Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Waybach Machine: Romania vs Sweden 1994

Occasionally, Bokolis will jump in the Waybach and go for a ride.  This time around, we go to 1994, the quarterfinals of the World Cup; Romania vs Sweden, July 10, Stanford Stadium.

Everybody has random people who, for reasons that matter only to them, hold special places in their hearts.  For Bokolis, that roster includes Kennet Andersson and Thomas Ravelli.  I was told that Andersson jumped 15 feet in the air to head that ball into the net...and that's kind of how I would like to have imagined it.

Back in the day, Bokolis miiight have had a few fazools riding on this match.  The only thing I'd ever seen was the instances of the goal seen in the video above and Ravelli running off with his fist raised after saving the final spot kick.  I gather that this game must have been eminently forgettable to any neutral.

It was a Sunday afternoon.  I was already preparing myself for a life after gambling, so I was trying to find other things to do.  In this case, it was the beach.  This specific day was not your typical lay-out-and-eyeball-babes, but rather (I was roped into) an outing with many other people.

For further background, Bokolis was doing exceptionally well at this World Cup.  It was helping me re-fund after an absolute horrid prior nine months.  By the time of the this match, I was a decent way towards backfilling my way out of the hole. 
But the ground was always shaky. 
It really was mean reversion- after months of rough going, Bokolis was on fire, on the right side of it for once.  There was some expertise in it, too.  For the most part, I had been feasting on low-hanging fruit during the group stage, like fading Columbia and Greece, both of which I knew to be shit.  I jumped on lopsided matchups and snuck in a few draws, which always pay nicely. 
But the ground was always shaky. 
Bokolis hit every match I played in the group stage, but I couldn't play every match.  While I knew Brazil to be the top side, they certainly weren't vintage and were prohibitive favorites in every match.  Also, keep in mind that this was 1994 in America- it serious work to get any football information, never mind coverage/match footage.  whatthefuck were we supposed to know about Morocco, Bolivia, Russia and Switzerland when we had a hard enough time getting games of Argentina or the Netherlands! 
Bokolis had a hard enough time objectively determining whether Gheorghe Hagi was as good as they say he was.  While they pumped him up as a number 10, I thought he was more of a engine-room midfielder.  Bolivia had some guy called Erwin "Platini" Sanchez, which, after seeing him play, was quite the stretch- granted, that one wasn't as difficult to presume.  But,  I was supposed to determine whether Mustapha Hadji was good?!? 
In the round of 16, the only loss in a 4-1 turn was Nigeria.  Bokolis had taken a stand against what I perceived to be a weak Italy side with a hobbled Roberto Baggio somewhat out of favor with the coach.  I was almost home, but il Codino foiled me- fucker, it would have paid so nicely. 
But the ground was always shaky.
Being on the right side of both Saturday quarterfinals emboldened Bokolis to raise the stakes on the Sunday matches.  But, I caught the bad one when Germany inexplicably pissed away the match to Bulgaria.  Taking another hit would've undone much of what was built up.

Bokolis forgets how I'd gotten wind of the Germany result.  I didn't watch the game.  While the outing was outdoors, it was large enough that someone had a portable television.  More likely, it was my running partner getting a hold of me.  I was told Stoichkov hit a bomb of a free kick- after seeing it, the kick was nothing special, merely a decent curler against a badly positioned keeper.  He was almost as culpable on the second.  Bodo Ilgner now hosts a show on BeIn Sports...fitting.

Romania-Sweden was a tossup, both as a matchup and at the windows.  Since a little bit more was riding on the result, Bokolis needed to be in touch with this game.  As stated above, I was preparing for life after gambling, but it was a process.  For this game, I pulled out the portable radio.  Whatthefuck are you talking about asshole- they don't broadcast soccer games on American radio.  They do for the Spanish speakers, pendejo.  As my Spanish was on point back in those days, I could understand most of what they were saying, unless they spoke Puerto Rican-speed.

So, yes, Bokolis sat on the beach listening to a soccer match in Spanish on the radio.  Sweden scored in the first half- on what I now know was a well-worked free kick.  As time went on and full time approached, that Spanish started sounding more like mumbo-jumbo- I count my money in English, putos.

They spoke faster than the clock, for they announced a goal for Romania.  This, Bokolis now knows, was not as well-worked a free kick.  It deflected and fell kindly to Florin Radicioiu, who, rather than atrophying from being surplus at AC Milan, was plenty fresh to pounce and finish.

