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Penalty Kicks

Re: Reid Collins’ Soccer, Anyone?:

Soccer is Irish clog dancing with occasional goal-scoring.
R.L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

Breathtaking… How else to describe Mr. Collins’ ignorance on the sport of soccer. I’m not a typical “defend soccer at all costs” person, but just an average reader that has a moderate understanding of the sport. My disbelief is that anyone with such limited knowledge on a subject would actually write about it in such a juvenile way.

He states that to make NFL football more like soccer we need to cut down on scoring. The straightforward idea on how to cut down on scoring is give two points for a touchdown and 1 for a field goal. This would cut down on scoring without modifying rules within the game itself. Many games from this past year would be less than many of the World Cup games’ scores. His NBA example is just as ridiculous.

When he states that “Americans are confused by the term ‘football’…” I agree that they are, but here is where as a writer you could help inform the reader instead of perpetuating the ignorance. The rest of the world plays “football” with their feet. Here we use our hands for football. And, as a typical American sports fanatic, he makes fun of that which he clearly has no understanding.

By the time he gets to describing the game that he obviously does not comprehend (and more likely has never seen), it is quite clear that we are wasting our time by reading anything Mr. Collins has to offer on the subject. I’m sure his next article will be on the intricacies of brain surgery techniques or the actual application of banking derivatives on the global economy. I’m not saying you have to be an expert to write about a subject, but it helps to have a rudimentary understanding. Just a couple of examples of his ignorance:

“Scoring is no fun”… Does Mr. Collins really believe that soccer players/fans hold to this belief? Has he ever seen what goes on after a goal is scored in soccer?

“Non-Contact”… Maybe at the eight-year-old level, but every game I’ve ever seen involves numerous collisions and injuries. The rules include tackles (not the NFL type) and shoulder charges which can be quite violent. All without the use of helmets or pads (other than shin guards). Two players attempting to head the same ball in the air leads to all kinds of mayhem.

“The bloodless nature of the play is reflected in the benign attitude on the sidelines. Ever hear of an irate Dad punching out a soccer referee?”… Well, as a matter of fact, most sidelines are quite animated. Lots of anger — again, usually after the age of 8. And, as a matter of fact:

New Jersey (Soccer) — Referee James Clay, a 50-year-old with seven years of officiating experience, was slugged in the head and neck after ejecting a Clayton High School player. The player was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. He was released to the custody of his parents. (Contributing source: Philadelphia Inquirer)

Florida (Soccer) — Parent Xxxxx Xxxxx enters the soccer field to check on his son, who has been injured in a skirmish for the ball. Angry that a more severe penalty had not been levied on the opposing player, Xxxxx confronts the referee and shoves him to the ground. The game is stopped and forfeited by Orange Park High School to Nease High.

South Dakota (Soccer) — A 42-year-old adult man strikes the soccer referee, who happened to also be the town’s mayor, during a match between 11-year-old girls. The coach was sentenced to one year in jail.

“No such thing as multiple fouls before ejection”… One is only given a card (and most time not a red card) for an egregious foul. Players can commit many fouls in a game without being ejected. This mistake of his actually makes me believe that he has never seen a soccer match.

“Size Matters”…It does in soccer as well. Being able to shield the ball from an opponent or bump him off the ball are real advantages. There is also position specialization: goalie, sweeper, striker, and stopper all have benefited from specialization. And just like the other sports not every team has monsters on it but some do.

In conclusion, I must also express my disappointment in your fine publication to include such nonsense in its pages. I can only hope that it was a holiday for your usual authors.
Jim Cadden
Endicott, New York

Mr. Collins offers some humorous insight as to why Americans are bewildered by the popularity of soccer outside of the U.S., with the exception of our own “bloodless” suburbs, where Mommies reign supreme. As a football/baseball/soccer/basketball/softball dad and coach, I’ve seen the participants, officials and the spectators up close and personal. Even with my own kids on the field, soccer stood alone in its singular ability to bore, stultify and confuse. I tried to like it…

In any case, some improvements to the game may make it more palatable to American tastes; who says we have to play the game in the Euro-style?

