Good Bye, Pep

Pep Guardiola has announced that he will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.  This is not a shock; in fact, I would have been surprised if he had chosen to stay.  He seems completely drained, and he needs to recharge his battery.   That will not happen at Barcelona.

So, I wish you much success wherever you go and whatever you do next, Pep.  You brought Barcelona its greatest period of glory, and you will always be a legend.  A toast to you, Pep; you deserve it.

They Should Know Better, But…

I have often wondered whether football clubs employ only people with no sense or if only people with no sense try to get jobs at football clubs.  Time after time, clubs, particularly very wealthy clubs, go after players who had already proved that despite their talent, their tenures would inevitably end badly.  Manchester City is probably the most egregious recent example with Robinho, Tevez and Balotelli all coming and exploding in spectacular fashion.  City is not the only offender though; off the top of my head I can think of very prominent flops at Barcelona and AC Milan, and there are many more (Brazilian clubs are equally bad).  I could have called every single one of those failures (and often did) even with my limited football experience.  How come if I can see it, then people who spend their lives around the game cannot?

Liverpool FC is definitely run by the football foolish.  Not just for the Suarez/racism debacle, or for overspending for untested players simply because they are British, or for letting the fans make the important decisions, or for keeping Kenny Dalglish as coach even though he hadn’t been a coach in about two decades.  Liverpool’s follies could fill an entire book let alone one paragraph of one blog post.

But this story caught my eye.  Now that Damien Comolli is no longer the director of football at Liverpool, owner John W. Henry is considering none other than Johan Cruyff.  Yes, that one.  Now in fairness, this is a story that came out of Soccernet (that most reliable of sources), and even according to the story Cruyff is not the only man under consideration.  Among the others under consideration are Louis van Gaal and Txiki Begiristain (both of whom, like Cruyff, have a Barcelona connection).  But Cruyff is the standout name.  He would be an utter disaster.

Now you may be thinking about Cruyff’s admirable record as coach and wondering if I am crazy.  He had some success with Ajax in the mid-80’s and then brought Barcelona to its greatest pre-Guardiola era ever.  Under Cruyff Barcelona won its first European Cup.  He gave Barcelona Guardiola.  More importantly, he instilled his philosophy in Barcelona, a philosophy that two decades later birthed this current team of legends.  In some ways, this is a good position for him; as director of football, most of his glaring managerial deficiencies such as hubris and a lack of tactical acumen (ironic given his role in Total Football) would not be an issue.

But Cruyff is still wrong for Liverpool for one simple reason: his ego.  Now there are other good reasons he would be awful: his dedication, his temperament, his lack of recent experience (apparently not a problem for Liverpool), the fact that his philosophy doesn’t fit in to the English/British game, his dislike of the English/British game, and the fact that his philosophy requires a long view and patience which do not jibe well with the modern money-based, instant gratification game of the present day.  Sure Liverpool need some kind of change, but Cruyff’s vision is too radical.

But it is his ego that will ensure he is a horrible fit for Liverpool.  Cruyff is a very cranky old man who demands nothing short of total devotion, and he takes umbrage and vengeance against those who oppose him.  Ask the former Ajax board of directors.  If Liverpool were willing to cede him total control than maybe, just maybe, it would be a workable fit.  But that is never going to happen, and Kenny Dalglish is the reason.  At Ajax and Barcelona, Cruyff is a legend, almost a deity, and was before he managed the clubs.  What would he be at Liverpool where he never had any connections?  And what happens when he inevitably clashes with Dalglish, whose philosophy is almost the complete polar opposite of Cruyff’s?  When push comes to shove, the fans will choose King Kenny over Cruyff every time.  And the fans control at Liverpool.  If Cruyff becomes director of football, it will be a miracle if he lasts a year.

Cruyff at Liverpool is insanity.  The foolish delusions of a senseless old man who refuses to accept reality.  In other words, the exact kind of person that a football club hires.

