Showing newest 7 of 27 posts from September 2011. Show older posts
Showing newest 7 of 27 posts from September 2011. Show older posts

Friday, September 30, 2011

Going Suds Up: The Best Soccer, The Best Beers


By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer and Aston Villa Correspondent

What’s up, y’all? Can anyone guess what we’re focusing on this week? That’s right, it’s the Merseyside Derby – long considered one of the most friendly derbies in soccer, one in which supporters in Everton jerseys sit side by side with fans wearing Liverpool kits. Still, I imagine it can’t be very fun for those whose, say, romantic relationships bridge that divide.

For those not caught up on Premier League football (and if you’re not, why, not? Haven’t you heard it’s the best league in the world?) Liverpool is currently sitting in fifth place, with ten points, while Everton are in eleventh, with seven. The Reds are having a bit of an up-and-down season, beating Arsenal at the Emirates before realizing that such a feat isn’t that impressive this season, losing 4-0 to Spurs a couple weeks ago, and most recently managed to beat Wolves 2-1, but were helped out by Mr. Own Goal. Everton, meanwhile, have managed to record two wins – and it’s not even December yet! Last week, though, they were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City’s reserves, with Roberto Mancini actually allowing Mario Balotelli to play. And don’t worry, everyone, because Rafa Benitez has assured us that this derby is going to be “fantastic.”

Considering the match is at 6:45am CT, if you’re going to be up and drinking, you might as well be drinking something delicious and strong. The three beers widely available from Chimay, one of the six Belgian trappist breweries, will do quite nicely. Be sure to use your trappist glass (I know you have one) for whichever of the following you choose to quaff on Saturday.

For Liverpool fans: Chimay Red

What a pretty pour -and part of the reason you need an appropriate glass. This one is mahogany with a thick beige head. Another reason you need the right glass, of course, is so the aromas come through. Rouge smells of brown sugar, oranges, toasted caramel, and some red fruits. A true Belgian brew, you can taste the yeast, but this one is also peppery and  tastes of those red fruits. This is an absolutely perfectly balanced beer – which is likely more than can be said for a squad heavy on midfielders.

For Everton fans: Chimay Blue

Toffees fans, just because they are, well, Toffees fans, get the strongest beer on the list, weighing in at 9%. And because I feel more sympathy for Everton fans, they also get the best beer. Ok, ok, it’s really because they’re blue. This is a dark brownish-gold Belgian, with a thin cappuccino head. It smells like fig, caramel, candy sugar, cherries and yeast, which may sound odd but is actually captivating. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of candy sugar in the taste, as well as roses, plums, molasses, and nutty malt. Sip this one as you ponder how Everton will get through the season without any strikers.

For neutrals, crazy enough to wake up for this match: Chimay White

Match not as thrilling as Rafa promised? This beer will at least give you something to think about. It’s complex, not nearly as easy to enjoy as the first two. It pours a golden orange with barely any head, but lots of rising bubbles – which are at least something to watch, right? Bread and yeast are the primary smells, but there are raisins in there too. Can’t really taste the raisins though, with more of a bitter hop coming through the breadiness.  

About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That’s not to say I don’t love beer–I’ve tasted over a thousand different brews, and listed many of them onRatebeer. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook. 

As for the soccer, I’m the Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, the Italy Editor for SB Nation Soccer, and cover the Seattle Sounders on SBN Seattle (don’t judge–I’m from Seattle!) Finally, I write for Two Footed Tackle when I find words worthy enough for the site. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brews and Views Essay Series: Why American Soccer?


We continue our new series on the Free Beer Movement. It’s called “Brews and Views” and we pose a question or topic to various prominent soccer persons and, well, they give us their view on it.

We’ve got loads of get people that have already responded to our call for essay submissions and each week we’ll feature a unique perspective on the current topic/question at hand. Kicking it off (pun intended) we’re asking our respondents the question, “Why American soccer?”.

As inhabitants of the U.S. of A we’ve got loads of soccer viewing options and limited amount of time. We want our panel of essayists to make their case as to why the American version of the world’s game is the one we should all invest in.

Regularly readers know where we stand on this issue. Buy American. It’s ours. Build and shape it so it ranks as one of the premier leagues in the world.

The series will include such diverse voices as former U.S. Men’s National Team player Alexi Lalas, The Shin Guardian, MatchFit USA’s Jason Davis, Church of Soccer, Nutmeg Radio, FutFanatico, MLS Insider, and many, many more.