The match went to extra time.  By this point, Bokolis could no longer understand Spanish.  Soon enough, I hear, gooooooooolll de Roma-nia!  It was Radicioiu again.  No sooner that I'd stopped cursing, wait- what?  Somebody was sent off?  From Sweden?!?  Oh, shit!

Despair set in.  Radicioiu, in the right place to capitalize on a weak touch by a defender, slotted home his gift.  Stefan Schwarz was then sent off for a cynical foul on Radicioiu to stop a counterattack.  Listening to a Spanish language radio broadcast, it was easy to figure, I'm sunk.

Schwarz wasn't going to be missed.  At this point, Sweden's plan was to bomb balls into the 6'4" Kennet Andersson.  The full eleven wasn't necessary.

This brings us to the embedded video.  Gooooooooooolll de Suecia.  Bokolis goes crazy on the beach.  Luckily, I had the good sense to sit far away from anyone.  Andersson was 15 feet in the air for sure...for sure!  I'll further ruin the memory by breaking down the tape.

Just before the throw in, you can see the Romanian back line in its proper form, virtually a straight line across.  Allegedly, they opened in a 3-5-2 formation but, by this time, there are four at the back.  They had likely switched to a 4-5-1, with Radicioiu up top.  Since the only substitution was a like-for-like midfielders, at least one man is playing out of his nominal position. 
The best guess is that Sweden was in a 3-3-3, with another man bombing forward because of the throw in. 
You also see four other Romanian players; three are midfielders and one is a forward player who is not Radicioiu in a box around a potential target, Hakan Mild.  What is important to understand is that Romania is now seriously out of position. 
This setup dissuades (probably Klas Ingesson), who instead throws it in to Roland Nilsson, who has come all the way over from right back, able to do this because of the void left by the bad Romanian positioning.  The Romanian playing the left side of midfield comes over to track Nilsson (or sneak up from behind), meaning all five Romanian midfielders are on one side of the field. 
Nilsson has turned in time to spot the pressure.  You'll notice that, of the four Romanians previously in a box around Mild, two drift into a useless position and one can't be bothered to be involved in the action.  Only #5, Lupescu, seems interested. 
Nilsson tries to play a one-two with Kennet Andersson, who has come back in the hole from his centre forward position.  He has successfully sucked out the centre half Belodedici, who was probably better served to give Andersson his space in that position with his back to goal and leave it to the midfielders. 
Nilsson slips his marker to take the return pass from Andersson, but the return pass is short and Nilsson has to deal with the onrushing Belodedici, who has come off of Andersson to challenge the imprecise return pass. 
In this time, the midfielder who came over to pressure Nilsson has now given up on the play and is walking.  So, of the five midfielders, two are in a useless position and two others- one of whom is Hagi- are walking. 
Belodedici, already sucked out to tend to Andersson, has gone out even further to see about winning the short return pass.  The thought of being so far from his goal is too much for him to bear; he is not fully committed and only does enough to force Nilsson to take a heavy (retreating) touch to keep the ball before turning to get back to his line while motioning for a midfielder to deal with it. 
The only one available is Lupescu, who had drifted into the space Belodedici had vacated.  By this time, Nilsson had retrieved, retreated and settled, and was now in a customary attacking position for a right back, with plenty of space.  To boot, with Lupescu and Belodedici switching, they have lost track of Andersson.  Nilsson floats in a pass that Andersson easily finishes. 
While the present day goalkeepers are quasi-sweepers who will come well off their lines to get to a ball, in 1994, even national team keepers were comparative spazzes.  Similarly to how, in baseball, they made the fat kid the catcher, outside of Italy and Lev Yashin, the goalkeeper was usually the guy crazy enough to want to do it. 
While today's keeper would never let an attacker get to an angled cross at the 6-yard box, especially if he knows his defenders are out of position, you couldn't always count on 1994 keepers to do the same.  Romania's Florin Prunea was no match for Kennet Andersson.  Belodedici didn't have enough time to re-engage with Andersson and Daniel Prodan apparently wanted no part of it. 
Not shown is that, a moment before, Patrik Andersson- no relation- flipped the ball to (probably Ingesson) to take the throw.  As this Andersson is a defender, you can see him retreating at the very beginning of the clip.  He apparently saw this defensive setup and wanted no part of it.  Talk about serendipity! 
Also not shown, to be fair to Prunea, is that he subsequently made two massive saves to keep Romania in it.  Kennet Andersson latched on to an over-the-top ball to fire first time.  Prunea dove to his right to save it.  The ball had too much force for Henrik Larsson to redirect the rebound, and he had to take a touch to settle.  This gave Prunea time to close the distance and bravely get in front of Larsson's eventual shot.
Those were still days when players smoked cigarettes and Bokolis guesses that, the way they dragged ass in those final minutes, even while up a man, most of those Romanians were smokers.

