Friday, August 29, 2008


For those of you expecting a long, drawn-out post about my political views, I'm very sorry to disappoint. As most who are close to me know, I am not a follower of politics, and I only follow elections enough to know the basic political stances and viewpoints of the candidates. In short, I don't really like politics.

One of the main reasons I don't like politics is because I don't trust those involved in "upper" politics. I support the belief that in order to ascend into the national political realm, one cannot fully stay uncorrupted. Although I believe Barack Obama is an excellent candidate, I do not know him personally. I only know what he and his campaign have told me they believe. As for his soul, his actual personality and demeanor, I am completely clueless.

The ability and willingness of politicians to completely change tack as soon as it becomes beneficial for them is another justification for my distrust of politics. How can two people who exhibit such malice toward each other suddenly become the best of friends when a vote decides which one will progress?

I realize that I am relatively uneducated when it comes to politics, but that's because I choose to stay in a state of "ignorant" bliss. I know enough about the system to stay away from the hoopla and hype surrounding the whole process.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

For Life

Earlier today, announced that Barcelona would be offering midfielder Xavi Hernández a lifetime contract. Due to the terms of the deal, Xavi has the option to play for as long as physically possible, while maintaining the same pay packet he will start in the next few days. This unprecedented move shows the faith that the Catalunyan club have in the midfield maestro, and their willingness to reward him is refreshing in this day and age.

Xavi has been a devoted servant to Barcelona since he arrived at the Camp Nou at age 11. Born in Terrassa, a city in Catalunya, Xavi had Barça in his blood. He moved quickly through the Blaugrana youth teams, finally making his first team debut in Barcelona's Super Cup final loss on August 18, snatching a goal in the process. He went on to cement his place in the Barcelona squad under Louis Van Gaal's stewardship, helping his team to the Spanish Primera Liga title.

An ever-present fixture in the Barcelona side for 10 years, Xavi's presence often goes unnoticed on the pitch. He lacks the charisma and eye-catching tricks of Ronaldinho and the heart-in-mouth heroics and clown hair of his compatriot Carles "Tarzan" Puyol. However, Xavi is the quietly ticking mechanism inside a beautiful Cartier watch. While most admire the jewels that bedazzle the face of the watch, the true connoisseurs understand it is the internal movement that makes the whole thing possible.

Xavi's ability to quietly dominate a match by directing the pace and flow of the play is almost unparalled in today's game. His lack of height (he stands 5'7") and physical presence is a non-issue due to his precise positioning and impeccable timing. In addition, his technical and tactical acumen is often unnoticed due to the demure mechanical efficiency with which he goes about his business. Nearly every single possession starts at the feet of the miniscule midfield master. No pass is wasted, no situation seems out of his reach and his facial expression betrays nothing but extreme relaxation coupled with utter concentration.

Xavi's brilliant talents were finally recognized officially after this summer's European Championship in which he led Spain to victory, being named Best Player in the process. Now it seems that his beloved club has followed suit in handing him an assured financial and footballing future on a silver platter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

V is for Vendetta, Not for V-Neck

Ah, the v-neck. Done tastefully, a v-neck t-shirt or sweater is a perfectly acceptable part of the straight male wardrobe. However, a comically low-cut v-neck can make its wearer the subject of myriad jokes, awkward looks and "man-boobs" comments.

I, for one, prefer not to be forced to stare at the bare chesticles of a grown man when avoidable. Which should be all the time. Alas, in today's world, the normally classy and stylish v-neck has been turned into a stripper-esque low-cut abomination that has the ability to make even the manliest of all men quail in fear from the man-boob invasion.

I have a suggestion for those deep-cut v-neck wearers. 1. Look in the mirror. If that first glance alone doesn't deter you from your path to destruction, proceed to the next step. 2. If you appear to be a B-list celebrity stumbling from a limousine on a Tuesday night in LA, tuck your nipples away and change shirts. 3. If none of the steps before this have swayed you, take a look at the pictures in this post and compare them to yourself. You look worse.

That is all.

Where's The Ball??

If you're a soccer fan in the U.S., it's almost a given that you've watched a game on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network; also known as ESPN. ESPN is the dominant force in United States sports scene, and has now become nearly the only option for comprehensive sports coverage in the States. While ESPN has done an admirable job in spotlighting lesser-known sports and pushing them to the forefront (for however long they feel they can profit), their coverage of soccer is infuriating to say the least.

The subject of ESPN's soccer coverage is one that causes much consternation and anger for me. Their commitment to the "ESPN formula" and blatant commercialization of anything they're involved in has nearly ruined many a match. Countless times I've sat in front of my television wondering, "did they really just block half the screen with a Sierra Mist commercial?" In addition, their unnecessarily gargantuan scoreboard, the ever-present ESPN ticker, and their propensity to post inconsequential stat graphics that seem to cover the screen at the most inopportune of times is enough to infuriate any reasonably level-headed and erudite viewer. What's more, ESPN's insistence on using commentators with no footballing background as well as pundits who have a proven background in idiocy (see Tommy Smith) further detracts from their broadcasts. On top of these slights, ESPN continually refuses to air back-to-back broadcasts of UEFA Champions League matches in the US, instead opting to show year-old rodeo replays, old World Series of Poker reruns and the like.

