Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Nats' survey. The Nationals sent out an email survey for their fans. I concluded by telling them to be better neighbors and citizens, and to invest in the future. Specifically, I told them to give in on the garage question. The city could do with some below-ground parking there. The additional cost to the city would be worth it. And the Nationals would benefit, in the long run. One hopes that the city wouldn't go overboard with a plan for that property that would destroy the architectural plan for the stadium to provide vistas of downtown, from the ramps.

What else? Spend. Invest in the future, by spending in the present. Give the fans a reason to come besides the new stadium. Make that bond with the fan base, and they will keep coming back for generations to come. Give the fans good reason to resent the team and its owners, and you'll be amazed at how fast the stadium empties out. Even though the Nats are hamstrung by the shotgun deal with Angelos over TV rights, the Nationals are still in a profitable market. They can afford to be a little generous and pay for a competitive roster.

It will be years before the minor league system can be rebuilt and restocked. In the meantime, the Nats need to find a way to put a competitive major league team on the field. This year, in RFK, and in the years to come, in the new park. The next couple of years will offer the new owners a unique shot at connecting with the community. Build a strong foundation and the house will weather strong storms. Ignore the foundation, and there won't be much left when the storms hit -- and they wil hit, sooner or later.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

D-Mat?!?! Agent Scott Boras has rechristened his new client, Daisuke Matsuzaka -- He is to be called "D-Mat." A guy gets a nickname like that, he just has to sign with the BoSox. Now, let's not have any "doormat" jokes for a little while -- at least not until the Yankees show him 'who's his daddy'.....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Will the Real Eli Manning Please Stand Up? There are two Eli Mannings. One is a clutch, cool customer that makes big throws, and is a true student of the game who can read defenses and make perfect audibles. The other is a guy who often can't hit the side of a barn, can't figure out where the coverage is and makes some really stupid throws. It was this latter version that showed up for the New York Giants' game tonight against Jacksonville.

We need one Eli Manning, consistently. I'd prefer it to be the first. Then, the Giants would b a top team. If it's the latter, then the Giants could admit they made a huge error and move on. But we need some consistency. Stop teasing us with promise of another Phil Simms for a few weeks each year, only to dash our hopes by looking like another Dave Brown down the stretch.

Meanwhile, I will continue to insist that much of what is wrong with the Giants could be cured with a coaching change. Bill Parcells, please stop this foolishness, and come home, already.

NBA -- I don't normally write about the NBA, because I don't enjoy the pro game very much any more. However, I saw a highlight tonight that was truly amazing. If you haven't seen it, you must check out a replay of the incredible smackdown, in-your-face block/stuff that the Knicks' Nate Robinson put on Yao Ming. The 5'9" (or smaller) guard really elevated to stuff an attempt, by the 7'6" Yao, to go over Robinson in the paint. Yao jumped, so the Knicks guard had to make up over two feet (and that's without considering Yao's considerably longer reach) to stuff Yao's attempt and knock the ball out his hands. The play is even the headline on the New York Times article on the game. On behalf of short guys all over the world: Thanks for bringing a smile to our faces, Nate.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sayonara, Soriano - Adios, Alfonso. The Cubs must have a lot of money. They're giving Alfonso Soriano one of the richest contracts in baseball history, exceeded only by the madness of the Alex Rodriguez deal with Texas some years back, and Derek Jeter's and Manny Ramirez's deals with their current teams (Soriano's deal is roughly equal to Carlos Beltran's deal with the Mets sidned two years ago). In a deal that will pay Soriano an average of over $17 million a year, Alfonso will take his big wood to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. This means that the Nationals had one nice season with the best player who may ever wear their uniform.

Losing Soriano means the Nationals can take his money and get two or three top players -- or several middling players. One wonders how much the Nats will actually spend. The team has gotten an enormous subsidy from the District (over $600 million for the new stadium), and couldn't be a decent enough civic-minded resident to allow the District to take the time to put the parking garages underground. That would have allowed the District to develop what would have suddenly become one of the most potentially lucrative, desirable, commercial locations in the city. Instead, the land north of the stadium (land between the Metro station and the stadium) will be occupied by two multi-story garages -- garages that will go unused for 280 days or more every year.

As a final slap in the face, the Nationals have allowed the best player most of will ever see here just walk away. Instead of building the team around this prodigious talent, the Nats will wallow in the cellar for years. Thanks, Nats.

A couple of days ago, I got a Nats t-shirt with Soriano's name on the back. I plan to wear it to the stadium. Not as a protest -- the Cubs offer to Soriano was ridiculous. I can't protest the Nats' not matching it. I'll wear it as a tribute to the Nats' best. If the Nats don't put that saved money to good use, and do what it takes to put a winning team on the field, my protest will be to stay away.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Just one more about MLS -- The expansion draft is over, and there were surprises. The list? Toronto took the following players:

Paulo Nagamura (L.A. Galaxy); Danny O'Rourke (N.Y. Red Bulls); Jose Cancela (N.E. Revolution); Adrian Serioux (Houston Dynamo); Nate Jaqua (Chicago Fire); Rod Dyachenko (D.C. United); Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake); Tim Regan (Chivas USA); Ritchie Kotschau (Columbus Crew); Will Hesmer (Kansas City Wizards)

The least surprising pick was Nate Jacqua -- the player with the greatest upside of those available to be selected -- though he may still insist on a move to Europe. A little more surprising was the selection of Serioux, although he would make sense for Toronto. Serioux is a Canadian, and would have counted as a domestic player for Toronto, but he was dealt to Dallas for Ronnie O'Brien. So, the Hoops did not lose Mina, as expected, instead traded a top player, O'Brien, for Serioux -- apparently, part of the deal was Toronto's agreement to pass on Dallas' unprotected players. RSL did lose Kreis, the MLS' all-time scorer, but only briefly, as Toronto worked out a deal to return Kreis to Salt Lake.

Toronto coach Mo Johnston dipped into his New York past to pluck Tim Regan from Chivas, but there is already speculation on MLSnet that Regan will be moved again. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Johnston passed on the Red Bulls' top scorer, Edson Buddle. Everyone expected Johnston would pick Buddle, but he went for youth instead. Johnston used his familiarity with the Red Bulls' roster to go deep into their pool and pluck out Danny O'Rourke. A former Hermann Trophy winner, O'Rourke hasn't made much of a mark in New York, even during Johnston's brief stint as coach there. The really odd part is that Johnston then traded O'Rourke and a goalie, Hesmer, to Columbus. Apparently, Columbus must've had plans for O'Rourke, all along. Another talented, but overlooked selection was the Revs' Cancela. I expected Adrian Hernandez would go, but Johnston sees Cancela as the better talent.