They went to spot kicks to decide it.  Sweden missed the first one, as Mild Jaap Stam-ed it.  Ravelli saved one along the way.  They were 4-4 after the requisite and, after Larsson converted, it was left to Belodedici to prolong the match.  Ravelli saved and Bokolis, tension eased, did a little jig on the beach.

It took a few players doing the right thing, many players doing the wrong thing and some serendipitous convergence of events and circumstances to get Bokolis on the right side of this match.  I suppose it remains so memorable to me because it was one of the few times that winning felt as good as losing felt bad.  In the larger context, it was part of the "correction" of a really bad run and part of the last days, which culminated the following Sunday.

That is entirely another story.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Y'all Ain't Never Know Shit

The Yankees pissed away game 2 of their series against the Cleveland Indians in a most disgusting, get-sent-to-the-bow way.  Yankees manager Joe Girardi made several dodgy moves and decisions that call his game managing skills into question.

Girardi pulled CC Sabathia too early, he failed to challenge a hit batsman call, even with the advice of his catcher, and left relievers out there too long.

After mowing down 11 consecutive batters, CC gives up a single to start the 6th inning to some guy sporting a GH beard and Monchhichi cheeks. He gets Jay Bruce on a soft liner, after which Girardi pulls him.  Not that it matters what he tells the press, because Bokolis believes you may lie to the press with impunity, but Girardi said something about several recent batters hitting the ball on the screws.

Word?  To Bokolis, they looked off-balance and consigned to defeat.  I hope you didn't try and sell that shit to your team.

If Jay Bruce were a right-handed batter, CC wouldn't even have gotten to face him.  Nonetheless, CC is pulled after 5-1/3 innings and 77 pitches, after grinding through the first two innings, even with a Todd Frazier misplay in each, and putting the opposition on the back foot.

He brings in Chad Green, who retires a batter, gives up a double and apparently hits a batter.  Catcher Gary Sanchez immediately points to Girardi to challenge the call.  Girardi opts to wait for the geeks in the control room to get back to him, which takes more than the allotted 30 seconds to determine that the ball hit the bat and would've been a foul tip-strike three to end the half-inning.

Granted, Sanchez looks like a dumb fuck, even a little like Aaron Hernandez.  But, WTF was Girardi going to do with that challenge besides rub it on his cunt?  Even after burning the challenge, the umpires have shown that they can be coaxed into an umpire review.

Girardi isn't fooling anyone.  Bokolis has always had a problem with the way Girardi uses his bullpen because the latter alternately tries to squeeze one more out from his pitcher or pulls him too early.  It's how Girardi took the 2009 Yankees, a borderline superteam on paper, and turned them into just another World Series champion.  I suppose this is what the geek books tell Girardi to do.  It could also be his ego telling him that he's every bit as good as, say, Francona or La Russa.

After Green having to battle with two guys and, likely thinking he should be out of the inning, Francisco Lindor hits the second pitch he sees from Green off the foul pole, a grand slam to make it 8-7.

At that point, Bokolis knew, one way or another, that the Yankees were fucked.  But, I didn't think it would be all because of Girardi.  I was thinking more along the lines of a pinch runner getting picked off and stuff like that.

Just because something works out, doesn't mean it is the correct move.  Not using a starter in the wildcard game for innings 3-6 started a chain reaction that set the Yankees back in this series.  Instead, he left Green out there too long and had to use Robertson to bail him out- and left in Robertson for too long. Everybody who pitched was left in too long.

What is worse, the outlying result of four relievers getting 26 outs gave Girardi the bright idea to try and milk his bullpen for 11 outs (three nights later) when CC was rolling, as if CC couldn't have gotten the game to the 8th with the Yankees still leading 8-5, which any Yankees fan would've signed for in a second.

Except for, possibly, an inning of relief in a supposed game 5, CC was not going to pitch for at least a week.  There was no reason not to ride him.  Moreover, CC pitches markedly better when he is fat- and he's got a major league boiler going these days.

That Girardi could've bailed himself out by challenging the hit batter would not have made pulling CC the correct move.  In a playoff series, you show your relievers as little as possible.  The reason they are relievers- and not starters- is because every reliever who is not already in the Hall of Fame or not named Mariano Rivera has shown that he cannot consistently get the same guys out more than once in the same series.

