List of Questions Regarding MLS and USSF

1)    Who is the CEO/Chairman of the Board of MLS LLC?  Bloomberg lists it is as Richard A. Peddie, the former CEO of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment). http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4312581 I’ve asked Mr. Peddie on twitter but he simply blocked me without saying no. He was asked by several people over a couple of days and he continued to ignore the question. Then, @sisusoccer (an anonymous account, to me) asked and Mr. Peddie did go on record with a quick “no”: https://twitter.com/SisuSoccer/status/575467792796807168 But Mr. Peddie would not respond to any follow up questions about when he left the position or who is the current CEO.  Also, former USSF president and lifetime director of the USSF Foundation, Alan Rothenberg is named per this site http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/alan-rothenberg/136277457.aspx as chairman of MLS LLC. Is Mr. Rothenberg Chairman of the Board/CEO or has he ever been? None of Mr. Rothenberg’s or Mr. Peddie’s online profiles disclose any employment for MLS LLC or related companies (other than USSF and MLSE, of course).

2)    Who are the majority owners of MLS LLC? I believe it to be The Anschutz Corp, The Kraft Group, and Hunt Sports LLC and maybe a few others: we know the teams are essentially franchises and MLS contracts with all players, parties, and has authority to make all major decisions. The exact structure is discussed fairly well in the first half of the decision from Fraser vs MLS (see end). Though from 2002, I can find no evidence the fake-competition model has changed nor the original majority owners.

3)    If the structure outlined in Fraser is accurate, it would mean the new entrants are transferring ownership of their teams (private corps in NASL) to MLS LLC for a right to be in the corporate umbrella. And they are doing this while also paying entrance fees? Since entry fees are relatively high, what promises of future returns are being made to these new entrants? Since the larger TV deals are mostly locked in for some time and since the attendance figures appear over-inflated in cases (easily proved by photo), are they indeed relying on “suckering” new entrants, similar to a ponzi scheme and as discussed by the soccernomics team?

4)    What is MLS Partners LLC (active)? http://www.corporationwiki.com/p/2espfd/mls-partners-llc  Originally created in Delaware on 2/19/2014 but also recorded in California. I can find no news or explanation about this corporation which appears to be owned, at least in part, by MLS LLC. I have called and emailed people within MLS to ask but they’ve given me no response. I wondered whether it was disclosed to the union during the CBA negotiation so I called and emailed several people within the union, including Bob Foose and John Newman, but received no response. Not even “it’s a non-factor”. Why let me stir a pot at all and why not tell me to buzz off?

5)   What is MLS Consulting (inactive)? http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/mls-consulting-inc/73911463.aspx which was owned and/or operated by Alan Rothenberg and Douglas Quinn, former president of SUM and former President of DallasFC  There was a third related corporation, also inactive, called “De Operating a Professional Soccer Team.” (I’m not kidding) However, for some reason, I cannot find any of the links I had been previously viewing. What are these sister/shell corps owned and/or operated by MLS or USSF officers or them together? How many are there?

6)    What is the exact nature of the lawsuit filed only last December by USSF against the USMNT player’s association? http://dockets.justia.com/docket/illinois/ilndce/1:2014cv09899/304155 It appears there was an arbitrated dispute regarding national team player images that was decided in favor of the USMNT and USSF has sued to undo the arbiter’s decision. This legal dispute has rendered the USMNTPA broke per the reports filed with the Department of Labor http://kcerds.dol-esa.gov/query/getOrgQry.do .

7)    Where is the 2010 CBA? If it is never disclosed and no one has a copy of it, how are contracts being negotiated? The player agents or any lawyer for a player must certainly have a copy they could disclose. Otherwise, how can terms be decided in a uniform manner?

8)   How much money, exactly, has MLS LLC and its wholly-owned subsidiaries received in public funds? Unlike other sports leagues comprised of multiple individual corporations, MLS LLC is one giant corporation potentially worth about or more than $3B (estimated guess from team values per Forbes). Yet it has received $1.5B in public assistance for its stadiums. https://twitter.com/neildemause/status/580709905390284801 Was almost half the corporation’s value derived via welfare? And this welfare-fattenned beast is actually one of the largest sports corporations around. Americans have surprisingly little control over something for which they’ve paid half.

9)   What are the real attendance figures or a legitimate estimate? I recently saw a photo of a Houston-Dallas game at BBVA Compass Stadium. https://twitter.com/EmptySeatsPics/status/594328707516506112  The stadium was clearly less than half full – indisputable. I estimate 40% full. The announced attendance was 19,975 (20K) but the stadium capacity is 22K. Total bullshit. The attendance figures are undoubtedly used to persuade entrants and sponsors. Is this more evidence of ponzi-scheme-like behavior or just number fudging?

10) As a former USSF president (Rothenberg), lifetime director of the USSF Foundation and CONCACAF VP (and if he is/was the CEO of MLS LLC), is this not a conflict of interest prevented by USSF or FIFA rules? With Garber as well, who is a current board member of USSF. Is Mr. Garber permitted to vote on all matters pertaining to division one? Including which corporations/entities should be allowed access?

11) USSF is sanctioned by FIFA. Regardless of the directorships, what are the FIFA rules regarding favorable FA treatment of individual teams/corporations? Are MLS and USSF allowed to collude so openly with no administrative recourse to other entities? IMO, the need for the NY Cosmos or top NASL teams to be allowed a shot at D1 competition is incontestable.

My odyssey with MLS started just a few months ago so I am trying to catch up to everyone on a lot of things. I give great thanks to all the free-market/open system advocates out there for all the guidance, data, info, history and news they provide. They actually care about the future of American soccer. Thank you.

In my opinion as well, an objective analysis shows this company is harmful to American soccer. It’s a centrally controlled, anti free investment, anti management freedom, dictatorial communist system which only ensures the development of American soccer will always lag behind the superior systems of the world. I suspect it is designed in this manner not to sustain growth but to ensure that any value or wealth generated by the sport of soccer within North America is captured by a select few individuals. And to achieve this monopoly on the future of soccer, it does so with disregard of the negative effects such a closed, imprisoned system has on the potential development of the players or overall sport within America.

Though I have been amassing data and info, MLS Media members are for the most part ignoring me completely. I think they view me as an irrelevant nuisance. Admittedly, those I did speak to were incredibly polite (ty!) but none would answer any questions. I will add more to this list as I go along and continue seeking answers.

If you are able to assist with any of these, a lot of people would be greatly appreciative. Also, I personally think it would make a good story for any intrepid sports journalists out there tired of reporting scores and injuries.

______________

 

EDIT: I have been advised that the photos cited in No. 9 were taken early and that the game did fill up further. If anyone has good photos of game crowds at their height, please share them with @TheMehdiMan. I am also familiar that “tickets sold” often exceed attendance. However, for this to be plausible in an example like the HOU/DAL game, there would have to be approximately 9000 empty seats which were purchased. These numbers seem inflated and deserve questioning. Also, unlike other leagues and teams whom most likely also inflate attendance figures, MLS uses these numbers to lure new entrants into the league, who are paying large entry fees and, ostensibly, assigning ownership of their teams to MLS LLC.

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MLS’ franchise, faux-competition structure, as discussed by the Court in Fraser vs. Major League Soccer:

Fraser - MLS structure 1

Fraser - MLS structure 2

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Soccer United Marketing…I have not yet even started with you.

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What is a Female Politician?

Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Rogers

Having bothered many already, why not go for the mothers of them all? Women. Well, not all women. Current national female politicians to be exact. I am not insane so I am going to throw out several qualifiers and caveats in an attempt to cover my butt from those very fearsome women in my own life whom I love very much.

Let me state I like all men understand very little about women. Nor do I understand why they think whatever it is they are thinking. Remember learning imaginary numbers in calculus and wondering for a moment if your teacher had lost their marbles? They call them imaginary but to me, the square root of negative one is inconceivable. I have a strong imagination and I could never come close to imagining the solution to i. In my opinion, the only other proper use of the word inconceivable may be when trying to decipher a woman’s mind. I will figure out the square root of negative one long before I decipher a woman’s mind.

IluvU

Also, I do not intend to generalize or stereotype all women in any manner as not equal to men. Again, I am not insane. This is done only in private with other males. This was a joke – take it easy. Please know I sincerely and strongly believe in total equality under the law and personal rights for all humans against government intrusion. I am not a “get-in-the-kitchen” kind of guy nor would such a command be received well or complied with by any females in my family.

Hopefully, I have said enough to prevent being dog housed.

He's looks happy to be there.

He looks likes he’s ok with it.

Admittedly, I am no expert on all politicians. While I acknowledge there may be a scant few honest females or males in Washington, history has taught me to view all federal politicians with a strong presumption of scumbag-ishness.

But nevertheless, I have been recently wondering what is a female politician? Not anatomically obviously but behaviorally. I dare not try to define what is behavior which would be considered female, feminine, womanly, ladylike or maternal. I will let a dictionary do this and then add my humble and often confused anecdotal experience. So take your complaints to Websters.

Here are the definitions:

Feminine: having qualities traditionally ascribed to women; such as sensitivity or gentleness.

Womanly: possessing qualities; such as warmth, attractiveness, etc, generally regarded as typical of a woman, especially a mature woman

Ladylike: like or befitting a lady in manners and bearing; refined and fastidious

Motherly/Maternal: of or resembling a mother; especially in warmth or protectiveness

When growing up, I often heard women say “if the world were run by women, it’d be different”. That we would not have all the wars and unnecessary suffering. Total hogwash. From what I can tell, were the world run by the female politicians I see here in America, it would be exactly the same as what we have currently. No change.

