Ronay On The Glory Days Of The World Cup Single

Posted in Football, The World Of Entertainment, World Cup 2010 at 6:20 pm by

Gimmicky-to-shitty World Cup singles touting England’s chances in the competition have ranged from John Barnes’ cameo on New Order’s “World In Motion” to the not-quite TOTP hit “Have A Wank For England”, from the charmingly dubbed Kunt & The Gang. With this rich history in mind (well, maybe not Kunt & The Gang), the Guardian’s Barney Ronay — author of the fantastic recent tome “The Manager – Absurd Ascent Of The Most Important Man In Football” — recalls a pair of notables that may or not be on your cultural radar.

The first England World Cup song was 1970′s Back Home, . This is also the only official anti-World Cup song, a song about the pleasures of not being at the World Cup. Instead it is a heart-wringing paeon to homesickness. “Back home, they’ll be thinking about us¦” Back home, they’ll be really behind us ¦ Back home, they’ll be watching and waiting”. The message here is: we want to be back home. This is perhaps not surprising.

In 1970 England had only ever travelled to four World Cups and the experience had often been traumatic: beaten by the US in 1950, knocked out by Uruguay in 1954 and outclassed by Brazil in 1962. England were, if not exactly fearful world champions, then grudging tourists. The song also mirrors Sir Alf Ramsey’s own anxieties: Leo McKinstry’s recent biography revealed that Ramsey’s Back Home-merchants took vast quantities of Bird’s Eye beefburgers to Mexico (which ended up being gleefully burnt on the quayside by customs officials) and even shipped over their own team bus (which died in the heat). In the end this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. England wanted to be back home. They soon were “ and for an entire decade.

Spain 1982 brought the next England World Cup song. This Time is musically similar, but elegiac in tone. “This time,” Ray Clemence, Peter Withe and Steve Foster sing. “More than any other time this time.” This is the refrain: this time, finally this time, we’re going to find a way to get it right this time. It is worth noting at this point that England “ wracked with long-suffering deprivation “ had won the World Cup only 16 years previously. This is the equivalent of having won it under Graham Taylor in 1994 and still in 2010 recording a song called “Oh When, When Will We Finally Get Our Hands On That Trophy?” If ever proof were required that English football seeks out and gladly wallows in (a) self-flagellating nostalgia and (b) a baseless sense of entitlement, we find it above all in This Time.

Further Installments In “Hoops Fans, Cities Reduced To Begging”

Posted in Basketball, Free Expression at 5:47 pm by

Installment no. 1 was scary enough (as is this additional effort from Cleveland). but the aesthetic crimes committed by Dallas Basketball.tv are such that I’d argue free agency oughta be abolished. EIther that, or YouTube.

Home Is Where It Hurts: Tagg Bozied, Pioneer of the Kendry Morales Party Foul

Posted in Baseball at 12:38 pm by

Because there are column inches to fill, and because it more or less totally screwed the Angels’ already struggling offense, there was a good deal of sports columnist flappery over whether the celebration-induced injury suffered by Kendry Morales after Saturday’s game-winning grand slam would mean the “end” of baseball’s head-bopping, jump-up-and-down walk-off celebrations. There’s no way that something like Morales’ injury is going to stop this particular ritual from happening, of course, both because it’s basically the only non-brawl display of on-field emotion baseball’s code of behavior allows and because, as Joe Posnanski notes, this particular celebration is not necessarily all that dangerous compared to, say, anything else having to do with baseball. When the Angels won with another walk-off on Sunday, they were notably more chilled out, but this particular celebration probably isn’t going anywhere because of what amounts to a (really terrible) freak accident.

That won’t make things easier for Morales, of course, who will probably miss the rest of the season with a broken leg. But Morales still has it better than current Phillies farmhand Tagg Bozied, whom I previously knew only as a Triple-A slugger who logged some time in the Mets system a few years ago. Bozied was once a big-time prospect in the Padres system, but suffered an even worse injury in a home plate celebration back in 2004 and has never made it to the Bigs despite some solid Minor League seasons in the years since. If you’re looking for a Memorial Day pre-barbecue bumout, you’re of course very welcome. But really you should thank Larry Stone, who lays out the bummerific tale of Bozied’s injury in the Seattle Times:

In 2004, he hit .315/.374/.629 with 16 homers and 58 RBI through 57 games for Portland. The Padres were taking notice. A callup was imminent. But on July 19 of that year — against the Tacoma Rainiers, the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, no less — he hit a game-winning grand slam off Tacoma pitcher Scott Atchison. Exactly like Morales. Bozied leapt on the plate, and as with Morales, the celebration quickly turned ugly. He had ruptured the patella tendon in his left knee and wound up hospitalized — and out for the season.