CC was still on his third time through the order.  Bokolis' outlook was that he was good to finish that turn through and THEN go batter to batter.  The over/under on when to pull him was after Kipnis, which still gave him five batters.

Further, it is Bokolis' position that, if you send a pitcher out to start an inning, you must trust him to finish the inning.  Bringing guys into messes takes a feel for the players and the game that Girardi doesn't have.  Francona kind of has it, but I've seen only La Russa and Sparky Anderson be able to consistently wave a magic wand in those situations.  Even Bruce Bochy isn't consistent with his wand.

All that said, except for it being inconsistent with his over-managing, Bokolis didn't necessarily have a problem with Girardi leaving in Green to pitch to Lindor.  While I don't like the idea of Lindor batting left-handed because he seems to have lightning in his hands from the left side, if you didn't trust Green to finish the inning, he shouldn't have been brought in at all.

Green didn't finish the inning, it turned out.  Robertson was brought in after Lindor's grand slam and made liberal use of his sharp curveball to easily bang out four batters.  He should have been holstered and saved for later in the series.

However, not content with that and probably hesitant to use Betances, Girardi trots out Robertson for the 8th inning.  Again, Girardi was likely trying to squeeze two outs out of Robertson so that he could go directly to Chapman.  If this was his plan, Girardi still had so many options in his bullpen.  He could have matched up a LOOGY for Bruce- to use a righty who is not fresh and not the closer in that situation borders on criminal- and bring in a right-hander to pitch to (up to) the next three batters.

As with Chad Green in the wild card game, Girardi did not consider what pitching for the strikeout does to a pitcher's stamina.  Just as Green faltered in the 3rd inning on Tuesday, Robertson gave it up to Jay Bruce.  What is worse, Robertson had noticeably less zip on the pitches before the 3-1 that Bruce took out to left.  After retiring the next batter- throwing three toothless pitches- on a rocket to short, Girardi finally woke up and didn't let Robertson go any further.

Kahnle got through the 8th and Chapman got through his two innings.  Betances, now needed, banged out two innings.  However, the Yankees, already in cruise mode, increasingly got the worse of the HP umpire's wandering strike zone and didn't offer much after Bird's HR in the 5th.

Yet, Girardi, after shunning him, tried to squeeze a third inning out of Betances.  As with Robertson after his third walk to the mound, Betances had noticeably less pop on his pitches to the first batter of the bottom 13th.  As has become his telltale sign of being gassed, he reverted to throwing almost all curveballs.  Anyone who understands body language could recognize that Betances was spooked by the swing Jay Bruce put on his 0-1 fastball- a foul tip- in the bottom 12th.

This is an issue because, when Girardi, as an extension of the front office, scolded Betances for his ineffective stretch this season, Girardi pissed and moaned about his reliance on the curve ball.  For fuck's sake, the front office exploited ineffectiveness arising from his overuse in 2016 to shit all over Betances in arbitration.  So, for Girardi to put Betances in a situation where he reverted to bad habits merits Betances putting a size 16 boot in Girardi's mouth.

Hey, Bokolis acknowledges that I've won plenty of championships from my couch, but am unproven in a MLB dugout.  I'm pretty sure, however, that, after over a decade in such a dugout, I'd have a feel for my team and know whatthefuck I could get out of them.a

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Unwritten Rules

So, the Yankees and Tigers had themselves a couple of dance parties on Thursday.  There were hit batsmen and benches-clearing incidents, allegedly to clear the air of lingering issues.  Bokolis would say this happens about once or twice each season in Major League Baseball, where the tension becomes an issue with whole teams, rather than between a pitcher and hitter.

However, it is inevitable that the writers will not distinguish between the Yankees-Tigers situation and what happened with Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland.  It is partly because the writers see what they want to see and partly because it is too difficult and/or inconvenient for them to distinguish between benches-clearing incidents.

This is surely the case with Jeff Passan's post-mortem on Thursday's events.  Passan uses pitch data* to decide that Dellin Betances was clearly trying to put one in James McCann's earhole, but doesn't stamp it as such.  Instead, he takes all of the most likely possibilities and throws that blanket in the hopes of capturing the truth.

Passan then goes on to bemoan the way baseball and its players handle this kind of shit.  The first few comments accuse him of whining and, right on time in this day and age, comments come in that attribute his whining to it being inherent in his supposed liberal leanings.  Bokolis didn't stick around that long, but I imagine the Jewish train came in just behind it.

But, he did whine.  The writer must've set his Word to auto-whinge on this one.  Rather than take a position on what this was- a botch- he throws several possibilities out there as if to find out which one passes the smell test or which one sticks.

