With the World Cup just under two weeks away, it should be no shock that the myriad soccer stories from around the world take the top prizes this week. Not to be outdone though, Dwayne Bowe and Lebron (and his court) have brought in plenty of craziness. I’ll be playing the role of Venus Williams in revealing as much as I can.
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Secrets to success or a Baywatch episode?
Every one of the 32 nations participating in the World Cup is looking for an edge heading into the finals in South Africa. And with on-field success and chemistry apparently hard to come by, nations are thinking outside the box in a variety of ways.
France coach Raymond Domenech, who many already believe to be slightly off his rocker and very fortunate to maintain his job, has prepared what can best be explained as a middle schooler’s summer camp for his players. He started by making the squad climb up the glacier at Tignes for a high-altitude training camp. One of the activities planned was a dune-buggy race that almost left Les Blues’ defender William Gallas with a broken arm. And everybody knows how important French footballers arms can be!
We’re still waiting on news of who won the scary story contest and whether or not the girl from the ski-rental shop was totally checking Franck Ribery out.
Just down the Iberian Peninsula, the Portuguese have also had their fair share of struggles in the run into the Finals (as evidenced by their ability to make Fredson Fock look like Dino Zoff.) But the cure for what ails them has been provided by their fans, 10,000 of whom have joined a Facebook group entitled, “Queremos a Seleccao com bigode na Africa do Sul”, or “We want the Selection [the Portuguese team’s nickname] with a moustache in South Africa.” (Check out the pictures, they’re great!)
I’m a little skeptical—as is Portugal defender Paulo Ferreira—that a little hair on the upper lip will prevent a repeat of the dismal performance put forth against Cape Verde. But then again, how much worse could Tom Selleck be at leading the line than Hugo Almedia?
It’s “Special”, not “All-Powerful”, JoseThe Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has seen its fair share of ego walk onto the pitch over the years. But the arrival of Jose Mourinho may necessitate the building of a new wing to house all the self-adoration.
Look no further than his exclusive interview with Marca, the unbiased Spanish sports news agency, on May 24 in which he outlined his tactical plans, potential signings, and expressed a desire to work with Cristiano Ronaldo as the manager of Real Madrid.
The only problem: Mourinho was still officially employed by Inter Milan, whom he piloted to their first Champions’ League triumph in four and a half decades just three days earlier (ironically in Madrid). And, Madrid still had a coach as well in Manuel Pelligrini, who guided them to a second place finish in La Liga and the second highest-point total ever (behind only this year’s Barcelona squad).
Eventually, the cosmos arranged to the Special One’s liking, with Pellegrini being dismissed and Mourinho taking over as Los Blancos’ 10th manager in seven years. There was no greater symbol of this sordid affair than the nauseating hug shared by a blubbering Mourinho and his (now) former player Marco Materazzi, arguably two of the more hateful figures in the game. At least now I know it’s possible to laugh, cry, and vomit simultaneously.
Political instability? How?
The last entry from the world of soccer (I promise) comes from AC Milan owner and thrice Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In an interview with one of the many television stations he owns, he stated that AC Milan has been the most successful club in Europe over the 24 years since he purchased the team. Berlusconi also identified his nearest rival: “Second to me is (legendary Real Madrid president Santiago) Bernabeu, who had a stadium named after him. He won half the trophies that I have won.”
Further inspection reveals Berlusconi’s Rossoneri squads have amassed 26 trophies since 1986. Bernabeu’s squads accumulated 30. Expect a reform bill of the laws of mathematics to hit the bastion of democracy that is Italian Parliament in no time. But, what else would you anticipate from a man who has given the world this many non-sequiturs over the years?
The King and his (kangaroo) court
It was revealed this week by ESPN that many of the NBA’s big-ticket free agents, including Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Joe Johnson will meet to discuss their free agency plans with each other before talking to teams starting on July 1. (No word on whether Darko Milicic, Eddie Curry, or Javaris Crittendon was invited yet.)
How is this not an egregious example of collusion? Even Mr. Player’s Rights himself, Donald Fehr, much think it’s at least a little suspect. These four guys—and possibly five if Amar’e Stoudemire decides to join the party once he’s done fooling around with the Playoffs, which this week looked more like a pretty autumn day—could determine the course of the NBA for the next decade from their cavernous, lavishly adorned living rooms. Or worse, David Stern could secretly hand-pick which markets he wants to save with his prodigal sons for the league’s bottom line.
What I’m most worried about is the lack of general acrimony on this issue. ESPN finally published a response, because they wouldn’t benefit from a restructuring that increased the power of the Eastern markets. I had to travel via Web all the way to Austria for a thorough, academic explanation of the staged, contrived horror of it all. I’m all for wanting to catch up with your friends and advise them on the best course of action for their careers, but this is utterly ludicrous and bad for the game.
He’s an importer, exporter
Apparently, the Kansas City Chiefs have been working hard to bring new meaning to the term “social networking,” probably around the same time they and their 10-38 record over the last three seasons brought new meaning to the term “futility”.
Anyway, Chiefs’ wide receiver Dwayne Bowe revealed to ESPN the Magazine last week that teammates arranged to have women they met online flown into a hotel in San Diego during a road trip in 2007. The team’s guests were so numerous that they allegedly occupied an entire floor of the hotel.
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley called it an “internal matter” (must…resist…innuendo here) and the rest of the team refused to comment. Bowe, with his knack for reporting to camp out of shape, getting benched for a recurrent case of the drops, and getting suspended for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, isn’t exactly the most credible and squeaky clean witness you can find.
But it should be no surprise that most players are remaining tight-lipped on the matter. My guess: it’s because their original answers of “Yeah…and?” didn’t test well with their publicists. At least the Chiefs should have no problem filling their out-of-division schedule; the combination of likely walkover plus pressure from the host city’s local tourism board should have their calendars filled in no time.