In contrast, Johnston found himself in agreement with another coach's evaluation, plucking Rod Dyachecnko from United. The Ukranian-born teenager, Dyachenko, is a favorite of United coach, Peter Nowak. To me, Dyachenko was pretty far down the list among United's available players. I was not impressed with Dyachenko's showing in United's games, although one of his last touches was a nice one, as he came close to scoring the tying goal in United's Eastern Conference final loss to the Revolution. On the other hand, he's big, strong, and young.

Speaking of D.C. United and Coach Nowak -- in his final press conference of the year, Nowak had a lot to say about Freddy Adu's dreams of playing in England. As Nowak was clear about, playing in the Bundesliga (which Nowak knows personally) and the English Premier League, is not like playing anywhere else in the world. It's not that the level of play is so much higher, that the competition in the league is so intense, it's that the level of competition in practices is so intense. As Nowak says, if you're playing in one of those leagues, "the game must be reward for you. So actually the game is lighter than the practice." Benny Freihaber made similar comments about his current experience at Hamburg SV, in the New York Times article I discussed earlier in the week. Freihaber lamented the lack of comraderie among teammates, as a result of the intense competition between them.

Nowak tried to put the fear of G-d in Adu, talking about the level or training required just for practicing as a member of a team like Manchester United. Moreover, Nowak said, the teams that "really develop young kids in the right way are the Dutch league and some of the Spanish league. Because it's more technical instead of being hard." According to Nowak the "English league is very hard, and...there are guys that cost $20 million sitting on the bench. They just don't care."

As for his handling of Adu to date, Nowak explained his side. Though Adu wants to play centrally, where United already has league-MVP Christian Gomez, Nowak has tried to convince the young star that he will be more successful on the wing, where he will find more one-on-one situations he can exploit. To illustrate his point Nowak noted the success that Ronaldinho has had on the wing. "This is the reason Ronaldinho is a 200 million dollar player and...already the FIFA Player of the Year. The best player on the planet, and he's playing outside."

Nowak wanted to sound an encouraging, if cautionary note. "I think Freddy has a great future," he said. "It's just up to him, how he's going to make up his mind. He can achieve great things, if he just knows what to do with his career as a player -- not the guys who are around him, or agents or family. This is what is best for him and he needs to know that." The question is what did Nowak mean by that? Did he mean that staying in the M.L.S. is what's best for Freddy now, or did he mean to find a team in the Dutch league or La Liga in Spain? And the bigger question: What will Adu decide to do?

For the MLS, waiting on Adu's choice, it'll be an interesting off-season. To my MLS posse: Thanks for coming 'round. See you next Spring. On the other hand, if you're interested in what I have to say about life, politics, baseball, football, and everything else under the sun, keep coming back.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Soccer Tidbits – Probably my last post on soccer, for a little while, until the U.S.S.F. names a new coach for the U.S. national team. Whoever that next coach is, he will have to take a long look at Benny Freihaber. The New York Times has a story on the young (21 years old), Brazilian-born, Jewish-American international. Benny has started six straight games for the Bundesliga side Hamburg SV. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the article was that there was no mention that Freihaber was Jewish, except for the subtle inclusion of a quote from Benny about playing in the Maccabiah Games (an Olympic like tournament for Jews).

It would have been interesting to hear a little about the reaction of the German fans to Freihaber. I’m sure he’s not the first Jew to play in the Bundesliga in the post-war period (two Jewish players appeared for the German national side before the war – Gottfried Fuchs and Julius Hirsch), but my brief research on the 'net hasn’t yielded any results. In any case, it would be interesting to know how that’s been for Benny – but the real news is that Freihaber has worked his way into the Hamburg top eleven, which bodes well for a young man who has yet to appear for the U.S. Men’s national side.

Speaking of the national side, one U.S. player made World Cup history this past week, sort of. FIFA has ruled that the first ever hat-trick in World Cup competition was scored by the U.S.A.’s own Bert Patenaude in 1930. Previously, that honor belonged to an Argentine who scored his triple a couple of days later. A scoring change awarded one goal to Patenaude, instead of another American, so Patenaude gets this honor – posthumously. He died in 1974.

The Times article also reports that MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, has his sights on expanding the league to 16 teams by 2010. I wonder if that is realistic, given the talent levels. Perhaps, I’ll be proven wrong on this, but the league is talking about improving the quality of its play – making that its top priority. Adding 4 teams, including the Toronto squad that starts play next year, would make it impossible to improve the overall talent level.

I understand the league wanting to penetrate a few more markets. The MLS front office might believe that the league needs to reach a critical mass, in that regard, before it’s taken seriously as a major national sports league. I think, with national TV exposure, and the internet, that having local teams in all the major markets isn’t as crucial as it once was. I don’t see that the league will get more national coverage if it puts a new team in the Bay Area, the Philadelphia exurbs, St. Louis or San Diego. The media will take the league more seriously when the crowds get bigger and the games get better.

The MLS expansion draft is on Friday. Here’s the players I’d be considering (if I were Toronto’s GM): Chicago’s: Nate Jacqua or Zach Thornton; Chivas: Tim Regan or John O’Brien; Colorado: Jovan Kirovski or Mike Petke; Columbus: Jon Busch or Sebastian Rozental; D.C. United: Jamil Walker (other possibles are Matias Donnet, Clyde Simms and Nick Rimando); Dallas: Roberto Mina, Bobby Rhine or Greg Vanney; Houston; Craig Waibel (possibly Adrian Serioux); Kansas City: Alex Zotinca (or GK Bo Oshonyi); L.A.: Cobi Jones, Paulo Nagamura or Kyle Martino; New England: Daniel Hernandez, Avery John, Joe Franchino or Jose Cancela; New York: Edson Buddle, Steve Jolley, Tony Meola or John Wolyniec; Real Salt Lake: Andy Williams, Jason Kreis, Douglas Sequiera or Scott Garlick.

There isn’t a lot of young talent on that list. I’d expect Jacqua, Kirovski, Busch, Walker, Waibel, Zotinca, Nagamura, Hernandez, Buddle, and Kreis to get the nod. But, surprises are always possible.

