Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spurs at West Ham, Feb. 25th, 2013

This Is the One Where I Am Sincere, and Happy About That, and It's About Sports

         This is why I ditched my carpool, drove home from school really fast, threw on my strip and scarf, and waded through bullying Sam Allardyce-isms to finally, ecstatically reach a 2-3 result. What was the cost of getting home to watch? I missed the first two goals, but I waved my scarf and sang to "Nice One Cyril" while blazing north on the 99. The squad could not cope with West Ham's brutal pressing for the twenty first-half minutes I took in. Each time the ball landed at the feet of anyone but Parker, slow and back to goal, they were quite comprehensively muscled off. I had a snack at the half. Nothing changed, and Joe Cole scored in a way that seemed very embarrassing for all Spurs involved. It was as if they'd all peed themselves at once, and somehow another man profited from their collated incontinence. 

      But then Sigurdsson looked good! And Bale, of course, nailed it. Half on my unsteady, padded rocker, I half-screamed at his strike. Seated in the middle of the day 7,000 miles and a bunch of time zones from the action, yells of a more full-throated variety are difficult to muster. But if I didn't produce it, I felt it nonetheless. I gave a clap, texted my mom, made a drink with gin, and pretended like I hadn't still felt the nerves all through that extra time. Their historical deficiencies, the frailty and fear and proclivity for disappointment and inability to produce feelings of security, were unabated still by the Welshman's arrow. I knew that somehow Jaaskelainen himself would race/lumber to the opposition box and equalize for them, plunging his debt. 

     One man is basically scoring all the goals, if you haven't heard. Dembele's strike in Lyon and Sigurdsson's epic bundle seem exceptions to the rule. Adebayor is meant to be the tip of the proverbial spear, yet it is the poisoned barbs beneath the dulled head doing the damage. In the main, the work of the team instrument is being accomplished by a single component, though Lloris has been great at the way back. The others have ranged from forgettable, though not without very special moments of nice-ness, to more-than-solid, without being overly productive. No matter the individual quality of each member of the back four, any sort of attack turned towards them yields a disgusting amount of anxiety. Despite the quality of our center backs by themselves, I would like to see the unifying presence that will accompany Kaboul's return. Caulker is very good; Vertonghen is very good, at least when he plays at the center of the defense; Dawson is decent, and provides occasional offensive support, though the team's counter-attack is pitiful in its sloth. 

     Examples are often shown of the extent to which the fan "loves" the game. How do I love the game, or the team? Purchasing ephemera, singing songs, deliberating on having to drive an extra day, an extra eighty miles. After watching the (uggggh) VICE (aaaaaabaaarfff) "Rivals" video piece on the animosity between, or, more accurately, emanating from, A.F.C. Wimbledon and/upon M.K. Dons, I want to visit England even less. If the plane dropped me straight off at the Lane and picked me up two hours later I will have considered the trip complete. But how does the game, or team, love us back? Anxiety, frequent emotional hollowness, grumpy-ness, and having to get up very early on weekends to watch something you fear might be a crushing loss, and feels like a crushing loss even when it's not. A hangover deepening and sharpening as the goals from rather twinky fellows in red shirts pour in on your mom's birthday, when she wanted to hang out with you and watch soccer at a bar on a Sunday morning. And then once it's 5-2, and it'll be 5-2 the next time when you wake up at 4:30 on a Saturday before having drive an hour North to take a four-hour train to the Bay, you feel even worse about not getting a particular woman's phone number at the party the previous night, and the rest of the day is just awful. 