Interested in submitting your own answer to the question, “Why American soccer?”, then send us an email with your response. Please keep your submission to under 1000 words (that’s like 2.5 pages typed!) and include a picture that you feel goes well with your response. Send it to freebeermovement(at)gmail(dot)com.


“American Soccer: The Revolution Has Only Recently Been Televised”

By Elliot Turner/

In my younger years, I fell in love with the band “Built to Spill.” Why? In the roaming fields of perpetually bored fly-over country, individuals with a disdain for commercialism clung to bands with independent labels and non-formulaic song structures. The two things largely coincided. We cluttered into foul-smelling college town dive bars, due in equal part to the band’s originality but also the relationship’s intimacy – we looked around and felt we were the only fans of these poor touring folks. Then Pitchfork happened. And by Pitchfork, I mean the internet. Geography eliminated, local talent more easily identified, financial success re-defined, another Pacific Northwest band floated out of my radar and into chorus-driven commercial oblivion.

This is the indie dilemma. In success, there is a threshold, a line to be crossed with care. Contrary to popular belief, soccer has had a loyal fan-based in America for decades. But, as David Wangerin noted in his book “Soccer in a Football World,” the sport belonged largely to well sprinkled and unconnected immigrant communities. Those communities are now pretty connected. In particular, Hispanics have stepped to the forefront. But as the soccer revolution enters a new era, the looming specter of “gentrification” rears its ugly head. Will soccer challenge the mainstream or be gobbled up by it? 

First, let me admit that, in principles, MLS probably needs to increase revenues in order to acquire more talented players. However, my most serious concern is also personal – I personally enjoy watching two 45 minute halves of uninterrupted sporting goodness. Television timeouts in American football and basketball pose an ominous threat to the joy of flow and the delight of continuity. The NBC broadcast deal could be the smoke before the fire – can a major network and its sponsors cope with so little time & space to shout about tangentially related products? The great danger is that MLS will go the way of Modest Mouse, blandly accepting redundant choruses to the tune of bigger bucks. 

Second, as attendance steadily grows at MLS games, how much longer until we see significant ticket price spikes? Right now, an MLS game is per seat the best deal in town. For a Red Bulls regular season game, tickets generally vary from $25 to $65 dollars. Hockey prices are comparable but a bit higher. Baseball tickets range from $75 to $330 dollars. Basketball tickets range from $22 to $1770 dollars (note: I think this StubHub quote includes corporate suites). American football tickets go from $54 to $600 dollars. Basically, the cheap seats are about even between MLS and other sports, but the huge disparity in prices between bad seats and great seats is very limited. A decade from now, will you still be sitting with your kids at the halfway line? Only time will tell. 

I give lots of credit to Don Garber for getting rid of frills like the walk-up-penalty kick and focusing on simply selling the product to people who want to buy the product. If the rest of American businesses had followed this model, they would similarly be selectively expanding amidst domestic economic stagnation. But the temptation to water down the product is about to grow from a trickle to a tsunami. Some day, we may be subjected to John Madden cleaning his own drool and Terry Bradshaw shouting to the backdrop of animated robots who alternately explode and play soccer. Let’s try not to let that happen. 

Elliott blogs about soccer at His recently published first eBook, “An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish,” is available on the Kindle and the Nook.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Tuesday 10: Would You Rather?


Think about it.
We here at The Other 87 feel that soccer, like life, is full of tough decisions. With that in mind, we present to you the soccer edition of “Would You Rather?”.

  1. Would you rather lose a World Cup Final for your team by missing the game-winning PK or by contributing an own-goal in a 1-0 loss?
  2. Would you rather your team win the title next year, or your team lose but your rivals never win it again?
  3. Would you rather have a FIFA ExCo member or an MLS referee presiding over your murder trial?
  4. Would you rather have to bet your life on Fernando Torres scoring in a league game, or Lionel Messi not scoring?
  5. Would you rather have tickets to a World Cup semi-final or a Champion’s League final?
  6. Would you rather take a Roberto Carlos free kick to the face from ten yards or a Ryan Shawcross two-footed tackle, studs up, at full speed, straight to the shin?
  7. Would you rather have to watch the replay of every 0-0 draw in Serie A the day it happens, or every World Cup third-place match once a month for the rest of your life?
  8. Would you rather score a tap-in in a Champions League final, or the most ridiculously impressive single-handed beat-five-players then chip the keeper Cantona-style golazo in a friendly? Your team loses both games.
  9. Would you rather go through the rest of your life with Carles Puyol’s or Neymar’s hair?
  10. Would you rather let Cristiano Ronaldo punch you but you get to score on him in a match, or get to punch Cristiano Ronaldo but he gets to score on you in a match?
We know these ten are just a snow cone off the tip of the iceberg here, so let us hear your ideas. Tweet @O87Minutes with the hashtag #SoccerWYR (or #FootballWYR, if you prefer), and if we see enough good ones, we’ll post the ten best to our site next week.

