Thursday, May 31, 2012

Brazil 4 - USA 1: Trading Body Blows With the Big Boys

photo by odegaardvia PhotoRee

Summary: This one will go down as a loss, but it sure felt different than other losses to the Brazilians, and the 4-1 scoreline was extremely harsh on the home side. This was not the US retreating into a defensive shell, and hoping for a brilliant defensive performance combined with a stray goal against the run of play. This was the Yanks trading body blows with the big boys. As Ian Darke correctly called it, the game could easily have been 4-4 or 4-1 -- but at least we were playing the Brazilians at their own game. And I'll take that kind of effort any day of the week.

Some other brief thoughts on the US' 4-1 loss to Brazil last night, in no particular order:

o I like the new US jerseys, especially with the darker numbers they wore in the game's first half. Kudos to whoever came up with the design.

o I hated Neymar's showboating run up on the penalty kick that opened the scoring. First, the penalty on Onyewu was dubious at best.  Second, just get on with your business, son, there's no need to use such a dandy-ish run up en route to the spot. Third, you might want to head to the nearest barber shop. Someone on my Twtter timeline referred to you as My Little Pony, which I thought sounded just about right.

o Oguchi Onyewu didn't inspire a ton of condfidence in his return to central defense. Granted this was Brazil and not Scotland the US was facing, but Gooch gave away the first penalty, and the second goal for the visitors came from an unmarked header off a corner kick.  Tim Howard may be good, but despite sharing the pitch with Hercules and Hulk, Howard proved he's no super hero without a strong central defense in front of him.

o Although the US was bossed off the pitch for much of the first half, the goal from Herculez Gomez right before the interval was deserved, and Klinsi's boys were somewhat unlucky to be down 2-1.  It was Michael Bradley once again with the seeing eye pass setup -- what are they feeding that boy in Italy...?! -- and Fabian Johnson's cross was sublime -- this kid could be a real find at left back.

o Clint Dempsey finally joined Landon Donovan on the pitch for the first time since Klinsmann took the reins of the US squad, but the reunion came about 10 minutes too late for the US' chances.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Unibroue Blonde de Chambly Saison

(5.0% ABV) I drank this beer at a place that ostensibly cares about the beer it serves, but my Blonde de Chambly was poured disturbingly into a Long Trail branded pint glass -- not really appealing when you're drinking a Unibroue, and particularly a Unibroue saison.    The beer had virtually no head at all when it showed up.

It was a murky gold color, and smelled primarily of yeast and citrus.   What smell there was, was very subtle, however.

Blonde de Chambly started off with the taste of white pepper, with some coriander spice thrown in for effect.  I got a tiny bit of lemon taste at the end.  The beer is elegantly dry, and the overall effect is more spicy than citrusy.

It's different than most other saisons I've had over the years.  It's good, but I'm not sure it's great: B+

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Luis Suarez and the Jumbo Double Whopper

photo by avlxyzvia PhotoRee

In  which Columnist Ed responds, and makes a few accusations of his own:

Well, it seems a few writers have taken me to task here at FOF.  I would like to presume it's an honest disagreement with what I've written, but sometimes I suspect it's my boyish good looks that generate this kind of retaliation.  Anyhow, let's begin as it's getting near my bedtime.
1.   Scott on Suarez
Columnist Scott spends an entire blog post (See “No Backing Off Barton”) on the attack for my suggestion that people cut BPL bad boy Joey Barton some slack for retaliating for being "fouled rather flagrantly" as Correspondent Scott put it, by Carlos Tevez.  Of course by "fouled rather flagrantly" Corresp. Scott means “punched in the face.”  Not to nitpick, but I believe Corresp. Scott’s description lacks a certain precision, a defect that most certainly wouldn’t be found in the description of someone who was actually, well, punched in the face.  I should also note that my blurb was not intended to suggest that the "thug and bad boy" (my words, not Corresp. Scott's) should escape punishment, but rather to suggest that the rest of us shouldn't hyperventilate over what occurred.  Why?  Because before we get to Joey, we ought to spend a great deal of time and space hyperventilating over City's own Nigel DeJong, an individual without the anger management problems of Barton but who rarely goes a game without breaking someone’s leg or, it seems, trying to.  See, e.g., Stuart Holden in a friendly (a friendly!) against the Netherlands, and, of course, Hatem Ben Arfa.  Or if you prefer:

Xavi Alonso is still wondering whether De Jong was being truthful when told him not to move because there was a bee on his sternum.
De Jong gets some bad press and has had that single red in his career (you read that right), but he's nowhere near our poor anger management challenged Joey.  If I recall, in the very game that Barton got thrown out of after injuring no one (except what should have been the price of Sergio Aguero), De Jong tackled someone and ended his game.  Result?  No card.  Coincidentally the same result for De Jong after breaking the legs of Stuart Holden and Hatem Ben Arfa.  So  yes, Joey should have been suspended, and yes, he's totally crazy, but come on, was it that bad?  Was it Nigel De Jong bad?  Or was it just Joey being "Vinnie Jones without the class" as one emailer put it.  I'd leave it at that -- really, I would -- but I think Corresp. Scott's real problem with what I wrote reared (or more accurately, projected) its ugly head, literally and figuratively, when he wrote this:
"There is no need to back off such horribly inappropriate behavior. In fact, I say pile on. His ban should be at least what Luis Suarezreceived. After all, Suarez didn't [BLA BLA BLA]…."



2.  Farlie on Fraud
Well, our beloved leader tried to slip one by the other day when he wrote this little nugget:
"Next year's Champions League spots are taken up by the following four teams: City, United, Arsenal and Chelsea.  I believe I predicted the same on these pages back in mid-August of last year, as opposed to some of our Columnists who predicted a top four finish for Liverpool (Scott is excused for his over exuberance [sic] in this area, but Ed has no excuse, really-- none at all).  Okay, so I may have gotten the order wrong -- the last day of the season kind of hurt me there -- but I got the teams correct, and there ought to be some prize for that."
Wow, talk about a double jumbo whopper. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

photo by The U.S. Armyvia PhotoRee

On this day in the United States, we celebrate the memories of those millions of brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Country.  May God watch over them, and protect their families and loved ones.