First, expel any player who deliberately kicks the ball out bounds. Chasing down errant kicks only to have to throw them back in two-handed with both feet on the ground wastes a lot of time and LOOKS awkward and sissified.

Second, get rid of these infernal goalies with their garish individualized uniforms. Playing the game without goalies would lead to some REAL scoring. All goalies do is frustrate everybody and any game that can end in a 0-0 tie is not going to sit well with Americans, although the French do love that kind if thing.

Third, if it comes down to a shoot-out to decide games tied after regulation time, let’s use paintball guns and have a real shoot-out instead of kicking a ball pointblank at a defenseless goalie. As a matter of fact, equip the spectators too and let’s have some real fun.
Deane Fish
Altamont, New York

There seems to be a causal link between the utter dullness of soccer and endemic fan violence afterward. These unfortunate people are looking for an outlet for pent-up emotional energy that had no opportunity for release during the game. That applies to the players as well. Note that in the middle of playing in the World Cup, this head-butting Frenchman wasn’t doing anything but standing around. Bored out of his skull, he decided to do something with that skull.

There are also hints that soccer has an underlying political philosophy that’s more “blue” European than “red” American. Europeans put up with bureaucratic impositions that no sensible American would tolerate. I once met a German who passively noted that the ease with which an American could buy a sailboat and begin enjoying it didn’t exist in Germany. There, for each class of boat and each body of water you had to get the proper permit. That’s soccer too, a game where experts make the rules and assume, quite rightly it turns out, that the fans are too stupid to figure out that the result is a bore. Note too that in their frustration the fans turn to the sporting equivalent of the nasty nationalism that’s long been a trademark of European politics.

In contrast, American games respond to the people and few fans are left bored, frustrated or nasty. If some aspect of a game is dull, the rules change. The results are games that more closely reflect the talents of the teams. In soccer, defense is so outlandishly strong,
even the most clueless team can hold the final score down to 2-0. That reflects the leveling of European socialism, where incompetents can’t be fired and unprofitable businesses get government subsidies. In America, the difference between talent and incompetence is made all too obvious and in the end everyone benefits from a healthy
economy and interesting games.
Mike Perry
Seattle, Washington

In regards to Reid Collins’ commentary on soccer, my
take is this:

The ball is coming directly at you, and the rule says you can’t catch the damn thing. Instead, you must stop it with your head. That is just asinine! Then, when you stop the ball, you can’t pick it up and throw it upfield. Seriously, I’ve tried it and they WILL penalize you (unless it’s the tots’ league, in which case they may let it slide in order to protect your self-esteem – but that doesn’t last – you end up on the sidelines hanging with the soccer moms ;-}

Only one guy can throw the ball once in a while,
probably a minority dude from an under-represented
country, I guess, to make up for past transgressions
of the former colonial power … or maybe I don’t
understand that part …

I can’t argue with the amount of running, though. You have got to be in great aerobic shape, but if you are, then play Ultimate Frisbee. It’s more fun, you’ve got young hippies and hotties on the sidelines (and playing) instead of soccer moms (of course, this is not mutually exclusive), and you can make diving catches on the grass or pick up the disk and let it fly! Wheww hooo!

Now, back to soccer, as far as a spectator sport, I don’t think, even if they could get John Madden doing commentary, this so-called game could be elevated to the level of entertainment equal to the QVC shopping channel repeats of “Best of Toe Ointments under $4.99” or CNBC’s “My Life as an Assistant Commodities Futures Trader.”

Whatever, it’s a free country, supposedly. If you like that game, go for it, knock yourself out (with the stomach of an Italian).
Jimmy Antley

Reid Collins makes good points about soccer. May I try my hand, as it were, or is that a yellow card?