As I look at it, my list is heavy on strikers – but scoring is at a premium, and Jacqua, Kreis and Buddle are at the top of the list. Toronto could go for a more established goalie, but Busch has the biggest upside. On the back line they could put Waibel with Zotinca, and rely on Walker, Nagamura and Hernandez to carry the load through the midfield. Then Kirovski seems like a luxury at forward, and Toronto might prefer an unguided missile on defense like Mike Petke – or one of the Dallas defenders. Toronto just might take a chance on the health and willingness of John O’Brien to play north of the border. If he were healthy, he wouldn’t be available, but he is the best player on the list.

Friday is the day. Toronto gets ten picks, and cannot take two from any single team.

Finally, a big soccer game tonight at College Park. Maryland takes on St. John’s in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Div. 1 Tournament. I have to choose between that, and a John Edwards book signing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Baseball Blog - Warm Stove Edition: Seems the New York Yankees aren't the only team with lots of money to throw around. ESPN is reporting that the Boston Red Sox are the completely insanely profligate winners of the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations bidding sweepstakes. If a negotiations bidding sweepstakes sounds ridiculous, so was the Red Sox bid. They bid $42 million (The New York Times reports the bid was $45 million) for the right to negotiate with the right-handed Japanese pitcher. That's twice what the Yankees reportedly bid. Presumably, the Seibu Lions will accept the bid, and allow the Red Sox a month to ink a deal with Matsuzaka. Otherwise, his rights revert back to the Lions. The official announcement will be made Tuesday.

This is the same process that led to the Mariners signing Ichiro Suzuki. Rumors have it that the Mariners have never paid the full bidding price in the Ichiro sweepstakes -- that there was a prior agreement with the Japanese team that owned Ichiro's rights to allow the Mariners to pull a fast one. MLB has said it will scrutinize this transaction to make sure it's on the up-and-up. There is speculation that the Red Sox made the bid to keep Matuzaka out of the Yankees hands -- that they do not expect to actually sign him. MLB has also said there would be consequences if such a tactic was employed. They're expecting the Red Sox to negotiate in good faith.

According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, the bid does make sense for the Sox. Gammons says scouts that have seen Matsuzaka pitch believe "he's a top of the rotation-quality pitcher who would improve the Red Sox staff." Futhermore, if Boston GM Theo Epstein can sign Matsuzaka, "it would effectively plant a Red Sox flag in the growing Far East market." To be sure, signing Matsuzaka would give the Red Sox a real foot in the door of Asian baseball, giving the team a significantly enhanced profile there. The Red Sox want a slice of the "marketing revenues from the Japanese market." Matsuzaka would give them that.

True, the Red Sox have blocked the Yankees from getting their "evil empire" mitts on Matsuzaka, by ensuring they won the blind auction with an outrageously high bid. But Gammons thinks the Red Sox have more serious revenge on their minds. By signing Matsuzaka, "they would gain the same kind of advantage the Yankees gained when they signed Johnny Damon away from Boston. "

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tom Coughlin Must Go! Like a doctor, a football coach's first rule should be to do no harm. Tom Coughlin did serious harm to the New York Giants tonight. The Giants were still very much in the game, trailing the Chicago Bears by four points, early in the fourth quarter. With a third and 15 at the 35-yard line, the smart move was to try and get 7-10 yards with a short pass or draw play. It's harder to throw downfield, and if they could get at least 8 yards, that would set up a makeable field goal on a miserably rainy night in New Jersey. Instead, the play call was to throw down field, and the pass was incomplete. I'm not sure whose bad judgment to fault -- Coughlin's, the offensive coordinator's, or the quarterback's, Eli Manning.

The next decision, though was Coughlin's -- and it was just plain stupid. The Giants went for a field goal, a 52-yard attempt. Jay Feeley's attempt came up way short. The Bears return man, Hester, caught the ball 8 yards deep in the end zone, and deked the Giants into believing he was not going to try and return the kick. Then, Hester took off down the sideline, and turned the play into the longest in NFL history. The game wasn't quite over yet, but after Manning was intercepted on the next series, it was.

Coughlin, after the game, acknowledged that a return is a risk, because the coverage team on a field goal isn't that good. Indeed, the players are selected to block the defense -- they're not speed and tackling people. Coughlin copped to the responsibility for the decision to try the field goal, but he didn't admit to the sheer stupidity of the decision.

There has been a lot of grumbling in the locker room about Coughlin, ever since the playoff disaster last year, when Jeremy Shockey said he team was "outcoached." There has been an expectation that Coughlin will be shown the door after this season. With the Giants on a roll all that early season talk has been forgotten. It shouldn't be.

The Giants will probably make the playoffs, but they have the wrong man at the helm. Because the Giants sit on top of their division, it's almost inconceivable that Coughlin would be let go in midstream. Still, I think the possibility should be considered. If nothing else, management should begin evaluating possible replacements.

LaDanian Tomlinson update: 4 TDs for L.T. today. He's really good. I wrote last month that Barber is the best back in the N.F.L. this year. That might have been hasty hype -- an overreaction to the news that Tiki Barber plans on retiring. Barber is awesome, probably the greatest offensive player the Giants have had. Tomlinson, though, is just a cut above -- one of the best offensive players in league history.
MLS Wrap Up: the MLS Cup Final - I wasn't too far off, predicting the Houston Dynamo would be a 2-1 winner. The Dynamo nearly lost this one, falling behind 1-0 on a Taylor Twellman overtime goal, set up by a fantastic powerful run and pass by MLS playoffs revelation, Khano Smith. The Dynamo struck back, though, less than a minute later, as Brian Ching got his head on the end of a nice cross, and beat the New England Revolution keeper, Matt Reis.

Going into the penalty kicks (the first time the MLS Cup was to be decided by a shootout), one had to think the Revs had the advantage, with the long-armed Reis in goal. But, a miss by Pat Noonan left the Revolution on the brink. Down 4-3, Jay Heaps stepped to the penalty spot, trying to keep the Revs' hopes alive. Heaps struck the ball terribly and indecisively -- with no power and very much within Pat Onstad's reach -- and the championship belonged to Houston...the third title for the franchise, but a first for Houston, as the franchise was in its first year there.

So, the Revolution are starting to look like the Minnesota Vikings of the MLS. They've been to the MLS Cup Final dance three times and come out the loser each time. On a more positive note, the Denver Broncos used to be a latter-day version of the Vikings, having lost four Super Bowls, as well. But, the Broncos did break through, before John Elway retired, winning a couple of championships.

