The Penal Era; or, Win Like Flynn

So, the US has looked meager and dull while plotzing past vastly inferior opposition, while two of the other tournament favorites met way too early and played a grueling two hours, resulting in the kind of victory that made Pyrrhus a household name.

Didn't we just see this last month?  The Gold Cup is like an all-male version of the all-female version of "The Odd Couple."  Looks like another ticker-tape parade is coming up soon. Better tell MLS not to dismantle that parade float just yet.  I know we're all assuming Dempsey will have the obligatory hat trick, but wouldn't it be funny if it were Gordon or Wondolowski?

The big surprise of the tournament so far is that American fans seem weirdly reluctant to entertain the idea that Roy Miller made a huge mistake in an important game.  "Every replay angle showed that Miller did not foul Peralta. Just more suspect refereeing from CONCACAF," reported BigAppleSoccer's Kristian Dyer, before giving us confirmation from Miller himself that no, it was not a foul.

This angle argues otherwise, and so, to my poor eyes, do the video highlights I saw from both Fox and, um, the Vine the guy uploaded from filming his television.  The elbow is up, the shirt is grabbed.  As Strother Martin asked Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke," where did he think that was going to get him?

If Dempsey is on the receiving end of something like this, and we don't get the call, I don't think we'll be accusing Deuce of diving. 

There's one other thing to notice from that, as the J.Geils song title says, centerfold.

(Wow, am I trying to get jokes out of songs that are 35 years old? Might as well make a "Pennsylvania 6-5000" joke while I'm at it.  Alas.)

Roy Miller is beat on that play.  And I mean, beat.  You've heard of Beats By Dre? He's wearing Beat By Oribe.  He's as beat as Allen Ginsberg.  His favorite movie is "Beat Street."  His favorite actor is Ned Beatty.  His favorite song is "Mirror in the Bathroom."  He had no business tempting fate, because in CONCACAF, fate agrees with Oscar Wilde when it comes to temptation.  This, to me, answers the complaint that there are fouls like that on every kick into the penalty area - because usually the defenders are closer, and those fouls aren't as easily seen.  If Miller wants the benefit of the doubt on plays like that, he should have been in a better position.

Ideally, we should shut our ears to plaints along the lines of the lateness of the game, or how Peralta should have been red-carded by that point.  We don't, and can't, ask the referee to look at the game holistically.  He deemed Peralta had only committed a yellow-worthy foul - and that's the end of that play.  This play happened to take place in the 122nd minute, but a foul is a foul.  It is up to the referee.  If we can't accept this, then let's get rid of referees and go back to the honor system of the 1800's. 

Mexico and Costa Rica would have brawled into the morning, and Panama would have breezed past the survivors.  Have I mentioned how much I would love to see modern players try a game under 1800's rules?  Forget referees, we wouldn't have even had goalkeepers?  FIFA should arrange that for an exhibition.

Assuming there will be a FIFA to arrange such a thing.  (Nice segue, Dan.  Thank you.)

Largely unnoticed among the actual news was Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Headline Grabbing) holding hearings against the most dangerous man in America, US Soccer CEO Dan Flynn.  Front page alumnus Aaron Stollar tried to explain rationally why America's arms have neither been up nor in about this.  But there a few more fundamental and basic reasons why hearings such as this will lead precisely nowhere. 

For one thing, the effectiveness of the Congressional hearing has diminished greatly over the past fifty years or so. Rafael Palmeiro lied to them under oath a decade ago, and to this day is free to be, you and me.  It is the FBI, not Congress, that is driving the FIFA and CONCACAF investigations, for which we should all be thankful.  You may remember Senator Blumenthal demanding that Hope Solo be benched, a move that would have cost us the World Cup.  (Yeah, I said the same thing. But I'm not a freaking Senator, am I?  And I retracted eventually. I'm not the Dan on trial here, you know.)  Hearing under oath would do little except produce more fifths than...okay, I need help with this metaphor. I can't decide between Ernest Hemingway and Bill Laimbeer.

For a second thing, unless I badly miss my guess, what Flynn (and, more than likely, Gulati) are guilty of are not crimes, and they are not guilty of any actual crimes.  US Soccer's policy of no brother-keeping isn't amoral or immoral. It's common sense.  Gulati and Flynn hold many prestigious and taxing duties for various institutions, but absent among them is "detective."  We have real cops to investigate real crimes - ask Jack Warner. 

And, of course, any practical, as opposed to comedic, effect of Gulati storming into Port-au-Prince or Zurich shouting "J'accuse!" escapes me utterly. 

The current thinking now seems to be that we should have left FIFA to make a statement.  That statement would have been "Let's all go bankrupt."  FIFA doesn't merely put on profitable tournaments, although they've been known to do that occasionally.  FIFA is also in the position of licensing professional players. If US Soccer had left FIFA, on whatever grounds, MLS would have become an outlaw league.  So MLS couldn't have signed players like, to pick a few examples off the top of my head, Beckham, Henry, Pirlo, Keane, Gerrard, Wright-Phillips, Villa, Kaka, Giovinco, or M'Bolhi. At least, not without paying a good deal more than they did.

Oh, and since the USSF would have been an outlaw federation in the eyes of FIFA, ironically enough, that would have made work permits for a bunch of players on this website highly problematic. 

Now, I may be the Lone Ranger here, but I don't believe trading games against Mexico and Germany for games against the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus would have been in the best interests of American soccer.  We can indulge fantasies of US Soccer, World Police as much as we like. But that was not, is not, and never will be the job description of any USSF President or CEO.  And we shouldn't send the game back to colleges and junior hockey arenas just to satisfy Andrew Jennings' sense of justice.  Let's don't be cops.