Veterans Day, Armistice Day

In Flanders Fields

On the 11th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour we effectively ended hostilities on the Western Front. At the time they thought it best to mark the occasion with a moment of silence — both to honor the dead and say a prayer that it never happened again. Unfortunately, it did happen again, and this time much, much worse. After World War II, the U.S. renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day and that’s what we’re ‘celebrating’ today.

We’ve have nearly 100 of these moments of silence, 91 chances to reflect annually on the cost of war in human lives, and yet in the end it doesn’t seem that the lessons of the great wars have been learned.

On this, the 91st such moment of silence, and as a veteran who comes from a long line of American servicemen, I will say a small prayer at 11am PST that our leaders can find a different solution to their problems. So that my brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, and all of the places that they are deployed will come home safe.

One last thing, for those folks who, while watching English football notice that pretty much everyone wears a poppy on their lapel in the weeks leading up to Veterans day, they are a paper device sold during The Poppy Appeal which is a charity drive for The Royal British Legion, a charity for veterans and the families of veterans. The poppy is their symbol because the poppy commonly grew in the fields of Flanders, where some of the bloodiest battles were fought in World War I, as immortalized in this poem by Lt.-Col. John McCrae;

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 – 1918)

Hold it high, and stay safe, until tomorrow.

“Centurions” and Instant Replay Officiating

...this guy!

I have noticed a few things about my writing. First, I don’t always title articles based on their content and second I’m verbose. The second of which is hilarious because my favorite writer is Hemming… see, I’m doing it again.

The article titles issue has come to my attention before. Someone mentioned that they basically have to read my articles every day and ignore the title in order to get to the gems. Since then I’ve tried, I really have but I will still write an article called Arsenal v. Birmingham match preview and in that article will be a brief, two paragraph gem where I coin the phrase “Centurions,” you know, just in case Arsenal score 100 goals in the season.

I’m going to toot my own horn here and say that I’m proud that I got in on Arsenal scoring 100 goals in a season all the way back on October 16th and have been writing about this free flowing team and their prolific goal scoring pretty much ever since.

Of course I think 100 League goals in a season is a crazy feat, a feat of Invincibles proportions, that’s why I thought they needed a name and “Centurions” fits. And, of course, they haven’t scored 100 goals yet so they aren’t the Centurions… yet. I am also not trying to heap any more pressure on them than the dot com already has. I’m just pointing out that at this pace, they have a pretty good chance of scoring 100 League goals. In fact, at 36 goals in 11 games, Arsenal are on pace to score 124 goals this season. Which isn’t realistic, but it sure is fun to think about.

So, that takes care of the first part of my title, the second part is about yesterday’s David N’Gog dive. Well, more generally about cheating, instant replay, and referee’s getting the decisions right.

When I was a kid we didn’t have instant replay. We watched the games live, as they happened, uphill, in the snow, BOTH WAYS.  Slowly, television stations started devoting time to taping the games and replaying important events back for us. At first this was met with disdain, people didn’t want their football coverage broken up with replays! But now, we have multiple angles, they can stop motion and digitize the plays, there’s slow motion replay, telestrators, and basically every play is scrutinized from dozens of angles. So, when we see David N’Gog go down in the box, and it’s clear from the overhead third camera angle that he dived, blatantly cheated, the anti-diving fundamentalists start frothing at the mouth at the injustice that was just committed.

But, here’s the thing: refs get shit wrong. A few weeks ago a referee let Sunderland’s goal stand against Liverpool, when it was clear that the beach ball obstructed the goal. Did N’Gog dive? Yes. 100% There was no contact, which I can say, having seen the incident from multiple angles, cropped, zoomed in and in slow motion.

But that’s the problem isn’t it, or at least it’s one of the problems, that we fans get to see stuff during the match that the referee cannot. FIFA’s cowardly answer to this is to put more officials on the pitch, but more officials are not going to be as good as the cameras around them and they will just get more calls wrong, which we will get to see over and over again, dissected from every possible angle.

So the simple solution is to either instill instant replay officiating for important calls or to stop showing instant replays on television. I know that there are a lot of people who say that instant replay officiating would “slow the game down” or would “break the flow” of the game but that’s just bullshit and you all know it. It wouldn’t slow the game down any more than the game is already slowed down by how on every controversial call the official is mobbed by 22 players.