About “The Other 87 Minutes”

What is this new site we’re exposing you too? We’ll let them explain:

The Other 87 seeks to provide something that’s not instant analysis or eve of matchday previews. Think of us as the good bits of your favorite soccer coverage: the profiles that examine what makes a certain player tick, the historical background that sheds some light on how the sport has evolved to the present day, the silly features that are more than just tacking names on a list, but considering and explaining why each one deserves to be there.
O87 wants to be a home for soccer writing that makes you think, but that also treats the game as just that, a game. The greatest game, the one we obsess over and fixate on, to the point where we can’t read that gas costs 3.43 a gallon without thinking of Ajax’s 1995 Champions League winning team. But a game nonetheless.
“When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball three minutes on average. The best players – the Zidanes, Ronaldinhos, Gerrards – will have the ball maybe four minutes. Lesser players – defenders – probably two minutes. So, the most important thing is: what do you do those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball…. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.” -Johann Cruyff

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Monday, September 26, 2011

VIDEO – Hope Solo and Alex Morgan “This Is SportsCenter”


USWNT players Hope Solo and Alex Morgan playing keepie-upsies with the Miami Dolphin’s mascot. All fun and games until the SportCenter “suit” ruins it.

Such is the story of our life.

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Soccer Returns to Austin!

A happy day in the city the Free Beer Movement calls it’s HQ, Austin, will welcome a soccer team once again. It’s been nearly a year since the former club-that-shall-not-be-named skipped town in nearly the middle of the night and, well, as much as we try to push it into the dark recesses of our minds, it still haunts us…

The nightmare is over, however, as today it was announced the return of the Austin Aztex. Not the same Aztex that skipped town to Orlando for “greener” pastures, but a new incarnation. David Markley, a minority in the original AA, has taken the reigns and begun the process in bringing professional soccer back to Central Texas.

It was “bittersweet” to watch Orlando City Soccer Club capture the USL PRO Championship last month, said Markley, because “that celebration should’ve been in Austin.”

In a meeting of Eberly’s Army, Austin’s Soccer Supporters, Markley spoke that the Aztex will make it’s ATX return for the 2012 season. The team will debut in the United Soccer League’s Professional Development League with eyes towards a more prominent position in future seasons.

Commenting on the loss of the previous Aztex, Markley joked, in true Texas tradition, “If someone takes your cattle, you get them back.”

And so the Aztex will return to Austin. Although this name holds some bad memories for the passionate supporters of the former club, Markley said that the name still has massive “brand recognition” inside the Austin city limits. The name will help connect with casual fans that hardly knew the team left, create stability from one team to the next, and builds bridges in Austin’s soccer community.

“This is Austin’s team. One that recognizes Austin,” said Markley.

Markley was the original owner of a PDL team in Austin called the Stampede and when previous Aztex owner Phil Rawlins came in with a USL franchise in 2008, became minority owner in the team. When the Rawlins moved to Orlando Markley retained ownership in OCSC. He now owns the name rights to the new team in Austin. Markley stressed that this Aztex team will be here for a long time.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Markley. “This is the right team at the right time and the right ownership group.”

With the 2012 pre-season and regular season fast approaching the Aztex are moving forward with the search of a head coach for the PDL team (reports have a prominent local individual taking the reigns) and a home stadium (Markley indicated that the new Aztex home will be a familiar place) and tryouts in the spring. This is where Markley hoped that the Aztex would make it’s biggest impact and be “accessible to the local community.”

“We have tremendous talent in the Austin-area,” he said. “We can put a high-caliber product on the field. We should be ready to come of of the gates and complete in PDL.”

Markley stressed his willingness to work with ALL local youth clubs to make sure they all had a voice in the club and also made sure to emphasize that this incarnation of the Aztex will focus on outreach to the Latino community in Austin, something the previous club “failed” to make a strong connection to. Additionally, Markley said that the ultimate goal of the Aztex is to “endeavor to partner with the city to build a soccer-specific stadium.”

Eberly’s Army, Austin’s soccer supporters, get behind the new Aztex.
What does this mean for the Free Beer Movement?

