World Cup time draws nigh, at least if the nuttiness quotient is any indication.
First, chief comedian/FIFA boss Sepp Blatter inveighed against the "pornographic" amounts of money that players make, "unsavoury" agents and avaricious owners (c'mon down, Roman Abramovich!) in an op-ed article in the Financial Times (reg. required). Blatter is good for two or three of these kind of headline-grabbing pearls a year, and much of this talk flows like mother's milk to his constituency. But please. Coming from a fellow whose cozy relationship with FIFA's house broadcaster nearly bankrupt the place, whose own election came despite allegations of bribes and who pulls down a pretty nice stipend himself, this is one of those pot meet kettle moments.
The predictable backlash has already started:
"FIFA will be making as much money as they can from the World Cups and yet he is criticizing players for trying to maximize their income from a very short career."
|"Next question. You there, in the back row, with the Don't Touch Our Svennis sign."|
"He has turned a bunch of bone breakers on muddy pitches into a World Cup team."
More from Tommy Schonstedt of Expressen, obviously the Bill Simmons of Sweden:
"They really have gone too far now. We have had enough now. This means war now. The English should be bowing deeply and thanking Sven-Goran Eriksson. Instead they bully and mock him. But after yesterday we say: `Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"’
For a roundup of where they stand -- who's in, who's playing off, who is out and more Sven than there is snus in Sweden -- click here. There's still a few more games to be played and five final slots to be filled before the Dec. 9 draw setting up the grid for what The Star's Cathal Kelly says could be "the best World Cup ever." Hmm. If Sepp was a no-show, I might go along with that. Oh, and while we're on the subject of soccer, happy birthday, Grace Brown.
Elsewhere, a late filing of links for you:
Raptors preseason opener last night: An overtime loss, and Sam Mitchell goes off. Plus ca change, or what?
Move over, Don Denkinger. Doug Eddings is comin' through. For more on the umpire strikin' back in last night's Chicago-L.A. playoff, check here. (Er, there really isn't more. It's everywhere. Doug Eddings is this year's Denkinger, this year's Bartman).
In the NL, Rich Griffin writes about former Jay Chris Carpenter's winning night.
Across the pond, the Royal & Ancient are allowing women into their Open. (And yes, I've just looked it up and confirmed that it is indeed 2005.)