Um, enjoy your Memorial Day! And be careful, please.

The “O” Is For “Unusable”: Is This The End For Oliver Perez With The Mets?

Posted in Baseball at 10:11 am by

Ha ha, no it is obviously not. I’m just kidding with you. Sorry.

I mean, sure, the Mets $36 million long man has been every bit as terrible this year as he was last, and has now walked an astonishing — and actually kind of Hindenburgianly impressive — 90 batters in 102 innings since re-signing with the Mets before the 2009 season. No one is arguing that. But while Perez’s most recent implosive pitching appearance was primarily given over to making lit-up spot starter Fernando Nieve’s effort look slightly less awful, the damning anonymous quotes Ollie’s teammates gave the New York Post’s Mike Puma suggest that the team didn’t appreciate Perez’s team-first willingness to draw fire from the overmatched Nieve.

Instead, Perez’s teammates have a notably less charitable reaction to Ollie’s unwillingness to accept a Minor League assignment. While it’s hard to argue that Buffalo pitching coach Scott Radinsky (or anyone else) could fix the lefty in the proverbial 15 minutes, Perez’s unwillingness to give The Guy From 10-Foot Pole a shot and manager Jerry Manuel’s inability to come up with a situation in which he might use Perez out of the ‘pen has clearly put the Mets in a tough spot. The only person whose Mets-related job has been made easier by Perez’s presence would be Puma, whose Post article was basically written for him thanks to some unusually frank quotes:

A day after watching Oliver Perez implode in a relief appearance against the Brewers, two disgusted Mets players told The Post yesterday it™s time management drew a line in the sand with the putrid lefty.

œYou tell him you go to Triple-A or that™s it, you are finished, one Mets player said, well aware that Perez is still owed about $20 million on the three-year contract he signed before the 2009 season.

A second Mets player echoed that line of thinking. œAt some point you have to cut bait, he said. œYou owe him a lot of money, but for what?

Before the Mets™ 10-4 victory over the Brewers, manager Jerry Manuel was hard-pressed to name a scenario in which he would consider using Perez. œThat™s really a tough question, Manuel said. œ[Maybe] extra innings or something like that, but it™s going to be tough to find spots for him.

When told that Manuel™s plan is to save Perez for extra-inning games, one of the Mets players laughed.

œWhat, we need another 20-inning game and then use him after we™ve used all our pitchers and if a position player™s sinker isn™t biting? the player said.

Puma goes on to report that “management” — a vague term that in this case could include GM Omar Minaya, any number of Wilpons, Dave Howard, Mike Glavine and any of the team’s assistant GMs — was loath to cut Perez loose because of the fear that he would rediscover his stuff elsewhere. Since the Mets already have one reliever they use like a Rule 5 pick — that would be prized pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia, currently being groomed as a sixth inning specialist in tri-monthly appearances — it could be argued that the prospect of having Perez on the team is far scarier than him somehow reinventing himself with the Pirates. I think I’m kind of arguing it right now, in a passive-aggressive way.

But the Mets front office that brought back nearly the organization’s entire 2009 Monster Squad on the condition that they’d all hit the bricks shortly after their first big fuck-up had to know that this sort of panicked, defensive mismanagement would result. It’s tough to imagine the Human Definition Of Chinstrap-Bearded Sunk Cost leaving the Mets before the guy who signed him to a contract does, and it says a lot about the organization that it might just be easier to hide Perez from the less-than-watchful eyes of the Wilpons for another season and a half than to deal with the fallout from finally and justifiably deep-sixing this extravagantly sunken cost. Maybe they could deal him for the DFA’ed Dontrelle Willis? Or replace him with sainted castoff (and also just-DFA’ed) Nelson Figueroa? Or not. There’s always that.


Austrian Bouncers Could Take Some Tips From Citizens Bank Park Security

Posted in Football, Mob Behavior, World Cup 2010 at 9:10 am by

Without having seen the entire match between New Zealand and Serbia in Austria yesterday, it might be unfair to criticize the hosts for a laissez-faire approach to ejecting troublemakers. But from the looks of the above footage, it’s only natural to wonder, don’t they have tasers in Klagenfurt?

