Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Overheard: Give Bush a dictionary

Discussing the overused, inaccurate term "fascism" in another overused, inaccurate term in "War on Terror," Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis in this CNN article says this:
Typically, the Bush administration finds its vocabulary someplace in the middle ground of popular culture. It seems to me that they're trying to find something that resonates, without any effort to really define what they mean...
I suppose it would be too much to ask the Bush administration for specifics or substance on anything they touch.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Philip Anschutz: Builder

During last season, the first in which the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA started to use electronic signboards during games at the Home Depot Center, you could see, behind the corner flags and in between the gaps where the signboards would've connected, the prominent AEG logo, for the Anschutz Entertainment Group. For the rest of us, it is a game; the image of it all, however, said that AEG regarded it as an event, big enough on which to stake its name.

Whether or not that's true is complicated to unravel. The LA Galaxy remains AEG's crown jewel in MLS, among the other teams that it owns or has owned. AEG is responsible for making the HDC and Toyota Park for the Chicago Fire a reality, with Red Bull Park not too far behind, while DC United has plans in the works.

And that's where AEG stumbles. Fans of the MetroStars/New York Red Bulls can't say they had a happy relationship with Philip Anschutz' crew, which put into the New York market a fabled-bumbling idiot in Nick Sakiewicz, who was absolutely run over by NJSEA and state politicians during his time with the team. On the other coast, San Jose fans, who hadn't gotten over seeing Landon Donovan move from the Bay Area to Hollywoodland after a brief, failed stint in Germany, felt a second betrayal when Earthquakes' owners relocated the team to Houston. It is in Texas where they found even more ways to blow it by alienating would-be fans from supporting the team, either by initially going with the name Houston 1836, or by backtracking on their decision and changing it to Dynamo. Even in LA, attendance has declined for a team struggling to get out of a last place tie in the West with Real Salt Lake.

No doubt, AEG-owned teams, past and present, and their fans have faced adversity at every turn, and the verdict is still out on whether the owners have done right by the paying public.

We would hope, however, that nothing and no one are judged by their failures and struggles alone. Hopefully not, otherwise Philip Anschutz would not have been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame today.

An award previously given only to the highest figures in Alan I. Rothenberg (successful in bringing the 1994 World Cup to the United States), Lamar Hunt (Major League Soccer's other major benefactor), and the US Women's National Team (inaugural champions of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991), the National Soccer Medal of Honor now has a fourth recipient in AEG's owner.

It is yet to be seen how history really will judge AEG's involvement in United States soccer, as part of that will be determined by how well its current and former teams fare in the league's growth years just begun. But it is safe to say that, without Anschutz and his eye for the potential of Major League Soccer, to say nothing of the massive financial vehicle that is the support system of, at present, four of the league's twelve teams, the American game would be in dire straits.

It was in conceivable trouble just prior to the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The USMNT had something to prove after finishing dead last in 1998, the league had pulled the plug on the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion, and the league's investors/operators had given Commissioner Don Garber just ten years to get it together, where failure would lead to a future very uncertain, but certainly dark. Under these circumstances, it would have been reasonable for Hunt and Anschutz to just walk away from the enterprise. So many fans had before, and many more still were unconvinced of MLS, opting instead to support European and South American soccer.

That Anschutz persevered with his investment in American soccer is a testament to his influence in the game. The National Soccer Hall of Fame requires that Medal of Honor recipients must have had a contribution to soccer that is "so significant as to have changed the course of the sport’s history." In an American game bereft of highlights and prominent figures relative to soccer in other countries, the head of AEG qualifies as one of the latter. It may very well turn out to be a minor contribution, and asterisked by missteps and troubles, but it is a contribution not easily made, and it did have a profound impact on soccer in America.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The breastplate of righteousness is not a real breastplate

I remember watching a movie a long time ago, where a man who is probably portrayed by William Hurt tells his daughter that the concept of love cannot be written in a book. It is not a tangible thing, and it must come from within. Which is why idolization was a big no-no starting with the book of Exodus. Even the Old Testament God knew symbolizing important concepts and ideas was nothing more than a waste of time.

