RIP Ken Stabler

I’m not so sure Ken Stabler would survive today’s NFL. Not because he wasn’t a good enough quarterback. It’s because today’s NFL doesn’t like individualists and free spirits than personified what Ken Stabler was. It is why I have so much respect for him and I was saddened to learn of his passing at the age of 69 due to colon cancer.

Stabler finger

Stabler did things his own way and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought. He was outrageous, courageous and a swashbuckler. You want proof? Here’s a link to a story published by Deadspin about the time Stabler allegedly planted cocaine on the car of Sacramento Bee writer Bob Padecky. It was well documented the two of them didn’t get along very well but can you imagine this happening today? ESPN would have crucified Stabler with blowhards Skip Bayless and Stephen A Smith begging the NFL to suspend Stabler for life. But in the 1970s? Meh.

Stabler was known to enjoy the company of the opposite sex. Legend has it that Suite 147 at the El Rancho Tropicana Hotel in Santa Rosa, California (near Oakland) is where Stabler took many of his conquests. All of them according to lore were more than willing. He didn’t ask them to wait on him hand over foot either. His classic quote on his ideal woman was, “As far as cooking goes, the only time I expect a seven-course dinner is when I hand a girl seven cans and an opener.”

Stabler lady friend

 

Stabler prepared for the next game a tad differently than say, Peyton Manning. While Manning studied film for hours on end at the team’s headquarters, Stabler would go to Gene Upshaw’s bar in Oakland and study the playbook by the jukebox light with a beer or three in hand. He would often show up on the day of the game completely hungover from the previous night’s festivities, but he played like hell on Sunday.

Yes, despite all of his extra-curricular activities that would have made Hugh Hefner proud, Stabler was an excellent quarterback for the Raiders. After a stellar college career at the University of Alabama, Stabler came to Oakland as the understudy to Daryle Lamonica. After three seasons of waiting, legendary Raider coach John Madden finally gave Stabler the keys to the offense.

All Stabler did was lead the NFL in pass completion percentage twice (1973, 1976), passing TDs twice (1974, 1976), game winning drives three times (1973, 1974, 1976), four pro bowls (1973, 1974, 1976, 1977), and was a first team All-Pro in 1974.

You want impact in big games? Stabler had that too. There was the infamous “Sea of Hands” game against Miami in 1974 in which he somehow found Clarence Davis in the end zone through a maze of Dolphin defenders as the Raiders ended Miami’s two-year reign as Super Bowl Champions.

There was the playoff game against New England in 1976 in which Stabler ran a bootleg into the end with mere seconds on the clock, giving the Raiders a 24-21 victory, avenging their only loss that season and propelling Oakland to their first Super Bowl title.

A year later, the Raiders and Baltimore Colts were engaged in a classic battle that required double overtime. It was Stabler who provided the decisive blow, finding tight end Dave Casper in the “Ghost to the Post” as the Raiders emerged victorious.

Stabler’s time in Oakland came to an end after the 1979 season, following a dispute with Raider owner Al Davis. Stabler was subsequently traded to the Houston Oilers where he was thought to be the final piece to their championship puzzle. Sadly for Stabler and the Oilers, things didn’t work out as planned. Despite having the powerful Earl Campbell at running back, the Oilers never made their Super Bowl dreams come true as the Raiders of all teams, knocked out Houston in the AFC Wildcard game.

Stabler walks off

 

Stabler played one more year in Houston before being shipped to New Orleans where he never found his game again. Stabler retired following the 1984 season.

Despite his lack of success in Houston and New Orleans, Stabler should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. He was an integral part of some outstanding Raider teams in the 1970s that terrified opponents. Heck, Stabler was perhaps the only quarterback that actually put some fear in the Pittsburgh Steelers legendary Steel Curtain defense.

