25

June

Meet Vince Lombardi… with An Accent

This story is about a gruff, quote-worthy coach who single-handidly built a football dynasty in the 1960s. No, this isn’t a review of the upcoming Broadway play based on the life of Vince Lombardi. Rather, it’s an interesting story about another type of football coach, born the same year as Vince, whose persona and achievements closely mirror those of Lombardi. Eerily so, in some cases. I call him “Vince Lombardi with an Accent”. This fine piece of historical comparison is brought to you by guest author Fran Dunn, a Packer fan from “across the pond”, known as “baboons” on twitter.

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

I wonder how many of you reading that quote thought you’d missed an excerpt from one of Vince Lombardi’s famous speeches.  Don’t worry, you haven’t.  These words belong to Bill Shankly, the manager of English football team Liverpool in the 1960s.  Shankly created a team, a dynasty that would live past his retirement and untimely death in 1981.

If Green Bay is TitleTown USA, then Liverpool is the English equivalent.  It remains English football’s most successful team, being national champions 18 times and European champions five times. Whilst many of these titles would come after he left the club, it was Shankly’s ideas, Shankly’s philosophy, Shankly’s “way” that was responsible for the success.  Shankly and Lombardi were men cut from the same cloth.

AL’s Note: Listen to Shankly’s words. This is Vince Lombardi with an Accent:

Bill Shankly was born just three months after Lombardi, in September 1913, far from the cauldron of Brooklyn in the Scottish mining village of Glenbuck.  One of ten children, his family lived a spartan life.  The one respite for the young Shankly was the cinema.  An eight mile round trip to the nearest picture house by foot would take him to the heartland of American cities and their mobster gangs.

His love of James Cagney and Edward G Robinson would follow him into his managerial career, often quoting movies at players he believed weren’t pulling their weight. “Foist is foist and second is nut’n,” he would say, pointing out that mobsters, not sportsmen were the true “hard men” – if they made a mistake, they were shot dead.  Even his speech, soaked in a broad Ayrshire accent that would never be diluted despite years in England, mirrored Cagney’s machine gun delivery.

23

June

USMNT: USA defeats Algeria. Is this Game the Aha Moment For Soccer Popularity in the US?

The US Men’s National Team defeated Algeria with breathtaking drama today to advance to the knockout round of the FIFA World Cup. Could this be the game that changes how American fans look at soccer? Could this be the tipping point for soccers popularity in the United States?

The prevailing attitude from most non-fans of soccer in the USA is this: Soccer is boring. Too many low scoring games and not enough action. Well, fans, what do you think now?

In what was possibly the most exciting 1-0 game I have ever witnessed in 40 years of watching soccer, the USA dispelled all notions that exciting has to mean high scoring.

In our present sports culture, where more touchdowns, runs, baskets, or goals are always desired, isn’t it nice to know there is another way?

The USA win today was as much of an edge-of-the-seat, nerve-wracking, spine-tingling experience I’ve ever had, regardless of the sport involved.

In an amazing display of sporting drama, the US endured yet another wrongly disallowed goal, shots that found the woodwork, and numerous golden opportunities that were squandered away.

As the game got into the 80th minute, I started to think about the story I would write about this game. The headline was going to be something like, “USMNT—The Unluckiest Team in the World.”

But Landon Donovan and his teammates never stopped coming. Perhaps the most well-conditioned team in the World Cup, the USMNT once again used its superior fitness to overwhelm the tired opponents late in the game.

Surely this exciting victory, achieved after 92 minutes of doing everything right except putting the ball over the goal line, is bound to change some perceptions and cause a paradigm shift among US sports fans.

Definition of paradigm shift: A change from one way of thinking to another. It’s a revolution, a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis.  It just does not happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change.

Could this game be a major agent of change to start the American population thinking differently about soccer?

I think it can.

American fans of soccer have been waiting for a moment like this for many years. Something to let the rest of the population in on what we already know—soccer can be just as exciting as your favorite sport.