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Europe's Super League...or not...
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
***Friends, there’s a lot going on in my life these days involving the family. Most of you know that when shit happens, one of the best things to do is keep working.
Chicago White Sox Pitching Quiz: So now you know Carlos Rodon and Lucas Giolito have the last two of 20 franchise no-hitters – Rodon this year, Giolito in Aug. 2020. Mark Buehrle had two; April 18, 2007, and July 23, 2009. 1) Give me the names of the following three who also authored ChiSox no-nos. [You get the year and initials.] 1986 – J.C. 1991 – W.A. 2012 – P.H. 2) Who am I? I won 186 games for the White Sox, and am the all-time franchise leader in strikeouts with 1,796. Answers below.
Prospects for a Super League
Important: The following was written in chronological order. This is a huge global football/soccer story that I recognize most of you couldn’t care less about. Tough.
For years there have been threats among the European football powers to breakaway and form their own league, most notably in 2019, but then the threats collapse and the big clubs compromise with UEFA in the Champions League, over the format and revenue distribution.
But Sunday we had the announcement…a new Super League was formed.
American-owned Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – the Big Six – are founders. Other founders are powers AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Another three will be added as guaranteed members and five others will qualify to join them each year.
[The 12 clubs announced thus far have won the Champions League a combined 40 times since its inception in 1955.]
The founder clubs will be guaranteed places in the new competition in contrast to the Champions League, which requires teams to qualify via their domestic leagues.
The 20 participating clubs would be placed in two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures (midweek games), with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarterfinals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth would then compete in a two-legged playoff for the remaining quarterfinal positions. A two-leg knockout format would be used to reach the final at the end of May, which would be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.
The breakaway has been criticized by soccer authorities, fan organizations and several politicians across Europe who say it entrenches the wealth and power of a small elite of clubs.
Supporters’ clubs of all six Premier League clubs have come out in opposition to the Super League which would be a direct rival to UEFA’s Champions League – the competition Liverpool won for the sixth time in 2019.
Before kickoff Monday in a Premier League game between Liverpool and Leeds United, at Leeds, a plane flew overhead trailing a banner reading “Say no to superleague” while the Liverpool team coach was greeted with fans venting their anger. Leeds players came out for their warm-up wearing shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Earn It” under the Champions League logo – a reference to the fact that the proposed 20-club Super League will have 15 permanent members with no relegation.
Earlier in the day Liverpool’s supporters group Spirit of Shankly (SOS) said it was taking down all of its banners which have adorned Anfield during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We, along with other groups’ fin flags, will be removing our flags from The Kop,” an SOS statement said. “We feel we can no longer give our support to a club which puts financial greed above integrity of the game.”
Asked for his thoughts on the Leeds United t-shirts, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp offered a spiky response. “I have heard already there are warm-up shirts or whatever,” the German said. “We will not wear them because we cannot but if someone thinks he has to remind us that you have to earn (the right) to go to the Champions league, that’s a joke.
“That’s a real joke and it makes me angry. So if they put it in our dressing room, if it was a Leeds idea, thank you very much. Nobody has to remind us. They should remind themselves.”
Liverpool midfielder, and captain, James Milner is against the formation of the Super League and insists the players have no control over the decision which could change the face of football.
“There are a lot of question,” he told Sky Sports. “I can only say my personal opinion, I don’t like it and hopefully it doesn’t happen. I can only imagine what has been said about it and I probably agree with most of it.”
Klopp stuck by his words from 2019 when he said he “hoped this Super League will never happen.”
“It didn’t change. My opinion didn’t change,” he said Monday.
“It is a tough one, people are not happy with that. I can understand that, but I cannot say a lot more about it because we were not involved in any processes – not the players, not me. We didn’t know about it. The facts are out there and we will have to see how it develops….
“I have no issues with the Champions League, I like the competitive factor of football. I like the fact that West Ham might play in the Champions League next year. I don’t want them to because we want to do that, but I like that they have the chance.”
Ex-England standout and now owner of a Major League Soccer franchise David Beckham warned that fans will be the ones to suffer if plans go ahead.
“I’m someone who loves football. It has been my life for as long as I can remember. I loved it from when I was a young child as a fan, and I’m still a fan now. As a player and now as an owner I know that our sport is nothing without the fans. We need football to be for everyone. We need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit. Unless we protect these values the game we love is in danger,” he wrote on Instagram.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher called on everyone involved in the sport to unite and battle against the proposals.
“My message to everyone is that these clubs think this is a done deal, I don’t think it is,” he told Monday Night Football (euro version).
“Supporters up and down this country can stop it and I really do believe it. At the forefront of that will be Liverpool, because I have seen it before.
“We have tribalism in this country, we have rivalry and that is what makes the game the way it is and that is what we love.