     But today felt great. The tying goal against Manchester United a couple months back, when I had to wait for it to show up OnDemand and the epic soup I'd crafted disappeared down the drain amidst overheated glass, inspired the same feeling. The conclusion of the dramatic narrative, where we get to win this time, where it's our dream and we're taking it the fuck back. Catharsis and amazement and satisfaction, even when broke off from the uncertain surrounding rubble, are what we ask for, and what is seldom delivered. Yet when I fell asleep out back after the match, The Wings of the Dove half place-held on my knee, the Spurs scarf still hung about my neck and I was smiling. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's a Party, It's a Party, It's a Party

PART TWO: So Hood-Rich

The teams mentioned in part one are the squads who I believe will flirt with relegation this season, some merely casting a saucy look while three others will wind up getting it pregnant behind the middle school. Though Newcastle’s start has been very bright I do not see their momentum lasting. With their lack of depth, especially in terms of scoring, a steep drop is all but a lock at this point. Additionally, their schedule up until this point has been very light, with Spurs posing the only real challenge. As for Arsenal, it’s altogether possible that van Persie’s goals will carry them back near the table’s summit, but fuck those guys anyway. Part two deals with the teams whose relegation ranges from “unlikely” to “possibly prohibited by the Magna Carta”.

EVERTON: They’re in pretty nasty shape at the moment but always finish strong. Including Drenthe in the first eleven will provide them with a sense of innovation so far lacking. With Coleman tearing along the sideline and Fellaini predatory in the center of the park Drenthe should have a decent amount of space to practice his witchcraft. They still have little in the way of goal scorers, but their midfield depth and typically solid central defense, not to mention the Dudley Moore stylings of adventurous wingback Leighton Baines, will see them through, albeit in a lower position than in the past few seasons.

FULHAM: Thank Gaia they snatched up Bryan Ruiz. That he should flop for them and not Spurs, who wisely avoided the Costa Rican, is a mitzvah. At over 10 million Euros and still unable to displace the persistently beyond-their-depth up-front duo of Andy “The Bald Damien Duff” Johnson and Bobby Zamora, I could see a Mauro Boselli-esque failure on the cards. His chipped goal against Everton was a rare bright spot. No matter who coaches them they’re still built to draw rather than to win, a lack of ambition that paints them as more of a Championship-level squad. Maybe a switch to Serie A would help? They’re essentially the Chievo of West London at this point. I’m pretty sure Brede Hangeland’s nickname is “The Flying Donkey”.

STOKE CITY: Stoke are for real. Clearly evolving from the Neanderthal template of their first few years in the Premier League, these homos erectus have incorporated enough Lilliputian ingenuity into their land-of-giants framework to make a case for a strong, perhaps top-8 finish. Pennant and Etherington work very well on the wings, crossing into the likes of Crouchy and Kenwyne Jones. Looming without being lumbering both up front and in the back, their spine is something of a concern as they lack a real playmaker in the middle.

NORWICH CITY: The chances of Norwich maintaining their early-season form are very small. The chances that Canaries supporters will adapt “Squalor Victoria’ by The National into a stadium anthem? Hopefully 100%! Whereas Swansea’s naïveté became all too apparent in their late draw to Wolves, Norwich’s resolve at Anfield pegs them as genuinely worthy of the big time. The back four have holes, especially the unwieldy Leon Barnett, but Hoolahan and Pilkington and Holt have shown decisiveness and bravery in their forward movement. The fact that Holt isn’t reeeealy built like a rugby player but still manages to look like one should come in handy when facing teams scared of walrus faces. They’ve demonstrated laudable composure, if not many points, from their tough early fixture list, a quality which bodes well for their survival.

LIVERPOOL: They’ve spent a bunch, not produced many correspondingly quality results and lack steel at the back. The folly of simultaneously signing young flyweight midfielders Henderson, Downing and Adam without adding to their frequently mangled defense isn’t in the same realm as the Eagles picking up DRC and Nnamdi at the same time in terms of befuddling redundancy, but like Andy’s refusal to upgrade the linebacking corps it’s been a major impediment. Suarez has yet to gel with Carroll and as such his sneaky runs frequently find no outlet. Additionally, he’s a total bitch. Liverpool are still smarting from the departures of Lil’ Masch and Xabi Alonso in the middle, with Lucas still unconvincing as a one-man replacement for Alonso’s passing vision and Mascherano’s balding dickery.

