Corruption Isn’t The Only Problem At FIFA

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


It is no secret that FIFA is corrupt and under investigation. With their election coming up in a few weeks 60 Minutes took the time to remind us just how bad and almost comical it is.

FIFA on 60 Minutes

The sad thing about this is that corruption isn’t the only issue facing FIFA. Sexism is a major issue as well.

Former President Sepp Blatter, who is now banned and under investigation in a couple of countries, once said that women could ‘have tighter shorts’ when asked on how to promote the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

FIFA has also been accused of not taking racism seriously enough. While it will implement racism monitoring at 2018 World Cup Qualifiers, many feel FIFA hasn’t gone far enough in discouraging the practice of racism in the game.

So when you see something about the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, or UFC just remember….it’s not as bad as FIFA.

Lessons From Soccer

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

By now you have probably seen or at least heard about Paul George’s horrific injury during a scrimmage for USA Basketball last weekend. It’s an injury that will probably keep George out an entire season and one that raises the question, should NBA players be playing international basketball? Mark Cuban doesn’t think so. However players do it in other sports like soccer.

Paul George

While it is a very tough blow to George’s regular team, the Indiana Pacers, something like this could have happened regardless. It’s a risk that is taken anytime someone competes. It could have happened to George while practicing at home. Heck, the Buffalo Bills lost a key defensive player for the year as he prepared for the upcoming season.

International tournaments are not unique to basketball. The biggest international competition of all just took place in Brazil. Soccer players have been playing in international tournaments like the World Cup since the sports inception and most of the time they play qualifiers during their club teams season.

Some may say that a middle ground might be for NBA teams to have a say in which of their players can participate in international tournaments but there again you can find precedent in soccer. On occasion club teams do not release their plays to play for their country for various reasons. Most of the time it is because a friendly falls during the club’s preseason. From the club teams  point of view it’s a game that doesn’t matter because no qualification is on the line.

While George’s injury is unfortunate it in all likelihood will not stop NBA players from playing for Team USA on the international stage. Mark Cuban may not like it but it’s true. Other sports are able to pull it off and while it’s not perfect it does seem to work.

At Least Keep Your Dignity

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

With the 2014 World Cup wrapping up a lot of people will look back and remember different things. Whether the goals by Robin Van Persie and Tim Cahill or the run by Costa Rica or the biting incident. Everyone will remember something. Most people though may just remember how Brazil and their fans couldn’t lose with dignity.

There apparently is crying in soccer, at least for the fans of Brazil’s national team. Images were plastered around the globe as Brazil gave up five goals in under twenty minutes to the German national team in the World Cup semifinals. People young and old were shown as if a member of their family died when in reality their team just gave up.

The kicker to this is the players afterwards crying. David Luiz gave a tearful interview apologizing to the fans. Apologies are one thing, not stepping up and going down swinging is another.

The fact is Brazil was beatable and was living on borrowed time. Germany exposed that fact. Yes Brazil was without their captain and best defender Thiago Silva and their superstar Neymar but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that no one from the team stepped up when they went down. No one fought back. No one challenged the Germans. Either they were in shock at what was happening or no one had the gaul to step up and be a leader. It was, in a word, shameful.

Teams get behind early all the time in all sports but all is not lost. Take Liverpool’s comeback in the Champions League final in 2005. Down 3-0 at halftime Steven Gerrard put the team on his back and helped lead them to a win via a shootout.

Another example is the 2006 AFC Championship game where the Indianapolis Colts were down 21-6 at the half to their kryptonite, the New England Patriots. Peyton Manning refuses to lose and leads the Colts to not only a 38-34 win but also a Super Bowl victory two weeks later.

The point is that big players step up in big games, even when they’re down. No one from Brazil did that and most of these players play for big clubs around the world. In the end it may not of mattered as Germany poured on two more goals but at least those players could have walked off the pitch with their head held high knowing that they battled to the end. Brazil’s players can take no such solace.