“Football fans get together – all of us in TV, pundits, players, managers get together and stop this.
“It can be stopped and I am convinced of it. Going forward that is what we need – marches on stadiums, supporters getting together. It should not be allowed to happen.”
Real Madrid president Fiorentino Perez, who will be chairman of the European Super League, said the move was taken to save football, and in part motivated because young people are no longer interested in the game.
“Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it…and we are doing this to save football at this critical moment. Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt.
“Young people are no longer interested in football,” Perez added. “Why not? Because there a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves.”
Perez said they had not invited Paris Saint Germain nor any German clubs and had not yet decided what criteria would be used to choose additional teams. But the top teams were losing money and needed a fresh impetus, he stressed, and the expanded Champions League announced by UEFA on Monday was no answer. “If we continue with the Champions League there is less and less interest and then it’s over,” he said. “The new format, which starts in 2024 is absurd. In 2024 we are all dead. Together we have lost 5 billion (euros),” he said of the top clubs’ alleged losses. “In two seasons Madrid have lost 400 million. When you have no income other than television, you say that the solution is to make more attractive matches that fans from all over the world can see with all the big clubs and we came to the conclusion that if instead of having a Champions League we have a Super League we would be able to alleviate what we have lost.”
Perez suggested that football matches could be made shorter to make them more appealing, and vowing the new league would have better officiating and better Video Assistant Referees (VAR).
The move has triggered widespread condemnation across both sport and society, but Perez, in a nearly two-hour conversation, brushed off the criticism and played up the prospect of more big games.
“What’s so attractive? That we play among the big teams, the competitiveness, to generate more resources?” he added. “This is not a league for the rich, it’s a league to save football.”
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was furious, condemning the “disgraceful and self-serving proposal.”
“My opinion is that as soon as possible they (the clubs) have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions.”
So then today, reigning European champions Bayern Munich and the team they beat in last year’s Champions League final, Paris Saint-Germain, released statements opposing the creation of a European Super League.
Bayern announced they would not be joining. Team president Herbert Hainer said: “Our members and fans reject a Super League. As FC Bayern, it is our wish and our aim that European clubs live the wonderful and emotional competition that is the Champions League, and develop it together with UEFA. FC Bayern says no to the Super League. …the Champions League is the best club competition in the world.”
PSG also voiced their disagreement: “Paris Saint-Germain holds the firm belief that football is a game for everyone,” a statement from club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi read. “As a football club, we are a family and a community whose fabric is our bans – I believe we shouldn’t forget this.”
JPMorgan is providing a 3.5 billion ($4.21bn) grant to the founding clubs to spend on infrastructure and recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
The chaos comes after a UEFA meeting was scheduled to confirm plans to expand the Champions League from 32 to 36 teams and create more group stage games before the knockout rounds – a move designed to appease the top clubs. Ceferin said the new format would start from the 2024/25 season but then it was overshadowed by the Super League announcement.
Ceferin caid UEFA distributes close to 90% of its revenues back to all levels of the game, whereas the Super League would largely be about distributing the money among the dozen, perhaps 15, founders, and five qualifiers.
French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi all voiced concerns.
“We are going to look at everything that we can do with the football authorities to make sure that this doesn’t go ahead in the way that it’s currently being proposed,” Johnson said.
Simply, the guaranteed spots in the Super League go against longstanding tradition in European football.
Early Tuesday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the breakaway clubs cannot be “half in, half out” out of the established soccer system as the first legal shots were fired.
The Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ came under withering fire from the other 14 clubs, Everton accusing them of “preposterous arrogance.”
Boris Johnson, in perhaps his finest hour (yours truly not being a big fan of his with his Brexit lies) said his government would consider legislation preventing the breakaway.
And then the story hit late today that the Big Six from the Premier League was backing down, leaving the Super League project in tatters just 48 hours after it was launched.
Good f’n riddance.
--Meanwhile, Tottenham fired Jose Mourinho after only 15 months.
“One of the two best managers in the world,” the club’s chairman, Daniel Levy, had called him, predicting Mourinho would be the catalyst that would complete Tottenham’s transformation from also-ran contender and, then, into a champion.
Mourinho had won something at all of his previous clubs: championships at F.C. Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, as well as a Europa League title at Manchester United. The Spurs ended up being his only blank, though ironically he was days from a League Cup final against Man City.
But after Friday’s draw against Everton, Tottenham was seventh in the Premier League standings, one place lower than it had finished last season.
It was easy to see that Mourinho’s relationship with his players was miserable. He was quick to criticize them, and it was never his fault. The guy wears out his welcome normally after 2 or 3 years, max.
--The Yankees have been skewered for their 5-10 start, the worst for the franchise after 15 games since 1997.
