THE FRIDAY FUBLAST -- March 11, 2022

Back in action and it feels so good. Did I meniton we started a podcast? You should listen to it. It's like the Friday Funblast, except no one can hear the typos and occasionally my zoom feed cuts out while recording and I just have to laugh and pretend I was listening all along. Anyway, ONWARDS...

IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS

There was something oddly comforting about returning to TQL Stadium and getting to watch FC Cincinnati be absolutely dick-punched in the 700th minute by a VAR review. It’s like watching the new “Star Trek: Picard” show on Paramount+: you know by the end of the series you’re going to fucking hate it, but — god dammit — it’s Jean Luc Picard and they’re bringing back Q, how can you NOT watch? Maybe it was just me, but I was mentally preparing myself for the horror loss (or, as we call it in Cincinnati: “The result”) as soon as DC United had that guy sent off. Other than the Russian army, FC Cincinnati is the worst organization on the planet when operating with a numerical advantage. I haven’t looked this up, but I have to imagine the FC has the lowest G/min of any team while playing up a man. And if that isn’t true, it sure sounds true — and that’s bad enough.

Setting aside the final soul-crushing PK though (the “but other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln” of soccer analysis), you have to say that FCC played fairly well. The team looked competent for long stretches of the game and (mostly) avoided the crushing mistakes of the 5-0 ass thrashing in Austin. Yuya Kubo (the most improved import from Japan since Final Fantasy 14) had one of his best games in an FC uniform, the backline was solid, and the team genuinely looked like they’d made positive changes in training. In many ways, this was the team I kind of expected to see in week 1 — not outstanding in any way, but good enough to convince you they can steal a point here and there throughout the season.

The problem with the FC continues to be the utter lack of goal-scoring threat going forward. It’s a tough look for the team when the three highest-paid players in the organization (Brenner, Lucho and Kubo) are all, theoretically, attack-minded players and the team is still sitting on a fat 0 in the score sheet through two games. I’ll grant that we’ve yet to really see all three of them on the field at the same time, owing mostly to Brenner inexplicably deciding to start his visa application project at the 11th hour like some kid who forgot that the science fair was on Thursday. But, at the risk of going full John Madden (RIP coach), you’ve gotta score goals to win fucking games. Thus far in 2022 it’s been a lot of the same on offense — Lucho running into 2-3 defenders and trying to nutmeg all of them simultaneously or moments of individual brilliance being needed to create scoring chances. When was the last time FC Cincinnati had a basic-bitch “ball into the box, guy loses his mark and scores” goal? Or an odd-man break with a good pass that leads to a 1 v. 1 shot and score? I don’t know the answer to that, but it feels intuitively like “fucking forever,” which isn’t a good thing.

The bottom line though — this team looked improved from Week 1. With a new coach at the helm, that’s a good thing. This next step here is actually scoring a goal (or — fuck it — goals plural, lets get weird) or winning a match. I’m rooting for Noonan, but at some point things need to feel different in the dressing room and on the field. A lot of the guys on this team are holdovers from last year who got way too comfortable being a shitty team. That needs to change. Losing is a lot like going to a Hibachi steakhouse — the smell sticks with you for a long time and takes some effort to get rid of. The work of doing that needs to start now. In Albright and Noonan we trust.

VAR IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY AND SHOULD BE ABOLISHED

Let’s talk about VAR — the worst use of a television monitor you can have that doesn’t involve a Nicholas Cage movie (fun fact — Nicholas Cage’s latest role is a movie where he plays himself, Nicholas Cage, going undercover for the CIA to get dirt on a criminal who is a huge Nicholas Cage fan; the man simply doesn’t miss). VAR fucking sucks. Make no mistake, instant replay is terrible in virtually every sport — but in soccer, a sport designed around the idea of constant action and an always-running clock, VAR is fucking abomination. VAR has turned the soccer into a soulless exercise in watching some asshole watch soccer on TV to tell you if you should be happy or sad.

There are many problems with VAR that should lead civilized society to boot the entire system into a large sinkhole, but chief among them is it turns sports into the same kind of nerd bullshit where people watch movies over and over again to spot the continuity errors or mistakes. Congratulations soccer, you’re now flexing the same energy as the dumb fucks on Tik Tok going over “The Book of Boba Fett” frame by frame in order to show actors masks falling off or the spots where set construction is visible. We (correctly) laugh at these people online, but somehow tolerate it in our sports where we painstakingly slow video evidence down to see if someone was a blade of fucking grass offside on an otherwise cool goal.