In my opinion, the problems with ESPN's soccer coverage stems from their attempt to pander to "casual" soccer fans and their unwillingness to stray from their rigid formula. Instead of treating soccer as an established sport (like football or basketball), ESPN has watered its coverage down to the point where nearly every soccer term is dumbed down and/or Americanized and the analysis is elementary at best. Every attempt is made to draw in new viewers with superficial content such as ridiculous replay techniques and "fancy" camera angles that only serve to distract from the gameplay. By ignoring the core fanbase, ESPN has made for an incredibly poor viewing experience in comparison to other networks such as Fox Soccer Channel and GolTV (which are only available with a more expensive TV network package). Furthermore, because ESPN owns the rights to almost all major international footballing competitions shown in the U.S., they have no reason to change their coverage for fear of losing viewers.

The simple use of a see-through scoreboard, ticker and stat blocks would make ESPN's coverage infinitely better. Their tendency to post random facts and stats about the game and it's participants would not have the same negative effect if it was possible to continue to see the action during this intrusion. Moreover, hiring commentators who actually understand the game and can communicate effectively would be an even further step forward, perhaps even taking the network into mediocrity.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I'm really not down with skinny jeans. As LC Weber of TSS says, "I. Cannot. Vibe." I will readily admit that recently my taste has moved further away from baggy jeans as my preference in shoes has moved closer to Nike SBs and loafers. However, I will never be comfortable with the manhood-embracing denim that is the skinny jean.

I went to buy some "work" jeans (read: jeans I can wear with SBs and loafers) during tax-free weekend, and I had the complete misfortune to accidentally kill some future children by uknowingly pulling on a pair of "slim fit" jeans. Previously unbeknownst to me, "slim fit" is code for "tight enough for the whole world to see exactly what size UPS package you're shipping". As soon as I pulled the baby-killing cotton creations up my legs, I realized that there was a serious problem. As the pants migrated up my legs, I realized that this relationship was destined to fail. Just for laughs, I decided to pull the pants completely on and have a look in the mirror. The image that faced me chilled me to the core.

I was wearing skinny jeans.

I peeled the repulsive clothes item off me as quickly as I could, and twenty minutes later was out the changing room door, handing the jeans to the store assistant with the simple explanation: "they--they were just too slim-fit for me." I managed to acquire suitably loose-fitting SB and loafer-appropriate jeans, and escaped the haven for the tight as soon as I could.

When I first became aware of the skinny jean blitzkrieg, I dismissed it as nothing but a stupid year-long fad that would soon fade into the realm of parachute pants, high-top fades and turtlenecks (which are in fact making their comeback with one man at Davidson). In the words of an anonymous tightpants advocate: "no jeans too skinny". That assertion, however bold it may be, is in fact a fallacy. Skinny jeans are just too skinny for my manhood.

While prancing about in skintight denim tubes is the willing choice of many, my masculinity and pride in myself would never allow me to wear skinny jeans. Maybe, as LC noted, I am too old to understand why tightpants are cool. Maybe it's just the fact that the skinnies coupled with regular-sized shirts and jackets give the comical illusion of a man wearing a dress with tights. Maybe I like being able to pull my pants on and off without wincing and cupping my uncuppables. Maybe skinny jeans are just stupid. I just know I won't be caught in them.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No One Cares

I saw a t-shirt online today (pictured at right) that completely sums up my feelings recently. Who cares?? In my initial excitement about my newfound outlet for the millions of thoughts tumbling around my head like so many Shawn Johnsons, I attempted to push my blog on as many people as I could. Then I thought about it. I'm really not that tight... While I have plenty of self-confidence and trust in my own ability, most of what I write isn't relevant to the people I expect and want to read my stuff. Those people who do read it, either care what I'm saying, have a personal connection to me, and thus read it out of duty/obligation/so I won't bug them about it, or simply are bored at work and need something to pass the time.

I realized that no matter how important I feel my sentiments are, or even how trivial, someone else will feel completely different. My blog is an outlet for my random thoughts, which is why I write about soccer often. I'm not trying to push my cosmovisión on anyone, or even talk about my personal philosophies. I'm simply talking about one of the things just popped up in my mind at the time.

That being said, if you have been reading my writing, thank you very much. If not, you'll never see this, so in the words of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: "It doesn't matter!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You knew it was coming... Part 2

In the last "You knew it was coming" post, I wrote about overall style. In this Part 2, I'd like to speak about one of the most important aspects of my style: shoes. Nearly anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am a huge fan of footwear. Soccer shoes, sneakers, loafers, even sandals; if the shoe fits and looks good, I'll wear it. Over the years, my shoe taste has changed immensely. Freshman year of college was my low point, and I could be seen wearing Nike Air Force Ones with fake Louis Vuitton, Burberry and other ridiculous designs. Much less embarrassing, but still not up to par, was my penchant for wearing running shoes with almost every casual outfit, from jeans to sweatpants. As I figured out more of what kind of image I wanted to portray, my clothing style changed, and with it changed my shoes. My 3-inch growth spurt between freshman and junior year also helped get me out of my old footwear into new, better-fitting, better-looking foot encasements as my style changed slowly.

My senior year at Davidson took me to the highest point yet in my shoe career. I was able to score a pair of special-edition Melvins Dunks, a pair of Jordan XI Concords, and the Evisu Genes I mentioned in the first "You knew" post for a bit more than the cost of one of Michael Phelps' meals. In addition, the Nike Air Max 90's rise to prominence in my wardrobe was chronicled on my feet, and the rest of my shoe collection began to flex its growing muscles with every trip to the mall. No longer content to be taken in by knockoffs, I began to search in earnest for unique shoes that caught my fancy, looking long and hard to find them for prices that wouldn't give my wallet a heart attack.

