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When football becomes soccer...

By Kevin Crean :  10/02/2008 :  Comments (37) :
It?s beginning to pick up momentum. It started a couple of years ago with the furore over the new ownership of Manchester United ? not just new owners but a takeover by representatives of the world?s most ruthless and intelligent market economy. Beyond any other nation, the US has the growth conditions that allow complete realisation of the business potential of any promising brand and that now includes some of the clubs that play our national game.

Of course, their growing interest in football has not happened by chance as American entrepreneurs have always been aware of soccer?s potential. After all there is no reason why this game, that can command a global audience of one billion for a single fixture, should not reach the heights of commercialism already achieved by the established triumvirate of this sport-mad nation. No surprise then that the American development machine has already made key moves to secure strategic assets across the Pond. Although just an individual, they have in Beckham a high-profile item of merchandise; a hip ambassador to promote the game from a soapbox in the wealthiest state. For as well as being a nexus of potential investment, California is the stronghold of the Hispanic fan base.

The star of David will, of course, eventually wane but by then there will have been a rash of takeovers and switches in the ownership of many of our football clubs. It will come with the investment sweeteners, which will rekindle supporters? hopes that their team will once again be successful. It will also come with the risk that the unthinkable could happen. Who in Britain could imagine a club side being bought out and relocated thousands of miles from its ancestral home?

This is not fiction ? it has already occurred, with LA Rams leaving their devastated fans behind for a new life in the Midwest. To our footballing populace this could only be considered as an act of war, or treason, or all three, and what?s more it could never happen with premier British football clubs (no offence to Wimbledon)... could it? Yet what might be merely uncomfortable conjecture in the short term could, with a flip of an ownership switch, become a reality in the hazy future. What is not in doubt is that there is already massive investment in America?s other top sports and this awaits soccer, provided the game structure is adapted for the US consumer.

First off, football would have to be squeezed into the template occupied by American sport?s big three. For soccer to make it, it will have to become that much more amenable to not only those who attend matches but also the virtual supporters. US business has created a target image for the citizen who sits before the TV screen: it?s a person with a short attention span for the serious and a regular need to go to the rest room. It?s an individual who will tolerate non-stop interruptions of any broadcast (including the news) to make way for lashings of advertising.

These target viewers have an insatiable appetite, and, if not wallowing in a pit of pop-corn and root beer to start with, then after a couple of hours of advert riddled TV they have probably just got in a delivery of a take-away pizza and a half gallon of Seven-Up. This denizen of the sitting room arena also enjoys showmanship to excess and what better stage to get their money?s worth than a virtual sporting event bursting with cheerleaders, brass bands and any other razzmatazz; things the British public either reviles or can?t do properly. Witness a couple of seasons ago the cheerleaders who at a rainy Goodison Park trotted out wearing plastic mackintoshes.

Joking aside, this is worrying stuff for the average English football supporter. Let?s imagine what might happen in a not-too-distant future when the shackles on international trade are loosened and unbridled enterprise further erodes our game. To us it is a game of two halves, but to fit the US sporting mould it must, at the very least, become a game of four quarters. How else will the sponsors get in sufficient machine-gun blasts of advertising to satisfy their massive investment?

Anyway, the controllers of the game across the Pond will have already concluded that 90 minutes is too long a tax on the concentration span of their viewing public, especially with such a novel spectacle. Beyond tampering with the length of a game, it will be obvious to the sponsors that a more radical doctoring of the outcome of matches will be required if the game is to keep, and expand, its US fan base. This means that there can be no place for drawn matches.

Of all the differences between our societies, one of the most instructive is the attitude only on the eastern side of the Atlantic where there is a place for ?the hard-earned point? or an appreciation of, ?an entertaining match in which it would have been unfair if there had been a loser?. I can still remember the look on the face of my Californian father-in-law when he found out that there was another sport in England that could be played for five consecutive days with still no winner at the end of it...

Similarly when our national game, our football, is finally adopted by US business, there will be a clean-up of other irritations about which we in Britain hum and ha but never do anything decisive. The dodgy referee will disappear overnight, his performances shored up by advanced know-how. Video technology will as a matter of course go ahead without any fuss, as befits the ?just do it? culture of the Americans. Now the ball will never do anything mysterious; it will either be, or not be, over the line.

