Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Tie Is Like Kissing...

U.S.A. 1, England 1. Kind of like the War of the American Revolution: By not losing, we gain in reputation; by not winning, never finishing us off, England look awful.

An old saying in American football is, "A tie is like kissing your sister." (I know of at least 4 different coaches to whom it's been attributed.) For America, this tie was like kissing your sister's really hot best friend. For England, this tie was like kissing your mother-in-law.

It wasn't a very good game, and both teams missed plenty of opportunities to finish the other off.

I am disappointed that Wayne Rooney didn't do anything to get himself a red card, or that he, or John Terry, or Steven Gerrard, got called for diving; but that just makes it more likely that "Shrek," "Captain Adultery"/"Captain Chav" or Stevie G will do some such thing in a win-or-go-home game.

Did anybody else think of Bill Buckner when seeing replays of Robert Green's misplay of Clint Dempsey's shot?

On the other hand -- almost literally -- the man of the match was North Brunswick, New Jersey's own Tim Howard. What a performance he had in goal.

How are the ravenous English tabloid media handling this?

The Daily Mirror, a good liberal paper, does a takeoff of the Diego Maradona line "Hand of God," calling poor Green "THE HAND OF CLOD." The News of the World also chose that as their headline.

The Sun, Rupert Murdoch's bundle of lies despised all over the world, especially on Merseyside for the way they treated the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, didn't go for an embarrassing headline, but, connecting Green's goof with past Three Lions goalkeeping goofs, said, "ENGLAND were struck by the curse of the keepers as Robert Green's clanger handed the USA a point."

The Times, London's supposedly repsectable paper, but also tainted by Murdoch, gives the somewhat understated headline, "Green horror show hands draw to USA."

The Daily Express, a right-wing rag more obvious than any U.S. paper except maybe the New York Post, the Washington Times and New Hampshire's Union Leader, has already released its June 13 editions (it's 9:22 PM as I type this, making it 2:22 AM London time), and the front page says, "HIT AND MISS," the "hit" being Stevie G's goal; while the back page says, "CAPELLO TO AXE CLOWN GREEN." Secondary headline: "England won't keep calamity keeper." This, after David James, England's longtime Number 1, has frequently been called "Calamity James," and is knocking on the door of 40 years old. He is probably still a better option.

The Daily Telegraph, another right-wing rag, a.k.a. the Torygraph, quotes Bob Wilson, the English-born but Scotland-playing goalkeeper who backstopped Arsenal's 1971 Double-winning side, and later became one of the world's foremost goalkeeping coaches. Bob called Green's goof "a basic schoolboy error, a howler."

As an Arsenal fan, I have to admit, along with "Bill Buckner," I thought "Lukasz Fabianski."

"There are no excuses," Wilson said. "There were a couple of bounces en route, but it was just down to poor technique. It was a howler.

"You always need a second barrier as a goalkeeper. He almost shovelled it in with his hands. You can't blame the ball for this goal, or the pitch. It was awful, a basic schoolboy goalkeeping error.

"We always teach and talk about a second barrier in goalkeeping and he led with his hands and scooped it past him. A horror moment."

But Wilson doesn't blame Green alone. He goes after England's Italian-born manager, who must have had flashbacks of Italy's disastrous 1974 World Cup, the only one in which he played:

"It creates a huge problem for Fabio Capello, and lots of fingers will now be pointing at the manager.

"He still doesn't know who is the best of his three 'keepers. Rob Green was trusted with the Number 1 jersey and now the critics will be saying he should have gone with Joe Hart because statistically he had the best season.

"You could see the look of horror on the faces of all the players, but everyone will have spoken to him at half-time and given him their full support. The fact that it happened in the first half gave him the chance of redemption in the second 45 minutes.

"The error reminded me of Dan Lewis letting in the goal in the 1927 FA Cup final when Cardiff beat Arsenal, the only time the FA Cup went out of England. Lewis allowed the ball to slip out of his shiny jersey and into the net. The shot was almost identical."

Having recently gone over the Arsenal: The Official History DVD, that particular gaffe was fresh in my mind, and I thought of that, along with Buckner and "Flappy-handski." Supposedly, Lewis' shirt was new and slippery, and the ball just plain skidded under his armpit and into the net.

In the tradition of ESPN Classic, I give you...

The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Robert Green for England Failing to Defeat the U.S.A. at the 2010 World Cup

5. David James and Joe Hart. England's other choices weren't obviously better in the run-in. Making Green the choice of...

4. Fabio Capello. He picked Green.

3. England's Attack. In 97 minutes, one of the world's supposedly best teams scored only one goal.

2. The U.S. Defense. The game went 97 minutes, counting each half's injury time. They stopped Steven Gerrard for the last 93 minutes, and for the entire 97 minutes, they stopped Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard; for most of the game stopped Emile Heskey; and ,for the last few minutes, stopped Heskey's replacement, the 6-foot-7 Tottenham bastard Peter Crouch.

1. Tim Howard. The opposing goalie was an absolute beast.

So... England are facing the same old story: Before the World Cup, the homeland press are calling them champions-to-be; after one bad group-stage game, they're spitting blood, or saying the sky is falling, or both.

But if I know the U.S. team (and I think I do), they'll be so proud of themselves over this that they'll clown their way through the Algeria and Slovenia games, and either blow a chance to finish 1st in their group, or even miss 2nd and fail to advance at all.

If the U.S. can beat Algeria, as they should, they'll advance no matter what happens against Slovenia. If they only get draws against both, and England beats both, and they draw against each other, that will leave the group standings as...

U.S.A. 3

And we advance, most likely to play Germany in the first knockout round. I don't want to lose to the Krauts... but we probably will.

But we proved a point to the English. And by the way, it's "soccer," not "football." You got a problem with that? Come and beat us!

As for those other Yankees, they beat the Houston Astros today, 9-3.

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