Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Voronin for Kuyt = Well, we do have that match at Chelsea on Sunday, so ...
Well, at least they have the all-white kits. If you're going to play poorly in Italy and lose, might as well look nifty while doing it.
Back of the bar is me and three Fiorentina supporters. Italian is being spoken at a rapid pace. Ominous doesn't really do justice to the tone right now.
Halftime thoughts: I can only assume Liverpool has been inflicted with some kind of grave illness/Tuscan gypsy curse.
Fiorentina is redefining attacking in space. This is brutal. What I wouldn't give for boring ol' Arbeloa, no attacking fullbacks Liverpool right now.
Carragher put more effort into the offside appeal than he did into defending that attack. Ugh.

And the commentator is taking shots at Liverpool for beating Hull. Whatever.

Is the pitch 25 yards wider? Can't believe how much space is available on these Fiorentina attacks.

Meanwhile, I've added about three of these all-white kits to my Christmas list.

Missed the start, don't know who's playing yet, sound has crapped out for a minute. Perfect.

Love the all-white Liverpool European kits.

Liverpool v. Fiorentina posts coming via this damn phone.

Here's the deal: I am connected to this phone at all times. Steve Jobs' marketing and magic tricks have me in thrall. If he said BlackBerry owners should be thrown into a pond and if they float that means they're witches, well, sure, I'd believe him.

So I am going to make a half blogging return to Match Pricks for the match today - on this phone. I mean, I'm not even tapping this out in landscape mode. That's how sick in the head I am with this phone!

I'm looking forward to this. Liverpool and Fiorentina, and then Chelsea on Sunday. Oh yeah, things are picking up again. Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I remember when you could still tell a joke in this bar without the world coming to an end

A couple weeks ago, I pulled myself out of my typical midday, pre-work routine of playing poker online while guzzling black coffee and huffing cigarette after cigarette long enough to wander upstairs and push the appropriate buttons on the remote control – in the correct order, this time – to put Arsenal v. Celtic on the TV. I had remembered about the match after it started. Sure, I knew Celtic wasn't likely to come close to even getting to extra time, but I always enjoy the football.

Much to my surprise and eventual delight, I tuned in, if that term still applies to television in 2009, right as Eduardo had won a penalty and given Arsenal the lead. My first thought? "Oh well. Celtic wasn't going through anyway." But as I continued settling into the couch, I started to feel a little quiver and jolt in the parts of me that react in such ways when a controversial sporting moment takes shape. The commentators were moaning about something Eduardo had done. "It's probably best if I wait for a replay," I thought. Well, it took a few different angles, but finally I witnessed what I was sure would be comedy gold and powerful ammunition for weeks and months to come among my friends.

I saw Eduardo – conclusively, definitively, undeniably – go down like a community playhouse trainee desperate to impress the leading lady he had been longing for since the auditions.

It was outstanding – beyond funny, really. I couldn't wait until the weekend so I could meet my friends and regulars, some of them Arsenal supporters, at the only bar in Milwaukee stupid and crazy enough to open at 6 a.m. for "soccer" matches. I was prepared to, quite frankly, give them loads of shit about such an abysmal effort from one of their heroes.

Then everyone in the world went loony tunes about it. Of course, the most important has been the two-game ban Eduardo received. I maintain it's essentially meaningless because Arsenal will sashay through their Champions League group, but still, it's a real thing that has been put into effect and it has repercussions, however unimportant I deem them. But also, there have been the downright silly tangents that sprung from that decision. Arsenal supporters have, perhaps understandably, jumped to Eduardo's defense. But the obscene reactions to the ban startled me, and there's now Zapruder-esque compilations online of "fellow diver" Wayne Rooney that have been posted as a response. I've read calls for a full UEFA retrospective of dives that have affected Arsenal. On the other end of things, the Daily Mail is excitedly urging (is there any other action for that paper?) to join their campaign to "shame the divers."

The back and forth about this for two full weeks has been stunning, even surviving the similarly outrageous Chelsea "child trafficking" development and all it has given birth to regarding luring talented young players from overseas to the promised land of Premier League riches. Such is the never-ending bore of each and every international break.

Not all of this ruckus has been pointless, of course. These debates are revealing as to what sprouts from the mind-set of modern football supporters. The best take that I've seen came from Sport Is A TV Show, which offered many more sensible layers and arguments about diving than I'll likely ever be prepared to discuss here – particularly the case for a player having the good sense to go down once he is actually fouled in the box.

