Friday, April 27, 2007

Jose Mourinho Is Not Nice

I've dropped the ball on my predictions, but I frankly don't care. How could I care with weather this superbly beautiful?

I did get to watch my first MLS match of the season last night, although I'm not sure how much of a privilege it was to see the biggest toddler blubbering because the ref didn't card him for diving (I refer, of course, to Ruiz of the Burning Hoops). Since Dallas is our league-mandated rivalry, it was nice to see them lose, but I don't like the smell of wealth which currently hangs about the dried bones of the MetroStars, so it was ultimately a disappointing affair. (Is anyone else worried that the big markets are trying to model themselves after Chelski? I don't know why I even asked that because everyone is worried about that.)

Here's my one prediction for the week: The Fire will win at Houston. This is mostly because, with the exception of the very well-run Red Bulls, no team in the league realizes that the purpose of the DP spot was to get Beckham over here and then be able to afford some excellent talent. Joseph and DeRo are that excellent talent which is supposed to be afforded, but until the league stops misunderstanding the new rule as a way to get stars into MLS and starts understanding it as a way to keep talent in the league, the Fire will coast to second in the East (as mentioned above, the Red Bulls understaaaaaaand).

With that in mind, I will offer some predictions for the season:

Red Bulls
DC (defense will hurt them)
Revs (Joseph will hurt them)

Houston (DeRo will hurt them)
Real Madrid (Checketts will hurt them)

Red Bulls
with Red Bulls, LA, or Fire winning

Open Cup:

Red Bulls will win the Supporters' Shield

Me, after a midseason signing with the Fire

I know I don't play, but my big day has to come sometime and I really can't be bothered to think at all, because it's nice outside, my back is only mildly uncomfortable, and I feel like ruining all the gains I've made in the past few weeks with some ill-advised soccer practice.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Weekly Prediction

Since it's Thursday, I guess I need to post my predictions for this weekend's matches. It's going to be hard to match my accuracy from last week; in case you couldn't be bothered to look it up, I got all of my predictions right (although the exact scores were slightly smaller). Here goes for this week.

Dallas v. Los Angeles: 1-1, because I'm nervous, I don't feel like I can gauge this one. Donovan is, of course, an excellent player, and I don't really like Dallas, so I'm tempted to give it to LA, but somehow Dallas manages to score in most games.

Crew v. Real Madrid: 1-2, because Real is just the better team and the Crew have way too much history of being horrible to turn it around in a single week. Still, if Ngwenya can play as well as he did at the Fire home closer last season, and everyone who knows more about soccer is right about Gaven being a good player, then the Crew could do something more than I'm giving them credit for. But Real have the Kid and he seems like he wants to prove himself this year.

KCMO v. DCU: 2-3, with goals from Johnson and Emilio, DC will dominate, but I really feel like Eddie's on the brink of regaining his form. If he gets one, he'll get two, but DC will still win.

Toronno v. the Revs: 1-0, because the Revs are horrible.

The Goats v. Las Naranjas: ? v. ?, again, Houston is the team in the game to watch. Personally, I think the Goats will win it, but Houston's still one of the best teams in MLS.

The Reds v. Arsenal: 3-0, look for more amazing work by Mapp, and the pairing of Rolfe and Barrett will produce.

Dallas v. RBNY: 2-0, first win for Dallas, which will be good for no one.

Match to watch: The Goats v. Las Naranjas.

Players to watch: Mapp, Emilio, Donovan, Johnson, and whoever scores against the Revs.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Weekly Prediction

I've decided I'm going to predict the outcome of the week's MLS matches every Friday. But, first, I just want to ask why pretty much everyone in the entire US soccer world thinks that the Fire are going to implode after Blanco arrives? It really seems to me that, outside of Chicago's fanbase, it is obvious that Blanco is a deathtrap. Sure, there are the Fire fans who think this, too, but I think most of us in the 312 and surrounding Land are pretty sure he's either going to be awesome or benched. Actually, I ask the question just to setup my answer, which I think is ingenius: the Blanco signing has succeeded already. Of course the Fire won't implode; but everyone hates him so much, they want the team to fail. If, or should I say when, the Fire destroy the league in July, there are going to be a lot of really sad people. I'll be one of them, because, I mean, it's Temo we're talking about, but I'll be so overjoyed at the domination which the Fire mete out to the other dozen "teams" that I won't even care that it's because of a horrible, evil, bad man (who is also from heaven and a Mexican).