This is contemplative farlieonfootie, remembering, on May 28.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

USA 5 - Scotland 1: Player Ratings

photo by Vince Alongivia PhotoRee

The US players may have impressed you last night, but the key question they are likely asking themselves this morning, is Did They Impress Coach Mark? We find out below:

Landon Donovan – 10 - Donovan created a bit of a firestorm with a recent interview that suggested the greatest player in American history had lost his competitive fire. He promptly proved his poor mouthing was just that, with one of the most electric games of his international career. Showing remarkable pace in the counter attack for a now 30 year old, Donovan did a little bit of everything tonight, including scoring three precision goals and dishing out an assist. There is a reason he’s America’s all-time scoring leader and he showed why with his remarkable accuracy in front of net. Donovan has hit the corners better than any player in American history. He’s never wowed with his dribbling prowess, and he’s ordinary in a half field game, but if you are looking for a fast counter attack and a precision cross or shot at full throttle going on goal, Donovan’s absolutely world class.

Terrence Boyd – 7 – A lot to like here. Boyd didn’t score in a game that saw five goals, but it’s hard not to be excited about America’s latest German import. Thank God for the cold war, or the US would have missed out on half of its top prospects. For all those who wished that Jozy Altidore was an inch taller, ten pounds heavier and a step faster, enter Terrence Boyd. Where Altidore gets pushed off the ball, Boyd looks the part of a true center forward. He’s got size, strength and a nice burst of pace.  He’s raw, and has work to do, but this is a really talented kid with a nose for goal. Altidore is coming off a superb season in the Dutch Eredivisie, but he’s going to have his hands full keeping Terrence Boyd out of the top spot in the US lineup over the course of the next two years. The advantage Boyd has over Altidore is that he’s a true target forward. The US needs one and hasn’t had one since Brian McBride retired. Altidore is gifted and has the mentality of a target forward, but he’s only going to struggle with his physical dimensions. Boyd looks the part.

Steve Cherundolo – 8 – When is this guy going to get old? He was sharp as a tack against Scotland and showed no sign of giving up his spot in the next Cup. He’s a natural for Jurgen Klinnsman’s system with his overlapping runs and effective crosses. Scotland didn’t come close to testing him and it allowed him to freely come into the attack. Plus, being a Bundesliga captain gives him some serious street cred in Klinsmann’s world.

Geoff Cameron – 7 – He scored an own goal on a play where he lost his mark, but otherwise this is a higher school, because he was rock solid for the rest of the game. More significantly, he seems to have replaced Ogucchi Onyewu in the starting lineup after Onyewu had a solid year at Sporting Lisbon. Cameron is a rare combination of size, speed and distribution ability from the back spot. The US has never had the luxury of a center back who could distribute and come into the attack and Cameron, a frequent midfielder for his MLS squad, brings a new dimension.

Carlos Bocanegra – 8 – Another ageless wonder. Bocanegra was both active and plenty chippy, creating a nice edge to a so-called friendly. Can he and Cherundolo hold form for another two years? That's a big question mark, particularly with Timothy Chandler, finding a newfound love for the Deutsuchland.

Fabian Johnson – 7 - Put this next to Terrence Boyd as a lot to like here. The US has had a hole at left back for two decades, and it may finally be filled; the horrific ghosts of the Jeff Agoos and Jonathon Bornstein years may finally be put to rest. Johnson was solid in defense, and just plain dangerous coming into the attack. I am not sure the US has ever had a left back who could bring more pace and skill into the attack. Another converted midfielder bringing an unprecedented level of skill to the US back line.

Michael Bradley – 10 – A classic Michael Bradley game. In addition to his usual habit of running the soles off his cleats, he had a beautiful half volley from distance and some terrific passes. He avoided the sloppy fouls of his past national team performance. It’s hard to believe he’s only 24; he’s one of the guys who feels like he’s been with the team a decade. With Bradley and Jermaine Jones in midfield,  the US will never have to worry about effort, and Bradley should be hitting the prime of his career just as the next World Cup begins.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Birrificio Del Ducato Verdi Imperial Stout

(8.2% ABV) I have this thing about Italian craft beer: I try it whenever I see one in the store or on a bar menu.  It's funny, 'cause most people thing of only one thing when they think Italian: Wine.  Not me, though.  I think craft beer, a space in which the Italians are real up and comers.  I spied this baby at a beer bar recently, and was mezmerized....

This thing is black as night....  Birrificio Del Ducato's Verdi Imperial Stout was poured on draft into a chalice, and showed up with a thin ring of toffee-colored foam lapping at the edges of the glass.

It has a very mild smell. There was a hint of chocolate and licorice, but they were faint, at best.

I got unsweetened chocolate and coffee on tasting Verdi. "Earthy" might be the best way to describe the beer.  This is significantly less sweet than its US-made Imperial Stout counterparts. The Italians love their bitters, and this beer doesn't disappoint. It's got almost an olive oil flavor to it -- relatively unique.

It's unlike any other imperial stout I've ever tasted: B

Friday, May 25, 2012

No Backing Off Barton

Sumo Wrestling is How Scott and Ed Usually Settle Their Disputes
photo by odegaardvia PhotoRee

In which Columnist Scott bitch slaps Correspondent Ed:

I was planning on simply posting a comment to Correspondent Ed's previous post in which he commanded we all back off Joey Barton.  But I wanted to ensure that the acumen of my rebuttal received the attention and pomp it clearly deserves. Plus, farlieonfootie appears to be reduced to hop-by-hop beer recipe posts to fill space.

For the record, and said with head tilted back in a stately manner after slapping Correspondent Ed ceremoniously across the face with a white glove, I will NOT back off Joey Barton.  He deserves every syllable of disdain he has received. To say, in essence, that we should back off because at least he didn't break someone's leg, like Nigel De Jong!?  Correspondent Ed is an articulate, funny writer ,but what clearly must have been a joke did not pan out here.