The new technology will also bring an end to a life long institution: the questionable offside decision. The agonising of the TV pundits, as to whether he was or he wasn?t, put to the sword by the twin robots who run the line and whose connected lasers always get it right.

Once the broad structure of the game is sorted, the sponsors will apply pressure to some serious tweaking of football?s rule base. For a start, the investors will want to have much greater protection of their assets, so, instead of putting up with the metatarsal soap opera, they will opt for not only a return to wholesome (but still jazzy) footwear but also more general protection of these valuable bodies.

The rules will carry on bending in a protective direction, yet also with one eye on expanding the commercial appeal, in that any excessive body contact will be punished by a penalty kick, irrespective of where the offence happens on the pitch. Similarly, following the American tendency for excessiveness (did you know that the express lane checkout in most Californian supermarkets is for 20 items or less?) they?ll be happy for the playing 11 to be completely substituted at any stage of the game. Who knows whether this, combined with a game of four quarters, might impact on the crowd chanting e.g. ?Boring, Boring Arsenal? becoming ?Boring, Boring, Boring, Boring Arsenal??

Boring anyone though, will not be tolerated. Just imagine what the Americans might do to a game that is all square after three of the quarters? What?s to say the sponsors might not conjure up some diabolical intervention to settle the tie. If imagination is given its head, then for the last quarter we might have say, suspension of the offside rule. The more conservative sides might respond to this glimpse down a goal-infested abyss by playing two keepers. It all could point to a truly Laurel and Hardy impact, guaranteed to spice up even the most dour league fixture and, of course, boost the ratings.

So what will the future hold for our club sides once Trans-Atlantic politics and sponsorship changes have had their way? What will be the shape of our Premier League after 50 years of buyouts, translocations, extinctions and even amalgamations?

In the early years of the second millennium, Man U was yet to settle in its final commercial orbit. However, in five decades time, Man U will of course exist but with the club now basking in perennial sunshine and a beach culture that Old Trafford could never deliver. The men of Anfield too will be around and still manage to hang on to at least one of their traditions: red shirts, even if it is now the colours of Liverpool Redskins playing out of Seattle. They didn?t care that they left behind that expensive ground; neither were they bothered that it went to Everton and ? let?s face it that ? was the only way that the Toffees would ever get a ?new? ground.

But it isn?t all onwards and upwards; most don?t make it... look at Leeds United, still struggling but this time in the lower division of a league sponsored by a well-known toilet cleaner. Spurs, though do at last do something before they sink out of view; they set a record for the most personnel changes ever, and give new meaning to the phrase, ?Manager of the Month?. Collapse of course comes to Chelsea too, although the auditors are still trying to find out what exactly did happen to send the club on its way to the Far East, but further east than anyone could have imagined.

Other teams too see the writing on the wall; some join forces to try and stave off what is the inevitable. It was never going to be easy to accept amalgamations but Sheffield-now-truly-United is always preferable to the administrator?s offer of Sheffield-every-other-Wednesday. Who though would have believed that, in this climate of brutal natural selection, a new team might appear out of nowhere; well the North Sea to be exact. For there amongst a sprawling conurbation of oil and gas rigs, wind farms and giant fish culture operations, Dogger FC is born.

No surprise also that in this weird world of the future that the FA Cup has new sponsors. Forget that the backer made its billions treating the bowel problems of the world?s most bowel-conscious nation. Remember only that all they wanted for parting with the $5 billion prize money was a small name change to the competition, oh and, that the final few rounds should be played in California.

It?s Cup Final day, so who cares if football has become soccer? It?s Cup Final day and a poignant one at that: Man U of Los Angeles is about to do battle with United FC of Manchester, and as the two teams run out into the inferno of the Rose Bowl, the fans settle back to enjoy the spectacle of one of our most cherished institutions. It is Memorial Day, 28 May 2058, and they?re watching the final of the Flatulence Alleviation Cup.

