Monday, April 21, 2008

"My sh*t doesn't work in the UEFA Champions League"

Billy Beane, allegedly a Spurs fan*, gets into Premier League soccer:
Over the past five years Beane has developed an emotional attachment of his own, to Spurs. He watches English football on cable TV whenever he can, is an avid listener of the Guardian's weekly football podcast and has also forged some close friendships with leading figures in the English game, including Spurs' chief executive, Damien Comolli. He has also started working with Professor Bill Gerrard from Leeds Business School with a view to developing a system for evaluating football players based on statistics gathered during games.
I enjoy soccer like a businessman enjoys his mistress: I'm excited during the action, but cease to care once the game is over and usually just pretend it doesn't exist. Still, this article gets pretty interesting towards the end when it starts talking more seriously about statistical analysis in the Beautiful Game.

*I say allegedly, because I've lost count of how many American guys I know who claim to be big EPL fans, but are really just Anglophiles looking for a more manly way of expressing it than a love of Jane Austen novels.


Pete Toms said...

I think soccer ( or pretending that you enjoy soccer ) appeals to pretentious North American metrosexuals who want to promote the notion that they have more refined tastes in sports than us boorish fans of the "stick and ball" games.

They also enjoy wearing the soccer jersey ( in soccer - pardon me football - is the schmuta ( bad phonetic yiddish spelling ) called a jersey? ) more appealing.

Beane may be the only guy in MLB more obnoxious than LaRussa. I think Beane does a great job though.

Mr. Thursday said...

Love soccer. Love it about as much as hockey, and therefore, measurably less than I love baseball.

I might sound like an old crotchety sportswriter, but part of me isn't much interested in soccer statistics. Not because I don't think they're valuable--if someone can figure out win shares for Steven Gerrard, then great. But, for my fandom, I like just watching the game flow, as opposed to analyzing it.

Alex said...

I have many friends who are soccer fans but think baseball is boring. As a baseball fan I take offense, then collect myself and remind them that soccer is boring. The field is too big for steady, rapid action, scoring is almost nonexistent. And soccer players? I have a hard time respecting soccer when part of the gameplay is for players to pretend to be like Mike Hampton. Quit rolling around on the ground, p*ssy, you're holding up the game and making it more boring. And yeah, Pete, you're right. Ironic that such people think pretending to be a sports fan makes them look intellectual. Ok ok, sorry about the angry rant.

Craig Calcaterra said...

I don't pretend to know anything about soccer. I can say that, much like hockey, I really enjoy it live and in person, but can't watch it on TV, and that more than anything is what has kept me from getting into it.

I get to about 1 Blue Jackets game a year and 1 or 2 Crew games a year, so it's just never gonna happen for me.

Ken Dynamo said...

yeah but that shit works in the Carling Cup baby!

i became a totty tots fan because my stupid roommate became an arsenal super fan because he got into FIFA 06 and they were the best team, or some dumb crap like that, and i wanted to root against the gooners.

i find watching soccer to be boring as hell but following all the different cups and leagues and then looking up the history of the teams is pretty cool. but as a sport, lame. the whole diving aspect of it really buries it for me as a legit competition. get up pussies!

Craig Calcaterra said...

Point taken on the diving, Ken and Alex, but really: is it any worse or any more prevalent than batters, pitchers, and managers, getting bent out of shape over perceived bad calls? Yes, it's a little different, but the impulse -- trying to influence officials' calls via hystrionics - is the same.

I really don't know, becuase like I said, I don't watch soccer. Is diving a huge problem, or simply an over-reported one?

Voros? Any insight here?

Ken Dynamo said...

just did some research, turns out getting into soccer is all about the scarves!

who knew?

craigers - i think youre absolutely right - there is probably as much wimpiness in baseball as there is in soccer. in fact, if i didnt grow up playing baseball (poorly) and wasnt able to geek out on stats as an adult (in age at least), i'd probably hate the sport. but, what can you do? once youre, youre in, and there aint no coming out.

Anonymous said...


I got interested in the EPL as a kid, when there was a one hour condensed game on Sunday mornings. My brother an I used to watch it and we'd marvel how, unlike baseball players, the footballers never seem winded.