On another note, if you’re a fan of Brazil, don’t cry be upset! Be upset at the eleven players on the pitch who gave up. And for the adults who were shown on TV crying with over an hour left to play, cowboy up. It’s one thing of a child to be crying but you adults no better. Have some dignity.

Advice on how you should be after a huge loss:

Andy Roddick after losing in the 2007 Australian Open

Jim Mora Press Conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Loss, Another Win – Part 2

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

‘A tie is like kissing your sister’

Anyone over the age of 30 in America heard this term a lot growing up. Traditional American sports (baseball, football, basketball) don’t have ties or draws. At the end of a game there is a definitive winner and loser. No points are garnered to go along with the win either. In other words it’s not like soccer where a draw can be viewed as a win.

Around the globe where where soccer is, usually, the number one sport, draws are not always bad things. Why? You still get a point vs zero points for a loss. Obviously a team always wants a win and the three points but if a team is on the road in a tough environment then a single point can sometimes be a victory. For the home team three points is a given. If they come away with a draw it’s almost like a loss. It’s still a point but they left two points on the table. There is where the ambiguity comes in.

Americans and the media don’t do well with that.

Take the US National Team in the World Cup. They went 1-2-1 overall for a total of four points. All those points came in their first two matches and that was enough to help them advance to the knockout stage where they lost a heartbreaker to Belgium. This is seen as a success in the eyes of many including the media and non soccer fans.

Still, a lot of Americans don’t care for the soccer and probably never will. Why? Because ‘a tie is like kissing your sister’ perspective. There is too much ambiguity in the sport for them. Some couldn’t understand how the US could advance when they only won one game. Some would ask, ‘shouldn’t they have to win all three to advance?’

When MLS first started in 1996 they tried to avoid draws by having shootouts decide games. They dumped it a few years later because it alienated traditional soccer fans and didn’t gain any new ones.

Look at it from another perspective.

September 2, 1945. The formal surrender of Japan to the US that took place on the deck of the USS Missouri. April 30, 1975 was the fall of Saigon. Definitive ends to conflicts. Contrast those two events with the ‘War on Terror’. A conflict which will probably never have a definitive ending.

We are by no means trying to compare soccer to warfare. We are just trying to give some background about American psychology.

With draws, it is a matter of perspective. While both teams receive points and usually a team ‘lost’ points. In the end the points are what matter but a positive takeaway on a draw by a team could be just as important. Look at the US National Team. One point against Portugal was good enough to help them to get through to the next round but it felt kind of like a loss because they played so well and Portugal had to steal a goal at the end just to get a draw.

While liking and disliking something is a personal preference or choice it is influenced by those around you. For a very long time the preference or choice was to have a clear cut winner and loser in American sports. Now that’s changing. Americans are becoming ok with draw because they are beginning to see the bigger picture. They are looking at the right metric. A point is a point. Yeah three would be nice but one is still better than none. With that change comes an opportunity for soccer to elevate its profile in America. While soccer may never be ‘big’ in America it can certainly be a very viable product and with that should come a different perspective on the world at large.

 

 

 

Another Loss, Another Win

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The USA is out of the 2014 World Cup. While their run was a success it seems that the American media still doesn’t get it. While they celebrate the efforts of the team, and in particular goalkeeper Tim Howard, they still ask the question, ‘will soccer ever be big in America?’

Very quickly on Team USA. Back to back appearances in the road of 16 is something to be proud of. While the argument can be made that the US should have gone deeper into the tournament it is clear that the team continues to get better each and every World Cup. Yes, Howard was amazing against Belgium but do not overlook the work done by Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckermann and Fabian Johnson. Add in youngsters like Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin contributing like they did and things are looking up for the Gold Cup and the next round of World Cup qualifying not to mention 2018.

Yet from CBS to ESPN, media anchors and producers continue to bang the drum and remind people that soccer isn’t the NFL, but it’s big in the rest of the world. They also ask the question, ‘what will it take for soccer to be big in America?’ It already is folks.

