Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sports Day

All in all, if you told me at the beginning of the day that I could have only one win out of the three sporting events about which I cared enough to watch, I'd probably have chosen the win that I got. But the United win should've been laying there, and it's infuriating that an incompetent little prick gave that win a bloody abortion for reasons that need not advance beyond his own incompetence.

But I rush the game. It all started with a college hockey game. This is a pleasure I don't get to indulge a lot, because most of the college hockey on TV is Western hockey, and the college hockey I like is decidedly Eastern. Once upon a time, John the Daftist taught at RPI, when little boy Landru was but an impressionable tyke of 7 and 8 years old. I was learning to like sports, and hockey at RPI is something you can get real close to. In fact, some of the hockey players were in John's classes, and in their desperation to pass a course taught by a man who only gave multiple choice tests authored by Coyote the Trickster, graded on a rigid curve, young Landru acquired a fine stash of official NCAA sticks and pucks. Every kid has his secret post-bedtime vice (oh, stop); mine was burrowing into the covers in the harsh upstate New York winter and listening to RPI hockey on the radio. They were my first sports heroes.

This led to consequences both fortunate and unfortunate. I didn't understand the nature of loyalty in professional sports, and if I did then, I'd still be a fucking Rangers fan. Good thing, eh? When we moved to the DC area in 1969, I left the Rangers behind and reverted to my family's Pennsylvania roots. Yeah, I was a Flyers fan until 1974. I didn't know any better, and I didn't have an alternative. I get this much credit; I learned early on to hate the fucking Habs, who acquired one of their most famous goalies from another, much hated, ECAC school. A delicious hatred of both the Habs and Cornell continues to spice my life.

Anyway, NCAA hockey didn't start to enjoy the same sort of cable exposure as even Australian rules football until shortly after the millennium, and information was hard to come by before we invented the Internet. I drifted from NCAA hockey, because for a long time it wasn't even on The Ocho, and then when The Ocho and its cousins started to show hockey, they were focused on Big Ten hockey, along with its bastard cousins at Denver, Bemidji State, and various places in the Dakotas. The Web made it possible to find out what's going on, but RPI's been in a lull for a number of years, and it's hard to burrow into the covers and listen to RPI radio on my laptop.

This year, RPI finally made the dance again, after a long absence. They lasted one game, against a powerhouse of a North Dakota team, which had them on size and speed and Canadian Midwesternness. It was a bit of a depressing watch, but a thrill to see the RPI logo on hockey sweaters again, and it's not like I was connected to the Engineers like I used to be. So I can take it like a man.

Yesterday's other hockey event was much more uplifting. You may remember last spring, when the Caps vomited on their own shoes and horked up a 3-1 series lead against the fucking Habs, culminating in two games in which the Caps couldn't get a shot that didn't run into somebody. That, of course, did nothing to diminish the hating. Now, a badly injured Caps team (Ovechkin, Green, and recent acquisition Jason Arnott are all down with injuries), backstopped by rookie wonderkind Braden Holtby (gave up 8 goals over 5 games in his last trip up with the Caps earlier in the month, then gave up 8 goals in 2 games upon his return to Chocotown), shut out the froggy fucks. The Caps are setting a nice pace headed into the playoffs, and it does not look like they're planning to win the fucking President's Trophy again (best overall league record), so they shouldn't have to face that curse. And as much time as I spend bitching about referees (those in Ottawa on Friday night were appalling, allowing a Senator to tomahawk Matt Hendricks in the head, with blood drawn, with no call, and calling Matt Bradley for boarding for a clean but solid hit he administered from the bottom of the faceoff circle, essentially a mathematical impossibility under the rules), I'd be remiss if I didn't note that the Caps certainly had the better of them against the Habs. It was a good thing to see, especially after spending two hours on this.

