Friday, August 29, 2014

Use your LOAF !

If you are from the UK, you’ll know that ‘your loaf’ is a Cockney rhyming-slang term for ‘your head’ – 'loaf of bread' = 'head'.  Got it?

I am a USSF (United States Soccer Federation referee – have been for more than 24 years – and have officiated in more than 6,000 matches in that time. USSF is an organization operating under the governance of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Assocation). I am also an NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) soccer referee – been doing that for about 20 years. In that time, there have been a number of changes in the ‘Laws’ (‘Rules’ in NFHS parlance), but none as great as may come to pass – if some people ‘have their way’.

In the US, we have long referred to the 17 Laws that govern the game, as the LOTG – ‘Laws of the Game’. Sometime in the past 10 years or so, the UK adopted that same acronym – having previously referred to that collection of laws as the ‘Laws of Association Football’ – with the obvious acronym: LOAF - and for participants in the game, the clear admonition to (in a cerebral sense) ‘Use your LOAF’ – meaning: ‘Follow the game’s laws as outlined in your 'LOAF' booklet; also, think; be smart’ That admonition was intended to apply to both players and officials alike. Though that phrase is no longer used by the FA, the cerebral admonition prevails.

Pardon this momentary digression: For those (hermits) who may be unfamiliar with game of football (which everyone in the world calls it - except the Yanks who prefer to say ‘soccer’ – a derivative of ‘Association’) – said sport is globally referred to as ‘The Beautiful Game’.    
But now, we turn to address one important alternate interpretation to the phrase, ‘Use your LOAF’: 

One aspect of the game is that a field player may make contact with the ball by using any part of the body (except the arms and hands) while it ‘is in play’. That means, they may also (in the physical sense) ‘use their loaf’ – I mean, ‘use their head’. ‘Heading’ the ball, or making ‘a header’, is an important and skilful aspect of the game – both in offensive and defensive modes. But therein, as Shakespeare (and maybe certain BBQ chefs) would say, ‘lies the rub!’   

Concussions!   That is the latest concern to hit (excuse the unintended pun) the sporting world. It gained momentum ‘Stateside’ in the past year or so with concerns for those helmeted – and otherwise excessively padded – participants in ‘pointy-ball’ – err, forgive me: ‘football’ (US-style). 

Too many players – mostly at the professional level – were being diagnosed (too late in most instances) with the damaging effects of earlier concussions. Why that level of concern was not raised when the likes of Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier were ‘bashing each others brains out’ is beyond me. But that is another story.

Now, (again ‘State-sides’) there is movement – by the favored US methodology, litigation, calling for FIFA to change the laws (the LOTG); to ’use their loaf’ and ban (‘make illegal’) the use of ‘headers’ or ‘heading the ball’.

I’ll give you sufficient time to recover from an inevitable, ‘Say what?’ moment. I’ll leave you for a few moments to invent parallels in other sports: maybe not being allowed to catch the thrown ‘pointy ball’, or the hit baseball, or the basketball rebounding off the backboard, unless both your feet are firmly on the ground!  How about replacing hockey sticks (for field and ice versions) and hurleys (bless the Irish and their games) with those ‘noodles’ one sees at the swimming pool?  A whack with one of those would surely remove the endangerment that the other implements invite, would it not?

OK. Now you have had time to unscramble your own brains - trying to envisage not only how the appearance and conduct of the game may be affected, ‘sans headers’, but how it could be implemented - allow me to explain the latter. But first, let me elaborate: The lawsuit, let us be thankful that it uncharacteristically does NOT seek monetary remediation, is said to be intended only to ensure the protection of the ‘yet not fully developed crania’ of children. I am not sure whether (or if) a ‘cut-off; age is cited, but my guess is that it would (should) be at the Under-12 (or maybe U-14) age level.

So, the lawsuit seeks to obtain changes to the LOTG. However, I submit three alternative actions – in no specific order of preference – as different ways to cut it.

