16 March 2013

Something you don't see every day

Sometimes the little things in life are worth celebrating. On a perfectly ordinary Saturday night in Shreveport, I achieved a rare Scrabble feat. Faced with the letters A-E-G-I-I-M-T, I came up with:

MITIGATE, on the right of this picture, only scores 12 points, up from 11 thanks to the second T being on a double-letter score. But Scrabble has this wonderful 50-point bonus for using all the letters. I cannot remember ever hitting for the bonus before, but my play turned into a 62-point outburst that all but decided the game.

03 March 2013

Baseball season is here

Centenary vs. Dallas at Shehee Stadium.
I've lived in Shreveport since last August, but I had yet to take in a sporting event until today. Although the local minor-league baseball and hockey teams have folded within the last five years (bad timing!), the town has a lot of sports action - there's the Independence Bowl, Division III Centenary College, NAIA LSU-Shreveport, and a thriving high school scene. But I'm often out of town on weekends, and when I'm in town, family comes first.

Alone with our beagle on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, I decided to see if either college was playing baseball this afternoon, and in the end, our dog and I spent a fun afternoon at breezy Shehee Stadium, watching the Centenary Gents edge the University of Dallas 4-3 in the rubber game of a three-game SCAC series. Read on for a light-hearted look at the afternoon, complete with more photos:

02 March 2013

Most interesting MLS story of 2013? Chivas USA

Born in the U.S. but raised in Mexico, Josue Soto (left)
is a friend of mine from the Dynamo but is now part of
the Chivas USA overhaul.
The Major League Soccer storyline that most interests me entering 2013, by a wide margin, is Chivas USA.

Normally an afterthought and one of the league's least popular clubs, I'm interested because they are basically re-starting the club and returning to its original intent: to be an American version of Chivas Guadalajara, playing a Mexican style and fielding a mix of Mexican-Americans, Mexican players on loan, and Californians.

I have seriously mixed emotions about this mission. It smacks of prejudice. Employing almost exclusively players of a certain nationality/race? Hard to root for. From what I have heard, there has been a major emphasis that every member of the front office staff be able to speak Spanish, and the team has done away with English-language television broadcasts completely. Not exactly inclusive.

On the other hand, it's fascinating. The attempt to turn over most of the team in one offseason is fascinating. The attempt to play a Mexican style in an American league is fascinating. The attempt to gather promising Mexican-American players in one team is fascinating. The reported use of the 3-5-2 formation - little-seen in MLS since DC and New England, circa 2007, is intriguing. I can't take my eyes away.

The biggest flash point, of course, is the team's stated Mexican identity. As a United States fan, I have hated the Mexican national team - and, I thought, Mexican soccer in general - since I began following soccer. But working for the Houston Dynamo gave me a different perspective on the Mexican teams we faced in SuperLiga, Champions League, and friendlies. Yes, there was the condescension and dirty play that made me hate the Mexican national team. But I also learned to respect certain teams and certain players (while still wanting to beat them every time). I admired Pachuca's style of play, began to appreciate Santos' attacking movement. I am now far more interested in the Mexican league than I was six years ago, and I love watching the clash of styles when Mexican and American teams meet.

Chivas USA could bring that to MLS every week, and it could be really fun to watch. They could be a hated rival for every team with a fan base that loves the U.S. national team.

So when Chivas USA opens its season tonight at home against Columbus, I'll be watching closely. It sounds like there may not be a big crowd in the stadium to watch closely, but it's going to be the start of something epic. It may be an epic fail, if the team fails to perform and Southern California fans decide not to get on board. Or, if the team succeeds, it may produce an epic villain of a team that opposing fans love to hate. Either way, I'm fascinated.

For more on the Chivas USA makeover, read on for a list of players brought in during the 2012-13 offseason. All 14 are Hispanic.