Having enjoyed playing soccer so much in gym class, I determined to watch as much of the World Cup competition as I could to see if I could awaken some of that zeal vicariously. I couldn’t, but at least now I think I know why.

First, the game is just so imprecise!

The very best players in the world managed to:

  • Attempt passes that were intercepted about as often as not;
  • Attempt head contact with the ball and get only air, about as often as not;
  • Attempt shots on goal that went wide left, wide right or high, and I do mean high, almost without exception; and, second;
  • Drop to the ground and writhe as if in the throes of flaming death upon contact by an opponent, much, much more often than would the best coached NFL quarterback or a major league batter plunked by a 95 mph fastball in any but his tenderest parts, or any hockey player at any level (this has nothing to do with imprecision, but everything to do with American distaste).

These results are virtually indistinguishable from the results observed on the makeshift “pitch” of McClellan Elementary, circa 1965. In the latter case, fun was had by all except Mr. Rosensteel, who could be observed rolling his eyes in disbelief at the ineptitude (and disgust at the “sissiness”) rampant on his treasured playing field, as he waited patiently for the curriculum to dictate a change to instruction in more American and rewarding pursuits, even if that only meant running laps.

Daring not to venture slurs on the athletic abilities of our global community, I can only hazard that the Good Lord (or evolution, if you must) gave us hands for a reason, or reasons. One of those reasons must be to propel a ball of some description toward a goal, however defined or indirect. If He had meant our feet for such a purpose, He (or “it”) would have made them prehensile. Even the strictest proponent of evolution must admit that we humans didn’t get to the top of the food chain by virtue of anything done with our feet or by using our heads as battering rams.

Compare and contrast the precision of a touchdown pass, an NBA three pointer off a fast break or a slider not quite down and away on a 3-2 count with what was witnessed in the World Cup competition. These are the things Americans want to see. Many of us will even settle for a pitch to the green from deep in the bunker by Tiger Woods, or Tony Stewart threading the needle between the wall and Jeff Gordon. Good Lord, I hate to watch tennis, but it sure doesn’t tolerate wildness, and the highlight reel isn’t about missed shots.

We want to see strategy, tactics and execution that pay off or have bad consequences. Make a bad pass in soccer and the game drones on. Make a bad shot on goal in soccer and the game drones on, as does the utterly incessant chanting of the apparently hypnotized fans. Do anything but score in soccer and the game drones on, with intercepted passes, missed shots and extra writhing when the lads get distressed in addition to tired.

That brings me to my other point. What’s the point of having a ninety-minute game with limited substitution on a field bigger than a football field, when so many games must be decided by shootouts? I have no clue what that’s about, but it has to be great for concession sales.

I can also hardly believe that these well-conditioned athletes can’t bear the pansy hits that send them into histrionics on the grass. I think they just get tired and milk the so-called “hits” for a break. In sixth grade, guys like that just stayed away from the ball, but at the level of the World Cup, that would hardly do, would it? Would it help to pad these guys more fully?

I could go on with some speculation about how the success of any country’s soccer team seems to vary inversely with that nation’s war record and leadership in the defense of freedom, but I don’t feel like looking it up. However, seeing Italy and France playing for the championship raised the issue in my mind. I stand prepared to be corrected.

Americans aren’t used to the imprecise, lollygagging style of soccer. We don’t have hours long dinners, months long vacations or siestas at noon. We got to be the most productive nation on the planet by means of strategy, tactics and execution, and we didn’t tie our hands behind our backs or reward those with thick skulls, except for boxers. Even then, how many of the great heavyweights have come from the rest of the world?

Sure, put the World Cup on TV. Take the kids to practice and games. Support your local high school or college soccer team. On the other hand, don’t feel guilty because you ‘just don’t get it’ about soccer at the ‘highest levels’. After all, it looks pretty much like soccer at the lowest levels.
Mark Fallert
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Soccer is a waste of valuable real estate that would be better devoted to badminton or croquet.

