A Shropshire Lad


I picked this up before the pandemic hit (or at least before we knew it was hitting). I am sure that I have read A.E. Housman before. I didn’t read it for a while, but it has been something I have been keeping nearby lately and reading from. I even read it to my little one during dinner (poem XVII, which opens with a stanza about football [which I changed to ‘soccer’ when I read it my little soccer fan]). Read more

The Baseball Stadium Theory Of Presidential Political Polling


Presidential horse race polls measure attendance at baseball games.

Let me explain. I was talking to a friend and sharing what I believe the polls are really showing. They are not, by and large, showing changes in allegiance (especially in this election; while Clinton probably has some room to grow among some small groups of traditionally Republican voters, Trump most likely has a pretty firm ceiling). Also, a quick google will let you know that most experts agree. So I’m not about blow things open with a new algorithm, I simply found what I think is a pretty cool metaphor.

At this stage, polls measure enthusiasm, which translates also into the likelihood of voting. When Trump dropped in the polls after the debate, it wasn’t because Trump voters switched sides in great numbers. It was because some Trump supporters, feeling down in the dumps, either said they were undecided, because Trump made it kind of embarrassing to be his supporter, or else, when asked, they downgraded their chances of voting, causing them to be caught by likely voter filters.

I compare this to a baseball fan base.

If you’re a Dodgers fan and the Dodgers are on a losing streak, you don’t suddenly become an Red Sox fan. No, you remain a Dodgers fan. But what does happen is that you don’t attend as many games, so the stadium in Chavez Ravine becomes more empty.

When the Dodgers start doing very well, you start attending games. If they start leading their division and ESPN tells us that they are World Series favorites, then people who rarely attend games or had stopped attending games start showing up again.

This is what polls are measuring. People aren’t switching between the Red Sox and the Dodgers (or Clinton and Trump). They are simply attending more or fewer games. Clinton is up, so her stadium is filled with fans. Trump is down, so attendance at his stadium is down.

So, does that mean that these polls aren’t measuring anything useful?

Absolutely not! Because enthusiasm and hope and involvement (read: stadium attendance) are key measures of likelihood to vote.

Just as you are less likely to attend your favorite team’s game if you believe they are going to lose, so are you less likely to vote if you see your candidate doing poorly (or making nonsensical word salads during a debate). Season ticket holders will always show up, but it’s the other, more occasional fans who are the difference between 47% and 51% of the vote.

It’s Time For Klinsmann To Go


Past time, in fact. Even if the USMNT does well at the Copa America, because, whatever is accomplished will have been accomplished in the absence of a game plan.

He has failed to settle on a basic blueprint for how his teams line and how they will play. A commentator once said that the Brazilian center back, David Luiz, played like a ten year old on a Playstation. That’s how Klinsmann coaches. Who, I ask you, dear reader, is our preferred (in practice) center back pairing? Of our most commonly played midfielders – Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Alejandro Bedoya – where will they line up? For that matter, where will our best outfield player – Fabian Johnson – line up, if at all?

He hasn’t contributed towards any kind of culture within the national team set up. Over five years, his only real success in bringing a younger player through is Jordan Morris (and then inexplicably left him out of the Copa squad; he was instrumental in creating the Gonzalez/Besler partnership and helping nurture Gonzalez, but has since left him out in the cold; Pulisic was discovered and nurtured by Borussia Dortmund), and I fear he’s going to screw that up.

When teams under previous coaches, like Bob Bradley, gutted out wins, it was because they had been instilled with a hard working, never say die ethos. When it happened at the last World Cup, it felt like the players were doing it themselves, rather than responding to anything Klinsmann had instilled.

It would be a terrible idea to replace him during a tournament, but for God’s sake, Sunil, when the Copa is over, find someone and fast!

Bangkok Spurs


At a night market in the Ramintra neighborhood of Bangkok, I opted to skip shoe shopping to drink Singha and Chang and watch Tottenham play Watford at a pleasant bar.

A group of young men sat behind me and by their cheers and groans were evidently Spurs’ fans. When Heung-Min Son scored a rabona to win it in the eighty-ninth minute, we high fived and showed that ethnic and linguistic differences can be overcome by the atavistic bonds of alcohol and tribal affiliation. In other words, world peace can be achieved if we all agree that #Arsenalsucks.

Note: the woman in the picture is not a Spurs fan but she is my sister and doesn’t really have strong opinions on the matter.

 

Leicester City


img_4200When I was flying back to my dreary, dismal home from Thailand and was wandering the shops and stores of the Bangkok airport, I saw a store selling exclusively Leicester City swag. T-shirts, scarves, banners, etc.

At that time, Leicester was a terrible team. They had only just escaped relegation and aesthetically speaking, ran the gamut from mediocre to downright unpleasant to watch.

So this store, in an international airport, felt like the equivalent of an unaffiliated, single-A team from central Nebraska having a gift shop in the Yucatan (though truth though, as usual, is far more prosaic; Leicester is sponsored by King Power, the duty free vendor for BKK Airport – they even play in ‘King Power Stadium’)

Well, five months or so after I saw that fateful store, Leicester is topping to table in England and fun to watch, to boot. Feels like fate.

In Honor Of Johan Cruyff


Johan Cruyff, who was famous for turning Dutch ‘Total Football’ into a reality on the field, was also famous for smoking a ridiculous number of cigarettes each, on stubbing them out when he had to take the field. Sadly, he now has lung cancer.

So let’s remember what made him and watch him do the famous ‘Cruyff Turn.’

Just Because… Here’s A Video Of Zinedine Zidane Dribbling


The Formation Is Not The Problem


I totally reject the premise that Juventus’ problem in the Champions League is their 3-5-2 formation. Totally and without reservation. Formations, provided one has the players to execute and the tactical nous to make adjustments to a particular player’s role (go a little wider or tuck in a little more; attack more or stay back; mark or press this opposing player), are beside the point.

Manchester City has struggled in the Champions League with a far more expensively assembled lineup, yet no one is blaming Manuel Pelligini’s formation on their shortcomings.

The Champions League is difficult and Juventus, with the exception of their goalkeeper, the ageless Gianluigi Buffon and Andre Pirlo, and their tireless terrier of a striker, Carlos Tevez, does not have many players with experience in the latter stages of the tournament. Switching to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 or a 3-3-1-3 (shout out to Marcelo Bielsa on that last one) is not the answer. Luck, a few new players, and some more luck are the answer. I would argue that they failed in the past because Juventus didn’t sufficiently rotate over the season, but it’s certainly not about a particular formation, unless it’s not properly executed.

This Article Says It Better Than I Could


Why I was devastated that Donovan didn’t go to Brazil.

No Surprise Donovan Is Retiring


Seemed pretty obvious really. He had flirted with it before. And despite taking a sabbatical that included missing some national team friendlies, I think it was being part of the national team that kept him going. He’s been a very good club player – only players like Carlos Valderrama have been better in MLS – but it was as a member of the United States Men’s National Team that he made his mark. I would say that he is the best and most skillful outfield player to have ever played for the team (#2 was Tab Ramos, who was held back by struggles with injury).

When he was left off the World Cup squad in favor of players who were slower, less talented and who, being over thirty, were clearly not players for the future, it is easy to see how he could ask: Why go on? There is nothing left for him to accomplish anymore in the league and he was pigheadedly denied a final World Cup (where, as the most clinical finisher in US history, he would have been expected to add to his five World Cup goals, including burying a shot against Belgium). Now’s the right time and would have been, even if he had gone to the World Cup for  fourth time. Just would have been nice to see him don the US jersey one last time.