Assorted observations on Team USA! USA! USA!’s big win

Just a very quick rambling post, too big for Twitter but shorter than my usual manifestos.  Anyway…

— There was a lot of discussion about the mistakenly disallowed goal by Clint Dempsey in the first half, but I think another, albeit meaningless, error was made at the end of the game by match referee Frank De Bleeckere.  After calling a foul in the box on Algeria, he was subjected to some in-your-face screaming by Hassan Yebda, who with his blond mohawk and perpetually angry facial expression is almost a caricature of your prototypical soccer villain.  Yebda was soon joined by dark-haired teammate Rafik Halliche, who also started yelling at the official.

Algerian captain Anther Yahia came over to shoo away the antagonists, but by that time De Bleeckere had turned away. When he turned around holding a yellow card, the player standing in front of  him was Yahia, who like Halliche has dark hair.  Other than that, they don’t really look alike, but I think De Bleeckere got confused and showed Yahia (who was acting as a peacemaker) a card that was intended for Halliche.  Yahia had already been booked earlier in the match, so a second yellow card for him resulted in a red, and being sent off.

Not that it mattered much whether De Bleeckere got that right or not, as Algeria was toast by then.

— Raid M’Bolhi was excellent in goal for the Algerians.  M’Bolhi also started against England, and kept a clean sheet (admittedly, a lot of keepers could have kept a clean sheet against the English in that game).  I have to wonder why he wasn’t the starter against Slovenia, a game lost by Algeria on a goalkeeping error.

Algeria could have had a very different tournament if it had not lost that opening game.

— Jozy Altidore played very well, a near-complete performance, and one maintained for the entire game.  Alexi Lalas was correct to laud Altidore’s effort during ESPN’s post-game show.  The only thing Altidore did wrong, it seemed, was miss that great opportunity for goal in the first half when the net was near-empty, and he then proceeded to kick a ball that would have been good for an extra point in the NFL.

The thing is, though…he’s a striker.  Ultimately, his job is to score goals, or set up other people for goals.  He’s got to finish when given the opportunity.  All the other stuff he did was great, but what if the U.S. doesn’t get that last-minute fast break?

Of course, he also fed the cross that ultimately led to Landon Donovan’s game-winner, so he got the job done at the end.  I’m just ready to see him break out in a big game and bag a goal or two.  The team is going to need Altidore to score if it hopes to advance further in the tournament.

— Speaking of Donovan…dude.  There’s no crying in soccer.

Besides, you’ve got work to do.  Get a good night’s sleep and then start preparing for Ghana.  We’re greedy in this country; the round of 16 is nice, but we’re thinking semifinals now.  Have you seen the bracket?  One of these countries is going to be in the semis:  USA! USA! USA!, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea.  Can you say Cinderella?

England’s reward for finishing second in Group C is a second-round matchup with Germany, and if Wayne Rooney and company get past the Germans, then they get the winner of Argentina-Mexico.  That’s a brutal draw (although amazingly, it may wind up not being the most brutal — there is a chance of a quartile featuring Spain, Brazil, Italy, and the Netherlands).

— In the three group games, Bob Bradley has used 18 of the 20 field players on his roster.  The only two not to see action so far are defenders Clarence Goodson and Jonathan Spector.

You could have made some serious cash if you had put money down on the odds of Jonathan Bornstein, Edson Buddle, and DaMarcus Beasley playing in a must-win World Cup match (with Bornstein starting!), and the U.S. winning said match.

— From watching two of the matches Ghana has played so far, it appears to me that the Ghanians are a hard-working, athletic side that has trouble finishing.  Sound familiar?

— Ian Darke is now everyone’s favorite cheerleading-for-USA! USA! USA! English announcer.  No, seriously, he’s great.  He also gets bonus points for keeping John Harkes quiet during the critical moments just before and after Donovan’s goal.

Darke has also been doing this for a while.  I was watching the excellent ESPN documentary The Two Escobars, and recognized his voice in some of the clips, presumably working for ITV or the BBC.  ABC’s lead announcer for the 1994 World Cup?  Roger Twibell.

Yes, soccer has moved up in this country since then.  It can make another step up in the public consciousness if the U.S. can pull off another win on Saturday.

The less-than-awesome auger commercial

This isn’t exactly sports-related — well, ESPN does feature tangentially — but I just wanted to write about it.

Anyone who watches ESPNU on even a limited basis knows that the channel is the home for almost every conceivable infomercial in existence.  Watching college baseball, each half-inning break seems to lead into either a spot for the NCAA or yet another infomercial, in which a seen or unseen spokesman extols the virtues of a litany of products and services, including the “Wonder Hanger”, “InventHelp”…and the “Awesome Auger”.

The spot for the Awesome Auger stars the formerly ubiquitous TV pitchman Billy Mays, with the emphasis on “formerly”.  Mays, of course, has been dead for almost a year. Now, maybe the company that sells this gizmo doesn’t have the money to hire another spokesperson or cut another TV spot, but on the other hand, it seems to have enough money to keep running the spot featuring Mays.

I think the part that annoys me the most is that after Mays has finished his pitch, an offscreen announcer intones, “There’s more Billy!” and starts detailing additional reasons to purchase the tool.  I realize this was part of the original spot, and that Mays was still alive at the time it was produced, but it’s jarring nonetheless.