Hillary-Clinton-AIPAC

Almost none of the national female politicians with which we’ve become familiar exhibit any of those traits on a regular or non photo op basis. I would not use any of the above words to describe Ms. Clinton, Ms. Palin, Ms. Pelosi, Ms. Bachmann, Ms. Feinstein, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, etc.

To this casual citizen observer, they seemingly run from these characteristics because they actually fear being portrayed as feminine, womanly, ladylike or motherly. They are in a contest to be as man-ish as all the male politicians have been. If you put a man’s face on Ms. Clinton or Ms. Bachmann, would it really make any difference?

Bachmann

Personally, I see nothing wrong with any of the terms defined above. They are qualities exhibited by all the women in my life and these are not diminutive or incapable people. They are intelligent professionals who’ve succeeded in their careers within industries largely dominated by men. While they use the appropriate traits and skills for their professions, they certainly do not fear being portrayed or hide from having positive female behavioral characteristics.

But I do get why the politicians do it.

sarah-angry

The politicians themselves view the traits above as campaign liabilities so they never exhibit them publicly. They fear opponents will call them weak or soft so they over-compensate to what they perceive is tough and strong. From their actual behavior and statements, we know they are willing to drop a bomb for any fabricated reason, kill whomever with any amount of collateral damage, flat out ignore human rights violations and abide the destruction of American constitutional rights. And they do it all with the same speed and vigor as the men. Often with fewer questions asked because in the end, you know, “what difference does it make?”…as one of them famously said.

Clinton Benghazi

I do not think a person possessing the positive traits above would not be worthy of office because they possess them. Quite the opposite actually. My personal experiences have provided me with plenty of examples of women who openly exhibit these traits destroying me in all kinds of competitions/debates. In my humble opinion, this country could use leaders who exhibit maturity, compassion or any other positive female characteristic instead of overly assertive aggression and stubbornness with regard to our foreign, civil liberty and economic policies.

pelosi-angry

So in answering my own question, I have realized there is no such thing as a female politician. There are only politicians. The females in Congress have achieved some mis-guided form of gender neutrality. Doing so by only behaving like all the male politicians throughout history and disregarding most of the positive traits historically attached to woman.

There is no point in pundits opining about what it would be like if America had a female President. It will be exactly the same as if a man had won. Maybe even with more war.

Hillary-Over-copy.jpgqresize580P2C327.pagespeed.ce_.HS2SR3cceP7Z-fL5s4jR

Personally, I long for a “female” politician. It would be refreshing. She’d have my vote.

END____________

The Body Part Kim Kardashian Uses Better Than You

USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala - Reception

For the longest time, I did not know what to make of Kim Kardashian. There are plenty of big booties and pretty faces in this world so her fame baffled me. But I have come to a realization which at first was somewhat uncomfortable: Kim Kardashian is really smart. Personally, I’d like to challenge her to an IQ test before I admit defeat but statistically speaking, she is probably smarter than you or I.

If you type her name into Google, it comes up with 200 Million hits. Abraham Lincoln comes up with 80 Million. Genghis Khan, the ruler/creator of one of the largest empires to ever span this earth and direct ancestor of 4% of the world’s modern population, generates only 8 Million. In terms of fame, Ms. Kardashian blows out of the water modern royalty, heads of state and scholars like Newton, Da Vinci, Einstein and Hawking. According to my hasty non-scientific search, only Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama among a scarce few celebrities like Will Smith and Michael Jordan surpass her Google hit count. But the presence of Presidents ebbs after leaving office and Mr. Jordan and Mr. Smith aren’t getting any younger. She will probably surpass them all with one more decade of this hoopla.

5000 years from now, after World War 75 has wiped out civilization for the umpteenth time, some electronic anthropologist will come upon a semi-decayed and barely functioning server or microchip from our time. In data mining the information, this future scientist may legitimately wonder whether Ms. Kardashian was some kind of global empress. And the confusion of these future anthropologists will not be misplaced per se. Our society is infatuated with Kim Kardashian. Both her fans and her haters.

How did this happen? I am not exactly sure but I know it is not Kim Kardashian’s fault. She only deserves credit.

I work in an industry with many educated men and women. As for morals however, this lot of people varies as greatly as society. Yet when Ms. Kardashian’s name is brought up, I routinely hear the same things from this advanced group of thinkers: talentless hack, lucky bimbo or any of the vulgar terms for women which correlate to “ladies of the night”.  I will admit I at one point believed and agreed with many of these people bashing Ms. Kardashian from afar. (While well aware of her, I have never seen the show)

But I began to wonder what is the real difference between Kim Kardashian and Sharon Stone? Or even Katy Perry? Not physically but rather in terms of business acumen or life decisions. Assuredly, there are several but I think Ms. Kardashian wins where it counts. Do forgive me, Ms. Stone, I love you but I have to call it as I see it. You too, Ms. Perry.

Sharon Stone, if you don’t know, is an incredibly intelligent person and member of the haughty brainiac club Mensa. What I am sure you do know about Ms. Stone is she is/was a major sex symbol in Hollywood. Though I saw it several times, I do not know or care what was the plot of Sliver for one reason: Sharon Stone was in it.

Sliver

Damn straight I’d like to watch!

At that age, triflings like plot and dialogue were totally irrelevant. The only thing I expected was a hot and naked Sharon Stone and god bless her for never letting me down. (make your own jokes)

You see, because Sharon Stone is smart, she understands the importance of having more sex appeal to society than the next actress, who may or may not have been as comfortable filming the same scenes. Ms. Stone was willing to push the envelope further than others and it helped land jobs in a very competitive industry, creating financial wealth for herself. There is nothing wrong with the business choices Ms. Stone made. In my opinion, she made them wisely when facing competition like Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who had basically corned large segments of the non-nude-scene actress industry. While my family does not share the morals of Hollywood celebrities, I fully acknowledge showing her cooter in Basic Instinct was a good career move.

Were I Arnold at this juncture, this movie would have gone in a different direction.

Were I Arnold at this juncture, this movie would have gone in a different direction.

This is the sexist dynamic in which these people live. Promiscuous behavior, public appearances with occasional antics and the attention which follows helps these women land lucrative jobs. And as society changes or slowly continues to degrade, the amplitude of this behavior increases in order for the celebrity to capture the same amount of attention as before. Hence the modern invent of every-celebrity-has-a-sex-tape. All of this is done for the hope of being able to make money in the profession they desire. The hope some rich or well-connected producer, executive or director will make them a star. Essentially, their lives are one long and embarrassing public job audition.

All Ms. Kardashian did was cut out the middlemen. She knows the masses only care about superficial glamor, sex and fame and devised a way to profit from it. She no longer relies on others to make herself wealthy. She will never need a job. She is a product, marketing plan and supply distribution chain wrapped into one human being. She can attach her name to frivolous apps via the hard work of others and expect to receive over $200 Million, per CNN. If Kevin Hart gets $2 Million to tweet a message of support for a movie, I wonder what Ms. Kardashian could command if not already doing so. No matter whether they are wholesome or promiscuous, all those actresses and actors with supposed talent cultivated through years of hard work will rely on bigwigs and financiers to get paid until they are dead. Not Ms. Kardashian though. To her, acting is for suckers.

But don’t think she did not work hard to get here or that she does not still work hard. She like all those actresses was once begging too. She like them worked often in degrading ways to achieve her current status. Ms. Kardashian was not the original “no-talent” phenomena, just the one which lasted.

That accolade belongs to Paris Hilton. Do not forget Ms. Kardashian was basically Ms. Hilton’s lapdog for a couple years. Ms. Kardashian saw what Ms. Hilton was doing turning talentless celebrity into dollars and decided she would do it better. She snaked all the media space and attention away from Ms. Hilton when the only reason we ever knew of Kim Kardashian in the first place was Ms. Hilton.

This is what we call leg work.

This is what we call doing leg work with a boss much dumber than you. Many Americans can empathize with Ms. Kardashian on this. Not me though – I love my boss!

This was probably too easy for Ms. Kardashian. I honestly wonder whether Ms. Hilton could multiply seven times eight and come within fifty-six of the correct answer. There is no way someone so vapid and hollow was going to last while also carrying the charisma and intellect of a brick wall. And while everyone has a sex-tape, Ms. Hilton seems to have had as many as some porn stars. For non-porn stars, one sex tape should be more than sufficient.

So Ms. Kardashian just repackaged what Ms. Hilton did, sex tape and all, but did it more wisely. She was smart to include her whole family in the product so they could contribute material, carry some of the weight and release some of the pressure and workload. It should also be noted there are a lot of people on this planet who would not treat their family so well as to share rising but not yet fully established fame and wealth. She deserves big props for trying and succeeding in securing something not just for her but for those closest to her.

Even beyond her business success, there is a plainly obvious reason to not over-look Ms. Kardashian’s intelligence. I do not care how little she studied in school or what degree she has never earned, her father did not get to his position in life by being anything less than a extremely smart, shrewd and capable man. In his field, one does not achieve his level success without great intelligence.

Robert Kardashian - a very successful attorney.

Robert Kardashian – a very successful attorney.

And from what I gather, her mother manages the family so she is no dolt either. We can be certain the children of such people are not dumb, dimwitted or incapable even if they have never heard of a quadratic equation. Intuition and image management will take you much farther in the world of celebrity than book smarts.

I would guess Mr. Kardashian may have had apprehensions about the way things have gone but even a stubborn father could not deny the incredible business success of this daughter. A daughter who by now has likely exceeded the wealth the father obtained doing things the hard way.

So while Ms. Kardashian is doing it better than all the other questionably-moral actors and actresses out there, is she doing it better than someone like Katy Perry?

Yep. Most definitely.

