Archive for June, 2011

A weekend full of soccer

June 20, 2011

It was a long, winding road through the 2011 Gold Cup quarterfinals.

We had two matches decided on penalties and enough controversy to put a FIFA Executive Committee meeting to shame.

Let’s start with the United States’ 2-0 win over Jamaica.

Well, we managed to score two goals while keeping a clean sheet and our road to the final rolls on.

Sacha Kljestan played well – I really like him taking corners – and Alejandro Bedoya showed well in the starting 11 in place of Landon Donovan.

And aside from Michael Bradley playing two Jamaican attackers onside in the fourth minute (which should have led to a goal), he paired well with Jermaine Jones, who almost had his best game in a U.S. shirt.

I say almost, because he had a breakaway in the 67th minute, played a touch too far ahead of himself and then dove as if tripped by a wire.

That bit of theater got Jermaine Taylor sent off, and a 1-0 lead looked all the more safe.

He had the opening goal yesterday (even if it took a fortunate deflection) and played a solid game in the heart of our midfield, but there’s no need for cheating from our national team.

I really hope someone pulls him aside in the next day or two and explains that he’s not playing in Germany…

Of course, the story of the pre-match was the benching of Landon Donovan.

Both he and Clint Dempsey left the team to attend sister’s weddings – Dempsey in Texas and Donovan in California.

Both arrived back in Washington early Sunday morning, but it was Donovan, who it must be said isn’t having his best tournament, that started the match on the pine.

I’ve called for Bob Bradley’s head in this space before, but you have to give him credit.

Facing a game that, if he lost, may have well been his last on the sidelines for the U.S. National team, Bradley went Sinatra on us.

He did it his way.

I did hate to see Jozy Altidore go down with a hamstring injury, but Juan Agudelo played well in relief, setting up Dempsey’s goal that killed off the game.

The win sets up a rematch with Panama, who got the win over El Salvador in penalties in the second match of the doubleheader.

Another call for replay

If you support El Salvador, you’re not very happy today.

Panama scored a last-gasp equalizer to force extra time and eventually win it on penalties.

The ball, based on an excellent Univision replay I saw, just barely crossed the line. Of course, no one in the stadium – or watching online on ESPN – had the benefit of that angle.

Come on, FIFA. Put a camera on the goal line.

It’s not that hard to do.

On the other side

Mexico and Honduras will meet in the other semifinal match on Wednesday.

El Tri had a surprisingly tough time with Guatemala, coming from behind to win 2-1.

Aldo De Nigris and Javier Hernandez had the goals for the Mexicans, who have barely been fazed by the doping suspension of a handful of their players.

They’re still the team to beat, if you ask me.

Honduras needed penalties to see off Costa Rica in the other Meadowlands match Saturday in what was a tight, nervy affair.

Of course, Alvaro Saborio will be kicking himself all summer for failing to convert on a penalty kick in the 75th minute that would have put Costa Rica up, 2-1.

And yes, penalty kicks are never saved – only missed.

Let’s hear it for the boys

No one was expecting much from the U.S. U17 side at this year’s World Cup in Mexico.

But after a 3-0 pasting of the Czech Republic Sunday, it may be time for a rethink.

Alejandro Guido, Esteban Rodriguez and Alfred Koroma had the goals for the U.S., which will face Uzbekistan on Wednesday.

The Americans are tied atop Group D with New Zealand, which hammered Uzbekistan, 4-1, on Sunday.

Jack Warner resigns

I’ve never written much out Jack Warner here before, but I trust him about as far as I can slap a hockey puck.

And that isn’t very far.

Anyway, Warner did the soccer world a favor and resigned this morning as president of CONCACAF, FIFA vice president and the longest-serving member of FIFA’s executive committee.

Excuse me for a second.

BWHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

(Clears throat)

Sorry, I’m back.

FIFA, in its continued infinite wisdom, said the ethics committee procedures against him “have been closed and the presumption of innocence is maintained.”

Yeah, sure.

Warner was in hot water for allegedly helping the Qatar committee bribe the Caribbean nations to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.

His resignation effectively ends the investigation of his role in what many believe was a fixed election, but this is hardly the first time he’s run afoul of the rules.

