Google comforts me: not the only confused super injunction searcher

Some of you (bear with me, it’s a conceit whether or not there’s an audience) may have been aware of the story over the past few weeks about Ryan Giggs, Manchester United midfielder extraordinaire, using a super injunction to try and quash press coverage in the UK of his exploits, ah, playing away from home.

(If you’re not familiar with super injunctions, they are a legal mechanism designed to let one not just suppress a story but even the announcement that a story is being squashed. I haven’t seen anything more concise and to my mind accurate than Marina Hyde’s take in the Guardian, should you be interested in the actual story: The Ryan Giggs story was not run with any noble intentions | Marina Hyde | Football | The Guardian.)

In any case, late one night I was reading about this and gave in to prurient interest: I searched to see who the lady in question might be. I saw that it was one Imogen Thomas, opened a new browser tab, typed in “Ryan Giggs Imogen,” realized that I had forgotten the last name, then saw the auto-complete “Imogen Stubbs.” So I followed it and found: Continue reading

Football as a mirror: multiculturalism and multinationalism in sport

Laurent Blanc in jeopardy as race row rattles French consciousness | Paul Doyle | Football | guardian.co.uk.

When stories started to break about the French Football Federation’s consideration of ethnic quotas, it was easy to assume the worst – that this was indicative of changing mores in French football from the 1998 World Cup winning team being celebrated for representing all manner of French people to a more absolutist sense of who is French on the lines of banned headscarves and “powerwashing” public housing of protestors a la Sarkozy.

But beneath the private conversations which could most politely be described as awkward, there lies a challenge of football that has as much to do with multiple nationalities and labor mobility as it does with France’s questionable record in assimilating migrants from its former colonies.  Laurent Blanc may well have sounded like he was reviving old stereotypes of black players, but this is the same man who accommodated Muslim players for Ramadan as a club coach. Blanc does have a point though when he describes the costs associated with children of immigrant parents who go through the French academy system and then decide to play for Algeria or Senegal. As a lumpen Anglo-Saxon market-type, I’d view that as an investment management issue, perhaps the French see it more as a failure of dirigiste central planning.

But leaving aside the thorny question of what country one identifies with, why wouldn’t young players with more than one passport alternative want to evaluate their choices about which shirt to put on? The various football federations are perfectly willing to pick players who might help their national teams win / earn money, it just so happens that the labor eligibility requirements are a little less easy to change. And football looks like a paragon of playing in the spirit of the rules by comparison to rugby union (Scotland’s legions of players whose Dunedin accent was 4th generation Kiwi weren’t there for the purity of the display of skill) and cricket.

Claiming that turning out for another country’s team is somehow underhanded tends to be an argument deployed by the butthurt: either a football federation that just lost a likely meal ticket, or a player who’s not good enough for their “home” team and decides to embrace their past. It’s particularly rich for the French to moan about their academy money going to Senegal’s benefit, oh poor maltreated colonial metropole, just as it was entertaining to see supporters of the US national side go mental about Giuseppe Rossi turn out for Italy when the federation openly is trying to grab players from turning out for Mexico because that’s where their parents are from.

That’s not to say that there aren’t difficult non-monetary questions at play here – the element of tribalism adds extra venom to what is otherwise a market seeking some kind of equilibrium within narrow parameters. Assimilation is a huge challenge no matter what ostensibly open, tolerant western society is involved, and football will reflect that. It’s hard to say who’s “one of us,” just as it’s hard to say “I’m one of you now.” I still face this challenge after nearly 30 years in the US, and I’m an Anglo-Saxon white-c0llar type who doesn’t really have to do much to fit in. Faced with constant affirmation that “you are not one of us unless you can pass a ball 40 meters to within a couple of centimeters,” it’s no wonder that young immigrants or children or immigrants in France latch onto “the motherland” team out of pre-emptive spite: “We didn’t want to be in your club anyway!”