Reader Comments

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Peter Bourke
1   Posted 11/02/2008 at 09:10:40

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Whatever you're on, it's too strong.
What the hell are you trying to say??
Steve Hogan
2   Posted 11/02/2008 at 09:56:52

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This is a wonderful witty and entertaining article which would grace any of the ’highbrow’ news publications.

Although it majors primarily on the growing influence of our American ’cousins’ across the pond, I would love to be around in fifty years time to see just how near to to the truth it is?

This piece is one of the reasons Toffeeweb is still the ’preferred choice’ of many fanzine browsers.

There, Micheal and Lyndon, thats enough arse licking for today.
Jason Lam
3   Posted 11/02/2008 at 10:17:05

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Peter, I nearly choked on an M&M after reading your response to this masterpiece!

Erm.. COYB?
Dawson Boyle
4   Posted 11/02/2008 at 10:15:03

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I know this article is satire, but if football was given an ’Americanisation’ it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Although I’m no fan of razzmatazz, the draft system and wage capping that spans all of major American sport would make the competition far more even.

The thought of four teams dominating all competitions for a decade would be unheard of in the United States and for all the smug pomposity of football fans when discussing sports across the pond, our own game could do with some of these innovations.

It’s not just the matches the Americans would find boring it’s the innequalities within it.
Julian van Lingen
5   Posted 11/02/2008 at 10:04:37

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You forgot to add one other inevitable consequence - artificial pitches. Actually, haven’t they tried that one before? What a resounding success that was.

As for the the title "When Football becomes Soccer" - I thought it already was, and not in the way you mean. Gavin Hamilton, the Editor of the authoritative "World Soccer" magazine (1st ed. October 1960) wrote an article on 25/01/08 to the effect that the term "soccer" originated in Britain and is as old as the game itself.

Other than that kudos for spending what appears to be an age composing this piece. Seriously though, is it a piss-take?
Steve Ryan
6   Posted 11/02/2008 at 11:12:11

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Excellent thought provoking article Kevin and not too far fetched either. I believe that when the majority of Premiership clubs, including Everton, are owned by American Billionaires in the not too distant future, they will drop the FA and the Football League like a lead balloon and move on in a completely different direction. As the owners of the clubs who can actually stop them?
Tony Williams
7   Posted 11/02/2008 at 12:13:34

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Good piece and a good read that will give me nightmares tonight.

Don’t worry about the posts asking what you’re on, they probably stopped reading after the first paragraph, therefore, cementing the "americanisation" of some supporters already and their small attention span and......oh look a cat!!

What was I saying?

Oh yeah good piece
Peter Laing
8   Posted 11/02/2008 at 15:22:22

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For those who question the merits of this post how is this for a direct quote from that old sage Harry Redknapp a man universally associated with the vageries of the modern game "I dont know about playing one game in Singapore, Brunei or wherever, I can see a time when the majority of the games are played overseas". It’s characters like Redknapp and the power-brokers at SKY who are sucking the lifeblood from the game, for me this whole suggestion smacks of killing the goose that is laying the golden egg.
glen strachan
9   Posted 11/02/2008 at 15:34:31

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Splendid witty piece , Kevin and amid all that satire it does occur to me that Everton FC might be as good a club name as any in this modern era.

I live in Mexico and most of my football friends here have no idea where my club plays.

They do not connect Everton with the city of Liverpool in any way and indeed before we sat down to watch English footy together , they only knew four English clubs by name.

It seems that if Everton’s current ownership is unsuccesful in the move that is being organised to Kirkby , maybe they will seek (in true US sporting style) backing from some other UK local authority and move the club to another region altogether.

If the connection with Liverpool is broken , surely it does not matter much where the club is based and since most of Everton’s income today is TV related , we can surely see BK take his club virtually anywhere that can house a TV OB Unit.

I am just glad that Mr Cream stopped short of speaking about the one club per city future of Premier Footy and did not mention that Everton/Liverpool amalgamation of the future.

COYR/Bs. ????????

I am so damn glad I was a Goodison regular earlier in my life at a time when we had good spells and bad spells but we never had to go along to a match wondering if the manager would pick a side with the main target of tanking the FA Cup 3rd round tie with a third Division team to concentrate on the ’points make pounds’ Premier.