It would work like this: on every penalty call, the official would get on his headset to the fourth official, who would quickly look at a monitor and decide if the call needs a review. If not, most do not, the play would go on. If it does, or if the fourth official is undecided, the ref would take 30 seconds to get the call right. Additionally, I would allow each team 2 challenges per game, like we do in the NFL. These could be used at the manager’s discretion and again would take less than a minute to clear up. So, Ancelotti could challenge Johnny Evan’s kung-fu kick on Drogba, as Drogba was getting treatment, which would result in a straight red for Evans and a yellow for Drogba’s fake seizure. Seems to me that if getting all the calls perfectly right is so gods damned important we ought to at least let the refs use the technology available to them to do so while the game is still being contested.

There is one other option… for us all to accept that refs are human and make mistakes, that players take advantage of that, and that while it might seem like the world’s most tragic injustice it’s just a game.

Nah, let’s gets that video replay please!

RIP Respect

The FA’s Respect Campaign, of Wembley Stadium, London, UK,  died Sunday, November 8, 2009 at Stamford Bridge, London after a short fight against the rotten core of football.

Born in Stamford Bridge only 20 months ago, in the fiery aftermath of Ashley Cole’s attempted to break Alan Hutton’s legs and when shown leniency with a yellow card he then proceeded to throw all the toys out of the pram in an act of defiance which has since become known as “just the way Chelsea play.”

During it’s brief life, The Respect Programme attempted to curtail some of the more despicable acts of disrespect toward referee’s in the lower leagues, pub games, family events, youth football, by highlighting the respect that the professionals show toward referees at the very highest level. It was by all accounts, a massive, massive failure.

Sure, Wayne Rooney was sent off, once, for throwing the ball at the ref. But Rooney is one of the highest profile players in England. His smiling, jug eared, face is plastered on literally every inch of football advertisement in the country. So when it is that every week he calls the referee a ‘fucking wanker’ and waves his arms in dismissal at pretty much every call that goes against him, it’s no surprise that little Johnny Higgenbotham of Cheshire and his father act the same way as their hero.

And it wasn’t just one player, whole teams of players exist who do this every week, called “Chelsea.” And as Respect was being touted with banners and interviews with former referees, teams started taking a different approach: they would surround the referee and complain at every major call.

Thus, on a respirator for the first 6 months of it’s life Respect tried a different approach, no more surrounding the ref, only the captain was allowed to speak to him from now on. Plus, they sewed some little tiny black strips of cloth on the sleeves of the EPL shirts which in barely legible type says “RESPECT,” I think.

But Respect was dealt another harsh blow when that other icon of English Football, Sir Alex Ferguson, decided to start publicly complaining about the referees after not just one match, but every match — even the ones they win. Calling referees fat, questioning every call, and basically calling the referees cheats while his team continue to disrespect the referee week in and week out on and off the pitch. Respect’s short life was certainly in danger if managers were allowed to slander match officials after every match.

On antibiotics, a respirator, and a triple dose of Demerol, Respect finally expired last night as ugly scenes marred Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester United. The match itself featured a kung-fu kick, Joe Cole smacking a United player in the head, and outrageous flying tackles which would be assaults if they took place on your local playground. Coupled with the winter tradition of Chelsea and United both surrounding the ref and roasting him while on the sidelines Sir Alex Ferguson, he’s a Knight Bachelor and Commander of the British Empire such is his esteem, was bursting with rage on the 4th official with every call.

But it was after the match where Respect truly and finally died. Reminiscent of the ugly scenes of Chelsea’s loss in the Champions League last year where Didier Drogba verbally assaulted the referee after the match and then on international television called him a cheat, Wayne Rooney delivered Respect’s penultimate blow: mouthing the words “12 men” into the camera after the loss.

Sir Alex Ferguson then quickly struck Respect’s death blow by saying

It was a bad decision, but there’s nothing we can do about it. You lose faith in refereeing sometimes, that’s the way the players are talking in there – it was a bad one.

Predictably, the FA have decided not to charge anyone and are not reviewing the match for the several red cards which were missed by the match official.

And so it was that Respect took one last gasp, exhaled, and expired: November 8th, 2009.