Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Few Random Musings

- Good to see Reading's B-team draw with Manchester United's B-team in the FA Cup Sweet Sixteen. Okay, it wasn't completely either side's B-team - Cristiano Ronaldo still took the field for Man U - but there were still a combined 15 or so starters that aren't week-to-week regulars in Premier League competition. These cup competitions can be fun since they give players who are either recovering from injury (Convey, Kitson) or who wouldn't usually play (keeper Adam Federici) a chance to show off what they can do. They also give minor-league teams a chance to play against the big boys of the Premiership and occasionally make some waves.

And I love the idea of replaying a tournament match if it ends in a draw. It reminds me of the 18-hole playoff in golf's U.S. Open, which should be the standard for every tournament (or at least every major). The best part, at least for a Reading fan such as myself, is that the match goes to the underdog's home field for the replay. I say if you can't get it done at home against a supposedly inferior opponent, you deserve the road trip you're about to get.

- Plenty of hand-wringing, and deservedly so, over the recent deaths in Italy following soccer matches. Hooliganism in professional soccer is something I'll never understand, I don't think. The only time our sports fans riot is when the Lakers or the Pistons win the NBA championship (or whenever Ohio State does anything, but come on, you'd riot too if you lived in Columbus). But these are riots that are quite often occurring in the stands. It simply seems unthinkable to most Americans that a riot could break out in the stands of a sporting event between rival factions of fans unless Ron Artest was somehow involved.

Anyway, one of the precautions that Italian police are taking is that Italian soccer fans will no longer be able to take fireworks into the stands. Which, of course, makes me wonder: why the hell were fireworks allowed in the stands in the first place? Who thought this would lead to anything but disaster? I'm picturing the Guinness scientists here: "Allowing emotionally charged fans to bring miniature explosive devices into a tightly-packed crowd? Brilliant!" I hear Italian authorities are thinking of not allowing bombs on airplanes anymore either - stay tuned.

I also hear that skinheads have taken over the fan base for a Paris club, which led to rioting and an attempt on a Jewish fan's life when an Israeli team whooped them in Paris. Maybe I can't be a soccer fan. I don't know if I have that capacity for violence. I simply can't picture myself trying to kill a Cowboys fan if they beat the 'Skins - or really, doing anything more than drinking another beer and talking crap.

Update: Looks like Germany's got problems too.

- The MLS season starts in about a month. My prediction - the L.A. Galaxy will have Landon Donovan and David Beckham... and will still suck.

- Since I didn't post on this earlier, kudos to the U.S. women for winning the Four Nations Cup in China. Winning a competition that involves Germany when Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach don't participate is no small feat. That'll prepare them well for the World Cup in September.

- U.S. men's team draw in Copa America - Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay. I really want to see the U.S.-Colombia game. Specifically, I want to see if all the players on the Colombian team survive for at least a month following the match, which would be a welcome change from the 1994 World Cup match. At least that's one thing in the Italian fans' corner - when their defender scored an own-goal against the U.S. in the World Cup, they didn't kill him.

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