The Harangue-Man’s Noose – Episode I

27 05 2014

Up until now, I haven’t really used this forum for a good rant. This felt so good that I might make it a regular feature of the blog. So… Here are a couple of soccer-related pieces about two coaches… rants that have been screaming to get out of my head!!

hackworth-john0623_7698 On Hackworth – I’m a diehard Philadelphia Union supporter, and now fully on board the “SackHack” bandwagon. At a time of the season when teams are starting to gel, it’s clear that this team is going backward. After close to twenty matches (pre and regular season), our boys suffer from a stunning lack of team cohesion, consistency and confidence on set plays. The only answer John Hackworth seems to have is a weekly turnover of the match day lineup, leaving the players and fans frustrated.

I’m sure Hack is a good soccer man. And he is probably a fantastic assistant coach. I think he did a great job bringing in new talent like Maidana, Nogueira and Edu this past off-season. So it is difficult to fathom how the performance has taken such a leap backward this year. It’s time for a coaching change, and I’m sure it is coming soon. It’s a hazard of the job, and success or failure is measured by wins and points.

But this rant is not directed at the coach, the front office or the players… it’s directed at my fellow supporters. Not all, but some.

Let’s stop with hate. If you read some of the comments on blogs and social media, you would think Hackworth was the mastermind behind the crash of Malaysia 370. Like all of us, he is a just a guy doing a job. And I’m sure he is doing the best he can. But there are no lives at stake… he is not a surgeon or a soldier. Its sports, people. Professional or not, everyone needs to relax and get some perspective.

One day in the next couple of weeks, John Hackworth is going to go home to his family and tell them he is out of work… the same family we welcomed and cheered when they came to the Sons of Ben tailgate in DC. I have been fortunate enough to meet Hack a couple of times and he seems like a great person. So I will not be joyous when the inevitable happens.

I know from experience that it sucks to lose your job, as I’m sure a lot of us do. So let’s lighten up, and stop being assholes. Coaching is a lot easier in the cheap seats.

klinsmann-blog-e1400015378410On Klinsmann– We have seen it over and over and over in sports. A management or personnel decision leads to the behavior of a petulant child. In this case, that child is our national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann.

It’s clear to me (fat ass securely in my cheap seat) that not including Landon Donovan on this year’s World Cup team had nothing to do with a lack of form or fitness. Klinsmann made this decision a long time ago, in retribution for Donovan’s failure at Bayern Munich and for taking time off during the beginning of the qualifying cycle. He twisted the knife a little more by inviting him to the camp when he knew that Donovan was not going to be included in the final 23.

There is a logical argument against every BS reason he gave to cutting Donovan. Give credit to Donovan for being such a class act since the snub, always putting the team first. I don’t think Klinsmann expected such a backlash, so don’t be surprised if Donovan gets to Brazil because of an injury.

If he is on the team, Landon Donovan is the face of U. S. Soccer to everyone around the world. Klinsmann thinks this is his team, and he is putting his massive ego ahead of our national team.

This is our team… MY TEAM. Not yours, Jurgen. Like any coach, you’re a temp.

Soccer is one if my biggest passions. As with anything I write here, I welcome comments and spirited debate. 

Is There Anyone Up There?

15 05 2014

adam“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.” – Karl Marx

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about religion lately, and my pondering led me to this quote. I was not familiar with the full text beyond the famous “opium of the people” part. These two sentences contain the gist… while condemning religion and its control of the masses, I think Marx understood that faith provides solace in a cruel world.

I was raised in a strict Irish Catholic household… mass on Sundays and Holy Days, prayers before meals and bedtime, with a few family rosaries thrown in for good measure. Our house was festooned with all manner of religious articles – icon statues, scapulars on the bed posts, and crosses and crucifixes made of everything from wood to palms to Waterford Crystal. My favorites were relics – a piece of the bone of a particular saint that was either carried or worn. I still love the smell of incense in church, maybe because I fondly recall those days.

My friends growing up were either Catholic or “public” based on schools we attended. We never made a distinction between the various Protestant churches… what was the point? I only knew a few Jewish kids, but that was more of a neighborhood thing. We still joke about it today, but it was a real “us vs. them” thing going on. There was no hate, just that peaceful line silently drawn to distinguish something… I’m not sure what. Interestingly, I still know many areas of the city by parish boundaries. Lots of deeply ingrained stuff in this noggin.

My separation from the church has been gradual. I attended mass every week for years with my wife and family, then every other week when the boys transitioned from grade school to high school. Catholic schools, of course. The frequency lessened as the years went by. Now, I’ve missed mass on Christmas and Easter. Heathen spiral complete.

I could take the easy way out and say I’m disillusioned with my Church because of the unbalanced riches, or the priest predator cover-ups. I think many have used issues like that as excuses to sleep in on a Sunday morning. I’m a little guilty of this.

Lately, I’ve been to a bunch of funeral masses… too many. I’ve felt uneasy during the service because there have been changes that I didn’t know about. It is all so unfamiliar. I observe the devout in church, and while I’ve always admired the faith they exude… I am detached.  Nevertheless, I recited the prayers and went to communion.

But… I am a lapsed Catholic.

“Do you believe in God, Mr. Langan?” The echoing voice. Crap… That is the question, right? When asked before I have always responded in the affirmative. I say now that I am an agnostic. To be specific, I don’t think I believe in a higher deity but I’d love someone to prove that existence to me.

I don’t have the brain power to make a cohesive point in the debate about the existence of God, or a god. Or science versus religion. Or politics versus Christian values. I watch and listen with great interest, trying to decide what is true and false, and what is free of agenda.

I’m weary of people espousing religious beliefs for personal gain. Politicians and pundits are preaching Christian values one minute, and then calling for death and destruction for our “enemies” the next. I hear it every day and see it on my social media feeds. Comedian John Fugelsang said it best, criticizing a congressman for cutting service for the poor and taxes for the rich – “But if you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t.” That makes more sense to me than the Bible.

Halloween0001Simply put, all any religion asks of you is to be a good person. Be kind and generous. Don’t hate. Try peace and love – like that handsome young man holding the sign. If you must have that weekly opiate fix to accomplish those goals, I’m all for it. I’m glad that the “heart in a heartless world” is there for the people who need it.

Is it contradictory to say that my Mom is looking down on me from heaven with shame? God, I hope not.  Maybe she’ll think I’m a hippie…

Peace and Love, my friends.

I wrote this post over a span of three weeks. These words reflect my thoughts today, May 15, 2014. The subject is never closed. It’s all very fluid, changing. And I continue to have more questions than answers. ~ JL