Musicians unlike actors are able to have more control of their earning potential once they’ve achieved mega status. At this point in her career, Ms. Perry most likely needs bigwigs and moneymen as little as Ms. Kardashian. Same with Madonna or U2. But they still work their butts off.

I did not know too much about Ms. Perry before this year but knew she was a star who hit on Tebow and had a nice song about fireworks. Then I saw the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Amazing! What a show. I have two small kids so I have now seen it at least 60 times and it still doesn’t get old. If you want to see a grown man pretending to be liger with a child on his back, shouting “Boom, Boom, Boom” and shooting imaginary fireworks with his hands, then come to my house after dinner. For this average man and his family, this show blew our minds. And guess what, while I have no interest I am 100% certain I will be buying Katy Perry related products in the future because my daughter now adores Ms. Perry. This is called brand building.

katy-perry-super-bowl-15

Undeniably Awesome Show

Ms. Perry deserves it too. That performance was no small feat. Musicians like her or Justin Timberlake work endless hours in rehearsal and practice throughout their youth to get where they are. They sacrificed for success. Them and those around them. Imagine how many people had to work their butts off to put together this Beijing-Olympic style performance just so Ms. Perry could work her butt off to make it an ultimate success. I would not have been able to physically withstand running around a stadium for twelve minutes changing outfits and doing dance routines.

Further, no one could convince me to do the stunt she did at the end. I wonder what the liability insurance is for someone with her earning potential to be strapped to a pyrotechnic star which is flying through a stadium with TV cables everywhere and while internal fireworks are occaisionally being shot off around her.

Best Finale Ever.

Best Finale Ever.

Katy Perry has big balls and so do her insurers. Not only did she pull this stunt off, she absolutely rocked the entire night, including when looking like the most adorably out-of-place-white-girl during Ms. Elliot’s performance. I think at the very end even Ms. Perry was surprised at how well it went. I sure was.

This is what Katy Perry has to go through to grow her brand and create more wealth for herself in the future. She may not have to do stunts often but she will  have to put in long hours of work to be ready to perform at the requisite level. This is not an easy job.

So screw it, why bother with it if you’re Kim Kardashian? She can achieve the same amount of wealth and stardom as Katy Perry without the cardio training, stunts, rehearsals, physical stress, emotional stress and super-frequent travel required for musicians. She puts in a fraction of the effort of someone like Ms. Perry or Mr. Timberlake and still goes farther. To Ms. Kardashian, all the various ways people have worked to obtain fame and wealth are for suckers, not just acting.

Then there is that photoshoot. I love this photoshoot. It was stated Ms. Kardashian takes thousands of selfies to find the best one before posting to social media. Wise image management. However, I do not know if she could ever take a selfie or professional photo better than the two below. Together they are a work of art. Indeed a metaphor for her life, her success and our infatuation.

Kardashian

First, you almost can not help but stare because they are so unique. A symbol of her entire career so far.

Second, there is the obvious nudity and focus on her rear, symbolizing her use of more-risque-than-the-next sex appeal to rise to stardom.

Third, there is the hilarious tounge-in-cheek stupid human trick with the champagne. It is as if she is mocking her haters by saying: “What do you mean I have no talents? Can any of you do this? HA!”  Absolutely perfect.

Finally, there are the expressions on her face. To me, she has a look of jubilant defiance of societal norms. That she has been successful despite what we all thought. That she will continue to do it and there is nothing we can do to stop her. And that she is having a lot of fun too.

In the words of Mr. Sheen: “Winning”

Ms. Kardashian is not going away any time soon. She is here to stay and we might as well enjoy the ride. Because whether we want to accept it or not or whether we would behave in a similar fashion, the reality is Kim Kardashian will always use her greatest asset to remain in the public eye and generate wealth.

Except it is not the famous asset she carries behind her and on which we’ve all been focusing. Rather it is the asset we’ve long pretended does not exist. It is the smart, shrewd and capable one hidden between her ears.

Congratulations, Ms. Kardashian. I am thoroughly impressed.

____________

Major League Soccer, Who Are You?

usa_soccer_world_cupThis ends only in speculation and is an attempt to catalog my thoughts and actions since Thursday. This is long, starts one way, ends another and has no resolution. I warned you.

A few months ago, we started this rambling site to flush out thoughts stuck in our heads and somewhat go on record with our opinions.

The first thing posted was “The Effects of Promotion and Relegation on American Sports”. Just always seemed like such a no brainer. Shortly after joining the site, I dared to venture out to Twitter to see what others think and engage in various discussions. Being new to twitter, I did not know what to expect. I am stunned at the amount of political cartoons (I know how to define hypocrite, thank you) and simple-minded bickering from all sides and every interest group.

However, if you think the political arguments have lost all sense of reason on twitter, I suggest you survey some of the back and forth between those who desire promotion and relegation and those who do not. It is pretty vicious. By example, just take a look at how much Ted Westervelt, @soccerreform, pisses these people off. He may be MLS’ public enemy numero uno. Either him or Jurgen Klinsmann. All because of their support for promotion and relegation: Mr. Westervelt consistently and Mr. Klinsmann occasionally but from an international media platform.

Personally, I do not like spinning my wheels in slow-moving endeavors. The very diligent Mr. Westervelt and the knows-something-about-soccer Mr. Klinsmann hope to change the game by creating public support and therefore putting pressure on MLS from its fans. A fine strategy but not the shortest path between two points in my humble opinion. Especially when confronted with an army of blindly-loyal MLS team fans, MLS employees and access-reliant media members. All of who are willing to waste hours of time with you arguing over of the pros and cons of changing the system.

I have always viewed promotion and relegation as an incredibly undervalued money-maker for all parties: the owners of the league, private team owners, American workers and our government while not even addressing the undeniably positive effect on the quality of play and development.

To me, the best and quickest option to get this done is to show rich people why it makes sense financially for them. And these kinds of people like boring reports with charts and projections and data for them to consider.

So I was going to create a mock business plan. Essentially, I was going to construct a report showing the benefits of:

  • Announcing the creation of open system hierarchy, dictating entry/membership fees, merchandising and TV rights allocations all controlled by MLS;
  • Selling off the teams at current values (as listed by Forbes) with a premium for the large-market established teams and smaller premium for all teams which would be included in the top division in the first year.
  • Using European or East Asian examples, show a representation or template of the fee structure for established teams as well as new entrants.
  • Using European or East Asian examples, provide some kind of real world example to highlight the positive earnings of the league hierarchy year over year.
  • Using NASL/Whomever attendance figures, point out there clearly exists 40 teams ready for a two division national structure in the USA. (Brazil had only two twenty team national divisions until 2009, when they rearranged after too many smaller teams had grown large enough to support increasing the national hierarchy)
  • Propose a regional structure to accommodate new and small teams since the United States is gigantic
  • Using the US Census, project the number of cities able to accommodate a team in such a hierarchy, also projecting the potential number of employees/players/team workers at a rate of 1 team per city.
  • Reflecting that under modest rate of 1 team per eligible city, MLS’ scope would surpass all sports organizations except perhaps NCAA initially.
  • Using plentiful European examples, note the humble facility and player salary requirements necessary to start a successful small club. – America’s high schools would suffice as stadiums for many new teams and they would still have larger capacity than many lower division European counterparts.
  • Noting the benefits of Billionaire Toy Men throughout the open systems of the world. Many individual teams like Real Madrid and Chelsea operate at massive losses because their billionaire owners do not care and are always willing to put more money into their toy. This cash influx strengthens the league and heightens interests by bringing players who would otherwise never come a la HAVE YOU SEEN REAL’S LINEUP AND BENCH!?! IT’S INSANE!!!
  • Reminding that leagues don’t actually care if the teams lose money or dissolve…i.e. no financial risks or worries regarding failing teams. Replacements are ready to fill the gap from the league below if an adjustment is needed. The league still gets paid and controls everything.
  • Finally, doing a lot of math and charts and providing some kind of revenue projection to a company operating the hierarchy alone in America, using whichever modern example I could locate and adjusting as best as I could justify.
  • Showing that while 20 or 25 MLS teams will never compete with aggregate economic market share of any of the big leagues individually (MLB/NHL/NBA/NFL/Liga/EPL/Bundesliga), a hierarchy of hundreds of teams in the USA (1st ever system here) would eventually match their market share and perhaps surpass many of those mentioned, with a rising tide rapidly increasing the value of the larger market or long-established teams. (My plan was to figure this math projection out later or fudge it completely – when you go this far, you do not turn back)
  • Noting the current single-entity structure means only MLS is reasonably capable of implementing such a system in the United States, thus the competitive advantage obtained against MLB/NHL/NBA/NFL would remain for the foreseeable future. The current structure of those leagues as independent corporations and not a single entity makes a conversion to such a system incredibly unlikely. Only when MLS’ wealth surpasses them would any consider changing and the multiple ownership structure would render it difficult even if a portion of their league wanted a switch to match MLS’ competitive advantage. MLS would likely be the sole promotion and relegation system in America for a very, very, long time.
  • EDITED UPDATE – Discussing the political and social benefits as well as the corporate goodwill having America’s first open system would create because of the positive effect on minority ownership in professional sports.

This was the audacious and somewhat crazy plan I hoped would get promotion and relegation going in this country. So as I started thinking about what it would take to write it, I wondered to whom it would be sent.

I decided I would locate the actual majority owner(s) of MLS since nothing is happening without them taking action, either directly or by allowing a sale of the corporation. It’s better to be denied by the real decision maker, even emphatically with them laughing at you, than to never get to ask the question. And I’d prefer an emphatic denial than arguing on twitter forever. Plus, it can be reproduced quickly if someone with sufficient capital power and balls is ever identified and within my meager electronic grasp.