Nothing worthwhile can ever be touched or seen, and if you really believe that it exists, you need not proof to convince you. It isn't something you can just forsake on a whim, either, or remove from your person like taking your wallet out of your pants.

That's exactly what these pajamas are like. They can be seen, and touched, and can be taken off and put in the laundry. The Armor of God it is not. And if you can't, without a mail order set of PJs, convince your kid of the strengths God gives everyone, get yourself to church and explore them yourself, because you've got problems.

To Buddle: all is forgiven for the moment

Just got back from the swamp. Edson, you get a break. Congratulations. Enjoy it, I may very well disparage you again by the time the next game is over.

Some stats to ponder:
  • No team has ever lit up Real Salt Lake for six goals. Chivas USA put up five on 7/9/05.
  • MLS teams that have scored six goals in a single game have always come away with all three points.
  • If you only look at NYRB's 32 minutes in which they scored all six of their goals, their GPG turns out to be 16.875. Not bad.
  • John Wolyniec scored. Again. According to MetroFanatic, this is the fifth season in which Woly has scored for the New York MLS team. No other player shares the accomplishment.
  • Beware: the last NY player to score a hat trick (Jean Philippe Peguero against Chivas on 5/20/06) was shipped off to Europe.
All in all, a good night. Nothing worth getting the champagne for just yet, but I certainly got my money's worth tonight.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

That's so not cool

The New York Red Bulls lost to DC United in the US Open Cup tonight. I would've watched on MLSLive, but it seems they couldn't find it in them to tune to the right channel when the time came.

This brings the team's record in all games under coach Bruce Arena to 0-3-1. The former US coach is still looking for his first win since the Send-Off Series that sent a European-centered, experience-assumed USMNT to its one-point debacle in Germany. Teams under Arena, in games since the start of the World Cup, have a disturbing goal differential of 5-14.

It is awfully tempting to demand results right away, especially when his immediate predecessor, interim coach Richie Williams, righted the ship with a five-game undefeated streak going into the All-Star break, and no one had any preconceptions about ABMOD's ability to manage a team.

And DC United at home can't be discounted; despite recent stumbles, they have generally ran away with the Eastern Conference and are eight points clear of FC Dallas in the contest for the honorary Supporters Shield.

For sure, some things are looking up for the team. A stadium deal is in place, Youri is back to finish out what may very well be his farewell season, Wolyniec has returned home and Guevara hasn't thrown a fit in awhile.

But at the end of the day, New York is out of the Open Cup, and winless in August. Its only hope for accolades rests in getting out of fifth place and into playoff contention, and postseason history has been very unkind to the team. Yes, there's alot of time left in the calendar. It hasn't gotten dark yet, but someone's heading for the light switch.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A moment for me

Every now and then, when there's nothing to do and everything in the refrigerator's been eaten, when I think I've come across the perfect game of Internet Reversi (I don't think it gets better than 63-0), I have time to contemplate what's left to do in this life.

Then, naturally, I destroy the blog I'm currently writing for (this is, perhaps, the third or fourth incarnation of a personal/semi-personal blog) by writing about the three girls in elementary school/high school that I've fumbled on.

So, let's not go there. You can go and try to Google that later.

Two weeks before the start of classes...still have to buy a new MP3 player, get a parking permit so my car isn't towed away while studying at the library, and figure out how I want to use the next year and a half to shape the rest of my life.

Call it my list of errands.

A couple of months before I moved back to New York, I was looking at apartments in Yokohama. And not for rent, either. Working under the false, Western culture-induced assumption that all property appreciates in value, I was searching for a sense of permanency in Japan. Best-case scenario was eventually a career that was stable enough (say, at a university in America) that I could always have a place to go in Japan.

The assumption proved false - over there, it is rich in history and respect for history, but anything valued in money is bound to depreciate, unlike houses over here - but my thinking hasn't changed.