WEST BROM: Shane Long is out for a while, which hurts them a lot but coming off consecutive local derby wins and getting the killer Peter Odemwingie back should paper the cracks. I think that Foster is a terribly underrated keeper, though the number of rad saves he makes may be something of a consequence of WBA’s suspect rearguard. They’ll have to make do with Brunt or Cox playing off Odemwingie until Long returns but this is a squad with a very nice combination of young talent and old bastards who have nothing better to do.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: I think we can finish fourth this year, above Liverpool and the unfortunately improving Arsenal. We should’ve had fourth last year but Champions League activity and the absence of quality strikers hurt immensely in that awful run of draws against the Blackpools and West Hams of the league. That same feeling crept in as we held on tenuously at Blackburn this past weekend but it’s a sign of how much Adebayor has helped that we actually kept the lead. Despite not getting on the score sheet the threat he provides up front kept Blackburn somewhat honest, at least compared to the negligible danger represented by Pav or Peter “The Human Jackknife” Crouch. Picking up a center back, if not two, is a certain necessity in the upcoming transfer window. Kaboul has been decent but lord help us if Corluka or Bassong have to become regular replacements in the long absences of Gallas, Dawson and, inevitably and very unfortunately, King.

CHELSEA, MANCHESTER UNITED AND MANCHESTER CITY: They will all probably stay up. Right? Chelsea’s certainly lost at least a step from their title-winning three-peat but will most likely hold on to third as Spurs manage to fuck it up towards the end of the year. If City hold their nerve the title is theirs, especially given the unsteady construction United’s midfield. But really, whatever. The struggle for survival is decidedly more compelling than the plod to the title. A really great, wealthy team from a very tiny pack will win. The relegation battle, on the other hand, will be contested by a plethora of squads with varied economic and historical profiles. It’s a race where every goal registered in the “for” column counts as a seismic victory, every “against” shipped results in crippling horror for thousands of supporters. Contrast this to the title race, where the eyes of billionaire owners dart instead between red and black. Grit, guile, faith and luck will guide the chosen, whose victory is in not-losing instead of winning. And, lest we ever happen to forget, Spurs have a game in hand.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Numbers 18-20, with Three Bullets

PART ONE: Comic Sans

Who will go down and why. EPL-wise. I have no stake in predicting blowjobs. Nor can I really guess at who will jump up from The Championship. Southampton seems to be rocking it. West Ham? Palace? Celtic? Either way, here are my thoughts on the early-season relegation candidates, set to Public Enemy. Hair is a big factor.

BOLTON: They suck. With Holden and Lee effectively Long John Silver-ed, they have nothing. Who can get the ball to Kevin Davies? Elmander found plenty of opportunities to patchy-beard it across the box but now that he's in Turkey that job is... whose?

BLACKBURN: Blackburn's goals are scored by either a) Arsenal defenders or b) no one. I hope they have the grace to sell the cast-iron Samba to Spurs in the winter. Salgado and Givet do have fun hair, though, and the latter is just built like a stack of encyclopedias. Goodwillie may put in a few but not enough.

WIGAN: Not winning ever makes it difficult to, uh, win. Rodallega's pig-tails become increasingly lonely, and will eventually freeze during the bitter December fixtures. If they all played in suits as nice as their manager's I'd give them more of a chance.

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle are doing really well. They will not go down. They have also become stupidly boring. Pardew has accurately grasped the realities of how to stay up, and this is predicated on a style of play miles away from the Entertainers of the 1990s, not to mention the combustible temperaments of the now-departed Barton and Andy "Glug Glug SPLAT" Carroll. But what's the point? I can see how staying up trumps being boring as shit, but that doesn't mean I'm going to watch Tiote and Peanut-head Obertan prove their functionality for 90 flairless minutes a week. In a few years their stolid, oatmeal-y ethos will put them where Wolves are now.

WOLVES: Jarvis seems to get taken off a bunch. They were only able to salvage a draw hosting Swansea because of Brendan Rogers's suicidal introduction of Wayne Routledge. Routledge, nominally a forward, hasn't scored a top-flight goal in something like 100 games. Why don't they just put Tony Hibbert up front? That's like if I were a plumber and on every job nothing was fixed and people kept hiring me. But I've got a great personality? With Fletcher and Doyle up front, Jarvis scurrying up the flank and O'Hara being bald in the middle Wolves have some decent, in less-than-creative, attacking options. But you can hear the creaking of the old chair that powers their counter-attack, such as it is, and unless Elokobi's massive biceps can provide total cover for their solid lesbian goalkeeper Wayne "Blame It on the" Hennessey their backline looks eminently penetrable. And I don't think they even kick dudes that much anymore. Did Karl Henry find a better gig doing census work or something?

