The BBC’s “Panorama” last night might’ve torpedoed England’s bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup with reports of widespread sleaze on the part of international soccer’s governing body, along with the claim FIFA would make no tax contribution whatsoever to the host nation. For the Guardian’s Sean Ingle and Paul Doyle, it’s a bit much to witness, “Davids Cameron and Beckham and Big Billy Windsor, spinelessly genuflecting before Fifa snollygosters in a bid to host a tournament that will allow Fifa to get rich, rich, richer on the back of you, you, you!”
In this time of cut-backs and sackings and smug two-finger gestures from fat cats, your government has not only agreed to these terms but has dispatched their top banana to Switzerland to plead “pick me, pick me, pick me!” like some giddy floozy on American’s Next Top Model. The Dutch government told Fifa to stick their demands right up their flabby posteriors “ the joint Dutch-Belgian bid has suffered but at least their integrity is intact. The British establishment, by contrast, lacks the bottle to do likewise, or perhaps just doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with big business sh@fting the little guy. After all, it’s not as if we’re not all in this together.
The revelation of Fifa’s demands on bidding nations “ which in addition to tax exemption for Fifa “and all its subsidiaries” orders that governments suspend their immigration laws for the duration of the tournament – was the biggest scandal to emerge from last night’s much-anticipated Panorama feature, even if those demands are not illegal. But there were, of course, also allegations of outlaw behaviour. Panorama accused three members of Fifa’s gilded nomenklatura of trousering monstrous bribes as part of a scam involving around $100m of illicit payments. The alleged payments were made over a decade ago, yet although, according to the BBC, big chief Sepp Blatter was aware of allegations of at least some of this chicanery, all three trough-dwellers remain in situ and, indeed, will be among the 23 executive committee members who will decide on Thursday where to stage the 2018 rip-off. There would have been 25 old men voting, of course, but two of them are suspended following previous allegations of corruption by the Sunday Times.
’twas a mere afternoon ago that Yahoo Sports’ Kelly Dwyer opined that anonymous sources (or, as Dwyer implied, Maverick Carter) conspiring to tar Miami coach Erick Spoelstra as an insecure browbeater would “make a martyr out of him yet”, that appears to be exactly what’s happened. Dwyer’s Yahoo colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski expresses little shock that James and Carter, “planted a story and exposed themselves again as jokers of the highest order,” but can’t help but shake his head over the manner in which Dwyane Wade (œI™m not going to say he™s ˜my guy,™ but he™s my coach”) has turned on Spoelstra.
Wade™s always been loyal, and that™s why it was so surprising to witness him bail this fast on Spoelstra, whom Wade knows too well. Spoelstra is a good NBA coach. Everyone knows that Wade isn™t a star who plays hard all the time, knows that he takes plays off on defense. They know that Spoelstra did a terrific job coaching 90 victories out of that flawed Miami roster the previous two seasons.
As much as ever, the Heat need Wade to influence James. Only now, it™s clear James is influencing Wade. With Udonis Haslem out for the regular season, the locker room misses one of its vital voices. Now, Wade is struggling on the floor and James is the devil on his shoulder, whispering that he doesn™t need to be accountable, that there™s an easy fall guy for everyone: Spoelstra.
Those who know Wade well, who care about him, were disappointed Monday. When Spoelstra needed Wade to stand up for him, Wade never shrunk so small. Spoelstra was Wade™s guy, but Wade™s finding it much easier to align himself with James™ coward act than do the right thing. This was something that you™d expect out of Chris Bosh, who™s never been a leader, never a winner, but Wade?
œHe knows better than this, one of Wade™s former assistant coaches said. œI™m not saying he hasn™t changed some, but he knows right from wrong. And this is wrong.
In retrospect, perhaps “we were just chuckling over the all the fantasy leagues where no one started Brian Westbrook” would’ve been a much, much better answer to a reporter’s question. Keep in mind, folks, Derek Anderson won the QB job in Phoenix after it was determined Matt Leinart lacked the requisite leadership skills.
The staffer was part-time, according to UA Public Relations Director Debbie Lane, but has not been named by the university. Two of the pre-game song choices were “Take the Money and Run,” by The Steve Miller Band, and “Son of a Preacher Man”, recorded by Dusty Springfield in 1968 and later by recording legend Aretha Franklin.
The song choices were apparently directed at Auburn quarterback Cam Newton (above), whose father is a reverend and is embroiled in a recruiting scandal amid reports that he sought payment during his son’s recruitment in violation of NCAA rules.
“Our processes require that all music and videos played in the stadium prior to and during every game be carefully scripted and approved by a senior administrator in the Athletics Department,” Lane wrote in an e-mail. “The former staff member deviated from the script that had been approved for the game with Auburn, and the University took steps to immediately terminate his contract.”