Simply.. LIVE access to American soccer. Televised action of the “Beautiful Game” is all well and good, but nothing can replace the draw of sharing an authentic game experience with a soccer newbie. To have soccer back in Austin means that FBM HQ can reintroduce the city to this wonderful sport. We again have our laboratory to work on our thesis of the “free beer philosophy” that proves free beer works.

Nationally, fans are re-enforcing the “free beer philosophy” all the time, but it pains us to not to be able to practice what we preach and so Sunday’s announcement has us hoisting a pint in celebration. We’re looking forward to partnering with the Aztex organization and any other venues (local bars and breweries) to promote the American, LIVE and LOCAL game, through the power of beer.

The Free Beer Movement lives on in each and everyone of us and now we’re becoming a full partner in our own cause again!

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Friday, September 23, 2011

The FBM Happy Hour: The Week’s Best Stories (2-4-Links)


It’s Friday! Grab a drink! While you’re downing a beer or two you can also sip on a few of the week’s best stories we’ve stumbled upon.

* The Shin Guardian – A Treatise: The State of U.S. Soccer

“It is no secret that the US youth system has struggled to produce genuine global superstars in the sport and a team that can truly compete for the World Cup. Sure, we’ve had the recent emergences of Donovan and Dempsey. While they are great American players, they aren’t the type that can go to a top European team and dictate the game regardless of who the opponent may be. In a country of 300 million people where soccer is the fastest growing youth sport, you would think that we could produce at least one player that can bend a game to his will and dazzle audiences with style and flare. What Klinsmann, and maybe finally Gulati, realize is that this won’t happen until the youth system is overhauled. The biggest aspiration USMNT fans should have is not for the immediate results on the pitch, but for the long-term results that Klinsmann can bring about if he is successful in changing the youth system much like he did in Germany.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 6 issues Klinsmann needs to address with American youth soccer.”
* Some more difficulties for supporters and a Major League Soccer club; this time in Colorado. Supporters and many season ticket holders were sealed off from parts of the stadium that they usually had access to. The thinking was to keep Mexican club Santos fans and Rapids fans separated, but, according to Rapids fans, the enforcement of rules was terrible uneven. Denver Post investigative reporter Eric Gorski has the story. * U-S-A!: A Conversation. Two sportswriters discuss the now and the future of American soccer on the brilliant site, Run Of Play.

* Leander Sch…. something… something… has an incredible article about the growth of supporters groups in MLS and the shift in marketing from soccer moms to these supporters. Who would ever think to cover the supporters’ side of the game?

“Over Major League Soccer’s 16-year history, hard-core fan groups like the Sons of Ben have grown from novelty, in places like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago, to ubiquity, defining recent expansion markets such as Philadelphia and the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC. The fan groups, made up mostly of young, city-dwelling men who don’t yet have families, represent a considerable turnabout in MLS’s core demographic. In the early years, the league marketed itself to soccer moms from the suburbs, the polar opposite of the crowd that has now become the face of its fan base.

“I think the league evolved,” said MLS executive vice president Nelson Rodriguez. “The culture of the sport [itself] and the cultural relevance within the United States has evolved.” He concedes that MLS may have miscalculated its original marketing strategy. “We very well may have underestimated the potential of that [younger, male] demographic.”

* More from “Run of Play” (we told you they were brilliant)… Noah Davis “On Landon Donovan”.
“Donovan knows the glare. It’s been shining for more than a decade, after all. His thoughts extend well beyond the field, and he offers them. When the Americans traveled to Honduras during a coup in 2009, Donovan provided eloquent commentary on the situation while interviewed in a tunnel under Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. This is unusual. In addition to being enormous physical specimens, we expect our athletes to be singularly focused on their sport. That’s the only way anyone could be this good. Donovan has a small frame, this sweet smile, and a liberal arts kid affect. He should be lining up against Middlebury or Pomona, but he’s freakishly talented, determined, and tougher than anyone assumes so the equipment guy irons on a No. 10, and he leads the Stars and Stripes against Mexico and Portugal.”
* Because, at the end of the day we’re U.S. fans at the core, we HATE Rafa Marquez and have no problem seeing him SUCK so much and FAIL so hard, Grant Wahl’s piece on him is awesome.