Give Mr Cream great credit for that piece and admit how many of our readers believed that ’the 39th game’ was almost a ’done deal’ and it would be played on the other side of the world.

Count nothing out !!!!!!!!!!!!! (no matter how daft it seems right now).
phil watson
10   Posted 11/02/2008 at 16:02:25

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the americans move their teams aroun as the country is so vast.
They have less than 50 pro american football teams in a country that dwarves ours, so they take the product to the masses. It is all about one thing to them - $$$$$$$$
if theres no money in it they arent interested.
That will never the case here. A 7 hour drive to get you to the furthest part of the country for a fixture here would not get you out of most states.
The american money men will keep promoting the sport as long as theres a + in the balance sheet
Matt Malecki
11   Posted 11/02/2008 at 17:11:55

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The other thing that would be necessary to achieve a true Americanization would be the removal of relegation. We couldn’t handle the idea that our team would not be in the top division just because of a decade or so of failure.
Ste Kinder
12   Posted 11/02/2008 at 17:47:27

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added time multi-ball.

nice article.
Jim Hourigan
13   Posted 11/02/2008 at 17:49:28

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What a great read !!!

I think you should submit it to Rogan Taylor at the University. With his undoubted interest in all things American, I’m sure he could offer his ’expert views’ on the value of Americanisation in football.

Perhaps one idea from the yanks that you did not mention, is the idea that the trophies are shared around as no team is allowed to collect all the best players. So MU of LA can only be top dogs for 2 years before Rooney Junior is moved on to Arses Patriots of Dallas so they can win the Universe Bowl this year.

Chris Brown
14   Posted 11/02/2008 at 17:45:41

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As a yank (though a blue through and through), I’ve got a couple comments.

The idea of an EPL team being moved to the states is absurd. that team would have a distinct disadvantage due to jetlag AND fan support. NO WAY this happens in our lifetimes. an interesting case study is how sports in Hawaii (a state in the middle of the Pacific) get treated on the mainland... no one ever wants to play there, and they have a long flight before most of their games.

It is true, that on occasion teams are moved from one city to another. While this is not common, and it only happens when the cities/regions stop supporting the clubs. When a team goes a couple years filling only 15% of the stadium, they are confronted with a choice of going bankrupt or moving to a city that wants to attend the games.

What happens more often is moving from stadium to stadium in the same city (ala the kirkby move). Admittedly, that happens with shocking frequency over here.

Other comments on the Americanization, using instant replay to get offsides right (in cases resulting in a disputed goal) would almost definitely occur, but I’m not sure that is a bad thing. I know as an Everton fan, I wish that was a part of the game today...
Dustin Christmann
15   Posted 11/02/2008 at 18:27:10

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I mourn for all the electrons that died in the creation and transmission of this pile of horse dung.

Calling this collection of half-baked conspiracy theories and outright bigotry "satire" is an insult to actual satire. It’s as if an automaton grafted together every stereotype of Americans and American sport together in one article.

Other than that, however, I loved it.
Barry Kingham
16   Posted 11/02/2008 at 19:18:07

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Genius... someone send this on to The Guardian
Chris Keller
17   Posted 11/02/2008 at 19:54:52

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There was a similiar piece in the Guardian last month bemoaning US involvement in the EPL (and English football as a whole) and how it would only bring corporate greed into it. Here we have another paint-by-numbers, oh-no-chaps-they’re-bringing-their-awful-culture-into-our-sport piece of junk from a Brit. Hey guys, what’s your league’s name again? The Barclays English Premier League. The teams play for the Eon FA Cup or the Carling Cup or the LDV Vans Trophy in their branded shirts at places like Emirates Stadium. Yup- all us Yanks fault.
Liam Crean
18   Posted 11/02/2008 at 19:53:31

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Good one Dad. Great read. All these years of traversing the ’pond’ is clearly taking its toll.

...the Kirkby Bluejays win the first 39th trans-global end game with a cracking offensive counter play...