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And speaking of foolish old men, Pele has spoken again, and that is never a good thing.  Because Pele is a jealous god, he cannot handle the plaudits that Lionel Messi receives week in and week out.  This is not a new thing, and I’ve written about it before.  Pele’s latest dart is that Messi is not only not the greatest player ever, he’s not even as good a player as Neymar (who plays for Pele’s old club Santos.  What are the odds?).  Never mind that Neymar himself would say that Messi is better right now–no doubt all the more so since the humbling of Santos at the Club World Cup.

Because Pele had an opinion, it was inevitable that Maradona would get involved to (1) defend Messi and (2) attack Pele.  Maradona called Pele “stupid” because El Diego has such a way with words.  Messi v. Neymar is really just another way to have Pele v. Maradona Round MIV.  It’s the song that never ends.

If It’s On The Internet, It Must Be True

I’m famous!  Well, sort of.  Actually, not really.  But this blog is now officially a source for Wikipedia.  Apparently, some kind soul used my humble post about Rita Wilson’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are as a source for Wilson’s Wikipedia entry. In case it gets taken down, I have proof that it was once there.

 

Rita Wilson Wikipedia Page References

As Rita Wilson goes, so goes Helen Hunt.

 

 

So whoever you are anonymous Wikipedia editor, I thank you.  And may it take several days before the Wiki Powers-That-Be realize that I am probably not a good authoritative source.

Magical Marta

It’s been some time since I wrote about Marta, who has moved back to Sweden, although she is now with Tyresö.  I was under no delusions that she was going to stay given that when she left the WPS was hanging by a thread.  I have regrets that she left but no anger.  Marta paid her dues; it was the league (and the public at large) that couldn’t keep up its end of the bargain.

Back in Sweden, Marta is doing what Marta does best.  Watch the video.  It’s the second goal (although you don’t need me to tell you that). The question is not whether any female player has ever been able to play like Marta; no one has.  The real question is how long it will take before another player can do something like this in the post-Marta world.  (After all, how long did it take after Maradona for Messi to appear?)

Edie Falco, Who Do You Think You Are?

“These people actually existed.  It makes it much more real, and it’s hard not to feel emotional about it.”

~Edie Falco

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Because I watched this episode at my parents’ house, and because they, unlike me, have a digital video recorder, I had the advantage of watching this week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are without having to pay any attention to the commercials.  Apparently, to compensate for my ability to skip over advertisements, both Ancestry.com and Apple upped the ante with in-show product placements.  There was the Ancestry plug (7 minutes in), the other screenshots of Ancestry, and an iPad that Edie Falco carried around with her.  Had I bothered with commercials I wonder if I would have seen an ad informing the public that the 1940 census was at Ancestry, while the government site crashed.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again; this show would work far better on a network like the BBC or PBS.  I think it would be more fun if it were on non-commercial television too.  PBS does have its own genealogy show, Finding Your Roots.  Finding Your Roots is a better show for introducing genealogical research, but it’s like broccoli; good for you, but no fun.  At its heart though, Finding Your Roots is yet another Skip Gates vanity project.  Who Do You Think You Are may be the candy of the genealogical world, it may be nonsensical, it may be frustrating to the point where I scream at my television, but at least I want to watch it again (usually).  A non-commercial network would make what it generally an enjoyable show a great one.  (And Finding Your Roots is also big on the product placement, particularly with 23andMe, a DNA testing company that I am extremely suspicious of.)

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Edie Falco is a wonderful actress.  Ever since I saw her Carmela Soprano, I have loved her.  Nevertheless, the episode itself was not the most thrilling of the season.  It’s hard to say that because if anyone on this show understands the lure of genealogy it is Falco.  Her statement that I quoted above and her question regarding whether family tree research is merely about bloodlines or about something more (her children are adopted), it shows that she cares and that she gets it.  Nevertheless, there was something about this episode that felt slightly off.  Like there was a major story that got bypassed somehow.