As it is, another unfinished odyssey began.

So who matters in MLS and who doesn’t? And who are the majority owners?

When looking for info on any corporation, start with the best in the business: Bloomberg. MLS LLC is a private corporation so Bloomberg won’t have the data or info comparable to what is displayed for Apple or a public company but they should have something.

While most think Commissioner Garber runs MLS similar to the way Roger Goodoofus runs the NFL, they are very wrong. The NFL is comprised of individual corporations who essentially vote Goodell to be their King. While he can be removed by the actions of the owners together, there is no one above him. And while he is not an owner, he is the one person who is guaranteed to have direct access to and even leverage with every owner.

Commissioner Garber is not that man. He is an employee who may have no access to owners. Though I’m sure he’s aware of the obvious influence of people like Mr. Kraft, he may not even know the exact ownership structure himself. Unlike the NFL or any well-known sports league, MLS LLC is one corporation and its C.E.O is Richard A. Peddie, the former C.E.O. of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment. At least this is what Bloomberg surprisingly told me.

http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4312581

Surprising because there is no mention of this esteemed position on his profiles online or on twitter, where it does list his former work for the Maple Leafs, Raptors, and so forth. (as of date of writing, 3/8)

Searching online was also made more difficult because of the similarity of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, also an MLS team owner) and MLS itself but it is clear Mr. Peddie’s rule atop the league is obfuscated.

While @thesoccerdon (Commisioner Garber) has 150K twitter followers, the actual don of soccer has only 3K (as of Friday 3/6) and seemingly no one knows how powerful he is within American soccer. I have cousins with more followers. Imagine if Mr. Goodell’s or Mr. Stern’s powerless underlings had 50x the Twitter followers than them.

Nevertheless, someone was located for whom I could plausibly locate a business address and deliver a letter and dupe/convince them to read it. And by some small slither of a World-Cup-hoping chance, maybe the report would go up the ladder rung, only one step now, to the real owners of MLS LLC.

But I still had two questions scratching my curiosity.

  • If Mr. Peddie never gives it the time day (99.X% probable), who are the real owners so I can email bomb/somehow get it to whatever capital corporation they use as vehicle for their bidding (i.e. if it were Warren Buffet, I’d email bomb/certified mail the Board of Directors and various analysts/idea-needy-employees-looking-to-impress at Berkshire Hathaway – not Warren or his family themselves even if I could locate such contact info.) In fact, why not just do my best to go over Peddie’s head straight to the majority owner(s)?

And

  • Why has Mr. Peddie been hiding from what appears to me to be a pretty freaking awesome job? Since I planned to go over his head anyways, I decided to ask him directly. And about a lot of questions about promotion and relegation and MLS LLC.

While he maintains an active twitter account, he ignored me so I checked another favorite corporate site called Corporate Wiki looking for any data or leads.

http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/major-league-soccer-llc/34579837.aspx

You’ll notice MLS LLC is linked to an alternative/sister corp called MLS Partners LLC, which I didn’t think much about at first glance. I did ask Mr. Peddie but he ignored me.

As corporations file reports in many states, a site like Corporate Wiki will pull many duplicates from the public records. Here is the one from Florida:

http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/major-league-soccer-llc-6340548.aspx

Following the information provided, I checked Sunbiz.org, Florida’s Department of State site and located a list of twenty-one corporate directors I refuse to type:

Directors One

Directors Two

It should be intuitively obvious who owns a couple of these corporations but no information on ownership percentages or voting rights is provided.

Since MLS LLC is a large corporation, they get sued and sue people. If you have never been sued, there is this nasty thing called discovery where parties often have to file revealing information into the court system. But guess what, MLS has good lawyers and solid strategy. In every federal case in which they were a defendant (since 2005), they either won on Motion to Dismiss or settled before discovery was due. At least a couple of times with a discovery deadline looming large. There is no recent data on MLS LLC’s structure in the federal court system which I could see.

So next came logic. The voting power within MLS LLC has likely never changed since its inception or rather not significantly. Why would it ever? If you controlled a corporation, the only way you would ever yield voting power to a new investor or another party is if the corporation was struggling and desperately needed a capital infusion or you wanted to spread the risk of failure to others because you are worried. After its initial survival, the default risk of MLS was too low for an owner to consider selling voting stock to avoid financial loss in the event of failure. There is no need to worry about this. If MLS itself were struggling financially at any point, rest assured the billionaires behind the scenes are not. They would merely infuse cash and keep their stake since they themselves, or the parent corporations they control, are not struggling. And even if MLS LLC needed cash to grow or for a capital project, the parent corporations would likely infuse cash rather than yield control to a new investor.

It is a presumption but more than likely, new investors or these “entrepreneur groups” that manage individual teams are only offered restricted/non-voting stock or minor voting interests. There is absolutely no logical reason to ever sell a significant voting interest within MLS. If a potential investor doesn’t like it, tough shit. MLS doesn’t financially need the new investor so much that it would agree to yield power. They’d just wait for another sports-enthused rich guy to come along who’ll happily get paid from a non-voting position and toy around with a team. The World Cup rejuvenates interest in MLS every four years, anyways.

So in searching for the original owners and limiting Google to hits before 1997, the best thing I could find was this Fifa news report about the new MLS league.

http://www.fifa.com/world-match-centre/news/newsid/714/11/index.html

Investors:

Boston: Robert and Jonathan Kraft; Columbus: Hunt family and a group of Columbus investors; Denver: Philip Anschutz; Kansas City: Hunt family and a group of Kansas City investors; Los Angeles: LA Soccer Partners, presided over by Marc Rapaport; New York/New Jersey: John Kluhe and Stuart Subotnick; Washington D.C.: Washington Soccer, L.P., led by API and presided over by Kevin Payne.Dallas, San Jose and Tampa as yet have no investors and may have to be financially supported by the league itself.

Going through the names, the biggest hitters I can tell are:

  • The Anschutz Family and therefore The Anschutz Corporation (mega-big, private), led by Chairman of the Board and owner Philip Anschutz. (TAC is in Denver but Los Angeles is Mr. Anschutz home/sports focus)
  • The Kraft Family and therefore The Kraft Group (mega-big, private), led by Chairman of the Board and owner Robert Kraft. (Boston)
  • The Hunt Family and therefore the Hunt Sports Group, LLC (mega-big, private) led by family patriarch Clark Hunt, son of departed Lamar Hunt and grandson of oil tycoon H.L Hunt (Columbus, Kansas City, Dallas)

The other guys are rich too but there is no way the three above handed over any amount of money without significant control from inception. Also, The Hunt Family and Anschutz Family are related together through a marriage so while I don’t know how independent/connected their interests are, we can assume at least some kind of close or amicable relationship regarding MLS. With Mr. Kraft as well but he does not appear to be as closely connected as Mr. Anschutz and Mr. Hunt are to each other.

It is clear promotion and relegation will not happen in America unless it is done by one of the three parent corporations controlled by these men or them in unison. There is no point in arguing with Alexi Lalas, whose brother is MLS editor-in-chief, or any media member connected to or paid by MLS. It is not their fault either: employees do not get to rock the boat of their own company. Go try it yourself and see how well it goes.

At this point, I was relatively certain I had located the entities who were more than mere minority holders with voting rights but rather the exact majority owners. Granted, the whole thing may also be owned by Lord Rothschild, the Ayatollah and Kim Jong-Un but it appears there is no way anything happens in MLS without the three above letting it happen.

There is also slight empirical evidence supporting this on the pitch. Is it a marvelous coincidence the hometown teams of these power brokers over-perform in MLS? Admittedly, twenty years is a not a large sample but MLS is a single-entity structure with player allocation rules and restrictions designed to provide parity. It is portrayed as pure competition but it is a toy they own and if they so desire they can subtly do as they please. While no one can control who scores a goal, it is essentially the WWF version of soccer. Go Wizards! Go Revolution! Go Galaxy!

I should have stopped here and started the report.

But what the heck is MLS Partners, LLC?

http://www.corporationwiki.com/p/2espfd/mls-partners-llc

(originally created in Delaware on 2/19/2014 but also recorded in California)

Corporations start other corporations all the time for various reasons. They are easy to start. So since first seeing it, I just presumed it does something ordinary and trite.

But I could not stop wondering. I could not find any news about it either and corporate wiki says it was only created last year. If the NFL started a joint corporation or venture, or does anything anywhere, there is always at minimum an online press release followed by an army of click-needy sports sites. Yet I could find nothing and the cross-references with other entities drowned out every search.

It does not appear to be an owner or part of MLS LLC but rather MLS LLC appears it may be an owner of it. So I tweeted Mr. Peddie, who I had been peppering with tweets and questions as well as Commissioner Garber hoping they’d respond if even a no comment. I would have pinned your ‘no comment’, Mr. Peddie.

After being sufficiently annoyed by my repeated questions and tweets, Mr. Peddie simply blocked me. They could have just said it was a marketing vehicle or anything bland and I’d probably left it alone. I pondered starting a new handle just to ask him more questions but thought he may at this point wrongfully construe me to be some kind of stalker.

When you are in a rabbit hole, sometime you fail to see what is going on overtly at the surface. I had completely forgotten MLS is negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, which will dictate exactly how everyone gets paid going forward.

Early in my career, I was at an organization under going such a negotiation and I wanted to be on the union team even if just to learn. This was a good-guy, for-the-people type of organization too. To bystanders and myself going in, you would have thought they’d behave appropriately.

Immediately, management said they are struggling financially and we’d all have to accept no raises rather than what was provided in the past plan. They bellowed and whined in a self-righteous manner about how all of our jobs are so valuable and we should be so happy to not be searching like all the other unfortunate souls out there.

