkinson’s disease stop her from doing what she loves – cycling. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of Daily Echo.

Kicking Back Comments: When I was in NH the other week completing my training for the White Mountain Gran Fondo, I saw a mountain biker with one arm, churning out the miles.

It was staggering.

It is hard enough just going out and riding a bike when things are all working the way they should, but just imaging throwing in a serious medical condition on top of it and imagine how hard it gets.

Now, in addition to all of that, to become an advocate for the sport she loves just blows my mind.

Inspiration, thy name is Viv.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

And if this one does not jerk at your heart strings ...

... you may want to check your pulse.

Inspiring sports story week continues with:

St. Charles 8th-Grader With Cerebral Palsy Scores His First Touchdown

The actions of the coaches, players and opposing team bring tears to more than one eye as a 13-year-old achieves his dream in scoring his first touchdown.

Eighth-grader Jack McGraw has dreamed of scoring a touchdown for his football team at Haines Middle School in St. Charles. His was a dream, however, that seemed unattainable. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of The Patch.

Kicking Back Comments: Inspiring indeed. We should always strive to be so kind.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Inspiring sports story week continues with this ...

Iranian Referee Gets a Long-Awaited Call: He’s In

Adel Borghei spent Saturday at the United States Open, inside Louis Armstrong Stadium, clad in the navy blue uniform of a referee. He wore sunglasses and made line calls and blended into the background, even if this was far from a normal day at work. ...

See the whole story here, from the NYT.

Kicking Back Comments: There are many, many kudos to go around here for so many to make this happen.

Of course I could rail about the lunacy of something so simple made so complex ... but I won't, as in keeping with the week, for Mr. Borghei to be "called up" and serve his sport, cutting through all the lunacy, is to me, an inspirational story.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

With so much bad news out there recently ...

... let's try a week of some truly inspiring sports stuff.

I think it appropriate we begin with this:

Diana Nyad completes record-setting Cuba-to-Florida swim

American 64-year-old long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad today became the first person to swim across the Florida Straits from Cuba without a shark cage, succeeding on her fifth attempt at the feat.

Nyad came ashore about 1 p.m. Chicago time, 53 hours after she set off from Havana, completing the estimated 110-mile journey and setting a record for the longest ocean swim without a shark cage or flippers, according to her crew. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Kicking Back Comments: I recall first introducing this topic back in 2011 with "What a crock" where I take particular aim at the FIFA age restriction of 45 years.

This more than ever resonates with me as I turn 45 later this year.

That said, now is not the time for that particular discussion, just wait until December.

Now however is the time to celebrate, a truly inspiring moment in modern sports history.

She did have one comment among many that resonated with me ...
“There is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team," Nyad concluded.

Every feel that ay in the center circle waiting to start the game?

Congratulation to Ms. Nyad!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Apparently even other MLB pitches think Dempster was "bush league"

Baseball Players Don’t Have a Problem with A-Rod via an ESPN Poll

Last week Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz came to the defense of Alex Rodriguez in the wake of the Ryan Dempster plunking on Sunday Night Baseball. If an ESPN confidential player poll is to be believed, Ortiz isn’t alone in the pro-Rodriguez camp. ESPN the Magazine interviewed 36 current MLB pitchers anonymously and asked them if they wanted to bean A-Rod?

Their answer: 100 percent no. ...

See the whole story here, courtesy of

Kicking Back Comments: Hmmmm ... That's pretty compelling stuff actually.

There were a couple of other things that caught my eye from the actual survey results (from the above link to ESPN).

First, was this:
4. If the 211-game ban were put to a vote with players, what percentage would side with A-Rod?
Average answer: 43.6 percent

Staggeringly precise answer aside ... it is actually a pretty small number. Far smaller than I would have ever thought.

Second, was this one, which was illuminating:
8. What percentage of players do you think is still violating MLB's drug policy?
Average answer: 7.1 percent

Wow. Honestly, I think that one is scary as I interpret this one as "How many do you have actual knowledge of that are still violating the MLB policy ..."

If it is near 10% this is really a serious issue ...

But like the NFL and NBA, MLB just does not care I would opine.

Take a look at the whole ESPN survey, it does paint a picture, and one that is not good at all.