Barton's behavior was repugnant, petulant and some other appropriate adjective, because literary lists are more aesthetically pleasing if they contain three items.  Yes, he was fouled rather flagrantly by Carlos Tevez, unbeknownst to the referee. So when he retaliated with an elbow to the Argentinian's face, it wasn't really that surprising, given Barton's history of hot-headed shenanigans.  But you would think that would be it - another cautionary tale where the ref only sees the second act and shows the final performer a red card.

But no.  Barton, whose team was fighting for its EPL life, recklessly   brandished his thuggery and stupidity with no regard for his teammates (or owners, coaches, staff and fans) by first kicking Sergio Aguero from behind and then attempting to headbutt Vincent Kompany before being forcibly escorted from the pitch and exchanging profane farewells with Mario Balotelli (who clearly felt upstaged).  Barton's childish antics were a classic scenario of: bratty kid does something stupid, gets appropriately punished, throws a temper tantrum and then is physically forced into a time-out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brewed Awakening

Is That a Shoe in There??!!

I brewed my first batch of home beer over the weekend.  It was a move that had been coming for quite a while now:  a solid number of craft beer festivals attended; an opened, but unused and much thought about Christmas present -- namely, a basic home brewing kit; a mid-January home brewing class in Palm Beach; and finally, the all-in commitment: a brewpot, kegging kit, and a malt extract recipe kit.  Belgian White, to be exact -- think Hoegaarden or Blue Moon if you're not sufficiently versed in the myriad of beer styles.  So Sunday was brew day at the farlieonfootie Corporate Headquarters.   
Brewing didn’t come easy.  It was, in fact, more difficult in some ways than I originally imagined.  First off, the cleaning and sterilizing: it’s been said by many a brewer that the most important part of making beer is to make certain you have a clean and sterile environment.  Given Correspondent Ed’s habit of turning his mostly eaten yogurt cups into ashtrays for the butts of his half-smoked cigarillos, and then leaving same to “decorate” random spots around the office, this “clean and sterile” environment took longer than you might think to achieve.

After lots of washing (cleaning) and sterilizing – which, I learned, are two very different things – I was ready.  Three gallons of high test Fort Lauderdale water were boiled to 155 degrees, and base grains – wheat in this case – were added to the pot and boiled for about a half an hour.  The pot was then taken off the boil while a liquid malt extract was stirred into the mix.  After the pot had been brought back to a boil, bittering hops were added, and steeped for around an hour – in much the same way that you might steep a bag of tea.   
In the final chaotic ten minutes, a combination of spices (coriander and sour orange) were added, before a final handful of hop was thrown in – appropriately called the aroma hop, for the smell and final flavor it provides.  The entire pot was then taken off the burner and plunked down into a bathtub of ice – rapidly cooling what was now known as “wort” to a temperature at which it could begin to ferment.  The final step in the process was to “pitch” some yeast into the wort, and let it do its work – namely, the magical process by which sugar turns into alcohol, all done in a closed environment, with only a small vent to let out the escaping gas.

Hazard Warning

photo by eek the catvia PhotoRee

I was going to write an entry on how excited I was that Manchester United were linked with Robert Lewandowski, when I realized it would be relatively short.  Like about this long.

Primarily because I have no idea who Robert Lewandowski is other than what I read in the papers yesterday.  Apparently, he's a Polish Striker who plays his Club football with Borussia Dortmund in Germany, and is linked with a move to United, in exchange for Dimitar Berbatov going the other way as a makeweight.  Lewandowski's good in the air, and he's just what Fergie needs to play the style of football he's creating -- or at least that's what I've read.  Regardless, the guy scored 22 goals in all competitions this season for the team that won Der Bundesliga, so he's got to be pretty darn talented.

Or possibly I could expound on the creative qualities of Shinji Kagawa, also of Dortmund club fame.  That article would be only slightly longer than the one about Lewandowski -- I don't think I saw Dortmund play more than once this season, and I'm by no means an expert on the Bundesliga -- at least not yet.  I do know that Kagawa's got a bunch of people on Twitter in a lather.  The Japanese national had 13 goals to his credit this season, alongside 11 assists -- and those are rather gaudy numbers for a midfielder, whatever league he plays in.

As to the veracity of the reports on either player, who knows.  Much the same for the reputed signing of Eden Hazard, with unofficial "sources" claiming yesterday that Hazard had spurned Chelsea and City's advances in favor of the tradition of Old Trafford --  but again, who knows what's real and what's a negotiating ploy at this juncture.  [Ed. Note: In all honesty, I find myself saying to an extent "Who cares?" about Hazard.  I don't remember a player's future being played out so coyly in the media since LeBron James announced "The Decision " (His term, and his capital letters, NOT mine)].

But what I decided to write about in the end was none of the above -- but instead about how much this off-season is beginning to remind me of last season's -- and United's "pursuit" of Wesley Sneijder.  While the papers were getting all hot and bothered about United and Wesley, Sir Alex was busy attempting to sign Samir Nasri (and ultimately did come to a handshake with him, apparently, only for the deal to be hijacked at the last minute by City brass, who proceeded to offer the Frenchman 50% more than United in terms of personal wages).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Giving Credit

photo by Andres Ruedavia PhotoRee

o You've got to give credit to Petr Cech. Studying the last five years of Bayern Munich's penalty kicks was a move that paid huge dividends for the Czech National, as well as for his Club.  Putting in the long hours required to break down that kind of game film for a scenario that might not even occur shows the Chelsea 'keeper to be a professional in the truest sense of the word.  That dedication may just be the reason Chelsea is hoisting the Champions League trophy this week.

o The most despicable sight of the entire weekend was John Terry holding the same trophy. It's bad enough that FIFA allowed Terry to join in the on-field celebration. That Terry had changed from a suit (pre-game) to a tracksuit (half time) and then into his full kit (right before the penalty kicks) -- including shin pads, no less -- tells you all you need to know about the man.