First: In the ‘The Beautiful Game’, Law 12 has long had a provision that protects players from each other – and from themselves!  It is what most people call ‘dangerous play’ – more correctly phrased as ‘playing in a dangerous manner’. It is applied far less restrictively at professional levels than at youth recreation levels – as it should. One (oft misunderstood) example is where a player, lying on the ground, traps the ball under his/her body or attempts to kick the ball whilst prone, thereby ‘inviting a dangerous situation’ should the opponent attempt to play the ball. The sanction for the action is that the opponent is awarded an indirect free kick. Maybe, if FIFA were to entertain addressing the calls of the litigation, that body could (without changing the LOTG) authorize its subordinate governing bodies (such as USYSA – United States Youth Soccer Association – under the authority of USSF) that for play at their ‘Under-whatever-age’ level, ‘headers / heading the ball’ should, by that body’s declaration, be construed to be one of those ‘playing in a dangerous manner’ indiscretions. Such – as with an outright change to the LOTG – would be a mandated action.

Second: Youth league coaches could, in the interest of acknowledging the potential risk of concussions from repeated ‘heading’, simply advise their players NOT to head the ball. They would have to do that if such action were to be made illegal. Such an action would be an advisory action.  

Third: Another course of action is one that promotes use of a simple education process, whereby parents / guardians of developing children can become informed of the nature of the game and its inherent risks - and be allowed to exercise some ‘informed parenting skills’ regarding their child’s participation. There are a lot of non-contact activities from which a child can acquire the concepts of competition, skill development, fair play, team-work, etc, etc. Such an action is a discretionary action – one requiring that they use their loaf – in all senses of the phrase.

Now, what do you think should be done?  

No matter how you may have decided to slice it, the issue of concussions in children's sports activities should be addressed. 

Use YOUR loaf’

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The ‘Alice View’

They do say, ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun’.  I am neither one of those despicable beasts - though I have been known to share in their activity; usually accompanied by protection from the sun and a glass of cold beer – for the reason enunciated below this grand image:

It is also quite well known (in these parts, anyway) that August is one of the hottest and most humid months of the year in the St Louis area. It is frequently in the triple digits, temperature-wise – with humidity that any Swedish sauna-bath, or Calcutta back-street, would be proud of! Each day this week, we are suffering heat index readings in the 105-110F (41C – 43C) range. I shall very soon be immersing myself in the swimming pool - being thoroughly wetted inside and out! 

All of this is by way of a prelude to divert your attention back to my (6 volume) series entitled ‘Nature’s Palette’ – see link below.  But first, I need to explain.

Given the nature of the weather conditions here in August, very little change – other than a drying out and browning of the grass – can be seen in my yard. 'Yard' - that’s what Yanks call those parts of their property that is outside the house; in the UK, it is likely, ‘the ‘garden’. So, I thought: for this month, it may be interesting to look at each of my yards’ 12 locations from a different perspective – much as Alice (she of ‘. . . in Wonderland’ and ‘. . . through the Looking Glass’ fame) may have done – just as she did in these photos I took in Guildford (England) in 2009 - in August, no less!

Hence, the title of this piece, ‘The Alice View’.

To create the effect (which will give you a glimpse of the neighbors’ yards too) I stood (more or less) at the center of the scenes previously photographed in each of the 12 locations in the Nature’s Palette volumes, and looked back toward where I had taken the photos from – clicking the camera to capture those views – and in the process avoiding ending this sentence with a preposition! 

No Mad Hatter, I. So off we go, down the rabbit hole to see each ‘Alice View’ – start here, at 

Nature’sPalette – Volume 1 (of 6)  - scroll down to each pair of Mid-August - the 'Alice View' tabs, then follow the links at the bottom of the piece to access the other 5 volumes. Watch out for the Queen of Hearts!  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

World Wide Welsh Stwff

Maybe I should explain: ‘Stwff’ is what we Taffs (people from Wales – for those who don’t know what a ‘Taff’ is) say for ‘Stuff’, see?

OMG – don’t tell me I have to explain what / where ‘Wales’ is?  “Get a bloody clue and ‘Google’ it, ffs” as some of them (you, too) may say!  

Well, before you (if you haven't already) ask ‘What is this old fart ramblin’ on about now?’ let me further explain:

I spent several hours today pissing into the wind – as it were!  Ever done that? Not much fun, is it?

OK, I see that I now need to further explain myself – Jeez, this is like watching a Slinky going downstairs, innit? ['Innit' - that’s another word ‘Taffs’ say – kinda means “isn’t it” – see how easy it to get the hang of ‘Welsh-speke’?

