Olympic sports writing: 2004-2015

Selected features and interviews, plus coverage from several Olympics:


Sochi 2014

London 2012 (all Bleacher Report unless noted)

Vancouver 2010: Nordic sports and biathlon (all USA TODAY)

Beijing 2008: Everything, especially soccer (all USA TODAY)

Torino 2006 (USA TODAY)

Athlete interviews (all USA TODAY)

Are UK taxpayers subsidizing poor spending habits in the Football League?


on-level-termsWell, I think so. That’s the conclusion I reached after reading Chapter 7 of Ted Philipakos’ excellent forthcoming book, On Level Terms.

That might not be Philipakos’ conclusion. He’s an agent and an academic who clearly has a solid grasp of the 10 cases he discusses in the book, but he plays the role of dispassionate reporter here, passing no judgment but simply summarizing these complex cases in plain English — a difficult task he does well.

He starts with U.S. cases, leading off with the big one, Fraser v MLS — the players’ 1997 lawsuit against the then-new Major League Soccer. That suit is a full chapter in my book Long-Range Goals, and I was flattered that he cited me. But he adds valuable insight, especially in following the case through the Court of Appeals and diving headlong into the murky world of single-entity law.

Next up: two cases from the old NASL that might change some impressions of the good old days, one more antitrust-ish case and a concussion case still in progress.

The European cases are another interesting grab bag, ending with a TV-rights case I’d never heard of. As you’d expect, Philipakos has a good solid chapter on the Bosman case, which established greater player movement and wiped out a lot of restrictions on foreign players. That case made the Premier League the melting pot it is today, and the federation arguments made at the time sound positively quaint even though they weren’t made that long ago.

So what’s the deal with Chapter 7 and my clickbait headline?

The issue here is the Football Creditors Rule, which ensures clubs seeking protection from creditors must pay off their “football creditors” — players, clubs to which they owe transfer fees, etc. — in full. Other creditors — say, the UK tax agency known by the cumbersome name Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs — might only get a few pennies.

Seems fair — until you see how many clubs abuse it. “Sure, we’ll sign you to a multimillion-pound contract even though we don’t get EPL TV money and we only draw 8,000 fans per game. If we go broke, we’ll just go into administration and tell the rest of our creditors to shove it.”

So as I’m reading it, Football League clubs can still keep paying 90 percent of their revenues in player payroll, and if they can’t pay their taxes, that’s just too bad for the rest of the country’s taxpayers.

Am I wrong? And does anyone find that disturbing?

20 alternatives to YSA

Dear MLS Supporters Group,

angryYou may be a little upset that your club is getting more aggressive in its efforts to keep you from chanting “YOU SUCK, ASSHOLE!” every time the opposing keeper takes a goal kick. The argument has been going on for years, but commissioner Don Garber ratcheted up the rhetoric over the last few months, and now the Red Bulls are offering to pay fans not to say it.

What started as a rather stupid drunken chant has evolved into an act of civil disobedience. “Garber can’t tell us what to do,” you might say. “We’re fans. He’s just worried because he negotiating the league’s next TV deals so the league doesn’t find itself without tens of millions of rights … oh … wait a minute …”

Yeah, you can raise any argument you like — the vulgarity, the lack of creativity, the anger from broadcast partners, etc. The bottom line is simple: YSA has got to go.

The good news: The English language offers many other four-syllable phrases. Not that you have to limit it to four — New England Revolution fans have told me they used “RELEASE THE KRAKEN” on occasion.

You may not be able to match the precise meter, with the emphasis on the second syllable and the last two as throwaways. In any case, it’s probably best to do a complete break instead of replacing it with a similar phrase like “YOU STINK, DUMBASS!”

But even if you limit yourself to four syllables, you’ll find no shortage of cheers to harass an opposing goalkeeper. You may even be able to tailor your cheers to specific occasions.