“He’s jumping on them…if anything, he’s been too tough on them.” So claims an anonymous source to ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, characterizing Miami coach Erik Spoelsta’s allegedly brutal treatment of Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh as a paranoid reaction to rumors of his job insecurity. “”Instead of coaching he’s at the point where the players are starting to sense that he’s fearing for his job,” claims Broussard’s mole, and it’s the sort of attempted burial that has Yahoo Sports’ Kelly Dwyer replying, “keep snivelin’, sources..you’re going to make a martyr out of Spoelstra yet.”
All this is being tossed out there to make Spoelstra look bad, as he struggles to right Miami’s ship, but all this nonsense is doing is making Spoelstra look better. Of course James doesn’t take these things as seriously as he should, not when he’s setting up parties and appearances in clubs following road games, or taking whole possessions off to float around the perimeter. This sort of criticism, something he never got in Cleveland, is exactly what he needs.
Spoelstra is not doing his job when it comes to getting the most out of the players that he’s been put in charge of. But he is right to call out Miami’s Big Three, each of whom have been the biggest underachievers on this team. Not the point guards, not the big men, and not the coaching staff.
Broussard’s sources can gripe all they want about Spoelstra taking his frustrations out on the superstars, but he’s right to question their commitment. There’s no reason James should have just two double-figure rebound games, so far. There’s no reason Wade should be playing the sort of defense he’s playing, and there’s no reason Chris Bosh’s rebound percentage should have dropped to a mark below the percent he came through with as a 19-year-old rookie.
New Jersey is deceptively vast. Geographically, of course, it’s not. But in terms of the number of disagreeable, hyper-verbose human beings crammed into those square miles, it is frankly yooge. And, of course, it’s more diverse than it gets credit for — New Jersey residents elect forward-thinking former physics professors to Congress and nightmare animate pork roasts to the governorship, and generally live in the long shadows of a thousand weird contradictions, some notably less charming than others. I don’t live there anymore, and the four days I spent in the state over the holiday marked the longest time in-state in I don’t know how long. This is a long way of saying that I probably shouldn’t be making great big statements about New Jersey does and doesn’t like. But if New Jersey doesn’t love a good ruin, it sure has a funny way of showing it.
The state where I grew up often seems to be half ruin, from the gap-toothed factories and sludgy post-industrial inertia of the cities to the weirdly chipper empty storefronts lining the main street of my ultra-bourgeois hometown. I don’t know too much about South Jersey, honestly, and my impression of Atlantic City is based entirely on two drunken nights of not-so-productive gambling there — my only really positive memory of the place was GBV’s “A Salty Salute” coming on someone’s shuffled iPod as we crossed the causeway into town, a moment which suggested a promise that evaporated once we finally made it onto the ruined streets and into the glitzily bummerific casino. I did come out like $60 up on that trip, but Atlantic City struck me as no kind of place for a decent person to spend time. Mostly, though, Atlantic City is just a gambling-enhanced (?) version of Jersey’s other big cities — crumbling under the weight of generations-long corruption and misgovernance and disregard, as well as just plain crumbling. A.C. was also like Jersey’s other Bartertown-y burgs in that it had an entry in the independent Atlantic League — the Atlantic City Surf, winners of the Atlantic League’s first title back in 1998, and hosts of the league’s first All-Star Game .
Operative word there being “had.” Where Newark and (freaking) Camden have managed to keep their Atlantic League teams alive, the Atlantic City Surf finally went out of business a month before the 2009 season, after leaving the AL for the even more down-market Can-Am League. Like all Atlantic League teams, the Surf extended the careers of a host of tri-state baseball washouts — The 1999 Surf featured both Rey and Luis Quinones, but the Surf also employed Mitch Williams, Chuck Carr, and a pre-comeback Ruben Sierra, as well as endearingly weird Atlantic League vagabond-masher types like Juan “The Large Human” Thomas, who I used to love writing about during my first job, at AOL’s DigitalCity listings site. (I kind of took the initiative on the Atlantic League beat, there; here’s more on The Large Human)
That the Surf were unable to stay in business while the Newark Bears and Camden Riversharks have — while the ultra-blighted city of Bridgeport, CT, which is surely one of the crappiest places I’ve ever been, has managed to keep the Bluefish in operation for over a decade — is a testament, primarily, to how tough it is to get people to do things other than gamble in a town whose entire economy (and arguably very existence) is based on gambling.