o That a Chelsea team featuring Solomon Kalou, Jon Obi Mikel, Jose Bosingwa and Ryan Bertrand can win European championship just goes to prove the old adage about "any given day...." That same Chelsea team would be hard pressed to replicate this season's sixth place finish in the League.

o The post-game interview of Brad Friedel was brutal, Geoff Shreves-like in its immediacy and proximity to huge personal disappointment.  The American has no one to blame but himself, though, putting himself in that position by agreeing to comment on the game for FOX.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blue Man Group: Chelsea 1 - Bayern Munich 1 (4-3 Extra Time)

photo by rbrwrvia PhotoRee

I'm still trying to work out exactly what Chelsea's stunning penalty kick victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League Finals on Saturday means.  I won't solve all of the world's problems in this column, but I have come up with the following conclusions:

o Roberto Di Matteo deserves and will likely get the Head Coaching job at Chelsea.  I know Roman loves big names, but he also had a fetish about the Cup.  Now that RDM has won it for him -- forget about the FA Cup, that was a nice extra that doesn't count for much in the World According to Roman -- I don't see how the Russian oligarch could turn his back on the Italian.  Di Matteo did a masterful job of reversing the psychological damage inflicted on the club by the disastrous appointment of Andre Villas-Boas, and turning the Blues' entire season around.  His appointment may have come too late to save Chelsea from a 6th place finish in the League, but with the victory on Saturday, even that sin has been overcome -- Chelsea are back in the Champions League next season. 

o Didier Drogba just placed his name front and center on the Chelsea Legend list.  Overlooked and underappreciated at the season's start, the big Ivorian topped all of his accomplishments with the 88th minute header that changed the course of a Bayern Munich victory, stunning the opponent and the heavily home-team-oriented crowd, and switching the game's momentum inexorably and irreversibly in the visitors' favor.  The fact that Drogba also gave away a penalty that led to Arjen Robben's failed attempt to win the game, and then scored the fourth and final penalty to win it outright only seals my belief: this game -- nay, this Championship -- was all about The Drog.

o Yesterday's result was very harsh on Spurs.  After being denied entry into next year's Champions League tournament by Chelsea's victory, Spurs fans know the feeling felt by fans of Manchester United the weekend prior: you cannot put yourself in a position where you need to rely on the result of another team.  In the end, much like United again, Spurs have no one to blame but themselves.  The late draw against Villa -- a team that narrowly escaped relegation, and only because they ran out of games -- was an absolute killer, the kind that could see name-brand Tottenham stars such as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale head for the exits.  Uncle Harry, after being passed over for the England job, will see his vaunted man management skills tested to the max this Summer while trying to keep his team together.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bubbling Up: West Ham United 2 - Blackpool 1

photo by Mooganicvia PhotoRee

The biggest game of the year.  More than $100 million dollars at stake for the winner.  Pressure, and lots of it.  A tremendously long and sad off-season for the loser.  The Champions League Final, you say?  No, we're talking about the Championship Playoff, which ended yesterday with West Ham fans blowing bubbles all the way back to the Premier League, overcoming a fanciful and determined Blackpool side which could easily have won the game, 2-1.  To Wembley for our Game Day Report:

o Blackpool's Matt Phillips will long regret flubbing his lines in the game's early going. The Tangerines should really have been up 2-nil before the Hammers had even a sniff of goal, but Phillips was less than cool under the big game pressure cooker, offering only a tame roller that could have doubled as a safe back pass, and then missing an open corner of the net with his second attempt. With the ageless wonder Kevin also on the pitch, Tangerine Coach Ian Holloway must have been upset that the opportunities ultimately fell to the wrong Phillips.

o By the game's half hour mark, West Ham had worked their way industriously -- if not quite as entertainingly as their opposites -- back into the game, having survived Blackpool's initial salvos. Despite finishing 11 points below the Hammers in the league table, the Tangerines looked more comfortable on the ball, confidently knocking it back and forth, and found themselves able to put it into more dangerous positions. By contrast, West Ham looked more at home on set positions -- albeit their first corner didn't come until the half hour mark was breached. Although three more followed in quick succession, West Ham found themselves unable to score, despite Blackpool 'keeper Matt Gilks doing his best impression of the Queen's royal wave as the ball flew past him in the air.

o Much maligned West Ham striker Carlton Cole did well to control the ball that led to the game's opener. Not known for his touch during his prior appearances in the Big Leagues, Cole showed every bit of composure and touch that Matt Phillips lacked in giving the Hammers a lead and growing confidence heading into the locker room.

o Paul Ince's son, Thomas, showed his footballing bona fides shortly after the re-start, showing none of the fear in front of goal displayed by his teammate earlier. Tucking the ball safely by Robert Green, Ince put a serious crimp in the plans of West Ham fans that were planning a second half-long celebration.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Karl Strauss Brewing 2012 Symposium Double India Pale Ale (San Diego Pale Ale)

(10.00% ABV) Symposium was brewed by Karl Strauss Brewing of San Diego, California to commemorate the Brewer's Association 2012 Craft Brewers Convention, an industry-wide gathering that was held in the brewery's hometown earlier this past month.

Symposium celebrates the craft beer industry coming together once a year to meet and talk shop.  Each year, a brewery located near where the conference is being held is selected to brew a beer in conjunction with the local brewers guild and other industry participants. The 2012 edition featured help from plenty of industry insiders, including White Labs Yeast, Brewers Supply Group, Rahr Malting Company and a large bunch of others. Given the location, the group could little have selected a more appropriate style for the offering, choosing to go with an aggressively hopped Double IPA.

The beer is named "Symposium," which means -- as the bottle tells us -- "a convivial meeting for drinking, music, and intellectual discussions where ideas are freely exchanged."  Very appropriate.

Symposium pours a deep amber gold, the burnished color of an extra rich honey, with a fluffy white head of foam.  It was poured from a bottle specially created for the 2012 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego into a lager glass.

