Sports

Premier League Weekend Review: Liverpool, Arsenal, Stoke City, Chelsea and More

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If you've followed along with me on twitter for this summer, which you most certainly should do by now since it's the most fun and hijinks (and random GIF links) you can humanely have with 140 characters or less, then you've no doubt noticed my regression into using professional wrestling euphemisms, brother.

This isn't something to be proud about.

Nor is it something to necessarily be ashamed of either.

Why professional wrestling appeals, throughout the generations to a certain person(*) is a great question in the the human psyche. It's patently ridicolous. There is no rational way to explain to a Martain why, from a period in the late 90s and into the new century, how a jort-wearing, beer-drinking, ruffian known as Stone Cold Steve Austion was wildly popular. Why he was throwing out the first pitch at New York Mets games. Why he was on the couch of the 'Tonight Show.' Why he was galavanting with the best and brightest America had to offer at the time. And Regis.

Yet, if you saw somebody walking down the a street in an "Austin University t-shirt," you just knew. There was a winking nod. You understood. Austin 3:16 wasn't a saying, it was a way to live your life.

For no other reason that being self-indulgent, here's where I will offer you a chance to watch "My Breakfast with Blassie" on YouTube. Maybe it will kill some time during a boring work week. Maybe it will explain why wrestling is popular. Maybe it will explain the meaning of life. If it doesn't, it's still very funny.

(*) Don't turn your nose up at wrestling, I'll bet you a glazed doughnut that at least once in your life -- probably in your adolescent that you enjoyed yourself with professional wresting in the backdrop or involved in some way. Ladies, however, where should I send that donut? 

Most people outgrow wrestling. It's the normal, healthy thing to do.

As quick as we are as to discard wrestling, there are actually some words from it's lexicon that need to gain a little more traction, as they can apply to all forms of entertainment, particularly live entertainment. They're just great words.

My favorite wrestling term, other than "jobber," "jabroni" or "mark" is probably the concept of a "heel" aka the bad guy. short of shitheel. Wrestling makes it easy, one guy is good, one is bad. Black hat. White hat. In "real" sports be it baseball, basketball, football, tennis, bocce, soccer, etc. is that these boundaries aren't as clear. Still, subconsciously we make these distinctions.

No matter what Giants' quarterback Eli Manning does, bar defecating on home plate of Yankee Stadium can never be a heel. He is eternally the face.(*)

That said, you can never have the face without the heel. There have to be two sides to the coin or watching something isn't interesting. You need the spice. It's drama 101.

Heels, for me at least, make wrestling go. How some idiot parading around in tights -- or a speedo or a denim vest --  able to whip a crowd into a frenzy? Say what you will to dismiss wrestling, but if you go to the right show, there can be an electricity in the crowd, where the ticket-buying yokels "pop" for their heroes and rain down "heat" on the ones they hate. It truly is ridiculous on the surface, you need to suspend all disbelief because at it's worst -- or even best -- wrestling is just a big dumb soap opera with people being thrown through tables. People get into it though, with passion somehow forgetting it's all a dumb spectacle.

(*) Nothing better than a "face-heel turn." Look it up, they can explain it better and with more pictures. Perhaps search "Bash at the Beach 1996."  

Now why did I ramble on like this?

Don't ask why but for whatever the reason, as a lot of my stories begin, Michael Ballack popped into my head. (This serves as another reminded, never -- ever -- say you think like me because this is where you end up, blogging about a retired German soccer player at 1 a.m. on a Sunday.)

For a good decade, the German international represented all their was to dislike about the game. He had the face you wanted to punch, partly because he could charm the pants off any woman on the planet basically by crooking his eyebrow and laying on some Eastern Bloc charm, partly because he was a snarling asshole on the field. Mostly, though, as an American his play at the 2002 World Cup that sent home Bruce Arena's surprising quarter-finalists from Korea, a game and a goal short of the semifinals

Ballack's sins (and game-winning goal) were unforgivable.

Once he moved to Chelsea, the die was officially cast. Die Herr Ballack Die.

It didn't get better when Ballack came to ESPN this summer to work as analyst for the Euro. His monotone, stumbling answers made for easy mockery, especially bringing him down a peg -- American Schlubs 1, Ballack 47.

Funny thing happened, though, as the Euro progressed, Ballack was harder to hate. Maybe he grew on me. Maybe it was because it was good having someone next to Alexi Lalas to question his continual nonsense.

