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More Goalkeeper Baloney
by Paul Gardner, April 21st, 2008 6:31AM

TAGS:  mls


I must confess: I did not know that MLS has a new ball. But I learned, during a Red Bulls telecast this weekend, that this seems to be the case. A new sideline reporter, Tina Cervasio, asked commentator Shep Messing what he thought of this new ball (which I have never heard of).

Now Shep Messing is anything but new around soccer circles. He was an adventurous goalkeeper with the Cosmos back in the 70s, and has now taken to TV commentating -- quite well, actually, except for that awful blemish: he used to be a goalkeeper. Once a goalkeeper, always a goalkeeper, I'm afraid. So when Ms Cervasio posed her (no doubt planted) question, all the very worst of goalkeeper stupidity came gushing out from Shep.


And believe me, goalkeepers can be quite amazingly stupid. Just listen to this exchange: Cervasio: These new balls, a lot of goalkeepers are complaining about them, they're lighter, they move around ... what do you think of them, Shep?

Shep Messing: I think it's absolutely ridiculous Tina -- why not make the goalkeepers play with one hand tied behind their backs, or take away their gloves ... the ball is livelier, it moves like a knuckle ball, it's a nightmare for goalkeepers. There followed two video clips: first, Columbus's Will Hesmer letting in a shot from the Red Bulls' Dave van den Bergh, to which Messing added the enlightening comment that Hesmer "has no idea where the ball is going"; second, the Red Bulls' own Jon Conway failing to control a shot and allowing the Revs' Adam Cristman to net the rebound -- because, according to Messing, the original shot was "diving and dipping." This is beyond drivel. Hell, its not even original stuff. Every time one or other of the manufacturers introduces a new ball (which they tend to do for each major international tournament), off we go with all the criticisms and the praise ... and it's always the goalkeepers who complain. Back the 90s Tony Meola did a commercial about a new ball, in which he was filmed repeatedly picking it out of the net after it had roared past him, and complaining "This really sucks!"

That sort of language was considered a bit much, and the commercial was pulled -- but remember, the commercial was using Meola's complaints to praise the new ball, to increase its sales.

Just four years ago, adidas introduced a new ball, the Roteiro, for the 2004 Euro championship in Portugal. I recall watching a scientist (I know he was a scientist because he was wearing a white jacket, and in TV commercials such people are always formidably clever scientists) tell us how this great new ball was going to, yes, cause problems for goalkeepers and the result would be more scoring, more goals.

That particular scientist no doubt did the decent thing and made a bloody mess of his nice white coat by falling on his sword when the tournament produced only 77 goals in 31 games (there had been 85 goals in 31 games in the previous tournament in 2000).

In short, all the talk about the these new balls is blatant baloney. Yes, yes, they're all designed with more care than a spacecraft -- maybe they have "an adhesive layer that links the ball's special coating to the underlying textile substrate," or they might feature "gas-filled micro-balloons under a foam layer," or even "a six-winged carbon latex bladder," or it could be a "superior syntactic poly-urethane surface plus highly resilient foam thermal bonded panels" that proves their superiority -- and whichever way you slice that lot, it's still baloney. Sales baloney.

And Shep Messing feels it necessary to chime in with more of the same -- all about a new ball that as far as I can see isn't a new ball at all. That would be bad enough, but Messing can't let go. Having moaned about how unfair all this is to the poor goalkeepers, he feels the need to attack the guys who score the goals -- the guys who are supposed to benefit from this "new" ball. Stand by for a thick slice of super-baloney:

"These forwards, they're prima donnas anyway, they run around, they make a hundred mistakes, then they score a goal and they're heroes ... no I don't like this new soccer ball."

Great stuff, Shep. Hey, maybe these forwards make all those mistakes because they don't know what the ball's going to do either? But I really like that idea about making keepers play with one hand tied behind their back. Better yet, let 'em use both hands (two hands! -- and they call themselves soccer players?) ... but could we just gag them instead? That would greatly reduce the baloney factor.


  1. Oscar Alonso
    commented on: April 21, 2008 at 9:23 a.m.
    Great article! I too heard the now infamous mini interview between Shep and Tina. I wonder, why do they have to be scripted? Maybe it's because the field reporter really knows nothing about the sport or the league itself. During highlights of the week's action, Ms. Cervasio referred to Jaime Moreno as 'Jamey'. I haven't actually held (or kicked) one of these 'new' MLS soccer balls but have played with one of the new South African World Cup balls, essentially the same ball manufactured by adidas. It is extremely light, I'd rather have a ball with more weight to it. That being said, what's the excuse when a goalkeeper catches it? When the ball gets past the goalie the excuse is always that they couldn't see it or stop it in time. Isn't that the definition of scoring a goal? If you actually read this Paul, here's a question I have which I hope you address in depth soon. Why are MLS officials extremely hesitant to hand out a caution or a red card in the early stages of a match? On Saturday while watching San Jose at Colorado, Christian Gomez took a bad tackle from behind from Nick Garcia (under 5 minutes into the game). Not only did the referee not card Garcia, he didn't even 'talk' to him. To make matters worse the Fox announcer Max Bretos said, the official may have felt it was "too early" in the match to issue a card. Must I go on?
  1. Kent James
    commented on: April 21, 2008 at 9:57 a.m.
    Alonso's comment about the foul on Gomez (and Bretos' comment) is accurate. That was an ugly foul that deserved a card. There is pressure on referees not to "determine the outcome of the game" (by issuing too many cards, ejecting people or calling penalty kicks) but if players are determined to try to win by going outside the rules, they should be punished, regardless of the time of the match. Not doing so penalizes players who are not trying to gain an advantage by cheating. The same holds true for calling penalty kicks either very early in a match, or very late in a close match. Referees have a tough job and should be encouraged to do it as consistently as possible.
  1. Jeff Butler
    commented on: April 21, 2008 at 1:29 p.m.
    Uh Paul.. Will Hesmer plays for Columbus not Chicago. Jon Busch who used to play for Columbus is the Fire 'keeper.

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