First off, as agreed, early (6:15 am CDT) I phoned a friend a Wales (by now I hope you have discovered what and where that is) to chat about something we had ‘messaged’ about the day before. Well, although he said he’d be there, he was not! So that was a waste of time – though I did catch up with him many hours later – and spent about 75 minutes chatting; can’t wait for the bill. Anyway, not to get ahead of myself (I tend to do that sometimes, don’t I?) so on to project number two.  

Project number two was actually the higher of the day’s two - in priorities - but had to take second place due to the quirks of international time zones and US banking hours. Anyway, about 10:00 am (CDT) I went to my bank to put a few ‘shekels’ into my safe deposit box. Well, what I really wanted to do was to knock the crap out of the cobwebs that must have accumulated since the last time I opened it. “Hmm”, said the ‘bank-lady’, “Looks like that’s the wrong key”. As I show her my key-fob, plainly labeled ‘Safe Deposit Box’, I says “The F-it is! Look you by ‘ere, mun!” – more of that Welsh-speke, innit? Well, ‘square peg / round hole’, the bloody thing was not what I thought it to be. So, after she shows me what my key should look like, off back home to find the right key, I go.

Before I began the search through what transpired to be the proverbial haystacks, I made that second phone call to Wales. Ah! A delightful voice answers – and after a few pleasantries, I ask the angel to pass the phone to the ‘grump of the house’. Oftentimes, he is jovial, witty and good fun; other times, when he gets on one of his soapboxes, [do NOT mention County Councilors, please] he is like sciatica - but squarely in the ‘you know where’. Today, he was a little ‘down-in-the-mouth’ – somewhat despondent at a seeming lack of following (a euphemism for ‘purchasing of the fruits’) of his passion - photography. Well, I offered to plaster links to websites of his in whatever places I could electronically access – FB, group e-mails, this blogspot, etc. But, just to tease you, I’ll get back to that at the end of this missive.  We commiserated together over the fact that though (allegedly – as noted by ‘hits’) many people may ‘view’ our contributions (in blogs and websites), very few are compelled to offer comments on the content – either favorable, or otherwise – yet the populace seems unable to prevent itself from making a myriad of inane postings in such social media as FaceBook and Twitter. [Casting Director’s note: Jumps off soap-box and returns to important stwff:]   

Four hours, 15 dresser drawers, 5 file cabinet drawers, 21 pockets of 3 suits and 5 jackets later – not to mention a boat-load of cussing (by me) and several prayers (by my wife) to St Anthony (patron saint of lost causes / items, innit?), I found the bloody key! It was where I had cleverly hidden it some months ago – away from the eyes of anyone who may sneak into the house to steal it. Pity I had not been so clever as to remember where I had hidden it. “Eureka and halle-bloody-lullya”, says I to my wife – followed by “Let’s get ourselves a glass of wine and go the pool”. Oh yes, I admonished her that she MUST, in future, remember where I had now hidden it [It’s in the same place as before – surely I won’t forget twice?]  The bank was closed by now (Saturday, see?) so that project is shelved now until Monday.

Pool-flopping - accompanied by consumption of a couple of beers - done, off we go for a curry; hot lamb biryani for me, medium chicken tikka masala for the ‘missus’.  End to a day with muted successes.

Oh aye – now to the ‘commercials’!

Among the ‘creations’ of my friend in Wales (no, not Jonah! He was in a WHALE!), is a website that was intended to create and display an interest in Wales – particularly his small part of it. That site, World Wide Welsh Community, to which I had frequently contributed, morphed into one intended to include other Celtic communities and contributions from such peoples. But, maintenance of those sites required a little revenue for them to prevail - sadly they did not, and so they 'are no more'.  They had included postings by my photographer (and ‘jack of many other trades’) friend about an annual cultural event in Wales that concluded yesterday. It is called an Eisteddfod. [Google it, mun!] Anyway, here is a link to his blogspot about that cultural delight Llanelli Eisteddfod.  There are also photos from that event in his photography website – - Alan Evans Photography. I have three words of advice: ‘Buy his stwff!’ – I want him to be happy again – for the angel in his house!    

Update - November 5th 2015: Well, who'd have thunk?  Here I am a year or more later, just to announce the recent launching of my latest website - with a .cymru domain-extension no less, to append to that World Wide Welsh alliteration that follows www.  [My new website]