10 things: Miss Universe is far less important than the magic of the FA Cup

Are we so cynical that we don’t believe in magic? Judging by how criminally under appreciated The Prestige is, the answer may be yes, but that’s more a reflection of our technology-numbed minds than the value of a good magician’s work. No wonder the Gandalfs of the world no longer reveal themselves.

Consider what you did this weekend. You watched the Miss Universe pageant, didn’t you? I’m assuming you did — a bad choice, considering every other planet in the universe boycotted the event. Whoever won yesterday’s contest would stand a good chance of defeating Martian Glacier in a real Miss Universe pageant (partly because glaciers are asexual), but guess what? We’ll never know! Earthling arrogance is getting the best of us again.

Best stick to the basics, earthlings. Like sports. Better yet: Stick to super basic sports. See the ball. Kick the ball. That’s always been the beauty of soccer, and while you tuned out of that beautiful world this weekend, exactly 10 amazing things happened in our sport.

number_1The Magic of the FA Cup is back, baby!

Chelsea? Out, having blown a 2-0 lead at home to Bradford — a club the Premier League has never acknowledged. Manchester City’s out too, as is Southampton. The three best teams in the most successful league in the world are no longer in the FA Cup. That’s either the work of David Copperfield or an international consortium of match-fixers, led by Chelsea’s mascot. You decide, but only after listening to Miriti Murungi:

Perhaps [all of the loses were] coincidence, but as your mother probably told you as a child, if it looks like a standard match-fixing syndicate and acts like a standard match-fixing syndicate, it probably is a standard match-fixing syndicate. And while this all may seem harmless in the short-term, in the long-term, it will kill the game, because everyone will be banned and we’ll have to watch darts.

And objectively, watching darts sucks.



Part of the magic of the FA Cup is splitting gate receipts, which sounds boring as hell until you consider Cambridge United. The fourth-tier club (another team the Premier League’s never acknowledged) drew 0-0 with visiting Manchester United on Friday. That means a replay, one that will take place at Manchester United’s palatial ground, where Cambridge could earn $1.5 million as its share of the spoils. That’s more than the entire played squad will earn this season.

What does a club like Cambridge do with that kind of windfall? Toilets. The team’s going to buy new dumpers for its undoubted decrepit ground. Another run in next year’s cup and there’ll be double-ply paper in the stalls.


Heartbroken Ronaldo tried to punch dude

In the wake of his breakup with Irina Shayk, Cristiano Ronaldo’s developed some intimacy issues, perhaps explaining why the Real Madrid star went ape shit on a Córdoba defender this weekend:

How long will he be banned? Three games? Maybe more? With Ronaldo, it could end up being none. In fact, the official who issued the card may be the one who should worry.


Dancing with the Barcelona Stars

Luis Suárez wasn’t in Barcelona’s XI this weekend, and the team beat Elche, 6-0. Coincidence? Probably. The Blaugrana have been playing well with and without their Uruguyan star, though on Saturday, the two remaining parts of its holy attacking trinity went off.

Two goals and one assist from the Neymar. Two and two from the Lionel Messi. The duo was synchronized against their 10-man hosts — a Dancing With The Stars-level performance. Kevin Brown, on Neymar’s second:

Perhaps not confident enough to dance alone, Neymar would perform again, but not before grabbing Pedro up from his seat. Just ahead of the final whistle, Neymar waltzed down the sideline in three-quarter time. As the Elche defense paused for the fourth beat, he was behind them, laying off a perfect ball to his teammate, adding a great final flourish to Barcelona’s act.

We think of them as athletes, but as Miriti wrote earlier today, they’re really artists. At least, the great ones are.


The most Vine-able player in the world

Ronaldo, Messi, Ibrahimovic. They’re the three that usually come to mind when thinking about soccer highlight mavens, but Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba is coming into his own:

With speculation the French international could garner a $112 million transfer fee this summer, moments like these vindicate the hype. Every loop is another euro tacked on to his value.


