Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Teddy Sheringham Cleans Out Gordon Ramsay in Charity Match

To be fair to Teddy, Ramsay once called Teddy's signature dish (Shepardingham's Pie) "a particularly pedestrian effort." Which really isn't all that bad, coming from Ramsay. Or perhaps this was Teddy's revenge for Ramsay being one of those guys who has said that he was on his way to being a footballer until injuries caught him up. Regardless, I imagine there are chefs around the world who will delight in watching Ramsay getting cleaned out like this. Hell, I enjoy it.

Play Our Euro Cup 2012 Pick 'Em Challenge

Prizes? None.

Reward? The chance to talk about Euro Cup like you have a fighting interest and puncher's chance of winning something, anything in your woebegone gambling life.

Also, maybe you will learn something about soccer or yourself or the greater world at large ("There's a Croatia?")

Click right here on this link highlighted all nice and stuff, register on the super chintzy looking website (Pool password is: VanBasten) I've set this contest up on, and make your picks (I believe you just have to get them in prior to each game starting, so there's rush on the picking. But you'll want to register quickly, before it fills up?, and so you can second-guess yourself as many times as possible between now and June 8th.)

Good luck, jerks!

(if you don't why the password is VanBasten...)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bad Media Helps a Bad Stadium Deal

The Vikings Stadium is going to be built, at a phenomenal cost to the taxpayers, in some ratio that we don't fully understand yet. (And I'm not using "we" in that Royal Blogger sense--I'm using it in the sense of "no one in the world really knows how these costs are going to break down.) What we do know is that some combination of gambling (taxes on the poor that they choose to pay, therefore, not really taxes) or through "user fees" (a term invented to give cover to politicians who promised to never raise taxes), citizens of the state of Minnesota (and particularly those in Minneapolis) are going to be paying for a private enterprise's stadium for years and years and...let's just say decades to come.

If you wanted to pinpoint the exact moment that the momentum of disinterested, kinda fans who weren't crazy about a new stadium got completely bulldozed, it was the meeting Roger Goodell (titled by the local news media, in a odd moment of anti-hype, as "NFL Nudge") put together when he flew into town, gathered legislators behind closed doors, and flew out of town, leaving behind a bunch of panicky idiots where once stood at least somewhat principled legislators.

Paul Allen: Conflict of what?  photo by Nick Vlcek*
Prior to that meeting, most of the fear-mongering was coming from the sports opinion writers and, in particular, the ridiculous idiocy of KFAN. A special award for boosterism and fear-mongering has to be given out to Paul Allen's mid-morning show. Never did that show waste an opportunity to use the phrase "Los Angeles Vikings"; never did they fail to impugn the intelligence of any caller who suggested that maybe Paul Allen, who is the official play-by-play man for the Vikings on that exact same radio station might appear somewhat biased in his one-sided commentary.

Sports has an advantage in news coverage a lot of the time. There are box scores; there are definite events that transpire on the field. When dealing with a news story that doesn't have a box score, the KFAN talent showed themselves to be unerringly unreliable.

I'm sure one could pull out almost any hour from the archives of the first quarter of 2012 and find something that demonstrates this point, but I'm going to use as my Example Prime a segment from April 20th. Paul Allen, Paul Charchian (who isn't even a football journalist; he's a Fantasy Football "expert") and Vikings center John Sullivan sat around for forty minutes talking about how crazy it was that Minnesota citizens weren't gaga for a new stadium.

I'm going to re-enter that belly of the beast to show just how bad the biggest sports radio station got it wrong.

You can follow along with me, if you'd like. The show is embedded right here:

Minute 0-:26: the show opens with "Lights" by Journey during which Paul Allen (from now on, "PA" soberly declares, "the lights go down on your city, as your team moves to LA"). Except, the last time anyone checked (and this was certainly true on April 20th), the LA Stadium deal was non-existent.