Towards the end of my senior year, I began to move slowly away from Air Force One Land, drifting into Nike SB, Nike Air Max and... loafer territory. More and more, high-top SB Dunks, Blazers, Nike Air Maxes and leather loafers seemed to be the order of the day. A pair of Nike Blazer SB's found themselves trapped in my closet, joined by Clarks loafers as well as grey and white Nike Air Max Wrights with nothing less than a pink air bubble. My two-year quest for the Mork and Mindy dunks (pictured) and Dinosaur Jr. dunks ended a few weeks ago when they arrived at my door, greeted with exclamations of glee, accomplishment and just plain stupidity.

To expound a bit more on my fixation with these two pairs of shoes, I must first give you some background. When AJ "I swear, I wasn't sleeping, I was trying to kill this bug in my eye by smothering it" Grant introduced me to the website, I was opened up to a whole new world of sneakers. Upon first visiting the site, two pairs of shoes caught my eye, both of which fulfilled my greatest desires in a pair of foot-gloves: ridiculously bright colors and outrageous design. From that moment, I resolved to own a pair of the red and silver rainbow-soled gems that were the Mork and Mindy dunks, as well as the glaringly silver and blurple (blue/purple) specimens named for the band Dinosaur Jr. It took me 2 long years of searching, eBaying, close scrutiny and patience to finally find authentic versions of the shoes that I could afford. After achieving this goal, I felt a sense of accomplishment but also a bit of disappointment. After all, as I told Will Bryan, my roommate, "I've now accomplished all my shoe goals." All that's left now is to tend to the shoes I have and save my money for the things in life that matter.

Like shoes*.

*Editor's note: Aaron West does not solely** care about shoes, but would rather not concern the readers of this blog with his other, more serious life concerns.

**Note from the corporate office: The use of the word "solely" was a poorly made shoe joke, that many will get, but approximately 2.74% of readers will not. In order to not alienate any portion of Aaron West's audience, the corporate office has required that the editor add the editor's note, as well as including this explanation to follow said editor's note.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sore Loser

Yesterday, my roommate Will Bryan and I played Madden 09 for Xbox 360. It was a good game, and he ended up winning 24-22. For most people, as soon as the final whistle blows and time runs out, normal life is resumed.

Not for me.

Throughout the game I became steadily more and more angry, dwelling on every missed play by my team, every call I believed went against me, and the new rage-inducing feature in Madden 09: the Rewind button. With this brilliant addition, allowing a player to backtrack on a botched play by a simple button press, EA Sports has managed to simplify what is normally a difficult task: infuriating Aaron West.

I consider myself to be a fairly laid back person in all things non-competitive. I see myself as a peacemaker in things that matter (and instigator in things that don't). However, if the subject matter could conceivably involve a W or an L, be it an argument, a race, a video game, etc. my demeanor changes completely. I and most of my friends are fully aware of the English Channel-wide competitive streak I possess. It is a trait shared by one of my best friends, Juan Duque and by many of those with whom I surround myself.

This competitiveness is such that Juan and I will not compete against each other in almost anything anymore for fear of ruining our friendship over something simple like Fifa. During my junior year of college, his sophomore year, we would regularly battle against each other for Fifa supremacy. We eventually realized that the 20-minute silences after games didn't stem from the fact that our mouths were dry, but rather from the anger we attempted to hide from each other after match end. Needless to say, we decided it was in both our best interests to never compete in earnest over anything in order to continue as friends and aquaintances.

I've realized in the last few years that I am not the outwardly competitive type in most things. I would often refuse to compete in things without realizing why, until I noted fairly recently that if I didn't feel I had a very good chance of winning, I didn't want to involve myself. It was then I understood that I might have a problem with chronic over-competitiveness. Yesterday stands as a prime example.

As the game with Will progressed, I found myself becoming quieter and quieter. My frequent ear-piercing protests died down into simple angry Marge Simpson-esque growls, and eventually I lapsed into complete silence. Perhaps feeling the intense heat of anger radiating from my being, Will decided his best option was to not gloat or celebrate, and we finished the last minutes of the game without a word passed between us.

After the game finished, I went to fiddle with my computer without saying anything to Will. He quietly shut the game and television off and retired to his room; a gracious winner. Realizing that nothing good would come of my anger, I decided to take a nap and sleep the ruinous effects off. I could not fall asleep for a full 20 mins, silently cursing the lines of code that allowed Will to capitalize on 40-yard pass plays with ease while I couldn't run for 3 yards if I lined up against a team of 10-year-old Pop Warner rejects. I finally went to sleep, and woke up feeling better about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Will was gone to dinner with some family members, and my brother was otherwise occupied. I looked towards my Xbox and saw the box for Madden. An instant flare of anger shot up inside me which I quickly quelled by picking up my Bible and reading a few verses.

Sufficiently calmed down, I went to the grocery store to buy groceries (read: large quantities of candy made legitimate by surrounding them with necessary food items). Shortly after I got back, Will returned and cautiously made his way into my room. I was on the phone, so he waited for me to return, and watched a bit of TV in the meantime.

"Dude, you were so mad earlier."

We laughed heartily in agreement, and I decided to change the subject before I was seized again with the urge to turn Madden into small bite-sized pieces. I reflected on the times I've ever been angry and realized that 98% of the time I'm angry, it's because losing was in some way involved. Due to this fact, I've decided to remedy the situation.

I'll never lose again.

Or at least I'll quit before the game is over.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The £39.2 Million Man

On August 13th, Frank Lampard became one of the highest-paid players in British history, signing a 5-year, £39.2 million contract with London's Chelsea FC. With current exchange rates, that stunning figure translates to approximately $73 million, on par with many upper-echelon NBA and NFL players. Lampard's future had been up in the air for months leading up to that point, with him on the brink of a move to his old mentor Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan. After making a difficult career decision, Lampard returned to preseason training with the London club and signed a bumper contract which should see him end his career wearing Chelsea blue.