SWANSEA: We've dealt with the Routledge situation above, so let's focus on the Swans' defense. It seems good! They're a team of small men, except Ashley Williams, who may not actually be that tall but looks it. Sinclair is lively but possesses a classic Derek Zoolander "can't go left" problem and Graham isn't up to providing enough top-flight goals. Thumbs up on the boring kits, though. Were Fulham's just too lively? They have the worst chance of the promoted sides to remain up top, but I hope they do and Cardiff comes up so we'll get to see a Welsh derby with lots of silent Ws or whatever.

SUNDERLAND: They can beat the shittier sides but absolutely capitulate in the face of a real challenge. The loss of Gyan was perplexing as well as extremely problematic, leaving the goal-getting duties to Slick Nick Bendtner, a kid who was on Ipswich last year and the equally unproven Ji Dong-Won. Relying on Seba Larsson's scissor-kick skills qualifies as "inadvisable" and how long will Manchester United's ancient castaway defenders last? They've spent a bunch of cash and will be obviously handed a medal for doing so, but I don't see a top-half finish.

QPR: QPR's ground has the personality of a small shovel, and not even a garden trowel that's seen some shit. Why play there? A short list of preferable alternatives: the vacant lot at the end of my street, a toothpaste factory, a mostly-empty swimming pool, on top of my roommate's infernal ukelele, some kind of ladder store. The men who play at their current ground, which I refer to as "The Crap Factory", are probably fine, if largely unspectacular. Barton will likely find himself involved in numerous spitting incidents and Taraabt's fun juggling-and-then-taking-a-dump routing should entertain fans of double vowels, should he decide to stay in West London. DJ Campbell scored a fair amount for Blackpool last season and his neck tats are very becoming.

ARSENAL: RvP has been among the goals, but how long until his body remembers he's Robin van Persie and completely shuts down? Who will score in his absence? Heck, who will play fucking forward in his absence? I see a very charming 4-6-0 formation in the works. I found Chamakh fairly credible in the first half of last season but maybe he ran out of gross hair-glue that gives everyone nightmares 'cause he just stopped being in the team entirely. Gervinho’s movement is slick but he’s incapable of things like passing and shooting. Their defense has certainly tightened, depriving the viewer of hilarious backline mishaps and epic miscommunications between twink Szczesny and irritable power bottom Koscielny. I guess they'll be stupid and stay up but in the bastardy table they'd be propping up the entire Football League.

ASTON VILLA: Everyone wishes. About as interesting as an old plate, except that the plate costs a ridiculous amount of money. They're in the same boat as Sunderland in terms of the expenditure-to-results ratio, though Richard Dunne's fondness for running into things is pretty cool. N'Zogbia has certainly underperformed in taking over for Stewart Downing and they'd do well to give more playing time to the beaky Mark Albrighton. They've helped out Spurs quite a bit by taking Jenas and Hutton off our hands. Who's running their operation, Ed Wade? Given is still a high-quality keeper but the unyielding torpor of Emile Heskey will at least prevent a top-half finish.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mario Gomez: I GO TO SLEEP

Does anyone care about Mario Gomez? There is so little to distinguish him, let alone recommend him, among Bundesliga strikers. Heck, despite being Bayern's chief goalscorer his place in the squad is marked by its anonymity. He lacks the youth and famous name of Muller, the industry and fun name of Schweinsteiger, the pace and horrible facial features of "Scarface" Franck Ribery and Arjen "The 2,000 Year Old Man Who's Actually Only 25" Robben. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, a defensive midfielder usually found on the substitute list, is vibrant and has a cool name and jazzy hair. Ivica Olic has barely played for two years, yet the memories of the 2009-2010 campaign and his drive therein are instantly more compelling than Gomez.