Why isn’t he in Canton? Is it because the team surrounding him was very good (which they were) and that diminished his accomplishments? Is it because he played for the Raiders, the so-called villains of the NFL for their outlaw persona at the time? Is it because of his lifestyle that is somewhat frowned upon by the uppity types that decide who enters the Hall? Is it because his inglorious end in Houston and New Orleans looks bad in the voters eyes? Whatever the case may be, the voters should overlook the flaws and put Ken Stabler in the Hall of Fame.

Oh, and how can I forget? Pro wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts used The Snake moniker has an homage to Stabler who was also nicknamed The Snake by his teammates.

RIP Ken Stabler. A true character during a time characters weren’t frowned upon. The NFL could use some colourful personalities today. Stabler was more than that. He will be missed by his three daughters and a legion of fans who loved him.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

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FIFA Executives As James Bond Villains

We all know about FIFA’s corruption by now. We also know the story won’t end anytime soon. There will be more audacious revelations in the near future, regarding the exploits and criminal behaviour of FIFA executives. So let’s have some fun with it.

The more I think about FIFA, the more the shady cast that governed the sport of soccer remind me of a rogues gallery from the James Bond franchise. Admittedly, I’m a huge James Bond fan and have watched the movies many times. So I may be somewhat stretching reality but this particular piece is supposed to be fun. So without further ado, here are the FIFA officials and their Bond villain counterparts.

Sepp Blatter/Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Sepp Blatter 2Blofeld

This one is obvious. One is a megalomaniacal madman, hell-bent on ruling the world no matter the cost to society, the other is Blofeld.

Sepp Blatter was the head of FIFA and ruled it with an iron fist. Whether it was accepting bribes (allegedly), laughing at his critics with devilish glee, financed a movie about himself that was so self-indulgent it made Mr. Burns blush, making sexist comments about women players or announcing himself as president of everybody, Blatter is a delusional human who only cares about himself.

Blofeld is the leader of SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) has attempted to either take over or destroy the world, only to be foiled by the suave British secret agent. Blofeld did some terrible things as well like assassinating Bond’s wife Tracy (actually Irma Bunt pulled the trigger in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but we know it was Blofeld’s idea), cloning himself through plastic surgery (Diamonds Are Forever) and owning a pool filled with piranhas (You Only Live Twice).

There is a cuddly side to Blofeld as he is very fond of cats. Preferably, white ones.

To the best of our knowledge, Blatter hasn’t ordered a hit on someone’s wife but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did have a swimming pool filled with man-eating piranhas or sharks somewhere in his lair. As for cloning himself, let’s not give him any ideas. But I wouldn’t be surprised is Blatter has a white cat to make him look loveable. But nothing will make Blatter loveable.

Jack Warner/Dr Kananga aka Mr. Big

Jack WarnerDr. Kananga

Ah, Jack Warner. What can be said about a man who believed a report in The Onion that the USA would host the World Cup in 2015. At least Dr Kananga isn’t that gullible but he did believe in a lovely tarot card reader named Solitaire who could predict the future.

As for similarities, both have diplomatic immunity over tiny Caribbean island countries. Both desperately want to crack the American market and both have inflated opinions of themselves.

Now, I’m not sure if Warner practices voodoo like Kananga did or if he has a shark tank in his lair or if he’s trying to deal heroin under the guise of an American gangster. But I wouldn’t put it past him. I also think John Oliver would have nicer things to say about the antagonist from Live and Let Die than Warner.

Jerome Valcke/Le Chiffre

Jerome ValckeLe Chiffre

Jerome Valcke thinks he’s a big fish but deep down, he knows there are forces above him that pull the strings. Still, that didn’t stop Valcke from authorizing a $10 million transfer to ensure Russia would host the 2018 World Cup. Valcke claims it isn’t a bribe but we all know otherwise.

Meanwhile, Le Chiffre used a high-stakes poker game with a $10 million buy-in to finance the terrorist organization that employs him.

Some questions remain. Does Valcke weep blood? Does Vaclke have to use an inhaler? Does Le Chiffre have a preference for Budweiser? Is Sepp Blatter really Mr. White? Hmmm.