The Revolution might have to retool a bit, if they want to get back to this position. There's a good chance that two of their best players, Shalrie Joseph and Clint Dempsey, will make the jump to Europe. On the other hand, it seems the Revs have a replacement ready for Joseph, in super-sub Khano Smith. The Revolution substitute is very big and very fast -- for his effort, Smith should get most of the credit for Twellman's go-ahead goal. Smith had a similar run late against United, and just missed scoring on that play, with his powerful drive just over the crossbar.

Ching gets the big goal in this game, and he gets the Goal of the Year award, for his game-winning bicycle shot against D.C United. I wrote that night that Ching's goal was arguably the finest in league history, so I can't quibble with the selection. I voted for Christian Gomez' effort in week 11, because he had to beat several defenders, while Ching was strangely unmarked when he struck his award-winner.

On other matters, I was very pleased by the half-time interview with MLS Commissioner Don Garber. With the questions and Garber's answers, it was clear that the MLS will make it a high priority to place a team in New York City, as soon as 2010. I've already written that I think this the direction the league needs to go in -- in fact, I asked about this possibility in an email online chat with the Commissioner earlier in the week.

Having two teams in the New York region will be good for each team. Ultimately, it will help the league, as it will increase the visibility in New York, and double the chances of a championship for a New York-area team. The history of the NASL shows the value of a winner in New York. The difference will be in the MLS' ability to sustain the interest that might generate.

Along those lines, the MLS has announced that each team will be allowed to sign one star player without impacting the salary cap. Having the money for one top, international-level player isn't ideal, but it is better than none. It means that the league could attract stars like David Beckham, who are interested in playing in America, but need to see the money. It might also be helpful in enticing some aging Americans, like Brian McBride to return to our shores while they still have some productive years ahead of them. It's a good start, and the decision to crack open the pocketbook is a welcome signal that the MLS is more confident in the future economic health of the league.

That leaves a few questions for the off-season: What to do about the Kansas City Wizards? Who will coach D.C. United? Will Freddy Adu return for a full season? And, who will MLS be able to attract with the salary cap exception slots? Someone needs to start the ball rolling? Will it be Becks? Maybe Zidane? Ahhhh -- the speculation will be half the fun.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nationals will name new skipper -- Manny Acta. The Washington Post has confirmed the prediction I made six weeks ago, that the Mets' first base coach, Manny Acta, will be their new manager. Acta got high praise for his job managing the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year. The Mets' manager, Willie Randolph, has been hyping Acta's potential as a major league manager. Though the Nationals were rejected by their first couple of choices, Acta is probably the right choice.

As a Dominican, Acta might be more popular still in New York, but hiring Acta will go some way towards repairing any ill-feeling in the minority community over the dismissal of Frank Robinson, the Nats' previous manager. Acta also was a former member of Robinson's staff when the team was still in Montreal. This gives him some familiarity with several of the Nats' top players. In addition, although he is only 37, Acta has a fair amount of managerial experience already, both in the D.R. and in the Houston Astros' farm system, before he joined the Expos' staff.

Hiring Acta does raise one interesting question, though. I wonder if this means that the Nationals are conceding in the Alfonso Soriano sweepstakes. Apparently, Soriano is seeking a contract in the range of Carlos' Beltran's mega-blockbuster deal with the Mets two years ago. Given the results that Beltran had in his first year, I think that contract is not viewed favorably anywhere in baseball. Ditto for Alex Rodriguez' even bigger deal. Soriano will have to be more realistic about the market this year.

What does any of this have to do with Manny Acta? Well, Acta was Soriano's manager during the W.B.C. During the first games of the tournament, Soriano played badly in the field, at second base, and did not hit either. Acta benched him fairly quickly, in favor of Placido Polanco. If Soriano bears any ill will towards Acta over that very public rebuke, he may be thinking of crossing the Nationals off his list.

The Post's story is at:
How I Won the Election -- in Virginia: I was pretty terrified of a George Allen Presidential campaign. It's why I dedicated a good part of my blogging over the summer to the then basically unreported story of Allen's denial of his Jewish ancestry, and apparent antisemitism. I'll give Webb the credit for the 8,000 vote difference, but excuse me if I feel a little of personal pride every time I think of "Senator Webb." I've also really grown to really respect and admire Jim Webb. Hell be a damn fine Senator. And a Vice-President Webb wouldn't be such a bad thing, either.

This was an unusual campaign for me. I usually get much more involved on the ground. This time, I worked in different ways -- lots of letter writing and I was blogging a lot -- but it may have been the biggest contributions I've made. I can't prove it -- at least not without asking one reporter why she asked a certain question -- but I feel like a played a part in helping George Allen beat himself. On the other hand, I couldn't help Andrew Hurst get elected to Congress. I still think if the Democratic Party had given him some money at the right moment, it could have made a huge difference.

When one considers the war chests that the Presidential candidates have, the notion that some candidates might have had a real shot of winning if they'd gotten some monetary support -- well, it's very disappointing. Hillary Clinton held on to millions -- although she gave $2.6 million to fellow Democrats, she held on to much more, and spent an absurd sum on a race that was in the bag. John Kerry held on to a large sum, as well -- for a Presidential run that probably went up in smoke during the final days of the '06 campaign. I understand that they do campaign hard for the money they raise, and Sen. Clinton may believe she was quite generous. Still, Kerry and Clinton both lost friends in the blog set for not being more generous.

Senator Clinton will be the front-runner as the primary season begins in a little more than year. I, for one, am anxious to see how well she does at making the case for her Presidency. I haven't made up my mind which candidate I expect to support in the primaries, but I promise to get much more involved on the ground.
Why There Needs to be a New Vote in Florida -- My earlier post elicited comments from one reader (on DailyKos), disagreeing with me, saying basically that one has to respect the vote total and work for electoral reform in the future. Here's my response :

I'd been having this argument with another DKer in context of the Virginia race -- our discussion started when Allen was still ahead in the count. The question was what to do if evidence pointed to the Allen campaign -- maybe Allen himself -- in efforts to supress the vote -- perhaps criminal efforts (the calls threatening voters with arrest, for example).

I argued the other side -- that all we have is the vote -- we can't engage in conjecture as to how the election might have been different without those dirty tricks. No way to know how people might have voted, had they come out to vote -- or maybe, witness Maryland, how they might have voted if they weren't duped by phony endorsement flyers. Presumably hardly anyone fell for those flyers, but hypothetically they could have.

In those cases, I made the point that we would be stuck with the actual vote. Because there is no reason to believe those votes were cast as recorded -- deliberately and knowingly (even if ignorantly) -- and no way to know how some hypothetical voter might have voted -- the vote needs to be respected. At least, the vote should be certified. If the wrongdoing were truly egregious, the elected person could be driven from office -- by expulsion or impeachment. But, that would be different than invalidating the vote.