Red card madness

Ronaldo might finish third in that one, given how Steven Defour earned his dismissal in his return visit to Standard Liége:

But this weekend’s obvious winner of the “most likely to be in the front row of Maury” challenge was AC Milan defender Philippe Mexes. Unfortunately for the French defender, this is will probably go down as his signature moment with the Rossoneri:

number_7Mayor Blanco

Speaking of red cards, on the occasion of Mexican legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s last appearance on the field at Azteca Stadium came news that the current Puebla player will run for mayor of Cuernavaca — a city of roughly 320,000 people in southern Mexico. From Rafael Fernández de Castro:

Although beloved by Mexicans, Blanco has always been criticized and mocked for being an excellent actor on the field. He was a master at faking fouls and deceiving the referee to get much-needed penalty kicks – a skill that will come in handy as he enters political life…

Whether you like him or hate him, as a candidate one thing is for sure: if Blanco shows the same creative brilliance at the ballot box that on the field, he will win by a landslide.

Blanco, political candidate, sounds amazing — the type of spectacle that would make Herman Cain look like a dullard. Blanco the mayor, though? Who knows. Maybe he’ll prove an empathetic leader of men. Maybe he’ll lead an invasion of Belize. Both seem possible.number_8

The amazing Falcao, off the field

Falcao’s troubles coming back from knee surgery haven’t diminished his ability to make a difference off the field. The Colombian international, still trying to find his niche while on loan at Manchester United, helped secure a heart transplant for a teenage fan:

Efe reports that Falcao’s cousins introduced the superstar to the plight of 17-year-old John Andres Uyaban, a Colombian teen who had been on a waiting list for a heart transplant for two years. According to Uyaban’s mother, 10 days after Falcao posted a plea for assistance on his Facebook page, the family was notified that Uyaban would be getting a heart from an individual in Medellin who had recently passed away in an accident.

Ah the power of sport! Makes you feel good to be a fan.


New MLS team seems to have no problem with Chick-fil-A

Oh, god damn it, Orlando:

It’s quite the exciting time for soccer and chicken enthusiasts in the greater Orlando area as,acccording to Orlando Weekly, fans wearing the team’s jersey on game days will be able to eat for free at local Chick-fil-A eateries. But the partnership may raise a few eyebrows.

Chick-fil-A stores are closed on Sundays. That’s not because of laziness, but because the company runs according to “biblically-based principles.” That means no chicken on Sundays. (Interestingly, 11 of 34 Orlando City’s 2015 league games are on Sundays.) In the past, however, those biblically-based principles have led to the company’s high profile advocacy for “traditional marriage,” as well as the funneling of millions of dollars into initiatives to defeat same-sex marriage legislation.

What does it matter? Maybe it doesn’t. But it’s still a drag. Is linking up with Chick-fil-A so beneficial that you’re willing to partner with bigots? Then again, being bigots toward bigots is a type of bigotry in itself. The Bigotry Conundrum — my new one-man show.


FIFA president fun

Sepp Blatter was this close to telling a “bofa” joke to UEFA:

“All those who want to get rid of me should come. All this opposition is coming now, it’s unfortunate to say – but it’s true – it’s coming from Nyon, from UEFA. They don’t have the courage to come in. So let me go [on] – be respectful,” he clucked.

“Football is a team sport. Let’s go together with the team. I invite the confederation of [UEFA] and especially the leaders of UEFA that are so bitterly attacking me: Join! Join! Football is a unity.”

Then Michael van Praag took him up on his challenge:

“It is well known that I am very worried about FIFA,” van Praag said, in a statement on the Dutch federation’s website. “It is high time that [FIFA] is fully normalized … I hoped that there would be a credible opponent (to Blatter), but simply has not happened. You must not only use words but also act decisively and take personal responsibility. Therefore, I am now candidate.”

Meanwhile, FIFA’s turning over sponsors, and we can’t get any love. Get your priorities in order, world soccer overlords.