The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

Archive for the ‘Barca’ Category

“Critically Acclaimed” DC United 2006-2007?

Posted by steigs on May 1, 2008

ESPN’s Sports Guy today gives an obituary for the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns.

I made my friend Chris Connelly appear on this week’s “B.S. Report” to discuss “critically acclaimed sports teams,” following up on a discussion we had right after Game 2 of the Suns-Spurs series, when things were looking bleak for Phoenix and the end of Mike D’Antoni’s reign seemed imminent.

“Well, that’s OK that they didn’t win the title,” Connelly cheerfully said at the time. “At least they were critically acclaimed!”

From there, Connelly unleashed his theory of “critically acclaimed” sports teams (check the podcast for the full details) and how these Suns teams would be cheerfully remembered some day like we remember Coryell’s Chargers and the Fab Five. In other words, it didn’t really matter that they never won a championship, just like it didn’t matter that “Pulp Fiction” didn’t win an Oscar, “The Wire” never won an Emmy and “Arrested Development” bombed in the ratings. We would always remember them fondly and feel like they were more successful than they actually were.

You know, I think I’ve seen that movie.  In fact, I watched it at RFK over the last two seasons.  They didn’t win a championship but they were a lot of fun to watch.  DC United had a sheen of class and sophistication, at least by MLS standards.  They passed the ball around, they had lots of possession.  They sometimes gave off a sense that they’d rather make the extra pass to score a brilliant goal than shoot in the first place.  (I suppose that was one difference from the Suns, who were supposed to look for a shot in “seven seconds or less.”)  We felt good watching them play.  We felt good when experts approved of their play.

Simmons suggests that in the long run people will remember the Suns fondly.  I hope that’s true for DC United, 2006-2007.  I’m less sure of it — for one, the two-time champion Dynamo were an appealing team as well, perhaps more than the other Texas champions, the San Antonio Spurs.  The other is DCU has a stronger profile in MLS than the Suns in the NBA — we’re more disliked for our past successes and, sometimes, our attitude/confidence/arrogance. 

Earlier this week, Manchester United eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League and word in the press continues to be that the team will come in for an overhaul.  ‘Bye Ronaldinho, maybe Henry, maybe Marquez etc.  They’ve also been a team that’s been “critically acclaimed” for style and creativity.  (In fact, watching them pass the ball around and around and around against Man U I was reminded of some of the more frustrating times with DCU in recent years — take a shot, will you!)  But they have higher expectations.  They think they should win La Liga and the Champions League.  So being “critically acclaimed” is more frustrating, like DCU has been for us. 

And that will be a factor in how they are remembered.  Their fans will be more disappointed and neutrals will be less willing to sympathize. 

Sigh.  I just hope this classic Simmons pop culture reference isn’t entirely applicable to DC United, because I fear that the Gomez for Gallardo move may risk looking like bringing Shaq to Phoenix, the last phase of the old team, not the first phase of the new one:

Meanwhile, the Suns were like the John Belushi of basketball teams — thrilling, creative, inventive and loved by all, but ultimately, they couldn’t sustain what they were doing for more than a couple of years, and by the time it came to a screeching halt, we were already wishing that things could return to the way they were three years before. Like Belushi, the Suns were critically acclaimed. Like Belushi (drugs), the Suns had an Achilles’ heel (Robert Sarver). Like Belushi, the Suns tried to change their style near the end and it didn’t work out. Like Belushi, we will remember the Suns fondly, and every time we see one of their old classic moments popping up on TV, we’ll probably watch.

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Posted in Barca, DC United | 1 Comment »

Wish I was there

Posted by steigs on February 23, 2008

These days, an American soccer fan can actually watch as much — if not more — soccer than the average European fan.  On television, at least.  If you’ve got digital cable or satellite tv.  And don’t mind taping games that are on during your time at the office….

One thing it remains difficult to do — and getting more difficult with the dollar growing weaker by the day — is actually attending the games in person.  I like to drop stories here about times I’ve been lucky enough to make the trek to places like the Nou Camp and Anfield etc.  The atmosphere can be incredible.  It’s something that you just can’t capture at home or even at a lively bar.

I follow several teams in different European leagues.  The Champions League can provide challenges to my fandom, such as the Celtic-Barcelona match-up in the round of 16.  Which of my favorites to I root for?  DC United is my first team.  But Celtic and Barca are my next two favorites.  When they play…I root for Celtic.  That was reaffirmed this week watching the first leg.

Damn, I wish I’d been able to get to Glasgow for the game — or even to watch in a Celtic-friendly pub in Scotland.  Keving of Lord of the Wing was there — let him describe it

The scene that met me was awe-inspiring. Thousands of green, white and yellow flags were being waved, the “Welcome To Paradise” banner draped over the top tier along wie various other CSC banners. The end was singing, swaying and belting out “Hail Hail” drowning oot the PA.Went down the front of Area 412. The Green Brigade had hung a banner over to the main lads in the section below. The section below was a sea of waving flags, including a Catalonia flag, the banner stated wie impressive intent “Roar Like Lions”. Now, I could see the whole stadium was energetic.

A look across to the “away end” and I was impressed wie the numbers of travelling. 2000 Cules were bouncing, singing and waving their colourful flags and instead of standing a gawping in wonder at the noise coming from the rest of the arena they were adding to it.

YNWA, started and as I stood looking all around I wondered if there was any better place in Europe. The displays were anarchic, spontaneous European, colourful and messes, which is great. Much better than the holding up the cards, spelling out a message type ones. These displays were on a par wie anything I have seen in Europe and were carried off wie as much passion as any Turk, Greek, Italian or Spaniard.

Posted in Barca, Celtic, Champions League | Leave a Comment »

Figures that Rangers gets the GREEN team…

Posted by steigs on December 21, 2007

The draw for the Champions League round of 16 and the UEFA cup round of 32 was today, telling us what tasty big-stakes matches will be able to watch in February and March.

Most of the headlines are about the eye-catching match-ups like Arsenal-AC Milan and Real Madrid-Roma.  Me, I’ll be watching Barcelona take out Celtic.  Sigh.  Why do my two favorite Euro teams always have to get drawn together?  (Celtic did manage to upset the Catalans in the 2004 UEFA Cup but lost at home to Barca in the group stages of the following Champions League campaign in ’04-’05.)  I suppose I should be happy that one of my teams will be in the quarter-finals for sure — or that Barca got an easy draw, given the current state of the Hoops.

Meanwhile, the now Beasley-less Rangers drew one of the traditional big two of the Greek league, Panathinaikos.  Not only do they wear green — their crest is a shamrock!  Judging from the team’s Wikipedia entry, though, there’s no sign that it was founded by Irish Catholic immigrants, which should reduce the potential for crowd trouble.

This seems a good time to tell you about my trip to see Rangers.  Want to read more about seeing a game at Ibrox, where they have banners celebrating Queen Elizabeth and bands play “The Great Escape” theme?  Read on after the jump!  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Barca, Celtic, Champions League, Scotland | Leave a Comment »

Barca: More than a club

Posted by steigs on December 20, 2007

This Sunday is one of the great matches in the five billion person party — Real Madrid vs. Barcelona.  I see even Time magazine has noticed.  It’s one of those great rivalries where everyone should pick a side.  Me?  I’m like Franklin Foer and side with Barcelona, one of the great romantic teams in the world.  Style, glamor, and a history of being repressed.  Oh, and a history of great Dutch and Brazilian players too…

Want to hear about how I got on the field at the Nou Camp and stayed in an Orwellian hotel?  Read on!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Barca, Spain | 2 Comments »