The Crisis of Noncrisis: Petr Cech and the Sorrow of Being an Arsenal Fan

August 14, 2015

“You know what soccer club isn’t in crisis this week? Arsenal, that’s what. Arsenal’s noncrisis, its state of not being caught in an irrevocable collapse, is the main talking point from the Gunners’ shock 2-0 home loss to West Ham on Sunday in their first game of the Premier League season. A disappointing result? Yes. Bad? Certainly. The sign of a club hurtling over the cliff’s edge toward the purple tentacles thrashing in the churning sea beneath? Not so fast, says the English soccer media.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


The Omnipotent RealmThe Profane: Ronaldo, Hazard, and the Soul-Killing Economy of ‘Who’s Better?’

August 1, 2015

“Jose Mourinho said this week that Eden Hazard is better than Cristiano Ronaldo. We’ll call that Thing One. The planet Earth came into being 4.5 billion years ago when the core of the solar nebula collapsed to form a star, causing debris in the resulting gravitational sphere to accumulate into planets. We’ll call that Thing Two. Thing One agitated people. Writers wrote about what Mourinho said. People who know how to make graphs on their computers ran to their computers to make graphs, proving or disproving (although almost always disproving) his claim. Stern men on television discussed the matter sternly and at length.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


FIFA’s Sepp Blatter Has Finally Met His Match

May 29, 2015

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“When I heard about the latest accusations of corruption against FIFA, the global governing body of soccer, my initial reaction was to think of Captain Renault’s disingenuous response to gambling at Rick’s Café in the movie ‘Casablanca.’ Like many other long-suffering soccer fans, I was ‘shocked, shocked!‘ to learn that the U.S. Justice Department had charged nine FIFA officials with conspiring to enrich themselves through such practices as selling their services to the highest bidder, siphoning off millions of dollars in ‘sports marketing contracts,’ funnelling money through offshore shell companies, and, in some cases, receiving suitcases full of cash.”
New Yorker (Video)
NY Times: Crisis-Hit FIFA Prepares to Vote on Whether to Keep Sepp Blatter as Chief
NY Times: How the Indicted Officials Fit Into FIFA (Video)
NY Times: After Indicting 14 Soccer Officials, U.S. Vows to End Graft in FIFA (Video)
World Soccer: Sepp Blatter

A guide to the FIFA corruption scandal for the athletically illiterate
“Sports, amirite? Probably not. As a lifelong self-identified indoor kid, I initially had no idea what was happening with this whole FIFA corruption thing. But, as a lover of scandal, I wanted to understand. If you’re anything like me, you do, too. So, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the insanity that’s brewing in the soccer world right now, tailor-made for the athletically illiterate. You can do this.” Fusion

‘Rampant, Systemic, and Deep-Rooted’: A Sting in Zurich Finally Targets FIFA Corruption
“It went down, in the end, like a scene in some 1920s comic novel, Wallander reimagined by Wodehouse: Swiss law enforcement officers politely stormed in through the revolving door of the Baur au Lac, a five-star hotel in downtown Zurich, and surrounded the concierge’s desk. They politely requested the room numbers of several FIFA officials in town for the soccer organization’s annual congress. Then they went to the rooms and politely arrested the occupants. They knocked rather than barged in. They gave the officials time to pack and get dressed. They let members of the hotel staff — ‘wearing suit coats with tails,’ as the New York Times reported — erect a barricade of white bedsheets to shield the arrested men from photographs. After a few minutes, they loaded the soccer officials into small, fuel-efficient hatchbacks and politely whisked them away.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Soccer Superpower
“On July 4, 1988, at a hotel in a suburb of Zurich, the executive committee of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, awarded the right to host the World Cup to the United States. The country was a fútbol backwater. Its last pro league—the one that had imported Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and other aging international stars—had folded four years earlier. Its men’s national team hadn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1950; stocked with collegians, it was on the cusp of being eliminated from regional qualifying for the 1990 tournament. Its women’s national team, hastily assembled three years earlier, had played just a handful of games.” Slate


Listen Here, Cristiano: Sir Alex Ferguson’s Email to a Madrid Star in Crisis

March 28, 2015

“Listen here, lad, Don’t think for a tinker’s red second that I don’t know exactly how you feel, finding an email from me. I know, Cristiano. If there’s one thing they could say about me, it’s that I always knew what my boys were feeling — better than they did, most times, not that it took a chess master to out-think Gary Pallister. And yes, son, you’re still one of my boys. Now and always. Not a transfer fee on earth’ll win you a move from that club. So quit grimacing at your screen like a Kirkcaldy bricklayer with his first taste of chicken vindaloo. Sit down and pay attention. Bloody laptop’s probably got rhinestones on it.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


The Men Behind the Curtain: Inside FIFA’s Sinister (and Pretty Entertaining!) Presidential Race

February 15, 2015

“Let’s be clear up front: Sepp Blatter is never going to lose a FIFA presidential election. Never. He’s not going to lose the one in May. He’s not going to lose in 2019, if he decides to run — which looks unlikely, but then, we said the same thing four years ago, back when he, you know, promised never to run again if he was reelected. He’s running again, and he’s going to win again, too. If he wants to rule FIFA forever, it’s hard to imagine what could stop him. Get ready for the debate about whom the moon of Ganymede bribed to host the 2480 World Cup.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Blurred Icon: Steven Gerrard’s Contradictory Greatness

February 8, 2015

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“I’m thinking about the connection between a fan and an athlete — I mean the essential one, the basic identification, the feeling that the person in the red shirt is representing me out there. That some important part of me is wrapped up in another person’s ability to hit a jump shot, score a free kick, return a serve, make a tackle. It’s one of the simplest forces in sports; also surely one of the strangest, because why should I care whether you can catch a ball or not? Why should that have the power to make me happy or cause me pain? And yet I not only care whether you can, I feel involved when you do, as though my wanting you to do it somehow made you do it — as though desire made you my avatar.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Football Manager 2009 – Brian Phillips

January 22, 2015

“Pro Vercelli: The End, Or Is It. A new version of Football Manager is released today, which makes this, in my house at least, a time of hushed reflection. The old era is passing away, the new era is rising up before us. Everything we knew and loved is sliding into the sea, while before us, like a mountainous country, is thrust a terrifying and exhilarating possibility. Just like every day, really, but the arrival of a new FM makes it that much clearer. Here is the past, there is the future. Eurogamer gave it a 9, but wished more had been done to fix the press conferences. …” Run Of Play – Brian Phillips