Here are some suggestions:

1. For all purposes, a shoutout to one of MLS’s best: “Ahhhhhh … YOU’RE NO HARTMAN!”

2. If the keeper has dreadlocks: “Ahhhhhh … YOU’RE NO COBI!”

3. When a keeper has a Jorge Campos-style shirt: “Ahhhhhh … PSYCHEDELIC!”

4. When you’re in a George Clinton mood: “Ahhhhhh … FUNKADELIC!”

5/6. If you want to distract the keeper with potential issues elsewhere: “Ahhhhhh … YOUR DOG HAS FLEAS!” or “Ahhhhhh … YOUR CAR’S ON FIRE!”

7. If you think the keeper’s taking too much time, or if you just want to pay tribute to a great Bull Durham scene: “Ahhhhhh … LOLLYGAGGER!”

8. If you want to make a political statement and think the trainers aren’t adequately responding to injuries: “Ahhhhhh … SINGLE-PAYER!”

9. If you want to pay tribute to the Seinfeld episode in which Mr. Costanza is looking for a calming phrase: “Ahhhhhh …HOOCHIE MAMA!”

10. Shakespeare shoutout: “Ahhhhhh … I BITE MY THUMB!”

11. If the keeper has ridiculous body art: “Ahhhhhh … NICE TATS, MORON!”

12. Keeper with obvious cosmetic surgery: “Ahhhhhh … YOUR NOSE IS FAKE!”

13. If you’re feeling particularly Anglophilic and the keeper is pudgy: “Ahhhhhh … YOU ATE THE PIES!”

14. Alternate version for Columbus: “Ahhhhhh … YOU ATE THE BRATS!”

15. If the keeper used to play for Manchester United: “Ahhhhhh … YOU ATE THE PRAWNS!”

16. For keepers who are inept on social media: “Ahhhhhh … YOUR TWITTER SUCKS!”

17. For a young keeper, though the reference may be lost on him: “Ahhhhhh … TEENAGE WASTELAND!”

18. For most keepers in the U.S. national team pool: “Ahhhhhh … YOUR HAIR IS GONE!”

19. Just to make keepers self-conscious: “Ahhhhhh … YOU HAVE BACK HAIR!”

20. And when the keepers’ legs are unencumbered: “Ahhhhhh … WHO WEARS SHORT SHORTS!”

Cricket player aims to make soccer club farewell pay off

Ellyse Perry has represented Australia in cricket and soccer. But to play for Australia in the World Twenty20, she had to say goodbye to her soccer club, Canberra United.

A few months later, she found a new club, Sydney FC. But before then, she has some business in Sri Lanka.

Perry gave up six runs per over in Australia’s World Twenty20 opener as her team won handily over India.


Pro softball playoffs: A soccer lesson?

Graham Hays passes on a quote showing the extra urgency in softball, a sport with an underdog pro league and an uphill fight to get back in the Olympics.

None of us who play in this league know when our last at-bat is going to be. We don’t know when the last time we’ve ever going to play softball again is. So there wasn’t really any time to waste in the sixth inning.

Did anyone sense that urgency about women’s pro soccer from the sport’s stars? Perhaps there’s no reason to feel that way — overseas leagues, the WPSL and the W-League can always provide other options.

National Pro Fastpitch playoffs — Racers force Game 3 against Pride – espnW.

2012 medal projection update: Ball sports

See the original post for projections from 16 months ago; read on for the latest (which may not have changed much):


The only major international event played since the last World Championships were the men’s and women’s European tournaments. The top four men: Spain, France, Russia, Macedonia. Women: Russia, Turkey, France, Czech Republic.

FIBA also compiles rankings that reflect all the various zonal tournaments. Top men: USA, Spain, Argentina, Greece, Lithuania, big gap. Top women: USA (by a mile), Australia/Russia (tie), giant gap, Czech Republic, Spain.

Men: The USA and Spain are clearly the front-runners. After that, the picks are more difficult. France has Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and two other NBA-affiliated players, though Joakim Noah is out injured. Great Britain has two players who passed briefly through Duke — Luol Deng and Eric Boateng. But you can’t always judge by the number of NBA or former college players. Lithuania has a lot of Euroleague experience (as well as some players U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski will know from ACC play), and Russia is built around several players from perennial power CSKA Moscow.