Eri Yoshida’s US Pro Debut

Posted in Baseball at 8:23 am by

Knuckleballer Eri Yoshida, 18, became the first female to pitch in a U.S. professional contest since former indy leaguer Ila Borders, allowing 4 earned runs, 5 hits and a walk in the Chico Outlaws’ 8-6 defeat of the Tijuana Cimarrones.  While the Golden League is best known to casual observers as the outfit that allowed the likes of Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson to make their most recent pro appearances, Yoshida’s Saturday night outing sounds altogether respectable according to a report from the SF Chronicle’s Tom Fitzgerald.  Or at the very least, more credible than last night’s efforts from Fernando Nieve and Oliver Perez.

Just a few weeks out of high school, Yoshida wasn’t dazzling but showed remarkable poise against a lineup dotted with former big-league players. She made 47 pitches, committed a balk, threw a wild pitch, didn’t strike out anybody and needed a couple of fine defensive plays to avert further damage.

She gave up a two-run homer to Juan Velasquez in the second inning.

“It was a knuckleball but it came in straight,” she said.

She gave up a bunt single to the first batter she faced, ex-Giants infielder Ivan Ochoa, a move that drew predictable hoots from the crowd. But Erold Andrus, the brother of Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, fouled out to the catcher. And Jackson Melian, whom the Yankees gave a $1.2 million signing bonus in 1996 but who hasn’t reached the big leagues, grounded into a double play.

Former Royals and Rockies infielder Kit Pellow, who flied out to left against Yoshida, said her knuckleball “wasn’t on” or moving a lot. “It was doing a lot of tumbling, but it was just slow,” he said.


Francesa’s Irrational Hostility Towards Bloggers, 12 Year-Olds

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports Radio at 9:32 am by

(Francesa and Cerrone, shown in happier times. Image culled from the creative commentators at Amazin’ Avenue)

Though this is hardly as crucial a concern as Jerry Manuel’s decision to remove Johan Santana after 8 shutout innings and 105 pitches last night (said matter is covered elsewhere, naturally), in terms of dubious decisions, what could’ve been going thru the skull of WFAN’s Mike Francesa yesterday when he chose to attack Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone for a fairly inoffensive editorial in praise of Mike Pelfrey?

Francesa dismissed Cerrone — whose rebuttal has strangely disappeared — as looking like “a 12 year old needing a shower”, an interesting choice of words for a radio host whom, to be quite charitable, is neither a male model nor an oil painting. Were the same sort of relatively fluffy piece composed by a columnist for Newsday, the Daily News or the Post — all of whom have at various times, published space-fillers of a non-critical variety, would WFAN’s resident Diet Coke addict take it upon himself to lambaste an established journalist?  If Cerrone and Francesa were forced to swap jobs for a day, what are the odds the pro blogger might not embarrass himself nearly as much as the man who manages to suck all the joy out of sports yack in two different mediums?

The 25th Anniversary Of The Heysel Disaster

Posted in Football at 6:48 am by

25 years ago today, 39 people perished when a wall separating Liverpool and Juventus supporters collapsed at Brussels’ Heysel Stadium just prior to the start of the 1985 European Cup Final.  In the aftermath of the match — won by Juve on a Michael Plantini penalty kick — English clubs were banned from UEFA competitions for 5 years.  Though Liverpool have long acknowledged their fans’ role in the disaster (events were held to commemorate the event on Merseyside earlier this week), When Saturday Comes’ Matthew Barker writes, “Juventus always appeared a touch uneasy remembering the tragedy.”

Juventus have always played down any calls that the club should return the 1985 trophy in deference to the dead. Walter Veltroni, the former mayor of Rome and ex-leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has written a theatrical monologue, recently published as a book. When the Acrobat Falls, Enter the Clowns takes its name from Platini’s acerbic phrase, used as explanation to journalists after the game for his celebrations on scoring from the penalty spot, and the team’s lap of honour at the final whistle. Arguing about the past, or moral point-scoring over Juve’s lack of judgement in treating the tragedy as little more than an unfortunate backdrop to their first European Cup win, is irrelevant now. In the words of Veltroni, such quarrels are “sterile and stupid… the problem isn’t the cup, but the memory of that night, which we need to conserve to avoid repeating”.