Grayson had the right of it on the pod this week (the PostCast — if you aren’t listening, what the fuck is wrong with you?) when he said VAR should be limited to 2 replays at game speed to determine if the ref truly missed something they were supposed to call. That’s the way replay should be handled in all sports. If the goal is truly to just fix obvious errors, there should no need for slow motion or enhanced zoom analysis. Matches aren’t officiated by people with slow-motion vision or the ability to zoom in at 4K resolution — so why the fuck do we pick certain key moments of matches to suddenly give our officials superhuman abilities? It’s like in the old Tiger Woods golf games, where you could hit the “Tiger Vision” button to drain a 90’ putt once or twice a round. That’s fun when you’re broke in college and passing the controller while crushing a 30 rack of Nattys is what qualifies as “getting a quick 18 in,” but it’s a dumb fucking way to run a multi-billion dollar sports league.

They say there is nothing more pathetic than living in the past (looking at you, every Elder alum ever) which makes instant replay, which is literally just the past on repeat, the apex of pathetic. It’s time we abolish it for good.

CHARLOTTE IS DOING FC CINCINNATI: THE SPEED-RUN

Late breaking addition to the Funblast here, because this tweet is fucking gold:

I feel genuinely bad for Charlotte fans. First off, they have to live in North Carolina — which is like the Outback Steakhouse to Florida’s Applebees. The two things the state has going for it are 1.) It contains the city of Asheville and 2.) By luck of border design, it does not contain the city of Myrtle Beach. Second of all, they’re running the FC Cincinnati gameplay at 3x speed. I honestly don’t know how you can spend time watching the FCC gameplay of “bring in lots of mid European talent and just assume they’ll dominate this shitty league” fail and decide to just implement it wholesale.

There are a lot of layers to this statement I love, including the fact that Salt Lake City takes a full-on stray to the face (which is bold, considering I think just typing “taking it on the face” in Utah gets your location reported to both the police and the Mormon church). But what does it for me the most is the utter disdain and contempt for MLS as a league. It’s like hearing a song on the radio that gets you nostalgic for a simpler time, when of course Jurgen Locadia was gonna come in and skull fuck this league. He played in the goddamn Premier League, do you really think some bum who probably played college soccer in the MAC has any chance of stopping him? It was a time where just hearing “The GM is over in Europe right now…” was enough to get you to half-mast.

We’ve since learned better. We now know that it’s kinda important to have players on your team who can work around  the fact that they’ll have teammates making roughly the same salary as a Waffle House shift manager. Charlotte fans are about to get the same education — and I just want them to know that I get it. Vaya con Dennys.

BASEBALL IS BACK

We’ll be having a baseball season after all, as the billionaire owners reached an agreement with the millionaire players to avert a work stoppage most people wouldn’t have noticed. It would be easy to make some boomer jokes in this space, but as a baseball fan myself I’m going to refrain.

In the little corner of the internet I inhabit, I do want to point out that the Cincinnati Reds ownership was part of the voting bloc holding up an agreement because they wanted to reduce spending in the league. Additionally, the Cincinnati Reds are in the middle of a payroll cut — which we’ll see firsthand in the coming hours as free agents like Nick Castellanos (of the “deep drive” meme fame) depart the club to be paid market rate elsewhere. So, brace yourself for a long and awful season of Reds baseball (hammer the under on Vegas win totals).

If you’re looking for good news at least they’ve banned the defensive shift — and if you’re one of those dweebs who says shit like “BUT IT’S PART OF THE GAME, LEARN TO BUNT!!!!111” please go back to Baseball Reference and rage click on some stats until you calm down. Baseball should be doing everything in its power to encourage the ball to be put in play more often. Analytics and the fascination with launch angles has created a baseball product that is devoid of actual baseball happening. That absolutely needs to change, and I’m in favor of every single rule change you can think to encourage fewer strikeouts, walks and home runs (hot take — a home run is exciting, but the obsession with hitting home runs makes the game more boring in the majority of at bats where home runs don’t happen).

THEY MADE A MOVIE...

They made a movie about FC Cincinnati’s offensive skills — it’s called “Out Cold.”

Alright, that’s it for this week. Score a goal or score a few in Orlando and we’ll call it some more progress. Until then — Obi Wan Forever. Russia never. See you motherfuckers in the Thunderdome.