Let's back up- Bokolis has decided this is the most proper point to tell the backstory.  This goes back- which Passan does not acknowledge- to a game on 7/31 at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees hit Mikie Mahtook with two pitches, the second in the head.  One of the unwritten rules of baseball is, while two hit batsmen in a game could possibly be overlooked, if you hit the same guy twice, I don't give a fuck if it was by accident or with two curve balls, there is going to be a response.  So Michael Fulmer duly plunked Jacoby Ellsbury.

At that point, the prevailing sentiment from both sides was surely, all right muthafucka, all right...all right, we'll see wassup.

Of course, these days, things don't blow up during the next game between the two.  It usually gets left to the final game of the series and, in this case, the season series.

Gary Sanchez was the driving force in the Yankee wins in the first two games of the series.  After another HR in the third inning of this game, Michael Fulmer, again on the mound, decided it was time, and put one right on Sanchez' hip.  It was about as intentional as intentional gets.  But, just as he did with Ellsbury, Fulmer did it right.  Nonetheless, Sanchez shot a little look...all right muthafucka, Dominicans don't play, puto you gonna see

Mind you, the umpires are a step behind here, as they likely didn't know the priors, or didn't care.

Now we get to Miguel Cabrera thrown at in retaliation for Sanchez.  Kahnle missed, but got tossed anyhow.  Gerardi, who didn't get tossed with Kahnle, came out to argue and Austin Romine went after the HP umpire.  Cabrera, who has been seen before involving himself in affairs that were not his own, tried to involve himself in their argument, and was apparently told by Romine to mind his own fucking business.

This is what led Miggie to ask Romine, upon returning to the plate after Chapman had warmed up, if he had a problem with him.  Romine still had his mask on so, the best Bokolis can figure, Romine summoned Samuel L. Jackson and told Miggie something he should have already known- this ain't about you, muthafucka!

There is no other plausible reason for Miggie to say anything unless he was looking to start some shit.  Romine's mask came off- his lips revealing that he told Miggie that it wasn't about him- Miggie set it off.  Sanchez fed one to Miggie while he was engaged on the ground, then fed one to Castellanos- the equivalent of the third man in- while he was engaged on the ground.

Back to Betances.  By 'botch,' Bokolis means that Betances was trying to send a message- to jackknife or flip the batter, to hit him somewhere below the shoulders, to start a full-scale brawl- that didn't work as planned because he hit the batter in the head.  I''m guessing they couldn't parse the data for Passan to see how Betances fared when he was trying to make a batter wear one.

The Tigers' reaction indicated to Bokolis that they knew it was a botch and were too shocked and/or disgusted to even brawl about it- when a botch like that occurs, the issue goes beyond something that a fight will resolve.

When the Tigers next hit Todd Frazier in the thigh, it was almost as if to say, that's how you fucking do it, assholes.  Frazier's body language indicated that he knew he was supposed to go out, but that he's getting too old for that shit and he isn't going to be on the team next year anyway, so why bother.

Passan didn't tell us any of that shit, opting instead to politic against the baseball's 'antiquated' ways of policing itself.  The problem isn't with any antiquated unwritten rules; it is with baseball players being unable to fight without tons of backup.

The unwritten rules indicated that their last meeting of the season was the day to settle all lingering issues.  The unwritten rules is why Romine- even though Miggie was the prick here- didn't throw a punch at Miggie's face, even after Miggie threw a couple (of what looked like show punches) at his.  Don't downplay that.

The unwritten rules also mean everyone in a logo has to run out- not a good look when it means 70+ people- and (at least) show the flag.  More often, someone is grabbing someone to pull them away or latching on to someone to deter involvement, and the first one there is often a middle-aged base coach, about to get hit by the swarm of arriving ballplayers.  Unfortunately, it's going to take someone rolling over a by-standing star player's ankle to break it for MLB to react and set brawl protocol.  As it is, more guys get hurt in those stupid walk-off celebrations.

Sure, MLB could've made a rule prohibiting anyone but the managers coming out of the dugout/bullpen and impose penalties accordingly, made it 50 years ago.  That potentially leaves 9 defensive players against (most often) one player and two coaches.  Even if no one from the defense jumps in, it means that the umpires are going to have to break up the fight, or risk having one guy pummel another.  Do you have faith in Joe West or (name your fat fuck) to jump on a pile without hurting himself?  MLB, together with the player's union, have decided to let it play out.