So, this week's predictions:

Colorado v. DC: 3-2, with goals from Jaime and Emilio, my new hero: It's in the net. Also, Bobby Boswell will assist on all five.

Crew v. RBNY: 0-0, although Altidore will have 14 goals declared offsides, even though he picked the ball up in his own penalty area and dribbled to the half, before slamming home perfectly flat shots into the upper right corner of the net.

Real Madrid v. FC Dallas 96: 3-3, with goals from the Kid and the Cooper, maybe some other people; I don't really know who's on these teams.

Goats v. Toronno: 3-1, look for Guevara to shine, and Canadian Chicago's team to get off to a slow start, but don't expect it to last.

Las Naranjas v. Los Angeles: ? v. ?, to me, this is the match to watch. Houston was my pick for best team of last season, and LA should be an amazing side, but anything could happen. I think Ching and Donovan will both play amazing games, and I don't expect much from Jaqua, but I could always be wrong. I would like to think that DeRo will be the most incredible player on the field again, but he won't be, which is actually fine with me, since I won't be able to watch it. Wait, it's on Telefutura, I think we get that here.

The Reds v. The Revs: 3 v. 0, look for Mapp to shine, and a good teaming between Barrett and Rolfe. Barrett's going to be amazing this season, as he was last season before breaking his foot (odd that both Rooneys would get the same injury in the same year). Pickens won't even have to make a single save because of my man Soumare (who will be known as the Baka Bomb from tomorrow on). Also, look for the Revs to totally suck and play some of the least attractive, English-style footie you've ever seen, while our largely homegrown youth side will play a game that is reminiscent of Brazil v. Argentina at Emirates last fall.

Game to watch: Las Naranjas v. Los Angeles, The Reds v. The Revs (who suck, suck, suck the big green weenie), Goats v. Toronno

Players to watch: Donovan, Mapp, Guevara, Adu, Luciano Emilio, and the Baka Bomb; of course, Altidore's amazing performance will go down in the history books as one of the greatest games for a striker ever, but will be mindnumbingly similar to Romaria v. Keller in '99, except that all the shots will end up in the net.

I Rock

Ever since the sage-eating wizard I call Peter realized that Great Harvest uses enough salt to preserve their loaves in perpetuity, making a loaf of delicious bread has become a laughing matter. I just whipped up a loaf without even batting an eye. I guess this weblog has served its purpose, so I don't know what I'm going to do after this last post. Maybe continue to refine my breadmaking process? Include other recipes, interspersed among my soccer rants? Who knows? For now, here is a basic list of what I've learned about breadmaking:

1) Do not use a recipe; the necessary ingredients are flour, water, yeast, some sort of sugar, salt, and oil. Just experiment with amounts. And bake somewhere between 350F and 400F.

2) If the dough is sticky, add more flour and knead longer. If the dough is stiff, add more water and knead longer. Kneading longer is usually the preferred course of action (although it is supposedly possible to overknead).

3) Bread is usually thought of as flour, but this is wrong. The flour is a base into which you mix salt and sugar. All the flavor of bread comes from salt, and the complexity in a bread's flavor comes from whatever type of sugar is used. Adding seeds and stuff like that is also good, but you really must use salt. A lot of salt. Bread should be salty.

4) I haven't figured out how to make a sourdough yet. Maybe with warmer weather coming, and a warmer kitchen, I can change that, but I have a feeling I'm going to just opt out and make tortillas for the next few months.

5) Salt really is what makes bread worth eating. Don't worry about using too much. It's hard to oversalt a loaf of bread. It's the easiest thing I've ever done to undersalt.

6) Knead the loaf for a long time, at least ten minutes, and make sure that there's plenty of salt in the dough. Taste the dough to check. You can always knead more salt in if there's lacking.