How? Lets take some metrics. While we didn’t painstakingly go back and count how many live shots there were from Brazil or how many mentions of the World Cup or Team USA there were across all the media outlets, the fact is that there was a lot. Most of those mentions were positive too.

Then there are the ratings. Some 23 million Americans watched the USA v Belgium match on TV and online Tuesday afternoon. That doesn’t count group events like bars, offices, and the thousands that showed up at viewing parties like the one at Soldier Field. 

Yet outlets and pundits continue to doubt. Keith Olbermann the other night on his show complained that American’s should use American terminology and not a traditional soccer vocabulary. He went as far as claiming that while Ian Darke is great, soccer will not be accepted in this country because there is not an American announcer. Guess Olbermann missed the 2006 World Cup when American fans rebelled against American announcer Dave O’Brien for his inexperience and poor performance.

Olbermann

Olbermann will get his wish though in the next World Cup when the broadcast rights switch over to Fox which will use Gus Johnson as their main announcer.

It is clear that soccer is making it in America. The viewership shows that. The media that is doubting it shows that. Is it the NFL? Of course not but nothing is. Not MLB, NBA or the NHL. Some telling signs to look for in the future include attendance and ratings of MLS games over the next few seasons. In part two we’ll dive into why the media and the non soccer community in general continue to ask these questions.

Yeah, It’s Not Big In America

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The 2014 World Cup is in full swing. Close games, lots of goals and a USA victory highlighted the first six days of games. What the media outside of the soccer contingent is still talking about is how soccer just hasn’t caught on in America. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

USA vs Ghana Viewing Party in Chicago

The USA vs Ghana game on Monday afternoon (or early evening for those of you on the East Coast) had more than 11 million viewers on ESPN and almost a half million a minute on the Watch ESPN app. The opening match of the World Cup between Brazil and Croatia did over nine million TV viewers between Univision and ESPN.

And that was a random Thursday afternoon.

CBS This Morning ran a story on Tuesday about kids in poor neighborhoods in Rio playing soccer. Gayle King said at the end of the piece, ‘I’m amazed how big this game is except in this country.’ (fast forward to the 2:45 mark to hear it for yourself)

Apparently she has never seen or been to an MLS match in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver or Kansas City much less a US Men’s National Team game.

Cause soccer is not big in America.

Maybe she wasn’t aware of the 5,000 or so people in Grant Park in Chicago watching the match on the big screen. One of many massive viewing parties across the country.

Yeah, nobody in the US watches soccer. It’s not a big deal here.

US Media, what the hell else do you need?

No other country has as many popular professional sports as the US does. From the NBA to MLB to the NHL and of course the NFL and College Football. Let us not forget March Madness and the Masters. England is not packed with this level of sport. Neither is Brazil, Japan, Germany, Russia, or China.

Let’s have a little reality check here for the US news media. Maybe they are not as smart as they think.

 

 

 

Super Bowl For Some On The National Team

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Sunday marked the 500 day mark until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The US Men’s National team plays their 1 and only “friendly” Tuesday before they jump into their 10 game World Cup qualifying schedule. They need to finish in the top 3 to earn a spot in next summer’s tournament.

The “friendly” against Canada is really a showcase for the players. 16 players have less than 5 caps (games with the National team) and 8 have never played a match for their team. Many notable players will be missing from the lineup such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard. But this game isn’t so much a place for the veterans as it is a chance for Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (whose been taking a chopper to and from practice) to try out some new blood.

In the January camp leading up to the match against Canada, Klinsmann brought in some of the rising stars of MLS like Will Bruin, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Beslar and Graham Zusi. These players will have to become major staples of the team if the US is to make it deep into the 2014 World Cup. Klinsmann himself has said that MLS is ‘getting stronger every year’ and if that’s the case then those players should be making a even bigger impact on the National team.

Keep an eye on the back line tonight. If players like Gonzalez, Besler and even AJ DeLaGarza can show that they are up to the challenge of National team play then the US will be in good shape going into qualifying. If none of those players step up and really take control then the US may have to score 4 goals a game just to make it to Brazil.