Of course, one guy- Sanchez, who clearly isn't the sharpest tool- didn't understand the rules, thinking instead that the point of this fight is to beat up the other team.  So, business is not settled, as Sanchez will likely answer (to the Tigers) for throwing punches at Miggie and Castellanos while they were otherwise engaged.  When Castellanos took his next at-bat, he turned toward Sanchez and told him, you throwing joints at me when I'm on the ground? all right, muthafucka, all right.

It's almost always the Latin guys, not having grown up in America, who don't understand the point of the brawl.  Bokolis refers you to the fight between Derrek Lee and Chris Young, then of the Cubs and Padres, respectively, on 6/16/2007.  Young comes up and in to Lee and hit's him in the hand.  After throwing junk to get the count to 1-2, Young clearly had a purpose to bust Lee inside.  It was highly unlikely that he was trying to hit Lee.  But, he missed upstairs and hit Lee, knocking him down in the process.

These are two big, but pretty low-key guys.  They were talking on Lee's way to first.  It seemed calm enough, but Young kept walking toward Lee.  Maybe Young found it innocent, but walking toward a guy you just hit is a major breach of protocol.  In fact, Young was in the middle of, I wasn't trying to... when Lee threw a haymaker.  Young responded with his own haymaker and was prevented from throwing another by his teammate, Marcus Giles.  In an instant, it seemed as both men decided, I've done enough here, and allowed themselves to be covered by their teammates.  The only guy amped up was known hothead Carlos Zambrano.  Not to pick on Latin guys, as Alfonso Soriano was laughing like a drunk socialite for most of the episode.

It is cowboys like Sanchez who do things that lead to the legislating of rules, (way) too much of which is what they did in Soviet Communism- Fascism in disguise- or what they do in the NFL.  It the street, guys like that didn't last long, so he's lucky it's baseball.

So, when you hear a young guy who thinks he knows it all- and, as young guys, didn't we all think we knew it all?- bemoan these unwritten rules, remember that, in 10 years, that same guy will have come to understand that those rules serve as a steam valve; they exist to prevent shit from happening when it isn't supposed to happen, and to let shit happen when it must so that a worse incident doesn't happen, so your dumb ass doesn't get smoked.  When they eventually legislate all that out of the game, just as outlaws find other ways, the players will dig deeper to find ways to take shots.

Try telling that to a muthafucka with an agenda.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sooner or later, all our games turn into Calvinball

The good folks at BBC have summarized a strategy document recently put forth by the possibly shady characters at International Football Association Board (Ifab), who, on the surface, are seeking to streamline and liven up the game.

You just know that they spent millions on this.  It’s only missing its Nickelodeon logo.

Of course, we have repeatedly seen, but have rarely learned, that the best course of action with madness is to nip it in the bud.

That is almost certainly not going to happen.  But, with this missive, Bokolis will always be able to say, hey, I told y’all muthafuckas.

The stated purposes (in bold- rest is Bokolis’ take) are:
·      Improving player behavior and increasing respect
o   Improving player behavior can be done with cattle prods and more rules; each with its own slippery slope
o   Bokolis would argue that, in a win-at-all-costs world, there is no such thing as respect when between the lines.  Respect is something you can afford when you play for fun.
·      Increasing playing time
o   Apparently reasoning that world class players don’t do enough during the 90 minutes, the board are looking to have them spend more time running at full speed
·      Increasing fairness & attractiveness
o   Well, they couldn’t just explicitly state:  We want to make more money, so let’s figure out how to sell this shit to more people.

Bokolis bristles at the pregame handshake lines.  It is the players’ prerogative whether to shake hands before, during or after the game.  By all means, do it for friendlies or charity matches.  There is no way this should be done in competitive matches.

Besides, wouldn’t it be savage to have Wenger and Mourinho in a hockey-style scrap for 15 seconds instead of a hollow handshake?

To be fair, even if my pet cynic can see right through the purposes, not all of the proposals are horrible.  One of the decent and necessary ones involves making the captain the main point of referee communication.  Too often, we see the players of the aggrieved team swarm the referee to whinge about the call, or players from the rewarded team swarm so they can lobby for cards.

Bokolis would have to say the most famous recent instance was Chelsea-PSG in the Champions League a few years back, where Ibra went in hard on (what turned out to be) a late challenge on Oscar who, was making his own sliding challenge, but pulled back before he could make maximum contact, or do serious damage.  Immediately, seven Chelsea players mobbed the referee, with Hazard making eight and the late-arriving Diego Costa making it nine.  The only players not mobbing were Oscar, who was busy selling it, and the keeper.