Keith Glazzard
19   Posted 11/02/2008 at 22:12:25

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Personally, I’ve always found predicting the future a bit difficult. Brian Clough once billed as being an expert replied that the only expert in football was the man who could predict eight score draws on next weeks coupon.

American owners (and there will be more) willl sell to the oil rich (Venezuelans?) when they can make no more from this little scheme.

And "soccer" probably came from rugger buggers as a version of ’Association’ . I suppose that as most of their points scoring comes from kicking they should be allowed to call their peculiar game ’football’. Why the gridiron lot still use the term is beyond me.
Ryan Gottschling
20   Posted 11/02/2008 at 21:51:38

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Ridiculous post. This America-hating delusional anti-capitalist fantasy is a laugh indeed! Gems such as this irrelevant phrase - "did you know that the express lane checkout in most Californian supermarkets is for 20 items or less?" make it hard for me to take this seriously. Maybe i?m missing the dry humor? As an American, I am too busy stuffing my piehole with "a take-away pizza and a half gallon of Seven-Up." What nationalistic drivel.
Lee Spargo
21   Posted 11/02/2008 at 23:27:26

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Nice one Dustin!, well said!

Steve Carter
22   Posted 11/02/2008 at 23:41:40

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As one, Keith, who is both a "rugger bugger" (to respectfully use your term), and a died hard blue Everton supporter, I agree that "soccer" is an abbreviation of Association Football as is, the now obsolete, "rugger" for Rugby Football (not to be confused, for the purist, with rugby league). I disagree, with respect, with your etymology: "soccer", not "football" was the term used by "football" supporters in Britain to describe their game, "soccer" (or is it vice versa?) throughout the most of last century. My copy of Shoot always carried the by-line "soccer’s weekly magazine", for example.
Liam Pender
23   Posted 12/02/2008 at 02:10:46

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The draft system is the worst sydtem ever. It takes away every incentive for clubs to produce youth as they will innevitably lose them in the draft.

salary caps only keep compsw even by reducing the quality of all teams.
Michael Tracey
24   Posted 12/02/2008 at 05:28:31

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The players that picked up in the Draft are players from College Teams or ones that have been delisted from there clubs. A salary cap and draft system is a great idea. We have it in Australian Rules Football as well and we have had 6 different champions in 8 years. Basically the teams that finish bottom get to pick the best available players in the Draft. We also don’t have relegation so not sure how that would work!
Tony Williams
25   Posted 12/02/2008 at 08:56:28

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It’s all the Yank’s fault

Sits back with his bad teeth, cup of tea and bowler hat and waits
Matt Fearon
26   Posted 12/02/2008 at 13:54:23

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The effort is commendable but satire should strike close to the bone not miss by a mile. The best satire is based on a thorough understanding of the subject matter, this is science fiction spiced with lazy national stereotypes.

It also ignores the fact that we are bringing about the destruction of the integrity of the league quite nicely all on our own without any help from the US.

As has been pointed out above, the uprooting of teams around the country is a rare occurence.

Soccer in the US continues growing and is now the no. 1 participation sport. They are also now producing high-class footballers, which can be attributed largely to the establishment of a National Academy, the lack of which in England will stunt the production of world class players.

In recent years the US Academy system has produced our own Tim Howard (joining the ranks of impressive american keepers to have appeared in the premiership), Michael Bradley (hopefully a future blue), Brad Guzan (touted as one of the best young GKs in the world and only missed out on a move to Villa because of work permit issues), Jonathan Spector (turning heads a t West Ham), Danny Szetala (of Racing Santander on loan at Brescia) and United’s Rossi (plying his trade with Villareal at the moment).

The US Football Association has existed since 1913 and at no point over the last 95 years have Americans felt the need to corrupt the rules of the game despite the various reincarnations of the league in America - two halfs of 45 minutes are here to stay.

There is much that we could learn from US sports including the use of salary caps, video technology and the draft system, while everything that Kevin’s article lampoons the US for has already been assimilated by our very own Mr Scudamore.