France (ranked 12th) may be underrated, especially when you consider that France qualified for the Olympics ahead of fourth-ranked Greece. Then Nigeria knocked out Greece in the last-chance Olympic tournament, qualifying along with Russia and Lithuania.

Brazil (#13) is certainly underrated. They finished second at the Americas qualifying tournament behind host Argentina (the USA did not participate), and they usually give the USA a tough game. Argentina beat Brazil in the neutral setting of the 2010 Worlds. But on paper, Brazil’s roster is stronger, and the history is solid.

So we’re not changing. USA, Spain, Brazil

Women: A U.S. loss would be a shocker. Australia has three straight silver medals, and the Opals return roughly half of their 2008 squad, including world-class star Lauren Jackson, though several WNBA players have moved on.

Russia was far from unbeatable in the European qualifying tournament last year, barely getting past Slovakia in the opener and losing a group-stage game to Lithuania. Belarus beat them in the next round, and Britain got within three points. They woke up and stomped everyone in the knockout stages, and no one else has given any reason to doubt the rankings, the original projection or the 2008 finish. USA, Australia, Russia

Read on …

Continue reading 2012 medal projection update: Ball sports

2012 ball sports: Yay, team! Except you folks with bats

Let’s see … I’ve done projections for archery, athletics, badminton … let’s call up the spreadsheet and see what’s next:


Oh … right.

Baseball and softball are gone from the Olympic program because, as we all know, it’s easier to turn an 18-hole golf course into an Olympic venue than it is to put a fence around a small part of an Olympic green and have baseball and softball games. Or something like that.

That still leaves us with a few team sports: Basketball, field hockey, soccer, handball, volleyball (beach and indoor) and water polo. (We’ll save synchronized swimming for later.)

Continue reading 2012 ball sports: Yay, team! Except you folks with bats

Thursday: No fooling around here

Today’s headlines:

Soccer: The U.S. women’s team beat Mexico 1-0. At least, we think that’s what happened. The snow made it a little hard to see. Can’t wait for U.S. Soccer to post the highlights. In the meantime, the Salt Lake Tribune story includes a photo gallery worth checking out. (U.S. Soccer match report)

MMA: Kenny Florian took a comfortable third-round submission win to spoil Takanori Gomi’s long-awaited — probably too long, unfortunate — UFC debut in the main event at UFC Fight Night. Roy Nelson won the battle of big and tall against Stefan Struve, ducking under a punch from “The Skyscraper” and answering with a knockout shot. Florian and Nelson took the night’s submission and knockout bonuses, while Ross Pearson and Dennis Siver took the fight of the night honors. Jorge Rivera had the best overall performance of the night with a convincing win over Nate Quarry that didn’t last long into the second round.  (MMA Fighting Stances)

Soccer: Not to judge a city’s politics from afar, but it looks like a one-week delay in a vote on the Houston Dynamo’s stadium deal has spawned a bit of petty sniping. (Houston Chronicle)

Alpine skiing: You didn’t expect Bode Miller to make his mind about next season anytime soon, did you? (AP)

Soccer: U.S. player Marcus Tracy expects to miss the rest of the club season in Denmark with a knee injury. (AP)

Today’s reads:

Volleyball: Need to catch up with any of the 157 U.S. women’s players going to overseas club teams? They’re rounded up on one staggering roundup. (USA Volleyball – PDF)

MMA: The toughest part of getting into the house on The Ultimate Fighter might be dealing with solitary confinement in a hotel before the first bout, according to this compelling blog entry from contestant Court McGee. (Sherdog)

Soccer: Inside Minnesota Soccer compiled a comprehensive preview of the USSF Division II (shotgun marriage between USL and NASL) season, with one writer per team. Familiar names include Steve Ralston, Christian Gomez, Louis Crayton and Steve Cronin. Future MLS clubs Vancouver and Portland have kept a lot of players from year to year. Miami, which has Gomez and Abe Thompson, is trying to rival the MetroStars/Red Bulls for roster turnover. (Inside Minnesota Soccer)