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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Will the Fever Die?

Yesterday the United States was ousted from the World Cup ending a glorious 3 week run in the world's premiere tournament.  Over the past month the country has been on a World Cup high.  Everyone has been talking about it, everyone has been watching it and everyone was rooting for the United States.  The country followed the words of U.S. Soccer's unofficial fan club's mantra "I believe that we will win".  It was sad to see the Red, White and Blue lose.

Being born in Italy and still having roots and close ties to the homeland, soccer (futbol, calcio, etc...) especially the World Cup has always been viewed in my home.  I enjoy the game and I truly love the international tournament.  It's like a World War without the death and destruction.  Now begs the obvious question.  Can professional soccer take off in the United States?  I would love to say yes but I am skeptical.

It is true that the ratings have increasingly gone up each World Cup in the United States.  It is also true that the popularity of Major League Soccer (MLS) has increased and the league continues to expand.  But that is just a viewership thing.  ESPN paid $100 million to broadcast the last two World Cups and they did a masterful job in bringing attention to not only the World Cup but to the sport as well.  They expanded their 30 for 30 series to include "Soccer Stories", which were documentaries about stories of past soccer news, whether it was glorious, tragic or unfortunate.  It had me hooked.

The English Premier League, arguably the best league in the world is now being viewed in the United States and that may possibly help in bring more support for the sport.  But it is not about watching the games, it's about becoming a fan.  The MLS, although expanding, is still a second rate league.  It does not have the star power or the financial backing as the European leagues do and that is where my skepticism comes in.

Americans have all the best professional leagues in the world with the exception of soccer.  Americans do not attach themselves to something that is not the best and this is where this sport will struggle.  United States Soccer and MLS must take notice and strike while the iron is hot.  Although I have rooted for Italy for as long as I can remember, it would bring me much joy to see the United States hoist the World Cup trophy someday.  Come on America, let's join the rest of world.


If you don't take it from me, ask my wife.

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Graduation Advice....Sort Of

With schools having or planning their commencement exercises over the next couple of weeks, graduates will be listening to speeches from esteemed public figures.  Worcester Tech will have the honor of having President Obama speaking at their graduation.  A moment that those students and their families will treasure forever.

Every year at this time I think about the Baz Luhrmann song "Wear Sunscreen”.  The song is a commencement speech to the class of 1999 that was put to music.  Rumor had it when it was originally released that it was a speech that Kurt Vonnegut gave at Yale's graduation.  The truth is that it was a column written in June of 1997 by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich about how everyone has inside them a little piece of them that would love to give a commencement speech and what hers would be.

It's been fifteen years since I first heard Ms. Schmich's words, and each time I hear them it amazes me how spot on she was.  I won't bore you with the whole speech as I attached links to both the column and the song but her are some of the things I have taken from her words.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't. - I like my job, I don't love my job.  That is probably why I do a million other things to see if I can find the one thing I truly love.  Other than being a good husband and father.  If my boss reads this, I love working for you.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them. - C'mon!!!! Who doesn't do this?  At what point in anyone's lives do they just bite the bullet and just follow them already?

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good.....My parents live right behind me and there is not a day that I am not grateful for that.  My parents have sacrificed a lot for me and my family does not let them forget our gratitude.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. - I have to admit, I never thought politicians were noble.  Power is a crazy thing and makes people do wild things.  Now, with regards to prices, it's crazy.  The price of gas has gone up almost $2.00 a gallon in a little over a five years.  It has taken Regatta Deli on Lake Ave. almost 30 years to raise the price of their famous grinder the same amount.  Maybe we should put them in charge of the oil industry.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85 - For those of you that have met me, laugh now.

My advice to the class of 2014, since I will most likely never be asked to give a commencement speech, is to capture whatever words are said to you on your graduation day and continue to revisit them.  They may seem boring now, but they will speak volumes later.  Don't use them as a guide but as a point of reference. Don't use them as measuring stick but as a ladder to your goals.  As always, don't forget the sunscreen.  It’s the best advice I ever received.



If you don't take it from me, ask my wife.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Not So Sterling-Silver and the Slippery Slope

The National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life following racist comments he made in private that were recorded.  He was quoted as telling his MGW (Mistress/Girlfriend/Whatever) that he did not want her to bring "black people" to his games and that he more or less did not appreciate her hanging around "them".  While reading the transcripts and listening to what audio I could listen to, this man is appalling in every sense of the word.  However, I am somewhat confused of what has transpired over the past few days.

On Sunday, the day after the audio was released, it is reported that Sterling has a long history of racial discrimination including charges in the NBA and that nobody should be surprised by this.  On the panel discussing these charges was National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Interim President and CEO Lorraine C. Miller.  The NAACP Los Angeles chapter was planning to honor Sterling for a Humanitarian Award, which has since been rescinded.  Sterling was honored by NAACP once before in 2008.  If Sterling has a history of this behavior, is a well-known racist and nobody should be surprised by this outcome, how in the world can an esteemed organization such as the NAACP not only honor him once, but almost twice.  I guess money can buy just about anything.  This is obviously a mistake by the NAACP and I would hope they review their high end donors and honorees after this debacle.

To quote Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban when interviewed about the possibility of forcing a sale of the Clippers by the league "it will be a slippery slope" and it most likely will not happen overnight.  This all goes back to the "history" of this man's behavior, why now?  When he was evicting colored people illegally in rent controlled housing it wasn't an issue? It wasn't an issue when the Department of Justice brought discrimination charges against him and he was quoted as saying that the reason he did not like to African-Americans was "Black tenants smell and attract vermin." and that Hispanics "smoke, drink and just hang around the building,"? Mark Cuban feels that forcing a sale will open a Pandora's Box from special interest groups to pressure league officials into action when people aren't aligned with their views, and he could be right.

The question of the players being able to opt out of contracts because of this was brought up during the press conference and I must say that is not an option.  It comes down to two things.  First, and I keep going back to it, is the history of Sterling, if the agents of these players did their homework rather than go after the biggest contract they would have known this.  Second, when you sell your soul to the devil you live with the consequence.  The NAACP learned that the hard way and they reportedly returned the money Sterling donated.  Will the NBA players wishing to opt out do the same thing? Unlikely!

Donald Sterling is a vile human being.  He is married with a mistress, OUT IN THE OPEN.    When asked about his actions as a landlord his quote was "I own the building, so I can be racist".  He just doesn't care and that compounds the issue.  He was also quoted as saying to an emplyee that reported a request for repairs and refund due to damage "I'm not going to do that, just evict the bitch"

If you have been following this story and are celebrating the decision keep in mind this does not solve the problem.  The players still "play" for Sterling, he still signs the checks.  What does forcing the sale of the franchise do to Sterling?  He stands to make a 480% profit on his investment, just on the sale.  That's showing him.  He will still be a racist, just a half of a billion dollars richer. While the courts haggle over the sale of the team, and they will, does that mean his "ban" mean he doesn't have to pay the bills?  The punishment at this point is on the surface.  This is far from over.

The NBA needs to tread lightly here on how they react to public discourse.  They have opened the door, now it is a matter of who they let in to voice their issues.  Leading to a "slippery slope".


If you don't take it from me, ask my wife