Chelsea Won’t Be Signing New Players For A While

Things should be good for Chelsea fans as the EPL season opens. Four games in, Chelsea are undefeated and tied for the top of the league with, of all squads, Spurs. That’s an issue for another time, anyway.

Gael Kakuta
(Hope this guy’s worth it, Chelsea!)

But for as well as the team is performing, they’d better be happy with the players they’ve already got. That’s according to FIFA’s “dispute resolution chamber,” which sounds like a euphemism for a room in Abu Ghraib; the international soccer federation just banned the team from signing any new players for two whole years after illegally signing a player in 2007.

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ESPN To Start Airing EPL Games For 2009-2010

One of the key arguments as to why soccer hasn’t caught on is the fact that aside from the World Cup, Americans don’t have easy access to the highest level of play on television (also, because they act like they’ve been shot after so much as an errant glance or a stiff breeze).

Arsenal match
(Barclays on basic cable? About damn time.)

That was supposed to change after Setanta’s swift, violent collapse earlier this year, but there hadn’t been much chatter about ESPN picking up the pieces of the deal stateside (even as the WWL quickly secured rights to show the games in England). With the EPL season fast approaching, it looked like another year of just scouring the Internet for highlights.

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks! It is the east, and ESPN is the sun - if by “is the sun,” we mean “just cut a deal to televise EPL games starting with the season opener between Hull and Chelsea.” Eeeee.

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You Know What The Premier League Needs? AIDS

Oh, the life of a soccer player in England’s Premier League. The country’s heroes and their unreasonably hot WAGs dominate the tabloid headlines, and usually that’s a good thing. Fame, money, sex, sport. What can go wrong?

Magic Johnson's HIV-Eating Grin
(Not the groupie in question. Repeat: NOT the groupie.)

Well, it turns out just about everything can go wrong. A notorious soccer groupie, one who had bedded at least six soccer players on three different teams, just tested positive for HIV. And here you are mad that it burns when you urinate. Herpes? Feh! At least you’re going to live.

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MJ Was Once Honorary Chair of Exeter FC (Video)

As the world stops to mourn and eulogize for Michael Jackson (Iran? What Iran? Wake us up when Iran can moonwalk, pal!), we’d like to dial the Wayback Machine to 2002. Most of our readers had yet to be born - or maybe they had, we’re awful at math - so we’ll be the eyes and ears you never had, people.

Michael Jackson Exeter
(”Thumbs up for soccer! What’s soccer?”)

One of the weirdest things to happen in sports that year was Jackson’s appearance as the honorary chairman of the Exeter City Football Club. That’s in England, if you’re keeping score at home. In order to celebrate the beginning of the season, Jackson stepped to the microphone and delivered a speech (video after the break) that was vintage MJ, which may or may not be a good thing:

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Speed Read: NBC, NHL Screw Local Hockey Fans

One of the most jarring aspects of the Stanley Cup finals, other than the ease with which the Red Wings dispatched the Penguins on Sunday night to push the series to 3-2, has been NBC’s hardball with fans in Detroit and Pittsburgh. For the duration of the playoffs, both teams have been able to hold massive viewing parties in and outside their arenas. It was such a wonderful, organic expression of the communal nature of fandom that it was basically destined to be ruined by business in short order.

JoeVision Detroit Red Wings
(Thousands of fans watching the game with each other? Nope, can’t have this!)

And lo, in stepped NBC, stopping the broadcasts. As HOCKEYBUZZ.COM reported, initially, they blamed the NHL, despite the NHL’s assertion that that was quite not the case. Then came the truth, that it was a business decisions (all the crappy ones are), and their “business is ratings driven.” CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS has the, ahem, money quote:

A near-sellout of Joe Louis could shave a ratings point off the local television ratings measurement, and such ratings are used to establish advertising rates.

So to that, if the all-important ratings model can’t deal with 8-10 thousand people watching a show in one place on one screen, you know what? The ratings model is completely worthless.  Seriously. How can NBC or Nielsen not figure out what to do with a giant honking party of some of the most hardcore fans all watching one screen? Is that really a deal-breaker?

And if so, if they’re really curious as to what the ratings would look like if everyone stays home, away from the shared community aspect from which most of the value of a ticket to a game is derived, there’s a really easy answer to all of this. You ready? Dick Ebersol, you taking notes?

All NBC has to do is announce that in exchange for showing the game outside both arenas, attending fans have to fill out a simple, anonymous survey about where they would otherwise watch a game (their place or someone else’s), with how many people, and whatever other information the network needs to most closely approximate what ratings would look like. Use that and Nielsen data to extrapolate what the final ratings would be with that many eyes on a TV, and adjust. That’s it. Easy.

This is a rare, rare opportunity for the NHL and NBC. At no other point are they ever going to be able to get this kind of a free pool of television watchers from whom they can mine valuable demographic information. Forcing them back into their homes and away from a group of thousands of like-minded, passionate fans for the sake of moving a needle one or two points does the city, fanbase, and team a disservice. It’s so easy to work around. Figure it out.

Speaking of soccer [I thought we were talking about hockey. No, I’m dead certain of it.–ed.] [Shut up.–AJ] [You have problems.–ed.], UEFA just got a seismic news flash as Real Madrid, evidently furious at having seen FC Barca take the title, has bought the contract of Kaka from AC Milan. Too bad UEFA contract holder SETANTA SPORTS probably won’t survive to see him in the new kit.

Kaka Kiss
(This is where we mention Kaka’s wife and fine whatever you’re all perverts.)

