Bed-Ridden Observations from 116th Street
First off, the soccer crew at SI.com has absolutely been on fire in recent weeks. Jonah Freedman, in addition to keeping his often-entertaining, always-informative World Soccer Club Rankings rolling along each week, has the interviewing game on lock. His humorous, thoughtful conversations with stars such as Luis Figo and Owen Hargreaves, as well as USA and Red Bulls up-and-comer Marvell Wynne have been must-read material. Nobody gets to the heart of a story better than Grant Wahl, and his chats with Bruce Arena, combined with his terrific breakdown of the U.S. National Team coaching search, continue to certify my opinion of him as the best soccer writer in the U.S. Furthermore, no mainstream outlet covers Mexican and South American soccer as well as they do, and they try to keep the perspective as distinctly American (i.e. outsider) as possible. By the same token, Gabriele Marcotti's writing on the European game remains top-notch. We here on 116th Street also love SI's concise format, allowing the best stories to get play, keeping the rumors separate from the actual news and making the site the best mainstream outlet for American fans of the game abroad.
Late Pass, first edition: count me in on the bandwagon of latecomers to The Wire. HBO On Demand comes in quite handy when one is bed-ridden, and I have managed to see every episode of the new season. Twice. Seriously. I try not to be one given to hyperbole, but when I read a critic (I can't recall who specifically, possibly Slate, possibly Simmons - yikes) refer to it as the most important fictional drama in the history of American television, I didn't even flinch. It is the only show I have seen that has me consistenly processing the real-life implications of what I have just watched, for days on end. It is a drama that will keep you engrossed, entertained, and challenging yourself. But I'm sure you're not reading any of that for the first time, so I'll move on.
Nice to see my man Raul Gonzalez Blanco (a longtime Favorite Player of 116th Street) hit two against Dinamo Kyiv on Tuesday. We may never again see the Raul of his "Golden Boy" days, but nobody epitomizes the spirit of Real Madrid (the "real" Real; the one that used to scare the Manchester out of United a few years back) quite like he does. At the same time, I have a message for Mr. Capello: free Robinho! We need more Robinho!
Just as Marlo Stanfield is sure to find out, it's hard being on top. Barcelona had better take this lesson to heart, because sleepwalking through a match like they did against Werder Bremen does not win this grand tournament. We have no problem with Ludovic Giuly at all, but why was he starting over Leo Messi?
Players we loooooove to talk $#!+ about (Lampard, Drogba, Jose Antonio Reyes) have been stepping it up lately. We don't like to apologize for things, so they'd better not keep it up. Players we simply love (Shevchenko, Rooney, Adriano) are playing like they deserve to have us talk $#!+ about them. Our Favorite Player of Them All has two goals so far, both with his head (he never scores with his head!), and everyone is talking up Peter Crouch at the moment. I guess that's why they play the games...
How corrupt is the state of the game? The bung expose happened, and nobody even battered an eyelash (Ashley Cole has a pretty bad agent and publicist, however; he's not the epitome of everything wrong with the game, but he's coming off really bad right now. Somehow Gallas has escaped this scrutiny when he was probably just as bad).
Speaking of bad publicity, Landon Donovan just needs to shut up. Seriously, Landon, just shut the eff up! Learn the phrase "no comment." Stop doing P.R. interviews. Landon is a good player, thus he should let his play do the talking, and let his play sell the Nikes, and let his play reassure his place with the national team. The only thing these interviews are doing is giving haters (such as us here on 116th Street) more ammunition with which to call for his head. By the same token, Clint Dempsey needs to shut the eff up. Everyone's favorite player after the World Cup has given everyone a negative impression through his multi-faceted campaign to free himself from MLS. The suspensions and verbal attacks only bring to mind another Clint who was once a favorite of USA fans. Clint, let your play do the talking; it will set you free.
All hail the Royals of Reading! Those cats are going to give me a heart attack, for sure.
Late pass, second edition: I picked up Winning Eleven 9 just before I got sick. That game is ridiculous! Consider me a convert, I can't even imagine picking up FIFA 2007 at this point. When you're holed up sick with nowhere to go, there are few better ways to pass the time.
Craig Bellamy is still gangsta.
Is it scary that Chelsea is top of the table without hitting their best form, or will all the new additions keep them from ever hitting their best form? Can anyone keep up with them? I would be inclined to answer "Yes" to 1 and "No" to 2, but I'm still sticking with my Liverpool pick, because I like when coaches use 95 different lineups. It did wonders for Larry Brown with the Knicks last year...