Straight From The Horse’s Ass

The cancer that is Ricardo Teixeira, the head of the CBF (the Brazilian football association) has said that he will not speak to the English media because it is corrupt.

Pot, meet Kettle.

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The Return Of The Cosmos

Next Friday is Manchester United’s testimonial for the great Paul Scholes.  The opponent will be the New York Cosmos.  Now if you are like me you may be asking yourself, does the Cosmos still exist?  The answer is, not really.  As far as I can tell, the Cosmos is an old name and youth football.  The–rather uninspiring– Cosmos roster for the Scholes testimonial comprises of some of these youth players and big retired names (some of whom being former United players who came through the ranks with Scholes.)  The “Cosmos” is the first American team to ever play at Old Trafford.  I weep and so should all MLS fans.

Former United legend Eric Cantona is the Cosmos’s “director of soccer.”  Again, if you are like me you may be wondering why crazy, insane Eric Cantona, a man who has given absolutely no indication that he knows anything about being a director, got that position.  Or what connection he has to the New York Cosmos.  I have no good answer for that beyond the cynical.  Ask the seagulls.

And speaking of the seagulls, this new incarnation of the Cosmos is completely media-driven.  I know of no fans who want the Cosmos back, yet I listen to Cosmos paeans on World Football Daily or I read articles like this or this, and I think to myself, am I just crazy?  Fans of MLS deride those of us who prefer the European game as “Euro snobs,” and I suppose they have a point.  One should support one’s own league. (Of course, do these critics support WPS?)  Of course, around the world many leagues have the exact same problem in that fans prefer the major European leagues to their own local one, so the MLS is not special in that respect.  People want to follow the best product.

But whenever the Cosmos is mentioned, I am glad that the league I support is across the ocean.  This kind of insanity would not happen in a league that is confident in its own product.  The Cosmos is all smoke and mirrors.  There is no team; it is just a name.  Yet, already Cantona and Pele are involved and no doubt David Beckham will be too if it ever gets off the ground (Beckham is the type of celebrity who would go to the opening of an envelope.)  By involved, what I mean is that the Cosmos gives Cantona and Pele a paycheck to show up every once in a while and make a push for the Cosmos to enter MLS.  That is why they are director of football and honorary president respectively.

Despite the best attempts of the media and some wealthy investors, MLS is not exactly clamoring for a second cross-town rivalry. Chivas USA/Galaxy does not make for scintillating entertainment.  There are not enough fans in New York City to support two teams, and Red Bull fans, such as they are, are not really excited about the return of the Cosmos.  Despite what Goal.com would have you believe, the return of the Cosmos will not help the Red Bulls.

I understand that MLS is doing respectably and the league wants to expand to places that do not have a football team.  It seems wrong that New York should get a second team when legitimate soccer towns like St. Louis have none.  Why not Atlanta?  Or Detroit?  Or somewhere in the Southwest which could tap into the immigrant communities?  (Miami is trying to get another team even after the Fusion folded, but Miami is the absolute worst place for non-American football sports?)

Forced rivalries that no one cares about is not going to fill seats (see: Chivas USA/Galaxy).  In contrast, Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver are all relatively new to MLS, but those three teams have battled each other for years and have created the league’s most compelling rivalry.  MLS is desperate to capitalize on a New York/Los Angeles rivalry because those are the two biggest media markets, but fans have been stubbornly resistant, and with good reason.  Regional rivalries are the bread-and-butter of MLS.  A fan can travel to away games, and American sports generally favor regional rivalries (especially in league play.)  Americans don’t really do cross-town derbies or cross-country ones.

Back to the Cosmos.  One of the media’s tropes about the Cosmos is that they still have worldwide name recognition despite not having played since 1984 or so.  Frankly that says more about how poorly American soccer is seen than praise for the Cosmos.  The reason the Cosmos are so recognized is that some of history’s greats played for cosmos, including Pele, Carlos Alberto, and Beckenbauer.  A new Cosmos will not have name players, just faded glory and overpaid, uninterested, honorary administrators.  When Pele left the Cosmos, the popularity of the franchise, and NASL as a whole, took a nosedive.  The Cosmos was keeping NASL afloat.  The massive names that were the attraction of NASL (also including players as famous as Best and Cruyff), were also a big part of the decline.  That includes Pele.

The Cosmos is not a panacea for MLS.  A Cosmos/Galaxy rivalry, although it sounds stellar, is not going to turn the unenthused into diehard fans.  Let the Cosmos remain in history, and let MLS build its own Cosmos-free legacy.

An Appreciation

Tonight the Republican leadership was unable to pass its own debt-ceiling bill.  This was a bill that was hated by every Democrat in Washington, and still the Republican leadership could not convince the lunatics in their asylum.  The United States economy (and therefore the world economy) is perilously close to collapse come August 2.  This is acknowledged by sane people across the political spectrum even if the Congressional Republicans and the Tea Party refuse to see it.  But the Republican leadership could not pass the bill.  Speaker of the House John Boehner looks very weak right now as he failed to pass a bill that was too conservative even for a weak-willed Democratic Senate and President Barack Obama.

But that’s not what I want to focus on.  The Republican spectrum in the current House runs the gamut from very conservative to Know-Nothing conservative.  In other words, there is very little in the way of ideological difference, just degree.  When the Democrats had control of Congress from 2007-2010, the ideological spectrum of the Democratic Representatives was much more vast, ranging from extremely conservative to extremely liberal.  Yet, among the bills the House leadership got passed (even if the Senate did not follow) were the stimulus bill, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a Child Nutrition Act, a law that lets the FDA regulate tobacco, a major reform of health care (with a public option), a major reform of Wall Street, a jobs bill, stronger hate crimes legislation, a health and compensation bill for Ground Zero workers, the DREAM Act, a restructuring of student loans, the Waxman-Markey energy/emissions bill, and SCHIP.

This is not a comprehensive list by any stretch.  Every one of those bill came about between the beginning of 2009 and the end of 2010.

The point is that despite the large and often contentious ideological spectrum that the Democratic leadership had to contend with, they still managed to pass monumental, potentially nation-changing legislation.  This is why, despite only being in office for four years, many of us consider Nancy Pelosi to be one of the most effective Speakers of the House ever, up there with Sam Rayburn.  Unfortunately, while Rayburn had Lyndon Johnson as the Senate Majority Leader, Pelosi had Harry Reid.

Nevertheless, as evidenced by Boehner, being Speaker does not guarantee that you can keep your party in line.  That Pelosi was able to it over and over again for such major bill deserves major appreciation (and also credit to Steny Hoyer, her once bitter rival, turned effective partner.)  Here’s to Nancy Pelosi, the once and hopefully future Speaker of the House.