See, I've written this post about seven times since Eduardo dived, but the central point has never changed: Eduardo's dive was a gifted moment I could use over and over to enliven the ephemeral qualities that make watching football in a large group so much fun. I feel like climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro and shouting, "But wait, wait – just wait a goddamn minute!! He got caught in an hilariously awful dive! We can use this!"

When I was on that couch watching those replays, the very first thing that entered my mind was how I could point to such a silly display the next time I was at the bar, seeing my Arsenal-supporting pals "Ooohing" and "La-La-ing" when Eboue and Arshavin and van Persie played a nifty yet fruitless triangle sequence among them that ended with a through ball played a touch too hard that Jussi Jaaskelainen would easily collect. These are the moments we, as snorting and chortling men, come to embrace while taking part in our routine of getting together, watching these most-often agony-inducing matches and loving how we can do it again and again and again.

And with it happening so early in the season, I had a full nine months to wear that joke out. I couldn't wait. Now, it seems like all the fun is gone. Why bring it up anymore in such a setting? "But, but, but Boruc kind of nicked his foot!" "Johnny Foreigner always does such things. We must stop it!" "Rooney dives, too!! At least Eduardo doesn't snog his granny!!!"

Ack, to hell with it. Look, these sorts of moments matter, people. Eduardo falling over like someone told him to pretend he was studying under Lee Strasberg had a lot of potential. This was something to cherish for those among us who love our Arsenal-supporting friends but, honestly, must admit sometimes it all becomes a bit much. I've seen Colin – and buddy, I'd take a bullet for you – turn over a scoring sheet at a bowling alley and sketch out Arsenal's attacking intricacies for a perfect stranger! Turning to a friend like that and reminding Eduardo was shamelessly exposed for a fraud one time helps keep our loved ones grounded. It keeps them humble – and if anyone could use some humility right now it's Arsenal supporters.

Look, football is humbling in its nature. The highs are followed by equal lows – I know as a Liverpool supporter – and moments like what happened with Eduardo are natural examples of that aesthetic. But the wild-eyed reactions all around with Eduardo's dive have, I feel, robbed me of that opportunity. I could've kept my great friends on their toes and level-headed all season if people would've just laughed and shut the hell up. Accept what happened for what it was and move on. Instead, I'm forced to spell it out in a more-direct fashion in this post.

The world took all the fun out of Eduardo's dive. Pardon my unseriousness, but that's the biggest travesty for me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The CW Chimes in

I hope y'all read. There's lots of fun out there. In particular, on our recommended reading list. The fantastically crafted "Sport is a TV Show" blog is a gem worth remembering and spending time with.

Of note today on Sport is a TV Show, a sneak peak at the CW's Gossip Girls. Now please note that were I to come across the show, I wouldn't be able to recognize it from the belly of a whale. I am a 32 year old male, not a 23 year old male wishing I was spending time with 23 year old females. That said, I may well watch an episode in the near future, provided I can find the CW on my dial. It would appear, at even a passing glance, that the writers of the show, and even the young woman who so delightfully delivers the lines, have scored a blow clear across the brow of Jintao - that cretinous little letch.

See, as has been well documented, Jintao and his troops (even his proteges, we see that smarmy little smirk on your face Nani) want you to submit. They want you to ignore their leering existence so they can continue to run rough-shod over the ideals of the just and fair ... and turn in their FREE PENALTY token whenever the script-girl seems to have ignored her responsibilities and let the play get away from what was the expected outcome by page 45. "Oi, says here, yeah, right here on this token I've got that we've a FREE PENALTY coming to us. Wha? No, doesn't say when, just that it expires by the 94th minute. Might as well go ahead and use it then, eh?"

Fortunately, the good folks at the CW are keeping the fight alive for freedom from the skewered world view so many subject us to on such a regular basis, unsanitary as it may be (as Marina Hyde clocks in with another blow, honestly, it's like a tag-team of justice today). And fortunately Sport is a TV Show has served this wonderful adjustment to the accepted plot for us all to enjoy. Go for the clip, stay for more, go back another day.

Watch it, and just soak in the way that saintly actress delivers the lines ... and smacks Jintao square in the mouth while he scrambles for a page in the script he is certain is missing. Oh no, Sir Alex, that was most assuredly not in the script. Not in the least. Every now and again, things might get away from you a little, eh?