For me, the important question remains: is Lampard really worth £39.2 million at this point in his career? At 30 years old, he can hardly be seen a player that will stay at the top level of his game for more than three or four years. In addition, the last season saw his importance to the club diminish slightly with the re-emergence of Michael Ballack as the talent that has recently carried Germany and previous clubs Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen to dizzying heights. Furthermore, young Jon Obi Mikel has shown signs of quality to come, even as he is played out of position in a deeper-lying defensive midfield role (which I disagree with, but that is for another day). To get to the crux of the matter, why pay Lampard so much?

Lampard's value lies not only in his hammer-like right foot, or his box-to-box midfield capabilities, but also in his quiet leadership and his ability to lift those around him. While John Terry steals the camera flashes with his heroic displays of bodily sacrifice, vocal intimidation and inspiration, Lampard goes about his duty with a precision that is often overlooked. His shot is indeed thunderous, but it is rarely very far off target. His range of passing is underrated, and his defensive efforts (while they sometimes leave something to be desired) are not unnoticed.

Lampard also stands as a talisman of Chelsea's English backbone. He, John Terry and Ashley Cole are the only players who can really call themselves "first choice" at Stamford Bridge. While Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips often enjoy extended runs in the first team, their inclusion is often sporadic depending on their up-and-down form. In an increasingly foreign-dominated league, Chelsea is one of the clubs whose rise in prominence has come with the penalty of a downturn in English numbers. With the 'Big Four' of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea averaging only 2.64 English starters per game* between them, Lampard holds his head high as one of the few quality English representatives.

Lampard's commitment to the club has been evident through the years, none moreso than his early return from compassionate leave after his mother's death to score a penalty in this year's Champions League semi-finals. His tearful celebration served as a reminder for his dedication to the Chelsea cause, even through emotional strife and tragedy.

For many, £39.2 million is a ludicrous fee to pay for an average centre midfielder who often underperforms for England. For others, mainly concentrated in the west of London, £39.2 million is a paltry sum to secure the services of a dynamic midfield general who would die on the pitch for his beloved Blues.

* article: "Survey Says English Players in Prem at Record Low"

Thursday, August 14, 2008


A few days ago, I was speaking to PBA (Patrick Braxton-Andrew for those of you poor, misinformed souls who don't have the pleasure of his acquaintance) about my blog. To my surprise, he suggested that I email about the advertisement they had listed on the website asking for new contributors. I decided there was nothing to lose, and emailed them, not expecting a response. I received an email back the very same evening from none other than the site director of, Greg Lalas, the brother of the United States' very own Ginger Prince, Alexi Lalas. In the email, he thanked me for my interest and requested some samples of my work. I sent in a couple postings from the blog, and went about my business in the usual manner, with hopes of receiving a response in a week or so.

The very next day an email appeared in my inbox from Mr. Lalas, inviting me to write for the website I have basically lived on for the past two or three years. I have of course accepted tentatively. With this new role, I will be writing a weekly column that follows the progress of American players plying their trade in continental Europe. This list includes the likes of Jozy Altidore in Spain, Freddy Adu in France, Michael Bradley in Holland (for now), etc.

I feel incredibly blessed to have been chosen to do this, and I really appreciate all the love (and hate) I've received in response to this blog so far. I will continue to write, and hopefully I'll find more of an audience as I continue and mature in my writing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The 27-Year-Old Pensioner

My partner in crime Andre (aka The Son of Prince) recently wrote about Landon Donovan's statement of intent to return to Europe to play a higher level of soccer. He astutely noted that Donovan is currently 27 years old, and will probably soon start to decline in ability. Donovan was quoted as saying: "The older I get and the more I play, the more I'm yearning for that highest level I can play at." This quote, together with Andre's post brings up an interesting question for me in today's game: when are players actually hitting their peaks?

In the recent past, according to pundits, coaches and Football Manager, players were often (depending on their position) thought to hit their peaks in their latter 20s. For defenders, their maturity and decision-making skills were commonly thought to be at their pinnacle between the (appproximate) ages of 28-32. For midfielders, the golden age was between 27-31, forwards, 26-30, and goalkeepers the ripe old age of 30+.

Recently, however, the speed and physicality of the modern game leads me (and evidently Andre as well) to believe that players are hitting their peaks, as well as declining, much earlier. Such mercurial talents as Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima (aka Fat Ron), Ronaldinho, Michael Owen and Kaká all burst upon the scene at a relatively young age, but have been slowed down by injuries as they've matured. In addition, the emergence of players in the mold of Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Torres and Leo Messi as world-class talents in the nearly Olympic-eligible sub-24 age group serves as evidence that footballers in general are developing at a younger age in the modern game.

Over the past 40 or 50 years, football (soccer if you insist) has seen an incredible jump in speed, power and physicality, a phenomena paralleled in many other sports, such as American football, basketball, etc. As such, the modern footballer has become more of a model of physical prowess than simply a footballing brain and pure technical skills. These days, players such as the Englishman Theo Walcott, who depends far more on his otherworldly pace than his first touch and ball-striking ability (he only began playing football at age 10), are far more common than the sublimely skilled Juan Román Riquelme of Argentina, who is regularly beaten in footraces by both the Hare AND the Tortoise.