It's bready right off the first sniff. The sharp hop notes are softened by some light citrus and honey fragrance and the smell of pine needles.

This beer is incredibly rich, but fairly mellow tasting, although the pronounced hop flavor really lingers at the end. There's a fair amount of malt in the flavor profile, as well.  Symposium's high level of alcohol is definitely noticeable in the taste. There's somewhat of a medicinal twang to the beer right at the end, but this disappears as the beer warms slightly. It's solid: B+

Friday, May 18, 2012

Some Conclusions, But Not All

photo by Like_the_Grand_Canyonvia PhotoRee

Columnist Ed, with Another of His Half-Baked Thoughts:

1.   Manchester City.  Congratulations to the Citizens for wrestling the title away from a United club that’s had it in a hammer lock for almost the entire 20 year history of the Premier League.  While I admire dynasties, I usually prefer turnover among the top.  This years BPL, with Chelsea in 6th and Liverpool in 7th, provided some of that.  But the poor performances of these teams is probably an aberration, and City isn’t so much an underdog but rather an team that is probably beginning a dynasty of their own.  All of that said, I’m happy for the fans of City – people who have suffered for 44 years without a title, and have also had to live in the same city as a team that wins every year.  I’m not sure why or how anyone would ever stick by a team like that, but I imagine the wait has made their victory ever more sweet.

2.   The Future of the BPL.   With City added to the top, is there now a Big 5 or even 6?  Unfortunately, I don’t think so.  I think City will be the first and ultimate trump card in the buying market, with Chelsea and United not far behind.  Thereafter comes another tier – Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs.  And then comes everyone else.  So I suspect it’s more of a Big 3, and then a Little 3, and then the rest.  Relegation is the strength of the EPL, but the system that allows for relegation also allows for this disparity as revenue sharing is probably not possible in this environment.  I like the “socialist” model of revenue sharing in the NFL; I also like relegation. I suppose like most things in life, there is no perfect answer only a choice of solutions.

3.   England and the Euro’s.  I like most of the picks of Roy Hodgson, and understand his decision to leave Ferdinand out and take Terry.  The only changes I would make to his team are substituting Aaron Lennon for Downing, and I would taken Sturridge over Defoe because he’s more versatile.  I also think Carroll is the right pick over Crouch, but that's a close call, as Crouch is tough for teams that don’t see him regularly and good at the end of games.  The issue for the team is the age of players like Gerrard and Lampard, and the lack of speed in the center of the pitch.  If Parker can’t go, I think they should beg Scholes to give it a run.  Maybe he can only play in the tough games, but hey, he’s still among the best at that position – a credit to him and a demerit to the English training grounds.

4.   Joey Barton.  Okay, Joey is a thug and a bad boy, but what happened at City wasn’t really his fault.  First of all, he got punched in the face by Carlos Tevez.  Second of all, Aguero’s flop was pathetic – stand up for yourself, young man!!  Finally, there is no dirtier player on the pitch than City’s own DeJong, a player who has broken many legs in his day with reckless tackles.  An elbow to the face or a knee to the back is one thing; a potential career ending injury is another.  So back off Joey on this one.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Napa Valley Roller Coaster: Reflections on Survival Sunday in the Barclay's Premier League

photo by Omar G!via PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott enjoys a good glass of wine.  He must have enjoyed several while writing the following:

It was a cruel joke that Survival Sunday fell on Mother's Day this year, forcing fanatics like the staff members of Farlieonfootie to juggle maternal appreciation and football fandom.  And like any cruel joke, some were left laughing and some were left crying.  I speak, of course, of the players, coaches and fans of certain EPL teams and not of our families who have long since resigned themselves to our pathological devotion to the sport which allows, nay forces, us to spew forth on these pages in the form of cathartic rants, bemused observations and the occasional (usually accidental) insightful analysis.

And what a Sunday it was!  In the course of two hours, dreams were crushed and fulfilled, fears were realized and vanquished, all while the city of Manchester rode a punishing blue and red emotional rollercoaster that saved its most dramatic architecture for the very last.  For Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal and maybe even Tottenham, the ride was tumultuous but ultimately exhilarating in that "holy crap that was scary but let's do it again" kind of way.  For Bolton and Newcastle, however, the ride ended in nausea with the former needing a year minimum to recover.

For some teams, such as Liverpool (Merseyside superiority notwithstanding), Swansea, Chelsea and Blackburn, tamer entertainment more akin to a turn on the merry-go-round was on display.  With not much to play for and most everybody watching the spectacle of the Manchester Matterhorn, the toddler side of the park was, not surprisingly, uneventful.  With Liverpool underperforming again and Blackburn losing again, there was nothing to write home or to farlieonfootie about.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Late Late Show: Dramatic Endings in Sport

With one final kick of the ball, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero changed the course of football history on Sunday, and brought to a close one of the most gripping Barclay's Premier League seasons ever.  In fact, to find a comparable finish in English football history, one has to go back to the era before the Premier League existed, to 1989, when Arsenal needed a two goal victory on the season's final day to win the title over Liverpool.  As fate would have it, Michael Thomas scored the Gunners' second goal that day in the last minute of regulation time at Anfield. 

Although Sunday afternoon's goal was a stab through the heart of a true United fan such as me, one would be hard pressed to deny that it was dramatic; it may have been dramatically tragic, but it was dramatic nonetheless.

It got me to thinking about other dramatic endings in sport -- they are relatively few and far between.  In fact, I can think of only a very few endings in sport that I've personally witnessed that matched the gripping nature of this year's "Survival Sunday."

The first that springs to mind is the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson's spinning ball rolling right through Bill Buckner's legs and into Major League Baseball history, leading the New York Mets to a dramatic come from behind victory over the Boston Red Sox.  I was at the Big Shea that night, and I can still remember the upper deck bouncing underneath the delirious jumping, screaming and stomping of the Game Six crowd.

Christian Laettner's last second overtime buzzer-beater, which allowed Duke to knock of Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Quarter Finals, is up there, too.  I was actually supposed to be at that game, too, but family obligations meant that I ended up watching it on television. 

