Monday, July 14, 2014

Stale soccer jokes and other Monday musings

There's an old joke about no longer having to pretend you like soccer after the World Cup is over, and it's a gag that fails to stand the test of time.  Passion for the world's most popular sport has become mainstream in North America.  Youth soccer participation has been booming for at least a generation, but the real force at work is technology.  Massive internet media coverage and easy access to televised games around the globe have given rise to enormous interest in professional European league play, and well-run MLS franchises like the Impact feed a growing appetite for elite-level soccer at the local level.  Not everyone has the bug and you don't have to jump on the bandwagon, but to say that soccer is still a marginal sport on this side of the Atlantic only betrays an ignorance of the modern North American cultural landscape.

The Canadiens don't have much offensive help on the farm in Hamilton, but it might not be long in coming. Jakob de la Rose, Nikita Scherbak and Charles Hudon drew rave reviews at the Habs' summer development camp in Brossard last week, and even 2013 first round draft choice Michael McCarron appeared to be in bounceback mode after a disappointing rookie season with the OHL's London Knights.  If even two of those four meet their top end potential, it'll give the Canadiens some big-time added upside at around the time the team's current core are moving into their prime playing years.

If legends are measured by longevity and championships, Jim Popp is in elite company.  In signing a three year contract extension with the Alouettes, Popp has surpassed the tenures of the Canadiens two longest-serving general managers, Frank Selke and Sam Pollock, and while he can't match them victory parade for victory parade - Selke and Pollock won a combined 15 Stanley Cups in Montreal - three Grey Cup rings put Popp's championship credentials beyond dispute.  His contract extension is welcome, warranted, and well-earned.

Argentina's World Cup semifinal win over the Netherlands on penalty kicks triggered the obligatory hand-wringing over shootouts being a terrible way to decide an important match and why they don't play it out until someone scores.  I'll tell you why: because they might still be playing.  If two teams can't score a goal in two hours, what's to say they won't need another two hours - or two days or two weeks?  Ain't nobody got time for that. 

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