With this rise in the importance of physical attributes comes a decrease in the shelf life of modern players. While Riquelme can depend on his brain and touch until his late 30s, Walcott will only be relatively fast until (optimistically) around age 32 and then will come a dramatic decrease in his physical effectiveness. In addition, with the added physicality of the modern game, players who depend on both skill and pace are being hacked to pieces almost literally on a day by day basis. Kaká, Ronaldinho and Fat Ron are the best examples of this, with Kaká recently decrying an increasing tendency of opponents to try and tattoo their phone numbers on his ankles with their boots rather than attempt to mark him cleanly.

This change in the modern game has not come without a few anomalies that continue to ply their trades around the world. The names Maldini, Inzaghi and Makélélé come to mind as examples of those who have continued at the highest level in their mid-to-late 30s and beyond. However, for the most part, modern athletes seem to be falling apart as they approach the 30-year-old mark. In addition, the footballing prime seems to have shifted to a much earlier age, seemingly between 23-28. It will be interesting to see how the young talents like Cesc Fabregas, Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo progress as they age, and to monitor their health through the years.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We're Not That Good...

In the run-up to Sunday's Olympic confrontation between the Netherlands and the United States men's national teams, Netherlands manager Foppe De Haan appeared to insult the United States with his assertion that "they don't have anybody extremely good." In my opinion, this brings up a very valid point concerning the States: we really don't have an extraordinary player.

Many would argue fiercely for the talent the U.S. has at its disposal in the Olympic team. Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Sasha Kljestan and Brad Guzan are some of the luminaries, but none of them are genuine superstars in the international vein. While I believe Freddy and Jozy are pearls for the future, they really haven't proven themselves enough to be called "extremely good" internationally. Although they've done very well in the MLS, that's hardly enough for them to compare to such stars as Ryan Babel, Sebastian Giovinco, Alexandre Pato, Leo Messi, Sergio Agüero, etc. who have proven themselves in Europe's top leagues, despite their relative youth. Freddy languished on the subs bench for Benfica (although he did manage a respectable haul of 5 goals) when he went abroad, and was subsequently loaned out to A.S. Monaco in the French Ligue 1 for this year. Jozy has yet to see a Spanish pitch in real competition for his new club Villarreal, and it will be interesting to see whether he accepts being loaned out (after initially rejecting the idea) in order to get some valuable minutes to aid his development.

Even Bryan McBride, the U.S.A.'s "best" player, is not a real world star. He was a good, solid striker and captain for Fulham in the EPL, but he hardly lit up the league with brilliant, game-changing performances day in, day out.

Foppe De Haan's statement speaks directly to one of the problems with the U.S. soccer team now. Although the team is as always very solid and well-organized, it's lacking in the individual creative brilliance that so many of the nations we strive to compete with seem to produce in excess. With every new generation of players issuing from the Netherlands, their fans see the possiblities of the "new Van Basten", the Italians hail their "new Roberto Baggio" and the French can look forward to the prospect of their "new Zidane". However, the U.S. struggles to produce exceptional individual talent because of several inherent flaws in the U.S. soccer system itself.

In summary, I feel that instead of taking offense to De Haan's words, we should instead examine the problem that prevents the U.S. from developing the talent we have at our disposal into genuine stars. In addition, what can we do to prevent the talent we've developed from escaping our clutches (a lá Giuseppe Rossi)?

End of an Era

Yesterday marked the beginning of the Davidson College men's soccer team's pre-preseason. For those unfamiliar with it, pre-preseason gathers the members of the new Davidson team before official preseason begins. The upperclassmen/team leaders gather the squad together to go stay in a house together for introductions, team bonding, a little bit of fitness and a chance to get to play with each other before the grind of real preseason takes all fun out of life.

For me, this pre-preseason marked the official beginning of a new year of Davidson soccer sans Aaron West. What has become a huge part of my life for four years is now gone with the last season. Although the end of the fall season actually meant I was no longer a Davidson player, the arrival of this year's pre-preseason presents a tangible milestone of my passage as a college soccer player. This summer presented another huge benchmark in my life, being the first time I've never had to actually train for an upcoming season since I was 3 years old. What has been a incredibly enjoyable summer was tempered strongly by the emptiness I've felt through not having a reason to train or work out in eager anticipation for the imminent season. While I've filled the emptiness with some running, kicking the ball around and lifting, I still feel the pang of my loss whenever I talk to current players.

In talking to some of my friends who are still on the team recently, I detected a sad note in my own tone that hadn't cropped up before in conversation. I felt like an honorably discharged soldier eagerly enquiring about all the goings-on of his old regiment, to the annoyance of his younger mates still in the service. I've just recently gotten over the fact that I can't answer the question "do you play soccer?" with the perfunctory response, "yeah, I play for Davidson College", with a little smirk of school pride.

Now that I've moved on, I have other things for which to look forward. Highlights include the Alumni game on August 24th, not having to run during preseason, and never having to worry about studying on a bus on the way back home from a late away game. Now that I'm retired, I can also sit in the stands and watch the games without anxiety, without having to worry about the result on the field.

Who am I kidding? I'll probably stress more now that I can't play.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Recently I spoke to Jon Mackey, esteemed goalkeeper coach at Davidson College, about the increasingly impressive Tottenham Hotspur side. He tipped the Spurs to challenge his beloved Manchester United in the Premier League, but I seriously doubted their title credentials. In recent years, Tottenham have played some beautiful football, but have lacked serious backbone when it mattered, leaving them bereft of silverware, but with a firm grip on the "most entertaining loser" spot in the casual viewer's heart.

