November 19, 2009 / / Thoughts
Happier World Cup days for Titi
Happier World Cup days for Titi

Thierry Henry handled the ball. We all know that. The rules state that you cannot do that. If you do do that, there are punishments to be handed down. Those punishments are also in the rules. Others are saying, basically, “What boggles the mind is that there are people who are disputing whether or not he handled the ball” but I’m just going to throw this out there: I’ve seen no one make that claim. Not even Thierry Henry.

Whatever you previously thought of Thierry Henry and whatever you think of him now, it’s fairly obvious that he’ll be ridiculed for a while and no doubt reviled in Ireland. I hope he’s already visited there because I don’t see him getting a visa now. The thing is, holding it against him personally is pretty silly. Do you hold Maradona’s Hand of God goal against him, treating him as a “cheat” instead of a visionary player? Sure, he sucks as a coach, but it’s doubtful anyone really holds that handball against him some 20 years on. Maybe a couple of people in England, but really, who cares at this point? Read MoreHandballs and Hindsight Calls: The Thierry Henry Story

November 19, 2009 / / Thoughts

I’m going to begin this piece by saying what some of you already know, but for those who don’t: I love Les Bleus. I picked them to go all the way in 2006, and I will pick them again in 2010 (hey, that rhymed). I was thrilled when the goal was scored in extra time yesterday, actually screaming and falling off my office chair. There was even a big ‘ol lump in my throat from the joy, a joy tainted with sadness because this meant that Ruh-Roh Dumbassnech would remain as the France coach.

Then I saw the replay of the goal.

And I didn’t feel like crying any more. I wanted to hide my head in shame as a surrogate for Thierry Henry.
Read MoreBile and vituperaion, a.k.a. “L’Affaire Henry”

November 16, 2009 / / Statistics
Nate Silver: Rock Star
Nate Silver: Rock Star

I like Nate Silver. I read his political blog virtually every day and followed it religiously during the 2008 presidential election cycle here in the US. He’s a man who knows his statistics and also his sports: he writes for Baseball Prospectus and uses more decimals than I do. A lot more. So yeah, I like Nate Silver and when I learned that he was involved in ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI), I was pretty excited. After all, Nate has a bigger brain than I do and maybe I would be able to learn a few things about approaching football/soccer statistically.

Nate’s article is here. The actual SPI rankings are here and you can the full methodology here. You can read about how smart the guy is here. Read MorePandora’s Box: Statistics in Football

November 14, 2009 / / Thoughts
Hey, slick! Guardian says you're coach of the year!
Hey, slick! Guardian says you're coach of the year!

–Coach of the Year. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? UK paper (and a darned respectable one) Guardian says that our very own Pep Guardiola is their coach of the year. He has, and I quote, “The young Barcelona coach has quietly turned a team of underachievers into world-beaters.”

And so he has.
Read MoreNews, Saturday edition

November 13, 2009 / / Team News
Just don't get hurt....just don't....

It was July 9, 2006 and I was standing in the viewing room of the French consulate in Chicago, weeping alongside a room full of other fans of Les Bleus. Yes, I had won the Chicago Tribune’s World Cup pool by betting my heart (Les Bleus all the way, as I will bet again this time out, if they make it.) rather than my mind, because I just knew.

I knew that Zinedine Zidane had one more magical tournament in him. That Patrick Vieira would be able to hold down the midfield, Yaya-style, while Zidane sashayed about on his Xavi-esque flights of fancy, giant feet flapping and distributing. I knew that Thierry Henry had more magical goals in him.

I just knew.
Read MoreIt’s Internationals time again, a.k.a. “Fear and loathing”

November 12, 2009 / / Team News

In MemoriamFirst, a bit of sadness: as has been noted before in the comments as well as in the newspapers, former Barça keeper Robert Enke died on Tuesday before our match with Cultural, leading to a moment of silence. Enke was a keeper, born in Jena, Germany in 1977. He played very sparingly for Barça during his time with team, only make 4 total appearances, none of which were very successful (in fact, he played in a Copa del Rey match that ended with Barça losing to Novelda CF of the Segunda B and Enke being blamed for the loss by many). He went on loan to Fenerbahçe and Tenerife, but despite some success there, he was not recalled to FCB and he moved to Hannover, where he was still playing at the time of his death.