The situation in Florida calls for a different response. The vote totals are not accurate. It's ridiculous to suggest they are. It would be a terrible precedent to knowingly certify an inaccurate total. In this respect, it's in some ways worse than 2000. The question in 2000 was could you look at ballots and find other votes that might change the result? Here there is no way to do that -- no way to come up with an accurate result. Given the closeness of the race, and the probability (basically 50-50, because the race is so close) that the wrong person is leading, the only logical response is to invalidate the result.

To do otherwise would be to say it's OK to rig an election. I'm not saying THIS election was rigged. I doubt the undercount is due to deliberate malicious code. But, if you certify this vote, you must certify them all.

Will the voter base be different in a second vote? Of course. If nothing else, it will be an expression of people interested in the one race -- not people who came out to vote for governor or senator, and then voted on down the line. That isn't the worst thing -- but that wouldn't be the point of a new election. The idea would be to produce a result that one could be confident reflected the will of all those who turned out to cast their ballots, on that day. Can you ask for more out of an election?

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Recount in Florida? Where have I heard that before?!? I’m not alone in being greatly concerned by the reported results in the race for Katherine Harris’ congressional seat (oh, the irony) – the 13th district in Florida. A recount is in the offing, but there is a much larger issue presented. According to press reports, there was a huge undervote or undercount in Sarasota County, which used the ATM-like touch screen electronic vote machines (I’m assuming Diebold – but not alleging deliberate shenanigans here). In that county, 13% of the votes cast registered no vote in the hotly contested Congressional race. That translates into over 18,000 ballots, out of over 140,000, that contain no vote in the FL-13 race.

None of the other counties saw anything like that level of undervoting. For example, DeSoto County estimated an undervote of 1% for the 13th C.D. Common Cause notes that Manatee County reported a 2% undervote. Manatee County used fill-in-the-blank optical scan machines. In fact, Sarasota uses an optical scan for the absentee ballots. Apparently, the absentee ballot voters were more interested in the race, as the County actually had a 14% undervote rate for the touch-screen machines. I fear that the recount will not yield the result we’d like (Christine Jennings, the Democrat, trails by 368 votes), nor will it be any more accurate. I would like to suggest a strategy for challenging the count.

The Miami Herald has reported on this matter, including interviews with one voter, who said that he and his wife had trouble with early voting, when they realized that their votes in the congressional race weren’t recorded. Apparently, the voter, Dr. Richard Malkin, was conscientiously reviewing his summary page, and noted the problem. He said his wife had the same problem, and so did another voter next to them. Malkin caught the problem before the ballot was cast, and he went back and corrected it. Still the undervote in the early voting was even higher than Election Day -- 18%. How many others thought they had indicated a vote preference in that race, but didn’t notice that no vote was recorded?

The County’s election supervisor, one Kathy Dent, denies there was some equipment failure. Instead, she suggests that the undervote might reflect disenchantment with a dirty campaign. Academics pooh-pooh that suggestion, because the size of the undervote almost certainly does point to an equipment issue.

One possible explanation offered for the undervotes was a confusing ballot layout -- Can anyone say "Butterfly-Ballot?" According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, some voters claimed to have trouble finding the race on their electronic ballot -- this seems absolutely incredible to me. In Maryland, the ballot is arranged one screen after another. It would be difficult to design that in such a way that a race was hard to find, but apparently they managed this feat in Florida.

Common Cause is urging that there be a re-vote. I wonder who, or what body, if any, would have the authority to order such a re-vote? I also don’t know the mechanism by which votes are recorded. Is there simply a vote total, or is it possible to determine by looking at the machine, which ballots contain an undervote? If it is possible to learn that, I would suggest that the Democratic legal team interview some of these voters to find out whether they did intend an undervote. Affidavits could be compelling evidence of a problem with the machines. Even if that’s not possible, I’d like to suggest that a random survey be conducted to find out if there were significant numbers of deliberate undervotes. The results of such a survey could be almost as compelling as actual voters’ sworn statements contradicting machine records of those voters’ votes.

There were large undercounts throughout Sarasota County, no doubt affecting the vote totals of both candidates. In fact, it appears that Jennings' campaign may have been more affected, since the undervote percentages are reportedly lower in precincts that were carried by the Republican candidate for Governor, Charlie Crist. However, I see the reason for challenging the vote as being something larger than the question of which candidate may have benefited by equipment failures. That was the strategic mistake Gore made in 2000, challenging the vote totals only in districts he thought would be most likely to favor him.

It seems clear that the recorded vote totals do not reflect the will of the electorate -- that some voters were disenfranchised. More votes were recorded in the race for the hospital board in Sarasota than for the congressional race. It defies credibility to believe that more voters tried to cast votes for the board -- more than for their representative in Congress. As such, the overall result cannot be trusted. A belief in democracy, and the primacy of the ballot, impels a reconsideration of this race. As A Democrat, I can hope that the recount will somehow yield the 370 votes Jennings needs. But, I suggest that the Democratic Party pursue a strategy to challenge the validity of the vote in Sarasota County.

So, while I write, in part, to bring more attention to this race, my primary purpose is to suggest a strategy for challenging the result. On the DailyKos, one Florida Dem has already put out a call here on the DKos, to raise money for the recount effort. I suggest that concerned individuals urge the Florida Democratic Party to push for a new election. It wouldn't hurt to urge the same of the Republican Party, but they won't agree, since the Republican leads the current count. In the age of the computerized voting machine, this could be an enormously important precedent. How we confront or ignore the issue may influence how elections are conducted and checked for years to come.

You can find the Miami Herald story here:
The Sarasota Herald Tribune story is here:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Adieu, Adu? Here in the D.C. area, there's a traffic nightmare, with so many incidents of Republicans being thrown under buses. There's a story that may get overlooked with all the attention being paid to the Democratic wave sweeping across this country. The Washington Post is reporting that Freddy Adu has been granted permission to begin a two-week training stint with Manchester United, ten days from now.

Adu cannot sign to play with an English side before his 18th birthday on June 18th. Freddy is under contract with MLS for next season, and the league holds options on his services for the next two seasons after that. No doubt, the league will transfer Adu in exchange for millions. I'm expecting that Adu may play with United all of next season, but talks are already underway to arrange his transfer. It may be that Adu will not return next season, or will leave in mid-season. For his part, Freddy is committed to going abroad, but would like to be back with United next year.