:26-1:52  : Paul Charchian declares that if the Vikings were to leave, we will do what everyone does--build a new stadium for an expansion team. Not mentioned in his list of cities that have done that? Los Angeles. Also, he declares, the NFL wouldn't want to expand back into Minnesota, because the NFL is happy with the number of teams they have. Yeah, the NFL would never expand because the number of teams they have is just right, right now. Since the NFL's inception, they only wanted to get to 32 teams, and now that they have? They are done and content. All those rumors about moving into Canada or Mexico or even London? bullshit! 32 TEAMS! Paul Charchian clearly ignores things that everyone knows are true, in the hopes they forget them. The NFL doesn't want to expand? I don't even know where he plucked that idea out. Not out of the World of Facts, I can tell you that. Paul also says that the Twin Cities are only the 15th best market (a point that is mentioned more than once, as if 15 in a league with 32 teams is a bad thing).

Also included, PA notes that an expansion team would "suck". Um, "Voice of the Vikings"?--your team was 3-13 last year. In the past decade, the Vikings have won more than 10 games exactly one time--we're not talking about the Colts or Patriots or Packers or even the Saints, here. How many games would an expansion team win? I think 3 is a reasonable guess.

1:52-2:46: Charch challenges you to find someone who died who would have lived if the money used to build Target Field had been used for the impoverished or poor or whatever. He bets you can't do it. That seems like a fair challenge. Because there's nothing the local news covers better than a schizophrenic homeless person dying. That's front page news, especially at KFAN! And nothing is easier to prove than a hypothetical negative.

If you are wondering at this point whether Paul Charchian is a huge douche, I can't say. But his callousness during this bit is kind of amazing.

But, just for the hell of it. Let's say I took all that Target Field money. Let's say I diverted it into school programs, either anti-bullying, or increased support staff for at-risk youth. Maybe, just maybe, you wouldn't have had headlines in 2011, IN FUCKING ENGLAND, that read like this: "String of teenage suicides in Michele Bachmann's Minnesota backyard linked to anti-gay bullying."

2:46-4:38   Class Warfare! People who are against the stadium aren't thinking about the people who are working two jobs, and depending on those vendor jobs to get by. It is the American dream to work three jobs, one at Target Field, one at Target Center, and one at Target. John Sullivan chips in--the new stadium will revitalize that part of downtown Minneapolis, or the new stadium won't get built, and those hard-working people will lose their jobs. And it will be my fault.

4:38-5:10  Still Class Warfare, but Charch wants to make sure he ices his spot as the dumbest guy on the panel, which he does, right here. People are so fixated on harming Zygi Wilf, he claims, that they are willing (he makes it sound intentional) to take lower-class people's jobs away from them, just to deliver the point. People like me, I guess, hate guys who have money so much, that we will sacrifice vendors jobs just for the opportunity to hurt Zygi Wilf. AND I WILL DESTROY FAMILIES. That seems fair, and not at all like clumsy propaganda.

It is as if the whole stadium crisis was brought about by people who don't want the new stadium. Am I wrong here, or is that just completely upside-down and backwards talk? It's like a Da Vinci diary, but stupid. The crisis was not caused by Minnesota citizens; it was brought about by the Wilfs and the NFL.

5:10-6:28  John Sullivan says, for real, "We're getting into a bigger issue about America at this point." Oh, indeed we are. "Being successful and having money in this day and age is seen as evil, which I can't stand." Yep, you've nailed what us poor people think about you millionaires and your billionaire boss. You got us. Thanks for the insight, Sullivan. Sullivan then compares his second contract, and being validated as a player to the stadium deal, which makes no sense, especially if you look at the job the Vikings as a whole have done. (They've have one great year, two good years, and seven pretty bad years in the last decade. Who gets a raise based on those numbers? The Vikings deserve to be validated for their last decade?)

6:28-7:00:  Serious FACT CHECK ALERT HERE. I'm going to try to get Charchian's words exact right here: "[Zygi Wilf] Didn't grow up in money. He earned the money he's got. There's a lot of people..especially the people who absolutely hate the wealthy, that all envision that you never had to work for it. He had to work for everything he had."

Jesus Christ. Wikipedia says that Zygi Wilf inherited a home building business that he took from building homes and only four shopping centers into a much bigger company. Does inheriting four shopping centers sound like "not coming from money" to you?

Paul Charchian, have you heard of Google and/or Wikipedia?

7:00-8:10: A discussion of how great the Wilfs have been on spending on Free Agents, even when they were terrible ideas (Brett Favre, Bernard Berrian), and how they did that even though they had a terrible stadium (not one cynic came in to say, "hey, maybe they did to help get a stadium built?").

