Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

December 13, 2015

The League bows out… (And sort of stumbles and falls off stage)

I think this was a suitably poor episode to end a sub par season. The show went out with some nice, quiet, very understated warmth, but to say it has jumped shark by this point, is perhaps a little misguided. It quite simply fell to pieces in the past two years, and was being propped up by caricatures of what has gone before, and the acting ability of the cast.

The product placement was absolutely vile. This show didn’t need an extra $10,000 to hollow out its soul like this. The whole group should have been against it and Draft Kings and such could easily have been the butt of jokes on the show.

The Kevin Jenny story is faintly ridiculous, and the pay-off wasn’t funny enough, like so many story-lines in an increasingly surrealist turn. But the worst is saved for the Meeghan and Andre/Pete baby story. This didn’t need to happen.

If there was one character that should have received a kind of solution or peace then it was Andre, and if there’s one whose selfishness never really had any redemptive supplementing quality, then it was Pete. Surely there could have been a better conclusion than Pete being the father to Andre’s baby.

Ruxin and Jenny’s decision not to tell Andre was equally disappointing. This moment was a real sigh for me, and speaks of a lack of genuine closeness that had never before been truly tested. As it turns out, we were wrong to assume that deep down it was there.

That all said, the writers were so determined not to go out with a whimper, that I do retain some minimal respect for this. Their experimentation with animation, killing off a minor character completely unnecessarily and in such seemingly ill-conceived timing does show some defiance to the usual trundle out of the limelight that great shows opt for (US Office springs to mind). This show walked a tightrope between happy and despicable and they finally came down hard on one side here. Perhaps, in a better executed way, and with a little more craft, this last season could have been incredible, but to say that bad structure and chaotic design were its highlights speaks volumes.

The affinity towards organic free flow of not just dialogue, but structure too, has been a philosophy that made this series as funny as anything in it’s formative and middle years. But they lived by the sword, and suitably have died by it in this bitter end, and we all should have been prepared for that, if not for Andre’s cuckold by his best friend.

A truly great series is rest, and hopefully it is remembered for it’s vibrant youth and dynamic middle years rather than it’s lackluster and scattered later years.

 

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October 31, 2015

When football becomes really good theater. Timbers v SKC

Timbers Fell KC

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Saad Abdul-Salaam is about to take the 18th penalty of a night where a shoot out was the inevitable dramatic conclusion to a game that rode on energy, drama, desperation and funny feeling of fate. Abdul-Salaam marches up to the spot with a swagger of youth but with a wholly understandable hint of uncertainty. This has been a night where the actors have been majestic, the sound from the Timbers Army hammering – giving shape and vibrancy to the stage, complete with two directors on either side who have been influential with their plotting and alterations. But the standout component of this Providence Park thriller is the script.

The full spectrum of emotion has been felt by spectators tonight. Timbers fans might be accustomed to some travesty and disbelief to supplement their moments of joy, but nothing could have prepared them for this. And as central defender Abdul-Salaam prepares for his starring moment, his backstory is befitting. The 24 year old is a former college player for Univeristy of Akron, where he was managed by current Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. Akron Zips embarked upon a phenomenal rise to win the national championship, which followed for Abdul-Salaam with a stint with Portland Timbers U23s. He is every inch (6 feet and 4 to be exact) the appropriate villain. Salaam stands 5 yards and mere moments from striking the ball that eliminates his former team and coach, and having seemingly thrown the game away again, Timbers are trying to shake that ‘here we go again’ feeling.

Salaam strikes it firm and hard with the inside of his foot. He drags it a little to the left, a late adjustment in his body that succeeded in sending Kwarasey the wrong way and it is almost the perfect penalty. Almost. The ball zips off the inside of the left post and continues its seemingly inbound trajectory. Timbers goalkeeper Kwarasey is recovering from his save now. The ignominy of diving the wrong way for the decisive penalty is largely inconsequential for the spectator, but excruciating for a goalkeeper. But the crowd still holds it breath and time stands still. Kwarasey spins around to see the ball rebound off the inside of the second post and veer away from his goal.

It made sense that Salaam missed. Not the boring old formulaic kind of sense. No, this was that ethereal intangible ‘I’ve got a feeling it’s a girl’ kind of knowledge. Off the back of a game where KC tied the game with 3 minutes of the regulation 90 left on the clock, then score an improbable other to take the lead in extra time, before throwing it all away once more to a tie seconds from a KC victory, it was sense as clear as mud.

And alas it made further sense that the game should be settled then in turn by Kwarasey. He was the blue eyed boy of the narrative we over looked at the start, dismissed as a good but inconsequential support actor. We were swamped by the technical sublime of Nagbe and Zusi, convinced they would steal the acclaim. A belief challenged only by the decisive attacking light of Nemeth and then Urruti who looked certain to have tipped the contest and thieve the narrative. But as we rattled through 20 penalties, all outfielders having taken their shot (and many missed) we stood tête-à-tête with the life-or-death but always faintly farcical prospect that both goalkeepers now had to take one.