Now you can catch the EPL on the Fox Soccer Channel or Setanta (this is a pay channel). And really, the EPL is the premier league for a reason: it attracts the best international players, much like MLB.

And don't think football is for sissies. Those guys play rough, they crash into each other full speed, elbows fly, and there is a LOT of money on the line. Check out their salaries: Michael Ballack of Chelsea makes 130,000 pounds per week, roughly scale for a star. That's about $ 13.5M per year for those without a calculator.

Cool as it is, it isn't baseball. But it is pretty neat to watch in the offseason.

My one complaint in your blurb was the failure to abuse Beane for his attachment to Spurs, the second best team in North London. If he wants to study the game he can learn from The Professor, Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal. Billy can see why they call it the beautiful game when he watches Arsenal develop an attack at full speed.

Craig Calcaterra said...

APBA: Aren't Aresenal and Manchester U. the Yankees and Red Sox of the EPL? Wouldn't it be a betrayal of all he stood for to go with a team that can afford to be stupid? This is Bill Beane we're talking about here! Didn't he write some book about that or something?

Alex said...

I dunno, at least baseball players can claim that they're interested in the fairness of the game. But pretending to be injured seems like a much lower level of weak. CC, you're right though, no one should be throwing a fit like that in pro sports. (On the other hand, there's nothing like a good hat-backwards, face-to-face spitting argument between a manager and an ump.)

Craig Calcaterra said...

I actually like the hat backwards face-to-face arguments. What I can't stand are the long sighs, the passive agressive body language, and scowls after borderline calls.

Mr. Thursday said...

I think the diving element of soccer is pretty overblown. At least, in relation to the Premiership. Certainly, from opposing fans, divers get roundly booed. It's hard to tell, though, what is definitely a dive, and what definitely isn't. Since soccer is (despite American stereotypes) played at a fairly high speed, and players are generally off balance, as they're trying to use their feet to affect the action, a slight touch can cause a tumble.

Most Americans watch only the World Cup every four years, and, for whatever reason, the World Cup features a lot more diving than regular club competition.

64cardinals said...

I spend a lot of time in England, and will be moving there permanently next month. I don't really care for soccer at all, but will probably have to pick a team and sort of follow them if I ever want to fit it.

I am becoming a big rugby fan, but I get tired of all the endless comparisons between it and American football. They think we're a bunch of sissies because we wear pads and helmets.

The Brits are weird about sports, but you have to love a country that has topless darts on television.

tadthebad said...

Regarding Arsenal and Man U as the Yanks/Sox of the Premier League: does Arsenal sell cool pink hats and play Neil Diamond during halftime? I think not.

You've got a lot to learn, Arsenal.

Anonymous said...


Craig, I think the Yankees/Red Sox analogy is better captured by Man Utd/Liverpool, although lately it's been Man Utd/Chelsea.

Arsenal had to build a big stadium to get into the same money universe as the other "big" clubs, and they still have several years to go to pay the debt on that stadium. That's a big reason Arsenal couldn't hold the Premier League top spot: lack of depth, and the inability to go buy that depth.

Are you amazed at the number of comments on the soccer post?

Craig Calcaterra said...

Quite amazed, actually. Although I've found that some of most unlikely topics generate a lot of posts. I think this has something to do with untapped demand for various subjects. I mean, everyone and their brother is running something about the Joba-to-the-rotation story, so if that's your thing and you need a fix, the options are limited.

Baseball fans who are closet soccer fanatics? They're going to pounce when the opportunity arises.

Pete Toms said...

Ken D, I'm a fan of Stuff White People Like also.

Voros McCracken said...

On Diving,

IMO, "diving" is another issue where the English influence on American soccer is really pernicious. The English view a dive as "any circumstance where a guy fell down when he didn't have to." To me a dive is when you fall down without actually being touched. When you fall down after contact, you're simply alerting the ref that you've been fouled. It's making sure cynical and rough play gets punished (something that's a real problem at all levels below the Prem in England).

By trying to crack down on "divers," the sport really loses focus on what it needs to crack down on: the lesser talented players getting away with repeated fouling against the game's talents. This country is full of Eddie Robinsons and Ben Olsens, guys who will work hard and do whatever it takes to win. But just like Barry Bonds is superior to David Eckstein, these guys can't compare to the Cristiano Ronaldos and Kakas of the world.