The anniversary comes at a time when the much-maligned tessera ID card for travelling away supporters has once again stirred up controversy, with Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi forced to apologise after suggesting that the police should also be subject to similar scrutiny and control. The lingering bitter irony, that English football was quick to learn the lessons of Heysel, while the game in Italy remains troubled and in a confused state of flux, will hang heavy over today’s ceremonies.

NYT – NCAA Investigating One & Done Bledsoe

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 6:15 am by

Perhaps the only task tougher than leading multiple programs to the NCAA Men’s Final Four is to have both appearances expunged.  Serial forfeiteer John Calipari’s impressive collegiate record is inextricably tied to his skills as a recruiter, and once again, in the rich history of Derrick Rose and Marcus Camby, one of the great educator’s star pupils finds himself facing heavy scrutiny.  On Saturday, the New York Times’ Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans report University Of Kentucky PG Eric Bledsoe’s movements thru a succession of Alabam high schools  have piqued the curiosity of NCAA watchdogs.

Interviews with those connected with Bledsoe™s life in Birmingham revealed potential violations.

* – Brenda Axle, the landlord for the house where Bledsoe and his mother moved for his senior year of high school, said that Bledsoe™s high school coach paid her at least three months™ rent, or $1,200. By moving there, Bledsoe was eligible to play for Parker, which he led to the Alabama Class 5A title game. Maurice Ford, the coach, denied paying the money.

* – A copy of Bledsoe™s high school transcript from his first three years reveals that it would have taken an improbable academic makeover ” a jump from about a 1.9 grade point average in core courses to just under a 2.5 during his senior year ” for Bledsoe to achieve minimum N.C.A.A. standards to qualify for a scholarship.

* – A college coach who recruited Bledsoe said that Ford explicitly told his coaching staff that he needed a specific amount of money to let Bledsoe sign with that university. The coach, who did not want to be named out of fear of repercussions when recruiting in Birmingham, said Ford told him and his staff that he was asking for money because he was helping pay rent for Bledsoe and his mother. Ford denied this, saying, œI don™t prostitute my kids.

He said he had done nothing wrong, adding: œI™m a poor black man. And when one black man tries to help another black man, there™s always something wrong.

MLB Punches Out Joe West

Posted in Baseball at 2:30 am by

I’m not normally one to throw stones at the professional who sidelines in music for the sin of moonlighting.  I have my own glass house,  it offends my sense of fair play and no matter how many blues lawyers or jam-band dentists the world has to suffer, I know the history of worthwhile music would shrivel badly if you removed its insurance executives or accountants.

But something about Wednesday’s multiple-ejection tantrum at the Indians/White Sox tilt by baseball’s least introverted umpire has me wondering if Cowboy Joe West’s muse isn’t worried a little too much about taking a solo – a time-honored tradition best left on the small and hacky stage, not behind the plate. Would a bit of focus on the job at hand kill anybody?

At Progressive Field, West, whose upper strike zone is harder to find than an army recruiter in a white neighborhood, twice called a balk on LHP Mark Buehrle’s move to first base, having apparently noticed the trademark motion’s rubber-grazing character for the first time in ten seasons.  The first balk call brought out Ozzie, who West ejected.  The second disgusted the normally level-headed Buehrle so much, he dropped his glove.  For that, West sent him following Ozzie into the Cleveland afternoon with no plans.

Today, MLB decided that West needed to lose some weight – in his wallet. Along with Guillen and Buehrle, baseball fined West an undisclosed amount, the petulant authoritarian’s penance no doubt taking a deeper bite compared to either ballplayer’s bankroll.  Rolling Wednesday together with West’s quasi-inappropriate excoriation of the Yankees and Bosox pace of game last month,  Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan could barely contain his glee at West’s comeuppance:

MLB doesn™t have nearly the perception problem with umpires that the NBA does with its referees. It doesn™t want one, either, and so its move to muzzle West is appropriate. The Yankees and Red Sox do push pace-of-play boundaries; they also provide the greatest rivalry in the sport, and fans who appreciate good baseball are willing to sit through extra time as long as the drama remains. West should™ve apologized and moved on. His targeting of Buehrle “ pitchers get called for multiple balks about once a decade “ was the vindictive sort of call that cements his reputation.

Undeterred, West™s diarrhea of the mouth continued. He had CDs and gear to sell, a website to push, a brand to promote. Attached to the latest e-mail from his publicist were 11 pictures, just in case one or two weren™t enough. It also included a funny subject line: œThe Real Joe West.

Like everyone doesn™t already see him for what he is.