It was so quick and coordinated that it seemed rehearsed.  Would anyone really put it past Mourinho to have his team practice mobbing the official?

Forget that PSG won the tie and that Ibra (self-)righteously called them “11 babies.”  Ibra does enough shit that he had an unjustified sending off coming. 
As a referee, Bokolis would never stand for that.  There'd've been 7 booked muthafuckas, 8 with Ibra, with Hazard and Diego Costa probably getting a pass.  Why does John Terry get one if he's the captain, one may ask.  For failure to control his mates, he's lucky Bokolis doesn't send him off.

Of course, I would make it abundantly clear during the pregame discussions that I expect to hear from the captain, and only from the captain.  Subject to my discretion, I would let the sanctioned player blow off a little steam (I’d allow one oh fuck off!, but if he says cunt, he better be facing away from me).  But, some guy not involved in the play- hey, if I want to hear from an asshole, I’ll fart.  I’d have them playing 7v7 if I had to, with no shame.

If the players understand that they don’t have a voice unless the referee grants it, they’ll surely know not to take any further liberties.

Because there is a running clock doesn’t mean there must be continuous action.  There is going to be a given amount of dead ball time.  It's sad to have to explain this but, “stoppage time” arises from when there is more dead time that you would expect.  In the past, we’ve been led to believe that “stoppage time” arises from goals (more from the resulting celebrations), from substitutions, from injuries (both legitimate and “tactical”), from the unforeseen.

While the paper states the most common stoppage times are one minute for the first half and three minutes for the second half, these are really best case scenarios.  Let’s focus on the second half because, if we short the sides a minute or two for the first half, they still have a second half to sort it out.

In big-time football, second halves have more than three minutes of stoppage time just as often as they have three minutes or less.  While Bokolis cannot offer statistics, this seems particularly true when the match/tie hangs in the balance, as more tactics are employed to slow down (the pace of) the game.  This 'three minutes' has leaked to four and five minutes.

If you follow the lower English leagues as Bokolis does, you know that five minutes of stoppage time is a good day.  I don’t get to watch enough matches to conclude whether this is due to restarts taking longer than they do in the top-flight, or whether they have expanded criteria for which to add time.  Bokolis would like to believe it’s the former, because the latter could get us into trouble with what follows.

In tossing around ideas, the board is fumbling between expanding the criteria for stopping the referee’s watch- thereby adding more stoppage time on the back end- and going to something akin to a NBA/NFL stopped clock.  Nowhere is it discussed to get things re-started more quickly.  Bokolis will take the ideas individually before laying out why the stopped clock deal is a bad fucking idea.

The board proposes stopping the referee’s watch:

·  from a penalty being awarded to the spot-kick being taken – They do take a long time these days, especially since, as explained above players are allowed to bunch up and complain to the referee en masse.
·  from a goal being scored until the match resumes from the kick-off  - Don’t they already do this?  That is what we’ve been led to believe from the commentators all these years.
·  from asking an injured player if he requires treatment to play restarting – Isn’t that why they call it injury time?
·  from the referee showing a yellow or red card to play resuming – Doesn’t the referee already do this?  Again, just like the penalty decision, this takes a long time because of the players bunching up, both the punished team and the rewarded team, the latter to defend against a reversal do to pressure from the penalized side, and the sanctioned player finally skulking off.
·  from the signal of a substitution to play restarting – See goal scored above…don’t they already do this, no matter how long the player takes getting off the pitch?  That is what we’ve been led to believe from the commentators all these years.
·  from a referee starting to pace a free-kick to when it is taken – Only if it takes longer than usual.

As far as Bokolis knows, these things were always left to the referee’s discretion.  I don’t see why we can’t continue as such and simply emphasize the point to referees.  Doing this will simply allow for "Fergie" time to bail out the bigger clubs.  The superior fitness level of the bigger side often shows itself at the end.  Adding a few minutes on the back end increases the chances that the smaller side will sputter.

If they make it that far, that is.  Trying to squeeze a few more minutes of action into the 90 minutes necessarily implies trying to squeeze a few more minutes of running out of the players.  It’s not a giant leap to reason that the increased energy expended by the players will lead to increased breakdown and injuries.  This would be quite ironic, as the football lords want as much star power as possible for every match of an impossibly congested fixture list, including those summer exhibitions where they trek to faraway lands to milk the marks (of their Marks) to watch football at 70% effort.

Bokolis has a sense that the players would adjust and create additional downtime to get them back to their current workrate and avoid breakdown.  If so, the football lords would have unwittingly created more drag on the game.