Also, other teams that are in bad stadium deals at least have tailgating, and that somehow represents a better situation. (again, there was, at the time of this radio discussion, no movement in LA, nor has there been since. LA is serving as a Monster-Under-The-Bed. It's not really there, but it still scares the shit out of people who really should know better.)

8:15-9:20: Congratulating the Vikings for not threatening to leave. Suggesting that Roger Goodell is above saber-rattling. That his threat to move the Vikings to LA (even though, technically, that threat was never actually made!) is legit.

9:30-13:00: John Sullivan, PA, and Charch take a break to discuss their trips to the Caribbean. SERIOUSLY.  Sullivan recommends St. Bart's. That whole class warfare thing was indeed bullshit. Tell us all more about the trips we can not afford, you assholes.

13:00-38:00 What follows is lot of actual football talk, which is all these idiots should be doing. Though I'm pretty sure somewhere in here Sullivan claims that a Super Bowl brings in $400 million, and Charch says, "Hell, the stadium practically pays for itself! That's amazing." Which it would be, if it were true. It's not. If it were true, $400 million from the public wouldn't be quite so controversial.

So, that's the kind of insight your average Vikings fan got from the station that carries the Vikings. Maybe they interviewed a sports economist. Maybe they talked to Neil at Field of Schemes. But I bet they didn't!

*taken from the City Pages website.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vikings Stadium Issue: Did Anyone Ask the MLS?

One of the minor bits of stadium wrangling that seems absolutely ridiculous to me is the discussion around who would own the opportunity to bring a MLS team into this new closed-roof, presumably gargantuan stadium that the Vikings are demanding.

It has gone back and forth, you see. But we have a resolution, according to the bill that is going to be presented to the Minnesota Legislature. Here is the Hot Dish Politics blog from the Star Tribune:

"The compromise would also restore exclusive, five-year rights for the Vikings to obtain a professional soccer franchise that would play at the new downtown Minneapolis stadium, a provision legislators had earlier eliminated."

Guess what? That compromise, as I understand the aims and goals of the MLS, does one thing--it guarantees that the MLS will not be coming to Minneapolis for the next five years. It is a terrible giveaway, and one that was wholly unnecessary. I don't understand the motivation, from the Wilfs, to demand it in the first place.

But I can list some of the major (if not all) reasons that Major League Soccer is going to say, "Hey--no thanks!"

1. It's an NFL Stadium. It is therefore huge, compared to the crowds that the MLS can reliably draw. The MLS kind of hates that. There's been a concerted effort to get MLS teams out of NFL stadiums and into "soccer-specific" stadiums, that hold no more than 30,000. Because you know what? A soccer team that draws 25,000 people shouldn't have to play in a place that looks empty. It is bad for the MLS brand, it is bad for the soccer brand. It is bad for the fans at the stadium; it is bad for the fan watching on TV. And really, no team that draws 25,000 should feel like they are failing. A sport that outdrew the NBA and the NHL in per game attendance in 2011 doesn't need half-empty stadia messing with their branding.

And not for nothing, soccer stadiums in Europe tend to have totally different dimensions than football stadiums, and that's worth recreating here in the US (a concept you can see looking at the dimensions of current MLS stadiums). There are 19 MLS teams right now, and only four (Vancouver, DC, New England, and Seattle) play in stadiums that have "artificially limited" seating capacities. Which means they are playing in NFL/CFL stadiums. The other 15 have had stadiums built for soccer, with a capacity averaging around 20,000 or so. The MLS has worked towards expanding, and sure, Seattle is a case in point in which the MLS will take a football stadium in the hopes of gaining goodwill to work towards a soccer-specific stadium. But..

2. The proposed stadium is a closed roof. Maybe, that in and of itself, isn't a deal breaker, though I do think it leads to one. However, it does echo a major complaint of the Twins all of those years they were stuck in the Metrodome, which is, "Hey, Minnesota weather is neither too hot or too cold for like 3 months a year, and our season happens to be during those months. It is really hard to compete with bearable warmth for the short time it exists." The MLS, with their season extending from the beginning of spring to end of the autumn would presumably prefer a stadium that could at least be open during the beautiful days of May and June and September. Why this Vikings stadium doesn't have a retractable roof is beyond me, but that would surely be important to the MLS.