We asked politely to see a current account statement of all accounts and tax returns for two years so that we could be sure the corporation was struggling to a point where we would need to accept their horrible first offer. Let’s just say we did not get good looks from across the table that day. They did not expect this request and because they had brought nothing, we had to adjourn. The next day, they brought a budget from an excel spreadsheet and said this is “the situation”. We advised a budget is useless in determining health unless we can see the actual results and pre-projections of last year’s budget to compare as well as the documents demanded yesterday. We adjourned again but without rescheduling a date to continue. Annoyed, we searched ourselves and obtained five years of tax records because they had a hidden reporting requirement with a particular agency that maintained an active website we could access publicly.

Guess what? The mofos were lying through their teeth. The organization was in awesome financial health and negotiations ended with a properly increased raise plan rather than what they wanted.

This is how bargaining negotiations go. One side hides the ball to project a worse financial situation to get a better deal. Imagine yourself as a tourist in a market overseas: You do not let the merchant know how much money is in your pocket when negotiating the price of whatever you want to buy. Same principle applies.

MLS LLC was the stand-alone umbrella corporation for all of Major League Soccer since 1995. In 2014, they founded/became involved with a sister corporation, MLS Partners, whose purpose is totally unknown. In 2015, they undertook extremely valuable collective bargaining negotiations with the players union. I still believe in the high probability MLS Partners is completely innocuous. I would not be able to conceive the size of the balls of these guys otherwise. Enron-ish. But the timing is definitely curious and modestly suspicious.

So after all this and getting distracted from my original purpose of doing a report to convince rich men to see an obvious light, I am left wondering if MLS would dare commit large-scale commercial manipulation (fraud?). Doing it so they would be able to present the Players Union with financial statements from MLS LLC which would be stamped, signed and audited appropriately but not showing the full picture of the organization.

All of this can be resolved with one question to the Players Union: Do you know of MLS Partners, its purpose or its financials and did you know prior to getting strong-armed?

EDITED 4/8(((: Of course, no one in MLS is going to answer me no matter how many times I ask. And the Players Union has not responded either despite my emails, phone calls, tweets and various attempts. Deadspin and Gawker media advised they would seek an answer, along with others, but no response from either MLS or MLSPU has been made known. )))

Depending on what the answer is (and if it is ever received), this could go several different ways. Some of them would not be good for many people. I hope it was disclosed and not another casually ignored secret like Mr. Peddie’s role as C.E.O. of MLS LLC, as indicated by Bloomberg News as of 3/8/15. Or the other secret regarding the exact ownership structure of MLS LLC.

But maybe, just maybe we will find what is going on within MLS and why the organization sanctioned as division one in America operates so shadily.

_________

As for the business plan, it will have to sit for a while. If some college finance major or graduate student would like to do it as a project, you’d get an A from me. Also, please let me borrow it if you don’t mind.

Finally, if you desire to make an attempt to change the system here in America, I suggest you speak in terms of $$$ rather than sense. That is all these people care about. Do not hate. It is normal.

___________

Edit: Fraser vs MLS discussed the structure in 2002. There is no reason to think this has changed. And as MLS became profitable, it is even less likely to change.   Fraser - MLS structure 1Fraser - MLS structure 2

————————

Solving the Bad Cop Problem (And Creating Jobs)

Police-action-in-Ferguson-690There are too many bad, violent or mentally jacked-up cops roaming around. Worse, expecting the people who hire them to supervise them properly has apparently become too much to ask. So what to do? I have a bold idea.

States should pass laws requiring the termination of any law enforcement employee who through their actions generates civil liability upon the state. Correspondingly, cops should pay for malpractice insurance like lawyers and doctors.

Essentially, a law would need to be passed along the lines of:

Any law enforcement official within the State of Broke who through their actions as a law enforcement official causes a state, county, or municipal agency to be liable upon a judgment in an amount in excess of $15,000.00 (or $X) shall have their employment as a law enforcement official within the state terminated not in good standing (NO PENSION). Judgments or liabilities paid by insurance coverage of individual officers (and not municipal/state general liability insurance) shall not apply to this statute.

Boom….Problem fixed!  Zany? Impossible? Allow me to explain how it would work and how it could be done even without your state’s defunct legislature taking action. Fear not, I am not insulting your state: I live in Florida. Your legislature like mine is probably useless. However, almost every state has a mechanism which allows citizens to place laws on the ballot via petition drives…if all those marijuana proposals can get there, so can this.

Surprisingly, these people have accomplished a lot.

Surprisingly, these people have accomplished a lot.

Importantly, this does not replace or touch the other ways cops get fired – either because they were charged with a crime or violated police protocols. Rather, this catches the bad cops who are often protected by their own agencies by placing their fate in the hands of the civil courts.  Matters in the civil courts are decided by citizen juries seeking to compensate parties if they find the defendant’s or cop’s actions unlawful. They are not designed to fall over backwards to justify police action so superior officers can continue to pretend they are doing a good job.

Like this

Like this “lawful” use of force. Kelly Thomas before and after.

Those cops who deliver regular beatings or whose antics result in huge wrongful death suits but somehow stay on the job to collect a pension would be gone. No matter how much a department obstructs an internal investigation so it results in a self-serving determination of lawful force, the police have no control over the civil courts.

However, because the burden of proof in civil courts is much lower than the criminal courts, there must be a balance provided. Otherwise, the dragnet would catch the good or rather the not-deserving-to-be-fired cop as well.

Thus, malpractice insurance.

Here they come to save the day!

Here they come to save the day!

While insurance would apply for purposes of paying judgments, it is unlikely any police officer would be able to afford the millions in coverage to protect against the egregious behavior which results in too large a judgment…a la Kelly Thomas. (or the judgment which will happen regarding the violently fearful cop who killed that young boy in Cleveland, Tamir Rice)

Hence, any officer found liable in a now-all-too-often wrongful death suit would be terminated subject to the rule even after his policy has paid its coverage limits. Malpractice insurance by the nature of its economics would not prevent a bad cop from being fired in these instances. Rather, it would only partially alleviate the financial burden of the state and taxpayers while the cop still gets fired.

There would however be many instances of lesser damages where insurance would apply and prevent a police officer from being subject to the rule. But he does not get off scot-free.

First, and repeating myself, the rule does not prevent or replace termination of police officers by the standard means already in place. It only supplements the methods as another check and balance against the integrity of the offending officer’s departmental investigation practices.

Second, those officers who behave poorly and generate many complaints or create liability would see their premiums rise rapidly to match the corresponding risk that the insurer will get hit with a big judgment. Many of the repeat offender officers we hear about cause the state to pay 10K here, 25k there and 30K for another instance. These officers would find their premiums so high, they may not be affordable. That is of course if the insurer has not already dropped coverage – meaning any liability in excess of X would result in termination no matter what white-washed decision the department came up with to excuse the behavior.

Third, premiums would be very small for the vast majority of law enforcement officers. Despite everyone’s justified perturbance with the current state of the police, the overwhelming majority of cops are good/normal people. Go meet one under ordinary human circumstances and test the theory out. Most go through their entire careers without generating any significant complaints or ever creating liability. For these officers, premiums would likely be less than a few hundred dollars per year, if even so.

A role model! Elton Simmons

A role model: Elton Simmons

I am reminded of L.A. Sheriff Deputy Elton Simmons, a motorcycle traffic officer. Over the course of 20 years and 25,000 stops, he has never received a single complaint. Instead, he has countless commendations even from people he has ticketed. He is clearly doing many things right. This just and lawful man’s premiums would probably be about $5.00 a month or less. Heck, an officer like him may decide to not even purchase insurance because he appears to know how to operate respectfully, intelligently and by the book day in and day out.

However, as less capable officers generate legitimate complaints or create liability, they will see their premiums rise accordingly….just like car insurance.

The Police Chief may not care that a fresh-out-of-Afghanistan rookie is roughing up everyone unnecessarily and creating complaints from poor people. But the insurer will definitely care and would probably already have in place a system to periodically review all complaints generated by their insureds (the cops). They will look at those complaints to determine a pattern of behavior and readjust their premiums upwards or downward if needed.

when-did-the-police-turn-into-soldiers

By passing the above termination law and allowing insurance, the system would incentivize good behavior and punish bad. It would do so without relying on the integrity (or lack thereof) of supervising officers and internal affairs departments.

“By the book” would no longer be a arrogantly meaningless phrase but rather an all-important method for police to protect themselves from termination under such a system. Any police officer who truly operates “by the book” does not generate liability upon the state. And those cops not so adherent to rules would be strongly encouraged/motivated/incentivized to never stray from that book like these officers did in Mr. Hustle’ video…

(You may have to sign in to YouTube to view)

Many of the actions in that video would have never occurred if those officers actually felt the threat of termination or even the financial strain of paying boatloads in premiums to keep the job. Would you punch someone in the face unlawfully if you knew it was going to cost you and your family an additional $1,000.00 every year over the course your career? Or if it might even result in outright termination because of a civil jury over whom you and your buddies have no influence? It is unlikely anyone would throw that punch unless they truly had the law on their side.

Finally, a huge ancillary benefit to this system is the amount of jobs created within the insurance industry as well as the fact that many victims of unlawful police behavior will receive compensation much quicker than otherwise. Insurers do not always wait for a civil court case to settle a claim although it is common, especially if the claim is large. Often, smaller insurance claims are settled quickly without litigation even if the victims/injured have already retained an attorney.

So there it is in a nutshell. Rather than wait for people in power to act honorably when their own house is in disorder, citizen groups should take action through the ballot box. In my humble opinion, they should seek to add a layer of protection for themselves and state finances by creating a mechanism to terminate the employment of those who create liability while also allowing for malpractice insurance. And more importantly, put a bit of power and influence over the police back into the hands the people. This non-sense has long gotten out of control.