“At first it sounded like a joke. After being booed by the home fans whenever he touched the ball Wednesday night, after making hand gestures back at those jeering fans, after seeing his New York Red Bulls sink to new depths in a 3-1 loss to Salt Lake, New York defender Rafael Márquez could have raised his hand and accepted some responsibility for the biggest train wreck in Major League Soccer.
Instead he blamed his teammates.”
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Most Memorable Soccer Commercials Ever


Editors Note: A two-for this week from “The Other 87” in contributions. This article by Eric Betts was just too good to not feature on the hallowed site. Agree? Disagree? Let us know!

At The Other 87 believe that there is an art, or rather, a knack, to creating a good soccer commercial. (Or football advert, if you prefer.)

When you think about it, it’s kind of staggering the number of truly great examples there have been in the last 15 or so years. Even the bad ones tend to have some redeeming quality, be it highlight reel action or star players/endorsers making themselves look silly in the name of hawking high-tech boots.

But, not being ones to leave well enough alone, we wanted to figure out what that knack is. After untold hours of scouring YouTube to watch old favorites, new discoveries, and better-left-forgotten embarrassments, we think we’ve figured it out.

What follows is the first half of our commercial countdown. We’ve picked out ten ads and run them through our rating system to figure out which is best and which, well, isn’t.

Our criteria for awarding points   We looked at characteristics that were present in nearly all of the ads we encountered, and gave each category a possible point value based on how prevalent that category was. The points we assigned each commercial are based on how successful that ad was with that particular element. Our categories are as follows:

a. Number of World Class players (Up to 20 points)
b. Directing (15 points)
c. Soccer skills on display (15 points)
d. Coolness of premise (10 points)
e. Humor (10 points)
f. Miscellaneous (10 points)
g. Absurdity of premise (5 points)
h. Soundtrack (5 points)
i. Bicycle kick? (5 points)
j. Eric Cantona? (5 points)

Note well that these are not by any means the 10 best soccer commercials/football adverts we could find. Rather, we chose these 10 to rate because we thought something about them was particularly memorable, and because they were different enough to allow for some variety in our commentary as we explore the genre.

10. The Quest – adidas
a. Number of world class players: 12. I count 12 at least, though the action moves so fast there may be more. They each have their individual 30 second spots, but here we’re just counting the ones in the initial commercial linked to above.

b. Directing: 4. The B-movie special effects are effective at building an atmosphere, less so at making the players look cool.
c. Soccer skills on display: 2. There is literally nothing here, with the exception of Kaka’s little flick to himself. This is “The Quest’s” failure; the decision to focus on atmosphere and aesthetics rather than soccer action ruins the atmosphere and aesthetics. The laws of physics already apply to Lionel Messi as they would a cartoon character, there’s no need to make him even more cartoony. No amount of defenders can thwart Messi, but a wind machine and a green screen can make him look pretty stupid.
d. Coolness of premise: 10. The premise is the best thing this has going for it. Zinedine Zidane playing a combination of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Morpheus, but in a universe with a Sin City aesthetic? Sold. Except…
e. Humor: 0. Moving on.
f. Miscellaneous: 0. …the missed opportunites are so great here it’s maddening. The execution completely fails the premise. Where’s the training montage with Zidane running the stars of 2010 through their paces? Where’s the equivalent of the fight between Morpheus and Neo, when the Sparks, Blazes and Triggers of the world cut their teeth against Der Kaiser’s and Bombers and other legends? What’s the point of searching for all these players if he’s not going to do anything with them? It’s maddening.
g. Absurdity of premise: 2. I pretty much already view Zidane as a combination of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Morpheus.
h. Soundtrack: 3. It tries just a little too hard toward the second half.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. I didn’t see one.
j. Eric Cantona? 5. No, but it does use Zidane in the same role Cantona plays in Nike commercials, so we’ll give them the points.
Total Score: 38
Verdict: A wasted opportunity even Fernando Torres can shake his head at.