So, those are my six tips. Maybe I'll codify them into something resembling the Rule of St. Benedict. Or maybe I'll just make tortillas.



Thursday, April 5, 2007

Food's Still My Passion

Despite the stated purpose of this blog, it is a blog, and since the only bread I've been making recently has been unleavened cornmeal cakes (called tortillas), I need to broaden the scope. The obvious place to look is to the other dishes I make on an almost daily basis to feed myself, but I'm going to look instead at football.

That's soccer, rubes.

Actually, I quite like the word soccer, especially given its history and the general level of scorn the English have for it.

Anyway, I'm growing increasingly tired of the talk of how to increase the fanbase of MLS*. The Designated Player Rule--which allows teams to sign one player of whose salary, only $400,000 counts towards the rather tight league-mandated salary cap--is supposed to allow greater publicity (by bringing in world-famous stars) without threatening the still tenuous economics of MLS. The DP Rule is just the largest example of a widely held belief that there are things which the league can and should be doing to increase the fanbase.

I think this mentality is completely misguided. It reminds me of the belief which is so intrinsic to many evangelical churches: If you advertise your product (spirituality, soccer, or a combination of the two) in the right way, you will have to beat people away as they swamp your organization with intense curiosity and undying support. There's often little doubt that the curiosity will immediately become support.

Come on! Who are you kidding? Is there a single person, ever, who was attracted to a church (when they weren't actively looking for a church to join) by a giant black-on-yellow billboard proclaiming "Jesus." and an address? You sports fans who read this--which I'd assume is no one--were you attracted to the sport you're most interested in by advertising? In other words, before you were interested in football (the common type) or baseball, were you attracted to the sport through advertising put out by the sports teams?

Of course not! I am a baseball fan because my parents had me play Little League, my childhood friends all played, and my best friends back home are all fans. It's not because the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 (although that did reignite my interest). Sure, I'm a White Sox fan because the team signed Bo Jackson in 1990, for the same year I moved from Kansas City to Chicago, but I already liked baseball because it's what people around me watched. Similarly, I got into soccer in high school because the people I thought were cool and unrube-like played soccer and because I worshipped European culture (things changed). I thought that supporting soccer was cool because of the people I saw around me who were into soccer. Even with MLS, the reason I'm a fan has nothing to do with advertising by the team. I had only the vaguest notions that Chicago had a soccer team. But, after my year in England, I was looking for a place to vent my new-found enthusiasm; I wanted to yell and sing like the English had done during the World Cup. I actively searched out the Fire, and that's the first time that advertising from the team could have helped.

That's right: the first time that the team or MLS had any part in getting me to go to those three matches last summer and buy a strip was after I already had zeal for 1) soccer in general 2) being a fan of soccer and 3) supporting my local club. The further thing I want to point out is that I developed that zeal purely from interactions with the people around me, mostly my friends. I would suspect that the same is true for most people.

MLS and US Soccer will not be able to get 100 million Americans to start supporting the clubs and national team through any amount of advertising and press. However, I can get maybe one or two people to start paying more attention to soccer through conversations with friends. (Incidentally, the same is true of religious conversion and church attendance; see Rodney Stark.) The other thousand strong supporters of the Fire in Chicagoland, too, can talk with their friends and, slowly, Section 8 (the Fire supporters' group) will grow. In ten years, maybe it will be 1400, or maybe it'll be 3000, but I'd bet that every one of those 400 or 2000 new fans will have come to support the Fire through a personal relationship with another supporter, not through a billboard advertising David Beckham's hot visage.

But what do I know? I'm just your average bread-baking genius.



* MLS, for all you rubes I've already addressed once, is Major League Soccer and is generally thought of as the premier soccer league in the United States (and now Canada). USL, or the United Soccer Leagues, make up the second and third tiers, with the USL First and Second Divisions. Both MLS (properly referred to without an article) and USL (likewise) were founded following a FIFA (that's the international oversight committee for soccer) requirement that went along with the World Cup being awarded to the US in 1994. Both MLS and USL are about 15 years old and have suffered from underwhelming fan support, teams often having about 12000 fans at games in all but the largest markets (DC, LA, sometimes Chicago).