Perhaps all that happened was I subconsciously embraced Ballack's as a heel.

You need the jerks in sports. You need the assholes. We hate them. We mock them. We loathe them.

But it wouldn't be the same without them.

A situation where every opponent was a bunch of gray, non-threatening nobodies would be dull after a while. Everybody in college basketball hates Duke -- a quintessential wrestling heel playing the role of entitled, condescending assholes -- the sport wouldn't be as compelling without them and watching them get knocked down a peg.

So this is my long-winded, begrudging acceptance of Chelsea's Eden Hazard sparked 3-0-0 start in the EPL. I don't have like them. I just have to accept that without them around, things wouldn't be as, for lack of a better term, interesting.

Oh wait, who am I kidding? Chelsea is the worst and in my best Samuel L. Jackson voice, I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL.

And that's the bottom line ... because I said so.

Other Things Partly-soccer related I thought of over the weekend:

* Another quick thought with Nuri Sahin coming to Liverpool. It's about time for Liverpool, at least, a player came to Anfield and enhanced and built on his pedigree, not lived off it. The Reds need somebody to play better than what he's done in the past once he gets there. Luka Modric has finally moved from Spurs to Real Madrid, even with the Madridista's slow start in La Liga through two matches, a club of its means and depth can live without the Croatian playmaker being an out-and-out match-winner. So long as he's Modric, Madrid will be happy, Liverpool in it's current decline, however, needs its new editions to be better than they've been if they want to get back into the Champions League.

This happens all the time in soccer, or any sport. Guys build their rep and then check off, get lazy once they get the money. It's human nature for some, but the great ones stay hungry for the love of beating their opponent.

The season doesn't depend on Sahin at Liverpool, yet anything he can provide positively will only help.

* Arsene Wengers seems to have taken his "He is a Playstation" comment about Lionel Messi and started playing a lot of video games and building the Gunners randomly like someone trying out that revered (some would say special or holy) 'Football Manager' game for the first time. There's a stew of players at Arsenal a the moment, good players, or at least competent passing, possession players. Wenger has to decide which flavor or which spice he wants to go with, or at least one player like Lucas Poldolski, Gervinho or Oliver Giroud is going to have to force his hand. Right now it's a muddled mix of non-complementary flavors.

Two games without scoring wouldn't be an issue for Arsenal were it February, but since it's the first two games of the season, people are talking about it.

* How on Earth has the Clint Dempsey scenario gone so sour on all fronts so quickly?

* Geoff Cameron played well for Stoke City in his debut. As he gets more absorbed into the Stoke philosophy it'll be fun to see who gets more yellow cards wearing a U.S. shirt, Cameron or Jermaine Jones?

* It's best not to start picking the plot holes in "Breaking Bad." As in, how would Hank never -- ever -- suspect Walt. Yes, Walt is a great liar, but what the heck is he telling people he does with his day whilst cooking meth? Being an unemployed bum? I guess.

One thing that irks me with the current (fifth) season is his flimsy cooking meth inside the fumigation tents plan. I've seen more of those tents outside of houses in the last three weeks of the show than my entire life. Hell, I've never seen a bug tent set up outside a house. Is it a common practice?

* Warning: Peter King territory here: Sunday was my fantasy football draft. I went to the supermarket with my friend's father (who was hosting the draft) to get a bunch of food to grill. Giant sirloins. Corn on the cob. Potato Salad. etc. We're at the checkout loading all the goodies back into the cart.

Guy in line behind me, who it should be noted was pushing all his stuff to butt up against ours without the plastic divider thing, and said stuff was six cats of cat food, asks innocently enough, "Doing a lot of grilling today?"

Me, being unable to just make idle chit chat and small talk, or simply smile at the guy, I respond, "We have our fantasy draft today."

He gives me a blank stare. It should be noted, too, he was wearing a New York Giants shirt.

My friend's father starts to explain, briefly what fantasy football is -- "you get points ..."(*) to a continued blank expression.

(*) Fantasy sports: another earthly pursuit difficult to explain to a Martian. 

It blew my mind he would have zero concept of it, if only because of the Giants shirt. It would be impossible to follow pro football in 2012 and not have a tangentially, abstract concept of the game, considering how much it's now talked about on a weekly basis.

The guy revels, he "just collects shirts."

That's America, I suppose. No matter what you think is important or a big deal, they'll be millions and millions who have no clue what you're even talking about. Good? Bad? Just the way it is.

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