9. Ninja Kendo Robots (not its actual name) – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 9. I count 9 in the van at the beginning, and holy crap, one of them’s Pep Guardiola. Are we supposed to assume that only two of them survive? That’s kind of dark for a Nike commercial; Ferguson and Wenger are going to have fits about that particular international date. As a side note, is that Louis Van Gaal in the chopper, or Sloth from the Goonies?
b. Directing: 8. Everything looks pretty good, but it’s not as successful in its “follow the ball” premise as spots like the Brazil airport one (we’ll get to it later). This ball seems to travel to more locations than Carmen Sandiego, and we never know how.
c. Soccer skills on display: 4. Davids’ finishing move is pretty nice, but most of the commercial is just them punting it back and forth. Is it going to electrocute them if one of them catches it? Also, how do I know if I want a soccer ball grappling hook if they’re going to do all that cutting right when they’re using them?
d. Coolness of premise: 7. The big letdown is the fact that they’re doing this for a slightly better soccer ball than the one in their specially-designed suitcases. A bonus two points for the soccer ball grappling hook idea, though.
e. Humor: 3. Edgar Davids’ glasses as night vision goggles is pretty wonderful, as is the fact that as many as seven world-class footballers died in this raid because of his dreadlocks. It also gets a bonus point for the tongue-in-cheekness of the premise.
f. Miscellaneous: 7. The Bruce Lee/James Bond theme of the ad is nice, but they didn’t go far enough with it.
g. Absurdity of premise: 5. Yes.
h. Soundtrack: 2. Could have benefitted from some Bondian horns. Too bad nobody knew who Michael Giacchino was when this was made.
i. Bicycle kick? 5. Yes
j. Eric Cantona? 0. Nope. A shame really, because he easily could have been the guy in the red armor.
Final Score: 50
Verdict: Not enough players or action to really make an impact.
8. Showdown – Pepsi
a. Number of world class players: 12. I count five Madrid players in the beginning, five Manchester United, one Roberto Carlos, and one Rivaldo.
b. Directing: 10. David Beckham almost looks like a badass here, something I’m choosing to attribute to the director.
c. Soccer skills on display: 1. This hurts this one, but it gets a point because that horse’s strike is a solid one.
d. Coolness of premise: 8. I’m a sucker for Westerns.
e. Humor: 10. Two points for the trench coats with the names on the back, two points for Iker Casillas chugging his Pepsi with his goalie gloves on, two points for having the horse take the kick, and four points for Roberto Carlos bursting out of the barbershop shouting “Hey gringos!”
f. Miscellaneous:  7. I enjoy that Beckham’s eventual move to Madrid makes him basically Clint Eastwood’s character in A Fistful of Dollars here, playing the two sides against each other for his own benefit. Also Iker Casillas’ general awkwardness. It’s tough to look that uncool in a cowboy hat and trench coat, but he pulls it off.
g. Absurdity of premise: 5. I just like that they’re two European club teams doing a commercial in such a uniquely American backdrop.
h. Soundtrack: 4. It has a nice, vaguely Morriconian score.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. Not even close
j. Eric Cantona? 0. Sadly not. He’d be awesome in a cowboy hat.
Total Score: 57
Verdict: Does all the little things right, but loses points on the big stuff.
7. Take it to the Next Level – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 12. We’re doing the original, not the director’s cut, which I know has at least an additional Carlos Tevez in it. I’m even counting Wenger and Bojan, so fans of this one shouldn’t really complain.
b. Directing: 14. I’m deducting a point on a technicality; the POV is so good, it gives me a slight case of motion sickness to watch it.
c. Soccer skills on display: 12. The whole commercial moves quickly, and while the action isn’t as flashy as the Brazil squad in the airport, the POV action looks so good they get extra for trying that.
d. Coolness of premise:10. It’s pretty unique, and I admit to being stunned the first time I saw it.
e. Humor: 2. Neither vomit nor pantsing is that funny, but dueling kissy faces from Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas might make you giggle.
f. Miscellaneous: 6. Two little things bother me more than they should about this, now that I’ve watched it three or four times. One, the free kick at the beginning, which I take we’re supposed to see as our anonymous young prospect’s star-making moment, really isn’t that good. Totally saveable, but the keeper dives after it’s already in the net. Two, as he’s walking into the training ground, there’s no way he knows to push that door and not pull it. It has a pull handle! I’d have tried to pull it and looked like an idiot.
g. Absurdity of premise: 1. Happens all the time.
h. Soundtrack: 2. It’s okay, I guess.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. Shockingly no, though I imagine they might have killed a cameraman trying.
j. Eric Cantona? 0.
Total Score: 59
Verdict: Does all the big things right, but loses points on the small stuff.
6. Cantona vs. the Devil – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 10. There are ten players in the initial shot as they come out of the tunnel, and judging by the make-up of the squad, they’re planning on lining up in a 1-1-2-5.
b. Directing: 9. A perfectly competent job. The players do a good job selling the contact, and the man behind the camera is wise enough to keep us in wide shot for most of the actual action.
c. Soccer skills on display: 5. Some basic moves, but often done in isolation. The focus is more on the brutality of the Hell squad than the skill of our heroes.
d. Coolness of premise: 8. Gets points here for being an early example of the type.
e. Humor: 7. The blind referee is a nice touch, as is Cantona’s “Au revoir.”
f. Miscellaneous: 9. I don’t care if he is Eric Cantona, he still gets a point deducted for popping his collar before taking the final shot. Some things are never okay.
g. Absurdity of premise: 5.  I guess they could have played a team of aliens.
h. Soundtrack: 2. Kind of nondescript epic music.
i. Bicycle kick? 5. You betcha.
j. Eric Cantona? 6. An extra point for making him the star.
Total Score: 66
Verdict: Invented what later commercials perfected.