Maybe the issue in France isn’t monetary at all. For those who are inclined to reject “foreigners,” there’s no rational response – they may change, eventually they’ll die off. But I wonder if maybe the issue isn’t so much that being white is French, so much as respecting the process: if you are selected, if you go through the process, you should stay within the institution. Even with quotas, one might well argue that sort of assimilation is more likely in football than outside the grounds… but only if the FFF doesn’t panic and over-compensate one way or the other.

Run Forrest Run

Last fall, my 8 year old daughter took up with a before-school group called Girls on the Run. It is, in summary, a very worthy “girl power” sort of organization that encourages girls to embrace exercise (with all the attendant long term social and psychological benefits) by training them up to run 5K races.

It went well, so she decided to do it again this spring. Since I rarely attend her non-school activities (officially because of the “Father Knows Best” political economy of the household, unofficially because I am useless at getting out of the office on time), I promised to run the spring 5K with her.

The last time I ran for anything other than last call or a plane was my freshman year in high school, which, as you can see from the Billboard top 10 from this same week at that time… well, it wasn’t recent. I downloaded a New Balance guide to starting a 5K and I have been pounding the pavement in preparation. It hasn’t been pretty, given how hilly the beighborhood is, but I no longer feel like I’m about to have a stroke while “running” (Please god let me collapse on a main street so I’m found by someone other than a Salvadoran nanny who has visa issues and doesn’t want to talk to la Policia, is that so much to ask?) and I’m able to speed up a bit should I pass a female under the age of 30.

The real lesson of all of this though has been to disabuse me of the idea that “match fit” is a stupid notion pedaled by soccer commentators as a camoflage for players having a ho-hum game. I’ve spent plenty of time arsing about on the house Nordic Track and hotel elliptical machines, and I was in no way prepared to imitate certain learning challenged movie characters. Extrapolate that to haring up and down a field for 90 minutes, and feel the lactic acid burn…

So when people ask me what I’ve got out of the training, I will of course say that I’ve had the satisfaction of proving to myself that I can do it and that I supported my daughter… but inside I’ll know it’s the realization that even if I’d had any skill as a footballer, I would never have got closer to the mythical status of “match fit” than I would have to flying through the air on my own wings.

I know it’s not really a sign of editorial distress…

…but it’s still mildly amusing to imagine that the sub-headline on this article about Inverness Caledonian Thistle beating Celtic in the SPL was the result of a man typing with one hand while mopping up tears with a bhoys-own hanky in his other hand.

A gentle relaunch

This blog was originally launched in March 2006 and showed signs of momentum with the Euro 2006 tournament. It tapered off and was last updated in late 2009.  I used to write in parallel at Conquest Chronicles and that effort has followed a similar trajectory. However, for a variety of reasons, it’s time to rekindle the flames (baby).

I don’t anticipate posting on a daily basis, and not exclusively about sports, but for a variety of reasons, it’s time to scratch the writing itch again. You have been warned.

A strange and unfamiliar feeling

I watched the Civil War with fingers crossed for Oregon, and when they won, it was… what’s the word? Fun.

No strokes, no rage, no elevated blood pressure, just enjoyment of a good game.

But it got worse. I called my brother, an Oregon alum, and we cast aspersions at James Rodgers, and discussed the sheer un-Oregonness of not collapsing at the key moment. I said I was looking forward to the Rose Bowl, and I meant it.

Is this what it was like before the Mongol Horde came roaring out of the Coliseum under the Khan Carroll? I think it was. It’s no bad trade for an exasperating season.

(But they’d better improve next season so I don’t have to maintain the image of mature enjoyment of the sport…)

You know why I haven’t posted anything?

Because somewhere around the 45th iteration of Carlos Tevez bleating on like a jilted 11 year old about Sir Alex Ferguson, I lost the will to even pretend that I was taking a hiatus.

(Speaking of, does anyone know where Sir Alex Ferguson was in the moments before Tevez injured himself by falling in the shower?)

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