As for the youth game, heading soccer balls has resulted in an epidemic of “young skulls full of mush.”

Is there a sport more boring than World Cup soccer? Women’s soccer! Even when the ladies rip their jerseys off, there’s not much to get excited about.
Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

With apologies to Mr. Ernest L. Thayer:

Oh, somewhere in this cultured land the sun is shining bright.
Accordions are playing there; the wine and cheese are light.
And there old men recall la gloire (she has long since departed).
But there is no joie en Merdeville. Zidane has been red-carded.
Jim Stevenson
San Diego, California

Soccer in the U.S. is like softball: A lot of people participate as players or spectators, but no one wants to pay to watch a professional version.
Christopher Small
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Re: James Bowman’s review of Who Killed the Electric Car?:

The murderer is capitalism. I guess they did not have an adequate budget for a real tear-jerker movie showing the funeral of a passenger train.
Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

Having just recently read two essays on energy problems which discussed the problems of electric cars I will give links to them along with a short quote.

1. Steven Den Beste

2., “The wrong size glass” by Donald Sensing

The quote below is from and is quoting from the Den Beste essay:

“But if the goal is to reduce emission of CO2 overall, they are actually worse than using gasoline. That’s because electricity isn’t an energy source…Electricity is the most versatile form of energy we have, but all the electricity we use is created from other things. The majority of the electricity used in the United States is generated by burning coal…If the original electricity was created by burning coal, then what this means is that a lot more CO2 is released per passenger mile by the battery-based electric car than by a gasoline car.”
Geoff Bowden
Battle Creek, Michigan

Only someone who has never driven an EV1 could mourn its demise.

I had an opportunity to drive an EV1 as a participant in a marketing study. The study was hosted here in the Bay Area and involved both group discussion and driving sessions. In the EV1 design, passenger space is for two passengers only, range is very limited, re-charge time is lengthy, the car has a “tinny” quality and the constant whine of the electric motor is very annoying. All if that was easily determined in one short test drive.

It is telling that GM never sold an EV1. If you wanted one, it was for lease only. Since none of these cars are in private hands we will never know the economic and environmental impact of battery pack replacements.

You are right on the money.
Ken Johnson

There is no mystery why the electric car disappeared when the CA mandate was removed. There was no conspiracy to kill them. As stated the only reason they were sold was because of the mandate. They were big $ losers for the manufacturers. Much more so than the first Honda and Toyota hybrids. Also, the EV1 was not sold for two reasons. The first is the federal mandate that the manufacture must support the in use vehicles for ten years. This is very costly especially for a very limited production car. If all the vehicles are leased they can be easily removed from the road ending the support requirement. The second reason is that the battery has limited cycle life and is expensive. The battery type used was deep cycle lead acid; which have a life of 500 complete charge/discharge cycles. Who would buy a vehicle if they knew that they had to replace the engine every 6,000 to 8,000 miles? By only offering the EV1 on a full service lease the lessee does not suffer the sticker shock of the inevitable battery replacement.
Steve Cushman
P.S. The hot air in the hybrid balloon will cool and leak out when the nickel metal hydride batteries used have to be replaced after the 100,000 mile guarantee expires. There are not many owners of Honda Insights or Toyota Priuses that have more than 100,000 miles. At least the hybrid can operate with a knackered battery which is a lot better than an EV in the same circumstances.

Re: Lisa Fabrizio’s Not-So-Free Love:

Lisa Fabrizio writes, “Kinsey’s report reduced human sexuality to that of brutish beasts; unrestrained by passe marriage vows, more like animals than civilized men.” Whatever his faults, and they were legion, on this score Kinsey was right, or at least half right. We XY chromosome types are naturally “brutish beasts, [instinctively prefer to be] unrestrained by passe marriage vows, more like animals than civilized men.” It is the XX ladies, the Lisa’s, who for the millennia calmed the “brutish beasts” and made it clear that marriage vows would be honored, or else, as Francis Albert Sinatra so correctly noted, at least in song if not in practice, “Dad was told by mother, you can’t have one without the other.”