Chuck Blazer/Henry Gupta

Chuck BlazerHenry Gupta

Admittedly, these two don’t have a lot in common besides the fact they’re both American. Blazer is the “gentleman” who exposed FIFA’s corruption by admitting to accepting bribes with other FIFA executives to ensure South Africa would host the 2o1o World Cup. The New York Daily News reported that Blazer had become an informant for the FBI and the IRS after the agencies found a decade’s worth of unpaid taxes by Blazer. Oh yeah, Blazer is the man who owned a separate condo…FOR HIS CATS!

Gupta is the techno geek who helps Elliot Carver launch his multimedia news network in Tomorrow Never Dies.

The thing here is they look-alike. The beard, the roly-poly figure, the walrus-like features. Both could be Santa Claus at their respective Christmas parties.  It’s a stretch but work with me people.

Jose Maria Marin/Francisco Scaramanga

José Maria MarinFrancisco Scaramanga

Marin was the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation who oversaw the 2014 World Cup in his home country.

He’s a real prize. He has gone from pocketing a gold medal that was supposed to be given to the Corinthians goalie after the Brazilian club won the Copa Sao Paulo de Futebol Junior (Sao Paulo Youth Football Cup), to criticizing a murdered Brazilian journalist who was tortured by a political ally of Marin’s to being arrested in this FIFA scandal.

Francisco Scaramanga was an overworked, underpaid assassin for the KGB until he went independent and became the best and highest paid hitman who uses specifically made golden bullets in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Scaramanga has some odd quirks to say the least. He has an undersized man-servant named Nick Nack who is just as devious as his boss. Scaramanga lives well in a secret island hideaway, complete with a self-sufficient solar power plant he built off the coast of China. While no photograph exists, he does have a supernumerary nipple that in folklore means invincibility. Scaramanga also has a funhouse in which he invites “guests” to challenge him to a duel to the death.

Marin and Scaramanga will admit that science isn’t their strong point, they both take money for their own nefarious deeds. I could see Marin living very lavishly while others suffer as well. But I have a feeling he would charge more than $1 million to carry out a hit.

(RIP Sir Christopher Lee)

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

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Why Australia Should Host The 2022 World Cup

qatar-2022-worldcup-logo

By now, most of you know that corrupt FIFA president and deluded madman Sepp Blatter is stepping down after several FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich, following a large-scale investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department.

While this is good news for soccer fans across the globe, the mess that Blatter and his cronies left behind will take years, perhaps decades to clean up. The scandal plagued organization was so unscrupulous, it made Joe Pesci’s character in Goodfellas look like Mother Teresa.

Yes, the problems at FIFA won’t be fixed overnight. But they can fix one problem immediately. Move the 2022 World Cup out of Qatar.

I know that last statement makes me sound like an imperialist and I get the argument that “third world” nations should get the opportunity to host major events in order to help the game grow in those countries. But Qatar wasn’t fit, nor was it ready for the biggest sporting event on the planet.

Qatar had no stadiums built nor did they even have a professional league when FIFA announced that the Middle East nation would get the tournament. When construction on the stadiums began, it became a human rights nightmare.

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper in 2013, at least 44 workers from Nepal had died in a span of two months. The Guardian also reported that there was “evidence of forced labour,” non-payments to workers, denied access to free drinking water even though Qatar is in the middle of the desert, and no communication to their families. Recently, The Mirror newspaper reported the death toll in Qatar is near 2,000 from the brutal conditions in Qatar in order to get the country ready for 2022.

We all know that the way Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup was rigged. It will be proven in a short time. But enough about Qatar. Let’s talk about a country that was in the running to host the tournament. In fact, some said they had the best bid to host the tournament but finished fourth in the voting which shocked some prominent observers. Australia should be the host country for the 2022 World Cup.

