|South Korea alters power structure|
By Michael Davies
Special to Page 2
Day 19: Poor research and blatant pro-Americanism
Room 1412 The Pan Pacific Hotel, 10:55 p.m.
Italy was outplayed, outhustled and outcoached by Guus Hiddink, who got his team up splendidly for this game (and for all their games, come to think of it). Giovanni Trappatoni has built a team of prima donnas in his own image. Just watch, he will blame the ref and accept absolutely no responsibility for himself or his team.
Oh, what a shocker, there it is: "Italian Fury at 'worst ever' referee" screams the headline. FIFA just has to do something about this -- the level of disrespect for officials amid all the diving, injury-feigning, shirt-pulling, professional-fouling and time-wasting by players from certain parts of the world is a joke. They should review the tapes and start banning players. The NBA does this so well -- players and coaches are constantly ejected and fined (but not enough) for protesting calls. In soccer, it's even worse because so many players try to deliberately get away with illegal acts, it is unconscionable that anyone would question a referee's or linesman's call. In the Portugal-Korea match the other night, Joao Pinto actually punched the referee, while Fernando Couto had his hands around his throat. In the NBA, I'm pretty sure they would both be banned for life. Screw 'em. Most of the worst offending players and countries are out of the Cup, and I won't miss them.
Media Center , 12:15 p.m.
As for the power rankings, I submitted those before the Korea-Italy game and originally they looked like this:
In an effort to save me from even more "you're a %$#*&^@ idiot, Davies" e-mail, my editors at espn.com removed Italy and slid everyone up one. But I think Korea deserves to rise after last night (Spain is not digesting their paella, I hear), and call it new U.S. patriotism or just a hunch that they might be able to beat the -- yes, I'm going to use the word -- vulnerable Germans, but I've got to move the Americans up as well. So here's a new list:
Davies' Dubious and Ever-changing Power Rankings (Take Two)
5. South Korea
6. (tie) United States
6. (tie) Senegal
Nestled in the hills above Yokohama (it could be the Hollywood Hills, except for all the uniformed Japanese schoolchildren), this place is ex-pat heaven. A country club for mostly Britons and Americans living and working in Japan, I heard about it from a friend who used to work for the British Foreign Office out here. It is very English -- a traditional bar, lawn bowling and cricket on Sundays, but is largely responsible for introducing the game of baseball to Japan. After a team of Americans from this club lost a game of baseball to an elite Tokyo high school team in 1896, the ensuing publicity catapulted the game into the national consciousness.
Baseball is still by far the biggest sport here, but represents corporate Japan, a slightly, older, more traditional fan base than soccer's young, outgoing and untraditional crowd. I sit by the pool and read "Japanese Rules: Why the Japanese needed football and how they got it" by Sebastian Moffett. I only get through the first 60 pages, but it is fascinating. I never realized how much sport in Japan, and especially baseball, is controlled by its biggest corporations. Japan's soccer league, The J-League, incidentally, is only 9 years old and has already had its ups and downs -- but I dare say, after this World Cup, it is going to be more successful than ever.
The Media Center, Press Room, 6:30 p.m.
"It is they, though, who now have the embarrassed looks on their faces, as they're responsible for the odorous emission of poor research and blatant anti-Americanism," they write.
Experienced F365 readers know that poor research goes without saying, but the accusation of anti-Americanism is a new one for us.
And it is in no way whatsoever devalued by ESPN themselves writing, in the second entry in their '10 reasons soccer is poised to break through in the States like never before,' that:
"The United States loves heroes and underdogs, hates foreigners who trash the USA -- it is really fun watching these underdogs, these heroes, beat those bastards."
Fair point, but it should be abundantly clear to anyone who has read my column that, when I write "those bastards," I don't mean anyone English. I generally use that term to refer to my new football writing friends from South America and continental Europe.
I try to send them an apology, because I really do enjoy their site, from the media center computer, but it won't let me mail and I figure I'll just write it here. Sorry, lads. But you must admit, it was more than one writer who felt the United States had no chance ... and even today, this is from your website:
I agree wholeheartedly with the wrong name comment -- I am forced, after all, to name my column "the other football" -- and also that despite the ratings being extremely impressive for the U.S. (and England) games in the middle of the night, that not enough people give a toss. But "nobodies and has-beens"? That is no way to talk about Jeff Agoos! I also get the sense you might be devoting a few more column inches in the future to the somebodies on this team -- Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and John O'Brien.
Moreover, nobody in the States I've spoken to, or read about, is claiming they rule the world. Except in a geo-political sense.
Michael Davies, a native of London, is executive producer of ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." He'll be filing five diary entries per week from the World Cup for Page 2.