Princeton University's near upset of Georgetown University in the 1989 NCAA Basketball Tournament also ranks right up there in my book.  The Tigers, a lightly regarded #16 seed, nearly pulled off the greatest upset in College basketball history against the #1 seeded Hoyas; only a non-call by the referee right at the buzzer handed the victory to the heavy favorites.  I was at the game in Providence, and the misery I felt at the end was similar to how I felt Sunday night -- except Sunday night was even worse.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mood Ring: My Minute-by-Minute Account of Round 38 in the BPL

So I went to the hives tonight
Photo by Half Alive -- Soo ZZZ on Flickr

10:00 am EST/3:00 pm BST   Ring Color: GOLD – UNSETTLED/ MIXED EMOTIONS

As Survival Sunday kicks off, I’m a bundle of emotions – Sad, because it’s the last day of the season; Upset, because it appears as if Manchester United have thrown away the title after being up by eight points with only six games left; and Nervous -- Could this be the day of another stunning comeback from the Champions, who can never be truly counted out?  Only time will tell.

10:10am EST / 3:10pm BST   Ring Color: BROWN – RESTLESS

Stealing a page out of his mentor’s playbook, Sparky appears to have ordered his troops to play “Park the Bus” today at the Etihad.  But can they do it for 90 minutes?  It looks highly doubtful.  Actually, to this point in the match, it looks highly doubtful that QPR can even string two passes together.

10:12am EST / 3:12pm BST   Ring Color: PINK – FEAR / UNCERTAIN

Jonathan Walters has scored for Stoke.  Crap!  Now QPR don’t even need a result today to stay up.  What little bit of hope was there to begin with has been cast aside.

10:14am EST / 3:14pm BST

West Brom have scored for the second time in four minutes, and Arsenal have thrown away a one goal cushion.  Could Spurs really finish third…?!  I might crack a beer and settle in for the long haul….  It’s not too early, is it?

10:20am EST / 3:20pm BST     Ring Color: RED – ENERGY / EXCITED / ADVENTUROUS

Wazza’s got United on the board with a header past Mignolet to give the Once and Future Champions a 1-nil lead at Sunderland.  It’s good news, got me a bit excited, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  There’s a lot of football still to be played.  And let’s not forget -- it’s QPR on the pitch at the Etihad.  I’m definitely cracking a beer, though.

10:25am EST / 3:25pm BST 

An easy giveaway by Sean Wright-Phillips, gifting the ball to Ya Ya Toure, followed by a near hand ball just outside the box.  Once again, Wright-Phillips is the donor. Is he literally trying to hand the title to City?

10:30am EST / 3:30pm BST   Ring Color: BROWN – RESTLESS

QPR appear to be growing into the game, although you know City will still create their chances.  To borrow a trite phrase, QPR are defending like lions, but they’re draining my mental energy.  Come to think of it, they’re draining my beer, too.  Better get another.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Two Minutes Too Much: Manchester United 1 - Sunderland 0

Two minute time travel

“You’ve got to just try and go on to the end and see what happens.” Ryan Giggs, May 13, 2012

United have a tough task: to take care of business at the Sunderland today, and become only the second team to win at the Stadium of Light since December.  Without a win, nothing happening at the Etihad matters -- at all.  To accomplish the task, Sir Alex sends out Wayne Rooney by himself up top, flanked on the wings by Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, who themselves bookend Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs in the middle.  Defensively, Jonny Evans makes a surprise return, partnering Rio Ferdinand in the center.  The central pair are supported by Phil Jones and Captain Patrice Evra, and, as usual, its David De Gea in between the sticks.

It’s a mixed beginning, the two teams feeling each other out to begin the contest, with Sunderland perhaps having a bit of the upper hand in terms of attempts on goal.  The midfield battle is fierce, and both teams struggle to create much of anything of real value.  Antonio Valencia looks most lively for the visitors, bombing down the right hand side of the pitch, but to this point in the match he’s been unable to replicate the quality of his runs with a through ball or cross.

Rooney pats Phil Bardsley on the back and shares a joke after narrowly missing a header – this may be a hard fought game, but the goodwill between the two sides is also readily apparent, with Sunderland’s squad showcasing three former Red Devils amongst the players in the Red and White home strip.  Jones heads just over the bar with Mignolet stranded in No-Man’s Land, as United ratchet up the pressure just a bit as the game approaches twenty minutes gone.  Although the crowd is initially slow to react, there’s a score just seconds later, as Rooney is picked out by none other than Jones – attempting to make amends for the poor crosses that have betrayed his youth of late.  United’s main man stoops to waist height to steer the bouncing ball past Mignolet and just inside the post, and United have landed the first punch of the day, grabbing a quick 1-0 advantage.

United are far more patient on offense today, content to pass the ball around and probe the Sunderland defense for openings.  For their part, Sunderland have fallen back into more of a counterpunching style after conceding the opener, gifting large swaths of possession to their blue clad visitors.  The development suits United well: Giggs peppers the Sunderland ‘keeper from close range, after a Sunderland mistake in the box hands the ball to the Welshman in a forward position, and Rooney bangs a free kick off the bar, Mignolet growing roots in front of goal.  Although the score is unchanged, the visitors are in the lead, as well as the ascendancy.

 Although there are 22 men on the pitch, it’s clearly the Wayne Rooney show today, as Wazza could already have had a hat trick by turning in Young’s miscue, but the ball continues its skittering run through the goal box, deflected just wide by United’s Number 10.  Frazier Campbell misses a fine opportunity of his own at the other end, as both defenses yield chances.   The visiting crowd grows quiet as news of a Manchester City goal sweeps the visiting end, but the men in blue soldier on – there’s business still to be done.  The teams trudge off to the locker rooms with Sir Alex marginally the more satisfied of the two managers: happy would be much too strong a word, given the events back in Manchester.

