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Grab Bag: Home Field, ESPN, Erikkson, Scousing

A glut of compelling stories recently on the cultural side of culture (side rant: most of these are written by real newspaper writers and posted online. Support your local paper into the 21st century- read them on the web and look at their sponsors!)

One of several recent compelling articles on the sport from the New York Times: Daniel Altman's look at why home field advantage is such a factor in soccer- maybe more than in any other sport. I believe it comes down to one thing: passionate fans, especially in Europe and South America. That's why I think the best parallel here in the US is in college sports.

The other thing to note in that article are the cool names of the European stadiums- Camp Nou (FC Barcelona) and Craven Cottage (Fulham of the English Premier League) being two great examples.

Right: Craven Cottage. For more on the old grounds click here.

Here's an informative NY Times story (Jack Bell) on ESPN's increasing commitment to soccer and US soccer. The network will cover 12 US Men's team matches in 2008 and paid $100M for 2010 and 2014 World Cup rights. Personally I love it when I'm watching Sportscenter and they chime in with a quick ESPN Deportes clip- usually 30 seconds of international soccer highlights.

FC Barcelona (headed by Joan Laporta) is throwing its hat into the ring, along with several other South Florida investors and entities (like Florida International U.), for one of the two Major League Soccer franchises to be awarded shortly. While I have secretly hoped that Phoenix Suns' point guard Steve Nash's bid for a Vancouver club would be one of the winners (I just think the crossover appeal of a basketball personality is a nice story), overall I'd say its a great sign that a Spanish Liga powerhouse wants to have an MLS club.

One last from the Times: a story by Billy Witz about Sven-Goran Erikkson, the new Mexican national coach, adapting to a new country (after coaching the English nationals), a new language and a new culture. Often overlooked in this sport is the basic element of throwing players and coaches of all nations and languages into one uniform and expecting communication to be seamless. In the US we tend to have American coaches coaching American players, but the rest of the world has long since adapted to the idea that soccer itself can be the unifying language.

And finally, a deep look at the more colorful side of the language of soccer, by Steven Wells of the UK Guardian. Its a blog post about whether Liverpool fans invented - or stole from Brazil - their infamous stadium chants, and specifically the idea of putting insulting new lyrics to a classic tune and aiming it at the opposition, in the timeless tradition of foul-mouthed fandom.

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