From what I understand, he committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train after battling with depression for many years as well as the loss of his two-year old daughter to heart complications. Tragedies such as these remind us that sporting success is fleeting compared to the value of a human life and that despite their superhuman endeavors in the athletic sphere, the people we watch on a daily basis are as human as we are and face many of the same issues and troubles that the wider population faces. They are not perfect and it would do us all a bit of good to remember that once in a while and to try and understand the various pressures we put on professional athletes that we’ve never met and will never understand.

You can check out a brief biography of Enke as a Barça player over on webdelcule. Read MoreNews and Notes: November 12, 2009

November 11, 2009 / / Thoughts
And the winner is...
And the winner is...

Before we handle other things on this fine Veteran’s Day here in the US, let’s go ahead and tackle the idea that The Yaya is about leave. I’ve been getting emails from a few of you and links in the comments section to various articles from around the globe, all of which are about how our beloved behemoth is Blighty bound.

The likelihood of that happening is hard to say, of course, because none of us has a conduit into the mind and soul of The Yaya, but I think we can use perspective to understand a bit more what is going on.

Now, let’s go ahead and get to the articles themselves. There’s this one from, which claims, among other things, that it’s the lack of playing time that’s getting to The Yaya. Read MoreThe Yaya and the Rumor Mill

November 9, 2009 / / Thoughts
November 8, 2009 / / Barcelona
Hi, ladies. Check out this thigh. Nice, right?
Hi, ladies. Check out this thigh. Nice, right?

So you’re at this party in a gorgeous house, and the staff passing the drinks and snacks are supermodels. The music is perfect, and you’re having a great time. But there, on the corner of a rug that probably costs more than you make in a year, is a dog turd. It’s a little one, and nobody is really noticing it.

At least, they’re not actively acting as if they’re noticing it. And suddenly, you begin to notice other things …. that supermodel has nose hair, that other one has a sway back, you have a better music mix on your music player, if you really want the truth of it …. and so it goes.

And you’re cranky, because you should be having the time of your life but thanks to that little turd on the Bokhara, a little luster is gone.
Read MoreBarca 4, Mallorca 2, a.k.a. “Next time, don’t wear white.”

November 4, 2009 / / Team News

Ye gods, there’s a lot going on in the world, such as:

Strike? A strike? Labor action by a bunch of pampered, overpaid athletes?

You betcha.

There is more assuredly precedent, at least in America, so people shouldn’t be horrified by such things if you know your sports history. But the prospect of no La Liga because of tax issues, frankly put, has my bloomers all in a bunch.

But my bloomers wouldn’t be the only ones in a bunch. Thong Boy, for example, would probably have his string turn into a cowlick, so high would his dudgeon be. Why? Because if the Spanish government has its way, the tax rate for furriners would rise to to 43 percent, from 24 percent.

Starting in 2010.
Read MoreThe news, Match Day edition

October 31, 2009 / / La Liga
Um .... sorry 'bout that. No really .... so sorry.
Um .... sorry 'bout that. No really .... so sorry.

Yes, I want it huge. I want everyone to be able to return to this post, look at this picture and remember how it feels when we don’t play as a team, when we let a match that we should have won going away, slip away. Yes, it was a draw, but for me it feels like a loss. It certainly was celebrated like a win down in Osasuna, which is the story of the Barca life. A team will kill themselves just to draw with us, and we aren’t matching fire with fire.
Read MoreOsasuna 1, Barca 1, a.k.a. “Who actually wants to kiss their sister?”

October 30, 2009 / / Team News
In case you were wondering who I am
In case you were wondering who I am

So Thierry Henry is the best player in the world right now? Well he is according to the Castrol FIFA Rankings system, a complicated edifice that involves enough numbers to make even Isaiah tremble in terror, voodoo, live chickens and a chipmunk. It doesn’t bother weighting all that stuff that we fans value, such as clutch performances, match-winning efforts, etc, etc.

And you throw all that stuff into a hat, fire up a supercomputer or two, and out comes a numerical ranking that rates the best players across the top 5 leagues in Europe.
Read MoreNot the News, a.k.a. “Surprise edition” UPDATE