Game Day Beer Review: Victory Summer Love American Blonde Ale

(5.20% ABV) Summer Love pours a translucent gold, with a thick white head of foam. The head sticks around awhile before departing slowly, leaving behind some very decent lacing to remember it by.

The beer smells of straw and hops. I'm getting a hint of some slight lemon, too.  It smells like Summer to me.

Summer Love has a grassy bitterness right off the bat that lasts -- it starts with hops and finishes with a bitter citrus favor, maybe like from an orange rind. It's got a very clean taste, one I intend to come back to time and again over the next couple of months. It's another winner from Victory Brewing, a Pennsylvania classic that's consistently turning out great beers. A-

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Innis and Gunn Rum Cask Wee Heavy

(7.40% ABV). Poured from its clear bottle into a goblet, Rum Cask is a dark brown color, with a decent whitish head that fizzes away rather quickly, leaving behind virtually no lacing.

The beer smells faintly of rum, with the reminiscent booziness of a glass that formerly held a cocktail made with its namesake liquor. There's also a bit of malt that's detectable on the nose.

Rum Cask definitely offers a different kind of taste: heavy on the vanilla bean right at the outset, with some nice brown sugar sweetness in the middle, and an ending redolent of rum all the way throughout.  The beer has a medium mouthfeel with nice carbonation.  It's got the finish of a nice glass of scotch: slightly smoky, yet refined.

It's unusual, but priced right, and I would definitely drink it again: B+

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Tough Year to be a Liverpool Fan

a tough lesson

Correspondent Scott has stopped crying in his beer long enough to type the following dispatch:

Thankful once again that watching the game is not a requirement to post for farlieonfootie, commitments kept me from the second half of the FA Cup Final and the meaningless (for Liverpool) rematch at Anfield 3 days later.  What I did witness was a capitulating Merseyside team which apparently confused their games - the League is when they typically phone it in. And by the time they realized their error and began a surging Red tide with only 30 minutes to go on Saturday, it was too late.

Checking the score on my phone after the FA Cup Final, I found myself in the awkward situation of having to apologize for my profane, excited utterance to a table of ten.   But I was alone three days later when I saw we had prevailed when it didn't matter and allowed myself a sardonic laugh.

It's either laugh or cry at this point - Liverpool abandoned their strong Cup form and swapped it for their poor league form at the worst possible time. Sure, we can take comfort in the fact we denied the Blues any chance of a fourth place finish, but they are one Bavarian victory away from playing with Champions next year anyway. Roberto Di Matteo is looking like a maestro for making some obvious changes at Chelsea, and Liverpool's FA Flop furthered the idea that he was prematurely let go by West Brom last year.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Toe Story: Thoughts on the BPL's Final Weekend

Had unexpected toe surgery today. Owie!
The fact Ed Paints his Toenails Red Tells You Where His True Footballing Loyalties Lie

There's something on Columnist Ed's mind, and it's not only his foot:

Some thoughts with only a week left to watch:

1.  The FA Cup just isn't very important any more. Ultimately, the biggest games are the fight against relegation, the fight for the top four, the fight for the BPL title, and success in the Champions League.  The League Cup and the FA Cup have become competitions for those big teams that haven't accomplished any of the above (Liverpool, and to some extent Chelsea), and for the little teams who often go against unmotivated or reserve top teams.  The FA Cup seems to have a glorious history in England, but at this point the top level competitions and the enthusiasm and TV ratings they bring are what it's all about.

2.  Andy Carroll might not be that bad.  I thought Carroll played extremely well in the FA cup match against Chelsea, and well again in Tuesday's game.  My only problem with his performance in the FA Cup was his ridiculous decision to celebrate the goal that wasn't a goal instead of making sure of it and following it in.  Putting that aside -- something that's actually difficult to do -- it appeared for the first time since his days at Newcastle that he played with enthusiasm and effectiveness.  If I were coaching Carroll I would give him video of Bayern Munich frontman Mario Gomez to observe and try to emulate, in particular Gomez's anticipation.  Gomes is not wildly talented with the ball, but is able to use his size and speed effectively.  I'd also give him video of himself during his heyday at Newcastle.  The problem with Carroll it would seem is more mental than physical.

3.  Spurs can't get it right!  Okay, they dominated Villa in shots and possession and everything but score, and Villa did put in a lucky one on a deflection, but Spurs' inability to pull out that victory puts Spurs in the position of being:  The Same Old Spurs.  What I mean by this is a team that can never overcome its main rival, and always loses the big game when faced with it.  Pulling out a win at Fulham remains a toss up in my opinion.  This Spurs team, like all Spurs' teams, can't be counted on.  And who knows if fourth is enough?  The only consolation is that Arsenal's game is also a toss up.  The Gunners can't seem to beat anyone without Arteta, and were shoved around by Norwich at the Emirates.  Should be interesting.

4.  Chelsea's season will end with a fizzle.  I suspect that Chelsea is going to get absolutely beat up by Bayern.  This is due to the loss of both of Chelsea's runners -- Ramires and Meireles.  But also because it's in Munich and that Chelsea just aren't that good.  I wouldn't be surprised if this one wasn't that close.  It might be a weird end to a strange season for the Blues, and one which will leave some doubt as to whether Roberto Di Matteo will return next year. 