They may as well have had Purple Rain playing in the background. Hell, maybe they did, it was only a clip.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Never a better time ...

... to trot this one out after Saturday's 2-1 loss for the Arsenal at Old Trafford. Say it with me now!

Murky waters

I'm not sure I even want to dip a single toe into this whole thing. If you so much as open a newspaper's (or rather, click on one) sporting section across the globe, you'll have seen all of the details, opinions (including these interesting comments from Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon. Hey, Craig, by the way, the tie was over. "They pay the games" and all, but it was over), facts, misstatements and over-reactions. I have some remarks, draped in what was, at the time, disgusted brevity, down below from last week (remember the Match Pricks motto, scroll, baby, scroll!).

Now, after Eduardo's dive and the "witch-hunt" as Arsene Wenger put it, he has indeed been - rather arbitrarily, mind - suspended for two games in the Champions League group stage. Am I angry about it? Yeah. I think it's unjust finger-pointing and I definitely have a major whine here in the treatment of Arsenal as a special case. Whatever that complex is, it's real. And the anger was only multiplied on Saturday against a Manchester United side that showed nothing in the face of an Arsenal team that looked like they'd be winners from the start (in spite of a rather toothless effort in the very final yards of the pitch).

First, Arshavin is torn down in the box with a clear chance on goal. The defender hadn't even considered the ball. He flew in with both feet in the space that Andrei owned. Ball or no ball, he took the space with a foul and it was in the box. It was a penalty. But it was at Old Trafford, wasn't it? No penalty. Didn't matter much as a clearly steamed Andrei Arshavin belted in a magnificent effort with zero run-up or planting to the ball (for the Americans out there, it was like Brett Favre throwing a zipper across the field on his opposite foot). 1-nil to the Arsenal at halftime.

Anyone who has seen United knows it would have been important to survive immediately after the half. Arsenal didn't. Rooney went down in the box in one of those penalties that just really grinds your gears, you know? What is the keeper, Manuel Almunia, supposed to do in that situation? He went for the ball on floor, Rooney was going down. It wasn't a dive, it may not have been a clear penalty. In my clearly skewered opinion, it was a 50/50 ball that both players had a right too. Rooney won the penalty and Almunia won a yellow card for the effort. 1-1. And you know what it reminded me of? Jens Lehman's sending off in the Champions League Final against Barcelona in Paris in 2006. Then, that was unjust. This week, it's still unjust. To top it off, a circus own goal from the always-improving Abu Diaby gave United their only other chance and a 2-1 lead. Arsenal responded well after the penalty, poorly after the own goal. But they still played football. They just didn't have the cut in the final 20 yards of the pitch to make the difference.

The final thing I was reminded of with the dives and penalties this week? Rooney's dive against the Arsenal to snap the 49 game unbeaten streak. Remember that? Hmmm, not much of a furor there, eh? Or what about every single time Cristiano Ronaldo stepped on the pitch? Or what about Didier Drogba, a man who has even claimed that, yes!, he dives all the time?

Can of worms and all that. The points have been covered. I'm just angry and I have a very sour taste in my mouth right now. Damn good thing I watched the match in the solitude of my living room as I had to scoot off to a wedding straight away. Not sure how I would've been in public. Anyway, here's Arsenal's response and I fully agree with them. I also appreciate the backing they are giving their player. We know he dived and made a meal of the confrontation but everything that has come after sure doesn't seem in line with the way the world has been cast.

Look, there's a laundry list of incidents that stir the bile and I'm fully aware that it's the same case for every team out there. But for now, Arsenal supporters will clearly feel aggrieved. (SIDEBAR: those drunk-driving commercials with the guys in cars filled with booze, olives, cranberry juice and beer ... whew, I don't know about you but the last thing they make me want to do is have a bevvy and drive even a single block.)

But then again, I said it myself last week, didn't it? What goes around comes around. Sometimes, in a win, you create your own luck. Sometimes, in a loss, you create your own bad luck. Jintaodenfreude. Just sucks when you're on the receiving end of it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On Milwaukee ... on Match Pricks

The proverbial hat tip goes out to Drew Olson and OnMilwaukee.com for their mention of Match Pricks in this look at watching live football/soccer at pubs in Milwaukee.

If you haven't checked us out at the Highbury at 2322 Kinnickinnic Ave., what are you waiting for?