Watch the cable channel Animal Planet beyond the performing dogs and see how the dominant mammalian male insists on “having” all the females, and how the dominant lion’s first job is to kill the cubs of the previous dominant lion. Instinctively there isn’t the slightest difference in Homo sapiens. Since Dad is no longer told by mother, see above, the male insists on “having” all the females. And if you want to optimize the probability of an infant being beaten or shaken to death, put an unrelated male in the house of a mother with one or more infants.

So, ladies, “J’accuse”! It is you who have gone wild. It is you who no longer tell Dad, “you can’t have one without the other.” And much more sadly, it is you who have trashed a mother’s unconditional love for her child in exchange for Roe v. Wade and the “freedom” of behaving a la Animal Planet. Despite the pejorative “turn back the clock,” this writer asks you to turn back the clock and civilize us once more.
Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

Re: David Holman’s The Rest of Murtha’s FBI Tape:

John Murtha, in a similar fashion to Joe Wilson, Bill Clinton, Jim McDermott, Alcee Hastings, Terry McAuliffe, Ronnie Earle, Dan Rather, Don Riegle, Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers, Charles Schumer, William Jefferson, Bill Keller, Dick Wolf, and so many other Democrats, thinks that he can scam as a means to justify an end simply because he’s convinced that: “The other guy does it.”

Yet, they all scream back when we dare to “speak truth to power” about their scams upon an innocent.
P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Gosh are you SURE Murtha is not a Republican? Got to be since according to the Dems it is the Republicans that are the party of corruption.

OK to you liberals out there, I am just kidding. I know you don’t have a sense of humor and will not understand this dig.
Elaine Kyle

I have a question about the Murtha/Abscam scandal: After turning down the bribe, did Murtha immediately contact the FBI? If he did not, he’s as guilty as the ones who accepted the money.
Don Herion
Los Angeles, California

Is it possible to file for a FOIA do get the rest of the information?
Erin Bizon

Re: Jeffrey Lord’s Meet James Mattoon Keller:

I read Jeffery Lord’s story on the New York Times/Seven Days in May analogy with great fear for our country. But not for the reasons you probably would think. There is a bigger picture taking place here. We are heading into an election cycle with, in most people’s opinion worldwide, the worst president and the most disastrous foreign policies in our country’s history. The right-wing spin is moving on from gay people being our biggest problem as a smokescreen to demonizing critics of the administration. The implication here is that freedom of the press is not an important issue to you and that only “government friendly” media should be allowed to exist. Once you go down your path that critics of the government are treasonous traitors, the America we all loved is over.

I don’t care what amount of comfort any journalist might give to the enemy if the alternative means I have to live in a country where people have to be afraid of expressing their opinions.
Al Baran
Stratford, Connecticut

Jeffrey Lord replies:
Having read Mr. Alfred Baran’s reply to my story on the New York Times and the film version of Seven Days in May I confess to being amazed. Put aside his notion that it is relevant whether “most people’s opinion worldwide” matters on the subject of President Bush’s popularity (many of this crowd hated Reagan too.) Fortunately, only Americans get to choose who sits in the White House.

What is truly astonishing is that Mr. Baran feels quite comfortable outsourcing his own responsibility in a democracy. He is startlingly at ease in yielding his own right in a free election to select the people who will review our national security secrets. Again, there is no argument — none — about the First Amendment right to criticize this or any other president. Unlike the Clinton administration, to my knowledge the Bush White House has not employed private investigators to intimidate its critics. The problem here is that freely elected representatives of the people — people elected by Mr. Baran and every voting American — are having their responsibilities lifted out of their hands by a self-selected group of elitist journalists operating behind closed doors. By all means, let the Bush critics criticize. They are in the business of being critics. But they don’t have the right to supersede the choices made on classified information by men and women who have been freely elected from one end of the country to the other. If they want that job then they should have the courage to go ask Mr. Baran and all the rest of us for our votes.