5.  Ya Ya Toure was the Player of the Year.  I know he didn't win it, and Van Persie did have an amazing season.  But Toure was the critical player for the best team in the League -- let's call them Manchester A.  He was clutch and he dominated the center of the pitch against whomever he played.  Speed, awareness, agility -- Toure was the gold standard in the BPL and should have received the award.  The fact that he wasn't even nominated is kind of absurd, really. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Standup Comedy: Round 37 in the BPL

Roy Díaz: Stand Up Comedy

o So where are all the critics hounding Wojciech Sczcesny?  Impersonating his teammate Lukasz Flappy Handski, the Pole was entirely unconvincing against Norwich on Saturday, waving wildly at the first ball into his box and then kindly showing the second the quickest route to goal, much like a crossing guard making sure his charges make their way safely to the other side of the street. The southern dominated media in England were only too happy to hop on David De Gea for the slightest mistake, yet they continue to extol the virtues of the young Arsenal 'keeper. Can you say 'double standard?'

o Referee Anthony Taylor must be a huge fan of the World Wrestling Federation, as he saw nothing wrong when Laurent Koscielny took down Norwich defender Russell Martin in the box like he was in a no holds barred cage match. Meantime, fourth official Lee Probert laughed hysterically on the sideline, treating Paul Lambert's protest as if he was watching the latest routine from standup comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

o No worries, Taylor made it up to Norwich in the second half. Continuing a completely forgettable 90 minutes in charge, the referee somehow also overlooked Kyle Naughton's mugging of Super-Goon Robin Van Persie as time momentarily ran down on Arsenal's grip on third place. Memo to Taylor: evening out your missed calls does not mean you had a good game.

o Sign o' the Times: For the first time this season, I didn't watch the United game live when I had the opportunity to do so. Instead, I watched the Manchester City vs. Newcastle game on tape (I had missed the live broadcast due to a family obligation), such were the season-defining ramifications of the Toonside contest.

o As it was, the title could end up swinging on the width of Gael Clichy's foot. The former Arsenal man came up with a huge block when Newcastle's best opportunity fell in the box to Demba Ba late in first half. If only the ball had fallen to the Demba Ba who played for Newcastle from August through January rather than the significantly paler imitation of the striker who has worn the number ten shirt for the Magpies for the last four months.

o On the other hand, you've goth to hand it to Roberto Mancini. His team was well prepared for their encounter at Newcastle, didn't panic, and played the kind of defense that never allowed Newcastle -- the in-form team in the League -- any clean cut opportunities in front of goal -- virtually the second week in a row that the City defense held their opponents to nothing. And all this occurred at the home of a side which could have moved into a Champions League spot had they won, a team which featured Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Yohan Cabaye, and a side which had only lost only one time in their last eight matches - no easy feat that.

o And who more fitting to take the winning opportunity than Player of the Week Ya Ya Toure. The heart and soul of the City engine room, the big man pushed on for City all season long, popping up time and again at key moments for the Sky Blues and seemingly singlehandedly willing them to victory on more than one occasion. All arms and legs akimbo when he runs, the game changed when Toure moved further forward for City after the hour mark. It's likely no coincidence that Toure is also one of the few battle tested men on the City squad -- having previously won a La Liga title at Barcelona.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Game Day Beer Review: Oskar Blues / Sun King Chaka Belgian-Style Strong Pale Ale

(8.00% ABV) Billed as a "CANlaberation between Oskar Blues Brewery of Longmont, Colorado and Sun King Brewery of Indianapolis, Indiana, Chaka Belgian-Style Strong Pale Ale marries the king of craft beer in a can (Oskar Blues) with a true up-and-comer in the brewing world (Sun King), and represents the first -- to my knowledge -- of Oskar Blues' new 16 ounce line of cans. With it's bold new shape -- including a resealable cap, which can be screwed back on to save some beer for later-- and four extra ounce of quality product, this is an advancement that will be warmly greeted by the craft beer drinking public. With that out of the way, let's get down to the rebiew:

Chaka pours a clear as a bell reddish-brown, almost amber, with a lively off white head.

The smell is yeast and bready maltiness.  A certain sense of Belgian candy sweetness also comes through, as well as a tangy sourness that reminds me of apples -- it could be the Shagbark Hickory Syrup, which was added to the beer by Sun King.

Chaka has a rich and tangy flavor -- definitely reminiscent of the many Belgians I've drunk over the years, but also representing something new. It's got some cidery notes upfront, and a bit of sourness on the tail, but in between it's a rich, yeasty and spicy sweetness.

It's got a medium mouthfeel and sufficient carbonation to keep the taste buds involved.

At approximately $16 for a 4-pack, it'll be interesting to see how this new beer is received, but I've made up my mind already: I'll have another. A-

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thanks for the Memory: Manchester United 2 - Swansea City 0

Bob Hope

Having taken only four points in their last four games -- and almost certainly pissing away the title in the process -- Manchester United took the pitch today at a subdued Old Trafford needing a record setting win against the visitors to put them back in the title picture. Shorn of Danny Welbeck up front and Jonny Evans in the back, the Reds were weakened on both offense and defense entering the fray.  What follows are some thoughts on the on-pitch action, even as my mind was racing with scenarios of what might have been:

o For a team that often scores six but seldom scores ten, Sunday would have been a good day to have done the latter. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

o The boys picked the wrong time of the season to hit a scoring slump. In retrospect, two shutouts in the team's last four games entering Sunday was no way to win a championship.

o The players' moods during the contest were summed up by Paul Scholes' non-reaction to the game's opening goal.  Acting as if he has missed the net instead of hit it for the fourth time this season, Scholes walked glumly back toward the center of the pitch after his tally at the half hour mark narrowed the goal difference with City down to nine.

o Chicharito's season was seen in a perfect microcosm during a five minute period in the first half, in which the Mexican missed scoring from a back heel and a ball off his shoulder -- both shots which would have found the net for the Little Pea last season.

o Ashley Young's issues were well summed up, too, when the United winger was scythed down inside the box in what should have been a clear cut penalty. Perhaps giving weight to the Englishman's burgeoning reputation for "embellishment," Referee Chris Foy chose to look the other way for a penalty which could have narrowed the goal difference even further.

o Young did cut the difference to eight just a few minutes later, bending the ball around and behind Dutchman Michel Vorm.  Young betrayed his emotions by his reaction to the score, just prior to the half time whistle: racing to pick the ball up and attempting to score another rather than celebrate. After all, when you're tied on points, it's all about the goals....

o Which came fewer and further between as the game drifted toward its conclusion: a Kieran Dyer and Angel Rangel block here, a missed Chicharito header and Wayne Rooney shot there, and the clock continued to tick away on the Reds' title chances -- as opportunities which really should have ended up in the back of the net failed to accommodate the home crowd's wishes.