Kwarasey’s opposite number, KC’s Kempin is a good goalkeeper. A good shot stopper and a player whose personality you felt interacting with his team. All without mentioning how the 22 year old is actually the back-up. Kemplin had been looking for the edge (the advantage, not the U2 guitarist) in this shootout by the darker arts. Rattling the crossbar with the palms of his hands as his opposite numbers stepped up, and patting his palms together threateningly were two choice behaviours that would not look out of place in a David Attenborough documentary.

Goallkeeper shooting past goalkeeper jars the aesthetic of the conventional penalty shootout. There is no long walk from the half way line. No well wishes or words of encouragement from team mates. And no never-ending teeming of thoughts over and over as the crowd groans with anxiety and hope. Just a lonesome but swift, so swift, spin around having just faced a penalty, to now step up and take one.

Kemplin stepped forward to Kwarasey to extend his sequence of gamesmanship and stall a player unfamiliar to the situation – the goalkeeper’s union feeling a small dent in the process. When it came to the kick, Kwarasey blasted his shot before Kemplin could react. Match point Timbers. Faced with a do-or-die moment in which Kemplin had to score to keep KC in the game, Kwarasey punched the penalty away from the goal and rapture ensued in Providence Park. The customary conciliatory gesture from the winning goalkeeper was shelved – albeit momentarily – and the end credits rolled with Kwarasey punching the air and screaming. Was Kwarasey asserting his power and jubilance with this thump, or merely enacting a repetitive motion that had now become involuntary – it was not clear.

But in this mess of uncertainty, emotion and a plot that twisted inside out and then back again, Timbers are certainly the winners. And they certainly advance. And they play again in 3 days.

PT SKC

August 9, 2012

Buying Success

Stoke City have spent more than Man Utd in the last five years.

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£10m for the 31 year old.

 

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August 9, 2012

Ferguson once made it his…

Ferguson once made it his business to identify with the club’s hardcore supporters, attending fans’ meetings, campaigning on their behalf about ticket prices and even wearing a Manchester United ring to reveal himself as one of them. A quarter of a century on, it is alarming to see how out of touch he has become with many of the same people.

Daniel Taylor, The Guardian on Ferguson’s immoral siding with the Glazers.

June 25, 2012

The biggest problem with …

The biggest problem with England is that showing pride is praised. It’s a basic requirement. Like wearing boots, it should be a given. It’s technique and ability that count, nothing else

-Rory Smith. The Times writer hits the nail on the head as to how badly our footballing attitudes are skewed.

June 24, 2012

England v Italy

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England have a realistic chance of competing with Italy today who, despite being technically better (watch Pirlo’s delicate control of the game in midfield), have two maverick geniuses playing as centre forwards in Cassano and Balotelli. Of course, as mavericks they’re equally likely to combine brilliantly to score a stunning goal, as they are to be anonymous for 90 minutes and resort to petulant fouls and getting into scuffles with opposition players (Jon Terry?). Good news for England… sort of.

June 15, 2012

Let’s not just go along …

Let’s not just go along for the sing-song every now and then

Roy Keane on Irish football’s attitude

June 14, 2012

Do you know where Messi w…

Do you know where Messi was this time last year? Do you know or don’t you? He was getting knocked out of the Copa America in his own country. I think that’s worse, don’t you?

Ronaldo demonstrates that the Messi comparisons aren’t getting to him. No, really.

Indifferent…

June 12, 2012

Italy Benefit From Dry Pitch v Spain

The Spain v Italy match was altered somewhat by the build up as Spain’s request to have the pitch watered prior was met with opposition by Italy who wanted it to remain dry. The final decision rested on the groundsman for the game who decided it didn’t need watering. The spectacle was certainly affected adversely as a result with the grass a little too long as well which meant the ball did not run as smoothly and hindered Spain’s quick intricate passing, but also will have harmed Italy’s incisive counter attacking which would have been slicker had the pitch have been watered.

Polish Football Federation president Grzegorz Lato defended the move saying ‘Usually the field is watered before the game, but for this you need the agreement of the two teams’ and added ‘The Italians knew that dry grass, which is slower, was the best tactic for them’. In spite of this reasonable and honest defence (although he also claimed the pitch to be ‘impeccable’ which it was not), the point remains that teams shouldn’t be allowed to adjust the pitch to something more closely resembling a Sunday League battle to try and gain an advantage, and the default result if an agreement can’t be reached shouldn’t be to not water it, especially if the pitch clearly required it.

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June 11, 2012

France Line-up v England

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France’s expected shape courtesy of Zonal Marking.

Nasri is likely to float inside and wont offer much natural linear width. Ribery will come inside in a direct way, running at goal from the left. However should the wingers switch flanks periodically then Ribery’s role would change to that of an out and out winger with Nasri providing link up. The lack of orthodox wingers running vertically plays into England’s hands as Hodgson’s rigid two banks of four could see France’s build up play get congested in front of the penalty area. Providing they do not lapse in concentration like ROI last night the France could find it extremely difficult to penetrate. It is paramount to have effective out balls too, which AOC and Wellbeck could potentially be, along with Ashley Young on the break which would stretch France on the counterattack where there will be plenty of space if their possession football causes them to over-commit.

France are a skilful unit but if England are disciplined, which they are expected to be, then they can contain them, and the staring of Oxlade-Chamberlain should provide some excitement going forward too.