Many football squads are compared to the New York Yankees. Yet more than Real Madrid or Manchester United or either of the two Milanese giants Bayern fit the image of the pinstripe horde. You watch Bayern or the Yankees and you know they'll find some annoying way to win. Those other teams surely possess the air of predestined winners, but none manifest this fate as mechanically and consistently as these two organizations. Announcers say that they "find a way to win". Observers simply remark, "Fucking Yankees". Fucking Bayern. Watching them at Frankfurt last season: on the back foot the whole match, surviving only for the grace of Theofanis Gekas's resolute shittiness with the goal open before him, practically being toyed with by a side that wound up going down. But it was frustratingly clear they wouldn't lose. Their lack of personality compels them to succeed. Just as you knew that the Mariners of the late '90s wouldn't unseat the Yankees, that oddballs and extremes like Edgar Martinez, Joey Cora, Jay Buhner, Tino Martinez Luis Sojo and Randy Johnson. They came back in the 1995 Division Series but that upset was just that.

The Yankees are expected to win. They do it all the time with a roster of unspectacular but eminently hate-able players, offensive in their lack of personality. Their sheer Yankee-ness. Paul O'Neill. Jim Leyritz. Bernie Williams. And Mario Gomez might as well have played third for Buck Showalter. They win, for sure, but they do not achieve. Where's the heart? Where is Gomez's heart, not to mention his artistry and creativity?

Monday, August 22, 2011

It Begins with a Harp

Most songs: Verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/solo/chorus.

"Foolin'" by Def Leppard: Intro/Joe Elliot's super ugly face/short verse/trading acoustic for electric guitar/pre-chorus #1/pre-chorus #2/CHORUS/verse/clairvoyance/pre-chorus #1/pre-chorus #2/hanging out at Q-Zar/CHORUS/solo/solo/pre-chorus #2/CHORUS/CHORUS.

The cut to Rick Allen's Union Jack briefs is priceless. The song is not exactly priceless because it is worth 70 trillion dollars. That's... I don't even know how many shillings. And halfpence! Each of the initial pre-choruses would be good enough for the main hook in the songs of lesser groups, but Def Lep are not about to settle for "good enough". Their gear settings are locked at "greater than". And as if the main chorus isn't totally rad enough, they add cowbell! And then marauding double-time drums to the end. I've been listening to Ronee Blakley all day and love it but turning on the radio to the pop craftsmanship masterclass of 'Ffffffoolin'" was fuckin' awesome.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

UHM Constructs the Best Possible Hold Steady Set-List, Within Reason.

This is my dream Hold Steady set-list. Maybe not a dream, because in my dream I'm sure they'd be joined onstage by Bob Stinson and Paul Westerberg for a 'Mats mini-set ("Bastards of Young", "Shiftless when Idle", "Within Your Reach" and an unbelievable "Seen Your Video" featuring Andre Cymone). Also, Slayer would open. Anyway, if I could pick the set-list for the next time I saw THS, which hopefully will be August 25th in Chicago, the show would go like this:

"Cattle and the Creeping Things"
"The Weekenders"
"Same Kooks"
"Multitude of Casualties"
"Party Pit"
"Chips Ahoy!"
"First Night"
"Chillout Tent"
"Barfruit Blues"
"Constructive Summer"
"Your Little Hoodrat Friend"
"Jokes About Jamaica"
"Southtown Girls"
"Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night"
"Slapped Actress"

Short break so everyone who just majorly lost their shit can recover for a minute.

"The Sweet Part of the City"
"Stuck Between Stations"
"Hot Soft Light"
"How a Resurrection Really Feels"
"This Year", a cover of the Mountain Goats jam
"Most People Are DJs/Killer Parties"

Boom. And if they were ever able to pull off a decent version of "Lord, I'm Discouraged" I'd probably include that as well. Another Stay Positive track, "One for the Cutters", would be an absolute gas, though the harpsichord parts don't seem like they'd translate well live. This ain't Joanna Newsom, it's Craig and the Boys! This obviously can't account for extended solos, in-between-songs banter or the odd stagediving delay but nothing can. I don't even like "Chillout Tent" that much when it's removed from its album context but hearing it in concert would at least be interesting. And since it's suddenly my dream again, Naomi Yang can handle the lady vocals!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This Is Where I Vent About Spurs a Bunch