There was him not paying bonuses to the Trinidad and Tobago players after the 2006 World Cup, the ticket scandal where he played a role in scalping World Cup tickets and the time where he asked the Scottish FA to pay him for a friendly with T&T.

Good riddance, I say.

To pay, or not to pay?

June 8, 2011

By now, you heard all the dirt out of Columbus on the Ohio State football team and how, apparently, the Buckeyes were running a professional football team.

OK, maybe that’s overstating it a little.

But it has sparked an interesting debate on whether or not college football and basketball players should be paid.

And everyone has an opinion.

I’ve heard all of the arguments.

“Oh, they’re struggling. They don’t have any money. They can’t get a decent car, or take a date to the movies. And playing football doesn’t give them time to work. It’s not like the schools can’t afford it! They make millions off those poor kids…”

The no money thing? All true. Every word.

But it’s not only a fact of life for college athletes, but for college students as well.

I lived off ramen noodles and 69-cent Ingles pizzas during my college existence. I rarely went to the movies or out to a nice dinner.

And yet, here I sit. College life is supposed to be hard, isn’t it?

It’s supposed to be tight financially.

But paying the players? For me, no.

I think they’re compensated well enough already.

But the fact remains that, if Terrelle Pryor had to write a check for his senior season at Ohio State – not really an issue anymore – it would be for $23,178.

And that doesn’t include a few assorted fees that I’d guess push that total closer to $23,500.

But that isn’t an issue for the FBS athletes. Because they’re on a full ride, all the way down to the books they need.

Their job? Show up, play a sport and get a college education that’s worth thousands of dollars.

I spent 12 years paying back college loans. Pardon me if I don’t weep for kids who will get a degree with the massive bill that I had.

Eating right

Who doesn’t love a trip to Outback?

There’s one in Gastonia, which is only about 35 minutes from the campus of Gardner-Webb University.

You know how many times I ate there while at GWU?

Zero. Wasn’t in the budget.

Now, thanks to the education I got, I can afford to go every once in a while.

The point?

Patience is a virtue.

And there’s another often overlooked fact on the food issue.

The NCAA allows programs to serve their athletes one meal a day from what’s known as a training table.

It’s basically an athletic department-sponsored facility that serves players food specially designed for maximum nutrition.

Doesn’t sound like a chicken sandwich from the cafeteria, does it?

I pulled a few samples: Notre Dame, Florida and Southern Cal

I think I could bring myself to eat at those places once a day. Their meal plan, included in their scholarship, would provide the other two meals.

So no one’s going hungry.

The money myth

Surely schools can afford to slip the players a little something, right? I mean, they earn all of that money from TV deals from the BCS, bowls and March Madness, don’t they?

Sure they do.

But again, facts get in the way of the fairy tale.

There are 120 FBS, or Division I, schools. Care to guess how many of them actually turned a profit last year?

Anyone?

75 percent?

Half?

The answer is 14, or 11.7 percent of them turned an operating profit in the 2009 fiscal year.

How can this be, you ask?

The answer is simple.

At the average FBS school, say N.C. State, there are 24 sports, 12 each for men and women.

Two of them – basketball and football – turn a profit.

The other 22 lose money.

Hard.

Sports like soccer, softball, wrestling and cheerleading (not really a sport, but listed as such at gopack.com) all need uniforms, travel budgets, game officials, facilities, programs, media guides, trainers, coaches and everything else involved with operating a program.

They all reach into the bag of money produced by the football and basketball teams and grab a handful.

And for about 90 percent of those schools, the bag stands empty at the end of the year.

So, even if it was a good idea – and it’s not – the money simply isn’t there.

So long, Shaq

June 2, 2011

OK, I admit it. I’m a huge fan of Shaquille O’Neal.

So, I’m a little bummed that he’s retiring from the NBA.

He is a man that’s larger than life, both on the basketball court and off.

Plus, he was a great interview and, for the most part, an athlete you can point to as a role model.

And he’s funny.

Some of my favorite Shaq moments are the All-Star entrance shown above, and …

The Kobe rap

The backboard destruction

and the fact that he’s a straight-up quote machine that ESPN should be trying to hire RIGHT NOW

Here’s hoping that the “Big Retiree” enjoys life after basketball.

Thanks for the memories, man.