Yesterday, I mentioned the Detroit Lions’ “’losing streak”, in the city of Washington DC. Later in the day, I read a report about the end of a “futility streak” in European soccer. The San Marino national soccer team competes against other national teams in UEFA and enters a squad in the qualifying matches for the World Cup. They never come close to a championship; in fact, they have never won a game in a UEFA tournament or in World Cup qualifying, but they continue… Their only win was in a “friendly” against Lichtenstein in 2004.
The San Marino national team did manage a draw against Latvia in a real match back in 2001. The Latvian manager was sufficiently ashamed of that outcome that he resigned after the match. Counting all the international encounters – including friendlies – for the San Marino national team since it began play in 1990, its cumulative record is 1-112-5.
In a qualifying game for the 2014 World Cup against Poland about a week ago, the San Marino team lost – no surprise there – by a score of 5-1. The score was a surprise for one simple fact:
San Marino scored a goal. They were not shut out.
The last time the San Marino national team scored a goal against another national team was almost 5 years ago. The goal against Poland came off a header after a corner kick; the player scoring the goal is not a professional soccer player; he works in retail in San Marino.
In case you have not kept up with the country of San Marino, let me give you a couple of items from the CIA World Factbook:
San Marino is an “enclave country” in central Italy. Its land area is about one-third that of Washington DC.
Population estimate for July 2013 is 32,448. [FIFA says that 1,586 Sammarinese are “registered footballers”.]
The economy of San Marino depends on tourism and banking. The major exports are building stone and ceramics.
San Marino has no military except for a volunteer force that provides ceremonial duties and assists the police if necessary.
Last weekend, the NY Post reported that Pamela Anderson was going to run in the NYC Marathon as a fundraiser for a charity. There was no mention of David Hasselhoff joining her in the run as a mini-reunion for the cast of Baywatch.
Lots of folks have paid scant attention to the Sports Illustrated “revelations” regarding improprieties in the Oklahoma State football program. Many commentators suggest that the sports fans around the country are becoming “scandal fatigued” particularly in the area of college football. That may be absolutely correct. Nonetheless, I would suggest that the allegations made by Sports Illustrated with regard to Oklahoma State have a different flavor from other college scandals.
If – I said IF – the allegations here are correct, there is a fundamental distinction here as compared to most other scandals. SI alleges that members of the coaching staff actually provided improper payments to players. In the sense that is the receipt of those improper payments by the players that breaks the NCAA rules, that might seem like a distinction without a difference. However, compared to the Miami situation involving Nevin Shapiro there is a difference. The coaches at Miami provided Shapiro – a wealthy booster who provided the university and the football program with significant monetary donations – access to the team and the team facilities. Then – if Shapiro’s telling of the tale is accurate – he provided players with visits to his mansion, rides on his yacht, and money for their football participation. Let me be clear, if all of this stuff is true, neither coaching staff – at Miami or Oklahoma State – has covered itself in glory. Nevertheless, it seems to me that if the coaches themselves are the ones handing out the “improper benefits” in the form of cash payments, that adds a different level of stench to the situation.
Remember, all of the above depends on the veracity of the allegations made by Sports Illustrated and by Nevin Shapiro. Time will tell how accurate those allegations are.
Notwithstanding the accuracy or inaccuracy of what was in the Sports Illustrated piece, there is another aspect of this story that seems to have gone begging. Yet again, there is news of a “major violation of NCAA rules” that spanned a decade or so – and the NCAA enforcement folks did not discover the “wrongdoing”. Yet again, the NCAA enforcement people demonstrated that they might not be able to find Shaquille O’Neal in a photograph with the cabinet members of the People’s Republic of China.
When was the last time the NCAA super-sleuths were the ones to discover a “major scandal”?
How long until the next time?
Will anyone have the temerity to ask Mark Emmert at his next news conference to tell us what the folks in the enforcement department actually do for a living?
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has been charged with driving under the influence.
“Police say the car’s tail lights weren’t lit but the driver was.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………