Admittedly, Australia isn’t perfect when it comes to Human Rights issues either. Its treatment of asylum seekers, aboriginals, people with disabilities and of the LGBT community is questionable at best and appalling at worst.  But every country (including my home and native land) has human rights issues in which they should feel ashamed about. It is a global problem that everyone needs to do their part in making things better for all.

Australia does have history in hosting big sporting events. Sydney hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics to great acclaim. Many foreign observers called it the best games ever. Melbourne hosted the Olympics in 1956 and bid unsuccessfully for the 1996 Summer Games.

Australia hosted a very successful World Cup of Rugby back in 2003. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1.8 million people attended matches which resulted in $200 million in ticket revenues. An estimated 65,000 international visitors came to Australia for that event. Expect that number to double or even triple for soccer’s World Cup. An additional $494 million in industry sales were generated during the tournament. 4,500 jobs were created while $289 million in GDP went into the Australian economy. This is a license to print money if FIFA opened its eyes, instead of taking bribes.

Sydney Opera House

The gorgeous skyline of Sydney featuring the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

While Australia is spread out, it has two world-class cities in Sydney and Melbourne. Both cities make many travel lists as must-see cities and are on many people’s bucket lists as places they must visit before they die. The argument could be made that Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra are world-class in their own right as well. FIFA wants solid urban centres to host games. Australia has that and then some.

The equally gorgeous skyline of Melbourne.

The equally gorgeous skyline of Melbourne.

Tourism is a massive industry in Australia so they would know how to handle the crush of soccer fans that would invade the Land Down Under.

In 2012, Australia made $51.44 billion in revenue generated from tourism. Compare that to Japan who made $1.47 billion in tourism or France who made $400 million in tourism. Australia can pull off the World Cup and make money in the process.

ANZ Stadium in Sydney

ANZ Stadium in Sydney

You want stadiums, Australia has that too. ANZ Stadium in Sydney was the Olympic Stadium in 2000 and remains in excellent shape today. Several teams in the National Rugby League play their home games at ANZ while two teams in the hugely popular Australian Rules Football League also call ANZ home. Soccer has history as well at ANZ. In a memorable World Cup qualifier in 2005, Australia defeated in Uruguay on penalties to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

It was the first time Australia made the World Cup tournament since 1974 and it happened at ANZ. Australia won the AFC Asian Cup in 2015 defeating South Korea 2-1 in a thrilling final at ANZ. With its recent history and its 83,500 seating capacity, ANZ is a perfect venue for the World Cup.

The MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)

The MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)

The Melbourne Cricket Ground is more famous for hosting cricket (duh!) and Australian Rules Football but it can and has been used for soccer as well. The Socceroos have hosted World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies over the years at the MCG. With a seating capacity in excess of 100,000, the MCG would be an ideal stadium for the World Cup.

Other stadiums such as Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, the Adelaide Oval, Perth Stadium (under construction, set to open in 2018), Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Canberra Stadium, Gold Coast Stadium in Gold Coast, Geelong Stadium in Geelong, Townsville Stadium in Townsville, Blacktown Stadium in Blacktown and Hunter Stadium in Newcastle can be used for World Cup games as well. That beats building stadiums in Qatar that would never be used again. And no one dies. What a bonus!

A professional soccer league? Australia has that too. The ten team A-League was founded in 2004 and while it isn’t close to the top European leagues, it is serving as a nice developmental league for Australian and international players. The likes of Archie Thompson, John Aloisi and Brett Emerton have represented the Socceroos at the World Cup while foreign stars such as Costa Rica international Carlos Hernandez, Italian Alessandro Del Piero and former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke have all plied their trade in the A-League at some point. The league has had its stumbling blocks but it is gaining a foothold in the sports mad nation.

With its strong infrastructure, wealth of national resources, thriving youth culture, and a knack for hosting big time sporting events, Australia would make an excellent host for the World Cup. It’s time for FIFA to recognize this and move the 2022 World Cup out of Qatar and into the Land Down Under.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

 

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