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Top 5 Moments in African World Cup History

0

In continuation of our series about international soccer, we present our top 5 most memorable moments in African World Cup history.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has often reasserted his belief that Africa should be given more qualifying spots at the  World Cup. However, there was a time when FIFA and the World Cup was not so inclusive or welcoming for members of the world’s three largest continents. In fact, Asian, African, and North American teams were afforded only fractional qualification requiring inter-continental playoffs prior to 1970. Considering UEFA always had at least eight dedicated qualifying spots, critics rightfully complained of a continental bias within FIFA’s “World” Cup.

As a result of this dispute, African teams boycotted the 1966 World Cup when only one place was afforded for Asia and Africa combined, demanding each continent be afforded at least a direct qualifying spot. When FIFA acquiesced in 1970, Morocco was Africa’s first participant.

However, after two defeats and dead rubber draw against Bulgaria, some argued FIFA should revert to fractional qualification for Africa and Asia (AFC member Israel managed two draws and a defeat). The debate continued throughout the qualification period for the 1974 World Cup, pitting the members of CAF, AFC, and CONCACAF against UEFA and CONEMBOL for qualifying spots at the big event.

And so begins our list.

5.  Zaire 1974 – Some memories are so bad they can never be forgotten.

It was under this context Zaire qualified for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. CAF members were hoping for a good performance to bolster their arguments about qualification spots. Instead, Zaire delivered one of the all-time worst performances by any team in World Cup history. Prior or since. It was a cruel joke against CAF.

After a respectable 2-0 defeat to Scotland, Zairian players learned they would not be paid as agreed by their FA. Dejected by this reality and in semi-protest, they were humiliated 9-0 in their second game by a mediocre Yugoslavia team. It was 6-0 at halftime with the victors seemingly scoring without trying. No one who watched this game felt the Africans deserved to be on the pitch.

In their third game, Zaire faced perennial power Brazil. While Zaire managed to improve their play, Brazil still cruised to a 2-0 lead when, late in the game, Brazil was awarded a free kick outside just outside the Zairian box. As Brazil lined up for the kick, this happened…..

One of the most baffling things ever seen in a soccer match. Was he confused? Does he know the rules? Why is this team playing in the World Cup? ‘Silly Africans’ is what the footballing world thought as Zaire was ridiculed.

However, the truth is much more depressing. Unfortunately, Zairian defender Muepu Ilunga knew exactly what he was doing and made what he felt was the most logical choice in a desperate situation. As you may or may not know, Zaire’s president was a wonderful man named Joseph Mobutu. And by wonderful, I mean a murderous, unhinged, thieving, totalitarian dictator with a penchant for atrocities. After the debacle against Yugoslavia, Mobutu advised his team there would be dire consequences if they lost more than 3-0 to Brazil. And when Mobutu said dire consequences, the players did not need further clarification.

Losing 2-0 in the 78th minutes, Ilunga booted the ball solely to delay the game as much as possible. He and his team were desperate to not run afoul of Mobutu. While Brazil did score on the ensuing free-kick, the game ended 3-0 and Ilunga lived to tell his story. However, Mobutu stopped funding the national side and banned most players from leaving the country to play elsewhere. Many of the Zairian players from this team lived out the rest of the lives forgotten and in poverty, although a few managed to emigrate elsewhere. So yeah, this memory was not so good.

4. Algeria 1982 – Who’s laughing now!…..oh wait, it’s still not us.

While Tunisia managed to snag Africa’s first World Cup group stage win in 1978 with a 3-1 win over a weak Mexican side, African soccer was nevertheless still regarded as weak and inferior. When Algeria qualified for the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the Fennecs were not given much a chance by prognosticators. Their first game would be against reigning European Champions and tournament favorites West Germany. This West German team included legends Paul Breitner and Heinz Rummenigge and was expected to cruise through a group which also included Austria and Chile.

From the comments and predictions before the game, we know the West German players had full confidence they would embarrass their Algerian opponents. West German players openly predicted a 10-0 victory. One was quoted as saying “We will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives, and the eighth to our dogs,” with another boasting he would play the match with a cigar in his mouth. Even the German coach, Jupp Derwall, could not help but join in the orgy of arrogance, stating his team would hop the first train back to Munich if they lost.

Then they played the match. Bolstered by reigning African Footballer of the Year Lakhdar Belloumi and a young future Porto legend named Rabah Madjer, Algeria held off the West German attack and struck first via a Madjer volley in the 54th minute, stunning the Germans and the crowd. West Germany responded with intense pressure, allowing Rumminigge to equalize in the 67th minute. At this point, most rational observers fully expected the German onslaught to continue and the plucky Algerians would eventually cede more goals and lose to the mighty European champions. However, after the kickoff, the next time a West German player touched the ball was when he picked it out of his own net.

Algeria’s response to the West German equalizer proved enough to secure the biggest upset in World Cup history at the time and Africa’s first over a European squad. The footballing world was absolutely dumbfounded. The West Germans were in disbelief and Derwall was made to look a fool when reminded of the local train times.

But the joy quickly turned to anger. Algeria finished the campaign with a loss to Austria and a victory over Chile, looking poised to be the first African team to reach the second round. However, the last match between West Germany and Austria was not scheduled until a day after Algeria’s final match against Chile. Realizing a 1-0 West German victory would send both the West Germans and Austrians through at Algeria’s expense, this is exactly what occurred. After a quick goal by West Germany, the two teams spent the next 80 minutes passing back and forth in one of the most shameful matches ever played in a World Cup. Both FIFA and Algeria were outraged. Fans whistled and waved money in the air to signify their belief the final match was rigged to produce the only result which would benefit Germany and Austria. One disgusted German fan burned his nation’s flag during the second half. Even the German television commentator quipped

“What’s happening here is disgraceful and has nothing to do with football. You can say what you want, but not every end justifies the means.”

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Alas, not much could be done and the results stood. The Algerians who surprised the world were eliminated and West Germany eventually went to the final, losing to Italy 3-1. It was not all for naught as FIFA adjusted the tournament starting in 1986 so that the final group stage games were always played simultaneously, preventing another 1982-like debacle from occurring again.

While little solace for the Algerians, there always remains the memory of making the West Germans eat their words and, for a moment, captivating the sporting world.

3. Senegal 2002 – Henri Camara strikes again…

It is hard to properly credit Senegal’s accomplishments at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, the only time West Africans have ever qualified for the event. You have to know where it began to understand just how far they went. It is not that Senegal barely qualified for the World Cup, it is that they barely qualified for the last round of African qualifying, which included twenty teams seeking five spots.

To even get to the final round, they barely beat Benin 2-1 on aggregate in a home and away. Many people have never heard of Benin and trust me if you have not, they are not exactly a soccer power. If Benin played the USA in a friendly, USA would probably win 5-0 playing with an experimental squad. Benin would never play a team like Brazil or Argentina because this would be cruel.

Once Senegal managed to squeak past the mighty Beninese, they were placed in a group with reigning AFCON winners Egypt, continental powers Morocco and Algeria, and were picked to finish last with Namibia. After three draws found them about where everyone expected, Senegal went on an unexplainable tear. They won four of their final five, scoring 14 goals in those victories, and edged out Morocco on goal differential on the final match day with a 5-0 drubbing of Namibia.

El Hadji Diouf of Senegal

At the World Cup, the debutants were drawn against France, Denmark, and Uruguay, and were definitely not expected to survive this group. Most assumed they would just be happy to be there. They were wrong.

The first game saw them play their former colonial occupiers in France in the Cup’s opening match. While Zidane was out due to injury, this was a French team with Henri, Trezeguet, Vieira, and essentially all the same players who won the 1998 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2000 UEFA Championship. Again, little respect was given to the African side. French commenters referred to Senegal as the French “B” team since they argued any Senegalese players of worth would be playing with France. Indeed, almost the entirety of the Senegalese team played in Ligue 1 and many carried French citizenship.

However, when the game was played, the French attack was unable to produce a goal despite rattling the woodwork twice. And the French defense found it could not handle the pace and strength of El Hadji Diouf, Henri Camara, and the Lions of Teranga’s attack. A midfield turnover by Djorkaeff provided Senegal the opportunity it needed and Diouf’s ensuing cross was driven home by Papa Bouba Diop, stunning France.

Just like that, the World Cup kicked off with an African debutant beating one of the world’s best teams…again. As remarkable as it was, Senegal was not done. After two draws against Denmark and Uruguay, Senegal qualified for the round 16 where they met Sweden.

Sweden was led by in-form Celtic superstar Henrik Larsson and a young Zlatan Ibrahimavic. After 11 minutes, Larsson headed in a corner to give the favorites the early lead. However, a Henri Camara strike on 37 minutes saw the Senegalese equalize and while both teams created chances going forward, the game went into golden goal extra-time. Near the end a first extra period, a nifty heel pass found Henri Camara streaking through the Swedish defense. Flat-footed, Sweden’s keeper could do nothing but watch the ball ding off the post and into the net to give Senegal its golden goal and golden moment in the land of the rising sun.

As fate would be, it was another golden goal versus Turkey that beat Senegal in the quarterfinals, ending the dream run of the West African first-timers. Although their lackluster play in their final game cost them a chance to be the first African team to reach the semis, Senegal’s run from barely beating minnows like Benin to world’s final eight remains one of Africa’s greatest international soccer memories.

2. Cameroon 1990 – Roger Milla teaches us a new dance

If any African team ever had a chance to hoist the Jules Rimet Trophy, it was Cameroon in 1990. While not expected to go past the first round, the Indomitable Lions would electrify the world.