3. GRASS. In terms of importance, this is probably the issue that the MLS would have at the top of their list of concerns (though admittedly, natural grass is difficult in a closed stadium. They kind of go hand in hand.) Just for fun, look again at that MLS Stadium List. There is one team playing in a "soccer-specific" stadium that has anything but natural grass, and that's Portland. And their stadium was built in 1926. So, clearly, renovations occurred along the way to make it a FieldTurf stadium. Every single stadium built with the MLS in mind has grass. End of story. Soccer is played on grass. Speaking as someone who has played on grass, astroturf, and FieldTurf, grass is how it should be, and the MLS recognizes that. Just as importantly, they recognize that every touring team, like Manchester United and Barcelona and whoever else you'd like to come visit the Twin Cities, want to play on grass. In fact, they probably won't play on anything else.

So, in summary, the only problem with guaranteeing the rights of an MLS franchise to the Wilfs/Vikings is that the MLS won't come here, the great touring teams won't come here, and in the meantime, the agreement presumably hamstrings anyone else from putting together a package that would actually bring a MLS team to the Twin Cities for the next half-decade. Good job, everyone!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Vikings Stadium Issue: A Bad Deal That's Passable

note the headline in the Hot Dish* Politics blog from the Star Tribune:

Vikings agree to conference panel's boost in share to $477M

The Vikings initially said, "No more than $427 million." So the Senate and the House got together and took the House's increase of the Viking's share of $100 million ($532 million total), and the Senate's increase of $25 million ($452 million), and amazingly, ended up in the $50 million area. Compromise! Yay! And the Vikings are for it. So, wow, compromise and brinkmanship have resulted in a deal in which everyone gives up a bit of stuff to make the stadium happen?.

Well, we are hardly there yet, though if the Vikings use the rule that I think that they probably do when no one is looking, in which you think of everything in $30 Million chunks, or Brett Favre's Last Contract (BFLC), then obviously giving up $50 Million, or less than 2 years of BFLC money is a great investment, especially compared to what the Vikings spent on the original BFLC. The original BFLC took a team that rode a great year from an old, almost done QB, and threw him out there one more time for a losing record, and a franchise in the course of recovering from that decision, that maybe, maybe hit bottom last year with a 3-13 record. Their total cost for the stadium is less than a decade of BFLC. Easy peasy. That is money that will actual return a profit for their investment, compared to the original BFLC, which returned nothing, unless you value dick pics. 

But you know what? While I think this deal is probably going to pass both the House and the Senate, there's still an issue of where the money is coming from (I don't think the backstop deal isn't impressive in its foresight, if one were to ask me. Also, if one were to ask me, I'd argue that funding deals should be strong enough to not require backstops.)

There's also still that looming lawsuit from any able bodied Minneapolis citizen that is certain to come. And Minneapolis is only being asked to finance $150 million, or just 5 more BLFC's. The Vikings may want to ponder a way in which the Minneapolis contribution is taken out of consideration. 

The Vikings know for a fact that their franchise gets boosted from their "only" $800 million dollar value into the Billion plus the moment the first bulldozer moves into position to build this new stadium. Maybe, it will behoove them to stop dicking around, stop arguing every little point and say, "We'll be heroes, we will pay the City of Minneapolis 1 (One) BLFC a year for 5 years to pay their share of the stadium." 

Will they do that? Probably not. Because the Wilfs aren't tragic heroes struggling to give us something we really want but don't know we want; they are kind of dicks, strong-arming a cash strapped state when they, in all reality, don't have anywhere else to go. They've won, it appears, and it only cost them the same dollar amount they put on a season and a half of a 42 year old QB throwing interceptions. 

*Just in case you are wondering, out of state readers, "Hot Dish" isn't a weird name for a blog in Minnesota. Hot Dish is a casserole with tater tots. Yeah, we're really like that up here. Yes, it is fucking delicious. Jealous? Also, there is a metric shit tonne of references to Hot Dish in Minnesota publications. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Vikings Stadium Issue: How You Get Your Sports News

Minor and quick (but fun!) point.

Here are the results when you search for "Economist" (you, know an expert in finance and the like?). The last story? Almost a full year ago--May 29, 2011, wherein PFT reported on how the lockout was affecting employees of the NFL. It should be noted as well that the search function turned up a grand total of four posts since April 2010. Now, should the lads at PFT be reporting every little thing an expert economist has to say on sports? No, but...