I don't think I've ever been content staying put in one place. For the moment, I'm comfortable, but I don't plan to stay where I am for very long.

Just like that ridiculously wealthy old man in Contact that spends half a generation manipulating Jodie Foster, I've always appealed for a bit of mobility. Moving back and forth and around from place to place. I could've stayed at one hotel in Germany for the World Cup, but instead I wanted to move around between games, so where the US went, I went.

The problem is, though, that guy in Contact died alone. What a horrifying thought.

I'd like a little of both; a mobile life, and a family that enjoys the mobile life. And I don't really think I can wait 'til I'm retired to fly around on a whim. No one in this house except me loves to travel as I do. Any takers?

So, that's how I want to live the rest of my life.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Welcome home

For the Knicks, it was Mark Jackson. For the Reds, it was Ken Griffey, Jr. For the Red Bulls, it's John Wolyniec.

All of us missed you. Now let's get back to work.

Monday, August 14, 2006


My favorite toy now is CNN Pipeline - as the TV is now 100 feet and two rooms away from my computer. With multiple feeds, it shows me how f***ed up the world actually is.

For example, I just got to see Lebanese TV cover Prime Minister Olmert's speech on the cease-fire. It is translated into Arabic...from English...from Hebrew.

Run any sentence through Babelfish and translate each result into a different language a few times. It's not pretty.

That's probably why Israelis and Arabs literally don't understand each other.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

60-90 days is almost over

After years of running around in circles, it seems New York's MLS team will finally get their stadium. Red Bull Park in Harrison, NJ will be home to the New York Red Bulls from the summer of 2008 (meaning they will probably enjoy an extensive road trip at the beginning of that season), but before then it will have to be built, starting with the groundbreaking, scheduled for September 19th.

If all goes well, I hope to be at the opening, among the 25,000 that have waited for a very, very long time for this.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lack of imagination

Even I watched Die Hard: With a Vengeance. Obviously DHS did not, else they wouldn't have allowed bottles of RC Cola on planes years ago.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I've had a total of six hours of sleep in the last two and a half days, after campaigning all weekend of Ned Lamont, going to his victory party (ALL the way out) in Meriden, then speeding home before a full day of work the following morning. It's been hectic since last Wednesday, and I don't think I get to slow down next weekend either; the Red Bulls play Barcelona at Giants Stadium on Saturday, and I have to drive back and forth to the city sometime on Monday or Tuesday. I thought you're supposed to take it easy in the off weeks before graduate school?

Anyways, it's all been great. I have to think that the (I need a word other than "momentum" here since Lieberman destroyed the term during his 2004 run) will snowball for at least one or two more days, after which so many Democrats will have rallied around the nominee, and a flash poll somewhere will show the race not quite as promising for the incumbent as expected. That will be the criteria for a collapse this early in the general campaign. Otherwise, we're all in for a bit more excitement. In any case, you'll find me back on the front lines if I don't attach myself to a New York race.

Don't get fooled by the right; between the two parties, we are still the one of inclusion. There are issues in America that do require tolerance of differing views or lack consensus within the Democratic Party. Say what you will about the death penalty, for example, but I grew up supporting capital punishment. On border immigration, some Democrats would rather act tough and beef up patrols, simultaneously making sure terrorists aren't crossing over into California, while others believe in continuing a tradition that has given America its prominence.

Some issues, however, are non-negotiable. Education. Social Security. And, as demonstrated last night, Iraq.

Don't think it doesn't happen to Republicans, either. Congressman Joe Schwarz was picked off by the Club for Growth-endorsed Tim Walberg in last night's Republican primary in Michigan. There's not much room over there for people who are less than evangelical about their faith or more than a bit doubtful about the simplicty of the right to choose.

It's just that Mr. Schwarz was a Congressman, one of 435, while Lieberman was a Senator, one of 100, all of whom have or had presidential ambitions and can grab face time in front of the cameras on a whim. Being a Senator means something, entitling the office holder to unlimited opportunities and benefits. On the flipside, it holds tremendous responsibilities. One of the less-talked about - as it really isn't sexy and flies in the face of politicians who want to "be their own man" - is the responsibility to party, to support the positions that it presents in the effort to give the image of a united front against its opposition, therefore creating a sense of resolve that voters can relate and will reward on Election Day. Lieberman ignored that, and has been punished accordingly.

