"Callous Disregard"

Jack Warner is an unhappy man today.

In fact, to be honest, Jack is royally pissed off.

It seems he feels that Sunderland Boss Roy Keane pulled a dastardly deed by recalling 36 year old Ancient Warrior Dwight Yorke to his club prior to last night's USA-T&T match, and he fired off a missive - on FIFA letterhead, just to remind Keano who he's dealing with - that one hopes the secretaries at The Stadium of Light handled with asbestos gloves:

'Your callous disregard for the rights of 'small' countries to have their players represent them as enshrined in FIFA regulations reveals a mean streak in your character.

When Warner starts pulling out the "persecuting small countries" banner, and then calls you a bad man, you know you're in trouble. But he was just getting started:

'It is one which will not endear you or Sunderland to such countries and it is a dangerous path to tread.'

Does that sound anything like a threat to you?

'Such insensitivity and disrespect were again most recently displayed by you having summoned Dwight Yorke to England, rendering him unavailable to face the USA.

"Insensitivity"? "Disrespect"? He hasn't publicly dumped on anyone this heavily since they tried to fine him a million bucks for kiting tickets.

'Your continuing insensitivity and disrespect for countries such as Trinidad and Tobago are hereby noted.'

Did you catch the tone? When Jack "notes" anything other than how many US $100 bills you can stuff into an 8 X 10 envelope, you'd better hire a food taster.

For their part, Sunderland ARE REPORTEDLY "FURIOUS" that this letter barely had time to cool off before a copy of it landed on the front desk at the local cageliner, but they're stoically refusing to comment publicly.

(Which of course begs the question: what exactly are they going to say? "Oh, tell that crooked old bastard to piss off", for example, might not be a great idea.)

The curious thing about this is that just last week Yorke was telling the press that "he was "totally in control" of his involvement with T&T, and would only play when it did not impinge on Sunderland.", which would indicate that Dwight himself made the decision to fly back to Britain after Saturday's match.

This would seem to jibe with the fact that fellow Black Cat Trinidadian Carlos Edwards stayed with the Soca Warriors (or as Dan would have it, the Footba Warriors) through last night's game. If Keane was randomly calling back internationals "from small countries" due to his "mean streak" why would he have left Edwards?

Furthermore, Yorke, the only T&T veteran of the 06 World Cup not currently banned from the program for "insensitively" and "disrespectfully" asking Jack Warner to pay him more than the $800 that Warner claimed represented 50% of the team's net from that competition, was as recently as last May considered so marginal to the team that Warner had to issue a personal rules waiver allowing seven substitutes into the England freindly so that Dwight could trot around on the pitch for a few minutes.

(FIFA's rules officials, not having been informed that Warner is empowered to change the LOTG whenever he damned well feels like it, briefly ruled that the game was not to be officially recorded due to the illegal number of substitutes, but less than 24 hours later claimed they had in fact approved it all along. Smart lads)

Mostly, one has to suspect that Warner is just a disgruntled fan who gets into a sour mood when his team loses, just like the rest of us. The difference of course being that the rest of us can't fire off threats on FIFA letterhead and scare the pants off of people.

Another 36-ish CONCACAF legend, Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo, saw his last game in a Mexico uniform last night, having announced his national team retirement just prior to the match.

After entering the game in the 89th minute and playing seven minutes, he picked up the game ball and tossed it into the air. He was then mobbed by his teammates who hoisted him on their shoulders for a trot around the field as an adoring crowd went insane.

For those of us who live in a country seemingly awash with sports "heroes" who are paraded across the TV screen in an endless stream of PR hype and commercial baloney, we sometimes forget just what guys like him mean to an entire nation to whom his on-field exploits, in a very real sense, belong.

When a Tom Brady hits a streaking receiver or a Kobe Bryant nails a three with the clock running down, a good 3/4 or more of football or basketball fans really don't care that much. When a Blanco hits the net in a major international match, an entire nation - men, women, children, household pets - goes berserk in a unifying delirium which most American sports fans just cannot relate to.

Michael Phelps touching the wall first doesn't even come close.

In a country as obsessed with sports celebrity as the US, and as rich in spectator and participation opportunities, we happy few who follow soccer know that in this regard at least, it's a feeling that we can only envy but never really know.