Rob Coffey
27   Posted 12/02/2008 at 15:28:05

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Although many of the complaints are true, the artificial pitch one wouldnt be a problem. Even us Americans dont like it. Baseball is almost completely rid of it (excepting some older domes without a retractable roof).
Same for american football, although field turf is catching on. It is an artificial surface that looks and behaves like real grass. Unlike the awful carpets of the 70s, the new millenium artificial turfs are probably reasonable.

So, okay, my first comment may be wrong. It would just be done with newer, high quality, artificial pitches.
Rob Coffey
28   Posted 12/02/2008 at 15:40:42

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Part of the reason that movement of teams happens more in the US than anywhere else is the league systems. Without relegation/promotion, the only way a city can become "big league" is thru an expansion team or coaxing someone to move. My city has a AAA baseball team (the highest minor league level) but will never get a major league team. We did try to get an NBA team, but failed.
Stig Meacham
29   Posted 12/02/2008 at 17:03:47

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Good one, Tony Williams!

You forgot to add ramps up his sexual repression, provincialism, disregard for regular bathing, and titanic and misplaced sense of superiority and waits...

And by the by, what the fuck is wrong with cheerleaders? What sort of man would choose to mock cheerleaders?
Julie Naybour
30   Posted 13/02/2008 at 14:45:22

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Type or paste your comment here. No txt-speak, please try to use proper grammar, all-lowercase posts are likely to be deleted
Julie Naybour
31   Posted 13/02/2008 at 14:45:22

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Yes a very witty and excellently written article. However, as someone who has lived in Chicago for three years, it looses some of it’s humour due to the fact that I think it has every possibility of becoming a reality.
In fact, I think it is almost an inevitability. So we shouldn’t laugh too hard because this is a very, very real threat.
If or rather when soccer does take a hold over here (and it is increasing slowly but gradually in popularity), this is exactly what would happen. BEWARE.
Stig Meacham
32   Posted 14/02/2008 at 10:40:33

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Re: Julie Naybour; Hey Julie, if you’re so troubled by America and its hideous influence upon absolutely everything, why don’t you do everybody a favour and get the fuck out of Chicago? O’Hare has heaps of flights out. Hurry, Julie! Run!! Here comes Pepsi and cheerleaders bombing into the club you left years and thousands of miles ago! Oh, dear. We can find barkeeps from other countries, believe it or not!

You angry fuckers flatter yourselves.

Don’t worry about your 39th Yankee horror game, assholes. Nobody here wants it either.
Michael Kenrick
33   Posted 14/02/2008 at 21:28:31

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Stig ? a request re your deleted contributions: pack in the Chinese rubbish and try to show a bit more respect for the differing opinions of your fellow blues. Thx ? The Editor
Stig Meacham
34   Posted 14/02/2008 at 22:41:42

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So Michael, how would my friend Yan Quee whatever-the-fuck fit into this finger-wag? I"m the bad guy? Did you miss that whole bag of shit I responded to?
Call out Yan Quee as you call me out, man. He?s conveniently gone; go figure. At the very least I have the stones to put my full name and email address up here with my opinions.

Michael Kenrick
35   Posted 14/02/2008 at 23:35:12

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Well thanks, Stig. This is exactly what happens when people start posting shite to a thread. Rather than reporting it, you sink to their level, and you start using a false name, which is a BIG no-no. Two Wongs don?t make it right either, before you spoout that one...

Please just don?t respond to the idiots who post. Instead, click on the Report Abuse link and send us an e.mail. We will deal with it, usually by removing it and all related posts. If instead you go all vigilante, you end up having your mnesages removed too, and getting flagged as a multiple-name imposter.

Now please stop calling everyone "fuckers" ? it really lowers the tone....
Stig Meacham
36   Posted 14/02/2008 at 23:48:13

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Okay, MK!! I agree. I DO apologise for calling everyone "fuckers". I agree that it’s damn poor, and I don’t mean it. No true blue is a "fucker". Sorry for that, everyone.

Stacey Ross
37   Posted 15/02/2008 at 07:41:09

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I’m an American fan of the Toffees, and I feel like the entire article was very mean-spirited.

It’s a sad feeling to realize that fellow fans of a sports club that you’ve come to enjoy and root for think so very little of you.

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