Who will replace Adu in the league's hype machine? I've already covered that territory -- Jozy Altidore of the New York Red Bulls -- except that Altidore is the real deal. Adu is a very talented player who still needs to develop his decision-making skills and continue to develop his game skills. Altidore is even younger than Adu, and certainly he has much to learn, but he's already producing results.

On the coaching scene, FC Dallas fired its coach, claiming the team has underachieved, and needs a change to get to the next level. In contrast, United's management has expressed a desire to have Peter Nowak return as coach next year. Nowak has not ruled out a return to United, but is said to be seeking out opportunities in Europe. The ball, apparently, is in his court.

Other Soccer Tidbits: The New York Times has a piece on the palace revolt in the Canadian Soccer Association -- the problems that Canada has encountered in putting forth a strong men's team, leading to the firing of the man who has run the C.S.A. for over 20 years. Canada has some talented players. The national team lost Owen Hargreaves to England, but there are still eligible Canadians in the E.P.L., the Bundesliga and other top European leagues. In the M.L.S., Houston Dynamo's DeWayne DeRosario is likely to make the leap across the pond in the off-season. Probably the best player in the MLS, DeRosario's prodigious talents are too big to stay on our little league. Canada should be able to field a competitive national team. Here's hoping the Canadian program starts moving in that direction soon.
LANDSLIDE!!! Let the record be clear on this point -- I first used the word "landslide" on the Daily Kos, at 7:27. CNN was dissecting the exit polls -- discussing the top four issues. Of those four majors (corruption, the Iraq war, terrorism, and the economy) -- three broke in favor of the Democrats, in terms of influencing how people voted. Even those voters that identified the fourth issue -- terrorism -- as the most important for them, almost as many voted for Democrats, as Republicans.

Looking at those exit poll breakdowns, it seemed to me that they boded very well for the Democrats -- and suggested a possible landslide. Was I the first to use the word to predict the result? Who cares? I was right, though...

There aren't that many races that can be competititve these days, with gerrymandered incumbency. The Democrats won nearly all of them -- and added a few others that only became competitive because of Republican scandals. By current measures, this election has to be considered a nationwide landslide.
Movin' to Montana soon. Gonna be a dental floss tycoon. Election Update -- Claire McCaskill projected now to beat Jim Talent in Missouri. Thank you Missourians! Assuming Webb's lead holds up, it's on Montana now. If Tester wins tonight, Democrats will get control of the Senate. This is very important, especially since Justice Stevens is 84. I know that Stevens will stay on the Court, if healthy, until a Democrat can be elected President in '08. In the meantime, Democratic control of the Senate can be a firewall against Republicans adding another right-wing ideologue to the Supreme Court. Those of us who understand just how important the Supreme Court can be, have tried to make the case during the last several elections that this should be the biggest concern in the election.

The President has the power to appoint, but the Senate's power of advice and consent is pretty meaningful when the Senate is controlled by the opposite party. Clinton chose two justices that were recommended to him by the Republican Orrin Hatch. If Democrats had been in control of the Senate last year, we would not have a Justice Alito or Chief Justice Roberts. The next President will likely have to choose replacements for Stevens and Ginsburg -- if not more. In choosing the next President, we need to be mindful that a Republican President would be able to shape the Court for a generation, at least. A Democratic President could restore the delicate balance that existed during Justice O'Connor's tenure. If you can think of no other reason for voting for the Democrat -- if the Party's '08 nominee turns out to be another boob like Kerry -- vote for the Democrat, anyway. The make-up of the Supreme Court will be that important.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Night could be a long week. Virginia may decide control of the Senate, but first, we have to decide who won in Virginia. It's been a confusing mess tonight, as media and official vote totals have differed. On the other hand, everyone except George Allen agrees that Webb is now leading the vote count. And the votes that still need to be counted should favor Webb. In Maryland, the Republican candidates for Governor and Senate refuse to concede, but it looks like two lackluster Democratic campaigns will still finish on top. This could turn out to a great night for Democrats, and a great night for the country.

I'm going to leave the politics to others, at least for now -- because there's a legal question being raised that I can speak to with some authority. I wrote last week about a potential constitutional and electoral crisis in Maryland over the qualifications of Doug Gansler to be the Attorney-General. I believe that Gov. Ehrlich could decide Gansler is not qualified. This would create a crisis as to whether Ehrlich or O'Malley has the right to appoint a replacement. To hear some tell it, a somewhat analogous situation may be afoot in Virginia, in light of the scandal surrounding George Allen's dirty campaign tactics.

I keep reading suggestions, on blog sites, that the Senate might refuse to seat George Allen, even if he ends up with more votes. I've even heard it suggested on local media, here in D.C., that the Senate could decide who to seat, based on the controversy over Allen's tactics. These are not accurate statements of the law, so I thought I should clear up the misunderstandings here.

The Constitution says that "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns, and Qualification of its own Members." But, that does not mean that each House has unlimited discretion to decide whether to seat elected would-be Members, or whether to invalidate an election result. The guiding precedent here is the case of Powell v. McCormack, in the Supreme Court, in 1969. Two years earlier, the House had voted by more than the constitutionally required two-thirds vote to exclude Adam Clayton Powell, the elected representative for Harlem, for fairly blatant corruption. Powell won a special election to fill his own vacancy, but still could not take his seat. He sued the leader of the Senate, and won in the Supreme Court -- finally taking his seat in June '69.

The Supreme Court studied the Constitution -- this was back in the day when the Court took its job of judging seriously, instead of casting purely political votes -- and concluded that the Constitution gave the House the power to judge election and the qualifications of its members, but that the standards were also supplied by the Constitution. If someone met the age requirement (25 years), the citizenship requirement (7 years) and the residence (state of election) requirement, the House could not refuse to seat the elected person.

In the current situation, based on the Powell precedent, if Allen were deemed the winner -- thankfully, he trails in the current vote count -- the Senate could not refuse to seat him. Comments on this site, and in the media that suggest otherwise are simply wrong. They Senate cannot vote to exclude an elected person, unless that person does not meet the minimum qualifications. Even a person under indictment would be entitled to take his or her seat in the chamber. The Senate would be required to respect the will of the electorate, even if it were assumed that the election was won through dirty tricks.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court, in Powell, made it clear it was not deciding on the House's power to expel a member. The Court refused to recharacterize the House vote as an expulsion. The Constitution does give, to each house of Congress, the power to "punish its Members for disorderly behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member."

