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27 Apr 2004 --- Soccer Player Dribbling Between Defenders --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisWith the proprietor of the Partisan away while getting in touch with hiking blisters and nature in southern Utah, I had anticipated doing what anyone would do with the boss away: Play, do as little as possible or wrest control of this lavish operation in a coup d’blog.

Having not followed Monterey Peninsula water politics with microscopic attention for the past 40 years, I realized I wouldn’t be  adequately prepared to carry on His Royal Blog’s primary mission. That calling is to intelligently moderate unending arguments about water without laying in adequate drinking supplies of whiskey, as per Mark Twain’s oft-quoted rule of “water is for fighting; whiskey is for drinking.” I considered an edict against any future use of that worn-out Twain quote, but instead fell upon my second option of doing as little as possible.

I was handling that duty ably until this week when news broke that a bunch of super-rich overlords of the international governing board of soccer were arrested at a fancy Swiss hotel on criminal indictments obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice.

For critics of soccer — the world’s most popular sport always said to be slowly but surely gaining popularity in the United States — I figure this healthy injection of breath-taking transnational bribery, shakedowns and corruption will be the just the thing to finally whet my country appetite’s for the sport.

After all, the scope of the charges (as reported by the New York Times) against the shadowy emperors of what the rest of the world insists upon calling football makes the Deflategate scandal still rocking the National Football League seem as ridiculously petty as it is.

The football flap boils down to two knuckleheads armed with a ball needle letting the air out of some footballs, allegedly at the behest of quarterbacking diva Tom Brady. I say, “Big Whoop.”

I guarantee you that absolutely none of the 35,000 aspiring screenwriters parking cars and slinging drinks in Los Angeles is working on a film treatment of Deflategate.

But the newly exposed, secretive world of brazen criminality at the helm of world soccer has the makings of a long-running premium channel series. It would be shot in exotic locales with evil despots running an empire populated by supertankers filled with cash, with a cast of the best-looking athletes in the world and their handsome hookup partners facing exploitation, temptation, rampant coupling and physical dangers of overwrought flopping.

This series could be the next “The Sopranos,” “Madmen,” or “Breaking Bad.” Weekly episodes would advance complicated, intertwined story lines at a glacial pace — akin to the drama of a soccer match decided by a 1-0 score on a extra-time goal. And the requisite enigmatic ending, shot on a soccer pitch overlooking the Big Sur coast, would have millions of Americans talking about soccer for years.

Honestly, the soccer mania created by what I’m tentatively calling “In the Net” would probably cause the two guys on Fox and
Friends to give up their xenophobic mornings and seek more appropriate work at an Oil Can Henry’s.

I may have been naive, but until this international web of soccer corruption came to light, I had thought the only folks muscling in on the popular sport were the makers of boxed juices, whose wares are consumed by the millions each weekend by youth soccer players.

Parents are under orders to deliver cartons and cartons  of the halftime treats or else suffer social ostracism from coaches, other parents and complete strangers just walking by the field. That is almost a criminally genius marketing plan, but it pales in comparison to the rot at the heart of the international game.

That is all.

I trust the Jefe Grande will soon be back in the saddle of this blog, and we can resume our focus on local water politics, already one of the longest-running series on local public access television but with no enigmatic ending in sight.

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Americanization could fix soccer’s fatal flaws

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The great thing about watching soccer on TV is that if you miss something, you don’t miss anything.

I know, I know. Everyone else in the world can’t be wrong, so I have been watching the World Cup games on the tube and have found them somewhat interesting. In fact, they have reminded me of some of my favorite memories. Like the time I went for a walk with my brother and we walked and walked for quite a long time and didn’t get home until very late. Or the time we were going to visit friends for the weekend but they got called away for a family emergency at the last minute and we couldn’t go, so we stayed home and played Canasta.

Others undoubtedly have made suggestions about how to make soccer more American and, therefore, more interesting to Americans. Some ideas of my own occurred to me while watching the Costa Rica/Netherlands contest, in which the most interesting thing was trying to figure out if there is a rule that required the Netherlands goalkeeper to wear that hideous green outfit or if the idea is just to make the goalie wear colors that clash horribly with those of his teammates.

I thought I was beginning to understand how long soccer games last but not only does the clock go the wrong way but additional time apparently is added arbitrarily in order to avoid making the players tense.

The most obvious good idea regarding soccer would be to make the goal bigger. Sure, low-scoring games can be intense, but no-scoring games, not so much. It was cool when Timmy Lincecum threw a no-hitter last week, but what if the Padres pitcher had thrown one as well? I would have asked for my money back.

More fights would be great. Wrong and absolutely inappropriate, of course, but great. Come to think of it, I’ve watched the equivalent of three World Cup games, lasting approximately five months or so, and I don’t think there have been any fights. How tough would those Belgians have been if Tim Howard had started swinging? Huh? And with the fights would come more ejections. My favorite obscure game is water polo, in which most of the scoring comes while one of the players treads water out of bounds. Toss a Brazilian soccer fellow or two in the penalty box and watch a real game break out on the field.

I won’t recommend cheerleaders. Should have been banned from American sports years ago. But how about some pep bands. They could play the whole time because they certainly wouldn’t be interrupting anything. In fact, FIFA should put a basketball court next to the soccer field so there would be something to watch.

Clearly the game would be improved if the players could use their hands. Whoever thought of the no-hands rule must have been joking. Or teach someone a lesson. If using hands is too much of a change for the foreigners who like foreign food and things the way they are, how about using a much harder ball so the players would really have to put some thought into letting it bounce off their heads. Everyone, athletes included, need to learn that choices come with consequences.

You’ve seen those penalty shots, where the defensive team lines up some players who have to jump to try to block shots. How about if they get to stand on another guy’s shoulders like acrobats? More opportunities for athletes of a different sort.

The only other idea that comes to me is the goalie throwdown. Allow one person on each team to tackle the goalie whenever the ball if within, say, 10 meters. The defending team could have someone blocking for the goalie, like a fullback, which would take a defender out of the action and open the net.

There are other possibilities, of course, like trap doors in key spots or using an invisible ball. They say it is hard to find qualified soccer officials. Well, how about no officials at all? What do they really add to the game?

I could go on and on but at some point some of my ideas might begin to seem a little forced.  Also, I’ve got to get back to the tube. I hear that some of  yesterday’s games are about to wrap up.

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