Enter Juande Ramos. Juan de la Cruz Ramos Cano, of Sevilla F.C. fame and success took over and transformed the club from lovable loser to serious threat. With his strict diet and fitness regimen, Ramos turned his team into a Cup force, reversing their poor fortune in the UEFA Cup, and guiding them into the second round of the knockout phase, and winning the Carling Cup. During the Carling Cup run, Ramos masterminded a 5-1 win against Arsenal, the club's first win in the North London derby since 1999.

Building on this success, Ramos has continued his philosphy of diet and exercise, and has added some key ingredients to what Spurs fans hope will be a Premier League-winning pie. Luka Modric, the Croatian midfield dynamo, was masterfully signed before Euro 2008 for a paltry 16 million Euros, a fee that surely would have soared after his brilliant performance in the tournament. Giovani dos Santos, the Brazilian/Mexican/Spanish attacker also joined the Tottenham fold for a mere £4.7 million, with the potential to rise to £8.6 million depending on appearances. The addition of Heurelho Gomes to replace Paul Robinson (who couldn't keep the ball out of his net despite the fact that his waist size made it possible to block half the goal simply by lying down), David Bentley, and a host of defenders also signalled Ramos and Tottenham's very clear intent to challenge the big four of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. In addition, as Jon pointed out, the "spineless" players that cost them many of the big games have been dropped, leaving a very dangerous and hungry-looking squad.

Today, Tottenham beat the Italian league runners-up Roma 5-0 in a friendly. No small feat, but the real tale of the tape will be told as they do battle in what is arguably the best league in the world over the course of 38 games. If the new-look Tottenham is the real article, I'll be sure to eat my words and write a piece about their success at the end of the season.

--As a side note, drop a comment to debate the EPL being the best league in the world. I by no means believe it's the highest quality of play, but judging solely from the Champions League results, it can't be overlooked...

Fair Weather? Me?

A few weeks ago, upon reading that Juventus was considering offers for our tiny trequartista Sebastian Giovinco, I became incensed to the point of nearly breaking my 12-year bond with Juventus. I wrote in my Facebook status that if Giovinco was sold, I would cease to be a Juventus supporter. I was immediately set upon by those that know me relatively well, receiving messages and Wall posts challenging my promise and alleging that I would "never stop supporting Juventus".

Well, you're right. But I think my 12 year fealty has earned me the right to get really really angry about the poor decisions the members of the Juventus upper management (specifically Alessio Secco) have made. Secco, the new sporting director drafted in after Luciano Moggi's ban due to the Calciopoli scandal, has thus far proven himself to be a transfer genius. After masterminding the signings of Jean-Alain Boumsong, Tiago Mendes and the brown Mr. Clean, Sergio Almiron, for the not-so-tiny total fee of around €27m, he proceeded to nearly offload our best defender, Giorgio Chiellini last summer. In addition to the purchase of the three all-stars listed above, Secco continued his effective attempt at ruining the future of the club by selling the very promising young stars Antonio Nocerino to Palermo, Raffaelle Palladino and Domenico Criscito to Genoa on co-ownership deals, and the increasingly appetizing Davide Lanzafame was shipped out, presumably on loan or a co-ownership deal. As if reading the collective thoughts of Juve supporters who felt "well, he can't do any worse", Secco brought in the much-maligned Momo Sissoko and later signed Amauri for €24m. Recently, Christian Poulsen and Olof Mellberg were brought into the fold, as well as the return of our brilliant baby-face Sebastian Giovinco, who was welcomed back after demonstrations by Juve fans assured his return to the club. Although Sissoko has now won over many Bianconeri supporters (not including myself), and Amauri is a quality player, the question remains for many of us: Why????

For the last couple years, the problem areas for Juventus have been in the centre of midfield and in the back. The departures of Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram left a gap that was admirably filled by Nicola Legrottaglie and the switch of Chiellini from left back to the centre. However, as well as Legrottaglie has done, I do not feel he has the required quality to stand up to the rigors of continental play in the Champions League, nor for Juve to mount a title challenge against the likes of Inter Milan, A.C. Milan and Roma. In addition, there was a certain amount of technical ability lacking in the middle of the park, as Cristiano Zanetti and Momo Sissoko, battlers that they are, do not excite the imagination. For many Bianconeros, the transfer policy seemed simple: buy a quality defender centre midfielder. In the months leading up to the summer transfer window such names as Rafael van der Vaart, Diego Ribas da Cunha (or simply Diego), Xabi Alonso and a few others were thrown around, exciting the hopes of supporters. When it came time to put pen to paper however, we ended up with... Christian Poulsen. A few weeks later van der Vaart was signed by Real Madrid for the very reasonable fee of around €15m, while Diego remains languishing in the German league waiting for a big club to take his hand and lead him out of the wilderness. Negotiations between Liverpool and Juventus broke down for Xabi Alonso, with a reported €2 or €3m being the difference.


In my opinion, the €24m spent on the prolific Amauri could have been spent on what Juve really needed this year. Although Amauri is a great player, the Juventus strikeforce was not lacking in quality. Already boasting Trezeguet, Del Piero and Iaquinta, the young Palladino could have been given a chance to flex his growing muscles and learn from the greats already there.

Although the transfer department has been abysmal of late, things are looking up. With whispers of the recruitment of the Argentinian midfield general Lucho Gonzalez, and possibly the Uruguayan centre-back Diego Lugano, things might be looking up. If not, I'll wear my Juve jerseys more than ever and take the abuse that will invariably come showering down upon me.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Forum flaming template

After observing myriad poorly-written forum posts dealing with all types of subject matter, I decided parody was necessary. The following is a template created in order to flame whatever the user wishes to decry, simply by inserting the subject into the appropriate blanks. This will save said users hours of precious time that could otherwise be used to scratch bellies, eat Cheetos and watch NASCAR, BET, Maury, or whatever other fine television is consumed by these brilliant internet surfers.