Bob Klapisch / Star-Ledger
“I’m hearing a steady drumbeat of Yankees panic on social media, where the usual suspects are being rounded up for corporal punishment.
“None of this is going to happen in April, not after 15 games, even though most of them have been hard on the eyes. No one’s getting canned, so for those hankering for Buck Showalter 2.0: Sorry, he is not warming up in the bullpen.
“But clearly there’s something wrong with the Yankees, and it goes beyond a mere early-season slump. The roster feels incomplete, as if there’s only one true starter (Gerrit Cole), one trustworthy hitter (DJ LeMahieu) and a conga line of ghosts after that.
“Somehow, the team that broke camp as the odds-on favorite to get to the World Series has been sleepwalking since Opening Day. It’s one thing for a $200 million club to be under .500. Even more damning is that the Yankees have been unwatchable….
“There are no easy answers, not this early. If you’re looking for a hot take, head over to talk radio, that’s what it’s for. Truth is, the sample size is woefully small; the season isn’t even 10% complete. We don’t have enough data to single out any single player, let alone fire the manage or GM.
“But that doesn’t mean the Yankees can afford to ignore the raging impatience in the stands. Fans who threw baseballs on the field on Friday weren’t ignited over one game. It’s because 2021 feels so much like 2020. And someone has to pay.
“(GM Brian) Cashman? His sin isn’t that he’s a bad executive – to the contrary, he’s smart to have outlasted everyone in New York, including Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Alex Rodriguez and, of course, George Steinbrenner.
“But Cashman made a critical bet this winter, believing the 2020 roster was good enough to conquer the world had it not been for the injuries. That made for a remarkably passive offseason. Except for swapping out Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ for Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, these are mostly the same Yankees who flamed out in the Division Series. Nothing, however, has worked out the way Cashman envisioned.”
Well, the Yankees won today, 3-1 over the Braves, but on only five hits. That’s four games in a row with five hits or less. To quote my good friend Ken P., “That blows.”
--Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. is day-to-day with an abdominal strain. He’s off to a superb start…in 16 games, seven homers, 16 RBIs, a .419 batting average and a 1.373 OPS. He also has 21 runs scored.
--The Dodgers had a scary moment when Mookie Betts was hit in the right forearm by a 95-mph sinker from Seattle right-hander Rafael Montero last night. It looked awful as he crumped to the ground, biting his gold chain in pain, but nothing was broken.
That said, the Dodgers will err on the side of caution and keep him out at least a game, or two.
As for Montero, another former Met who was supposed to be a budding star in New York, which never materialized, at age 30 he has become a closer.
--Johnny Mac noticed that Tom Seaver’s ERA as a Met was 2.57, and Jacob deGrom’s is 2.57.
--An extremely rare baseball card featuring Hall of Famer Honus Wagner playing for a New Jersey minor league baseball team sold at auction Sunday night for $90,000.
The 1896 cabinet card, which may represent the earliest card of Wagner as a professional, shows him playing for the Paterson Silk Weavers (Paterson, New Jersey), a team that was part of the Atlantic League that operated between 1896 and 1900, according to a release from Robert Edward Auctions. [The president, Brian Dwyer, was a former neighbor of mine. You can have confidence in selling your memorabilia to him. Mention my name.]
The card was originally bought at auction in 1991 for $13,200 by a New Jersey resident who kept it as part of his collection for 30 years before deciding to give another buyer a chance to have the rare piece of baseball history. The card may be the only one of its kind in existence.
“Robert Edward Auctions is aware of two larger imperial cabinets featuring the same image, but it is hard not to consider the offered cabinet card the most significant of the three pieces as it very likely represents the earlier card featuring Wagner as a professional player,” a release said.
The manager of the Paterson Silk Weavers was Ed Barrow, who became a Hall of Fame Executive with the Yankees from 1920-45.
--The Knicks won their seventh in a row tonight 109-97 over the Hornets to improve to 32-27.
That’s the New York Knicks…32-27! Us fans are pumped. Gotta finish in the top six and avoid the play-in round.
As Walt “Clyde” Frazier said in doing the game tonight, this Knicks team looks like the one that he played on…sharing the ball, team defense…and a tough coach, Tom Thibodeau. Red Holzman was demanding. You didn’t play ‘D,’ you didn’t play, period. And that’s Thibodeau.
--The Nets are 39-19 after a 134-129 win over the Pelicans. But James Harden’s recovery from his hamstring injury is not going well…now labeled ‘out indefinitely.’
All about somehow having the Big Three healthy come playoff time.
--Pittsburgh extended coach Mike Tomlin’s contract for three years. The 49-year-old is heading into his 15th season, leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory in his second season. He hasn’t been back to one since the 2010 season, but his teams have been consistently successful.
Like try a 153-86-1 overall mark (including the playoffs), a higher winning percentage than Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll.