In the beginning of the episode, Falco, the child of divorced parents, noted that she did not know her mother’s family well and had very little contact with her extended relatives while growing up.  Her mother however, had a beautiful handmade family tree that detailed her own mother’s (Ruth Megrath) family tree.  Ruth Megrath was the daughter of George and Florence Megrath, and on the tree was an interesting tidbit: Megrath was the maiden name of George’s mother.  His father’s name was Brown, and George’s mother left Mr. Brown and, with George, emigrated to the United States (from Wales).  Falco wanted to know why George’s mother left his father.

The first place that Falco went to was the New York Public Library where she looked at the 1920 US census.  (One wonders why she needed to go to New York just to look at the census, since all she did was use Ancestry’s collection.)  There she discovered that George was born not in Wales, but in Wisconsin.  Additionally, his mother was born in the United States and his father in England.  Falco was surprised that her family tree was wrong and set off to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to discover the rest of the story.

At this point, I want to advise all amateur genealogists.  If you go on to Ancestry, there is a good possibility that you will find some unsourced tree that goes back multiple generations, possibly centuries.  You will think, “Hallelujah, the work has all been done!  Look at how many ancestors I can trace.”  Caveat emptor.  Ancestry trees are notoriously unreliable.  Unless you do the work yourself or can validate the source material of another’s tree, take nothing as truth.  It is entirely possible that someone somewhere made a mistake (or twenty), like the one that belonged to Edie Falco’s mother.

In Wisconsin, Falco went to the All Saints Episcopal Church where she found the baptismal record of her great-grandfather George Megrath, who was originally George Brown.  George’s mother was Mary Megrath Brown and his father was Charles Childs Brown.  Charles Brown was present at the baptism.

Falco found in old city directories that Charles was an apprentice at a local paper.  But Brown was not in Wisconsin for long.  In 1885, seven years after George’s birth, he was in Little Falls, Minnesota (listed as C.C. Brown).  A little further research revealed to Falco that Brown started the first paper in the nearby town of Royalton, Minnesota.  He did not stay in the area for long; Brown moved out to Duluth where he died.  An article was presented to Falco from Duluth from 1892 which said that George Megrath (now living in Albany) had died in a streetcar accident.  Like with her relative’s family tree, Falco knew that this news article was incorrect.

Looking into the Albany connection, Falco found an article about a Sister Kathryn (Catherine) Brown (Episcopal not Catholic) who died intestate in 1902 in nearby Troy, New York.  (My ears perked up.  I have great affinity for Troy.)  This was Charles’s mother, and because Charles had already died, George Megrath showed up to claim her estate.  From this information, Falco learned that George was actually the eldest of Charles Brown’s children.  Charles and Mary divorced in 1878 when George was two, and Charles remarried (and divorced) two more times and had three more children.  The researcher who informed Falco about Charles’s later life said that as a newspaper man, Charles was probably an alcoholic and also probably very difficult to live with.  (Thankfully, there was no attempts to whitewash him.  Falco accepted that he was human and flawed.)

Falco turned her attention to Sister Kathryn Brown (her 3rd great-grandmother), and from the 1900 Census, she learned that Kathryn was born at sea to English parents.  That Kathryn was born at sea interested Falco.  Rather than go to Troy, Falco went to London where Charles was born.  In London, Falco found a record of Charles’s birth; he was born to Kathryn Kindley (and William Brown, who was not mentioned in the episode, but I saw the birth certificate).  Looking for Kathryn in the 1841 UK census, Falco found that Kathryn (Kate) was living with an older woman named Childs who was probably her grandmother.  Kate’s parents were not listed.  She also learned that Kate was born in Cornwall, specifically Penzance.  And yes, Edie Falco made the appropriate Gilbert & Sullivan reference.  (This is probably where the Wales story came from; both Wales and Cornwall are peninsulas in the West of England, both have a Celtic connection, and both the Welsh and the Cornish have very thick and distinct accents.)