Spurs should sign Joey Barton, let Modric leave (though hopefully not to Chelsea), and, of course, sign a striker. Simple, right? Barton is available on a free and the money they'd get from the Modric sale would surely fund the purchase of a more-than-just-decent striker and maybe even another central defender. Dude clearly isn't interested in staying in North London so why not move on, face reality and use the cash to pick up long-bandied-about targets like Osvaldo or Chris Samba. Maybe pluck Liam Ridgewell from cash-strapped Birmingham. This could be so fun!

Yet Spurs' transfer policy this year, not just in the close season but during the winter break as well, has been characterized by a befuddling lack of movement. The needs for a central defender were obvious then and you'd have to think that Redknapp wouldn't have been so naive as to believe that VdV's goal flow would continue unabated, yet the only signing of note turned out to be Steven Pienaar. I think Pienaar is rather underrated and brings great industry to the middle of the park, but his signing was surely unnecessary. They can't get Bentley off the books nor Kranjcar off the bench, the latter inability a weird unfairness in its own right, yet they bring in the diminutive South African. Given his height, perhaps they believed he'd be a replacement for the already-agitating Modric, yet who could fool themselves into believing he'd be of the Croatian's class? Luka's imperiousness in the middle is nearly unmatched in England's top flight, his ability to carve space for himself and his teammates with an amazing economy of motion making him the chief architect of whatever success Spurs have had over the past two seasons.

So now he wants to move and we want a suitable replacement. The period at hand is one of stagnant interregnum, the waiting space between not just seasons but between Luka being a Spur and a... something else. A Chelsea Cashhunter? I hope not. His disregard of the rivalry between the two clubs has been rather shocking and a crosstown move would be truly disrespectful to the Yids who correctly rated him as Player of the Year. Wherever the destination, a move certainly seems inevitable at this juncture yet Spurs are mystifying reluctant to make any sort of compensatory moves in this period. The whole summer has been spent with hands under rears, little action save for the occasional declaration that Abramovich's latest bid is "derisory". There's nothing wrong with driving up the price and receiving the best value for the fucking star of your squad, but their refusal to explore other avenues concurrently has been extremely frustrating. This torpor contributed heavily to the failure to finish top four this season as they wasted the January transfer window and paid the consequences as the predictably short squad, exhausted by the CL run alongside the already-considerable rigors of the EPL season, endured a putrid run of draws against far-below-par opposition.

So sign Joey Barton. He's on a fucking free! I think we made a huge mistake by not recognizing that Ben Foster would be leaving Birmingham and watching him go to West Brom. Our keeper situation last year with Ol' Flailing Tentacles could charitably be described as "shitty" and adding the perpetually on-loan United stopper would've improved the situation immeasurably. And I'm sure he'd rather have played for a potentially top four club than rickety West Brom. Instead we have the ancient, bankrupt American Brad Friedel, the Jaime Moyer of the goalposts. Except that I love Jaime Moyer. Seeing as we keep letting quality acquisitions not even slip away but saunter into the grasp of inferior competitors the chance to sign the electric Barton is one that must be taken. Partnered with the gritty Sandro in the middle of the pitch would produce a tenacious midfield tandem akin to the dynamic rough/smooth pairing of Gary Medel and Ivan Rakitic at Sevilla. Except Barton and Sandro are both super-rough AND totally smooth! Maybe we'll bring in Craig "Whu'??" Bellamy to truly boost our malcontent cred.

That's serious teeth but also the promise of silky-ass passing and, if the Brazilian's thunderbolt against Chelsea is any indication, along with Barton's free-kick skills, genuine forward movement and goals. I also think that his combative nature, while thankfully out of the realm of jurisprudence these days, will give defenders once keen on giving Bale a kicking, if they could reach him, a bit of "perspective'. We must operate on the assumptions that Luka will soon be gone and that his departure will bring a buttload of cash, so Spurs' lack of proactivity is all the more galling. Signing Joey Barton, however, would be a great opportunity to reverse that recent trend.