But what has happened to Atlantic City’s Bernie Robbins Stadium (above) in the year-plus period of its desertion is a testament to… well, why you should weatherize buildings, for one thing, but also to New Jersey’s weird knack with ruins. The perennially, perpetually cash-strapped city — which owns the stadium — did virtually nothing to secure, weatherize or otherwise keep-up the place. As a result, Atlantic City has an insta-ruin on its hands, just blocks from the casinos, complete with interiors that have been stripped in pursuit of copper wire, graffiti-tagged outfield walls, piles of uncollected garbage all over the freaking place, and saplings growing in the infield. Dan Good and Michael Clark’s piece on the deserted stadium in the Press of Atlantic City is full of weird malapropery — is it really “a monument to a gone moment?” — and some dubious newspaper-y stylistics, but it’s also kind of gripping because of the myriad interlocking derelictions it describes.
Yes, this looks familiar. This is the view fans used to see when entering the stadium, with the Atlantic City skyline in the background.
But the playing field is faded and dull. Ducks graze in what used to be right field. The infield, covered in crabgrass, in need of a groundskeeper, resembles one of the city™s dozens of barren lots. A half foot of water pools in the dugouts, where cleats used to rest. Empty cans of Goya coconut juice are in the dugout corners, near the bat racks.
Branches poke through the outfield walls ” the sections of the wall that haven™t disappeared or that have been covered with graffiti sprayings of male genitals. Graffiti also covers the stadium™s bricks, the doors, the walls ” any vertical surface, really. Some entranceways are boarded-up. In the stands where fans used to sit, caution tape winds across exposed, crumbling brick. Upstairs, 12-year-old concrete is filled with fault lines.
And those are the stadium™s nicer parts.
In a decade, maybe all this will be profound — something for humpo literarily-inclined expats like myself to muse on, something that hints at the tragedy or pride or strange strength of our blighted, beloved home state. For now, though, it’s just a bummer. This sort of collapse isn’t supposed to happen so quickly.
Amidst considerable chatter that he’s just keeping the headset warm for Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez insists the Wolverines’ 7-5 campaign is a sign of a program on the rise. The Detroit Free Press’ Mark Snyder isn’t buying it ; “his primary answer remained the same: it’s the areas away from public view…that better be the case, because if he’s pointing to what is evident, it’ll be a hard sell.”
A thin aspect of the seven victories is the analysis of who they were against — teams that are a combined 37-44. It’s difficult to find a quality win in the bunch and only two of the seven (Connecticut in the opener and Bowling Green) could be considered decisive games.
That might be the best sign of progress, as U-M was able to win the close games this year, a major problem the previous two years. But that can be framed again: against lesser competition, should they even be that close?
In the five losses, all to upper-division Big Ten teams, Michigan couldn’t claim to be competitive, which at least occurred occasionally in 2009.
it’s not a clear case that Michigan has improved on the field. And that’s why Rodriguez has to point elsewhere.
I cannot vouch for the veracity of the above Twitter account, though others are pretty sure it is the handiwork of Bills receiver Steve Johnson. “The ball hit me in the wrong part of the hands” would’ve easily fit under a 140 character limit, Steve, and probably wouldn’t have resulted in so much extra attention.
(former Mets skipper Davey Johnson, graciously submitting to an interview with an aspiring sportswriter)
A few years from now, might we look back on, say, The Bleacher Report, and feel nostalgic for the site’s brand of insightful analysis? Not bloody likely, but that’s the first thing that came to mind when reading of StatSheet’s “Robot Army” and the Durham, NC firm’s plans to provide college basketball content entirely composed by a computer. From the New York Times’ Randall Stross :
StatSheet’s software is imbued with the smarts to flatter each particular team. The same statistics, documenting the same game, produce an entirely different write-up and headline at the opposing team™s page.
A team like No. 1-ranked Duke ” whose StatSheet Network Web site is at BlueDevilDaily.com ” does not lack for attention from human sports writers. But StatSheet expects that the sports programs of smaller schools will appreciate the advent of robot journalism.
œThere are at least 200 Division I schools that the large sports media companies give no attention to, says Mr. Allen at StatSheet. œOnce we have the algorithm in place, there™s no cost to adding the Lamars and Elons to the Dukes and U.N.C.™s.
Small schools are less likely to have large alumni bases and to draw significant traffic, Mr. Allen said, so he is knocking on their doors to explore licensing partnerships.
Mr. Allen explains that his story-writing software does not perform linguistic analysis; it just uses template sentences and a database of phrases that numbers about 5,000 for now.
œMy goal was that 80 percent of readers wouldn™t question that the content was written by a human, he says, œand now that we™ve launched, I think the percentage is higher.
A fantastic fund-raising stunt by WFMU‘s station manager has me hoping — pretty much in the face of reality — that we’ll someday hear the words, “listener-supported WFAN”. I realize it would take far more balloons to send a certain serial abuser of Diet Coke aloft, but I also suspect that’s the sort of fund-raising premium every right thinking person would shell out for.