Mr. Baran shouldn’t wait up for them to come calling. It’s an easier life behind those closed doors in Manhattan.

Re: Jed Babbin’s Crazy Kim, Cozy Carl, and the Bow Wave:

They’re probing our anti-missile capabilities. They can just say they were provoked since we were starting to arm their centuries-old enemy Japan and we were having naval war games right off their coast. The way I see it we whacked a hornet’s nest. Who’s in charge of this mess? We had our opportunity to really clean someone’s clock after 9-11 and we didn’t so we look like the weenies we are. We keep moving the goal post back year after year — it’s probably up in the stands by now. Take care!
Jackson, Michigan

Re: Diane Smith’s and John Stevens’s letters (Under “Dorell Open”) in Reader Mail’s Land of the Free:

I haven’t lost the battle, as Diane Smith suggests. Regarding class discrimination in the armed services, the only way to clearly eliminate it would be to reinstitute the draft or require military service along the lines of countries like Switzerland. Under that scenario, all citizens would be required to participate in the defense of the country, and the rich wouldn’t get to retreat to their private islands during wartime. A military composed entirely of volunteers isn’t fair when there is a war and economic necessity is a primary force driving the recruits. At the moment, recruiting is a serious problem because potential recruits know that Iraq is mistake, and personal sacrifice is not in order. The draft would probably be reinstated now if it were politically feasible. I assume Ms. Smith will rise to the occasion and sign up shortly.

Regarding John Stevens’ critique of my explanation of the reasons for invading Iraq, I have to confess that I am unable to listen to speeches delivered by George W. Bush. Perhaps if his speechwriters pretended that they were writing for Abraham Lincoln and hired Anthony Hopkins for the delivery, I would be able to listen. I drew my information from the presentation that Colin Powell made before the United Nations, which I and most of the world correctly found unconvincing. My basic view is this: 1) The al Qaeda faction led by Osama bin Laden attacked the U.S., and is our enemy; 2) The invasion of Afghanistan to dismantle al Qaeda and the Taliban was justified, and probably would have occurred even if Al Gore were president; 3) The situation in Iraq has almost no relevance to Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein has more in common with Joseph Stalin than with Osama bin Laden; 4) The Bush Administration’s main justifications for attacking Iraq were WMD, terrorism, and democracy-building, none of which are valid; 5) If anyone other than George W. Bush had been President, we probably wouldn’t be in Iraq today. This is more or less the conclusion that the majority of Americans are reaching: Diane Smith, John Stevens, Clifton Briner, Paul Doolittle, and Ben Stein are in the minority. Maybe Ben Stein’s country club can secede from the union, and you can all live happily there watching fireworks.
Paul Dorell
Highland Park, Illinois

Well, I don’t think Mr. Dorell’s IQ is above 80 so that must make it so. Frankly, we don’t care what you think Paul, we are talking about facts. Al Qaeda, along with any terrorists group that wanted to come, trained for hijackings in Iraq in an old jet fuselage. Maybe you’d like to join O.J. in looking for the real killer or Dan Rather in still believing his fraudulent documents.

I’d also like to add some items to John Stevens’ excellent list as to the many reasons for going to battle with Iraq in the Global War on Terror. One being the fact that the Clinton administration asked Congress, and received from them, a resolution that made regime change in Iraq official U.S. policy. But as with everything done by Clinton that didn’t involve removing his pants it was hollow rhetoric.

Another being the 15 UN resolutions preceding President Bush directing Iraq to comply with WMD inspections and reporting of which they failed consistently to do. The UN documented existing WMD and those documented weapons were tagged and sealed. Where did they go? We haven’t found them all.

I guess when it comes to the Bush administration, history only starts on January 20, 2001, for those like Paul Dorell with their collection of designer horse-blinders.
Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

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