5. Airport – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 10. I count 10, but it’s a little difficult as they’re all dressed in different pairings of the same clothes.
b. Directing: 14. John Woo kept the doves out of this one, but keeps the camera moving fast enough to follow the Brazil squad all the way through their airport odyssey without ever getting us lost.
c. Soccer skills on display:  11. Not as many skills on display as in 2002’s Secret Tournament ad, but in 1998 watching (The Artist Later Known as Fat) Ronaldo do anything was captivating.
d. Coolness of premise: 7. Would it be great to see this happen? Sure. But compared to a pickup game with Platini vs. Kahn, it pales.
e. Humor: 9. The gags throughout, from the obligatory fat security guard to Cantona to a player I can’t quite recognize getting sucked into the infernal abyss that is airport luggage logistics, are all solid, but what really makes this is the twist ending.
f. Miscellaneous: 6. If this came out today we’d get 5,000 articles about how joga bonito is a myth, along with another 5,000 about how bad Neymar’s hair is. It does bank a little hard on the “They’re Brazilian, they must be awesome,” but in Ronaldo’s case it’s really deserved.
g. Absurdity of premise: 1. You mean Brazil doesn’t do this in every airport they fly through?
h. Soundtrack: 5. Nicely chosen.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. The trouble with filming a commercial entirely on concrete and airport tile.
j. Eric Cantona? 5. You bet.
Total Score: 68
Verdict: Wholly excellent, if a little one-note.

4. Pub Team – Carlsberg
a. Number of world class players: 20. Let’s see: Peter Shilton, Des Walker, Bryan Robson, Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher, Alan Ball, Jack Charlton and Bobby Charlton and Sir Bobby Robson. That’s not 20, but legends get you bonus points. If Puma wanted to make a commercial with Eto’o and Cruyff, we’d give that 20 points too.
b. Directing: 15. I’ve never been on a proper Sunday league team, but I have read Barney Ronay’s book about his. From my admittedly limited experience, this seems to capture the atmosphere of doing that remarkably well, from the van to the snack-stop to the phone call from mum during the manager’s big speech. It also does a good job on the soccer action, letting us follow the ball from player to player, which puts the emphasis on the team, rather than any one player.
c. Soccer skills on display:  8. It’s not as jaw-dropping as some of the others, but we’ll give them a pass for their age and emphasis on ball movement, which isn’t something often featured in commercials.
d. Coolness of premise: 10. Imagine if McDonald’s did this with Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Charles Barkley. They’d air that during the Super Bowl in a heart beat. It’d be a good idea if they featured a team of old guys playing, or a team of current players playing in a pub league game. It’s a great idea with the combination of the two.
e. Humor: 10. The van, the phone call, the bike, and the look on the opposing team’s face when they come jogging out all earn points.
f. Miscellaneous: 9. I love this one. A lot.
g. Absurdity of premise: 2. Those guys could probably still beat 85 percent of pub teams if they ganged up on them like that.
h. Soundtrack: 3. I recognize that the lack of music is an aesthetic choice, and I respect that. But I don’t think I can give them five points for it.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. I know they’re old, but Chris Waddle or Stuart Pearce couldn’t have pulled one off? Do you know how old Pele was when he did his in Victory?
j. Eric Cantona? 0. Their next game was probably against Cantona and a squad of old Frenchmen.
Total Score: 77
Verdict: The verisimilitude of the introductory sequence sets it apart.