You might think a story that has huge implications financially, like, say, The Minnesota Vikings demanding a public handout of a half-billion dollars, might merit a single interview or a report (or a quote!) from a sports economist. Not at the pre-eminent NFL blog, apparently. Maybe they just stay away from stadium matters?

Judged by the number of times they've passed along the words of Vikings Stadium flunky/heavy Lester Bagley, the answer there is emphatic and not-at-all shocking "No". They cover stadium matters. Especially if an NFL man has something to say about it.

I'm not saying an economist should be quoted as often as an active member of the Vikings goon squad, but maybe a little more often than never compared to Bagley's dozens and dozens? Forbes' sports and business guy found a report from UBS that might be worth mentioning, for example.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Belated but Necessary Old School Thursday


Vikings Stadium Issue: Target Field!

It was funny, as this Twins season began, that there was a lot of talk about how the public and Minnesota legislature should look to Target Field and how great it is, and why wouldn't any sane populace do something similar for the Vikings?

I've stated, a few times, why comparing the partially publicly financed Target Field to a new partially public financed Billion Dollar Vikings Stadium is an illogical conceit from the get-go. If you want to know why those comparisons are ridiculously stupid, you can click those links.

But a new aspect has entered the batter box and swung wildly enough to gain my attention--the argument that every team uses when they demand new fancy boxes from which to sit and watcj their guys play--"We need the kick-ass new stadium with fancy suites to COMPETE! We can't compete with everyone else in the league in our horrible, terrible, no good Metrodome."

That argument actually held more water for the Twins than it does with the Vikings, since Major League Baseball hasn't yet realized (or rather, has realized but hasn't hasn't bother to address) how the terrible financial imbalance in its league is hurting its product. Some day, perhaps, they will. Or maybe they are hoping that Billy Beane will find some even more obscure stats and find a crazy way to win, and they can get in on the ground floor with the next Moneyball movie. In the MLB, one could argue that one's stadium situation does have a real impact on the moves one can make and therefore, its financial stability. In the NFL, profit sharing makes an argument for putting together the cheapest stadium possible. But everyone pretends that fact isn't true.

Let's not pretend that the Metrodome Problem has ever resulted in anything but massive profit for the owner who sold it. Consider one of our least favorite, most recent owners, Red McCombs, who bought the team in 1998 for only $250 million dollars, and sold it seven years later to the Wilfs for a cool $600 million. That's a pretty good return on an investment. What's the last thing you bought that more than doubled in value in under 10 years? I'm going to guess "nothing", because makes money like at that kind of clip. Amazing Fantasy #15 doesn't make money like that.

The Vikings are now only worth around $850 million, give or take, which means that the Wilfs haven't experienced the rate of growth that Red McCombs did, but they ain't losing money, either.

Heavens! I've lost my plot. Here it is--Target Field! It allows the Twins to compete! They'll sell out every game! They'll sign free agents! They'll be the Yankees of the Midwest, like Macalester is the Harvard of the Midwest! Except that the Twins are currently mired in one of their worst seasons. To find a season as bad as this one, you have to go back all the way to last year, when they lost 99 games. Might they lose 100? Given the sheer number of hitless innings they've put together on the road trip they are on right now (3-hit game against the Angels, no-hit against the Angels, 1-hit against Seattle), one could argue that this might be a historically bad week, if not a season (time will tell, but Morneau and Mauer are both already on the shelf, and in case you've forgotten, the big free agent signing this year was Jason Marquis.)

It is beautiful, though!

So the great new stadium created one damn fun year, which led to some overspending, which has led to some really disastrous non-spending. Target Field stands out, like a giant beautiful pimple, reminding folks in the Twin Cities that stadiums don't win championships. Management wins championships, and ask the Chicago Cubs fan base what happens to idiots who show up regardless of the talent on the field. They watch losers, year after year.

Friday, May 04, 2012

An Absolute Thunderclap in the MLS

I would not have seen this, I don't think, if it weren't for Deadspin, so more than likely, most people have already seen this goal. But in case you haven't seen Fredy Montero's goal against the Galaxy (or want to watch it again--why wouldn't you?) here it is. 35 yards out, upper 90. There was nothing to be done once this shot left his foot. The only way you stop this is to start playing defense on Montero inside of 40 yards.

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