They were given no favors by the draw, pitted against reigning 1986 World Cup champions Argentina (eventual 1990 runners up), Romania and the Soviet Union. Yet they wasted no time making their presence known, upsetting Maradona and the reigning champions 1-0 in their fist match. Cameroon’s defense proved to be a tough nut to crack for the Argentines and Omam-Biyik soaring header squibbed past Pumpido to give Cameroon the win.

The second game was against co-group leaders Romania and Galatasaray star Gheorghe Hagi, who was supposed to be the star of the match. However by day’s end, the world would become familiar with another name: Roger Milla, an aging Cameroon substitute brought on in the 58th minute. Twenty minutes after coming on, Milla won a loose ball near the Romanian goal, slotted it into the goal and raced to the corner flag to do his now-famous dance. Ten minutes later, a superb Milla strike iced the game and Cameroon qualified for the second round with a game to play.

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But Milla was not done. In the second round, Cameroon would face talented Colombia, led by the wonderful and creative passing of Carlos Valderrama. As the game began, Colombia had the run of play before Cameroon settled down. Milla was brought on just after half time and Cameroon began to take control of the match. However, neither team could score in regulation and the first period of the added time also passed without a goal.

As penalties loomed, Roger Milla had seen enough. After receiving a pass, his quick pivot and burst toward goal split the Colombian defense, allowing him to drive the ball over the keeper. Milla’s second goal was less about skill than it was about the poor judgements of Colombia’s gambling keeper Rene Higuita. Known for dribbling and taking risks (such as gratuitous scorpion kicks off the goal line),

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Higuita was dispossessed by Milla 40 yards from goal. Milla outran the bumbling Higuita to an easy goal and Cameroon would be the first African team to make the quarterfinals. More importantly, it was clear to the casual observer Cameroon had the talent to challenge anyone.

The quarterfinal match between the Indomitable Lions and England’s Three Lions is a classic which could have been won by either team. After England led 1-0 at halftime, Milla was inserted and Cameroon began to press forward more successfully. In the 61st minute, Milla sprinted into the box and was fouled, earning a penalty which was converted by Cameroon. Less than 5 minutes later, Milla was at it again. A soft touch pass from Milla found Eugene Ekeke streaking past the British defense and his chip gave Cameroon a deserved 2-1 lead.

But England would not wilt. This was one of the best England teams of the last 40 years. With stars like 1986 golden boot winner Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne, England were a tournament favorite, having only been ousted from the prior World Cup because of Maradona’s ‘hand of god’ goal and Maradona’s “greatest goal ever scored.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are not a soccer fan!)

After continuous pressure from England, Gary Lineker earned a penalty and drove it home to equalize. In extra-time, Gazza slotted an exquisite pass through the defense to give Lineker a break away on goal. As Lineker juked the keeper, he was knocked down by a defender and awarded another penalty. Lineker blasted the penalty in the back of the net to give England the hard-fought lead.

Sadly, Cameroon and Milla were out of magic and had no response to Gazza and Lineker’s brilliance. England would go on to win 3-2 after extra time before losing to West Germany on penalties in the semifinal.

As impressive as Cameroon’s accomplishments were, it was Milla’s achievements which are most memorable. The veteran substitute was 38 years old at the start of the tournament, making him one of the oldest participants ever. Always a fixture off the bench for Cameroon, the flashy forward with perfect finishing scored 4 goals and 2 assists during Cameroon’s run and changed the dynamic of every game he entered. In the process, he became a world star and African legend. So much so that when Milla was left off the squad for the 1994 FIFA World Cup (which was expected and reasonable since he was 42 years old), Cameroon’s embattled president forced the coach to include Milla, hoping to obtain some domestic support and distract from other problems the nation faced. Cameroon disappointed in USA 1994 but Milla did score one goal, becoming the oldest goal scorer, and participant, in World Cup history. Largely based on his efforts on Italia 1990, Roger Milla was named by CAF as the best African footballer of the last century and deservedly so.

1. Ghana 2010 – Luis Suarez is the Grinch that stole an entire continent’s Christmas

The 2010 FIFA World Cup was a big deal not just for South Africans but for all Africans. Never before had the continent hosted an Olympics or FIFA World Cup. The anticipation was palpable through the qualification campaign as every nation desperately wanted to qualify for a tournament which would be played so close to home. Heck, Egypt and Algeria almost broke off diplomatic relations over a qualification spot. As highly anticipated as the tournament was for the world, the hopes for African entrants was even higher.

Unfortunately, 5 of 6 African teams disappointed and failed to qualify for the second round, leaving only Ghana to carry the continent’s banner. And Ghana was well suited to carry those hopes. Playing in their third consecutive World Cup, Ghana had proven themselves worthy competitors on the global stage and consistently among the best in Africa. While they are nicknamed the “Black Stars”, the moniker “Brazil D’Afrique” has also arisen in the last few years as a compliment to their talents and consistency.

After a second place finish in the group stage behind Germany, Ghana faced familiar foes USA in the second round. While USA had just come off a thrilling victory over Algeria and played with great passion, the Ghanians proved to be too strong in the end. Asamoah Gyan muscled off an American defender and struck home a powerful volley in extra time to make Ghana the third African team to take its chances in the quarterfinals.

Ghana v Australia: Group D - 2010 FIFA World Cup

You may have noticed the quarterfinals have been kind of a glass ceiling for African squads. While Asian teams have managed to reach the semifinal, no African squad has ever done so. Cameroon in 1990 may have been the best African team to go the World Cup, but Ghana 2010 had the best chance to shatter this ceiling.

In the quarterfinals, Ghana met resurgent Uruguay. While Uruguay had not achieved much World Cup success over the previous decades, their performance in South Africa 2010 is worthy of its own article. Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez, and Edison Cavani were the most efficient attack at the tournament and made Uruguay a threat to beat any team.

After ending 1-1 at full time, the game proceeded to extra-time. Towards the end of the second period, Ghana began applying more and more pressure on the Uruguayan goal. Seconds away from penalties, Ghana was awarded a free kick in the Uruguayan zone. Now if you have spent the time to read this article, you probably know what happened. If you do not, here is the recap.

As tense as you can imagine….the ball bounces around, gets smashed at goal, gets saved by a defender off the goal line, bounces around again, get smashed at goal again and is saved by Luis Suarez pretending he is the goalie. (and if you noticed, the other Uruguayan defender also tries to save it with his hands but he was not as effective as Suarez). Suarez was deservedly red-carded and Ghana awarded a penalty. But instead converting the penalty and creating a continent-wide party, Gyan smashed his penalty off the cross bar and game proceeded to a penalty round. Almost as if all of this was a scripted tragedy, Ghana would lose in remarkable fashion.

Devastating. The roller coaster of emotions which is African football can be best portrayed in those zany few minutes at the end of this game. Ghana played a great game and performed excellently at the World Cup. They had their opponent on their heels and victory seemed inevitable, both when the scramble was occurring and before the penalty. It seemed certain African soccer would finally break through to the semifinals and would get to do it on home soil.

And be certain, this was poised to be a great victory for all of Africa, not just Ghana. Politically and economically, the vague and amorphous concept called African unity has not faired so well. But when it comes to sport, I have never met an African who does not root for all African teams against any others. It is a beautiful thing on the sporting level. A sense of us against the rest. And Ghana was our “us”.

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Luis Suarez was vilified wrongly as a cheater or a disgrace by many in the sports media and will forever be remembered as the single man who shattered the dreams of so many. This is understandable considering the emotion and magnitude of the moment but is nevertheless misplaced.

As time has passed, more have come to understand the brilliance of Suarez’ quick decision and the grudge will eventually fade. He was placed with only two choices and a nanosecond to decide: 1) let the ball go in and be eliminated; or 2) stop the ball at all costs, be red carded, concede a penalty, but give your team a tiny chance. Any rational thinker would do what Suarez did if they were quick enough to do so.

Uruguay turned Suarez’ tiny chance into a historic victory and at the same time, provided Africa with its most heart-breaking, yet also most memorable, moment in World Cup history.

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Written prior to the last World Cup

Excalibur’s Women – The Victim and a Hidden God

Excalibur – Part II

A few observations and theories on two characters cast in a negative light throughout John Boorman’s masterpiece: Morgana and Guinevere. The movie like most of literature portrays women as the root of the problem. Or does it say something else about these two?

Concepts of duality and equality abound within the movie. Particularly the duality of man also characterized as ‘the battle within oneself.’ This is best exemplified by the character Lancelot who struggles internally throughout and later dies of a self-inflicted wound. However this central theme overlays into the other characters as well. Essentially and being overly simple we must beware that good begets evil and evil begets good. They cannot be separated. Further, within this dual concept things are often paired and not individual.

So who are the women and what do they represent? We know Morgana is paired with Merlin and Guinevere is wife to Arthur. But what they represent or what is their true role within the story is trickier to discern.

First Morgana: Morgana Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Just as I wondered who is the real hero and decided it was Perceval (Part I), I wonder who is the real villain? Is there a real villain? I am not so sure.

Morgana as counter wizard to Merlin and mother to Mordred appears as the main villain for most of the movie. She is certainly portrayed as one evil woman.

But step into her shoes. Or rather the shoes of five-year old Morgana. From her perspective her father Cornwall was an equal combatant to Uther. So much so even after Uther wielded Excalibur, Cornwall was still given “all the land from here to the sea”, which apparently was sizable since Cornwall was happy. Then Merlin and Uther conspire to kill her father, have Uther rape her mother and have Merlin steal her baby brother. No five year old or her parents deserve this fate.

Merlin

Murderous conspirator.