Of course, it’s possible that the blond woman using the “Wonder Hanger” or InventHelp on-air personality George McGhee are no longer with us, either, but the point is that Mays was a celebrity in his own right, and we know he’s dead.  It just strikes me that continuing to use the Mays ad to promote the product is incredibly crass, even by the standards of an industry not particularly known for good taste.

The other entity that I think deserves criticism for this is ESPN.  I am mildly surprised that the network continues to allow the Mays spot to be run, particularly since Mays once featured in ads for ESPN (promoting what was then known as ESPN360). Apparently the folks running things at Disney don’t have an issue with it.

Maybe I am over-thinking this, and it’s not really a big deal, but (just for an example) I have to wonder if ESPN would run a “This is SportsCenter” spot starring Tom Mees, if one were available.  I seriously doubt it.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got.  Just a mini-rant.   Back to the games.

Conference expansion: should The Citadel join the Big 10?

Nebraska, Missouri, Notre Dame, Texas — it’s hard to take in all that’s (not) going on right now…

With all this expansion talk, there is a chance the Big 10 (motto:  “Just ignore the ’10’ thing”) might wind up with an odd number of teams.  Of course, it has an odd number of teams right now.  However, I’m thinking that when all the dust settles from this latest realignment, Jim Delany and company are going to want to be at 12 or 14 or 16 teams, if only to end speculation the league might expand again (and thus prevent all those late-night telephone calls from the folks at Iowa State begging for admission).

If the Big 10 needs an extra team, The Citadel would be an obvious candidate and would presumably get an invitation.  The question is, should the military college accept the Big 10’s offer and leave the Southern Conference?  What are the positives and negatives of making the move?


— There would be no controversy over where the conference baseball tournament would be hosted, as the other schools in the Big 10 would have no problem playing in Charleston every May.  Charleston versus Columbus?  No contest.  No more carping from the likes of UNC-Greensboro.  (And do you see UNCG mentioned as a candidate to join the Big 10?  No.  The Spartans should be grateful just to be in the same hemisphere with the Bulldogs, much less the same league.)

The Citadel would be a favorite to win the league in baseball every season.  Also, we could probably demand that all of our conference games would be played at Riley Park.  Fun spring trip for the guys from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and an easy three-game sweep for us.

–All home games in football and basketball would be on TV, along with a lot of televised games for the other sports.  Also, the Big 10 Network has a slightly larger distribution nationally than the SoCon TV package.

It’s important for The Citadel to increase its TV presence, as I have written many times before.  I have previously advocated playing Big 10 teams in non-conference action so as to get on TV.  Now, the opportunity could be there to play Big 10 teams as league games.

–By 2012 or 2013 or whenever we joined the league, there is a chance Indiana still wouldn’t have its act together on the hardwood and we could snag a road victory at Assembly Hall, which would be neat.  Plus, you know Nebraska won’t be any good at hoops, and Northwestern would be a promising opportunity for a road W.  So we could be competitive almost immediately.

–A new recruiting territory would open up, and with the advantage of offering recruits the best weather in the conference (unless Texas joins the league, and even then it’s a push).  The Citadel has already had some good luck recently with players from Big 10 country (Ohio is the home state for basketball’s Austin Dahn and baseball’s Justin Mackert).

If Texas winds up in the conference along with the Bulldogs, that opens up the Lone Star state even more to The Citadel’s predatory hoops recruiters (see:  Cameron Wells, Zach Urbanus, Mike Groselle).  With that type of opening, regular trips to the Final Four would be inevitable.

–The extra money from being a Big 10 member could go toward expanding Johnson Hagood Stadium.  The Big 10 could also flex its collective muscle and break the NCAA’s silly postseason ban in the Palmetto State.  That, combined with the newly expanded JHS, would result in a new bowl game for Charleston, so the community would also benefit.


–Well, the road trips would feature a lot of snow and ice (excepting UT-Austin, which would probably be worth a mandatory travel game for the corps of cadets).  There is only so much places like East Lansing and Iowa City have to offer (not to mention Lincoln).

That’s why you can expect a lot of the league meetings to get moved to Charleston. Also, look for a lot of the Big 10 coaches to acquire beachfront property in the Low Country, a la Roy Williams, Ralph Friedgen, Les Robinson, etc.  It’s just a natural thing for them to do.

–Big 10 basketball can often be unwatchable.  Actually, you could say that about a lot of Big 10 sports…

–The Citadel probably would not be able to play schools like Chowan or Webber International in football.  Wait, that’s a positive!

–Women’s sports:  The Citadel has a limited number of women’s teams, and the ones we have would probably struggle in the Big 10.  We don’t have a women’s lacrosse program, though, which may be just as well.

–The other schools in the Big 10 would be much larger than The Citadel, which could lead to their fans trying to take over our home parks/arenas.  If we made sure the corps of cadets was fully armed before games, however, I think we would maintain our home field advantage.

–There is a possibility that a spot in the ACC or SEC could open up.  If that happens, it’s important for The Citadel to explore all its options.

All in all, I’m undecided about a potential berth in the newly constructed Big 10.  One thing I can say for sure, though, is that The Citadel will be okay wherever it lands.  Can Rutgers or Kansas say the same?

The New Big 10