Since the typical game wraps neatly into a two-hour time slot, it is almost imperative that it is kept within that space.

The stopped clock would surely violate the two-hour slot and will prove to make the game unwatchable to the reasoned mind.  The easy argument is that it will destroy the flow of the game.  Sure, a stopped clock decreases incentive to move the game along, as even the winning side will not clamor to get on with it just for the sake of the pace of play.

That's not nearly the worst of it.  A stopped clock will provide opportunity for coaches to interject themselves into the game at every turn, for late stages to matter more than all the time before them and for endings contradicting to proceedings to be orchestrated.  Bokolis thinks the coaches (and lords) are quite involved as it is.  Clock stoppages will almost assuredly take us down a slippery slope that leads to time-outs and, horror of horrors, commercials.  That would be too much for Bokolis to bear.

We can speed things up by adding two linesmen- yes, linesmen, not assistant referees- and a second referee.  You cannot expect one referee to keep a grip on 22 players, each intent on getting every edge, permissible and impermissible.  Further, you cannot expect one linesman to determine passive offside- Bokolis does not believe there is such a thing as passive offside- and active offside from about 35 yards away, especially when players are deliberately going into offside positions to cause the back line to break down so that someone in an onside position can run in behind the line.

Covering both sides provides an extra set of eyes and would seem a no-brainer, as it would make such moves and calls far easier to determine and make.

There was never a need for those officials on the goal line.  With the quick resolution available through goal-line technology, the only plausible reason to have them is to call dodgy penalties for Barcelona.

This would get us to six officials, not quite in line with american football, but closer to it.

While the topic is not mentioned, if you had the prescribed officials, there wouldn’t be a need for Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR).  Besides, if you went to the replay for possible penalties, half of Barca’s penalties will prove to be dives and the other half will prove to be embellishments (however legitimate).  UEFA have no courage to sanction them- hence the term Uefalona- so it will be better if the referees are not empowered to know in real time.  To be somewhat fair, while Barcelona may be the prime beneficiaries / worst offenders, this is essentially true of most teams.  Everything looks like a dive in slow motion.

This compulsion to ensure that every call is correct is in the process of rendering other sports unwatchable.  It might play in sports where there is downtime, but downtime will render football into some other sport.

This may be the plan.  If the half-measures above don’t shake it up, someone may just resolve to turn it into Calvinball.  Here are some more proposals: 
  • passing to yourself at a free-kick, corner and goal-kick – This will lead to dodgy goals, which, whether it’s your side scoring or not, leaves a sour taste on the game.  The South Americans would love this shit, as they love to take advantage of the relative confusion after fouls, while Europeans see it as unsporting.  Unfortunately, my pet cynic informs Bokolis that it would just lead to clutching the fouled player well after the whistle- or, simply kicking the ball a few yards away- so that he cannot sneak off.  Cards will follow.
  • a stadium clock which stops and starts along with the referee's watch – Doesn’t the referee have enough to deal with without the crowd going crazy every time he forgot and let 10 extra seconds run or stopped his watch for the same?
  • a "clearer and more consistent definition" of handball – Since this is not absolute, this will never have a consistent definition or be an objective decision.
  • a player who scores a goal or stops a goal with his hands gets a red card – even if by accident?
  • a keeper who handles a backpass or throw-in from a team-mate concedes a penalty – That’s harsh, as it is not presently punishable by a direct free kick.  Besides, this doesn’t happen enough to warrant consideration.
  • the referee can award a goal if a player stops a goal being scored by handling on or close to the goal-line – This should have been enacted from the first time someone ever did it.  Luis “Handball” Suarez would’ve been lost to memory and might well have done less biting.  To send the team to the spot to have to convert (again) is scandalous.
  • a penalty kick is either scored or missed/saved and players cannot follow up to score to stop encroachment into the penalty area – Lacking a second referee to watch for it (or for the keeper coming off his line early, which is also never called), Bokolis might suggest moving them all further back, say 30 yards, so that the effect of any encroachment is muted.  If the penalty taker gets his own rebound and scores, that’s part of the reward.
In closing, it just seems like the football lords want to sneak an extra goal or two into games any way they can.  It is already the shame of football that marginal contact on players looking to fall earns a free kick 12 yards from goal.  This is a product of a bygone era, when it took far more to earn a foul and scoring was sufficient so that such a decision did not decide a match.

While the proverbial cagey affairs of today don’t make for an attractive show, it’s all right to swallow one here and there without inserting a dodgy goal to wind everybody up.

That’s all the fuck I got.