3. Write the Future – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 15. Though I admit, I can’t remember whether that’s counting Roger Federer or not. Either way. What I had never noticed before I sat down to count is that it really is Theo Walcott and Patrice Evra jostling on that side, and that Thiago Silva feeds the ball to Ronaldinho.
b. Directing: 15. Yes, it’s really well done, and not just from a production value standpoint. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is completely successful in his goal of showing these games in their wider global context, and it’s never confusing nor boring.
c. Soccer skills on display:  8. Unfortunately, showing that context comes with the sacrifice of a lot of potential soccer action. The scenes are well shot, but the players actually do very little. I suppose that fits, since it’s all happening in a game environment, but still, there’s a standard to live up to.
d. Coolness of premise: 10. It’s a great idea, plain and simple.
e. Humor: 10. It really should get eleven, as the humor is constant and legitimate, particularly during the Rooney vignette.
f. Miscellaneous: 8. If anything, it’s too slick, but as I said to before, you have to respect how well they did what they set out to do.
g. Absurdity of premise: 2. Who doesn’t expect Rooney to grow that beard once he’s retired?
h. Soundtrack: 5. It sounds like the boss music to some forgotten Final Fantasy game, which is somehow completely appropriate.
i. Bicycle kick? 5. Yes. From Cannavaro of all people.
j. Eric Cantona? 0. Sadly, no.
Total Score: 78
Verdict: Absolutely epic, but not as much fun as the top two.

2. Dream Team – Adidas

a. Number of world class players: 16. I’m not sure how many are in this, but they get bonus points for doing the Beckenbauer/Platini thing.
b. Directing: 13. The soccer action is kind of typical — this is a shot of someone’s feet, this is a shot of their face — but the reaction shots and, I’ll even go so far to say, the performances of players like Robben, Defoe, Lampard and Kahn are far better than is typical in these types of things. That kid is lucky his mom called him right then, because Oliver Kahn is not to be trifled with.
c. Soccer skills on display: 10. The soccer itself in this is limited to a 45-second span, which means they can’t show off quite as many moves as the other ones. The flip side, however, is the ball keeps moving, and so those 45 seconds feel like an actual game.
d. Coolness of premise: 10. Unlike, most of the others on this list, it’s actually kind of adorable when you think about it.
e. Humor: 10. Jermaine Defoe in goal is funny, especially how Kahn and Schweinsteiger openly mock him. And Oliver Kahn arguing with a small child will always be funny.
f. Miscellaneous: 10. Who’s picking these teams? Cisse is the first overall pick in the world? He bothers to draft Jermaine Defoe but can’t find another Adidas-represented goalie?
g. Absurdity of premise: 3. It’s impossible, but it’s not all that absurd.
h. Soundtrack: 4. I don’t like the song they chose, but I can’t argue with it.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. Actually no. Shocking.
j. Eric Cantona? 0. But they do have Beckenbauer, so screw it, I’m giving them 5 anyway.
Final Score: 80
Verdict: More heart than any of the others.
1. Secret Tournament – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 20. Really 24, but the limit, unfortunately, is 20, so they get the max.
b. Directing: 15. It’s exceptionally well-done, and considering all the other 15’s that have been given out in directing, it really should get more points than that. The action is fast-paced but never confusing. Terry Gilliam’s camera moves from players’ face to feet and back in the same shot, allowing the viewer to see both who it is and what they’re doing with the ball. He mixes up medium shots with close-ups so you can see that the (rather impressive) moves aren’t just happening in isolation, but with teammates and opponents moving in the background.
c. Soccer skills on display: 12. They look mind-blowing at first, until you realize most of the best ones — like Sylvain Wiltord’s self-alley-oop header and Edgar Davids’ reverse roundhouse kick of the dropped in ball — weren’t done in one shot. Still, the dribbling and pure foot speed on display here is staggering, as is Nakata’s chest trap and backwards strike, which as far as I can tell he really pulled off.
d. Coolness of premise: 10. Creative? Not really. Awesome? Absolutely. Put it this way, if they televised this event every four years in World Cup off-years, is there anything that would keep you from watching? I don’t think so.
e. Humor: 3. Cantona’s mere presence makes it at least kind of funny, as does the shot of Ronaldinho fixing his hair in the ball. But we’ve seen better.
f. Miscellaneous: 10. I had never seen an indoor soccer field when this first aired in 2002, so my friends and I took to sneaking balls into the community center’s racquetball courts and playing 2 v 2 or 3 v 3 in there, with the walls and liberal rules on body checking. For many of them, it was the first time they had ever played soccer. Needless to say, I have fond memories of this one.
g. Absurdity of premise: 2. I mean sure, this would never happen due to injury fears and things like that, but at least it could happen.
h. Soundtrack: 5. The song just fits.
i. Bicycle kick? 5. You bet.
j. Eric Cantona? 5. Absolutely. Here Cantona plays not Morpheus, but Richard Nixon-lookalike Han from Enter the Dragon.
Final Score: 87
Verdict: Pure awesomeness. The Raiders of the Lost Ark of the genre.

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