In Penzance, Falco discovered that Kate Kindley was the daughter of Ralph and Dorothy Childs Kindly.  Ralph was a master mariner (a sea captain), which was a good job, but it kept him at sea for long stretches at a time.  From an 1833 newspaper article, Falco learned that Dorothy Kindley died; her daughter was two.

The next researcher that Falco met took her on a ship to explain to her all about the life of a master mariner, and he suggested that Dorothy was probably used to being on a ship.  The researcher showed Falco the documents he found, one a copy of Lloyd’s List from which he was able to determine that Kate was probably born on the Lord Cochrane which was en route to New Orleans.  He also showed Falco letters of administration from the New York Surrogate’s Court from October 1840, which showed that on July 20 of that year, en route from the Coast of Africa to New York, Ralph Kindley died from a fever.  He was probably buried at sea.

And thus the episode ends with Edie Falco aboard a ship sailing on the middle of the ocean.

Next time is Rob Lowe although that won’t be for a few weeks.

[Edit:  If you are interested in the Child/Kindley family history that was researched in this episode, this site is an incredibly thorough and detailed.]

Spanish Fly

When I first started following football, the English Premier League was on top the world.  Most of the best players played in the EPL, and English clubs dominated the Champions League.  Three of the four would regularly appears in the Champions League semifinals.  This culminated in the 2008 Moscow final when Manchester United beat Chelsea.

That final, it turned out, was the beginning of the end for EPL dominance.  In hindsight the change came a couple of months later when a Xavi-led (and Raul-less) Spain won the 2008 Euro in spectacular fashion.  Around the same time, Barcelona’s coach Frank Rijkaard was sacked.  This ushered in the Pep Guardiola era, and the rest is history.

As Barcelona won trophies at an unprecedented rate, its eternal enemy Real Madrid got very jealous and scared and did what it always does when faced with a problem: throw money at it.  Madrid acquired arguably the best player in Italy (Kaka) and the best player in England (Cristiano Ronaldo) and when buying expensive players wasn’t enough, Madrid got the man who the media claim is the best coach in the world (Jose Mourinho).  Barcelona for their part doubled down on their Cruyffian philosophy and put more energy into the youth academy system with the occasional purchase, both good (e.g., Sanchez, Fabregas, Villa) and bad (e.g., Ibrahimovic, Chygrynskiy, Hleb).

As the arms race between Barcelona and Madrid escalates to an almost nuclear level, it is unquestionable that the best two teams in the world are in Spain (save for the occasional “Tuesday night in Stoke” comment, the other remark that Andy Gray will never live down).  In denial fans of the EPL tried a new tactic to prove how superior their league is.  It goes something like this, “Well maybe there are two great teams in Spain, but the rest are lousy, so it’s really just the Scottish league on steroids, and therefore boring.”  Even people who should have known better (I’m looking at you, Sid Lowe), repeated this fiction as though it were gospel.

As it turns out, this year’s two European competitions have completely undercut this argument.  Yes, Barcelona and Madrid are still the best of the best, but it turns out that the rest of Spain isn’t all that bad either.  Advancing to the semifinals of the Europa League today were Atletico Madrid, Valencia, and Athletic Bilbao.  The latter club beat up on Manchester United in the last round in thrilling, Barcelona-esque fashion.  Who knew that Athletic could do that?  Certainly not the English.

So to recap, in this year’s two European competition, five of the eight remaining clubs are Spanish, the top four players in the world play in Spain, eight of the top 20 players in the world play for Barcelona, the defending Champions League and World Club Cup champion is from Spain, the Euro and World Cup champion is Spain, Spain is the top ranked nation in the FIFA rankings, and very shortly it will be the top ranked national league according to the UEFA coefficient.

Maybe Barcelona and Madrid rule the roost, but right now the also-rans in Spain are superior to the best of everywhere else.