[Insert hated subject matter here] sux. it is horribul and it sux a lot. i think it sux bc i didnt likee it or unnerstan wut it wuz talkin bout. i did [laugh, cry, think, etc.] one time but i dont think they ment 2 maek me do it. i think that [insert incredibly poorly made version of original subject matter/completely unrelated entity] iz so mucch bedder becuz i unnerstood wut dey was talkin about and it was gud. And because [insert horrible actor, director, brand name, etc. here] iz so much better becuz their from [insert city, town, country, etc. here].

For a response to another poster's disagreement use this template:

U suk becuz you dont evin no what your talkin about. I dont even know what [better version of - movie, song, brand name, etc.] your talkin about and because i dont know what it is i know your stupid. (Proceed to go off into string of curses, racial slurs, horrible jokes and insults to families)

And there you have it folks, an easy template to use for flaming others on any forum you wish.

The Thierry Henry Problem

Yesterday my good friend Dre wrote in his blog (The Son of Prince), decrying the inclusion of Brian McBride in the U.S. Nat'l Olympic team. In his post, he stated that McBride is "just a one dimensional player" who doesn't fit into the team's quick-passing "toca toca toca" style. While I agree that he doesn't fit into the side, I don't completely agree with the fact that McBride is completely one-dimensional. True, his main (many would argue ONLY) strength is winning balls in the air, and he does that with aplomb. However, I believe he also offers a wide array of talents, including the ability to hold the ball up, cover defensively (especially from set pieces), and a steely sense of grit and determination many other players lack. This "work hard" mentality is one that sums up the American style of play, and I believe it also is our downfall. I will speak about this in subsequent postings, but for now I return to Señor McBride. In my opinion, McBride shouldn't be included in l'équipe américain for the simple fact that he's hindering the development of players who actually need it. While watching the game, I heard an announcer speaking on the issue of overage players, and the fact that the Netherlands decided to limit their haul to a solitary Roy Makaay. "You're allowed to bring three overage players, why wouldn't you bring three?" For me, the answer is simple. The Dutch understand the meaning of this tournament: it's to blood new players and get them some important international experience. The reason Brazil has never won the tournament is because they also understand that the real importance of the tournament is to develop the players for the real issues at hand, namely the World Cups and Copa Americas of the future. If an overage player is included, it's because he can pave the way for future generations by example through his play (Ronaldinho) or by his vast experience, making him essentially an extra coach (Roy Makaay). In the case of Ronaldinho, it's a mutually beneficial endeavor, letting him get some extra fitness and competition as well as letting the wunderkinds of Brazil learn firsthand from his brilliance.

In the case of USA and McBride, the exact opposite situation has substantiated. Rather than include McBride as a bench player to coach and encourage the youngsters, the manager Piotr Nowak has decided to use him on the field, obviously hoping his presence as an established EPL striker will lift the team and carry them to victory. I believe this is the exact opposite of what will happen. As Dre stated, McBride's very presence on the field changes the entire dynamic of the team. In what I feel is the "Thierry Henry" effect, knowing that McBride is on the pitch almost forces the team to play through him in a fashion by which Arsenal lived and died towards the end of his career. What should be a technical, quick passing team that plays on the ground in an entertaining and effective fashion, turns into carbon copy of the English teams of yesteryear, attempting to ram long balls down the gaping mouths of defenses all too happy to gobble up every high ball played into McBride. This tactic is not only ineffective, it also is physically taxing on the increasingly geriatric Captain America who often has to deal with two or three mobile, agile and all too hostile "kids" draped all over him for 90 minutes, anticipating every single ball and hammering McBride with great delight. Like Arsenal, proven brilliance (or in McBride's case, proven goodness) must be sacrificed at some point to develop future backbone.

My solution? Let's get on a conference call with Arséne Wenger and ask him how to win with kids.

Coming up: Some more of my problems with the American soccer system, why I get angry whenever I speak about Juventus' transfer woes, the ESPNization of soccer, and why I hate McDonalds. Or anything else I can think of in the meantime.

--Note: 12:30 PM
I just did some research, and in fact the Netherlands has included the full number of overage players. Japan is the team that hasn't brought any over-23s. However, the fact still remains that the players the Netherlands brought fit perfectly into the style with which the Oranje like to play. In addition, the players they brought are not superstars who will overshadow the younger players, but rather experienced workers who will uplift their younger compatriots.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

You knew it was coming...

Yes, the requisite post about style.

I had a conversation with my roommate the other day about the way I dress, and it started my brain running. What is my style? I contrived to break it down into three semi-fluid categories: Prep, Skate and Thu. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, but the third may take a bit of 'splainin to do, my dear Lucy.

Before I get into the discussion on my stylistic choices, I'd like to talk a bit about my new infatuation with Japanese shoes. The newest crush? Ato Matsumoto. I can't explain why, but I love these space boots. I've always been a fan of relatively off-the-wall shoes, and these are off the Apollo 13 wall. I will have a pair as soon as I have the funds and can find them, mark my words. Now back to the show.

Thug is often seen on many rappers, basketball and football players, posers, Gs, gangbangers, and the like involving 4 XL plain tees, hugely baggy jeans, hoodies, Timberlands, Air Force 1s, fitted caps, etc.