I'll not pretend that United played particularly well against the Rev. They were missing two key players (Clyde Simms and Jed Zayner) from the win over Columbus last week, and Dax McCarty still looked like a very poor personnel decision, showing absolutely nothing for the second consecutive game. Josh Wolff was, according to Ben Olsen, bothered by a hammy, and didn't look anything like the sneaky little bitch that he is (and was, last week). Joseph Ngwenya continued to be useless, and--brace for this--Shut the Fuck Up Kurt Morsink was one of the most useful players on the field, bodying and mouthing up on The Asshole Shalrie Joseph to the point where Joseph wasn't particularly doing the Rev any good. Overall, the team looked lackluster and reverted to the same Hail Mary bullshit that made last year's offense such a massive display of ineffectual pissantry--long balls to the other team, airy crosses to short men, clueless attempts to retain possession with backs to the goal. Meanwhile, there's absolutely no clue about why DP Branko Boskevic wallows on the pine, but he must've really pissed Benny off somehow.

All of that is true. But it's hard for a team to show any luster in the face of early and awful decisions by yet another incompetent MLS referee. Baldomero Toledo is a run-of-the-mill incompetent MLS referee. He's not corrupt, like Jair Maruffo; he's not a pussy, like Alex Prus; he's not simply biased against particular teams, like Kevin Stott (and it remains to be seen how Stott will treat United now that Jaime Moreno, a player Stott clearly couldn't stand, is gone), and he's not even as overarchingly and consistently incompetent as Terry Vaughn. But he sure had a bad day yesterday, aided by his bench-sideline assistant (the other AR seemed to be fine, or at least not impactful).

Toledo started by missing (with the lino's help) an egregious handball by Zach Schilawski, one that clearly helped the kid score a goal; he unmistakably handled the ball onto his foot before firing it past Pat Onstad from close range. This happened in the eighth minute. BFF often (and correctly--and oh, look, he's got a post up, but he didn't see the second half, which makes no difference whatever in his post, actually, but I do wish he'd fucking quit posting images that obscure his fucking links) makes the point that we can't predict what would or would not have happened had a particular call been or not been made. I often (and correctly) counter, that when such a call or noncall puts a soccer team up by a goal, especially early, that the effect is profound. That's what happened here, especially after Toledo awarded the Rev a penalty for Pat Fucking Phelan jumping into a play at the edge of the 18 with the clear intention of trying to draw a foul from the aforementioned soulless Ginger. That was in the 17th or 18th minute, and the geriatric and hairstyle-impaired Onstad actually got a hand on the penalty kick, but to no avail. Down 2-0.

After that, it doesn't matter much. You've already had it broken off in your ass twice by an incompetent sack of shit. What the fuck are you playing for? Benny made what was probably the right move at halftime, taking out the ailing Wolff and putting in Davies, taking out a defender and adding a midfielder (no comment on the man selected--didn't matter, in the scheme of things). Goff tamely noted of the formation change that "United was exposed in the back and fortunate not to slip into a deeper deficit." Well understated, Goffinho.

And Toledo tried to make amends in the 88th minute, whistling a fucking ridiculous penalty on the Rev on a Ginger free kick into a mad scramble in the box that resulted in Ngwenya and Davies piled on top of Matt Reis, who's gotten certificates of merit for far more egregious and impactful fouls--if, in fact, he even committed a foul in this instance. Toledo blew this moment of evenhandedness a few minutes later by red-carding Dejan Jacovic (who very clearly deserved it for lashing out at Matt Reis, who also deserved a red card and didn't get one).

Just another day in MLS, really, at the bottom of it, and a reminder why it's best not to get too fucking giddy about United's future, but to enjoy the moment for what it is--when it is.

Oh--I can't find a still image, but the line of the night goes to Ilse, and you'll see what she meant if you watch some of the highlights here: "Matt Reis looks like an uncircumsized penis." While I embellished with some fluff about disease and scabrousness (because, you see, I really don't fucking like Matt Fucking Reis), she has the fundamental right of it.

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