By no means is this race over. But the Connecticut primary has proven a point in very blunt terms. We Democrats do have values to hold onto, and will fight for them to the bitter end, even and especially if it means taking on fellow Democrats that have betrayed those values.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Coming in 2007: American Matchnight

Depending on what's not in the laundry yet, I usually wear my USMNT t-shirt or my Red Bulls Guevara t-shirt on Saturdays, for when I go to a game or watch it on TV. I'm wearing red right now, for an All-Star that should've been part of today's 1-0 win over Chelsea.

Next season, though, I'll most likely be wearing red or blue on those Thursdays when New York will be playing, thanks to ESPN's commitment to produce and broadcast MLS games next season...and pay the league for the privilege to do so. For a league that was not expected to survive, according to the sports pundits at its conception in 1994 and birth in 1996, this is a major indicator of the sport's growth over eleven years, from one that has had to pay its own way by leveraging players' worth and depending on the generosity of its benefactors, to one that can now tap into a small but steady stream of attention and coverage given to it by interested writers and sports executives.

While the BigSoccer faithful, recently declared the pulse of soccer in America by American journalists following the World Cup just ended, will jump for joy (this one fan included), it does set some high expectations for the league and the sport in general. The NHL became a big thing right around the time the Rangers won it all in 1994. FOX, then ABC/ESPN began pouring money into hockey, only to see their investments squandered in ten short years. Lockout, then relegation to profit sharing with NBC have been the fate of the league just now struggling to get back on its feet. Add to that the fact that sports on television have had a rough ride in the past few years. The NBA, once marketed far and wide on the networks, now have to fish for ever-decreasing profit margins on basic cable. Monday Night Football, a tradition that I think has lasted for seven centuries, now moves to ESPN. Even poker probably draws better ratings now than some Saturday afternoon baseball games.

This time, the executives have put their trust into soccer. It's good for those of us who love to watch it...but now what? What will constitute a win in all of this? For sure, ratings will have to go up as ESPN turns up the promotional machine. Then attendances will have to rise. Certainly that has to translate to an improvement in the quality of the league. That turns into money for everyone involved.

All of that is possible, but it is all still a very big order to fill. Keep in mind, though, that the consequences for not succeeding in this venture can, at the very worst, set American soccer back five years, to the times when Commissioner Garber was contracting the league, not expanding it.

I think, however, that it's perfectly alright to enjoy the moment. The soccer bashers in America have been silent, and when they have not, they have been drowned out. The league has the infrastructure to survive, if not grow. It has achieved a sense of permanency that the NASL did not. The progress of soccer in this country is certainly a step in the right direction that, if anyone was devious enough to want to do it, could take a while to undo.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Political Romper Room

From Sunday 'til next Tuesday, I'll be in Connecticut to help get out the vote in next week's primary. Yes, I've donated my money to Ned Lamont. Even in 2000, I never liked Lieberman and I have no reason to change that. Typecast me as a (very minor) member of the blogosphere, but the left has always been vocal about issues such as Iraq, security, the economy and religious encroachment. For a million reasons, however, they have seldom been able (or even willing) to voice their opinions at the polls - you've seen Nancy Pelosi get booed by war protesters for suggesting that liberals need to vote out Republicans in Washington. But let's not kid ourselves; the very Election Day where the left turns out in the overwhelming numbers that are possible is the day the conservative base of the Republican Party crumbles into dust, and the centrist likes of McCain and Hagel are seen as right-wing extremists.

There are a few but growing number of vehicles through which the Democratic Party can channel that kind of support. Ned Lamont is one of them. So, I will be crossing the state line to volunteer my time next week.

Like the jingle goes, though, there are no songs about Connecticut. So I wonder if I won't be bored out of my mind while I'm there.