If Allen's role in the voter suppression shenanigans were proved, it seems that the Senate could consider expelling him from the Senate. That could happen before the end of his term, this year. Or, if he does somehow win this night's election, he could be expelled after taking his seat in the new Congress, in January. It would, however, take a two-thirds vote to do that. To get enough Republicans to support that, the evidence against Allen would have to be compelling.
ELECTION DAY -- It really is the greatest day -- or at least it should be. It should be a celebration of democracy. Unfortunately, the media and the blogosphere are rife with stories that really give one pause to consider the health of our 'democracy.' There are tales of ballot machines that are malfunctioning and switching votes -- lending credence and substance to fears that some machines could be and would be be rigged. There is a frightening multitude of reports about a wide range of the most despicable dirty tricks. It seems the G.O.P. has reached deep into its bag and pulled out every dirty trick imaginable.

The dirty tricks include automated harassing phone calls ("robo-calls") designed to convince voters they are being badgered by Democratic candidates; duplicitous flyers, including the one that falsely implies endorsements of Michael Steele by certain Democratic African-Americans, who have not endorsed him; There are other voter suppression tactics -- often targeted at African-American households -- like calls in Virginia to registered Democrats suggesting they might be arrested if they vote (the transcript of one such call, recorded on an answering machine, is rapidly circulating through the net), or calls, purportedly from the Webb campaign, falsely telling voters their voting place has changed. Then, there is the manual handed to Republican poll-watchers, instructing them to challenge as many voters as possible -- challenge their right to vote. These are just the locally-reported 'repug-lican' tactics. These shenanigans are duplicated and expanded throughout the country.

We keep hearing about our sick political culture and the unbridgeable chasm between the parties in Congress. Is it any wonder the parties can't find a way to work together after the elections? This raging river of bad blood is fed by the tributaries of despicable, criminal behavior during the elections.

We need change in America. We need change in Government. We need change in the Republican Party, which has become a criminal operation aimed at little else beyond the perpetuation of its power, as well as the unlawful and grotesque enrichment of the powerfully connected.

The country needs a period of Democratic rule -- to right our ship of state; to implement the policies necessary to restore fiscal sanity to the budget and cut into our incredible, mounting debt; to jump-start our country's technology sector to address the climate crisis; to reestablish our nation's preeminent position of worldwide respect, grossly squandered by too many years of jingoistic sloganeering and unilateralism by Republicans; to reset the constitutional balance of power between the branches; to give meaning again to the separation of church and state, taking religion out of politics -- and politics out of religion; to, in a few words, make our politics responsive and responsible again...and, just maybe, honest, as well.

Some day, the Grand Old Party may really clean house. That will mean abandoning the party's contemptible, base pandering over the last 25 years on racial issues and tax policy, as well as the unilateral, xenophobic, jingoistic rhetoric that only serves to make Americans seem like ignorant, closed-minded buffoons, in the eyes of the rest of the world. Cleaning house will mean a new agenda that embraces the diversity of our nation -- on race, religion, language, and a host of other social issues that Republicans have used to divide and conquer.

The G.O.P. once could be proud of its history and its platform. That is no longer the case. Their leaders preach policies and morality they do not believe in or practice at home. They have become a party of cynicism, hypocrisy and duplicity...and bankrupt policies. They may hope to continue to pull the wool over the eyes of a large segment of society -- and so maintain the control they prize above all else. But, they have been exposed now for all the world to see. The Emperor stands naked, and most Americans will no longer pretend otherwise.

Republicans need to ask themselves serious questions about what kind of country they really want...and they need to transform into a party that is truly interested in the public good. Until they do that, they have no moral right to ask Americans to vote for them. A few years ago, Democrats were accused of being a regional party, instead of a national party. The truth is that the nation is ready to vote for Democrats. The Democrats are the party with a "50-state strategy." It is the G.O.P that has become a regional party. Their brand of ultra-conservatism has made them persona non grata in the Northeast. That should be a signal of the need to radically transform the party.

Democrats are just now emerging from their own period of soul-searching and reinvention. They are forging a strong, new and broad coalition, as they develop a consensus on a range of issues. They are once again discovering their voice, their purpose and their message. The Democrats may or may not take back control of the Congress with today's vote. More importantly, the country will be taking a huge, transformational step. That step will stretch into a full journey, in two years, when the Democrats elect the next President, who will work with a progressive majority in both houses to move our country back in the right -- forward -- direction.

It's Election Day -- the greatest day. We can take back control of our government from the robber-barons and the grossly incompetent -- without having battles in the streets. We don't have car bombs, but we do have dirty tricks. This is serious business, but elections can be fought honorably and honestly. We can do democracy better than we do today. And we can surely do policy better than we have over the past six years. Vote for change -- vote for Democrats.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

DC United Footnote -- (This is my fourth soccer post today -- check 'em all out) I wrote earlier tonight that I believe that United will probably replace Peter Nowak as their head coach. I have no insight into who United might hire in Nowak's stead. However, if they do replace Nowak, history suggests that would be a good sign for United, next year. United has had three coaches in the franchise's 11-year history. Each coach led the squad to an MLS Cup championship in his first season as the team's coach. So, a new coach next year...and another MLS title?
A prediction for the MLS final: But, first, an important matter. I have four tickets to the MLS championship game (near midfield), and I am entertaining offers for them...They will go up for sale on ebay tomorrow, but I'll consider reasonable offers before then....Any Dynamo or Revolution fans interested in good seats? As always -- the email is

Now, on to my prediction: With no great insight on my part, I will offer an early prediction that the Houston Dynamo will subdue the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup final, next Sunday in Frisco, Texas. The Revs have the edge in goal, but the Dynamo looks the more dangerous side on offense -- especially with Clint Dempsey on the mend. Houston has history on its side. The franchise, playing as the San Jose Earthquakes, has won the MLS Cup in its two previous appearances in the Cup final. The Revs have come up a goal short in both of the team's prior appearances in the MLS Cup final. I think the pattern will continue: Dynamo wins 2-1.
Alas, poor Nowak. We knew him too well. Perhaps it's just the usual bellyaching that comes when the air is still ripe with the disappointment of a home playoff loss, but I think D.C. United may soon part ways with Coach Peter Nowak. United lost this afternoon, after Taylor Twellman scored four minutes into the game, to push his team, the New England Revolution, into the final. The rest of the game, especially for the next forty-four minutes, the Revs did little else beyond withstanding a furious United attack. Although they had a few near-misses, including some a pair of good shots in the second half, the Revs had only one shot on goal for the game. Yet, that one shot was enough for a 1-0 win, and a berth in the MLS Cup.