To her, quite reasonably and truthfully Merlin ruined her life. More so had Merlin given Excalibur to Cornwall (who is not portrayed as big of a jackass as Uther), her father would be King and she would be in line to be Queen. Yet the treacherous jerk Merlin arbitrarily and wrongly gave an ordained magic tool to her father’s opponent in what was otherwise an equal fight.

There is no possible way anyone, even Mother Theresa, could forgive and forget this.

Also, Morgana is incredibly intelligent and observant. She knew during the rape of her mother Uther was not Cornwall, meaning she could intuitively see through the silly illusions of Merlin’s magic as a child.

She then created an ambitious plan to take Merlin’s powers the same way Merlin stole her happy future. Through deceit. Morgana did not create herself. Like Eve from the rib of Adam, Merlin begat Morgana. She is the equal and dual reflection of Merlin the manipulator.

Similar to Merlin, Morgana never aspires to be Queen or ruler but rather to control who becomes the king. Like Merlin ordaining Excalibur to Uther and then grooming Arthur, Morgana ordains Mordred to be invincible to mortal weapons and grooms him. She like Merlin uses magic to serve the self-interests of her favored people with no regard of the negative consequences or collateral damage done to others. And of course Merlin and Morgana are the cause of each other’s ultimate demises. Morgana:Merlin

She and Merlin are two sides of the same coin, bound together forever. But while Merlin is the one who dragged her on to the coin, she bears the burden of being deemed evil while also being the first one evilly wronged. One side portrayed white. The other black.  But in reality equal and the same. This is the essence of her speech to Merlin as she eternally traps him in ice.

Further, her duping of Arthur to begat an heir is a smart attempt to set right the wrongs of others. Incest was common among crazy royals as pure bloodlines mattered to support legitimate claims to the throne. By sleeping with Arthur she tied the two families (Cornwall and Uther) together into a single heir. Mordred is the only grandchild of both the original combatants for the throne with only one grandmother.

To Morgana, Mordred’s ascension to the throne would have as best as possible nullified the crimes done by Merlin and Uther. Remember Morgana’s answer to Mordred when he asks if she has any message for her ‘dear brother’ Arthur? She responds: “You are my message.” Perfect. Morgana Mordred Morgana may have been the only character thinking clearly in the entire movie. Yet like Medusa we are supposed to hate her. Left with no justice, Morgana got shafted.

Now Guinevere: Guinevere ArthurGuinevere does not have much screen time in the movie so there is little material to interpret. Most symbolism in her character lies in the love triangle and betrayal.

We cannot blame her for sleeping with Lancelot. It was Arthur who betrayed her love and their marriage by refusing to defend Guinevere’s honor against Gawain’s untrue accusation. Arthur’s self-righteous arrogance resulted in Lancelot doing a sacred job which must be reserved for a husband. How could Arthur not stand up for his wife and expect her not to give her love to the man who is willing and almost does die for her? Especially when the man is way more talented and cooler than Arthur. Just as Morgana is intelligent, Arthur is an idiot.

His stubborn refusal to honor his wife is the largest error of judgment in the film. It also resulted in Perceval becoming a Knight, Lancelot wounding himself and Merlin using magic to let Lancelot’s love of Guinevere keep him alive despite the wound. Going forward remember that Arthur’s placement of his laws over her love was the catalyst for the “Things Fall Apart” portion of the movie.

Lancelot doing Arthur's job.

Lancelot doing Arthur’s job.

Back to Guinevere.

Regardless of the essays which could be written about each character or the love triangle, Guinevere is God. And probably more so than Arthur or any other character. Crazy but hear me out.

We are told Arthur is the Lord. Or the representation of a God on Earth. Jesus-like. When Perceval takes the Grail, they come out and say so. This always bothered me since Arthur is an overly fallible fool. Surely God can do better.

Now, the movie is named after a very special sword. As delineated above, the fate of all characters was determined by who got to hold Excalibur and only a few did.

But importantly, how did they get it? Pulling Excalibur Famously, Arthur gets the sword by pulling it from the stone many years after Uther thrust it there.

Excluding the stone, the sword is “given” twice from a supernatural or magical character: The Lady of the Lake first to Merlin and then to Arthur. These are the only two occasions the sword is “given” or ordained in the movie.

There are also only three instances where the sword is handed from Arthur to another. First to Kay after Arthur pulls the sword and to which Kay quickly returns Excalibur. Then Arthur to Uryens to knight and crown Arthur and later to Perceval to return it to the lake. It should be noted when Kay, Uryens and Perceval are first handed Excalibur, they all have other thoughts about its potential use. Yet as if compelled, they are all quickly faithful to the will of sword’s rightful master, Arthur. Clearly, this is a unique sword for which mere mortals are not capable or permitted to wield.

Regarding the stone, no one was able to pull the thing from that infernal rock. No matter how hard they tried for years, the strongest men around could not budge Excalibur one millimeter. This is an important lesson we already knew: when an authorized user sticks Excalibur into stone, it can only be pulled out by another authorized user. Not even Merlin or Morgana could pull the sword from the stone. Only a deity, semi-deity or a representation of God on Earth like King Arthur.

And Guinevere of course. Didn’t anyone notice?

Before I was a certain age which will remain undisclosed, my favorite scene in this movie was what I happily referred to as “Naked Guinevere!”

One sexy goddess.

One sexy goddess.

As we all know, her and Lancelot get it on before Arthur shows up and finds them sleeping. Arthur then abandons Excalibur by sticking it between them, Lancelot runs away and Guinevere cries around the sword. Then everything falls apart until Perceval saves everyone and Guinevere returns Excalibur to Arthur.

Wait! She did what!?!

As a naive youth, what bothered me most about the sexy betrayal scene was the choice of location. Lancelot had been to this place before and it was apparent in both scenes it is full of jagged rock and stone covered in moss. No comfortable areas. Why not do it on the soft grass just over yonder? Is it a simple and obvious ‘love on the rocks’ metaphor? This seems unnecessary under the circumstances. Rather, Mr. Boorman probably chose his locations very carefully.

Excalibur Lancelot Guinevere

This is not a bed of roses.

When Arthur abandons Excalibur, the ground shakes and Merlin agonizingly screams “into the spine of the Dragon!” This was not a normal event – the dragon did not mind too much when Uther lost Excalibur. We can be certain Arthur did not put Excalibur into dirt or clay or sand. He definitely put it into stone. As explained, only very special people can pull this thing out of a rock. Basically, only Arthur (God) and not Merlin, Morgana or any other characters.

Yet without any explanation, we learn at the end diminutive and weak-armed Guinevere yanked it out without a problem. And unlike Kay, Uryens or Perceval, she did whatever she wanted with it with no regard of the wishes of Arthur, who later wondered of its location. In her case, she wrapped it up for twenty years as if it was a minor trinket or memento to store away while most of the characters died.

Guinevere is an authorized user of Excalibur. She is not merely Arthur’s wife. She is no less than a God.

Perhaps the one true God.

I stated Excalibur is “given” throughout the movie at crucial points only by the Lady of the Lake, a symbol of Paganism. Lady of Lake Well, not exactly. When Arthur abandoned Excalibur, for all intents and purposes, it was forever lost as no one knew where it was.

After Perceval found the Grail, Arthur rode out to fight Mordred without Excalibur yet Mordred was invincible to mortal weapons. Without his sword, Arthur and his army would assuredly lose. Excalibur had to be “given” one more time.

Another theme throughout the movie is the change from Paganism to Catholicism. In the beginning Excalibur is given by a Pagan God. However, the final time Excalibur is “given” to Arthur, it is bestowed by a representation of the Catholic God, thus continuing the transition of religions.

Where has Guinevere been all these years? A Catholic church: the House of God. When Arthur enters the room to see his wife after twenty years, she is standing in almost the exact position and under a similar cross as was the “Lord Arthur” during Percerval’s Holy Grail scene. Yet humbly with no flair or bright lights and music.

Notice Guinevere only reveals she kept Excalibur after Arthur apologizes for his dumb actions throughout the movie. His final confession. Without which she apparently would have let him ride to defeat. So with triumphal music sneaking in, Excalibur wrapped in pure white cloth is “given” to Arthur by a symbol of God: Arthur’s better half and wife, Guinevere.

More so, Arthur’s “It is a dream I have” speech and final loving words to his wife read perfectly as his prayer Guinevere will accept him into Her eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

(Video starts after apology/confession)

We have written of the symbolism of Arthur’s death and Perceval’s survival in the other post. Essentially, God is gone and has left us in charge. It is quite a declaration yet fitting end for a movie like this. However, is Arthur the true God? He made enough errors of judgment to certainly doubt his divinity and he departs along with Excalibur, the last existing symbol of the ancient Pagan Gods.

No one kills Guinevere. No one is looking for her and no one is her enemy in the movie. It was the failure to honor Her which caused the downfall of every character but we have no reason to believe she has been or ever shall be in any danger. At the end, all the nobles and magical characters are gone except only her and Perceval, common man.

Finally we can be assured that noble Perceval, the worthy peasant who rose to Knighthood by bravely defending Guinevere’s honor and whose perseverance of faith was rewarded with the Holy Grail, will forever dutifully serve his Queen.  Even if never comprehending Her true power over his world.

While common man thinks he is alone, God hides in plain sight. At the most obvious of locations but in a form he least expects. Yet as if masterfully manipulated,  the one particular form he has always honored and loved. The one form he shall never fail to serve.

Behold the Almighty.   Nice halo.

Behold the Almighty.
Nice halo too.

END

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You bent my mind, Boorman!

Now, I’m gonna have to read “Le Morte D’Arthur” to get all of this out of my head once and for all.