--In a two-minute video that recapped his storied comeback and thanked his former teammates and fans, former Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith announced he is retiring from the NFL after 14 seasons.
“Even though I’ve got plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I’ve got, I can’t wait to see what else is possible,” he said in a video posted on his Instagram account. “But first, I’m going to take a little time to enjoy a few of those walks with my wife. And my kids have no idea what’s coming for them in the backyard.” [Ed. A steel mill? That would be fun. Just a thought.]
Smith was released by Washington in March after guiding the team back to the playoffs for the first time in five years last season; part of a triumphant return few ever saw coming, including himself.
Smith’s compound leg fracture during a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018 led to 17 surgeries to repair the bones and clean out an infection that destroyed much of the surrounding tissue in his lower right leg. He lost the ability to lift up his foot when walking or running, but that he was able to walk at all was a small miracle in itself.
Smith spent most of his rehab at Center for the Intrepid, a specialized military hospital in Texas.
He was medically cleared last July and played in his first game in a loss to the Rams in October. But a month later, he was under center as Washington’s new starter.
Smith then went 5-1, helping Washington to an NFC East title and playoff berth after they started the season 1-5.
He finishes his career with a 99-67-1 record, having played for the 49ers, Chiefs and Washington.
--A suspected rhino poacher was trampled to death by a herd of breeding elephants as he fled authorities along with two alleged accomplices in South Africa’s Kruger National Park (KNP).
The three were spotted by field rangers out on routine patrol, the park said in a statement, when they came upon the trio. The alleged poachers dropped an axe and a bag full of provisions and started running, the statement said.
They ran straight into “a breeding herd of elephants,” the park said.
One of the three was found and arrested and told police he wasn’t sure whether his accomplice had escaped the elephants. As it turned out, he hadn’t.
“The Rangers discovered his accomplice badly trampled and unfortunately succumbed to his injuries,” the park said. “The third suspect is said to have been injured in the eye but continued to flee.”
This is the best news we’ve had all year. And yet another reason why ‘Elephant’ is a stalwart at No. 2 on the All-Species List.
--After posting last Sunday, I settled back for the entire ACM Awards. I’ve told you how I listen to country music while doing my weekend errands on the fine New York FM station, 94.7. But the station has irritated me lately by way overplaying the top 40, a la how the AM stations did in the 60s. No offense to Dan & Shay, but anytime their insipid tunes come on I quickly flip to the Sirius 60s channel.
However, I enjoyed the ACMs, with Luke Bryan taking “Entertainer of the Year.”
Female Artist of the Year – Maren Morris
Male Artist of the Year – Thomas Rhett
Group of the Year – Old Dominion
New Female Artist of the Year – Gabby Barrett
New Male Artist of the Year – Jimmie Allen
Album of the Year – Chris Stapleton / Starting Over
Single of the Year – Carly Pearce & Lee Brice, “I Hope You’re Happy Now”
[Bar Chat’s “Best Legs Award” – Carly Pearce]
I’ve decided that if I could see two country acts at a concert at the beach this summer, or in the mountains, beer flowing, it would be Florida Georgia Line and Dierks Bentley; Bentley replacing Thomas Rhett in my dream show. Hey, I can only pick two.
Anytime I get down, I YouTube Bentley’s “Drunk On A Plane.” [The official video is as good as it gets.]
Top 3 songs for the week of 4/19/75: #1 “Philadelphia Freedom” (The Elton John Band) #2 “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” (B.J. Thomas) #3 “Lovin’ You” (Minnie Riperton…chirp chirp…tweet tweet…)…and…#4 “No No Song” (Ringo
Starr) #5 “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” (Tony Orlando & Dawn) #6 “Supernatural Thing – Part I” (Ben E. King) #7 “Chevy Van” (Sammy Johns) #8 “What Am I Gonna Do With You” (Barry White) #9 “Emma” (Hot Chocolate) #10 “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” (Freddy Fender…C week…)
Chicago White Sox Pitching Quiz Answers: 1) 1986 – Joe Cowley threw a no-hitter, allowing one run while walking 7. 1991 – Wilson Alvarez, age 21, walked five in his no-no. 2012 – Philip Humber, who would go just 16-23 in his career, had a perfect game. 2) Billy Pierce was a seven-time All-Star for the White Sox, 1949-61, going 186-152 in his Chicago career, winning 20 twice, 1956-57. He also had a franchise-leading 1,796 strikeouts. Pierce then was traded to the Giants and finished third in the Cy Young Award vote in 1962, going 16-6, and 1-1 in the World Series as the Giants lost to the Yankees. Overall, Pierce went 211-169 in his major league career.
Billy Pierce, a player all good baseball fans should quaff an ale to.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday.