November 4, 2008


It is frequently pointed out to us that if we're going to eagerly embrace the Latinization of America then we'd better get used to soccer.

Then, this Summer, our youngest did a PlaySoccer camp. They bring over a bunch of British college kids to coach and they get to travel around New England for a couple months, staying with local families. The Wife had been yammering about our hosting an exchange student some year, so I got us a coach to test drive. We got a Polish student who's attending the University of Southampton. Sweet guy, but he ate like Beldar Conehead. We more or less had to make him eight meals a day. Anyway...our son had fun and now requires that I play with him on the lawn for an hour every afternoon. Let's just say he has an expansive view of how far the goalie can range and still use his hands...

Finally, one of the neighbors invited a couple of us over this Summer to watch the Championship game of the Euro Cup. So as not to be a total ignoramus I downloaded the semis and watched them first. The British TV site that I use -- (email me and I'll send an invite if you want to check it out--forget the soccer, you can see the final season of Touch of Frost that just ran there and the new Inspector Lewis's) -- had all the games posted.

Turns out they also post English Premier League games, so, as penance for my many sins, I figured I'd follow the EPL season just for yucks. ESPN 2 also has games on at some obscure time, so I taped them on the DVR. Started out watching full games but even the announcers periodically mention how boring the "action" is. The Brits, fully aware of this, have a show called Match of the Day, that you watch instead. The MoD is really just a ten minute "highlight" from the day's best game and then snippets from all the others, interspersed with classically waspish commentary by former players.

Most won't be old enough to remember this, but back in the days of broadcast TV there used to be a similar NFL show. You'd get your local telecast--maybe--but then all you knew of the other games was the NFL Films version -- This is the NFL. MoD is not dissimilar.

Anyhow, they show goals from the games that no one would ever watch, like those of a newly promoted side called Stoke City. The Potters' are big by soccer standards--when they started an entire team of six footers this weekend it looked like the varsity playing the jv--and they're reasonably physical, all things considered, which helps them in one area in particular: their guys aren't afraid to head the ball. This matters because their entire offense consists of Rory Delap, who is apparently the only guy in the history of soccer who can throw the ball. He basically heaves it in front of the goal and, while the other team looks on in stunned amazement, his teammates just bonk the goal past a petrified goalkeeper. It was funny the first couple times, but at this point everyone knows what's coming, no one has adapted to it, and they're all flabbergasted by it. He pretty much beat Manchester United by himself this weekend, Stoke's two goals coming off his throw-ins which one of the top 4 teams in England showed no interest in contesting.

As it happens, someone has put together a tribute to him on YouTube and it's a hoot--at least until it descends into homoeroticism:

Whoever wins the election today should offer Mr. Delap asylum in America: no one who can throw overhand, like a man, ought to be stranded in Europe, even if he does enjoy the advantage of David and the archers of Agincourt.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2008 8:37 AM
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