Thu (no G) is my version of this style (and by no means my innovation). It involves slightly baggy clothes (not even close to the point of falling off), hoodies and/or baggy-ish t-shirts, an OH SO FRESH fitted cap (New Era is a must, not an option) and such shoes as Nike Air Max 90s, Timbs, and Air Force Ones. My best friend Juan Duque is my partner in crime in this style, to the point where the last school year we would often walk out of our rooms, look at each other and utter what would become a commonplace phrase: "I'm gonna go change." More often than not, our clothing choices would mirror each other from hat color to shoe style. Our case was not helped due to the fact that we did much of our shopping-- excuse me "buying"-- together.

By way of clarification, the Thu style lacks a G because I grew up in Chapel Hill, was homeschooled and went to Davidson College. While for many, that qualifies me as a certified straight-up G in the same vein as The Game, 50 Cent and Vanilla Ice, in my book it drops the G from my style.

That being said, in my reflection upon style, I return to the three categories. Thu has already been rolled out into the open, now I move on to Preppy and Skate.

Preppy is a style that has been a source of contention for me. I long resisted the Allure of being like the new Jay-Z and wanting to be a Bad Boy For Life like the old P. Diddy. As they illustrated, the change would entail giving up my hoodie for a blazer and trading in my Timbs for (why are they so flippin comfortable?) loafers. But I digress. This may be the simplest and most timeless of the three styles. The ingredients? Simply add one part polo or button-down shirt, one part jeans, and one part loafers and vóila, you are transformed. All that fuss over a little collared shirt? My whole mentality about the style changed when I realized that if I wore these clothes a couple times, it didn't mean that I was locked in to being a "Prep". It meant that I happened to like wearing the clothes. Life is yzarc!

Finally, Skate is my newest addition to the clothing rotation. I look at it as a mix of the new skate culture trend and an obsession with skate shoes. This style, one which dominates my recent clothing choices outside of work, is the most complicated of the three. I am not embarrassed in anyway to say that it was inspired strongly by AJ "Son hold up a second, lemme get a nap real quick" Grant. I was introduced to the world of the Nike Dunk SB by him, and what a world it has opened up. Now such names as Blazer, Mork and Mindy, Dinosaur Jr, Melvin grace or have graced my closet, soon to be followed by Messrs. Supra and Matsumoto. The Skate style is a complex one focused mainly on shoes. With the shoes come tighter-than-usual jeans (but not skater-tight) and fitted caps and t-shirts to match. When the weather outside is frightful, a hoodie is in order, with a thermal shirt underneath the tee. I stumbled across this style rather by accident as I was practically given two pairs of straight-from-Nippon Evisu Genes by a friend. The Genes, tighter than my usual fare, have become some of my favorite go-to items from my closet. Coupled with Dunks, they make me look eerily as if I had escaped from the X-Games into my living room. Or at least as if I'm wearing Dunks and slimmer-fitting jeans.

At this point, an explanation may be in order. Why, you might ask, is this relevant to me?


It's not.

I just like cool clothes and shoes.

Critical response

I had to put this in because it probably sums up the heart of this blog completely. I told one of my friends I had begun to write a blog, and his immediate response was as follows: "Lmao. Wat u blog about? Juve or sneakers. One of them."


I blog about Juve, sneakers, and basically anything that strikes my fancy.

But often, that's Juve and sneakers.

I couldn't stay away

I'm back... yes, already. I just read a article on Italy's 3-0 demolishing of Honduras, and who should be at the forefront of this mashing but my favorite 5'5" Italian? Sebastian Giovinco is a giant of a man (or midget?) for whom, in order to protest his sale, hundreds of Juventus supporters demonstrated outside of the Delle Alpi only a few weeks ago. In him lies the hopes of a nation of Juve supporters who, like myself, have followed his progress from the Juventini to his exploits at Empoli and back to the full Bianconeri side. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth when it seemed the Juventus brass (including the stunningly idiotic Alessio Secco who I will get into later) would sell our tiny gem. Thankfully, that saga seems to be over, and judging by his performances lately, the demonstrations were warranted. In my opinion, the fun-sized fantasista has the talent to be the new Roberto Baggio (please, please, please) without the ponytail. As reported by, the miniscule magician ran a footballing masterclass against Honduras, and for a die-hard Bianconero like myself, it makes me as happy as if I had seen the text "Juventus: 4 - Inter Milan: -2342309823"

I-Am-No. 1

Having been inspired by good writing from manically brilliant minds such as Patrick Braxton-Andrew (also known as PBA, Pibba, Pibs, Pax-baby (which I just thought up)) and the socially conscious folks at Topics Education Group, I have decided to "bless" the world with my thoughts. Let us be clear from the outset: I will not address any of the issues important to the world, try to affect any change in said world, or follow any set thought pattern at all. This is simply a forum for me to dump the excess thoughts conducting a Ben Hur-esque race in my mind into the open where the world can gape at them and scream in terror. Keeping in mind that this is my first real foray into personal writing in the English language, please be brutally and dishonestly positive about my offerings. My ego is an Oxford oar: it must be stroked often to be of any use.

Now that I've got the introduction out of the way, I can settle into the real reason for beginning this blog. This is my way of venting about the issues I think about often: namely soccer, keeping my focus at work, and random thoughts (which goes hand in hand with keeping my focus at work). I have found that I am approximately 39% more efficient at work if I break up the day with random spats of web-surfing. Therefore, I decided if I'm going to dedicate myself to breaking up the day, I will use these breaks to do something that has the semblance of being productive.

As a final note I'd like to say that as this blog progresses, the language will undeniably begin to steadily deteriorate into simple "newspeak" with no SAT words. Enjoy the intellectual stimulation (what little there is) while it lasts, and please refer to this post often as more are added so as not to be disappointed with the quality of subsequent offerings.