Kaka, a sensational striker from the one-word-name factory that is Brazil, will reportedly command a 6-year, $94 million contract. That’s enough to make it the most expensive in soccer’s history, barely beating out Zinedine Zidane’s 6-year, $65 million deal with Juventus from eight years ago. Meanwhile, David Beckham is running around for a crappy MLS team in Los Angeles for 30 cents on the dollar and going home to a bag of antlers with oversized sunglasses and the “I’m married, but still vain” haircut straight from Jon & Kate + 8. Sic transit gloria mundi: Glory is fleeting.

We mentioned Andrew Thomas Gallo, the man accused of killing Angels rookie Nick Adenhart and two others in a drunk driving collision, yesterday. Gallo pled not guilty to murder, drunk driving, and fleeing the scene of an accident charges yesterday. Great.

Nick Adenhart Killed In Hit and Run Accident
(No, nothing criminal led to this. No way.)

But as we (rightfully) focus on the three people killed far before their time, we should point out that one passenger in Adenhart’s car, 24-year-old Jon Wilhite, has, in fact, survived the crash that left him in critical condition (via the RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE). Wait, that doesn’t appropriately convey the gravity of what happened. He survived internal decapitation.

As MANOLITH explains, internal decapitation, which is exactly as horrifying and life-threatening as it sounds, happens when the skull detaches from the spinal column. It’s usually fatal. Wilhite somehow survived without total paralysis, which is unbelievably rare, and he’s now in rehab with the help of several major leaguers. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s on the right track.

Since we need to get back on a higher note, here are some more links to consider while you’re riding in a cab with former Beach Boy Brian Wilson:

Nick Collison Red Afro
(Yes.)

What do the Raiders need the most on offense?

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Joey Barton Might Be Coming Back To Premiership

If the name Joey Barton doesn’t ring a bell, that’s okay. Not everyone’s a soccer fan. Here’s a good, quick primer: he’s like the Ty Cobb of soccer, except nowhere near as good as Ty Cobb.

Joey Barton High Tackle
(C’mon, ref, no dismemberment, no foul!)

So despite a career that included a six-month prison stay after assaulting a random guy outside a McDonald’s, a four-month suspended sentence for beating up teammate Ousmane Dabo, for some reason, Bolton (the soccer club, not this guy) is thinking of bringing him back to the Premiership. For a good idea of how dirty a player Barton is, that tackle shown above is in the video after the jump. Read more…

Premiership Striker Dumped By Wife On Facebook

Somehow, news of one of the greatest breakups of all-time hasn’t reached this shore yet, probably because the couple involved isn’t particularly notable to American fans. With that in mind, we’re going to try and put this in a context a little more familiar: Imagine if Eva Longoria dumped husband Tony Parker with a status update on FACEBOOK. Now take that and put it in a country where the NBA is the only relevant sports league. Well, that’s exactly what happened to former English Premier League striker Michael Chopra, whose wife — former British reality TV star Heather Swan — changed her facebook status to single without even telling him beforehand earlier this month.

michael chopra heather swan

(They do kinda look like the first FACEBOOK celebrity breakup, don’t they?)

Without missing a beat, Chopra — a Sunderland striker on loan in Wales at Cardiff City –  cancelled his wife’s cell phone contract and posted on his own profile that, “Heather will have a new number tomorrow, ha ha.” Well played sir, well played.

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EPL Star Designs For Chicks, Thinks He’s A Horse

If you thought Russian hockey players were strange, they’ve got nothing on their soccer counterparts. Within days of moving to London side Arsenal for a club-record $23 million, the British tabloid NEWS OF THE WORLD combed through just about every written or spoken word the Russian star Andrey Arshavin has produced. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s just about the strangest character to set foot on a pitch since, well, since the last time anyone played soccer.

andrey arshavin clothing arsenal
(Meet Andrey Arshavin: Women’s designer, premiership star.)

Not only does Arshavin design a popular women’s clothing line — he allegedly studied sewing when he was in school because of a better male-to-female ratio — he also dreams that he’s a horse in a field entirely enshrouded by guinea pigs.

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English Teen Snubs West Ham Deal For His Sax

Admit it, when you were in elementary school — heck, probably when you were in middle school, too — you hoped and dreamed that you’d be a professional athlete. You probably thought you had a chance, too. Well, this British teenager was living your dream, working his way up through the West Ham academy system to the verge of a professional debut. Except he didn’t take it, because he’d rather play the saxophone.

Really.

tyler rix westham
(Bad choice, kid. Haven’t you ever seen “Green Street Hooligans”?)

The sassy young Brit in question is 16-year-old Tyler Rix, who turned heads on the BBC2 reality show “Classical Star”. Think “American Idol” with brass and keys. Even more impressive is the fact that he did so while still training at West Ham. But when he was offered a guaranteed $1.5 million contract by Universal Music Group, he decided to take the music money rather than play the odds on a much, much bigger payday with West Ham.

Seems crazy, doesn’t it? And, more significantly, why isn’t Rix trying to do both? Why not be both a musician and an athlete if you can pull it off? Clearly he had been, and more athletes than we’d like to remember have failed miserably chasing the same dream. So why in God’s name is he pulling out?

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Trade Rumors Bring Death Threats To Soccer Star

Let’s be clear: things are different across the pond when it comes to sports. Oh sure, you might think Americans are fanatical about their favorite team. But come on, what’s so big about wearing replica jerseys on casual Friday or, like, tailgating? Anyone can dress poorly or drink on a Saturday morning. It takes a special kind of stupid to love your team so much that you start calling in death threats to the best player just because he might leave. England, you win.

Jermain Defoe

That’s Jermain Defoe, and he’s quite good at soccer (or what they call “the foot’s ball”). He’s also probably too expensive for his club, Portsmouth to keep on the payroll. So with the transfer window looming, rumors are flying about whether Dafoe will go to Spurs, Man City, or Juventus. Pompey fans are understandably upset about the impending departure, but calling in death threats while he’s still on your team? Guys, you’re doing it wrong. Read more…