Albino Catholics on TV

Despite what you may have heard, there is no truth to the rumor that ESPN is considering starting each Euro 2008 gamecast at the 90 minute mark.

The obvious advantage of limiting the amount of time that Julie Foudy has an open mike aside, it seems that each game's highlight film now consists almost entirely of action that occurs after the 90 minute mark.

(Seriously though, how much would you pay to see Andy Gray turn to Julie and say "One more word outta ye, woman, and I'll have to give ye the belt"?)

Referee Howard Webb's award of a post 90th minute PK to Austria (reportedly for "grappling" a term I can't find in the LOTG) is a case in point.

Poland coach Leo Beenhakker, who I am reasonably confident is not actually dead despite his astonishingly corpse-like appearance, is suitably outraged over the decision and UEFA is predictably standing behind their referee.

Of course, UEFA will always stand by their man. No one will be surprised to see a UEFA media release that says "We have reviewed the incident in question and fully support the referee's decision to pull a Glock 9 out of his card wallet and kneecap three players and the senior linesman, and feel that his decision is entirely consistent with the letter and the spirit of the Laws of the Game".

The heartbreaking Poland result (I mean, who doesn't root for Poland? History has been kicking those guys around since the 11th Century when "Stanislaw the Reasonably Good Looking" was dragged off to Moscow and forced to live out his life as a circus monkey, and the fact that you're not entirely positive that's a joke only underlines the point) followed the previous game's inexplicable post 90th minute meltdown and sendoff of famed German albino Bastian Schweinsteiger which, while a tough blow for a reeling Germany squad is a blessing for TV technical people who now are relieved of having to compensate for his glare.

In any case, UEFA was too busy SWOONING OVER THE TV NUMBERS to worry about what the officials were doing on the field. Even in England, where the citizenry is still hanging Steve McClaren in effigy, TV ratings are reportedly at an all-time high.

All of which serves to underline the point that, in the great FIFA power game, UEFA Boss Michael Platini, who is a former Sepp Blatter protege, is holding some serious cards these days.

The question this tournament was secretly hoping to answer was "When push comes to shove, does Europe really need Thailand and the Turks and Caicos and a bunch of other soccer non-entities in order to succeed, or is the possibility of telling FIFA to go stuff themselves something more than a pipedream?"

And in the real game here, the one that's about money and power and the future of International soccer, Europe is making one heck of a strong play.

Then again perhaps the real power player here is the little old man who lives in the Vatican.

As AT LEAST ONE SOURCE IS SUGGESTING it may be wise, from a statistical standpoint, to include catechism training in your overall development program:

“In seven of the 16 participating countries, Catholics are clearly in the majority: Poland (95 percent of the population), Spain (92 percent), Italy (90 percent), Portugal (90 percent), Croatia (77 percent), Austria (69 percent ) and France (51 percent). Only one Protestant stronghold confronts them, Sweden. Of the 8.8 million inhabitants of the northern European country, 80 percent are Lutherans.”

I report, you deride.

Peter Berlin, writing in The New York Times points out some of the problems with holding a two-nation competition under the UEFA "every team in a group plays on the same day" format.

Obviously the idea is to allow samller countries to host (co-host) major competitions rather than just leaving it to the bigger countries.

But the logical way to schedule the games - one match in each country each day - doesn't work with the UEFA Group format.

All of which makes for some badly disoriented scrambling back and forth over the Alps for those intrepid fans who want to see it all.

Berlin (no relation to Irving) seems to feel some sympathy for these weary travelers. Personally, I can't think of anything, aside from waking up next to Jessica Biel, that sounds more appealing.

I'd swap places in an instant.


I can't decide whether this is evidence of the explosion of worldwide interest in soccer, a reflection of the priorities of the police in a nation where juvenile sex slavery is rampant or just par for the course in an region of the world where you can get odds on cockroach races.

Back later.