It seemed that United played the final forty minutes of the first half in the Revolution's defensive half of the field. The Revs' box was under constant assault. Yet, the United attack lacked any real creativity or understanding, and sorely missed a strong finishing touch. There were a few good chances, but only one or two shots that looked like they might produce a tying goal. Reis, New England's keeper, was generally up to the challenge, and when he was beaten, the Revs' defense was in the right position.

In fact, the most dangerous chance occurred at the other end of the field -- after an inopportune D.C. giveaway, Twellman, the Revolution striker, found himself wide open in the box. Twellman waited for the crossing pass, but missed badly with his shot, volleying his attempt high over the goal.

In truth, United was denied a perfect scoring opportunity late in the first half, when Jaime Moreno sprinted for a loose ball at the edge of the penalty box, and was brought down by a sliding Shalrie Joseph. The referee pointed to a spot outside the box, although from my vantage point (and apparently from the replays I viewed on an overhead screen), the foul occurred inside the box. The United faithful all agreed a penalty kick should have been awarded. As it turned out, this was probably the decisive moment of the game. Gomez' free kick hit the wall with no effect.

In the second half, the United attackers began to show their weariness. Freddy Adu had a nice individual effort early, that really tested Reis -- probably United's best shot of the half. Despite that fine shot, and a strong first half, Adu began to struggle to link up with his teammates. After failing to make a quick return pass that might have led a break down the wing, Adu was replaced by Matias Donnet. This seemed to signal an incomprehensible series of moves, as each of Coach Peter Nowak's substitutions seemed to leave United with a more defensive unit. When Alecko Eskandarian went down, and limped to the sidelines, he was replaced by the large, but very unpolished Rod Dyachenko.

The final straw was replacing Christian Gomez, who had not had a great game, but was still the United player most likely to tally the desperately needed tying goal. Gomez left for Clyde Simms. After the game, I met up with a neighbor who agreed with me that Jamil Walker would have been a better move at that stage of the game. But Walker wasn't even warming up, when the signal went to Simms to remove his yellow pinny, and enter the contest. It seemed that United's much-hyped depth had disappeared.

Substituting Simms for Gomez was probably Nowak's final move as United's coach. His contract is up, and I think his coaching effort will not stand up to close scrutiny. United should have done better. It's hard to be critical of a coach or team, when that team has more points than any other, and gets to the Conference final. And yet, in retrospect, despite all the team accomplished, this was a disappointing season for United.

As good as this United team was through the All-Star break, they were only an average squad since. They were routed by the Chicago Fire, in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup tournament. Though they defeated the Red Bulls in the opening round of the playoffs, they were outplayed in each game. It was the brilliance of Christian Gomez that saved United in each game. Yet, at the end this afternoon, Gomez watched the final minutes from the bench.

Next year will be a big year for United. They will probably have Freddy Adu for one more season , and Jaime Moreno probably has one more great season left in his unequaled MLS career. In addition to the MLS and Open Cup, United are qualified for the intercontinental club Champions League. United can bring honor to its proud tradition with stronger performances in the tournaments, and the MLS playoffs.

The problem today clearly was on the field. Though United controlled the play out of sheer force of will, the players seemed to have little idea how to work together to create truly dangerous chances. It seems to me, when that's the biggest problem, one needs to take a long, hard look at the coaching. I fear that, in order to get more out of a still very talented squad (and to get the most out of the still developing Freddy Adu), United needs a change at the top. I intend no disrespect for all that Nowak has accomplished with United, but United may need a new coach to get back to winning championships.
EPL Action! If you want to show someone what soccer (world football) can be, sit them around your TV when FSC rebroadcasts today's Chelsea-Tottenham tilt. This was as as finely played and exciting game as you'll ever see -- The first half was especially well played, full of end-to-end excitement. Don't skip the second half, though, because that half had fine plays and as good a goal as you'll see.

The first half had one of the most extraordinary defensive plays I've seen -- even though it wasn't in a World Cup, like Kristine Lilly's header off the line in 1999, or Chelsea's (and new England) captain John Terry's clearance kick in this past summer's World Cup (if memory serves, against Trinidad). Those memorable defensive plays were on my mind when I saw the play that Ledley King made to strip the ball from Arjen Robben on a breakaway. Sure, Robben held the ball too long without shooting, but he fairly believed there was no chance of a defender interfering. King's play was spectacularly well-timed, showing speed, athleticism and skill that few other defenders possess. For those unfamilar with King, that's because a foot injury kept him off the English side for the World Cup. Though they were on opposite sides today, King and Terry will anchor a formidable defense for England for years to come.

The goals in this game were all brilliant, and so were the near misses. As you watched this game unfold, it was obvious you were witnessing a classic. If you don't want to know who won -- then skip over the next two paragraphs:

Chelsea had dominated Tottenham for years. Spurs hadn't won a match between them since 1990. And things didn't look good for the home side early today, either. Right after Ledley King's soon-to-be famous stop on Robben, the Chelsea blues scored off the corner kick. Defender Claude Makelele scored his first EPL goal with a well-struck twisting volley that found the corner of the net. But Michael Dawson's deftly directed header off a free kick found the corner of the net as well to tie the match. Aaron Lennon put on dazzling dribbling display and crossed to Robbie Keane, who should have finished off a glorous goal -- one that would have been replayed over-and-over again. Keane, though, headed the ball just over the crossbar, as the flat-footed Chelsea keeper breathed a sigh of relief. Didier Drogba just missed a tremendous scissor kick attempt, and the teams went to half notted at 1-1.

In the second half, Keane made up for his blunder with an really brilliant bit of dribbling skill, before crossing to Lennon, who finished the play by driving the ball into the far corner of the goal. Chelsea wasn't done, though -- not with their line-up. I'm no big fan of Robben, because of his generally selfish and misguided play, but Robben showed his ability when he hit the post on a shot over the defense, from a position that few strikers would have thought they had a chance to score. In the end, Tottenham held on for a great win in a game that Spurs fans will talk about for years to come. What an advertisement for the sport! To be sure, few games are this exciting, but this game would have impressed even the most anti-soccer cynic.

Now, I'm off to RFK to watch D.C United take on the New England Revolution. Two years ago, these two sides played the most memorable playoff game in MLS history. I'm not expecting a repeat of that excitement, or anything close to the level of play I saw on FSC today, but wouldn't it be wonderful, if I did? The crowd will be up for it. D.C United! D.C. United!